Monday, June 26, 2017

China vs populism

I have earlier described how civilizations have individual traits. The present Western civilization like the two Chinese civilizations and old Egypt were characterized by dynasticism, a historic sense, an ability to long term planning ahead, organization and care for ones whole nation and the future. We see a splendid example of this last phenomenon in the Bible where Joseph after interpreting the dream of Pharaoh ordered the long term storage of food.

I have also described how for some civilizations some traits change to the opposite in their modernity, especially in its late phase. This way old China, Meso-America and now the West lost the historic sense and veneration of the past.

The Greco-Roman world had other characteristics such as short time thinking, lack of historic sense and anti-dynasticism. This is why the old Greeks had a chaotic democracy in the classical phase where we in our case had absolute monarchy.

In our modernity dynasticism was replaced by democracy. In the mature modernity in the 20th century this was tempered to a certain degree by the still persisting long term planning and organization. But now in late or declining modernity we are approaching the old Greek chaotic democracy.

This is partly a result of the changing or inversion of certain traits to the opposite in late modernity. On the other hand, most civilizations grow disorganized in their late modernity. The Greco-Roman civilization turned utterly chaotic in its later modernity. Therefore in our case the development is both the typical dissolution and the inversion to the opposite of the classical traits. We can only hope that this double causation will not make the dissolution even worse.

But will the process affect all parts of the world equally? Here it is important that not all of what is now part of the Western world has always been parts of our civilization. Rather, they have their old heritage, as they are in the areas of old civilizations. And these old traits still characterize the new Westernized nations.

These old traits mean that the Western nations are different depending on whether they have foreign earlier civilizations as heritages or not. We have examples of this in the Greek and Roman modernity. The Ptolemaian Egypt was the Hellenized version of old Egypt. It showed more continuity than other post-Alexander the Great states. Probably as a heritage from the old Egyptians with their well organized thinking and planning. Perhaps also the surprising strength of Carthago against Rome could be a heritage from the second Mesopotamian civilization, where the Assyrians demonstrated long term planning indeed in their large scale deportations of peoples in order to change demographics. Both Hellenized Egypt and Hellenized Carthago deem to have better resisted the chaos in the modernity in the Greco-Roman world.

Now in our case we see that China with its heritage of planning and organization show the same resistance against the increasing disorganization in other Western nations.

That we are sliding into new more chaotic times is clear from numerous examples. The recent elections in France was one of the few good developments. But it does not in itself guarantee stability or signify a persisting mature modernity. Very few voted. The new parliamentarians are inexperienced and could in an anarchistic nation like the French soon split into fractions. Reforms can only be sustained if they are followed by immediate results.

In a disorganizing Western modernity a big power which because of its heritage keeps stable has an immense advantage. Only China seems able to make, implement  and sustain long term plans. Both for itself and globally. And as opposed to Cartage it also has  resources matching those of its politically dissolving competetor.

The best example of Westernized China's organized long term policies is the modernization and opening started by Deng Xiaoping and his colleagues. This program has been continued ever since with formidable results. Another great example is the present plan to revive and extend the Silk Road. On the practical level the continuity manifests itself in structural terms and the one -party rule. The confluence of party, business people and intellectuals gives a coherent elite. This is in many ways comparable to and a replacement of the old Confucian elite who secured stability for centuries. But it is a capitalist version. In the old Confucian system capabilities in the form of literacy and administrative abilities gave merit. In the new elite these are supplemented by economic success. Perhaps the most important element in the long term stability and long term policies are the mechanisms and and traditions by which the top of the CCP supplements itself and chooses capable administrators and leaders. This kind of stable meritocracy gives clear advantages, not least compared to democracies decaying into populism. China has become the carrier of some the important traits of the Western civilization, organization, continuity and care for the future. The oppression may be excessive or not, but as opposed to personal dictatorships, it is for a cause: avoiding chaos and securing the future.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The World as scene for personal conflicts

The eroded valleys (see the post) are becoming threatening clear these weeks. A US president under internal pressure over possible links with Putin has no hesitations approaching a direct military conflict between the USA and Russia in Syria. Only to counteract the internal suspicions. The two big powers killing each others soldiers would be a revolutionary development creating a disastrous presedence. The valleys would be further eroded. The road to minor and major military global conflicts would shorten.

An erratic and/or intellectually narrow-minded US foreign policy also undermines world stability by supporting or accepting irresponsible acts and by seeming to run parallel contradictory policies. Does Washington support or condemn Qatar? A greater Israel or peace? As a prelude to new peace-talks Netanyahu, the Israeli Trump, starts a new settlement in the West Bank - for settlers having stolen Palestinian land. Will Saudi Arabia step up measures in Yemen or against Qatar, Iran or Shiites in general? More  than one side can find support in Washington from a presidential statement or a US minister or other member of the administration or the Trump family.

The destabilizing can also concern countries internally. Some fractions can feel supported. Other groups like the Iranian Revolutionary Guards can increase their power because of policies opposing moderate leaders.

Of course all this is not because of the new US president. Rather, he is just one more symptom of a global development. The problem is that under responsible presidents like Obama the USA and the other big powers were stabilizing factors in the world. Of course except for localized and controlled proxy conflicts. When the one superpower become destabilized and also the relations with Russia become unstable, both will act in unpredictable ways. Yet more barriers for acts from leaders of smaller powers are diminished.

With such eroded thresholds for conflict stupid acts like the present from the North Korean regime or fractions therein can also more easily provoke countermeasures with horrible consequences. The first use of a nuclear warhead since Nagasaki would be another horrendous presedence.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

ISIS, Iran and Qatar

ISIS has attacked Iran. If prove was needed, this shows that the terrorists have a clearer view of the Middle East than the new US administration. Iran is closer to the West in life form and democracy than Saudi Arabia and other Arab Golf States. The Iranian people have just reelected the moderate president Rohani.

To adopt the view that Iran is the root of terrorism in the Middle East out of old resentments, Israeli attitudes  and bribe in the form of tremendous orders of military and other equipment, is shortsighted. To drop the nuclear deal with Iran would be stupid.

In a world where the valleys are eroded (see the earlier post), int'l politics must be a careful maneuvering based on full knowledge. Alternative truths may be used to win internal elections. But to reuse an old phrase, the world and in particular the Middle East is certainly not a playground. Alliances can not be based on moods or coincidences. Iran is in many ways a natural ally, not least in the fight against ISIS. Or rather, a balance between relations with the two sides of the Golf may be  a better way to reduce tensions than supporting one side, encouraging irresponsible acts from here. Also, increasing the tensions between Sunnis and Shiites is certainly not helpful. Unless the goal is chaos in this the most complicated region in the world. A region spanning from true barbarians over fighters for the Oriental civilization and peaceful traditionalists to Westernized forces.

Qatar has shown the way, trying to balance between the Arab Peninsula and Iran. Now it pays the price. Of course people in Qatar support terrorists. But this is also the case for other Golf states. The reasons for the isolation of Qatar are the relations with Teheran and of course the pluralism furthered by Al Jazeera.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

A historical announcement

The US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement is bad enough. But what makes the announcement by Mr. Trump extraordinary, is the content and tone used against foreign leaders, not least close allies, being accused of using climate protection only as a pretext for stealing money and jobs from the United States . A such level of disrespect is really remarkable.

It brings reminiscences of the Roman treatment of foreign countries in the time ending with the Roman swallowing of more and more states.

That Trump for the time being is under pressure, also from his own party, gives little comfort. The Republican party is full of the same resentments against the world and even the EU allies. The president has now given precedence for such outbursts. It is as if the rest of the world is seen as irritating appendices. This may seem unwarranted taken into consideration the size of other powers . But with the total dominance of the United States in IT and its rising military force, a political leadership in Washington full of despise against the world can still be unpleasant.

Therefore the announcement by Mr. Trump is historical.