GeoPolitics in the Age of Strong Men

As some of you know, watching the trends of geopolitics is one of my favorite past times. It’s intriguing watching the games leaders play to set and achieve their agendas in a plane where it is almost always dog eat dog, zero sum type of behavior. And recently, the geopolitical games have been at a fever pitch, I always feel like sitting back courtside with pop corn to observe the tricks and plays different sides are deploying.

No doubt we are living in the age of strongmen. Prior to now, a lot of political leaders were almost professorial and academic, with a touch of charismatic personalities, think Bill Clinton or Obama, Merkel, Tony Blair, democratic upstart Turkey, nice, never rock the boat India, and the Communist Party of China with their strings on rubber stamp presidents. People like Vladimir Putin were outliers. Not any more. Today, America is ruled by mercurial Trump, Erdogan has morphed into a strong man in Turkey, Xi has become the strong man in China, removing term limits and turning the Communist Party into his rubber stamp. Putin has come into his own with Crimea and his little back room upsets, Dueterte is ham fisting the Philippines, and India is led by right wing populist strong man Modi. What more the trend seems to be rising. Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman is flexing his power in the state and in the region. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is clamping down on Egypt. Gadaffi is turning in his grave wondering where all this strong men love was in his day.

The interesting about that is that the era of strong men have introduced a strong sense of unpredictability to geopolitics. Strong men by definition have goals and will go the extra mile to achieve them. But unlike professorial leaders of the past, they don’t state these goals. Sure they still tell the world the goals that people expect but they actively say one thing while really trying and attempting to do completely different things. They actively lie about their intentions and deceive anyone they can to get their way. Strategic deception is a tool and these guys are deploying it like crazy. Mohamed bin Salman claims anti corruption and carried out a sweeping power grab. Trump claims to hand the left a win with his omnibus deal while passing through the funding for his border wall. Xi hails the ‘revolutionary friendship’ between China and North Korea while shutting the exports of petroleum, coal, cars and steel from his country to North Korea from thousands of tons monthly to effectively zero.

Because of this, analysts realize that amateur hour is over. You can’t just snoop out memos and meeting minutes to understand what these leaders will do anymore. I mean sometimes even their cabinet cannot tell what they intend to do next. It’s rather upsetting to the geopolitical establishment. All the drum beats of World War 3 are not likely to materialize, but you wouldn’t know it from the posturing and bluster.

North Korea and US are scheduled to have talks, but until recently it seemed that both countries were about to spark up a nuclear war. It’s strategy. North Korea’s nuclear capability is not nearly as advanced as people think. But you couldn’t tell from the noise they make. Strategy.

Russia is in the news everyday you would think America was on the verge of being overtaken by Putin. It’s not. Not even close. Russia was drubbed decidedly in Syria recently. And no one really worries too much about Putin.

China is actively trying to restore its trade relationships with America although you cannot tell that from the bluster. The news would have you believe both countries are about to march on each other. They’re not.

What is the point of all this? You have a front row seat to what leaders do when they want to accomplish goals at all costs. If you’re interested in politics, or business or just life in general, this is the time to watch and learn, both the lessons on what to do and on what not to do.

Let news analysts do what they do. You open your eyes, and pay attention. These are interesting times.

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