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« The Plame Enigma | Main | Middlesex. 6.2.06 [NL] »

The Lost Balance of Power

In 1990, the Soviet Union disappeared. After 15 years, I realize how much we miss it. Not for its political system, nor for its brand of Marxism (an excuse for dictatorial state-capitalism) and neither for its international policies.

I regret its lost existence.

How come? Tonight, after dinner at our house in Brussels, while we were speaking about the urban problems Budapest suffers under, since the the arrival of wild capitalism, my 83 year-old mother in law, holocaust victim (Auschwitz), who grew up and lived under and after nazism in Budapest, said suddenly: "All that happens, because of the disappearance of the Soviet Union!"
At first, I didn't understand. She left Hungary for the United States in 1948, disgusted with the secret police and censure practices of the then ruling Hungarian Communist Party, of which she was a member since before the war. She was stranded in Brussels on her way to the States, for, under upcoming McCarthyism, as a former CP-member, a visa was denied to her. So, it couldn't be a lost love suddenly revived.

Henry Kissinger, a realpolitiker, *1923 in Germany, (here in 1973 with Chou-En-Lai), and my mother in law Kati, *1922 in Hungary, another realpolitiker...

But, all of a sudden, I understood: This was old and weathered Central-European Jewish wisdom. Never trust humanity. Good intentions, culture, civilization, democracy, they are all O.K. - but only a fine balance of power contains the more wild illusions and the extravagancies they bring about.

The Soviet status as a second superpower contained mad American ambitions. To a far greater degree so, as I subsumed. Before 1990, US behavior on the internal and international stages was limited by caution, care for allies, and an effort to appear as rational, peace-minded and compassionate.
All that is lost now.
I did not expect it.
I did not see, in 1991, how dangerous the Fukuyama propositions were ("The End of History").
I laughed at his vulgar Hegelianism: The World Spirit (Weltgeist) had found its fulfillment in American democracy. No more limits to individual deployment. And, putting the individual on a par with the victorious State: No more limits to State deployment.
These power-drunken illusions were to be transcribed into a cynical power strategy in the neocon papers for "An American Century" (1995). A centenary empire - it should have made me think of the German "Millenary Empire" of some sixty years ago.
For eight years, the Clinton bonhomie masked effectively what was fermenting within American minds. Even George W. Bush, in his first eighteen months, remained, in international affairs, on the cautious side.
But in 1999, the war against Serbia, I should have known: The issue was limited - ending the Serbian oppression of the Kosovar Albanese majority. But the objectives as imposed by the US in Fontainebleau in February, were nothing less than a complete surrender of Serbia, its occupation and a temporary foreign authority as ruling power. The bombing of civil targets, during the campaign, was also imposed by the Americans, while European NATO-allies were at the brakes. The Russian intervention at the end of the campaign was nothing more than symbolic.
But also nothing less than that. It made manifest, that the ruthless ways of the new unique superpower opened opportunities for lesser powers to snatch away some profits for themselves. Profits that are not necessarily to the benefit of Democracy. (It gave them a free hand in Chechnia). And now, the Iranian Mullah regime emerges as the main winner by the US Iraq policy.

I (naïvely) thought, that the checks and balances garanteeing a humane, democratic and cautious approach, were laid down in the American Constitution, its Amendments and its liberal, individualistic culture. But I was wrong. In international policies, the only thing that counts is: power. And power can only be contained by countervailing power.

On the long run, the Soviet Union will be replaced by China as another superpower. That is no consolation. We need a countervailing power sooner, and it should, preferably, be a democratic one.

Be it willy-nilly: It cannot be another than Europe, for now.

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