Emile Ameen

The Era of Chaos and the Century of History’s Vengeance

In his most recent address to the United Nations General Assembly, in which he outlined his priorities for 2024, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that “the world is entering an era of chaos." He pointed to the deep divisions in the Security Council, which have left it incapable of addressing pressing issues, like the recent war in Gaza.

Guterres had discussed the political chaos and military conflicts ravaging the globe a few days prior, after having warned that our planet’s ecological crisis was shifting from the phase of "global warming" and was on the brink of a "boiling age." Both crises will doubtlessly deepen the chaos.

Guterres' alarming statements are intended to preempt the UN Summit of the Future and its outcomes.

A question comes to mind: what future are they talking about at a time when the Security Council has been locked in gridlock because of geopolitical divisions? This question is especially pertinent following the tectonic shift in the global landscape that followed the end of the Cold War, when there had been mechanisms that facilitated the management of superpower relations. These mechanisms are absent today, perhaps due to the rise of a multipolar world.

This is a calamitous era of chaos and a century of history's revenge because of wanton chaos and its unpredictable outcomes. It is as though the course of history is snowballing from the top of a mountain, descending quickly to the bottom where it will implode.

The state of the world renders the question redundant - skeptics should read up on the recent reports regarding militarization of outer space, including Russia's deployment of nuclear missiles there, which is certainly a response to similar American, and eventually Chinese, programs. The paths to chaos have surpassed planet Earth to reach outer space.

Guterres' statements were confirmed by the data from the "Military Balance” report issued earlier this year by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London. The report leaves no doubt that the past year has created a highly volatile global security environment, likely heralding a more dangerous decade defined by the use of military force in pursuit of objectives. Indeed, there has been a nine percent increase in global military spending, which rose to an unprecedented $2.2 trillion. The catastrophe, not mere development, is that further increases in arms spending are expected this year. Those who are suffering on this Earth, those struggling to find bread and water, are an afterthought.

One thought-provoking question that immediately jumps to any reader’s mind is this: Who is responsible for our entry into this interesting and dangerous stage? Without much debate, the majority would answer: The United States of America. Interestingly, the answers of the general public do not differ much from those of the elites in the US itself.

Have you heard of the arguments that America’s most prominent foreign policy theorist, Richard Haass’s book “A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order” presented regarding global chaos?

Haass warned, a decade and a half ago, of a terrifying world in which the status of the United States is shaken, as well as the implications that would have on all aspects of international politics. His view could be summed up as follows: the US-led world order is no longer sustainable after the collapse of its foundational pillars.

This claim demands diligent examination and scrutiny. It implies that the post-World War II framework of international politics, which had remained in place throughout the Cold War, had ended. Not only that, but he also boldly asserted that Washington's leadership of the new unipolar world did not endure for more than a decade and a half, from the beginning of the 1990s to the time of the American financial crisis in 2008. Thus, an era of chaos is indeed upon us. It has taken the form of threats and swift, unexpected shifts.

It goes without saying that the era of chaos, as outlined by Guterres and Haass, is deepened by the crisis of the "uncertainty of polarity." The bipolar era dominated by the Soviet Union and the United States has ended, but the international scene remains cloudy and ambiguous. Talk of a tri-polar world, whereby China is added to the mix, does not hold to scrutiny. Indeed, despite being a contender, Beijing has not reached a level where it can declare itself an equal rival to Washington. And, despite its hypersonic missiles on land and its obscure capabilities in outer space, Moscow cannot provide an effective global political umbrella, nor can it maintain military bases spread across 177 locations around the world. The United States can; the world is brimming with its forces and its people are constantly preoccupied with their presence.

This, in turn, begs a historically intriguing question: Has humanity reached a point at which it is avenging the policies and mistakes of towering figures who toyed with us as though we were pawns on a chessboard?

In the 2000s, the renowned British thinker and author Eric Hobsbawm once described the financial collapse of 2008 as a kind of right-wing parallel to the fall of the Berlin Wall, and that its global consequences made the world rediscover that global capitalism is not the solution, but rather the problem. It would not be hyperbolic to claim that the neoliberal system is in deep crisis and that there is an urgent need to rebuild the world’s shattered economies and societies on more democratic, equal, and rational foundations that give rise to a sustainable alternative.

A few days before this New Year’s eve, the famous French philosopher Edgar Morin sent a congratulatory message to humanity. He considered it a warning against the worst that has not yet come: “This year saw a surge of hatred. The world is on the brink. Can we ease our pain? Can we find a remedy for this human suffering? We are plagued by great hysterical delusions. Let us try to avoid the worst. Let us unite friendship and love to hope for better days.”

Is anyone listening? Will anyone save us from the era of chaos as we stand on the edge of the abyss?