A Case of the Creation Destroying the Creator? The West’s Many Frankenstein Monsters

March 26, 2017 at 8:32 pm (tWP) (, , , , )

Roosevelt and Churchill met in Newfoundland on board the HMS Prince of Wales in 1941 to draft the Atlantic Charter and inaugurate a century of transatlantic cooperation structures

The Cold War was unprecedented in its geographical scope and technological risk. Never before in the history of Mankind had the average citizen been forced to contemplate annihilation on a daily basis. To ensure victory, both blocs introduced new means of warfare. The West chose to employ propaganda against the East, even though by then the Western liberal democracies held higher standards for their own societies. Indeed, RFE/RL was exclusively meant for external consumption and not meant for Americans. A military establishment was built to deter Moscow from further advance into Europe and an economic establishment soon followed to ensure widespread prosperity in Western Europe and vaccinate it against communist influence. Along with NATO and the EEC, a Marshall Plan guaranteed the reconstruction of Europe and the social-democratic model kept social peace. Finally, a network of NGOs and QuaNGOs such as the Soros foundations or the National Endowment for Democracy, were in charge of civil society subversion along with the Catholic Church, to undermine Soviet control of the occupied states and client-regimes.

All these arrangements were set up in the context of a zero sum struggle for planetary hegemony, within a fiercely charged ideological atmosphere. They were by their very nature ad hoc and purely instrumental. Previous wars had depended on loose alliances and minimal civil society involvement.

Similarly, the leaders of the First World War decided to use instruments that would later cause the exponential devastation of WWII such as WMDs, total war, mass mobilisation; and to bring the latter about, ideological propaganda. Indeed, unlike the previous conflicts of the XIX century, WWI was not fought by professional armies, it featured weapons that would later be forbidden and it relied on highly indoctrinated conscripts. Total industrial warfare would then take on prohibitive proportions up to 1945.

The USSR did the same and unlike the West, Moscow was then interested in subverting half the planet on behalf of an ideology (Stalin, Brezhnev doctrines notwithstanding). The roles have however, reversed. Modern Russia is conservative and particularist and it is Brussels and Washington D.C. that seek to evangelise the world with Western values. What changed?

It is certainly the fault of the May 68 generation coming to power and fanatically pushing a progressive agenda but there is a structural component to the entire affair: bureaucratic inertia. Nature hates a vacuum and given that lazy short-term thinking Western politicians were too preoccupied to dismantle the Cold War structures, those same structures took matters into their own hands and kept fighting a war which was supposed to be over.

The capitalist bloc’s soft power arm remained engaged in fomenting colour revolutions and subverting unaligned regimes in the West’s periphery. The bloc’s hard power arm took care to find new enemies gratuitously and expand the list of allies – superfluously. Finally, the founded economic structures moved to exacerbate their competencies by expanding its reach into the political realm and the social-democratic model continued its push towards further governmental subsidisation, eventually putting Western Europe on the brink of bankruptcy.

Ukrainian revolutionary soldiers during the Donbass War

Even in the realm of intelligence, technocratic reactionaries are now attempting to influence domestic politics. Reagan’s big push towards high-tech expenditure meant to bait the USSR into ruin, is now coming back to exert its power on reforming politicians. After the #womensmarch and Antifa violence against conservatives in the US, there are those of us who fear an attempted colour revolution in Washington itself. Will domestic political subversion stop at war-mongering and witch hunts? If an impeachment is attempted with demonstrations outside the White House, months on end, the USSS may be pushed into a corner. This bears eery resemblance to the Yanukovych affair in Ukraine.

In Europe too, celebrating the 60 years of the Rome Treaties, EU leaders who seem mostly subservient to Brussels eurocrats, were egged on by the Pope to fight “populism”. Populism is never defined but seems to encompass any political force that puts the national interest ahead of supranationalism. This then necessarily means that, following the Haider and Wilders precedent, not all political forces are equal. Democracy is only desirable provided the citizenry deliver the ‘right’ votes. If not, then a supranational overseer is put in place (à la Monti) or referenda are organised in succession until the ‘right’ result is achieved. International institutions only serve the agenda of specific – mainstream – parties. Were a communist or paleoconservative party to come to power, the foreign policy of the state and that of supranational institutions, could not possibly be changed.

Imagine Napoleon’s legions dictating to Napoleon; the Comintern lecturing the Politburo on ideology; the crusaders taking power in the Holy See.

Ukrainian revolutionary paramilitary during the Donbass War

What seems certain is that the current climate of radicalisation and mainstream media instigation to violence, is going to continue.

Trump and Brexiteering Tories signified a change in paradigm but they are being undermined by a bloated governmental bureaucracy which leans on intellectual elites for civil society manipulation. If the algorithm turns on the user, at what point will the struggle remain peaceful given the eroding avenues for consented change? Western regimes have expiration dates too but if the end requires a reboot rather than a refresh, cooler heads will not prevail.

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The Ethnic Origins, Source of Power and Current Political Methods of Globalism

July 26, 2016 at 12:19 pm (tWP) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The first image in this article is that of the English royal family’s coaagincourtt of arms. It is not chosen by accident but it is a powerfully symbolic image for the topic in question. The coat of arms is emblazoned with two repeated heraldic icons: the three fleur-de-lys and the three lions. The former were the arms of French royalty for a millennium, the latter are to this day the arms of the Danish royal family. Why is this relevant? Because it is an especially apt way of defining Britain: a mix of continental Europe and Nordic Europe. It is specifically in Nordic Britain that lies the original sin whose offspring globalism – universalism academically – is today.

Nordics are a very distinct group among the world’s ethnicities. Their geographical circumstance forces them to be highly productive since they have to generate enough resources to survive the winter. Simultaneously, they cannot rely on family ties or resources because the territory, while harvestable, is scarcely populated. This has bred a mentality which is individualistic to an extreme and radically self-reliant and disciplined. Other regions of the planet are too densely populated and too easily farmed for self-reliance to take hold. In the case of aboriginal peoples, their mentality was usually Asian and therefore collectivistic. This meant some level of discipline but not self-reliance and therefore not productivity. Discipline can be a competitive advantage in fertile regions but not in difficult ones since creativity is especially needed when overcoming challenges.

The reason why the Reformation reached almost exclusively Germanic Europe is easily explained by the mentality already in existence there: the self-reliant kind. One who is self-reliant requires a personal relationship with God and eschews collectivistic rituals. Such rituals may be well suited for preserving community ties but not so for allowing a personal interpretation of the good book. In the case of the Reformation phenomenon too, Britain is a rare breed, as its Anglicanism is a clear compromise between protestant principles and catholic ritual.

England in particular is worthy of note because it was there that many Nordics settled during the Middle Ages. We call Britain Anglo-Saxon because of these raids and invasions and what better place demonstrates this History than the tellingly named East Anglia? East Anglia is a very special place for English History: it was one of the main sources of puritanism in Britain and it was also one of the earliest regions to support the Parliamentarian (republican) revolution under the authoritarian Oliver Cromwell.

It is worth understanding that one of the key features of the Nordic mentality is that of political correctness. This is probably due to the higher need for an efficient decision-making process within Nordic settlements. Human resources are scarce and weather is unforgiving which translates into a laconic and simplistic conferential system. The great poets of the world, after all, come from the South: Middle Eastern poetry, Latin novels, etc. And lest we forget, time became a commodity in northern formal cultures, not in southern ones, which means that there was concern in optimising its usefulness in the North, not the South.

Political correctness must be understood in its puerile simplicity before moving to the next link in the chain: New England. As it happens, New England was settled mostly by …you guessed it: East Anglians; and puritan ones at that. Is it then really surprising that the two most important radical anti-hypocrisy revolutionary movements in American History – namely republican separatism and abolitionism – began in New England?

The cause of independence found its earliest and most passionate support in puritan settlements, the ‘tea party’ took place on Boston, Massachusetts. Northern (New England) colonies contributed about as many soldiers for the Revolutionary War as the Southern ones but while the northern fought the English, the southern fought with the English. The contradiction of ‘taxation without representation’ could simply not be tolerated by the puritans’ protestant ethics. Nor could, for that matter, the contradiction between the ‘self-evident truth’ that ‘all men are created equal’ and slavery. The founding fathers, of course, could perfectly tolerate it but then again, most of them were southerners like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson or James Madison.

The puritan zeal eventually spread into the Midwest and it is again revealing that it was a Midwesterner that led the abolitionist revolution: Abraham Lincoln. Indeed, most actual Nordic-Americans (those who immigrated directly from Scandinavia to America) still inhabit the Midwest and this fact became very salient during the recent Republican primaries when Donald Trump lost Wisconsin to Ted Cruz. Nordics have precious little tolerance for the antics of eccentric political incorrectness; Trump’s Berlusconism is a competitive disadvantage with Nordics and Puritans. During the civil war, whereas French-Americans and Catholics in general supported the South’s secession, English-Americans and protestants in general, supported the North.

Yet both the Midwest and New England have seen their demographics change: Boston has become progressively catholic – which explains Trump’s appeal in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New Jersey – and the industrialisation of the ‘rust belt’ brought with it labourers from the South – whereas enriched original settlers slowly moved to the vicinities for better living conditions – which allows us to understand Trump’s success there.

9815a31c194e4a99dcc7488a12d6c153This same zeal was in evidence in the baby-boomers political conscience during the protests of the May of 68. The soixante-huitards were extremist in their beliefs, calling for absolute pacifism and social justice with the world’s poor. As soon as they reached power towards the end of the Cold War and at the onset of the ‘new world order’, theirs became the generation of endless indebtedness, overwhelming generosity towards to 3rd world and moralisation of every conflict via the ‘end of History’ paradigm. The EU itself being the ultimate soixante-huitard project of replicating in Europe the utopian extreme idea-state of American exceptionalism – a notion whose germen had been established by the founding fathers in rhetoric and by Lincoln in practice. After the end of the Cold War, America’s East-Anglian exceptionalism has now become for the Atlanticist elites, the foundation for their messianic vision of the “end of History”: a liberal-democratic, and, ultimately, a Nordic individualist, world.

It is this ethnic record that explains why Western universalists periodically do not find it difficult to support neonazi or jihadi movements. At the heart of the matter is the cause of universalism. A normal state would only consider supporting extremist movements if vital existential interests were at stake. In WWII the Allies brought in the USSR because they alone could not beat Nazi Germany, for instance. Yet, Western universalists show much smaller compunction in doing so today because they know a victory of extremist forces would advance the universalist cause. Better to have a jihadi regime in Syria or a neonazi one in Ukraine so long as they subscribe, even if only nominally, to universalist doctrine. In practice of course, a moderate but anti-universalist regime in Syria may be brutal to its citizens but it does not genocide them, and a moderate regime in Ukraine may be incredibly corrupt but it doesn’t launch the army against its citizens nor does it pass discriminatory laws which cause respect for minorities and political opponents to drop.

The world is divided between universalists and those submissive to them, and the ones who resist universalism. The Manichean division tolerates absence of universalist practices only in so far as those who don’t practice are submissive to those who preach it. Thus Saudi Arabia Egypt or Hungary can exist at the margin of universalist practice because they contribute to the cause worldwide and they can even hypocritically call for democracy, human rights and rule of law elsewhere, so long as that fits the interests of the globalist elites.

The problem is not hypocrisy, the problem does not lie in cooperating with ideologically dissimilar regimes, the problem rather consists in the fact that, at the end of the day, what is being advanced is not the interests of the different Western states, what is being advanced is only an ideological cause. Being ruled by activists means the powers of the state are subverted into serving a particular ideology.

Part of the reason why the universalists’ power is slowly eroding is their zealotry, to be sure. However, another factor is the immense contradictions that serving a failed ideology cause since the more it fails, the more excuses one requires to justify it and at some point too many excuses become counter-productive as justification.

AKP Turkey is an excellent example of this very phenomenon. According to most (recep_tayyip_erdogan_by_setobuje-d2rs6grWestern) standards, by now Turkey should be one of the most reviled regimes in the world: it is an authoritarian state where its leader is manipulating parliament to unilaterally alter the constitution in order to reinforce his own powers and remain in office, political adversaries are regularly lustrated, journalists are periodically incarcerated and media outlets brought under governmental/ruling party control, the will exists to restrict the internet, the leader’s family is corrupt and syphons money using its family connection to the leader, the country is restricting individual liberties and reinforcing religious norms, its foreign policy is disastrous since it has deteriorated its relations with most neighbours, geopolitically the government either tolerates or actively supports extremist movements abroad and it is aligned with another illiberal state to accomplish it (Qatar).

Turkey is even better as an example than Saudi Arabia because the Kingdom only seeks to survive and to what extent it changed internally, it did so to become more liberal, not less. Also important is foreign policy orientation since Riyadh has geopolitical reasons to wish to force into power an anti-Iranian regime in Syria and in Yemen. Turkey, on the other hand, has nothing to fear from Iran both because it is equivalent in size and because it can count on NATO.

Apart from totalitarian DPRK, Russia is perhaps the most detested regime in the world as far as the West is concerned but in terms of values, Putin pales in comparison to Erdogan in every respect except one: resistance to universalism. Putin may actually be more democratic, less tolerant of extremism, more accepting of opposing media, his nepotistic corrupt ties less obvious/sizeable, be more respectful of the constitutional order, less restrictive of personal freedoms, his foreign policy more successful, rational, predictable and purveyor of stability. Unlike Erdogan though, Putin is not a team player. Quite to the contrary, the Kremlin actively resists universalist influence and that is a much greater threat to an ideology than herded black sheep.

Why is that so? Because this particular ideology is revisionist to the core. It matters little that individualist universalism is not implemented in actuality. Thanks to a culturally Marxist academia and largely sympathetic media and intellectuals, what is preached today will slowly be practiced tomorrow so long as there is enough critical mass for it. The populace has a short memory and its very language and thoughts can be manipulated by the elites.

The West is often histrionic, and rightly so, when other countries revise their history books so as to gloss over past crimes. The West is not quite so outraged when the same is done in its own turf to promote its own ideology.

So at a time of record ignorance on the part of Westerners, of the role played by Russia in defeating Nazi Germany – according to polls, most Westerners believe Western troops were the ones that made the biggest effort to defeat the III Reich – Western leaders decide they will boycott V Day celebrations in Moscow because of the Kremlin’s intervention in Ukraine… so much for statesmanship and concern for historical accuracy. Similarly, there is outrage and mockery when Russian soldiers are filmed in Ukraine while Russia issues denials, and there is scandal at the breach of international law that the ‘little green men’ represent but when Western troops are found operating in secret in other countries such as Libya or Pakistan, there is no problem, no cartoons, no talk of ‘little green men’. European values are often touted as the unifying factor of the EU’s ‘unity in diversity’ project but when eastern Europeans vote against gay rights or western Europeans vote in xenophobic parties, when the death penalty is praised in one place or corruption keeps a leader in power in another, the narrative of the common values does not go away… the end of the UK’s membership of the EU was supposed to be the harbinger of multiple catastrophes from economic collapse to the erupting of wars across the continent – at least according to BBC’s ‘documentaries’ on the matter – and yet things simply went on as usual. Last but not least, one of the myths propagated by Western historical revisionists is that the EU brought with it peace to the continent: this is an outright lie which ignores that other parts of the world have been at peace without the EU or more simply that without a common security and defence policy until the 90s it was the sheer will of the states that kept Europe at peace, or that indeed, it still does today.

Then again, most citizens don’t study History so if the new truth is not canon now, it will be for the next generation.

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Learning the Lessons of Intervention in Libya Idealists Aren’t Empirical

March 22, 2016 at 6:03 pm (tWP) (, , , , , , , , )

French naval aircraft striking Qaddafi regime forces in 2011

French naval aircraft striking Qaddafi regime forces in 2011

Those who allow ideology to trump national interests are poorly equipped to learn from experience. Specifically, euro-federalists are constructivists who believe and work towards the utopia of politically uniting the continent that bred the nation-state. Constructivists are philosophically positivist since they believe that solutions can be engineered without regard for the past or for the context. These old world bastards of the American Enlightenment are thus simply unable to draw conclusions from experience.

This is alas a recurring problem in Brussels – and in Washington D.C., I imagine – where problems arising everywhere never seem to elicit a logical consequential response from those in power, or at least not one that questions the legitimacy of the system in place. Eurosceptic populism, failed nation-building efforts abroad, social conservatism in allegedly euro-enthusiastic societies, challenges from regional hegemons, none of it is worthy of reconsidering the very legitimacy of the sacred union. Instead, bland politically orthodox conferences and workshops in Brussels focus on communication: how does one ‘communicate’ to the European citizens that Brussels is actually doing what is right for them? The fact that past policies fail is admitted on occasion only insofar as it serves the purpose of justifying why European governments must double-down on such policies and/or endow Brussels institutions with even more power to make the policies work; a line of argument all too similar to the neocon creed that “history will do us justice”.

Empiricists on the other hand, look to the past for guidance and usually with greater success. That which is not questioned is that which has worked longest: the nation-state. There is room for innovation but not revolution and utopias. Take Vladimir Putin who finds no alternative but to fight XXI century wars around the control of population centres – as terrorism and the age of humanitarianism now force all states to do – but who also understands that wars must be kept limited in scope and always proportional to the means available. He is not one to go on crusades around the world, intervening in ungovernable exotic vacation spots for whichever asinine cause du jour. Putin doesn’t shy away from war but he tries to negotiate first. The Russian President seeks military control to achieve strategic goals, not to defend idealistic causes.

This long introduction thus serves to prepare the reader for what will be an analysis of what goes wrong when a positivist tries to analyse empirically.

Committed euro-federalist Daniel Keohane set upon himself to learn lessons from the intervention in Libya, a topic made pertinent given that “(…) there is mounting speculation that a coalition of Western countries will launch a new military campaign there to tackle the growing threat from the self-styled Islamic State”. As he tells it, since 2011 “(…) a civil war has prevented the formation of a functioning Libyan government”. In truth, that civil war is not quite so …random. It was the idea of some NATO member-states to abuse a UNSC humanitarian resolution in order to launch a full scale military campaign against the Qaddafi regime which ultimately killed him. It was also the responsibility of both NATO and the EU to abstain from supporting any other strong man – such as General Hiftar for instance – after the Qaddafi overthrow to fill in the power vacuum. That would have pre-empted the emergence of some nasty actors like the Islamic State but of course, that would have meant the puritan Liberal democracies getting their hands dirty …

The Libyan civil war – if one posits the existence of such a coherent entity called Libya – also caused according to the author “(…) large flows of migrants and refugees into the EU”. Oh by Jove, such a nuisance … Say, how come that is identified as a problem but not one single brain in all the think-tanks of the grey city ever came up with an obvious response: stopping the flows? How quick they are to assign military vessels to the Mediterranean …to rescue the illegals, to welcome them, not to stop them. Here’s a thought: if the flows are not a positive development, what about not encouraging or facilitating them?

“(…) Europeans have more direct security interests at stake in Libya, which is why France and the UK initiated the 2011 intervention”. This one is particularly rich: British and French have strong interests in Libya, thus a military intervention that turns the territory into an anarchic hell hole is the way to go. How can someone be so blind or disingenuous? How exactly were the interests of the UK and France defended by overthrowing Qaddafi? Because if the dictator was the problem and only a democracy can serve those interests, then I dare say that relations with any Middle East state are pointless. If the instability resulting from the Arab Spring was the problem then an easier and more productive solution would have been to follow the Michelle Alliot-Marie doctrine: launch an intervention all right, but one on the side of the dictators! In all likelihood the real reason for the Franco-British intervention was the prospect of easily getting rid of Qaddafi along with a regime which had been a geopolitical thorn in the Atlanticists side for decades. No love lost for Qaddafi here. Normally the French are utterly pragmatic about their interventions – if Françafrique is anything to go by. What is precisely the corrosive element in the mix here, is the ideological influence of organisations which should have remained intergovernmental but slowly grew into lobbies of their own importance – aimed at self-perpetuation. The EU and NATO are no longer instruments at the service of governments, they have developed rather as a cancer working against the interests of their member-states by promoting normative ideologies irrespective of results. The closer to Brussels a military intervention is carried out, the more compliant it will have to be with the politically correct narrative of the NATO HQ or the European Commission/Parliament. Hence the EU’s Neighbourhood Policy ignited a ‘Ring of Fire’ around the old continent whereas France’s client states in Africa or America’s in the Middle East remain quite stable: idealism breeds disaster, time-tested pragmatism ensures stability.

“(…) NATO now seems unlikely to act, partly because the image of its 2011 intervention is tarnished among some Libyans due to a lack of follow-up, and partly because the alliance is busy deterring Russia in Eastern Europe”. Again, if by lack of follow-up he means that another strong man was not backed to replace Qaddafi, then by all means, this is a valid statement. That, however, is not what he means: he means that more funding, more troops and more state-building would have staved off anarchy – you know, much like it did in Iraq or Afghanistan. In practice what Brussels sees as a solution in Libya, is a more muscled Bosnia-Herzegovina paradigm. “(…) the EU has strongly supported UN diplomatic efforts to form a unity government of rival Libyan factions and has deployed four missions to tackle some of the security challenges emanating from Libya since 2011”, see my point? The solution is to bribe and pacify local contenders ad infinitum. As for the Russian ‘threat’, if the supranational utopia’s legitimacy weren’t tied to universalist maximalist ideological principles, strategic compromises and tactical choices could be made to divert resources from one theatre to another. Yet the EU is no state which therefore prevents it from acting amorally. Therefore the actions of supranational ideological actors will always be maximalist irrespectively of the available means, and they will always move to confront all those who divert from their normative universalism regardless of the level of threat they represent: for universalists, every dissension is a vital existential problem.

Royal Navy's combined operations

Royal Navy’s combined operations

The second lesson is that the EU shouldn’t assist countries without legitimate governments”. True but only if one accepts the unwillingness to support non-liberal-democratic solutions. That said, whereas some EU states such as France have a national interest in protecting certain authoritarian regimes, most EU states in the East and North have nothing to gain by investing the political capital. Once again, divergent national interests prevent interventions overall.

The third lesson is that the EU has a useful military role in European homeland security”. Comes to mind that enforcing borders against mass migration could be useful but probably not what is on his mind: “(…) a search-and-rescue operation in the Mediterranean code-named Operation Triton and coordinated by the EU’s border agency, Frontex (…) has saved thousands of lives since November 2014”…

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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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‘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 Corrosive Legacy of the ‘Good War’ Standard

April 28, 2015 at 12:22 pm (tWP) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

331689-Berserker

The Second World War is still held by many intellectuals as the best example of ‘the good war’. Hollywood often pays it tribute by devising heroic epics that depict Allied courage in the face of Nazi barbarism – the same honour is not bestowed to Vietnam War films… Pundits in the West spend their days portraying contemporary conflicts in the light of WWII teachings: analogies with Munich or Pearl Harbor are invoked ad nauseam, Churchillian anecdotes and quotes abound.

For Liberals, WWII represents a true victory of good Vs evil and no other conflict comes close to such a clear moral crusade. In fact, it is probably the worst possible conflict to admire. Yes, Liberals won, and yes, a very destructive force was defeated but it is not a coincidence that it was a ‘moral war’ that caused the greatest conflict the world has ever seen. While technology played an important part in the scope of the war, it was conventional means that caused the most causalities; gas chambers , atomic bombs and planned starvations being responsible for roughly only 15% of total casualties. The key factor was in fact the totalitarian nature of the conflict. If states had not been fighting wars of absolute survival/annihilation, the methods employed would not have been equally absolute. Also relevant are the exceptions: liberal Finland was an enemy of the Allies and an ally of the III Reich, the totalitarian USSR was an ally and did most of the leg work of the ground war – not to mention co-presiding over the Nuremberg Tribunal… – and then of course it was the Allies that burned Dresden, used atomic weapons and equally starved indigenous populations.

Yet, it is crucial to realise that the current narrative is highly pernicious in this regard: a student of International Relations or History will learn that the Bismarckian balance of power system was very flawed and that WWII’s outcome – however horrific – was in fact a blessing in disguise because it set the world on the righteous path of progressive ethics. Then there are those who believe that the result of WWII was not even a matter of chance but that Liberal values would have always triumphed, given their natural superiority.  In truth, as Azar Gat demonstrated very lucidly, WWII was won largely because of “contingent factors”, not because of any practical superiority of Liberal ideals. If the Axis powers had enjoyed the large imperial holdings of the British Empire, the USA or the USSR, they too would have won what it ultimately became a war of attrition.  

The Second Great War should instead be regarded as  the worst possible conflict because it consisted in a complete erosion of the Westphalian system in Europe. Whereas Münster and Osnabrück had established a structure averse to moral/ideological interventionism and reliant on geostrategic alignments to ensure a balance of power – and, in turn, limited war – the outcome of WWII was precisely the destruction of Westphalia by allowing as victors two out of three universalist powers. If in the east of the old continent the Brezhnev doctrine was to rule until 1989, in the west the Washington Consensus would, in its triumphalist moment of the post Cold War, seek to intervene to punish dissenters on a regular basis and even promote gratuitous evangelizing interventions.

The direct result of the victory of one of the ideological empires was a predictable hegemony of the values of said empire in the predominant political narrative; it helped that the United States also functions as the main source of Western soft power and lingua franca. The American revolutionary enlightenment and liberal exceptionalist narrative has in time contaminated states that used to be particularist by their very nature, namely in Europe. The commonality stems from the replacement of utopian internationalist and universalist ideologies of the past such as communism or Christianism, with democratic liberalism. The idealists of the past have either left politics/political philosophy behind or converted to the doctrine of the temporal winners of WWII – and only consequently, spiritual winners.298822-alexfas01 - Cópia

Problems arise when the very structure of polities around the world is incompatible with a specific ideology which is why universal doctrines are usually a bad idea. In Europe, those facing such a reality eventually turned to the European Union and NATO as the natural bridge between their admiration for their new Church/International – carrying the mantle of ‘leadership of the free world’ – and the millenia of antecedents sustaining political power as a measure of local ethnic identity. In the case of such nations as Britain or the Netherlands, it is actually easier because much of their historical experience has been based around liberal values such as Grotius’s Mare Liberum or England’s parliamentary system. In more homogeneous and unitary nations such as Poland or France, more perverse forms of populism come to the fore as a consequence.

The most serious problem of American/Liberal exceptionalism is not however related to the domestic dysfunctions that it causes in nation-states – and not, as in the case of America , idea-states – but rather in the overall conduct it incites in Western states’ foreign policy. Every conflict that pits a Western democracy against a non Western or non liberal-democratic regime is automatically viewed as a Manichean moral contest whose outcome must be an absolute victory of the ‘good’ against ‘evil’. Apart from a complete absence of consideration for the national (not ideological) interest, there is also an inherent and fundamental strategic incompetence of not considering means when advocating for ends. In other words, the moral cause is the casus belli, not whichever specific political grievance motivates it. This implies that a limited political settlement involving territorial or economic concessions is not the desired end but rather an unconditional surrender of the morally inferior opponent.

WWII has been reified by its own ultra-normative admirers because they mythologize it. Had they been in power then, they would have never allied with the USSR and probably would have gone to war with it over its invasion of Finland by the time Berlin arose as a threat. Finally, there is enormous danger in looking at the least ‘normal war’ the world has ever seen and viewing it as an example to follow and emulate.

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Of Westphalia and Appomattox (II)

March 8, 2015 at 2:19 pm (tWP) (, , , , , , , , , )

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In the 50th anniversary of the Selma-Montgomery march, it is interesting to observe the foreign policy consequences of the civil rights movement. The empowerment of African-Americans in the mainstream narrative goes together with conscientious objection, the  anti-war pacifist wave, and the overall May of 68 counter-culture movement. However, at the time, the Vietnam War was more popular with African-Americans than it was with WASPs…

While this might seem contradictory, it actually makes a certain sense. On one hand, the armed forces were an easy conduct for employment to a minority without qualifications, and this would also enlist the GIs’ families into the patriotic narrative. On the other hand, in the process of ending electoral and economic disenfranchisement, Blacks had a vested interest in appealing to the Appomattox roots of American nationalism.

Based on a more fundamentalist and literal interpretation of the constitution, Northern liberals advocated for a national absolute abolition of slavery. This was something the founding founders – many of them slave owners and Southerners – had not envisaged and even rejected during the revolutionary war against the British, by ignoring the Dunmore Proclamation. This helps explain the Confederate flags raised against the Selma march – whose participants conversely waved the stars and stripes – since for Southern whites the argument revolved around states rights. Whereas great federalists such as Lincoln and Roosevelt originated from the Midwest and New England, the Confederacy had been a reaction against centralisation. The spirit of the original constitution was that of a confederal system, where the absence of a federal army was the very proof that the initial compromise was far less ‘national’. Indeed, while the American Revolution began in Boston, much of the financial war effort was Southern, as the South was then richer than the North.

As with the Jewish Brigade or the Free French Forces during WWII, or even the national legions serving in the Grande Armée during the Napoleonic Wars, the aim of many of the anti segregation but pro war African-Americans , was to exchange military service for political concessions; to reinforce their claim to full citizenship rights. There is in fact a vested interest on the part of ethnic minorities to promote a US national narrative that is interventionist. Jews, Greeks or Armenians all lobby the Congress to keep the US engaged in a number of conflicts around the world. While there are no statistics, it would not be surprising to similarly observe a stronger tendency among Blacks and Hispanics , to lend support to liberal humanitarian initiatives  by the US, internationally. It is the more parochial/rural WASPs as well as Native-Americans – coincidentally also the Confederate constituency – that represent the more paleoconservative opposition to internationalist policies. 

The Selma activists triumphed because their cause was one in which the post Lincoln regime was deeply invested. The question was never ‘whether’ African-Americans would attain full citizenship but rather ‘when’. Southern segregation was only furthered by the civil war trauma and by Reconstruction but it was always doomed to be suppressed entirely, in a reality where the abolitionist puritanical and evangelical North was hegemonic within the Federation. 

In contrast to federal exceptionalism, in Westphalian Europe such modern phenomena as PEGIDA reflect instead the triumph of state particularism; the attempt to import the US model into Europe which the EU represents, though, always finds significant opposition. Everyone in the EU system has a political mission but the more political the institutions try to become, the more popular reaction they seem to incite.

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The European nation-state system is seen as repulsive by the multiculturalist Liberals who ultimately would like to see nationalism disappear – the very word has become synonymous with racism. This, however, reveals ignorance since it brushes aside the empirical teachings of the Thirty Years War: in Europe, the tendency of states to proselytise rival normative systems had led to a massively bloody and destructive, continental wide war and such an outcome was meant to be avoided if the imperative of nationalism kept conflicts local and limited. Westphalia instituted the paradigm that after a millennium of Respublica Christiana, the normative would henceforth be rendered subordinate to the political. This system would prevent political rivalry from equating normative rivalry, and consequently preclude dragging all political entities into a universal doctrinal dispute – often caused by mere local grievances.

After 1648, there were many conflicts but few universal ones: the Napoleonic Wars, the Second World War and the Cold War being exceptions. The First World War deserves a more attentive analysis. It is true that the conflict was not caused by universalist reasons, and it is therefore an easy argument to the detractors of Westphalia but what most Liberals often forget is that the end of the conflict was not a traditional Westphalian solution. As in WWII, the Allies demanded an unconditional surrender from the Central Powers. By doing so, the conflict was transformed from a particularist dispute over a specific grievance inflicted in Sarajevo, into an absolute moral contest between the forces of ‘civilisation’ and the forces of ‘imperialist barbarism’. If the Great War had truly been a pure Westphalian conflict, the outcome would have been a negotiated settlement sometime in 1916/17, akin to the preceding Franco-Prussian War or Italian Unification Wars. 

The old continent evolved as a fractured territory. Throughout its history, slowly but surely, cultural identity became synonymous with territory. Europe is divided topographically by several mountain ranges, large rivers; it is characterized by islands and peninsulas as much as it is by continental space. Many an empire failed in trying to unify it: the Romans were stopped in Germania and so were the Habsburgs, Napoleon and Hitler never managed to subdue England and Russia. The formula that best captured the political essence of Europe was the one produced by the 1648 Treaties of Westphalia: ‘Cuius regio, eius religio’.

The reason why normative matters are exclusive jurisdiction of the ruler of each state is precisely because it is impossible to enforce them universally in Europe. Indeed, religion is often used as a dividing line between different nationalities, rather than as a means for unity as can be clearly observed in the British Isles or in the Balkans. As a result of Westphalia, the normative was forever rendered secondary to the ethnic in Europe. The Hapsburgs accelerated the German national awakening in trying to enforce Catholicism and Bonaparte’s invasions were always poorly received in spite of their ‘international volunteers’ – sometimes local – fighting for universal republican enlightenment. In short, when it comes to identity, Europe is fundamentally particularist.

Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, Duke of Alba, was Europe's General Grant to be. His mission was equally one of unifying politically a continent and enforcing an absolute normative doctrine, not that of Enlightenment in his case but simply Catholicism.

Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, Duke of Alba, was Europe’s General Grant to be. His mission was equally one of politically unifying a continent to allow the enforcement of an absolute normative doctrine, not that of Enlightenment in his case but simply Catholicism.

This does not prevent wealthy nations from financing universalist policies around the globe but it is an affordable choice, not a necessity. It is also in part because of this evolution that many immigrants in Europe feel discriminated against, even in its most tolerant and generous nations. Europe has never been multicultural and when such a model was tried, the outcome was less than successful. The tacit civic compromise of being a migrant in a nation-state is the mandatory assimilation of the host culture. Failure to do so results in ostracism, as Jews and Gypsies painfully learned. Conversely, the American dream requires only compliance to normative values enshrined in the US Constitution; there is no mention of identity.

The USA is a country-idea. America’s system was put to the test during the Civil War when the Confederates tried to implement a Westphalian solution to North America. General Grant eventually proved that the cohesive continental US was not a terrain prone to political fragmentation. Appomattox cemented the very opposite of Westphalia: in the US, identity is primarily defined by the normative and only secondarily by the ethnic. African-Americans were citizens because the Constitution required as much and only marginally because they were Christian and spoke English. It is not unlike the Asian standard of multi-ethnic empires where executive power was not necessarily related to the ethnicity of the citizenry but to the laws emanating from the imperial capital. America is thus a paradoxical country: demographically European but geographically Asian. 

In the past decades things began to change and this might be related to the current growing polarization.  The WASPs’ proportion of the general population is decreasing. More importantly, the Democratic Party now rarely carries the white vote and Obama is certainly a President who does abnormally well with the minorities (vice-versa is true of the Republicans). Because no one ethnicity can be said to be completely politically supportive of any one side and because the American system privileges ideology over identity politics, it is then unsettling that the ethnic vote is becoming more and more neatly packed along racial lines – as is the political polarization of news media, with phenomena like FOX News. 

One of the problems plaguing Ukraine’s political system is precisely ethnic divisions. There are those who will argue that all Ukrainians are opposed to corruption and authoritarianism, and that all would like closer relations with Europe, along with the trade benefits that come with it. This is, however, misleading. The same could have been said of Czechoslovakia or Yugoslavia before the breakups but true democracy didn’t bring its constituent ethnicities closer, it drove the factions apart. Ethnic separatism doesn’t start with outright claims of independence, it creeps in as just another political argument, it simmers in mutual civic distrust and matures in partisan charismatic leaderships. Fear-mongering can only mobilize popular opinion if there is a fertile and conducive political climate in the mix. In turn, this is only possible if the demos is absent from the democracy in question. Nevertheless, Ukrainians are highly similar in culture just like Serbs and Croats or Czechs and Slovaks were before them. The same cannot be said of WASPs and African-Americans or Latinos.

Will the Peace of Appomattox survive the loss of WASPs as America’s ethnic core?

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The Soft Power of Nordic Individualism

March 7, 2015 at 2:05 pm (tWP) (, , , , , , , , , )


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In his theory of cultural dimensions, Dutch sociologist Geert Hofstede identifies a number of dimensions of national cultures. One of them is that of individualism and it pertains to a “preference for a loosely-knit social framework”. According to comparative studies of the Hofstede Centre, the most individualistic nations on Earth are found in the north Atlantic with Scandinavians and Anglophones on top.

At least part of the explanation can be found in the Ricardian model. Northern winters are harsh and farming is more difficult in adverse weather. Thus from very early on, the scarcity of food stuffs originated a sparsely populated territory. Unlike southern Europe where the weather is mild and farming easy, in the north, the number of potential workers being limited and the territory vast, causes social hierarchy to remain levelled. In the south, conversely, the bargaining power of a landowner with his workers is higher given the bigger competition amongst labourers.

Northern cultures also naturally emphasize entrepreneurship: summers must be efficient to make up for long winters.

The industrial revolution was particularly beneficial to individualistic cultures but especially so for the smallest and most homogeneous ones. Mechanization robbed densely populated nations of their natural comparative advantage in relation to individualistic ones. Israel, Switzerland, Austria and the Nordic tigers, thanks in large part to their cultural homogeneity, can quickly adapt to global trends in trade – since they are export economies – and are not as dependent on agricultural and natural resource based economic models.

One of the features of individualistic societies is also their tendency for universalism and formal political structures at large. With parallel structures such as family, clan or tribe weakened by distance and self-reliance, the social imperative is for individual equality to be enforced impartially. Neutral bureaucratic constructs such as a state apparatus, are therefore crucial for the maintenance of the national individualist ethos. Larger, more complex and diverse societies on the other hand, deal badly with formal structures of governance because the emphasis on direct links between individual and government is corrupted by parallel social loyalties. This in turn explains why democracy tends to become dysfunctional in ethnically heterogeneous societies and why the grey economy is so prevalent in those cases too.

This reality is of interest for those who study the current economic crisis and how well the international institutions are faring in their response.

The European Commission, of course, is a regulatory entity par excellence. Its original mandate was to manage the implementation of the common market and its current legislative power stems from that mission. However, by legislating in more and more areas of governance within the European Union, the Commission is also inadvertently exporting the northern relative disadvantage of regulation, to weaker and less export driven economies in the south.

BIERMEISTER AND WAIN STEEL FORGE, 1885 BY PEDER SEVERIN KROYERSouthern cultures such as Italy while legislating plenty, also legislate worse and the effectiveness of regulation is further eroded by competing loyalties to family connections and the inertia of strong vertical hierarchy. Yet, a less effective legal system also provides more room for the informal economy and works as a competitive advantage in relation to more efficient economies; these, in spite of providing higher quality products, also impose more of a burden on investors in regards to rules compliance. Informality however can be an asset when fostering commercial ties with other informal societies.

Given that the EU’s benchmarking models feature the Nordic tigers as the paradigm of best practices, the incentives given to poorer nations such as the PIIGS, when it comes to ‘cohesion funds’, are bound to be based on further industrialization and export intensive models. This is best epitomized by the ‘Europe 2020’ strategy which basically tries to transpose Nordic virtues in the mythical Green or Knowledge Economy, into general European practice.

This is not necessarily negative since modernization is always welcome. The problem lies instead in whether the Nordic model is actually adaptable to different realities. In Mediterranean countries for instance, agricultural industrialization can only do so much if the majority of explorations are too small to sustain industrial monocultures. In Eastern Europe the funding of education will only go so far if the free flow of people facilitates brain drain into the bigger markets of Western Europe.

This concurrently begs the question of whether the northern economies themselves are subject to the same push for reform, as their southern partners are. If all the member-states have something to offer to the Union, then what exactly are the Nordics being asked to adapt to? If the answer is ‘not much’, then more serious issues are at stake such as whether the Commission’s envisioned path is unidirectional – and where that leaves countries that struggle to adapt – or how fair is a Union whose reforms are meant for some but not all.

This debate is not just theoretical. In matters of foreign policy as well as trade policy, the EU as a general rule pushes for more regulation and compliance with universalist – international law based – principles. Once again, this course is typical of knowledge economies in northern Europe: Norway has long since specialized in conflict mediation, the Swiss founded the Red Cross and most Nordic, Alpine and Low Countries capitals have at one time or another served as venues for major diplomatic treaties or organizations. These countries are also coherent with their foreign policy goals and regularly call for embargoes or sanctions against international human rights violators.

Of course it is easier to do so for a small export based economy. Many European member-states are not. They have larger populations whose economic fortunes depend much more on the market price of commodities and many have also historical links to the developing world which suffer every time the organizations in question denounce illiberal regimes or promote international discriminatory legislation against them.

The current crisis in Europe has exposed many fault lines. If we do not mean to widen them, then the opportunity must be seized by European decision-makers to rethink their approach to the process of European integration. It is time the EU embraces the diversity of its unity.

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Omegamania Occidentalis

December 4, 2013 at 6:57 pm (tWP) (, , , , , , , , , , )

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UK’s ‘Desert Rats’ fight their way into Basra; 2003

Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, President George H. W. Bush hailed the coming of what he called the ‘new order’. This new order was ambiguously interpreted throughout the globe: whereas in the Third and Second Worlds, it meant only the end of the bipolar geopolitical system, in the West it meant something else entirely. For Europeans and Americans the new order was a post-modern one and globalization was its hallmark. ‘Peace through democracy’ and ‘democracy through trade’ were the rallying cries of all those who, in their Fukuyama moment, saw the ‘end of history’ and the ultimate triumph of Western values, as Mankind’s normative synthesis for future prosperity. This civilisational pride would result in a number of ideological trends in all fields of human endeavor, from economic neo-liberalism or religious agnosticism to foreign policy universalist doctrines such as liberal and conservative interventionism.

Politics was now perceived as corrupt and obsolete following the end of the ideological blocs, thus giving way to the age of the NGO. Unlike such predecessors as the ICRC, the new NGOs aimed not at operating under the scope of the state – making up for its shortfalls – but rather at replacing it: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch or Greenpeace are critical of state action and seek to mobilize the civil society into realizing autonomously their view of the ‘good society’. Hugo Slim describes this vision as consisting of the full implementation of rule of law, democratic political practices, freedom of speech, equality of gender, sustainable development, respect for the rights of women and children as well as pacifism.

Thanks to this politique engagée, state responsibilities previously seen as foundational and primary are now neglected. ‘Democratic peace theory’ empties the once absolute need for ‘manu militari’ for instance and politicians find it difficult to justify military spending in a world where inter-state conflict is taboo and asymmetric threats are described as ‘strategic’. Security has throughout history been the state’s foremost function with the very definition of secular power being authority over the military, but social programmes have taken its place without concern for the foundations of the modern state – in Iraq, Coalition forces paid a heavy price for daring to put development before security. Therefore we can also conclude that the western citizenry understands military action only IF it serves a moral cause and, according to the vision of such constructivist authors as Slaughter or Ikenberry, consequently soldiers are no longer soldiers but are instead painted as social workers, they exist not to defend interests but to build states and nations, they altruistically fight for the rights of others not for ours, warfare is not enemy centric but population centric, ‘responsibility to protect’ trumps ‘national security’.2342226_orig

As morally righteous as it may be, the practical outcome of such policies is often strategically detrimental: authors such as Edward Luttwak or Nikolas K. Gvosdev agree that NATO operations in the Balkans did not stop the killings but prolonged the conflict by instilling parity in offensive capabilities, interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo did not prove that Europe lives now in democratic peace but rather made it inevitable the presence of foreign troops to enforce the peace indefinitely, Operation Iraqi Freedom did not spread democracy in the Middle East but rather weakened the counter-weight to Iranian and Syrian regional influence thus emboldening their interference in Lebanon and Palestine, the overthrow of Qadhafi did not deter other tyrants from oppressing their populations but drove them into massacre frenzy so as to suppress any notion of territorial bridgehead for foreign interventions, Libya also proved to normatively dissonant regimes that WMDs are adequate means of deterrence whereas trust and cooperation with democracies is not – given the latter’s tendency for foreign policy inconsistency.

One of the best barometers for poor strategic planning is the concept of ‘overstretch’: many an empire have found themselves biting more than they can chew as a result of hubris. Not only does this seem to be happening to the West but worse still the rest of the world is not following suit. While Western nations easily jump to the next humanitarian crisis without providing a stable outcome to the previous one, Russia and China refrain from foreign adventurism but are very zealous in maintaining their own regional spheres of influence. In fact, be it Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya, the pattern repeats without consideration for the consequences. This is due to the belief that hard-power and high-politics have no place in post-modernity and whatever strategically negative consequences may derive from humanitarian policies, the long term benefits outweigh ‘short term’ losses: both the European Commission and the US State Department often declare that democratic governance and human rights are the best guarantee of stability on the long term, and both institutions claim to work to bring these priorities to fruition.

There is then an abandonment of realpolitik principles for state action and their replacement with moralpolitik. Nowadays decision-makers are contrived to ‘do something’ and ‘do what is right’, and because the Machiavellian maxim of politics being necessarily amoral is understood as old-fashioned, when confronted with good society lacking, humanitarians adopt linear constructivism and call it a ‘work in progress’: Bosnia lacks nationhood but only on the short term since as a EU associate, state-building and nation-building as per Brussels Consensus will eventually complete its inexorable development towards EU standards; ditto for Kosovo who along with Bosnia symbolically earned a brand new flag with EU colors.

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NATO enters Kosovo

Conversely, together with Iraq and Libya the Balkans remain strictly ethnically divided.  Security dilemmas and historical rivalry seem more relevant now since these societies remain democratically imperfect – according to Freedom House – their political liberties were largely exogenously introduced – taking into account American geopolitical pressure for normative conformity and EU accession conditioning to achieve the same – and dangerously favor the development of partisan civil society association – which may give rise to sectarianism as it happened in Iraq or the post-soviet space. In fact ‘doing what is right’ only seldom accomplishes the ‘good society’ standards aimed at – post-war Germany and Japan for instance.

On the other hand because doing what is right translates as ‘standing up for the little guy’, ‘doing good’ usually involves applying manicheist categories. It is simplistic to call Kosovo Albanians the good guys simply because they are being oppressed or doing the same today for the Syrian opposition. If we were to apply truly objective principles, the key would be to ascertain not who is ‘good’ but rather who will behave according to humanitarian standards. In non-western states though, few political factions would live up to such standards. This was observed by Stathis Kalyvas who studying the Philippines during the Second World War, found that the real struggle was between local elites who adopted the ideological narrative of Americans or Japanese depending on which side they were fighting. Thus the civil strife may have been a fight by proxy between Americans and Japanese, but ideology was only a guise for legitimacy. Similar patterns can be seen in the Balkans where both Bosniaks and Croats were guilty of the same crimes as Serbs during the War in Bosnia or where Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs were equally guilty of atrocities and ethnic cleansing be it before or after the 1999 NATO intervention. Particularly troublesome is the example of Libya and Syria during the Arab Spring, where the West either did involve itself under the ‘responsibility to protect’ doctrine, or was instigated to do so. In both cases the opposition to the oppressive regime was guilty of much of the same atrocities during and after the civil war, a reality ironically epitomized by the 2012 Al-Qaeda attack on the US consulate in Benghazi.

It is often the case that Western politicians prefer to yield to simplistic categorization and choose sides morally. The risk inherent to morality based decision-making is to recurrently side with the weak against the strong as it was done in the Balkans by supporting Bosniaks and Croats against Serbs or Kosovo Albanians – again – against Serbs. However this is a global pattern with any given ‘cause’ resonating with American voters and leading to US government support for: nationalist Chinese – Taiwan – and Tibetans against mainland China, Israel against the Islamic world, Gulf monarchies against Republican Arabs, post-Soviet states (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Georgia, Ukraine) against Russia and of course Albanians against post-Yugoslav states.

But there is a cost to invariably siding with David against Goliath: Goliath always has a better chance at victory. Since the end of the Cold War, as the remaining superpower, America has managed to create a balance of power in favor of the status quo but with the Asian awakening and the emerging economies narrowing the power gap, one has to wonder for how long the US and the West in general, will manage to keep the ‘little guy’ from being overwhelmed by its demographically and economically senior neighbors. American troops protecting the Gulf monarchies and Albanians won’t be around forever, nor will the treasury propping up Israel, Taiwan and Russophobe Europe. Europeans will find equally hard to justify the projection of their forces to the Balkans, Darfur and the Gulf when there is a weak chance of success and increased risk of loss of life, which Western electorates cannot bear.

This concern with the little guy or omegamania, also brews bad blood with emerging powers and spawns ad-hoc anti-Western coalitions as it happens today in the UN Security Council a propos of Syria or happened earlier with Sudan during the Darfur crisis. More to the point, what would the West’s response be if such structures as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Collective Security Treaty Organization or the Alternativa Bolivariana para las Americas were to move towards an equally interventionist approach against Western partners?…

Croatian Air Force Legion flew German Messerschmitts during WWII - Just like the Germans suddenly found numerous allies within the oppressed peoples of the Soviet Empire, so too today the Western allies find allies in many of those same peoples. However, the illusion is that the bond if forged with common values whereas in truth, foreign powers are mere proxies of the struggle of Eastern Europeans against the centripetal power of Russia.

The Croatian Air Force Legion was a collaborator volunteer unit of the Luftwaffe during WWII – Just like the Germans suddenly found numerous allies within the minorities of Eastern Europe – and chiefly among the oppressed peoples of the Soviet Empire – so too today the Western powers find allies in many of those same peoples. However, the illusion is that the bond is forged with common values whereas in truth, foreign powers are mere proxies of the struggle of Eastern Europeans against the centripetal power of Russia or other regional powers.

Yet the West is capable of making wise decisions as well. Operation Desert Storm to liberate Kuwait was successful largely because it was conducted with pragmatic interests in mind, Lebanon’s cedar revolution was a good example of Western pressure and soft-power, the decision to abstain from intervening in Georgia in ’08 or Syria in ’12 was sensible, as was to refrain from going to great lengths in chastising China over strife in Xinjiang, to maintain support for Bahrain’s regime in the face of the Arab Spring or to recognize the new Singhalese post civil war political reality. What all these decisions have in common was the recognition by the West that the minority party did not have a sufficient chance of success against the majority, or at least chance enough worth risking Western political capital supporting.

The secret for sound strategic planning is not to always side with the strong and the predictable winners of violent conflicts but rather to apply strategic criteria when choosing sides, rather than moral criteria. It is often advantageous to prop-up the weaker party but this should be done sparingly. To indulge in systematic white knight grandstanding is dangerous and destabilizing; the West must pick its battles, not the other way around.

The fall of the Berlin Wall did not originate a united world, it generated a tragedy of the commons on a planetary scale which the West has failed to take advantage of since. While opportunistic powers moved quickly to establish spheres of interest and seize resources, the West wasted time and capital to consolidate its own particular and ethical vision of the end of history. Future multipolarism may yet forcefully invert this tendency but the West is capable of making informed and rational decisions on its own and all it takes now is for Westerners to understand that the return of history has deprived them of their former normatively exceptionalist status.

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Democracy derived Rhetorical Entrapment

July 18, 2012 at 4:01 pm (tWP) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Bombing of Hiroshima

Western foreign policy suffers from a major flaw: rhetorical entrapment.

What are Western interests in Syria? The question is not often asked because it is not politically correct to mention interests when innocent people are being slaughtered. In these situations only values are of importance. Our values dictate that we strive to save as many lives as possible.

But what do our interests dictate?

Syria is a nuisance for the West. It fights the West’s strategic and economic interests in Lebanon, the Levant and the Mashreq in general. Unlike Iran it does not do so out of prejudice but rather out of pure self-interest. Syria being dependent on the Lebanese economy and strategic position does not have an interest in seeing any other power dominate Lebanon other than Syria. Damascus had no interest in allowing the US to dominate Iraq and thus becoming a major hegemon in the Middle East, and it was a balance of power reasoning that compelled the Assad regime to help jihadists and Iranians in subverting Coalition rule of occupied Iraq. Syria has kept an alliance with Iran for the same reason: because without sharing borders and conflicting spheres of interest, Tehran and Damascus could mutually cooperate to counter-balance Turkey, Iraq and to discuss the Kurd problem. In addition relying on each other also meant becoming more independent from international superpowers like the US or Russia.

Syria is thus a nuisance because it interferes frequently with Western interests. Syria is not however a major threat since unlike Iran, it does not have the capability to project power (soft or hard) in the region and limits itself to acting in its adjacent periphery. It also does not have energetic resources that might influence the behavior of world markets – like Iran.

The West has therefore only one interest in Syria: to alter its foreign policy paradigm. The best way to do this is to break its alliance with Iran so as to make it more dependent on international superpowers and co-opt it into becoming more acquiescent regionally to Western concerns. An extra benefit would be to see Iran’s isolation grow and sufficient barriers to its adventure in Lebanon, be created.

Taking this into account, should the West intervene in Syria? The answer is ‘no’. Syria is not important enough for a financially vulnerable West to spend resources on, especially when Iran is much higher in the list of priorities. That said, why not make a small contribution to the subversion of the regime?

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright – Mme Albright demanded of Slobodan Milošević nothing short of a perfect human rights record in Kosovo but no such demands were ever made of the UÇK

Here is where American and European foreign policy incurs in an error: Washington and Europe should only try and replace the old regime if there were sufficient guarantees the new regime would be loyal. At this point in time there are none since much of the rebellion is carried out by jihadists and much of Syria’s Sunni majority is by default anti-Western.

The subversion of Syria should serve the one and only purpose of forcing Bashar al-Assad to negotiate. It is not his regime which matters replacing but merely his foreign policy.

Yet the West will not negotiate and the reason is simple rhetorical entrapment. Assad and his regime have by now been so vilified that any political compromise with it would be politically damaging to all the Western leaders who helpless and unwilling to intervene, chose to attack with words instead.

The pattern is not new: during the Second World War, Hitler outsmarted the Franco-British strategy of setting Germany and Russia against each other by securing a non-aggression pact with the USSR and by attacking the West first. Instead of learning from Hitler’s example, the West refused to make a separate peace with the Reich and paid a heavy price for it: eastern Europe under Soviet orbit for the next 40 years. With Japan too, in spite of the fact that the militarist regime was not as ideological as Nazi Germany, no dialogue was opened and unconditional surrender was the only exit offered to Tokyo. The result was the resort to atomic weapons, the cost was a quarter of a million lives.

Since, the tendency has endured with Western demands for humanitarian and democratic principles to be upheld to impossibly high standards and resulting in military interventions by the West in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan, which were ultimately counter-productive for its interests. The unwillingness to compromise is recurrently a consequence of populism and demagoguery in justifying military expenditure and intervention, to Western citizens. Instead of justifying them with pragmatic interests, politicians with a 4/8 year policy-making horizon, prefer to justify them manicheistically, making use of a Western fundamental rights and liberties narrative which confronted with violations of those rights automatically confers merit to action (“we have to do something”) and finally warrants intervention. This is nothing but short-termism and is now standard operating procedure in spite of some honourable exceptions such as President George H. W. Bush.

Gulf War

Gulf War

This tendency is a disservice to Western interests which often reaches the absurd of empowering adversaries of the West against Western allies.

It is a tendency also brought about by Western civilisational individualism, which sees the individual as the base of society (rather than family, clan or ethnicity), therefore requiring equal universal [individual] human rights which are reflected in foreign policy by an unreasonable demand for compliance with values endogenous only to the West.

A responsible and skillful politician would have negotiated a political solution to the conflict in Syria months ago. Populists in election year will stick to demands for unconditional surrender.

The West plays a dangerous game for not only does it force extreme outcomes – instead of middle of the road ones – but it also will be compelled to systematically trust the challengers of the regime: every regime has flaws in its ‘good society’ record – be these in democratic practices or humanitarian standards – whereas the challengers are by definition starting anew and are therefore as innocent as a newborn infant – a politically convenient tabula rasa…

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