“A bump in the road for America’s longstanding march of progressive Western Liberalism or a pivot back towards ethnocentric nationalism, Americans find themselves at a crossroads.”
That’s from the blurb on the back of my book, Sixteen, published this past summer. It was a collection of essays I wrote as the 2016 election unfolded. More than anything else, the book is an anthology of rational thoughts that, once compiled as a foundation of belief, led me to the wrong conclusions about early 21st Century America. The spirit of the book is to spend some time with the contrast. “A Rational Account of an Irrational Election” as the subtitle says.
Added to the growing list of things about the world I assumed over the last few years that were either incomplete or plainly incorrect is that quote from the blurb on the back of the book. In this case, wrong is too strong. Directionally, it isn’t. Incomplete is more accurate. It lacks context. Context Bruno Maceas’ 2018 book The Dawn of Eurasia: On the Trail of the New World Order can help provide.
Published this past January, it’s the best book I read this year.
Maceas, a Portuguese political strategist who served as the Secretary of State for European Affairs in Portugal during the height of the European financial crisis, had a front row seat as the cracks in the European Union, visible to critics but seamless to those of us swept up in the globalist strain, began to widen in the face of the EU’s first global financial crisis. Clearly informed by experience, he has an interesting perspective as to the order of things.
What’s significant to me as an American political writer is that Macaes wrote a book about the world order that does not include, in fact even scarcely mentions, America. Moreover, the exclusion is not to be taken as a criticism or even an indictment of America’s future. But a shift in focus to somewhere else. Somewhere more dynamic. A search for the middle of the world, if we were simply not allowed to say anymore, that it was universally understood to be the West.
The book is beautifully readable. The story is told through a journey over land from the ends of the Eurasian super continent. As a veteran of America’s 21st century wars in Middle East and Afghanistan, my eyes and energy have been focused elsewhere. So, Macaes journey took me to places I couldn’t find on a map that I knew nothing about. He believes they will be at the center of our next hundred years of the world’s economic and political development.
Macaes opens the door, lets you in and invites you to consider that perhaps, you’ve been thinking about shape of the world the wrong way.
He doesn’t believe that the world is heading in a singular direction. That Fukuyama’s end of history, the place where all civilizations meet in democratic liberal hegemony, is not a thing. Instead, the world is entering into a different phase of integrated competition, where the tracks laid down by globalism–trade, capital flows, technology, the internet, social media–all remain in place as a new sort of battle ground. The wars of the future will be fought within those domains. And the spoils will not be of territory or the subjugation of others, but through dominance of regional influence and markets.
Within this definition of future conflict, the division of states no longer lives along the fault lines of East and West. But instead along the delineation of modern or traditional. In a world where the line of demarcation from Europe to Asia was not one of geography but instead a difference in modernization of technology and culture, when modernization is uniform, so is the dawn of one unbroken region.
Russia, China, India and the EU all will engage in a grand struggle of integrated competition for dominance. Somewhere, America will fit in. But it will not be the center of the world. Nor will Europe. Nor China. Where exactly, is the stated purpose of the journey of the book. The unstated purpose reads, at least in some part, that the future we will be many things. One happy global family is not one of them. And it’s time to start figuring out where that struggle will play out. And by which rules it will be played by.
This is the diagnosis Trump-ism got right. This was the illness Obama/Clinton and the other American Neo-Liberals ignored in hopes that the world simply moved towards the destination they believed it would. Like the medieval physician though, who knew the symptoms and the end result of a terminal disease but not the cause, the cultural leaches and blood letting Trump-ism applies to modern America are more likely to kill the patient than the disease itself.
It’s hard to see how xenophobic rhetoric, deprecation of state institutions and division within an already diverse population make America a more competitive player in this integrated game.
Which brings me back full circle in the journey of ideas Bruno Macaes started me down. The Dawn of Eurasia paints a plausible and beautifully described picture of a new world order. One that, based on current events, cultural trajectory, economic growth and population demographics seems nearly certain. A future of integrated competition is upon us. Trade wars, cyber espionage and democratic meddling are here now. And they’re not going away.
Perhaps we can take some solace in the fact that the objectives of World War III will be to win a trade war instead of Nuclear Holocaust.
As an American, the cautionary signal is in the wind though. In a world where the powers of the future don’t want to join our club and simply behave themselves in order to gain the good graces of the founding member of the liberal democratic fraternity, we need to figure out how to insist on effective execution of our state responsibilities; a task difficult to envision with existing management.
Bruno Macaes has given us a different thought to think and delivered it to us from places most of us have never thought about. In understanding the world of the future, or at least understanding the rules in which the game will be played, one would do well to start with The Dawn of Eurasia.