Abdo Alaoui
21 January 2024

Jumping Time: A Risky Business in International Politics

Jumping Time: A Risky Business in International Politics
Jumping Time: A Risky Business in International Politics

Today, neither conservative nor liberal scholars have an answer to help ease the burden of expectations on people’s shoulders in an increasingly fragile and uncertain world order.

I attended a session of creative writing last week in Budapest. Monitored by professional writers, the workshop was dedicated to helping improve the writing skills of newly discovered talents. It was also intended to brainstorm ideas for stories to be eventually written or told. The harvest was good. This reminded me of the “Book Club of the Green City” in Bouskoura, Casablanca. The same concept, but with a different perspective.

It was such a strange coincidence, as a week earlier, international political and strategic experts had been busy trying to understand what happened between President Vladimir Putin and Wagner’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin

This was strange in the sense that Hungary has always adopted a balanced position on the Ukraine conflict within the Visegrad Group or compared to its other members of the European Union. This is a country loaded with epic history and enjoying a special geographic location that makes it interesting from both a political and strategic standpoint. Besides, unlike Poland, which has ardently sided with Ukraine in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, Hungary plays down its favorable position. It is clear that the situation in Ukraine ignites irredentism in Central Europe. 

Some parts of Ukraine that were once part of the country and the Ottoman Empire’s legacy are still subject to heated debate. Furthermore, Poland, which is the frontline of the new West-East struggle for power and dominance, shows resilient panic and seems to have lost confidence in its Western partner’s’ commitment to defend it in case of a potential Russian aggression, which is as improbable as absurd.

In what sense are the creative writings and the situation in the Hungarian neighborhood similar? Simple!  It seems that the actors involved are aware of the fact that they have to come up with a story and resolution that takes the road. But they are not sure about its consistency and resilience. The assumption that comes to mind first is that Europe is in bad shape, and no paradigm would be good enough to help understand what is going on. 

As John Entelis, professor at Fordham University, New York, and a good friend of mine, has argued while commenting on one of my latest articles, it seems that concepts and paradigms dealing with international politics have become useless.  “International politics can no longer be understood by ideological reasons or geopolitical imperatives,” he argued. Global leaders’ external behavior “is based on their often pathological view of the world that centers on their egocentric and narcissistic personalities rather than on the collective interests of their states and societies.” 

My friend has a point, as dramatic events and catastrophes surge from all parts, in reminding us that neither conservative nor liberal scholars have an answer to help ease the burden of expectations on people’s shoulders in an increasingly fragile and uncertain world order.

Starting from scratch: the same old story

As I was listening to my friends’ stories at the Budapest workshop, I thought of the leaders of democratic countries who really cannot meet their people’s expectations. Particularly telling is that, as they cluelessly face popular discontent, many of them happen to have no answer but violence. Think about the chaos brought about as a result of the cold-blooded assassination of a young French citizen of Algerian and Moroccan descent. Think about the confusion resulting from the end of sacrosanct cooperation between Putin and Prigozhin. 

This has put a harsh limit on and downsized the impact of concepts such as the “Patron-Client” paradigm. Think about all the countries rushing to join the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). They aim, naively, to be part of the much-advertised process of shaping a new international system where the United States of America would lose its leadership and hegemony. 

They race with no specific objective other than blowing the wind. They are, as I labeled them in a recent article, “the orphans of the Cold War” and a herd of non-believers in freedom and the rule of law. Looking for umbrellas, no matter what, may be what they ultimately aim for, but they lack vision and visibility to that end. This observation applies to what are called “Swing States.” Talal Belghiti, an independent scholar, disagreed with this paradigm, to which I dedicated an article three weeks ago.

History records similarities at every stage of human life. In the aftermath of the Cold War in 1990 and the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States of America, people thought that things would change as international cooperation became a compass for better peaceful coexistence between people and societies. 

Time has passed, and nothing appears to have substantially changed. Instead, we had another international financial crisis in 2008, a very cosmetic openness of Europe toward some former Eastern countries through the Eastern Partnership, a biased dialogue with the Southern Mediterranean partners of the European Union, and most importantly, the Arab Spring in 2011. All of which was nothing to be proud of. 

Now, the same old story is being rehearsed in the post-COVID era. People who are deeply convinced by the “Conspiracy Theory” and the “Deep State” paradigms do not rule out the possibility that we will soon be faced with another pandemic. They believe that COVID-19 came earlier than planned, and consequently, it did not allow the masterminds behind the whole scheme to achieve their goals. For those who espouse this line of thinking, the Russia-Ukraine conflict is only the tip of the iceberg of geopolitical chaos to come. 

Other pessimistic observers play it cynical when they assume that democratic elections in some western countries resulted in a patchwork chessboard and brought to power leaders who proved to be the perfect matchup of Third-World authoritarian leaders. They share the view that politics is, above all else, essentially about playing tricks and misleading people to perpetuate the supremacy of a mysterious, powerful minority ruling the world.

Read also: The UN’s Failures Require a New Path in Libya

What is going wrong? How can we pretend to be flexible, open-minded individuals in most Western secular societies and, out of the blue, accept that religious and cultural symbols are being smeared? A court in Sweden’s greenlighting of  the act of a Swedish-Iraqi man’s burning of the Quran on the same day as Muslims were celebrating Eid al-Adha (the Feast of Sacrifice) was not only a sign of double standards but also a testimony of deep hatred and despise of a religion and a culture. This was not different from Nuri al-Maliki’s despicable order to execute Saddam Hussein in 2006, on the dawn of the celebration of Eid al-Adha. He certainly had personal revenge to fulfill for being tortured decades earlier by Saddam.

An Egyptian man resorted to the same act by burning the Koran in Russia. He was arrested as it is forbidden to show discrimination toward faith, race, or gender in that country. Forget about freedom of speech and the implementation of the rule of law in such a case in some Western European countries.

There are many things that we are familiar with that should be reconsidered. People in developing countries have been conditioned to take for granted what comes from the West as unchallenged and unchallengeable truth. There are many classics in literature, for example, with translations from their original language into foreign languages with biased objectives. One of these classics is Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace.” For Russians, the right translation should be “War and the World,” because the Russian word “мир-Mir” means both peace and the world. 

For centuries, people have been educated to perceive the relationship in Eastern Europe, mainly with Russia, in terms of an unfinished war and few opportunities for peace. They apply the same rule to Turkey and former empires outside Europe. In the same spirit, the term “capitulation” is used both in French and English. 

This applies to the privileges that a specific category of native citizens enjoyed under the colonial regime in their own home countries. This favor has been granted as a result of political harassment and despicable blackmail. The translation into Arabic is humiliating; it means total submission and loss of freedom and the right to free speech. It is believed that the same privileges prevail today, but in a hidden way. The meaning of “capitulation” is the same in both translations.

Proms or scripts: the winner takes it all at some points

In the same logic, I may include the debate hosted by France 24 following the controversial statement by the Israeli foreign minister about Israel’s supposedly conditional recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over its Southern provinces. Among the guests were a Moroccan-American (who is always angry and can’t help nailing out his home country no matter what) and an Israeli-American. 

The host was a French-Moroccan journalist. The debate was very biased, as the two Moroccans were known for mostly being harsh on their home country. Fair enough, except that they don’t lift a finger when Morocco is praised and strikes good diplomatic deals. Anyway, all seemed to be used as scapegoats because France 24 sought to send a message to Morocco’s decision-makers that the French government wouldn’t adopt a positive stand with respect to Morocco’s sovereignty more than hypocritically praise Morocco’s Autonomy Plan

The underlying message was: “Look, even after the Tripartite Agreement between Israel, Morocco, and the USA was signed in 2020, Tel Aviv’s position on the Sahara question is still not clear.” The problem with such a narrative is that in the above-mentioned agreement, the Autonomy Plan is highlighted as the sole realistic and credible means to solve the regional conflict over Western Sahara. Besides, as Moroccan officials always say, “the southern provinces are part of Morocco, period! Ambitious and promising projects are being implemented. That is what matters. That means effectiveness and sovereignty.”

As the international system is in bad shape, it is worth stressing that most developing countries are subject to unbearable injustice in every field they engage in so as to survive and evolve in the chaotic world of international affairs. Recently, scholars and observers in the West have drawn people’s attention to what former colonial powers, mainly the United Kingdom and France, did to China and India. They called the way these two countries are behaving an expression of their right to take revenge.

The big misunderstanding between the West and the rest of the world, as Subrahmsnyam Jaishankar, the Indian foreign minister, pointed out recently, is that the Europeans think that their problems are the world’s problems. The question is how to convince countries in the rest of the world that they should no longer accept being treated as “geopolitical scambags.” And again, if we emphasized that the world was in bad shape, then what would be the rationale behind holding regional and international conferences or forums that would generally end with resolutions no one would implement?

Read also: Democracy: One Coin, Multiple Faces, the West, and the Rest

Now back to our creative writing session in Budapest. It concluded with quite good stories that were well-written and eloquently told. Glasses of wine and cups of coffee and tea were sipped, and everybody went back home. That is, everybody went back to the real word. As with past international meetings dating back to the 1884–1885 Berlin Conference to divide Africa, the 1906 Algeciras Conference to divide Morocco, the 1945 Yalta Conference to decide about Germany’s future, the 1991 Madrid Conference to get Israel recognized in its Arab neighborhood, the 2007 Lisbon Treaty to narrow the gap between proponents of nation-state sovereignty and multilateralism in Europe, etc., the world will be divided again, and countries will shrink while others will get more lands.

If geopolitical ideas change in due course, this will not dismiss the argument that the Russia-Ukraine war will ultimately have no issues solved, either on Ukraine’s NATO membership bid or on the territorial claims of both sides. Not to mention policymakers in the neighboring countries eager to seize this opportunity to voice their endemic irredentism. 

The same conclusion might be drawn with respect to the new shifts in international politics. There are no big changes to be expected, but only a few adjustments. The American and Russian proposals to admit new permanent members to the UNSC with no right to veto are smart maneuvers that will lead nowhere—at least for the time being. Nor would it be of any use to listen to calls urging the dismantling of some regional organizations for being useless.

On the other hand, what would be the choices in the hands of states and governments known for sponsoring organized crime networks, including terrorist organizations siding with separate movements? What to do with proxy organizations aiming to take over power in a few fragile countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America? And lastly, what to do with Wagner and Non-state armed groups? 

Wagner is already present in Libya, Algeria, Mali, and other African countries, not to mention Syria and Venezuela. Syria urgently tried to deal with elements of Wagner still in the country as soon as it became clear that bonds of allegiance were being cut between Putin and Wagner’s leader, Prigozhin.

How about double-truck diplomacy with its hidden scripts and lack of transparency? The answer is not different. No matter what’s at take, all that is happening seems to be about “proms” and “scripts.” At the end, one winner will emerge, and he will take it all. Or, as the picture is pretty gloomy, chaos will prevail. 

Source : moroccoworldnews

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