October 20, 2009

Nero's Hoedown

For those curious about the fate of the world, I recommend Dmitry Orlov's cluborlov.blogspot for the first of a three-part series on global temperature increase, and particularly the estimates on sea level rise. A business as usual approach to carbon emissions will result, according to the Hadley Centre in Britain, by the year 2055, in a 7.2 F temperature increase, with catastrophic implications for the two largest repositories of land-based fresh water, Greenland (10%) and Antarctica (90%). I suppose the usual divergence of opinion in this country remains: those who say there's no problem, like Sen. James Inhofe (R,-Hades), and those in the scientific community who claim there will be a 7.2 F global average temperature rise in the next 45 years if we don't take drastic action.

At least there's a clear choice. Meanwhile, the debate rages on how many troops to send to Afghanistan. President Obama seems captivated by the Friedman Gambit for the moment: if Karzai is corrupt (he is), then we have no one to "partner with." How can we commit the Sacred Blood of our Brave Young Men and Women, so the sanctimonious cackle of the Chickenhawks goes, without someone to partner with? We'd really love to sink into a quagmire, we really would, but not without someone to partner with. If Karzai were a little more like John Adams, and would stop wearing that Shriners' hat, we could get somewhere, like up to our necks in quicksand.

Glenn Greenwald dusts off a largely-forgotten report from 2004 by the Defense Science Policy Board (whoever they might be) which roundly criticized the approach to counter-terrorism of Bush/Cheney (although the report was put together during their reign) because fighting wars in Muslim countries just makes things worse. It uses fancier language than that, but that's what it says. They don't hate us "for our freedoms," as the silly shibboleth went, but because of our support of corrupt dictatorships in the Muslim world (Egypt, Saudi Arabia) and because we bomb them and invade them. Hey, don't look at me: Donald Rumsfeld commissioned the report of this group.

That's something I've wondered about. We're all concerned about instability in Pakistan now, but why did things get so sketchy there during the last 8 years? Any connection to what we're doing next door (and in Pakistan itself)? If the presence of American forces in the Muslim world is the problem, how does increasing the number of troops solve it?

Is there any connection between the two parts of this blog? Probably, but I'm not sure I've thought of it yet. I'm beginning to think that we cling to our wars in more or less the same way Great Britain hung on to its empire in the early part of the last century, before it finally had to release its grip on the "jewel in the Crown," India, after World War II. By demonstrating our military might, we conceal such inconvenient realities as our $12 trillion dollar national debt, half owed to foreigners; the projected increase in the debt by $9 trillion before 2020; the pathetic actuarial state of the entitlement programs; the skewing of 90% of the nation's wealth to about 1% of the population; the corruption of Congress; the destruction of the USA's manufacturing base in favor of a "financialized," paper-shuffling economy; 20% unemployment; and various other signs and portents. We're so systemically ill that we can barely rouse ourselves to pay attention to the next catastrophe, so we talk about some more wars to keep us "safe." In Copenhagen at the end of the year, when the nations of the Earth meet to draw up plans to deal with global warming, we should probably do the world a favor and just stay out of the way. Maybe rather than weighing in with a lot of ideas we won't follow through on (you can't get a meaningful climate change bill through this Congress), we should just vote "present."

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