OUR NOT TOO CERTAIN FUTURE
BY SY SCHECHTMAN
Several years after the implosion of the communist tyranny of the Soviet Union Francis Fukuyama published his seemingly seminal book, the End of History and the Last Man, in l992. He proclaimed with great certainty that history had evolved so that liberal democracy was to be the universally viable form of political governance, supplanting the autocratic forms of monarchy, and totalitarian dictatorships implicit in communism and most forms of socialism. Also, that free market, competitive economics and increased use of private property was the path to follow. And this political and economic template seemed to be the new wisdom of the ages as many new small democratic countries are now in existence and have been enjoying great productive economic progress with market based pricing and competition. To be sure there are political variations in various countries, but general freedom of the press and fair voting procedures are also in place and a respected legal system too. This is the general rule not only for newly formed entities fresh from Soviet domination but also through most of Asia with the stark exception of North Korea, literally still a basket case under the yoke of stultifying collective farm Communist rule.
However, now is crucial testing time for the Fukuyama thesis, as standing athwart this hopefully inevitable democratic surge is the Chinese thrust for maximum, full throttle economic growth without the consequences of the messy democratic way of free speech, a free and critical press, and universal suffrage, including reasonably full equality for women. One current obvious result is the Olympic extravaganza just completed. Many billions were spent, whole villages and small towns were relocated to make the impending deadline of the Olympic opening, and the attendant additional pollution created only added to the great pollution already present in this “new smog capital of the world”. Many who were protesters were arrested for trying to protest. It seems that a license to protest in a designated lane for protest merely alerted the police to arrest these people as disturbers of the peace when they appeared to peacefully occupy the designated protest lane.
The Olympics were undoubtedly a great show piece success, but as the protesters wanted to demonstrate, the billions invested to trumpet China’s growing economic prowess has left about half the population still in rural backwater distress, without even potable drinking water in many areas. And there is growing unrest, for though deprived of necessary economic sustenance, modern communications allows these still almost half a billion peasant Chinese to understand how they have been shortchanged by their city cousins in Beijing and other modern gleaming Chinese municipalities. The most gold medals won went to flourishing upper strata China, but more common class total bronze medals went to democratic United States with its broad mix of humanity, including many former Chinese nationals, now citizens of the United States. The dilemma facing the ruling Chinese politburo is how to integrate these excluded but still grudgingly loyal subjects without some added poltical light in the form of messy democratic discussion and freedom and not the Tiannamen square massacre of l989, when about 2,000 students were shot for protesting openly. Literally all the world is waiting expectantly and hopefully that the gradual evolution to political liberalism in some valid form will now commence.
Formerly communist Russia under Vladimir Putin is now another regime thrusting itself backward against the grain of Fukuyama liberalism. Putin has slowly reversed the trend of gradual democratic progress and freedom that Boris Yeltsin and predecessors had initiated. Less freedom and more arrests and unfair trials seem to be on the rise. And rising militarism seems to be part of the mix, as in the incursions into neighboring Georgia, a democratic entity formerly part of Soviet Russia. And all this relapse into formerly repressive tactics seems to be with tacit populace approval, evidently as evidence of the strength of old super power status. National Pride still basking in former very tarnished glory. However, the grim reality today is far from that mythic, or at most evanescent reality. Russia today is a demographically shrinking country, with the birth rate declining from 2.2 per woman 20 years ago to 1.3 now; deaths far exceed births, alcoholism among males is quite high, abortions exceed births, and the population is projected to shrink by 2030 to 127 million from its present 147 million. ( The United States currently has over 300 million people).
Keeping Russia somewhat buoyant economically is the discovery in the last decade or so of large deposits of oil and natural gas, the latter of which Putin sells to western Europe via pipeline and has once shut down for a few weeks as a by product of a dispute with the Ukraine, once a part of the Soviet communist empire. This temporary shutdown sent tremors to the European western mainland and caused somewhat like eggshell careful treading now with the former Russian colossus. For Putin now displays many of the traits of the dread dead Stalin, who Putin once served. Both coincidentally are fellow Georgians, though decades apart. More than of incidental interest is that Russia still commands, then and now, the largest stockpile of long range nuclear weapons ever, ageing now in quiet storage, as we so store our deadly long range nukes here in this country. But both still capable of very useful, very lethal use.
A concerted, bold approach is needed. Not the appeasement that led to Hitlerian victory ala Munich. And then perhaps back on the track, post Putin, to our bold approach for the End of History; every man under his fig tree in concord and harmony in the throes of liberal discourse ,democratic government, and spirited economic market competition.
But all these levels of higher interaction and blissful achievement pale almost to meaningless blather after the attacks on 9/11/01, when the most demonic attack in history occurred killing over three thousand innocent civilians and causing billions of dollars of damage to New York City’s financial centers. With the serene blessing of Almighty Allah who had many virgins ready for the brave jihadists making their blessed trip to heaven somewhat prematurely. And also immediate financial gratification for the supposedly grieving families, of 25 thousand dollars per martyred terrorist here on planet earth even though in the heavens of Allah the Great these dead jihadist former mere mortals are already joyously cavorting with all those supple and willing virgins. And grim malevolent sardonic irony, the funds for the families of these martyred heroic jihadists in these Moslem Elysian fields comes from our trusted Saudi Arabian petroleum supplier. Much of the hundreds of billion dollars we supply the Saudis in oil purchases goes as “protection money” to the controlling ultra fanatic Wahhabi sect, who insist that their interpretation of the Koran spells doom to the infidel and universal rule Islamic (Sharia) law must apply wherever faithful Moslems live. And in Europe now, which already has a significant Moslem minority prescence, local schools and municipal entities in England and France are beginning to teach Moslem precepts and history, and scant Western history and concepts!!
The Saudis, for survival, thus play this duplicitous double game. They take billions from us—who use at least 25% of the world’s oil--- and fund the home grown terrorist madrassa schools of the fanatic Wahhabi Islamists who preach destruction of infidels, especially the satanic United States, and thus, for now, sateing their lust for complying with Allah’s divine decrees of Islamic universal supremacy and American discomfort. And keeping these extremists off the back of the supposedly more moderate ruling Saudi family. And thus exposing us to the humiliation of the free world’s much tarnished United States leader, George W. Bush of the free world, hat in hand, going to Saudi Arabia recently probably pleading for somewhat lower oil prices with Prince Faisal. Who presumably checks with the Wahhabi minister. The answer, at any rate, was no. Only a good old fashioned recession would help, lowering demand, raising unemployment, and thus more domestic suffering, as Allah probably, or at least the Wahhabi interpretation, stated.
But the real answer, which was beyond Bush’s competence, was our total national mobilization for energy independence. While we enjoy luxurious freedoms from economic and political restraints, we are helpless because our abject dependence on imported oil as our prime energy fuel. We must literally mobilize and declare war, not on the Jihadists who hate and wish to destroy us, but on the energy catastrophe of almost total oil dependence in foreign hands of very uncertain reliability. Oil, which is still abundant, may never come down to the reasonable levels of yesteryear, but we must accelerate rapidly our drilling to recover more of our own domestic supply and explore all other energy sources with due deliberate haste. Solar power, windmill power where feasible, shale oil recovery, and above all, atomic energy plants to augment our electric utility production and speeded research to have the abundant coal we have made environmentally safe and smog free. Improved conservation by raising car gasoline mileage per gallon standards. And perhaps even a gasoline tax at the pump to deter somewhat unnecessary consumption. In short, full economic war to free us from the mania of Jihadism and its anti western virulence by cutting the supply of petrodollars that becomes the financial fuel for their existence. We literally strangled malignant Soviet Russia economically by far outspending them in a military build up---ending with their inability to fund their normal economic needs in their poorly functioning socialist economic system. Without a shot being fired or a soldier being killed. While the rest of the world—unless those devout Marxists!!---watched in amazed delight and approbation.
Now,literalIy, we are in another war, according to Norman Podhoritz’s prescient count, the Fourth in the last hundred years. World Wars One and Two with hundreds of million military and civilian casualties and World War Three the Cold War with Russia, with no mortal deaths and now the current War with Islamofacsism which we can also win with no mortal casualties by weening our excessive energy thirst for petroleum.
In ten years or so we can be well on the path to much diminished oil dependence, and also have the added blessing of using cleaner, non carbon contaminating atmospheric pollutants in our new alternate energy fuels. And just as we a nation responded totally to the aftermath of Pearl Harbor and the shock military awakening it roused in us, so now after 9/11/01 we can respond powerfully but peacefully by using augmented and improved energy sources to bring our jihadist foes to their economic knees, and hopefully let that current reality start to improve their fondness for the heroic deeds of mortal life here on planet earth—deeds that include at least respect and not deadly animosity to all us disagreeing liberal democrats.
Unfortunately this detour on the road to the earthly paradise that Fukuyama has foretold will have to take another detour for the moment. To get to the Promised Land of universal democratic rule and free competitive capitalistic bliss just a little more patience will be required. In the Bible it took the children of Israel 40 years of desert wandering to get to their promised land of Canaan. Today with the effort of the cooperative capitalism of both parties---Republican and Democratic-- it should not take anywhere near the biblical 40 years to be well on the way to our energy salvation. But we will still have problems cleaning up our moral act. Not necessarily the End Of History yet. But even then there may still be the deadly problem of no mortal challenges and perils to face. Ultimate complete boredom. Even a yearly Super Olympics will not suffice!