The meeting in Doha, Qatar, called to deal with the Libyan crisis by the Arab League and attended by leaders from Britain, France, United States, the UN secretary general and NATO officials was strange.
Recall the crisis in the oil-rich and sparsely populated North African country continues only because the local despot, Moammar Gadhafi, has refused to oblige those gathered in Doha by resigning from whatever office he nominally holds in his beleaguered Tripoli and retiring as a Bedouin chief to some remote Saharan oasis with his harem and his sons.
It was a strange meeting given the simple questions hanging over it.
Why, how, and since when has NATO become rent-a-military for the Arab League, whose members are serial violators of human rights — for instance, Saudi Arabia and Syria — while lacking in democratic legitimacy?
Or, how did Canada get involved in the Libyan imbroglio without a parliamentary vote?
Or, does the newly-minted UN doctrine of “responsibility to protect” apply selectively only for certain types of Arab League members and their Muslim population? Are the dwindling Christian populations of Arab and non-Arab Muslim countries regularly maltreated and intimidated with violence, as in Egypt and Pakistan, unworthy of UN protection?
While the once great powers of the West wrestle confusedly over the fate of a third-rate Bedouin chief in the company of other Bedouin chiefs, in Afghanistan the nearly decade-long war and peace policy of the same western powers is unravelling steadily.
In a recent Asia edition of the prestigious Wall Street Journal, we find a relatively long report about al-Qaida’s comeback in Afghanistan. This is not surprising since the Afghan war is in a terminal phase, Pakistan was never more than a reluctant ally in the war against Islamist terrorism, and the West seriously lacked any stomach for the long haul of nation-building in a remote cultural wasteland.
Interestingly, neither China nor Russia is much alarmed by the unrest in the Arab-Muslim world on their southern frontiers. Could it be that neither would be confused by how to deal with any spillover of such unrest?
What is occurring in the long and populated arc of the Arab-Muslim world from North Africa to Pakistan is the halting transition of a deeply troubled and divided pre-modern civilization to some sort of rendezvous with the modern world.
This process will be stretched out over many decades. It will be confusing, cruel and blood-soaked.
What needs to be done the West is unwilling to consider.
If Confucius, the great Chinese sage from the 5th century BC, was somehow reincarnated in the West, it would not take much time for him to fathom the problem and recommend wise measures.
He would remind us how and why the construction of China’s Great Wall began in his time. And he would indicate that building such a wall — in our advanced technological age, constructed with electronic devices — would be mutually advantageous for both the West and the Arab-Muslim world.
This would secure the West from the unwanted spillover, and it would set the Arab-Muslim world apart to work out its historical problems at its own pace and costs.