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Sinister options

  • Published at 08:11 pm July 30th, 2016
  • Last updated at 08:11 pm July 31st, 2016
One hopes that there will never be a time again when summer temperatures soar to the sizzling 60s across the globe. Unfortunately, they will. Al Gore was right. His apprehension of global warming -- showcased in his Academy Award-winning film An Inconvenient Truth (2006) -- was not personal paranoia. Then, he was dismissed as an eccentric by smug scientists and armchair sceptics. Global warming, as we are learning to our discomfort, is not a one-off phenomenon: It is an unbearable reality. The world is getting hotter -- climatically, and also by osmosis politically. One hopes too that there will never again be a fortnight in international politics as disturbing and disquieting as what the world experienced recently. But there will be, for turmoil under the heavens has descended on earth, never to ascend. In most countries, a referendum is usually called to decide constitutional amendments. Great Britain, bereft of a written constitution, felt bound to implement the masochistic results of her Brexit referendum. One prime minister fell, another replaced him. To the surprise of many, especially victims of his unsparing tongue, Boris Johnson was appointed by Theresa May as her foreign secretary, in the hope that on the job he will learn that “tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy.” In the US, another flaxen extrovert, Donald Trump has been formally confirmed as the Republican candidate for the US presidential elections in November 2016. To many, Trump is no more than a bleached Hugh Hefner, surrounded by a bevy of Playboy bunny blondes (a few of them his wives). Trump’s unstoppable luck may well fulfil Will Roger’s frightening wise-crack that “a fool and his money are soon elected.” His Democrat opponent Hillary Clinton (once a Republican) has a belated shot at becoming president -- a hope she denied herself when she subordinated her ambitions to the presidential aspirations of her husband Bill Clinton. Her record as secretary of state complements the skills of her running mate Tim Caine who speaks fluent Spanish. Together, they plan to target the Hispanic, gender, Afro-American, and minority votes which she hopes will propel her into the White House. If she should succeed, that would create an unprecedented gender divide in geo-politics -- Hillary Clinton in the US, Theresa May in the UK, and Angela Merkel in Germany, facing Putin in Russia, Xi Jinping in China, and Narendra Modi in India. Handbags in the West, holsters in the East. The Cold War, like a revival of some Broadway musical, has been re-scripted, performed by a new cast of state and non-state players. Gone is the innocent conviction Dr Henry Kissinger once held, that only the US has “the capacity to bring about order, to expand prosperity, and to preserve the peace” across the world. His Vietnam and Cambodia have spawned half a hundred failed conflicts and over half a million orphans. Ask the Iraqis, Libyans, Egyptians, Tunisians, Syrians, and Afghans. Ask the Russian President Putin. He chafes, a coiled Samson. His blindness is colour-blindness. He sees only red, even in America’s red, white, blue. Western leaders err in underestimating him. They taunt him as German chancellor Angela Merkel did in a press conference. They provoke him through the bars NATO has planted in an arc on his western borders. They humiliate him with a last-minute threat of exclusion from the Rio Olympic Games on a stale accusation of “state-sponsored doping” of Russian athletes. No wonder he simmers, a human cauldron bubbling with revenge, plotting retaliation whenever, wherever, however he can. Ask US’s CENTO ally Turkey. Its president Erdogan has no doubts about who sponsored the coup against him. He accuses the US of nurturing Fethullah Gülen, his former deputy-turned-foe. Gülen enjoys US hospitality in exile as Ayatollah Khomeini did in France for 15 years until 1979, when he returned to Tehran, after the Shah of Iran had been cleared away like some unsightly debris. Turkey is the common bond between the equally unlamented General President Pervez Musharraf and the Sharif brothers. To them, Turkey represented a beardless version of Saudi Arabia, secularism without sin. Will the coup in Turkey be a lesson for the Sharifs? Unlikely. They have no opponents in exile abroad. They themselves were the last of that breed. They need not root out disloyal generals. They have only one migraine -- COAS Raheel Shareef -- and his extension lies in the prime minister’s hands. They do not need to call their electorate onto the streets. The landslide results in Azad J&K elections are endorsement enough of their PML-N. The public though is fickle by instinct. “The best lack conviction,” WB Yeats wrote in his poem The Second Coming, “whilst the worst are full of passionate intensity.” Will the American electorate prove him wrong?