Yesterday, I came across some American blogs where the comment boxes were filled with astonishment about the Turks and their behaviour with respect to American requests to use their territory to conduct military operations in the north. To state it bluntly: what did you think?
Say what you what you will with the French, at least they had the elemental 'decency' when they tried to knife the Americans in the gut at the U.N our the second resolution. The former didn't pretend to be an ally and then sabotage the coalition's military plans. O sure Chirac is making noises about having a post war role in Iraq. Of course France will be totally shut out but at least they made their opposition public, forthright and consistent.
Dad remarked about the Turks that surprised me very much. It was honest and sincere. He stated that say what they want the Turks aren't European. Indeed, they fought the Europeans for centuries to expand and protect their empire. The Turks have nothing in common with the Europeans in terms of language, culture, history or common values. I pointed out to dad that's Giscard d'Estang's view and Nikos Karanikos' as well. I don't share it and criticized some time ago at my blog. Nevertheless, Turkey's behaviour will undoubtly cause a reevaluation of calls to either lobby the Europeans for admission into the Union or even negotiate a separate free trade deal.
More controversially, the French, Belgian and German's initial refusal to send men and materiel to help the Turks (the Germans did send a Patriot battery under a separate bilateral treaty) doesn't seem so cowardly or callous in retrospect. Personally, I found the refusal gratuitous; not only because it plunged NATO into an unnecessary crisis but also it mocked the pompous European pronouncements of solidarity. However, those European countries had a much more accurate reading of Turkey's political dynamics and the possibility that NATO might be suckered into aiding and abetting the Turks to squash the Iraqi Kurds once and for all.
In any case, the Turkish situation is one to scrutinize because I suspect that there'll be more deaths and casualties between the Turks and Kurds than the current Iraqi war.
Prof Glen posted my note to him about how Chirac didn't express his condolences; well here's the link to this morning's press conference by Blair at the end of the Brussels summit this morning (our time)
Here's the quote that definitely clears the situation:
Secondly, France has indeed expressed its condolences to us in respect of those people that tragically lost their lives overnight, and indeed President Chirac wrote me a personal note about it. So I think that is fair and right to say. And whatever the differences are, I know we can all come together in a spirit of sympathy at a time like this. [emphasis mine]
Blair was gracious and Chirac was gentlemanly.
Regular readers and visitors know that I'm a frequent visitor to Ian'sblog However, it goes without saying that it's Kris'- Iain's wife- as well. She's always been the blog's other intellectual influence. Lately, Kris has decided to blog articles and I have to say that her debut posts have certainly generated a lively discussion. Her articles on America's place in the world and its benevolence is the subject of my present post. I'll critique her position and indirectly that of her complice intellectuel and regular commentator, Richard Heddleson.
I'll concede that I found writing this article sometimes difficult as I had to come to terms with my own conflicted views towards America. I won't bother with the typical defensive stance of I like/admire/respect..but? I opine that the following essay is sufficiently clear of my position with respect to America's place in the world.
Kris asks us to to trust American benevolence. I can't. My inability to confide in its benevolence isn't due to vile anti-Americanism, or vicious envy at its wealth, loathing for its citizens, or hatred for its founding principles; I simply distrust the benevolence of any dominant power. Kris forgets that a dominant power doesn't need an empire to exercise its imperium. A dominant power doesn't even have allies and will have no hesitation to repudiate them if they no longer serve its interests
A few historical examples will suffice. When Charles of Austria was named king in the midst of the war of the Spanish succession, the British no longer had a reason to continue the war. Unfortunately, in its rational and legitimate pursuit of its national interests led them to abandon the Catalans to face defeat, repression and exile by Felipe of Bourbon. As I wrote somewhat bitterly in a past article: it wasn't the British who lost their political institutions or had their language banned or faced a savage repression followed by exile.
The French in the aftermath of the Algerian war, abandoned 100 000 Algerian supporters- the hakris- to die gruesome deaths at the hands of the victorious FLN despite solemn promises that the French would never abandoned the former. Had the French government kept its word and let the hakris resettle in the country, there would've grown a robust, pro-republician Moslem population that would've constrained the Islamist sentiment that currently pervades the European Moslem communities. Even today, America promised Pakistan that the protectionist tariffs on its textile exports to the former would be lifted if its regime cooperated with the American anti-terrorism effort. It would appear that the tariffs have neither been lowered nor eliminated.
The vitriolic reaction to Fareed Zakria's article on the world's attitude towards America has struck a nerve for some bloggers. There's an element of self-recognition that provokes such a sharp retort by some American bloggers. Though as I commented at Kris' article, I disagreed with Zakaria's vocabulary; as a citizen of a geographical neighbour and ally, I don't fear or hate the U.S. but I am, from time to time, exasperated by the country's behaviour. I sometimes find the country a bit heavyhanded in its bilateral relationships. Further, Zakaria does articulate a sentiment that I share:an attitude among Americans that their country is the best in everything and those allies that disagree with its perspective or don't implement the common values as America does, are petty, envious, pathetic, statist, collectivist and other turgid clichés.I resent that stream of derision directed at many democratic countries. Mine for example isn't as dynamic, or freewheeling or as optimistic as America; yet my country is still a recognizable democratic polity that tries to improve the lots of its citizenry, respects the law and encourages freedom. That my country is imperfect is rather obvious. I'm the first to blast the boneheaded decisions, statements and attitudes of my countrymen.
For Iain, James Bennett and the other staunch Anglospherist bloggers, trusting in American benevolence, strains the Anglopshere. On the one hand, there's the America as an embodiment of the Anglosphere's positive legacy; yet, on the other hand, there's America the superpower which must pursue the logic of its position qua superpower Consequently, there will always be latent tensions that threaten the network's coherency due to the multilevel tensions between America as emboidiment of Anglospheric values, the other members of the network with their experiences and contributions and America qua superpower.
Due to the unique position that America finds itself at present where it faces no serious challengers in the political, economic, scientific or cultural realms, trust in American benevolence is unwise. The unipolar world, conseqently, is unnatural. It transforms countries to just another lobby group. Here's a concreteexample
Canada's dispute with the U.S. over softwood lumber might be resolved by a group of bipartians senators fearful of slowing down their local states' economies. Hence, Canada's objection to protectionism has nothing to do with the principles of free trade or other noble sentiments and pious principles that democracies share; but rather to the dynamics of internal American politics where factions adjudicate their political conflicts. Or more pointedly, Canada must trust American benevolence to live up to its principles as a commercial republic with an open society.
Unfortunately, countries can't rely on American benevolence because, as shown above, the unipolar world nullifies international relations. Interstate relations, treaties, diplomacy, the international system become irrelevant since the real power lies with the some insignificant member of the American Congress- whether a congressional representative or a senator- from some unimportant district. We already had a foretaste of the political implications of unipolarity, and the dangers in trusting American benevolence, when accusations surfaced that China attempted to subvert the 1996 American presidential elections by illegal campaign fundraising to various candidates.
Hence other countries, in their rational pursuit of national interests, will cultivate an American politician at the very beginning of his or her cursus honoris. After all, trust in American benevolence within a unipolar world is the only relevant conditions in international relations. Some countries would, consequently, ensure that the benevolence had a more permanent foundation able to weather the vissitudes of trust arising from contingent events, adjudication of internal political conflicts or mortal personalitiesof American politics.
Such are the paradoxes of trusting American benevolence in a unipolar world.