The Global Power Imbalance
EDITORIAL, 29 August 2016
#444 | Johan Galtung
Dear Reader: This editorial 444–the number calls for attention–is dedicated to a global overview, the world “right now”, so unstable with imbalances everywhere that what we are living is fluxes and jumps.
Let us start with two major relations: nature-human, USA-Rest.
Look at the human-nature relations. We are used to being on top, killing and taming animals, protected against many of nature’s hazards including micro-organisms. But nature comes up with ever smaller viri, and larger, or more, tsunamis and earthquakes, and an erratic climate. We oscillate between blaming ourselves, including military scheming, and the anthropomorphic “Mother Nature is angry” (Evo Morales). If nature is angry, she has good reasons for a good riddance of us. And we are slow at a deeper human-nature relations respecting and enhancing both.
Nature is on top and our natural sciences are simply not good enough, taken by surprise all the time. Meteorology is good at covering the whole Beaufort wind range from 0-12; others not. Maybe we have desouled nature and besouled ourselves too much to establish our own Herrschaft (rule, dominance), at the expense of Partnerschaft (partnership). Unless this changes, imbalance with nature on top, and surprises, will continue.
Maybe the opposite holds for the US-Rest imbalance; that US exceptionalism serves USA as badly as humans above nature serves us?
This author, in 1976, compared the decline and fall of the Roman Empire to a possible decline and fall of the West in general and the US Empire in particular, based on the synergy of uni-causal paradigms. Rome considered itself exceptional and invincible by barbarians, but the counterforces were tearing at them; and they lived on past glory. Clinton, straight from the past with some domestic renewal, will enact that past; any realistic assessment being close to treason. There are elements of the latter in Trump, but he lives in his own bubble, insensitive to the context on which he depends. 60-40 for Clinton?
What happens then? A continuation of the USA on a collision course with three of the other seven big powers in the world. With Russia over Ukraine; with China over “everything but China” TPP, and navy navigation rights in the South China Sea; with Islam over the Islamic State, to be eliminated before it is understood. The USA says this is with Putin-Xi-IS, grossly underestimating how representative they are.
The relation with the other four is not too good either: with major powers Germany and France in EU-NATO over Ukraine; the USA still unable to treat African and Latin American-Caribbean unification with dignity, and on equal terms, and to handle India’s many ambiguities. They think they have Japan–not among the 8 Big–in the pocket with “collective self-defense”, but may underestimate Abe’s ambiguities.
We mentioned a human tendency to desoul nature and besoul humans. There is a similar US tendency to see others as objects to be handled by the only true subject, the USA. The objects, all seven, now enter subject-hood with their own goals and ways of pursuing them. Some of the ends and means may be incompatible with those of the US; spelling conflicts. However, rather than solving those conflicts creatively the USA may turn these subjects in ultimate object-hood, bombing that recalcitrant thing into the Stone Age (from which they then emerge).
This will not work. The US-topped pyramid will tumble down, and in the debris at the bottom USA will find itself on more equal terms. There will be massive US resistance, already visible, and few allies will sign up on the US side. The most likely are those of the same evangelical faith, Denmark and Norway, bombing Libya, contributing the latest (last?) NATO Secretaries General. The world as a whole, more afraid of USA than others, is sick and tired of the whole thing. The balance there once was, like for the Roman Empire, has smoldered away, a victim of massive abuse and living in the past. Clinton will speed this up, leaving for the 2020 president to create a new reality.
But there are more imbalances. Inside EU, Germany is now on top of a pyramid, realizing a German goal from two “world” wars in Europe. This is not what the others want: if EU, then equality. Germany will come tumbling down too; Volkswagen with all its tricks contributing. Much German technical magic, like the US political magic, is gone. Other members can also make cars and things, flattening the pyramid.
Still more imbalances and a rather major one: Europe vs Eurasia, Europe in the old sense of EU and some more vs Eurasia with not only Russia and former Soviet republics, Caucasian, “stans”, but with China and potentially the rest of Islam, Mongolia–and Turkey in the middle. Middle? A US NATO ally fighting the Kurds, another US ally, in Syria; and turning to Russia for good neighbor relations in spite of history. How successfully, we shall see; the shadows of history are deep indeed.
1600+ years have split Orthodox and Catholic Europe, with a power balance to Russia abused by a Napoleon, a Hitler. Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill bridging deepens the split to the Evangelicals and strengthens Eurasia. The old “balance” may yield to a European House.
Still more. The relation of Russia to Eastern Europe took the shape of a power balance with the latter enrolled in NATO and EU. The relation of Russia to China became SCO against US encirclement; NATO vs a Warsaw Pact moved 10,000 Km to the east and very much stronger. Is Russia able to persuade Eastern Europe not to be afraid of Russia, that Crimea-Ukraine was special? Is China able to persuade Russia not to be afraid of Chinese farmers moving into former Chinese territory?
What we see all over is “power balance” based on force on both sides yielding to imbalance because one is smoldering, or yielding to peace, meaning a balance based on good things flowing. In short, what we see globally is not power balance but power imbalance that can lead to war “before it is too late”, to passive coexistence, or to active coexistence, peace. Very, very dynamic indeed. No stability.
Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 29 August 2016.
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