Thomas Friedman piece in NYT yesterday called "Pray. Hope. Prepare."
That is to say, in Europe, when the iron fist of communism was removed, the big, largely homogenous states, with traditions of civil society, were able to move relatively quickly and stably to more self-government — except Yugoslavia, a multiethnic, multireligious country that exploded into pieces.
In the Arab world, almost all these countries are Yugoslavia-like assemblages of ethnic, religious and tribal groups put together by colonial powers — except Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco, which have big homogeneous majorities. So when you take the lid off these countries, you potentially unleash not civil society but civil war.
So he ends the piece by saying pray for Germany (homogeneous state revolutions), hope for South Africa (where past grievances are more peacefully dealt with), and prepare for Yugoslavias (more "Pentagon's New Map" material).
The Gap is full of Yugoslavias and not so many Germanys. How many South Africas we can manage is the challenge, but one thing is for sure: our current system of ad hoc responses only serves us so well. While too many in the Pentagon still dream of fabulous high-tech stand-off wars with the Chinese, the future is full of Yugoslavias.
Globalization, meanwhile, continues to advance, and when it hits these fake states, it unleashes decades or even centuries of pent-up grievances. The results will include plenty of civil wars, which in turn will birth more and more states. These states will need to be bundled up into larger economic unions as part of their integration process--and for their survival. Eventually, there will be a "united states of everywhere." That is the globalization replication process we unleashed, and it is the most potent marketizing/remapping process yet seen in the age of capitalism, so much so now that it advances with little to no effort on our part, as the impetus for its advance comes--ironically enough--from those ultra-conservative Chinese capitalists.
But China won't step into that fray unless forced to by our withdrawal from the world, now set somewhat in motion by the fiscal crisis long brewed by our decades-long deal with the world (you grow via export growth, we absorb that growth, you plow your winnings into our debt markets and accept a dollar-denominated financial order, and we fund and provide a Leviathan to manage global security). We are victims of our own success, but we haven't raised our replacements. We may take delight in France's recent muscular behavior, but it will not last. The burden must shift Eastward and Southward because that is where the money is (East) and that is where the action and thus incentives are (South). So, from here on out, we manage the world through more small nudges, eschewing the big bets that no one else is game to join in on.
This is the "end of empire" to some, but to me, it's just the next logical evolution, success being harder than failure because it demands more changes from you and denies you obvious enemies.
So there's no hoping or praying about it. We know what lies ahead: the hardest leftover work created by Europe's disastrous colonial orders of the 19th century. You may imagine that reality, combined with growing multipolarism, creates a rerun of 19th-century balance of power, but you'd be wrong. No one is really stepping up for any such competition and no one really seeks such control. In truth, everybody would just as soon go back to the sole-policeman model, because that was easier on them and provided more certainty. Now, responsibility is more dispersed but willpower is evaporating across the board, despite this glorious spurt from Europe.
But, of course, there is no future reality to be found there. So we enjoy it while we can, because the big adjustments and accommodations with the real risers like China, India, Turkey, Brazil, Indonesia - even Iran, those are yet to come. So the near-term is more Yugoslavias, but few takers.
The pessimist in me says we enter a long period of let-it-burn tragedies, until the A-to-Z rule set for processing politically bankrupt states truly emerges. But that's how things usually work out in this world: you ignore the pain--until you can't.