All posts filed under: Foreign Policy

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 …

Trump’s Warsaw Speech: Defending the West or Defending Illiberalism?

The reaction to Donald Trump’s first major speech in Europe reminds me of the old Jewish joke in which two men ask a rabbi to resolve a dispute. After listening to the first one, the rabbi says, “You’re absolutely right!” Then the second man makes his case, and the rabbi replies, “Yes, you’re quite right!” The rabbi’s wife chimes in: “That makes no sense—how can they both be right?” The rabbi ponders her words and says, “You know what? You’re right, too!” Responses to Trump’s Thursday speech in Warsaw, Poland, which focused on the need to preserve and defend Western civilization and its values, have been sharply polarized along partisan lines. On the liberal side, Sarah Wildman in Vox, Peter Beinart and James Fallows in The Atlantic, and Jeet Heer in The New Republic have argued that it was at best an appeal to tribalism and at worst practically an alt-right manifesto, full of dog-whistles for white nationalists. Conservatives, even Trump’s harshest critics such as Jonah Goldberg, David French, and William Kristol, have mostly praised …

America’s Real Pivot

Trump’s Warsaw speech marks an era defining the rebalancing of Euro-American relations Donald Trump’s speech in Poland, for lack of better words, marks the beginning of a new era in global politics. Speeches change history. Speeches mark the direction a great power is going, a pivot, if you will. That word has become a catchphrase in the last decade, but it can be used for Trump’s Warsaw speech, which marked the solidifying ideological lines of our times. Trump is no great orator. He isn’t linguistically gifted, either due to age, or due to his New York-ish snappy rhetorical style. Notwithstanding those limitations, this speech will possibly go down in history as one of the most important speeches of his presidency. Here’s the full speech in text, for the more academically minded. Everything about the speech was planned pitch perfect. The choice of the venue is Poland, a central European civilizational powerhouse, with immense historical importance. Poland has made cultural contributions and has a scientific legacy that can put any other European country to shame. In …

The EU’s Cosmopolitanism Gap

Senior figures in the European Union are growing impatient with its Eastern members over their refusal to accept refugees. Emmanuel Macron, the new president of France, has threatened sanctions if Poland and Hungary remain stubborn. Why is this? I hope to avoid unduly extending generalisations. The countries of Central and Eastern Europe are all different. All contain multitudes. In Poland, where I am fortunate enough to live, I have met progressives, liberals, libertarians, conservatives, traditionalists and, perversely, given recent history, adherents of communism and national socialists; as well, of course, as many people who hate politics. Nonetheless, it is a matter of undeniable fact that nations of the CEE tend to be less receptive to mass immigration—and, especially, Islamic immigration—than their Western cousins, on the level of elites and on the level of the masses. A simple explanation is that they are more homogenous. Western Europe has been rich enough, and liberal enough, to attract migrants for decades. The British are about 5% Muslim. Germans are about 5% Muslim. The French are probably more. People …

“The EU is Essentially a German Empire”: Peter Hitchens on Geopolitics and the Future of Europe

“When the bugles call, the conservative’s instinct is to rally to the tattered…” Tattered what? Was it colours or banners? I was trying to remember the end of this line as I walked towards Café Phillies on Kensington High Street. To my surprise, the venue was unusually full, the average age of the patrons around seventy. I checked my Twitter feed. Macron had won in France and the EU bourgeoisie were predictably ecstatic. I ordered a coffee, took a table next to the door, and waited for Mr. Peter Hitchens. For those too young to remember the birth of this century, the aforementioned quote is from an essay entitled “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” published in The Spectator during the buildup to the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. I was eighteen, an idealist, fairly radical (as people usually are at that age) and an admirer of Peter’s elder brother Christopher. In the wake of the 9/11 outrage, there was a widespread feeling that we were on the cusp of a civilisational conflict that would define a generation. It was also the first …

Anti-Russian Hysteria, American Hypocrisy, and the Risk of Nuclear Confrontation

Marx’s statement that “history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce,” must now be reworded, in light of the new Cold War developing with Russia and that country’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections: “history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farcical, potentially catastrophic, tragedy.” We are witnessing the unfolding of a drama with an undeniably Rabelaisian protagonist – President Donald Trump – a character so monstrously flawed as to be scarcely imaginable as anything other than a real-life, modern-day scion of the fictional Pantagruel, the grotesquely cruel King of the Dipsodes. Surrounding Trump are many courtiers of varying degrees of fatuity and mendacity. And since Trump’s decision to batter an airfield in Syria, a Russian ally, with Tomahawk missiles, an array of print-media pundits and cable-channel panjandrums slaving away after mammon and ratings has cheered him on. Finally, they say, he’s showing he’s not “Putin’s puppet” and is acting presidential! Though Trump himself has recently tweeted, “Things will work out fine between the U.S.A. and Russia. At the right time …