Welcome to the era of non-state actors. Neither China nor Russia will dominate the post-American world.
Welcome to the age of non-state actors, is the title of an article by Janan Ganesh in the Financial Times, likely to raise concerns about the future.
It was the era of non-state actors. Sunak has demeaned the position he holds
“From now on we can no longer hope that it was a remarkable forgery [„deepfake”] generated by artificial intelligence. Rishi Sunak even interviewed Elon Musk on stage in the fall. I repeat: a sitting head of government assumed a lower role than a businessman at a public event. As penetrating and philosophical as his questions were (“What particularly piques your interest?”), Sunak demeaned the position he held.
On the other hand, he was doing nothing but going in the same direction as the whole world. Musk is a mostly harmless example illustrating a more general trend: the hemorrhaging of power that the state is suffering. Few governments have a space program as large as his. He also tipped the balance of the war in Ukraine via the Starlink satellite network.
The dark side of this phenomenon can be seen in the Middle East. Neither Hamas nor the Houthis are states. But one of them has upset the political life of the entire region, and the other intermittently strangles world trade itself.
The era of non-state security actors
And whoever the entity that killed three American soldiers in Jordan over the weekend was not a sovereign power either, even if it is backed by one, Iran, itself engaged in gunfire with a Sunni paramilitary force in Pakistan.
Four months ago the US was hoping that it would be able to get the Middle East off the list of priorities. And now he is feverishly seeking to ensure that no terrorist there turns out to be this century’s Gavrilo Princip: the provocateur of a larger war.
Based on the current evidence, it can be said that the winner of the post-American world is not China. It is the non-state actor. Whether it is good, bad or difficult to determine, non-state actors do very well when no state is strong enough to rule the planet or even control the regional picture.
A “non-polar” world
The US now accounts for about a quarter of theoretical world GDP. China is just a little below, and so is the EU, insofar as we can afford to treat it as a whole. It must be said, before reaching for the writings of Antonio Gramsci [filozof italian marxist din perioada fascistă – n.trad.]that we are not even in an “intermediate period” in which “the old dies and the new cannot be born”.
The “new” world order should be even more fragmented, not less, assuming India joins the heavyweight economies at some point. To describe the distribution of power as “multipolar” seems more outdated than ever. It’s a “non-polar” world.
The Middle East is not a unique case in all this chaos. (Actually, given that the region’s non-state actors are more like puppets of the various governments, events are being influenced in a subversive manner.) Ecuador, once a model of order for its own region, is now overrun by gangs. drug traffickers. The Sahel is now so full of jihadists and other non-religious thugs that France – not exactly known for timidity in relation to its former colonies – has given up on a lengthy military operation to stabilize the region. At the southern borders of Europe and America, illegal immigration has taken a large scale.
According to the Red Cross, the number of “armed groups raising humanitarian concerns” worldwide has refused to drop below 450 over the past five years. Some 195 million people live – sedentary or not – under the control of such informal armed forces.
The new dirigisme in once liberal economies
And remember that we should now be experiencing a period of state recovery. The big political news of the last decade—Brexit, Donald Trump, Xi Jinping—suggested a global trend toward an emphasis on sovereignty after decades of laxity. The trend was only partially confirmed. There is now a new dirigisme in once liberal economies.
But if some states consolidate within their own borders (because others, from Yemen to crime-ridden Sweden, do not), they are less and less able to help other countries. No one has enough influence anymore, even in combination with allies. The result is an ungoverned space.
For millennia, economic growth was minimal, if not absent. Then, towards the end of the 18th century, it exploded. What happened? Industrialization, yes, but also the modern state, which transformed diverse lands into integrated markets and ensured order, within which trade can take place. The state, if we define it as the entity that holds a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence in a given area, joins agriculture and electricity as the most important inventions of our species. And if it gives enough room for the emergence of sub-state, non-state and anti-state forces, then the consequences for a large part of humanity will be dire.
The question is whether those who hail the end of the American order will now realize what it has always been: a kind of global public service. Iran? Unlikely. And neither is Russia, which a spy once told me considers “a lose-lose situation for her.” But there is also a resentful but not necessarily hostile camp, and the countries in it will be finding the decentralized world more attractive as an idea rather than as a reality.”
Translation: Andrei Suba/RADOR RADIO ROMANIA/asuba/cciulu