The eagle is making a series of moves that amounts to inciting nations bordering the South China Sea to antagonise the dragon. Moreover, it's repositioning an array of toys -- nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers, fighter jets -- closer and closer to the dragon's territory. The name of the game, according to the eagle's Ministry of Deadly Weapons, is exactly "repositioning."
What the dragon sees is a battered eagle trying to muscle its way out of an irreversible decline by trying to intimidate, isolate or at least sabotage the dragon's irreversible ascent back to where it has been for 18 of the past 20 centuries; enthroned as the king of the jungle.
That's a hard bet for the eagle. Virtually everyone who makes Asia tick holds complex, far-reaching connections with the dragon and the dragon diaspora.
Players across Eurasia may not be much impressed with an Eagle empire armed to its teeth anymore. They know that under the new laws of the jungle, the dragon simply can't -- and won't -- be reduced to the status of a supporting actor. The dragon won't stop expanding in Asia, Latin America, Africa and even in the unemployment-infested pastures of the crisis-hit blind leading the blind.
Moreover, only the dragon, if pushed too far, has the power to make
the eagle's staggering deficit explode, degrade its credit rating to
junk and wreak havoc in the world financial system.
Some like it hot
So after a decade-long pause -- burn out by the eagle's nonsensical "war on terror", which translated, in practice, as an all-out offensive in Muslim lands -- realpolitik is back in business. Forget about a bunch of ragged jihadis; now it's up to the big boys to settle their differences.
A decade is the time it took for the eagle to realize that the political/economic center of a new multipolar world will be Asia.
Yet, what the eagle's new strategic moves have accomplished is to
turn the bear from a pliable client (during the 1990s and the early
2000s) to a virtual enemy. The "reset" is a myth. The bear knows there's
no reset -- and the dragon can only see a reset towards open
As the eagle gets more threatening, the bear will get closer and closer to the dragon. Both bear and dragon have too many strategic links across the planet to be intimidated by the eagle's massive Empire of Bases or its periodic coalitions of the (somewhat reluctant) willing.
The dragon, for its part, knows Asia does not need the eagle's Hellfires, although it would certainly welcome good, solid eagle-made products. Problem is, the offer is not that great.
If this is the best the once mighty eagle has to offer -- from a war against Islam to weaponized cornering of both the bear and the dragon -- that spells everything about an empire in search of a project. Moreover, Asia is smart enough to adopt a New Cold War that will undermine Asia itself.
Then there's Persia. The eagle has been after the Persians ever since they got rid of the eagle's proconsul, the Shah, in 1979 (and this after the eagle and perfidious Albion had already smashed democracy to place the Shah -- who made Saddam look like Gandhi -- in power in 1953). The eagle wants all that oil and natural gas back. The bear and the dragon say -- not this time, my bald feathery friend.
And so we reach the end -- though not the endgame. Predictably there's no moral to this fable. What sensible minds may expect is that even as we'll keep suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, this New Cold War hopefully won't become hot.
Cross-posted from Al Jazeera