Why we need new political theory (4-th Political Theory)?
Today we assist not only huge geopolitical transformations in the balance of leading world power (the shift from unipolarity to multipolarity), but as well the deep ideological changes. Concretely in the Middle East we see how important is still the role of USA, Israel and European Union on one hand, how Russian and China presence changes the situation in region, and how different Islamic countries and different tendencies in Islam confront or ally with each other. So there is ideological – sometimes theological dimension behind the geopolitics and we cannot any more reduce the problems to simply national States competition or East-West ideological opposition. We need new tools of analysis that would explore the ideological ground and project it on the geopolitical map. We are in need of new kind of mapping the space. And that concerns Middle Eastern space much more than any other. Because it is here where main trends are redefined now.
Transition from unipolarity toward multipolarity is painful – especially for USA, until recently incontestable pole of unipolar world order. Neocons were those who tried to affirm direct American domination as a kind of law of post-cold war era. That was almost reached during unipolar moment (Ch.Krauthammer) from 1991 till 9/11 (2000). Neoconservatism ideology was based on the supremacy of liberalism (liberal democracy, human rights, parlamentarianism, secularism), but in addition there was strong and unconditional support to Israel, certain hatred to Islam, and to ex-superpower (Russia) and insistence on leading role of US in confront with all other – including Europe. Clinton and Bush administrations both were under strong influence of neocons. After 9/11 they felt that their hour has approached and pushed to intervene in Afghanistan and Iraq. In that moment the Greater Middle East Project was born, that was based on the presumption of “deep democratization” of Middle East, that means violent destruction of political regimes, balance of powers, border lines and so on. The growth of the role of Israel and creation of Kurdish State were foreseen. That is there where we were in the beginning of 2000: geopolitically unipolarity and atlanticism, ideologically – Eastern centered radical offensive (attacking) liberalism.
Obama tried to moderate this neocons line trying to restrain some of its hardest points, but he acted in the same paradigm. Rhetorically he preferred to speak in terms of multilateralism that was a milder version of the same unipolarity but not so explicit hegemonic features. So Arab spring came that caused the turmoil in Northern Africa and the bloody civil war from Lybia to Yemen, Iraq and Syria (including coup d’etat or attempt to do it in Egypt and Turkey). Obama changed the speed of American politics not the direction. Ideologically it was as well the same – Western-centered liberalism a bit less offensive than in the case of neocons. His support to Israel as well continued but not at the same scale as before.
During George Bush Jr. rule and above all during Obama time there was important geopolitical phenomenon – the return of Putin’s Russia in the history. That was serious and may be decisive challenge to unipolarity. Nuclear Russia insisted on her total sovereignty and that was crucial. Georgia, Ukraine, unification with Crimea and finally Russian entry in Syria were consequent steps of global importance. Putin conducted himself as if the world is already multipolar and it became to turn into that, following the attitude of Moscow. That changed almost everything. That shift of paradigm has reinforced Iran always struggling to get rid of Western hegemony – geopolitically and ideologically. Turkey began to get close to Russia in order to counterbalance American pressures and to curb Kurdish striving for autonomy and independence. For Asad Russian entry was decisive. Bagdad has seen new alternative to American policy. China that became to this moment economic giant used that shift in order to reaffirm herself as leading regional player mostly through Belt and Road Initiative project. So Putin’s strong politics was immediately supported by almost all Middle Eastern players adjusted their politics to newly outlined multipolarity. This shift was made on the expense of USA, European Union and Western proxies – such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The supported by ar-Riyad and Doha Salafi rebels (ISIS at the first hand) as well were seriously damaged by new Russian-Turkish-Iranian alliance. Israel was a little bit restrained too. Project of Greater Kurdistan was abandon as Greater Middle East Project in general.
There was exactly the moment when Trump came to power. His rhetoric on the way to White House was very critical to all his predecessors: in geopolitics (Trump declared himself anti0interventionist and by the way didn’t start yet any war as deep contrast with Clinton, Bush or “bloody pigeon” Obama) and in ideology (severely criticizing liberalism and globalism). So 2016 year was key year. Here the unipolaraty, atlanticism and globalist liberalism has shown their weakness and demonstrated that they are in serious decline and multipolarity began to take shape. Obviously Trump couldn’t fulfill his promises to Americans who elected him but his politics was and is not so radically globalist, unipolar and liberal as of all his predecessors – starting with Woodrow Wilson. US are still here in the Middle East. Its support to Israel has grown. The hostilities against Islam persist but… there is completely new density in all that. It seems that US begins somehow to withdraw from its hegemonic role accepting against their will the multipolar status quo mad possible by Putin’s Russia, their allies and Chinese growth.
This geopolitical shift where Russia played essential role signified as well the shift in the ideology. In the unipolar moment the leading and only ideology pretending to be universal after the fall of USSR was liberalism. If now the West shrinks that concerns the liberal ideology as well. So in unipolar world there is only dominant ideology imposed universally -- liberalism. In multipolar logically should be otherwise. So the question is: where we are in the ideology?
In political modernity where the West dominated there were only two alternative to liberalism: communism and nationalism (fascism). Both were won in XX century and on their consequent defeat was based global unipolar moment of liberalism. If liberalism shrinks – not only in the Non-Western regions but in the US themselves, so there appear the void space. It is obvious that the idea to fill the gap by old Western modern ideologies – two established forms of illiberalism communism and fascism – is not to appealing and rather unacceptable. So we are in interesting situation: among three classical political ideologies of Modernity – 1)liberalism, 2) communism and 3) fascism -- we cannot choose neither one. We need to remark that all forces actively involved in Middle East except China and Western countries – Russia, Iran, Turkey, Arab States and so on – can not be defined in that nomenclature – all of them are neither liberal, nor communist, nor fascist. So the ideological void is not so easy to fill.
Here the main question is asked: how it is possible to be non-liberal, but at the same time not being communist nor fascist? On the practical level we have Iranian political system, Putins’ authoritarian rule and Erdogan realism, but they – may be with exception of Iran -- situational based on concrete political circumstances. But liberalism though withdrawing is still the full scale ideology. If against that diminished and weakened but still powerful ideology we oppose just transient and pragmatic alliance we risk to undermine multipolarity and to transform the victory over liberalism in the Pyrrhus victory. The realist alliances based only on egoistic national interested are instable. That is not solid ground to build enduring world order on it.
These simple and almost evident demonstration show that we need new political theory that would fit to the demands of the history, of multipolarity, of emerging new shape of the structure of International Relations. That should be Fourth Political Theory precisely because first political theory, the liberalism is precisely one we try to get rid of and two other – second political theory, communism and third political theory – fascism are absolutely unacceptable by evident reasons. So we need the Fourth.
The problem is there no such theory in the Western political thought of Modernity. There is only one logical answer to that: we need to create such theory that would play the role of common denominator for multipolar world, accepting all historic, religious, cultural and civilizational differences of all. This theory can not be Western and Modern. So let it be so. We could concentrate on Non-Western and Premodern (Traditional) or Postmodern paradigm in search of inspiration. In the case of Islam it is relatively easy and the Iranian ideology is already the ready example of such political theory that can be regarded as Fourth Political Theory for Shia muslims. We need something similar for Russia -- Russian Fourth Political Theory based on orthodox Christianity, Byzantinism and Eurasian tradition. That is exactly the project I am working on during more than 30 years. But the same concerns Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, all Arab counties bit not only them. In multipolar world each country and State, each people and religion should find their own way to affirm identity and to resist to liberalism and globalization that are two form of Western hegemony. It shrinks, shakes, swings, but is still there. So Fourth Political Theory should not be universal. It can include differences but it should propose some – let it be pluralist and polycentric formalism necessary to any ideology. It is hard work that nobody can do but the best minds of all great human civilizations proud of their tradition, identity – past and future.