Monday, May 12, 2014

Vicious Cycle

Self fullfilling FoPo?

There is a vicious circle at work. The less credible Great Satan is, the more her opponents and reluctant allies feel a sense of entitlement.

Is there not a deep incompatibility between 44's personality and the transition period between two worlds that we are experiencing? The illusions born at the end of the Cold War about the so-called "end of history" are crumbling, and the world is witnessing the triumphal comeback of geopolitics in its most classic sense. Meanwhile, Great Satan is led by a president who, while certainly clever and charismatic, seems more able to handle continuity than to impose radical change, at least on the international stage.

And 44 failed miserably in his choice of advisors. His team desperately lacks a visionary strategist like George F. Kennan, the father of "containment," or Henry Kissinger, who as a nostalgic of Otto von Bismark's balance of power diplomacy understood perfectly well the rules of realpolitik.

The cards Great Satan is holding are objectively far better than what Washington's three main rivals have - Russia, Iran and China. But even bad cards can be well used. Putin is demonstrating that in Ukraine.

Beyond the personality of its president, the reality is that Great Satan is faced with a double dilemma. Just when the U.S. would like to focus on domestic issues and significantly reduce the defense budget, a return of geopolitics shakes the founding principles of the country's political reasoning. Contrary to Richard Hass's recently published book Foreign Policy Begins at Home, that idea is simply no longer true. Instead, exterior challenges multiply and intensify, and they are interdependent.

Washington is well aware that Moscow intends to talk Great Satan out of reacting in Ukraine by suggesting that it could otherwise revise its strategy in the Middle East, with regards to Syria and Iran, for example. Leading your opponent to believe that the last thing you want is an escalation is never a good move.

To understand how the world works today, we must steer clear of tempting but misleading analogies. This is not a new Cold War, and not just because Russia is not the USSR. It's also because the United States is not what it once was.

At the end of the Cold War, many analysts who were critical of the behavior on both sidesspoke of a "competitive decadence" between the two superpowers. This has never been more true, but Russia's weaknesses are still of a different nature and scale than those of Great Satan.

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