Three Evil Forces

4 August 2011


An exhibit from the dustbin of history: the Warsaw Pact once faced down NATO in western Europe; now it is no more.

While the Warsaw Pact vanished in a puff of smoke at the end of the Cold War, the center of gravity in Eurasia pulled up stakes and moved east, settling in China. Now this new center of gravity has its own official (albeit loose) organization to represent its interests, and this is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). And while the US has the “Axis of Evil” (composed, at one time at least, of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea), which, by extension, furnishes NATO and the West generally with its collective bogeyman, the loose unity of interests represented by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization has its own diabolical trinity of “Three Evil Forces.” What is it about triads that so fascinates political oratory? Even Lincoln implicitly invoked a triadic mode of speech when he spoke of a nation “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Although the map of the Warsaw Pact at the top of the page shows the sprawling bulk of Russian, the 'business end' of the alliance was in western Europe, there the two superpowers faced each other across the Iron Curtain,

The SCO powers — Russia, China, Khazakstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan — have thrown themselves a party in Astana, Kazakhstan, celebrating ten years of the organization. All of this seems eminently reasonable to me, since the Western powers have a never-ending round of self-celebrations that virtually fill the calendar like medieval feasts on saints days: various NATO exercises, the G20, the Davos Koffeeklatsch, the secretive Bilderburg get-together, and who knows how many others.

Now with Russia and China joined by the SCO, the east really is red, from top to toe.

All of this — i.e., the SCO’s self-celebration — is presented in the most politically reasonable terms imaginable. Just as NATO presents itself as the guarantor of security in the North Atlantic, so SCO presents itself as the guarantor of security in Eurasia, with a special focus on Central Asia. It is to be noted that several of the ‘Stans of Central Asia are full members of the SCO.

History repeats itself: while SCO nation-states now make up the bulk of the Eurasian landmass, again the 'business end' of the alliance comprises the cluster of smaller nation-states facing rivals and adversaries.

Even the military exercises that accompanied the SCO summit, and which have now become an annual event, are presented in terms that are unexceptional and anything but belligerent. The military exercises are called “Peace Mission” followed by the year of the exercise, as in “Peace Mission 2010” and “Peace Mission 2011,” and so one. The rhetoric of the exercises is that of counter-terrorism, which fits in neatly the the “Three Evil Forces” mentioned above, since terrorism is one of these evils.

The 'Stans of Central Asia include the nation-states of, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, as well as numerous non-state regions.

I found a particularly fascinating article on the recent SCO summit called The smart power of the SCO, dated 15 June 2011, which appears under the name of Nursultan Nazarbayev, none other than the President of Kazakhstan. Now, I don’t suppose that Nazarbayev actually wrote this (it was probably authored by one of his flunkies), but it is a nice piece for all that it encapsulates, and it is lent additional interest by fact that Kazakhstan simultaneously held the chairs both of the SCO and the OSCE. (This article is billed as having originally appeared in The Moscow Times, though I found it in the Russia and India Report).

This article was interesting both for its tone — perfectly evoking the “peaceful rise” theory of China’s growing influence — and for the comprehensiveness of its message, which touches on almost every theme that nervous Western think tanks have highlighted in relation to the SCO. The very rhetoric of the title — “smart power” — is precisely the sort of thing we would expect to hear from Western political leaders (in fact, it sounds a lot like “smart sanctions” and Joseph Nye’s “soft power”).

Nazarbayev (or his ghost writer) discusses counter-terrorism efforts, combating religious extremism (with the enlightened rhetoric of fighting, “the fundamental causes of radicalism and terrorism and not its consequences”), combating the global narcotics trade, and a possible role for the SCO in Afghanistan. Regarding the latter, Nazarbayev writes, “the prosperity of Central Asia and the surrounding states can only be achieved through a strong, independent and stable Afghanistan.” Who can disagree with that? And who is to say that the SCO would not be more successful at such “nation-building” in Afghanistan than NATO?

All in all, the public image of the SCO is that of a benevolent force working on behalf of peace, security and prosperity while working against terrorism, drug trafficking, and criminal enterprise. From this public image, which is not so far from the truth as to be strictly dishonest, it would not be immediately apparent that the SCO is in fact an organ of authoritarianism. In Doctrinaire and Inorganic Democracy I mentioned Robert Kagan’s book The Return of History and the End of Dreams. Of Kagan’s observations on authoritarianism I wrote, “I find a political analysis in terms of a distinction between authoritarianism and liberalism problematic, because I view authoritarianism not as an ideology, but as a fact of the exercise of power that has no true ideological content.”

Well, I see now that authoritarian regimes can give themselves the requisite ideological content, and in doing so in a sophisticated fashion (we are not, here, talking ham-handed Soviet-era propaganda) they present themselves as nothing more exceptional than stand-up citizens of the international community, interested in a law-and-order approach to the global situation.

As mentioned above, the chosen theme of the SCO ten year anniversary summit and the “Peace Mission 2011” exercises is combating “Three Evil Forces,” which forces are terrorism, separatism, and extremism. Russia and China certainly have much to fear from these three evil forces. Both are geographically extensive land empires with restive minority populations that have little or no desire to be a part of the great project that is modern Russia or modern China. Despite the many advantages that flow from being part of an extensive politico-economic whole, many peoples, as recent history has shown, prefer to go it on their own rather than to enjoy the benefits of life under the benevolent tyranny of Putin or the Communist Party of China.

The Three Evil Forces that the SCO powers seek to suppress and combat are precisely those forces that would precipitate, and perhaps eventually consolidate, the fracture of these large nation-states (Kazakhstan is also very large, and for that reason probably includes peoples who have no interest in making common cause with the Kazakhs) into some rump entity ethnic-cultural entity sans its former extensive territorial holdings.

The nation-state is the geopolitical equivalent of the conglomerate. What is a conglomerate? Wikipedia defines a conglomerate as, “a combination of two or more corporations engaged in entirely different businesses that fall under one corporate structure (a corporate group), usually involving a parent company and several (or many) subsidiaries. Often, a conglomerate is a multi-industry company.”

Back in the day when corporations were under more stringent rules against market dominance, if a large, successful company had deep pockets and wanted to expand, it bought whatever companies were available. And so a conglomerate might have companies that manufacture toasters, sell raspberry jam, own a department store or two (but not too many), and maybe also have some textile interests in hosiery and men’s wear, with the occasional timber mill thrown into the mix. There was no talk of “core competencies” or focusing on what you do best, but, as opposed to the ideal acquisition, this was the possible acquisition (parallel to what I recently wrote about The Possible War).

It is this spirit of putting things together simply for the sake of “bigger is better” that is the spirit of the nation-state, and that is why nation-states are all about boundaries, territorial integrity, and the territorial principle in law. As with conglomerates, so too (mutatis mutandis) with the nation-state: a combination of two or more ethnicities engaged in entirely different histories that fall under one state structure.

The various southern Slav peoples of whom Churchill said they produce more history than they can consume, tried it for a while, but eventually decided that it wasn’t for them. The Czechs and the Slovaks tried it for awhile also, and they managed to part company on amiable terms, without bloodshed, as has been the remarkable custom of these peoples. But despite the many failures of the nation-state, and the record of peoples voluntarily contracting nation-state relationships and voluntarily leaving them, in contemporary political “science” the nation-state holds unquestioned sway, such that anything other than the nation-state is regarded as an intrinsically suspect and perhaps perverse form of political order.

The nation-state today faces the terrorism of non-state entities as its great challenge. During the Cold War there was no consensus among nation-states as to who was and who was not a terrorist. It was the Cold War that gave us the slogan, “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter,” and this slogan was invoked (whether explicitly or implicitly) on both sides of the ideological divide that defined Cold War politicking. Yasser Arafat compared himself to George Washington (in his 1974 speech to the UN General Assembly), while Reagan compared the Nicaraguan Contras to the Founding Fathers (“the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers” was the quote).

This relativity of terrorism is less true now. NATO and SCO would probably agree on who is and who is not a terrorism much if not most of the time. In fact, NATO and SCO could agree on a good deal more than this. They are both interest groups of nation-states, tasked with the security of these nation-states. Such organizations are not going to call the nation-state into question. And so NATO and SCO have much in common in Afghanistan: they both want, “a strong, independent and stable Afghanistan.” So we should not be surprised to eventually, some day, see cooperation between NATO and SCO in attempting to shore up some kind of order and stability in Afghanistan.

Yet this apparent convergence of interests in the post-Cold War world is deception, however deep the shared loyalty to the security and continuity of the existing nation-states seems to run. Russia and China actively and routinely engage in the political and sometimes military repression of restive minorities. Both Russia and China routinely object to any violation of sovereignty or territorial integrity, since they are keenly aware that any such recognition of the legitimacy of opposing brutal and repressive regimes will open them to the same criticisms. China is not about to let its Uighers go their own way, any more than Russia is going to let Chechnya or Dagestan go their own way. These peoples, by and large, do not feel themselves to be full partners in the nation-states of which they are constituent parts, but they are also well aware that Russia and China have the military wherewithal to force their continued inclusion as part of the nation-state in question.

Moreover, while the Western powers are occasional sympathetic to the national aspiration of minorities in Russia, China, and Central Asia generally, it is rarely more than a lukewarm sympathy, because there is always the bias toward order, stability, continuity, and “the devil you know” being assumed to be better than some unknown evil. The fear is that if revolutions are “allowed” to occur, that widespread collapse of legitimate authority would lead to widespread terrorism, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and criminal enterprises. That these perennial problems might be as much caused by the nation-states as plaguing the nation-states is a thought too radical to be entertained either at NATO or the SCO.

And so the SCO members present themselves as international advocates of law and order, actively combating the “Three Evil Forces” of terrorism, separatism, and extremism, all the while knowing full well that extremism radicalizes, and that radicalized ethnic minorities will engage in terrorism in an attempt to secure the separate and equal station to which they believe nature and nature’s god to entitle them.

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Grand Strategy Annex

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13 Responses to “Three Evil Forces”

  1. I always find you interesting. I swiped some of your pics to use in cosmopolisfilm2.blogspot so I am thinking you will get some links from it.

    • geopolicraticus said

      I’m pleased you find it interesting. I derive no benefit from my work other than knowing that others have read it and find in it something of value, and I only know this to be the case in the rare event that they say so.

      Very Respectfully Yours,


  2. MisterEgo said


    Yes, most of your material is quite interesting and pleasing to read and I consider this one of the more interesting blogs around that actually has something smart to say.

    There is something about the tone of this article that caught my eye and doesn’t let me rest though. You seem to have a typically American, narrow minded view of the world bleached to death by the stereotypical American propaganda on the subject, of USA (and it’s allies) being the “good guys” and everybody else being the “axis of evil”, “big bad tyrants”, etc. etc.

    You grinded my axe when you mentioned the peoples of the former Yugoslavia and how they “decided” that unity really wasn’t their cup of tea. It certainly isn’t now, but the gratitude for that needs to be expressed to the self proclaimed leaders of the free world, not to the majority of the folks that lived there.

    When the unarmed masses rebel, like right now in Kosovo, this is how it looks like:

    please switch to “images” by clicking in the upper left corner. The worst weapons they possess can be seen on some pictures there.

    Of course, this is of no importance to CNN ( and do a search in the upper left on “kosovo”) and probably other outlets. That a very real crisis could have happened has escaped the watchful eye of CNN. I wonder why?

    I wanted to post the pictures of how “freedom fighters” look when they have the support of the freedoms of the free world, but you already know how they look (I can’t find good pictures)… I specifically wanted to show Croatian “freedom fighters” but really, any American freedom fighters will suffice to fill the mental picture that I am trying to convey (Taliban?).

    The reason why I wanted to show specifically the Croatians is this:

    I wanted to show an example close to home, and in pictures, but I’ve failed…

    Continued in the next reply…

  3. MisterEgo said

    In any case, tangentially related to the freedom fighters is the bullshit(sorry) you’ve spilled about the legitimate desires of the xyz peoples to free themselves from the clutches of their euroasian slavedrivers.

    You might not like Putin, or feel sorry for the plight of Tibetans or whatever, the fact of the matter stands that those “oppressive governments” are doing something great for their respective countries. The great things that put the torn into the eye of the American policy makers in their attempts to turn the world into an American colony. Of course, those “oppressive governments” are trying to do the same, though they have slightly smaller appetites since there is a bigger bully on the other side of the pond/ponds.

    Yada yada, I was talking about the “legitimate” desires of freedom loving peoples… yada yada… that seems to be the mantra of the US lately and what really torns me in this blogpost.

    Lets give you an example of the freedom loving of America. The Breakup of Yugoslavia, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan. I am missing a few probably but oh well…

    Now lets give you some non freedom loving examples of America. Lets start easy, with something that is close to you, that you might vaguely remember. It’s called Georgia. OK, you might remmember that. Now lets continue with something harder: The breakup of Yugoslavia. Whoops, can’t be. I must be joking. Lets Continue… Kosovo. What? Now I must be pulling your leg, can not possibly be a double standard. Lets continue once again: Iraq. Bah, what, you Americans have brought freedom there… Is Afghanistan the next on the list? You betcha…

    I could go on but, honestly, it’s too big of a subject to write here.

    What I am trying to say is that just because you live inside an imaginary border line, with people from the tv/gov telling you your county is the best/most correct in the world does not mean that everybody else agrees with you, or for that matter, even like you.

    The freedom nonloving peoples of EastAsia have every right to want what is best for themselves, and coincidentally(or not), that clashes with the wishes of the west (western hegemony, the american sheep are not really what controls the country).

    Yes, many American traditions are great and should be absorbed by other nations/civilizations. But to think that we would willfully, without threat/use of force (specifically, The bombing of Yugoslavia, but really, anything can go in here, Iraq, Libya etc…) choose to be your colonies is really retarded.

    While I respect your right to live in the bubble that you live in currently, I am sincerely hopeful that you will broaden your horizons just a little bit.

    I wanted earlier to elaborate on the double standard up there regarding Kosovo (the serb minority), Bosnia and Herzegovina (again, serbs, though this time not a minority), and Croatia(though they are mostly cleansed from there, so it’s really not an issue anymore, except that they are refugees in serbia currently,, 200 000 +). I have decided not to as it’s really not important. The fact that a double standard exists is enough. If you are interested, you will research it out.

    I happen to know about the Balkans to point them out, but with a little bit of research, one could probably find similar double standards in Iraq and Afghanistan as many other countries as well like the 50 something states of America, I hope I don’t have to teach you your own history. And no, the slavery was not the issue for the North at first. I also remembered the segregation and racism now, but I am straying to far away from the target.

    The rest of the world doesn’t really like you. Well, most of it anyway. Nothing to do with the hate vs Americans, but against your policies(of your goverment) and ignorance you’ve showed in this article…

    I happen to work as a freelancer for an American. A majority of my professional contacts are Americans. And no, I don’t hate Americans. I love them as much as every other people.

    What I don’t like is the Imperialist policy of your government, and other western governments, though specifically only because I live in the western sphere of influence. I would probably be pissed about somebody other then America/west if I lived in their spheres of influence.

    I’ll cut the essay here, since I’ve said enough. I’ll end it with a reference to the fact that the rest of the world is doing what they think is in their best interest, and just because it’s not in America’s interest of world hegemony does not automatically mean that they are doing a bad thing or are bad/criminals/whatever themselves.

    If Americans/West were the true leaders of the free world, I would be the first to support them. They are not. They utilize the ages old and tested strategy of divide and conquer (Balkans as a reference, but anything could fit here) creating de facto colonies around the world. The others are not much better either, but that’s beside the point.

    My final point will be reiterated here and it is that you should try to broaden your horizons a little in your writing as you do write some quality stuff, though it is bleached somewhat with standard US bullshitisms. I however, can not and will not attempt to force that view on you. Your opinions and views are solely your own domain. I do however believe that wining the hearts and minds of uninformed Americans is as important as winning the hearts and minds of everybody else if we are to create something better for the future, without the bullshit of nationalism and “peoples freedom loving desires”. It is an excuse for violence, and big power politics. Rarely is it really that fucked up. And even rarer is the American/western response in those situations(Ruanda? while you were busy with “genocides” in Bosnia).

    End of rant essay.

    Take care.

    • xcalibur said

      All I drew from this is that you hate America for some reason, and see it as nothing more than a self-righteous imperialist.

      The US is far from perfect, it’s flawed as every society is, but it’s still one of the best societies. the US institutionalized enlightenment ideas, has maintained a successful modern republic, and has disseminated the democratic/mixed-market capitalist model. While it has shown a subtle imperialism, it has not gone in this direction with nearly as much force or magnitude as many other nations.

      Regardless of the merits of the SCO, it seems to me mr.ego that you have an anti-american bias, which seems to be common among europeans.

      • griefchief said

        Hate and love, both at the same time. You could say i have extensive dealings with it, even though I’ve never visited (bussiness related). You’ll find that (hate) a lot all around the world, possibly at places where you least expect it. I am just saying it out loud (whatever i happen to have wrote back in 2011).

        Best societies? I don’t know, I think you might be biased there. I’m not gonna argue there, everybody has a right to it’s own delusion.One of the richer ones? Sure.

      • griefchief said

        It’s not really I can hate all of America, I can’t hate some black guy that gets blasted by police cause “driving while black” or cause he stole some shit. 🙂

        Just peculiar types and character. Madeline Albright, Bush, the people’s (workers) heroes “Clintons”, etc.

        Not that huge of a list. Maybe a million or two of the worst kind at most (I am probably exaggerating). Most of America is a victim too.

      • xcalibur said

        As I said, the US has many flaws, there’s no denying that. Student debt, the drug epidemic, the economic crash, urban decay, the list goes on. But overall I’d say it’s one of the best societies. I base this on its success in establishing and disseminating republican ideals and mixed-market capitalism. The US has also had a major role as the leader of the West, reconstructing Western Europe and Japan after WWII, and so on.
        I realize I responded long after the fact, it’s because I recently discovered this blog and have been clicking through.

  4. Ash said

    This jerk seems 2 be a fan of Michael Moore…………… Lets send him to a Tibetan prison in Lhasa for a week………..

    • MisterEgo said

      Lets send you to a undisclosed CIA detainment facility in one of the European or american bases overseas. Guantanamo is too obvious.

      And no, Micheal Moore is a freak… just like you are. Except your sheer stupidity(ignorance?) is the freaky part.


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