Repeating a Blunder

In my latest book, Reforging Excalibur, I argue that the threat of state disintegration and spreading Fourth Generation war is so great that only an alliance of all states can ensure the state system will survive the 21st century.  Further, I suggest that an alliance of all states must begin with a new Triple Alliance of the three Great Powers, the U.S., Russia, and China.  Only then can all other states be led to combine their efforts, because only then will other states not be pushed or pulled into one or another blocks built around contending Great powers.  I am saying that Great Power competition is obsolete, a mutual error on the grand strategic level that will lead to the destruction of all three of the current Great Powers.

The Blob, the Washington foreign policy establishment, will dismiss such a notion as piffle.  How could all three Great Powers possibly make such an error?  My reply is that three of the five Great Powers in the pre-1914 world made just such an error, and in the process all three were destroyed.

In the world of 1890 to 1914, all Great Powers were European countries, and by general consensus there were just five: Germany, France, Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Great Britain.  Three, Germany, Russia, and Austria-Hungary, were conservative, Christian monarchies.  France was a republic and the leader of Europe’s left.  Britain was a monarchy but all real power was in the hands of Parliament, not the monarch.

All five Great Powers shared a grand strategic orientation in which the threats they perceived came almost entirely from other Great Powers.  In 1890, Germany, Russia, and Austria-Hungary were loosely allied despite Austro-Russian rivalry; Bismarck’s Reinsurance Treaty allowed Germany to ally with Russia without openly betraying Austria.  Britain saw her threats as coming either from France or Russia; she was friendly with though not allied to Germany or Austria.  By 1914, these alignments had shifted.  Britain, France, and Russia were allied against Germany and Austria-Hungary.

Unfortunately, this whole grand strategic orientation was an error, especially on the part of the three conservative monarchies.  The real threat they faced was democracy coupled with secularism and, often, socialism.  This new and growing threat meant more than the loss or gain of a province here or there or perhaps some colonies, with a resulting effect or prestige.  Democracy, secularism and socialism promised to wipe Christian, conservative monarchy from the board and all three ruling houses, Hohenzollerns, Hapsburgs, and Romanoffs, from future history.  As we now know but they could not foresee, that is what happened, with the result a grand strategic shift of the whole political spectrum sharply to the left.

What I am saying in Reforging Excalibur is that all three of today’s Great Powers are repeating the blunder three of the five Great Powers made then, the blunder of operating within an obsolete grand strategic framework.  This is the largest and therefore the most damaging error a country’s foreign office can make.  Then, it damaged, perhaps fatally, Western, Christian civilization.  Now, it may fatally damage the state system itself, leading to global anarchy.  Just as the three conservative Great Powers of 1914 needed to be allied then, in a new Holy Alliance or Dreikaiserbund, so all three Great Powers need to be allied now in defense of the state system against the non-state forces which drive Fourth Generation war.

The Blob cannot think in these terms, because any departure from its institutionalized groupthink endangers the career of anyone suggesting there is a problem.  The same seems to be true in Moscow and Beijing.  All I can do is point to the price earlier foreign policy establishments in the Wilhelmstrasse, the Ballhausplatz and on the Nevsky Prospekt paid for making the same mistake.  Some mistakes are so vast and have such baleful consequences that the phrase, “Heads will roll,” becomes more than a metaphor.