Dog Days of February

     We are in that part of the winter in the northern climes where the novelty and romance of snow and fireplaces are wearing off and the cold, hard facts of an extended winter are becoming apparent. Like my faithful old dog, it would be nice to simply stay in and ignore the elements but harsh climate has to be considered and faced.  So must we recognize that the lulls created by the blanketing cold does not allow ignorance of what is just simmering beneath the tundra and will possibly envelop our days in the very near future. Events are warming up and warming up in a hurry.

      Syria and the collapse of the old order of things:    

     The Associated Press reports the assasination of a top Syrian Army general in Damascusand with it the myth that the Syrian revolt against the Alawite regime of President Assad is a tribal backwater problem is progressively being dismantled.  A conflict that is extending to nearly a year has proven resistant to the usual brutal bully tactics of Baathist thugs using tanks against people with rocks, despite the reported deaths of  over 5000 Syrians.  Now, in a truly ominous sign to the old guard, an attack against a army leader in the fortress of the capital city reveals none of the old guard can consider themselves safe.  The usual advantages utilized by tyrants for centuries, dominance of the military and security forces are beginning to seriously unravel.  New complications to order are rising- the suspicion that the assassins may be elements of Al Qaeda Iraq asserting themselves in Syria, trying to create further anarchy, their specialty, and making things more troubling for Western powers, who like to see the world in clean shades of black and white, casting the Syrian protesters as simple democrats striving for personal freedom.  Syria matters to everybody in the region, the local tribes, Shia versus Sunni, Iran and her Hezbollah proxies, Al Qaeda and its lust for suffering and chaos, Israel with her vulnerable border, Lebanon and Iraq with their proximity and internal interested parties, Russia, Europe, and the United States in their ongoing need to interfere and try to control events.  The poor average citizen of Syria is getting crushed in the process, the passive blanket  upon which all these bludgeons are striking, and the future is dimming for a rational, contained end to the violence.  The warming spring is going to bring progressive calamity and may yet involve all the players, in an ever expanding mess.

     Europe and the Euro:

          The winter blues in Europe are going to be replaced with a red hot summer of economic crisis.  Greece is struggling for simple survival in its quest to achieve the unachievable, a stabilization of its debt crisis while keeping the Euro as its currency.  Stiff austerity measures are being demanded of Greece in payment of the bailout of billions of owed bonds that were foolishly supplied by generations of banks to prop up Greece’s unwillingness to stop promising its citizenry a life without responsibility.  The final loaner is the one that the rest of Europe thought they had shorne themselves of forever after World War II, Germany – and frugal, powerful Germany is in no mood to forever passively funnel money into an endless sinkhole. 

     The spectre of a German economic and political superpower dictating in authortarian fashion how things are going to be from now on in Europe is being consumated politically just 60 years after its attempt to achieve the same result through military force led to Germany and Europe’s devastation.  Try as they might, I don’t see how the Greeks are going to possibly be able to maintain austerity and economic vitality at the same time under the Euro, and Greece’s default and Euro withdrawal is probably only a matter of time.  The idea of a vassal state will be extremely unappealing, and a return to the drachma as a flexible national currency seems inevitable.  So Greece goes to drachma…so what?  The so what is the significantly larger economies and debt messes of Spain and Italy that are next in line and Germany will feel only more pressure to secure its prosperity at the expense of its fellow European states.   The American led recession of 2008 will look tame compared to the European caused recession of 2012, and Europe will likely see a return of the type of unrest that has plagued it for 500 years – the suspicions of intelligent, competitive people who share neither language nor history, but are locked in the same landmass  nevertheless.

     Iran and the coming “high noon” moment :

     As dangerous as the above two scenarios are, the third has the potential to dwarf both.  Iran, in the clutches of an authoritarian regime with a seventh century mindset toward the world and twenty first century capability, is coming ever closer to the moment of truth regarding its nuclear ambitions.  Whether months or years away from fruition, the repeatedly stated purpose of Iran’s leaders to use nuclear weaponry to initiate a conflagration over the existence of Israel, has led to the complete attention of all parties.  Iran, with an economy in near collapse puts its precious resources into the dream of a super-weapon that will bring the Israelis to their knees, and the leaders of Israel, who finally led the Jewish people off of two thousand five hundred years of bended knee, are not going to stand back and allow anyone to corral them again into subservience.  The tipping point is likely this spring or summer and no one in the world is unlikely to go unaffected if the two nations go head to head.  Tod Lundberg of the Weekly Standard suggests the drawing in of every major player should Israel feel compelled to act for her own survival is inevitable, and will create the potential for world wide conflict.  The United States, despite the investment of thousands of lives and billions of dollars in trying to stabilize the unruly middle east crescent over the past twenty years, will find this final destabilization will dwarf the previous commitment.  High Noon is coming – Iran wants it, Israel can’t avoid it, and the rest of the world will find itself helpless to stop it.

     From the cold northern climes, the summer beckons for travel and adventure.  If you had intentions this summer, however, of walking the steps of the Acropolis, riding through the gates of Damascus, experiencing the seaside cafes of Tel Aviv, or contemplating the ruins of Persepolus, I would suggest you rethink your travelogue.  Its going to be a hot, uncomfortable summer.

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