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The World Awaits the Policeman

The World Awaits the Policeman

Monday, 16 November, 2020 - 08:45
Ghassan Charbel
Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

The man knows about America. He knows a number of those who took over the White House, the State Department, and the Defense office. He knows Americans and worked closely with them. He does not need to be reminded of the ability of US administrations to commit colossal and costly mistakes. He understands that America belongs to another world, which often finds it difficult to perceive the size of the dormant revolutions in our history and the scale of obstacles that block our aspirations to the future.


The man criticizes US policies in more than one area, but he later concludes that the world needs a captain or a policeman and that America is the only qualified power to assume such a role.


China is not yet qualified to play the role of the captain or policeman. Its recent rise is both impressive and disturbing. It replaced Japan by becoming the world’s second economy and now threatens to steal the first position from America, perhaps in a decade or less. China has made an economic miracle and tampered with Mao Zedong’s commandments; yet, it maintained absolute control of the Communist Party over every aspect of life. The party is a huge network of nearly eighty million people. It represents a means of perpetuity for any repression in the eyes of its opponents. This is why Donald Trump regarded the Chinese Communist Party as the first enemy; a position previously occupied by the Soviet Union.


Russia is also not qualified to play the role of the policeman, except in certain parts of the world. From the Soviet system, the Russian machine inherited an extraordinary capacity for disinformation. But the facts indicate that Russia’s current powers are not as strong as the Soviet weight that was more able to obstruct than to take over leadership. There are those who believe that the Syrian experience itself shows the limits of Russian power. After years of engagement, Syria is still an arena for wars and interventions.


Saving the regime is an important step for Russia, but the recent conference on the displaced revealed the weakness of Moscow’s capabilities and its failure to rally international and regional support to crown its military intervention in a reconstruction process that would facilitate the return of the refugees.


Europe is out of the race to lead the world. At best, it can play an auxiliary role to the policeman, but cannot assume a mission of such magnitude. Europe has really aged in the absence of wars. It became addicted to security, prosperity, safety, and an almost carefree life. The Old Continent is no longer willing nor able to pay the price of changing the world.


The French-German locomotive will get weaker with Merkel’s departure in the coming year. Britain has turned into a soloist and may soon realize that it has lost the European orchestra without winning a love contract with a post-Trump America.


The task of the policeman cannot be assigned to the Secretary-General of the United Nations. The matter has nothing to do with his name or his country. Security Council decisions remain unimplemented if they are not backed by powerful members, with the White House at their forefront.


Nuri al-Mismari, Muammar Gaddafi’s protocol chief and shadow, once told me a very expressive story.


Kofi Annan came to Libya to speak about the Lockerbie bombing. The Libyan leader decided to intimidate him. He asked that they bring the visitor at night and turn off the lights in the area except for the tent. The tent was set up 200 meters away from the coastal road, but the instructions were to do a long detour before arriving at the camp.


Annan felt scared, especially when he heard the grunting of the camels. He asked Mismari if this was the roar of lions and the latter reassured him and noticed that his face went white with fear. Gaddafi ordered that Annan be taken back along the same road.


Hosni Mubarak was taken to the same road, which upset him greatly. He vowed never to return to Libya if he would be taken to the desert.


However, the US power alone was able to force Gaddafi to search for a solution to the Lockerbie crisis and to stop sending explosives by land, sea, and air.


The colonel was scared when the American policeman sent his warplanes to bomb his headquarters in the Bab al-Aziziyah barracks. Later, he panicked when he felt that his fate might be similar to that of Saddam Hussein.


The world cannot sail without a captain. The world always needs a policeman. It is true that a policeman may commit mistakes and sins, but the price of his absence is greater than that of carrying out his role. The policeman is an international and regional need, as long as he always seeks to downsize his role by highlighting the strength of the United Nations and stressing the need for the playing field to accommodate more than one player.


World leadership is essential in front of great problems. Only a policeman the size of the United States can reassure countries that are trembling with fear of the Chinese dragon. Only a policeman of this type can prevent the Red Army from cutting off parts of the European mold. The same is true for deterring regional wolves and pushing them to think well before they destroy the surrounding maps and tear them apart with militias and mercenaries.


Leading the battle against pandemics also needs a policeman, who can participate in a collective tango in which responsibilities and roles are divided. America is a must, says the man who knows it. But you must know it well and learn the language of interests, roles, and the complexities of decision-making.


It is true that Joe Biden is not a hawk and advocate of war, but America is obligated to a certain degree to assume the role of policeman, even if it refrains from using its armies and fleets.


The policeman can use the weapons of economics, diplomacy, and impressive military maneuvers.


While waiting for the US election battles to subside, the world is asking when the US policeman will resume his role. Trump used the weapon of sanctions. Every boss has his own style. A new policeman in a different world.


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