Dec 18 2010

Korea, Iran, and the Venezuela Missile Crisis: Self-Organizing Toward a Critical State?

Published by at 4:15 am under Wave Guide 9: Global Conflict

Bill Richardson describes current tensions on the Korean peninsula as “a tinderbox.” It’s “particularly complex and sensitive,” according to Jiang Yu of the Chinese Foreign Ministry. The popular New Mexico governor asserts “There’s enormous potential for miscalculation.”

All this is 57 years — one long economic wave — after the end of the early 1950s Korean War, a proxy war where the Soviet Union and China lined up with the North Korean Communists against the U.S.-led United Nations forces in the South.

Surely the rekindling of Korean tensions one long wave after the original war is a coincidence… Or is it?

Actually, over the last 2 1/2 years has highlighted a variety of evidence supporting my initial suggestion in 1996 (Cordell, 1996; Also 2006) that long-term trends in the economy (i.e., the long, 56-year business cycle, discovered in 1989) are the fundamental drivers of great human explorations (e.g., Lewis and Clark), macro engineering projects (e.g., Panama Canal), and major wars (World War I) that exclusively cluster together every 55-60 years, over at least the last 200+ years.

More recently, two new ideas are explored here: 1) that “Maslow Windows” — the rhythmic, twice-per-century pulses of great explorations, MEPs, and major wars — are actually brief critical states of the international economic/technology system, typically achieved through decades of self organized criticality (SOC) processes, and 2) that serious conflicts or wars are typical features of the years just before a Maslow Window or early in the Window itself.

The classic example of such a pre- or early Maslow Window conflict is the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 — early in the Apollo Maslow Window (1959-69) — when conflict over Soviet offensive missiles emplaced in Cuba almost led to a major nuclear exchange with the U.S.. Other examples include the Napoleonic Wars (Lewis and Clark Maslow Window), the Mexican war (Dr. Livingstone/Suez Maslow Window), and the Spanish-American War (Peary/Panama Maslow Window).

This model suggests the current Korean tensions — including their potential for nuclear war involving N and S Korea and possibly other nearby states (e.g., Japan) — are a harbinger of the next Maslow Window expected by 2015. Plus the seemingly irrational provocations by North Korea resulting in a “tinderbox”, “complex,” and “sensitive” situation, are actually the types of interactions we’d expect as we approach a critical Maslow state.

While it’s tempting to dismiss this model as just another scary fantasy, please be reminded that medium-size wars have already been identified as SOC phenomena by National Aademy of Sciences member Donald Turcotte and his colleagues as early as 1998.

The results we have shown indicate that world order behaves as a self-organized critical system independent of the efforts made to control and stabilize interactions between people and countries; and wars, like forest fires, are SOC processes.

Plus historian Niall Ferguson suggested recently that WW I was a product of self organized criticality.

But there’s more.

Iran is believed to be developing nuclear weapons and the missiles needed to deliver them to places like Israel and beyond. Some observers have suggested that Israel might preemptively attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. And WikiLeak cables indicate that even Saudi Arabia has encouraged the U.S. to attack Iran.

Iran’s growing nuclear capability is interpreted here as a precursor to the strong SOC conditions that will trigger the 2015 Maslow Window. And along with spiking Korean tensions, it underlines the gravity of our current, increasingly fractal, geopolitical situation.

And, or course, there’s even more: the Venezuela Missile Crisis.

The highly-regarded German daily, Die Welt. reported last month (11/25/10) that Iran — who apparently shares missile technology with North Korea — has plans to place medium-range ballistic missiles in Venezuela.

If this story is confirmed, it would constitute a true Cuban Missile Crisis-style threat, that would require a strategic response from the United States.

However, things have changed since the 1960s. Popular Mechanics (December, 2010) recently described a chilling scenario in which China is able to neutralize U.S. aircraft carriers — the basis for U.S. force projection in the Pacific and elsewhere — utilizing a new Chinese antiship ballistic missile. China’s carrier killer could conceivably preclude American naval support of Taiwan, South Korea, and other U.S. allies in the region.

Some have speculated that the recent mystery launch of an unidentified missile (it didn’t appear to be an airplane) off the Southern California coast was intended to demonstrate China’s growing antiship capabilities.

That’s the bad news.

But the good news is that even the Cuban Missile Crisis was rapidly resolved and did not delay — and indeed probably intensified — the 1960s space race to the Moon. The same is true of all other pre- or early Maslow Window conflicts over the last 200+ years.

Growing international interests in lunar development, space commercialization (including space toruism), and even Mars colonization, might stimulate the development of a Grand Alliance for Space. With a little luck, it could reduce the intensity of current conflicts that show evidence of increasing, long wave-related SOC in the world system.

NOTE: Please check out the following Comment for more on why a major war or nuclear conflict is unlikely in the next 10-15 years.

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Korea, Iran, and the Venezuela Missile Crisis: Self-Organizing Toward a Critical State?”

  1. Matton 18 Dec 2010 at 2:26 pm

    “This model suggests the current Korean tensions — including their potential for nuclear war involving N and S Korea and possibly other nearby states (e.g., Japan) — are a harbinger of the next Maslow Window expected by 2015.”

    What if we never get to 2015?

    Recently I wrote an article called 25+ Signs That Point to Nuclear War, which answers some interesting questions about where we are today. Here are a few things that it answers:

    1. Do you know why Germany started World War I? Russia is terrified of being in a similar situation.
    2. What percentage of the time does war occur when the world’s leading power is confronted with a rising rival? History provides a chilling answer.
    3. One historian identified the three key signs for 20th century war. Are they present today?
    4. One historian identified that a crisis period hits America about the time the people from the last crisis have died. Where are we now?
    5. Deng Xiaoping told his country to “bide their time” and “hide their capability”, but what does that mean? Chinese school children know the simple history lesson that answers this question. You won’t like the answer.
    6. Both Russia and China are busy building nuclear bunkers for some reason. Why do they build bunkers, but the West is largely absent in this area?
    7. What did one Chinese general say would happen if America interferes during an armed conflict between China and Taiwan?
    8. What did one poll of Chinese military officers show about the possibility of a showdown between China and America?
    9. Russia told us that it reserves the right to launch a preemptive nuclear strike to protect itself and its allies. Which ally should you be worried about?
    10. What will the next war in the Middle East be like? Should you be worried?
    11. Bible prophecy provides a hint about a powerful friend of Israel. Should you be worried?
    12. For the first time we are hearing rumors of [nuclear] war in the Middle East and Korean peninsula. Should you be worried?

    Hi Matt,
    Thanks very much for your comment. I like your website and am going to link to you.

    I’m not very worried about a nuclear war before 2015. The reasons are both long-term and based on current global trends.

    Long-Term Reasons include…
    1) The major wars over the last 200+ years occur after the Maslow Window. They always destroy ebullience and bring the Window to a close (e.g., WW I). That translates as not before the 2020s (probably not before 2025).
    2) The pre- or early Window wars (as I sketch in my post) are smaller and sometimes don’t result in actual fighting (e.g., Cuban Missile Crisis), although they can be very threatening.

    Current Trends:
    1) It is not in North Korea’s interest to start a nuclear war because they would lose. Kim Jong-il recently named his youngest son as his successor in N Korea, which means he’s thinking about the future. A nuclear war would mean they wouldn’t have one.
    2) It’s unlikely Iran will be allowed to achieve the capability to start a nuclear war. No country in the Middle East wants one. The major oil users certainly don’t. Either the U.S. or Israel will destroy Iran’s nuclear capability before they can use it.
    3) If Venezuela were to import offensive ballistic missiles and point them at the U.S., the United States would make sure they were removed; e.g., Cuban Missile Crisis-style. A nuclear war would not occur.

    The Chinese and American economies are thoroughly intertwined now. Even if they develop an anti-carrier ballistic missile, it’s not in their interest to provoke a nuclear war.

    Also, your assumptions about the near-future demise of the U.S. economy and the rapid ascendance of China are highly unlikely. Check several of my recent posts. I think it’s very likely we’ll be cooperating (and/or competing) with China on space based solar power satellites, lunar development, and possibly even human missions to Mars.

    Having said all this I obviously could be wrong and there could be a nuclear conflict, but it really doesn’t seem in the cards in the next decade or so.

    Best regards,

  2. Matton 18 Dec 2010 at 11:05 pm

    Hi Bruce,

    I think most people would agree with you. It’s too hard to even think about nuclear war.

    I’m interested in your wave analysis, so I’ll be checking back in to learn more.

    Part of my analysis is based on a book called The Fourth Turning by historians William Strauss and Neil Howe. They pointed out how the future unfolds in seasons or turnings lasting about 20 years, and a full cycle lasts 80 to 100 years.

    The fourth turning is a crisis season. The rationale for this is that Americans are heavily affected by a real crisis. As they age and die out then the remaining people gradually become susceptible to a new crisis. Once the crisis group is just about gone (over 80 to 100 years), then America experiences a new crisis period.

    Strauss and Howe have effectively come up with their own wave or cycle analysis. Obviously it does not match up with your wave analysis.

    Hi Matt,

    Let me recommend a book by Michael A. Alexander. It’s called The Kondratiev Cycle: A Generational Interpretation (2002). By the way, the text was reviewed by Neil Howe.

    In his book Alexander shows that the generational cycles of Strauss and Howe are correlated with the long economic wave of Kondratiev, as is the 56-year long business cycle that was discovered by Hugh B. Stewart in 1989. (Check my blogroll under Long Waves.)

    In fact generational cycles and long waves are mutually supportive concepts, which contribute to the scientific basis of

    Best regards,

  3. Chris Hammanon 22 Dec 2010 at 3:21 pm

    I was in banking in 1979 when I read about the Kondratieff cycle. Realized that we were in for future readjustments and made some career changes. Told a reporter named Neal Koch about the cycle in 1984. He reported for the LA Herald. When Reagan decontrolled banking and allowed wall street back into banking, I knew it was a matter of time before our financial system would collapse. Lot of good it did me. I was preaching to the choir and lost some friends over my view that real estate values could indeed drop.

    An interesting fact, the Mayan civilization had a 50 year cycle where the king would erase all debt and then empty the gold reserves to employ everyone to build new temples. A public works program to put money back into circulation. The finance elites had cornered wealth and only the king had the gold to re-circulate.

    I read that in the old testament, there was mention of Israel doing a similar activity.

    I wonder how people will act differently if they realize such things happen? We tend to re-invent the wheel once the ones who lived through the prior crisis are out of the picture.

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for your comment.

    I think you’re referring to “Jubilee” of the Old Testament Israelites (as described in Leviticus) that occurred every 50 years. There was also a Christian version that began later around 1300.

    This suggests to me that 50-60 years has been recognized as a significant economic interval for many centuries. Some of the historical aspects are sketched in market analyst David Knox Barker’s book The K Wave (1995).

    What first caught my attention (that I read about many years later!) was when Jay Forrester of MIT made the “surprise discovery” of a K-Wave in his elaborate simulation of the national economy; i.e., the System Dynamics National Model Project. The less well-known, but still seminal discovery of the long (56-year) business cycle in 1989 by Hugh B. Stewart was a revelation to me. As was Brian J. L. Berry’s impressive evaluation of long wave data in 1991. (You can see more sources in the Long Waves section of my blogroll.)

    In 2005, when I realized that NATO was sponsoring an advanced research workshop on Kondratieff Waves, Warfare,and World Security, it finally hit me that long waves are probably the findamental driver of the twice-per-century pulses of great explorations and macro engineering projects (as well as major wars) over at least the last 200 years.

    Best regards and Merry Christmas,

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