In periods where developments in international affairs are as dynamic as now, history screams. The public dreads the prospect of global leaders repeating historical mistakes and the old rule that “as a political debate goes on, chances of referencing Adolf Hitler approach 100%” gets confirmed. With the outcome of the war in Ukraine still uncertain, more people are asking about the nature of Putin’s regime in Russia – what are its essential characteristics? Does it have a foreign policy “master plan” and, if so, how serious is it about pursuing these goals? Can we predict its behavior and what sort of comparative examples ought we to use? The fact that these questions are being raised in Europe is indicative – for these are usually first steps in dealing with an opponent.
The present decade of a “post-American world” (how some scholars call a system of international relations marked by the relative decline of US global influence) has been seeing its share of highly publicized conflicts – Iraq, Afghanistan, Georgia, Egypt, Libya, Thailand, Syria and Ukraine, along the continuous Israeli-Palestinian struggle. The aforementioned one’s have had a limited, thought dominant presence in the public eye, unlike more permanent situations in the “failed” North African states. In relation to them, one of the terms whose resurgence I’ve noticed in Western media’s op-eds and analysis is “useful idiots“. This term is used to refer to western public intellectuals and human rights advocates, critical of their own societies’ cultural intolerance, human rights standards and foreign policies.
I’ve come across an interesting article by Fareed Zakaria, a reiteration of an argument he has made some years ago in his “Global Public Square”. Zakaria, whose personal political beliefs are notoriously difficult to pin down, is a master of argumentation. By all standards, he is a first-class thinker, but the unflattering company of his fellow talk-show hosts boosts his credibility. It is not difficult to see how a scholar of international political economy, who heavily relies on empirical evidence and backs his claims in a responsible and dispassionate way, shines when placed against Bill O’Riley, John Hannity, Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews.
This is an article I published in the January/February 2014 issue of The Humanist, a magazine run by the American Humanist Association. I’m not terribly up to date with this organization’s most recently taken stances on issues of secularism in the USA, but I suspect the views I’ve put forward do not completely align with their thinking. Anyhow, I appreciate their readiness to publish a critical viewpoint. Check it out: