Regional Self-Sufficiency Is the Key to Keeping the Peace
Nearly eighty years after the conclusion of hostilities in WWII, Western powers are galloping toward another global conflict. If preparation is half of any battle, though, the West has made its enemies strong at its own expense. Ever-growing international institutions created in lieu of robust representative institutions at home have weakened nation-states and local self-determination. A globalist economic system directed by a small number of multinational corporations, financial titans, and central banks has put liberal democracies at the mercy of tyrants and local communities at the mercy of faraway supply chains. The very post-WWII systems designed to prevent a third global war have now created the conditions for making such a war exceedingly painful.
The 1984 British movie Threads terrified an entire Cold War generation by realistically portraying the aftermath of a nuclear war between the Soviet Union and NATO countries. In its memorable opening monologue regarding the tenuous "threads" holding civilization together, the narrator intones: "In an urban society, everything connects. Each person's needs are fed by the skills of many others. Our lives are woven together in a fabric, but the connections that make society strong also make it vulnerable."
Four decades later, those words have never been more true. Aging military alliances; the rise of international wholesale monopolies and the concomitant decline of localized production; and manufacturing, supply chain, intercontinental transport, and transcontinental delivery schedules that depend on breathtakingly complex logistics have only made the "threads" that hold society together more multifarious and fine. Globalism has shifted farming, industry, and trade so far away from local communities that their survival depends on the efforts of geopolitical enemies. Even small hiccups to the system — natural weather events or labor strikes — cause product shortages and price spikes across the world. Large perturbations to the system — such as the imposition of Green New Deal regulations or the last two years of COVID lockdowns, wasteful government spending, and economic mandates — immediately trigger runaway inflation, as we see today.
What happens when the most important natural resources on the planet disappear from global supply chains overnight, with few alternative replacements available until local mining, farming, and manufacturing can fill those voids? The world is wracked with years of food, medical, and energy shortages that will ravage populations as viciously as the bullets or bombs of any war.
Nothing about our current moment was unforeseeable. Three decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation is pushing back against the ever-expanding territorial coverage of NATO, a military alliance seemingly intent on encircling Russia's borders, even though it repeatedly assured Russian leaders in the '90s that it would not do so. Two decades after President Bill Clinton aggressively campaigned to establish "permanent normal trade relations" with China and to welcome the communist nation into the World Trade Organization, China has returned the favor by engaging in rampant intellectual property theft, industrial espionage, and commodity price manipulation. Profiting simultaneously from its inclusion in the West's "international order" and its subversion of that order, China's resulting manufacturing dominance and explosive economic growth have catapulted it from a third-world country to an emerging superpower with substantial supply chain leverage throughout the globe. Nearly one decade after President Barack Obama chased "peace for our time" by flooding Iran with billions of dollars in cash in exchange for rhetorical promises from the world's largest state-sponsor of terrorism that it would refrain from developing a nuclear arsenal, Iran is once again on the cusp of using new Biden administration financial lifelines to cement its power over the Middle East and expand its influence as far away as Venezuela. Russia, China, and Iran have become predictably bellicose, and the United States and its Western partners have failed to keep the peace.
After first invading Ukraine in 2014 and taking the Crimean Peninsula for its troubles, Russia is back to assert control over the whole country (or at least to prevent NATO from asserting its control over the whole country). China, no doubt watching how the United States and its NATO allies respond to Russia's incursion into a NATO-friendly but non-allied state, has steadily ratcheted up its own military incursions into Taiwan's airspace and territorial waters. Iran — though wined and dined by the Obama-Biden administrations and European leaders interested in the Islamic Republic's enormous oil and natural gas reserves and marketplace potential for lucrative trade — has been relentless in its calls for the annihilation of Israel.
As one of the world's leading exporters of grains, Ukraine is known as the "breadbasket of Europe." Together, Russia and Ukraine supply so much of the planet's grain and fertilizer that some agricultural experts believe that the regional war is already certain to create a "global food crisis" that will be "catastrophic" for poorer nations. Russia and Iran control a huge share of the world's available hydrocarbon energy. Taiwanese semiconductor plants and Chinese mining operations are instrumental to the production of complex technologies utilized by companies and consumers around the world. Israel is among the globe's most important technological innovators in fields from medicine to water desalination. War within these three strategically important areas of operation affects the whole planet.
The Biden administration's decision to counter Russia's strategic energy dominance by banning Russian supplies while pursuing potential oil deals with Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro and oil and natural gas projects with Iranian dictator Ali Khamenei — both allies of Russia and Putin — only adds further fragility to an already vulnerable global system built on and sustained by vast amounts of hydrocarbon energy. Spiting a Russian despot by jumping into bed with Iranian and Venezuelan despots who routinely wish "death to America" is hardly a sophisticated national security policy. Depending on dictators for global economic stability, instead of achieving and maintaining energy independence for the United States and its allies as President Trump did a short time ago, is self-inflicted Western immolation. Attempting to use spiking gas prices and fuel costs to push for a global transition to wind and solar energies sets the West on a guaranteed path toward famine and death. And while Western leaders grasp foolishly at chimerical "green dreams" and illusory peace, expansion of Russian, Chinese, and Iranian hydrocarbon dominance only strengthens their futures at the West's expense.
Because the international institutions created after WWII sought to stabilize global order at the expense of regional self-sufficiency, it has never been easier for a small number of bad actors to turn that global order on its head. People will die because they depend upon the grains of Ukraine and Russia, the hydrocarbons of Russia and Iran, and the input components manufactured by China and Taiwan. They will die even if military conflict rages a continent away because the twenty-first century's economic system has never been more fragile. They will intimately understand what world war feels like even if they are fortunate enough to avoid the sights, sounds, and smells of battle. An interconnected, interdependent, and leveraged global order means one harsh truth: the rending of a single, strategic "thread" can unravel the whole system.
Let this dangerous moment in human history become a clarifying lesson: only regional self-sufficiency, not "great resets" or "new world orders," can limit war and help keep the peace.
Image: HD Documentaries via YouTube.