A Return to the Balance of Power?


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Depending on your worldview, political reality shifts.

But consider for a second – this perspective.

On the global scale, we see America as an isolated nation.

In reality, America possesses two qualities which render this assumption baseless.

America is majority Anglo-Saxon; America has been deeply entangled in the foreign affairs of England and the rest of Europe.

The isolationist narrative is deeply flawed and misleading. But it isn’t surprising. America is nation that sees itself as exceptional to the rest of the world. There is only one other country which possesses a similar characteristic – Israel. Both nations, are born out of ideology, not ethnic identity or language. These are conceptual nations, both of which in actuality stole land from indigenous populations. The Europeans, are actually tied to their land historically through language and culture that is distinct. Religion is secondary.

Even the Europeans engaged foreign domination but America replaced them as the unipolar hegemony. We view America and the concept of democracy as somehow special, original and superior. We think of individualism as only possible here. We see capitalism as the only security of human innovation.

But much of this narrative rests on one presumption – the political domination of the international political arena by England and America.

Just because the era of colonialism ended – does not entail the end of colonialism itself.

Since the first balance of power was realized and established by the European order between all powerful nation-states via the Treaty of Westphalia, a change as overtaken the world, due in part to technological and industrial revolutions but more importantly, to policy-decisions by elites to disrupt the tradition of balance of power for the sake of preserving American and British domination over global affairs. This has perpetuated stereotypes of all social groups and nation-states, only enabled by inequality in the global spectrum. This international political reality cannot be separated from the socio-economic miseries within each country in the world. They are all intertwined.

Prosperity and individual happiness have been, in the West, associated with capitalism and democracy. In Europe, while this is true, there is a sense of cultural heritage that preserves and cultivates unity among the population. In America, the population is more polarized – there is less cultural influence on political affairs and more ideological influence in the States.

But if corruption is equally rampant in America, then it is unfair to presume that any nation deserves the position of unipolar hegemony. Unipolar hegemony depends on domination and violations of sovereignty. The British, who attempted this more overtly in the past, faced a similar fate in India as America is currently facing in the Muslim world – brutal and irrational retaliation to a century of arbitrary occupation.

Why is America policing the world? Nobody should be.

But given the reality of politics and the possibility of an emerging threat to balance, nations act both preemptively and directly. Now that technology has enabled nations to communicate more easily, is bipolarity the natural state of politics? For the last three decades, was the Cold War merely warming up?

Whereas the conflict at once was portrayed as capitalism versus communism, is the war really between neoconservatism (imperialism guised with good intent and fear of threat, usually via democratization) versus nationalism (the ambition for sovereignty)?

Realism assumes the intent of domination; and suggests its potentiality. But what if this human quality is a cultural phenomenon more common to the West? Considering democracies prevalence in the West, and the West’s engagement in neoconservative foreign policy, could it be argued that, culturally, the West is more inclined towards domination, whereas, other states are more inclined towards national sovereignty and cultural values and traditions that may not necessarily be majoritarian democracy?

This is the basis of constructivism, a theory of international relations which explains the behavior of states as relative to their cultural orientations. Various institutions of politics are, along this line of thinking, social constructed.

The menace to global peace is neoconservatism. And while at one point communism was seen as the nemesis, it could be argued from the constructivist stance that communism was a response to American and European expansionism into the domains of other dominant powers. Today, the force attempting to resist this is now a loose coalition of Russian expansionism, Chinese assertiveness, Latin American disenchantment, European disintegration, Middle Eastern and African tumult. I argue these all would not exist in a world without an aggressive neoconservative menace.

Either it will be contained, or violence on both ends will rise.

Just like the world organized to contain communism, perhaps now the world is slowly rallying to contain America’s neoconservative trajectory.

The Fate of the Middle East


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The fate of Middle Eastern conflicts is that they are long and bloody.

More recently, they have been immortal.

The Palestine issue has almost turned into a hopeless cause in which activists are smeared as promoters of violence. The losses suffered by Arabs, while Israelis and Americans gain footing, is tough to look beyond. How does one have hope beyond all these drawbacks?

In 2003, Iraq was invaded. Ever since, terrorism has risen sharply becoming a norm.

Then the Arab uprisings occurred, and no real progress came about. In fact, the Middle East is arguably in worse condition than it was before 2003, whether it is temporary or transitional.

None of the world’s major powers have done anything to reduce the suffering and destruction – but they certainly have invested resources into protecting their interests and initiatives. As I watch videos upon videos of suffering Syrians, both inside and outside of their country, I become more disenchanted with the Syrian government’s lack of accountability, morality and disregard. Where is the empathy? The obedience of many Arabs to the tyrannical cults of personality which rule their societies isn’t that mind-boggling to me, only because here in America, we study things like the Holocaust and Nazi Germany. I see too much suffering happening to my people.

But if Palestinians are suffering the same fate, and have been, for the last 50 years, at the hands of a so-called democratic Jewish state, who am I to blame? Americans and Europeans are quick to point their fingers at Arab heads of state – but in Palestine and Iraq, conditions have been worsened not by heads of state but also by foreign occupiers.

The sense of distrust among Syrians, and Arabs altogether towards any attempt to “police” the Middle East should not be so difficult to grasp – though it is for many Americans.

But why must ordinary people suffer at the hands of political officials? The levels of political, economic and social control in Arab states is beyond apprehension. If we cannot trust democracies or authoritarians, we have nobody to go, but ourselves. In doing that, menaces like ISIS and al Qaeda emerge.

The narrative in America is that the Syrian people are suffering because their government is stubborn. Like many governments outside of the Occident, authoritarianism is rampant in the Middle East. Syria is one of the examples. With a notorious secret police service, haunting tales about political prisoners and disappearances, horrifying accounts of state terror, Syria is a prime example in fact. The state’s inability to accept a free society that enables economic mobilization, has led to an economic disaster in which tribal ideologies are sought for survival. In this scenario, ISIS is the shadow of Assad. Neither can exist without the other. Would ISIS wain with Assad’s end? Would the specter and appeal of Islamic radicalism lose ground because of a lack of justification?  In this case, the Syrian government is inciting sectarianism and extremism.

But this theory rests largely on the assumption that authoritarianism is the cause of the problem in the Middle East. If that were the case, it would be authoritarianism, not Israeli apartheid and occupation, which subjugates Palestinians. But maybe an end to authoritarianism, would also imply an end to Israeli authoritarianism. In this case, the menace to the Arab and Islamic world is not colonialism, but rather, authoritarianism – a domestic sentiment of political hubris practiced by political elites, whether they are Zionist, Alawite, Saudi or Shia.

In another scenario, global powers are playing tug-o-war for control of regions like the Middle East, Latin America, Central & Southeast Asia. These powers include the US, Europe, Russia & China. Here, the cause of instability is imperial overstretch, violating state sovereignty, stirring animosity and violence. If nation-states like the US did not seek superiority but rather economic development, the world could experience a state of co-existence. Culturally, the West is more inclined to domination. As a result, the East responded with their own mechanism for resisting imperialism – communism. Here, the instigator is the Anglo-Saxon civilization, which seeks a level of exploitation of others. But if all nation-states sought containment, there would be less imbalance and instability. There is a level of insecurity among the Anglo-Saxons in which they cannot accept a level-playing field.

Both scenarios are compelling. Others would point to less human based factors, like oil abundance or environmental factors. Some analysts argue the main cause of instability in the Middle East is cultural – Islam is unique.

All of the arguments have some truth to them but which is most compelling and which has the most support?

Since the end of WWI, the Arab & Muslim world became more vulnerable than ever. That is because the Ottoman Empire officially collapsed, withering away into a fragmented and divided states, leaving them vulnerable to colonial domination, which is exactly what happening via Sykes-Picot in the Middle East. In the 20th century, the West dominated the East through covert operations. But in the 21st century, this manifested through direct invasions, such as the 2003 War in Iraq. Then came the war in Libya. Now the US is considering its options in Syria and Yemen. It seems hard to believe, that the removal of Saddam Hussein did anything better for the Iraqis than his initial takeover to begin with. It could mean that Iraqis have to wait another hundred years before their country is able to function democratically and resist destabilization – but is this possible with a constant threat of foreign intervention?

All of these factors must be considered.

Personally I feel that because destabilization in the Middle East increased sharply after 2003 indicates the influence of foreign intervention. Furthermore, covert operations by the US to overthrow even democratically elected leaders further enflamed the fire of radicalism. It would seem then that the argument which points to foreign intervention in the Middle East, or occupation, as the main driver of terrorism and instability, to be the most compelling.

America has pushed for democracy in its foreign policy while not practicing it fully domestically. Furthermore, its pressures for regime change have only revealed its ulterior motives in meddling in the affairs of usually more vulnerable states. Only through containment of the US’ imperial ambitions can the world see a reduction of Russian assertiveness, the appeal of Islamic radicalization and global instability.