‘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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The Sensible Endorsement

October 8, 2010 at 6:22 pm (tWP) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

This week, the Liberal Interventionist DemocracyArsenal featured a guest post by Stephen Mclnerney who replying to Tarek Masoud’s Foreign Policy article, stood against electing Gamal Mubarak as the best hope for a democratic Egypt.

Realistically of course the cure in this case turns out to be worse than the ailment. First of all, both Masoud and Mclnerney are fundamentally wrong in arguing for democracy in Egypt. The coming of democracy to Egypt or to any other state for that matter does not guarantee that western interests are met – which should be the main concern of anyone arguing on the succession process in the Arab Republic. This is quite clearly predicated in Democratic Peace Theory which as has been argued before on this blog, makes Libints and Neocons brothers in arms in ‘making the world safe for democracy’; neocons through war, libints through subversion.

Other than the fallacy that what is best for democracy is best for the west, one has to ponder on what the added value of democracy itself would be. The Middle East democracies are far from the liberal standard of the Atlantic revolutions. Lebanon continues embroiled in factional squabbles – its sovereignty ever limited by regional power plays – the Gulf states have only made timid approaches to the parliamentary system and often the Islamists make inroads in what few free elections there are and finally Iran’s system can work only if supervised and constricted by the theocratic apparatus. Turkey is usually the next case study offered for a successful Islamic democracy but Turkey has itself been ‘guided’ by secularist coups and now that the regime is finally consolidating itself, it is has decided that cooperation and peace with its illiberal neighbours might benefit it more than coalescing with the democratic west.

The point of all this is to state clearly that democracy is not necessarily compatible with Egyptian society and if it is it would always be of a very different kind. Most of the attempts at exporting the liberal democratic model have either not worked at all or developed into imperfect democracies and only after a fair share of bloodshed. How can democracy work in a country which has only known separation from Church and State through the gun barrel? How can civic movements mobilise the population into ideological party structures if there is scarcely a civil society in Egypt? Or will the votes of the intellectual and financial elites count double than those of the ordinary Egyptians?

When I visited Egypt, even our tour guide expressed sympathy for the terrorist attacks in Egypt. He mocked the National Democratic Party (NDP) and praised the subversive Islamists. If a travelled and cosmopolitan citizen, with a vested interest in the success of market economics and cooperation with the west cannot help himself from admiring the extremists, what hope is there for a healthy Egyptian democracy?

Would Egypt profit from a democratic system? Market economics is already in place, Egypt is a regional power which has built a stable geopolitical structure that works for its benefit. Egyptians in general prosper as is demonstrated by the growth of the country’s economy and population. Democratic process and rule of law, while guarding and promoting rights and freedoms, are also generally bureaucratic and sluggish. As one can observe in Mediterranean states, the advantages of the implantation of democracy in dissimilar cultures – from those of the Atlantic paradigm – are quite often outweighed by demagogic political cultures, short-term thinking and political instability; and how well would the EU’s Mediterranean belt fare without the northern European economic umbrella and Washington’s strategic one? One can at least induce that not so much priority would be given to the fundamental freedoms of the Atlantic ‘good society’.

Ultimately, why endanger all of Egypt’s achievements on behalf of a social engineering experiment with a long track-record of failure in the region? I am sensitive to the ineffective and worn off character of a decadent regime but Cairo’s prosperity and stability should ensure at least a few more decades to the current regime.

The only prospect for stability after Hosni Mubarak is the NDP. Direct military rule would escalate tensions and an unknown successor coming from the General Intelligence Directorate (GID) might bring about infighting and jostle for power within the regime.

The opposition is large but two main movements stand out. On one hand we have the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. They have for the past years come out as a moderate democratic movement with Islamic philosophy as inspiration for political reforms. Be that as it may, the brotherhood’s ties to Hamas and the MB’s branches in Jordan and Syria send a different message. In the very least, one could expect a MB led regime to change Egypt’s strategic paradigm in the same way the AKP changed Turkey’s. How tensions with Israel, the EU and America would help Egypt is anyone’s guess but true enough, they’d be popular; and I repeat: this is the least we could expect.

The other movement is Mohamed el-Baradei’s National Association for Change. Its platform is everything the west is salivating for. Baradei stands for the ‘good society’: liberal democracy, rule of law, equal rights for men and women, fundamental freedoms, protection of minorities, social justice. The inherent problems with this having already been addressed.

Over at DemocracyArsenal, Mclnerney also states that Gamal would be weak comparing to his father but Hosni Mubarak was himself weak when he took over from Sadat and in Syria, Bashar al-Assad seems to be doing fine. The logic of subverting a system that works for Egypt and for western interests is beyond me but then, most universalists are usually found to have priorities in mind other than those of the states they claim to represent.

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