‘North-Korea’ and further escalation of rivalries should not come as a surprise, Part 3


Front cover of the Clingendael Monitor 2017

In two preceding articles, I discussed the ‘Clingendael Strategic Monitor 2017’ with the title “Multi-Order”. This is the third and last article in this series. Contrary to what the Clingendael Institute and the ‘Monitor’ observe, I argue that the current international order is crumbling; its collapse is a matter of time.

Clingendael is the ‘Netherlands Institute of International Relations’ and represents the so-called ‘Realist School’ in ‘International Relations theory’. ‘Realistm’ – a ‘title’ which suggests they now what they talk about – typically think in terms of power and influence.

In the two preceding articles, I made several observations that also concern Clingendael’s methods that resulted in the statements made in the ‘Monitor’, including:

(1) I argued that ‘International Relations theory’ lacks a scientific basis, and only constitutes a number of (incoherent) dogmas, which are the product of the war- and social dynamics in Europe during the period 1495-1945;

(2) I also observed that ‘International Relations theory’ does not make use of the scientific method and that consequently the qualification ‘theory’ is misleading from a scientific perspective. The methods of Clingendael’s researchers use do not meet scientific standards; they consider opinions of ‘experts’ a credible and scientifically sound substitute for the scientific method. The observations in the Clingendael Monitor are based on interviews with ‘experts’, their opinions are supposed to explain the workings of the System, and make prediction possible. This ‘wisdom-of-the crowds’ method – as this method is referred to – has some serious limitations, apart from the fact, that opinions – not even of 2500 experts – can not compensate for the scientific method. It is inaccurate – as the authors of the monitor do – to present the findings of Clingendael’s presented in the Monitor as ‘evidence-based’: they are opinion-based; opinions are not evidence.

The Clingendael Monitor already showed serious signs of obsolescence, less than six months after its publication, when the first two articles were published on this blog.

In this article – Part 3 – I focus on the last part – chapters – in the monitor, in which the Multi-Order is discussed.

As I explain in my research – based on data and the scientific method – the System is now ‘producing’ a fifth war cycle (1945- ….). This is the first war cycle at a global scale of the System; the previous four war cycles (1495-1945) concerned Europe, which was the core of the System until 1939.


A schematic representation of the four accelerating war cycles the ‘European System” produced during the period 1495-1945.

The fifth cycle started in 1945, following the fourth systemic war (the Second World War, 1939-1945). Its development was momentarily disturbed because of the intense rivalry between the United States and the Soviet-Union (1945-1991). However, after the collapse of the Soviet-Union (1989-1991), the System resumed its ‘normal’ – that is chaotic – war dynamics, which are intrinsically unpredictable. The resumption of chaotic war dynamics should not have come as a surprise, as is the case for other typical dynamics and characteristics of the System we are now experiencing.

But (not surprisingly) it did surprise politicians, policy makers and their advisors like the Clingendael Institute: ‘Old School’ International Relations-theory cannot provide useful insights in the workings of the System.

Each war cycle has a typical life cycle. We are now – analysis of war data suggests- in the what I name the ‘high-connectivity regime’ of the current cycle (since 2011, data suggests). During this phase, tensions and issues in the System can no longer be sufficiently released because of a network-effect, and instead of being released tensions and unsolved issues accumulate in the System, and (increasingly) reinforce each other.

The accumulating tensions and unsolved issues in the System result in radical and volatile dynamics in the System, in efforts of states and their societies to ‘handle’ these dysfunctional tensions. However, because of our limited understanding of the System, and the ‘selfish’ responses of states – responses that are typical for ‘Realists’ and are closely related ‘Old School’ International relations theory – tensions will only further increase.2011 pngThis figure is a schematic representation of the typical life cycle of a war cycle. Data suggests that we reached the tipping point of the current cycle in 2011.

It is just a matter of time, before the System becomes critical, and produces a systemic war. Systemic wars – in which all Great Powers are involved – are instrumental in the design and implementation of ‘upgraded’ international orders, that again allow for a period of relative stability (a lower energy state of the System), and further growth and development.


This figure shows the very regular patterns that can be identified in the war dynamics of the System during the period 1495-1945, when the war cycles are used as unit of analysis. ‘Lifespans’ determine the fragility of relatively stable periods, ‘Great Power status dynamics’ determine organisational stability, and ‘number of wars’ and ‘war frequency’ determine the robustness of relatively stable periods. So, what is meant with ‘stability’ in the Clingendael Monitor?

During the end phase of the (now obsolete) international order, rivalries between states will (further) intensify. This is a self-reinforcing process, because tensions cannot be released and issues not be solved as a consequence of a network effect. It is just a matter of time before the System becomes critical and produces a systemic war (the System can be considered a network that becomes increasingly saturated with tensions and issues; when issues are connected at a global scale and tensions reach a certain threshold, the System is critical, and produces a systemic war).

A systemic war can be considered ‘emergent’ behaviour of the System to regulate tensions in the anarchistic System: During the systemic war, accumulated tensions – energy – will be used to design and implement an upgraded order, that allows for a next period of relative stability.

Contrary to what the authors of the Monitor boldly state: The international order is now definitely crumbling. The authors of the Monitor state: “…. it is simply not true that the world order is merely crumbling away. Clingendael’s analyses show continuing cooperation in many areas. Moreover, in many areas the rules-based order turns out to be fairly stable….”.

This – “it is simply not true that the world order is merely crumbling away” –   is quite a daring statement – opinion – of Clingendael, and is wrong: The current international order – the United Nations, the first international order at a global scale of the System that was implemented by means of the Second World War (the fourth systemic war, 1939-1945) – is obsolete, increasingly dysfunctional, and about to collapse under the weight of its own contradictions; a process that was/is ‘natural’ to all preceding international orders.

The privileged Great Powers in the current international order have acquired these privileges because of their power and influence during the Second World War (although France was not a significant player, it could not be ignored because of its colonies and central position in Europe, ‘too big to ignore’). The power and influence of Great Britain and France, and their privileges are now long overdue. The European Union – and some of its states (Great Britain) – are also crumbling, as well as a number of states in the Middle East and Africa. The territorial integrity of states is no longer respected; the System becomes more dislodged. The tensions that now accumulate in the System, are responsible for this process (and vice versa): They cannot be released by means of non-systemic wars in this phase (high connectivity regime) of the international order, and undermine the international order’s functionality.

The authors are obviously not aware, that ‘intense cooperation between states’ was also used as an ‘argument’ in the years preceding the First World War; a large-scale war was not considered likely because of ‘intense cooperation’, and that war would not make sense. How (predictably) wrong they were.

The now flaring tensions between North-Korea and the United States are symptomatic for the obsolescence of the international order, and the intensifying rivalries between the Great Powers. North-Korea is not about North-Korea, but about the spheres of influence of the United States and China (and Russia).

North Korea is not the only flashpoint. In the article ‘Threat analysis: Assessment of systemic risk‘ I show how a global network of (connected) issues is now taking shape.

An paradigm shift is urgently required for Clingendael and similar institutes to ensure their relevance as policy advisors.

We must do much better in understanding war dynamics, and in inventing effective (preventive) strategies; much is at stake.