What an exciting debut for the world of your personal education! I received four quality questions yesterday, and I will attempt to answer them all right now, based on my expert knowledge of the issues.
Our first question comes from "Amy":
1. can you explain to me what this whole palin troopergate investigation is about?
Sure, you bet! "Troopergate" is a classic example of someone mildly abusing executive power, but unfortunately, it's an abuse of power you can't help but be mildly sympathetic to - even if you hate Sarah Palin.
The basic story is that Sarah's sister was married to some abusive asshole, who was a decent state trooper but a pretty shitty husband. I'm not sure if he was physically abusive or just emotionally abusive - I think it was the latter - but obviously, the dude was not a good brother in law. The sister and this asshole trooper split up, and he might have kept harrassing the sister (I'm not sure about that bit, you can google that crap). Point is, Sarah got this dude shitcanned.
Oh wait - looks like I was wrong - this "gate" is about as interesting to me personally as "travelgate" (that is to say, uninteresting). What Sarah did was put pressure on the state police chief [CORRECTION: my mom points out he was the Public Safety Commissioner - my bad], some guy called Monegan, to fire the brother-in-law, named Wooten. Monegan was like, "No, sorry he's an asshole but he's a good trooper" so Sarah was all "Ok have fun getting a new job Monegan bye bye" and shitcanned him.
Let's be honest - this isn't really the most scandalous Governor behavior of all time, even though it is unethical to be honest. I do think if Ellie Spitzer has to lose his job over fucking some hookers Sarah Papay should get her ass booted out too - but this is Alaska, where "the machine" is still pretty fucking powerful, whereas New York State has a pretty stable two-party system in place where Governors can't get away with shit like that.
The real troopergate scandal is that Sarah and the other Repubs up there have tried to derail the investigation into it. Certainly the Alaksa Dems, and they are a growing force indeed, would love to have this investigation be ongoing in the 39 days left until we elect our sacrificial President, but the investigation has already been pushed aside. It's been authorized by the legislature, so they can push it off until post-election, which is a done deal at this point, although I don't think they managed to shitcan the guy who started the investigation (Mr. French, dunno his first name).
Point is: troopergate is gonna be about as effective as travelgate, i.e., something that makes Dems cranky even though they don't really understand it, and won't bother Repubs or your ordinary "swing" voter very much at all, and eventually it'll be forgotten because there's already WAY better Palin scandals out there, such as the fact "bridge to nowhere no thanks but money to nowhere yes please gate" and the fact that she can't speak English, just like our Dubya.
READING RECOMMENDATION: all the major news networks are gonna keep up with this shit. I stand by the NY Times for printing the most thorough investigations of this sorta BS, regardless of who originally prints it. And I'm sure wonkette.com will have plenty of comedy on the issue, as will gawker.
Our next THREE questions come from "My Dad":
what should be done in the Pakistani border region/Pakistan situation in general?
Whoo, that's a good question. Gotta admit I haven't been following the Pakistan/Afghan situation as well as I would like since Terrifying Election and Financial Meltdown '08 started, but if I was unemployed I'd know every last detail, and I still know enough to provide y'all with an "expert" answer.
First off, you can't understand what's going on in the Tribal Areas without understanding the history of the region from WAY back when. Let's start with the BCs, when Aryans (the real ones, not the phony German ones) swept out of the Caucasus high outta their minds on hallucinogens with some bitchin' war gods and conquered the most fertile shit they could find, Northern India (basically the Indus and Ganges river valleys). They pushed the original people down south, where the Dravidian culture flourished in obscurity and CONTINUES to do so to this day. Very important!
The Aryans absorbed some of the dravidian gods, mixed in their own, and became Hindus. They stopped conquering things and instead built one of the most impressive civilizations of all time. That was all cool and shit 'til the muslims came to town. I gotta admit I can't recall when Mahmoud of Ghazni first swept down and brought Islam to Northern India, but he did so with some considerable damage. This is around 1000 BCE or so.
Still, India's just too fertile for even a crazy ass monotheistic religion like Islam to be all violent for too long, and soon, under the Mughals and others (plenty of good invasions during these years), India in assorted forms was a classy world power, with lots of good architecture and a whole new religion, Sikhism, which fused Islam and Hinduism (how the fuck they did that task is pretty impressive, too). So basically, Northern India remains mostly Hindu but is dominated by Islam for a long time.
And bear in mind when we say "India" we are including "Pakistan" and "Bangladesh" in this shit. They are part of India until the 20th century. This is a very important thing to bear in mind.
Anyways, the British come in (some other Eurotrash too), wreck the shit and make India the "Jewel in the Crown" for a long time. And of course, when they leave, BROKE as SHIT after WW2, which is why the British Empire collapsed btw, they leave a big fucking mess. India is still united, but assorted antagonisms between Hindus and Muslims break out. When I implied earlier that India under the Mughals was peaceful and prosperous, I meant relatively. You can't stick two religions in the same room for too long without them trying to kill each other. Only China's ever really done that shit for an extended period of time. See Ireland and contemporary Iraq for some more awesome inter-demoninational fighting.
Point is, the Brits leave and the Hindus are sort of ostensibly in control, but they agree to split up into Hindu India and Moslem Pakistan (incl. Bangladesh). Sounds ok, except there's still a fuckload of muslims left in northern India. It isn't too long until 3 motherfucking huge wars are fought in the latter half of the 20th century between India and Pakistan, one of them resulting in the peeling off of Bangladesh from Pakistan (because they're all, "Yo, we're way the fuck over here and it floods all the time, what's up with you guys" among other issues).
So now we get to the good shit, the meat of the contemporary issue. Pakistan is run alternately by pretty damn corrupt civilizations, including the first Bhutto, and the Pakistani military, rated then as now as highly efficient and well maintained. Zia al-Huq deposes Bhutto right when the commies invade Afghanistan.
A note on invading Afghanistan: it can't be done. I mean, it can get invaded, but then the invader is going to get his ass kicked so hard by the Afghanis that there is just no hope. The British tried twice, the Russians tried once, we're trying it now, and there's just no fucking way. The Afghans are seriously hardcore. Way harder than much of the muslim world. Plus, that terrain is intense and hella mountainous.
Ok, so, the commies invade Afghanistan in the '80s, and Zia's all, "Yo, can I get a little jihad in this joint?" and then the Gipper and this crazy-ass Congressman Charlie Wilson (a Democrat, FYI) are all "Hell yeah! I'll bring the hookers and here's a huge ass shit-ton of small arms". So the Russians get their asses kicked, but when it comes time to reconstruct Afghanistan the Gipper and George H. W. Bush are all, "Oops, sorry, major financial crisis caused by our last decade of binge spending, sorry, can't help ya bye." And the Afghans, who are pretty much cousins of the Northern Pakistanis (the "tribal areas") are all "WHAT THE FUCK," and Zia gets toppled (assassinated? I can't believe I can't recall this offhand) and guess who takes over? My homegirl, Bhutto's daughter, Benazir - the lady who got shot last year.
Ok, so, Afghanistan kinda middles along in the 90s, a total mess, and Pakistan does alright but tensions with India continue (including some MAJOR riots and destruction, mostly in India proper, on both sides of the aisle, fighting over temples which the Hindus see as holy and the Moslems see as pagan - and to be fair, there's blame on both sides but the Hindu violence is WAY more grisly and destructive). Benazir Bhutto is majorly corrupt and her coalitions keep collapsing to a dude by the name of Nawaz Sharif.
A word about Bhutto and Sharif - while Zia al-Huq is in power, all military ruling that shit, Bhutto is off in, I believe, London (maybe Paris), being all Western and plotting to return to power (or, rather, return her family to power). She's well educated and well liked by elites and buys nice handbags, etc. Meanwhile, Sharif is a classic Reformer Muslim, sort of like a Protestant Populist in this shitty country. I.e., he's the "clean" government type opposed to the excesses of the West as well as military rule, etc. The coalition of gov't keeps swinging back and forth between Sharif and Bhutto this whole time, and they both are totally corrupt, but additionally Sharif's foreign policy moves are kind of nuts and bring tensions with India to a head many many times.
Another historical note - Pakistan, esp. under Zia but just in general - is a major recipient of American aid, while India, though much more democratic than Pakistan, gets Soviet aid. Of course, this is no longer the case, but does explain the tensions - massive arm sales to both over the years. Now America sells arms to BOTH countries! We are crafty fuckers!
So Bhutto and Sharif keep dukin' it out and eventually the people are kinda "fuck this," at which point guess who steps in? A name you might recognize: Pervez Musharraf. And guess whose protege he is? You got it, Zia al-Huq! God I love this kind of shit.
Anyways, Musharraf combines the best elements of maintaining order while everyone starves with a totally horrible foreign policy and respect to civil institutions. His dismisses the independent judiciary, which, despite Pakistan's problems, is right up there with its military in terms of respectability - Pakistan produces more lawyers than any country in Asia, if I'm not mistaken, and Pakistani attorneys are well regarded by bar associations here in the US of A.
So life continues to suck for your average Pakistani, and what's going on up in Afghanistan? That's right, those leftover mujihadeen we thought it would be SUCH A GOOD IDEA to ARM THE FUCK OUT OF during the Soviet-Afghan conflict... the Taliban! My fave! They totally sweep over Afghanistan, bringing their intense value set with them, and impose order.
Now, Afghanistan has been sucking even worse than Pakistan all these years. Afghanistan is majority Pashtun, but up north there are some Uzbeks and Tajiks and other things, and everyone's all, "Can we stop starving to death and being looted by assorted factions, please?" so the Taliban's all, "Sure, we can use these American arms and NEW arms sent by our pals in Pakistan, which is also basically Pashtun in the North, to totally conquer this shit and lay down the law." And they do so and it's all good. Until, of course, some rich Arab called Osama bin Laden starts this crazy "Al Qaida" thing going and says to the Taliban, "Can I crash with you guys? I'm a hella nutso extremist too."
And then funny - and deeply misunderstood - thing about that proposition is, that the Taliban is all, "Well, maybe. Just cause we cut the arms off of women who wear earrings and whatnot doesn't mean we want to associate with nutjobs like you, we're more about the 'ruling Afghanistan' rather than the 'global jihad' thing," but what the hell, Osama's got street cred and when the pro-American types get in touch with the Taliban to turn Osama over, they give it serious consideration, but the offer just isn't sweet enough.
But the point is: the Taliban is incredibly popular for providing stable gov't to your average Afghan at last, except for the Uzbeks and Tajiks up in the north. And they get the aid flowing from Pakistan via the Tribal Areas, right over the Khyber Pass from Afghanistan and again, basically the same people - sort of like the people of Pennsylvania giving aid to the people of Delaware. The Taliban also cut opium production, a major source of funds for covert wars on all sides, down to zero. NOT a popular move with our military!
Then, Al Qaida does 9/11 and we understandably lose our shit, and TALIBAM! those fuckers, to quote the NY Post. Which is all cool and shit except once again, we do not rebuild Afghanistan at all, and we don't even finish off the Taliban, we just push them over the border into the tribal areas!!! AND we put those fucking Uzbeks and Tajiks in charge of the "Northern Alliance," which is like putting a black man in charge of a war against white people in the Rust Belt. It's just one of the stupidest possible moves the West can make, but bear in mind, this is the Bush administration we're talking about here.
We also declare Musharraf a major ally in the War on Terror, but the problem with that is that Musharraf's career largely depends on support for the Pashtuns of Afghanistan, just like Zia's did! He doesn't want to be involved in this War on Terror bullshit at all - he wants high tensions with the Indians (especially up in Jammu and Kashmir - ever hear of that? The Appalachians of the Subcontinent). So he pussyfoots around for the last 8 years and accomplishes nothing.
Then, because EVERYONE in Pakistan is unhappy at this point (including the Southern Baluchis, who I can't even get into right now because let's try to stay focused here, but let's just say they want to secede too - Pakistan's got secession fever). One of the most inflammatory things Musharraf does is dismiss the very popular Supreme Court and try to pack it. No no no, weak military man, bad PR move. The students and lawyers, who are well respected by the average Pakistan, are pissed as hell, and the end of Musharraf is near.
Benazir, smelling fresh blood, comes back from exile and starts saying, "Remember how life sucked slightly less under me? Well, I'm back!" and than Sharif is all, "I'm still here too." And it's just a matter of months before Musharraf goes.
And then - BAM! Bhutto is shot. By who, it's unclear, but Musharraf tries to play it like Prez Bush after 9/11, using it as a political opportunity to say "We must restore order and keep military rule forever." Except he seriously misplays his band. Bhutto, a sort of inept, corrupt lady in real life, becomes a martyr. And that is IT for Musharraf, especially after America says "Well, sorry Pervez, you're on your own." (Bear in mind this is post-2006 election America, an American which is angrier and more pissed off than the warmongering America of the first part of our new century).
So Musharraf is out, and Benazir's widow, Asif Ali Zardari, is IN with the Bhutto dynasty party, the Pakistan People's Party, but Sharif's Muslim League-N (which is such an awesome name for a political party, btw) is also in. And here's where I get to FINALLY answering your question:
Zardari, corrupt like his ex-wife, is wanted on corruption charged by the judiciary. The central demand of the popular alliance that brought down Musharraf is "restore the judiciary". But Zardari knows that if they do that, they're going to throw his ass in prison. So Zardari pussyfoots his way around the issue, and Sharif, smelling blood himself, walks.
And this is where my expert knowledge of contemporary Pakistan comes to a close. This happened in the summer sometime, and I've been so focused on McCain-Obama and our Wall St. woes that I know very little about what's up with Pakistan right now. I do know that our military/intelligence folks are keeping friendly with another top general, named Kayani I believe. Because this is the problem with Pakistani civilian government: it always collapses. And then the military has a justifiable excuse to step in and run the shit.
So can Zardari keep his act together? Who's going to take the place of Sharif in the government? With the Muslim League-N out, it's going to be very rough - imagine if the GOP walked out of our government. Sure, the Dems could RUN the place but roughly a third of the country would feel the government is completely illegitimate.
Meanwhile, how is the US handling the hunt for insurgents/Taliban types in the Northern tribal areas? Piss poorly. We're dropping bombs on "the insurgents," including over the border area, which is just killing innocent civilians left and right. Meanwhile, the Taliban has several very lucrative operations going for itself up there, including mining. But most of all, they have popular support. They can say, "We're not the assholes dropping bombs on you from automated predator drones, but if we get a chance we WILL kill them for you."
Meanwhile, back in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, what can Zardari say to the relatives of the folks in the tribal areas? He's supposed to nominally be on the side of the US in fighting the terrorists, as it were, but what the fuck, the US is literally KILLING random villagers up there. It's no good.
So here's how I'd get the Taliban and Al Qaida: NOT with bombs. Use SEAL units in conjunction with local operatives. We have basically no local operatives, Pashtuns on our side, up there. But imagine if we basically pulled out, stopped bombing the villages, and put feelers out saying, "Want to earn 1,000,000 USD? Bring us the head of Osama bin Laden." The Taliban may be well-loved up there, but Al Qaida are just a bunch of irritating troublemakers who get local villagers bombed. Besides, they're Arabs, man. And the Afghans don't care about no fucking Arabs. So, let's stop giving money to the ISI (Inter-Services somethingorother, Pakistan's CIA) who are institutionally committed to supporting the Taliban from decades of first fighting the communists and then just carrying on, and get the our own intelligence agencies more directly involved, hire local folks to point out the Taliban, and then, send in the SEALs.
But to hire those people, we need to improve our rep, which includes getting OUT of Afghanistan for the most part, recognizing the Taliban and stabilizing relations with them, perhaps some direct non-military foreign aid to Pakistan itself so Zardari can say, "Look, I'm bringing home the bacon!"
But we may just be fucked. Between our blanket war on Islam, our support of an unpopular dictator (Musharraf), the institutional problems within Pakistan, and the fact that the Taliban provides protection and stability (if at a brutal price) to the local population, and the borders between Afghanistan and the Pakistani tribal areas are so porous, we may be fucked. Our best bet is to skip the bombs, stop talking tough about both Islam and the Taliban, and improve our intelligence service - to do stealthily in the night what we are failing to do by beating our chests in the daylight. At best, it will take years. I hope someone out there is keeping track of the nukes. I guess in a pinch we could back a coup by Kayani, but that just sort of repeats the cycle, doesn't it? Besides, that's fucking evil, backing another dictator.
RECOMMENDED READING: There's so much, holy crap. Again, the NY Times has great daily coverage of this shit. I would strongly recommend The Great Game by Peter Hopkirk for a good history of the British failed invasions of Afghanistan. The New Great Game by Lutz Kleveman also includes great coverage of the current situation throughout all of Central Asia (see question below!) and is a brisk read. Really, so much has been written...
2. what can be done to bring equitable balance in terms of the Russian Fed's increasingly total control over Euro gas/oil supplies?...
Another good question. There are so many options, but let's point out two big trends that are going to reshape our world in the next two decades first.
First off, oil, and to a lesser extent natural gas, is on the decline. Oil will be gone, period, by the mid 21st century at the latest. For all practical purposes, probably more like 2030. So Russia's dominance of Europe will probably continue for about 20 years, which sucks, but Europe is moving relatively aggressively to wind, solar, and nuclear, so it might be more like 10 years.
But in the meantime, if we decide we really want to go head-to-head with Russia (which begs the question "Why?" even though it'll be fun to read about, for sure), we do have options. Unfortunately, the most valid options seem to like in the Caspian Sea, and run through our fucked-up little buddy Georgia. And then through Turkey. This is the infamous "BCT Pipeline" (Baku-Tbisili-Ceyhan. Google maps that shit).
Both Georgia and Turkey are directly involved in this pipeline, and, guess what? They both have major problems nearby. As Russia has recently demonstrated, Russia can kick the crap out of Georgia any time it feels like it. We're gonna rush a bunch of arms to Georgia now, pre-WW1 style, just to ratched up tensions with a nuclear power cause THAT IS A HELLA SMART THING TO DO. But the Russians will still be able to fuck up that pipeline anytime they feel like it for at least a couple of years. And meanwhile, the Turks still have to deal with the Kurds, something the civilian government there is much less likely to do. If there's a coup in Turkey, which, like Pakistan, has a strong secular military gov't tradition, then perhaps we can get a little genocide-type action goin' on in Kurdistan, but now that the Kurds themselves have a (disputed) soil of oil (Kirkuk, Iraq) it's gonna be easier for them to back up an insurgency in Turkey.
The point is, the really ridiculous BTC pipeline is sort of fucked. So where else does Europe get it's oil?
Perhaps from... dun dun dun... The ARCTIC CIRCLE! Massive new oil deposits are being discovered under the Arctic these days, and it's also getting easier to extract oil from shale, meanwhile the whole Arctic Natural Wildlife Refuge might be gettin' raped pretty soon, esp. if President Palin gets elected, but probably under our boy Barry too, I hate to say.
But the Europeans aren't as crass about their capitalism (well, except the Brits) as we are, and they're less likely to be all, "Hmm, let's continue to base our entire infrastructure on a resource that will just be GONE in 20 years" than we are. In fact, France and Sweden are on the cutting esdge of nuclear fusion research, which we refuse to endorse because we're cheap assholes when it comes to non-military R&D these days, but, if gotten right, will be the penultimate energy supply for the entire world, and could very well take "resource wars" off the maps (except for FRESH WATER, but that's an entertaining post for another day!).
But they're not there yet, and bottom line is: fusion isn't ready, wind and solar and clean nuclear are on their way up but not totally there yet, the BCT is unreliable and the Arctic isn't tapped yet. The rest of the world's oil is going to China, India, America and elsewhere. Russia is going to be able to dictate the terms to Europe by and large for at least a little bit here. But all Russia really wants is its traditional Tsarist empire back. And can we blame them? And do commuters in Germany and Spain care enough about the Poles not to buy Russian oil? European carowners are much more acclimated to spending buttloads of money on gasoline than we are. Their consuming habits are not going to change just 'cause the oil comes from Russia.
In other words, we are largely "leverageless" over this issue at this point, and besides, who gives a crap. We shouldn't be fucking around with Russia anyways - don't we have a War on Terror to win?
RECOMMENDED READING: So much, oh my God, reading orgasm. Everyone owes it to themselves to read The Prize by Daniel Yergin. That's just a history of Oil, and it will change your mind on everything - you'll come away a Saudi Arabia fan, for one thing (yes, I know that's quite a claim, but trust me - without those Saudis you would not have had a Nintendo as a kid). The book mentioned above, The New Great Game, is also top-notch and has direct bearing on this subject. I love The Economist for their detailed coverage of this shit, but just bear in mind their editorial is very Chicago School, and the last thing we need is more Chicago School/Friedmanite/monetarist asshattery fucking the world up. But you can read through the bias and get the info you need. Finally, Crossing the Rubicon by Michael C. Ruppert is eye-opening, though it wanders a bit and engages in sub odd sub-plots which aren't really needed. Also, do yourself a big favor, if you don't want to read a whole book, and just hit http://www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net/ from the back. It'll take an hour of your time, tops.
3.) and now for something completely different, yet thought provoking, at what era in mankind's history did maritime travel become widespread?
Golly! That sounds like a trick question. Maritimie travel has always been pretty widespread. This isn't my chief area of "expertise," but I do know the polynesians who would later become the Indonesians and Filipinos were top-notch shipbuilders and employers as far back as the 2nd millenium BC, bringing goods from as far as Korea down to East Africa.
Back then, your basic marine routes were Japan-to-Malaysia, Malaysia-to-the Red Sea, Red Sea-to-South Africa, Red Sea-to-Mediterranean, and Mediterranean-to-Western Europe and North Africa. In the Americas, you didn't get a lot of sea travel, to my knowledge. Not to say the Americans weren't great back in the day - they were. But they had no horsies and they didn't do sea travel.
In this period of limited sea travel, aside from the Polynesians, you had some other notables: the Indians were always good at it, assorted Arabs (both pre-and-post-Islam) did it too, and the Romans took it to an art form (though I prefer the Greek naval battles of antiquity). The Mediterranean was a "Roman Lake" for a millenium. After the Roman Empire fell apart, it was never again to be a lake - rather, it was a liquid wall between Europe and North Africa.
Gotta give props to those Vikings for making their way over to Greenland and Vinland. Crazy ass malnourished fuckers, great real estate agents, too, in a way ("Join us over here! The land is lush as hell! Trust us!") History might have been different if the Viking response to the Native Americans had been "trade" instead of "kill". But whatever, the Vikings died, and fuck 'em anyways, they refused to adapt wherever they went. They could have learned from the Inuit up in Greenland anyways, who had their fishing down pat.
The real navigation story that we're all fond of is the era of big Galleons, which began under the Chinese in 1421, when four admirals set out in craft that were the (larger and more impressive!) precursors to the Nina, Pinto and Santa Maria (Pinto? That was one of them, right?). The problem is that these admirals just went and checked the world out - and I do mean the ENTIRE WORLD, all of the Americas and Africa, everything but Australia I think - but instead of enslaving the local population and taking the land, they just kinda traded some shit and left. The Emperor of China was, of course, pissed, since that shit was expensive, and resulted in an isolationist policy for the Ming Dynasty, one of China's very foreign policy mistakes of history, and a major one that would lead to the ascension of the West over China in later years.
Well, Columbus and Pizzaro and all those sick fucks didn't make China's mistake... although they did use their maps, traded up through the Mediterrean basin into Italy and elsewhere. They set forth and conquered the New World and the rest is history. Good navigation at this time, great sea-era travel, but again, the Chinese did it first! So did the Vikings, sort of!
Then of course you have a whole buncha centuries of great sea battles, but frankly, are they as cool as land battles, really? They just involve a few ships chasing each other around and sinking. Does that compare to the coordinated cavalry assault, my friends?
Nonetheless, sea power was the decisive power for a long time. It's certainly how Britain did it's shit... that and manufacturing... Once Europe had its galleys, the old trade routes were destroyed. The Ottoman Empire, located in the classic trading spot, totally bit the dust and just declined and declined and declined. India and China were actually conquered, putting them out of the race. And besides, it brought the extraction of resources from the New World into play, which really did change the balance of human history permanently. I don't use that word lightly.
But still, the "greatest" era of martime power is actually -today-. Sure, we rely on planes and rockets now to fight our wars. But these are the days of miracle and wonder. This is the era of globalization, and sea traffic by volume has never been higher.
The average meal travels 1,500 miles before it reaches your plate. Our manufacturing is all overseas, at this point, for the most part. Battling over fishing, naval routes, etc., is still as tense as ever, one notable example being Japanese whaling, and of course the PIRATES of the Straits of Malacca - no, I'm not making that shit up, PIRATES in SPEEDBOATS with fucking uzis (or whatever cool gun replaced the uzi) these days. Overseas shipping is big business! This truly is the greatest era of maritime travel. And it's all relatively well regulated, too.
Don't expect to see any major sea battles anymore, though. Or any major land battles. It's all about police action against insurgencies these days. Probably some nutjob will use a nuke someday and that will be it, game over for the nation state. The nation state is dying, and death always sucks, and it's sort of a painful death with no family reconciliation at all, wherein certain family members are getting cut out of the will (i.e., workers, small farmers), but the era of big traditional warfare is done.
And that means maritime travel will remain intense, as long as there's enough fuel for the ships, and peaceful. Until we invent teleportation. Which is, yes, underway - small amounts of matter have effective been "destroyed and re-created" over small distances already.
Next cool era of exploration and exploitation: outer space! Horray!
RECOMMENDED READING: 1421 by Gavin Mendies is kind of dry, to be honest, but it's an eye-opener. I mean, Columbus really didn't do that shit. Beyond that I don't really know. The Economist will definitely have bits about the modern-day pirates, and the volume of shipping. I'm sure there are many great books about the European explorers, who were all demented and vicious, but I haven't gotten around to reading about them yet. Like I said, it's election time! Wheeee!