>Ivan Krastev on post-Iraq realignment and the limits of 1989 as model for export

In a review of books by Fukuyama and Berman on the excellent openDemocracy site, the mercurial and provocative Bulgarian liberal and think tank analyst Ivan Krastev detects the “End of the Freedom Century” and reflects on both post-Iraq realigments and the limits of the CEE democratization experienec (and one might add their afterwave in the more half hearted and belated post-Soviet Coloured Revolution)


“A fascinating aspect of this collision of ideas and power” Krastev observes, “which encompasses a new field of foreign-policy discussion about neo-conservatism, realism, liberal interventionism, armed force, civil society, and “democracy promotion” – is the way that it has supplemented older divisions between friends and enemies with fresh lines separating friends from ex-friends….[prompting] (…) international rethinking and repositioning on a cluster of related issues: United States policy after 9/11, the Iraq war, radical Islam and the Enlightenment inheritance, the nature of democracy itself and whether and how it should be “exported”.

In CEE terms, although Krastev does discuss it, this runs through the left-liberal dissident community, although unlike the West 68-ers, most (Havel, Michnik) seem buy into the anti-totalitarian argument without much difficulty and are (or were) pro-invasion, and the pro-Western liberal-conservative righ. Witness Václav Klaus’s estrangement from his own party’s thinkers on the subject and the Czech Republic’s small more committed band of neo-con cheerleaders such as ex-Civic Institute Chair Roman Joch, who has devoted a book to justifying the Iraq imbroglio to a sceptical Czech public.

Then more tellingly he argues (rather like Fukuyama) that
“the political imagination of those contesting the freedom century has populated the world with Polands (the optimists) and Serbias (the realists). The global democratic revolution was envisioned as a version of the Sleeping Beauty fairytale where it is enough for the Prince of Freedom to kill the dragon and kiss the princess in order to awake the sleeping global liberal majority.
This version of the story turned out to be wrong. And this is true with respect to the possibilities both of a global democracy-promotion campaign and of large-scale humanitarian wars. In this sense, the liberal interventionists and the neo-conservatives alike fell victim to the universalisation of east-central European political experience since the mid-1980s. The end of the cold war and the democratisation of east-central Europe that led to the emergence of pro-American liberal democracies and market economies was a model that could not be replicated in regions like the middle east.”

He then warns perceptively that Cold War victors fell prey to
“the careless wielding of vague concepts like tyranny and totalitarianism [which] has made them blind to the specific characteristics of the variety of repressive regimes around the world. The global rush for democratisation discarded sensitivity to context.”

Moreover, Krastev notes in a “neither [Berman nor Fukuyama] has written or could write a work still missing on the bookshelf: the east-central European perspective on the premature end of the “freedom century”. For this was also, arguably more than anything else, the east-central European century. And it is over”. Doubtless Krastev will oblige us with such a book. I look forward to it.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply