Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Morris's ruling in a Huntington Clash

The title of Morris’s book is Why the West Rules – for Now, and the subtitle is “The Patterns of History, and what they reveal about the future.”  In the realm of Political Science I normally think there are only two paradigms: Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man, and Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations.  But there is another, the British Empire paradigm, and I wonder if it isn’t more influential (although probably less respected) than either of the former ones. 

Morris is flip, superficial, he skips matters that bear upon his ideas, and as of page 95 he has yet to explain what he means by “Rules.”  I’m guessing that he means what the Churchill meant when he famously told Eisenhower something along the lines of ‘Britain is no longer able to police the world so it is going to have to be up to you in the future.”  Britain was able to project its power through its unsurpassed navy, but since Churchill passed that baton to Eisenhower only the U.S. is able to project military power (in a significant way) any place in the world.  That is only partially true and I find the term “rules” if my guess about what Morris means is accurate terribly misleading. 

Back in early 2009 I was in a debate with Michael Kuznetsov (in my blog), a patriotic Russian who lived in, or perhaps only worked in, Moscow.  He had a web site that boasted that the Russian Army was the greatest military force in the world.  Given his assumptions about that matter, he was right.  What he meant wasn’t the sort of projection of military force that Churchill and (perhaps) Morris meant but the ability to defend Russia against any sort of attack.  The U.S. could project a military force into Iraq and another into Afghanistan but we don’t possess the ability or will to project one into Russia.  We couldn’t project one into China either.  And we wouldn’t be willing to project a force into virtually any nation at the present time.  But at this point Huntington’s paradigm impinges upon (or perhaps supports) Morris’s:

While the U.S. has neither the means nor the will to successfully invade Russia, it does have the means and under a future president might have the will to defend a nation, even a former S.S.R., on Russia’s border – given provocative circumstances.  The same sort of thing is true in regard to China, even more so perhaps, because the U.S. has very strong ties to Taiwan and the official policy of China is that Taiwan is integral to the Chinese nation and not an independent entity.   The U.S. may back away from the problem if Taiwan initiates a confrontation, but if the Chinese mainland initiates it, the U.S. may very well support Taiwan militarily.  This sort of “Clash” fits into Huntington’s paradigm.  Core nations such as the U.S., China, and Russia will not engage in all-out war with each other in the future.  Instead there will be “clashes” along the borders of the various “Civilizations.” Core nations may or may not become involved in these clashes.  A Clash in Georgia, or Taiwan, for example would fit Huntington’s paradigm.

If my guess about what Morris is up to is accurate, what sort of “rule” does he imagine the U.S. is engaged in – or capable of?  My opinion of Morris’s theories hasn’t grown any since I read his introduction.  He may mean something as banal as the ability to project another military force into another Middle Easter nation such as Iran.  Again, Huntington does a better job of dealing with such a matter.  If Iran decided to hold much of the world hostage by closing the Straits of Hormuz, the U.S. in the past would have stepped in and opened them up again.  Much of the world is dependent up oil flowing through these straits.  But if we happened to have an isolationist president who refused to interfere with Iran, arguing that we have enough oil and gas to satisfy our own needs and needn’t come to the aid of other nations, then one of those other nations, perhaps China or Japan would open up the Straits with a military force of their own.  If China did it perhaps Morris would argue that “rule” had passed from the U.S. to China. 

But perhaps I am taking Morris more seriously than he intends.  He seems to be enjoying himself even as he frustrates me: [from page 95] “Rituals are notoriously culture-specific.  Depending on when and where you find yourself, it may be that the mighty ones will listen only if you pour the blood of a live white goat on the right side of this particular rock; or only if you take off your shoes, kneel down, and pray facing in that direction; or if you tell your misdeeds to a man in black who doesn’t have sex . . .”

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