By Marwan Salamah for the Saker blog
It has always been about the economy. What is the use of hegemony without economic gain? It is like throwing a party and no one comes. Or, going to war for purely egoistical or ideological reasons (aka shared values).
What is even worse, is going to war and winning militarily, but discovering that the costs were horrendously too high, and the net results were pittance or negative – A Pyrrhic victory.
Throughout history, all empires and belligerent nations expanded for economic gain. More land to farm and exploit, wealth and resources to loot, and more people to subjugate and tax or enslave. This goes back to ancient Mesopotamia, passing through the Persian, Greek, Roman empires, and all the way to European colonialism in the past 500 years. Today, it remains the same although it has been disguised to appear docile and friendly, but, make no mistake, it is colonialism – economic neo-colonialism! The shills, however, will present it as development aid, economic assistance, modernization, democracy, human rights, modern values, and may even, masquerade it as improving the ‘Happiness Index’ of the colonized nations.
THE HAVES AND HAVES-NOT, IN TERMS OF POWER
As such, most of the ‘exploitable’ world has been dominated and what remains is Russia and China, plus a few stubborn or poor nations here and there. Russia is simply too vast and rich not to be lustily desired and has been a target for centuries via direct belligerence or, more softly, via geopolitical ploys. To publicly temper this lust, pseudo-intellectual doctrines have been utilized to justify it; among which is the century-old Mackinder Theory of the ‘Heartland of the World’, which states that whoever controls Russia and its environs, controls the world. As for China, its unexpected spectacular rapid growth to the pinnacle of economic success now necessitates clipping its wings to bring it back into the obedient fold.
None of the dominated nations were, or are, happy with their predicaments. Despite that, they are unable to shake off the yoke of neo-colonialism. They are too weak, deep in unpayable sovereign and non-sovereign debt, threatened by sanctions that cut off their livelihood, and if all fails, there are the heavy-handed tools of regime change with their accompanying bloody civil wars and/or direct invasion and bombardment by their masters.
During the previous cold war, when there were only two superpowers, proverbially at each other’s throats, most of the smaller and weaker countries tried to walk a very dangerous tightrope. They tried to maintain semi-neutrality and keep an equal distance from both superpowers. But that was extremely difficult, the hegemons’ carrot and stick’ tactics were too hard to resist when dangled, or very painful when the whip was unleashed. Instead, some discovered that they could join forces, not to fight their oppressors, but just to resist being pulled into their eddies. Accordingly, they created, in 1961, the ‘Non-Aligned Movement’ to counter the bi-polarization of the world power structure and, at one time, it comprised 120 member nations plus 20 observer entities. This meant that only a few nations opted, willingly or not, to attach themselves to one of the superpowers.
However, the Non-aligned movement was never given a chance to succeed, and all the rugs were continuously pulled from underneath it. Today, it is a shadow of what it was, and its present events or achievements rarely qualify for news coverage. Even its birthplace, Yugoslavia, has been splintered and disappeared.
Then, one of the superpowers disappeared and only one was left, but the problem did not disappear. Instead, matters became worse for the smaller nations and much more arbitrary. An open season was declared on the economies and resources of the rest of the world – It is a long but well-documented story.
A RETURN TO THE NON-ALIGNED MOVEMENT – TO BE OR NOT TO BE?
I was inclined towards the idea that the only salvation for the ‘rest of the world was a return to the non-aligned movement, and voiced this opinion six years ago. Now, however, I realize things are rapidly changing, although the basic principles of power dynamics remain the same.
What has changed is that despite their deficiencies, quite a few of the weak and poor nations managed over the past decades to upgrade their economies and societies, starting with the Asian Tigers. Then, with the beginning of the new millennium came the blossoming of Russia and China. Russia managed to successfully overcome its post-communist liberal-economic experiment and its ensuing mess, while China managed to successfully graduate into an economic powerhouse.
Additionally, it may prove to be a long and arduous trek to reinvigorate the non-aligned movement, especially as many of its members were, even then, reluctant to commit totally to its strategies and policies. Many of them were too weak, poverty-stricken, or lacked a visionary and determined leadership to stand and face the blowing hurricanes from both sides. Now it has become one single tornado.
So, while I thought six years ago that the non-aligned movement may be the correct route to follow and stated:
“Now, maybe the time for the ‘wise’ weak to reconsider the Non-Aligned Movement, which sheltered them for half a century – or create a totally new alternative.”
There actually may be a better alternative that trumps the unipolar, bipolar, and multipolar setups. That is a ‘No-Polar’ world.
A BETTER ALTERNATIVE
Human history can be viewed as a series of tragic events where every strong polity decided unilaterally to set the rules that are convenient to itself and then force their weaker neighbors to follow them. And as technology and communications developed, these strong polities were able to go afield, beyond their neighbors, and eventually encompass the entire world. There is no better recipe for war than this.
Theoretically, the United Nations was set up as an arbiter of universal rules, which were proclaimed as International Laws. However, overenthusiasm or darker motives extended these laws and rules to cover extreme details of human life to the point of infringing on the cultural privacy and diversity of many nations. The implementation of these laws was much more rapid than the ability of many nations to culturally digest them, let alone understand their implications. Hence, most countries had no choice but to pay lip service to them while implementing their ancient practices. The problem with this is that most of these countries were thus automatically in breach of the International Laws and at risk of punishment of some sort. This also gave the powerful countries an entrée into the internal affairs of independent sovereign countries.
Of course, certain laws are universal and necessary for the peaceful interaction between nations. But that does not include the type of economic or political systems permitted, identical shared values, Western compliant internally applied laws and cultural practices, taxation, customs duties, etc. Countries are different; that is why you visit them as a tourist to enjoy a taste of a different culture, why would we wish to turn all the world into vanilla flavor?
As posited at the beginning of this article, the name of the game is money and economic benefit. Therefore, the existing structure is designed to serve a few parties at the expense of many. The advanced nations are able to siphon the useful resources of smaller and weaker countries for pennies and return to them inflated products and trinkets. No wonder most of these countries have remained in economic doldrums for decades, and centuries for some, and suffer chronic balance of trade and payments deficits with all the accompanying side maladies.
And by way of example, we would mention The International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, World Trade Organization, and a multitude of international organizations and trade agreements that were theoretically set up to assist the less fortunate countries and help them find an even keel for their economies and thenceforth rise and develop. But in fact, most of these economies keep sinking deeper into debt. Even the haloed Washington Consensus has backfired in practice. Of course, it is easy to blame the individual countries and mismanagement by their governments, totally acquitting the party that is throwing money at them without proper thought or supervision and pushing them deeper in debt. The fact, however, is that the deeper in debt they become, the cheaper their resources are to purchase or, to acquire outright as a permanent source of supply. Many African, Latin American, and Asian countries have fallen victims to such economic misfortunes, intentionally or otherwise.
Nevertheless, a new concept has appeared on the horizon and is well on its upward path. It is not a unipolar, bipolar, or multipolar concept, but appears to be a ‘No-Polar’ gathering of not necessarily like-minded nations, who seek to achieve a win-win economic outcome while keeping their noses out of each others’ internal affairs. No coercion, threats, or arm-twisting actions are employed, and matters are settled by consensus, all members are deemed equal, and no one is more equal.
They have created such multilateral organizations as BRICS, ASEAN, New Development Bank, The Belt Road initiative, Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), etc. All these are, more or less, practical replacements for the IMF, World Bank, WTO, etc., and appear to be fairer and more attentive to the true economic needs of the Asian and Global South countries.
To sweeten the pot, the No-Polar movement also contains mouthwatering icing. It promises to grant each nation, no matter how small and trivial its economy is, the ability to use its own currency in its trade with others, thus liberating it from the vagaries of the Dollar exchange rate fluctuations and the Fed-enforced interest rates that disregard the status and needs of its economy.
Overall, this seems to be a better option than returning to the ailing Non-Aligned Movement, which is predominately political in nature. This new No-Polar concept is more about the economies of its members and politics is relegated to the lowest rungs of priority, as long as you don’t, so to speak, bite the hands that are stretched out to you in cooperation.
No-Polar is still in its infancy but is growing fast. It will, no doubt, require further fine-tuning but it does seem to have started with the correct vision. The sooner you get onboard, the sooner should the benefits begin to accrue.
N.B. A BIOGRAPHICAL SUMMARY:
Marwan Salamah is a Kuwaiti economic consultant and publishes articles on his blog: marsalpost.com
He is also an amateur Chef (Middle Eastern, Chinese, and European cuisines), home gardener (Hydroponics & Aquaponics), Herbal enthusiast (Moringa, Oregano oil, etc.), and dabbles in oil painting and sketching.