Geography Geography Geography

October 8, 2009 at 5:23 pm (tWP) (, , , , , , , )

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Recently having had the chance of being present at a lecture by LSE Professor Christopher Coker and other British scholars in Belgrade, one notices how the Blairites and Anglophile Liberal interventionists are now giving place to the more pragmatic.  If not a trend, it ought to be.

Coker has a very refreshing view of the world.

He spoke of how the “West” – the narrow version of the term of course – had fallen victim of «short-termism» in the 90s, with the repercussions of this being felt today. «NATO didn’t do strategy in the 90s» which allowed for a number of critical errors to occur; why were eastern and central European states brought on board? Not because they were assets but because «NATO was a half-way house for EU membership».

Coker went on to speak of the massive misjudgments committed by the Neocons and how Fukuyama had reified the term democracy when in fact the term has different interpretations according to political culture.

Alas, nothing is perfect and this is a British scholar. Coker’s moral universalism came to the surface when he addressed the doctrine of universal wrongs, which he considered as a good common denominator for a global values foundation. A propos, he added that «China is not in the storytelling business. America is». In other words, the American dream and the American way, make the US one of the last ideological states in the world, while China has no moral presumptions. Inquired by yours truly as to whether the “storytelling” factor was a competitive advantage, Coker answered positively. The Professor referred to the differences in terms immigration between the EU and the US, claiming that it was the American dream that made for easier assimilation and that while Europe was wary of migrants, America welcomed them.

To this I must object with the fact that the US has only been a nation-state for little over a century whereas the European nations have built their ethnically cohesive nationhoods over half a millennium ago. An immigrant in America does not yet need to adhere to the national culture in order to be a citizen but in Europe, as experience shows (Kosovo-Metohija, Belgium) a demographic and territorial challenge to an established nation-state can have disastrous consequences, and thus immigrants do have to be assimilated by the national culture. Failure to do so will result in separatism or ethnic tensions at large.

The US will eventually face the same problem when its WASP ethnicity franca comes under threat – hence initiatives to establish an official language (English) for example.

Coker however, closed with an extremely important statement: «[the importance of] Geography hasn’t changed, even with globalisation».kaart2002

Many refuse to acknowledge geography as a determinant factor in the shaping of geopolitics, preferring to believe in roll-back or messianic doctrines. The importance of national culture and the geographic shaping of values is paramount to the analysis of International Relations but sadly, idealists persist in turning their backs on Political Geography.

When will universalists finally come to terms with the fact that values are neither universal nor can they be the middle ground in any political negotiation?

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