In Greek mythology, Athena fell in love with Perseus’ mother; however, he thought Perseus was an obstacle; thus, sent Perseus to war with Medusa under the pretext of fulfilling the gods’ command in order to get rid of him. In the end, however, Perseus returned with having Medusa beheaded and this was the endgame for him. What is the most palpable element of this myth is that trying to get rid of the enemy of the status quo, or in other words, the disrupting element, and making it involved in a premeditated maelstrom may cause its winning.
Looking from a macro perspective, the current war cannot be interpreted just as a war between Kyiv and Moscow; since it is not a war of a territorial unit against another one. However, it is a war against an order which has prevailed utterly, especially after the second world war. The order is based on the idea of liberal capitalist internationalism but it really suffers from the lack of liberalism more than anything else.
What is happening today is not a war against Ukraine but is the inability of the post-Cold War American order to respond to the political, economic, and security issues of the international system.
In order to understand the tyranny of the old order and the coercion of others to accept it, it is necessary to think about a few issues. More than a Kantian based on peace and cooperation, what prevails in this order is the assignments of an imperial unit (United States) levied upon allies, partners, and political units as well as crushing of opponents and revisionists of the order.
The war more than anything else manifests not being able to have a dialogue with the order and withstanding against this prevailing discourse in the new American order that “I live so I have a right to have a right.” What led Russia and, previously China, as the great world powers, to the conclusion that they cannot stay in this order anymore is that the rule of the order up to now has been based on the elimination game.
In this order whoever has asked about the reason for America’s actions in recent years has been punished severely.
The existence of more than 800 US military bases in the world and its attacks on almost 50 countries, directly or indirectly, has been the logic that is vividly palpable now.
On the other hand, the United States, as the spokesman and leader of this world order, cannot denounce Russia; because the discourse of attacking another country that opposes you or you consider it as a threat happens to be exactly what Washington has done exactly over the years. The military occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, giving up Afghanistan to the Taliban after 20 years, military and logistical support of Saudi Arabia to invade Yemen despite what the United Nations has called the greatest humanitarian catastrophe of the 21st century, invasion of Libya with the help of the allies and leaving it to its own and destabilizing North Africa shows that this “occupying” discourse has been accepted by the Americans, but only with one exception: Others should not learn from us, and this is only we that have the right.
The question now is whether the authority to determine legitimacy and right in the existing American order has been able to build a better world? To clarify the issue, it is possible to refer to an example of recent history. Didn’t the same scenario of Russian concern repeat in the case of the Bay of Pigs during Kennedy’s presidency in 1961? If the Russians did not have the right to deploy ballistic missiles in Cuba, then why does Russia have no right to worry when NATO is completely besieging Russia on its eastern borders, given the distance between NATO-deployed missiles and the Russian capital is less than 400 km?
This is where the issue of determining rights comes into play. While the AUKUS treaty makes it clear that “we,” the US-led coalition, is seeking to besiege China and the US Navy has positioned its advanced logistic and military forces near China border from South Korea to Taiwan, Japan, and ASEAN countries, any country approaching the US borders or even asking why Washington moves in a proactive way can cause severe punishment by that US.
Given the clarity of the mechanism of the new American order, or maybe we can refer to it as the “old” American order, the United States may be more than ever looking for a victim to restore this dying phenomenon. Given the clarity of the mechanism of the new American order, or maybe we can call it the old American order; an order whose greatest characteristic has been the creation of crises and repeated crisis-making under various headings, and even former proponents of it such as Farid Zakaria, Thomas Friedman, and Francis Fukuyama speak of a key code name for the current order: crisis.
Therefore, sacrificing Ukraine and engaging Europe directly with Russia would be a return to the old strategy of the United States: engaging the parties and coming out of the all- against- all war as the victorious side. For instance, a project such as Nord Stream 2 between Russia and Germany, which could have been one of the beginnings of a successful European effort to reduce its dependence on the United States and make Russia a reliable partner in Europe, is now gone and this is what has made America delighted. Given the rise of nationalist discourse in Europe and the re-emergence of European strategic independence, America not only reminded Europe of their need for the United States to confront the new enemy, but also managed to improve its image as the savior and supporter of Europe.
The United States of America and the order which is dying and decaying under its leadership, are now by themselves the biggest threats to world peace and stability. America, not only can no longer afford to pay the exuberant costs; but also seeks to block the power by launching an all-against-all war and highlighting other’s (evil emperorship) enmity in order to introduce itself as good. Thus, it seems that the status quo should instruct Europe that it has been taken hostage by the White House politicians seeking to turn Europe into another scorched earth in order to restore the lost prestige of the declining American order.
*Timothy Hopper, an international relations graduate of American University.