While reading the major books of my master Fernand Braudel, I noticed the existence, in the history of geopolitics, of a law of implacable predictive validity which can be very useful to each of us in many fields:
At the end of the fifteenth century, when Bruges dominated the merchant economy, it was attacked on all the seas by the Spanish and Portuguese powers, which exhausted themselves in these battles, leaving the power in Europe to Venice. At the end of the sixteenth century, Venice had to face economic, political and military competition from the Ottoman Empire, which wanted to wrest control of the silk and incense routes from Venice, and, incidentally, to establish its power over the holy places; and when the Serenissima and the Great Door had exhausted each other in battle, the Netherlands, a new merchant power, took over. When, throughout the 18th century, the France of the late Louis XIV, the Regent and then Louis XV launched unceasing wars against the Netherlands, it was Great Britain that took over the leadership of the world. When, at the end of the 19th century, Germany, which had become a great power after its unification under the leadership of Prussia, tried to oust Great Britain from the government of the world, it was the United States that imposed itself and took over the torch, for at least a century. And today, China, which is carefully keeping out of the conflict between the United States and Russia as much as it can, would have everything to be the great winner one day, if it did not accumulate many mistakes.
This is also true in domestic politics: thus, the permanent frontal battle on all fronts between a vehement left and a government without a majority only serves the interests of the extreme right, which remains in hiding, without taking part in the insults and harassments: the other two make light work of it by criticising each other; if it continues like this, whoever is opposed to it, the extreme right-wing candidate will win the next presidential elections. Similarly, more anecdotally, the conflict between two leaders of the Green party, Sandrine Rousseau, who is attacking the leader of her party, Julien Bayou, could result in the victory of a third, in this picrocholine war.
This is also true in personal life, when there are power relationships. And everyone can experience it: arguing with a colleague only serves the interests of a third; arguing with a parent benefits another.
Generally speaking, when a number one has to fight a number two, both of them become exhausted in the battle, and it is almost always the number three who wins. Think about it, look around you, and you will find examples that confirm this theory.
A world in which China is the superpower and France is governed by Marine Le Pen and her henchmen is not, I think, particularly desirable. And yet, everything is being done to bring about this future.
To avoid it, it is very important, when you are number one, not to make the wrong enemy; and when you have to defend yourself against an attack from number two, it is essential not to forget that this battle is only preparing the main fight against number three; in the same way, when you are number two, you must not collide head-on with number one and divert his anger in order to let him exhaust himself against number three. Finally, when you are number three, it is essential to do everything possible to avoid being forced to choose sides between number one and number two; even if it means provoking their dispute.
Very concretely, this would mean that in geopolitics, it is essential not to let China take advantage of the Russian attack on Ukraine; and, in domestic politics, the current majority, like the left, must not choose the wrong enemy: their main opponent is the extreme right. It is always essential to choose one’s main enemy well and to confront it.
Image: The Battle of Lepanto, which took place on 7th October 1571 in the Gulf of Patras, on the western coast of Greece, near Naupact, was a naval battle in the Fourth Venetian-Ottoman War. Author unknown.