All posts filed under: Foreign Policy

The Fragility of the Liberal World Order

A review of The Jungle Grows Back: America and our Imperiled World by Robert Kagan. Knopf (September 2018) 192 pages. In its natural state, international relations is little more than a ‘jungle.’ There is no umpire to ensure fair play, no global police force to punish wrongdoers, and ‘good boys’ are rarely rewarded. Prevaricate or show weakness and you risk being picked off and consumed by bigger beasts. Prior to the end of the Second World War, European geopolitics was characterized by this remorseless logic. As states vied for hegemony, tens of millions were killed in war and conflict, and human tragedy and suffering were on scales almost beyond the imaginable. Today, however, we have complex forms of global economic interdependence, sets of global institutions that fuse us together and a transformed jungle that incentivize ‘good boys,’ as well as rules, norms and ultimately military power to make sure they remain good. How did our international jungle, an almost constant in human history, come to be so tamed? In his latest book, The Jungle Grows Back: America …

Nationalism and Liberal Empire

A review of The Virtue of Nationalism, by Yoram Hazony. Basic Books (September 4, 2018) 304 pages.  Saying that nationalism has become the number one topic in the current political and intellectual discourse is to state the obvious. Not a day goes by in the West, without another think-tank symposium, a journal article, an op-ed piece, or a long scholarly book, warning us of the rise of nationalism. With the pro-Brexit vote in Britain and the election of President Donald Trump promoting an “America First” agenda  — to the threat that this global political trend poses to the long-term survival of liberal democratic societies, to the foundations of the so-called liberal international order, and perhaps even to the entire Enlightenment Project as we know it. Send help! Much of this fashionable bashing of nationalism seems to almost take it for granted, that nationalism, which in essence is the recognition of the nation-state as the central force that provides stability to domestic and international political order, is the close political relative of, if not synonymous with, protectionism, …

‘Anti-Imperialism’ and Apologetics for Murder

A consistent feature of the British socialist Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has been support for Islamists and Third World dictators. Corbyn himself has dined with his “friends” in Hamas and Hezbollah, and saluted the Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro. Andrew Murray, one of his consultants, is a sympathiser with the Juche regime in North Korea. Yasmine Dar, a member of Labour’s National Executive Committee, is an admirer of the Ayatollah Khomeini. Chris Williamson MP, Corbyn’s longtime supporter and friend, is a big fan of the Castroite regime in Cuba. And Seumas Milne, Corbyn’s Director of Strategy and Communications, was formerly a Guardian columnist, of whom the leftist commentator Brian Whitaker once wrote: [Milne] views international politics almost entirely through an anti-imperialist lens. That, in turn, leads to a sympathetic view of those dictatorial regimes which characterise themselves as anti-imperialist. It’s the same with Islamist movements where they oppose Western-backed regimes… To understand this curious phenomenon it is necessary to return to the West after World War Two. First World Failure, and Third World Hope By the end of …

The World According to Realism

The late political scientist Samuel P. Huntington argued in the 1993 Foreign Affairs article “The Clash of Civilizations?” (later expanded into a book with the question mark removed) that post-Cold War conflict would precipitate over differences in identity, religion, and culture. Fareed Zakaria, a former Huntington student, wrote of his mentor’s thesis, “While others were celebrating the fall of communism and the rise of globalization, he saw that with ideology disappearing as a source of human identity, religion was returning to the fore.” Huntington was writing in response to the argument of another former student, Francis Fukuyama, that a Hegelian “End of History” was upon us. In the heady days following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Huntington held the minority opinion that geopolitics and power still mattered, and worried that American foreign policy was entering a new era of history with its eyes half shut. Stephen Walt points out that at the time of Huntington’s article liberal internationalism was ascendant, al Qaeda was a minor threat, the Middle East was healing, and America was king. …

In Defence of the Immigrant—A Response to Lauren Southern  

Australian news coverage has been dominated in recent days by self-styled Canadian right-wing “provocateur” Lauren Southern — a 23 year-old Youtube personality who travels the world, speaking out on issues ranging from anti-feminism to multiculturalism and immigration. Southern believes that Australia should not accept immigrants from Asia or Africa. “Do you want to retain your culture?” she asks fans in a recent video promoting her Australian tour. “Do you want to retain your borders, family, identity? Or will the boats keep coming? Will the no-go zones keep growing? And will you become another victim of multiculturalism?” Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter that the boats stopped long ago and these ‘no go zones’ do not exist in Australia — plenty of followers have skolled the Kool-Aid. It certainly helps that protesters drawn to her recent Melbourne show resorted to storming the stage in a bid to shut the event down after the Victorian police slugged her promoters with an unjustified $68,000 security bill — both events which have helped her promote her tour while drawing sympathy from sections of the public. Southern professes that her views …

The Illusion of a Gentle Machine Gun Hand

On May 31, 2018, Canada’s Minister of Public Services and Procurement announced the construction of new Joint Support Ships (JSS) for the Royal Canadian Navy. “With the construction of the JSS,” declared Carla Qualtrough, “our government is delivering on our commitment to support the men and women of the Royal Canadian Navy as they undertake humanitarian and military missions on behalf of our great country.” While the core capability of the JSS will be the “provision of fuel, ammunition, spare parts, food, water, and other supplies to warships at sea,” the Minister presented these ships as instruments of humanitarian operations, not war or peacemaking. The messaging from Justin Trudeau’s dovish Liberal government in regard to the JSS is part of a larger trend, whereby many Western governments now seek to downplay the true character of their tools of war—in large part because they know that voters now have little stomach for contemplating the idea of actual combat. While such messaging may provide comfort, it causes a rift between citizens and military personnel when wars must …

Why “Open Borders” is a Dangerous Idea

A decade before he fell to esophageal cancer Christopher Hitchens gave a series of riveting speeches on George Orwell. In them Hitchens argued that Orwell was an intellectual of such tremendous consequence because he got the “three great dramas” of the 20th century right. These were: the moral unsustainability of imperialism, the rising danger of Fascism, and the soulless cruelty of Communism. Most today agree that Orwell was a singularly perceptive observer of that barbaric century. So in the opening decades of the new century, what are the great dramas bearing down on us? The danger of climate change is surely high on most lists. The promise and peril of artificial superintelligence? Or genetic engineering? Perhaps the danger lurks most in the threats we have slowly adjusted to and may be complacent about such as nuclear and biological weapons proliferation. From my point-of-view, mass migration is the singular challenge of the 21st century. This is because it is a meta-issue that will affect our response to every other challenge. This is due to the fact …

Balancing Threat in the Middle East

Last month, the BBC asked will Saudi Arabia and Iran go to war? The question is redundant as they are already at war. Iranians are currently engaged in propping up a Shi’ite crescent from Iraq to Syria. The Saudis are blockading Qatar, threatening Lebanon, and bombing Yemen back to the Stone Age. To quote the Prussian general and the sage of warfare, Carl von Clausewitz, “War is merely continuation of state policy by other means.” By that definition, the Saudis and Iranians are already engaged in a vicious struggle for control of the Middle East in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine, and Yemen. So what is prompting this hegemonic aspiration from both sides? What are the sources of Iranian and Saudi foreign policy and what prudent options there are for the West to adopt? The prudent question for the West is not whether there will be a land war as such, but what grand strategy the West should follow. Arab-Persian Rivalry or Shia-Sunni Differences? Historically, Persia was a rightful hegemon of the region, since the time of …

The Poverty of Cosmopolitan Historicism

When the Soviet Union fell, Marxist utopianism came to an end. In the decades since, a new breed of utopianism has gripped the collective imagination. Cosmopolitanism dreams of a borderless world united in peace and understanding, and it is underpinned by a powerful narrative of historical progress that has much in common with its Marxist cousin. Its name is cosmopolitan historicism. In The Open Society and its Enemies, Karl Popper wrote that “we may become the makers of our fate when we have ceased to pose as its prophets”. In Popper’s view, historicism was defined by its simplistic understanding of history, viewed as an unfolding of inexorable iron laws. Based on what they saw as their unique insight into these presumed laws, historicists issued wild prophecies about the future of human society. For this they were mercilessly critiqued by Popper. In his eyes, dogmatic attachment to a utopian blueprint provided by what was understood as history’s ultimate destination caused historicist zealots to doggedly push ahead toward the end of history while ignoring signs that their …

Kurds Need A Street: A (Classical) Liberal Case for Kurdistan

The eyes of the world are fixed uneasily upon a referendum about to be held in the Kurdish region of Iraq. Kurds will, undoubtedly, vote for an independent homeland. It is widely felt that the fate of these people is coming to a head, their freedom calling, and war looming. Nervously, Western leaders are pressuring the Kurds to postpone the vote, as they eye the alliance forming between the Sunni dictatorship in Ankara and the Shiite theocracy in Tehran which, at last, have found a common interest: crushing Kurdish independence. The possibility of a free Kurdistan is perhaps the only flower to have grown out of the rubble of the 2003 Iraq war, but scarcely a flower grows in the Middle East without an army boot eager to trample it. The West’s failure to support Kurdish aspirations says something unflattering about the moral bravery of our generation. In pitiless realpolitik, Western leaders are correct that there are costs and risks to helping the Kurds gain statehood. Backing them will strain important relationships in Ankara and …