In its bid to universalize human rights principles, and wield influence at a cosmopolitan level, the US has cemented its position as the self-proclaimed custodian of human rights issues across the world. The United States has been a trenchant critic of human rights transgressions across the world — rallying the global community behind its crusading march of salvaging universal ethos.
The universal strategy of the United States is riddled with fundamental inconsistencies. The security proclivity of the United States is indicative of its oriental bent, whereby the security concerns of “others” are readily disposed of, while self-security preoccupation overrides.
The concept of security cannot be subject to a universal mechanism, and doing so will be at the detriment of countries that faces varying levels of security threats, and the responses need to be accordingly crafted. Security is contingent on culture, the uniform version of security fervently promoted by the United States is not effective in assuaging the deep-ingrained security anxieties and anguishes of third-world countries.
Third-world countries are plagued with innumerable structural and systemic chaos. Supplanting the Western legal-juridical model in the subaltern will not be effective, as the legal system in the postcolonial spaces has undergone disjointed evolution, often at odds with the structural and cultural factors. While the pomposity of universal ethos and ideas looks appealing, however, the systemic and structural factors are far from propitious for these Western ideals to flourish and crystallize.
As such, securitization in the subaltern remains an enduring predicament. This is more so, as subaltern countries cannot dictate legal boundaries and set new parameters of ethics, but rather remains subservient to the Western conventions concerning security. In the subaltern spaces riddled with structural anarchy and painstakingly slow judicial processes, the government needs to resort to approaches that aren’t warranted by Western legal standards.
But it begs the question, as to who sets the parameter for legal, judicial, and human rights “universals”?
Take, for example, Bangladesh, which is riddled with domestic instability, and drug and terrorism menace, further exacerbated by the dilatory legal process that impedes swift actions. This offers the diabolical elements of society to indulge in lawlessness and the structural anarchy in the society lingers due to the lack of exemplary procedures.
As such, RAB has played a laudable role in countering the menace of drugs and terrorism and injected peace into the justice system. Nonetheless, the United States imposed sanctions on the RAB based on flawed “universals”. This can well be termed the “tyranny of universals”, that ignores the security anxiety and strategies of the subaltern postcolonial spaces.
The Ukraine crisis also presents a classical illustration of underestimating the security anxieties of the subaltern. The extension of the aegis of NATO – a military alliance that is driven by counteracting Russia — in the post-Soviet space, a region that is integral to the Russian identity, had sparked security anxieties in Russia, and the following invasion can be explained through this lens. As such, underestimating the Russian security anxieties, and pushing the boundaries of strategic patience of Russia — the United States and its allies however attributed the blame of the war on Russia’s expansionist motives, while is the defensive interests of Russia that drove the hostile response.
It needs to be acknowledged that, institutions across the world don’t go uniform mode of evolution, thus varying securitization strategies are devised to deal with the anxieties of peripheral countries.
However, who has lent the discretion to the US to adjudicate universal law and order based on its yardstick?
Such arbitrary imposition of Western models often makes room for Western hegemony to take root. The United States needs to acknowledge the sobering truth that, the security concerns in the subaltern spaces deviate from its standards. The “domestic securitization strategy” of the United States, following the “9/11” terror attacks and that still lingers, is unsavory to conscientious observers. The United States conceived Muslims as a “threat”, that can be liquidated at will at the inkling of suspicion. Besides, the specter of McCarthyism is entrenched in the United States, whereby the dissent is violently squashed through coercive tactics.
It begs obvious questions, as to why the security anxieties of the US are legitimized, while the security concerns of China or Bangladesh are invariably termed as an infringement on human rights.
Such glaring inconsistencies of the US’s universal and globalized security standards question the coherence of the US’s claims to global custodianship. Although the US validates its security dilemma and legitimizes deplorable actions aimed at safeguarding security, however the US underestimates the security anxieties of other nations.
[Photo by Scrumshus, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons]
*Sam Harris has earned an M.Sc. with distinction from University of Leiden, majoring in Governance of radicalism, extremism and terrorism. His area of interest lies in the intersection of religious identity and politics in the South Asian region. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.