The Mousetrap (I)

The coming December will mark the completion of two decades of the post-Soviet era.The anniversary of the destruction of the Soviet Union – the world’s second superpower – is an appropriate moment to venture an integral assessment of the tectonic geopolitical shift which left the international community sinking into chaos and facing an increasingly dim outlook…

The inescapable conclusion stemming from the flow of economic data is that the current global economic downturn is systemic in character and in this regard differs profoundly from all previous crises including the Great Depression of the 1920s – the early 1930s. In my view, the key cause of today’s crisis is that the competition between rival socioeconomic models, a process that used to energize the overall progress of human civilization, dwindled as a result of the political dynamics of the 1980s and the early 1990s. Known under a variety of terms depending on the ideological perspective – such as the clash between capitalism and socialism, or global bipolarity, or the competition between three “world” projects – the rivalry, which occasionally escalated into serious conflicts, used to be an engine of vigorous development and, in a seeming paradox, helped sustain global stability. As it became clear in retrospect, both the USSR and the West drew verve from the race played out between the socialist and the capitalist camps, and, contrary to the expectations of “the end of history”, a crisis was imminent in a unipolar US-dominated world, especially given Washington’s evidently chronic short-sightedness and irresponsibility. The impression at the moment is that the parameters of the crisis completely evade the imagination of the world’s top strategic planners.

Back in May, 2009, British financial analyst Anatole Kalecki warned that the tasks of reinvigorating growth and healing the global economic “ailment” may prove unsolvable within the current geo-economic configuration. The general decline of the West which – with its irreversibly deindustrializing economy, bloated financial sector, and completely new phenomenon of “eastern neocolonialism” – sees the center of the global economic activity drift to the Asia Pacific region – is paralleled by the Western elites’ attempts to stick to old dogmas regardless of the waning vitality of the formerly “invincible” economic and political systems adopted by their respective societies. What thus came into being rather unpredictably is a new state of the world-system, which Fareed Zakaria graphicallydescribed as the Post-American World in his non-fiction book of the same name.

The present global chaos recently highlighted by the conflict in Libya cannot be reduced to a crash of the habitual development paradigm as the majority of watchers were prone to believe just 6-7 years ago. There is more realism in the claim that it reflects the intellectual bankruptcy of the world’s ruling class and strategic planners. As noted by Acad. N. Simonia, in current settings the US is no longer as important and functionally necessary on the global scale as it used to be, and for today’s world the US primacy is an outdated and burdensome legacy. The future that awaits the US is a transformation into one of the world’s array of more or less equal players. According to Acad. Simonia, the US efforts aimed at retaining global leadership by military might meet with limited success and, due to their astronomic costs, put under ever greater pressure the economy of the country already staggering under the world’s heaviest sovereign debt[1]. Walt Rostow (1916-2003), US economist and political theorist commanding great respect worldwide, expressed essentially the same view in a totally ruthless manner: “It is now clear, in retrospect, in a world of diffusing power that the notion of the U. S. as a super-power has been an illusion since 1948 at least (1948 was the year the USSR acquired the nuclear retaliation capability – A.V.). It is progressively becoming more of an illusion. … If the United States seeks to do something which runs against the grain of majority thought and feeling in the world, it can be easily frustrated”[2].

The unstoppable weakening of the West induces greater chaos in international politics. In the long run, such phenomena as the tide of revolutions in the Arab world, unrest in Libya, and the leading countries’ crisis of governance which fails to adapt to the mounting complexity of domestic and international challenges are bound to have the same effect. In a colorful statement, Indian international politics analyst M.K. Bhadrakumar attributed the above situation to small-time people holding key positions. Indeed, the contrast between, for example, F.D. Roosevelt, Charles de Gaulle, or W. Churchill and their present-day political heirs accentuates the near-total lack of vision in the ranks of the latter, as does the West’s handling of the crisis in Libya, by the way. In Libya’s case, what are the objectives the West (France, Great Britain, and the invisibly present US) is pursuing in a country with a deeply entrenched tradition of popular resistance to foreign interventionism? I daresay, oil is not the ultimate answer.

First, for the US, whose energy security doctrine dates back to F.D. Roosevelt and sets the goal of absolute invulnerability in the energy sphere, the key zone from the energy standpoint is not the Mediterranean Sea but the Persian Gulf via which around 50% of oil delivered by tankers are supplied. Consequently, the countries of top importance to Washington are Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. It is an open secret that in the latter, the Shia majority’s bid for equal representation in politics (the Shiite Muslims make up around 75% of Bahrain’s population) is suppressed by the ruling Sunni dynasty, and the arrangement clearly cannot persist indefinitely.

Secondly, a permanent headache for the US – as well as for a number of other countries – is Israel’s security. Israel’s role, in part unintended, is to serve as the Middle Eastern barrier in the way of politicized Islam, especially in the context of the Arab world’s recent serial regime changes and of Al Qaeda’s gradual switching from “prophets” and charismatic ideologists to military professionals as the leaders of the cult.

Thirdly, the failed color revolution in Libya and the disastrous military campaign against the country give M. Gadhafi a chance to emerge as a new edition of Ernesto Che Guevara, a figure epitomizing the developing nations’– the global majority’s, in other words – resistance to the Golden Billion with its politics of aggressive hedonism and armament-protected consumerism. Given their current difficulties on a variety of fronts, Washington’s and the wider West’s involvement in a conflict of such nature may reflect poor political reckoning on their behalf.

Fourthly, further unfolding of the Libyan drama is likely to reinforce China’s influence in international politics and boost the arms race in conventional weaponry. Moreover, the reaction of the increasingly defensive not-so-powerful countries would be commonly taking the shape of “nuclear nationalism” , and therefore the nonproliferation regime would be severely undermined.

It is yet to be understood in the light of the above arguments what the West is up to in Libya. I am convinced that the agenda behind the onslaught on the country is geopolitical. The origin of the unrest across the Arab world may be as of today obscure, but in any case the West was unprepared to face the 2011 developments. Invoking the notion of “regulated chaos” control over the world’s strategic regions only partially helps to explain the picture. Geopolitically, Libya’s domestic conflict – de facto a brawl between Tripolitania and Cyrenaica – seemed to be playing into the West’s hands. With the media pounding their audiences, the West could easily make things look as if it regained the grip on North Africa and the entire Arab East. Still, neither of the potential scenarios – the demolition of Gadhafi’s regime by protesting mobs or a revolt brought about by a coalition campaign supported by Libyan rebels – has materialized up to date. The approach, successfully tested by the West in Yugoslavia, failed to deliver, nor did Russia, where the public discourse turned conservative long before fighting erupted in Libya, side with the West over the Lybian crisis. Generally, Russia’s unification around conservative values does not have to be linked to an anti-Western agenda, but the policies pursued by the US and NATO do drive the process in this direction. The continuation of the Libyan crisis may bear an awakening impact on West European countries where the societies are about to start grilling their governments over extremely serious issues.

One of those serious issues is the sky-rocketing migration from North Africa to Western Europe. The natural solution to the problem is to stop the NATO campaign against Libya and to let the country hold normal elections in line with the “one citizen – one vote” formula that would remove whatever concerns over democracy in the country. By letting the coalition’s campaign in Libya gallop, the West will expose NATO’s military-political capabilities to the risk of erosion and inflict on itself a threat of rendering unpredictable the inner political mechanics in several European countries (Spain, Belgium, Italy, etc.).

The crisis in Libya brought into spotlight the problem of regulating the inflow of migrants to Western Europe. Over the past years, the migration acquired steady proportions and geography. National egoism of some of West European governments which hurriedly stirred to EU peers the uninvited guests additionally complicated the situation. The present author has had ample opportunity to watch on the grass-roots level the attitudes towards migrants in Europe. Leaving the Venice academic workshop in March, 1999, on the eve of NATO’s strikes against Yugoslavia, I was surprised to realize that while, on the one hand, the perception of the coming military campaign among my Italian colleagues was distinctly negative, on the other, for many of them the problems on the horizon looked less acute as they hoped that the anticipated wave of Albanian migration to Italy would be easily forwarded to Kosovo. It transpired shortly that a considerable fraction of the migrants were attracted by Italy’s commercial opportunities and dodged the routes they were offered. Similarly, undeserved problems may be brewing for Austria and Germany in connection with the Libyan crisis.

To be continued…

1. What Is Catch-Up Development and What It Is Catching Up With. A Search for Conception. (Russian). Moscow, 2011, p.11.

2. Leading the World Economically. Amsterdam, 2003. P. 273

Source: Strategic Culture Foundation

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