Blissful Ignorance Makes the West Slide into Mishaps

Human Wrongs Watch

By Roberto Savio*

Rome, April 2015 – I carried out a survey among friends to find out what they know about the present state of international affairs. It was disheartening to find out that only one of them knew that Iceland, a country qualified to join the European Union, had opted to withdraw its request for admission. This is not a minor affair, it shows that the European dream has now lost its appeal.

28 sovereign states (of which the map only shows territories situated in and around Europe) constitute the European Union | Wikimedia Commons

28 sovereign states (of which the map only shows territories situated in and around Europe) constitute the European Union | Wikimedia Commons

And no one knew that NATO has sent 120 armoured vehicles from the Second Cavalry Regiment to Poland, because the commander of the United States Army forces in Europe, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, had decided to show to Polish citizens that they were facing a possible Russian invasion.

In recent weeks, the government has been distributing weapons to citizens who want to form a militia, and training them. The same is happening in the Baltic countries.

U.K. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has declared that Russia is “as great a threat to Europe as ‘Islamic States’.” And all media have been engaged in a permanent campaign about Russian President Vladimir Putin as a threat to Europe, which harks back to the spirit of the Cold War.

To the point that an obsolete political notion – the West – is now making a comeback. The West, of course, is composed of the United States and its faithful ally, Europe.

But the world has changed since the Cold War, even if people do not realise. And this is the glaring responsibility of the information system, which is perpetuating stereotypes and acting as a megaphone of the system, instead of asking to citizens to reflect on what is going on.

The fact is that media are less and less able to follow international affairs. They are complex, and very few have correspondents abroad. They depend basically on three agencies (AP, Reuter and AFP), which all repeat the official information, with very little analysis.

Readers are entitled at most to events, without any context. The view is that citizens are not interested in international affairs, and the space for international affairs in the media has been constantly shrinking over the years.

Yet we live in a growingly interdependent world, and its citizens are living in as blissful ignorance. So few are able to seize the extent of the political blunders into which the West has been entering in recent years.

Let us start with Europe. Iraq was an American affair. But to go into Syria and Libya, ignoring history and political realities, would be considered amateurish everywhere.

Yet Europe, with its actions, has been involved in hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of displaced persons, and fallen into a dramatic trap.

When former French President Nicolas Sarkozy decided to intervene in Syria to remove President Bashar Assad, he did not consider that he would open up a war, by proxy, between Sunnites and Alawites (the Shiite branch to which Assad belongs).

Now Assad is in power backed by Hezbollah, which is funded by Iran, against an assortment of Sunnite, the large majority funded by Saudi Arabia and the other countries of the Gulf which, before the discovery of petrol, were just a number of tribes, without history and development together.

Those tribes were obliged to coalesce together in a vast desert area to which the British colonisers put borders, and the sudden discovery of petrol made them rich and important states.

It is widely believed in the Arab world that since the creation of Israel, Saudi Arabia has distributed 140 billion dollars to support Islam, by funding schools and mosques worldwide.

But the vision of Islam of the Gulf tribes is the most backward and anti-modernisation possible vision, that of the Wahabis and Salafis which were never involved in any process of modernisation.

That is the Islam is on which ISIS is built, and the 25,000 foreign terrorists who, according to a recent U.N. report have joined the Caliphate have all been funded or inspired by Wahabism. It is important to stress that there is not a single Shiite in terrorist movements, they are all Sunnites.

But, since the overthrow of the Shah in Iran, and the arrival of Ayatollah Khomeini – who considered the United States as the great Satan behind the Shah – and his fundamentalism, the United States has been siding with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries, also because this is where petrol comes from.

And nobody thought that by displacing Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, we would bring back to life the various tribes of Libya that Gaddafi, coming from the most important tribe, had been able to unify.

What was Europe’s interest in getting into the traps of Syria and Libya, and have thousands of refugees coming to Europe, to the joy of right-wing xenophobic parties which now dot the map of Europe?

Another example of the West’s lack of strategic thinking is relations with China. Now we know that 45 countries have joined the Asian Investment Infrastructure Bank (AIIB) that China has created with an initial fund of 50 billion dollars. That bank is a direct challenge to the international financial system, established at the end of the Second World War in a totally different world.

Suffice it to say that China has 5.6 percent of the voting rights in the World Bank against the 25 percent of the United States, and the chairman of the World Bank is always an American (the director of the IMF is always a European).

There was a proposal for a change, to allow larger participation for the “emerging countries”, which has now been sitting for four years in the Republican-dominated U.S. Congress, whose members basically said: “Let China wait”.

Well, China did not wait. Its AIIB (in which it will have 49 percent of the voting rights), has welcomed on board the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, Norway, and nearly all other European countries, in addition to practically all of Asia, a total of 45 countries.

Among those countries, particularly relevant is the presence of Israel. That the strongest ally of the United States should join China in a strategic move is a revealing indication of U.S. President Barack Obama’s isolation on his policy towards Asia.

This is compounded by the fact that China has announced a further contribution of 40 billion dollars for a “silk road”, based on the ancient route from China to Europe, for building infrastructures which will make exchanges between China and Europe fast and convenient.

China has been able to become the centre of future trade among all of Europe and Russia (and even of Israel), showing that financial might is more relevant than military alliances.

Asia is considered to need nearly 8 trillion dollars of investments in infrastructures, and this vast market has been stronger than solidarity with Obama, who has now lost the battle and looks isolated.

Another major initiative, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), to which Obama has also been dedicating much effort, does not look an easy affair.

The TPP would join 11 Pacific nations to a “next generation” trade agreement, with the United States and Japan as the major players, with 40 percent of world output, and China excluded. If the TPP fails, the isolation of the United States in Asia will become clear.

So this makes the total solidarity of Europe with the United States on common action and sanctions over Ukraine all the more bizarre. Especially, because sanctions have caused Europe to lose 140 billion dollars in trade at a moment in which they were badly needed. At the same time, U.S. trade increased by 20 billion dollars.

And now Federica Mogherini, the person in charge of European Union external affairs, has announced that it will be made clear that the European Union will not be looking for Ukraine’s entry to Europe and NATO. It would have been better to make that clarification a long time ago and avoid confrontation with Russia.

But it is difficult to see any coherence in European foreign policy. When it comes to money, Europe takes its distance from the unity of the West, and chooses China over the United States.

When it comes to Ukraine, Europe follows the U.S. line … and when it comes to the Arab world, Europe acts without looking even at the medium term.

It is difficult to see a hint of strategic thinking, there are only uncoordinated actions with a total lack of concern for the civilians involved in the conflicts … not exactly the image of a region versed in history and culture!

Roberto Savio

*Roberto Savio is the founder and former Director-General of international news agency Inter Press Service (IPS). In recent years he has also founded Other News, a service providing ‘information that markets eliminate’.

Roberto Savio: The author has granted permission to Human Wrongs Watch to publish his article. 


Other articles by Roberto Savio on Human Wrongs Watch

Pillar of Neoliberal Thinking Is Vacillating

It Should Be Clear What to Expect from the World Social Forum

Foreign Policy Is in the Hands of Sleepwalkers

What if Youth Now Fight for Social Change, But From the Right?

The Exceptional Destiny of U.S. Foreign Policy

Climate Change: Governments Say All the Right Things But Do Exactly the Opposite

The ‘Acapulco Paradox’

Global Governance and Common Values: the Unavoidable Debate

Of Banks, Inequality and Citizens

The Paris Killings – A Fatal Trap for Europe

Ten Major Handicaps Facing 2015 

The Sad Future of Our Planet

Europe Has Lost Its Compass

The Suicide of Europe

The Steady Decline of Social Europe

The “Incestuous Relations” Between Governments and Energy Corporations

Four Key Reasons to Understand the Irresistible Attraction of Radical Islam

Europe Is Positioning Itself Outside World Arena

Planet Racing Towards Catastrophe and Politics Just Looking On

OP-ED: International Relations, the U.N. and Inter Press Service

Ever Wondered Why the World is a Mess?

Economic Growth Is Anything But “A Rising Tide Lifting All Boats”

Banks, Financial Institutions and Citizens — The Urgent Need to Update the Seven Deadly Sins

The Decline of the Middle Class

The Rich Complain That We Do Not Love Them

The Free Market Fundamentalists Are Now in Europe

The ‘European Dream’ Going the Way of the ‘American Dream’

Thatcher, Reagan and Their “Revolutions”

Cyprus: Do You Understand What Has Really Happened?

Hugo Chávez’s legacy to Latin America

“The Tide Is Growing, But The System Does Not Realise It”

The Palestine Drama, Public Theories and Hidden Realities

China Opening a Confrontation on the Sea

After Two Lost Decades, Japan Went to Sleep

Japan – Ethics, Democracy, Growth

China, Japan Brewing a Serious Conflict

A Personal Experience with the American Justice System

Finance’s Ethics: a Leap into the Past

Banks and Politics Do Not Mix Well

2015 Human Wrongs Watch

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