We can better understand the War on Terror and the role of Western military forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan by learning the history of the politics in the region. Southwest Asia is marked by many weak state governments and competition for control of them by more powerful neighbors, international superpowers, and non-state actors that include religious jihadists and independence movements. In the September 2009 issue of IJWP we discussed anarchy in unsecured territories, with an emphasis on Africa. Southwest Asia suffers from many of the same political dynamics: (1) state borders that were created by past political conquest, either by expansion by indigenous rulers or conquest by colonial masters, (2) the collapse of European colonialism and the rise of the bi-polar world of the Cold War that had rewarded dictatorial allies, (3) the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of hopes around the world for self-rule, and (4) new contests for state power based on self-determination movements, regional hegemons, and non-state religious and ideological actors.
Realpolitik is a term derived from German. It refers to a politics based on practical and material factors rather than on theoretical or ethical objectives (Merriam-Webster dictionary). Historically, many political platforms have been based on theoretical, religious, ideological, or moral arguments.
Most visions of ideal societies, as disparate as Plato, Confucius, Jesus, and Marx, all rely on changing basic human behavior. If we can only learn to love one another, to share with one another, to accept a Christian, Muslim, or socialist theory of justice, or change our selfish and exploitative behavior in some way, then we can create an ideal world. As we recently learned from the efforts of the Soviet Union to create a “new man,” one that is rational and scientific, the laws of nature are not easily trumped. Instead of getting a “new man” who gives according to his abilities and receives according to his needs, the Soviet Union got the Nomenklatura, the”old man” in a new bureaucratic class, who used position and power in the Soviet political system for personal and selfish desires. Continue reading →
The modern desire for democracy and self-rule is largely a reaction against a history of oppression and exploitation following military conquest and imposed rule. World history is predominantly shaped by conquerors, yet most people desire to live their own lives and not serve as a means to someone elseâ€™s ends. While self-rule requires the overthrow of imposed rule, it is more difficult than the mere overthrow of a regime and the declaration of freedom and of rule of law. Self-rule requires self-discipline and the willingness to use force, when necessary, against foreign aggression and civil violence. Continue reading →
Our lead article by James Yunker suggests ways in which global governance could be improved, ways that could create a “more perfect union” than the League of Nations, or the United Nations, which he compares to the Articles of Confederation of the United States. This more perfect union would involve three principles not present in the world government proposals of the twentieth century. First, voting principles must be changed so that an involuntary redistribution of wealth could not occur. Second, there should be an inalienable right to withdraw from the Union. Third, each nation should be allowed to keep whatever military power they desire. Continue reading →
New Book on Fixing Government
/] Released September 2009. Order from Paragon House, Amazon.com, or your local bookstore.
This issue contains a variety of articles that do not easily coalesce around a particular theme, but all refer to containing the violence wreaked by those with power in the pursuit of self-interested goals, whether they be political, economic, or religious. This violence might appear in the form of a ruthless warlord raping the economy and natural resources, the kidnapping and murder of NGO workers trying to serve the ravaged and oppressed in such countries, or the unilateral actions of a state to impose its will on others or threaten them with weapons of mass destruction.
Our first article, by George Kieh, examines the roots of civil war in Liberia. He notes that the peace imposed after the first civil war laid the seeds of a second civil war. Too often peace settlements aimed at ending fighting do not contain a process for the resolution of underlying social problems. Thus, they become a temporary cessation of violence rather than a real peace. In Liberia there was scarcely two years between the end of the first civil war and the onset of a second. The lack ofÂ an adequate national security regime led to the competition for state power among warlords. Continue reading →
The articles in this issue all relate to the Middle East region from Palestine to Pakistan. This region is perhaps the most resistant to religious pluralism in the world. War and violence are often the result of the attempt by a religious or ethnic group to lay claim on an entire state. A group may want to use the power of the state to redistribute all of the wealth and resources to its own members, or it may fear mistreatment or genocide if another group controls the power of the state.
When a religious group, an ethnic group, or a state claims to have the true understanding of peace and justice, or some monopoly on knowledge, they run into direct conflict with others who make similar claims based on different sacred truths. Continue reading →
Globalization of the worldâ€™s economy and the migrations of people for political and economic reasons has caused a collision of cultures within nearly every country. While vast empires have historically been more pluralistic as they contain migrations of cultural groups from one part of an empire to another, twenty-first century migrations are impacting even the most homogeneous states.
German philosopher Karl Jaspers pioneered the idea of an â€œAxial Ageâ€ that occurred between 800 to 200 b.c.e., when the foundations that underlie current major civilizational spheres came into being: Continue reading →
Introduction to IJWP, June 2008
This issue begins by discussing the elimination of the effects of colonialism and the Soviet Union which were each, in their own way, the result of empire-building. The idea of ruling over the lands of other people has been around as long as recorded human history. While it runs counter to the notion that people have the right to pursue their own destiny, it is an idea that dies hard and continually resurfaces when checks and balances in power are not put in place that would deter the force of conquest.
Succession in Foreign Policy in the Post-Soviet World
Our first article, by Alexander Nikitin on â€œRussian Foreign Policy in the Fragmented Post-Soviet Spaceâ€ looks at the succession or transition of foreign policy in the geographic area vacated by the death, not of a single political leader, but of an entire political regime. Continue reading →
Modern society consists of three major components: culture, government, and the economy. The founders of the United States specified the relationship between culture and government in the first amendment, which forbids the establishment of religion, but they did not make a similar declaration with respect to the relationship between government and the economy. In their day, the economy did not exist in separate concentrations of power since it was mostly based on family-run businesses and farms.
However, human freedom requires freedom in the economic sphere as well as the religious and political spheres. Following industrialization in the nineteenth century, corporations were given more power by the courts, amassed greater capital, and eventually used that power to displace the political and economic power of ordinary citizens. A socialist backlash attempted to use the force of government to plan industrial output. In Europe, these two trends led to different forms of totalitarianism. On the right we had National Socialism and Fascism and on the left we had Communism.
Today the lack of clear relationship between political and economic power is one of the most serious problems facing the United States. Economic planning by the government and businesses procuring government favors lead to the establishment of commerce and the prevention of free exercise in the market. Massive government inefficiency, loss of economic competitiveness, overpriced oil and healthcare, and loss of personal freedom are all unwanted results. An amendment to the U.S. Constitution relating to the economy that is similar to the establishment clause related to religion could be a first step in solving this problem. Continue reading →