Another year – another 365 days closer to the grave. As you can tell my birthday has been and gone again. I am now officially in denial about it. I refuse to have anything to do with it or accept that I’m as old as I am. I feel ancient. Obviously I’m a bit of a worrier, but is 30 something too young to start worrying about obsolescence? It ought to be . . .
Went to a very interesting exhibition though at the V&A about the social, economic and cultural interaction between Asia and Europe 1500 - 1800 expressed through a variety of artistic and cultural artefacts and paintings called Encounters. I can strongly recommend it. It was interesting to see how the concepts of Europe and Asia changed during this period – the attitudes of different countries, both Asian and European seemed to be often individual rather than generic – certainly Britain’s attitudes and behaviour towards, say, India and Japan are completely different – at least in the first half of this period – and there is a lot of cultural exchange. It was common for traders etc to interact with the local populace – embassies were sent back and forth – lavish gifts made to local rulers etc, yet somehow by 1800 we have reached the stage where Europeans decreed that it was illegal for their natives to adopt local dress. How strange is that? What turns a mutually beneficial trading and cultural exchange into an exercise in cultural isolationism and military domination? It seems really odd as by and large Europe didn’t really have anything with which to trade with as Asia didn’t really want anything we made – goods had to be bought with silver rather than exchanged. Obvs the Portugese had some problems as their trading empire was to some extent a front for Jesuit missionaries, or rather the finance wing of same but still – how was it that the guys with nothing to sell ended up dictating the terms . . . very interesting anyway.
Mass Slaughter – Latest odds & tips.
For those of you who might have been worrying that W will decide to temper his second term with a dash of humility or even sanity, it’s good to see that there appears to be no signs so far. I have however given myself a little pat on the back for correctly picking where America’s next global death match would be. There were of course quite a few options, but many had something wrong with them :
Lebanon – would have to do it by sea, and frankly who cares anyway. But can ski in the morning and spend the afternoon at the beach *on the same day* so you can’t rule it out completely. Popular choice with Israel. 7-1
Egypt – too moderate, need to keep onside for cajoling recalcitrant Palestinians (although actually this isn’t really true either; the Bush mantra seems to be ‘Why bother persuading someone to co-operate when you can just kill them instead’) but big, too tricky militarily, plenty of chums, and it’s Africa dude! 25-1
Libya – would love to really and could probably make it happen militarily but would also piss off the UK enough to withdraw from all future co-operation make the rest of ‘old Europe’ mad enough to demand a trade embargo and probably make the French declare war on America. Again, So What? Except the French have nuclear weapons of course. The reason for all this is that Europe (and the Clinton administration) have spent the last 15 years (post Lockerbie) giving Gaadafi the slow water torture – and it’s worked. Boring and slow it may be but somehow we’ve managed to get some justice for the bombing and at the same time made Gaadafi play nicely with others without having to kill a whole bunch more people. Bush does not like this sort of thing at all of course – why talk when 250k lb of high explosive achieves practically the same objective. Admittedly with a somewhat higher body count and with the side effect of making America the new terrorist target du Jour, and not actually achieving one iota of behavioural change but hey . . . . 10-1
Cuba – possible, possible, and ideologically attractive, but a pretty unfavourable risk/reward ratio. Havana will almost certainly fall when Castro dies anyway so why bother as there’s nothing to gain. An American invasion would absolutely require the imposition of a US supported ‘democratic government ‘ and the ‘return’ of all the land to Chiquita (formerly The United Fruit Company and Central American Buccaneers) et al. The GOP already has all their votes, so what’s to gain? If there’s some sort of internal revolution and general mayhem (which is a pretty safe bet) Bush gets to be King Maker instead of having to have pay for all those boring old elections. Staying away makes a lot more sense economically. 7-2
Jordan – interesting tourist destination, moderate by Middle Eastern standards and constitutional monarchy, so good at locking up lefty trouble maker types so what’s the point? 30-1
North Korea – don’t make me laugh. We *know* they have Weapons of Mass Destruction (not to mention one of the world’s largest standing armies) so chances of actually provoking them in any significant way? 100-1
Syria. Oooh – always a possibility – right next to Iraq, anti Israeli, socialist, military dictatorship, probably any number of Palestinian terrorist lurking there, You’d have to say it’s on the radar for regime change at the very least. Downside – large modern(ish), relatively well trained, equipped and experienced army. Would also probably trigger new Middle Eastern war but so tfw – can’t make an omelette without breaking heads. But likelihood of military ass-kicking and body-bag untastic news pics too much to risk. High on the list, but actually not really going to happen. 3-1
Kazakstan. Islamic & potentially oil rich & strategically VERY interesting, but technically haven’t done anything wrong (huh?) plus very real possibility of causing simultaneous invasions by both Russia and China. Don’t think W really has the appetite for that. Also have to invade at least one of the other ‘Stan’s first. 15-2
Turkmenistan, Kyrgistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Jumblistan. Islamic and by and large ruled by thundering loonies. Apart from that skint, un-strategic and all round un-engaging as Theatres of War. Low ratings value. A bit like Afghanistan but with more cardigans and fewer AK-47s. Useful for invading Kazakstan but that’s about it. 15-2
Saudi Arabia – Right next door, repressive monarchical dictatorship, lots of oil, terrorist breeding ground, origin of Al-Quaida, not many friends, but much cash. A Bush family favourite. 50-1
Iran : Oh yes Oh yes Oh yes. Thinking of buying a time share in Tehran? Hold that thought, dude. Don’t believe me? It’s already starting : Pentagon turns heat up on Iran. Downside [Figures courtesy of the CIA ] Military manpower - fit for military service: males age 15-49: 12,434,810 (2004 est.) Upside [Figures courtesy of the CIA ] Military expenditures : $4.3 billion (2003 est.). On the other hand Iran does seem to be making the right noises on non-proliferation, but we know how much credence the US gives to claims of innocence: 3-2 ON.
Monday, November 22, 2004