Breakdown in Post-Cold War Order: By Murari Sharma:

Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan, Palestine, Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen, etc. are seething in conflict. Many other countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America are also passing through a tumultuous period. While all these conflicts and tensions are unique in themselves, they share a common thread: The breakdown of the post-Cold War world order shaped by the United States.

Francis Fukumaya’s declaration about the end of history may have been precocious, but it was demonstrably premature. Western values have predominated the world, but they have not defeated other value systems. Democracy, freedom and human rights might have found a wider lip service, but they are yet to become universally respected in practice, partly owning to the democratic countries becoming increasingly undemocratic in the name of security and the war on terror. Other countries have followed suit.

Political and economic transformation, or lack of it, has not been uniform. Singapore has become rich without being democratic. China is following the same path. India is democratic, but remains poor. So are most other countries in the Third World. Tribalism, something thought to have been gradually abandoned for nearly a hundred year, has made a roaring come back across the world, giving rise to internal inter-ethnic conflicts and tensions.

BRICS, the rising countries outside the traditional western economic and political powerhouses, have lifted millions of their people out of poverty, signed an agreement to form their own international bank and pursued foreign policies independent of the West. China has become the second largest economy in the world, edging past Japan, and the largest in purchasing power parity terms. India is third in PPP. The Brazilian economy has become bigger than the UK economy. They have begun to challenge Western hegemony in their regions and compete for resources elsewhere to feed their economies.

The West’s decline is demonstrable across the world, but notably in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Syria and Ukraine. The United States, the foremost military and economic power, withdrew from Iraq without securing peace and stability. Now it seems that either the Islamic Caliphate of Iraq and Syria will capture the country or the country will disintegrate. The US will pull out of Afghanistan at the end of this year without defeating Taliban, striking a credible deal with them, or stabilizing the poor hilly country.

Nowhere has US power has proved as impotent as in the case of Israel, America’s closest ally in the Middle East. It seems that US Middle East policy is made in Tel Aviv, not in Washington. Israel has defied America in building Jewish settlements in the occupied territories and rejected American proposals for peace in the Middle East. In the latest episode, Tel Aviv has rebuffed the ceasefire proposal of Secretary of State John Kerry to stop violence in Gaza. By failing to confront the Israeli right, Washington has lost the Middle East as a whole and is fast losing the rest of the world, including Europe.

At the other end of the spectrum, President Assad has won a third term despite the military and economic support from Western countries to the rebels seeking to overthrow him. President Barack Obama’s red line that the US will strike if Assad used chemical weapons against his opponents proved a damp squid. Ukraine lost Crimea to Russian aggression. And the battle between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine has all the hallmarks of the Cold War: Washington is supporting Kiev militarily and Moscow is propping Donetsk.

Besides, the West in general and the United States in particular used sanctions to prevent North Korea and Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons technology. But North Korea has already had nuclear weapons and Iraq may obtain them in the near future. The negotiations between Iran and the United States have halted the nuclear weapons program, but Tehran is yet far from abandoning it.

Clearly, these developments indicate that the post-Cold War world order built in the US vision is in jeopardy. US President Barack Obama, hamstrung by the political gridlock in Washington, has been long on rhetoric and short on action. He has been timid in exercising executive powers and his opponents, the Republicans who control the lower house, have prevented him from obtaining legislative mandates for US action, for instance against Syria several months back. For the same reason, he cannot move an inch to bring Israel into line.

Interestingly, he could not persuade President Hamid Karzai to let the US forces stay in Afghanistan, could not convince Prime Minister Nouri Maliki to quit to form a national government and tackle the growing threat of ISIS in Iraq. And he could not explicitly support his secretary of state’s peace initiative between Israel and Palestine before and could not pick up the phone and tell Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel to stop the ongoing indiscriminate killing of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, at least to protect the dignity of the Nobel Peace Prize he has been awarded.

My father used to say: Son, try not to be hated or feared. But if you must choose one between the two, choose to be feared than hated. The United States has reached that critical fork in the road in its foreign relations. According to a Pew Research Survey, the United States has been viewed increasingly unfavorably abroad over the last five years, including in Europe. It is also less feared due to its debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan. Karzai, Maliki, Assad and Netanyahu have already proved it.

Fear comes from brute force and moral authority. The United States continues to enjoy military superiority by spending more on defense than the next 10 countries combined. So the declining fear of America can only be explained by the loss of its moral authority, which it had acquired on the strength of its commitment to such fundamental values as democracy, freedom and human rights. But the United States has trampled these values at home and abroad and lost its moral authority.

For instance, at home, the American government has begun to spy on its people and considerably narrowed the rights and freedoms of its citizens in the name of security. Outside America, in Egypt, it supported the military to stage a coup to remove the democratically elected Morsi government. It allowed Israel to commit war crimes, as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has recently suggested in her statement, in Gaza. It permitted Maliki and Karzai to plunder the government treasuries under its very nose and become sectarian dictators.

The post-Cold War order is broken down, but it could still be fixed. To fix it, Washington should have a principled stand with Israel, Russia and other countries; stop spying on friends; win the confidence of BRICS; contain Iranian and North Korean nuclear weapon programs; and apply the uniform standards across the board to promote the fundamental values of democracy, freedoms and human rights.


Murari Sharma: Churchill Disease

Violence between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza has flared up again. Hamas is lobbing rockets from Gaza and Israel is pounding Gaza with its full military force. More than 140 people have already been killed and more are being murdered as we speak. We must treat the Churchill Disease to resolve the problem of recurring violence permanently.

The latest violence started when Palestinian extremists abducted and killed three Jewish teenagers in the West Bank on 12 June 2014. In retaliation, Israeli extremists abducted and killed a Palestinian teenager. Hamas, which presides over the government in Gaza, is launching rockets into Israel. And Israel is killing Palestinians and pulverizing their homes in Gaza in a collective punishment.

This is the latest spark in a cycle of violence that refuses to stop. Evidently, the Middle East is a tinderbox ready to catch fire at the slightest provocation due to the ancient grievances and new complaints. The Ottoman empire had expelled Jews from Palestine 2000 years ago. Turkey lost World War I, and Palestine came under Britain, which divided the territory into Jewish and Arab homelands. In 1947, United Nations resolution 181 formally partitioned the territory into Jewish and Palestinian areas and the City of Jerusalem.

In 1948, Jews set up the state of Israel, which Palestinians and Arab countries did not accept. The wars of 1948, 1967 and 1973 broke out between Arabs and Israelis over Palestine. The Israelis prevailed in the first two and the third was stopped through negotiation. After that, Palestinians have launched two intifadas against Israel. All these conflicts have resulted in colossal losses of lives and property.

Fast forward, now the majority of Israelis and Palestinians support two-state solution, one for Jews and another for Palestinian Muslims. However, extremists Israelis and Palestinians, including their leaders, deny each other’s right to have their homeland. This has been the source of perennial conflict.

Israeli extremists want the entire Palestine for themselves. Similarly, extremist Palestinians do not accept Israel’s right to exist. The position of both groups is untenable in this day and age. Some leaders understand this, but others are blinkered by their nationalist zeal. Those who fail to understand this this reality suffer from the Churchill Disease.

Winston Churchill was a great political leader and writer. He also had his darker side: He was a white supremacist bigot. For instance, he once said, “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.” Another time, he said, “It is alarming and also nauseating to see Mr. Gandhi, a seditious middle temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well known in the east, striding half-naked up the steps of the viceregal palace, while he is still organizing and conducting a defiant campaign of civil disobedience, to parley on equal terms with the representative of the king-emperor.” And this, “I have not become the King’s First Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire.”

Churchill did not find Gandhi a reliable partner for negotiation and did not like Indians, for he had no intention to grant independence to India. Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and other rightist leaders dislike Palestinian leaders and say they have no reliable Palestinian partner to negotiate peace, for they have no intention to find peace and agree on the two-state solution.

Similarly, some hardline Palestinian leaders also suffer from the Churchill ailment, which turns them blind to ground reality. Like Churchill, who thought he could thwart Indian independence by denigrating Gandhi and Indians, they believe that denying Israel’s existence will wash the Jewish state into the sea.

If Israelis and Palestinians do not free themselves from the Churchill Disease and agree on the two-state solution in time, the default outcome from the stalemate will be a one-state solution: No Jewish Israel and no Muslim Palestine but a condominium of both. Due to high population growth rate among Muslims, the condominium would be a Muslim majority state in a few decades.

The onus of finding a comprehensive solution rests mainly with the Israelis and Palestinians themselves. However, the international community — particularly the Quartet of the United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations – too has failed in its obligation to nudge the two parties to the negotiating table and persuading them to find the common ground. The problem with the quartet is that some are biased and some inconsequential.

US secretary of state John Kerry tried to bring the two sides to the table, but failed. He failed since Tel Aviv rejected his push and he almost lost his job when he said Israel could turn into an apartheid state if the two-state solution is not worked out. The United States is not a neutral player, to boot. It supplies sophisticated and lethal weapons to Israel to kill Palestinians and other Muslims, supports Israel blindly in international fora, and provides economic and political assistance disproportionately to Tel Aviv.

The European Union may occasionally dare to disagree with Washington on the margin, but it has no guts to do so on critical and significant issues. Russia and the United Nations have little influence over Israel. Tony Blair, appointed as Middle East envoy at the behest of Washington to work for the Quartet, is tainted by his appointment and by his personal business interests. He has recently established a consulting office in the United Arab Emirates.

The time is running out for the two-state solution. Radi Jarai, a political science professor in Jerusalem, has launched a campaign for one-state solution and the young Israelis and Palestinians are increasingly joining his campaign. Nearly 30 percent Palestinians support one-state solution. Liberal Israeli politicians are open to this option as well. Helena Cobban, an Israeli columnist, too detected increasing support for it. Even the late Col. Gaddafi of Libya supported it.

Actually, the one-state solution will be beneficial to Israeli and Palestinian people, though their leaders may think otherwise. The Jewish-Palestinian condominium will be bigger, be more powerful, have a bigger market, and have much larger potential for progress than individual two states. It will also minimize the numerous contests over scarce resources like fertile land and water. For the majority of countries, it will be readily acceptable and indeed welcome.

Perhaps, Israel and Palestine need a cooling off period, in which the Palestinians should have home rule and the international community should provide policing and defense for them. If Israeli and Palestinian leaders work the two-state solution modalities, let us say in five years, there should be two states. Otherwise, the international community should help them form a federal state with Jewish and Palestinian provinces. It will render what looks increasingly inevitable both smoother and less painful for both sides.

The current cycle of violence between Israelis and Palestinians is just one more in a series. Until a comprehensive solution is found between them, the Middle East will remain a tinderbox, ready to burst into violence at the slightest provocation. If the international community cannot nudge the two sides to agree, it should at least try to mitigate the humanitarian problem in Palestine by treating it some sort of an international trust territory.