LEVIATHAN BOUND: THE DANGERS OF KANTIAN RULE SETS AND UNACCOUNTABLE NGO’S
Joseph Nye is justly famous for his articulation of the concept of ” Soft Power “, the oftimes intangible but influential weight of a nation-state’s cultural, ideological and memetic base that substantively makes that society distinct, attractive and persuasive to others. This is contrasted with the ” hard power ” of military and economic might that can intimidate, bribe or coerce. While it’s easily arguable that ” hard power ” is more important or decisive a factor in international relations than ” soft power “ my response would be ” In what kind of time frame ?”.
The longer the time frame we are considering the greater the weight we must give to the implications of soft power. Great Britain of George III was awash in hard power but it’s mercantilist empire did not survive the effects of the words of Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson and Tom Paine. Furthermore, when we recognize the implications of soft power it is all more crucial that we understand the premises of certain soft power trends that are competing in the marketplace of ideas for long-term dominance. Ideas and ideologies do evolve in the real world in response to events but their trend lines tend to stay in the direction of their logical conclusion unless they are conclusively refuted.
This brings me to Tom Barnett’s PNM theory. In The Pentagon’s New Map, Dr. Barnett discusses many key concepts in his Global Transaction Strategy, one of which is Rule Sets – the recognized principles by which states interact and evaluate actions or policies in terms of their legitimacy. Terms like ” rogue state “, ” war of aggression “, ” just war “, ” illegal combatant ” carry in them the implicit understanding of what it means to have operative rule sets. The problem is that there is a significant divergence between the traditional Rule Set the United States has used in international relations since the end of WWII and the vision currently entrancing most of Europe and Transnational Progressive NGO activists. Dr. Barnett refers to the second as ” Kantian Rule Sets ” denoting the idea of the Kantian ” perpetual peace that exists within the Core. This new Kantian Rule Set developed with American encouragement and advice to solve ” the German problem ” – see Dean Acheson’s memoirs on the diplomacy behind the Schumann Plan – and to integrate Japan irrevocably into the Core.
Unfortunately, the Kantian Rule Set that worked so well in neutralizing the unbalancing geopolitical claims of Germany and Japan and safeguarding their neighbors is incredibly ill-suited to handling the rogue state aggressors, anarchic failed states and apocalyptic Islamist terror groups that run riot in the Gap. The premises of the Kantian Rule Set prohibit the Leviathan function Dr. Barnett sees as necessary to foster connectivity and control imminent disasters. It is really a rule set for a post-Gap world. If you have any doubts about this I offer Bosnia, Rwanda and the Sudan as an example of the humanitarian and moral costs to applying Kantian Rule Set restrictions to prevent meaningful humanitarian intervention in the Gap.
That however is the danger of misguided moralism in misapplying a standard that can only exist between states that accept the premises of the rule set that governs the Core. There is a second danger in that groups who do not relish the prospect of ” Connectivity ” with increased flow of information, people, goods, transparency and accountability have seized on Kantian Rules to keep the Gap poor and disconnected and aggrandizing power for themselves. They are not what you could describe as friendly toward market mechanisms, democratic accountability or honest debate.
One of their key arguments is the illegitimacy of traditional, Westphalian, concepts of national sovereignty, which they like to misrepresent as ” New Sovereigntist” when most of these historic principles are still the operative tenets of International Law. Legitimacy, in their view, is vested rather ambiguously, in a collection of transnational bodies, courts and commissions which create a consensus opinion from the larger community of IL scholars and NGO activists. Sort of a Transnational Progressive Ulemna, to borrow a concept from Islamic jurisprudence and equally unaccountable to those over whom they purport to claim authority.
These NGO’s have moved to claim political power through established mechanisms like the UN and the World Bank, often advocating Deep Ecology positions that do not reflect the wishes of the citizens of the Gap states activists claim to be championing, blocking much needed development projects. Recently The Schlesinger Commission upbraided the venerable Red Cross for attempting to hold the United States government accountable for controversial protocols to the Geneva Convention that require ” police model ” restrictions on the U.S. military that the U.S. has neither signed nor ratified. This misrepresentation of their preferred and novel interpretation of treaty clauses or International Law as a supposedly universal and accepted standards is a frequent NGO tactic for accumulating power or ” containing ” U.S. policy. NGO’s count on journalists and citizens of democratic states not having the inclination or time to read tedious treaty clauses or case histories and try to attach a negative connotation to policies that might promote ” connectivity ” in the Gap.
Not all of the NGO’s or even the majority of them have this ideological agenda in mind. Most of them were founded and continue to operate with the intention of helping people in dire circumstances. Much of the work they do is invaluable. However, we must be aware that the Transnational Progressive trend is out there in the NGO world, it has political currency in important circles and the logical conclusions of this ideology are exceptionally pernicious. Deep Ecology alone contemplates a scenario that I can charitably describe only as Hitlerian in scope. They are not working to help the farmer ambling behind a water buffalo.
People living in the Gap should not be condemned to the precarious Hobbesian world of genocide, war and famine to suit the interests of wealthy professional activists and string-pullers residing comfortably in the Core.