I am writing this advisory article hoping to add to the proliferated advisory papers and commentaries on how the contemporary United States (a nation to some in decline, to others still in full authority) manage herself in the contemporary competitive world. My commentary is simple and argues for a move away from the Kaiser-model of arm-centric strategy, and towards embracing the excellence of Bismarck-Model of Diplomatic excellence.
Yes America is in decline, but this is inevitable only in the sense of it’s position and influence abroad, that in the realm of international affairs, as new polycentric world takes shape with rising new regional powers and possible future global powers; and No, this international decline should not mean, or even be accepted as, an equivalently inevitable domestic decline, even though the nation is suffering one of it’s worst socio-political and economic crises in decades as a result of capitalism-gone-wild and political-detachments, which has already produced negative effects, such as ”secessionists” groups and voices, divided demographics, and other disgrunted voices which are ever becoming louder and might just create a worsening of the problem similar to those of the early 50s, 60s, and 70s; the weather underground, civil rights movements, black movements and so forth. This means that the US, and the West in general should concentrate more on home-affairs and problems and less on the outside dramas, initially until these are mended.
However this article leaves aside domestic politics and concentrates entirely on the international affairs, where the decline is inevitable and unfolding, as a result of the decades of war and interventions which has seen the United States finding herself holding onto her, what is, remaining of her authority by not her economic or military, or even political might/power, but by the complex invisible woven-web around the system that she helped to rebuild after the end of second world war. In other words, no one respect or fear the United States today, externally, and this shows all around us, but all parties have vested interests to see a progressive, thus inevitable, decline of the United States, until more suited and working parallel systems or architectural models of finance, banking, economics, politics, diplomacy and security have been erected.
South East Asia.
In the South East Asia, SCO is taking shape with China at the centre of the power-web and there is nothing that one can do to change this, as the so-called Pivot is nothing but a further absence of strategic thinking and operational over-stretch that will in the long-run cost the United States and allies more losses than advantages: the west have a tendency to behave like a child, whose needs are focused and driven mainly by immediate-gratification, and not taking into account the effect of tomorrow that candy will do to one’s weight, health or dental hygiene etc. In the economic sphere of the region, ASEAN community as well as BRICS are slowly coming into co-existing natural relation and further developments are being implemented as alternative working-systems. In short on the South East Asia the loser is the United States, the winners are the Big Three of Asia; China, India, and one might include Russia. These powers are regional and not global. These powers will in the end attain ascendancy in the region whether through adversary or peace, and its the latter that the US should focus more on that via diplomatic, peaceful talks rather than the former and it’s representation with the so-called pivot strategy; belligerent in the very core.
Middle East: General, Syria and Iran
The United States, and western bloc in general, have been the greater losers since after the 1950s, and were only able to maintain their influence with the usual old brilliant diplomatic manoeuvring, which has ever since, to be specific post-9/11 under the neo-conservatives leadership of US, being sacrificed, these perfect ”Bismarckian Model” for those unworkable ”Kaiser Approach”; meaning, the primacy of arms over diplomacy, the behind doors talks and manoeuvring. And ever since Iraq the US and NATO allies have seen their influence and authority currency losing credit among many and perhaps most importantly, and disturbingly, the new generations of political ruling classes, that no longer feels the need or fear for an external protection to hold their places of powers. In Syria, what one might advise is simple and perhaps more Machiavellian (the forgotten prophet), the US/West should seek to maintain Assad in power (in every experiments their should be a control group, and maintaining Assad in power should be thought as such, a control group in relation to Independent Variables of the rise of Islamists/Brotherhood and Salafists-inclined parties), and as Machiavelli using Cesare Borgia noted, the once-enemy will forever be indebted to the new masters, and might serve as not only a barrier for Islamist spread/reach and power but also as key player against the old great powers/competitors in the region, such as Iran, Russia and even today, China, or even the Turks (in future). Syrian Assad can be ”turned” and used as US/West ”agent” against these powers. Of course in maintaining Assad in power, the US should seek a resolution of allowing other parties to have a share in socio-political and economic slice that has been once been a privilege for a smaller group made up of the Alawites. This should be the new strategic approach towards the region and Syria in specific, in terms of Iran, make a deal like that with Syria, and turn an enemy into a dependency.
Al-Qa’ida: General and Mali
On this subject one can simply state the hated truth, that the US/West have long ago lost the war against such an intelligent and adaptive enemy. To decode the truth about this one should go as back as the earlier Al-Qai’da’s key strategic manuals and thoughts, such as The Management of Savagery and observe how the stated ”strategic goals” have been today almost entirely achieved, to an 89% rate.
What should be a strategic shift in dealing with these groups?
One should not concentrate American security and defence strategies on these, as focusing on them gives these actors more meaning and credibility as a real credible enemy and a major crisis for western nations. One should slowly move away from engaging with these and leave these to native local forces, and when one chooses to engage with these, it should be again on diplomatic arena, of peaceful talks in order to win/turn them over rather than kill them. Mali is a perfect focus of reference, since most of these local groups are purely criminal enterprises whose sole incentives are financial and monetary rather than political power, however, if the west, as decided at the present, choose to go all-arms up then they will move these groups into the arms and command of the Al-Qai’da with their own grand strategic political and security goals; in other words, the intervention will turn a rather mere banditry, that nuisance, into a political alliances (or perhaps is what the west seek, to justify presence and spending, which still shows a lack of strategic excellence in thinking and action).
To sum up, the United States, and the West, should rely more on Bismarck-Approach rather than Kaiser-Approach in it’s contemporary international relations, and this would mean more spending and investment on foreign ministries/state departments rather than on defence. This also naturally means for the intelligence services such as the CIA, these should revert back to their more boring analytical realm of professionalism rather than the more-favoured (at least more recent) of paramilitarism, it is this problem which can be accounted or blamed for, in terms of missing critical recent events such as those of the Benghazi assault or other North Africa/Arabia Peninsula embassy attacks; the failure was at analytical level, as a result of the culture of intoxication with the world of ”Bond-like Spy-Life” of guns, special operations, travels etc, and not desk-bounded sound analytical, though boring as hell, tradition.
The decline abroad is inevitable not just for the United States but for the entire western nations due to their tied-to-imperialistic pasts as well as rise of new powers, it is how the west/US deals with this decline that is critical; should the west/US keep on rushing towards this decline as the past great powers with their emphasis on ‘Kaiser-Approach’ or should the west be maintaining it power and influences as long as it can be with that sound old Bismarckian-Approach to diplomacy. The chosen approach and it’s effects abroad will judge the successes and the accelerating-rate of decline at home, and vice versa.
Independent Geo-Strategic analyst & strategist.