Saturday January 31, 2015
The United States has just made an exceptionally dangerous, even reckless decision over Ukraine. Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader who ended the Cold War, warns it may lead to a nuclear confrontation with Russia.
Rule number one of geopolitics: nuclear-armed powers must never, ever fight.
Yet Washington just announced that by spring, it will deploy unspecified numbers of military “trainers” to Ukraine to help build Kiev’s ramshackle national guard. Also being sent are significant numbers of US special heavy, mine resistant armored vehicles that have been widely used in Afghanistan and Iraq. The US and Poland are currently covertly supplying Ukraine with some weapons.
The US soldiers will just be for training, and the number of GI’s will be modest, claim US military sources. Of course. Just like those small numbers of American “advisors” and “trainers” in Vietnam that eventually grew to 550,000. Just as there are now US special forces in over 100 countries. We call it “mission creep.”
Thursday January 29, 2015
According to our civic folklore, Americans are more devoted to freedom than any other nationality on earth. But it is increasingly appears that this dogma is a relic of bygone times.
A Gallup poll last July asked a thousand Americans: “Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your freedom to choose what to do with your life?” Only twenty-one percent of respondents said they were dissatisfied.
Admittedly, the percentage of Americans who say they don’t have sufficient freedom has doubled since the previous Gallup poll on this question in 2006, when only 9% complained. That number was stunningly low, considering the controversies back then over the Patriot Act and repressive “free speech zones,” and the first round of explosive revelations of National Security Agency illegal wiretaps on thousands of Americans. Obama in 2008 exploited the Bush administration’s dreadful civil liberties record to portray himself as America’s constitutional savior.
Jon Clifton, the managing director of the Gallup World Poll, observed last summer that the 2006 freedom poll “ numbers make sense in terms of our classic self-perception. The recent numbers do not.” But has the “classic self-perception” been bogus for decades?
Wednesday January 28, 2015
Not even two years into what will almost certainly be a ten-year tenure as China’s president, Xi Jinping has already had an impact on China’s foreign policy: standing up for what many Chinese see as their nation’s territorial sovereignty in maritime boundary disputes in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, proposing a “new model of great power relations” to guide relations with the United States, and presiding over the consolidation of what Xi himself calls a “comprehensive strategic partnership” with Russia. But the most consequential diplomatic initiative of Xi’s presidency may turn out to be his calls to create a “New Silk Road Economic Belt” and a “Maritime Silk Road of the 21st Century”: vast infrastructure and investment schemes aimed at expanding China’s economic connections to—and its political influence across—much of Eurasia.
Successful implementation of Xi’s “one belt, one road” initiative is likely to be essential for China to meet some of its most pressing economic challenges. It is also likely to be critical to realizing the interest of many Chinese elites in a more “balanced” foreign policy—that is, in a diplomatic approach less reflexively accommodating of U.S. preferences—and in fostering a more genuinely multipolar international order.
Over 2,100 years ago, China’s Han dynasty launched what would become the original “Silk Road,” dispatching emissaries from the ancient capital of Xian in 138 BC to establish economic and political relations with societies to China’s west. For more than a millennium, the Silk Road of yore opened markets for silk and other Chinese goods as far afield as Persia—in the process extending Chinese influence across Central Asia into what Westerners would eventually come to call “the Middle East.”
Wednesday January 28, 2015
Over the last 100 years the Fed has had many mandates and policy changes in its pursuit of becoming the chief central economic planner for the United States. Not only has it pursued this utopian dream of planning the US economy and financing every boondoggle conceivable in the welfare/warfare state, it has become the manipulator of the premier world reserve currency.
As Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke explained to me, the once profoundly successful world currency – gold – was no longer money. This meant that he believed, and the world has accepted, the fiat dollar as the most important currency of the world, and the US has the privilege and responsibility for managing it. He might even believe, along with his Fed colleagues, both past and present, that the fiat dollar will replace gold for millennia to come. I remain unconvinced.
Wednesday January 28, 2015
Why is the Federal Reserve the best friend of the warfare state? Watch Ron Paul lay down the history of this destructive institution...
Wednesday January 28, 2015
Progressives have saddled themselves with a theory of history that sees the "march of progress" as an ever upwardly-bound journey to political perfection: thus the appellation "progressive," as in "things are getting progressively better." Yet history – real history, that is – lacks any such teleological plan or direction. It is characterized, instead, by ups and downs, golden ages and dark ages: the golden age of Greece and Rome was followed by centuries of ignorance and retrogression that we call – not without reason – the Dark Ages.
And while this characterization is meant to define the state of a culture in general – its mores, its level of technology, etc. – we can apply it to any field of human endeavor: e.g. the "golden age" of invention, the "dark age" of political repression signaled by the Alien and Sedition Acts – and also to the realm of foreign policy, where periods of relative peace are interrupted by periodic wars of aggression.
History, in other words, sometimes runs "backwards," and we are entering such a period today in our relations with Russia.
Monday January 26, 2015
We can heartily praise Alexis Tsirpras for calling bull on the destructive puzzle palace economics thrust on his country by the hypocrites and liars who rule from Brussels. And his finance minister designate, economist Yanis Varoufakis, is surely on the right track when he targets the rent-seeking bankers, big businesses and media operators who have plundered the Greek state for decades.
Indeed, his pledge that “we are going to destroy the Greek oligarchy system” should resonate throughout the length and breadth of Europe. After all, what has smothered growth, enterprise and hope in the EU is exactly the kind of crony capitalist corruption of economic life and exploitation of the state that had already wrecked the Greek economy—-even before the Trioka administered the coup de’ grace.
So the Syriza Shock is an inflection point. It represents the beginning of the end of unimpeded rule by the elitist apparatchiks who dominate the central banks and the economic policy machinery of Brussels, Washington and London. Overwhelmingly, their half-baked Keynesian and statist solutions have propped up the giant banks, fueled stupendous inflation of financial assets and enabled an era of obscene gambling windfalls to the very rich which is unprecedented in modern history.
Friday January 23, 2015
The notion of a New Cold War with Russia first arrived in 2008 with the publication of Edward Lucas' book The New Cold War: The Future of Russia and the Threat to the West. It received some attention at the time, but the cold war construct in its title gained little traction until the 2014. Since the Ukraine has been in crisis the phrase "a New Cold War" has become fairly commonplace in the media. Part of the reason for this is that the emotional memory of the Cold War is still strong and 'cold war' remains an easy, ready and convenient trope for media commentators in need of dramatic content. However, we should be concerned with more than rhetorical overreach by writers of headlines, book titles and opinion pieces.
While "a New Cold War" has not yet been adopted as an official framework for US foreign and military policy, there are many foreign and military policy-makers who will be tempted by its appeal. We should be circumspect about following them down this path.
The Cold War
The original Cold War amplified, displaced, and generalized the post-WWII tension between the USSR and its former Western allies. As it developed it infected and transformed international relations globally, undermining potentials for integration and cooperation everywhere and in every field, including commerce. It fed on itself, rendering many lesser disagreements and disputes intractable once they were sucked into the dominant framework of highly conflictual and militarized relations. From a global and historical perspective, this became an inefficient and destructive dynamic.