- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 14, 2004

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.

• The U.S. debate shifts to adequate city perimeter defenses.

• With the U.S. no longer the global cop, the defense budget of almost half a trillion dollars can be drastically pruned and savings transferred to homeland security.

• U.S. client states are informed they are on their own. Congress abolishes global aid.

• Egypt loses its annual stipend of $2.5 billion; Taiwan and Israel are told they will must fend for themselves.

• Social trust becomes the new glue of society — bonding with like-minded neighbors with shared values.

• International coalitions dissolve and new ones emerge. China seizes new opportunities for its short- and long-range needs for raw materials in the developing world — from Brazil to sub-Saharan Africa’s pockets of mineral wealth.

• The United States, Canada and Mexico form a new stand-alone alliance with Britain.

• Turkey, Israel and Iran become a new self-protection core against dysfunctional neighbors with no upward mobility.

• The European Union and Russia, in continuing decline, close ranks; EU inherits de facto responsibility for Africa south of the Sahara, plagued by genocidal wars and the AIDS epidemic.

• China and India, with one-third of the world’s population, and competitive with Western countries in high-tech jobs and technology, form a de facto alliance.

• Pakistan’s pro-American President Pervez Musharraf does not survive the ninth assassination plot; an Islamist general takes over and appoints A.Q. Khan, former chief executive of an international nuclear black market for the benefit of America’s “axis of evil” enemies, as Pakistan’s new president.

• The House of Saud is shaken to its foundations as a clutch of younger royal princes, who have served in the armed forces, arrest the plus 70-year-olds now in charge — known as the Sudairi seven — and call for the kingdom’s first elections.

• Osama bin Laden returns to Saudi Arabia and is welcomed as a national hero. Bin Laden scores an overwhelming plurality in the elections and is the country’s most popular leader.

• A.Q. Khan sends bin Laden his congratulations and dispatches to Riyadh his new defense minister, Gen. Hamid Gul, a former intelligence chief and admirer of the world’s most wanted terrorist, who hates America with a passion. His mission is to negotiate a caliphate merging Pakistan’s nuclear weapons with Saudi oil resources and monetary reserves.

• Northern Nigeria petitions Islamabad and Riyadh to be considered as a member of the caliphate.

• Absent the long-time global cop, and traditional alliances in shambles, transnational criminal enterprises thrive with unfettered access the world over.

• U.S. multinational companies, unable to protect their plants and employees, return whence they came.

• International airlines morph back into interregional air links.

• Switzerland, a small defensive country with compulsory military service, is in vogue again; larger countries with several ethnic groups begin breaking apart a la Yugoslavia.

• Goods stamped “Made in China. Secured in Singapore” are back in business, smuggled into the United States.

• The EU can no longer cope with millions of North Africans and sub-Sahara Africans flooding into Spain, Italy, France, who roam freely and hungry in the rest of Europe. Islamist radicals sally out of their European slum tenements to besiege U.S. Embassies in protest of their jobless plight.

• Japan goes nuclear after U.S. troops withdraw from South Korea.

A slight detour from this global ship o’ fools imaginary cruise had Pakistan and India, no longer restrained by the United States, miscalculating and exchanging a nuclear salvo over Kashmir. A billion Indians survive. A city disappears, Islamabad. Pakistan, part of India prior to independence in 1947, collapses as a unitary state and becomes part of India again.

To be warned is forewarned. Short of WMD terrorism, the intelligence insiders are concerned about implosions in the former Soviet Muslim republics. They also say there is no more important objective for the Bush administration than repairing transatlantic relations. Chris Patten, the EU’s outgoing foreign minister says, “The world deserves better than testosterone on one side and superciliousness on the other.”

Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.

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