World according to Kissinger
At a IMPACT 08 session Henry Kissinger outlined the state of the world facing the next president. He was much more sparse with his recommendations. You will find his comments in capital letters. My observations on them in black.
YOU KNOW, I THINK THE MOST USEFUL THING HE CAN DO FOR HIMSELF IS TRY TO UNDERSTAND THE NATURE OF THE INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT THAT HE FACES RATHER THAN TO SEGMENT IT INTO A SERIES OF SPECIFIC ISSUES REQUIRING A QUICK ANSWER. AND HE WILL BE FACING A SITUATION IN WHICH DIFFERENT PARTS OF THE WORLD ARE GOING THROUGH DIFFERENT CHANGES. THERE ARE A WHOLE SERIES OF CHANGES GOING ON GLOBALLY WHICH HAS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE, BUT THEY DON'T NECESSARILY FOLLOW THE SAME RHYTHM OR CAN BE HANDLED WITH THE SAME ANSWERS.
But was there a period in history about which the same observation could not be made? Still, it's worth considering.
IF YOU TAKE EUROPE, OR THE ATLANTIC AREA, WHEN I WENT TO COLLEGE, WHEN I TAUGHT IN COLLEGE, WHEN IN TERMS OF THE STATE SYSTEM, THE STATE AS WE HAVE KNOWN IT HISTORICALLY IS DECLINING IN EUROPE AND THEY ARE TRYING TO FORM THE EUROPEAN UNION, BUT THEY ARE BETWEEN THEIR PAST, WHICH HAS REJECTED THE FUTURE THEY HAVEN'T YET REACHED. AND THAT CREATES A SITUATION IN WHICH THE GOVERNMENTS WHICH ARE STILL HELD RESPONSIBLE IN SITUATIONS LIKE THE FINANCIAL CRISIS DO NOT HAVE THE SAME NATIONAL AUTHORITY THAT THEY HAD BEFORE. SO HOW DO YOU DIVIDE A GLOBAL SYSTEM OF ECONOMICS IN WHICH THE POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC ARE NOT SYNCHRONIZED. THAT IS THE PROBLEM IN EUROPE -- OR A PROBLEM.
The question is not only which Europe would be a more useful American ally, a United States of Europe (USE) or a multi-state Europe but which would make a more useful American ally?. One thing is certain, as long as Europeans fail to solve their internal contradiction, their political influence is bound to remain limited to the American intellectual elite.
As far as the rest of the world is concerned, Europe is a helpless economic giant which is unlikely to lead the world out of its current economic morass.
THEN YOU HAVE ASIA WHICH IS MORE LIKE 19TH CENTURY EUROPE, IN THE SENSE THAT THE COUNTRIES THINK OF EACH OTHER AS STRATEGIC RIVALS. IN ASIA IT'S CONCEIVABLE BUT NOT LIKELY.
I am surprised by his optimism and wish I could share it. As Pakistan is also part of this Asian 19th century state system and this system also has a 19th century alliance one. In that sense, Pakistan may play the role the Austrian-Hungarian empire played in pre-W.W.I.Europe. For the Pakistani state is as under siege by Islamist forces as the Austro-Hungarian Empire was under siege by nationalist ones.
THEN WE HAVE THE COMPLEX ISSUES IN THE MIDDLE EAST IN WHICH THE STATES CREATED AFTER WORLD WAR I ARE CONSIDERED AND SOME UNIVERSAL IDEOLOGY IS ATTEMPTING TO REPLACE THEM AND WE ARE ATTEMPTING TO CREATE A STRUCTURE AND THAT PRODUCES THE ISSUE, IT'S LIKE, IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN, PAKISTAN, IRAN, WHICH REALLY HAVE TO BE LOOKED AT IN -- AS A COMPLEX AND IN ADDITION, IT'S A WHOLE SET OF PROBLEMS WHICH ARE UNIQUE IN HISTORY THAT IS GLOBAL PROBLEMS WHICH CAN ONLY BE DEALT WITH ON A GLOBAL BASIS.
In other words, Kissinger notes that a "universal ideology" is challenging the post Colonial structure. He is clearly referring to Islamism but he fails to name the problem. Indeed, this is as close as any of the speakers at this session came to even hinting at the central challenge to world peace.
What does that mean? It means that just as the great depression provided a useful cover for the totalitarian systems of the 20th century so the current economic crisis is providing a useful cover for Islamism and resurgent authoritarianism.
If Obama is elected president, it would be in part attributable to this reluctance to confront the Islamist hyenas and the wish to hope against hope that they will devour each other or at least go away. I know the US has done much to weaken the pack in the past 8 years but I doubt it did enough. Biden is right. A president Obama, unlike a president McCain, is bound to tempt these hyenas. Blood will be shed. The only remaining question is whose and how much?