Weak Sister

Off the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler

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wasteland
Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  March 24, 2014

 

Was it such a good thing in the post-cold-war decades that the US was regarded as the supreme sole super-power? Look what we did with that privilege: fumbled around like an overfed stumblebum, blundering from one foreign occupation to another, breaking a lot of things and killing a lot of people — under the clownishly-conceived rubric of a “war on terror.”

     Why is it in our interest which way Ukraine tilts? It has been in the Russian orbit for hundreds of years under one administration or another. Are we disappointed now that Kiev won’t answer to the floundering Eurocrats of Brussels? Was that ever a realistic expectation? Really, the best outcome for western Europe would be a return to the prior condition of Ukraine as a mute bearskin rug with oil and gas pipelines running through it to the oil and gas starved West. The idea that the US could supply Europe with oil and gas instead of Russia is a preposterous fantasy. Anybody wondering whether Ukraine might turn its armed forces loose on Russian forces supposedly massing at its border should ask themselves how Ukrainian soldiers will get paid.

     I’m sure Russia can’t afford to annex all of Ukraine. Russia can barely maintain its paved roads. But it obviously couldn’t afford to give up its rented warm water ports and naval bases in the Crimea, either, with the new Kiev government making so much anti-Russian noise since the “revolution.” The annexation of Crimea changes nothing materially about the disposition of Russian military force in the region. They were already there. Given the size of their navy compared to the other nations in the neighborhood, the Black Sea is Russia’s bathtub and has been as long as anyone can remember. Was the brass at the US State Department shocked to discover this two weeks ago?

     The recognition that there are some places on the planet where the US can’t exert its influence has also come as a shock to the so-called American Deep State — that matrix of bureaucratic toxic sludge that labors to pretend to control everything and succeeds mainly in embarrassing itself in a world that is now deeply tending away from the centralized control of anything. Nations are breaking up everywhere and for the moment there is no coherent public discussion of the ramifications. Venice voted the other day to secede from Italy — that is, to not send anymore tax revenue to Rome. That should be interesting. How about Scotland’s independence vote scheduled for September? Judging by the British newspapers, there is next-to-zero concern about that. Then there is the list of failed states, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and probably half the manufactured nations of sub-Saharan Africa, places with no viable economy or polity and too many clamoring poor people. These are parts of the world that will neither develop nor redevelop. In a hundred years they could be no-go zones or just return to howling wilderness.

     The US would be better served these days to literally mind its own business. With Detroit in bankruptcy, why would we send Kiev billions of dollars? American urban infrastructures — water, sewer, gas, and electric lines — are falling apart. We have no idea how we’re going to manage most of the crucial economic activities of daily life in ten years, when the illusions of shale gas and shale evaporate in a dark cloud of disenchantment, when we no longer have an airline industry, and most Americans won’t have the means to own automobiles, and there’s not enough diesel fuel to plow Iowa mega-farms, or enough oil and gas based fertilizers or herbicides to pour into the eroding topsoil, and not enough fossil water left in the Oglala aquifer or enough electricity to run the center-pivot sprinklers where the prairie meets the desert? How are Americans going to live and eat and get from Point A to Point B and keep a roof over our heads in this beat-down land?

    We’re having no conversation about these things and the political landscape in this country is a wasteland of mirages and dust devils. That is the true weakness of the USA now. We’re incapable of seeing the disorder in our own house. Why should we even glance overseas at others?

 

***

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

 

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