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.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The World as scene for personal conflicts

The eroded valleys (see the post) are becoming threatening clear these weeks. A US president under internal pressure over possible links with Putin has no hesitations approaching a direct military conflict between the USA and Russia in Syria. Only to counteract the internal suspicions. The two big powers killing each others soldiers would be a revolutionary development creating a disastrous presedence. The valleys would be further eroded. The road to minor and major military global conflicts would shorten.

An erratic and/or intellectually narrow-minded US foreign policy also undermines world stability by supporting or accepting irresponsible acts and by seeming to run parallel contradictory policies. Does Washington support or condemn Qatar? A greater Israel or peace? As a prelude to new peace-talks Netanyahu, the Israeli Trump, starts a new settlement in the West Bank - for settlers having stolen Palestinian land. Will Saudi Arabia step up measures in Yemen or against Qatar, Iran or Shiites in general? More  than one side can find support in Washington from a presidential statement or a US minister or other member of the administration or the Trump family.

The destabilizing can also concern countries internally. Some fractions can feel supported. Other groups like the Iranian Revolutionary Guards can increase their power because of policies opposing moderate leaders.

Of course all this is not because of the new US president. Rather, he is just one more symptom of a global development. The problem is that under responsible presidents like Obama the USA and the other big powers were stabilizing factors in the world. Of course except for localized and controlled proxy conflicts. When the one superpower become destabilized and also the relations with Russia become unstable, both will act in unpredictable ways. Yet more barriers for acts from leaders of smaller powers are diminished.

With such eroded thresholds for conflict stupid acts like the present from the North Korean regime or fractions therein can also more easily provoke countermeasures with horrible consequences. The first use of a nuclear warhead since Nagasaki would be another horrendous presedence.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

ISIS, Iran and Qatar

ISIS has attacked Iran. If prove was needed, this shows that the terrorists have a clearer view of the Middle East than the new US administration. Iran is closer to the West in life form and democracy than Saudi Arabia and other Arab Golf States. The Iranian people have just reelected the moderate president Rohani.

To adopt the view that Iran is the root of terrorism in the Middle East out of old resentments, Israeli attitudes  and bribe in the form of tremendous orders of military and other equipment, is shortsighted. To drop the nuclear deal with Iran would be stupid.

In a world where the valleys are eroded (see the earlier post), int'l politics must be a careful maneuvering based on full knowledge. Alternative truths may be used to win internal elections. But to reuse an old phrase, the world and in particular the Middle East is certainly not a playground. Alliances can not be based on moods or coincidences. Iran is in many ways a natural ally, not least in the fight against ISIS. Or rather, a balance between relations with the two sides of the Golf may be  a better way to reduce tensions than supporting one side, encouraging irresponsible acts from here. Also, increasing the tensions between Sunnis and Shiites is certainly not helpful. Unless the goal is chaos in this the most complicated region in the world. A region spanning from true barbarians over fighters for the Oriental civilization and peaceful traditionalists to Westernized forces.

Qatar has shown the way, trying to balance between the Arab Peninsula and Iran. Now it pays the price. Of course people in Qatar support terrorists. But this is also the case for other Golf states. The reasons for the isolation of Qatar are the relations with Teheran and of course the pluralism furthered by Al Jazeera.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

A historical announcement

The US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement is bad enough. But what makes the announcement by Mr. Trump extraordinary, is the content and tone used against foreign leaders, not least close allies, being accused of using climate protection only as a pretext for stealing money and jobs from the United States . A such level of disrespect is really remarkable.

It brings reminiscences of the Roman treatment of foreign countries in the time ending with the Roman swallowing of more and more states.

That Trump for the time being is under pressure, also from his own party, gives little comfort. The Republican party is full of the same resentments against the world and even the EU allies. The president has now given precedence for such outbursts. It is as if the rest of the world is seen as irritating appendices. This may seem unwarranted taken into consideration the size of other powers . But with the total dominance of the United States in IT and its rising military force, a political leadership in Washington full of despise against the world can still be unpleasant.

Therefore the announcement by Mr. Trump is historical.