Previous posts in this discussion:
PostWhat is the Risk of War among the Major Powers? (Tor Guimaraes, USA, 09/13/21 3:15 am)
I think Hall Gardner (September 12th) made some truthful statements which I wish to echo and expand on.
Hall wrote, "The deep dilemma we face is to prevent the clash between the values of 'democracy,' 'human rights,' and 'responsibility to protect' versus the defense of state 'sovereignty' and the 'non-interference in the internal affairs of States.'"
There is significant risk of accidental war between the major powers, but we all know that nuclear war is the end for all mankind. Not even someone like Trump would be allowed to do it. I think in practice the dilemma is how to balance "democracy" where a minority is really in charge (a form of authoritarianism) against some form of theocracy (another form of authoritarianism), against some form of real democracy (democratic capitalism with strong social safety nets), against the concept of socialism/capitalism with Chinese characteristics.
Obviously "it is not impossible for former rivals to become Allies," as Hall wrote. The EU, despite its many warts, is still ongoing and an impressive example of such a unification. Also, lately China and Russia are well on their way to a deepening partnership. To me the interesting experiment is how the Chinese BRI initiative will play out socially, politically, and economically in the next few decades, despite the numerous attempts by the US government to sabotage the experiment by any covert means possible. While superficial on the surface (primarily a trading partnership), the BRI's impressive infrastructure development component has great social political implications. If the Initiative fully works, it will make the EU experiment look like child's play into the next century.
I agree that "we are entering into rough times," with many difficult choices, because the old paradigms are falling apart and are being replaced by new ones. We are clearly in uncharted territory: the US government imposing world hegemony by military means is clearly bankrupt by now; the amazing American social political economic experiment with rampant Capitalism is now quickly falling apart socially and politically, hanging on economically by the financial thread of the US Dollar as a reserve currency; Socialism with Chinese characteristics is the new kid to be contained and envied; world government by US/Western rules is not widely acceptable anymore. Finally, there will be a period of major conflict between the forces of Nationalism and Globalism, International laws (institutions) versus American/Western rules, the force of military power versus the force of the laws, etc.
JE comments: I concur that a major war would be "accidental," but look at what happened in 1914. Our advantage of course is what we (hopefully) learned after the Sarajevo assassination. My question for the WAISitudes is whether these times are particularly dangerous for war, or whether everyone is too busy healing from the pandemic and licking their myriad wounds--nursing black eyes, or however you prefer to phrase it. Ever the optimist, I'm leaning towards the latter.
Hall Gardner, who initiated this conversation, has already sent an opening statement on why the present looks rather like 1913 or 1938. Give me a few hours to publish it--my day job beckons.
Today's Risks of Accidental War...or Intentional War
(Tor Guimaraes, USA
09/15/21 10:29 AM)
When commenting on my most recent WAIS post, John E asked "whether these times are particularly dangerous for war, or whether everyone is too busy healing from the pandemic and licking their myriad wounds."
I think the probability of accidental war is higher for the near term for two reasons: too many regional conflicts potentially ready to explode or already going on, and the two global teams are feeling each other out much more intensively than during the US/USSR Cold War.
However, the probability of global war which could escalate to nuclear and humanity's destruction is quickly being reduced for three reasons: everyone knows about assured mutual nuclear destruction; I hope that increasingly humans realize that we are already fighting for our lives and losing global wars against viruses, bacteria, the destruction of our planet's biosphere, famine, ignorance, etc.; and increasingly the world is bipolar with the China/Russia bloc potentially increasingly more powerful unless the US galvanizes Western nations into a more effective team socially, politically and economically. Such bi-polarization will result in a globally more stable geopolitical framework akin to the US/USSR detente.
Needless to say, for the first time in ages, I am hopeful that to counter the Chinese BRI, the US will have to straighten its social politics out to compete successfully, otherwise in a few decades we will turn into a very large banana republic or will be destroyed by civil war. I hope it is not too late, but the jury is still out because it will be extremely difficult to shake off our plutocratic form of government.
JE comments: We're in geopolitical times more intense than the Cold War? For 40 years both NATO and the Warsaw Pact organized nearly all their military thinking around a war with the opposite camp. At present, nobody agrees on who the enemy is. China? A Russo-China axis? Non-state actors with rogue-state sponsors?
Tor Guimaraes places a lot of stock in Mutually Assured Destruction as a deterrent for war. It's been a long time since we've discussed "MADness" on WAIS. Is anything different now from, say, 1989? My biggest fear: a non-stater getting the Bomb. MAD doesn't cut it when you don't even offer a territory for retaliation.
And finally, a very abstract question: is there such a thing as "accidental" war? Unforeseen wars, perhaps, and skirmishes can certainly "happen" in stress zones. But mobilization doesn't occur by accident.
Are the Present Times More Dangerous than the Cold War Era?
(Eugenio Battaglia, Italy
09/17/21 2:21 AM)
Excellent, as usual, the post of Tor Guimaraes and the comments of our esteemed moderator (15 September).
However, I believe the political situation of the world is presently more "intense" than during the Cold War: The feud between the US and the Soviet empires was, after all, a feud between two powers derived from European civilization which, at least theoretically after the Stalin era, were following the same rules and International Conventions.
Now the situation is completely different. The Empire is no no longer ruled by wise leaders; its Deep State is out of control. The European countries are tired of the incompetence of said leaders and of their policies that have antagonized Russia, which could have become a very good partner.
Now Europe is in a liquid-gas crisis. In Italy, starting in October, a 40% rise in price is expected due to short supply.
Some years ago I wrote in favor of the South Stream Gasduct, built by Italians and connecting Russia with Italy, but it was banned by the Empire. I was told by a WAIS colleague that it was economically useless (sic). In face of the present crisis and of the completion of North Stream 2, I believe instead that I was correct.
China historically has not been a warmonger country, but it has its interests and priorities. It cannot renounce Taiwan or the China Sea. Here a war by accident could easily flare up. Just suppose a US (or NATO) Navy ship in the region enters into what she (female for ship) believes to be international waters, close to a newly built Chinese island. She receives from a Chinese Navy ship the order to get out. The US/NATO ship does not obey, and the guns start firing.
We also have the extremist Islamists who do not follow any civilized conventions. Their terrorism can explode in a chain of incidents involving also the great powers.
Finally, we have the Israel (and Saudi Arabia)-Iran feud. Lately, Israel has been ruled by warmongers who would like to involve the Empire in a proxy war for Israel against Iran. Remember the speech of Netanyahu at the UN, almost another Colin Powell. So far, Israel has bombed and killed in many places without consequences, but suppose that the next shot ends up on someone who finally retaliates for good?
The situation is bleak, and becoming bleaker and bleaker.
From this point of view of World Peace, the Empire has made many mistakes. The first was Carter's decision of 3 July 1979 in favor of the Taliban. Perhaps the greatest was after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact on 1 July 1991. Instead of being expanded, NATO should have been dissolved at that time and transformed into an alliance without any military bases outside of the national borders of the US. (With the money saved the US could have probably repaired all its crumbling bridges...in gold.).
The Empire should have also permitted its "allies" some freedom of action within the limit of the said alliance.
For instance, let's have a look at Italy.
On a few occasions, Italy attempted autonomous actions to create the peaceful cooperation of all countries of the Mediterranean area.
The first one in the 1950s and early '60s, with its leaders as Fanfani, La Pira, and moreover with Enrico Mattei, founder of ENI.
The first two were politically eliminated. while the third was "assassinated" in an air accident on 27 October 1962. Again Bettino Craxi in the 1980 tried the same plan but ended up dying in Tunisia in 2000.
The third case with Berlusconi ended with a plot from the judiciary. Berlusconi had transformed Gaddafi into a very good friend of Italy and we all know how that ended--with Hillary Clinton's exclamation: "We came, we saw, he died." Libya is now a den of terrorists, half under a hostile Putin and the other half under a very unreliable Erdogan.
Furthermore, the Gladio, which was founded as a means of resistance in case of a Soviet invasion, under the direction of the CIA became a tool, even with terrorist means, to carry out the policies of Italy.
JE comments: To channel the late Donald Rumsfeld, the Cold War was a period of "known" unknowns. Now, we don't even know what our unknowns are. Case in point: we (meaning, just about everyone, including WAISers) had stopped paying attention to Afghanistan. We now have no shortage of Monday-morning quarterbacks, but even the most prescient specialists did not envision a Taliban takeover in, what, eleven days?
By all accounts, we also screwed up in Libya. While never exactly "our" bastard, Gaddafi had mellowed markedly in the present millennium. But what could have been done differently during the Arab Spring? Send military aid to prop up Gaddafi?
Eugenio, please tell us more about the Gladio, Italy's "stay-behind" paramilitary force in case of Soviet occupation. Most nations in Europe had similar organizations. This is one facet of the Cold War few of us know about.
- Are the Present Times More Dangerous than the Cold War Era? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 09/17/21 2:21 AM)