Mili-Naghma And International System

Mili-Naghma And International System

This independence day, Coke Studio recreated a famous mili-naghma (national song). We all have heard it before. It has been sung wonderfully, and an equally marvelous naghma was recorded last year as well.

The article, however, is about what that mili-naghma tells us. We are celebrating our fighters who gave their blood to protect us against an enemy nation-state that had tried to harm our nation-state. Listening to it, one perhaps visualizes an enemy that had instigated an attack on our soil. Our soldiers fought and embraced martyrdom to protect their land (nation-state).

I have listened to it almost every day since it has been uploaded. Obviously, I felt patriotic. But I also felt bad for a moment. Why? I asked, rather implicitly to myself, “Should I feel proud in killing humans?” At the end of the day, the enemy soldier was a human. “Why did he have to do die?” – or the other way around. And this began my discourse with my own self. I am a student of International Relations. This is important because, perhaps, my questions to myself were more theoretical.

Why did they have to give blood in the first place? Why did two human beings come to a point that they killed each other and people celebrated it?

My conclusive answer lies in the international system. Let me explain.

The system of anarchy problematic, the self-help international system as we know it, is based on two things that make its survival possible: balance of power and war (see Understanding International Relations by Chris Brown).

Although, the balance of power can obviously be understood (roughly, a theory that refers to the distribution of power in the world), how war helps survive the current anarchic Westphalian nation-state system needs explanation. War, as the famed military theorist Carl von Clausewitz said, is an extension of politics through other means (see On War by Carl von Clausewitz). Although international law has attempted to formalize and humanize war, war is a legitimate form of action under international law (see, Introduction to International Relations: Power and Justice by Theodore H. Columbus, James. H. Wolfe). It is a part of policy. Nation-states work on the power paradigm where they seek power to influence other states. When other means of influence and threat of force fail, war becomes a tool of coercion where nation-states, through force, try to coerce the other nation-state to comply with their demands.

What do soldiers do then? They simply do not give blood or take it; they protect the national interest of their country by sacrificing their lives. I hope the connection is obvious for the reader. It is the anarchic international system that, through its primary influence on security, caps the definition of national interests in a way that blood becomes a necessary part of it. And then the international system consolidating international law legalizes it. Who is to blame then?

Mili-naghma in this regard is simply another tool for ensuring the survival of the international system through nation-states; perhaps a musical tool. How? They glorify and celebrate those who protected national interest – in soldiers’ case, physically – and shun the enemy who tried to prevent and inhibit the attainment of that national interest.

Is it wrong? Does mili-naghma promote division?

Implicit in the criticisms of many about the mili-naghma are these questions, as far as I have tried to understand these criticisms. I wonder why. It is as wrong as the international system is wrong. As long as the international system legitimizes war, legalizes murder and promotes killing, the mili-naghma is simply doing its assigned role: to help refresh every now and then the patriotic fervor of a nation in order to keep it in line with the national interest of the state, reminding the people latently what their national interests are, and thus ensuring the survival of the international system. If division is in the national interest of the state, then division is good. That is what realism teaches us. That is what the current international system teaches us.

Sovereign states will protect their interests. In pursuing those interests, mili-naghmas are playing the role of a facilitator. They are protecting the system by making individuals conscious of their nationalities, national histories and thus their national interests. The system allows war. Blatantly put, the mili-naghma prepares and keeps individuals on their toes to fight anytime.

As long as war is legitimate, as long as the international system with its anarchy problematic and rational choice promotes division and sanctions blood giving and taking, mili-naghmas are doing what they should be doing.

Please do not conclude that I am an ‘idealist’ – a derogatory term wrongly used to define liberal internationalists. I have defined how the system is.

And this is how I concluded my discourse with myself, that technically one should not feel bad for the naghma and for the soldier but for the system that actually led to their creation in the first place.

Well done, soldier!


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of or any other organization with which he might be associated.

Syed Abdul Ahad Wasim

Author: Syed Abdul Ahad Wasim

The writer is an undergraduate student of Political Science and International Relations at Lahore School of Economics and has also headed the political science student body of LSE at the National Social Sciences Conference. He is an avid reader and has a keen interest in writing and debating. He has worked on a number of research papers and is also interested in politics, philosophy, history, theology, historiography and sociology.

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