The world today is making me nervous. Though pundits have been predicting troubled times and imminent catastrophes for years and this has only increased with the rise of China and the financial crisis, I have felt that the world, due mainly to US security power blankets and the growth of globalization, was stable and major crises were for the most part, unlikely to occur. The events of the past few weeks have caused this feeling to fade, however. Turkey and Brazil’s confident move to make a deal with Iran over the wishes of nearly all the world’s major powers, especially the superpower United States, joined the Times Square attempted bombing, a growing oil crisis in the Gulf of Mexico that the US government seems incapable of stopping, Greek financial tragedy seemingly bringing the EU down with it, the North Korean sinking of Cheonan, Japan’s Prime Minister merry-go-round, Chinese-US military relations faltering, and now we have the flotilla incident raising all kinds of hell. It just seems like no one is at the wheel of a truck that may be veering of the highway. Or as Walter Russell Mead recently stated, ‘The world is getting more complicated — and more dangerous — all the time.’
In many ways this is what a multi-polar world would start to look like. A problem occurs and no one is really sure who to turn to and therefore each actor quickly looks out for the their own best interests. At times this can lead to a stable equilibrium, however in other periods it can breed miscalculations that lead to tragic conflicts. Before I get too alarming here, I should note that a serious international conflict does not appear imminent, no matter how many ‘humanitarian’ flotillas head to Gaza. But the apprehension in the air is real and I think it accurate to state that there are more unknowns in our current international security apparatus than known’s.
Speaking of Mead, he has a fascinating analysis of Turkey and Brazil’s recent aggressive foreign policy moves and what it means for and says about the United States. Here is an excerpt:
Both Turkey and Brazil are at a point in time when both their external and internal situations favor anti-US foreign policy moves. In the Middle East, taking an anti-American line builds Turkish influence and opens doors across the region. Fading Russian and European power in the Middle East creates a vacuum which a newly ambitious Turkey can hope to fill; anti-American and anti-Israel policies win friends and supporters for Turkey as it flexes its regional muscles. (Fading Russian power also makes Turkey less afraid of its northern neighbor; Turkey feels increasingly confident that it can manage its relationship with Russia without an American big brother to protect it.) In Latin America, strategic neglect and strategic failure by three American administrations (Clinton, Bush, Obama) have left the United States with fewer friends, more enemies, and less leverage than at any time since World War Two. Argentina, Brazil’s historical rival in South America, is confused and distracted with a weak political establishment and weak economy; alienated from the United States and concerned with internal economic issues, Argentina is in no position to undercut Brazil’s latest attempt to establish itself as the leading power in South America. By playing an anti-American card, Lula builds support for his vision and his party in Brazil, even as he relegates Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez to the second division in Latin America. In the short run, the Brazilian economy has managed the global downturn well; in the long term, the continuing rise of India and China mean that there will be more foreign consumers for Brazil’s exports and investors in its enterprises. Add to that the impact of massive off-shore oil discoveries, and it is not surprising that Brazil is feeling feisty.
So we have two countries who increasingly want to defy the United States, are able to do so, and find at least in the short term that an anti-American stance enhances their political prospects. Under these circumstances, we ought not to be surprised by the new directions in Turkish and Brazilian foreign policy.
Do yourself a favor and read the whole darn thing. So do you feel ‘nervous’ about today’s global security environment or I am just being a chicken little here? What makes you especially apprehensive? What calms you down (besides a hot bath, that is)? What are Turkey and Brazil up to and what does it mean for the US? Are the two growing powers really doing what’s in their best interests or can these moves backfire?