A PARTIAL LIST OF PROFILES…
(…of some key international players from today’s news headlines)

We should never believe that the subject of -international affairs- is either dull or un-intriguing. Far from it because it seems to be a never-ending soap opera with all kinds of melodramas, insane maneuvers of plots and counter-plots, well larded with themes that would make any idiot sit-com proud.
But in many ways, perhaps, it more resembles the seething roiling mass of one of those lava pools one sometimes sees at the bottom of a volcano’s crater where a multitude of interests and agendas are constantly flowing, colliding, and interacting with each other, and, more often than not, spewing up explosive fiery fountains of conflicts.
To better understand some of the real motivations behind all of that, we’ve taken the liberty of presenting here players from today’s news headlines. They are not in any particular order of importance but simply picked randomly as gleaned from those headlines.
Here’s what we’ve come up with so far:

RUSSIA – Being at the far eastern fringe of Europe, the rest of that community has generally always held it at arm’s length, not quite convinced it has enough “couth” to be drawn in and accepted as a member of its polite society. An attitude Russia has understandably always resented; but now, with its new Czar of all the Russias named Vladimir, it is becoming adamant in demanding membership, and on its own terms besides. If it ever got over its Cold War losses and properly hooked itself up with the USA…their combination would largely dominate the rest of the world for a long time to come. Unfortunately the dichotomy of their interests may prevent it and turn it eastward instead…to China.

USA – Once the darling of the Western World, and the envy of all the rest, it has lost much of its former cachet, looking more like an aging movie diva now forced to resort to using what’s left of its economic and military muscle, instead of the cosmetics of glamor, to somehow restore some of that cachet. It also suffers from a Big Brother complex, and widely resented because of that, as it keeps trying to referee everyone else’s petty squabbles. It needs to get its own house in order first, and then clean up its act, if it ever hopes to regain its former glamor-puss status in the world.

CHINA – A Red Dragon stirring, with a new Emperor named Xi in charge. Slicker than cat doo, he prefers using its economic muscles, rather than its military ones, to achieve his hegemonic goals, mainly by manipulating its trade partners, particularly the USA, which it would love to maneuver into a symbiotic relationship…as his junior partner. Failing that, he can instead engage for a closer Eurasian entente with Russia’s Czar Vladimir (since both derive their perspectives from the same Red Underwear factory), in an arrangement which would mitigate many of their mutual economic troubles at home…and largely allow both to thumb their noses at the rest of the world with all its punitive sanctions and tariffs.

INDIA – Finally recovered from its post-colonial ideological hangovers, it’s now moving at flank speed attempting to abandon its caste-bound traditional ways for a more wide-open, anything goes, Bollywood glitz and style with its affairs. It’s thus much too busy and occupied with that process, to waste any of its time worrying about Pakistan’s paranoid perspectives of it as an existential threat. Has a massive pool of cyber design and engineering talent producing things which can do anything under the sun, excepting perhaps how to play Dixie (only because most of that talent has never heard of it). However, it has a somewhat flawed business-practice reputation, because of its sharp insistence on always going for an increment…and then usually only getting… excrement… from that approach. It has held a number of atomic zappers in its back pockets, in case of need, for a very long time, and rarely making any mention of them…but everyone knows… they’re there.

IRAN – Ever since a Macedonian hillbilly, named Alexander, mugged the hell out of it more than two thousand years ago, it has been the subject of raging inferiority complexes about it ever since until today. So, because of that history, it continues to attempt to restore its mangled dignity from that by hook, by crook, or by any extreme ideological means available, and spending money like there’s no limit with its wealth, to finance proxies to unsettle its neighbors, to make them all believe it is once again the big kahuna for that neighborhood…just as it was so long ago. Since its attempts to construct its own atomic blunderbuss (to emphasize that) have been temporarily blocked, it’s now quite likely it will try to either steal, or trade for one, instead. The old regional proverb of…a Persian smile at your front…means there are ten daggers aimed at your back…is thus still valid.

JAPAN – Has successfully transformed itself from being a former ninja-warrior goon, into a capitalist industrial entrepreneur instead, producing world class high-end brands such as Honda, Nissan, Sony, Suzuki, Toyota, Isuzu, Mitsubishi, etc. Has evolved a Robin-Batman relationship with the USA, having strong fringe benefits for both. It has also proven to be a master US real estate wheeler-dealer (much better than Donald Trump), because of its preference for asset value rather than leverage…to make a profit from it.

CANADA – Comes as close to being a Siamese twin of the USA, without actually being Siamese, than any other country in the world. Sprung from the same mother-tree, it chose evolution over revolution to achieve its independence, so behaves and acts accordingly, to provide a sobering and stabilizing influence over its more impulsive and flamboyant sibling. Its economy is also so entwined with the USA’s it’s difficult to know who owns what of the other. Fortunately for both it has the means to be the single largest supplier of oil and gas resources to feed the USA’s energy needs. While it does accept US beers in exchange for that, it considers these to just be the equivalent of…sodas…thus justifying its own grumbling about trade imbalances.

MEXICO – Has a mostly love-hate relationship with the USA. It hates USA’s attitudes and perceptions of it and resents that, but, loves the economic opportunities El Norte offers across the Rio Grande for its citizens…when they can’t find these at home…even though it has a lot of those exported US factory jobs on its side of that river. If both could figure out how to get rid of those pesky drug cartels…everything would be more hunky-dory between them. Doesn’t care much for the border wall idea, but could be amenable to modifying the NAFTA trade agreement with it…by agreeing to an exchange deal. That is, the USA would trade all its homeless for Mexico’s migrants…to further help balance their respective trade accounts.

FRANCE – Still, la belle, but struggling now days to remain so, with so many of its political elites being hauled into court on one excuse or another. Still, haute cuisine, fashion flair, and wine-making par excellence, remain as its world brand and trade mark, despite the rise of heavy competition from even as far away of such places as California. Smartest move it ever made was to bury the hatchet with its long-time German antagonist across the Rhine (in the ground not in each other’s heads), thus making them both the linchpins of the NATO defense structure. It retains its reputation for diplomatic savoir faire, where even its screw-ups with it have panache. Charlemagne would be proud.

GERMANY- Once the bad problem-child of Europe, since then it has become a mature and sedate grownup with proper bourgeois manners, to become Europe’s main economic engine with Big Mama Angela at the wheel to ensure it remains that way. Its VW Bug was once USA’s fetish wheels, but has replaced it these days with the BMW as a flashy status symbol for newly affluent USA cyber yuppies.

UNITED KINGDOM – Never quite in it, now not quite out of it, it still tries to keep straddling the Channel to maintain its presence on the Continent. Meanwhile it quietly keeps on keeping on with its James Bond style of diplomacy and doing business. Has the only remaining royal family having relevance for its people (but allowing an occasional infusion of American blood just to avoid inbreeding) Despite the fact that a lot of turkeys have come home to roost from its former colonial holdings, it remains staunchly…British.
TURKEY- Once the overlord over anything that grew between the straits of Gibraltar and the Euphrates, ever since Ataturk, it has straddle the Bosphorus, playing both ends against the middle between Europe and the Moslem world of its region. If it ever had the smarts to resolve its long running family feud with its Kurdish cousins, the Middle East might once again enjoy the peace and stability it once had under Saladdin, and neither Iran nor any Arab combine would dare to confront it.

EGYPT- Still retains its pharonian style of governance as overlord of the Nile, but somehow seems unable to extend that effectively into the Sinai where its writ is largely either ignored or severely repulsed. If it weren’t for its peace arrangement with Israel, there’s no telling if it could hold on to what it’s got.

SYRIA – A truly failed state which, like Humpty Dumpty, is broken into pieces and not likely to ever be put back together again. The credit for that belonging solely to the ruling family dynasty which, in its fanatical determination to hold onto its power, is staunchly following its version of the Hitlerian brand of governance (even if it means having to reduce everything into a wasteland of bombed-out rubble (with the aid and assistance of Czar Vladimir’s air support, and Iran’s proxy Hezbollah boots on the ground mopping up on its behalf). It has apparently not understood that the only possible outcome of that approach will be…finding themselves hanging by their heels from lamposts…much like a former Italian supremo named…Mussolini…did.

IRAQ – An artificial creation cobbled together by the British from the rubble of the former Ottoman empire, it has never known anything except the rule of war-lords of one kind or another, mostly succeeding each other by coups and counter coups. It’s efforts to reassemble its disparate parts into some semblance of a “democratic” society have proven to be luke-warm, at best, even with enthusiastic help from the USA. But, since that entity abandoned its role there as a nation-building artiste, Iranian meddling to replace it…haven’t made the odds favorable for that to be the outcome.

AFGHANISTAN – It has never known or had a valid central authority governing over its entirety. Rampant tribalism (mainly for control of the cash crop from its poppy fields) has ruled instead. Its current decade long conflict with the Taliban has been aided and abetted by Pakistan, not just motivated to keep getting its share of the heroin trade, but mainly because of its misguided paranoid perspective of India as an existential threat. Thus, it keeps preventing Afghanistan from resolveing its internal conflicts to become a stable and peaceful neighbor, for fear that India’s influence could then become too strong there as a result, effectively clamping Pakistan in a vice. In such instances it’s difficult to figure out where paranoia ends…and delusion begins.

SAUDI ARABIA – Governed by a ruling dynasty whose authority, much like the sand of an hour glass, is slowly eroding, despite its petro-wealth which, instead of being re-invested for the benefit its entire society, is being squandered away instead on pretentious baubles, and, USA made armaments, with which to pound its Yemeni neighbor into submission, justifying that on the grounds it is a pawn of Iranian treachery, and harboring terrorist groups besides (an ironic if not hypocritical posture, since most of the extreme Islamic ideology motivating these orginates from Saudi Arabia). Its only other claim to regional importance is as guardian/trustee of Mecca, Islam’s holiest site…for which its security measures don’t seem as good as they once were.

MYANMAR- Perhaps it’s an oxymoronic description, but it’s acting like a Buddhist misanthrope against the non-Buddhist Rohinga who, unlike the Karen, have never fought back against its vile forms of attack, opting to flee to neighboring Bangladesh instead. All of that while under the governance of a head of state awarded a Nobel Peace prize for her fight against military dictatorship, and the restoration of democratic rule. It’s becoming more and more difficult to know who the villains are these days…without a score card.

NORTH KOREA – The Bad-Boy extremis of the Far East, annoying and upsetting everyone by his belligerent rattling of his atomic and missile toys. Scion of another hardcore authoritarian dynasty, he’s still determined to achieve overlordship over the entire peninsula, if not by force, then by guile and deception. Such intentions however are potentially disruptive to his patron, China’s Emperor Xi, with his own hegemonic goals for the region, who may now be ready to haul him in under a much tighter leash, because the Emperor has much bigger fish to fry, namely maintaining a reasonable status quo with the USA…among things.

SOUTH KOREA – Mangled terribly once before by its northern sibling, it has always dreaded the thought of another round of that and does everything possible to prevent another one from happening. Grateful for USA’s protective embrace for all those years since that terrible episode, it has focused its energies and efforts to become as well-armed as possible, and prepared to mobilized itself to go down fighting, if it comes to another one again. Meanwhile, it has made itself one of those smaller economic “tigers” of the region, by developing a strong presence in the globalized trading matrix. As a Latin motto might put it, it’s…Parvi Sed Magni.

Well, there are plenty of other players in the world who probably deserve as much profiling as the ones we’ve listed here…but they’ll have to wait for another batch of headlines before that happens. Meanwhile, if any of this has offended anyone’s sensibilities, sorry about that, but, as Marcus Aurelius once expressed it: “If it is good to say or do something; then, it is better to be criticized for having said or done it.”

CENTURION