The Long View 2009-01-09: Hillary Taking Names; Stratfor is Optimistic; The Union of the West

By David Liuzzo, eagle by N3MO - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

By David Liuzzo, eagle by N3MO - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

John J. Reilly speculates here about a Holy Roman Empire style arrangement for world government: not a state, but a system of dispensing justice. Such a system would preserve the genuine benefits of international cooperation, but avoid directly ruling the various states within in it.

Hillary Taking Names; Stratfor is Optimistic; The Union of the West

Regarding Senator Hillary Clinton's comeback in yesterday's New Hampshire primary, so contrary to the laws of nature and all available polling, I can do no better than to cite her greatest admirer, Vox Day:

I did warn you that setback and glorious comeback made for a more inspiring story than a long and boring coronational march, didn't I? However, I was admittedly expecting it her "comeback" to take place after New Hampshire, not in it. I guess the machine got a little worried at how far the stalking horse was getting ahead of the winner. There will be a lot of talk about how her crying made the difference, but don't buy it. That's just the plot hook and it's a lame one at that.

Ceausescu on the Balcony, eh? Perhaps a better analogy would be that Latin American dictator who took advantage of a false report of his death to note the names of the people who celebrated.

As for the Republicans, there's your Gray Champion, if you want him. History differs from a game of horseshoes in that "close" has to be good enough.

* * *

The 2008 forecast from Stratfor mentions the presidential election process as a geopolitical factor, but the summary does not discuss the candidates. However, the analysis seems to me to suggest an environment that would be more favorable to McCain than to Clinton:

The Iraq war was an outgrowth of the jihadist war. After the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, the United States realized it lacked the military wherewithal to simultaneously deal with the four powers that made al Qaeda possible: Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran and Pakistan. The first phase of the Bush solution was to procure an anchor against Afghanistan by forcing Pakistan into an alliance. The second was to invade the state that bordered the other three — Iraq — in order to intimidate the remaining trio into cooperating against al Qaeda. The final stage was to press both wars until al Qaeda — the core organization that launched the 9/11 attack and sought the creation of a pan-Islamic caliphate, not the myriad local extremists who later adopted its name ? broke.

As 2008 dawns, it has become apparent that though this strategy engendered many unforeseen costs, it has proven successful at grinding al Qaeda into nonfunctionality...This will be a year in which the United States achieves more success in its foreign policies than it has since the ousting of the Taliban from Afghanistan in late 2001. But the actions of others — most notably a rising Russia — rather than U.S. achievements will determine the tenor and fury of the next major global clash.

Using the principle that the devil will make war upon the Saints because he knows he has but a short time, Stratfor further suggests that 2008 will be dangerous because some powers, notably Russia, know that the US will need this year and part of next year to free its resources from Iraq.

Stratfor, of course, is a great fan of the notion that the world is again becoming multipolar.

* * *

Like a car engine trying to start on a cold morning, the notion of a transatlantic union is being revived. (Thanks to SG for the links.) Here an unenthusiastic Mark Steyn excerpts from the International Herald Tribune piece on the proposal:

The United States and Europe soon risk being overtaken by the rest of the world. To hold on to their place and value system, they ought to form an organic alliance, a Union of the West.

The time to get moving is now.

The idea comes from Edouard Balladur.. former French [Gaullist] prime minister [and mentor of Nicholas Sarkozy]... He makes the case that half-measures that fail to bundle the West's strengths won't be a sufficient response. In a 120-page essay titled "Pour une Union occidentale entre l'Europe et les États-Unis" [which he sent to Sarkozy and for which Sarkozy thanked him] he says:

"History is starting to be made without the West, and perhaps one day it will be made against it..." For Balladur, there must be "a new alliance between Europe and America, and even more - a true union."

To which Steyn says:

He's right about the grim prospects of "the west", but wrong to suggest a Euro-American union would reverse them. All it would do is consign the last functioning part of western civilization to the pathologies that have doomed most of the rest.

Balladur's essay is available as a book, here on Amazon France; alas that the unity of the West is not far enough advanced for my US Amazon Associates system to recognize the French ISBN and allow me to insert a product button. In any case, here is what the blurb on the page says, in my best translation-speak::

The proposed ambition is immense: that Europe and America accept, each for its part, that an epoch of history has ended, and they renounce the exercise of powers that they are hereafter incapable of assuming. A spiritual revolution will permit the creation of the Western Union. There is no risk of relaunching the "clash of civilizations." The peaceful dialogue between them presupposes that they speak peer to peer, which they well understand and respect. Once organized the West, less imbued with its superiority, more conscious of its limits, having renounced the imposition of its domination as a cure for the sense of vulnerability that haunts it, it will be regarded with other eyes by the peoples of the world. It will then return to its secular mission, of which the dramas of the 20th century caused it to lose sight: to propose to the world a conception that unites, a universalism without uniformity.

"Secular" here is "seculaire" in the original: I think it is supposed to mean "age-long" rather than "laicizing."

With the proposal put in these terms, readers will be reminded of the Magister Ludi's Memorandum to the Council of Castalia in The Glass Bead Game, in which he suggests to the mandarins of the future West that they must begin to conduct their affairs in a wholly different way:

Historically we are, I believe, ripe for dismantling. And there is no doubt that such will be our fate, not today or tomorrow, but the day after tomorrow. I do not draw this conclusion from any excessively moralistic estimate of our accomplishments and our abilities; I draw it far more from movements which I see already on the way in the outside world. Critical times are approaching; the omens can be sensed everywhere; the world is once again about to shift its center of gravity. Displacements of power are in the offing. They will not take place without war and violence. From the Far East comes a threat not only to peace, but to life and liberty. Even if our country remains politically neutral, even if our whole nation unanimously abides by tradition (which is not the case) and attempts to remain faithful to Castalian ideals, that will be in vain.

Actually, despite Amazon France's disparagement of the idea of a "Clash of Civilizations," Balladur's proposals do not seem so different from those of Samuel Huntington in the latter's book of that title. In both cases, the model for the future is that the West takes its place of one of a permanent set of cultural-social systems of comparable scale and importance, systems in which civilizational identity will be more important than national identity.

In its current form (and as we see from Hesse, it recurs periodically), this idea is supported chiefly by the Chinese illusion. The illusion is not simply economic. The United States, and Europe in a different way, have a global perspective that China lacks. More important, they still have "narrative drive," like tonic drive in music. The theories of history may be finished, but the realities have yet to be engineered. China and the West just are not in the same business at this point.

Steyn would be right about Balladur's proposal, if it means using confederal ties to inject the transnational embalming fluid into the US political system. And to judge by the summaries we have seen, the proposal does seem to be an essentially valetudinarian exercise. (A "valetudinarian" is someone whose chief concern is the preservation of his own health: I had to look up the word when I encountered it in a Sherlock Holmes story.)

This attitude misapprehends the situation, I think. Do not presume the future will be one in which the neighbors become more numerous and build grand houses to either side of the lot where your house stands. Imagine instead a future in which the neighborhood is gradually abandoned, so that your chief problem is preventing the forest from reclaiming your lot. You may still need to buy a bigger weedwacker, but you will definitely need a shotgun.

The US is a unique international utility, one that maintains the current demilitarized world by providing a relatively low-cost policing. Transatlantic ties that served to disable that function would do no one any good. On the other hand, it is easy to imagine ties that would augment it. Certainly it makes sense for the US to turn one face to Europe and another to the rest of the world.

Free movement of people, movement of goods, even a kind of common citizenship would have advantages. The integration of EU-US antitrust regulation alone would save a world of trouble. And maybe a confederation could provide an opportunity to fix the great embarrassment in the current world financial system: the euro is a currency without a treasury.

As I have had occasion to discuss, some institutional arrangement is necessary. As it was in the beginning, maybe it will be at the end. The Holy Roman Empire was not a state, but a system for dispensing justice. The imperial house, using its own resources, had responsibilities for the security of the empire that in no way derogated from the sovereignty of the princes within it. In the case of the early third millennium, the US might also have other arrangements with other parts of the world, but the template for the ultimate West already exists.

Copyright © 2008 by John J. Reilly

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