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The new order of impunity

By Shahzad Chaudhry

There were times when a political affiliation may have been discerned by how one related to liberal or conservative thought; of freedoms in individual choices and of traditional values; of a specific economic order which could, based on era, vacillate from social to liberal to communist. But the global society has been hit by external and intrinsic triggers moving boundaries and people into newer determinants in politics.

Mass migrations due to perpetual conflict are nowhere more visible than in the Middle East and Afghanistan, impacting Europe in the majority. This has reverberated societies, some shaken from their foundations like in Sweden where the tradition of the foreigner wasn’t as strong and existence secluded in an almost singular cultural proclivity.

This has given rise to political isolationism in cultural and tribal terms, fearful of foreign domination over local tradition, numbing sensitivity to global neighbours. Domestically, or in integrated societies like Europe, such separation of purpose in life and character has become most telling. When Donald Trump shouts ‘America First’, it is almost in exclusion to any other consideration whether moral, political or social. What drives such behaviour is essentially cultural and tribal. In a deeper manifestation, it translates into an internecine political and cultural war between the Democrats and the Republicans where political mores are now forgotten to these newer determinants, the culture (the seclusion of it), and ethnic or religious definition of a polarised existence. The rise of the Right in Italy, Sweden, Netherland, Denmark and even Germany to an extent is indicative of the tumult the world is in.

What has such invocation engendered? The order cast in Bretton Woods for the post-1945 world is on the brink of fragmentation. The US, which had assumed the role of an insurer-in-chief of this new order, has ominously abdicated in favour of minding only its own interests and casting adrift what was settled and stable. The island-nation mindset of the US is once again at the fore. Minus the principles of common existence, the world is sans a moral compass. Rogue nations aside, even those known to respect some collective norms of conduct underlined by agreeing to the charter of the global order now dispense arbitrariness at will.

Jamal Khashoggi’s murder and the alleged dismemberment of his body reflect the impunity arrogated by members of the global community to themselves as unchecked power in lawless existence. Refugees, the dispossessed and those who have been disenfranchised from their right of civil existence are being blatantly maltreated at the hands of an unconcerned and unattached global society, unmoored from common purpose. The treatment of refugees in Europe and how an insensitive disposition around tribal exclusionism has begun to create walls, notional, physical and legal to keep their respective races unadulterated – Hitler comes to mind – is a similar mindset where alienation and ‘otherisation’ comes easy.

What was once a blot on rogue groups and terror organisations alone – which used heinous ways to deal with fellow humans – is now a state remit where conflict persists. And there seems no system to check such waywardness in nations. The torture and repression of the Kashmiris on the human plane more than any territorial or political basis holds far greater urgency. At an almost genocidal level India slaughters innocent Kashmiris at will, without a sense of remorse, and without a sign of jiggling global conscience. Instead geopolitics and economic gain override any sense of humaneness in global response. Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib stand out as worst examples of animalistic treatment of humans, keeping prisoners without authority or due legal processes.

Numerous conflicts perpetuated by international violation of the rights of nations to decide their future as evinced in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan are the new norm. Nations now intervene militarily without regard to any global or common authority for such a need. Russia can enter the war in Syria of its own volition, as can Turkey under loudly proclaimed regional and national interests. Afghanistan is a bleeding sore because some powerful nations from far and near think that it is within their right to intervene in a war which they can skew to their own advantage. There simply is no order; only disorder is the new order.

Mossad agents are known to have murdered a Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Al Mabhouh, in 2010 while he was on a routine visit to Dubai. Those who shadowed him entered and left unchallenged having done the deed. The Russians are alleged to have only recently executed a spy in the safety of London after he had defected to the opposing side. North Korea killed the half-brother of their ruler, Kim Jong-Un, at Bangkok airport, in broad daylight as he travelled through. It remains an undaunted recourse to impunity to just so easily eliminate any opposition to a regime, system or way of thought. Because someone has the power to do so, they will. And because the world is too weak to deter such choice, impunity will reign.

Why would the apparent outrage at Khashoggi’s murder not turn into anything substantive? Amelioration as a strategy is already in play in Saudi Arabia; placation rather than legal recourse will soon dilute lingering agitation and help perpetuate the existing order. No change there. Externally, Iran is on the verge of another cycle of sanctions in November, taking a million barrels per day out of the oil equation of global supply. That can bring about another feared recession globally if oil prices go astronomical. Saudi Arabia will thus come handy with a promise to upscale its own production by the same amount, keeping the oil prices steady. The US is unlikely to let go off its strategic business partner so easily. The current noise in the US on Khashoggi will die its natural death after suitable cover will be anointed by concurrence of all the players involved possibly after the November 6 midterm elections.

A $230 billion Sovereign Fund by Saudi Arabia is sufficient honey to keep companies and nations interested even if they kept off just one conference. Turkey is playing smart around the incident, perching itself for a substantial kill in material and geopolitical terms. Erdogan said only as much and not all, enough to keep the Saudis interested. The days ahead will concretise what gains Turkey can make. Pakistan too has approached Saudi Arabia when it is in the docks, showing empathy at a very difficult time for a traditional ally. It too should return gainful benefits.

Money may not be everything, but it is quite something to buy one’s way out of trouble. The world and its increasingly complex political dynamics, driven not by common values and shared purpose but by primordial and tribal disposition, will soon shed any pretensions to foundational fundamentals of humanity – letting impunity determine the future. Within it, only close interests will prevail.