The Top Five Events in 2014

OK, I admit it, this is a bit heavy (not to mention long) for a Saturday post but, this type of post hasn’t been seen here in quite a while, and I think Stratfor hit the nail very squarely on the head here. I’ll let you read it, and then I’ll have a few comments.

By George Friedman

‘Tis the season to make lists, and a list shall be made. We tend to see each year as extraordinary, and in some senses, each year is. But in a broader sense, 2014 was merely another year in a long chain of human triumph and misery. Wars have been waged, marvelous things have been invented, disease has broken out, and people have fallen in love. Nonetheless, lists are called for, and this is my list of the five most important events of 2014.

1: Europe’s Persistent Decline

The single most important event in 2014 was one that did not occur: Europe did not solve its longstanding economic, political and social problems. I place this as number one because regardless of its decline, Europe remains a central figure in the global system. The European Union’s economy is the largest in the world, taken collectively, and the Continent remains a center of global commerce, science and culture. Europe’s inability to solve its problems, or really to make any significant progress, may not involve armies and explosions, but it can disrupt the global system more than any other factor present in 2014.

The vast divergence of the European experience is as troubling as the general economic malaise. Experience is affected by many things, but certainly the inability to find gainful employment is a central feature of it. The huge unemployment rates in Spain, Greece and southern Europe in general profoundly affect large numbers of people. The relative prosperity of Germany and Austria diverges vastly from that of southern Europe, so much so that it calls into question the European Union’s viability.

Indeed, we have seen a rise of anti-EU parties not only in southern Europe but also in the rest of Europe as well. None have crossed the threshold to power, but many are strengthening along with the idea that the benefits of membership in a united Europe, constituted as it is, are outweighed by the costs. Greece will have an election in the coming months, and it is possible that a party favoring withdrawal from the eurozone will become a leading power. The United Kingdom’s UKIP favors withdrawal from the European Union altogether.

There is significant and growing risk that either the European Union will have to be revised dramatically to survive or it will simply fragment. The fragmentation of the European Union would shift authority formally back to myriad nation states. Europe’s experience with nationalism has been troubling, to say the least — certainly in the first part of the 20th century. And when a region as important as Europe redefines itself, the entire world will be affected.

Therefore, Europe’s failure to make meaningful progress in finding a definitive solution to a problem that began to emerge six years ago has overwhelming global significance. It also raises serious questions about whether the problem is soluble. It seems to me that if it were, it would have been solved, given the threat it poses. With each year that passes, we must be open to the possibility that this is no longer a crisis that will pass, but a new, permanent European reality. This is something we have been pointing to for years, and we see the situation as increasingly ominous because it shows no signs of improving.

2: Ukrainian and Russian Crises

Historically, tensions between Russia and the European Peninsula and the United States have generated both wars and near wars and the redrawing of the borders of both the peninsula and Russia. The Napoleonic Wars, World War I, World War II and the Cold War all ended in dramatic redefinitions of Europe’s balance of power and its map. Following from our first major event of the year, the events in Ukraine and the Russian economic crisis must rank as the second most important event.

Stratfor forecast several years ago that there would be a defining crisis in Ukraine that would be the opening to a new and extended confrontation between the European Peninsula and the United States on one side and Russia on the other. We have also forecast that while Russia has regional power, its long-term sustainability is dubious. The same internal factors that brought the Soviet Union crashing down haunt the Russian Federation. We assumed that the “little Cold War” would begin in the mid-2010s, but that Russian decline would not begin until about 2020.

We have seen the first act, and we continue to believe that the final act isn’t imminent, but it is noteworthy that Russia is reeling internally at the same time that it is trying to cope with events in Ukraine. We do not expect Russia to collapse, nor do we expect the Ukrainian crisis to evolve into a broader war. Nevertheless, it seems to me that with this crisis we have entered into a new historical phase in which a confrontation with significant historical precedents is re-emerging. The possibility of conflict is not insignificant; the possibility that the pressures on Russia, internally and externally, might not speed up the country’s own crisis cannot be discounted. Certainly the consequences of oil prices, internal economic dislocation, the volatility of the ruble and sanctions all must give us pause.

The Russians think of this as an event triggered by the United States. In the newspaper Kommersant, I was quoted as saying that the American coup in Ukraine was the most blatant in history. What I actually said was that if this was a coup, it was the most blatant in history, since the United States openly supported the demonstrators and provided aid for the various groups, and it was quite open in supporting a change in government. The fact that what I said was carefully edited is of no importance, as I am not important in this equation. It is important in that it reveals a Russian mindset that assumes that covert forces are operating against Russia. There are forces operating against it, but there is nothing particularly covert about them.

The failures of Russian intelligence services to manage the Ukrainian crisis and the weakening of the Russian economy raise serious questions about the future of Russia, since the Russian Federal Security Service is a foundation of the Russian state. And if Russia destabilizes, it is the destabilization of a nation with a massive nuclear capability. Thus, this is our second most important event.

3: The Desynchronization of the Global Economy

Europe is predicted to see little to no growth in 2015, with some areas in recession or even depression already. China has not been able to recover its growth rate since 2008 and is moving sideways at best. The United States announced a revision indicating that it grew at a rate of 5 percent in the third quarter of 2014. Japan is in deep recession. That the major economic centers of the world are completely out of synch with each other, not only statistically but also structurally, indicates that a major shift in how the world works may be underway.

The dire predictions for the U.S. economy that were floated in the wake of the 2008 crisis have not materialized. There has been neither hyperinflation nor deflation. The economy did not collapse. Rather, it has slowly but systematically climbed out of its hole in terms of both growth and unemployment. The forecast that China would shortly overtake the United States as the world’s leading economy has been delayed at least. The forecast that Europe would demonstrate that the “Anglo-Saxon” economic model is inferior to Europe’s more statist and socially sensitive approach has been disproven. And the assumption that Japan’s dysfunction would lead to massive defaults also has not happened.

The desynchronization of the international system raises questions about what globalization means, and whether it has any meaning at all. But a major crisis is occurring in economic theory. The forecasts made by many leading economists in the wake of 2008 have not come to pass. Just as Milton Friedman replaced John Maynard Keynes as the defining theorist, we are awaiting a new comprehensive explanation for how the economic world is working today, since neither Keynes nor Friedman seem sufficient any longer. A crisis in economic theory is not merely an academic affair. Investment decisions, career choices and savings plans all pivot on how we understand the economic world. At the moment, the only thing that can be said is that the world is filled with things that need explaining.

4: The Disintegration of the Sykes-Picot World

Sir Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot were British and French diplomats who redrew the map of the region between the Mediterranean Sea and Persia after World War I. They invented countries like Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Iraq. Some of these nation-states are in turmoil. The events in Syria and Iraq resemble the events in Lebanon a generation ago: The central government collapses, and warlords representing various groups take control of fragments of the countries, with conflicts flowing across international boundaries. Thus the Iraqi crisis and the Syrian crisis have become hard to distinguish, and all of this is affecting internal Lebanese factions.

This is important in itself. The question is how far the collapse of the post-World War I system will go. Will the national governments reassert themselves in a decisive way, or will the fragmentation continue? Will this process of disintegration spread to other heirs of Sykes and Picot? This question is more important than the emergence of the Islamic State. Radical Islamism is a factor in the region, and it will assert itself in various organizational forms. What is significant is that while a force, the Islamic State is in no position to overwhelm other factions, just as they cannot overwhelm it. Thus it is not the Islamic State, but the fragmentation and the crippling of national governments, that matters. Syrian President Bashar al Assad is just a warlord now, and the government in Baghdad is struggling to be more than just another faction.

Were the dynamics of the oil markets today the same as they were in 1973, this would rank higher. But the decline in consumption by China and the rise of massive new sources of oil reduce the importance of what happens in this region. It still matters, but not nearly as much as it did. What is perhaps the most important question is whether this presages the rise of Turkey, which is the only force historically capable of stabilizing the region. I expect that to happen in due course. But it is not clear that Turkey can take this role yet, even if it wished to.

5: The Births of Asher and Mira

I was given two new grandchildren this year. For me, this must be listed as one of the five major events of 2014. I am aware that it is less significant to others, but I not only want to announce them, I also want to point out an important truth. The tree of life continues to grow new branches inexorably, even in the face of history, adversity and suffering. The broad forces of history and geopolitics shape our lives, but we live our lives in the small things. As much as I care about the other four matters — and I do — I care much more for the birth and lives of Asher and Mira and my other grandchild, Ari.

Life is experience in the context of history. It is lived in intimate contact with things that history would not notice and that geopolitics would not see as significant. “There are more things … than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” Hamlet said to his friend Horatio. Indeed, and their names are Asher, Mira and Ari. This must not be forgotten.

Have a happy New Year’s, and may God grant you peace and joy in your lives, in spite of the hand of history and geopolitics.

Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook

The Top Five Events in 2014 is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

And my take on these:

1. I’ve been saying for as long as I’ve been writing this blog (actually longer) that Europe is dying. Since I have many UK readers, this is the background as to why I would likely support UKIP, out here in the colonies is a vast reservoir of liking, sympathy, and yes love for Mummy, most of us would very much like it if you were to regain your heritage and come grow with us. It worked well for the Tudors, and I think it would work even better for us all today. As Winston Churchill said, “The same language, the same hymns, and, more or less, the same ideals.”  As William Wordsworth said in 1807,

We must be free or die, who speak the tongue

That Shakespeare spoke, the faith and morals held.

Your elites have had their fling with the Europeans again, it’s time to come home, where you are loved and appreciated. Freedom matters, guys, too many of our people are buried around the world not to remember our heritage.

2. Russia has bitten off far more than it can chew, I think and will choke. What happens then is anyone’s guess. It a lot like 1979 all over again but Russia is a lot less stable than the USSR was, and a lot more uninhibited. You’ve noted I’m sure that the petroleum glut has reduced Russia’s GDP by up to 50%, and American production in government fields is still down by about 17% from its peak. If we drill on government lands and Saudi Arabia, who wants to hurt Iran, keeps producing, what happens? I don’t know and I doubt anyone really does.

3. We’re not in particularly good shape ourselves, but compared to the rest of the world, US, UK, Canada and the rest of Oceania, are pulling away, although not as fast as we did in the nineteenth century. I don’t know enough in this field to offer predictions but, again we’re “better together”, as we heard a lot of last year. If we can bring India along, we have a world beater started.

4. I don’t think the Sykes-Picot world will be coming back, we’ best be thinking about what happens next. And remember that Middle Eastern oil is becoming less important by the week. What happens when the Saudi’s go broke?

5. And finally, Congratulation to Mr. Friedman and his family. He’s right, whatever happens life goes on.

Take Away That Foolish Bauble, the Mace

So said Oliver Cromwell, as he dismissed Parliament back in 1653. I suspect the Canadians disagree these days. You see carrying the mace (essentially a medieval club) is one of the duties of the Sergeant-at-Arms. But the job has an actual security component as well, the defense of the King (or the Speaker) is what it originally was. He done good.

But he had some surprising back-up mobilizing as well

From Weaponsman

[…]

The Canadian politicians did none of that. Now, the PM did hide in a closet, which is only partly excused by the fact that it was his bodyguards that stuffed him in there. At least he had the stones to reject his American counterpart’s invitation to call this “workplace violence,” American-style. But the rank and file MPs took action:

Some positioned themselves on risers that flanked doors, ready to attack an assailant.

“There were 15 flags up at caucus and all but two were taken down,” one MP recalled.

“These guys were up there holding these spears ready to impale anyone who came in,” the source said.

“It was that or get mowed down,” the member of Parliament said of the threat posed by a gunman who was ultimately shot dead by Parliament Hill security.

The MPs-turned-halberdiers (or at least, pikemen) didn’t know that the PM was still in the caucus room, or the closets thereto, until a flying wedge of Mounties swept him out of there.

It looks like Canada will be springing for new flags, as the MPs who manned-up during the attack have grown attached to theirs.

Continue with A Weapon is Where You Find It | WeaponsMan.

Good for them, it’s nice to see some men in charge, and Canada’s about as good as it gets, anyway.

A Day Late, and a (Canadian) Dollar Short

IMG_5851_2lowresHappy Canada Day

Geography has made us neighbors.

History has made us friends.

Economics has made us partners.

And necessity has made us allies.

Those whom nature hath so joined together, let no man put asunder.

What unites us is far greater than what divides us.

President John F. Kennedy to the Canadian Parliament

Happy Birthday, Canada

 

The View From the North

Barack Obama, President of the United States o...

Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, with Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s important, I think, to occasionally take a look at how we look from the outside, especially how our friends, especially the really good ones see us. And who would be better friends that the Canadians? What are they seeing, particularly since so many of us admire PM Harper so much. So let’s have a look. The first article is from Colin Robertson of The Globe and Mail it’s entitled

Why Canada wants to feel more love from the U.S.

Living beside the United States, remarked Pierre Trudeau, is like sleeping with an elephant: “No matter how friendly or temperate the beast, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.” The twitching is getting to the Harper government and it has responded with a series of pokes.

A trio of senior ministers – John Baird, Joe Oliver, Greg Rickford – travelled to New York this month to voice what Stephen Harper calls our “profound disappointment” over the delayed Keystone XL KXL pipeline. Said Mr. Oliver: “This isn’t right, this isn’t fair.”

In Winnipeg, Agriculture Minister Gary Ritz accused the United States of behaving like a “schoolyard bully” over country-of-origin labelling.

Last week in Washington, Ambassador Gary Doer and MP Rob Merrifield delivered an invitation from House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer to Republican House Speaker John Boehner to visit Canada for discussions on KXL and other issues.

If the Obama administration wants further evidence that Canada deserves some attention it should watch the recent exchange between former ambassador Frank McKenna and U.S. Ambassador Bruce Heyman. “It’s like a marriage. It might be really good for you but I’ve got some problems,” said Mr. McKenna of Canadian frustration over KXL and financing the Windsor-Detroit customs plaza.

Canada-U.S. relations operate on three levels: international, intermestic and people-to-people.

Ours is a complex relationship that goes beyond the traditional diplomatic conventions. Supported by the hidden wiring of connections between provinces and states, business and civil society, it is usually a model for neighbourly relations.

In international summitry, President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Harper are aligned on the big-ticket issues of peace and security, banking and finance, even if they differ on approaches to climate change.

The people-to-people relationship is solid. Americans like us more than we like them. We share much in common, at work and at play, although beating Team USA at hockey is now our main Olympic goal.

It’s on the transactional level of trade and commerce that we have problems, with KXL top of the list. For Canada, KXL is i>the problem with the partner. For the United States, KXL is a problem with a partner.

via CDFAI – New From Colin Robertson.

If I’m honest (and I always try to be) I think he’s pretty much right on all counts

Daryl Copeland give us a Canadian view of the world. While I don’t completely agree with everything he says here, his view is certainly at least as valid as mine, and I think we should at least consider what he says.

Blowback: Iraq and the law of unintended consequences

Under relentless pressure from the jihadist movement Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the political collapse and territorial disintegration of Iraq in recent weeks has been striking. If this process is not reversed, the emergence of a radical Islamist enclave is likely to cause serious security problems for decades, both in the Middle East and beyond.

That has been the focus of most reporting to date. The big-picture implications are even more profound.

To be sure, the roots of the current crisis are complex and tangled. They can be traced back at least to the unravelling of the Ottoman Empire following the First World War, and the subsequent division of the territorial spoils by Britain and France according to the terms of the Sykes-Picot Agreement.

That said, and notwithstanding Tony Blair’s apparent amnesia, much of the current disaster appears directly attributable to the ill-fated decision on the part of the United States and its coalition allies to intervene militarily in Iraq 2003-11. As it happened, much of the “shock and awe” was reserved for the invaders. That colossal strategic error cost some $1.7 trillion, resulted in the deaths of over 150,000 Iraqis and 4,800 coalition soldiers and, together with the Great Recession, spelled the end of unipolarity — American international dominance.

While those costs are extraordinary, the longer term damage may prove even greater. The ISIS gains in Syria and Iraq may be only the beginning, and could give rise to further developments inimical to peace, progress and prosperity, both in the region and further afield. The obvious hazards are related to Islamic extremism, sectarian strife, civil war and ethnic partition.

Of even greater concern, however, is the continued militarization of international policy.

via CDFAI – In the Media

I think one of the key points here is that the world is seeing that the unipolar power structure that has held since 1990 is unraveling. It is doing so because America is letting it, nothing has really changed, except for the will of our government. If that is what the American people want (which I doubt, very strongly) then so be it. If it isn’t we need to start thinking about what we are going to do after Obama. We haven’t been thinking long-term we have been fighting a reactive (not pro active) battle against the administration, and that is why we’re losing. What are we for. Americans are an optimistic forward-looking people, we’re not known for being against things but for better things. We should be doing politics the same way.

What are we for; and will we fight for it?

Passing the Torch

E3747The other day Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper addressed the Israeli Knesset. It was an outstanding speech, (the video is below) and it expressed Canada’s support for Israel emphatically.

But the speech had other ramifications as well. I think it marked Canada’s (and Australia’s, see below) accession to the leadership of the free world. We here in America and the Britain as well have dropped the ball rather badly in the last few years, and we have left others to pick up after us. To their credit they are doing an admirable job.Tom Wilson writing in Commentary magazine also noticed and said this:

Rightly, Harper spoke of Israel’s accomplishments, defending unequivocally its right to exist as a Jewish state and denouncing in no uncertain terms the new anti-Semitism that masquerades as anti-Zionism–or as Harper put it, “the old hatred has been translated into more sophisticated language for use in polite society. People who would never say they hate and blame the Jews for their own failings or the problems of the world, instead declare their hatred of Israel and blame the only Jewish state for the problems of the Middle East.”

Ironically, when Prime Minister Harper came to rebutting the apartheid charge leveled against Israel, two of the Arab Knesset members present began to loudly interrupt him, before then promptly storming out–their very position in the Knesset, of course, serving to refute the accusation that they apparently felt so strongly about insisting upon. This sense of obligation to speak out against such lies and bigotry clearly stems from the prime minister’s wider worldview.

Harper declared unapologetically that we live in a world where “moral relativism runs rampant” and that “in the garden of such moral relativism, the seeds of much more sinister notions can be easily planted.” For, as Harper noted, “Those who, often begin by hating the Jews…history shows us, end up hating anyone who is not them.”

That’s important, and that’s the kind of leadership that world has come to expect from America, and yes from Britain. Neither country is providing it any longer, but friends of ours, and more importantly friends of freedom are. Here’s PM Harper

Similarly, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has also proven to be unswerving in her support. Like Canada, and in truth like Britain and the US used to be, their support is not absolute, it is won by the love of freedom, and playing by the rules. Again from Tom Wilson

Bishop stated that she thought the international community should refrain from calling settlements illegal, remarking, “I would like to see which international law has declared them illegal,” and arguing, “I don’t think it’s helpful to prejudge the settlement issue if you’re trying to get a negotiated solution. And by deeming the activity as a war crime, it’s unlikely to engender a negotiated solution.”

Foreign Minister Bishop has likewise been unwavering in her opposition to boycotts, seeing to it that funding from the Australian government does not reach organizations calling for them. Of the BDS movement Bishop exclaimed, “It’s anti-Semitic. It identifies Israel out of all other nations as being worthy of a boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign? Hypocritical beyond belief.”

Bishop stands out as an almost lone voice on a number of these issues, yet in doing so she echoes the Canadian prime minister’s attitude when he stated that his country will “stand for what is principled and just, regardless of whether it is convenient or popular.”

 Look at that, real principles, just like we used to have.

You know, freedom in the world has been linked to the English-speaking people ever since the enlightenment, and the more things change, the more they stay the same. The thing is, Canada and Australia both know exactly what they are doing, they have been in the trenches, receiving far less of the glory than they deserve, for a full hundred years with us. And yet, they still, have the guts to lead the eternal battle. I hope we have the sense to support them

 

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A Milestone

English: Map of the world showing the location...

English: Map of the world showing the location of the United Kingdom and the United States of America. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been a bit busy with one thing and another and not paying too much attention to my stats lately. Apparently, I’m doing OK, though with the blog, because I just noticed that sometime in the last few days, I passed 25,000 views. I have no idea (and care little) if that is above, below, or about average. I’m happy with it.

I suppose I could say it’s all because of me but, I try not to lie to you, it’s not. It’s because of you. You who inspire me, challenge me, read what I write, good and bad. It’s especially because of you who care about the path of Christianity and America, this time. I’ve been pretty focused on those two subjects lately and hope I’ll be able to deemphasize politics some in the coming months. We’ll see.

Along that line, I want to make a special note of my dearest friend, Jess, who has inspired so many of the posts I written lately that I have taken to calling her my muse.

I also want to take note of those who have been here almost from the beginning, a year ago last July, who have helped me so much, and most especially those, old and new you have given me such eloquent, and intelligent comments.

If you’re curious views here come overwhelmingly from the United States, followed by the UK, Canada, Switzerland, and Spain, and the most popular subjects are the United States, Politics, History, Conservatism, and Corruption. I suspect that tells you something both about what I write about and what you want to know about.

Thanks to you all! :-)

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