Saturday, September 17, 2011

Morality and Radicalism in Politics in the Wake of Middle East Disturbances

In the course of modern politics, great power relations has always defined what is considered right and wrong in international relations. Whether it be the Europeans and their colonial imperialism, the Germans and their theories of racial superiority, the Soviets and their communist ideologies, and most recently, America and her democratic internationalism, for centuries, those with superior military and economic powers always forced their philosophies upon the weak. And as they also dominated the education of the ruling elites and control of media across the world, such great powers, at their height of power, managed to affect public opinions in their favor on a global scale.

However, even as American superpower continue to follow such a trend in the post-Cold War era, the emergence of so-called "non-state actors," especially in the Middle East, is slowly changing how people perceive the right and wrong. First came the truly ironic instance of Egyptians using that "truly" American ideology of democracy and human rights to overthrow a government serving as the pro-American bulwark in the Arab world. The move forced America to flip-flop on national interest to "stand together with the Egyptian people."

And then, as the "Arab Spring" spread, came the news of Palestinians attempting to seek statehood through the UN. Against all odds, the Palestinians are moving forward with their plan for UN full-membership application. Even as the US firmly stated her intention to veto any such proposal, the futility of their plan has not led to the Palestinian authorities from backing down. Again, here is a democratically-elected, generally pro-American (or at least, not openly hostile to America) regime openly defying American demands.

In many ways, America's grip on global public opinions today is much more absolute and unchallenged than those of any other great power before it. Her nearest rivals are in no position to challenge her ideologies as they nominally subscribe to the American-dominated capitalist economic order (such as China, Europe, and Russia) or democratic values aspired by the US government (such as India and Japan). Yet, somehow there are always these "pesky little entities" attempting to gain moral high grounds on the superpower supposedly setting the tone for what is moral in the first place.

The rationale behind the phenomenon, in my opinion, comes from the sort of "morality-for-benefits" America arranges abroad to maintain an almost monopoly on morality. In a time and era where America continues to dominate global financial structure and military power for the foreseeable future, other states need to concede in order to maintain their own stability and security from financial ruins or military defeat. In other words, even as they disagree with the underlying principles, they have to serve nominally serve as accomplices of spreading American values to ensure their own peace.

The fact is that, many of the "pesky little entities," unlike the great powers of today with potential of challenging America, has little to gain from subscribing to the "morality-to-benefits" arrangement. Even as they sought support from America, citing American values of democracy and equality, they are drowned out by their adversaries (whether it be Israel or the Egyptian government) with deeper ties and access to the heart of American decision-making. Frustrated, they have no choice but to radically display their moral principles to get American attention.

The result, as seen across the Middle East, are situations in which America is forced to choose between maintaining the existing "morality-for-benefits" arrangements with existing players or maintaining her control of global public opinions by abandoning those who had been faithfully pro-American in their nominal values. As the existing pro-American players become more and more fearful and defensive, it often becomes harder and harder for America to make either choice without suffering serious setbacks to her political and moral dominance in the region.

As America continue to maintain global presence, her moral rationale to justify doing so are becoming more and more inconsistent with the actual methods she use to maintain favorable positions. Liberal internationalism, as her moral values can be said in so many words, just as socialist internationalism after advent of Stalin-ism in USSR, has been killed off in exchange for expansion of national interest. Those seeking to overthrow the existing pro-American political order are increasingly exploiting the massive gap between selfish realities and moral ideologies.

America, in the wake of such exploitation, is in an increasingly embarrassing position. Sure, as the case of Palestine, she can still definitely proclaim opposition as the alternative is too politically costly, but for most other cases, the benefit-cost analysis would not yield such clear-cut answers. But even as America anxiously weighs her options, accusations of her hypocrisy will continue to boil over, reducing her control of global opinions to such a degree that eventually, even those initially benefiting from superficially propagating American values will begin to doubt the wisdom of continuing such arrangement.


  1. That is indeed true, but from the Palestinian standpoint, years of direct negotiations with Israel and the US has failed to make any progress on disputed borders or open hostilities...but knowing that he will fail, Abbas still cannot back down as he needs to continue getting attention from Israel, the US, Hamas, and people around the world that he has the moral high ground on this particular issue...

  2. What you fail to note is that Palestinian statehood is beneficial for both Israel and the United States. However, proclaiming Palestinian statehood at the U.N. when there are disputed borders, open hostilities and a divided Palestinian government is neither beneficial for the Palestinians nor the Israelis. Therefore, it is not beneficial for the United States.