Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Regional Polarity

One of the dominant themes of the coming decades will be a transition between a mostly-unipolar America-dominated world to a truly multipolar world. This change will happen across many fronts, but the most significant will be on the front of economics; the Washington consensus will end, American dollars won't be the international currency, and American-style capitalism will no longer be promoted through the UN and other international bodies. Some of this is due to correctable problems that America has failed to correct; problems that would require a boldness and willingness to tackle problems through fundamental change that our government is too senile to consider. Some of this was due to American dominance being necessarily a temporary thing due to how international trade and development work. The changes will be humbling and unpleasant for America, partly because any decrease in prominence/power is painful, and partly because America is unprepared. The immediate winners will be China, India, and Brasil. In the meantime, we will need stronger regional and international institutions to keep the peace (both in the soft-power and hard-power ways).

The Arab League is of particular interest, in that while it was once a club of autocrats (and the tribes that supported them), the Arab Spring has caused a climate shift for both the remaining autocratic powers and the newly democratic ones. Leaders, either out of genuine concern, a desire to play for regional hegemony, or more cynical ploys, have criticised and shown willingness to intervene in conflicts that a decade ago would've gathered a sad shrug. The Arab League may still be almost as ineffective as the United Nations in directly preventing conflict, but it is much more of a politically active force than it ever has been.

What can we hope for in Syria? It would be nice to see the Assad regime partly or totally swept away. It would be nice to see the Arab League authorise or conduct the mission, although it strengthening to the level where it would be capable of that without having had time to strengthen its institution would pose risks. An end to the deaths would also be nice, although if a ceasefure would prevent a revolution, it probably would be unwise.

One type of interaction to watch is the divide between the old powers/institutions and the new ones (in some cases, the rate of transformation of the old powers is rapid enough to demand new analyses of their intents and traditions, others might not require this so much). China has been incredibly active in creating economic dependencies with client states in Africa (and to a lesser extent Latin America), offering development aid in exchange for access to resources and assurances that their new clients will tow the Chinese line on China's national security (Tibet, Taiwan, for starts). China's style of capitalism is not at all like the Washington consensus, and will become increasingly common; just as the Soviet Union politically bound other countries to Moscow through the Warsaw pact, China will ecopolitically bind other countries to Beijing through the Yuan. Chinese power is set to continue to rise. Russia, another country pressing against humanitarian intervention, does so largely because its democratic transition has stalled in effective autocracy (in politics only moderately more healthy than Lukashenko's dictatorship in nearby Belarus) and its political fragility has positioned the country to crippling instability if it attempts to fix its issues. These two nations have blocked any attempts to gather an alliance to do peacekeeping in Syria. Russia, like America, is a dying empire, while China has a moderately bright future. India and Brasil so far have had a very soft voice in foreign policy, Brasil because its development has been more recent and uninterrupted and so it has been inward-looking, India probably because differences between its states make its ability to have effective policy something managed quietly behind closed doors in domestic policy rather than the kind of public voice demanded in foreign policy; apart from its low-grade conflict with Pakistan, technocratic leadership like that of India's current PM Singh suits the nation that doesn't seem to yet have a vision for how it wants to shape the world.

What will Brasilian and Indian foreign policy look like as they continue to develop? Is the non-aligned movement still relevant now that we're both past the Cold War and moving past the era of American dominance?

And for America, is there anything more we'd like to manage while we still have the amount of power we have? We probably arn't going to fix our problems to slow our decline/keep us competitive, so do we have any values we'd like to push? Should we start to revise the Washington Consensus to something livable for us while we're not running the thing? We don't have a lot of time left before American Exceptionalism will fade from an ugly fact (that occasionally let us do good things) into history.

Commentary is still rolling in on the story of the US Marines that took videos of themselves peeing on Talibani corpses. I'm pretty disappointed at a lot of the commentary; I may find the "dead bodies are no longer human so it doesn't matter that much" perspective understandable, but the visceral "let's get revenge on those fuckers" reaction is one I have no sympathy for. Are we not civilised?

Sometime soonish I'll probably be summarising a rather long argument (regarding tor) I'm having with a friend on twitter; it's tiptoed a bit into new ground, and I generally find it a worthwhile exercise to try to summarise one's opponent's perspectives on a topic in a way they might agree with (without giving up on one's own perspectives). The discussion feels like it might be winding to a close, perhaps.

Recently I've been rocking out to a fair number of bands that do covers of music from the Megaman series.

Tags: politics

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