Thursday, February 19, 2015

The World According to Kissinger

How to Defend Global Order

By Wolfgang Ischinger

Foreign Affairs - March/April 2015 Issue

How many authors could title their book simply World Order without sounding utterly presumptuous? Henry Kissinger still plays in a league of his own. For admirers and critics alike, he is more than just a former U.S. secretary of state and previous national security adviser. Some see him as the quintessential wise man of U.S. foreign policy; others, as a diehard realpolitiker hanging on to yesterday’s world; and still others, as a perennial bête noire. To all, he remains larger than life. And regardless of how one views Kissinger, his new book is tremendously valuable.
To call World Order timely would be an understatement, for if there was one thing the world yearned for in 2014, it was order. In the Middle East, the Syrian civil war has killed hundreds of thousands and allowed jihadist groups to threaten the stability of the entire region. In Asia, an economically resurgent China has grown more assertive, stoking anxiety among its neighbors. In West Africa, the Ebola pandemic has nearly shut down several states. And even Europe, the most rule-bound and institutionalized part of the world, has seen its cherished liberal norms come under direct assault as Russian President Vladimir Putin reclaimed military aggression as an instrument of state policy.

Even more ominous, the traditional guardians of global order seem to have become reluctant to defend it. Following long, costly wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States and other Western powers are suffering from intervention fatigue, preferring instead to focus on domestic concerns. And the rising powers have so far proved either unwilling or unable to safeguard international stability.

Enter Kissinger. A strategist and historian by training, he takes the long view. The core of the book is his exploration of different interpretations of the idea of world order and competing approaches to constructing it. Kissinger opens the book by defining the term “world order” as “the concept held by a region or civilization about the nature of just arrangements and the distribution of power thought to be applicable to the entire world.” As he is quick to point out, any system of this kind rests on two components: “a set of commonly accepted rules that define the limits of permissible action and a balance of power that enforces restraint where rules break down, preventing one political unit from subjugating all others.”

Kissinger’s world, it turns out, is not just about power derived from economic wealth and military might but also about the power of ideas—although for him, the ideas that matter most are those of the powerful. In his view, traditional notions such as sovereignty and non­interference still reign supreme, having buttressed the international system for almost four centuries. Today that system is very much in flux, however, as powerful actors promote alternative ways to order it, from theocracy to autocratic capitalism to borderless postmodernity. But only the prevailing structure, Kissinger argues, fulfills the two main objectives of world order: legitimacy and a balance of power. Among the book’s many messages, then, perhaps the clearest of all is a warning: do not dispose of an organizing principle if there exists no ready alternative that promises to be just as effective.


For Kissinger, today’s international system owes its overall resilience to the astuteness of seventeenth-century European statesmen. The modern state system emerged in 1648 after a century of sectarian conflict, when the bitter Thirty Years’ War brought together representatives of the European powers to establish the Peace of Westphalia. The treaties they concluded codified the idea of sovereign states as the building blocks of international order. A century and a half later, at the Congress of Vienna, in 1814–15, diplomats such as the French envoy Talleyrand and the Austrian foreign minister Klemens von Metternich explicitly spelled out the principle of balance of power as a way of managing the international system. In recounting these events, Kissinger is on his home turf. Although some contemporary historians and political scientists might object to his idealization of Westphalian institutions, one of Kissinger’s gifts is a knack for revealing the relevance of historic structures to present-day politics. 
There are limitations to that exercise, of course: Western ideas about states and politics have been foisted on other regions ever since colonial times, and they still compete with other, older visions of order and power that cannot be ignored. This is particularly true in the Middle East. Thus, the book examines the enduring impact of the Shiite-Sunni schism on the contemporary Muslim world and the emergence of secular states there after the Westphalian system expanded beyond Europe. Today, the regional order—still composed of European-style nation-states—is threatened by transnational political Islam, in the form of both political movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood and jihadist groups such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS. The latter’s rise illustrates a new danger, according to Kissinger: a “disintegration of statehood into tribal and sectarian units” that risks tipping the region into “a confrontation akin to—but broader than—Europe’s pre-Westphalian wars of religion.”

Kissinger’s survey of the Middle East also takes in the relationship between the United States and Iran, a rivalry that pits the putative guardian of the liberal world order against a state that has deliberately placed itself outside of that system. Kissinger traces the tradition of Iranian statecraft back to the Persian empire, emphasizing how Iran has always aspired to be more than just a normal state in the Westphalian sense, struggling to “decide whether it is a country or a cause.” This tradition heavily influences multilateral negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. Kissinger suggests that the United States should foster cooperative relations with Iran based on the principle of nonintervention. Where constructive diplomacy is not enough, however, the United States should employ balance-of-power politics to cajole Iran into cooperation, using alliances with the region’s Sunni powers as leverage. The outcome of Washington’s current attempt at rapprochement with Tehran might determine “whether Iran pursues the path of revolutionary Islam or that of a great nation legitimately and importantly lodged in the Westphalian system of states.”

Asia is another region where Western concepts of world order have long competed with indigenous visions. Even the very idea of an Asian region is itself something of a Western import: prior to the arrival of modern Western powers in the fifteenth century, none of the region’s many languages had a word for Asia, and their speakers shared little sense of belonging to a single continent. Kissinger pays particular attention to China and goes to great lengths to distill the traditional Chinese worldview, which posited that the country was not one power center among many but the “sole sovereign government of the world,” where the Chinese emperor ruled over “all under heaven.” According to Kissinger, the rise of China in the twenty-first century comes with refrains of these traditional views, as Beijing searches for a synthesis between its ancient tradition and its new role “as a contemporary great power on the Westphalian model.” He warns that China and the United States hold incompatible views on democracy and human rights but stresses that the two countries share a common interest in avoiding conflict. Indeed, World Order suggests that U.S.-Chinese relations may be less risky than China’s relations with its Asian neighbors. East Asia, he reminds readers, is a region where “nearly every country considers itself to be ‘rising,’ driving disagreements to the edge of confrontation.”


Kissinger is at his most interesting when considering the country he knows best: the United States. World Order offers some pointed commentary on the current debate in Washington over the United States’ proper role in the world. But Kissinger is no mere pundit, and his analysis rests on a deep exploration of two competing strands of thought that have historically shaped U.S. foreign policy: the pragmatic realism of President Theodore Roosevelt and the liberal idealism of President Woodrow Wilson.

Although Kissinger sometimes couches his views in abstract terms, it is easy to comprehend what he thinks of President Barack Obama’s critics, who blame the president for not offering enough leadership. Pointing to a number of wars with far-reaching goals that the United States first waged and then had to abandon midstream, Kissinger does not hide his skepticism over idealistic enterprises that fail to recognize the limits of U.S. power, leading to disappointments, if not full-fledged foreign policy disasters. “Critics will ascribe these setbacks to the deficiencies, moral and intellectual, of America’s leaders,” he writes. “Historians will probably conclude that they derived from the inability to resolve an ambivalence about force and diplomacy, realism and idealism, power and legitimacy, cutting across the entire society.”

Even though Kissinger strongly takes the side of restraint in the ongoing tug of war between the Rooseveltian and Wilsonian impulses in U.S. foreign policy, he acknowledges the important role that liberal values play, too. “America would not be true to itself if it abandoned this essential idealism,” he writes. And although he recognizes Washington’s special role as a defender of Western norms, Kissinger also emphasizes that “world order cannot be achieved by any one country acting alone.” The European powers remain the United States’ most natural partners, and Kissinger stresses that they all are best served when they cultivate their relationship, working not only to maximize the overall level of Western influence in world affairs but also to restrain one another’s worst impulses.

Kissinger is certainly right to warn of the excessive self-righteousness that democracies sometimes demonstrate. But he is perhaps too skeptical of some more recent forms of liberal internationalism. He argues, for example, that the “responsibility to protect” doctrine—which holds that a state forfeits its sovereign right to noninterference if it fails to protect its population from mass atrocities, requiring the international community to act on this population’s behalf—could destabilize the international system. But liberal societies devised this principle in order to prevent ruthless leaders from manipulating and making a mockery of Westphalian norms in their efforts to escape punishment for abusing their own people. On balance, applying the doctrine properly would do more to protect the liberal order than to undermine it.

Although he might take issue with such thinking, Kissinger acknowledges that it will become increasingly difficult for Western democracies to pursue policies that undercut their basic commitment to liberal values. And he points out that long-term stability based on oppression is an illusion, as the Arab revolts of 2011 demonstrated. The coming decades will see plenty of argument over this basic dilemma, as Western powers weigh how much liberalism is too much—or too little.
As far as Kissinger is concerned, nation-states are still the main players in the international system. Neither international institutions nor nonstate actors play an important role in his book. In this view, not all that much has changed since 1814, when the European powers convened in Vienna to forge a sustainable system that, minor outbreaks of violence aside, preserved peace on the continent for a century. Nor is today much different from 1914, when the same major powers drove Europe over the cliff, unleashing a major war that became the first truly global conflict. Kissinger’s notes of caution, repeated throughout the book, serve as a warning for those who think that humanity has nearly overcome the old patterns of power politics and state rivalry.

That message is particularly pertinent for the EU, whose most enthusiastic cheerleaders promote it as the vanguard of a borderless, post-Westphalian world. The EU has without a doubt fundamentally transformed Europe: rising right-wing nationalism notwithstanding, young people in EU states tend to identify with both their home countries and the union as a whole. However, it would be imprudent and dangerous to expect the rest of the world to eagerly follow Europe’s lead. Although regional integration projects are advancing elsewhere, the breadth and depth of the European experience may remain unique. Europe, the birthplace of the Westphalian model, might be ready to move on. But the rest of the world isn’t—and, Kissinger argues, that’s for the best. As he puts it, “Westphalian principles are, at this writing, the sole generally recognized basis of what exists of a world order.”

But Kissinger is fully aware that the international system is influenced by factors other than great-power politics and that there are other powerful sources of order and disorder—most notably the global economy, the environment, and technological change. However, some of these factors take a secondary role in Kissinger’s work.

The broad reach of globalization and the resulting degree of complex interdependence come with new challenges. For instance, the spread of capitalism and free trade has lifted millions out of poverty but has also generated unsustainable degrees of inequality. And the economic interdependence produced by globalization acts as both a stabilizing and a disruptive force, encouraging growth but also expanding the reach of economic shocks. Such interdependence has changed the politics of coercion, as Western states now commonly use their economic power to force other countries to comply with international rules. This strategy might not always produce good results, but it has brought Iran back to the negotiating table and remains the only option the West has available for pressuring Russia to change course in Ukraine.

World order will also be subject to climate change, a phenomenon that is largely man-made but that lies outside policymakers’ control. It is too late to prevent climate change from affecting the lives of billions of people—a fact that can cut both ways when it comes to global stability. An environmental catastrophe could bring the world together, just as the devastation of World War II compelled countries to forge a more durable international system, create the United Nations, and establish the Bretton Woods institutions, which have functioned fairly well since 1944. Alternatively, a climate crisis could magnify existing tensions, undermine global governance, and further erode the capacity of weak states to responsibly administer their own territories.

When it comes to technological change, it is obvious that Kissinger does not feel completely comfortable in this brave new world. He recognizes that the Internet has enabled many of the contemporary era’s great achievements, but he faults it for giving rise to a less substantive, more cursory way of thinking about the world’s true complexity. “Knowledge of history and geography is not essential for those who can evoke their data with the touch of a button,” Kissinger writes. “The mindset for walking lonely political paths may not be self-evident to those who seek confirmation by hundreds, sometimes thousands of friends on Facebook.” He likens today’s digital optimists—those who believe that cyberspace can solve the world’s most pressing problems—to the naive Wilsonian idealists of a century ago.
Younger analysts tend to have a different view, of course. And although Kissinger’s skepticism is well intentioned and not unjustified, it is indisputable that new technologies have already fundamentally changed the practice of diplomacy and statesmanship. Today’s diplomats must be prepared to speak to a global audience and to constantly contend with an international media circus. They must be both hard-nosed negotiators and global communicators: tweeting Talleyrands, ready to defend their interests in the real world and the virtual world alike. Most notably, recent cyberattacks and hybrid warfare have demonstrated that cyberspace has already become a battlefield on which familiar concepts such as deterrence and even defense need to be defined anew.

Kissinger’s secret wish might be to stage a Congress of Vienna for the twenty-first century. And although world politics is complicated by a host of factors that don’t fit easily into the Westphalian model—transnational identities, digital hyperconnectivity, weapons of mass destruction, global terrorist networks—Kissinger is still right to insist that the management of great-power relations remains of paramount importance. Indeed, there should not need to be another Thirty Years’ War to provide the impetus for a new Westphalian peace and a world order that is at once legitimate and reflective of the new geopolitical realities. Kissinger’s book is a gift to all of those who care about global order and seek to stave off conflict in the twenty-first century. No one else could have produced this masterpiece.

Friday, January 09, 2015

বাংলাদেশকে ‘ভারতের উপর নির্ভরশীল’ করার নীল নকশা বাস্তবায়নের পর এখন দেশকে ভারতের অঙ্গরাজ্য করার কাজ চলছে

The Daily Al Ihsan - November 14, 2014

ডিজিএফআই’র সাবেক মহাপরিচালক মেজর জেনারেল (অব:) এম এ হালিম-এর স্বীকারোক্তি- “বাংলাদেশে ভারতীয় গুপ্তচর সংস্থা ‘র’ -এর লক্ষ্য হলো বাংলাদেশে ভারতীয় প্রভাব বিস্তার করা ও সব ব্যাপারে বাংলাদেশকে ভারতের ওপর নির্ভরশীল করে তোলা।” (সূত্র: গোয়েন্দা সংস্থার সাবেক প্রধানদের কথা: বাংলাদেশে ‘র’)

বাংলাদেশে ‘র’ নামক বইটি ২০০১ ঈসায়ী প্রকাশিত হলেও ডিজিএফআই’র সাবেক মহাপরিচালকের চরম সত্যভাষ্যটি বহু পুরনো দিনের বরং ততোদিনের মধ্যে ভারতীয় গোয়েন্দারা তাদের উদ্দেশ্য সাধনে অনেকটা সফল। তার সুষ্পষ্ট প্রমাণ পাওয়া যাচ্ছে প্রাত্যাহিক খবরের কাগজগুলোতে। বর্তমানে বাংলাদেশ ভারতের উপর এতোটা নির্ভরশীল যে, একটি টিউবয়েল বসাতেও সরকারকে ভারতের সহযোগিতা নিতে হয়। কোন সরকারের আমলেই এর ব্যতিক্রম হয়নি। দেশে পর্যাপ্ত উৎপাদন বা খাদ্যে স্বয়ংসম্পূর্ণতা থাকা সত্ত্বেও চাল ডাল থেকে শুরু করে নিত্য প্রয়োজনীয় প্রায় কিছুই ভারত থেকে আমদানি করা হয়। আর দেশের অবকাঠামো নির্মাণে, খনিজ সম্পদ উৎপাদনে ভারতের বিকল্পতো চিন্তাই করা যায়না। এসব ক্ষেত্রে ভারতীয় কোম্পানিকে কাজ পাইয়ে দিতে প্রশাসনে নিযুক্ত থাকে কিছু ভারতীয় দালাল।

উদাহরণস্বরূপ উল্লেখ করা যায়- বিজি প্রেসসহ বাংলাদেশে অসংখ্য মানসম্মত ছাপাখানা থাকা সত্ত্বেও বোর্ডের বই ছাপানো হয় ভারত থেকে। এ নিয়ে ২৬ জুন ২০১১ ঈসায়ী তারিখে বাংলাদেশ প্রতিদিন পত্রিকায় একটি খবর এসেছে এভাবে- “দেশীয় মুদ্রণশিল্প ধ্বংসের নীল নকশা: ভারতীয় কোম্পানিকে কাজ পাইয়ে দিতে এনসিটিবির জোর লবিং।”
দেশীয় মুদ্রণ প্রতিষ্ঠানগুলোকে ‘ভেজাল’-এর মিথ্যা অভিযোগ দিয়ে ভারতীয় কোম্পানীকে দিয়েই ছাপানো হচ্ছে কোটি কোটি বই। অথচ, দেশি মুদ্রণের মান নিয়ে বা কোন প্রকার দুর্নীতি নিয়ে ইতিপূর্বে কোন অভিযোগ পাওয়া না গেলেও ভারত থেকে ছাপিয়ে আনা বইগুলোর কাগজ ও ছাপার মান নিয়ে বহু অভিযোগ প্রকাশিত হয়েছে।

যেমন- বাংলাদেশ প্রতিদিন পত্রিকায় ২৩ জুন ২০১৪ ঈসায়ী তারিখে প্রকাশ হয়- “আমদানি নির্ভর নিম্নমানের কাগজে পাঠ্যপুস্তক মুদ্রণ: প্রতারিত হচ্ছে লাখ লাখ শিক্ষার্থী, অপচয় হচ্ছে শত কোটি টাকা। ব্যবস্থা নিতে এনসিটিবিকে মন্ত্রণালয়ের নির্দেশ।”
উল্লেখ্য মন্ত্রণালয় যে এনসিটিবিকে ব্যবস্থা নিতে নির্দেশ করেছে এই এনসিটিবি-এর জোর লবিং-এর কারণেই ২০১১ সালে ভারতীয় কোম্পানি কাজ পেয়েছিলো।

বাংলাদেশে অবকাঠামো নির্মাণে ভারতের উপর নির্ভরশীলতা প্রমাণ করে আমাদের সরকার ভারতের কাছে কতোটা অসহায়। বাংলাদেশে অনেক আন্তর্জাতিক পর্যায়ের কন্সট্রাকশন ফার্ম থাকার পরও যাত্রাবাড়ী ফ্লাইওভার নির্মাণের কাজ দিয়েছে ভারতীয় ঠিকাদার কোম্পানি সিমপ্লেক্স ইনফ্রাস্ট্রাকচারকে। (বণিক বার্তা, ২২শে সেপ্টেম্বর, ২০১৩ )
অথচ এই সিমপ্লেক্সকে কাজ দিয়ে গুলিস্তান-যাত্রাবাড়ী (মেয়র হানিফ) ফ্লাইওভার নির্মাণ করতে যে ব্যয় হয়েছে তাতে বিশ্ব রেকর্ড হয়েছে। গত কয়েক বছরে বিশ্বের বিভিন্ন দেশে শতাধিক ফ্লাইওভার নির্মাণ করা হয়। এগুলোর নির্মাণব্যয় কিলোমিটারপ্রতি ৮০-৯০ কোটি টাকা। কোনো কোনোটির ক্ষেত্রে ব্যয় আরো কম। অথচ গুলিস্তান-যাত্রাবাড়ী ফ্লাইওভারের নির্মাণব্যয় কিলোমিটারপ্রতি প্রায় ২১১ কোটি টাকা। এতে ফ্লাইওভার নির্মাণব্যয়ের ক্ষেত্রে বিশ্বে শীর্ষস্থান দখল করেছে বাংলাদেশ।
অথচ এই সিমপ্লেক্স ইনফ্রাস্ট্রাকচারই ১৬ দশমিক ৮ কিলোমিটার দীর্ঘ ইস্টার্ন ফ্রিওয়ে নির্মাণ করে নিজ দেশ ভারতে। ভারতের মুম্বাইয়ে চলতি ২০১৪ সালের ১৪ জুন উদ্বোধন করা ফ্লাইওভারটির নির্মাণব্যয় হয় মাত্র ১ হাজার ৪৮২ কোটি টাকা। এক্ষেত্রে কিলোমিটারপ্রতি ব্যয় দাঁড়ায় ৮৮ কোটি ২১ লাখ টাকা। কিন্তু বাংলাদেশের ক্ষেত্রে এরাই গুলিস্তান-যাত্রাবাড়ী ফ্লাইওভার নির্মাণে ব্যায় লাগায় কিলোমিটারপ্রতি প্রায় ২১১ কোটি টাকা।
ভারতের প্রতি হেন দুর্বলতা বা নির্ভরশীলতার হেতু কি আমার বোধগম্য নয়। জনগণের টাকা বলেই কি সরকারের গায়ে লাগে না?

-দেশী কোম্পানিগুলোর যথেষ্ট অভিজ্ঞতা থাকলেও দ্বিতীয় ভৈরব সেতু বানানো হচ্ছে ভারতীয় কোম্পানি ইরকন ও এফকন্সকে দিয়ে। (প্রথম আলো, ১৫ আগস্ট, ২০১৩ঈ.)
-দেশী কোম্পানিগুলোর বহির্বিশ্বে সুনাম থাকলেও দ্বিতীয় তিতাস রেলসেতু বানানো হচ্ছে ভারতীয় কোম্পনি গ্যানোন ও এফএলসিএলকে দিয়ে। (প্রথম আলো, ১৫ আগস্ট, ২০১৩ঈ.)
-দেশী কোম্পানীগুলোর উৎপাদিত ওষুধ বহির্বিশ্বে ব্যাপক চাহিদা থাকলেও ৩১২ কোটি টাকার ভ্যাকসিন আমদানি করা হয়েছে ভারতের অখ্যাত সিরাম ইন্সটিটিউট থেকে। (মানবজমিন, ২১ জানুয়ারী, ২০১৪ঈ.)
অথচ জনস্বাস্থ্য ইনস্টিটিউটে জীবন রক্ষাকারী কয়েকটি রোগের ভ্যাকসিন উৎপাদন অর্ধযুগ ধরে বন্ধ। ভ্যাকসিন উৎপাদনের একটি এআরভি কুলিং মেশিন দীর্ঘদিন ধরে বিকল। এধরনের হাজারো সমস্যায় জর্জরিত দেশি প্রতিষ্ঠানগুলো। কিন্তু এসব সমস্যা সমাধানে সরকারকে আন্তরিক দেখা যায় না।

আন্তর্জাতিক বাজারে সুনাম অর্জনকারী ও বহুল চাহিদাসম্পন্ন ওষুধ কোম্পানি বাংলাদেশে থাকলেও শিশুদের জন্য ভিটামিন ‘এ’ ক্যাপসুল আমদানি করা হয়েছে ভারত থেকে। (দৈনিক ইত্তেফাক, ১৭ই মার্চ, ২০১৩)
ভিটামিন ‘এ’ ক্যাপসুল উৎপাদনকারী ‘অলিভ হেলথ কেয়ার’ নামক প্রতিষ্ঠানটি ভারতেই বহুল বিতর্কিত।

২০১৩ ঈসায়ী সালের ১২ মার্চ জাতীয় ক্যাম্পেইনে ভারত থেকে আমদানিকৃত ভিটামিন-এ ও কৃমিনাশক খাওয়ানোর পর অসুস্থ হয়ে শত শত শিশু হাসপাতালে ভর্তি হয়। কয়েক শিশুর মৃত্যুর খবরও প্রকাশ পেয়েছে। এ ব্যাপারে ওষুধ প্রশাসন অধিদফতরের অনাপত্তিপত্র (এনওসি) নিয়ে কোটি কোটি টাকা মূল্যের নিম্নমানের ভিটামিন এ ক্যাপসুল আমদানি নিয়ে প্রশ্ন উঠে। কেন্দ্রীয় ঔষধাগারের ভারতের দালাল কিছু কর্মকর্তার যোগসাজশে নিম্নমানের এসব ভিটামিন-এ আমদানি করা হয় বলে অভিযোগ উঠে।

এদিকে বিশ্বের প্রায় ৭০টি দেশে রপ্তানি হচ্ছে বাংলাদেশের ওষুধ। সম্প্রতি প্রকাশিত রপ্তানি উন্নয়ন ব্যুরো (ইপিবি’র) প্রকাশিত পরিসংখ্যানে দেখা যায়, ২০১৩-১৪ অর্থবছরে ওষুধ রপ্তানিতে প্রবৃদ্ধি হয়েছে প্রায় ১৬ শতাংশ। রপ্তানি হয়েছে ছয় কোটি ৯২ লাখ ডলার। (কালেরকণ্ঠ, ১৫ জুলাই ২০১৪)

বাংলাদেশী ওষুধের চাহিদা আন্তর্জাতিক বাজারে দিন দিন যেভাবে বাড়ছে তাতে প্রয়োজনীয় সহায়তা পেলে এ খাতটি হতে পারে দেশের অন্যতম প্রধান রপ্তানি খাত। কিন্তু দেশী কোম্পানীকে সহযোগিতা না করে, বরং ভারত থেকে আমদানী করা হচ্ছে। যদি ওষুধ কোম্পানীগুলো বেসরকারি না হয়ে সরকারি হতো হয়তোবা ফেঞ্চুগঞ্জ সার কারখানা কিংবা আদমজী জুট মিলের পরিণতি ভোগ করতে হতো প্রতিষ্ঠানগুলোকে। সোনালী আঁশ পাটের মতোই ধ্বংস হয়ে যেতো এ সম্ভবনাময় খাতটিও।

বাংলাদেশে বিদ্যুৎকেন্দ্রগুলো বন্ধ করে ভারত থেকে বিদ্যুৎ আমদানি করা হচ্ছে (প্রথম আলো: ৩০ নভেম্বর, ২০১৩ঈ.)
অথচ দেশের বিদ্যুৎ উৎপাদন কেন্দ্রগুলো বন্ধ, অচল হয়ে পড়ে থাকে বছরের পর বছর। গণমাধ্যমে সংবাদ প্রকাশ হয়- “চট্টগ্রামের ৩টি বিদ্যুৎকেন্দ্র ৫ মাস বন্ধ: যন্ত্রাংশের ক্ষতি।” (যুগান্তর: ১০ জানুয়ারি, ২০১৪ঈ.)
এমন বন্ধ হয়ে যাওয়া বিদ্যুৎকেন্দ্রর খবর প্রায়শই পত্রিকায় প্রকাশ পায়। কিন্তু এসব বিদ্যুৎকেন্দ্র সচলের জন্য সরকার কাজ করেছে এমন খবর পাওয়া যায় না।

এছাড়াও বায়ুশক্তি, পাথরকুচিসহ বিভিন্ন উপায়ে বিদ্যুৎ উৎপাদনের ব্যাপক সম্ভাবনা ও এসবের ব্যাপক গবেষণা থাকার পরেও এসব সমূহ সম্ভাবনার পেছনে মেধা ও অর্থ বিনিয়োগে সরকারের কোনো আগ্রহ কখনোই প্রকাশ পায় না। এমনকি আমাদের দেশের অনেক মেধাবী আছে যারা তেল ও বিদ্যুতের বিকল্প হিসেবে পানি, বাতাস ইত্যাদি দিয়ে মোটর যন্ত্র চালনা কৌশল আবিষ্কার করেছে, তাদেরকেও সরকারিভাবে কোনো পৃষ্ঠপোষকতা করা হয় না।
সর্বোপরি সরকারের উচিত ভারতের অন্ধ আনুগত্য না করে, ভারতের উপর নির্ভরশীল না হয়ে বরং দেশের উৎপাদন সম্ভাবনা ও মেধাকে কাজে লাগিয়ে স্বনির্ভর হওয়া। বাংলাদেশের মতো স্বনির্ভর একটি দেশ ভারতের উপর নির্ভরশীল হয়ে থাকা হচ্ছে অনেকটা সুস্থ-সামর্থ্যবান ব্যক্তি ল্যাংড়া ভিক্ষুকের উপর নির্ভরশীল হয়ে থাকার ন্যায়। ভারতের প্রতি এধরনের আত্মঘাতী নির্ভরশীলতা জাতির জন্য দুঃখজনক।

পূর্বে প্রকাশিত গণমাধ্যমের সংবাদ সূত্রে প্রমাণিত হয়েছে বাংলাদেশকে ভারতের প্রতি নির্ভরশীল করার ষড়যন্ত্রে বাংলাদেশে নিযুক্ত ভারতীয় গোয়েন্দা ও দালালরা কতটা সফল। এখন তাদের টার্গেট শুধু ‘নির্ভরশীলতা’ নয়, আধিপত্য বিস্তার এবং পর্যায়ক্রমে বাংলাদেশকে ভারতের অঙ্গরাজ্য বানানো। এ লক্ষ্যে যেসময় তারা বিরামহীন কাজ করে যাচ্ছে সেসময় ‘বর্ধমান বিস্ফোরণে বাংলাদেশের সন্ত্রাসবাদীরা জড়িত’ এমন অজুহাতে বাংলাদেশে এসেছে ভারতীয় গোয়েন্দাদের একটি দল। তদন্তের নামে বাংলাদেশে ভারতীয় গোয়েন্দাদের বাধাহীন প্রবেশের মাধ্যমে ভারত তার আধিপত্য প্রতিষ্ঠায় কতটা সফল হতে পেরেছে এবং পারবে তারও দৃষ্টান্তও সৃষ্টি হয়ে গেছে।

-The Daily Al Ihsan

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

পাকিস্তান ছাড়িয়া ভারতের কোলেঃ অবশেষে তাহারা অফিসিয়ালি ভেতরে ঢুকিল

BD Today – November 19, 2014

বাংলাদেশের জাতিসত্বার ও স্বাধীনতা সার্বভৌমত্বের চরম শত্রু হিসেবেই আওয়ামী লীগ ও হাসিনা ওয়াজেদ তাদের চরিত্র প্রকাশ করে দিয়েছে। পাকিস্তানকে হটিয়ে আজ ভারতীয় ব্রাহ্মন্যবাদের হাতে দেশটাকে তুলে দেয়ার বাকী কাজটুকু সম্পন্ন করা হল বলেই জনগন ধরে নিয়েছে। ভারতীয় গোয়েন্দারা এখন অফিসিয়ালি তাদের বানানো ছক মোতাবেক বাংলাদেশের অভ্যন্তরে যেভাবে খুশি যাকে খুশি তদন্তের নামে জিজ্ঞাসাবাদ করবে। যাকে খুশি ধরেও নিয়ে যাবে। ১৫ কোটি লোকের মার্কেট অনেক আগেই তাদের দখলে। বাংলাদেশের বর্ডার, প্রতিরক্ষা এবং রাজনীতি, সংস্কৃতি ও বুদ্ধিবৃত্তিক সকল কিছুই ভারতের হাতে আগেই তুলে দেয়া হয়েছে। এখন প্রশ্ন জেগেছে এই যদি হবে স্বাধীনতার রুপ তবে মুক্তিযুদ্ধের নামে পাকিস্তান ভাঙ্গা হল কেন এবং মুসলমান জাতিগোষ্ঠীর এতে কিইবা লাভ হল? ”হ্যাঁ লাভ হইল এই যে, তাহারা এতদিন লুকাইয়া ঢুকিত এইবার প্রকাশ্যে ঢুকিল আর আমাদের সকল বাহিনী আর গোয়েন্দা প্রধানেরা বেলাজের মত লাইন ধরিয়া তাহাদের পুলিশ অফিসারদের সাথে পরিচিত হইতে গেলেন।”
নিজেদের দেশে বিস্ফোরণ ঘটলো, আগেও ঘটেছে। আগে দোষারোপ দেয়া হত পাকিস্তান ও আইএসআই কে এইবার আইএসআই সেই দোষ থেকে মুক্ত হয়ে গেলো অবলীলায়। বাংলাদেশকে ধরা হল কিন্তু কোন সংস্থাকে দোষারোপ করা হল না। গেঁড়ো এখানেই। আসলে সরকারের সাথে পরিকল্পনার ছক দিয়েই এই বিস্ফোরণ আর বিস্ফরনে ভারতের হাতে লালিত পালিত পুরনো জঙ্গিদের ব্যবহার করা হল। উদ্দেশ্য বুঝতে কারোই বাকী নেই আওয়ামী লীগ ও হাসিনা ওয়াজেদের ফ্যামিলিকে রক্ষার অবকাঠামো গড়ে তোলা। ভারতের নির্বাচনে মোদীর জয়লাভে যারা বগল বাজিয়েছিল, সেই বগল বাজানেওয়ালা বিএনপির লোকজনের চোখের সামনে দিয়ে ভারতীয় পুলিশি একটি তদন্ত সংস্থা ‘এনআইএ’ বুক ফুলিয়ে ঢুকে পড়ল। আর আমাদের স্বরাষ্ট্র মন্ত্রনালয়ের সিনিয়র সচিব ও অতিরিক্ত সচিব ছাড়াও পুলিশ মহাপরিদর্শক হাছান মাহমুদ খন্দকার, র্যাবের মহাপরিচালক মোখলেছুর রহমান, জাতীয় নিরাপত্তা গোয়েন্দা সংস্থার (এনএসআই) মহাপরিচালক, প্রতিরক্ষা গোয়েন্দা মহাপরিদপ্তরের (ডিজিএফআই) প্রধান, বর্ডার গার্ড বাংলাদেশের (বিজিবি) মহাপরিচালক, পুলিশের বিশেষ শাখার (এসবি) প্রধান, পুলিশের অপরাধ তদন্ত বিভাগের (সিআইডি) প্রধান মোখলেসুর রহমান তাদের সাথে সাক্ষাত করে পরিচিত হয়ে নিজেদের ধন্য করলেন।
দাদাদের পুলিশ বলে কথা। পৃথিবীর সবচেয়ে আনস্মার্ট বাহিনীগুলো হল ভারতের। আমাদের গোয়েন্দা বিভাগগুলো আগে ভারতে ঢুকে গোয়েন্দাগিরি চালাতো আর এখন আমাদের গোয়েন্দা প্রধানেরা দেখা করতে আয়োজন করে ভারতীয় পুলিশ দেখার জন্য। আফসোস, হাসিনা আমাদের প্রতিটি বাহিনীকে কোথায় নিয়ে দাড় করিয়েছে আর আমাদের অফিসারেরা একের পর এক হিজড়ায় পরিনত হচ্ছে। পুলিশি সংস্থা অন্য দেশে যেতে হলে ইন্টারপোলের মাধ্যমে যোগাযোগ হয়। কিন্তু ভারতের বেলায় এর ব্যাত্যায় ঘটানো হল। কিন্তু কেন? সূত্র বলছে ভিন্ন কথা।
বাংলাদেশে রাজাকার ও যুদ্ধাপরাধী ইস্যুতে সুবিধা করতে না পেরে নতুন করে এই জঙ্গি ইস্যু নিয়ে কাজ শুরু করার পেছনের মোটিভ নিয়ে এখনকার পদক্ষেপ। এখন রাজনৈতিক প্রতিপক্ষদের জঙ্গি নামে ধরে ভারতে নিয়ে যাওয়ার একটি খোঁড়া যুক্তি চালু হবে। আর এতে সহায়তা দিয়ে ধন্য হবে বাংলাদেশী গোয়েন্দা নামের অপদার্থরা। তবে নাগরিকদের মধ্যে এখন পরিস্কার ধারনা জন্মেছে ‘র’ নামের সংস্থাটির হাজার হাজার লোকজন ভারতের অখণ্ডতা ও নিরাপত্তার জন্য বাংলাদেশের প্রতিটি স্তরে ঘাঁটি গেড়েছে গোপনে। অফিসিয়ালি তাদের কোন এক্সিস্টেন্স নেই। এইবার পুলিশের তদন্ত সংস্থা পাঠিয়ে সেই সকল ‘র’ অফিসারদের অফিসিয়াল এক্সিস্টেন্স বানানো হবে। আর পাকিস্তান থেকে বিচ্ছিন্ন হওয়া বাংলাদেশ ব্যবহৃত হবে ভারতের জাতীয় নিরাপত্তা বিধানের ক্ষেত্র ও পন্যের বাজার হিসেবে।
এদিকে এনআইএ প্রতিনিধি দলটি কত দিন থাকবে কিংবা তাদের কার্যপদ্ধতি কী হবে, তা স্পষ্ট করতে পারেননি স্বরাষ্ট্র প্রতিমন্ত্রী আসাদুজ্জামান খাঁন কামাল।
তিনি রোববার সচিবালয়ে সাংবাদিকদের বলেন, “চার সদস্যের একটি দল বাংলাদেশে আসছে। আমরাও একটি দল গঠন করে রেখেছি। এই দুই দল মিলে কাজ করবে।” এনআইএর সঙ্গে কাজ করতে বাংলাদেশের কারা কারা থাকছেন- জানতে চাইলে স্বরাষ্ট্র প্রতিমন্ত্রী নির্লজ্জের মত বলেন, “আমাদের গোয়েন্দা সংস্থার প্রধানরা আছেন। তারা বসে আলোচনা করবেন।” অথচ ভারত আমাদের দেশে মাদকে ছয়লাব করে দিয়েছে, চোরাচালান করে অর্থনীতি ধংস করছে, প্রতিদিন আমাদের নিরস্ত্র নাগরিক হত্যা করছে; এসকল নিয়ে গোয়েন্দা প্রধানদের আলোচনার কোন ইস্যু নাই। ইস্যু কেবল ভারত ও হাসিনা গংদের নিরাপত্তা নিয়ে।
তবে চিকিৎসা করানোর জন্য যেমন এখন ভারতীয় চিকিৎসক দরকার সবার, তেমনি তদন্ত করানোর জন্য ভারতীয় পুলিশও সামনে ভাড়া করা হলেও আশ্চর্য হওয়ার কিছু থাকবে বলে মনে হয় না। কারন আমাদের গোয়েন্দাদের দিয়ে মানুষ খুন আর গুম করাতে গিয়ে তাদের তদন্তের ধার আরও আগেই শেষ করে দেয়া হয়েছে বলে ধারনা করা হচ্ছে। তাই নিজেদের রক্ষা করতেই হাসিনা পরিবার ও আওয়ামী লীগ ভারতীয় পুলিশি তদন্ত টিম এবং গোয়েন্দা আমদানি করে রাখছে; যার অফিসিয়াল রুপ হল মাত্র ২০০৮ সালে জন্ম নেয়া এই এনাইএ। এনাইএ-কে নিয়ে এতো ঢাক ঢোল পেটানো হচ্ছে অথচ এই এনাইএ-র পুরো ভারত ব্যাপী ব্রাঞ্চ হল মাত্র ৫ টি। কেন্দ্রীয় কাউন্টার টেররিজম সংস্থা হিসেবে এটিকে বাংলাদেশের জন্যই তৈরি করা হয়েছে কিনা এখন সেটা দেখার অপেক্ষার পালা শুরু মাত্র। সময়ই অনেক কিছু বলে দেবে। তবে এদেশে শেখদের রক্ষায় সচেষ্ট হলেও এনাইএ-র ওয়েব সাইটে Wanted পাতায় মুসলমানদের ও শেখদের সংখ্যাধিক্য ভারতে রাষ্ট্রীয়ভাবে মুসলিম নিগ্রহের চিত্রই প্রকাশ পায়।

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The western model is broken

The west has lost the power to shape the world in its own image – as recent events, from Ukraine to Iraq, make all too clear. So why does it still preach the pernicious myth that every society must evolve along western lines?

“So far, the 21st century has been a rotten one for the western model,” according to a new book, The Fourth Revolution, by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge. This seems an extraordinary admission from two editors of the Economist, the flag-bearer of English liberalism, which has long insisted that the non-west could only achieve prosperity and stability through western prescriptions. It almost obscures the fact that the 20th century was blighted by the same pathologies that today make the western model seem unworkable, and render its fervent advocates a bit lost. The most violent century in human history, it was hardly the best advertisement for the “bland fanatics of western civilisation”, as the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr called them at the height of the cold war, “who regard the highly contingent achievements of our culture as the final form and norm of human existence”.

Niebuhr was critiquing a fundamentalist creed that has coloured our view of the world for more than a century: that western institutions of the nation-state and liberal democracy will be gradually generalised around the world, and that the aspiring middle classes created by industrial capitalism will bring about accountable, representative and stable governments – that every society, in short, is destined to evolve just as the west did. Critics of this teleological view, which defines “progress” exclusively as development along western lines, have long perceived its absolutist nature. Secular liberalism, the Russian thinker Alexander Herzen cautioned as early as 1862, “is the final religion, though its church is not of the other world but of this”. But it has had many presumptive popes and encyclicals: from the 19th-century dream of a westernised world long championed by the Economist, in which capital, goods, jobs and people freely circulate, to Henry Luce’s proclamation of an “American century” of free trade, and “modernisation theory” – the attempt by American cold warriors to seduce the postcolonial world away from communist-style revolution and into the gradualist alternative of consumer capitalism and democracy.

The collapse of communist regimes in 1989 further emboldened Niebuhr’s bland fanatics. The old Marxist teleology was retrofitted rather than discarded in Francis Fukuyama’s influential end-of-history thesis, and cruder theories about the inevitable march to worldwide prosperity and stability were vended by such Panglosses of globalisation as Thomas Friedman. Arguing that people privileged enough to consume McDonald’s burgers don’t go to war with each other, the New York Times columnist was not alone in mixing old-fangled Eurocentrism with American can-doism, a doctrine that grew from America’s uninterrupted good fortune and unchallenged power in the century before September 2001.

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 briefly disrupted celebrations of a world globalised by capital and consumption. But the shock to naive minds only further entrenched in them the intellectual habits of the cold war – thinking through binary oppositions of “free” and “unfree” worlds – and redoubled an old delusion: liberal democracy, conceived by modernisation theorists as the inevitable preference of the beneficiaries of capitalism, could now be implanted by force in recalcitrant societies. Invocations of a new “long struggle” against “Islamofascism” aroused many superannuated cold warriors who missed the ideological certainties of battling communism. Intellectual narcissism survived, and was often deepened by, the realisation that economic power had begun to shift from the west. The Chinese, who had “got capitalism”, were, after all, now “downloading western apps”, according to Niall Ferguson. As late as 2008, Fareed Zakaria declared in his much-cited book, The Post-American World, that “the rise of the rest is a consequence of American ideas and actions” and that “the world is going America’s way”, with countries “becoming more open, market-friendly and democratic”.

A world in flames


One event after another in recent months has cruelly exposed such facile narratives. China, though market-friendly, looks further from democracy than before. The experiment with free-market capitalism in Russia has entrenched a kleptocratic regime with a messianic belief in Russian supremacism. Authoritarian leaders, anti-democratic backlashes and rightwing extremism define the politics of even such ostensibly democratic countries as India, Israel, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Turkey.

The atrocities of this summer in particular have plunged political and media elites in the west into stunned bewilderment and some truly desperate cliches. The extraordinary hegemonic power of their ideas had helped them escape radical examination when the world could still be presented as going America’s way. But their preferred image of the west – the idealised one in which they sought to remake the rest of the world – has been consistently challenged by many critics, left or right, in the west as well as the east.

Herzen was already warning in the 19th century that “our classic ignorance of the western European will be productive of a great deal of harm; racial hatred and bloody collisions will develop from it.” Herzen was sceptical of those liberal “westernisers” who believed that Russia could progress only by diligently emulating western institutions and ideologies. Intimate experience and knowledge of Europe during his long exile there had convinced him that European dominance, arrived at after much fratricidal violence and underpinned by much intellectual deception and self-deception, did not amount to “progress”. Herzen, a believer in cultural pluralism, asked a question that rarely occurs to today’s westernisers: “Why should a nation that has developed in its own way, under completely different conditions from those of the west European states, with different elements in its life, live through the European past, and that, too, when it knows perfectly well what that past leads to?”

The brutality that Herzen saw as underpinning Europe’s progress turned out, in the next century, to be a mere prelude to the biggest bloodbath in history: two world wars, and ferocious ethnic cleansing that claimed tens of millions of victims. The imperative to emulate Europe’s progress was nevertheless embraced by the ruling elites of dozens of new nation-states that emerged from the ruins of European empires in the mid-20th century, and embarked on a fantastic quest for western-style wealth and power. Today, racial hatred and bloody collisions ravage the world where liberal democracy and capitalism were expected to jointly reign.

This moment demands a fresh interrogation of what Neibuhr euphemistically called “the highly contingent achievements of the west”, and closer attention to the varied histories of the non-west. Instead, the most common response to the present crisis has been despair over western “weakness” – and much acrimony over what Barack Obama, president of the “sole superpower” and the “indispensable nation” should have done to fix it. “Will the West Win?” Prospect asks on the cover of its latest issue, underlining the forlornness of the question with a picture of Henry Kissinger, whose complicity in various murderous fiascos from Vietnam to Iraq has not prevented his re-incarnation among the perplexed as a sage of hardheaded realism.

Robert Kagan, writing in the Wall Street Journal at the start of September, articulated a defiant neoconservative faith that America is condemned to use “hard power” against the enemies of liberal modernity who understand no other language, such as Japan and Germany in the early 20th century, and Putin’s Russia today. Kagan doesn’t say which manifestation of hard power – firebombing Germany, nuking Japan, napalming Vietnam – the United States should aim against Russia, or if the shock-and-awe campaign that he cheerled in Iraq is a better template. Roger Cohen of the New York Times provides a milder variation on the clash of civilisations discourse when he laments that “European nations with populations from former colonies often seem unable to celebrate their values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law”. 

Such diehard believers in the west’s capacity to shape global events and congratulate itself eternally were afflicted with an obsolete assumption even in 1989: that the 20th century was defined by the battles between liberal democracy and totalitarian ideologies, such as fascism and communism. Their obsession with a largely intra-western dispute obscured the fact that the most significant event of the 20th century was decolonisation, and the emergence of new nation-states across Asia and Africa. They barely registered the fact that liberal democracies were experienced as ruthlessly imperialist by their colonial subjects.

For people luxuriating at a high level of abstraction, and accustomed to dealing during the cold war with nation-states organised simply into blocs and superblocs, it was always too inconvenient to examine whether the freshly imagined communities of Asia and Africa were innately strong and cohesive enough to withhold the strains and divisions of state-building and economic growth. If they had indeed risked engaging with complexity and contradiction, they would have found that the urge to be a wealthy and powerful nation-state along western lines initially ordered and then disordered first Russia, Germany and Japan, and then, in our own time, plunged a vast swath of the postcolonial world into bloody conflict.

History’s long-term losers


The temptation to imitate the evidently triumphant western model, as Herzen feared, was always greater than the urge to reject it. For many in the old and sophisticated societies of Asia and Africa, chafing under the domination of western Europe’s very small countries, it seemed clear that human beings could muster up an unprecedented collective power through new European forms of organisation like the nation-state and the industrialised economy. Much of Europe had first learned this harsh lesson in political and military innovation from Napoleon’s all-conquering army. In the century after the Napoleonic wars, European societies gradually learned how to deploy effectively a modern military, technology, railways, roads, judicial and educational systems and create a feeling of belonging and solidarity, most often by identifying dangerous enemies within and without.

As Eugen Weber showed in his classic book Peasants into Frenchmen (1976), this was a uniformly brutal process in France itself. Much of Europe then went on to suffer widespread dispossession, the destruction of regional languages and cultures, and the institutionalisation of hoary prejudices like antisemitism. The 19th century’s most sensitive minds, from Kierkegaard to Ruskin, recoiled from such modernisation, though they did not always know the darker side of it: rapacious European colonialism in Asia and Africa. By the 1940s, competitive nationalisms in Europe stood implicated in the most vicious wars and crimes against religious and ethnic minorities witnessed in human history. After the second world war, European countries – under American auspices and the pressures of the cold war – were forced to imagine less antagonistic political and economic relations, which eventually resulted in the European Union.

But the new nation-states in Asia and Africa had already started on their own fraught journey to modernity, riding roughshod over ethnic and religious diversity and older ways of life. Asians and Africans educated in western-style institutions despaired of their traditionalist elites as much as they resented European dominance over their societies. They sought true power and sovereignty in a world of powerful nation-states – what alone seemed to guarantee them and their peoples a fair chance at strength, equality and dignity in the white man’s world. In this quest China’s Mao Zedong and Turkey’s Mustafa Kemal Atatürk as much as Iran’s democratically-elected prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh followed the western model of mass-mobilisation and state-building.

By then European and American dominance over “the world’s economies and peoples” had, as the Cambridge historian Christopher Bayly writes in The Birth of the Modern World, turned a large part of humanity “into long-term losers in the scramble for resources and dignity”. Nevertheless, the explicitly defined aim of Asia and Africa’s first nationalist icons, who tended to be socialist and secular (Atatürk, Nehru, Nasser, Nkrumah, Mao, and Sukarno), was “catch-up” with the west. Recent ruling classes of the non-west have looked to McKinsey rather than Marx to help define their socioeconomic future; but they have not dared to alter the founding basis of their legitimacy as “modernisers” leading their countries to convergence with the west and attainment of European and American living standards. As it turns out, the latecomers to modernity, dumping protectionist socialism for global capitalism, have got their timing wrong again.

In the 21st century that old spell of universal progress through western ideologies – socialism and capitalism – has been decisively broken. If we are appalled and dumbfounded by a world in flames it is because we have been living – in the east and south as well as west and north – with vanities and illusions: that Asian and African societies would become, like Europe, more secular and instrumentally rational as economic growth accelerated; that with socialism dead and buried, free markets would guarantee rapid economic growth and worldwide prosperity. What these fantasies of inverted Hegelianism always disguised was a sobering fact: that the dynamics and specific features of western “progress” were not and could not be replicated or correctly sequenced in the non-west.

The enabling conditions of Europe’s 19th-century success – small, relatively homogenous populations, or the ability to send surplus populations abroad as soldiers, merchants and missionaries – were missing in the large and populous countries of Asia and Africa. Furthermore, imperialism had deprived them, as Basil Davidson argued in The Black Man’s Burden: Africa and the Curse of the Nation-State, of the resources to pursue western-style economic development; it had also imposed ruinous ideologies and institutions upon societies that had developed, over centuries, their own viable political units and social structures.

Recklessly exported worldwide even today, the west’s successful formulas have continued to cause much invisible suffering. What may have been the right fit for 19th-century colonialists in countries with endless resources cannot secure a stable future for India, China, and other late arrivals to the modern world, which can only colonise their own territories and uproot their own indigenous peoples in the search for valuable commodities and resources.

The result is endless insurgencies and counter-insurgencies, wars and massacres, the rise of such bizarre anachronisms and novelties as Maoist guerrillas in India and self-immolating monks in Tibet, the increased attraction of unemployed and unemployable youth to extremist organisations, and the endless misery that provokes thousands of desperate Asians and Africans to make the risky journey to what they see as the centre of successful modernity.

It should be no surprise that religion in the non-western world has failed to disappear under the juggernaut of industrial capitalism, or that liberal democracy finds its most dedicated saboteurs among the new middle classes. The political and economic institutions and ideologies of western Europe and the United States had been forged by specific events – revolts against clerical authority, industrial innovations, capitalist consolidation through colonial conquest – that did not occur elsewhere. So formal religion – not only Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and the Russian Orthodox Church, but also such quietist religions as Buddhism – is actually now increasingly allied with rather than detached from state power. The middle classes, whether in India, Thailand, Turkey or Egypt, betray a greater liking for authoritarian leaders and even uniformed despots than for the rule of law and social justice.

But then western ideologues during the cold war absurdly prettified the rise of the “democratic” west. The long struggle against communism, which claimed superior moral virtue, required many expedient feints. And so the centuries of civil war, imperial conquest, brutal exploitation, and genocide were suppressed in accounts that showed how westerners made the modern world, and became with their liberal democracies the superior people everyone else ought to catch up with. “All of the western nations,” James Baldwin warned during the cold war in 1963, are “caught in a lie, the lie of their pretended humanism; this means that their history has no moral justification, and the west has no moral authority.” The deception that an African-American easily divined has continued, nevertheless, to enjoy political support and intellectual respectability long after the end of the cold war.

Thus the editors of the Economist elide in The Fourth Revolution the history of mass slaughter in the west itself that led to the modern nation-state: the religious wars of the 17th century, the terror of French revolutions, the Napoleonic wars, the Franco-Prussian war and the wars of Italian unification, among others. Mainstream Anglo-American writers who vend popular explanations of how the west made the modern world veer between intellectual equivocation and insouciance about the west’s comparative advantage of colonialism, slavery and indentured labour. “We cannot pretend,” Ferguson avers, that the “mobilisation of cheap and probably underemployed Asian labour to grow rubber and dig gold had no economic value.” A recent review in the Economist of a history explaining the compact between capitalism and slavery protests that “almost all the blacks” in the book are “victims”, and “almost all the whites villains”.

Understandably, history has to be “balanced” for Davos Men, who cannot bear too much reality in their effervescent prognoses of “convergence” between the west and the rest. But obscuring the monstrous costs of the west’s own “progress” destroys any possibility of explaining the proliferation of large-scale violence in the world today, let along finding a way to contain it. Evasions, suppressions and downright falsehoods have resulted, over time, in a massive store of defective knowledge – an ignorance that Herzen correctly feared to be pernicious – about the west and the non-west alike. Simple-minded and misleading ideas and assumptions, drawn from this blinkered history, today shape the speeches of western statesmen, thinktank reports and newspaper editorials, while supplying fuel to countless log-rolling columnists, TV pundits and terrorism experts.

The price of progress


A faith in the west’s superiority has not always been an obstacle to understanding the tormented process of modernisation in the rest of the world, as the French anti-communist Raymond Aron demonstrated in books like Progress and Disillusion (1968) and The Opium of the Intellectuals (1955). Aron believed the west made the modern world with its political and economic innovations and material goals, but did not flinch from examining what this fact really augured about the modern world. As he saw it, the conflicts and contradictions thrown up by the pursuit of modernity had been hard enough to manage for western societies for much of the last century. Industrial societies alone had seemed able to improve material conditions, and bring about a measure of social and economic equality; but the promise of equality, which staved off social unrest, was increasingly difficult to fulfill because specialisation kept producing fresh hierarchies.

Some parts of the west had achieved some reduction in material inequalities, due to a market economy which produced both desirable goods and the means to acquire them; organised labour, which made it possible for workers to demand higher wages; and political liberty, which made the rulers accountable to the ruled. And some western countries had also, however brutally, got the sequencing broadly right: they had managed to build resilient states before trying to turn peasants into citizens. (“We have made Italy; now we must make the Italians,” the Italian nationalist Massimo d’Azeglio famously proclaimed in 1860.) The most successful European states had also accomplished a measure of economic growth before gradually extending democratic rights to a majority of the population. “No European country,” Aron pointed out, “ever went through the phase of economic development which India and China are now experiencing, under a regime that was representative and democratic.” Nowhere in Europe, he wrote in The Opium of Intellectuals, “during the long years when industrial populations were growing rapidly, factory chimneys looming up over the suburbs and railways and bridges being constructed, were personal liberties, universal suffrage and the parliamentary system combined”.

Countries outside the west, however, faced simultaneously the arduous tasks of establishing strong nation-states and viable economies, and satisfying the demands for dignity and equality of freshly politicised peoples. This made the importation of western measures and techniques of success in places that “have not yet emerged from feudal poverty” an unprecedented and perilous experiment. Travelling through Asia and Africa in the 1950s, Aron discerned the potential for authoritarianism as well as dark chaos.

There were not many political choices before societies that had lost their old traditional sources of authority while embarking on the adventure of building new nation-states and industrial economies in a secular and materialist ethos. These rationalised societies, constituted by “individuals and their desires”, had to either build a social and political consensus themselves or have it imposed on them by a strongman. Failure would plunge them into violent anarchy.

Aron was no vulgar can-doist. American individualism, the product of a short history of unrepeatable national success, in his view, “spreads unlimited optimism, denigrates the past, and encourages the adoption of institutions which are in themselves destructive of the collective unity”. Nor was he a partisan of the blood-splattered French revolutionary tradition, which requires “people to submit to the strictest discipline in the name of the ultimate freedom” – whose latest incarnation is Isis and its attempt to construct an utopian “Islamic State” through a reign of terror.

The state under siege


Applied to the many nation-states that emerged in the mid-20th century, Aron’s sombre analysis can only embarrass those who have been daydreaming since 1989 about a worldwide upsurge of liberal democracy in tandem with capitalism. Indeed, long before the rise of European totalitarianisms, urgent state-building and the search for rapid and high economic growth had doomed individual liberties to a precarious existence in Japan. Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia and South Korea went on to show, after 1945, that a flourishing capitalist economy always was compatible with the denial of democratic rights.

China has more recently achieved a form of capitalist modernity without embracing liberal democracy. Turkey now enjoys economic growth as well as regular elections; but these have not made the country break with long decades of authoritarian rule. The arrival of Anatolian masses in politics has actually enabled a demagogue like Erdoğan to imagine himself as a second Atatürk.

Turkey, however, may have been relatively fortunate in being able to build a modern state out of the ruins of the Ottoman empire. Disorder was the fate of many new nations that had been insufficiently or too fervidly imagined, such as Myanmar and Pakistan; their weak state structures and fragmented civil society have condemned them to oscillate perennially between civilian and military despots while warding off challenges from disaffected minorities and religious fanatics. Until the Arab spring, ruthless despots kept a lid on sectarian animosities in the nation-states carved out of the Ottoman empire. Today, as the shattering of Iraq, Libya and Syria reveals, despotism, far from being a bulwark against militant disaffection, is an effective furnace for it.

Countries that managed to rebuild commanding state structures after popular nationalist revolutions – such as China, Vietnam, and Iran – look stable and cohesive when compared with a traditional monarchy such as Thailand or wholly artificial nation-states like Iraq and Syria. The bloody regimes inaugurated by Khomeini and Mao survived some terrible internal and external conflicts – the Korean and Iran-Iraq wars, the Cultural Revolution and much fratricidal bloodletting – partly because their core nationalist ideologies secured consent from many of their subjects.

Since 1989, however, this strenuously achieved national consensus in many countries has been under siege from a fresh quarter: an ideology of endless economic expansion and private wealth-creation that had been tamed in the mid-20th century. After its most severe global crisis in the 1930s, capitalism had suffered a decline in legitimacy, and in much of the non-western world, planned and protected economic growth had become the chosen means to such ends as social justice and gender equality. In our own age, feral forms of capitalism, which after the Depression were defanged by social-welfarism in the west and protectionist economies elsewhere, have turned into an elemental force. Thus, nation-states already struggling against secessionist movements by ethnic and religious minorities have seen their internal unity further undermined by capitalism’s dominant ethic of primitive accumulation and individual gratification.

China, once the world’s most egalitarian society, is now even more unequal than the United States – 1% of its population owns one-third of the national wealth – and prone to defuse its increasing social contradictions through a hardline nationalism directed at its neighbours, particularly Japan. Many formally democratic nation-states, such as India, Indonesia, and South Africa, have struggled to maintain their national consensus in the face of the imperative to privatise basic services such as water, health and education (and also, for many countries, to de-industrialise, and surrender their sovereignty to markets). Mobile and transnational capital, which de-territorialises wealth and poverty, has made state-building and its original goals of broad social and economic uplift nearly impossible to achieve within national boundaries.

The elites primarily benefitting from global capitalism have had to devise new ideologies to make their dominance seem natural. Thus, India and Israel, which started out as nation-states committed to social justice, have seen their foundational ideals radically reconfigured by a nexus of neoliberal politicians and majoritarian nationalists, who now try to bludgeon their disaffected subjects into loyalty to a “Jewish state” and a “Hindu nation”. Demagogues in Thailand, Myanmar, and Pakistan have emerged at the head of populations angry and fearful about being deprived of the endlessly postponed fruits of modernity.

Identified with elite or sectarian interests, the unrepresentative central state in many countries struggles to compete with offers of stability and order from non-state actors. Not surprisingly, even the vicious Isis claims to offer better governance to Sunnis angry with the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad. So do Maoist insurgents who control large territories in Central India, and even drug-traffickers in Myanmar and Mexico.

A shattered mirror


Fukuyama, asserting that the “power of the democratic ideal” remains immense, claimed earlier this year that “we should have no doubt as to what kind of society lies at the end of History”. But the time for grand Hegelian theories about the rational spirit of history incarnated in the nation-state, socialism, capitalism, or liberal democracy is now over. Looking at our own complex disorder we can no longer accept that it manifests an a priori moral and rational order, visible only to an elite thus far, that will ultimately be revealed to all.

How then do we interpret it? Reflecting on the world’s “pervasive raggedness” in the last essay he wrote before his death in 2006, the American anthropologist Clifford Geertz spoke of how “the shattering of larger coherences … has made relating local realities with overarching ones … extremely difficult.” “If the general is to be grasped at all,” Geertz wrote, “and new unities uncovered, it must, it seems, be grasped not directly, all at once, but via instances, differences, variations, particulars – piecemeal, case by case. In a splintered world, we must address the splinters.”

Such an approach would necessarily demand greater attention to historical specificity and detail, the presence of contingency, and the ever-deepening contradictions of nation-states amid the crises of capitalism. It would require asking why nation-building in Afghanistan and Iraq failed catastrophically while decentralisation helped stabilise Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country, after a long spell of despotic rule supported by the middle class. It would require an admission that Iraq can achieve a modicum of stability not by reviving the doomed project of nation-state but through a return to Ottoman-style confederal institutions that devolve power and guarantee minority rights. Addressing the splinters leaves no scope for vacuous moralising against “Islamic extremism”: in their puritanical and utopian zeal, the Islamic revolutionaries brutally advancing across Syria and Iraq resemble the fanatically secular Khmer Rouge more than anything in the long history of Islam.

A fresh grasp of the general also necessitates understanding the precise ways in which western ideologues, and their non-western epigones, continue to “make” the modern world. “Shock-therapy” administered to a hapless Russian population in the 1990s and the horrific suffering afterwards set the stage for Putin’s messianic Eurasianism. But, following Geertz’s insistence on differences and variations, the ressentiment of the west articulated by nationalists in Russia, China, and India cannot be conflated with the resistance to a predatory form of modernisation – ruthless dispossession by a profit-driven nexus of the state and business – mounted by indigenous peoples in Tibet, India, Peru and Bolivia.

In any case, the doubters of western-style progress today include more than just marginal communities and some angry environmental activists. No less than the World Bank admitted last month that emerging economies – or the “large part of humanity” that Bayly called the “long-term losers” of history – might have to wait for three centuries in order to catch up with the west. In the Economist’s assessment, which pitilessly annuls the upbeat projections beloved of consultants and investors, the last decade of rapid growth was an “aberration” and “billions of people will be poorer for a lot longer than they might have expected just a few years ago”.

The implications are sobering: the non-west not only finds itself replicating the west’s violence and trauma on an infinitely larger scale. While helping inflict the profoundest damage yet on the environment – manifest today in rising sea levels, erratic rainfall, drought, declining harvests, and devastating floods – the non-west also has no real prospect of catching up with the west.

How do we chart our way out of this impasse? His own discovery of the tragically insuperable contradictions of westernisation led Aron into the odd company of the many thinkers in the east and the west who questioned the exalting of economic growth as an end in itself. Of course, other ways of conceiving of the good life have existed long before a crudely utilitarian calculus – which institutionalises greed, credits slavery with economic value and confuses individual freedom with consumer choice – replaced thinking in our most prominent minds.
Such re-examinations of liberal capitalist ideas of “development”, and exploration of suppressed intellectual traditions, are not nearly as rousing or self-flattering as the rhetorical binaries that make laptop bombers pound the keyboard with the caps lock glowing green. Barack Obama, who struggled to adhere to a wise policy of not doing stupid stuff, has launched another open-ended war after he was assailed for being weak by assorted can-doists. Plainly, Anglo-American elites who are handsomely compensated to live forever in the early 20th century, when the liberal-democratic west crushed its most vicious enemies, will never cease to find more brutes to exterminate. The rest of us, however, have to live in the 21st century, and prevent it from turning into yet another rotten one for the western model.

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