July 30, 2004
Now, more about blogging: my blog won't ever reach the Top 100, but I'm pretty sure I will neither fall in the pits of the Worst of the Web, together with sick cats maniacs, failed "poets" and assorted human wreckages.
Now, it's going to be Beer Time... have a good time, people.
July 29, 2004
July 28, 2004
From The Guardian (ahem):
Frodo Baggins Charged With War Crimes
Frodo Baggins of Bagshot Row, Hobbiton, The Shire, Middle Earth, has been called before the International Criminal Court to answer charges of war crimes brought by Sauron the Dark Lord and Saruman the White in a joint filing. [...]
It's a blog of rock, cars, bikes, chicks (sometimes), booze and pot. Wow!
On a more serious note check out Tech Central Station for good articles about science, technology, business, market and more. Not a single bit of idiotarianism in there.
July 25, 2004
Molte delle obiezioni sollevate contro l'intervento USA in Iraq chiamano in causa presunte violazioni della Legge Internazionale - nonché accuse di "unilateralismo" (quando la Coalizione conta 35 paesi, fra i quali Australia, Giappone, Corea del Sud, Italia...) e lamentele per non avere consultato gli "alleati".
Esiste davvero una "legge internazionale" che sia vincolante per i diversi stati, come le leggi nazionali sono vincolanti per i cittadini di uno stato?
Non sono un giurista, quindi potrei scrivere qualche inesattezza, ma faró del mio meglio.
Le leggi in vigore negli stati funzionali vengono fatte rispettare da forze di polizia imparziali, ed i trasgressori vengono giudicati e puniti da tribunali imparziali. (Lo so, non sempre questi soggetti sono davvero imparziali, ma non mi voglio dilungare in troppi dettagli). Se una persona commette un reato, oppure non rispetta accordi presi in un contratto, ci sará un processo, un tribunale imparziale emetterá una sentenza e le forze dell'ordine ed altre istituzioni la faranno rispettare - anche con la forza. Ma qualunque sia la sentenza, i giudici ed i poliziotti coinvolti non ne subiranno svantaggi, e nemmeno ne ricaveranno vantaggi (minacce e corruzione dei magistrati, infatti, hanno lo specifico scopo di renderli parziali). Il fatto che i tribunali e le forze dell'ordine siano (generalmente) imparziali é di importanza fondamentale per assicurare uguaglianza di fronte alla legge e giustizia - ed infine il buon funzionamento dello Stato, ed il benessere dei suoi cittadini.
Il mondo é composto di nazioni, ognuna con i suoi interessi - che possono essere materiali, come accesso a risorse naturali, partecipazioni ad aree di mercato, alleanze - e pure piú astratti, come posizioni ideologiche e religiose, ragioni di orgoglio e prestigio. L'unico organo esistente che assomiglia in qualche modo ad un governo mondiale (o meglio, che aspira ad esserlo) é il Consiglio di Sicurezza delle Nazioni Unite, composto dai rappresentati delle nazioni piú importanti del mondo (o meglio, quelle nazioni che erano le piú importanti alla fine della Seconda Guerra Mondiale: ora gli equilibri sono cambiati notevolmente). Quando queste nazioni devono prendere una qualsiasi decisione, lo fanno tenendo ben presente i loro perticolari interessi. Ad esempio, la Francia ha tentato con tutti i mezzi a disposizione di mantenere i contratti petroliferi con il governo di Saddam Hussein, e di non urtare la popolazione araba francese (e di ritornare ad essere un paese importante sulla scena europea e mondiale eccetera). Da qui, la strenua opposizione della Francia ad ogni ipotesi di guerra in Iraq.
Questo é un tipico caso di giudici non imparziali (anzi, molto parziali), ed in una tale situazione é impossibile avere giustizia. Toglietevelo dalla testa. La legge internazionale é solo un sistema di interessi ed alleanze.
Ma supponiamo che sia possibile trovare uno stato abbastanza imparziale, poniamo la Mongolia (anche se questa decisione potrebbe sollevare un altro problema: ha una nazione sola il diritto di decidere il destino di molte altre?), e che l'ONU adotti la decisione della Mongolia in riaguardo a qualche questione che si pone. Come é possibile far rispettare questa decisione? Ci sono le sanzioni economiche, ma alcuni stati non sono sanzionabili (quelli nel Consiglio di Sicurezza non voteranno mai contro se' stessi); sanzionare gli USA sarebbe controproducente per i sanzionatori, visto lo stato dell'economia mondiale. Ed infine, le sanzioni economiche non hanno mai fatto molto: Saddam Hussein é rimasto al potere, ed ha costruito palazzi principeschi mentre il suo popolo moriva di fame e malattie. Milosevic e la sua congrega di criminali genocidi non hanno fatto una piega con le sanzioni e la "pressione diplomatica". La Nord Corea usa il poco cibo a disposizione per alimentare i suoi soldati, mentre il resto del popolo é ridotto al cannibalismo.
Rimane l'opzione militare, ma la sinistra (o meglio, i tranzisti), rifiutano assiomaticamente il ricorso alla forza militare. La nostra Mongolia non ha certo un forte esercito, che possa essere proiettato a migliaia di chilometri per fare pressione si di un altro stato. L'ONU non ha truppe di suo (fortunatamente) ed i Caschi Blu vengono dalle forze armate dei singoli paesi - spesso Pakistan ed India, mi pare di aver letto. Ma comunque, le truppe ONU generalmente mancano dei mezzi, risorse e dottrina militare necessaria ad ottenere risultati concreti. E se pensate che gli USA possano accettare di mettere sotto comando ONU un gruppo navale, o una divisione corazzata, vi sbagliate di grosso.
Quindi, dovrebbe essere chiaro che la "legge internazionale" non esiste, perché non esistono ne' i soggetti imparziali che la possano applicare, ne' i mezzi per farlo.
Esistono dichiarazioni di principio, ma i principi che non si possono realizzare rimangono parole vane, che valgono meno della carta sulla quale sono scritte.
Ora i tranzisti penseranno "Ma se le nazioni la smettessero di pensare ai loro propri interessi, ed invece lavorassero per il Bene Comune, allora sarebbe tutto diverso!"
Questo é un caso della forma di pensiero "Se ci fosse l'utopia, il mondo sarebbe perfetto!" (o almeno sarebbe marxisticamente perfetto...).
Le utopie non sono realizzabili. Le nazioni del mondo non cambieranno i loro costumi subito, né fra cinque anni, né fra cento... probabilmente la natura umana non cambierá finché esisteranno esseri umani.
Ormai mi irrita vedere e sentire fiumi di parole spese a proposito delle utopie, spese nel proporre le utopie come qualcosa di realizzabile, se non giá realizzato. Le utopie sono irrealizzabili, e tentare di metterle in pratica spesso é finito in catastrofe.
I risultati si ottengono solo lavorando su ció che é possibile e fattibile, invece.
July 22, 2004
I have not read it, and I don't know if I will. But I have read Chapter 11: Foresight - and Hindsight. Many of the critics of Bush and "the Government" base all of their analyses (hem...) on a massive dose of hindsight. Thus, the correct course of action shines like dust particles under an UV light (or the violet lights in a club). But under that light, you cannot see the surroundings, the contours.
The report, instead says that two of the biggest failures were the lack of imagination and adaptability of the intelligence agencies.
In other words, CIA, FBI, NSA and all the lot did not adapt to counter al-Quaida and the islamic terrorism in general. They were mostly still stuck in a Cold War (Russian spies) mindset. Although some officers issued reports and briefed the Cabinet, the idea that islamic terrorism was a mortal danger did not take the proper space in the intelligence community's brains.
Moreover, no-one could imagine that the terrorists were going to use hijacked civilian planes as the did on 9/11. Yes, people examined scenarios, but no real countermeasures were taken, because the very possibility of such a bold and destructive attack seemed too vague, too unrealistic. Intelligence agencies are not like 007's headquarters. Instead, they are the kingdom of bureaucracy and routine and paperwork (not so much the agents in the field). But bureaucracy is the antithesis of imagination. Have you ever seen a bright, creative person feeling at ease amidst paperwork and routine? I have not.
There is much food for thought in that chapter alone, but I need some more time to elaborate.
Well, nothing happened in the meantime. Is it over? Who knows.
Was it unjustified alarmism? I don't think so. Intelligence is a realm of muddy waters. You can have many false positives, and when nothing happens people will say you cry wolf.
But when, eventually, terrorists strike, the same people will say you underestimated the threat, or did not take it seriously. Maybe, they will even propose conspiracy theories about how you let the attack happen in order to declare war and seize someone else's natural assets etc.
We can be vigilant and alert, but that's not enough to be completely safe. The only way is to take the initiative, and bring the war onto our enemies - not waiting for them to bring war onto us. Terrorism must be eradicated (well, some splinter group will always remain to cause trouble), not contained.
July 16, 2004
The first threats came on the 7th
of July, from an Islamist forum. The linked article is in
Italian, but it's the usual stuff: accusations of imperialism,
collusion with the "great satan" the US etc.
Then, on July 15th, it came the alert from Internet Haganah , a website specialized in
"Confronting the global Jihad": Attack
Imminent. Target Italy?
Finally, another threat, again via Internet, right today:
Get rid of the incompetent Berlusconi, or we'll bomb and burn Italy. It will be a bloodbath like 9/11 [...] We are in Italy, nobody should feel safe. You rejected Sheikh Osama Bin Laden's offer, and thus we'll attack. With our blood, at that of thousands of Italians, we'll write a new page of your history. [...] We can strike our targets at will, with unconventional weapons.(Translation mine, from the Italian version of exercept of the original text).
The media can blabber as much as they like about the unreliability of these claims, but an intensification of enemy communications is a sign of something breeding. And Aaron is an expert in the field, so if he thinks there's a risk, I am afraid he can be right. (However, these facts are by no means secure proof of an imminent attack.)
But in the end, I don't give a fuck. As President Bush said, "You are either with us or with the terrorists". I'm afraid that now it's time to choose our side, unambiguosly. And stick to it, to the end.
I do not like Berlusconi. He is indeed incompetent on many important issues of domestic policy. He is under trial for corruption and related felonies. He is in the middle of a serious conflict of interests, being also a media tycoon and the president of A.C. Milan, one of the main italian football (soccer) teams. Worst of all, Berlusconi has marked autocratic and elitist tendencies.
But he was elected legitimately by the italian people in legal and regular elections.
Italians exercised their sovranity, and now buckling under the Islamist threat would mean renouncing to our sovranity, to appease the terrorists. Such an eventuality is horrible, the total capitulation of a western democracy in front ot the radical-islamic barbarism.
For myself, I have chosen my side: the side of Libaral democracy. I would vote Berlusconi, if there were an election next weekend, because it's very bad idea, to give the terrorists and extremists an idea they can control our country.
Give 'em hell instead. Let our intelligence services find the targets, and our troops kill them.
Sorry if the style is poor, but I wrote in haste... before I really fall asleep on the keyboard.
Update 18/07: This time it's personal because it involves Italy... hell, even my loved ones may be involved in a terrorist attack. But it's not that I have taken my side when the terror menaced to land in my backyard. I decided long ago. Now I hope that also my blinded fellow italians can open their eyes and see what the enemy is, and the danger it poses. Will it be?
July 15, 2004
The person in question was connected from Johnson & Johnson network, Raritan, NJ (New Jersey). However, there is nothing bad in that.
The weird thing is the other sites in the Google search results: the cremé of the conspiracy wacko nutjobs, bordering - and sometimes crossing the border - with paranoia and/or schizophrenia. Aliens, shadow government, mind control, world domination, crop circles... you name it, you can find it!
My fav was this: Aliens and UFO Art
Or, "How you can see anything you want in a picture, if you enalrge and filter it in a excessive and absolutely arbitrary fashion".
WHOIS for this piece of pure paranoia:
333 E. Indian School Road
Phoenix, AZ 85012
The anty-war crowd, on the other hand, have already decided that war is crime (or a sin) by itself, and who wages war is an unredeemeable criminal. So no matter the facts you can show, no matter the context and the pros-cons balance, they always have something to whine about. It can be DU, Napalm, precision ammunitions, Blackout Bomb (CBU-94), or anything else, but they will whine and call it a "war crime".
So, even putting things in the proper context (the context of war, that is never nice by definition) and producing an extensive list of facts on DU is not going to change a lot.
Depleted Uranium is not used in anti-armor ammunition just for the hell of it, or counting on its radioactive characteristics. Uranium is a very dense and hard metal, and also has other metallurgical properties that make it the ideal choice for a penetrator. In fact, the penetration capability is directly proportional to the kinetic energy of the rod, and inversely proportional to its cross-section. In practice, for the same speed, a thin and heavy penetrator will perform better than a fat and light one. Uranium is also self-sharpening - the point of the penetrator will not blunt, and pyrophoric: it will spontaneously chatch fire when fragmented upon impact. A detailed hystory of the military use, and more facts about DU - also about its medical effects - are published on the Globalsecurity website: Depleted Uranium
Depleted uranium is also comparatively cheap, given that it's a by-product of uranium enrichment and it has only a few competitive uses (and again military, like armor plates and counterweights in military aircrafts). DU does not pose any significant radiations risk: it shows a very low specific activity (radiactive emissions per unit weight of material), and its alpha and a few beta emissions are stopped by just a few centimeters of air. Thus, any claim that the US military is "radiating" the Iraqis or its own soldiers is bunk - or at least a gross imprecision.
On the other hand, uranium (like many more heavy metals) is chemically toxic.
However, there is a fundamental difference: while radiations can harm at distance (high-energy gamma rays can penetrate hundreds of meters of air), a toxic chemical must enter one's body to exert its effects. Whole penetrators, or big chunks of uranium metal are thus not dangerous, while fine uranium oxide dust (produced by the combustion of the metal) can be. Also uranium fragments embedded in the tissues constitute a risk, but it's quite straightforward that only a a small number of people can be interested by such situation - namely, people who are in on nearby a target hit by a DU round. Dust and fragments buried in the soil can contaminate local aquifers, as it is stated in the DoD report by Col. J.E. Wakayama. Anyway, other scientific reports (1, 2, 3) state that DU poses only a minimal risk - however, all these documents suggest decontamination and monitoring of the sites.
Is then the use of DU munitions legitimate? Well, I think so. Not for fun or "just because", but when it's imperative to quickly defeat armored targets, DU is perfectly legitimate. Afterwards, the force that used it should clean-up and take measures to minimize contamination/exposition, especially for the local population.
There are also claims (mostly originating from a single person, Dai Williams), that the latest generation of ground-penetrating bombs and missiles use depleted uranium alloy casings. These claims have found no oficial confirmation. It might be true, but the tone of these papers is the same of all the anti-war chants: illegal weapons, war crimes, thousands of civilian deaths... (no-one could confirm these deaths, though). Other bunk articles call DU "nuclear waste": that may be technically true, but it's clearly a way to give a certain spin to the story. There are even suggestions of nuclear reactions... These are well-known techniques of dishonest debating: you take the worst possible outcome and present it as the sure and certain outcome. Example: the possible underground water contamination by uranium becomes a certain fact causing thousands of deaths.
All this howling about the weapons used in war is, frankly, bullshit: if there are hostiles in a bunker or cave, you bomb them with whatever you have in your inventory suitable to do the job. The only criteria are cost/benefit evaluations, not principles or ideals. I do not exclude even chemical agents or nukes, if the situation is a real bitch (although the USA is destroying its chemical agents stockpile). Because not defeating the enemy can be an even worse outcome. WW 2 caused massive environmental pollution - even radioactive pollution in Japan - but I can not see the catastrophe that should have happened. Might it be that certain claims are grossly overinflated?
July 12, 2004
"Voteremo no alla missione in Iraq perché non ci pare che siano intervenuti fatti che comportino un mutamento di rotta". L'ha annunciato il segretario dei Ds, Piero Fassino.
Eh si, nessun fatto nuovo.
> 20:25 GMT La connessione internet é saltata. Riprenderó la scrittura al piú presto possibile.<
20:45 GMT Internet é di nuovo funzionante.
No, nessun fatto nuovo. Tranne questo dettaglio insignificante: Allawi in persona ha chiesto alle forze della Coalizione di restare in Iraq per aiutare il governo nel mantenere la sicurezza.
BAGDAD - L’Iraq non è ancora in grado di gestire con le sue sole forze la situazione della sicurezza nel paese: lo ha detto il primo ministro iracheno ad interim Iyad Allawi che ha poi definito «necessario» l’aiuto internazionale e la presenza di forze straniere sul territorio iracheno. «Sino a quando le nostre forze non saranno al massimo delle loro capicità continueremo ad aver bisogno del sostegno dei nostri amici», ha detto Allawi. In particolare, ha aggiunto, «sarebbe molto apprezzata l’assistenza e la protezione delle Nazioni Unite. E ci auguriamo che questo sostegno venga anche dai paesi arabi e musulmani».
Ho lo strisciante sospetto che alla sinistra non importi molto del benessere del popolo irakeno, in fondo...
July 11, 2004
Thanks also to Zibibbo... knitting and anti-idiotarianism? Strange but good.
July 09, 2004
Second, if we really need it, we need much less that the actual usage: just go downtonwn by bicycle or bus, and we'll cut oil consumption by an important fraction.
Let's examine, even superficially, the role of oil in the actual world economy, then.
Oil has three main uses: for energy production, as fuel, and as chemical feedstock.
A comprehnsive review of the energy use of oil is published annually by British Petroleum. I strongly suggest to take some time to read the documents, because it's very instructive.
BP uses the term "primary energy", which includes electricity generation and fuel usage. In accordance, I'll use the term "energy" to indicate this primary energy, and electricity for this special case.
In 2003, the world's total (averaged) oil consumption (PDF file) for energy uses was 78 112 000 barrels per day (1 barrell = 136.4 kg). The shares are 30.1% for North America, 25.8% for Europe and Eurasia (ex URSS) and 28.8% for Asia Pacific. Central-south America reaches just a skimpy 6%.
The fraction of energy produced from oil ranges from 30% in Europe and Eurasia to 50% of Middle East, with North America at 40%. The other main sources are coal and natural gas - which is often associated geographically with oil. Renewable sources account for around 11% of the total energy production wordlwide.
Oil is an optimal fuel for power stations, because it is easy to pump, measure and convey a liquid from the tanks to the burner; it leaves much less ashes than coal and produces less CO2 per KW than coal.
Without oil, it would still be possible to generate energy from coal (which is hated by environmentalists), but the construction or reconversion of power plants is not something that can be done in six months. Differently from oil, the major reserves of coal are in Europe-Eurasia, Asia Pacific and North America, while Middle East has virtually no coal.
A non-fossil energy source, with huge capabilities, is nuclear energy. But only mentioning nuclear power stations causes, in environmentalists, hysterical crises, epilepsy attacks, temporary (although sometimes permanent) cessation of rational thinking, and other minor symptoms.
In a refinery, usually the first operation is crude oil fractional distillation (topping), to produce a gas fraction and different liquid fractions, with different boiling point range, and a heavy residue (refinery processes require great amounts of heat and energy, thus the gas fraction and residue are often burnt on-site to produce heat and/or steam). A certain amount of the light fractions (naphta) goes to the petrochemical route, while the rest undergoes more treatments and comes out as fuels: gasoline, kerosene, diesel oil and fuel oil. The amount of processing can be minimal - just topping in case of fuels produced for local use in remote oil fields, but usually fuels are desulphurised (the bulk of sulphur is produced in this way, not mined naymore) and treated in other ways to improve their performance and other carachteristics. Racing and high-performance gasolines are an accurate blend of hydrocarbons produced by holigomerization of ethylene: this amount of processing makes them expensive, but also very performing. Fuels are used to power motorbikes, cars, trucks (lorries, in the ol' Britain), trains, airplanes, ships, construction and earth-moving machines, electricity generators, heating systems, furnaces, stoves, steam generators etc (although the cleaner natural gas is gaining points for many applications). Besides the obvious contruction and earth-moving machinery, also transportation is fundamental in shaping our world: raw materials must be delivered to the factories, and the end products to the wholesalers and then retailers. Managers, but also engineers and technicians need to travel in order to meet each other to discuss projects, reach agreements and do business. Goods travel mainly by ship, train and lorry, while people travel by train and airplane - but the importance of cargo plane is great and growing (the plane is by far the quickest way to deliver goods at long distance). At least in the developed world, there are no more vehicles powered by coal or wood, or gas generated from those fuels. (Well, this is not exactly true, because coal can be gasified and the syngas used to synthetize hydrocarbons - as in the South African SASOL process; but the SASOL is a sophisticated chemical engineering creation, not a makeshift solution). Instead, there are nuclear-powered military ships and submarines. Wood and coal are still extensively used for heating and cooking, especially in developing countries and rural areas. And the real Italian pizza oven is wooden-fired.
Thus far, it should be clear that oil is almost insostituible (at least in short times) as a source of energy.
Oil is also the first raw material for the production of organic chemicals. How? Through petrochemistry.
We left some of our naphta taking the petrochemical route: this begins with steam cracking, which produces mainly the reactive gases ethylene and propylene.
Other useful substances, like benzene and dienes, are produced with different reactions from the same feed (or from ethylene/propylene with other reactions - the specific choice depends greatly from considerations out of the strictly chemical realm). Methanol is typically synthetized from methane or natural gas via steam reforming and synthesis gas, a mixture of carbon oxide and hydrogen useful for many reactions. With these chemicals at disposition (and a few more important ones), everyting goes downhill: in hundreds of different reactions and processes (The most comprehensive encyclopedia of chemical technolgy takes 24 volumes and thousands of pages. Kirk-Othmer)
these fundamental chemicals can be transformed in an almost unbelievable variety of chemicals which constitute the objects and products we extensively use in our everyday life. Not only plastics, but I daresay that most carbon-containing (organic) compound derives from oil - except a few materials of natural or other origin. See here for more explanations and a nice interactive flowchart.
Update 12/07: Shees, if I'm slack... let's finally give some facts and figures about petrochemical industry. Europe only, produced in 2003 produced 20 685 000 tons of ethylene; 14 666 000 t of propylene; 2 130 000 t of butadiene (used mainly to produce rubber) and a good 15 000 000 t of aromatics. On a global scale, North America produces 41% of world ethylene; 38% of propylene and 33% of benzene. Europe's shares are respectively 29%, 34% and 30%. Asia comes third, with 25%, 28% and 34% (Calculations mine, from IPIF data). South America gives only minor contributions.
From this brief overview, it should be clear that our present world is shaped by and modelled on the availability of chemicals and fuels, which in turn are obtained - although sometimes with a long and tortuous route - from oil. Oil is the lifeblood of our economy and civilization. A sudden relevant cut of production or shipment would have catastrophic effects - on the whole world, not only the developed countries.
So, what is acceptable to do in order to keep the oil flowing?
I'll try to explore this realm (far more slippery and insidious than my well-known industrial chemistry) in the next article: The Ethics of Oil.
July 07, 2004
Heathrow airport METAR reports:
This is a short form of reporting meteo observations for aeronautic use, and it is read as follows:
071220Z 7th of current month, 12:20 Zulu time (Greenwich time, or UTC).
050 Wind heading, 50 deg (north-east)
19G35KT Wind speed, 19 knots gusting to 35 knots (almost 65 km/h).
The howl of the wind around the buildings, here at the college, is particularly unnerving. I can also hear loud shuddering and rattling sounds. Actually, security personnel cordoned off and are guarding a section of the inner courtyard: they seem worried that the antennas on the roof of one building might be torn off and fall to the ground. This morning, a piece of brick, or tile, fell off the Albert
Let's wait and see for developments, because this may become an interesting day.
Update 16:35Z - The wind has subsided slightly (gusts up to 54 km/h) and turned to east/north-east, and now there are showers. The antennas did not fall off, but it appears that the other wing of my building was evacuated. The south of England is interested by a full-scale summer storm which caused damage and circulation disruption in a rather wide area. Interesting days indeed.
July 01, 2004
When it's a US vs UE strife about steel, or foodstuffs import-export, I tend to side with the EU. Hell, I even tend to side with the EU when they ask Microsoft to publish its sorgent code. I do not support some EU decisions which look conterproductive (like doing nothing to reduce the Euro/Dollar exchange ratio), but basically I agree with a policy of protection of our own interest, even if the "yankees" will lose something.
After all, these are commercial conflicts between otherwise civiled nations, and the US will never wage (violent) war against Italy about the price of Parma Ham. Unless Evil Cheney and Halliburton realize how delicious it is...
But the War That Radical Islam Began Against the West is an altogether different matter.
It's a violent war, and the Islamist do not restrain from barbarous, bloody acts - not to mention the terrorist attacks themselves. It's a war in which the real stake is the survival of one of the civilizations, and the destruction of the other. "Survival" and "destruction" mostly refer to the involved memes, but the loser of this war will nevertheless suffer a certain degree of physical destruction.
The US is one of the few nations who decided to effectively fight back after 9/11, and it bears the greatest part of the military and economical burden of these operations. Second, at a considerable distance, comes the UK. In practice, the US is almost the only line of defense between liberal democracy and the Sharia rule. The forward defense position is Israel, but let's not get into that. If the US falls (and I do not mean a full military defeat, but just a political one with subsequebt disengagement of the US from the War on Radical Islam), there will be no credibile force left to counter the Islamists and their expansion projects.
Excluding the UK, the rest of the EU has no credible military projection capabilities: projecting an aircraft carrier group, and one infantry/armor division would be a success.
While the USA can deploy TWELVE battle carrier groups (and their aircraft carriers are huge) and project a multi-division force without too much of an effort. And, due to technological, logistics, training and doctrine reasons, one american division is considerably more effective, powerful and flexible than, say, one german division.
Russia is out-of-business: the Red Army is more or less in shambles, the vehicles most likely lack maintenance, and the morale of the troops is low - although Russian military technology is well advanced.
China and India are still rising stars, with armies almost incapable of any projection.
Canada and the Commonwealth are in a similar situation.
Africa is pretty much militarily insignificant.
South America too.
The only good news are that the arab countries have a very poor military record, and Israel has a fine military - and a nuclear deterrent.
This is only from the military projection capabilities point of view. The political will to use this potential is a totally different matter.
The terrorists, who are fanatic and irrational but not so stupid, understood the situation a while ago already. So their line of action is (among recruiting, and satisfying their own ego, and their bloodthirsty god with beheadings and the like) to split the West in harmless and uneffective chunks, and demoralize the americans in order to have their troops withdrawing from the battlefield.
And without the USA to keep pressure on the Middle East (and South Asia, and Center-east Africa, and the Philippines...) the extremists could easily prosper again, and launch massive terrorist attacks against Europe. Then who could attack the terrorist bases? Destroy their training camps, and topple the rogue governments their accomplices?
Nobody. Not the small, shy, underequipped european militaries. Not the useless buffoons at the UN. The terrorists would simply show the middle finger to any eventual "international police force", if not make another snuff movie of their execution.
They will only realize the hand of Allah is not there to protect them when facing overwhelming deadly force - when hard sonofabitch of grunts will come down on them guns blazing, and leave no one alive. That's the sad reality of these times.
But something even more dreadful might happen. France, Russia, China and India do not have sufficient conventional forces, but have nuclear weapons. If pressed in a corner narrow enough by the Islamists, they might decide to unleash the nuclear power and destroy almost all fo the muslim world.
This is why the less bad solution (I wish there was the good solution) is to be unite and support America in its effort to spread democracy and modernization in the Middle East.