As was also clearly stated by Vladimir Putin on September 4, 2017: “whichever country leads the way in Artificial Intelligence research will be the ruler of the world”.
According to Thomas Kuhn’s old, but still useful, epistemological model, every change of the scientific paradigm – rather than the emergence of new material discoveries – radically changes the visions of the world and hence strategic equilibria.
Hence, first of all, what is Artificial Intelligence? It consists of a series of mathematical tools, but also of psychology, electronic technology, information technology and computer science tools, through which a machine is taught to think as if it were a human being, but with the speed and security of a computer.
The automatic machine must representman’s knowledge, namely show it, thus enabling an external operator to change the process and understand its results within the natural language.
In practice, AI machines imitate the perceptual vision, the recognition and the reprocessing of language -and even of decision-making – but only when all the data necessary to perform it are available. They do so creatively, i.e. they self-correct themselves in a non-repetitive way.
As can be easily imagined, this happens rarelyin a complex system with a high rate of variation over time and space, as is exactly the case in war clashes.
Just think about the intelligence reserved for the Chiefs of Staff, which obviously no one ever feeds into any machine to “run” it.
Hence, first and foremost, AI is about making the machine imitate the human reasoning process, which is achieved by applying the Turing test.
As you may remember, Alan Turing was the mathematician who devised for the British intelligencea number of techniques for speeding the breaking of German ciphers and cracking intercepted coded messages that could find settings for the Enigma machine used by the German Nazi Intelligence Services.
Due to the large amount of data to be checked and translated, his mathematics required an electromechanical machine, a sort of computer which was in fact created at Bletchley Park, Britain’s codebreaking centre, with the technologies of the time: vacuum valves, copper wires and electric engines.
To be precise, the Nazis had developed a primitive computer, namely Z1, that was hard to program, while the British Colossuspermitted the introduction of cards and tapes that allowed its adaptation to the various needs of the British SIGINT of the time.
Furthermore, in Turing’s mind, the Imitation Game involving three people (a sort of deception game) could be replaced by a machine – and here the mathematical theory permitting AI comes into play.
The machine takes the place of either human beings who try to prevent the correct identification of the third human being (C) – an identification that remains hidden to both A and B.
Hence Alan Turing claims that man A can be replaced by a machine and that this can be correctly defined as “thinking”.
Hence, according to Alan Turing,the human thought can be creatively imitated and recreated through a Finite State Machine (FSM) that can simulate other Discrete State Machines.
In principle a Finite State Machine is a machine allowing to fully describe – in mathematical terms – the simultaneous or non-simultaneous behaviour of many systems.
With a view to better understanding this concept, we can think of an image: the warp of a fabric with respect to its weft, which can have various colours or designs.
Conversely, a Discrete-State Machine is a calculator, i.e.a machine evolving by sudden jumps from one state to another.
The same evolutionary jumps that the epistemologist, Thomas Kuhn, thought as steps of a scientific paradigm.
Finally, in Turing’s mind, the Discrete State Machine was the most suitable for simulating the human thought-behaviour.
Currently, in AI, almost exclusively “hybrid spots” are used, i.e. systems unifying various types of finite or discrete state machineswhich develop and process also probabilistic scenarios.
There is no need for going further into this network of technical reasoning, which only partially regards the topic of this article.
It is worth recalling that the issue has its true conceptual and strategic origin in March 2017, when a computer program developed by Google, namely AlphaGo, beatthe world champion in the ancient Chinese board game Go, an extraordinary strategy game.
According to some US analysts, it was the game that inspired the Head of the North Vietnamese Armed Forces and of the Viet Mihn Communists, Vo Nguyen Giap, in his confrontation with the United States and its allies.
A game in which – unlike what happens in chess-there is no immediate evidence of the victory of either contenders.
Years before, in 1997, a much less advancedalgorithm than AlphaGo had beaten the chess champion Gary Kasparov.
With a view to better understanding what an AI system is, it is worth recalling that AlphaGo is made up of two deep “neural networks” having millions of neural connections very similar to those of the human brain.
A neural network is a mathematical model inspired by the structure of the neural networks typical of the human brain.
It consists of information interconnections and it is a mathematical-information system made up of artificial neurons and processes using computational connections common to all “neurons”.
Furthermore the AlphaGo system self-corrects and learns by itself, because it stores and quickly processes the many matches and games in which it participated.
As can be easily imagined, this also makes it largely unpredictable.
In the future, however, the new military robots with high autonomy of movement and selection of targets – and, sometimes, even of the AI procedure to be used – will incorporate a great deal of Artificial Intelligence.
This will make the difference between a losing robot and a winning one on the ground.
Hence, at some point of technological evolution, they may also take autonomous actions.
Therefore the problem arises of how much autonomy can be given to robots, whether they are mobile on the ground or centralized in a command brigade.
Tactical autonomy, while the neural connections between the various military robots are managed simultaneously by a “classic” human system and by a 2.0 AI mechanism?
But here factors such as each country’s doctrine and the assessment of the probability of a war clash and with whom, must be considered.
Therefore many human lives can be saved even in a conflict and on the war theatre, except in a counter-resource robot action, which hits the civilian population.
It will also be easier to resortto armed confrontation, but a higher cost of automated defense or attack operations will be expected.
Obviously considering that the AI systems are derived from “natural thought”, if – in the activities – very few changes are to be made to an already-defined program, the machines always work better than human beings.
They are faster, much more precise and they never rest. Moreover, they have no parallel reasoning patterns deriving from personal tastes, ideologies, feelings, sensations, affections.
They are not distracted by value, cultural, symbolic, ethical and politicalissues and probably not even by the typical themes of the Grand Strategy.
In principle, however, if what is at stake are substantially equivalent technical choices or similar evaluations of the final future scenarios, on which the machine has no pre-set programming, man will always prevail in the match between man and robot.
Hence Metaphysics – or the “science of aims”, to put it in Aristotle’s words – is the unique attribute of our species.
But the process to achieve extra-technical goals can always be formalized and hence there is always at least one finite state machine in the world that can imitate it – on its own, however, without further support of the homo sapiens sapiens.
It must also be considered that the techniques for the AI “autonomous weapons” cannot be completely classifiedbecause, in these technologies, the commercial sector can often overcome the efficacy of “covered” technology weapons.
If we open up to commercial technologies, that would be the end of confidentiality.
In fact all AI, ranging from finance to machine tools up to biological and environmental programming, is a market-driven technology controlled by open markets- or rather still oligopolistic ones.
However, what are the limits and the merits of a war or global strategy technology entirely rebuilt according to AI standards?
The simple answer is that firstly no finite state or hybrid machine can evaluate the reliability of the data and systems it receives.
Hence we can imagine a new kind of intelligence action, that is the possibility of “poisoning” the command systems of the enemy’s AI machines.
The deep Internet, the area of websites – often having criminal relevance – not resulting in the official search engines, could also host viruses or even entire opposing systems, which directly reach our AI machines, thus making them fulfill the enemy’s will and not ours.
It is worth recalling that Von Clausewitz defined victory as “the prevailing of the opponent’s will or of our will”.
Nevertheless the Artificial Intelligence systems can be extremely useful in the military and intelligence sector, when it comes to using them in the “computer vision”, where millions of data must be analyzed creatively in the shortest possible time.
In fact, the Turing machine and the derived AI machines can imitate abduction, a logical process that is very different from that of deduction and induction.
Deduction, which is typical of traditional machines, such as the calculator, is the logical process that, starting from a non-analyzed premise, rationally derives particular propositions describing the perceivable reality.
Conversely, induction is a logical process that, with a number of finite steps fully adhering to the natural logic, allows to shift from empirical data to the general rule, if any.
Hence abduction is an Aristotelian syllogism in which the major premise is certain while the minor one is only probable.
The Aristotelian syllogisms are made up of a general statement (the major premise), a specific statement (the minor premise) and a conclusion that is inferred.
They are adaptable to both induction and deduction.
Furthermore, in the various types of syllogism the Stagirite developed, the major premise is the general definition of an item belonging or not to a whole.
For example, “All men are bipeds”.
The minor premise is that “George is a man (or is a biped)” and hence the conclusion is that “George is a biped (or a man)”.
Finally, in abduction, there is an opposite reasoning compared to the other two: it is used when we know the rules and the conclusion and we want to reconstruct the premise.
The definition of abduction given by Charles S. Peirce, who long evaluated it in his pragmatist philosophy, is the following: “the surprising fact, C, is observed; but if A were true, C would be a matter of course.
Hence there is reason to suspect that A is true”.
If I have white beans in my hand and there is a bag of white beans in front of me, there is reason to believe that the beans in my hand were taken out of that bag.
In fact, this is exactly the way in which an AI machine corrects or enhances its knowledge starting from the program we put in it.
Another military use of AI is the “deep” face recognition, far more analytical and fast than it can be done today.
There is also voice recognition, the immediate indication of the sources of an enemy communication and its almost simultaneous comparison with the countless similar or anyway opposing communications.
Artificial Intelligence can also be used for military logistics issues or for the multi-variable resolution of war games, and even for combat automation in mixed environments with men and machines in action.
Therefore recourse to a limited war will be ever more likely if there are no human victims and if the confrontation is directed by advanced automatic systems.
There will also be an impact on political responsibility, which could be shifted to AI systems and not to commanders or decision-makers in the flesh.
What political and strategic effects would an automatic clash have and what immediate psychological mechanisms would it trigger in the population?
However, who wins in the recently-started war for dominance in AI military and intelligence technologies?
For the time being, certainly China.
In fact, in November 2017 the Chinese startup company Yitu Tech won the contest for the best face recognition system.
The challenge was to recognize the greatest number of passengers accidentally encountered in a civilian airport.
The Chinese government has already approved a project called “Artificial Intelligence 2.0” having specific applications both in the economy and in military and intelligence structures.
The Chinese Armed Forces are now working on a unified project in AI 2.0, an initiative regarding precisely the relationship between AI civilian and military applications.
As already noted, this is the strategic weak point of the AI military programming, because it verifies strong competition between the market and state organizations, at least in the West.
In fact, for the US Intelligence Services, the line to be currently followed in the smart war automation is to implement the new technologies to enrich the information already present on the President’s table.
In China the “merger” between market and State in the AI sector is directly regulated by the Commission for Integrated Military and CivilianDevelopment, chaired personally by Xi Jinping – and this says it all.
In the framework of the new AI strategic evolution, the Chinese Armed Forces follow the criterion of “shared construction, shared application and shared use” with private individuals and entities – at least for all innovations in the programming and automatic management of information (and actions) on the battlefield and in the intelligence area.
Therefore the Chinese AI 2.0 puts together robotic research, military systems without pilot or other staff and the new military brain science.
A new theoretical-practical branch that affects even the mental and remote control of machines through human applications such as headsets detecting and interpreting the brain activity of the wearer, thus allowing them to control the machines.
This already happened at the Zhengzhou Military Academy in August 2015, with students guiding and controlling robots through sensors placed on their skullcaps.
Hence the new AI activities in the intelligence sector can be easily imagined: infinitely broader and faster data collection – and even structured and semi-processed – creation of automatic intelligence contrast systems; entry into electronic media systems and networks available to “anonymous” data decision-makers that change the perception of the battlefield and of the whole enemy society.
Finally, the synergic coverage of the civilian and military data of the country that has achieved dominance in AI technologies.
Each new technology in the AI military sector is protected and, hence, implies a civilian, military or hybrid battlefield , in which all the operations of those who possess the advanced tool always hit the target with the minimum use of soldiers and with the utmost confidentiality.
It would be good for the EU to think about these new scenarios, but currently imagining that the European Union is able to think is mere theory.
Furthermore China has created a new Research Institute on AI and related technologies linked to the Central Military Commission and the Armed Forces.
Liu Ghuozhi, the Director of this Research Institute, likes to repeat that “whoever does not disrupt the adversary will be disrupted”.
The current rationale of the People’s Liberation Army is that the new and more advanced AI environment 2.0 – i.e. that of war, of the strategic clash and of the apparently peaceful political one – is already a new stage in military thinking.
This is a qualitatively different level, far beyond the old conflict information technologies – a stage requiring a “new thinking” and a completely different approach to military confrontation, which immediately turns into a social, economic, technological and cultural one.
Hence a Chinese way – through technology – to the Russian “hybrid warfare”, but a strategic thinking remaining along the lines of the Unrestricted Warfare theorized by Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui in 1999, at the dawn of globalization.
In fact, the origin of globalizationshould not be found in the fall of the Berlin Wall, but in the beginning of Deng Xiaoping’s Four Modernizations in 1978.
It is also worth noting that, from the beginning, the implicit planning in the “Unrestricted Warfare” theorized by the two Chinese Colonels had been thought against “a more powerful opponent than us”, namely the United States.
Hence merging of technical and intelligence services in the area of operations;union of intelligence and AI networks; integration of command functions with other activities on the ground, obviously also with intelligence, and finally use of the large mass of information in real time.
This is made possible thanks to the adaptation of the Chinese Intelligence Services to the speed and wide range of data provided by all technological platforms and by any “human” source.
The ultimate goal is unrestricted warfare, in which you do not dominate the “enemy’s will”, but all its resources.
Therefore China currently thinks that “technology determines tactics” and the People’s Liberation Army intends to develop also support systems using Artificial Intelligence to back strategic decision-making.
Still today this should work also on the basis of the old US program known as Deep Green created in 2005 by the Defense Advanced Research Program Agency (DARPA).
It is an AI system intended to help military leaders in the strategic evaluation of scenarios, of their own options and of the enemy’s options, as well as their own potential – at such a speed enabling to counteract any enemy move before it could be fully deployed.
Finally what is the Russian Federation doing in the field of modernization of its Armed Forces by means of Artificial Intelligence?
It is doing many things.
First and foremost, Russia is carefully studying unmanned ground vehicles (UGV), such as Uran-9, Nerekhta and Vir.
They are all armoured tanks that can host anti-tank missiles and mid-sized guns.
Secondly, since 2010 Russia has favoured the development of its Armed Forces in relation to what its military doctrine defines as “intelligence exchange and supremacy”.
In other words, the Russian military world believes that the intelligence superiority is central both in times of peace and in times of war.
Superiority vis-à-vis its own population to be protected from others’ dezinformatsjia and superiority with respect to the enemies’ propaganda in their own countries – an information action that must be mastered and dominated, so that the enemy’s public can develop an ideological universe favourable to Russian interest.
This psycho-intelligence “exchange” – always based on AI supports – implies diplomatic, economic and obviously military, political, cultural and religious tools.
It is mainly developed through two intervention areas: the technical-intelligence and media area and the other one more traditionally related to psychological warfare.
Russia is also developing a program to adapt its supercomputers to deep learning, with an AI system significantly callediPavlov.
The deep learning of computers having hundreds of petaflops (a petaflop is equivalent to 1,000,000,000,000,000 floating point operations per second)is an AI system allowing to fully imitate not only the “normal” human thought- which is defined as “logical” – but also the possible statistical variations, which are in fact involved in abduction, of which we have already spoken.
It is worth repeating that the EU closely follows America with regard to drones, computer science and information technologies and it is also starting to fund some projects, including military ones, in the 2.0 AI sector.
However, they are technological goals far away in time and, in any case, despite the dream, or the myth, of a European Armed Force, intelligence, advanced battlefield doctrines and intelligence neural networks – if any – are strictly limited to the national level.
With the results we can easily imagine, above all considering the intellectual and technological lack of an EU doctrine on “future wars”.
COVID-19 lockdowns are in lockstep with the ‘Great Reset’
In October 2019, a pandemic simulation exercise called Event 201 – a collaborative effort between Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, World Economic Forum, and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – concluded that a hypothetical new coronavirus may end up killing at least 65 million people worldwide within 18 months of an outbreak.
When COVID-19 coincidentally emerged from Wuhan two months later, scientists were rushing to generate similar alarmist forecasts using a variety of questionable scientific models. Researchers from the Imperial College London, for instance, approximated death tolls of 500,000 (UK) and two million (USA) by October this year. To those following the metastasis of the global vaccine mania, the Imperial model was predictably “tidied up” with the help of Microsoft.
While scientific models are admittedly fallible, one would nonetheless be hard-pressed to justify the endless string of contradictions, discrepancies and wilful amnesia in the global pandemic narrative. In fact, one should question whether COVID-19 even deserves the tag of a “pandemic”. According to the United States’ Centre for Disease Control (CDC), the updated age-group survival rates for COVID-19 happen to be: Ages 0-19 (99.997%); 20-49 (99.98%); 50-69 (99.5%); and 70+ (94.6%). The mortality rates are only slightly higher than the human toll from seasonal flu and are, in fact, lower than many ailments for the same age cohorts.
If the CDC statistics don’t lie, what kind of “science” have we been subjected to? Was it the science of mass-mediated hysteria? There are other troubling questions yet unanswered. Whatever happened to the theory of bats or pangolins being the source of COVID-19? Who was Patient Zero? Why was there a concerted media agitprop against the prophylactic use of hydroxychloroquine that was backed by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) no less? And why did Prof Neil Ferguson, who had led Imperial’s contagion modelling, repeatedly breach lockdown measures to meet his paramour – right after his recommendations were used to justify draconian lockdowns worldwide which continue till today?
Most damning yet, why are Western media and scientific establishments dismissive of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine? After all, Moscow’s credibility, both scientific and otherwise, is on the line here. In a real pandemic, nobody would care where an effective remedy comes from. The virus does not care about borders and geopolitics; so why should we politicize the origins of an antidote?
Perhaps what we are really dealing with here is a case of mass “coronapsychosis” as Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko aptly called it. Who benefits from global lockdowns that are destabilizing all facets of our society? The following four “great” undercurrents may provide a clue.
The Great Deflection
As the author had warned for more than a decade, the world is staring at a confluence of risk overloads, socioeconomic meltdowns1 and a Second Great Depression. For the ruling classes, COVID-19 is fortuitously deflecting public attention away from the disastrous consequences of decades of economic mismanagement and wealth fractionation. The consolidation of Big Tech with Big Media2has created an Orwellian world where collective hysteria is shifting loci from bogeymen like Russia to those who disagree with the pandemic narrative.
We have entered a “new normal” where Pyongyang, North Korea, affords more ambulatory freedom than Melbourne, Australia. While rioting and mass demonstrations by assorted radicals are given a free pass – even encouraged by leaders in the West –Facebook posts questioning lockdowns are deemed subversive. This is a world where Australian Blueshirts beat up women, manhandle a pregnant woman in her own home, and perform wolf pack policing on an elderly lady in a park. Yet, the premier of the Australian state of Victoria remains unfazed by the unflattering moniker of Kim Jong Dan.
The corona-totalitarianism is unsurprisingly most pronounced in the Anglosphere and its dependencies. After all, these nations are staring at socioeconomic bankruptcies of unprecedented proportions vis-à-vis their counterparts. Even their own governments are being systematically undermined from within. The US Department of Homeland Security, created in the aftermath of 9/11 to combat terrorism, is now providing$10 million in grants to organizations which supposedly combat “far-right extremism and white supremacy”. This will further radicalize leftist malcontents who are razing down US cities and its economies in the name of social justice. There is however a curious rationale behind this inane policy as the following section illustrates.
The Great Wealth Transfer
While the circus continues, the bread is thinning out, except for the Top 0.001%. Instead of bankruptcy as recent trends indicated, Silicon Valley and affiliated monopolies are notching up record profits along with record social media censorships. US billionaires raked in $434 billion in the first two months of the lockdown alone. The more the lockdowns, the more the wealth accrued to the techno-elite. As tens of millions of individuals and small businesses face bankruptcy by Christmas, the remote work revolution is gifting multibillion dollar jackpots to the likes of Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook). Azure (Microsoft) and AWS (Amazon) cloud eco-systems, among others, have expanded by 50% since the beginning of the pandemic.
In the face of such runaway wealth fractionation, panoptic contact tracing tools from Big Tech are increasingly employed to pacify restive populations. And of course, to prevent a second, third or Nth wave of COVID-19 for our collective good!
In the meantime, Big Banks, Big Pharma, Big Tech and other monopolies are getting lavish central bank bailouts or “stimulus packages” to gobble up struggling smaller enterprises. COVID-19 is a gift that never stops giving to a select few. But how will the techno-oligarchy maintain a degree of social credibility and control in an impoverished and tumultuous world?
The Great Philanthropy
Oligarchic philanthropy will be a dominant feature of this VUCA decade3. According to a recent Guardian report, philanthropic foundations have multiplied exponentially in the past two decades, controlling a war chest worth more than $1.5 trillion. That is sufficient to bankroll a horde of experts, NGOs, industry lobbies, media and fact-checkers worldwide. Large sums can also be distributed rapidly to undermine governments. The laws governing scientific empiricism are no longer static and immutable; they must dance in tandem with the funding. Those who scream fake news are usually its foremost peddlers. This is yet another “new normal” which had actually predated COVID-19 by decades.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) is a prime example of how oligarchic philanthropy works. Since 2000, it has donated more than $45 billion to “charitable causes” and a chunk of thisis designed to control the global media narrative. The Guardian, rather tellingly, credits the BMGF for helping eradicate polio despite contrary reports of wanton procedural abuses, child death tolls and poverty exploitations which routinely mar the foundation’s vaccination programs. Bill Gates even interprets vaccine philanthropy in terms of a 20-to-1 return on investments, as he effused to CNBC last year.
As for the BMGF’s alleged polio success, officials now fear that a dangerous new strain could soon “jump continents”. After spending $16 billion over 30 years to eradicate polio, international health bodies – which work closely with BMGF – have “accidentally” reintroduced the disease to Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran.
Poverty, hunger and desperation will spawn a tangible degree of public gratitude despite elite philanthropy’s entrenched bias towards elite institutions and causes. By the Guardian’s own admission, “British millionaires gave £1.04bn to the arts, and just £222m to alleviating poverty” in the 10-year period to 2017. Contrast this with the annual $10 billion earmarked by the philanthropic pool for “ideological persuasion” in the US alone. The rabble is worth their weight only for the potential havoc they can wreak.
There is enough money floating around to reduce our cities into bedlams of anarchy as seen in the United States today. (It will only get worse after the Nov 3 US presidential elections).The crumbs left over can be delegated to threadbare charities. One only needs to reflect on soup kitchens in the post-1929 Weimar Republic. The most popular ones were organized by the Nazi party and funded by wealthy patrons. The march towards a new order has a familiar historical meme. The new Brownshirts are those who terrorise citizens for not wearing masks, for not being locked down in their pens, and for simply supporting a political candidate of choice. Even children who do not follow the oligarchic narrative are not spared!
The Great Reset
A great pruning will inevitably occur in the mega-billionaire club as whatever remains of the global corona-economy is systematically cannibalized. The club will get smaller but wealthier and will attempt to sway our collective destiny. Control over education, healthcare, means of communications and basic social provisions is being increasingly ceded by governments to the global elite. Governments colluding in the “new normal” will sooner or later face the ire of distressed masses. Politicians and assorted “social justice warriors” will be scapegoated once they have outlived their usefulness.
In this cauldron, the century-old technocratic dream of replacing politicians, electoral processes and businesses with societies run by scientists and technical experts4may emerge – thanks to advances in panoptic technologies. It will be an age for the “rational science of production” and “scientific collectivism”. The latter is eerily redolent of the Soviet sharaska (prison labs) system.
The production and supply of goods will be coordinated by a central directorate5, led not by elected representatives (whose roles, where they exist, will be nominal anyway) but by technocrat factotums. Perhaps this is what the World Economic Forum refers to as the Great Reset. In reality though, this idea smacks of a global Gosplan minus the Doctor Sausages for the innumerable many.
(Some emerging economies like Malaysia and India casually refer to technocracy as an infusion of greater technical expertise into bureaucracy. This is a misinterpretation of technocracy’s longstanding means and goals).
One intractable problem remains: will the emerging global oligarchy tolerate the existence of various deep states worldwide? Initially, both groupings may cooperate to their mutual benefit but their respective raisons d’être are too contradictory to be reconciled One thrives on an “open society” run by obedient hirelings who will administer a global Ministry of Truth while the other depends on secrecy and a degree of national sovereignty to justify its existence. Surveillance technologies ushered in by the ongoing “coronapsychosis” may end up being the deciding factor in this struggle.
After all, if social media posts by the President of the United States and the White House can be blatantly censored today, think of the repercussions for billions of people worldwide tomorrow?
Author’s note: An abridged version of this article was published by RT on Oct 14
1. Maavak, M. (2012), Class Warfare, Anarchy and the Future Society: Is the Middle Class forging a Gramscian Counter-Hegemonic Bloc Worldwide? Journal of Futures Studies, December 2012, 17(2): 15-36.
2. Maavak, M. (2019). Bubble to Panopticon: Dark Undercurrents of the Big Data Torrent.Kybernetes, Vol. 49 No. 3, pp. 1046-1060. https://doi.org/10.1108/K-06-2019-0403
3. Maavak, M (2021). Maavak, M. (2021). Horizon 2020-2030: Will Emerging Risks Unravel our Global Systems? Accepted for publication.Salus Journal, Issue 1 2021.
4. Elsner, Jr., Henry (1967). The Technocrats: Prophets of Automation. Syracuse University.
5. Stabile, D.R. (1986). Veblen and the Political Economy of the Engineer: the radical thinker and engineering leaders came to technocratic ideas at the same time.American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Vol, 45, No. 1, 1986, pp. 43-44.
Should Turkey and Azerbaijan Be Worried About Killed Syrian Mercenaries?
Just a few weeks ago many analysts and observers were sceptical about reports of Turkey’s transferring units of its Syrian National Army (SNA) proxies to Nagorno Karabakh, even more so because Turkish officials denied any such claims. However, as evidence of massive casualties among the Syrian mercenaries continues to mount, there is little space left for doubt: SNA fighters have become cannon fodder in the Turkish operation in support of Azerbaijan.
The first batch of bodies of those Syrians who perished in Nagorno Karabakh counted over 50 people, according to messages and videos that went viral on opposition WhatsApp and Telegram channels. Among the dead who were delivered to Syria over Hiwar Kilis border crossing and were given a hasted burial were men from Aleppo, Idlib, Homs and other regions of Syria. Many of their relatives, like families of Muhammad Shaalan from Atareb and Kinan Ferzat from Maarat al-Nuuman, were shocked to learn about their death.
Just like the majority of the Syrians who travelled to Nagorno Karabakh, Muhammad and Firzat were primarily motivated by lucrative rewards of up to 2,000 dollars promised by Turkey. “I came here to make money and have a better life back in Syria where the living conditions are miserable. I consider this a job, nothing else,” a member of Liwa Sultan Murad, one of the first SNA factions to deploy its fighters to the contested region, told Guardian.
The reason behind heavy casualties of the Syrian mercenaries is that they are thrown into action where the clashes are the most violent, including Jabrayil, Terter, Fizulin and Talysh. This move allows Azerbaijan to keep its military, who mainly provide air support including operating Turkey-made Bayraktar TB2 UAVs and coordinate artillery and missile strikes of the Armenian positions, out of direct contact with the enemy.
The estimates of the numbers of the Syrian mercenaries present in Nagorno Karabakh are wildly different. While initial reports put their number at 500 men, it is currently believed that the actual number may be in thousands. This data indicates that at least 10 percent of the fighters were killed during the very first days of the escalation – a serious alarm for the mercenaries as well as their Turkish backers.
These developments must ring a bell for Azerbaijan as well. The longer the conflict protracts, the higher the risk of casualties among the Azeri servicemen becomes, who have already suffered losses in Armenian retaliation strikes. Baku has managed to avoid discontent among the military as well as the civilian populace – not least thanks to the Syrian mercenaries crushed as cannon fodder – but this can not continue for long.
Emerging Multipolarity and its consequences
“Make America great again” a slogan that formed the nucleus of trump’s electoral campaign vividly suggests that America is no more a great country. It is, in fact, an implicit admission that U.S is gradually losing its clout in international politics and hence, its image as a sole superpower of the world has virtually tarnished. Let me rephrase this connotation; it means that the era of unipolar world is over and the world has now transitioned to a multipolarirty.
Currently, new power centers are emerging in transnational political landscape. China, Russia, India and Turkey are excessively engaged to carve a niche for them in evolving international order. Most importantly, with China and Russia’s mushrooming proximity, balance of power is now shifting from west to east. Former United States (US) Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton at her state visit to New Zealand was one of the first to observe “a shifting balance of power to a more multi-polar world as opposed to the Cold War model of a bipolar world”. This conspicuous change in multi-national political setup was also realized by Ban ki Moon, the then secretary- General of United Nations who stated at Stanford University in 2013 that we have begun to “move increasingly and irreversibly to a multi-polar world”. Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, also declared at the Russia-China Conference 2016 that “international relations have entered into a conceptually new historical stage that consists in the emergence of a multi-polar world order and reflects the strengthening of new centers of economic development and power”.
These manifestations of political spin doctors have since then revealed a general acceptance of the idea of multi-polar world as a concept that is inescapable political reality in the contemporary international dynamics. However, when it comes to the transitions and inevitability of power structures, there is a little agreement among the international states.
A much stronger resistance to forego unipolarity remains embedded in the Trump administration vision to “make America great again”. Political pundits such as Robert Kaplan continue to question, whether there is an overlap of unipolar and multi-polar world realities; where US continues to retain the supremacy in military realm of affairs and is anticipated to remain so for a considerable future time, whereby China leads in the economic realm. Additionally nations in the former Third World are acquiring status as rising powers, notably India who have over the years with smart diplomacy have acquired global outreach to shape international agenda.
Chronologically, After World War II, the U.S. became the undisputed and unchallenged global superpower. It was the only country, equipped with nuclear warheads and was one of the few countries involved in the war that came away from it relatively unscathed at home. The U.S. underwent a meager loss of approximately 400,000 soldiers and a fractional amount of civilians in the war. The Soviet Union, meanwhile, incurred a gigantic loss of around 11 million soldiers and some 7 million to 10 million civilians. While Soviet and European cities were undergoing the process of rehabilitation, American cities flourished. It seemed clear to all that the future belonged to the United States.
But it didn’t take long for the luster of unrivaled power to tarnish. The U.S. military machine relaxed as quickly as it had mobilized, and wartime unity gave way to peacetime political debates over government spending and entitlement programs. Within five years, a bipolar world emerged: The Soviets attained an atomic bomb, and the U.S. was caught flat-footed in a war on the Korean Peninsula that ended in a stalemate. Soon thereafter, the U.S. was withdrawing from Vietnam and rioting at home. In 1971, then-President Richard Nixon predicted a world that he said would soon emerge in which the U.S. was “no longer in the position of complete pre-eminence.” Within 26 years of the end of World War II, Nixon’s prediction saw the light of the day and the U.S. had to resign to its fate.
Theoretically, multipolarity refers to a distribution of power in which more than two states have nearly equal amounts of military, cultural, financial and economic influence.
If we look at the contemporary world, we find that with the rise of like China, India, Russia, Indonesia, Turkey and Brazil, global power will spread across a wider range of countries, hence, a new world order with multipolar outlook is likely to emerge .
Realistically speaking, several revisionist powers are and will shaking up their regions. For instance, Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014 – annexing Crimea, over which it has fought several wars throughout history (mainly with Turkey). In turn, Turkey is asserting its sovereignty over the eastern Mediterranean to the frustration of countries like Greece, Egypt, Cyprus and Israel. Meanwhile, India has upped its aggression in its border dispute with Pakistan as Modi began a process to revoke the autonomous status of the disputed territories of Jammu and Kashmir.
Notably, after the age of city-states and nation-states, we are now entering the age of continental politics. The most powerful countries of the 21st century (the U.S., China, Russia India, Indonesia, and Brazil) are the size of continents. They have broad economic bases and their digital economies potentially have hundreds of millions of users. Internationally, their scale requires them to seek broad spheres of influence in order to protect their security.
Here the question arises what will be the impact of growing multipolarity in the world? First of all, revisionist powers will increasingly ignite tensions. The growing assertiveness of countries like Russia, Turkey and India is the new normal. As they grow more powerful, these countries will seek to revise arrangements in order to reflect the new realities of power. Because these (continental) states seek broad spheres of influence, many places are at risk of destabilization.
Second, one of the biggest risks is the growing paranoia of the hegemon (the U.S.). The current trade war has shown how destabilizing the policy of the (financial) hegemon becomes as it feels threatened by the rise of a rival. Historically, this has been the most important source of violent conflicts. Indeed, the biggest source of uncertainty in the coming years is how the U.S. will react to the rise of China.
Third, the world order will become more ambiguous. Two developments deserve our attention. First, the growing use of shadow power will make conflict more unpredictable. With digital tools, states (and non-state actors) are manipulating each other in subtle ways. For example, Russian hackers posed as Iranians to hit dozens of countries and Americans blamed Russia for tampering with American elections. Second, alliances will also become more ambiguous. With ever changing dynamics of world economy, new alliances, motivated by the concept of triangulation (to keep balance in relation with the US and China, the trade warriors) will form and such alliances, as predicted by spin doctors; will be less stable than the blocs, formed in 20th century.
To sum it up, before we reach a multipolar world order, we will see a period of growing uncertainty based on the rise of revisionist powers, the paranoia of the U.S. and growing ambiguity of conflict and cooperation. Moreover, the political pundits are divided in opinion that whether multi-polarity is unstable than unipolarity or bipolarity. Kenneth Waltz strongly was in favor of “bipolar order as stable”. On the other side, Karl Deutsch and David Singer saw multi-polarity as guaranteeing a greater degree of stability in an article published in 1964, “Multipolar Systems and International Stability”. Simon Reich and Richard Ned Lebow in “Goodbye Hegemony” (2014), question the belief whether a global system without a hegemon would be unstable and more war prone. However, whatever the system the world is likely to witness in the days to come, let’s hope that this should be in the best interest of humanity and it should make the lives of the inhabitants of this planet peaceful and prosperous.
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