By Paul Schmutz Schaller for the Saker Blog
I claim that 2019 will be the year when it has become obvious that the case of the Western hegemony is lost. In my text „Iran or the fight for the strategic initiative“ (August 7, 2019), I wrote that the Western hegemonic forces and the worldwide anti-hegemonic forces fight for the strategic initiative and that Iran is actually the center of this combat. Since then, the situation has evolved. The hegemonic side has clearly lost the initiative, much quicker than I expected.
No aggressive objective has been achieved by the Trump government
Under President Trump, the USA had three main targets: China and North Korea, Iran and the Middle East, Venezuela and Cuba. All the corresponding attacks have been successfully repelled.
After the protests in Ecuador and in Chile and the elections in Bolivia and Argentina, the political position of Venezuela has been much strengthened. Now, the isolated countries in South America are rather Brazil and Colombia, not Venezuela.
Iran has fended off all direct aggressions. The decision of the Iranian leadership to exclude negotiations with the USA has prevailed. The Supreme Leader Khamenei recently said (IRNA, 3 November): „This prohibition on negotiations is based on a firm logic. It blocks the enemy’s infiltration, shows the world the greatness of the Islamic Republic, and destroys the false greatness of the US in the eyes of the world. […] Negotiating with the U.S. will not solve any problems.“ Moreover, the attacks on the Iranian regional allies have failed. In Lebanon, hostile forces aimed at weakening Hezbollah by exploiting the protest movement. However, Hezbollah has reacted with great assurance. In his speech of November 1, Nasrallah said (Alahednews, November 1): “Thanks to the awareness, the Lebanese people have been able to foil some schemes that sought to worsen the situation, which might have led to internal confrontation and street chaos. […] What prevented the chaos was the level of awareness, discipline and insight that many Lebanese people enjoyed in different areas. […] A new government must be formed as soon as possible. […] We call for a real sovereign government whose decision should be purely Lebanese. We must talk about the American role that prevents Lebanon from getting out of its current situation.” In Iraq, there is a similar situation; while the outcome is not yet very clear, it is obvious that strong political Iraqi forces are definitely aware of the dangers. Finally, Saudi Arabia’s war against Yemen loses more and more support. After the United Arab Emirates had retired their troops from the Saudi coalition, the same step has been undertaken by Sudan.
Concerning North Korea, the political leadership has judiciously defended the national interests while remaining open for an improvement of the relations with the USA – if the latter give up their hostile politics. Eventually, there is the so-called trade war between USA and China. Apparently, the USA has not the power of scaring China. While some experts doubt that there will be an agreement, I rather think that a (partial) agreement will be reached, in the sense that China will make some economical concessions in exchange for a strategical upgrading by the US government and, subsequently, by the world.
The leaders in the anti-hegemonic camp are much stronger than the Western leaders
Actually, the Western propaganda cannot present a positive image of a Western political leader. Macron’s and Trudeau’s star has faded – they were introduced as the Western sonnyboys: young, handsome, and dynamic. Merkel had some qualities, but has now lost her influence, and her designated successor Kramp-Karrenbauer cannot persuade the German population. Corbyn (UK) gave some cause for hope, but his nebulous politics with regard to Brexit were very unconvincing. Also, the influence of von der Leyen, the new president of the European Commission, will probably be quite restricted, given the fact that she is German, but not very popular in Germany. The lack of strong political leaders is underlined by the fact that Western media build up Greta Thunberg as a political icon.
So, for the moment and despite the resistance of the political establishment, bulldogs like Trump and Johnson (UK) rather dominate the Western image market. However, their charisma is limited and they will not be able to unite the ruling classes in their countries.
On the other hand, very strong political leaders have emerged on the anti-hegemonic side. The intelligence and strategic foresight of Putin is worldwide recognized. Xi is one of the very rare political leaders who have a clear vision of the development of their countries for the next 30 years. Most remarkably is the fact that the Middle East has produced a number of outstanding political leaders. Nasrallah is Secretary General of Hezbollah since 1992 (he had 32 years) and he apparently is recognized as a key figure of the whole Middle East. The Supreme Leader Khamenei is at his post since 1989 and has guided his country without major crises, against the very harsh hostility of the USA and Israel. During the 8 years of war, President Assad has gained the status of a grand political leader. He now slowly wins the international respect which he merits.
The Western economy is very defensively oriented
Even for a layperson in economical matters, it has become obvious that the Western economical politics are irrational. The prolonged strategy of very low interests seems to be dominated by the panic of an economical crisis. However, this strategy neutralizes an important motor for economical innovations and adaptations. The unique aim is the preservation of the status quo. This cannot go well.
The Western societies reflect this situation. Considering wage labour as an aim in life – which should enable one to progress socially – has widely lost its attraction. The aim is merely to have a job, at least. This echos the weakness of Western hegemony which no longer is able to enrich major parts of the populations.
This situation is in sharp contrast to the dynamic development in Asia. There, the economical integration progresses rapidly. One gets the strong impression that East and Southeast Asia already live in a post-Western world. By the way, this was earlier described by „Conical Hat“ (on the Saker Blog), see „Special Report: Vietnam between US, Russia and China“ (May 12, 2015).
The great unknown: the reaction of the Western populations
This remains an enigma for me. Large segments of the Western populations, despite all their education, their possibilities of information, their journeys, seem to live in a fictive world, still – pathologically – believing in the superiority of the West. Of course, this cannot continue for a very long time. But how will react the populations when they become aware of the world’s political and economic new realities?
One possible reaction is frustration, as demonstrated in Hong Kong since some months, a frustration which is exploited by some fascist gangs. This kind of reaction is prepared by the hate (against all anti-hegemonic forces) which is expressed – on a daily basis – by leading Western newspapers. Another possibility is a steady escalation of the inner confrontations, resulting in a civil war situation.
Of course, some kind of soft transition also remains possible. But this would urgently call for more engagement of leading figures in the West. Macron’s admission that the Western hegemony is coming to an end, certainly was a step in the right direction. Another example can be found in the article „Is Trump At Last Ending Our ‚Endless Wars’ ?“, written by Patrick Buchanan, which appeared in The Unz Review on October 8, where the author writes: „And, yes, there is a price to be paid for letting go an empire, but it is almost always less than the price of holding on.“ And clearly, the fact that somebody like Tulsi Gabbard exists and gains some popularity, is very positive. Nevertheless, much more is needed in order to prevent violent eruptions in Western countries, provoked by parts of the populations which cannot accept the changes in the world.
Let me finish with a personal remark, illustrating the weakness of consciousness in the West. Despite the fact that I never had a profession linked to (geo)political analysis and that I do not dispose of particular relations in order to get some „secret“ informations, I have the impression that my reading of the worldwide events is clearer than that of most professional analysts in Switzerland. This was neither planned, nor makes me particularly proud or joyful. It just became more and more evident through the years and it does not stop astonishing me. It is part of this enigma regarding Western populations.