First the financial crisis, followed by economic disintegration. Then the political and social crisis, which will probably lead to a military-style crackdown by the state. This is not my gloomy assessment but the view increasingly taken by right-wing commentators and aired in a recent report produced by the US Army War College’s Strategic Institute.
Civil unrest has already broken out in Greece, China and Russia as a consequence of the impact of the global economic recession. In Athens, young people hit hardest by unemployment have battled the police on the streets for more than two weeks. With the police patently unable to cope, only the hated army stands between the government and a political collapse.
Demonstrations have broken out – and been broken up – across Russia, whose fragile state finances are being devastated by plummeting oil prices. The rouble has lost 11% of its value in four months and unemployment is growing. Attempted protests have taken place in Moscow, Vladivostok, St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad. The Chinese authorities fear something similar as its export-led economy goes into free-fall. An estimated 40 million Chinese workers are expected to lose their jobs in the new few months and party officials have warned of "mass-scale social turmoil".
In less than a month, president-elect Obama will take office in the midst of the gravest crisis to hit the United States since the 1920s. The survival of major industries hangs by a thread. Loans given to the big carmakers are conditional on savage job cuts by the spring which the unions are opposing. Repossessions are running at record rates and some in the Pentagon are turning their minds to potential consequences for the military.
A recent report produced by the US Army War College’s Strategic Institute warns that the United States may experience massive civil unrest in the wake of a series of crises which it has termed "strategic shock”. The report, titled Known Unknowns: Unconventional Strategic Shocks in Defence Strategy Development, also suggests that the military may have to be used to quell domestic disorder. "Widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defence establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security," the report, authored by [Ret.] Lt. Col. Nathan Freir, reads.
Freir also warns that the incoming Obama administration should prepare for a "first term crisis" that could act as a catalyst for such unrest. "The current administration confronted a game-changing ’strategic shock’ [9/11] inside its first eight months in office," the report reads. "The next administration would be well-advised to expect the same during the course of its first term. Indeed, the odds are very high against any of the challenges routinely at the top of the traditional defence agenda triggering the next watershed inside DoD [Department of Defence]."
The Washington Post last month reported that the US military expects to have 20,000 uniformed troops inside the United States by 2011 trained to help state and local officials respond to a nuclear terrorist attack or other domestic catastrophe. In a September 8 Army Times article, it was announced that the first wave of the troop deployment in Colorado Springs, would be aimed at tackling "civil unrest and crowd control".
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard is an astute commentator for the right-wing Daily Telegraph who insists the financial and economic crisis has a long way to run. He has noted that Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund, has warned that if economic growth is not restored promptly, then “social unrest may happen in many countries, including advanced economies … . the people have reacted with feelings going from surprise to anger, and from anger to fear”.
Evans-Pritchard, who acknowledges that the Marxist phrase “a crisis of capitalism” has made a comeback, says the crisis may overturn the "New World Order" adding: “The last great era of globalisation peaked just before 1914. You know the rest of the story.”
You can’t say we haven’t been warned. One of the things you could consider between now and 2009 is getting hold of a copy of Unmasking the State and having a read about some democratic alternatives to capitalist war and dictatorship.
AWTW communications editor
Please note that the next A World to Win blog will appear on December 31.