Monday, August 03, 2009

Mark Hackard on Foreign Policy

The foreign policy essays of Mark Hackard have recently come to my attention. I like what this young man has to say, particularly in regard to 2 areas of keen interest to me: Russia and Turkey, and our complicated relations with each. I always enjoy foreign policy discussions that are based on realism rather than ideology. Here is a sampling from recent months:

Re: Biden’s comment about Russia

Biden may have been “blunt”, in the words of the media, but he was also obtuse. He doesn’t merit excessive reproach, since he was simply reflecting US foreign policy consensus, which is informed by the view that economics is the determining factor in national power and even life itself…. for such men there is no higher sacrament than the financial transaction.…[they] see culture, religion, and centuries of tradition as the superstructure- merely contingent effects- of market forces.

Such an impoverished view of existence is indeed the ruling ethic in contemporary society throughout much of the world…. Biden leaves no room for cultural considerations or Moscow’s vital interests in his analysis of Russia…

Liberal ideology has long been triumphant in the West, but if Russian culture can successfully repulse these phenomena and reassert the centrality of religious truth and tradition, it could give the Occident hope for the future.

Full article, here.

Role Reversal in the new Cold War:

The United States and Russia appear to be gearing up for a second round of the Cold War….Like the previous conflict, Cold War II will be defined by ideology. But this time around, wild-eyed revolutionaries aren’t hatching plots behind the walls of the Kremlin; their offices are right inside the Beltway….The situation differs markedly from the Cold War, when Western strategic planners banked on Soviet armor crashing through the Fulda Gap as the first step in the conquest of Europe. Moscow has no such capacity today—it seeks to secure a regional sphere of influence and the energy corridors therein simply to survive. With Russia’s population projected to fall from 141 million this year to around 135 million in 2020, the Kremlin is looking to hold the line in time for the nation to regenerate. The Russians have neither the desire nor the means for extravagant foreign adventures. In the face of U.S. encirclement, Putin and his subordinates are assuming an ultimately defensive posture.

Beyond geopolitics, the antagonism between Washington and Moscow has experienced a reversal of roles in the arena of ideology….How times have changed! When Russia today opposes Kosovo independence or articulates its regional role in terms of history, culture, and ethnic solidarity, it looks downright counterrevolutionary.

Today Russia’s counterintelligence service, the FSB, maintains an Orthodox Church on the grounds of its headquarters at Lubyanka Square. It is nonetheless remarkable to see one of the Soviet Union’s top cold warriors profess Orthodox Christianity and call for the rebirth of tradition in Russian society. Nikolai Leonov wasn’t just any KGB officer; he was Moscow’s original point man for contacts with Ernesto “Che” Guevara and the Castro brothers before the Cuban Revolution….The wreckage of Communism left Russians in an ideological void, and the chaotic 1990s gave them little hope in market democracy or the oligarchs who looted the country at will. Demographic freefall, crumbling infrastructure and other socio-economic ills have their roots in the Soviets’ murderous imposition of modern ideology. What Lenin and his successors wrought, however, was only aggravated by initiatives at westernization. Wars in Chechnya, NATO expansion, and U.S. lectures on human rights and “backsliding” on democracy played a large part in Russia’s disillusionment with the values espoused by the contemporary West.

Many Russians, including influential men such as Leonov, returned to their faith and the centuries of tradition reflective of the truth it reveals. They also rediscovered the Church as the principal source of order in society. As the old spy asserts,

"Orthodoxy is Russia’s one common bond. The historic role of the Church in the fate of the country, its spiritual authority, moral legitimacy, and the deepest national roots make Orthodoxy a most important component in our ideology."

Per Russian tradition, Leonov and like-minded colleagues support a powerful state, but in light of the Soviet experience are conscious that unity cannot be imposed upon a people through administration or coercion. The harmony of a nation derives from shared culture, the source of which is the cult, man’s relation to the transcendent. (emphasis mine)

The revival of Orthodoxy and a Christian worldview in the land of the Tsars still faces formidable challenges. Corruption, hypocrisy and the abuse of authority are ever-present in Russian society, though such phenomena are hardly limited to Russia alone. Pernicious remnants of the Soviet legacy, such as abortion and the callous regard for human life it implies, create profound psychic and spiritual trauma, as well as a tortured national conscience. Modern Russians are also well acquainted with Western-style consumerism and hedonism. Yet in spite of these numerous dysfunctions, the hazy realization that men and nations form part of a divine order is becoming clearer.

As Russia returns to the status of a conservative power, the United States has enthusiastically taken up the revolutionary mantle.

In the U.S.-Soviet competition, the Bolshevik ideology was more radical than liberalism, but only in a relative sense. Both systems affirm only material realities and lead man to spiritual desolation. With the defeat of Communism, Washington could attend to the enforcement of its own transnational vision. U.S. foreign policy has functioned as an instrument of revolution, from the “humanitarian” bombing of Serbia to attempts to reform Muslim societies and Islam itself.

Living up to its revolutionary nature, liberal internationalism shares a series of practices with its vanquished Soviet rival. Most noteworthy is a heavy reliance on covert action….U.S. foreign policy is carried out under the banner of progress, not only for rhetorical purposes, but because American leadership in “expanding the frontiers of freedom” is taken as a matter of faith. A radiant future for humanity is the promise of all modern ideology, though it varies in its forms. What is constant is a materialist reductionism that divorces man from the realm of the spirit. In this way individuals and entire peoples are deprived of uniqueness, traditions, and their place in the Cosmos. Global democratic capitalism, administered by our enlightened elites, corrodes faith, family and culture just as surely as Soviet state socialism. (emphasis mine)Marx’s appeal to the proletariat has given way to the equally soulless and inane “Consumers of the world unite!”

A discussion of man’s place in the Universe might seem far afield from talk of a second Cold War, but it is intimately connected. Beneath the dynamics of US-Russian strategic rivalry is an underlying battle of ideas. However inadvertently, the conversions of former KGB men can remind us of our own religious tradition, obscured by modernity but not yet lost. The secular parody of universal brotherhood, dedicated to accumulation and enjoyment, only leaves us isolated from each other and the source of life itself.

Full article, here.

Turkey Rising

In 1914, on the very eve of the Great War, G.K. Chesterton published his humorous novel The Flying Inn. The story concerned a Turkish plot to invade England, all with the connivance of Britain’s progressive elite….Chesterton sought to convey the central truth that seemingly fantastic turns of events can come about through spiritual collapse. This assertion was proved correct outside the pages of his book. As Europeans, supremely confident of their material civilization, plunged into industrial-scale suicide, hindsight shows us that physical disaster was preceded by disaster in higher realms. Philosophers, statesmen and scientists rejected their ancient Christian faith to exalt the seemingly limitless potential of man. It is therefore ironic that the very circumstances of The Flying Inn hint at correspondence with today’s geopolitics. A century later, Turkey is ascendant, and Islamic inroads into Europe are aided and abetted by the ruling classes of the West.

The symbolic culmination of American support of Turkish power has been U.S. backing for Turkey’s accession into the European Union. In his Ankara speech, Obama explained this policy in the following terms:

“Turkey is bound to Europe by more than the bridges over the Bosporus. Centuries of shared history, culture, and commerce bring you together. Europe gains by the diversity of ethnicity, tradition and faith- it is not diminished by it. And Turkish membership would broaden and strengthen Europe’s foundation once more.”

Turkey is bound to Europe by invasion. This is the source of Obama’s pleasant-sounding “centuries of shared history.” The Byzantine Empire, longtime guardian of Christianity in the East, was conquered in a series of campaigns by the Seljuks and Ottomans, Turkic tribes that swept in from the steppes of Central Asia. History acts as a witness. Ankara could receive EU membership tomorrow, but Turkey has never been European in any meaningful sense. As the armies of Suleiman the Magnificent battered against the walls of Vienna in 1683, the city’s defenders understood this implicitly.

Identity is often less a matter of race than of religion and cultural heritage. (emphasis mine) The Bulgarians, for example, were a Turkic people that adopted Slavic ways and accepted Christianity. Magyars, horsemen from Siberia and the terror of 10th-century Christendom, under St. Stephen founded the Kingdom of Hungary. Europe, whatever the drafters of the multivolume EU Constitution might suppose, can ultimately only be defined through the origins of a common Christian culture. The Ottomans long commanded suzerainty across the Balkans and Mediterranean as conquerors, but they were never of Europe. Turkey maintains an undeniably rich and unique culture, but its core and overall character are Islamic and Asiatic.

U.S. advocacy of Turkey’s integration into Europe is just one facet of a long-held revolutionary dream that has shaped the leaders of Western societies. This vision seeks to overturn natural order in favor of an atomizing egalitarianism that can conceive of nothing above economic expediency and the whims of the sovereign will. Every measure of its progress leads individuals and entire nations further into dissolution. Sufficient tragedy has already resulted from European governing classes’ abandonment of religious tradition and its cultural vessels, from mass politics and mechanized slaughter to crime-infested third world ghettoes that abut red light districts. There is little reason to allow Turkey into Europe if a spiritually bankrupt modern West is to someday have a chance at renewal.

Turkey is an Islamic power with its own interests, its own civilization and its own cultural mission. NATO allies or not, Ankara’s Christian neighbors in Greece, the Balkans and the Caucasus know this fact well. Their peaceful acceptance of Turkish regional primacy will be unlikely….As the Turks make their return to the arena of great states, the ages-old enmity between Islam and the West will assume dimensions previously unimagined.

The U.S. embrace of Turkey is symptomatic of our secular elites’ disdain for the roots of Western culture, and their desire to replace it with something wholly alien. Such are the wages of an empty and world-flattening humanism. Rather than explore our natural bonds with the Orthodox Christian nations to better confront the challenges of Islam and China, Washington antagonizes and attempts to encircle a Russia still scarred from the ravages of Communist rule. (emphasis mine) Who will protect the tattered remnants of Christendom and aid in its recovery? Elected officials, bureaucrats, corporate executives and judges on both sides of the Atlantic are engaged in an unceasing campaign to destroy any traces of its vitality.

Full article, here.

Confronting Jihad

The effort to impose some modern notion of “stability” onto tribally based societies is indeed a counterproductive exercise in social engineering writ large…. Containment of jihadism would not entail a Cold War-style grand ideological contest between the U.S. and elements within the Islamic world. The past eight years are enough to show us that such an enterprise is worse than pointless. The U.S. may build as many new schools, medical clinics and water treatment plants in Afghanistan as it desires, but it cannot build a new culture, and culture is what counts. Attempting by material means, even with the world’s most capable military, to transform a people’s tribal and religious customs to our liking is a fool’s errand. Refraining from interference in the domestic affairs of Muslim states would diminish one of the main justifications terror groups such as Al Qaeda use to replenish their ranks.

From Los Angeles to London, signs of decadence and breakdown are only symptoms of the wider disorder wrought by the embrace of Enlightenment ideologies that have torn the West from the transcendent.

A call for the restoration of Christianity in the West seems radical only because secular thought is so entrenched after a century of total war and rejection of the moral order in every sphere of life. Although it might look unassailable, the success of modernity is leading to its unraveling as economic collapse and societal disintegration beckon. The ideals of unlimited growth and the individual sovereign will, unquestioned dogmata of the American civic religion, are beginning to bear their bitter fruits. Jihadists pose a danger to us precisely because of our civilization’s advanced state of rot.

To turn away from the path to self-destruction will demand not only smarter strategy in politics foreign and domestic, but at root a shift in faith and worldview. Wars to spread “liberty” and “human rights” are profoundly at odds with the teachings of the Prince of Peace. The cults of devotion to the phantoms of progress, material advancement, or perpetual adolescence bring ultimate ruin in their wake. No matter how disheartening the present circumstances may seem, hope can burn bright for the future through our own actions. The Truth that has been forgotten can be remembered; what spiritual treasures lost, rediscovered.

Full story, here.



Milton T. Burton said...

The Russians have the excuse of having had their culture and their sensibilities raped by seventy years of totalitarian atheism. On the other hand, we have fallen into the trap of material prosperity and spiritual laziness. Their excuse is better than ours.

Mimi said...

Interesting, great roundup and I learned a lot. Thank you.