May 21, 2018 at 12:23 pm (tWP) (, , , , , , )

This article manages to summarize the most damning prejudices of the current groupthink bubble of Brussels:

  • NATO, originally, was less squeamish about values (…) The end of the Cold War definitely changed things: democracy now is a strategic necessity. The consolidation of democracy in central and eastern Europe has become a key objective of NATO and EU enlargement.

Entirely true but done for capricious normative ideological reasons rather than strategic ones. Logically, if the EU member states keep alliances with non-EU authoritarians, that means that such bonds CAN work. If the Cold War was a much more dangerous period and it required ignoring normative qualms in favour of strategic pragmatism, then it stands to reason that such a doctrine is more efficient.

  • That the governments of Hungary and Poland are, at the very least, weakening democracy in their countries is beyond doubt.

True but the same is true for Western Europe and the US where civil servants break laws to undermine incoming administrations, where the police regularly enforce modesty laws, blasphemy laws, bans perfectly harmless activists and hinders free speech more and more, and certainly where Brussels forces 2nd referenda, vertical protectorate structures (Bosnia, Kosovo) as well as ‘caretaker’ governments (Italy).

  • Whatever populists claim: the choice is between democratic and non-democratic government.

Since the described governments generate a fair amount of controversy, the very term ‘populism’ is erroneous. Far more ‘populist’ are the ‘democratic’ governments who lie about the consequences of mass immigration or moral interventionism in their fanatical pursuit of political correctness. Additionally, fringe parties who question the EU and/or NATO are by no means necessarily authoritarian. UKIP and many libertarian movements are actually quite dismissive of governmental authority. It is a slander to classify ‘populists’ as such.

  • The purpose of NATO today is to defend not just the territorial integrity of its members, but also the model of society that they have constructed on their territories.

This is entirely true but not consistent with democracy or sovereignty. If a certain society decides to be conservative or Marxist, the EU and NATO then are constitutionally forced to move to curb that choice. The ostracism of the Haider coalition government is exhibit A of that trend.

  • In European society, the state is to guarantee security, prosperity, and democracy for its citizens. This triad cannot be disentangled: a citizen can only benefit from security, prosperity and democracy together or not at all.

This is very interesting. It is first and foremost untrue since plenty of authoritarian regimes actually experience less insecurity – for obvious reasons – and greater prosperity than open liberal societies. But it is also interesting given that catastrophic mass immigration and the disastrous reckless belligerence that ‘democratic’, ‘liberal’ and ‘non-populist’ policies have caused of late. Regardless of regime, citizens depend far more on policy-making.

  • Security from violence doesn’t mean much if one dies of hunger, just as wealth doesn’t mean much if the government can take it away, or even imprison you, arbitrarily.

Rule of law does not mean much if it is conditioned by an ideological police, and freedom doesn’t mean much if disastrous policies come attached. A propos of wealth, in the BBC there are now public proposals to artificially cap the salaries of male employees and redistribute the income through the female staff. Arbitrary?

  • If an ally no longer upholds this European way of life, then what exactly is NATO supposed to defend?

The territorial integrity and sovereignty of its members.

  • A government that undermines its country’s democracy thus ipso facto puts its security at risk too.

Is that a threat? Once again, many non-democratic states are safer than many democracies …including in Europe.

  • The more authoritarian a government becomes, the more it puts the bond of solidarity in the Alliance into question.

Not really: Haider’s Austria and Brexit Britain have been put under greater pressure than Erdogan’s Turkey.

  • To put it very starkly: which democratic government could justify to its citizens putting its forces in harm’s way in order to defend an eventual dictatorship in another NATO country?

But it is others that are ‘populist’ and put allied solidarity at risk…

  • Russia definitely will not hesitate to use any opportunity that presents itself in order to weaken NATO, if only to stop the Alliance from interfering in its strategic design of re-establishing predominance in the former Soviet republics.

Inverted responsibility: Russia was the one that was already predominant in its periphery and NATO was the one that “used any opportunity to weaken it”.

  • Hence Russia actively supports various populist actors.

…because NATO and the EU support various liberal/progressive/?populist? actors in Russia and its periphery.

  • populist tactics include Euroscepticism. It is both acceptable and necessary in a democratic polity to criticise EU policies, and even the EU project as such. But when countries decided, by democratic means, to join the EU, they subscribed to a set of objectives and limitations. If a government no longer is willing to abide by them, it cannot expect that its country’s status in the EU will remain unaffected, even if such were the free and informed democratic choice of its citizens (which today is questionable).

This is disingenuous. As was the case with NATO, the EU’s declared and practiced goals changed during the years. In several cases it is obvious that a number of members – chiefly the UK – were simply stunned by the rapid subversive trends emanating from Brussels. This is precisely why the opt-out mechanisms (for which the pre-Brexit UK governments were routinely berated by Brussels officials) were enacted, to begin with.

Worse still, the parenthesis implies that there have not been ‘informed and democratic’ Eurosceptic choices (because of populism? Because of Russia? Both?). Where was such cynicism when ‘constitutional treaties’ were pushed through in spite of strong popular resistance or when referenda were repeated to serve the convenience of the European project?

  • if the EU adopts sanctions against a government that violates the basic principles that it subscribed to when joining the Union, this does not constitute a violation of the sovereignty of the state in question… Democracy is as important, if not more, to merit the solidarity expressed by Article 5.

This is a frequent excuse on the part of federalists in Brussels. The truth is that, often, many new ‘basic principles’ are inaugurated without popular feedback while membership is in place and that the EEC was never supposed to become an abrogation of nation-states but rather just another international organization, in the eyes of the European peoples. Ultimately, is it easier to force different cultures to abide by the same standards or to relax those standards? Of course, when certain societies start questioning those ‘basic principles’, they are called populist and their ‘informed and democratic decision’ is put in question…

Of course, many principles are advisory and non-binding in nature. The main problem is with the very logic behind this reasoning. If indeed the EU is bound by enforceable basic principles, then necessarily, as people regularly disagree ideologically and vote for different parties, by definition, the EU does NOT represent, nor will it ever represent ALL the citizens. If that is so and one adds democratic elections putting ‘populists’ in power frequently, then membership in the EU should be a regular inconstancy with states dropping in and out of membership.

Here of course, we arrive at the crux of the rabid bias behind this article: that ‘true’, ‘genuine’, ‘legitimate’ democratic elections can NEVER empower Eurosceptics; much the same logic behind the American leftist derangement syndrome regarding Trump. If the Left is the ‘true’ representative of ‘the people’, the people can never elect someone the Left despises. If that occurs, there must be foul play at work.

  • certain governments not only violate the EU’s values, they also actively undermine EU policies, notably the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). What is worse, they appear to be doing so under the influence of foreign powers such as Russia and China.

True but again, when certain governments expand and go well beyond the common policies (or undermine them), under the influence of, say, the US, no one seems particularly concerned. That would be the same ally that is regularly found spying on European governments and the EU institutions themselves. Intelligence gathering is not shocking but rather that geostrategic alliances are judged according to normative standards rather than objective ones.

  • In full contradiction with their nationalist rhetoric, some governments have willingly become instruments of outside actors

Speaking of contradictions then, if the ultimate goal is a European federation and the extinction of national sovereignties, why don’t EU politicians run for office promising their constituents that they will be ruled by Brussels and by nationals of foreign states?

  • not only proto-authoritarian but even some fully democratic governments are undermining the EU in this way,

So, not all populists are [proto]-authoritarian? I thought that had been established…

  • it has become increasingly difficult for the EU to take a resolute and united stance in issues involving China and Russia

Of course, it could be that successive enlargements adding more actors to the deciding table, more disparate national cultures to the decision-making process, and increasingly confrontational policies towards the neighbourhood, are the phenomena to blame for an increasing lack of coordination and cooperation… but let us not allow the utopian dream to be questioned, lest we act in contravention of the already agreed upon EU Treaties’ ‘basic principles’…

  • Certain governments even undermine EU positions on general human rights policy, directly affecting the core of the Union’s value-based foreign policy.

Again, so why aren’t all rebels expelled? Would any core EU members be expelled if they broke the rules? Because it is a safe bet they sustain and arm more human rights abusers than the eastern ‘proto-authoritarians’.

  • A multispeed EU is in the offing anyway, and it is the (suboptimal) solution if there is no other way to advance European integration (and it must advance, for there still are areas in which only a stronger EU role can safeguard the national interest of the member states).

This is called a contradiction in terms: if European integration continues to impose itself on more and more areas of sovereign decision-making, how can it possibly augment the emphasis on safeguarding the national interest? It is after all EU officials themselves who keep denouncing ‘nationalism’ as a peril. That does not go hand in hand with claiming to defend the national interest.

  • NATO and the EU can no longer be disentangled. If one weakens the bond between nations in the EU, ipso facto one weakens ties in NATO.

So, those states that decided it was wisest to remain members but of one… Were they populist? Were they “weakening the bond between nations”? Which other international organisations are now sacred to the point that apostasy is sin? If only the EU and NATO are sacred, is it now blasphemy to maintain parallel structures such as EFTA or the Council of Europe? Like the Francophonie?…

  • Even without the suspicion surrounding Trump’s links to Russia …  and his apparent links with Russia

What links? Do actual factual ‘links’ with less than recommendable regimes in MENA and the Eastern Neighbourhood count as ‘suspicious’ if said links favour pro-EU politicians? No, I would think not…

  • at a time when the US is less than fully invested in Europe’s institutions, they are actually isolating themselves.

But not the EU/NATO when they decide that no one else but them can pontificate or judge democracy and human rights? These institutions are, by the way, the ones that embargo and sanction the most in the entire world and on issues such as Kosovo independence or the Crimea annexation, it is very much Brussels that is isolated.

  • by artificially stirring anti-EU feeling they are rendering their citizens more vulnerable to Russian propaganda.

All countries propagandise. As for ‘artificial’, a very curious word to use by someone who speaks on behalf of an organisation that spends billions promoting itself… What? No faith in the ‘natural’ unsponsored views of its citizens and potential sympathisers?…

  • In a reversal of history, a strong democratic EU can act as a beacon for democratic forces in the US

This is perfectly delusional since north-Americans are the ones who possess a cultural distrust of the power of the state, not Europeans. Even if it were to take place, this is one more proof that what is being defended in this article and by the EU institutions in general, is a private ideology and NOT the overall national interest of the member-states.

  • The European Commission is keeping up the pressure on governments that violate the Treaties, including, most recently, by proposing to leverage financial support in the next Multi-Annual Financial Framework

Is this in the national interest of those member states too? Would those citizens share that view?

  • People must understand that in reality neither Russia nor any other outside actor has anything to offer to a citizen of the EU.

Not biased nor extreme in the slightest. What happened to all the talk of anti-isolationism and international cooperation?…

  • Or would anybody opt for a Russian pension plan?

Crimeans did. Fairly certain a number of Ukrainians would too, at this stage…

  • This means investment in the economy, but it probably also means that a new deal in European social policy is the indispensable bulwark against foreign intrusion.

Except the kind of foreign meddling that effectively abrogates sovereign competencies and subverts the national interest, that kind is not intrusive in the least.

  • the equality of European citizens,

then they complain the EU is equated with the USSR in the east…

  • and thus the cohesion of European societies and the stability of European politics,

Yes, EU multicultural policies and NATO radical interventionism have worked wonders for European social cohesion and political stability.

  • unanimous decision-making on foreign policy (CFSP, not defence or CSDP) should be abandoned in favour of decisions by qualified majority voting.

Yet additional emphasis on the national interest and defence against foreign intrusion, no doubt.

  • giving up on individual short-term interests guarantees everyone’s interests in the long-term.

This is true but not in the form of the EU/NATO. Brussels characterises itself, in fact, by the very opposite: by populist and emotional appeals to humanitarian principles and international pacifism which are always popular among voters, IN DETRIMENT of cold and rational approaches to the harsh reality of international politics. NATO is more vulnerable today with liabilities such as the Baltic or Balkan bantustans as members, not safer; and its interventions are always portrayed as humanitarian crusades, yet invariably end in disaster.

In the long term, the post-modern iterations of NATO and the EU have been hurting the national interest and security of its members.


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The Kos Paradigm

August 19, 2015 at 3:27 pm (tWP) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

3195_m_charles_verlat___beggars_in_jerusalemThe current refugee crisis in the Mediterranean is a direct consequence of having elected counter-culture politicians and being under the influence of a May of 68 generation of journalists. It is staggering that under the weight of such incontrovertible evidence of, what can only be called, a disastrous policy, the public opinion – including those most affected – remains unchanged. Perhaps the most egregious example at the moment is that of the island of Kos in Greece or that of Calais, in the channel.

When the illegal immigration crisis began in earnest, two camps emerged advocating for diametrically opposed policies. One led by the centrist and left-wing parties as well as supported by the politically correct media, defended opening the doors to the migrants and rescuing as many as possible. The other, for the most part limited to fringe right-wing and populist parties, advocated for the use of law enforcement means to turn the boats around, reject the migrants and deter any future temptations to cross the Mediterranean.

Greece, in the midst of a severe economic crisis, followed the open door policy. In the island of Kos, 1/4 of the population is now made up of illegal migrants. A major surprise seemed to have been that a government struggling to secure the miserable pension paychecks for its own population (and with much of the working-age segment unemployed), was unable to find financial means to provide adequate  aid to the enormous wave of migrants. The solution, the media keeps parroting, is for the well off countries of northern Europe to pick up the bill for the subsistence costs of the newly arrived migrants. This is typical of those who despise the nation-state and non-ideological policies. Be they Euro-federalists or Global humanitarians, that Greece and Europe should be turned into a multicultural United States, with the associated problems, in the middle of an economic crisis, is actually a good idea. The riots of Paris, London, Malmo or the terrorism of France, the Netherlands, the UK; none of it matters. That ghettos emerge in countries such as Belgium where the fantastic wave of unqualified, culturally dissimilar, immigrants only adds to the enormous problem of unemployment and social security unsustainability, all that is unimportant. Mere details to be ignored by high-minded hippie politicians.

Let us say that the policies of the left were followed to their logical conclusion: the north paid for the rescue of and aid to the migrants, immigration was made legal and all migrants naturalized. Let us assume that the tens of millions fleeing Africa and MENA were welcomed in Europe. What evidence is there that Europe would turn into anything but another Brazil, with slums, extreme crime and bad economic governance? The West has spent trillions in development aid and yet the societies it seeks to transform have not been transformed. Are we now to adopt them into change? What does this say of the responsibility and probity of politicians who should look after the best interests of their constituencies rather than trying to transform them top-down according to whichever ideology they espouse? 

Daniel-Garcia-Art-Immigration-Africa-Europe-Boats-Migration-MediterraneanDoes the immigration policy solve the refugees problem? No. Does it benefit the Greek population or the local economy? No. Is it a sustainable policy in any way shape or form? Not at all. Will the policy be maintained? Of course it will. Naturally, the establishment is stupefied that such political pearls as Golden Dawn make gains in the popular vote…

This is a suicidal policy but why be surprised at the monstrous irresponsibility and lack of patriotism when this is the same political class that spent into bankruptcy and left it up to the next generation to pick up the tab?

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The Shortcomings of the Obama Doctrine

May 24, 2010 at 11:47 am (tWP) (, , , , )

The Obama administration has done well in terms of foreign policy. From early on it was made very clear that any possibility of costly foreign adventures was put aside in favour of a more sensible and moderate approach.

The antagonizing of strategic rivals stopped and the emphasis on democratisation and other evangelisation doctrines ceased.

Intervention in Iran is financially impossible. The stabilisation policy in Iraq was maintained but in the administration’s defence, it was the Petraeus team that conceived the policy as an answer to the grave mistakes of Iraqi Freedom. Policy towards Russia is also much more conciliatory now. The attempted rapprochement to Turkey is a smart move made difficult only by the more Ottomanian tone of the AKP government in Ankara.

However, if true that for those who were weary of Obama’s vague foreign policy plans, the new approach was a pleasant surprise, it also seems that his populist campaign platform is now affecting his administration’s work.

There are three main moments where this becomes visible: the Guantanamo process, the Honduras coup and the Israel estrangement.

It has been clear that the Guantanamo closure was not well thought out and only pursued in order to please the progressive electorate.

In Honduras and Israel, it is not at all clear that the American interests were served. The administration has chosen to act according to a very partial leftist narrative. It did so in Honduras where both parties were guilty of unconstitutional moves but where the administration chose to support the – pro-Chavez – Zelaya faction. It did so again with Israel where the administration chose to buy into the Palestine-excusing-Israel-bashing-euro-left narrative and thus put pressure on Israel as if the key to the Israelo-Palestinian problem lies in Tel Aviv or the Middle East problems might get solved with peace in Palestine.

While true that Israel has begun to tread a path of its own, to make Israel sole responsible for the stalled peace process, especially when most stake-holders have an interest in the perpetuation of the conflict, is wrong.

The officials of the Obama admin however, are not naïve, they are consequential in their decisions and these seem to be motivated by reasons of popular support.

This leads us to the AfPak. The campaign in Afghanistan was in 2001 about destroying Al-Qaeda and punishing the Taliban regime. It has however transformed into a war against totalitarianism and many fear that it might turn into a nation-building endeavour. It is not but the danger is there. This danger derives from the fact that many in the West either want to leave Afghanistan to its fate, or want to leave but only after a stable regime is in place. Very few would be comfortable with  a lingering low level conflict or with a semi-stable authoritarian government, which are the most likely outcomes.

The elections in Afghanistan though, appear to have proven that the White House is willing to tolerate some level of corruption in order to achieve its goals. This is positive for any demand for strict liberal democratic practices and rule of law in a region like Afghanistan would have dire consequences for Washington’s desire to retain its influence.

But there is a disease at work in the western world: the disease of sympathy. It would appear that all regimes in the west have a dire need to be liked abroad in order to survive at home. While important, likeability as an absolute is impossible when pursuing national interest, since often enough interests collide.

Diplomacy is necessary but it is not foreign policy. When governments are held hostage by popularity, short-term improvisation tends to replace long-term planning.

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Les Uns et Les Autres

December 24, 2009 at 10:01 am (tWP) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Expo 1937 - Soviet and Nazi buildings face to face

When Francis Fukuyama confidently announced that after the end of the Cold War – or Third World War according to the Neoconservative mythology – the world would become a paradise of demo-liberal harmony, that History would end and the now free Mankind would forever live in blissful democratic peace, most Realists shrugged and went on with their lives.

While the end of the bipolar order was not the revolutionary utopia Fukuyama expected, it is also true that the economic paradigm shifted in the entire world, in favour of capitalism and free market economics.

It is altogether natural that the excesses of capitalism are to be felt in those states who advocated it beforehand and concurrently exacerbated it after 89. It is a matter of course that those who adhered to it under some reservation and with great precaution during the period of Pax Americana, now find themselves thriving in what, for many, are desperate times. Even modern day pseudo-revolutionaries don’t dare to do entirely without free markets. The few who do are autarkic and totalitarian remnants of times that were.

A more pernicious consequence of the fall of the symmetric paradigm however, is the loss of ideological politics. Ideologies throughout the second half of the XX century were largely driven by economic philosophies and with a new uniform (Washington) consensus, the political struggle in many polities eroded into the politics of personality. The new monopolising paradigm standardised not just economic thought but also political thought.

Unlike some nostalgia filled generations – from the 40s up – one can clearly see that the absence of charismatic statesmen and clearly defined ideological fault lines are not necessarily “bad” things. The new generations aren’t worse off because they don’t have an ideological identity or because they are no longer forced to take up arms to fight for what they believe. One might even make the case that more civilised politics makes for more civilised citizens. It is ludicrous to expect great leaders in a time in which the threat of world war and the annihilation of Mankind are not at stake. The great statesmen were men of their time.

The new consensus on democracy and economic liberalism has led to a moderation of politics and that explains the generalised voter apathy, experienced in every society throughout the globe. This is not a bad thing for while civil war is a great political motivator, it is also an awful solution for specific and technical problems that need to be addressed by society as a whole and not through the imposition of ideological prejudices.

But the world is changing. The current moderates are increasingly compelled to polarise their electorates in hope of garnering the preference of the apathetic constituencies. The politics of personality are giving rise to populists in all continents and civilisations, who use demagogic tactics to keep themselves in power. The “new” parties, the “people” coalitions, the “civic” platforms, the “popular” unions are more and more the rule instead of the exception.

New fault lines are being drawn in politics. Under the new commercial-republican standard, the interests of specific sectors of society and/or business groups are being refocused on the personal merit of the political classes. The events unfolding in Thailand, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Bolivia, Honduras – and even the US and Europe – are now set in the populist-elitist dichotomy. The red shirts, the Bolivarians, the “natives”, the “indigenous” and the reds respectively, opposing the yellow shirts, the “oligarchs”, the “colonisers”, the “colonialistas” and the “golpistas”.

In societies being polarised top-down, there will increasingly be little room for neutrality or moderation. Interestingly, it is in less developed societies where ethnic allegiance still determines electorates, rather than governance efficiency or leader popularity that the nefarious consequences of demagogy will be less felt.

How will this tendency work in a multipolar world? Could it be that elitist or populist solidarity will lead to inter-polar client-states/protectorates in a dual geopolitical competition? To trans-polar common identities? The power of nationalism tells us otherwise but that doesn’t mean that ideological internationals cannot make an appearance.

The republics of all continents are entering a spiral of polarisation that may lead them down the path of the old Roman Republic: whereupon the patrician and plebeian parties drove Rome into a civil war and, ultimately, to autocracy.

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