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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Of Westphalia and Appomattox (II)

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


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.

battle of mobile bay

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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Red Lines Aren’t For Everyone

June 13, 2013 at 10:42 am (tWP) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Artwork:  "Alaska Air Command F-15's From Galena FOB Intercept a Soviet TU 95 Bear Over the Berlng Sea".  Artist:  Marc Ericksen (SF)

The conflict in Syria has raised many questions about international intervention. Critics from the right and left alike have berated President Obama for staying America’s hand and thus preventing any form of intervention. Indeed without US capabilities, as much as other states like France and the UK would like to intervene, they are unable to.

The Obama administration came under media fire especially when its self-imposed catalyst for intervention was reached: the use of chemical weapons by the regime. Obama’s red line was discovered to be more hazy than expected and the press cartoonists had a field day.

However, it is not unusual for democracies to display incoherent foreign policies given the political representatives’ dependence on popularity with the public. Other countries do not face the same level of scrutiny and Russia has been particularly coherent throughout the length of this conflict and even throughout the past decades. Vladimir Putin has himself drawn lines in the sand before, the difference being he tends to keep them. The West might want to borrow a few lessons from Putin’s playbook.


The first indicator of such an attitude was Chechnya. In the primordial days of Vladimir Putin’s top level political career, the PM was touted by President Boris Ieltsin as a prodigal son to bring order to Russia. The most distinctive legacy of Vladimir Vladimirovich’s first stint as PM was undoubtedly the 2nd Chechen War. Under his premiership Russia adopted a very clear policy of rejecting any secession that was not based on the territorial precedents of the USSR administrative divisions. The Russian Federation itself, while the self-proclaimed successor state of the SU, based its legitimacy for independence on self-determination for all the Soviet Socialist Republics.

Until then there was no consensus or doctrine on where the limits for self-determination should be drawn and Moscow had even briefly recognised the Chechen Republic. At the end of the first Putin government, Chechnya was subdued and Russia’s territorial integrity was no longer a matter for debate.

Missile Defence

With the internal front consolidated, Putin turned to foreign affairs. Unlike what Russian leaders had always pleaded, NATO progressively encroached into Eastern Europe by extending membership and similar agreements to central and Eastern European states. Russian leaders claimed that Eastern Europe should be left as a neutral buffer zone but Moscow was politely ignored and given the NATO-Russia Council as a reassurance.

In the 2000s, with Putin now President and Russia reeling in considerable oil profits, the tone changed and soon enough so did the actions: NATO’s plans to establish a missile defence system for Europe which was partly based in Poland, the Czech Republic and Romania met with considerable Russian resistance and counter-pressure. Russia still maintains its Cold War nuclear armed intermediate-range missile deterrence, which makes Russian diplomatic outrage somewhat bewildering (as NATO’s limited systems could never hope to best Russian capabilities) but even if only motivated by Moscow’s preference to keep Eastern Europe as unimportant for NATO as possible, this has however been a battle that Vladimir Putin has chosen to fight.

L-39s seem to be a weapon of choice in small scale civil wars and certainly proeminently featured in the Arab Spring in both Libya and Syria

L-39s seem to be a weapon of choice in small scale civil wars and certainly prominently featured in the Arab Spring in both Libya and Syria

It is difficult to assess whether it is being won since NATO’s system is yet to be made operational but officially the deployment continues. Will Russia’s threat to redirect the targeting of its own ballistic devices towards Eastern European sites be fulfilled and will it persuade NATO to recede? It would seem Moscow is attempting to put forth objections to further fading of the geostrategic neutrality of Eastern Europe but given these countries inclusion into NATO, it is too late for that.


Another important red line was that drawn against the colour revolutions which Putin has now succeeded in reversing in practically every country they struck: the Orange coalition is out of power in the Ukraine, the Tulip revolution’s leaders were driven from Bishkek and then there was Georgia, the original sin. The Rose revolution was the first in which a Russophobe pro-Western regime came to power through civil society pressure. Saakashvili wasted no time in switching allegiances and soon found himself at loggerheads with Moscow. These tensions would eventually culminate in the 2008 Ossetian War, trade embargoes declared against Georgia, Russian occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and finally Saakashvili’s own defeat in Georgia’s national elections.

Moscow was thus conveying a clear message: while Russia’s advanced Warsaw Pact buffer zone was now lost, the new buffer’s politically neutral integrity is sacrosanct. In other words, regardless of regime or leadership, no European state east of the ‘near abroad’ curtain – east of Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova – has permission to adopt an anti-Russia geopolitical positioning.

The US, the French and the Germans understood and backed off; Georgia’s and Ukraine’s accession to NATO was indefinitely postponed. It is not as if they could do much seeing as how their forces were not only tied in the Middle East but the campaign in Afghanistan actually depended on Russian air routes.

So far Putin has successfully drawn 2 out of 3 red lines against the West. There are those who would criticise Putin for his anti-Western stance and actually accuse him of anti-Western bias. Secretary Brzezinski notably stated as much last April in Bratislava, outraged that Moscow cannot see its interest in cooperating with the West against more dangerous foes like China. Putin however is flexible and has a keen strategic mind. Putin only cooperates with China as long as it is the West trying to encroach on Moscow’s sphere of influence; China on the other hand, attempts nothing of the kind. Putin probably does not believe that Russia can rely and trust in Beijing ad eternum, or even that Russia’s culture should be viewed as Eastern rather than Western, he however understands that were China to make any menacing moves towards Siberia, it would be as much a Russian interest to fight back as it would be a Western interest in general.


Syria is Putin’s latest attempt at drawing a line in the sand. This time Putin is not securing its domestic legitimacy or its hegemonic sphere of influence, this time Russia is claiming back a chief role in world affairs. Russia would never attempt something similar in Latin America, Africa or Southeast Asia. The Mashreq though is of vital importance to a number of Russian strategic and geoeconomic interests. Russia is then drawing a line in which world affairs it perceives itself to be too weak to influence and those where it simply cannot allow its stakes to be overlooked by ultra-voluntaristic Western forces.

If Putin succeeds it will have proven once again that the new Russia is not to be trifled with. If he doesn’t, he will understand he overstretched his country’s projection abilities.

For the time being however, Russia’s actions cannot be criticised since the West rhetorically entrapped itself into being unable to negotiate with the Syrian regime. The time to negotiate was when the regime was on the defensive, but last year the West was too busy making arrogant demands for Assad to step down and surrender unconditionally. Now it may be too late.

If Putin can be accused of making mistakes, then the S-300 delivery to Syria would be one of them. If this actually takes place rather than being used as a bargaining chip, then Putin will be escalating the strategic implications of the conflict by risking that Syria delivers such systems to its patron Iran. This would incur the rightful wrath of both Israelis and Westerners and would unnecessarily broaden the conflict.MARCH 8, 2013 - Syria  illustration. Illustration by Chloe Cushman

One reason why the US has stayed its hand is because Barack Obama prioritises Iran and China over small sideshows like Syria. While defeating Assad would deal Iranian projection a severe blow, it would do nothing against the Iranian regime and its nuclear programme. Syria is also very much a regional power game rather than a global one. For the US to intervene would be to ask the Chinese to drop their cooperative diplomatic attitude in the UNSC.

Democracy is Geostrategy-adverse

One of the sad conclusions of the whole ‘red lines’ affair is once again that democracy does not deal well with long term planning. In a way, it is precisely because Russia has kept the current leader in place for over a decade, that such red lines can be drawn and successfully implemented. As much as liberal democracies would like to do the same, their emphasis on soft power undermines their red lines, as do their ever-changing geopolitical doctrines. There is much to be said for stability and coherence. Putin is not a firebrand, quite to the contrary he has remained remarkably steady in the course he set for himself and for Russia, and done so in the face of explosive interventionism by the West as well as unforeseen shifts like the Arab Spring.

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The New Zealand Analogy

August 1, 2010 at 6:06 pm (tWP) (, , , , , , , , )

Aaron Ellis over at Thinking Strategically was particularly distraught at Melanie Phillips’ passionate condemnation of the Cameron government’s policy in regards to Israel. Phillips in her neoconist tone, attacked the Conservative-LibDem government for its forsaking of democracy ideals to the benefit of cheap financial motivations. Phillips is mostly concerned with London’s enabling of an ‘islamist’ government in Ankara, one which has recently caused a number unnecessary spats with Israel.

This blog has been quite keen in pointing out that Turkey’s current approach to Israel has ulterior motivations which are not strictly in its best interest and in that sense one can understand Melanie Phillips criticism of Turkey. The lady at The Spectator however goes too far when advocating a distancing of Britain from Turkey because of Israel.

Ellis’ post makes a fine case in pointing out that:

‘(…) Phillips tries to portray Israeli interests as our interests despite the comparison disintegrating if examined carefully. If we start by asking how we would be affected strategically if Israel did not exist, then the answer is not much. The country does not provide us with resources like oil and gas and we do not depend on it for protection. Our connection to Israel is cultural, historical and religious and to some extent economic – but that is not the same as important strategically‘.


Indeed Phillips’ moral reasoning would be much more fitting for a Church pulpit rather than a political magazine and her criticism of Cameron’s ignorance of foreign policy matters makes the term ‘projection’ come to mind.

Nevertheless there is danger in leaving the rational apology of Israel as a monopoly of the Neoconservative persuasion.

Ellis seems to subscribe the Mearsheimer-Walt thesis of the ‘Israel Lobby‘: Israel’s importance to the west is purely symbolic and its defence by western governments is based more on cultural sympathy rather than hard national interest. Walt and Mearsheimer go as far as to say that for America, the staunch defence of Israel has actually hurt US national interest in so far as it undermined the United States’ power-broking credentials in the Middle East and caused irreparable damage to the Arab-Israeli Peace Process.

Admittedly the other side of the debate on Israel has not been the most articulated but strategy cannot exclusively rely on crude economic cost-benefit ratio analysis. Berlin after the second great war was a pile of rubble and yet the Allied powers were quite adamant in retaining it as a shared capital, going even as far as to risk war over it.

Israel, while an economic powerhouse when proportionately compared to its neighbours, is not indispensable to most European states. Strategically speaking the European capitals capable of projecting power have since long turned towards an ‘Arab policy’ which is much more able to guarantee UN votes, far reaching markets and oil.

The neocons’ obsession with Israel pertains to its regime – a liberal democracy – and its location in the Middle East. For the PNAC progeny, Israel is both a sacred paradise of liberty for the west’s moral imperative to zealously guard and the gateway for the transformation of the Greater Middle East. Israel proves the power of liberal institutionalism in shaping society and intends to purge the Arab world from illiberal traditions through compassionate western social engineering.

Therefore Aaron Ellis is right when claiming that ‘At the core of the [Melanie Phillips’] piece is the belief that Islamism poses a mortal challenge to Britain and that Israel is more important to us than Turkey. This is dubious‘. Yet I contest that it is of zero strategic value and more to the point I sustain that it bears considerable strategic importance, at least to US foreign policy.

Relations between states can assume a wide range of forms and are quite diverse in nature. Strategic allies cannot be recognised by bilateral trade relations – although free trade agreements transmit deep political confidence – nor through simple military cooperation. Throughout the Cold War the US and the SU held large networks of military client-states which were of little or no strategic value, and France and Germany continued statistically great commercial partners in spite of their clashes during the XIX and XX centuries.

It is technology and intelligence sharing that more accurately give away the intentions of a state and its foreign policy. An example in point of fact is that of the significance of New Zealand for the US and the Anglosphere. New Zealand is a successful democracy and economy but a superpower like the US would always have little use for a couple of sheep grazing islands in the antipodes.  How then to explain America’s Britain’s and Canada’s excellent relations with Wellington? Surely Indonesia would hold more strategic and economic value for the aforementioned industrial powers…

New Zealand is part of the Echelon network and enjoys access to the best American military technology. This makes it one of America’s closest allies on the planet. This proximity however is not anchored on strategic location or economic interest but rather on cultural harmony. New Zealand is a liberal democracy, but it is a WASP one as well. The national narrative is highly compatible with that of America.

Strategic value must rely on national interest but it is all the deeper, the closest the cultural relations are between the states in question. Unlike the neocons I will not recur to the ideology or the nature of the regime but more importantly to the nature of the state. Israel is and will remain important to the US not because of its regime but because of its national narrative: that of an anti-British imperialism, religious persecuted minority and immigrant founded nation with a strong Judaeo-Christian messianic discourse.

The strategic value of Israel in my view, lies in being the most culturally compatible state with the US in the Middle East. It is not democratic peace theory which is at stake but national identity – not simply ‘friendship’ as Ellis put it. This factors in strategy when it comes to the durability of strategic bonds. Egypt would be more useful no doubt but also more fickle for who’s to say that a coup in Cairo tomorrow, won’t turn the entire country against Washington? It happened before in Iran where the entire Iranian military establishment was put to use against American interests, where Washington’s intelligence gathering infrastructure against the USSR had to be evacuated and where not even its embassy was spared.

In spite of occasional conflicting interests, diplomatic snubs and mutual espionage, Israeli links to America are likely to remain strong and it is this proximity which makes Israel a suitable base for American operations in the Middle East in decades to come. The same cannot be said of the Arab regimes or the other regional powers.

Unlike Walt and Mearsheimer I reckon the links between Washington and Jerusalem to not be exaggerated. Israel will never integrate the Anglosphere and indeed the US does not provide Israel with all it would like to acquire in terms of technology or intelligence – Jerusalem argued against invading Iraq and was rebuffed, appealed to a US strike on Syria in Al-Kabir and Bush refused, as he did Israel’s request for further bunker piercing weaponry or the transponder codes to overfly US controlled Iraq en route to Iran – but Israel’s appeal to Americans will always be great and perhaps even greater than that of many NATO states, and that is a sound anchor for bilateral relations in such a hostile region as the Middle East.

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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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On Missile Defense

November 16, 2009 at 10:59 am (tWP guest) (, , , , , , , )

missile launch

By M. Duncan*

Given changes in U.S. intelligence assessments about Iranian ballistic missile (BM) capability and technological developments, the president decided to change the focus of the U.S. missile defense (MD) architecture. The new phased adaptive approach (PAA) will enhance the U.S. ability to counter current threats to U.S. forces deployed abroad and U.S. Allies and adapt to meet future changing threats.

The new system provides a layered defense in Europe against incoming BMs from Iran, and provides the opportunity for global burden-sharing with U.S. Allies and partners. The improved system incorporates Ground Based Interceptors (GBIs) deployed at Ft. Reilly, AK and Vandenberg AB, CA; sea and land-based Standard Missile-3s (SM-3s); Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missiles; Patriot-missile batteries, and sensors.

The enhanced architecture does not require the deployment of GBIs to Poland or a single, large, fixed radar in the Czech Republic. The U.S. is under no legal obligation to continue these deployments because the requisite Status-of-Forces-Agreements (SOFAs) were not ratified by the intended host governments. However, given Polish and Czech willingness to participate in the previous program of record, they will be given the right of first refusal to hosting elements of the new system. Press reports from Vice-President Biden’s recent trip to Poland and the Czech Republic indicate they intend to participate in the PAA.

Beginning in Phase II of the deployment (2015), SM-3 IB interceptor missiles and sensors necessary for detecting and tracking a BM launch, will deploy to Allied host countries in Europe. The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has determined that part of the PAA architecture must be deployed in southeastern Europe. After presentations made by the head of the MDA, LTG O’Reilly, and Under Secretary of Defense (Policy) Flournoy, at NATO, it is clear that all NATO-allies are supportive of this new approach.

missle_defenseGiven the across-the-board support by NATO Allies, it will be easier to find willing hosts for the architecture that meet geographic requirements. The difficulty in selecting sites will come down to political-military concerns of the potential host countries.

The many landmines to this policy will be political and diplomatic in nature. Russia’s reaction and posture will certainly be an issue, though the system is not designed as a threat to them. Public opinion in Europe and the United States could make implementation of the policy difficult. Finally, Congress must be willing to accept this change in MD and appropriate sufficient funds for the new architecture, as well as the necessary defense assistance to Romania.

Russia: Initial reaction to the new PAA in Russia was jubilant and victorious. The government of Russia perceived the previous program of record as a threat to Russia’s own BMs and had placed short-range missiles in Kaliningrad. Due to the poor rollout of the phased adaptive approach, Russia and others were able to spin the decision as a copout to Russian demands, and one official even suggested they would pull their missiles out of Kaliningrad. According to press reports, upon learning more about the system, the government of Russia is no longer displaying a jubilant and victorious posture. The statement was later retracted, saying that it was premature to make the decision on pulling missiles out of Kaliningrad.


The rollout of the presence options must be managed with Russia in mind. U.S. policy cannot be seen as “giving in” to Russia, though it would not hurt to win Russia over to the U.S. position and develop a new partner for MD.

Public Opinion: The views of European and American publics will be important in making these programs succeed. Governments can be convinced by technology transfers and assurances to remain supportive, but a solid public diplomacy campaign is necessary to win the public’s approval. The U.S. has to demonstrate that it is committed to the new program through investment and implementation. It must demonstrate the value a PAA shield adds to the population. This may be challenging given the lack of common threat-perception vis-à-vis Iran. The same is true for the U.S. domestic audience, who will shape the way Congress approaches the issue. The PAA must demonstrate that it is protecting Americans, first and foremost, from a dangerous threat. The White House and the Department of Defense should explore ways to declassify more intelligence to indicate the level of threat posed by Iran, and relate how protecting U.S. forces and Allies around the world ensures American security.

Congress: Though the Democrats control both houses of congress, and are likely to do so through the next election cycle, it is important to unify congressional support. The linkages between continuous technological development of antiballistic missiles, funding modernization of Eastern European air defense forces, deploying secure MD in Europe, and protecting from BM threats from Iran and North Korea must be made crystal clear to the members. These are funding priorities for the U.S. military against current and future threats, and are vital to U.S. national security and diplomatic relations.

*M. Duncan is a Master’s Student in International Relations at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, currently focusing on Global Security.

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Seoulmates ?…

March 22, 2009 at 6:15 pm (tWP) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

antius1The relationship between South Korea and America is not what it used to be. But it stands to reason that the relationship will only keep growing …apart.

The RoK has depended on its alliance with America since the Korean War but after the opening of China and the fall of the USSR, South Korea finally found contiguous markets and cheap labour with which to fuel its economy.

Just as important, its trade is no longer entirely dependant on sea lanes and air routes passing through Japan. The Sea of Japan involves Korea and is a source of unresolved territorial disputes between the two nations.

The relations are further strained by the history of Japanese domination and colonisation. In Korea, the anti-American prejudice is prevalent and only surpassed by niponophobia and strong feelings against the totalitarian north.

Alliances and partnerships are of course objective but in democracies the prejudices of the people speak loud and this leaves the South Korean leaders one viable partner: Russia.

The one neighbour never to have dominated Korea, Russia is also a big market, a valuable partner in technological endeavours and a privileged supplier of raw materials and energy. Russia shares Korea’s interest in keeping both Beijing and Tokyo from dominating the region – partnering with Russia would also help to downplay China’s continental hegemony in the Far East.

Furthermore, unlike the PRC and Japan, Korea does not possess enough critical mass to balance its regional rivals and in addition mobilise forces to protect its trade flows. Were such ambitious deployments to be realised and it would undoubtedly put too much pressure on the Korean budget and military establishment. This means that regional trade partners with contiguous borders are in extreme high demand from Seoul.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s considerably superior influence over the DPRK is also to be factored in, since the Korean reunification is a priority.korrus2

After considering all this, one must ask what the US has to offer to the Koreans. Washington still has technology and equipment the Koreans need but the military ties are a constant embarrassment for the government and their pertinence is out of date. The DPRK is no longer a threat, and neither are China or Russia. The American market will always be important but China will quickly become the paramount client.

Finally, the US are of little use in Seoul’s rivalry with Tokyo due to the Quadrilateral agreements.

Reality dictates that South Korea will much rather catch the transiberian in a nearby future than board the transpacific.

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