Intelligence Report

Global stability delicately balanced: Report #1


South Africa needs to develop the best possible intelligence and strategy to enable it to deploy well-informed timeous responses to a fast-changing world.

Last week we promised our readers a “Real Intelligence Report” based on thorough research and in consultation with a network of experts, aimed at helping our readers understand the real threats to stability present in our socio- and political economic environment.

This first attempt takes a wide angle lens look at the global backdrop against which South Africa’s national interests and internal stability should be managed.

Next week we will do the same with regards to the domestic scene, while future reports might focus more in detail on specific issues as they arise.

 Overall view of present threats and challenges

A complex confluence of factors and developments on both the domestic and international front is in the process of creating what is often described as a “new reality” or “new normal.” It is a time that brings great challenges and threats, but also opportunities to give new content and direction to establish South Africa as a “developmental state.”

In the latter instance the biggest challenge is to establish the most productive mix between state intervention/guidance and mobilising/enticing private sector capacities to create maximum development momentum, inclusive of all sectors and groups in the community at large.

Feelings of exclusion or being left behind by even small but powerful groups can be very destructive to the stability of the state.

Heed should be taken of numerous global studies and reports that indicate massive structural changes taking place in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis to the global and ever deeper integrating economy – as presently so prominently illustrated by the global impact of domestic economic developments in China.

The so-called internet-of-things and the explosion in communication- and social media networks has made purely domestic socio-political –economic trends an absolute rarity.

The world today, finds itself in a transition period of colossal dimensions which inevitably translates into tension, uncertainty and instability. 

World financial system in trouble

Capitalism, the dominant financial system since the collapse of communism, is under serious siege.

To prevent perpetuating conflict and unrest as public resentment rallies and intensifies against seemingly uncontrolled corruption, greed and exploitation by both the public and private sector, sweeping and drastic adjustments are required on a global scale.

With globally the gap between rich and poor continuously widening, the likelihood of a global uprising by increasing numbers of disillusioned and impoverished masses having little to lose, has become a reality.

The Arab Spring of 2012 was a hint of what could be expected.

Resentment is growing against governments perceived as protecting and serving an economic order considered repressing and self-serving.

Across the globe, also in South Africa with the #Feesmustfall student protests and piggy-backing worker demands, the message is unequivocal – the patience of the masses is at breaking point.    

Truth about the immigration crisis

The influx of immigrants into Europa is symptomatic of a globe in economic and political turmoil. It is however, not limited to Europe. Australia is experiencing similar challenges from boat people trying to escape harsh conditions in their homelands in South East Asia. South Africa is also not unfamiliar with the effects of thousands of immigrants entering the country legally and illegally, desperately looking for a better life.

On a direct and immediate level these migrants place serious financial pressure on recipient states and locals feel threatened, particularly when migrants start competing for already limited resources or is perceived to trespass on the liberties and comfortable life styles of citizens of the more affluent countries of West Europe. Retribution often follows resulting in ugly xenophobic incidents.

Longer term the migrants might be a blessing in disguise – in Western Europe they might become part of a solution to the dwindling birth rates and in South Africa their work ethic and entrepreneurial skills could rub off in a positively on the local population.

Mass migration as a phenomenon is as old as human history itself, driven by the strongest urge of all – survival. If history tells us anything it is that migration can ultimately not be fought off. Managing it is the only option.     

Rise of radicalism

The Cold War might be history and the former superpowers of the East/West divide might have fewer nuclear missiles in their arsenals but the relations remain fragile in many respects.

Ideology might be less of a global threat and largely neutralised by the effect of a globally integrated economy but the rise of militant and uncompromising religious radicalism are no less menacing and dangerous.

Second Cold War

The Cold War might be over but Russia ambition to reclaim what it considers its rightful place in the world and the restoration of the lost glory it claimed during the heyday of the old Soviet Union, have analysts and commentators debating the possibility of a “second” or “new” Cold War.

Furthermore, China’s emergence as potential new superpower and global competition between the industrialised countries of the world for dwindling natural resources, increase the possibility of a new Cold War developing.

The US, showing strain and fatigue and under immense financial pressure, is slowly but surely losing its status as the world’s only superpower. The return to a bi-polar or even a multi-power world, will unlikely be a smooth transition.

It would be wise and prudent for South Africa to tread carefully, following a foreign policy firmly guided by pragmatism in a world where even solidarity amongst members of the European Union is coming under strain .

A foreign policy informed by pragmatism is essential as the world grapples with the debilitating consequences of an economic crisis, shifting centres of power, rising unemployment, poverty and despondency on an unprecedented scale – exacerbated by the negative impact of climate change, pollution, overpopulation and food security, to name but some of the many challenges.

At the same time a number of regional flash points across the globe make for a complex international geopolitical environment. In his book Global Security in the Twenty-first Century, published earlier this year, Sean Kay warns that each of these regional arenas “could have dramatic global consequences.”

For South Africa to take its rightful place in the family of nations and play a meaningful and constructive role on the international stage, while at the same time serving the best national interests, it is imperative that government is in a position to formulate well informed timeous responses. Attention needs to be given to ensure the capacity for the best intelligence and strategy development is in place at all times. 

by Intelligence Bulletin Team

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