by Austin Bay
January 5, 2022
As 2022 begins, four strategic challenges to the post-World War II international order generate the psychological ambiguity -- meaning plain old human fear -- that fosters ethnic and sectarian slaughter and seeds the kind of bloody "proxy" wars that escalate into major regional wars.
Warning to everyone who cares about Planet Earth: When major regional wars entangle Great Powers (examples: U.S., China) you bet your life and the lives of a billion others that world war is a panicked button push away.
Here are the four challenges, and they are not in order:
Challenge No. 1: Imperialist powers hellbent on recovering lost empires (and fulfilling the grandiose dreams of their current leaders.)
Challenge No. 2: Flailing states, failed states and totally fake states immersed in anarchic violence that spills over political borders. (Note: Flailing means collapsing. In fake states, local thugs control the capital city, the U.N. seat and little else.)
Challenge No. 3: Radical, militant, megalomaniacal dictatorships attempting to acquire weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, chemical, biological) and the ways and means to use them to kill with history-changing, lethal surprise.
Challenge No. 4: The pervasive corruption of influential but venal individuals and venal institutions in democratic nations. The corruption is so internally corrosive to these nations that timely and effective political and military response to Challenges Nos. 1 through 3 is systemically delayed, undermined or immobilized.
This list's first three challenges are common knowledge in some shape, form or fashion.
Challenge No. 4? Not so much.
The 20th century was savaged by wars of imperial conquest waged by Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Communist Russia (in the guise of the USSR) and Japan (ethno-imperialism).
In the 21st century China and Russia embody Challenge No. 1. President Xi Jinping's Communist China 2022 claims territories that Xi asserts belonged to Chinese emperors. The South China Sea. The Himalayan passes and valleys beyond Tibet. Eventually Siberia and Mongolia will be in his gunsights.
Hidden from the world, or at least the Western mainstream media, is China's hideous racist dimension. Xi's propagandists believe in the racial superiority of the Han ethnic group. The Han constitute roughly 85% of China's population.
Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014 and its slow war of aggression has never ceased. Russia is now an ethno-nationalist nation-state with oligarch-socialist leanings led by a nationalist dictator, Vladimir Putin. Putin, a nationalist socialist, wants to recreate the USSR, which was imperial Russia with Communist propaganda cover.
Iran is Challenge No. 3 with shades of Challenge No. 1. The ayatollah dictatorship has Iranian imperial ambitions, based on the Iranian (Persian) empire circa 400 B.C.
In truth, militant Islamist terrorism as waged by Al-Qaida and the Islamic State is also imperialist. Osama Bin Laden sought a global caliphate.
Challenge No. 2: In a recent StrategyPage.com post, editor James Dunnigan wrote, "Wars tend to be found in nations that are poorly, if at all, governed. This usually means corrupt rulers and a corrupt economy that is unable to provide for the welfare of the people..."
These flailing and failed hellholes lack civic associations (beyond ethnic, religious and political kin) that encourage "practices that create widespread trust..." Without them the result is "a chaotic area mired in war and mayhem." (Think Congo, Bosnia and Lebanon, etc.)
Challenge No. 3: Add North Korea to Iran. Kim Jong Un still wants nukes.
Challenge No. 4: Democracy is a perpetual work in progress. Since they are in flux, democracies are vulnerable -- to scary headlines, intellectual property theft, propaganda and bribery.
Challenge No. 4's chief perp: In 2021 we saw Ivy League profs convicted of selling their talent to China and trying to hide it. Abundant evidence indicates China's Huawei conglomerate operates as a spy asset. In October 2020, the Washington Free Beacon published an investigative article detailing The Economist magazine's years of "sympathetic" coverage of Huawei Technologies.
Coincidence? I think not.
How deep does the corruption of democratic will and capacity go? We need to know -- now.