The mainstream media has a new in vogue phrase and you are sure to have heard it by now – ‘the rules based international order (or system)’. The Royal Institute of International Affairs based in London, commonly known as Chatham House commented a several years ago that “Economic and political upheavals are emboldening challengers to the rules-based international system, and to the liberal Western values it embodies. To stay relevant, the system must address three major flaws.”
- For a system based on rules to have effect, these rules must be visibly observed by their principal and most powerful advocates.
- A rules-based order must work to the advantage of the majority and not a minority.
- The longevity of the current international system may have led to the assumption that it was in some way the natural order of things, requiring only occasional repair and defence against particular challengers.
Given recent global events it is clear that the so-called rules based order has systemically failed to address any of these flaws. The most powerful advocates and the institutions that support this system have made the most disastrous decisions culminating in an epic financial crisis with austerity its ideological birth. The West flounders from one crisis to the next, the majority disciplined for the malfeasance and lawlessness of the few and the system is consuming itself from the inside out – a neoliberal bowel cancer with no cure in sight.
With Britain’s recent EU referendum result came the realisation that the rules based system on the continent had failed. Rising discontent is gathering at an unstoppable pace, much to the alarm of the ruling elite. A federalised state dreamt up by America and handed to Germany with the intention of destroying national identities, borders and sovereign rights is slowly turning into a nightmare as the 28 nation bloc enters what can only be described as a disintegration phase.
Martin Armstrong of Armstrong Economics puts it this way: “The EU intends to make it a mistake that the British will regret and fall to their knees. This attitude is consistent with the constant endeavour to explain all the shortcomings of the EU as insignificant and irrelevant, thereby closing their ears and mind to any possible reform. They have no clear statement to challenge what is going on. The regulatory nightmare and outright rage that is rising among the people is simply ignored by Brussels. The legal uncertainty with the British exit on the banking system is something nobody even wants to speculate about. How do bail-ins work in Europe if abandoned in Britain? So while the EU thinks by punishing Britain they will discourage others from leaving, they are seriously mistaken. The dream of the EU is dead. It should have remained just a trade union – that was it.”
A recent BBC programme entitled Brexit: The Battle for Europe (YouTube video/58mins) produced the line “the power-brokers of Europe face an unprecedented challenge. For the EU this is a battle to survive.” In the programme Martin Schulz, former president of the European Parliament admitted there was a “real risk the EU will fall apart” as populism rises. Schulz has since emerged as the Social Democrats main challenger in a desperate bid against Merkel in Germany’s upcoming elections.
Sky News reported (11th Feb) that “Jean-Claude Juncker has expressed doubts that EU countries will be able to maintain a united front during Brexit negotiations.” Juncker even went on to admit that the EU project is now failing and sees disintegration going forward. He asked:
“Has the time come for when the European Union of the 27 must show unity, cohesion and coherence? Yes, I say yes, when it comes to Brexit … but I have some justified doubts that it will really happen.” He added: “Do the Hungarians and the Poles want exactly the same thing as the Germans and the French?” – “I have serious doubts.”
Even the the founding architect of the monetary union, Otmar Issing has warned that the Brussels’ dream of a European superstate will finally be buried amongst the rubble of the crumbling single currency.”Realistically, it will be a case of muddling through, struggling from one crisis to the next. It is difficult to forecast how long this will continue for, but it cannot go on endlessly. Governments will pile up more debt—and then one day, the house of cards will collapse.”
United States of America
What we are witnessing in America is the crisis and erosion of the international rules based order that America constructed and maintained since the end of World War II. The US still dominates the world in terms economic and military power, that is not under dispute, but the challenge is that she is simply unable her to get her way and control the globalisation project that it largely helped to create.
American world domination is not just declining, it is coming to an end. The international liberal order is facing off against nationalism and protectionism, headed up by populist movements – Donald Trump being the evidence that citizens have had enough, they are desperate. Both Trump and Brexit are the result of protest votes for the masses and a stark reminder that politician’s no longer represent the people and the people know it.
For America, the writing is on the wall. In 1990 the global south, made up of Africa, Latin America, and developing Asia including the Middle East accounted for 30 percent of global trade, today that figure has risen to 50 percent. Interestingly, the OECD has predicted that by 2060, the GDP of the developing world, including China and India, would exceed that of developed OECD and non-OECD countries: 57.7 percent to 42.3 percent. This is a big problem for the West and its world order.
Military power is no longer just about how much firepower is available, weapon technology is no longer the preserve of the West, cyber-warfare is becoming just as dangerous as nuclear weapons. The rise of global terrorism has not abated and looks set to only get worse.
Traditional political power is being replaced by transnational social movements and corporations who increasingly dominate global politics. Organisations like Facebook, Google and the Gates Foundation disperse and erode centralised American power. Interdependence by rising regional powers is much more likely to dominate the world order than America’s failing approach of global coercion.
America’s traditional outlets of power such as the UN, IMF, World Bank, WHO, UNHCR and the WTO etc are themselves waning in authority and no longer command the respect they once had. There is a rising tide of new kids on the block. The G20 for instance comprises of economic power houses from both North and South. China’s One Belt, One Road Program and the Silk Road projects are supported by the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) – their version of the World Bank.
The long-term structural factors and institutions that underpinned America’s global influence are failing. The petrodollar is currently in collapse mode, NATO is being challenged and global trade agreements are being redefined. The BRICS nations economic rise will see growth doubling from 2010 to 2020, China alone will see its economic clout nearly treble in the same time frame, whilst the West’s anaemic economy limps from one crisis to the next with what is clearly turning out to be a failed neoliberal project. Capitalism is failing because everything is rigged.
The transition from America’s vision of a rules based system that it insists on devising and leading to a more complicated and internationally led system will be messy – dangerous even. America sees the rise of China and Russia as a threat to its dominance. Unable to innovate, negotiate and calmly influence its way in the 21st century, America could do the unthinkable and attack its perceived opponents in a desperate attempt to regain control with catastrophic repercussions.
The Deep State
Once the arena of ‘conspiracy theorists,’ now the playground of the mainstream media. The Deep State is defined as “a body of people, typically influential members of government agencies, corporations or the military, believed to be involved in the secret manipulation or control of government policy.”
Glen Greenwald, interviewed by DemocracyNow said “What they’re doing instead is trying to take maybe the only faction worse than Donald Trump, which is the deep state, the CIA, with its histories of atrocities, and say they ought to almost engage in like a soft coup, where they take the elected president and prevent him from enacting his policies. And I think it is extremely dangerous to do that. Even if you’re somebody who believes that both the CIA and the deep state, on the one hand, and the Trump presidency, on the other, are extremely dangerous, as I do, there’s a huge difference between the two, which is that Trump was democratically elected and is subject to democratic controls, as these courts just demonstrated and as the media is showing, as citizens are proving. But on the other hand, the CIA was elected by nobody. They’re barely subject to democratic controls at all. And so, to urge that the CIA and the intelligence community empower itself to undermine the elected branches of government is insanity.”
Britain’s own Deep State is steeped in history, effectively manipulating the global map from days of Empire. More recently, it is evidently active. Carne Ross, ex senior British diplomat named the ‘deep state’ for acting to prevent public knowledge of what really happened prior and during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. He said “I testified last week to the Chilcot inquiry. My experience demonstrates an emerging and dangerous problem with the process. This is not so much a problem with Sir John Chilcot and his panel, but rather with Britain’s own “deep state” – that is covering up its mistakes and denying access to critical documents.”
The Deep State in Britain will be the main driver of the Brexit negotiations in the coming months and years as it manipulates legislation in favour of unprecedented political power focused on the drip-drip erosion of civil liberties and human rights to pave the way for ever-increasing corporate profits and plunder that privatisation brings. Other countries have the same problems.
In France there are upcoming elections and another populist threatens the establishment in LePen. Diana Johnstone explains it in great detail for Global Research – “But the pro-European Union, pro-NATO, neoliberal Establishment is at work to keep that from happening. On every possible magazine cover or talk show, the media have shown their allegiance to a “New! Improved!” middle of the road candidate (in Emmanuel Macron) who is being sold to the public like a consumer product. Together, the anonymous sources of the “deep state” and the mass corporate media have become accustomed to controlling the narrative told to the public. They don’t want to give that power up. And they certainly don’t want to see it challenged by outsiders“
The West is no longer governed by a properly functioning political or capitalist system. Bush, Blair, Trump along with Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, TTIP, CETA, the global financial crisis, tax havens, etc are all evidence of that. Tens of millions have protested, none were heard – that is until the shock waves of disobedience reverberated in 2016, its effects yet to unfold.
Other Global Threats
The human population is also facing a new series of perils that threatens the international rules based system of order. If climate science is to be believed, climate change threatens water supplies, food prices, health and global security. By 2030 water stress will affect 47 percent of humanity. It is predicted to undermine global health efforts, increase poverty and will destroy global economic growth.
Humans and animals are increasingly sharing virulent viruses raising the risk of pandemics. The World Health Organisation has clearly stated “Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today” with Antibiotic resistance rising to dangerously high levels in all parts of the world.
Nuclear proliferation is now a real problem. Nine countries roughly control 15,000 armed and ready-to-fire civilisation destroying weapons. There are a number of other countries who have never declared their nuclear capabilities and more are lining up to acquire the technology. If a nuclear weapon or dirty bomb were to fall into the hands of a rogue state – anything could happen.
The EU, worried about Trump’s commitment to NATO and European defence are considering their own nuclear defence system by combining Britain and France into a pan European nuclear umbrella deterrant – no doubt controlled by Germany. That decision alone could cause the EU to implode.
Religious and sectarian divisions continue to dominate the Middle East. The excuse is the battle for global energy supplies which continues to rage with the resulting refugee crisis that threatens the EU. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict raises political volatility with global implications. Syria currently has over two-thirds of the worlds nations involved in the fighting either directly or indirectly – a single spark could escalate into an uncontrollable inferno.
The South China Sea, Ukraine, NATO, Russia, China, Iran, Syria – all pose the potential for existential risk for millions. North Korea is rushing full on to develop a nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile that increasingly demonstrates its desire to reach the US. A problem for every US president since the 1980’s, North Korea is now posing a real threat that is pushing Japan into developing its own nuclear defence system. America and China need to negotiate and put NK on a leash, but they aren’t talking either.
Disorder Not Order
Strategic manoeuvres on the global chessboard of power politics is creating a period of transition. Everything is changing; political alliances, the global economy and its demography, all facilitated by new game-changing technologies. A fight for resources is already underway particularly as globalisation slowly and reluctantly withdraws in favour of regionalised re-industrialisation and nationalism.
A new world disorder is materialising as the West’s traditional grip on the global economy weakens. As with Ying and Yang or the global pendulum, all things exist as inseparable and contradictory opposites. If one economy or political power base increases – it is only at the expense of the other.
As Mark Leonard of the European Council on Foreign Relations notes, such eras are often “the most frightening periods in history.” Quoting Antonio Gramsci, Leonard points out that; “Disorder, war, and even disease can flood into the vacuum that forms when the old is dying and the new cannot be born.”
The truth is that the post-Cold War “American-policed security order” along with the “European-inspired legal order” have both fractured at the same time. The really big problem is that no real candidates to replace them have yet emerged from what looks like a long and dangerous road ahead for us all.