Adrian Pabst

Helsinki and Paris – a New Security Architecture for the Euro-Asia Space

Dr Adrian Pabst, Senior Lecturer in Politics, School of Politics and IR, University of Kent; Visiting Professor, Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Lille (Sciences Po), specially for wpfdc.org

1. Europe’s new schism?

The continual crisis in Ukraine is perpetuating an East-West schism that was never overcome after the end of the Cold War. Even if there is no all-out war between the major powers involved in the Ukrainian conflict, Europe faces the distinct prospect of a permanent divide at its very heart. The EU increasingly looks like an annex to the United States, which has historically oscillated between isolationism and interventionism. Indeed, since 1893 Washington has practiced regime change (especially in its own ‘backyard’), [1] but it has also periodically retreated from international affairs – whether in the years prior to 1917 or indeed by refusing to participate in the League of Nations during the interwar period. Today the US is once again meddling in European affairs while at the same time pivoting away from the Euro-Atlantic space to the Asia-Pacific rim in order to shore up its interests against the rising power of China (a theme to which I will return shortly).

Meanwhile, Russia has been repeatedly rebuffed by the West in the 1990s and early 2000s, especially in relation to common security arrangements, and it has had to confront an increasingly aggressive brand of Western liberalism – as John Mearsheimer has recently argued in an article in Foreign Affairs [2]. In response, Moscow has turned its attention to Central Asia and the Far East, tightening relations with Eurasian neighbours and other partners as part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). However, there are risks that Russia might become excessively dependent on supplying cheap resources to China. Meanwhile there are signs that Beijing is much more interested in consolidating its own sphere of influence than forging a strategic alliance with Moscow, which it tends to view as a junior partner rather than an equal ally.

For all these and other reasons, the EU and Russia risk finding themselves on the margins of global geo-politics rather than at the forefront. After more than 500 years at the centre of international affairs, the whole of Europe seems increasingly bereft of ideas and incapable of acting as a force for good.

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The Battle for Civilisation

Dr Adrian Pabst, Senior Lecturer in Politics, School of Politics and IR, University of Kent; Visiting Professor, Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Lille (Sciences Po), specially for wpfdc.org

In my previous essay, I argued that ISIS and the Islamic State are demonic forces that pose an existential threat to civilisation. We face a battle against barbarism, not a clash of civilisations. Fighting the barbarians who slaughter innocent men, women and children is a battle for civilisation – for ancient ways of life, ancestral homeland, millennia-old traditions and different faith communities such as Oriental Christians and the Yazidi who confront an impossible choice: forced conversion, expulsion or death.

Faced with this horror, we need an alliance of civilisations. That means nothing less than a thorough rethink of our foreign policy and a complete strategic re-alignment. What is required is an end of support for either secular nationalists or Sunni extremists and a radical rapprochement with the forces that can defeat ISIS and the Islamic State – the Kurdish Pershmerga, Iran, Syria and Russia. Fanciful? No doubt. But small steps will merely exacerbate the current crisis. Unprecedented events call for extraordinary measures.

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The Battle against Barbarism

Dr Adrian Pabst, Senior Lecturer in Politics, School of Politics and IR, University of Kent; Visiting Professor, Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Lille (Sciences Po), specially for wpfdc.org

Introduction

For the past few weeks, the world has watched on in horror as ISIS has intensified its barbarian campaign, killing thousands in unspeakably brutal ways and expelling many more. Eyewitness reports tell a gruesome story of summary executions, beheadings and crucifixions – Christians being nailed alive to crosses and left there to be bleed to death. The severed heads and mutilated bodies have been paraded outside conquered villages. Those Christians who have not already been butchered face a brutal choice: convert to Islam, leave, or die by the sword. Most have abandoned their ancestral lands, which in all likelihood ends the uninterrupted 1,700-year presence of Christian communities in northern Iraq.

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Commonwealth and Covenant: from Liberal ‘Dialogue’ and Unilateral Sanctions to the Cooperation among Civilisations

Dr Adrian Pabst, Senior Lecturer in Politics, School of Politics and IR, University of Kent; Visiting Professor, Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Lille (Sciences Po), specially for wpfdc.org

1. Introduction

In my previous essay, I argued that liberal ‘dialogue’ fails to promote peace, tolerance and mutual understanding and can even foment both conflict and war. I also discussed the difference of genuine, robust debate and the need to recover the best traditions that grew out of the Axial Age – the strangely coincident fusion around the second century BC of philosophy with theology that centred on a theoretical and practical critique of predominant norms of absolutist power and its foundation upon an irreducible polytheism. Arguably, the advent of critical thought and political resistance was from the outset inextricably intertwined with an appeal to (highly diverse forms of) plural unity connected with religious transcendence – whether in Plato, Buddha or Confucius.

In this essay, I want to show how the notions of commonwealth and covenant can help us re-envision proper cooperation among civilisations whilst preserving their own integrity and irreducible diversity. My argument is that the concept of commonwealth describes multi-national forms of associations that share risks, rewards and resources and that are bound together by substantive ties rather than merely formal, abstract standards (as for liberalism). I also suggest that the concept of covenant is key as it indicates a fundamental concord among the people, often inspired by religious traditions of covenantal ties between God and creation.

Before I can make this case, I will briefly focus on the way in which liberal ‘dialogue’ is inextricably intertwined with a punitive regime of unilateral sanctions that perpetuates conflict and is therefore wholly at odds with the purported liberal commitment to de-escalation and the resumption of cooperation.

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The End of Liberal ‘Dialogue’ and the Difference of Debate: Renewing the Promise of the Axial Age

Dr Adrian Pabst, Senior Lecturer in Politics, School of Politics and IR, University of Kent; Visiting Professor, Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Lille (Sciences Po), specially for wpfdc.org

1. Introduction: the current crisis of meaning

There is little doubt that the contemporary world faces a crisis of meaning. After the end of the Cold War, the relative stasis of bi-polarity gave way to a global dynamic that was increasingly unpredictable and volatile. Europe’s ‘multilateral moment’ was quickly supplanted by American hegemony, but the last ten years have witnessed the rise and fall of US unipolarity and the emergence of a multipolar disorder. The ideological battle between capitalism and communism has mutated into a contest for global market shares and central state power at the expense of the autonomous, largely self-regulating intermediary institutions of civil society on which vibrant democracies and market economies ultimately depend.

We have moved from a world of concrete and tangible threats to a world of nebulous risks that exacerbate global uncertainty. Instead of the quest for the common good or the good life, the emphasis has shifted decisively in favour of utility maximisation and the pursuit of individual happiness amid a growing concern with ‘risk management’ (political, financial, environmental, epidemiological, etc.).

Long-term strategic thinking has largely given way to short-term tactical responses to event – without any guiding principles. Amid hypocrisy and double standards, appeals to universal values such as democracy and human rights ring increasingly hollow.

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How to Promote Peace

Universal values, particular interests and the role of cross-cultural dialogue in international security

Dr Adrian Pabst, Senior Lecturer in Politics, School of Politics and IR, University of Kent; Visiting Professor, Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Lille (Sciences Po), specially for wpfdc.org

1. Introduction

Faced with the threat and reality of war across the globe, the Enlightenment promise of ‘perpetual peace’ (as in the memorable phrase of Immanuel Kant) appears today to be as remote or utopian as at any point since 1989 or perhaps even 1945.

Neither ideology nor national interest seems capable of providing some common ground on which states and non-state actors can build a minimum of consensus and cooperation.

Instead, ever deeper divides are forming along long-established fault lines, and the world is confronted with the real prospect of sliding inexorably into conflict – not just in Europe but also in Asia, Africa and elsewhere.

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How to Prevent War

Dr Adrian Pabst, Senior Lecturer in Politics, School of Politics and IR, University of Kent; Visiting Professor, Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Lille (Sciences Po), specially for wpfdc.org

1. The changing nature of warfare

The nature of warfare is changing. In the aftermath of the Cold War, we have gradually moved from a world of concrete and tangible threats to a world of nebulous risks – from the threat of thermo-nuclear confrontation to the risk of civil war, genocide or terrorism.

Linked to this is a widening of the concept of security and collective defence to include new and variegated risks such as financial crashes, energy security, cyber-war, climate change, piracy (online and on the world’s oceans), nuclear proliferation, failed states and cross-border crime.

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The Greater Europe in a Post-European World

Dr Adrian Pabst, Senior Lecturer in Politics, School of Politics and IR, University of Kent; Visiting Professor, Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Lille (Sciences Po), specially for wpfdc.org

In my previous essay, I argued that European civilisation cannot be reduced to the secular settlement of the post-Enlightenment period but is best traced to the Axial Age and the fusion of Greco-Roman philosophy with biblical revelation. Concretely, this legacy centres on principles such as charity, the dignity of the person, constitutional rule, the free and complex space of intermediary institutions like professional associations, guilds or universities, as well as strict limits on state and market power.

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Europe’s Civilisational Space

Dr Adrian Pabst, Senior Lecturer in Politics, School of Politics and IR, University of Kent; Visiting Professor, Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Lille (Sciences Po), specially for wpfdc.org

For about two millennia, Europe was engaged in a struggle for global supremacy. From the unprecedented spread of Christianity via the discovery of the New World to modern colonial conquests, Europe’s empires rivalled and surpassed other ancient dynasties in Persia, India and China.

But since the end of World War One and the demise of imperial Europe, the continent’s influence in international affairs has dramatically declined. This, coupled with tectonic shifts such as the changing US vision of its global role and the resurgence of Asia, seems to seal the passage to a post-European phase of history.

Moreover, Europe itself is in disarray. The European Union has promised peace, prosperity and unity-in-diversity. But in its current configuration the single market is arguably an engine of top-down homogenisation, privileging the interests of both ‘big government’ and ‘big business’ at the expense of civil society and the civil economy that is composed of intermediary institutions and small-and medium-size enterprise.

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