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Commentary: Global snafu

By ARNAUD DE BORCHGRAVE, UPI Editor at Large   |   Jan. 31, 2013 at 10:25 AM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- At age 92, he spoke and answered questions without a pause and with a blend of humor and statesmanship. The venue was the Council of Foreign Relations, where he belongs in the pantheon of living American statesmen with Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski.

George Pratt Shultz, a U.S. Marine veteran of World War II, is one of only two individuals to serve in four U.S. Cabinet positions in the U.S. government (Elliot Richardson was the other).

He served as secretary of state for 6 1/2 years.

Now at CFR, in quick succession, Shultz, a quarter of a century since the end of the Cold War, described World War II and the Holocaust as the result of the vindictive terms imposed on Germany after World War I that also triggered the Great Depression.

Here is a synopsis of the views presented by Shultz:

After the second world war, the United States set out to do something better. New ideas spawned the Marshall Plan (1948-52) that was a phenomenal success, propelling victors and vanquished on the road to economic recovery.

The Soviets were offered the same plan but Stalin turned it down. This, in turn, bred containment, and bushels of new ideas sustained by major democracies.

China, meanwhile, emerged from its bloody cultural revolution with two openings -- inside and outside and has made the most of both.

Where are we now? Major global changes are under way as the post-World War II order and its institutions are falling apart at the seams.

We are faced with a world that is radically different from the one the United States dominated 50 years ago.

Europe is trying to cope with a declining population. Russia is in the throes of a demographic catastrophe where men die at 60 and where its long border with an overpopulated China looks vulnerable.

Russia is in the wounded bear mode next to China with interesting demographics that show unemployment growing.

Middle Eastern fertility is still high in young societies where teenagers don't have much to do. A littler entrepreneur in Tunisia two years ago, who died because all he wanted to do was work, triggered an upheaval with the depth and impact of the Communist revolution.

There is chaos in the Arab world. Today, young people can find out anything about everything.

China is trying to suppress the Internet but this is mission impossible.

There is also transnational terrorism and we paid a heavy price for it (on 9/11). We need a more precise and targeted strategy.

The Iraq and Afghan wars were definitely not the way to go about it. They cannot be the template for fighting terrorism.

In Europe, the sense of country is divisive. Trade, monetary and immigration policies were given away, which created chaos they are now trying to live with.

No group of countries seems to put it all together. If the United States isn't involved, nothing consequential will happen.

What has happened to U.S. leadership and our alliances? Our ability to reach out to other countries is seriously impaired.

Shale oil is a golden opportunity to work with others to change the energy picture favorably.

U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower said if we had to import more than 20 percent of our needs we would be in serious trouble. Today we import 45 percent.

Following the 1973 Mideast war, the French and the British were rewarded and the United States was punished. We missed the big time strategic picture. There was a set of things we should have been doing.

We had good ideas with little content and we've been through this same cycle several times.

Now we have fracking technology, or hydraulic fracturing, which allows the extraction of natural gas from shale rock layers a mile below the earth's crust. A regulatory process is now an urgent necessity.

Solar panels are now competitive. Two weeks ago at Stanford large scale storage distributed energy power closer to where we use it.

Also how to get hydrogen out of water inexpensively. This, in the long run, will turn everything around. An ocean is being created that wasn't there before.

At a briefing about all this, the new Chinese premier was scribbling furiously.

On the Middle East, what is our strategy going to be? Egypt may get reasonably representative e government. Syria is obviously behind the curve. They have chem.-bio weapons. I hope we know where they are. The longer this civil war goes on, the more radicalized the situation will be. Syria could fall apart.

Kurds straddle three countries -- Iraq, Syria, Turkey.

We should make clear to Turkey and Jordan we're on their side.

In Iran, sanctions against their secret nuclear weapons program are having a big impact. The country is ruled poorly with bad governance. The rulers must have holes in their heads. Proliferation would be a calamity.

We need better intelligence, which means one has to pal around with unsavory characters. A more aggressive and thoughtful campaign is urgently needed.

(A questioner suggested an assault on Iran would be something we cannot control and therefore containment should be the policy.)

Are you kidding? Our policy is not containment. Iran is a very aggressive

country. They fired at an unarmed drone in international waters and we did nothing.

In 1986, Iran was messing around with international shipping, so we reflagged, boarded ships, sank some and boats came to get their crews. We showed them who's in charge of protecting free passage.

There's something between sanctions and all-out war.

The most dangerous place in the world? India and Pakistan. These two nuclear powers could cut each other up in inelegant fashion. Another Mumbai attack by Pakistani terrorists and India won't show any restraint.

On the U.S. infrastructure crisis, we need a muscular long-term program to reverse the dramatic deterioration we are faced with. It is still headed south.

A public/private partnership must be established that will bring in private money that must have a reasonable rate of return. Yes, some will make a lot of money.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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