Cyprus and Iraq

I’m certainly no expert on the Cyprus question. But John Quiggin at Crooked Timber has made the claim that the upcoming referendum on the reunification of Cyprus is of monumental importance for the future of Europe, the EU, and the Middle East–so much so that the eventual fate of Iraq (very likely “an imperfectly democratic Islamist government dominated by Shiites,” in John’s opinion) will “fade into insignifance” in comparison. This has sparked a bit of a flame war between commentators, which I don’t intend to wade into. But it’s interesting to think about, nonetheless, and I’d be delighted to hear from Europeans who might have a different grasp on this issue than idea do. From my perspective (perhaps unconventional for an American), Turkey has of course always been more important, for the future of the Middle East, than Iraq or any other of the regions many deplorable criminal states. If the settlement of the Cyprus issue removes one of the most significant–perhaps the most significant–roadblock to Turkey’s joining the EU, then the referendum is of vital importance, because Turkey is more culturally locked into either working out or rejecting some sort of fusion of Islamic institutions and European secularism than any other state with a significant Muslim population (more than Egypt, more than Algeria). Turkey, in other words, is important not just strategically, but historically (if I may wax Hegelian), and anything done to help that history along is worth doing, even if the result isn’t at all what EU boosters might hope it to be. Whereas Iraq, whatever becomes of it, has gone from extremes of tyranny through war to colonization, neither of which provide much grounds for trusting in the “organic” authenticity of whatever innovations or failures historically emerge. (This, by the way, is one of the reasons many of us who study the politics and culture of East Asia are more interested in ideas and arguments about political life which come out of South Korea, Taiwan, China or Singapore, rather than Japan: the latter was an outright colony, with a constitution written for it by occupying powers, whereas the others, despite the many historical particularities, more or less worked out their current polities on their own.)

Anyway, for additional insight, this article on Turkey and Islamic democracy from the New Yorker last year is one of the best things I’ve ever read on the subject. It’s long, but worth it.

Thoughts on Establishment

Not having been educated in Europe, I can’t contribute to the thread on religious education. But I want to thank Nick for putting it up, and everyone else for their comments on it. One of my pet peeves is how American arguments about religious education, and “establishment” issues in general (as they are usually described in the U.S., following the language of the First Amendment), seem to me at least to be trapped in a very narrow (judicially dictated, for the most part) box. I’m not a theocrat, but I suspect that, had America’s historical experience with religious-civic partnerships been different, we perhaps might more easily be able to relate to both the benefits, and the costs, of the sort of (I think highly admirable) experiences with religious education that many of you are describing. Anyway, your thoughts prompt me to excerpt here a post from my own blog from last September; specifically, a quote from Stanley Hauerwas, that expresses my views of the matter pretty succinctly…
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Networks and Language in Europe (and More)

Many thanks to the good folks at AFOE for the invitation to guest-blog here for a while. To include a non-European and non-European-resident among this crowd is not a little humbling; I hope I do the blog justice. I have no handy bio available, so suffice to say that I’m an academic, I teach political philosophy, once lived in Germany (but not for nearly long enough), now live in Arkansas, and often stay up late trying to get our two-month-old daughter to go to sleep. For more information, feel free to peruse my own blog, W?ldchen vom Philosophenweg.

Recently I ran across a fascinating article by James C. Bennett, he of “Anglosphere” fame. The article, one of the cover features of the most recent issue of The National Interest, is titled “Networking Nation-States” and is heavy-laden with ideas and insights. Bennett is an unapologetic defender of the globalized free market, who sees politics through the prism of contract and transaction, meaning that he understands healthy polities to be those which maximize fluidity, entrepreneurship, reflexivity and innovation, with little distinctions between the political and the economic spheres. Like some others here at AFOE, I find this kind of neoliberal triumphalism wearying. But I forgive Bennett because he has such an intriguing grasp of the related issues of “space” and language in the construction of societies. Those interested in the EU, and the argument over its relationship to traditional understandings of political identity and sovereignty (which I tend to think is a complicated philosophical matter, and not simply an IR debate over terminology), would do well to think hard about what Bennett is saying.
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