by Tahir Mahmoud (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 51, No. 9, Rabi' al-Thani, 1444)
Like most Europeans, the European Union (EU) Foreign Policy chief Josep Borrell is also a card-carrying member of the racist club. This was confirmed yet again on October 10 in his speech delivered at the EU Ambassadors Annual Conference.
While his speech made headlines due to its racist metaphor that was later redacted, its real importance lies in providing insight into how unprepared the EU is for the rapidly emerging multi-polar world order.
Before analyzing the key features of Borrell’s speech, especially what the EU behavior in post-western hegemonic global order will look like, it is important to understand the intellectual and philosophical inconsistencies which surfaced in his speech. In reality, they reflected the intellectual inconsistencies of the organization he leads.
Western hegemonic order is based on certain ideological slogans camouflaged as principal foundations which supposedly drive the policies of the ruling establishment. One of these slogans is pluralism. It is often used in internal political and economic discourse. However, in international relations, pluralism is painted in negative terms. Countries contributing to diversification and multiplicity of power on the global stage are those that do not want to serve western strategic interests.
While textbook western political rhetoric encourages the presence of diverse economic and political players internally, once global players chart their own course, they are painted as unconstructive players breaking the so-called “rules-based system”. Nothing exposes this more than western backing of the despotic Saudi regime. As long as the Saudis remain subordinate to western strategic interests, they get away, literally, with murder. Syrian territory is occupied by US forces because Damascus is in the opposite camp.
Thus, when Borrell twice mentioned the current multipolar order as “messy”, he inadvertently exposed a deep intellectual inconsistency of the western hegemonic order. While economically and politically on the internal level multiplicity is presented as a positive feature, internationally it is labeled as messy. Why?
Internally, western regimes can use state power to reign in multiplicity if it threatens the state’s hegemony. During Donald Trump’s presidency all political correctness and media objectivity were thrown out the window to reign in Trumpism with its negative internal repercussions. Trumpism was threatening the western hegemonic order from within, so all liberal pretences were cast aside to deal with it.
At the international level, the concept of state sovereignty significantly restricts western regimes from reigning in expeditiously powers outside their control. This combined with leveling of the playing field globally in the military, political, economic, and information fields, makes western regimes resent multiplicity.
Let us now look at some specific aspects of Borrell’s speech which manifest a deep crisis within the EU and provide some contours of what western regimes will do to retain their hegemony.
He said: “The two big powers—big, big, big, very big—are competing and this competition will restructure the world. And this will coexist with a broader ‘democracies vs. authoritarians’, a big divide. I would not insist a lot on it because on our side, there are a lot of authoritarian regimes. We cannot say ‘we are the democracies’, and the ones which follow us are also democracies— that is not true. That is not true.”
Borrell openly admitted that the EU is allied with authoritarian regimes. This is an indication that in the near future western regimes will openly and publicly back all sorts of despotic regimes worldwide without resorting to verbal gymnastics to camouflage this reality. He hinted that to retain western hegemony, allying with autocratic regimes should not be taboo anymore. It was never taboo, but hitherto, it was camouflaged under sophisticated rhetoric.
Another important element in Borrell’s speech was what he mentioned about the current global situation: “…everything is being weaponised. Everything is a weapon: energy, investments, information, migration flows, data, etc. There is a global fight about access to some strategic domains: cyber, maritime, or outer space.”
Like other assertions in his speech, the comment about weaponization is also quite hypocritical. For example, the EU has been training Algerian and Moroccan police in online disinformation tactics. Is it not EU institutions which normalize hijab bans? Is it not the EU regimes which silence pro-Palestinian academics? From social media to political backing, it is the EU which has a long track record of weaponizing everything for neo-colonial purposes.
Borrell’s speech also highlighted the fact that in its bid to retain the west-centric global order, the European regimes are losing the information war and the war of ideas. What is quite amusing is that Borrell claimed Russia and China are quite good in their propaganda techniques. While Russia and China certainly do indulge in propaganda, as all other states, their propaganda is quite primitive and outdated. Borrell’s statement is more a sign of desperation than an objective assessment of the reality.
He concluded his alarmist speech by stating that “We [Europe] are too much Kantians and not enough Hobbesian.” Europe’s track record paints a different picture. From recent military interventions in Africa to support of apartheid Israel and the Saudis, the EU regimes are anything but Hobbesian.
The speech is clear admission of the fact that west-centric hegemony is over. However, it fails to offer any specific guidelines to European policy-makers outsides of the old west-centric paradigm which would be suitable for the new order.
Readers should make an effort to read Borrell’s speech. It will confirm that it is nothing but a rant about the new situation. Its so-called solutions are attempts at retaining western hegemony, a near impossible task.
The EU would be better off focusing on strengthening European regionalism rather than beating the drums of global confrontation. The EU is not in an economic, political, ideological, and certainly not in a military position to embark on a global crusade against whatever cause it postulates as a threat. Instead of focusing on countries thousands of kilometres away, the EU should look inward and develop a concrete socio-economic program which fosters internal cohesion. This however is unlikely to happen.
The speech is another manifestation of the reality that western regimes are in denial that the world has entered the post-western era. Instead of focusing on finding common ground with other players, the EU seems bent on confrontation to retain western primacy. This is an endeavour which will create more global instability and weaken the EU even further.