The “Oh-Oh’s” — “Zero” — years seemed to end almost in the manner they began.
- The great powers, who thought they somehow ruled something, encountered unforeseen players capable of reshuffling all the cards.
- At the dawn of the decade, the transnational terrorist network loudly declared itself, striking at the heart of the contemporary West in the fall of 2001.
- In 2010, an enigmatic computer genius “wiki-ed” out of nowhere to rearrange the global deck of cards.
The damage both of these mysterious forces inflicted, though, was smaller than that imposed from the reaction by nation-states.
- The “crusade against terrorism” declared by the United States after September 11 disarranged international politics, distressed the global system, and delegitimized the pretensions to global leadership of the sole superpower.
- Later, the campaign that followed WikiLeaks’ disclosures exacerbated international frustration, transformed diplomacy into an object of tabloid journalism, and now threatens to undermine America’s moral authority more than the leaks themselves.
“The oh-ohs” were a time of lost illusions.
- The euphoria enveloping the developed portion of humanity at the end of the Cold War and the Nineties quickly evaporated. The world of the 21st century is no more secure or stable than in the previous century — with its…
- wars (both justified and illegally preemptive),
- acts of genocide (in formerly soviet european states as well as in brutish third-world nations), and
- nuclear confrontation (involving new and less stable actor states of Korea, Pakistan, and Iran).
In fact, now things are even less predictable.
- Accepted rules are being erased,
- previously productive institutions are eroding, and
- substantive policy is being replaced by political technicalities.
The atmosphere around the world is like a gigantic magnifying glass through which everything appears larger, and where accepted laws of interaction are distorted under the influence of unforeseen circumstances.
- Intergovernmental relations shed their motivating ideals, returning to more traditional motivating principles — the struggle for influence and prestige. The vacuum of lost ideals has been filled by the growth of nationalist and religious feeling, first of all in the third world, but as a reaction, in the “first” world as well.
- The vaunted Free Market, which seemed like an axiom in the late 90s, retreated by the end of the “Oh-Oh’s” under pressure of failure and blight and then from the corrective growth of state intervention in the economy and a revival of protectionist instincts.
- Surprisingly, though, the ideals of democracy have not only been discredited through their “promotion” by force during the middle of the decade, even while having also been placed in doubt by the spectacular rise of a very undemocratic China, which — it seems — came out of the global financial crisis the winner.
- Oddly, then, Capitalism had its teeth kicked in throughout liberal democratized capitalist states only to succeed most abundantly in totalitarian and undemocratic China, to whom the rest of the world’s smoldering national debt payments shall now be made.
- The North Atlantic Alliance (NATO) undertook a massive expansion after the iron curtain collapsed of its own weight, but then lost its aim and mission.
- The great experiment called the European Union reached its zenith, having made a breakthrough in expansion with eager new members while simultaneously deepening integration.
- The result, though, seems to be increasing developmental imbalance and the weakening of its global role in direct proportion to immersion in its own internal problems.
- Russia zealously enforced tighter domestic controls to ensure centralized, top-down management — consisting of an ineffective apparatus that fails to carry out its proper role and leaves the mighty Russia dependent on others’ dependance on its raw oil and gas resources.
“The Oh-Oh’s” were a time of victories that soon turned pyrrhic — won at too great a cost to have been worthwhile for the victor:
- The easy occupation of Iraq (“Mission Accomplished”) was followed by years of chaos, the results of which are uncertain.
- Tehran has already been declared the winner in Iraq, having rid itself of its arch enemy through the force of American arms.
- The quick toppling of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan turned into a hopeless, multi-year quagmire for America and NATO.
- It would be difficult to prove the impotence of force more convincingly: The mightiest military power in history is incapable of conquering one of the most backward nations.
- Military victories in Chechnya, where Russia defended its integrity, led to the emergence of a territory practically ungovernable for Moscow, and which is having a growing impact on the rest of the country.
- Russia’s success in defending its compatriots in South Ossetia (Georgia) has led to a long chain of foreign policy difficulties and a gaping drain through which money floods out, all for the sake of a permanent “restoration” of a newly-created artificial state.
- While the Russian government is ready to fight to keep autonomous Georgia’s “South Ossetia” under its influence, Russia’s citizens are prepared to keep these “aliens” from becoming fellow countrymen.
At the end of the Nineties, no one could foresee what is occurring today. And so it is meaningless to attempt to predict what things will be like ten years hence. The world continues its motion from the irrevocable past to the indeterminate future.