Sunday, December 10, 2017

Extreme Decisions

One of the consequences of the emerging populism in ruling politics and the shallowing of the nations is taking extreme decisions. Of course this concerns both small and big countries. But such decisions are mostly interesting in bigger powers. In this case the consequences of the decisions are global.

The world has now three times followed live transmissions of major announcements by President Trump, the leaving of the Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear deal and now the disastrous decision to recognize Jerusalem as capital of Israel. On issues where he cannot alone make policy changes, the president has had a less smooth start. But now the tax reform seem to succeed in collaboration with the Republicans. The other three mentioned decisions also have wide Republican support. Thus Trump succeeds when he is in agreement with his party. And in such cases the decisions are ominous. 

These 4 decisions are examples of what I call extreme decisions. They go beyond what was typical before the present political decline. Moderation from politicians, diplomats and experts hampered irresponsible decisions from presidents, PMs and parliaments like Congress.  Decisions were generally not too far away from the average of politics and societal practises. Perhaps the policies of Thatcher and Reagan were the first sign of more extreme departures. But they could still be accommodated. Generally mature modernity was characterized by not too big deviations from the point of political equilibrium. Decisions were moderate. Of course radical new thinking was possible, but it was often based on considerable insight, and above all, it reduced problems and tensions.

The buffering effect is now reduced. Decisions become extreme. They do not solve problems, but instead disturb the equilibrium and harmony in side nations and if made by greater powers they disturb int'l equilibrium, co-existence and peace. Decisions are based on rigid ideological unmoderated attitudes, not on societal needs, or they are simply a wish to destroy the work of the predecessor from the other political side.

I will not comment all the 4 US decisions. Millions have done this already. I will limit myself to a few general points. The tax reform with its colossal budget deficit will necessitate major cuts. With the present majority and the current president, these cuts will no doubt hit the poor. The removed funding for Obama-care already shows the way. Such extreme decisions without recent precedence will lead to the opposite measures when majorities and presidents shift . And such counter-measures risks being equally extreme and unprecedented. A pendulum with extreme amplitude is set in motion.   Social and political tension and unrest will rise. Not least the socially challenged will react when pressed by extreme decisions from the right wing of politics. Policies seen in greater perspective will be inconsistent and will weaken the United States globally.

Concerning the decision on Jerusalem, this has already been commented in brilliant analyses. I will just once more point to the striking parallels between on the one hand the Middle East today with the hatred against the Western civilization in general and the United States in particular and on the other hand the hatred against Rome two thousand years ago in the same region. The same violence from states and terrorists against the overwhelming cultural and military dominance of another foreign civilization and its strongest power. Paradoxically it was the Jews who then were the "terrorists" fighting Roman soldiers and civilians in Palestine and the Eastern Mediterranean. Tens of thousands of Roman civilians are said to have been killed. On the state level Mithridates of Pontos in 88 BC killed 80.000 Romans. Today we see comparable levels of hatred against the Americans in the Middle East. The US decision on Jerusalem will certainly not reduce this. Rather, if it is not accompanied by a massive and effective pressure on Israel to reduce the existing settlements in the West Bank and agree on a two states solution, it will as pointed out by many, lead to more terrorism. Al Qaeda and ISIS could be strengthened. New groups dedicated to revenge Al Quds may emerge.
Whole modernity is filled with internal and int'l conflicts and tensions. An important role for interior politics has always been to navigate carefully in this, calm tensions and solve conflicts. If not for other purposes, then in order to strengyhen the power of ones country.

Internationally seen today the world is too full of intertwined complicated conflicts, and modern warfare is so dangerous that stirring up tensions and war is stupid. One should only do such things if one has insight into the consequences and the power to control them completely. 



Saturday, November 18, 2017

Ethnic cleansing in Yemen

But perhaps that is what he wants. You begin to have a suspicion that the new leader in Riyadh wants to carry out an ethnic cleansing of the southern neighbor. I have earlier written how the Oriental nations as part of the cultural westernization are under transformation from their old patchwork pattern to coherent western type territorial nations (see my post "Ethnic Cleansing in the Arab World").  This process entails ethnic cleansings, which began with the breakup of the Ottoman Empire. We may be seeing a new example of this in Yemen.  The Saudi treatment of the Yemenis is beginning to look like the Turkish treatment of the Armenians 100 years ago: putting them in a condition where they are not only killed, but also starved.

The continued blockade of the harbor of Hodeidah under control of the Shia rebels shows  a hatred against the parts of the population in areas under rebel dominance. After the warnings by the UN, the Red Cross etc. nobody in Saudi Arabia can be in doubt about the consequences of the war, the bombings and the new blockade: the population will be decimated. If the measures continue, it follows that these consequences are wanted. Therefore we will have not only an ethnic cleansing, but an ethnic cleansing in its worst version: Genocide. And this even an indiscriminate one as not only Houthis, but also many Sunnis will die.

Kill them all. For the Lord knows those that are His own

Friday, November 10, 2017

Royal Decline

More and more countries are affected by the political decline. Fortunately this has limited direct global impact as long as the countries are small. Hungary, Austria, The Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Sweden etc. are gradually degrading into banana republics. The decline of such small countries is only indirectly a global problem because it affects the functioning of the EU. Decline in single countries is a direct problem if the countries are big and important. Good examples are of course the United States, the UK and Turkey.

But the political decline does not only affect democracies. The Saudi Crown Prince bin Salman has won praise for letting women drive a car and promising reforms. But he is also behind the isolation of Qatar and the suppression of Al Jazeera known for its freer flow of information. He is also behind a harder line against Iran. And what is worst, he is behind the brutal campaign in Yemen.

Clearly also the Houthi rebels and Iran contribute to the suffering in Yemen. But it is Saudi Arabia which bombs civilians, hospitals and schools. Actions which if carried out by the Syrian government are widely condemned by the west.

Already before the last weak the consequences for the population of Yemen were disastrous. Now with the blockade after the Houthi missile attack large parts of the population are threatened with starvation.

Especially the Western powers with their huge deliveries of weapons to the Saudis have a big responsibility for stopping the war against the Yemeni population.

Also Saudi accusations against Iran are a dangerous escalation. The risk of major regional conflict are increased this way. An experienced diplomat like old Sheik Yamani would hardly have behaved this way. The Crown Prince is also campaigning against corruption - or is it against opponents? Today even corrupt but responsible leaders are better than an irresponsible one.

As ever more leaders of this type, democratic or royal, dominate important countries, the more dangerous a place the world will be.

This is worsened by the general tendency for leaders to ignore and overrule experience, experts and diplomats. Exchanging the members of the diplomacy and employees of the foreign ministry or hiring businessmen and military officers for important posts are all examples of how the buffers between sentiment and dangerous actions are removed. Deep states are becoming shallow states. A shallow mini-state is mainly a problem for its own inhabitants who are fooled to vote for it. A shallow powerful state is a global problem. Several shallow powers is a global disaster.  Very small perceived or real provocations can trigger conflicts, and these can easily trigger wars in cyberspace or on the battlefield.

Prince bin Salman risks to be known in the future as the butcher of Yemen. Neither Islamic historians, nor God the Merciful will look benevolently at a man who shows no mercy.

Friday, October 6, 2017

War Is Merely the Continuation of Policy by Other Means

War Is Merely the Continuation of Policy by Other Means - it’s not the other way round

This quote by the Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz is a statement valid for all history. War is used when the political means are judged insufficient. But the quote assumes an especially ominous meaning in the end of modernities. As often said, politics tend to decline in these phases. Skills, intuition and  instincts are lost. Experience is despised. And this is true for both internal and external politics. Diplomatic experience and skill are also lost. 

Because of this erosion of political abilities, politics quickly come to a failure. Also, because of the reduced political judgement, this situation is perceived as being the case, before it needs to be. Thus Clausewitz’ continuation with the help of war is reached more quickly. The threshold is lower. Therefore, in the late declining modernities politics and diplomacy is more and more often replaced by war. This is added to the already frequent wars in most modernities. Examples are many. Just look at the first Mesopotamian modernity ending with the victory of Hammurabi. Or the civil wars in the late Roman Republic or those in Bagdad 1000 years ago. 

In our case the terror balance has prevented major wars since WW 2. We could hope that this could also help us now, where politics is failing and the continuation with war is more likely. But 1) The big war and Hiroshima is far behind and with the dwindling interest in history and old experience, the deterrence from the horrendous memories is reduced. And 2) Anti missile defense systems are deployed giving the dangerously false impression, that a nuclear attack can be effectively shielded against. Finally 3) The fact that smaller countries are possessing nuclear weapons systems of naturally smaller size, makes the danger of all destroying retaliations seem limited. These considerations are valid for both the use of nuclear weapons and for the use of conventional warfare against countries possessing nuclear warheads.

War is the continuation of diplomacy with other means. Even more if diplomacy fails easier today, it should at least be tried. Stepping up the conflict with a North Korean dictator with nuclear weapons and at the same time ending negotiations declaring them a waste of time is incredibly stupid. And nullifying the result of years of hard diplomatic negotiations ending Iran’s nuclear ambitions is almost even worse. 

In these cases war seems not to be the continuation of diplomacy. It could seem to be the first choice instead of diplomacy. What do you want? Increase tension with Pyongyang till a war is started, risking the loss of Seoul’s inhabitants and with the prospect of the involvement of China?! Let Iran resume its nuclear program and then bomb it?!

Modern warfare is too dangerous to not be avoided. 


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Separatism and Decline

We have in the last weeks seen examples of countries where parts try to break away. Those Catalans able or willing to vote, voted overwhelmingly for independence, and a formal declaration of independence may follow. Only the clumsiness and lack of political skill of the leaderships in Barcelona and not least Madrid has let it come this far. The whole process is just one more sign of the declining levels of politics in the developed world.

Scotland and the UK have both handled a similar process admirably well. But the development in the political level in London after the Ridiculous Brexit vote and the recent general elections are not promising. Theresa May is an amateur. A Boris Johnson as prime minister would be really bad. President Trump will not save the UK from a hard Brexit any more than he helped Puerto Rico.

In Europe the Schengen passport union is crumbling under the pressure not from refugees which are not arriving any longer, but from the pressure from irrational fears of the foreigners, fueled by populist politicians. Moslems and East-europeans are pictured as the root of all evil. Denmark is stationing troops at its border to Germany, where almost no refugees arrive. Social Democracies are dying around Europe. Their only hope for survival seems to be to adopt racist terminology.

The EU is more necessary than ever in a time where politics are degrading into particularism and short sighted decisions. Under such circumstances big powers keeping united and maintaining stability easily gain the upper hand. So Macron is right in wanting a strengthened EU. But such a strengthening must be carried out under guidance of reality and realism. Economic differences and populations which don’t like Brussels are major obstacles which must be carefully handled. But clearly an effort should be made. Historically seen in the end phase of modernities like the present, it is typical that the homogenous powers win over countries split within and between themselves. In the first Chinese modernity, the Warring States period, the state of Qin (in the west) won because the Chinese versions of the EU, the so-called Vertical Alliances (North-South Alliances) did not manage to keep united. In the Arab modernity the Seljuks won over the Abbasids and the local dynasties because of chaotic fights between the political parties in Bagdad and because the different countries were split. Etc. etc. But  there is little hope that countries in the EU which are closing their borders between them, being torn by separatism or being divided politically between North and South and East and West, can offer much resistance to economic, cultural and cyber-pressure.


Germany just celebrated its day of unity. In the recent elections the far right populists in the AFD scored a certain success winning 12 % of the votes. I have earlier praised Germany as a last major bastion of stability in the developed world. Has this ended? No not yet. Many of the votes for this new party came from the former East Germany. With the AFD West Germany is paying the price for a unification which without a gradual transition simply closed or sold the East German industry and resulted in this part of the country staying underdeveloped and losing people to the West and the big cities. In this respect the AFD can be seen as an East German separatism. The AFD also got votes in South Germany, but this region, not least Bavaria has never reached the North European degree of political maturity.

Therefore if we look at Western Germany, the mature political system is still continuing. The population has been struck by a certain fear of the refugees, which may be no wonder after the influx of one million. There can be little doubt that such large influxes of people can increase resentments and turn more people towards populism. Because of this real political consideration and not as in Denmark because of racism, an influx of refugees per time can not be limitless. But still, in Germany people have been mature enough to vote for the mature parties in the recent elections.

Worrying signs exist though. In German  elections we see large shifts in votes between parties. People are often more interested in personalities than policies. Young people are often led mostly by short superficial messages on the Web and from YouTube stars praising products and transient sentiments. Only an effort to educate the population can ensure long term stability. The problem is that not only economics have become globalized. Via the Internet the control of peoples minds has also slipped out of the hands of the old medias and the old political parties.

This development worsens the fragmentation of Europe’s Vertical Alliance. But is also worsens the Roman Republic-like political fragmentation of the United States.


The Kurdish separatism is an entirely different story. In this case we are seeing once more an example of the transformation of the micro-segregated Oriental states into Western type territorial states, see my post Ethnic Cleansing in the Arab World.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever

Both erratic and rigid ritual policies are parts of the decline.

Perhaps the American Constitution should be added a new amendment saying that any Russian leadership which does not appease completely, must be mistrusted, opposed and fought. No President shall ever change this.

Monday, June 26, 2017

China vs populism

I have earlier described how civilizations have individual traits. The present Western civilization like the two Chinese civilizations and old Egypt were characterized by dynasticism, a historic sense, an ability to long term planning ahead, organization and care for ones whole nation and the future. We see a splendid example of this last phenomenon in the Bible where Joseph after interpreting the dream of Pharaoh ordered the long term storage of food.

I have also described how for some civilizations some traits change to the opposite in their modernity, especially in its late phase. This way old China, Meso-America and now the West lost the historic sense and veneration of the past.

The Greco-Roman world had other characteristics such as short time thinking, lack of historic sense and anti-dynasticism. This is why the old Greeks had a chaotic democracy in the classical phase where we in our case had absolute monarchy.

In our modernity dynasticism was replaced by democracy. In the mature modernity in the 20th century this was tempered to a certain degree by the still persisting long term planning and organization. But now in late or declining modernity we are approaching the old Greek chaotic democracy.

This is partly a result of the changing or inversion of certain traits to the opposite in late modernity. On the other hand, most civilizations grow disorganized in their late modernity. The Greco-Roman civilization turned utterly chaotic in its later modernity. Therefore in our case the development is both the typical dissolution and the inversion to the opposite of the classical traits. We can only hope that this double causation will not make the dissolution even worse.

But will the process affect all parts of the world equally? Here it is important that not all of what is now part of the Western world has always been parts of our civilization. Rather, they have their old heritage, as they are in the areas of old civilizations. And these old traits still characterize the new Westernized nations.

These old traits mean that the Western nations are different depending on whether they have foreign earlier civilizations as heritages or not. We have examples of this in the Greek and Roman modernity. The Ptolemaian Egypt was the Hellenized version of old Egypt. It showed more continuity than other post-Alexander the Great states. Probably as a heritage from the old Egyptians with their well organized thinking and planning. Perhaps also the surprising strength of Carthago against Rome could be a heritage from the second Mesopotamian civilization, where the Assyrians demonstrated long term planning indeed in their large scale deportations of peoples in order to change demographics. Both Hellenized Egypt and Hellenized Carthago deem to have better resisted the chaos in the modernity in the Greco-Roman world.

Now in our case we see that China with its heritage of planning and organization show the same resistance against the increasing disorganization in other Western nations.

That we are sliding into new more chaotic times is clear from numerous examples. The recent elections in France was one of the few good developments. But it does not in itself guarantee stability or signify a persisting mature modernity. Very few voted. The new parliamentarians are inexperienced and could in an anarchistic nation like the French soon split into fractions. Reforms can only be sustained if they are followed by immediate results.

In a disorganizing Western modernity a big power which because of its heritage keeps stable has an immense advantage. Only China seems able to make, implement  and sustain long term plans. Both for itself and globally. And as opposed to Cartage it also has  resources matching those of its politically dissolving competetor.

The best example of Westernized China's organized long term policies is the modernization and opening started by Deng Xiaoping and his colleagues. This program has been continued ever since with formidable results. Another great example is the present plan to revive and extend the Silk Road. On the practical level the continuity manifests itself in structural terms and the one -party rule. The confluence of party, business people and intellectuals gives a coherent elite. This is in many ways comparable to and a replacement of the old Confucian elite who secured stability for centuries. But it is a capitalist version. In the old Confucian system capabilities in the form of literacy and administrative abilities gave merit. In the new elite these are supplemented by economic success. Perhaps the most important element in the long term stability and long term policies are the mechanisms and and traditions by which the top of the CCP supplements itself and chooses capable administrators and leaders. This kind of stable meritocracy gives clear advantages, not least compared to democracies decaying into populism. China has become the carrier of some the important traits of the Western civilization, organization, continuity and care for the future. The oppression may be excessive or not, but as opposed to personal dictatorships, it is for a cause: avoiding chaos and securing the future.