Sunday, April 9, 2017

Eroded valleys

The American bombing of a Syrian military base is a good example of the new way of foreign policies. Personal moods or personal needs for a certain image can cause sudden changes of policy. And the potentially farreaching consequences show the unstable or meta-stable condition we are in now.

Earlier in the more stable era, int'l policies and acts moved in what can be seen as a potential valley. With time the world was moving along the direction of this valley. The bottom was the average condition of relations between powers. Deviations were possible, but as they were movements up the slopes of the valley, they were counteracted. Therefore their effects were limited in time and magnitude. And conditions were normalized sooner or later.

If situations became sufficiently loaded with conflict, there could be major changes. This typically could happen after a build up of tensions over a longer time. The limitations of the slopes of the valley were no longer sufficient to inhibit game-changing acts and their consequences. A good example of this was the beginning of the First World War. Here a terrorist act succeeded in starting a big war which resulted in a new stable condition, but with a radically changed world. A new valley had been formed.

What constitutes the slopes of a such valley, are things like traditions, historical ancoring, cultural resources, written and unwritten mutual understandings, rules of conduct and not least diplomatic experience. Our modernity has till now been followed by these characteristics. Therefore we have moved along stable valleys only occasionally interrupted by major upheavals.

But now the characteristics are being eroded. The slopes become less steep. The inhibitions from tradition, knowledge and rules are disappearing. The predictability of the direction is lost. A change of mood can quickly lead us out of the now flat valleys into unknown territories.

This is he era we are moving into now. The Trumps, Erdogans and Le Pens can change the world over night after or without provocations. Soon anything can happen. Smaller and bigger wars on the ground and in cyberspace can suddenly start this way. The Roman world in the last century of the Republic functioned the same unstable way. Only, here the conflicts were between leaders from this one power. In our case they will be between leaders from different powers. Our triumvirates will be between such leaders.

As said, the direction of politics can change anytime into new directions, but as politics as such in the form of ideologies lose importance, the real changes will only concern who rules.

For politicians who still have a cool mind, it will take lots of patience and ingenuity to contain the consequences of the acts and changes made by erratic leaders. That even Germany supports the bombings, shows the level of appeasement judged necessary faced with an easily provoked world leader.

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