The future of our time: Rewriting ‘Westphalianism’

Interesting times: the new definition.

Past master. (Image via Outside the Beltway)
Past master. (Image via Outside the Beltway)

Reading Henry Kissinger’s typically well-considered and intelligent article for the Wall Street Journal this weekend (“A Path out of the Middle East Collapse”), I had a growing sense that it isn’t so much a prescription for the future as a description of the past.

The sense began with the first paragraph, in which Kissinger defines the scope of what’s collapsing, and dates it only to 1973, when the U.S. moved to stabilize the Middle East during the Yom Kippur War.

But far more than recent U.S. policy on the Middle East is collapsing today.  What we’re seeing is more like the collapse of “Rome” itself:  the organization of Western power as a Europe-centric territorial phenomenon, setting unbreachable boundaries north, south, and west of a restless and perennially “unorganizable” Middle East.

Last year, we might have said that it was “Sykes-Picot” that was collapsing: a popular shorthand reference to the European colonial disposition of Middle Eastern boundaries at the end of World War I.  But that was last year.  Now it’s 2015, and with the utter paralysis of Western nations in the face of massive and unforeseen, unarmed migration, it’s clear that Roman Europe itself is no longer a meaningful reality.

Consider:  the Roman Empire in its heyday would not have tolerated this migration.  Neither would the Europe of muscular Christendom, or the Europe of trading monarchies, of the Westphalian nation-state era, of the “concert of Europe” era, or of the Cold War.  As long as Europe had a civilizational idea of defending and preserving itself, the legacy of Rome was alive.  Altered, perhaps, with the passage of time and the emergence of new ideas, but still kicking.

Today, the legacy of Rome looks to be an empty shell.  There is territory left, of course – but there is no idea.  In fact, the West has spent much of the last 50 years apologizing for ever having had its signature idea, and vowing to no longer have it.

Without that idea, the West has no motive to organize itself against destruction, either internal or from an external source.

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5 thoughts on “The future of our time: Rewriting ‘Westphalianism’”

  1. Transcend Westphalia, and concentrate on the inevitable next step. Think Vienna, as in Congress of. That’s what the ‘broader’ West, including Russia, needs. To get to that, first, know thine enemy, Islam. Politically fragment Anatolia, destroy the Wahhabi cleric, House of Saud, alliance for the spread of lunatic Sunni Islam. and THEN deal with the Persians/Shia loons using whichever method you prefer. My preference, is forcing them to battle a stubborn rearguard, decisively defeating them at sea, and then, sending an ambitious young warrior over to steamroll them all the way to the Indus 🙂

    As you and some of your LU commentators mention. We NEED the East Europeans for their willingness to put up a Western philosophical/spiritual defense. Odd as it may seem to some, Russia is also East European AND part of the solution. Who would have thought that the heirs of Stalin would have come to be seen as one of the pillars of Western civilization?. Anything is possible in a vacuum it seems. As I’ve said on previous occasions. Give Russia an equal seat at the table now, before she eventually ends up owning the whole (European) restaurant. We aren’t going to save the West without them, any longer.

    The head of the snake is in Arabia, not Persia. A good primer on Wahhabism and the Sauds by Alistair Crooke for the uninitiated readership — not for the blog’s owner and author of course.

    1. PS

      on a lighter note
      As per an ‘idea’ for the Western nation-states. Look not to the offspring Rome and empire, but the womb — the squabbling (but brilliant) city-states of Greece 🙂

      Great post btw. Lot’s to mull over on this one.

  2. Actually, jgets, your Vienna focus isn’t transcending Westphalia, it’s ignoring the real problem, which is that there is no space left within which to maintain a distance from the territory of Islam.

    “Vienna with Russia” is an idea for an older time, when space made a lot of things either convenient or simply possible. The space is gone. The head to head confrontation with Islamism is inevitable — and it’s here.

    Russia? Russia is easy. We can figure out how to live and work with Russia. Doing that doesn’t require redefining our tool-set. (It does require having at least 4 years out of 20 when our Western leadership isn’t manned by idiots.)

    Westphalian-ing with Islam does require redefining the tool-set. It will have a whole new name and description by the time we get there,

    Believe me, I did think about Greece. The post was already long, and another two paragraphs explaining how the Greek heritage funneled into the great river of Western civilization would have taken things too far afield.

    Besides, “Rome” subsumes in the reference the key refinement the squabbling city-states needed to be hardened against marauders from the East (and South). I.e., armed — and philosophical, political — unification. 🙂

    1. Had one loose end I wanted to tie up here.

      We might, just slightly maybe, be able to do some kind of Westphaliazing with a ‘Persia’, But, definitely not, with an Iran 🙂

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