From Pakistan to Germany
by Stephen Schwartz
The tragedy of the Libyan Revolution continues, and the mass protesters in the Arab countries appear distracted temporarily by the spectacle of atrocities committed by the defenders and mercenaries of Mu'ammar al-Qadhdhāfi. In Iran, the opposition Green movement maintains its tenacious resistance to the clerical dictatorship of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Yet parallel with these deadlocked, heart-rending struggles for a new future, Islamist ideology perpetuates terrorism. Perhaps the brutalities committed by Muslim radicals will halt the Arab and Islamic freedom movement. Al-Qadhdhāfi claims to fight against al-Qaida while imitating its massacres, but the two are indistinguishable enemies of the ordinary Libyan.
In following the trail of terror, rather than the path of protest, one observes a curious series of coincidences during the past year: horrific crimes in the Muslim countries have been matched in time by similar attempts in Europe. For example, in August 2010, when the Data Durbar Sufi shrine in Lahore was struck by suicide bombers, an unsuccessful plot was underway aimed at the local Sufi celebration of Ajvatovica, in Bosnia-Hercegovina, on the western edge of the Muslim lands. In December last year, a suicide bombing in Sweden came simultaneously with an arson attack on the Harabati Baba Tekiya in western Macedonia, one of the most distinguished Sufi monuments in the Balkans.
On 2 March 2011, Pakistan's sole government minister of Christian faith, Shahbaz Bhatti, was gunned down, and the next day, a German-Albanian Muslim killed two American airforce pilots in Frankfurt. Are these mere coincidences? Or has the terrorist alliance of Al-Qaida, the Taliban, and the Pakistani jihadis, along with their "lawful" sympathizers in the Arab countries and Turkey, adopted a diversionary, decentralized strategy, with loosely-coordinated, individual horrors at opposite ends of the earth? That is a question terrorism experts, military officials, and intelligence analysts have begun to ask.
Meanwhile, however, moderate Muslims should mourn and protest the death of Shahbaz Bhatti. His slaying follows that of Punjab governor Salman Taseer, and was driven apparently by the same motive: like Taseer, Bhatti opposed Pakistan's infamous blasphemy law. The Pakistan blasphemy law is nothing but a pretext for the settling of personal and factional grudges, and its option for capital punishment has never been carried out. Still, it is a blot on the reputation of the country and of Islam.
Responsibility for the murder of Bhatti has been taken by Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which has carved a bloody swath across the land. If we mourn for Bhatti, as we mourn for the victims of al-Qadhdhāfi and Ahmadinejad, we must also mourn for the future of Pakistan as a country. It is burdened with a government that appears incapable of resisting its internal rot, and above all, of preventing the further infiltration of its military and intelligence networks by the homicidal radicals of TTP, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and similar fanatics.
From Libya to Pakistan, we see the battle for freedom and the war on terrorism seeming to collapse into endless carnage. The global powers respond weakly to both the Libyan Revolution and the South Asian anti-terror war. A Libyan engineer speaking on the Arab television channel Al Jazeera repeatedly begged US president Barack Obama to rescue his country from al-Qadhdhāfi. But such appeals, however long and loud they are repeated, will not elicit the desired action. The lack of will visible in the Obama administration on the matter of Libya is simply the North African embodiment of the spinelessness that prevents the US from calling Pakistan to account regarding its shelter and provision for Islamist killers.
Taking a longer historical view, we may see that humanitarian or democratizing interventions have seldom been viewed with enthusiasm by the world's leading nations. Politicians in the US and Western Europe discuss sanctions against Libya, a "no-fly" zone, an arms embargo on both al-Qadhdhāfi and the rebel forces confronting him, and accountability of the Libyan tyrant and his cohort for their crimes, before the International Criminal Court. But these cosmetic actions are as meaningless as were the resolutions of the League of Nations during the 1930s, when the same kinds of measures – sanctions and arms embargoes – were proposed against the German Nazis, the Japanese imperialists, and the Italian fascists, to no good effect.
The proposal for an arms embargo on both sides in Libya is the same as that imposed on the Franco forces and the Republican armies in the Spanish civil war, and on both sides in the Croatian and Bosnian wars of 1991-95. In the first example, Franco and his Nazi-fascist allies flouted the embargo, and won. In the second, the US and Iran evaded the embargo to send weapons to the Bosnian Muslim forces (which also included Jews, Serbs, and Croats fighting for the right to live in peace with Muslims), and at least gained a stalemate. But Bosnia-Hercegovina, since the ceasefire crafted at Dayton in the US, in 1995, has stagnated, with an apparently-permanent partition, excessive unemployment, a fatally congested rate of privatization and entrepreneurship, the spread of local mafias, and increasing infiltration by Wahhabi agitators. Finally, the Serbs lost the Bosnian war but have won the peace.
I will state as a historical axiom that arms embargoes reward aggression. But I will also argue, and have done so repeatedly, that the essential flaw, in all such efforts by the so-called "international community" to resolve internal conflicts, remains the European, and increasingly, the American delusion that peace is a higher value than freedom. Peace between the Serbs and Bosnian Muslims was more significant to the West than the freedom of the latter to live unmolested in their ancient homeland. Peace between al-Qadhdhāfi's killers and his victims is manifestly more urgent, in the governing circles of Washington and Brussels, than the liberty of the noble Libyan people. And peace between the Taliban and their human targets is clearly more important, to Washington and Islamabad, than the freedom of the Afghan peoples.
The Muslim communities from Germany and Libya to Pakistan today resemble the portrait of German society drawn in the Hitler era by the distinguished author Konrad Heiden: "The revolutions of the 20th century gave rise to a new militarism… a new kind of army…
"It was not fighting for an existing social order. [It] condemned the cowardice, sensuality, and other vices of many comrades… the hope for a return of the golden days remained its secret consolation… At all times and among all nations, a crafty and strong personality has recognized the simple secret of rule by violence… He is a torn personality; long reaches of his soul are insignificant, coloured by no noteworthy qualities of intellect or will; but there are corners supercharged with strength. It is this association of inferiority and strength that makes this personality so strange and fascinating… Two separate worlds are fighting: a rising world of order, still with tender membranes and limbs, easily hurt, growing and solidifying among infinite perils – and a world of disintegration and tumult, struggling with wild outbursts against its own ruin."
In the global elite, however, indifference and cowardice reign. Russia, Turkey, France, and Germany, as reported in the London Financial Times of 2 March, have expressed dismay over the possibility of imposing the weak, mainly symbolic gesture of a "no-fly" zone over Libya. Russia and Turkey do not come to this debate with clean hands, since the former assisted in training al-Qadhdhāfi's guards and have served him as mercenaries, while "lawful Islamist" Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government in Ankara has maintained an extremely cordial relationship with the Tripoli regime. Erdogan was arrogant enough to declare that a "no-fly" zone would "punish the Libyan people" in line with a litany of economic exploitation and aggression the Turkish demagogue charged against the West, in the Middle East and Africa. Corrupt links with al-Qadhdhāfi abound throughout the world; on 3 March Sir Howard Davies resigned from the directorship of the London School of Economics because the venerable LSE had accepted a gift of 1.5 million British pounds from al-Qadhdhāfi's family and signed a contract for 2.2 million pounds to train civil servants for the Libyan dictator.
Exhaustion with the political demands of the new Iraq and the continued combat in Afghanistan have made interventionism distasteful to many in the US and UK, the countries most inclined to action against al-Qadhdhāfi. But the critics of military action forget, or never knew, that some interventionist policies have succeeded brilliantly, while others have produced the kind of "peace, not freedom" standoff seen in Bosnia-Hercegovina. In the 1950s, South Korea and Taiwan were placed under the American defense umbrella, and although Korea was never unified and Taiwan's relationship with China is delicate, both countries became robust and prosperous democracies.
The most auspicious examples of outside intervention to overturn tyranny and save lives come from Central America in the 1980s. The US assisted the anti-Communist "contras" against the Cuban-controlled "Sandinistas" in Nicaragua, providing weapons and other supplies while Nicaraguans themselves did the fighting, and the US surgically removed dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega from control over Panama in 1989. Both republics are now democratic.
If the US and UK cannot land troops in Tripoli to extricate or liquidate al-Qadhdhāfi, they should recognize the Libyan resistance as a legitimate government and provide it with the arms and other requirements for the victory of freedom. But will they take either step? And on the other side of the world, will they exercise their influence to halt the murder offensive of the Pakistani jihadis? I fear not. Also on 3 March, the London Daily Telegraph quoted James Lindsay, of the Council on Foreign Relations (the CFR, misidentified by the Tele as the "Council for Foreign Affairs"), the "temple of doom" inhabited by America's elite experts on the world. Lindsay commented, "None of our options are terribly appealing, which is frequently the curse of the global superpower. Perhaps events will save us from having to decide." But a country suffering under such a curse may quickly lose any claim to international authority.
A better guide to action was that enunciated by Archibald Macleish, American man of letters, who declared, "How shall freedom be defended? By arms when it is attacked by arms; by truth when it is attacked by lies; by democratic faith when it is attacked by authoritarian dogma. Always and in the final act, by determination and faith."
Let us put freedom over peace: the freedom of Libyan Muslims and Pakistani Christians before peace with the oppressors and the corrupt. In both regions, the triumph of liberty will also deliver telling blows to the "parallel enemy," in the ranks of radical Islam.