Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The End of Stability

The reaction of President Obama and Hillary Clinton to the election of Donald Trump has been admirably conciliatory and mature. Especially after the numerous absurdities from Mr. Trump et al. As said "when they go low, we go high".

As I have written before, the grotesquely declined policies of Mr. Trump comes in addition to many years of decline of the Republican party. The very different behavior from the Democratic party is a good picture of the global situation. We are in a transition from Mature Modernity to Declined Modernity. In this transition period the old mature and the new declined  forces live side by side. We have both Hollande and Le Pen, both Germany and Turkey, both Obama and Trump. Seen from the point of view of Mature Modernity Trump is an absolute disaster. But of course he does not alone bring about the disaster. He embodies the decline present already. His victory may have accelerated it a few years, but it has been underway and would have come anyway.

Since his victory much has already been said on the consequences from countless experts and comments and editorials. There is no need for many repetitions here.

The victory of Trump indeed heralds the coming end of democracy as we knew it. Its final change in to rule by the mob, and what is worse: the use of the mob by demagogues and autocrats like Trump and Erdogan.

There is only one concrete advantage to be seen, and that is in the short term. Foreign policies; the relations America-Russia may improve.  The rigid habitual cold war thinking characterizing both Republican and Democrat hawks including Mrs. Clinton and much of NATO could find its end. Cooperation on Syria would may be be possible.

But in almost all other respects the new era is unwelcome. It must be deeply deplored. And we should still try to save what can be saved of the mature democratic forms of government by modifying them into more controlled forms able to avoid and control the dissolving forces. But maybe this is a naive dream  except for a few countries. For the rest of the world we should face the new reality. And not just cry over the lost paradise.

Presently we have two measuring standards. That from mature modernity and that from declining modernity. Judging from the old standards the turn to Trump, Le Pen etc. is catastrophic. From the new standard they must be judged from their acts. Are they able to maneuver in the new conditions?

This does not mean that you have to be declined to deal with the new conditions. As said elsewhere Germany and China may soon be the only pre-declined stable powers. They could be quite able to deal with the new world, but only if they adapt to the new circumstances: the threat from the mob, demagogues and foreign chaos. The risk is rigidity and lack of this adaption. But lack of any consistency and stability is equally a problem for good rule benefitting a country and its strength.

Lack of both consistency and adaptability can be detrimental no matter the era. In light of rigidity an unorthodox figure like Trump could have an advantage. But unorthodox policies must be coupled with a certain stability. In a complex world like ours too shifting measures lead to badly governed and unorganized societies.

For the USA Trump is not the biggest problem. No the really big problem is a Republican party degenerated into rigid obstructionists and opportunists and Puritan fanatics. The sum of these groups mean lack of ability to both govern and be governed. This will continue after Trump.

In the few days passed since nov. 8. Trump has shown a certain moderation. Remains to see if this will continue. Present and post-Trump Republican leaders may not show any moderation, but press on with more right wing turns.

In light of this the remarkable restraint on behalf of the Democrats may not continue. Left wing populists will demand counter-reforms and obstruction of Republican presidencies and will want retaliations. In the worst case scenario the political climate will degenerate more and more. Incongruent political measures will be implemented by shifting presidents. Effective administration and rule will be difficult. Violent upheavals will accompany politics as the big tensions within the American society are carried out in confrontations on the street. The two political wings will both fuel their own supporters and aggravate tensions further. Probably periods of personal dictatorships will appear.

For int'l relations as said the short term results could be an end to the cold war and even a US contraction of sphere of interest. The present sphere encompassing all the world until 50 nautical miles from the coasts of China and Russia were too wide to allow a consistent defense anyway.

But it is almost a law of a warring states period like the present that the global power struggle will restart. This could be from both Democrats and Republicans. And if the intra-American tensions are channeled outwards against the outer world and played out here like the Roman 2000 years ago, the world has nothing good to await. But it is equally likely that the USA will weaken itself through the internal strife. The United States is removing itself from the position it had a few years ago when it looked like a gradual takeover of the world through culture and Cyberspace.

Needless to say that also on the smaller level inter-state conflicts will become more frequent when opportunist populists and autocrats like Erdogan rule. And this will easily again become proxy-wars when the global competition restarts.

So in sum the political decline in and between countries leads to badly run countries and conflicts between countries. Therefore the new condition is definitely bad, even if it when it becomes the normal condition should be judged by its own standards.

In the troubled times to come  countries with institutionalized stability have an advantage. At least if they are not rigid and can adapt. We will see how the very stable Germany adapts to Mr. Trump. China also has its own stability. This shows that undemocratic ways of governments are an advantage if they are intelligent and through written or unwritten institutions have continuity beyond single leaders. As said elsewhere less democratic measures can be either purely for power-hunger or to ensure functioning government. Compared to an America torn apart and weakened by internal conflicts and misgovernment China will have a clear advantage.

As long as forces of the old world order still exist we may hope to delay the development of the new. But it may be too late since the 8. November 2016.

At the end of the era Caesar is waiting.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Trump, Catiline, Russia, China and Parthia

Because somebody is a contributor to the acceleration of the general slide towards political decline, it does not automatically imply that this person is the best able to navigate in the troubled waters he stirs up. Maybe he is just of the same limited abilities as one of the Roman predecessors, Catiline. In the first century BC this man tried to seize power as the head of a third force outside the two big political parties, the Peoples Party and the Optimates. Just like Trump is trying now. He contributed to the chaos leading to further civil wars. But he failed in his plans.

In the short term Trump could loose or win the elections. But he will certainly accelerate the World slipping into a new unpredictable era ruled by the personal will of populist leaders. If he is not able to understand or navigate in the new world, other more able leaders will reap the harvest.

So you do not have to be good at navigating in a declined world, just because you embody this dcline. On the other hand you do not have to be declined yourself to have this ability.

No matter who will win the American presidential elections we may as well prepare for the coming post-stable era. An era which could last from a half up to a whole century.

The fueling of the new cold war between NATO and Russia may prove to be a wrong priority for the western countries. The internal lines behind the front could be crumbling as populists and populism gain power and influence. In the short and possibly intermediate term they may have other agendas than to have conflicts with Russia.

The focus can later turn back against Russia with sudden changes of mood. But for now it may be safer for the West to withdraw from expansion and military building up and instead just concentrate on keeping in order the results of the already big earlier expansions after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

But in the long term the tensions between East and West are likely to reemerge. It is remarkable how longstanding and deep this conflict seems to be. With short interruptions it has lasted since the 16th century. And in contrast to now long time forgotten conflicts between countries like Germany and France it has risen again even recently. This could be a sign of a deeply rooted opposition between two fundamentally different civilizations. As such it may resurface from time to time alongside shifting alliances.

Earlier civilizations hav most often at the end of their modernity reached a condition with a de facto emperor (no matter the title) with dictatorial status at the head of all the countries in the civilization. Rome, Qin, Babylonia, Aztecs. I have earlier written that the amount of chaos that is possible to sustain or can be afforded in the leading power with ambition to subdue the rest, depends on the strength of the others. In old China the other powers were for a long time strong. This necessitated an extremely strong centralization and degree of order in the winning power Qin. In old Rome the other countries were powerless afther Hannibal. Therefore the Romans could afford an extreme degree of internal chaos. I have also written that the Americans are in an intermediate position between these extremes. They cannot afford a degree of chaos on the level of old Rome. That is for the Americans the danger that comes from types like Danald Trump. A more organized and stable China could win.

But will our world ever get united under one power?

The competitors are clearly China and the United States. Russia is for the time being on the defensive, at least globally seen. When looking at predecessor-civilizations we see a couple of examples of modernities not ending with a united world. In the first Mesopotamian civilization Hammurabi and his first successors did not succeed in conquering the southern Sealand. The Oriental world was still disunited under the Seldjuks. These deviations from the general rule had their specific reasons. In our case main reasons would be the cost and dangers of modern wars or even conflicts disrupting global trade.

Concerning Rome we nay learn from a broadened perspective. Rome never conquered the whole known world. The Parthian Empire was a very near and ever-present neighbor, and it was very able to resist. In fact the two reached a balance of power. Perhabs Parthia could have been conquered if the Romans had had a lesser degree of internal strife.

Also, Parthia was not a completely different world. Both empires were culturally largely Hellenistic. Parthia gradually became more Orientalized, but so did Rone. In many ways it could have been a natural end to sbsume all Hellenistic parts of the world from Gibraltar to the Indus under one power; the chaos in Rome may have been the factor stopping this development.

Our version of a later not united post-chaotic world could perhaps be the world divided between 3 powers with each their sphere of interest. The United States and China dividing the Western civilization between each other. Each de facto cntrollng their parts. And Russia in a third sphere gradually becomming more culturally distinct and different from the rest.

But the way to this could be filled with trouble. Gradually though the three powers will calm their spheres of influence and agree on the borders between these spheres. At the end could come the global

Pax Americana, Sinica et Russiana

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Parties become groups of followers

This was predicted by Spengler 100 years ago. In the last century of a modernity the political parties are gradually being transformed into groups of followers used as tools by single persons. A party has a program, a group of followers has a leader.

In the northern rich world we have already for a long time seen that political parties become more and more person-focused. Their leaders acting like superstars and the parties gaining votes as a function of this. But this never removed the role of programmatic political views. This has changed definitively for the new populist parties, often on the right wing. These are often a strong leader surrounded by "village fools".

And now most of the leaders of the Grand Old Party has been reduced to a group of followers. Surrounding and flattering their presidential candidate in the hope of getting high posts no matter the political principles. The long standing obstructionism in Congress was already a clear sign of the political decline. But it was still politically motivated. Now the only motive seems to be personal power. This is the end point of the political decline in  late modernity which the Western civilization is entering.

The building up of NATO in Eastern Europe is a misguided and hawkish brick, reestablishing the Iron Curtain further to the east. But the talk by Mr. Trump of no longer garantying the security of for example the Baltic states must awake horror in NATO and in the US institutions established for securing America and its power in the world. Another reason why the support for Trump from leading Republicans is so incredible.

In principle a stable end predictable world order is preferable. But only for big players with an equal balance of power between them. Since the break up of the USSR this equal balance has been altered, Russia being pushed back very far toward Moscow. No wonder that Putin is no fan of a stability as is looks presently. NATO's recent expansionist behavior has just added to this. For subdued powers an unstable world order ruled by the will of single leaders is preferable to an unequal stability.

But seen from Washington as the capital of a superpower the Republicans under Donald Trump must look like a security risk.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Turkey between civilizations

Of course everybody must condemn the failed coup attempt in Turkey. But the event will probably be used by Erdogan to start persecutions of both people involved in the attempt plus all other real and supposed opponents of the autocrat. Persecutions possibly on a scale and severity that may make some wish that the coup had succeeded. And make broader parts of the military wish they had participated.

Like other populists Erdogan appeals to hitherto marginalized parts of the population. People who have not followed the establishments modernization in mentality, culture and education. Like Erdogan so Trump, Le Pen, Orbán etc. but in Turkey this is complicated by the division caused by the westernization of the originally Oriental civilization introduced by Ataturk. This westernization only really transformed a part of the population. The other large part stayed more Oriental. But for decades they submitted as a passive silent marginalized half. With the AKP and Erdogan they have woken and gained a voice. Unlike elsewhere, in addition to the division between established and marginalized people comes the division between civilizations, between westernized parts of society and the remnants of the Oriental civilization. Like elsewhere in the Middle East these remnants struggle to resist the assimilation into the dominating Western civilization. The difference in civilization makes the division in Turkish society and the return of the marginalized more dangerous than the division between the establishment and its opponents in Europe and America.

Before these developments Turkey was a block of stability and approaching a modern democracy mature for EU-membership. Beginning to overcome the old divisions through room for pluralism of different people within the same society. A uniting party like the HDP was a product of this development. But Erdogan has ended this. He stirs up polarization and animosity. Between modernists and traditionalists, between westernized and Oriental, between Turks and Kurds.

After 1850 Turkey has gone through terrible phases of Ethnic cleansing of the type typical for the Oriental world under change from its old patchwork-nations to coherent western type territorial states. This seemed to be finally reaching its end with a pluralistic democracy being approached. But with the reappearing polarization and the coming to power of representatives of the marginalized more Oriental part of the population now beyond influence from the other half, it can be feared that forms of ethnic cleansing like pressure for assimilation may return. The secular parts as well as the sum of all parts of Turkey was on a stage after ethnic cleansing. The more Oriental part may not be. First affected are the Kurds and then perhaps the Alevis?

In sum Turkey risks disintegrating along lines of politics, civilization and ethnicity.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Miscellaneous comments

Every time the United States enters a Middle Eastern country militarily it will evoke so much opposition and set free so much latent tension that the US will have to stay to keep enemies, chaos and terrorists under control.

Afghanistan and Iraq can not be left again. They like future cases are de facto American colonies.

The improved relations between Turkey and both Israel and Russia are good examples of future foreign relations, opportunistic and personalized.
You are enemies till you suddenly become friends.
You have a friend till you break up.
You have a point of view till you take another.

Some Republican members of Congress want Hillary Clinton brought before court because of the email-affair in order to help a clown to gain the presidency. With such a level of politics the Unites States can only become the greatest country on an earth void of real adversaries.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Step by step

England and Wales have voted to leave the EU. This is just one more sign of the decline of the old world order. It is one event in a chain of previous and future signs of a continuing chain of such events. That Mr. Trump has managed to come as far as he is now is another. At the same time such events are contributing to an acceleration of this decline. Trump as candidate for the "GOP" and the Brexit are two of the hitherto perhaps most important events of this kind. Two big steps among many smaller and bigger.

We may have reached a point of no return in the development of our modernity and our civilization. This Western modernity has seen the most cruel mass scale violence in world history, only approached by the first Chinese modernity in the Warring States period ca. 500 - 221 BC. But it has in its mature stage in the second half of the last century - at least in the northern hemisphere - also seen perhaps the most intelligent and balanced intra- and interstate policies in history, only paralleled by the second Chinese modernity in the Song Dynasty (960-1279).

Our case could have been the first and only possibility in the chain of big civilizations to break the pattern of modernities turning more and more chaotic and thereby necessitating a caesarian dictatorship. Through an immense historical knowledge and intelligence among historians, men of culture and science and politicians there was a theoretical chance of avoiding this destiny in our case, the Western Civilization.

The last century of modernities has in most predecessors been one of increasing chaos dominating more and more. That we have entered this phase has become threateningly clear in the 4 years gone by since I started this blog. Now it looks enevitable. We and the politicians should be prepared for a new world with new rules.

Of course different countries will follow the decline with different speeds. Small countries like in Scandinavia and the Benelux could quickly become banana republics. Southern Europe is also far on the way. The UK is the first major north  European country to go this far. Not only in the form of the result of the vote, but also in the low level of the political process and the role of UKIP. Other major players are clearly infected both in the form of new populists and in the form of populist policies from grand old parties. It looks as if the development is unstopable. At best it can be postponed. As said earlier Germany and China could be the most resilient bigger countries.

 That the  old world order was stable and rule-governed is not the same as to say that every power felt it to be just. For such countries any change may seem favorable. But the present change is not primarily one affecting the balance of power. It is one of changed or rather disappearing rules for behavior.

And the cause? Spengler would call the decline of modernities an intrinsic and inevitable element in the development of civilizations. Toynbee would admit that the development has characterized all previous civilization, but nevertheless has a cause. Which? Put in a very generalized form it may be:

The return of the margins or the marginalized.

Two versions:
1) Semi-barbarians from the border zones (Qin, Seldjuks, Aztecs etc.).
2) Internally marginalized people resenting an old "establissement". In Rome proletarians entering the legions, veterans etc. In the Song Dynasty we saw protests against the globalization reaching from Kaifeng to Bagdad.

Today millions of people feel threatened seeing their old industrial centers dying in competition from new technologies and global trade. Feeling humiliated by mega-cities and their condescending elites and politicians. Often threatened by social decline or badly educated, on low wages or social wellfare. Some living in depopulated areas loosing their young to the cities. Giving foreigners the blame, Moslems East Europeans, Hispanics, the EU, whoever.

These people feeling stigmatized as losers now take revenge by supporting populists who use them and their anger. This is the other way anti-civilized marginal forces return. Of course the establishments are not innocent. The marginalization of large segments of society is a major cause.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


The danger for democracy seems to be growing globally. In the developed world especially right wing populists gain increasing support. This is obvious for everybody. This leads to either opportunistic malfunctioning government or autocratic rule or both. And the remedy to control this would also be reduced democracy.

Just one more example of the development will be if Austria elects a racist president.

A crucial difference from the thirties in the last century is that the turn away from democracy then was the result of economic hardship. Today it comes from a general political decline. Voters and many politicians seem not to know and care enough for mature democracy. Of course people havingn lost their economic foundation are especially easy prey for demagogues, but the trend is mainstream.

Also worrying is the corresponding development in the less developped world. Here democracy has only been achieved over the last decades. But already now the trend seems to be reversing in some countries. Turkey is clearly moving back to authoritarian rule. The Philippines have chosen a man directly praising dictatorship and violence. Brazil is especially worrying. The chaos in this big and important country could also lead to a new dictatorship. One could fear that more countries in the less developed world could follow a similar path away from their short-lived democracy.

Obviously lack of long democratic tradition and economic problems can contribute to accelerating the process. But without the global trend so clear in the Northern hemisphere it would not be so ominous. As long as we had functioning mature democracies and not least the consensus that this was the ideal, there existed a colossal pressure on the southern hemisphere to try to reach the same level and ideal.

With types like the often mentioned Trump, Orbán, Kaczyński, Le Pen, Erdogan etc. in the north there is not much good example and ideal left, not any longer a consensus about a stable and responsible democratic government, to press the southern world to achieve, develop and maintain democracy.

As said earlier a stable democracy can only exist as long as the populations are guided by responsible politicians and media. When this guidance is don by the internet, mob rulers and populist demagogues a vicious downward spiral can start. And the contamination spreads.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Diplomacy or personal will

The liberation of Palmyra is just one of the results of the new constructive cooperation between Russia and the United States over Syria. This cooperation is an example of the still surviving elements of the stable old world order, which resulted from mutually recognized spheres of interest and rules for behavior: A moderated proxy war in the third world, pressure and strong statements from both sides, but de facto ignoring hysterical reactions in the press and above all patient step by step diplomatic activity. Much of the same elements also characterized the way to the brilliant nuclear deal with Iran. 

But we may now be entering the era of the Erdogans, Orbáns, Trumps and Le Pens with all the shortsightedness and inconsistency that this implies. With such people as leaders it could be easier  to strike a deal here and now without long negotiations. But it is equally easy to have misnderstandings and sudden changes of minds and policies being determined by personal animosities. The foreign policy of the Western democratic powers with their frequent changes of leaders could become especially inconsistent in such a declined political culture. 

The time of long term international stability could be replaced by lability based on transient changes of mood in the leaders and in the populations, the media and not least in the Internet.

The Greco-Roman world around 100 BC went through a similar transition. Instead of conflicts, wars and treaties between political parties with ideologies and between countries came power struggles and private deals between dominating men as so clearly seen in the triumvirates. Similar developments took place in other civilizations in the last century of their modernities. Just look at the Oriental world in the 11th century where the emerging sultans had a role corresponding to that of the triumvirs. We too are entering the time of the triumvirs. Sudden deals between leaders, sudden disruption of ties, sudden adventures.

In Rome because of the total dominance of this single power the triumvirs were all from the state of Rome. In our case they will be leaders from different big powers.

Stable longterm international relations could gradually become replaced by private deals and breaks between single leaders of the big powers.

Already before this phase we see international politics being disturbed by immature traits apparent in the eastward political and military expansion of NATO and the EU. And the 2014 Russian answer in the form of the ntevention in Eastern Ukraine. Such acts are unnecessary, insensitive and breaking the rules of avoiding provocations. The planned NATO missile shield mostly based in Eastern Europe is the continuation of these insensitive acts.

Such behaviors represent the often mentioned general political decline, here also manifesting itself in international politics.

Another result of this decline in foreign politics is a disappearance of the border between diplomacy and the media and in general the public opinion. The populist leaders merge with and lead the public opinion in their transient moods, and worse, the diplomatic activity will no longer have the freedom from interference needed to reach balanced solutions. The leaders and media will not distinguish between 1) symbolic power demonstrations or mere signals and 2) real threats or problems. What used to be semi-conflicts or games in preparation of and as part of diplomacy, will be perceived as serious threats or provocations demanding immediate action, not only as hitherto by the press, but also by the leaders.

Signals will be confused with reality.

The next step is the full transformation from foreign policies being governed by strategic thinking and diplomacy to a policy determined by the personal will of the rulers. The era of higher forms of foreign policies could sooner or later come to an end. 

Of course the impact of the will of leaders can be partly absorbed by the political and legal system in countries and unions where the power of the leader is clearly limited. But 1) in some countries like Hungary or Turkey these limits are being removed, and 2) where they are not, like in the case of the EU the political decline leads to the impossibility of making decisions.

In powers where the leader already has a constitutionally based strong influence on foreign policies like the United States, Russia and France, the impact from future presidents making personalized foreign politics will be immediate and strong. The emerging inconsistent personalized international relations can become a nightmare for experienced diplomats. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

New Facism or just chaos?

In the current rightwing populism many see a danger for a return to fascism.

But seen apart from small groups like the German NPD, this danger is probably not real, at least not in the developped world. We are in another phase in history, a phase characterized by other political manifestations than we saw in the last century. We are no longer in what I have called mature modernity, but in late or declining modernity. See my post "Decline of Modernity". Mature modernity was characterized by long standing ideologies like Liberalism, Communism and Fascism. It may sound strange to call Fascism a sign of a "mature" modernity. But the word does not imply something good or bad. It is just a name for the fully developped part of modernity with all its good, neutral and bad phenomena.

The character of the three phases of a modernity of a civilization are determined both by the general tendencies of modernities and by the character of the civilization. I have earlier talked about the tendency for certain civilizations to invert to the opposite certain parts of their character during their modernity, typically mostly in the late declining part. We see old China and the West loosing their otherwise typical historical consciousness, dynasticism and elitism. And the Greco-Roman world in its modernity turn toward exactly these traits, which this civilization otherwise does not possess. After modernity the normal old traits come back.

The West like old Egypt and old China were politically and in other respects characterized by long term thinking, and planning ahead. The Greek-Roman civilization was more random with short-sighted decisions only serving the here and now purpose. This is part of the explanation of the somewhat chaotic picture of this civilization with a history marked by an infinite number of internal and external conflicts and wars.

It looks almost like it is the destiny of the Western civilization to approach the traits of this predecessor civilization more and more toward its late modernity: anti-elitism, anti-dynasticism and lack of historical sense. And in addition we see the same chaotic democracy and lack of long term thinking and planning.

These developments are one of the reasons why we cannot view Trump, Marine Le Pen and Orbán as new Hitlers or Francos. Even Hitler had his frightening grandiose very long term plans for the future. Franco's rule was stable for decades.

The new populists, right or leftwing, are opportunists and only thinking and acting for the immediate. The worst is that thiese traits infect the whole pilitical spectrum. Old respectable political parties with proud traditions also begin to behave like this. Politicians  are only  fighting for short term gains: winning over the public oppinion and catch voters. A media campaign or a shit storm can change politics. And worse, such politicians often promote and abuse degrading and xenophobic sentiments.

A functioning bureaucratic administrative system can to a certain extent secure a degree of continuity. But more and more we see politicians interfering with or abusing such systems. Often in the form of incessant changes and reforms or ad hoc measures after public outcries over single cases of bad treatment of a citizen.

It is in this light the new populist parties must be seen. The main danger is not new fascism, but the fact that the inconsistent short term oriented behavior is taking over main stream politics and this even more when populist parties are allowed to take part in governing. And politics conducted this way can have detrimental consequences. Limited planning, ever changing initiatives, crazy measures. Countries that are able to avoid this will have an advantage both internally and in relation to other countries. Perhaps, as said in the last post, a USA ruled by changing populists  could in a random way through adventurous actions take over countries. But confronted with a determined well organized big power the United States could lose the competition for world leadership.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

We've Got a Bigger Problem Now

The results of one Super-Tuesday do not bring the Apocalypse. But together with other new phenomena it points to a frightening change in politics within and between countries and powers.

The decline of politics  was predictable, but I had not foreseen that it should proceed with such a speed. It has been underway for a long time, but has suddenly accelerated over the last two years, partly furthered by the terror from the Islamic State, the related influx of refugees from Syria and the efforts by Mr. Trump.

1) Europe has seen a decisive turn to the worse. Right wing parties profit from the fear of refugees. East Europe sees the same racist and in addition new autocratic tendencies. Also the old hitherto responsible political parties in Europe are more and more infected by shortsighted populism. The EU is viewed with hostility, the UK could even be on the way out. And the whole Union is weakened by these developments and by general centrifugal tendencies to a degree rendering decisions almost impossible.

2) In the USA the Tea Party people and obstruction from the right wing in Congress already seen for some years was bad enough. Now we have Mr. Trump, who makes even Mr. Cruz look responsible. We can just hope there is substance inside even if judging from his oral behavior there is none. That a self-declared Socialist like Sanders wins so many votes in the Land of the Free is also a sign of the changes, even if he looks infinitely much more sympathetic than Trump.

The changes in the American political landscape are beyond anything seen before and cannot simply be viewed as the known occasional anti-establishment tendencies having popped up from time to time before. A type like Trump may not become president in 2017. But the way is now open for this kind of men. And also from outside the presidency such politicians can have a very obstructive and destabilizing influence.

3) Other countries typically, but not only in the Middle East, like Turkey, Israel and Saudi Arabia are also affected by the decline inn both internal and external matters with unpleasant consequences for the stability inn their regions.

The only major bastions of institutionalized functioning stability left could soon be China and Germany. Germany is also on the wrong way. A limit to the influx of refugees seems necessary to stop parts of the population from turning to right wing racist parties.

Instability in a major power can lead to, but does not necessarily imply less power in the world. For competitors to the USA: do not expect advantages from its destabilzation. Its power is not as totally dominant as that of Rome 2100 years ago, but still is tremendous. The Roman picture of simultaneous competing leaders fighting each other, each conquering new provinces, is unlikely, but changing populist US presidents could launch rows of new  adventures abroad both political, on the Internet and even military, destabilizing the world and swallowing new areas into the American sphere.

Through a Europe dissolving into particularism and right wing populism, a Unites States dominated by erratic irresponsible politicians and other countries behaving like children we may be entering a world much more chaotic than the one we know. A world where it takes much talent to navigate.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Decline or remedy?

I have earlier predicted, that we will see more and more signs of the political decline in the form of phenomena like populism, badly prepared legislation and not least obstructionism making administration and legislation difficult or impossible. And to contain and counteract this we will need stronger executive power.

At the same time I have criticized the moves toward greater governmental or even personal power in some countries as a sign of the same political decline. How do these forms of stronger executive power differ from each other?

Obviously the question is whether a strengthened government is a goal in itself to achieve power for certain persons or groups. Or it is a remedy to control and overcome the decline.

When the present leaders of Hungary, Poland and Turkey increase their control, it is a sign of the political decline as it is not necessitated objectively, but only serves to gain more dominance and power. When the present US president uses decrees or other means bypassing Congres, it is in order to manage the lack of governability resulting from the decline.

Of course often matters are not so clearcut as in these examples. When are obstacles for legislation strong enough to justify executive force? Which legislation is important enough? Also motives for stronger governments can at the same time be both governability as such and a wish for power. Worse, over time the two types of motives will tend to fuse more and more. This is clearly to be seen in the figure of Julius Caesar, who lived in a time corresponding to our 21. century.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Saudis and Iranians

There have already been many justified critical comments on the Saudi execution of a Shia cleric. Here I will not add much. Together with the severing of diplomatic relations with Iran it seems to be a deliberate irresponsible act of the same sort as those carried out by Turkey. Sacrificing internal coherence for other purposes. For Erdogan strengthening personal power. For the Saudis sabotaging Iran's integration into int'l politics.

The execution is morally wrong, and on the political level stupid. Anti-Iranian hawks in the West could have used the Iranian rocket program and the provocation by the Revolutionary Guard in the Golf to disrupt Iran's integration. But the Saudi action rightfully turns attention to the semi-barbaric nature of the leading circles in Saudi Arabia.

The adverse effects on the efforts to reach a political settlement in Syria and the fight against ISIS are obvious. But seen in Riyadh as of less relevance or even desired.

The rising ethnic tensions in Saudi Arabia already fueled by the intervention in Yemen will worsen still more. As with the result of the new oppression of the Kurds in Turkey the saudi kingdom faces ethnic tension and conflict. Whether this is a result of political decline as in Turkey or just political immaturity is not clear. It is probably both. It would seem less likely that Sheik Yamani as minister would have sanctioned such policies.

As said in other posts (see Ethnic Cleansing in the Arab World) during the last century the distributed patchwork-nations of the Oriental civilization have been and still are being transformed into Western type territorial nations with a wish for coherent territories. This process often involves ethnic cleansings.

Generalized to the wider Middle Eastern context the execution of the cleric and the resulting conflict with Iran and Shias elsewhere could contribute to the start of a new round of ethnic conflict and cleansing in the Middle East. This time between Shias and Wahhabis or worse Sunnis in general. There have already been attacks on Sunnis in Iraq and new tensions between Sunnis and Shias in Bahrain following the execution. We don't need Sunni-Shia conflicts aggravating and spreading to more countries. And we certainly do not need ethnic cleansing and streams of refugees in an area from Iraq to Yemen. The Middle East has problems enough already!