The bear has highlighted an issue that is getting ignored lately... a possible war between Taiwan and China. As evidence, he cites this link that quotes Chinese officials saying in no uncertain terms that a declaration of independence is a declaration of war, and the Taiwanese President saying Taiwan should "walk its own road" and declare independence. This has always been a really touchy issue, and the U.S. is usually loathe to get involved or to take sides (which is why Bush was so throroughly lambasted for taking Taiwan's side early in his presidency). Now, however, the theoretical situation that Bush was referring to when he said he "stood with Taiwan" might become real.
Sadly, however, this seems to be a growing trend, and one that worries me. China and Taiwan are one thing, but the conflict between India and Pakistan has not gone away and any instability in the Pakistani government could ignite that smouldering conflict yet again. It seems that in the wake of both the Cold War and the short post-Cold War consensus that nationality and geostrategy were unimportant in the face of the collective drive for economic growth, we're ending up with a number of conflicts either happening or on the way. Oddly enough, however, the conflicts aren't really between superpowers, but between superpowers (or at the least Great Powers) and small powers.
I wonder whether this isn't the start of a period of consolidation- whether this conflict might not signal the creation and consolidation of new power blocs around the world. Conflicts such as these might not even be attempts to consolidate actual physical geopolitical territories, but perceived power, as each of these three powers (India, the United States, and China) attempt to remove countries that exist as "thorns in their sides" and challenges to their regional power. The biggest difference with the United States is that the region in question is not North America, but the Middle East.
After all, if the U.S. does invade Iraq, the United States will essentially own a valuable chunk of real estate in the region and will no doubt start making threatening noises at the House of Saud until it falls in line. No, I don't expect any sort of invasion of Saudi Arabia... too many other countries depend on their oil to allow that kind of instability to happen, even if it is courtesy of the United States. This sort of geostrategic empire-building is against the spirit of the United Nations, of course, but more and more the United States seems to be setting itself up in opposition to not only the United Nations but the very concept of collective security in general, so much so that I wouldn't be overly surprised if the U.S. didn't decide to dissolve NATO and leave the United Nations sometime in the near-to-middling future. Indeed, if it controlled the Middle East (with Israel, its client state Iraq, and a newly chastised Saudi Arabia as its regional representatives), a valid case could be made that the United States doesn't really need collective security anymore- it would be strategically self-reliant and be able to check the power of other states by controlling a fair chunk of the oil supply.
(Come to think of it, chief among these states would be Japan... could Iraq be the first step to Japan reconstituting a real army capable of force projection?)
In any case, I'm starting to think that there's a lot more going on than this conflict between the United States and the "Islamists", and I'm more and more convinced that it won't be along the lines of Huntington's simplistic "Clash of Civilizations", but something much more traditional. This is all predicated on a successful invasion and conquest of Iraq, of course, and that's not something I assume either. Still, it's worth thinking about.