Wednesday, March 25, 2009

On the EU, Krastev, and Russia's Nationalism

The above article is also written by Ivan Krastev. It is entitled “The crisis of the post-Cold War European order,” and subtitled “What to do about Russia’s newly found taste for confrontation with the West.”

I admit to having some difficulty with Krastev’s style. He seems to skip about almost at random, but the above is the fourth article I’ve read by him and perhaps I’m catching on. My theory is that he is writing to and for the European Union. I believe he loves the EU but doesn’t have a good paradigm for making all his concerns coherent. He is writing about surface events as though they had some philosophical underpinnings, but they don’t and then he moves on to the next surface event.

In my own case I have two paradigms that I’ve been weighing against each other for many years. That is, I’ll look at “surface events” to see whether they more closely fit the Fukuyama or the Huntington paradigm. Fukuyama wrote The End of History and the Last Man in which he joined Kojeve in arguing that Hegel rather than Marx was right about the “end of history.” It was ending with Capitalism (Liberal Democracy) rather than Communism. Fukuyama argued that there was nothing “out there,” nothing in the world to compete effectively with Liberal Democracy. Yes there was some opposition here and there but all of it would eventually succumb to Liberal Democracy.

Samuel P. Huntington wrote The Clash of Civilizations. He argued that the differences between the several “Civilizations” (as defined by Social anthropologists) were too great for them ever to come together in an “end of history” (he doesn’t specifically address Fukuyama’s thesis; so I am drawing a conclusion he only implied). In each Civilization there is, or ought to be, a “core state.” The “core state” brings order to and solves problems for its civilization.

I’ll just mention the two civilizations in question here, the “West” and the “Orthodox.” We more or less know who belongs to the “West” Civilization, and we more or less concede that the US is the “Core State.”

In the “Orthodox Civilization” matters are less clear. Without doubt Russia is the “Core State” but its members, that is the other “Orthodox States” are not, many of them happy with Russia, but Russia is more concerned about them, feels more vitally connected to them than does “the West.” So when the EU, a Western construct began welcoming “orthodox” states into itself as members, it was offending the “orthodox Core State” if Huntington’s paradigm is correct.

Thus, when Russia moved into Georgia I nodded sagely and said to myself, “one more point for Huntington’s thesis.” But Krastev on the other hand, and perhaps most of the intellectuals behind the EU were caught off guard. What could this mean? Maybe the sky is falling.

I am not an EU enthusiast. Krastev worries about what might happen to the EU if member states respond to Russia individually, but that doesn’t bother me. I have no objection to a lot of agreements being formulated among the European states, but I am not in favor of the European states abandoning their individuality and melding themselves as the Atman melds itself into the Brahman at Nirvana. I don’t completely trust Europe to behave itself. Yes, for the present it is taking a pacifistic, holier than thou, stance against the US, but from our standpoint, Europe drew us into two of their major wars and we are watching them carefully to make sure they don’t do it again. Yes, they are playing nice at present, but if they had a Supernation called the EU and then produced one of those Ubermensch they are so good at producing, could he not transform it in short order into a military giant? Yes, of course he could. So let’s keep all those European nations separate so we don’t have to go over there again. We are not nearly as militaristic as those Europeans are presently making us out to be. We long for the old Isolationist days that Churchill seems to have forever destroyed for us.

I thought at first Krastev had a paradigm to cover the Russian point of view when he described Sovereign Democracy, but no sooner did he describe it than he said it didn’t work very well and it wasn’t exportable. So in effect it is useful for describing “the sort of nationalism” Russia is embracing, if Krastev is correct in his assessment, and if Sovereign Democracy turns out to be embraced by Russia at large.

Sovereign Democracy may be something like “Neoconservatism” was for the Bush administration. It was never completely embraced by him but only by some of his intellectual advisors who wrote and commented voluminously throughout his administration, but it never really caught on in the US at large, and now that Obama is president, it is dead, along with America’s “unipolar moment,” whatever that was supposed to mean.

I get the impression that Krastev is giving much more thought to the EU’s problems than he is to Russia’s. And Krastev has virtually dismissed the US as irrelevant; which it may be for what he is concerned about. What he describes as Putin’s view of the US, by the way, is bizarre. He implies that Putin actually said this; which would make it even more bizarre: namely that the US was indeed a “hegemon” and indeed had its “unipolar” moment but now it is in decline and if Russia plays its cards right it can take the place of the US in the future. That makes no sense whatsoever.

I’ll grant that some people in China and elsewhere were using the term “hegemon” in preference to “superpower” but these were just words. We did have more military power than anyone else, but it was not unlimited. We couldn’t take on the whole world, even if we wanted to and we absolutely didn’t. But in actually fact all we could do was take on more than anyone else, and perhaps our taking on the “rogue states” of Afghanistan and Iraq was impelled to some degree by the Bush administrations belief that it was more of a superpower than it really was, but perhaps most presidents would have responded in some way by the attacks from Islamist elements and Islamic rogue states. But the fact is that we had neither the men, the equipment nor the wealth to take on more than a limited number of military challenges; so whatever “hegemon” was intended to mean, it had to include an accurate description of our capabilities; which were always limited.

Then too America was richer than any other nation, but it wasn’t richer than all the other nations combined. Furthermore it believed in competition; so America was going to be the richest nation only so long as it out-competed its competitors in the economic realm. If this was the hegemon Krastev and Putin had in mind, then Russia had better stop relying upon its oil and start competing in the economic arena; something it is showing no signs of doing at present, as far as I can tell.

Moving now back to the paradigms I’m watching, I see the US as the West’s “core state” and not a superpower or a hegemon. It doesn’t always get along with all the other states in the west, witness the disagreements of France and Germany over the Iraq invasion, but it is doing better than the Orthodox core state is with its civilization’s states. We in the US don’t have any nations rebelling against us in the way that Ukraine is rebelling against Russia.

And then moving to Krastev’s EU, I notice that Krastev is from Bulgaria which is predominately Orthodox in religion; which would mean that it rightly belongs in the Orthodox Civilization under Russia and not in the West with the EU. But Krastev loves the EU; so he’d better hope that Huntington is wrong.

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