Each week our scan collects weak – and less weak – signals… We present below some of the most interesting or relevant features for each section.
World (all matters related to war, international and national security) – With the return of war to Eastern Ukraine, we are witnessing an interesting effort by some authors to try to make sense of a US-led foreign policy and analysis of the world that does not appear to make sense to them, besides, of course, the host of usual anti-Russian articles.
The articles in The American Interest (“Putin’s World: In It To Win It” by Walter Russell Mead) and Salon (“Distortions, lies and omissions: The New York Times won’t tell you the real story behind Ukraine, Russian economic collapse” by Patrick Smith), although each with their own points, have in common an interrogation regarding the current extremely anti-Russian and anti-Putin policy, notably as far as Ukraine is concerned. Their effort at finding a rational answer somehow echoes Mearsheimer’s attempt at making peacefully and rationally sense of the same issue by using International Relations theory in Foreign Affairs (Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault” Sept Oct 2014). Similarly, Robert Jervis, the famous International Relations scholar, father of the study of perceptions in world politics, when surveyed by Foreign Affairs (Who Is at Fault in Ukraine? Nov 2014), strongly disagreed with the fact that Putin was responsible for the crisis in Ukraine.
Indeed, how could it be easily understandable, rationally, to see governments fighting on the one hand for freedom of speech, liberty and democracy, completely ignore the weight that the far right, in a hardly hidden way, plays in Ukraine? Should armies of analysts available to policy-makers throughout Europe and North America not at least wonder if the existence of such groups could have some bearings on what is happening in Ukraine (see for a detailed analysis of the far right in Ukraine and potential impact on the war, using notably documents from those very parties, see “Victims and heroes“, “Demise or Metamorphosis” “Parties and battalions” )? But then the conclusion that could be reached about why the war is starting again could be, as quoted by Smith, as follows:
“The presid. of Ukr cannot sue for peace, whatever he says, as the extreme right nationalists will not allow it…. So the only other way to get some resolution is to provoke war with Russia, which would then give cover to the U.S.-led blockade to move to another level. The state of the Ukr economy and politics are such that they desperately need a clash with Russia to draw the US / EU in more deeply….”
Smith does not really offer answers as to the why the far right in Ukraine is ignored or why the U.S. Foreign Policy took this stance, besides Washington’s ambition, misunderstanding and mistakes, but he stresses the impacts could be dire.
However, if we, again logically, wonder what considering the role of the far right in Ukraine would imply, this would lead us to see that analysts and officials would then have to recognize that what is generally seen as Russian propaganda could have, to the least, some truth. It would also imply to recognize that the anti-Russian policy that has been upheld from the start is inadequate not to say frankly wrong and dangerous. Had it been correct, then sanctions would have worked, and there would be peace and progress towards betterment of the economic situation in Ukraine, which is obviously not the case. But, then why should or could such a misunderstanding of Russia and his President happen in the first place?
We can turn to Mead, who is trying to solve this very puzzle for a potential answer. The misunderstanding of Russia would take its roots, according to Mead, in a major mistake made by the foreign policy establishment: “we are not the world, and Putin is not us.” This is congruent with the fact that Jervis, who would, of course, be the first to try understanding the perception of others, reached conclusions that were not anti-Russian. Mead then goes on explaining what “the West” mistakenly applies to the rest of the world as worldview, “the core values of the Davoisie”:
“The first is that the rise of a liberal capitalist and more or less democratic and law-based international order is both inevitable and irreversible. The second is that the Davos elite—the financiers, politicians, intellectuals, haute journalists and technocrats who mange the great enterprises, institutions and polities of the contemporary world—know what they are doing and are competent to manage the system they represent. The third is that no serious alternative perspective to the Davos perspective really exists; our establishment believes in its gut that even those who contend with the Davos world order know in their hearts that Davos has and always will have both might and right on its side.”
Mead then points out that Putin, for his part, does not care about nor obey those values. Hence the misunderstanding and the repeatedly wrong foreign policy.
It is quite difficult to test this hypothesis properly immediately, all the more so that, unfortunately, Mead does not provide references nor evidence. However, a potential signal might indicate, waiting for further research, that there is at least an element of truth here: REFRL published an amazing (from the point of view of rationality) article: “New Greek Government Has Deep, Long-Standing Ties With Russian ‘Fascist’ Dugin”. With this piece, in one stroke, it attempts to twice de-legitimize the new Greek government by making it subservient to both Russia and fascism (!) while reading the victory of Syriza in the framework of the Ukrainian crisis (!!). We are back to the Ukrainian crisis, which is offered as focus, instead of the suffering of the Greek people, their economic hardship and the question of sovereign debts within the European framework, which are at the heart of the Greek elections. Either this article is just irrational and absurd – and bad propaganda – or it prepares for the possibility to dismiss and discredit whatever effort the new Greek government could make against the ultra-liberal paradigm.
Mead hypothesis also allows us to use another excellent theory of international relations, which is too often forgotten despite its power: the tendency of the international society to tend towards homogeneity by the great scholar Fred Halliday (“International Society As Homogeneity: Burke, Marx, Fukuyama“, Millennium, December 1992 21: 435-461). According to Halliday’s theory, by not embracing the principles of the “Davoisie”, Russia does not obey the principles of homogeneity and thus must be fought and brought back to the norms that underlie the system. Some questions, however remain, and could build upon Halliday’s theory: Which countries, and who in those countries, share the norms of the “Davoisie”? Are they still preponderant, in terms of power, or not? Could we be witnessing a systemic battle of norms, where not two but three systems – at least for now – would compete for preeminence: the “Davoisie”, a system where we would find Russia, China and actually a large part of the world (see “An isolated Russia? Think Again!“), and, finally, a non-modern (in the sociological meaning of the term, e.g. Giddens) Islamic State type of order (see The Islamic State Pysops – Worlds War)?
There is also another, less elegant, possibility that we must consider if we want to try to be complete in our rational attempt to explain current strange elements of foreign policy: the pitiful state of policy-making as described by John Parkinson, Associate Professor of Public Policy at the University of Warwick in LSE blog (“Making academic knowledge useful to policy : why “supply” solutions are not the whole story”). There would be no rational and reasonable explanations behind absurdities and difficult to understand decisions, just sheer mediocrity and inability to think. To quote Parkinson,
“Perhaps policy makers also need to slow down, retain experience, and think.”
Energy and environment security – Dr Daum notably points out an article that addresses the quality of information available about climate change, and published in Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change: “They found that all of the scenarios currently being developed ‘envision historically unprecedented improvements in energy intensity, while normalized low-carbon capacity deployment rates are broadly consistent with historical experience.’ This requires a possibly invalid assumption of greater annual rates of improvement in energy intensity than have been experienced in the last 40 years. This article is in a well respected and peer reviewed journal. As discussed last week, it is important that this and other issues be addressed in the open.”
Dr Daum also points out that, “In addition to climate change issues, the world wide distribution of PCBs are leading to problems in the mating of polar bears. It is important to understand that there are other global environmental issues that effect the wildlife in the Arctic (and other areas). The effects of these environmental pollutants on wildlife may be accelerated by changing climate. This is all the more crucial that changes in biodiversity have potential complex impacts on a broad range of security issues, including on epidemics. “
Ebola – It would seem that the Ebola epidemic outbreak has become so un-interesting to anyone that even the WHO has slowed its pace in publishing situation reports and there has been none since 18 January. The question we need to ponder to know whether to remove it from our watch is if the lack of interest is grounded in a genuine real and growing absence of threat. The next question should be “was the threat well handled, which allowed for its relatively disappearance from the top dangers to watch?”
The Weekly is the scan of The Red (Team) Analysis Society and it focuses on national and international security issues. It was started as an experiment with Paper.li as a way to collect ideas, notably through Twitter. Its success and its usefulness led to its continuation.
The information collected (crowdsourced) does not mean endorsement but points to new, emerging, escalating or stabilizing problems and issues.
If you wish to consult the scan after the end of the week period, use the “archives” directly on The Weekly.
Featured image: “C-band Radar-dish Antenna”. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons