The post-Westphalian World and Muslims’ Will

The world is in a state of total chaos. The 350-year reign of the nation-state system is coming to an end. The 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty-Years War, also ended the millennial domination of the ideal of universal empire and creed, personified in the priest-king, god-king or divine emperor. In the West, the ideal was embodied for a millennium and a half in the Roman Empire in all its transformations over time, and since the fourth century AD in the Christian religion, embodied by the Papacy.

In the sixteenth century the religious domination of the Papacy in the West was challenged by a group of religious reformers. The two sides fought wars and signed truces until in 1618 all Western Europe erupted in war, centered in the territory of the Holy Roman Empire, now German, and adjacent regions. In 1648 the negotiators of the Treaty of Westphalia adopted the principle of cuius regio, eius religio, “the religion of the ruler is the religion of the state." Thus, the ideal of one empire was replaced by what came to be known as the nation-state.

The chaos confronting us today derives from the fact that, given neo-cons dominated administration in the US and the morbid dread of Islam spread by the Islamophobes on all fronts from media to academia and political to religious circles, a critical number of US adventures in the Muslim world are of a scale and scope such that they transcend national borders within whose confines sovereign states exercise their sway.

Unfortunately it is not limited to the Muslim world alone. The recent demands from Canada to share all information about the passengers even if they are on a domestic flight and other such measures demanded from the governments across the Atlantic are no less than transcending national borders.

The phenomenon has been dubbed “a war on terrorism,” a term that conceals more that it reveals. As the scope of the US and its allies’ activities occurring outside the writ of nation-states increases, the legal and regulatory reach of the latter shrinks. Other players were already there, challenging their governance monopoly: Multinational corporations, global financial markets, non-governmental organizations, organized criminal enterprises, etc.

Most of the activities of these players were already not covered by international law, which was based on formal agreements among nation-states, because nation-states had thus far been unable to find enough common ground for agreements that address problems of “globalization.” Now the “war on terrorism” has dwarfed globalisation by many degrees. United Nations is a joke and international law and treaties and Universal Declaration of Human Rights have become worse than a joke before the fanatic pursuit of the war lords in Washington to not let any alternative ideology succeed other than capitalism and way of life the neo-cons want for all.

The seeds for undermining Westphalian nation-state system were already sown in the emergence of the United States, a country that was launched as a political experiment dedicated at birth to the subversion of pre-established order, both imperial and Westphalian. The most interesting thing to note is that seeds for undermining Westphalia were already there, but now the US has also undermined the very basis on which its democracy was established.

According to the constitution adopted by the new country in 1776, legitimacy was derived from the people, and not from the sovereign. North America had been populated by groups of men and women who were specifically driven to emigrate by their rejection of the Westphalian cuius regio, eius religio doctrine.

From their rebellion against the British, a unique legal arrangement was produced –” the US Constitution –” which outlined for the first time how legitimate state power might be exercised. Legitimacy gave birth to American sovereignty and theoretically, in the American system, sovereignty answers to legitimacy. If the legal definition of sovereignty is “supreme power against which there is no possible appeal,” then in the case of the United States, that supreme power was supposed to be legitimacy itself, i.e., constitutional law expressing the consent of the governed. The consent of the governed has become as meaningless as it is irrelevant today. What happened over the years brought to the fore some actors and hidden forces of exploitation, who marginalised consent of the governed and undermined the very principle on which the foundation of democracy was based.

With the much vaunted constitutional tradition, the United States stands as a model facilitating the enforcers of oppressive religious, political and class systems. From a broader standpoint, the United States is the most dangerously successful tyrannical regime in history. Before the exploited “guiding principles” and resultant mess in the US, tyrannies of the long gone Italian and German fascists and Soviet Communists dwarf by comparison.

In the struggle of ideology, the US is losing because is has failed to stay its course according to the true principles of democracy. The United States has become truly imperialistic by adopting the ancient millennial paradigm. With its unilateralist adventures, it also undermined the Westphalian system.

The obsolescence of the system of nation-states becomes obvious when one considers that the transnationals account for more that 35% of world GDP –” more than 75% of world trade and almost the entire world FDI (Foreign Direct Investment). This, together with the rise of self-regulated global financial markets, commands the worldwide flow of investment capital and dictates the fiscal and monetary policies of governments that wish to attract such investment capital.

Economically, the Westphalian era had favored a large and ever growing role of the “public sector” within the nation-state –” economic statism. The emergence of private-sector economic superpowers beyond the reach of nation-states has now made this scheme untenable. Of all the economically major countries today, it is primarily the United States, the epicenter of “globalization,” that has the smallest-sized “public sector,” at 20% of its GDP, and is riding on a political movement of “smaller government.” Nations like France, Germany and the other members of the eurozone have public sectors at 50%-60% of their stagnating GDP.

Early on in the 1990s, the marginalized power elites of various countries proposed a broad program, usually associated with France and the European Union, for recapturing their lost power and influence. This was the construction of a system of “global governance” based on a series of treaties by means of which sovereign nation-states would transfer growing chunks of their sovereignty to global bureaucracies administering those treaties.

Even this was not acceptable to the super-imperialist zeal of the totalitarians in Washington. The globalists want to rule the world. The totalitarians in Washington want to rule the globalists. The globalists undermine the nation states for their capitalist gains. The totalitarians undermine everything in their way for total global dominance.

The ultimate object of the “global governance” is to reassert “big government” in the age of free market “globalization.” The idea is to promote the supremacy of “international law,” (treaties signed by sovereign states), over and above sovereignty of states. The US wants its law to over rule the international law and institutions.

The totalitarians in Washington are sensitive to the extent that they considered even Kyoto Treaty as a scheme that would somehow undermine their dream to total global domination. The International Criminal Court, proposals to agree to universal tax rates to prevent “tax competition,” and other proposals to enforce a global “transaction tax” on global financial flows are beyond imagination for the United States’ global adventurists.

So the struggle is not only against the Islamic ideology but also against those who are on the same wavelength with Washington but only happen to be seen a threat to its hegemony in different fields. It is not strange to hear calls from Friedman of the New York Times to declare a war on France.

Not surprisingly, the United States has opposed vigorously every one of the suggestions that asserted international control independent of the United States. According to the US Constitution, international treaties have the force of the law of the land, i.e., they are subject to judicial review and tests of constitutionality. Now that the totalitarians have succeeded in hijacking the legislature and consent of the governed has become meaningless, the so-called systems of checks and balances, and the separation of powers among Executive, Legislative and Judiciary, are used to the advantage of further the totalitarian adventures.

The 2002-2003 United Nations debate over the war in Iraq had as its true subject not Iraq but the future of the post-Westphalian world. The totalitarian Americans considered reservations by France and her allies as attempts to subordinate the US to a vacuous notion of UN-conferred legitimacy on behalf of a treaty-based “global governance” vision of the post-Westphalian world. From the American totalitarian, the message is simple: our way or no way all. They are as much schizophrenically sacred of its own allies as they are of the Muslims who want to exercise their right to self-determination.

Democratization of the Greater Middle East (“Greater” because it includes Afghanistan and Pakistan) is the name of the new game aimed at total domination. It is now a national, bipartisan US policy without any attempts at soliciting consent of the governed. The millions of Americans marching in the streets against the war for domination is irrelevant.

The totalitarians forced this policy on the United States in the name of national security concerns, and it evolved gradually between September 11, 2001 and November 6, 2003. The staged 9/11 attacks led to the predetermined decision to “take the fight to the enemy.” Almost immediately, it became apparent that “taking the fight to the enemy” meant, in the phrase of a former CIA director, “draining the swamp of the Middle East,” i.e., destroying the political culture that aids and abets the rise of terrorist organizations. In plain words: to eliminate every possibility that can lead Muslims to exercise their right to self-determination and living by Islam. In more straight forward words: to eliminate the possibility of any alternative model of governance coming into being.

On November 6, 2003, President Bush in a speech at the National Endowment for Democracy announced that this global drive for freedom and democracy would have the Middle East as its most important focus. With this, the US proclaimed its long-term policy of Middle East democratization.[1]

At the same time, the Democratic Leadership Council, the premier policy-shaping think-tank of the second party in two-party dictatorship, the Democratic party, presented its national security blueprint, Progressive Internationalism: A Democratic National Security Strategy. In a chapter titled “Advance Democracy Abroad –”Including in the Islamic World,” the document proposes: “For Democrats, the transformation of the greater Middle East–”the vast arc of turmoil stretching from Northern Africa to Afghanistan–” is a central challenge of our times. Nowhere is a fundamental shift in Western strategy more necessary if we are to confront the forces that create the dangerous nexus between terrorism, failed states, rogue regimes, and mass destruction weapons.”

The mainstream leaders of the Democratic party fully endorse President Bush’s Middle East democratization policy. As former National Security Advisor Samuel R. Berger, a Democrat, put it: ” Most Democrats agree with President Bush ” in his support for “more open and democratic societies in the Middle East.”

Given, therefore, that Middle East democratization is the bipartisan national policy of the United States, the question is whether this policy is realistically feasible.

The answer is no for the simple reason that democratisation is a façade. The calls for democratization do not equal proposals to contain the Soviet communism in 1940s. It would be out right stupid to study feasibility of the present totalitarian project from Washington in the light of feasibility of Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan. It is instead the other way round.

Those who claim that the US is inching towards its fall along with the total collapse of capitalism might sound ridiculous. But so was the thought of the complete annihilation of four great empires (Habsburg, Hohenzollern, Romanoff and Ottoman), none of which was realistically feasible at the beginning of the World War I in 1917.

The apparent absurdity of predicting the fall of the US and the end of Nation State system equals to the absurdity of those who believed in an American experience in popular self government in 1776.

The democratization of the Middle East is a façade of similar historic import as the colonialists adventures in the name of helping little brown brother. Interestingly, the seemingly allied nations in the essentially American project of Middle East democratization are torn between their strategic security need to see the project succeed in containing Islam, and their fear of losing their own sovereignty to the US hegemonic designs in the process.

Europe finds itself more threatened even than the U.S. by the rise of an Islamic model of governance. The European Union, which suffers from economic stagnation and long-term demographic decline, has for some time now consider Muslim populations as a threat. Ban on scarf in France is just one example of the height of hysteria in this regard. Despite lack of trust in the US intentions, the short-sighted political class in Europe will continue to favor Middle East democratization because an Islamic model is considered more of a threat than anything else in the world.

As the twenty-first century proceeds the United States has become truly imperialistic, ignoring existing Westphalia and promoting a new form of Westphalianism that over-rules the UN and other international rules, norms and laws to impose an American, totalitarian vision of a new world order.

The continuance of chaos is inevitable. So is a reactionary return to the international paradigms of the remote or recent past. The systems and ideologies based on petty human rationality have reached their penultimate stage after failing all tests of success along the road. To move beyond the chaos requires emergence of an alternate ideology and establishment of a viable model for human governance.

Only Muslims have the ideology to counter the most encompassing and intrusive tyranny of human history. Do they have the will? Apparently they don’t. However the modern tyranny forces to have into the position of no option other than returning to Islam.


[1] “Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe — because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty. As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment, and violence ready for export. And with the spread of weapons that can bring catastrophic harm to our country and to our friends, it would be reckless to accept the status quo. Therefore, the United States has adopted a new policy, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East.”