The world can now count on one geopolitical earthquake every 10 years. Between 1985 and 1995, it was the fall of the Berlin Wall, the implosion of the Soviet Union, the collapse of communist parties the world over, and America’s emergence as the world’s only superpower.
Between 1995 and 2005, it was the September 11, 2001, attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that triggered a war on, and the defeat of, Afghanistan’s despotic Taliban regime followed by a war on, and the defeat of, Saddam Hussein’s bloody tyranny. So between 2005 and 2015, what’s on the global menu?
Movers and shakers as well as long-range thinkers and planners meet in a wide variety of intelligence and think-tank huddles. These over-the-horizon, out-of-the-box appraisals range from good news scenarios (the minority) to the kind of global unraveling funk whose only antidote would be a desert island.
Behind all the geopolitical jargon about the “functioning core of globalization,” “system perturbations,” and “dialectics of transformation,” there is the underlying fear of a Vietnamlike debacle in Iraq that would drive the U.S. into isolationism — a sort of globalization in reverse.
Among the most interesting and optimistic librettos in the game of nations is peace in the Middle East made possible by a deal with Iran. Keeping this kind of negotiation with the ayatollahs secret in the age of the Internet and 4 million bloggers taxes credulity. It would also take a Henry Kissinger or a Zbigniew Brzezinski to pull it off. However, if successful, it would look something like this:
A nuclear Iran removed from the “axis of evil,” and recognized as the principal player in the region, is the quid.
For the quo, Iran recognized Israel and the two-state solution of a “viable” Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.
Iran ends all support for terrorist activities against Israel. Iran-supplied and -funded Hezbollah disarms and confines its activities to the political and economic arena in Lebanon.
In reality, Iran is automatically the region’s dominant power after U.S. armed forces withdraw from Iraq. The Shi’ite side of Islam, long the persecuted majority in Iraq, will emerge victorious in forthcoming free national elections. A minimum of 1 million Iranians have moved into Iraq since Operation Iraqi Freedom 2 1/2 years ago. The Iran-Iraq border is porous, mountainous, largely unguarded and no one has even an approximate count. The Jordanian intelligence service believes the Iranian influx into Iraq could be as high as 3 million.
In Syria, the Alawi regime, in power since 1970, is also a Shi’ite sect of Islam. In Lebanese politics, the Hezbollah Party is a Shi’ite movement. The oil fields of Saudi Arabia are in the kingdom’s eastern province where Shi’ites are the majority — and Iran is a hop, skip and jump away.
One all-too-realistic geopolitical nightmare was a weapon of mass destruction terrorist attack on the U.S. West Coast. A nuclear device detonates in a container ship about to enter Long Beach, Calif. News had just broken about pollution of the U.S. food supply, most analysts assumed by transnational terrorism. The U.S. can prevail conventionally anywhere but seems helpless in coping with asymmetrical warfare.
In quick succession:
The dollar ceases to be the world’s reserve currency.
The shaky coalition governing Iraq collapses and civil war breaks out between Sunnis and Shi’ites.
Fear of the unknown produces a new consensus in the U.S. that global civilization is no longer America’s business.