- The onset of World War I, given its hundred-year anniversary this year, and the many apt comparisons that can be made between the declining empire of the time (Britain) and now (the US), and the path of the rising power then (Germany) and now (China).
- The French Revolution, given the rising levels of inequality in the world and the many unfinished or unstarted revolutions that we are seeing.
- The Westphalian peace of 1648, given the annexation of Ukraine and the feeling among many that this spells the end of the Westphalian system, and the decline of the nation state.
- The dawn of the space age in the 60’s, as the debate over the value of space missions heats up again, new space powers are created in India and China, and Elon Musk stresses the necessity of taking the human race to Mars (and saying he wants to do die there)
- The fall of the Berlin Wall, given its 25 year anniversary this year, and with the sensation in Europe of a new Cold War brewing, and new kinds of walls being created
- Tiananmen Square, given its 25 year anniversary this year and the fear held for a while that Hong Kong protests might face a similarly tragical ending.
- The Victorian Era, given that it was the time of the second industrial revolution, the last time that history was speeding up to the same extent that we are seeing now, with exponential growth in the dawn of the third industrial revolution.
- Pre-World Wars era of rising wealth concentration, as per Piketty’s analysis of how 1930-1975 was an aberration in terms of falling inequality and wealth-wage gap.
- Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916 – the time when colonial powers drew up random borders in the Middle East, borders that are now crumbling as ISIS wreaks havoc and captures territory based on sectarian belonging rather than national.
- Selma 1965 – With Ferguson burning, we looked back at Selma and mourned the slow pace of change.
Speaking of which acronym to use for ISIS/ISIL/IS, here is a good WashPo article on it. It suggests that Obama was using ISIL to not mention Syria. I would still argue that using ISIS is the best, since Levant recognizes that they are targeting e.g. Jordan as well, and IS is subtly acknowledging that they would have established “a state”.
ISIS has received unprecedented attention for their media strategy. Media analysts worldwide have fallen over themselves to analyze, and unfortunately also praise, ISIS’ media strategy, simply because they have set up numerous Twitter accounts and are familiar with YouTube.
Granted, this has led to a large level of attention. ISIS has garnered global attention, there has been ISIS paraphernalia for sale in stores (at least in Turkey), and they have been able to recruit radical young European muslims.
Fortunately, we are now also seeing the flipside of increased attention. The launch/leak of ISIS gruesome videos has led the US public to desert their isolationist views and support strikes against ISIS. A year ago, Obama tried and failed to get US support for strikes in Syria, based on Assad’s use of chemical weapons. Tonight, as he makes his statement, he has support both from the public and Congress to make strikes against ISIS.
Al-Baghdadi has received praise for his military strategy. Fortunately, that might have been premature. Turning the world even more against his organization and assuring airstrikes against his forces hardly seems to be move of a master strategist.