The human history has seen violence of extreme nature. The generation which has grown up as intelligent life form has moved from one catastrophe to another, many of it, self created. If we go back in time, wars have been a second nature to human existence howsoever cruel it might be that it attempts to destroy very existence of human life which apparently is the most precious possession. The aim was to showcase violent capabilities of entities right from pre-historic human ghettos to kingdoms to current world of nation states. Humans appear to have come a long way but haven’t changed their basic approach to impose the will of powerful. Human supremacy has somehow been judged over the matrix of violence and capacity to destroy. The threat to demolish is to instil submission among weak and give a sense of ultimate authority to the powerful.
The Rise & Fall
The recorded history of humans commencing from Mesopotamian civilization in the 5000 BC to the current 21st century, the powers that emerged has maintained a common USP of being more violent than others and the cycle continues. Whether British, French, Roman or Ottoman empire; history has shown us the rise and fall of them all. It’s never that time is unfair to anyone, while it has given glory to some it has brought life-long lessons to others. Problem lies in acceptance and adaptation, that’s been the singular failure of nation states. You can’t have half a side of the bargain it’s simple as that. The majority of world always believed in being faithful followers, this fuelled that extra intent among selected few to achieve a kind of dominance which could give them the status of God equivalent. This was the long and short of supremacy, power struggle, wars and hybrid conflicts of the modern era. That’s the reason why so many Empires that built upon human blood and destructions continued to remain at war until nothing was finally left to defend. They all suffered exactly the same fate, the collapse.
The powers that be when modern war fighting capacity got developed were US, Soviets, few European countries, Japan and Ottoman empire led by Turkey. With self-destructive approach most have lost out on power table or attained sanity like Japan and Germany. The empires of French, British, Roman and Ottoman couldn’t stand test of time. As times passed by we saw the hegemony of two blocks with rest of the lesser mortals strongly sticking by either sides. It wasn’t because of any ideological melting of hearts but more caused by basic instincts of survival. Earlier an accepted criteria for friend list existed which had – enemy of enemy are to be friends. But those were different times World has moved fast and taken enumerable intricate twists in between. In that era there weren’t any architype of non-state actors, so neither enemy of enemy can surely be friends now, take the case of US, Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah where Hamas and Hezbollah are common enemies of US & Iran while both themselves swear by each other; nor friends of friend can be friend take the interesting case of India, Russia and China where China is friend to Russia but India–China are all but friends. It’s a very complex world out there driven probably by national interest and nothing more. So an enemy of enemy can still be an enemy or friend of enemy can also be a friend. Avowed allies today like US and Britain have fought a three year bloody war in 1812 over British violation of US maritime boundary but now are glued together due to fear of Russia. Similarly, US desire to keep Russia under check through NATO while it is free to manoeuvre over rest of the world is the reason for their intimacy. There are conflicting friendship between Turkey, an active NATO member, which has interests aligned to Russia as well. Or for that matter, closest US ally Israel won’t pick a side in the Russia Ukraine war. Today’s sworn competitors China and US were on the same side during World War 2 as Allied forces. We all know the history which Germany and France shared but are partners in today’s world. So things change and only the change is permanent. In this great power play friends aren’t forever they are made and discarded as per convenience. The capacity of the nations and their priority at the given time in history is the real decider. For valued allies even serious compromises are perfectly workable, while matter of all principles are applied against enemy state, niceties not required. For rest of the countries they really don’t matter.
World post World War 2 has gotten too comfortable with power balance of two blocks. The demise of Soviet Union led to the unipolarity of world order which Americans took as an ultimate honour and thought it will remain that way forever. That wasn’t going to be, history has proven power balance shifts and new poles emerge. The over eight decades of leadership role of US has convinced it, that it remains the only rightful proprietor to be custodian of the world. American intelligentsia has put forth a doomsday argument for a ‘World beyond America’. That existing conflicts will not disappear if America has to forego it’s leadership role. In an opinion piece in The Washington Post, in April 2016 it was passionately argued that the unprecedented global prosperity made possible by the thriving international trade; the spread of democracy; and the avoidance of major conflict among great powers: have been biggest achievement of American leadership in the world. The argument however, seems to give only half the credit to US. Whereas, US should own up remaining half of the credit as well. Post World War 2 the world collectively was in the rebuild mode, trade and commerce were key ingredients of mutual relationship among nations and that’s how countries achieved rapid industrialisation and prosperity. So much for the spread of democracy, US have been real opportunist they have been comfortable to look the other way when dealing with regressive military regimes, kingdoms and autocrats all to suit their myopic interests. As far avoidance of conflict, less said is better, US holds dubious distinction of creating most armed conflicts around the world and on many occasions without even worrying for UN mandate for the same. There is an alternate reality, the emergence of new powers like China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, North Korea, Iran and so forth. Emergence of new choices for countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Turkey and even Israel. As also emergence of new strong leaders in Saudi Arabia, China, India, Turkey, North Korea who are steering their own national agenda. Last three decades of so called American leadership has witnessed rise of three Nuclear Powers in form of India, Pakistan and North Korea while Israel and Iran remains undeclared ones and multiple non state actors, some of them so grave that demonstrated capacity to draw US to bloody wars. These all developments put together has not only diminished American influence on global affairs but has given the nations reasons to chart their own way focused on their national interest but not necessarily keeping aligned to American desires.
Next Big Thing
The world definitely has a future beyond US. While a diminishing US continue to attempt more alliances, be critical towards neutral nations and outright hostile towards adversaries in the hope of leveraging cumulative strength as per it’s liking. The industrialisation and growth has strengthened new powers who don’t necessarily see the US way and have enough strength to chart their course ahead. Country of the size and strength of India or Brazil or for that matter Iran and Israel for instance will not get drawn in exclusive orbit of USA or Russia while they will not be an adversary either. These are the sort of countries which have established themselves on their own terms. In a conflict driven world such nations are power stabilizers with individual capacity to calm the conflicts. While they will appear a very attractive proposition to be deep allies it will not end up that way. These countries will function according to their own methods benefiting themselves and the world at large but simultaneously developing a New World Order where space for politics of polarization will get more and more constraint. The central theme of world powers of ‘with me or against me’ No longer holds an existential threat for everyone in this emerging New World Order and it’s really good time for ilk’s of USA to understand and accept the reality.
–By Ravi Srivastava