No burning crises but some wasting diseases. That is the condition of the world announced by the latest round of financial and diplomatic meetings here.
Which means that the immediate future figures to be relatively tranquil. But is also means that meeting the long-term difficulties growing out of energy and associated problems will require years and years of work.
Of the trouble spots around the world, the one closest to flash, point is the Mideast. Between Israelis and Arabs there persist the classic elements of violent conflict - questions as to what states should exist and with what boundaries.
But Israelis and Arabs are now talking to one another through President Carter and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. While it is still not ensured, the chances for a Geneva meeting, at least at the ceremonial level, are far better than I for one supposed.
Even if the meeting does not materialize, Israel's overwhelming military superiority diminishes the likelihood of war to almost zero. If diplomacy collapses, the worst that is apt to happen for the next year or so is not war but a new outbreak of internal struggles within the Arab world.
Dangerous pressure points also exist in many areas of conflict between Russia and the United States. Trouble could come in Berlin, Korea, Yugoslavia, along the Chinese border or even in Africa. But whatever else happened in his recent meeting with the President and Secretary of State Vance, Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko evinced a keen Soviet interest in easier relations with Washington. That would seem to rule out any early winding-up of new tension between the superpowers.
But if potential crisis is well in hand, the same cannot be said of the world's rheumatism, the collection of aches and pains that, while not exactly fatal, go on and on wearing and debilitating. They are getting worse, not better.
Energy, of course, lies at the center. We all know, and three American administrations in succession have warned in accents dire, that reliance on foreign sources of oil and gas decreases American independence and power. But no administration has been able to surface a program that decisively limits dependence. The program of the Carter administion, even if it went through intact, would only cut imports by a fraction. It is not going through intact, and the precentage of oil being imported is steadily rising. It was about 33 per cent in 1973, is over 40 per cent now, and will, if unchecked, be over 50 per cent by 1985.
The big fuel bill inevitably disturbs patterns of international payment. The oil-exporting countries grouped in the the OPEC cartel earn an annual surplus of something like $80 billion. Most of that comes in payments from the industrialized countries - including about $40 billion from the United States.
Because the American economy is strong, this country can foot the bill. But many other countries, particularly in Southern Europe and the underdeveloped world, cannot. Bigger fuel bills mean more inflation for them, and to curb inflation they have been slowing economic growth.
The upshot is the economic pattern decried last week at the meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. It is a pattern of weak recovery from the 1974 recession, with unemployment hanging high, inflation not coming down very much and debts building to perilous heights for the underdeveloped countries.
Matters would have been a lot worse if the United States, under the leadership of Secretary of the Treasury Michael Blumenthal, had not been running ts balance of payments at a deficit. Foreign countries were able to export to the United State, thus gaining the hard currency needed to pay their oil bills, and moderating the incentive to deflate their economics.
But the United States has not had much help from the two other countries with strong economies, Japan and Germany. The American trade deficit this year is running at between $25 and $30 billion - a record high. A similar deficit for next year is likely. Imports threaten several sectors of the American economy, notably the ailing steel industry, and the large debts worry officials responsible for credit institutions.
So Blumenthal has been obliged to toughen his stance. At a press conference last week he insisted that the United States could continue to assume its responsibilities only if Germany and Japan expanded their economies in ways that gave export opportunities to the rest of the world.
With so much at stake, the President is clearly right to throw the full weight of his office behind the energy bill. My guess is that the Senate will give him much of what he wants, and that more will be accorded by the House and Senate conference.
But even that will not enough to meet the endemic problems associated with the world's rheumatism. To cure that will require economic and energy measures that will have to be served up year after year as long as most us can see.