No matter what you think of him, journalist Robert Kaplan is always worth reading. In a piece at the National Interest, he writes that empires, despite their evil, provided “stability and order to vast tracts of land occupied by different peoples, particularly in Europe.” In their absence, “what then?”
We are entering an age of what I call comparative anarchy, that is, a much higher level of anarchy compared to that of the Cold War and post–Cold War periods.
He explains that “globalization and the communications revolution have reinforced, rather than negated, geopolitics. The world map is now smaller and more claustrophobic, so that territory is more ferociously contested, and every regional conflict interacts with every other as never before. A war in Syria is inextricable from a terrorist outrage in Europe, even as Russia’s intervention in Syria affects Europe’s and America’s policy toward Ukraine.”
Kaplan then presents an idea that I had never heard before: “… as group differences melt down in the crucible of globalization,” such as, one would imagine Islamic immigration to Europe,
… they have to be reforged in a blunter and more ideological form. It isn’t the clash of civilizations so much as the clash of artificially reconstructed civilizations that is taking place. Witness the Islamic State, which does not represent Islam per se, but Islam combusting with the tyrannical conformity and mass hysteria of the Internet and social media. The postmodern reinvention of identities only hardens geopolitical divides.
That’s a valuable contribution to explaining the Islamic State’s failure to, uh, observe the niceties of polite society.