28.09.2002 Feature Article

The Geopolitics of Morality, War & Conflict

The Geopolitics of Morality, War & Conflict
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The analysis and conclusions of Mr. Kwame Adofo Koramoah on Ghanaweb titled “Why Ghanaians & Africa must never support the US” was an enlightening piece on international law. Delving into the asymmetrical power and economic dynamic in the world between the rich and poor, the predominance of realpolitik in the existing global order, and the seemingly unquenchable racism that suffuses all that such an order implies, his piece was right on point. However, I have always believed that as Africans of the 21st century we long ago gave up our moral authority to condemn the injustices and imbalances of the existing global order, and lately what some would regard as a new Anglo-American imperialism. I will get to that in a moment, but let’s first examine discursively some of the issues that are giving rise to this new unilateralist projection of power being displayed by the Americans and their British cousins. Current American domestic politics and the special interests that drive it largely shape and fuel the new unilateralism emanating out of Washington. This new strain of imperious thought being promoted by the most conservative wing of the Republican party – more aptly described as neo-conservatives – believe that in the twin arenas of geopolitics and geo-economics might is indeed right and all other considerations are at worst irrelevant and at best a nuisance. They posit a worldview that is at once repulsive to most nations that treasure their sovereignty and reject western values. They view the United States unabashedly as the sun in a constellation of “free and civilized” states, whose will is supreme and unchallenged, and without whose aggressive projection of power western civilization itself would crumble. They are the philosophical successors of the “Cold Warriors” of the ‘50s and ‘60s, whose heady brand of anti-communism on several occasions pushed the world towards the brink of nuclear destruction. Neo-conservatives today view themselves as modern day Crusaders determined to combat the “Green Menace” of radicalized Islam that threatens a “world order” they feel must be must be preserved at all costs. Three key assumptions inform their position: a) the dire threat posed by radicalized Islam, which could overrun the vast oilfields of the Middle East thereby threatening the western economic lifeline; b) the clear and present danger posed by Islamic extremism to U.S. allies in the region – namely Israel and pro-western Arab states; and c) most importantly, the deleterious impact of a burgeoning radicalized Islam upon western values and way of life. If any event provided the defining moment and rationale for the unleashing of this hawkish, interventionist stance, it was the macabre events of September 11, 2001 on the U.S. homeland, a first in the nation’s history. It is around this new aggressive thinking that U.S. foreign policy is today framed and prosecuted globally, even if in violation of the spirit and letter of the United Nations Charter. Indeed, the Bush camp, while split on the issues of collective security (of which the UN represents) versus neo-realist/unilateralist projection of power, finds itself edging closer towards the latter and is being embraced by an increasingly imperial Britain. President Bush’s speech following the horror of “9-11” outlined for us the gist of this new thinking and how the United States would henceforth conduct itself in the global arena in protection and promotion of its vital national interests. His “War on Terror” speech that placed all nations on notice that in this new war—which would be prosecuted single-handed if need be by the world’s only superpower—those opposed to it would be considered enemies; remember the line, “You either are for us, or against us!” What has not been defined though is how exactly this war will be prosecuted and where. Indeed, this question represents one of the many weaknesses of this new thinking. For now, we know that Saddam Hussein is a strong blip on the radar screen and would do well to pray for a miracle to escape the wrath of a vengeful superpower. Would regime change in Iraq be just the beginning of this process of fighting an “Axis of Evil?” Who will be next after Saddam? The radical mullahs of Iran and Saudi Arabia? President Kim Il Jong of North Korea? And for us in Africa, will the Brits be going after President Mugabe of Zimbabwe? What does this emerging, aggressive foreign policy mean for Africa? How do we position ourselves to deal with it in all of its forms? Are we in any position to criticize or repudiate it? In response to the last question, even if it is an affront to our sense of morality, we should be the last to condemn or criticize. I would argue that we lack the moral basis to criticize or reject any ostensibly abhorrent action by the world’s remaining superpower. A review of Africa’s performance as independent nation states over the last half-century, with few exceptions, provides all the necessary evidence to explain our moral bankruptcy, hence our inability on any moral basis to lecture any power on how it conducts its affairs in the international arena. At least for now. With few exceptions, African countries are as politically and economically backward as we were at independence, and in too many instances we are worse off. In some cases, implosions have occurred, such as in Somalia. In others, the specter of war has been an ongoing event throughout the post-independence era, such as the Congo (Kinshasa) and Angola. In fact, for too many of our states, the only rational for them to be considered sovereign states, accorded all of the accompanying rights and courtesies is the juridical recognition afforded them by the UN. Again, Somalia is a classic example of this. All available economic and social indices paint a sorry and contemptible picture about the African condition, and they portend greater catastrophes in years to come, driven by HIV/AIDS, climatological events, shortsighted leadership, and more. In almost every instance, we have failed miserably to aggregate our resources and efforts to harness our immense human and natural capital for our collective benefit. At a time when rich countries send probes to the planet Mars we are still butchering each other in the most savage and barbaric ways on account of differing ethnicity, family allegiance, unproductive lands, unadulterated greed and selfishness, and bad governance. Until we can foster lasting peace and genuine consensus in all of our affairs, establish visionary and dynamic leadership that inspires and enlightens, invest in our people and our environments to raise the quality of life, then we deserve only the contempt and humiliation that is heaped upon us by richer, northern countries. At the risk of sounding negative, we are our own worst enemies. When one considers the vast human and resource potential of our continent, which sources all of the vital elements that drive and churn the global economy, there is no excuse for our backwardness. We need to halt the blame game and begin a process of serious and critical introspection. Our old folks say that the solutions to problems usually lay not far from them; the vast majority of our problems in Africa are self-inflicted, and their solutions are submerged only by an acute lack of civility – egomania, greed, ethnic chauvinism, and indiscipline. Only when we have first conquered our demons and established moral character internally can we assume any moral high ground in world affairs. Do not misunderstand; being poor is not equivalent to lacking morality. However, being poor and contributing to one's further impoverishment by engaging in senseless cycles of unending crises and conflict, mismanagement of resources, endemic corruption, and abuse of power is morally repugnant. With all due respect, when one considers the terrible condition of our people, most of whom live on less than $1 a day, it will be no exaggeration to say that pets in most developed countries enjoy a better quality of life. While I agree in principle that the precepts of international law must be upheld at all times, and member states of the UN should in the spirit of collective security attempt always to maintain world peace, African countries should first concentrate their efforts on maintaining order, peace, and development in their continent as their highest priority. It is criminal that the poorest countries in Africa, Ethiopia and Eritrea, have been locked in devastating wars that have contributed to human catastrophes of starvation, disease, and death. At the height of their last confrontation, Ethiopia spent almost $300 million on weaponry in under four months. Any sane person would consider such a conflict as outrageous, particularly when the disputed land is completely barren. The cost of conflict in Africa is socially, economically, and morally contemptible and unacceptable. The newly constituted African Union and the UN must impose a ban on all conflict in Africa and strict sanctions on any warring states and intrastate warring parties. Only when the picture of carnage and devastation in Africa can be erased, freeing up vital and already scarce resources and plowing these into meaningful and sustainable development that raises the quality of life for the poorest, can Africa ascribe to any moral high ground. Right now, we have our priorities all twisted. Charles S. Hamidu Washington, D.C.

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