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A return to 1815 is the way forward for Europe

A return to 1815 is the way forward for Europe
January 23, 2009, 01:16:25 PM
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article4656255.ece

"You can have all the rules you like to discipline international behaviour; but they are not worth the paper they are written on if they run against fierce nationalisms and ethnic passion.

Ethnic and nationalist rivalry is as old as sin, and as inextinguishable.

"Most important of all, Russia and the West need to draw up rules of the road for the 21st century. Mr Miliband and others have condemned the notion of returning to the geopolitics of the Congress of Vienna which, in 1815 after the Napoleonic Wars, divided Europe into spheres of influence between empires and nations. They perhaps forget that what was agreed at Vienna held at bay for almost a century a general European war.

This may sound shocking and anachronistic to the modern sensibility. But, there is no other way to remove the scope for miscalculation, the mother of far too many wars.

Sir Christopher Meyer was Ambassador to Washington, 1997-2003"



[The time is perhaps the most reputable newspaper in the UK, I wouldn't say it had a neutral point of view in general but this article ought to be of interest to everyone here.]

Mr Miliband and others have condemned the notion of returning to the geopolitics of the Congress of Vienna which, in 1815 after the Napoleonic Wars, divided Europe into spheres of influence between empires and nations. They perhaps forget that what was agreed at Vienna held at bay for almost a century a general European war.

Politicians are great at imposing reality, or making demands and then enforcing them with force. The viewpoint above suggests we simply adapt to reality instead. It's an intelligent general outlook.

I think people are either misreading the article or reading too much into it, the way I read it I got the feeling that it's against nationalism rather than for it, implying we should just set aside our cultural differences and somehow get along through strong political pressure. It acknowledges that ethnic turbulence is a fact of life, ok, but how is "the way forward" going back to the multi-national empires of 1815, like the of the Hapsburgs which put Austrians, Croats, Czechs, Slovaks, Bosnians, Hungarians, Romanians and others under one flag (or yoke)? Isn't this what started WWI in the first place?

I think people are either misreading the article or reading too much into it, the way I read it I got the feeling that it's against nationalism rather than for it, implying we should just set aside our cultural differences and somehow get along through strong political pressure. It acknowledges that ethnic turbulence is a fact of life, ok, but how is "the way forward" going back to the multi-national empires of 1815, like the of the Hapsburgs which put Austrians, Croats, Czechs, Slovaks, Bosnians, Hungarians, Romanians and others under one flag (or yoke)? Isn't this what started WWI in the first place?

The nationalism part was to grab your attention and provide a point of contention from the outset. He raises the issue but doesn't develop it much further. Now that the author has your attention he wants to point out something more important; at the simplest level of this article he presents the following dichotomy: Do we maintain Western ideals in their current form, which will ultimately lead to annihilation, or do we modify our ideals in order to stay alive and remain powerful/influential?

He might not like/agree with/support nationalism but he realises that countries that are nationalistic simply won't conform to the rules of Western society. Non-conforming nationalistic countries are not a problem for the modern west if said countries are weak in comparison. In a world where power is moving from west to east, the author is saying that we (the Western world) will no longer be able to write the global rulebook. And further suggests that we have deluded ourself for too long, hence he is suggesting something it is more realistic: let's divide the map into areas of influence and power (this is not a simple overnight task). In order to do that the West has to realise that it cannot spread its ideals to wherever it likes and to make matters worse he suggests that our ideals (not just our method of implementation) are not realistic for the current situation. Perhaps he would prefer a non-pacificistic form of democracy? Hard to tell exactly.


edit:
"let's divide the map into areas of influence and power"  - I don't mean literally but rather that one side doesn't overstep its boundaries of control.

I don't agree -- he's restating Huntington's thesis: organic civilizations are destined to rule because they have inherent coherency.

Let's be realistic. Once major "progress" is made in society, particularly in terms of technology, it's next to impossible to go back. When agriculture came and spread around the Middle East and Europe originally, NO ONE ever went back to hunting and gathering. A "return" to 1815 is absurd in every sense.

Let's be realistic. Once major "progress" is made in society, particularly in terms of technology, it's next to impossible to go back. When agriculture came and spread around the Middle East and Europe originally, NO ONE ever went back to hunting and gathering. A "return" to 1815 is absurd in every sense.

And so by the same reasoning a return to a form of economy that isn't based upon excessive credit must also be absurd in every sense. How about no?

Dividing up Europe into spheres of influence is a terrible idea, unless those spheres are actually relevant to the grassroots. The EU is doing a great job of advertising its pointlessness, centralisation and repression as benevolence, which is the main tactic of any arbitrary, superfluous leadership.

Let's be realistic. Once major "progress" is made in society, particularly in terms of technology, it's next to impossible to go back. When agriculture came and spread around the Middle East and Europe originally, NO ONE ever went back to hunting and gathering. A "return" to 1815 is absurd in every sense.

Ancient Greece went through a period of literacy, became illiterate during its dark age then again returned to literacy and high culture. Food production isn't really very analagous to a social-political restructuring. Likewise, I wouldn't state that the proliferation of automobiles means bicycling or walking could never become more common than driving cars in man's future.

Let's be realistic. Once major "progress" is made in society, particularly in terms of technology, it's next to impossible to go back. When agriculture came and spread around the Middle East and Europe originally, NO ONE ever went back to hunting and gathering. A "return" to 1815 is absurd in every sense.

He means politically. (Liberals confuse technology with politics and call it "progress"; you want to avoid that, probably.)

The question isn't how we return to the past or not return to the past, it's how we govern ourselves sensibly.

Some methods from the past will remain, just like any really good answer to a question is timeless, or any truly great art is.

Jay

Greetings,

"Globalisation and interdependence were supposed to have swept aside these ancient feuds and rivalries. Theories of the postmodern state now abound. Tony Blair preached how national interest would be trumped by the spread of “global values”. This is self-evident rubbish."

I totally agree. It seems he is disillusioned with the liberal, global attitude, hailing back to power politics/realist principles. But, is a revival of those past European values possible?

Let's be realistic. Once major "progress" is made in society, particularly in terms of technology, it's next to impossible to go back. When agriculture came and spread around the Middle East and Europe originally, NO ONE ever went back to hunting and gathering. A "return" to 1815 is absurd in every sense.

The myth of progress... at least you did call it technology.

I think our vision of the past is flawed.

No one wants to go back to pre-agricultural society, but we might want to reverse the effects of agriculture on, say, politics; those are unnecessary at this point, since we can recognize them and fix them.

Wanting to reverse our path of evolution toward civilization is like anarchy: throwing out the baby with the bathwater. "The authority we have now is incompetent? Get rid of all authority, and then I'll laugh from my basement as you all get anally raped by anarchic criminals."