Harper on the Treaty of Westphalia

I have a problem with the liberal democracy/authoritarian divide. From the time of our founding as a Constitutional Republic, the United States maintained a special close relationship with Russia. And Russia was always authoritarian. Catherine the Great and even Peter the Great were described appropriately as “benevolent despots,” and throughout Russian history, democratic or even social democratic systems have been momentary aberations. But Catherine the Great organized the League of Armed Neutrality, without which the American Revolution might have failed. Alexander II Czar of Russia freed the serfs a year before Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and then he sent the Russian fleet to New York and San Francisco to prevent France and Britain from entering the war on the side of the Confederacy. Those kinds of relations continued well into the 20th century, including when Lenin’s New Economic Policy was modeled on River Rouge Plant, Muscle Shoals, and other US achievements that were replicated in Russia with American engineers, industrialists, etc. The Baldwin Locomotive Company of Philadelphia built all the locomotives for the Trans-Siberian Railroad. There are many similar examples. And they apply to China as well as Russia. Look at the history of American missionaries in China. And Nixon and Kissinger’s geopolitical play to bring China into the Western alliance system to further isolate the Soviets. I believe it played an underappreciated role in the end of the Cold War.

At no time was US-Russian cooperation predicated on Russia changing its form of authoritarian rule, whether Czarist or Bolshevik. 

John Quincy Adams, who was our first Ambassador to Russia, defined US foreign policy: We do not go abroad seeking dragons to slay. We lead by example, not by interventionism or hegemonism.

We do not go abroad seeking to force countries with different cultures, histories, customs, etc. to embrace our system–or else.

I believe we need to think outside the box of civilized versus barbarians, democrats versus authoritarians. We steadfastly oppose outside forces trying to change our system and way of life, and we do likewise. Do we have common interests that can be explored? Is there an international set of rules that we can all subscribe to? In the late 1990s it was fashionable to say we are in a post-Westphalian world, and that fever died down after some people thought through the implications. Obama tried to impose the doctrine of humanitarian interventionism. The trial of that view was Libya and look what a mess that created. Westphalia should not be abandoned, but revived under modern conditions, which means extending what was primarily a Western concept on a global scale with a broader input into how to recast a secure global environment.

Comment: Our Harper definitely adds a voice of reason to this debate. My only real disagreement has to do with the doctrine of humanitarian interventionism. It’s a doctrine that can be misused. It can also be poorly executed as in Libya, although I think our mistake there was leaving them alone too soon. An integral step in our UW doctrine is the demobilization phase. Neither we nor any other NATO state did a damned thing about demobilizing the various Libyan militias or integrating them into a new Libyan military.

One could say Viet Nam instituted a humanitarian intervention by invading Cambodia and deposing Pol Pot in 1979. I would. Someone should have conducted a humanitarian intervention in Rwanda to stop that genocide. We intervened in Iraq to stop ISIS at the behest of Baghdad. I’m glad we did that. We also intervened to stop ISIS wiping out the Rojava Kurds at Kobanî. I’m glad we stayed with them after that although our failure to prepare for a demobilization or integration into the SAA is another failure in my opinion. In short, I don’t see the doctrine of humanitarian interventionism as a failed doctrine. The alternative is a doctrine of isolationism and the devil take the hindmost.


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59 Responses to Harper on the Treaty of Westphalia

  1. Barbara Ann says:

    Qaddafi had to die because of his plans for a pan African gold-backed Dinar (threat to the Dollar) – and to avoid embarrassing the French.


    I am sad to say that this is the example that most of the world sees – R2P as a thinly veiled excuse for regime changing anyone who stands in the way of US hegemony. And there is a plan for Westphalia revived under modern conditions on a global scale:

    China and Russia have been firmly advocating a UN-centred system of international relations and an international order based on international law. We have been coordinating our positions within multilateral platforms such as the United Nations, APEC and the G20 to promote the emergence of a multipolar world and economic globalisation based on genuine multilateralism..

    ..Today’s world is still plagued by Cold War mentality. Aspirations to securing a unilateral hegemony, bloc-based confrontation and power politics pose a direct threat to peace and security for all countries around the world

    An extract from the China-Russia joint statement issued yesterday after Putin’s China visit. No prizes for guessing who is referred to as having aspirations of “securing a unilateral hegemony”.

    Humanitarian interventionism can work if it is done honestly and with moral consistency. The Neocon takeover 2 or 3 decades ago abandoned all pretense and both and the result has been the destruction of America’s reputation on the world stage – outside of allies/vassal states. Today the China-Russia alternative is an easy sell to the the rest and it doesn’t come with strings attached re the compulsory take up of rainbow values.

    • Fred says:

      Barbara Ann,

      I thought it was oil and gas pipelines to italy. Can’t let them have cheaper energy, like the Germans once had, otherwise they might tell Brussels where to go.

    • leith says:

      Barbara Ann –

      Sounds like the Kremlin’s ‘Russia-never-invaded-anyone’ defense. Gee whiz Batman, didn’t they only get to be the biggest country in the world by never practicing a policy of interventionism? Never establishing vassal states, with no strings attached? Never using regime change to get puppets elected? Tell that to the people of Eastern Europe, Finland, Georgia and the rest of the Caucasus, Central Asia, Siberia, China, Japan, the Tlingits & Aleuts, Iran, and Ukraine. Or as Darth Putin says: “by peacefully defending itself in other people’s countries.”

      Xi is making nice with Putin now for show. But the Chinese people have never forgotten that the real name of Vladivostok is Hǎishēnwǎi, or that Khabarovsk was founded by a Tang Dynasty emperor, and that the Amur River and all of Amur Oblast was once ruled by Manchu governors appointed by the Qing Dynasty.

      Xi, or one of his successors, will take their time to eventually get a pound or two of flesh from the Muscovites. It won’t be anytime soon. But it will happen.

      • Eric Newhill says:

        Russia is also ignoring Westphalian concepts in African as we speak.

        These convos always degrade into – or even start with – the bizzarro alternate universe perspective that only the US and Europe is colonial, empire and non-Westphalian. Everyone overlooks perpetual war in Asia, Africa, the MENA and among tribal people across the globe. Africans and some Muslims, when allowed the opportunity, still engage in slave trade for God’s sake. But that doesn’t fit the woke self-hate and romantic attraction to the exotic narrative.

        The west, being superior, simply did empire better that the others until we reached a state of being so spoiled by success that we became ashamed of our humanity.

        • leith says:

          Eric –

          You’re right. They’re currently in Sudan, the Central African Republic, Madagascar, Libya, Mozambique, Mali, Burkina Faso and Chad to exploit the natural resources there. Moscow gets a pass on it because most journalists are too dumb to understand that the Wagner mercs in Africa are de facto working for the GRU. Putin is a 21st century colonialist in Africa, whose atrocities there are worse than those committed in King Leopold’s privately owned Congo Free State. And the Kremlin is busy spreading agitprop throughout the rest of the continent.

      • Barbara Ann says:


        Like I said elsewhere, at least Russia is consistent in invading only neighboring countries. Eastern Europe was an empire thrust upon the SU by the antics of the Bohemian corporal. I’ve also said elsewhere that I’m skeptical that the Han will resist the temptation of empire if the opportunity presents itself. And what is it with the “biggest country in the world” thing – some sort of Freudian envy? Vast tracts of the RF are barely habitable and its population is less than half that of the US.

        What matters right now is that Blinken’s efforts to split Russia & China have failed miserably. China’s leadership know full well that they are up next after the Neocons’ Russia delenda est project (or perhaps instead, if Trump wins in November) so it’s the old adage; hang together or hang separately. Bhadrakumar, a guy who knows a thing or two about geopolitics, describes the talks in Beijing as of “epochal significance”. He, at least, thinks it’s a little more than show.

        • leith says:

          Barbara Ann –

          Are you saying it is OK to consistently invade your neighbors? But even if it were so, Georgia, Armenia, the Stans in Central Asia, Siberia, the Maritimes, Mongolia and Alaska were never neighbors of Muscovy.

          And Imperial Russia made colonies of Poland, Moldova, Romania and Finland long before Hitler was born.

          You’re right about Freudian envy; the Kremlin openly whines about not getting the respect it is due because they are the “biggest country in the world”.

          Bhadrakumar’s time as a low level diplomat in Moscow hardly makes him into “a guy who knows a thing or two about geopolitics”. And his Marxist slant and antagonism to the West is obvious in his writing. We probably deserve his rancor after what the Brits did in India. Is he still a card-carrying communist or did he burn it when the Grand Soviet Experiment collapsed?

          • Barbara Ann says:


            Sure, why not. If the ‘rules’ upon which the international order are based mean it’s OK to ignore the UN and invade a country 5,000 miles away to fight “Terror”, then invading a neighbor due to a threat to your national security is presumably no problem.

            This is the point. The US has simply lost the moral high ground – a tragedy of epic proportions. The “Rules-based international order” today is simply code for whatever is justified in the name of hegemony. When other countries play by their rules we cry foul. Irony impairment goes with exceptionalism it seems.

            Read that first sentence I quoted again. Russia and China are offering a return to an order based on international law, not one party’s ‘rules’. Whether or not you believe them is immaterial, as evidently very many countries do – witness the rapid expansion of the BRICS.

            Perhaps you consider America has a divine right to rule the world according to its unilateral ‘rules’. That’s a valid position of course, but a majority of the planet’s population seemingly do not share it. Perhaps they are all Marxists.

          • leith says:

            @Barbara Ann – “due to a threat to your national security”

            There lies the fly in the ointment. Imaginary threats are either a fictitious ploy or the stuff of paranoia.

            I certainly don’t believe MKB’s version. He is a known communist, who ran for election as an MP from Kerala not so long ago as a member of the CMP https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communist_Marxist_Party#/media/File:CMP-banner.svg And he has worked for the CMP for many years while posing as a journalist. He’s a friend to both Moscow and Beijing, neither of whom are known to respect international law. Putin and Xi are the big-boy version of Yahya Sinwar and Bibi Netanyahu.

            No, I don’t believe that America and the G7 have any divine rights. Neither do the Kremlin, China, and BRICS.

  2. VietnamVet says:

    The founding principle of the EU and the flailing Western hegemony is the free movement of capital, people, goods, and services; all to the benefit of the plutocratic Overlords. The basic failure of end-stage capitalism is that it ignores human cultures, society, the use of violence to gain resources, the concurrent exploitation of workers, and the resulting pollution. The updated Joker is nuclear weapons. The forever wars are funded to increase military/corporate profits. 95 billion dollars for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan was approved for this last month.

    Unless there are strong borders and international laws, the clashes of civilizations will inevitably get out of hand. Right now, there is the shooting proxy World War III in Ukraine and Gaza. NATO, Russia, and Israel are nuclear armed, but participants are acting like a global Armageddon is not likely. Not true. Every simulated war game with Russia ends with their use. Russia point-blank states that they will use nuclear weapons to defend ethnic Russian territory including Crimea. Israel’s Samson Option is the massive retaliation with nuclear weapons as a” last resort”.

    If human beings are going to survive on planet Earth, a new updated Westphalia to guide international relations is needed to govern human societies interactions to avoid the End of Days.

  3. scott s. says:

    The US did intervene in the Russian Civil War, though it isn’t clear to me what our motivation was. (As an aside, this is how Hawaii’s 27th Inf became known as “Wolfhounds”.) But, for the life of me I can’t see how pushing Russia towards China is of the slightest advantage to us. If I was playing Risk I would encourage Russia to look towards Port Arthur. Even more imaginative would be to have North Korea think about historical Goguryeo.

    • Mark Logan says:


      The fear of communism started well before the end of WW2. In the West Virginia coal wars the striking miners and other unions were labeled as Marxists, and indeed there was some communist/socialists in the US. There was serious concern in the industrialists of the US who they had a hell of a lot of suck in government and could get US troops deployed overseas when they set their minds to it pretty easily. We all know about Smedley Butler’s opinion of that state of affairs.

      We deployed troops to try to assist the White Russians but Russia is huge and far away, and everybody wanted the boys to come home after WW1.

  4. F&L says:

    Sorry to veer so far off topic but this struck me as weird and unexpected. What’s it all about?

    State Department issues alert for Americans traveling overseas.

    • TTG says:


      Looks like an increased ISIS threat.

      “Sources tell CBS News the warning is a result of recent intelligence, citing threats by ISIS against Pride events in parts of Europe.”

      • F&L says:

        With the incoming stories about the possible assassination of Iran’s President Raissi I now regard this State Department alert in the same light as the US warning a month before the Moscow Crocus City concert hall attack. We have almost simultaneously this Raissi incident, the attempt on PM Fico of Slovakia and a rumored attempt on Erdogan. This alert for LGBT people and related gatherings doesn’t pass the smell test. Not in this context. Too much foreknowledge is suspicious especially when the actions of the enemies of Iran (US & Israel) are well known.

    • Keith Harbaugh says:

      For some info, see


      “Due to the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations, or violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests,
      the Department of State advises U.S. citizens overseas to exercise increased caution.
      The Department of State is aware of the increased potential for foreign terrorist organization-inspired violence against LGBTQI+ persons and events and advises U.S. citizens overseas to exercise increased caution,”
      the alert read.

  5. walrus says:

    “Responsibility to protect” – Oh sure! Start with Gaza……..

    Who gets to decide who is to be protected from whom?

    • TTG says:


      I’m glad to see that floating pier going in. So far the only people taking pot shots at it are Hamas. We’ll see if Israel tries to find a way to limit aid coming over it. So far, no.

      • Eric Newhill says:

        Israel has delivered many tons of food and medical aid to Gaza on hundreds of trucks – and continues to do so. The idea that Israel is attempting to genocide the people of Gaza and would shoot up the pier as part of the plan is hyperbolic propaganda; hysteria. Hamas on the other hand, they love dead Gazans. No surprise they are taking pot shots and might do worse.

        • gordon reed says:

          why wouldn’t they shoot it up they’ve shot, bombed and and used drones and missiles to attack everything else in Gaza.

          • Eric Newhill says:

            Gordon Reed,

            The IDF has killed a lot of Hamas and other jihadists. Too bad the enemy makes a habit of hiding and fighting among “everything else in Gaza”; including women and children.

      • Yeah, Right says:

        According to news reports at the time that pier was Netanyahu’s idea.

        It relieved him from any responsibility for delivering aid through the border crossings, the very presence of that pier gave him an excuse for a permanent IDF presence cutting the Gaza Strip into two and, heck, if he plays his cards right he can use that pier to facilitate the expulsion of the Palestinians from the Gaza Strip.

        So I suspect you are correct: the IDF won’t take pot-shots at that pier. It is too useful for Netanyahu.

        “We’ll see if Israel tries to find a way to limit aid coming over it.”

        Naivety writ large. The IDF controls the offloading from the pier, so if they don’t want that aid delivered to those who need it then they’ll just pile the crates around the corner and out of site and Genocide Joe won’t raise a peep in protest.

      • elkern says:

        TTG –

        Sal Mercogliano describes the Gaza Pier project as a ridiculously inefficient way to deliver supplies:


        …but he [carefully?] sidesteps the fact that Israel controls all roads into Gaza and is [intentionally?] *not* allowing enough food an water in. IMO, the Pier is (1) an attempt by the Biden Admin to get around Israeli obstruction, and/or (2) an expensive PR project to at least make it look like we are trying.

    • mcohen says:

      Hi walrus

      “Responsibility to protect” in the case of Gaza lies with the leadership of the Gazan people.The Israelis are pursuing the leaders in Gaza and elsewhere with the aim of bringing them to justice for 7/10.
      Probably around the 23 May.The flower moon.

      • TTG says:


        The Israeli government is still the occupying power of Gaza. Hamas wrested control of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority, but the land is still Israel and the people of Gaza are Israel’s responsibility. Although Israel has every right to pursue Hamas and pursue them hard, they are still responsible for all Gaza. Netanyahu should have never supported Hamas over the years as a means to counter the Palestinian Authority and any effort to further the two state solution. He was so clever that he was really criminally stupid.

        • Yeah, Right says:

          TTG: …”but the land is still Israel”….

          No, it isn’t. An occupying power has “authority” over the territory that it occupies, it does not have “sovereignty” over that territory.

          TTG: …”and the people of Gaza are Israel’s responsibility”…

          That part is definitely true. An occupying power is the ultimate source of authority over the occupied territory.

          It matters not that the occupier props up a Quisling authority (the PA) or if it is contesting control on the ground with a resistance organization (Hamas).

          Makes no difference: authority resides with the occupying power, and with that authority comes a legal responsibility towards the “protected persons” who live in that occupied territory.

          The IDF (and they are the occupying power, not the Israeli government) is committing a grave violation of international humanitarian law when it doesn’t carry out those responsibilities.

          • elkern says:

            But Israel doesn’t recognize the authority of “International Law”, and nor do we (USA). That’s why we invented the “Rules Based Order”.

            (Which gets us back to the main point of the OP…)

          • Razor says:

            Yeah Right,

            Agree with all you say except when you say the IDF (IOF) is the occupying power, not the Govt. The armed forces are an arm or agency of the Govt, which has authority and responsibility for all acts of the armed forces. Am I missing something in what you are trying to say?

          • Yeah, Right says:

            Razor, this is the very definition of a belligerent occupation: “Territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army. The occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised.”

            Seems pretty clear-cut to me: the authority rests with the Army of Occupation, and is administered by that Army.

            This has practical as well as legal effect: for example, the “Civil Authority” by which the West Bank is administered is actually a branch of the IDF, and answers up the Israeli military chain of command.

            That administration is promulgated via Military Orders signed by the IDF commander in the West Bank.

            Israeli settlements in the West Bank? They gain their “legality” when they are signed off by that same IDF commander issuing a Military Order. And if he doesn’t authorize then via a Military Order then they are “illegal outposts”.

            I get what you are saying: the IDF commander is himself answerable to the Israeli government.


            But legally and practically (and the Israeli Supreme Court has reinforced this time and again) “Israeli law” doesn’t apply in the occupied territories. What applies there is “military law”, created by the issue of Military Orders signed by the most senior IDF commander in the West Bank.

        • mcohen says:


          According to the old testament Israelites could not occupy Gaza.Not sure about the exact details.Something to do with Samson’s haircut.
          An occupation will include military forces and Israel’s military left gaza under the sharon government.The military forces in gaza are hamas and a few other smaller militias
          Egypt has numerous tunnels running into Gaza yet no military forces so they are not occupiers either.
          Interestingly there was a railway line from rafah to the Suez canal


          • TTG says:


            Israel controls who and what goes into and out of Gaza. Israel also controls the airspace and coastline. Of course smuggling still occurs. And Israel directly and indirectly provided funding to Hamas. To be honest, I’m not sure what Israel wants for Gaza. Apparently, Benny Gantz doesn’t think his government knows what it wants, either.

          • Eric Newhill says:

            The story about Israel/Netanyahu providing support for Hamas might be apocryphal. Whatever the case, that was in the past. People and governments make mistakes that they may come to regret. However, the UN funds Hamas to this very day.

          • Yeah, Right says:

            “An occupation will include military forces and Israel’s military left gaza under the sharon government.”

            The question of a military occupation is a practical one. It requires no declaration, and does not cease merely because the occupier insists that it has ceased.

            As in: an occupation doesn’t end merely because the army of occupation refuses to carry out the responsibilities that come with its authority.

            Whether there is a belligerent occupation or not revolves around a single question: who has “authority” over that territory?

            There is no question that the IDF imposed a belligerent occupation on the Gaza Strip in June 1967.

            No question whatsoever.

            The only remaining question is whether or not that authority was relinquished when Sharon enacted his dinky “disengagement plan”.

            Well, no.

            The IDF continued to control all the border crossings. Continued to control the airspace. Continued to control the electromagnetic spectrum. Continued to control the civil register.

            And, crucially for this point, Sharon insisted that even after “disengagement” he reserved the right to send the IDF back in again at any time, and for any reason, and in any way that he saw fit.

            The definition of a belligerent occupation does not say that the army of occupation *is* exercising its authority, it says only that this authority “can be exercised”.

            It’s still a belligerent occupation.

    • Fred says:

      Should we ask if someone should have intervened in 1975 to help the Republic of Vietnam when they were invaded, again, by communists.

  6. English Outsider says:

    We may be going to end up as sort of Westphalians whether we like it or not.
    Inconvenient it may be but many in the other seven billion are now dubious about the West and are starting to tell us to go away.

  7. Mark Logan says:

    Thanks Harper, for articulating my own opinion so well.

    One quibble, it wasn’t Obama who started that doctrine it was Reagan and Bush after the fall of the USSR. In those heady days we imagined we could do anything. First experiment was Operation Restore Hope, and rumor has it there was a debate on whether Serbia should be done first. Reagan, all but certainly with Bush’s permission, articulated the worthiness of the doctrine just before we landed in Somalia.

    About 18minutes in he gets into Serbia and Somalia.

    We can not have a set policy in this IMO. We must take each situation case by case and ponder whether or not we can help or hurt, and I suspect we will find our wisdom humbled from time to time anyway. Yet the call will always be there as long as we stand for something beyond just ourselves…if we aspire to be such anyway.

    • English Outsider says:

      Trouble is, shouldering the White Man’s Burden seldom results in what it says on the tin.

  8. elkern says:

    John Quincy Adams is long dead.

    For pretty much all my life (1954-????), the USA has indeed been going “…abroad in search of monsters to destroy”. First it was Communists (Vietnam); more recently, it has mostly been Arabs (Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi, Bin Laden), with a side order of Balkan Slavs and a couple Latin American/Caribbeans for garnish. (And that’s just the hot wars; “our” CIA has meddled in too many countries to count.)

    A “Responsibility to Protect” others has long/always been a part of the justification of US military interventions. IMO, it’s baked into our cultural DNA, as a Democracy started by a bunch of fractious Protestants who came here to spread their various visions of how [other?] people should behave.

    The Spanish American War was mostly sold as revenge for the Maine, but Hearst & other proponents also played up a more compassionate side: liberating Cubans, Filipinos, etc, from Spanish colonial control (so we could do a better job of the White Man’s Burden thing). Bonus: Protestant missionaries got to save a bunch of souls from the Papists! A century before we offloaded the clean work from the CIA to NGOs, Protestant Missionaries were the main face of US Foreign Policy (in China, for example).

    And IMO, R2P *must be* an important factor in our Foreign Policy, especially when it turns military. I generally consider myself a Realist (that’s how I got *here*), but I don’t want us to get into wars without both a real National Security need *and* a real humanitarian need. But I’m not sure that has happened since Dec 8, 1941…

    The big problem with basing US Foreign Policy on R2P is that it is terribly vulnerable to manipulation. “Wag The Dog” is not fiction, it’s a Documentary…

    • TTG says:


      Long before all this R2P stuff, there was manifest destiny. That was the beginning of our empire.

  9. F&L says:

    Very informative thread on the re-creation of the Soviet military-industrial under Putin as essentially a series of turnkey projects mostly with Italian companies.

    “I have repeatedly pointed out that the modern Russian military industry has little continuity with the Soviet one. Destroyed in the 1990s, it was effectively created anew in the Putin’s era. Still, it may sound too abstract, so I will zoom in on one specific example:

  10. Fred says:

    So less than a decade after being crushed in the Crimean War the Czar sailed to the rescue of the North. Surprising how quickly the British started quaking in their topsiders.

    • leith says:

      It’s BS Fred as you know. The Tzar’s ships were hidingfrom the Royal Navy in American ports . i.e. They were rescued by Lincoln, not the other way around.

  11. None of what we do works in the long run. Much of it comes a cropper in the short.

    Better we just pursue our own Westphalianism on our own continent as a neutral country.

    Switzerland is the example.

    • Yeah, Right says:

      Well, to be honest the USA’s ” Westphalianism on our own continent” goes by the name of “the Monroe Doctrine”, which is a classic example of non- Westphalian-thinking.

    • Fred says:

      The Swiss chose sides in the Russian Ukrainian war. Hardly neutral.

  12. Eric Newhill says:

    Has the notion of sovereignty, commonly, but probably incorrectly, attributed to the Westphalian treaties ever been in practical effect – or is it just another ivory tower ideal? I see no evidence that any such thing has ever existed in the real world. Seems to me that, like the original treaties themselves, sovereignty is hailed with loud respect when nations are spent from fighting and/or maintaining empire – or when a nation wants to paint another as an evil aggressor. In other words, the concept has always been touted as central when convenient and dispensed with when inconvenient.

    Even if the concept were consistently taken seriously in actual practice by NATO countries, the rest of the world doesn’t care a bit about it; if they’ve even heard of it. If they have heard of it, many no doubt laugh at the naivete of such thinking. So then Westphalianism forces the moral dilemma of having to stand down and watch as tin horn dictator 1 has his people slaughter and enslave a million or more of tin horn dictator 2’s people.

    Perhaps worse, we’d have to stand down and watch as dictators build for a war against us and/or our NATO allies. We could only intervene after we were actually attacked, which is bad for several reasons; just one of which is that then we have to go to full on war and kill a lot of people, spend a lot of money and destroy a lot of stuff; not to mention violate a lot of Westphalianism.

    Fighting a war that we may have been able to prevent by influencing events in the would be enemy country (or countries) seems to me to be a greater evil than going in proactively and doing spooky things, even including an assassination here or there. Don’t like that? It’s been implemented badly in the past? Ok. How about if it was done judicially? That’s a fantasy given human nature? Maybe, but so is the entire Westphalian concept. How many times has full on war been prevented by successful covert ops? You wouldn’t know, would you? Might be more often than you think.

    Then there are blurred lines. At what point does establishing, operating and maintaining secure (emphasis on “secure”) large business concerns in other countries cross over into diminishing sovereignty? Seems particularly a possibility when conducting said business in the third world where the governments are less able to provide long term stability so critical interests (e.g. oil and other vital minerals) must be protected from the outside.

    Asking, “Wither the Wesphalian ideal?” is like asking about why some of the angels are missing from the head that proverbial pin.

    • TTG says:

      Eric Newhill,

      The system of Westphalian sovereignty puts the state above all else, above religion, above movements, above any business striving to be an international business and certainly above any financial institution beyond national banks. In short, it doesn’t really exist today and never will unless all states adopt a policy of sakoku. It means that if a PolPot wants to start a year zero in hibusiness s own country, he’s free to do so. If the Hutus want to kill all the Tutsis, that’s nobodies but their own. Makes for a pretty shitty world if you ask me, far shittier than the one we have now.

      • Eric Newhill says:

        I agree. It makes for a shittier world.

        My only gripe with US interventions is that we ignore some we shouldn’t and get involved with some we shouldn’t, that and/or the nature of our intervention is misguided.

        I have no problem with empire, administrated properly. I think the subjects of our empire can end up better off, as did the many of the subjects of British empire (e.g. India). Better to be subjects of a nation with enlightenment and Christian ideals than of tin horn dictators or primitive savages (e.g. Aztecs cutting the hearts out of neighbors captured in combat for slaves and mass sacrificial victims).

        “sakoku” – I learned a new word today. Thx. Yeah, that’s not going to happen. All it takes is one sufficiently powerful nation to break out of sakoku.

      • We have a history of periodically fixing Haiti. How has that worked out.?

        Maybe we should have fixed Cambodia, but we were done after bugging out from our SE Asian field exercise.

  13. TonyL says:

    Al Jazeera:
    Iran helicopter crash live news: President Raisi, FM Amirabdollahian die.


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