Dr. M’s UNGA Address should hit right home


September 30, 2018

Dr. M’s UNGA Address should hit right home

Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s Address to the United Nations General Assembly was poised, articulate and to the point.

He did not mince his words when he spoke about global political, economic, social and environmental conditions since his last address 15 years ago, in 2003.

The gist? That the world has not changed much in terms of reform; that the developing world is still being bullied by powerful nations; that the trade war between the US and China continues to impoverish poorer and smaller countries; that there is a growing ambiguity of social values, and that the notion of freedom has become skewed, at best.

Intellectually-sharp and laudable, Dr. Mahathir delivered his poignant message, that the “new Malaysia” is not naive. He told the UN General Assembly that Malaysia will continue to soldier on with other countries, through the United Nations, to make the world a better place, economically, politically, socially and environmentally.

In foreign policy jargon, Mahathir delivered a warning against the acts of dangerous, threatening Hitlers and the misconceptions of peaceful, law-abiding allies.

Overall, his Address championed the aspirations of the developing world and smaller non-aligned nations. However, there is more that we should take away from his Address, in order to render his thoughts more relevant in the domestic Malaysian context.

There are three key areas the new Malaysia should focus on. Mahathir spoke of global terrorism. Although he did not specify the actual definition of the term (or of the word “terrorist”), one can read between the lines. He lamented that there is “something wrong with our way of thinking, with our value system. Kill one man, it is murder, kill a million and you become a hero”.

What he actually means is that the powerful have the capacity to define concepts in order to justify certain acts. Terrorism, as coined by the powerful, is a notion applied to non-state actors, jihadists and transnational communities of oppressed people who react violently to achieve justice.

Powerful states have the sole purpose of pushing their economic and political agendas and so a global understanding of the concept of terrorism was born after 9/11.

Yes, about 3,000 died mercilessly at the World Trade Center in 2001. But almost 130,000 (mostly civilians) perished in one day, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in 1945. This is more than 43 times the death toll at the hands of the so-called Islamic terrorists.

Yet, throughout the decades after World War Two, the acceptable narrative describing US geo-political advances (and those of her allies) was never termed “terrorist” or “terrorism”.

I am not condoning such acts as no mass killing of civilians can be considered civilised behaviour. However, we must consider here the socio-political manipulation of labels.

In the Malaysian context it is happening all around us to the detriment of the common people. For instance, the notion of “the rights of Malays” and “the welfare of the Malays”. What rights are we focusing on? The right to get a job based on race or the right that all qualified and capable Malays should be appropriately awarded?

For me, it is the latter. Yet, certain politicians still choose to speak about the unfair treatment of the Malays and that the new Pakatan Harapan government should be tasked to help bring them up to greatness and to be protected.

The label of “rights” is bandied around but its meaning is deliberately couched in ambiguity for an ulterior political motive.

Using Mahathir’s example of the plight of the Rohingyas, his message was an appeal for “caring”; that just because a nation is independent it does not mean the world should close an eye to domestic suffering and injustice.

He reiterated that nations need to solve the problems of global conflict, racism and bigotry by going back to the root causes.

Similarly, the state of Malaysia’s education system needs care and we need to identify the root causes of the inequality that exists in our schools and universities.

Agreed, our teachers and professors are not being massacred, and neither are our students. But mentally, the massacre began 61 years ago.

The public university leadership has failed to produce thinking professional graduates and to my mind, this is humanity’s greatest form of oppression.

We are all aware that our public university leadership is more concerned with national and international rankings, administrative positions of the academic staff, titles and research funding.

But are the research funds, for instance, channeled into meaningful projects to help society overcome real problems of poverty and discrimination?

Are the researchers and academics “caring” enough to plan such research even though they may not be awarded a future government contract or a datukship?

This brings me to my next point: values. Mahathir commented that there is something wrong with our way of thinking.  To my mind, the sole purpose of an education is to instil good values. These include moderation, dignity, integrity, hard work, perseverance and honour. No matter what religion or creed one belongs to, these are universal values.

In post-election Malaysia, this topic has surfaced many times. But I fear it is just a narrative with no substance.

There are many issues that have surfaced since PH took over. From the appointment of key ministerial positions, to presidents of universities, to the PD move, to child marriage, the list goes on.

Nepotism, cronyism and corruption still loom over us but it is not too late for values reform. What better way to start than to realise that, while it is important for us to preach values to the international community, we should apply this to our own society.

There is a need for all Malaysians to delve deeper into Mahathir’s UNGA Address because he was not only sending a message to the superpowers and their allies.We should also see his message as a warning to tackle our own domestic crises; problems that have arisen as a result of past mistakes, on-going stubbornness to address those mistakes and a lack of foresight.

Dr.Sharifah Munirah Alatas is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

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Malaysia’s Prime Minister at UNGA, 2018


September 29, 2018

Malaysia’s Prime Minister at UNGA, 2018

Friday, September 28, 2018: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad speaks to 73rd United Nations General Assembly in New York (9/28/18) on September 28, 2018. PM Mahathir Mohamad speaks about Rohingya issue, United Nations Development goal at the UNGA 2018.

President of Malaysia Mahathir bin Mohamad gave his speech at The United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday at 11:45 am, (28-9-18) on September 28, 2018 — and it could be one of his most important speeches yet.

Live streaming of Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad Speech to the UN General Assembly 9/28/2018.

#MahathirMohamad #Speech #UnitedNations

The following is Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s speech at the general debate of the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York

Madam President,

1. I would like to join others in congratulating you on your election as the President of the Seventy-Third (73rd) Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

2. I am confident with your wisdom and vast experience; this session will achieve the objectives of the theme for this session. I assure you of Malaysia’s fullest support and cooperation towards achieving these noble goals.

3. Allow me to also pay tribute to your predecessor, His Excellency Miroslav Lajcak, for his dedication and stewardship in successfully completing the work of the 72nd Session of the General Assembly.

4. I commend the Secretary-General and the United Nations staff for their tireless efforts in steering and managing UN activities globally.

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5. In particular, I pay tribute to the late Kofi Annan, the seventh Secretary-General of the UN from 1997 – 2006, who sadly passed away in August this year. Malaysia had a positively strong and active engagement with the UN during his tenure.

Madam President,

6. The theme of this 73rd Session of General Assembly, “Making the United Nations Relevant to All People: Global Leadership and Shared Responsibilities for Peaceful, Equitable and Sustainable Societies” remains true to the aspiration of our founding fathers. The theme is most relevant and timely. It is especially pertinent in the context of the new Malaysia. The new Government of Malaysia, recently empowered with a strong mandate from its people, is committed to ensure that every Malaysian has an equitable share in the prosperity and wealth of the nation.

7. A new Malaysia emerged after the 14th General Election in May this year. Malaysians decided to change their government, which had been in power for 61 years, i.e., since independence. We did this because the immediate past Government indulged in the politics of hatred, of racial and religious bigotry, as well as widespread corruption. The process of change was achieved democratically, without violence or loss of lives.

8. Malaysians want a new Malaysia that upholds the principles of fairness, good governance, integrity and the rule of law. They want a Malaysia that is a friend to all and enemy of none. A Malaysia that remains neutral and non-aligned. A Malaysia that detests and abhors wars and violence. They also want a Malaysia that will speak its mind on what is right and wrong, without fear or favour. A new Malaysia that believes in co-operation based on mutual respect, for mutual gain. The new Malaysia that offers a partnership based on our philosophy of ‘prosper-thy-neighbour’. We believe in the goodness of cooperation, that a prosperous and stable neighbour would contribute to our own prosperity and stability.

9. The new Malaysia will firmly espouse the principles promoted by the UN in our international engagements. These include the principles of truth, human rights, the rule of law, justice, fairness, responsibility and accountability, as well as sustainability. It is within this context that the new government of Malaysia has pledged to ratify all remaining core UN instruments related to the protection of human rights. It will not be easy for us because Malaysia is multi-ethnic, multireligious, multicultural and multilingual. We will accord space and time for all to deliberate and to decide freely based on democracy.

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad speak during the General Debate of the 73rd session of the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York. NSTP/Video Grab UNWeb TV

 

Madam President,

10. When I last spoke here in 2003, I lamented how the world had lost its way. I bemoaned the fact that small countries continued to be at the mercy of the powerful. I argued the need for the developing world to push for reform, to enhance capacity building and diversify the economy. We need to maintain control of our destiny.

 

11. But today, 15 years later the world has not changed much. If at all the world is far worse than 15 years ago. Today the world is in a state of turmoil economically, socially and politically.

12. There is a trade war going on between the two most powerful economies. And the rest of the world feel the pain.

13. Socially new values undermine the stability of nations and their people. Freedom has led to the negation of the concept of marriage and families, of moral codes, of respect etc.

14. But the worse turmoil is in the political arena. We are seeing acts of terror everywhere. People are tying bombs to their bodies and blowing themselves up in crowded places. Trucks are driven into holiday crowds. Wars are fought and people beheaded with short knives. Acts of brutality are broadcast to the world live. Masses of people risk their lives to migrate only to be denied asylum, sleeping in the open and freezing to death. Thousands starve and tens of thousands die in epidemics of cholera.

15. No one, no country is safe. Security checks inconvenience travelers. No liquids on planes. The slightest suspicion leads to detention and unpleasant questioning.

16. To fight the “terrorists” all kinds of security measures, all kinds of gadgets and equipment are deployed. Big brother is watching. But the acts of terror continues.

17. Malaysia fought the bandits and terrorists at independence and defeated them. We did use the military. But alongside and more importantly we campaigned to win the hearts of minds of these people.

18. This present war against the terrorist will not end until the root causes are found and removed and hearts and minds are won.

19. What are the root causes? In 1948, Palestinian land was seized to form the state of Israel. The Palestinians were massacred and forced to leave their land. Their houses and farms were seized.

20. They tried to fight a conventional war with help from sympathetic neighbours. The friends of Israel ensured this attempt failed. More Palestinian land was seized. And Israeli settlements were built on more and more Palestinian land and the Palestinians are denied access to these settlements built on their land.

21. The Palestinians initially tried to fight with catapults and stones. They were shot with live bullets and arrested. Thousands are incarcerated.

22. Frustrated and angry, unable to fight a conventional war, the Palestinians resort to what we call terrorism.

23. The world does not care even when Israel breaks international laws, seizing ships carrying medicine, food and building materials in international waters. The Palestinians fired ineffective rockets which hurt no one. Massive retaliations were mounted by Israel, rocketing and bombing hospitals, schools and other buildings, killing innocent civilians including school children and hospital patients. And more.

24. The world rewards Israel, deliberately provoking Palestine by recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

25. It is the anger and frustration of the Palestinians and their sympathisers that cause them to resort to what we call terrorism. But it is important to acknowledge that any act which terrify people also constitute terrorism. And states dropping bombs or launching rockets which maim and kill innocent people also terrify people. These are also acts of terrorism.

26. Malaysia hates terrorism. We will fight them. But we believe that the only way to fight terrorism is to remove the cause. Let the Palestinians return to reclaim their land. Let there be a state of Palestine. Let there be justice and the rule of law. Warring against them will not stop terrorism. Nor will out-terrorising them succeed.

27. We need to remind ourselves that the United Nations Organisation, like the League of Nations before, was conceived for the noble purpose of ending wars between nations.

28. Wars are about killing people. Modern wars are about mass killings and total destruction countrywide. Civilised nations claim they abhor killing for any reason. When a man kills, he commits the crime of murder. And the punishment for murder may be death.

29. But wars, we all know encourage and legitimise killing. Indeed the killings are regarded as noble, and the killers are hailed as heroes. They get medals stuck to their chest and statues erected in their honour, have their names mentioned in history books.

30. There is something wrong with our way of thinking, with our value system. Kill one man, it is murder, kill a million and you become a hero. And so we still believe that conflict between nations can be resolved with war.

31. And because we still do, we must prepare for war. The old adage says “to have peace, prepare for war”. And we are forever preparing for war, inventing more and more destructive weapons. We now have nuclear bombs, capable of destroying whole cities. But now we know that the radiation emanating from the explosion will affect even the country using the bomb. A nuclear war would destroy the world.

32. This fear has caused the countries of Europe and North America to maintain peace for over 70 years. But that is not for other countries. Wars in these other countries can help live test the new weapons being invented.

33. And so they sell them to warring countries. We see their arms in wars fought between smaller countries. These are not world wars but they are no less destructive. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, whole countries devastated and nations bankrupted because of these fantastic new weapons.

34. But these wars give handsome dividends to the arms manufacturers and traders. The arms business is now the biggest business in the world. They profit shamelessly from the deaths and destruction they cause. Indeed, so-called peace-loving countries often promote this shameful business.

35. Today’s weapons cost millions. Fighter jets cost about 100 million dollars. And maintaining them cost tens of millions. But the poor countries are persuaded to buy them even if they cannot afford. They are told their neighbours or their enemies have them. It is imperative that they too have them.

36. So, while their people starve and suffer from all kinds of deprivations, a huge percentage of their budget is allocated to the purchase of arms. That their buyers may never have to use them bothers the purveyors not at all.

Madam President,

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37. In Myanmar, Muslims in Rakhine state are being murdered, their homes torched and a million refugees had been forced to flee, to drown in the high seas, to live in makeshift huts, without water or food, without the most primitive sanitation. Yet the authorities of Myanmar including a Nobel Peace Laureate deny that this is happening. I believe in non-interference in the internal affairs of nations. But does the world watch massacres being carried out and do nothing? Nations are independent. But does this mean they have a right to massacre their own people, because they are independent?

Madam President,

38. On the other hand, in terms of trade, nations are no longer independent. Free trade means no protection by small countries of their infant industries. They must abandon tariff restrictions and open their countries to invasion by products of the rich and the powerful. Yet the simple products of the poor are subjected to clever barriers so that they cannot penetrate the market of the rich. Malaysian palm oil is labelled as dangerous to health and the estates are destroying the habitat of animals. Food products of the rich declare that they are palm oil free. Now palm diesel are condemned because they are decimating virgin jungles. These caring people forget that their boycott is depriving hundreds of thousands of people from jobs and a decent life.

39. We in Malaysia care for the environment. Some 48% of our country remains virgin jungle. Can our detractors claim the same for their own countries?

Madam President,

40. Malaysia is committed to sustainable development. We have taken steps, for example in improving production methods to ensure that our palm oil production is sustainable. By December 2019, the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) standard will become mandatory. This will ensure that every drop of palm oil produced in Malaysia will be certified sustainable by 2020.

Madam President,

41. All around the world, we observe a dangerous trend to inward-looking nationalism, of governments pandering to populism, retreating from international collaborations and shutting their borders to free movements of people, goods and services even as they talk of a borderless world, of free trade. While globalisation has indeed brought us some benefits, the impacts have proven to be threatening to the independence of small nations. We cannot even talk or move around without having our voices and movement recorded and often used against us. Data on everyone is captured and traded by powerful nations and their corporations.

42. Malaysia lauds the UN in its endeavours to end poverty, protect our planet and try to ensure everyone enjoys peace and prosperity. But I would like to refer to the need for reform in the organisation. Five countries on the basis of their victories 70 over years ago cannot claim to have a right to hold the world to ransom forever. They cannot take the moral high ground, preaching democracy and regime change in the countries of the world when they deny democracy in this organisation.

43. I had suggested that the veto should not be by just one permanent member but by at least two powers backed by three non-permanent members of the Security Council. The General Assembly should then back the decision with a simple majority. I will not say more.

44. I must admit that the world without the UN would be disastrous. We need the UN, we need to sustain it with sufficient funds. No one should threaten it with financial deprivation.

Madam President,

45. After 15 years and at 93, I return to this podium with the heavy task of bringing the voice and hope of the new Malaysia to the world stage. The people of Malaysia, proud of their recent democratic achievement, have high hopes that around the world – we will see peace, progress and prosperity. In this we look toward the UN to hear our pleas.

I thank you, Madam President.

 

Israel’s Prime Minister at  UNGA,  2018

 

Iran’s President Addresses UNGA, 2018

Foreign Policy: Francis Fukuyama Postpones the End of History


September 3, 2018

Foreign Policy: Francis Fukuyama Postpones the End of History

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The political scientist argues that the desire of identity groups for recognition is a key threat to liberalism.

In February, 1989, Francis Fukuyama gave a talk on international relations at the University of Chicago. Fukuyama was thirty-six years old, and on his way from a job at the RAND Corporation, in Santa Monica, where he had worked as an expert on Soviet foreign policy, to a post as the deputy director of policy planning at the State Department, in Washington.

It was a good moment for talking about international relations, and a good moment for Soviet experts especially, because, two months earlier, on December 7, 1988, Mikhail Gorbachev had announced, in a speech at the United Nations, that the Soviet Union would no longer intervene in the affairs of its Eastern European satellite states. Those nations could now become democratic. It was the beginning of the end of the Cold War.

At RAND, Fukuyama had produced focussed analyses of Soviet policy. In Chicago, he permitted himself to think big. His talk came to the attention of Owen Harries, an editor at a Washington journal called The National Interest, and Harries offered to publish it. The article was titled “The End of History?” It came out in the summer of 1989, and it turned the foreign-policy world on its ear.

Fukuyama’s argument was that, with the imminent collapse of the Soviet Union, the last ideological alternative to liberalism had been eliminated. Fascism had been killed off in the Second World War, and now Communism was imploding. In states, like China, that called themselves Communist, political and economic reforms were heading in the direction of a liberal order.

So, if you imagined history as the process by which liberal institutions—representative government, free markets, and consumerist culture—become universal, it might be possible to say that history had reached its goal. Stuff would still happen, obviously, and smaller states could be expected to experience ethnic and religious tensions and become home to illiberal ideas. But “it matters very little what strange thoughts occur to people in Albania or Burkina Faso,” Fukuyama explained, “for we are interested in what one could in some sense call the common ideological heritage of mankind.”

Hegel, Fukuyama said, had written of a moment when a perfectly rational form of society and the state would become victorious. Now, with Communism vanquished and the major powers converging on a single political and economic model, Hegel’s prediction had finally been fulfilled. There would be a “Common Marketization” of international relations and the world would achieve homeostasis.

Even among little magazines, The National Interest was little. Launched in 1985 by Irving Kristol, the leading figure in neoconservatism, it had by 1989 a circulation of six thousand. Fukuyama himself was virtually unknown outside the world of professional Sovietologists, people not given to eschatological reflection. But the “end of history” claim was picked up in the mainstream press, Fukuyama was profiled by James Atlas in the New York Times Magazine, and his article was debated in Britain and in France and translated into many languages, from Japanese to Icelandic. Some of the responses to “The End of History?” were dismissive; almost all of them were skeptical. But somehow the phrase found its way into post-Cold War thought, and it stuck.

One of the reasons for the stickiness was that Fukuyama was lucky. He got out about six months ahead of the curve—his article appearing before the Velvet Revolution, in Czechoslovakia, and before the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, in November, 1989. Fukuyama was betting on present trends continuing, always a high-risk gamble in the international-relations business.

Any number of things might have happened for Gorbachev’s promise not to cash out: political resistance within the Soviet Union, the refusal of the Eastern European puppet regimes to cede power, the United States misplaying its hand. But events in Europe unfolded more or less according to Fukuyama’s prediction, and, on December 26, 1991, the Soviet Union voted itself out of existence. The Cold War really was over.

Events in Asia were not so obliging. Fukuyama missed completely the suppression of the pro-democracy movement in China. There is no mention of the massacre in Tiananmen Square in “The End of History?,” presumably because the piece was in production when it happened, in June, 1989. This does not seem to have made a difference to the article’s reception, however. Almost none of the initial responses to the piece mentioned Tiananmen, either—even though many people already believed that China, not Russia, was the power that liberal democracies would have to reckon with in the future. “The End of History?” was a little Eurocentric.

There was also a seductive twist to Fukuyama’s argument. At the end of the article, he suggested that life after history might be sad. When all political efforts were committed to “the endless solving of technical problems, environmental concerns, and the satisfaction of sophisticated consumer demands” (sounds good to me), we might feel nostalgia for the “courage, imagination, and idealism” that animated the old struggles for liberalism and democracy. This speculative flourish recalled the famous question that John Stuart Mill said he asked himself as a young man: If all the political and social reforms you believe in came to pass, would it make you a happier human being? That is always an interesting question.

Another reason that Fukuyama’s article got noticed may have had to do with his new job title. The office of policy planning at State had been created in 1947 by George Kennan, who was its first chief. In July of that year, Kennan published the so-called X article, “The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” in Foreign Affairs. It appeared anonymously—signed with an “X”—but once the press learned his identity the article was received as an official statement of American Cold War policy.

“The Sources of Soviet Conduct” defined the containment doctrine, according to which the aim of American policy was to keep the Soviet Union inside its box. The United States did not need to intervene in Soviet affairs, Kennan believed, because Communism was bound to collapse from its own inefficiency. Four decades later, when “The End of History?” appeared, that is exactly what seemed to be happening. That April, Kennan, then eighty-five, appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to declare that the Cold War was over. He received a standing ovation. Fukuyama’s article could thus be seen as a bookend to Kennan’s.

It was not the bookend Kennan would have written. Containment is a realist doctrine. Realists think that a nation’s foreign policy should be guided by dispassionate consideration of its own interests, not by moral principles, or by a belief that nations share a “harmony of interests.” To Kennan, it was of no concern to the United States what the Soviets did inside their own box. The only thing that mattered was that Communism not be allowed to expand.

The National Interest, as the name proclaims, is a realist foreign-policy journal. But Fukuyama’s premise was that nations do share a harmony of interests, and that their convergence on liberal political and economic models was mutually beneficial. Realism imagines nations to be in perpetual competition with one another; Fukuyama was saying that this was no longer going to be the case. He offered Cold War realists a kind of valediction: their mission, though philosophically misconceived, had been accomplished. Now they were out of a job. “Frank thought that what was happening spelled the end of the Realpolitik world,” Harries later said. It must have tickled him to have published Fukuyama’s article.

Twenty-nine years later, it seems that the realists haven’t gone anywhere, and that history has a few more tricks up its sleeve. It turns out that liberal democracy and free trade may actually be rather fragile achievements. (Consumerism appears safe for now.) There is something out there that doesn’t like liberalism, and is making trouble for the survival of its institutions.

 

Fukuyama thinks he knows what that something is, and his answer is summed up in the title of his new book, “Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). The demand for recognition, Fukuyama says, is the “master concept” that explains all the contemporary dissatisfactions with the global liberal order: Vladimir Putin, Osama bin Laden, Xi Jinping, Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, gay marriage, ISIS, Brexit, resurgent European nationalisms, anti-immigration political movements, campus identity politics, and the election of Donald Trump. It also explains the Protestant Reformation, the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, Chinese Communism, the civil-rights movement, the women’s movement, multiculturalism, and the thought of Luther, Rousseau, Kant, Nietzsche, Freud, and Simone de Beauvoir. Oh, and the whole business begins with Plato’s Republic. Fukuyama covers all of this in less than two hundred pages. How does he do it?

Not well. Some of the problem comes from misunderstanding figures like Beauvoir and Freud; some comes from reducing the work of complex writers like Rousseau and Nietzsche to a single philosophical bullet point. A lot comes from the astonishingly blasé assumption—which was also the astonishingly blasé assumption of “The End of History?”—that Western thought is universal thought. But the whole project, trying to fit Vladimir Putin into the same analytic paradigm as Black Lives Matter and tracing them both back to Martin Luther, is far-fetched. It’s a case of Great Booksism: history as a chain of paper dolls cut out of books that only a tiny fraction of human beings have even heard of. Fukuyama is a smart man, but no one could have made this argument work.

Why is the desire for recognition—or identity politics, as Fukuyama also calls it—a threat to liberalism? Because it cannot be satisfied by economic or procedural reforms. Having the same amount of wealth as everyone else or the same opportunity to acquire it is not a substitute for respect. Fukuyama thinks that political movements that appear to be about legal and economic equality—gay marriage, for example, or #MeToo—are really about recognition and respect. Women who are sexually harassed in the workplace feel that their dignity has been violated, that they are being treated as less than fully human.

Fukuyama gives this desire for recognition a Greek name, taken from Plato’s Republic: thymos. He says that thymos is “a universal aspect of human nature that has always existed.” In the Republic, thymos is distinct from the two other parts of the soul that Socrates names: reason and appetite. Appetites we share with animals; reason is what makes us human. Thymos is in between.

The term has been defined in various ways. “Passion” is one translation; “spirit,” as in “spiritedness,” is another. Fukuyama defines thymos as “the seat of judgments of worth.” This seems a semantic overreach. In the Republic, Socrates associates thymos with children and dogs, beings whose reactions need to be controlled by reason. The term is generally taken to refer to our instinctive response when we feel we’re being disrespected. We bristle. We swell with amour propre. We honk the horn. We overreact.

Plato had Socrates divide the psyche into three parts in order to assign roles to the citizens of his imaginary republic. Appetite is the principal attribute of the plebes, passion of the warriors, and reason of the philosopher kings. The Republic is philosophy; it is not cognitive science. Yet Fukuyama adopts Plato’s heuristic and biologizes it. “Today we know that feelings of pride and self-esteem are related to levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain,” he says, and points to studies done with chimps (which Socrates would have counted as animals, but never mind).

But so what? Lots of feelings are related to changes in serotonin levels. In fact, every feeling we experience—lust, anger, depression, exasperation—has a corollary in brain chemistry. That’s how consciousness works. To say, as Fukuyama does, that “the desire for status—megalothymia—is rooted in human biology” is the academic equivalent of palmistry. You’re just making it up.

Fukuyama resorts to this tactic because he wants to do with the desire for recognition what he did with liberalism in “The End of History?” He wants to universalize it. This allows him to argue, for example, that the feelings that led to the rise of Vladimir Putin are exactly the same (albeit “on a larger scale”) as the feelings of a woman who complains that her potential is limited by gender discrimination. The woman can’t help it. She needs the serotonin, just like the Russians.

Hegel thought that the end of history would arrive when humans achieved perfect self-knowledge and self-mastery, when life was rational and transparent. Rationality and transparency are the values of classical liberalism. Rationality and transparency are supposed to be what make free markets and democratic elections work. People understand how the system functions, and that allows them to make rational choices.

The trouble with thymos is that it is not rational. People not only sacrifice worldly goods for recognition; they die for recognition. The choice to die is not rational. “Human psychology is much more complex than the rather simpleminded economic model suggests,” Fukuyama concludes.

“Sorry I’m late. I got caught up at home being happy.”

But how was that model of the rational economic actor ever plausible? It’s not just that human beings are neurotic; it’s that, on the list of things human beings are neurotic about, money is close to the top. People hoard money; they squander it; they marry for it; they kill for it. Don’t economists ever read novels? Practically every realist novel, from Austen and Balzac to James and Wharton, is about people behaving badly around money. Free markets didn’t change that. They arguably made people even crazier.

And as with money so with most of life. The notion that we have some mental faculty called “reason” that functions independently of our needs, desires, anxieties, and superstitions is, well, Platonic. Right now, you are trying to decide whether to finish this piece or turn to the cartoon-caption contest. Which mental faculty are you using to make this decision? Which is responsible for your opinion of Donald Trump? How can you tell?

“Identity” can be read as a corrective to the position that Fukuyama staked out in “The End of History?” Universal liberalism isn’t impeded by ideology, like fascism or communism, but by passion. Liberalism remains the ideal political and economic system, but it needs to find ways to accommodate and neutralize this pesky desire for recognition. What is odd about Fukuyama’s dilemma is that, in the philosophical source for his original theory about the end of history, recognition was not a problem. Recognition was, in fact, the means to get there.

That source was not Hegel. As Fukuyama stated explicitly in “The End of History?,” he was adopting an interpretation of Hegel made in the nineteen-thirties by a semi-obscure intellectual adventurer named Alexandre Kojève. How, fifty years later, Kojève’s ideas got into the pages of a Washington policy journal is an unusual story of intellectual musical chairs.

Kojève was born in 1902 into a well-off Moscow family, and he was raised in a cultivated atmosphere. The painter Wassily Kandinsky was an uncle. Kojève was a prodigious intellect; by the time he was eighteen, he was fluent in Russian, German, French, and English, and read Latin. Later, he learned Sanskrit, Chinese, and Tibetan in order to study Buddhism. In 1918, he went to prison for some sort of black-market transaction. After he got out, he and a friend managed to cross the closed Soviet border into Poland, where they were briefly jailed on suspicion of espionage. With the pointed encouragement of Polish authorities, Kojève left for Germany. He studied philosophy with Karl Jaspers at Heidelberg and lived as a bon vivant in Weimar Berlin. In 1926, he moved to Paris, where he continued to live the high life while writing a dissertation that dealt with quantum physics.

Kojève had invested his inheritance in the French company that made La Vache Qui Rit cheese, but he lost everything in the stock-market crash. In 1933, in need of income, he accepted a friend’s offer to take over a seminar on Hegel at the École Pratique des Hautes Études. He ended up running the course for six years.

People who were around Kojève seem to have regarded him as a kind of magician. In the Hegel seminar, he taught just one text, “The Phenomenology of Spirit,” first published in 1807. He would read a passage aloud in German (the book had not been translated into French) and then, extemporaneously and in perfect French (with an enchanting Slavic accent), provide his own commentary. People found him eloquent, brilliant, mesmerizing. Enrollment was small, around twenty, but a number of future intellectual luminaries, like Hannah Arendt and Jacques Lacan, either took the class or sat in on it.

For Kojève, the key concept in Hegel’s “Phenomenology” was recognition. Human beings want the recognition of other human beings in order to become self-conscious—to know themselves as autonomous individuals. As Kojève put it, humans desire, and what they desire is either something that other humans desire or the desire of other humans. “Human history,” he said, “is the history of desired desires.” What makes this complicated is that in the struggle for recognition there are winners and losers. The terms Hegel used for these can be translated as lords and servants, but also as masters and slaves, which are the terms Kojève used. The master wins the recognition of the slave, but his satisfaction is empty, since he does not recognize the slave as human in turn. The slave, lacking recognition from the master, must seek it in some other way.

Kojève thought that the other way was through labor. The slave achieves his sense of self by work that transforms the natural world into a human world. But the slave is driven to labor in the first place because of the master’s refusal to recognize him. This “master-slave dialectic” is the motor of human history, and human history comes to an end when there are no more masters or slaves, and all are recognized equally.

This is the idea that Marx had adopted to describe history as the history of class struggle. That struggle also has winners and losers, and its penultimate phase was the struggle between property owners (the bourgeoisie) and workers (the proletariat). The struggle would come to an end with the overthrow of capitalism and the arrival of a classless society—communism. Kojève called himself, mischievously or not, a Communist, and people listening to him in the nineteen-thirties would have understood this to be the subtext of his commentary. Equality of recognition was history’s goal, whether that meant Communist equality or liberal equality. People would stop killing one another in the name of dignity and self-respect, and life would probably be boring.

After the war, Kojève’s lectures were published as “Introduction to the Reading of Hegel,” a book that went through many printings in France. By then, he had stopped teaching and had become an official in the French Ministry of Economic Affairs, where he played an influential behind-the-scenes role in establishing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the European Economic Community, the forerunner of the European Union—in other words, Common Marketization. He liked to say that he was presiding over the end of history.

In 1953, Allan Bloom, then a graduate student at the University of Chicago, met Kojève in Paris, at his office in the ministry. (The connection was presumably made through the émigré political theorist Leo Strauss, who was teaching at Chicago and who carried on a long correspondence with Kojève.) “I was seduced,” Bloom later said. He began studying with Kojève, and their meetings continued until Kojève’s death, in 1968. In 1969, Bloom arranged for the publication of the first English translation of the Hegel lectures and contributed an introduction. He was then a professor at Cornell.

Fukuyama entered Cornell as a freshman in 1970. He lived in Telluride House, a selective academic society for students and faculty, where Bloom was a resident. Fukuyama enrolled in Bloom’s freshman course on Greek philosophy, and, according to Atlas, he and Bloom “shared meals and talked philosophy until all hours.”

As it happened, that was Bloom’s last year at Cornell. He resigned in disgust at the way the administration had handled the occupation of a university building by armed students from the Afro-American Society. Fukuyama graduated in 1974 with a degree in classics. Following an excursus into the world of poststructuralist theory at Yale and in Paris, he switched his field to political science and received his Ph.D. from Harvard’s government department. He graduated in 1979, and went to RAND.

By then, Bloom was back at the University of Chicago, as a professor in the Committee on Social Thought. In 1982, he published an article on the condition of higher education in William F. Buckley’s National Review. He did not think the condition was good. Encouraged by his friend Saul Bellow, he decided to turn the article into a book. “The Closing of the American Mind,” which Simon & Schuster brought out in February, 1987, launched a campaign of criticism of American higher education that has taken little time off since.

“The Closing of the American Mind” is a Great Booksist attempt to account for the rise of cultural relativism, which Bloom thought was the bane of American higher education. Almost no one at Simon & Schuster had great hopes for sales. There is a story, possibly apocryphal, that when the editor who signed the book, Erwin Glikes, left the firm to run the Free Press he was invited to take Bloom’s book, not yet published, with him, and he declined.

If so, he missed out on one of the publishing phenomena of the decade. After a slow start, “The Closing of the American Mind” went to No. 1 on the Times best-seller list and stayed there for two and a half months. By March, 1988, it had sold a million hardcover copies in the United States alone. It made Bloom a rich man.

It was Bloom, along with another professor at Chicago, Nathan Tarcov, who invited Fukuyama to give his February, 1989, talk on international relations. If Fukuyama had not already been thinking about it, it is easy to imagine him deciding that, under the circumstances, it might be interesting to say something Kojèvean.

When “The End of History?” ran in The National Interest that summer, Bloom had become a star in the neoconservative firmament, and his was the first of six responses that the magazine printed to accompany the article. Bloom called it “bold and brilliant.” Possibly seeing the way the wind was blowing, Glikes offered Fukuyama six hundred thousand dollars to turn his article into a book. “The End of History and the Last Man” was published by the Free Press in 1992.

The book was a best-seller, but not a huge one, maybe because the excitement about the end of the Cold War had cooled. Fukuyama had taken his time writing it. “The End of History and the Last Man” is not a journal article on steroids. It is a thoughtful examination of the questions raised by the piece in The National Interest, and one of those questions is the problem of thymos, which occupies much of the book. A lot of “Identity” is a recap of what Fukuyama had already said there.

The importance of recognition has been emphasized by writers other than Kojève. The Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor, for example, whose book “The Sources of the Self,” published in 1989, the same year as “The End of History?,” argued that the modern idea of the self involved a cultural shift from the concept of honor, which is something for the few, to dignity, which is aspired to by all. In 1992, in the essay “The Politics of Recognition,” Taylor analyzed the advent of multiculturalism in terms similar to the ones Fukuyama uses in “Identity.” (Taylor, too, is a Hegel expert.)

Fukuyama acknowledges that identity politics has done some good, and he says that people on the right exaggerate the prevalence of political correctness and the effects of affirmative action. He also thinks that people on the left have become obsessed with cultural and identitarian politics, and have abandoned social policy. But he has surprisingly few policy suggestions himself.

He has no interest in the solution that liberals typically adopt to accommodate diversity: pluralism and multiculturalism. Taylor, for example, has championed the right of the Québécois to pass laws preserving a French-language culture in their province. Fukuyama concedes that people need a sense of national identity, whether ethnic or creedal, but otherwise he remains an assimilationist and a universalist. He wants to iron out differences, not protect them. He suggests measures like a mandatory national-service requirement and a more meaningful path to citizenship for immigrants.

It’s unfortunate that Fukuyama has hung his authorial hat on meta-historical claims. In other books—notably “The Great Disruption” (1999) and a two-volume world history, “The Origins of Political Order” (2011) and “Political Order and Political Decay” (2014)—he distinguishes civilizational differences and uses empirical data to explain social trends. But thymos is too clumsy an instrument to be much help in understanding contemporary politics.

Wouldn’t it be important to distinguish people who ultimately don’t want differences to matter, like the people involved in #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, from people who ultimately do want them to matter, like ISIS militants, Brexit voters, or separatist nationalists? And what about people who are neither Mexican nor immigrants and who feel indignation at the treatment of Mexican immigrants? Black Americans risked their lives for civil rights, but so did white Americans. How would Socrates classify that behavior? Borrowed thymos?

It might also be good to replace the linear “if present trends continue” conception of history as a steady progression toward some stable state with the dialectical conception of history that Hegel and Kojève in fact used. Present trends don’t continue. They produce backlashes and reshufflings of the social deck. The identities that people embrace today are the identities their children will want to escape from tomorrow. History is somersaults all the way to the end. That’s why it’s so hard to write, and so hard to predict. Unless you’re lucky. ♦

 

This article appears in the print edition of the September 3, 2018, issue, with the headline “What Identity Demands.”

  • Louis Menand, a staff writer since 2001, was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2016.

Tom Friedman: On Trump, Helsinki, Russia, Republican Party and What Else


August 7, 2018

Tom Friedman: On Trump, Helsinki, Russia, Republican Party and What Else

 

The second I finished watching President Trump fawning over Vladimir Putin in Helsinki — refusing to defend the conclusions of his own intelligence services about Russia’s interference in our 2016 elections — I knew I was seeing something I’d never seen before. It took a few days to figure it out, but now it’s obvious: I was seeing a U.S. president put Russia first, not America first.

On each key question — how much Russian agents were involved in trying to tip our elections, how that issue should be further investigated, and Putin’s behavior on the world stage generally (like his government’s involvement in the downing of the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine, the murder of Russian journalists and the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the U.K.) — Trump embraced Putin’s explanations and excuses over the judgments of his own spy agencies, Justice Department, European allies and bedrock American values.

I like what Arnold Schwarzenegger said to Trump afterward: “You’re the president of the United States. You shouldn’t do that. What’s the matter with you?”

What’s the matter with you? I don’t know the definitive answer to that question, but I know that it will be an increasing problem as we enter Phase 3 of the Trump presidency.

Phase 1 saw Trump unhinged but bound — bound by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Economic Adviser Gary Cohn. In Phase 1 Trump said and did plenty of crazy stuff, but these key aides limited the damage.

Phase 2 has seen Trump unhinged and unbound. Trump has neutered Kelly, distanced himself from Mattis and sacked Tillerson, McMaster and Cohn. He replaced the last three with men so hungry for their jobs that they were ready to step over the bodies of their predecessors, who, they knew, were pushed out for standing up to Trump on policies and principles.

Watching longtime anti-Russia hawks — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton — shucking off everything they’ve said over the years and ignoring Trump’s coddling of Putin and his trashing of the F.B.I. in order to grab jobs they’d long coveted is witnessing careerism, sycophancy and cynicism on an industrial scale.

But that sets up Trump Phase 3: unhinged and unbound and unintended.

What are the unintended consequences of a U.S. president simultaneously starting trade wars with China, the European Union and Canada, putting Russia first over America first, preferring Putin and other autocrats over our traditional democratic allies, slashing corporate taxes and supercharging the national debt — without any compensating tax increases or spending cuts, thereby putting pressure on interest rates and the trade deficit — ignoring climate change and eliminating all restraints on the exploitation of fossil fuels, breaking the Iran nuclear deal and now threatening war with Iran, limiting immigration into our already tight labor markets, steadily eroding Obamacare and violating so many norms of how a president should behave toward his staff, allies and Americans not from his own party?

What are the unintended consequences of all of these at once — none of which have been the product of traditional interagency analyses or expert hearings in Congress, but simply the crude fulfillment of campaign promises that emerged from Trump’s gut?

Who knows? Maybe there will be some good consequences — maybe China and Iran will cave to Trump’s demands; maybe the economy and stock market will continue to surge; maybe the early promising signs from Trump’s impulsive outreach to North Korea will bear fruit.

What I know for sure, though, is that no U.S. president can break so many longstanding relationships, ignore so much basic science and economics and violate so many norms of presidential behavior without unintended consequences. But they will take time to play out.

For instance, as Nader Mousavizadeh, co-founder of Macro Advisory Partners, a geopolitical consulting firm based in London, put it to me: “What America’s allies in Europe learned from Trump’s recent visit is that the United States, at his direction, is acting more like predator than partner. They are concluding that Trump is not looking for a better deal with the European Union. He’s looking to destroy the European Union. And even though they understand the difference between the president and the government he leads, they know the West may never be the same again.”

So, with the G.O.P. having completely folded and with the few Trump advisers with spine neutered or fired, is there any restraint left around him?

There is one critical defense line left — that formed by F.B.I. Director Christopher Wray, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. By coincidence, two days after Helsinki, all four spoke at the Aspen Security Forum, which I attended.

Wray, Coats and Rosenstein all rose to the occasion. They knew Helsinki was a test of their institutions and themselves, and they passed it with flying colors — always putting America first and not Trump first when it really mattered.

 

Wray was unflinching. Asked about Putin’s denials in Helsinki of involvement in our election, Wray said: “He’s got his view. He’s expressed his view. I can tell you what my view is. The intelligence community’s assessment has not changed, my view has not changed, which is that Russia attempted to interfere with the last election and that it continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day.”

Wray also let lawmakers and other critics know that their conspiracy theories about the F.B.I. and Justice Department’s Russia investigations were not intimidating him: “I’m a low-key, understated guy, but that should not be mistaken for what my spine is made out of. I’ll leave it at that.”

Coats had already demonstrated his steel and integrity before coming to the conference. Immediately after Trump’s performance in Helsinki impugning the conclusions of the intelligence agencies, Coats put out a statement defending them. He gave the White House a heads-up that it was coming — but did not ask, “Captain, may I?”

Coats said: “We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security.”

Rosenstein backed up Coats 100 percent, declaring: “As Director Coats made clear, these [Russian] actions are persistent, they are pervasive, and they are meant to undermine America’s democracy on a daily basis, regardless of whether it is election time or not.”

Unfortunately, the secretary of homeland security showed no such spine. Asked if the Russians had intervened to favor Trump, Nielsen said with a straight face: “I haven’t seen any evidence that the attempts to interfere in our election infrastructure was to favor a particular political party. I think what we’ve seen on the foreign influence side is they were attempting to intervene and cause chaos on both sides.”

That was the sound of a senior national security official putting Trump first, not America first. Nielsen proved to be a shameful coward. I sure hope we do not have a homeland security crisis on her watch.

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Which brings me back to Schwarzenegger’s question — “What’s the matter with you?” It applies not just to the president but also all the people enabling him. Why do they so freely sacrifice their own reputations and their own integrity to defend a man with no integrity, a man who would sell each and every one of them down the river the second he decided it was in his interest? It is inexplicable to me.

At least Stormy Daniels got paid.

 

Correction: 

 

An earlier version of this column misstated the name of a former economic adviser to President Trump. He is Gary Cohn; not Cohen.

 

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A23 of the New York edition with the headline: America First or Trump First?.

Trump’s 4-Dimensional Chess in Space Time–Bluster and Flip Flops


August 1, 2018

Trump’s 4-Dimensional Chess in Space Time–Bluster and Flip Flops

by Dr.Fareed Zakaria

https://www.wvgazettemail.com/opinion/gazette_opinion/columnists/fareed-zakaria-the-trump-two-step-bluster-then-retreat/article_21023f35-1a6a-5934-9881-653be1ec1af5.html

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Listen closely. That sound you heard at Wednesday’s joint news conference between the presidents of the European Commission and the United States was Donald Trump backtracking once again. This has become a familiar routine. It goes something like this: Begin by hurling insults at the other side, some of which have a basis in reality but are mostly wild exaggerations. Threaten extreme consequences. Then meet with the other side, backpedal and triumphantly announce that you have saved the world from a crisis that your rhetoric and actions caused in the first place. Call it the Trump two-step.

Think about Trump’s actions with regard to North Korea. He began by calling Kim Jong Un “a madman who doesn’t mind starving or killing his people” and threatening “fire and fury . . . the likes of which this world has never seen before.” He solved his own crisis by making unilateral concessions to Kim and gushing about how the North Korean people “love” their absolute dictator and how he, Trump, trusts him. The same pattern applies with the European Union, which he only recently described as “worse than our enemies.” Now, he tells us, after meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, that the E.U. and America truly “love each other.” Expect to hear a similar climb-down on China one of these days.

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For Trump, there is no cost to this strategy, because his words are weightless. He starts with what he described in “The Art of the Deal” as “truthful hyperbole” (as opposed to the many outright falsehoods that he also tells) and then, when confronted, adjusts to something closer to reality.

There are those who assert that Trump’s seemingly bizarre and unpredictable behavior is actually all part of a canny and wise strategy, that he is playing a kind of four-dimensional chess, operating in space-time. Well, if so, he is getting beaten badly here on Earth. In none of these situations has he actually been able to extract real concessions. His usual approach is to announce something vague, as with North Korea and the trade talks with Europe, or something already in place, such as NATO members’ promise to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense by 2024, and claim it as a victory.

But there is a cost to this bluster and flip-flopping. Trump is creating a reputation for the United States as erratic, unpredictable, unreliable and fundamentally hostile to the global order. Leader after leader in Europe has made this clear. George Osborne told me that when he was Britain’s finance minister, you knew “the United States president had your back.” Neither Britain nor any other country can be sure of this anymore. As Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, put it, “With friends like that who needs enemies[?] . . . We [realize] that if you need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of your arm.”

Economist Adam S. Posen argues that countries are now bypassing the United States and constructing a “post-American world economy.” You can see this in the flurry of trade agreements that don’t include the United States, from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was signed minus America, to the trade deal the E.U. just struck with Japan. Many others are in the works.

The most dramatic indication of the world sidestepping the United States, Posen says, is the decline in foreign investment. “It’s fallen off a cliff,” he told me. On average, net foreign investment into the United States has dropped by half since 2016. “The decline is all the more worrying,” Posen writes in Foreign Affairs, “since many factors should have been pushing direct investment in the United States up this year. The massive fiscal stimulus passed by Congress should have increased [foreign investment] in three ways: by boosting spending, which increases U.S. growth prospects; by making the tax code more favorable to production in the United States; and by cutting the corporate tax rate.”

Perhaps some of the decline in investment is part of a longer-term trend — other countries are growing faster than the United States. But for decades, that reality has been countered by another reality — that among the world’s rich nations, the United States was unique in having good growth prospects coupled with stable, predictable, pro-market policies. Trump’s attacks on trade and allies, his willingness to punish and reward individual companies, and his general unreliability all add up to a picture of policymaking that looks more like that of an erratic developing country run by a strongman. The difference is, America’s strongman has the power to disrupt the entire global economy.

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(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group

 

Brader Anwar Ibrahim stands Up for Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan


July 1, 2018

Brader Anwar Ibrahim stands Up for Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

by Amanda Hodge Southeast Asia Correspondent

https://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/anwar-defends-his-praise-for-turkish-strongman-erdogan/news-story/1bf2cdb743b5441121aa38efd552318b

 

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Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia’s democracy champion and the country’s most famous former political prisoner, had barely tasted five weeks of freedom when he flew to Ankara last week and stood beside Turkey’s strongman President Recep Tayipp Erdogan to praise his “commitment to democracy”.

“There are about four or five Anwars running around in his head,” said Professor Kessler. “He means well to everybody but he doesn’t know how to choose between contradictory positions. He can talk to any audience and people go away delighted, thinking ‘he thinks like us’. But put him in a situation where his actions can have a significant effect and he will always be a gift to people like Erdogan.”

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A Mandela of the East (Yusmadi Yusof) or a Janus-Faced Malay Muslim Politician (Clive  Kessler/Bridget Welsh)

Mr Erdogan’s election victory last Sunday, which critics say brings him ever closer to one-man rule, was a “victory for the Islamic world in portraying a modern and progressive face of Islam that embraces change while not compromising on the values of our faith and the fundamental teachings of the Holy Prophet”, Mr Anwar declared on his return home.

 

The comments by Malaysia’s Prime Minister-in-waiting have triggered alarm at his apparent disregard for the deterioration of human rights and democracy in Turkey, and wider international concern over what to expect from an Anwar-led government.

Mr Anwar yesterday defended his praise for Mr Erdogan, saying he supported Turkey’s democratic transition under Mr Erdogan after decades of military rule, but acknowledged “institutions need to be fortified”. “I emphasised democratic accountability in my remarks,” he told The Weekend Australian. “That would include the rule of law and an end to all draconian measures. I’m confident that Turkey would evolve into a more mature democracy. Despite some valid criticisms against his rule, Erdogan persists on a democratic agenda.”

Mr Anwar also accused Western nations of being “somewhat ambivalent, if not hypocritical” in dealing with the numerous attempted military coups in Turkey.

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Anwar Ibrahim I knew in 2007-2009.I respect his loyalty to his friend Erdogan. That is not the issue. More importantly, has he changed? Can he be trusted to pursue his Humane Economic Agenda and his Asian Renaissance  Vision? That is the lingering question in my mind? I am not sure anymore.–Din Merican

Southeast Asia expert Bridget Welsh — who taught at Turkey’s Ipek University until the failed coup in 2016 triggered a crackdown and purges against the civil service, academics and media — says Mr Anwar’s praise for Mr Erdogan could at best be seen as poor judgment and at worst a worrying portent for Malaysia under his future leadership. “He should have shown much more prudence before making this visit and even greater prudence before making those remarks,” she said.

“He has raised serious questions in the international community about the future of his leadership and whether or not he is actually a democrat. I think it’s deeply troubling and sends worrying signals for those concerned about reform in Malaysia.”

Asked if he believed such criticism was valid, Mr Anwar said he remained “consistent in my views against any excesses and would encourage (Mr Erdogan) to respect the rule of law”. “My commitment is for democratic accountability,” he said.

But Mr Anwar’s comments have also caused discomfit within his People’s Justice Party (PKR), part of the ruling Pakatan Harapan government under Mahathir Mohamad since the four-party coalition toppled the government of Najib Razak in a shock election victory last month.

Under a deal struck between Mr Anwar and Dr Mahathir, two former political foes, Dr Mahathir, 92, will serve half a term as prime minister before stepping aside for the 70-year-old.

PKR Vice-President Tian Chua said he believed Mr Anwar had been stating a personal opinion and not that of the party when he praised Mr Erdogan.

“When Anwar started his political career, Erdogan represented the hopes for the Islamic world to bring about a democratic system,” Mr Chua said. “No doubt he is an improvement from the previous military system, but … Erdogan has, during his time, tailor-made the constitution for his own power base and that is not the behaviour of a democrat.”

Last year, Mr Erdogan narrowly won a referendum allowing him to abolish the prime minister’s office and grant the president executive authority to effectively rule by decree.

Whereas Western nations see Mr Erdogan as an illiberal leader bent on subverting democracy to amass power, and as an increasingly problematic NATO ally, many in the Muslim world — including in South and Southeast Asia — see a modern champion.

Pakistan rushed to congratulate Mr Erdogan on his victory this week, as did separatist leaders in Indian Kashmir. Indonesian President Joko Widodo also praised Mr ­Erdogan’s victory, although in more measured tones, saying the Turkish people would be “more prosperous under your wise and measured leadership”.

Mr Anwar’s enthusiastic endorsement of Mr Erdogan is puzzling, not least because it ignores the tens of thousands of citizens in jail on spurious charges — a fate Mr Anwar shared for more than a decade.

Mr Erdogan’s measures to consolidate his power also resemble those of the Malaysian government, which Mr Anwar spent two decades fighting.

On his release last month, Mr Anwar told The Weekend Australian Canberra’s “muted” response to the oppression of the former Najib government had been “painful for democrats, those who are struggling for freedom in their countries”. “Those countries that are supposed to be beacons of democracy must rise up to the occasion and be seen to be playing a role and not just working with people who are known to be corrupt and authoritarian,” he said.

Dr Welsh says many Pakatan Harapan politicians have romanticised Mr Erdogan’s early ­victories and failed to fully comprehend what is happening in Turkey, and the parallels between how Mr Erdogan and Mr Najib maintained support.

“But the fact that Anwar would choose to go to Turkey and effectively campaign for Mr Erdogan speaks to a fundamental lack of a sense of principles of democratic governance. He didn’t speak up for one moment about the 200,000-plus people imprisoned in Turkey — many of them much more vulnerable than Anwar ever was — and, in fact, was supporting their jailer,” she said. “I think Anwar is blinded by personal loyalties and is focused on himself and not the bigger challenges the country faces.”

While Mr Anwar insisted his visit was based on “long-term friendship” and not politics, he endorsed Mr Erdogan before last Sunday’s election, calling him the “one leader who shows courage against the powers in the world” on the Palestinian issue and the plight of Rohingya Muslims.

Mr Anwar noted with gratitude that the Turkish President would “remind (Najib) about my release” at every meeting, but did not mention that it was to the Turkish embassy in Kuala Lumpur he turned in 2008 when facing a second spurious sodomy charge.

National University of Malaysia associate professor Muhammad Takiyuddin bin Ismail believed Mr Anwar knew well the rise of authoritarianism in Turkey, but felt praising Mr Erdogan was the practical thing to do for the sake of securing his image in the Muslim world. “Erdogan, Anwar and Mahathir are widely seen as leaders who can confront and, at the same time, bridge the gap between Muslim and Western countries,” he said, adding both Malaysia and Turkey believed in the idea of “our way of democracy”.

“From a layman’s perspective, of course, it is poor political judgment to support an authoritarian leader like Erdogan, especially in the era of the ‘New Malaysia’, but Anwar must also appease the segments within the Muslim world who see Erdogan as someone who can represent their view.”

It is not the first time Anwar has shown such poor judgment and let what University of NSW emeritus professor Clive Kessler calls his “soft Islamist sentimentality” overshadow democratic principles. He was among the first foreigners in 1980 to go to Tehran to congratulate Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini following the Iranian revolution.

Professor Kessler last month noted that, as Deputy Prime Minister in the 1990s, Mr Anwar “often proved a facilitator for harder-line Islamists” and could again “succumb to the same temptations”.

Mr Anwar’s supporters believe experience and hardship has moderated the former firebrand, and refined his ambitions for an Islamic renaissance in which the religion’s main tenets are harmoniously incorporated into a democratic system.

“There are about four or five Anwars running around in his head,” said Professor Kessler. “He means well to everybody but he doesn’t know how to choose between contradictory positions. He can talk to any audience and people go away delighted, thinking ‘he thinks like us’. But put him in a situation where his actions can have a significant effect and he will always be a gift to people like Erdogan.”