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Multiculturalism is Dead in Europe - MENA Oil and the (hidden) political price Europe pays for it Multiculturalism is Dead in Europe - MENA Oil and the (hidden) political price Europe pays for it
by Dr. Anis H. Bajrektarevic
2013-05-30 11:01:13
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There is a claim currently circulating the EU, both cynical and misleading: ‘multiculturalism is dead in Europe’. No wonder, as the conglomerate of nation-states/EU has silently handed over one of its most important debates – that of European identity – to the wing-parties, recently followed by the several selective and contra-productive foreign policy actions.

The Gulf OPEC states and Libya have –by far– the lowest costs of oil extraction thanks to the high crude ‘purity’ which is simplifying and cheapening the refinement process, as well as the close proximity to open warm seas for a fast and convenient overseas shipments. Hence, the costs per barrel of crude for Libya and the Persian Gulf states are under 5USD, for other OPEC states below 10UDS. This is in a sharp contrast to countries such as the US, Russia, Norway, Canada and many others that bear production costs of several tens of USD per barrel – according to the Intl. Energy Agency (IEA). Thus, although commercially very affordable, Europe presently pays a huge political price for the MENA crude imports.

*             *             *             *             *

By correlating the hydrocarbons with the present political and socio-economic landscape, scholar Larry Diamond reveled that currently 22 states in the world, which earn 60% or more of their respective GDP from oil (and gas) are a non-democratic, authoritarian regimes. All of them with huge disparities, steep socio-economic cleavages, sharp political inequalities and lasting exclusions, not to mention dismal human rights records. These represent nearly half of the countries considered by the Freedom House’s annual reports as ‘not free’– the very same that are predominantly held accountable by the western media for domestic and regional insurgences, intl. armed conflicts, famines as well as for terrorists harboring and financing. Hence, as many as 9 of the 11 top crude exporters are usually labeled as dictatorships and/or despotic monarchies by the leading academia. Prof. Diamond calls it democratic recession. If so, there is not a single economic or political indicator for the MENA (Middle East – North Africa) region to imply a successful ‘Spring’ of anything lately, but only a (permeated perpetuation of a) severe and lasting recession.

Indeed, modern history is full of examples where the crude exporting countries’ development was hindered by the huge windfall revenues. Far too often, the petro-cash flow did not assist but actually delayed or derailed necessary economic diversification and political reform. It also frequently paved the way up for the elites, domestically felt as predatory, and externally instrumented as –to use CIA jargon– ‘useful idiots’. Conveniently though utilizing revenues to buy and otherwise subsidize social peace, those regimes (of rentier states) were/are actually creating self-entrapment – ever stronger psychological and political dependence on hydrocarbons. Therefore, a real ‘Spring’, for the Middle East and rest of us, will only come with a socio-economic decoupling and diversification, socio-political horizontalization, with a decisive de-psychologisation of and departure from oil-dependence. By no means, it would ever come by a pure cosmetic change of the resident in the presidential palace.[1]      

Fearing the leftist republican pan-Arabism and Nasserism, the US encouraged Saudi Arabia to sponsor the existing and establish a new large network of madrasah all over the Middle East – Prof. Cleveland reminds us in his capital work: A History of the Modern Middle East. In the last three decades, this tiger became ‘too big to ride’, as Lawrence Wright points out in his luminary book on Al Qaida: The Looming Tower. Wright states that while representing only 1,5% of the world’s Muslims, Saudis fund and essentially control around 90% of the Islamic institutions from the US to Kazakhstan/Xinjiang and from Norway to Australia.[2]

By insisting on oversimplified and rigid, sectarian Wahhabi-Salafist interpretations of religious texts, most of these institutions along with their indoctrinated clerics are in fact both corrupting and preventing an important inner debate about Islam and modernity.[3]  Self-detained in a limbo of denial, they largely (and purposely) keep the Arab and non-Arab Muslim world in a dangerous confrontational course with both itself and the rest of the world.[4]    

To end this, there is a claim currently circulating the EU: ‘multiculturalism is dead in Europe’. That much from a cluster of nation-states, as if they themselves lived a long, cordial and credible history of multiculturalism. Hence, this claim is of course false. It is also cynical as being purposely misleading. The very sort of Islam Europe (implicitly or explicitly) supported in the Middle East yesterday, is the sort of Islam that Europe hosts today.

Why and How?! (On the wrong side of history?) Who?

Young generations of Europeans are taught in schools about a compact unity (singularity) of an entity called the EU. However, as soon as serious external or inner security challenges emerge, the compounding parts of the true, historic Europe are resurfacing again. Formerly in Algeria, Egypt and Lebanon, then in Iraq (with the exception of France) and now with Libya and Syria; Central Europe is hesitant to act, Atlantic Europe is eager, Scandinavian Europe is absent, Eastern Europe is bandwagoning, and Russophone Europe is opposing.

The 1986 Reagan-led Anglo-American bombing of Libya was a one-time, head-hunting punitive action. This time, Libya (and currently Syria) has been given a different attachment: The considerable presence of China in Africa; successful circumventing pipeline deals between Russia and Germany (which will deprive Eastern Europe from any transit-related bargaining premium, and will tacitly pose a joint Russo-German effective pressure on the Baltic states, Poland and Ukraine); boldness (due to a petro-financial and strategic emancipation) of Iran;[5] and finally the overthrows of the EU friendly, Tunisian, Yemeni and Egyptian regimes –all combined– must have triggered alarm bells across Atlantic Europe.[6]       

Thus, in response to the MENA crisis, the EU failed to keep up a broad, single-voiced consolidated agenda and all-participatory basis with its strategic neighborhood, although having institutions, interest and credibility to do so – as it did before at its home; by silently handing over one of its most important questions, that of European identity, to escapist anti-politics (politics in retreat) dressed up in the Western European wing-parties. Eventually, the ‘last world’s cosmopolitan’ compromised its own perspectives and discredited its own trans-formative power’s principle.[7] The 2012 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate did so by undermining its own institutional framework: Barcelona Process as the specialized segment of from-Morocco-to-Russia European Neighborhood Policy (EU) and the Euro-Med partnership (OSCE).[8]   

The only direct involvement of the continent was ranging between a selective diplomatic de-legitimization (by Goebbels-izing the media to instrument it for) and punitive military engagement via the Atlantic Europe-led coalition of the willing (Libya, Syria).[9] Confrontational nostalgia prevailed again over dialog (instruments) and consensus (institutions).[10]  

The consequences are rather striking: The sort of Islam that the EU supported (and the means deployed to do so) in the Middle East yesterday, is the sort of Islam (and the means it uses) that Europe gets today.[11]  Small wonder, that Islam in Turkey[12] (or in Kirgizstan and in Indonesia) is broad, liberal and tolerant while the one in Northern Europe is a brutally dismissive, narrow and vindictively assertive.

 **********************************************************

Anis H. Bajrektarevic, Geopolitics of Energy Editorial Member Chairperson for Intl. Law & Global Pol. Studies
Vienna, 12 DEC 2012

*****************************************************************

This article is an excerpt from the key-note address: ‘From Lisbon to Barcelona – all the forgotten EU instruments’ presented at the Crans Montana Forum, 18-20 October 2012, Geneva, Switzerland

 

 ***************************************************************

References:

Bowen, J.R. (2011), Europeans Against Multiculturalism (Nicolas Sarkozy joins David Cameron and Angela Merkel view that multiculturalism has failed), Boston Review, Cambridge Massachusetts  (July/August 2011)

Cleveland, W. L., (2000), A History of the Modern Middle East, WestView Press, Oxford;

Maalouf, A.(1984), Les Croisades vues par les Arabes (The Crusades Through Arab Eyes), Schoken Books Inc. New York;

Wright, L. (2007), The Looming Tower – Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, First Vintage Books 

Kymlicka, W. (1995), Multicultural Citizenship, Oxford Political Theory;

Diamond, L. (2008), The Spirit of Democracy – The Struggle to Build Free Societies Throughout the World, Holt Paperbacks

Freedom House (2011), Freedom in the World 2011 – The Authoritarian Challenge to Democracy (Annual Report), Freedom House Washington D.C.

Freedom House (2012), Freedom in the World 2012 – The Arab Uprising and their Global Repercussions (Annual Report), Freedom House Washington D.C.

Huntington, S. P. (1996), The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, Simon and Schuster NY;

Future Conflict Studies (2009) Understanding Human Dynamics, Report of the US Defense Science Board Task Force, March 2009;    

Mulgan, G. (2006), Good and Bad Power – The Ideals and Betrayals of Government, Penguin Books

Bajrektarevic, A. (2011), Libya– The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Africa, CRLSJ 3(1) 2011, Addleton New York


[1] Most observers would agree that, while the so-called Arab Spring was of cross-Arab outreach, it was far from becoming pan-Arabic; more of a spontaneous social revolt (Al-Jazeera-connecting-pots) series of events, than any directional process. To channel something unexpectedly inflammatory and cross-Arab, but avoiding pan-Arabism as well as any sincere structural socio-economic reform and political emancipation can be achieved only by lightening the torch of Islamism. For one thing, as it now seems, the euphorically tam-tamed tam-tamed ‘Facebook revolutions’ across MENA were rather a strategic distraction ‘innocently’ dressed up in diverting banalities of social media networks. The very same role those networks well played elsewhere too.    

[2] However, a corrosive influence of big money (an upper hand of silencing) in politics and human rights groups is so high, that any discussion about Saudis is one of the strongest taboos of our time. 

[3] Undeniably, there were ideological complementarities between Soviet communism and the anti-colonial, leftist, egalitarian and republican pan-Arabism. Still, the post-Soviet and post-communist Russia remains on the same position, following its geopolitical rationale. Pan-Arabism is the only Middle Eastern counterbalance, an alternative to the Wahhabism-powered (or newly arriving, neo-Ottoman- powered) Islamism. (Salafist) Muslimhood might have an appeal among the Sunnis in Central Asia, Caucasus and within the Russian Federation, but pan-Arabism does not hold the same allure (which additionally seals-off Turkey and protects the Russian strategic Turkophone backyard from that side too). On the other hand, the republican pan-Arabism was felt as a direct threat to the US-backed GCC monarchies. Rather unchecked, the Al Qaida cluster has – in the meantime – managed to self-prescribe an exclusive monopoly on Islamism. By self-proclaiming an alleged struggle for the Sunni Ummah restoration, it actually corrupted and silenced all important debates within the Arab world. No single strategic objective it has so far achieved but to effectively divert the Arab attention from their real socio-civilizational, cultural, economic and political issues. In fact, the Al Qaida construct is only a radicalized and weaponized ideology of Wahhabism – of a sect that originates from the 19th century peninsular Arabian tribes on its anti-Ottoman emancipation quest, which – backed by that time Imperial Britain – finally demolished the centuries-long Caliphates-Ottoman Ummah. With religion per se, it has very little to do. 

[4] Hereby we are not discussing the disastrous image of Muslims, created by the Saudi-Qatari financed Sturm Phalanges holed in Afghan caves and their conductor, Saudi Rasputin/Wahhabi Houdini, recently located in Pakistan and extrajudicially ‘retired’.

[5] It is anticipated that Iran (and Syria) on the Russian south-west flank serve as a pivotal security buffer. Indeed, Teheran is in constant need of diplomatic cover from Moscow. In return, it refrains from its own Islamic projection on and it shields the Caucasus and Central Asia – considered by Russia as its strategic backyard, from the assertive Wahhabism. On the other hand, boldness of Iran endorses a perfect pretext for a reinforced missile shield, which –interestingly enough– rather encircles Russia then it deters Iran, as the recent stationing of the US Patriot missiles in Eastern Europe and in Turkey has shown. Not to mention that it seriously compromises the 1990 CFE Treaty (since the US unilaterally withdrew from the 30-years-in-place ABM treaty in 2002), and poses a challenge to the OSCE guarded politico-military/CSBM cooperation among the Organization’s 56 member states.  

[6] Additionally, the announced reductions of the American physical presence in Afghanistan, its limits in (nearly failed, nuclear, state of) Pakistan, massive overextensions suffered on the southwestern flank of the Euro-Asian continent as well as the recent US Army pullout from Iraq, is felt within the GCC (in France, Israel and Turkey too) as dangerous exposure to neighboring (increasingly anticipated as assertive) Iran, as well as Russia and China behind it. Right now, Syria pays a (proxy war) price for it: This multi-religious country may end up entirely combusted, creating a dangerous security vacuum in the heart of MENA. Or to use the words of frustration of the senior French diplomat who recently told me in Brussels: “we have to quickly delegitimize the legitimate Syrian government and topple al-Assad in order to convince Izrael not to bomb Iran…” 

[7] The Gulf OPEC states and Libya have –by far– the lowest costs of oil extraction thanks to the high crude ‘purity’ (measured by overall properties such as a state of aggregation, excavation gravity, viscosity, weight, degree of sulfuric and other conta- minants) which is simplifying and cheapening the refinement process. These exporters also enjoy the close proximity to open warm seas for a low-cost, fast and convenient overseas shipments. Hence, the costs per barrel of crude for Libya and the Persian Gulf states are under 5USD, for other OPEC members below 10UDS. This is in a sharp contrast to countries such as the US, Russia, Norway, Canada and many others that bear production costs of several tens of USD per barrel – according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Thus, although commercially very affordable, Europe presently pays a huge political price for the MENA crude imports. Of this, often hidden, price, European consumers are largely unaware.    

[8] The MENA theatre is situated in one of the most fascinating locations of the world. (Along with the Balkans-Caucasus,) It actually represents the only existing land corridor that connects 3 continents. It also holds over a half of the world’s proven oil-gas reserves (56% – oil, 48% – gas). Therefore, it is an absolute imperative for the external/peripheral powers to dominate such a pivotal geo-economic and geopolitical theater by simply keeping its center soft (e.g. preventing any emancipation that might come through the indigenous socio-political modernization). This is the very same imperative that was a dominant rational of inner European and Asian machtpolitik for centuries. No wonder that the competition in the MENA theatre, which has a lasting history of external domination or interference (and largely the Versailles, Anglo-French drawn borders), is severe, multiple, unpredictable. The region is predominantly populated by the Sunni (Arab) Muslims. With its high population density, and demographic growth stronger than economic one, this very young median population (on average 23–27 years old) is dominated by juvenile, mainly unemployed or underemployed, but socially mobilized and often angry males. Political radicalization (besides exploitation of the Shia–Sunni and of Muslim–Jewish antagonism) is surely one of the most convenient instruments of tacit control aimed at to preserve governing authorities weak, if not incapacitated. It is of no surprise that in each and every of the predominantly Sunni-Muslim Balkans-MENA country of the secular republican type, where the external powers have brokered the political settlement, is enveloped in perpetuated instabilities, and thus paralyzed. So far, no single monarchy has been (significantly) affected. From Bosnia (nearly 20 years ago), then Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya (as well as in the post-‘Spring’ Egypt, Tunis or Yemen), there is a purposely dysfunctional and indecisive central government put in place.

[9] In my text Libya – Unbearable Lightness of Being, Africa I stated – well before Gaddafi’s fall – the following: “Gaddafi’s government was a totalitarian one, but the post-Gaddafi government will be dysfunctional (like in other countries where NATO brokered a change in the last 15 years). The post-Gaddafi Libya will be – unfortunately – a territory. It will be a mare space of the grave political, territorial, economic and social problems, energized by a growing and nearly self-perpetuated sectarian violence (and inter-tribal blood revenge)... To conclude with the Huntingtonian Clash of Civilizations wisdom: When the predominantly Christian air-force is bombing a predominantly Muslim country for 4 consecutive months and keeps doing so all throughout the ‘Muslim Christmas’ – the holy fasting month of Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr – it surely will not help to maintain secularism and introduce democratization locally, nor will it assist the war against Islamist radicals regionally.” There are other Huntingtonian paradoxes as well: For over decade, the US has more political prisoners detained on Cuban soil (Guantánamo) than Castro regime. It neither serves justice nor democratization, be it of MENA or of American continent.       

[10] The ‘Group of Friends of Syria’- induced recognition of the so-called Syrian opposition means also that Turkey is now practically at war with Syria. At this point, let me be both instructive and predictive: Fall of al-Assad would most certainly trigger dissolution of Syria. It would also lead to a formalized federalization of Iraq in a desperate move to prevent its total decomposition as well as to a serious crisis of Lebanese and Jordanian statehood, probably beyond reparation. The (short-run) winner should than seem to be Israel along with the GCC monarchies. However, in a long run (even the northern portions of Syria being occupied by the Turkish army for quite some time), it would be Kurds and Shias. Consequently, any proclamation of Kurdish state the Erdoğan government (as well as Iraq) would not survive – as it already created enough enemies at home and in its near abroad. Ergo, besides the dispersed, rarified and terrified MENA Christians, the (modernized) Sunnis are definitely the long-term losers.  

[11] Noisying is actually a noisifying of trivialities that always leads to silencing of contents – as much so as the (fabricated) emotional charge will always take a reason away.   

[12] While the cacophony of European contradictions works more on a self-elimination of the EU from the region, Turkey tries to reinsert itself. The so-called neo-Ottomanism of the current (Anatolian, eastern rural power-base) government steers the country right into the centre of grand bargaining for both Russia and for the US. To this emerging triangular constellation, PM Erdoğan wishes to appoint its own rhythm. Past the ‘Arab Spring’, neither will Russia effectively sustain its presence in the Middle East on a strict pan-Arabic secular, republican and anti-Islamic idea, nor will the US manage to politically and morally justify its backing off of the absolutistic monarchies energized by the backward, dismissive and oppressive Wahhabism. Ankara tries to sublime both effectively: enough of a secular republican modernity and of a traditional, tolerant and emancipating Islam, and to broadcast it as an attractive future model across the Middle East. Simply, Bosporus wakes itself up as an empiric proof that the Islam and modernity goes together. In fact, it is the last European nation that still has both demographic and economic growth. Moreover, Ataturk’s Republic is by large and by far the world’s most successful Muslim state: It was never resting its development on oil or other primary-commodity exports, but on a vibrant socio-economic sector and solid democratic institutions. This is heavily contesting, not only for Russia, but primarily for the insecure regime of the House of Saud (and other GCC autocracies), which rules by the direct royal decree over a country of recent past, oil-export dependent and fizzing presence and improbable future. No wonder that on the ideological battlefield, the two belligerent parties will be dominating the Middle East, which is currently in self-questioning past yet another round of hardships. The outcome will be significantly beyond the Arab world, and will reverberate all across the Sunni Muslim world. Ankara is attempting to justify that the Saudi-promoted Islam is actually a toxic, separatist/sectarian Wahhabistic ideology that self-constrains Muslims, and keeps them on a wrong side of history by hindering their socio-economic and political development. It does so by holding Muslims on a permanent collision course with the rest of the world, while Turkey-promoted Islam is not a weaponized ideology, but a Modus Vivendi, which permits progress and is acceptable for all (including the non-Muslims), with the centuries-long history of success.   

 


     
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