and Global ResponsIbility
An Alternative Reading in the Context of Globalisation
We live in a world that is terrorized by militant forces that cannot be exclusively attributed to any one region or country, or any particular religious or ethnic identity. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, the economic boom brought about through various processes culminating in globalization has not only achieved growth in leaps and bounds, but also has unleashed destructive powers that any responsible and peace-loving human being would never wish to visualize. As these forces are widespread all over the human habitat and as these forces are attempting to dismantle a civilization that has been founded on humane values, especially centred around a culture of life, various proactive initiatives are the need of the hour, so that human race as such and human civilization itself can be redeemed.
Terrorism, by and large, involves systematic forms of violence initiated against peoples and nations with the intent of intimidating personal and social life, thus to coerce political decisions in favour of their objectives, apparently in the arena of political, ethnic or religious rights. A terrorist looks for redressing the grievances resulting from certain ‘perceived’ unjust social, economic, or even religious practices, involving highhandedness from one or another entity. Of course, terrorism is not at all a new phenomenon; the intensity and pervasiveness that are globally experienced and the acute awareness that has evolved in the first phase of the twenty-first century with regard to terrorist outfits and their activities are something unparalleled in human history. The small and large scale counter-terrorist activities that are initiated by various agencies – both governmental and non-governmental – must bring consolation to all those who confront the reality of terrorist violence and extinction, even if they are immediate or only remote possibilities. At the outset, it must be stated that all such agencies need to function under a moral framework, so that everyone involved would respond morally to the evils perpetrated (even if it is done in the name of redressing certain evils unleashed by any agency) in a manner that is strictly human in character. For, immorality on the part of one person does not warrant immoral responses on the part of any human agency; instead, every human agency must be capable of responsibly responding to the tragic situations arising from terrorist activities, so that our collective human involvement would enhance the prospects for a better morrow.
Terrorist violence is the end product of political as well as economic powers used and misused (in most of the cases, on the pretext either of religious or of national interest), that has drifted away from fair practices of justice due to falsely cultivated understanding of welfare and political establishment. As the whole globe is threatened by terrorist menace and as most of the humanity are sincerely concerned about finding a solution for the same, the United Nations (UN) has attempted to describe terrorism as an act “intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act.” It is a fact that terrorist violence continues despite global awareness; thousands of lives are being erased from the face of the earth by various types of terrorist activities, including state-sponsored terrorism, equally practised by the technologically developed and developing nations, without even having a second thought about the value attached to human life. The callousness with which modern media chronicle deaths on a daily basis has ceased to be disturbing any more among the wider public; that is, if approached from a private angle, for me as an individual, terrorist killing does not matter at least as long as it does not affect my kith and kin.
The ineffectiveness of most of our exercises to root out terrorist forces must call us – individually and collectively, nationally and internationally – to an earnest soul-searching. Most of the time, local governments, global super-power(s), and international bodies are happy to pass on the blame to some third parties, and are content in eliminating those forces as if it would bring an ultimate solution. In fact, on the pretext of fighting terrorism, most of the agencies are not at all ready to go beyond the peripheral analysis of the problems, as striking the root causes would be equally disturbing to them, and would point the fingers back on themselves. If a serious analysis could be carried out, in most of the cases the solution could be located in those parties who are ever ready to root out terrorist forces. For, most of the terrorists, to my mind, come into being due to injustices perpetrated (at least, as they perceive it) at the local or international levels, for which a just solution does not seem to be in sight, as these same forces are controlling the corridors of power, and would not let anything happen that would topple their strategies. As helpless and hapless victims, they lose both their hope in future and trust in political or allied agencies: helpless coupled with anger and resentment may breed violence, mostly through unconventional methods. I do not, however, think that these terrorist forces wage a war in the hope of winning; they want to intimidate as many as possible, including the ‘unchallengeable’, with the hope of indirectly controlling these adversaries through violence. This is the opinion of Schweitzer and Shay, brought out through their analysis of various terrorist outfits:
The goal of the terror organizations is not to destroy the military capabilities of its adversaries but rather to influence their consciousness and impair their resolve from the point of view of determination and national strength. Thus, the terrorist aspires to impair and disrupt the lifestyle of the target countries, to spread fear and insecurity, and in this way to promote his interests. Therefore, the Information Age makes the society and economy of the modern Western state extremely vulnerable because of its great dependence on communication systems of all sorts for its daily survival.
Thus, unprecedented backlashes are quite possible when any power tries to initiate a totalitarian control over the whole of the globe, whether it is done in the name of saving itself or saving the world.
Sovereignty is not merely a wish, but a necessity for any entity, even in an increasingly globalised world, which is being continuously harassed by the threat of terrorist activities, most of which results from suppression or oppression meted out to certain individual or national entities. Our age boasts of being civilized, which is said to be expressed in the democratic political processes that are in place in most of the developed and developing countries, and of having internationally acclaimed legal systems to impartially serve justice to all. Our civilization is understood almost synonymous with globalization, which, according to many, has opened up the global market to satisfy the needs of everyone: the whole world is a market. It claims that the systems are in place to mete out justice. However, all these claims turn out to be hollow, as we observe that democracy – as it is practised at present – is only a sugar-coated progeny of the capitalist market, which is being easily manipulated by the self-interests of a very few; most of the time, these forces are made to swing in favour of national and international markets, as a result of which realizing justice remains a sheer mirage, especially when it comes to the global market, which the world is made to be. Indeed, market is the sovereign in the globalised world. When resources of a nation are plundered by these forces (mostly, through pseudo-legal procedures) and, in return, are given only meagre benefits, a gradual economic decadence and the resulting political unrest would follow. Simultaneously, the multinational companies and the nations to which they are attached definitely get a better edge in this bargain; as a result, they continue to surge ahead both in purchasing power and political mileage. So, the globalised market opens up the global resources to a world in which only a very few will be left with accessibility and entitlements. This poses us with a very unjust situation, though the present democratic as well as judicial procedures are least equipped to tackle these issues, as both these powers are in the iron grip of the market-might of the multi-nationals and their affiliated nations.
Interestingly, we live in an imperialistic world in which subjection of peoples and nations is done not directly through muscle power, but through the might of economy. As the resources are controlled by the might of the market, an indirect subjugation of the people is put in place for the benefit of those nations that regulate the world economy, through hook and crook, both of which are considered to be acceptable as long as they would serve the selfish designs of such powers. Economic imperialism initiates the subjugation on a global basis. A declaration of the UN General Assembly brings to focus the inbuilt injustice and the fundamental moral problems emerging from such a situation: “The subjection of people to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights, is contrary to the charter of the United Nations and is an impediment to the promotion of world peace and cooperation.” In this type of economic injustice we have a vital clue to understand one of the fundamental causes of terrorism. Although all terrorist activities need not be traced to such a foundation, it seems to be a serious issue to be considered on a global scale.
This indicates that we still live in a world regulated by the powers of nature, and not of morality, though we continue to boast of being civilized. As Immanuel Kant, an 18th century moral philosopher, has put it, wherever there is no judicial system capable of enforcing laws to protect the individual rights, there prevails a state of nature. Such a society is on the verge of violence due to the absence of alternative methods that would enable to adjudicate disputes between individuals in a just manner. As long as our world order and national governments cannot put in place an impartial legal system to address the grievances of individual persons and nations/entities, we cannot claim that we live in a civilized state. Kant insists that, in order to claim that any society is a civilized one, there must be a just constitution, allowing “the greatest freedom” for each along “the most precise specification and preservation of the limits of this freedom so that it can coexist with the freedom of others” making room for mutual growth and development.
In the twenty-first century, thus, we are still in need of learning how to employ power without forfeiting humanity. A closer and impartial look at what is taking place these days indicates that the mightier agencies (trans-national institutions, nations, multinational-corporations, etc.) are amassing more power through hook and crook, which is being used to get things done according to their vicious plans and vested interests. However, as these game plans continue to be fulfilled, the casualty is humanity: humanity of those who exercise this power as well as that of those on whom it is being exercised. As this situation continues to prevail, the powerful easily forget the fact that a surrender of humanity to power, which would crush the former under its iron grips, ultimately results in a total loss of humanity, humane sensibilities, and everything that is specifically associated with it. It ushers in a new epoch, but with the values of the old in terms of ‘might is right’; that means, our society that claims to be civilized in many respects is going back to the principles of the animal kingdom! Exercising power without a sense of responsibility does not pertain to the human domains.
People’s support in campaigning and fighting against terrorism and forces of destruction, affecting personal as well as civil life, is fundamental if such a move is to be initiated within the framework of a democracy. The global fight against terror is acclaimed to be spearheaded by democratic processes and agencies. In fact, the source of strength for all these agencies must be the people in whose name all these offensives are being carried out. However, all those who exercise power within a democratic framework shall never forget the ensuing responsibilities:
Power entails responsibility, and the immense power generated by modern technology, medicine, instantaneous worldwide communication and the global economy will call for responsibility on the same scale. We can make a difference, and only we can make a difference. Without the unforced contributions of people of good will, politicians are powerless and international resolutions so many well-meaning words spent upon the air.
That is, ultimately we need to move towards a shared political culture, which is founded on the bedrock of personal liberty and political self-determination, transparency in matters pertaining to local or domestic issues, and integrity and consistency in international policies and practices.
‘War on Terror’, in the shadow of which a lot of evils are being perpetrated on a global scale, seems to be conducted on a dubious moral foundation. The core principles of moral life, freedom and responsibility are (mis)understood and put into practice on a unilateral and partisan manner in some societies. It has become a pattern among the industrialized nations to rate the freedom of themselves and their citizens as something sacrosanct and hence inviolable, while the freedom of the others is not even recognized: some of the military interventions initiated at the behest of safeguarding the whole world from the clutches of terrorist forces treat people of other nations, especially if they are attributed a ‘terrorist’ tag, as mere non-entities, not to speak about their humanity or dignity as persons. The net result of such a treatment of freedom entails an unacceptable understanding of responsibility as well. That is, these nations who enjoin an upper hand in handling the issues of world-terrorism unilaterally claim that restraining and rooting out terrorist outfits and individuals is ultimately their responsibility, which is quite dubious in its moral foundations and political overtones. The exercise of human freedom engenders a necessity of recognizing freedom among other individuals and peoples. Only when freedom is mutually recognized and endorsed, can anyone act responsibly in a society. Individual and national entities can, then, function for the common good. In this regard, a mix up of a moral understanding of freedom and responsibility with a partisan political exercise of freedom and responsibility should be avoided. They are not one and the same; instead, a proper moral sensitivity to the nature and exercise of freedom and responsibility must facilitate and enhance the political exercise of freedom and responsibility. If the former is absent, naturally the latter would be hollow, and may ultimately turn out to be detrimental to the humanity itself.
As terrorist menace continues as a fast-growing malignant cancer in human body, there is the need for ushering in a new outlook in which responsibility would be accepted by all parties involved, i.e., the terrorists as well as those who fight terror. Traditionally, terrorists alone are blamed and almost all actions initiated to root out terrorism centre exclusively around the terrorists. Here we fail to take note of other dimensions, some of which at least could lead us towards a better resolution and elimination of violence against humanity. We need to initiate comprehensive mechanisms in fighting terrorism; use of force – whether it is military intervention or economic coercion – is only one factor in the whole exercise. A proactive approach to terrorism has to be in place, in which instead of branding some individuals or nations as terrorist (as it was done by George W. Bush, the president of United States of America, in branding Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as “axis of evil”), an unbiased analysis of their claims as well as the foundations for such claims must be carried out. If there is a denial or deprivation of legitimate rights on the part of a people or a nation, whether they have been demanding for long or not, it would be unjust on the part of any agency to militarily or politically target them without initiating programmes to settle the injustices first. In fact, any military action without addressing the core issues (like cultural and economic alienation resulting from totalitarian approaches, like globalisation) with inclusive reform measures will only aggravate the problems associated with terrorism. It is against this understanding that we should evaluate the concerted efforts on the part of UN and other countries headed by the USA and the UK and the aftermath of the ‘war on terror’ that is continuing even today, which does not seem to be having any grip in containing the menace (but, to my mind, has become a catalyst in enhancing terrorist violence all over the world). If these nations that proudly fight against terrorists do not do a sincere soul-searching, the signs on the horizon indicate that the terror outfits like al-Qaida would only increase in number, size, and strength, which would ultimately be detrimental to all.
Agony of the death of our own shall not lead us to taking the lives of as many as possible. We learn from history that violence begets violence, death begets death. A humane approach calls for a break in the action-reaction dialectical process. Memory of violence and death shall lead us not into the jaws of death, but to a serene search for life, which can be catered to only through a non-violent approach. In view of a safer world freed from the clutches of terrorism, the rest of the world must become more tolerant and understanding. That is, we have to train a new generation in understanding and tolerance, mutual appreciation and acknowledgment of individuals – persons and nations – as they are. Certainly, tolerance and understanding, coupled with the struggle for justice, would certainly beget a society consisting of individual units that are tolerant and peace-loving. Indeed, that would enable the humanity to emerge from the shadow of death, and make a passage through human life, a societal life in its fullness.
From a practical point of view, if this is to be realized, we need to initiate more concerted efforts in this regard. Although listing all such measures would be a Herculean task, the following observations are made as representative suggestions which need to be taken seriously into account if we are sincere in our efforts to contain the terrorist menace on a global scale.
(1) Trade Practices: Globalisation is the catchword in our economic practices. It intents to liberalize all national economies with a view to facilitate the free flow of capital, which, according to experts on global trade and economic practices, would augment growth of all economies on par with the economies of the industrialized nations. As everyone wanted to have a part of the cake, there was an initial enthusiasm on the part of most of the nations to jump into the global market. The insistence upon free flow of capital would naturally result in a simultaneous siphoning out of the resources of every economy – not necessarily as natural resources – which would finally drain out its exchequer. An alternative balancing act could have been the free flow of labour, which would facilitate a mutual flow of labour and capital. This could have facilitated a healthier growth within the globalised world. However, as the free market theory continues to be running through the dynamics of globalisation and as profit remains the sole criterion of successful trade practices, there does not seem to be any sign on the horizon for a holistic business practice. Instead, global traders are augmenting their might not only through unjust economic practices but also through reinforced political and military manoeuvring. Such practices are not based on the principle of justice, and would eventually cause unrest within the local economies, as people would gradually lose their purchasing power, and instability in the international relations. As the stronger economies would continue to wield control in their hands, naturally other economies would remain always at the receiving end, without having any bargaining power. As this would endanger the latter’s very existence, and as a legitimate way out is almost impossible, as I have already stated, emergence of terrorist outfits would be natural. Containing them necessarily calls for more just and humane trade practices across the globe. Globalisation slogans may sound good, but their impacts are detrimental to the majority in the long run. Therefore, justice must prevail in economic relations and trade practices, if at all terrorism is to be contained.
The globalised world, mostly controlled by the multi-nationals, tends to call for obliterating political passions on the part of every nation that is targeted through the armament of the US and, sometime, even the UN. Their interest is only to see that the whole world is a consumer base, the whole of which can generate huge profits which could be gradually pumped out from each national economy. In fact, this seems to be happening in one or the other nation that has already been targeted through the US political as well as military forces. Given the reactions from various corners of the world, the wish of the multinationals and the world-regimes to de-‘politicize’, as per their plans, does not seem to be coming forth. It is, indeed, an impossibility. As people become increasingly conscious of their losses and the treacherous means that are employed (e.g., ongoing political manoeuvring and the military might that are used in the Middle East to control the region and thus to siphon out more oil), it is natural that more and more would turn against the US agenda. It would contribute to further escalation of terrorist strategies among various peoples. This situation warrants a rethinking of the international affairs, and the mode of operation adopted by both political as well as economic agencies. There needs to happen a reinstating of sovereignty with every people; there needs to initiate a total stoppage of exploitative business strategies of multinationals, which are politically supported and even reinforced by internationally all-pervasive political powers. The aggressive strategies adopted by various political bodies need to deliberate about their own moral responsibility in redeeming humanity from the clutches of terrorist forces. It cannot be done without shedding the black veil of imperialism (political as well as economic), which is the cause of most of the tragedies that the world faces today. Let a people be themselves; let them evolve, whether it is a question of democracy or globalization. No growth can be imposed upon anybody; it must result organically. Otherwise, it would only lead into more catastrophic situations, which finally run out of control, as it usually happens with most of the cancers, whether it is malignant or not.
(2) Revitalising the United Nations: Formation of the UN in the Post-World War II scenario is a milestone, and the initiative is praiseworthy. However, over the years, political map has undergone tremendous transformation, and the responsibility of various agencies has to be understood from the changed perspective. The World War situation might have made the need of a particular structure in which the victors had a major role in the constitution and maintenance of the operations of the UN. Although some space was allocated for a few others, by and large, the governance of the affairs is still vested in the hands of a few member-states, mostly constituted by the industrially developed nations. In fact, this has resulted in an imbalanced exercise of power and lack of transparency, leading to partisan policies and unbecoming practices. This needs to be corrected if the UN has to play its role in maintaining international peace and security. Although a leading role of one or another entity is essential for the efficient functioning of an organization, the affairs of the UN being sabotaged by a very few member-states, sometimes zeroing in on only one, has incapacitated it and has made it irrelevant to a great extent. This, however, does not mean that the UN has lost its relevance altogether. The contrived functioning of the UN is in need of reinforcing its present Charter and of restructuring its internal dynamics, in such a way that no single member or a few members of the UN can direct its policy affairs and military interventions in international affairs merely based on its/their (vested) national interests. In some of the recent military responses on terrorism, the lead-role of the US is certainly suspicious. For example, international law prohibits the use of armed force except under narrow circumstances. However, the US has claimed that Article 51 of the UN Charter allows military interventions of the sort that they have initiated both in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, Article 51 deals only with self-defence. It does not include retaliatory strikes or pre-emptive strikes against a perceived or declared enemy. Moreover, it must also be kept in focus that unilateral use of armed force is allowed only in self-defence in the wake of an armed attack, that too, only until the Security Council has taken necessary measures to maintain international peace and security. As the responsibility is vested with the Security Council, any one (or more) member-state overlooking such provisions, initiating military strike against another member-state, and going without being reprimanded and restricted by the concerned bodies of the UN clearly indicates that the latter is incapacitated through the highhandedness of the US. This needs to be remedied, if any meaningful and acceptable process can be initiated by the UN against the perceived threat from terrorist forces on the local and international scenes. The need of the hour is not a helpless watchdog, but an effective and vigilant, fully functional agency of the UN in the international affairs, which I hope will provide the necessary ambience for realizing global responsibility against terrorism.
(3) Reconstituting the Security Council of the UN: The Security Council has the primary responsibility, under the UN Charter, to maintain international peace and security. The present structure of this council indicates that it has fifteen members, of which five of them are permanent. While the non-permanent members are elected by the UN General Assembly for a period of two years, the permanent members are China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Although this council is vested with much power with regard to the handling of international affairs, it does not seem to be constituted on a democratic basis. The logic of democratically electing the non-permanent members is sound, though the adoption of the permanent membership of the five nations does not seem to be justifiable on any ground. Even though the role of these nations could be conceded in the immediate post-World War II context, maintaining the same structure in the 21st century seems to have a lot of oddities. What is the foundation based on which this permanency is maintained: is it retained in terms of their contribution to international peace and security (which is said to be the declared primary objective of the UN), or their economic status, or military might? Even if any of these could be accepted as foundation, it must be clear that there is no definitive status determined once and for all: if done, no more it would be the human world, which is quite dynamic and vibrant with life, with its own ups and downs. All these may vary from time to time and country to country. Then, the present structure does not seem to be making room for the positive dynamics that are to be initiated by the Security Council. Moreover, these permanent members in the council are said to be vested with “veto” power (otherwise known as the rule of “great power of unanimity”). That is, decisions of the Security Council, consisting of 15 members, on any substantive matters require nine votes, including the concurring votes of all five permanent members. This is an undemocratic procedural fallacy that would permanently thwart the purpose of the UN, if international peace and security are to be understood on a non-partisan basis. The “veto” power enables these five permanent members to make sure that no action is initiated by the UN that would go against their interests. In the history of the UN we come across with various instances in which this “veto” power has been a real ‘incapacitating’ factor, to initiate processes that would establish international peace and security. However, as the present structure of the UN does not envisage any chance of reconstituting the Security Council structurally, which again is the result of the ‘permanent fallacy’ of the UN organization, I am quite sceptical about a successful realization of its mission. Against the background of the increasing menace of terrorism, perpetrated both by members (alarmingly, including the permanent members of the Security Council) and non-members of the UN along with other outlawed terrorist agencies, if international peace and security are to be established, we are in dire need of reconstituting the Security Council of the UN. Both the provision of having a set of five (more or less) permanent members and their “veto” power should be permanently removed. No one shall enjoy any special privilege in the international affairs. As the UN is an international collective activity of the nations of the world, its affairs, including that of the Security Council, shall be conducted only on democratic foundations. As the number of the Security Council members should be limited – which shall be subject to the revision of the UN General Assembly – the present system of electing the ‘non-permanent’ members may be continued to constitute the whole of the Security Council, which will then be more transparent, neutral, just, and effective in its procedures and actions. It would, in turn, augment the chance of fighting terrorism on a better and effective manner.
(4) International Court: The world has become smaller due to the revolutions in the arena of communication network and trade practices. We are closer to each other to such an extent that anything that happens at one corner of the world will have a ‘butterfly effect’ on the rest of the world. This is all the more so when it comes to the injustice experienced the world over. Although the coming together of various international entities is a praiseworthy event, we must realize the fact that the international relations have become extremely complex. It has given rise to competitions and exploitations: naturally, it can lead to more and more unrest. Moreover, military interventions in the modern era have been certainly contributing to the destabilisation of the whole world. Although many a military intervention is seemingly initiated to establish justice, there does not seem to be a consensus on the same. That is, there are differences in the understanding and practice of justice itself on the international scene. Further, our age is witnessing many brutal military interventions initiated at the behest of vested interests, but made out to be so for the establishment of the welfare of the whole world. As such claims are quite apprehensive, our globalised world stands in need of an international court (unlike the one now in operation under the arm of the UN), which would be unpartisan enough to look into the dynamics of our international relations and to establish justice. This court should also be enabled to address the issues related to unjust practices prevalent among different entities across the globe, even if it is done in the name of rooting out terrorism, or in the name of providing military or economic aid. The world is in need of an international court of appeal so that justice will not remain a mirage for the weak and unprotected. If ours were to remain a civilized society, we need to move along the line of dispensing justice on international level: it is the need of the new globalised world order.
(5) Avoiding Partisan Political Policies and Practices: When it comes to international relations, governments should follow a consistent policy, which is essential to fight terrorism. The adage “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” seems to be indirectly endorsed by many, but is an anomaly. Identifying and fighting a terrorist is not a subjective issue, but must be objective and definitive. However, even those nations which are bent on rooting out terrorist forces all over the globe do not seem to be following a definitive policy. Approach of the US, for example, with regard to Pakistan or Saudi Arabia seems to be quite dubious. The US has been soft on those nations that are its allies, and are given waivers even with regard to accommodating parties that are subversive and direct perpetrators of terrorist activities. In his book, Tinderbox: US Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism, Stephen Zunes highlights the unjust practices perpetrated by the US in dealing with Saudi Arabia:
… in a further extension of this dynamic where countries are treated as pariahs or as allies based on their allegiance to US strategic interests, at least one staunch US ally suffers no sanction despite clear evidence that at least some leading officials in government advance the agenda of terrorists: Saudi Arabia has contributed more funds to extremist Islamic groups connected with terrorism than has Iran or any of the other so-called “rogue states.” As has been noted, fifteen of the nineteen hijackers of September 11 were Saudis, as was Osama bin Laden. Yet there is no talk of routing out terrorists in Saudi Arabia through military force.
If this sort of a policy is adopted by any nation, their rhetoric on the fight against terrorism is quite hollow and any number of practices quite fruitless. Their sincerity in opposing terrorist forces is challengeable.
Moreover, the involvement of many countries against terrorists is politicized beyond measure to take both political and economic advantages. This is once again an eye-opener with regard to their vested interests in this regard. Just as the US has been the economic victor of the two world wars, continued military engagement of the troops of various nations, whether in the name of fighting terrorism or peace keeping, all these finally bring in economic and strategic advantages to many. This clearly indicates that the ultimate goal of most of the international agencies in their fight against terrorism is influenced by imperialistic attitudes and goals. Both the US and the UK have been repeatedly accused of extending colonial practices in their foreign policies as well as in their thrust to establish a terrorist-free world. The Middle East stalemate is said to be betraying a long standing economic neo-colonialism (spearheaded by the US through its multinational companies), and the recent spurt of terrorist violence has given them unhindered access to many economies than they had even planned!
(6) Human Rights Issues: National and international agencies are involved in fighting terrorists. The increasing menace of terrorism experienced in this first part of the 21st century seems to be a justification for such agencies to take recourse to any means, if it has the tag of fighting terror. This has opened up the avenues to another form of terror perpetrated by the state itself. A national example from India would be the POTA ordinance, which had given a blanket cover to fight the terrorists within the borders of India. However, it was repealed later as many government functionaries started to exploit it in view of segregating and suppressing their political as well as religious foes. In the hands of Hindu fundamentalists, for example, POTA was an effective tool to harass and even terminate Muslims, whose activities are wrongly perceived to be always against national interests. The same trend is observed on the international scene as well. The US, for example, is said to be violating the human rights issues in their handling of Afghan and Iraq ‘war criminals’ (who are tagged as terrorists, even without any evidence for the same). The non-territorial camps in which these people are treated have been practising abusive and coercive methods to extort information. Moreover, some of the inhumane practices that have been revealed to the rest of the world through certain leaked media coverage indicate that there is no hesitation on the part of the authorities in such camps to violate human rights. Surprisingly, the US that often criticizes other nations with regard to human rights violations has neither been transparent nor inward looking as to their own practices, especially when it came to the treatment of foreign nationals if they stood against their national interests. Such a response prevails in many instances related to the handling of people or nations ‘branded’ as terrorists, and it becomes increasingly difficult to come out of this vicious circle. As more and more human rights violations happen, those who cannot counter them in the same coin may look for stealthy alternatives, which would definitely look more akin to the terrorist programme. For me, it is not a question of winning or losing: it is certainly a loss of humane sensitivity and a blatant neglect of human rights, which are supposed to be the bedrock of many a human society. It is, therefore, far more fundamental that human rights issues are given a far more central role in dealing with terrorism, if it should usher in a new era of respect for the humanity of all, an antidote to the ills emanating from the vicious cycle of terror.
(7) Political Stability across the Globe: Stability is an antidote to many of the political chaos that we witness within different forms of governance, including democracy. It refers not only to one or other nation but every entity in this world. Justice in politics cautions against destabilising nations and economies for the sake of fighting against terrorist forces. Instead, what is called for is the support and enhancement of local governance through which the divisive forces can be brought under control. Taking into account the net result, direct and indirect destabilisation of governments all through the history – drawing inspiration from the ‘divide and rule’ policy of the British Imperialism – has been only counterproductive; if the perspective is limited to the advantage of one agent or nation, of course, there is still scope for more state sponsored violence and political destabilisation. However, if peace among the humanity is the target of the agencies that involve in the ‘war on terror’, naturally, we need to reconsider any individualistic benefit that would accrue from such processes.
Each individual entity needs space and time for its organic and sustainable development – in its political, economic and moral spheres. Political passions are needed in maintaining a people, though such passions may go out of control, if not checked timely and appropriately. Again, this has to take place organically. Merely by claiming that a people are not able to regulate their affairs by themselves does not spontaneously issue a mandate for any other body – except the one that is accepted by the people themselves – to initiate pre-emptive strikes against them, however promising that would look like. Such actions have been found to be quite counterproductive in human history. Therefore, a properly checked political passion, which can initiate healthy self-reliance as well as growth along with respect for the other, especially for human life, can be initiated only by an internal principle or agency. External powers can be helpful in this regard only in terms of indirect promptings by way of creative support – in the field of education, technical know-how, etc. This is a responsibility that both the UN and the US have to accept; if done, naturally, we will be able to see a responsible world emerging – slowly, but steadily.
I have attempted to highlight certain areas which need attention in setting the global situation right for realizing global justice through responsible involvement of individuals as well as international bodies. Apart from these, as responsibility has to ultimately well up within individuals, the role of religion needs to be emphasized. Despite the promulgation of civil laws by the state and the self-legislation of the moral laws by individuals, when it comes to acting morally, it is religion that is the best agent of moral transformation. With its own inner dynamics that go beyond the realms of this life and the immediate consequences, religions or religious principles act as moral catalysts in almost every society. In all our human endeavours, whether stamped as sacred or profane, religious or secular, the perspective of a person animated by religious faith must anchor on the presence of God/Divine/YHWH/Brahman (whatever be the name that is ascribed to this supernatural reality), so much so that he/it becomes an empowering presence that would prevail over any and every chaos that emerge in our world. The characteristic feature of this world and the empowering presence is not of ‘controlling’ any one; however, it contains an open invitation to partake in the wholesome existence, despite the chaotic situation brought about by human irresponsibility and carelessness as regards the ‘other’ and the ‘Other’. Human responsibility will not ensue merely from a rational discourse and judgment. It would come forth only from a serious deliberation about the human reality within the context of supernatural motive that is at play in the world, but recognizable and practicable only by those who are ready to open up their horizons to that force which can only be experienced, not discussed and discovered.
Taking various dynamics related to terrorism, this issue of the Journal of Dharma addresses “Terrorism and Global Responsibility” from various angles. Jose Kuriedath, in his article “Dialectics of Terror,” makes a sociological analysis of religion in relation to violence and offers insights as to why religion becomes a source of conflict, including its most destructive type, namely, terrorism. “Terrorism and Global Response-ability” by Brad Bannon seriously engages the issues related to terrorism from the point of view of global responsibility; his analysis is an invitation to understand human ability to move towards a cosmopolitan dialogical perspective which, he hopes, would bring about openness and peace through a commitment to the cause of humanity. Against the background of Iliad and Mahabharata, two epics dealing with massive battles happening almost contemporaneously, Maja Milčinski proposes that handling the issues related to war and violence requires primarily mastery over oneself and freedom from selfishness resulting in a harmonious understanding of spirit and body, which have been trans-culturally epitomised in various religious writings. Mathew Attumkal’s article deals with terrorism as a new mode of dehumanizing people into ‘targets’; he brings to focus the fact that it is a human-made problem and, hence, requires primarily a human solution, so that dignity of human persons can be re-established. In “Psychological Counselling Approach to Foundations of Terrorism,” Jobi Thurackal analyses the psychological impact terrorism makes on social life and proposes that identifying the psychological foundations and handling them with the assistance of counselling techniques is a necessity if our society should contain terrorism.
Fight against terrorism is not fighting al-Qaida; that is only the tip of the iceberg. Prevalence of injustice on a global scale and the inability on the part of those who are at the receiving end to facilitate a direct resolution and establishment of justice may still continue to resort to unconventional methods of violence with a hope of winning back their dues (only through the latter’s desperate attempts). Although they are almost sure that none of these attempts would finally bring a resolution (as the political and military might of those who deny justice is far beyond their reach) to their advantage, having access to unconventional methods of retaliation and availability of a new information environment based on modern methods of communication and networking, these subversive forces would continue operate with ease spreading fear all over. As the novel methods of terrorist strikes continue to evolve unconventionally within the new matrix of global communication, the economic, military, and political powers ensuing from globalisation do not seem to be coming to grip with the former. A head-on collision between the super power(s) and globally positioned subversive forces is not going to bring any advantage to humanity as a whole. Yet, it is a necessity that peace and tranquillity are to be re-established. To realize this, a more conscientious approach is needed: it must be capable of addressing the injustice that is all pervasive in the present mechanisms of social life, especially globalisation. Addressing the ills of globalisation and identifying the solutions, I believe, must be the primary task of all those who take upon themselves the responsibility of fighting terrorism.
Chief Editor, JD
Kofi Annan, Larger Freedom (A Report presented at the Security Council Meeting on 17 March 2005).
Yoram Schweitzer and Shaul Shay, The Globalization of Terror: The Challenge of Al-Qaida and the Response of the International Community, New Delhi: Viva Books, 2004, 218-219.
The United Nations, “Declaration on Decolonization,” §1 (1960). See http:// daccessdds.un.org/doc/RESOLUTION/GEN/NR0/152/88/IMG/NR015288.pdf?OpenElement.
Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith, London: Macmillan, 1929, A316/B373.
As Romano Guardini put it, “power is as much a possibility for good and the positive as it is a threat of destruction and evil.” R. Guardini, Power and Responsibility: A Course of Action for the New Age, trans. Elinor C. Briefs, Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1961, 6.
John Sacks, To Heal a Fractured World: The Ethics of Responsibility, London: Continuum, 2005, 265.
Major General Smedley Butler (1888-1940), of the US Marine Corps wrote as follows in his book, War as a Racket: “I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism… I helped make Honduras ‘right’ for American fruit companies in 1903. I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.” cited in Tariq Ali, The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity, New Delhi: Rupa and Co., 2003, 285-286.
The goals of the UN are established in its Charter. They are the following: “The purposes of the United Nations, as set forth in the Charter, are to maintain international peace and security; to develop friendly relations among nations; to cooperate in solving international economic, social, cultural and humanitarian problems and in promoting respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; and to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in attaining these ends.” See, for more details: http://www.un.org/aboutun/basicfacts/unorg.htm
See http://www.un.org/aboutun/charter/index.html for the complete text of the UN Charter.
A special discussion on the Security Council of the UN, and not on other organs of the UN, is justified precisely on its unique role in the operations of the UN. That is, while “other organs of the UN make recommendations to governments,” the Security Council “alone has the power to take decisions which member-states are obligated under the Charter to carry out.” See http://www.un.org/sc/membership.asp
Although international court has become a reality now, it seems to be in need of power and patronage. George W. Bush, the president of the United States of America, in the first few months of his regime, had reiterated his opposition to the international criminal court. Moreover, he has been adamantly against any US citizen being subjected to the jurisdiction of the international criminal court. Indeed, if every nation tends to be retaining its national interests as the sole good, naturally, no international institution can function effectively. The anomaly is that these same nations that resist the intervention of international organizations in their affairs are the most vocal and coercive when it comes to bringing other nations to the international justice.
Stephen Zunes, Tinderbox: US Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism, London: Zed Books, 2003, 195-196.
In the Clash of Fundamentalisms, Ali writes: “The United States emerged as the economic victor of the two world wars. Its major competitors had been enfeebled: Germany divided, Japan occupied, the British Empire in terminal decline. Its own economy prospered more than ever: immensely rich in raw materials, enjoying a greater equilibrium between industry and agriculture, a geography and demography that enabled it to practise economies of scale on mass-production lines, within an inviolable mainland.” Ali, The Clash of Fundamentalisms, 289-290.
“The Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002,” enacted on March 28, 2002 (Act No. 15 of 2002), makes provision for the prevention of, and for dealing with, terrorist activities and for matters connected therewith. See http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/ countries/india/document/actandordinances/POTA.htm for the detailed text of the Act.