Monday, 6 March 2017

Are Tectonic Plates Beginning to Shift?

Coalitions of the Willing

National identity is making a comeback--inevitably so, in our view.  Almost overnight (although the resistance has probably been building gradually over several decades) top-down enforcer models of international relations have hit a brick wall.  Britain has voted to leave the EU.  Donald Trump has boldly and emphatically stated that he has been elected to serve the United States, not the United Nations.  There are now public musings that the EU is going to fall apart.  

What is going on?  And, what is represented in this reactionary change, where the world seems to be going back to the future?

In recent generations intra-national groups have more and more adopted the model of seeking global unity through top-down legal impositions.
 The unity was forged around the acceptance and submission to legal constructs, whether they be "human rights",  "international law", international courts of justice, and so forth.  We have seen the bizarre phenomenon of ousted dictators or defeated petty tyrants being hauled before international courts of justice to pay for their crimes.  Balkan warlords end up in the Hague facing prosecution and punishment in the name of universal humanist law.  Citizens everywhere in the world, it seems, need be mindful of whether their actions violate universal laws which could result in their being hauled before (alleged) global courts of justice.

Meanwhile, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights ruled that a woman wearing a necklace bearing a cross to work could not be prevented by her employer (British Airways).  But on the other hand, the European Court of Justice has made judgements in the opposite direction.  Before Brexit, Britain's sovereignty on these matters had been ceded to judges operating under universal legalised abstractions, speaking in the name of humanitarianism.  To that extent, Britain (and all other EU nations) had ceded self-government to a "higher power".

Now the pendulum seems to be swinging in the opposite direction.  But does this mean that relations between nations will inevitably deteriorate and that the prospects of a more warlike world loom?  Not necessarily.  Nations are more likely to seek coalitions of the willing.  One example: the Commonwealth of Nations (formerly known as the British Commonwealth).
The Royal Commonwealth Society is making plans to open a branch in the United States, with a view to one day bringing America into the fold as an "associate member".  The project, which is said to be backed by the Queen, has come about in part as a result of Donald Trump's fondness for Britain and the royal family.

It comes amid efforts to develop the Commonwealth as a tool for building relationships on everything from foreign policy to trade, following Britain's exit from the European Union.  "The UK rather left this treasure in the attic, and forgot about it because people were so glued to Brussels," said Michael Lake, the director of the Royal Commonwealth Society.  Opening a branch in the US, Lake said, would further Britain's ties with America, developing new connections between two countries who already share a common language.

Lake said the plans had been hastened by the "opportunity of a new president, and the slightly dangerous but great fun opportunity that the 'Bad Boys of Brexit' offered".  In December, Lake wrote a letter to Trump, which was hand carried by Andrew Wigmore, a close aide to Nigel Farage, and then delivered by the former UKIP leader.   Farage, who has emerged as a key ally of Trump, promoted the idea with senior aides, reportedly presenting the letter to Steve Bannon, the president's chief strategist. . . .

The advantage of the Commonwealth, Lake said, is that it operates less formally than governments, as a loose arrangement that is furthered by common values and culture.  "It works because companies find it easier and more congenial to work in Commonwealth countries," he said.  [NZ Herald Emphasis, ours.]
That is the key to genuine and positive international relations: countries working together out of common, shared values--a coalition of the willing, if you will--rather than organs and powers where abstract legal vacuities are forced down the throats of nations from on high, and where nations have previously ceded (illicitly, in our view) sovereignty to such entities.

Some object because they see the recovery of interest in national sovereignty will lead to nationalism, which implies the re-emergence of rapacious tyrannies such as Germany's National Socialism.  But those who argue thus have conveniently forgotten that the USSR was a self-styled internationalist organisation consisting of a coalition of force binding separate nations together.  The name says it all: the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics [1922–1991].  It turned out to be one of the most evil tyrannies mankind has ever seen.

The revival of interest in national sovereignty, leading to "looser arrangements" between nations based on coalitions of the willing, rather than abstract legalisms, is neither iconoclastic, nor reactionary.  It is a much more viable way forward for the diverse nations and people groups of the world.

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