BEYOND THE COAST
I read a number of international newspapers, magazines and watch and listen to international news every day. It is important to be aware of the international environment because one way or the other all international events affect our day to day lives here in America. We do not live in a vacuum and every decision we make at work or at home needs to take world events into consideration.
I follow the speeches given by world leaders, their interactions with other world leaders and make my own mind up about where we are headed as a nation. Where we have been is as important as where we are going and that is where the importance of history comes in. Historical events foreshadow future events and if we are fully aware of our history, as well as world history, we may be able to interpret events better and make clear decisions which will affect our lives for a long time to come.
It has been my privilege to attend some recent lectures by important leaders in America. I paid close attention to their observations and I was prompted to think about future threats to America. Events which may shape the world in the next ten years are very important and as Americans, we must pay close attention to these developments. After compiling my notes from different lectures, I have listed the top six areas of great importance to America and the world.
IRAN: Whatever happens in Iran or about Iran in the next two years is of vital importance. Iran poses an immediate threat to her neighbors with its pursuit of nuclear weapons. “Wiping Israel off the map of the world” is not the only threat Iran poses. This is a most unstable society run by close minded fanatic Mullahs who interpret everything through the prism of their religious beliefs. The threat is also internal. What if Iran starts to fall apart, the Mullahs lose their grip on society as a result of the sanctions imposed on them by the West? With all the nuclear facilities intact and a government in tatters, no one can predict with certainty what Iran will look like in two years. They are the financiers and arms suppliers of all rogue regimes in the area and wield immeasurable and potentially harmful influence on them. Iran is the major exporter of radical Islamic revolutionary thought throughout the region. If Iran falls apart, what will happen to the many terrorist groups who depend on Iran’s support? There may indeed be chaos in the Middle East and North Africa as well as in Central Asia.
CHINA: China is an economic giant. But when one looks at a map of this vast country, one will immediately notice that ninety percent of China’s economy is shared by only 10 percent of her landmass and population. Once you get away from the mega cities and industrial centers, China is a rural country with masses and masses of people living in desperate conditions, depending on handouts from a giant government which rules every move these citizens make. If China cannot sustain the ten percent growth in their economy over the next five years, they will be in trouble. A noticeable slowdown in the economy of China made the headlines throughout the week in the West. China is experiencing many internal problems which are not always reflected the rest of the world. Power struggles at the top, shady business dealings of local Chinese officials, murder plots are coming to the surface day by day as social media takes hold in this highly controlled society. Muslim insurgencies in Western provinces, the ever growing income gap within her population and endless consumer demand may cause the implosion of the entire Chinese economy and this may not bode well for the rest of the world who are now dependent on Chinese monetary aid and cheap Chinese goods to satisfy their consumer societies. This of course includes us. We owe trillions of dollars to China and we are their number one market. An economic collapse in America as a result of our fifteen trillion dollar debt will result in shrinkage of this huge consumer market and will directly affect China’s economy.
MEXICO: Closer to home, Mexico is a huge threat to America’s economic future. Uncontrollable drug trade and wars threaten Mexico’s stability. Drug cartels rule the day in many of its states and the central government is either helpless to fight them or they are complicit in their activities. Cooperation between our two governments in fighting the cartels is not only necessary but it is vital. North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) can’t survive without a stable Mexican economy. Lack of jobs in America is pushing thousands of jobless Mexican laborers back to Mexico which increases joblessness south of the border. If the situation in Mexico is not stabilized or even resolved in the next five years, it will threaten our economy and safety.
CYBER THREATS: One of the most under-stressed problems we are facing is cyber threats. Every day foreign and domestic hackers break into vital computer systems in the USA, disrupting our banking system, military operations and even the electrical grid. This does not get as much ink as other problems only because cyber threats do not directly affect the average citizen in America. That is to say, not yet. On the other side of this coin, cyber terrorism works to our advantage as well. Israeli security agency Mosad was able to hack into Iranian nuclear facilities’ computer systems which put the Iranians months if not years behind in achieving their goal of obtaining nuclear weapons. Same could be done to our security systems by unfriendly nations and cause a total collapse of our economy. Thwarting cyber threats in the next five years will be the most important defensive mechanism America will have to worry about.
TERRORISM: Killing Osama Bin Laden was a great victory for the United States; however, it only slowed down the terror threats but did not end them. Terrorists never sleep, never stop working and never give up their violent acts. As one general once said, “we have to be right every time; whereas the terrorists have to be right only once.” Terrorists’ goals are simple; create terror, scare the population and cause as much damage as possible with as little effort as possible. We can’t live in constant fear of being terrorized. Twelve years ago it took us 10 minutes to walk through the doors of an airport, go through some metal detectors and walk into a waiting airplane. Now, it takes almost an hour of waiting in line, agents going through our luggage, taking our shoes off, subjecting ourselves to full body searches and finally getting to our gate. Airplanes are thoroughly searched before each flight and checked-in luggage subjected to x-ray searches. The more security measures we take, the more new and improved methods of terrorizing us are invented by the terrorist groups. It is almost an endless fight. Just last week, we found out that Al-Qaeda in Yemen produced a new and improved “underwear bomb.” As we learn from our mistakes and improve our security measures, so does the enemy. In the next five years, unless millions upon millions of dollars are spent on upgrading our airport security measures, we will be subjected to massive terror attacks. War on terror is not likely to be over soon.
RUSSIA. This is a declining society ruled by a despot operating under the guise of democracy. Ten percent of Russians, mostly “friends of President Putin and oligarchs” own ninety percent of the country’s wealth. Russia no longer poses a direct military threat to America yet it is a force to be reckoned with in the Middle East and Central Asia where it still exerts some degree of economic power. Russia’s economy is fueled by exports of oil. According to economists, Russia needs oil prices to reach around $ 150.00 a barrel to economically survive the next five years. A decline to around $ 80.00 a barrel may bankrupt this vast country. A weak Russia is actually not good for our foreign policy. In the next five years, cooperation between our two countries in resolving international issues will be of utmost importance.
To survive the remainder of the first half of this century economically and still be the leader of the free world, America has to stay strong both militarily and economically to withstand the outside pressures. Social stability within the borders of the USA is of critical importance in the coming years. Should our economic downturn continue, our job market not improve and the gap between various sectors of our population grow further apart, we may start experiencing social unrest and uncomfortable days ahead of us.
Tarik Ayasun is presently President of the Marco Island Charter Middle School; Board member of the Marco Island Police Foundation and the Marco Island Rotary Club, he has given many years of community service to various organizations.