The making of a Fourth World

US investment in opposition politics; China’s admiration of Imran Khan’s govt are indicators of changing geopolitics


Dr Muhammad Ali Ehsan October 17, 2021
The writer is Dean Social Sciences at Garrison University Lahore and tweets @Dr M Ali Ehsan

Human activity is determined and shaped by the physical environment. The activities of a politician in jail are starkly different from the activities of a politician who is free. Similarly, US Charge d’ affaires Angela Aggeler’s meeting with PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz in Lahore was only made possible because of the physical environment in which the meeting took place. But, would she have met her if she had been in jail? Fined two million pounds and sentenced to seven years in prison on corruption charges in the Avenfield case, Maryum Nawaz is out on bail. By conducting this meeting, the US has once again demonstrated that it is not their business to remain fair, just and honest in respecting the laws of other countries.

The Raymond Davis case is still fresh in the minds of the people. Irrespective of the fact that our Foreign Office condemns this meeting or not, one thing is certain: the high moral and diplomatic protocols and ideals that the US sets for the outside world are not applicable to them. When it comes to the US and its diplomatic conduct, it is more about utilising power and influence to manipulate the ongoing power struggle in any country rather than following ideals and maintaining a moral standard.

However, it is not only just this meeting that has caught my attention. There is this other news that The Washington Post has named Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir as a contributor to its global opinion section. Both Hamid Mir and Maryum Nawaz are renowned authors of the “doctrine of common purpose”, and their common purpose has been the anti-military tirade which has consistently been aimed at weakening the Pakistan military as a professional institution. Don’t ask Maryum Nawaz or Hamid Mir, but ask the potential enemies of Pakistan to name the centre of gravity of the state of Pakistan and they will come up with a snap answer — Pakistan’s military.

Why wouldn’t any enemy then make plans to destroy Pakistan’s center of gravity? And why is the “doctrine of common purpose” of both these authors in line with those of the enemies of Pakistan? Both have been on the offensive against the military establishment for a very long time. While the military and the state of Pakistan considers their indulgence in anti-military tirade as detrimental to the morale of the military institution, these authors sideline such military and state apprehensions and continue with their uncalled-for offensive against the military establishment.

Angela Aggeler would know how the US viewed and treated those that sympathised with the Soviet Union and the communists? In the 1950s, the US Senate created a committee headed by John McCarthy to investigate domestic anti-Americanism. The American political narrative of that time was: “the world was a body and Soviet Union was a disease which had the strength to bring an end to it, and US was the protector of the body.”

Pakistan also has its archrival and enemy India. Anyone who promotes Indian narratives against Pakistan or sympathises with them is as anti-Pakistani today, as were all those Americans that indulged in sympathising with the Soviet Union. If the US was truly concerned about “domestic anti-Americanism” at the height of the US-Soviet Cold War period, why should Pakistan not be worried about the “domestic anti-Pakistaniism” at the height of the current cold war between Pakistan and India? How would the US have felt if Pravda, the then official newspaper of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, had named an American writer engaged in domestic anti-Americanism as a contributor to their newspaper’s global opinion section at the height of US-Soviet tensions? Or if diplomats of powerful states had met with US politicians that were not only involved in undermining their military institution but were also punished by a court of law for involvement in matters of corruption? What else should one call this if not a diplomatic double standard? Is it because there is a First World that can get away with anything and everything and a Third World that can easily be exploited? Is the current US power politics designed to prevent the emergence of a Fourth World? Do we still continue to call it the Third World when there is no Second World left?

The Soviet Union disintegrated and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 ended the Second World — the communist world. What we have today is the emergence of a Fourth World. The post-9/11 era has ended and the era of post-US withdrawal from Afghanistan has begun. It is in this era that a Fourth World is fast emerging. This world in which “you are with us or against us” would mean either being part of an order of liberal internationalism driven by the US or being part of a regional order created, secured and sustained by the regional powers.

The geopolitical character of the post-9/11 era was determined by the creation and manufacturing of a new enemy, and the world spent two long decades fighting the war on terror against this enemy. This was much in line with what SP Huntington predicted in his book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. Just few years later, Huntington’s student and another great scholar, Francis Fukuyama, pronounced his famous ‘end of history’ concept. Today, his end of history concept lacks the much-needed support of empirical evidence.

The three major components of his ‘end of history’ thesis couldn’t stand the test of time. The first that “human kind has come to the end of its ideological evolution” is contested by a world that has failed to give a level-playing field for all to benefit from. Yes, human kind has come to the end of its ideological evolution, but this is largely continental and not universal. The underprivileged world and the revisionist world both still contest western ideology. Thus, the ideological evolution of human kind is an ongoing process and has not come to any end. Secondly, “universalisation of western democracy” hasn’t universalised. More than democracy, despotism is the prevailing form of rule in many countries in the world. Thirdly, as long as China continues to march on the road of global economic, military and political dominance, Francis Fukuyama’s “final form of the government” will remain contested.

The character of this new era in which a Fourth World is emerging is classified by the birth, the end and the re-fashioning of many things. What is born is the hope for peace with eventual withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan; what is ending is the military domination of the Third World being replaced by a Fourth World which seeks to establish new ports and trading routes and offers strategic partnership to all countries under the banner of the concept of regionalism; what is re-fashioning are strategic relationships of states. As international politics distinctively makes a shift towards Asia-Pacific, China and Russia, both revisionist states, are offering their hands to regional states as an alternate strategic partner to the US and the West.

The US investment in opposition politics within Pakistan and China’s admiration of Imran Khan’s current government are clear indicators of the changing geopolitics in the region and the making of a Fourth World.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 17th, 2021.

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