Prognosticating is a dangerous business, or at least it ought to be. We believe that it is and when we think of person doing it we summon images of Jean Dixon or Nostrodomous, crystal balls, and such. However, if we look past all of that, we might find that we likely read ‘prognosticators’ all of our lives. I did, on the bookshelf behind me are books filled with predictions. In a formal debate, many of the arguments made in those books, books about history and culture would be called ‘slippery slope’ arguments. Well, much like stereotypes, slippery slope arguments continue to be used because they can be of some use, they tell us about the nature of things if not about the specificity of individuals and outliers.
Everyone that is going to know the essential truth about the nature of our current world already knows. The majority in the group are busy either trying to explain it all in unnecessary and unachievable details, chasing rabbits down deep holes, or clinging to hope in institutions or individuals they desperately hope will turn out to be outliers. Some search for the center of gravity by digging through webs wrapped in webs. Others hope for a human that might save them. But these, for the most part, they understand the essential nature and it is that element that I will begin with as axioms.
Axiom 1: power always seeks more power and to retain power; it is an essential part of human nature. In the western system, in nation-states, after the disruption of the enlightenment men have worked, as they always have to bring prestige and power to themselves and their offspring. Sometimes they have conspired together, either because of ideological affinity, social organization, religion, and even secret societies – and often there is cross-pollination and admixture of all those and more. Three hundred years ago, the elites that comprised the power structure focused on wealth and or politics as a means to hold power, banking and industry could, as has always been the case buy influence. At the base, this remains but two elements have transformed what power and influence mean and how it is truly wielded (more below). I will use the term power class herein to describe the marriage and synthesis of political, economic, informational, and corporate entities into a self-supporting loose cabal of sorts, glued together by many factors but centrally by man’s desire for power (George Carlin’s simple description).
Axiom 2: In the Western system and particularly in that of the US, centralization has been a theme since the 1790s. It defined the first half of the 19th century and ‘manifested’ in the second. In the 20th century, with the road well-paved, it began to look more like a consolidation. We have many authors prognosticating the effects of what some argued were ‘slippery slopes’ that turned out to be a reality, we find these beginning in the debates about the Constitution and all through the story moving forward. They were correct and predictive. Centralization and consolidation have accelerated to the point that something transformative is about to occur, soon.
Axiom 3: Ideology matters, because it drives culture and from that those that seek to gain or retain power look to it for their talking points and programs of appeasement. Beginning in the 1950s a second, parallel culture, based upon philosophical notions, has existed and grown in the West and in the US. This culture is now ascendant and will be the water from which elites draw the ideas and programs they use to appease the masses while they themselves do what power elites always do. There are now, two separate and opposed cultures in the West/US, matter and antimatter. It is impossible for the old to live beside the new once the new is dominant. One or the other must dominate and kill the other, and only one (the one born in the 1950s) is capable or willing.
Axiom 4: Human nature is a general law of history, and as such it applies, both in what men seek and what men are inclined to hear and believe. Human nature both explains why people can be and are deceived en masse and why others perform acts of deception.
With those out of the way, perhaps we can just focus on what-ifs and agree that some of the finite details many struggle to fill in, really do not matter to the outcome. It does not matter if the people in charge are just flawed humans or secret society, blood-sucking death cult, or anything in between. The details are much less important than the Nature of the thing, what do they do. In the end, the nitty-gritty details do not matter as much as their nature. What they do is more important than pedigrees.
Let’s talk then about their nature because that explains what they want, those that seek power, and will give us the potential moves they would like to make. Let’s also assign and define a term to make the discussion easier. “People of the narrative” (PoN), I will use this to describe both the purveyors and consumers of narratives that support consolidation, centralization, and policies that seem to benefit the power class. Occasionally, one in this group will bemoan the fact that this is not the end of history, that Fukuyama was wrong. But we can observe through policy that they do not actually believe this to be true, they have not given up hope, and that is still the goal. These statements merely reflect a sadness it did not happen yet, and a call to action that there is work to do.
Ultimately the nature of the power class is best expressed, most openly at least in Fukuyama’s 1990 essay about the end of history. Something reflected in Western foreign policy ever since. We can find it in Thomas Friedman’s 2005 book, The World is Flat, and elsewhere, everywhere in fact. The vision is essentially global (everywhere that matters), corporate (a synthesis of public-private in such a way that the power class benefits), with the appearance of choice and democracy and “rules-based”. That is the nature of the power class, this is what they do, these people you seek Clarice. Notice, the concept of the Rule of law, with primacy on the sanctity and importance of law is much less important than rules-based, this is not a small difference, we will discuss that later. From that vision, and that alone, we can apply the axioms above and try to predict what will come next.
Everywhere that Matters
Eurasia matters, it has always mattered but it has not always been tamable. It has seldom been tamable throughout history. In fact, only natives to the land have ever successfully managed the task, although others have tried. Napoleon found it too cold, Hitler discovered it was just too large. The West contained it, tried to starve and isolate it, and the flawed ideologies that took hold in Eurasia in the late 20th century certainly assisted in that effort. When communism fell, the West was unprepared to integrate Eurasia and decided on a path of part isolation part exploitation. The 1990s in Russia were a lost decade while in China it was a time of transition, a time to remove flawed ideas and incorporate economic concepts that might lead to greatness.
At the core of it all, geopolitics remained true because geography, resources, rivers, and culture matter and have always mattered. Fukuyama wrote about a post-geopolitical age, but the reality of Huntington’s words, written the same year spoke to something that was real and true. The West could not dominate and control Russia and thereby control the central Eurasian plains, not at the end of the Cold War. They also could not integrate Russia. A people and a culture so large, one that is historically and culturally opposed to the base principles of “the End of History”, integrating that nation into Europe and the Western system would be dangerous to the final result. So, partial isolation, and partial exploitation was the policy of the 1990s. When Russia awoke from its slumber in 2000 and began to rebuild, the manifestation of Western objectives was already underway, Pax Americana, a unipolar hegemon, the West and the Rest; “you are with us or against us”.
But Eurasia matters, it cannot be left forever outside of the sphere of Western domination, not if the objectives of the end of history are to ever be achieved. The current conflict in Ukraine is a result of this reality. NATO’s continuous eastward expansion speaks to it; it simply must be so to a person that believes that the end of history will usher in peace and prosperity.
Some will argue, and it is important to deal with this early that the current proxy conflict between the West and Russia is just a show, a way to ruin economies and usher in great transformation. I suggest that the great transformation, the thing required to shift economies and make all goals of the power class reality does not need the assistance of Putin or Russia; they simply need Russia’s compliance. Putin has ruled Russia since December of 1999 (four of those years were through his proxy Medvedev). If Putin was playing for the team that wishes to see the Western global hegemon extended to all the important places, there were logically many other ways to extend the reach of that creature over Eurasia than an elaborate game of geopolitical chicken resulting in a fake proxy war. He could simply have moved Russia in that direction, and leaders in the West could simply have welcomed integration and openness. It is almost preposterous to think, that Putin being the autocratic ruler of Russia, had to spend 23 years playing a game to fool Russians all while waiting to play at theater in Ukraine. The West is fighting a proxy war in Ukraine because Eurasia is critically important AND Putin and Russia are not compliant and never will be unless neutered.
We arrive, therefore, at the first decision point in future history. If Eurasia is critical, and Russia is non-compliant and unwilling to accept end of history total hegemony, what of other nations (China, India, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Venezuela, and others). We have, at present, only hints that Russia’s stance is not alone. We have only hints that other nations see this as an opportunity to express their national will and break free of the Western system and join or create something new. Will it work, can it work, and if so for how long?
The answers to those questions would be book-length. I think there will be a rebellion, I think we will see the establishment of this alternate system, and I think it will last just long enough for China to get what it wants and to change allegiance. We will see several nations in the Global South defecting to this new economic system. Those defections will be followed by political chaos in those countries as one after the other is subjected to Western color revolutions and some full-on civil war. Some will resist and some will fall. The West will not sit idly by while mere politicians in ‘third rate’ nations mess with the plan.
Russia will eventually achieve its objectives in Ukraine, objectives that have undoubtedly expanded by necessity since their operation there began (If Iraq and Afghanistan can be an operation, so can Ukraine!) Mutually assured destruction is a real thing in modern geopolitics and the Russian notion that if there is no Russia there is nothing, of burnt earth is real. Even the most delusional neocon/neoliberal policy ‘expert’ understands this, we hope. Lithuania and Poland may be as confused about their strategic positions as Ukraine in January 2022 when they intensified shelling in the Donbass, believing Russia would do nothing and the West would protect them but time will tell. Western planners have done the calculus, they know they could defeat Russia on paper, and know they could not suffer the consequences at home. The West is no longer made of the sort of stuff that can absorb that level of pain. So, for reasons that were not present at the beginning of the Ukraine operation but have been made valid since, through foolish words and actions, the events in Ukraine will spill over to other parts of Europe, it does not have to be kinetic and it will not be WWIII, or at least, logically it ought not end up being that drastic, but it could.
Turkey is going to be an interesting case, a nation that also never really belonged in Europe or NATO, but compromises were made for reasons (USSR). Turkey has a long history of serious problems with many separatist groups, the Kurds being one of them. These allies (puppets) of the US have a long-standing animosity toward the Turks. When Trump attempted to pull US troops out of our partial occupation of Syria, the military and much of the military, industrial, and intelligence complex (MIIC) balked, and refused. Russia is a long-time ally of Syria and Asaad. The Kurds, while not exactly enemies of Asaad, are separatists and not his friend. Turkey hates the Kurds. The Kurds are allies of the US. It is not impossible to see a massive realignment, with Turkey leaving NATO and Russia convincing Asaad to allow (or look the other way) while Turkey eliminates the Kurds. Geopolitically speaking, this solves many problems, problems that have gone on for over a century (solves from Turkey’s perspective). We must keep in mind, that Erdogan remembers the not-so-distant events (July 2016) that look a lot like a US-supported coup against him. We must also remember, that that coup, the invasion of Syria by the US, and the de facto US alliance with Turkish enemies were done by power elite globalists that hold to the idea of western hegemonic ideals of end-of-history thinking. Erdogan knows this. If Turkey left NATO, patching up Russian hurts in the process, the eastern Mediterranean and Aegean certainly could get spicey, the long-held hate of Greek and Turk is not gone, just masked by current alliances of opportunity.
Iran is always an interesting case for potentially spicey news. The thing to note is somebody, some intelligence agency (it would appear) is systematically killing key members of the IIRG, scientists, and government officials inside Iran. It could be an internal purge, but it looks more like targeted assassinations by a foreign power. Iran understands geopolitics and set aside Shia Sunni differences in Syria, Iran is and will be a player there (and has no reason to cry if Kurds are killed by Turks). Iran has no disincentive not to press headlong into missile and nuclear technology and every motivation to do it fast. Nuclear nations do not get invaded. Isreal, for its own reasons of national survival, cannot tolerate that eventuality. Something that could significantly alter the previously assumed dynamic is a fundamental shift in Syria, as mentioned above. Iranian short and mid-range missiles stationed there, something Turkey would have previously opposed, would be an interesting escalation and a tricky problem for Isreal, one that might dissuade them from repeating Operation Opera. A rejiggering of Syria (and Russo-Turk relations) could allow Iran to go nuclear without Isreal having a solid unilateral response. A nuclear-armed Persia would provide the Islamic Republic much wasta with their Arab neighbors. It could shift the balance away from the West, and the petro-dollar, to the new system.
China has invested much time and resources in doing just that, moving Arab states away from the Western orbit, but only by degrees. Iran, significantly changing the power dynamic would move nations to act or react in big ways. Of course, moving South America, pan-Arabia and others is the long-term and continuous goal of China, but one long-term goal that seems achievable is Taiwan.
China will assert sovereign control over Taiwan at the very moment it is certain it can get away with it and the clock on that action moved forward many minutes when Russia began an operation in Ukraine. It is simple enough for China to take the island, US military analysis knows this. China needed the excuse, the justification. Much of China’s power is actually soft power, economics. Much of their work has been the soft power sort. They could not simply act and not lose face in those efforts. But the West has provided the reasons. First, the West maintains a “one China policy”. We say “Taiwan is yours, but you really cannot have it right now”. We say Taiwan is not really a nation, but some international maritime law applies, but it is not fully sovereign. We dunked Westphalia for pragmatism and ended up with hypocritical double-talk. It was always a complex stance that meant China could act when it wanted. In 2014 two states broke away from Ukraine, the world said “not really countries” but then there was an international agreement to let them exist, sort of. Russia invaded, partially under the premise of protecting these not fully independent (by international standards) ethnic Russian states and the world said – that is illegal. Can the West or America intervene on behalf of Taiwan, not a fully independent state and a place we say by policy belongs to China? Yes, Western media could write it up to say it is totally different, but the audience of the New York Times is not the audience that China is worried about offending. If nations in the Global South, those places China has expended so much soft power see the hypocrisy, then China may feel it has a case to move on Taiwan without a backlash.
Some, and I am speaking of realists, not shills and fools, see the Ukraine thing extending into the winter. I believe it is possible that a collapse could be more imminent. Russia will achieve its initial objections, some sort of negotiation will occur and something of a much smaller Ukraine will exist. Russia is not stupid enough to want the western urban areas. If Lithuania and Poland persist in January of 2022 levels of Zelensky's absurd comments and actions they may or may not have a problem on their hands and it may or may not be kinetic. Russia will win, has won this round. But it is not the war. All of the machinations and maneuvers concerning Russia are a sideshow to how this all ends. The West cannot fight Russia (and really win, if by winning we mean not be fundamentally torn apart), and Russia cannot really fight the West and win, so the military aspect is a sideshow. It is not the thing.
What happens in other parts of the world, as the military conflict in Europe enables and emboldens realignments. An unchecked Persia could change everything in the world. A China exuding military might, with justifications, alongside all of their soft power work is a significant game-changer. In a real sense, if Russia is a proxy, they are a proxy not of some secret plan in the West, but of the rising alternative system.
We ought to note something. Russia and China are unequal and unnatural partners and allies. Most of Siberia is peopled by ethnic Chinese. Russia and China have people problems but the opposite sort. Geography and culture define geopolitical faults, and China has been invading Russia with its culture for a long time. Russia never wins in any of this, although they were on the receiving end of the direct frontal assaults on its western border and Western politicians believed that someday, they would bring China into the camp.
They will. China, with a long cultural memory and a profound sense of its place in the world, historically speaking, was never again going to join a “9 powers treaty” unless it sat at the table in a position of power. China too knows the importance of the Eurasia central plains and they have a cultural and demographic foothold there. At some point in the great transformative battles to come. And some of those will be kinetic as in Ukraine and others just defacto actions that occur and cannot be stopped like Taiwan, China will play the part of Italy in 1943 and change sides. They will join the Western hegemonic system, under their terms and from a position of power and influence. Not as pawns but at the head of the table.
How long will this take? Perhaps ten years. The cultural problems that are present in the West have taken a toll but not their full cost, not yet. Neither Europe nor Russia is expended from proxy wars and a new cold war, the Global South has not yet realigned under Chinese leadership – there is much to happen. But it is happening.
Remember axiom #3: There are now, two separate and opposed cultures in the West/US, matter and antimatter. It is impossible for the old to live beside the new once the new is dominant. One or the other must dominate and kill the other, and only one (the one born in the 1950s) is capable or willing. No matter how often we are inclined to look across the water to geopolitical happenings this is the key driver that will decide our future, and ultimately if we get a seat at the table or against the wall and if we even deserve one. It was 'end of history' ideology that insisted on exporting progressivism to the very edges of already existing geopolitical fault lines. It was western leaders that insisted on inserting the culture war and western decadence into existing civil wars. These people and their ideology caused much of this affecting not just the domestic but the geopolitical -- people are dying because they believe they have to tell others what freedom is and what it is not. They believe they are qualified to be judges and apply their ideological religious standards to all people in all places, demanding compliance. They are willing to kill or let others be killed for these beliefs, this end of history thinking, the rules-based (their rules) order that Western democracies devolved into.
But it has its most profound effect domestically. Caersarism is the only natural remedy to absurd people living with a corrupt power class. It is the only thing that will prevent violence on the street, or at least not allow it to result in guillotines (often). We can already see the Byzantine nature of our institutions. The US routinely grounds military aircraft, even now, because something is broken in our system. As the cultural conflict continues and expands more institutional fault lines will emerge. Russia will break the West, what is left of it, just as much as this conflict will break Russia. Rainbow brigades and unicorn battalions may march in the streets, but they are not made of the stuff to prevail in existential conflicts, and naturally, they ought not. It was the culture war that defined us and our future and that war was never really what most believed. It was that occurrence that allowed centralization and consolidation to accelerate. The geopolitical shifts are a result of and happen because of that, not the other way around. Good people, in strong nations, that operate by the rule of law do not have the sort of problems we face, nor those to come.
At the end of this great transformation, we will not find white European and American billionaire conspirators running the new hegemonic system. Neither will it be those that march on the street screaming for change. Some of these may serve as a face to the nations of their birth, but they will not hold the keys to real power. It will be Chinese in those positions, China holding Eurasia and a laundry list of puppet state allies behind it – it will be China sitting at the head of the new ‘9 power treaty”.
Should we fear this potential, and I assess likely, future? I fear it less than Western progressivism winning out and establishing an ‘end of history’ hegemony across the world. I know what that looks like it is pretty ugly and terrifying. I am not positive I know for sure how a Chinese-run hegemony would affect me directly, I suspect I know a lot of it, but I am not as certain as I am of those in my own country that hate me, and would kill me if allowed. I would prefer, no hegemony at all and for all the people that are determined to destroy things that work to just go away – but history is about reality, not preferences.
It is entirely possible, that if anything I wrote above is correct, smarter people than I reasoned it all out. It is possible that “WWIII” that people occasionally wail about started with the first shots fired in perhaps December of 2019 – but which side pulled the trigger in that case…..or maybe it is all just geopolitics and fault lines and the natural result of an empire declining and pushing too hard against its borders to compensate for that fact. Historians will have to answer which of those is true.