European Union ministers in Luxembourg 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Francois Lenoir )
It often happens that the greatest changes are least felt. In recent years the
world has been experiencing such a change – a shift of influence from the
traditional powers that be – the United States, Western Europe and Russia – to
new centers of influence.
Similar to the flow of capital after World War
I, which eventually established the US as the world’s leading economic force,
the world is today going through a transition of seismic
Power is moving away from the US, (formerly Great) Britain,
France and Russia – all countries that owe their greatness to the post-World War
II division of the globe, to new countries: China, India, Iran and Turkey – all
of which were born as the era of colonialism reached its end.
countries grow in strength (economic, technological and nuclear), they are also fueled by a will to power and an urge for national expression that the older
countries lost along the way.
This is a very interesting development.
When does a country cease being great? Is it when it becomes militarily weaker,
or rather when something inside it, something deep and fundamental, is
irreparably broken? Is it fatigue, loss of confidence, or perhaps a sort of
withdrawal into national egoism?
In the US, the Obama administration is showing
the first signs of pulling back from the superpower status that America held
since the end of World War II, but any Republican administration that follows
can only accelerate such a process. A Republican administration will create a
“new and improved” version of isolationism, and will gradually pull away from
global commitments with the justification of needing to mend the economy; such
an administration may even pull out of NATO and shut down many US Army bases
abroad. America will fold into itself, and when this happens, it will stop being
a superpower, regardless of its territorial vastness.
LITTLE NEEDS to be
said about historical European powerhouses. Some, like Britain, have come to
accept the situation. Others, like Russia and France, are waging a losing
battle, while Germany, traumatized by its past, has deliberately given up such
ambitions. After the long period of European peace and prosperity, the continent
is today searching for paths to the rest of the world. Its grand history cannot
substitute for feeble national will. Economic and demographic issues, coping
with immigration by non-Europeans, and a foolish quest for a high quality of
life at the lowest possible sacrifice all combine to create a sure recipe for
slow but constant decline.
Into this vacuum new superpowers entered, one
could even say crept. Hand in hand with young vibrant economies, readily copying
ideas and behaviors of the Old World, appeared national ambition, dreams of
greatness and a thirst for might that give the young superpowers a momentum the
old have all but lost.
Iran, for example, as a rising Middle Eastern
power, sneers at sanctions and condemnation, and seeks to establish a third
Persian empire, in Islamic garb this time around.
The new Turkey (of
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, not Ataturk) also aspires to be a neo-Ottoman empire of
The characterizing model for these new superpowers is that they
are liberated from the shackles of Cold War ideology, and combine dreams
stemming from historical heritage with expressions of modern power: advanced
technology and nuclear prowess. This is essentially a new type of nationalism
and division of the world which is very reminiscent of the division of Europe
The treaties signed for the purpose of fighting the Cold War
have lost their meanings. Any new alliances will be forged out of interest, free
from ideological affinities. China can do business with Iran despite the
ideological gaps between the two.
THE GLOBAL game will become a balance
of power between camps comprised of countries with dissimilar regimes and
As the world changes, a new reality is born, and Israel
needs to recognize this. The US may no longer be the main actor, and perhaps not
even have an important role. It may pledge commitment to the diplomatic process
and vouch for Israel’s security, but Israel must acknowledge that beyond mere
words there will be less and less action.
The great question is whether
Israelis are prepared for this, at least conceptually. Change should not be
feared; it’s the natural course of things. Herzl taught the Jews that a
Jewish state is a necessity for the entire world, and therefore will always find
allies interested in its survival. But for this, one must shake off old
concepts, think dynamically, and not set in stone that enemies will always be
enemies and friends will always be friends; and mainly, not to fear the
new.The writer is a poet and historian. His seventeenth book,
Dew, is due to be published this month.