Rise of Populism and Frightening Prospects of World War-3
After World War II, the world became bipolar, with the United States supporting liberal democracy and the USSR being the torch-bearer of communism. In their Cold War, both states were, in pursuit of power and alliances, investing in new democracies financially and diplomatically. The Cold War ended with the fall of Berlin Wall and that of the Soviet Union in 1991—victory of liberalism. But this was not the so-called ‘end of history’; it was rather the beginning of a new chapter, which is also nearing collapse now.
The world was highly influenced by the very torchbearer of liberal democracy, i.e. the United States, which then manoeuvred everything to secure its own national interest—not serving the purpose of liberal democracy. Other fearful states, as says Samuel P. Huntington in ‘The Clash of Civilizations’, started admiring their own cultures and civilizations, promoting regionalism in the start of the 21st century and it was, ultimately, a step towards populism. Emergence of Asian Tigers as economic powers further strengthened the feeling. Later, following the depression of 2008-09, the world became multi-polar—amplifying nationalism, a prospect of populism.
Next was the migration crisis of 2015, the final nail in the coffin, which resulted in rise of populist leaders in different states like Modi in India and Trump in the United States. Now the populist acts like US withdrawal from treaties like JCPOA (a.k.a. Iran nuclear deal), China’s wolf-warrior diplomacy and Erdogan’s pursuit for power and revival of the Caliphate have upended the world order. Heaping more miseries, Covid-19 has created a mammoth health crisis across the world, leading almost all economies to depression. Such a situation has also promoted authoritarian tendencies in different states. States became protectionists—another step towards populism. The situation is now worsening day by day, leading potentially to a disaster from which the world may not recover ever.
Major fronts of the looming Ww3
Asia would be the major battleground this time. Starting with South Asia, the frosty relations between India and Pakistan, and their long-standing conflict on Kashmir is now driving both states to war, especially after illegal and unconstitutional amendment to the Indian constitution which stripped the illegally occupied valley of its special status, and the ensuing lockdown and grave human rights violations that are still rampant there. Then, Hindu nationalist movement against Muslims, through amending the Citizenship Act and snatching their right of citizenship, and also their mass killings and blames like ‘corona-spreaders’, is adding fire to fury. Peoples of both countries actually wish to conquer the opponent and form a single state under its own rule. Moreover, both the states are naturally involved in the ongoing US-China conflict; India being partner of USA and Pakistan aligned with China, as it cannot lose its biggest investor and an all-weather friend. So, there are chances that the region may be a proxy warfront also.
Next is the Middle East where the conflict between the pro-US Saudi Arabia and anti-US Iran and Shia-Sunni differences will be manipulated of by world powers—as it will help them plunder the region that is rich in natural resources.
In 1969, when Al Aqsa Mosque was attacked by an arsonist—an extremist Australian Christian, Dennis Michael Rohan—all the Muslim countries got united to stop oil trade with Western countries, leaving them with no option but to bow before Arabs and fulfil their demands. From the Morocco meeting, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) emerged. Then, in Iranian revolution, Khomeini’s anti-US policies, as evident from the Great Hostage of American diplomats in Iran for 444 days, were a threat to American hegemony in the region. And no power wants to lose hegemony in the Persian Gulf from where 84% of world’s oil trade is carried out. USSR not left the opportunity to jump on the bandwagon with Iran. The United States, then, started development in Saudi Arabia in exchange for its oil as said by John Perkins in his famous ‘Confessions of An Economic Hitman’. The United Kingdom also supported US in this task. Their policy of feeding the rulers and ruling the ‘ruled ones’ can be viewed in most of the world at that time. This is also the principal reason behind absence of democracy in most Arab states. So, the conflict intensified with the passage of time; especially, Shia-Sunni divide affected the whole Muslim Ummah. This can be witnessed in Iraq-Iran war, Yemen conflict, and so on. Saudi Arabia and Iran both roped in their supporters in Muslim world and the conflict increased due to formation of blocs. China, too, is investing in Iran under BRI which can, in the near future, become a war front for global powers.
In addition, the adventures of Israel in Palestine, since its recognition as a state by the UN, had been a matter of a great concern for the Muslim world. Series of Intifadas and UN resolutions against Israel’s grave human rights breaches in Palestine couldn’t stop Israeli aggressions. Israel blatantly violates territorial sovereignty of Palestine and UN’s ban on the use of force, but all the resolutions moved against it in the UNSC are vetoed by USA—clearing Israel’s way towards annexation of the whole Palestinian territory. Israel also remained in conflict with Syria and Jordan in pursuit of its vested interests in the region. USA uses Israel as a satellite in the Middle East and deems its military dominance in the region an imperative. Then, Iran-backed Hamas is working in Palestine and fighting against Israeli aggression. To counter this, Israel has recently signed an agreement with UAE to deploy its army, air force and warships there—a threat to whole region. Moreover, it is claimed that Israel also backed the attack in Beirut, Lebanon, that destroyed thousands of houses there with many casualties and injuries. So, the whole Middle East will be drained into war in case of any military adventure in the region.
Furthermore, major fronts in East Asia would be the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean, involving proxies of both United States and China, as currently can be witnessed in Hong Kong where China has implemented its National Security Law; but US is opposing this move tooth and nail as a semi-independent Hong Kong is in its interest. But the US must keep in mind what Dr Henry Kissinger has said about Beijing’s diplomatic prowess. He said, “Beijing’s diplomacy is so subtle and indirect that it largely went over our heads in Washington.” So, China has indirectly threatened the existence of USA because of its ever-growing dependence on Chinese products, leaving US to opt for such protectionist measures essential for its survival. So, the rift between these two powers may lead to a new cold war where both states seek alliances to maintain balance of power.
In Europe, Near-Eastern states generally remain involved in ethnicity-based civil wars. Other powers, then, seek to influence the ‘gateway to Europe’ in pursuit of power. At this time, disturbance in Belarus on presidential election has provided Russia with an opportunity to enter the region. Turkey’s quest for power in the region and its aspiration to revive the Caliphate can be seen by its issues with Georgia and Greece in the Black Sea, involvement in Libya and Egypt and movement in the Mediterranean. But, Turkey may face the same fate as was faced by Mussolini’s Italy in WWII; because it also lacked military and economic arm to bear the pressure of total war. In addition, Brexit has also disturbed the balance in European Union, leaving Germany with no competitor. Covid-19 has further added to the agony of other states. USA has called back its troops from Germany. France is now feeling threatened from nationalists emerging in Germany—seeking expansion. So, the war in Europe may arise on Franco-German belt, Mediterranean and Near East including Black Sea and the Balkans.
North African countries will obviously be the part of war because Turkey will try to get control over Suez Canal, bringing Egypt, France, Germany and the UK in direct conflict there. Libya has two governments; one recognised by UN and the other by Egypt, hence bringing it to war also. Tariq Bin Ziyad’s Gibraltar will induce Ummah’s propensity in Morocco to fight for Muslim cause.
Hence, it seems that the world is at the brink of a war-cum-disaster again, with new zeal, new ambitions and advanced modern technology. Reversal of the world again from liberalism towards realism is harnessing ‘anarchy’ in the world. It’s the time for UN Security Council to play its role. It’s the time for statesmen to think about seriousness of the situation—for the sake of humanity—and it’s a wake-up call for humanity also, as this time, the war may leave no human who could enjoy the so-called fruits and plunder of war. In this nuclear age, a war will exterminate humans from the face of the earth. So, international institutions should work as saviours of humanity by applying democratic principles. International organisations should work independently by bringing reforms in their structures like ensuring equality of all states by removing ‘vetoes’. Statesmen should also work to promote pluralistic norms and culture in their societies.
The writer is a student of law (final year) at
Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad.