The Washington Post carried this message of warning from Steve Bannon in February, 2017:
Bannon dismissed the idea that Trump might moderate his positions or seek consensus with political opponents. Rather, he said, the White House is digging in for a long period of conflict to transform Washington and upend the world order.
“If you think they’re going to give you your country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken,” Bannon said in reference to the media and opposition forces. “Every day, it is going to be a fight.”
Bannon says that the post-World War II political and economic consensus is failing and should be replaced with a system that empowers ordinary people over coastal elites and international institutions.Bannon's warning came to mind following the fractious G7 meeting in Quebec over the weekend. This too seems to be borne out in an analysis piece in Foreign Policy, "The West Will Die So That Trump Can Win."
...it is not surprising that a U.S. administration no longer sees an overriding political need to restrain itself from pushing allies into making trade concessions. The Soviet Union no longer exists. To the extent that the administration’s detractors argue that its demands are unreasonable, or that the United States has bigger fish to fry — like maintaining solidarity in the face of Russian aggression — Trump’s response would presumably be twofold. First, a better deal is always better — “reasonable” is for chumps. Second, if geopolitics stand in the way of the United States getting better trade deals, then geopolitics should give way. Americans don’t care about Crimea; they don’t care about the abstractions of democracy. They care about winning trade wars.
To the extent that these two things are true, at least to the average American, Canada and the EU have a bigger problem than they realize. Their strategy at the moment, reflected in tempered responses to Trump, is to wait him out — on the assumption that he will be gone in two and a half years, or less, and that the United States will then go back to normal. But Trump may be the new normal — not in the sense that future presidents will be as crude and loose with the facts, but in the sense that they, reacting to a seismic shift in U.S. public sentiment, will no longer recognize the constraints of solidarity with fellow free-market democracies. Those days are, perhaps, as Bolton would say, “no more.”In the same issue, Daniel Sargent writes of, "The Slow Rise and Sudden Fall of the G7."
The end times have come and gone for the West over 70-odd years, but it is difficult these days, to escape the sensation that the dusk really is falling.
...After showing up late and interrupting a forum on gender equality, President Donald Trump scowled his way through sessions before departing early for Singapore. And as he headed out, Trump insulted his host and neighbor, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, and retracted his signature from the G-7’s communique, ending a 42-year run of choreographed collegiality. Then, over the past 24 hours, Trump has showcased his preference for the company of a callow despot, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, over engagement with what used to be considered America’s closest allies and peers.
...On the most urgent dilemmas of our times — economic inequality, sustainable development, and the looming peril of ecological catastrophe — the G-7 has been irrelevant. The G-7 has not evolved into a directorate capable of offsetting a historic slippage in U.S. hegemonic capabilities, as political scientists like Robert Keohane once hoped it might. To call Donald Trump’s Canadian temper tantrum an assault on the West’s governing framework is to overstate, by a mile, the G-7’s institutional significance.
Trump’s assault is no death knell; as a project in global leadership, the G-7 was already dead. Its supersession by the G-20 during the global financial crisis confirmed its obsolescence as a framework for governance. The G20, not the G7, functioned as the forum for the coordination of fiscal stimulus efforts in the nadir of 2009. The same goes for the current GDP data. In 1980, the G-7 countries constituted about 51 percent of global production on a purchasing power parity basis; today, the G-7 claims just over 30 percent. The G-7 can no longer maintain a plausible pretension to run the world — it has become a niche organization.
And herein lies the real significance — and the real tragedy — of Trump’s petulant behavior. The point of the G-7, as Schmidt, Pompidou, and Ford all grasped, was to foster unity in a historical phase when geopolitical trends were corroding the West. Dialogue on common economic problems, all hoped, would offer an alternative source of cohesion. Or, as Kissinger explained in 1975: “The trick in the world now is to use economics to build a world political structure.
...Today, it is the sense of unity the G-7 has cultivated that is imperiled. Configurations of power and interest are an insufficient basis for durable order among nations, as diplomatic historians well understand. The West cohered after 1945 not only because of shared enmities but also because its elites cultivated sociability and common values. From the Bilderberg Group to the Trilateral Commission, sociability proved both a source of cohesion and a salve for disagreements.
Functioning at the most elite level of all, the G-7 nurtured unity among the world’s liberal democracies through economic crises and geopolitical transition. Its debasing by a feckless U.S. president will serve only to tear the West’s fraying bonds of commonality still further asunder. In Beijing and in Moscow, the West’s rivals are cheering.If Trump is not simply a perverse aberration but the "new normal" of the United States, it seems foolish, even reckless, for Ottawa to imperil Canada by pretending that it's still business as usual.
Maybe there is, finally, a real "Axis of Evil." Maybe there is an emerging alliance of despotism, strongman rule that see lesser, weaker nations as prey for the picking. Look at the leaders Trump is so obviously drawn to - Putin, Xi, Kim, the House of Saud, Erdogan, Orban - just about every murderous thug on the planet.
Don't forget it wasn't that long ago that another gang of thugs sought to carve up the nations of the world among themselves. Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, and the government of the Sun God, Emperor Hirohito. Why should today's thugs be much different?
The world today is vastly different than the world of the 1930s. It is a world that is massively overpopulated; rapaciously consumptive and rapidly running out of resources of all descriptions; and just beginning to become battered by the early onset impacts of climate change and environmental degradation. It would not be rash to think of it as pre-dystopian.
Recently Britain's prestigious think tank, Chatham House, warned that Trump is intent on taking down the World Trade Organization, a precursor to creating a world without rules in which the large economies can pillage lesser economies.
In a world where there are no internationally predictable rules, most countries faced with protectionist actions, crudely, have two options – retaliate or concede. If they choose to retaliate, the optimal strategy is to cause enough pain to the political leadership of the protectionist country that they will back down. This is the course of action that the EU and China have so far taken, with the hope that powerful political constituencies in the US will successfully lobby the administration to change course.
However, this can only be effective for large economies that the US exports to significantly. For smaller countries without significant leverage, the alternative is to concede and try to negotiate a favourable settlement, which will still be asymmetrical.In 2014, before Trump declared he was running for president, political scientist R. Schweller described how the world had already embarked on an "age of entropy."
It increasingly seems that the world will no longer have a single superpower, or group of superpowers, that brings order to international politics. Instead, it will have a variety of powers -- including nations, multinational corporations, ideological movements, global crime and terror groups, and human rights organizations -- jockeying with each other, mostly unsuccessfully, to achieve their goals. International politics is transforming from a system anchored in predictable, and relatively constant, principles to a system that is, if not inherently unknowable, far more erratic, unsettled, and devoid of behavioral regularities. In terms of geopolitics, we have moved from an age of order to an age of entropy.
Entropy is a scientific concept that measures disorder: the higher the entropy, the higher the disorder. And disorder is precisely what will characterize the future of international politics. In this leaderless world, threats are much more likely to be cold than hot; danger will come less frequently in the form of shooting wars among great powers than diffuse disagreements over geopolitical, monetary, trade, and environmental issues. Problems and crises will arise more frequently and, when they do, will be resolved less cooperatively.During the Occupy movement there were many warnings about America falling into class warfare. That prompted billionaire investor, Warren Buffet, that America had already gone through a class war and his class, the wealthiest, had won it. The poor and the working class, by the time they woke up, they had already lost.
Perhaps what we should be focusing now is on whether our government, the Trudeau Liberals, have the measure of these seismic shifts in the world order. Do they understand the uncertainties we face and our vulnerabilities? Why do they keep acting as though we're still in the 80s? Why do they keep dreaming that Donald Trump could ever be our friend?