The slow formation of an international order
- Maximilien de Béthune, Duke of Sully (1559-1641)
The negotiations lasted four years (1644-1648). Ultimately, they enshrined the principle of equality in negotiations between all parties in conflict, whether Catholic or Protestant, republican or monarchical.
The Treaty of Westphalia laid down four fundamental principles:
1. The absolute sovereignty of the nation-state, and the fundamental right to political self-determination.
2. Legal equality between nation-states. The smallest state is, therefore, equal to the largest, regardless of its weakness or its strength, its wealth or poverty.
3. Compliance with treaties, and the emergence of binding international law.
4. Non-interference in the internal affairs of other states.
Certainly these general principles do not determine an absolute sovereignty, but there never was such a thing. However they did delegitimize any action likely to abolish the sovereignty of a state.
Political philosophers have all supported these projects. Rousseau strongly called for the constitution of a single state contract involving all European countries. Kant published Towards Perpetual Peace in 1875. For him, peace was a legal construct that required the codification of a general law applicable to all States. Bentham, the English utilitarian, stigmatized secret diplomacy in that it placed itself above the law. He also called for creating an international public opinion able to force governments to comply with international resolutions and submit to arbitration.
The creation of international regulatory institutions
It was with this objective in mind that the League of Nations (LoN) was founded after the First World War. It emerged as a mere manifestation of the dominant power relations serving the victors. Its moral values were relative. Thus, despite its stated goal of resolving disputes between nations by arbitration rather than war, it declared itself competent to supervise underdeveloped peoples or politically, economically or administratively colonized peoples pending their own self-determination. This naturally led to the legitimization of mandates. In assuming this position, the League of Nations embodied the colonial reality.The artificiality of this organization was revealed when it found itself unable to cope with serious international events like the conquest of Manchuria by Japan, that of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and the annexation of Corfu (Greece) by Italy, etc..
The ideology of globalization was thus embodied in the UN which, upon its creation, claimed to establish a system of collective security for all, including States that were not members. In reality, the UN isn’t any more a contractual society of equals than the League was, but rather a reflection of momentary power relations in favour of the victors of the day.
That said, the whole world bowed to the will of the UN.
- The United Nations Security Council
This structuring of roles was evident in the functioning of the UN whether with respect to applications for membership or for the treatment of conflicts, as was seen with regard to Palestine, Korea, the nationalization of Iranian oil, the Suez Canal crisis, the Israeli occupation, Lebanon etc..
The UN was created by proclaiming “faith in fundamental human rights, the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, to create the necessary conditions under which justice and respect for obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law”. However, the veto system has deprived other nations of the right to be involved equally.
Ultimately, international institutions have always shown the balance of power far from any idea of justice in the philosophical or moral senses.
The Security Council is a global directory (a continuation of the one installed by Metternich). It reserves the ability to impose resolutions only by the Allied victors of World War II, not by those who seek peace.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it was crucial to change the international system.
The reshaping of international relations by the U.S.
- Tony Blair sets out his doctrine (Chicago, April 22, 1999)
The notion of resistance, after the French Resistance to Nazi occupation, was de-legitimized in favour of a requirement for conflict resolution through negotiation, independently of the inalienable rights of the parties. Similarly, the concept of terrorism – never defined in international law – was used to de-legitimize any armed group in conflict with a State, whatever the causes of this conflict.
Repealing the laws of war, Washington has revived the days of “targeted assassinations” abandoned after the Vietnam war and practiced by Israel for over a decade. According to their lawyers, these are not strictly speaking “assassinations”, but “murders in self-defence”, even though there is no need to protect oneself, nor any relation between the threat and the reaction, nor proportionality in the response.
Humanitarian intervention, or responsibility to protect, has been placed above the sovereignty of states.
Finally, the notion of rogue states has emerged.
They do not respect international law and constitute a permanent threat to their neighbours.
They support terrorism.
They hate the United States and its democratic principles.A decade after the disappearance of the USSR, the U.S. launched its remodelling of international relations. Concerning the Middle East, the neoconservative philosopher Bernard Lewis and his disciple, Fouad Ajami, set out the main objectives: to put an end to Arab nationalism by striking at the tyrannical regimes that have cemented their tribal, sectarian, and religious mosaics.
The destruction and dismemberment of the states of this region would lead to “constructive chaos”, an uncontrollable situation in which any social cohesion dissolves and where man is returned to the brute state. These societies then return to a pre-national, or even pre-historical condition from which spring ethnically homogeneous microstates that are, by necessity, dependent on the United States. A leading Straussian, Richard Perle, assured that the wars in Iraq and Lebanon would be followed by others in Syria, Saudi Arabia, and would culminate triumphantly in Egypt.
3. In the period from 2006 to today, the unipolar system has given way to a non-polar world. Power is widely dispersed. China, EU, India, Russia and the United States alone account for over half of the inhabitants of the world, they hold 75% of global GDP and account for 80% of world military spending. This fact justifies to some extent a multipolar functioning because of persistent competition between these poles.
Two basic mechanisms have supported the non-polar world:
A number of financial flows have found their way outside legal channels and without the knowledge of governments. This suggests that globalization weakens the influence of major powers.
These flows have been widely used by the oil states to secretly fund non-state actors.
Therefore, in a non-polar world, being the strongest state in the world does not guarantee the monopoly of force. All kinds of groups or individuals can accumulate influence.
According to Professor Hedley Bull, international relations have always been a mixture of order and chaos. According to his theory, the non-polar system left to itself becomes more complex. And that’s what has happened.
In 2011, the exacerbation of tensions over Libya showed that the non-polar system was no longer viable. Two competing orientations have emerged.
The first is US centred. It aims to build a new world order corresponding to Washington’s strategy. It involves the abolition of state sovereignty as established since the Peace of Westphalia and its replacement by foreign interference rhetorically justified as humanitarian intervention, in reality a Trojan horse for the “American Way of Life”.
Clearly, control of resources, including renewable energy, is the ideal gateway to the creation of a new system, whose emergence has been blocked since 1991.It is also clear that control of gas and transportation routes is at the centre of the conflict over Syria. Undoubtedly, the polarization of the powers on this topic goes beyond internal causes, and surpasses the issue of access to warm waters, or the logistical interests of the Russian naval base in Tartus.
The energy imperative
For Cheney, energy demand is growing faster than supply, which ultimately leads to a shortage. Maintaining U.S. dominance thus depends primarily on control of the remaining reserves of oil and gas. In addition, more generally, if current international relations are structured by the geopolitics of oil, it is the supply of a state that determines its rise or his fall. Hence his four-point plan: Encourage, whatever the cost, any local production by vassals in order to reduce the dependency of the United States vis-à-vis unfriendly suppliers and increase Washington’s freedom of action.
Control oil exports from the Arab Gulf states, not to monopolize them, but to use them as leverage against both clients and other suppliers.
Control shipping lanes in Asia, that is to say, the supply lines of China and Japan not only in oil but also in raw materials.
Encourage the diversification of energy sources used in Europe in order to reduce European dependence vis-à-vis Russian gas and the political influence thereby derived by Moscow.
The implementation of these traditional geopolitical goals has led the U.S. to strengthen its naval presence in the Asia-Pacific, and to enter into a network of military alliances with Japan, India and Australia; always with a view to containing China.
Washington has always regarded Russia as a geopolitical competitor. The US exploited every opportunity to reduce Moscow’s power and influence. It particularly feared the increasing dependence of Western Europe on Russian natural gas, which could affect its ability to oppose movements in Eastern Europe and Russia in the Caucasus.
To offer an alternative, Washington has pushed the Europeans to source in the basin of the Caspian Sea by building new pipelines through Georgia and Turkey. The idea was to bypass Russia, with the help of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, thus avoiding the use of Gazprom pipelines. Hence the idea of Nabucco.
To enhance the energy independence of his country, Barack Obama has suddenly turned into a nationalist autarkist. He has encouraged the exploitation of oil and gas in the western hemisphere, regardless of the dangers of drilling in environmentally sensitive areas, such as the coast of Alaska or the Gulf of Mexico, and regardless of techniques used, such as hydraulic fracking.
In March 2011, Washington increased its imports from Brazil to wean itself off oil from the Middle East.
In fact, Washington has continued to ensure U.S. control of vital sea lanes that extend from the Straits of Hormuz to the South China Sea and has built a network of bases and alliances that encircle China-the emerging global power-in the form of an arc stretching from Japan to South Korea, Australia, Vietnam and the Philippines in the South East, then India, in the Southwest. All this is crowned by an agreement with Australia to build a military facility in Darwin on the north coast near the South China Sea.
Washington is trying to include India in a coalition of regional countries hostile to China to wrest New Delhi from the grasp of BRICS, a strategy of encircling China which is of very serious concern in Beijing.
Regarding the Mediterranean, the essential is found in Syria. The deposit discovered at Qara may reach 400,000 cubic meters per day, which will make the country the fourth largest producer in the region, after Iran, Iraq and Qatar.The transportation of gas from the Zagros Belt (Iran) to Europe must pass through Iraq and Syria. This has completely upset American projects and has consolidated Russian projects (Nord Stream and South Stream). Syrian gas has escaped Washington which must now fall back on Lebanese gas.The war goes on …