The purported end of the world came and went last Saturday, and to the surprise of few, "the Rapture" did not come to pass.
The world is not, however, out of the woods if you read Peter Nolan's superb Crossroads - the End of Wild Capitalism and the Future of Humanity. Nolan's thesis is that unrestrained capitalism, its extremes and its contradictions have put China, the US and the world of Islam on a collision course that gives the world "the choice of no choice." Either these three models of culture and capitalism will find constructive engagement or the world as we know it is in extreme peril - either from economic instability and social reaction, military conflict or environmental destruction, or all of the above.
Students of economics and geopolitics will find much that is familiar here in theory but Nolan's formulation of the world's current dynamics, risks to the system and limited options going forward - engage cooperatively or unhinge the world - are elegantly reasoned and argued. As holder of the Sinyi Chair at the Judge Business School, University of Cambridge, Nolan demonstrates great knowledge of and passion for China and its potential to find a harmonious route through capitalism's contradictions, although success here is by no means a given. He also argues convincingly that global capitalism requires global regulation in order not to run amok and roughshod over most of the world's population.
In this part of his thesis is the intriguing notion that the major oligopolistic global corporations have an insurmountable advantage in the world and are increasingly stateless in their ambitions and interests. Developing economy companies are starting from so far back in some areas that they cannot hope to compete. And then, what?
Readers will also find fascinating economic and political history to suggest that the underlying approaches to capitalism pursued by China, the US and the Islamic world are far more importantly similar than they are different. Property rights, individual pursuit of profits, taxation and a drive to serve the common good all have a place in these systems (and Islam has found a way to embrace interest on capital by another name.) Their differences with regard to capitalism are more perceived and exacerbated by nationalisms and cultural bias than substantive. But can these systems find ways to constructively coexist before it's too late?
Nolan reaches back as far as Biblical times to report the early histories of China, the Middle East, Europe and the infant United States, which has risen in the post WWII period to dominate the global system (and now spends $2 billion a day on military expenditures!). Moreover, the US, motivated by its thirst for oil, has alienated Islam with its unquestioning support of Israel and tends to view China as a rising threat rather than a potential and natural collaborator in meeting the challenges of global modernization. China's labor advantages will continue to depress advanced economy wages, and we shall have to deal with that.
In the last 30 years, progress has been made on many fronts. Millions have been lifted out of poverty as finance and technology have spread into the developing world. But wealth disparity has grown significantly (Egypt, by no means alone, is one example where one percent of the population controls nearly all the country's wealth); the environment has been severely degraded (decertification growing by great leaps in China, whose organic water pollutants equal those of American, India, Russia and Japan combined); and, global warming has emerged as man's unique threat to the world in which we live. In this the US has been slowest to recognize the threat, let alone take significant steps to address it, Nolan notes.
The US has fomented an unregulated form of global finance capitalism that led to the great unwinding of 2008, which has not yet played out. This is one factor, along with US dependence on autos and oil, military power and a jaundiced view of the Middle east, that leads Nolan to conclude - quoting former US defense Secretary Robert McNamara, that there has never been a more dangerous moment in human history.
This book is riddled with fascinating facts and also broad arguments to challenge any conventional American view about the legitimacy of our approach to global finance capitalism and to others who may challenge us or require a different political approach on the world's playing field. You may finish reading this book as I did, convinced that if the US is not prepared to change some of our political and economic approaches to China and Islam, we may bring Judgment Day upon the world sooner than we think and in ways not yet imagined. That said, Nolan will help persuade you that nuclear Armageddon, as one way to end the world, is by no means out of the question.
I do not rejoice in anyone's death but I am glad Bin Laden has met his maker and grateful to those servicemen and women who put themselves in harm's way to carry out our country's military plans. In the case of Al Qaida, a non-state terrorist organization willing to target mostly civilians, a war played outside the rules has provoked responses that have been outside the rules as well.
Victory may be sweet, but we need to be vigilant that provocation does not cause us to abandon the American principles of law and individual rights that we hold dear. That said, I find my mind filled with questions:
If we went into Afghanistan to pursue Osama and deal Al Qaida a death-blow, is our reason for being there now satisfied (having satisfied it in Pakistan)? That debate has been going on for nearly the last decade, and the NY Times reports that it has surfaced again at the highest levels.
Is it true of a networked terrorist organization that if we cut off the head, the body will die? History has its share of revolutionary and proto-revolutionary movements that have been effectively crushed by government force. Surveillance, intimidation, imprisonment and the execution of key leaders tend to be effective, but these have tended to be within national boundaries. Both the former Soviet Union and China provide illustrations here, but they are not alone. (Former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover called the US Black Panther Party of the 1960s-70s "the greatest threat" to internal security and used all the FBI's resources to harass and disrupt them, including the alleged use of assassination.) Chris Hedges, who covered Al Qaida for the NY Times, would suggest this is not one of those cases.
What potentially helpful terrorist-fighting information was found on computer hard drives confiscated from Bin Laden's compound, (and is there any chance it might make it onto Wikileaks)?
What role did Google Earth play in identifying the compound for what it was - a refuge not just for someone important and clandestine but for the Most Wanted Man of The Century? Global surveillance of this kind would seem to be a game-changer all its own. Finding the compound on Google Earth certainly happened quickly just after the news broke.
Does Bin Laden's death make terrorist acts against the US more likely? (If we believed that, would it make us wish Obama had acted otherwise in ordering the strike?)
Some reports have suggested a connection between information gleaned at Guantanamo and identifying the compound as Bin Laden's. Are we to believe that torture (water-boarding or otherwise) played a role here? If we wanted a justification for torture, maybe some would consider this enough. (I favor observing the Geneva Convention.)
Some of these questions may be answered soon enough. I would like to say that I am confident of our government's account of events in general, but I am not. (Iraq and WMD come to mind). Events surrounding Bin Laden's death, however, will be subjected to as much scrutiny as any events in recent history, if not in all recorded history. The same technology and transparency that enables pervasive government surveillance, also enables relentless citizen inquiry, and I think the important truths here will become known if they are not already.
As satisfying as Bin Laden's death may be in some respects, I am still hungry for more answers.
In perusing old notes for a new book, I came upon observations made in an interview with Robert Oxnam, former President of the Asia Society. Oxnam was describing what to him was the need for a true ideology for China, one that could reach beyond "to be rich is glorious" to give the emerging world power a moral and political identity to be proud of, and one that might hold it together more than break it apart. The real message of Tianenmen Square, Oxnam said, was that students demonstrating for openness, tolerance, and democracy were exercising their right to be students, and to be the conscience of the nation. (My emphasis added). The phrase stopped me. Where, I wondered, are US students today acting as "the conscience of the nation?" Or did this fade after Vietnam, or go underground after the draft expired? President Obama, without conferring with Congress, has just put the nation into a third war front in Libya. This is part of a multi-national effort apparently entered into hastily, and without a broad US Mideast military policy to address fomented rebellions there. This Presidential act, one could argue, overreaches the power of the presidency despite alleged authority to fight terrorism on any front for almost any reason. Obama went on TV to the nation March 28 to explain his rationale for US involvement. I personally support efforts to block Qaddafi's intent to kill his own citizens (whom he may define as 'terrorists,' if it suits him), in the same way I favor intervening if the man upstairs is beating his wife. Boundaries are not the issue, and time is of the essence. I favor intervention when morally and practically required - but not without Congressional due process, and that does not have to take a lot of time. (In the case of the man upstairs, there is no due process and he does not deserve a warning.) On another front, we learn this week that Obama no longer believes that suspected terrorists should get the Miranda warning afforded them constitutionally, depending on the circumstances and the perceptions of the FBI agent at the time. An FBI internal memo revealed this week advises its agents:
1. If applicable, agents should ask any and all questions that are reasonably prompted by an immediate concern for the safety of the public or the arresting agents without advising the arrestee of his Miranda rights. 2. After all applicable public safety questions have been exhausted, agents should advise the arrestee of his Miranda rights and seek a waiver of those rights before any further interrogation occurs, absent exceptional circumstances described below. 3. There may be exceptional cases in which, although all relevant public safety questions have been asked, agents nonetheless conclude that continued unwarned interrogation is necessary to collect valuable and timely intelligence not related to any immediate threat, and that the government's interest in obtaining this intelligence outweighs the disadvantages of proceeding with unwarned interrogation.
I find it hard to believe that someone who has conspired to commit acts of terrorism will talk if he has not been apprised of his Miranda rights but will clam up once informed that he can be represented by an attorney under US law. Really? If the students I have in mind were to act conscientiously, they would object to the abuse of presidential power, or even the appearance of it, whether or not it is taking the US into war. They would also object to the selective application of Constitutional rights for "terrorists" because it would occur to them that anyone can be considered a terrorist, and treated accordingly. Surely the farmers in the American Revolution were terrorists in the eyes of the British, who probably had no trouble burning the soles of their feet to coax their plans out of them. That was long before the Geneva Convention or the evolution of US Constitutional law that made us a model for the world. I would like to see our students defending that.
A joke my father once brought home on a little poster from his office said:
"Keep your eye on the ball, your shoulder to the wheel and your ear to the ground - now try to work in that position!"
It comes to mind amid further news of the Japan quake and nuclear aftermath, Libyan fly-overs and Yemeni revolution. Oh, and the US Congress is struggling to address entitlement reform as our fiscal balance spins further out of control, and...
As much news as there is in the world demanding our attention, our lives are still immediately in front of us - children to raise (my 12-yer-old son needs a guitar teacher), relationships to tend (tend them, keep them happy; get over that one, find another), and the logistics of daily life (someone just hit the car!).
And just yesterday a potential Florida client who owns newspaper properties pointed out that all the information on the Internet, as alluring as it may be, doesn't necessarily contain the answer or insight you need, if you can find it. Along the way you will spend time you probably don't have being distracted by things that don't matter - or are simply wrong.
All of this served to remind me of a principle that sailing in rough conditions taught me: when things get ugly, slow down and do the right next thing right.
It is simple enough to say, and not as hard to do as one might think. It means bringing the far horizon near, and focusing the mind, eye, hand and attention on the thing at hand that must be done next, and right, before the next right thing can be addressed.
This has the effect of slowing down a turbulent situation and clearing away distractions that at a distance may loom as threatening or out of control - or both.
The good news is that there is always a "next thing" that has to be done right, and doing it right is worth all of one's attention, particularly if errors will be costly (even dangerous).
I was asked to be on a 6 a.m. call this week to London that was cancelled because the European corporate client suddenly had to deal with Japan, its understandable workplace instability amid spreading fears of meltdown and contagion. I had not expected either the call or a related major meeting in Europe to be cancelled, but I was not surprised, given current volatilities around the world.
How prepared are people for the bigger reverberations of major events, and how to deal with them intelligently, of which the first step might be anticipation and planning?
I confess I have not yet read Kenneth Posner’s book, Stalking the Black Swan: Research and Decision Making in a World of Extreme Volatility, although I think it advisable for anyone who applies scenario thinking and other basic risk-management techniques to the rising uncertainties of our time. Posner's attempt, according to reviews, is to mix quantifiable and computer calculation with human instinct, experience and intuition. A worthy goal worth thinking about, and actually trying to do.
(Number me among those readers who attempted Nassim Taleb's The Black Swan and put it down before the end, partly because at a certain point before page 300 I thought I grasped the thesis well enough and because, frankly, Taleb is a writer who does not know why he would use one word if he could use 20. Of those, more than half will be about Taleb's superior view of uncertainty, about which he appears to be uncertain not at all.)
As a longtime scenario practitioner, I have an aversion to certainties of all kinds, partly because it is always the unexpected that changes the way we think and subsequently must behave. Humans must live and work in a constant tension between confidence about what they think they know and flexibility in the face of incomplete information, and sheer ignorance. But how to identify what you do not know well enough and should consider?
Enter Japan's earthquake and unfolding disaster. Were quakes of this kind uncertain? No, they were inevitable (and still are.) Were those plants "safe?" No, they never were, located on the geological "Ring of Fire" that promises serious quakes from here to eternity.
The quake's timing, however, was uncertain, and also the extremity of its effects. We must now all reconsider whether:
- A nuclear cloud will get into the atmosphere and increase cancer risks everywhere
- Anti-nuclear movements will extend globally as the world comprehends that it potentially shares in every other country's nuclear risks
- Nuclear plants should continue to answer the world's energy appetite, given what we now know, and know that we know
- Recalculation of insurance liabilities will render nuclear energy just too costly
- Makers of potassium iodide pills are suddenly a valuable stock investment (Or are you too late?)
I mean this last only partly facetiously. It says something about positive pricing effects in negative macro conditions.
Vital lessons may be taken from Japan's experience - which, pray, does not continue to multiple meltdowns and swathes of dead areas of Japan from nuclear contamination. One lesson might be in the approach that executives and managers take to major "uncertainties" that are likely to unfold at some level and at some point reasonably soon. Don't we know what some of them are?
As much as a U.S. Treasury-market collapse, Middle East (Libya, Saudi-Bahrain) disruptions, oil prices above $120/bbl, rapid global inflation, European financial meltdown and China disruptions are known to be real and proximate possibilities, many corporate and public policy leaders have not really taken the time to think these through.
Scenario thinking continues to be an invaluable tool in the risk-manager's toolbox because it allows for the unthinkable to be more easily thought and for the unspeakable to be spoken in ways that may be heard and acted upon in time. Examples are many of risks that were contemplated with scenarios and where subsequent actions saved millions or produced strategic options that were acted on profitably. Lives might well be saved as well.
Maybe Japan's quake has shaken the rest of the world enough to reconsider how prepared we are, and are not, on some of these fronts. "What if?" remains a powerful question for managing future risk, but only if you really ask it - the right way with the right people around you - and think it through.
It is gratifying to wing opinionated and potentially provocative words into the blogosphere and have words come back, whether affirming or not. The words (and website) below reverberated from my previous question about whether people know the rationale for our waging war in Afghanistan (and a corollary, Iraq), and whether they support it.
This inquiry caused me to discover and be shocked by the estimated number of nearly ONE MILLION DEAD in combined military and civilian casualties between the two conflicts in the last near decade. Most are civilian. Many of those had nothing to do with terrorism and will not have been drawn closer to the US as a result of the deaths of loved ones, I would suspect.
From a New York City mother of two teenage girls and a younger son:
This will tell you, among other things, that a veterans' protest is scheduled in Washington, DC for March 19, next Saturday, on the anniversary of the Iraq invasion. The argument and its passion may surprise you. You may even be moved to think/feel differently, and possibly to act, on the strength of it. Also, the demonstrations the following day want to bring awareness to the situation of Bradley Manning, the US Army intelligence analyst currently imprisoned in Quantico and awaiting court marshal, whose allegedly inhumane treatment in custody has been brought to Obama's attention.
From a former Navy pilot, who came of military age in the Vietnam era:
How about immoral and irrational? The war in Iraq is immoral and the war in Afghanistan is irrational. Iraq sustained the predilection of the US to engage in wars of aggression. Can anyone reasonably doubt that either Vietnam or Iraq was such a war? Both were a departure from our nation's traditional values. Afghanistan was presumably directed to thwarting Al Quaeda, which in the interim has sprung up like mercury under the thumb in places like Somalia. Nonetheless, we continue to pretend that we are fighting terrorism in Afghanistan. Your "energy lawyer" is spot on, to wit: this is merely a political action initiated by Bush and perpetuated by Obama for political purposes. Can any action possibly be more cynical? On a related note, the volunteer force disassociates the rest of America, other than the friends and families of those who serve so honorably, from those political conflicts. The detachment permits us to remain disengaged from the conflict. It doesn't touch us so we do not object. Universal service requires everyone to give something back to the country, and requires each individual in the country (or someone with whom they are related or acquainted) to be "at risk" of serving in each conflict. In addition, it gives those with a VALID moral objection to conflict the mechanism to channel their obligation into an area devoid of the prospect of armed conflict.
As it happens I agree with this reader and feel vindicated that someone of military commitment and bearing sees it this way.
From an author of historical books and former national political reporter:
I of course disagree with your thesis. I don't have much to contribute to the canon on Vietnam - wretched costly mistake steeped in the stupidity of the best and brightest ... but I still think there was a case for invading Iraq and unseating Saddam. The fatal blunders there were:
1. You simply cannot lie about the casus belli for war in a democracy; hanging onto the convenient "Tonkin Gulf" justification of weapons of mass destruction, when at best we had no proof of them and at worst knew they did not exist, laid a flawed foundation for our being there that could not be cured;
2. We did not sustain the wobbly security forces there or replace them with anything else, and did not send enough men - our (Phillips Academy graduate) Andover man Paul "Jerry" Bremer deserves the blame for this, with others; and,
3. We did not respond even remotely adequately to Abu Ghraib. I remember being stuck in a hotel room at Gatwick during Senate hearings when Evan Bayh asked Rumsfeld if he should have resigned over Abu Ghraib, and after a long pause Rumsfeld said, "Yes." He says so again in his new book. Then why, oh why, didn't he?
As to Afghanistan, I have only a layman's sense that no one can "win" a war there. But it is very hard for me to think that President Obama has some ulterior motive such as re-election driving his support for the surge there - and I do have some qualifications as an expert on presidential elections, so I will say with confidence that I do not see how he picks up a single vote by supporting the surge, but I think he loses some potential support in the primaries for doing so.
I agree that drafting everyone was a vastly fairer and more sensible way of prosecuting wars than the mercenary military we have today. But the reason we do not have universal two-year public service is not the right...it is organized labor.
I cannot anticipate the expressed view of "organized labor" in the universal national service debate. I doubt that "labor" would think and act on this as a monolith. It makes more sense to me that labor in general would favor wars of various kinds, because they are stimulative of basic industries that we have not yet farmed out to other countries. Now that might be considered cynical.
Please do write.
This is not a neutral topic worthy of indifference or inaction.
Do you know why the US has troops fighting in Afghanistan? Do you support it?
At a recent weekend ski reunion in Nevada I asked this of some high school era classmates, (Phillips Academy, 1966), a relatively well informed and learned professional group, mixing law, public policy and private enterprise in almost equal measure. I have found that many people, however well educated and apparently informed, do not know the official rationale for our being in Afghanistan. But polls suggest that opposition to the war hit 63% in December, 2010, as US (and other) soldiers continue to sacrifice themselves there and civilian casualties mount. With at least 919,967 people killed in Afghanistan and Iraq since the U.S. and coalition attacks, based on lowest credible estimates, the war should rightfully loom as a major campaign issue in 2012.
About 10 of us had gathered in our former classmate's house and soon became engaged, if not enraged, by the topic, which recalled for us another conflict. Some of us had brothers who fought in Vietnam. Some of us did not have to serve because of the lottery then, or served because of it.
Most of us had come to see Vietnam as unjustified, as well as unsuccessful. (One of our classmates had written "Loon," a recent first-person account of a high-loss battle in Vietnam and its grim legacy.)
Some of us now fervently believe the US should bring back the draft (perhaps as universal 2-year national service) so that our wars are not fought only by those who volunteer. One advocated the idea on the grounds that if everyone in the country had equal skin in the war game, the country might be more fairly and fully engaged in determining what wars we fight.
Everyone seemed to agree that this would be good for the country. No one in the room seemed to believe that current leadership would be willing to broach the topic of the draft, or even of withdrawing, before the elections.
One of my classmates served in Congress and now, as an energy attorney, frequents the corridors of Washington and travels the world. He is the member of our group who predictably will have read the most relevant recent book on a topic and have the most informed and thoughtful view. He cited the recent "Our Vietnam," by AJ Langguth, and reported some disturbing history compiled from original sources. According to Langguth, Kennedy never believed that the war against the North Vietnamese could be won. And he did not believe the "domino theory" that the fall of Vietnam would mean the loss of Asia to communism. He believed he simply could not afford politically to get the US out before the 1964 election because the Republicans would roast him. By then, Lyndon Johnson, who as Vice President had tried to convince Kennedy to exit the war as un-winnable, found himself similarly trapped by a war that had escalated beyond the point of practical or political withdrawal. (Kissinger would later be instrumental in negotiating a pause in which the US finally could come out.) This renewed sense of Vietnam history, where domestic politics interfered with common sense, provoked a number of reactions to the current situation.
One former classmate active on Capitol Hill characterized many Democrats as believing "Afghanistan is an outrage." He wondered aloud if Obama, who promised withdrawal by July 2011, can survive in 2012. "When you read how the Mideast revolutions are happening, how accelerated everything is, I find it hard to believe that Obama is going to skate through," he said. As a few of us wondered aloud at the apparent lack of anti-war activism compared to Vietnam's protests, our energy lawyer quoted a recent conversation with author James Fallows on the topic, who said:
"You never know on a given day whether you should be living a normal life or doing something about the most important issue of our time." Perhaps our war in Afghanistan is not "the most important issue of our time," but it must rank pretty high. How many have US soldiers have died there? The quoted statistics are: 4,683 in Iraq and Afghanistan combined, since "Operation Enduring Freedom" began on Oct. 7, 2001, and "Operation Iraqi Freedom" began on March 20, 2003. Of the total US deaths, 3,708 were reportedly due to hostile fire, and the remainder due to non-hostile actions (such as accident, suicide, or illness). Perhaps the military deaths are the most important thing, though they do not embrace the thousands severely wounded or mentally affected for life. Officially, 30,490 U.S. service members have been wounded due to combat actions in Iraq and 2,309 in Afghanistan (32,799 total). (Source: Rod Powers, About.com) The civilian death statistics already mentioned are highly disturbing. If you want the official rationale, you will find it here: US President Barack Obama, declared on Dec. 1, 2009: “I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of the violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11....It is important to recall why America and our allies were compelled to fight a war in Afghanistan in the first place. We did not ask for this fight. On September 11, 2001, 19 men hijacked four airplanes and used them to murder nearly 3000 people.” In his press conference on military action in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Obama called the region a base for "Al Qaeda and its extremist allies" from which they train terrorists and launch attacks, now "the most dangerous place in the world for the American people" and "an international terrorist challenge of the highest order." An additional 17,000 US troops would be committed immediately, and training of Afghanis would be increased.
Addressing Al Qaeda, Obama said flatly: "We will defeat you."
One might question if the US is suppressing or defeating terrorism as much as it is stimulating it, as some have suggested, by causing hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties in countries with which we are not at war. And can Al Qaeda and the Taliban be defeated militarily on their home turf? Our discussion was inconclusive, although the sense of the room was that this issue may be bigger than current debate and lack of open protest suggests. Is Afghanistan an echo of Vietnam, misguided and un-winnable, and now a tool of US domestic politics?
Will Obama sustain the hostilities until after the election in 2012, as much as it is supported on the right and opposed on the left?
Libya's Gadhafi struggles to hold on to power the only way that dictators of force can hold on, which is with more force. Just how brutal he will continue to be, and how effective, is still to be determined. How far will this go, and to what effect?
The debate over the economy is still fully on between the recovery and double-dip camps, but the spreading uncertainty from Libya to Saudi Arabia may favor the latter. Chinese economist Andy Xie points to Mideast (37% of the world's oil production) instability and potential gas price increases to infer that stagflation may be just around the corner. He notes that the oil shock of 1973 triggered a market crash and laid the foundation for stagflation thereafter. OECD countries now have leverage levels that are 50% too high, and must come down, he observes. That is deflationary on its own. Meanwhile, the US continues to flood the world with dollars, which is inflationary. What is important here is the degree of uncertainty in the system. The Libyan crisis will have its own effects in that country, and has roiled Saudi Arabia, whose leadership has just announced new levels of largesse to keep the population in line. But what is really going on here globally? Authority the world over is being questioned and challenged in new ways - faster, more broadly and deeply - in a new era of communication. In the mid-1990's, we postulated that the Internet would act as a universal solvent to erode authority structures of all kinds, from the top down, bottom up, inside out, and so forth. Power would shift to the "end-user." This was long before Google made answers available to most questions or Twitter allowed differing versions of the truth - as well as lies and distortions - to spread at the speed of light, 140 characters per Tweet. We now know quickly - as can anyone anywhere who wants to ask - that the Greek government has to meet a major hospital deficit in a hospital that has 42 gardeners but no garden. We know American public safety officers bulk up their hours in their final years so they can retire on pensions of 100 percent or more. We know that Democratic state senators fled Wisconsin in order to dodge their responsibilities to address budget deficits, apparently believing in the power and efficacy of denial. Technology guru Mary Meeker has just published a report to suggest that America Inc. is functionally bankrupt on the costs of Medicare and Medicaid. These two entitlements were approved largely by and for Baby Boomers with apparent disregard for intergenerational fairness, let along practicality. It's all coming home to roost, all over the world. It has to. The point here is that "the authorities" have made a mess in many places, not limited to Libya. Gadhafi & Co. did not bother to build infrastructure with its oil billions, leaving a poor and uneducated populace now with a void to fill, when/if Gadhafi falls. (See here the first CNN footage in Benghazi, where Gadhafi has already been pushed out.) His is not the only regime to abuse power and abrogate the responsibilities of leadership. So his is not the only regime to sow the seeds of crisis, which cannot and will not be avoided. The question now is, what will we do? Violence in the streets is the only choice for those who have no other choice. The US mess hopefully will be addressed by those who stay in the room and try to fix the problems with real solutions. But Wisconsin is not the only state where protesters have picked up the vibe from Middle East and staged long and persistent demonstrations against failed leaders. And material support - in the form of pizza for Wisconsin protesters - is pouring in from Egypt, Turkey, and around the world. Authority that underestmates this unprecedented connectivity, both in how it connects and educates people, is learning fast that a new model is forcing its way forward, outward and down. It is not contained or slowing, only expanding literally at the speed of light. How does your "official future" fair against the potential for stagflation and continuing global unrest?