WEB DESK: Western values are patently under threat given the response of Western governments to recent appalling events – a threat that is becoming a source of serious concern in their civil societies.
But what exactly are these Western values? It is difficult to define Western values as ‘realistic’ as opposed to a utopian goal, and includes adherence to (i) democratic principles and accompanying precepts of accountability, transparency, defender of human rights, (ii) a free market economic system coupled with a well administered social security programme, (iii) ardent supporters of globalisation (both in terms of finance and breaking boundaries) – an objective that the British public has rejected by voting in favour of Brexit, as well as (iv) multicultural as the outcome of massive migrations in the past.
These are commendable objectives and one would hope that these values are imbibed by all, irrespective of the dominant religion, in other parts of the world as well.
Unfortunately recent appalling events that began after 9/11 and led to the launch of the war on terror have since fuelled negative sentiments including: (i) anti-Muslim sentiments, and (ii) racist sentiments, accounting in some countries to the emergence of the concept of reverse racism defined as anti-white.
Critics of Western values both within and outside the system have repeatedly challenged the implementation of these values. Why are human rights violations by some countries a source of deep concern for the West evident from this issue being raised in bilateral talks with China and Russia and yet human rights violations have traditionally played no role in ties with kingdoms and dictatorships from where a major resource notably oil is procured by Western nations?
Why is the invocation of the charge of anti-Semitism enough to silence Western politicians by instantly conjuring up horrendous images of the Holocaust, granted that they epitomise the inhumanity of man against man, but the same kind of ‘ethnic cleansing’ by Israel or India of the hapless Palestinians and Kashmiris continue to be ignored? Why is self-interest in external relations the obvious guiding principle of established democracies, albeit an understandable approach of elected governments? There are numerous instances where self-interest and foreign policy of nation states have justified an illegal action for example sale of arms and ammunition to conflict regions around the world.
The US sold banned cluster bombs to Israel during its ongoing war with Lebanon in 2006 and I cite a statement by the head of an Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) rocket unit in Lebanon, as it appeared in Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, “What we did was insane and monstrous, we covered entire towns in cluster bombs”. In addition, soldiers in IDF artillery units testified that the army used phosphorous shells during the war, widely forbidden by international law. The UK has also sold millions of pounds of arms and ammunition (those that require the issuance of a license) to troubled spots around the world including Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, and Libya.
Why is a free market system being compromised in the West through farm friendly policies and subsidies – consumer items which are then dumped on developing countries thereby undermining the financial viability of their farm sector? Why is the trend of giving bribes, a boon to corruption in procuring countries, still in use in spite of legislation in some western countries, to win a large contract?
Irrespective of these long standing charges against the West which has not significantly changed the way the West does business with the rest of the world two recent events may provide fodder for change. First and foremost the fallout of Western interventions, both in terms of troops on the ground (as in Iraq and Afghanistan) and supplying arms/carrying out air strikes in support of government forces (Iraq or those opposed to the government in Syria), have led to greater instability in the region and created not only Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) but also a wave of refugees to Europe.
A dangerous outcome of Western military intervention has been the emergence of ISIL, which unlike the Taliban, has successfully recruited educated Muslims in Muslim countries and more disturbingly for the West in their own countries which in turn is compromising the way their liberal societies are viewing Muslims. Understandably the Paris and Brussels attacks, with clear links to ISIL, are alienating the moderate Muslims around the world but the outcome in the West has been racial profiling by law enforcements agencies as well as large parts of the population.
Secondly, more than 1.2 million refugees made their way to Europe in 2015, with more than half belonging to Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq – countries where the West intervened militarily. Reports indicate that more than 4 million Syrians have fled their country since 2011 and as per the UN’s refugee agency almost 1.8 million went to Turkey (compares unfavourably with the 3 million Afghan refugees that a poor country like Pakistan hosted in return for monetary assistance), more than 600,000 to Jordan and 1 million to Lebanon – a country whose population is just 4 million. Europe in comparison is expected to take a lot fewer migrants.
The Economist in its September 2015 issue writes that “as a large country with a population of 80m, Germany tops the list of acceptances in absolute terms, but when taken as a proportion of existing citizens it drops to tenth place (granting asylum to just 50.2 per 100,000). Sweden, however, a relatively small nation of around 10m, is highly accommodating by both measures: it comes second in positive decisions overall, and top as proportion of population (taking 317.8 per 100,000). Hungary conversely-with a population size to match-performs poorly in both rankings”.
The UK, one of the European countries that bombed Syria after gaining parliamentary approval, took only 166 Syrian refugees. Former British Prime Minister David Cameron sought British exclusion from social security payments to European Union migrants and resisted the inflow of the EU mandated Syrian refugees. Brexit led to his resignation and his successor Theresa May is now focusing on getting the best possible terms of the exit.
Be that as it may, several European governments closed their borders to refugees and human rights violations are patently evident in some countries. Europe’s solution is similar to what was offered and accepted by Pakistan: a deal with Turkey allowing Europe to close the Aegean route (over 850,000 reached European shores by landing in Greece) and send them to Turkey in exchange for (i) 4.7 billion pounds to assist 2.7 million Syrians on Turkish soil and (ii) facilitate visas to Turkish people which has yet to be honoured.
While the US is not affected by the refugee waves into Europe because of the distance involved yet Donald Trump has been focusing on the Mexican refugees and is campaigning to build a wall to forestall the influx of refugees and finding a chord of support in the Republican members as well as banning Muslim visitors to the country.
These two outcomes make it highly doubtful if European nations are going to be as gung-ho about military intervention in troubled spots around the world in future – be it linked to their politico-economic self interest or to human rights violations by the rulers.
Thus a coalition of Western countries for a regime change through military intervention may not be that easy to garner in future. However one doubts if the West would abandon its earlier favoured method of regime change namely through using intelligence agencies/existing opposition and covert supply of equipment to unseat the regime.
To conclude, Western values as an objective is something that countries can and should support irrespective of their dominant religion; but to convince the Muslim world that these values are desirable goals there is a need to link values with policy implementation within multicultural countries as well as in external relations.
Source: Business Recorder