Is the world really better off after U.S. retreated from superpower responsibilities? Take a look

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By Norman Bailey

The world is coming to resemble the 1930’s more and more.

From Argentina to Yemen to Ukraine to Syria and Lebanon, entropy, the natural tendency of everything to disintegrate if there is no force to hold it together, is coming to dominate the international scene.

LeadingFromBehindIn the natural world that force is gravity. In the international world that force is exercised by a dominant power or powers.

In the 1930’s, the United States refused to play that role and the result is history. In the 2000’s, the decline of U.S. dominance due to ineptitude coupled with hubris in the George W. Bush Administration, followed by the naiveté and adolescent idealism of the Obama Administration, have drastically damaged the ability of the U.S. to continue to fill the role it has been performing since the end of the second World War.

Yemen has graduated from failed state to no-state, joining Libya. Failing and failed states Lebanon, Syria and Iraq continue down the road of ruin, aided and assisted in that trajectory by a whole series of non-state actors, in much of the world becoming as powerful as, if not more powerful than, states themselves.

Russia, its paranoia fed by centuries of threats and invasions by Mongols, Tatars, Swedes, Poles, French and Germans, and defeated by the United States in the Cold War, overreacts by threatening its neighbors — not just Ukraine, where not satisfied with Crimea, it continues to penetrate the Donbas region, but also the Baltic states and Moldova. Even ever-loyal Belarus has begun to take measures to protect itself from its giant neighbor.

China, subject to a century of humiliation from the 1840’s to the 1940’s, is now making up for that humiliation by using the riches accumulated after its economic liberalization to expand diplomatically and militarily into the East and South China seas, creating a backlash by neighboring countries, the United States, and India, which will simply convince it even more strongly that it is being surrounded and isolated.

All of which reinforces the rapprochement between Russia and China, feeding on their mutual insecurities. The opportunities for and likelihood of major political/military incidents increase accordingly.

In far-away Argentina, reeling from inflation, crime, polarization and governmental incompetence, an honest prosecutor is murdered, the public surges into the streets demanding justice, and in response the president, manifestly incapable of confronting any of the real disasters created by her and her predecessor (and husband’s) policies, reacts by dissolving the state intelligence agency, which is like reacting to being burned by kicking a convenient dog.

Israel and its neighborhood? Finally, Hizbullah, egged on by Iran, decides to react to the Israeli destruction of a military base being established on the Syrian border by firing rockets into Israel from Syria and Lebanon. This is a manifestation of frustration induced by the failure thus far of the Assad regime to reestablish control over most of the territory of what used to be Syria, despite Hizbullah’s help.

The northern threat will be overcome as the southern (Hamas) threat was overcome, but before Israel starts to feel too comfortable in the course of so-doing in the midst of its surrealistic election campaign, it would do well to ponder how badly it has handled the greatest economic and geo-political bonanza in its history — the discovery and exploitation of huge reserves of natural gas. It is a good thing that the hi-tech industry doesn’t consume large quantities of energy, or Israel would be in serious economic trouble now.

If it doesn’t quickly learn to handle issues of the exploitation of natural resources efficiently and effectively, the future will not only not be as bright as it could have been, it may well turn substantially darker. Survival in a dysfunctional and entropic world depends on having clear and obtainable goals, choosing the appropriate strategies to attain them and then devoting the necessary resources to do so. All three elements are necessary, and the third is in imminent danger due to the incredible bureaucratic labyrinth created by Jerusalem.

Norman A. Bailey, Ph.D., is Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft at The Institute of World Politics, Washington, D.C., and a researcher at the Center for National Security Studies, University of Haifa. This column was also published by Globes, the Israeli business daily.

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