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The Consequences Have Begun
February 4, 2002
by Jeremiah Bourque

Note to readers: This was written before the State of the Union speech. Too soon to tell what the deeper effects of that are.

Slowly but surely, the consequences of the Bush victory, such as it was, concerning the last presidential election, are being felt across the globe. These consequences will build on each other until fundamental shifts take place, reducing America's power and influence around the world.

As was very predictable, these glacial shifts are being wholly ignored by the corporate media. I frankly doubt that they know better.

I shall demonstrate this by simple argument. Is it not an important principle of good writing to not overuse puns?

Given that the media overuses puns to ridiculous heights, seeing a pun not only as part of a good story, but a necessary component that cannot be done without, these journalists are not only ignoring one of the fundamental rules they learn in journalism school, but reveling in rejecting it. Obviously, most journalists, or at least most editors, view the frequent use of puns as a sign of intelligent writing.

Given such standards, it does not surprise me that geopolitical damage is a bit beyond their capacity to understand.

As for the consequences, Germany is a good place to start.

Contrary to the last fifty years of war guilt, Germans, by and large, are now frightened, concerned for their well being, and interested in a firm hand to bring them security. Insecurity reigns all around the average German citizen, with concerns about the stability of Europe, the stability of the new European currency, the Euro, with the breakdown of law and order, with economic stagnation, and with immigration watering down the ethnic character of the nation. (Or, to put it in terms that many people will understand, "assimilation.")

Germany is not currently governed by a Bismark or a Hitler. Rather, it is governed by a liberal by the name of Gerhard Schroeder. Having survived his alliance with the Greens, who are now dead men (and women) walking for their political positions and their selling out for power, at least politically speaking, Schroeder now faces an election year. Even without the World Trade Center attacks, as well as the Pentagon attack (mentioned here because the US is Germany's foremost military ally), Schroeder would have had difficulties, given economic concerns, the rise of a generation yet more removed from the past shames, and a heavy level of distrust of the entire European project.

Let us remember, for the sake of context, that the European Union was intended to seal Germany's power and neutralize any ambitions that it might one day regain, once the terrible Second World War had been forgotten. While Euro-skepticism in the United Kingdom is seen as little more than traditional English foot-dragging and small-mindedness, German Euro-skepticism brings out real concerns.

If the economic dynamo of the new Europe turns its back on the new Europe, then the new Europe cannot survive. Furthermore, this would free German ambitions to gain land at expense of its neighbors, ideas that, while largely irrelevant to younger generations, have always been quietly maintained by German elites, notably including the Kohl administration, which refused recognizing the Polish border as permanent for all time.

There are no racist roots of this German thinking. Rather, the roots are fear that the United States can be severely struck, meaning Germany can be struck as well; that even the united Germany is impotent to prevent terror; that even Germany's illiberal and paranoid laws against bad speech have not contained the threat of Islamic terror; and that there is no firm, decisive leadership against economic slippage. Only the loss of the old mark, with a coin that some refer to as "the new mark", has managed to become palatable to the public, largely because not enough Germans understand hyperinflation.

Perhaps today, and perhaps later in the election year, these things will have no great consequences. However, Germans do not have a Bush to guide them. The people do not feel like the effective head of their government is capable, committed, and out to get the bad guys, whatever it takes. The desire for a strong leader will not recede easily. Germany's character is largely returning to historic norms. With the US largely leaving them on their own, the Germans will be asked to place their trust in a united Europe to protect them. This will probably not be emotionally acceptable. The current conservative candidate, Edmund Stoiber, is a loud voice of conservatism, dynamism, and the de-fossilization of society.

The future in Germany may not be a liberal one, largely because the President of the United States showed them what a "strong leader" is, and that they do not have one. By this time next year, they probably will, to America's loss.

Of course, Israel does. That's why Israel is currently committed to politically and militarily exploiting the situation. With two strong right-wing leaders, how can Bush criticize? With many of Bush's political supporters, Israel can do no wrong. Consequently, there has existed, and will continue to exist for some time, a drive to escalate current tensions in the Middle East until the US says, "Ok, fight your war. We don't care anymore."

And yet, it is not on this familiar subject on which I shall dwell. Rather, Israel is doing something much larger than simply maneuvering against the Palestinians. Israel now has a strong military relationship with India, which, in turn, has a strong military relationship with Taiwan, and Russia.

This brewing alliance, supported by Russian arms where they can be combined with Israeli and Taiwanese electronics and Indian resources and finances, vaguely resembles the west, south, east, and north points of a map, aimed inward at the heart of Asia. It's obvious what Taiwan and India have at stake. Both want China contained; it's Taiwan's top priority, and India's second. Israel, a merchant to China until American pressure pushed them elsewhere, is in the relationship for money, and for clout in dealing with the Arab states. Whereas Turkey is a secular Islamic state and is unwilling to act outside its own direct interests, such as keeping Iraq and Syria down, or perhaps swallowing parts of both nations in future wars, India's Hindu nationalist government could not care less what Moslems think, be they Indian citizens, or citizens of other countries in the Middle East.

Futhermore, by working together against America's supposed enemies, these nations take full advantage of their long-standing and powerful lobbying clout on Capitol Hill. With an inside track into the decision making process of Congress, these nations can create a "democratic" clamor to support them against "terror" as they define it. While not a serious counterweight to the White House, which has more power to wage war more freely than any recent administration, this does at least give them a large advantage over nations which are routinely criticized for human rights violations, such as Turkey, which has strategic, but not emotional, value to the United States.

Moreover, these nations are working together to push the boundaries of the use of American arms beyond that which America intellectually desires them to be used, using emotional hot buttons to cover their actions. Also, religion is being used as a lever whenever possible; an effort is being made to play up the death sentence of a distributor of bibles in China. While Judaism and Christianity resonate in the heart of the President, Islam does not, at least, not the kind of Islam that he believes that "evil men" practice. Thus, the task is simple: Portray your enemy as evil men, and you can do anything.

Of course, "anything" includes many actions which are quite contrary to the United States' national interests. Thus, there is a conscious tug of war occuring between the allies of the United States, and the national interest of the United States itself. The allies clearly expect to win. The outcome is in doubt, but likely, Bush will try to provide moral support and avoid materially encouraging reckless warmongering, since he is unable to realize that Israel and India do not necessarily, at least in the minds of their leaders, distinguish between the two.

All that I know for sure is, Ariel Sharon is the type of man to take particular, perverse pleasure in laying the groundwork for the civil revolt and overthrow of several neighboring Arab states, including the relatively peaceful ones. The US will be forced to live with the consequences.

Japan is an altogether different case. At the time of writing, it has not been 100% confirmed that the armed ship that was sunk by Japanese naval vessels, with the claim that they were being fired upon by the well-armed ship, was of North Korean origin. However, let's assume that it is. Combined with the anxiety over the economic situation, the 9/11 incident (with memories not so distant of the sarin gas attack several years ago) underscoring the vulnerability of modern urban society to terror, and Japan's "peace constitution," this is all very interesting.

Japan is being pushed by the United States to the point where it must defend itself. In this instance, it did defend itself and its ships from molestation, though the sinking occured within China's 200km maritime economic zone. (Of course, when dealing with island nations, waters between islands and mainlands can be very crowded.) This is the first time that a Japanese ship has fired a shot in anger since WWII.

Now, obviously, other nations in Asia are rather concerned about the prospect of Japanese militarism. To some extent, they are right, though only because Japan, even now, has the capacity to equip itself with some very effective weapons if it desires to do so. Even acknowledging the waste of US arms manufacturers, Japan's military spending far surpasses that of its rivals. Though ill suited for conquest, Japan could do much more to intervene in the domestic affairs of Asian nations, which is precisely why they regard the prospect with paranoia and, often, with near-panic. Meanwhile, the rather peaceful and blissful Japanese civilian population wonders why everyone fears them so much.

A project that is not spoken of in the United States much, but is a hot topic in Japan, is Japan's economic clout being used to do nation building in Afghanistan. (Currently the number being tossed around is half a billion dollars, for which, intetestingly enough, Japan was eviscerated in an editorial by The Times of London.) Many in Japan would prefer that the nation be stronger diplomatically, particularly since the use of force is undesirable, though it is becoming more legal every month. The idea that Japan can heal Afghanistan's woes strikes me as quite naive. This said, while liberal commentators want Japan's leaders to plead with N. Korea for better ties and try to kiss and make up and make it all better, the more likely result, if not now, then in the longer term, is that Japan will feel abandoned and forced to defend itself, taking a more active role.

Furthermore, a more active role would primarily involve a naval strategy, with absolutely no ambitions to be a land power. This is an important distinction from Japan's behavior a century ago.

Japan's overall military strategy in WWII, to put it simply, sucked. The nation was essentially contractually obligated to give the Army a veto over the government. No Army approval, no government. This let the Army become a government onto itself, allowing it to push policies that it desired, regardless of the cost to the nation.

Armed with such political power, and having kicked some rear end against Russia at the start of the century, Japan had a foothold in northern Asia, and eventually found itself deep in conflict in China, plus in full control of Korea. This situation, for a nation that had spent the last several hundred years in isolation for fear of repeating a military disaster in Korea, and so exhausting the nation that the ruling government would fall, was remarkable, given Japan's far lower population. It was also, by and large, an exceptional waste of manpower.

Had Japan conducted its national military strategy with the Navy in a dominant position, recognized the strategic limits of its position, and most importantly, avoided antagonizing the United States through aggression in China which served national interests poorly, Japan would have, at the least, been in a far stronger position. War, at the time, may not have even been necessary; had it come, Japan would have conserved its resources for things like a better maritime air force, something which would have proved very important.

The point of all this is rather simple. Since Japan is not focusing on becoming a mainland power whatsoever, primarily out of the sense not to go after Russia and China, if Japan remilitarizes further, the focus will not be on, let's say, tanks. Japan requires no tanks to defend itself, though American advisors have apparently convinced it to buy some to appease American politicians. Thus, there is no reason to spread effort around. If Japan is to defend itself more effectively, it must do so with a stronger navy and air force, backed by a modest territorial army and a highly trained and competent naval infantry force. (That's what everyone but the US would call "marines.")

The sinking of the N. Korean espionage boat (assuming it was N. Korean, though N. Korea is known to specialize in such boats, including selling quite nice modern models to the Tamil Tigers) will only encourage Japan in this direction, solidifying its modest naval power. I may call it modest, but with Russia's military in shambles and China's maritime power barely competent enough to invade and occupy an uninhabited island, Japan will be able to pick and choose where to make itself felt. It may not seem like much, but in such a sensitive region, it will be seen as the first step of the revival of Japanese power projection. Since this projection would be more focused, and not spread out foolishly like in the past, it would also be more effective, and have a greater proportional impact.

China will likely continue to feel pinched from all sides by these developments, but it will also continue to feel fairly helpless to do anything about it. If Pakistan falls, China will be deeply threatened by Indian expansion, especially allied with Chinese Communism's old enemies still entrenched in Taiwan.

For Russia's part, Putin's latest budget apparently assumes oil will be $14 a barrel for the next year. I've read silly speculation about "maybe he knows something we don't." No, he's just being conservative. That's good. Russia's overestimated budgets so badly in the past that some financial sanity in that country is downright... revolutionary.

If Putin can keep the place stable enough to start working out their long-term economic problems, Russia's future will slowly brighten. Since Russia is now an American ally, it can buy itself time and stop America from trying to deliver a knockout blow to its Asian sphere of influence. America's missed opportunity will make Russia much stronger when it is prepared to reassert itself, perhaps in a few decades.

On the other hand, lately, the United States has been particularly rude, crude, and brazenly bullying to Russia, sending a new message: "You're on our side now, heh heh... now you're forced to agree to everything that we want. Don't even think of trying to back out now. You're in no position to refuse. Now we can wrap up all our Cold War business, and since you took our side so publically, now we can screw you over at will, and even criticize your human rights violations when we're crushing peasant villages daily. (What suckers...)"

After reading various stories about the US' resumed frostiness to Russia, deliberate slaps to Putin to take advantage of his praise of the US for the war on terrorism, resumed State Department sniping, and all-around noose tightening, I began to wonder: Have these people any brains whatsoever? Their strategy seems to be titled, "Ten Easy Steps To Make Russia A Long-Term Enemy." Indeed, they are easy steps. It is the results which are hard to swallow.

It is cases like these that make me wonder, what if the United States was just a little more humble, like Bush said he wanted it to be? A little respect to Putin could have gone a long way right now. Instead, he'll remember this junk about storing and not destroying nuclear warhead "cuts" that Bush insisted should not be subject to a treaty (because no sane Russian would sign on to this!), for as long as he remains in power in Russia, which currently stands to be quite a long time.

China, on the other hand, may not even survive as a unified nation that long, depending on how things go. The Communists are clearly concerned for their survival, and likely rightly so. How they approach their challenges is going to have a substantial effect on the region, if for no other reason, because China would like to be a sort of German-like protector of Chinese minorities in other nations, encouraging them to not start a massacre of a couple of million here and there. (Such massacres have occured in relatively recent history, and who knows? They may happen again.)

America is doing an excellent job of destabilizing smaller nations, as well. Without a single shot fired, it has killed Argentina's economy, making the dollar peg (proposed by Bush's father's administration) totally unsustainable, encouraging the IMF to make increasingly heavy ransom demands for financial breathing room, and washing America's hands of the whole thing. More people saw this coming than Enron's collapse, and yet, Argentina was allowed, even encouraged, to fail as a state. Don't think no one in S. America noticed. They know.

America also is apparently working hard to arm every two-bit tyrant and bandit group capable of taking military action against those believed to be connected with Al Qaeda separatists. Somalia's transitional government has apparently been targeted for elimination, since the US is arming and training anti-transitional government forces. In Yemen, the US has encouraged the central (?) government to crack down. Elsewhere, the US seems to be working hard to grease palms and get other people to do the dirty work, under its supervision.

Now, that may be a great way of avoiding casualties, but it's certainly not something that will help stabilize these nations. Since the US seems to think this will be a decades-long effort, it seems that the Cold War is back; the end justifies the means, and the side effects. Who knows what scum we've allied ourselves with?

Finally, the US is gaining a reputation for making running jokes out of its best allies, like the Brits. Tony Blair is now seen as a sort of lapdog, a modern-day Jimmy Carter who actually runs a country as his night job. Those who stand by the United States, except specifically in the face of common threats (like urban terror), are seen as dunces and dupes, people who should know better, but don't.

The whole "you're with us or against us" argument is straight from Athens vs. Sparta. Neutrals are glad to see that things aren't that bad yet, but they're bad enough. America's policy, if taken to its logical conclusion, will result in the military and economic crushing of random nations that fail to be "with us" enough. It's not happening yet... but no small nation seems to be discounting the possiblity. In the future, war with loosely aligned allies may not be merely a fantasy by an hysterical blond female columnist who shall remain unnamed, but a grim reality.

More to the point, recognizing the possibility will continue to turn friends away from the United States. Trying to brow-beat the entire world into submission inevitably has consequences. Those consequenes have begun. They stand to continue for dozens of years, all begun, not because of a terrorist attack, but because of selfish, arrogant attitudes on the part of American policymakers, attitudes formed years and even decades ago as they decided that America deserves compliance, and need not do anything to earn that compliance.

The global backlash has only just begun.

It will continue.

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