As hard as it is to believe, and as hard as it is to comprehend, we are quickly moving toward World War III. It's strange in a way that the causes and signs of the impending war are wrapped like an onion - in many layers. This post is dedicated to unwrapping some of those layers, and giving people a point of reference for what's happening to their world before their very eyes.
1. Economic Dominance equals Power.
Since the mid 1970's the US has dominated world power when it struck a deal with Saudi Arabia to have all world oil transactions conducted in US dollars. That caused currencies around the world to be valued against the US dollar rather than the previous gold standard. In recent decades the Russians and Chinese have positioned themselves to challenge Saudi's oil domination for exports and American domination in manufacturing and commerce. In 2010 the Russians and Chinese began aggressively pushing for a new world reserve currency that better reflected the strength of the world's economies (specifically the amount of debt countries carried).
After decades of a cheap manufacturing/labour policy in China, the US had become a "fat cat" living on the glories of past economic discipline. Its national debt, much of it held by China, has come as a result of capitalism's weakest flank - the race to the bottom of the "lowest possible price". US corporations built their profits on it over the last 25 years, and the Chinese were only too happy to accommodate American corporations greed. China has now turned those profits, held in US dollars (in the trillions) into a weapon, or what is commonly referred to as the "Chinese Nuke". While maneuvering to have their Yuan installed as the world reserve currency, and thereby overtaking the US in economic and political dominance in the world, China has held the threat of mass de-dollarization , and a fire sale of US debt, over the Americans head. In essence, the Chinese have placed the US, and the rest of the Western world in checkmate using capitalism - which is ironic considering it remains a communist country.
That leaves the Western world with two choices: 1. Accept that China and Russia have beaten them at their own game, and turn over world economic and political power; or 2. Engage China and Russia with the only possible advantage they still have - armed force.
2. Bi-Polar World
As a key part of its strategy to deny the US sole world power status, China and Russia have focused a great deal of their wealth on creating the "BRIC Alliance" or "Eurasia"(which I prefer). The core partners in this alliance are Russia, China, India and Iran. The lesser partners are Iraq, Syria, Cuba, South Africa, Argentina, and Brazil. Together they reflect the most demographically prolific regions in the world, which means they have the greatest markets to consume products, which further means that denying those markets to the West is fatal to Western trading and therefore quality of life and power. Having these regions trade together without the US dollar also necessarily relegates the US dollar to second place behind the Chines Yuan. The result is a bi-polar world. Two massive economies separated from each other - one built to grown and thrive on inter-trade and one destined to die from debt and lack of markets to support that debt.
A key developing feature of this new trading reality is military cooperation. Key to this is the gravitation of India into the Eurasian military sphere. Not only is Russia exporting its latest technology to China, India, and other Eurasian partners, but constant large scale military exercises between these countries have proliferated over the last few years. The relationships, both military and economic, now intertwine the Eurasian Community, and leave no doubt that their national interests lay with each other - not the West.
3. Might is Right.
The US is not reacting well to losing its international "top-dog" status. In fact, it has laid down the gauntlet - a bi-polar world is unacceptable. As it is incapable of attacking the Eurasian alliance financially, as to do so would immediately result in economic chaos for the West, it has chosen a military path in what can only be seen as a large scale, and very dangerous game of chicken. Notable challenges to Russia have included sponsored revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine, Syria, Iraq and to some extent former Soviet Republics on Russia's southern borders. Notable challenges to China have come in the form of economic warfare in Africa, and direct military and diplomatic measures in the South China Sea, and to a lesser extent South Korea. A large scale, but dubious economic challenge aimed at China is of course the "Trans-Pacific Partnership" (TPP) which excludes China, and is obviously intended to entice its neighbors toward the rewards of importing and trading with the American market.
Currently the epicenter of the "might will make right doctrine" is being played out in Syria, Iraq, and to a lesser extent Yemen. An escalating game of chess there is leading the "two solitudes" toward actual war. In a sense, it's a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran - between Sunni and Shia. In reality, it's the purposeful use of centuries old hatreds between the two, with the goal of forcing either Eurasia or the West to accept the other's view of a "Brand New World Order". To that end, everyone is all in. Russia, despite having attempted to keep the conflict between the West and Eurasia on economic grounds (as its military is in rebuild mode with a finish date of 2020), has moved strategic and tactical forces into Syria. It has also promised to do the same for Iraq should the Iraqi government request it.
Turkey, a NATO partner, has shot down one Russian bomber, allowed ISIS forces to use its territory to conduct a "regime change war" against Syria, and now just days ago invaded Northern Iraq with a combat team of tans and infantry. According to the Iraqi government, the US has informed it that up to 90,000 Saudi troops and 10,000 US troops will be entering Iraq to "fight terrorists". In reality, both Saudi and the US have been accused of aiding, directly and/or indirectly, ISIS and other groups to overthrow the Shia governments of Iraq and Syria. Iran, the primary Shia power in the area, is already fighting in Syria, and would immediately enter Iraq, likely at the request of the Iraqi government, to fight any Saudi invasion of Iraqi territory.
In summary, it's quite easy to see where all this is leading - first the proxy powers and then the main powers. Neither side will blink. The die has been cast by both.
4. The Fall Out.
The result of the escalation we've seen is very predictable on the Middle East. Given the massive military buildup of Iranian and Saudi forces, we can expect so see a very quick and very deadly battle between the two. A battle played out from Iran to Egypt involving millions of troops, massive armour, and more importantly missile forces. While Saudi has the clear advantage in air forces, Iran has a clear advantage in missile technology to deal with them, so a land forces/ conventional war like early World War II is the likely result. In such a case, millions of fatalities can be expected. That is without the direct intervention of any super powers.
However, with Russia already in theater in Syria, and American bases scattered throughout the region, it would be naive to believe they would not be engaged. The clear advantage in such a scenario is to the Russians. Russia is closer to the area, so deployment of conventional forces there is much easier, and less fraught with intervention, than the US moving forces across the Atlantic or Pacific in large numbers. Also, in such a scenario, the US would have to deal with China on a stand alone basis in the Pacific area. Not an easy task considering China's conventional and strategic forces.
Then there is the "home front factor". In such a scenario Western Europe is bound to be drawn in immediately against Russia. It is very, very doubtful that western civilian populations have any stomach for war against the Russian people - no matter the sell to support it. Having lost untold millions in recent memory to large scale war, and the destruction of their countries, most Europeans are likely to rise up against such a proposition. Equally volatile is the American population. Notoriously inward looking, most Americans are consumed with their own country and have no stomach for foreign wars or any kind that involve casualties - let alone a war that would cause mass casualties in the US itself.
So, while the powers to be in the West maneuver toward world war, it is highly doubtful the population would support such an action. Conversely, the Chinese in particular have no such issues. The financial collapse of 2008 required 200 million Chines be sent back to their villages from urban centres in China, without so much as a peep. Such an action in the Western world would have resulted in revolt. So, that is the playing field. In all scenarios, the West can not win the battle it is formulating. It is unlikely that anyone would win from such a war, but it is certain that if there would be a victor that it will not be the US or the West.
5. What Should Happen.
In the ideal world, which could be this one, the West ought to admit economic defeat and take its place in a new bi-polar world. The rules of the game were set by the West, and the loss of that game ought to be accepted by the West. To change the rules to suit your own purpose simply destroys not just your credibility, but also that of the "world system" itself. History has ebbs and flows. Empires rise and fall. Economic systems collapse and are rebuilt. We know all of this from a simple study of our own recent history. It is the nature of the beast. To fight that result as if somehow your empire is more noble than any other of the past is arrogance beyond the pale.
The rationing of whatever resources the world has that we feel the need to consume has always been dictated by the efficient production and consumption of those resources - whatever the system. If the Chinese, Russian, Indian, etc countries are now in a stronger position to carry forward with that leadership in consumption, well, that's just natural selection really. They've shown discipline in consumption while we have not.
In the end, the only way to avoid what is playing itself out now in the world, the US and the West in general needs to accept that the Eurasian countries have worked their way up to likely dominate world trade and to some extent power. Perhaps it is a chance for all of us to renegotiate, or rediscover, the respect for sovereign nations and people that has been woefully discarded. Would that not make for a much better world for all of us? I believe it would. We don't need a Walmart to survive or be fulfilled.We do however need this planet.
Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)