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Letters by a modern St. Ferdinand III about cults

Gab@StFerdinandIII - Plenty of cults exist - every cult has its 'religious dogma', its idols, its 'prophets', its 'science', its 'proof' and its intolerant liturgy of demands.  Cults everywhere:  Islam, the State, the cult of Gay and Queer, Marxism, Darwin and Evolution, 'Science', Globaloneywarming, Changing Climate, Abortion....a nice variety for the human-hater, amoral, anti-rationalist to choose from.  It is so much fun mocking them isn't it ?

Tempus Fugit Memento Mori - Time Flies Remember Death 

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Friday, April 13, 2007

The importance of ‘Realism’ as an ideology and a way to view an anarchic world

Applying some 'realism' to Islam and the EU would do us all a lot of good.

by StFerdIII

Realism as a concept is not well understood. It is used by the media as a pejorative to denote any ‘conservative’, ‘neo-con’, or hard power supporter. Realism is usually equated with Kissinger-like concepts about making unsavoury foreign policy choices, ignoring moral aspects to national and international dilemma, and assessing the world in a cold Machiavellian light. Realism is however an essential and pragmatic program in structuring a framework to solve issues which does not exclude moral, diplomatic or economic imperatives. It would have been useful for example to insert some ‘realism’ into US Iraqi policy circa mid-2003. If realism as a tool had been properly used by the Bush administration Iraq would be further ahead today. What then is true ‘realism’?

Realism is a tool devised by states to order the world around them. Realism usually pervades the thinking of the ‘great’ powers. The more powerful a nation is the more ‘realistic’ is its ideology. The basic elements of realism are:
1. a pessimistic view of human nature;
2. a belief that international conflicts are resolved by war;
3. the primacy of state security and survival supersedes all other considerations and;
4. scepticism that international politics can be reformed.

These four basic tenets underscore the realist program both past and present. Realists believe that human nature is inherently selfish, and is impelled by a will to dominate and avoid domination. As such politics is primarily about power and rivalry. In a world with no overarching authority realists view international politics, as a struggle among the greater powers for domination and survival. There is not much evidence to dispute these assertions.

Realism as a complete tool set would encompass a set of policies – political and economic – that are concerned with nation state aggrandisement and increased power within the international community. The economic extension of realism is achieved through economic nationalism or mercantilism. This is unfortunately a policy set that leads to wealth destruction not creation. Liberal economics is much preferred. Yet nationalists and populists are quite fond of mercantilism. However, it is obvious that a mercantilist is not necessarily a political-realist and vice versa.

The foremost objective of realists and mercantilists is however similar. This is the development of the economic and military power of the state to support its political aims. In realist and mercantilist theory, in the absence of a world government, the international environment is naturally anarchic with power being the final arbiter of political relations between units in international relations.

This attitude assumes that given the innate, selfish human desire to survive and accumulate power, nation states will be in constant competition and perhaps conflict. Most states today practice some variety of commercial protectionism and realist mercantilism. Subsidies, tariff barriers, rules of origin, environmental ‘standards’, national ‘objectives’, and so on, are all used to discriminate against foreign production and aid domestic policy prerogatives.

In trade relationships, realists consider the relative gain to be more important than mutual gain. Whereas liberals will stress the co-operative nature of increased international relations, realists and socialists regard these relations as basically conflictual. In this view the nation state is still the prime actor in international affairs. Only in Europe and at the UN would this view be disputed.

Mercantilists believe that free trade only benefits the strong. They argue that the free trade theories of the classical British economists were the economic policy of the strong, and that there was no innate natural international division of labour based on a law of comparative advantage. In fact mercantilists argue that the British hegemony of the 19th century was based in part on the protection of infant industries against foreign competition, and the weakening of their opponents through military force. After achieving industrial and military supremacy the British then turned to free trade. In reality of course it was increased trade, capital, technology innovation and business practices that made Britain the world’s first modern superpower.

Most important for realists and mercantilists is the idea that in an anarchic world order, any external control over key industries or resources is a threat to national sovereignty and national health. In the realist view, disputes about energy, oil, and water make it mandatory that states have control [such as Russia, Saudi, Iran etc.] over important factors of production and energy. This tends to ignore the obvious benefits of trade, and the fact that Islam for example is impoverished due to two factors; 1. a totalitarian ideology [which can only be replaced through realist military conflict] and 2. being outside of global trade patterns.

What Realism can teach us:
The foremost strength of realism and mercantilism is the focus on the state as the primary actor in international affairs. The economic and military organisation of states makes them the dominant ‘actors’ in the anarchic world system. Every economic and market system must rest on a secure political base, and this secure political base is currently the nation state organisation. Without a world government with legitimate authority [which will never happen], international relations occur in an anarchic world.

The second strength of mercantilism is the stress on the importance of security and political concerns. The Iraq war and the expansion of the war against fascism Islam cannot be comprehended if questions of security and power balance are not understood. Iraq has simply nothing to do with oil.

The security of any state, whilst not always at all times the dominant concern of the state is nevertheless a precondition for its economic and political survival in an anarchic state system. Whatever the objectives of the society, in an anarchic world, the effects of economic activities on political independence and security always rank high among its concerns. This gives rise to the balance of power argument, which is both normative and empirical. Maintaining the balance of power is a legitimate goal of the state and upholds the basic values of peace and security. Islam versus the West and the current conflict between rival ideologies is an obvious example of this.

A third strength of realism and mercantilism is the recognition that markets must function in a framework of competitive states. The political relations among the different political actors affect the operation of markets just as markets affect political relations. In fact the international political system is one of the great constraints on markets as well as being one of the most important determinants on market development. In this regard international covenants and liberalised trade must be sacrificed for the values of national security, order and stability both domestically and internationally regarding the balance of power. While international obligations and liberal (or international society) constructs impact the nation state the realist response and the maintenance of state survival is the first response of states to external and domestic stimuli. Liberal market forces are therefore managed and adapted by the frameworks of various competitive state entities.

For realists in the pursuit to accrete military and political power liberal market forces must be managed. Realist use of military power is predicated upon a selectively liberal and strong economic base. In purchase power parity [PPP] terms the countries with the largest GDP ranking also possess the world’s most powerful military forces in terms of men and technological assets as well as potential international power projection. Such policies inform the Anglo-Saxon nations to a greater extent than the more statist regimes found in the EU and Canada, which do not believe in military power projection but international dialogue to defuse disputes. Though on paper the statist nations may have imposing militaries, they are unable to project international power to the degree that the USA and UK can due to deficits in technology, logistics and information.

In short realism outside of economics provides some valuable lessons for policy makers. Pragmatic, realistic insights into human nature, the nation-state and conflicts between systems of ideas are far better guides, then rhetorically nonsense about one-world models; brotherhood of man; or communal utopianism. Realism and knowing who and what you are, is indispensable for national survival.


--
Some sources:
-See Morgenthau, 1965: 195, for an interpretation of human nature and Hobbes, and Machiavelli, regarding power politics, Schelling regarding foreign policy realism and Waltz for a scientific neo-realist interpretation using positivist economic models and the discussion of the necessary role of the balance of power (1979). Kissinger (1994) also provides a rationale for a realist balance of power policy.
-Jackson and Sorensen, p. 68.
-Kissinger, Diplomacy, 1994
-Gill and Law p. 25
-Rostow, 1971, p. 189
--Gilpin, 1987, p. 34
-Krasner 1985
-Griffiths, p. 2
-see Hamilton and List
--Condliffe, 1950, p. 71
-Blackhurst, p. 29
--Mansfield and Milner, p. 9
-Grieco, 1988
-Milner, p. 13
-Carr, 1951
-Strange, 1985, p. 234


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