Monday 31 March 2003

Opening Pandora's Box

Well, the world has gotten itself into quite the mess hasn't it? Global crisis doesn't quite do justice to the current situation. In my old Army parlance, we are in the midst of what we used to call a cluster#$%^&^. FUBAR to the max and then some. It doesn't really matter how we opened Pandora's box, we must now deal with the aftermath. Pandora was a figure in Greek mythology who had a box which, when opened, unleashed chaos and anarchy upon those who were foolish enough to open it. As to where the current global situation will end, I have no idea. It's all on the table though. Everything from a North Korean first strike, economic collapse, a regional war in the Middle East involving Turkey, Syria, Iraq, the coalition, Iran and Israel is no longer an academic doomer fantasy. Assuming Iraq uses the weapons of mass destruction we know they have, since the western democracies gave them to him, modern life as we know it will end. Assuming Iraq was able to buy nukes and weaponized biological agents from the collapsing Soviet Union, we will be faced with the worst of both worlds. If he has them, and uses them, we will face a military disaster unique in our American history. And if he doesn't, we will suffer a political disaster also unique in our American history. As things stand now, we are involved in a snake pit of religious and nationalist passion exploding across the Arab world.

I must confess that I have a very ambivalent attitude to the war in Iraq. On a personal level, my niece is the tip of the spear. She is assigned to the 3rd to the 7th, 3rd Infantry division. This is the army unit in linear descent to Custer's 7th cavalry from the little bighorn. Her job is to fly a Kiowa recon helicopter thirty feet above the ground at 100 miles per hour searching out all those Iraq tanks that were supposed to surrender. Unfortunately, rumors of an Iraq collapse have been greatly exaggerated. It seems the command structure believed their own propaganda and the results have been savage fire fights instead of flowers. We are now involved in a fight to the death with a ruthless and vicious enemy. We are now reliving the allied advance into Germany in 1945, complete with true believer SS troops executing surrendering soldiers, murdering civilians, using car bombs and other methods of asymmetrical warfare. We will win eventually, but it will be a much more savage fight than our leadership thought. There is nothing like actually being in the military to give some perspective to leaders who are eager to deploy it.

The political aspects of this war are heading south rather rapidly. I would say the political aftermath is going to be very bad, assuming we avoid a general regional war. WW3 will start the second weapons of mass destruction are used. The current global reality will not long survive their use in my opinion. The psychological, economic and political aftermath of their use will simply end the illusions the people of the world have labored under. We are in uncharted territory here. I have spent the last week or so watching antiwar protesters unleash chaos upon the streets of Portland. Squads of riot police are a common site in the downtown area now. We are on the edge of social anarchy and there is a sense of unreality to it all. Life as we know it tries to continue, but it's struggling. Aside from everything else we now have a potential global flu epidemic wreaking havoc. I never thought I would live to see such days unfold on the earth; yet, I have the feeling we haven't seen anything yet.

Although economics seems almost irrelevant, even here we see the effects. The Japanese government has openly stated they will do whatever it takes, in other words manipulate, the NIKKEI 225 to keep it from collapsing the banking system. Wall Streets 800 point "rally" must be viewed through the prism of official manipulation. No one should be under the impression we have anything resembling a free market anymore. The markets will not be allowed to collapse. Of course, the economic reality means such a collapse is inevitable. The so called plunge protection team may postpone, delay and slow the collapse, but they cannot change the fundamental economic reality. Official market manipulation will only make the inevitable collapse more vicious and long lasting. Sometimes when you have a case of nausea the best thing to do is vomit until your stomach is empty. That's not going to happen. We will continue to ignore the vast mountain of individual and corporate debt, the massive trade deficit, the 7 trillion dollar government deficit, the collapsing job market, the declining retail sales, the declining consumer confidence: we will ignore it all until they finally slap us in the face with a two by four. The Iraq war is simply speeding the process along is all.

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