Thinking Peaceful Change: Baltic Security, Policies and Security, Community Building
John X. Knasas
By Frank Möller. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 2007. xvi + 379 pages. Appendix of security documents, bibliography, index. ISBN 13-978-0-8156-3108-8. Hardcover. $39.95.
With trepidation that the distillation of a review will do an injustice to this multifaceted volume, I would say that the work consists of two main parts: a description of Security Communities (SC) and Möller’s analysis of the vagaries of putting together an SC in the Baltic Sea area. A Security Community is a relation between groups of people in which the expectation for a peaceful resolution of disputes has replaced that of force (13). Möller is a proponent of SC’s in the vein of Karl Deutsch. Möller’s thesis is that the opportunities for an SC in the Baltic area have not been exploited. An SC arises when values perceived as compatible translate into a sense of community. Its two forms are amalgamated and pluralistic. The pluralistic SC retains a legal independence of governments and Möller admits it is the most realistic (28). Disarmament, starting with withdrawal of troops from common borders, is the ultimate proof of a commitment to peaceful change (38). Democracy is one of a number of paths to an SC (45).
A deep spiritual and philosophical price is to be paid for realization of the Security Community project. . . . [it is implied that] no basis in reason exists for values. Values simply reflect the way individuals have decided to exercise power. This is postmodernism in a nutshell.
In the Baltic area opportunities for an SC include: the nonviolent Soviet reactions to the Baltic independence drives, the nonviolence of the mass movements themselves (9), and the American Northern Europe Initiative (NEI) during the Clinton years (193-95). The NEI shifted from interstate cooperation to the use of NGOs and demilitarized security by following a comprehensive conception of security (202). What left these opportunities fallow were security sectors in the various Baltic countries (113). For their own interests, these sectors defined Russia as the radically other (when scholarly evidence indicated otherwise, pp. 252-53) that needed to be opposed in the mold of Westphalian states. This Baltic self-imaging caused a selected reading of the past for purposes of a certain idea of identity, stifled true democratic discussion of security issues, and perpetuated security issues rather than resolving them. Even though this negative stereotyping of Russia was modulated for purposes of NATO acceptance, Möller believes that it still simmers below the surface of NATO proposals, and more so in the Bush years. Möller does acknowledge that Baltic leaders were not so headstrong as to jeopardize negotiations for a Russian troop pullout (142). Möller makes all of the above points and others against a richly narrated backdrop of Baltic history from the late 1980s until 2005. He also provides some discussion of postwar Baltic guerilla struggles.
Apparently a deep spiritual and philosophical price is to be paid for SC realization. SC members must become postmoderns. I understand that to mean that no basis in reason exists for values. Values simply reflect the way individuals have decided to exercise power. Möller says that “all human actions are expressions of power relations within society and do not follow from cosmic or natural laws, divine will, or geography” (113). Furthermore, “language constructs rather than reflects what is considered reality” (146, 234). Postmodernism appears to come into play in this manner. To avoid counterargument one first deconstructs the supposed rational bases for the contradictory claims. Next, in the light of that embarrassment and the threat of continued conflict, one encourages a compromise and a retreat to compatible values. For example, to cool Baltic hotheads from antagonizing Russia and obstructing the development of a Baltic SC (since Russia has already demonstrated commitment to peaceful change, 252-53) and that commitment is taken for granted, one points out that Europe has already moved beyond a Westphalian notion of a sovereign state by understanding the sovereign state for the social construction that it is. Hence, Balts should get in line with this change and not carry on with so much autonomy and disrespect for the “legitimate interests” (297) of others.
Next comes the suggestion that Europe has already moved beyond a Westphalian notion of a sovereign state. Sovereign states are just social constructions whose time has run out.
The problem with Möller’s thesis can be expressed in at least two ways. First, if everything is a social construction, then the “legitimate interests” of others is simply a function of how much trouble others could cause. If you think that you have the power to deal with that possible trouble, then the other’s legitimate interests evaporate. From the viewpoint of great power, there are no legitimate interests of others. Hence, Mˆller postmodernist enlargement on Isaac Deutsch easily collapses back into that of the realists discussed in chapter 2. Second, can humans be satisfied postmoderns? Undoubtedly some can; but what about most? Can a transcendent truth to which most of us aspire to be faithful be obliterated from the human mind? In his Progress and Religion , Christopher Dawson offers an arresting narrative of the history of culture from its most primitive forms to its twentieth-century forms. The story shows the “religious impulse” as the dynamic of culture. By this condition Dawson means the recognition of something transcendent to which one is obliged. Its identity oscillates, on the one hand, between a being, e.g., the Wakan of the Dakota Indians, Cagn for the Australian Bushmen, the Sun god for the Egyptians, or nature itself and its patterns- and, on the other hand, an interior moral code, e.g., the Tao of Confucianism, the sacred books of India, or the Eternal Right of Hellenic culture. Around these two poles swings the history of cultures. So, for example, the autonomous Westphalian state is grasped as a product of Protestant culture that in its turn was the revenge of the personalist form of the religious impulse as it reacted against a certain kind of ossified ritualism (e.g., the sale of indulgences) and other clerical abuses.
The absence of religion in Thinking Peaceful Change is especially glaring since. . . even the Soviets acknowledged religion as a pillar of Lithuanian identity and sought to eradicate it.
Dawson’s analysis stands on its own. Yet in my opinion, a philosophical understanding of the human as a natural, spontaneous, though often unconscious intellector of being underwrites Dawson’s writings. Being is an intelligible object of unspeakable richness. Everything is included in being under pain of reduction to nonbeing. Hence being is also called the good. Though anything will suffice for the abstractive visualization of being, being can become intensely associated with some things rather than with others, for example, with the mountains, or oceans, or sky, even the self. A heightened presentation of being is quite in line with Möller’s remarks about the legendary role of the vast forests in the Baltic psyche (242), as well as with Kant’s remark about thinking of God when observing the starry night. In deference to being as the good, different cultures will organize around these heightened coincidences of object and being. Nevertheless, the intuition of being will guarantee a commensurability between cultures. Establishing a compatibility of values will not mean a deconstruction of that truth, but learning to distinguish things that truly embody being, i.e., are epiphanies of being, from other things that are merely associated with being.
The absence of religion in Thinking Peaceful Change is especially glaring since, for example, even the Soviets acknowledged religion as a pillar of Lithuanian identity and sought to eradicate it. If Dawson and philosophers like Aristotle and Aquinas are correct, the religious impulse will take its revenge on Security Communities founded on postmodernism because the prerogatives of being cannot be eliminated from the human person and therefore from human communities as well.
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