Thursday, June 7, 2018

Merkel, Trump and Macron


"The guerrilla must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea."
This quote is by Mao Zedong.
With purpose I here distort and use the quote for another purpose and say
"The populist leader must move in the mobs as a fish swims in the sea"
And should be added:  "and must have wise and long term aims".

 The new declined or late modern era both fosters and needs new types of politics and not least new types of leaders. These can be termed populist no matter if they are rightwing, leftwing or centrists, and no matter if there is a formal western-style democracy or not. Important is only that public opinion plays a major role, that this opinion is easily changed, and it is actively used in populist ways. We cannot see this as in itself good or bad, but rather as a fact. Politicians must adapt to the new changed political climate with its new rules or rather lack of rules of behavior, this no matter if they are of the old type from mature modernity, or they are of a type produced by the emerging new times.

The new era per se should not simply be lamented with nostalgic longing for the good old days. It is already there. But the  new type of populist leaders can be judged. Some are qualified, some are not. Some want autocratic rule in order to gain personal power, some want autocratic rule in order to control the decline, some do not want autocratic rule. Some only seek immediate gains out of shifting moods, others plan for many years. But unfortunately, with the shallowing of many countries, the influence  of leaders is  increasing. Thus their quality is becoming crucial.

The present US and French presidents, Trump and Macron are good examples or personifications of two very different types of late modern rulers.
Both bypass political parties of the classically organized types and build on populist movements of people. They understand how to guide and use the sentiments of their voters. Both think in untraditional ways which can help solve old problems in new ways. But otherwise they are very different:
Trump is unpredictable, acts for the here and now.
Macron is well-considered and has long term plans.
The rule in the coming decades belongs to leaders of both types. Rulers of the first type can break down and even destroy politics and the world. Rulers of the second type can build the future.

Of course the plans of Macron are not meant to be simply accepted and implemented as they are, but as proposals. They should be taken seriously and negotiated. It is a vision on how to tackle the new times. How to adapt France and not least the EU. It might be the last chance for this organization. The idea is to seek a way to limit the rising influence of populists of the irresponsible types we see in East Europe, Turkey and the United States.

Long term careful planning and organization is a characteristic of our Western civilization.  To a large extent it is lost in the present declined modernity. Those who have retained or regained the ability and willingness to plan ahead, have an immense advantage.

A few countries uphold stable modernity of the type dominant in the rich world since WW 2, and they have leaders of this type. Here Germany and Merkel is a good example. Unfortunately there are too few Merkels left, and there are too many Trumps  and not yet enough Macrons as successors.

Also the old type politicians like Merkel must adapt. Understand and deal fittingly with, or if possible manipulate, the big egos among the new leaders. Put forward  reforms to adapt countries and int'l organizations to the new times or at least support leaders like Macron who do this. Upholding mature stable modernity in our times is in itself a remarkable achievement of the political system in Germany. It is admirable and a clear advantage for ones own country. But as no country can exist in splendid isolation, it is important to relate to and influence the outside world. One cannot live after the principle
After us and beyond us the deluge / die Sintflut.
In the end it will devour even the stable island.

Germany has a formidable ability to organize and plan ahead. This could indeed be used in the present troubled world.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Modernity and The Middle East

One may gain a deeper understanding of developments in the Middle East by seeing the present period as a revival of the Oriental modernity from roughly 750 to 1070. The modernity of a civilization is a period of about 300 years occurring after the classical period. In the Greco-Roman civilization it was around 330 to 30 BC, in the first Chinese, it was around 530-220, in the Oriental as said 750-1070 and in our case the Western civilization 1776 or 1789 - roughly 2080 to 2100. These periods are characterized by rationalism, reason, atheism, revolutions, political ideas, pluralism, wars. In their later parts modernities become less characterized by pluralism, ideas and more by struggle for power and mob-rule, see my post The Decline of Modernity. After modernities typically comes Caesarian one-man rule, and most countries in the civilization are under rule of one (or two) powers like Rome, Qin (old China) and the Seljuks (the Orient). In our case the United States or/and present Westernized China. After modernities, the mental situation of civilizations typically gradually reverts to apolitical religioucity, superstition and passivity.

BASIC IDEA
Often we have seen the dominance of a younger civilization over older ones. This typically gives rise to opposition. This is not least the case if the dominating civilization is in its expanding modernity. We see this in phenomena like the Sepoy rising in India against the British in 1857-8 and the Boxer rebellion in China 1899-1901. And we certainly see it the the anti-western sentiments in the Middle East today like in the anti-Roman feelings 2000 years ago. I have earlier also written that the present Middle Eastern situation is aggravated by barbarians outside every civilization like the so-called Islamic State. If given enough time the dominated civilization is almost completely assimilated into the dominating one like today China and India into the West. Thus in my posts "the West" refers to most of the world, the parts dominated by the present civilization.

These analyses though, only give an overall picture. As said, a more nuanced understanding could be gained if we view the Middle Eastern situation today as a partial revival of the Oriental modernity. This civilization had its own modernity 1000 years earlier than ours.  As described by others, in the Oriental culture, religion is impossible to separate  from religion. The two spheres are interwoven. Modernities are normally characterized by the retreat of religion and instead the politicization of the public. Political ideologies gather adherents. Examples could be Marxism and Mohism (in old China). In the Oriental world this development took the form of a rising amount of political elements entering into movements of a type which had earlier been dominated by religious elements.

Interestingly, before our modernity, we in the Western civilization often had the same mixture of politics and religion. In the Middle Ages and not least around the Reformation and indeed in  Puritan England and the Netherlands political and religious interests were indistinguishable. Around the Reformations in the 16th century Christian groups in central Europe combined religious reformative ideas with almost Communist political demands. In the Oriental Persian Sassanid Empire in the 6th century the Zoroastrian Mazdakite movement had a comparable combination of religious and political ideas.

Thus before modernity the Western and the Oriental civilizations had a similar confluence of religion and politics. As modernities approached, the roads were divided. In the West like in many other cases like China, politics was separated from the religion. In the Orient they continued being united. Here we see the development as the mentioned greater weight of politics in the movements. The Neo-Mazdakites, now under Islamic overrule were now revolutionary movements fighting to overthrow the upper class and the rulers and to get more egalitarian societies. But they never lost their also religious nature. Such Zoroastrian groups were followed by Islamic groups, not least the Kharijite and Shiite movements with comparable agendas. The Oriental modernity was full with politico-religious thought and parties, conflicts and insurrections and revolutions in an almost unbelievable extent.  In fact the modernity of this civilization was one of the most revolutionary we have seen, at least before ours. Insurrections, crack-downs, revolutions and reactionary policies followed each other. The rebel-groups often had their insurrections used by political leaders, who after a revolution let them down. Revolutionaries split into numerous isms like Marxists in modern time.

These developments are very comparable to those in the Greco-Roman and in the Present Western modernities. But with the important differences that:
1) Religion was always a part. And
2) The fact that politico-ethnico-religious groups tended to live in the classical Oriental patchwork manner, where people with the same conviction lived together between each other in small areas, which can also be called ghettos. This phenomenon is still natural for many people from this part of the world. Hence the tendency for such people to form so-called  ghettos or parallel societies in Western cities today.

When the Oriental civilization reached its modernity, the groups became politicized and should now be called politico-ethnico-religious. In the latter part of Oriental modernity 1000 years ago in Bagdad the groups occupied different small enclaves of the city. From these enclaves they fought each other with words and weapons.

In the end of a modernity the populations are de-politisized. We see this clearly in the West these decades, just like in Rome in the last century before Christ and in old China in the third century BC. Political parties degenerate or become tools for leaders to gain power. The importance of ideas disappear in the so-called postmodern periods which are in fact rather late modern. In the Orient 1000 years ago the politico-ethnico-religious parties lost much of their political aspects and became orthodox religious organizations, both Sunnnis and Shias. Now we must talk of apolitical ethnico-religious groups.

The influence of western modernity has destabilized the for centuries passive peoples of the Orient. It has awoken resistance and energized and thus revitalized the long dead modernity. During the last 100 years we have seen numerous major and minor upheavals beginning with the breakup of the Ottoman Empire. Insurrections, revolutions, reactionary movements etc. strongly resembling what we saw 1000 years ago.  A Such awakening of a modernity is most likely if the disturbing force itself is in the modernity phase. Here the new intruding modern ideas fertilizes the older local ones.

The influence of the dominating West lead to both 1) the revitalization of the old modernity with its repoliticization, again making the groups politico-ethnico-religious, and ultimately to 2) Westernization. But the two processes are not simultaneous.

Normally the still very Orientally flavored politicization is the first step, and it dominates. Even the nominally socialist Baathist leaders in Syria and Iraq were still very Oriental.

In parallel with the politicization, but with a displacement in time, Westernization goes on. That this process will reach complete assimilation is unlikely except for some places and groups. But clearly the antagonism between Westernization and traditionalism adds one more conflict to the re-awoken old ones.

Another effect of the influence of the West is a greater importance of ethnicity. Since the beginning of our modernity, ethnicity has been an important aspect of nations in the Western civilization. In the Middle East it has played a role, but a minor one. With Westernization also our idea of nation as ethnically defined enters the Orient. Thus we see for example the Kurds fight for the right to their own country.

Thus the idea is that parts of what is going on in the Middle East today can be viewed as a replay of what happened 1000 years ago. Examples:


INTERPRETATIONS
Lebanese and Syrian civil wars
Beiruth today and especially in the Lebanese civil war looks very much like Bagdad around1000. The same compartmentalization of different politico-ethnico-religious groups in different city-quarters. Several Syrian cities have looked in comparable ways under the present civil war.

Iran and Saudi Arabia
The regime of the Shah of Iran was an attempt at an extreme degree of Westernization. This clearly went too far and had to lead to a reversal in the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Since then Shiite Iran can be seen as a competitor to the orthodox Sunni regime in Saudi Arabia, the official guardian of the Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina. In this way the two regimes may be compared to the Sunni Abbasid Caliphate and the competing Fatimid alternative Shiite competitor in North Africa, Egypt and Syria 1000 years ago. In those days the two empires were religious, but the competition was also highly political. The Fatimids started revolutionary cells in the Abbasid areas and tried to subvert the Abbasids, often with great success. Today also The Iranians and the Saudis compete in a highly political manner. Like the Fatimids Iran operates to undermine the Saudis. Both have also been affected by the Westernization. Iran is already a quite modern state with a well-educated Western-style middle and upper class. The Saudi crown Prince is likewise working to reduce the religious aspects. Both states are becoming the sole dominant powers the their spheres of interest in the Islamic world between Pakistan and Libya and partly beyond, and they use proxies to fight each other. Clearly the Saudis have not been very successful in the competition. In the eyes of the West this together with the alliance of Riyadh with the "right side", Washington, make he Iranians look as the sole evil-doers, but this is one-sided. Just look at Yemen and the Saudi support of Wahhabism as far away as to Morocco and Afghanistan, and the sponsorship of Jihadis over many years. And imagine the reaction if Iran had abducted the prime minister of Lebanon.The fight between the two countries is about power, but it is also about ideas and winning the heart of Muslims. It will probably not help the Saudi rate of success if the defender of two holy places seems to abandon the third to the Israelies.

The de facto alliance between Riyadh with its allies and Israel also point to the politicization of the Saudis and the Middle East. The conflict with Iran is becoming more important than the religious obligations.

Syria and Iraq and Iran
Under the Baathist parties or rather dictators, Saddam Hussein and the older Assad, Iraq and Syria may be seen as revived Muʿtazilite or rationalist states. Politics and religion were intertwined, but the will of God concerning correct government could be deduced through reason. Until the US invasion and the Arab Spring.

In the Oriental modernity the areas from Lebanon to Afghanistan  were some of the most violent in the world, torn by civil wars, insurrections and revolutions. Myriads of rulers and politico-ethnico-religious groups and parties fought each other. With the revitalization of the old modernity, the areas have tended to revert to a comparable condition.  The old groups become repoliticized, and new conflicting groups emerge in a similar pattern. The Baathist rules in Iraq and Syria prevented open conflicts. So did the Shah and the Ayatollahs in Iran. But with the removal and weakening of the dictatorships, chaos returned in both Iraq and Syria in the form of fights between the many groups.

Pompeo has announced extreme sanctions against Iran unless the country surrenders completely. Knowing that a such surrender is ruled out, the plan can only be to add to the economic crisis of Iran and thereby provoke a revolution, maybe with the aid of bombings of nuclear and other facilities by Israel and the United States.

But even if possible, why should a regime change in Iran be more smooth than the ones in Iraq, Syria and Libya? The removal of a strong government in Teheran could like in Syria and Iraq set free conflicts between politico-ethnico-religious groups. And there can be many. The country is today again like in the very chaotic modernity 1000 years ago filled with groups of different ethnicity, religion and political adherence and viewpoints. To these comes the dimension of degree of Westernization. Iran has one of the most heavily Westernized upper/middle classes in the Middle East and at the same time very strong anti-western feelings in other parts of the population. This adds to the many other antagonisms. Also, Iran is an extremely  ethnically diverse country, more than most others in the Middle East. Thus there are many antagonisms. Open conflicts may break out if the central power weakens or disappears.The conflicts could be on a scale which in the worst case would make those in Syria look like a picnic and create huge streams of refugees (Iran has a common border with Turkey). This would certainly not bring stability to the Middle East and less terror to the World. Two thousand years ago Pompeius subdued Pontos by using brute force. It is unlikely that Pompeo wants to and can do the same with a country of over 80 million inhabitants and over1.6 million square kilometers.


OVERALL PREDICTIONS
If we only see the revived Oriental modernity as a static condition, the main thing which can be learned, is that they are in a continuos state of religious and political revolutions and reactions. But as the disturbing West is itself in a declining modernity, we may see the Oriental modernity as sooner or later beginning to follow the western counterpart.

In places and phases where Westernization moves forward, the politicization of the politico-ethnico-religious parties and movements will progress. But gradually the depoliticization of the West will affect the Middle East too. In the West this process leads to the transformation of the political parties into the mentioned tools for power-hungry people or mere groups of mobs. In the Middle East the development will often lead to the strengthening of the religious aspects of political life. This even more if Western leaders provoke with ignorant mob-like attitudes and decisions.

Thus it is not improbable that the political decline in the West will end and revert the politicization in the Middle East AND at the same time end and revert Westernization. There will not have been enough time for a complete assimilation of all of the Orient into the West, before the latter reverts to power struggles without ideas.


NOTE 1
If the framework is correct, we should be able to see comparable revivals of modernities in other cases. Carthage and the Phoenicians in general under influence from the Greeks in the fifth and fourth century BC may be seen as a revival of the second Mesopotamian modernity (around 850-540). The self-ruling merchants of the city-states competing with the Greeks look more like signs of a vibrant modernity than like the dull peoples of the despotic Caesarian Persian Empire after Cyrus the Great.

 Japan's rapid development in the 19th century may be seen as a revival of the second Chinese modernity (around 950-1279). We see a society which with respect to good organization resembled the Song Dynasty. Later Carthage and later Japan were completely Greco-Romanized and Westernized respectively.

NOTE 2
Syria's new law allowing the taking over of property and houses of people having fled the country is easily interpreted as ethnic cleansing. These people are potentially political opponents of the government. As religion, ethnicity, politics and nations are confluent in the Oriental civilization, these people are other  nations than the one represented by the government. As described in earlier posts, the Oriental patchwork nations are under transformation to Western style territorial nations. This means that the Assad nation wants to get rid of other nations.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

May God be with us

After the announcement of Mr. Trump to leave the nuclear deal with Iran, we may prepare for a new world (dis)order.

When we look at the int'l politics in the modernity of earlier civilizations, we see that they share overall characteristics. But there are no fixed rules for the details of the historical developments of such modernities. These details depend partly on coincidences and the balance of power between the leading countries. As long as there is a balancing of the power of the big countries, the most important conflicts are between these. But the level and frequency of the conflicts can not be predicted from a comparison with other civilizations. Each civilization has its own path determined by coincidences and by the characteristics of the civilization.

But there is one common trend in all modernities: The disrespect for written and unwritten rules rises as the period progresses. This often causes the conflicts no matter their frequency to become more and more brutal as a modernity approaches its end.

If one power has won hegemony before the end of a modernity, the important conflicts shift to be in internal politics in this leading country. This happened
for Rome with the victory  - 202 at Zama over Cartage.
And in old China in - 260 when Qin defeated Zhao in the extremely bloody Battle of Changping.

In other cases the decisive victory of one country coincides with the end of modernity.  This was the case in the Oriental civilization when the Seljuks defeated the Byzantine Empire at Manzikert in 1071. For us, the Western civilization (including most of the present world) the situation is somewhere between  the Roman after Zama and the Chinese before Changping.  America is dominant, but not as much as Rome was. Therefore the important conflicts of the last decades of our modernity until around 2070 - 2100 will be both internal in the United States and international. The declining US policies and the rise of China may partially reduce the weight of America.

With the rapid political decline in the present decades the rest of our own late modernity could be a much more tumultuous process than the time since 1945. Thus an outline of the modernity of the West could look roughly like this, at least in the more developed parts of its world:
1789 - 1815 Chaotic war-torn start.
1815 - 1914 Relative stability.
1914  - 1945 Increasingly violent wars.
1945 - 2015 Relative stability.
2015 -  ca. 2080 Conflicts and wars on the field and in cyberspace.
Ca. 2080 Final death of democracy (except on the very local level) and total hegemony of one or two powers.

Thus the  last decades of our modernity will be not as it for a long time looked, a peaceful increasing dominance of the World by the United States, but a time of conflict and violence.

So what must we be prepared to meet in the next decades. I and many others have already mentioned numerous trends. Here I will only repeat some of the most important.

- Middle East tensions and conflicts. This volatile region will destabilize further and may ignite into a major war. Iran is not as easily subdued as Iraq. Generally the anti-Western feelings will increase dramatically in the Middle East. As many have pointed out, a nuclear arms race may start in the region. Why not deliver  US nuclear bombs to Saudi Arabia?

- The World will see escalations, conflicts and wars.

- American disrespect for allies will reach new levels. Leaders like Macron and Merkel are treated like leaders of banana republics. In the best case flattered with apparent respect, but in reality completely ignored and despised. Their appeasement will not help.

- Disrespect for treaties.

- Trade will be used as a weapon. This will of course happen as a part of trade wars about imports and exports and technological knowledge.  Trade sanctions will also be increasingly used as political pressure. We see Trump threatening companies from countries dealing with Iran.

- Forcing even close allies to introduce sanctions on countries disliked by the United States once more shows the extreme arrogant treatment of even friends. These will increasingly be forced to follow US policies.

- Trade limitations will also be increasingly used over tax questions. The Americans may begin to punish countries demanding tax from US companies like Apple, Microsoft and Facebook.

Generally not least Europe is extremely dependent on IT -services provided from the United States. This leaves them open to political pressure, which under present and future arrogant and oppressive US governments could turn such countries into mere puppets. An interdict on the services of big IT firms could cripple Europe and remove the rest of the independence of such countries. Europe should use own and Chinese companies to achieve a better balance between providers.

Thus the ill-considered, but arrogant US policies like those of the present US president can increase the control over dependent countries. However at the same time the erratic nature of the policies counteracts their effectiveness in the world as a whole. And what is worse, because of the declined policies all over the world, the next decades risk being filled with conflict and suffering. The United States as a dominant world power and its present president are to a large extent responsible for limiting this development.

 Politics and decisions are based on moods and sentiments instead of on the indispensable detailed knowledge and  overview of the matter under consideration. A simple truth about the matter is decided on the basis of moods. And the response to this simplified picture of a situation is then decided from moods. A world as ours filled with such complexity and destructive potentials cannot be handled this way.

Fortunately the new conditions do not automatically entail rule by ignorants. Wise leaders are also possible in the new political reality as we saw exemplified in Julius Caesar.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Trump and Iran

Once more we see approaching a crucial decision from Mr. Trump. This time on the Iran nuclear deal. The clumsy display by Mr. Nethanyahu of documents claiming to prove Iranian intentions of building a bomb is obviously an attempt at convincing simple minded people in the  public and in the White House that the deal is broken by Teheran and should be abandoned. But the documents reveal nothing new. They only show the reason why the big powers worked so hard to reach the deal. Everybody including Mr. Macron and Ms. Merkel should also consider and remember that exactly because of the quasi impossibility in reaching the deal, other issues were excluded from the talks and were not part of the deal itself. To now demand more conditions from the Iranians will kill the deal. But exactly this is what the US president wants.

An Iranian acceptance of new terms is ruled out. Even negotiations would wipe out the moderate forces around the present Iranian president and thus radicalize the leadership to a definitely anti-Western stance.  Obviously also the abandonment by the US of the nuclear deal will strengthen the anti-Westerners in Teheran. Having this coincide with the moving of the American embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing this city as the capital of Israel could increase Iranian influence in the Middle East further. In segments of the Arab populations in countries under conservative Sunni governments allied to Saudi Arabia, the alliance with the Americans will look increasingly distasteful. The alliance between the Saudis and Israel even more. It looks s if the Sunni governments are abandoning Al Quds to the enemy.

We may see that these segments could view the Israelis and Americans as a bigger problem than Shiite Iran. Thus we could see strengthened and broader united anti-Western sentiments in the Middle East from Morocco to Pakistan. An opposition which could give rise to groups becoming a problem for conservative regimes allied to the Americans. Of course such groups would be supported by Iranian radicals like the Revolutionary Guard strengthened by a decision by Mr. Trump to drop the nuclear deal. The  Iranian support for Hamas show that a such Shia-Sunni collaboration  is not impossible.  Of course Iran is working to undermine its declared enemies around Riyadh and doing so not least by supporting groups opposing the weak conservative Sunni regimes. But such groups are not only products of Iranian interference. They are fueled by oppression and US policies supporting an irresponsible Israeli government and the Conservative regimes cooperating with Israel.

It is unwise for Western powers to feed anti-Western sentiments among Sunnis and Shias.  Of course the West should prefer that its opponents are allied to Iran rather than ISIS, but  further destabilization of the Middle East is not desirable. And here I have not mentioned consequences of possible renewed Iranian attempts at building a bomb in case Trump ends the deal. What is the next planned step? Bombings?

Saturday, March 24, 2018

A Shallow World

Bolton as security adviser only confirms the tendency to escalation. It is a really bad omen for the World. Trump, Pompeo and Bolton will now go on with extreme decisions and escalations and exaggerated quick reactions to real or perceived provocations.

For decades, maybe always, several US politicians in Congress and beyond have been and especially now are ignorant what concerns the complexity of modern American society and the World. Presidents from both parties and not least their ministers and advisors plus the administrative system have functioned as buffers limiting the harmful effects of decisions from ignorant politicians. Now we have both a  president, ministers and advisors who are ignorant or extreme. The influence of the administrative system is being broken down. The ingenious mechanisms of mutual control in the American constitution do not function anymore. The buffer against harmful effects is gone. As said by several analysts, the deep state is getting shallow.

The Roman state in the republic was also a deep state. But because of the typical Greco-Roman principle of not letting administrators sit for longer periods, the Antique states were more easily shallowed. Until the second war with Cartage one of the reasons for the superiority of Rome in the Antique world was exactly the greater depth of the Roman republic compared to the other Mediterranean states. After this time the state was shallowed. Chaotic power struggles, shifts of power bypassing the constitution and violence prevailed. Now the superiority of Rome was only due to the weakness of the other states.

In comparison the Western civilization has been more stable. Its states including the United States took longer time to reach a similar level of shallowing. But now we are approaching it. The American state is clearly being shallowed under Trump. But what is even more dangerous, the int'l political system is also, both diplomatically, in trade relations, in the Internet and in military terms. Treaties and int'l organizations and the written and unwritten rules for behavior and interaction are beginning to be flagrantly ignored. 

The Romans could let their destabilization happen and still win. But the world now is different from the Antique. The rivals are much stronger than those of Rome 146 BC. Also the  US society and int'l interaction  is much more complex in an infinitely intertwined world. Disturbances and conflicts can have disastrous consequences, also for the United States. And an America turned unstable can not expect to win easily over strong and more stable rivals.

America is now approaching the condition of the Roman Republic  around 80 BC. Trump may be the modern Sulla. We may soon see the modern Marius. In the immediate future the next two US elections may bring relief.  Still the Democratic Party is far less declined than the Republican.  The contrast between the present ignorant  rule and the wise rule under Obama could not be bigger. We must hope that the Republicans will accept defeat.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The will to escalate

The sacking of the American foreign minister Tillerson and the conflict between the UK and Russia over the gas attack on two Russians in the UK show two tendencies, which are characteristics of the new declined int'l politics:  1)The collapsing of the spheres of diplomacy, the media and the mob. And 2) The will to escalate conflicts.

Episodes like this nerve gas attack would earlier have been solved in silence. Now with the lack of discrimination between tabloid press, the internet mobs, diplomacy and reality, what is the truth is quickly decided. We still have not seen any proof that Putin was behind.  Also, it is difficult to see what advantages he could have from such a clumsy attack, disturbing Russian attempts to mend ties with other nations.

The extreme British reaction with expulsions and further sanctions also shows the other characteristic of our time: The will to escalate. This is of course related to the wish to satisfy the mob.

To put it more precisely, with the mental (but certainly not economical) immersion of the elites into the mob, populist governments like the British and the American are parts of the mobs. Childish and short tempered. Also it is not precise to say that diplomacy collapses with public opinion. Rather, diplomacy as an art disappears. Instead we see stubborn and/or erratic, often tension increasing acts. The chaotic results of one populist act, like the Brexit, lead to the next populist decisions to satisfy the public or rather moblic opinion.

The will to escalation is also clear in the sacking of the US foreign minister. Even though himself diplomatically inexperienced, Tillerson stopped several extreme acts from Trump. Apparently Pompeo does not wish to do the same.

With this foreign minister under this president in the major power, the world is entering even more unstable periods. Minor events can lead  to quick escalations ultimately ending with wars on the field or in cyberspace.

Pompeo may be less erratic than his master, but this could be of little comfort as he is likely to deviate from the president only in cases where Trump should want to do something less hawkish.  The Russia-hating rightwing republican hawks have clearly taken over. These are characterized by the same will to escalate as the president. Obviously the US administration supports the British accusations and reactions.

While  UK politics have declined to pub level and parts of Europe also have been taken over by populists, the core of the EU, France and Germany make an effort for securing mature stable politics and institutions. It may be the last and these countries may follow the rest of the world into the post-mature populist future after one or two elections . But for now such Europeans could and should act as a bridge between Russia who has its own hawks, and Western politicians who seem to have an obsessive compulsion of blaming Russia and Putin in person for everything.

Like Trump Pompeo wants to end the Iran nuclear deal. We will see if Pompeo will have as much success in stabilizing the Middle East as Pompeius who subdued Pontos 2100 years ago.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Collapsing levels

The confusing of or rather collapse between levels of politics is another sign of the decline. Rulers which themselves lack these skills and at the same time try to maneuver without experienced people having them, make serious misjudgements. Politics in the media is one thing, diplomacy is another. What governments say in public and what they in fact do are different things.

The US economic threats against countries voting for the UN resolution criticizing the recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel is an example of the lack of distinguishing between such levels. It feels like banalities to say this: Obviously Middle Eastern governments must publicly condemn the US decision on Jerusalem and support the UN resolution without this meaning bigger changes in de facto politics.

If a US president and his people can not tell the difference between media statements, diplomacy and real politics, then the daily tweets get even more threatening.

The American threats are also signs of the new arrogant rude way of seeing even allied countries. They are treated as subordinate.