The Challenge of Revolution in the 21st Century

Category: World Affairs Topics: Conflicts And War, War Views: 790

Armed struggle is almost always a sticky proposition. Influenced and molded by circumstances specific to a region's unique politics, geography, history and economics, revolutions and armed conflicts have become extremely difficult to define. In any given situation, there will inevitably be myriad perspectives on that conflict. Are those engaged in the struggle "freedom fighters" or are they more appropriately defined otherwise? Are the people of the region in question in need of such drastic social change that armed struggle is a logical and necessary means to achieve worthwhile goals? These are challenging queries with no easy answers.

Maybe one of the biggest challenges in the next century will be for peoples to effect revolution in the right way. This of course assumes that revolution has been pursued in the wrong way in the past; but in many cases it has. So much of the promise that came from struggle in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s has produced little more in the 80s and 90s, than petty fiefdoms ruled by autocratic, dictatorial rulers. In a very practical sense then, something very wrong took place in the course of those struggles.

The telltale signs of botched revolution exist throughout the developing world. Bangladesh is literally digging up the homicidal legacy of its independence fight. Idi Amin continues to relax comfortably in Jeddah after years of oppressive rule in Uganda. Augusto Pinochet is just now being called to account for his murderous tenure in Chile. And countless Muslim lands are ruled by individuals that provide little more freedom than their colonial predecessors.

Now some might argue that 30, 40 or 50 years time is insufficient for the development of a truly balanced and just society. Indeed the process of decolonialization is a slow one, especially with global western pressures continuing to mold the direction of the developing world. But time cannot be used as an excuse for complacency. The question is then: if action is to be taken, how shall it be formulated and implemented?

Herein lies the quagmire through which Muslims must trudge. And for American Muslims, the future does not bode to be easy going.

Isolated by media spin, cultural propensities and religious convictions, American Muslims are in the unenviable position of attempting to create consensus on Muslim struggle in other parts of the world and defining how to influence the outcome of these struggles.

In recent months, American Muslims have needed to take stances on conflicts in such hotly contested venues as Kashmir, Kosova, Daghestan and Afghanistan. But where has the consensus been?

Unfortunately ticking a checkmark next to "Good Conflict" or "Bad Conflict" in these situations is not a plausible solution. And it would be ludicrous for anyone to suggest that Amerian Muslims do so. However some rhetoric on these conflicts would seem to suggest that such a simplistic procedure is indeed viable.

While the Kashmiris have faced relentless violence and injustice at the hands of Indian troops, one has to question exactly what took place in the mountains of Kargil. If Pakistan was involved in that conflict, then was it appropriate, strategic? Is armed struggle what Kashmir needs? If the Muslims there do need military confrontation to throw off the yoke of oppression, then is it appropriate for a series of Kargils to erupt in order to achieve freedom?

In Afghanistan, is the Taliban all it claims to be? Enticing rhetoric concerning the establishment of a stable Islamic state is always sure to win sympathies of some, but what is the Taliban really doing? Are Pakistan, Iran and other regional powers meddling in the outcome of this conflict? Is it appropriate for the Taliban to use force to establish what it considers the appropriate form of government and implementation of Islam?

The same can be asked of Daghestan. And what about the future of Kosova?

It is far too easy for American Muslims to view foreign conflict through the rose colored glasses of lofty principles, religious and otherwise. It is much more difficult to view such conflicts with a critical eye, examining what is appropriate for a given situation and for the long-term success in a particular region.

We are now seeing that the NATO campaign in Kosova, so widely supported by American Muslims, has left that region shell-shocked and in political and economic disarray. It is estimated to cost some $60 billion to rebuild Yugoslavia. And how is Kosova to survive with Yugoslavia in financial ruin? Despite the best efforts of some very dedicated freedom fighters in Kashmir, self-determination of that region is no nearer reality than before the fighting broke out. So what has been gained in recent conflict?

As we move into the next century, it may no longer be sufficient to simply accept guerilla insurgency as the status quo for social and political change. The Kargils, Panjshers and Daghestans are merely symptoms of a larger problems facing Muslims throughout the world. And moving forward, American Muslims will need to analyze the underlying issues of such conflicts and reach consensus on how to apply pressure to effect the remedying of those larger issues.

Ali Asadullah is the Editor of

  Category: World Affairs
  Topics: Conflicts And War, War
Views: 790

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