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Practice What You Preach

The era of blank checks is over. So, should it be for our “transactional” relationship with the U.S. which also needs to be rebuilt as a “new deal.”

By Shamshad Ahmad Khan | July 2023

Historically, Asian regions have had a prominent place in American matrix of its global geo-political and strategic interests. This eastward focus of America’s global power is not something new. It represents the long gravity shift of global economic power from the Euro-Atlantic to the Asia-Pacific regions. And U.S. global objectives are driven, as they would be in the case of any other world power, by the imperatives of its foreign policy. According to Adlai Stevenson, American foreign policy can be depicted just in half a dozen words: American interests, worldwide power and responsibility. As a world power, with its longstanding regional and global interests, the U.S. is no stranger to Asia and retains direct stakes throughout this vast region.

No matter who is at the White House, the U.S. always has the same agenda, encompassing almost all issues of peace and security across the globe with no exception. From my days in Washington, I remember as he orated against the Soviet Union in the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan often quoted form Thomas Paine’s Common Sense with his vision of a United States great enough “to begin the world over again.” With the fin de siècle, it seems, his two Republican successors, George W. Bush at the very onset of the new millennium, and Donald J. Trump, both tried to ‘begin the world all over again’. But in doing so, the former turned it upside down, and the latter spared no effort to turn the world inside out. No wonder, ours is a world in turmoil today.

The new world, America’s world of the new millennium, is woefully chaotic and violent. It remains burdened with the same old problems, perhaps in their acute form. Armed conflict remains pervasive. Historical grievances and outstanding disputes remain unaddressed. Injustice and oppression remain unabated. There is no letup in violence and the causes that breed despair and defiance. Terrorism continues to haunt the world. The war on terror has not gone beyond retribution and retaliation. The most alarming is the U.S. security doctrine based on a wretched policy of “regime change” wherever it so considers necessary to apply for its own good. This doctrine has been pursued with impunity as was seen in the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Both countries now remain even without a semblance of democracy. Syria’s ‘tyrannical’ Assad regime has also been constantly in the germinal line of fire. The latest victim has been our own country, through a conspiracy not by Washington, but as always in the past, by our own domestic civil-military players who, as usual, orchestrated the same game in collusion with the judiciary against Imran Khan who promised to his people a future free of loot and plunder. It was a Greek tragedy being enacted in our country. The last years of Socrates’ life saw Athens experience constant political and economic upheaval. The Thirty Tyrants – a junta who overthrew democracy – ruled for about a year before the return to democracy came about.

At this point it declared a status quo-driven ‘amnesty’ for all recent events. This was like the NRO of today and Socrates challenged it. He spoke the truth and challenged the status quo. Rather than accepting what he perceived as opportunistic power-based immorality within his state, Socrates spoke out against the very popular notion of ‘might makes right’. He believed the state was more important than the rotten Athenian politics. In 399 BC, Socrates stood before a jury of 500 Athenians, accused of “refusing to recognise the gods recognised by the state and corrupting the youth.” The penalty was to be death. After hearing the arguments of both Socrates and his accusers, the jury by a vote of 280 to 220 gave a ‘guilty’ verdict and sentenced him to death.

The Athenian public was totally disillusioned with gross inadequacies of governance, morality and law and order. They were fed up with their corrupt rulers. Socrates understood their pain and anguish. Claiming loyalty to his state, he challenged the course of Athenian politics and society. He praised better governed Sparta, the archrival to Athens, and blamed his own state’s corrupt politics in various dialogues. More than two millennia after his death, alas! Socrates is as relevant as ever. The Greeks are already nostalgic for him and have been turning to the ideas of the same wise man. The situation in Pakistan is no different. It’s the same Athenian scene. A man of integrity, courage and commitment who showed loyalty to his state today faces Socrates’ fate.

When Socrates stood against the immoral politics in his state, the Athenian politicians cried foul in unison claiming democracy was in danger. The same reaction was seen from our own political fraternity which for the first time in history felt seriously threatened. In the process, the situation turned into Frankenstein’s fictional monster challenging its own creator: “I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel...” But this is not an ‘angel vs devil’ story. It is a chequered story of the country which on its independence was considered “twentieth century miracle” of a state which was fought and won entirely through democratic and constitutional struggle but now left itself to struggle haplessly for genuine democracy and constitutional primacy.

Irfan Qureshi

Congratulations to the 335 million Americans celebrating 247 years of American independence!
I reminisce celebrating the same in 1976 with fellow students at the University of Houston when the USA had turned 200 after gaining independence in 1776. Like me, many from Pakistan had chosen the U.S. as the destination for higher education. The reason was simple. Having grown up in the period that the world was bipolar with the Soviet Union eyeing developing nations for its influence, it was the likes of Pakistan looking up to America for assistance and cooperation for their development and security. No wonder in the initiative taken by America then, Pakistan joined the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) of 1954 and the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) of 1955 and playing a vital role. The initial industrialization and progress that Pakistan witnessed at the time, is still referred to as the golden period.
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