A Review of Edwin Dyga's “Eastern Promise—Why the West Needs Mitteleuropa”.
Edwin Dyga's, “Eastern Promise—Why the West Needs Mitteleuropa,” upcoming in Quarterly Review, 5:2, Summer 2011, confronts a subject many today are unhappy over, that is, the future possibilities of Central European countries vis-a-vis post Soviet Russian intentions. After the fall of both the Soviet Union and Eastern bloc Communism, all hoped that this past could be, if not completely forgotten, at least remembered without the specter of new Russian imperialism. Mr. Dyga argues that such hope is naïve, and that the West, taken in its larger Atlanticist meaning, must be prepared for the possibility of Russian geopolitical hegemony within the lately freed Eastern bloc countries and environs. The chief European country in mind is Poland, however others making up the greater Central Europe are not excluded. His essay is directly addressed to American “conservatives,” both neo and paleo, as he believes American conservatives should be natural allies.
A conservative bond between Poland and America is viewed as a “natural” consequence of shared ideals. Specifically, an awareness of a people’s “ancestral legacy, [a] desire to preserve it, as well as the presence of a ‘transcendent element’ to their identity as a people…” Cohesive ethnicity and religious faith within a majority of Polish citizens are cited, and in spite of the introduction of “social liberalism” and secularism, conservative traditionalism was and is maintained both during and after the fall of Communism. Historically, Edwin Dyga reminds us that the Polish people’s solidarity runs from the gates of Vienna (1683 against the Ottomans) to the gates of Warsaw (1921 against the Bolsheviks).
At the same time there is a countervailing worry among more “established” liberal European states who consider carefully any increase in Poland’s rightist claims:
“…Poland can only avoid being the battlefield of neighboring empires by becoming a power capable of exerting influence beyond its borders in its own right, she can only become a successful regional leader if her power projection is perceived as mutually beneficial to her immediate neighbors.”
With this in mind, the author suggests that American conservatives could express common ground in order to “form a partnership” with the Poles. But why at the expense of Russia? There are several reasons.
Russian political nationalism longs for better days, glory days of the not so distant past, and is demonstrated by increased military spending encompassing both the tactical and strategic. Russian interventionism in Georgia is cited, while existing agreements and understandings are questioned in light of the Russian (actually Soviet) failure to honor pledges made subsequent to World War II. Finally, the rationale against geographic encirclement is viewed as less a legitimate argument for Russian military buildup than as an indigenous Russian interventionist “pathology.” Clearly the viewpoint offered is that Poland is existentially threatened by potential Russian expansionism, the stirrings which can be recognized now. The author’s primary solution is to enact some sort of United States military guarantee made possible by either a shifting of existing US commitments, or something altogether new.
The fundamental ground for this state of affairs is given by the author as an incommensurate ethno-cultural divide between Russia and the remainder of the Western Europe, including America. Here, Russia manifests an “Orientalist spirit” wherein the Orthodox faith is more akin to Islam than Catholicism, nor is it antagonistic to Confucian-Buddhist thinking. This genetic ground, being incommensurate with Occidentalism, precludes by nature any lasting treaty.
Without discussing the political implications of the author's “Atlanticist” scheme, or even whether his view of Russia is tenable, we can certainly offer some practical questions that must be appreciated before making any appeal to American “conservative” good will. First, as the author understands, regardless of any cultural-ideological bond between Poles and American paleoconservatives, at this time the general will for “foreign entanglement” is not strong among the vast majority of Americans. Even neoconservatives, at least some of them, are rethinking their position on “nation building” in the Middle East. Too, given certain of their own foreign policy ideas, their own cultural and ethnic background, plus their memories (or, more likely, received history) of the Second World War, whether certain influential neoconservatives would ever want to associate themselves with an indigenous European nationalist conservatism is a big question.
Next, it is also a big question as to the fiscal future of America. That is, whether she will be in any position to do much of anything, anywhere. Right now any new commitments would by necessity have to be financed from either external (China et al.) borrowing, or internal monetization. The author’s suggestion of a reorganization of existing commitments, say transferring troops and equipment from Korea to Poland, would just be shuffling the economic deck chairs on a slowly sinking ship of state, and could never account for much in the long run.
Finally, paleoconservatives are small potatoes within the overall American political spectrum. Not only that, but they are becoming smaller spuds, every day. The demographic future of America does not bode well for Europeans as America becomes more like a mish-mash of Mexico, a failed state (if it ever was a viable state), certain areas of Africa where civil society can only be sustained from without, that is, with “help” from non-Africans, or some Islamic caliphate, the latter which precludes an affinity with Polish, or any Western styled, conservatism (or even liberalism for that matter, although liberals probably don't understand that, yet).