August 19, 2016

European dilemma, Arab spring and lessons for Myanmar

(Opinions expressed here are those of the author.)

Europe is the cradle of democracy, the center of western civilization and the origin of many scientific innovations. Being a European has every reason to be proud of. On the other hand it was also a flash point for many armed conflicts like Napoleonic wars, thirty-year war, Crimean war and most infamous two world wars. Therefore in the 1950s postwar period, all the European leaders gathered and promoted the concept of collective security and European integration. As a result European Union, European parliament, European council, single monetary system of Euro and single European community without border check points and passport control were set up successfully. Greece financial crisis was solved and Crimean crisis was contained with true European spirit. All other regional organizations like Asean have to look up to European Union with a lot of admiration.
But the new and unprecedented challenges of the 21st century like the threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has eroded the essence of European spirit. Europe is also the pioneer of human rights and it always upholds the principle and spirit of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR 1948). But the recent events showed that some European countries are trying to walk away from that path of democracy, human rights and single European community in favor of their own national interest. In fact for the first time since the fall of Berlin wall, Europe is in dilemma between liberalism and realism.
Myanmar is a country on the turbulent path to democratic transition. We need to learn a lot about the origin, current situations and future direction of European migrant crisis so that we can draw valuable lessons for our nation building works and democratization process. We need to balance between liberalism and realism as well as be able to adjust between democratization and stability of state.
The root of European migrant crisis stemmed from grand strategic plan of successive United States governments. They want to play a game between the middle powers of Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region so that they can sit on the world’s richest oil and gas reserve perpetually to secure energy supply for their economies and those of their allies. In MENA region, there are only Egypt, Iran, Iraq and Turkey that stand as the united and sovereign states since the era before the Christ. In other parts of the region, nomadic Bedouin tribes went around in the desert without forming any coherent societies or institutions. British made the arbitrary demarcation and divided that region as several independent states after decolonization. But most of them cannot form strong political institutions and ruled as a Sultanate. According to the theories of political science, these Sultanistic regimes are most unfavourable candidates for democratic transition. The tension between Sunni and Shiite groups dated back since the time of Prophet Mohammed and is another insurmountable obstacle for peaceful democratic principle of unity among diversity.
Since the discovery of the large oil and gas reserve under their desert, this region became the unlucky geostrategic pivot of successive United States governments who care more about their profit and care little about the ethnic and religious fault lines of the region. When they tired of power game after the fall of Communism, the United States governments change the tactics to the method of regimen change under cover of democracy and human rights. The chosen targets were Myanmar, North Korea, Iran, Iraq and Cuba. The unlucky Iraq was conquered within three weeks in 2003 war but the plan for creation of stable and democratic Iraq was a total disaster for successive the United States government until the present President Obama administration. Postwar Iraq was ripe in every aspect for all forms of armed conflicts from suicide bombing to guerilla warfare. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi people were killed and millions more were made homeless since George W. Bush declared that major combat operations are over in Iraq in 2003. As we have seen now, Iraq becomes the perfect fertile training ground for the notorious Islamic State of Iraq & Syria (ISIS) terrorist group.

“Democratic transition of Myanmar is not a copycat movement. It is homegrown formula after taking into account of so many internal and external factors like historical development of our country including the battle for the independence, national character of Myanmar people, geopolitical importance of the country in the region, numerous ethnic diversity of our people and the world’s longest running civil involving many armed ethnic groups.”

Since nobody is willing to learn from the mistakes made in Iraq by United States government under George W. Bush administration, Syria, Libya and Yemen successively became victims of combined assault of forceful western style democratization and regimen change policy covertly named as infamous Arab Spring movement. Egypt narrowly escaped from that disaster under the stewardship of their courageous and vigilant leaders. The human security situation of Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen are now appalling. Christian minorities are displaced and beheaded. Women are raped and sold as slaves. Children are used as suicide bombers. Christian churches and Shiite Mosque are bombed to the rubbles. Invaluable cultural monuments which are the milestones of history of mankind were destroyed. All the atrocities committed by ISIS group fulfill the United Nations definition of ethnic cleansing, genocide, war crime and crime against humanities. What is more appalling is that the reaction of the United Nations to these atrocities is almost unheard of. Where is the principle and practice of Right to Protection (R2P) and timely intervention? Nobody knows what went wrong with the world’s prestigious and most reliable international body responsible for peace and prosperity worldwide. Why is the United States government dragging its feet to wipe out ISIS in spite of so many tragedies costing a lot of innocent lives?
The final outcome of these tragedies is the innocent people from the MENA region including the women and children have no choice but to cross the turbulent Mediterranean Sea to reach the safe European shore. The sorrowful images of the bodies of children are captured and frantically spread by the media causing a lot of headache for European leaders. ISIS is achieving enormous strategic gain from the European migrant crisis in every moment. Undoubtedly there will be a lot of ISIS cadre among the immigrants paving way for their grand strategic aim of European conquest in near future. The more unstable become the MENA region, the wider their sphere of influence and the more recruits were available for them. Days after days, ISIS become the icon for those youths worldwide both men and women who want to seek adventure and risk their lives for religious cause. Many youths in Europe, Asia and America are boarding the plane in order to join ISIS camps in Syria.
The crisis of boat people is not new for Myanmar. Only a few months ago, the United Nations, Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), United States government and some of their allies conveniently put the blame on Myanmar government for the boat people crisis in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea. In fact those people are not from Myanmar but the victims of human trafficking network in the region spreading from Dhaka and Chittagong to Penang and Kuala Lampur. The voice became silence only after showing concrete evidence that they are just Bangladeshi citizen fallen as the victims of human trafficking. This is the warning call and just the beginning of coming disasters which Myanmar has to solve in near future. Disaster must be anticipated and plan must be drawn. Preparation must be made and crisis must be contained immediately before the massive media onslaught.
Geostrategic position of a country and its natural resources are like double-edged swords. If properly utilized, these things can bring out the sustainable development of the country. Otherwise they are like magnets for the imperialist or colonialist whose eyes greedily set on those resources. If they don’t have the oil and gas reserve under their desert, the people in MENA region may not be rich but their lives would be more peaceful than now. If the Kaddafi signed his oil and gas contract with American and European companies, he would be a loyal ally of western powers and can sit on the throne like Saudi sultans forever. If the Syria does not possess Mediterranean port of Tartus for Russian navy, it will not be a target of regimen change policy of western powers. So for Myanmar which occupies the important geostrategic position of Asia in 21st century and has abundant natural resources, these advantages can bring in bad omen unfortunately if we are not clever enough. Therefore the dilemma is whether to extract the natural resources to get enough capital for our economy or reserve these resources for the future and used as an instrument of power game. It is a very difficult and million dollar question.
Since even the more prosperous European countries are now trying to walk away from the spirit of single European community by erecting border fencing, setting up passport control and border blockade, we need to learn that realism and the national interest is the ultimate winner at the end of the day. Not every government can afford to risk the responsibility of safeguarding the wellbeing of the citizen, maintaining social harmony in the country and protecting its future generation by accepting the immigrants. That is the bloody truth of realism theory.
The world has seen the historical process of industrial revolution, creation of bourgeois class, the rise of communism in the hope of terminating the exploitation of labour by capitalist class. Finally democratic society is the dream of every people in the world of 21st century. But the path to that destiny is not always the same for every country. The national character of the recipient people must be taken into the account. In the MENA region there is irreconcilable divide between Sunni and Shiite sect of Islam. The religious and ethnic fault lines among the Arab society are so huge that democracy cannot bridge these divides. In fact the hasty democratization upset the fine balance between two religious groups creating the power vacuum which eventually was filled by terrorist networks. As we have learnt the lessons from Arab spring, western democracy is not a panacea for every country. Democratization of Iraq by regimen change tactics is now in 12th year and Arab spring is in 5th year. Everybody knows for sure that which direction these countries are heading. It is obvious that democratic transition of Myanmar is not a copycat movement. It is homegrown formula after taking into account of so many internal and external factors like historical development of our country including the battle for the independence, national character of Myanmar people, geopolitical importance of the country in the region, numerous ethnic diversity of our people and the world’s longest running civil involving many armed ethnic groups. After all it is designed to strike a truly practical balance between democratic principle and political stability of the state. That is why nobody can deny that democratic transition of Myanmar is definitely way ahead of Arab spring.


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