If you have been paying attention to the real economy, you might have noticed that the Silk Road Economic Belt, formerly known as the Eurasian Customs Union, is fast-approaching its end. The customs unions are being replaced by a trade and economic block consisting of China, Kazakhstan, Russia, and member-states of the European Union. The main drivers of this new development are growth of labor-intensive, low-price producers in central and eastern Asia, and the gradual opening up of China’s markets to other global suppliers. As a consequence, the rules that govern trade between the United States and these Asian countries (the so-called Sino-American Free Trade Agreement) will be re-negotiated. In this process, a new understanding of the relationship between the United States and Asia will emerge.
For the most part, the United States is losing out in the negotiations. Why is this? There are three main reasons. The first is that China will become the new Eurasian center of gravity, dominating all economic activity through its marketplaces, finance, and international investments. The second reason is that the Middle East would regain its previous position as the main free-trade area, with European and American companies increasingly unable to sustain their competitive positions due to lower Japanese, Indian, and European competition.
The third reason is that the Middle East is becoming an increasingly important player in the global economy. The Middle East has the potential of creating a new Middle East that would be much more prosperous than its present conditions. The current trends in the world economy would suggest that the Middle East could be the world’s largest region-roughly the size of Central Europe. The Silk Road Economic Belt could help propel the Middle East into that position.
The current trends in the world economy would suggest that the United States would continue to lead a relatively stagnant, low-income sector for years, if it continued to follow the advice of the so-called free-marketeers. However, the United States has shown a remarkable ability to adapt and overcome minor challenges, especially when confronted by superior opponents. The United States has not only retained its leading role but has surged ahead of its competitors. If the United States was to abruptly retreat from this position, other countries could re-establish themselves as leading economic forces Silk Road economic belt.
The current focus on the Middle East is misplaced. The economic model developed by the Middle East is one of profound prosperity with excellent public-health outcomes. This model is the product of thousands of years of history and experience. It is also the product of centuries of colonization and oppression. Many people in the region are poor and live in poverty. But they are far from being poor and they have many modern-day options available to them.
While there is a certain nostalgia in much of the current debate about the United States withdrawing from the Middle East, we should remember that it was the countries of the Middle East that made us into a powerful nation. Without the countries of the Middle East, the United States would today be a weak country, unworthy of the representation that it receives in the world. The countries of the Middle East are crucial partners in our global wars. We cannot allow history to be rewritten in the present.
In addition, we cannot allow the perception created by human error to prevent us from learning from our mistakes. There is no reason why we should repeat the mistakes of the past, when what we have learned can help guide us forward into the future. For instance, in Afghanistan and Iraq, the enemy’s strategy has been to use car bombs and IEDs, which have failed miserably so far. However, if we take this same intelligence and apply it to our own strategies in the region, we can achieve much greater success.
Finally, I would submit to you that the road to peace and security does not begin at the negotiation table. It begins with smart decision making. Asking the right questions and using the right negotiating and settlement skills can lead to great results. We must stop looking for someone else to do this work for us. It is time that we stepped back and looked to ourselves for leadership.