New World Orders are nothing new. The Hindus once had an empire that stretched to what is now Malaysia. The Assyrians had an empire that was taken down by the Persians under the great King Cyrus. There was Alexander the Great, there was the Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire, and there was Spanish, French, and British Empires just to name a few. The United States and the Soviet Union shared a bipolar world from 1945 to 1990 with the end of the so-called Cold War.
Since 1990, the United States has been “King of the Hill” both militarily and economically. But, the world order is already in the process of changing again and we are living witnesses to this historical change. A New World Order Cometh. It may not be the “New World Order” envisioned by The Powers That Be (TPTB): the Bilderberg Group, the Trilateral Commission, or the Club of Rome; but, who knows? Maybe it is part of TPTP’s long-term plan for a “One World Order”. I’m certainly not smart enough to discern a pattern.
Walter Russell Mead has written a brilliant essay on the historical changes we will be witnessing. Although the United States is in no immediate danger of being pulled down from its perch on the hill, it will have to make room for some other players. There are, according to Mead, three countries clamoring for their place of prominence on the world stage. You will not be surprised that China and Russia are two of the countries. The third might surprise you. It is Iran. Mead does not mention Israel or Saudi Arabia in his essay. So, let me add that if Israel and Saudi Arabia do not use military force to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power, then I agree with Walter Russell Mead that Iran will be an important geopolitical player. In my opinion, Iran is a potential player because Bush and his administration did not think through the log term geopolitical consequences of the Iraq War (putting Shites in power) and because Obama played his geopolitical Syrian cards like the rank amateur that he is.
Mead refers to the coalition of China, Russia, and Iran as the Central Powers or the “Axis of Weevils”
Think of the Central Powers as an ‘axis of weevils’. At this stage they are looking to hollow out the imposing edifice of American and maritime power rather than knock it over. This is not the most formidable alliance the United States has ever faced. Not everything the Central Powers want is bad; like all revisionist powers, they have legitimate grievances against the status quo. They don’t always agree, and in the long run their differences with one another are profound. But for now, they have not only agreed that they have a common interest in weakening the United States in Eurasia and disrupting its alliances; increasingly, with the United States government still largely blind to the challenge, they are pushing ahead.
Much later in his essay Mead talks about the “how” and the “why” America’s reign at the top of the hill is under challenge:
Three factors keep many Americans inside the government and out from connecting the dots. The first is the habit of supremacy developed in the last generation. From the middle of the 1980s on, the declining Soviet Union and its successor states were no match for the United States. China’s horizons were more limited than they are now. And after the triumph of the First Iraq War demonstrated America’s overwhelming conventional military supremacy in the Middle East, American attention turned to managing specific issues (like terrorism, WMD and the Arab Spring) on the assumption that the United States no longer faced significant geopolitical rivals in the region.
The strategic dimension in the sense of managing intractable relations with actual or potential geopolitical adversaries largely disappeared from American foreign policy debates. Instead, American foreign policy was about “issues” (like non-proliferation, human rights, terrorism, inequality, free trade) and “hard cases” (rogue states like Iraq and North Korea and non-state actors like Al-Qaeda that could cause trouble but were unlikely to affect the global power balance in a serious way). The balance of power in Eurasia, the great question which forced the United States into two world wars and a long cold war, largely disappeared from American policy thought.
The disappearance of geopolitics reinforced a second tendency in American foreign policy that further hampered American ability to perceive and respond to the new challenge. That is the habitual American tendency, fruitlessly bewailed by actors as different at George Kennan and Henry Kissinger, to approach international politics through some combination of moral and legal ideas in an uncomplicated atmosphere of Whig determinism. The default worldview of American intellectuals and officials is that some combination of liberal capitalist economics and liberal political values is carrying the world swiftly and smoothly toward the triumph of Anglo-American values. Americans believed they were living through the end of history long before Francis Fukuyama wrote his book; that free markets and free government will bring the world right is one of the deepest convictions of the American mind. Ask Woodrow Wilson.
Mr. Mead is an optimist. He believes if our leaders start listening to good geopolitical strategic thinkers, that we can reverse “these negative geopolitical trends.” He ends his essay with these words:
We shall have to think about “issues” like non-proliferation and democracy promotion in a geopolitical context and we shall have to prioritize the repair and defense of alliances in ways that no post Cold War presidents have done.
The sooner we make this shift, the better off we shall be. The Central Powers have been punching above their weight, largely as a result of the absence of a serious counter-policy by the United Staes. But the more time we waste and the more opportunities we squander, the more momentum and power the revisionists gain, and the less effective our alliances become.
Clear thinking and prudent action now can probably reverse the negative geopolitical trends in Eurasia at a low cost. But the longer we wait, the harder and more urgent our task will become.
Clear thinking and prudent action? I am a big fan of Walter Russell Mead. But, he seems to have forgotten President Obama’s promise to
destroy “fundamentally transform” America. And, President Obama has three more years to finish the job.
Well, that’s what I’m thinking. What are your thoughts?