Twists and Turns

Looking over the displeasure on display over the past weekend reminds me of why I usually stay clear of day-to-day politics: my viewpoint is too far-reaching to make sense to most people. The impulse (which I indulged in the other day) is to react to every occurrence and shift in the political winds; however, this is ultimately pointless. It is somewhat unlikely that history will look back on the weeks leading up to the conclusion of the Iraq issue and take serious note of the various machinations of the players at the time, unless of course this ends disastrously. Disaster is always possible, but it seems quite unlikely, at least at this juncture.

The diplomatic row brewing between parts of Europe and the United States is actually somewhat small in comparison to other events. I know that this sounds counterintuitive; however, does anyone actually believe that the world faces the threat of war in Europe over the issue of Iraq? If the answer is “no” (and if you are a reasonably astute individual, the answer must be “no”), then the aftermath of any perceived political break is in truth quite minor. It is entirely possible that the various alliances and institutions are preparing to be thrown down and replaced by newer, more vital, and more rational entities. The United Nations is not a useless body so long as one views it merely as a second try at establishing a consensual world body. To my view it seems that the world is preparing to set the stage for a third attempt and I suspect that the end result will be similar to the UN, but will recognize that all nations are not equal; not in strength, not in freedom and not in legitimacy. That will be the hard transformation for the world to accept, and I would warn everyone that the make up of such a body is unlikely to be what anyone would expect or enjoy for the single most qualifying attribute will be, as it has always been, power. What direction this new body takes will depend entirely on who can muster the power to lead it.

3 Responses to “Twists and Turns”

  1. What worries me, as an American driven to lose sleep over news stories, is the thought that the new world body will be, quite simply, an anti-US alliance consisting of every other country in the world with the possible exception of Israel.

    Maybe this is all a tempest in a teapot. But I get spooked by reports that in all of the countries allegedly allied with the US on the Iraq matter, the alliance is in fact extremely unpopular among the people, which means that it’s fragile. My impression, just from reading think-pieces and poll reports, is that only small minorities in any country outside the US actually believe the war is a good idea, and large fractions of the population actually subscribe to irrational conspiracy theories about the US as world-conquering monster. And if these countries are at all democratic, and if attitudes don’t change, their governments will swiftly become as anti-US as that of Germany, and start banding together to provide that “counterweight” necessary to reestablish a bipolar world.

    Russia’s up for grabs right now. If Russia’s government decided it had more, monetarily, to gain than lose from leading such an alliance, it could happen.

    The possible saving grace: opposition to the US probably isn’t enough to unite them; they’d end up fighting among themselves, and the grand alliance would be over.

    If the Iraq war and aftermath go very well, none of this will happen. But I’m not convinced of that either; reconstructing Iraq properly will take a long occupation and lots of money which Americans currently do not even realize, for the most part, they will have to pay. If they refuse to do so, and Iraq falls apart and becomes a haven for terrorists five or ten years down the line, that could be the point at which it all really goes sour.

    The worst thing is that the cost of the US *not* invading Iraq at this point would probably be even worse than that.

    Really, right now I am feeling very badly about the future of the world. Things seemed to be looking up in the 1990s, with a remarkable global movement toward freedom and democracy, with the potential for peace as a byproduct. Sometimes I think that this actually peaked sometime around 1999 or 2000, and what we have before us is just the long slide back down into blood and fire and authoritarian regimes (with Putin’s Russia as the vanguard), and perhaps a global thermonuclear war fifty years down the line as the final proof that we have learned nothing.

    But these are the not entirely logical late-night thoughts of somebody whose country is about to go to war, so it’s natural that they tend to run in such directions.

  2. In my humble opinion, you worry far too much. Still, it is healthy to keep an eye on the downside of all events, as it tends to minimize unpleasant surprises.

    I cannot see Europe reforming in to any serious rival to US/UK power any time in the next twenty years or so- they lack the ability to mobilize the military force to make any such role credible as they are too deeply wedded to the Socialist path they have been following while allowing the US to carry the freight of their own defense. I speculated that the Russians might be able to fill the power gap; however, as I noted and others who commented above agreed, if the EU hopes to incorporate the Eastern European nations it will have an enormously difficult time incorporating any kind of large-scale deployment of Russian troops.

    As to your fears of a global nuclear war: look to North Korea, not Europe. The North Koreans likely already possess a handful of nuclear warheads, hence the unwillingness of the West to directly confront them. It is astonishing to me that so many writers who purport to be serious students of world affairs fail to see the differences between North Korea and Iraq. The West confronts Iraq in order to prevent a situation such as the West now faces with North Korea.

    As to the rebuilding of Iraq, I have noted earlier that unlike Afghanistan, Iraq possesses the wealth to finance its own recovery. This is not to imply that the US would not be liable for some expenses, but it will not shoulder the lion’s share of the cost.

    As with all things, time will tell the tale.

  3. The above comments were first posted on 02/13/2003 before re-posting here.