One could argue that geopolitics, at its core, is an extension of a civilization beyond its boundaries by military and economic means. It would then be necessary to define civilization. One could define civilization as a political and legal system that develops self-government as well as societal government through the advancement of scientific knowledge. There is an emphasis on the development of both social sciences and physical sciences in an advanced civilization.
There are also core principles underlying the political and economic system of a civilization. In the Western world, the fundamental organizing principle is the concept known as “liberty”. It is in fact “liberty” that serves as the root term for the world system underlying Western civilization, known as liberalism. Every civilization in the past revolved around core principles. Whereas the core organizing principle of Islamic civilization in its golden era was “tawhid” (interconnection and interdependence), the West has now inherited the principle of interconnection and interdependence of Islamic civilization and has used it to promote a world system based on the principle of liberty which is commonly known as “liberalism”. The two main characteristics of liberalism are individualism as a means of social organization, and rational inquiry to organize society based on scientific principles. In essence, liberty is the ability to govern one self and others by natural laws that are discovered through rational and scientific inquiry. James Madison is known to have said that liberty can only exist in a society of morally sound and religious people.
Morally decrepit people, by nature, cannot adopt liberty as an organizing principle for their societies. In turn, liberty is also defined by the U.S. Supreme Court as “the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life” in an opinion stemming from the decision of Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Madison called liberty “the oracle of truth”. Liberty is indeed a universal concept when one explores some of the texts that emerged out of even esoteric cultures such as Islamic mysticism. For instance, the Sufi mystic Farid ud-din Attar once wrote: “As I vanished from my fayed life, I found myself in union with the Beloved; as I was freed from the Pharaoh of being, I became Moses at the chosen mountain.” In another Sufi poem narrated by Abu Bakr al-Kalabadhi, a man in his youth says:
I hold the world in proud neglect,
My kingdom no man shares:
I am a youth of intellect,
I know my worth and theirs.
I am a ruler and a king,
Let fortune smile or frown,
For freedom is my covering,
Contentment is my gown.
Nonetheless, rational inquiry as a tradition in the liberal system requires the shedding of preconceptions and dogma in order to yield to facts and science. As a result of rationalization, there is in a sense a loss of “magic” that existed in pre-modern times, which prompted concepts such as Marx’s “alienation”, as well as Max Weber’s concept of “disenchantment” and Emile Durkheim’s “anomie”. To be part of what Adam Smith called “the elect” in his legendary work titled “The Theory of Moral Sentiment” and to transcend the masses, one would have to subject themselves to what Max Weber would call “the process of education” where the individual will subjects itself to reason and escapes from carnal desires. This leads to self-mastery, which in turn enables the individual to organize the world based on scientific principles.
There are, nevertheless, limits to what science and technology can prove about reality and existence. As J.M.E. McTaggart wrote in a two-volume book titled “The Nature of Existence”, reality and existence are “indescribable”, and since no truth can be epistemologically proven, it follows that only attributes or “characteristics” of reality and existence can be identified. Nevertheless, technology in the modern as well as the postmodern era has gone through leaps and bounds to shed light on reality and existence. Ultimately, an explanation of reality depends on one’s worldview, and in the end there are two world views that can be used to explain everything. For one there is logical holism, where consciousness and reality form a unified whole and everything is interconnected, as well as logical atomism, where everything is fragmented and individual objects have no real connection to one another. Science is beginning to provide evidence in favor of logical holism rather than the contrary. It is the difference between a whole mind that unites consciousness with reality, and a fragmented mind that is in disarray and in turn causes the world to fall into disarray.
Due to the outbreak of profuse knowledge and information stemming from technology, our previously held conceptions and dogmas about reality are now subject to doubt and skepticism in the postmodern era. Many of the traditional life sciences such as physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, and sociology are constantly in a revolutionary phase. Technology has had geopolitical implications as well, and the United States has been the main beneficiary of the advancements in technology.
For one, the scope of capitalism, corporations, and the division of labor has now become global rather than local as a result of technology. In turn, globalization (which can be defined as the compression and scaling down of the globe into a community) and the global scale of the division of labor have led to cultural transformations as well as evolutions in collective as well as individual identities. Globalization has undoubtedly led to social turmoil in many parts of the world where the evolution of identity has been unsettling socially, thus prompting many groups around the world to resort to nationalist politics and seek recourse to nationalism and religion for psychosocial stability in a world of change and turbulence in an effort to maintain local social fabric.
Societies in their traditional sense revolved around four elements, as noted by the late Dr. Ali Shariati in a book titled “On the Sociology of Islam”: God, personalities, laws, and people. Globalization has essentially uprooted all four elements in local societies around the globe, and the backlash against globalization has been evident when witnessing the rise of right-wing governments even in major geopolitical poles such as the United States, China, and India. The difference between society in the past and society in the present is that past societies were local, whereas society in this day and age is global.
Furthermore, globalization has not been able to alter the basic divisions of the world based on regional lines. Peter Katzenstein, a professor of politics and international relations at Cornell University, has called the world “a world of regions”, with the six major regions of the world consisting of America, Europe, China, India, Japan, and the Islamic World. As a result, many modern political thinkers, including the famous John Mearsheimer and the late Samuel Huntington, have declared America’s efforts to spread liberalism globally as a failure due to America’s inability to enforce liberalism globally as well as the inherent differences in history, religion, and culture that exist between people around the globe. Differences in religion and culture ultimately constitute differences in civilizations, and the regional divisions of the world are essentially a reflection of a world divided based on civilizations.
Geopolitics then becomes a competition between major civilizations. Since the conclusion of World War II, America’s geopolitical strategy has very much remained constant and based on what can be called the defense of the “rimlands”, namely Western Europe and East Asia, particularly South Korea and Japan. The “Heartland” of Eurasia, which consists of Russia, China, the Middle East, and South Asia, has been relevant to America’s geopolitical strategy only when it came to the defense and economic prosperity of the “rimlands” and the homeland. The “rimlands” strategy had been designed by the famous George Kennan soon after the conclusion of World War II, and was improved upon by the late Zbigniew Brzezinski who renamed the system to “TESS”, which translates into the “Trans-Eurasian Security System”. The global security system established by Kennan and Brzezinski puts systemic pressure on Russia and China to ultimately integrate into the system particularly through Russia’s eventual inclusion into the European Union and China’s integration into political and economic institutions set up by the United States in the post-World War II era.
While all the global institutions necessary for interconnection and interdependence to materialize between the peoples of the world have been established by the United States, the one key ingredient that would solidify the institutions and thus the interconnection and interdependence of different peoples is missing, namely, a world leader who can bring people together around a framework of cooperation and honor all the various civilizations of the world. The basic metrics of power in the realist theory advanced during the Cold War by the likes of Hans Morgenthau and others (military, economic, territory, population, natural resources, spirit) must be reevaluated amidst the evolving structure of the world resulting from technology and globalization.
A world leader must also have credentials, as outlined by Eastern religions such as Islam and Taoism. For one, a world leader must denounce luxury and power. Furthermore, a world leader must have accumulated good karma to eliminate negative energy, detachment from the world and a clean heart, and must apply his or her good karma towards eternal salvation. There is indeed a soteriological factor in leadership in a globalized environment.
As Adam Smith wrote in “The Wealth of Nations”, the task of the philosopher is to bring all the diverse fragments together; thus, a world leader must also be a philosopher. But most important of all, a leader must facilitate the acquisition of belief. As the scientist Agustín Fuentes suggested in a book titled “Why We Believe: Evolution and the Human Way of Being”, belief is a process of building the capacity for faith in either God or a belief system that is valued by an individual or a group of people through the acquisition of knowledge and information. In other words, a world leader must be the embodiment of knowledge and information, given that knowledge and information is everything.
In terms of geopolitics, the two most pressing geopolitical issues affecting our day and age is the rise of China and their pursuit of the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) and the social turbulence caused by globalization. Economic reforms such as a progressive tax should be adopted to address some of the turbulence, while significantly bringing down tax rates for everyone. Another economic issue that has become relevant around the world is the issue of “universal basic income” (UBI). In a Nobel Prize winning book titled “Good Economics for Hard Times” by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, there is evidence to suggest that lowering taxes does not increase spending, and that UBI does not slow down worker productivity.
If government is scaled down to its basic premise of providing security and enforcement of the law and taxes are lowered for everyone in conjunction with a progressive tax system, UBI may in fact be possible. But the institution of UBI in a place like the United States is highly unlikely, given the institutionalization of capitalism and free-market economics in American society in addition to the fact that the United States has the highest GDP per capita in the world all while sustaining some of the most broad social welfare programs stemming from the New Deal era.
If America’s suburban youth want a guaranteed income, they may have to work and study hard like all successful people or make sure they receive one from their “Baby Boomer” or “Generation X” parents who were the prime beneficiaries of America’s post-World War II economic growth. Finally, there is the issue of the second amendment that has not only security implications, but also foreign policy implications for the United States. To understand why the Founding Fathers added the second amendment to the US Constitution, one would have to decipher intent, particularly Jefferson’s intent. Based on particular interpretations of Jefferson’s intent, the reason why the Founding Fathers adopted the second amendment was to enable the American public to overthrow the government if it ever became corrupt.
In my view, the second amendment is obsolete in the 21st century, especially when one considers that an important philosophical pillar for government in the West is Hobbes’s “social contract”. Guns should be permitted for hunting and recreational purposes with the proper safety measures in place. Ownership of guns should be accompanied by licensing as one would need for operating a car and regular mental health checks should accompany gun ownership in an era of widespread mental health problems.
The second amendment question also remains pertinent to foreign policy: when can one ever legitimize the overthrow of another government? In other words, when can one ever legitimize regime change? The only clear cut answer for this question comes in the jurisprudence of classical Islam. The answer is that one cannot legitimize the overthrow of a government by force in a willy nilly manner a la Iraq, because the government provides social order, and the removal of a government leads to a sin that is worse than the sin of government corruption, which is societal chaos.
Four particular conditions must be met in order to legitimize the overthrow of a government. First of all, one must be engaged in a defensive war with another government. Second, there must be a distinction between combatants and non-combatants. Third, the use of force must be proportional to the force used by the other side. Finally, the loss of credibility and legitimacy of a government is an issue that must be determined by the subjects of the government, in line with the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of countries found in international law. Determining whether a government has lost credibility and legitimacy is a purely internal matter within a country.
Based on the US Constitution, international treaties ratified by the United States are the equivalent of US law. Neoconservatives like Richard Haass have justified their intervention in Iraq based on the “Responsibility to Protect” Clause found somewhere in the midst of the voluminous canon of international law. But the neoconservatives violated all four conditions prescribed by classical Islamic jurisprudence which coincidentally are doctrine in international law. Bureaucratic politics and special interests influencing America’s Congress might make policy makers itch for regime change in places like Iran and North Korea. But as evinced by the election of first Barack Obama and then Donald Trump, the American people are very much against regime change around the world without a proper legal criterion and justification.
There are economic, legal, political, and diplomatic instruments that can be used to punish violations of international law and establish world order such as sanctions, the withdrawal of aid, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Court (ICC), as well as UN resolutions stemming from multilateral diplomacy on the part of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. But the conditions that are needed to be met for the use of military and strategic instruments such as regime change and military intervention are clear and inviolable.
In the future, America may transition from its populist phase currently ongoing under Donald Trump to a social-democratic phase that is being lobbied for by many in the millennial generation. Any future world leader will have to address a litany of issues that will prompt a change in America’s geopolitical strategy from one that is military-based to one that is based on diplomacy in the days, months, and years to come. It is indeed a daunting task, but someone must undertake it. In fact, prophesies from many of the world’s major religions expect such a leader to arise at any moment. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, there’s the Messiah. In Islam, there is Mahdi. In the Hindu tradition, there is Kalki.
Despite all our differences, there is sufficient cause to believe that we are all willing to put those differences aside to unite around a figure or a leader who can bring the world out of a vicious karmic cycle stemming from trivial carnal desires and then bring everyone together in an effort to usher in what Kant called “eternal peace”. It is eternal peace that perhaps serves as the divine plan for humanity. Human beings will connect like the neurons in the brain are connected to one another, and “The Law of One” (Tawhid) will most likely spread.
As mentioned before, technology has globalized society, and society is a derivative of reality in the sense that both society and reality are shaped by a “collective” or “universal” consciousness. The objective of a universal consciousness, according to Emile Durkheim, is the moral integration of society, and in a globalized society this can be done by a leader or a set of leaders who shed light on the universality of values, thus elevating human consciousness in a globalized society.
Durkheim traced the evolution of collective consciousness through the evolution of society as a whole. As societies evolves from a traditional state to a modern state, local collective consciousness shatters, thus prompting authoritarian figures to rise in society. Eventually, authoritarian figures undergo a demise, and what emerges is global consciousness shaped by a global religion that is underpinned by moral individualism. The task of a leader is pedagogical, because it is only through knowledge (the tree of knowledge) and spirituality (the tree of life) that mankind can reclaim the Garden of Eden.
Once collective consciousness is elevated through knowledge and spirituality, only then can physical changes occur in the third dimensional reality we currently occupy. Humans are co-creating reality with the collective conscious by uploading the contents of their minds to the collective conscious. The Stoics called the collective conscious the “World-Mind”. Hegel argued on behalf of mind over matter, and that is what we are seeing today through science and technology as shown by the research produced by the likes of Dr. Roger D. Nelson and a group in California called “Quantum Gravity Research”.
Much of what goes on in our world can be explained by referring to Carl Jung when he described the four steps of what he called the “anima”, which is the life force that mediates between the conscious and subconscious mind. The anima goes through four stages: the erotic stage, the romantic stage that is still nonetheless elevated erotically, the spiritual stage, and the wisdom stage.
Most of our problems stem from the fact that the majority of people never make it out of the erotic stage, thus perpetuating the karmic cycle between peoples and nations. But humans cannot change the fact that life has meaning, and that there is more to life than just survival and reproduction. It was Foucault who wrote that madness is the absence of an oeuvre. And it is long overdue for the world to unite around the universal principle of “Tawhid” (interconnection and interdependence) and to promote universal principles and values now that the American empire based on realpolitik has reached its boundaries and limits.
Instead of extending American hegemony into Russia and China, America will have to cooperate with Russia and China on resolving global issues by integrating Russia into the European Union and cooperating with China on infrastructural projects in Eurasia such as the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI). Beyond the realm of America’s future space force that is now under development, there can only be light. Reality is immeasurable, and the most man can achieve through his endeavors is to bring order into what the physicist David Bohm called “the field of measure” (our observable world) by fostering social harmony between the East and the West. Perhaps if we were to find the reason for “Big Bang Singularity” thus discovering the “theory of everything”, all while establishing social harmony between peoples and nations, we will have fulfilled our purpose on earth. To quote the late Stephen Hawking, when there’s life, there’s hope.