Nation-state versus collective security arrangements

Dialogue with the Alter Ego on a conservative view of the international community

Question by Alter Ego of Noah denkt™ (AE): Just for intellectual purposes, let’s talk about something that isn’t really on the front-burner these days?

Answer by Noah denkt™ (Nd): Sure. Fire away!

AE: Is Noah denkt™ aware of a British academic and journalist by the name of John Laughland?

Nd: Somewhat. He apparently is the Director of Studies at a Paris-based think-tank called the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation which is being funded by Russian contributions. He occasionally appears on France24’s “Debate” program. And his core argument is that all this talk about the supranational reality of a so-called “international community” which  administers and exercises an unbiased global rule of law is bogus since in the end it is the nation-state and the nation-state only that defines the ultimate point of reference for personal security, social cohesion and political allegiance. In other words, it is his view that all matters of international relations are ultimately dictated by individual and national power interests and that there isn’t such a thing as a morally neutral and supreme will of the international community, since the latter tends to be manipulated by the most powerful entity in that community.

AE: In deed, it is a very Hobbesian position that he defends. And what does Noah denkt™ make of this reasoning?

Nd: It strikes us as being overly British.

AE: Why do you say that?
Nd: Because not all countries could stand to benefit as much from a return to the old 19th century power jockeying as Great Britain would. Germany, for instance, would soon find itself reduced to having to live with the fact again that most of its neighbors rapidly gang up against it for being an unwelcome bully in the center of the continent. Or take Belgium as a less conspicuous witness in this. Belgium would obviously fall back into a frightening scenario where its most powerful neighbors are constantly competing to challenge the neutrality of the small, in-between Belgian state. It, hence, doesn’t seem a viable alternative for quite a few countries to give up the United Nations based idea of collective security or the Pax Americana as Mr.Laughland would probably call it.

AE: So, what you are saying is that it is in the interest of certain nation-states to forego some of its independence by submitting itself to a collective security arrangement. But doesn’t that validate Mr. Laughland’s theory according to which it is ultimately the nation-state itself that takes these decisions on the basis of its own individual interest.

Nd: Sure. But does that mean that nations cannot reach just and balanced judgments when participating in collective security arrangements?

AE: Well, it certainly means that they accept to dilute their primary necessities. Just look at the erosion of family structures that these liberal and open societies suffer from when submitting themselves to a standardized Western, capitalistic yardstick.

Nd: And yet, these countries have managed to raise their life expectancy rate, their respect for minorities, for women, for animal rights, and last but not least they have managed to maintain peace in Europe for a very long time. It is not such a bad bargain which these countries have achieved by accepting a common yardstick, is it?

AE: Mr. Laughland would probably argue that the final vote on all this is still out!

Nd: Obviously, you can always argue that. And in the mean time, life passing you by while you keep waiting for something to happen in an undecided future.

AE: But this project itself continues to wait for something to happen that hasn’t materialized as expected. And while success and recognition for us are still very much wanting, life is passing us by too. In other words, why criticize a principled stand when you yourself have chosen to be equally principled in your own approach.

Nd:  Because it seems reasonable to us to defend the relative autonomy and calm in which we continue to operate our long-shot project. Traditional nation-states would probably not have granted us this tolerance and leeway.

AE: How so?

Nd: Well, if history is an adeqaute judge here they would probably have exercised a closer control over our choies by means of invoking traditional family and religious values.


AE: This is an exaggeration and unnecessary scaremongering.

Nd. We don’t think so.

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