Ask any question about geopolitics, broadly defined. We — and others reading the FM website — will attempt to answer it in the comments. All answers welcomed!
- Like Jeopardy, your comments must be in the form of a question!
- Please use the REPLY button when replying to a previous comment.
Questions received so far (click on the link to go directly to that thread):
- Now we are all sick of the Eurozone, what’s next weeks crisis?
- Romney or Newt?
- Thoughts about possible US military action against Syria?
- A comment about the Republican Party.
- A question about Israel’s geopolitical strategy.
- About the sun’s influence on crop prices.
- In a general sense, how would you define propaganda?
- A reader’s reply about Israel.
- A reply to #7 about Israel.
- Breaking news about the Strauss-Kahn affair (see below)
- Who are the best writers and thinkers on the Right? By ‘best’ I also mean sane.
- Please comment on “Ben Grierson, Actual Hero” by Gary Brecher (The War Nerd)
- Have your views changed about the Occupy Wall Street movement?
Some interesting reading to start the discussion
(a) Update: breaking news (honey pots, one of the classic covert ops tools to fool the gullible public)
Yes, there is evidence that Strauss-Kahn was set up:
- Short version: “The two hours that sank Strauss-Kahn“, Financial Times, November 2011
- Longer version: “What Really Happened to Strauss-Kahn?“, Edward Jay Epstein, New York Review of Books, 22 December 2011
(b) The most important article of the week: “When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality?“, David Frum, New York Magazine, 20 November 2011 — “Some of my Republican friends ask if I’ve gone crazy. I say: Look in the mirror.” The key paragraph:
Extremism and conflict make for bad politics but great TV. Over the past two decades, conservatism has evolved from a political philosophy into a market segment. An industry has grown up to serve that segment — and its stars have become the true thought leaders of the conservative world. The business model of the conservative media is built on two elements: provoking the audience into a fever of indignation (to keep them watching) and fomenting mistrust of all other information sources (so that they never change the channel).
As a commercial proposition, this model has worked brilliantly in the Obama era. As journalism, not so much. As a tool of political mobilization, it backfires, by inciting followers to the point at which they force leaders into confrontations where everybody loses, like the summertime showdown over the debt ceiling.
But the thought leaders on talk radio and Fox do more than shape opinion. Backed by their own wing of the book-publishing industry and supported by think tanks that increasingly function as public-relations agencies, conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics.
- Outside this alternative reality, the United States is a country dominated by a strong Christian religiosity. Within it, Christians are a persecuted minority.
- Outside the system, President Obama—whatever his policy errors — is a figure of imposing intellect and dignity. Within the system, he’s a pitiful nothing, unable to speak without a teleprompter, an affirmative-action phony doomed to inevitable defeat.
- Outside the system, social scientists worry that the U.S. is hardening into one of the most rigid class societies in the Western world, in which the children of the poor have less chance of escape than in France, Germany, or even England. Inside the system, the U.S. remains (to borrow the words of Senator Marco Rubio) “the only place in the world where it doesn’t matter who your parents were or where you came from.”
We used to say “You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts.” Now we are all entitled to our own facts, and conservative media use this right to immerse their audience in a total environment of pseudo-facts and pretend information.
When contemplating the ruthless brilliance of this system, it’s tempting to fall back on the theory that the GOP is masterminded by a cadre of sinister billionaires, deftly manipulating the political process for their own benefit. The billionaires do exist, and some do indeed attempt to influence the political process. The bizarre fiasco of campaign-finance reform has perversely empowered them to give unlimited funds anonymously to special entities that can spend limitlessly. (Thanks, Senator McCain! Nice job, Senator Feingold!)
Yet, for the most part, these Republican billionaires are not acting cynically. They watch Fox News too, and they’re gripped by the same apocalyptic fears as the Republican base. In funding the tea-party movement, they are actually acting against their own longer-term interests, for it is the richest who have the most interest in political stability, which depends upon broad societal agreement that the existing distribution of rewards is fair and reasonable. If the social order comes to seem unjust to large numbers of people, what happens next will make Occupy Wall Street look like a street fair.
38 thoughts on “Question time on the FM website – chapter 13”
Now we are all sick of the Eurozone , what’s next weeks crisis ?
The Eurozone crisis is not yet in the end game. Much more to come.
As for the rest of the world, the Eurozone crisis is not a discrete event, but a manifestation of a global crisis — the end of post-WWII world. Stress has been rising since 2007, with weak links breaking. My guess is that this process has gone too far, becoming unstoppable.
The immediate driver is capital flight.mney fleeing in search of safety, it’s movement destablizing nations, exacerbating already too-large imbalances. For example, money seeks safety in us bonds. But these flows push up the already too-high US dollar, cutting the exports which are our strongest sector — increasing thealready lethally-high trade deficit.
Peak Oil? “The IEA’s Dire Warnings on Peak Oil and the Desperate Need for Energy Innovation“, posted at Oil Price, 23 November 2011.
The OilPrice artice describes the IEA’a warnings about Peak Oil as a medium- or long-term danger, of little relevance to the question to which you reply (the Eurozone crisis). Here is the money paragraph (bold emphasis added):
Romney or Newt?
It is perhaps Romney vs the Bachman-Perry-Cain-Newt freak show lineup. I wonder if the GOP elites are working the Overton Window on us. These weirdos make Romney the weather-vane look sensible.
Or perhaps this is our ruling elites building support for Obama, after running what is effect Bush’s third term. After 4 years of that only true morons would believe that he was a Moslem socialist anarchist. So they had to do something for 2012, since the American people deserve the best possible faux election.
Or perhaps this is the insanity typical of a society cracking up. It is all quite odd, IMO.
Seems like military action is increasingly likely against Syria. With an aircraft carrier crusing off of Syria. How do you believe countries like Russia and China will react? As Russia it seems is sending technicians and experts to help Syria set up their S 300 missiles which they bought recently. Will cooler heads prevail or are we looking at another military intervention?
We can only guess. My guesses:
(1) High odds of some form of US intervention. It might be light given Russian objections (China’s are of less significance here). There are few cooler heads in the big chairs of the US foreign policy team (now dominated by military thinking).
(2) Russia’s leaders appear eager to regain lost global influence and prestige. Thanks to our blunders since 9/11, and the mindlessly aggressive behavior of Israel with which we are associate, the Middle East offers an opportunity for them to do so. They might take bold but careful steps to oppose us.
FM, do you think the Israelis will get involved in the intervention or that they’ll be halfway intelligent and sit this one out?
What do you think Turkey will do?
Also do you think that the US government will try to use the Syrian intervention as a way to persuade the Iraqis to allow them to keep some bases in the more obscure portions of their country?
The Kurds, for example, would undoubtedly be very happy to have US troops in their portion of the country for an extended period of time.
All excellent questions, and beyond my ability to even make good guesses. Perhaps beyond anybody’s ability.
“When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality?“
My vote is 1994, when Newt Gingrich blamed the Democrats and Liberals for Susan Smith strapping her two little boys into their car seats and let the vehicle roll into a lake. When it was revealed that Ms. Smith belonged to the family of an official of the South Carolina Republican Party who had sexually abused her for decades, Newt dropped it, never apologized, and paid no price whatsoever for his vicious, slanderous lies. And Democrats refused the opportunity to portray the Republicans as exemplars of “Southern Christian Conservative Family Values” like incest, adultery, and child-murder.
The next year Newt was Speaker of the House. “Gingrich Off the Hook in Susan Smith Case?“, Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon, 26 July 2005.
He and fellow Republicans learned from this that the American people will accept any vicious lie they tell, and that Democrats will merely accept Republican vicious lies and turn the other cheek.
The Democrats are too busy concocting their own lies (e.g. Chappaquiddick) to take time to deal with such slime?
” the mindlessly aggressive behavior of Israel with which we are associate”
Facts, proof, analysis???? Or would that be too much to expect from the Pavlovian anti-Israel rhetoric so frequently emitted involuntarily by Flatulence Maximus. I defy you to name one historical example of a nation surrounded by so many irreconcilable enemies committed to its total destruction that has exhibited greater restraint in the defensive use of its considerable military capabilities?
(1) About Israel
The driver of much (not all) of Israel’s problems was the decision to gradually annex as much of Palestine as possible after Likud gained power in the 1977 election.
Imagine if after their victory, they adopted America’s post-WWII strategy of building up the folks they defeated — esp on the West Bank. Nobody knows, but I believe this would have worked out much better for them than their attempt to occupy the West Bank.
As it was, Israel was on course for a great strategic victory, establishing solid if not friendly relations with their neighbors:
But all this potential came to nothing, destroyed by a contrary policy at work during the same period — expansion of settlements into Palestine. This policy was antithetical to both the peace process and the long-term survival of Israel. They forfeited the moral high ground, the key to survival in a world with 4GW is the dominant form of warfare.
The situation will have to change greatly before Israel can make a secure home for itself in the Middle East, and getting there might be prove painful for both sides.
This is simple history, by now evident to all who bother to see.
(2) For more informatio see these posts about Israel
(3) “frequently emitted involuntarily by Flatulence Maximus”
You paint an ugly picture of yourself with such schoolyard insults. I answer anyway because others might find the issue of interest.
(1) “Pavlovian anti-Israel rhetoric”
Wow, nice strong knee-jerk reaction you’ve got there. Well designed to insure a reasoned, high-quality discussion! I shouldn’t respond because FM can take care of himself quite nicely but I’ll put my two cents in anyway.
(2) “I defy you to name one historical example of a nation surrounded by so many irreconcilable enemies committed to its total destruction”
I’ll certainly grant you that the period of 1946-1985 saw quite a lot of attacks, but what about the period from 1985-2011? Which of the governments that border Israel have launched attacks against Israel during that period?
Saddam threw SCUD’s at Israel in 1991 but that wasn’t really about Israel, it was about the US, Saudis, Egyptians, and Jordanians not letting him have his way with Kuwait.
Then there was that nasty scuffle in 2006 when Israel invaded Lebanon to rescue the kidnapped soldier but the Lebanese military wasn’t involved. If memory serves me correctly, the Lebanese army obeyed Israeli orders to stay out of the southern region of their own country and did not retaliate in any way while Israel destroyed their communications and highway networks in search of Hezbollah communication and supply routes. Not exactly the actions of an “irreconcilable enemy.”
Israel has also repeatedly invaded the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip regions in search of terrorists launching rockets into Israel but the Palestinians don’t have a military arm and don’t even really have a country. What little they’ve got in terms of self-government depends very heavily on Israel for support. While this probably angers the Palestinians a great deal, it doesn’t make the Palestinians a real threat to Israel’s existence.
Yes, there’s been always been a lot of talk about crushing Israel during the pan-Arab summits but actions speak louder than words and the neighboring Arab powers seem mostly more interested in trade with Israel these days than in war.
There are the threats of the loud-mouthed idiot who is currently the president of Iran. You’ll notice that the Iranian constitution is set up so the president is a figurehead while the mullahs make the decisions. And the mullahs seem to be far more interested in maintaining internal security and extending their reach into Iraq than they are in the existence of Israel. From what I can see, the average Iranian is also more interested in the old Shi’ite-Sunni argument expressed in Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain, Qatar, and Lebanon than in Israel.
Yes, Iran appears to be trying to build nuclear weapons and they haven’t been real forthcoming about their intentions. But the most logical reasons to build these weapons are to keep up with the neighbors (India and Pakistan) and the US tends to play nicer with countries with nuclear weapons. Destruction of Israel would invite destruction of Iran and they know it. There is no pragmatic reason for Iran to expend their nuclear arsenal against a distant country that has not done anything to them and the Iranians have been very pragmatic in their actions, if not their words.
(3) Mostly, you sound like the Republicans that David Frum recently wrote about (“When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality?“). You hear resentment from residents of Israel’s neighbors for Israel’s vibrant economy and democracy and see threats. But the resentment only grows when Israel punishes the threats. “The beatings will continue until morale improves” is not an effective way to gain friends and influence people. After a while, even your closest friends begin to wonder if you aren’t your own worst enemy.
I suspect I’ve wasted my time because I doubt you’ll able to understand my point of view but I had to give it one try.
“Right-wing NGO exposes extent of Israel’s support of West Bank settlements“, Haaretz, 24 November 2011 — “In bi-annual survey, Mattot Arim ranks Knesset members, ministers, according to number of bills, lobbying they advanced to better lives of West Bank residents.” Excerpt:
Religion is generally insane (tribal). A country founded on religious insanity* will obviously become totally insane politically, at least until it learns to put religion in a sensible context.
*and the larger “sick” imperialist geopolitics surrounding Israel’s formation.
Liberalism and Religion – We Should Talk, Ken Wilber, Shambhala Sun, July 1999 — excerpt:
DS , if FM will let us get away wih it , explain a bit more about the Settlements . What sort of land do they pop up on ?
Agriculture commodity prices (wheat, rice etc) have been falling of their highs from earlier in the year. This is at odds with some of your postings where you cite historic negative correlation between ag output and sunspot activity (due to falling temps). Have your views changed or is this just short term price movement?
(1) About the effect of solar activity on Earth’s climate
This is, as I have always said, a theory. A theory strongly debated among experts, with as yet no clear conclusions. Scientists learn much with each new solar cycle, as we have observed solar activity and Earth’s climate with modern instruments only since (very roughly) 1970.
Note that the increasingly anti-science turn among conservatives has infected the comment section of climate skeptic websites, such as the excellent Watts Up with That, turning them into battlefields between scientists and ignorant-but-confident ideologues. Discussions of solar science degenerate esp rapidly.
(2) Short-term weather is always volatile
Every during the Little Ice Age there was much volatility in annual harvests.
Here are a few of the most recent articles on the FM website about the sun’s influence on Earth’s climate:
In a general sense, how would you define propaganda?
The standard practice on the FM website is to use the DoD dictionary (JP1-02)as the first source, standard dictionary definitions otherwise.
Facts and Analysis;
Re: About Israel
1) In the aftermath of the 1967 during which the West Bank, then a part of Jordan and Gaza then administered by Egypt were occupied, Israel offered to return all captured Arab territories in return for peace. The answer was the 3 No’s of Khartoum, No Negotiations, No Recognition, No Peace. So exactly what is the relevance of adopting “America’s post-WWII strategy of building up the folks they defeated”??????
2) The so-called PLO adhered to the Khartoum 3 No’s until the around 1990 when fearing from his distant Tunisian headquarters that he was rapidly losing popular support in the West Bank and Gaza to the Islamic fundamentalists, Arafat decided for tactical reasons to enter negatiations in order to establish a presence on the ground. The PLO has never really been able to commit itself to peace and/or to abandon its long term goal of Israel’s destruction as evidenced by the outright rejection and lack of even counter-offers to Barak’s 2000 Camp David proposals by Arafat and Olmert’s 2006 peace overtures by Abbas. While it is regretable that Israeli ultra nationlist elements have managed to exploit the peace vacuum to build settlements in the the occupied territories, their misguided actvities are no real obstacle to peace negotiations. Israel has proven that it is fully prepared to uproot settlements in both the evacuation of Sinai in 1982 and the Gaza withdrawal of 2005. So exactly how was the peace process “destroyed by a contrary policy at work during the same period — expansion of settlements into Palestine”??????
Re “the supposed lack of attacks from 1985-2011”
1) Go ahead and trivialize Iraqi Scud missiles falling on Israel cities in 1991, somehow if they had fallen on U.S. cities, your reaction would likely be different. Nonetheless, Israel took one for the team
and did not respond.
2) Massive waves of Palestinian suicide terror attacks by both Hamas and groups directly linked to the PLO from 1995 onwards were aimed largely against Israel’s civilian population. Israel’s 2002 Defensive Shield operation included unprecedented efforts to avoid civilian casualties. as did the 2008 Cast Lead operation in response to large-scale indiscrimate missile firing against southern Israel. I challenge you to compare Israeli standards with even those of the U.S. forces for the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
3) In case you really are from Pluto, please be informed that the government of Lebanon has not for many years possessed effective sovereignty within or over its borders. The true powers in :Lebanon are Hizbollah, Iran and Syria. When Hizbollah commenced the 2006 War by an unprovoked attack attack inside Israel that killed 12 Israeli soldiers (including two that it maliciously suggested were being held captive), it also launched large scale rocket attaks on northern Israel. For over a month about one fifth of Israel’s popuation had to hide in shelters or escape to the south. Try to imagine such a situation in any other country. Nonetheless, Israel’s miliary responses were hesitant and rather feeble in comparison to its capabilities largely out a concern to avoid wholesale civilian casulties in Lebanon. The fact that there were only about 1100 Lebanese fatalities of whom over half were Hizbollah fighters over 34 some days of fighting during which Hizbollah made extensive use of Lebanese civilian populated areas for its military operations is a testament to Israel’s restraint.
4) As for Iran’s nuclear weapons programs, if there is one thing that Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollah’s do agree upon it is the detruction of Israel. This has been an essential part of the official ideology long before Ahmadinejad and will continue to be long after he has departed from the scene. Still Israel has for many years been trying to find a non-military method of preventing an Iranain nuclear threat.
In conclusion, where is the evidence supporting the casually gratuitous statement regarding ” the mindlessly aggressive behavior of Israel with which we are associate”? I do aplogize if you were offended by my casually gratuitous allusion to the origins of your above statement, all I can say in my defense is that I guess its contagious.
(1) “America’s post-WWII strategy of building up the folks they defeated”??????”
My statement does not assume that the Palestinians were angels or even neutrals, as you imply. Conflict resolution requires that one side work to improve the situation. If both sides continue the struggle one gets the Balkins, a poor strife-torn region with people locked in an endless cycle of avenging ancient wrongs.
Israel won big in conventional wars, achieving a position of dominance which they could have leveraged to build a firm foundation in the region (the US would have eagerly funded it). Instead they chose to use their strength to steal land.
This is slow suicide. Slowly their enemies grow stronger. Slowly their friends fall away, repelled by Irsael’s actions. A cutoff of US aid, which grows more likely over time, would be catastrophic for Israel (ie, foreign aid is the least popular part of US government spending).
This is simple realpolitik. It has been obvious for years, even to many people in Israel.
(2) “I do aplogize if you were offended by my casually gratuitous allusion to the origins of your above statement”
I was not offended. Your schoolyard insult revealed much about you, nothing about me.
(3) “by my casually gratuitous allusion to the origins of your above statement, all I can say in my defense is that I guess its contagious.”
That makes no sense that I can see.
(4) Comments are brief statements, referring to the longer analysis in the posts cited. See those if you are in fact interested.
It’s a waste of time writing long comments. The readership is small, and I doubt if you’re paying much attention.
“The necessary elimination of Israeli democracy“, Haaretz, 25 November 2011 — “Haaretz publisher and owner Amos Schocken says there is a difference between the apartheid of South Africa and what is happening in Israel and in the territories, but there are also similarities.”
Haaretz is Israel’s oldest daily newspaper, founded 1909. The weekend issue’s circulation is 100,000.
Vicious right wing pro-Israel extremist LUNATICS have made death threats against such gentle liberal reformers as Rabbi Michael Learner of http://www.tikkun.com. What were Learner’s sins? He talked about a politics of the common good with Palestiian PEACE ACTIVISTS. He dared to criticize the right wing LUNATIC extremists like you that are incapable of RATIONAL OR ENLIGHTENED THOUGHT.
The more you say, the more revulsion that decent people will have for Israel’s insane politics. The Palestinians (a non-people from a non-state) are just pawns of the Arab kings and despots. Arab elites consider Palestinians to be “dogs”. This is about geopolitics and the history of european imperialism in the region, and the oil resources: who gets the $$$
If Israel worked toward real peace, and established it, then they would not get as much money from the USA. simple?
FM’s first point, particularly about “slow suicide” sums up my observations on the matter perfectly.
It doesn’t matter how humane Israel is in the deployment of force, it will not know peace until it can recapture the moral high ground from the individuals (not countries) who want to destroy it.
The US is in the same position regarding al Qaeda. We appear to have won the war in 2003 with the capture of most of the leaders and the near-complete isolation of the survivors but we did so in ways that continually create new enemies for us to fight. Every time we defeat our opponents when fighting in this way we create new enemies who know more about how to defeat us. The US war on terrorism will not end until we change our ways or we are destroyed.
Update: breaking news (honey pots, one of the classic covert ops tools to fool the gullible public):
Opening of the NYRB article:
Who are the best writers and thinkers on the Right? By ‘best’ I also mean sane.
It’s a good question. There were so many, but most have retired or gone dormant.
I like hearing David Brooks on NPR and watching him on PBS. Taki Theodoracopulos is sometimes good too (takimag.com). I can enjoy Fred Reed too.
David Brooks is considered a moderate by most observers, and by the best test (liberals often consider him a conservative; conversatives often consider him a liberal).
Fred Reed is not a conservative. Not anything remotely so. See his website.
please comment: Ben Grierson, Actual Hero” By Gary Brecher (The War Nerd), Exiled Online, 16 October 2011 — excerpt:
Have your views on OWS changed over the past months?
The blog post advocating what became OWS was posted on July 13, four months ago. No, my views have not changed from those in these posts:
I originally thought OWS would shine the light on corruption in Wall Street, but now I think OWS’s most powerful message is highlighting militarized police forces and brutality.
The police reply to OWS is standard operating procedure, going back over a century.