November 23, 2004

Do Islamists Understand Westphalianism?

In my analysis of geopolitical goings on, I've been under the assumption that at least the Islamists understand the strictures of westphalianism. However, this Guardian article leads me away from that conclusion to the disturbing idea that what we have is WW I redux, a system that is poorly understood by all major participants.

Hizb ut Tahir is an interesting organization. Is it the seed of the next Al Queda, as Central Asia and the Middle East seems to think? Or is it a radical group that remains peaceful and thus capable of integrating into western society, as the UK believes? How Hizb sees itself and its role in the West is as close as we can really get to Islamist radicalism without the employ of spies.

Patel insists that Hizb is no threat to the west, but part of it. But he adds that the west "needs to understand what is really an inevitable matter, and that is that Islam is coming back, the Islamic caliphate is going to be implemented in the world very soon ... The Muslim people need to realise that the way in which they will restore a form of dignity and bring civilisation back to the Islamic world is to establish a modern caliphate."

There is a claim to membership in the West but no apparent understanding of the obligations such membership has. The West, with its westphalian framework, simply has to give way to the creation of the caliphate. There is no apparent understanding of the adjustments that need to be made, no understanding of why such adjustments are so feared deep in the heart and soul of Europe. Continental Europe's problem is that it only sees a binary choice, westphalian or pre-westphalian international systems. And once the caliphate is a smear on the bottom of the West's shoe, the fear is that pre-westphalian conditions will cause variations of the old European wars and the tearing apart of all the progress that has sprung up from the westphalian system.

If Hizb and the rest of the Islamists have stumbled into their westphalian safe havens by accident, completely misunderstanding the nature of what's safe and what's not, we're in a load of trouble because, by accident, they will trigger a pre-westphalian explosion, just as they have done so in miniature in the Netherlands. Or is it better to say that they have done so among the dutch?

For any serious effort at post-westphalian progress, adjusting the westphalian system to eliminate the safe-havens of sub-national groups trying to monkeywrench the entire system, this prospect has to be considered an alarming one.

Post-westphalianism is a process of adjustment and growth to improve the system. At heart it has the potential to be attractive to progressives and conservatives because it is an effort to better map the international system to take into account the dark side of humanity and also a way improve the ability of people to change policy across national borders when tyranny has a firm grip on a country's institutions.

For the post-westphalian, a reversion to pre-westphalian rules would be the negation of their proposed step forward and a giant step backwards. Once the church burners of the Netherlands get their heads handed to them by the mosque burners, they'll hop the border and organize in France, Germany, or Belgium. There is no doubt that the mosque burners will follow and outrage will pile on outrage with very unpredictable consequences, none of them good.

Hopping a border and acting outside your national boundaries has to be done under a new, yet to be fully determined ruleset. The UK wants to talk about and flesh out the ruleset in a top down manner, the US is winging it as it goes along, hoping to build the ruleset in an intuitive/empirical fashion. "Old Europe" doesn't want anything to do with either idea, as they think that revising westphalianism will lead to a degeneration and reversion to pre-westphalian habits.

The bottom line is that if the Islamists don't know what they're doing, we could be tipped over into a new geopolitical dispensation at any time and that dispensation is likely to be to nobody's liking.


Posted by TMLutas at November 23, 2004 11:48 AM