Western political leaders and strategists are constantly taken by surprise by the turn of events. Recent examples include the sudden success and emergence of the Islamic terrorist group ISIS, the sweeping occupation of Mali by fundamentalist groups, Russia's harsh reaction after Ukraine was offered an Eastern Partnership by the EU, and the misunderstandings that the ‘Arab Spring’ could bring pro-democracy ‘radicals’ to power as happened in Egypt, writes Prince Michael of Liechtenstein.
It appears that the accepted views on both sides of the Atlantic are not based on thorough, well-researched analysis and validated, unbiased information. Wishful thinking and populist politics, or party political beliefs are frequently the driver. Accepted dogma and theories, maybe applicable at home, become the benchmark for other regions of the world.
The US administration includes 17 intelligence organisations with more than 200,000 employees. All major European countries also employ important intelligence communities. But their results are very poor.
US President Barack Obama blamed his intelligence services for underestimating the rising threat of ISIS in Syria. He found a scapegoat for his - nearly ideological - narrow-mindedness which has led to so many of his disastrous decisions and bumbling statements on Middle East policies. These led to the ridiculous and toothless red lines he laid out towards Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad among his administration’s other blunders.
Relations towards Russia over Ukraine have also been handled badly. A cocktail of verbal support for the Maydan protesters in Kiev combined with a refusal to give military support while provocatively insulting Russia by calling it only a ‘regional power’ was geopolitically toxic.
So why do we have such dilettante politics? The reason for such a superficial approach to global issues is a case of:
- Basic intelligence data not being placed in the right geopolitical context with the omission of a long-term view on causes and effects.
- The views and interests of other parties, such as those prevailing in the Middle East or Russia, being neglected or ignored.
- A sectarian feeling of supremacy of their own principles or lack of principles with a wish to enforce Western systems and values on others, irrespective of context or their applicability.
- Internal party politics driving populist foreign policy decisions.
- A loss of strategic geopolitical views resulting in only reacting tactically.
The synthesis of this is frightening. Data collected by armies of intelligence people which is not put in context may cost billions of dollars in wages but has limited value. Even more frightening is that Western leaders are ignoring the facts because of their quasi ideological, partisan prejudices.
We need a renaissance of geopolitical knowledge and courageous, honest and pragmatic leaders in the West.
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