Everyman’s Strategic Survey: Henry Kissinger reprises Margaret Thatcher

downloadWhen I started these “Everyman’s” surveys it was because, as I said, the government’s “strategic survey’s are very highly classified and we, ordinary albeit concerned Canadians (concerned about our role and responsibilities in the world), will never see them … [but] … there is a lot of open source material which can, probably, give us a good look at what the politicians and mandarins and admirals and generals are being told by their advisors.” I remain convinced that we, ordinary Canadians, cannot tell elected political leaders and potential leaders (candidates) what we want them to do, strategically, unless we, ourselves, have an informed world-view. The problem with information, in the 21st century, is that there is, quite simply, too much of it … it needs to be collected, analyzed, hopefully without too much partisan political bias, collated, filtered, to separate the wheat from the chaff, and then disseminated in some useful form. That task is beyond the scope of ordinary Canadians like me, so, as I have also said, I rely upon a few journals that I believe are trustworthy and, relatively, unbiased (or jornal-financial-times-e-um-dos-mais-respeitados-do-mundo_674783cover1when they are biased they announce, publicly, what their bias is), like Foreign Affairs, The Economist and the Financial Times. That doesn’t mean I don’t read (and often quote from) everything from the New York Times to the Daily Mail, it just means that I have greater faith in the research and editing of the first three journals I mentioned than I do in any others. I also rely upon an agency called CAPX  which is the information dissemination arm of the Centre for Policy Studies, in London. Both CAPX and the CPS are biased but both are very up front in stating their biases and acknowledging their sponsors.

800px-henry_kissinger_shankbone_metropolitan_opera_2009All that to say that CAPX has published remarks made by Dr Henry Kissinger at the recent Margaret Thatcher Security Conference 2017 which was held in June 2017 in London, and I think they provide a good, global, strategic survey for Everyman. These remarks were expanded upon by Dr Kissinger and published under the headline: “Chaos and order in a changing world.”

1101790514_400Dr Kissinger began by saying that “Lady Thatcher was one of the most significant leaders of our period. Decisive, effervescent, courageous, loyal, she was dedicated to shaping the future rather than following the recommendations of focus groups.

He begins by recalling Prime Minister Thatcher’s 1996 John Findley Foundation Lecture at Westminster College in Fulton, MO, USA, the same lecture and venue where, just 50 years earlier, Sir Winston Churchill had told the world that an iron curtain was descending across Europe.  Mrs Thatcher, Henry Kissinger says, “put forward challenges which, in their essence, are even more urgent today:

  • Should Russia be regarded as a potential threat or a partner?
  • Should NATO turn its attention to “out of area” issues?
  • Should NATO admit the new democracies of Central Europe with full responsibilities as quickly as prudently possible?
  • Should Europe develop its own “defense identity” in NATO?

Dr Kissinger goes to say that “Two decades after Lady Thatcher’s prescient address, the transatlantic world faces another set of issues of comparable nature. The world order the West created to end its Thirty Years’ War in 1648 was based on the notion of sovereignty of states secured by a balance of power between a multiplicity of entities. It now confronts concepts of order drawn from different historical and cultural experiences and involving visions of continental or universal religious dimensions. So the long-term issue becomes whether these issues are to be resolved by the maxims of the nation-state or new, more globalised concepts, and with what consequences for the future world order. Let me do so by adapting Lady Thatcher’s challenges to our circumstances.

Regarding Russia, Henry Kissinger suggests that “The Russian challenge—Lady Thatcher’s first question—today focuses on Ukraine and Syria but reflects a deeper alienation. Stretching with eleven time zones from Europe along the borders of Islam to the Pacific, Russia has developed a distinct conception of world order. In its perennial quest for security along vast boundaries with few natural demarcations, Russia has evolved what amounts to a definition of absolute security, which verges on absolute insecurity for some of its neighbours … [and] … At the same time, Russia’s geo-strategic scale, its almost mystic conception of greatness, and the willingness of its people to endure hardship have helped over the centuries to preserve the global equilibrium against imperial designs by Mongols, Swedes, French, and Germans. The result for Russia has been ambivalence—a desire to be accepted by Europe and to transcend it simultaneously. This special sense of identity helps explain President Putin’s statement that, “The demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century” … [further, he says] … Putin’s view of international politics is often described as a recurrence of 1930s European nationalist authoritarianism. More accurately, it is the heritage of the worldview identified with the novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, as exemplified in his 1880 speech at the dedication of a monument to the poet Pushkin. Its passionate call for a new spirit of Russian greatness based on the spiritual qualities of the Russian character was taken up in the late 20th century by Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

How should the West develop relations with Russia, a country that is a vital element of European security but which, for reasons of history and geography, has a fundamentally different view of what constitutes a mutually satisfactory arrangement in areas adjacent to Russia,” he asks. “Is the wisest course to pressure Russia, and if necessary to punish it, until it accepts Western views of its internal and global order? Or is scope left for a political process that overcomes, or at least mitigates, the mutual alienation in pursuit of an agreed concept of world order? 1200px-Leopard_2_A5_der_Bundeswehr[and] … Is the Russian border to be treated as a permanent zone of confrontation, or can it be shaped into a zone of potential cooperation, and what are the criteria for such a process? These are the questions,” he concludes of European order that need systematic consideration. Either concept requires a defense capability which removes temptation for Russian military pressure.

Dr Kissinger’s reference to Europe includes e.g. Australia and Canada, too. Russia is going to try to exert pressure ~ military pressure whenever possible ~ beyond just the border “marches” between Russia, proper, and Western Europe. They are, already, militarizing the Arctic, for example. For that reason, alone, Canada needs space based, terrestrial and under-water sensor system, advanced long range patrol aircraft and jet fighter/interceptors and ice breaking ships and under ice capable submarines in its arsenal.

Next he turns to China, saying: “Lady Thatcher’s query regarding out of area issues concerns in our day primarily China and the Middle East. China has launched its “Belt and Road Initiative” as a grand design with political, economic, cultural, and security implications from the East China Sea to the English Channel. It evokes memories of a lecture to the Royal Geographic Society in 1904 by Sir Halford Untitled_1Mackinder, who described the Eurasian Heartland as the geo-strategic pivot of the globe … [and] … By seeking to connect China to Central Asia and eventually to Europe, the new Silk Road will in effect shift the world’s centre of gravity from the Atlantic to the Eurasian landmass. The road traverses an immense diversity of human cultures, nations, beliefs, institutions, and sovereign states. On it lie other great cultures—Russia, India, Iran, and Turkey—and at its extremity the nations of Western Europe, each of whom will have to decide if they will join it, cooperate with it, or oppose it, and in what forms. The complexities for international politics are as staggering as they are compelling.

If the staggering and compelling complexity of one Chinese policy are not enough, he adds that: “The “Belt and Road Initiative” is being put forward in an international strategic environment that has been Westphalian, defined by the West’s philosophy of order. But China is unique, transcending the dimension of the Westphalian state: it is at once an ancient civilisation, a state, an empire, and a globalised economy. Inevitably, China will seek adaptation of international order compatible with its historical experience, growing power, and strategic vision … [but] … This evolution will mark the third transformation of China in the last half-century. Mao’s brought unity, Deng’s brought reform, and now, President Xi Jinping is seeking to fulfil what he calls “the Chinese dream”, going back to the late Qing reformers, by realising “the two 100s”. When the People’s Republic of China enters its second hundred years in 2049, it will in Xi’s definition be as powerful as, if not more powerful than, any other society in the world and have the per capita GDP of fully developed countries.” Xi Jinping, in other words, wants to reshape the “new world order” that some people thought might last a bit longer. “In the process,” Dr Kissinger explains, “the United States and China will become the world’s two most consequential countries both economically and geopolitically, obliged to undertake unprecedented adaptations in their traditional thinking. Not since it became a global power after World War II has the United States had to contend with a geopolitical equal. And never in China’s millennia-long history has it conceived of a foreign nation as more than a tributary to it, the Central or “Middle” Kingdom … [and] … Both countries think of themselves as exceptional, albeit in fundamentally different ways: America sees spreading its values and system to other countries as part of its mission; China historically acted on the premise that the majesty of its performance would motivate other countries into a hierarchy based on respect … [and, further] … In both countries, there exists many opinions about how to reconcile these differences of perspective —whether by the maxims of the nation-state or by new, more globalised concepts, some of which President Xi’s “Chinese dream” exemplify. For both societies — and the rest of the world — their co-evolution is a defining experience of the period.

Americans and Europeans and Canadians will do well to remember Lord Maccartney’s The_reception_of_the_diplomatique_and_his_suite,_at_the_Court_of_Pekin_by_James_Gillrayembassy to China in 1793. It is, too often, suggested that the failure of Lord Maccartney’s mission was because of his refusal to kowtow to the Chinese Emperor … that, no doubt, annoyed the Chinese ruler, but, later, he sent (with Maccartney) a letter to King George III which explains, in some detail, his objections to the concessions sought for British merchants. His reasoning was different ~ the Chinese were, then, extraordinarily xenophobic and the concept that China ruled “all under heaven” and that the Chinese neither needed nor wanted whatever the West, or the rest of the world, for that matter, had on offer. (This notion had prevailed since, at least, the late 15th century.) The Chinese are, now, much more open to foreign trade and even to foreign ideas but the notion of Chinese superiority is deeply ingrained.

Canada should want peaceful free(er) trade with China but we must understand with whom we are dealing.

In Eurasia and along Russia’s borders, world order is challenged by the consequences of consolidation,” Henry Kissinger opines, and “Around the periphery of the Middle East, it is threatened by the turmoil of dissolution. The Westphalian-based system of order that emerged in the Middle East at the end of the First World War is now in a shambles. Four states in the region have ceased to function as sovereign. Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen have become battlegrounds for factions seeking to impose their rule …[further] … Across large areas of Iraq and Syria, an ideologically radical religious army, Isis, has declared itself a relentless foe of 117741_900modern civilisation, seeking violently to replace the international system’s multiplicity of states with a single Islamic empire governed by Sharia law. In these circumstances, the traditional adage that the enemy of your enemy can be regarded as your friend no longer applies. In the contemporary Middle East, the enemy of your enemy may also be your enemy. The Middle East affects the world by the volatility of its ideologies as much as by its specific actions … [and] … The outside world’s war with Isis can serve as an illustration. Most non-Isis powers—including Shia Iran and the leading Sunni states—agree on the need to destroy it. But which entity is supposed to inherit its territory? A coalition of Sunnis? Or a sphere of influence dominated by Iran? The answer is elusive because Russia and the Nato countries support opposing factions. If the Isis territory is occupied by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards or Shia forces trained and directed by it, the result could be a territorial belt reaching from Tehran to Beirut, which could mark the emergence of an Iranian radical empire.

Dr Kissinger explains that “The Western calculus has been complicated by the emerging transformation of Turkey, once a key moderating influence, from a secular state into an ideologically Islamic version. At once affecting Europe by its control over the flow of migrants from the Middle East and frustrating Washington by the movement of oil and other goods across its southern border, Turkey’s support of the Sunni cause occurs side by side with its efforts to weaken the autonomy of the Kurds, the majority of whose factions the West has supported heretofore … [and, to complicate matters even more] … The new role of Russia will affect the kind of order that will emerge. Is its goal to assist in the defeat of ISIS and the prevention of comparable entities? Or is it driven by nostalgia for historic quests for strategic domination? If the former, a cooperative policy of the West with Russia could be constructive. If the latter, a recurrence of Cold War patterns is likely. Russia’s attitude towards the control of current Isis territory, sketched above, will be a key test.

The same choice faces the West,” Dr Kissinger says, and, therefore: “It must decide what outcome is compatible with an emerging world order and how it defines it. It cannot commit to a choice based on religious groupings in the abstract since they are themselves divided. Its support must aim for stability and against whatever grouping most threatens stability. And the calculation should include the long term and not be driven by the tactics of the moment … [but] … If the West stays engaged without a geo-strategic plan, chaos will grow. If it withdraws in concept or in fact—as has been the temptation over the past decade—great powers like China and India, which cannot afford chaos along their borders or turmoil within them, will gradually step into the West’s place together with Russia. The pattern of world politics of recent centuries will be overthrown.

This all ~ Russia, China and the Middle East ~ harks back to Samuel Huntington’s 1993 “Clash of Civilizations” essay in Foreign Affairs. Now, a lot of people, especially progressives and the Laurentian Elites don’t want to hear that; they didn’t like Huntington’s message nearly a quarter century ago and they will not like what Henry Kissinger says now. That’s OK, the Laurentian Elites will not send their sons and daughters into the military and those who enter the foreign service will write policy papers, not clean up the political and geo-strategic mess. But there may well be a “butcher’s bill” if we, in the US led West, don’t get our act together. To do that we need solid, visionary, principled leadership.

That brings Henry Kissinger to his closing comments, about the Western Alliance: “These trends involve two implications for the Atlantic Alliance,” he says, and then explains that  “Insofar as the upheavals on the continents threaten the balance of power, they represent a threat to security. But they also challenge the West to contribute to the building of a new world order. Article V of the Nato Charter defines what must be preserved; it cannot be the end product of Atlantic policy … [because] … NATO was formed in 1949 to protect its members against direct assault by the Soviet Union. It has evolved since into a network of nations combining in various dimensions to react to internationally destabilising situations. But Nato has been more precise in its original objective than in its evolution; it is clearer about its defensive commitments than its role in contributing to world order … [and, since it was] … Conceived as a deterrent to a threatening Soviet Union in the process of increasing its arsenal of nuclear weapons to supplement its numerically superior land forces, Nato has been both a legal obligation and an expression of the joint determination of the free nations of the West to enhance their values … [and, further] … A tradition of American leadership resulted because the American nuclear arsenal has been the ultimate counterweight to Soviet military power. As the decades went by, the Alliance turned increasingly into a unilateral American guarantee rather than an agreed strategic concept relevant to the evolving world.

With that background established, Dr Kissinger says that “Lady Thatcher’s concept of the Atlantic Alliance was very different from current realities. She described it as in essence comprised of “America as the dominant power surrounded by allies which generally follow her lead”. This is no longer fully the case. The United States is not leading in the Thatcher mode, and the mindset of too many Europeans is to explore alternatives … [and] … The realities of population, resources, technology, and capital assure a decisive global role for an involved America and a militarily engaged Europe. It will not, however, come about without an agreed strategic and political concept … [therefore] … In today’s rapidly changing world, Nato must engage in a permanent reexamination of its goals and capabilities. The shift in the structures that comprise the contemporary world order should impel Nato and its members to ask themselves: What changes other than the control of the territory of its members will it seek to prevent, and by what means? What are the political goals, and what means is it prepared to assemble?

What does it all mean for Canada?

I repeat, even though Henry Kissinger’s message will likely fall on (mainly) deaf ears in this, current, Trudeau-Liberal regime, there are plenty of Liberals from the St Laurent-Manley wing of the parry who will take note and it should make sense to most Conservatives, too. In Dr Kissinger’s own words, as he wrapped up his presentation: “So let me conclude by repeating the challenge Margaret Thatcher laid down in the Findley Lecture two decades ago:

“What is to be done? I believe that what is now required is a new and imaginative Atlantic initiative. Its purpose must be to redefine Atlanticism in the light of the challenges I have been describing. There are rare moments when history is open and its course changed by means such as these. We may be at just such a moment now.”

Lady Thatcher’s quote reflected, above all, an exhortation and the definition of a task. We are at an even more fraught juncture today.”

I think we, Canada, need to step up, to take a leadership role, one we have, arguably, not played since John Diefenbaker was prime minister of Canada, and revitalize not just the “Atlantic initiative,” we need to redefine more than “Atlanticism,” we need to reunite the West, which includes Australia and Japan, New Zealand and Singapore, Canada and Finland, Germany and Greece, France and Fiji; we need to make room in the West for India as much as Iceland, for South Africa as well as Slovakia. The West is not a geographic thing, and it isn’t defined by the Atlantic of NATO. It is an idea, rooted in the Althing, Iceland’s parliament, the oldest in the world predating evenWestminster and in the notions of Simon de Montfort and John Locke; it, the West, is colour blind and unconcerned about religion; it is about values. Canadians by the thousands and tens of thousands have laid down their lives for those values … we need to live them, as a people, and protect them in the West and offer them to others as a better way to live.

Being a leader is neither cheap nor easy. We, Canadians, were leaders in the West until the end of the 1960s when we got tired of paying the price and decided that we wanted to live off the fat of the land. It’s time to change back to a bigger, better, stronger Canada.

By Ted Campbell

Old, retired Canadian soldier, Conservative ~ socially moderate, but a fiscal hawk. A husband, father and grandfather. Published material is posted under the "Fair Dealing" provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act for the purposes of research, private study and education.


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