The Empire Strikes Back

Joe Biden’s election victory has brought a great sense of relief in the cold and bland corridors of power. Diplomats and politicians were relieved, the stock market went to an all-time high, and businesses hope they will be spared the excessive volatility which is brought by an impulsive, erratic and incompetent President. Fukuyama’s “end of history” is finally back, but is it, really?

Ottoman Emperor Suleiman the Magnificent

Trump’s America-First Policy was meant to re-gain jobs lost to China and to bring the troops back home, but this policy failed to materialise. It seems that the trade-deficit with China is still at the level where Trump entered office , while electronic-components industries moving out of China went to India and and Vietnam instead of the US. On the other hand, US troops are still stationed in many parts of the world even if their level of engagement has been reduced significantly. Trump did successfully increase the diplomatic leverage over China by targeting Huawei and putting a dent in its wheels over security grounds, but the Chinese dragon reared its ugly head, still, by increasing its bullying manoeuvres against its neighbours over territorial claims.

As the pandemic steals our attention, overlooked is the fact that as Trump leaves office, the hubris left behind him is a world where the dictator has been empowered. We have always imagined the literary narrative of a dystopia which comes from within, but gradually and unconsciously we are also moving in a world where democracy is made more fragile by exterior forces while dictators gain the upper-hand in the geo-political game.

Back to the past. The Anti-War coalition in 2003, which propelled the political career of Jeremy Corbyn to the top-class of the political game, brought the anti-American sentiment to the mainstream of politics. Back then it was easy to hate George W. Bush and Tony Blair and after Iraq was ruined, the verdict was sealed that American-intervention brings more harm than good. So we thought. By then the memories of the the Second World War and the invasion of Normandy were fading. And Trump capitalised on this. Bring back the troops home. Let’s not fight any useless wars he said.

Meanwhile, 150,000 Armenians living in the disputed region of Artsakh are at the risk of getting murdered. But Europe, flush with Azerbaijani oil-cash doesn’t bat an eyelid. Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, flexes his imperial Ottoman muscle with impunity leaving trails of Kurdish and Armenian bodies behind. He’s in Syria, Artsakh and in Libya too. In 2011 French warplanes flew across the Mediterranean and prevented a massacre in Benghazi by bombing Ghaddafi’s military hardware. What has changed? Seems like a lifetime ago.

“The end of history” is ending with the return of the dictator. The anti-war and anti-American narrative spurned by the abuses and violent and imperial ways of an outdated oil-industry during the Iraq War, was then appropriated by dictators across the world. The left in Europe, idiotically enough, empowered these dictators with this narrative by pressing a local politics insulated from the dangers of the world. Dictators who rule with a bloody iron-fist suddenly began victims. The world has changed dramatically since the end of the Cold War, but some people still don’t get it. Our leaders are stuck in a Byzantine bureaucracy of paper-comfort and delusional expectations. A free-world doesn’t come free. Freedom in Europe was only possible after Hitler’s armies were crushed in the freezing Soviet-East.

So, let’s say Erdogan is allowed to pursue his imperial ambitions in the Mediterranean and the Near East. What next? Hitler was allowed to run riot in Europe for six years before it dawned on European leaders that he was going to ruin the world and massacre millions of people. They even gave him their seal of approval by signing off his supposedly-innocent ambitions with the Treaty of Munich in 1938. The complacency today is uncannily similar.

As Europe becomes the old and sick man of the world, its neighbours become increasingly dangerous and aggressive. We’re sitting out these events thinking that nothing will come back to bite us. Foolish and naïve I would say. There was a time when European leaders envisioned a worldly-utopia of world-peace and worked to create a framework to bring it about in reality. Today, the Cold-War geo-political defense institutions are outdated. Turkey, a country which is pursuing imperial ambitions and massacring people in the process is a NATO member, and we, Europeans, have to supposedly trust it with our defence and consider it as a defensive ally.

At the very Far East, China too is flexing its muscle. It wants parts of the Indian border, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the South China Sea and god knows what else. It’s open season for the strong and mighty, and the weaker ones have to stick with it. China wants to be the world global-leader, but on what grounds? Because they have the biggest population in the world, get it? The more people we are, the more we get to rule. We give our people a dictatorship and to the world we give a popular-democracy categorised by ethnic groups. So, the Chinese will always win, cos they are the majority. Game over.

Not so fast. America is back, Biden said. Is the world-police back too? Or did it retire? Who’s going to rule the world now? Let’s not get so enamoured with multi-polarity. The First World War was a disaster because of a multi-polar world of empires that balanced each other, eventually to their death. Did the nuclear deterrent of the Cold-War keep the peace? Maybe. But putting our bets on world peace with nuclear-weapons seems a bit risky.

Trump got one thing right for sure, but his execution was pitiful. Leveraging the US economy and the US Dollar actually works because Dollars are needed for trade and everyone needs to access the biggest economy. Trump did this by himself, went in it alone and even alienated his allies. Under Trump, the West could no longer function as a single international-political block. Biden can bring this back.

This is a basic reality which even the dictators from China to Turkey will admit. They need the European and American markets more than we need theirs. They also need Dollars or at least Euros to transact internationally and their currencies are dependent on the whims of our economies and central banks. As the Turkish Lira craters, guess to what currencies the Turks are turning to? It’s Dollars and Euros, and crypto-currency helps them do this.

Let’s be very simplistic here. Let’s say we create a new utopia where bloody hands can’t get access to Euros and Dollars. Fantastic. Erdogan can buy his bombers, drones and missiles from Russia and the Russians and Chinese may very well transact only in their own currencies. A new alternative political-block is created where the Ruble and the Yuan are the main currencies and countries like Iran, Turkey, Syria and Venezuela are members of this block. Do you really think that this is a feasible idea? Here is where the problem lies. This idea is only feasible as long as this block of countries has access to Euros and Dollars. It is already happening but since it is happening in front of our own eyes it may be even harder to realise its existence. Merkel even wants to buy more gas from Russia, and hindsight always comes too late.

So, one on side the West is fragmented and without any sturdy leadership, vision and guidance while alternatively a block of dictators are ganging up to run the world on their own terms. Let’s not get too hyperbolic though. This is not Rome is burning while the barbarians are at the gates. We’re already intermeshed with trade and legal structures. We’re living in a single civilised world with some dictators running amok with impunity. The scenario is very different from that of the Cold War.

Europe and the US have the authority and the power to incentivise world-peace with the right economic and monetary incentives, but it’s a mixture of factors like corruption, incompetency and short-term gains which are dragging us down to complacency. We know very-well how this turns out though. After the massacres in the Balkans it was already very clear that NATO was defunct and our post-World War structures which were meant to guarantee peace had failed. Today, we can sit on our fence and take a look at the massacres being perpetuated on the other side of the horizon and then watch the same murderers coming to our banks to cash-out their blood money.

It is, after all, also in our self-interest to ensure that we are not leveraged by neighbouring dictators who are easily prone to push the button. If international trade and politics are increasingly being dictated by the barrel of the gun we are now at a considerable disadvantage given that Europe has long stopped being a despotic-coloniser and our defense capabilities are, relatively, practically down to 0. The European Union has many problems but at least we didn’t invade Britain when the Brits voted to leave the Union. Sounds funny, right? Well Putin did just that in 2014 with Ukraine despite the fact that he had previously ensured to uphold the Kharkiv Pact supposedly-ensuring Ukraine’s autonomy over its territory and affairs. Practically, Ukraine has been forced to remain fixed with a Russian-trading framework against the potential and alternative choices which Ukrainians had at their disposal. For now, the Ukrainians can no longer chose.

But we’re weak and incompetent. Erdogan scares us by theatening us to flood us with Syrian immigrants. Bring them on the leader with a vision would have said, and we’ll cut your Euros gradually until you start bleeding to death. Our cowering today will cost multiple bombings and deaths tomorrow. And then who knows what the dictators will do next? As long as they have impunity, they can do anything.

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