By David Murrin | 6 May 2015
David Murrin is the author of Breaking the Code of History, the culmination of decades of personal research across a wide range of disciplines. David compellingly argues that human behaviour is not random, but determined by specific, quantifiable and predictable patterns fuelled by our need to survive and prosper. He has called this cycle The Five Stages of Empire, which due to its fractal nature is applicable to empires, all the way down to the cycle of the individual. According to David, to resolve the issues confronting us today we cannot merely study the past. The human race will need to understand this precise algorithm of behaviour that has caused us to re-enact the same destructive cycles in ever-greater magnitudes, in order to change our future.
Prioritising external threats to the West
Human affairs are all about balance in our relationships, both on the personal level and geopolitically between nations. Changes to the equilibrium always have consequences for a relationship, some benign, and some far reaching with at times dramatic and destructive results. In this ever dynamic process the key to maintaining harmony is to recognise and evaluate the nature of such shifts, and to strive constantly to find ways to redress and maintain that crucial balance.
The premise described in BTCH [Breaking the Code of History] of the West (lead by America) in decline is becoming a reality. In such circumstances it is vital that sound strategic reasoning is applied to the evaluation of the geopolitical threats faced by the West to ensure that limited resources are deployed wisely. There are three obvious candidates:- 1. Islam 2. Russia 3. China. Over the next three days, we will review each threat and propose strategies that might enable just such a degree of balance to be reached, sufficient hopefully, to deter future aggression. However any student of conflict should appreciate the importance of intelligence-led strategies, which become even more critical when defending against multiple threats simultaneously with expensive, precious and limited resources.
In this regard the West has developed a significant intelligence capability against the Islamic threat, but has lost its once powerful Cold War capability against Russia. The latter, we anticipate, is currently being revitalised as a consequence of the Ukraine crisis. However the real challenge is developing a successful intelligence capability against China, which has not historically been thought of as an enemy of the West and whose heritage and culture is so vastly different. Without a comprehensive intelligence apparatus focussed on China and its multi-layered overseas activities, the West will constantly be on the back foot in the years ahead. The damage caused by the Chinese to Western intelligence agencies by Edward Snowden is a prime example.
Tomorrow in part II we will review the Islamic threat.
Part II: Islam
The rising Islamic world’s first impulse was to lash out and resist interference from its historic Christian enemy in the West by exporting terrorism into its homelands. Since 9/11, and two wars later, America’s appetite for intervention has abated, and to some degree the Islamic fundamentalists objective has been partly achieved. The next step being the establishment of a pan-Islamic state, often compared with the First Caliphate.
Using the model of the Five Stages of Empire described in BTCH to understand more completely the trauma that the Middle East is beginning to go through, the new Islamic empire cycle is in the late phase of regionalisation, enduring a zonal civil war. This brutal Darwinian-type process of selection and self-determination will decide whose and what values will unite and consolidate the region into a single powerbase over the next half decade. During this period it is critical that the West minimises its involvement in the process as far as practically possible to avoid further inflaming Islamic/Christian relations.
On the positive side, this internal struggle has reduced the energy resources and rationale for attacks on the West, which coupled with well developed security measures should contain the threat to western communities. Overall we would assess that the current and foreseeable threat to the West is limited whilst the oil continues to flow out of the Middle East. Observation and containment of this process with diplomacy rather than military force is the wise approach.
In Africa this Islamic energy of expansion will push southwards impacting on tribal Christian nations south of the Sahara Desert and war should be expected to erupt east to west across Africa. During this phase of the process there may well be a case for support by the West facing this onslaught on its former colonies and current allies in which it has invested so heavily. The risk of a proxy war which would ultimately involve China must be monitored continuously.
The India-Pakistan border is the other area that represents a high risk zone as a new found Hindu nationalism clashes with the Islamic zeal of Pakistan. Without constant Western political mediation the risk of conflict will sadly only increase with time. Strategically, it is vital for the West that India is not involved in a nuclear exchange with Pakistan, as this would catastrophically disadvantage the western alliance against China, removing the only country with a similar demographic mass.
Overall the Islamic threat does not represent a fundamental challenge to the western way of life over the next decade. The limited threat that it offers should be manageable by a policy of political and military containment, which is to a large extent being enacted now.
Tomorrow in Part 3 we will review the Russian threat.
Part III: Russia
Until recently the West has underestimated Putin and his rule. It has been guilty of appalling slackness in not adapting its foreign policy as Russian strength has returned. The once bankrupt Empire of the USSR, which by the 1990s was weakened by negative demographics has now once more become stronger and wealthier driven by its commodity production, a trend that is expected to intensify as the new twenty-five year commodity positive cycle enters its strongest rallying phase over the next decade. With improvement in economic conditions Russia’s population decline has been arrested and Putin’s confidence has grown as America has weakened. In effect its national energy has significantly increased.
Putin has proven himself to be a very capable, if not entirely dictatorial leader, but the country does not have primary expansive energy because demographics are at best currently neutral. This single primary social driver, or lack of it, will limit Putin’s future achievements, especially if he faces a more resolute and prepared West, as a consequence of his almost inevitable annexation of Eastern Ukraine.
On the negative side of the balance is that at the heart of the European/Russian relationship is Europe’s dependence on Russian energy supplies, which historically Russia has used to strong-arm those to whom it supplies. Only when Europe has ended its reliance on Russian energy can the West face Putin on a more equal footing. The importance of rapid development of the shale oil and gas exploitation processes across Europe is of considerable strategic importance.
The good news is that the West has the ideal mechanism to defend its interests through the NATO structure which integrates America into European concerns, if it chooses to brush-off the cobwebs. However it should be noted that the expansion of Nato since 1990 has changed its concentrated structure into one of a diverse sprawling alliance of different military capabilities.
Before NATO dashes into action, perhaps Western politicians should contemplate that the biggest long term threat is that if the lines are re-constituted along those of the Cold War, then Russia will no doubt look for new alliances, and inevitably turn to China, which strategically would be the greatest disaster to befall the West since the raising of the Iron Curtain. The only realistic strategy for the West is to co-ordinate its military and political actions to show realistic resolution in protecting its sphere of influence, and to understand that baiting the bear in his own territory will only result in humiliation and a weaker position when facing future threats. Difficult as it may seem the West will have to come to some accommodation through political engagement, employing a degree of humility demonstrating that it appreciates its post Cold War relations with Russia have not given Russia deserved respect. The recent revolution in Ukraine being a prime example.
Overall we do not consider there is a risk of a new Cold War as both sides are in very different stages of empire now, as opposed to then. With this in mind Russia does not represent a threat that could change the western way of life, but rather one that will. If not resolved, be a running sore and distraction from pressing primary threats.
The West’s strategy towards Russia should be one of containment and political rapprochement, much as France and Britain did at the beginning of the twentieth century. The accommodation will have to include a western acceptance of a degree of Russian expansion in its sphere of influence, whilst the West’s goal should be to minimise that process and at no time force Russia into the arms of China, as it would be a geopolitical disaster of monumental proportions, minimising the effect of the pivot-east strategy which has the goal of containing Chinese expansion. In seeking rapprochement with Russia, Europe should be at great pains to emphasise its common European heritage, and not forget the support that Russia offered to America after 9/11.
Tomorrow in part 4 we will review the greatest of threats to the West: China.
Part IV: China
The reader will have noticed that in both the previous sections only one nation has been mentioned twice and that is China. In our assessment China’s power will continue to grow at a staggering rate that will astound even those who anticipated great expansion. China represents a fundamental challenge not only to the western way of life but to the whole world.
America’s pivot eastwards demonstrates that the world’s one declining superpower is finally taking China seriously, and is actively constructing alliances designed to contain this expansion. However that construct is currently more political than military. As the Chinese-driven arms race gathers speed political rhetoric will have to be matched with economic power translated into military muscle. When a nation’s security and perhaps even survival is measured by its economic means to pay for is defence, the importance of economics takes on a new meaning. Within this context America’s current financial condition, perilously maintained by the printing-press, must be revitalised. The only way that it is possible to see how this might occur is to say the least dramatic, i.e. through voluntary debt restriction and a managed return to economic reality. That is the only chance for America to regain an economy that is able to fund the arms race that China has now commenced. The sooner such a restructuring takes place the sooner America can start rebuilding and once more competing with China. The other option, if America continues to sleep walk, is that at a time of China’s choosing it triggers a debt default, as America tried to do to Britain during the Suez Crisis. This would have catastrophic consequences that would disable America, giving China a major relative economic advantage.
Western defence spending is now required to invest in primary combat power i.e. naval and air units. There will also be a need for sharing weapons technology with less developed allies such as India. Henceforth the West must be accurately tuned to the signs of transformation in military affairs in China that could significantly and relatively quickly change the balance of power.
To be very clear in the magnitude of the challenge we face, China is like no other threat that the West has ever seen since its rise five hundred years ago. First, China aspires to be the third great world sea power after Britain and the US. Unlike Britain and then America which became demographically constrained as land powers (Britain in Europe and the US in Asia), China’s demographics make it potentially the greatest land power in history. This combination of potential land and sea power is unique. If lessons from our past with German and Japanese aggressive expansions are digested properly, they suggest that it could take an alliance of the whole world including Africa, the Middle East and Latin America to contain Chinese military build-up. This expansion and determination to use such new found power will over the next few years become obvious to everyone.
Viewed in this context China is by far the greatest of all the threats faced by the West, with potential to change the western way of life drastically. Consequently China demands the full attention of not only America but all its allies, and that especially includes a rather comatose Europe. The first vital step is for politicians in the West to wake up quickly to the Chinese threat and develop the ability to protect western society from cyber espionage and attack. This will also send a message to Russia.
The only solution to this Chinese challenge over the next decade is, so far as possible, to employ a similar strategy as used in the Cold War to reduce the risk of conflict by matching China’s expansion with the creation of a global political and military alliance, lead by America. If the strength and integrity of such an alliance were to match China’s growing power, then the risks of war can be expected to decrease after 2025 when the commodity cycle begins to cool as it enters a twenty-five year decline.
The harsh reality and inevitability as explained in BTCH is that the West is in terminal decline as a world power, with America being the last of the Western Christian Empires. The Asian Super Empire led by China is clearly in ascendancy. Management of that power shift is the responsibility of current politicians and those of the next decade. If America continues its current economic path, its collapse will be precipitous and will consequently create a power vacuum that China’s current youthful incarnation will quickly step into with potentially destructive consequences for all humanity.
The key challenge to managing this once in a five hundred year power transition peacefully is first by maintaining a strong defensive capability, and secondly by developing widespread understanding in the West of Chinese history and culture and the process of the rise and fall of empires that provide an appreciation of the other side’s perspective.
Contrary to the polarisation process that will inevitably take place as competition increases, the Chinese are not in any way inherently bad. We would describe their history as one of the most admirable and remarkable on human record. However they are currently in their sixth empire cycle and this current reincarnation would best be described as having the dynamics of a youthful boisterous teenager. A youngster who in time will grow to become wise and more respectful to those around him, much as an old father might seek to pass control of his family business to his son. This transition needs to include recognition by the West of its own mortality, an understanding of China and the strength to resist the poorly judged impulses of youth.
Any other option is just too horrible to contemplate.
Reprinted with permission from the author.
David Murrin, a former oil company geologist, has spent the past 25 years in the world of financial markets. He is CEO of London-based Emergent Asset Management, a company he co-founded in 1997. Emergent’s investments are driven by David’s views as outlined in his book Breaking the Code of History, which focuses on his theory of historical cycles. He speaks widely on the topics of his book, appearing regularly as a keynote speaker on television and company boards. We would encourage people to join his site at www.davidmurrin.co.uk/blog as there are many articles which are outside our remit.
David Murrin – Trailer
David Murrin – ‘Breaking the code of history’ Part 1
David Murrin – ‘Breaking the code of history’ Part 2
David Murrin – ‘Breaking the code of history’ Part 3
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