Member and observer countries of Non-Aligned Movement plus Russia are in blue.
Exactly two years ago, I started this blog with a post about A Stateless War which discussed an upcoming conflict of “The military industrial complex against the anonymous cloud, with an ignorant populace as the prize.” That conflict is largely behind us: few in the world are as ignorant as they were two years ago, and we are beyond the point where information alone can correct the social and political disasters we see around us.
Based on our current still entirely alterable trajectory, by the end of 2012 it will be apparent that we are in a new war, this time involving states. World War III will do as a name, or we can call it the Military States against the Resource States. Of course that sounds like something we’ve been in for decades; the difference is it is starting to look a lot more two sided.
Since the Cold War, the world has been socially controlled by methods which may have been lifted from Hollywood high school movies. The US state cables showed us a world in which the United States largely controls all international forums and debates with a mixture of threats and bribes and a circle of allies who do not dare risk expulsion from the inner circle by disagreement. The inner circle has largely echoed the previous imperial world, with IMF loans replacing direct occupation, but potential membership is held out as an incentive to others as well. Countries such as Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) are invited to the bigger parties, and given trade deals, military sales and social protection in exchange for their support of the inner circle. The BRICS countries then wield their own social power in similar fashion in their own regions.
As in all Hollywood movies, stability for the inner circle ends when the bullying gets out of hand. When social ostracization becomes so extreme it threatens actual survival, as it does for Cuba, Palestine, Iran, Somalia, North Korea and others, when no negotiation short of complete obliteration of self is acceptable, the entire social structure is threatened, more so as more members are outcast. The world has watched as Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and many others have been inhumanely tormented with no possibility of reprieve or negotiation and no defence from any stronger nation. If extreme bullying such as that detailed in the Palestine Papers is combined with any sudden unexpected weakness in the bully or strength in the bullied, the result is predictable and instant.
And so it has been.
The weaknesses in the US and other NATO countries have been very well researched and documented in recent years, but except for the obvious economic collapse they have not received widespread discussion. Here are some other points that may become key very soon.
1. The US does not actually control their own military or intelligence and the private corporations that do, do not operate from patriotic loyalty and are available to the highest bidder. They do not work if they are not paid. Many are not even citizens of the US. Not just the people, at the highest ranks, but even the military hard assets are frequently privately owned.
2. US trade relies heavily on intellectual property and increasingly draconian laws to protect and increase the value of that property. Intellectual property is a concept, not a good, and it does not exist if trade partners do not acknowledge it. Even loan interest typically comes with a contract and some trust which will be lost if the contract is broken; there is nothing to be lost by people who refuse to pay for intellectual property. For years the industry has tried to make the case that if intellectual property were not copyrighted and patented, creative activity would halt, but the open source and pirate movements have proven the opposite to be true. Since it is very rarely the creators who control the intellectual property rights to their own work, or have the resources to fight infringement, the moral argument that creativity ought to be compensated by IP laws is also very weak. This leaves the G20 countries, US particularly, with no protection other than force and increasingly controversial extraditions to claim income from intellectual property. In a time of war, this would be a very precarious basis for trade, particularly since the US is the sole beneficiary of the extreme laws today and the rest of the G20 would benefit from a relaxation of IP law.
All of the statistics on this site are very interesting. Here are a few:
74% of exports– or $1 trillion– are driven by American IP-intensive industries. (Global Intellectual Property Center: “IP Creates Jobs for America,” NDP Consulting, May 2012.)
Among the 27 tradable industries, only six industries reported trade surpluses—five of which were IP-intensive industries, generating an average $14.6 billion in trade surplus each year. (“The Impact of Innovation and the Role of Intellectual Property Rights on U.S. Productivity, Competitiveness, Jobs, Wages and Exports,” NDP Consulting, 2010)
G20 economies have lost 2.5 million jobs to counterfeiting and piracy. (Frontier Economics, Estimating the Global Economic and Social Impacts of Counterfeiting and Piracy, February 2011.)
India and Pakistan both made the “Top Ten Source Countries” this year due to seizures of counterfeit pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceutical seizures accounted for 86% of the value of IPR seizures from India and 85% of the value of IPR seizures from Pakistan. (Customs and Border Protection, Intellectual Property Rights – Seizure Statistics: Fiscal Year 2011)
3. As the world’s most capitalist economy, the US has arguably the least societal support in the event of a collapse. Years of competitive and unhealthy consumerism, in which consumers are divorced from production, in the world’s most addicted and most incarcerated population create a societal helplessness not seen in most places. All of the G20 countries have favoured corporations over people to the extent that surviving in a collapsed economy is difficult to impossible without rewriting many property ownership and usage laws.
NATO countries are in green.
The Acronyms and Isolation
As in the prelude to the past world wars, many economic and defence treaties have been negotiated over the years to protect US dominance in each region. A favoured bullying tactic has been to exclude countries from these international clubs to cripple their economies and ability to defend themselves. There has been increasing activity to combat this practise.
The United Nations and all of its arms have served to protect the inner circle on a global level. In 1961 the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was formed to represent countries not aligned with either the US or the USSR. In the Havana Declaration of 1979, Fidel Castro identified the purpose of the organization to ensure “the national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of non-aligned countries” in their “struggle against imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, racism, and all forms of foreign aggression, occupation, domination, interference or hegemony as well as against great power and bloc politics”.
The 120 member countries of the Non-Aligned Movement represent nearly two-thirds of the United Nations’s members and contain 55% of the world population before adding the 21 other observer countries. The Summit last week in Tehran included representatives from 130-150 countries, shown in the map at the top of this article. (There are only approximately 192 countries in the world.) Attendance at the highest level included 27 presidents, 2 kings and emirs, 7 prime ministers, 9 vice presidents, 2 parliament spokesmen and 5 special envoys as well as the Secretary-General of the UN. Resolutions included condemnation of the blockade of Cuba and the Paraguay coup, support to Argentina regarding the Malvinas, known in the UK as the Falklands, support to Ecuador over the UK’s threats to its embassy, calls for transformation of the United Nations, calls for the US to stop its illegal drone attacks in Pakistan, calls for disarmament and much more. The reaction in the NATO countries was to ignore the Summit except when deriding its relevance, but it is hardly possible to seriously deny the relevance of a gathering of over 7000 people from the top levels of approximately 150 countries creating a final resolution which included over 700 clauses on world policy. If these countries were all to leave the UN, or begin to vote as a bloc at the UN, there would be a split between NAM countries and NATO countries.
There are many lesser alliances that have worked to enable US and NATO domination in past decades. One of the oldest alliances, created in 1948 out of previous pan-American alliances formed since 1826, is the Organization of American States. This is the organization the US used to create an embargo on Cuba in 1962, an embargo refused only by Canada (who was not a member till 1990) and Mexico. In 2013 there will be 41 member states in the OAS. In 2004 the Cuba-Venezuela Agreement was signed and it proposed an alternative to the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). The alternative coming out of the Cuba-Venezuela Agreement is known as ALBA and now includes eight (soon to be eleven) countries. In 2008, the 12 member Unasur agreement, which includes a defence treaty, was signed, and in 2011 CELAC was created. CELAC members include all members of the OAS except the US and Canada.
In 1947 the Rio Treaty (TIAR) was signed for ‘hemispheric defense’ and was later invoked by the US against Cuba. During the Malvinas (Falklands) war, the US sided with the UK, and during the Iraq war only four countries joined the US. Mexico and Canada are not members, all members of ALBA withdrew in June of 2012, and the treaty is now largely ignored in favour of the Unasur defence agreement.
These new organizations come amid objections to the US and Canada preventing any resolutions from going through at the OAS. These two countries have repeatedly blocked resolutions agreed to by all of the rest of the 35, such as inclusion of Cuba, new solutions to the drug war and solidarity with Argentina over the Malvinas/Falklands. The OAS is a consensus based organization, so it can and has been run, in the words of Venezuela’s Chavez, as a ‘dictatorship’ by those who refuse to negotiate, the two NATO countries.
In August of 2012, an emergency meeting of the OAS was called to decide whether to hold a second meeting to discuss a resolution on the embassy dispute between Ecuador and the UK. The US and Canada (and Trinidad & Tobago) argued against a subsequent meeting and were overruled this time by a vote. After a weekend of hurried meetings of ALBA, Unasur, and others, the OAS meeting in Washington DC was held and also put to a vote. The US delivered a sullen agreement and Canada a more petulant refusal, but in a population of 33 the one consensus breaking vote was irrelevant. While media in NATO countries concentrated on the resolution itself, calling it largely ineffective, the resolution was not the point. The two countries which had ruled the 35 country bloc with their vetos were this time made irrelevant. The message in both the vote and the rhetoric was clear; if the OAS is to survive in any form and not be replaced by CELAC, the NATO countries will no longer be permitted to simply block resolutions.
The two countries which excluded Cuba from the OAS have become, as a direct result of an organization started by Fidel Castro, the two that are now themselves excluded. The countries that have lobbied for sanctions against Iran have been ignored by the 120 members and 21 observers of the NAM which have selected Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the current chairperson. In 2015 the chair will be handed over to Venezuela, another arch-enemy of the US as the organization continues to define itself along lines set out by Fidel Castro in 1979. Ecuador, a member of ALBA, Unasur, CELAC and NAM as well as many other alliances, has already threatened sanctions against the UK over the Malvinas/Falklands.
The NATO countries are suddenly in very real peril of having sanctions imposed against themselves. How real is the threat of solidarity among NAM members? Within days of the summit, Canada had closed the Iranian embassy in Canada and Netanyahu was berating Obama over not delivering stronger ultimatums to Iran. Iran does not think that is a coincidence.
Does the 1% need the 99%?
It is very evident that in terms of population and resources the side I will call the NAM countries are in a superior position. It is equally evident that in terms of military, the NATO countries are vastly superior; NATO countries control over 70% of the world’s military spending. So while resource trade embargos could quickly plummet NATO countries into what they would probably consider dystopia, or a state resembling that of the global south, NATO countries could also use their military to wipe out populations in the NAM countries, using unmanned and even autonomous drones, and they could create embargos by blocking trade between NAM countries.
What is the loyalty between the NATO countries? How many will stand together in the face of embargos? In the case of the intelligence, defense science and technology sharing countries, particularly the countries known as the five eyes, their governments’ loyalty to each other has been shown to be similar to that of a gang or a cult. What they know of each other is probably enough to ensure allegiance unless their governments are completely taken over by new people and trials started for crimes against humanity and war crimes. More importantly, their corporate ties are far too strong to break. At the moment they are too invested in protecting each other for a split.
Japan’s spat with China coming at this time may put them firmly on the five eyes’ side. Or not. Japan rejected bilateral or regional agreements for many years and has far less explicit ties than most countries. As the third or fourth largest economy, they may also be able to afford independence. And their biggest trading partner is still China. Trade relationships are handy to help us make predictions, although they are by no means the whole story, potential trade relationships may be an even bigger influencer at this point as many countries try to back away from troubled economies.
The key then becomes whether individual NATO countries feel it is easier to back a new BRICS led empire, or back the existing US empire, since none of the core NATO countries is strong enough to build a new empire on its own and their corporate powers will not back a real democracy. At this moment, none have shown any inclination to prefer a BRICS led NAM alliance, but the EU members may be far too preoccupied with matters at home to involve themselves in global issues, on either side. Many NATO partners will choose individually as they have conflicting agreements, while some like Israel are easy to predict.
The corporations control the money and therefore the military and the NATO countries. The people provide labour for the corporations, including the military. There are far more people than the corporations and the few who control them actually need for labour, but the world in general is facing an imminent shortage of young people to care for their aging populations. Whether care for aging populations will be a priority remains to be seen. Automated warfare has made it much harder for people to regain control of their own military. The general populaton would have to track the few people who control the corporations, the governments and the military and regain control by removing control from those who hold it currently.
What is the power of the people over the corporations? On the NATO side, very little to none. On the NAM side, that is possibly the most interesting place to watch, which countries, if any, will attempt co-operative governance which benefits people ahead of corporations, and whether that will break the NAM alliance in two or even completely disintegrate it into many civil wars. Or even possibly work in some countries, and if some countries do implement governance by the people, will it look again like communism, with a corrupt central core and a corrupt military required to stop the capitalist imperialists from invading, or will there be a new model? If there is a new model, how will it stop the corporate invasion?
The NAM countries are hardly a unified bloc either. While they are largely all against NATO dominance, most of them (particularly BRICS countries) want a ‘multi-polar’ world, or a world with multiple tyrants including themselves. Outside of BRICS, the smaller countries want a place for the elite of every country. There is no real political representation of control by the people which has any power at this moment. How can governance by the people gain control in this conflict?
Who will win? At this point, it hardly matters. If NATO wins it is status quo, if some form of NAM wins it will quickly become the new NATO, using the threat of the old NATO to justify its own imperialism. This is the pattern we have seen in every revolution since the beginning of society, sometimes appearing instantly, sometimes edging forward in a few decades.
How can we create real governance by the people out of this conflict?
The word crisis is derived from a word meaning ‘turning point’. For all the crises we think the world has been through, there is very rarely a turn. Indeed, history can appear more like an inexorably straight path with predictable periodic bumps. The tools to effect a real change are available now, but real change would require a real direction and goals. Without these, this revolution will end as all the others eventually have, with new tyrants.
The latest crisis will disrupt every corner of the world. By the end of 2015 we will have either a new system or new tyrants. For us to create real change from this, there needs to be a working venue, an uncensorable place to communicate both locally in person and globally online. There needs to be a new system of collaboration that will be stronger than the systems of governance we have had so far. We need a system that can react quickly and powerfully enough, with enough knowledge and expertise, to allow collaboration on a massive scale and still provide enough autonomy for local governance.
I will be writing a lot about both the communication and the collaboration soon, starting here.