A Hitlerian Revisitation?


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Bernie Sanders is the voice of the American youth.

What we can learn from ‘Brexit’ is that the youth are largely anti-conservative.

As Hillary Clinton gears up to the final moments of the presidential election, the nation is wondering if the worst might actually come true – a Donald Trump victory.

Donald Trump is bad for a lot of reasons, besides the most obvious which include his disdain for anything but himself. He is racist, Islamophobic, xenophobic, ethnocentric and when it comes to ideology or economics he is practically clueless – simply exhausting the funds of his father’s enormous wealth.

Last week the DNC was hacked. Accusations are now thrown at the Russians. US media has entertained the idea of Russian-Trump collusion. Such is naive for a variety of reasons. The broader world does not care for a Hitlerian revisitation. Furthermore, America is ashamed to admit its own doing. Once again. Surprised?

Putin did not attack the DNC. This accusation is another right-wing conspiratorial narrative.

The right is built on paranoia and fear. It is a culture of self-depriving asceticism that results from a superiority complex; this in turn feeds authoritarianism and irrational radicalism. This pride is a hatred of freedom; a desire for exclusive freedom. Call it privilege; or apartheid.

That is why the right feeds on Islamophobia and sensationalist news coverage to perpetuate a narrative that builds on fear.

That the US is accusing Russia of hacking DNC emails prematurely is telling. There is such a disconnect between world powers. At least on the world stage. Who knows what is happening behind closed doors. But what is clear is that in plain view, the Russians are underestimating how much a US candidate can influence global politics. Trump would be a disaster for everybody but himself. He is just another pawn of global interests; despite his attempt to portray himself as the exact opposite – a force against the “global world order”. Even accusations about Trump’s involvement with Russian oligarchs is a stretch – not because oligarchs don’t exist; rather because they are largely exiled from Russia.

Recent attacks in France were apparently linked to ISIS. ISIS is not a political terror group – it is a religious terror group. The religion is not Islam – rather it is is Islamism. It is fueled and funded and caused mainly by the intimate US-Saudi relationship, which has preserved and perpetuated Wahhabism. ISIS cannot be understood as a coherent political movement. Nor can it be lumped into the same category as groups like Hezbollah, which has a coherent political strategy that does not make religion its focal point, but rather the political objective of Lebanese sovereignty.

Turkish politics has continued along its downward spiral into abyss. Erdogan is retreating to reconciliation with authoritarians he isolated after the Syrian revolution. If Erdogan was smart, he’d not only play these cards in his benefit – he would align this with Turkish national interest. What is more important to the Turks, a friendly West or sovereignty?

That is a question every non-Western leader is forced to answer, which is because the West, led by America, has been bent on violating national sovereignty since WWII. The world knows that America is the greatest and strongest nation on earth but that does not mean it is infallible. A better world would still exhibit American leadership, but it would also exhibit cooperative measures between world powers and periphery states, with a common respect for sovereignty. Under such culturally relative conditions, world peace, security, freedom, prosperity and cultural traditions can all be cultivated. Irrational politics, and radical assertions that play on miseries and insecurities and elusive calls for power-hunger are threats to all of this.

Democracy might or might not work everywhere. The violation of sovereignty works nowhere.

Put that into perspective.

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The Gravest Modern Security Threat to America & the World: Neoconservatism


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The international political dynamic is shifting. Since 9/11 Islamic radicalism has filled the vacuum of power left by the dissolution of the USSR, prompting unprecedented US military and security engagement abroad. This article seeks to address what is likely to become the US greatest national security threat in the next ten years. The US has not witnessed aggressive state retaliation since Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait. The most recent example of this was Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Georgia. Furthermore, increased US entanglement in the Middle East has made it the target of terrorism. This instability in the Middle East has led to the migrant crisis, which challenges U.S. policy in many aspects. Furthermore technological advancements have propped up authoritarian regimes that also threaten international security, like North Korea, Syria and Venezuela. But these so-called threats appear to be short-term, since the 9/11 attacks, the most direct attack in US history, was a Saudi doing. Saudi Arabia is one of the US’ closest allies in the region of the Middle East, yet it exhibits brutal dictatorship, theocracy & immense human rights violations. The US’ double standards have made national security initiatives more elusive. So what really is the greatest threat to American security in the long run? The election of Obama I argue recommenced a US path towards dovish foreign policy, military disengagement, and reconciliation. Though there are exceptions like Libya, this created a window of opportunity for the US to distance itself from hawkish foreign policies that worsened the stability in regions like the Middle East, already suffering from authoritarianism, foreign occupation, poverty and religiosity.

The greatest threat comes in two forms: authoritarian government repression fueling extremism and sponsoring terrorism; foreign interventionism fueling anti-Americanism, terrorism and state-retaliation or balancing. My overall argument is that both American democracy and global democracy are compromised by neoconservative politics and that the balance of power has been disrupted mainly by the US in the post-Soviet era. In other words, American foreign policy and the domestic policies that exist within other states in volatile regions like the Middle East as well as the security threats in those respective states are inextricably linked. America has supported insurgents, authoritarians and rebels, all at the same time, reducing sovereignty while boosting presence and political gain. The problem is oversimplified by pointing to one or the other variable, when the reality is that stability is not possible without sovereignty, which is a precondition for political development, democratic or not. If we regard US policy in terms of long-term security threats, authoritarianism and terrorism are together products of neoconservative politics and interventionist US foreign policy. This interventionism is fairly new relative to a US tradition of isolationism, which preceded WWI and WWII. Notice that prior to the twentieth and twenty first century, American security threats were scarce, and mostly domestic. While economic and technological development are both responsible for globalization, it is still important to note that US interventionism is largely a twentieth and twenty first century phenomenon. For this reason, there was less conflict between the US and the Muslim world. Radicalization, underdevelopment and instability can be seen as a result of US interventionism. In turn this has created a serious national security threat for the US.

The emergence of ISIS, al Nusra and other radical Islamist splinter groups, in the post-Arab Spring Middle East highlights the importance of US foreign policy in achieving national security. ISIS is made up largely of foreign fighters, the majority of whom come from Iraq. It can thus be argued that ISIS is the product of a spillover from the War in Iraq launched by the US in 2003, at the dismay of most of the Arab world. The impetus of al Qaeda, the pre-ISIS “menace of the Middle East” was the end of US presence in the “holy land”, despite taking a lending hand from the US against the USSR in the 80s. Hezbollah, a notorious Lebanon paramilitary political party has used violence as a means of “resisting foreign occupation” and protecting Lebanese sovereignty. All these examples demonstrate how US interventionism in the region has manufactured its national security threat—private interests are compromising public interests in both the domestic and foreign spheres of American politics. This has little to do with democracy itself, and more to do with the US’ recent trend towards right-wing authoritarianism, particularly in its foreign policy, but evidently also in domestic politics.

But American interventionism in the Middle East, the crux of the Muslim World, began only after the Suez Crisis in 1952. Western involvement existed before, in European form. When the US became the major arbiter its sympathized with movements for Arab nationalism and sovereignty, only to give in to British paranoia of a “communist take over of the Middle East”. Since then, the US has played the fickle role of police and criminal in the Middle East; the cop and the robber.

It would be easy to point at Daesh or ISIS as the main threat to national security. Al Qaeda was the earlier menace. There always is a scapegoat, but these usually perpetuate a politically beneficial narrative. But the reality is rather different, with ISIS being a much greater threat to the Middle East’s population than any other really. It would be equally simplistic to point at Iran, or North Korea. But history shows that the greater threat lies in interventionism, instead of allowing the natural course of development to take place.

In the case of North Korea, it would be foolish to utilize nukes because this destabilizes the entire region and puts countries like Russia at risk. Russia has warned North Korea therein. The same logic could be applied to the Iranian Nuclear Threat, which has been mitigated by the deal reached with the Obama Administration. The so-called threat is almost an illusion, similarly to the WMDs in Iraq. This does not dismiss the lunacy and brutality of Saddam or Kim Jong Un—rather it underscores it while revealing Western complicity in perpetuating the cycle in its favor. This comes at the expense of the American public, while the minority elite benefits in the short term.

The greatest threat to American national security in the course of the next ten years is simplistically understood as radical Islamist terror. Perhaps next in line would be growing expansionism in the Far East, exhibited mainly by Russia and China. But as explained in the previous sections, these actions are largely natural, and responsive to US assertiveness in other spheres of influence. If this connection can be better understood by US leaders, the distinction between cause and effects will be more lucid, and national security can be reduced through cooperative international efforts at preventing violations of sovereignty.

[Watch] Bashar al-Assad interview with NBC – “America enabled ISIS”


 

In reference to Donald Trump’s discrimination against Muslims in the US, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad claimed that nobody should indulge such discrimination.

With regards to contradictory rhetoric from opposing candidates of the presidential election, Assad said he is not concerned with rhetoric but action and that this rhetoric is often temporal; fleeting.

Furthermore, Assad lambasted US presidents as inexperienced.

Finally Assad claims that the US enabled the emergence of ISIS and that Russia’s interventionism made this clear.

Could it be that radical Islamists are working with global powers to delegitimize Islam and to manufacture consent for security initiatives in the Middle East? Since neither stability, democracy or development appear to be the honest objectives of world powers involved in the region, namely the US, such a corroboration isn’t unlikely. It could be that these radicals are mere products of US interventionism in the region to begin with, a sort of religious but also nationalistic retaliation. What is certain is that these forces are unstable, and their origins lies in the realm of foreign occupation.

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 Political Stability of Kazakhstan: The Gift & the Curse


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The Political Stability of Kazakhstan:

The Gift & The Curse

by Danny Krikorian

Florida Political Science Association

Fall 2016

Florida Political Chronicle

Abstract

 

Kazakhstan resides in one of the most volatile regions in the world, Central Asia. Various characteristics of the region make this a reality. Some of these characteristics, which I call variables, help to explain the unconventional history of development in Kazakhstan, and perhaps explains why the country has lagged in terms of democratic reform. The purpose of this research is to dissect the political stability of the Central Asian country of Kazakhstan. In this paper, I argue that eight independent variables determine the political stability of Kazakhstan, four of which serve as the primary influences. In this case, the political stability of Kazakhstan is the dependent variable. I furthermore suggest that of these eight variables, six share a negative relationship with political stability, while the remaining two share a positive relationship with political stability, and demonstrate how this reality has largely shaped the modern state of Kazakhstan today. In other words, the majority of these variables make Kazakhstan less politically stable. To analyze these variables, I have organized the body of this paper into three sections: First I begin with a brief introduction with some background information about Kazakhstan. Secondly I discuss the literature on the subject of stability in Kazakhstan within the framework of the eight variables. Finally I demonstrate, based on the research, why it can be argued that foreign policy is in fact the most significant variable in determining the political stability of Kazakhstan. I will argue that threats to Kazakhstan’s stability can only be mitigated by proper foreign policy measures that reduce attempts at exploiting the country’s sovereignty. This foreign tug-o-war, or the New Great Game rather, whose main external players are the U.S., Russia & China, has evolved over the years, depending on the international political landscape. Today, foreign pressures come in numerous and diverse forms. Finally, I will provide a conclusion in which I discuss the future of Kazakhstan and why these findings are important and what they mean in today’s world, in theory and in policy.

 

 

  1. Introduction & Background Information

 

Most literature in the Western scholarly tradition presumes that democracy is universal. Perhaps this is why the majority of the focus is on issues such as corruption, institutional underdevelopment, resource curse and rentier-states. However more and more scholars are beginning to address other forces contributing to instability outside the realm of political reform, such as geopolitics, colonialism and cultural relativism. With regards to Kazakhstan, most scholars have echoed the former tactic, often ignoring the complexities of the country and region’s nature. This research attempts to demonstrate how an unconventional combination of variables such as different forms of leadership as well as collective cultural decisions often dictate the stability of a nation as much as the political or economic compositions of that state. It shows how, variables such as foreign relations, security conditions, socio-cultural fabric, and the resource-curse often outweigh the significance of the internal politics of a nation. This is not to suggest that political reform is futile or unnecessary, but rather, that too much focus on this element is intellectually irresponsible. The purpose of this research is to isolate the main cause of instability in Kazakhstan. While I present four primary, and four minor variables, I argue that in fact, foreign policy is the greatest challenge to the region’s security and stability, especially in Kazakhstan, and that proper manipulation of its foreign relations is in direct correlation with its ability to maintain stability.

By nature of this analysis, it challenges previous literature by suggesting that the tradition of analyzing non-western countries has been largely dominated by a culturally relative perspective that essentially misunderstands the complexity of regions like Central Asia (39). It challenges the notion that democratic reform is the only recipe for stability, that is, outside of the Western world. That western democracies have often sided with and funded the most authoritarian regimes in the region and in the rest of the world, as well as, perhaps indirectly, allowing for the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, makes the prospects for democracy in the region more dim. Perhaps one of the greatest tools in this situation has been pragmatic leadership, which has been exhibited most by Kazakhstan’s President Nazarbayev himself.

What this means for the universalism of democracy has broad implications as it could suggest that, much like the USSR’s communism, the West’s neoconservative crusade for democracy in the post-Soviet world has in fact threatened international security and has destabilized societies. Perhaps what we are witnessing in the modern world is what will become the “containment” of Western neoconservatism.Whether or not democracy is compatible with Central Asia remains questionable, but what is less vague, is that foreign powers are little concerned with the genuine interests the region.

In the coming section, the heart of this research study, I list each of the eight independent variables influencing the political stability of Kazakhstan. I explain that the majority of these variables share a negative relationship with political stability — in other words, they make Kazakhstan more unstable. The others, despite being the minority, serve as resilient forces for stability. Nonetheless, I argue that the overall nature of Kazakhstan is of instability — it has been unstable since its earliest history.

However Kazakhstan’s recent history leaves a window for opportunity, given its cunning leadership, resilient economy, its relatively healthy population and strong centralized state, and the comparatively lower threat of terrorism. I further argue that the greatest threat, even historically, has emanated from the foreign relations dimension of Kazakhstan’s politics, with special regards to the so called, New Great Game. In totality, the aim of this research is to explain why Kazakhstan is relatively unstable; it seeks to isolate the primary force of instability; and finally, it resolves to suggest prospects for its future amidst an array of chaos.

 

  1. Literature Review of Eight Variables

 

  1. Political Development

 

The political stability of Kazakhstan cannot be understood without analysis of its political structure and process. In this section I argue that the internal politics of Kazakhstan, while negatively affecting its stability, due to corruption, fraudulent elections and opposition suppression, is also a source of stability with regards to the strength of the state and its overall legislative structure. Of the eight variables, only political development and economic conditions pose a challenge in analysis. In a sense, both the endurance of the state, and the vast endowment of oil, which I discuss in the economic section, are a “gift and a curse”. While the political development of Kazakhstan shares a negative relationship with its political stability, it arguably serves as a window of hope for its future, noting its resilience in the face of radicalism and foreign pressure.

Kazakhstan is a unitary republic, with its president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, as the head of state. Legislative powers reside in a bicameral legislature, with includes the Majlis, the upper house and the senate, the lower house (16). Political parties are allowed to compete, but the authenticity of the election process is challenged by internal and external sources (42). Some parties however are deemed illegal, wholly banned and actively suppressed (16). Neither of the opposition parties possesses enough support or power to pose a significant threat in the election process. Furthermore, private media is largely suppressed, with the majority of publications being in support of the current administration (42). This is telling of the credibility and reputation of the constitution of Kazakhstan, which nominally protects private media — nominally.

Kazakhstan’s leadership. under President Nazarbayev has been remarkably effective in stabilizing the country (38). It has endured less attacks, and Nazarbayev has done well to smear his opponents as “gangsters and criminals” (36). He has displayed his effectiveness in maintaining a steady economy, while appeasing both his Russia, American, and Chinese counterparts, in what has been deemed a “multivector foreign policy” (28).

Kazakhstan has made many strides with regards to political reform, but it has also been guilty of backpedaling (23). Nonetheless, with careful consideration of the diverse forces forming the political fabric of Kazakhstan, there is reason to believe that its successes are equally worthy of attention as its shortcomings (43). Key points must be considered in order to clearly understand why the country’s progress towards democracy has lagged and been the subject of criticism. Kazakhstan has been independent for barely 30 years. To compare the status of its political institutions to those of the West, where independence and democracy have hailed for centuries, would be premature (40).

In context, compared to its neighbors, especially Uzbekistan, it has undoubtedly surpassed them in terms of stability and progress (27). Research indicates unprecedented civic activism and voter turn-out rates in Kazakhstan’s presidential elections (43). That being said, opposition parties are largely disenfranchised and discouraged from participating in the political process, often echoing accusations of fraudulent elections (7). In this regard, Kazakhstan’s leadership has been able to deploy the rentier mechanism by which political reform is substituted with public services funded by oil-wealth. The immense importance of the role played by oil in shaping the political dynamic of Kazakhstan can thus not be ignored, for they have been the pretense for tension between the various domestic and foreign political forces influencing Kazakhstan’s political stability (45). These tensions, whether they are between members of the political elite, or between the political elite and the mass, have often been the subject of exploitation by global powers, using the fragility of the region to their own advantage. This leads us directly to the next variable.

 

  1. Foreign Policy & Relations

 

In the realm of foreign politics, Kazakhstan is a key player in “The New Great Game” (24). Russia is arguably the greatest threat to Kazakhstan’s political stability. Managing the longest contiguous border in the world, Kazakhstan’s leadership is constantly having to fend itself against the threat of Russian imposition (3). However the US has also played an influential role in this regard. As global hegemonies play tug-o-war over the region, it becomes more apparent that its foreign relations share a negative relationship with Kazakhstan’s political stability.

Statements made by Vladimir Putin at the Selinger Youth Camp in 2014 revealed that Kazakhstan’s vulnerability to Russian domination, especially with a significant Russian population living in mainly Northern Kazakhstan. The Georgian and Ukrainian crises, and Russia’s post-soviet neo-imperialism tradition, have done nothing to mitigate Kazakh fears of Russian influence. (22). The threat of Russian separatism emanates from the Northern Kazakhstan Province, (4). For this reason, Nazarbayev moved the capital of Kazakhstan from Almaty to Astana, which is along the Northern border, closer to Russia (24). An act of defiance against Russian hegemony, Nazarbayev further proved himself a prolific player in the great game. On the other end of the foreign political dynamic rests Kazakhstan’s intimate economic relationship with the US. Nonetheless, by associating demands for democracy with neocolonialism, Nazarbayev has legitimized his ideology. By balancing the priorities autonomy, growth and stability, he has solidified what has been coined as his “multi-vector-foreign policy” (4). That he has maintained Kazakhstan’s independence, autonomy, and economic progress, has further legitimized his position. But Russian hegemony is nothing new to the Cental Asian giant; as the stains of Imperial Russia surely remain engrained in the memories of Kazakhs (13). But the demise of the USSR has essentially opened a vacuum of power it could be argued. The world, having transitioned from a bipolar to a unipolar political dynamic, with the US essentially having grip on global power, has essentially allowed the US to reign in on the region’s vulnerability and economic appeal.

Like its eastern counterparts, the West, namely the US, has simultaneously played an inconsistent role in the region; often indirectly propping up extremists, neglecting delayed reforms, and dipping their hands in scandalous oil politics (24). Despite pro-democratic rhetoric, it seems neither hegemony, Russia, China or the US are genuinely committed to the “democratic process” in Kazakhstan (34). This factor is perhaps the most overlooked in current literature on political stability in Central Asia.

With regards to its regional and local allies, Kazakhstan has maintained a positive relationship for the most part, with perhaps Saudi Arabia being the only exception. The greatest threat to its stability comes from its relationship with the global powers of Russia, China, the US and the EU, who have engaged in double-dealings, policy inconsistency and moral negligence. Kazakhstan has maintained a positive reputation among international organizations, especially the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, or SCO, of which it was a founding member (9). Nonetheless, it faces continued scrutiny over the process of its elections and accounts of corruption various international organizations, despite being an active member of the U.N (35).

This segment of the research is of particular importance as, I argue later in the paper, it is the most crucial variable in the relationship with political stability.

 

  1. Security/Military Condition

 

The threat of Islamic fundamentalism is perhaps the greatest security issue for Kazakhstan. The threat of Russian separatism, though very real, especially following the Georgian and Ukrainian crises, has been thus far contained. In this section I demonstrate how the security and military condition of Kazakhstan has made it less stable.

National security poses a very unique challenge for Kazakhstan. However Kazakhstan has been essentially able to mitigate the threat relative to its neighbors. The threat is both foreign and domestic, with large swaths of ideological fanaticism being imported from abroad, mainly from Saudi Arabia in the Middle East, in the form of Wahhabism (34). Kazakhstan has remained stable despite the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Central Asia. Repressive retaliation by Central Asian governments have only aggravated the situation (10). Various influential terrorist and extremist networks operate in the region, such as the Hizb-ut-Tahrir, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Islamic Jihad Union, Soldiers of the Caliphate, and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (5). There also exists a threat from Uyghur separatist groups within Kazakhstan as well as a threat from external sources of radicalization emanating primarily from the Middle East (4). These forces altogether represent obstacles to Kazakhstan’s national security, which is evidently a significant factor of consideration in the political stability of Kazakhstan. They suggest another reason why democratic reform has lagged. Furthermore, they focus attention on the authoritarian nature of the regime, and the relationship of that authoritarianism with the rise of dissenting groups of radical Islamic persuasion. On the other hand, the existence of these extremist networks is perhaps another reason why Nazarbayev has been able to maintain power—by portraying himself as a champion of the cause against terrorism, he has garnered immense support from the U.S. and has replaced Uzbekistan as Central Asia’s primary force force against Islamic fundamentalism (41). These forces also underscore the immense responsibility bestowed on the government of Kazakhstan in balancing the agendas of all power players and potential threats to Kazakh stability and autonomy. Since the inception of the post 9/11 era, and the ensuing “War on Terror” as led by the US, there has been little success in mitigating the overall threat of terrorism in the region, further underscoring the need for reconsidering policy measures (2).

It becomes uniquely difficult to isolate the security threat from the other variables. There have been instances in which groups like the IMU have engaged with global hegemonies directly and indirectly (24). If this is true, it could be argued that religious radicalism is exploited by foreign powers as means of destabilization.

In sum, the there is a negative relationship between the security conditions of Kazakhstan and its overall political stability. Despite its leader’s attempts to mitigate the threat compared to his neighbors, especially Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, the threat remains. Since 2011, there has yet to be an attack (19). Furthermore, Kazakhstan’s military has been relatively dormant in terms of full-fledged combat. This is a signal of its relative stability compared to its Central Asian neighbors.

 

  1. Economic Conditions

 

It is impossible to understand the complexity of Kazakhstan’s politics without considering the implications of its enormous oil wealth. For this reason, I have reserved this section for an analysis of the negative relationship between Kazakhstan’s economy and its political stability, focusing primarily on the country’s rich oil fields in the Caspian Sea.

The economy of Kazakhstan is complex and rich. This reality has complicated its political atmosphere, often fueling tensions between various entities; elites, the general public, political activists and insurgent movements (44). In this segment of the article I will argue that Kazakhstan’s economy has negatively impacted its political stability by making it the focal point of global hegemonies competing for control. Nonetheless, the vast wealth resulting from oil has allowed Kazakhstan to continue as a so-called “rentier-state”, keeping its citizens at least minimally satisfied without actually initiating reforms that might threaten the political elite’s grip on the economy, and subsequently, power.

Kazakhstan possesses the eleventh largest oil-reserves in the world. (15). This serves as a tremendous asset in Kazakhstan’s politics, often wielded as a political weapon to gain concessions from or secure relations with foreign actors. Kazakhstan’s economy is largely dependent on its oil exports (6). While this has allowed for economic growth, it has certainly underscored the country’s political volatility, serving as somewhat of a double-edged sword; a gift and a curse rather. In political science, this phenomenon is referred to as the “resource-curse”, in which natural resource endowment serves as a substitute for tax and political reform through rents (6). But it has also allowed for a degree of self-sustainable autonomy for Kazakhstan. Still, the country remains dependent on foreign investment and technology for the maintenance and development of oil pipelines in the Tengiz & Kashagan oil fields. The existence of these oil fields had essentially deemed Kazakhstan a central focus of “the great game”. Kazakhstan’s overall economic performance has been positive and has improved significantly over the years. With a GINI index score of 39, Kazakhstan boasts a relatively low income disparity (31). These are further indicators of Kazakhstan’s potential to prosper. Only 8.5% of the population is living on less than $2 a day, compared to 27.2% in Kyrgyzstan, the second lowest, and a disturbing 77.5% in Uzbekistan. Kazakhstan also boasts an unemployment rate of 8%, compared to 18% in Kyrgyzstan and 60% in Turkmenistan (31). All of these economic indicators suggest why Kazakhstan has maintained a politically stable climate, compared to its neighbors, where Islamic repression is severe, insurgency is rampant and economies are stagnant.

In many parts of the world where oil wealth is vast, democratic reform is scarce. There could be a strong correlation, but nonetheless, it is a question of theory. Oil has impacted Kazakhstan immensely. It has increased competition between elites, spurred corruption, bribery and greed, all of which have fueled dissent, fanatical and non. Still, Nazarbayev has managed the politics and economics relatively well compared to his neighbors. Thus, Kazakhstan has enjoyed lower rates of unemployment, higher GDP per capita, less income disparity and more political freedom than all other Central Asian states (38).

The history of economic development of Central Asia is not much different from most regions endowed with natural resource wealth and geopolitical significance. These two attributes have served as a double edged sword to the region’s economy, resulting in major booms or, on the contrary, incidents of upheaval and economic uncertainty.

The “multifaceted institutional weaknesses” of regions like Central Asia symbolize the complexity of the relationship between illegality, crime, and human security. Nonetheless, the authors here echo the sentiments of many in the Western tradition. This begs the question: is the western academic tradition of analysis largely negligent of its own perhaps indirect complicity in enabling the socio-economic dynamic that is described in Central Asia, and more specifically in this case, in Kazakhstan? In these contexts, names such as Edward Said, and his philosophy of “Orientalism”, are of significance, because it helps to illuminate the biases inherent in the study of indigenous populations by non-indigenous sources.

The most recent terrorist attack in Kazakhstan in which the President blamed organized crime instead of radical militants, which could be true; could very well be a political tactic to undermine the opposition. Nonetheless, that Kazakhstan is the least vulnerable to attacks, and that it has enjoyed a relatively secure atmosphere complemented by a robust economy, altogether could perhaps challenge the legitimacy of insurgent movements.

The presence of oil, terrorist threats, radical Islam, organized crime, the drug trade – the overall illicit economy – combined with the geopolitical reality of the region, underscore the volatility of the region. This has a tremendous impact on the economy of the Central Asian region. Not only are markets often held hostage to the political dynamic, either through competitive limits or foreign exploitation; they are completely vulnerable to violent disruption, a common characteristic of countries with vast natural resource wealth. Perhaps it is this dynamic which produces overbearing political systems that run contrary to the conventional “democratic” models of the West (12).

The majority of Central Asian economies exhibit the predictable characteristics of non-democratic nations, with regards to economic performance. High income disparages between the elite and the poor; relatively low GDP per capita income; and high restrictions on competition, with national governments controlling much of the economies. The exception to this dynamic is Kazakhstan. The cunning of President Nazarbayev has secured the country politically, allowing noticeable economic mobility and competition. It is no surprise that his country enjoys the lowest income disparity between the rich and poor, with a GINI index of 28 (14). That Kazakhstan does possess the vastest oil deposits in the region, among the top 15 in the entire world, should not be overlooked (45).

Overall, the literature suggests a prevalence of two major perspectives; externalist and internalist, in terms of trying to adequately attribute the blame for instability in the region, be it in the form of organized crime or violent insurgency. Unfortunately, this dichotomous tradition excludes the possibility of a third (or fourth, fifth, etc) perspective. While in some cases, it seems national governments are more responsible for violence and general discontent, other cases suggest otherwise, that foreign elements are playing a huge hand in destabilizing the region. That the dynamic is so complex, perhaps means that the oversimplification of the matter plays right into the hands of foreign powers seeking to exploit the region’s resources. In this explanation, concepts such as “choice” and “ideology” play a bigger role in determining the overall dynamic of each country; that is, the leader’s choices in managing the situation at hand; and the prevailing ideologies of the region, imported, such as Wahhabism on one end or “Westernization” on the other, and exported, such as the Hannafi demographic. This reality calls into the question the motives of western democracies, as much as it challenges the abuse of power of particular autocrats in the region, blaming both, but acquitting neither (42). It further underscores the complexity of the political dynamic, as emphasized by Williams.

 

  1. Historical Evolution

 

The history of Kazakhstan is rather unique. Its interactions with the outside world have historically influenced the political dynamic of the region. In this portion of the research paper, I will demonstrate why history is a crucial variable in the political stability of Kazakhstan. Firstly I will begin with Kazakhstan’s early history. This will be followed by the arrival of Islam, a period of autonomy. The final historical segment will cover the period from Tsarist Russian Imperialism, USSR integration, and the eventual collapse of the USSR leading to the modern independent Kazakh republic. The purpose of this segment is to demonstrate how these historical incidents reflect in Kazakhstan’s anomalistically diverse nature.

The history of Kazakhs as a nomadic, tribal people with clan-based hierarchies greatly reflects in its political structure. There is an immense respect for the “way of the elders” which suggests that Kazakhs are willing to making certain, though perhaps temporary compromises in the realm of political competitiveness for the sake of long term stability, and sovereignty. This tradition is symbolic of Kazakh culture. The word Kazakh itself means “free spirit; nomad”, perhaps an allusion to Kazakhs’ longing for independence, autonomy and stability; a struggle balanced and juggled pragmatically by President Nazarbayev.

Nomadism has played a huge role in the history of Kazakhstan. In modern times, this is expressed through informal social institutions such as nepotism and patronage. That Kazakh culture embraces informality arguably induces corruption. Nonetheless, since its early history, Kazakhstan never thoroughly experienced autonomy, that is, until the 15th century, when the first Turkic-Kazakh Khanate was established It endured until the 19th century, when Kazakhstan fell to the Russian Empire. The period of the Kazakh Khanate is generally accepted as the ethnogenesis of Kazakh statehood and national identity. It would be interrupted nonetheless, by a series of new empires mimicking its past of domineering hordes and conquerors.

Despite a rugged, mountain terrain that almost isolates the region, Kazakhstan was always vulnerable to domination by various conquerors and civilizations. With these empires came new cultures, religions, customs and languages that have shaped Kazakhstan’s national identity, all of which are still visible today. The country boasts of its ethnic diversity, with claims of an existing 120 different ethnic groups in the country. Traditionally, the influx of ideas, religions and cultures came along what is now called the Silk Route, connecting the east and west through trade networks and other forms of cultural interaction. Prior to the introduction of Islam by Arab warriors into the region in the 8th century, Kazakhstan exhibited a diverse religious demography, including the mystical Shamanism, Tengrianism & Buddhism (11). This legacy has impacted Kazakhstan in forming its national identity in modern times as it struggles to balance the tenets of Islam with its rich religious history. Furthermore, extremists have often used religion to ostracize or vilify unconventional religious customs. This has only further polarized conservative Islamic movements, thereby contributing to the regions instability. Simultaneously, the leadership has used its ethno-religious diversity as a mechanism for unity among the moderate social groups. For this reason, among many others, Nazarbayev has maintained control, by associating himself and his administration with Kazakh’s diverse national identity, stoking paranoias of Islamic radicalism.

Kazakhstan’s integration into the USSR only reinforced the tradition of authoritarian statism and the centralization of power. They have carried on even into the post-soviet era—Nazarbayev was former First Secretary of the Kazakh SSR. Thus, without a history of liberalism, the political condition of Kazakhstan becomes more comprehensible (40).

The disintegration of the USSR produced the exact opposite result, opening a vacuum of power. This vacuum was either to be filled by extremists or a continued legacy of authoritarianism. Kazakhstan, like the rest of the Central Asian states, chose the latter. The Politburo was replaced with Nazarbayev’s state. Similar security measures were adopted nonetheless, a continued legacy of Soviet-inspired statism which Nazarbayev carried with him after transitioning from his post as First Secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan to its President. The only difference was that Moscow had essentially less control over the fate of the nation it once easily swallowed up.

Kazakhstan has been independent for barely 30 years (40). Perhaps this helps to explain why democracy has lagged, and the relatively unstable and vulnerable nature of the region. Still struggling to form a national identity amidst a barrage of violations of national sovereignty and autonomy, Kazakhstan has become prey to the global hegemonies at play in the great game.

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Geographic Setting

 

Kazakhstan’s geography is a crucial variable to its political stability. Below is both the support for the assertion that geography plays a central role in determining the overall political stability of Kazakhstan. The section will be divided into two categories. First will be the topographic aspect of Kazakhstan’s geography. Second will be the demography.

 

  1. Topography

 

Kazakhstan is the world’s largest landlocked country by area and the ninth largest country in the world. It is larger than Western Europe. It borders Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan as well as a significantly large portion of the Caspian Sea. The terrain includes flatlands, steppe, taiga, rock, canyons, hills, deltas, snow-capped mountains as well as deserts. This suggests immense topographical variation within the country’s borders. While Kazakhstan’s topographical variation may have provided a natural form of security through isolation and rugged terrain, its proximity to Russia seems to have overshadowed this sense of security. Perhaps then Kazakhstan’s most crucial geographic feature is its border with Russia, the longest and most contiguous border in the world (44). That this border-relationship with Russia has adversely contributed to the political stability of Kazakhstan, is without question. It would then be safe to suggest that Kazakhstan’s geographic dynamic has a negative relationship with political stability. Perhaps it was this reality which inspired President Nazarbayev to relocate the capital city from Almaty to Astana, which is much further north, closer to Russia and inhabited largely by Russians.

 

 

  1. Demography

 

This brings us to the second aspect of Kazakhstan’s geographic dynamic; its demographics. The total population of Kazakhstan is approximately 17.5 million. Kazakhstan boasts an unprecedented variety of ethnic groups (about 120), often celebrated as one of its most dignifying characteristics (29). Nonetheless, the country is generally homogenous, with the majority of ethnic Kazakh background making up 74% of the population The second most significant ethnic group is made up of Russians, accounting for 13% of the population. Other ethnic groups include Uzbeks, Tatars, Uygurs, Chechens, Koreans, Turks, Azerbaijanis & Germans (30). It is important to note that the population of Russians is the second largest. Before independence, Kazakhstan’s own national ethnic group, the Kazakhs, comprised less than 40% of the total population. During this time Russian was more widely spoken. Following independence however, Kazakh was nationalized as the official language. Furthermore, quite recently, Kazakh’s became the official ethnic majority within their own national boundaries for the first time in their history (20). This reflects in Kazakhstan’s ongoing struggle for national sovereignty in the face of foreign and internal threats to power. This dynamic serves as a major political dilemma for President Nazarbayev and future leaders who struggle with balancing the pressures of major powers, namely Russia. The conflict in Ukraine – especially Moscow’s assertion of its self-proclaimed right to intervene in foreign countries on behalf of Russian speakers – has focused Astana’s attention on interethnic relations.

Kazakhstan has avoided major ethnic clashes, although occasional incidents reveal boiling tensions. Azamat, a Kazakh born in Bostandyk, is quoted saying: “We’ve always lived in peace with the Uzbeks, Tajiks, Russians,” (25). To highlight the significance of demography, the presence of Uzbeks in southern Kazakhstan provide insight into the assertion that modern Central Asia is an artificial creation traced back to the initial “cutting up” of the region by USSR leaders. It is likely that the environment and conditions created by these “partitions” created much of the imbalance and instability in the region today. Despite being Uzbek by ethnicity, Kazakh Uzbeks are loyal to the soil in which they have inhabited for centuries (24). That ethnic irredentism really highlights the role of the New Great Game in determining the overall demographic structure and dynamic of Kazakhstan, and Central Asia altogether (29).

Another key component of demography in Kazakhstan that should be of note is that more than a fourth of Kazakhstan’s population is under the age of 30. This creates a volatile situation and an unpredictable future as it is likely more youth will grow intolerant of the corrupt practices of their government. Foreign elements as well as extremist groups do nothing but exacerbate the situation by exploiting the otherwise legitimate grievances of the population — especially the youth (46). That President Nazarbayev has established a Youth Policy Program to address the growing needs of his young constituency, six million of which were born during independence, underscores the important role youth development plays in securing the stability of Kazakhstan (46). Kazakhstan enjoys a better system of education than its neighbors despite a shortage of educational facilities. It has an impressively high literacy rate of 98% and a Human Development Index score of 73 out of 177 (8). All these points are indicators of Kazakhstan’s relatively successful performance, especially when put into context as a newly emerging post-soviet, autonomous state.

In the religious dimension, almost half the Kazakh population is Sunni Muslim (47 percent), while Russian Orthodox makes up the second majority of 44 percent, which isn’t very much less. This is an important dynamic. Despite the fact that, like many other countries in Central Asia, Kazakhstan exhibits a moderate religious tradition (8).

These points are important to note as there could be a correlation between countries exhibiting bipolar religious heterogeneity and authoritarianism, as well as the rise of fundamentalist movements and separatism in the region, often incited by actors on both angles of the global spectrum, the US & Russia.

Together, the complex topographic nature of Kazakhstan, coupled with its unique demographic dynamic make it easier to comprehend the political condition of the country, as well as the government’s behavior. It further challenges universal understanding of political philosophy, through cultural relativism and geopolitical anomalies. Its positioning on the map has exposed Kazakhstan vulnerability as another victim of an age long tug-o-war match between Eastern & Western political giants, deeming this variable negatively related to its overall political stability (17).

While the overall geographic characteristics of Kazakhstan offer mechanisms for stability, especially in the realm of its demographics, its proximity to Russia takes precedence as the greatest influence, and therein renders the relationship to be negative.

 

  1. Quality of Life

 

One of the more difficult to measure, the quality of life in Kazakhstan helps paint a vivid picture of the reality at hand, going beyond the mundaneness of statistical and empirical analysis. Overall, it appears the quality of life in Kazakhstan has served a force of stability, showing a sense of loyalty and unity among the citizenry (39).

Compared to the rest of Central Asia, the quality of life in Kazakhstan is rather positive. The literacy rate in Kazakhstan is quite high. With the majority of its population educated, it gives hope for a more stable future. The average Kazakh has managed to enjoy a relatively high income compared to his neighbors (30). This is likely due to the country’s vast oil wealth, as well as Nazarbayev’s multi-vector policies. In terms of freedom, Kazakhstan’s rather liberal social fabric allows for relative freedom of expression. However this freedom becomes more limited when intertwined with political expression, as many opposition groups and parties are either banned, suppressed or discouraged.

Generally, the quality of life has improved in Kazakhstan, allowing for levels of modernization that surpass its neighbors. Increased urbanization in Kazakhstan is also evident, implying its ability to integrate into today’s international political economy (25). This suggests that the quality of life is among the few variables that provide stability in Kazakhstan.

 

  1. Socio-Cultural Setting

 

Kazakhstan’s social fabric is intricately woven. As mentioned in the history section, Kazakhstan’s location along the Silk Route made it vulnerable to various conquerors, who often brought with them their religions and cultures (26). This includes but is not limited to Shamanism, Tengrianism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Communism & Islam (1). Sufism is claimed to have its origins in this region, which underscores the rather liberal tradition of religion in Kazakhstan. The socio-cultural setting is one of the two variables bringing stability to Kazakhstan.

Most of Kazakhstan adheres to the Hanafi branch of Islam, which is of the Sunni sect, and is known to be the more liberal of the bunch (11). This strange amalgam of ideas, cultures and religions has likely contributed to the unconventional development of Kazakhstan over the ages. The country’s roots in tribalism, nomadism and mystical religion perhaps helps to explain its resistance to full-fledged westernization, modernization and democratic reform (11). In a sense, this rich cultural history, which enables Kazakhstan to boast some 120 ethnic groups within its borders, makes Kazakhstan’s interactions with various political actors, both internally and externally, rather complex. Perhaps this also explains why Kazakhstan and the Central Asian region at large finds more solace in its neighbors in the East, like China & Russia, who have been most significant in countering western expansionism. The less the outside world is willing to acknowledge the significance of Kazakhstan’s cultural distinctiveness, the more likely that tensions will rise between Western nation’s seeking to secure economic interests and Kazakhstan’s leadership. Furthermore, Kazakhstan’s cultural dynamic shows how ostracized, disenfranchised and “foreign” Islamic fundamentalism, as an ideology, really is to the Kazakh people (19). It is not surprising that most fundamentalist movements receive their support from outside of the region, namely from Saudi Arabia, where fundamentalism is rampant.

The status of women in Kazakhstan is generally regarded positively, considering the liberal Islamic tradition which permeates the country (32). Unlike some other Islamic countries in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, Kazakhstan exhibits no constraints on women’s rights. This could be said generally of the Central Asian region broadly. The greatest threat perhaps to women’s rights as well as children’s safety is Islamic fundamentalism, which, perhaps arbitrarily, refutes women’s rights (37). Nonetheless, it could be said that Kazakhstan secures the rights of women. An example of this is the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women which essentially forbids all forms of institutional discrimination on the basis of gender (18).

Kazakhstan boasts 120 ethnic nationalities within its borders. This is symbolic of its rich history of interaction with external societies, whose cultures and religions they often imported.

One of the most important notions in Kazakhstan is the struggle for national autonomy. Culturally, this struggle is deeply rooted, as Kazakhs have scarcely endured autonomy. Perhaps this is why in their modern setting, Kazakhs are willing to compromise their urge for democratic reform for the sake of preserving national autonomy, given the presence of endless threats to Kazakhstan’s stability, internal and external.

 

  1. Implications and Conclusion

 

The overall analysis, including previous literature and the data gathered on my own, suggests many implications for Kazakhstan. Since the beginning of its history, much before it even existed in the form of state, Kazakhstan has faced the challenge of balancing the variables that seem to directly affect its political stability. Kazakhstan, like the rest of Central Asia, is an anomaly, in a sense. Like many regions of the world where indigenous populations struggle to sustain their national identity while simultaneously trying to embrace modernization, tensions are prevalent, and often produce political systems foreign to the traditional mode of governance in the West. A tradition of tribalism, a history of colonialism, and its complex geography, including the vast amount of oil it possesses, make it the target of aggressive political actors, both domestic, in the form of opposition, dissent and extremism, and foreign, in the form of competing interests between global powers, namely the US, Russia & China, as mentioned earlier in the paper. That Kazakhstan has outdone most of its neighbors politically and economically could be attributed to both its immense oil wealth as well as the cunning leadership of President Nazarbayev, compared to his peer from Uzbekistan for example, Islam Karimov, who has been “less pragmatic” to put it mildly. Kazakhstan has managed to acquiesce any mass-dissent more than any of its neighbors, a reality often overlooked in the literature. The low levels of democracy is often the reason for this oversight. While it cannot be argued that authoritarianism has fueled violence and instability in Kazakhstan, so to has pressure from foreign powers and their ideologies, be they democratic, communist or colonial in nature. The insistence for democracy has often produced disastrous results in regions like Central Asia, for example, in the Middle East. Whether or not democracy is universal, due to variables such as the four mentioned here, comes into question here. This could be described as cultural relativism, the idea that there may be no universal standard for societies globally. It could also suggest something less extreme, that democracy could unfold, but with perhaps less intervention from foreign powers seeking their own interests. Western actions in Central Asia and abroad have been contrary to democratic principles. It is furthermore without question that the West, namely the US, has turned a blind eye to authoritarianism in the region.

For Kazakhstan, the road ahead is paved with uncertainty. Balancing its internal politics, the threat of militants, foreign hegemonies, as well as its intricate geography, will not be easy for future leaders by any means. Perhaps that is why Nazarbayev has stayed in power for so long – there is a succession crisis. With various candidates offered as potential incumbents, his daughter being one of them, the question of how future leaders will play the “great game” will surely determine the country’s fate. Based on the research, I believe the future of Kazakhstan’s political stability rests mainly on the leaderships ability to balance the threats of Russia & the US, and the internal forces of opposition, from political elites, parties and the average constituent, to insurgent groups. A steady transition to political reform could help mitigate the threats posed by these variables to instability, but whether that means full fledged democracy, a hybrid-democracy, or neither, is of question – but is mainly up to Kazakhs to decide for themselves. The idea that western democracies promote this sort of reform or solution in Kazakhstan is premature, based on the US & Europe’s history of negligence and double-dealings. Furthermore, Russia’s more recent expansiveness poses a threat to the possibility of reform in Kazakhstan. That is why it becomes difficult to associate reform with democracy, because the “bad neighborhood” theory – in a landscape of competing hegemonies and security threats, could a fragile democracy survive – would it better serve the people of Kazakhstan? For now, Kazakhstan enjoys the most stable political atmosphere in Central Asia. Aside from its geography, history, and economy, this research suggests the greatest threats to stability in Kazakhstan to be “political” in nature. The more power the indigenous populations of Kazakhstan and elsewhere in the world are able to wield using the natural resources and geopolitical positioning as leverage, the better chance the country has at mitigating foreign exploitation. This would in turn provide greater political stability to Kazakhstan, and could essentially induce a more prosperous future. It could possibly usher more accountability in governance that could more appropriately address all aspects of Kazakh livelihood; whatever “form” that mechanism for accountability may take. But besides all the analysis which seems to often blind us from the more tangible realities that reflect the cultural sensitivities of Kazakh society, it is important to note that among the greatest grievances of the population is the immense frustration towards Western hypocrisy in simultaneously promoting democracy while destabilizing the region. This has given credence to extremist movements and has further blurred the lines between nationalists and foreign forces. The stubbornness of the West has furthermore strengthened the resolve of authoritarian governments, and has furthermore increased public support for the incumbents, deeming western initiatives of promoting peace or democracy suspicious. All these realities have certainly been considered and managed by the current leadership. Critics would certainly dismiss the possibility that Kazakhstan has maintained its stability by the machiavellian pragmatism of the leadership. But this possibility cannot be overlooked, especially when trying to predict the future of Kazakhstan. That the current model of politics in Kazakhstan has performed relatively well compared to its neighbors gives analysts reasons to believe that the future leadership will be not much different from the incumbent, that is, if the stability of Kazakhstan is to be maintained.

The common thread in the literature is rather imbalanced, and often ignores the double-standards of the West. Seeing that the Western world is dominant in the world today, it is unsurprising that the scholarly conversation is biased in its favor (from bipolar to unipolar), usually promoting democracy and ignoring the differences in culture and politics between nations. Also, many democracies exhibit the same injustices as authoritarian regimes. Furthermore, democracies have often engaged with authoritarian regimes, making them complicit in crimes against humanity, a reality that is often shoved beneath the roundtable. We criticize non-democratic countries as though we are infallible, despite out own democratic shortcomings. The political hubris of foreign powers is manifesting in nationalist movements as well as radical insurgent movements. But historically, empires that have grown too proud have collapsed. Internationally security is also at stake. Stability and prosperity are only possible if foreign hegemonies contain their own exploitations and expansive-hunger. But if the trend continues as is, it is unlikely that the US, Europe, China, Russia or the regional powers of Iran & Turkey, will stay out of the sovereign affairs of Kazakhstan and Central Asia, prompting more authoritarianism, heightened security threats, and greater instability for the region, and the international community at large. Whether democracy can unfold or whether or not it is even in the best interests of the Kazakh people is a matter of theory. It is also up to the Kazakh people to decide. Foreign hegemonies are quick to speak for the Kazakhs. Nonetheless, what is likely, is that the light of justice will become more dim if foreign powers continue meddling in the affairs of Kazakhstan, making both prosperity or reform very unlikely.

The quality of life in Kazakhstan as well as the socio-cultural setting, the two perhaps most difficult variables to measure, are the only variables that share a positive relationship with Kazakhstan. This is an interesting dynamic because these two variables are non-empirical in nature — what I mean is that, such variables are determined by collective choices, which are not necessarily based on cost-benefit analysis, like the other variables of political development and economic conditions. In the West, democracy is presumed as the rational form of government — the product of a series of failures of non-populist government forms which led to the enlightenment, and the french revolution. While democracy has prevailed in the West — it hasn’t in other regions, like Central Asia. Kazakhstan is great example of it, where democratic reform continues to lag. It could be too early to dim the lights on democracy for Kazakhstan entirely, but as the research indicates, the country’s historical development is significantly distinct from those countries which are in today’s world described as “western democracies”. The greatest hope for Kazakhstan, and the region at large, is that foreign hegemonies will learn to contain their ambitions for the sake of international security and genuine political reform, whatever direction it takes. Meanwhile, if Central Asian states could learn to settle their differences, this could serve as the greatest threat to exploitative global hegemonies. Perhaps what it feared is a united, sovereign and self-reliant Central Asia. Perhaps it is this possibility which has driven global powers like the US and Russia to be negligent of the threat of radical forces in the region, while simultaneously working actively against the more moderate forces of Central Asian society. If the United States continues to follow the trend of the current administration, there is reason to believe that the ineffectiveness of the “war on terror” as well as previous traditions of meddling in the sovereign affairs of Central Asian states will be further realized. Given the contentious tone of ongoing political conversation in the US, the most influential power in the world, as well as Russia’s interventions in Georgia and the Ukraine, a future of further instability is equally possible (4). It is a question of whether or not Central Asian states like Kazakhstan will manage to fend themselves, or surrender to a relationship of dependency.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  42. Vries, Michiel S., and Iwona Sobis. “Reluctant reforms: The case of Kazakhstan.” Public Organization Review 14, no. 2 (2014): 139-157.
  43. Witt, Daniel. “Kazakhstan Presidential Election Shows Progress.” The World Post. 2011. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daniel-witt/kazakhstans-presidential-_b_847612.html
  44. Xi, Chen. “Energy resources impact on economy development and international relations in Kazakhstan.” PhD diss., 2007.
  45. Yeager, Matthew G. “The CIA made me do it: understanding the political economy of corruption in Kazakhstan.” Crime, law and social change 57, no. 4 (2012): 441-457.
  46. Zhansulu, Makazhanova. “YOUTH POLICY OF THE REPUBLIC OF KAZAKHSTAN.” European Scientific Journal 9, no. 19 (2013).

Mearsheimer’s Legacy: The Future of International Relations & Political Theory


International relations theory generally breaks up into three focuses – individual, state and international.

The prevailing schools focus on the state level, arguing that, based on the evolution of history, this is the unit of analysis in international politics.

John Mearsheimer whom perhaps is referenced less nowadays since his controversial piece on Israeli foreign politics argued from the realist perspective that US hegemony would be challenged due to “imperial overreach”.

The emergence of new powers (BRICS) and the souring of relations between western allies is further evidence of a new impasse in international politics. Are we facing a challenge to the unipolar order which has seen US domination for a half century?

Earlier this year Scotland debated exiting the UK. This failed. Now the UK is considering exiting the EU. Could this be affirming the predictions of Mearsheimer?

But are we committing the same fallacy done by political theorists in early history who analyzed from the perspective of empires? Is America not behaving as an ambitious empire? Could the world ever revert to an international system of empires, or are states the permanent fate of international political theory?

America’s internal politics largely contributes to its foreign policy, and vice versa, contrary to claims of isolationism, disentanglements and illusory self-dependence. Currently, America is witnessing an internal challenge to its tradition of ideological exclusivism which has prevented social, economic and political inclusion for all people, particularly minorities – individuals who might possess the capacity to influence US policy away from exclusivism both domestically and internationally. This change is the only chance America has at containing its imperial tendency – because that tendency has only been able to exist due to its domestic tradition of social inequality for minorities.

In political theory, there are assumptions nowadays that a “free market” only exists within capitalist ideology. The reality isn’t so simple – states form because cultures exist and need protection and preservation. Sometimes in history, I argue, one culture becomes domineering and expansive beyond sustainability, such as with the Romans, Greeks, Persians…even the English, French, the USSR and now America. The ideologies and cultures were distinct, but shared a common feature – political hubris – expanding beyond boundaries.

Ideologies are meant to distract from the international political reality which is less simplistic. Assuming the state is the prevailing political agent, I argue that cultural fanaticism, be it populistic or elitist, results in domestic and international imbalance of power. This causes instability and violence. Historically such endeavors were justified through ideologies promising various rewards or statuses – today that “religion” is accepting subservience to imperialism – the desire to disrupt the state system through imperial ambitions. The tactics are mischievous.

The idea that capitalism is responsible for American prosperity is ignorant of the involvement of the collectivist policies of the US government over time. Further it assumes that markets cannot exist smoothly without corporate lawlessness. In fact, true markets can only exist in healthy fashion when a given stage is culturally united and conscientious of its citizens needs. Because contrary to the naive wisdom of modern capitalist theorists, markets are influenced by more than just supply and demand but a range of social and political factors.

When all nations learn to contain their imperial ambitions and return to a state of international balance, there will be less ideological mania and political instability. What we need is a sort of global treaty of Westphalia that recognizes sovereignty an a moderate economic system that is decent.

While these complex assertions are difficult to digest or perhaps even to suggest, they certainly highlight The plight of a mixed economist and social constructivist seeking to make sense of an ideological, polarized and dogmatic world.

If I Were President – 2016 and Beyond


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There are many avenues that need to be walked in order to improve the US domestically.

The US is still a global leader, but socio-economically it lags in development, compared to its allies in Europe and its emerging competitors in the East. The progressive wave which swept Europe in the 90s and early 2000s seems to have missed the US. Obama’s legacy remains barely left of center, despite significant strides and accomplishments. Furthermore, China’s emergence as an industrial power and Russia’s assertiveness in the 21st century are signs of a need for the US to improve its position politically.

So what should be on the agenda for the US domestically?

  1. Immigration Reform – This must be done comprehensively without leaving any behind and also planning for the future. Grant amnesty, permanent status to those currently living in the US, with discretion for amnesty based on level of hardship endured. Grant federal aid to all immigrants in US. Normalize their status. Establish better relations economically and politically with neighbors, particularly those from which immigrants flee. Tackle source of problem. Tightening borders not only won’t solve problem – it is a mere rhetorical campaign tactic to entice those with little education on the matter.
  2. Minority Rights – African & Latino-Americans, but also Arab and Asian-Americans have suffered disproportionately in the spheres of economics and political representation. Social, economic and political measures are necessary to elevate not just the plight but the status of minorities in the US to that of equal-standing with other social groups to balance out the playing field and ensure a robust democracy and free market for all – not just some.
  3. Military & Prison Reform – We spend too much money on our military. We execute and incarcerate more people than any country in the world. That includes China, the most populous nation on the planet. How could this be? Surely, the US’ history of racism has nothing to do with it…considering the majority of prisoners in the US are either African or Latino. We need to spend less on our military, jail less of our minorities, and de-institutionalize racism. This requires active government initiative in the realms of education and economic opportunity.
  4. Health & Climate – we need a conscious revolution in our expectations of quality and formation of national identity and culture. The US must advocate for cleaner diets and environments for its people. Furthermore, the US must learn to compromise the tradition of robust-industrialization with regards to its negative impact on the environment. Thoroughly embedded universal healthcare must be made accessible to all Americans.

And what about in the realm of foreign politics?

Disengagement – the US must return to its pre-WWI foreign policy of having almost no foreign policy. The US was isolationist, largely uninvolved in the world prior to the world wars. Interventionism in the post-cold war period has reached new heights, and caused greater setbacks for the US and the world altogether. More military disengagement, including of covert operations, would result in a more secure US. The US cannot expect to have its borders secure while it practically disregards the borders and national sovereignty of other nations.

  1. Disengage Saudi Arabia until religious tolerance reform; distribute wealth
  2. Reconcile with Iran, Syria – South America
  3. Disengage Israel – less partial support
  4. Disengage from other spheres of influence (respect Chinese, Russian spheres)
  5. Recognize the Armenian Genocide (and all other disregarded mass-genocides of the 20th century and beyond; in Africa and Asia)
  6. Pressure Turkey to contain itself

Instead of disrupting the balance of power, the US should seek to play a more even hand. It could thus focus less on entertaining the greed of its elite through foreign escapades, and more on distributing resources more justly, effectively and fruitfully.

Who is the best candidate?

Overall Bernie Sanders is the best candidate because he benefits all those who are struggling, from economic equality, gender & minority rights, prison-reform & foreign disengagement – all of these fall within his scope. And all of these have hurt the US. As for foreign policy, he won’t do much. But that’s better than doing a lot – which is what his competitors and his predecessors have done – full military engagement or support for various forces. Bernie isn’t going to save America or the world. Particularly in the Middle East, his policies could prove naive – how would he manage Israeli aggression? Furthermore, in light of the double-standard against Palestinians, can their self-determination be secured in the face of a relentless, expansionist Israeli state?

What would happen in a Trump or Clinton presidency? How different are they, how similar?

We would clash with all our “enemies” more directly: Iran, North Korea, ISIS, Venezuela, Hamas, Hezbollah & Syria. Obama’s legacy of reconciliation would be undermined, where as a Bernie Sanders presidency would be more in tune.

If we focus on policy instead of rhetoric, we’ll see that both Trump and Clinton are hawkish. They are both angry about the deal with Iran. Both are unrelentingly pro-Israeli.

America is at a cross-roads. Sure, we are always choosing between two sides, but this election, more than ever, is more polarized than ever. Considering the US’ immense influence over global affairs, blue or red tie in the White House often means the difference between inflated gas prices and high terror alerts.

Is Bernie that much different from Trump and Clinton?

Aside from the slogans, ideologies and rhetoric – how different are these guys? In domestic politics, greatly. In foreign politics…not so much. In fact foreign politics has almost taken a backseat to the economic crisis in the US. The sad thing is that the two are so-connected.

Who do you trust most to deal with these realities?

Take your pick. Bet you can’t guess mine! (Even though I can’t vote…which goes back to the need for immigration reform). Catch my drift?