Tuesday, December 24, 2013

21st Century Imperialism

God dammit, I thought we ditched imperialism centuries ago.

Russia recently announced that they were going to expand their military presence in the Arctic. Why would they want to do that? Well Canada, just claimed that it had sovereignty over the North Pole. The other Arctic countries are sure to follow suit, including the US, Norway, and Denmark. Ah, I love me a good old fashioned land grab.

Why the hell these countries are doing this? Wouldn’t the Arctic just be too expensive to maintain presences there? Well apparently, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, 30% of the world’s undiscovered Natural Gas and 15% of the undiscovered Oil is there. No really imperialism, but close.

Then there is China. The ADIZ it established is an essentially a military land grab from Japan. Then there are its disputes with India, the Philippines, and the ASEAN countries for insignificant islands that contain petrochemicals. It has even started putting military garrisons on several of the disputed territories. That I’m sure constitutes imperialism. Threatening to constantly invade Taiwan seems similar to imperialism. Even though, Taiwan is a de facto independent nation.

In addition China has been putting increased science infrastructure in Antarctica and is investing heavily in Africa. Both not necessarily imperialism, but could be the lead up to some form of de facto take over.

To finish this off, Russia is still holding on tight to Ukraine and bullying them with energy threats if they attempt to join the EU’s sphere of influence. As Ukraine drifts even more to the West, Russia may try something with its military.

While not every I mentioned is imperialism per say, they are pretty damn close.

Monday, December 23, 2013

America's Geopolitical Success in Iraq and Afghanistan

Iraq and Afghanistan are usually regarded as complete failures of American policy in the 21st century. While America’s short-term goals of creating stability in the region may have failed, the nation’s long-term geopolitical goals tell a different story.

 When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, it left the United States as the sole superpower in the world. No other country in the world could challenge the political, military, and economic might of the US. This required a change in policy, as America no longer had any major threats. The United States policy changed from containing the spread of Communism to maintaining the balance of power, so no regional power could emerge. The interventions in the former Yugoslavia and Kuwait were just that. Iraq and Afghanistan were no different, except they received more media attention, increasing their controversy. That wave of interventions, for all the fuss they caused, was quite a minor affair. There were fewer than 5,000 casualties, a small number in comparison to previous wars fought by America.

It was beneficial in the long run for the US to just cause chaos in the Muslim world. Groups such as Al Qaeda and the Taliban had goals for a trans-national Muslim coalition. It was vital that a state hostile to the US that also controlled vital oil supplies did not emerge.  Despite all the political rhetoric, the intention of the interventions was never to stabilize, but to destabilize.

The interventions are just the beginning. There will be many Kuwaits and Yugoslavias in the years to come. The United States will need to destabilize not stabilize regions where powers are emerging in order to block potential rivals from emerging.

The Return of European Fascism

Distrust of the government, xenophobia, racism and a weak economy. That may sound like Germany after World War II, but it describes many European countries today. For the 60 years after the war, Western Europe embraced liberal forms of government. After the  fall of the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe drifted toward a democratic, capitalist society similar to those in the West. Bow economic hardship is changing that.

Once small, fringe movements, the far Right and Left have grown in popularity with the increasingly disenchanted youth. Political parties such as the National Democratic Party of Germany, the Freedom Party of Austria, the National Front (France) and the Golden Dawn Party (Greece) have risen to influence, especially in countries with parliamentary and proportional representation. Though none call themselves fascist, they support platforms sharing qualities with Mussolini and Hitler. These parties often espouse stricter immigration laws, zero-tolerance policies, protectionism, anti-Islamism, anti-Semitism and nationalism.

The country whose move towards fascism is receiving the most media attention is Russia. Under Vladimir Putin the country has become militaristic, aggressively seeking to expand its influence. The most obvious attempt was their invasion of Georgia, a former Soviet republic, in the mid-2000s. Though they’ve done so in a more clandestine way through their increased political influence of the Eastern European countries. Russia has placed many restrictions on the press, increasingly militarized itself, hounds gays and Jews, and is becoming extremely nationalistic.

The reasons Italy, Germany, and Austria became fascist before World War II are eerily similar to Europe today. Europe has a declining economy, with the financial and political elites becoming increasingly distanced from the people, causing anger and distrust of the establishment.

It is unlikely that Europe will swing completely fascist. There would be no true dictator as that wouldn't go with the people. Most likely, some states will embrace a form of quasi-fascism in which there would be would be protectionism, corporatism, less privatization, and prohibitions against foreigners buying land. There would be a large increase of power in the armed forces and intelligence  sectors. The media would be highly regulated. Xenophobia would become policy.

To prevent the European shift towards fascism there would need to be major improvements to the economy. When people are prosperous, the establishment receives more support from the public. America and Canada can encourage this by decreasing tariffs on European goods and creating free-trade deals with the European Union. Increasing trade could be the best way to prevent another nightmare.