by Ralph Peters [author, novelist]

Economic hope produced the American Revolution. Economic hopelessness delivered the French Revolution. Demagogues, not democrats, will hallmark the worsening economic crisis.

The potential for political turmoil is vast. Among the populated continents, only Australia has a chance of avoiding serious violence. We in the West stand at the brink of a terrible global struggle. Our response has been to fight among ourselves.

The order that diplomats adore is crumbling.

Here in North America, Mexico battles a savage narco-insurgency within a crippled economy. Ciudad Juarez, a key border city, is already far deadlier than Baghdad. Canada’s scared, and a demoralized United States elected a mere orator as president.

In South America, the economic crisis threatens the regional ambitions of strongmen and hustlers who profit by association: Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Evo Morales of Bolivia, Rafael Correa of Ecuador and everyone’s favorite child-abuser, Danny Ortega of Nicaragua.

Our natural reaction is: “Great – let ’em hurt!”

The problem is that demagogues move sharply to deflect the pain from themselves – blaming imaginary enemies, foreign or domestic. Violence looms, from Venezuela to Bolivia. And the odds are that it will take the form of pogroms against citizens calling for freedom, the rule of law and food.

Across the Atlantic, the European Union’s engaged in the ugliest blame-game since Stalin’s final years. Prosperous states in the west, whose banks thrust extreme loans upon the newly free lands to the east, now blame those struggling democracies for threatening the well-being of the lenders – a state-level version of our sub-prime mortgage crisis.

Europe’s tilt toward economic civil war only emboldens Russia’s Vladimir Putin, who needs to direct the attention of his bewildered population away from economic collapse at home. Putin will create foreign threats – and, he hopes, foreign triumphs. (President Obama’s disgraceful secret letter begging Moscow for help with Iran and offering to sell out the Poles and Czechs didn’t exactly discourage Putin, either.)

Everywhere in the West, immigrants are becoming “the new Jews,” blamed for poisoning the economic wells. In the United States, we’ll merely smack our ailing economy by limiting visas for highly skilled workers – but I wouldn’t want to be a young Muslim in Europe or Russia over the next few years.

In the Middle East, the oil states are showing their internal rot. Dubai, the world’s fanciest shopping mall, had to mortgage itself at a discount, while larger states, from Egypt to Iran, are being whacked by the triple whammy of the oil-price collapse, a huge bulge of unemployed youth and paralyzing corruption.

This is the Muslim fanatic’s strategic dream-date.

Pakistan? A bad idea in 1947, it’s a worse idea now. Home to the Islamic bomb and the world’s safest haven for terrorists, this bankrupt, dysfunctional country is the strategic bookie’s odds-on favorite to pose the greatest threat to global security in this generation (there’s competition, though, so spread your bet – win, place or show).

Don’t discount the possibility of a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan, either. India would win and move on, licking its brutal wounds, but Pakistan would dissolve into an Afghanistan without the charming scenery.

Then there’s China, virtually a continent unto itself. For over a decade, I’ve argued that we should worry more about a failing China than a successful one (although the latter poses problems, too). The speed of China’s uneven transformation shattered the age-old architecture of a society once so robust even Mao couldn’t break it completely.

If you want a feel for where China could go, re-read “The Grapes Of Wrath,” multiply the Okies by many millions, worsen their lot, then take away the Joad Family’s jalopy – but give them arms. As a minimum, we’ll witness grim repression.

Mired in the past, Africa could become a model of the future – in the sense that a determined dictator can hold onto power indefinitely through ruthlessness. Hugo Chavez invokes Simon Bolivar, but his real role model is Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.

Economic crises inevitably become political crises. And political crises in fragile states become violent crises. Stirred by firebrand rhetoric and hooked by the absolving taste of blaming their ills on others, put-upon populations default to fundamental ethnic, religious or ideological identities.

The neighbor becomes the enemy. And then the knives come out.

The ultimate cost of this greed-wrought global crisis will not be scored in foreclosures, but in corpses. ExileStreet

courtesy NY Post / copyright 2009 NY Post

Ralph Peters’ latest book is “Looking For Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World.”

Ralph Peters is a retired Army officer and the author of 19 books, as well as of hundreds of essays and articles, written both under his own name and as Owen Parry. He is a frequent columnist for the New York Post and other publications.


  1. nicaragua adventures Says:

    nicaragua adventures…

    Sorry to vent but we have all got to do something about the poverty in the world. Amidst this global crisis the ones suffering the most are the extremely poor. I just returned from 6 months of volunteer work in Nicaragua and it is just insane that so m…

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