I begin this "new quarter" in Outsiders with some "minor" designs. The need to have the courage to think beyond the now has been one of the driving forces behind the labor of love that has been "outsiders" for the past number of years.
I begin this new edition of the Quarter with brief reflections on a Wall Street Journal Article by Peggy Noonan. There was one very crucial point Lee Kuan Yew made that I could not agree more. As noted by Peggy Noonan, "....What Threatens America? A political culture stuck in the shallows, and a mass-entertainment edifice that is destabilizing, destructive and injurious to the national character." This is very much epitomized by the powerful Corporate Media as exemplified by Fox News, Comcast, CBS/Viacom that control almost 80% of the Broadcast Media in the United States today. This is as the paralysis over the Budget and the Sequester is continuing non-stop. The President and members of the Cabinet have voluntarily given up 5% of their salaries. There seems to be no long-term solution in sight. This is as China is slated to be the number one Economy in the World by 2016.
China, though, has its' own profound challenges. China's population is aging. The environment continues to be abused in a major way. This is as the Communist Party continues its' work to justify its' legitimacy that is increasingly undermined by the rise of the internet. I have been fascinated by how resilient the Communist Party has been to deal with a succession of environmental, political and corruption issues. Andrew Nathan coined a phrase that seemed to exemplify China: authoritarian resilience..." There seems to be a sense that somehow that resilience is coming to an end with the continued transformation that has been the order of the day so far. The new President seems to believe in the realization of Communism. How he reconciles it with the billionaires and the aspirations of the Chinese People is something that is absolutely fascinating to observe. It must also be noted that China continues to be a pivotal player in the BRICS group of nations that is starting to flex its' muscle. I found it quite startling that the New President of China began its first Major overseas trip to Africa. Africa is the "new frontier" and China is leading the effort. Chinese companies also are becoming very critical players around the World. Alibaba, the internet giant begun by Jack Ma, will soon go public in the biggest market in the World. Despite its' challenges, the possibilities are also limitless. In Asia, though, there is another pivotal election in Malaysia. Anwar Ibrahim has launched quite a challenge to once in for all break the monopoly of UNMO that has been in power since Malaysia' s Independence. I am keen to see what happens in Malaysia because I view it as more of a harbinger of progressive Islamic Thought and a tolerant, successful society that has made profound strides.
As I write this edition of the World Watch, Al Jazeera is reporting live on the situation in the two Koreas. North Korea has noted that it is in a State of War with South Korea. It has threatened the United States with nuclear war and is now shutting down the Industrial Zone. When I first saw the reports, I tweeted that the kid needs to get his head examined. I think, though, that Kim's Uncle and Aunt are the power behind the Throne and are helping to drive this latest move in order to somehow figure out what's next. The problem is that if one wrong miscalculation is made, who knows where it will all hand. Seoul is only one hour away from the North Korean Border.
Moving onward to Iran, it is gearing up for a Presidential Election as it continues to deal with profound economic challenges. The Nuclear Negotiations are continuing but with no apparent hope for any resolution soon. The domestic front, though, continues to go from the ridiculous to the hilarious. Velyati, the former Foreign Minister and top adviser to Khameini, recently gave a speech about how Iran's Islamic Government was the ultimate guarantor of Islam and without Iran, Islam will disappear. I guess Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and other powerful Muslim Countries do not matter. I have seen some reports about potentially Khatami and Rafsanjani wanting to run again. The malaise throughout Society, though, is disheartening. The rise of prostitution, divorce and changes in Society has been directly the result of the economic and political challenges the Country is facing today. This is as the current President has launched a war against academia by attempting to fire the Presidents of the leading Universities in the Country--including the University of Tehran.
Beyond Iran, there is Iraq. Juan Cole, the eminent Middle East Scholar, noted in a recent article about how the 1% in the Country seem to be taking advantage of the transformation of the economy. I have noted how Iraq is only a Country in name only--and the latest bombings throughout the Country underscores it. I can't help but also remember those brave souls who dared to question the wisdom of the War in Iraq as exemplfied in a New York Times advertisement on September 26, 2002 that was signed by leading academics at the time. They were heroes--as were those in the United States Senate (including the late Senator Robert Byrd and Ted Kennedy) who dared to speak against a War. Iraq continues to burn and suffer even today.
As Iraq burns, so is Syria. People are continuing to die in Syria daily. Bashar Al Assad has fought the revolution to a standstill as the Country continues to be systematically destroyed. The scenes from cities like Aleppo and even the Capital Damascus is absolutely horrific. The scenes are right out of the devastation in Germany after the end of the Second World War. Syria is very much part of the wider chess game that is the current status of the Middle East right now. The US Secretary of State is making the rounds in the region to try and jump start the peace process. The problem is that the United States is distrusted by the Arab Street due to its' absolute support for Israel that was reaffirmed by Barack Obama. How John Kerry will change the perception remains to be seen.
Beyond Iraq and Syria, the other worrisome domino is Egypt. Morsi seems to be on a rampage to outdo Mubarak. I could not understand why the leading Egyptian Satirist with over 30 Million viewers was detained for daring to poke fun at President Morsi. What is clear is that whatever goodwill Morsi had has dissipated considerably and it is a tragedy that has bodes ill for the future of the Country. I was also horrified by the scenes of battles outside Egypt's Coptic Cathedral. Morsi has ordered an investigation--but the deep divisions remain.
There are two other areas that are of profound concern: Europe and Afghanistan. Every single Country in Europe has a profound challenge. Francois Hollande in France is in deep trouble after a number of his ministers were found to have offshore accounts. The French Economy is stalled and does not seem to move. Portugal has been dealt a blow to its' plans when the highest Court in the Country found that certain budget cuts were illegal. The Prime Minister of Portugal was to further cut the budget and impose more austerity. The problem, though, is that the austerity has not worked. Although the protests in Portugal has been "mild", that might change. Protests forced Cyprus to change a very bad deal into a better deal. An interview with a Cypriot Banker was one example of the continued plight being faced by all members of the Eurozone. She and her husband worked for one of the banks that was being shut down. She noted that she did not know what to do with four children as she and her husband were about to lose their jobs.
I end this edition of the "World Watch" with Afghanistan. 11 kids were killed during a air raid by NATO. There was also a suicide bomber that caused a 25 Year Old US diplomat to die as well. The War will continue and I wonder what the future will hold after NATO troops leave.
A very challenging World...as we begin anew in "Outsiders"......
Also appears @ http://www.outsiderviews.com