Stephen Kearney - The Unraveling of America
Part of the way we interact with each other from individuals to nations, is based on certain presumptions about each other's capabilities.
Put at its crudest and simplest, one of the reasons that Israel is not openly attacked by its neighbours, despite the potential for short term popularity, is the fear of the consequences. What protects Israel is the knowledge of its capabilities held by its neighbours: they know what's going to happen if they attack - so they don't attack. Their knowledge holds them back. Imagine what would happen if they knew for certain that Israel had disbanded its army.
One of the things that held Iran at bay against Iraq (1991 - 2003) was Iran's belief that their adversary held WMD. Some might see North Korea in the same light: an odious regime but we'd better keep our distance.
I use the above by way of an admittedly simplistic, example.
But these perceptions are important in international events - and it's not just in military prowess but in everything. It is that background perception, the assumptions of capabilities, that lies behind trade deals, education, co-operation, research and just about anything else. I've never been particularly sold on the much promoted British education system, for instance, but that doesn't stop a whole lot of people believing in it and paying through the nose for it too. Sometimes there is a disconnect between the perception and the reality. The Americans in 1940, for instance, were amazed at how weak the much vaunted British empire actually was when they were approached for aid. At first they refused to believe it, demanding that Britain contribute more, in effect, relenting only when they realised the truth - and made sure that Britain paid the price.
Now, I've felt for the last few months that post Covid there will be a realignment of nations internationally; some will go up and some will go down. The two biggest losers, relatively speaking will be the USA and Britain, widely perceived to be two of the most powerful and richest countries in the world with world class education, research and general know-how. Yet these two nations, supposedly with so much presumed capability, have emerged (and we're not out of it yet) looking, shall we say, not very capable at all. At the moment they're doing a much worse job than most other countries, many of them a lot poorer, with supposedly less know-how, in protecting their own people. You can fob people off with PR speak in many areas and blur the lines to create confusion but nothing gets starker or simpler than numbers of deaths - simple, plain and easily comparable numbers. This will not be lost on many countries in future negotiations. Britain and the USA will lose their ranking.
Only this morning, via youtube, I came across this article from Rolling Stone magazine which hits it, not in visual soundbites (if that's not an oxymoron) but in a long, detailed and analytical piece. it is well worth reading.