Thursday, January 13, 2005

Great Games

Ashley Tellis, formerly advisor to Ambassador Blackwill & now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, was on C-SPAN yesterday discussing his new work on America's War on Terror.

He asserted that The Westphalian System of States would regain its primacy once the global war on terror recedes from importance & great power rivalries are revived anew. Until then, and especially in the war on terror, the rules of the Westphalian system might not fully apply.

This is a sound framework provided that the war on terror (when great power rivalries are theoretically suspended) can be neatly seperated from the post-war future where these rivalries once again take center-stage. From facts in evidence now, it is clear that this caveat does not hold -- while America is tunnel-visioned on fighting terrorism, its great power rivals (India, China, EU, Japan, Russia) have already moved on.

This implies that these powers will increasingly find themselves as adverseries in some areas -- even as they are allies in other areas. The management of this multi-polar reality is likely to be a great deal more complex than the management of the bi-polar Cold War. There is a strong urgency to craft rules for this new world order -- unfortunately, given America's (otherwise valid) preoccupation with the war on terror, all we sense is anarchy in great power affairs.

Consider just a few recent developments:

Item: India, China oppose US, EU threat of sanctions on Sudan

Item: US neoconservatives condemn EU "appeasement" of Iran

Item: EU resumes trade talks with Iran

Item: India, Iran sign a 25 year, $40 Billion energy deal

Item: China and India wrestle for Iran's oil

Item: Russia seizes Yukos assets

Item: Yukos promises lawsuit in US court on any buyer of "its" assets

Item: ONGC gets nod to bid for Yukos assets

Item: China eyes Yukos assets too

Item: US-backed Yushchenko takes Ukraine presidency

Item: Georgia turns pro-US after its "velvet revolution"

Item: Russia retaliates through defence exports to Syria

The great power game is clearly on -- and as Dorothy said to Toto, we aren't in Kansas anymore. Absent new rules, we have an anarchy -- which is good for India in the short run since it mocks the UN-centered global system where India has no seat. In the long run though, anarchy is bad for business -- how this anarchy is to be quelled with new rules for a realistic global order should be the preoccupation of us all.

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