Mon 10 Nov, 2003 01:53 pm
As some of you may know, my ambition it to be benevolent dictator of the planet. My fond affection to you all, you will not be forgotten. But to pull off the benevolence schtick, i'll probably have to give State of the World addresses. Obviously this is an unenviable task. So i'll ask your assistance with the effort.
In all seriousness the "community of nations" is in big trouble--this boogie is definitely a mess. Here are just a few heads of discussion:
In Africa, the continent was divied up by the European powers (with even a little help from America) based upon their ambitions and greed. This has left Ibo with Biafran, Hutu with Tutsi, Boer with "Kaffir"--and with a predictably disasterous result. In Liberia, it's impossible to tell the players without a score card. In Sudan, Muslims slaughter Christians, and the slave trade booms. In central Africa, the various "republics" and "kindoms" which line the Congo have been awash in blood for two generations. The tribal and clan warfare of the "horn" of Africa are, i'm certain well-known to us all.
Across the Red Sea, tribalism, clan politics, religion and race are all trumps in the no-holds-barred game of death poker. Saudia Arabia is a construct of a single clan, which clings to Mecca and Medina as though clinging for life, which is very nearly the literal truth--control of the Holiest Places, and the ability to secure the safety of pilgrims is a deadly earnest part of their political survival. Witness the attack which they claim they foiled for the Holy Cities in Ramadan. I'm sure everyone knows by now that Jordan, Syria, the Lebanon and Iraq are creations of Churchill and Balfour, and i think it not unreasonable to point to the unhappy consequences, without regard to one's political view of our current occupation of Iraq.
Move futher east, and you encounter the dangerous and only murkily viewed Persia (Iran for the more modern thinkers), and the millenia-old tribal strife of big warlord fish in small, mountainous ponds in Afghanistan. Pakistan and India are both unapologetically nuclear and hostile. Indonesia threatens to fragment ethnically, with the first step having been bathed in blood in Timor.
So i would ask that you contribute your comments on the state of the world, and invite you to be specific as to how you see the state of affairs in the states of the planet.
Most of this material (and you missed out Ireland, Basque Spain, Cyprus, Korea, Tibet, Columbia) would not sit well in an inaugural presidential address: you need to concentrate more on beer, circuses, giveaways, more Disney, more Britney, more eye-candy TV, that's what folks want really. Lull them into false security, then you can steal their votes. Hell, you can abolish elections, why not?
And up on the Wind River, we have Shoshone and Arapaho. Who's brainstorm was this, Custer's?
The world indeed is in a state. I say we rewind back 5000 years and make sure Adam does not take a bite of the apple.
Timor, Celon, Sumatra, Philipines, former Soviet republics.....in fact, and I never realised this before, the only countries of note which are stable are European, or else were started up by the British...like Australia, Canada, USA, New Zealand....Oh, and Iceland and Finland.
We are at the end of an age and the direction of future trends is not yet clear.
While all that Setanta said about (say) Africa is true enough, it is also true that the first generation of post colonial leaders, who generally chose a socialist, centrally planned path for their development, is passing from the scene along with these failed policies. The next several decades may be much better for African countries. Let us hope.
The Moslem world has awakened to its relative backwardness after a wasted half century following the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the demise of rule by European empires. We will see a contest within it between those who wish to restore lost illusions through jihad against the West and those who wish to join the modern world. Let us hope the latter win.
China is entering the modern world as a major power after centuries of isolation and a century of exploitation by the West and Japan. The impact of her billion people on the world will be great. Similarly India is abandoning the socialistic protectionism that so hindered her economic development. Like China her entry into the world economy and culture will have profound effects.
Europe is complacent and inward looking after centuries of abusing herself and the world. Populations are declining and the stresses of immigration will alter the social fabric of these the most developed states in the world. France and Germany are seeking to achieve political leadership in an expanded EU which they hope will enable Europe to avoid repetition of her ghastly history. The prospects are unclear.
America is casting about, looking for a defining role after a half century of conflict with the Soviet empire. Its relationship to Europe is changing fast as both deal with the change swirling around them.
A formerly binary world (Socialist/capitalist; east/west; northern/southern hemispheres; developed/third world) is rapidly becoming mixed and incoherent as old categories and alignments lose their meaning.
I can cook, whoever is in charge, I'll have a valuable service to offer, wherever the heck I am.
No mention of multinational corporations, the sweatshop conditions that keep Americans shopping for sports shoes and mobbing Walmarts across the land. Capitalism unfettered with humanism, much like the railroads in the 1800s. The social gains made under Roosevelt being subverted and even rescinded. Environmental concerns being poo-pooed. Arbitrary adventurism by American forces. American workers having to compete with third world workers because third world workers take American jobs by working almost for free (Why not make a law these people have to be paid a fair wage? That would slow down somewhat the bleeding of jobs out of America).
I really liked George's analysis. Since he didn't put some of his conclusions in there that I disagree with I could agree with him without reservation. I won't of course and I choose to disagree vehemently with the converse of his statements instead.
To what's been said I'd like to add that I see three factors being the most relevant to the future.
The most important to me is the accelerated pace of the advancement in tellecommunications. Not just the technology but the adoption of it.
Cell phones and the internet are old news in the US but in the last 5 years the less-developed nations are taking up these technologies and the world is going to get smaller at a more rapid pace.
Because of all the advancements making the world a smaller place and because of what George references (the tendency toward realization of certain ideologies being failed) global contagion is starting to make a decided difference in the world's economy and trade. This has changed and will continue to change the intra-national dealings and as trade between nations becomes more and more inexorable through mutual necessity I believe stabilization on the diplomatic levels will continue.
In the future I believe those willing to rock the financial boats will have much more fallout to deal with and those who do not pursue stability will be big losers.
Ok, so I've done telecomunications and the resulting contagion. I do have to stress that evolutions in global trade are a big part of that that is not entirely sourced in technological advancement.
Now on to the last two.
I think that the evolution from industrialism to services has the potential to be a great equalizing factor. Services are far more volatile and dynamic and nations can tap into the future by improving their education levels, while in the past an industrial base was also needed for economic advancement.
Tourism will be big, but even more volatile. The big question to me is whether the servics will start to be an equalizer. Due to the rapid pace at which services can evolve and, more importantly, move I believe that the nations currently "on top" will have a hard time taking measure to counter nations that start to creep up and diminish the gaps.
It won't be as easy to strategically fight competitive servics as it is to compete with industrial economies that can be denied physical access.
Since the shift to services is a key element of the first world nations I also do not think that drastic protectionism is in the cards either. The nations on top have shown much willingness to act with protectionist measures when the market is one in which they are not competitive (see the US and EU with agriculture or textiles for example). They are willing to fight those battles because a reciprocal act is not as meaningful. With first world nations squarely at the forefront of the technological and services boom I do not think they can afford protectionism and I think nations that make strides in educational (as related to technology specifically) advancement will have a fast track toward economic revitalization.
Nations like India and China will be dangerous because they will have the best of both economic worlds during the transition. India is already excelling in services and technology, they have the most programmers of any nation on earth (I believe, I hope I didn't dream that one up). China has a string manufacturing sector that will solidify as the strongest in history, and they will also be strong technology players, making them a safe bet for a future superpower.
I do not think China will abandon all isolationism and I do not think they will be loud about becoming powerful, I believe they will do it quietly and without rocking the boat too much. But I do think Americans will exhibit a paranoia about them anyway. This last part is pure speculation, even more so than the rest of my pure speculation.
Lastly I believe the loud superpowers will start to be challenged. The binary superpower conflict is over and while the US learns how to react to the shift from having a dragon to having gnats will be crucial.
I believe that nations are less and less willing to let the superpowers dictate the tone, when there were two superpowers we had a stalemate for almost everyone but now with the US being the lone superpower I think one of the biggest changes will start to be realized.
The competition just moved even further off the battlefields and even further into trade and economy. And the savvy realize that initially we will see the same frenetic traty making we have seen during the rise of nationalism.
Economic pacts will be made that shape the future, and they are being made because the powers that be realize they need to diversify and increase their trade.
Smaller nations of no military power will start to pick smart battles with the economic superpowers and if they ever start uniting (without the Us being the one they unite under) they will pose a more serious economic threat (assuming they can manage any coherence).
And in my last bold prediction I want to predict the US achilles heel. The US is playing the trade game magnificently. But I think we are in for some overdue losses.
I think we will be late in realizing just how much trade is now the battlefield and will overspend militarily for far too long. At some point we will have to become less benevolent or redirect our resources to catch up with those who evolve more rapidly.
I think we will play a strong hand a few too many times and we will see a slow trend in which nations hedge their bets by realigning some of their strategies toward Europe and Asia.
I think that as our dominance becomes more precarious we will start to be challenged on several (non-military) fronts.
We play the game well, but I think we will suffer some losses in the next century because we will place inordinate import on military superiority (by this I mean an trying to be millions of times more powerful when thousands would do) while the world becomes more stable through economic contagion.
I think our deficit will be an inssue if we start to falter and I think there are some national US battles to be fought that will result in more deficit and debt.
Since I'm going hogwild I may as well end with this. South America will rise due to ecological reasons that I'll keep secret for now (just to see if anyone shares the notions).
What ecological reasons could these be? Lots of water, lots of trees, vigorous diverse population, rising birthrate (OK I'm straying from the purely ecological) oil and gas reserves, what?
Climate change will be a big factor; shortage of water is already acute in Lebanon, Israel, and the countries surrounding Iraq (I believe Israel wants to pipe water from Iraq)
Very good summary BTW George. Which way will the muslim world (now growing) take? At the moment, the right-wing or fundamentalist voices seem to have an ascendancy; with serious implications for the west.
... Which way will the muslim world (now growing) take? At the moment, the right-wing or fundamentalist voices seem to have an ascendancy; with serious implications for the west.
Good question. The big problem is there are very few progressive governments among even the Moslem states often considered to have a western orientation. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Pakistan, and Indonesia all are merely holding on and each faces possible internal insurgencies. A select few, Oman, Kuwait the Emirates and others have achieved a degree of economic and even political modernization, but they count for only a tiny fraction of the population. The fundamentalist revolution in Iran may be playing out, and one can hope for good things from that unique and large country. Taken together this suggests an important reason to consider the possibility of developing a modern, progressive government in Iraq a very crucial contribution - if it can be achieved.
A particular irony is that most of the Moslem resentment against the west springs from the actions of the same European powers who are now vigorously hiding in the shadows -- and criticizing us. Syria and Lebanon, former French protectorates; French colonial rule from Algeria through Morrocco to Mauritania; the British empire in Egypt, the Middle East, Arabia, the Persian Gulf, the Indian subcontinent, and Malaya; the Dutch in Indonesia; the Italians in Lybia and Somalia; and more. European forgetfulness is matched only by their capacity for self-righteous indignation.
Having created the mess in the Middle East and spurred the Jewish migration to Israel through a ghastly attempt at extermination (and the French were all too willing to export their Jews), the Europeans now wish to blame us for the stalemate in Palestine. There appears to be no level to which they will not stoop.