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The Great Abyss


Vladimir

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"When you look for a long time into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you." - Friedrich Nietzsche

There was recently a short debate on the place of morality in the international sphere where I argued that morality was unique to each individual alliance, a result of their particular socio-political system and place in the world. In other words, ones morality is derived from their perspective, with the salient cause being their choice of alliance. Of course, you could nitpick at various details of this, but for the purpose of this discussion suffice to say that the broad outline provided is historically and empirically self-evident.

Returning to the path of the aforementioned debate, where does this leave the international sphere? Following from the above it must be an inherently amoral place. It has no structure or power of its own (as an alliance does, making it fundamentally different in nature), and as such is a vacuum that merely provides a stage for the moralities of elsewhere to showcase themselves. But we must go further than this in realising that the various moralities are not cooperative in nature; they do not happily coexist, supporting and furthering each other. No, they are the most competitive of things, condemning, raging and battling against one another for hegemony in the centre ground. Of course, it is impossible for one morality to gain this hegemony in any meaningful sense precisely due to the lack of structure, and so the battle perpetually rages on.

Why can they not coexist happily? It is again self-evident, but I'm sure many would demand a response. Moralities are not abstract feel-good things, they have very real and practical political consequences. Take the Pacifican view of war against an alliance where only the leadership can be said to have clearly 'sinned', for example, against the view of many other alliances -- for the former it is morally legitimate while for the latter it may seem the pinnacle of barbarity and imperialism. The result is a great tension that may materialise in any number of ways, but the one thing that is certain is great moral conflict.

Having discussed the nature of the international sphere -- amoral, competitive, anarchic -- we can begin to realise why this short article is titled 'The Great Abyss'. The international sphere is a vacuum that exists only by virtue of what the various alliances put into it; remove such inputs and the international sphere itself is nothing. What then of those who reside in this international sphere. They may be allianceless, or simply more interested in the international sphere than their formal place of residence, but the important point is that the international sphere becomes their environment, and thus their perspective: they become children of the international.

To some idealists this may sound like an exciting concept. Apparently (though in reality not) free of military constraints and social superstructures, these children are open to everything! But this is exactly the problem. As they wander the battlefield of the Abyss they begin to take on its eclectic qualities, following nothing through to its logical conclusion, and instead taking on a bit of this and a bit of that. One might think that they do so with the best of methods, but they cannot judge the war by viewing the battle. With no grounding in the material realities of an alliance they cannot understand the perspectives and motivations that one takes on outside of the international sphere. By looking into the Abyss they become the personification of it: often excited, occasionally adventurous and sometimes articulate, but in the final analysis always empty.

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I was wondering when you would make a blog. While I disagree with some of your arguments, I generally enjoy reading your material.

Generally speaking, I'm not entirely sure that all "morals" work against each other. Yes, they are trying to each gain more recognition than there counterparts, but since some morals are similar, they may as well team up. This kind of cooperation would give some order to your anarchy in the international sphere.

Also, you might want to know that I found an old essay by you called, "The Slavery of International Rights" that you wrote in the March of 2007. Suffice it to say that some things don't change...;)

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Indeed, the conclusions of Slavery can be seen throughout this work in regards to structure, anarchy and heterogeneity in the international sphere.Of course I do not mean to suggest that every morality is different on every single point -- I expect that this would be impossible since on some matters the number of alliances outnumbers the number of possible perspectives -- and indeed in some circumstances we can see moralities temporarily cooperating against another. This is most notable in pre-war situations. The Unjust Pact certainly had overlapping moralities on a number of points, for example, as did the League. But even so, these moralities are still different (as a result of arising from different material conditions), and where they unite on certain specific points, they invariably do so in order to combat an opposing morality (whether offensively or defensively). Throughout, the anarchic battle continues and order remains elusive.

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Indeed, the conclusions of Slavery can be seen throughout this work in regards to structure, anarchy and heterogeneity in the international sphere.

Of course I do not mean to suggest that every morality is different on every single point -- I expect that this would be impossible since on some matters the number of alliances outnumbers the number of possible perspectives -- and indeed in some circumstances we can see moralities temporarily cooperating against another. This is most notable in pre-war situations. The Unjust Pact certainly had overlapping moralities on a number of points, for example, as did the League. But even so, these moralities are still different (as a result of arising from different material conditions), and where they unite on certain specific points, they invariably do so in order to combat an opposing morality (whether offensively or defensively). Throughout, the anarchic battle continues and order remains elusive.

Then how do you explain the continuum?

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In order for blocs to succeed there obviously has to be some overlap of basic policy in areas such as foreign affairs. Indeed, it is usually this that brings the various alliances together in the first place -- the League and Initiative weren't separated by random alliance allocation. However, I doubt you will find anyone even inside the Continuum that will claim it to be morally homogeneous; a few Continuum members even had a friendly little debate about morality just a few days ago in the OWF.

So why does it succeed? Where the Continuum has its strength is in its ability to respect the different moralities and perspectives of its member-alliances. This has freed it up to concentrate on the common interest of all involved: mutual friendship and security. Of course, as was hinted at in the beginning of this reply, it is here that the overlaps make themselves felt.

To take a very basic example, no member-alliance supports the initiation of 'lulz' wars, as one might have found in an Unjust Pact alliance. If one did and followed through on this policy it may begin to create some tension if it expected the other member-alliances to back it up.

Having key commonalities in these shared areas while respecting the differences elsewhere, is where the Continuum has derived its longevity from.

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So...basically the alliances in the Continuum prioritized their moralities, so that the most important ones (mutual friendship and security) took precedence over all others? And past blocs have not done this?

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I would never be so simplistic as to say that the Continuum is successful solely as a result of this, or that previous blocs failed solely because they failed to consider it. What I outlined is merely one point of many -- specifically outlined because it directly relates to the subject at hand. The link I posted in response to your article provides another reason (which I would consider the salient reason for the long-term existence of a bloc, though more would need to be done to flesh out why this bloc is the Continuum), and on top of that there are many more -- historical, structural, institutional and personal.

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I'm still confused by your article. You clearly state that,

"Of course, it is impossible for one morality to gain this hegemony in any meaningful sense precisely due to the lack of structure, and so the battle perpetually rages on." So, is the continuum merely an exception to the rule? If we assume for a minute that the aforementioned moralities of "friendship" and "security" are a unifying factor for Continuum, and that while the Continuum doesn't control the international sphere, it certainly dominates it, or I would believe.

I would find your argument much more plausible if applied to politics outside of continuum, especially in regards to the smaller alliances. However, on the grand scheme of cn politics, I think it is more likely that the morality is so influenced by large alliances that it would be a mistake to call the international sphere "amoral."

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I don't see the contradiction between the two positions taken in the first paragraph. That alliances can share moral positions does not mean that they share a morality -- no exception is required. I outlined this in the original post.

I also think you misinterpreted my point about the international sphere being amoral. Indeed, the dominant moral positions at any given time may be influenced more by larger alliances (they take up more of the stage and have bigger microphones, after all), but the international sphere remains an amoral vacuum because it does not have a morality of its own owing to its lack of grounding in material reality. Acting like a mirror, what you see is simply a reflection of the moralities that alliances put into it.

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