The events in Egypt came to represent a colourful culmination of yet another fall-summer season in world politics, the keynotes of which are, on the one hand, a general inability to reconcile extremes and find a happy medium, and on the other, total conceptual turmoil. The latter was most clearly manifest in the deposition of democratically-elected Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, which took place under the motto, “the general is the best friend of the liberal”. The army command joined forces with the instigators of the first Tahrir Square protests, who’d been pushed to the side by the Muslim Brotherhood. Legitimacy came into conflict with expediency, and the letter of democracy was at odds with its spirit. Outside forces seem disoriented; it’s no longer possible to make out whom the “forces of progress” favour (that group the USA is so fond of supporting).
The main event of the season… or, to be more precise, an interminable process… is the civil war in Syria, to which no end or limit is in sight. The country is a tangle of antagonisms, with citizens clashing with a régime they call autocratic, faiths clashing with other faiths, and regional powers wrestling with other regional powers over geopolitical advantages. The major powers seem to have an axe to grind, or, possibly, they’re just out to minimise the damage or posture as a world leader. This knot of contradictions has accumulated so much negative energy that the conflict is nowhere near abatement. It seems that the Syrian public, however frightening this may sound, must “have its fill” of this war and catch sight of a point of no return portending a national disaster. Only then, will talk of a peace process and new political models have meaning. Only then, shall foreign mediation have some meaning. So far, the outside forces are behaving as if they were visitors to a vanity fair and are more anxious lest the “right” side that they’re supporting should lose, than to propel the internecine strife toward an end.
Russia and the USA, who have presumptuously volunteered to establish peace in Syria, are behaving rather arrogantly, as if seeking to create the impression that the fate of Syria depends on their agreement (or, as the case may be, lack of agreement). After decades of repressive rule, which the Syrian people may well soon remember as a golden age, the Syrians are fighting for delimitation, not unification. Of course, the external factor is important, but in reality, the fate of the country is being decided on the domestic battlefronts, and neither Moscow nor Washington is able to bring the opponents to the negotiating table. Once again, the EU demonstrated that it lacks unity on Syria, and no consensus is on the cards. They simply agreed that supplying or not supplying arms to the rebels was everyone’s own business, thus sending a signal that a common position was out of reach. The united Europe showed, over the last few months, an aspiration toward consolidation, but again based on disunity and divergence of interests. Germany demonstratively wiped the floor with Cyprus, pronouncing a verdict to the effect that the Cypriot economic model had no right to exist (as German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble put it). Five years ago, when Nicosia was joining the Eurozone, the same model elicited no objections.
Berlin demonstrated to all underachievers… Italy, where one in every four voters favoured a party led by a comedian in the general election; Spain, which was wallowing in debt; Greece, caught in a vice of austerity; and others… that the time for horseplay was over and a “tough struggle for Europe”, to quote Russian political scientist Sergei Karaganov, had begun. To be sure, someone will have to assume responsibility eventually. The EU is likely to become a very different, stratified organization a few years from now, comprising various categories of countries with different rights and capacities. However, it’s unclear how this can be reconciled with the philosophy of solidarity and equality that lies behind the European idea of the latter half of the 20th century.
America’s facing sequestration because the administration and Congress failed to reach an amicable settlement. Barack Obama won the election, but he isn’t a unifying figure… quite the contrary. The USA is looking for new forms of world leadership, and, to this end, is attempting to sort out its priorities. Many interpret the president’s unwillingness to interfere in everything around him as weakness. Washington is automatically expected to be everywhere at the same time and play the decisive role. On the contrary, Obama believes that his administration should address the backlog of existing problems before allowing new ones to pile up. Against this background of abstinence on other issues, the White House’s idea to create an American-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership appears quite assertive. In effect, it’s an attempt to revive, albeit on a new basis, the united political West of the Cold War era. Whether the plan works or not is an open question, but if it does, Russia will have a dilemma as to how to behave in relation to the new economic monster.
The Middle East is still feverish, with waves of popular excitement rolling over the face of the world and engulfing not only problem countries, but also those acknowledged as rising stars. India, Turkey, and Brazil, each for their own reasons, have ended up in the grip of completely unforeseen protests. In contrast, the presidential elections in Iran, proved surprisingly calm… the national leadership managed to reduce the build-up of public pressure and facilitate the coming to power of a moderate and respected person. China, for its part, went through what was perhaps the tensest changing of the guard since the times of Deng Xiaoping. Everything went off smoothly, but there were serious apprehensions about a less-than-successful outcome.
Admittedly, Russia in this season followed a rather direct path, avoiding its typical zigzags. Vladimir Putin consistently implemented the election programme that he suggested in a series of articles early last year. Internationally, the Kremlin’s moves reflected the program particularly closely. Putin described the outside world as an uncontrolled and unpredictable space, where the key players were acting irrationally and seemed bent on shattering the remnants of order. Since the membrane between the two worlds is thinner than ever before, outside turbulence is threatening the inner stability that proved so hard to acquire. Therefore, one must defend and shield the country from the hailstorm of external impulses, including the “unlawful soft power” mentioned by President Putin in his election campaign. All the developments of the last few months have corroborated this idea. However, the Russian public and the government… entirely in the spirit of the global divisive trend… have moved apart, rather than towards each other. There’s a clear conflict between an artificially-cultivated traditionalism (or its simulation) and its rejection by a progressive-minded minority. The authorities are leaning on the majority and tend to give the cold shoulder to the active stratum.
If we sum up the global atmosphere, the prevailing feeling is one of irritation resulting from the fact that nothing is working out as planned, that one can’t reconcile various sections of society, and everyone is dissatisfied with the result, although for different reasons. Those who just recently were posing as arbiters of world destinies are now demonstrating their impotence. America tries to feverishly adapt to the constantly-shifting situation, but is unable to evolve any strategy. Europe plunges into a crisis and its strenuous efforts to show off as a world force resemble a farce. China’s lying low, fearful of contamination from the general instability. A wary Russia is biding its time, preferring to cling to a shaky status quo.
Let’s keep it simple. The USA has only the appearance of a major power (Bush’s unwise tax cuts, wars, and expensive Security State gutted what was left of American power). The Republican Party is doing its best to strangle the American future, in the name of its Affluent Effluent paymasters. Sequestration is their latest attempt to crash the economy. Yes, kids, they want to wreck it DELIBERATELY… then, they can rebuild it without those annoying New Deal programmes. However, its gobbledygook ideology (it’s a “steal from the ordinary folks and give it to the plutocrats” affair) only appeals to Old White Men. Its strongest demographic is Over-70 White Men (that is, those born before 1940)… and that cohort diminishes in each election cycle. Ponder this… Wet Willy Romney’s strongest showing was amongst Old White Men. Jim DeMint saw the handwriting on the wall… as did Rick Perry. Both are getting out of politics (as DeMint put it, “Pandering to angry white men won’t work forever”).
Will the coming America be as stridently nasty and lawless as the present rogue state is? I have no idea… but I do hope not…