Another month passes, and another series of cracks appear in the foundation of the global political order. As much as this author might sometimes delight in being proven right, it nonetheless causes me grave concern when I see the pylons of international stability being chipped away by global chaos. The pylons are under assault. Let us count the ways.
First, the British public (or most of it, anyway) voted to leave the European Union (EU). Whether you think it beneficial to British interests, or a bureaucratic hindrance to British prosperity and freedom, there is little doubt that the EU has been a force for European stability over the past half century. The EU is not about to collapse, but a blow has surely been struck against it. Might that blow also stagger the regional peace Europe has experienced (mostly) for decades? Perhaps.
Next, we witnessed an attempted coup in Turkey, led by a faction of hapless military leaders. Turkey is no stranger to military coups, but this one was different. The coup failed, for one thing, and secondly, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is now using the aftermath to clean house politically. Anti-Erdogan political, media, intellectual, and military leaders are being rounded up, and in some cases, tortured. It is a purge, my friends, and it threatens the very nature of the Turkish regime established by Ataturk. This is a frightening prospect to befall the second-largest military in the North American Treaty Organization (NATO).
Speaking of NATO, we also saw this week the continued skepticism expressed by U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump about the usefulness of the treaty organization the United States has led for so many years. Trump went so far as to explicitly state that America might not honor its treaty obligations in the event of a Russian attack on the Baltic states if the latter did not “pay up” for their security. Trump threatens, in other words, to turn NATO into an international protection racket, where the United States is the Godfather, and other states must bow down or be thrown to the Russian wolves. Classy.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, and the entire Russian security establishment, for that matter, are no doubt eating caviar and drinking vodka late into the night as they contemplate the possible victory of Trump in November’s presidential election. That would be the greatest diplomatic victory for Russia since the West failed to stop it from invading the Crimea and Ukraine.
No wonder some are questioning whether Russia might have intervened in the U.S. election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee’s emails, and releasing damaging ones on the eve of the Democratic National Convention. That kind of (barely) covert action is entirely plausible and possible. Do not doubt it. Russia is delighting in U.S. political upheaval.
The world also continues to experience a seemingly nonstop series of small-scale knife, small-arms, vehicle, and explosive attacks carried out by Islamic extremists. These attacks sometimes seem to occur on a near-daily basis across Europe, Afghanistan, Iraq, and in the United States, thus fueling the growing feeling of insecurity and instability no doubt felt on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond.
Less prominent events, meanwhile, have also added to the fissures in the international order. China was rebuked by a tribunal arbitrating on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) for its militarizing policies in the South China Sea, to which it promptly responded with a diplomatic middle finger. OK, then.
Moving on to South America. In Venezuela, incompetence on the part of the socialist-led Maduro government has led to a severe food shortage and food riots. Political chaos cannot be far behind, right here in our own hemisphere.
Meanwhile, voters in the West (at least some) seem to simultaneously delight in the political disorder—seeing the overthrow of the system as inherently beneficial—while also seeming to respond to calls for “law and order” by various political leaders. The masses seem to want law and order, just not the law and order provided by the current global political system.
Strap in, everybody. The machine is being raged against and things are not going to stabilize anytime soon.
(Photo courtesy of REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili)