Sunday, September 6, 2015

One World, One Prosperity or One Poverty

By Olu Akanmu

One world, one prosperity or one poverty. That is the lesson of the migrant crisis now in Europe. In a globally integrated world, we all have a shared destiny on the long run. Syria looked so far from Europe but now it is now so close. Europe, the US and the OECD must do more to support democracy and good governance in developing countries, support the building of strong institutions but not by being confused and indecisive as we have seen in Syria. From Iraq to Libya to Syria, Europe and the U.S must learn the lesson of how not to intervene in a country to entrench democracy, whatsoever is the objective of their Syrian or Libyan adventures. The West’s intervention in Syria and Libya has been disasters leading to even more fragile and collapsed societies than the ones they sought to replace. Libya has virtually become a failed state like Somalia, after Gadhafi was removed. Syria is nearly a failed state due to the Western sponsored proxy war against Assad.  The near failed nature of the Syria state is what has made it easier for an ISIS to over-run parts of Syria and create along with the Assad regime, the human catastrophe and genocide in their part of Syria. Meanwhile, the jury is still out whether life is better in Iraq today than before Western intervention.

The events in Syria and Libya begs the question if it was not right for Army to intervene in Egypt and Abachalized the Egyptian revolution and truncate its emerging democracy. Western confusion and indecisiveness in Syria and the mess in Libya will make the Egyptian Generals tell the Egyptian people that they are better off under their jag-boot government because they could perhaps hold the state together and prevent it from falling apart. Would Egypt have gone the way of Libya if its strong national army had not intervened in its politics? This is an interesting debate. It is a dialectical contradiction of history that dictatorial regimes had sometimes held the fragmented, fragile and weak societies together better than democratic governments. This is a worrisome pattern for democratic political science as events in Libya, Syria and the Balkans after the collapse of Yugoslavia seem to suggest. The consolation in all these events is however in the progress of democracy in Tunisia where the Arab Spring and Middle East democratic revolution was sparked. Tunisia’s democracy is marching forward with two democratic elections since the Arab Spring. The Tunisian society and its governance have become more inclusive with even, a very high level of women participation in government. Tunisia holds the beacon and the hope that the Arab societies even in Saudi Arabia shall yet be democratic one day. On the long run, even in weak, fragmented and ethnically diverse societies, only a true plural and federal democracy holds the enduring key to stabilizing society as we see even in complex states like the Democratic Republic of Congo.

One of the lessons the West must learn from the failure of its Syrian policy and the success of democracy in Tunisia is that nothing ultimately substitutes for will of the people, finding a way to organize themselves in true mass movements to change their society. The true mass movement of the people for democracy is stronger than arming thousands of guerillas by proxy to fight dictatorial and genocidal regimes, the type that we have seen in Syria. The second lesson is the need for a truly moral high ground beyond economic interests, in supporting democratic resistance in developing countries. Whether the West likes it or not, it lost a significant moral high ground when it could not find nuclear weapons in Iraq, the basis of its intervention to remove Sadam Hussein. American intervention, losing a moral high ground, in its Iraqi intervention created a new wave of anti-west and anti-imperialist sentiment in the youths of Islamic countries which terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda and ISIS harnessed to establish their franchise across the Islamic world. Was the war in Iraq really about protecting oil and American interests but presented to the world as war against the dictatorial and genocidal regime of Sadam Hussein?

The imbroglio surrounding post American Iraqi intervention, the fact that the Iraqi state seemed weaker than it was even before its initial intervention and the political backlash against American politicians at home made it dither, unclear and confused about how to approach Syria. It was not clear what American policy was concerning Syria. Whichever way, President Barack Obama must take responsibility as the leader of the Western world for the human catastrophe and migrant crisis going on in Syria and across Europe. A Yoruba proverb says that “Orisa bi o ba le gba mi, se mi bi o se ba mi”. It means” if you cannot deliver me from my trouble, at least leave me the way I was, don’t leave me worse than you met me”. This is what the West, led by the US have done in Syria. Its intervention by proxy through the Syrian armed resistance has made the people of Syria worse than before. No-one could have imagined that hundreds of thousands of people facing war and deprivation at home will be determined to march across seas, continents and countries from the Middle East to Europe to survive. The mass migration across Europe that we see on television can only be likened to a second Exodus of a deprived people marching to Germany that now carries the aura of a new Canaan. The sad picture of the dead body of a three year old Syrian boy, lying face-down, swept ashore, in an attempt to cross the sea from Turkey to Greece, has become the most touching symbol of the human desperation and the failure of Western policy in Syria.

There is a third and bigger lesson. It is that the world is ultimately one village on the long run. The West cannot insulate its prosperity from poverty of the rest of the world. Somehow, one way or the other, either through a migrant crisis, piracy or terrorism, poverty and human deprivation in other parts of the world will impact Europe, America, Japan and Australia. The leaders of Europe especially Angela Merkel and David Cameron must accept this reality. It therefore beholds on the leaders of the Western World to re-strategize on policies on how to spread prosperity and good governance across the world, support investments to alleviate poverty, invest and support the education of people of developing countries, support the strengthening of governance and market institutions in those countries to promote prosperity, forgive debts where they are unreasonable as in Greece and achieve a world where prosperity is shared across nations and continents.

Olu Akanmu (@Olu Akanmu) publishes a blog on “Strategy and Public Policy” on