Saturday, March 24, 2018

A Shallow World

Bolton as security adviser only confirms the tendency to escalation. It is a really bad omen for the World. Trump, Pompeo and Bolton will now go on with extreme decisions and escalations and exaggerated quick reactions to real or perceived provocations.

For decades, maybe always, several US politicians in Congress and beyond have been and especially now are ignorant what concerns the complexity of modern American society and the World. Presidents from both parties and not least their ministers and advisors plus the administrative system have functioned as buffers limiting the harmful effects of decisions from ignorant politicians. Now we have both a  president, ministers and advisors who are ignorant or extreme. The influence of the administrative system is being broken down. The ingenious mechanisms of mutual control in the American constitution do not function anymore. The buffer against harmful effects is gone. As said by several analysts, the deep state is getting shallow.

The Roman state in the republic was also a deep state. But because of the typical Greco-Roman principle of not letting administrators sit for longer periods, the Antique states were more easily shallowed. Until the second war with Cartage one of the reasons for the superiority of Rome in the Antique world was exactly the greater depth of the Roman republic compared to the other Mediterranean states. After this time the state was shallowed. Chaotic power struggles, shifts of power bypassing the constitution and violence prevailed. Now the superiority of Rome was only due to the weakness of the other states.

In comparison the Western civilization has been more stable. Its states including the United States took longer time to reach a similar level of shallowing. But now we are approaching it. The American state is clearly being shallowed under Trump. But what is even more dangerous, the int'l political system is also, both diplomatically, in trade relations, in the Internet and in military terms. Treaties and int'l organizations and the written and unwritten rules for behavior and interaction are beginning to be flagrantly ignored. 

The Romans could let their destabilization happen and still win. But the world now is different from the Antique. The rivals are much stronger than those of Rome 146 BC. Also the  US society and int'l interaction  is much more complex in an infinitely intertwined world. Disturbances and conflicts can have disastrous consequences, also for the United States. And an America turned unstable can not expect to win easily over strong and more stable rivals.

America is now approaching the condition of the Roman Republic  around 80 BC. Trump may be the modern Sulla. We may soon see the modern Marius. In the immediate future the next two US elections may bring relief.  Still the Democratic Party is far less declined than the Republican.  The contrast between the present ignorant  rule and the wise rule under Obama could not be bigger. We must hope that the Republicans will accept defeat.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The will to escalate

The sacking of the American foreign minister Tillerson and the conflict between the UK and Russia over the gas attack on two Russians in the UK show two tendencies, which are characteristics of the new declined int'l politics:  1)The collapsing of the spheres of diplomacy, the media and the mob. And 2) The will to escalate conflicts.

Episodes like this nerve gas attack would earlier have been solved in silence. Now with the lack of discrimination between tabloid press, the internet mobs, diplomacy and reality, what is the truth is quickly decided. We still have not seen any proof that Putin was behind.  Also, it is difficult to see what advantages he could have from such a clumsy attack, disturbing Russian attempts to mend ties with other nations.

The extreme British reaction with expulsions and further sanctions also shows the other characteristic of our time: The will to escalate. This is of course related to the wish to satisfy the mob.

To put it more precisely, with the mental (but certainly not economical) immersion of the elites into the mob, populist governments like the British and the American are parts of the mobs. Childish and short tempered. Also it is not precise to say that diplomacy collapses with public opinion. Rather, diplomacy as an art disappears. Instead we see stubborn and/or erratic, often tension increasing acts. The chaotic results of one populist act, like the Brexit, lead to the next populist decisions to satisfy the public or rather moblic opinion.

The will to escalation is also clear in the sacking of the US foreign minister. Even though himself diplomatically inexperienced, Tillerson stopped several extreme acts from Trump. Apparently Pompeo does not wish to do the same.

With this foreign minister under this president in the major power, the world is entering even more unstable periods. Minor events can lead  to quick escalations ultimately ending with wars on the field or in cyberspace.

Pompeo may be less erratic than his master, but this could be of little comfort as he is likely to deviate from the president only in cases where Trump should want to do something less hawkish.  The Russia-hating rightwing republican hawks have clearly taken over. These are characterized by the same will to escalate as the president. Obviously the US administration supports the British accusations and reactions.

While  UK politics have declined to pub level and parts of Europe also have been taken over by populists, the core of the EU, France and Germany make an effort for securing mature stable politics and institutions. It may be the last and these countries may follow the rest of the world into the post-mature populist future after one or two elections . But for now such Europeans could and should act as a bridge between Russia who has its own hawks, and Western politicians who seem to have an obsessive compulsion of blaming Russia and Putin in person for everything.

Like Trump Pompeo wants to end the Iran nuclear deal. We will see if Pompeo will have as much success in stabilizing the Middle East as Pompeius who subdued Pontos 2100 years ago.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Collapsing levels

The confusing of or rather collapse between levels of politics is another sign of the decline. Rulers which themselves lack these skills and at the same time try to maneuver without experienced people having them, make serious misjudgements. Politics in the media is one thing, diplomacy is another. What governments say in public and what they in fact do are different things.

The US economic threats against countries voting for the UN resolution criticizing the recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel is an example of the lack of distinguishing between such levels. It feels like banalities to say this: Obviously Middle Eastern governments must publicly condemn the US decision on Jerusalem and support the UN resolution without this meaning bigger changes in de facto politics.

If a US president and his people can not tell the difference between media statements, diplomacy and real politics, then the daily tweets get even more threatening.

The American threats are also signs of the new arrogant rude way of seeing even allied countries. They are treated as subordinate.

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.