Messrs. Bush and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz rant on every TV screen about how
dangerous Saddam is, and that's why we need to launch this war soonest.
I'm sorry but I don't buy it, even if (today's hot news) the Iraqis may have
a drone with a wider wingspan than they're supposed to.
I fully believe they've got some chemo/bio weapons salted away somewhere, but
I still don't see them as
anywhere near the world's or even America's biggest problem.
(Doesn't mean that it mightn't be a good idea to take Saddam out, just that
all these ridiculous lies about how dangerous he is are really getting old.)
In fact, I thought it might be helpful to make a list of things
that are scarier than Saddam.
(Not in any particular order.)
- The Big One - One of these years one of the big West Coast
cities (San Fran, Seattle, Vancouver) is going to get clobbered by a
somewhat overdue earthquake, with carnage that will dwarf that of 9/11.
Are we ready?
I wonder if money diverted from conventional Homeland Security to
disaster preparedness would make a big difference in the aftermath.
- Heroin and Crack - On the street, the price declines as the purity
and availability increase. I've got a little boy growing up.
- India - They've got nuclear weapons, and a ruling party that
skates just this side of racism, and a nuclear-armed enemy next
- Pakistan - Same neighbor situation as the previous, but here
they've got a good old-fashioned military dictatorship after several failed
attempts to get democracy working.
- Russia - Yes, Russia is sort of kind of democratic, but just
try to keep an opposition media outlet going, and a certain proportion of the
population looks back with favor on Stalin, and is supportive of the
brutal, abusive, imperialist war against the Chechens.
And they've got nukes.
- North Korea - Paranoid, delusional, and starving.
- Saudi Arabia - We need this country's oil, and the government is a
corrupt autocratic absolute monarchy that has no place in the twenty-first
century and can't possibly last much longer, and the chances for a graceful
transfer of power to something more civilized don't look real good.
- Israel/Palestine - Right now each side would really rather fight
than make any meaningful compromises, and neither of them can win.
- Abusive Agriculture - Particularly on the meat side of the
business, the Western world's farmers are pumping their products with
antibiotics, hormones, and a witch's brew of other goodies in an uncontrolled
experiment where you and I, dear reader, are the guinea pigs; maybe we'll get
lucky and this won't lead
to some horrible health catastrophe.
- Rich-Country Protectionism - It's really tough to see how the poor
countries of the world are going to pull themselves up through trade
when the EU and the US
are subsidizing their own farmers and building tariff walls against steel,
lumber, and food.
Countries stuck in poverty are breeding grounds for all sorts of
- China - A highly corrupt one-party dictatorship with a yawning
gulf between urban wealth and peasant poverty, an immense military with not
much to do, and territorial claims against its neighbors.
- Water - Large parts of the world, including most of the Western
half of the United States, are using up their water supplies way faster than
they're being regenerated, and it's not going to be pretty when things run
- Global Warming - Imagine hundreds of millions in Bengladesh
retreating before the advancing waters - where are they going to go?
Imagine the desertification of the North-American prairies, what are we
going to eat?
That's just a couple of potential consequences.
Maybe if we denounce Kyoto as unrealistic and look the other way it won't
happen, but the penalties for being wrong are awfully severe.
- Multi-drug-resistant bacteria Some of these have probably already
found a home
in your local hospital, and if you happen to get unlucky after your next
surgery you may replicate the drama and thrills of galloping morbid
infection, just like our grandparents knew, pre-antibiotics.
- Market Turmoil There is reason to expect a wave of big ugly
bankruptcies in the airline industry, the telecom industry, and the energy
distribution industry in the coming weeks or
I don't think our system is set up to handle all this very well, and expect
some ugly main-streeet consequences.
By Tim Bray
I am an employee
of Amazon.com, but
the opinions expressed here
are my own, and no other party
necessarily agrees with them.
A full disclosure of my
professional interests is
on the author page.