“I see skies of blue/And clouds of White/The bright blessed day/The dark sacred night/And I think to myself/What a wonderful world.” That was the predominant mood when the short twentieth century ended in 1989. And then the 21st century “came marching in like lions” at 9/11.
The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, notwithstanding the intentions failed or achieved, set the tone for what was to come. I am not going to get into a detailed chronology as I do not possess sufficient intellectual fire power to tackle that. Furthermore, I stand here in Turkey: While trying locate myself chronologically, both based on my reading of history and events as well as based on my lifetime experience in places like Algiers (’95-’97), Baghdad (’03-’06) and Erbil (’10-’13) et al. I also locate myself now and here. On this peninsula protruding towards the Mediterranean.
Ergo, fast forward to our time and day. And drawing lessons from what just happened in six weeks in Karabakh. It took apparently just a few Made in Turkey UCAVs, some Turkish Air Force officers, some more made in Israel loitering munition/kamikaze drones and a couple of hundreds of millions of USD in few years to wipe out Armenia’s defence forces in six weeks’ time. To be honest I couldn’t quite fathom till today the use and purpose of 2000 Syrian mercenaries as we didn’t see any activity from them on the ground except being an unnecessary irritant to Moscow but that’s another issue.
There will be repercussions in Turkey’s domestic politics as this clear win will turn up to be a much needed shot up in the arm of Erdoğan. In Armenia, there is already turmoil and coup and assassination attempts galore. Russia is back in the Southern Caucasus and Armenia is firmly back under the arms of Russia. Turkey gets connected to mainland Azerbaijan and on to Russia and Central Asia. Experts too are already busy studying the use of UCAVs in warfare.
This new episode appears to be a follow up to the third kick-off of the 21st century following 9/11 and 2003 Iraq which is the rather swift annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014. The self-appointed knights of an assumed rules based international order, namely the EU and the U.S. are the big absentee actors in this third act beyond going through the motions of toothless sanctions. While the former was busy fending off a new wave of refugees while bending over to Turkey, the latter was mesmerized doing some serious navel gazing.
Let’s gain some height now and have a quick look around. Can it be a mere coincidence that right after “Karabakh”, Morocco made a move towards Western Sahara? How about Tigray region’s independence bid from Ethiopia even though a historic peace deal was concluded with Eritrea in 2018 following a two decades long frozen war? Would anyone be surprised if Somaliland broke full and square from Somali proper?
What to do with the gray jihadi zone in the middle of Sahara bedevilling the French armed forces? Can anyone predict a stable future for over 200M strong Nigeria which is home world’s fifth Muslim and sixth largest Christian populations? The Anglophone minority in Cameroon, anyone? Elections results in Côte d’Ivoire with a Muslim North and a Christian South?
Bizonal, bicommunal solution leaving the scene for a two-states solution in Cyprus. A no-deal Brexit. Civil strife in the streets of the US -the oldest democracy of our world following an election, results of which are “contested” by none other than the incumbent president himself in the US. France’s problems with its’ brand of “laicité” its own universality claim of its republican values and France being host to much bigger Muslim population than even the US.
Crowds reaching up to a million every weekend no matter what and all the more so after nothing but 26 years of dictatorship in Belarus. Hundreds of thousands of people in the streets of Thailand demanding reform of monarchy and getting rid of the “lese-majésté” law. Tiny Hong Kong still managing to smartly and gingerly standing up to the behemoth of China. India cutting the branch its giant democracy sits on while fidgeting with its secular character. A potential for the implosion of Iran, USSR style. Iraq-IKR budget flare-up. Turkey building up muscle in northern Iraq to finish off the PKK –LTTE style and in Syria with no intention to relinquish even an inch of territory it controls currently.
The villains of various colours of our world too would be taking note. There was initially the dirty-bomb or the mini nukes that fit into a suitcase scare, and then the MANPADS falling into the wrong hands scare. 9/11 blew all our heads off. Now, how about UCAVs and/or kamikaze drones falling into the same wrong hands scare? What would the praetorian guard of western intelligence services be advising to their political masters: To establish better cooperation with the autocrats of the Middle East seen as guarantors of stability and security?
Add to the mix mega social problems knocking already on our doors by de-industrialization, climate change and income inequality still deteriorating to never before witnessed levels as the top one per cent pulls well ahead of all the rest in global terms. According to “megahistorian” Peter Turchin (eloquently told by Graeme Wood in The Atlantic's Dec.2020 issue) following the years 1870, 1920 and 1970 now fifty years on in 2020 the U.S. is in to its violence cycle.
Can you imagine what sort of a decade the COVID-19 pandemic opened before our eyes? I would humbly suggest that due to adverse weather conditions not at this altitude but at this point in time to get our seats to an upright position and fasten our seat belts but first and foremost, to get our sorry acts together, here, there, everywhere.