T he new year officially starts in January, but for me, and perhaps many of you, the internal calendar re-sets at the end of the summer, where the programming of the school year lingers on. As the torpor of August sweeps away, one senses that heavier action lies ahead. Footsteps quicken in the crisping air, the days get shorter, and a new urgency propels events.
Consider, for instance, all the damage and destruction that ISIS (or ISIL or IS) has been able to pull off in summer heat that averages 110 degrees in the daytime in that part of the world. Many Americans would have trouble hoisting a jumbo shrimp out of a cocktail cup in that kind of weather, let alone scrambling around a desert with 30 pounds of firearms and extra ammo. The US has once again lulled itself into a false sense of security that it can control a battle theater with air power alone. So, here at summer’s end, we’re congratulating ourselves for “saving” the Mosul dam with drones and air strikes, but you can be sure that the next move is up to ISIS, and it will be calculated to horrify.
The Mosul dam is rated “the most dangerous dam in the world” by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Its instability is legendary — it was built by Saddam Hussein on water-soluble gypsum and requires extraordinary routine “re-grouting” operations to hold it together. What happens if ISIS controls the few roads that allow cement trucks to get there? I guess we’ll find out in a month or so.
West of there, in North Africa, Libya is in the process of completely cracking up. Islamist militias hold the old capital, Tripoli, where they destroyed the main airport and blew up a major oil storage facility. A rump national government fled to Tobruk near the border with Egypt. In between, south of Benghazi, lie Libya’s oil fields, a nice potential prize for Islamic maniacs, if they can manage to keep them operating, which is saying a lot. The Libyan fields are managed by the European oil companies Total (France), Eni (Italy), and Repsol (Spain). Their technicians have been fleeing the scene lately. Under Gaddafi. Libya contributed 1.6 million barrels a day to world oil production. Lately, it was running around 600,000 b/d. Where will it go from here?
Ukraine and Russia stand in an uneasy stalemate at summer’s end. Ukraine would like to regain control over the far eastern provinces around Donetsk and Luhansk where a lot of heavy industry from the Soviet days still operates. The trouble is: Ukraine is broke. It can’t pay its army. It can barely fuel its planes and tanks. The country faces related challenges getting in its renowned grain harvest this year with no money and little fuel. And it will soon feel the cold fingers of a harsh winter around its throat, with poor prospects for receiving the Russian gas and oil it has always depended on. Russia’s Putin seems to have wanted little more than Ukraine’s cooperation in its Eurasian Custom’s Union. But the USA and its NATO allies stuck their beaks in and tried to prevent that from happening, shoving Humpty-Dumpty Ukraine off a wall. Now that historically sore beset country has busted up and it is not likely to be put back together. Its best chance for continued survival would be to revert to a dependent relationship with Russia — grain for gas and oil — but we are still working to prevent that, in what may be looked back on as the dumbest geopolitical ploy of the new century.
Israel is increasingly cast as the bad guy in the Middle East. The threat of annihilation has made its leadership a little meshuggah over the years, but when all is said and done a cessation of rocket fire into that country would go a long way to starting some kind of diplomatic dialogue where there can be none for now. A large body of world opinion holds that firing rockets into Israel is a legitimate expression of political grievance. The problem is that it exactly resembles warfare. In fact, the most sedulous apologists for it have not really tried to define it otherwise. The net result is that acts of war are met with war. In the meantime, Israel continues to dismantle the Hamas command-and-control infrastructure. There is no other way to stop the rockets except to agree to cease to exist, and that, as they say in Hollywood, is not an option.
The new World Made By Hand novel
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“Kunstler skewers everything from kitsch to greed, prejudice, bloodshed, and brainwashing in this wily, funny, rip-roaring, and profoundly provocative page- turner, leaving no doubt that the prescriptive yet devilishly satiric A World Made by Hand series will continue.” — Booklist
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The 20th Anniversary edition
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