Most of those refugees are from Central America, fleeing gang-infested cities and farms destroyed by climate change.
As once-close friends (Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey) go their separate ways, Washington has already lost significant power in the Greater Middle East and Central Asia in this century due to its disastrous wars.
Present problem Beijing and Washington appear to be preparing for an armed conflict over Taiwan at the eastern edge of Eurasia.
Washington’s relationships with its home region have been remarkably divided for more than a century, typified by amity in the north and uncertainty or even hostility to the south, particularly Central America and the Caribbean.
Following strained relations during the nineteenth century, typified by several unsuccessful US invasions of Canada, Washington and Ottawa began to settle their border disputes in 1903.
A few recent headlines highlight the horribly harsh and highly explosive nature of US relations with the continent of North America, which is where it all began. In 2022, a record-breaking 2.76 million Mexican border crossings stuffed destitute shelters to capacity all around the country. Tens of thousands of migrants who are currently huddling in the cold of northern Mexico may be able to pour across the border this year if Covid restrictions are lifted, as some are already able to do. Most of those refugees are from Central America, fleeing gang-infested cities and farms destroyed by climate change. The ineffective US response to such a troubling world ranges from Arizona Governor Doug Ducey cutting an unsightly scar through a pristine national forest by constructing a four-mile border “wall” out of rusted shipping containers to the Biden administration nervously waiting its turn without a plan in sight (which he now has to dismantle).
Millions of poor people in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, are toiling in some of the worst slums in the world while being torn apart by gang violence pervasive in the area and caused by previous earthquakes. In 2022, the United States deported another 26,000 Haitian asylum seekers without giving them a chance to be heard. The UN Security Council pondered mounting a global military intervention to handle what its secretary-general called “a terrible scenario.” When Border Patrol riders used “unnecessary force” to herd Haitians back across the Rio Grande in September 2021, that severity was exposed. Trump and Biden’s recent economic sanctions against communist Cuba, enacted elsewhere in the Caribbean, prompted 250,000 refugees, or more than 2% of the island’s population, to flee to the US last year.
Further south, Venezuela has lost 6.8 million residents due to years of US-led economic blockades and at least one Washington-sponsored coup, creating what the UN has dubbed “the biggest refugee and migrant crisis in history.” Only 100 Venezuelans entered the US over the southern border in 2018. That number reached an all-time high of 188,000 in 2022. Remember, too, that all of this will likely look like a trickle in the years to come when, as the World Bank recently warned, a human torrent may be headed north as the destruction of climate change uproots as many as 4 million people each year from Mexico and Central America.
The Principles Behind Geopolitical Change
As horrible as this may appear, there are some glimmering indications that, however shakily, the United States may at least be progressing toward a more favourable relationship with North America, which includes Canada, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean island countries. It also needs to happen quickly because, within ten years, the emergence of a multipolar world would gradually supplant Washington’s aspirations for world hegemony with international alliances like the European Union or burgeoning regional superpowers like Brazil, India, Nigeria, and Turkey.
At the most fundamental level, geopolitical upheaval is undermining the ability of any prospective hegemon, including China, to rule a large portion of the world as Washington did for the previous 75 years. The US’s global leadership followed a similar downward trajectory as its share of the worldwide economy fell from a staggering 50% in 1950 to only 13% in 2021. This process is identical to what Great Britain went through before World War I. The United States long-held objective of preserving its supremacy over Eurasia, the region that is the hub of world power, is now being undermined by this relative economic and imperial loss. It did so through a triangular geopolitical strategy for decades, controlling the western end of the continent through NATO and its eastern end through a vast network of military bases along the Pacific littoral, all the while assiduously preventing either China or Russia from achieving full-scale dominance in Central Asia.
As they say, keep dreaming. As once-close friends (Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey) go their separate ways, Washington has already lost significant power in the Greater Middle East and Central Asia in this century due to its disastrous wars. In the meantime, China has significantly increased its authority over Central Asia. Its recent ad hoc alliance with Russia is becoming increasingly battered, further strengthening its expanding geopolitical dominance on the Eurasian continent.
Although the conflict in Ukraine has temporarily made the NATO alliance stronger, the unilateral US withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021, which brought an end to a bloody 20-year battle, forced European leaders to reflect for the first time in 50 years on what life and NATO might look like in a changing world. They are just now considering what assuming control of their security would entail ten years from now after the majority of US military forces have left Europe. In other words, we might find ourselves on another planet for the first time in human history.
Beijing and Washington appear to be preparing for an armed conflict over Taiwan at the eastern edge of Eurasia. According to a six-phase scenario by the Reuters news service, such a conflict would likely destroy the cities on the island, disrupt international trade, and wreak havoc throughout much of East Asia. Washington would ultimately probably blink and retreat from the “first island chain” (Japan-Taiwan-Philippines) to a “second island chain” (Japan-Guam-Palau) or even a “third island chain” (Alaska/Hawaii/New Zealand), given Beijing’s strategic advantage of simple proximity to that island and the likelihood of significant US naval losses in such a conflict.
Even in the absence of such a devastating future conflict—which, of course, may turn nuclear—the influence of Washington in Eurasia is already waning. In contrast, China has risen to prominence in Africa by capitalising on a 50-year-old partnership with sovereign states. China’s influence in South America has dramatically decreased since the Cold War of the previous century.
Growing Regional Powers
A group of regional powers known as the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China) or, more recently, the “13 new emerging economies” have been strengthened as a result of the liberal international order, Washington’s most enduring legacy amid the decline of its global hegemony (including Indonesia, Nigeria, and South Africa). Their ascent will probably make it impossible for either Washington or Beijing to exert anything resembling the global dominance of the imperial past or the subsequent Cold War era. The European Union, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and the African Union, for example, are expected to become even more powerful regional organisations.
The United States will become considerably more regional as its global strength rapidly declines. While some insiders in Washington may view this trend as a retreat or even a defeat, it presents a chance to radically reevaluate our relationships with North America, which is what we call home.
The terrible residue of a turbulent past may be seen in the current US policy toward this continent, which is a tangled web of paradoxes. Washington’s relationships with its home region have been remarkably divided for more than a century, typified by amity in the north and uncertainty or even hostility to the south, particularly Central America and the Caribbean. At the beginning of the twentieth century, after ending Britain’s decades-long informal imperial rule over all of Latin America, Washington attempted to exert control over its southern neighbours through repeated military interventions. It took Puerto Rico in 1898 and the Panama Canal Zone in 1903 while sending Marines to occupy Caribbean nations like Haiti for extended periods.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt instituted a “good neighbour policy” in the 1930s in an audacious effort to shift America’s imperial stance, temporarily rejecting violent occupations. Building on that goodwill, Washington and almost two dozen nations in this hemisphere—including Mexico, the majority of Central America, and South America—signed the Rio Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance in 1947. The overthrow of Guatemala’s democratic reformist government in 1954, the abortive invasion of Cuba in 1961, the occupation of the Dominican Republic in 1965, and a series of bloody covert wars in Central America during the 1980s were just a few of the controversial CIA interventions that occurred during the Cold War.
Even today, criminal gangs like MS-13, estimated to have 60,000 members, terrorise the northern region of Central America, driving thousands of victims to flee for the relative haven of the US border. This is due to the social trauma caused by those covert wars, which were marked by massacres and US-financed death squads. Washington has responded ever more repressively, mobilising border patrols in a fruitless attempt to seal off its southern frontier as if it had no stake in or responsibility for the fate of its neighbours instead of a cooperative effort to address an increasingly horrific regional brew of endemic violence and climate change.
Canada, on the other hand, serves as a role model for regional cooperation up north. Following strained relations during the nineteenth century, typified by several unsuccessful US invasions of Canada, Washington and Ottawa began to settle their border disputes in 1903. These arbitrations won Secretary of State Elihu Root the Nobel Peace Prize and served as a paradigm for contemporary international relations. The International Joint Commission, which has, over 110 years, peacefully resolved about 50 issues, some of which could have gotten rather serious, was founded in 1909 by the two nations to wrap up that process.
The two countries also established a military partnership that has only grown stronger over the years due to their roles as allies in World Wars I and II. Not only was Canada a co-founder of NATO in 1949, but the nations also combined their continental defences by creating the North American Aerospace Defense Command at the height of the Cold War (NORAD). The strongest American alliance, NORAD, is binational and contains senior officers from both air forces. It is responsible for the aerial and, as of 2006, maritime defence of the entire continent of North America. Building on these solid military links, the two countries joined Mexico in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994. Despite being marginally amended under President Trump, NAFTA has allowed the three nations to continue to have strong economic ties for the previous 30 years.
Beyond NORAD and NAFTA
The US’s connections with the rest of North America, however, are entangled in contradictions due to its complex hemispheric history, which only exacerbates already painfully chronic issues. However, there are now clear options that could start to move beyond the increasingly unsettling absurdity of military borders, asymmetric power, and punishing policies towards poorer southern neighbours, utilising this country’s relationships with Canada and the European Union as precedents.
Visionary new leaders worked step by step to establish a regional confederation that would replace violence with collaboration after World War II and 1,000 years of nearly unending warfare that turned Europe become the world’s most bloody continent. that new levels of production and prosperity would be produced as a result of the European Union (EU) (until, at least, Britain withdrew from the EU and, more recently, Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine). Since the Lisbon Pact was signed in 2007, the EU executive commission and parliament have taken charge of common concerns for their 500 million citizens, including environmental policy, economic development, human rights, border security, and migration within the union. All 27 member states still retain full sovereign authority.
North America, encompassing Canada, the United Governments, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean nations, could undoubtedly benefit from a parallel union among its 23 sovereign states and 590 million inhabitants to address its rising difficulties. The task ought to be more straightforward in many ways than it was for Europe. A North American Union would only require three “official languages”—English, French, and Spanish—instead of the EU’s 13—which is the same number as tiny Switzerland.
The economic disparity between the north and south impedes North American integration, much like earlier in Europe. Since its inception in 1994, NAFTA has significantly changed the nature of economic ties between Canada, Mexico, and the United States, boosting cross-border investment and tripling regional trade. Here’s another unexpected NAFTA-related development: Since 2008, however, there has been a reversal flow “as more Mexican-born immigrants had started leaving the United States than coming,” compared to the period from 1994 to 2007 when undocumented Mexican immigration to the United States only increased.
Congress authorised the US-Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership in 2000 and the Central American Free Trade Agreement five years later to replicate this achievement (CAFTA). However, special interests hampered CAFTA from the start, amplifying the drawbacks and muting the benefits of such a multilateral agreement. At the same time, its Caribbean counterpart has had, at best, minimal influence.
The Look for Answers
Improved NAFTA-like pacts with the Caribbean and Central America might be negotiated, given precedents of successful and unsuccessful deals in this region. Washington could be able to lessen if gradually, the stark economic disparity between the United States, Canada, and their southern neighbours if it implemented an investment programme that was sincere and aimed at more equitable economic integration.
After establishing sound economic foundations, those nations may transition to shared governance a la the European Union to better manage the escalating climate crisis and its potential for a population catastrophe. Washington may become the heart of a global alliance through genuine regional cooperation and redefining “defence” (as in Defense Department) as a better defence against approaching natural disasters.
The United States will need new migrant flows from the labour-rich countries of Central America and the Caribbean, as the Biden White House suggested in its June 2022 Los Angeles Declaration on Migration, as its population ages. Seniors are predicted to outnumber those under 18 by 2034. And as the northern triangle of Central America experiences devastating drought and raging tropical storms due to climate change, Canada and the United States will be able to mobilise their armies of highly trained scientists to look for environmental solutions that will enable rural populations to shelter more securely in place.
The enormous US defence budget, which is still devoted to Washington’s fading aspirations of world dominance (and the corporate weapons makers that go along with it), may be channelled toward a new sort of regional defence. Its main goal would be to deal with the displaced populations that will come with an explosion of climatically related calamities across the entire continent, including increasingly severe droughts, floods, fires, and storms.
It will be necessary to create small zones of shared sovereignty along the lines of the European Union to relatively (and successfully) address these mutual concerns. Ottawa and Washington might lead the 23 independent states of North America in establishing a permanent secretariat, similar to the European Commission, as a replacement for the long-defunct Organization of American States (OAS).
Such an empowered transnational entity might exert executive authority over areas suitable for shared governance, such as civil defence, environmental disaster, economic growth, and labour flows while balancing national sovereignty with regional solidarity. And should such a union succeed, it might be expanded, much like the EU has, until it encompasses the entire Western Hemisphere, replacing or reinvigorating the OAS, which is currently paralysed.
Washington might assist in guiding its North American neighbours, roiled by the effects of climate change, toward an ideal union by taking the necessary steps beyond CAFTA, NAFTA, and NORAD. This would ultimately make the entire hemisphere a safer haven for its fair share of humankind in the tumultuous decades to follow.