Seismic Shifts: Political, Strategic and Economic Shifts in a Changing World
The post-post-truth post-COVID era is an era of truth and clarity. Like the Winter Queen’s victory trapped inside its own portraiture, the actions of an incumbent president heading for re-elections are largely dependent on the international backdrop he has been attempting to conceal from the public. The possibilities invite a more disquisitive glance of the world in which he would exist, if re-elected a few months from now. “We’re moving back to the 19th century,” might be the most accurate description of the global stage I have heard up till now. Projecting characteristics from that era into the one we are entering now — or more colloquially “History doesn’t repeat, but it rhymes” — helps us better navigate the world we are entering as I write this article, or as you read this piece. Three shifts, in politics, strategy and economics are considered.
Political Shift: The fall of the untouchable
With the retreat of the world’s monopole, into its garage sales, the tyrant regimes it once backed, as the empire of its age, are set to fall. This could take several forms. It could be through the self-destructive behavior of an ailing empire, such as ambushing and annihilating its once stubborn allies at the turn of the century, or the self-destructive behavior of newly unsupported tyrant regimes themselves. While this might seem as advantageous to the general public in the respective countries, the strategic shift explained below proves otherwise on the short term.
Strategic Shift: The rise of the middle power alliances
The decoherence in the strategy of a nation, no matter how powerful the latter might be, hinders the effectiveness of its capabilities, and more so on the international stage. This is particularly true for a superpower. This renders the field clear for middle powers to push their own agendas, rather than having the sole choice of alignment. This means that strong governments get the chance to head strategic alliances, and weak governments find themselves propelled to the international stage, with a network of backers underneath them. The strength mentioned here is in reference to a government’s ability to serve its constituents’ best interests, not solely proportional to authority over a jurisdiction or display of military might. As such, weak governments are left with a choice of crafting a mosaic of what strategic alliances they have available to pursue their interests.
This tells a story of how short-term wins have done what no grandiose “Deal of the Century” succeeded in. Most importantly, as hinted in the “Political Shift” section, it has done so by the total elimination of the people at the forefront of the issue. The fall of the tyrant discussed above, is in fact, the collapse of an oppressive regime to hinge directly on an emerging network of enablers instead. While the arising situation shackles the hand of the tyrant, the oppression would embitter under the weight of the new shackles. The visible network is harder to challenge in the short-term, however, its visibility makes it easier to hold international contributors accountable on the long-run.
This strategic shifts explains how an oppressive regime starving for recognition declares one of its few close neighbors with which it maintains ties with as a “greater threat”, while downplaying the threat of a state that had sworn its destruction as “fragile”. This comes at a time when the regime is closing watershed peace deals with allies who share the same supposedly arch nemesis, and the allies are pressing forward on condemning colluding with the enemy state, the same state above, all while being one of the most active trade partners with it. This clarifies how members of the same defense alliance fighting each other, in the name of resources, and the locals correspondingly, in foreign lands, suddenly prop up a geostrategic military and economic agreement which spans three continents. The agreement is then labelled as a geopolitical symbiosis by their thinktanks.
By understanding this dynamic unfolding in the Middle East, in the framework of agenda-based alliances, we facilitate our understanding of the events yet to uncover on the Pacific stage, starting with the revival of the Quad, and rising tensions between economic besties.
Economic Shift: The emergence of the “Need” economy
A consumption capitalist society needs a production communist society to exist. In the materialistic frameworks of capitalism and communism, production adds value, and consumption effaces it. If we, however, consider our role as humans is to allow life to thrive, even the consumption of a “good” meal or a “good” article, add value with the benefit and delight they bring to an individual. Breaking through the individualistic frameworks used in the above systems to simplify administration, we realize that added-value does not necessarily have to be captured by the same entity. Counterintuitively, this gives rise to more vernacular models of the economy.
The advancement of distributed technology, whether information or manufacturing technology, along with COVID-19 disruption of the supply chains, have accelerated this shift to “Need” economies. These economies are not based on the presence of an excess in supply and the need for conjugation into a problem of distribution. They are not based on the presence of excess of demand and the need for mediation and capturing of fleeting value. Instead, they assume the presence of just enough supply and demand within the vessels and veins, the networks and marketplaces, of economy. The complexity of the networks is exacerbated when accounting for, possibly fleeting, expertise. However, with the public’s increasing grasp of data analytics and systems, this complexity could be treated without reverting to reductionist ideas, more commonly phrased as “Money talks”, or “Workers of the world unite”.
The title of economic shift might be misleading. As this in fact stands upon ideological shifts that would take place as materialistic ideologies of the past centuries collapse. It is a shift that at the microscale would require humans to specialize, so that they may innovate, improve and add value, and be aware of that, not solely make a living. It would require an epiphany that their strive, or “hustle”, is well-rewarded even if they just make enough to live a decent life, rather than flaunt their riches. Above all, it requires the belief in an All-seeing, All-knowing, God whose justice, spanning all human efforts, no human — neither a Queens-born orange-tinted TV host turned president, nor a Beijing-born assertive president ending a century of disgrace — is capable of.
At the macroscale, the international and economic atmosphere described above could be thought of as a network of networks through which governments have to navigate to pursue their interests. It is rather ironic that, given the Coronavirus situation, this is happening over none other than the internet. The reign of oil-fueled military might is now replaced by soft power, with more frequent military displays that have their weight on the diplomatic tables. That is the age of endless wars for economic resources, which only end with depletion, is to be replaced by wars for consensus, much more ephemeral wars that are fought to reach local maximas. In time, these Middle Powers would realign themselves, based on the innate human character of gravitating towards similarity. Their agendas would be replaced by more abstract human produce, thoughts and plans, requiring less pragmatic approaches.
The materialistic basis of today’s states, whether bank accounts, meal rations, or culture and language have failed in providing us with clear definitions of state. The populism rising from the once immigrant-friendly New World, the multiculturalism of a trans-national government, or the expansive splurging wealth belts of a red success story, are an indicator of the ideological vacuum yet to be filled. An ideology of abundance, rather than scarcity, would serve the world well, when the people work in their businesses on the basis of adding value, rather than hacking off what is left. Soon enough, the wars would not be fought for control of resources, but for the liberation of people who have seen no benefit from their governments’ control over the resources. They would be wars over the best form of governance.
As would be clear in a future article, Lebanon is global thermostat, through which changes to the global order could be experienced right before they happen. The crippling import, and then more generally, economic crisis which have reached the breaking point of the Lebanese community in the late 2019, highlighted the shift towards an economy, with balanced production and consumption, catering to people’s needs. The mournful events on the global stage are symbolized in the explosion that rocked Beirut on the 4th of August. The path to recovery, in the new political environment, pushes an abusive malign ruling class to hide behind a pretensive government with seemingly softer ways. This happens as international players, even historic enemies, rush to aid the ailing country. This happens even as international players know that they are competing over a highly-contested ally, as they admit that the winner can no longer take all, and they must submit to agenda-based alliances. Through understanding and utilizing these shifts, I hope that nations would be able to put themselves back on the path of recovery and development.