“Iran’s breakout timeline is now at zero.”
What will historians make of the decade which began innocuously enough in 2020?
The sun was setting on a reasonably prosperous, mostly peaceful previous decade. At least, it was a decade when U.S. military conflicts- like Afghanistan and the War on Terror- were a comfortable distance away.
The economy was on track and picking up. Unlike European Union nations, which had been experiencing anemic GDP growth in the 1.5%-2% ballpark, the American economy engine was revving.
At the beginning of 2020, wage gains were looking good- for once. Average household income was up; unemployment was at historic lows.
Then COVID19 hit our shores and everything changed.
Well first, basketball legend Kobe Bryant was tragically killed in a helicopter crash, along with his young daughter, and several others. Kobe Bryant might have been holding the fabric of the universe together, because immediately after that, a word most of us had never even spoken before became, for so many, a byword, a lifestyle, a completely new set of habits that have some of us, even as COVID19 death counts continue to fall, still afraid of flying on an airplane, not for fear of crashes, but for fear of catching COVID19.
COVID19 transformed the American landscape, our lifestyles, and our economy in ways we are only beginning to understand and feel.
Some of the major downsides of globalization have emerged; an economy dependent on a 10,000-mile, petroleum fueled supply line is more vulnerable than we could have ever imagined in the event of, say, a pandemic or major military conflict.
The conflict in Ukraine turned a problem into a catastrophe that has American mothers writing heartbreaking, first-hand accounts of their travails finding food for their infants, among other things.
Pain at the pump is only the jumping-off point. While the well-off and wealthy celebrities lecture about the joys of electric cars, most average working-class American families cannot afford to replace their car at the moment, even if the price of used cars wasn’t elevated by a whopping 30%, like so many other things we buy. That is, if you can even find a used car; let alone an electric or hybrid vehicle.
The surfeit of quality, affordable used cars is a good encapsulation of some of the problems besetting our supply lines.
Manufacturing snarls, supply delays, plant shut downs during the worst of COVID19 caused shortages and a ripple effect down the pipeline. Without a lot of shiny new cars to choose from, more people held on to cars they would have otherwise traded-in.
And not just individuals. Car rental companies, a major supplier of used cars in America, couldn’t replace their fleets as usual, either, and so held on to their cars, too.
None of this has much to do with politics, unless you are of the opinion that shut-downs were unnecessary and politically motivated in the first place.
But that just don’t bear up under scrutiny; nationwide, both Republicans, including former-President Donald Trump, who was President when the widespread U.S. closures began, and Democrats contributed to shut-downs and the closing of non-essential businesses.
Worldwide, governments running the gamut from conservative to liberal took all manner of measures, with political affiliation having seemingly very little to do with it.
Whether shut-downs were sensible, or end up costing us much more in terms of consequences and loss of life, remains to be seen in the fullness of time.
The fact that they weakened the nations of the world, including the U.S., isn’t in doubt.
Having off-shored the majority of its manufacturing and energy needs long ago in a glut of globalization, the U.S.- like many other nations- lacks the production infrastructure to support itself.
With the wealthiest and most powerful nations in the world suffering under the brunt of COVID19 and COVID19 mitigation measures, it was only a matter of time before some enterprising would-be dictator and modern-day Napoleon saw an unmissable opportunity.
With the world distracted and greatly weakened by COVID19, and in some cases like the U.S., no small amount of political, social, and criminal unrest, Putin’s road into Ukraine was clear, perhaps as clear as ever it could be.
We thought we were experiencing COVID19 among friends; we thought we, as a nation, were in this with every other nation on earth and could therefore afford to take measures we knew would weaken the U.S. in the short and long-term.
We were wrong.
Putin was the first to see the opportunity for conquest afforded by COVID19.
He might not be the last.
Putin was moving on Ukraine for over a decade before COVID19. It was no secret he had designs on the country; looking back, that he would escalate the conflict, given such an excellent chance, seems so obvious.
In China, the Chinese Communist Party, helmed by Xi Jinping- and his successor Xi Jinping- has similar designs on Taiwan. Like Russia with the Ukraine, the CCP has been engaged in a warfare campaign against Taiwan for over a decade. Hacking, cyber-attacks, undermining cultural institutions and political parties by sowing disinformation via vast content farms; attacks on economy and infrastructure have been ongoing.
Will Xi Jinping be the next opportunist to seize the opportunities afforded by COVID-weakened super-powers?
Or will it be the extremist rulers of Iran?
“The U.N. nuclear watchdog’s 35-nation Board of Governors overwhelmingly passed a resolution criticizing Iran for failing to explain uranium traces found at three undeclared sites,” reported Reuters on June 8, 2022, citing, “diplomats at a closed-door meeting.”
“Iran has crossed a new, dangerous threshold; Iran’s breakout timeline is now at zero.” David Albright and Sarah Burkhard of the Institute for International Security wrote on June 1, 2022. “It has enough 60 percent enriched uranium (HEU) to be assured it could fashion a nuclear explosive. If Iran wanted to further enrich its 60 percent HEU up to weapon-grade HEU, or 90 percent, it could do so within a few weeks with only a few of its advanced centrifuge cascades.”
It’s a sobering warning for a world which seems to almost have forgotten the threat posed by Iran.
Will we heed this warning before it’s too late?
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)