2: Geopolitical Players.
3: Premises, Principles and Problems.
4: Purpose, Structure, Argument and Model of a Reactionary World Order.
5: A Cosmic Conservative Vision.
6: Concluding Remarks.
The Liberal World Order is over.
Non Western powers have been articulating the problems with the current order and have been mapping out an alternative for some time now.
We have heard talk of a new Cold War between America and Russia.
Turkey is “lost”; American relations with the new Islamist order is heading for breakdown – something that should have been long foreseen by intellectuals and policy makers but were not. Turkey is now acting like an enemy.
The less said about Africa the better – or not.
In the early nineties, we had two visions of the future: the End of History and the Clash of Civilisations. In the last few years, it is Huntington’s vision that appears to have been the more accurate forecast.
Consequences – Actual and Potential.
Whether liberal or conservative, religious or secular, a lack of political order – world order in this case – is a situation of supreme danger that can never be underestimated.
Disorder is itself dangerous. A weak order invites challenge and an unjust order invites revolution but a weak and unjust order invites absolute chaos and terror.
The entire world faces a suite of incomparably complex set of risks today, risks that will grow as this century marches on. The likelihood of any of the global catastrophic risks being realised may be – relatively – low (at the moment); however, the destruction that would be wrought (whether it be natural or intentional), or if one catastrophe sets off a cascading set of disasters, could well be existential.
1: The problem is not only coming up with an order that can replace the failed and failing paradigm of liberal world order but a reactionary world order and a world order that is capable of being accepted by all the major powers.
2: The flawed foreign policy (theory and practice) of USG, which has contributed mightily to the various problems and challenges, must be completely rejected.
In what follows, we will begin by looking at some of the key geopolitical players; then, we will look at some of the key premises and principles that we need to consider when constructing an alternative paradigm of world order. Then, we examine some possible designs for a reactionary world order and then we finish with a possible “positive vision” that could stand in as a substitute for the psychological and quasi-religious benefits that many people obtain from progressive politics.
2: Geo-political Players.
The United States Government (the state that “owns” the American nation), along with its key vassals and allies, constitute the most important geo-political “player” and bloc today and for the foreseeable future – so it seems.
USG’s Central Position.
Bismarck said that God looks after drunks, fools and the United States of America.
For the last several hundred years, God has indeed seemed to have been on the side of America. America – the country and its government, USG – has the world’s greatest geo-political position.
USG occupies the geo-political equivalent to the Napoleonic “central position”. Standard doctrine, in the decades since WW2, states that USG must be able to wage two major wars simultaneously (such as in East Asia and Europe). For instance, the following article describes how these “two wars” could be waged and though the article does not make use of the term “central position”, it is clear that this is how USG would (hope) to make use of it.
Nevertheless, the main difference between USG and Napoleon and Frederick the Great is that USG has a vast network of allies (and vassals) to call upon in the event of a major war. The Undiscovered Jew elegantly describes the key advantages of the “central position” or what he calls “regionalism”. (See our last post on Grand Strategy here.)
However, there is more to USG’s central position than its ability to wage war.
Ten Geo-political Strengths of USG’s Central Position.
USG is huge.
2: Good(ish) Neighbors.
Canada, as part of the empire, is no future threat of whatever kind even if it wanted to be.
Mexico is a different story, however.
While the young USG drove Mexico off the table and settled in what is now California, New Mexico and other South Western states, old USG does not pay (or pretend to pay) this fact much attention anymore. For many years now, Mexico been a source of “cheap labour” and an excuse to build a police state resulting from the war on drugs and simultaneously enrich itself via money laundering.
USG neither remembers these things nor cares to think about them.
But Mexico remembers.
Mexico, or rather the Mexicans are also aware that time and demography is on their side. Furthermore, Mexico will, in time, be a rising economic power – one that has access to both the Pacific and the Atlantic. This forecast, coupled with demographic facts on the ground along the South West, and with the “open border” means that Mexico – despite its weaknesses today – will be an economic-political-security threat to USG later this century.
Yet, dangers always offer opportunities and if handled correctly Mexico could continue to be a source of power for USG. Yet, it would not be easy or without controversy. It would require USG to co-opt the drug business and essentially annex the Mexican government. Of course, the people doing this would not be white Americans – but Mexican-Americans. The answer must be that California moves into Mexico and not Mexico into California. A recent Small Wars Journal article proposes a similar idea, though from a liberal perspective.
3: Maritime Access.
Thirdly, USG has been protected and is still protected by the Atlantic Ocean. Later, the Pacific Ocean was added as a second maritime barrier. No other country in the world has anything like the protection that these two oceans have provided for USG.
The two oceans do not just confer security benefits but key economic advantages. Extensive access and total control allows for the easy importing and exporting of goods to the two most important geo-economic regions of today and – most importantly – the future: Europe and Asia.
4: The Mississippi River.
USG has the Mississippi river which runs through the middle of the country and connects out to other rivers allowing for the transporting of goods and services across the country; finally, the Mississippi river terminates in the city of New Orleans which rests beside the Gulf of Mexico which provides eventual access to the Atlantic.
5: Unmatched Naval Powers.
USG has complete dominance of the seas now and for the foreseeable future.
6: The Military and Militia.
USG has the second biggest army but the best equipped, most funded and most experienced military in the world and for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, America also has the highest – by far – of citizen gun ownership in the world, which makes the country virtually unconquerable.
7: Science and Technology.
8: Leading Economy.
USG still has the largest economy and while it has serious – even lethal – economic problems, these problems are fixable.
9: Gold and Oil.
USG has the largest stockpile of gold than any other country.
USG is, or is close to being energy independent.
10: Arable Land.
USG is second to India for having the largest arable land.
God has, indeed, been generous with America. Taken together, this “talent stack” outmatches any other country. Nevertheless, these things have not been well managed but that is a political problem and political problems, though difficult, can be dealt with.
USG and Its Allies, Vassals and Client States.
In addition to the above advantages, it is the many vassals, allies and client states that vastly augment USG’s own, home-grown power.
The key vassals of USG are Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom which form the Five Eyes intelligence network and are the core of NATO (Australia and New Zealand are non NATO “major allies”; this is the Anglo inner core of the Empire.
Next, there are three other countries that form the next ring in the imperial system. They play both a crucial and often controversial role in USG foreign policy and domestic politics.
The first is Israel. The second is Japan and the third is Saudi Arabia.
The role that Israel plays is clearly more ambiguous and subject to intense controversy.
Historically, it is clear that of all people – including the Chinese – Anglo Protestants have been the most hospitable to Jews and have forged more than two centuries of a world bestriding political-economic-cultural marriage. As for Israel, the British and later the Americans were central in its creation and during the Cold War, USG protected Israel from surrounding Arab/Muslim powers backed by the Soviet Union.
USG’s alliance with Israel during the Cold War made geo-political sense; it also makes sense today given the Global War on Terror; however, the alliance is a topic of intense controversy from practically all sides of the political spectrum.
Nevertheless, Israel benefits USG in three ways.
Firstly, the Five Eyes Network has Israeli Mossad as an informal, “observing” sixth member and is thus an important contributor in the GWOT (Islamic wars).
Secondly, Israel serves chiefly as a balancer (and disruptor) for USG’s priorities in the Middle-East which are to prevent an Islamist regional hegemon from emerging and the proliferation of nuclear weapons (Israel is a nuclear state).
Thirdly, there is a strategic alliance between Israel and Saudi Arabia – the third country in the second ring of the imperial system.
The alliance between Israel and Saudi Arabia also involves Egypt and Jordan. The purpose of the alliance is to counter the Iranian threat but also the threat from Islamist revolutionaries (such as the Muslim Brotherhood) and Jihadi terror groups. Obama damaged this alliance during his administration, but it seems to have been mended under Trump.
In short, the enemies of Israel are also the enemies of the ruling elites of surrounding Arab states.
This last benefit is important and a jumping off point for a discussion over the third key ally in the (Red) empire: Saudi Arabia.
Clearly, the alliance between USG and Saudi Arabia is founded on mutual self-interest. USG wanted oil and later cash (the basis of the petro-dollar system that is a central component to USG’s empire) and the Saudi’s wanted protection from the Soviet Union and later Iran (a Soviet client state).
Nevertheless, the status of Saudi Arabia is, again, a controversial one given its support and funding of Wahhabi Islam and direct and or indirect support for terrorism.
Then we come to the third ring, which sees the two allies/vassals states of France and Germany.
France is vital in order to “lock-in” Germany and Germany to keep out what was once the Soviet Union but what is now Russia.
Turkey was once a crucial ally during the Cold War but is now a “frenemy” at best and an enemy at worst after the rise of Erdogan. This “loss” of Turkey resulted from demographic changes within Turkey and the resurgence of Islam as a political force; however, the “loss” is also, to a lesser extent, the result of Western diplomatic and liberal “intellectual” incompetence.
Problems and Weaknesses.
Formally, when it comes to overall geopolitical power, USG is without peer. Furthermore, the reality closely matches the form.
Despite this, however, there are serious weaknesses and the global and domestic trends are all moving in a pessimistic (though not necessarily fatal) as opposed to an optimistic direction for USG.
Firstly, there are two major problems that continually plague USG’s statecraft.
1: Geopolitical Irresponsibility and Historical Amnesia.
With great power comes great irresponsibility. The geopolitical irresponsibility exhibited by USG – consistently displayed across the last century – has frequently resulted in titanic disasters.
The greatest example of strategic (mis)judgement is that of Woodrow Wilson’s war for democracy and the subsequent Versailles treaty which set not only Europe down the road to WW2 but also laid the foundations for the Cold War.
A second titanic mistake was the “loss” of China to Communism. In recent years, there has been the unnecessary antagonism of Russia resulting from both incompetence and intrinsic and irrational hostility coming from both the neoconservative and progressive wings within USG.
2: Crisis or Collapse of the International Order?
The second major problem can be stated in either a hard or soft way.
The hard claim is that “Blue”, progressive controlled USG, and the “liberal international order” more generally, is over
The soft claim is that it is only in crisis.
What this means for world order is that there will be no rules and no common assumptions concerning cooperation. There will be conflict and while all systems have conflict, there will be no commonly agreed upon framework for resolving such conflicts. Furthermore, the lack of order will tempt more and more geopolitical actors to overthrow whatever order is left and to aggrandise themselves as much as possible. Consequently, other actors will respond out of fear and anger against these upstarts and opportunists.
The paradox is that the crisis of the liberal or progressive world order has come about because of the very success of that order. Liberalism defeated feudalism, then Fascism and then out-competed Communism. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Liberal America pushed itself on the world, liberalizing trade, promoting “open borders” and advancing a “progressive” cultural and human right’s agenda that struck other powers and people as arrogant, dangerous, destructive and disgusting. The result is that Liberalism has undermined the foundations of its existence at home and has pushed its enemies into an alliance against it abroad.
Whether it is a crisis or a series of ongoing crashes, the decay and possible, perhaps probable, collapse of the progressive world order will not be, we assume, for the majority of people today or for future generations, a good thing. The reason is that the threats and challenges of the 21st Century are unprecedented. There is now not only more risk but risk that is of an increasingly existential nature.
This is what we will address in the sections to come from an American reactionary perspective.
China is the other great geopolitical player in new great game and if there is to be a global order – reactionary or otherwise – then China must play a critical role in it.
China has and will have great power but it has serious weaknesses.
China’s strength is its size, its history and its civilizational coherence; above all though, China’s strength is its people. The Chinese, like the Russians, are a hard, strong people who have suffered mightily in the past. The Chinese are smart, industrious and orderly. Yet, like others, their history and character is also one that is punctuated with occasional outbursts of mass madness and violence – mostly among themselves.
Chinese leaders are always sober, very responsible, generally corrupt but totally committed to the Chinese “Communist” system. China’s elite have absorbed – right from the beginning – the lessons of the “foolish” Gorbachev and have no intention of letting China become a liberal democracy – something which Western “wonks” have not learned and are probably incapable of learning.
China’s political formula is a potential weakness for it is clearly not a Communist country anymore and is thus not Formalist in the sense that form does not match political reality. The problem (and this may well be a Western assumption) is that beyond security and wealth, the Party has no legitimacy – or so it commonly assumed. Should either China’s security pillar or economic pillar falter, then popular unrest and fragmentation may occur.
Nevertheless, the political formula in recent years has been moving in a more explicitly nationalist and “Civilizational-state” direction. Still, this does not fundamentally address the question as to why the Communist Party must rule China or be seen as the sole custodians of the Chinese nation and civilization. Still, China is exploring how to synthesize its political present with its cultural past.
Chinese V Western Leadership Material.
Domestic concerns absorb most of the attention of the Chinese leadership. Edward Luttwak claims that, while all leaders and countries suffer from “strategic autism”, the Chinese are particularly prey to the problem because of the scale of the challenges they face.
Nevertheless, when it comes to governing – domestically anyway – the Chinese leaders are probably the most experienced and capable of meeting the challenges of governing in general and governing over a billion and a half people in particular.
Compare, for instance, the career trajectory of Xi Jinping (which is typical) with that of Bush, Blair, Obama, Cameron and Merkel. Before becoming Chairman of the Party and President of the country, Xi was mayor of Shanghai (for a few months) and before that governor of Zhejiang and Fujian province (which was preceded by years of slowing climbing up the political ladder). Xi Jinping’s first degree, like many Chinese leaders, was in a STEM subject while he undertook a “political course” later in his career.
In short, Xi Jinping has real governing experience and expertise and is a man who is not in the grip of questionable ideology – like nearly all Chinese leaders (the first speaker’s fifth point in this debate).
Obama, by contrast, became president in a democratic election that relied upon speeches, propaganda and the full support of the media and millions of a priori guaranteed voters. Obama’s career trajectory consisted of starting as a “community organizer”, a law professor and then a jobsworth senator. Obama had neither real governing experience (he was not even a governor) or foreign policy experience or expertise when he became president.
Anthony Blair of Great Britain was “leader of the opposition” before becoming Prime Minister; before that he was a “shadow minister” and nothing else. Blair’s academic background was, like many Western leaders, in law.
A similar, career trajectory applies to Cameron and pretty much every other major politician of the West.
Nevertheless, China has disadvantages.
China’s economic reforms since Deng has allowed hundreds of millions of Chinese to rise out of poverty, yet continuing this success for the rest of country will be difficult, if not impossible.
The problem is that distributing wealth from the coast to inland may foster resentment and could, though it is unlikely, spur moves towards separatism. On the other hand, if the poor are neglected and repressed it could very well result in one of China’s periodic uprisings against the central authority.
However, China is well placed to meet these potential disruptions. In addition to propaganda, China has a vast censorship system, a sophisticated surveillance apparatus and an army of internet propagandists. Furthermore, China punishes its dissidents harshly, compared with the West (though not as harshly as the past).
Also, China has a massive and heavily militarized police force (military police) and the biggest army in the world: the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The PLA’s first task is not to defend China but the Party. The leaders of PLA units stationed in the provinces are usually (so we were told) from different provinces. Thus, they will not have local ties to the people that might interfere with the need to “crack down” on dissidents or rioters.
There is little separatist sentiment in China (among the Han that is). Consider that, once a year, millions of Chinese return home during the Chinese New Year and then return back to their place of work, which requires travelling huge distances. This means that the various provinces, the people and the nation are deeply entwined – despite the fact that each province has its own dialect and local culture. Nevertheless, every Chinese – even among the poor – can read, write and speak Mandarin and this means that every Chinese from every province can partake of a common language and culture. All in all, China is united by both economic interest and cultural, historical and linguistic commonality.
Needless to say, this gives China tremendous social and political coherence that is clearly a strategic advantage.
China’s great problem – geo-politically speaking – is its geo-political position. China is encircled now and will be (most likely) for the foreseeable future. Its actions over the last decade have not reassured countries such as Japan, Taiwan and India or wooed them into its political, as opposed to its economic, orbit – to say nothing of USG. Yet, this could change.
The “golden years” of “Chimerica” are all but probably over. USG has both geo-political imperatives (security alliances with Japan, South Korea and Taiwan) and geo-economic imperatives (maintaining its military-industrial system) to fulfill.
China, as with Russia, will never be USG’s friend and it will always be a geo-economic competitor but it need not be a geo-political enemy.
Needless to say, a war between China and USG could be absolutely devastating.
The need for a consensus regarding order between these two players is paramount.
America Against China: An Improbable but not Impossible War.
Nevertheless, let’s consider, for instance, what a “great power struggle” with China might look like – at least in the immediate future.
In a great power struggle, such as with China, USG has vast advantages and can quickly mobilize its resources. Even from a reactionary perspective, USG’s many weaknesses can be turned into sources of strength. Indeed, what looks like chaos and incompetence can also be interpreted as either (or both) Machiavellian cunning or adaptive design.
Due to democracy, the media and the ability of political elites to mobilize popular passion and a sense of missionary zeal, USG’s statecraft can turn on a dime rapidly and bring to bear on opponents, rivals and allies alike incredible energy and focus on a crisis – intentionally created or not.
Consider the viewpoint of Chinese elites grappling with Trump. Out of the blue, a “crazy” man becomes President, upends standard USG domestic and foreign policy assumptions and pursues a “radical” policy towards North Korea. Surprise, disorientation, confusion and pressure are, perhaps, the thing that Chinese leaders feel over this. The Chinese, by contrast, have carefully managed transitions, plans and long-range policies.
Finally, USG is, as we will argue below, both the upholder of order and its disruptor and destroyer and it is this destructive-creative process that gives USG both its energy and its power and is also what is destroying America.
USG is both “conservative” and “progressive” and changes political policy like a person with a personality disorder. Nevertheless, this flexibility allows USG to maintain its “informal empire” and, crucially, marshal the majority of the world and create coalitions of the weak against the strong and terrifying.
As with Britain and Napoleon, USG is able to encircle massive, land-based opponents (twice with Germany and later with the Soviet Union) with a circus of, as Edward Luttwak puts it, “dogs, cats, squirrels and mice.”
Let’s imagine what a Pacific war with China (minus nuclear weapons) might be like.
Firstly, China is encircled by a range of highly developed, rich and moderately militarily powerful countries allied with USG: Japan; South Korea; Taiwan; Australia and possibly Vietnam, Thailand and India (never mind Britain, Canada and some minor European countries).
China, like Napoleon, would be a master on land – but only in Chinese territory, and even there China has vulnerabilities. USG would no doubt try to stir up trouble in Xinjiang and Tibet using “global guerrillas” or proxies (something that reactionaries understand better than anyone). USG is well placed to coordinate such a proxy strategy because of its advantageous position in Afghanistan – perhaps this is the real reason for USG’s indolence there.
In addition, in a war with China, India may well decide that the time is right to settle some old scores with China in contested border regions which would further increase the pressure on China.
A Chinese attack on Taiwan, Vietnam or India would give USG and its allies the perfect opportunity to destroy and humiliate Chinese military might by “leaning in” with these allies by supplying them with weapons and supporting them with their airpower.
Finally, and most importantly, USG and its regional allies could close the Malacca straits and ensure the suffocation of Chinese industry, energy and food supply. It is here that USG’s naval might would be used to the full.
All in all, USG’s strategy against China is the typical Anglo way of waging war – a strategy that goes back to the way Britain dealt with Napoleon.
For the foreseeable future, any potential Chinese strategy would be akin to the Japanese Imperial strategy: a speedy, surprising, decisive attack and then hope for the best.
What the Chinese fear is USG’s unpredictability and the ability of the elites to whip up a tsunami of popular, messianic, passion out of the people and then gin up a war economy and deploy its military to full effect.
For the Chinese, they would need to end the war quickly but for the Americans and their allies, the longer the war goes on the better because they will slowly suffocate the Chinese with one hand but offer up the negotiating table with the other – thus putting the ball back into the Chinese court.
In other words, it is a strategy of attrition ranged against a strategy of annihilation.
However, the Americans are always quick to point to the negotiating table where they can bog the whole thing down in complex procedures of diplomacy – buying time and allowing for their geo-economic strategies (sanctions) and proxy strategies (colour revolutions) to work.
Nevertheless, while the Americans give of the impression of insolent indolence and psychopathic indifference to provocations and outrage, when they do collectively agree that they are dealing with a revolutionary power that cannot be negotiated with, they crush the enemy completely. This was seen in the America’s Civil War and the Second World War most clearly.
Today, the Americans try to get their proxies to do the killing and the killing is on a generally smaller scale. Yet, they crushed Saddam Hussein, whacked Bin Laden, threw Gaddafi to the wolves and now the dogs of Iraq are feasting on the bodies of the fallen soldiers of the Islamic State.
However, as the example of Woodrow Wilson and George W. Bush shows (assuming they were not Machiavellian geniuses), the danger is that USG gets carried away with its own self-righteousness. If, in a First Chinese War, the Communist Party falls and is replaced by a “Liberal Democracy”, then that is almost certain to bring about a resentful “Chinese Fascism”.
Thus, a Second Chinese War would be a certainty.
And that would not be a good thing.
And it is the long-term consequences of such a war that is a problem. If China becomes a resentful power, one determined to isolate and bring down America – even at great cost to itself – this would bring extraordinary pain to America and would be extremely dangerous. Given the other threats America faces, which are not going away, it would be simply unsustainable for the American nation to compete against China.
USG can afford to make many mistakes and it can get many things right but the one mistake it must not make and the one thing it must get right is the relationship with China.
China’s Grand Strategy: One Belt, One Road.
China does not need – and nor is it likely to try – to displace America by war, but by economics and politics.
No other state and no other civilizational bloc has a plan that is a visionary, ambitious or as world changing as China’s One Belt, One Road initiative.
China’s grand strategy is GRAND.
It is a coherent, all of government and society, plan that merges China’s political, economic and military power into a long-term investment with an incredible pay-off: Empire.
While China’s empire will formally only pertain to its borders, the projected, informal Chinese empire will reach, in time, all across Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.
The road and train lines are “arteries” that will not only import and export goods and services but will allow China to politically, economically and demographically colonize Mackinder’s world-island.
The economic benefits of the plan are clear: it will ease China’s overcapacity and under-utilised capital.
Nevertheless, there are strategic benefits that might not be so obvious.
There is a story from Chinese history (Stone Cattle Road) that goes as follows. Once, there were two kingdoms (Qin and Shu). King Huiwen of Qin coveted the kingdom of Shu. King Huiwen, instead of directly invading his neighbor, developed an indirect plan of conquest.
Huiwen’s strategy involved the use of deception, diplomacy, greed and surprise.
Firstly, Qin ordered that five stone cows and cow pats be made to look like gold. Then, once this was done, he invited the ambassadors of Shu and made sure that would be able to see the stone cows – and their “golden” pats.
Upon their return, the ambassadors reported the miraculous cows with their golden shit to the king of Shu. This only aroused his fascination and greed, who thought that if only he could have some of those cows, their golden pats could swell his treasury. Thus, he sent a message to Huiwen asking if he could have some of the cows.
Huiwen agreed but replied that because of the delicate nature of his cows, they would only be able to travel if a road was built between the two kingdoms.
The foolish king of Shu agreed.
The king of Qin did not send cows down the road – he sent armies instead and soon conquered the kingdom.
This is the potential of OBOR.
While China will not literally send armies down the road (though it could) what it will do is enmesh its neighbors in a web of relationships from which they, once entangled, cannot escape.
Let’s suppose a ruler of a country along the “road” (which will mostly be “authoritarian” rulers and states) attempts to extort China or try to make a new alliance with America. China could bribe the ruler’s underlings or rivals to remove him. If that does not work, China could raise the price of the goods he and his country needs or even cut him off completely.
If that fails and if a Chinese expat community exists in the country (workers on OBOR who decided to live there), then perhaps by using a false flag (provocation) attack against local Chinese or by stoking up tensions against local Chinese expatriates, the Chinese government could send troops to “defend Chinese people and restore order” (like what Russia did in Georgia and Ukraine, though Russia was responding USG’s interference).
Of course, the Chinese would want to avoid this. What they would probably do is support, sponsor and supply local leaders with all the men, money and materials they need to suppress any challengers to them (and Chinese interests). This will be particularly important when dealing with Muslim regions.
Finally, China’s demographic power will grow because the road will allow China to send out Chinese immigrants to establish “outposts” across the continent. These colonists will live like most Chinese expatriates (peacefully) with their businesses; however, it will allow China to send out spies, government workers and “private” security guards. Indeed, in some regions the local rulers may invite the Chinese military to help with security against local trouble-makers and regional rivals.
Unlike the Americans, the Chinese will provide cash but ask no questions and will make no (cultural) demands upon the local people. Just listen to what Samantha Power has to say here about China not caring about “human rights” and why should they? “Human rights” is what USG uses to undermine its enemies. More importantly, local leaders and local people in the Eurasian area will not care about “rights” as opposed to security and prosperity.
Of course, countries like Pakistan, Russia, Iran, Turkey can see China coming, but it will not make much difference so long as China does not overplay its hand. The other powers would probably consider China’s future dominance as only a hypothetical. Right now, China is offering cold hard cash with no questions asked. Furthermore, if one player does not take the deal, someone else will and they will have to ask for a deal later anyway but then they will get less. Finally, many local leaders will take the money and the power because if China rules then they will probably be dead and not have to deal with the consequences.
This is the positive aspect of the OBOR strategy but there are negative aspects – or aspects that allow China to offset its disadvantages.
One very simple strategic benefit of OBOR is that it would negate any naval supremacy that USG and its allies have in the Pacific. As we argued above, China is vulnerable to USG closing the Malacca straits. However, if China can import and export via land then USG’s leverage over China will be greatly diminished.
Furthermore, instead of China directly competing with America and building up its navy, the OBOR approach does not directly challenge USG or its allies. Thus, China will not create an naval arms race – a race it would only lose. China would not just have to out-compete America in a naval arms race but also the combined effort of Japan and Australia but probably also South Korea, India, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia.
This is clearly unfeasible and the attempt to do so would also create a coalition against China that would also affect its economic interests.
OBOR has none of those problems.
Logistically speaking, OBOR is a huge project – the biggest in human history. Yet, China has the logistical ability to pull it off. They have spent decades executing similar infrastructure projects within China and thus have the men, materials and money to do it. In addition, the Chinese will not be alone. The Chinese will certainly go into partnership with local players and offer their people jobs and their investors and producers opportunities for enrichment. As the Chinese say, it will be a “double win” (win-win).
Why America Cannot Stop OBOR.
America cannot stop this project – at least directly.
They cannot oppose it militarily, for there is no (formal) justification to do so. Even if they came up with one, they would not only have to face the Chinese on land (a tricky proposition) but they would probably have to fight against regional powers as well that are allied with China. Simply put, if America bombed the roads, train-lines and transport hubs, they would be declaring war on the regional players as well.
USG could sponsor Muslims Jihadis to attack the Chinese, however. Nevertheless, the Chinese could, in time, efficiently deal with such threats – especially as they would have the support of local powers and the likely backing of Russia, India and Iran. Furthermore, the Chinese would not deal with terrorists in the same way that Western countries do – the Chinese would smash Muslim terrorists with cold efficiency, unencumbered by any ethical sentimentality or divided governance problems.
Even if China suffered an economic crash or slowdown (which America may well intentionally trigger), this will only be a temporary set-back on a plan that will only be completed by 2049. Even if that date is missed there is always 2089 or 2149.
Here, then, is the central problem for USG: China is forever but USG is here today and gone tomorrow. USG could abandon Japan for example (or Japan abandon USG) along with South Korea, Afghanistan and others because it is an ocean away and the geopolitical facts have changed. China, however, is a permanent geo-political fact for Japan, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, Iran, Turkey and Europe (with time). Furthermore, China’s one party state system appears to be stable and predictable, while USG’s democracy is increasingly looking unpredictable and unstable.
The strategic reply of USG should be twofold – assuming the existence of a world order or even just a consensus with China. Firstly, they should not oppose OBOR but join it and invest as much capital as desirable and try to have as much influence as possible.
Second, USG should not compete directly with China on the world island; USG should control the world island by controlling the world – from space. A subject we will examine later.
The claims concerning Russia’s demise are presumptuous.
Problems and Weaknesses.
It seems standard fair to assume that the bear is down and out or soon will be.
Russia has no “global” ideology.
Russia is a “gas station masquerading as a country”.
Russia is too “centralized”.
Russia is in demographic decline.
By contrast, we shall deliberately put forward a set of plausible arguments that Russia should not be geo-politically underestimated, dismissed or disparaged – or forced to “eat spinach”.
The standard theory regarding the demise of Russia usually contains within it two deterministic assumptions regarding demographics and economics. These arguments are also applied to China and what follows can also be applied there too.
The first is that Russia will be broke because it will not have the people. The second is that Russia will be broke because of a collapse in oil prices along with other economic troubles. These two problems feed off each other and make for a negative feedback loop.
Deterministic arguments, whatever empirical and logical support they have, should always been treated with healthy skepticism – especially when such arguments concern Russia.
Demographic decline determinists assume that such a “decline” will have political consequences. However, demographic decline may affect certain political orders more than others. With Russia, as a centralized and coherent state, this assumption may not hold or have the weight it would have in a liberal democracy (because liberals don’t have children).
Secondly, there is more than a whiff of democratic, “mass conscription” thinking about demographics here. Modern warfare does not require mass armies or require mass sacrifice (as was the case in Russia’s “Great Patriotic War” against Nazism). Furthermore, if automation means that millions of people will be surplus to economic requirements, then demographic decline may not be the disaster many seem to think.
Thirdly, Russia still has and will continue to have a powerful, technologically sophisticated military.
Fourthly, Russia has considerable advantages in the use of cool, historically conscious statecraft; Russia is particularly adept at intelligence, counter-intelligence and propaganda and is thus capable of waging “special war” (a Russian strength) using hard, dirty and effective measures.
Crucially, demographic decline arguments assume passivity on the part of statesmen. Russia is now being ruled by someone who clearly has not only the expertise but the experience to rule – and it shows. Putin is, perhaps, the greatest statesmen of this era.
It is not inconceivable that Russia could – through a carefully crafted and implemented set of economic reforms, a strategically ingenious political formula along with skillful propaganda – entice disenchanted, dissatisfied and disappointed Europeans and Americans (especially of a technical, scientific and military ability) to immigrate to Russia.
The final finesse of the Russians, moreover, would be to not only come as the defender of Christianity but as the defender of Civilization itself by making good use of its good relations with the sizable Muslim population under President Kadarov in order to leverage that with European Muslims.
Thus, it is not only conceivable but likely that Russia will not only manage but positively transform its demographic problem into a triumph.
Geo-politically however, the great coup for Russia would be to peacefully flip, not only the Baltic states, but Poland, Hungry, Austria and the rest of Ukraine into a new Christian (Roman) Empire on the one hand and a genuine, multi-cultural, multi-confessional model with Muslims on the other.
Putin’s Russia is also the first, modern reactionary country that is not anti-Semitic. If Europe and America – via a High-Low coalition of Progressives and Muslims – drive Jews out of their countries, some of them may choose to come to Russia and not Israel. In any case, such a thing – which is plausible – would allow Russia and Israel to forge a new strategic relationship.
As for declining profits from energy, could this not be compensated by diversifying its economy? Russia could rely more on its weapons industry, coupled with developing public/private security/military companies abroad. In addition, in Russia’s east, a deal could be made with China which allows greater Chinese immigration in return for investments and trade deals.
All in all and whatever the future, it is prudent to not count Russia out yet and if USG and Europe continue to antagonize, threaten and undermine Russia, then Russia could strike back by exploiting “internal contradictions” within USG and Europe using special war.
Ultimately for USG, Russia will never be a friend but it does not have to be an enemy.
D: Islamic Nations.
Islam is a civilization.
But it is a civilization without any coherence.
Islam (Sunni Islam) is in many ways the dark mirror of Protestant-Progressivism with its anarchic, anti-authoritarian authoritarianism.
Islam’s history and existence is a mix of triumph and tragedy, farce and fire, ecstasy and outrage.
The physical suffering today of many Muslims due to war and terror is exceeded only by that of Africans; however, the Muslim’s existential suffering is much more profound and humiliating.
Africa can boast of no GOD or any divine mission or of any great, glorious civilization in the past.
Islam, however, had a destiny that has been denied – a destiny that has been “stabbed in the back” by Jews, Christians and infidels.
Daily is the humiliation that Muslims, meanwhile, suffer in the West with the sight of an uncovered woman or of two men holding hands.
When a Muslim in the West reads or watches the news, he will be confronted with terrorism at home and carnage abroad in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
Israel, a small nation with only a few million people, is able to not only survive but thrive against a religion that has over a billion subscribers.
The final insult is that, while the West’s star is fading, the sky it is being filled by a constellation of different and more deadly and determined infidels: Chinese, Indians and Russians.
The tragedy for Muslims is that God must be punishing them; thus, the answer for many is to become more pious but this only seems to make things worse.
Islam’s civilizational story is simple but compelling. Allah commanded the Angel Gabriel to Command Muhammad (the Prophet) to Command all humanity to do what they were told.
With fire and faith and sword and scripture, the early Muslims exploded out of Arabia, toppled the Persian Empire and humbled the Christians in the Middle East and North Africa; then, Islamic armies plundered southern Europe, colonized southern Spain while conquering India; finally, Islam killed off the Byzantine Empire with the conquest of Constantinople. At its height, the Islamic empire reached as far as China. Looking back, it seemed like it was the will of God and the destiny of Muslims to conquer the earth.
But it all went wrong, terribly wrong.
Defeated, demolished and destroyed by Mongols from the east and outsmarted, outmaneuvered and finally outplayed by a rising Europe high on war, the state and industrial technology from the west.
And so it went – until recently.
Islamic Revolutionaries V Islamic Conservatives.
Islam is a revolutionary religion but not all Muslims are revolutionaries.
Islam, like Russia, China and Catholic Europe once had an “emperor” – a Caliph.
Now, Muslims suffer, in part because of their chronic Caliphatelessness.
The gruesome theatrics of ISIS, meanwhile, have done nothing to advance the cause of the “Return of the Caliphate”. Indeed, the most consequential consequence of the Islamic State will have been to harden the ruling elite of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and even Turkey against them
The restoration of the Caliphate is the dream of a unified Islam and an end to a civilizational Imperium in Imperio.
In all likelihood, it will never happen.
Islam has had a number of leading centers and today no one center could dominate all the others. The differences, divisions and disagreements between Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran will probably keep them divided.
In the absence of any kind of legitimate, authoritarian system, the Islamic world will be an endless, cyclical fiasco of religious anarchy and military authority.
The consequences for Muslims are well known – fear, terror and endless violence. The consequences for everyone else are becoming terrifyingly apparent.
All of Western Europe is now subject to an endless onslaught of determined, suicidal men willing to burn the world to cinders via any and all means necessary.
As for the rest meanwhile, Jihadism will pose a threat to China over Xingjian and over its OBOR project; India over long-standing territorial issues and religious differences and Russia for much the same reasons.
The problem of Islam is one of the central problems that a reactionary global order must address, if not solve.
Essentially, the problem that Islam poses for USG is its destructive capacity, demographic fecundity and inability to moderate itself. USG’s democracy promotion has only made things worse, at least in the short term. However, given the existence of destructive technology, the risks that Islamic terrorism poses for the world are completely unacceptable.
For Europe, the situation is existential. Unless radical changes are imposed – by any means necessary – Europe will probably become Islamic by the end of the century.
E: Other Players.
Beyond USG, China, Russia and the Islamic nations, the other important, though not key, players in the global order are India, Brazil and Germany.
We will not address these nations here, however.
The Chief Problem.
The Chief Problem, above all, in the context of world order is the lack of it.
That is, a world where there is no common paradigm among the main players. Without a paradigm, players have no agreed upon methods for resolving problems or commonly held assumptions underpinning the overall paradigm. In short, without order – without a paradigm – we have an anarchic situation – an arena of fear, force and fraud.
Without such a paradigm of order, the risks and challenges described in the previous eleven premises will not only increase but will become unmanageable.
The challenge is then to create such a paradigm – a world order.
3: Premises, Principles and Problems.
Here are eleven premises that we must begin with (at least) when it comes to reflecting and then reasoning about a potential reactionary world order. The following eleven premises are a mix of facts and conjectures, possibilities and probabilities that frame the challenge of constructing and conserving a reactionary world order.
Nevertheless, let’s begin with a premise that ought to be the sine qua non of reactionary statecraft one that runs counter to some of the thinking on the Right, including the Reactionary Right.
It our view that those on the Right, on the issue of foreign policy, fall into two camps:
A: Isolationism (Patrick Buchanan for example).
B: Zero-sum thinking (from the Alt-right and neoreaction).
Regarding B, it seems that the Trump administration has bought into a world (dis)order of zero-sum competition with Russia and China. This may be the reality, but this should not be seen as pre-determined. Indeed, it should be actively resisted – at least until the point of prudence has been exceeded.
For example, let us share an anecdote. A neoreactionary once suggested to us, regarding the North Korean crisis, that USG should invade North Korea and push all the way up to the Chinese border, even if there is an agreement with China to not take this step.
Whatever the particular merits of this idea, the kind of thinking that generates this claim (zero-sum thinking) is dangerous. Absolute security for one means absolute insecurity for all. An America which exploits, cheats and attacks other nations is an America that will find itself arrayed against a coalition of states determined to resist it.
There is no question that USG will have to fight wars in the future. There is also no question that USG cannot be an isolationist power. However, it does not follow from this that USG’s grand strategy is one premised on the mistaken assumption that the only alternative to the liberal world order is pure power politics in a Hobbesian world. The real Right-Wing alternative is to construct a world order based on a shared consensus among various great powers.
It is clear now, to even the most naively optimistic person, that violent conflict between humans is not going away anytime soon, if ever.
Nothing in our history, our high and low culture alike, and in our biological self-understanding suggests that human nature has changed.
The emotions that fuel war – greed, boredom, honor, resentment and, above all, fear – are still as powerful as they always were. Though, it needs to be said, among sleepy Europeans and feminized, American males, these emotions are perhaps less intense than any point in history.
Annihilation of one or all of our civilizations: an existential catastrophe.
This is the hard premise because, while annihilation is a possibility with many means of realization (with a range of probabilities attached to each), it is far from being a certainty. Nevertheless, thinking about annihilation must be a serious constraint on the thinking and deciding of states and statesmen when it comes to world order.
We say “must” and we mean it in both the moral and prudential sense. This, of course, means that it will not at all be self-evident that statesmen will reflect upon their actions in relation to existential catastrophic risks.
Our central claim is that world disorder will mean that the risks contained in premise 1 and 2 will are exacerbated to an unacceptable extent as this century progresses.
3: Are we approaching the Great Filter?
On the assumption that the universe ought to be teeming with life and from the premise that we have so far failed to observe any life beyond that which is earth based, we draw the conclusion that the assumption is flawed – but how? Something could be wrong with our assumptions about biology, physics and chemistry or, disturbingly, our assumptions about technologically advanced civilization.
One answer to this anomaly is that such civilizations succumb to catastrophe because it can no longer manage complexity.
How the “Great Filter” fits into the challenge of constructing a world order is the challenge of responding to increasing complexity in the face of existential catastrophe.
Our civilization has reached a level of complexity – political, economic, technological and social – that has no parallel in history.
The closest approximations, meanwhile, are not reassuring: the early Reformation and Enlightenment period, the years before, during and shortly after the two great world wars.
Yet, the challenge that statesmen face today is different from the one that was confronted during the Cold War to take that as a model. In the Cold War, strategy involved the use of instrumental reasoning because the ends were clear, the resources were known and the consequences were calculable within reasonable limits.
Today, states and statesmen must reflect more than reason because it is all about the potential consequences of one’s actions on complex systems whose outputs cannot be predicted in advance.
Consider the following hypothetical. In non-democratic countries (such as North Korea), statesmen must learn to live with the fact that Western politicians say things that have no meaning – that they are formal statements intended to rally supporters during election campaigns. However, what if what a politician said was misunderstood or that it was taken seriously? Specifically, consider if a president of country A has used social media to say things which raise tensions within country B. Sometime later, however, suppose the president of country A’s social media account is hacked by country C which puts out a plausible looking message that country A is going to attack country B. Country B considers this a serious possibility and orders its military to begin an immediate attack in order to thwart an assault.
Does this sound far-fetched? What if the president was only joking? What if, instead, it was a joke by a social media employee or an action by a rogue one but it was taken seriously because of previous comments?
If these examples seem rather trivial, then consider one that is not – nuclear proliferation in Asia.
China has happily backed North Korea for decades, even when it was developing nuclear technology. China’s strategic goal is to force USG back to Hawaii. If China can enforce a deal which minimizes USG’s presence in the Korean peninsula and thus undermines confidence in USG among Japan, Vietnam and Taiwan in return for a “freeze” on North Korea’s further nuclear development this could be a good thing for China.
However, one likely result of North Korea not only retaining but expanding upon its nuclear arsenal is that Japan would go nuclear. This alone would be a strategic catastrophe for China; however, in the face of Japanese and North Korean nuclear capabilities, South Korea may decide to build its own arsenal. In addition, Taiwan may decide to develop an arsenal, not only because of China but because of Japan. It should be noted that Taiwan also has a dispute with Japan over the Senkaku islands.
If this happens, what is stopping Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore following suit?
What about Australia and New Zealand then, or Vietnam and Thailand?
The Cold War theory and practice of deterrence was premised on only two superpowers having nuclear weapons but how much more complex and thus how much more risk of a nuclear exchange will there be when numerous countries possess them?
Here is a simple but important point that is almost always overlooked: nuclear weapons are forever. The knowledge to build them cannot be unlearned and the technology to make them cannot be thrown away; finally, the weapons themselves can never be decommissioned. Thus, humanity will have to live with their existence indefinitely and that means every country that has these weapons will have to spend considerable resources in maintaining and upgrading them. We were lucky during the Cold War, but can our luck continue, especially if more and more countries acquire them? Indeed, given the coming age of AI, could an AI make the same judgment as this person over a false alarm?
The point here is that the following trio of relationships, complexity and uncertainty, reflexivity and technology and finally hope and fear greatly raise the risks of a crisis and an existential catastrophe occurring.
Without a world order that can address these problems in a agreed upon framework, the chance that humanity will fail to pass through the great filter only increases.
The unknown unknown is the possibility that we will confront a risk or a set of risks that not only will statesmen not know (and thus not understand) but they will not know that they don’t know.
5: Fragility. The number and the nature of the risks that states today face are greater than any point in human history. In addition, the number and existential nature of the risks will only accelerate as the time goes on. Finally, few people – if any – will be able to fully comprehend them all and if they do, they will probably be unlikely to do anything about them.
In short, there are more ways for things to go wrong and if they go wrong, they will go very wrong indeed.
6: Cascade. While it is a cliché to say that the world is “interconnected”, it is no cliché to say that risks, say, from biological terrorism ramify the risk of economic collapse and vice versa. If one risk is realized (such as a global pandemic and not a bioterror attack) it can increase the likelihood of other risks being realized (the collapse of governments leading to civil war leading to regional wars as other powers are drawn in).
7: The “factor of safety” margin for avoiding certain risks is diminishing. Should one “node” (a civilizational bloc, a country or even a city) in the system be “overloaded” (resulting from anything from a revolution to a pandemic to an economic crash), other nodes will come under pressure thus increasing their risk of “overload”, “meltdown” or collapse. The final result is a cascading, “system wide” failure.
8: The growing complexity of the global system means that it will be harder for policy-makers to understand, predict and control their environment.
10: We will face a global dire problem. The background assumptions of this problem speak to fundamental assumptions about human nature. In short, racial differences are real; IQ is real and as a result more and more people – of all races – will essentially be, in large part due to automation, unemployable.
11: To meet these various challenges, more resources of time, money, materials and cognitive ability are necessary. If those resources are not available or are withdrawn or if resources needed become scarce to the point where new challenges cannot be addressed, collapse threatens.
Here are some principles that a new paradigm must contain.
1: No major player and no major civilization can be conquered, defeated or eliminated. This is an ethical/prudential constraint, not a claim about what is physically or practically possible.
Nuclear and chemical weapons provide the means to essentially eliminate a country and a civilization. Less dramatically, but no less dangerously, is the fact that countries can be undermined, overthrown or hollowed out via economic sanctions, lawfare, terrorism and propaganda.
2: The claim that there is or that there ought to be some complete, universal standard of morality, law, religion, philosophy, ideology or political system that all are obligated to embrace is to be rejected as neither desirable or necessary.
The only universalism is that there ought to be no Universalism.
3: Nevertheless, there must be some positive content – some shared assumptions about order, what the rules of the road are. There must be some sort of intentional law serving to regulate the actions of states.
4: The distinguishing principle of “orderists” and “revolutionaries” as it pertains to world order.
Any animal must distinguish between predator and prey and states and statesmen must be able to distinguish between actors who are orderists and those who are revolutionaries.
In short, orderists seek to uphold and address problems within the paradigm. Revolutionaries, meanwhile, seek to overthrow the paradigm itself.
Dissatisfied orderists can be negotiated with and made whole either with concessions or with assistance. Revolutionaries must either be slaughtered or surrendered to.
The Problem with USG.
1: USG is, firstly, the most important nation-state, civilizational bloc leader and geo-political player today and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future despite the fact that it is in a political crisis.
2: When it comes to foreign policy, USG presents us with a deeply paradoxical problem.
The paradox is that USG is simultaneously the defender of order (in general) and its destroyer (in general). Moreover, USG is both the defender of an order (a particular order – the “liberal international order”) and, again, its destroyer.
USG promotes liberalism in order to destroy its enemies, but it brings forth resentment and reaction as a consequence.
In short, USG is both the greatest force for order and disorder simultaneously.
Two eerily similar examples that demonstrate this seeming paradox is Wilson’s “war for democracy” against Germany in WW1 which brought forth Nazism as a consequence and America’s war for “freedom and democracy” in Iraq which brought forth ISIS.
4: The foreign policies of USG are largely the result of domestic political power struggles – Red gov V Blue gov.
5: Finally, the foreign policy that USG promotes and exercises abroad does not benefit most Americas.
4: Purpose, Structure, Argument and Model of a Reactionary World Order.
Our purpose is to create a reactionary world order. A world order that constrains, minimizes and ideally prevents the problems that were outlined in Section 2. Realistically, this order’s function will be tasked with “managing insecurity” via preemption. That is to say, the world order, or whatever remains of it, will require “policing”.
To police requires, of course, power but a world order requires more than either a dominant power or an equilibrium of powers. A world order requires legitimacy.
A legitimate order is an order that must be acceptable to all the major players.
An acceptable order is an order that, while having costs – materially and morally – for each player, is not sufficiently costly to the extent that a player rebels against or rejects the order that exists. Secondly, the order must not be so costly that a player falls prey to a domestic revolution. The consequences of this could be catastrophic, for it may lead to this new revolutionary power attempting to revolutionize the rest of world with force. Consider the consequences that the revolutionary forces of Jacobinism and Communism brought about and the rebellious Nazism as well – which came about, in large part, because the costs imposed by the Versailles treaty were unacceptable.
The Nature and Requirements of a Legitimate World Order.
1: Acceptable to all major players.
2: Acceptable up until the point where the ruling elites of various major powers do not become revolutionaries against the global order.
3: Acceptable up until the point where ruling elites are unlikely to lose power to revolutionaries within their own nation, who then export revolution or terrorism abroad.
4: Acceptability will differ for each player. Differences regarding acceptability will result from the domestic structure of the regime, how secure elites are within it but also the particular conception of justice within each nation.
5: Acceptability for each player’s ruling elite has, nonetheless, two formal components. Acceptability is not a purely moral question (a question of justice) or a purely technical question (how much can elites suppress their own population with their security forces, persuade them with propaganda and ply them with perks and pay-offs).
Thus, acceptability is a mix of justice (domestic legitimacy) and how much and how willing elites can make use of carrots and sticks.
6: The means by which global acceptability can be achieved and a new world order can be built is straightforward: war and diplomacy abroad and domestic elites violently imposing what they consider acceptable and or achieving domestic legitimacy via consultation, bargaining and persuasion.
7: World order must not only be acceptable to all players – from the outset – but contain mechanisms of negotiation and adjustment for unresolved problems and new problems that will inevitably arise.
8: Conflict and competition, including physical war, is not, intrinsically, a crisis for a world order.
9: A crisis only exists when the players are dealing with a problem (which could include a war) in which they cannot explain, predict or control and therefore cannot regulate according to the agreed upon rules and solve via the mutually accepted procedures of problem solving.
If the problem cannot be solved within the paradigm, and if the paradigm cannot be sufficiently modified, it will either collapse or be overthrown and replaced.
When it comes to the structure or design of a potential reactionary world order, there are three grades of possibilities, which we shall call:
1: The Gold Standard.
2: The Silver Standard.
3: The Bronze Standard.
The Gold Standard concerns itself not only with a reactionary paradigm of world order but also with the domestic political and social structure of the nations in question.
The Silver Standard concerns itself only with world order – the international “rules of the road” – and not the domestic and social structure of each nation.
The Bronze Standard concerns itself with neither.
The Gold Standard.
Here we are asking, when it comes to considering the political and social structure of each nation, what structure is best for not only creating a legitimate world order but also conserving it.
The key to the Gold Standard (GS) – and its most controversial element perhaps – is that, to use an idiom, “each hand washes the other and both hands wash the face.” nation A helps nation B with putting down a domestic rebellion or nation E decides to take an economic hit so that nation O can develop their economy (because not doing so might cause a rebellion in nation E).
Ironically, while the GS violates classically liberal international law and Westphalian ideas of sovereignty, it does not violate the practice of contemporary liberal (progressive) intentional law – but it will violate the theory of liberal morality.
Under the formal conception of progressive internationalism, the West intervened in Libya to overthrow an “evil dictator”. However, in a reactionary world order, the West might still intervene: to help the monarch maintain law and order.
Nevertheless, GS will cut against liberal morality in a far more deeper way because it will cut against both the spirit and the letter of democracy (people power) itself.
To illustrate this, consider the following analogy between states and persons. A person who is grossly inconsistent in their behavior – a person who makes promises on Monday but breaks them on Tuesday – is a person that cannot be relied upon.
Suppose, furthermore, that a person suffers from some mental disorder that causes their personality, beliefs and values to change – in unpredictable and fundamental ways – then this person would be viewed as not being capable of making and honoring their promises and maintaining their agreements.
The consequence is that no rational person will trust them and will make no agreement with them.
What is true of persons is true of states.
In 2016, Russia described the Obama administration as not agreement capable. Such a description would be an extraordinary criticism, supposing it true. The Trump administration’s pulling out of the Paris accords also shows that America (in the minds of Europeans) is not “agreement capable”.
In short, USG cannot respect or is perceived not to respect – agreements.
Justice, however, is that all agreements must kept.
Therefore, USG cannot act justly and cannot be trusted to act justly.
In other words, any person and any state that cannot or will not regulate themselves are rogues, bandits, and outlaws.
A state that is a democracy is a state that has a multiple personality problem. A democratic state is an unstable state and an unstable state is a state that cannot be trusted.
This is not to say that other regimes, such as China and Russia, are perfect. However, China and Russia are rationally structured (hierarchical and centralized) and behave in ways that are not only strategically competent but predictable and are capable of rational crisis management.
Nevertheless, despite the fact the Russia and China have sound structures, there is a potential weakness in their system: succession and continuity of government. What happens when Putin dies? What happens if the elites in China cannot agree with who should lead?
So the question that reactionaries are interested in exploring is what kind of government is not only rational but stable.
Arguably, the most rational and stable form of government is heredity monarchy or government as a “family business” with legally formalized rules of succession that is accepted as legitimate among the populace.
Nevertheless, Putin and Xi are not (quite) emperors (yet).
But what if they were or whoever comes after them were? What if Russia and China were ruled by emperors once more, as they were for nearly all of their history?
Is such a thing possible? Maybe. However, the point here is to see the GS not as a constitutive prescription but as a regulating principle. That is, the GS is the standard from which all other standards are to be evaluated by.
To help understand what the concept of a regulating principle is consider the following analogy. Marriage is supposed to last for life. If a marriage does indeed last until death, then it has been successful – in the constitutive sense. However, each person in the marriage is supposed to act or ought to act as if the marriage will, in fact, last for life. That is, each person must act so that the chances of the marriage lastly until death is realized.
The upshot is that framing the vision of a reactionary world order as a return to having a system of emperors and kings, is that the GS is the standard from which all other standards can be assessed. It provides, also, a goal or an end in which political action can be directed towards.
Does this have any relevance to today’s geopolitical arena?
It could. Below, we will set out what a reactionary world order could look like in more depth.
The Four Pillars of the Gold Standard Model.
In addition to each great power and key nation having a monarchical, centralized corporate structure, there are four pillars to the GS world order:
1: Governance pillar.
2: Educational pillar.
3: Moral pillar.
4: Caste pillar.
1: Governance pillar.
The purpose of the governance pillar – a sort of board of directors for Global Security – is to address, respond to, resolve or manage problems regarding global security and the nature of the global order itself.
At the moment, the closet thing we have to a global governance pillar is the UN Security Council. The current members of the Security Council are USG, Britain, France, Russia and China. Four of these states had at one time a monarchical form of government (the UK is a constitutional monarchy).
Samuel Huntington claimed that there are nine civilizational blocks but only three are permanent members of the UNSC (Western, Orthodox Christian and Sinc).
Assuming that under the GS we saw states adopt a neoreactioanry form and assuming Huntington’s civilizational blocs, what would a reformed Security Council look like?
It would consist of the following three players who are absolutely indispensable: USG, Russia and China.
This is, however, insufficient. At least two other countries need to be included: Israel and India.
The reason why India is to be included is that it is not only a nuclear armed state but a state with over a billion people. While it may not become as powerful as China, it is a very powerful and very important state. Moreover, it is the state that represents the Hindu religion and it is a civilizational bloc.
Israel is to be included, and while this will prove controversial, it is to be included precisely because it is controversial. The argument is simple: Israel is a nuclear power; a first world country with a powerful military and economy. Crucially, as both the past and the politics of the present attest, people want to kill or harm Jews; thus, Jews need a state. Finally, Israel is a Jewish state and thus represents a civilizational bloc.
Naturally, if India and Israel are included, then an Islamic state or entity must also be included. Islam has over a billion adherents. Pakistan is a nuclear armed state and one that has geopolitical and religious tensions with India.
Yet, the assumption that the Pakistani state would be the state to represent Islam would be controversial. If so, what country could represent Islam?
Firstly, Iran is Shiite, so that cannot work when the majority of Muslims are Sunni. Saudi Arabia seems the logical choice given that it already has a monarchy and the holy city of Mecca. Still, many other countries could, with some justification, make claims on Muslim leadership. Egypt has the biggest Muslim population in the region; Turkey has the history and that it was the last country to have a Caliph; Indonesia, however, has the largest population of Muslims in the world.
It would appear to be an insoluble problem and any attempt to address the issue here would require more space than we are willing to devote to it. So we will be bold and brief and claim that Pakistan should be given the most consideration; in addition, that the role of the Caliph be created but whose role is to be a kind of Islamic Pope. Nevertheless, other Muslim states (Egypt and Turkey say) will retain substantial control over their own affairs.
This solution for Islam is somewhat Christian and Western. It would see the Caliph as the religious authority but who has the power to enforce his judgments – against heretics, but that the various Muslim states retain power over political matters.
We should not be under any illusions that this proposal is either coherent or feasible. However, if Islam and Muslims are left out it would do nothing (if anything can be done) to assuage their resentment over what they perceive to be their status as victims.
What about Europe or some of the European powers? Can the inclusion of the UK and France still be justified given that the UK is a vassal of USG and that France is a minor, declining power – one that is partly a vassal of the US and a vassal of the EU?
Assuming that the UK is part of a reformed American empire, then what about France and Germany and the broader EU? One solution would be for France and Germany to have a joint seat.
Naturally, this would require a restructuring of the EU.
The simplest way to reform the EU would be to restructure it to like a normal corporation. Nation states, corporations and individuals would buy shares and elect a board of directors and these directors elect a CEO and this CEO selects a cabinet tasked with European governance.
What, however, would the purpose of a reformed EU be?
In short, the purpose would be security. The internal purpose would be to prevent a single country (such as Germany) from dominating the continent and preventing the rise of militant nationalism or some sort of disordering ideology and movement. The external purpose is that this entity would be a balancer against Russia, Islam and even America. In other words, the reformed European Union would largely be a military enterprise and a kind of continent wide FBI – but with nuclear weapons. Each country would retain substantial, internal sovereignty. The economic issues, meanwhile, are a difficult issue and Europeans would have to resolve that subject themselves.
Beyond Europe, there are plausible arguments for a Japanese Emperor to be included on the board of Global Security Directors. Firstly, Japan could be included because it is a first world country with a substantial economy. Secondly, its inclusion might make it easier for it and China to manage any conflict between them. Thirdly, including Japan and letting it take on greater security responsibilities would be a valuable asset – for the world.
What about South American states? Brazil is the most likely candidate, but it is neither a nuclear power nor one that has a major military and while it has a substantial economy it is not an important country geopolitically. Nevertheless, it could be included and made the main regional player.
What about Africa? Is there any state that should be included from this continent? None seem big enough or powerful enough to be included; yet, Africa is a critically important geopolitical region.
Perhaps, the same solution that was applied to Europe could be applied to Africa. However, all the major powers have interests here so perhaps a continent wide African superstate/military would need to have substantial investment and therefore influence from America, Europe, Islam and China.
Finally, what about Christianity? Since Islamic, Hindu and Jewish interests would be included (by proxy in the latter two), there is a strong case to be made that the Christian religion should also be included in some way. The most natural option would be to have a seat for the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has hundreds of millions of subscribers and is a wealthy organisation, though it has no army or nuclear weapons. Still, to avoid resentment and to have a powerful entity at the table it may be a good move. Furthermore, Catholics, and Christians more generally, do have serious security problems, so their inclusion, along with some military/policing power, could be a positive.
Thus, we have Ten Directors:
1: An American CEO/King/Supreme Commander
2: A European CEO/Supreme Commander.
3: A Chinese Emperor (or Chairman).
4: An Indian King/CEO
5: An Islamic Caliph.
6: A Jewish CEO or King.
7: A Russian Czar/CEO.
8: Japanese Emperor.
9: African CEO/Supreme Commander.
10: The Catholic Pope.
The Purpose of the Reactionary Security Council.
As stated earlier, the primary purpose of having a world order is to manage (in)security.
What this would mean in practice is that the ten “policemen” (Directors) would have responsibility in three zones:
Domestically, each director (with maybe an exception for the Caliph and the Pope) would be tasked with preventing a revolution, nuclear proliferation and the spread of other destructive weapons; in addition, the directors would be tasked with preventing civil war, genocide and other disturbances such as terrorism and organised criminality.
Regionally, or when one bloc intersects with another, the goal is similar to domestic responsibilities. However, the overall goal here is to prevent or manage great power conflict, arms races and manage problems that could trigger a regional conflict (such as terrorism, cyber-warfare or color revolutions).
With regional security, there will be at least two major players involved and having a governance pillar would facilitate the other directors to become involved as balancers and stabilizers. For instance, problems between India and Pakistan could have Russia, China and America acting as mediators and balancers.
With global security, the focus is on preserving the viability of the structure itself. The task here involves not just preserving the paradigm but making whatever necessary adjustments within it in order to preserve the paradigm. In addition, the governance structure must, above all, prevent a global total war in the manner of the 20th century. This means preventing a revolutionary movement coming to power or a power that decides to use force to press its own self-interest contrary to the consensus of the paradigm by balancing one power against other powers.
One question then is how this reactionary version of the UN Security Council would be better than what already exists?
The problem with the UN is that the UN is based on Universalist principles and that these principles are not shared by the majority of the world. Secondly, China, Russia and other nations see Universalist principles (“human rights”) as tools for America to advance their geopolitical interests and they are correct. Thus, this makes the UN illegitimate.
Furthermore, the internal contradictions within America and its government prevented and still prevent it from assuming the role the UN required of it: to be the global policeman.
To take one simple example, military intervention cannot be run according to democratic timetables. To intervene, pacify and then rule a foreign country requires both commitment and a timetable that runs according to its own logic and not that of the ballot box. Furthermore, when USG does intervene it attempts to create a replica of its own domestic political system in places where it will not work – because it cannot work in principle. Finally, it is hobbled by mixed motives – power and moral principle. Power requires authority and governance requires elitism but America’s democratic egalitarianism cancels these things out. The last 70 years of foreign intervention have provided amble proof of this self-contradiction.
When it comes to foreign intervention and the use of force regionally and globally for each state and nation, the purpose should not be either mixed motives or moralism but one of deterrence and balance of power.
Extending this realist proposal out further to Moldbuggian neoreactionary standards, one would see the entire world run like a cartel-corporation (a business) and not a charity (the current UN) and not under the rule of a single hegemon.
Why run things on the business and not charity model?
Client States and Nuclear Non-Proliferation.
Via Moldbug, the following principles, lifted from his post on what a reactionary world order would look like when it comes to managing nuclear proliferation is an elegant model for how a reactionary order could work in a more general sense.
Moldbug states eight principles but for our purposes here the key feature is the distinction between protector and client states.
First, there are two types of sovorgs, nuclear sovorgs and nonnuclear sovorgs.
Second, delivery is assumed, and inspection is as simple as possible: anyone who can test a working bomb is a nuclear sovorg. Inspectors define “working” by their own judgment.
Third, every nonnuclear sovorg must maintain an official affiliation with one, and only one, nuclear sovorg. The nonnuclear sovorg is the client of the nuclear sovorg, which is the protector. A nuclear protector and its affiliates are a nuclear bloc. Either the client or the protector may sever this relationship, for any reason, at any time.
Fourth, an unaffiliated nonnuclear sovorg, or total defector, has no protection. Anyone may conquer and retain it. If multiple forces make the attempt, they should try and agree on a partition beforehand.
Fifth, in all suits between nuclear and nonnuclear sovorgs, whether or not the latter is affiliated with the former, the nuclear power prevails in all disputes except those solely affecting the territory of the nonnuclear sovorgs, in which case the nonnuclear sovorg prevails. Essentially, a nonnuclear sovorg controls its borders, everything inside them, and nothing else.
Sixth, all suits between nonnuclear sovorgs within a single nuclear bloc are judged by the protector. All suits between nonnuclear sovorgs in different blocs are judged by arbitrators appointed by agreement of both protectors. The same is the case for suits between nuclear sovorg, which hopefully will be rare.
Seventh, no nuclear sovorg allows its territory or the territory of its affiliates to be used for the planning or preparation of military attacks against any other sovorg, noting only that this rule cannot be invoked to demand any restriction on free expression.
Eighth, missile defense systems are prohibited, until they can be made as reliable as missiles. If this technical assessment changes, this rule should be revisited, but any missile defense system should be a joint effort between all nuclear sovorgs, designed only for total defectors.
2: Educational pillar.
The purpose of the educational pillar is to create an institution that facilitates familiarity and commonality among potential directors and their key staff. The nature of the educational pillar would ideally equip elites with a common language, political framework and an understanding of each other’s political problems.
Currently, such educational institutions do exist (Oxford and Harvard) but they are heavily biased towards USG or Anglo-American political and cultural assumptions.
3: Values Pillar.
It should be stressed that by “values” or “morality” or “ethics” we mean a “thin” morality or set of values that largely pertains to world order and only concerns itself with domestic political and social order to the extent that domestic developments do not threaten the superstructure.
4: Caste Pillar.
The caste pillar requires that these directors share a similar “caste” background and common caste characteristics.
There are three, broad, caste types:
1: Soldiers and Warriors.
2: Priests and Sages.
It is extremely unlikely that the elite castes will be “merchants”. Thus, they will either be “Soldiers” or “Sages.”
However, the marriage of these two castes seems foreordained because a Soldier without a Sage is blind and a Sage without a Soldier is impotent.
By “Priest” and “Sage” we could be referring to at least two different things. We could be referring to a literal “priest” of a particular religion or we could be referring to what is known as a “technocrat”. We mostly mean “technocrat” here.
The Silver Standard Model.
The Silver Standard, by contrast, is only concerned with world order and not the domestic structure of each nation. In short, it is only concerned with the first pillar (governance pillar).
The strength of the Silver Standard is its pragmatism.
The weakness of the Silver Standard is its potential instability and unsustainability. For instance, if nation A pays no attention to the domestic structure and nature of nation B and if nation B requires support to prevent a revolution and if nation A does not help, then they will be overthrown. However, the revolution may not just stay in one country. What is worse, nation B might be destabilized by nation C. In short, the Silver Standard still allows for politics and war to be continued by other means and this means global instability and tension.
For example, let’s consider the French and Russian Revolution. What happened in Paris did not stay in Paris and what happened in Moscow did not stay in Moscow. The danger for European powers, such as Austria over the French Revolution and Poland over the Russian Revolution, was that the French Jacobins or the Russian Communists would bring their revolution to them with direct force and violence.
Under the Gold Standard, the domestic political structure and the moral and social order of each nation must be maintained and if need be supported and defended (by bayonets) if necessary. But this would not be the case under the Silver Standard.
In recent years, for instance, if USG had not toppled Iraq and supported the Arab Spring (revolutions) but backed the current holders of power, then the region would have been much more stable and secure.
The biggest weakness for the Silver Standard is USG’s “democracy” itself. USG can be “right” on Monday and “left” on Tuesday. In short, it cannot be considered a reliable, consistent player.
A Silver Standard is easier to achieve in the short-term, but it is harder to maintain in the long-term (especially regarding America).
The Bronze Standard (Non)-Model.
The Bronze Standard can perhaps best be captured by the English expression that one is “muddling through”. Each player attempts to come to a suitable agreement or resolve concrete, particular problems on a case by case basis.
This is likely to describe USG’s approach going forward. This will be so because both America (and Europe) will be limited by internal disagreements at home and declining power abroad. Whether it is Republican or Democrat, the presidential administrations of the future will be inexperienced and lacking in expertise regarding foreign policy. Fatally, they will, as all administrations do, conduct their policy according to the timetable of the election cycle. Thus, they will have a short-term focus and will lack an overall strategic vision that can be sustained over a long period. Needless to say, Russia and China will not have this weakness.
1: The Gold Standard is ideal and the one that should be pursued unless and until it is no longer prudent to do so.
2: The Silver Standard is “second best” and the most easiest to practice.
3: The Bronze Standard is the one that is most likely to describe the current world (dis)order and USG response to it.
5: A Cosmic Conservative Vision.
One common criticism of conservatism or reaction – one that can be applied to this vision – is that it is static; that it lacks spontaneity. It is an order which rejects or arrests change; indeed, it is an order that sees (political) change as a bad thing.
In response to this, it is thus necessary to re-state the fundamental problem that we are trying to address.
The problem is that we do not have or will soon not have a paradigm to address current and emerging security threats, rising great powers and various revolutionary orders. Thus, the risks of disaster from war, terrorism, revolution or collapse and even annihilation from global catastrophe are not only more probable but cannot even be addressed if they occur.
This century will be a time of extraordinary change and extraordinary risk. The risks, not only to each civilization, but to humanity itself, have never been greater.
We are, it seems, approaching a great bottleneck. Should we pass through, the probability of humanity and post-human life existing and thriving will be high; should we (the human race) fail to pass through, due to nuclear war or some other catastrophe, then we may not only fail to rebuild a civilization of some sort but even continue to exist.
Thus, the need to “slow” or “cool” down and be able to control events and manage problems is paramount.
Order need not be incompatible with freedom, creativity or spontaneity – in artistic, scientific, engineering, medical and commercial fields (though these things too will have an upper bound if they begin to destabilize the political order).
Nevertheless, given the failure of previous conservative world orders – such as the one following the congress of Vienna – and the “aspirational” nature of the majority of humanity (especially the Western middle-classes), there perhaps needs to be an inspiring vision – a mission.
The two great religious movements at the moment and for the foreseeable future are progressivism (derived from Protestantism) and Islamism.
As for China, Russia and India their “religion” is an ethno-nationalism with elements of traditional religion.
The impulse for “religion” is the desire for life to have some transcendent purpose – some sort of narrative coherence. It should be seen as psychologically basic, something that cannot be changed – only constrained and maybe channelled to some positive purpose.
The great cause today of the Trans-National-Progressivism is climate change or global warming (though immigration gives it a close run). For instance, watch this video of John Kerry’s address to Harvard Kennedy’s School of Governance. It is hard not to conclude that climate change is being promoted as a means for dealing with an economic disaster: massive unemployment due to automation.
Whatever the science, it seems clear to any observer that the climate change movement among the true believers has many of the qualities that one would associate with what is called old-time, missionary religion.
Even if climate change is real, the strong impression one gets from observing these people is that the content of these movements do not matter so long as the psychological and philosophical goods pay off for the people who join them. That is to say, that one’s participation provides not only morality and meaning but the feeling that one’s life matters – both to other participants in the movement and in a more, cosmic, impersonal sense.
Saving the “planet” is a thus a substitute for saving one’s “soul” and the soul of other people.
If the content of these movements do not matter psychologically, or that there is flexibility as to what the content can be, then some other program could be developed.
In that spirit then, we suggest the following idea: Cosmic Colonization.
The idea is based on a very intuitive, well-worn cliché: one should not put all of one’s eggs in the same basket.
Earth is a basket and humans are the eggs and should anything happen to the basket…..
From this simple premise – one earth – and the desire/imperative for humanity to survive, the practical conclusion that “off worlds” must be built is irresistible: logically, emotionally, ethically, politically, economically and even aesthetically.
But who could/would do it though?
The Europeans can’t do it and nor can the Russians to the extent that the Americans can. Neither are the Africans or South Americans capable of doing it, as well as the Islamic world.
The only civilizational bloc capable of carrying out space colonization are the Chinese. The Chinese, however, will be busy with their own problems – the biggest of which will be their one belt, one road initiative (OBOR), which we discussed earlier.
The Chinese have a vision of the future and an ambitious, strategic, logistically feasible plan to achieve it. Yes, there will be many problems and difficulties but if the Chinese succeed then they will have permanent control over Mackinder’s heartland and thus the “world island”.
But they will not necessarily have control of the world because whoever controls space will control the space of possibilities.
More than any material gains, however, it would be a “civilizational mission”. Such a program could absorb the energies of a creative, restless people who will no longer be able to affect their political system democratically. If and when progressivism comes to an end, millions of people will no longer have a positive vision of the future and if renewable energy is a wash, then some other techno-political project is required. Space colonization could be the very thing that is needed.
As Peter Thiel painfully noted, America could have went to “Mars but instead invaded the Middle East.”
China’s OBOR plan – if successful – will leave them with control of the board and China will thus be an economic colossus. However, an American led, Manhattan like, space colonization project will leave it not only in control of the table the board rests on but the room the table is in.
Does this idea not contradict the need for a cooperative world order however? Not necessarily. To sustain any order among multiple players, a balance of power is necessary. If China becomes the most powerful country – economically, militarily and technologically – via its OBOR project, then America must find some way to at least maintain its own economic and technological power.
6: Concluding Remarks.
Here we want to say a few final and concluding remarks.
The main challenge and much of our focus here has been on the problem of security and how a lack of order and certain kinds of order (the liberal world order) contributes to risk.
All in all, the vision that we have presented here places a premium on stability, cooperation, ownership, self-interest, spheres of interest, the balance of power and legitimacy. The Reactionary vision of world order sees a move away from the liberal vision of USG as the sole global power whose mission advances liberalism to a multi-stakeholder system that, nevertheless, shrinks the size of global decision making input (ten directors) and the scope of each player’s power.
The source of our thinking for this system is partly Moldbug but mostly the example of Metternich’s System that was so well explicated by Henry Kissinger in his book A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of Peace 1812-1822. (You can find a useful essay that summarizes the book here.) An essay that outlines how a similar system could work for today was outlined by Kissinger’s biographer, Niall Ferguson here.
Post Script. The STEEL Restoration: From Napoleon to Metternich.
When we began this manifesto, we began with Napoleon. We chose Napoleon for he offered a brilliant demonstration of the role that great men can play in history. It also offered positive demonstration of the possibilities of successful political engineering.
Nevertheless, it also offered us an example of the dangers and risks of great men. Great men operate above and beyond the normal moral concerns of their fellow men and of their times. The paradox is that it only such men – veritable forces of nature – that can overcome the spirit of their times, the layers of bureaucracy, the vested interests, the radicals and the mob. Yet, it is this very will to power – the will of the conqueror – that leads to their undoing and of the system they implemented.
If the Modern Structure is to be restructured, then it will take someone like a Napoleon, a Caesar or a Putin to achieve such a thing. But that is not the end itself for there is no end. The psychology required for a restructuring is completely different from ruling on an continuous and consistent basis.
After the revolution and the restoration, once the prophets have finished fulminating and the philosophers philosophizing, there must be statesmen of the new order.
For our last word, we turn to Henry Kissinger and draw the following from his World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of Peace 1812-1822.
The following is from chapter XVII: The Nature of Statesmanship.
It is fortunate for the lessons posterity may draw from this period that its chief protagonists were men of marked individuality, each in his way symbolizing an answer to the problem of order: Napoleon of the claims of power; Alexander of the indeterminacy of a policy of absolute moral claims; Castlereagh of the conception of an equilibrium maintained by the recognition of the self-evident advantages of peace; Metternich of an equilibrium maintained by an agreement on a legitimizing principle.
Napoleon and Alexander were revolutionaries, because both strove to identify the organization of Europe with their will. To be sure, Napoleon sought order in universal dominion and Alexander in a reconciled humanity. But the claims of the prophet are sometimes as dissolving as those of the conqueror. For the claims of the prophet are a counsel of perfection, and perfection implies uniformity. Utopias are not achieved except by a process of levelling and dislocation which must erode all patterns of obligation. These are the two great symbols of the attacks on the legitimate order: the Conqueror and the Prophet, the quest for universality and for eternity, for the peace of impotence and the peace of bliss.
But the statesman must remain forever suspicious of these efforts…..This in its fundamental sense is the issue between the conqueror or the prophet on the one side and the statesman on the other; between the identification of conception and possibility and the insistence on the contingency of the individual will; between the effort to escape time and the need to survive in it. It is a tragic and necessarily inconclusive contest. For the statesman will treat the prophet as a political manifestation, and the prophet will judge the statesman by transcendental standards. The prophet, however pure his motives, pays the penalty for the “false” prophets who have preceded him, and it is the latter for which statesmanship attempts to provide. And the statesman is confronted with what must always upset his calculations; that it is not balance which inspires men but universality, not security but immortality.
It is the inextricable element of history, this conflict between inspiration and organization. Inspiration implies the identification of the self with the meaning of events. Organization requires discipline, the submission to the will of the group. Inspiration is timeless; its validity is inherent in its conception. Organization is historical, depending on the material available at a given period. Inspiration is a call for greatness; organization a recognition that mediocrity is the usual pattern of leadership. To be effective politically one requires organization, and for this reason the translation into political terms of prophetic visions always falsifies the intentions of their proponents. It is no accident that the greatest spiritual achievements of religious or prophetic movements tend to occur when they are still in opposition, when their conception is their only reality. Nor is it strange that established religions or prophetic movements should exhibit a longing for their vanished period of “true” inwardness. It is the origin of mass frenzy, of crusades, of “reformations”, of purges, this realization that the spontaneity of individual reflection cannot be institutionalized.
While the conqueror attempts to equate his will with the structure of obligations and the prophet seeks to dissolve organization in a moment of transcendence, the statesman strives to keep latent the tension between organization and inspiration; to create a pattern of obligations sufficiently spontaneous to reduce to a minimum the necessity for the application of force, but, at the same time, of sufficient firmness not to require the legitimization of a moment of exaltation.
It is not surprising that Castlereagh and Metternich were statesmen of the equilibrium, seeking security in a balance of forces. Their goal was stability, not perfection, and the balance of power is the classic expression of the lesson of history that no order is safe without physical safeguards against aggression. Thus the new international order came to be created with a sufficient awareness of the connection between power and morality; between security and legitimacy. No attempt was made to found it entirely on submission to a legitimizing principle; this is the quest of the prophet and dangerous because it presupposes the self-restraint of sanctity. But neither was power considered self-limiting; the experience of the conqueror had proved the opposite. Rather, there was created a balance of forces which, because it conferred a relative security, came to be generally accepted, and whose relationships grew increasingly spontaneous as its legitimacy came to be taken for granted.
But it is not sufficient to judge the statesman by his conceptions alone, for unlike the philosopher he must implement his vision. And the statesman is inevitably confronted by the inertia of his material, by the fact that other powers are not factors to be manipulated but forces to be reconciled; that the requirements of security differ with the geographic location and the domestic structure of the powers. His instrument is diplomacy, the art of relating states to each other by agreement rather than by the exercise of force, by the representation of a ground of action which reconciles particular aspirations with a general consensus. Because diplomacy depends on persuasion and not imposition, it presupposes a determinate framework, either through an agreement on a legitimizing principle or, theoretically, through an identical interpretation of power-relationships, although
the latter is in practice the most difficult to attain.
In addition to the obstacle of bureaucratic inertia, a statesman will tend to have great difficulty legitimizing his policy domestically, because of the incommensurability between a nation’s domestic and its international experience. The whole domestic effort of a people exhibits an effort to transform force into obligation by means of a consensus on the nature of justice. The more spontaneous the pattern of obligation, the more “natural” and “universal” will social values appear. But the international experience of a people is a challenge to the universality of its notion of justice, for the stability of an international order depends on self-limitation, on the reconciliation of different versions of legitimacy. A nation will evaluate a policy in terms of its domestic legitimization, because it has no other standard of judgment. But the effort to identify the legitimizing principle of the international order with a parochial version of justice must lead to a revolutionary situation, particularly if the domestic legitimizing principles are sufficiently incommensurable. If a society legitimizes itself by a principle which claims both universality and exclusiveness, if its concept of “justice”, in short, does not include the existence of different principles of legitimacy, relations between it and other societies will come to be based on force. For this reason competing systems of legitimacy find it extremely difficult to come to an understanding, not only because they will not be able to agree on the nature of “just” demands, but, perhaps more importantly, because they will not be able to legitimize the attainable international consensus domestically.
It is for this reason that most great statesmen have been either representatives of essentially conservative social structures or revolutionaries: the conservative is effective because of his understanding of the experience of his people and of the essence of a continuing relationship, which is the key to a stable international organization. And the revolutionary, because he transcends experience and identifies the just with the possible. The conservative (particularly if he represents an essentially conservative social structure) is legitimized by a consensus on the basic goals of the social effort and on the nature of the social experience. There is therefore, no need to justify every step along the way. The revolutionary is legitimized by his charismatic quality, by an agreement on the legitimacy of his person or of his principle. His means are therefore considered incidental; his ends or his person legitimize the means. A conservative structure produces a notion of quality, which provides the framework of great conception; a revolutionary order produces a notion of exaltation, which dissolves technical limitations. Both thus deal with the fundamental problem of statesmanship: how to produce an understanding of the complexity of policy when it is impossible to produce a comprehension of its
Statesmanship thus involves not only a problem of conception but also of
implementation, an appreciation of the attainable as much as a vision of the desirable.
The World Restored. Henry Kissinger.