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Week in Review

This week’s essay took its inspiration from the anguished wails of George Monbiot, one of the world’s leading environmentalists and a writer for the left-leaning Guardian. Pointedly proclaiming that the latest round of the Rio Earth Summit is “rubbish”, he goes on to bemoan that militant activism has all but been extinguished. “So this is the great question of our age: where is everyone?” he pleads. It turns out, if they’re protesting in China or India or Iran, they’re protesting for better living conditions, stronger economies and more liberty. Expecting these people to forget their own concerns and to start demanding “Less!” instead of “More!” is indescribably dumb, but for green intellectuals that is par for the course. Monbiot is right to despair about the dead end nature of environmentalist politics at the moment, but if he wants to understand what’s gone wrong and to change it, he needs to spend less time throwing stones at those he deems insufficiently virtuous and more time looking in the mirror.

And the truth is, even if we were listening to the likes of Mr. Monbiot, we could be substantially worse off than we are now: European countries who have adopted carbon targets and curbs have largely failed to curb emissions, while the United States, which has done no such thing, could be on track to cut its emissions by 17% by 2020. And there’s the whole “brown jobs” benefit as well, not to be trifled with in fickle economic times.

The twin stories in the Middle East were the ongoing mess in Syria and the glacial Thermidor in Egypt. A Turkish jet was shot down, supposedly over Syrian airspace, and the Turks took the news calmly, by Turkish standards anyway. The White House can now probably cross off any hope of “leading from behind”. Turkey seems unlikely (though this could change) to send in the troops against Assad. The killing continues and the hate builds while the world stares at a growing pile of dashed hopes for a workable solution. Next up: multiparty talks?

In Egypt, the standoff between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military reached fever pitch, with the Brotherhood mounting ever-larger protests against the army’s steady consolidation of power. It’s not clear which side’s triumph would serve America’s national interests best. From a regional stability perspective, the “creeping coup” might even prevent an eruption of renewed hostilities with Israel over the Sinai, but corrupt dictatorships fail in so many ways and create so many other problems that “wait and see” may be the only sensible approach.

And talks with Iran seemed to break down, again.

President Obama now faces an ever more daunting task of talking tough without scaring his domestic base with the threat of another war in the Middle East.

Updates to the Asian Great Game: America looked at expanding its naval presence in the region, eyeing bases inThailand, Vietnam, and New Zealand, while China angled to bring the Federated States of Micronesia closer to its orbit. Meanwhile, China’s manufacturing sector seemed to be slowing down, and the reliability of many of its widely-reported economic indicators was called into question.

And in the week’s least surprising news, the EU leaders failed once again to solve the euro problem.

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  • Kris

    “Pointedly proclaiming that the latest round of the Rio Earth Summit is ‘rubbish'”.

    We’ll just have to amputate it then.

  • Kris

    I’ll take advantage of this post for the following off-topic comment: It seems to have been a while since I last saw regular commenter Toni. You still there?

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