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Beyond dreams

An op-ed article, advising President Barack Obama to accord recognition to Pales­­tine before he left office, appeared out of the blue some days ago in the New York Times.

Authored by Jimmy Carter, the piece was curiously ill-timed. Obama is due to retire in the third week of January and is already something of a ceremonial — rather than executive — figure.

One wonders why the former US president should have offered this piece of advice at the eleventh hour. It smacked of panic, of the well-meaning hysteria of a venerable Democrat in the face of the advent of the permanently ‘tweeting’ president-elect.

Liberalism is fundamentally dishonest. There have been other concerns. In fact, there is currently a storm in the United States over a CIA report relating to an alleged hacking by the Russians during the presidential elections. An investigation has been launched in Congress.

It is as though a segment of the American political elite, including senior Republicans, had suddenly realised that it was confronting an abyss. The certainties of democracy were suddenly under threat.

With Trump playing ducks and drakes with time-honoured policies, footholds such as those of continuity — and stability — could be seen slipping away. There was a kind of crisis of faith.

In a recent interview, Noam Chomsky expressed concern about the “organised destruction of human life” by certain Republicans through their defiance of global efforts at climate control.

However, what is worrying to the rest of the world is the overall slippage in evidence in the context of democracy and the perceived abortion of the ‘system’ in the US.

America seems to have lost out on account of its neo-liberalism when this can so easily slide into fascism. Nationalism, such as that of Trump is a dated — and risky — phenomenon.

It appeared to go out in the US with George Bush but has reared its head again. The dream of making America ‘great again’ has a menacing ring.

Obama’s, on the other hand, was a dream of a gun-free and peaceful domestic environment in the United States and of a realistically possible peace abroad.

However belated, we must also commend Jimmy Carter’s concern about Palestine. The two-state solution is not one that should be jettisoned because of Israel’s intransigence. A sovereign Palestinian state is a moral imperative.

The mayhem in the Middle East too must end. It is the responsibility of the West to see to it that it does — since it was the West that initially brought it about.

If wisdom is to prevail, then nationalisms and fundamentalisms alike must be contained. Also, granted that we live in a world crushed by demographic constraints and poverty, economic advancement alone is not enough.

Not just environmental but intellectual degradation and the question of the survival of ‘homo sapiens’ — of a thinking humanity — must be addressed. There is a space beyond that of political and economic power. A discourse of the human spirit and value is called for.

Liberalism has, on the whole, failed to provide this. It is a philosophy that is fundamentally dishonest. Its humanist postures fail to convince. On the contrary, they often barely hide a hegemonistic — and predatory — mindset.

Both Britain and France, for instance, jump eagerly into the fray when required. David Cameron and François Hollande both endorsed and spearheaded intervention in Libya when this could have been avoided. Anarchy is all that that led to.

There was likewise concern in the West about the rise to power in Egypt of The Muslim Brotherhood and Mohamed Morsi. Alarm bells started to ring when, in the course of a year, an Islamist order began to take shape. Israel grew jittery.

A dilemma came about in the relevant corridors of power and an expedient conclusion was reached. Democracy had to be kicked in the shins and military rule ushered in.

Realpolitik, yet another facet of liberalism, fascinates but also disturbs. Despite his part in the undoing of the ‘Arab Spring’ in Egypt, Obama was perhaps not entirely to blame where it is the US establishment that ultimately calls the shots.

In our own neck of the woods, the nationalism of Narendra Modi is inevitably a source of concern. Kashmir continues to be a flashpoint. But we must not overreact to acts of provocation along the Line of Control by India. An equivalent response seems the best option.

It is, however, too easy to heed promptings in the direction of counter-aggression. That is surely not the way. In a war-torn world — and given a long history of failed peace initiatives — it makes more sense to pursue the cause of peace.

Above all, the will to resolve the issue of Kashmir must be there. That is a vital ingredient. It is a prerequisite of meaningful and productive dialogue.

The writer is the founder chairman of Dialogue: Pakistan, a local think tank.

Adrian A. Husain, "Beyond dreams," Dawn. 2016-12-14.
Keywords: Political science , CIA report , Presidential elections , Democracy , Human life , Nationalism , Fundamentalisms , Poverty , Economic advancement , Economic power , Muslim brotherhood , Military rule , US establishment , Kashmir issues , David Cameron , Mohamed Morsi , Narendra Modi , Barack Obama , Jimmy Carter , Noam Chomsky , George Bush , United State , Palestine , Israel , Middle East , Egypt , India