It is difficult to not be concerned with the new world order that is being shaped by Brexit, “Make America Great Again”, and in general the rise of populism, whether in the United States, France, Italy or the Philippines. It is not an exaggeration to say that President Trump, Marie Le Penn, and Theresa May’s political views are trying to shape a new world order.
The history books are filled with events that unexpectedly result in catastrophic loss of human life. These catastrophic events might in retrospect look inevitable, but at the time of the triggering events, few saw their mass destructive consequences. I worry that we may be at one of those moments in the world.
When Arch Duke Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo few could have imagined that 20 million people would die as a direct result of the assassination. It is unlikely that when World War I ended that many could have guessed World War II was around the corner.
Few even speculated when Hitler was elected that mass genocide would occur and a world war would draw in Japan.
The goal of the European Union is stated to be to establish “common economic, foreign, security, and justice polices.” When Britain withdrew from the European Union the message was that the future of Britain was better as an independent country than as part of a United Europe. As elements among French, Italian and Spanish politicians now follow the same line of logic and suggest it would be better to leave the European Union, the worry is that these politicians are setting up a situation in which European nations are no longer working as equals who share common standards, but instead as self centered nations whose interactions could result in confrontation instead of cooperation. While no one can predict a break up of the EU, but it might be that the breaking up of the EU will add to an increase world tensions with unintended serious consequences.
When President Trump uses the term “ America First” he is using language that existed right before America went into World War II. The America First movement pre-world war II clearly was an isolationist and anti-Semitic movement that literally suggested appeasing Hitler. While President Trump is not anti-Semitic his critics are amazed at the language he uses in discussing Putin. Where does this lead? Again no one knows but in the context of using “America First” there is the historical echo of the appeasement of Hitler.
When President Trump surprisingly spoke with the leader of Taiwan, he indicated that he was skeptical of the One China policy that has so long been part of America and Mainland China relations. He has now reversed himself and said he favors the traditional One China policy. China is gloating at Trump’s reversal and is calling America a paper tiger. In the same way America First has past negative echoes so does Paper Tiger. The term Paper Tiger was used by Mao to negatively describe its enemy the United States.
Within 24 hours of America being labeled as a Paper Tiger and as President Trump is meeting with the Prime Minister of Japan; North Korea launches a missile test that violates the United Nations Charter. Will China help the United States curtail North Korea or will there be a confrontation ? I do not know the answer but America and China are at odds in the South Sea ;and what is China’s incentive to help the United States and its Asian Allies? There is no doubt the North Korean leader could incite a catastrophic event.
The problems in the middle east and Syria in particular could lead to unpredictable ,even greater catastrophic loss of human life ,than it has so far. In October, the former Soviet leader Gorbachev warned that the world was at a “dangerous place” because of Syria and there have been calls for war crimes trials as a result of the mass murder in Aleppo. Iran is clearly on a war footing.
With all these events happening I feel as if a red flag is being raised. The world appears to be on a course that could end with catastrophic consequences. Of course it doesn’t have to happen but history shows that catastrophic events often look inevitable in the rear view mirror but in the present they seem not as tragic. Only time will tell.