I recently finished reading Ernst Junger's Storm of Steel and Holbrooke's reference to August 1914 should make us all stand up and give a shit about what Bush, Rice, Rove et al. have done to the world.
Two full-blown crises, in Lebanon and Iraq, are merging into a single emergency. A chain reaction could spread quickly almost anywhere between Cairo and Bombay. Turkey is talking openly of invading northern Iraq to deal with Kurdish terrorists based there. Syria could easily get pulled into the war in southern Lebanon. Egypt and Saudi Arabia are under pressure from jihadists to support Hezbollah, even though the governments in Cairo and Riyadh hate that organization. Afghanistan accuses Pakistan of giving shelter to al-Qaeda and the Taliban; there is constant fighting on both sides of that border. NATO's own war in Afghanistan is not going well. India talks of taking punitive action against Pakistan for allegedly being behind the Bombay bombings. Uzbekistan is a repressive dictatorship with a growing Islamic resistance.
The only beneficiaries of this chaos are Iran, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda and the Iraqi Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr, who last week held the largest anti-American, anti-Israel demonstration in the world in the very heart of Baghdad, even as 6,000 additional U.S. troops were rushing into the city to "prevent" a civil war that has already begun.
This combination of combustible elements poses the greatest threat to global stability since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, history's only nuclear superpower confrontation. The Cuba crisis, although immensely dangerous, was comparatively simple: It came down to two leaders and no war. In 13 days of brilliant diplomacy, John F. Kennedy induced Nikita Khrushchev to remove Soviet missiles from Cuba.
Kennedy was deeply influenced by Barbara Tuchman's classic, "The Guns of August," which recounted how a seemingly isolated event 92 summers ago -- an assassination in Sarajevo by a Serb terrorist -- set off a chain reaction that led in just a few weeks to World War I. There are vast differences between that August and this one. But Tuchman ended her book with a sentence that resonates in this summer of crisis: "The nations were caught in a trap, a trap made during the first thirty days out of battles that failed to be decisive, a trap from which there was, and has been, no exit."
Preventing just such a trap must be the highest priority of American policy. Unfortunately, there is little public sign that the president and his top advisers recognize how close we are to a chain reaction, or that they have any larger strategy beyond tactical actions.
excerpt from: The Guns Of August
By Richard Holbrooke
Washington Post, 10 Aug 2006