DIPLOMATS DON'T GET TO DETERMINE BORDERS, PEOPLES DO:

July 19, 2007

The Old World Order (ADAM KIRSCH, July 18, 2007, NY Sun)

Like the peace-makers at the end of every great war, the powers who assembled at Vienna promised the world that its sacrifices would not go for nothing. Napoleon had redrawn the map of Europe according to his own wishes, erasing a country here and creating one there, turning monarchs into paupers and his relatives and henchmen into kings. But the Allies, led by the moralistic and self-mythologizing Tsar Alexander, had vowed that they were fighting to return the principles of justice to international affairs. Mr. Zamoyski, who finds Alexander a repellent but irresistible subject, writes that the tsar “had come to view his struggle with the French Emperor not only as a personal contest, or as a clash between two empires, but as a veritable Armageddon between good and evil.”

The problem was that good did not defeat Napoleon; the armies of three monarchs did, and each of those monarchs had his own vision for postwar Europe. Combining impressive scholarship — “Rites of Peace” cites sources in English, French, Russian and German — and a gift for clear narrative, Mr. Zamoyski unravels the tangle of motives and propaganda to show just what was at stake for each participant in the Congress. France, ironically, had the least to gain or lose. Her borders had been decided on months earlier, when the allied armies entered Paris. Instead, the major problems had to do with Poland and Germany, whose political arrangements had been thrown into complete chaos by the war.

Geographically, the problem at Vienna was roughly the same as the one facing the Allies at Potsdam in 1945. Russia, which bore the brunt of the war against Napoleon, had marched its armies across Europe and was now effectively in control of Poland and much of Prussia. Alexander, who had a messianic dream of restoring Poland to the map as a kingdom under his control, refused to give back the parts of Poland that had formerly belonged to Prussia. As a result, Prussia sought compensation to the west, demanding to annex the independent kingdom of Saxony. Austria, meanwhile, under the wily conservative Metternich, hoped to maintain a balance of power, to rein in Alexander’s ambitions, and to keep Prussia from dominating the smaller German states. It was a thoroughly unedifying spectacle, in which the great powers swapped cities and provinces like horse-traders, while the claims of small nations were ruthlessly ignored.

By the time the Congress produced its Final Act, in June 1815 — after a hiatus for Napoleon’s Hundred Days, a romantic episode to which Mr. Zamoyski devotes little attention — no one could still believe that a fairer world was in the offing. “We are completing the sad business of the Congress,” wrote one diplomat, “which, by its results, is the most mean-spirited piece of work ever seen.” As in 1945, power trumped justice, especially in Eastern Europe. Mr. Zamoyski has little patience for the argument, made by Henry Kissinger in his 1957 study “A World Restored,” that at least the Congress established a workable international system that could guarantee peace.

In fact, he insists, the settlement of Vienna — which frustrated national aspirations in Germany and Italy, and installed “legitimate” autocrats in Spain and elsewhere — guaranteed an endless cycle of repression and revolution, which finally issued in the cataclysmic wars of the 20th century. “The peacemakers of Vienna,” Mr. Zamoyski concludes, “had attempted to reconstruct a European community in total disregard of the direction in which the Continent was moving,” and rulers and peoples alike paid the price.

The lesson of the English/American Revolution is so simple and yet we’ve had so much trouble learning it: governments have to be consensual to be legitimate.


BERLIN VS JERUSALEM:

June 9, 2007

The End of Politics (Mark Lilla, 06.17.03, New Republic)

Somewhere in his writings Leo Strauss remarks that the Jewish problem is the political problem in nuce. This pregnant remark was meant to invite two sorts of reflections. One, the most obvious, concerns the historical fate of world Jewry, from the biblical age down through the Diaspora and the establishment of the state of Israel. The other, less obvious, concerns the light that Judaism as a social fact sheds on our understanding of politics more generally. Here Strauss had in mind what he called the “theological-political problem,” which he saw as the unavoidable tension between political authority and divine revelation. But the Jewish problem is significant in a third sense, too. For how nations or civilizations cope with the existence of the Jews can, at certain historical junctures, reveal political pathologies whose causes have little or nothing to do with Judaism as such. There are periods when the acuteness of the Jewish problem is a symptom of a deeper malaise in political life and political ideas.

There is little doubt that contemporary Europe is passing through such a moment. It is not the first. Throughout Europe’s history there have been periods in which a crisis in political ideas had important consequences for Jews in their relations with other Europeans. The anti-Semitic persecutions of the Middle Ages, which had many sources, also coincided with a disturbance in European thinking about the relation between ecclesiastical power and secular power, between the City of God and the City of Man. The emancipation of the Jews in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries coincided with the epochal shift from absolutism to theories of republicanism and democracy. And the rejection of those Enlightenment political concepts in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in the name of nationalist, racialist, and anti-modern ideals portended events that will shape Jewish consciousness for all time.

Today Europeans find themselves living in what historians call a “saddle period.” One distinct age has passed, that of the Cold War, and an obscure new one has begun. Looking back on the era just ended, one fact is especially striking about the intellectual life of Western Europe, or “old Europe”: the omnipresence of political ideologies and passions, and the relative absence of serious political thought, understood as disciplined and impartial reflection about distinctly political experience. There were exceptions to this intellectual collapse, and they are widely recognized and revered today: Isaiah Berlin and Michael Oakeshott in Britain, Raymond Aron in France, Norberto Bobbio in Italy, and perhaps a few others. But due to the overwhelming attraction of Marxism and structuralism in all their variants, the influence of these thinkers on wider intellectual discussions was actually quite limited in this period. What was paradoxical about those schools was that they encouraged political engagement while at the same time absorbing all thinking about political experience into amorphous discussions of larger historical, economic, or linguistic forces. The result was that political action intensified as political thought atrophied.

Viewed in retrospect, the intellectual flight from political thought in Europe now appears as a reaction to, and a means of coping with, the unique conditions of the Cold War. After the disasters of the first half of the twentieth century, Western European politics were put on ice–or at least some of the essential questions were. Economies were reorganized, constitutions rewritten, parliaments and parties reconstituted, social mores revised. But the most fundamental issue for all modern nation-states–the issue of sovereignty–could not be addressed, because neither the European community as a whole nor Western European countries individually were fully sovereign. The concept of “sovereignty” has been given many, even incompatible, meanings over the centuries, but at its core is the notion of autonomy, which in political terms means the capacity to defend oneself and, when necessary, to decide to wage war. In this respect European nations were not sovereign during the Cold War. There were good reasons why that was so, and why for decades Western European thinkers were relieved not to have to think about such matters, and the United States and NATO were relieved to do their thinking for them. It was a prudent arrangement, but in the end it had unhealthy intellectual consequences.

Those consequences have been on public display in two related spheres since 1989. The most important is Continental thinking about the European Union. In the early postwar decades, there was some inspiring talk about a “United States of Europe,” but as the decades wore on, the concept of “Europe” came to have little meaning beyond economic cooperation. Over the past decade, though, we have witnessed an extremely uncritical embrace of the idea of Europe among Western European intellectuals generally, and its invocation as a kind of charm against the most difficult political questions facing the Continent today. There are many reasons for this, and they differ country by country. In formerly fascist countries–Germany, Italy, Spain–the idea of the nation-state remains in ill repute, while the blissfully undefined notion of “Europe” inspires pacific, post-political hopes. In France, the idea of Europe is generally seen not as a substitute for the nation but as a tool for constraining German might on the Continent and American influence from across the Atlantic. And for intellectuals in the smaller countries, belonging to “Europe” means the hope of escaping cultural obscurity.

What Europe means as a distinctly political entity remains a mystery to all involved. The wisest European commentators worry about this. They are concerned about what is called the “democratic deficit” in the European institutions of Brussels and Strasbourg. They also wonder how widely the community can be extended, not only in economic terms but, as in the case of Turkey, also in cultural ones. Yet serious reflection about the nature of European sovereignty and its relation to national sovereignty is rare these days, except among academic specialists. And so natural concerns about the future of the nation, and the public debate about it, have been left to xenophobes and chauvinists, of whom there are more than a few in every European country.

It is nothing less than extraordinary that the idea of the nation-state as the locus of political action and political reflection fell so quickly and so silently into oblivion among Western European thinkers in our time. The great exception that proves the rule is France, where passionate appeals to the Gaullist tradition of national autonomy have run up against equally passionate appeals to European and international cooperation, leading to the kind of diplomatic incoherence that was recently put on display at the United Nations. There are some understandable reasons for this development, too. After all, one of the important lessons that Europeans have drawn from their twentieth-century history is that nationalism is always a danger, and that it can infect and eventually destroy liberal democracy. […]

It is against the backdrop of this intellectual crisis of sovereignty that the contemporary “Jewish question” in Europe must be seen. For centuries that question was, broadly speaking, one of inclusion: what sorts of people could be citizens and under what conditions, whether religion mattered, whether differences could be tolerated. This form of the problem still exists in Europe, though today Muslims are more likely to be the object of prejudice and violence than Jews are. The battle for toleration as an idea has largely been won; the challenges now are to put it into practice and to understand its limits within each national context.

It is not the idea of tolerance that is in crisis in Europe today, it is the idea of the nation-state, and the related concepts of sovereignty and the use of force. And these ideas have also affected European intellectual attitudes toward world Jewry, and specifically toward Israel. Here there is an extraordinary paradox that deserves to be savored. For centuries Jews were the stateless people and suffered at the hands of Europeans who were deeply rooted in their own nations. The early Zionists, from Hess to Herzl, drew a very simple lesson from this experience: that Jews could not live safely or decently until they had their own state. Those who claim today that the state of Israel is the brainchild of nineteenth-century European thought are not wrong; this is hardly a secret. But the point is often made with sinister intent, as if to suggest that Israel and the Zionist enterprise more generally represent some kind of political atavism that enlightened Europeans should spurn. Once upon a time, the Jews were mocked for not having a nation-state. Now they are criticized for having one.

And not just any nation-state, but one whose founding is still fresh in living memory. All political foundings, without exception, are morally ambiguous enterprises, and Israel has not escaped these ambiguities. Two kinds of fools and bigots refuse to see this: those who deny or explain away the Palestinian suffering caused by Israel’s founding, and those who treat that suffering as the unprecedented consequence of a uniquely sinister ideology. The moral balance-sheet of Israel’s founding, which is still being composed, must be compared to those of other nations at their conception, not to the behavior of other nations after their existence was secured. And it is no secret that Israel must still defend itself against nations and peoples who have not reconciled themselves to its existence–an old, but now forgotten, European practice. Many Western European intellectuals, including those whose toleration and even affection for Jews cannot be questioned, find all this incomprehensible. The reason is not anti-Semitism nor even anti-Zionism in the usual sense. It is that Israel is, and is proud to be, a nationstate–the nation-state of the Jews. And that is profoundly embarrassing to post-national Europe.

Consider the issue from the perspective of a young European who might have grown up in the postwar world. From his first day of school he would have been taught the following lesson about twentieth-century history: that all its disasters can be traced to nationalism, militarism, and racism. He might even have learned that Jews were the main victims of these political pathologies, and would have developed a certain sympathy for their plight. But as he grew up he would have begun to learn about contemporary Israel, mainly in light of the conflict with the Palestinians, and his views would probably have begun to change. From his own history he would have concluded that nations are suspect entities, that the distinction they make between insider and outsider is immoral, and that military force is to be forsworn. He would then have likely concluded that contemporary Israel violates all these maxims: it is proudly independent, it distinguishes between Jew and non-Jew, it defends itself without apology. The charges that Zionism is racism, or that Israel is behaving like the Nazis in the occupied territories, undoubtedly have roots in anti-Semitism; but frustration with the very existence of Israel and the way it handles its challenges has a more proximate cause in European intellectual life. That cause is the crisis in the European idea of a nation-state.

There’s one important caveat here: Americans are so supportive of Israel precisely because we think of them as a country like ours — and, therefore, a logical member of the Anglosphere — rather than a nation, like the continental Europe states.


REDEFINED, AND THEN DEFENDED:

May 4, 2007


NOT QUITE:

March 1, 2007

U.S. forces pursue Taliban into Pakistan (LOLITA C. BALDOR, 3/01/07, The Associated Press)

American forces on Afghanistan’s eastern border routinely fire upon and pursue Taliban enemies into Pakistan, defense officials told Congress on Thursday, offering the most detailed description to date of U.S. action in that region.

Actually, by their admitted inability to assert authority there the Pakistanis have ceded sovereignty and it can in no wise be considered their territory.


RATHER, THE END OF REALISM AND TRANSNATIONALISM:

January 23, 2007


NONE TOO QUICK ON THE UPTAKE:

January 17, 2007

Rogue State America: Has America become a rogue state? (John B. Judis, 1/17/07, TNR Online)

What exactly are we doing in the Horn of Africa, where we have encouraged the Christian government of Ethiopia to invade Somalia and replace its Islamic government? As far as I can tell, we have violated international law, committed war crimes, helped Al Qaeda recruit new members, and involved ourselves in a guerrilla war that could last decades. It’s Iraq writ small. And it can’t be blamed on Donald Rumsfeld.

There’s an old principle of international law, going back to the seventeenth century, against one nation violating the sovereignty of another. It was often breached, but, after two world wars, it was enshrined in the United Nations charter. We criticized the Soviet invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia and justified the first Gulf war on these grounds. The purpose of this principle has been to prevent wars that could arise if more powerful countries simply took it into their hands to dominate smaller, less powerful ones. […]

In the 1990s, foreign policy experts, eager to identify a new enemy, hit upon the concept of a “rogue state.” A rogue state operated outside the bounds of international norms and had to be restrained. The obvious candidates at the time were Libya, Iraq, and North Korea. But the Bush administration has turned the United States itself into a rogue state. Tough-minded conservatives, flexing their “muscular” inclinations from comfortable sinecures in Washington, may dismiss concerns about international law and war crimes as inventions of silly panty-waist liberals. But these inventions, which, in the modern era, were championed by Theodore Roosevelt, were meant to protect Americans as well as other peoples from the wars and the inhumanity that prevailed for thousands of years. We ignore them at their peril, whether in Haditha or Ras Kamboni.

Mr. Judis is correct about the intervention being a mistake vis-a-vis the Somali people, but if he’s just now noticing that we’re a rogue state and sovereignty is a dead letter he doesn’t pay much attention to American history.


THAT'S NOT PAKISTAN:

January 9, 2007

Pakistan should crack down on Taliban, UN official says (Abdul Waheed Wafa, January 9, 2007, International Herald Tribune)

Pakistan should do more to restrict the activities of Taliban leaders in and around the border area with Afghanistan in keeping with a UN resolution that considers its leaders to be terrorists, according to the deputy chief of the UN mission in Afghanistan.

The resolution, passed in 1999, listed 142 Taliban leaders as terrorists, but only a handful have been captured or have had their whereabouts established in the last six years, said Chris Alexander, the former Canadian ambassador to Afghanistan and now the deputy director of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, speaking Monday.

The resolution, which has been renewed every year, calls for governments to prevent the entry or transit of the individuals listed and for their assets to be frozen, and requires all states to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of arms or military equipment to those individuals, he noted.

A region that the Pakistani government is incapable of exercising sovereignty over is, by definition, not part of Pakistan.