One of my more barking posts, when I was in my salad days as a blogger, and green in judgement, was predicting World War Three by Easter (of 2006!). I'm very glad to have been wrong, but I still ponder those elements indicated. I think we have all the ingredients of a messy conflict in place - obviously it requires a certain sort of leadership to actually turn those ingredients into a conflict.
Here is a list of some 'thinking out loud' as to the ingredients:
- the US is strong militarily but weak financially; in essence it is a declining empire;
- in contrast, China is strong financially, regionally strong militarily, and is a growing empire.
Tension here is between a USA that won't - possibly for good reasons - be willing to accept a smaller role, esp in East Asia, and a China that is rapidly asserting itself. You have a lot of other regional powers feeling rather nervous about China, who have traditionally looked to the US for leadership.
This part of the ingredients list is not necessarily conflict-inducing - it depends upon the nature of the leadership being deployed on each side.
Next major bit: Islam and the West. The Iranian situation becomes more scary every month, and it doesn't just scare Israel it scares the Arab states too. Throw in the instability in Iraq (and the vast oil wealth there) and the problems in Afghanistan/Pakistan and the West's options seem very restricted. (For what it's worth I have a growing sense that the UK needs to come out of Afghanistan as soon as possible - the costs are getting larger and the benefits getting smaller the longer it goes on). This is a situation that could literally go 'bang' very quickly.
Will China stay out of any Islam vs West conflict? India? Russia?
The way that public opinion in the US seems to be developing is in a more anti-Muslim direction, with all the attendant dangers. I happen to think that more conflict with the khawarij is inevitable, the question is as to how it is done.
Underlying these two major areas of tension is the economic meltdown that is playing out - and will carry on playing out, along with the random acts of God like the Pakistani floods. Peak Oil will be the heat applied to these ingredients, and will likely make everyone's experience worse.
I wouldn't even be surprised if Argentina had another go at the Falklands...
OK, end of pessimistic train of thought.