Up ahead: Exciting but troubling times


    SOON,” Martin Jacques told me when we were having coffee waiting for his live appearance on Headstart@ANC, “Scotland will opt out of Great Britain. And since Great Britain is England, Scotland and Wales, it will be great no more.

    “Then”, he added, “Northern Ireland will join the Irish Republic. Which would mean the end to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.”

    It’s part of the process of the disintegration of an empire that once spanned the world and boasted that “the sun never sets on the English throne.”

    It’s long set, apparently, but many in the United Kingdom have found it hard to accept the reality.

    As it is with the UK, so it has been with the USSR. A more complex “empire” that spread from Asia to Europe, the Soviet republics were a mixture of independent minded people held together by fear of Soviet military muscle, and of other nationalities who felt they would be nothing outside of Moscow’s orbit. But in 1989, that world crumbled, and once independent republics became independent again, leaving Russia on its own just as it was prior to the ascendancy of the Communist movement. And not only did the USSR disintegrate, so did other federations of mini-republics such as Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia; once the glue that held them together melted away, so did the ties that bound nationalities with others.

    With the disintegration came the scourge of war.

    And, as the UK struggles with Brexit, it is not going to be a surprise if others follow suit sooner or later. There are many options anyway – to go back to being on your own as the Brexiteers want the UK to do, or maybe to join a new association of states, perhaps under the auspices of China and held together by its Belt and Road Initiative and its Infrastructure and investment Bank.

    Whatever option is taken it does seem that the global order that the United States and its closest allies were able to piece together following the end of World War 2 is disintegrating. It is exciting to imagine what the new order would look like, but it is worrisome to think of what the world will have to go through to get there.

    Studies have shown that in 12 out of 16 historical moments that a new power emerges to challenge an old, war results. Is this the era of China emerging to challenge the US?

    Worse, it has also been shown that on many occasions war does not result from a direct conflict between the two largest powers, but is triggered by events in or caused by a third party. This event puts pressure on the powers to act and react and so is war ignited. Could this party be North Korea?

    Or India in Kashmir, or Iran in the gulf?

    Most important for us Filipinos, how will we react and respond to these developments? Will we be caught in the middle of a vise when friction between the two giants becomes more frequent and more intense? Will we take sides?

    And internally, will we also see a renewal of pressure to “disintegrate” our Republic?

    Exciting times, troubling times. Definitely times when we can’t afford to be caught napping.


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