Many politicians and politics students are taking interest in the international relations for it enables one to understand all political phenomena by clarifying the following essential question: why do international events and evolutions occur? It should be noted that exploring international relations involves a chief problematic fact: an international phenomenon does not always have to follow specific standards that define its course and context. Furthermore, the difficulty lingers within the unstable human behaviour that does not abide by any stable or general rule, which explains the international revelations that always topple past and present established theories despite the previously mentioned intricacies, conveying from the systemic theory to the reductionist theory that helps the researcher to understand events and to facilitate his task. Such is the case in the power balance theory, diplomacy theory, dispute settlement theory, war theory and legal theory.

Certainly, Antun Saadeh did not address these matters in his writings because he didn’t live long enough to witness them. Nonetheless, in all of his scripts, Saadeh draws generalized threads that can assist and enlighten future generations in terms of determining the right choices. However, the great importance of Saadeh’s writings regarding international relations lies in his scientific approach to the developments he witnessed. That same approach made of Saadeh a pioneer scientific source in interpreting and analyzing international relations.

Saadeh considered this struggle normal instigated by the game of interests. He says: “if we weren’t a conflictive movement, we wouldn’t have been a movement from the first place. Life cannot exist without a conflict as life grows with power and clashes with its surroundings in order to survive!”(1)

Lastly, all of Saadeh’s writings regarding international relations serve one common purpose - the defense of Syrian union and its right to live and prosper: “what matters to us in the first place is everything  related to our country, our nation”(2) On the other hand, all the international balances, agreements and conventions are “susceptible to alterations, transformations and development”. It’s crucial that a nation depends on its strength or its life will seize to exist. (3)

Saadeh’s arguments vis-à-vis international relations appeared mostly between World War I and World War II, when a wide debate was taking place between the schools of utopianism and the schools of Realism over international politics. Utopians, adopters of the optimistic visions in the  18th century, the liberalism of the 19th century  and the Wilson’s idealism of the late 20th century, believed in the possibility of eradicating the evil roots (power, egotism, authority, national interest, secret diplomacy, etc...) and in establishing a new international system based upon the dominance of international law and ethics. Nevertheless, their lines of reasoning didn’t last in the face of World War II, described by Saadeh as “a war of ulterior motives, not of principles.” (4)

And so, theorists of international relations reverted to Machiavelli, Hobbs and Clausewitz once again.  Inderjeet’s writings spread widely within realism schools where instructors noticed that the international community had turned into a race towards power, disregarding principles and ethics.  They realized that the principle of balanced authority is the only mean to accomplish justice and decrease power and egotism, in spite of the fact that this principle is unstable and incapable of preventing struggle among nations. Saadeh’s stance on international relations falls in the category of realism along with several intellectuals like Nicolas Speakman, Hans Morgenthau and Raymond Aaron. In order to understand that, we will tackle three topics discussed by saadeh while defending the Syrian nation in international relations:

1- International policy, which means the study of the nature of international relations based on power policy.
2- International organizations and administrations, which represents the study of the nature of the regional and international bodies and their goals.
3- International law, which involves the legitimate rules that regulate relations among nations and are consequent to international norms and treaties.

1- The power policy
Morengthau stated in his book “Politics Among Nations” general principles that became afterwards the bases of contemporary realism. For instance, the idea of national interests is considered an essential mean to analyze national politics. This idea lingers through time and space. It’s hard to match the general principles with specific national ones. National policy “seeks wither to keep power, to increase power or to demonstrate power.”(5) Morengthau also elaborates that international politics competes to gain authority.  Power is correlated to influence, i.e., power is able to dominate minds and thoughts. Therefore, authority and power have a psychological aspect.(6) In brief, Morengthau considers international politics nothing but a battle to gain power and this struggle is sustained throughout time and space.
On the other hand, Raymond Aaron, defines international relations as the “science of war and peace” before seeking the specific feature of these relations and finding it in the “legitimacy and the legality of power use by players.”(7) Moreover, Henry Kissinger developed these opinions displaying that legitimate peace is based upon the balance of power, and it not mandatorily synonymous to justice. Kissinger himself admitted that the role played by Americans is based on the use of power by saying: “how could America be a role model for humanity, a hero of justice in a world where power is the ultimate judgment?”(8) In retrospect, Kissinger refers to the increasingly important and international role given to power by the United States of America, the country that contributed after World War II and still is in integrating the concept of power policy into international politics.

It should be noted that power factors are multiple and diverse since they are material and immaterial. There are natural and social factors such as strategic location, population, natural resources, the regime and its organizations, national unity, the technological progress and the level of armament. Briefly, there is no dominant factor among the factors of power and its standards. These factors are the result of a mixture of standards and the ability to transform them into efficient tools.

Undoubtedly, Saadeh relies on the importance of power as a backup for nationalist right. Adoptive of the theory that conflict is a prerequisite condition to progress, he considers that relations among nations are based on each nation’s best interest earned through power. Since national interests conflict with each other regularly, as there are many nations in the world rather than just one, therefore, conflict is inevitable and a nation should fight to prove itself or else “national right will seize to exist.”(9)

Hence, Saadeh calls on the Syrian nation to become an armed power and says that power is dualistic: psychological and material. “It’s fundamental that the mind uses military power to avoid violent control and cultural degeneration.”(10) This equation implies that a nation’s military victory can lead to cultural domination, and that was the case with the US after triumphing in the cold war: it imposed its culture through a new ideology called ‘globalization’. Imam Mohammad Shams Al-Din says that globalization is invading other cultures and totally eliminating them. It’s the dominance of powerful authorities. In addition to economical and political supremacy, it allows cultural dominance and it applies all kinds of cultural diversity for the purpose of terrorizing others and invading them culturally.(11)

2- International Organizations
When it comes to international organizations, Saadeh was a precursor as can be surmised from the following observation: “the United Nations is the assembly of those nations that triumphed during world war II...”(12) It’s not an international society and it does not mean absolute human unity because it solely reflects the political interests of the powerful nations that power long to confiscate all available sources in the world. Furthermore, the events of the Palestinian cause have shown in particular that the United Nations remained unable to implement its charter and in consequence, is now a hostage to the nation that has created it.

Peacekeeping forces are only a way to protect the “peace” of the conqueror in the conquered lands. In addition, the decision taken by the United Nations about dividing Palestine in 1947 is a legally unjustified political resolution. In return, Saadeh says: “the United Nations has no right to decide neither the fate of Syria nor that of its Southern part, Palestine.(13)

To confirm and emphasize the accuracy of Saadeh’s perspective, the United Nations is currently being criticised for several international issues. All the previously mentioned ordeals created an environment of frustration concerning the ability of the international organization to manage International relations and implement the rules despite the pressure applied by the major powers. This created the reform principle at the United Nations in the 21st century. World civilizations and developing countries in particular, have learned that proving something right doesn’t suffice to get the United Nations to consent. In Saadeh’s opinion, the United Nations invites each party to a peace controlled by a stronger nation and that’s how it manages all nations and maintains control.(14)

3- International treaties
A treaty is a common agreement among conflictive parties with the object of shielding their common interests or grounds. The more the pact succeeds in fulfilling the goals and needs of the conflicting sections, the more it achieves its function. In Saadeh’s opinion, power parity is an essential condition for harmony and accord: “One that possesses something does not concur with one who has nothing. It takes two or more to set a settlement. Each should rely on something he possesses or else he would be, at least, in the best case scenario, a follower bound to be used and abused without having a say in any matter nor a will in life”.(15) As an example, the circumstances having occurred in the Arab region that led Yasser Arafat to negotiate with Israel only brought more failures to the Arabs. On the contrary, late president Hafez el-Assad refused to compromise with Israel and associated the liberation of land with national dignity. That amazed the Americans during recent summits.

It’s probably easier for Lebanon and Syria to reliquish their rights and surrender to the Zionists’ so-called permanent peace but instead, they favoured conflict, not as a rejection of peace but because they realise that any pact held against their rights to choose their fate is void and invalid. Most Lebanese and Syrians understand and support this policy.

History reveals that a powerful nation never arranges a truce with another unless it stands to gain certain benefits that assure and guarantee its superiority in return. The Bretton Woods system, established by the capitalist states in 1944, is a technique that enables these states to steal the resources of the poorer states. However, in 1971, as a reaction to the growing trade balance deficit, President Nixon put an end to Washington’s Bretton Woods system and announced his policy and tariff protection.  It can also be noted that the United States abandoned paying its financial obligations when the group of 77 gained power in the General Assembly. All this explains the veracity in Saadeh’s saying: “treaties and agreements are based on the accomplishment of each party’s interest.  If interests are invalidated or filtered, the convention is then overturned”.(16)

1- Saadeh’s scientific approach made of him an ideal man of consistency. His legendary citation “the right to struggle is synonymous with the right to progress” could be adopted today by students of international relations as a reference frame to analyze various international events. International relations theorists are not surprised to see the common points of view between Saadeh and the British historian Toynbee regarding international politics. Toynbee, while studying history divided the world into twenty one civilisations stating that interactions on the international field occur as result to “action and reaction” among these civilisations. Saadeh, in his book “The Genesis of Nations,” talks about the existence of several societies in our world rather than just one; “human societies are as many as nationalities and nations. Thus, one’s right is not necessarily a right to others. National interest is the ultimate determinant of rights among conflictive parties.”(17)

2- The concept of international struggle as envisaged by Saadeh does not mean that he was against world peace. All that mattered to him was the triumph of the Syrian nation. He simply insisted on the fact that “any international decision that contradicts with the Syrian nation’s right to choose its future is null and void.”(18)

3- Israel’s defeat in Lebanon in 2006 has proved the accuracy of Saadeh’s insight: “men are not weak unless they are frail by choice”.
People are invited today, more than ever, to read Saadeh’s masterpieces thoroughly in order to bridge the gap between the past, when Saadeh published his writings, and the present that is still crying his early martyrdom.

Sources and references:
1- Antun Saadeh, Complete Works. 16, p.44.
2- Antun Saadeh, Complete Works, 12, p.74.
3- Antun Saadeh, Complete Works, 15, p.128.
4- Antun Saadeh, Complete Works, 12, p.73.
5- Hans Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations, (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1978), p.40.
6- Ibid, p.28-29.
7- R, Aaron, Peace and War: A Theory of International Relations, (London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1966): 5-6.
8- Time, 27-12 1976, p.43.
9- Antun Saadeh, Complete Works, 12, p.125.
10- Antun Saadeh, Complete Works, 12, p.189.
11- M. Shams Al Din, “Globalisation and its Humanisation”, Al-Hiwar, No. 37 1999, p.76-80.
12- Antun Saadeh, Complete Works, 14, p.169.
13- Antun Saadeh, Complete Works 14, p.169.
14- Antun Saadeh, Complete Works 16, p.83.
15- Antun Saadeh, Complete Works, 15, p.129.
16- Antun Saadeh, Complete Works, 15, p.128.
17- Antun Saadeh, Complete Works 15, p.126.
18- Antun Saadeh, Complete Works, 14, p.169.


Saadeh’s stance on
International Relations
Camille Habib