Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A new world order

With apologies for the cliche title but with the events that have been taking place in the last 2 months I have the suspicion that we are entering into a new world system.  It all started with the fall of Tunisia dictatorship, moved on to the Nuclear reactor explosion in Japan and made a no return point with the abandoning yesterday of Libya's rebels to the murdering hordes of Qaddafi by the G8.

The consequences of all of these events, related or not as you may wish them to be, will be a protracted reevaluation of the West values and way of life, a political event that will be at the very least in the league of the fall of the Berlin Wall in the way it will affect our future lives.  In fact, my parallel might be 1848.  You may recall that the bright revolutions of that year were crushed one by one, either through a military coup like in France in 1851, or a brutal invasion in Hungary.  We roughly had to wait for 1918 to accept that democracy was to become the norm in Europe, and thus the final victory of 1848 even as the totalitarian era had already started in 1917.

The Tunisian revolution in a way is the true end of colonialism.  The governments or regimes that succeeded the colonial powers were not necessarily democratic and were often little more of a psychologically tribal nature.  Thus, once the independence process was completed many of those regimes found ways to renew relations with the old colonial powers, or squared their fate with the new ones.  The cold war and the beginning of globalization made the independence of Africa and Asia a much different movement than it had been a century ago when the Americas made a clean break with Europe, even starting imperialisms of their own, in the US notoriously but also in Brazil and Argentina to a certain extent.

The overthrow of Zine Ben Ali was the first time truly that Tunisia expressed itself in a Tunisian context, the true will of its people.  Even if Qaddafi returns, even if the Egyptian military betray the Egyptian revolution, even if Bahrain is retaken, what has started in the Middle East can be delayed but not stopped because it has little to do with reaction to external events, and all to do with internal situations and the exhaustion of a ruling system.

And then what is arguably the most organized country in the world, the one where the cable guy tells you he will show up at 3 PM and he does, started collapsing.  I am of those who have faith that the Japanese people will recover even if their reactor ends up blowing up.  But the world economy will never be the same.

No, the nuclear will not go away, we cannot afford it, but from now on the West is going to have to reevaluate its life of comfort, from cozy winter homes where you can remain in T-shirt and shorts while a blizzard blows outside, to the refrigerator feel of too many buildings in the US South in the most scorching summer days where you need a light sweater to sit at your computer.

We need to understand all of this, that the economy recession that started in 2008 is here to stay with us for at least a few more years to try to comprehend what happened yesterday at the G8, its abdication of world management, abandoning Libya to its fate, or to Egypt if it wants it.  The two countries that caused that were Germany and Russia, as the US stood idle.

Russia because it hates not to be in the driver seat, because it cannot find ways to get back on it, because it is bombing Chechnya.

Germany is tired of bailing out Greece, tired of bailing out all sorts of European people, does not want now to bail out Italy if its Libyan business go up in flames.  Germany is today a cold old lady that has no idea how to pay for her electric nuclear and oil bill while its nephews are trying to cash in early their alleged inheritance.

And the US because it has already too many commitments and simply has no idea what do, sorely in need of a new FDR.

And thus the British and the French were left alone in supporting the Libyan rebels, everybody else preferring a murderous dictator as long as oil flows again.

It would be too harsh to judge yesterday as an act of ultimate cowardice: after all, nobody is stopping France and Britain from taking Qaddafi on their own, with the more than likely blessing of the Arab league who are more aware than anyone else that a revived Qaddafi could end up being worse for them than Al Qaeda.

What is happening is that the West is suddenly made aware of its vulnerability, that the time of decisions has come and that means for many to regroup first before we decide what to do next.  We all depend from Japan, from Middle East oil, from Nuclear energy and now we all know that we will need to make major sacrifices if we want to retain some of the perks that we have benefited from since the 60ies.  We cannot have it all, and if this has not sunk into the populace yet it is fast making headways into those that know better at the top, finally real headways.  The days of demagoguery are reaching an end, hopefully.

This end of March all is confused and we do not know whether we are in 1938 Munich or awaiting FDR coming back with a New Deal.  The political class of the West, from Left to Right, even including ecologists as the leftist fringe is and will remain a fringe unable to understand the pulsations of the moment, has in front of it the mammoth task to explain to its people that choices need to be made, that there is more to life than coming back in a hurry home to vote for American Idol.

Hard times ahead as we might be entering an era of dramatic political changes, where "eat or be eaten" will acquire new meanings, where a chilled West will have to face its responsibilities, where China, Brazil and India will need to grow up.  I offer that since 1933 this might be democracy biggest challenge, and perhaps, as in the years following 1933, some democracies might fall before a renew democratic world order intolerant of autocracies and aware that the planet has finite resources can emerge.


  1. Obama is being penny wise and pound foolish.He is saving some money and casualties in the short run but might have to confront a much worse situation in the future once Qaddafi recovers his fiefdom and decides to get even with the West.

    It seems like we are always fighting( or not) the last war, as Iraq seems to have been a bad idea, we take a pass on Libya.

    The fact is that to do things in a perfectly legal sense no international action can be taken without Russia and China signing off on it- so the US has by insisting on legality the US has effectively delegated the power to one dictatorship and to one democracy in name only.

    Ironically this was the time when the much maligned coalition of the willing led by the US would have been appropriate.

  2. Anonymous5:27 PM

    Not a "New World Order", Daniel, a New World Disorder.

    There's a simple principle in psychology: "Perception requires contrast." It is impossible for the human mind to comprehend X until it has come in contact with ~X.

    The poor doesn't know what it means to be poor until they have seen how a non-poor lives. Before that, they thought their life was like all other lives were supposed to be; nothing more and nothing less.

    And the world today, with its internet and satellite TV and movies, gives everyone too much contrast. We've seen what others have, or more exactly, we've seen twisted, media-filtered versions of it, which have given everyone a very unrealistic idea of the difference between how their lives are and how they could be.

    But never mind all that, just think about this: imagine that Egypt manages to avoid falling into a military dictatorship. Let's say they have perfectly transparent elections. Let's say that one guy gets 55% of the votes. What about the 45% who didn't vote for him? They thought that democracy meant that they select their leader now, they select the policies, they get things done their way, and it turns out that's not how democracy works. They have waited so many years to get their way, and now they are supposed to wait 5 more years, just to get another chance to maybe make it happen? Where's their freedom, then? What's the difference? They're still under a government selected by someone else. So what are they going to do about that?

    Note that I'm not criticizing democracy, per se, or saying that the alternatives are better. All I'm saying is that there are too many differences between what people think things should be and what they could actually be, and the humongous reality check that's going to happen in the next decade or some is going to be anything but smooth.

  3. A very good, thoughtful, post, Daniel.

    It seems that the G-8 refusal to act merely kicked the decision upstairs to the Security Council, which is the only potentially legal intervenor force.

    It is true that this legal jurisdiction of the Security Council is inconvenient.

    But that merely reflects the fact that the distribution of power in the world is inconvenient. And unjust.

    Making a decision, outside the SC, which China vehemently objects to, forces them to swallow their pride, or to retaliate. I am sure both you and your readers can think of quite a bit of mischief or worse that the Chinese or Russians could produce in Central or South America, for example, or decisions about currency valuations, balance of payments, loans, and so on.

    It may also be that Chinese/Russian objections can be assuaged through promises involving trade, or Taiwan, or whatever else they deeply desire. In fact, they would be well advised to claim "objections" about Libya in order to have a bargaining chip.

    So, I don't discount the possibility of a Security Council intervention, though I think it is an uphill battle.

  4. The old world order is totally and utterly fucked up. Long live the new world order!

  5. "Sarkozy must first give back the money he took from Libya to finance his electoral campaign.

    "We funded it. We have all the details and are ready to reveal everything. The first thing we want this clown to do is to give the money back to the Libyan people. He was given the assistance so he could help them but he has disappointed us. Give us back our money." Gaddafi's son, in the Guardian, If true, it proves at least that Sarkozy can't be bought,

  6. Anonymous12:40 AM

    @daniel, better you keep your posts on Venezuela. Otherwise you are the fool - as the ones that dont know about Venezuela and post here.

    Most people of Lybia where fine before the "revolution" and will be like ppl now in Irak after.

    What do you think why people all over Afrika went to Lybia to work there? Because it was so bad there?
    Now noone will go there anymore.

    Gaddafi is crazy, but why force him when everyone there was doing just fine?????


  7. Anonymous4:38 AM

    Para mi pequeño entender, el nuevo oden mundial se reduce a ayudate y el cielo te ayudará. Así son las cosas y con los años que llevo encima y la experiencia, nadie levantará el dedo para ayudarte si eso atañe sus intereses, Money is Money, creo asi se dice. A buen entendedor.... La Maga Lee

  8. Hans

    I am so stunned to see someone defending Qaddafi that I am letting your post stand, something like an anthropological curio.

    You hard core lefties will lower shamelessly to no end....

  9. 1979 Boat People5:29 AM


    Gaddafi is crazy, but why force him when everyone there was doing just fine?????

    The most funny thing i have ever read. :)

    Gaddafi is CRAZY and the Libyans had been doing JUST FINE under this CRAZY leader. I...GIVE...UP. pinch me...PLEASE!!!

  10. 1979 Boat People5:49 AM

    Colombian military kills FARC leader

    A new World order??

  11. Anonymous2:41 PM

    The "West" was shaped, to large extent, by christianity in Europe and the Americas. Most of today's laws, traditions, morality, form of government, etc. in the West are the result of centuries of christianity as a unifying force. I respect those who propose a new order based on... what exactly? A secular society? I would like to undestand how a secular society can be a unifying force. Well, perhaps unified traditions, laws, morality and form of government are not necessary or even important in the modern West. That would be true if the rest of the world was empty, or shared our disdain for unifying values. But that is not the case. I fear that we are exposing ourselves in the West to colonialism if we maintain the present trend.

    You don't like religion? Fine. But please don't let your views ruin the West. Or can you propose an alternative that can unite the West in, say, the next couple of years?

  12. Last anonymous

    you are so off the mark that one does not know where to start with.

    for one thing, religion has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with my entry.

    and even if we were to take your point as a valid premise, the world order has changed SEVERAL TIMES during and under christianity. i mentioned already 1848 as a seminal date. but there are other dates that changed the world order, bringing in a new one that lasted for a few decades and more. i do not know about you but does 1776 or 1789 ring a bell to you? unless you prefer the aforementioned 1917? or perhaps you would go to 1492 when christianity was imposed in a blood bath to a people that had no clue it existed?

  13. Jeez Daniel, this is one time when I'm gonna say that the topic is waaay too broad for a blog post.

  14. Anonymous4:51 PM


    With the exception of 1492, in all the other examples the peoples in question had an important christian outlook before and after the events. Those events were political, not religious. Lives were lost as a consequence of wars and revolutions, and some institutions changed, but the overall culture remained. Even the fall of the Iron Curtain didn't mark a new world order since the people easily regrouped soon afterwards on the basis of a common heritage (consider the European Union).

    The difference now is that our very cultural heritage is being questioned, mainly by ourselves. It is good to question ones's own values, but...

    An identity vacuum in Europe can be easilly filled by, for example, Islam (Europe is surrounded by countries with a Moslem majority). Not through invasions this time, but by sheer population pressure: people wanting to improve their lot by moving to affluent Europe. Particularly if they are unhappy with their rulers in northern Africa and elsewhere.

    A Moslem majority in Europe would trigger a new world order. Possibly a better one.

  15. Juan Cristobal

    Consider this entry a "preface".


  16. anonymous?

    since one comment seems to contradict the other i am going to wait until you decide to confirm that both comments are yours and that you chose a recognizable handle.

    until then i will give you as a preview that your second comment does not stand close scrutiny just as your first one was easily deflated.

  17. amieres8:12 PM

    Ironically this was the time when the much maligned coalition of the willing led by the US would have been appropriate.
    Not only they still can do it, they should do it and fast: US, UK & France. Implement a no fly zone and bomb advancing tanks & artillery while supporting the rebels with weapons, food & medicines. It would mean splitting Libya in two but it's better than letting the rebels die. Also, it would buy time for a proper UN mission.

  18. amieres12:28 AM

    Great news!
    The Security Council of the UN approved the resolution 10 in favor 5 abstained including China, Russia and Germany.

    Hopefully it's not too late and implementation is swift. This strengthens the UN and helps US save face. Good for UK and France too. Bad for Kadafi and Chavez.

  19. bnelson9074:11 AM

    The failure of the G8 to act in Libya is disappointing but the failure of the United States to take action is not surprising. The United States lost all credibility in the Middle East thanks to the search for WMD and the glorious liberation of Iraq (glad they found all those terrible weapons, now life is so much better, right?). Any intervention by the United States would be decried as an invasion and any goodwill and trust that might have existed is long gone.


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