Kabul, game over

Image: Ali Yasser Arwand


For the first time in history, Biden will have to negotiate with two powers that Washington defines as enemies and that also sealed a powerful alliance.

The fall of Kabul to the Taliban is an event that marks the end of the global geopolitical transition. The international system has undergone significant changes since the end of World War II. Hiroshima and Nagasaki, together with the defeat of Nazism in Europe by the Red Army, were the events that gave rise to the so-called “bipolar order”. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991 defined the end of this era and enlivened the fantasies of US strategists and academics who were deluded with the advent of what would be “the new American century”.

Zbigniew Brzezinski unsuccessfully warned about the fragility of the unipolar order and the risks of such a dangerous illusion. Fears of it were confirmed on September 11, 2001, when, along with the fall of the Twin Towers, the unipolar illusion also disappeared. The multiplication of new constellations of global power, state and non-state, which emerged strongly after that event – ​​or rather, which became visible after that date – was the starting point for the emergence of a new stage: multipolarism. The background of the Latin American “progressive cycle” was this new reality, in which the US hegemony stumbled with increasing 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”. What's more, some have compared this new international constellation to the "Concert of Nations" agreed upon at the Congress of Vienna (1815), after the defeat of the Napoleonic armies, and which would last for over a century. However, in the case that concerns us, 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 declining primacy in other domains – the economy and some branches of society. current technological paradigm – with a certain capacity for arbitration, by containing disagreements between its allies and keeping the challenging powers in line 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 leadership, and the catastrophic defeat in Afghanistan, after twenty years of war and the waste of two trillion dollars, plus the unspeakable human suffering caused by imperial obsession, definitively bring this stage to an end. 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 one that had been surviving, with difficulty, since the years of the Cold War, formed by Washington , European countries and Japan.

Hence the illusory nature of the claim expressed by Joe Biden to bring the main nations of the world to the negotiating table and, sitting at the head of the table, establish the new rules and guidelines that would prevail in the international system because, as he said, he could not let the Chinese and the Russians take on such a delicate task. But his words became a dead letter because that long table no longer exists. It was replaced by another, triangular one, which has no headboard, where, next to the United States, China sits, the main economy in the world, 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 XNUMXth century, both erecting limits to the once unavoidable US primacy.

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

*Atilio A. Boron is professor of political science at the University of Buenos Aires. Author, among other books, of Minerva's Owl (Voices).

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves.

Originally published in the newspaper Page12.


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