by Alastair Crooke
© Photo: Wikimedia
We are led to understand that the unipolar 'moment' of U.S.
ascendency is giving way - grudgingly - to a multipolar world:
a reversion perhaps
to a more nineteenth century 'concert' of powers (or, of
significant 'poles' - since size is not always the prime
Trump is trying simply to
prolong that hegemonic, U.S. moment - albeit through different
means, which is to say, adopting seemingly bizarre, and sometimes
counterproductive, acts and language, that infuriate the American
foreign policy establishment.
But is this view right? Maybe - Trump is more of a crab...
Maybe he needs to proceed
towards his ends, crab-like, rather than full-steam straight-ahead,
precisely because he is subject to such concerted political attack.
Some in Russia think the very notion of America 'First' carries 'in
its belly' the implication of a letting-go of the
globalist 'Empire' project, and a
return to focus on the internal American situation, and the
challenges which the U.S. faces internally (i.e. a return to the
type of non-interventionist conservatism which Pat Buchanan
represented, but which the U.S. neo-cons loathed, and set out
utterly to destroy precisely - because it foreclosed on 'empire').
In practical terms,
Obama can be viewed, as some in
Moscow suggest, as the Gorbachev of the American regime,
(i.e. the man who began the retrenchment out from certain of the
Empire's more extended nodes).
And Trump then, in this
analogy, is the Yeltsin of this regime:
i.e. the president
who has re-focused on the internal arena, and on reducing the
burdens of the republics that used to constitute parts of the
retrenchment-and-rebuild-at-home shift is hard. And it did not turn
out well for Russia.
The motives for Trump's focus on China as a hostile challenger
It serves the need of
having a simple popular narrative to account for America's
relative decline (it is all China's fault - stealing 'our' jobs
and our intellectual property, etc., etc...)
It provides too, an
unequivocal enemy that culturally threatens 'our' way of life - and
it offers a solution:
'We shall take back
But what may not be so
clear is whether Trump is actually so opposed to the notion (in
principle) of a concert of powers.
Though bearing in mind
the neo-con and liberal interventionist rage at Pat Buchanan's
earlier policy inwardness (and skepticism of intervention), it might
be unwise of Trump to admit to such inclinations - even were he to
Hence, the crab-like
sideways motion towards its destination.
Is then Trump's
outreach toward Russia (whilst China is demonized), simply a
Mackinder-ish attempt to divide Russia and China from each
other, in order for Trump to be able to triangulate his
interests between a (separated) China and Russia - and which
therefore is integral to a continuing U.S. hegemonic project -
or is it not?
Or, does it have
It is, after all, pretty
obvious that such a divide-and-rule ruse will never work, so long as
the close personal relationship between Presidents
Putin, holds good.
Both leaders understand
triangulation, and both view the 'concert' of poles initiative - as
an existential requirement for their states.
Or, is Trump's
continuous effort at outreach to Russia somehow connected to his
understanding of how the U.S. might quietly transition from a
moment of overextended empire - to something smaller, within a
Why might Trump want - even indirectly and covertly - to
encourage such transition?
Well, if you were hoping
to exit one of empire's more troublesome nodes, you do not want
immediately to be pulled right back-in, through another war, just as
you start to pack your bags - the Middle East is one very obvious
And by escalating against Iran, Trump both appeals to the globalist
'realpolitik' component of
the Deep State, and to those
liberals who support interventions under the 'moral high ground'
banner, but who implicitly also seek to consolidate
Are Trump's tactics -
berating Iran at every opportunity - somehow an effort at
neutralizing the globalists (mindful of Pat Buchanan's fate)?
Trump knows at bottom
that his core electoral base is isolationist, and wants an end to
He campaigned precisely
on this pledge. Is the 'maximum pressure', and threats of war, then
precisely meant to substitute for actual war?
Whilst, at the same time,
appeasing Israel, by effectively taking negotiations with Iran 'off
the table' (i.e. by undoing Obama's having putting rapprochement on
the table - thus unsettling the sense of security of Israel and the
Iran seems to think so:
both Iranian and
Hezbollah leaders have asserted rather emphatically that Iran
tensions will not result in war.
In such a play, Russia
plays a key role:
It tries somehow to
'balance' between Iran and Israel (at least for now).
Is not this exactly how a
concert of powers is supposed to work?
So when we speak of Trump's geo-political 'strategy', we mean the
meshed strategy of retaining key electoral bases of support:
firstly, of the
deplorables, of course, but also
AIPAC and the
Evangelicals (25% of the
electorate claim to be Evangelical, and who are attached to
a literal, eschatological view of a Greater Israel,
in the context of Redemption)
weakening the internal currents in overseas states which
support globalism and seek closer relations with the U.S...
strengthens the sides who not want strong relations with America,
and by extension, have a clear interest in a multipolar world.
Wherever you look around the globe, America's policies have
strengthened the sovereigntists:
i.e. Iran, Russia and
Is this simply
paradoxical - or deliberate...?
As one Russian thinker
tendencies and his deep isolationist predisposition, are placing
him in the position of being an objective ally of ours (i.e.
Russia and China).
One who is
facilitating the realization of our project."
Is this Iran's
Possibly, but in any
event, were it to be so, it would fit well with Iran's geo-strategy.
It would not demand of Iran its compliance with the regional status
quo (which it would never agree to).
The seven year Iran-Iraq war had left the revolution intact, but the
This war however, taught
the Iranian leadership the imperative of preventing another
head-to-head conventional war - and instead, to prepare its forces
for a new-generation unconventional conflict - mounted 'far away'
from the homeland, and calibrated carefully, precisely to avoid
going head-to-head with a state... or its people, if possible.
And just as the U.S. Evangelicals see the coming into being of
Greater Israel as an 'eschatological necessity', so the
founders of the Islamic Republic embraced an eschatology (the
Jafari School, named after the Sixth Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq),
which names Jerusalem as central to the return of the Mahdi,
and to the establishment of Islamic government throughout the world
- as promised by the Prophet Mohammed...
According to both Sunni
and Shia prophecies, the army foreordained to conquer Jerusalem is
to be comprised mostly, but not exclusively, of people from the
region of Iran, with Iranians having a great and important role in
We have almost exact
opposite symmetry between the Hebraic and Islamic eschatologies...
A role for Russia as
maintaining the 'balance' then, is not surprising.
This may be how a concert
of powers is supposed to work.
But will it?
Or will it end as
disastrously as Yeltsin's effort, with the collapse of
the U.S. economy?
The shift from a unipolar
'order' to a concert of poles (in which Iran, Turkey and India may
be expected to feature) is a complicated exercise.
Much of the Iranian
leadership (though perhaps not President Rouhani), may - in
principle - think it an excellent idea, were the U.S. to take a turn
inwards, and go away.
But this sentiment is
definitely not reflected in Israel.
In spite of all the unilateral Trump 'gifts' to Israel (Jerusalem as
capital, Golan as Israel, the settlements as not illegal, etc.),
Israel is feeling an existential fear
Thus, it is an
exceedingly fragile - and indeed increasingly improbable balance -
that Trump is trying to mount (with President Putin's tacit
It may well collapse - and with it, Trump's hope for 'clean' exit:
leaving the Middle
East to stew on its own.
And, as a final
Is this somewhat
similar to what has been going on between Trump and Xi (i.e. a
play analogous to that with Iran)?
Is Trump ramping up
the max-pressures, and threats of Cold War against China, to
substitute for the military war that some of his deep state
might love him to fight, but which Trump has no intention of
Is there some tacit understanding that China collaborates in
Trump's blowing of the stock market bubble in the U.S. (China
plays well its part in Trump's market manipulation - with a
trade deal always 'almost there'), as Trump, in his turn, tries
to keeps Hong Kong 'off the table'?
All good 'concert of
power' type trades?
And is the U.S. Congress - with its bill from both 'Houses'
aimed at putting Hong Kong right back 'on the table' - intent,
with this bill, on destroying Trump's implicit collaboration in
the creation of a multipolar order?