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International Law

Coronavirus force majeure and new world order

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The current pandemic has given rise to a variety of forecasts and  judgements on a wide range of issues that are directly or indirectly related to the future world order. These predictions can be divided into two main groups. The first group incorporates factors of uncertainty in global politics which will likely affect it for a fairly long time. That’s why the  forecasts of a new world order which are short of conceptual categoriality are provided with a reservation  that they are purely preliminary: their coming into effect will depend on a combination of many, not yet visible, variables.

The second group includes prognostic estimates which present a more or less completed picture of the new world order but, in our opinion, too prematurely.  In some cases, the suggested visions of the future world order, its “new normality” or “new abnormality”, are based on individual concepts and assumptions. What needs emphasizing is that a linear projection of dramatic and turbulent changes on the present-day geopolitical landscape to the realities of remote future cannot account for the intricate interdependence of the old and the new in global politics. Life shows that the never cooling magma of international events which tend to overlap minimizes or reduces to zero whatever efforts international experts make to provide substantiated arguments for both long-term and middle-term prognostic prospects.

Given the unexpected changes of turbulent streams of events, it would be too premature to describe the basic factors of a new world order: such a forecast may easily shift in the direction of futurological predictions which are very often interpreted loosely enough.

At present, amid the acute crisis of a pandemic, it is essential, as never before, to be able to analyze, to understand what is critically important or substantial, and what is merely a “detail”, something secondary, an instance; it is significant to sense a disparity between an illusion, a false reality, and the true essence of international phenomena and developments; to detect the deep-lying reasons and specifics of global, regional and local conflicts and  confrontations. What acquires a particular practical and political value is the undistorted realization of the intertwined web of homogeneous elements and heterogenous opposites, which will make themselves felt with an ever greater impact in the new world order.

Significantly, as the humanity recovers from the pandemic shock, the ideas that the pandemic produced a powerful impact on the formation of a new world order become less categorical, less radical. Could it not be a warning from the future, that a lot of the past is still ahead of us, and we will say afterwards that the future is largely behind us?

First of all, this refers to a range of issues related to globalization. The acceleration of differently directed processes in the globalized space is currently estimated across a wide spectrum of definitions: anti-globalism, de-globalization, false universalism, counter-trends in the development of globalization etc. Other assessments prognostically boil down to the reformatting of globalization, neo-globalism, and even – apparently with an excessive haste –  to post-globalization.

The pandemic laid bare a conflict that is linked to the earlier, centrifugal tendencies in the development of globalization: the crisis is global – the measures against it are local ones, mainly within the centralized «national state» framework. The coronavirus crisis drew a line under the era of neo-liberal minimization of the role of a national state. The conviction of many years that the functional potential of a state is due to undergo erosion and is bound to wear itself out has been rejected. The reverse geopolitical drift towards “a national state” means that the new is the well-overlooked old.

Overcoming the traumatic shock of the coronavirus pandemic becomes dependent on the protection of the state, since the potential of international organizations for assisting countries in combating the pandemic proved limited to negligible figures. In the conditions of a large-scale disorientation of neo-liberal establishment the state regains the role of a centralized regulator. Threatened by a catastrophic depression, the state is forced to think in global categories of a crisis and is made to act quickly within sovereign institutional bounds. Consequently the pandemic put a finishing touch to the crisis of  the neo-liberal model of the world order, and it did so in a flicker of a moment, revealing in a congested form the new flaws and reaffirming the old structural and functional defects of such a model. This will certainly affect the formation of a new world order: interstate conflicts are imminent, fraught with intensification of global imbalances.

In this respect, the basic meaning of the concepts “multipolarity” and “polycentrism” acquires a particular political and methodological relevance. These two notions are used so frequently on a daily basis that they are automatically regarded as identical even in political documents, let alone in numerous publications which are related directly or indirectly to global politics and international relations. Meanwhile, the original separation of these concepts and the specifics of their meaning give rise to an appropriate interpretation of the transformational direction of the world order. Polarity incorporates a more or less direct conflict; polycentrism suggests an intricate interaction of several independent centers of force, capable of creating various geopolitical configurations, which preserve an extensive potential for the protection of their national and state interests.

The age of hegemonic unipolarity is coming to an end. Such the “end of history” became inevitable. The clearly visible new centers of force scattered all over the  world, making it difficult and burdensome for the Unites States to eliminate them one by one, let alone, in total, are becoming a characteristic feature of the oncoming polycentric world order, which is unavoidably provided with elements of asymmetry.

In the new world order, the commonly recognized concepts of leadership and hegemony will pass into the realm of other, radically transformed and undergoing profound change, relevances. The prospects of America-oriented leadership, invariably associated with hegemonism, are infinitely slim as the world is moving towards the formation of new centers of force, new geopolitical formats without a pronounced centric role of one of the most influential global players.

The critical obliteration of the neo-liberal model of world order was largely facilitated by D.Trump, who exerted every effort to rid the USA of binding international commitments in the political, military-strategic, trade and economic spheres, at times detrimental to the interests of American allies. An open encroachment upon the independent role of the EU as a weighty global player is a glaring proof of that. The fundamental principle of Trumpism «America first», which ignores the new geopolitical and geoeconomic realities, becomes a slow-action bomb to destroy any constructive attempts at international cooperation in building the future world order, which would meet the interests of the entire world community. Undoubtedly, the battle on the geopolitical and geoeconomic fronts will get new or modified old centrifugal development. It will thus become much more difficult to negotiate a mutually acceptable solution.

Multilateral partnership and even bilateral ties between allies are becoming more fragile. As international cooperation as a whole becomes more complicated, it can largely be characterized as “competitive”.

The monetization by Trump of relations with the allies has become an integral part of the American foreign policy. At present, few if any would give a clear answer to the question how long this monetization will persist in the post-Trump period  and whether it will affect the future world order.

The coronavirus crisis has made relations between the USA and China more toxic. The US-China acutely competing trade and economic claims have become a signature feature of global politics for long. The two countries’ tough confrontation in the area of international security, originally resulting from inequality of nuclear potential in favor of the USA, will last long as well. But it would be too primitive to tie the final prospects of the currently transforming world order to the new tough bipolarity USA-China. Given the dramatic rise of the geopolitical status of such key players as Russia, India, Brazil, and the EU’s striving towards sovereign autonomy on the international scene,  what is possible is asymmetric polycentrism, that is, realignment of force formats in the global space.

As for Russia, geopolitically, in order to reach parity, or at least, a comparable economic level with the USA and China, the most beneficial position would be ‘in-between’ –  it would enable Russia to pursue a flexible policy with due regard for its own strategic interests and priorities. Russia has already become a significant balancing factor in global politics and international relations. Let’s compare the incomparable: Russia’s geopolitical weight of twenty years ago and Russia’s geopolitical weight today. Though, without a powerful innovative breakthrough Russia will find it increasingly difficult to perform the ever more challenging function of an international balancer.

From our partner International Affairs

Professor, Department of Political Science and Political Philosophy of the Diplomatic Academy of the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation, Doctor of Science (History)

International Law

Carl Schmitt for the XXI Century

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For decades, the scholars of international relations have confused the term “New World order” in the social, political, or economic spheres. Even today, few scholars confuse the term with the information age, internet, universalism, globalization, and  American imperialism. Unlike the complex categorization of the New World Order, the concept of the Old World Order was purely a juridical phenomenon. However, from standpoint of modernity, the term New World order is a purely ideological and political phenomenon, which embodies various displays such as liberal democracy, financial capitalism, and technological imperialism.

In his Magnus Opus “The concept of the Political”, Carl Schmitt lauded a harsh criticism on liberal ideology and favored competitive decisionism over it. This is why according to Schmitt’s critics; the whole text in “The concept of the political” is filled with authoritarian overtones. Nonetheless, the fact cannot be denied that it was the radical political philosophy of Carl Schmitt that paved the way for the conservative revolution in Europe. Even today, his writings are being regarded as one of the major contributions to the field of political philosophy from the 20th century.

Throughout his major works such as “Nomos of the earth”, “the Crisis of Parliamentary democracy”, “The concept of the Political” and “Dictatorship”, Carl Schmitt frequently employs unadorned terms such as ‘actual’, ‘concrete’, ‘real’, and ‘specific’ to apprize his political ideas. However, he advances most of the core political ideas by using the metaphysical framework. For instance, in the broader political domain, Carl Schmitt anticipated the existential dimension of the ‘actual politics’ in the world today.

On the contrary, in his famous work “The Concept of the Political” readers most encounter the interplay between the abstract and ideal and, the concrete and real aspects of politics. Perhaps, understanding of Schmitt’s discursive distinctions is necessary when it comes to the deconstruction of the liberal promoted intellectual discourse. However, the point should be kept in mind that for Schmitt the concept of the political does not necessarily refer to any concrete subject matter such as “state” or “sovereignty”. In this respect, his concept of the political simply refers to the friend-enemy dialectics or distinction. To be more precise, the categorization of the term “Political” defines the degree of intensity of an association and dissociation.

In addition, the famous friend-enemy dialectics is also the central theme of his famous book “The Concept of the Political”. Likewise, the famous friend-enemy distinction in Schmitt’s famous work has both concrete and existential meaning. Here, the word “enemy” refers to the fight against ‘human totality”, which depends upon the circumstances. In this respect, throughout his work, one of the major focuses of Carl Schmitt was on the subject of  “real Politics”. According to Schmitt, friend, enemy, and battle have real meaning. This is why, throughout his several works; Carl Schmitt remained much concerned with the theory of state and sovereignty. As Schmitt writes;

I do not say the general theory of the state; for the category, the general theory of the state…is a typical concern of the liberal nineteenth century. This category arises from the normative effort to dissolve the concrete state and the concrete Volk in generalities (general education, general theory of the law, and finally general theory of the knowledge; and in this way to destroy their political order”.[1]

As a matter of the fact, for Schmitt, the real politics ends up in battle, as he says, “The normal proves nothing, but the exception proves everything”. Here, Schmitt uses the concept of “exceptionality” to overcome the pragmatism of Liberalism. Although, in his later writings, Carl Schmitt attempted to dissociate the concept of “Political” from the controlling and the limiting spheres but he deliberately failed. One of the major reasons behind Schmitt’s isolation of the concept of the political is that he wanted to limit the categorization of friend-enemy distinction. Another major purpose of Schmitt was to purify the concept of the “Political” was by dissociating it from the subject-object duality. According to Schmitt, the concept of the political was not a subject matter and has no limit at all. Perhaps, this is why Schmitt advocated looking beyond the ordinary conception and definition of politics in textbooks.

For Schmitt, it was Liberalism, which introduced the absolutist conception of politics by destroying its actual meaning. In this respect, he developed his very idea of the “Political” against the backdrop of the “human totality” (Gesamtheit Von Menschen). Today’s Europe should remember the bloody revolutionary year of 1848 because the so-called economic prosperity, technological progress, and the self-assured positivism of the last century have come together to produce long and deep amnesia. Nonetheless, the fact cannot be denied that the revolutionary events of1848 had brought deep anxiety and fear for the ordinary Europeans. For instance, the famous sentence from the year 1848 reads;

For this reason, fear grabs hold of the genius at a different time than it does normal people. the latter recognizes the danger at the time of danger; up to that, they are not secure, and if the danger has passed, then they are secure. The genius is the strongest precisely at the time of danger”.

Unfortunately, it was the intellectual predicament at the European stage in the year 1848 that caused revolutionary anxiety and distress among ordinary Europeans. Today, ordinary Europeans face similar situations in the social, political, and ideological spheres. The growing anxieties of the European public consciousness cannot be grasped without taking into account Carl Schmitt’s critique of liberal democracy. A century and a half ago, by embracing liberal democracy under the auspices of free-market capitalism, the Europeans played a pivotal role in the self-destruction of the European spirit.

The vicious technological drive under liberal capitalism led the European civilization towards crony centralism, industrialism, mechanization, and above all singularity. Today, neoliberal capitalism has transformed the world into a consumer-hyped mechanized factory in which humanity appears as the by-product of its own artificial creation. The unstructured mechanization of humanity in the last century has brought human civilization to technological crossroads. Hence, the technological drive under liberal democratic capitalism is presenting a huge threat to human civilizational identity.


[1] Wolin, Richard, Carl Schmitt, Political Existentialism, and the Total State, Theory and Society, volume no. 19, no. 4, 1990 (pp. 389-416). Schmitt deemed the friend-enemy dialectics as the cornerstone of his critique on liberalism and universalism.

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International Law

Democratic Backsliding: A Framework for Understanding and Combatting it

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Democracy is suffering setbacks around the world. Over the past decade, the number of liberal democracies has shrunk from 41 to 32. Today, 34 percent of the global population lives in 25 countries moving in the direction of autocracy. By contrast, only 16 countries are undergoing a process of democratization, representing just 4 percent of the global population. Reflecting these troubling trends, USAID Administrator Samantha Power, during her confirmation hearing, highlighted democratic backsliding – along with climate change, conflict and state collapse, and COVID-19 – as among the “four interconnected and gargantuan challenges” that will guide the Biden Administration’s development priorities.

However, defining “democratic backsliding” is far from straightforward. Practitioners and policymakers too often refer to “democratic backsliding” broadly, but there is a high degree of variation in how backsliding manifests in different contexts. This imprecise approach is problematic because it can lead to an inaccurate analysis of events in a country and thereby inappropriate or ineffective solutions.

To prevent or mitigate democratic backsliding, policymakers need a definition of the concept that captures its multi-dimensional nature. It must include the actors responsible for the democratic erosion, the groups imperiled by it, as well as the allies who can help reverse the worst effects of backsliding. 

To address this gap, the International Republican Institute developed a conceptual framework to help practitioners and policymakers more precisely define and analyze how democratic backsliding (or “closing democratic space”) is transpiring and then devise foreign assistance programs to combat it.  Shifting away from broad generalizations that a country is moving forward or backward vis-à-vis democracy—which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to derive specific solutions—the framework breaks closing democratic space into six distinct, and sometimes interrelated, subsectors or “spaces.”

Political/Electoral: Encompasses the arena for political competition and the ability of citizens to hold their government accountable through elections. Examples of closing political or electoral space range from fraudulent election processes and the arrest or harassment of political leaders to burdensome administrative barriers to political party registration or campaigning.

Economic: Refers to the relationship between a country’s economic market structure, including access and regulation, and political competition. Examples of closing economic space include selective or politically motivated audits or distribution of government licenses, contracts, or tax benefits.

Civic/Associational: Describes the space where citizens meet to discuss and/or advocate for issues, needs, and priorities outside the purview of the government. Examples of closing civic or associational space include harassment or co-optation of civic actors or civil society organizations and administrative barriers designed to hamper civil society organizations’ goals including limiting or making it arduous to access resources.

Informational: Captures the venues that afford citizens the opportunity to learn about government performance or hold elected leaders to account, including the media environment and the digital realm. h. Examples of closing informational space consist of laws criminalizing online speech or activity, restrictions on accessing the internet or applications, censorship (including self-censorship), and editorial pressure or harassment of journalists.  

Individual: Encapsulates the space where individuals, including public intellectuals, academics, artists, and cultural leaders– including those traditionally marginalized based on religious, ethnicity, language, or sexual orientation–can exercise basic freedoms related to speech, property, movement, and equality under the law. Common tactics of closing individual space include formal and informal restrictions on basic rights to assemble, protest, or otherwise exercise free speech; censorship, surveillance, or harassment of cultural figures or those critical of government actions; and scapegoating or harassing identity groups.

Governing: Comprises the role of state institutions, at all levels, within political processes. Typical instances of closing the governing space include partisan control of government entities such as courts, election commissions, security services, regulatory bodies; informal control of such governing bodies through nepotism or patronage networks; and legal changes that weaken the balance of powers in favor of the executive branch.

Examining democratic backsliding through this framework forces practitioners and policymakers to more precisely identify how and where democratic space is closing and who is affected. This enhanced understanding enables officials to craft more targeted interventions.

For example, analysts were quick to note Myanmar’s swift about-face toward autocracy.  This might be true, but how does this high-level generalization help craft an effective policy and foreign aid response, beyond emphasizing a need to target funds on strengthening democracy to reverse the trend? In short, it does not.  If practitioners and policymakers had dissected Myanmar’s backsliding using the six-part framework, it would have highlighted specific opportunities for intervention.  This systematic analysis reveals the regime has closed civic space, via forbidding large gatherings, as well as the information space, by outlawing online exchanges and unsanctioned news, even suspending most television broadcasts.  One could easily populate the other four spaces with recent examples, as well. 

Immediately, we see how this exercise leads to more targeted interventions—support to keep news outlets operating, for example, via software the government cannot hack—that, collectively, can help slow backsliding.  Using the framework also compels practitioners and policymakers to consider where there might be spillover—closing in one space that might bleed into another space—and what should be done to mitigate further closing.

Finally, using this framework to examine the strength of Myanmar’s democratic institutions and norms prior to the February coup d’etat may have revealed shortcomings that, if addressed, could have slowed or lessened the impact of the sudden democratic decline. For example, the high-profile arrest of journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo in December 2017 was a significant signal that Myanmar’s information space was closing. Laws or actions to increase protections for journalists and media outlets, could have strengthened the media environment prior to the coup, making it more difficult for the military to close the information space.

A more precise diagnosis of the problem of democratic backsliding is the first step in crafting more effective and efficient solutions. This framework provides practitioners and policymakers a practical way to more thoroughly examine closing space situations and design holistic policies and interventions that address both the immediate challenge and longer-term issue of maintaining and growing democratic gains globally.

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International Law

Authentic Justice Thus Everlasting Peace: Because We Are One

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The ceasefire in the Israeli-Palestine conflict is a good thing. We thank God for it. Be it between two individuals or institutions or nations or the internal colonial and colonized, war does not do anything except cause more immediate or future mass misery and human destruction. Our continued memories of our interpersonal and international and internal colonial and civil wars and the memorials we erect to remember them recall and record wounds and pains we never get over. 

So it becomes a bothersome puzzle as to why we human beings still just don’t get that war like oppression leads to nowhere except to more human devastation. And we should have learned by now but have not that peacemaking like ceasefires mean nothing without justice.

 It is the reason why I constantly find myself correcting those who stress Peace and Justice.No Justice No Peace is more than a cliche.It is real politic emotionally, economically, socially, and spiritually.

Our American inner cities like those in every continent where culturally different and similar people live cramped impoverished lives and nations and colonial enclaves with such unequal wealth remind us of their continued explosive potentialities when peace is once again declared but with no justice.Everyone deserves a decent quality of life which not only includes material necessities but more importantly emotional and spiritual freedoms and other liberations.Not just the victors who conquer and rule and not just the rich and otherwise privileged.

 And until such  justices are  assured to everyone peacemaking is merely a bandaid on cancerous societal or International conflictual soars which come to only benefit those who profit from wars which are bound to come around again when there is no justice and thus peace such as  family destroying divorce lawyers, blood hungry media to sell more subscriptions , arms dealers to sell more murderous technologies, politicians needing  votes so start and prolong wars, and military men and women seeking promotion while practicing their killing capacities.

So if those of us who devoutly practice our  faiths or our golden moral principles,  let us say always and pray and advocate justice and peace always  as a vital public good  and  do justice then lasting peace in our personal lives and insist that national leaders, our own and others do the same in their conduct of international affairs and affairs with those who are stateless in this global world. 

All such pleading is essential since we are all brothers and sisters in the eyes of God who created all of us  in God’s image as one humanity  out of  everlasting divine love for all of us so we should love each other as God loves all of us  leading to desiring justice and thus lasting peace for each and every one of us.

This is difficult for those in international affairs to understand who take more conventional secular approaches to historical and contemporary justice and peace challenges as if our universal spiritual connectivennes  ( not to be confused with the vast diversity of organized religions)as human beings which makes us all brothers and sisters has no relevance. But if we are going to find true enduring peace we have no alternative but to turn our backs on increasingly useless secular methods which go either way, stressing peace then justice or justice then peace and understand how much we must begin to explore and implement approaches which we look at each other as spiritually connected brothers and sisters in which it is the expectation that peace only comes and lasts when  through the equal enjoyment of justices for every human being, we restore our universal kindred rooted in the everlasting love of God and thus for each other, no matter the different ways in which we define God or positive moral principles which originate in understandings that we human beings in all our diversities are one and thus brothers and sisters.

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