Analysis Review: Chatham House-Reviving Political Realism in Western Foreign Policy

Return_to_reason__reviving_political_realism_in_western_foreign_policy___Chatham_House

Another interesting analysis for challenges we’re currently facing in Syria and whole Middle East. The paper attempts to explore the “Reason of State” as a concept that emerged in the 16th century to determine how we can apply pragmatic strategies in dealing with current crisis-both internal or external. This led to emergence of RealPolitik which based on WikiPedia definition is; “a system of politics or principles based on practical rather than moral or ideological considerations”. I will not go through content but merely add some of my own comments and observations. First off terminology was the first fence I struggled with. This is quite a technical document and on first pass it was difficult for me to capture the arguments. That said the jest of the message stated is that we need to apply a a more realistic/pragmatic approach in dealing with current challenges rather than being guided through an ethical or moral compass. So here are some comments as mentioned;

1. In terms of pragmatism and being practical and clear in our vision in dealing with these challenges I cannot agree more as the thrust of our approach in developing/aligning our strategy. That said, we are also human and not purely robots, so when it comes to concepts like “Responsibility to Protect” as a proposed norm in International Law and how it was used in Darfur in 2006 and Libya 2011 I believe this to be the right approach. In terms of mentioned failures in Libya post the 2011 revolution I would suggest that these are mainly due to the Libyan transitional government failing to take necessary measures to capitalise on political gains secured by the revolution. The primary contributing factors that led to this in my view are the combination of poor leadership & the inability to compromise between the different factions. Western governments have also been slow to respond to events on the ground and providing logistical and military assistance. What we need to do is establish a baseline template for supporting similar scenarios in future-but I do agree there have been errors. I also believe it is in our national interest to help emerging democracies in such a volatile region-obviously while being prudent in the approach on a case-by-case basis.

2. I totally agree that for the EU to have any credible strategy within this region or beyond military power should be one of the elements available in the “toolbox”. I would actually go as far as saying that because there has been reluctance to use force post Iraq 2 and due to poor EU/US leadership the conflicts in the region have escalated which in turn contributed to increased terrorism and created a void for Russian dominance of local political scene. We have to understand that the Middle East as a region is quite unlike any other in that it has been ruled brutally for decades and it is unfortunate but true to say that power is a key factor in applying workable strategy to resolve conflicts-at least at this stage. So applying power or threat of power helps drive political alternatives.

3. One of the vibes I hear and I think is also reflected in this paper is that we cannot impose democratic transition in these states and it is not our job to so. The extension to this argument as stated in the paper is that we should only focus on stability of the region irrespective of governance. This argument actually makes me-with a due respect-physically sick and here is why;

a) Democratic transitions are normally messy and possibly quite violent-this is not news to Europe or anywhere that has undergone similar transitions. We should now be better prepared and ready to assist where appropriate. But to suggest that democratic transition is not practical or people in the region do not understand the concept of democracy & tolerance is disingenuous at one end of the scale and racist at the other. What you can say though is that application of democratic values may differ than how they are applied in the west-that I can agree with. So to suggest that Saddam Hussein from a practical/pragmatic standpoint made the right choice of preferring stability over democracy in balancing with Iran’s expansionist policy is simply misinterpreting the entire scenario of what his intentions were and the extent he went in protecting them. If this is what you believe to be RealPolitik that you are promoting then I can honestly say I would rather you keep it.

b) It is of cardinal interest to Europe and the West in general to support regimes that are keen on democratic transition and not ones that suppress and torture their people. The reason is simple; it means less likelihood of radicalisation and more-NOT less-stability long term. You also have to understand that the Arab Spring-short as it was-is a game changer long term. So if we continue with our approach of promoting stability irrespective of governance we will continue to lose our influence and more importantly our own security. The experiment with the Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt for example, though I concede it did fail, the approach of allowing these structures to come to the surface and allow them to adapt/change (or fail) in the light rather than rot underneath-a pragmatic approach to change which is currently being tried so far successfully in Tunis. So the concept in my view is sound though the success is governed on each case by other factors.

4. Finally in terms of the approach of the Muslim Council of Britain and the Islamic Human Rights Commission regarding British government measures in closing extremists mosques and requiring visa declarations, though I do not have more info, I can only say I totally agree there should be complete cooperation in this regard. That said we need a more complete strategy to tackle terrorism internally with a combination of measures tackling Immigration & Integration. I’ve written some posts eluding to this on this site rather than having to repeat the same ideas here.

Beyond all the above the intention-or bottom line-is to be able to work together to fix complex issues that unfortunately have been allowed to fester for too long. There is going to be a learning curve whether we like it or not but the hope/expectation is that we can make a steep curve from the outset.

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