Πέμπτη 22 Μαΐου 2014

The demise of the West: Civil War

By Nikos Biniaris
Though the left hand conquered the right no advantage has been gained
Chinese proverb
The West, as we traditionally designate “Old” and “New” Europe, North America plus Australia and New Zealand, is a set of countries with two historical-sociological characteristics: modernization and westernization. The first was the scientific revolution and the subsequent faith in science and technology. This has been the fundamental underlying cause of the West’s power and its domination upon the world’s diverse societies and political formations. The causes of this historical transformation in this particular area are complex and debatable. However, what is crucial is that the scientific revolution is today an integral part of human civilization. Modernization, has taken over the lives, traditions and well-being of all non-western civilizational paradigms. Adapting to it, though, is a demand which requires the acceptance of links with western institutions, as scientific, legal, business as well as international regulative authorities and research centers. There is no modernization without co-operation with the West and thus it is the necessary condition for other non-western societies to antagonize, compete or try to overcome western predominance. It is the adaptation to science and technology which provides the basis for a strong or at least a functioning economy in the international division of production. It is upon this fact that USA and EU sanctions try to hurt, Iran, and recently Russia. Adopting and advancing science and technology as well as economic globalization are the signposts of China’s ascendance to a significant world power.
The second indigenous social development of the West is that which is epigrammatically called westernization: a social political construct described as democracy, the rule of law, human rights and an open dialogue in a secular political environment. Westernization is a praxis few societies, besides the traditional western locus, have evolved to match.
If we use the criterion of modernization the whole world is more or less the West.
Besides this triumph it seems that there other negative social-historical forces which prompt the West to engage in a third social-historical characteristic: civil wars. It is as if this practice is not yet erased from its collective unconscious. What we are experiencing today is not the demise of the West by external forces but its implosion.  We should never forget the Nicaean doctrine fighting against Arianism; Catholics sacking Constantinople, and Protestants against Catholics. No doubt, similar, the Spanish warring against English, English against French and German against all. Europe fought too many wars which were actually civil wars for hundreds of years. Perhaps those were wars which shaped the European nation state, another unique social-political experiment of this part of the world, but this is not an option in this nuclear defined age.

Russia as part of the West

Huntington had classified Russia as an Orthodox civilization, not a Western one. This is at least a half truth but fairly convenient to keep a popular mindset focused on an imaginary non-western enemy associated with the evil empire of the Soviet Union. Hellenic-Roman, Judeo-Christian, the Enlightenment and the British, American French and Russian revolutionary paradigms are the common cultural and political heritage of the West. Russia is the eastern West of the so called “West”. As the late professor Rorty has proposed we must look to our common heroes so as to develop a new vocabulary for a discourse advancing solidarity. We do have Russian heroes in the West: Peter the Great, Kutuzov, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Eisenstein, Shostakovich, Sakharov, Pasternak, Solzhenitsyn, Pavlov, Bakunin, Trotsky and many others.
Europe cannot say that Russia is not part of it because millions of Russians died so that Kaiser wouldn’t drink his coffee at the Café de Paris and as many died so that the British wouldn’t be occupied in 1941. Historically Russia had sustained a lot of pressure and isolation. It had suffered invasions by the Mongol Tatars, Swedish, Lithuanians, Turks, French and Germans. Do armchair strategists in Washington and Brussels believe that history is erased from the Russian collective unconscious? Was ever Perl Harbor erased from the American one? We can see this through its reaction after the September 11 attack.
Historically the congress of Vienna in 1815 with the participation of Czar Alexander created the most stable Europe till British and French concocted the Crimean War in 1854. According to historian Shepard Clough, the war: "was not the result of a calculated plan, nor even of hasty last-minute decisions made under stress. It was the consequence of more than two years of fatal blundering in slow-motion by inept statesmen who had months to reflect upon the actions they took.” Doesn’t this assessment ominously echoe today’s western leaders?  In 1871 the Germans defeated the French and established their unified nation and launched an empire of their own. The rest is well known but not internalized: the Ukrainian crisis is nothing more than the inability of the West to live peacefully with itself and reconcile this love-hate relationship with Russia.  
In the 20th century the so called WWI of 1914 was nothing more than pan-European civil war. Its final outcome was to transform a semi-European, semi-Asiatic Imperial Russia to a Marxist-Leninist one, the iconic Soviet Union and forge the rise of fascism and Nazism. What actually happened was that Russia modernized in a radical way by the tenets of the heresy of capitalism called “scientific socialism”. It turned from a backward country to one which matched the West as a modernized society. Fascism and Nazism currying the myth of the “heroic man” initiated a second deadlier than ever pan-European slaughter which turned all European humanism to dust.

The march of folly

Presently with the Ukrainian crisis it seems that we are attempting to repeat the same scenario of 1914 and its sequel, 1939-45 by other means. The bureaucrats in Brussels conjured up a plan about Ukraine. The three protagonists of the drama are: Lady Ashton, Mr. David O’Sullivan and the Czech Mr. Stefan Fulle. The first as the acting Foreign Affairs Director, the second as the head of the European External Service and the third as the head of the Directorate General for Enlargement acted as agents provocateurs. These three bureaucrats ended up offering an agreement to Ukraine which was actually a step into a diplomatic minefield between EU, a “leading behind” USA and Russia. Coherent foreign policy and the post-modern edifice of the EU seem to be far apart.
The agreement, these unelected officials offered, was a take-it-or-leave-it deal for Ukraine. Was this a decision by the European leaders or a “routine” bureaucratic chore? Russia asked to be involved in this agreement but to no avail. Such a move would have upgraded Russia as co-decision maker in EU’s affairs which was a crucial political issue for a non-existent common foreign policy. Did the heads of states endorse this plan as a diplomatic initiative against Russia or as an experiment in enlargement? In any case they must take the full responsibility for what is happening today in Europe. For better or for worse, the huge Russia is one of them as well as tiny Malta. No doubt a vast and militarily strong Russia seems as a distinct entity from the EU. Can we build a European house without Russia? For historical, economic and cultural reasons this is impossible. This undiplomatic and inconsiderate proposal brought about a new either/or dilemma. “Either the EU is with the USA or with Russia.” But things could be more complicated. Do we have three “Wests” so to speak: the security consumer EU, the leader and security provider USA and a recalcitrant and dysfunctional Russia?
 What is actually passing between the partners of the traditional West? Is this 1914 déjà vu? Marx in the 18th Brumaire said that history repeats itself the second time as a farce. This is not true and particularly at this point in time.  History repeats itself over and over again as a tragedy, war. Is this a scenario written in Washington and enacted by a subservient and idiotic Europe? America has saved Europe twice from its worst self. This time it may destroy the continent for good. A curious turn of history: it becomes more and more visible that Europe is going to suffer for a very long time: economically, politically and as a humanitarian project.
 Europe and USA have created new narratives out of their political traditions.  One of these narratives was an EU based on a functionalistic theory, a state without borders, army and foreign policy, a common currency but without a lender of last resort and without a common fiscal policy. On the other hand America as a superpower with 700 or so bases watching all activities on the planet and having interests from the North to the South Pole as a self-appointed world arbiter is trying to spread the gospel of democracy and free market in any possible way through regime change, color revolutions, economic and trade sanctions, aid to friendly states but regrettably also through war. American policy has a globalized perspective of “partners” and “evil enemies”. There was never a new congress of Vienna in 1991 to delineate commercial and security concerns of the new great powers. It seems that we operate under the maxim: “winner takes all”. This never worked in history. On the contrary it leads to disaster. This is a historical failure which may be the real “end of history”.
We are confronted with a grand folly of the West that has discovered a convenient adversary to cover-up its ineptitude to manage an insurgent Islam, an impeding environmental catastrophe and a world divided by extreme poverty and riches. Even worse, the entire West has a dysfunctional economy, with its social model in shambles and diminishing social cohesion. 

Concluding remarks

There is no appropriate couch to psychoanalyze the West upon, nor a psychologist available to bring the trauma of previous civil wars out in the open. The only critical reviewer is history. WWI and WWII were fought among western powers. China was at that time a prey never subjugated. Now the world is much more complex and dangerous than ever, since nuclear weapons are rolling around either actually or potentially. Are there some criminal minds who even advocate the use of these weapons as the instrumental “final solution” of the West’s quest for total world hegemony? Does the “West” deep down have reached a point of preferring annihilation rather than a diminished role in the world?
Our perceptions of punishment may not work as deterrence for further aggression but on the contrary as reinforcement for more inimical behavior. If we do not adopt an attitude so as to transform our mutual perceptions from threatening to conciliatory, we are in for a rough ride. Russia can destabilize other parts or the world and it can even rekindle conflicts. Ukraine’s history and social make-up point to a civil war-already exploding- and even a further split-up of the country, if the Russophobes keep the upper hand in the Ukrainian streets and the Russian in that country call for its dismembering.  
China on the other hand is staying calm and on the fence assessing losses and profits for its long term plan to become an economic power house: “Beijing will also join Washington in handling bilateral ties based on such principles as non-confrontational actions, mutual respect, and win-win cooperation, [President] Xi said.” (Xinhua 24/3/2014). China is asking the acknowledgement of a multipolar world: a new type of major-country relations. Putin, a follower of Thucydides, Machiavelli and Hobbes, after the annexation of Crimea is also staying calm. As realists we know that the West still has a formidable array of weapons in its quiver: economic predominance and an imposing military power. For how long can Russia and China stay calm if the military built-up around Russia and the “Asia Pivot” continues unabated? “Just as Ted Galen Carpenter, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, warned, it would be Washington's biggest strategic mistake to antagonize two major powers simultaneously when the United States is in the worst confrontation with Russia since the Cold War over Ukraine.” (Xinhua April 28 2014) concerning America’s “pivot to Asia”. New sanctions target President Putin and his acolytes. It becomes apparent that Washington is up to regime change in Russia. Upon this we have China’s response: "Imposing sanctions is not helpful in terms of solving the problem. It will only exacerbate the tension. We call for all parties to continue dialogue and negotiation, and promote a political solution. Imposing sanctions goes against the interests of all parties," said Qin Gang, Spokesman of Chinese Foreign Ministry. (Xinhua April 29 2014). “Whoever can understand must understand well” as the ancient Hellenic saying goes.
The article was posted on Asian Times on Line May 2 2014