From a record-breaking drought that has devastated much of the U.S. South and keeps getting worse, to the U.S. economy and what Time magazine's cover story calls "The Decline and Fall of Europe (and maybe the West)"; civil wars in Libya and Syria; renewed terrorism in Iraq and endless fighting in Afghanistan, the good news was hard to detect.
The sudden uprising of jobless youth from poor families in what is arguably the most unequal society in Europe left London ablaze, shook the British establishment to its foundations, and spotlighted the widening gap between rich and poor all over Europe.
The 27-nation European Union and its 17-nation common euro currency appear to be unraveling. Some 20 percent of European youth are jobless.
Income disparities throughout the European Union and in the United States show roughly 1 percent of the population controlling 42 percent of a nation's wealth and taking in a quarter of the country's income.
When the rising tide lifted all boats, the wealthiest could take credit for building bigger and better boats. But the current global receding tide has beached 14 million in the United States (excluding those who no longer qualify for compensation), while in the European Union the number, currently at 10 percent, is expected to crest at 16 million by 2013.
Worldwide, the current labor stats indicate 180 million looking for work. In Israel, normally a highly disciplined country of 6 million, 250,000 echoed the British underclass with popular anger against a government unable to deliver the goods. And in the Arab world, from Libya to Egypt to Syria, the Arab Spring is now a distant memory.
After 42 years in power in Libya, Moammar Gadhafi's regime is history but unmentioned during NATO's five-month bombing campaign is that the victorious rebel regime of Benghazi is heavily infiltrated by Islamist extremists.
In Cairo, the Muslim Brotherhood is consolidating its dominant position, albeit with the army still in charge.
For the British media, U.S. President Barack Obama's two-week vacation in Martha's Vineyard symbolized a declining superpower adrift between two warring parties that threw caution to the wind, accumulating irresponsible — and inaccurate — statements.
The 2012 election campaign is already under way. Reasonable ideas are shot down before they make the evening news.
Presidential hopefuls are flip-flopping from one interview to the next. A proposal for an immediate 40 percent cut in federal spending is quickly escalated to accuse Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke of treason if he prints more money between now and Election Day.
It is hardly surprising that there is high anxiety on both sides of the Atlantic; that banks are shaky and some even on the edge of the precipice.
The United States has clearly been living beyond its means, funding the Iraqi and Afghan wars ($1.5 trillion and counting) by growing the federal deficit to pay for them.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta notwithstanding, defense spending is clearly overdue for a proper haircut, not a trim.
The current plan is for a $400 billion cut in defense spending over the next 10 years after it almost doubled over the past 10 years.
The Pentagon's war planners say that such a cut — only $40 billion per year for a decade — will make it impossible to fight two wars at the same time. But that kind of strategic planning was based on a Cold War turning hot with the Soviet Union while retaining the ability to fight a lesser war in another part of the globe.
It's time to think forward to the age of robotic warfare where the United States already has a decisive edge. The U.S. Air Force Academy is graduating more drone pilots than fighter and bomber pilots.
The Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) program is adding three more active duty squadrons over the next two budget cycles. In 2001, the United States had 167 UAVs; in 2011, more than 5,500. Almost half of UAV squadrons are manned by fighter pilots.
Robotic warfare has reached cruising altitude and by 2015, one-third of the U.S. Army's ground systems will be unmanned.
Robots are already being planned in the role of suicide bombers. They have no substitute for surprise attacks and recon.
They have tripled flight time and are cheaper than conventional fighters and bombers.
An F-18 fighter bomber costs $70 million and a couple of million for pilot training. An equivalent drone runs $4.5 million plus $70,000 per guided missile.
The tab to deploy one soldier for a year in Afghanistan is $400,000.
For robotic warfare, chaplains and psychologists have been assigned to help fighters cope with the daily stress of killing remotely and then returning home in time for dinner with their families.
Air-to-air combat drones will soon join the robotic arsenal. Boeing is also testing a drone submarine that will be capable of torpedoing an enemy ship anywhere in the world.
Robotic warfare detractors fear that we will create a race of beings more capable than ourselves who will kill us and take over the world — known as the "Singularity."
Ray Kurzweil, who wrote "The Singularity is Near," posits that moment in history, 25 years hence, when the human brain will have reached 60 percent of its capacity (up from today's anemic 25 percent usage) and potential parity with the supercomputer that is capable of several quadrillion operations per second.
Like it or not, robotic warfare will soon assume a dominant role in warfare.
There is also the fear of robots carrying nuclear weapons to a distant enemy. Robotic "soldiers" already guard stockpiles of nuclear materials and other nuclear secrets. They can cover more ground and are radiation proof.
The transition to robotic warfare requires a high degree of bipartisanship in Congress, now sadly lacking. Obama has demonstrated that this is beyond his capability.
Meanwhile, he has lost the mantle of leader of the free world. What he says has little impact on either side of the Atlantic — or the Pacific.
More Posts by Arnaud de Borchgrave
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