28east

Politics, religion, and culture where East meets West

Posts Tagged ‘East

Ian Morris: Why the West Rules…

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If you were to pick up Ian Morris’s Why the West Rules—For Now, you would probably be wondering the same thing that I was wondering when I picked it up: “Why does the West rule?”

Is it because Westerners are somehow superior? Is it because the West is more deductive in its thought process? Perhaps it’s because the West got an agricultural or intellectual head start. Or maybe it was just the right ingenuity at the right time. Was it guns, germs, or steel? Democracy? Luck? How about divine providence? Ian Morris has the answer.

It’s because the West is in the west.

To the disappointment of some readers—no doubt—Morris claims that people are people (lazy, greedy, frightened) wherever you go, and the success of the West in particular can be attributed to the simple fact that its geography has historically kept its development a step ahead of the East—with notable exceptions. It’s an essentially determinist view of history: While we may be able to mitigate the effects of geography, we cannot overcome them. This is not a new idea. Neither is it an unpopular idea. If you want to understand this view of history, Morris explains it well—and weaves the scope of human history together impressively. But if you’re not too keen on a 622-page world history, here are a few blog-relevant highlights:

I. “East” and “West”
II. Axial thought
III. Islam as Western

I. “East” and “West”
Morris complains that people generally equate “the West” with certain values (of their choice), and then look back through time to find the roots of those values, coming to all kinds of self-serving conclusions. Morris instead observes the “easternmost” and “westernmost” extents of civilization at any given time. He acknowledges that this is a limitation, but (rightly, I think) prefers it to the former method. As you can already see by page 41, his methodology lends itself to a geographical explanation. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by M. James

April 1, 2012 at 1:58 am

Islamism drives Turkish foreign policy

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What Drives Turkish Foreign Policy?
Svante E. Cornell; Middle East Quarterly; Winter 2012

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) was reelected to a third term in June 2011. This remarkable achievement was mainly the result of the opposition’s weakness and the rapid economic growth that has made Turkey the world’s sixteenth largest economy. But Ankara’s growing international profile also played a role in the continued public support for the conservative, Islamist party. Indeed, in a highly unusual fashion, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan began his victory speech by saluting “friendly and brotherly nations from Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, Amman, Cairo, Sarajevo, Baku, and Nicosia.”[1] “The Middle East, the Caucasus, and the Balkans have won as much as Turkey,” he claimed, pledging to take on an even greater role in regional and international affairs. By 2023, the republic’s centennial, the AKP has promised that Turkey will be among the world’s ten leading powers.

At the same time, Turkey’s growing profile has been controversial. As Ankara developed increasingly warm ties with rogue states such as Iran, Syria, and Sudan while curtailing its once cordial relations with Israel and using stronger rhetoric against the United States and Europe, it generated often heated debates on whether it has distanced itself from the West. Turkey continues to function within the European security infrastructure—although more uneasily than before—but has a rupture with the West already taken place, and if so, is it irreversible?

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by M. James

December 20, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Islamic cultural system: inductive?

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Behold the danger of [attempts at] universal history. Here’s an article by Thorsten Pattberg shamelessly stolen from his own book, The East-West Dichotomy: Behold the Law of Difference (seriously, it’s almost verbatim). Note that none of his examples of inductive reasoning come from the Islamic cultural system—even though he classifies it as one of the “Oriental” cultural systems.

I guess minor oversights like that are expected in universal history. Read the article as a comparison between broad themes in Western and Eastern philosophy and it almost works. Take away from it how difficult it is to paint intellectual history with a broad brush.

The East-West dichotomy revisited
Thorsten Pattberg; Asia Times Online; Dec. 13, 2011

“The West is deductive, from the universal to the particular; the East is inductive, from the particular to the universal.” 
– Ji Xianlin, 1996

According to the universal historians Arnold J Toynbee, Samuel P Huntington and Ji Xianlin, the world’s states form 21, 23 or 25 spheres, nine civilizations, and fall into four cultural systems: Arabic/Islam, Confucian, Hindi/Brahmin and Western/Christian, with the former three forming the Oriental cultural system and the latter one the Occidental cultural system. The main difference between the Orient and the Occident, so what people say lies in their different mode of thinking: The East is more inductive, the West is more deductive.

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Written by M. James

December 13, 2011 at 4:32 am

Fukushima and the East-West energy corridor

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The failure of the light water reactor in Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture to withstand the March 2011 tsunami will (whether it is a sensible reaction or not) discourage new ventures in nuclear power. The newest big-time player in energy—natural gas—will become even more essential in the West and, as a pipeline for the ever-expanding market, so will Turkey.

According to this report:

In the near term, as world economies begin to recover from the downturn, global demand for natural gas is expected to rebound, with natural gas supplies from a variety of sources keeping markets well supplied and prices relatively low.

Among these sources is “Russia and the other countries of non-OECD Europe and Eurasia” (read: Caspian) with an increase in production of 6 trillion cubic feet from 2007 to 2035. With well-supplied markets and low prices, financing pipelines as an efficient means of transportation will become a critical interest for energy companies with stakes in natural gas. This will be of especial interest to nations such as Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, which are slated, along with Russia, for further natural gas production. By piping liquefied natural gas to Turkey’s nearest high-capacity Mediterranean port, Ceyhan (as they do with oil), the Caspian nations would be able to reach a large Mediterranean and European market—without relying on Russia or Iran for right-of-way.

Russia, displeased by these prospects, may have even further troubles in the future with its own increased natural gas production. If Russian supply exceeds Eastern European demand, which is believable, a wider market will be desirable. But with the Turkish Straits already jam-packed with Russian oil tankers, there is no room for the liquefied natural gas (LNG) tankers that would be necessary for Russia to export to the Mediterranean (there were 200+ tanker collisions/incidents in the ’90s alone). The solution? Turkey would propose the use of overland routes similar if not identical to those used by other Caspian Sea nations. This may be, for Russia, the only solution (and would be a source of extra pocket change for Turkey). But it will only have to be a “solution” if Turkey doesn’t absorb the remainder of Russia’s export all by itself before it can reach the Mediterranean market—another believable scenario.

Regardless, the Caspian won’t stop producing any time soon, and for Turkey, the West, NATO, and opportunistic supervillain daughters of oil tycoons, a Turkish East-West energy corridor for natural gas is a promising, and lucrative, possibility.

Written by M. James

May 24, 2011 at 2:20 am

Turkey sells al-Assad short

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With the recent uprisings in the cities of Deraa, Homs, and Banias, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad apparently feels he has everything to lose. Despite Syria’s best efforts to keep journalists out of the country, reports of the ongoing military violence against protestors—as well as imprisonment and torture of civilians—have made their way into mainstream news. Unsurprisingly, the US and the EU have invoked sanctions, and anyone with an interest in political self-presevation has been condemning al-Assad’s “regime.”

This includes Turkey, for which al-Assad can no longer be a legitimate diplomatic partner. No doubt, this ends an era of diplomatic relations between Turkey and Syria, for better or worse.

Turkey’s relationship with Syria has been cold and confrontational for the vast majority of the history of the Turkish republic, marked by continual territorial disputes over southern Turkey’s Hatay province and differing opinions on Israel, among other things. For example, Turkey, projecting power over its downstream neighbor, constructed dams on the Tigris and Euphrates, threatening Syria’s water supply. In turn, Syria harbored and aided Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and bitter enemy of the Turkish republic. During the course of these events Turkey threatened to invade Syria on numerous occasions. It would be understatement to call their status-quo relationship “on the rocks.”

But these difficulties have recently been put on the back burner in favor of more amicable diplomacy. Recent relations have been relatively warm, beginning–perhaps–with the Iraq War in 2003, to which both countries were vehemently opposed.  Since then, Turkey’s relationship with Israel declined (Syria approved), free-trade agreements were signed between Turkey and Syria, and Syria withdrew troops from Lebanon, making Syria a more eligible parter for diplomacy in the eyes of the international community. Things were looking up.

But in its current state, Syria is more frowned-upon by the international community than ever. Ever since his reaction to the uprisings as they became more prominent, President al-Assad has flushed his legitimacy down the drain. In the wake of the fall of Egypt’s Mubarak, and with the eyes of the world on Middle Eastern “autocracies,” al-Assad’s hardline approach will reflect even more poorly on his government than it usually would. And with Turkey publicly—and powerfully—declaring its support for what some have coined the “Arab Awakening” or the “Arab Spring,” supporting Syria and its government is no longer appropriate.

Will al-Assad leave his post in the near future? It’s anyone’s guess, but it has no bearing on Turkey’s policy toward Syria. If Turkey is to “trust the masses” and maintain its role as a supporter of the Arab Awakening, it cannot support a Syrian regime that appears to oppress its citizens, and it must sell al-Assad’s government short—in spite of recent amicability—to retain its legitimacy.

Written by M. James

May 17, 2011 at 9:21 am