Sunday, July 12, 2015

Foreign Policy - Demographics & the Evolving Perspective

The millennials (1980-1996), the Generation X (1965-1979), the Baby Boomers (1946 – 1964), the Traditionalists (1900-1945) – Foot in his book Boom, Bust, Eco, called the Millennials – Ecos, so the name changes from one futurist to the other, but the facts are the same, we are now three generations away from the people who fought WW2 and lived through the depression.  The Canadian identity building apparatus has created a culture largely based on being other than “American” and on “diversity” along with other dribs and drabs. The societal “eye of the tiger” that had Canada provision 1 million people and build the third largest navy in the world to put down tyranny in WW2 seems absent now. I believe we need to get it back; this is in no way a call for exuberance in the pursuit of war, but rather a societal willingness to “throw down the gloves”.

I have a tremendous affection and respect for the Millennials & Generation X, I am a late boomer so my life experience is resembles Gen Xers more than Boomers. The Millennials are idealists, this is a good thing – the willingness to pursue the best of humanity is admirable. The Challenge is that the world is evolving in to a more complex place, multi polar and dangerous. Boomers and, Gen X to a lesser degree, had their world view forged by the Cold War – the world was largely bipolar and everyone else took up sides. The Millennials had their world view shaped by euphoria generated by the fall of the wall and the miss-framing of the most recent middle-east confrontations.

There is less of a willingness to support military action; this “anti-war” sentiment could be even more deadly than a more hawkish stance on foreign policy. We need to remember the cost of the hesitation of Roosevelt and Chamberlin in WW2, weak kneed policy generated an emboldened Hitler, who then took advantage of hesitation to build massive forces, with the net result being more people dead than if the West had been more aggressive. The modern version of this was the premature removal of troops from Iraq and scaling back in Afghanistan, we are paying the price for political pandering now, as the vacuum left by western withdrawal in the Middle East is being filled by ISIS & the like. It is grand to want “world peace”, the peace that made life grand for the Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials was earned by fighting and winning; that is the paradox of peace – it must be fought for. Simply putting other nation’s aggression on ignore or failing to respond to emerging threats is the road to disaster.

The challenge is that the affects of poor policy are buffered from the decision makers, the voters. Most challenging, the political process confounds a clear and concise message to the public – this is a particularly damaging externality of our political system.  The challenge in the Middle East is generations in the making, it will take generations to remedy and we have governments attempting to generate outcomes inside election cycles. There are violent, aggressive state entities at play in the world, unless we confront them, by force if necessary, and force them into the world community, they will gain mass until they can threaten or take away our way of life. Let history be your teacher, it keeps playing out with violent changes in power; the only time there is sustained peace is when there is a clear hegemon – the preservation and enhancement of a hegemon requires societal consensus and clarity in policy. The west’s hegemony is U.S. lead, and they are conflicted both generationally and politically; beyond that, other NATO players are fractured in preferred approach – internally and internationally.

There has been too little effort between western allies to solidify a long term policy by consensus, when we were in a bipolar circumstance with extreme threat we acted more or less in solidarity. Given the “pre WW1” circumstance now, multi polar and dangerously unstable – but with far less resolution – the world's security is insidiously slipping away.  

There needs to be strong leadership in clarifying the threats to our way of life and communicating them to people. People having been isolated from serious confrontation in their own space for generations are losing touch with the realities of power and what it means to them in their daily lives. It is important the people have a clear assessment on threats and outcomes, or apathy will rule until we all find ourselves stepping off a cliff, like so many Lemmings before. This is an issue that requires long term policy in the face of a changing circumstance, this is a place where political action can direct policy, however, political action should be withdrawn from policy actuation – the debate needs to be  had and consensus achieved before crisis hits.

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