To sit on a bayonet: the limits of consent

To sit on a bayonet: the limits of consent

When it comes to discussions over what constitutes the real power of the state, many say that the primary factor is the power of the army. Yet, here we might involuntarily recall the famous phrase attributed to Napoleon: “You can do anything with bayonets except sit on them!” This phrase conveys the idea that while a lot can be achieved by brute force and military power,  it is not possible for a leader to force his people to do everything he wants: rulers also require the consent and the confidence of the people.

In fact, for almost half a century during the Cold War, both the Western bloc (headed by the United States) and the Eastern bloc (lead by the USSR), put out a similar message to the world: “Our army is invincible, but our ideas are much more valuable!” As a result, representatives of different ethnic groups, faiths and estates around the world began to struggle for the sake of ideological goals. For example, at the same time during the 60s and 70s when many students in Turkey were conducting a “revolutionary struggle” for justice, equality and solidarity,  some youth in Iran were actively conveying the importance of living in a country founded on the “freedom and democracy that the Europeans promised”.

            However, immediately after the collapse of the USSR and the proclamation of the “end of history” and the “victory of liberalism” by numerous Western intellectuals, we saw firsthand what a superpower left without rivals is capable of. There are thousands of examples point to one gruesome truth. The United States was able to confidently declare that “bayonets are suitable for everything, one can even sit on them!” In other words, the Americans declared “force” to be the most important instrument for achieving consent.

Since that time, unlike during the Cold War, the United States, instead of creating “values” that the broad masses in Iran, Turkey, Iraq or Syria would like to believe in and might even fight for, is trying to impose a state of raw domination, threatening, terrorizing and killing people around the world. This policy included trying erase Iraq from the face of the earth on the false-pretext of their having “chemical weapons” (which in reality never existed), dropping tens of thousands of missiles on Afghanistan; provoking clashes that led to the death of 500 thousand civilians in Syria – all of these actions were aimed at one thing: to make the world believe that bayonets, that is, military force, is the only way to achieve consent!

Here a serious problem emerges. To recognize the actions of the US as “correct”, we would need to think of humans as machines, devoid of feelings and functioning only by means of coldly analyzing the available data. A person, however, is not some pre-programmed robot. A person is a carrier of a certain culture, moral principles and ideals, ideals passed down from generation to generation. That is why the relatives of civilians in Pakistan who die every day from American missile shells pouring down their heads don’t have the option of simply saying: “Since the United States has drones and we can not prevent them, then we need to support American policy”… indeed, they will draw quite opposite conclusion. They will begin to understand that the US is oppressing them, and perhaps even embark on a path of struggle against the American system to save their families and homeland. Of course, they will quickly realize that they are not alone. They will see around hundreds of countries and various people around the world experiencing the same problems, and come to understand that the “new world order” created by the United States is in fact more like a system of global slavery.

At this point, the areas facing common oppression by the US will come closer together, beginning a common search for an alternative world order. For example, the countries that are suffering as a result of American-supported terrorist organizations like the PKK or ISIS are now realizing that states that were presented during the Cold War as “enemies” are actually potential partners, open to mutually beneficial cooperation. The unprecedented rapprochement between Turkey and Russia, and the emerging positive tendencies in relations with Iran are clear examples of this process. The American order, built on brute force, is paradoxically bringing the world together. China’s rapprochement with Pakistan, African countries and the Middle East, the considerable support of Russia by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the establishment of close relations between Turkey and the Eurasian region are an example of this emerging reaction formation.

Against this background, the question arises: is the US aware that it is actually impossible to sit on a bayonet? Of course many Americans rationally understand this, but the structure of the “new world order” nonetheless forces them to take certain steps.

The United States, after being assured after the end of the Cold War of its “ideological victory”, in effect, has destroyed its own ideal of the “free world”. The analogue of this concept within America is the “American dream”, which has also disappeared into thin air. Today, as soon as the US declares that “human rights are being violated” somewhere in the world, the world community immediately understands that the Americans are looking for an excuse for a new bombing campaign. When it comes to the United States, many people are beginning to imagine a country in which police shoot innocent people at point blank range because they are black, where hundreds of thousands of homeless people struggle to survive by rummaging through through the garbage for food. This is why many people in the American administration believed the recent warnings of about a “chemical attack” in Idlib, yet, for example, few in Turkey even considered the idea worthy of attention.

In other words, the US is bogged down in a swamp of violence that they created for the sake of instituting a “unipolar world”, and think that the only possible way to escape is to use greater force and greater violence. This is precisely why the reason why the “new world order” is beginning to collapse. This system was founded on violence, and is now desperately increasing its use of force in order to maintain a hold on power, while the rest of the world begins to rally together under the flag of an “international of the oppressed”, demanding the creation of a “multipolar world order”. Many scientists and thinkers around the world are beginning to talk about “the multipolar world” and the need to create a new alternative for humanity. As a matter of fact, the “multipolar world” is a the correct choice even for the Americans themselves. No-one can exist forever while bringing upon themselves the anger and hatred of the rest of the world’s population, just as no-one can actually sit on a bayonet! For this reason, we must start to work toward a new and just international order.

Koray Gürbüz
Koray Gürbüz is the chief analyst of “United World International”, a security specialist, the author of Şehit Mektupları (2003) and Vatan Toprağına Can Ekenler (2017), as well as an expert in Foreign Relations (Turkey)

Güneydoğu Gazisi, uluslararası ilişkiler ve güvenlik uzmanı, United World International merkezinin baş analisti, Şehit Mektupları (2003) ve Vatan Toprağına Can Ekenler (2017) kitaplarının yazarıdır


May 2019
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