When was the last time the leaders of the world’s major players succeeded each other in Washington over a critical situation? You probably can’t remember and neither can I.
Since World War II, Washington has been the uncontested locus of world diplomacy (though the U.N. meets in New York….). Every sitting American President has been photographed in the Oval Office dispensing American advice – but more often orders – to his counterparts around the globe.
Recently, America’s foremost critics of U.S. foreign policies and domestic power have stepped up their public pronouncements, identifying the United States as a police state and challenging the Obama administration in court. However they do not appear to have noticed a sea change: it is now President Putin who receives his peers one after the other in search of a solution to the Syrian crisis. This shift is not due to Russia’s power along, but rather a function of the rise of the BRICS: Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, an alliance whose clout the mainstream media refuses to acknowledge. Its members have different types of governments, but they agree on the need to curb aggression and save the planet from a climate meltdown. Crises in China’s back yard will see Peking in the forefront. As the country geographically closest to the Middle-Eastern crisis, it is Russia that takes the lead.
In the last two weeks, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, British Prime Minister David Cameron, U.N. Secretary Ban Ki Moon have journeyed in turn to Sochi, a resort on the Black Sea, to meet with Vladimir Putin. The last time anything remotely similar happened was in February, 1945 when the Big Three (Britain, the U.S. and the Soviet Union) meet at Yalta, another Black Sea resort, to discuss the future of soon to be liberated Europe.
The Yalta Conference would go down in history as the event that sealed the fate of Eastern Europe, leading to a Cold War that lasted until 1991, when the Soviet Union imploded, Eastern Europe having emerged from behind the ‘Iron Curtain’ starting in 1989.
At the time of ‘Yalta’ no one could have imagined the world would witness a period even more violent than the Second World War, in which not one, but many rulers would resort to the methods ‘copyrighted’ by the Nazis, but that is the situation we’re now living. The Russian President has an even bigger job on his hands than did Roosevelt and Truman, because in 1945 the world’s population was only 2 billion, whereas now it is more than 7 billion. About half that number are fighting to maintain a way of life organized around religion (Being), while the other half relentlessly pursues their resources in order to further a way of life organized around consumption (Having), which they want no part of.
There are also small groups of individuals in the ‘modern’ world who recognize they are riding on a runaway train, as Morris Berman put it in his recent work ‘Why America Failed’. Led by intellectuals like Berman and Chris Hedges, they can protest till the cows come home, their efforts will be in vain. For the arrow of time is irreversible, and the only thing that puts its forward movement on a different trajectory is a significant increase in the flow of energy through the system. In political terms, that flow of energy is called revolution, and no existential impasse has ended without it.
P.S. For a detailed discussion of the applicability of systems theory to politics, see A Taoist Politics: The Case for Sacredness