Shades of Global Power
Report prepared for the Research Committee on
Political Power, International Political Science Association, 19th
World Congress, Durban, South Africa, July 2003
“For total greed, rapacity, heartlessness, and irresponsibility
there is nothing to match a nation.
Lewis Thomas, The Lives of a Cell
Les petits pays ne sont pas moins
méchants que les grands,
Abstract: Instead of focusing on hegemonic “primacy” and “nation-building,” United States foreign policy should take advantage of the present evolutions in “world order” to promote federalism and the broadest autonomy of “estans” as the emerging members of new federations, whether issue of existing sovereign nation-states or new regional arrangements.
Studying “world order,” one can discern periods of evolution – at times leading to the obsolescence of the prevailing order – and episodes of revolution overwhelming and dismantling the established patterns of behavior and “understanding” among peoples. The dynamics of the process are best discernable in historical retrospect; as in some cases the revolutionizing factors try to claim the established order as their own even though the upheaval they create metamorphoses the old patterns. With no pretension to elaborating an exhaustive historical list, a few examples are evoked here to make the point.
the Mesopotamian valley there was a period of Sumerian and Akkadian “understanding”
and “rules of engagement” in the intercourse and wars among the neighboring
cultures, whether city-states or kingdoms, which lasted some twenty five
centuries. It was disrupted by the emergence of the Achaemenid Empire which
“revolutionized” the Mesopotamian “world order” and imposed the dominion
of the “Great King,” itself dismantled by the heirs of Alexander the Great.
Alexander himself, at some point, did have the pretension of continuing,
with some modifications, the legacy of the “Great King.” The Eastern Roman
and the Sassanid empires developed rules of engagement which evolved over
five centuries, later to be revolutionized by the Arab invasion and the
institution of Islamic rules of conduct among the conquered peoples. Genghis
Khan swept across Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe, overwhelming
the rules of conduct that had evolved under Islam and created Khanates
from Ukraine to the Far East. Different “world orders” have had different
lengths, impacts and spreads. One of the more resilient world orders was
that of China with its concept of the “middle kingdom” – i.e., China as
the center of the world order – which even the alien dynasties (Yüan
– descendents of Genghis Khan – 1280-1367 and Ch’ing – Manchus – 1644-1910)
embraced as their own.
The example more pertinent to this essay is the evolutions and revolutions of the Western world’s conception of “world order.” Indeed, policy makers advocating “nation-building” as a feature of the United States foreign policy evoke one of its cornerstones, namely, the Westphalian system these days. But the Peace of Westphalia was not, per se, about “nation-building” and “nation-state.”
As the Renaissance and the Reformation eroded the European feudal system of the Dark Ages, the residues of the old world order, that of checks and balances of imperium and sacerdotum, encumbered the emerging states whose new firepower capabilities were redrawing the map of Europe. As one of the final points of the Thirty Years Wars, the main thrust of the Peace of Westphalia of 1648 was to legitimize the power of the kings and the emperor over their domains through mutual recognition. Kingdoms, at this stage, were not yet “nation-states.” Louis the XIVth could still exclaim “l’état c’est moi.”
With the rise of the bourgeoisie, the idea of “nation-state” had been simmering within the European states. The conflicts between the parliament and the king in England were the first inklings of a bourgeois “nation-state” consciousness. But we can speak of a “nation-state” proper only after the English Glorious Revolution and the enactment of the Bill of Rights by the Parliament in 1689. Even then, however, the European “world order” did not recognize “nation-states” – “City states” yes, because their bourgeoisie had attained the coherence and consciousness for political and economic control, but not “nation-states.” The European “world order” remained that of the mutual recognition of sovereign monarchs.
Indeed, American and French Revolutions – which did create “nation-states” – were deemed by European powers as aberrations of the legitimate world order. The American Revolution was remote but the French Revolution could not be tolerated. European monarchies banded together to overthrew Napoleon as the offshoot of revolution, even though he sought legitimacy by declaring himself emperor. The Congress of Vienna restored the Ancien Régime. By then, however, the bourgeois idea of nationalism and “nation-state” had spread across Europe and culminated in the 1848 Revolutions of Nationalities. Despite those bourgeois revolutions, the “Concert of Europe” instituted at the Congress of Vienna, held the European powers together, bound by alliances and ententes as they spread the energies of their nation-states into colonial expansions. Some of the instigators of WWI believed that that war was only a variation on the theme of the Concert of Europe. But that was not the case. Western bourgeoisie had come of age.
The Western concept of nation-state should be put in the context of the industrial revolution and the rise of the bourgeoisie, with their corollaries of technological developments in the means of production and transportation, rationalization of division of labor and corporate capitalism – a rather unique economic, political and cultural concoction which cannot be easily replicated.
National flags, national anthems, national history and myths, the consolidation of national frontiers, national education and language were frameworks for national consciousness of the masses to create a sense of belonging between the entrepreneurs and the workers and to secure the market for national products.
The First World War blew-up the residues of the Concert of Europe and revolutionized the world order. Austro-Hungarian, Prussian, Russian and Ottoman empires were no more. The different peoples which had been overarched by those empires clamored for recognition and identity. The League of Nations, thanks to Woodrow Wilson, recognized the “national” aspirations of the peoples of Europe and proceeded to “nation-building.” The prevailing model of the victors at the time was “nation-state” and it was applied to peoples who had not attained the national cohesiveness of Western nation-states. So, Czechs and Slovaks were thrown together; Transylvania, Bessarabia and Rumania were made into a kingdom and Slovenes, Croats, Serbs, Bosnians, Montenegrins, Macedonians and Kosovo Albanians were bunched together as Yugoslavia with an imported monarch. Just about all those “nation states” have now disintegrated.
The Non-Western “Nation-States”
In the pre-WWI Western world order the non-Western world was not part of the “community of nations.” It was to be explored, acquired, exploited and settled. In their imperial and colonial drive, Europeans carved the maps of the other continents. Even older world orders such as those of China and Persia became part of European imperial designs. In their exposure to Western nationalism some in the non-Western world became attuned to the idea of national identity. But the circumstances and conjunctures which had concocted the Western bourgeois capitalism were not present in their environment. What motivated them above all was anti-colonial fervor.
The “national aspirations” which were recognized for the peoples of Europe at the conclusion of WWI did not yet fully apply to the non-Western people. The Mandate system permitted the victorious colonial powers to hold onto some of their colonies for an indefinite future while requiring them to chaperon some others, which had the potentials, towards “nation-statehood.” But the maps were designed on colonial patterns. Thus, for example, parts of the Kurdish people, Shiites Arabs and Sunni tribes were bundled together as Iraq under a Hashemite king from Hejaz.
In the aftermath of WWII, with the wars of independence in the 1950’s and 60’s and the collapse of the colonial system, emerged “nation-states” with little coherence in national identity. Some, with strongmen or dominant tribes at their helm, tried “nation-building” by imposing national languages, national education, suppression of minorities and strong military rules. In the polarized world order of the Cold War, depending on their orientation, many of these pseudo-nation-states were held together by one or the other antagonistic camp: Suharto in Indonesia, Mobutu in the Congo, Mengistu in Ethiopia, Said Bare in Somalia, Al Nimeri in Sudan. Others used the space where the two Cold War camps cancelled each other out to hold sway, like Tito in Yugoslavia. Some were too fragile to stay in one piece. East Pakistan feeling, among other identity incongruencies, that its jute exports were exploited by West Pakistan, broke away and became Bangladesh.
There was an essential aspect of the traditional Western nation-states which was distorted in the new pseudo-nation-states. In the West, it was in the “national interest” of the country to develop its national territory in order to increase its overall national potentials. National taxes and revenues generated in certain parts and sectors of the country were directed towards the development of other underdeveloped areas. And national identity and feelings paralleled and approved that distribution of national wealth. The Tennessee Valley Authority was good for the whole nation of U.S.A. In the pseudo-nation-states the systemic norms remained disjointed. Regimes, depending on their ideological or tribal affiliations, diverted the national wealth with little cohesive national identity support. Saddam Hussein built many more palaces in Tikrit than in Nasiriya. One of the causes of the collapse of Yugoslavia was that Croatia was no longer willing to have its hard currency earnings used for the development of Kosovo in the name of Yugoslav national interests.
Indeed, in the globalized economy, even the Western nation-states are hard pressed to raise taxes for national social programs and regional developments. Today’s conditions are opposite the centripetal forces which coalesced Western nation-states. Globalization is pushing national governments to reduce social programs and hence taxes in order to attract foreign investment while ethnicities within their borders seek recognition and autonomy.
The end of the Cold War left regimes which had been held together by the US-USSR bipolarity without a compass. The countries in the horn of Africa, for example, which had changed camp a couple of times during the Cold War were left on their own. The implosion of the USSR produced a number of independent states with potentials of splitting further – such as Abkhazia in Georgia, Nagorno-Karabaq in Azerbaijan or Chechnya in Russia.
Many of the regimes with socialist economies, instead of studying the causes of the collapse of the Soviet socialist regime and correcting their mistakes, succumbed to the allure of triumphant market economy.
With sole super-power status, it behooved U. S. foreign policy to grope for a new world order.
From primus inter pares to Primacy
Speaking of evolution of world orders to which we referred earlier, one could say that the Cold War inflicted a paralyzing blow to the United Nations system soon after its creation. Retrospectively, while one could argue that it was the existence of the UN that avoided the holocaust of a nuclear conflagration, one should also be amazed that it chugged along during the Cold War at all. There were, of course, circumstances and conjunctures which helped the UN’s survival. What would have happened, for example, if the USSR had not been absent from the Security Council and had vetoed the resolution on Korea in 1950? It was finally in 2003 that by attacking Iraq in contravention of the UN Security Council the United States challenged the prevailing international legal norms enshrined in the UN Charter.
During the Cold War the United States, as the “leader of the free world,” played the role of primus inter pares among the Western powers and, up to the time when the non-aligned nations became predominant within the United Nations, used it as an instrument of its foreign policy. The U. S. did, however, maintain its predominance where it mattered. Notably, in the financial organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and the regional military alliance of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
The end of the Cold War set the stage for a new world order revolution with the United States in the principal role. “Revolution” because like other catalyzers of past world order revolutions – whether Persians, Romans, Mongols, Muslims or Western European colonial empires – America brings its own idiosyncrasies to jar other global realities.
America’s geographic specificity as a power on a continent separated from the rest of the world by two oceans has given the U.S. a sense of security all along its short history, probably even up to September 11, 2001. It has also permitted the U.S. the ambivalent attitude of oscillating between political isolation and engagement in world affairs. That attitude has resulted in patchy experiences in diplomacy. George Washington's Farewell Address to the effect that: "The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible" has inspired American policy-makers through the ages, including pre-911 George W. Bush.
There were two components in George Washington’s proposition: 1. foreign nations as political interlocutors and 2. markets for our commercial relations. The entanglement of the two is reflected in U. S. foreign policy throughout its history – from the invasion of the coast of Barbary to the Monroe doctrine and the “open door.” Cognizance of these two dimensions will help us better understand the present realpolitik/liberalism confusion reflected in the policy of “nation-building” in the context of globalization.
It is noteworthy that since the end of the Cold War U.S. foreign policy makers pondering new road maps have remained handicapped by using the old maps they attribute to the Westphalian system and considering the nation-states as the ultimate building blocks for world order. While the American foreign policy establishment considered the implosion of the USSR as desirable and justified – because the states that emerged had political status as republics and historical justifications – it has dreaded the crumbling of nation-states into pieces and has attempted to keep them together: Lebanon, Somalia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and presently Iraq. It is that while the American marketers would like to talk to anybody, the U.S. foreign policy establishment wants to have nation-states as interlocutors in order to hold them responsible for their acts. The phenomenon also has the taint of another American idiosyncrasy, namely, that of the frontier spirit. American foreign policy seeks somebody on the other side of the border to confront. In confrontation America would subvert the adversary in order to turn it into a friendly nation and even dismember it to promote American commercial and economic interests – the second dimension of Washington’s Farewell Address – as was, for example, the case of the separation of Panama from Colombia.
There is yet another dimension in the United States’ dealings with other countries which has to be taken into account: that of the missionary zeal of the nineteenth century turned, since WWII, into the propagation of the “American way of life,” with its main components of freedom, democracy, opportunity and free enterprise. A quick look shows that the realization of some of these components was possible in America because of the American specificity not available in other cultures. Take freedom: beyond all its legal and political connotations, in the American psyche, it has a dimension of spatial movement not easily realizable in other cultures. Or, take opportunity and free enterprise. They too should be put in the context of the story of the pioneers and the vast space at their disposal. Socio-psychological surveys have shown that the Horatio Alger myth is well and alive in the American psyche. While one percent of the population owns 49% of the national wealth and only two percent of Americans consider themselves rich, according to a recent Gallup survey thirty-one percent of Americans surveyed expect to become rich in their lifetime. It is doubtful that that kind of hopeful attitude could be easily inculcated into the people of other traditional cultures where the distribution of wealth is even more lopsided, and where poverty is endemic and wealth considered a birth right.
Finally, to the brief list of American idiosyncrasies should be added the fact that U.S. foreign policy is more sensitive to national politics and the lobbies than other cultures. Thus, for example, when the Cold War ended and there was talk of conversion to a peace economy, the arms manufacturers lobby – the military/industrial complex – and their home-state politicians dangled the dangers of unemployment and economic slowdown to counter the scuttling of arms development programs. With the benign neglect of the 1990’s, the U.S. became the world’s major arms exporter. Of course, there was more to that than just the danger of unemployment.
In 1990 Dick Cheney, then secretary of defense to President George Bush senior, commissioned a study on the future course of the U.S. military posture. The “five-twenty-one brief” – because it was presented to Cheney on May 21 – expounded the idea of “American primacy”. It postulated that the U. S. should strive to remain the only super-power and its foreign policy should aim at hindering other countries – nation-states – from attaining that status. With the defeat of Bush senior that idea was shelved. The Clinton administration applied Realpolitik selectively. Madeleine Albright was candid enough to say that we try to push around Vietnam on human rights issues because it is a small power, but not China. In the early years of his administration, Clinton’s foreign policy was influenced, paradoxically, by the presence in his cabinet of General Colin Powell as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a leftover from George Bush senior’s administration. The “Powell Doctrine” was based on prudence and certainty before engaging U.S. military power in international conflicts and limited U.S. foreign policy options.
As late as the year 2000, Condoleezza Rice, George W. Bush’s foreign policy advisor, wrote: “The United States has found it exceedingly difficult to define its ‘national interests’ in the absence of Soviet power.” The Bush administration’s initial approach to foreign policy was more isolationist than interventionist. George W. Bush did not feel comfortable getting involved in world affairs. His original inclination may have been to follow the early Washingtonian precept of using American power to protect our economic and commercial interests abroad. The fatidic events of September 11, 2001 threw Bush’s foreign policy into the arms of his “primacy cabal.”
The problem with primacy is its incongruous assumptions. Take the rediscovery of nation-building. Nation-building implies nation-state which carries with it the Westphalian concept of sovereignty. Sovereignty implies exclusive jurisdiction over a population and territory and non-interference by others in the internal affairs of the sovereign. A sovereign state can be held responsible for maintaining law and order within its territory when it can fully exercise the prerogatives inherent in exclusive jurisdiction. But as we saw earlier, nation-states are no longer coherent entities. It is ludicrous to assume that Indonesia is a coherent nation-state whose law enforcement system can exercise impartial, uncorrupt and effective jurisdiction over the various peoples and tribes inhabiting its 13,660 islands spread over nearly 2,000,000 square kilometers.
As we saw earlier, a nation-state also needs the historic ingredients for the concoction of a nation. If recent history is any guide, nation-building in pressure cookers hardly ever works. And with global technological and economic evolutions it is not even certain that maintaining nation-states would be practical. Nigeria, Congo, Somalia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq or Indonesia hardly compare in their “nationhood” with France, Germany or Denmark. But even these latter European countries, which became “nations” in the slow cooking stew of history, are now watering down their sovereign rights in the context of the European Union to meet the challenges of the new global realities. Nation-building, therefore, is neither a reasonable nor a desirable goal. New global patterns have to be developed.
Regime change is another buzz word of primacy theory. What are the criteria for change? The argument advanced is to get rid of authoritarian regimes and promote democracy. Iraq is taken care of?! But what about Burma, Sudan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Saudi Arabia, North Korea etc?
The basic problem in changing regimes in non-Western cultures into democracy is the legitimacy of the transfer of sovereignty. The United States was founded from the start on the sovereignty of the people which from the grassroots passed up to local, state and national authorities. In the Western evolutions we referred to earlier, sovereignty of the monarchs trickled down in successive stages, more or less in parallel with the inculcation of national identity and national consciousness into the people. As democracy rather than the divine rights of kings became the method for legitimizing power into authority, the people went along with the outcome of national votes which constituted the means for the passage of their sovereignty to the government that was going to run their lives until the next elections.
That “nation-state” consciousness of the people in the newly sovereign states of the non-Western world is, at best, superficial. The peoples of many parts of the sovereign states do not associate with the “elected” national governments which, if not issue of their own particular tribe or ethnicity (usually represented by a strongman or a clique) is an alien power imposing itself on them.
The “Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam” exist because the Tamil people do not consider the Sri Lankan sovereignty exercised out of Colombo as theirs while the people of Nantes in France consider the French government in Paris as legitimate. Even then, if one traveled farther West of Nantes one may encounter a few claiming the liberation of Bretagne and to the South those who seek autonomy for the Basques.
The West – particularly America – has attempted to export democracy to cultures where most ethnicities have been generally subordinated to an external power which they have felt as being out of their control but to which they have had to submit: powers like a kingdom, an empire, a theocracy or an ideology. Once the concepts of democracy and liberty were cast upon those cultures by the West and grasped by the ethnicities which had not imbibed the idea of nationhood in the sense of nation-state, they converted the idea of “national” into “ethnic” self-determination leading to demands for autonomy and independence.
That the fabric of multi-ethnic unions can no longer be based solely on the model of nation-states with their exclusive jurisdiction and their coercive force maintaining law and order, has since long been recognized and debated. There is little doubt that in the emerging world order particular ethnic, cultural and religious idiosyncrasies that clamor for autonomy should be recognized and brought together through secular overlapping institutions overarching them. Instead of nation-building we should promote federalism: federations of “estans.”
Before venturing further into what may appear as an exotic proposition, it should be emphasized that what will be elaborated in the following pages is a systematization of what is actually taking place within the global human dynamics. Global patterns along the lines of creating autonomous and self-governing entities, “estans,” proposed here are in fact taking place. The European Union (EU), for example, has created the Regional Commission which links the different regions of its member states directly to the Union. Member states of the EU such as France are making arrangements for more direct election of representatives of the regions within their territory to the European Parliament. Recent devolutions in Great Britain have transferred greater autonomy to Scotland and Wales. In a Norwegian-brokered truce, the government of Sri Lanka and the rebel “Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam” will become locked in peace by agreeing to have the World Bank, rather than the Sri Lankan government, become the custodian, disburser and auditor of the international funds destined for the development of the war-ravaged island.
The time has come to evaluate the merits of liberation movements and where applicable, hold them responsible for the control they seek to exercise. In a peace accord between the Indonesian government and the Movement for a Free Aceh (GAM) signed under the auspices of Henri Dunant Center in Geneva in December 2002, the Indonesian army had agreed to withdraw and the rebels had agreed to deposit their arms at sites open to international inspection. The gain in recognition by the rebels and their appeasement was a relief for the four million inhabitants of Aceh and of great significance to the large Exxon Mobil natural gas operations in the area. Unfortunately the rebels dragged their feet in handing in their arms. The Indonesian government, unwilling to relinquish its profitable sovereign control over the resources of the area, broke the truce and restarted the armed conflict which has been going on for the past twenty five years. The U. S. government expressed concern about the Indonesian government’s decision to use force in the Aceh province adding that the rebels and the government could have done more to bridge their differences in the last meeting they had in Tokyo in May 2003. But in line with its policy to uphold “nation-state” sovereignty discussed earlier, the United States government also emphasized that it supports the Indonesian government’s insistence on that country’s territorial integrity. In this Aceh case we have a broad array of the currents at work in the new world order which should be systematically evaluated.
Indeed, the evolution towards new patterns should be phased into favorable international circumstances and conjunctures as they arise. Greater autonomy can be recognized for different parts of a sovereign state in the context of international economic or cultural arrangements. For example, the Indonesian islands of Batam and the Karimuns which are presently being developed by Singapore, could be granted special status. Nation-states, in their dealings with one another and international organizations, should be prodded, instigated and encouraged to take advantage of the subsidiarity potentials of their own political components and relinquish power to “estans.” Thus, for example, the idea of subsidiarity, which Great Britain put forward in the European Union in order to retain the power of nation-states to implement EU directives, would be further transferred to Scotland, and Wales in the process of devolution. Indeed, the EU is presently the most propitious area for the application of the ideas presented in this essay.
There will surely be resistance on the part of central powers of the nation-state and from other quarters. Existing international organizations established on the premise of sovereignty of nation-states, for example, may feel threatened for losing their client states; even though “estans” could easily become their new constituencies. Some potential “estans” may also be reluctant to lose the political security and economic privileges they may have with their nation-states. It is, therefore, essential that the evolution should be gradual and ride on the on-going trends.
Estans, Federations, Global Networks and Institutions
The term “estan” is coined here in order not to confuse the entities discussed here with nation-states, nor with their provinces and regions. If it were not confusing the term “province” would have been retained. But an estan may not coincide with established provinces. “Estan” is a derivative of the Latin word esse which is the verb for being and is also at the origin of the concept of “state”. This particular derivative is adopted in order to distinguish it from the state, and also because the concept of “estan” is already present in geopolitical vocabulary: An estan may coincide with a nation-state or it may not, such as Afghan(e)stan, Turkmen(e)stan, Kurd(e)stan, Kazakh(e)stan, or Baluch(e)stan. Note that while some of the entities listed are at present nation-states, others such as Kurdistan or Baluchistan are not. Kurdistan overlaps Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey and within itself is split between competing tribal leaders, while Baluchistan overlaps Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the same vein the Basque estan is a reality sitting astride France and Spain, etc. Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, or Kazakhstan, on the other hand, while being “nation-states,” have within them, “regions,” “provinces” some of which may aspire to be an estan such as Herat in Afghanistan.
Estans will be members of overlapping regional arrangements, federations and confederations, some of which may have cultural, ethnic or religious dimensions. Brittany, for example, could be simultaneously part of a Celtic cultural confederation, an Atlantic fishing confederation, a North Western France agricultural confederation and through the French government, part of an inter-regional policing and defensive military organization.
Estans would thus be components of the broader complex of global human dynamics. Their potentials for cooperation with other entities depends on their characteristics, values, interests, and political economy and critical mass.
The recognition of autonomy in terms of ethnic and cultural identity will, of course, depend on the level of development of the estan and the possibilities of its integration into the global community.
Overlapping entities are associations and arrangements the estans have purposely created or adhered to as well as regional and global bodies which extend their activities and networks across different estans. The overarching entities will have different characteristics based on their interests and values: the goal of business corporations’ is to achieve big bottom lines while religious groups seek the broadest base of converts.
By “entities” here we imply all organized groups which interact with other organized groups across and within the estans.Under these criteria we come across a broad spectrum of entities. At one end of the spectrum we could include terrorist groups and mafia; at the other end international organizations, multilateral corporations and public institutions. Note that to underscore the present government/market global dynamics, public and private institutions are purposely blurred. There are entities like governments and inter-governmental organizations identified by their legal mission and prerogatives, and their services or authorities such as law enforcement bodies.There are those identified by the labor they provide – as a component of means of production – like the guilds of old and labor unions of today. There are entities whose identity is defined by their values such as humanitarian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and religious institutions which create identity by inculcating values and moral patterns of behavior. All these entities have the potential to overarch estans and incorporate them into regional and global patterns.
The possibilities for future arrangements and organization among estans will depend on how their compatibilities can be best put to use and their differences and conflicts overcome in the complex oftheir dynamics. Overarching entities such as regional organizations, federal institutions, multinational corporations, NGOs or labor unions can harness the estans’ energies for their own benefit and that of global economy. Of course, in the broader picture, the compatibilities and conflicts of the overarching entities also will have to be addressed. As we shall see later, overarching entities, depending on their characteristics, have potentials for cooperation, competition or conflict.
Economic incentive may make Arabs and Jews, Moslems and Croats, Hutus and Tutsis live together and the success of their cooperation may overshadow their ethnic conflicts. Inversely, the collapse of economic incentives can exacerbate historical identity conflicts. Hutus and Tutsis coexisted, more or less peacefully, as long as the price of coffee was high and their attention was oriented towards gains in cultivating coffee. The collapse of the price of coffee on the world market in the 1990’s accentuated the Hutus/Tutsi conflicts. Once ethnic conflicts flare up, their emotional impact overshadows potential material gains and handicaps the global economy, as is presently the case in a number of central African countries.
In our earlier definition of overarching entities, terrorist groups and mafia were pitted against more legitimate institutions to emphasize the point at which the relationships between peoples can break down. Even at the terrorist extreme we may find that by seeking terror as its identity, a group may not have as its ultimate goal the irrevocable disruption of relations between peoples, but be using it as a tool to achieve recognition for eventual negotiation of its claims – as do, for example, the Zapatistas in Mexico and the Palestine Liberation Organization in Israel. The mention of terrorist groups as entities underscores the extremes of conflict and use of violence in global human dynamics. A terrorist group is an entity which, while claiming identity, remains anonymous. It can, by the violence of its actions, have an impact on global human dynamics beyond what its mass warrants. It may engage in terrorist activities because it feels that it has received less than what is due to it. By doing so, it may lose all, or receive, because of its virulence, more than what is due to it.
We have here a good assortment of the ingredients which generate global human dynamics: identity, mass and action of entities spanning tribes, social and ethic segments, corporations, unions and religious institutions as well as regional federal arrangements and global institutions.
The warps and wafts of overlapping entities may be more present in some estans and less in others. Mafia has a greater presence in Sicily than in Luxemburg, while re-insurance and banking conglomerates have a bigger presence in the latter than the former.
Regional arrangements entered into by estans should correspond to some rationale: economic, environmental, geographic, cultural, linguistic, or other criteria.The law and order sectors, which the estans create or which overarch the estans, should also have clear rationale in terms of security and effective and unbiased control.
Regional federal and confederal settings and arrangements overarching the estans for given purposes such as public works like dams, inter-regional highways, extraction of natural resources or industrial production will have statutes and institutions which may include secular norms sitting astride the value systems of the estans involved.
The overarching security bodies may remain under the control of nation-states. But in many instances it would be preferable if they were replaced by a regional police force composed of multi-national forces under the auspices of global or regional organizations like NATO. The nation-state will have vested interests which may not be compatible with those of particular estans or the global community. The Yugoslav army composed of Serbians was not an impartial security force in Kosovo.
The reason the U.S. has supported the Indonesian Army over the years, besides the Cold War syndrome of not letting Indonesia fall in the hands of the communists, has been to have military control by proxy over a vast spread of thousands of islands inhabited by many different ethnic groups laying in a vulnerable and high risk maritime area straddling the Indian and Pacific oceans. Of course, it is also in the interests of the Jakarta oligarchy to hold onto the Indonesian sovereignty for their own benefit and power as was the case in East Timor and is now the case in Aceh. The Indonesian government will not easily relinquish its hold on the natural resources of the territories it claims sovereignty over. The royalties they bring in fill the coffers of the state and line the pockets of the officials. Piracy in the straits of Indonesia is high partly because, at times, it is done with the collusion of Indonesian Army posts. Regional arrangements which cap the autonomous ethnic entities should provide law and order standards which should be broader than the sovereign nation-state’s power and exclusive jurisdiction.
A regional security organization in South East Asia similar to NATO could relieve national armies which, in many cases, are not capable of enforcing law and order. A case in point is the trials and tribulations of the Philippine government on the island of Mindanao where the corrupt Moro National Liberation Front rules an autonomous region and where the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is now believed to be running terrorist training camps.
In many parts of the world where the nation-state is not capable of securing law and order, the multinational corporations have to choose between the alternatives of moving out, creating their own security forces, or pursue accommodation with the forces seeking autonomy. The latter alternative puts multinational corporations in a position of complicity with rebel organizations. For example, Tata Tea Company and other corporations in Assam have provided help to Ulfa (United Liberation Front of Assam).
While the local corporate manager makes arrangements with independence seeking people of an area, the corporate headquarters may support and negotiate with the “national state” – which may be losing its grip on the social developments in the area. Nation states collect taxes and royalties from corporations to maintain law and order to facilitate corporate operations, but in order to be competitive and attract corporate businesses they reduce taxes which finance social programs. So, an “ethnic entity” will have the nation state’s police and army on its back, but fewer and fewer social programs – schools, hospitals, social security, unemployment insurance, or retirement funds. Under these circumstances, the corporate local manager may sympathize with the “ethnic entity,” i.e., the potential estan. In that context, to affirm its own credibility, the potential estan contesting the sovereignty of the nation-state should assume responsibility for maintaining law and order.
Autonomy, not Independence
Legitimization of Power into Authority
While in modern Western cultures democracy through the ballot box is the preferred method for the legitimization of power into political authority, estans in other cultures may have other venues for creating their own political leadership. The Western concept of democracy itself has a wide variety. Democracy is only one of the processes for the legitimization of power into authority. It has been used by a limited number of nation-states in the West during the relatively short period of two and a half centuries of human history.
The regime of an estan should correspond to its socio-political realities and its position in the global context. An estan with a secularly-educated population which has a realistic view of its own position within the global economic and political context could, and probably should, have a democratic processes for the legitimization of power into political authority. But there are estans whose political culture converts power into authority through traditional, monarchical or theocratic methods of legitimization.
It may not be realistic, reasonable or practical to force such estans to embrace democracy instead of their established political culture. It would be hard to replace, in a near future, the Sultanate of Burundi with a democratic republic. In Kurdistan, chances are that whether through plebiscite or tribal councils, the Talabani clan will continue to control PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) and Barzani’s will control KDP (Kurdish Democratic Party). Assad’s son ascended the presidential throne in Syria, Saddam was grooming his son to step into his dictatorial shoes in Iraq. Aliyev hopes to have his son follow him in Azerbaijan, and Nazarbayev’s daughter is preparing for power in Kazakhstan. The Iranian Council of Guardians disqualifies candidates who are not good Moslems. All these cultures have incorporated democratic electoral processes in their constitution, but whoever comes to power does so on tribal and clan intrigues. Even American democracy itself is conditioned by plutocratic electoral funding to control the media for political persuasion. As the last presidential election revealed, American electoral system has its own legal quirks and the exercise of people’s sovereignty through majority vote does not always apply.
The variety of the processes for the legitimization of power into authority underscores the distance that should be put between the recognition of autonomy for the estans and the old concept of exclusive jurisdiction and independence of sovereign nation-states. In many cases a hard core of militants spearheads an estan’s aspiration for autonomy. The global community and its institutions should see to it that the estan is not held captive and oppressed by a clique of militants imposing their rule on the population without a due legitimization processes corresponding to the political culture of its people.
Democracy may come gradually as people become conscious of their rights – just as it may go when people become too complacent and prone to the manipulations of power.
It would be imperative for the global community to secure an encompassing set of secular principles by which the estans would be held to abide no matter what their political culture. The autonomy of an estan is not a value judgment. It is the recognition and accommodation of a global political reality which should be subject to broader norms. Basic principles should cover such areas as respect for human rights, checks and balances securing judicial review against arbitrary or primitive processes of justice, recognition of rights of minorities and aliens, and acceptance of rules permitting intercourse among the members of the global community in the largest sense of the term whether economic, cultural, environmental or artistic.
There may arise, for example, instances where an estan’s choice of regime may have to be influenced by the global community in order to accommodate global imperatives. Take, for example, an estan within whose territory lays an international waterway – a canal or a strait – indispensable for global navigation. Now suppose its population is overwhelmingly Moslem and votes into power a fundamentalist regime which promulgates that no ship crossing the waterway should carry alcohol. The decision could seriously handicap global navigation and trade. It is obvious that the global community could not tolerate such an ethnic religious exigency.
With new patterns of global human dynamics, ethnic identities can pervade but take different forms and dynamics. Armenia, Israel, Bosnian Serpska Republic, Chechnya, Scotland or Bavaria are identifiable entities. Then there are ethnic enclaves within broader regional entities. There are Chinese in other south Asian regions and elsewhere. There are Lebanese in Argentina; Jews, Irish and Arabs in America and elsewhere; Scots in England; Turks in Germany etc. The diaspora of these ethnic identities develop global networks which then behave as overarching entities affecting different estans: Sikh diaspora in Canada, Russian diaspora in Brighton Beach etc.
The states that emerged in the early 1990’s as a consequence of the Soviet implosion treated the presence of the Russian diaspora on their territory differently. Moldova actually split, Estonia and Latvia disenfranchised a vast majority of Russians who had settled there during the Soviet rule, while many other states made arrangements for recognition and integration of ethnic Russians. The development of estans will provide ethnicities and cultures with choices within a spectrum ranging from exclusivity to accommodation, and presenting different opportunities and consequences both for the estans and the minorities residing within them. There is, however, a need for a minimum level of cultural, ethnic and political tolerance, rule of non-sectarian laws and recognition of the rights of minorities to prevail within different estans.
In an interconnected world where the rights of estans to autonomy are recognized, so should be the rights of minorities to safeguard the characteristics of their culture. But the movement of people does not only erode the sovereignty of nation-states, it also dilutes traditional national identities of host cultures: The ones that Western nation-states cultivated over the centuries. America built a nation by being a melting pot, but now prides itself as a tossed salad. "La culture civilisatrice française" took pride in taking the people of other cultures into its bosom and integrating them into its own culture. It is now tolerating the mushrooming of mosques and minarets across the country.
The advances in communication technologies such as internet, satellite TV, affordable and mobile telephone connections and rapid transportation facilities can turn minority diaspora into active global networks operating within the host culture. Paradoxes may arise in balancing the rights of minorities and maintaining the orderly cohesion of the estan. A driver’s license in America is a photo identification document. The picture of a veiled Moslem female on it defeats the purpose – as is presently being debated in court in Florida – until establishing identity by scanning the eye iris has become a common technique. In fact, some states in America still have laws on their books which prohibit covering the face in public. They date back from nineteenth century days of bank robbery – which can now be replaced with terrorism. It is imperative that in the intercourse of peoples of estans and cultures the secular logic of underlying principles of conduct prevails.
To participate in the global economy as a distinct entity, an estan needs to have a critical mass. Estans which are not economically viable to stand on their own may need to combine their efforts with neighboring ethnicities. But neighboring ethnicities are usually "ethnicities" because they have created their identities in contra-distinction to their neighbors. And usually there is competition and often times hostility between them. The problem of broad global organization is the discrepancy that exists between the big picture and its details.
Looking at the broad picture of an area with peoples having similar social, ethnic, linguistic, religious, and cultural patterns – such as the Middle East, the Balkans or South East Asia – one may be inclined to assume that the area can be organized as an identifiable coherent entity. However, upon closer scrutiny of different ethnicities on the terrain, one would realize that while the neighboring ethnicities may have most of their traits in common, their source of identity is the differences that exist between them, making them each feel unique and antagonistic to their neighbors. They would rather associate themselves with a broader overarching entity than being confused with their neighbors and lose their specific identity. That is partly the reason bigger entities like empires have emerged by using the conflicts among neighboring entities to divide and rule. Overarching powers have then served as arbiters and controllers to keep the neighboring entities in peace, working together and complementing each other. The overarching controls may have developed the estans, but their main purpose would have been the exploitation of the estans for the benefit of the controlling classes in the nation or the empire – Roman milites, Chinese Mandarins, or Western aristocracy and bourgeoisie. The checks and balances proposed in the next section are intended to enhance the organizational characteristics of present day overarching entities while controlling their exploitive potentials.
Reviewing the burgeoning estans we come across political cultures which are not palatable by Western standards. In some, the “weightier parts” with traditional roots, may have to be endured; in others, with dubious moral standards, they need to be challenged. Take, for instance, the Serpska Republic, one of the three ethnic regions of Bosnia-Herzegovina, where, under the nose of NATO forces, mafia businesses controlled by the war criminal Karadzic smuggle gas and cigarettes and pay the police. In Afghanistan, Ismail Khan, the warlord of Herat, cashes customs revenues of the trade with Iran, negotiates with oil companies and is tolerated and at times cajoled by the United States military forces. Other burgeoning estans referred to elsewhere in this paper also have different degrees of palatable characteristics.
Depending on the dynamics of their political culture, estans will have different kinds and degrees of involvement with different regional and global networks. While some restrictive aspects of an estan’s exercise of autonomy, although not appealing in terms of the broad standards of global community, will have to be tolerated, others may have to be subjected to global pressure for change. For instance, an estan may require its educational programs to be taught in its ethnic language. By doing so, however, it may handicap its own population more than the global community because it reduces the chances of its educated population to get involved in the broader regional and global activities. The objection of an estan to the construction of a super-highway through its territory, however, may jeopardize broader regional and global interests and require the intervention of overarching bodies. The solution may lay in old-fashioned political arm-twisting or private enterprise incentives.
In many cases the private venue may prove to be more effective, as witnessed by corporate penetrations into underdeveloped areas. Private enterprise has the flexibility to entertain rather than coerce the leaders of an estan. That entertainment – read corruption – may not be in the best interest of the estan as a whole but it benefits the broader regional and global patterns. In the process leaders of the estan may be co-opted into a global class different from their own ethnic identity. Their co-option into broader global circles may ease the functional incorporation of their estan into the global human dynamics.
In the exercise of their autonomy estans will face limitations which they will be able to overcome by involvement in regional and global arrangements; but which can also make them vulnerable and captive to other entities. Certain functions need resources which the ethnic community may not be able to muster. The path of the cattle to the pasture is made by the cattle. It can be graveled for communication between two communities; but the paved road between two estans and beyond will need a larger organization, material means and financial resources. They may not be available or not cost-effective at the community level. Once the entities have collaborated to create the organization which can pave the inter-estan road, it may also, if need be, asphalt the roads within the communities which otherwise would have remained gravel roads. For creating super-highways and connecting a number of entities yet heavier equipment, more financial resources and complex organization will be needed, requiring the cooperation of a number of estans at the regional level.
The same process applies to other needs. It is not at the level of an ethnic community that complex research can be undertaken for the improvement of crops which may require expensive and extensive research labs. Thus education, at the ethnic level should prepare the members of the community not only for communal but broader social participation. Estans and overarching entities will have to cooperate to create educational systems which fit broader patterns of learning and research. The question that arises is how does this fit into the domain of rights and responsibilities of the individuals, the community and the society.
At the developed stage of Western “nation-state” model democracy, human rights and the rule of law required the state to assume certain responsibilities to facilitate the exercise of the "democratic" rights of the citizens. To be able to exercise the rights to freedom of expression and assembly, the citizen had to be provided with the means to do so. That implied the development of unbiased education – for the development of thought – and means of communication and transportation – to make freedom of expression and assembly a reality. If a community within the “nation-state” was isolated and it was not economically cost effective for the private enterprise to provide for that community adequate schools, communication lines and transportation, then the government, depending on the regime, was to either provide that community with those means for the exercise of the democratic rights, or regulate private enterprise in a manner to "oblige" it to make those means available.
As mentioned earlier, with the spread of market economy and the challenges of globalization, nation-states reduce taxes and dismantle, not only public works and services for the exercise of democracy, but also public social programs covering education, healthcare, unemployment and living standards. As estans gain more autonomy they will face the problem of providing those public services and social programs. In a broad spectrum of alternatives, they may rely on tribal, local and communal arrangements, devise and enter into federal regional plans or call on overarching corporate networks such as global insurance providers or growing educational institutions. The choices made by estans from one end of the spectrum to the other, will make them less or more dependent on overarching entities, but also render their people more provincial or more cosmopolitan.
The emergence of Islam as a world power is a phenomenon which needs to be observed. It provides religious precepts for broad social security schemes. From the grassroots up, its programs are replacing national schemes and while operating at local and communal levels, are engulfing ethnic and national identities into the Islamic hegemony. The question that arises is the compatibility of Islamic faith with the principles of freedom of thought, democracy and the need for global secular frameworks to ensure the autonomy of different cultures.
Global Standards for Overarching Bodies
References made so far to the overlapping networks and institutions, whether the creation of a NATO type regional organization for security and fighting terrorism, the collusion of multinational corporations with freedom fighters, or the need for mechanisms to monitor the adherence of estans to global standards of behavior, point to the need for adoption, adaptation and transformation of new and old arrangements and institutions. Like the realities of the emergence of estans, the process of change in global institutions is under way, but needs systematization.
Mention was made, for example, of the involvement of the World Bank as custodian of development funds in the Sri Lanka/Tamil conflict or the efforts by Henri Dunant Center to mediate in the Aceh conflict. Note that here again, for our purposes, private and public domains are blurred. The World Bank is an intergovernmental organization while Henri Dunant Center is a non-governmental organization. As the concept of sovereignty is diluted, markets and governments merge. Estans or their regional federations would be shareholders in multinational corporations or they could be engaged in public projects assigned to multinational corporations. Example: Eurostar was conceived by the governments of France and Great Britain (which in our present perspective could be likened to regional federations of estans); and is a publicly traded multinational corporation run by one publicly owned French and one privately owned British railway corporation.
It is assumed that estans will have more or less oversight over the overarching federal institutions which they have created or agreed to join for their common needs. But bodies such as corporations and NGOs which grow in some parts of the globe and extend their activities to estans in other parts may escape global oversight.
NGOs have emerged to represent and speak on behalf of global public opinion – a vacuum which is hard to fill coherently indeed. While NGOs should be lauded for filling the vacuum, their impact on the course of global affairs may become disproportionate to their mandate. This may lead to abuse of power and corrupt use of funds. NGOs publicly intimidating solicitations may turn into taxation without representation. To remedy such possible abuses one could conceive of a Global NGO Council which would assume self-censorship while being monitored by other global public and private organizations.
Broadly, there is need for developing global bodies to oversee the activities of overarching networks and organizations. In their dealings with estans, multinational corporations may attempt oligopolies and monopolies or promote lopsided projects detrimental to the interests of estans. A Global Corporate Council could be envisaged to provide oversight to corporate sectors and associations, imposing on them self-censorship, monitored by NGOs and other public and private institutions.
The remedy for faith based violence and terrorism could be a Global Ecumenical Council of different faiths. In short, there is need to guard the guardians. Application of International Accounting System (IAS) standards should be required for all private and public, regional and global organizations.
Globalization of Natural Resources
And finally, even though there is nothing more futile than an idea whose time hasn’t come, my old chimera for the globalization of natural resources which I presented to this forum over twenty years ago. As Jean Jacques Rousseau said “the earth belongs to no one, and the fruits thereof to those who cultivate them.” The natural resources of the world belong to all mankind, not to those who sit on them. The creation of Iraq Oil Fund by the UN resolution in May 2003 will drastically reduce the Kurds’ lucrative source of income. The oil of Kurdistan will now benefit all Iraqi people including Sunni and Shi'a Arabs. Why should the Kurds claim ownership? And why are only the Iraqi people entitled to the benefits? Why not also the people of Jordan, which has no oil? After all, before the British concocted modern Iraq, they were all provinces of the Ottoman Empire. Iraq is indeed presently a good testing ground for the creation of the estans of Kurds, Sunni and Shi'a Arabs.
There is no reason for the ruling classes of Brunei, Saudi Arabia or the Gulf states to live in opulence in a world where half of humanity lives on less than two dollars a day. The natural resources of the world should be put under a global regime and entrusted to a globally instituted body which would solicit offers for their exploitation. Contracts would be granted to the best bidders with due respect to efficiency, environmental protection and human rights considerations monitored by NGOs. The royalties received would fund global development programs planned and administered by other institutions with due checks and balances. There will surely be bureaucracy, waste and injustice in the process, but not as much as there is now. Admittedly, there is little hope for the realization of this idea. It assumes long-term vision of global development by those who claim and exercise sovereignty.
This essay was undertaken as a reflection on the present hegemonic United States foreign policy. It addresses some of the major concerns of the U. S. foreign policy such as combating terrorism, reducing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or the opening of world markets. It is argued here that those goals can be better achieved if, instead of the present policies of upholding the integrity of nation-states and attempting to change their regimes into democracies, the U. S. foreign policy was oriented towards recognizing the aspirations of different peoples for autonomy and their incorporation in overarching federal arrangements and global networks.
In doing so the U.S. may, of course, look at the process of fragmentation of the world into estans from the vantage point of U.S. foreign policy and national interests and assume that the U.S. itself will remain intact as a super power. But the U.S. could also envisage the world order of estans overarched by regional confederations and global institutions as eventually encompassing the United States. In fact, the U. S. has the ingredients for such a prospect already in place. Indeed, to some extent, what already exists in the U.S. can serve as model for the proposed world order of estans. The states in the United States could be conceived as estans which are presently overarched by different overlapping regional federal arrangements. The Federal district courts overarch the states but do not coincide with the Federal Reserve districts. The Department of Agriculture has different districts than FCC, Federal Civil Aviation or Department of Education. In the global context, the central role and the tax-collecting prerogatives of the U.S. federal government would devolve to particular federal regions and institutions assigned with different tasks. A prospect which goes along with the Republican dominated Congress’s idea of giving power back to the states.
Granted, just like all other world orders, the one which is unfolding now will be complex and messy. Too much pragmatism, expediency and simplification on the part of U.S. foreign policy makers may, in fact, contribute to additional future mess and complications. Our policy makers would be well advised to observe the time series of past empires. Instead of the present policy of forming coalitions as needs arise and bilateral agreements with sovereign states, and instead of the disdain for United Nations and international law as reflected in the invasion of Iraq and the incarceration of Afghan Taliban fighters in Guantanamo Bay, the U. S. should fully participate in multinational organizations and lay the grounds for lasting international legal norms with adequate checks and balances and enforcement mechanisms.
The study of past empires shows that no empire succeeded to eternalize its primacy. Empires which survived longest after their decline were those which left behind their legacy. The Roman Empire metamorphosed on and on, and its Roman Law is still with us. The freedom of the high seas evolved, to a large extent, with the expansion of the Dutch and British empires and permitted them to survive as prosperous societies past their imperial adventures.
Akim Inc., New York, July 2003
Reus-Smit, C., The Moral Purpose of the State: Culture, Social Identity, and Institutional Rationality in International Relations, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 1999.
 Boswell, T., and C. Chase-Dunn, The Spiral of Capitalism and Socialism, Boulder, CO, Lynne Rienner, 2000.
 “Is This a Great Country?” The Wall Street Journal, April 1, 2003
 Blumenthal, S., The Clinton Wars, New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003
Rice, Condoleezza, Foreign Affairs, January/February 2000.
See, for example, M. J. Esman (ed), Ethnic Conflict in the Western World, Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press, 1970; S. N. Eisenstadt and S. Rokkan (eds), Building States and Nations, London, Sage, 1973; L. J. Sharpe, Decentralist Trends in Western Europe, London, Sage 1979; D.L. Horowitz, Ethnic Groups in Conflict, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1985; and, M. Mathias, D. Jacobson and Y. Lapid, Identities, Border, Orders: Rethinking International Relations Theory, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 2001.
Apperley, A.., “Liberalism, Autonomy and Stability” in British Journal of Political Science, Vol. 30, pp. 291-311, 2000.
Rivera, D. W., “Engagement, Containment, and the International Politics of Eurasia” in Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 118, No. 1, 2003, pp. 81-106
For a recent evaluation of sovereignty see S. Krasner, Sovereignty: Organized Hypocrisy, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 1999.