Normally at this time, we would be well into the summer doldrums or, as it's called in Washington, the Silly Season.
Not this year.
- In the war with jihad, American casualties are rising in Iraq as Iran is openly furnishing lethal aid to its allies in the war to drive America from Muslim lands. Meanwhile, the projected end of the U.S.'s military involvement in that nation is just over the horizon.
In the last two weeks, Afghanistan's ineffective and pervasively corrupt government has seen a wave of spectacular bombings, assassinations, and violence across the country. U.S. casualties are rising. President Obama has ordered the beginning of American withdrawal, directly rejecting the advice of all his top generals.
The stage is being set for a repeat of Saigon 1975.
- Iran's drive towards possession of deliverable nuclear weapons continues unchecked while nuclear-armed Pakistan is steadily slipping from the American orbit and towards that of China. While North Korea remains focused on a leadership transition (and the country is being devastated by a nationwide famine in which even the North Korean military is on short rations), the Hermit Kingdom's nuclear arsenal remains undiminished.
- India, while booming economically, is facing a corruption scandal in its national government. The challenge from Pakistan has come to the fore again with this week's terrorist attacks in Mumbai.
- China is also facing a leadership transition from one generation of Communist Party leaders to another. A nationwide crackdown is continuing to prevent any hint of democraticization, freedom for Tibet or the Uighurs, or any infection from the Arab Spring.
Yet, China's economy is surging and its military fortunes are rising. Its first aircraft carrier -- named for the ancient Chinese admiral who conquered Taiwan -- begins sea trials in the next 30 days. Chinese money and Chinese workers are penetrating Central America, South America, Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. Chinese cyber-attacks are plundering Western military and economic secrets wholesale. Chinese sovereign wealth funds and Chinese companies (often controlled by the Party or by the People's Liberation Army) are taking advantage of Western Europe's sovereign debt crisis by buying up European government and business assets on the cheap.
Meanwhile, China continues to use the growing reach of its military to push out its strategic perimeter towards the Second Island Chain beyond Japan and Australia while it simultaneously constructs the so-called "String of Pearls" of major ports around the Indian Ocean in Burma, Pakistan, and Ceylon. To date, China's ascent is peaceful; but it's increasingly locked in an escalating confrontation with its near neighbors over control of the strategic and mineral-rich South China Sea.
Power, as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair remarked last year, is flowing east.
In response, the U.S. Navy is deploying the majority of its at-sea assets into the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. Meanwhile, the active-duty American military is smaller than it's been since after the end of the Second World War.
The Obama administration has no plans to re-grow the U.S. military -- radically downsized beginning in Bill Clinton's presidency -- to meet China's rise.
- While Asia is booming economically, Europe and the United States remained locked in a deep recession, with debt crises hobbling one nation after another. The EU Project and the euro itself are under deep economic and political strain. Angry European populations increasingly reject the "one world" policies of European elites.
Like the United States, France and Spain both hold national elections next year.
- European nations, such as Great Britain, are downsizing their already-undersized militaries to fund their bloated welfare states. Native populations across Europe are falling, while Muslim immigration is filling up the population gap.
- While America's neighbor, Canada, is prospering, it is noticeably absent from the world stage. Although it has a nominally conservative government, Canada remains in the grip of a militantly secular, politically correct, multi-cultural regime.
- To the south, Mexico is locked in a full-blown war with its drug cartels, with thousands of people dying each month. A national election is set for next year. Mexicans are furious at the United States and what its failed War on Drugs is doing to Mexico.
Central America is also a breeding ground for transnational criminal organizations.
The one bright spot may be the sudden weakness of American enemy Hugo Chavez. Venezuela's president (and Cuban ally) is reportedly seriously ill with cancer. But Ecuador, Argentina, and Nicaragua are all in the hands of hard-left governments. Brazil -- one of the rising BRIC nations -- is booming and going its own way under its latest socialist president.
- In Western Europe, Greece, Portugal, Iceland, and Ireland are effectively bankrupt. Spain has had 20% unemployment for two years and may be the next IMF basket case. Italy's Berlusconi is reeling from a criminal sex scandal while massive budget cuts are necessary to avoid a further spread of the sovereign debt contagion. In the UK, the phone-hacking and Scotland Yard bribery scandal has humbled the Murdoch-News Corp. International empire. It may yet bring down the Conservative-led government of Prime Minister David Cameron. Scottish voters are seeking outright independence from the UK. At the same time, faced with huge deficits, the Conservatives have downsized Britain's military -- especially the Royal Navy and the Air Force -- into international irrelevance.
- In the Middle East, the promise of the Arab Spring is unfulfilled at best. Sudan, Libya, Syria, and Lebanon are all defying international attempts to pressure or remove national leaders who committed or are committing mass atrocity crimes.
NATO's efforts in Libya continue to be dubious. At the same time, President Obama has repeatedly failed to use decisive force to end the reign of dictator Moammar Gaddafi.
- Israel is more isolated diplomatically and militarily than it has ever been since its re-founding in 1948.
Such might have been President Obama's daily morning briefing before he headed into his next round of negotiations with congressional leaders over the debt crisis. The condition of our own country and its economy, and the state of our own U.S. politics, are well-known to AT readers. The above, however, is a fair summary of the state of play internationally, viewed from an American perspective.
A U.S. debt default, of course, will immediately delegitimize the dollar as the global reserve currency. This is a goal which has been avidly sought by the Chinese and Russian governments for some time.
The view from Beijing, based on the same facts, would be just the opposite: world conditions are excellent.