The Coming Anarchy

The Coming Anarchy

Author: Robert D. Kaplan

First Vintage Books 2001

This is an extremely interesting book written in 2000. Kaplan’s assessments of the world was extremely profound and prophetic. It consists of 9 essays he wrote giving much insight to world problems.  I stopped doing this report after Essay 3 as it is way too long as it is. This is one of those must read books.

From the Preface

“Indeed, “The Coming Anarchy” has taken on a life of its own and continues to be used as a paradigm for the post-Cold War era, meaning it is a sufficiently worthy target for attack. The concrete reality of the phenomena it describes is undeniable: for every sixty-five dollars earned in rich countries, one dollar is earned in poor ones, and the gap is widening. That division is not only between “North” and “South” but within countries and regions themselves, including the United States, where an upper middle, techno-class joins the global economy, while a vast realm of the citizenry has seen little rise in their salaries and own no stocks or mutual funds.” Page xiii

“The realism exhibited here may appear radical to those in the literary, journalistic, and academic communities, but I can assure the reader that they track well with the analysis of the military and intelligence communities, where accountability is based less on false displays of idealism than on the ability to pinpoint trouble spots a few years down the road.” Page xv

ESSAY 1 . The Coming Anarchy

“The minister’s eyes were like egg yolks. An after effect of some of the many illnesses, malaria especially, endemic in his country. There was also an irrefutable sadness in his eyes. He spoke in a slow and creaking voice, the voice of hope about to expire. Flame trees, coconut palms, and a ballpoint blue Atlantic composed the background. None of it seemed beautiful, though. ‘In forty-five years I have never seen things so bad. We did not manage ourselves well after the British departed. But what we have now is something worse – the revenge of the poor, of the social failures, of the people least able to bring up children in a modern society.’ Then he referred to the recent coup in the West African country Sierra Leone. ‘The boys that took power in Sierra Leone came from houses like this.’ The Minister jabbed his finger at a corrugated metal shack teeming with children. ‘In three months these boys confiscated all the official Mercedes, Volvos, and BMWs and willfully wrecked them on the road.’ The Minister mentioned one of the coups leaders, Solomon Anthony Joseph Musa, who shot the people who had paid for his schooling, ‘in order to erase the humiliation and mitigate the power his middle-class sponsors held over him.’ “ Page 3/4

“The cities of West Africa at night are some of the most unsafe places in the world. Streets are unlit; the police often lack gasoline for their vehicles; armed burglars, carjackers, and muggers proliferate. . . . “ Page  4

“. . . . .  Translated to an urban environment, loose family structures are largely responsible for the world’s highest birth rates and the explosion of the HIV virus on the continent. . . .” Page 6

“West Africa is becoming a symbol of worldwide demographic, environmental, and societal stress, in which criminal anarchy emerges as the real “strategic” danger. Disease, overpopulation, unprovoked crime, scarcity of resources, refugee migrations, increasing erosion of nation-states and international borders, and the empowerment of private armies, security firms, and international drug cartels are now most tellingly demonstrated through a West African prism. West Africa provides an appropriate introduction to the issues, often extremely unpleasant to discuss, that will soon confront our civilization. To remap the political earth the way it will be a few decades hence – as I intend to do in this article – I find I must begin with West Africa.” Page 7

“Sierra Leone is a microcosm of what is occurring, albeit in a more tempered and gradual manner, throughout West Africa and much of the underdeveloped world: the withering away of central governments, the rise of tribal and regional domains, the unchecked spread of disease, and the growing pervasiveness of war. . . . . “ Page 9

“Fifty-five percent of the Ivory Coast’s population is urban, and the proportion is expected to reach 62 percent by 2000. The yearly net population growth is 3.6 percent. This means that the Ivory Coast’s 13.5 million people will become 39 million by 2025, when much of the population will consist of urbanized peasants like those of Chicago. [Chicago is the name given to a city in the Ivory Coast not the one in Illinois.] But don’t count on the Ivory Coast still existing then. Chicago, which is more indicative of Africa’s and the Third World’s demographic present – and even more of the future – than any idyllic jungle scape of women balancing earthen jugs on their heads, illustrates why the Ivory Coast, once a model of Third World success, is becoming a case study in Third World catastrophe.” Page 11

“Because the demographic reality of West Africa is a countryside draining into dense slums by the coast, ultimately, the region’s rulers will come to reflect the values of the shantytowns. . . .” Page 12

“. . . in Africa the HIV virus and tuberculosis are now ‘fast-forwarding each other.’ Of the approximately four thousand newly diagnosed tuberculosis patients in Abidjan, 45 percent were also found to be HIV-positive. As African birthrates soared and slums proliferate, some experts worry that viral mutations and hybridizations might, just conceivably, result in a form of the AIDS virus that is easier to catch than the present strain.” Page 16

“And the cities keep growing. I got a general sense of the future while driving from the airport to downtown Conakry, the capital of Guinea. The forty-five minute journey and heavy traffic was through one never-ending shanty-town: a nightmarish Dickinson spectacle to which Dickens himself would never have given credence. The corrugated metal shacks and scabrous walls were coated with black slime. Stores were built out of rusted shipping containers, junk cars, and jumbles of wire mesh. The streets were one long puddle of floating garbage. Mosquitoes and flies were everywhere. Children, many of whom had protruding bellies, seemed as numerous as ants. When the tide went out, dead rats and the skeletons of cars were exposed on the mucky beach. In twenty-eight years Guinea’s population will double if growth goes on at current rates. Hardwood logging continues at a madcap speed, and people flee the Guinean countryside for Conakry. It seemed to me that here, as elsewhere in Africa and the Third World, man is challenging nature, far beyond its limits, and nature is now beginning to take revenge.” Page 17/18

“For a while the media will continue to ascribe riots and other violent upheavals abroad, mainly to ethnic and religious conflict. But as these conflicts multiply, it will become apparent that something else is afoot, making more and more places like Nigeria, India, and Brazil ungovernable.” Page 18

“Homer-Dixon [Thomas Fraser Homer-Dixon, head of the Peace and Conflict Studies Program at the University of Toronto.] has, more successfully than any other analysts, integrated two hitherto separate fields – military-conflict studies and the study of the physical environment.

“In Homer-Dixon’s view, future wars and civil violence will often arise from scarcities of resources such as water, cropland, forest, and fish. . . .” Page 21

“While a minority of the human population will be, as Francis Fukuyama would put it, sufficiently sheltered so as to enter a “post-historical” realm, living in cities and suburbs in which the environment has been mastered and ethnic animosities have been quelled by bourgeois prosperity, an increasingly large number of people will be stuck in history, living in shanty towns where attempts to rise above poverty, cultural dysfunction, and ethnic strife will be doomed by a lack of water to drink, soil to till, and space to survive in. . . “ Page 22

“. . . as refugee flows increase, and as peasants continue migrating to cities around the world – turning them into sprawling villages – national borders will mean less, even as more power will fall into the hands of less educated, less sophisticated groups. In the eyes of these uneducated, but newly empowered millions, the real borders are the most tangible and intractable ones: those of culture and tribe. . . . “ Page 26

“. . .(Even in the United States, African Americans find themselves besieged by an influx of competing Latinos.) Whatever the laws, refugees find a way to crash official borders, bringing their passions with them, meaning that Europe and the United States will be weakened by cultural disputes. Page 27 [Remember this was published in 2001.]

“To see the twenty-first century truly, one’s eyes must learn a different set of aesthetics. One must reject the overly stylized images of travel magazines, with their inviting photographs of exotic villages and glamorous downtowns. There are far too many millions whose dreams are more vulgar, more real – whose raw energies and desires will overwhelm the visions of the elites, remaking the future and do something frighteningly new. . . .” Page 31

“. . . Slums are litmus test for innate cultural strengths and weaknesses. Those people whose cultures, can harbor extensive slum life without decomposing will be, relatively speaking, the future’s winners. Those whose cultures cannot will be the future’s victims. . . .” Page 32

“Whereas rural poverty is age-old and almost a “normal” part of the social fabric, urban poverty is socially destabilizing. As Iran has shown, Islamic extremism is a psychological defense mechanism of many urbanized peasants threatened with the loss of traditions and pseudo-modern cities where their values are under attack, or basic services like water and electricity are unavailable, and where they are assaulted by a physically unhealthy environment. . . Beyond the stark, clearly articulated message, Islam’s very militancy makes it attractive to the downtrodden. . . . .” Page 35

“Consider the map of the world, with its 190 or so countries, each signified by bold and uniform color: this map, with which all of us have grown up, is generally an invention of modernism, specifically of European colonialism. . . .

“. . .  To the colonialist, country maps are the equivalent of an accountant’s ledger books. . . .” Page 38/39

“Today seventeen out of twenty-two Arab states have a declining gross national product; in the next 20 years, at current growth rates, the population of many Arab countries will double. These states, like most African ones, will be ungovernable through conventional secular ideologies.” . . Page 42

“. . .  a large number of people on this planet, to whom the comfort and stability of a middle-class life is utterly unknown, find war and a barracks existence a step up rather than a step down.” Page 44

“As anybody who has had experience with Chetniks in Serbia, “technicals” in Somalia, Tontons Macoutes in Haiti, or soldiers in Sierra Leone can tell you, in places where the Western Enlightenment has not penetrated and where there has always been mass poverty, people find liberation in violence. . . . Physical aggression is a part of being human. Only when people attain a certain economic, educational, and cultural standard is this trait tranquilized. In light of the fact that 95 percent of the Earth’s population growth will be in the poorest areas of the globe, the question is not whether there will be war (there will be a lot of it), but what kind of war. And who will fight whom?” Page 45/46

“. . . More evidence is provided by the destruction of medieval monuments in the Croatian port of Dubrovnik: when cultures, rather than states, fight, then cultural and religious monuments are weapons of war, making them fair game.” Page 47

“. . . listen closely to van Creveld: ‘Once the legal monopoly of armed force, long claimed by the state, is wrested out of its hands, existing distinctions between war and crime will break down much as is already the case today in . . . Lebanon, Sri Lanka, El Salvador, Peru, or Columbia.’ ’’

“ . . . As small-scale violence multiplies at home and abroad, state armies will continue to shrink, being gradually replaced by a booming private security business, as in West Africa, and by urban mafias, especially in the former communist world, who may be better equipped than municipal police forces to grant physical protection to local inhabitants. Pages 48/49

“Future wars will be those of communal survival, aggravated or, in many cases, caused by environmental scarcity. These wars will be subnational, meaning that it will be hard for states and local governments to protect their own citizens physically. This is how many states will ultimately die. As state power fades – and with it the states ability to help weaker groups within society, not to mention other states – peoples and cultures around the world will be thrown back upon their own strengths and weaknesses, with fewer equalizing mechanisms to protect them. . . . “ Page 49

“ . . Given that in 2025 India’s population could be close to 1.5 billion, that much of its economy rests on a shrinking natural resource base, including dramatically declining water levels, and that communal violence and urbanization are spiraling upward, it is difficult to imagine that the Indian state will survive the next century. India’s oft-trumpeted Green Revolution has been achieved by overworking its croplands and depleting its watershed. Norman Myers, a British development consultant, worries that Indians have ‘been feeding themselves today by borrowing against their children’s food sources.’ “ Page 51

“Indeed, it is not clear that the United States will survive the next century inexactly its present form. Because America is a multiethnic society, the nation-state has always been more fragile here than in more homogeneous societies like Germany and Japan. . . . [America] operating in a culture in which the international media and entertainment industry has more influence than the ‘national political class.’ In other words, a nation-state is a place where everyone has been educated along similar lines, where people take their cue from national leaders, and where everyone (every male, at least) has gone through the crucible of military service, making patriotism a simpler issue. Writing about his immigrant family in turn-of-the-century Chicago, Saul Bellow states, ‘The country took us over. It was a country then, not a collection of ‘cultures.’ “ Page 54

. . . Summits between African leaders and prominent African-Americans are becoming frequent, as our Pollyanna-ish prognostications about multiparty elections in Africa that do not factor in crime, surging birthrates, and resource depletion. The Congressional Black Caucus, was among those urging U.S. involvement in Somalia and in Haiti. . . .” Page 55

“ . . . As Washington’s influence wanes, and with it the traditional symbols of American patriotism, North Americans will take psychological refuge in their insulated communities and cultures.” Page 56

“But Afrocentrists are right in one respect: we ignore this dying region [West Africa] at our own risk. . . .” Page 57

ESSAY II, Was Democracy Just a Moment?

“In the fourth century A.D. Christianity’s conquest of Europe and the Mediterranean world gave rise to the belief that a peaceful era in world politics was at hand, now that a consensus had formed around an ideology that stressed the sanctity of the individual. But Christianity was, of course, not static. It kept evolving, into rites, sects, and heresies that were in turn influenced by the geography and cultures of the places where it took root. . . .” Page 59

“The collapse of communism from internal stresses says nothing about the long-term viability of Western democracy. . . .

“I submit that the democracy we are encouraging in many poor parts of the world is an integral part of a transformation toward new forms of authoritarianism; that democracy in the United States is at greater risk than ever before, and from obscure sources; and that many future regimes, ours, especially, could resemble the oligarchies of ancient Athens and Sparta more than they do the current government in Washington. History teaches that it is exactly at such prosperous times as these that we need to maintain a sense of the tragic, however unnecessary it may seem. The Greek historian, Polybius, of the second century B.C., interpreted what we consider the Golden Age of Athens as the beginning of its decline. To Thucydides, the very security and satisfactory life that the Athenians enjoyed under Pericles blinded them to the bleak forces of human nature that were gradually to be their undoing in the Peloponnesian war..

“My pessimism is, I hope, the foundation for prudence. America’s Founders were often dismal about the human condition. James Madison: ‘Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.’ . . .” Pages 60/61

“Hitler and Mussolini each came to power through democracy Democracies do not always make societies more civil – but they do always mercilessly expose the health of the societies in which they operate.

“. . . Sudan’s newly elected democracy led immediately to anarchy, which in turn led to the most brutal tyranny in Sudan’s postcolonial history: a military regime that broadened the scope of executions, persecuted women, starved non-Muslims to death, sold kidnapped non-Muslim children back to their parents for two hundred dollars, and made Khartoum the terrorism, capital of the Arab world, replacing Beirut.” Page 62

“. . . In Brazil and other countries democracy faces a backlash from millions of badly educated and newly urbanized dwellers in teeming slums, who see few palpable benefits to Western parliamentary systems. Their discontent is the reason for the multifold increases in crime in many Latin American cities over the past decade.

“Because both a middle-class and civil institutions are required for successful democracy, democratic Russia, which inherited neither from the Soviet regime, remains violent, unstable, and miserably poor despite its 99% literacy rate. Under its authoritarian system China has dramatically improved the quality of life for hundreds of millions of its people. My point, hard as it may be for Americans to accept, is that Russia may be failing in part because it is a democracy and China may be succeeding in part because it is not. . . .” Page 64

“The lesson to draw is not that dictatorship is good and democracy bad but that democracy emerges successfully only as a capstone to other social and economic achievements. . . “ Page 66

“. . . The founders were terrified of a badly educated populace that could be duped by a Cromwell, and of a system that could allow too much power to fall into one person’s hands. That is why they constructed the system that filtered the whims of the masses through an elected body and dispersed power by dividing the government into three branches.” Page 68

“Social stability results from the establishment of a middle-class. Not democracies, but authoritarian systems, including monarchies, create middle classes – which, having achieved a certain size and self-confidence, revolts against the very dictators who generated their prosperity. . . . “ Page 70

“. . . Because tottering democracies and despotic militaries frighten away the investors required to create jobs for violence prone youths, more hybrid regimes will perforce emerge. They will call themselves democracies, and we may go along with the lie – but, as in Peru, the regimes will be decisively autocratic.” Page 76

“Authoritarian or hybrid regimes, no matter how illiberal, will still be treated as legitimate if they can provide security for their subjects and spark economic growth. And they will easily find acceptance in the world driven increasingly by financial markets that know no borders.

“For years idealists have dreamed of a “world government.”  Well, a world government has been emerging – quietly and organically, the way vast developments in history take place. I do not refer to the United Nations, the power of which, almost by definition, affects only the poorest countries. After its peacekeeping failures in Bosnia and Somalia – and its $2 billion failure to make Cambodia democratic – the U.N. is on its way to becoming a supranational relief agency. . . .

“Of the world’s hundred largest economies, fifty-one are not countries, but corporations. While the two hundred largest corporations employ less than three fourths of 1 percent of the world’s workforce, they account for 28 percent of the world’s economic activity. The 500 largest corporations account for 70 percent of world trade. . . .

“For instance, ABB Asea Brown Boveri Ltd, is a $36 billion a year, multinational corporation divided into 1300 companies in 140 countries; no one national group accounts for more than 20 percent of its employees. . . . best managers are moved around, periodically so that they and their families can develop “global personalities” by living and growing up in different countries. ABB management teams, moreover, are never composed of employees from any one country. Barnevik says that this encourages a ‘cross-cultural glue.’ Unlike the multiculturalism of the left, which masks individual deficiencies through collective – that is, ethnic or racial – self-esteem, a multinational corporation like ABB has created a diverse, multicultural environment in which individuals rise or fall completely on their own merits. . . . .

“The level of social development required by democracy as it is known in the West, has existed in only a minority of place – and even there only during certain periods of history. We are entering a troubling transition, and the irony is that while we preach our version of democracy abroad, it slips away from us at home.” Pages 80/81/82/83

“The number of residential communities with defended perimeters that have been built by corporations went from one thousand in the early 1960s to more than eighty thousand by the mid-1980s, with continued dramatic increases in the 1990s. . . . Then there are malls, with their own rules and security forces, as opposed to public streets; private health clubs, as opposed to public playgrounds; incorporated suburbs of strict zoning; and other mundane aspects of daily existence in which – perhaps without realizing it, because the changes have been so gradual – we opt out of the public sphere and the “social contract” for the sake of a protected setting. Dennis Judd, an urban-affairs expert at the University of Missouri at St. Louis, told me recently, ‘It’s nonsense to think that Americans are individualists. Deep down we are a nation of herd animals: micelike conformists who will lay at our doorstep.many of our rights if someone tells us that we won’t have to worry about crime and our property values are secure. . . “

“. . . . , A number of American cities are re-emerging as Singapores, with corporate enclaves that are dedicated to global business and defended by private security firms adjacent to heavily zoned suburbs. .

“Corporations, which are anchored neither to nations nor to communities, have created strip malls, edge cities, and Disneyesque tourist bubbles. Developments are not necessarily bad: they provide low prices, convenience, efficient workforces, and, in the case of tourist bubbles, safety. We need big corporations. Our society has reached a level of social and technological complexity at which goods and services must be produced for a price and to a standard that smaller businesses cannot manage.. . . “ Pages 83/84/85/86

“This rise of corporate power occurs more readily as the masses become more indifferent and the elite less accountable. Material possessions not only focus people toward private and away from communal life, but also encourage docility. The more possessions one has, the more compromises one will make to protect them. The ancient Greeks said that the slave is someone who is intent on filling his belly, which can also mean someone who is intent on safeguarding his possessions.” Page 89

“An elite with little loyalty to the state and a mass society fond of gladiator entertainments form a society in which corporate Leviathan’s rule and democracy is hollow. . . “ Page 93

ESSAY III, Idealism Won’t Stop Mass Murder

“The conviction is gaining ground mass murder, like other deadly diseases, can be prevented by that remedy in which all bourgeois societies, ours above all, deposit their faith, Progress. . . . Such an approach is both noble and naïve. Institutionalizing war crimes tribunals will have as much effect on future war crimes as Geneva conventions have had on Iraqi and Serbian militaries. . .

“Mass murder is a pathology of modernism, and particularly of highly centralized modern states, whether Mengistu Haile Mariam’s Ethiopia, Pol Pot’s “Democratic Kampuchea,” or Hitler’s Germany. . . . . . .

“The psychological and historical currents that ignite a bureaucratic killing machine, often builds for decades, even centuries. . . . .if an outside power from thousands of miles away is to halt such a process suddenly, in its tracks it must be serious about it – serious enough to use deadly force.” Pages 99/100/101

“Only when moral interests crosshatch with strategic ones will the public tolerate blood in an intervention. Hitler’s war against the Jews did not get us into World War II – the attack on Pearl Harbor did. Saddam’s gassing of the Kurds did not lead to US intervention,: his threat to Saudi oilfields did. Bosnian war crimes did not, by themselves, lead to NATO intervention; it was also the larger Balkan war and the fear of spreading south, and the threat posed by all of these factors to NATO’s credibility, that finally forced President Clinton’s hand.” Page 101

“. . . . , President Carter’s well-intentioned human rights policy became a barrier to the sort of action necessary to save over thirty million people from the fist of totalitarianism. While Mr. Carter refused to deal at all with the Mengistu regime because of its gross human rights violations, the Soviets sent East German security experts to Addis Ababa to help Mengistu consolidate his rule. Because we stood on principle and were, therefore, absent as any kind of a countervailing force, it wasn’t just another awful and vicious regime that emerged, but a Stalinist nightmare. Millions were brutally collectivized, and millions more died of famine.” Page 103

Essay V  And Now For The News: The Disturbing Freshness of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall

The Decline and Fall [The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire] instructs that human nature never changes, and that mankind’s predilection for faction, augmented by environmental and cultural differences, iswhat determines history . . . . “Page 113

“The similarities between Gibbon’s Rome and the United States will be obvious to any reader–they are two multiethnic polities founded on patriotic virtue, unified by gigantic highway systems, their middle classes occupying crassly uniform dwellings,  and so forth– . . .  . .The Decline and Fall teaches that the tragedy for so much of the world is how, despite technological advancement, various societies are still in a political sense ancient; and how, despite the Enlightenment, many governments,– including ours–remain corrupt and decadent because of the influence of money.” Page 114/115

Essay IX: The Dangers of Peace.

“. . . . . . There is often nothing worse than war and violent death. But a truism that bears repeating is that peace, as a primary goal, is dangerous because it implies that you will sacrifice any principle for the sake of it. A long period of peace in an advanced technological society like ours could lead to great evils, in the ideal of the world permanently at peace and government knowingly by a world organization is not an optimistic view of the future but a dark one.” Page 169

“Avoiding tragedy requires a sense of it, which in turn requires a sense of history. Peace, however, leads to a preoccupation with presentness, the loss of the past and a consequent disregard of the future. That is because peace by nature is pleasurable, and pleasure is about momentary satisfaction. In an era of extended domestic peace, those who deliver up pleasures are the powerbrokers. Because pleasure is inseparable from convenience, convenience becomes a vital element in society.” Page 172

“In an era when peace is taken for granted, the electronic media. Increasingly adopt the aspirations of the mob. The mob, like a television camera, has no historical memory and is entirely reductive: it considers only what is within its field of vision, not the complicating facts beyond it. . . . “ Page 173

“. . . Because information as it is disseminated to a large and imperfectly educated audience becomes vulgarized, the media – and well-heeled pressure groups with access to it – will increasingly create mass hysteria over single issues by the crude dispersion of facts untempered by context. Where is war leads to a respect for large, progressive government, peace creates an institutional void filled by, among other things, entertainment oriented corporations. . . . “ Page 174/175

“The U.N. bureaucracy, along with others who seek a peaceful world, worship consensus. The consensus can be the handmaiden of evil, since the ability to confront evil means the willingness to act boldly and ruthlessly and without consensus, attributes that executive, national leadership has in far more abundance that an international organization. . . .Thus, there is an inherent philosophical danger in a strong secretary-general who can prevent or postpone war even when war is necessary to fight evil.” Page 178

“ . . . there is much new weaponry that now, because of postindustrial miniaturization, is concealable, even as it is more deadly: the perfect tools for stateless terrorists, of which the world has enough. The clock ticks toward something unpleasant, while our entertainment culture dilates to the point that the Academy Awards ceremony has achieved a status akin to a national holiday.” Page 181

A long domestic peace would rear up leaders with no tragic historical memory, and thus little wisdom. Nor would such future leaders be fortified by a life of serious reading to compensate for their lack of historical experience: permanent peace, with its worship of entertainment and convenience, will produce ever-shallower leaders. The mass man will rule as well as be ruled. Nor would such childlike leaders be well advised, due to the inverse relationship between wisdom and specialization. . . . “ Page 181

“Such shallow leaders and advisers would, by the very virtue of their lack of wisdom and experience, eventually commit the kind of ghastly miscalculation that would lead to a general war of some kind. The experience following the turn of the twentieth century shows this tragic cycle of historic self-correction at work. After the Napoleonic Wars, many decades of peace in Europe led to rulers who lacked a tragic sense of the past, which cause them to blunder into World War I. . . . “ Page 184

” . . .