- Is Empathy a political and diplomatic notion?
Indeed, ‘Empathy’ is not a mere psychological and epistemological concept; it is rather a mental activity booming diplomatic wisdom and a gate for peacemaking and further diplomatic interaction. Empathy would also strengthen humanity, and the absence of Empathy would be equal to an inhuman human and barbaric world. This piece is a political and diplomatic writing and not a philosophical article. Notwithstanding, ‘Political Thought’ is applied to provide a better understanding of foreign policy and diplomacy. The main question of this research is why the Western political apparatus, despite its progressive appearance, remains influenced by fundamental and outdated positivist ‘Absolutistic’ thoughts of the 18th and 19thcenturies and tries to ‘Engineer’ the world only with its mentality while ignoring the culture, identity, interests, and concerns of other nations. This writing does not aim to blame the warring parties; neither is it seeking to oppose or support their measures. It seeks to pose a logical, Rational and Political discussion: Is it possible that the Ukraine war leads to a security and diplomatic renaissance in the Europe and ultimately to the development of global peace and enhancement of the principles of the UN Charter? Can this crisis transform the power perception of the Europe to make Europeans “Empathetically” – as put by Max Weber and Edmund Husserl - understand and perceive the pains and wounds of other nations and governments as well as their determination for resistance? ‘Political Empathy’ explains wisdom and development, especially diplomatic vigilance and awareness. Even it can be mentioned that if Empathy, in the opinion of many new cognitive thinkers, is impossible, it is possible in political and diplomatic fields and can even represent wisdom and common sense. In this case, the war in Ukraine can lead to a positive outcome despite all the irreparable damage it has caused. That positive outcome would be the formation of a new era in the foreign policy of the Europeans. This era may be branded the age of ‘Enlightenment’ and prosperity of diplomatic wisdom through Empathy. The former Renaissance and Enlightenment Age was the era of the prosperity of philosophical, social, and political wisdom. But in the aftermath of the Ukraine war, one can and should expect an era of prosperity in foreign policy and diplomatic wisdom, which means the Europeans, will surrender to the reasonable tenets of foreign policy and in connection with other nations.
- Crisis and war might entail awareness
According to Thomas Spragens’ book -Understanding Political Theory - any crisis in the West has resulted in a thought, initiative, movement, and massive awakening. For example, Plato’s project was a response to the crisis of justice; or the Machiavelli project was a response to instability; Hobbes’s project was a response to the crisis of security; Locke’s project was a response to the legitimacy crisis; Rousseau’s project was a response to moral inequality; Burke’s conservatism was a response to extremist revolutionaries, and Marx’s ideas were responses to the crisis of capitalism and injustice. These indicate that inside the West, any crisis and sedition have led to the termination of a historical turn and the beginning of a progressive movement based on knowledge and awareness. The Western thinkers had a ‘Solutions Manual’ approach to the crises and presented big solutions to the big pains, creating big openings. The development of the West is indebted to such an approach.
Even if we do not believe in the claims made in Spragens’ book as absolute truth which analyzes every initiative merely historically and contextually, there is no doubt that objective developments and maladies would usually end in mental opening and objective dynamism. A crisis can become an agency for awareness and reform when its managers can turn ‘Difficulties’ and crises into ‘Problems’ to analyze and resolve, and this is possible only with wisdom and realism. We believe undeveloped states repeat their history because instead of turning their ‘Difficulties ‘into ‘Problems’. They cover up them, blame each other, and then seek the culprit. That is why politics and diplomacy become grave of difficulties which buried before turning to theoretical and practical problems. The ‘Difficulty’ is an abstract, simple, non-sophisticated, and non-analyzed concept. However, the problem is a concrete, analyzed, sophisticated, and cause-and-effect transformation of difficulty. It can be mentioned that turning difficulty into a problem which Ibn Khaldun describes as ‘al-ʿIbar,’ represents an approach that will become a lesson, problem-solving, and opening for the future. The Westphalia Treaty was the outcome of the above-mentioned insight of turning difficulties into problems and respect for national governance. Even though the Europeans have a problem-solving view of their own domestic issues, the following paragraphs will refer to the absence or lack of the European problem-solving view in diplomacy and relations with other nations and civilizations. It will be discussed that a new Renaissance means transformation in foreign relations.
- Renaissance and Enlightenment in the Europe
The era of Renaissance and the ensuing enlightenment in Europe is the product of adopting a problem-solving approach to the situation of the church and practices of exit from the former status through a new understanding of Christianity, the human world, and human living style. Renaissance was a mental and thought revolution and a transformation in mentality, spirit and moralities of the human and producing new philosophy, and eventually turning it to culture, law and legal codes. Through this, human, ethical, political, economic, and security relations were transformed and ended in a new situation with Westphalia, an era of new political life world. However, the fact is that after some times, Real Politics dominated wisdom, culture, and philosophy particularly versus the others. In other words, Machiavellian and Hobbesian world view eroded and isolated lockean and Kantian legacy in foreign policy sphere.
- European imperialism and fading diplomatic wisdom
All such progress ultimately resulted in the formation of the ‘West-is-the-superior-civilization mentality’, and therefore it gradually lost the dialogue mentality and interactive wisdom that Habermas calls ‘Communicative Rationality’. It became arrogant and imperialistic, and turned into a ‘Fundamentalist Ideology’ structure and context intending to issue orders rather than negotiate because it considered its own rationality the end and extreme of the history! Regarding the separation of Herat from Iran and the preliminary negotiations in Istanbul in 1856, the British side told the Iranian delegate that I am here to order not negotiates! With the increase in power, the communicative rationality of the West against the other nations was weakened and replaced by positivism, empiricism, and scientism in the area of knowledge and bullying in foreign policy. As a result, the Europe and the US, after the world wars and the murder of close to 100 million people, and after the progress and opportunities of the Post-Cold War era, were more stuck in the cocoon of their ‘Extremist’ history due to the power of the past 200 years and viewed the other countries as a spiritless object to be exploited. They went so far as to expect the others to obey them within the Western universal ‘Meta Narrative’. All these were completed by Ideology that Karl Marks calls ‘False Consciousness’ in order to let the ‘ends justify means’ and build legitimacy to Imperialism.
- Lack of respect for the interest and security of the other nations
For modern Europe, it is not understandable that security is also essential for the other countries and nations. They also sense the pain of insecurity from the bottom of their heart and are entitled to defend themselves. This writing does not aim to oppose the West, rather It aims to present an essential and rational discussion for explaining the vicious approach of the West (which considers itself the superior civilization). This writing also aims to discuss the significant status of diplomatic wisdom. Some examples may be helpful to elucidate: Perhaps if the Europeans had listened in the 1919 Treaty of Versailles to the advice of Max Weber to avoid more humiliation of Germany and excessiveness in the realization of their goals, the Second World War would not have happened. Weber told the designers of the Treaty of Versailles that a nation can be killed but cannot be humiliated. If the German nation is humiliated, another war will be imposed on Europe in twenty years. This prediction came true, and Hitler, after twenty years, in 1939, began the world war by attacking Czechoslovakia. Or if the West had avoided repeated interference in the West Asia for changing regimes and supporting Tel Aviv, definitely this region could not have been now in this situation, or if the Eisenhower team had listened to the advice of the Truman team on Mohammad Mosaddegh to tolerate his government and avoid fueling public anger, and had not imposed 25 years of dictatorship again on Iran, perhaps the situation could have been different. Or if the Westerners had perceived the reasons and roots of the Islamic revolution in Iran and had respected them, if they had adopted foresight in the Iraqi imposed war on Iran and had not supported Saddam, and many other ifs, now relations between Iran and the West would have been different.
- Engineering the domestic affairs of the nations as anti-peace approach
It is interesting that the Western Camp accused for decades Communism for making efforts to Engineer the affairs of the other countries and nations and considered this as the enemy of freedom and open society, intoxicating the world and disrupting global peace. However, the West itself, for two centuries, engineered global community and politics and, for four decades, planned to Engineer socio-political developments in Iran. More interesting is that after eight years of the Iranian resistance alone against the dictator of Baghdad, which was benefitting from the long-range missiles of the Soviet Union, Mirage fighters of France, different developed Tanks and Vehicles, German chemical materials for chemical weapons and intelligence of US AWACS aircraft, they are still asking why Iran should have ballistic missiles? Or while Europe and the US have turned the four corners of Iran into storage of advanced arms, they complain about Iran’s regional policies and define Iran’s regional influence, which is a geopolitical requirement, threat. According to Nir Rosen, the journalist who was present in Syria, the United States and the Europe have consistently opposed any effort to negotiate a local ceasefire in Syria and have acted against it to the extent that they discouraged the UN Special Envoy from intervening in this regard. They supported the ceasefire only when they became sure that regime change was impossible in Syria, and Russian intervention changed the situation. But before that, the US and the Europe considered de-escalation and ceasefire as the reason behind the victory of the Syrian government and preferred the war to continue.
Interestingly, the Western media branded Iran’s defensive approach for four decades as coming out of a conspiracy theory or illusion despite such a great extent of the historical Western oppression; however, when it came to their security and defense issues, they did not ignore the slightest probability of danger and portrayed it as a sense of existential threat. Why is the Western self-help considered realistic and a defense of the nation's rights, but Iran’s self-help and political and security pessimism towards such extent of hostility is considered an illusion of conspiracy?
- Dimensions of the diplomatic rational degradation in Europe
This type of Europe’s approach to safeguard its security and destroy the security of others is not in one angel rationality but ‘Instinct and Naturalism’, and ideas arising out of it are, in Marx words, False Consciousness and in Italian thinker, Pareto words ‘Derivatives’ which lack knowledge. Derivatives are instructions and ideas that are made from egoistic interest. With this mentality, the Westerners cannot interact with the world unless they put themselves in the shoes of others and consider the right to defend national interest and security as granted to all. This is the same commitment to the logic and method of diplomatic interaction and the necessity of Empathy and understanding the security concerns of others and refusal to threaten them excessively. The West should know that ‘Maximalism’, and lack of respect for the foundations of interest and security of others can cause massive damage and bring the world closer to war and conflict. This approach also causes the others to incline towards the front of rivals, and in this situation, at least Europe will not win even though the US benefits. Edmund Husserl describes this illness as the precedence of politics to culture, philosophy, and rationality, which are mostly the legacy of Fascism and Marxism. Bertrand Badie, the French sociologist, writes in the book ‘Culture and Politics’ that whenever Westernization has fueled in the Muslim states, we have witnessed reactionary revivalism and self-help of the Muslims. Engineering Islamic societies to make them Westernized has been always manufacturing violence, conflict, and Radicalism. This is a reality that Europe, for two centuries, has been making efforts to repeat its lived-experience before the Westphalia Treaty in the West Asia through engineering the domestic affairs of the countries. Their last try to support anti-religious and regime-changing elements outside Iran can be evaluated as aiming at bipolarizing the society and fueling the flame of religious and domestic conflict in Iran—a flame that Europeans had experienced before Westphalia. This time they had placed on their agenda not only to overthrow the government but to overthrow the Iranian Nation through misinformation, disinformation, radicalization and manipulating of the domestic problems which eventually results in ‘Civil War’. To explain more the dimensions of the degradation of rationality, we can refer once again to Edmund Husserl, the epistemologist philosopher who presents proper frames to understand the maladies of Europe. In his view, the West has lost the power of being Subject for various reasons, including the domination of Egoism and Naturalism over rationality. Husserl believes that being a ‘Subject’, Independent Observer and Actor, is not accessible because another Subject, mind, and social actor always influence it. Therefore, for understanding Subject A's knowledge and view, Subject B's mind and its social context should be studied because the former is under the influence of the latter. This is something Husserl calls ‘Inter-Subjectivity. Let's bring this to the world of foreign policy and diplomacy. We will see how the ‘European Subjectivity’ is formed towards Iran under the influence of the other Subjects mainly by the Zionists, the Americans, or by some hostile expatriate groups. The Europe needs to gain an Independent Subject position; otherwise, it will gradually lose its political agency in the west Asia.
- The Ukraine war; possibility and refusal of diplomatic wisdom
The Ukraine war is a significant turning point for Europe. The European leaders named Russia as the biggest security threat to the green Continent. The US considers China its number one threat, and the Western propaganda machine hyperboles the so-called Russia-China-Iran threat axis. But is the West prepared this time to adopt a realistic approach to the others and their security concerns? Is Europe ready to get out of the archaic and stubborn mentality environment for once and understand the other nations' security and economic pains? Will such a security Renaissance and Enlightenment of diplomatic rationality be created in the Europe with respect to the other nations? Europe should pass through a corridor the epistemologists call the ‘Empathy Gate’ tantamount to ‘Diplomatic Renaissance’. Only in this case, can one be hopeful to realize the basic principles of national security and global peace and the Westerners can also interact constructively with the others, including the Islamic Republic of Iran. They should admit that the world has changed so that they have to change and acquiesce to a constructive ‘Dialogue’ and ‘Negotiation’ accordingly. The second one is the supper-structure of the first one which is infrastructure of any diplomatic opening. Westerners must understand that, security is also essential for others. All countries attach fundamental significance to their own interest and security and would defend them with claws and teeth; if they can, they can claim that they are building peace. The writing does not aim to take a political side in the confrontation between the West and the East but it is an effort to clarify the principle of Empathy as diplomatic rationality. This constructive approach is achievable. Europe’s problems with the Islamic Republic of Iran are not merely technical or technocratic problems such as the installation of the IAEA cameras, but rather it is a rationality problem on the part of Europe which Husserl calls the product of the hegemony of empirical perception over wisdom.
- Necessity of returning to the Contemporary European Political Thought
The view of the Europe and the Western world towards Iran and the entire world requires improving perception, and such a view should evaluate the socio-political dynamism inside the other countries including Iran contextually. Any issue, such as ‘Civil-Political’ rights, should be assessed and scrutinized in a larger context and based on the identity, culture and history or the level and amount of the political and security threats of the nation-state faces. When a country is threatened, it will adopt defensive measures which will impact its domestic and foreign policy proportionate to the threat level conservatively. These are fundamentals and axioms of rationality—issues described by Ibn Khaldun as nature of politics and by Montesquieu as the ‘Natural Social Relationship’. For example, could Europe remain tolerant, if people from outside were trying to arm civil movements in Europe, just like the Westerners did in various countries? Could the 1950s America show the toleration of the 1970s or the 1990s vis-a-vis the Communists? Indeed not, because the practical activities of the leftists and Soviet interventions in the 1950s took the issues of Civil Sphere to the cavity of the Security Sphere and disrupted the congenial atmosphere of politics, governance, rule of law and Civil-Political rights, while the situation changed in the 1970s and momentum of threats decreased. After the Ukraine war due to the security concerns, the EU is adopting new security regulations and measures such as financial control on the resources of the NGOs and counter measures against what they call Chinese and Russian misinformation and disinformation indicate that they are moving towards securitizing the atmosphere in what they believe these restrictions are natural reactions. With such reasoning, it could be inferred that securitization of Iran and imposing economic sanctions have violated the Iranian people's not only economic rights but also Civil and Political rights through dragging them all into the hole of the ‘Security Sphere’. It is safe to say that Western intervention through sanctions and securitization has historically damaged Iran's political and social development since 1979. For example, it is well known that Iran has never been an ethnic country; however, specifically during the past decade, human rights rapporteurs and Western media highlighted and mainstreamed the fake concept of ‘Ethnicity’ in Iran which was intensified in last year’s developments in Iran. And this, in practice, is against the civil and political rights of the people of Iran and targets the security and identity of Iran as a significant culture and civilization. In the past, Christian and Jewish minorities were considered an asset and opportunity during the Ottomans and Safavids because the rulers benefited from them to bolster trade and commerce with Europe as Christians and Jews had religious and linguistic homogeneity with Europe; however, imperialism turned all such assets to threat and bayonet. In Iran, in addition to this, they fabricated Babism and Baha’ism to harm and undermine Shia. Once again, it is emphasized that this writing does not aim to blame Europe only, even though Europeans deserve to be blamed. But, the objective is to describe the status quo and historical psychology of relations between Iran and Europe and provide an opening.
In conclusion, it is safe to say that all European human science schools of thought in the past half a century have become context-oriented; even European liberals believe that Rationality and whatever derives from it are context-dependent, history-bound, cultural, and evolutional and cannot be manufactured, imposed, exported or imported. Notwithstanding, the Western political and security machinery still seeks to Engineer the affairs of the nations. Despite claims they are following Lockean and Kantian thoughts and their claims for establishing global peace, they are indeed pursuing the anti-peace instructions of Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Karl Schmitt. The foreign and human rights policy approach is still pivoting around the Fundamentalist, Absolutist, Positivist, and dilapidated thoughts of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that wanted to build the world with their mentality. It is hoped that the Ukraine war ends in a security-diplomatic renaissance in the Europe and the emergence of a new era of prosperity of diplomacy so that European countries choose rational principles in foreign policy towards the other nations which respect existence of others. In this case, the world will become a better place for humankind. On the contrary, it is really sad to witness Holy Quran burning in some European countries. It is exactly reminiscent of Fascism or revivalism of Karl Schmitt’s logic before the Second World War and fuelling war inside Europe and among nations and civilizations. Now is the time to abandon all these malign endeavors and adopt a new approach to uphold what in diplomacy is called ‘Positive- Sum game’.
- Seyyed Abbas Araghchi, Secretary of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations of Iran
- Nematollah Mozaffarpour, Researcher of Political Thought and Diplomacy
(The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS)