Elite wars

Amanat Ali Chaudhry
Wednesday, Mar 02, 2022

As much as some analysts would like to dismiss the cold war analogy to explain the current state of the world, the fact is that every development on the global political chessboard only confirms that the world has practically entered a second phase of the cold war.

Countries are increasingly allowing their reactions to be determined by how their policy choices about several natural and man-made disasters will sit with principal actors.

When considerations other than what a crisis should warrant shape our response, our decision-making is constrained by factors that lie outside of our control and within the realm of the great game of which we are just one part – whether we like it or not.

How else can we explain the existence of Nato long after it served its primary purpose? Why is Nato’s eastward expansion even a question when Russia has genuine security concerns about it? Why should Western leaders resort to hard talk and sabre-rattling and make things worse, knowing well what the cost of the war is for the Ukrainian people?

When events such as the coronavirus pandemic – the biggest public health disruption in recent times – and the Olympics get politicised, it signifies the return of the great game in its latest avatar. Another manifestation of realignment underway around the pivot of the cold war is the gradual weakening of global institutions meant for conflict management and resolution. It is also marked by a stiff competition to bend and interpret the rules and norms that govern these institutions.

War is a result of the failure of human efforts to manage a conflict. No matter how noble any war objectives are, it is still abominable as it leaves behind unfathomable tales of human agony, chaos and destruction. The scars it leaves on the emotional health of its victims are hard to erase, even after active hostilities cease.

The developing Eurasian crisis points to a bigger tragedy that has come to define our world – the powerlessness and dehumanisation of ordinary people, a fact that is becoming glaringly pronounced with every development. This ongoing conflict shows how the cold war mindset continues to drive the actions of main players who are interested in extending their area of influence at any cost.

The ‘strategies’ the global elites want to play may serve their narrow interests but end up exploiting people and undermining the very branch they are sitting on. The whole superstructure of their power and wealth stands on the foundation of mass-scale exploitation, a purpose achieved through a variety of ways.

Even major challenges to the concept of liberal democracy, which emerged as the only ‘panacea’ after the disintegration of the USSR, come from the Western elite. When the mantra of democracy is used to pander to the interests of the industrial-military complex that privileges profit without caring about human suffering, it renders democracy hollow from the inside.

When the corporate media is co-opted to sell a war by using moralistic binaries, it hits at the root of the confidence people generally have in media organisations to offer informed perspectives and hold the elite accountable.

The manipulation of people in the name of imaginary enemies and threats has restricted fundamental freedoms that form the bedrock of Western democracy as a symbol of historic agreements between citizens and states.

When the global financial crunch allows the ever-hungry capitalistic elite to manipulate the administrations into announcing bailouts and largesse, it diminishes democracy as a worthy ideal and turns it into an instrument for achieving petty gains – while people are left to deal with job losses, reduced social security benefits, higher taxes, and increasing health and education expenses.

In the first two decades of this century, the tiny global elites strengthened themselves at the cost of struggling millions for whom every day brings bad news.

Marginalised and persecuted people in Occupied Kashmir, Afghanistan, Palestine and elsewhere, who are suffering from the ravages of war, occupation and persecution, constantly remind us of the lopsidedness and moral hollowness of the prevailing world order. And while these people may belong to different geographical regions and speak different languages, they are bound by the shared vulnerability to the games that are played in their name.

The ill-effects of the elites’ insatiate hunger for domination do not remain confined to the areas of their operations. Wars disrupt global markets that are already perched on weak foundations, throw commodity supply chains off-balance and result in increased suffering for people around the world. People may bash globalisation as an illusion but it is a reality.

Because of the actions of the global power elites, the notion of liberal democracy has been hollowed out for all intents and purposes. The bouts of inequality, hunger, exploitation and wars it has unleashed under various pretexts are a self-indictment.

The biggest crisis the present world order is facing relates to the absence of a moral purpose without which no system, however formidable and strong, can function for a long time. The practice of socialising losses and privatising profit is shorthand for everything that is wrong with the present order.

This moral crisis emanates from an inability to take principled positions on issues of wider public importance that involve their fundamental rights. Realpolitik is the order of the day in nation-states that are supposed to actualise people’s aspirations.

One way of understanding the issue of right-wing nationalism and populism is to contextualise it within the framework of the failures of liberal democracy. People are increasingly turning to leaders who are unrestrained and have the capability to process their anger and challenge the system.

As the Jan 2021 attack on Capitol Hill indicates, these people are not calling for incremental reforms but are upsetting the status quo, holding it responsible for their hardships.

If world leaders are still interested in working within the existing rules of the game and healing the wounds that are deepening by the day, they should start introspecting and relocating the moral purpose that has been lost.

The writer studied International Journalism at the University of Sussex.

He tweets @Amanat222 and can be reached at: