This has profound implications for the legitimacy of violence. The outside has become the inside. Dar al-Harb no longer exists. There is no external realm of war. Hence the rules of war no longer apply, only the much more stringent rules that traditionally applied to domestic violence. Here, classical Islam has more to teach us than the just war tradition. Since the whole world is a community, everyone is, in effect, a Muslim. Thus the way force is used against dissenters is subject to severe limitations – the limitations that apply to policing in the Western tradition. In a single community, there is no such thing as foreign aggression – violent attacks are crimes or human rights violations. Force is legitimate, under domestic law, in self-defence or to save a third party. But this refers to direct defence, not the kind of ‘pre-emptive’ or long-distance defence claimed both for air strikes and suicide bombers. Killing of both combatants and non-combatants is wrong. Those who commit violent acts should be arrested and judged in a legal framework. Killing of non-combatants is wrong whether deliberate, as in the case of suicide bombing, or accidental, as the Americans, Israelis and Russians claim.
Further, no effort has been made in this chapter to consider radical alternatives such as abandoning the United Nations as a site of struggle for a better world. The slogan of the World Social Forum, ‘another world is possible’, does not entail rejecting those features of the existing world order that hold some promise for the present and future. The United Nations, despite limitations and disappointments, remains a source of hope for improving the circumstances of humanity. It deserves the attention of global civil society, both in appreciation of its substantial achievements and to monitor its failures to uphold the UN Charter and the rule of law. The progressive reform of the UN is an integral aspect of any plausible programme for the extension of democracy and the material foundations of human dignity to disadvantaged states and regions, as well as to the world. In a broader sense, a more effective and democratic UN is indispensable to building a world order premised on the ‘cosmopolitan democracy’ school of thought (Archibugi 2003; Archibugi and Held 1995).
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, democracy promotion means imaginative responses to demands from global civil society. The best form of empowerment is success, the knowledge that engagement leads to meaningful outcomes. Action designed to fulfil an emerging global social contract or covenant – the consequence of numerous debates, campaigns, arguments taking place all over the world – offers a political project that can help to recast democracy at local and national levels. A good example of what is meant by this is the enlargement of the European Union. The European Union can be understood a new type of multilateral organisation at a regional level, promoting, as it were, regional public goods. Membership of the European Union for newly emerging democracies has become an appealing political project that does take democracy forward. In the same way, a global social covenant could offer a political project for ‘civilising’ globalisation and pressing for global public goods like resource redistribution or global action to tackle climate change that represents an alternative to backward-looking sectarianism.
Apart from the notes of caution inserted by Habermas and others concerning the application of the ideal-typical concept of the public sphere to reality, the new enthusiasts also tend to miss the fact that for Habermas, and even in the seminal work on civil society by Cohen and Arato (1992), the only imaginable relevant context was the state. Their public spheres end neatly at the border, civil society is national, and the formation of public opinion only relates to decision making by government and parliament. Habermas saw ‘the potential for self-annihilation on a global scale’ (1989 : 235) as adding emphasis to Kant’s call for a ‘cosmopolitan order’, but this was only within the frame of a world of nation states.