Page 1 of 2 SPEAKING FREELY Why the West falls into civil war
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Although the left hand may conquer the right, no advantage is gained
- Chinese proverb
The West, as we traditionally designate "Old" and "New" Europe, along with North America plus Australia and New Zealand, is a set of countries with two historic-sociological characteristics: modernization and Westernization.
The first characteristic of modernization was built on the West's scientific revolution and its subsequent, strong faith in science and technology. This has been the fundamental underlying reason
behind the West's power and its domination of the world's diverse societies and political formations.
The factors that led to the historic transformation that was the scientific revolution are complex and debatable. However, what is crucial is that this revolution is today an integral part of human civilization.
Modernization has taken over the lives, traditions and well-being of all non-Western civilizational paradigms. Adapting to it, though, is a demand which requires the acceptance of links with Western institutions.
There is no modernization without cooperation with the West and thus it is a necessary condition for other non-Western societies to antagonize, compete or try to overcome Western predominance. Adaptation to science and technology provides the basis for a strong or at least a functioning economy in the international division of production.
It is upon this basis that the United States and European Union uses sanctions to try and hurt Iran, and more recently Russia.
Adopting and advancing science and technology, as well as economic globalization, are also the signposts of China's ascendance to becoming a significant world power.
The second indigenous social development of the West is epigrammatically called Westernization: a social-political construct described as democracy, the rule of law, human rights and an open dialogue in a secular political environment.
Westernization is a praxis that few societies, besides the traditional Western locus, have evolved to match. If we use the criterion of modernization, the whole world is more or less the West. Besides this triumph, it seems that there other negative social-historical forces which prompt the West to engage in a third characteristic: civil wars.
It is as if this practice was not erased from its collective unconscious. What we are experiencing today is not the demise of the West by external forces but an implosion.
This relates to the Nicaean doctrine about fighting against Arianism: Catholics sacking Constantinople, and Protestants against Catholics. It is no doubt also related to the wars Spain launched against the English, those England launched against France and the wars started by Germany against all of Europe. Many of these wars could actually be seen as civil wars.
These wars shaped the European nation state, another unique social-political experiment of this part of the world, but such conflicts are not an option in this nuclear age.
Russia as a part of the West
Samuel Huntington, the political scientist and scholar, classified Russia as an Orthodox civilization, not a Western one. This is at least a half truth but a fairly convenient to keep a popular mindset focused on an imaginary non-Western enemy associated with the evil empire of the Soviet Union.
Hellenic-Roman, Judeo-Christian, the Enlightenment and the British, American French and Russian revolutionary paradigms are the common cultural and political heritage of the West. And Russia is the eastern West of the so called "West".
As the late professor Richard Rorty has proposed, we must look to our common heroes to develop a new vocabulary for a discourse that advances solidarity. We do have Russian heroes in the West: Peter the Great, Mikhail Kutuzov, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Sergei Eisenstein, Dmitri Shostakovich and many others.
Europe cannot say that Russia is not part of the continent, because it must be recalled that millions of Russians died so that Kaiser Wilhelm II couldn't drink his coffee at the Cafe de Paris. Millions also died so that the British wouldn't be occupied in 1941.
Historically, Russia has sustained a lot of pressure and isolation. It had suffered invasions by the Mongol Tatars, Swedish, Lithuanians, Turks, French and Germans.
Do armchair strategists in Washington and Brussels believe that this history can be erased from the Russian collective unconscious? Will Pearl Harbor be wiped from the American psyche?
Historically, the congress of Vienna in 1815 with the participation of Czar Alexander created the most stable Europe - until the British and French concocted the Crimean War in 1854.
According to historian Shepard Clough, the Crimean war "was not the result of a calculated plan, nor even of hasty last-minute decisions made under stress. It was the consequence of more than two years of fatal blundering in slow-motion by inept statesmen who had months to reflect upon the actions they took".
Doesn't this assessment ominously echo the mistakes of today's Western leaders? In 1871, the Germans defeated the French, established a unified nation and launched an empire of their own. The rest is well known but not internalized: the Ukrainian crisis is nothing more than the inability of the West to live peacefully with itself and reconcile this love-hate relationship with Russia.
In the 20th century the so called World War I was nothing more than pan-European civil war. Its final outcome was to transform a semi-European, semi-Asiatic Imperial Russia to a Marxist-Leninist one, the iconic Soviet Union and forge the rise of fascism and Nazism.
What actually happened was that Russia modernized in a radical way by the tenets of the heresy of capitalism called "scientific socialism". It turned from a backward country to one which matched the West as a modernized society. Fascism and Nazism currying the myth of the "heroic man" initiated a second deadlier than ever pan-European slaughter which turned all European humanism to dust.
The march of folly
Presently with the Ukrainian crisis it seems that we are attempting to repeat the same scenario of 1914 and its sequel, 1939-45 by other means. The bureaucrats in Brussels conjured up a plan about Ukraine. The three protagonists of the drama are: Lady Catherine Ashton, foreign policy chief of the EU, EU chief diplomat David O'Sullivan and the European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy, Stefan Fulle.
These three bureaucrats ended up offering an agreement to Ukraine which was actually a step into a diplomatic minefield between EU, a "leading from behind" America, and Russia. Coherent foreign policy and the post-modern edifice of the EU seem far apart.
The agreement, these unelected officials offered, was a take-it-or-leave-it deal for Ukraine. Was this a decision by the European leaders or a "routine" bureaucratic chore? Russia asked to be involved in this agreement but to no avail.