Once Aryan Skynet Goes Live It Doesn't Matter Who Pulled The Switch
Richard Spencer, in his 2013 lecture “Why We Need Europe”, observes that “for some time now, the traditionalist right in Britain and on the continent has been animated by opposition to the European Union. We rage, and we probably enjoy raging, against a bureaucratic superstate that seems at once impotent, annoying, clueless, and totalitarian. The EU, we like to think, is the triumph of everything awful in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.” Spencer, however, looks to “solutions that lie outside of the nation-state box” and suggests that the European Union, if commandeered for identitarian purposes, might provide the infrastructure for reclamation of its constituent territories by its indigenous peoples – “a racial and civilizational superstate on the European continent”1.
Dirk van Laak explains the curious manner in which the movement for European unification was hastened a half a century ago by its antagonistic encounter with another supranational movement – the anticolonial Pan-Arabism of Egypt’s revolutionist visionary statesman Gamal Abdel Nasser:
Only in the mid-1950s – after the Mau-Mau uprising in Kenya, the beginning of the war in Algeria and the Bandung Conference – did the French and the British finally realize how futile it was to further retain their imperial ambitions. The most decisive event and emblematic turning point was the Suez Crisis in 1956. Tellingly, it was sparked by quarrels over the ambitious plan to build the largest dam ever located in Africa. The Egyptian president Jamal [a.k.a. Gamal] Abdel Nasser nationalized the most outstanding of “imperial infrastructures”, the Suez canal, in order to finance the long-projected Aswan dam. In a late colonial campaign French, British and Israeli troops attacked Egypt by air. But the United States and the United Nations alike refused to endorse the action. The British withdrew, the French felt betrayed – and solidarity between the two nations was severely tainted.
Subsequently, the conference underway at Venice to shape a European economic co-operation was decisively pushed forward by the Egyptian incident. Only then did an integrated Europe appear as a viable alternative to the fading colonial empires. Starting with Ghana in 1957, most of Africa was quickly seized by the “winds of change” that Harold Macmillan emblematically talked about in 1960. Louis Armand, president of the European Atomic Energy Community, in retrospect even suggested erecting a statue of Nasser as the “federator of Europe”. In this respect Africa indeed acted as a detour towards European integration. If the colonial question had retarded integration efforts up to the mid-1950s, following the crises at Suez and in Hungary it accelerated them.2
A similar defensive urgency attached itself to the United Arab Republic, a parallel venture to the project of European integration. Stephen J. King summarizes the rationale and discontents of the Egyptian-Syrian experiment in political union:
While Syria wobbled under political strains in the 1950s, the charismatic Gamal Abdel Nasser had led the Free Officers’ revolution in Egypt, dissolved the country’s feudal agrarian structures, kicked out the British, and successfully stood up to Western powers and Israel over the Suez Canal. In addition, by making an alliance with the Soviet Union, Nasser had also demonstrated that Arabs had options [i.e., alternatives] to Western arms and aid. These attributes made Nasser a powerful leader for followers of the pan-Arab nationalism preached by the Ba’th; as a result, Syrian Ba’thist military officers sought to form a union with Egypt and Nasser. Their naïve hopes and the excitement of the times was such that they believed that one great and charismatic Arab leader, Nasser, could realize all of their aims quickly. Forming a union with Egypt under Nasser could quickly fortify them against hostile regional and international powers [like Israel] and accelerate the social revolution within Syria.
In 1958, at the request of Syrian military officers, Nasser agreed to a union between Egypt and Syria. The new country was named the United Arab Republic (UAR). However, the Ba’thist officers who sought the union soon learned that, contrary to their hopes, Nasser wanted to rule Syria with Egyptians largely, and wished to institute a form of Arab socialism without input from the Ba’th. Nasser’s conditions for uniting with Syria included the dissolution of all political parties and a demand that the Syrian army withdraw from politics. The Ba’th’s civilian leader, Michel ‘Aflaq, obliged and announced the dissolution of the Ba’th.
As early as 1959, popular sentiment within Syria turned against the union due to its domination by Egyptians. Syria had lost control of its own affairs under Nasser. All major decisions taken by the United Arab Republic were made by Nasser and a small group of officers and security men in Cairo. Egyptian security agents spied on Syrians for the regime. Egyptian manufactured products were favored over their Syrian counterparts, and Egyptian peasants were favored over Syrian peasants in some land policies.3
Nevertheless, the establishment of the UAR “represents the pinnacle of pan-Arab success,” writes Sarah Mousa for Al Jazeera.
The moment was testament to Arab triumph over colonialism; the Arab people had taken a bold step towards overcoming decades of divisive, disempowering schemes in a declaration of freedom. Pan-Arab ideals did not simply entail bureaucratic unity, but sought social and economic justice through universal education, employment guarantees, minimum wages and semi-socialist land reform policies. The union was greeted popularly as crowds flooded the streets of the new Republic’s cities. Even after a coup by a Syrian separatist movement ended with the dissolving of the union in 1961, Nasser continued to mark the day as a testament to the power of Arab will. […]
While the Nasser government was certainly not flawless, it remains among the most celebrated of modern Arab times. Historian Albert Hourani aptly describes it as a government “for the people, but not by the people”. Personal freedoms were sacrificed for the sake of collective social and economic justice domestically and national freedom and autonomy on an international scale. Opposition was silenced by force. […]
While there were personal costs to the realisation of pan-Arab goals, the collective good was consistently presented as the government’s greatest interest, even if the popular good did not result in national Arab unity. In his lengthy speech announcing the Syrian secession from the UAR, Nasser explained his belief that the separatist movement was unrepresentative of the Syrian people, praising the popular protests that had erupted in the streets of Damascus, Aleppo, Hama, Homs and Deir el-Zour on the first days of the coup. Nonetheless, Nasser turned away from pursuing his initial plan of military intervention on behalf of continued unity, emphasising that the potential bloodshed among the Syrian people was not in the interests of true Arabism.4
A reconstituted Ba’th party staged a coup that extracted Syria from the UAR in 1961; and Nasser, not wanting to burn a conceivably salvageable bridge, did not intervene militarily. Following the death of Nasser in September of 1970, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi assumed the role of the region’s preeminent advocate of Pan-Arabism and unification. “No matter how much or how often he has demonstrated political naivety or abrasiveness in the process, Gaddafi has been constant in his pursuit of Arab unity and has been prepared, again and again, to revive calls for unions with other Arab states with whom he has quarrelled or fallen out even though their leaders have been downright hostile,” writes Guy Arnold in his 1996 study The Maverick State: Gaddafi and the New World Order5.
Libya’s neighbor Algeria was traditionally cool toward such proposals (but did at one point tentatively agree to a union during the eighties), while Morocco’s monarchy had nothing but disdain for Libya’s revolution (a 1972 Moroccan radio broadcast dismissed Gaddafi as “foolish and insane”6). The Arab nationalist government of Gaafar Nimeiri in Sudan, initially amenable to the idea of a unification with Libya, was alienated by Gaddafi’s insistence on haste in enacting the plans:
The death of Nasser […] removed the one figure in the Arab world who might have restrained Gaddafi but that is only surmise, for at the time of his death, the proposed union between Egypt, Libya and Sudan had made little progress. After Nasser’s funeral, however, the leaders of the three countries (Vice-President Anwar Sadat had replaced Nasser) announced that they would set up a federation which they hoped would form the nucleus of an eventual wider union. Subsequently, a number of committees were established to examine ways and means of implementation. At a summit in Cairo that November, Libya and Sudan disagreed about the timing of the federation. Libya sought a three-year time limit to the creation of the union while Sudan was opposed to such speed. Then Syria announced its desire to join the federation and in December the four countries agreed a military union pact. At least, at this stage, some form of union appeared a genuine possibility and Libya had concentrated its attention upon its eastern neighbors rather than the Maghreb counties. Very little was to be plain sailing thereafter.
The Federation of Arab Republics (FAR) was agreed upon between three of the four states – Egypt, Libya and Syria – at Benghazi on 17 April 1971 (Nimeiri was present at the meeting but not party to the agreement) and the FAR was inaugurated on 4 October 1971 when Sadat was elected as first President. It was a first step, as Gaddafi hoped, towards greater Arab unity.7
On paper, at least, the amalgamation of Egypt and Libya made a certain amount of sense. In addition to cultural affinities, each country could offer the other complementary resources. Egypt, the mother country of the Arab revolution, was a much more populous nation and represented a wealth of human resources to Libya, which, however, was oil-rich and had the capacity to subsidize any joint ventures with the Egyptians.
Gaddafi’s more militant attitude toward the Israelis ultimately undermined the chances of more substantial integration with Egypt and Syria, however. During the Yom Kippur War of 1973, Gaddafi expressed the view that the ultimate Arab war aim ought to be the final destruction of Israel, while the countries on the front line of the conflict were understandably less inclined to such a bellicose position. Relations with Egypt and Sudan soured during the subsequent years as allegations of Libyan meddling in the countries’ domestic affairs accumulated. Gaddafi did nothing to salve the worsening tensions with Egypt when, for instance, he held a press conference at which he called for Egyptian citizens to mount a “cultural revolution” on the Libyan model8.
For a brief time in 1974, the government of Tunisia expressed its intention to unite with Libya, but this proposal, as with so many others during Gaddafi’s tenure, went nowhere.
As relations with Egypt worsened during 1974, Gaddafi spoke of the need for a people’s revolution in that country; at the same time his belief in the need for unions or Arab unity did not weaken. Sadat made plain in a letter to Gaddafi that he would not tolerate interference in his country’s affairs and in March the Arab oil ministers, meeting in Vienna, heeded Sadat’s advice and lifted the oil embargo on the United States. In April Gaddafi was obliged to admit that his attempt at a reconciliation with Egypt the previous February had failed. Matters were made worse in April when an attempted coup in Egypt was linked to Libya and then in May, President Nimeiri of Sudan also accused Libya of complicity in a plot against him. Other areas of friction between Libya and Egypt multiplied during the year and culminated in a two-way propaganda war between them. In October a letter of Gaddafi to the Beirut paper Al-Usbu al-Arabi attacked Sadat and accused him of not wanting to see the people rule. He urged Egypt’s peasants, workers, students and officials to seize power and set up a “people’s government” and then unite with Libya. By the end of the year an isolated Libya was at odds with Egypt, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia and had deteriorating relations with Algeria. A partial rapprochement with Sudan was achieved in November when Nimeiri made a visit to Cairo and Tripoli and explained to Gaddafi that while he believed in Arab unity it was not something that could be hurried: “We agreed we shared the same objective – the only difference was about how to achieve it.9
The irony of Gaddafi’s zeal for unification with his Arab neighbors is that his haphazard promotion of this objective resulted in the intensification of tensions in the Arab world. Sadat, as his foreign policy shifted toward accord with the United States and Israel (a policy backed by Sudan’s Nimeiri), did nothing to ameliorate Gaddafi’s attitude, nor did his assertion during a 1975 interview that “Gaddafi is 100 per cent sick and possessed by a devil which makes him imagine things.”10 Further accusations against Gaddafi from the governments of Egypt, Sudan, and Tunisia followed in 1976, and Libya and Egypt were even at war with each other for a few days in 197711.
Equal partnerships are rarities in international relations; and Gaddafi, like Nasser before him, aspired not to compromise so much as export of his own revolution to the surrounding Arab nations. “His persistence,” Arnold writes, “can be interpreted as the naïve determination of a dreamer who refuses to be deterred by more pragmatic considerations of the prosaic business of running a modern state; or, it can be seen as a more dangerous and deliberate effort to destabilize countries with which he is in disagreement for no Arab leader, as a general proposition, is willing to be seen arguing against Arab unity.”12 If nothing else, he illustrates that racial or cultural supranationalism, if it is ever to prove itself more than a dream and become a force of political actualization, requires a diplomatic genius in which Gaddafi was sadly and gloriously lacking. At the same time, the figures of Nasser and Gaddafi reflect the power of personalities to alter the course of history.