Generational Dynamics: Forecasting America's Destiny Generational
 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


Generational Dynamics Web Log for 28-Dec-2008
Is the world unraveling?

Web Log - December, 2008

Is the world unraveling?

Some people believe that the world is better off every day.

BBC international correspondent Humphrey Hawksley wrote the following New Year's message on his blog:

"Great New Year

Best wishes to all who drop by this blog. Despite the demands for Breaking News crises from 24-hour-news channels, the world is in pretty good shape — far better than half or quarter of a century ago. Iraq was meant to collapse into civil war and partition. It didn’t. The summer was full of talk about a new Cold War, but no-one seemed to want it. In the economic downturn, China’s proved to be not a strategic threat but a global ally. And the dreadful famines and diseases that used to kill millions seem to be no more."

It's ironic that this message was posted just a couple of days before the new conflagration between the Israelis and the Palestinians, a conflagration that might settle into a new truce, or might escalate into a world war within a few weeks or months. There's no way to know.

One thing that people forget about Gaza is that the Gaza strip is densely populated, growing at 4.7% per year, and the median age in the Gaza strip is 17 years old. Thus, the Gaza strip is run by a generation of children with guns and missiles and with almost no adult supervision.

That's why there can never be a "peace" agreement, even if Hamas leaders wanted one. There's is absolutely nothing in the world that anyone, including Hamas leaders, could say that would convince the hormone-laden kids of Gaza that a tranquil peace agreement is the answer. These kids have a burning desire for revenge, with no fear of death and no fear of war.

In other news on Saturday, Pakistan is moving troops away from Afghanistan's border, where they were fighting Taliban terrorists, and towards the border with India. This is in response to fears that India is going to invade Pakistan, targeting the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists who perpetrated the huge terrorist attack on Mumbai.

Relations between Pakistan and India have been in a state of crisis ever since the attacks. Many Indians are saying "This was our 9/11. And just as the U.S. attacked Afghanistan after 9/11, we have to attack Pakistan after our 9/11."

Saturday is the day that hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis are commemorating the assassination, exactly one year ago, of Benazir Bhutto, as she was campaigning to become Pakistan's president, replacing Pervez Musharraf.

Today, Pakistan's president is Asif Ali Zardari, Benazir's widowed husband. Zardari is young, and clearly in over his head, as he tries to deal with a recalcitrant army, with terrorist acts by Islamists around his own country, and with suspicions by Indians that Pakistan is responsible for terrorist acts in THEIR country.

This is yet one more situation that might go either way: Things might settle down in a few weeks, or someone might miscalculate, causing the situation to spiral into war -- and it would be nuclear war, since both are nuclear powers.

But it isn't just Gaza and Pakistan that make it difficult to support Hawksley's claim that the world is "far better" than it was 25 years ago.

There were crisis wars going on in Lebanon, Iran and Iraq in 1983, but there are crisis wars going on today in Sri Lanka and Darfur. But even that isn't the point.

Even if you accept the fact that the world seems to be in good shape today, I would compare it to a man who appears to be in excellent health, but has high blood pressure. As his blood pressure increases, one day some artery is going to burst, and he'll be gone.

Today it's hard to deny that the world's blood pressure is increasing dangerously. A lot has to do with overpopulation, the price of food, and the rise of young generations of kids like the ones in Gaza, with no fear of war, replacing the risk-averse survivors of World War II.

But now we have to add the current financial crisis. I've written how serious this situation is several times, and most recently in "World wide transportation and trade sink farther into deep freeze."

It's very hard to overestimate the seriousness of this problem. It's almost literally true to say that the world is grinding to a halt. The economies of America, China, and countries throughout Asia and around the world are in free fall into a deflationary spiral that still has years to go. The economic news from Japan this week has been absolutely devastating.

We hear on the news every day how much this is affecting ordinary Americans, but what we seldom hear is how it's affecting other populations. The collapse of the worldwide financial system is pushing millions and tens of millions more people into poverty and starvation, especially in densely crowded megacities around the world, increasing tensions.

That's how the world's blood pressure is increasing.

Yesterday we had a coronary aneurysm in Gaza. Next week, there might be a heart attack in Pakistan and India.

And yet, Hawkins' view seems to be correct. The world does seem to be better off than in the past. No two countries with nuclear weapons have ever gone to war with each other. Since 1990, the number of wars in the world has fallen sharply. War in places like the Caucasus (the war in Georgia this past summer) or the Mideast (the Israeli-Hizbollah war in Lebanon in 2006) seem to resolve themselves quickly without escalating. Why is that?

I actually addressed this issue in 2006, when I wrote, "A beautiful mind? The world is paralyzed into a 'Nash equlibrium.'"

The thing that's really changed in the last 25 years is this: 25 years ago, a small war was very unlikely to escalate into a large war; today, it is.

In the 1970s, India and Pakistan did have a major war, and there was a major war between Israel and Egypt. But they fizzled quickly. Why?

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, the answer is that all of these countries were in generational Awakening eras, so any war was bound to fizzle. But even without invoking generational analysis, you can see that the Soviet Union and the United States would have cooperated to make sure that the war was contained and ended as quickly as possible.

But nothing like that is true today. Does anyone really doubt that a major regional war, since as the two from the 70s just mentioned, were to occur today, there would be any way of containing it? Certainly from the point of view of Generational Dynamics, the answer is no: All of these regions are in generational Crisis eras, and any regional war would surely escalate.

And I haven't even mentioned the interlocking international agreements. Since the end of World War II, when American became Policeman of the World, America has signed a large number of mutual defense treaties with other countries. These include agreements with Japan, South Korea, Israel, Taiwan, the ANZUS agreement with Australia and New Zealand, and the NATO agreement with all of Europe.

That's why a regional war in any of these regions would lead to a world war. And that's why so many countries around the world always being very careful, always stepping back from the brink. They understand as well as anyone that a miscalculation could mean world war, and no one wants to be responsible for that. Unfortunately, the world's "blood pressure" will never stop increasing, thanks to population growth and generational changes, and so the probability of an explosion will continue to increase.

When I read Hawkins' blog entry, I posted a comment containing the following response:

"Dear Humphrey,

Whenever someone writes something so bubbly and optimistic, I always answer the same way:

I hope you’re right.

Happy new year."

And I do hope he's right.

But Generational Dynamics tells me that this hope will be in vain.

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the Geopolitical topics thread of the Generational Dynamics forum.) (28-Dec-2008) Permanent Link
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