December 12 – International Day of Neutrality, celebrated both in Turkmenistan and as a national holiday, this year is celebrated under the motto declared by the UN for 2023 as “International Year of Dialogue as a Guarantee of Peace.” The corresponding resolution 77/32 of the United Nations General Assembly, adopted on December 6, 2022, at the initiative of Turkmenistan, is also directly related to the “New Agenda for Peace” of the UN Secretary-General. In turn, the global initiative “Dialogue is a Guarantee of Peace” was put forward in December 2021 during the International Conference “The Policy of Peace and Trust – the Basis of International Security, Stability and Development”, which took place in Ashgabat.
The chain of events outlined above reflects the stages of progress towards the adoption of a UN document of a fundamentally new level, taking into account the emerging conditions in world politics and international relations at the current – perhaps one of the most critical moments in modern history. In this regard, it is appropriate to recall the wise conclusions of the outstanding diplomat, scientist and statesman Henry Kissinger: “History ultimately applauds not the conflicts of societies, but their reconciliation.” This was the final phrase of Henry Kissinger from his book “On China,” published in 2011.
Unfortunately, on November 29, 2023, the Kissinger Associates organization announced the death of former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. The report states that he died at the age of 100 at his home in Connecticut. Being one of the most prominent political figures of our time, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Henry Kissinger personified an entire era, devoting half of his century-long life to serving his state and people. Remaining an unrivaled diplomat and realist politician, he never ruled out the possibility of wars and conflicts. He considered both world politics and the system of international relations in their integrity, recognizing the presence of conflicting structures in them and from time to time teetering on the brink of collapse.
In this regard, he was most concerned about issues of international peace, security and peaceful existence rather than a global military conflict. Therefore, the idea of order aimed at ensuring a balance of power and geopolitical balance runs through his works. “Order is always a delicate and fragile balance of restraint, power and legitimacy,” Kissinger wrote in his 2014 book World Order. When thinking about the main means of ensuring such balance, Kissinger always considered diplomacy, characterizing it as “the art of harnessing power.”
It is no coincidence that when they mention the famous phrase of the first Chancellor of the German Empire, Otto von Bismarck: “Politics is the art of the possible,” sometimes they add an equally aphoristic quote from Henry Kissinger: “Diplomacy is the art of the impossible.”
By the way, the words of the no less famous American politician and strategist Zbigniew Brzezinski (1928-2017), who published the book “Strategic View” in the same 2011 as the above-mentioned work “On China,” are also consonant with Kissinger’s ideas. In particular, in the introduction, Z. Brzezinski emphasizes that “… for the first time in history, the usual international conflicts faded in front of the common problem of the survival of humanity as a whole. Unfortunately, the leading powers have yet to develop joint ways to address the new growing threats to human well-being – environmental, climate, socio-economic, food and demographic. However, without relying on geopolitical stability, any attempts to achieve the necessary international cooperation are doomed to fail.”
The topic of world order, its history and prospects is central to the research of the American diplomat and scientist Henry Kissinger. It would be quite logical to designate the direction of a scientist’s intellectual search as a study of the history of international relations and forecasting their future.
Unlike Brzezinski the strategist, Kissinger the diplomat always believed that world order and the peaceful coexistence of civilizations are possible only if there is a balance of power, and not the hegemony of one or several countries. In his opinion, in order for any system of international relations to work, it must have two keys: firstly, complete balance, which will make the very attempt to break this system a difficult and expensive pleasure, and secondly, the system must be legitimate in the eyes of its founders
Any theoretical concepts become interesting in their practical presentation or in the applied disclosure of their content. For a diplomat, the theory needs to be “linked to the locality” and here many questions arise about their applicability to certain conditions, circumstances and even situations. One of the fundamental problems is associated with the modern evolution of the system of international relations, when they talk about the shift of its Eurocentric axis towards Asia.
Traditionally, this is also interpreted as relations between the West and the East. Is there a problem of choice for humanity between these two poles? Is there a similar dilemma for world politics or not, and where will the main axis of global development evolve?
The above reflections and questions are to a certain extent a unique result of relaxed and meaningful conversations over a cup of aromatic coffee or tea with the famous Turkmen diplomat, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Turkmenistan Sapar Komekovich Berdyniyazov, who devoted more than half a century of his career to the East, being in the diplomatic field in the countries of South Asia and the Middle East. Carrying out the most difficult assignments and important tasks of his homeland, Sapar Berdyniyazov saw with his own eyes all the vicissitudes of the turbulent political life in the host countries. He was not just a witness, but also a directly involved participant in events that determined turning points in the history of a number of countries and peoples of this always-seething, vast region of the vast Asian continent. He has something to say about the degree of applicability of Western theories regarding Eastern society.
Having spent several decades in the region of the Indian subcontinent, Sapar Komekovich is convinced that the still prevailing Eurocentric view of the existing world order is one of the significant factors hindering the emergence of a new vision of the currently emerging global balance of forces. The problem, most likely, is that during the historical eras of the Great Discoveries, Enlightenment and Renaissance, when the foundation of modern Europe was created, the learned men of the West still failed to fully comprehend the essence of the East.
Kipling’s famous “equation”, known to international relations specialists, is most likely the result of despair or powerlessness in finding the key to a synergistic synthesis of East and West, rather than a reflection of a fatalistic truth.
If we trace the geopolitical strategy of the West since the founding of the English East India Company on December 31, 1600, it is entrenched in the roots of the transatlantic vision of the world order and still seems to many to be unshakable. Let us recall the maxim of the famous Enlightenment philosopher Charles Louis de Montesquieu (1689-1755), the author of the book “On the Spirit of Laws.” In particular, speaking about the differences between peoples living in different climatic latitudes, Montesquieu wrote: “In an excessively hot climate, the body is completely deprived of strength. Then the relaxation of the body spreads to the soul: such a person is indifferent to everything, not curious, incapable of any noble feat, any manifestation of generosity, all his inclinations acquire a passive character, laziness becomes happiness, they prefer to endure punishments than to force themselves to the activity of the spirit, and slavery seems easier than the efforts of the mind necessary to govern oneself.”
As Sapar Berdyniyazov notes, on the contrary, the external relaxation of the inhabitants of South Asia in no way reflects the full depth and coloring of the spiritual impulse of the Eastern person. In particular, it was the teachings of the great Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) about the philosophy of non-violence that served as the foundation for a broad movement of civil disobedience (satyagraha), which in turn led to the victory of independence and the restoration of independent statehood in India.
The courage of the glorious ancestors of Pakistan and its people was bordered by the tenderness of the oriental soul, which contains both boundless patience and lightning-fast ardor of character.
Muhammad Bairam Khan (1497-1561), being a major military leader, chief minister and regent of the young Mughal emperor Akbar, is known for his immortal poetic works. The following lines are written by Bairam Khan, dedicated to his wife, Princess Salima Sultan Begum, granddaughter of Emperor Babur:
I only call you dear – believe it or not.
You incinerated my heart – believe it or not.
I can confess to you: even if I want,
There is no power to forget you – believe it or not…
I only see you alone, if you are among my friends,
Everything else disgusted me – believe it or not.
The founding father of modern Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah (1876-1948), the greatest philosopher of the East, defended the right to statehood of his people in fierce political battles, where the edge of the mind is revealed much more often than the glimpse of a blade. The spiritual father of Pakistan, Allama Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938), in his poems and literary works, praised the unity of noble dreams and perseverance in achieving them.
The immortal lines of Magtymguly Fragi in his poem “Arshy-Aglaya” are dedicated to the founder of Afghanistan, Ahmad Shah Durrani (1722-1772):
Oh Ahmed Shah! Let your glory spread across the earth,
And your name will reach the heavenly throne,
He who comes is your servant, he who does not appear is your prey,
Climb the steps of greatness step by step.
Magtymguly Fragi witnessed the successive political upheavals of the 18th century in the region of what is now Greater Central Asia, when a radical change of regime took place in Persia and the foundations of independent statehood in Afghanistan were laid.
If we follow in the context of the concept of another Nobel laureate Ilya Prigogine, order in the Western understanding is chaos for the East, and vice versa – the nature of the East is chaos before the eyes of Europeans. Or, if we expand this idea, then the current political entropy of the Eurocentric world order, including the process of a kind of chaos in Asia, simultaneously contributes to the formation of structures balancing on the seemingly shaky soil of the current system of international relations.
It is no coincidence that Kissinger’s genius was focused on a deep analysis of Asian geopolitics. “Building a balance of power in Asia looks like a more difficult task for a scientist. Asia is a part of the world with enormous resources and the largest population in the world,” he wrote. Henry Kissinger’s exact diagnosis was that building balance in this region differs significantly from similar work in the West. Catastrophic world wars and the insufficient potential of individual European countries in the face of global danger have led to the fact that a balance of power such as the “Concert of Europe” has lost its meaning in Europe. However, the vision of the East from the West still remains captive of traditional Eurocentrism, and even such figures as G. Kissinger, Z. Brzezhinski and others are unable to change this. In particular, Kissinger saw the key to balance not in the equality of the East and The West, but in the dominance of the latter. In particular, he wrote: “European countries no longer consider each other a potential source of security and are ready to act as a united front with the United States. Unlike Europe, Asian countries have different concepts of geopolitical threats, and the concept itself for them differs significantly from the European one. Some of them are afraid of China, some of them are afraid of Russia, and India and Pakistan are afraid of each other. Moreover, due to the enormous human potential, the roles of countries in this region are constantly changing. Thus, building potential alliances in Asia is challenging, and the security system here differs significantly from that in Europe.” Summarizing the above, Henry Kissinger wrote: “The US presence in this region is mandatory.”
Moreover, the president of the Washington Richard Nixon Center, Dimitri Simes, back in 2004, in his article entitled “America’s Imperial Dilemma,” argued that “America’s transformation into a modern empire can no longer be stopped. And this fact confronts the American administration with problems that it is not yet ready to solve.” It’s time to think about how realistic D. Simes’s ideas look today that the United States, as if reluctantly and against the will of fate, is rising to the top of the geopolitical Olympus of the new century. For as he wrote: “Any discussion of Washington foreign policy that pursues realistic goals must begin with the recognition of the fact that, regardless of the views and preferences of Americans, the vast majority of the world community sees America as a nascent empire. Based on this, some states provide support to the United States. They view the United States as a respectable liberal empire capable of protecting them from the claims of local adventurist regimes.” According to Simes, it is not without foundation that “the United States does not crave world domination, but seeks to use its influence for good purposes. The political culture and even the system of institutions of this country prevent it from effectively fulfilling the imperial role… the emergence of most empires occurred spontaneously, and not in accordance with some master plan. Often their development seemed to obey the laws of physics: a successful move creates a quantity of motion, which is then maintained by inertia. As the empire moves forward, new opportunities open up and tasks arise that significantly expand the original range of its interests.”
The famous Thucydides, the author of the geopolitical law on the security dilemma, better known as the “Thucydides trap,” reasoned approximately in this vein 25 centuries ago. Justifying the formation of Athena as an imperial state, Thucydides wrote: “We did not acquire this power by force… The further strengthening of our power was determined by the circumstances themselves. At first it was fear of the Persians and considerations of our own safety, then considerations of our own honor followed and, finally, benefit.”
How conflict-free will the above-mentioned emerging and self-expanding new Western-style empire be, which also aspires to become a kind of regulatory force for Asia, that is, the East? In practical terms, in order to eliminate conflicts and wars, diplomacy comes to the fore here as the main instrument of dialogue between world powers, if you like, between civilizations.
To be continued . . .
Dr. Begench Karaev deals with the problems of philosophy of law and politics. He is the author of a number of textbooks and monographs, including “Political analysis and strategic planning”, “Political analysis: problems of theory and methodology: (Experience in the study of modern Central Asian society)” and “Traditional and modern in the political life of Central Asian society (experience of political analysis)”. /// nCa, 7 Dec 2023