In the West, the mighty European Union, once a bastion of stability and power is teetering on the brink of implosion. The euro-debt crisis that has engulfed the European continent threatens to unleash dark forces of nationalism that have remained dormant for sixty odd years.
In the East, the Arab world enslaved by the autocratic regimes implanted by the old European powers are falling like dominoes, and unveiling forces of change that are dynamic and untested.
These events when seen through the lens of optimism are interpreted positively by some; Europe will emerge stronger and more united than before, and the Arab world will be transformed into an oasis of liberty and democracy.
When viewed through the prism of realism a completely different picture emerges. The post-modern European experiment is fast coming to an end, and the Arab world is finally freeing itself from the vicious shackles of colonialism by dislodging pro-Western autocratic regimes. The demise of both political systems is no accident, and is tied to America’s global decline. In many ways, the political systems of Europe and the Arab world are a product of American hegemony and ingenuity.
The Marshall Plan provided the edifice for America to control Europe’s propensity for war and curb her ambitions to seek and maintain colonies abroad. Post World War II, American leaders sought to diminish Europe’s domination of the world. As the historian John Lumberton Harper put it US President Roosevelt wanted “to bring about a radical reduction in the weight of Europe” and thereby make possible “the retirement of Europe from world politics” (Harper, American Visions of Europe: Franklin D. Roosevelt, George F. Kennan, and Dean G. Acheson, Cambridge UK, 1996).
Under the shadow of American economic aid and security architecture, Europe ravaged by war charted a new route towards a postmodernism—a break from the warring nation state which had consumed the continent in the past. Eventually, the European Union (EU) was born, where nationalism was finally suppressed and national sovereignty gave way to a transnational authority that presided in Brussels. Europeans marvelled at their postmodern creation and touted it as the natural evolution from the nation state model. A foremost proponent of this model, Robert Cooper an advisor to former Prime Minister Tony Blair, said, “The postmodern system in which we Europeans live does not rely on balance; nor does it emphasise sovereignty or the separation of domestic and foreign affairs. The European Union has become a highly developed system for mutual interference in each other’s domestic affairs, right down to beer and sausages…It is important to realise what an extraordinary revolution this is.” (The new liberal imperialism, The Guardian, Sunday April 7 2002). However, the birth of the postmodern state came at a cost. The EU was no position to challenge America’s primacy in the world and lost many of its colonies to the US. America employed several means to subdue the EU, especially its most powerful member Germany: the enlargement of NATO, the expansion of the EU to include new member states, and the use of the single currency i.e. the euro.
Through this approach, America was able to control levers of economic and military power in Europe. This continued until the collapse of Lehman brothers, which brought the onset of the current economic depression. The American financial crisis is the real cause behind Europe’s economic and political turmoil. It is precipitating the collapse of the EU thereby undermining sixty years of American primacy over European affairs. Probably, Germany will arise from the EU rubble as a major power capable of not only thwarting American interests in Europe, but supplanting her as the main provider of peace and security on the continent. The euro-crisis and not Germany’s militarism has handed Berlin a carte blanche to cast European politics in its own image.
Another portent is that within the context of European history the postmodern experience is truly an anomaly. Europe’s disposition is to eschew peace and engage in inter-warfare fuelled by unbridled nationalism and the quest for ascendancy over other nations.
The present day Arab world owes much of its political structures and institutions to the old European powers that colonised it. However, after 1945, America emerged as the world’s leading state and entered the Arab world with the intention of displacing British and French influence, and usurping the oil fields of the Middle East. The US state department described the find as “[the Middle East is] a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history.”
America had no intention of dismantling the despotic regimes; rather she sought to place her own agents to run these regimes while making false pretences about delivering freedom and democracy around the world. America armed with the “Truman Doctrine” proceeded to deprive the Arab world the freedom from tyranny and the ability to rule for themselves. She covertly buttressed these regimes to keep the Arab population imprisoned and subdued. But in 2011, popular revolts erupted throughout the region, removed a few tyrants, and destabilised the political order America had so painstakingly put together.
Today the political landscape is no longer dominated by secularists; a new wave of Islamic revival has hastened to fill the void. In Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt political Islam is on the ascendancy and its dominance pervades the political medium. Most probably Libya and Yemen will follow suit. Nothing epitomises the Islamic trend better than the stir caused by the moderate Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali who referred to the present time as “a divine moment in a new state, and in hopefully a 6th Caliphate,” and that “the liberation of Tunisia will, God willing, bring about the liberation of Jerusalem.” If the moderates possess grandiose designs to resurrect the Caliphate then one can only image what most of the Arab masses covet.
The nation state concept is alien to the Arab world, and was imported to the region by European powers. The natural inclination of the Arab masses is to gravitate towards the caliphate—a political system that kept them united under a single leader for well over a thousand years. And certainly the Arab world is firmly on that trajectory, no matter what the American government contrives to portray.
As America struggles to manage its decline, the fate of two political systems is about to change for good. The world will then return to the pre-1945 model—a multipolar world, dominated by different centres of geopolitical influence, with the caliphate at its helm.
December 4 2011