Interregnums Are Never Just
As imperial order frays due to the self-imposed relative power loss of the American hegemon, older demons will return to form.
For the first time since 1973, the Israeli security cabinet declared war after what might be the largest attack since the modern state’s birth from the smoldering wreckage of the collapse of the British imperial order. Even the war in 1973, a conventional war between states and civilized armies, did not see this scale of casualties—arguably the highest number of Israeli casualties in a single day—violence, and barbarism. A 30-year-old German-Israeli woman’s violated corpse was paraded through the streets of Gaza in the back of a pickup truck, desecrated all the way by Gazans spitting on the naked corpse. One is reminded that not all cultures are equal, and that evil is almost always objectively identifiable and often barbaric.
Questions aside about such a massive intelligence failure—which will hurt Israel’s reputation as both the most powerful military in the region as well as the most competent human intelligence collector—the videos of murdered Israelis will only mean two things. There’s no more Jus ad Bellum in this context. President Biden’s peace process is toast. No American administration can normalize this. There will not be a civilized gentlemen’s war in the region resulting from this. All conflict is, ultimately, theological.
Almost to prove the British-Indian Home Secretary’s point about forced “multiculturalism,” Palestinians distributed sweets in the streets of London, as the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, lamented on Twitter that England might see some violence between “communities” because passions are high. A Somalian Minnesota anti-colonial activist, herself a colonial settler per her own definition, tweeted out “what did y’all think decolonization meant? vibes? papers? essays? losers.” Another one, an Associate Professor at McMaster University, tweeted that “Postcolonial, anticolonial, and decolonial are not just words you heard in your EDI workshop.”
In a way, these tweets were clarifying, and to some extent, theoretically true. There can be no dual nationalism coexisting in a truly democratic polity. A multicultural polity is almost inevitably imperial, with a leviathan maintaining the balance of power and enforcing top-down order. In a democracy, things are different; there must be a dominant culture, dominant language, and ethos, and that might require the elimination of multicultural ethos and require forced assimilation.
The Germans and Europeans who migrated to the U.S. anglicized their names and fought against their country of origin in two world wars. Can we expect that from the recent migrants? Historically, it is assumed that migrants will take on a whole new form and discard their former selves. If they cannot do so or continue to care more about the culture or land they left than the land beneath their feet, that means they have failed to assimilate and should be deported.
It is, however, good that decolonial activists are showing the world what they really mean by the academic-sounding buzzwords, and what applied post-colonialism means in practice. When they promote mass migration and open borders while calling civilized and assimilated individuals “settlers” or “colonial,” remember that they want to see the “settlers” treated in the way the German-Jewish woman was defiled in the Israeli video. The door-to-door violence in Gaza is evidence of what might happen in Europe and America as a result of an uncontrolled open-border policy. When millions of military-age men cross borders as hordes, they don’t just come as refugees.
The latest conflict in the Middle East, along with the return of wars of conquest and ethnic cleansing in the Eastern parts of Europe, is symbolic of a greater and inevitable collapse of an imperial order and hegemonic peace. The unfortunate historical reality is that sometimes cultures and theology are incompatible, and such conflicts, based on irreconcilable differences in the same land, are almost always dormant under an imperial order imposed from above. There is no normative liberal-democratic peace other than one imposed by the hegemon. It was ever thus; the only long durations of peace in the world were imposed under the Romans, or the Europeans, especially the British. After the collapse of the Soviet Empire, the American Empire took over.
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Multipolarity isn’t a “choice,” it is a result of a loss of relative power, which often, almost inevitably results from imperial overstretch. America can try to double down on imperial peace, but it would only result in further loss of relative power, insolvency, and eventual collapse. That would result in further violence until a new “balance of power” is reached due to the structural forces and relative power that occur organically as a hegemonic power erodes from overstretch. The timeless iron laws of realism will not be falsified just because one imagines a species progressing and winning over its inherent nature.
Just like the Romans and the British in the Middle East, and the Soviets in East Europe and Afghanistan, the Americans also overstretched and are now almost bankrupt from maintaining imperial peace across the planet; just as ancient and far more socially conservative empires aspire to return to their historic hierarchies. Just as before, the exhausted hegemon’s inability to impose order from above, and a fraying social contract at home, will lead to further local ordering abroad and wars of brute conquest and cleansing—up until some other power imposes its own version of peace.
Whatever it is, we are in the interregnum, and interregnums are never “just” or “peaceful.” As imperial ordering frays, due to the self-imposed relative power loss of the American hegemon, older demons will return to form, and there will only either be victory or defeat in some such parts of the world and a new imposed order and temporal equilibrium due to open conquest from one side.