Art by Nermine Hammam
Executive Produced by KRIKOS
Presented by Colours of the Culture
Art by Nermine Hammam
Executive Produced by KRIKOS
Presented by Colours of the Culture
There is a disconnect between national policy and international relations.
The decision to leave the EU by the UK, or “Brexit”, is a symbol of that disconnect.
But in order to understand the origins of this decision, it is important to highlight the UK’s tradition of reluctance and hesitation towards the EU since its inception.
By nature, the UK, like America, prefers to play a conservative role in international affairs, dabbling in just enough to get the benefit, but not enough to bear the burden.
But the armed crises in the Middle East have created a storm in UK & EU politics, with the migration crisis being the crux of the problem.
Evidently, the UK prefers to leave such matters in the hands of its European counterparts, which is ironic because the UK is America’s closest ally in Europe – both countries are directly responsible for destabilizing the Middle East in the first place, under the premise of liberalization. This is where the disconnect begins.
At least half of the UK truly feels undermined by the concentration of power, underrepresented and almost collectivized by being part of the EU.
But is the decision to leave the EU a right-wing populist scheme exploiting frustrations of the ordinary Brit? In South America, both right and left wing populism have failed to their more centered opponents. The US is still determining its fate.
Has this decision created a more or less secure world? Is this decision likely to produce positive or negative results in the UK’s social, economic and political fabric? How will this impact the rest of Europe? What will happen to the migrants?
It is in fact the people who have decided, through referendum, to leave the EU. Despite a targeted and well-developed “leave” campaign, the decision is also inspired by general discontent towards the EU in Britain. But the facts and rhetoric surrounding the campaign reveals “Brexit” is more about xenophobia & Islamophobia than it is about sovereignty.
The majority of those who voted to leave the EU were above the age of 40. The vast majority of those who voted against were in their 20s ad 30s.
Given that London just elected its first Muslim mayor, there is reason to believe that unfounded, prejudiced paranoias about migrants and Muslims have stoked fears and insecurities in society, just enough to feed into the allure of right-wing populism and fear.
UK MP Nigel Farage proclaimed victory, ushering the 23rd as the UK’s modern independence day. He went on to claim that such a victory was achieved without any blood spilled. But only last week, British MP Jo Cox was violently murdered by a right-wing extremist who shouted “Britain First” as he committed the murder. Has this been understated by the media? Compared to reporting on terrorism linked to one or more Muslims, it is difficult to say that the media is not biased.
Notable international relations theorist John Mearsheimer predicted the disintegration of the EU as a result of the current international political dynamic which has seen America as the world’s sole superpower since the dissolution of the USSR. That dissolution has almost removed the security incentive for unity, or balancing that brought the EU together in the first place. There appears to be a growing rift among NATO members, particularly between European states and the US on how to manage international affairs. The differences stem from foreign policy on the Middle East primarily. Is the UK’s decision to leave the EU an inching towards or away from subservience to US leadership? That depends on the direction US democracy goes. If the American people also give in to fear, Donald Trump might be the next US president. This suggests that the two of the world’s most influential powers, the UK and America, are juggling between the past and the future – traditions of colonialism, racism & global mischief – and the equally traditional struggle against those forces, political enfranchisement, and socio-economic equality.
Europe is drifting towards a center-left progressive “utopia” – something despised by the British traditional-mentality. The same could be said of the US. This is vindicated by the statistics surrounding the ‘Brexit’ vote which saw the majority of the “leave” supporters being over the age of 40.
Without delving deeply into history books, the average person might not know that much of the US’ post-WWI behavior was determined by the British, by prompting fear and insecurity about illusory global threats. In 1952, it was the British who convinced the US that movements for sovereignty in the Middle East were a threat. Initially the US had actually empathized with the struggles for independence in the Middle East. The UK convinced the US to overthrow a democratically elected leader in Iran, and the US agreed because of the paranoias injected by the UK about the so-called “communist menace”.
To some it may be surprising that racism, Islamophobia and fascism are creeping into US and UK politics. To others, perhaps more victimized by these forces, it is more dangerous than surprising. If the US decides to follow suit and elects Donald Trump, there is reason to believe that global tensions might intensify. Remember that European history is bloody. Wars between France, England, Germany were commonplace. The UK’s exit from the EU might disturb this legacy of peace and harmony in Europe which has endured since WWII. Furthermore, it might reintroduce fascism into the West – long thought gone and dead.
It isn’t hard to imagine what would happen if the US did in fact follow suit. Two blocs would eventually form in the global order – a rebalancing of powers if you will. The UK and the US would be together on one side; Russia, China & Iran on the other. India would likely play an indirect role, but ultimately throwing most of its support behind the latter bloc. The contrary would apply to the Gulf states in the Middle East, Israel and Pakistan, who would likely remain under the auspices of the UK & the US. Altogether this can be described as the modern world order. In this scenario, the EU disintegrates completely. The fault line will likely split between France & Germany – to no surprise, with much of eastern Europe balancing against the UK & the US. The war between fascism and collectivism ensues. The ideologies of capitalism and culture are at war – they are mutually exclusive. In reality, capitalism fully realized is fascist, and collectivism fully realized is communist – both authoritarian to some extent. But the latter is conditional and retaliatory. In a perfect world, neither would exist, and universal democracy could flourish without capitalism and communism. Till then, we must pick sides and lesser evils or resort to anarchism.
There is still hope for the world and America. Clinton is not our salvation – but in politics there are no angels; only lesser devils – or so it seems.
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.
Most political critics won’t even hold an opinion anymore – they prefer to hold grudges. All the modern Middle Eastern conflicts could bend in the direction of justice today and yet it is almost as if they’d be disappointed – they’d have nothing left to criticize. It is one thing to constructively criticize a political tyrant – it is another thing to criticize whatever you feel like criticizing for your own agenda.
Obama is attacking ISIS. Why is that a bad thing? Because Bush did it? Remember guys – Bush is a conservative. His motive was different. His tactic was different. His execution was different. Stop generalizing.
Saudi Arabia might be a hub for fundamentalism. So is America – Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, to name a few (who are politically influential).
Ultimately can we always blame Arab governments (and government in general) for the choice of their constituents to rise in ideologically fanatical insurgency? Is it not individual choice that lead to the rise of groups like ISIS? But what unit of measure do you perceive the world by – the individual, or else?
1. A sense of entitlement and exclusiveness emanates from the Arabian peninsula, namely from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Yemen & the UAE, which has its roots embedded in a version of an Islamic narrative that ties the Arabs of this region to ancient jewish and semitic tribes.
2. This has concentrated wealth in the particular tribe of Al Saud, leaving the spoils of the Middle East’s vast oil reserves in the hands of this family, tribe and what has become a political ‘cult’.
3. The Arabian peninsula was a series of loosely ruled mandates and kingdoms, until the Saudi defeat of the kingdom of Hejaz. Al Saud would refer to this as the unification of Saudi Arabia while in reality it was a conquest of land, likely supported by colonial agents such as the British and the Americans, who saw the economic and political gains of a religiously zealous and feared, imperial and unquestioned authority such as the House of Saud.
4. This contrasts with the culture that formed the modern nation-state of Syria, which sits on the other side of the political spectrum of Middle Eastern politics. Circumstance, geography and history carved a different fate for the Syrian nation-state. Diversity and a constant foreign threat dictated the politics of Syria, and focus on collective justice pinned the country against their neighbors, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey & Kuwait as pawns of global powers, namely the West (US, UK, France, Germany).
5. The establishment of Israel by the UK and with the help and support of the vast majority of Western countries, further exasperated and intensified the exclusivist culture of bigotry, racism, hypocrisy and fundamentalism. Like the Saudis, Israelis have used prejudiced narratives to horde semitism as their own.
6. History suggests however that semitism has roots in Syria, bilad al-Sham having linguistic ties to Shem, one of the sons of Noah, a prominent biblical figure in the religions of Islam & Judaism (amongst others).
7. In Saudi Arabia, (and in Israel, and in parts of the West) where capitalism has taken hold, a culture of ownership of other human beings and of natural resources has turned rampant and has led to the theft of basic human rights; rights to expression, freedom & dignity.
8. The emphasis on paranoias of individual power-hunger has led tribes and cults like al Saud to prey on their opponents and to garner support. Saudi Arabia is among the most destabilizing forces in the world, largely veiled by their luxurious lifestyles. They’ve successfully pinned all opponents and contentious movements as anti-freedom, similar to the American strategy as pinning foes as freedom-haters.
9. One man’s freedom is another man’s slavery. Saudi Arabia is a victim of the Western capitalist machine. Even America is a victim of the Capitalist machine. America is the bastard daughter of imperialism. In today’s world, it is battling itself. In America, war is fought between democrats and republicans and independents and etc. But the rest of the world is also fighting America’s war. In Iraq, pro-west vs anti-west groups split the nation. In Syria, Libya and Egypt, similar scenarios unfold.
10. Communism was portrayed by politicians and ideologues of the 19th and 20th centuries as a threat to the capitalism of the West when in reality it was merely a guised reflection of the same ideology bent on ownership of human beings and natural resources. This is what happens when ideas become our Gods. The ‘authentic’ resistance to Western imperialism turned out to be a hoax, a farce, a deception, carefully orchestrated.
11. Imperialism is the umbrella idea, and all other ideas are expressions of it. The enemy of imperialism is national sovereignty. Germany, America, Syria, the actual would-be nation-state of the Gulf, Japan, China, etc – these are all nations that are threatened by imperialism. Imperialism, the ideology that takes over nations, owns humans, and resources, is expressed in today’s world through Zionism, American Republicanism, Chinese Communism, Russian Oligarchy, Saudi Wahhabism, Lebanese Phalangism.
12. Once imperialism is rooted out, national & global criminals will be exposed. The world cannot afford such power-hunger. The crime is not desire. The crime is not excess. The crime is power-hunger. Anyone who says different is using it as a distraction. All men deserve freedom, dignity and the right to expression and prosperity – and the only barrier to these ambitions is the kind of ideology that seeks to justify suppressing them – imperial dogmatic religions.
13. The great evil is not atheism. It is not theism. It is both. Together, because ultimately the roots of both of these is a desire for power. The true believer is not held hostage to either vanity.
14. God save the Middle East and bring the world to justice.