'Truth spoken without moderation reverses itself'
This blog is a source for intellectual exploration. It includes a list of alternative resources and a source of free books. The placement of an article does not imply that I agree with it, merely that I found it thought-provoking. There are also poems and book reviews. Texts written by me are labelled. Readers are free to re-post anything they like.
Monday, June 6, 2016
Natalie Nougayrède - Across the world, the rule of law is losing out to rule by the mob
This is the age of the disgruntled – in
domestic politics and foreign affairs alike. Anti-establishment sentiment
within countries is somehow echoed by the way the rule book of international
relations is being torn up. These dynamics feed on each other. They are at play
in America (the rise of Donald Trump), Europe (growing populism) and Asia (nationalism and an arms race). Finding a way to address them will
be crucial if democracies are to have any hope of resisting instability.
I recently attended
the Lennart Meri conference in Estonia – a transatlantic
gathering where much of the talk focused on how the “dream of a Europe whole and free” might be
fading, and how that is affecting security and stability. And this week in
London, at a meeting on global governance, and what needs to be done to improve
it, a key focus of British and other European participants was: how do we
restore the legitimacy of international institutions?
In democracies it is
only natural that public opinion influences actions taken by governments on the
international stage. But the way that pressure is exerted has changed. The
Dutch government would never have sought a review of an association agreement between the EU and Ukraine if a
referendum in the Netherlands – with a turnout of only 32%, triggered by a
petition that had just over 300,000 signatures – hadn’t signalled a rejection
of that treaty.
Angela Merkel would
never have pushed for a relaunching of EU membership talks with Turkey (something she
had been blocking for almost 10 years) if the German far right hadn’t started
doing better in opinion polls. In my country, France, although Marine Le Pen’s
Front National failed last year to win control of any region in local
elections, her admiration for Vladimir Putin has made it more difficult for the
socialist government to stick to its policy of renewing EU sanctions against Russia later this
year. In Austria, where the far-right seems within reach of the presidency
(ahead of voting on Sunday), populist pressures have already led to borders
being shut to refugees. And in the US Donald Trump’s success is already
beginning to frame the foreign policy debate .
Just as the
traditional domestic politics of many nations is being upended by groups who
claim that elites have lost all legitimacy, global politics is being shaken up
by the way institutions created after 1945 have lost much of their credibility.
The UN has failed dismally to put an end to the war in Syria; and the EU is
widely criticised for its inability to address a variety of crises – its very
functioning as an institution is questioned as never before. Meanwhile, Russia
and China are disrupting international rules that were once deemed rock solid: force
has been used to change borders unilaterally (Crimea), and territorial claims are
made through the creeping militarisation of islands (in the South China Sea).
Both in Europe and Asia
alliances are being put to the test, with many asking if they will hold. The
result of much of this is that global governance appears weakened, if not
powerless. Passions and frustrations, often with strong nationalistic
undertones, have become a major driving force of events, both domestically and
internationally. Increasingly we see the rule of force – even rule of the mob –
prevailing over the rule of law and over diplomatic mechanisms designed to
To a large extent
that’s because the very legitimacy of institutions, and the way we have known
them, has eroded. Many citizens feel their voices are not being heard. The
influence of the internet means representative democracy is losing ground to
grassroots mobilisation – spontaneous or orchestrated – that often exists
outside a recognised framework. And on a global stage tensions between powers
fester because the forums meant to settle them aren’t working. Accepted rules
and limits are increasingly set aside. Broadly speaking, what we are seeing is
a growing cacophony in which it is unclear who, or what, will ultimately act as
an arbiter. The parallel between
disgruntlement on the inside and disruptive behaviour on the outside may well
define our era..read more: