Apr 02 2010

Near-Term Wars Threaten the New Space Age

Recently the Wall Street Journal (3/31/10) expressed concern about the “fading hope” of sanctions on Iran,

We are left with a stark alternative: Either Iran gets a nuclear weapon and we manage the risk, or someone acts to eliminate the threat,

according to Ms. Danielle Pletka, VP for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

And earlier this week Ronan Bergman, senior military and intelligence for an Israeli daily (Yedioth Ahronoth) and author of The Secret War With Iran (2008), pointed out that the three most likely scenarios for starting the next Middle East war “all involve Iran” (WSJ, 3/29/10). Despite the fact that a preemptive airstrike by Israel on Iranian nuclear installations is “somewhat less likely” now, due to Israel’s evolving perception of sanctions on Iran.

These issues need to considered in the context of the current “major flap in U.S.-Israel relations.” According to a recent interview in ForeignAffairs.com with Ehud Yaari, who is Lafer International Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Middle East Commentator for Channel 2 news in Israel, and the the co-author (with the late Ze’ev Schiff) of Israel’s Lebanon War and Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising — Israel’s Third Front,, regarding the Israeli prime minister’s recent visit to the U.S.,

The general sense in Israel right now is that the prime minister was sorely humiliated by President Obama. There is quite a degree of amazement the way he was treated. I think it’s fair to say that neither the prime minister nor his defense minister, Ehud Barak, were aware of the kind of reception that they were greeted with at the White House.

Because of its importance to world energy supplies and the global economy, a Middle East war in the next few years would significantly reduce global security, as well as possibily threaten the new international space age expected to begin by 2015.

This is a different military threat than the one I focused on in July, 2008:

In addition to the expansive joy of Great Explorations from Lewis & Clark to Apollo, and stunning Macro-Engineering Projects (MEPs) like the Panama Canal, the last 200 years also teach us one sobering fact: Each Maslow Window is also associated with a tragic, major war (e.g. W. W. I).

And sadly, the 2020s are unlikely to be an exception.

Instead of the major wars (e.g., WW I) that occur near the end (or after) a typical Maslow Window, the near-term conflicts referred to here are a feature of early Maslow Window times or the years just before them; e.g., from 2010 to 2016.

And all Maslow Windows are aflicted by them.

Neither the early/pre-Maslow Window conflicts (that threaten Maslow Windows) nor the late-Window major wars (that terminate Maslow Windows) over the last 200 years, can be scientifically predicted with much reliability. But they are historically associated with long wave trends, including the upswing toward the major economic boom that triggers the widespread affluence-induced ebullience of Maslow Windows, as well as the long wave’s decline after the boom has peaked and an economic downturn is looming.

The early/pre-Maslow Window conflicts and the long economic waves they are associated with over the last 200+ years may be thought of in the context of a complex adaptive system model where self organized criticality produces typical events — e.g., early/pre-Maslow Window conflicts, financial panics, great recessions — just prior to the major economic boom of the Maslow Window itself. Niall Ferguson has described a similar model for the onset of World War I and other major geopolitcal events of the last 200 years.

In any case, the patterns associated with early/pre-Maslow Window years are clear. For example:

The Lewis & Clark/Jefferson Maslow Window:
If Napolean hadn’t been distracted from his interest in a North American empire by the need to fund his European war machine, Jefferson might not have gotten such a good price for the Lousiana Purchase, which led to the opening up of the American Northwest during the first Great Exploration of the last 200 years. (See: 10 Lessons Lewis & Clark Teach Us About the Human Future in Space)

The Dr. Livingstone/Suez/Polk Maslow Window:
One long wave later, the Mexican War played a major role in the early mid-19th century Maslow Window due to the ebullient, expansionist belief by the U.S. population in Manifest Destiny. (See: How the West Was Won — The Expansionist Effects of Ebullience)

The Peary/Panama/Roosevelt Maslow Window:
Just prior to perhaps the most ebullient decade in U.S. history, the Spanish-American War (1898) taught the future president and “Rough Rider” Theodore Roosevelt the potential strategic value of a Panama Canal — the greatest MEP of the last 200 years until Apollo. TR waited in Cuba for a key U.S. battleship from the Pacific which finally arrived, after a long trip around the southern tip of South America, 2 months after the war began. (See: 10 Lessons the Panama Canal Teaches Us About the Human Future in Space)

The 1960s Apollo/JFK Maslow Window:
One long wave later, early in the most recent Maslow Window, Cuba again eerily rose to center stage as the world came very close to World War III during the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962); this Crisis intensified the competition and global symbolism of the U.S.-Soviet race to the Moon, eventually won by the U.S. in 1969. (See: The New Cuban Space Center and Vladimir Bonaparte)

That’s the Bad News, and early/pre- Maslow Window international tensions — characteristic, as we’ve seen, of the last 200+ years — appear to be building again now in the Middle East as well as potentially elsewhere. (See, for example, Krepinevich (2009), 7 Deadly Scenarios: A Military Futurist Explores War in the 21st Century.)

But the Good News is that — although each early/pre-Maslow Window conflict was a time of war and/or even potentially global doom (i.e., the Cuban Missile Crisis) — over the last 200 years, all have amazingly accelerated the world toward the stunning Great Explorations and Macro-Engineering Projects of each ebullient Maslow Window, and have served as global quantum leaps as they transformed the world.

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