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Have we entered a definitive phase in International Relations which can be called "Post Peace of Westphalia"?

  For those who are not familiar with the system of International Relations let me briefly explain what the Westphalia System is.  International Relations, as is contained within that phrase are relations among Nation-States.  The origin of the Nation-System can be traced back to Europe in the Modern period of European history and to the advent of capitalism (the great scholar Eric Hobsbawm will agree with this).  Nation States were created due to the necessities of capitalism which worked on the principle of expand markets but also at the same time restrict competition.  This system is still in vogue and the number of Nation-States increased exponentially in the twentieth century with many countries throwing off the yoke of colonialism and becoming independent.  When they became independent the Nation-State was the default model.


A good understanding of the Nation-System will also need the understanding of the "Peace of Westphalia" that inaugurated the phase of Sovereignty among Nation-States.  It is not my intention to make this an exercise in pedagogy and therefore I will not go into the various meanings of sovereignty and the debates around it.  What will suffice for our present purposes here is that in Europe before the birth of the concept of sovereignty, there was a tendency on the part of one State to get involved in the affairs of another State, even if there was no reason to do so.  This mutual interference made peace, tranquility and more importantly for capitalism stability, very difficult to achieve.  The realization that this was to the detriment of all was what culminated in the Peace of Westphalia.  All European States signed this Peace by which every State recognized the internal sovereignty of not just itself but also of the other as well.This means that sovereignty gave States the power to resolve issues that concerned their internal matters.  So sovereignty became that supreme power that independence and freedom, characteristics of democracy and self rule.  


This is the system that we have today, or do we?  Ever since there has been an increase in post colonial Nation-States, there has also been increase in the interference of the affairs of the newly independent States.  The end of the Second World War saw the United States of America and Western Europe raise the bogey of communism while the erstwhile Soviet Union and Eastern Europe raised the bogey of capitalist expansion and this led to the formation of blocks.  But that is not all.  Both blocks, one to spread communism and the other to save the world from communism, entered into the affairs of the newly independent States by trying to lure them on to their side.  The USA and the USSR competed with each other to convince the new States about the evilness of the other's intent.  It also is the phase where power in International Relations came to the fore demonstrating that while all Nation-States were sovereign  they were all not equal.  To borrow a phrase from George Orwell "some were more equal than the others".


However, all this was done while furthering a pretense that there was recognition of the lesser Nation-State's internal sovereignty. Most Nation-States in Africa were actually formed by the bigger powers and handed over to puppet regimes.  The African people who were still in the state of tribalism and did not understand the politics of the Europeans found themselves gifted with an institution whose functioning they simply did not understand.  Their lives were either based in tribal cosmologies or in religious systems that were taken to them by Arab Islamists (to coin a phrase) or the Christian missionaries.  The puppet regimes did not have any kind of support from within and survived only because of the support of the erstwhile colonizers.  Though colonialism was gone nothing changed in the lives of the people.  This is also the case of countries in the South American continent (at least here nations were formed on the basis of football) and in the West Asian or the Middle Eastern Gulf which is where most of the world's oil reserves are.


Since oil is such a key to development of the industrial/technological variety, it was but natural that countries such as the USA tried to establish full control over the region.  This they did by installing regimes in the countries of the Gulf and these regimes sought to legitimate themselves by invoking religious sentiments as well as the Divine principle (the right bit has been deliberately omitted since most of the rulers claim that they are only perpetuating the rule of God).  This process has yielded the desired results but it was in the nineties that certain rulers like Saddam Hussain decided to do to small West Asian States what the USA was doing.  So Saddam goes to Kuwait and occupies it.  America realizing his intentions go to war and drive him out of there. However, the Americans are not quite satisfied with the extent to which they thwarted Saddam Hussain.  They wanted the full Monty, that is eliminate Saddam since he is potential threat.  In September of 2011 al-Qaeda gave Americans what they wanted, an opportunity to intervene in the region.  I do not have to tell the now famous 9/11 story.


The Americans were "righteously" indignant that someone decided to interfere in their internal affairs and promptly waged a "War on Terror" and the then President George Bush constructed an "Axis of Evil" that went all the way from Iraq to North Korea.  Even God was not spared in this war.  The Bushes Sr. and Jr. said that God was on their side as did the Taliban and the al-Qaeda.  This became a re-enactment of the Crusades vs Jihad while undermining the whole notion of sovereignty.  George Bush Jr. wanted to finish what his father started and went into not just Afghanistan but also into Iraq to finish what his father started.  He succeeded in ousting Saddam Hussain,capturing him and also getting him hanged to death because of the atrocities he committed on his own people.  The Americans were liberators both in Iraq and Afghanistan. Afghanistan was liberated from the Taliban, a creation of the Americans when they were trying to get rid of the Soviets from Afghanistan. Most recently the Americans entered Pakistan "without the knowledge" of the Pakistani authorities and carried an operation which led to the killing of America's enemy number one, Osama Bin Laden.


At the same time America has also started bombing Libya to liberate the country from its oppressive dictator Col. Muammar Qaddhafi.  However America has supported the Bahrain Emir family in quelling a popular uprising for democracy.  What is significant in all these instances is the fact that America supported mainly by the UK and to a certain extent France, interferes in matters that are actually internal to the countries where it has been intervening in the name of protection of the people and liberating them.  This is a violation of the principle of internal sovereignty that is based in the Peace of Westphalia.  From this it is clear that in the aftermath of the third wave of globalization that started with the collapse of the Eastern Block and in the context of the emergence of Geo-economics in the place of Geo-politics, direct interventions from bigger powers have become inevitable.  In the era of Geo-politics which existed till the fall of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, ideology served as a veneer and made interventions look less stark than they actually were. With the world becoming unipolar and the USA assuming the role of the global policeman that veneer is gone and only the starkness of things is evident.  So have we entered a new post Westphalia phase?  The answer to that cannot be straight forward.  It maybe a yes, the indefiniteness being due to the fact that there are many countries still that have retained their internal sovereignty on the face of it.  But even that could be under threat from things such as global commons.  That is the subject of the next post, which I hope to make soon, very soon.

P.S:  Have not proof read this piece due to paucity of time. Please excuse all errors.  Thank you.