May 22, 2013
A History of the World, BRIC by BRIC
Posted on Apr 26, 2012
By Pepe Escobar, TomDispatch
Before 9/11, the Bush administration had been focused on China as its future global enemy number one. Then 9/11 redirected it to what the Pentagon called “the arc of instability,” the oil heartlands of the planet extending from the Middle East through Central Asia. Given Washington’s distraction, Beijing calculated that it might enjoy a window of roughly two decades in which the pressure would be largely off. In those years, it could focus on a breakneck version of internal development, while the U.S. was squandering mountains of money on its nonsensical “Global War on Terror.”
Twelve years later, that window is being slammed shut as from India, Australia, and the Philippines to South Korea and Japan, the U.S. declares itself back in the hegemony business in Asia. Doubts that this was the new American path were dispelled by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s November 2011 manifesto in Foreign Policy magazine, none too subtly labeled “America’s Pacific Century.” (And she was talking about this century, not the last one!)
The American mantra is always the same: “American security,” whose definition is: whatever happens on the planet. Whether in the oil-rich Persian Gulf where Washington “helps” allies Israel and Saudi Arabia because they feel threatened by Iran, or Asia where similar help is offered to a growing corps of countries that are said to feel threatened by China, it’s always in the name of U.S. security. In either case, in just about any case, that’s what trumps all else.
As a result, if there is a 33-year Wall of Mistrust between the U.S. and Iran, there is a new, growing Great Wall of Mistrust between the U.S. and China. Recently, Wang Jisi, Dean of the School of International Studies at Peking University and a top Chinese strategic analyst, offered the Beijing leadership’s perspective on that “Pacific Century” in an influential paper he coauthored.
The U.S., Wang adds, “is seen in China generally as a declining power over the long run… It is now a question of how many years, rather than how many decades, before China replaces the United States as the largest economy in the world… part of an emerging new structure.” (Think: BRICS.)
In sum, as Wang and his coauthor portray it, influential Chinese see their country’s development model providing “an alternative to Western democracy and experiences for other developing countries to learn from, while many developing countries that have introduced Western values and political systems are experiencing disorder and chaos.”
Put it all in a nutshell and you have a Chinese vision of the world in which a fading U.S. still yearns for global hegemony and remains powerful enough to block emerging powers—China and the other BRICS—from their twenty-first century destiny.
Dr. Zbig’s Eurasian Wet Dream
Now, how does the U.S. political elite see that same world? Virtually no one is better qualified to handle that subject than former national security adviser, BTC pipeline facilitator, and briefly Obama ghost adviser, Dr. Zbigniew (“Zbig”) Brzezinski. And he doesn’t hesitate to do so in his latest book, Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power.
If the Chinese have their strategic eyes on those other BRICS nations, Dr. Zbig remains stuck on the Old World, newly configured. He is now arguing that, for the U.S. to maintain some form of global hegemony, it must bet on an “expanded West.” That would mean strengthening the Europeans (especially in energy terms), while embracing Turkey, which he imagines as a template for new Arab democracies, and engaging Russia, politically and economically, in a “strategically sober and prudent fashion.”
Turkey, by the way, is no such template because, despite the Arab Spring, for the foreseeable future, there are no new Arab democracies. Still, Zbig believes that Turkey can help Europe, and so the U.S., in far more practical ways to solve certain global energy problems by facilitating its “unimpeded access across the Caspian Sea to Central Asia’s oil and gas.”
Under the present circumstances, however, this, too, remains something of a fantasy. After all, Turkey can only become a key transit country in the great energy game on the Eurasian chessboard I’ve long labeled Pipelineistan if the Europeans get their act together. They would have to convince the energy-rich, autocratic “republic” of Turkmenistan to ignore its powerful Russian neighbor and sell them all the natural gas they need. And then there’s that other energy matter that looks unlikely at the moment: Washington and Brussels would have to ditch counterproductive sanctions and embargos against Iran (and the war games that go with them) and start doing serious business with that country.
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