The ‘New Normal’ Geo-Political Crunch Approaches
In a world order that is changing rapidly, scenarios that look to be separated contexts fall all in the same category: Rising powers like China, Russia, and Iran are dictating their terms and setting new red lines with time.
He, who (today) decides the international standards, the protocols, the metrics, and the rules to these ‘transitions’ – is He who is Sovereign’
– German theorist, Carl Schmitt
The Ukraine crisis festers on. Nothing material to a resolution of the many inherent contradictions was accomplished at the Biden-Putin virtual summit.
Perhaps that weak concoction will bring a lull; but if so, it will be just that — ‘a brief ‘time out’. The ‘hawks’ in the US and Europe have not raised the white flag: Ukraine is too good a weapon for their needs, to be tossed lightly aside. Rather the rhetoric against Russia is, if anything, escalating.
The tempo of conflict is ever thus; tensions rise towards seemingly inevitable climax, but then held-breath is expelled, and for a while breathing becomes easier – until that is, the tension grips again. And already ligaments are tightening: Iran, Russia and China are preparing against the possibility of renewed conflict — and war.
The recent primary focus on the Ukraine crisis (and now, the Iran nuclear issue) however, diverts us wholly from the crux of the wider geo-strategic crisis: The point here is that we have three – not one – ticking landmines, ready to ignite. Three ‘fronts’; each are distinct, yet closely inter-related. And now threaded by unknown levels of strategic aims and synchronicity: Ukraine; Taiwan and the faltering JCPOA accord — which is now sparking untold angst in Tel Aviv, accompanied by threats of military action. As leading Israeli commentator, Ben Caspit, has written: “Israel’s threats of a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities in the near future are apparently hollow, and the Iranians know it”.
We have seldom witnessed such an unsettling strategic landscape. The cancer eating away at its core is the unresolved issue of global security architecture. This may sound abstract, but it is not. It is about the right of China, Russia, and Iran (et alii) to set red lines for their own security interests, to protect their backyard. The US-led ‘order’ does not concede red-lines to anyone other than their immediate allies.
The bottom line is that the existing rules-based order has passed its sell-by date: It provides neither security, nor reflects the reality of today’s Great Power balances. America simultaneously is trying to keep the old order afloat, whilst launching its major ‘order’ make-over that will leave the West setting not only the ‘rules of the road’, but the standards, the regulatory frameworks, the metrics, and tech protocols, by which the world lives.
If you look at the history of the post-WW2 era, what you will see is that neo-liberal global capitalism succeeded in restructuring itself as an unopposed, globally hegemonic ideological vision, which largely has managed to neutralise any and all forms of external and internal opposition.
The ‘War on Terror’, the ‘War on Populism’, and now the roll-out of this new, openly authoritarian form of ‘new normal’ reflects a point of inflection – as the global vision is recognised to have failed, and now requires radical re-engineering as a result of a changing world, if the West is to survive as the rules-setter.
Externally, the American-led order is confronting something of a post-WW2 ‘new’. It is far-reaching. In Vienna, Iran simply stated its ‘red lines’: No discussion of Iran’s ballistic missiles; no discussion of Iran’s regional role; and no freezing of enrichment – as long as the mechanism for lifting sanctions and ensuring their non-recurrence is not agreed upon.
The Iranian position is almost identical in structure to that enunciated by Russia, vis à vis the US, in respect to Ukraine: Putin’s demand to Washington is that Russian interests and ‘red lines’ be formally acknowledged and accepted; that legally binding agreements be made in respect to Russia’s security in eastern Europe; and the absolute demand for no further NATO encroachment to the East and a veto on any NATO infrastructure exported to Ukraine. China is using a similar formula with the US in respect to Taiwan.
This is new — as I wrote last week, in geo-politics, co-incidences of this nature don’t just spontaneously happen. It is evident that the three powers are strategically co-ordinated, politically, and likely militarily too. For the first time, others are dictating components of a security architecture to the West; setting out their red lines, rather than being ‘dictated to’ on how to conform to American and western ideological red lines.
Western power-élites have understood for some time that the former ideological vision of the globe converging on western values – alone – was no longer sufficient to serve as the single ideological pillar underpinning US primacy. President Trump’s accession to office was perhaps their ‘wake-up moment’. Trump was an anti-establishment ‘populist’ who had somehow slipped past the control-systems into the Presidency. Aghast that an ‘outsider’ should be in the White House, the subsequent four years were spent pursuing this interloper’s ejection.
The Establishment answer to this trauma has been to design a ‘mandatory’ global software ‘update’ — one intended exactly to frame the new global ‘rules of the road’, oriented to western interests. This update or Re-Set then, would become the ‘operating system’, from which the clutch of ‘transitions’ — health, climate change, managerial and monetary technocracy — might be levered up, and out, from national parliamentary prerogative, and ‘up’ to a supra-national level ‘collectives’ of business and tech managerial ‘expertise’.
Broken down from a (hegemonic) unitary vision of global convergence on western values into four distinct ‘transitions’ such as health precautions, climate recovery, fostering tech ‘miracles’, and money issuance severed from taxation, they sound strikingly non-ideological (which is precisely how they are meant to sound), and somehow even utopian.
Effectively, these transitions have been re-engineered to appeal to the young – and the woke. Of course, ‘wokeism’ was funded by Big Philanthropy and their corporate colleagues to be the solvent that could induce such a grand societal metamorphosis.
It was well understood from the outset that all these transitions would overturn long-standing human ways of life that are ancient and deeply rooted. And that inevitably this would trigger dissidence – which explains both the youth focus, as well as the new forms of internal social ‘discipline’ — the ‘New Normal’ that all must embrace. The aim has been to synchronise all elements of the new software into a singularity of message and culture that would suppress internal dissidence.
The covert ideological objective ‘hiding’ in this ‘utopian’ re-set is simply that it is: ‘He, who (today) decides the international standards, the protocols, the metrics, and the rules to these ‘transitions’ – is He who is Sovereign’, as the leading neo-conservative theorist, Carl Schmitt, once noted.
For now, the ruling élites hurl the usual bromides at external power dissidence — of ‘all options being on the table’; of crippling sanctions; and of an international coalition being organised to isolate and quarantine non-compliant actors (and states) — much as domestic critics are quarantined and suppressed also.
For, without competitor-power compliance, the ‘higher project’ of raising these seemingly ‘non-ideological’ transitions to a supra-national global sphere – but with US imposed standards, metrics, protocols, and regulatory frameworks – will not be achieved — US primacy simply would drain away to China, Russia and others. It will not prove possible to upload a ‘Washington Consensus’ software update when these three states (and a powerful opposing geo-political axis – simply refuse Biden’s ‘rules’, and set their own.
The coming winter is likely ‘crunch time’, because any one of the three festering geo-political crises can explode at any moment; and because the political class needs to cement the “New Normal” in place, so they can dial down the ‘apocalyptic’ pandemic well before the mid-term US elections — elections which could see a return of their nemesis: a populist, ‘Red America’ Congress. But – writes Tom Luongo – “[We’re seeing] clear signals to the markets that Wall St. [is] completely done with this COVID-19 nonsense and are in a political position to make that stick in the U.S. Congress. The result has been the fastest week-to-week drop-off in box office I’ve seen of a Davos narrative ever”.
For, if they are forced to extend vaccination passes and mandates another year … “well, not even the most brainwashed ‘New Normals’ would go on buying into that”. The latter are starting to see that the vaccines are no ‘silver bullet’; they have not enabled a return to ‘normal’ life.
Many are already at that limit: They just want a return ‘to the old normal’. But they can’t; it’s not yet ready to be made available to them. Here is the point: the Re-Set project was conceived around synchronised elements of ideological and cultural messaging, precisely in order to eliminate any deviationist sentiments coalescing into (what they term denigratingly) as populism. (This type of synchronisation has had other names in the past.) But discipline and full ideological compliance was the message they took from the Trump experience. The Tech media censor platforms constitute their counter-measures. They want conformity, and fear ‘easing’ too early — though they also fear the growing rebellion against its tyranny.
And so, the ‘Crunch’ approaches. The ‘fear’ knob will be turned fully ‘loud’ both against the unvaxxed (because they fear the growing revolt in the US, and social polarisation in Europe), and because they fear Iran, Russia and China may already have passed beyond their clutches.