Kabul, Game Over

By Atilio Borón on August 16, 2021

The fall of Kabul at the hands of the Taliban is a milestone marking the end of the global geopolitical transition. The international system underwent significant changes since the end of World War II.Hiroshima and Nagasaki together with the defeat of Nazism in Europe at the hands of the Red Army were the events that gave birth to the so-called “bipolar order”. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991 marked the end of that era and excited the fantasies of American strategists and academics who deluded themselves with the advent of what would be “the new American century.”

Carter’s National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski unsuccessfully warned about the fragility of the unipolar order and the risks of such a dangerous mirage. His fears were confirmed on September 11, 2001 when, together with the fall of the Twin Towers, the unipolar illusion also vanished. The multiplication of new constellations of global power, both state and non-state, that emerged with force after that event – or rather, that became visible after that date – were the starting point for a new stage: multipolarism. The Latin American “progressive cycle” was set against the backdrop of this new reality in which US hegemony was encountering growing difficulties in imposing its interests and priorities. An increasingly influential China in the world economy and the return of Russia to the forefront of world politics after the eclipse of the Boris Yeltsin years were the main features of the emerging new order.

For many analysts, polycentrism was here to stay, hence the idea of a long “global geopolitical transition”. Moreover, some compared this new international constellation to the “Concert of Nations” agreed at the Congress of Vienna (1815) after the defeat of the Napoleonic armies and which would last for more than a century. Only in the case we are concerned with here, there was an ordering power, the United States, which with its enormous military budget and the global reach of its norms and institutions could compensate for its waning primacy in other fields -the economy and some branches of the current technological paradigm- with a certain capacity for arbitration by containing disagreements among its allies and keeping defiant powers at bay in the hot spots of the international system.

The setback suffered by the military adventure launched by Barack Obama in Syria, which gave Russia back its lost military protagonism, and the catastrophic defeat in Afghanistan after twenty years of war and the waste of two trillion dollars (that is, two million million million dollars) plus the unspeakable human suffering produced by the imperial obsession definitively closes that stage. The entry of the Taliban into Kabul marks the emergence of a new international order marked by the presence of a dominant triad formed by the United States, China and Russia, replacing the triad that had been surviving, with difficulty, since the Cold War years and which was formed by Washington, the European countries and Japan.

Hence the illusory nature of Joe Biden’s claim to sit the world’s main nations at a negotiating table and, from the head of the table, set the new rules and orientations that would prevail in the international system because, as he said, he could not leave it to the Chinese and Russians to take on such a delicate task. But his words became a dead letter because that long table no longer exists. Its place was taken by another, triangular one, which has no head, and where China, the world’s leading economy according to the OECD and a formidable power in Artificial Intelligence and new technologies; and Russia, an energy emporium, the second largest nuclear arsenal on the planet and a traditional protagonist of international politics since the beginning of the 18th century, both erecting limits to the once irresistible American primacy of sitting next to the United States.

Biden will have to negotiate for the first time in history with two powers that Washington defines as enemies and that have also sealed a powerful alliance. Trump’s publicity stunts are worthless: “let’s make America great again” or Biden’s more recent one: “America is back”. At the new table are the real factors that define the power of nations: economy, natural resources, population, territory, technology, quality of leadership, armed forces and all the paraphernalia of “soft power”. In recent times, the cards available to the United States to maintain its lost imperial omnipotence were the last two. But if its troops could not prevail in one of the poorest and most backward countries in the world, Hollywood and the entire world media oligarchy will not be able to work miracles. This new stage of the international system will not be free of risks and threats of all kinds, but it opens up unprecedented opportunities for the peoples and nations of Africa, Asia and Latin America. That is why this is very good news.

Source: Pagina 12, translation Resumen Latinoamericano – English