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The Case of the Missing Catastrophe

Last week the world was scheduled to burn. Pundits were predicting that recognizing Jerusalem as capital of Israel would unleash a torrent of blood in the Middle East, if not around the world. The White House decision was criticized on many grounds not in the least as being a violation of international law.

But as Ralph Peters noted, a strange thing happened.  By and large the streets stayed calm.  "Instead, the largest demonstration anywhere this weekend was the funeral procession for Johnny Hallyday, the 'French Elvis.' " Peters thinks non-rage occurred because the assumptions underlying the predictions had changed and the Arab Street had too much recent pain and suffering to want more.

Once upon a time, the Palestinians were the only game at the propaganda casino, a marvelous tool for Arab leaders to divert attention from domestic failures. Then came al Qaeda. And Iraq. Iranian empire-building. The Arab Spring. The oil price collapse and the rise of ISIS, with its butcher-shop caliphate. The civil war in Syria, with half a million dead. And, not least, the region-wide confrontation between decaying Sunni power and rising Shia might.

In place of the Days of Rage, a kind of Victory over ISIS event was quietly observed. Iraq declared victory over the Islamic State. Putin began pulling Russian forces out of Syria.  Even Muqtada al-Sadr "urged his fighters to hand state-issued weapons back to the government." The changes were underlined by Saudi Arabia's reopening of movie theaters in the Kingdom after a 35 year ban. The region, after a decade of conflict, was weary of war.

Still the world could burst into flames next week if opinion writers are correct in predicting the effect of the Republican tax bill, which like some giant asteroid from outer space, is forecast to come crashing down on governance and "could reshape major areas of American life, from education to health care".  The New York Times warned that:

elements in both the House and Senate bills could constrain the ability of states and local governments to levy their own taxes, pressuring them to limit spending on health care, education, public transportation and social services. In their longstanding battle to shrink government, Republicans have found in the tax bill a vehicle to broaden the fight beyond Washington.

Salon termed it no less than "a poison pill that kills the New Deal" which would return the nation to the days of Herbert Hoover.  As a final objection an American law to cut taxes would, like the Jerusalem recognition, be in violation of international law.

Europe’s five largest economies on Monday warned the U.S. its planned corporate tax reform could breach world trade rules and violate double-taxation treaties the U.S. has signed….“It is important that the U.S. government’s rights over domestic tax policy be exercised in a way that adheres with international obligations to which it has signed up,” the ministers wrote in the letter.