The situation in the Middle East is a bit like World War I. Iraq is breaking apart, and its border with Syria exists only on maps. A Kurdistan is in formation. Jordan and Lebanon are endangered. The Israeli-Palestinian situation is threatening to produce real violence. Three Israeli youths have been kidnapped from the West Bank; another has been killed near the Syrian border. Egypt has returned to military rule. Libya teeters, Yemen is at war with itself and the once-modest Syrian uprising is the butterfly that flapped its wings to produce a hurricane.... Richard Cohen, The Enigmatic War.
And there is all that nuke stuff floating around, oh, like in Russia. Hey, if you give Ukranian pro-Russian resisters weapons to shoot down a plane flying at 70,000 feet, why not just add a few low-grade A-nuclear devices? Small stuff - you know, like the one used in Hiroshima.
With the Gaza situation creating thousands of potential suicide bombers an hour; with Boco Haram running wild in Nigeria - now infected with Ebola - is that just an accident? with stability coming unhinged worldwide - on this 100th anniversary of WWI - we are finding some of the same conditions that existed a century ago -- nations feeling they are surrounded and persecuted like Germany did then and Russia does now. China threatening its neighbors with whom we have similar mutual alliances to defend - as existed in 1914 and pulled almost every major European nation into a world war that no one seemed to want. Kim Il Un looks like a choir boy.
OK, so I am immersed in Barbara Tuchman's "Guns of August" WWI chronicle and after 150 pages, of background and dithering by all the powers even up to the final hours, the whimps have finally declared war -- and we get a good dose of the arrogance and errors that Winston Churchill - yes THAT Churchill - contributed to the mayhem to come. We have reached Aug. 4-5 1914 and the battle is about to begin - I'm in the chapter on how Turkey came in on the side of Germany - a major event and how Churchill and England screwed that up.
At the same time I am immersed in Veronica Roth's "Divergent" trilogy - an often awfully written series of young adult distopian novels about as bleak a future as one could imagine - ("Hunger Games" was much better written.)
And then there is the environment and global warming - and comets and meteors smashing into us - hey, it's been 65 million years since the dinosaurs were wiped out by a massive comet- even small stuff can cause mayhem, as we saw happen in Russia just a few years ago. Just imagine if a big one - say 3 miles - suddenly appeared headed straight for earth within a year. Would ISIS still grab territory? Would Putin be worried about Ukraine? Hmmm - someone write a novel.
Nothing like spending a day watching 60 inches of water come up the stairs inside your house to make you pessimistic. I'm rebuilding my garden while keeping in mind what survived Sandy last time.
Given my simultaneous readings, my outlook for the world is rather bleak. No wonder billions are being spent on space and especially on the concentration on Mars - the 1% is happy to pay taxes on the space program, knowing full well doom is coming and there must be an escape plan for their descendents. I can just see it now: the Murdoch clan on Mars.
Richard Cohen in WAPO on The Enigmatic War.
This is a splendid time to remember the First World War. It started 100 years ago this week with the June 28 shooting of the Austrian archduke and his wife. By the end of the summer, much of Europe was engaged in a war that lasted about four years, toppled four empires, precipitated the communist revolution, created by fiat the modern Middle East, recognized Zionism, made the United States a world power and cost the lives of about 10 million fighting men. Historians are still trying to figure out what happened.There are theories galore — and an equal amount of finger-pointing. Germany was to blame, many insist. No, it was Austria-Hungary or maybe Russia. On the other hand, it could have been Serbia — or the rigidity of mobilization plans, those damned railway schedules, the romantic insanity of nationalism run amok, the assured confidence that the crisis would pass (others had) or, in the minds of some, that the working men of Europe would never kill one another so that the capitalists and the upper classes would benefit. Little about the war made much sense.
World War I lacked that essential cinematic ingredient — a tent-pole figure of monumental evil. The German kaiser was a warmonger and a buffoon but hardly in the same league as a German leader who was to come later in the century. None of the other national leaders at the time makes the cut. The czar was an off-the-shelf autocrat, so was the Austrian emperor, and the Ottoman sultan didn’t figure at all. This was a war about something else — just as scary.