6/16/14

The fires of evil are burning all over the world and are threatening to engulf it. I do not recall any period since WWII when the world was so unstable and so dangerous. Some will challenge this statement by referencing the Korean War, Vietnam, the Cuban missile crisis, and frequent conflicts in the Middle East, but all those were local, were ring-fenced by the world superpowers or power, and dealt with locally and timely. Never was there so much armed conflict burning at various levels of intensity and cruelty in so many places all over the world with no “adult” paying attention.

To do a brief round-up:

1. North Korea: Slow burn, low intensity, but they still have the power to do serious mischief if they want it. They have an army of more than one million active soldiers, they have about ten thousand artillery guns in range of Seoul, and of course they have nuclear weapons—at least it seems that they do. I never thought and still do not think that NK is a big risk. While they clearly have the means and the opportunity, they lack a motive. They do not need or want war. They want to be left alone. No, NK is not a risk. The risk from NK relates to China using them as a tool to create a diversion at a time of China’s choice.

2. China: While very low profile, very slow burning, this is the most dangerous conflict brewing of them all. This clearly has the potential of exploding into a very serious regional conflict at the very least and quite possibly into a world war. Over the last year or two, China has been raising their aggression profile. They are now involved in active conflicts with Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, and counting. All these conflicts seem to be very small and unimportant. But, as I wrote in previous blogs, that is misleading.

First they are important onto themselves due to the mineral riches that the winner of these conflicts will gain in the East and South China Sea. But more importantly they are representing a slow methodical approach by China to establish itself as a hegemon. Some will say that China is only interested in becoming the dominant power in the Far East and as such, it poses no threat to the Western democratic world. I believe it is a mistake. Like anything else once the fire starts, if you do not confront it immediately and with overwhelming force it will grow and get out of control. The pyromaniac needs bigger and bigger fires to satisfy his urges.

The problem with China is that they are so big and powerful on the one hand yet so vulnerable to interior unrest, due to serious social instability emanating from an aging population with no economic safety net, a huge surplus of male over female and thus no family units, a lack of the democracy-valve to release tensions and frustrations, slowing of economic growth, and more. It is entirely possible that a spark, not necessarily a big one, inside China or in one of the smaller conflicts can light this fire and lead China to attack Taiwan, or to become more aggressive toward Japan and others. This is a slow, low-level fire but with huge risks and unfortunately it is allowed to continue to burn unattended.

3. Pakistan: A nuclear-armed nation with active terror groups seriously threatening its stability. In all the brouhaha over ISIS in Iraq, the media completely ignored that the Pakistan Taliban (related but different from the Afghanistan Taliban) just the other day laid siege to Pakistan’s main and one of only two international airports closing it completely for a period of about 24 hours. In the process, they killed about thirty people before the Pakistani security forces were able to regain control. Can you imagine JFK, LAX, DFW, and few more international airports closing down at the same time due to a terror attack? Memories of 9/11 come to mind? The situation in Pakistan, a nuclear-weapons nation, is very dangerous and could easily escalate into a worldwide conflict.

4. Afghanistan: The one area in the world where it seems that there is just an inkling of an opportunity to gain stability. If this surprises anyone, the answer is very simple—active and intensive U.S. engagement. Unfortunately President Obama just announced that he will cease being engaged there by 2016. Will that make Afghanistan an Iraq 2.0? A lot depends on the new president. Both remaining candidates in the run-off election being held as I write this blog seem to be capable, serious, and promising leaders. If they prove to be so, Afghanistan does actually have the chance to fight off and beat their version of the Taliban. Of course that very much depends on how much support and help they will get from the U.S., especially given the fact that the Taliban has a safe haven in Pakistan. We could see a rerun of Iraq where a few years after the U.S. leaves, the country falls again into chaos and into the hands of terror groups.

5. Iran: It ranks with China as the worst, most dangerous burning fire. Here, too, it is a slow and low-level fire that will spark into a major regional and possible world conflict unless it is dealt with at THIS stage. Unfortunately all the signs are that the U.S. will botch this simmering conflict too. The latest development about a possible engagement with Iran in fighting ISIS is simply disastrous. ISIS is bad but Iran is worse.

6. Iraq/Syria: What more is there to say? It is at the top of the news and I have just written another blog on it. This fire is burning very high. It is not of world significance but it will develop in intensity and importance if not put out now, like all these fires.

7. Israel/Hezbollah/Hamas: The situation in that sensitive area is getting very close to eruption. Hezbollah is battle hardened, with growing numbers of fighters; they have better and more sophisticated equipment and most importantly, growing levels of confidence. Hamas has managed to get a lifeline from the PLO and critically from the U.S.’s silent approval. Tiny Israel is sitting between these two aggressive terror organizations, both formally in their manifesto and openly calling for the destruction of the state of Israel. Between the two, 100 percent of the area of Israel is in missile range. How much longer can that stay stable.

8. Turkey: While not yet an active fire it is run by a pyromaniac and it is very possible that at some stage it, too, will fall into one of the conflicts surrounding it.

9. Africa: Egypt possibly, no thanks to the U.S., has stabilized. At least it has the chance of stabilizing. There is Sudan where the world stands quiet and has given up as the central government continues to perpetuate atrocities in Darfur. There is South Sudan where there is a raging war taking place, although the latest rumors are that a cease fire was arrived at for the tenth time at least. There is Somalia where it seems that for now the radical jihadists are on the retreat thanks to Ethiopia, Kenya, and the African Union, but that does not stop them from attacking Kenya—one of the better success stories in Africa—and trying to drag it into chaos and war. There is the Central African Republic where efforts by France are hopefully making some progress in slowing down the civil war between Muslims and Christians. There are reports of armed conflict between Congo and Rwanda. There is Mali where if it was not for an elegant, strong, and quick intervention by…wait for it…France, jihadists would have controlled this country. There is Libya that is allowed to burn internally and no one cares, and of course there is the famous Boko Haram in Nigeria where after all the Twitter party and celebration nothing is stopping the killings and kidnapping of hundreds of people every WEEK! And the U.S.? AWOL.

10. Russia: While a second-level player economically, Russia still is one of the top military powers in the world and they have no hesitation to use it. Crimea is gone, the battle for East Ukraine is raging on, tanks roll across the Russian border into the hands of the Ukrainian/Russian rebel, yet Russia denies that they are Russian tanks. Really? They found them in a haystack? About 50 Ukrainian soldiers die in a shooting by these rebels of a military transport plane and the world does not notice any more.

11. Europe: While the EU seems a heaven of democracy and stability, they are facing serious threats from Russia on the one hand, and serious internal challenges on the other hand. Youth unemployment of 25 percent and more in at least 4–5 countries in the EU is NOT a stable situation, no matter how much social safety net you give them. Indeed the significant increase in power of extreme parties on both the left and the right, as was shown in the recent European elections, is a danger sign and should not be ignored.

So this is a trip around the active danger zones in the world today. It takes well less than 80 days or even 80 minutes to review all these active conflict zones. The only clear exception is the Western hemisphere, the Americas (although Venezuela seems to be brewing into a poisonous potion).

I wonder why is it the world is so unstable, so dangerous; why is it on the verge of significant eruption at the same time on so many fronts? There is only one explanation to that—the end of the superpower régime. Since WWII the world has been run by the two super powers: USSR (Russia) and the U.S. As I’ve said, the secret of world order during that time was not PEACE. It was not all rosy. Not at all. It was that the superpowers CONTAINED and controlled the fires. It was a controlled burn localized and never allowed to burn out of control.

The USSR collapsed (good riddance) in the early 1990s and the U.S. was left as the sole superpower. The U.S. filled that rule until 2009. Some will say that it did not do a good job of it and that may be true but it did a job. It kept the world order and maintained the old order—there were wars, there was bloodshed and tragedy, but it was controlled and localized.

Unfortunately since president Obama took over, the U.S. as a superpower is AWOL. MIA.

The evil players all over the world are reacting as was to be expected. Some take it slower than others but they are all pushing the envelope, testing the limits. Of course the more they are allowed to grow in strength, the more dangerous and difficult to overcome the situation becomes.

I said from the very beginning that Obama simply has no clue about how the world works. The naiveté and blindness of the Obama administration is simply staggering. The president has a new mantra which he came up with during his West Point speech two weeks ago (and so many crises ago) and repeated it just this last Tuesday: “The world is safer now than ever before.” Really?

Is President Obama delusional?!