Question time on the FM website – chapter 17

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!

Contents

  1. Questions received so far
  2. To start the discussion: articles of interest this week
  3. Quote of the week

(1)  Questions received so far (click on the link to go directly to that thread)

Please use the REPLY button when replying to a previous comment.  This keeps threads together, making it easy for readers to follow the discussion.

  1. Why was the public’s response so feeble to the horrific provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act?
  2. Are we massing carriers near Iran, preparing to attack?
  3. Will the ECB’s massive loans to European banks stabilize Europe’s financial situation? If so, how long will the stability last?
  4. What is the largest underappreciated news story of 2012?
  5. Do you believe the world is going through a very dynamic period in is history?
  6. What foreign Policy would you advocate for the United States during this period?
  7. Might the NDAA discourage business investment, foreign professionals, or innovative thinkers from visiting or migrating to the US due to the unwelcoming culture that the NDAA might spawn?
  8. Is Iraq sliding into civil-war?  Are the troubles in Iraq pushing up the price of oil?
  9. What about the centrifugal forces in Europe and the US?  Will they continue, and to what end?
  10. About seperatist movements in Italy.

(2)  To start the discussion:  articles of interest this week

(a)  Miscellaneous good news!

  1. Christmas shopping assistance (the FM website provides a full range of services):  An educational toy for your children (from the geopolitical shelf)
  2. Good news (only massive corporate action prevented this going into effect many years ago:  “New EPA mercury rules are a bona fide Big Deal“, Grist, 21 December 2011 — More evidence that people saying that government does nothing useful are insane.

(b)  Twitter Terrorism!  This will strike fear into your heart, so that you’ll surrender all rights in exchange for safety.

  1. Somalia’s Insurgents Embrace Twitter as a Weapon“, New York Times, 14 December 2011
  2. The government will save you from Twitter Terrorism:  “Can the U.S. Government close social media accounts?“, Glenn Greenwald, Salon, 20 December 2011

(c)  Donald Trump, Michelle Bachman, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and … now they turn to Ron Paul.  Here we see an old fashioned defense by this old pol, as he makes stuff up to explain away racist remarks in his old newsletter.  This history also tells us much about Libertarians (as a movement).

  1. Angry White Man“, James Kirchick, The New Republic, 8 January 2008 — “The bigoted past of Ron Paul.”
  2. “‘Old News’? ‘Rehashed for Over a Decade’?“, Matt Welch, Reason, 11 January 2008
  3. Who Wrote Ron Paul’s Newsletters?“, Julian Sanchez & David Weigel, Reason, 16 January 2008 — “Libertarian movement veterans, and a Paul campaign staffer, say it was “paleolibertarian” strategist Lew Rockwell”
  4. Ron Paul’s Shaggy Defense“, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Atlantic, 20 December 2011 — Ron Paul is 76; perhaps amnesia is natural for him.
  5. Why Don’t Libertarians Care About Ron Paul’s Bigoted Newsletters?“, James Kirchick, The New Republic, 22 December 2011 — A very good question.
  6. Ron Paul quits CNN interview after questions about racist newsletters“, Reuters, 22 December 2011
  7. The Trouble with Ron Paul’s Defense“, Jonah Goldberg, National Review Online, 26 November 2011
  8. Ron Paul Takes Credit For & Explains The Ron Paul Survival Report“, Real Clear Politics, 26 November 2011 — In a 1995 video interval.
  9. Solicitation Letter for Ron Paul’s Investment Letter and Political Report — Undated, from 1985 through late 1990s. Source:  Reuters

(d)  More shilling for war with Iran

  1. Time to Attack Iran – Why a Strike Is the Least Bad Option“, Matthew Kroenig, Foreign Affairs, January/February 2012
  2. Devastating rebuttal: “The worst case for war with Iran“, Stephen M. Walt, Foreign Policy, 21 December 2011

(3)  Quote of the week

“The hallmark of the well-trained citizen-slave mentality:  the corruption of our elites and leaders is normal and common and so we must not object to it but passively bow to it.”

— Glenn Greenwald, Salon, 14 November 2011

35 thoughts on “Question time on the FM website – chapter 17

  1. The NDAA’s provisions for indefinite imprisonment of anyone, anytime, anywhere, for as long as the President or his minions please, without indictment, trial or right to judicial review, is a seems a radical acceleration of the decline of Constitutional rights. In any other year I would have expected it to provoke fierce opposition. Why was the response this year so feeble?

    1. That’s a timely and important question! But the answer requires understanding the historical context.

      Consider sharks, their “bump and bite” attack. The shark approaches and bumps the prey with its nose. Only after testing the prey several times — determining vulnerability — does the attack commence.

      So during the past two decades our ruling elites first tested us with small chips tapped from the Constitution. We did nothing. Bolder action followed. 9-11 provide the political rationale for large-scale action.

      So there should be no surprise at our passivity to the latest assult on the Constiution.

    2. I suspect you have not read the articles listed in this post about Ron Paul. It’s not a pretty picture, showing bigotry, prejudice, ande paranoia — in addition to his well-known wacky views of economics (esp significant is that his long history of wrong forecasts has not shaken his confidence).

      Also disturbing, of course, is his age — born in August 1935. We have to wonder about his ability to withstand the burdens of the Presidency.

      My guess is that his supporters — those not on the fringes — have manufactured an image of what they want and projected it on Ron Paul. That’s been a common pattern in US politics for the past generation. Carter was perhaps the first example; Obama the most recent. It’s a symptom of something dysfunctional — and sad — in the Republic.

    3. I’ve read some of the ‘racist newsletter stuff’ — and, well, I’m not even white so maybe I should care, but I don’t. I’m kind of a one issue voter, actually, and for me anyone who will stop this Iran war from happening gets my unconditional support. War is the greatest evil, and for me personally, the possibility of stopping this war trumps everything.

      Besides, what’s the point of a media-validated non-racist candidate, if he’s just going to send American citizens off to Guantanamo or some other client state for ‘rendition’ — really, I’m Japanese heritage and my father went through all this with the internment in WWII, and to be honest, I’m not looking forwards to Interment: the sequel. I feel this in every cell of my body — when the police start carting people away without trial, just shut up and get away quietly. But if there’s a chance to stop this now, I’m going to say something. No one else is speaking out about this stuff, and everything about the mainstream candidates, Obama included, scares me more than anything I’ve heard about Ron Paul.

    4. “I’m kind of a one issue voter, actually, and for me anyone who will stop this Iran war from happening gets my unconditional support.”

      The one issue voter — a quick ruote to ruin, voting for extreme, irrational, or fanatical candidates. Esp for voters driven by fear, in this case of a war that probably will never happen (hot rhetoric about Iran has been a staple of US policy since 1979). Fortunately such voters are few in numbers.

      “I’ve read some of the ‘racist newsletter stuff’ — and, well, I’m not even white so maybe I should care, but I don’t.”

      Also, it’s more than just the racism in his newsletters. As I said, you appear to have not read the articles describing the newsletters (let alone the newsletters themselves). IMO Paul’s disqualified for the Presidency by their the conspiracy-mongering, their broad bigoty, plus the wide-ranging ignorance and extremism.

    5. “The one issue voter — a quick ruote to ruin, voting for extreme, irrational, or fanatical candidates. Esp for voters driven by fear, in this case of a war that probably will never happen (hot rhetoric about Iran has been a staple of US policy since 1979). Fortunately such voters are few in numbers.”

      I feel that a stance against the Iran war is a moral position, not one based on fear. I have no connections to Iran. If the USA bombs Iran, it doesn’t affect me directly. That’s why I mention it first.

      I am also concerned about issues like the NDAA and I do confess this is somewhat fear based. This might be irrational. My relatives are all Buddhists and communists (On my Finnish mother’s side), and these days it’s only really the Muslims who should worry, right, right? What can I say? I have enemy-alien family experience. I can’t help feeling this way. Maybe this is difficult for you to understand.

  2. Are we massing carriers near Iran, preparing to attack?

    If you listen to our geopolitical experts (almost all war hawks), the answer is “yes”. But then it is always yes. With six month rotations of our two carrier groups in the 5th and 7th fleets’ areas of responsibility (AOR), several times per year there are carriers near Iran and sailing in that general direction. Thousands of words have been spent speculating about our next war with little more basis than routine fleet movements.

    Like now. Their blood sings at the prospect of war! The USS John Stennis (CVN 74) has been on station in the th fleet’s AOR since leaving San Diego in July. Then USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) en route to replace it. The USS Carl Vinson is en route to the western Pacific.

  3. Will the ECB’s massive loans to European banks stabilize Europe’s financial situation? If so, do you have any idea of how long the stability will last?

    1. EU policy in response to the crisis has consisted almost exclusively of actions to support the banks — as Europe’s governments, like ours, are in effect owned by the banks. The latest actions by the ECB continue this focus:

      • allow ECB loans in exchange for increasingly low-grade collateral,
      • the Long Term Refinancing Operations (LTRO; long-term loans – up to 3 years – at low-rates).

      This meets the immediate liquidity needs of EU banks, providing roughly 250bn euro of new capital. But it’s only a stopgap. Europe’s banks need to re-finance aproximately 280 bn in Q1, and a total of roughly 800 bn in 2012 — plus raise an estimated 115 bn in the first half.

      There are hopes that the banks will borrow from the ECB and buy sovereign bonds. That would be profitable (borrow at 1% and get 5%), and help finance their governments. A shell game, probably fooling nobody — if the banks do it. Since they’re frantically trying to deleverage their balance sheets, they seem likely to pass on this opportunity to go the other way.

    2. As for the larger question — these games by the ECB do nothing to address the underlying problems of the Eurozone. All these efforts to prop up the banks ignore the folly of their austerity plans, ignore the coming recession (2012 GDP might be down 1% or even 2%), and burn time and political capital.

      At some point something probably will destabilize the precarious balance. A downgrade by the ratings agencies. Capital flight. Arrival of the recession.

      Then the bolts will pop out of Europe’s financial machinery. That will create the political conditions allowing bold policy action — but provide conditions underwhich wise and effective action will be difficult.

    3. Yeah the ratings downgrades, are happening. The capital flight, has already happened. Those Italian bond auctions are going to hit like clockwork all through 2012. So what’s going to happen is we’ll have repeated crisis, maybe one every month or so all through the year, and after each one we’ll have hand-wringing and negotiations. It’s possible the system never actually breaks down, but that instead the Europeans are committed to do just barely enough to keep the EMU limping along, but all the uncertainty over the future of the EURO is going to be damaging to business and make long term investment impossible.

      I see the breaking point on the political side as the populations gets squeezed tighter and tighter to make payments on bonds and to pay off debts brought about by nationalizing bank losses. I think the Jobbik party in Hungary is a trend. I expect political movements based on anti-Muslim, anti-Roma, anti-immigrant sentiment to grow.

    4. (1) “The capital flight, has already happened.”

      You exaggerate. It’s is happening, but as yet on a small scale except for Greece. Even in Greece it’s happened on a smaller scale than I expected (the banks have not collapsed)>

      (2) “So what’s going to happen is we’ll have repeated crisis, maybe one every month or so all through the year, and after each one we’ll have hand-wringing and negotiations. It’s possible the system never actually breaks down …”

      That’s the pattern of the past two years. A pattern of crisis-solution-stability-crisis, accellerating in frequency and severity. The “contagion” is spreading. But it will come to a conclusions. Esp if a recession hits in early 2012, as seems likely. If nothing else happens (either policy action, political disorder, or economic breakdown) that will spark the final crisis — and create the political conditions for the necessary actions to either unify or break-up Europe.

  4. What is the largest underappreciated news story of 2012?

    After years of oppressing the Palestinians, stealing their land, Israel begins to lose the moral high ground — the key strategic advantage that allows them to survive while surrounded by enemies.

    (1) The media consensus on Israel is collapsing“, Salon, 21 December 2011 — “Across the political spectrum, once-taboo criticism is now common”

    (2) US alone as Israel condemned in UN Security Council“, The Australian, 22 December 2011 — Opening:

    FOURTEEN frustrated members of the UN Security Council pointed a finger at the US yesterday for blocking any condemnation of Israel’s accelerated settlement construction in Palestinian territory.

    In a move that Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin called historic, diplomats from almost all regional blocs represented on the council stepped to the microphone after closed council consultations on the Middle East to condemn the lack of progress towards a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    Mr Churkin, the council president, said the frustration over the impasse in Israeli-Palestinian talks spilled out in statements from the four European Union council members, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Arab group and the group of emerging powers that included India, Brazil and South Africa. Clearly referring to the US, Mr Churkin said dismissively that one delegation believed things would miraculously sort themselves out on their own. “The call for bilateral negotiations without preconditions would seem a normal thing to ask for,” he said. But Mr Churkin said the Palestinians were overwhelmed militarily and in every other way by the Israelis and without preconditions they would not get a fair deal in negotiations.

    The diplomats – including key US allies in Europe – also criticised the council’s failure to take action against escalating violence by Israeli settlers and urged a speedy resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

    Britain’s UN ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, also speaking for EU members France, Germany and Portugal, said: “Israel’s security and the realisation of the Palestinians’ right to statehood are not opposing goals. On the contrary, they are mutually reinforcing objectives. But they will not be achieved while settlement building and settler violence continues.”

    South Africa’s UN ambassador Baso Sangqu said settler attacks against Palestinian civilians increased 50 per cent this year and called Israeli settlement construction “the main impediment for the two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”.

    While the US was not mentioned by name, the diplomats’ anger was clearly directed at Washington, which vetoed a resolution in February backed by the 14 other council members that would have demanded an immediate halt to all settlement building. The Obama administration has also promised to veto any Security Council resolution supporting Palestine’s bid to become the 194th member of the UN.

    Earlier this week Germany responded with anger to Israel’s decision to approve construction of more than 1000 housing units on land captured in the Six-Day War. A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the Israeli announcement on Sunday was “a devastating message”. Ms Merkel has made no secret of her anger at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for failing to advance the peace process and for his approval of Israeli housing construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

    In February, according to German sources, Mr Netanyahu telephoned Ms Merkel to express disappointment at Germany’s support of a UN resolution condemning Israel for its construction in settlements, a resolution vetoed by the US. “How dare you,” Ms Merkel reportedly responded to Mr Netanyahu’s criticism. “You’re the one who disappointed us. You haven’t made a single step to advance peace.”

    Israel is interested in German support because of Berlin’s political weight in the international arena and its direct economic and military importance to Israel.

    1. It seems to me that the issue of the settlements is a different one to the issue of Palestinian sovereignity . The land the settlements are being built on , excepting some dodgy deals , is being bought rather than seized . Presumably then there must be a high degree of collusion between the landowners , the Palestinian authority and the Israeli property developers . I read that China , Saudi Arabia and South Korea are busy buying farmland around the world . In Uruguay 80% and in Argentina 10% of land was bought by foreigners last year . Brazil has introduced a law , and Argentina is close to doing so , to prevent this . Does anyone know if the Palestinian authority has taken this obvious step ?

    2. Lots of interesting questions in your comment. They call for specialized knowledge beyond mine. For more information see We can only watch as the nation of Israel slowly commits suicide. Does anyone know about this?

      As for global purchases of land see “Why Corporations, Emerging Powers and Petro-States Are Snapping Up Huge Chunks of Farmland in the Developing World“, Scott Thill, AlterNet, 11 August 2009:

      The hard numbers are alarming: According to the Guardian, in the last six months over 20 million hectares (around 50 million acres) of arable land, mostly in Africa and Southeast Asia, have been sold or negotiated for sale or lease. That’s about half the size of all arable land in Europe, or the size of entire U.S. states North Dakota or Oklahoma.

      The aptly titled report, “‘Land Grabbing’ by Foreign Investors in Developing Countries,” from the International Food Policy Research Institute, which declined to be interviewed for this article, explains that “details about the status of the deals, the size of land purchased or leased, and the amount invested are often still murky.”

      The report discussed is “‘Land grabbing’ by foreign investors in developing countries – Risks and opportunities“, International Food Policy Research Institute, April 2009 — The PDF is here.

  5. Do you believe the world is going through a very dynamic period in is history? It seems as if th post WW2 order is crumbling. With Russians intent of a Euroasian union, and a customs union already in place. With the German-French led EU that is forging closer strategic ties with Russia, and seemingly embarking on a different course than London, or “Anglo-Saxons” as they’d say. Even Southamerica, with the creation of the CELAC / Unasur, and their latest statements about the Fawklands, highr tariffs. Iran and its mini-sphere of influence, and oibviously China.

    {see comment #6 for MT’s follow-up question}

    1. This is one of the great themes of the FM website. For a summary see The end of the world. That is, the end of the world we’ve known since WWII, November 2010. This refers to a transition of the global political and economic regimes.

      To see all posts on this topic go to End of the post-WWII geopolitical regime.

      This does NOT mean that ours is a dynamic period in all aspects of society. Art, literature, religion, sports, etc. For answers about those questions please consult someone with a wider base of knowledge.

  6. Follow-up question: What foreign Policy would you advocate for the United States during this period? It seem’s Washington is embarked on a strategy that has already failed.

    1. We need to start with the basics. Which in this case is a grand strategy. The late American strategist Col. John Boyd (USAF) said that a grand strategy focused our nation’s actions — political, economic, and military — so as to:

      • Increase our solidarity, our internal cohesion.
      • Weaken our opponents’ resolve and internal cohesion.
      • Strengthen our allies’ relationships to us.
      • Attract uncommitted states to our cause.End conflicts on favorable terms, without sowing the seeds for future conflicts.
        — From Patterns of Conflict, slide 139.

      From this we can deduce some simple recomendations, the basis for a sound foreign policy:

      • Do not increase the cohesion of our enemies. Try not to make new enemies.
      • Don’t gamble. Adopt slow but sure tactics.
      • Survive until we win.

      See these posts for more information about a grand strategy for America:

    2. More about US foreign policy options.

      This is just a sketch of how nations conduct their foreign policy. The US tends to use inferior methods to implement flawed strategies (the posts above discuss our strategies).

      There are many different foreign policy methodologies.

      (1) Signalling — Loved by by academics and professionals for its elegance and ease of use, despite the fact that it so often fails in practice.

      (2) Foreign policy as investing — We respond in an anticipatory manner, attempting to out-gruess the other players. This derives much of its appear from our tendency to over-estimate our own ability — a tendency especially common among successful people (such as senior policy-makers). It’s the cognitive bias called “Illusory superiority” (see Wikipedia for details).
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illusory_superiority

      (3) Domestically driven policies — These are best combined with prayer (needed since these so often fail, responding as they so often do to internal factors and ignoring vital external ones).

      There are other methods more difficult to use, but more likely to provide good results.

      (4) Coordination of policies with other nations

      Difficult to use. Unless skillfully marketed these sometimes make policy-makers appear weak (esp at home). Also they tend to produce results only slowly. Worse, when these methods fail they often do so quickly and obviously — unlike the other methods, where failure can be easily blurred, or blame shifted elsewhere. Coordination works best for a hegemonic power, who can bully or even compel others to follow.

      (5) Leadership by example

      This is a solution to the prisoners’ dillema (a common foreign policy situation). We adopt the policy most effective if everybody were to adopt it. Kant’s categorical imperative (see Wikipedia). Works well with coordination, and best when used by a hegemonic power (but only hegemons with long-term perspectives will use this).
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Categorical_imperative

  7. Might legislation such as the NDAA discourage business investment, foreign professionals, or innovative thinkers who excel in their field, from visiting or migrating to the US due to the unwelcoming culture that the NDAA will spawn?

    1. Good question! Our customs procedures already discourage visitors, and procedures to grant VISAs already discourage students.

      We’ll have to watch for such effects.

  8. With the US mostly gone from Iraq and with the resulting power vacuum do you feel that Iraq is sliding into civil-war, if not there already? I mean there were those deadly bombings in Baghdad just a few days ago. And isnt Brent crude up over $100 dollars per barrel again as a result of these attacks?

    1. (1) Is Iraq sliding into civil war? Yes, althought its scale, intensity, and duration cannot be determined. Posts on the FM website predicted this outcome in 2007: that the Iraq insurgency was near defeat; the war was evolving into a struggle between the Kurds, Sunni Arabs, and Shiite Arabs. Articles in 2008 confirmed that forecast.

      (2) “isnt Brent crude up over $100 as a result?”

      Yes, oil price remain high (Brent trading $105 – $115 since end of July, which is down from the April – July period). But Iraq civil war is a minor factor. Brent is up due to many factors. Most notably OPEC production discipline (there are several million bbl/day of spare capacity), Libya still mostly off-line, the rising odds of war with Iran, and continued global economic growth.

    2. As I said in September 2007 (Beyond Insurgency: An End to Our War in Iraq):

      GALLIA est omnis divisa in partes tres … (All Gaul is divided into three parts)

      This the opening line of Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic War. But it applies as well to modern Iraq. But then, as now, Gaul was not three seperate political units.

      Since 2007 the tri-part conflict in Iraq has evolved, so that we can better handicap each side.

      The Sunni Arabs made bad choices, first fighting a hopeless war against the Coalition — then an alliance with the Coalition. Neither developed a useful alliance with the Kurds against the Shiite Arabs. Neither developed a working relationship (in a subordinate role) with the Shiite Arabs. Now they face ugly choices.

      The Kurds have played their cards well, but face an ever-stronger Iraq state run by the Shiite Arabs, in alliance with Iran — and have hostile borders with Turkey and Iran.

      The Shiite Arabs have unified into a cohesive and dominate force in Iraq. Remember the euphoria about the “purple fingers” — symbols of democracy — in Iraq? Like most of our dreams, they appear to have been just clouds in our coffee.

      Not much more can be said today than this from the conclusions of my September 2007 article:

      How much fighting remains until the Iraq region regains peace? Warnings of massive bloodshed are often made by pundits with a near-100% record of error in this war. This is just one possible scenario, which does not make it worth our spending unlimited funds and blood attempting (perhaps in vain) to prevent it.

      There are other scenarios. Each proto-state might achieve internal order. They might even come to terms with each other. At this point almost anything seems possible. We can expect continued conflicts of two kinds in Iraq. The number, duration, scope, and intensity of these conflicts are unknowable.

    3. ” The Sunni Arabs made bad choices, first fighting a hopeless war against the Coalition”

      Why was it hopeless? The Talebans too are a minority and have been fighting successfully against a larger coalition for much longer. For that matter, the Iraqis inflicted much larger losses to the coalition as the Talebans and in a shorter time frame.

      The decision to open a second internal front against Shiias and keeping hostility against Kurds was madness of course.

    4. “The Talebans too are a minority”

      (1) The analogy to the Sunni Arabs is not the Taleban, but the Pastun ethnic group.

      (2) The Pastun tribes are the largest group in that part of the world. Estimated (roughly) at 50 million, with 44 million in Pakistan and 13 million in Afghanistan (of total 29 million). For more information see the Wikipedia entry.

  9. In the US as in the EU we see unusually strong centrifugal tendencies. Some predicted as early as 1990, that Europe after the German unification will transform from countries to regions. The EU is divided by the Euro/non Euro line, the UK is faced with the Scottish, N.Irish dissent, Belgien, Spain, Italy have evident splitup tendencies. Shall in the US the Dem/Rep difference get a geographic incarnation? Shall we see action in Europe on this line in 2012? Is any military adventure immaginable in an attempt to halt centrifugal tendencies? Is there a deeper seismic explanation of these phenomena?

    1. This is a great question about an important dynamic in the 21st century. I’ll take a contrary position to the consensus view.

      (1) The US

      (a) Centrifugal tendences were strong from 1776 through the Civil War. But the War burnt them out. Since then intermarriage, internal migration, and the growth of national government have mostly eliminated them. As late as the 1960s much of the South had a highly distinctive culture (most obviously, segregated). That’s largely gone (although going from urban to rurual in the South is like traveling in time).

      (b) Instead of real regional seperatism we have faux politics. As our ruling elites have grown dominate, many people have adopted “let’s pretend” movements. The political equivalent of being a Wiccan or playing Fantasy Football. the Vermont Seperatists are a fine example of this.

      (2) Europe

      (a) Since WWII Europe has been consolidating, a process with steps forward and backwards. So far the process continues quite strong (despite the media narrative, which over-emphasizes the centriugal voices).

      (b) The powerful centrifugal tendencies are (so far, at least) within nations. The UK and Belgium. Some of this might be cyclical. The seperatist movements, for example, in Spain, Italy and N. Ireland have faded from their previous peaks. Some experts believe that a strong EU means that nations become more likely to fragment. That’s just a theory at present.

      (3) “Is any military adventure immaginable in an attempt to halt centrifugal tendencies?”

      The low-level violent insurgencies in N. Ireland, Spain, and Italy were met with varying degrees of military (ie, more force than regular police) response. That is the standard response of States, and I see no reason to expect anything different in Europe.

    2. FM, I agree with everything you said in your post to housewife77 but I feel your response was incomplete.

      What I’m seeing is not so much a rise in separatism but a weakening of unionism. As you noted, the Federal government has driven much of the effective unionist actions of the last two centuries. But the Federal government’s rapidly decreasing ability to act decisively in the internal affairs of the country has created a power vacuum that is dragging the more local forms of governments (state, county, city) back into limelight.

      Two examples to consider: Back in 2004 the US government made it illegal to buy Canadian drugs but the state governments of Maine and Minnesota set up websites to assist their citizens in doing just that. To the best of my knowledge, neither state government was punished for doing this.

      In 2010 California considered legalizing marijuana consumption in a state ballot. The US government was unable to generate an official policy statement about the legality of the concept until a couple of weeks before the vote even though they had known the subject was up for a vote for months. The proposition was defeated in a relatively narrow vote but the US government had very little impact in its largest state over a decision on whether to unilaterally ignore one of the Federal governments biggest domestic policies, the war on drugs.

      Another factor to consider is the rise of the plutocracy. When you compare the public statements of Warren Buffet to the Koch brothers for example, it becomes apparent that the plutocracy is not in full agreement on all topics and does not have a private method for resolving their differences. They are scattered unevenly around the country and have a very large impact on their local governments.

      Where does this lead us? It is impossible to say with any degree of accuracy at this time but I like the quote you gave us from Lenin, “There are decades when nothing happens and there are weeks when decades happen.”

    3. A weakening of national sentiment is the key message of Martin van Creveld’s work, esp his magnum opus Rise and Decline of the State. Loyalties shift to higher groups (eg, Islam) or lower (eg, clan or community). For a summary see The Fate of the State, Parameters, Spring 1996.

      Posts about the Decline of the State:

      For more about his work see The Essential 4GW reading list Martin van Creveld.

  10. In Italy you miss the Lega Nord, a powerful non-military political movement. Eastern Europe(former Austro-Hungarian empire) teems with separatist and irredent tendencies, too many to enumerate. Economic development is forming new regions which go where the money is, ignoring as much as they can existing state boundaries. We must dug deeper.

    1. (1) Italy

      Italy has long-standing separatist movements in both the north and south, which have waxed and waned over time. Focusing on one sliver does not give an accurate picture of the overall health of the Italian polity. See the Wikipedia entries for Political Parties advocating independence in Itlay and Northern Italy autonomy movements.

      (2) Lega Nord (see Wikipedia entry)

      It had its greatest success in the late 1990s, then it faded — until the current economic crisis. Also, they have shifted their goals from independence to regional autonomy (ie, devolution).

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