handy advice on the conduct of international affairs?
Sir Isaac Newton
and Mideast Politics (Zaman, Turkey)
country is not the center of the world. The international system has no center.
Even the superpowers that claim hegemonic positions like America or Russia
cannot be regarded as centers of the global system. ... Don't think you're the
only moral actor in the system. Other countries, including states you are at
war with, do not contain morally debauched populations. Besides, morality is a
relative term. Morality-based foreign policy narratives can also be divisive,
and can result in whitewashing oneself and blaming others."
Would Sir Isaac Newton have anything useful to say to today's leaders about the conduct of international affairs? Turkish columnist Gökhan Bacik suggests his advice might go along the lines of 'your country is not unique - so don't behave as though it is.'
He is the master physicist who educated humanity on a huge
number of major issues, such as the law of universal gravity. He is also the father of
classical mechanics. In a short column, one can hardly summarize Newton's
contributions to science. Newton is central to our understanding of the basic
rules governing the psychical world. Newton is regarded by many as one of the
most important architects of modern Western thinking.
So it might not be off base to ask what Newton would advise
on Middle East politics. Having worked so successfully on a universal scale,
would Newton's mind be up to the task of analyzing state-level relations, which
work on a much simpler level? Positing that the natural laws of motion need not
be divorced from morality in international politics, Newton might offer a
modest new way of contemplating that arena. One might be able to speculate as
Your country is not the center of the world. The
international system has no center. Even the superpowers that claim hegemonic
positions like America or Russia cannot be regarded as centers of the global
system. There is no state that can direct everything in the system according to
its interests and intentions. The rules of the international system are bigger
than the power of any single state, including the aforementioned hegemonic
Posted by Worldmeets.US
Do not surrender yourself to the impression that you practice
a unique foreign policy. You do not. There is nothing new under the sun within global
politics. No matter how different the ideologies of states, their cultures and their
religions, in terms of structure, most follow the same foreign policy
guidelines. Kenneth Waltz,
Newton's chief disciple in the field of international relations, proved this
almost 50 years ago. For instance, Iran and the United States, despite their
many ideological differences, pursue their interests within similar frameworks.
Don't think that your country's geopolitical situation is
unique. In a global system, there is no hierarchy of geopolitics. There is no
given, fixed geopolitical value. The world is a globe, and thus every country
is contingent on relations with every other. What improves the value of a piece
of land is social capital. As the Arabs say, “Sharaf al mekanbilmekin” (The value of a place is determined by the value
of its occupant). Being the product of a pathological reflex of the late 19th
century geopolitical imagination, the geopolitical debate is a waste of time.
Don't think you're the only moral actor in the system. Other
countries, including states you are at war with, do not contain morally
debauched populations. Besides, morality is a relative term. Morality-based
foreign policy narratives can also be divisive, and can result in whitewashing
oneself and blaming others. Remember, your moral values may be nothing but a
reflection of your own embedded interests.
Nothing is exceptional and hence, everything is ordinary, in
the international system. Wars are ordinary. Peace treaties are ordinary. Only
human psychology attributes greatness to such ordinary things. Similarly, no
nation has a historic mission. The problems of humanity must be resolved by all
people in a very ordinary way. Thus, say nothing that would imply your
country's exceptional position or role. Newton would advise that ordinary ways
are the most effective. Demand for the exceptional raises costs.
Your foreign policy narrative should be in perfect harmony
with your influence. Any mismatch will create serious problems for your
country. Power and prestige are twin brothers. One cannot build prestige without
first attaining tangible and intangible power. Claiming to have prestige when
you don't makes one appear a laughingstock.