The Siren Call of a ‘System Leader’

The United States may be destined for a shorter historical existence than the Mongol era established by Genghis Khan

A considerable spectrum of the liberal West takes the American interpretation of what civilization consists of to be something like an immutable law of nature. But what if this interpretation is on the verge of an irreparable breakdown?

Michael Vlahos has argued that the US is not a mere nation-state but a “system leader” – “a civilizational power like Rome, Byzantium, and the Ottoman Empire.” And, we should add, China – which he did not mention. The system leader is “a universalistic identity framework tied to a state. This vantage is helpful because the United States clearly owns this identity framework today.”

Intel stalwart Alastair Crooke, in a searing essay, digs deeper into how this “civilizational vision” was “forcefully unfurled across the globe” as the inevitable, American manifest destiny: not only politically – including all the accouterments of Western individualism and neo-liberalism, but coupled with “the metaphysics of Judeo-Christianity, too”. Secret Empires: How th... Schweizer, Peter Best Price: $5.99 Buy New $11.07 (as of 07:25 EST - Details)

Crooke also notes how deeply ingrained the notion that victory in the Cold War “spectacularly affirmed” the superiority of the US civilizational vision among the US elite.

Well, the post-modern tragedy – from the point of view of US elites – is that soon this may not be the case anymore. The vicious civil war engulfing Washington for the past three years – with the whole world as stunned spectators – has just accelerated the malaise.

Remember Pax Mongolica

It’s sobering to consider that Pax Americana may be destined to a shorter historical existence than Pax Mongolica – established after Genghis Khan, the head of a nomad nation, went about conquering the world.

Genghis first invested in a trade offensive to take over the Silk Roads, crushing the Kara-Kitais in Eastern Turkestan, conquering Islamic Khorezm, and annexing Bukhara, Samarkand, Bactria, Khorasan and Afghanistan. The Mongols reached the outskirts of Vienna in 1241 and the Adriatic Sea one year after.

The superpower of the time extended from the Pacific to the Adriatic. We can barely imagine the shock for Western Christendom. Pope Gregory X was itching to know who these conquerors of the world were, and could be Christianized?

In parallel, only a victory by the Egyptian Mamluks in Galilee in 1260 saved Islam from being annexed to Pax Mongolica.

It’s sobering to consider that Pax Americana may be destined to a shorter historical existence than Pax Mongolica – established after Genghis Khan, the head of a nomad nation, went about conquering the world.

Genghis first invested in a trade offensive to take over the Silk Roads, crushing the Kara-Kitais in Eastern Turkestan, conquering Islamic Khorezm, and annexing Bukhara, Samarkand, Bactria, Khorasan and Afghanistan. The Mongols reached the outskirts of Vienna in 1241 and the Adriatic Sea one year after.

The superpower of the time extended from the Pacific to the Adriatic. We can barely imagine the shock for Western Christendom. Pope Gregory X was itching to know who these conquerors of the world were, and could be Christianized?

In parallel, only a victory by the Egyptian Mamluks in Galilee in 1260 saved Islam from being annexed to Pax Mongolica.

Pax Mongolica – a single, organized, efficient, tolerant power – coincided historically with the Golden Age of the Silk Roads. Kublai Khan – who lorded over Marco Polo – wanted to be more Chinese than the Chinese themselves. He wanted to prove that nomad conquerors turned sedentary could learn the rules of administration, commerce, literature and even navigation.

Yet when Kublai Khan died, the empire fragmented into rival khanates. Islam profited. Everything changed. A century later, the Mongols from China, Persia, Russia and Central Asia had nothing to do with their ancestors on horseback.

A jump cut to the young 21st century shows that the initiative, historically, is once again on the side of China, across the Heartland and lining up the Rimland. World-changing, game-changing enterprises don’t originate in the West anymore – as has been the case from the 16th century up to the late 20th century. Amazon.com Gift Card i... Buy New $10.00 (as of 08:25 EST - Details)

For all the vicious wishful thinking that coronavirus will derail the “Chinese century”, which will actually be the Eurasian Century, and amid the myopic tsunami of New Silk Roads demonization, it’s always easy to forget that implementation of myriad projects has not even started.

It should be in 2021 that all those corridors and axes of continental development pick up speed across Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean, Central Asia, Southwest Asia, Russia and Europe, in parallel with the Maritime Silk Road configuring a true Eurasian string of pearls from Dalian to Piraeus, Trieste, Venice, Genoa, Hamburg and Rotterdam.

For the first time in two millennia, China is able to combine the dynamism of political and economic expansion both on the continental and maritime realms, something that the state did not experience since the short expeditionary stretch led by Admiral Zheng He in the Indian Ocean in the early 15th century. Eurasia, in the recent past, was under Western and Soviet colonization. Now it’s going all-out multipolar – a series of complex, evolving permutations led by Russia-China-Iran-Turkey-India-Pakistan-Kazakhstan.

Every player has no illusions about the “system leader” obsessions: to prevent Eurasia from uniting under one power – or coalition such as the Russia-China strategic partnership; ensure that Europe remains under US hegemony; prevent Southwest Asia – or the “Greater Middle East” – from being linked to Eurasian powers; and prevent by all means that Russia-China have unimpeded access to maritime lanes and trade corridors.

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