Séance 9. Le retour des empires ? États-Unis et Russie, 13 avril 2018, 16h-18h, amphi G ou H du CLV

À l’origine de cette séance se trouvent une lecture sur les rhétoriques du pouvoir ayant marqué le nouvel ordre international des années 2000 ainsi que l’idée de prolonger la réflexion autour de l’empire jusqu’à l’actualité la plus contemporaine.

Le livre en question était L’Empire au miroir. Stratégies de puissance aux Etats-Unis et en Russie, de D. Chaumet, F. Parmentier et B. Pelopidas (Genève-Paris, Droz, 2007), ensuite traduit et actualisé comme When Empire Meets Nationalism. Power Politics in the US and Russia (Farnham, Ashgate, 2009). Quant à la réflexion proposée par les auteurs, elle s’inscrivait dans la continuité de ce « retour d’empire » qui avait déjà fait couler des flots d’encre lors du moment unipolaire où l’Amérique de Georges W. Bush semblait encore administrer sans partage sa victoire dans la Guerre froide, mais elle introduisait aussi la Russie de Vladimir Putin comme pendant d’une intéressante comparaison… Comment, depuis la guerre d’Irak en 2003 et le retour en force de la Russie sur la scène internationale, néo-conservateurs nord-américains et néo-eurasistes ont-ils respectivement façonné la rhétorique du pouvoir et les politiques internationales de Washington et de Moscou ? De quelle manière la genèse intellectuelle et la vison de ces deux courants politiques dialoguent-elles avec la notion d’empire ? Que ce soit sous le mode de la tentation, de la nostalgie ou de l’hégémon belliqueux, ce retour spéculaire sur l’imaginaire politique de l’empire nous aide-t-il à mieux comprendre les relations inter-étatiques actuelles, au moment où la tension diplomatique augmente et les USA et la Russie semblent s’engager dans une nouvelle course aux armements ?

Afin de mieux comprendre si l’annexion territoriale de la Crimée en 2014 a changé la donne de ces « empires qui ne disent pas leur nom » ou quelles ruptures et continuités semble annoncer la présidence de Trump, nous avons demandé à deux spécialistes de la Russie et des États Unis contemporains de réfléchir avec nous sur tous ces sujets.

 

1. Iacopo Adda, Global Studies Institute, Genève, « Néo-eurasisme : un courant hégémon ou impérial ? »

2. Francis Feeley, professeur émérite Université Grenoble Alpes (CEIMSA)  http://www.ceimsa.org

What is the relationship between any country’s foreign policy and ethics –whether deontology (the theory of duty based on intuition without reference to conceptions of ‘good’ and ‘evil’) or axiological (pertaining to moral obligations dependent on values, such as ethics, aesthetics, and religion)?

The theme of my presentation is an investigation into the ethical implications of US Foreign Policy before and after the start of the 21st  Century. In this talk, I will test socialist, liberal, and neo-conservative theories of foreign policy, each of which attempts to explain the origins of policy making, past, present, and future.

A radical socialist perspective.
After the Second World War, the United States of America emerged as the single most powerful nation in the world. Before the war was over, U.S. policy makers were already preparing to restructure the capitalist system on a global scale. According to American historian, Dr. Gabriel Kolko, in his classic 1975 study, The Limits of Power: The World and United States Foreign Policy 1945-1954 , the U.S. foreign policy objective was « to restructure the world so that American business could trade, operate, and profit without restrictions everywhere. »  To achieve this objective, five necessary preconditions had to be met: 1) politically reliable and stable capitalist nations had to be built; 2) free access to essential raw materials had to be guaranteed; 3) leftists had to be excluded from power; 4) the U.S. had to guarantee conservative, subservient political control throughout the world; and 5) independence and development in the Third World had to be limited so as not to conflict with capitalist interests.

The U.S. strategy for achieving its new post-war objective confronted four major obstacles: 1) The pre-war system of world capitalism with special trade agreements between Great Britain and her colonies restricted U.S. ambitions. 2) The almost complete destruction of the German and Japanese economies was a second obstacle. 3) Right-wing nationalism, inherited from the First World War and which advocated isolationism and economic autarchy, was a third impediment to U.S. ambitions. And 4) Left-wing nationalism, which pushed for Third World independence and self-determination, was also perceived as constituting a danger to U.S. capitalist interests.

A socialist analysis of foreign policy must place the role of the international working class in a privileged position and therefore treat class struggle and economic interests as primary forces. This view of social class struggle influencing capitalist foreign policy decisions is depicted in David David Zeiger’s 2005 film documentary on the anti-Vietnam War movement, “Sir No Sir!” (Please see: https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=watch+sir%2c+no+sir!&view=detail&mid=F75350F1A22E9BF59870F75350F1A22E9BF59870&FORM=VIRE.)

A classic liberal perspective.
An earlier liberal post-war interpretation of foreign policy was established by Professor Hans Morganthau at the University of Chicago, in his classic textbook book, Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace (1948). Morganthau was one of the founders of the “political realism” school of foreign policy which influenced the thinking of American students of foreign policy for several generations, including Robert McNamara and Henry Kissinger. In the introduction of his book, Morganthau –a Jewish immigrant escaping Nazi Germany who came to Chicago in 1937– laid out several principles of this new doctrine of “political realism,” which is essentially an amoral view of foreign policy conduct.

  • Politics is governed by objective laws that have their roots in human nature;
  • Politics is an autonomous sphere of action and understanding apart from other spheres, such as economics (understood in terms of interest defined as wealth), ethics, aesthetics, or religion;
  • Statesmen think and act in terms of ‘interest defined as power’ and a realist theory of international politics will guard against two popular fallacies: the concern with motives and the concern with ideological preferences;
  • The concept of interest defined as power is an objective category which is universally valid, and the only bond of union that endures among nations is ‘the absence of all clashing interests’;
  • The realist cannot be persuaded that we can bring about the transformation of the contemporary world by confronting a political reality that has its own laws with an abstract ideal that refuses to take those laws into account;
  • The state is inspired by the moral principle of national survival. Realism considers prudence to be the supreme virtue in politics. (While ethics in the abstract judges action by its conformity with moral laws, political ethics judges action by its political consequences;
  • Political realism refuses to identify the moral aspirations of a particular nation with the moral laws that govern the universe;
  • Intellectually, the political realist maintains the autonomy of the political sphere, as the economist, the lawyer, the moralist maintain theirs. He thinks in terms of interest defined as power, as the economist thinks in terms of interest defined as wealth; the lawyer, of the conformity of action with legal rules; the moralist, of the conformity of action with moral principles. The economist asks: « How does this policy affect the wealth of society, or a segment of it? » The lawyer asks: « Is this policy in accord with the rules of law? » The moralist asks: « Is this policy in accord with moral principles? » And the political realist asks: « How does this policy affect the power of the nation? » (Or of the federal government, of Congress, of the party, of agriculture, as the case may be.)
  • This realist defense of the autonomy of the political sphere against its subversion by other modes of thought does not imply disregard for the existence and importance of these other modes of thought. It rather implies that each should be assigned its proper sphere and function. Political realism is based upon a pluralistic conception of human nature. Realist man is a composite of « economic man, » « political man, » « moral man, » « religious man, » etc. A man who was nothing but « political man » would be a beast, for he would be completely lacking in moral restraints. A man who was nothing but « moral man » would be a fool, for he would be completely lacking in prudence. A man who was nothing but « religious man » would be a saint, for he would be completely lacking in worldly desires.
  • It is in the nature of things that a theory of politics which is based upon such principles will not meet with unanimous approval -nor does, for that matter, such a foreign policy. … [T]he human mind in its day-by-day operations cannot bear to look the truth of politics straight in the face. It must disguise, distort, belittle, and embellish the truth –the more so, the more the individual is actively involved in the processes of politics, and particularly in those of international politics. For only by deceiving himself about the nature of politics and the role he plays on the political scene is man able to live contentedly as a political animal with himself and his fellow men.

‘Political realism’, with its narrow focus on rapport de force and its instrumentalist values evolved as a dominant political theory in the aftermath of the Second World War. Margaret Thatcher and Henry Kissinger were among its influential practitioners.

The liberal perspective of American foreign policy prioritizes U.S. military power and rapport de force between militarized populations. Such a Manichean world view is once again highly profitable in the entertainment industry, and a good representation of today’s “neoliberal” zeitgeist is seen in remarkable success of the 2017 commercial film trilogy by Rian Johnson, one of which is, for example, “Star Wars : The Last of The Jedi – Final Episode”. (Please see: https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Star+Wars+%3a+The+Last+of+The+Jedi+-+Final+Episode&&view=detail&mid=C58D258BB3DBF1F3D4C8C58D258BB3DBF1F3D4C8&&FORM=VDRVRV.)

A post-modern neo-conservative perspective.
Entering the 21st Century we can see how these principles morphed into a new neo-conservative theory of permanent US military expansion.

According to the authors of “The New American Century,” The United States of America has emerged as the world’s only superpower: no other
nation possesses comparable military and economic power or has interests that bestride the globe. (This claim is clearly disputable today by emergence of China and Russia, not to mention other political alliances now challenging US domination in the world.) The critical question that has been asked by neo-conservative propagandists in the U.S. is :

“What should be America’s global strategy for maintaining its
exceptional position in the world?”
-cited in The Grand Chessboard (1997), by Zbigniew Brzezinsky.

Harvard University Professor Samuel Huntington, author of The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (1996), and Who Are We: The Challenges to America’s National Identity (2004), joins former US National Security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinsky, author of The Grand Chessboard (1997) to offer one answer to this strategic question.

“A world without U.S. primacy will be a world with more violence and disorder and less democracy and economic growth than a world where the United States continues to have more influence than any other country in shaping global affairs. The sustained international primacy of the United States is central to the welfare and security of Americans and to the future of freedom, democracy, open economies, and international order in the world.” [Samuel Huntington, cited by Brzezinsky in The Grand Chessboard, p.31]

The ultimate aim of our discussion on April 13 is to develop an answer to this important question, in the historic context of social movements and in light of recent events. “Belief systems” like “American exceptionalism” and the neo-conservative “consensus politics” out of Washington, D.C. are challenged by Dr. Michael Parenti in his 2007 talk at Antioch University in Seattle, Washington, “Lies, War, and Empire”. (Please see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rt_iAXYBUSk&feature=youtu.be.)