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International Law

The Third Way for De-Binarization of Foreign Policy Conduct

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As the present world order weakens, the mega confrontations have appeared more likely: On its post-Soviet revival quest, Russia becomes increasingly assertive in Euro-MED theatre and beyond. The Sino-American relations are increasingly adversarial, with escalating frictions over trade, advanced technology, human rights, and global strategic influence.

Currently, both sides – as president of the US Council of Foreign Relations Richard Haass states – ‘are developing scenarios for a possible war’. The two countries rhetoric has grown so hostile that its speed and severity is unprecedented for the post WWII period, rather belonging to the forgotten vocabulary of 1910s and 1930s.  (E.g. referring to PRC as ‘Country of Kung Flu’ or to the US as ‘trigger happy nation’; calling the C-19 ‘China virus’ or ‘US Army brought pathogen’; China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman referring to the US leadership as ‘Elements deluded by the Capitol Hill metastasis’ while the US State Secretary calls the Chinese Communist Party ‘rogue actor’, and then in return Secretary Pompeo gets proclaimed as ‘the public enemy of mankind’ – just to name but few from the long list of heavy verbal fire exchanges between the two.)

Strategic decoupling between the biggest manufacturer of American goods – China, and its largest consumer – the US, seems inevitable.

It also appears increasingly irreversible, no matter if the change of leaders in Beijing or in Washington may or may not happen beyond 2020. This will of course trigger a global realignment and new fragilities to all default lines on land and seas, in skies, cyberspace and near outer space.

White House and House of Cards

Of course, many would reject the above as an overstatement and author’s alarmism. To this end, let us state some facts:

  1. Extensive exchange of goods is not deterrent. Trade is an instrument of power not a virtue per se, even though be it the RCEP or TPP. (The case of the UK and Germany in the eve of the WWI, and of Japan and the US in 1941, are the most known, in the series of such examples starting with the Peloponnese, Trojan and Punic wars, through the Napoleonic wars and Continental blockade all the way up to modern times, when nations were ‘sleepwalking’ strait into a major mutually devastating and lasting armed conflict.);
  2. Absence of (regional) nuclear parity deterrent. (Asia hosts by far the largest number of nuclear powers – 2 legitimate, 3 declared, 1 undeclared and at least 2 states with the credible delivery systems and N-ready ‘turn-key’ technology. None of them is even by its quantities, qualities, configurations and delivery capabilities – which makes the First strike doctrine tempting.)
  3. Diminishing international order due to a combination or either of the following:
    1. Successful challenger to the Status Quo power/s. Or when a Dismissive meets a Neuralgic one. (Such constellation makes both sides nervous: Challenger is eager to contend and change, and the Status Quo power tempts to strike sooner as it feels the time does not contribute to its strength – with a compromise as a biggest looser. The modern-day China is portrayed as once-upon-a-time Imperial Germany – an illiberal opaque power that misuses liberal system on its unchecked quest for a world domination. Collision course is fanned irrespectively from a fact that there are no overlapping territorial claims or even common borders, as well as despite an unprecedented interconnectivity and mutually brought prosperity. Confrontation is not only geo-economic but also ideological: Liberal world of freedom against illiberal order of coercion.);
    1. Weakening political support of the main guarantors to the existing International Regime, due to their contracting economics and/or demographics (Simply, Trump, Johnston, Bolsonaro, Modi, Kaczyński, Orbán are not causes to but the consequences of fading politico-economic system of the western type of democracy);
    1. Absence of the comprehensive regional system to temporarily uphold or replace the shrinking global one (while Europe is the most multilateralised region on our planet, Asia is the only world’s continent that has no single, even less the security related, pan-continental organisation).   

Although the new US President is in place, it would be foolish to expect any policy reversal. The new administration will see China the same way: Not as a dangerous (trade) rival, but as a foe.

Is this yet another author’s alarmism?

Biden presidency will be one of the weakest in the past 100 years. It is indeed a Pyrus victory: Trump got few million votes more now than in 2016 (i); Senate is controlled by Republicans (ii); angry Trump electorate is deeply convinced that the victory has been stolen from them, and will be further galvanising enlarging noising and tilting to the right for the following 4 years (iii); the blue-collar America firmly believes China steals their jobs – and none on the Democratic left even attempted to refute that (iv). Hence, Biden’s four years in office (if) will be marked by alienation from those electing him, and by pure agony of cohabitation with stifling Republicans. Administration will remain paralysed (if even willing) for any reversed yet fresh policy formulation.

Finally, history of the US bipartisanism teaches us that traditionally Democrats were opening wars while Republicans were those closing them. Overstatement? Mind, also that for nearly past 150 years, Trump presidency was the only 4-year period Americans did not start a single war. Many now believe, it is a high time to recuperate and compensate. 

Ergo, a change in the White House – paradoxically enough – will not slow down the ongoing strategic decoupling and to it compulsory global re-alignment. On contrary, it will only accelerate its speed and severity. 

To be sure; only a measurable success in the US-led de-Chinasation of the West will determine how far (and how long) will take the ongoing de-globalization, and if the second phase will be a reversibility, a re-globalization of the world. There is no other way to convert growing nationalistic passions into internationalist drives.

History of Future – Inevitability …

It was expected that by the end of 2020s, Asian economies will be larger than the rest of world’s economies combined. Africa-Middle East were to come up next. Of course, that was only a prediction made before C-19 and the sudden Sino-American rift. Or this was the origin of that rift? – It is still to be seen.

Past the demise of global communism, many in Asia, Africa and Middle East enjoyed for decades, the best of both worlds: Cheep products from China and the military protection – or at least an implicit security guaranty – from the US, nearly for free.[1]This especially goes for the southeast Asia (formerly representing the major Asian default line), large sways of south Afro-Asia and of the Far East.

The imposed re-alignment will hit them particularly hard – from a prosperous meeting point of goods, cultures and ideas into the politico-military default lines. This painful readjustment may last for decades to come. Opting for either side will not only impact economy trade and security but will also determine a health of population and societal model, too. Unprepared and unwilling for either-or – particularly Asia – missed to build, what I called for over a decade; a comprehensive cross-continental security setting (the pan-Asian OSCE).

The inland giga-demography, inward looking culture, obedient imitator, humble manufacturer en mas – overnight presses globally and over the sea lanes: From diligent labourer to the omnipresent global power. In the grand rapprochement of 1970s, the coastal areas of China have been identified by the West as its own industrial suburbia. And now, that ‘industrial zone’ has a coherent planetary plan.

Was the Deng’s China joining the system to preserve it, or to tacitly hijack it from within? The shockwaves swept all in the West. The US – after its initial hangover – undergoes a painful adjustment: There is a growing consensus among all stakeholders in Washington that the strategic engagement is a failed policy with Beijing – something that obviously did not preserve the US interests, even less its supremacy. Chine is not a dangerous (trade) rival, it is a foe.

This will now seek for the binary acclamation all over the rest of our world. Time of ‘either-with-us-or-against-us’ returns, while the Middle East – North Africa (MENA) and Afro-Asia have no their third way readily prepared to offer (for at home and abroad) but only alignment behind one or the other – reminiscence of the pre WWI Europe with the two rigid (and soon conflagrating) blocks.

Beyond the Sino-world, the rest of Asia, Africa and Middle East (ME) are also dominated by megademographies, brewing social mobilisations, expectations and migrations, inward looking regressive political culture (often lacking the world-view perspectives and contributions), insecure Asian nuclear powers, and history of rather hierarchical international conduct and architecture, than of a multivectoral vibrant active foreign policy (a bandwagoning instead of multilateralism).  

All this necessitates to revisit the fundamentals of the African Union (AU), Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), League of Arab States (LAS) and other similar mechanisms: But it even more invites to rethink and reinvigorate the best of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) which saved the world from the past irresponsibilities and frictions of the two confronted blocks that contested each other all over the globe for decades.

Case of the EU – AU’s(or ASEAN’s) twin sister – is an indicative: At present, the EU is destructive in MENA, dismissive with Russia, neuralgic on Turkey and post-Yugoslav space, obedient to China and submissive to the US. None of it serves interests of Europe on a long run.

However, realities are plain to see: the ME seeks for consolidation, Russia for cooperation, China for domination and the US for isolation. Judging the (in-)action of the current Commission, seems the EU does not grasp it well. Therefore, losses its appeal, and tomorrow it may its substance as well, with overall BRAINXIT. Desirably, the AU (or ASEAN) should learn from the Twin’s, not from its own, mistakes:

The Indo-Pacific, ‘The Quad’, initiative (from Horn of Africa to East Pacific coast) is not a viable policy response for the age of global realignment. It is rather a panicking tactics of imperial retreat (seen in the past with the ‘Coalitions of the Willing’). Why to side it up in lieu of the long-term principles shouldering the skilfully calibrated strategic and emancipatory orientation?

MENA and Afro-Asia should not exhaust its entire foreign policy intellectualism on that. A host of historic south-south summit of 1956 (RI), champion of true multilateralism, along with numerous founding members of NAM should not peripheries themselves by becoming a default, Maginot Line but should lead a reinvigorated Third way.

Between confrontation and bandwagoning, it is time for a true multilateralism (active and peaceful coexistence postulated by the NAM). The Movement gave for so many and for so long a security shelter, voice above weight, sense of civilisational purpose, and a promising future of attainable prospect on the planetary quest for a self-realisation of mankind.

Confrontation is what you get, and cooperation is what you are fighting for.


[1]To this day, the US has concluded the security guaranty accord with some 70 countries on all continents of the world.

Modern Diplomacy Advisory Board, Chairman Geopolitics of Energy Editorial Member Professor and Chairperson for Intl. Law & Global Pol. Studies contact: anis@bajrektarevic.eu

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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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