Paul N Rosenstein-Rodan perhaps was the last global Wiseman to give significance to historical blunders. To him accurate forecasts emerged from scenarios in which facts; real forces and main players could be assessed as the players pursued their interests. These assessments however could become useless whenever a systemic malfunction or a senseless mistake intervened. An unexpected turn of events could, under certain conditions, bring about an Armageddon. To him the proximity created by the invisible army of trade and technology elves through an intricate network linking countries and people increased probabilities for historical mistakes to occur. Interdependency he thought would have the capacity to better align interests among nations but also of making disagreements deeper and more dangerous when not treated within a disciplined method that would effectively address the underlying interests causing the discontent. Under such conditions the smallest mistake could bring about a great tragedy. Such was the case of WWI when the Archduke of Austria Franz Ferdinand having escaped an attempt to his life by Bosnian activists decided to go to the hospital to present his sympathies to those injured in the incident. On the way to the hospital he ran into the failed assassin Mr, Gavrilo Princip who had an extraordinary second chance to achieve his objective. Or the decimation of the Austrian Army at the Battle of Karansebes in 1788 by friendly fire thereby insuring victory for the Turks.
2018 seems to be predestined to be the theater for a mayor unintentional catastrophe. The field seems to be ripe as technology has brought countries closer than ever friends and foes; trade is pervasive and expectations on leaderships higher. And as social media and other communications networks continue to present decision makers with unfolding conflicts pressures to make decisions before all the needed information is in place or tensions past the ebullient point opportunities for mistakes mount. . In an ideal situation, these decisions are made with plenty of time to consider the pros and cons. However, that does not seem to be the case today. Leaders are pressured by social media and even citizens to take instant decisions. Sometimes, choices have to be made at split second motion without the decision maker truly knowing the consequences.
Scenarios that might bring upon the world a tragedy are plenty, but I shall concentrate on familiar territory, as I must confess that I still have troubles understanding many of the conflicts scourging Africa.
- While the United States attempts to unravel the nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers (the US, UK, France, China and Russia plus Germany), Iran seeks ways to restart nuclear proliferation and escape sanctions. Iran secures the support of Russia and other “friendly nations” such as Venezuela. In the process Saudi Arabia is debilitated while Russia gains a bargaining chip in the world geopolitical chess. Russia could force a showdown with the US in the Middle East that would debilitate Israel and imperil change in Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Instability in Saudi Arabi would drive up oil prices thereby negatively affecting worldwide economic recovery while injecting cash into Venezuela a sworn enemy of the US;
North Korea or the priming of a Smart Cookie:
- As US intelligence assessments confirm the capability by North Korea to deploy a viable intercontinental missile before 2018 elapses, the US foreign policy apparatus will focus on this country and the options available to torpedo this achievement. The problem lies in the lack of effective means to achieve such goal. Pyongyang has already taken steps to reduce the impact of further sanctions while China and Russia will most probably block any strengthening of sanctions Both China and Russia will continue to use North Korea as a bargaining chip to extract advantages from the US in other scenarios. Meanwhile the Kim Jong Un might think this to be his great opportunity to exploit the non-encounters among the three world powers and take the initiative deploying an ICM against an un populated US atoll in the Pacific. This would urge a response.
- As the situation deteriorates and throngs of people continue to leave the country, neighboring nations will feel the pinch in their economic growth and social disruption. One such country is Colombia where pro FARC candidates might triumph in upcoming presidential elections. Being FARC, an ally of the Venezuelan regime, an Anschluss could take place. The US will suddenly face a hostile power at the Caribbean door and the vestibule to the Panama Canal. Russia will definitively be on the side of the hostile powers. The US could be mired in a humanitarian crisis cum trade disruptions in its home hemisphere.