Asia Pacific

The Daily Devil’s Dictionary: “Scramble” to Take Over

China news, Chinese news, Iran news, Iranian news, Middle East news, Asian news, Asia news, Iran nuclear deal, Iran deal, Donald Trump news

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May 29, 2018 10:34 EDT

How do you prefer your geopolitical eggs: once over easy or scrambled?

A development that has gone under most of the media’s radar may emerge in the coming months and years as a game-changer. Reuters reports on China’s response to US President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the Iran deal: “China will host Iranian President Hassan Rouhani next month at a regional summit aimed at avoiding disruption of joint projects, its foreign ministry said on Monday, as major powers scramble to save Iran’s nuclear deal after the United States pulled out.” 

Here is today’s 3D definition:


A two-way word that means either to mix things up chaotically or to attempt to respond to chaos through quick responsive or corrective action

Contextual note

Every native English-speaking child learns the verb scramble through the visual, gustatory and tactile experience of eating scrambled eggs. Later in life people learn that to meet emergencies one is sometimes called upon to scramble or act remedially in haste. Scrambling usually implies some sort of quick improvisation and, as such, designates an action that is generally highly targeted and local. That is why we may find both surprising and ominous the idea of “major powers” scrambling to respond to a common emergency. What is less surprising — given the attention Trump’s Shock Doctrine 2.0 provokes —  is that so many of the major and minor powers, as well as the powerless, have realized the need to scramble. 

Historical note

The Chinese invitation entails for Rouhani both “a working visit to China” and attending “the summit of the China and Russia-led security bloc the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.” Both are significant since the US position reinstating sanctions aims at installing an economic siege of Iran. Not only are the Chinese taking measures to continue projects that are already underway, but Iran will eventually enter a coalition that not many of the media’s pundits seem to be aware of.

Chinese defense expert Zhou Bo explains the underlying logic of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and how it differs from that of NATO: “The SCO, by contrast, is not designed to address an external threat, so it is not directed at the West. It looks inwards to address its own problems …Today, its security concern remains uprooting the ‘three evils’ of terrorism, separatism and religious extremism.” Zhou adds that a “distinctive feature of the SCO is that it is inclusive rather than exclusive. It is home to different values, religions and civilisations which, to a great extent, reflects the reality of the world today.”

It’s far too early to know how effective the SCO may be, but the chaos the Trump administration is fomenting in the West as a direct consequence of the “America First” ideology could be a factor that will consolidate its importance. India and Pakistan joined the organization in 2017, which already included China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. If Iran were to join, the SCO would comprise most of Central and South Asia, part of the Middle East, and reach the borders of Europe and the Arabian Peninsula.

Reconciling the interests and strategies of all these countries and peoples would be more than a challenge but, as Zhou mentions, that is not its goal. If as Reuters points out “major powers,” including Europe, are scrambling to build some kind of economic and diplomatic coherency independent of President Trump’s whims and caprices, the stranglehold the Yankee dollar and the massive US network of military bases has had on the world economy for decades will be forcefully loosened.

If any kind of diverse, multinational and multicultural coalition based, not on opposing an enemy but on common interests and a focus on collaborative infrastructure can get off the ground, it could seriously threaten the ever weakening American empire. This is an empire that relied on the seductive power of the now-seriously discredited consumer society and an omnipresent military to convince the world that the good guys were looking after their interests and in control of their fate.

Trump’s “America First” allows him to threaten and effectively sanction every nation in the world, including the allies who signed on to the Iran deal. It also inevitably encourages those nations to look for leverage elsewhere. The SCO, for better or worse, is one example that is totally outside the sphere of Western influence. When considered alongside China’s “One Belt, One Road” doctrine, the geopolitical epicenter of the global economy appears — as historian Alfred McCoy has pointed out — to be rapidly shifting toward Asia and China in particular. In McCoy’s words, “World leadership lost is never readily recovered, particularly when rival powers are prepared to fill the void.” Trump has given them an increased motivation to “prepare.”

The scramble is on. If Zhou’s goals — address internal problems, root out terrorism, separatism and extremism — could be massively affirmed by the organization’s partners and not left in the hands of China alone, the SCO might become the platform to express a new vision of a multicultural world in which no one feels the need to claim to be “first.”

*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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