The main purpose of this article is to discuss the adequacy of these two positions in the reality of existing international relations. We will try to clarify the question of which of these two positions is more reasonable in this context.
Criticism of cosmopolitanism
The word “cosmopolitan”, which is a combination of the words “cosmos” (world) and “polites” (city-state), means “citizen of the world”. A cosmopolitan is a person who travels a lot, gets acquainted with different cultures and understands and respects them. But at the same time, cosmopolitanism is an intellectual position or a set of positions. The central idea of cosmopolitanism is the equality of all people. Based on this idea, cosmopolitanism advocates ethics, social institutions, and finally the creation of the state, which can be applied to all people and cultures and encompass them as equal parties. While the idea of creating a world state is, of course, unthinkable and largely rejected, it is conceivable that cosmopolitan ethics and social institutions can at least be established.
The main anti-cosmopolitan critique is that universal ethical norms are impossible. Moral values are contextual and inherent in local cultures. An ethical norm as a norm can only be adopted in the society in which it originates and belongs. There is no human ethics, because there is no society called humanity.
Criticism of cosmopolitanism can be summarized in 4 points.
– Cosmopolitanism is flawed because it is based on the idea of abstract common human nature.
– Human ethics is impossible because morality is always local and therefore contextual.
– Attempting to implement human ethics is an injustice against local moral norms. Attempts to create any human ethic can result in the dominance of one local morality over the others and the destruction of the others.
– A world state that unites all nations will lead to either tyranny or constant rebellion.
The root of the disagreement between cosmopolitanism and anti-cosmopolitanism is that these two traditions are based on two different ontologies and epistemologies. Cosmopolitanism is mostly grounded in claims about the nature of human agency and the universal capacity for rationality. To be more precise, transcendental rationality in Kant’s philosophy is one of the philosophical principles on which this tradition is based. Kant believed that all people have the ability to be rational. Rationality is transcendental and the same for everyone, regardless of context or personality. Cosmopolitanism is based on these and similar ideas. On the contrary, communitarianism, one of the positions on the anti-cosmopolitan front, claims that individuals are born only in cultures and have a moral memory depending on the culture in which they are raised. Morality is meaningful only in the context of the culture to which it belongs. In this sense, there is no universal morality. The same arguments can be applied to the transcendental rationality claimed by Kant.
The two most common positions on the anti-cosmopolitan front are realism and pluralism, and it can be argued that the best reflection of these two positions is found in the ideas of Hegel and Herder. The roots of communitarianism can also be found in the thoughts of these two philosophers. Realism claims that the current conditions in international relations morally force states to put their national interests above human interests. The reason for our limp commitment to humanity is that we have built this commitment on the idea of human morality, which is abstract and therefore unrealistic.
Herder criticized Kant’s pre-social, in other words, pre-societal notion of the individual. According to him, a national community is the only social source that makes sense of the concepts of good and evil. Good and evil are never meaningful in any other way. From this point of view, the individual is an individual only as a product of the society to which he belongs. Individuals are created not prior to but after society and are shaped by it. Herder considered Kant’s concept of transcendental rationality to be utter nonsense. The political community Herder dreamed of was a plurality of decentralized societies. He described his position as Anarcho-pluralism.
Hegel was a statist. According to him, the state is the most perfect form of human society. The sovereign state is the only setting in which people can realize and express their individuality. Social tradition within the state is the framework which founds and enables ethical discourse. (Cochran, 1996). For Hegel, the emergence and development of societies is the result of rational and critical thinking. The development of human freedom is the result of man’s increasing rationality and self-control. From this point of view, in modern times, the sovereign state is a triumph of rationality, but only if the state is governed by rational laws and policies. It should be noted that Hegel’s rationality is completely different from that of Kant’s. For Hegel, rationality is contextual, not transcendental, and is based on history.
Finding universal morality means that there is a norm or principle of behavior applicable regardless of time and place. Cosmopolitans have not found such a norm or principle so far. Different cultures have their own moral norms, and we do not have a metric with which to determine which of these different moral norms is superior. There is no uniformity in the nature of concepts such as justice and morality; on the contrary, forms of these concepts differ from culture to culture as a result of certain historical processes and geographical location. (David Miller, 2002)
Humanity is just an intellectual fiction. There is no common society to which all people belong. People do not have a common history and a common memory. The historical and cultural memories that individuals acquire from the societies in which they grow up are the factors that motivate individuals to do good and evil, and even shape their perceptions of good and evil. People often do not feel responsible for individuals or societies from different societies with which they do not share a common memory. This shows once again that the concept of humanity is not based on any real ground.
One of the main criticisms of liberal cosmopolitanism is the liberal concept of the individual. In the liberal perspective, the individual is an out-of-context cultural concept. The individual conceptualized by liberalism does not, in fact, have a place in any corner of the world when taken out of the Western context. One of feminist thinkers (Benhabib, 1992) criticizes the liberal concept of the individual as a generalization of Western, white, male, and middle- or upper-class people. In this respect, liberalism actually seeks to accept itself as an out-of-context individual, universal individual. The liberal concept of the individual is also based on Kant’s idea of transcendental rationality, but communitarians thinkers reject Kant’s theory because of the empirical lack of transcendental rationality. In view of all this, the question arises: what is the capacity for the disembodied, out-of-context and abstract factors to be universal? (Thompson, 1992).
Nationalism or anti-cosmopolitan ethics
What can we conclude from the above criticism? If there is no universal morality, then how should people live based on morality? The answer of communitarians to this question is probably somewhat clear from the above criticism. Given that there is no universal morality, then we should prefer our compatriots to those who have nothing to do with us and live in another part of the world. Because we often owe to our compatriots more than to other people. Since we share a society with them, it means that the influence of our compatriots on our lives is greater than that of other people. Of course, this influence may not always be positive, but the positive influence of compatriots is inevitably greater than the positive influence of others. From this point of view, giving preference to compatriots is one of the main provisions of communitarian ethics. Principles such as the distribution of wealth, the elimination of the gap between the rich and the poor, and the equality of human beings are only possible within a community, the application of these principles between communities being limited. From this point of view, if there is a dilemma between national and human interests, then, according to the communitarian ethics, national interests should take precedence. This includes cooperation with authoritarian regimes that violate human rights in the national interests. For realists, the type of regime of the partner state should not matter, if both sides benefit from the relationship between the states. In other words, a state’s foreign policy is not a continuation of its domestic policy, and the type of regime does not determine foreign policy.
Realism is one of the positions stemming from communitarianism and dominating in international relations. In a sense, realism has always been the dominant view in international relations, and the principles of realism resonate with communitarianism. To understand why nationalism is important, it is essential to understand the position of realism that currently dominates international relations.
The realist tradition is pessimistic about the nature of international relations. Given that the main goal of the parties in international relations is to protect national interests, realists do not believe that morality has a place in politics. However, this does not mean that realism has no moral principles. Realism is pragmatic and adopts moral principles based on results. The best example of realist ethics is the Peloponnesian War: the Athenians offered an ultimatum to the small city-state Melos, demanding a surrender, but the Melian leaders refused. As a result, the Athenians invaded Melos, slaughtered and took captive its people. According to the realist ethics, the rulers of Melos made an ethically wrong decision not to surrender: they were to blame for the loss of their people’s lives and freedom, because they chose to fight even though it was clear that they could not defeat the Athenians. From this point of view, the responsibility for the Armenians’ persistence in not surrendering in Karabakh and the resulting deaths and tragedies lies with the Armenian leadership.
For this reason, realists think that they should focus on strategic and material goals. A foreign policy in which human interests take precedence over national interests would be a state’s suicide in the current reality. For example, Henry Kissinger could have suggested that Laos, a neutral state, be bombed in order to defeat Vietnam. If the results yielded by the bombing of Laos outweigh the consequences of the bombing, then for the realists, the bombing is an ethically just decision.(Pogge, 2008) Realists believe that states have no moral obligation not to interfere in other states. If interference in other states is important for the security and interests of our state, we must interfere (Kennan, 1986). For example, when asked, “Sanctions against Iraq have killed more than half a million children. Do you think the price is worth it?”, Madeleine Albright, the Secretary of State in the Clinton administration, said that given the results of that sanctions, she believed that it was indeed worth it. The sanctions against Iraq weakened Saddam Hussein’s regime, prevented the use of weapons of mass destruction, and restored stability in the region and the world.(Pogge, 2008) From a Kantian perspective, Albright’s response is not justified, but realism does not accept Kantian ethics, arguing that the current situation is inadequate to it.
For realists, the main virtue of a public administration is prudence. Being prudent goes beyond being knowledgeable and wise, it involves understanding what is possible. There can be no political morality without prudence (Morgenthau, 1960). Prudence involves estimating the outcome of various political decisions in advance and foreseeing their impact on national interests. Stopping the war without liberating Khankendi, agreeing to the presence of Russian peacekeepers to Karabakh was the result of the Azerbaijani government’s prudent actions based on national interests. In this respect, the Azerbaijani government made the right political and moral decision.
For realists, the most important job of a statesman is to protect the interests of the state. However, prudent policy is not unscrupulous. At first glance, realism may sound like Machiavellianism, but realism is not about the end justifying the means: the result may be achieved in the most practical and softest way, provided that national interests come first. For example, realists (Mearsheimer, Walt, 2003) criticized the US invasion of Iraq believing that other means could be used to control the regime in Iraq. In the eyes of realists, the US intervention in Iraq was a violation of international stability. I think it is clear to all of us that, unlike Iraq, there was no other way out of the Karabakh issue than through military action. The failure of the negotiations over the past 26 years proves this.
Realists also attach great importance to stability and predictability in international relations. It should be noted that realists do not rule out cosmopolitan ethics, but they believe that it is impossible in the current situation, that humanity can be achieved gradually.
Realism is an anti-cosmopolitan position because it prefers the concept of the nation-state and argues that the precedence of national interests comes from moral responsibility. Realism is a pragmatic approach because it accepts reality as it is, and it is a principled approach as it is the only ethics that is possible at the moment. Realism accepts the principle of the plurality of societies and believes that every society has the right to exist, but justifies interfering with other societies in the interests of one’s own, if necessary. Contrary to popular belief, realism is not a nationalist position; it can be regarded more precisely as a patriotic position.(Hulsman, 2006). (Morgenthau, 1949) and (Carr, 1939) argue that they do not see the concept of the nation-state as the ultimate political framework, but rather as a negative phenomenon in the development of nationalism because it could lead to an international catastrophe. Realism must be linked to realpolitik.
The current reality of world politics forces us to put our national issues above human issues; acting humanely on issues that put the existence of the state in danger, ignoring issues that directly threaten society and emphasizing ideas that are not reflected in reality is unacceptable for realists. I believe that the Second Karabakh War should be approached from the same position.