‘End of History’ Found Dead at Moscow’s Gates

July 28, 2015 at 11:03 am (tWP) (, , , , , , , , , )

Battle of Cape St. Vincent of 1833. A squadron of Portuguese frigates commanded by British Admiral Napier on behalf of the Liberal faction (Queen Maria) defeated the Absolutist squadron loyal to King Miguel, in the Portuguese Civil War

Battle of Cape St. Vincent of 1833 – a squadron of Portuguese frigates commanded by British Admiral Napier on behalf of the Queen Maria’s Liberal faction defeated King Miguel’s Absolutist squadron, in the Portuguese Civil War

Ukraine and the Euromaidan revolution were a turning page in History. One could argue that the Colour revolutions, the Arab Spring, the Ossetia War and even the Atlantic interventions of the preceding decades, had been proof enough of the limits of the ‘end of history’ but Ukraine is more meaningful because it had everything to become the poster child of globalism: it is an avowedly pro-Western movement, nurtured by the West, while not depending on the West in military hard-power terms. Yet, Ukraine’s economy is the worst performer of 2015, corruption endures, extremists now occupy positions of importance in the government and armed forces, such civil liberties as gay rights might actually be more in peril today than during the Yanukovych days, and far from being a triumph for NATO, Ukraine quickly revealed itself the quicksand of Western soft-power (potentially also hard-power) that many had foreseen.

It was not always so. The record of Atlanticist interventionism at the service of universalist policies spans all the way back to the Enlightenment. Liberal governments in London, Paris and Washington have been proselytizing their creed for centuries, now. Before the Islamic world and the pan-Slavic territories, it was the Catholic world and Latin-America. With the possible exception of the Russian Civil War, Atlanticist interventions have consistently sought to exclude Traditionalists from power and replace them with Liberals, in the Atlantic Ocean rim. For the most part such support has been discreet but at times also overt. Led by Britain and America, liberal governments intervened in Spain’s Carlist Wars, in the Portuguese Civil War, waged successive wars against the South African Boers (against independent Boer states and then the Apartheid regime) and encouraged coups, actions and secessions throughout Latin America.

The instance of the American Civil War was also a slight deviation as France and Britain were divided between their interests, their ideology and military calculations. Ideologically opposed to slavery, economically and strategically motivated to preclude New England from building an industrial competitor apparatus to their own and from raising tariffs on cotton exports, and finally fearful of projecting power over the Atlantic, considering the results of the American Revolutionary and 1812 wars.

Is interventionism always successful? The rare occasions when domestic liberal forces, supported by exogenous Liberal financing and political endorsement, were not effective was usually when some alternative power was willing to equally sponsor the opposing faction in the domestic conflict, as was the case in the Spanish Civil War, or earlier when the Holy Alliance was willing to finance the status quo against the 1848 movements. The instances of the Arab Spring and of the Colour Revolutions diverge from the otherwise victorious streak of liberal Atlanticism because in both examples the host society was poorly suited to manage a liberal socio-economic model but mostly because the economic and political pressure of the Liberal governments had to contend with opposing economic and political pressure, spoiling the endeavour: be it the reactionary GCC in the case of the Arab Spring or the counter-revolutionary Russia in eastern Europe.

BloemfonteinThe main conclusion then is, as always, that structural forces carry more weight than normative ones. Just as was discussed a propos of the Second World War, in the case of Atlanticist triumphalism there are also pecuniary and strategic incentives speaking louder than values. As Timothy Garton Ash once observed, democracy tends to implant itself more easily in those societies economically dependent and culturally more permeated by already democratic powers.

To be clear, it is not a foregone conclusion that a liberal latin world would exist without express northern Atlantic pressure. Same being true for the ‘reconstructed’ American South, the ‘British’ Boers or ‘decolonised’ Rhodesia/Zimbabwe. Atlantic Liberals bear a fundamental intolerance for the concept of sovereignty because the Enlightenment philosophical foundation of the ideology is inherently universalist and thus, structurally incompatible with the Westphalian system.

Does this then mean that liberal expansionism is over? Not so. It is difficult to imagine how the Atlantic rim can in any way digress from the normative consensus of the rim’s hegemon, especially considering such a hegemon is itself structurally a deterritorialised idea-state. Russia, as strong as it may be, does not possess the power to challenge the North-Atlanticists in the rim and China cannot efficiently project power that far either. The southern hemisphere is devoid of any major military power that might help.

The only possibility would be a collapse from within. If the USA were to undergo a second civil war, particularly one that opposed New England to the Midwest, then the vacuum of power would provide countries like France and Brazil, the opportunity to conciliate an alternate centre of power. This, however, is not a plausible eventuality.


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Iran – The Fallacy of Blowback

August 20, 2012 at 4:12 pm (tWP) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

In this outlet we are in favour only of a conditional intervention against Iran: provided the Arab states participate.

Thus, not toeing the neoconservative line of ‘harder, better, faster, stronger’ as far as an attack on Iran is concerned, there should be no suspicion of our being belligerent tout court.

It is important though to analyse the liberal-libertarian-marxian case against an attack on Iran and dispel the myth of blowback.

It is said for example that the reason why Iranians today hate America is due to the Anglo-American subversion of the Mossadegh government and their installing a repressive regime thereafter. According to this logic, not only has Western policy towards Iran been flawed through the years but so would more belligerence today lead to additional negative results.

First of all it should be said that Iranians don’t hate America – in fact they are one of the most westernised peoples in MENA – that British and Americans wanted only more control over the Iranian government and that they were not behind the repressive tactics – albeit having provided the training – that Iran prospered to become a major regional geostrategic power under US sponsorship and most importantly that the decision to separate Iran from the West geopolitically was taken by the revolutionary regime and not by the Iranian people.

In fact, the assertion that the Islamic revolution was detrimental to the West because Iranians as a people were enraged against Western interference is ludicrous: the Arab states financed Iraq’s war against Iran, Russia had attempted to annex parts of northern Iran during the Allied occupation of World War II, and yet there were no chants of ‘Death to Russia’ or ‘Arabs are the middle Satan’ after the ‘people’s revolution’. The truth is that the regime conducted anti-Western indoctrination and even if the average Iranian would not approve of external interference in Iranian domestic politics then and now, it is also true they realise Iran has been playing with fire unnecessarily for a long time – even though they support the nuclear programme, only the regime’s puppets go on marches to shout ‘death to America’.

American and British resolve to remove Mossadegh came about quite simply because Mossadegh offended his patrons in the Cold War by nationalising the Iranian oil industry. Undoubtedly his intentions were pure and patriotic but they were also misguided for Iran was not strong enough to stand on its own in a bipolar system dominated by the superpowers. It was Mossadegh’s foolhardiness that brought about the end of his government, not gratuitous interventionism on the part of the West – the only blowback was that of his policies against the West.

It is also not as if Iran was alien to interfering in the affairs of its neighbours. Its designs over the Persian Gulf and the Mashreq have been well known for centuries and surely the Iranians, knowing their own history are not blind to the routine of intervention in an anarchic international system.

The coup that removed Mossadegh bought the West an additional quarter century of control during the dangerous period of the Cold War. True statesmen always plan on the long-term but the plans are made to defend national interests, not those of any other state. It is too bad if interference in Iran causes Iranians to blindly rally to the flag in favour of an irrational regime but if one were to always wait for the right timing, nothing would ever get done.

Additionally, it is also false that blowback is an inevitable consequence of intervention. Given enough time and resources, an intervention can manage to legitimise itself. We have but to think of Iranian subversion of Lebanon, of Pakistani operations in Afghanistan, Israel bombing of Iraq, Russian intervention in Georgia, etc. 

Finally one must weigh the pros and cons of bombing Iran’s nuclear programme. What is more costly? To allow a fanatical regime to acquire all the invulnerability it needs to destabilise a pro-Western MENA? Or to spend a few millions in bombs and temporary high oil prices, and incur the also temporary wrath of the people of one single country who don’t even appreciate the regime that rules them?

Ultimately the logic of Liberals is that democracy is more important than the West, that regime is more important than state. The logic of Libertarians is that market forces will take care of a state’s interests and that non-interference will miraculously take care of those forces that are prejudiced or interested in thwarting Western interests. The logic of Marxians is that developing-countries inherently carry more moral authority than developed ones and whatever they do or risks they take, the outcome must always ‘justly’ benefit them in detriment of developed countries so as to equalise the world.

Liberals do America and the West a disservice because as democratic as any country may be, democratic peace theory is a fallacy and does not necessarily bring with it automatic sympathy towards or peace with the West. Libertarians are also counter-productive because without force and hard-power, many parts of the world would succumb to forces more influential than money. Marxians keep advocating a utopia with no practical incarnation and would find it difficult to justify an inevitable ‘levelling’ down of developed societies’ living conditions in favour of developing ones’.

This blog stood against the intervention in Iraq, it condemns any conventional attack on Syria and it also criticised the Libyan adventure. Iran is different and this is not an endorsement of an immediate attack on Iran but rather the apology of a consequential and rational debate, based on facts rather than myths: is it in the West’s interest to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons? Absolutely! Should the West attack Iran to accomplish this? Debatable. Should it be one of the possible options? Always.

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Geography Geography Geography

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


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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