The best geopolitical webposts, ever

Amidst the thousands of webposts about geopolitics, three stand out as the best ever IMO.  Here are the winners; excerpts follow below.

  1. The Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics“, Matthew Yglesias, 10 June 2006
  2. If Wishes Were Horses, Beggars Would Ride — A Pony!“, John & Belle Have a Blog, 6 March 2004
  3. The Priest-Avatar of the State“, Fafblog, 18 August 2004


(1)  “The Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics“, Matthew Yglesias, 10 June 2006 — Excerpt:

The ring is a bit goofy. Basically, it lets its bearer generate streams of green energy that can take on all kinds of shapes. The important point is that, when fully charged what the ring can do is limited only by the stipulation that it create green stuff and by the user’s combination of will and imagination. Consequently, the main criterion for becoming a Green Lantern is that you need to be a person capable of “overcoming fear” which allows you to unleash the ring’s full capacities.

… Suffice it to say that I think all this makes an okay premise for a comic book. But a lot of people seem to think that American military might is like one of these power rings. They seem to think that, roughly speaking, we can accomplish absolutely anything in the world through the application of sufficient military force. The only thing limiting us is a lack of willpower.

What’s more, this theory can’t be empirically demonstrated to be wrong. Things that you or I might take as demonstrating the limited utility of military power to accomplish certain kinds of things are, instead, taken as evidence of lack of will. Thus we see that problems in Iraq and Afghanistan aren’t reasons to avoid new military ventures, but reasons why we must embark upon them: “Add a failure in Iran to a failure in Iraq to a failure in Afghanistan, and we could supercharge Islamic radicalism in a way never before seen. The widespread and lethal impression of American weakness under the Clinton administration, which did so much to energize bin Ladenism in the 1990s, could look like the glory years of American power compared to what the Bush administration may leave in its wake.” (quote from “Cognitive Dissonance: The State of America’s Iran Policy“, Reuel Marc Gerecht, CATO, 9 July 2006.

(2)  “If Wishes Were Horses, Beggars Would Ride — A Pony!“, John & Belle Have a Blog, 6 March 2004 — The post is one of the best eviscerations of Libertarian theory I have seen.  Excerpt:

You see, wishes are totally free. It’s like when you can’t decide whether to daydream about being a famous Hollywood star or having amazing magical powers. Why not — be a famous Hollywood star with amazing magical powers! Along these lines, John has developed an infallible way to improve any public policy wishes. You just wish for the thing, plus, wish that everyone would have their own pony! So, in Chafetz’ case, he should not only wish that Bush would say a lot of good things about democracy-building and fighting terrorism in a speech written for him by a smart person, he should also wish that Bush should actually mean the things he says and enact policies which reflect this, and he should wish that everyone gets a pony. See?

… John got the idea from a Calvin and Hobbes strip in which little Susie first wishes that Calvin was nicer, then realizes she might just as well wish for a pony while she’s at it. So, thank that Calvin and Hobbes guy, or something. Here is the original ‘might as well wish for a pony‘ strip.

(3)  “The Priest-Avatar of the State“, Fafblog, 18 August 2004 — Excerpt:

There are times when the Medium Lobster is beseeched by linear beings who seek to understand a portion of that greater wisdom which is possessed by the Medium Lobster. And today the Medium Lobster has deigned it appropriate to respond.

Petitioner Stephen Richards asks: “I seek your enlightenment on the question of how much knowledge a true citizen should need before an election. In particular I am curious to whether the candidates – if deemed elected – would invade Iran to protect us all from the forces of evil.” However I am unsure if the press should even ask such a question. How much truth is too much truth for the American voter in a war for truth in the world? Should America be allowed to know where both candidates stand on this issue – before November?”

Ah, Stephen. The larger issue – should America invade Iran? – is a serious one, and will surely be addressed by the Medium Lobster in the days to follow. But your question – should the press ask the candidates if they support an invasion of Iran? – is even more crucial, for it goes to the very heart of the nature of the Presidency itself.

No, Stephen, the media should not press a candidate – or an elected President, for that matter – on his wartime plans. Not because the public does not have a right to know – although this is questionable indeed – but because it is not the job of the President to invade Iran, or conduct a war, or decide matters of policy in general. No, Stephen, the President does not exist to make petty decisions such as these, to muddy his hands in the tedious affairs of state. He exists not to guide the nation to where it should be. He exists to project an image of what it wants to be.

America doesn’t need a President to lead them; America needs a President who projects leadership. America doesn’t need a President who’s honest with his country; America needs a President who’s honest with his wife. America doesn’t need a President with a firm grasp of policy and a commitment to serving his country; America needs a President with the appearance of irrepressible optimism and Wholesome Heartland Values. America doesn’t need a capable wartime President; America needs a President who makes himself look like war.

… The job of the President of the United States is to forcefully emote the conscious and unconscious will of the American People. He is not the commander-in-chief. He is the Happy Warrior. He is the Priest-Avatar of the State.

As Colorado Governor Bill Owens said when defending President Bush’s supposedly-infamous seven minutes sitting before schoolchildren on September 11th, “A lot of what governors and presidents have to do is project a level of confidence and a level of calmness.” Indeed, and that is exactly what the President did on that terrible day: when America needed to be protected, George Bush was projecting an aura of protectedness; when America needed to be safe, George Bush was looking like safety; when America needed to be strong, George Bush was exuding something like strength. When you watch that clip again, in Michael Moore’s detestable piece of propaganda or elsewhere, remind yourself, This is what a President is for: projecting, smiling, posing, waving, doing nothing.


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7 thoughts on “The best geopolitical webposts, ever”

  1. None of the above articles are truly “geopolitical” in nature. They may relate to foreign policy, but that doesn’t make them “geopolitical.” Geopolitics is a view of the world that considers the links between place and politics; between geography, power, and cultural-historical forces. Many people believe geopolitics to be another name for international relations or foreign affairs. Its important to remember that geopolitics is a sub-discipline of political geography with its own assumptions, theories, and methodology. The best writing I’ve seen on the subject can be found in the book – “Geopolitics” Geography and Strategy” edited by Colin Grey and Geoffrey Sloan. Its a collection of essays that I highly recommend. Here’s the link:
    Fabius Maximus replies: This is correct, but operating on a technical level unfamiliar to the general audience reading this site. As I say on the “About” page, this site is written for the average person and avoids jargon (as much as possible).

  2. I think the Japanese leaders during WWII would have been great believers in the Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics. They thought the superior willpower and martial spirit of their soldiers would compensate for any material deficiencies they had compared to Western soldiers. We all know how that turned out.
    Fabius Maximus replies: A great observation! We have a clear winner for the “best of thread” comment.

  3. well. what to do about iranian nukes? wishing won’t make them go away. the second and third order effects won’t go away either. if you think the middle east is unstable now, wait until iran gets the bomb. the bomb will help iran’s middle eastern plans of regional hegemony and will endanger latin america.

    so far, i haven’t seen any real effort to stop them. the sanctions were a joke and only made iran stronger in the end. i wouldn’t be so quick to poo poo a military response in conjunction with the use of the other elements of power.
    Fabius Maximus replies: There are several odd things about this comment.

    (1) What Iranian nukes?

    (2) “wishing won’t make them go away.”

    No did it make the Russian nukes go away. Or Pakistan’s. Or North Korea’s. Or Israel’s. Your point is?

    (3) “if you think the middle east is unstable now, wait until iran gets the bomb.”

    The grammer of this sentence is unclear, but I assume you are making a forecast. It has no historical support. As so many historians and military experts have said, introduction of nukes into regional hotspots has so far cooled them. As seen in the US – USSR global theater, Israel vs. its neighbors, and Pakistan-India. It’s a small sample set, so no definitive conclusions can be drawn. For more on this I recommend reading “The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: More May Better”, Kenneth Waltz, , Adelphi Papers, Number 171 (London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1981)

    We can say, however, that your nightmares are just guesses. No more.

  4. Except Major, there are no Iranian nukes. There are no prospect of them either (I wont bore you with the technical details). Plus I’ve heard about the “Iranians will have nukes in 2 years” for about 20 years now.

    Oh unless you believe in the Iraqi nukes?

    Interestingly the Iranians, who were gassed many times by the Iraqis never responded with their own gasses, even though they could have, at least, made crude ones. There does seem to be a moral imperative here,as there is in many countries around the world. You honestly don’t think the Japanese, Dutch, Germans, Australians, etc, etc cannot make nuke weapons? Of course they can, but they choose not to. You know some countries have actually banned mines and many countries dont have chemical weapons?

    The Iraqi’s were interesting, they had and used chemical weapons in their war with Iran (which they started remember and we backed). But they got rid of them in 92 as a vain attempt to get back in the West’s good books. They had inspectors in who found nothing. There were defectors which confirmed it. But it was too good a propoganda ploy to pass up in invading them, remember that clown Powell? The reality was that if they really had them we would probably never have invaded.

    Interestingly, when the US sent its people all around Iraq after the invasion they actually found one set of conclusive proof of chemical weapons. They found a whole batch of US CW artillary shells that were empty but had CW in them in the past .. amazing how quickly that report disappeared. Which is another set of proof of how dumb these clowns are, I’d at least have made up something that could be placed and then ‘found’. I’m sure the MSM would have swallowed it hook line and sinker.

  5. Re Post 6 . I spent most of my schooldays gazing out the window while mentally trotting my pony along the banks of the far-distant Oxus . Therefore I missed out on the lessons on the historical enmity , geographical significance , and current disputes between Iran and a) Poland b) Latin America .
    Please enlighten me .
    Should we also be worried about Iran nuking Finland ? This could cause sea levels to rise .

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