When the earth beneath our feet moves our politics changes, as if to remind us not to take the daily turns of the earth and our lives on it for granted. It had moved beneath the Land of the Rising Sun with a force unexperienced in a century on March 11, 2011.
The trifold crises in Japan, all natural ― a 9.0 magnitude earthquake at mid-afternoon, followed by a tsunami that produced giant, jet-speed ocean waves in response to the folding of the earth on the ocean floor, from the coast of Japan to the coast of Kenya, followed by the failure to contain the heat from nuclear decay, the continuing Promethean act of stealing fire from the gods to tame it, which can have repercussions for a 100 days ― have humbled the human farce, a possible fourth natural disaster for we humans are also nature, that has been unfolding since the uprisings in Tunisia on the Mediterranean coast began about 2 months earlier.
The paradigm of politics ― the British Empire and its currency the pound followed by the rise of the United States and its currency the dollar and a Japan which forsook its empire and war-mongering in favor of peaceful nuclear power in the aftermath of the only nuclear attack by one country on another human history has ever known ― that produced the republics without the democracy, beginning about a century ago, is changing because all peoples are but one people and we all need and want the same things.
It is apposite and perhaps a historical contingency that democracy is coming to the republics on some segments of the land which surrounds the primordial soup of civilization, the Mediterranean, and for it to be sustainable, great responsibility is needed both among its foreign enablers and native aspirants.
The foreigners to whom civilization had spread from its origins constitute the permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council (Perm-5) and of the Group of Seven (G7) nations. All of them are plagued by their own domestic woes: the United States is projecting budget deficits as far as the eye can see, Europe is midwifing its integration, Russia is learning to live after losing its empire, and China can neither afford to implode nor experience explosive economic growth if the unrest elsewhere is not to spread to about a sixth of humanity for it all to come apart at the seams. Yet, there is hope, Pandora’s gift, amidst the apprehensions of pestilence being unleashed.
Peace and war are choices peoples make in the process of resolving their interests: the G7 do not want their similar standards of living to fall as more mouths desire to be fed likewise around the world. Constrained by the imaginary geopolitical boundaries of culture and nation, invisible to the eye but sensed only as shadows, that were drawn and redrawn in the long geological interregnum whose memory of shifting geophysical boundaries is far longer than that of the species, mutual accommodation escapes human ingenuity, making it seem as though it is a zero-sum game. It, however, is not and has never been.
If the historical process thus far has been such that when all else failed mutual accommodation has always been the last option to stave off mutual destruction, that it has been so does not mean that it also ought to be so. Russia and Iran will have to reconsider Iran’s nuclear program in light of the nuclear safety concerns raised by the earthquake in Japan, until safer, but still non-renewable, nuclear power can indeed be a reliable strand of transition to supply the world’s rising energy needs.
Oil and gas, Middle Eastern or Russian, are mere creaky draw bridges to a renewable and sustainable energy future and, therefore, cannot continue to be the status quo. And America must learn to let its dollar go, in its own interest and in the interest of the rest of the world, for after all the purpose of the dollar anchor was to eventually end it. In fact, doing so now by buying back US debt holdings from Japan in exchange for dollars, which Japan can, in turn, use to buy yen in the currency markets for domestic reconstruction efforts without having to raise its money supply is the best help the United States can provide to Japan as the country begins to rebuild.
Asia needs the yen as its currency anchor and Japan as its technical counterweight to America and Europe and all of the resources of Asia and Oceania to raise the standards of living of its multitudes. Russia, conflicted by pride and the need to belong in the international community, must be admitted into the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The defunct post-Cold War North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the proposed missile defenses in Europe, the principal sources of unease and friction in US-Russian post-Cold War relations, must give way to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
If wisdom dawns on the chained progeny of Prometheus, the pecking of the liver by the circling vultures on the living carcass of humankind need not also begin, for we have tied ourselves up with our ignorance and hubris, clouding our foresight. The Pentagon quite aptly coined, pun intended given all the American counter-insurgency (COIN) in Iraq and Afghanistan, the allied military action on Libya Operation Odyssey Dawn.
It could be a long journey fraught with both danger and opportunity to enable the politics around the Mediterranean to reconfigure before the Odysseus of enlightenment can return home to Penelope, even as the Homer Simpsons are wrestling with the failing nuclear reactors in Japan.
Should Epimetheus rise, the vulnerability of the otherwise impregnable Achilles could also be his greatest strength: nuclear detonations on American and European soils by Trojan Horses and Odyssey Dawn could end in Illiad Dusk.