The Global Peace Index (GPI) 2018 has just come out. The findings have confirmed what much of the world knows all too well. Namely, that war does not come cheap. And that over the last decade, this planet that we all call home has become a less peaceful place to live.
As regrettable as this is, no one should be shocked. After all, the world has witnessed the festering of old military conflicts as well as new fronts in regional warfare. The US is involved in many of these. Nations like Yemen have suffered first at the hands of successive CIA drone programmes; from 2002 with the last known hit occurring last year. Today, the country represents a bloody battleground in the ongoing Saudi-Iranian proxy war. The knock-on effects of the British and American war of aggression in Iraq are still felt today. From Libya to Syria.
This is not to lay the blame for the evident deterioration in peace and security exclusively on Washington’s shoulders. That would be unfair. But it is to underscore that the GPI identifies the prolonged and ongoing unrest in the Middle East as being an important contributing factor.
Closer to home, it is no coincidence that Pakistan and Afghanistan are the most non-peaceful nations in South Asia. Islamabad ranks regionally at 6; and globally at 151, up one place from the previous year. Kabul comes bottom of the list at number 7, regionally. On a global scale, it scores 162; just one position ahead of Syria which is the most non-peaceful nation of all.
It is hard not to point out that this is the fallout of 17 years of American intervention in Afghanistan. Of course, the Taliban regime was a most repressive one, particularly in terms of women’s rights and girls’ education. Yet given the brutal chaos that has engulfed the country since its overthrow — which inevitably spilled over to this side of the border — it remains hard to measure discernible progress.
Though there are some. Surprisingly, Afghanistan’s terrorism impact score dropped by 9 percent in terms of civilian casualties in 2017. However, researchers admit this may be linked to the Taliban now controlling greater portions of territory than at any time since 2001. Thereby reducing the ‘need’ for terrorist attacks. Thereby rendering it a false positive, sadly.
The good news for Pakistan is that violent crime and terrorism impact scores improved — the latter for the fifth year running. The Index explains this as government success in curbing the violent activities of both criminals and militant groups. But as ordinary citizens know only too well, the country’s situation has become more precarious over the last year. Not only did the state capitulate to the religious right by way of introducing anti-minority amendments to existing legislation — mainstream political parties contested on equal footing alongside representatives of known terrorist outfits.
Given that the architects of many of the world’s conflicts remain unmoved by the risk to life and human potential, they may want to look at this opportunity cost through dollar-tinted spectacles. After all, the Australia-based Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) that produces the GPI estimated that violence over the last year alone incurred losses of some $14.8 trillion to the global economy.
There are surely better ways for money to make the world go round. *
Published in Daily Times, June 8th 2018.