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Belmont Club

The New World

February 28th, 2012 - 2:25 pm

Those who can read Catalan or Spanish may wish to browse the website Els Nous Pobres to get a glimpse into the future of post-welfare Europe. The AP calls these newly poor Spaniards, “The Lost Generation”.

It’s a devastating picture of blighted youth that threatens to distort Spain’s social fabric for years to come, dooming dreams, straining family structures and eroding the well-being of a rapidly aging population.

“This puts the whole welfare state at risk,” said Gayle Allard, a labor market specialist at Madrid’s IE Business School. “The young people who are coming on the market now are the lost generation. They are losing the advantage of their youth and energy and that does not come back.”

The other word for it would be “a perfect storm”, the confluence of the bankruptcy of the welfare state, demographic collapse and globalization.  Senor Allard is only half right. Youth flees never to return. The same may be said of the European Welfare State.

It’s too late for a lot of things. The Washington Times quotes experts who say it is no longer possible to stop Iran from going nuclear, even if their facilities were bombed.

Destroying nuclear facilities in a military strike does not “uninvent” the technology, retired Marine CorpsGen. James Cartwright said Monday in an interview. “The intellectual capital still exists.

Spengler bitterly complains that this may be exactly what the administration wanted all along, in the fulfillment of their youthful fantasies. But whether the administration did or didn’t want something hardly seems to matter.  Their incompetence has largely offset their fecklessness.  They are the players who forgot to bring the ammunition.  So the region is riding its own train to perdition at breakneck speed.

The reality that presents itself in the Middle East — the breakdown and inevitable depopulation of the Arab world — is something that the White House cannot wrap its mind around. McBama and his three witches — Samantha Power, Valerie Jarrett, and Michelle — have hard-core sympathies for the oppressed peoples of the Third World. Obama spent four of his formative years in Indonesia, with a mother dedicated to defending the locals against globalization, while Jarrett was born and raised in Iran; as for Michelle, well, read her senior thesis at Princeton. They will never, never bring down Iran, because they would rather hold their breath until they drop dead than ruin a Third World nation.

The era of the fantasies is coming to a close. The Washington Post reports a ‘secret cable’ “warning that the persistence of enemy havens in Pakistan was placing the success of the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan in jeopardy, U.S. officials said.”

The cable, written by Ryan C. Crocker, amounted to an admission that years of U.S. efforts to curtail insurgent activity in Pakistan by the lethal Haqqani network, a key Taliban ally, were failing. Because of the intended secrecy of that message, Crocker sent it through CIA channels rather than the usual State Department ones.

Which really implies the question: if a US ambassador can’t trust the State Department why should you? Moreover, if such an obvious conclusion has to be classified as secret — and then leaked to the Washington Post — on what planet is official Washington?

Another ambassador, a former official who served in the Reagan era argues that President Obama has given back, piece by little piece, the gains of the Cold War. A new authoritarian Russia is rising up, one that is consistently opposing US interests across the globe.

But so what?  Who really cares? Valerie Jarrett? The old context in which warnings served a purpose may be gone; it is as if there is no one left to heed them. From the musings of Europe’s New Poor, to Spengler’s fulminations and the Washington Post’s salute to Captain Obvious runs a single thread: resignation. It’s too late.

The current system is in the terminal homing phase and only the bang is awaited; the world has run out of road down which to kick the can and still they keep kicking.

However it is when things completely fall apart that new things start to happen. One of the most interesting historical examples of a reset was the evacuation at Dunkirk. On those beaches lay, not just the flotsam of the BEF, but the entire edifice of interwar years; its military doctrines; the primacy of the Anglo-French alliance; the power of France, the British Empire itself. A thoughtful person contemplating the wreckage might have seen in it the Fall of Singapore and the end of France’s overseas empire.

The crisis now engulfing the Western world shares nothing with that long ago era except the structure of the problem. In both the old world is beyond help; in both a new world is being born. But what will that new world be like? Which historian, walking through the miles of wreckage left by the BEF could have seen in it the post World War 2 world? Which  analyst, scanning the numbing headlines could do the same for the present era?

Probably no one could see the new world coming in 1940 because one more thing was lacking. In the period between the collapse of an era but before the birth of a new one comes a peculiar phase which Winston Churchill called The Hinge of Fate.  It is a curious, shockingly rapid period. Before the Hinge things run predominantly in one direction and afterwards they run entirely in another.

The current crisis has not yet reached the Hinge, but the sands are slowly shifting for those with a mind to notice them. After the Fall of France the British War cabinet decided to strip the Middle East of troops for the defense of the homeland. Empire was cast away in a moment in the need for self-preservation, through in May, 1940, the cabinet hardly had the time to see things in those terms.

The need for Europeans to survive, to buy gas, keep from freezing in the winter, etc. are likely to result in the death of the Welfare State. The political institutions may imagine, like the British War Cabinet, that the Empire would be re-established after the “German War” was over, but in reality the step was irrevocable.  The Welfare State is gone, or soon will be and any steps to prolong it will simply result in economic Dien Bien Phus.

Perhaps next on the pyre is the Primacy of the West. Already the goals of West in the Middle East, vis-a-vis China and even Russia are being reshaped by new realities. The changes sweeping the world are not so much a retreat as a loss of certitude. The strongmen of the Middle East are falling as fast the European economy and as precipitously as the strength of the dollar. The curious thing about the new collapse is that relative to the decline of everyone else the United States may actually be gaining in relative potential power; but it is a power held in check by its own institutional dysfunction.

What comes next perhaps is the primacy of the new West, where the boundaries are not drawn from Europe through to the American West coast, but from the American East Coast to the Western Pacific.

My guess is that at the point of the Hinge, the key question will be whether and how far the United States has fixed itself. Whether America can renew itself in time to meet that oncoming challenge will make all the difference between whether the crisis has a soft landing or rages into an uncontrollable conflagration.


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