Once Alexander the Great captured a pirate and told him, “How you dare molest the sea”. The pirate replied,“How do you dare molest the whole world?”. He added, “Because I do it with only a little ship, I am called a thief; while you do it with a huge navy and are called an Emperor.” The shrewd pirate dared to speak against the most powerful person of the time. Today, his perspective holds value. Is it really a matter of reason or rationale, or is it about the pirate’s intention who dared to question the Emperor’s authority?
In the contemporary world as well, the so-called ruled-based order established after the disintegration of the Soviet Union has been under discussion after the invisibility of rule of law across the globe. The idea of the End of History put forward by Francis Fukuyama was supposed to champion the real ideals of the rules-based order. However, we see the world is going in the opposite direction. Indeed, democracy and institutionalism coupled with globalization, dependency, and connectivity prevailed throughout this time; yet these things only become a tool of the powerful to exploit weaker countries. So, we can extract from the aforementioned example that weak countries are not always wrong when they are being sidelined in every decision-making process, especially in contemporary geopolitics.
The recent decision by the US to put Pakistan, Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, and other smaller countries on the human rights watchlist, while neglecting Indian violations against Muslim minorities across the country (including in IOJ&K) and Israel’s human rights violations in the Palestinian territory, exactly replicate the story of the pirate and Alexander the Great. Indeed, these are the possible demarcations for new geopolitical alliances because Washington sees these countries with the lens of their interests rather than on a factual basis. In the previous Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union, democracy was a vibrant tool against opponents. Thus, the securitization of human rights issues seems to be a new tool of the inevitable Cold War 2.0 between the US and China.
Furthermore, The United Nations (UN), International Criminal Court (ICC), International Court of justice (ICJ), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Trade Organizations (WTO), Financial Action Task Force (FATF), and countless other similar organizations are increasingly becoming irrelevant. The UN’s irrelevancy can be seen in the actions against Global Warming, where it is unable for the last 3 decades to unite the world against this non-traditional threat. It is just a major thing where the interests of all countries could converge, yet it miserably failed on this front. Just put aside its inability in addressing traditional security matters for which it was created. A similar situation is happening with the ICC, ICJ, and IMF, and FATF as well where the politicization of these institutions is a huge blow to this liberal world order.
Apart from these, the incident of 9/11, the global recession of 2008, and now the global pandemic of Covid-19 has unveiled the peculiarities of this fragile global system. Global politics is completely restricted to national boundaries where little to no cooperation is seen at the international level, especially in the last two decades. What if the globe had leadership as it had in the past? According to Yuval Noah Harari, it was the responsibility of global leadership to take timely actions against the pandemic, but they didn’t do so. It means that it is a lack of non-cooperation due to which the tiny virus spread across the globe.
We should ask ourselves, and also those who advocated for the rule-based order: is this the order for which the world fought for forty-six years in the name of the Cold War? In other words, the world fought for four and a half decades so that the best global system could emerge. And indeed, the liberal world order emerged, but it is polarized and dismembered. If this system didn’t work, then what system do we want for ourselves? A new global system? Who would make sure that the new global system will work out? Would that be free of cyber threats?
Amid this global disarray, the global leadership is still divided. Rather than working on rationality, reasons, and areas of convergence (i.e., global warming, terrorism, poverty, unemployment, and so on), today’s leaders are on a destiny of dividing the world further. Lets suppose, Cold War 2.0 begins between the US and China, how would global issues be resolved? Wouldn’t all these things make the situation further deteriorate, especially for future generations? As today we say that post-WWII leadership has given us the UN so that we can work collaboratively and do not repeat mistakes of the past. What would the future generations say when we give them a world where increasing climate change, declining rationality, and threatening private security are in danger all along?
Instead of getting back to the borders under the umbrella of nationalism, the same global order should be reformed. Instead of waiting for another major outbreak in the form of World War III, the world should proactively decide to make the world more prosperous. It could be done by reforming the Wilsonian idea of International Organizations where it should lead the world rather than the powerful should direct its course as it’s happening in today’s time. Instead of getting entangled in another Cold War for the next couple of decades, the world leaders should decide to go along so that global issues could be unanimously resolved.
The world is like a large ship where around 200 small boats are operating. Instead of playing the blame-game like a pirate and Alexander, all should realize that no one is perfect; thus they should work for the betterment of this huge ship. Instead of blaming pirates (small countries) for molesting the sea (world), the global leadership should make themselves accountable by realizing that they cannot be right all the time and must not act like Alexander the Great. It would be in the interest of all to save this single large ship; only then will other small boats be able to operate securely, otherwise everything would be lost. It is a time for the world to become ‘us’ rather than ‘I’ or ‘you’. Therefore, cooperation is the only way forward for securing peace and prosperity in the world.
To quote J.F Kennedy;
“However close sometimes we seem to that dark and final abyss, let no man of peace and prosperity despair. For he does not stand alone. Together we shall save the planet, or together we shall perish in its flames. Save it we can – and save it we must – and then shall we earn the eternal thanks of mankind and as peacemakers, the eternal blessing of God.”