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How’s our health? Time for a checkup
Photo courtesy: Roman Rivera

By Ernest Gurulé

If your body is humming along at 98.6, things are good. Not too hot, not too cold. In fact, you can actually register slightly---but only slightly---higher or lower than this benchmark and it shouldn’t make much of a difference. The 98.6 mark is considered normal. But doctors will tell you that when you’re registering at, say, 100.4 or above, well, there’s a problem. And in a geopolitical sense, when we talk about national wellbeing, the chart says, we’ve got a few problems.

In a geopolitical world, there’s almost never a 98.6 or normal temperature reading; some place is always running a little higher or lower than normal. But low temps don’t usually get the same attention as the febrile. Just as the line goes, ‘it doesn’t take a weatherman to tell which way the wind’s blowin,’ it also doesn’t take a doctor to tell you who’s running a political fever. On almost every continent there’s a patient, a country wishing and hoping, actually, for a house call. But more often than not, ‘the doctor’s not in.’

A quick look at a map or spin of a world globe and it’s easy to tell where a house call might be in order, said Dr. Robert Hazan, Professor of Political Science at Metropolitan State University of Denver. The symptoms experienced by ‘patients’ or nation states can come in many forms. One indication of illness is refugees or displaced, and there is no shortage of places plagued by this phenomenon. The Middle East, Southwest Asia, Central and South America and various hotspots in Africa. But symptoms can take on other forms, as well.

Right now, on the southern border, refugees fleeing gang violence, drug cartels, government corruption, long-term poverty, even drought and its impacts, are leaving Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Mexico. Thousands have left home for ‘el Norte.’ “There seems to be no plan to prevent further tragedies,” said Hazan. “This (the border crisis) is a horrific violation of any reasonable human condition.”

In South America, Venezuelans are victims of an economy that, despite huge oil reserves, is on life support. Military leaders and civilians are divided on their support between Nicolas Maduro and Congressional leader, Juan Guaido’. As many as a million Venezuelans may have already fled their country for nearby Columbia. Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent planes and troops to Venezuela and President Trump has countered with the promise of “all options are on the table.” No troubles yet but kindling seems in place.

Tensions between Iran and the United States are percolating. The United States has accused Iran of sabotaging four oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz. Iran has denied any role. Two of the damaged ships were flying Saudi Arabian flags. While there were no casualties, the U.S. has accused Iran of the sabotage.

Because the Strait is the strategic waterway for shipping across the region---for oil and everything else---and because Saudi Arabia and Iran are engaged in a proxy war in Yemen, the danger of a widening conflict is ever present. “No leader seems engaged in it,” said Hazan. President Trump has spent a good part of his administration building a relationship with Saudi’s controversial Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He is said to have approved the murder of Washington Post reporter, Jamal Khashoggi. “The United Nations,” said Hazan, “has warned the situation is horrific.”

A civil war continues with no end in sight in Syria. An estimated 500,000 people have been killed and as many as 5.6 million Syrians have fled the country with another six million dispersed to different parts of the country. In nearby Iran, the U.S. has added a new layer of sanctions as Iran answers with the announcement of an uptick in uranium enrichment capacity.

In China, millions of protestors filled the streets of Hong Kong over several days late last month over a new law that would have allowed for extradition from Hong Kong to the mainland. Demonstrations have ended but tensions remain high.

President Trump has ratcheted down his rhetoric of “a rain of fire and fury” aimed at North Korea and Kim Jong Un to actually becoming the first U.S. President to set foot inside of North Korea. “Relations have improved,” said Hazan. But despite the toned-down bellicosity and seemingly cordial new relationship, Kim maintains his nuclear capabilities.

Hazan warned that Turkey may present one of the biggest concerns on the horizon. In a pivot from NATO, Turkey has recently purchased S-400 missiles from Russia. If the sale goes through, President Trump has promised to strike down a deal with Turkey to sell it F-35 jets.

On a recent visit to the United Kingdom, President Trump injected himself into the Brexit imbroglio. He suggested that Brexit, England leaving the European Union, would be a “fantastic thing” and endorsing Boris Johnson as successor to Prime Minister Theresa May.

And then, there’s climate change, a worldwide threat that could change the world in ways still unknown but possibly forever. At the recent G-20 meeting, nineteen countries reaffirmed their support to the Paris climate accord. President Trump, the twentieth vote, said no. “When it comes to matters of climate change,” said the MSUD scholar, “he’s isolated.”

Overall, the world’s health is treatable. Visiting a doctor remains a whole other consideration.





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