Would Great Britain be better off if it left the European Union?

The European Union is and remains an experiment in unification. Not a conquest of nations in the classical sense, rather a unification of systems to create one simple system for everyone. The ultimate aim of which is to create a United Europe.

It was born out of the need to harmonise trade between nations in the post-war economies of Europe, but the idea was hijacked by countries like Belgium and the Netherlands and turned into a means of political co-operation between countries which had once been enemies. As the idea augmented itself in a series of treaties (most notably, the Treaty of Rome (1957)) additional political and sociological institutions were created. Trade between countries was legitimised in the creation of the European Economic Community, a sphere of influence which allowed for the free movement of people and goods across the burgeoning number of member states.

A European Parliament was created, made up of directly elected MEP’s. These individuals were elected by the populations of the member states every 5 years. An attempt was made to create a single market to reinforce the European Economic Community, which encountered more issues, issues which were not resolved for many years.

Together with the Economic and Political codes, civilian laws were created. The European Court of human rights was created to protect these laws and legal rights of its citizens by enshrining them in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Over the years, other countries joined the union as its influence increased. The collapse of communism in the east of Europe resulted in a large number of nations finding common cause with the European Union as it embodied many of the rights and responsibilities which had so long been denied them under the yoke of the Communist Soviet Union. These fledgling nations, while still finding their feet have been largely taken under the wing of founding members like Germany and France.

These newly freed Eastern European nations who had suffered under the oppression of the communist party were ill equipped to enter such a union of powers and many struggled in poverty.

The EEC was quick to see this and proposed the creation of the European Economic Area, a twofold system which would replace the existing EEC with a much more powerful European Union and create a single market, allowing for the free trade of goods and services, as was attempted previously.

In the economic life of any business, there are four distinct cycles, Expansion, Boom, Recession and Contraction. The EU had experienced its expansion and was midway through its boom as the twentieth century drew to a close.

Mindful of the potential for economic recession and the need to pursue a more federalised European Union, the EU created the European Monetary Institute, the forerunner to the European Central Bank. The other part of this two pronged federalisation was the creation of the Euro.

A new single currency for the entire European Union, the Euro was rolled out in several stages with referendums being held in the member states of the EU confirm their acceptance. Of these countries, only the UK, Denmark and latterly Sweden refused to adopt the new currency. Historic currencies such as the Deutschemark and the Franc were removed and replaced with the new European Currency.

For a time, this brave new world was successful, but economic union brought with it a very obvious and detrimental problem. The Euro relied on the economies of its member states, economies which would and could be manipulated by opportunistic accountants and governments.

This cooking of the books, is no more obviously illustrated than in the economic recession in Greece in 2008. A weak economy, combined with the onset of the larger global economic crisis, caused a debt crisis in Greece where the country could not be counted on to repay its sovereign debts. This economic distrust caused the government to vastly overspend, become corrupt and it was the population of Greece which suffered. The extent of the creative accounting was only revealed two years later in 2010.

The global economic crisis of 2009, magnified the problems that the EU faced in creating a fiscal union. Many economies in the Euro Zone suffered the same problems as Greece, having to draw on funds directly from the Eurozone Bailout Fund, set up to prop up countries which encountered these problems. The pockets of the Eurozone Bailout Fund, while deep were not infinite and more and more the better performing economies like France, Germany and the UK were called upon to provide more money to fund the failing economies.

One can argue that the global financial crisis has not ended as yet, but with debt levels rising across all the member states of the EU the need for greater austerity has never been more prevalent. The UK especially, as one of the first EU members to emerge from the crisis has been quick to attempt a re-think of its obligations and responsibilities as an EU member.

Enlivened by this need for austerity, political debate in the UK has never been stronger and the European Union remains a central issue to the policies of many political parties.

The UK government mindful of the will of its people has offered to stage a referendum on EU membership in 2017. Attempting to get ahead of the curve, I will now ask the question:

Would Britain be better off if it left the European Union Entirely?

To analyse the effect of such a clean break, we need to consider the practicalities of removing an institution which has loomed large over Britain in the last 30 years, magnified especially in the last 10.

The immediate effect of the removal of the EU from Britain would mostly likely be a devaluation in the value of Sterling. Short term economic uncertainty would devalue a lot of UK based shares but these devaluations will probably only be temporary. The markets and sterling would eventually recover, though damage would be caused to the overall economy.

The removal of the EU does not mean that trade would cease irrevocably, it instead means the removal from the industrial constraints of the EU. Trade would continue albeit in a changed fashion than previously existed.

London, as the chief financial port of Britain would struggle with the withdrawal of foreign investors as the EEA would be substituted for a UK centric sphere of influence. Multinational companies which have bases in the UK would most likely withdraw their offices from the UK or failing that, employ more resources to meet this new import/export market. The extent of multinational company involvement in the UK would seem to push the latter course of action as the most suitable, as the cost of withdrawing from the UK entirely would dwarf any potential expenditure on meeting the new market.

The creation of the new independent financial market would allow the UK to position itself as a competitor to the EU and other countries. This competitiveness may lead to many companies relocating to the UK’s newly attractive economy. A stronger economy would in turn increase the UK spending power in its dealings with the rest of the world.

Additionally, Britain would be free of its financial obligations to the EU, chief among them the EU Budget, which drains over £7 billion from the UK economy and is set to rise in 2015. It would also be able to determine its own agricultural and industrial quotas which would dovetail the economic expansion and cash injections into the economy.

The need to create new institutions to meet this change would not be as necessary in the legal sector because the UK has pre-existing institutions set up to meet the resultant demand from the loss of the EU. The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom would now become the highest court in the land, replacing the European Court of Human Rights.

Additionally, the European Convention on Human Rights would cease to be valid in the UK, prompting a realignment of many institutions which have dealings with the population of the UK such as the police service. A new UK only convention on human rights would have to be drawn up, which would in all likelihood would need to be by existing legal entities in the UK. It would then only be passed into statute by parliament after a referendum of the population.

Speaking of referendums, the hot potato of any UK referendum on EU membership would be Immigration. It is the sole preoccupation of this nation’s press and recently the political parties of the UK. The rise of the UK independence party, which bases most of its manifesto on immigration has shown the other parties that immigration is central to the winning of the next general election.

The European Union, in its provision of the European Economic area prides itself on the free movement of individuals between member states. It is this movement of individuals that has overwhelmed the welfare state, polarising the opinions of UK Citizens and allowing UKIP to gain a foothold where it would previously have been ostracised.

Removal of the UK from the European Economic Area would rid it of the need to accept individuals from those countries. However migrants will always find ways to enter the UK, such as claiming asylum and these ways must be better regulated to ensure that this system is not abused and is used by individuals who actually deserve to be there. This absence would allow the welfare system to sharpen up its act, refining its processes to ensure maximum efficiency with the excess funds being ploughed back into the systems themselves.

Historically, the end of the EU in the UK would be a turning point in world affairs where the old would end and be replaced by something new. This change in direction may prove the start of a perceptual change of how the UK is perceived globally. Alliances would need to be redefined to suit this change, but would this affect the membership of the UK in NATO? Probably not, as this is a mutual co-operation organisation rather than a mutual dependency organisation.

Ironically the biggest political casualty of the UK leaving the EU would be the UK Independence party, which currently holds 24 Members of the European Parliament and only one British Member of Parliament. Its biggest political campaign selling point is leaving the EU, if we left the EU the party would be forced to reinvent itself. Disturbingly, this reinvention could take a more Nationalist turn or alternatively removal of the EU from British politics could destroy it completely.

Parliamentary speech writers in the UK would struggle to write speeches for the remaining political parties without the EU. However, without the EU to serve as scapegoat for many of this countries failings the buck would stop with them and the British people could be less than forgiving.

A thorough examination of the perils and pitfalls of exiting the EU would need to be conducted and is most likely already being conducted at the highest levels of the UK parliament. Contingency plans are already being created should the UK vote positively to leave the EU. Likewise, a negative vote is being considered where the UK would need to pursue a more aggressive approach in its dealings with the EU. We have two years, let’s hope they are ready either way.

So, would leaving the EU be the right thing to do for the UK? Undoubtedly, yes it would. As I said at the start the European Union is an experiment in unification and in any scientific experiment there are failures and side effects. The side effects of conducting this experiment in unification are ultimately causing detriment to its overall validity. Simply put the EU is the cause of its own problems, problems which the UK can ill afford to endure. Going solo, could remove its susceptibility to these issues and herald the beginning of a new era of prosperity for the UK as it strikes out on its own.

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

Would the US pursue a better strategy by pulling out of the Middle East entirely?

The end of World War Two was a watershed moment in US political history, it marked the end of its international isolation which had been the pervading element in US politics since the end of the 1920’s and only was abated when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour. The politics of the Monroe doctrine were rekindled as the need to counter the Soviet threat grew.

The decline and fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990’s led to the resumption of American isolationism. America looked inward, became embroiled in its own internal issues such as the impeachment of Bill Clinton and the bungled US Presidential election in 1999.

As the new century dawned, America was shocked out of its isolationist stance by a new Pearl Harbour, the September 11th Attacks. It was a powerful wake-up call for the Bush administration and shocked the Americans into action. American involvement in international affairs increased, as they were effectively “hit where they live” by a few well placed individuals piloting hijacked planes.

The popular public sentiment at the time was revenge, the desire to hit those who had hurt America so badly. However Al-Qaeda was not of any specific country, Osama Bin Laden was a Saudi Arabian national and Saudi Arabia had a history of good relations with the US going back to the first gulf war.

This all changed, when the link between Al-Qaeda and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan was established in December 2001 and was duly followed by the invasion of Afghanistan by US forces.

The fall of the Taliban should have marked the end of this need to retaliate, but the American public full of the patriotism of winning a war wanted more. The controversial pursuit by the US of definitive proof that Saddam Hussain was manufacturing weapons of mass destruction, despite reasonable evidence that he had no such capability prompted the second Gulf war.

But this time the US had bitten off more than it could chew. Although the war was won in a matter of months the resultant insurgency bogged the US down in the area for a number of years. Public support waivered and then declined dramatically as more and more US servicemen were killed. The second term of George Bush Junior was one belied by lack of progress, both domestically and internationally. Osama Bin laden remained at large, the US economy teetered and then fell into the abyss of recession and Hurricane Katrina rid the US of its stomach for war.

The Obama presidency was supposed to be a brave new dawn, where the mistakes of old were rectified not repeated. The killing of Osama Bin Laden in 2012 was seen as an ending to the aggressive stance of the US with the switch being made to a more peaceful approach. US troops were withdrawn gradually from Iraq and Afghanistan with the onus being on local forces to take up the slack. While the existing structure of Afghanistan did not change, the US disassembling of the Iraqi military created more insurgency, with many of these individuals joining the newly formed Islamic State.

The current crisis in the Middle East, one can argue is a direct result of American destabilisation of the area. Displacement of individuals with military training and those who would have enjoyed a greater position under the previous regime, together with those individuals who exercise an extreme view of Islam have combined forces where they would not have done if the US had not got involved.

Many books have and will continue to be sold on the motivations of the USA in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and its role in the Middle East. I don’t propose to rain on their parade; I’d like to establish an alternative: What if the USA pulled out of the Middle East entirely?

When I say pull out of the Middle East entirely, I mean a complete cessation of all military, diplomatic, economic and industrial involvement in any country located in the area.

The most obvious casualty of this withdrawal would be the standing of the US in the political arena. Withdrawal sounds far too much like retreat, the US would be seen as running away with its tail between its legs. Old adversaries like Russia, North Korea and Iran would cry coward and would not be on their own.

Far too often in politics leaders have pursued a course of action to the bitter end, despite the obvious damage it has caused to their political standing. An example I have already mentioned bears this out: The US pursuit of the Iraq war despite opposition from its allies within the UN. International relations with Germany and France were set back at least 10 years by following this through. On the other side of the coin, a US withdrawal from the Middle East sphere would show that the US is willing to change, willing to embrace new ideas. This may lead to a softening of current perception about the US and its foreign policy.

In addition the US government would improve its standing at home, as withdrawing would enable it to focus on its internal strife and rid itself of the problems that it faces and ultimately may strengthen it. However, this withdrawal may lead to a backlash, as those families who lost loved ones fighting in the wars for Iraq and Afghanistan might wonder what they died for and start to question their leadership.

The US army currently has 21,374 personnel in seven countries across the Middle East at its various military bases. This figure does not include the 28,970 currently stationed in Afghanistan, as most of these are due to return to the US by the end of the year, leaving a small residual force in the country until the end of 2016. The withdrawn personnel could be reallocated to conflicts closer to home, such as assisting the Mexican government in its battles against the cartels or defending the shipping lanes currently under threat from Somali pirates in the horn of Africa.

Ceasing economic intervention in the Middle East would save the US government on average 17.7 billion dollars in foreign aid payments. Money which could be reallocated to solving the US debt crisis, the redevelopment of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, the strengthening of disease management infrastructure, the list goes on. It could also pay these funds to less developed countries than those currently enjoying US aid.

Industrially, the US would lose its guarantees to Middle Eastern oil, which currently comprises two thirds of the worlds overall reserves. These guarantees are mostly bought with a combination of aid and military support which would cease. Although the loss of these guarantees would be a body blow to US industry, it would stem the US overdependence on this resource, allowing monies which would have been spent on oil to be spent on developing fledgling energy sources such as fracking and re-evaluating Nuclear power.

The US need to defend these oil reserves, as articulated during the presidencies of Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter would cease and a new policy would have to evolve to suit.

In any war there are casualties, just as there will be casualties in any US withdrawal from the Middle Eastern theatre. US withdrawal would put the pressure of fighting Islamic State back on the powers currently being helped by the Americans. Would these powers be able to effectively push back IS without US help? Simply put: No. The IS advance into Iraq proves the ineffectualness of their army, the Turkish army is unwilling to aid the coalition because of the coalition’s desire to support its traditional enemies, the Kurdish people. Iran may be drawn into supporting its neighbour, resulting in an expansion of the conflict zone to larger sections of the Middle East.

Countries which have enjoyed US protection, such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait are ill equipped to defend themselves against an aggressor such as IS. The fact that IS is concerning itself solely with Iraq is the only thing stopping the potential attack of these countries.

Already repressive regimes in the area would become more oppressive as a result of the absence of the moderate US, which serves as a check against restrictive and oppressive governments. These regimes could become the breeding ground for a new “Arab Spring” style revolution, which while needed could destabilize the region even further.

The other chief casualty of this withdrawal would be Israel, an aggressive country which has proven itself to be reactionary and volatile on more than one occasion in the recent past. In addition the removal of US financial aid would undermine the Israeli economy, which currently spends 57.5 billion a year on its defence forces. Volatility, combined with the presence of nuclear weapons is a dangerous combination and could lead to Israel’s destruction either by itself or a hostile foreign power. Iran, in the past has made no secret of its desire to destroy Israel as a nation state and the withdrawal of the US from the region could prove the catalyst to war.

So coming back to our original question: Would the US pursue a better strategy by pulling out of the Middle East entirely?

The simple answer is no. The US has been embroiled in the region for far too long is over dependent on its resources, finds opposition in its people and is too invested in the continuation of the current Middle East status quo. Removal of the US from this theatre would yield many practical benefits, however the ideological cost and lasting political, military repercussions on the region from exerting such a stratagem would cancel out any potential benefits.

Why ask the question then? Well the role of the politically minded individual is to question their leaders, the policies they follow and the politics they preach. We must continue to ask these sorts of questions of our leaders, lest we become a totalitarian dictatorship.

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

Is IS actually a fascist organisation?

One cannot look at the current affairs of the world without encountering one very prominent and disturbing organisation: The Islamic State (IS). Its spectre looms large over the Middle East claiming both territory and lives, but if you look further into the organization itself, past the propaganda you start to see the fundamentals of the politics being employed. Questions begin to sprout, one of which I will attempt to answer here.

To effectively examine whether IS is essentially a fascist organization we must look at several key factors the most obvious being their methods and their politics. We can also examine their history to understand their future. The easiest way to confirm this is to compare them against the greatest exponent of the fascist ideal in the last 200 years: The National Socialist Movement in Germany.

The Nazi Party invaded all of the social and political structures of Germany, perverting a great and noble people into the worst cycle of human depravity. No structure was so greatly invaded than the minds of the people of Germany, organisations like the Hitler Youth exploited the young forcing them to accept their ideology from an early age. They also exploited the ordinary working class people of Germany, so humbled by the effects of the great depression using rallies, propaganda and promises of a new future.

IS, while not in possession of a country rather a fluid state employs similar methods to radicalise ordinary Muslims. It uses social media and the internet to broadcast its messages of hate, none more so than the sickening videos of their massacres. Its videos of the vile beheading of westerners like Alan Hemming push the ideology that the western powers can be challenged and they can do nothing about it.

The use of obvious propaganda instruments like social media is supported by its use of subversive propaganda. IS targets vulnerable Islamic youth radicalising them with promises that they are doing what Allah wants them to do. The fact that a lot of these “Jihadi Johns” are springing up in the combat zones is proof that their message is getting through. It is not just male Muslims being targeted, there has been a disturbing rise in “Jihadi brides”, vulnerable women lured to the Middle East as part of a scheme to marry them to IS fighters. The fact that it is now an offence to view a beheading video online under anti-terrorism laws is testament to how seriously the Western powers view IS propaganda.

Religion played a prominent but not obvious part in Nazi ideology, manifesting itself in the myth of the Aryan race and its divine destiny to rule the world. The Nazis perverted pagan mysticism and scripture to suit their ideology and supported this through the use of the aforementioned propaganda rallies and book burnings. Even newer mediums such as film were used as tools for ramming home this belief system, directors like Leni Riefenstahl were indoctrinated into making propaganda films like Victory of Faith.

IS exploits religion in a far more obvious way, using it as a bedrock of their organization. You cannot view a video of IS fighters without encountering references to Allah and the Quran, even though every Muslim organization has denounced them as zealots. The establishment of the Islamic Caliphate has been cloaked in the scriptures and traditions of Sunni Islam. Radicalised clerics have used Islamic texts to legitimize the movements and the massacres.

The core membership of the Nazi party was primarily composed of politicized veterans of the First World War and middle class Germans. Men with experience of combat and higher education than the disaffected individuals that they drew to their cause.

The current leader and Emir of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdad obtained a BA, MA and a PHD in Islamic studies from the University of Baghdad. Many of the core members of IS are former members of Saddam Hussein’s Republican guard, men such as Abu Muslim al-Turkmani and Abu Ali al-Anbari. Both men were dismissed from the guard in 2003 after the American led invasion of Iraq, drifting into radicalization and then open insurrection against Iraq and Syria. Education and military experience has enhanced the effectiveness of IS and its message.

Both organizations have used genocide to expand their spheres of influence. The Nazi’s used eugenics as a cloak for the removal of those they deemed to be inferior like the Jews and homosexuals. IS regularly engages in the genocide of Shia Muslims but does not cloak its activities, in fact it pushes them to the forefront of its propaganda message. In addition the principals of Lebensraum and the Islamic Caliphate are very similar in their intention to unite both Islamic and Germanic peoples.

Moving away from National Socialism, comparing IS to fascism itself provides a good comparison but it ultimately raises more questions than answers. The chief virtues of Fascism like totalitarianism and direct action through violence, together with the fascist view of the roles of Men and Women are in evidence when looking at IS.

Its desire to purge all pervasive and corrupting influences to enable a regeneration also harkens to the Fascist ideal of palingenesis. The idea of sweeping away the old order in favour of the new, or in this case sweeping away those who do not share the IS interpretation of Islam.

However the other chief tenet of Fascism, the nationalist ideal is not in evidence because the IS nation state has not been established as a stable country. There is no certainty if this will take place, not if the nations of the coalition have anything to say about it.

As an observer of this movement, you could argue that once the area is brought entirely under IS control that the green shoots of Nationalism will spring up to complement those fascistic qualities which already exist in IS, but it remains to be seen.

While IS shares many similarities with Fascism, the ultimate judgment as to whether it is or is not will only be borne out by time and in all likelihood not by this generation of political observers.

As members of the politically aware world it is our responsibility to form these judgments and make such comparisons to gauge the principles and motivations of the political organisations involved. In short we must always ask these questions.

Dedicated to LSS: Thanks for the idea and support.

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

Should the “Special Relationship” end?

The “Special Relationship” between the United States and Great Britain has coloured the complexion of both countries international political philosophy for the last 150 years. Indeed over the century it has been difficult to note an incident in international politics where the United States and Great Britain have not been involved as a partnership.

To understand why it should end we should first look at what it offers.

The mutual defence thing is the most obvious thing which springs to mind, our friendship with the US grants us the protection of knowing that should anyone attack us, they will also be attacking the US. It has added weight to Britain’s standing in the world, which has been on the decline since the end of the Second World War. But this sort of relationship goes both ways and co-operation with our friends across the pond has led us to pursue policies of questionable legality and has pushed us into unnecessary and unpopular wars. The UK has blinded itself in making maintaining this relationship its number one priority, it has failed to consider the pitfalls of pursuing such a policy.

A prominent example of this being our entry into the second gulf war which, while largely opposed by the British Parliament was vehemently pursued by Prime Minister Tony Blair to the point where prominent members of parliament were resigning in protest. It also prompted the death of Dr David Kelly under suspicious circumstances.

Ultimately the naysayers were proved right when no evidence of any weapons of mass destruction was found after the invasion but the reputational damage to the UK is still being felt in the political sphere today.

Maintaining the special relationship with the US has led to a rift between the UK and our colleagues in the European Union. Countries which were traditionally our allies, like France and Germany are now more likely to oppose us than support us. It has also led to a breakdown in diplomatic relations between the UK and the Russian Republic, one of the powers most likely to square up to the US in a fight.

Our relationship with the US offers us industrial advantages that would not otherwise be available to Britain on its own. The United States is the UK’s single largest export market buying £57 billion pounds worth of UK goods. Also the UK is the largest direct investor in the United States. British companies have more offices in the US than most of the other countries in the world. But any industrial and fiscal relationship is likely to be a double edged sword, as proven by the crash of 2009-10.  Direct investment by the UK in the US, which at the time was experiencing a sub-prime mortgage crisis due to its own dependence on Chinese money, proved costly and drove the UK into a debt spiral to which it has only recently emerged from.

We cannot mention British industries operating in the US without mentioning the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. This disaster and the subsequent economic and ecological fallout has led to BP being banned from doing any more business with the US government for the immediate future. The special relationship has been tainted, much like the seas around the Gulf of Mexico.

What would ending the special relationship mean for the UK?

The first thing it would mean would be a severe decline in exports and consequently its economy. Current austerity measures being pursued by this government would have to change to accommodate longer timescales to reduce the national deficit. Also British companies would lose their edge over their counterparts in Europe and Asia when dealing with the US. Direct investment in the US could not continue under this and the UK would have to liquidate its assets or sell those investments to a competing world power such as China or Russia. Loans made to the UK by the US would be called in and would have to be paid.

But in any divorce there are always positives, a UK economy which is less dependent on exportation to the US would not suffer when US demand for goods and services decreases, as experienced in an economic recession. UK companies, free of the shackles of co-operation with the US could look for more lucrative opportunities in other foreign markets.

Militarily, the benefits of ceasing our relationship with the US are harder to quantify, indeed the prospect of not having the US to call upon when fighting a war would mean a greater cost in manpower and equipment to the UK. We would lose our protection as it were. But at the same time we would gain the freedom of not having to fight wars that only the US wants to fight.

Seeing this to its logical conclusion if the US is eventually brought down by a competing superpower like Russia or China, its fate would be its own. We would not be tied to them and would be a degree safer.

Clandestine military cooperation between our security services, which has often led to the aforementioned questionable legalities would cease and the surveillance culture which has permeated this over the last 10 years would have to change to suit. The government of the UK can return to the rule of acceptability and accountability, a rule which the US has chosen to ignore when it wants to.

Diplomatically, the UK would enjoy a better relationship with the EU and other world powers as it has often in the past been hamstrung by its work with the US. We could mediate political and economic disputes on our own. Indeed it has the potential to move us into a more positive light with our international colleagues. Perceptually, the UK would be seen as a nation of change, willing to end relationships that do not benefit it. It would grow stronger.

So, after all the issues are considered is it worth it?

It is a tense issue and the benefits of ending the relationship, while easy to see are not certainties. Positives can very easily turn into negatives. In the opinion of this writer, it would take a British politician of great courage and a Britain which is arguably greater than it currently is to undertake such a bold strategy.

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© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

Is a Third World War inevitable?

A former history teacher of mine used to say that something is only inevitable after it has happened. History is a hard teacher and its lessons are some of the most difficult to learn. The more humanity progresses the greater the need to learn from the mistakes of the past as the spectre of extinction appears over us all.

But is it certain to happen?

Since the Second World War, the population of Earth has exploded from 2 billion people to over 7 billion. It is expected to rise exponentially over the next century to 8 billion by 2030, rising as high as 9 billion by 2050. A larger population will require greater room, particularly in the more affluent Western Hemisphere.

Smaller countries could simply be annexed in the rush to house countries growing populations. A consequent increase in tension between neighbouring countries could lead to military conflict.

Nation states could merely cease to exist under the clamour of increased populations. Larger countries could become overpopulated and may need to war to survive.

A population increase such as the one stated above has been countered to some degree by a decrease in global fertility rates across both the developed and developing world. The average number of children a woman is predicted to have has decreased from an average of 5 in 1950 to 2 in 2010 and it is expected to stabilise over the next 40 years.

Population increases run in tandem with the means to destroy, the proliferation of nuclear weapons by some countries has led to arms races between nations as they look to defend themselves. It began with the first great nuclear power, the USA which today has over 7000 nuclear weapons at its disposal. Not to be outdone, the Russian federation has over 8000 nuclear weapons. Countries which used to face the prospect of war with the former Soviet Union like France and Britain have slowed down their nuclear weapon production.

Newer countries like India and Pakistan, engaged in their own arms race have developed nuclear weapons fairly recently and other countries such as Iran and North Korea have moved to acquire or develop nuclear weaponry. The rise of these rogue states (states which ignore international conventions when they want to) has increased the likelihood of brushfire wars, which could lead to wider conflicts.

It would be remiss of me at this stage not to mention the international black market for nuclear weapons, which sprang up mostly because of the demise of the former Soviet Union. The machinery for making Nuclear weapons, fissionable material and other items which could be used to develop untraceable nuclear weapons. Well financed terrorist groups such as IS and Al Qaeda could use these weapons to provoke international tensions to breaking point.

The concept of mutually assured destruction has led many of the nations of the world to move away from nuclear weapons and back to conventional warfare. Although the concept of a winnable nuclear war continues to occupy the world’s top military strategists, the move towards nuclear disarmament cannot be ignored. The only burr in the saddle of this horse is the possibility of a nuclear war with no destruction via the supposedly safe Neutron bomb.

While the political world can fluctuate as often the weather, one thing political nations have always relied on is the availability of natural resources. But what if these disappeared? Of the resources we have we have almost 1000 million tonnes of coal, 1120 billion barrels of oil and 6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. As a species we consume 18 million tonnes of coal a day, 84 million barrels of oil and 104 billion cubic feet of gas. Without doing the sums any layman can see that we consume more than too much. Escalation in things like the price of oil or gas could bankrupt entire countries, leading to internal strife which could be exploited by an external power. There is also the possibility of countries being held to ransom by the oil producing nations of the Middle East.

The dependent countries of the world, however have not sat idly on their hands while their supplies have decreased. Investment in sustainable renewable energy sources like wind farms, solar farms and hydroelectric power has grown exponentially over the last half century. Nuclear power, once demonised by the environmentalists has enjoyed something of a recent resurgence even in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear plant accident. Fracking, although a highly controversial environmental issue could provide a patch until more productive renewable energy resources are discovered.

A globalised ecosystem, such as the one we have on this planet can manifest newer and more unpredictable organisms, none so fierce as the virus. The usage of mass transit systems and technological advances means that a virus moves a thousand times quicker than it could 100 years previously.

Pandemics such as Bird Flu, Sars and the recent Ebola viral outbreak in West Africa while perceived as isolated incidents could have escalated into full blown worldwide disasters. The World Health Organisation is getting better at identifying and containing these pandemic outbreaks but with the increase in the usage of genetic engineering and the possible development of chemical weapons by terrorist groups, how long will it be before something comes along which cannot be managed or countered?

Governments dealing with this new pandemic would struggle under the strain of having to deal with it and maintain the rights of its citizens. The resultant restrictions could breed anarchy, which may allow more extreme factions to take over democratic countries.

As the world becomes more globalised, nations become less and less able to control the influx of economic and social migrants. The concept of the nation state will inevitably become a more redundant concept. Or will it?

Nationhood may enjoy a resurgence in this newly globalised world, as the indigenous populations of those countries most greatly afflicted by immigration express their dissatisfaction with the influx. A desire to return to the “good old days” of national pride will provide fuel to those fires and marginalised groups which extol a more extreme view of democracy could gain a foothold. Religious intolerance and segregation, used by these nationalist parties as their main tools could exacerbate the situation even further.

On the other hand the concept of the nation state may die a quiet death, as the world moves forward in a more integrated phase. Globalisation could unite the world in a more far reaching way than any war could. Borders would become unnecessary, as would the concept of individual nation state armies.

We must at this stage consider the role of the individual in the global system because even an individual can cause massive global change by one single act. As long as acts like this can be thought of they will continue to be perpetrated.  Individuals like Mohammed Atta, Timothy McVeigh and latterly Edward Snowden have changed the world with such acts.

Gavrilo Princip changed the world forever with a grenade and a couple of well placed bullets. An individual such as this, assassinating a key individual such as the President of the United States could start a chain reaction of events that would lead inexorably to war. If the individual perpetrating the act was Russian for the purposes of this example, then already strained relationships may break. All it takes is one man with an idea.

Likewise, a man with an idea could change the world more positively. Gandhi changed the destiny of one billion people with his ideas of non violent action. Imagine what a similarly minded individual could do to the destiny of a planet.

So, coming back to our initial question: Is a Third World War inevitable?

To say that this is inevitable is ultimately a fallacy and ignores the motivations and prejudices of the peoples of the world. In the final analysis, there are as much catalysts for change as there are participants. It all comes down to one simple thing: Are we prepared to let it occur?

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© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.