Sunday, January 29, 2017

Be very, very frightened

I've been saying it for months, events in the US have been reminding me of Germany in the 1920s and 1930s. We have an insane demagogue rising to power in a major military superpower. He has the attention span of a child; a very thin, very sensitive skin and absolutely NO concept whatsoever of diplomacy or compromise. He micromanages his own Twitter feed and throws a temper tantrum any time he thinks he's been criticised or insulted. He attacks anything or anyone who he sees as crossing him in any way. His agenda is openly racist and sexist, and anti-science. He rose to power on a wave of hysteria and lies and fear and loathing. This is the man who has the US nuclear codes at his disposal. Make no mistake, Donald Trump is the Adolf Hitler of the 21st century.

Under him we're seeing the rise of the alt-right, the neo Nazis of the new millennium. They control much of the mass media and pour out a constant torrent of extreme, right-wing racist and xenophobic propaganda. The media is being manipulated and used for propaganda on all sides. Facts are routinely and openly distorted and just reinforced with louder screaming and counter accusations. Any organisation which might have a message different from the official party line is being quickly gagged. This is exactly what Goebbels did with the German media during the Nazi rise to power, except that in this case, the subversion is mostly decentralised. We have new jargon to describe it in a "post-truth" world of "alternative facts". The flood of fake news serves two purposes. First, it helps to hammer the party line into the populace. Second, it puts news in general in doubt, since none of it can be explicitly trusted. Which means it becomes easier to steer people away from the facts.

We have an old-school, hardline Russian leader taking Russia back to the core values, the good old days when Russia was paranoid about its borders and constantly looking to hold strategic access to ports where it can place fleets. Hence the wars with Ukraine in the Crimea, and in Syria, countries where there are big ports in key areas. As soon as those two conflicts are stabilised, the Russians will place a Black Sea Fleet in the Crimea and an Eastern Mediterranean fleet based in Syria. Modern fleet carrier groups literally carry all personnel, vehicles and supplies to place an army anywhere in the theatre within 24 hours, backed up by full Air Force and Navy support. This gives Russia two quick reaction forces available for use in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, plus potential control of the Suez Canal.

The recent bromance between Russia and the US was disturbing enough without looking at what must really be going on. Trump has agreed to stay out of Russian interests in the Middle East, hence no US support of the Ukraine and no US military in Syria. In return, Putin gave him the election. The problem is that this relationship is based on a huge misunderstanding. Trump thinks his bluff, confrontational familiarity breaks the ice and puts him on first name terms with the other world leaders from the start, but in fact his attitude is deeply insulting and he's too wrapped up in himself to see it. Putin sees him as weak and easily manipulated. Trump thinks Putin is an open book and basically a "nice guy". Neither of them can could be more wrong, and when it all suddenly becomes apparent to even them what's really happening, then the gloves will come off and things won't be so friendly.

In Europe, we have Brexit, and the disintegration of the European Union. Look back on World War I and World War II. Both times, each of those wars had an epicentre in a divided Europe, a continent which was disintegrating and rearming. Each of those wars were sparked by events in Europe, but what Europeans don't understand is that they are more like each other than anyone else on the globe. Which means any war which happens inside Europe is essentially a civil war. And other countries are also talking about leaving the EU. The modern epicentre for a new war has moved east into Eurasia and the Middle East, but that doesn't prevent Europe from being on the frontlines of that war.

Germany is leading the European push to rearm, but countries all over the world are polishing and modernising and restocking their arsenals. Modern military technology is frightening. Its use of satellite, computers and drone technology allows instant communications globally and gives the military the power to deliver lethal force anywhere on the globe with no actual human presence necessary.

After World War I, the League of Nations was formed with a mandate of keeping the peace. It was disintegrating by the late 1930s. After World War II, it was replaced with the United Nations, of which the UN Security Council, consisting of fifteen countries, is specifically created to maintain world peace. The US and the other five victorious powers of World War II are all the permanent members of the Security Council. But now, the US is busy with a bill to withdraw from the UN. Other countries have also been discussing leaving.

We have a world pushed to the brink of severe global warming, with resources becoming scarcer and the biosphere under attack everywhere on the planet. Climate refugees are becoming a daily reality, and once global warming really begins to bite there will be countless millions of people adrift, all of them desperate for food and water and space to live. The world's oil reserves are about half finished, and what's left costs more to extract and supply. Oil will become scarcer and prices will rise. With a combination of global warming, severe droughts and floods and the crash of biospheres, food will become scarce and expensive. Global warming is not being dealt with fast enough as it is, but now that Trump is in power he is busy tearing up every single piece of paper he can find with the word "climate" written anywhere on it, and simultaneously gagging major US science organisations from saying anything at all about the facts of climate change.

What does all this mean? I think we are seeing the opening moves of World War III. This war will be different to the ones of the past. It will be fought along racial and ideological and religious lines. It will be the first world conflict fought for resources, most especially oil. And the problem is, it won't change a damn thing. It will have a high body count. The plutocracies will still be in charge, having cemented their power and position and wealth even further. The rest of us will be left with scraps in the rubble, trying to survive. They will have sparked a war resulting in hundreds - if not thousands - of millions of deaths, if not more. To them, it's part of the natural process, humanity culling itself. Business as usual, in other words.


  1. ... and then we have Jon, raising the temperature further with panic-inducing posts such as this one. :)
    Seriously, though, you make a number of excellent and disturbing points. I would never endorse a message of "be very very frightened" - because very very frightened people tend not to do anything. Let's rather get prudent, forward-thinking, perhaps even vicious if we find a chink in the juggernauts' armour that's weak enough for us to be able to attack it.
    But the more wake-up calls, the merrier. The web (and the world) needs more voices like yours. Don't stop mobilising!