Christmas bells toll for a world facing its biggest potential crisis in world history

Posted: Dec 08, 2006 12:00 AM

While public opinion is all over the board as to what is or is not the most important issue to Americans, I argue that, for the first time, a series of foreign and domestic happenings are converging at once and threaten our nation as never before.

Let's start at home. We all know that illegal immigration, in most polls, remains a hot domestic topic. That's understandable. Yet even as that drama unfolds, the very underpinnings of our economy slowly erode.

Some of us are vaguely aware that the value of the U.S. dollar continues to slip. Fewer know that the situation is actuated by an unholy -- and unwritten -- "alliance" with China. That nation backs our currency by purposely manipulating their own money and guaranteeing ours through an imbalance of trade.

The profitable business flows one way, to China. Worse, the long-term stability of the dollar rests in the hands of an emerging superpower that, alone among nations, has the potential to truly rival America as a world superpower. The value of our currency potentially could be reduced to the value of the paper it's printed on, depending on the whims of Beijing.

At the same time, reports that the housing slump may be ending soon are probably wishful thinking. In fact, a new chapter in that book may be in the writing. A crash of the Sunbelt's crazed condominium fever could be the next real-estate crisis.

Take a drive through downtown Miami, Tampa, Atlanta and other growth cities of the region. You'll see little beyond construction cranes and derricks dotting the skyline. But though they number in the thousands, there are no longer thousands of people to live in them.

Next, let's inventory the mills and manufacturing plants. It won't take long, because there are fewer and fewer. They're all hopscotching their way to China and other, mostly Asian, nations.

And thus come projections for slower economic growth in our nation next year. We may have a bullish stock market right now, but with thousands and thousands of homes being repossessed each week, and with mortgages on them having been used as bricks-and-mortar "credit cards" for so long, the conditions for a significant economic downturn in the coming year are real.

Now throw into the mix the expansion or amplification of President George W. Bush's "Axis of Evil." Ah, for the innocent days of only three enemies!

Iraq, Iran and North Korea now appear to be just the frontline acts in a planet gone wild.

Iran not only seeks nuclear weapons, it's now taken to taunting the world with a menu of terrifying possibilities.

North Korea is even more unpredictable, because more desperate.

All the while, our shaky but supposedly loyal ally Russia is doing Soviet Union impersonations. Its newfound capitalism is a cutthroat business environment Don Corleone would be proud of.

When homebound and expatriate Russians start dropping like flies from radioactive poisons in their sushi, James Bond movies suddenly view more like a personal warning to us all than fantasy entertainment.

And then there's our dazed President Bush. For years I've openly wondered at his astonishing lack of even basic eloquence. Lately it's only gotten worse. The man appears as stunned as someone who just stepped from a car wreck.

And no wonder. Beyond his myopic obsession with Iraq, Bush doubtless is overwhelmed by the combination of economic and geopolitical events that he as the American president must be as painfully aware of as anyone.

I think he knew this time would come. I also think no one person could have prevented it. Among battling terrorism, trying to stabilize the Middle East and prevent every aggrieved nation from becoming a nuclear power, and worrying over monetary stability, the president has more on his plate than a human being should have to eat.

Like him or not, please pray for this man and for all mankind. If you look into the president's eyes, you can see genuine fear, masked as it is by an inner strength.

For the first time since I've been writing this column, I share his fear.