Friday, August 4. 2006
There's this little widget on the left column of the blog called Calendar, and the dates get filled in every day I manage to post at least one entry. It serves as a constant reminder of how much I manage to get written, which most months isn't all that much. But I got off to a good start in July, which made me think I might be able to hit every date for the month. Did, too, although the satisfaction was fleeting, as the day after I filled it out an empty August calendar appeared. Already missed a day this month -- a day I would just as soon forget in general. Will most likely miss quite a few more over the next two weeks. Going out of town, so even on the instances when I am able to connect I won't have my usual tool set, office, and all that.
I do have quite a bit I want to write about, even putting aside Israel's going apeshit in Lebanon, which shot to the top of the priority list in July. The priority should be easy enough to explain. We like to talk about how 9/11 "changed everything," but that's just our usual myopia. It mostly became an excuse for overreacting on a global scale, bringing out many of our very worst characteristics. But while most of the rest of the world, including a great many and possibly most Arabs, sympathized, the world's tolerance of our great tantrum was bound sooner or later to run thin. Israel's destruction of Lebanon, and Hezbollah's defense of Lebanon, amount to another watershed event, and I think for most Arabs and a great many Muslims this event will resound like nothing in recent history. As an affront it is comparable to 1948, where the pro-West Arab regimes were so severely humiliated that most soon fell to coups led by junior officers. The Arab nationalism of the officers was critically damaged by the 1967 war, leaving the region's more progressive, more secular forces moribund, opening the way for an Islamist insurgency -- especially in the regions most oppressed by the US-Israel alliance. But two things have happened in this war that hadn't happened in 1948 or 1967: one is that the US role has never before been so nakedly exposed, and this is bound to taint every regime in the region with close ties to the US: Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, the rump of Iraq. The other is that Hezbollah has thus far frustrated Israel bad enough to be widely seen as a viable force, and as such a model for the whole long list of complaints the region has accumulated. So the net effect of the US in Iraq and Israel in Lebanon will likely be to drive the region into increasingly bitter strife directed at us.
That may not seem like all that big of a military problem, but the US and Israel have weaknesses that their arms don't cover -- especially from people who aren't likely to back down. Over the last few weeks I've read four books about oil, which happens to be a pretty good place to start. The Saudi "oil weapon" in 1973 was flawed in several ways that aren't true any more, but even if it isn't deliberately employed, the US is extremely vulnerable to even minor disruptions, and such disruptions are likely to have sizable political costs. The US is also economically vulnerable, especially to China, and that's another front where arms aren't all that useful.
Meanwhile, the public in the US is totally clueless, and not just the segment that still follows Bush or points even loonier. The last month has made me vastly more pessimistic, not so much because of all the things that have gone wrong -- and there's a lot in that department that will prove awfully tough for many people to get over -- but for how little grasp our so-called leaders have of it. I've spent a good deal of my life watching corporate leaders follow the book straight into the jaws of financial disaster -- I've worked for three or four companies like that, and seen it coming every time, each time more clearly. This is like that, but this time the scale is humongous. This looks very bad.
Anyhow, for me at least it's probably good to take a break. Get away from the news. Burn up some gas while it's still only $3/gallon. Go to a town that actually has record stores. Maybe read that Ruth Reichl book I haven't had time for. Learn to tolerate a few holes in the calendar -- you just got the gist of it anyway. And at the end of August, the calendar will flip over and all those holes will be gone, replaced by a blank slate.
Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)
The author does not allow comments to this entry