[discuss] (OT?) Toward a Global Realignment
willi.uebelherr at riseup.net
Tue May 17 18:20:18 UTC 2016
maybe, some or many of you think, this text from Zbigniew Brzezinski
have not much to do with our themes, the telecommunication in form of a
I see this very different. Zbigniew Brzezinski comes from another sphere
and another time. But he know, that we live in the time of change to
He works for the conservation of traditional geo-political structures
and models. We, maybe, work for the global cooperation.
If anyone of you know the spanish version, please let me know. I need it
for our friends in Latin America.
many greetings, willi
Toward a Global Realignment
As its era of global dominance ends, the United States needs to take the
lead in realigning the global power architecture.
Five basic verities regarding the emerging redistribution of global
political power and the violent political awakening in the Middle East
are signaling the coming of a new global realignment.
The first of these verities is that the United States is still the
world’s politically, economically, and militarily most powerful entity
but, given complex geopolitical shifts in regional balances, it is no
longer the globally imperial power. But neither is any other major power.
The second verity is that Russia is experiencing the latest convulsive
phase of its imperial devolution. A painful process, Russia is not
fatally precluded – if it acts wisely – from becoming eventually a
leading European nation-state. However, currently it is pointlessly
alienating some of its former subjects in the Islamic southwest of its
once extensive empire, as well as Ukraine, Belarus, and Georgia, not to
mention the Baltic States.
The third verity is that China is rising steadily, if more slowly as of
late, as America’s eventual coequal and likely rival; but for the time
being it is careful not to pose an outright challenge to America.
Militarily, it seems to be seeking a breakthrough in a new generation of
weapons while patiently enhancing its still very limited naval power.
The fourth verity is that Europe is not now and is not likely to become
a global power. But it can play a constructive role in taking the lead
in regard to transnational threats to global wellbeing and even human
survival. Additionally, Europe is politically and culturally aligned
with and supportive of core U.S. interests in the Middle East, and
European steadfastness within NATO is essential to an eventually
constructive resolution of the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
The fifth verity is that the currently violent political awakening among
post-colonial Muslims is, in part, a belated reaction to their
occasionally brutal suppression mostly by European powers. It fuses a
delayed but deeply felt sense of injustice with a religious motivation
that is unifying large numbers of Muslims against the outside world; but
at the same time, because of historic sectarian schisms within Islam
that have nothing to do with the West, the recent welling up of
historical grievances is also divisive within Islam.
Taken together as a unified framework, these five verities tell us that
the United States must take the lead in realigning the global power
architecture in such a way that the violence erupting within and
occasionally projected beyond the Muslim world—and in the future
possibly from other parts of what used to be called the Third World—can
be contained without destroying the global order. We can sketch this new
architecture by elaborating briefly each of the five foregoing verities.
First, America can only be effective in dealing with the current Middle
Eastern violence if it forges a coalition that involves, in varying
degrees, also Russia and China. To enable such a coalition to take
shape, Russia must first be discouraged from its reliance on the
unilateral use of force against its own neighbors—notably Ukraine,
Georgia, the Baltic States—and China should be disabused of the idea
that selfish passivity in the face of the rising regional crisis in the
Middle East will prove to be politically and economically rewarding to
its ambitions in the global arena. These shortsighted policy impulses
need to be channeled into a more farsighted vision.
Second, Russia is becoming for the first time in its history a truly
national state, a development that is as momentous as it is generally
overlooked. The Czarist Empire, with its multinational but largely
politically passive population, came to an end with World War I and the
Bolshevik creation of an allegedly voluntary union of national republics
(the USSR), with power resting effectively in Russian hands, took its
place. The collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991 led to the
sudden emergence of a predominantly Russian state as its successor, and
to the transformation of the former Soviet Union’s non-Russian
“republics” into formally independent states. These states are now
consolidating their independence, and both the West and China—in
different areas and different ways—are exploiting that new reality to
Russia’s disadvantage. In the meantime, Russia’s own future depends on
its ability to become a major and influential nation-state that is part
of a unifying Europe. Not to do so could have dramatically negative
consequences for Russia’s ability to withstand growing
territorial-demographic pressure from China, which is increasingly
inclined as its power grows to recall the “unequal” treaties Moscow
imposed on Beijing in times past.
Third, China’s dramatic economic success requires enduring patience and
the country’s awareness that political haste will make for social waste.
The best political prospect for China in the near future is to become
America’s principal partner in containing global chaos of the sort that
is spreading outward (including to the northeast) from the Middle East.
If it is not contained, it will contaminate Russia’s southern and
eastern territories as well as the western portions of China. Closer
relations between China and the new republics in Central Asia, the
post-British Muslim states in Southwest Asia (notably Pakistan) and
especially with Iran (given its strategic assets and economic
significance), are the natural targets of Chinese regional geopolitical
outreach. But they should also be targets of global Sino-American
Fourth, tolerable stability will not return to the Middle East as long
as local armed military formations can calculate that they can be
simultaneously the beneficiaries of a territorial realignment while
selectively abetting extreme violence. Their ability to act in a savage
manner can only be contained by increasingly effective—but also
selective—pressure derived from a base of U.S.-Russian-Chinese
cooperation that, in turn, enhances the prospects for the responsible
use of force by the region’s more established states (namely, Iran,
Turkey, Israel, and Egypt). The latter should also be the recipients of
more selective European support. Under normal circumstances, Saudi
Arabia would be a significant player on that list, but the current
inclination of the Saudi government still to foster Wahhabi fanaticism,
even while engaged in ambitious domestic modernization efforts, raises
grave doubts regarding Saudi Arabia’s ability to play a regionally
significant constructive role.
Fifth, special attention should be focused on the non-Western world’s
newly politically aroused masses. Long-repressed political memories are
fueling in large part the sudden and very explosive awakening energized
by Islamic extremists in the Middle East, but what is happening in the
Middle East today may be just the beginning of a wider phenomenon to
come out of Africa, Asia, and even among the pre-colonial peoples of the
Western Hemisphere in the years ahead.
Periodic massacres of their not-so-distant ancestors by colonists and
associated wealth-seekers largely from western Europe (countries that
today are, still tentatively at least, most open to multiethnic
cohabitation) resulted within the past two or so centuries in the
slaughter of colonized peoples on a scale comparable to Nazi World War
II crimes: literally involving hundreds of thousands and even millions
of victims. Political self-assertion enhanced by delayed outrage and
grief is a powerful force that is now surfacing, thirsting for revenge,
not just in the Muslim Middle East but also very likely beyond.
Much of the data cannot be precisely established, but taken
collectively, they are shocking. Let just a few examples suffice. In the
16th century, due largely to disease brought by Spanish explorers, the
population of the native Aztec Empire in present-day Mexico declined
from 25 million to approximately one million. Similarly, in North
America, an estimated 90 percent of the native population died within
the first five years of contact with European settlers, due primarily to
diseases. In the 19th century, various wars and forced resettlements
killed an additional 100,000. In India from 1857-1867, the British are
suspected of killing up to one million civilians in reprisals stemming
from the Indian Rebellion of 1857. The British East India Company’s use
of Indian agriculture to grow opium then essentially forced on China
resulted in the premature deaths of millions, not including the directly
inflicted Chinese casualties of the First and Second Opium Wars. In the
Congo, which was the personal holding of Belgian King Leopold II, 10-15
million people were killed between 1890 and 1910. In Vietnam, recent
estimates suggest that between one and three million civilians were
killed from 1955 to 1975.
As to the Muslim world in Russia’s Caucasus, from 1864 and 1867, 90
percent of the local Circassian population was forcibly relocated and
between 300,000 and 1.5 million either starved to death or were killed.
Between 1916 and 1918, tens of thousands of Muslims were killed when
300,000 Turkic Muslims were forced by Russian authorities through the
mountains of Central Asia and into China. In Indonesia, between 1835 and
1840, the Dutch occupiers killed an estimated 300,000 civilians. In
Algeria, following a 15-year civil war from 1830-1845, French brutality,
famine, and disease killed 1.5 million Algerians, nearly half the
population. In neighboring Libya, the Italians forced Cyrenaicans into
concentration camps, where an estimated 80,000 to 500,000 died between
1927 and 1934.
More recently, in Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989 the Soviet Union is
estimated to have killed around one million civilians; two decades
later, the United States has killed 26,000 civilians during its 15-year
war in Afghanistan. In Iraq, 165,000 civilians have been killed by the
United States and its allies in the past 13 years. (The disparity
between the reported number of deaths inflicted by European colonizers
compared with the United States and its allies in Iraq and Afghanistan
may be due in part to the technological advances that have resulted in
the more productive use of force and in part as well to a shift in the
world’s normative climate.) Just as shocking as the scale of these
atrocities is how quickly the West forgot about them.
In today’s postcolonial world, a new historical narrative is emerging. A
profound resentment against the West and its colonial legacy in Muslim
countries and beyond is being used to justify their sense of deprivation
and denial of self-dignity. A stark example of the experience and
attitudes of colonial peoples is well summarized by the Senegalese poet
David Diop in “Vultures”:
In those days,
When civilization kicked us in the face
The vultures built in the shadow of their talons
The blood stained monument of tutelage…
Given all this, a long and painful road toward an initially limited
regional accommodation is the only viable option for the United States,
Russia, China, and the pertinent Middle Eastern entities. For the United
States, that will require patient persistence in forging cooperative
relationships with some new partners (particularly Russia and China) as
well as joint efforts with more established and historically rooted
Muslim states (Turkey, Iran, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia if it can detach
its foreign policy from Wahhabi extremism) in shaping a wider framework
of regional stability. Our European allies, previously dominant in the
region, can still be helpful in that regard.
A comprehensive U.S. pullout from the Muslim world favored by domestic
isolationists, could give rise to new wars (for example, Israel vs.
Iran, Saudi Arabia vs. Iran, a major Egyptian intervention in Libya) and
would generate an even deeper crisis of confidence in America’s globally
stabilizing role. In different but dramatically unpredictable ways,
Russia and China could be the geopolitical beneficiaries of such a
development even as global order itself becomes the more immediate
geopolitical casualty. Last but not least, in such circumstances a
divided and fearful Europe would see its current member states searching
for patrons and competing with one another in alternative but separate
arrangements among the more powerful trio.
A constructive U.S. policy must be patiently guided by a long-range
vision. It must seek outcomes that promote the gradual realization in
Russia (probably post-Putin) that its only place as an influential world
power is ultimately within Europe. China’s increasing role in the Middle
East should reflect the reciprocal American and Chinese realization that
a growing U.S.-PRC partnership in coping with the Middle Eastern crisis
is an historically significant test of their ability to shape and
enhance together wider global stability.
The alternative to a constructive vision, and especially the quest for a
one-sided militarily and ideologically imposed outcome, can only result
in prolonged and self-destructive futility. For America, that could
entail enduring conflict, fatigue, and conceivably even a demoralizing
withdrawal to its pre-20th century isolationism. For Russia, it could
mean major defeat, increasing the likelihood of subordination in some
fashion to Chinese predominance. For China, it could portend war not
only with the United States but also, perhaps separately, with either
Japan or India or with both. And, in any case, a prolonged phase of
sustained ethnic, quasi-religious wars pursued through the Middle East
with self-righteous fanaticism would generate escalating bloodshed
within and outside the region, and growing cruelty everywhere.
The fact is that there has never been a truly “dominant” global power
until the emergence of America on the world scene. Imperial Great
Britain came close to becoming one, but World War I and later World War
II not only bankrupted it but also prompted the emergence of rival
regional powers. The decisive new global reality was the appearance on
the world scene of America as simultaneously the richest and militarily
the most powerful player. During the latter part of the 20th century no
other power even came close.
That era is now ending. While no state is likely in the near future to
match America’s economic-financial superiority, new weapons systems
could suddenly endow some countries with the means to commit suicide in
a joint tit-for-tat embrace with the United States, or even to prevail.
Without going into speculative detail, the sudden acquisition by some
state of the capacity to render America militarily inferior would spell
the end of America’s global role. The result would most probably be
global chaos. And that is why it behooves the United States to fashion a
policy in which at least one of the two potentially threatening states
becomes a partner in the quest for regional and then wider global
stability, and thus in containing the least predictable but potentially
the most likely rival to overreach. Currently, the more likely to
overreach is Russia, but in the longer run it could be China.
Since the next twenty years may well be the last phase of the more
traditional and familiar political alignments with which we have grown
comfortable, the response needs to be shaped now. During the rest of
this century, humanity will also have to be increasingly preoccupied
with survival as such on account of a confluence of environmental
challenges. Those challenges can only be addressed responsibly and
effectively in a setting of increased international accommodation. And
that accommodation has to be based on a strategic vision that recognizes
the urgent need for a new geopolitical framework.
*The author acknowledges the helpful contribution of his research
assistant Paul Wasserman, and the scholarship on the subject of colonial
brutality by Adam Hochschild, Richard Pierce, William Polk, and the
Watson Institute at Brown University, among others.
Zbigniew Brzezinski is a counselor at the Center for Strategic and
International Studies and was the National Security Advisor to President
Jimmy Carter from 1977-81. He is the author, most recently, of Strategic
Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power.
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