My guest today is Jason Pack, who is the author of ‘Libya and the Global Enduring Disorder’. Jason is also a Senior Analyst for Emerging Challenges at the NATO Defense College Foundation in Rome where he leads a program titled ‘NATO and the Global Enduring Disorder’, which seeks to produce a range of content analysing our current era of geopolitics while proposing actionable solutions to our most pressing collective action challenges.
Jason is also the President of Libya-Analysis LLC, a boutique consultancy providing strategic advice to any organisations seeking to make sense of the latest political, economic, commercial and security developments in Libya. He is also the founder of the US-based non-profit ‘Eye on ISIS’, which conducts research into Islam and Islamist movements in and outside of Libya.
Some of the many topics we covered are:
- Jason’s background and entry into the study of conflict
- Behaviouralist, rather than realist, view of International Relations
- Meaning of ‘incumbent psychology’
- Decline in American exceptionalism
- Defining the Global Enduring Disorder
- ‘Deliberative disorder’ as a political policy
- Difference between the war in Iraq and conflicts like Libya, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela or Ukraine
- Some of the causes behind the Global Enduring Disorder
- The benefits of a global hegemon
- Why market economics was not enough to unite the world
- Western failures after the Cold War
- The importance of social trust to domestic order
- Absurdity of Libya and its representation of the Global Enduring Disorder
- The complexity of the Global Enduring Disorder
- The role of technology and social media in the Global Enduring Disorder
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Jason Pack – On the ’Global Enduring Disorder’
A few words of housekeeping before we get to the next episode. I’ve decided to move the episode schedule to fortnightly releases. I’ll be doing this because I’ve found that trying to publish an episode each week means that I’m rushed and don’t always get the time to prepare as much as I’d like for my interviews. It also means that I don’t have the time to plan for a few new ideas I have for the show, such as live shows and panel discussions, hopefully moving to fortnightly releases. We’ll also allow those who’ve missed some previous episodes or those who’ve only started following the show to read some of the older interviews.
The last thing I want to say is to thank the three most recent patron supporters. Thank you, Daniel, Isma, and Dave. Your contribution will go a long way in making sure the show keeps developing and growing. Let’s get on with the episode with Jason Pack. Jason and I spoke about macro-level dynamics in global relations that Jason Apley calls the Global Enduring Disorder. We talk about what this term means, how it contributes to war and conflict, and what, if anything, we can do about it. If you enjoyed this episode, I would appreciate it if you could share it on your social media or like and review the show. Thanks a lot.
My guest is Jason Pack, who is the author of the book Libya and the Global Enduring Disorder. Jason is also a Senior Analyst for Emerging Challenges at the NATO Defence College Foundation in Rome, where he leads a program titled NATO & The Global Enduring Disorder. Which seeks to produce a range of content analysing our current era of geopolitics while proposing actionable solutions to our most pressing collective action challenges. Jason is also the President of Libya-Analysis, a boutique consultancy providing strategic advice to any organisation seeking to make sense of the latest political, economic, commercial, and security developments in Libya.
He’s also the Founder of the US-based non-profit Eye on ISIS, which researches Islam and Islamist movements in and outside Libya. Its goal and core mission are to promote a more nuanced and accurate understanding of Islamist movements and the threat of different strains of Islamic militancy. Jason joins me to discuss his excellent book, which I just finished, and how Libya has come to represent so much of what is wrong in the world. Jason, thank you very much for joining me on the show.
It’s great to be here with you, Maz.
Before we delve into the Enduring Global Disorder, you have a very colourful background, and I’d love to hear a little bit about it. Maybe we can find out a little bit about your story and then learn how you came to write this book and why Libya.
Most of the ideas which come out in the book are things that I experienced myself, and therefore, despite all the silly footnotes and Arabic and Russian language sources, it’s a book with this deep experiential knowledge. My story is that I’m from Manhattan, and bizarrely, my folks thought when I was one and a half years old that a child grows better with a lawn, even though they grew better with concrete.
As a result, I went to high school in the boring town of Metuchen, New Jersey, where I am speaking to you now. I knew that I was always thirsting for something more. When I was in Massachusetts doing my undergrad, I studied Science, but 9/11 happened, and I had a sense that 9/11, Maz, was going to be a big deal.
I wasn’t sure how big a deal it would be. I don’t think I had a premonition that the world would ever be the same, but I had an idea that the Arab world was going to be a new foreign policy challenge or arena for the United States and as a patriotic American, if I wanted to make a difference, it might be useful to study the Arab side rather than the Israeli or Western side of things.
I then lived in Lebanon. I studied Arabic in Yemen and Morocco. I got my Fulbright to Egypt, but the Egyptian government pulled the plug on my research, and I got transferred to Syria. I’ve gotten up to many misadventures in Syria, only kidnapped twice, spied on by the secret police. I had lots of friends who were Alawites connected to the regime. I had a fascinating time there.
My first attempt at the doctorate was my DPhil at Oxford, about Syria, and particularly about French policy towards the Alawites under the premiership of Léon Blum. I had a sense that the academy wasn’t for me, the whole publisher parish, in what way or what my colleagues were studying, going to bear on important questions. I was recruited by a consulting firm to be their man in Tripoli, and I’ve always believed decamp between the West and rogue, or formerly rogue regimes. This was the opportunity for me to live in Tripoli and be one of the very few Western academics ever to do serious research there.
I lived in Libya in 2008 and 2009, but I stopped there, and that is what got me into Libya. From that point onward, from that consultancy never paying me, the project not being real, to running the US-Libya Business Association, creating my consultancy, running a trade mission to Libya, and having another trade mission, which was blocked by my member companies.
I’ve had a lot of experiences in the cockpit of policymaking. All of which led me to understand that unfortunately, there is no coherent vision behind American policy. America is not coordinating the allies nor our Fortune 500 companies, the big oil companies that I represented necessarily thinking about what’s best in America or the West long-term interests. They might be thinking about their bottom lines, but that analysis has been done by others.
I posit that fascinatingly, a lot of the errors that big energy companies make are not trying to maximise quarterly earnings or shareholder returns, but rather incumbent psychology, a deep fear, “We’re a monopolist. We have a good spot here. We have choice concessions. What can we do to make sure that things don’t change too much, that we still have the WhatsApp number of the guy who makes these decisions?”
That we retain the monopoly.
Also, niche market access. Again, I’ve given a few different strands there without getting into my more recent career too much.
That opens up so many strains. Maybe we can pivot now to the thesis of the book because that will start tying some of these strands or at least opening them up. What is the principal thesis of the book Libya and the Global Enduring Disorder?
I weave together my experiences to argue that we are no longer in the post-Cold War world. It’s important to point out that I was writing this in 2019 and 2020. Academic publishing takes a while to culminate. Whereas now everyone has jumped on the bandwagon of saying, “This war in Ukraine means that we’re not in the post-Cold War world.”
What I was saying is that from 2011 to the present, we could already see that the certitudes of the Cold War and post-Cold War eras were not in play. International institutions were not working to coordinate policy. American leadership was not present on the core geostrategic issues in arenas like Syria and Libya, or even Ukraine. I insert things beyond my experience to critique the political science or international relations theory of realism.
Realism looks at states’ masses as having interests and rationally trying to maximise their interests. That’s akin to what economists looked at individuals and corporations as maximising their utility or profit. Many years ago, we had the behaviouralists in economics, and they said, “This isn’t what goes on. People don’t necessarily drive 3 or 4 more miles to get a better deal, or they don’t make a decision now which will get them the credentials to apply for their job to make more money. We’re not rational actors.”
Why is it that we haven’t looked at states or corporations in this way? I don’t see them as rational actors either they’re governed by incumbent psychology. A declining America and West haven’t necessarily maximised its interest or rationally coordinated for optimal outcomes. I introduced concepts like incumbent psychology and neo-mercantilism.
You’ve mentioned incumbent psychology a couple of times, what do you mean by that? That zeroes into the human inside this system or order/disorder that you’re trying to describe.
I believe a range of individuals, policymakers, CEOs, as well as whole organisations, can fall prey to incumbent psychology. This is something that an ascending power is less likely to experience. America, from World War I to 1980, was less likely to experience this incumbent psychology. When you feel like the wind is at your back and you’re growing, you have this strong military, your economy is amazing, and you have the best-manufactured goods, you’re like, “Let’s have free trade. Let’s compete one-to-one with these European or other products because we have better steel, and we have the best computers.” Incumbent psychology is more likely to set in when you’re on the decline.When a country feels like it has a strong military and economy, it will be open to free trade and compete one-to-one with European products. Click To Tweet
Even if you are a leader in your industry, say Facebook, Amazon or Google, you still get the sense that you might be a leader in an industry, but as part of a declining power. When you have a monopoly in that industry, you’re like, “Now that I’m the top dog, let’s try to lobby the regulators so that we don’t have more competition. As soon as there are potential competitors, let’s buy up those competitors.”
We see this a lot in terms of Amazon and Facebook. As soon as they’re potential competitors, they throw a few billion around to make sure that they remain in the incumbent position. I was surprised when I ran the US-Libya Business Association to see this with these Fortune 500 s in Libya because I had the sense that American business is very competitive, profit-driven, and profit-maximal. The myth of the American Corporate. To realise that what they wanted was to prevent reform. “We don’t care if we get a new business deal. Let’s make sure that we get our old back payments paid and stay in our position.”
That was very shocking for me because that goes against certainly what people from the New York area think about American capitalism. I am from the centre-left, but certainly, I believe and have always believed in capitalism, and that the American corporation is the creative destructor. To find out that these guys have been in Libya since before the Gaddafi period, since the ‘60s, they like to hold onto their patch. They don’t want to even invest or throw more money at it because they get their tiny bit of return out of their crude oil.
Some nimbler French or European companies might want to invest more in the pipeline or acquire some more concessions or buy more steak of a consortium. These American ones, it’s probably not for them. They’re too risk-averse, which goes very much against the American vision of capitalism. The more I investigated it, why was Trump saying, “Let’s have protectionism. Let’s buy America, let’s have tariffs.” The American economy has, all of a sudden, magically turned inward in these five years. Even Biden talks about buying America. From our policymakers to our CEOs, to these big tech giants, something is in the zeitgeist of like, “We have it good now. Why should we risk it?” That’s how empires fall.
My question is, how is that different? If this is part of the human psychology piece, what corporations are doing? Many would argue that even in the Cold War, post-Cold War, or post-World War II era, the US as the single hegemon was doing exactly that. It was seeking to retain its power. It wasn’t necessarily business interest, but it was certainly power interest. How is that different to what you described of corporations where sometimes, they’ll live and do things that aren’t necessarily in their interest, but so other global powers don’t have access to a particular market or at least diminish their influence?
Certainly, analysts on the extreme left will say, this has been going on the whole time. Maybe Samir Amin or some of these other Marxists and neo-Marxist critiques of American foreign policy. I don’t buy into any of that neo-Marxist critique. In the United States from World War I until the early 21st century, there was a consensus for free trade.
Certainly, after World War II, we thought we make the best manufactured goods. Bring it on. We’re going to sell our cars, our furniture, and our widgets. The Germans might be good at some of these widgets, but we don’t care. We don’t need tariff boundaries to protect our steel and our widgets from your widgets. There’s a different zeitgeist now, this incumbent psychology that is both on the left and right.
Protectionism is very popular in America. Traditionally, in the energy extraction industry, America has been the world leader. Crude was first produced in marketable quantities in Pennsylvania in the 1860s. The global oil industry is American in origin. We created the Libyan oil patch. All the pipeline network was built by American and British companies, but mostly American. American technology is the thing that makes the electricity that allows the drilling to happen in Libya. Saudi Arabia is an example of a country where every aspect of how Aramco functions is American tech, engineers, and companies.
It’s shocking to realise that in the last several years, all of a sudden, American oils and American oil field services are not necessarily world-leading. Say, the Egyptians who discovered their Zohr field quite late, it wasn’t for a political reason that they went to Eni, which used to be the reason that Third World, African, and other dispatch went to a firm like Eni. It wasn’t that Eni had the best tech to do the offshore, it was that there was a political reason the Americans couldn’t touch it, or you were too much of a dictator.
We’re in a new world. Even when it comes to these oil field services technologies, there is no significant gap between American tech and European, or even sometimes Turkish or Chinese tech, which is pretty crazy. Even beyond that, Americans may be less risk-prone. They’re more risk-averse. That’s a significant change that gets at this incumbent psychology. You don’t learn too much about the book bloviating about this topic. I talk about it for about three pages only as you may have discovered.
From my own experiences representing US companies that were like, “We don’t want to make this trade mission happen.” The British have had a trade mission to Libya every year. I was on the Libyan British Business Council Trade Mission. They would never state their real reasons. This psychology has caught hold, certainly in the Republican Party but even in certain aspects of Washington or Silicon Valley, it’s interesting to experience it because it cuts against our self-definition.
This is The Enduring Global Disorder. What you’ve described there is that the established norms that had existed are being shaken up by players who don’t make rational sense to even be players in particular markets, politics, security economics, etc. Am I reading that right?
Sure. I didn’t lead with what The Enduring Disorder is, because randomly we got into defining incumbent psychology, which is a minor concept within it. The Enduring Disorder, briefly put is what I termed the period after the post-Cold War. It differs from other geostrategic errors in that the forces promoting order within it are weaker than the forces promoting disorder. The primary things that are going wrong are collective action failures rather than bad policies. I see the Iraq invasion as happening during the post-Cold War period was largely decided in the Pentagon and Wolfowitz, Feith, Cheney, and Bush made a hack of it. It’s not a coordination problem. It was a problem within the American hegemonic order.
Some people will say, “The Georgians gave troops. Tony Blair changed the mission.” They didn’t change the mission significantly. The mistakes were made within the American hegemonic order. That’s not what’s going on in our mistakes towards Libya, Ukraine, or Syria. These are coordination issues. There’s not some policy being decreed in the Pentagon, and all of a sudden, Macron or Boris does exactly the policy.
It doesn’t work that way anymore. The things that have gone wrong in Libya post-Gaddafi are that Cameron had one idea. Sarkozy had another idea. One boxed the Tanis. The other boxed the Misratans. They have a coordination complexity between them, and then the Libyans have coordination complexities amongst themselves.
That makes policy towards Libya and Syria quite similar to issues like climate change and tax havens, which have always been coordination issues. Even in the Cold War period, an issue like tax havens, that’s a coordination issue. What’s shocking is in The Enduring Disorder, everything is a coordination issue. The UN and IMF don’t work, so that makes everything a new ad hoc coalition that you have to coordinate.
This is exacerbated by the partisan politics within our democracies. It used to be, there were differences between Republicans and Democrats, but for the most part, they agreed on NATO and they agreed on certain key foreign policy decisions. There wasn’t a coordination complexity in the Senate on foreign policy. Now even domestically, we have those coordination complexities, and then we can take this to the next level, which is that major global actors seek to promote disorder rather than alternative forms of order.
Putin is at the forefront of this, but even Bolsonaro, Orban, Trump, and Boris are exporters of alternative disorder rather than alternative forms of order. I can explain this very easily by explaining the difference between Stalin, Khrushchev, and Putin. Stalin and Khrushchev, to my mind, are bad dudes. Murdered millions of their people. Very happy to crush rebellions in other countries. However, when they would win, they had a fully formed form of order that they took out of the cookie jar, and it had an ideology and an economic system, and they tried to impose it.
No part of the world was unimportant enough to export their fully formed economic and ideological system. It didn’t matter if it was Cuba, Zaire, or Czech. They have an economic system and an ideology, and they want to impose it there. That’s not what Putin is doing with the Wagner Group in Libya, Mali, and Syria. He doesn’t have an alternative order, there’s no economic system that he’s exporting to these places. If he would’ve won in Ukraine, he might have had a puppet government, but he wasn’t going to export some coherent Kremlin economic model because it doesn’t exist. There is no coherent economic model. You might say, “It’s a kleptocracy.” It’s worse than that. It’s a form of deliberative disorder.
That’s what makes Trump quite different from previous Republican administrations. Whatever you might think about W. Bush, he had coherent policies. I don’t happen to agree with most of them, but it was a Grover NorQuist-low-tax-neocon-strong-Army policy. We worked with our allies in this way. Trump has no policy at all. We abandoned under Kurds, and he wants to withdraw from Afghanistan, but then we sell our foreign policy in the Middle Eastern Region to the Emiratis in the Saudis. We have some incoherence in how we deal with Putin, which doesn’t make sense relative to certain other commitments, but then we’re abandoning NATO. This was a disorder.
Those who try to defend it say, “It was a retrenchment. We are decreasing the burden on the American taxpayer and focusing on our core interests.” Not really, because our core interests had to do with our Ukrainian allies. There was no coherence. To my mind, it’s a new era where many actors have engaged in deliberative disorder. Therefore, the world system has within it cycles and circles of negative feedback, loops of disorder promoting disorder. We’re in an interregnum of order, and that’s different than multipolarity. Like we might have had in World War I or the interwar period, where whatever you think about the Germans or the Imperial Japanese, they wanted to order their spheres of influence. I say that Putin and Ji are not selling an alternative order. They want to disorder their sphere of influence.
This stabilised the order that proceeded now, which is the Pax Americana. It is the US-led global order. I guess what they’re trying to do is recreate the disorder in international relations, but in domestic spaces of the US, UK, even of Australia or of Western developed progressive nations who have up to now been leading the world or setting the global policies. You talked about the war in Iraq and how that’s different to what’s happening in Ukraine or even Syria. Can you explain that a little bit more? Is it not then true that the US, through its policies, has almost undermined the global order that it was leading up to that point?
I’m no big fan of the Iraq War. It was the wrong intervention at the wrong time. However, it was a standard hegemonic mistake. Roman emperors occasionally over-extended themselves, and they got killed by Goths and Visigoths or things of this nature, but that’s like a regular hegemonic mistake. They didn’t make that mistake because they were coordinating with the Parthians, and then assassins were like, “We’re going to help you on this campaign,” but their help wasn’t good enough, and then they lost. Let me know if there is anything else I can help you with.
It was a regular hegemonic mistake. That’s what we did in Iraq like other empires made. This is extremely different to what has happened in Libya, Syria, Yemen, even Venezuela, and certainly Ukraine. We haven’t had a coherent policy because the Western allies fail to coordinate one amongst themselves. Libya, which I put forth, is the great microcosm within which we can study these ideas, showcases this extremely vividly, because, for the first time since World War II, the Italians and French fought on the opposite sides of a hot civil war in Libya.
You might say, “They trained opposite sides. The Italians were training the Misratans and Bunyan Marsoos and the French were training Haftar.” No. They had embedded Special Forces, and we don’t know all the details because it’s embarrassing so they tried to conceal these casualties, but when that French helicopter went down on the Haftar side, it was then transparent that French Forces were fighting against Italian Forces 400 miles South of European territory. If something like that had happened in the Reagan period, Reagan would’ve picked up the phone and said, “Knock it off. I don’t allow core European allies to fight on opposite sides of a civil war. If you keep this going on, this is what will happen.”
Now, Obama took it in stride. He might have said, “I’m disappointed,” but he has no levers to get them on the same side because he wasn’t even the main coordinating power in Western policy towards Libya, think about that. There was no point in the Cold War where America was not the main coordinating power in a major conflict because it didn’t work that way. When they were disappointed that their allies did something in Suez, is there a price to pay? We don’t even inflict any prices because we’re not trying to order Western policy.
What is the cause behind The Enduring Disorder that we found ourselves in?
The causes are many and far be it from me to disentangle them. One is declining American political might. The declining economic might is quite more attenuated. In other words, if our peak was like 45% of manufacturing outcome globally, we still have 28%. If American GDP or investment capital dominance was X, we still have 2/3 X. It’s not like there’s been a huge economic decline but there are more actors in the space, and I would argue that the role of the American government than American foreign and economic policy, rather than individual corporations is less. Sovereign actors seem to have less power, particularly in the West, than private actors because individuals can throw billions around in ways that they couldn’t previously.
Capital is more globalised. The role of states is less important. Those are important factors in Enduring Disorder. Something went on wrong after the Iraq War, which is that the main allies said, “We’re not going to be led by America.” I understand this because, from a French and German perspective, they went to the Americans and said, “Don’t do this. If you do this, we can’t back you up.” The Americans did it, and what do you know? They couldn’t back them up. I understand that that was a very pivotal moment in the coherence of NATO. For all those who think, “Isn’t NATO coherent again? Hasn’t Biden regained that credibility?”
I don’t see it that way because we could have deterred the Russian invasion of Ukraine months ago when Putin was building up his troops on the Belarusian-Ukrainian border and Olaf Scholz had become chancellor. If he got out there and had a joint press conference with Biden and said, “I will cancel Nord Stream 2, Germany’s going to re-arm, and there is no daylight between the US and Germany on this. Back off, Mr Putin.” He did the opposite. He went to Moscow and said, “We don’t know if we’re going to cancel Nord Stream 2. Don’t worry, we won’t let the Baltic countries re-export German arms.” That’s crazy. The amount of German arms in Latvia or Estonia was not going to provoke Putin to make a war.
It’s minimal relative to the amount of arms that we give the Ukrainians, but it showcased that the Germans were going to do their policy. Ironically, three days into the invasion, they had to change and they adopted the same policy as everyone else. That is some bad coordination if the Germans are saying one thing, and the French and the British are saying another thing in terms of the nature of the sanctions.
Fundamentally, because the Western peoples are more on the same page than the Western governments, Olaf Scholz had to reverse course because the German people are in the same place that the Polish and Americans are on this. They stand with Ukraine, so he completely miscalculated and mis-coordinated. It’s shocking. When the history of this is written, and it’s going to take years, Olaf Scholz is largely going to be responsible for why Putin had the temerity to invade.
In his defence, Putin had done something similar a number of times before. It’s not the first time the troops were around Ukraine in Belarus. Even Zelenskyy himself was yelling out at the world, “Stop building this up. You will make it a self-filling prophecy. Russia will not invade. Stand down.”
It’s different because Zelenskyy was saying that to calm his own people. Olaf Scholz needed to do is say, “I don’t think he’s going to do it, but if he does, we don’t have any daylight with America.” Therefore, this all goes back to the Syria red line. Certainly, we didn’t honour the 1994 Budapest Memorandum when Crimea was annexed and the Donbas invaded in 2014.
That let Putin think he could get away with it. That’s a Global Enduring Disorder, if I could ever imagine it because it used to be. If you so much as sneezed at an international treaty, or had 1 or 2 British citizens killed, gunboats appeared outside your port, and you were banged into submission. The principle of the British Empire was more important than if it was in Britain’s interest at that moment to spend the money on that war.
We’re at a place where no principle, even the most sacrosanct thing like you can’t acquire territory by force, or we can’t be forced to not honour our treaty commitments to Ukraine. That’s not important enough. What I had always said in the lead-up to this Ukraine war is that if the 1994 Budapest Memorandum isn’t enough to have NATO members go to war, then Article 5 of NATO itself isn’t enough. We might as well throw in the towel.
This is enough. I’ve heard you also describe yourself as a Hobbesian. What we’re seeing here is the emergence of Hobbes’ state of nature. It’s a war of everyone against everyone, or at least that’s what’s being encouraged by those who benefit from American decline and disorder.
I don’t want to sound like I’m an apologist for the Dick Cheney and crazy Reagan policies in lots of parts of the world, which have had horrible human rights implications. I personally would rather live in a world where there is a Western superpower making free trade happen. I can go travel to another country and make sure that I’m not going to get kidnapped or my bank account functions. You can create better art and invent vaccines to cure pandemics in that world rather than in a state of nature where every nation is for itself, and we don’t have international organisations and institutions functioning.
That debate is open. Some people on the extreme left are going to say, “Maybe it’s better the Indians or Chinese run the world.” I haven’t seen any indications that they want to, or that they can create a rules-based system where contracts are honoured and free trade is allowed to function, which is the world that produces the intellectual as well as human goods that we enjoy.
This is a key point because we have to talk about the global disorder as being US-led. You’ve hit the line on the head. I would also much rather live in that world as much as I don’t agree with some US foreign policy, particularly the war in Iraq, and the war in Afghanistan certainly, but was managed later. Even some of its policies towards former Soviet states. Even some policies towards the Balkans where oftentimes, they were part of the problem rather than the solution. Having said all this, I’d much rather have a world where there is a global hegemon that can force order.
This is why I asked you before about the war in Iraq and has the US shot itself in a foot. Ultimately, the US contributed because of the same psychological effect you described in some corporations. In other words, acting against its interest purely for the sake of retaining power, retaining dominance, or slowing its demise or dissent. That’s what’s allowed these disruptive forces of Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Hungary, and Brazil to take hold and try to carve out their own peace of this global order. Using American failures, hegemon, and exceptionalism as a way to argue their point.
We sowed the seeds of this disorder, and therefore, the failure to reintegrate the Russian economy into the global economy after the collapse of the Soviet Union is something that future historians are going to make as pivotal a moment as the Iraq War. The Iraq War’s extremely pivotal seeds our decline. Ibn Khaldun, as well as people like Arthur Schlesinger, and pretty much every historian see a cyclical nature in the rise and fall of empires and powers. No empire or power can rule indefinitely because pThe failure to reintegrate the Russian economy into the global economy after the collapse of the Soviet Union is something future historians will see as a pivotal moment that seeded our decline. Click To Tweet
We could have had a good more 50 or 70 years where we could have created institutions. These mega mistakes, if I’ll highlight three, the Iraq War and then thinking that political transition in Russia was more important than economic transition. As long as they voted in elections, let them do their own economic system. We are such a believer in this thing called neoliberalism or Milton Friedmanism. The market’s going to sort it out. The market sorting it out was not what the Russians had in mind. It’s gifting the most lucrative parts of their economy to cronies of the ruler, whether it was the out-centre Putin or anatolical bias via the loans for share scheme.
Therefore, by not thinking that we had anything to say about that part of the puzzle, we created multi-bazillion-dollar reasons why oligarchs would want to capture power. Fundamentally, what is a connection between post-Soviet Russia and post-Gaddafi Libya is if the Western powers are so obsessed with, “Get the dictator out. Let’s have elections,” they don’t think about reforming the economy or making sure that those economic structures have the right incentives. You create a reason for state capture. Russia and Libya are both very wealthy countries with huge amounts of resource wealth and sovereign wealth. The old economic structures were meant for centralisation and corruption.Western powers are so obsessed to get dictators out by holding elections. However, they don’t think about reforming the economy or securing the right incentives for it, creating a reason for state capture. Click To Tweet
If you have a few elections and then they’ll decide that doesn’t work, once you’re in power, you have the ability to raid the corrupt assets. The failure to have the right model about how all the post-Soviet countries needed to be integrated into the global economy is as much of a screw-up as the Iraq War. Ukraine is also a very deeply corrupt place, and that’s part of the reason that they’ve ping-pong back from Yanukovych to Poroshenko, to Zelenskyy. They haven’t had a coherent defence policy because it’s all about getting an office and corrupting your allies, and the poisoning of Ukrainian politicians is normal. That’s a second major failing in US leadership.
I said 3, but I’ll say 4. The third is to not have the Cold War end with a treaty and international institutions. World War II ended with a treaty and major institutions. It culminated in the UN, the IMF, the World Bank, and a new political and economic order, which embedded both the victorious and the Concord states in a new order. Everyone had a stake in it.
When we won the Cold War, we have this Budapest Memorandum of 1994, but it’s not even a treaty. It’s not ratified by the Senate, but we convinced the Ukrainians to give up their nukes in exchange for guarantees that their territorial integrity would be sacrosanct. We didn’t make any institution to protect that. We signed and the Russians and British signed. It’s like, “Okay.”
Let’s enjoy our peace now.
Why were there no institutions? If the UN worked for the Cold War era, we needed a new institution where India, Germany, and all of these other new and emerging players, like Africa and others, would be vested in a new order rather than the talking shop of the UN, which doesn’t work. It was built for a world order that doesn’t exist. I’ll get a fourth one, which is even despite all of those failings, Western countries didn’t have a sense that their corporations and the policies of their corporations were something that would have enormous geostrategic implications.
They believed in “Let everyone make as much profit as he wants to make.” Deutsche Bank and ExxonMobil have been the ATMs of the Putin regime, but they’ve also propped up every crazy dictatorship in Africa. We didn’t use our economic levers and our companies in the post-Arab Spring space to try to leverage American and Western foreign policy.
That’s a critical piece that hits at the heart of this. Why did we not do that?
I think that neoliberalism is a cult. Australians are more likely to understand this because you’ve had the rise of a new right-wing in your country. I don’t know if it’s embedded with the mining and oil interests or it’s an ideological affinity with some bizarre Anglo-Saxon economic model but has taken the view that the Australian government should let these companies make hay while the sun shines. This does not go with the tradition of the Australian social model or governance over human development and infrastructure and stuff.
It’s very bizarre that this neoliberalism would all of a sudden come to Australia, where it would seem alien there. Flawed ideologies and flawed economic models are very normal. Maybe there is something about defeating the Soviet Union that inherently would lead to the Western powers embracing an extreme, almost clownish opposite of the thing that they had defeated. There must be some bizarre appeal to that.
Everyone dropped their guard. It was done, and it was time to enjoy now the peace dividend, which was endless growth for everybody. Particularly, these corporations. Unfortunately, those corporations were acting in such a way globally, in the global south or in the developing nations in a way that can only be described oftentimes as the state of nature. It was capture and take what you can.
That led to the non-rational model of, “Whatever we’ve got now, we need to retain it even at the cost of losing money, which is completely antithetical to what a business model ought to do, but it’s so that we have our flag here and no one else can capture it.” To me, what the corporations have done reflects global politics in many ways, but perhaps a little bit later or slightly delayed from politics.
I like that analogy, which is if there’s no sense of coherent and consensus leadership politically, why would companies be thinking in the 10, 20, or 30-year term? They wouldn’t. This gets at the cultural battles. If you grow up in a society, and I’ve seen this because I’ve lived in Libya and Syria so much, where you don’t necessarily know where your next meal is coming from.
You come to power, how can you assume that that person is going to like, “We’re going to make some decisions about education and infrastructure building.” That is going to reap dividends in 30 years. You’re not going to have that view. Therefore, I find myself bizarrely defending the hegemonic imperial order more because when you have a dominant hegemonic or imperial order, you have to have continuity in the ruling classes.
Those ruling classes don’t necessarily need to be elites. It could be a meritocratic ruling class. The idea was that it didn’t matter if you were a liberal or a Tory in 19th-century England, you thought the British Empire was going to be something that your kids and grandkids would be administering. You weren’t going to sell off bits and pieces of it or make some silly decision to help you get elected in 1884. It was a multi-generational project, and therefore, it was a multi-party project. I feel like I grew up in a state of, “Where ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise.”
I didn’t think that Republicans and Democrats had extremely different foreign policies. That wasn’t something that I fully grasped certainly until W was elected because it didn’t seem when Clinton was in office that he would’ve been that different than if Herbert Walker Bush had gotten another term. With these feuds that we have now, you can’t make a coherent policy decision or investment, when you’re afraid that when the other team comes in, taxes are going to change by 10% or 20%, or all of a sudden, going to become enemies with that country.
This is a world where the amount of variables is so great. It would be difficult to make these long-term decisions because then, all of a sudden, Trump is going to come back, and we’re going to kiss Putin’s ass, and he’s going to be our best friend again. How can you, as a business, make a long-term decision in the world? By 2025, Putin is still in power, and America is his friend and does favours for him to increase his power. Think about that. That world exists still.
That is a very scary world. You talked about the importance of institutions, and that’s what strikes me as something important. When we look at a stable nation, whatever it might be, usually it’s because the institutions within that state function. In other words, trust between the electorate and the state exists and is represented through the functions of the state, which is through its institutions, whether it’s the police force, military, economic policy, health, or civil society. Whatever institutions exist within a country enable you to think about tomorrow as certainty, as opposed to places like Libya and Syria, and I can relate to this from the Balkans, you don’t know where you’re going to get your next meal from in the next day.
Therefore, every day is a battle, and you can’t trust anyone, take what you can while you can. What’s happening now, or at least the way it’s visualised in my mind, is the institutions of Western nations are starting to lose their connection or the trust that they’re meant to embody within the electorate. Many have been disappointed. We talk about the US. Trump came to power on a policy of the working class. America has lost that for many years. The US bouncing around the world, starting wars. It’s detrimental to the American way of life.
People in all of these countries, like Brexit in the UK, there’s a kernel of truth sufficient to fan now these flames that are ultimately making everybody doubt. We see this even in Australia, which is an exceptionally wealthy country that’s never had a war within its borders. We’re seeing that even here where people have lost trust in the institutions. Even in elections, why should I even vote when the next person is going to be doing the same thing?
One thing that I have learned through my experiences living in Syria and Libya, and then seeing some of the dynamics socially that exist there in my own country in America, is how fragile a flower social trust and democracy are. It’s fascinating that some countries that might not work might have more of this variable of social trust.
I think of Israel as a place where broadly within the Jewish secular sector, if we put the Haredim and the Palestinians, and even Arab Israelis on one side, there is a bizarre sense that if the government tells you to take a vaccine or they tell you that you need to be at this reserve location, you’re there. When you come back to a place like America, you see that Sweden is closer to Israel in terms of social trust than it is to America.
When Anders Tegnell, the Health Minister in Sweden, had the very interesting view, “Don’t wear masks. We’re either going to do herd immunity or we’ll ride it out.” I was in Sweden for a lot of the pandemic masks. You would go into a crowded mall before the vaccines. I had been months in Manhattan, where you would not even see a soul on the street. If you run into a shop, everyone is masked, you have your thing and you run out.
People are socialising and chatting with the store clerk 3 feet away in Sweden. This is because they’re such a rule-following society with such a sense of social trust that you could tell them, “Don’t wear masks. Don’t worry.” They do it. Danes, who are essentially almost the same, were told, “Have an incredibly rigorous lockdown and always wear your mask.” They did it.
Showing Denmark and Sweden as pinnacles of social trust, they didn’t have debates or civil wars in their society. Even though most Danes can understand Swedish TV, and most Swedes can understand Danish TV, they said, “We believe our thing because we were told by our authorities.” Look at the US, where even the differences between major cities. New Jersey’s approach to the pandemic is different from the New York approach, and that is extremely different from the Alabama or deep Republican South approach. We had a social war over how to respond to this pandemic because the social trust, once it’s lost, would take generations to regain it, and things are going to have to get a lot worse.Once social trust is lost, it would take generations to regain it and things will have to get a lot worse. Click To Tweet
A new generation of Americans is going to have to say, “I care less about my ideological view about taxes, abortion, or infrastructure. I care more about giving up my own wins and even personal freedom so that we have consensus.” That is so not where we’re at, both on the left and right. People want to win the battle. “The other guys are so much my enemy. They are wrong.” Given that America is still the global superpower, we’re in decline. If anyone is coordinating the allies vis-à-vis, how should we support Ukraine, what should we give and not give them? How are we going to negotiate with Putin?
It’s America. We may have some mediators, we may work with the Turks on this, with the Israelis on that, but the Americans are the ones who have to be coordinating the show. This Enduring Disorder is not going to be news to your audience. Unfortunately, the less we talk about the Libya content of the book, the more I realise that the things that I put forth, although they were original in 2019, they’ve become mundane. It’s pretty commonplace in a lot of this analysis.
I don’t know if I necessarily agree with that. People are to an extent becoming disenchanted and disappointed and realise that something different is going on in the world. For much of the public that doesn’t necessarily delve deeply into this, it is merely a disincentive to find out more and learn more. Therefore, they’re far more prone to simple decisions and voices that seem to answer questions simply and clearly. We’re seeing this through social media, which is inadvertently leading to more polarisation and contributing to The Enduring Disorder. I’m not as optimistic as you are that people take the time to link the micro, what they’re seeing in the everyday world.
I accept that. What I’m saying is I’m not the only commentator or pundit pushing in this direction now. Maybe what’s interesting to showcase for your audience, a degree of the difference of my perspective, is to tell certain anecdotes like how I came to this from my personal experience. I like telling the following story to showcase how different things have become. In 2013, I was a graduate student at Cambridge in the UK. For my spring break or whatever, I went to Libya to do some research because I have my consultancy.
The EU ambassador reached out to me and said she’d like a briefing. I’m giving the briefing. I feel bad for Nataliya Apostolova because I’ve done a lot of book launches, and I always tell this story. Sorry, Nataliya. She’s a Bulgarian career diplomat who had been given this EU posting, but not in Arabesque. She didn’t know Libya very well. She’s like, “Who do I need to talk to?” Misrata came up and she’s like, “I’ve got to go to Misrata. Who are the Misratans?
I’m like, “You should meet Abdulrahman Sewehli. You’ve got to meet Fauzia Abdullah.” She’s writing these names down. I’m like that’s weird because he’s the Interior Minister. Why the ambassador should be writing the name of the internment when she doesn’t know who it is? She then says to me, “Wouldn’t it be useful if you could give me their phone numbers?” I’m like, “You run the EU embassy, and your assistant can give you the phone number.” She says, “I don’t have that stuff.” I’m like, “Can’t you go to the British? The British have a huge amount of contact network, particularly in Misrata. You could get in touch with Fathi Bashagha whose career was in the ascendant.”
She’s like, “They wouldn’t give me that sensitive intelligence.” I’m thinking maybe that’s because the Brits are Eurosceptic. “Can’t you go to the Italians or the French, core EU nations, and they’ll give you some phone numbers, or you can read their intelligence briefings?” She said, “No, that’s not how the EU works. We’re the European External Action Service, the EEAS. I don’t have the ability to get information or intelligence from the member states.” I’m like, “That is insane.” You realise that the French and the Italians would have rival meetings set up with different factions in Libya so that their guy would be more likely to come into power and not the French guy.
Americans are more likely than Australians to know what email gate is. Email Gate is the scandal around Hillary Clinton’s emails that should have been in her state department account that were in her personal account. In email gate, she was corresponding on her personal email with Sidney Blumenthal, a foreign policy advisor about Libya. Sidney Blumenthal said, “I don’t think you can trust the British because they’re trying to get this oil contract, and the French are trying to deal with this security firm. We’ve got to not share this information with them.” We know, because we know Hillary’s emails, that she was getting advice not to share American strategy with our British and French allies in Libya.
As I lived this in real-time in 2013, 2014, and 2015 then, the Italians and French were on opposite sides of the Libyan Civil War. This creates Trump, and I want to really get this. This Enduring Disorder is not a product of Trump. Trump is able to come to power because of The Enduring Disorder. Enduring Disorder is when you have a note of disorder, it leads to more disorder. like when you and I have social distrust, then I suspect your motives and am more likely to take an aggressive position against you. Since Libya and Syria imploded, you had things like my friend Ambassador Christopher Steven being murdered In Benghazi on September 12th, 2012.
What impact did that have? It had a major impact on letting Trump be elected because a mainstream Republican like Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney couldn’t be running on a platform of Lock Her Up. If you listen to those Benghazi hearings, the insanity of blaming Hillary for the death of the ambassador, which she had no responsibility for, it’s not the ambassador’s job to say that they should have five as opposed to seven Marine security guards. Think about how absurd that contention is. The radical right could take advantage of that.
If you look at Syria, it’s the implosion of the Syrian state which allows the flow of migrants to Europe. Without those flow of migrants to Europe, you’re not going to get the five-star movement in Italy or someone like Nigel Farage scaremongering with an ad on a bus saying, “Turkey’s going to join the EU, and you’re going to have a bazillion million refugees all of a sudden living in Britain,” which doesn’t make sense. The refugees were not from Turkey. This climate of chaotic things on the borders of Europe with migrants coming in and things that the neo-populist right to take advantage of.
Ironically, as you alluded to, when they’re in power, they don’t fix. The fascinating thing about Trump and migration is he talks about the crisis we have on the southern border and all the Mexicans. When he was in office, he never really built the wall. At the end of the four years, the wall was not built. It was not more of a wall blocking migrants because he wants there to be a migration crisis so he can run on it in 2024.
Has Brexit fixed the relationship between the European Union and Britain? No. It’s created more red tape and more delays. There are still the same issues with migrants and economic entanglement. Nigel Farage and other hard-right people can run on very similar neo-populist issues because Brexit creates more chaos, which helps bring them to power. They don’t want to fix these issues. Orban is the best example of this. Here’s a man who has convinced Hungarians that they are under a permanent state of siege, that their country is in a continual national crisis, and yet he doesn’t fix any of those crises so he can run on the crisis for the new election.Brexit created more red tape and delays. There are still the same issues with migrants and economic entanglement. Neo-populists were able to achieve power. Click To Tweet
I’ve spoken about the Balkans in Bosnia, in particular, on this very point. It’s exactly the same thing. It’s exactly the same almost recipe of how to ensure that you get back into power insight some fear, hatred, and threats. We see this time and time again. Never let a good crisis go to waste because that’s where we’ll ensure that the revolving or the musical chairs of political power are retained. It’s fascinating. I’m even more amazed.
You mentioned that Trump is not the cause of this. I’m amazed that you have to make that statement because that, to me, is concerning that people think that it’s Trump’s fault. That it’s somehow because of Trump that we find ourselves in a situation where we are. Is this something that people argue with you on or make the point?
Yes. Many Americans suffer from what I call Trump derangement syndrome. This is the idea on the left that even many of my close friends, colleagues, and family members believe in, which is that Trump has to blame for everything. The war in Ukraine is entirely a product of Trump’s appeasement of Putin. Obama had the red line that we didn’t enforce, and Obama had very weak sanctions when Crimea was annexed. No, it’s the Putin convinced Trump in Helsinki. He’s like, “I like blaming Trump for stuff.” We’re in this mess of appeasing Putin, to a large extent, an Obama plus Trump problem.
Trump derangement syndrome, you see the infrastructure that’s not built. It’s shocking how bad our roads are, and non-Americans don’t realise that we have a third-world quality of major airports, highways, and stuff. Frequently, I’m chatting with friends and they’re like, “This is because Trump’s infrastructure plans were bogus.” Obama had all of these infrastructure plans, the Green Deal, and I-95, which connects Manhattan and DC.
Arguably, the two most important power centres in the Western Hemisphere, it’s all filled with panels. There’s always one lane closed and there’s always horrible traffic. Some people would say, “This is because of Trump,” and you’re like, “No. I’m from New York, and I’ve been driving back and forth once a month for the last several years. It’s never gotten fixed. People are not willing to own the complexity of how we’ve gotten to this moment.
This is what I was referring to before when I made the point about my doubts about people delving into this deeper enough. Simple is effective. We’re seeing the growing division, particularly in the US, as a prime example but also, in other parts of the developed world. What is the role of technology and social media in this? I know the answer, but I do want to hear what you think.
It could have been a cause for good, and it still can be, but it’s been a cause for ill. Chapter three of my book looks at the Libyan microcosm of how unregulated cyberspace leads to neo-populism. Fascinatingly, both extremely free libertarian democracies like America and post-conflict states like Libya have very similar policies towards social media. Anyone can say anything, and there are infinite amounts of disinformation.
Whereas more controlled societies, say China, but also even some European countries, police social media because they realise its disruptive effects most people are aware of. In Germany, you can’t deny the Holocaust, but in America, you can. We tolerate a greater degree of disinformation here, and that allows things like Trump to incite the January 6th insurrection. He was banned from Twitter after, not during, or before because we have an obsession with free speech.
In Libya, there’s no authority to regulate anything because there’s no state structure at all. It’s complete chaos. There are two prime ministers and there are no institutions and no one goes to work, and nothing really functions. Both situations allow a chaotic debate, which allows extreme actors to dominate the agenda. The fascinating thing is, if you look at the Sarraj-Haftar conflict, meaning the internationally appointed GNA in Western Libya that came about as a result of the 17 December 2015 Skhirat agreement.
The Prime Minister that they appointed Sarraj who governed for five years, and whom I met many times. Nice grandfatherly figure. You couldn’t say what he stood for. He didn’t have any economic programs. He didn’t really reform the oil sector in any way. He barely made any new appointments that semi-sovereign institutions were all the same heads as they had been when he took office. He was not beloved by the Libyan people or had a great presence on social media. You look at Haftar, a rogue general and former Gaddafian officer then had worked for the CIA, then he proclaimed a coup, which no one backed.
He proclaimed another coup, and he got some backers, and he killed lots of Islamists in Benghazi. He led a siege to Derna and killed many families there, and took Russian support. He articulated a message of anti-Islamism, “The only good Muslim brother is a dead Muslim brother. We are going to fight the Turks and Erdoğan is Satan,” and all of that stuff.
Also, a certain Arabism because he would say that the Misratans and others are not real Arabs. They’re Half Turks. That’s a guy, and her message works on social media. The message of this neo-populist authoritarian, particularly when magnified with Russian and Saudi money, works on social media. People respect and respond to the memes. It shouldn’t surprise you that Biden’s tweets are not as read as Trump’s tweets were. There’s something about our era and the way these things are playing out, where it’s not easy to be a boring, centrist or centre-left person, and capture people’s attention in a way that can motivate them for political action.
That’s an interesting point because it speaks to the incentives you’re talking about. The social media model is incentivised by the global disorder. It feeds on that.
Even worse, since everything is clickbait, social media promotes the disorder. We know that is part of the reason that YouTube algorithms lead towards more violent and hate speech content being generated. Facebook is even worse. People click on the thing that’s more extreme so that it says, “Hillary runs a paedophiliac sex rig in a pizza parlour,” people click on that. If it says, “Interest rates are up 0.02%, and it’s very important that we have a rebalancing to have countercyclical spending,” no one clicks on that link.Everything these days is clickbait. Social media promotes disorder. Algorithms target more violent content and hate speech. Click To Tweet
It’s nuance, it requires the context and understanding of what’s going on.
I see a way that technology could be part of the solution. Every new technology, particularly in the communication space, leads to new ideologies. Protestantism was the product of the printing press. You can’t have Protestantism without the printing press because Luther says, “Read the Bible for yourself.” Come to your own conclusions. You don’t need the priest to intermediate to you. You don’t need to read Latin, but you cannot have that message without the printing press. Hitler and Mussolini came to power because of the radio. They had a more popular appeal and could reach, particularly the upper working class, who might not be reading complex books of political philosophy but could listen on the radio to the Nuremberg rallies or to the March on Rome and that invective.
In the Arab world, there’s a guy named Nasser who mastered radio. Trump and Putin are the geniuses of the way social media interacts with their particular electorates and cultures. Russia has a deep attachment to its certain nationalism, and his risky mirror ideology taps into social media in this and that way. America-first-ism and everything that Trump is getting at with the left-behind working class. A point will come when the situation is so dire that people are going to reject it and say, “I don’t mind giving up a little bit of my personal freedom or my woke ideology.” We need to have content-driven, policy-driven elites deciding things like healthcare or foreign policy.
It may take a long slog, this may be in our children’s generation, things are going to have to get a lot worse, but then at that moment, technology can be a force multiplier for global demos. People could get to this point where right now, the average American and French person says, “We’re not that similar. We wouldn’t vote for the same candidates or whatever.”
If you play the clock forward and think about the issues of someone in rural France and me in New Jersey, Manhattan, or London, they’re not that different. Our cultural values and what we want from the world and for our kids are actually very similar. We’ve been pushed apart. There’s been a lack of class consciousness to use it, like the Marxian view. We’ve been divided from each other by this stuff.
It’s going to be tough because some people who think that their most important issue is transgendered rights or transgendered bathrooms are going to have to realise that they don’t have to push that issue because we have bigger fish to fry, like confronting Putin and climate change. The woke who put certain identity issues first, “I’m a hyphenated Armenian-American. That’s the most important reason I’m voting this way.” That’s not going to work, but there’s going to have to be a backlash against this, and then technology might allow these global demos who want to entrust experts because the problems of the world are getting more complicated, not less.
It’s a wonderful way to finish up as well. Not necessarily as hopeful as you are, because I do wholeheartedly agree with how we started this conversation, and it’s a lot to do with psychology. You made the point that behavioural economics has flipped the rational model on its head. We’re seeing social media flip any rationality on its head in every domain of our lives from politics to health to global relations to domestic relations. We are not seeing the business model of social media at this point in time yet changing.
There are some regulations and some broad pushes, but structurally this strikes me as merely aesthetic touch-ups, as opposed to the actual core of the business model, which is attention, the attention economy. As humans, we thrive on conflict and are drawn to it. I don’t know if you have any final comments. We’ve tried to cover quite a lot in the limited time that we have. This calls for another episode in the future.
Thank you. I’m happy to toss out a final comment. If people think that making these small compromises are not important and it’s best to fight for your side to win? Sorry, you got to go to places like Libya. You got to live there and think about these things. A Misratan guy is like, “We can’t let them run the interior ministry. They have the airport, and they’re making some corrupt gains. We should be entitled to those corrupt gains.” You realise if you fight about those things, you can ruin one of the wealthiest societies on earth. It was the wealthiest country in Africa. Now it isn’t. What all Libyans needed was an investment into the oil sector, the ability for people to study abroad and to get improvements in their healthcare and electricity.
By fighting over these little things and the personality politics of the status quo players and incumbent actors, some people are always going to benefit from a conflict economy, but the majority of people are not. The majority of people benefit from there being peace and investment in stability. It’s going to take compromises. I have seen in my own personal development over the course of the Brexit, Trump years, and my international travel, that I am very willing to give up certain social and economic issues that I might disagree with and say, “If the price of getting along with people in Kansas or in Scotland is this, I’ll do it.”
What we don’t want to do is be atomised where Scotland has a referendum and separates from the UK. Our partisanship is such that we can barely agree on anything from vaccine mandates to the booster shot to how to build roads and bridges and fight inflation in this contract. I don’t know if that’s optimistic or not, but 95% of my interests and of my community are shared by people who have the exact opposite political view.
That’s what we need to double-click and echo because that is true. All I can say to our audience is to explore that point because we are so radicalised on issues that aren’t of very great concern in the grand scheme of things. Also, we’re willing to die on our sword for it when we don’t necessarily realise that we’re part of a much bigger Global Enduring Disorder. Jason, I love that book. It spoke so much to me as somebody who was born in the Balkans, and I’m glad you talked about Sweden. I lived in Sweden for three years, and the institutional trust or the social capital that exists in that country is absolutely phenomenal.
I’m so jealous of it. It can happen in multi-ethnic places, like I use another example of Malta, a small country. I love living in a place where there’s social trust. I’m happier. I am more likely to have productive conversations with strangers. Sadly, New York is not that place, and the States are less so. It’s been a far-ranging and very passionate conversation. I’ve been happy to speak to you and your audience, and I look forward to talking more.
Jason, thank you very much for your time.
Have a great day.
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