Nathan Wilson

The Post-Polar Moment

Introduction

Abstract: Nations and intergovernmental organisations must consider the real possibility of moving into a world without a global hegemon. The core assumptions that underpin realist thought can directly be challenged by presenting an alternative approach to non-polarity. This could be through questioning what might occur if nations moved from a world in which polarity remains a major tool for understanding interstate relations and security matters. Further work is necessary to explore the full implications of what entering a non-polar world could mean and possible outcomes for such events.

Problem statement: What would global security look like without competition between key global players such as the People’s Republic of China and the United States?

So what?: Nations and intergovernmental organisations should prepare for the real possibility that the international community could be moving into a world without a global hegemon or world order. As such, they should recognise the potential for a rapidly changing geopolitical landscape and are urged to strategically acknowledge the importance of what this would mean. More research is still needed to explore the implications for and of this moving forward.

Geopolitical Fluidity

Humankind has moved rapidly from a period of relatively controlled geopolitical dominance towards a more fluid and unpredictable situation. This has posed a question to global leadership: what would it mean to be leaderless, and what role could anarchy play in such matters? Examining the assumptions that make up most of the academic discourse within International Relations and Security Studies remains important in trying to tackle said dilemma.

From this geopolitical fluidity, the transition from U.S.-led geopolitical dominance, shown in the ‘unipolar moment’, to that of either bipolarity or multipolarity has come about. This re-emergence, however, has not directly focused on an unexplored possibility that could explain the evolving trends that might occur. Humankind is entering a post-polar world out of the emergence of a leaderless world structure. There is the possibility, too, that neither the U.S. nor the the People’s Republic of China become the sole global superpower which then dominates the world and its structures”. The likelihood of this occurring remains relatively high, as explored further on. Put differently, “it is entirely possibly that within the next two decades, international relations could be entering a period of no singular global superpower at all”.

Humankind is entering a post-polar world out of the emergence of a leaderless world structure.

The Non-Polar Moment

The most traditional forms of realism propose three forms of polar systems. These are unipolar, bipolar, or multipolar (The Big Three). There is a strong possibility that we as a global community are transitioning into a fourth and separate world system. This fourth and relatively unexplored world system could mean that anything that enables the opportunity for either a superpower or regional power to establish itself will not be able to occur in the foreseeable future.

It can also historically be explained by the end of the Cold War and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union, which led to the emergence of the U.S. as the leading superpower within global politics. For lack of better words, it was a generational image of a defining dominant nation within both international relations and security circles. From this, it was widely acknowledged and regarded that Krauthammer coined the’ unipolar moment’ in the aftermath of the Cold War. This meant that there was a period when the U.S. was the sole dominant centre of global power/polarity. This unipolar moment is more accurately considered part of a much larger ‘global power moment’.

This global power moment is in reference to the time period mentioned above, which entailed the ability for nations to directly and accurately project their power abroad or outside their region. This ability to project power will presumably but steadily decline in the following decades due to the subsequent decrease in the three core vectors of human development (Demography, Technology and Ideology). When combined, one could argue that the three polar systems allowed for the creation of the global power moment itself. Specifically, that would be from the start of the 19th until the end of the 20th century. Following that line of thought, the future was affected by the three aforementioned pillars somewhat like this:

  1. Demography: this means having a strongly structured and or growing population, one that allows a nation to act expansively towards other states and use those human resources to achieve its political goals.
  2. Technology: the rise of scientific innovations, allowing stronger military actions to happen against other nations. To date, it has granted nations the ability to directly project power abroad, which, before this, would have only been able to occur locally or at a regional level.
  3. Ideology: the third core vector of human development. That means the development of philosophies that justify the creation of a distinct mindset or “zeitgeist” that culturally explains a nation’s actions.

These three core vectors of development are built into a general human trend and assumption of ‘more’, within this great power moment. Existing systems are built into the understanding of more people, more technology development, and more growth, along with possessing generated ideologies that rationalise such actions. What this does, in turn, is help define a linear progression of human history and help develop an understanding of interstate relations.

Existing systems are built into the understanding of more people, more technology development, and more growth, along with possessing generated ideologies that rationalise such actions.

Nevertheless, this understanding is currently considered insufficient; the justification for this is based on developing a fourth vector to help comprehend power distribution. This vector is that of non-polarity, meaning a non-power-centred world structure. From this, the idea or concept of non-polarity is not original. Previously, it was deconstructed by Haass, Manning and Stuenkel, and, in their context, refers to a direct absence of global polarity within any of the Big Three polar systems.

Prior academics have shown that non-polarity is the absence of absolute power being asserted within a place and time but continues to exist within other big three polar systems. The current world diverges from the idea of multipolar in one core way. There are several centres of power, many of which are non-state actors. As a result, power and polarity can be found in many different areas and within many different actors. This argument expands on Strange’s (1996) contributions, who disputed that polarity was transferring from nations to global marketplaces and non-state actors.

A notable example is non-state players who act against more established powers, these can include terrorist and insurgent groups/organisations. Non-polarity itself being “a world dominated not by one or two or even several states but rather by dozens of actors possessing and exercising various kinds of power”. From this, a more adequate understanding of non-polarity is required. Additionally, it should be argued that non-polarity is rather a direct lack of centres of power that can exist and arise from nations. Because of this, this feature of non-polarity infers the minimisation of a nation’s ability to meaningfully engage in structural competition, which in turn describes a state of post-polarity realism presenting itself.

Humans are presented with the idea of a ‘non-polar moment’, which comes out of the above-stated direct lack of polarity. The non-polar moment inverts the meaning of the unipolar moment found with the U.S. in the aftermath of the Cold War, which was part of the wider period of Pax Americana (after WWII). This contrasts with the traditional idea: instead of having a singular hegemonic power that dominates power distribution across global politics, there is no direct power source to assert itself within the system. Conceptually, this non-polar moment could be viewed as a system where states are placed into a situation in which they are limited to being able to act outwardly. A reason why they could be limited is the demographic constraints being placed on a nation from being able to strategically influence another nation, alongside maintaining an ideology that allows nations to justify such actions.

The non-polar moment inverts the meaning of the unipolar moment found with the U.S. in the aftermath of the Cold War, which was part of the wider period of Pax Americana.

The outcomes of such a world have not been fully studied, with the global community moving from a system to one without any distributors of power or ability to influence other nations. In fact, assuming these structural conditions, -that nations need to acquire hegemony and are themselves perpetually stunted-, the scenario is similar to having a ladder that is missing its first few steps. From this, one can also see this structural condition as the contrast to a ‘rising tide lifts all boats’ situation, with the great power reduction. Because of this, the non-polar moment could symbolise the next, fourth stage for nations to transition to part of a much wider post-polarity form of realism that could develop.

The implications for this highlight a relevant gap within the current literature, the need to examine both the key structural and unit-level conditions that currently are present. This is what it might mean to be part of a wider ‘a global tribe without a leader’, something which a form of post-polarity realism might suggest.

A Global Tribe Without a Leader

To examine the circumstances for which post-polarity realism can occur, one must examine the conditions that define realism itself. Traditionally, for realism, the behaviours of states are as follows:

  1. States act according to their self-interests;
  2. States are rational in nature; and
  3. States pursue power to help ensure their own survival.

What this shows is that there are several structures from within the Big Three polar systems. Kopalyan argues that the world structure transitions between the different stages. This can be shown by moving between interstate relations as bipolar towards multipolar, done by both nations and governments, which allows nations to re-establish themselves in accordance with their structural conditions within the world system. Kopalyan then continues to identify the absence of a consistent conceptualisation of non-polarity. This absence demonstrates a direct need for clarity and structured responses to the question of non-polarity.

As such, the transition between systems to non-polarity, to and from post-polarity will probably occur. The reason for this is the general decline in three core vectors of human development, which are part of complex unit-level structural factors occurring within states. The structural factors themselves are not helpful towards creating or maintaining any of the Big Three world systems. Ultimately, what this represents is a general decline in global stability itself which is occurring. An example of this is the reduction of international intergovernmental organisations across the globe and their inability to adequately manage or solve major structural issues like Climate Change, which affects all nations across the international community.

Firstly, this can be explained demographically because most nations currently live with below-replacement (and sub-replacement) fertility rates. In some cases, they have even entered a state of terminal demographic decline. This is best symbolised in nations like Japan, Russia, and the PRC, which have terminal demographics alongside most of the European continent. The continuation of such outcomes also affects other nations outside of this traditional image, with nations like Thailand and Türkiye suffering similar issues. Contrasted globally, one can compare it to the dramatic inverse fertility rates found within Sub-Saharan Africa.

Secondly, with technology, one can observe a high level of development which has produced a widespread benefit for nations. Nevertheless, it has also contributed to a decline in the preservation of being able to transition between the Big Three systems. Technological developments have produced obstacles to generating coherence between governments and their citizenry. For example, social media allows for the generation of mass misinformation that can be used to create issues within nations from other countries and non-state actors. Additionally, it has meant that nations are placed permanently into a state of insecurity because of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). The results mean there can never be any true sense or permanence in the idea of security due to the effects of WMDs and their spillover effects. Subsequently, technological development has placed economic hurdles for nations within the current world order through record levels of debt, which has placed further strain on the validity of the current global economic system in being able to maintain itself.

Technological developments have produced obstacles to generating coherence between governments and their citizenry.

The final core vector of human development is ideology and its decline. This has been shown with a reduction in the growth of new ideologies and philosophies used to understand and address world issues. This is an extension of scholars like Toynbee and Spengler, whose literature has also claimed that ideologically, the world has witnessed a general reduction in abstract thought and problem-solving. This ideological decline has most substantially occurred in the Western World.

The outcomes of the reduction in these human development vectors demonstrate a potential next stage in global restructuring. Unfortunately, only little data can be sourced to explain what a global world order could look like without a proverbial ‘king on the throne’ exists. Nearly all acquired data is built into a ‘traditional’ understanding of a realist world order. This understanding is largely correct. Nevertheless, the core assumption built into our post-WWII consensus is out of date.

This is the concept that we as nations will continue falling back into and transitioning between the traditional Big Three polar systems. This indeed contrasts with moving into a fourth non-polar world structure. Traditionally, states have transitioned between the Big Three world systems. This can only occur when all three vectors of human development are positive, when now, in reality, all three are in decline.

This is not to take away from realism as a cornerstone theoretical approach to understanding and explaining state behaviour. Realism and its core tenets are still correct on a conceptual and theoretical level and will remain so. Indeed, what unites all branches of realism is this core assumption of civilisation from within the system and that it will directly affect polarity. These structures are assumed to remain in place, presenting one major question. This question is shown upon investigating the current bipolar connection between both major superpowers, in this case, between the U.S. and the PRC. Kissinger argues that “almost as if according to some natural law, in every century, there seems to emerge a country with the power, the will, and the intellectual and moral impetus to shape the entire international system per its own values.” It can be seen in the direct aftermath of the declining U.S., which is moving away from the unipolar moment it found itself in during the 1990s, into a more insecure and complex multipolar present. This present currently defines Sino-U.S. relations and has set the tone for most conversations about the future of global politics. Such a worldview encapsulates how academics have traditionally viewed bipolar strategic competition, with one side winning and the other losing. This bipolarity between these superpowers has often left the question of which will eventually dominate the other. Will the U.S. curtail and contain a rising PRC, or will the PRC come out as the global hegemon overstepping U.S. supremacy?

Realism and its core tenets are still correct on a conceptual and theoretical level and will remain so. Indeed, what unites all branches of realism is this core assumption of civilisation from within the system and that it will directly affect polarity.

Consequently and presently, there remains a distinct possibility that both superpowers could collapse together or separately within a short period of each other. This collapse is regardless of their nation’s relative power or economic interdependence. It could rather be:

  1. The PRC could easily decline because of several core factors. Demographically, the nation’s one-child policy has dramatically reduced the population. The results could place great strain on the nation’s viability. Politically, there is a very real chance that there could be major internal strife due to competing factional elements within the central government. Economically, housing debt could cause an economic crash to occur.
  2. For the U.S., this same could occur. The nation has its own economic issues and internal political problems. This, in turn, might also place great pressure on the future viability of the country moving forward.

Still, the implications for both nations remain deeply complex and fluid as to what will ultimately occur. From this, any definite outcomes currently remain unclear and speculative.

Within most traditional Western circles, the conclusion for the bipolar competition will only result in a transition towards either of the two remaining world systems. Either one power becomes hegemonic, resulting in unipolarity, or, in contrast, as nations move into a multipolar system, where several powers vie for security. Nevertheless, this transition cannot currently occur if both superpowers within the bipolar system collapse at the same time. This is regardless of whether their respective collapses are connected or not. As both superpowers are in a relative decline, they themselves contribute to a total decline of power across the world system. From this, with the rise of global interdependence between states, when a superpower collapses, it has long-term implications for the other superpower and those caught in between. If both superpowers collapse, it would give us a world system with no definitive power centre and a global tribe without a leader.

This decline would go beyond being in a state of ‘posthegemony’, where there is a singular or bipolar superpower, the core source of polarity amongst nations, towards that of a non-polar world. This means a transition into a world without the ability to develop an organised world system from a full hegemonic collapse. With the collapse of bipolarity and the inability to transition towards either of the traditional remaining world systems, as previously mentioned, this would be like all nations being perpetually stunted in their ability to develop, like a ladder with the first ten steps missing. All nations would collectively struggle to get up the first few steps back into some form of structural normalcy. It could, for decades, prevent any attempt to transition back into the traditional realm of the Big Three world systems.

With the collapse of bipolarity and the inability to transition towards either of the traditional remaining world systems, as previously mentioned, this would be like all nations being perpetually stunted in their ability to develop, like a ladder with the first ten steps missing.

The result/consequence of any collapse directly caused by a link between economic, demographic and political failings would become a global death spiral, potentially dragging nearly all other nations down with its collapse. That considered another question would arise: if we as an international community structurally face a non-polar moment on a theoretical level, what might the aftermath look like for states and interstate relations?

Rising and Falling Powers

This aspect of how the international community and academia view the international sphere could yield a vital understanding of what may happen within the next few years and likely decades, will need to constantly reassess the core assumptions behind our pre-existing thoughts. One core assumption is that nations are either rising or falling. However, it may be worth remembering that it is entirely possible that both bipolar powers could easily decline significantly at any point, for multiple different reasons and factors. The outcomes would have substantial implications for the world as a whole.

It may be worth remembering that it is entirely possible that both bipolar powers could easily decline significantly at any point, for multiple different reasons and factors.

Ultimately, it implies that the international community will need to reevaluate how issues like polarity are viewed, and continue to explore the possibility of entering a fourth polar world – non-polar – and address the possibility that some form of post-polarity realism might begin to conceptualise. Nations and intergovernmental organisations should, at the least, attempt to consider or acclimatise to the real possibility of transforming into a world without a global hegemon or world order.

This article was originally published in The Defence Horizon Journal, an academic and professional-led journal dedicated to the study of defence and security-related topics. The original post can be read here.


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Out of the Cauldron: America’s Intervention in Somalia, Thirty Years Later

Since the end of World War Two, the United States has received a heightened amount of criticism for how it has conducted itself abroad. Its interventionism and choices in which to act has thrown many a challenge to its own legitimacy and eligibility as a superpower. In the following short article, I will argue that at its core some of America’s interventionism is more a sign of a flawed but idealist attempt at helping the world. 

From this, we can think of many circumstances in which America and its strategic choices to intervene have resulted in large scale failure. From Southeast Asia, to that of Latin America, we can be shown countless examples of either propping up corrupt dictatorial figures or even right-wing paramilitary death squads. This criticism has found itself not just from the proverbial left-wing but even from non-intervention right and libertarian circles. These failures have sadly detracted from the times America was arguably right to say it had a moral obligation to do something. Its critics have largely been correct with figures like Odd Arne Westad, Stephan Walt and Vincent Bevins, being the most notable at generating specific criticism towards American foreign policy failings, rather than the traditional critics like Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn; commentators who prefer to use certain political arguments, while ignoring other uncomfortable and less than ideologically convenient truths about America. 

As such, thirty years ago, we can be shown an example of America standing up for doing what is right and just, and being punished for it anyway. This was found by America directly after Desert Storm and the first Gulf War, turning its attention to that of Somalia and the Horn of Africa in 1993. Although remaining complex and disputed, what is known is that the nation of Somalia had largely fallen into a state of Civil War by the end of the 1980s. This conflict still continues to this day and still continues to displace many within the region at large. By the early 1990s, the nation remained a lawless place, in which differing power factions and warlords were fighting over what was left. It is this, for which many were exposed prior to American involvement. 

American involvement came as a means to support and back up the United Nations which were being targeted within the country. From this involvement, America turned its attention to that of targeting those figures and warlords which had declared war on the United Nations personnel, such as Mohamed Farrah Aidid. As such, the mission to find him was that of Operation Gothic Serpent. 

Out of Gothic Serpent, we enter what became the most famous and defining image of this conflict, the ‘Battle of Mogadishu’. The Battle of Mogadishu, fought in early October 1993, became famous through writer Mark Bowden’s book, ‘Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War’, for which Ridley Scott’s 2001 war movie was named. This battle became emblematic of America’s foreign policy failures, as it fought the toughest house to house fighting since the Tet Offensive within 1968’s Vietnam (something it would not match until the Second Battle of Fallujah in 2004). The outcome for the battle was the death of some twenty one Americans and nearly 300 Somalians. Dead American bodies were dragged naked through the streets and shown on CNN, the helicopters that had been shot down (four in total) became symbols of America’s failure and success for the Somalis. The sight of American Marines running back to base after being chased out the city by armed militia showed they were far from welcome.

How did America end up here? In the years prior, Somalia had descended into being a failed state, the outcome of which had been a complete disaster for all within its borders. Compounding this, a large famine had begun to grip the nations. The results of which meant that some 200,000-300,000 individuals had succumbed to starvation, in 1992. Alongside high rates of food aid looting and storage, the famine was used as a tool to wage war and genocide against others within the nation. There was no fixing this, there was little anyone could do to stop this nation from ripping itself apart at the seams. Out of this mess and the targeting of the United Nations personnel, America decided to support those on the ground. Within several years, it had all but left completely. 

What we can learn from such events? Three decades after, has Somalia improved in any way? Well of course not. Has Afghanistan improved in any way since 2001? Of course not. As such, this attempt at fixing the problem was to only inflame the situation and result in the deaths of more individuals. More than just the US State Department, the entire world must realise its problems cannot be solved by sacrificing the lives of white boys from Arkansas and Ohio.

One might begin to wonder if the Somalian Civil War and its aftermath had never occurred, whether America might have also seen itself as being politically able and morally obliged to intervene in other African nations that also went through genocide in the subsequent years, such as Rwanda and Burundi. In this sense, its attempts are more than flawed but tragic. Imagine if Vietnam had never occurred, if America would have then had the stomach to stop the Cambodian Genocide from occurring. 

Heavy is the head that wears the crown, some might say. I would personally lean towards the viewpoint that America’s intervention into Somalia during this time is more indicative of a wider tragic sense of action that has haunted America since the end of World War Two. In many ways, America is damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t. It is forced to choose between fickle condemnation and disgrace its reputation as a superpower or military action, the latter of which produces images of dead soldiers being dragged naked through the streets, leading many to ask the question: what was it all for?


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Barbie, Oppenheimer and Blue Sky Research

Barbie or Oppenheimer? Two words you would have never considered putting together in a sentence. For the biggest summer blockbuster showdown in decades, the memes write themselves.

In recent months (and years!), we’ve seen flop after flop, such as the new Indiana Jones and Flash films, with endless CGI superheroes and the merciless rehashing of recognised brands. The inability for film studies to recognise and attempt anything new has only led to the continued damage of established and respected franchises.

This in part is due a decline in film studios being willing to take risks over new pieces of intellectual property (something the Studio A24 has excelled in), and a retreat into a ‘culturally bureaucratic’ system that neither rewards art nor generates anything vaguely new, preferring to reward conscientious proceduralism.

Given this, there has been widespread speculation that films like Oppenheimer will ‘save’ cinema, with Christopher Nolan’s biographical adventure, based on the book ‘American Prometheus’ (would highly recommend), being highly awaited and regarded.

Although, I suspect cinema is too far gone from saving in its current format. I do believe that Oppenheimer will have long term cultural effects, which should be recognised and welcomed by everyone. 

In the past, there have been many films that, when made and consumed, have directly changed how we view topics and issues. Jaws gave generations of people a newfound fear of sharks, while the Shawshank Redemption provided many with the Platonic form of hope and salvation. I hope that Oppenheimer can and will become a film like this, because of what Robert Oppenheimer’s life (and by extension the Manhattan Project itself) represented. 

As such, two things should come out of this film and re-enter the cultural sphere, filtering back down into our collective fears and dreams. Firstly, is it that of existential fear from nuclear war (very pressing considering the Russo-Ukrainian War) and what this means for us as species.

Secondly, is that of Blue-Sky Research (BSR) and the power of problem solving. Although the Manhattan project was not a ‘true’ example of BSR, it helped set the benchmark for science going forward.

Both factors should return to our collective consciousness, in our professional and private lives; they can only benefit us going forward. 

I would encourage everyone to go out tonight and look at the night sky and say to yourself while looking at the stars: “this goes on for forever”. In the same breath, look to the horizon and think to yourself: “This can end at any moment. We have the power to do all of this”.

Before watching Oppenheimer, I would highly encourage you to watch the ‘Charlie Dean Archives’ and the footage of atomic bombs from 1959. Not only is the footage astounding, multiple generations have lived in fear of the invention; the idea and the consequences of the bomb have disturbed humans as long as it has existed.

Films like Threads in Britain played a similar role, which entered the unconscious, and films like Barefoot Gen for Japan (this film is quite notorious and controversial, but a must watch) did the same, presenting the real-world effects of nuclear war through the eyes of young children and the fear it invokes.

In recent years, we have seemingly lost this fear. Indeed, we continue to overlook the fact this could all be over so quickly. We have forgotten or chosen to ignore the simple fact that we are closer than ever before to the end of the world.

The pro-war lobby within the West have continually played fast and loose with this fact, to the point we find ourselves playing Russian roulette with an ever-decreasing number of chambers in our guns.

In the past, we have narrowly avoided nuclear conflict several times, and it has been mostly a question of luck as to whether we avoid the apocalypse. The downside of all this is that any usage of the word ‘nuclear’ is now filled with images of death and destruction, which is a shame because nuclear energy could be our salvation in so many ways. 

Additionally, we need to remember what fear is as a civilisation; fear in its most existential form. We have become too indebted to the belief that civilisation is permanent. We assume that this world and our society will always be here, when the reality is that all of it could be wiped out within a generation.

As dark as this sounds, we need bad things to happen, so that we can understand and appreciate the good that we do have, and so that good things might occur in the future. Car crashes need to happen, so we can learn to appreciate why we have seatbelts. We need people to remember why we fear things to ensure we do everything in our power to avoid such things from ever happening again. 

Oppenheimer knew and understood this. Contrary to the memes, he knew what he had created and it haunted him till the end of his days. Oppenheimer mirrors Alfred Nobel and his invention of dynamite, albeit burdened with a far greater sense of dread.

I hope that with the release of Oppenheimer, we can truly begin to go back to understanding what nuclear weapons (and nuclear war) mean for us as a species. The fear that everything that has ever been built and conceived could be annihilated in one act.

We have become the gods of old; we can cause the earth to quake and great floods to occur and we must accept the responsibility that comes with this power now. We need to fear this power once more, especially our pathetic excuse for leadership.

In addition to fear, Oppenheimer will (hopefully) reintroduce BSR into our cultural zeitgeist – the noble quest of discovery and research. BSR can be defined as research without a clearly defined goal or immediately apparent real-world applications.

As I mentioned earlier, whilst the Manhattan project was not a pure example of BSR, it gave scientists more freedom to pursue long-term “high risk, high reward” research, leading to a very significant breakthrough.

We need to understand the power of BSR. Moving forward, we must utilise its benefits to craft solutions to our major problems. 

I would encourage everyone to read two pieces by Vannevar Bush. One is ‘Science the Endless Frontier’, a government report, and ‘As we may think’, an essay.

In both pieces, he makes a good argument for re-examining how we understand scientific development and research and calls for governmental support in such research. Ultimately, Bush’s work led to the creation of the National Science Foundation.

For research and development, government support played a vital role in managing to successfully create nuclear weapons before either the Germans or Japanese and their respective programs.

I believe it was Eric Weinstein who stated that the Manhattan project was not really a physics but rather an engineering achievement. Without taking away from the work of the theorists who worked on the project. I would argue that Weinstein is largely correct. However, I argue that it was a governmental (or ‘human’ achievement), alongside the phenomenal work of various government-supported experimentalists.

The success of the Manhattan Project was built on several core conditions. Firstly, there was a major drive by a small group of highly intelligent and functional people that launched the project (a start-up mentality). Secondly, full government support, to achieve a particular goal. Thirdly, the near-unlimited resources afforded to the project by the government. Fourthly, complete concentration of the best minds onto a singular project.

These conditions mirror a lot of the tenets of BSR: placing great emphasis on government support, unlimited resources and manpower and complete concentration on achieving a specific target. Under these conditions, we can see what great science looks like and how we can possibly go back to achieving it.

Christopher Nolan has slightly over three hours to see if he can continue to make his mark on cinema and leave more than a respectable filmography in its wake. If he does, let’s hope it redirects our culture away from merely good science, and back towards the pursuit of great civilisational achievements – something always involved, as a man with a blog once said: “weirdos and misfits with odd skills”.


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The Reset Clause (same time next 25 years)

How did we get here, and where do we go? A lot of modern political questions can be summarised in those two simple questions. Our cultural and political zeitgeist has possibly become the equivalent of going out for a quick pint and realising sixteen hours later we have woken up on a flight to Mexico.

This literal cultural hangover event merely asks up to beg the question of where we go from here, now that everything has happened prior to our sleep walking and into the current awakening.

Legally, we might be more at home in Terry Gilliam’s ‘Brazil’, or One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, in being trapped within a world that both defies logic or order. A world ran by malicious people, albeit far too stupid to be truly Orwellian Big Brother figures.

As noted by Nicolás Gómez Dávila’s book Sucesivos Escolios a un Texto Implícito:

“Dying societies accumulate laws like dying men accumulate remedies.”

If such things are true, then how do we stop the accumulation? Are societies, as they get further complex and interconnected into themselves and the outside world, doomed to merely breakdown under their own weight? Do we end up investing more energy into systems with greater diminishing returns, until the project itself collapses (Joseph Tainter makes this argument in his book ‘The Collapse of Complex Societies’).

Alternatively, is collapse merely something that occurs when a nation or civilisation loses the fire it once had, and the cracks begin to show? Do we physically lose the will to continue with the same drive and passion that our predecessors had, or do we merely just burn out like Wang Huning often pondered?

Where are the get out of jail free cards, the mechanisms to stop the damage, how do we stop this strange death from approaching?

We often see images of political leaders placing their hands on religious texts, and then stating that they will protect the law of the land and uphold the constitution or whatever. This is nearly always a lie when you have people who neither understand nor respect the original foundations which the nation sprung from.

It was Edmund Burke that said society is a contract between the dead, the living and those yet to be born, and civilisation is an intergenerational struggle between the civilised adults and the little barbarians they have given birth too.

You just must domesticate them before the little barbarians become big ones. This social contract and corresponding obligations are not peer pressure from dead people, but an active handing of cultural responsibility in a civilisational relay race of life.

So, how do we remove these laws? The formation of which will only further hinder future generations. One idea is that of a constitutional reset clause being placed into the political framework of a country. A reset clause would allow for directly examining the new laws that have come into place over the course of every generation. This would allow for a new political class of individuals to look at what has occurred and decide what to do with it all.

With a typical generation being between twenty to thirty years, and twenty-five being in the middle (also fits well for being a quarter of a century), this could be a good way to start. We can take an original constitutional document like the United States Constitution. It is simple, codified, and adheres to higher values for what is expected of both citizenry and government.

Instead of feeling like original documents merely get chipped away with the passage of policy and time, such actions will help people to regularly reassess the direction we are going in. We start at a neutral original document point and let people naturally add further to the document, after twenty-five years we look at what has occurred and assess what has happened previously. The reassessment will allow people to critically examine what has happened and what laws we really need and what needs to be let go.

I sometimes fear we slowly walking into a South Africa-like situation, where we find ourselves with a constitutional document that does not benefit anyone; burdened with laws that only create issues for everyone down the line.

As a result, the problem with South Africa is that it eventually started looking like South Africa, we do not want this nor benefit from this if we continue down this path.

Until this happens one thing is certain, the slow progress of not just time but also law will eventually create a multigenerational leviathan that will ultimately have to be stopped, if left unchecked.

We could pick a date as a proverbial year zero, of which the original laws always remained, and you would then let it play out.

Although, the practicality of such ideas will never get off the ground, hypothetically we should be constantly examining the accumulation of laws and the quality of them moving forward.

In conclusion, what this might mean is that we must reform how we think and view law within our countries and the accumulation of it all. Are we slowly walking into a bureaucratic nightmare and if so, how do we escape from such problems, well and truly?

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The Wire and Singapore

The small island nation of Singapore is like the American TV program, The Wire. I understand that is probably one of the weirdest opening sentences to an article about philosophy and global politics, but hear me out.

Co-creator of The Wire, David Simon, once stated the reason for the show’s success was its ability to mirror every conceivable political bias of the viewership. This was enabled by the many different themes and issues exhibited throughout the show. If you are against the War on Drugs, you will see evidence of its failings. If you support it, you will see evidence it should continue. If you believe that police failings are because of cultural or economic reasons, you will see those perspectives reflected too.

In short, within the entire series, you will see nearly every modern political issue at play as understood by every ‘side’ of said issue. What remains interesting is that, as noted by Simon, the show maintains an ability to “validate” and consequently reinforce the beliefs of the viewers.

As such, the city of Baltimore continues to hold a light to America-at-large and its ongoing issues, even if it aired 21 years ago, finishing just before the election of Barack Obama in 2008. Whether it’s urban decay, corruption, or the failure of the American Dream, what we see in the show are things that existed in the 1960’s and still exist today in this post-industrial broken city.

You can follow this train of thought into the world of global politics, which is not as far away from modern media as I would like to admit. Specifically, we have seen a similar situation emerge out of the success story that is Singapore.

Singapore is like a mirror to any political persuasion that one might have, from which also can “validate” one’s own personal politics. The only real difference is that The Wire (and by extension the city of Baltimore, I say this because the city itself is largely the main character for the entire show) are used negatively, while Singapore is used positively.

If you want to see a thriving multi-ethnic, multicultural, post-colonial state, then you can look to Singapore. If you want to see somewhere that champions free-market capitalism, then you can see it there. If you want to see somewhere with a right-wing government that places a strong emphasis on law and order, not to mention the death penalty, it’s right there between Johor and the Riau Islands.

It remains fascinating to me that a tiny island, one which most people could never find on a map, has sparked such a massive debate on what they ‘see’ when they think of Singapore.

A nation with a population comparable to Lebanon or Palestine, yet more than a hundred leagues above such countries. A right-wing free-market paradise with the best public housing in the world. Those who see its publicly-funded universal healthcare system, one of the most efficient in the world, argue to the contrary. A super politically conservative nation that’s current president is an ethnic minority Muslim woman, racial success story, model minority, etc, etc.

Is Singapore perfect? Of course not. Is Singapore used to reflect general political beliefs about the world? Well, yes. Are a lot of these views correct? Yes and no.

Politically, socially, economically, a lot of different political views and philosophies are validated by the existence of Singapore. Fundamentally, Singapore and Baltimore have a comparable effect on the politically-minded.

Do people get murdered and addicted to drugs in both places? Yes. Are both places being led by an ethnic minority leader? Yes. How we view subjects often depends on the viewer itself, as much as the subject matter in play.

Despite this, Singapore has become a symbol of success whilst Baltimore has become a symbol of failure. Singapore is a model whilst Baltimore is a failure, and nobody wants to see their political beliefs reflected or “invalidated” by the latter.

What is revealing is how two completely different places are so similar, while being so completely poles apart. Everyone can infer whatever they want from either place or still be generally, albeit not exactly, correct.

In conclusion, I think that David Simon is largely correct about this idea of how we as viewers of a thing can be so vastly different, yet so widely validated by its existence. Maybe, it’s more revealing for us, as viewers, to look at places or thematic issues within the greater context of The Discourse, whether political or pop culture, and realize we can all be somewhat right, while also being largely wrong.

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Britain needs some Thai adverts

Messages are important, and advertising is vital in conveying messages. I do not wish to dwell on the history of such activities, but when we think of advertising, we think of persuasion and attraction; luring the viewer towards the subject matter of said advertisement.

As a result, we (sadly) have advertising on television (as if televisions weren’t bad enough). In the past, iconic adverts have included gorillas playing the drums or memorable lines from Hastings Direct. Have they ever changed anything or produced anything substantial within the UK? I would argue no, not really.

Typically, in the West, government and private business messages on social issues tend to be negative. We see adverts of smokers with cancerous growths and drink driving victims. The ‘world of you’ is incomplete without a specific item and you need it to become complete. The shock factor of such messages intends to make the audience fearful of the consequences of such behaviours. 

Additionally, Western adverts which touch on important issues comes across as painfully inauthentic, superficial, and twee. This is likely compounded by a heightened awareness of forcing major issues into such a short space of time for televisions. I assume this is because such adverts are made not for the viewers but for the creators themselves, mirroring most modern media in recent years.

In contrast, one country has used a different means of spreading its message, utilising comedy and the heartfelt. Although funny adverts exist all over the world (most notoriously in Japan), it is the health adverts found in Thailand which do the most wonders.

This being all being said, what has any of this got to do with Thailand its own adverts? Thailand has problems with alcohol, it ranks among the highest in the world and the highest within Asia. Britain has alcohol problems too, all of which have their own effects and subsequent advertising campaigns. What is interesting is how both nations advertise differently to their respective populations. Thai adverts tend to be more friendly, less intense and hit home for the audience. All these things considered, I’m of the view that they’re more effective than UK adverts.

Perhaps the most famous Thai advert is this anti-drinking advert, found here. What is the most interesting is that it is weirdly powerful in nature. We see an individual go from being a alcohol-induced wreck to becoming a functioning member of society in the space of a minute.

It is done in a funny yet logically coherent way. There is no great shock value, no negativity, it is all laid out for the viewer to understand and enjoy. Moreover, the greater emphasis on becoming productive, not just for yourself nor your family, but most importantly your nation. The time you spend drinking could be used to tackle the issues facing your life and getting ahead of things. These actions aggregate into a big societal change occurring; a change occurring from one action.

Contrast this to the harsh and brutal actions taken in UK television adverts regarding alcoholism and related issues. We see botched and broken bodies that shock daytime viewers, yet none of them seem to be memorable or affect us in a long-lasting and meaningful way. There is no positive message nor spin that can be used to reach further to the viewers. In short, what this shows is that of the major cultural divide between how both nations approach not just raising awareness of such issues, but what can be done about it.

Another good example which evokes the heartfelt can be found within this life insurance advert. Again, we see this attitude of avoiding the negative and instead we see the aggregate effects of one man’s actions uplifting the society which surrounds him. The style may be different to that of the aforementioned ‘comedic’ type of adverts, but the messages remain the same. We see a singular man do minor actions which help society at a much larger scale.

This sits in sharp contrast to the types of adverts that are commonly seen in the UK. Most life insurance adverts are reductive. We see some random adult sat at the dining table talking to a suspiciously non-Indian call centre worker about being a non-smoker and the cost of insurance for a newly parented couple.

Above all else, what is propagated is a certain cultural attitude that is reflected within the nation. Generally speaking, this can be summarised as being that of Greng Jai (เกรงใจ). In short, Greng Jai means to be kind and considerate. This, in part, plays in the stereotype of being friendly and smiley in nature. This itself has many different problems which I will talk about in future articles.

However, the nature of Greng Jai, when played out in the role of advertising, presents the core functional difference. When negative and positive messages are presented, it is the positive messages which most effectively conveys the core message of the advertisement. Our ability to address certain issues need not be simplified nor brutalised.

In summary, the potential to learn from how various countries from around the world and how they spread, and promote certain messages to the population at large, remains important. Additionally, it remains important to develop a deeper understanding of how other nations handle themselves when presented with certain issues. 


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Will The Amish Become Fashionable?

America is still young and, so far, remains the core of the proverbial ‘New World’. A brand-new world might, for some, require new thoughts and ideas taken from the ‘Old World’, or potentially, nearly new and separate religions. One might think of Mormonism or Scientology, but the rise of the Old World, emerging in the New, has found a solid foundation from the Anabaptists in the form of the Amish.

Finding their origins in the world of Dutch Calvinism, the Amish started as a series of small communities that spread rapidly. These communities were found within the Midwestern states, but in recent years, due to rapid population growth, have spread to over thirty states. This population growth in such a short space of time has left many wondering just how big the Amish population will be within the next few years across the United States.

As noted by Lyman Stone in 2018, it remains highly unlikely that the Amish will ever become a majority within the US largely due to structural factors relating to modernisation within certain groups and shifts from farming towards manufacturing. This is compounded by a lack of available farming areas for which they can use to move across the US. Most likely, in the coming decades, they will slowly become significant minority groups within many states, with Holmes County, Ohio most likely to become the first majority Amish County in the US this year, which will soon be followed by LaGrange County, Indiana.

For the Amish, all non-Amish are called ‘the English’. For the rest of this article, I will use the Amish’s own terminology (for my own sick amusement, knowing this article’s intended audience). The importance of this is because, at its core, what remains important is the examination of whether the Amish will bend to the knee to the English World or if the English World will learn anything from the Amish.

Will the Amish become fashionable as a cultural force that the English in America can rally around? Will they become fashionable, and can they not offer to help guide America back to its traditional roots? These are all important questions, which I hope might spark some debate amongst people and The Mallard readership. The good thing about writing online about the Amish, is knowing they will probably never see this.

Even prior to Covid, we have seen vast internal migration from around the US, from people fleeing states like California and New York towards that of Florida and Texas. Additionally, we are seeing a gradual return from the major built up cities towards the countryside. These trends are not unique to the US but it would seem that some kind of return to a more ‘tranquil’ and, dare I say, ‘traditional’ lifestyle has applied to many. Alongside this return to the countryside, the Amish have always, in one form or another, received attention from the body politic and general cultural zeitgeist of America. A friendly, devout, and non-violent group of Christians that merely wish to be left alone.

Following this, knowing that you have a high-trust, self-sustaining, and low crime faction of the population, may start paying dividends within certain states that have large major cities which suffer from various modern social ills (crime, drug abuse, etc.). As the Amish population grows, so too will the cultural weight they can throw around locally. Of course, we will never see Amish Congressman or Presidents. Instead, we will see a strong and firm cultural base in which a growing traditionalism-seeking group of people can find support within.

Will the Amish way of life ever become, by contemporary definitions, ‘popular’? Certainly not. However, similar to how people become Priests or Nuns, such paths may not be for them, but can be respected and admired. That admiration, the idea that such a group can do so much, may itself become fashionable; the Amish may come to symbolise a desirable form of of social stability, one situated in contrast to increasingly stormy issues emerging within American cities. As such, whilst the ‘full’ Amish way of life is not purely feasible for much of the population, elements may be worth emulating. A strong sense of local community identity, sustainability, and solidarity, as well as emphasising family and family-building; something that most agree is drastically needed.

In summary, will the Amish become a massive cultural force? It’s too soon to say. If demographic trends continue on their current trajectory, then within the next few decades, we may see the Amish become, not just a major cultural force, but the foundation of a parallel society; one providing an alternative to the excesses and drawbacks of globalised modernity.

It is entirely possible that the Amish, more than just playing a role as an increasingly culturally-influential Christian group within America, will come to provide a full-bodied blueprint for revitalising American ‘rugged individualism’. However, what is known for certain is that, in some distant rural parts of America, there still exist those who believe in the core values which made America into America – the will to flourish on the frontier of a new world.


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Why Taiwan Will Probably Survive Against a Chinese Invasion

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, many have turned their attention towards Taiwan and China. It has been no secret that since 1949, China have sought to reunify the island with the mainland and that Taiwan has sought to resist. However, I argue that for Taiwan this decade will be vitally important and that if it can survive the next ten years then it will probably outlast mainland China.

Regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I argue that demographics play a greater role than what has been initially stated. When you have a largely aging society like Russia has, the nation’s political elites know and understand that there is a limited timeframe in which they can act. The reason for this is because, they understand the current size of potential army recruits remains at the largest it is going to be for the foreseeable future.

As too it has been argued that Russia sought to invade Ukraine now because of this reduction in young people and the need to secure the nation’s geographic security gaps that are presently open. Consequently, I argue that China is no different with these problems and the need to secure its own political goals regarding Taiwan.

Subsequently, since 1949 China has been defiant about its position on Taiwan and its strategic messaging to the rest of the world about it. Alongside this, China will have needed to take Taiwan by the latest 2027.

This is because of similar demographic reasons that an aging China has started to face, mirroring the structural conditions that plague Russia’s desire to act while it still can.

If we take the fact that China is the fastest aging society in history, and that it needs to achieve all its goals by the year 2049, we are left with two very interesting intersecting factors at play.

If we work backwards from the year 2049, the targeted symbolic year of a hegemonic Chinese nation we can start to be presented with a better image and a potential reunification timeline that could unfold. That gives us a twenty-seven-year gap from present, in which they will need to achieve this.

Typically, it takes twenty years for a generation to occur, as noted by Strauss and Howe. This period will be important because it will be the benchmark for which unification normalisation will start to begin. What this will allow is the full political annexation of Taiwan over to mainland China. This is because a full generation of normalisation needs to happen, to make sure all political issues can be worked out and solved when being cored happens.

We can observe similar processes occurring in both Hong Kong and Macau, but as shown China does not have fifty years to fully transfer sovereignty to the mainland. Therefore, a mere generation will be the minimum for which China can hope to achieve this change.

We do not have much historically to compare too when regarding modern Island nation invasions but if nations like Ukraine and Afghanistan are to be models for Post-Cold War invasions and occupations, then it is deeply unlikely that an invasion’s success would be achieved in the space of a month.

However, working on the core assumption that China can peacefully walk straight into the island and the straight the process of sovereignty transfer right away. This would leave us with the year 2029 to start this process immediately in theory.

Secondly, if a drawn-out conflict would occur to fully control the island, this would take arguably two-five years depending on the resistance put up by Taiwanese soldiers and citizens alike. If we take a conservative estimate and say it will take two years of conflict to fully pacify the nation (something unprecedented in modern history). This would leave us with the year 2027, just five years from now, for which invasion can occur to reach China’s own deadline of 2049.

I argue that Taiwan will have plenty of time to both prepare and acknowledge a basic timeline of how China will seek to act. This becomes especially relevant due to the geographic conditions of the island and its 180km distance between itself and the mainland. It will be almost impossible to sneak up on the nation or launch a full amphibious assault. In addition, any Chinese military build-up will be noticed and will give the Taiwan several months to directly prepare for an invasion.

This is not withstanding neighbouring nations, that will be brought into interfering in any potential conflict, especially with the QUAD nations being heavily reliant on Taiwanese business.

Yet, we have ignored one core thing that still matters and that is China’s demographic position. The nation similarly to Russia is approaching a massive demographic bust moment, in part due to its over thirty years of negative fertility rates. Subsequently, the chances of China invading Taiwan remain unlikely at 20%, in the long term when regarding the next five years. As such, this has been best documented by both Hoie and Darley, both have demonstrated the difficulty on China’s part towards achieving this aim.

However, if they do China will not be able to hold the nation, just like how both the Soviet Union and the West could not hold Afghanistan. The outcome of this will be catastrophic for the Chinese nation state, on not just a political level but on a civilisational one too.

Taiwan will continue and will eventually survive, against Chinese aggressions. This is in part because of the decreasing likelihood of China of securing its desired timeframe due its fast-approaching demographic bomb.


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