Traditionally, there has been a strongly acute threat perception in America’s foreign policy apparatus ever since the advent of the atomic bomb. But within a strategic context defined by “Mutual Assured Destruction” (MAD), one must take a step back before rushing to conclusions about other nations and their capabilities or motives. Nowadays, China is seen as a threat to the United States rather than a competitor. But the real threat is the corruption and dark money in Washington that inhibits our economic and social development which in turn would enable us to compete with China on a global level. Now, the future is Asian, and the perception overseas is that the United States is a childish and jejune society due to Trump and a number of other factors. Moreover, China is free to do whatever it wants on a global level, whereas the United States is constrained and inhibited by a few special interests, which is unfortunate.
Nevertheless, as Fareed Zakaria has noted, China and the United States trade at a value of at least 5 billion dollars per day. Thus, our economies and our destinies are intertwined. But with the gradual demise of the American unipolar moment, 40% of the world’s GDP will come from Asia, with 20% from the European Union (EU) and 15% from the United States, according to the McKinsey Global Institute. The remaining 25% of the world’s GDP will come from Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East combined. The question remains as to where most of the remaining 25% of global GDP will come from. Will it come from Africa? The Middle East? Or Latin America?
Leadership will determine whether countries and societies sustain themselves or falter. As Hegel wrote: “The essence of the state is the universal, self-originated, and self-developed – the reasonable spirit of will; but, as self-knowing and self-actualizing, sheer subjectivity, and as an actuality – one individual.” There is a leadership crisis in the United States because the basic essence or ingredient for leadership is largely missing, namely, Tao. There are two schools of thought in regards to Tao. One is that you either have it or not, and the other suggests that you can attain it if you put in the work. The first school of thought is the predominant one in philosophical and faith traditions, but both schools of thought make good points. In the end, money plays a subservient role in the upkeep of empires and power. After all, the Inca built the largest and wealthiest empire in South America, but had no concept of money.
Thus, there is an overarching and overriding factor involved in politics and power that is separate from money, namely, the psychological factor. As Henry Kissinger said, all politics is psychological. Knowledge and information fortify the psychological basis of political and social action, but knowledge and information have to be rooted in truth in order for the knowledge and information to translate into effective action. There are three steps in rooting one’s knowledge and information into truth:
- Determining one’s epistemological status by corroborating one’s knowledge and information with reality, and reality is the totality of all things which exist
- Widening the scope of one’s research
- Having assurance in the credibility and legitimacy of one’s ultimate source
Where most people stumble is on step three, due to the fact that virtually all of the major ontological states that are currently at play in the international system (Liberalism, Marxism, and Populism) only scratch the surface of reality.
Now that our policy of global hegemony has faltered, global leadership and stewardship will change hands and will shift away from the United States to someone else. Someone or some entity will hold all the cards per se, and that is the nature of our world today where power is dispersed throughout the international system. Although the center of momentum and economic growth will be in Asia for the foreseeable future, global leadership and stewardship is neither Western nor Asian. It is far more complicated than this either-or scenario. Also, whereas in the past the basic currencies of power were military and economic might, today it is far different in the sense that knowledge and information are the main sources of power, with power being the ability to influence people and getting people to do things.
Also, American foreign policy is entering into a new epoch after going through three distinct stages: isolationism, containment, and global hegemony. Someone who is “spiritually connected” to Eurasia – to borrow from Kissinger – is needed to help facilitate the transition from global hegemony to something else. Moreover, human history itself has gone through three distinct stages – nomadic, agricultural, and industrial. Now, human history is in its fourth and final stage, namely, the information age. Whoever has the best information wins the game. Information shapes perception, and perception shapes thoughts and actions. When someone shapes thoughts and actions, they are in essence shaping their own reality as well as the reality of others. Power is thus dispersed.
The task now for governments and societies is to convert the currencies of power from a bygone industrial age (military and economic power) into persuasive information that impacts hearts and minds. Culture wars are actually information wars, and the advantage lies with individuals rather than states. In reality, states are designed for classic warfare between one another and thus states wield monopoly of force via the accruement of military and economic resources. But in an information war, states are poorly equipped, whereas individuals are well equipped because open intelligence suffices if navigated well. Individuals also have the mobility to transition from the industrial age to the information age, but states do not have that type of mobility for a number of reasons. Individuals and states are thus going in different directions, and someone needs to align their interests in order to maintain social cohesion. Individuals and states are hyper-centralizing power, but power comes in different shapes and forms as mentioned before. And now, due to the information age, one form of power is more potent than the other.
It takes immense energy and risk to get these messages across to governments, media outlets, and civil society actors. You never know how people will judge you, and no one even knows if this type of work will even pay off in the end. But at the moment, we are on the brink of a global proxy war between two behemoths, and someone had to at least make an attempt – no matter how farfetched it was – to pull them from the brink and persuade them into considering a political settlement that would end shifts in a global balance of power that never comes to an end if left to its own devices.
We can pull back from the brink of a global disaster if we realize that it takes something incredibly trivial (Taiwan) to arrive at a political settlement that will save us all. After a quid pro quo pertaining to Taiwan and the salvaging of America’s regional hegemony and sphere of influence (Western Hemisphere) — given that regional hegemony is the platform for global power and influence — China can work in conjunction with the United States on resolving the regional dimension which afflicts Afghanistan in addition to overcoming the primary roadblock to international order and peace, namely, tensions between Israel and Iran in the Middle East. China is also indispensable when it comes to resolving the issue of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula. If you resolve Taiwan, you have resolved everything.
And despite the perceptions or misconceptions people may have of one’s activities and behavior, the only point that needs to be internalized is that “all is fair in love and war.” An Afghan couplet states: “I swore that I would never again drink from the cup of love, except for tonight, tomorrow, and every other night after that.” And as Bismarck said: “God loves three things: lovers, drunkards, and the United States of America.” But now that the global status quo has become obsolete, it is best to adhere to the advice of Rumi: “Run from what’s comfortable. Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious. I have tried prudent planning long enough. From now on I’ll be mad.” Finally, knowledge and wisdom eventually transform into asceticism and love. As Rumi said: “A pen went scribbling along. When it tried to write love, it broke.”