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America vs. The World

The big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart. — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Int'l Power Rankings | 10.10.06 Edition

The Politically Incorrect International Power Rankings

Power Rankings and political incorrectness go hand in hand—after all, who’s to say that one country is more important than another? But the fact is, some nations are more powerful than others, some really don’t matter at all on the international stage, and some could really use a swift kick in the ass.

So for this fourth installation of the International Power Rankings, let’s spice things up a bit with a rare dose of brutal honesty. Grab a drink, kick back and read the brutally honest truth about the world’s 25 most significant countries.

Previous rankings:   6.19.06 | 7.5.06 | 8.28.06

1. America. A half dozen books on international power politics have taught me three basic things: A) Though historically unique in many ways, the United States is undeniably an empire. B) Events of the past 15 years suggest that the United States fits the classic mold of an empire in decline. C) Empires do not decline gracefully.

2. China. In 1997, I made a $20,000 wager with a friend, betting that China would surpass the United States either militarily or economically within 50 years. Most political analyses point to the year 2045 as a good over-under. That’s right—if you want to predict the future, follow the gamblers.

3. Russia. Let’s face it—Russians enjoy watching America squirm over Iran. After all, America hasn’t done much to help Russia prosper under democracy or capitalism, and now the Russian people are understandably bitter and untrusting. As a result, we can probably expect them to root for any future challengers to America’s global prominence from now on.

4. Japan. New prime minister means new opportunity to warm things up with China. I suggest his first diplomatic move should be to NOT VISIT THAT DAMN WWII WAR DEAD SHRINE. Seriously. Oh, and get an air force already.

5. France. It’s quite possible that within three or four generations, America will be nothing more than a second tier power in the shadow of a massive empire or two, at which point we’ll have to get better at using shrewd diplomacy to balance delicate alliances slightly in our favor. In other words, we’re gonna be France someday, so we may as well take notes now.

6. Britain. I miss Tony Blair already—particularly the old school Tony Blair, who was little more than a witty, Clintonesque playboy always one step away from a sex scandal. Politics are just so much more fun when they involve sex scandals, dontcha think?

7. Germany. When is Germany going to grow a pair and stop being France’s bitch in EU matters? They’re like that cartoon gangster’s sidekick who’s bigger and stronger than the head guy, and you just sit back and wonder why he always takes the abuse.

8. India. Why does America support a nuclear India? Because when the day comes that a Sino-Russian alliance starts divvying up Asia, we’ll need the world’s largest democracy on our side. So enjoy the nukes, boys, and let us know if we can get you anything else.

9. Pakistan. Musharraf better not fucking get shot. That’s all I have to say.

10. Iran. America will not—I repeat, will not—attack Iran before 2008. We just don’t have the resources to follow through. To bad they don’t have a strong, relatively secular neighbor willing to stand up to them… oh wait, they used to! Remember Saddam “Buffer” Hussein?

11. Italy. If I were Italy, and I was watching the highfalutin trio of France, Germany and Britain enjoy their global role as the E3, I’d rally the other E22 and establish myself as top dog. I’m sure they could at least get Poland on board.

12. Israel. All those people wishing Prime Minister Olmert out of office over the Lebanon fiasco should understand that if elections were held today, Likud leader Bibi Netanyahu would probably win. For those who don’t know him, Netanyahu’s hawkish rhetoric makes Ariel Sharon look like Gandhi.

13. South Korea. Up Arrow So your boy Ban Ki-moon is about to become the next Secretary General of the UN. Big whoop. Ghana just had Kofi Annan in there for the past 10 years, and what did that do for Ghana?

14. Turkey. Up Arrow A Christian Turk hijacked a plane as a “stay away” message to the Pope. So now what—does the Pope cancel? Or does he visit, and risk getting shot? When these are issues in Turkey of all places, you know we’re in trouble.

15. Brazil. Down Arrow First I called Brazil a potential superpower. Then a regional leader. By now, let’s just say they’re the world’s most powerful Portuguese-speaking country. (Portugal’s a not-too-distant second.)

16. Australia. Up Arrow I love Australia. They seem to get it. Maybe we should start prisoner colonies on distant islands more often.

17. Canada. Down Arrow Canada is like that pothead neighbor who might have a lot of potential, but is far more interested in being comfortable than accomplishing anything.

18. Saudi Arabia. Up Arrow Let’s see if those Saudis come through for W and lower those gas prices just a little bit more. While we’re at it, why don’t we just kill two birds with one stone and convert gas stations into voting booths this November?

19. Poland. Alliances and diplomat conflict with America and France (respectively) make Poland look like a big man on campus. Perhaps they should be a little more concerned with Russia, Ukraine and Georgia making noise in their own backyard.

20. Egypt. Down Arrow When it came to Israel and Hezbollah, Egypt gambled on mediation and lost. Now they’ve lost international clout as well as street cred in their own cities. But without oil, they still need American financial support to keep them afloat. What a shitty position to be in.

21. Venezuela. Hugo Chavez is becoming an extremely popular anti-American world leader, polling highest among Middle Easterners—may of whom prefer him to their own leaders. Kinda wish we paid more attention to Latin America now, huh?

22. Mexico. You ever wish Mexico would just take over all those little Central American countries so we wouldn’t have to remember so many names? Would anyone really notice?

23. North Korea. Up Arrow Kim Jung-il is the saddest excuse for a world leader there ever was—and yet, his little game of nuclear blackmail will, at some point, probably end up paying off.

24. Ukraine. Up Arrow Life in Eastern Europe is so much easier when you just kiss Russia’s ass.

25. Syria. Down Arrow When America’s neocons realize they can’t make a military move on Iran, you think they’ll take it out on Syria? Mark my word: Bashar al-Assad will be a household name by 2008.

Close, but no cigar: Palestine, South Africa, Indonesia, Spain, Belgium. (Yes, that Belgium.)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Republicans Lie, Or How I Created Deal Breakers and Learned I Really Love Liberals

In honor of her day off, Mandasaurus brings Friday Chick Blogging to a - eeeek! - Monday. It's sure to cure your case of the Mondays or bring brightness to your celebration of Columbus and the woe he brought to America in 1492.

I'm open to just about anything. I give peace a chance. I try new and different foods. I read Parade Magazine on Sundays alongside the Washington Post Magazine (this proves openness, somehow).

But in the wide, wacky world of dating, I've drawn the line. Every dating person has a list: deal breakers. I won't date Republicans. And actually, I don't date people with strict loyalty to silly parties like the Green Party, Libertarians and the others. I also don't date people who spoil things for others by revealing information like who dies in the Harry Potter books.

This is not harsh. It's essential. My experience has taught me the wisdom of deal breakers.

Here's a secret. In college I had a Republican Crush. My R.C. seemed fun, had goofy hair, and let me visit an election returns party for his Republican club as a reporter. Months later I met the R.C. again at a bar. My friend's friend was dating his friend. So, the Republican and I chatted, flirted, drank cocktails and smooched. Whoa, I thought, I could date this cool Republican*.

Weeks later the R.C. (widely known henceforth by a much meaner nickname) lied to his friends about me! He told his friends terrible lies about me. He attacked my character. He told people I really liked him, which obviously was impossible. I don't like liars who besmirch me.

In short, the R.C. acted like a Republican. He told lies and made a smart, sassy, awesome woman appear to be a foolish, slutty idiot. Of course my friends didn't believe the Republican's nonsense, and I couldn't really blame him. It's like blaming a snake for biting. That's what snakes do, silly mouse.

Years later, I dated a sweet engineer who brought me flowers and drank Bass Ale. We got along like peas and carrots (he cooked me lasagna!) until the U.S. invaded Iraq. Quickly, I ended things. And then he called.

"Did you break up with me because I'm a Republican?" he asked, as the start of my first and only breakup debriefing.

"Oh, well, hmmmm. Yes," I replied, eventually.

I also refused to continue dating a Libertarian who asked me out on a bus and admitted he was balding over beers. And Bostonian claimed he "thought things over and now changed" into a Democrat. That won him my phone number, but no smooching.

Whenever I hear Republicans lie, I can't help but think back to my crush. It's wrong and it's hurting America, but I can't expect a tiger to change his stripes, not in dating at least.

But here's the lesson. We Americans can expect congressmen, appointed officials and public servants to change their stripes. It's their job. Lying isn't cool. It's not cool to lie about a hot chick. And it's really not cool to lie about whether you know about a congressman flirting with underage pages.

What I'm saying is that honesty is the best policy.

And while we're being honest, as bad as Republicans are at telling the truth -- they're really bad kissers.

* That's a trick! And it's a sign I wasn't thinking logically. Republicans aren't cool.
Jeff Goldstein is a wanker.