What strikes me in looking back on 2007 are the fundamental geo-political trends that emerged more clearly in view. These forces are to me natural; they embody potentials and demands deep within natural and human reality; they are to be ignored at our peril for they will not go away.
Some are new and some are re-emerging, shaking off past constraints and containments.
We saw an acceleration of the break-up of the 19th century international order of nation states.
The European Union is becoming a new force in history, larger and more powerful than any previous integration of European peoples under the Romans, Charlemagne, Napoleon or Hitler. The effective presence of the EU is embodied in its single currency the Euro, which by the end of the year was worth more than the US dollar.
Tribalism returned in Kosovo, Iraq with rival Sunni, Shi’a and Kurdish zones of control, the fragmentation of Somalia, regionalism in Georgia, the division of the Palestinians into two rival zones of control, breakdown in Lebanon, presidential rivalries in Kenya, the success of Scottish nationalists – even perhaps the political division of the United States into Red and Blue states, mimicking the old division between Union and Confederacy during the Civil War. Thinking in terms of tribal rivalries provides a compelling explanation of the unremitting tension between
Religious fundamentalism within Islam is also a kind of tribalism where loyalty is to the brotherhood, the band, the sect and not to wider, more inclusive, pluralistic communities.
Convergence around cultures, ethnic identities, religions rather than citizenship in 19th century states and empires is the predominant driver of politics.
In its own way, economic globalization and the continual expansion of a single, integrated financial system is taking power away from political elites administering national state structures. The world’s financial centers are nodes in one network, doing business 24 hours a day.
To make the point, Islamic banking, once seen as sectarian and inappropriate for the rational pursuit of profit, is being absorbed into the world’s financial system.
The decline of the dollar is another marker of a changing global order. The
This past year saw the end of the Bush/Blair/Howard imperial attempt to impose a political order in
Oddly, last year saw the definitive rise of
The parallel rise of
Overriding all the ups and downs of elite politics was global warming. Great natural forces heating up the climate. Under the specter of climate change, worries about political order and who’s on first base seem trivial.