Category Archives: Europe

“Culture will make you free”. The new Italian President: a man of few words and great deeds

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“Culture will make you free”, not “truth will make you free” as the dictators say. This is what Sergio Mattarella, elected the new president of Italy, believes in. A gentleman, as Matteo Renzi, the Italian Prime Minister, defined him. A gentleman that represents the ‘past’ but will lead the passage to a ‘new’ Italy, after 30 years of Berlusconism. It seems a contradiction but it is not. “Nani e ballerine”, dwarft and dancers, said Rino Formica, a politician of Socialist Party, referring to the new politic class of the 1990s. This has been Italy under Craxi and Berlusconi era, the so called ‘Second Republic’ of Italy. Now we go back to “giants and scholars” of the ‘First Republic’ to try to fund the third one, bringing back people’s confidence in politics. “My thoughts go first of all to the difficulties and hopes of our fellow citizens, that’s all for now” said Mattarella as soon as he has been elected, before to visit the place of the Ardeatine nazi massacre. Few words, plain and discreet, because words are important. The opposite of the Berlusconi style, talkative but of the nullity.

Besides being a politician Mattarella has been a professor of Parliamentary law and a judge of the Constitutional Court, he comes from Sicily, the land of culture and history, and is the brother of another honest politician killed by mafia. He is a champion of law and will be a guarantee for Italian Constitution and the rules of democracy 70 years after the foundation of our Republic, exactly in the moment that the Constitution will be finally reformed for the first time probably in Italy. He has been always against the degeneration of the ethic, the politics and the society that Italy experienced with the entrance in politics of a figure like Berlusconi. He is the exact opposite of Berlusconi, who with his anomaly brought its show business and private life at the government of the country. Mattarella resigned from the Italian government lead by Andreotti in the 1990 to protest against the “Mammi law”, the law that violating a legislation of the European Community would allow Berlusconi’s three private TV channels to broadcast nationally, and in this way start his influence on the public opinion and his enormous power. Mattarella did also many important reforms to help Italian society to evolve: he introduced the majoritarian representation in the electoral system of Italy to create more stable governments, introduced specialized teachers in the elementary schools to teach different topics and abolished the military draft. Mattarella comes from the left of the old DC, the “Christian democracy”, a party that officially doesn’t exist anymore but is still present in the reality of today’s Democratic Party, as it represented the social and political fabric of Italy in the second half of XX century (even if also its worst elements with corruption and bureaucracy, blocking many times the progress of the country).

We always need to go back to the past to start a new future in societies, like during Renaissance we went back to Classics after the degeneration of Middle Age. And that’s what Italy is going to do now for the next seven years, with Mattarella President of the Republic. We hope we can rebuild the political and social values lost in Berlusconi era, and in seven years Berlusconi will be dead, at least politically. Mattarella will bring back morality in the public life and this is what Italy desperately needs now: leaders with moral integrity and long-term vision. As we say in Italy: a leader with a “straight back”. http://video.repubblica.it/dossier/la-corsa-per-il-quirinale-elezione-presidente-della-repubblica-dopo-napolitano/l-intervista-a-mattarella-su-youtube-la-cultura-rende-liberi/190428/189381?ref=HREC1-2

Paris attacks: putting things in perspective

Here some interesting articles to deepen the analysis on the recent Paris attacks:

http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/radical-islam-western-military-intervention-by-jeffrey-d-sachs-2015-01#QwzPBXoV4ehakIE4.01

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/charlie-hebdo-cartoons-are-bigoted/article6789470.ece

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/mehdi-hasan/charlie-hebdo-free-speech_b_6462584.html

https://nplusonemag.com/online-only/online-only/equal-in-paris/

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2015/01/charlie-hebdo-islam-cartoon-terr-20151106726681265.html

http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/unmournable-bodies

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jan/07/charlie-hebdo-murderers-cannot-define-islam

For a new European reconciliation: a path to permanently defeat Jihadist terrorism.

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There is no way to beat the new terrorist Jihadism with just more control, police, intelligence or wars. We can reduce its damages but not win it in the long run. The massacre at Charlie Hebdo showed it and all human beings and nations with a little of wisdom know it. Terrorism has to be cut at its root: the root of discrimination, inequality, injustice and separation. Terrorism will end when there will be no excuses for supporting economically, politically or morally fanatics, extremist or fundamentalist that appeal to any religious, ethnic or historical identity for a clash of civilizations. For this reason Europe today has to search for a new reconciliation. After 5 centuries since the Alhambra decree and the tragedy of the Holocaust the Jews are reintegrated in Europe, they feel comfortable, respected and estimated (even if anti-Semitism is always a threat).

After 5 centuries since the expulsion of Arabs in the same 1492, our Old Continent has to strive today for a reintegration of the Muslims, against the Islamophobia. A final real European reintegration between its Christian and its Muslim souls, its Anglosaxon/Indoeuropean and its Arabafrican/Middle Eastern roots, its Northern European and its Mediterranean history is what Europe needs today to win against terrorism. And the path to do so has three ramifications.

First of all the European Union has to stop blocking the entrance of Turkey in the Union, as she is doing since almost 30 years. Turkey has the right and the obligation to enter as it is the only country that can rebuild the bridge between Europe and the Middle East, broken after the end of WWI and the cannibalization of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey is the mean for the reconciliation after European colonization and imperialism.

Second Europe should think, sooner better than later, about an international dialogue to help settle the disputes of the Middle East, first of all the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but also the Syrian civil war, the Iraqi too slow post war reconstruction and the Libyan risk of a catastrophe. This can be done only if Europe understands the importance of this moment on its history, ending centuries of colonialism and wars and allowing local powers to take the lead in their own affairs. Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt should sit on a table offered by the EU as impartial actor and external supporter to dialogue for a new regional settlement. Europe has to uphold to its own values of freedom, equality and fraternity, justice and democracy, also in its foreign policy, not only in its domestic issues, stopping power politics and old imperialism and starting a new era of collaboration and cooperation. It is the only way to stop the European decline, and the only path to win against the terrorism and create peace in the long run. Reactions to terrorism with more wars, as the US did after 9/11, will just represent temporary solutions and future problems.

Third Europe has to think about a new education to coexistence in a community of diversity. It is a long run of cultural investment in cohabitation and mutual respect and it is the most important of the three elements. We need to educate our children to more tolerance, respect and common sense when it comes to our motto of “United in diversity”. The attack on freedom of expression has to be condemned by all, Christians, Jews and Muslim, together. Satire always existed and will always do, in all the cultures. But dignity and respect have to prevail if we want to build a better world for our future. My freedom ends when the freedom of the other starts, this require a sense of responsibility, I cannot wanting to be free and at the same time careless: “I care” is the motto that we need to use besides than “I want”. And if we want freedom of expression this has to be really for everyone not only towards one direction (see on this the recent article of Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept (1).

The social and economic crisis that the old continent is living since a decade, together with the increasing in number of immigrants coming from Muslim countries, is opening space to populism, racism, hate speech and polarization. A humus from where young people find on two opposite political ideologies, the one of racist policies and nationalism on one side, and the one of Jihadism, the new religious terrorism, on the other, a place for a strong identity, in particular when they live in a subculture, unemployed and isolated as the young people that attacked Charlie Hebdo. For this reason, besides economic development and social empowerment, we need new processes of integration, resolution and reconciliation. It is a cultural investment for the future, with which we have to build a common house for everyone. There is no other path, no fortress is possible in the future globalized world. We don’t need polarization and “us-them” narrative. We need a real “unity in diversity”. Inshallah, God willing, primero Dios, si Dieu le veut, se Dio vuole.

Finally also Islam as a religion has to do an effort to modernize and reform, primarily clarifying once and for all the term of “jihad”. The meaning has to be defined only as “striving in the way of God”, closing forever the concept coming from the Caliphate of an external struggle, the “holy war” against the infidel, who doesn’t submit to Allah, Mohammed or Islam. It will not be easy to do it as there is not hierarchy in Islam and everyone interpret the dogma, the Qur’an, in different ways. But it is the only path Islam can take to cohabit with the rest of the world in the future, as also Al-Sisi, the president of Egypt recently said at the Al-Azhar mosque (2). Otherwise the new Jihadist terrorism will keep succeeding in proselytism around the world, with new media like “Inspire” magazine convincing young fellows that to kill non-Muslims is a duty of Muslims. As Christianity had its Reformation in the XVI century and Jews their own Enlightenment in the XIX century, also Islam will have probably its secularization process in this century. Will Europe, the Old Continent where Humanisim, Enlightenment and Democracy born, push also Islam to modernization as it did with the other two Abrahamic religions? Some scholars say that Islam will not have its own “Reformation” (3). Future will say but this could be instead exactly the role of Europe, besides integration and respect: inspiration.

Image: Mpatapo, Adinkra symbol of reconciliation, from West Africa

(1) https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/01/09/solidarity-charlie-hebdo-cartoons/

(2) http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/4704.htm

(3) http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/01/02/islam-will-not-have-its-own-reformation/

“Democratic ideals and reality”, Halford J. Mackinder, 1919. Is this text still actual?

Map of the "Heartland Theory", as published by Mackinder in 1904.

Map of the “Geographical Pivot of History”, in the article of Mackinder published by Royal Geographical Society in 1904 (15 years before his book “Democratic ideals and reality”)

Mackinder, English geographer and one of the founding fathers of geopolitics and geostrategy, wrote his milestone book almost one century ago, between the two WWs, like Carr’s “Twenty years crisis”. “Democratic ideals and reality” is a product of the concepts of political geography and environmental determinism, and has played an important influence on American strategic and international studies until today. Two decades before Carr’s distinction between realist and utopian ideas, Mackinder’s realism is based on geopolitical analysis and on opposite concepts of ‘organizer’ (realist) and ‘idealist’ foreign policy.
The author argues that idealism is the ‘salt of the earth’, to move societies and civilizations, but in 1919 it had lost its social momentum, its hold on reality. The WWI had just ended and Wilson 14 points, as well as the Versailles treaty, were not convincing Mackinder. The British academic made an excursion since the end of the 18th century with the French principles of liberty, equality and fraternity, to the 19th century with the principle of nationality to the 20th century with the creation of the League of Nations and its democratic ideals (for a world community and a fair division of wealth). He argued that in reality productive power and social organization are more important in the modern civilization and that the great organizer is the great realist, because his imagination turns to ‘ways and means’ instead of ‘elusive ends’. Therefore he tried to define the geographical and economic ‘realities’ of modern world in order to help the organizer to balance the world, speaking about the ‘seaman’ and ‘landman’ points of views and considering the land power superior to the sea power.
The core geopolitical message of his book, passed through generations, is that “who rules East Europe commands the so called Heartland, who rules the Heartland commands the world-island (or great continent, that is the Euroasianafrican continent) and who rule the world-island commands the world”. Mackinder defines the Heartland as the internal part of the Euro-Asian continent, which goes from the Arctic coast to central deserts on the east, and from the Baltic to the Black Seas on the west. Mackinder believed that the power in the world was shifting from the sea-borne empires to countries that included the great land masses and who had both could have dominated the world. So if either Germany or Russia (that could have access to the sea) were able to conquer the heartland they would have conquer the world. Actually the rivalry of empires on this issue started already when Russia, as the Heartland, was the rival of England, the sea power, in the 19th century and also Germany took the lead to dominate East Europe in WWI for the same reason.
But Mackinder speaks also about other elements apart the geographical approach to international relations. In particular he dedicates two chapters to the freedom of the nations and the freedom of men, arguing that both need the same thing: a balanced and complete life. The first has to be based on equality of resources and so on external control of the economic growth with a balanced development of each nation (in order not to get out of hand and clash). The second should be based more on balanced life of provinces than on class organization. This is a very interesting point as the author remembers how the independent cities of Athens or Florence were foundational of our civilizations because they had complete and balanced microcosms, in which human beings could put in practice their ideals, remembering a sentence of Bernard Shaw: “he who can does, he who cannot teaches”. For Mackinder therefore we should go back to human scale provinces, and the national organization should be based on provincial communities. This is very actual also today with the trends of globalization counteracted with the localization, in a ‘glocalization’ process, in particular when he speaks about the demand for ‘home rule’ in Ireland or Scotland, to recuperate the values of local life against the nation-wide class organization. One hundred years after we had a referendum for autonomy in Scotland, exactly to recuperate this connection with locality, destroyed by modernization, international capitalism, and globalization.

The influence of this famous book is still discussed but has been said to have affected Hitler ideas (through the German geo-politician Karl Haushofer, who supported an alliance between Germany and the USSR in order to defeat the maritime powers). We don’t know for sure but the Hitler idea of Eastern expansion is similar to the idea of Mackinder. The book has influenced also the US, given that US grand strategy cannot allow domination of either end of Eurasia by a potentially hostile power (that today could be China ).
I would argue that Middle East, more than Eastern Europe, is the pivot region of the world today. May be the XX century saw the three world wars (the third being the Cold War) fought around Eastern Europe (and even today it is crucial as we can see on the “battle for Ukraine”) but at the time of Mackinder the energy resources of the Middle East were not discovered yet. And resources are more important than land in our modern world: who controlled them, more than who controlled Eastern Europe, won the WWI and II (UK and France, with the support of the US and URSS) and the Cold War becoming the world hegemon (the US). Also the superiority of the land countries respect to the sea-born countries is disputable today, one hundred years after Mackinder book, as again the US is a maritime power in the world. In the future actually, as George Friedman argues(1), US will retain its power thanks to this and Mexico will become an important force on the geopolitical stage. To be surrounded by oceans became the foundation of American security and wealth, economic and military power, and in the globalization era to control the sea seems more important than to control an “impregnable fortress” like the Heartland, as we can see from the naval presence of the US in East Asia and Southwest Asia (or Middle East) that allow the US to avoid the domination of either end of Eurasia by a potentially hostile power.

(1)George Friedman. The Next 100 Years. A Forecast for the 21st Century. Anchor, 2010

How two important Muslim countries, Turkey and Indonesia, can contribute for more peace, tolerance and economic growth in post-Western world?

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The so called “Alliance of Civilizations” was launched in 2005 by the Prime Minister of Turkey Tayyip Erdogan and Spain Jose Rodriguez Zapatero. The atmosphere of mutual distrust, fear and polarization prevalent in recent years in particular between the Islamic World and the West are the reason for this coalition to start reaching out and foster greater cultural tolerance and understanding. The role of Islam in the study in civilization is quite known. In fact, it was Ibn Khaldun who was established a new science on the study of civilization. This was six centuries ago. Today, the term “civilization” has become one of the most popular units of analysis in social science and media. Later on “Alliance of Civilization” became UNAOC as it was adopted by the secretary general of the United Nations to become a UN initiatives and the Alliance became the forefront in promoting dialogue and also Regional strategy in reducing extremism including interactions with civil society organizations. The recent meeting was held in Bali, Indonesia on August 29-30 with this year theme “Unity in Diversity” which is also the official National motto of Indonesia as celebrating diversities for common and shared values.
In current capacity, Indonesia and Turkey are member of G-20 and both countries are showing a tremendous economic growth for the last 10 years, regional emerging market and rapidly growing private sector plus play an important economic role in their respective region. Indonesia is also the largest Muslim country in the world and fourth most populous nation, and since the era of “reformasi” in 1998 Indonesia has moved smoothly from dictatorship and military rule to democracy, compared to many other Muslim countries in the Arab world, such as Egypt and Syria, that have failed in their post Arab spring democratic development. Today, both Turkey and Indonesia have risen economically and democratically in a similar way although they had started differently. The history of modern Turkey begins with the foundation of the Republic on October 29, 1923 after the fall of Ottoman Empire when the World War I ended. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk introduced a new Turkey as a secular western country through his massive reform movement. Going from changing Ottoman Turkish alphabet to Latin, to adopting women’s rights and the abolition of Islamic law in favor of the European legal system. The process of western secularization had brought Turkey to some extend on a par with her European neighbors.
Indonesia on the other hand, started as a Republic on August 17, 1945 driven by nationalist independence movement and anti-colonial sentiment led by Soekarno who was well known for his determination and struggle against any form of colonization in Asia. He was similar to other great Third World leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru, and Gamal Abdel Nasser. His most known work is the establishment of nonaligned movement (since the Bandung Conference in 1955) that stated to promote Afro-Asian economic cooperation to oppose colonialism and neocolonialism by any nation. While Turkey started as a potential “imperial world power”, Indonesia embarked exactly on the opposite as an anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist.

Although both cultures are rooted in Islam they have managed to pass a period of unique secularization and democratization process that is now being known as “Turkish model” or “Indonesian model” of Islam. Albeit Indonesia has not experienced the so called “secularization enforcement” process like Turkey, Indonesia have been always secular and progressive in mobilizing the people towards education. The Islamic school in Indonesia, for example, use Islam as a foundation but mostly combined with nationalism, self-sufficient fund and support for development and progress. Indonesian strength in organizing a moderate Islamic education even before the independence has proven successful in creating many Islamic thinkers that are also accepting western education, values and ethics. Many of those visionary Islamic leaders are also anti-colonial activist and play a significant role in the movement at least in the educational sphere.
Most Turkish intellectuals at the time when new Turkey was established were the product of Ottoman madrasas and interaction with the west, rather than of the Arab world. The Ottoman Empire was the most extensive and most influential state system in the entire Muslim world during at least six centuries and quite possibly for any time since the rise of Islam itself. Therefore Turkey have more experience and education in skills such as law, writing, documenting, arithmetic, art and literature compare to Indonesia. These mountain of knowledge also have positioned Turkey differently in learning and sharing with Islamic Muslim scholars in particular from the Arab world. Turkish Islamic scholars are not eager to study from the Arabs because they consider themselves able to do it better.
On the opposite side, Indonesia struggle to search for knowledge, wisdom and spiritual influence from the Arabian Peninsula and yet still find it difficult to be part of their Arabs peer and seek recognition for their work in the Islamic world. The element of knowledge in Indonesian religiosity is always been the spiritual center as the core of the teaching. When many of religious scholars from Indonesia travel to Mecca for the first time they return home and start correcting Islam and reform them towards an “Arabization” of the Islamic belief and practice in accordance to what they witnessed in the Middle east. As many Indonesian Islamic scholars are eager to be at the same level with the Arabs, many of their teaching were also contested at home and give rise to various forms of cultural resistance. Indonesia is known for the tradition of syncretic esoteric in Islam after a long tradition of Hindu in Java, for example until today we can still see a very strong Hindu elements mixing with Islamic practices and rituals.

In the political arena, being the largest Muslim country in the world Indonesia hardly play any role in the Arab world. The answer lies not only on the geographical distance and so no direct impact is possible from Indonesia or Southeast Asia in general, but is due to the mere fact of Western intervention in the Middle East, therefore non-Arab Muslim countries have no room to pursue their interest and many of them are only becoming spectators. According to PEW Research Center in 2010 62% of world’s Muslim population lived in South and Southeast Asia. Indonesia holds the largest moderate Sunni Muslim around 205 million people and the second largest non-Arab Muslim are in India, followed by Turkey and Iran. The growing understanding in the west that Islam is identical with the Arabs has created confusion among many countries which are operating based on multi civilization such as Asia. Nevertheless, Asians in part also contributed in misunderstanding of the West about Islam. Why such reflection never appear before? Asians Islamic scholar because of their limitation in knowledge and also lack of legitimacy are not seen relevant to be involved in solving conflict in the Middle East for example, and this power notion also is nurtured by the West to maintain their strength in the region. The lack of legitimacy of Islam in Asia also shows in the exchange of learning in major universities in the West that are mostly dominated by Arab scholars. Many books from the Arab Islamic scholars are studied in France and the US and even translated into various languages such as Urdu, Malay, Hindi and Chinese. Many great Asian Islamic scholars and thinkers have not written any book that can be used as reference to understand Islam in Asia. The Indian Islamic scholars for example have a unique relation with the Arabs through trade, especially in Kerala or Tamil Nadu, who owes much to the Indian Ocean trade with merchants from Arabia, Persia and China. Islam and expansion of Islamic studies were introduced through trade, mix marriages and cultural exchanges. Many of these stories were documented by Western scholars during their travels across the Indian Ocean and until today we could find traces of this marvelous exchange. Another valid reason why there is less written Islamic studies such as books and literature in Asia is due to the nature of the scholars. They are mostly “travelers’ scholars” unlike in the Arab world where many of them are great writers, in established University, library and developed a volume of Islamic and political thought. Many of the Arab Islamic scholars found themselves as an Icon and references in Islamic teaching or movement throughout the world.

Looking back at Indonesia, it inability to play a meaningful role in the global Islamic world indeed raise a question mark, considering relevancy of education and unique cultural of tolerance in this country. Martin Van Bruinessen (Indonesia Rising, 2011) an anthropologist from the University of Utrecht wrote that the Arab world has shown a remarkable lack of interest in Asia in general, let alone in the social and cultural forms of Islam in Southeast Asia. Though more outward looking, other Muslim regions of Asia have not taken a serious interest in their Southeast Asian co-religionist either. Bruinnesen also said that the reluctance of Indonesian Muslim to seek the international limelight, their modesty (or lack of confidence?) and their conviction that they have more to learn from, than to teach to, others. Indonesia has produced many remarkable Muslim thinker such as Tan Malaka, Tjokroaminoto, Agus Salim, Nurcholis Majid and even the late former president of Indonesia Abdurrahman Wahid. But we haven’t seen any of their books and teachings are being translated into Arabic, French or even English. Indonesians Islamic scholars only talks among themselves and with less interest from the Arab world due to lack of international impact when it comes to Islamic thoughts, because many of the Muslim thinkers in Indonesia are activists. They have not been writing a great sensitizing work but rather numerous shorter pieces and it seems to be inherently local not something that the International Muslim scholars can learn. Therefore this lack of confidence of Muslim in Southeast Asia, in particular in Indonesia, to share their ideas and values, has also resulted in a huge impact in Western understanding about Islam.

Since the time of independence, Turkey and Indonesia faces many challenges upon their journey towards democracy and development, from secessionist movement to economic crisis but they have been showing gradual improvement by also actively solving their own internal conflict through peace dialogue, economic development through decentralization and free and fair elections. Mediation and inter-cultural, inter-faith dialogue are the most important agenda besides showing legitimacy and existence through trade in their region by also asserting and increasing their diplomatic capacity through softer approach such as cultural power, historical appreciation and education. In the realm of religion, though Indonesia face a difficult journey to rise and play a role in the global Islamic world, now it seems changing, opportunities are coming, more possibility are clear, there are crucial demands from Muslim across the globe and also Western countries for Indonesia to mediate in conflict areas especially when the conflict relats to ethnic and religious tensions. The United States for example sees Indonesia as a true partner in countering extremism and bridging the differences between Islam and the West.
Indonesian Islam is characterized by a vibrant intellectual discourse, a remarkable openness to alternative views and broad acceptance of religious pluralism. On the other side liberal and progressive trends, like the Indonesia’s Muslim feminist movement, are the most dynamics and diverse. It is also been admired elsewhere in the Muslim world for its work on building a loose coalition of women’s groups and individual activist taking up various gender related and women’s issues from grass roots to the legislative level. Unlike than in most Muslim majority countries where the Muslim feminist movement are “elite” oriented.

Turkey on the other side, seems to reduce its ties with the West as it is no longer concentrating too much to be included in the European Union, instead spreading her wings towards Asia. Some political analyst might see this as a result of a “look east” policy of Recep Tayyip Erdogan but many also believe that Turkey will never be accepted to be part of the European Union. As Angela Merkel stated Turkey is “unfit” to join the EU for many reasons. Some of the debated issues are Turkey’s failure to recognized Armenian genocide, repression of the Kurdish minority, invasion and occupation in North Cyprus back in 1974 and in general Turkey’s poor human rights record. Turkish also admitted that Turkey will never be part of the European Union because of stiff opinion and “prejudices” among the EU member states. There are many arguments over the inclusion of Turkey in the European Union including the most controversial one that came from the Dean of Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy Kishore Mahbubani. He stated that EU can’t be a role model of regional integration. The first fundamental weakness of EU is a mono-civilization entity that it has failed to extend the region to a single non-Christian country like Turkey. Mahbubani noted that model of regional cooperation within one civilization creates a huge defect in the multi civilization world. Compare to Asia for example, a regional body such as ASEAN is consisting of 10 diverse countries with different cultural, ethnic and religious background. Despite many weaknesses in Asia, its capacity to cooperate across civilization boundaries is a huge strength. Looking at this development Turkey realized her role in Asia would be more relevant rather than being part of EU. Economically while many European countries are struggling with financial crisis, Turkey is experiencing a tremendous growth of almost 8% since 2011 with unemployment rate in 2014 around 10.15%. If she keeps growing like this Turkey soon will be no longer known as a “sick man of Europe” but instead a “China of Europe”.

The idea of creation the Alliance of Civilization is again to form a path of modern Islamic civilization, embracing development and technology, increase in economic middle class among Muslim countries in Asia to be actively play a meaningful role in the global world. Turkey and Indonesia are not only counting at the measurement of economic growth and prosperity but also seeking to play role in the region as one of the most dynamic and active country. Few of many that has been pioneered through the member states of the Alliance of Civilization are the promotion of inter-cultural dialogue, peace and mediation, defusing tension between the west and the Islamic world and counter extremism and radicalization.
Hopes are high, as both countries will see a better future through emerging economics but also will face many great challenges ahead in democracy and Islam as a whole. Turkey and Indonesia realized that to develop their role in their regions they need strong alliance, unity and more cooperation with the Western world, also by creating and showing a different face of Islam. Both acknowledge that this effort is not to compete with the West but instead will create a fair balance between Islam and the West for a better future.
Chitra Ananda

References
Indonesia Rising, The Repositioning of Asia’s Third Giant (Reid, Anthony)
Imperial Legacy, The Ottoman Imprint on the Balkans and the Middle East (Brown, Carl.L)
http://www.adbi.org/event/3645.mahbubani.distinguished.speaker/
The Great Convergence, Asia, the West and the logic of one world (Mahbubani, Kishore)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibn_Khaldun
http://www.mfa.gov.tr/the-alliance-of-civilizations-initiative.en.mfa

Robert Kagan recent article “America’s Dangerous Aversion to Conflict”: looking always to the past instead of to the future

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Robert Kagan(1) is back. In his recent article on WSJ, with his classical realist pessimist self-fulfilling prophecies of inevitability of violent conflict because of “has always been like that”, he explains us that similarly to Europe after WWII, “who sought an escape from the tragic realities of power that had bloodied their 20th century”, the US, after Iraq and Afghanistan wars, “seems to be yearning for an escape from the burdens of power and a reprieve from the tragic realities of human existence”. And it goes without saying that for Kagan human existence is based on power, conflict and war.

In its very much debated and famous article written on the aftermath of 9/11, “Power and Weakness”, he explained to the world how the US and Europe were to be considered always on a different track in their approach to international politics, order and security. We had “to stop pretending that Europeans and Americans share a common view of the world, or even that they occupy the same world”(2). The bases of unipolarism were explained with this impacting analysis and the “New American Century” had to start, because Europe and the US had different identity and perceptions and could not go together towards a new world order after the end of the Cold War. Kagan believed that the European insignificance in solving major conflicts was based on its faith in the international law: European comes from Venus, with a vision of peace and rule of law while Americans comes from Mars, with a dream of “Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness”.

Let’s analyze more in depth his old “Power and weakness” article, to see from where comes his idea that “raw force remains a key element in international politics”. The sharp distinction that Kagan did between the US and the EU didn’t give much space for mutual rapprochement, as the US will always be more prone to the use of military force while European will always look for diplomacy and less harder interventions (like economic sanctions). According to Kagan this depended not only on different military powers and ability to project them (when European powers were strong they were using strength and martial glory, now it was the turn of the US) but on their identity based on different values: America has a Hobbesian vision of the world while Europe a Kantian one. So the European project and the mere maintenance of peace in Europe has always depended on the American military protection with the NATO presence (a clear realist view that deny any role to economic interdependence or construction of common values) not on the idealist construction of integration and institution of supranational sovereignty. Today, Kagan says, also “a majority of Americans (and of the American political and intellectual classes) seem to have come close to concluding not only that war is horrible but also that it is ineffective in our modern, globalized world”. And instead of considering it an achievement he defines it a danger.

My criticism to Kagan (and all the realists as Mearsheimer) is that even if he is right on shaping the differences of identity between the US and Europe and on the fact that European invasion from Russia could have been avoided overall because of American presence, the European “Kantian paradise” is not a result only of the US protection. France and Germany didn’t attack each other anymore not because of the American presence but because of the will to build a ‘new identity’, based on the European integration. As constructivism teaches us ideas shape policies and social practices creates new ideas and new identities. Plus the US never had fortunately the experience Europeans had of national ideological folly and war tragedies since millennia and this make the American realist analysis unable to grasp European reasons behind its evolution.

As Cicero said “history is master of life” so if Kagan and his realist friends keep just looking back to history,  from Peloponnesian war to WWII, just as a cyclical repetition, they are not helping to envision the future, on the opposite: they are trapped in a self-fulfillment prophecy of repeating the past. True, the European legal order is something that is still in process, but an international order based on law cannot be created “from the day to the night” (as we say in Italy) in particular in a world that is constantly shifting and moving from one side to another as our modern globalized, complex and liquid world. Each institutional building that change the bases of an international system needs time as it must change minds and hearts of people and political wills of states. The fact that the ICC born after many years of discussion (even if with many countries outside its sphere of action, like the US indeed) is a demonstration of that.

Besides this we saw also how long the American unipolar moment lasted, with the disaster of Iraq war and the consequences we are living today, so we cannot take for granted that the diplomacy is not a valid approach to security as much as powerful interventions. Even if the US is now still a “primus inter pares” it has not anymore the global hegemony, and notwithstanding the fact that is the world’s longest democracy and wants to bring freedom and happiness with its Manifest Destiny, we can say with President Jimmy Carter that “America didn’t invent the human rights, human rights invented America”(3). So it is time for the US to stand up to its democratic principles (created in the European enlightenment) also on his actions in international arena. America has to listen to other perspectives of great or less great powers overcoming the thought of being the only entitled power that have the duty to bring order to the world(4).

At the end of the day the recent diplomatic efforts of the US and Europe in the Middle East (Iran, Syria and Palestine) demonstrate that the US is starting a new track respect to what Kagan keep saying about the ‘inevitability of Hobbesian intervention’ (since already the “New beginning” speech of Obama in Egypt in 2004). And I believe that Middle East has to be let to govern itself sooner or later, as Jeffrey Sachs argue(5) , as the regional powers of Iran, Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia will have to decide by themselves if going on during this century with their cleavages and national interests or create a community of security and economic integration (as the EU did, even if after two world wars) for the stability of the region and as a seed of the future world order.

 

1) Robert Kagan is senior fellow at Brooking Institute, Council of Foreign Relations and co-founder of “Project for the New American Century”/PNAC (famous think tank that promoted American leadership and strongly influenced Bush administration). His recent article on WSJ: http://online.wsj.com/articles/robert-kagan-why-the-u-s-wants-to-avoid-conflict-1409942201

2) Robert Kagan, Power and weakness, Policy Review, June/July 2002.

3) Jimmy Carter, speech at FLACSO, Quito, Ecuador, 2009 http://www.cartercenter.org/news/editorials_speeches/FLACSO_042909.html

4) See on this “The Irony of Manifest Destiny: The Tragedy of America’s Foreign Policy”, William Pfaff, 2010.

5) http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/jeffrey-d-sachs-wants-the-us-and-europe-to-allow-the-region-to-govern-itself