"A.J. Rose" (Jonathan) (ajrose93) wrote,
"A.J. Rose" (Jonathan)

ISG, Part IV: "The Cold Equations" (2)


Ladies and gentlemen, I give you John Brady Kiesling.*

"During World War I President Woodrow Wilson helped reinforce the notion that each nation should be institutionalized as a state,** with each state living peacefully behind borders recognized and enforced by the whole 'international community' of states" (40). [...] "Evolution toward unity as a 'nation' is an ongoing process of promoting internal cooperation by channeling competitive violence outward against real or imagined external foes while suppressing internal differences. Successful nationalism sanitizes its history, homogenizes its culture, and purifies its language to create a group whose attachment to a given territory is strengthened by exaggerating the differences with the tribe across the border" (40).

"After 1945 the United States and its allies found ways to limit the costs of nationalism by imposing a legalistic, almost religious, respect for the national boundaries that emerged at the end of World War II. The milestones of this process were the creation of the UN, the European Economic Community (now the European Union [EU]), and the Helsinki Final Act, which in 1975 traded agreement with the Soviet Union on the existing national borders of Europe for guaranteed rights for minorities stranded on the wrong side of those borders. Less ambitious security arrangements elsewhere in the world helped lock in borders that the international community has allowed to change remarkably little in sixty years" (41).

"Unfortunately there is no such source of [solely] American transnational legitimacy. Each society divides the world into members and outsiders. No society accepts outside sources of legitimacy, even when they are beautiful, democratic ones identical to its own.*** The processes and characteristics that make the U.S. president legitimate as America's leader make him unacceptable as anyone else's" (44). "A crucial insight into human nature is that humans evolved to function in small groups, and the small group remains the basic environment in which legitimacy is generated. [...] One way to break the deadlock nationalism imposes on international relations, therefore, is to create scenarios in which small groups of decision makers come together as peers outside their normal circle of yes-men and outside the normal confines of narrow group self-interest. The Camp David Accords in 1978 were a famous example of how the group dynamics of a small team of players can sometimes generate results that no politician could match in his cabinet room back home" (44). [Noting that Egyptian president Anwar Sadat was later murdered for reaching that accord with Israel, as was Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin for a similar agreement with the Palestinians at Oslo, Kiesling adds that] "It takes a deft and legitimate politician indeed to transform the chemistry of a small group into viable domestic politics" (44-45). [He goes on to note that the EU is, like the UN, one of the rare examples where such a transformation can actually work.]

"Patience is a virtue, but all of us prefer strategies that do not require it. In the run-up to the Iraq War, the neoconservatives failed to realize how little legitimacy America wielded outside its borders because legitimacy for them was not an issue. [...] Fear of death -- 'shock and awe' -- would generate the legitimacy to govern Iraq in accordance with American priorities" (50). "In Iraq, this notion of U.S. legitimacy through violence was an immediate failure. The United States could install a government, but it could not make ordinary Iraqis feel virtuous or secure in obeying its orders. Where the occupying authorities succeeded in persuading Iraqis to promote a shared democratic agenda, it was not through any legitimacy created by overwhelming violence, such as by destroying the city of Fallujah, but rather through preexisting sources of local legitimacy, such as religion, tribal authority, and Kurdish nationalism" (50). "Foreigners will actively and competently carry out what Americans ask without a threat of violence to back up the request, once the United States finds a way to make that request legitimate in the foreign country's own national terms" (51).

"Americans have recently embraced an exaggerated fear of the power of Islam. In the hierarchy of values determining who will fight steadily and effectively alongside whom against what opposition, local nationalism and resistance to outsiders trumps the call of ideology or religion. Iranian mullahs were distressed to discover in the years following 1979 that, despite centuries-old religious ties, they could not export their uniquely Persian Islamic revolution. Arab Iraqi Shiites fought loyally for the Sunni-dominated Iraqi army of the hated Saddam Hussein and died in the hundreds of thousands in an unjust war against ethnic Persian fellow Shiites in Iran" (54).

"It is a remarkable tribute to America's Founding Fathers how many foreigners have embraced their stirring ideals of civic responsibility and checks and balances. To most people, however, most of the time [...], the complex web of values and rights philosophers lump together as 'liberty' is brutally simplified to mean freedom from domination by outsiders. [...] 'Democracy' is a more effective battle cry, at least with foreigners who have practical, personal reasons to share America's goal of overthrowing a government in power. To a depressingly large number of ambitious foreigners, 'democracy' means merely 'regime change.' Once the tyrant [...] is overthrown, democracy's local meaning will be renegotiated in ways outsiders cannot control" (54).

"The universal God of Christians, Muslims, and Jews is for foreign policy purposes a narrowly tribal god of Southern Baptist farmers or Serbian Orthodox dentists or Saudi Wahhabi policemen or militant Jewish settlers from Brooklyn. A few enlightened philosophers and liberal theologians in every society will insist otherwise, as will any competent diplomat, but the understanding of ordinary Iraqis and Americans is that God speaks their language, shares their prejudices, and will smile on them if they destroy the Amalekites 'root and branch.' America's moral or godly course of action will not automatically be recognized as such by foreigners. On the contrary, any proud nation has the patriotic duty to scoff at America's superior access to divine truth, just as Americans scoff at the French for their pretension to superior culture" (56).

Enough for now. More Kiesling in Part V, then on to the ISG proper. (Hope somebody's enjoying this stuff...it's a lotta work. :0 )

93 93/93 -- AJ

* All quotations are from his recent book Diplomacy Lessons, giving page numbers in (parentheses); further details were in part III. His website (should you be as cheerful as I am about being read by John Poindexter ;) ) is here: http://www.bradykiesling.com/
** The distinction here: "nations," in the pre-World War I sense, meant something like "peoples" -- one's heritage, ethnic group, and so forth. "States" are legal entities. Wilson hoped to sanctify state boundaries, thereby diminishing ethnic conflicts. Believe it or not, this has worked remarkably well, though seldom as well as in the U.S., of course. America is highly unusual in the degree to which it succeeds in subordinating ethnic to state identity: largely thanks to the stated ideals of the Founders, and its status as a "nation of immigrants," people of many backgrounds tend to identify more as "Americans" than whatever their descent might have been. Hugely powerful tool in building a "nation" in the later sense, discussed in the rest of Kiesling's paragraph.
*** I.e., this is how each country sees its own. Did I mention he has a wicked sense of humor?...though of course he's also right.

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