Wednesday, June 17, 2015

An Affirming Flame

According to an assortment of recent news stories, this Thursday, June 18, is the make-or-break date by which a compromise has to be reached between Greece and the EU if a Greek default, with the ensuing risk of a potential Greek exit from the Eurozone, is to be avoided. If that’s more than just media hype, there’s a tremendous historical irony in the fact.  June 18 is after all the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, where a previous attempt at European political and economic integration came to grief.

Now of course there are plenty of differences between the two events. In 1815 the preferred instrument of integration was raw military force; in 2015, for a variety of reasons, a variety of less overt forms of political and economic pressure have taken the place of Napoleon’s Grande Armée. The events of 1815 were also much further along the curve of defeat than those of 2015.  Waterloo was the end of the road for France’s dream of pan-European empire, while the current struggles over the Greek debt are taking place at a noticeably earlier milepost along the same road. The faceless EU bureaucrats who are filling Napoleon’s role this time around thus won’t be on their way to Elba for some time yet.

“What discords will drive Europe into that artificial unity—only dry or drying sticks can be tied into a bundle—which is the decadence of every civilization?” William Butler Yeats wrote that in 1936. It was a poignant question but also a highly relevant one, since the discords in question were moving rapidly toward explosion as he penned the last pages of A Vision, where those words appear.  Like most of those who see history in cyclical terms, Yeats recognized that the patterns that recur from age to age  are trends and motifs rather than exact narratives.  The part played by a conqueror in one era can end up in the hands of a heroic failure in the next, for circumstances can define a historical role but not the irreducibly human strengths and foibles of the person who happens to fill it.

Thus it’s not too hard to look at the rising spiral of stresses in the European Union just now and foresee the eventual descent of the continent into a mix of domestic insurgency and authoritarian nationalism, with the oncoming tide of mass migration from Africa and the Middle East adding further pressure to an already explosive mix. Exactly how that will play out over the next century, though, is a very tough question to answer. A century from now, due to raw demography, many countries in Europe will be majority-Muslim nations that look to Mecca for the roots of their faith and culture—but which ones, and how brutal or otherwise will the transition be? That’s impossible to know in advance.

There are plenty of similar examples just now; for the student of historical cycles, 2015 practically defines the phrase “target-rich environment.” Still, I want to focus on something a little different here. Partly, this is because the example I have in mind makes a good opportunity to point out the the way that what philosophers call the contingent nature of events—in less highflown language, the sheer cussedness of things—keeps history’s dice constantly rolling. Partly, though, it’s because this particular example is likely to have a substantial impact on the future of everyone reading this blog.

Last year saw a great deal of talk in the media about possible parallels between the current international situation and that of the world precisely a century ago, in the weeks leading up to the outbreak of the First World War.  Mind you, since I contributed to that discussion, I’m hardly in a position to reject the parallels out of hand. Still, the more I’ve observed the current situation, the more I’ve come to think that a different date makes a considerably better match to present conditions. To be precise, instead of a replay of 1914, I think we’re about to see an equivalent of 1939—but not quite the 1939 we know.

Two entirely contingent factors, added to all the other pressures driving toward that conflict, made the Second World War what it was. The first, of course, was the personality of Adolf Hitler. It was probably a safe bet that somebody in Weimar Germany would figure out how to build a bridge between the politically active but fragmented nationalist Right and the massive but politically inert German middle classes, restore Germany to great-power status, and gear up for a second attempt to elbow aside the British Empire. That the man who happened to do these things was an eccentric anti-Semite ideologue who combined shrewd political instincts, utter military incompetence, and a frankly psychotic faith in his own supposed infallibility, though, was in no way required by the logic of history.

Had Corporal Hitler taken an extra lungful of gas on the Western Front, someone else would likely have filled the same role in the politics of the time. We don’t even have to consider what might have happened if the nation that birthed Frederick the Great and Otto von Bismarck had come up with a third statesman of the same caliber. If the German head of state in 1939 had been merely a capable pragmatist with adequate government and military experience, and guided Germany’s actions by a logic less topsy-turvy than Hitler’s, the trajectory of those years would have been far different.

The second contingent factor that defined the outcome of the great wars of the twentieth century is broader in focus than the quirks of a single personality, but it was just as subject to those vagaries that make hash out of attempts at precise historical prediction. As discussed in an earlier post on this blog, it was by no means certain that America would be Britain’s ally when war finally came. From the Revolution onward, Britain was in many Americans’ eyes the national enemy; as late as the 1930s, when the US Army held its summer exercises, the standard scenario involved a British invasion of US territory.

All along, there was an Anglophile party in American cultural life, and its ascendancy in the years after 1900 played a major role in bringing the United States into two world wars on Britain’s side. Still, there was a considerably more important factor in play, which was a systematic British policy of conciliating the United States. From the American Civil War on, Britain allowed the United States liberties it would never have given any other power,  When the United States expanded its influence in Latin America and the Carribbean, Britain allowed itself to be upstaged there; when the United States shook off its  isolationism and built a massive blue-water navy, the British even allowed US naval vessels to refuel at British coaling stations during the global voyage of the “Great White Fleet” in 1907-9.

This was partly a reflection of the common cultural heritage that made many British politicians think of the United States as a sort of boisterous younger brother of theirs, and partly a cold-eyed recognition, in the wake of the Civil War, that war between Britain and the United States would almost certainly lead to a US invasion of Canada that Britain was very poorly positioned to counter. Still, there was another issue of major importance. To an extent few people realized at the time, the architecture of European peace after Waterloo depended on political arrangements that kept the German-speaking lands of the European core splintered into a diffuse cloud of statelets too small to threaten any of the major powers.

The great geopolitical fact of the 1860s was the collapse of that cloud into the nation of Germany, under the leadership of the dour northeastern kingdom of Prussia. In 1866, the Prussians pounded the stuffing out of Austria and brought the rest of the German states into a federation; in 1870-1871, the Prussians and their allies did the same thing to France, which was a considerably tougher proposition—this was the same French nation, remember, which brought Europe to its knees in Napoleon’s day—and the federation became the German Empire. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was widely considered the third great power in Europe until 1866; until 1870, France was the second; everybody knew that sooner or later the Germans were going to take on great power number one.

British policy toward the United States from 1871 onward was thus tempered by the harsh awareness that Britain could not afford to alienate a rising power who might become an ally, or at least a friendly neutral, when the inevitable war with Germany arrived. Above all, an alliance between Germany and the United States would have been Britain’s death warrant, and everyone in the Foreign Office and the Admiralty in London had to know that. The thought of German submarines operating out of US ports, German and American fleets combining to take on the Royal Navy, and American armies surging into Canada and depriving Britain of a critical source of raw materials and recruits while the British Army was pinned down elsewhere, must have given British planners many sleepless nights.

After 1918, that recognition must have been even more sharply pointed, because US loans and munitions shipments played a massive role in saving the western Allies from collapse in the face of the final German offensive in the autumn of 1917, and turned the tide in a war that, until then, had largely gone Germany’s way. During the two decades leading up to 1939, as Germany recovered and rearmed, British governments did everything they could to keep the United States on their side, with results that paid off handsomely when the Second World War finally came.

Let’s imagine, though, an alternative timeline in which the Foreign Office and the Admiralty from 1918 on are staffed by idiots. Let’s further imagine that Parliament is packed with clueless ideologues whose sole conception of foreign policy is that everyone, everywhere, ought to be bludgeoned into compliance with Britain’s edicts, no matter how moronic those happen to be. Let’s say, in particular, that one British government after another conducts its policy toward the United States on the basis of smug self-centered arrogance, and any move the US makes to assert itself on the international stage can count on an angry response from London. The United States launches an aircraft carrier? A threat to world peace, the London Times roars.  The United States exerts diplomatic pressure on Mexico, and builds military bases in Panama? British diplomats head for the Carribbean and Latin America to stir up as much opposition to America’s agenda as possible.

Let’s say, furthermore, that in this alternative timeline, Adolf Hitler did indeed take one too many deep breaths on the Western Front, and lies in a military cemetery, one more forgotten casualty of the Great War. In his absence, the German Workers Party remains a fringe group, and the alliance between the nationalist Right and the middle classes is built instead by the Deutsche Volksfreiheitspartei (DVFP), which seizes power in 1934. Ulrich von Hassenstein, the new Chancellor, is a competent insider who knows how to listen to his diplomats and General Staff, and German foreign and military policy under his leadership pursues the goal of restoring Germany to world-power status using considerably less erratic means than those used by von Hassenstein’s equivalent in our timeline.

Come 1939, finally, as rising tensions between Germany and the Anglo-French alliance over Poland’s status move toward war, Chancellor von Hassenstein welcomes US President Charles Lindbergh to Berlin, where the two heads of state sign a galaxy of treaties and trade agreements and talk earnestly to the media about the need to establish a multipolar world order to replace Britain’s global hegemony. A second world war is in the offing, but the shape of that war will be very different from the one that broke out in our version of 1939, and while the United States almost certainly will be among the victors, Britain almost certainly will not.

Does all this sound absurd? Let’s change the names around and see.

Just as the great rivalry of the first half of the twentieth century was fought out between Britain and Germany, the great rivalry of the century’s second half was between the United States and Russia. If nuclear weapons hadn’t been invented, it’s probably a safe bet that at some point the rivalry would have ended in another global war.  As it was, the threat of mutual assured destruction meant that the struggle for global power had to be fought out less directly, in a flurry of proxy wars, sponsored insurgencies, economic warfare, subversion, sabotage, and bare-knuckle diplomacy. In that war, the United States came out on top, and Soviet Russia went the way of Imperial Germany, plunging into the same sort of political and economic chaos that beset the Weimar Republic in its day.

The supreme strategic imperative of the United States in that war was finding ways to drive as deep a wedge as possible between Russia and China, in order to keep them from taking concerted action against the US. That wasn’t all that difficult a task, since the two nations have very little in common and many conflicting interests. Nixon’s 1972 trip to China was arguably the defining moment in the Cold War, the point at which China’s separation from the Soviet bloc became total and Chinese integration with the American economic order began. From that point on, for Russia, it was basically all downhill.

In the aftermath of Russia’s defeat, the same strategic imperative remained, but the conditions of the post-Cold War world made it almost absurdly easy to carry out. All that would have been needed were American policies that gave Russia and China meaningful, concrete reasons to think that their national interests and aspirations would be easier to achieve in cooperation with a US-led global order than in opposition to it. Granting Russia and China the same position of regional influence that the US accords to Germany and Japan as a matter of course probably would have been enough. A little forbearance, a little foreign aid, a little adroit diplomacy, and the United States would have been in the catbird’s seat, with Russia and China glaring suspiciously at each other across their long and problematic mutual border, and bidding against each other for US support in their various disagreements.

But that’s not what happened, of course.

What happened instead was that the US embraced a foreign policy so astonishingly stupid that I’m honestly not sure the English language has adequate resources to describe it. Since 1990, one US administration after another, with the enthusiastic bipartisan support of Congress and the capable assistance of bureaucrats across official Washington from the Pentagon and the State Department on down, has pursued policies guaranteed to force Russia and China to set aside their serious mutual differences and make common cause against us. Every time the US faced a choice between competing policies, it’s consistently chosen the option most likely to convince Russia, China, or both nations at once that they had nothing to gain from further cooperation with American agendas.

What’s more, the US has more recently managed the really quite impressive feat of bringing Iran into rapprochement with the emerging Russo-Chinese alliance. It’s hard to think of another nation on Earth that has fewer grounds for constructive engagement with Russia or China than the Islamic Republic of Iran, but several decades of cluelessly hamfisted American blundering and bullying finally did the job. My American readers can now take pride in the state-of-the-art Russian air defense systems around Tehran, the bustling highways carrying Russian and Iranian products to each other’s markets, and the Russian and Chinese intelligence officers who are doubtless settling into comfortable digs on the north shore of the Persian Gulf, where they can snoop on the daisy chain of US bases along the south shore. After all, a quarter century of US foreign policy made those things happen.

It’s one thing to engage in this kind of serene disregard for reality when you’ve got the political unity, the economic abundance, and the military superiority to back it up. The United States today, like the British Empire in 1939, no longer has those. We’ve got an impressive fleet of aircraft carriers, sure, but Britain had an equally impressive fleet of battleships in 1939, and you’ll notice how much good those did them. Like Britain in 1939, the United States today is perfectly prepared for a kind of war that nobody fights any more, while rival nations less constrained by the psychology of previous investment and less riddled with institutionalized graft are fielding novel weapons systems designed to do end runs around our strengths and focus with surgical precision on our weaknesses.

Meanwhile, inside the baroque carapace of carriers, drones, and all the other high-tech claptrap of an obsolete way of war, the United States is a society in freefall, far worse off than Britain was during its comparatively mild 1930s downturn. Its leaders have forfeited the respect of a growing majority of its citizens; its economy has morphed into a Potemkin-village capitalism in which the manipulation of unpayable IOUs in absurd and rising amounts has all but replaced the actual production of goods and services; its infrastructure is so far fallen into decay that many US counties no longer pave their roads; most Americans these days think of their country’s political institutions as the enemy and its loudly proclaimed ideals as some kind of sick joke—and in both cases, not without reason. The national unity that made victory in two world wars and the Cold War possible went by the boards a long time ago, drowned in a tub by Tea Party conservatives who thought they were getting rid of government and limousine liberals who were going through the motions of sticking it to the Man.

I could go on tracing parallels for some time—in particular, despite a common rhetorical trope of US Russophobes, Vladimir Putin is not an Adolf Hitler but a fair equivalent of the Ulrich von Hassenstein of my alternate-history narrative—but here again, my readers can do the math themselves. The point I want to make is that all the signs suggest we are entering an era of international conflict in which the United States has thrown away nearly all its potential strengths, and handed its enemies advantages they would never have had if our leaders had the brains the gods gave geese. Since nuclear weapons still foreclose the option of major wars between the great powers, the conflict in question will doubtless be fought using the same indirect methods as the Cold War; in fact, it’s already being fought by those means, as the victims of proxy wars in Ukraine, Syria, and Yemen already know. The question in my mind is simply how soon those same methods get applied on American soil.

We thus stand at the beginning of a long, brutal epoch, as unforgiving as the one that dawned in 1939. Those who pin Utopian hopes on the end of American hegemony will get to add disappointment to that already bitter mix, since hegemony remains the same no matter who happens to be perched temporarily in the saddle. (I also wonder how many of the people who think they’ll rejoice at the end of American hegemony have thought through the impact on their hopes of collective betterment, not to mention their own lifestyles, once the 5% of the world’s population who live in the US can no longer claim a quarter or so of the world’s resources and wealth.) If there’s any hope possible at such a time, to my mind, it’s the one W.H. Auden proposed as the conclusion of his bleak and brilliant poem “September 1, 1939”:

Defenceless under the night,
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.


peakfuture said...

"the US embraced a foreign policy so astonishingly stupid that I’m honestly not sure the English language has adequate resources to describe it"

There's a great Sicilian word that the older folks in the family taught us: "stunad" (from "stonato"), meaning "a total idiot, a complete fool." Said with a certain gusto; it isn't a word you can really whisper. You can't even reason with folks like that.

Oh well. You can't fix stupid, as it has been said.

JMG, you make some great analogies. Just as things might have been different if Herr Hitler had never taken power, would you say it is far too late/Elvis has left the building regarding the situation we are in now? Is there an alternate history for us? Could a future presidential candidate, out of left field, come out and say, "America, we've got to get our act together," and steer us away from the iceberg?

Maybe thirty years from now someone will write an alternate SF history (in Chinese, or Russian) where the Americans in power weren't magnificently stupid, and the world was a different place.

Clay Dennis said...

The clueless way that the U.S. has been pushing together Russia and China, especially over that last year is astonishing. Sometimes I think that I must be missing something, as it doesn't seem like any of the people high up in government could be that stupid, but as Ocams razor suggests stupidity or senility of the elites is most likely the answer.
The other thing that is amaizing is how no one that I talk too in my small orbit seems to understand this. Even the ones that are seemingly worldly and educated have a badly outdated and simplistic view of Russia, China and their potential cooperation. They think of Russia as a crude collapsed country with outdated technology and China as a large but compliant vendor who only wants to please it's biggest ( in thier mind) market and sell us more stuff. The idea that the two countries could get together against us is considered absurd, and they think I have been brainwashed by RT when I describe the theoretical effectiveness of Chinese and Russian missile technology. My only hope is that a large scale proxy war will be avoided because that nuts and bolts generals in the Pentagon know the real score ( in spite of clueless leadership) and will throw an wrench in the works. But that of course has not stopped stupid politicians in the past and it may not in the future. Or perhaps Russia and China will be satisfied by sinking the petrodollar and then dumping all their U.S. treasury bonds on the market all at once, which may effectively destroy the empire, but at least with less bloodshed.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

Regarding Muslim majorities in European countries--
Al-Andaluz (Iberia under Muslim rule with a Muslim majority and large Jewish and Christian minorities) was peaceful, prosperous, tolerant and a center of learning and poetry. Jews remember that place and time as a Golden Age.

OTOH, the Christians in European countries that came under Ottoman rule do not remember the Turks fondly. That's probably at the root of opposition to admitting Turkey into the EU. The EU (or its precursor) was not troubled over the inclusion of Spain and Portugal when those nations were fascist dictatorships.

Muslim rulers before the modern period were a mixed lot. Some were narrow minded fanatics; others were among the most enlightened rulers of their age; some were corrupt, etc. Just like everybody else.

I agree entirely with the historical analysis in this week's essay. Putin is patient, ruthless, realistic and clear about his goals. He is also keeping himself in good physical condition, and I bet he is well guarded.

John Michael Greer said...

Peakfuture, I can easily imagine "stunad" belted out in a rich Sicilian accent -- thank you! As for the possibility of missing the iceberg, it's rather late for that, because it's not just the elites who have bought into a delusional worldview. Most ordinary Americans would angrily refuse to accept the limits on the nation's global power and their own personal lifestyles that any meaningful evasive maneuver would require. Basically, we're in for it, and if something's going to be salvaged from this mess, it's going to require getting through the approaching crunch time and putting something worthwhile together afterwards.

Clay, I'm pretty much convinced that the cluelessness you see among the soi-disant sophisticates in your circle is what's guiding US policy right on up to the top. There's a specific kind of paralogic underlying it, which I think I may just have figured out; more on this shortly.

Unknown Deborah, al-Andalus was a long time ago, before a millennium of total war between Christian and Muslim blocs really had time to twist the faiths and cultures of both sides into violent parodies of themselves. I don't think either side could permit something of the same sort to happen again.

John Michael Greer said...

On an unrelated note, I've recently been contacted by a fan of mine who's translated Star's Reach into German. I know I have quite a few readers in the deutschsprachigen Ländern of central Europe; if any of them happens to know of, or be involved in, a small publishing house that might be interested in such a project, I'd be delighted to hear of it. A comment here marked "Not for posting" with an email address, etc., will get a prompt response.

Bruno B. L. said...

JMG, I'm glad you finally wrote this post. Thank you. I had already figured it out that China is playing the same role the US played for Britain in 1939.
There's one question worth asking, though. An alliance between China and Russia may well be what's needed to bring down the American Empire...but what about other minor players? Wouldn't the support or opposition of the EU, Japan, Brazil or India possibly tip the scales to either side's favor? As I see it, the EU and Japan are in the USA's pocket no matter what happens, but Brazil and India are anybody's guess. Thoughts?

John Brink said...

John and everyone. I too am astounded at the ineptitude displayed by our Ivy League leadership. We have had dinner table discussions regarding why our State Department hasn't even seen the opportunity to bolster a better trade alliance with India, Vietnam, the Philippines as a counter balance to China. Personally we have already retreated to our remote valley and have collapsed onto our basic resources such as gardening and raising chickens and perhaps soon goats. Luckily we were able to hand build a very functional passive solar heated house and have an off grid electric system. All this by my wife and my own labor in our 6o's so any one can do it with determination. Unfortunately the general public wants all their gadgets, deluxe devices, luxury lifestyles and easy living which compose the nut in the jar for the monkey to grip.

Pinku-Sensei said...

I looked up Ulrich von Hassenstein and found a Christian August von Hassel who was a member of the Deutsche Volksfreiheitspartei (DVFP) and served as a pragmatic diplomat who would have negotiated that kind of relationship with the U.S. He was also executed in the aftermath of the failed assassination of Hitler. Was your leader in an alternative history a portmanteau character? President Lindbergh certainly wasn't.

As for the peril the U.S. finds itself in, the people in power just wouldn't believe it's possible for the reasons Clay Dennis pointed out and more. They look at the size of our forces and our military budget, which is as large as all other countries combined, and just laugh at the possibility. Of course, if the next conflict is one that we're not prepared for, then it doesn't matter how many weapons and troops we have. For example, if foreign powers try to abet domestic conflict and foment chaos, then all those weapons won't do any good.

That's already started. I mentioned the data breach blamed on the Chinese last week. That's just intelligence gathering. Others are being much more active in causing trouble. ISIS AKA The Sith Jihad is apparently trying to recruit Americans via social media. So far, this hasn't worked out well at all for them, unless one counts tying up law enforcement as a major goal. Still, this is an area of concern; one of these days, they might recruit someone competent. Also, Putin's hackers and trolls are already spreading propaganda and sewing disinformation in U.S. media. Local news outlets have picked up fake stories intended to cause panic. Enough of that and they could get us chasing our tails.

Finally, it's a shame we weren't able to play the Chinese and Russians against each other better. Clinton had the luxury of the Russians being weak and the Chinese being primarily interested in modernizing. Bush II ignored the change in both countries when Russia became stronger and China turned its interests abroad. Obama has shown some signs of increasing cooperation with China. Four years ago, his administration held the third annual U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. Those have continued and the next one will be held next month. If only Obama, H. Clinton, and now Kerry had been more clever about their foreign policy, they'd have done what you described regarding the defeated power of the last struggle for hegemony and the rising power. BTW, I suspect Russia won't come out on top in an alliance with China; the Middle Kingdom will.

peakfuture said...

Typically, the cry of 'Stunad!' is delivered (after a particularly egregious lack of judgement) with a stern but light palm of the hand to the back of a young man's head with an exasperated father saying, "Have I taught you *nothing*?!!"

One wonders about the folks in the British Foreign Office; perhaps they have tried so many times to say such things to their "cousins" in the US State Department but have given up, after seeing debacle after debacle.

Looking forward to the paralogic you've figured out; the 'what' and 'how' are far clearer than the 'why' this is all happening.

Cherokee Organics said...


The EU v Greece cage fight will be interesting to watch. One difficulty is that parts of the EU gained their economic dominance of much of the south through loans and the provision of goods. If Greece backs away from the EU, the loans may well have to be written off (there is a strong argument to say that that should happen anyway) and they will also lose access to markets for their goods. It is certainly a lose - lose situation and there is no upside at all. There is an element of responsibility on the part of irresponsible lenders when loans are defaulted upon - just sayin... Many pension and hedge funds will feel the bite from this one – eventually anyway.

That concept is hysterical: "staffed by idiots" and "packed with clueless ideologues"! Very, very, funny, except that it also reflects the current situation. Not so funny. I had to reach for a chamomile tea before reading the next bit, because the US foreign policy is making serious blunders that the British rather astutely avoided - although that lot did make some other rather serious errors of their own.

Incidentally, how come we don't hear any more about quantitative easing going on over in the US? It is not as if the fundamentals have been sorted out in the meantime. It has gone very quiet though on that front, especially once debt to GDP ratio's appear to have pushed past the 100% mark. There does seem to be some hypothetical talk of official interest rate rises which I don’t take very seriously as that would add to the burden of servicing the debt. It hasn’t escaped people’s attention that if the cost of borrowing is almost nothing, then borrowing seems to be OK. I noted that I spotted an article recently that stated that whilst Apple was apparently sitting on $200bn in cash reserves they appear to have borrowed funds to pay for the recent dividend to shareholders. Only in 2015 could such craziness appear to happen…

It is also worth noting that some of the countries mentioned are not shy of combat casualties either and thus are fighting under an entirely different psychology and sense of purpose.

Now back here, you may not be aware, but we appear to be suffering the same sort of fools - which is mildly unusual and disconcerting as we generally suffer a pragmatic bunch. This choice quote came out of the mouth of the Treasurer this week when prodded about the housing bubble and affordability issues for first home buyers: get a good job that pays good money. I guess there is a certain sort of ruthless pragmatism inherent in that quote, but underlying that is a tacit acknowledgement that the door has finally closed for much of the population because not everyone can get a good job that pays good money (note that the two aren't one and the same either). Why young people aren't rioting in the streets is generally beyond my understanding - oh that's right they're being pacified with television and toys.

Oh yeah, I believe the China - Australia free trade agreement was signed this week. Have you noticed that the Trans Pacific Partnership was not signed this week? Some of the things the pharmaceutical industry is lobbying for in that agreement will cost us plenty. Interesting times, I really do have to put some thought towards learning the standard Chinese language...



Oh yeah! A new blog is up: All the small things. Lots of fun with rock retaining walls. New olive fruit trees. New garden beds. Warm weather. Small appliance repair. And the ongoing solar electricity saga as winter deepens. Seriously, it has now been 3 days in a row with solid fog. House construction stuff and some very wet and unhappy kangaroos. Lots of cool photos!

Peter Attwood said...

No, not all hegemony is the same. A point you made in Twilight' Last Gleaming is that the Chinese are very likely to know the importance of a light touch. We know this because of pat experience of their hegemony.

In contrast, the US national character is messianic, and with its foundations in slavery and genocide. It has always solved its social problems by dumping them on the frontier; the extreme social crisis from 1877-1914 was in great measure due to the loss of the escape valve of expansion against the Indians, eventually papered over by its replacement with expansion against the rest of the world. Thus the gaudy imperialisms of McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson - who came back from France in 1919 announcing that everyone now knew that America is the savior of the world. For a professing Christian to use those words was a remarkably explicit descent into a doctrine of antichrist.

For the Chinese to recognize their limits is something they've learned over thousands of years. For the US to do so would be to repudiate the foundations of its national character. Which of these hegemons is easier for others to live with, which more likely to blow up the world, is not hard to figure out.

thenoteswhichdonotfit said...

I'm not going to comment on Russia since I don't know enough about that region of the world, but I think you are overlooking just how badly China is managing relations with its Asian neighbors.

I spent a few years in Taiwan - which has a large military for a country of its size precisely because they have been scared of military invasion by China for decades (Lee Kuan Yew once said the only reason that the People's Republic of China controls Tibet and not Taiwan is that Taiwan has a much stronger military force). In Taiwan, the plague is more popular than the prospect of joining the PRC. The last time China (in this case, the Republic of China, not the PRC) took over Taiwan - which was in 1947, when most of the Taiwanese people were happy about joining China because they were expecting it to being an improvement over Japanese rule - things went so badly that, within years, most Taiwanese wished they had remained a part of the Japanese empire. The PRC in the 1950s tried to invade Taiwan by military means - which did nothing to improve the Taiwanese people's feelings about Taiwan. Ever since, China has constantly threatened to invade Taiwan and, seeing the way that the PRC treats Tibetans and Uyghurs and other groups, most Taiwanese believe that a PRC takeover would mean being stripped of their resources and losing most of their civic freedoms. Though Taiwan is often annoyed by the USA, given a choice between China and the USA, the Taiwanese people strongly favor the USA.

Most of Asia doesn't have as strong an anti-Chinese sentiment as Taiwan, but in my travels, people are consistently most antagonistic towards China than the USA, not because they like the USA, but because they consider China to be the greater evil. Though South Koreans have grievances against the USA, even 'anti-American' South Koreans are more scared of China than the USA (it doesn't help that China consistently supports North Korea). The people I met in Japan seem to be less concerned about China than the South Koreans I met, but I still got the sense that they prefer allying with the USA over China. I've never been to Vietnam, but I read that in recent polls, Vietnamese have more antipathy towards China than the USA - which is amazing considering how much pain the USA historically inflicted on Vietnam.

There is talk of many of these Asian countries banding together to form an alliance to protect themselves from China - and if enough countries with significant military and/or economic power join together, they probably can be as powerful as China.

Furthermore, there are outstanding territorial disputes over Arunachal Pradesh between China and India which, in short, discourage India from being friendly with China, without giving China much in return (okay, it may grant China more control over some of the water resources of the Himalayas).

This is not even considering internal conditions in China. China is facing its own legitimacy crisis, as the legitimacy of the PRC government rests on improving living conditions of ordinary people, and that hasn't been happening recently, between the massive environmental destruction and massive amount of political corruption, standards of living are not rising for ordinary Chinese (and there is a big stock market bubble which is at the stage where many ordinary Chinese people are buying stocks because bank accounts yield negative interest rates).

None of this is to say that American foreign policy has been good. My point is that China's foreign policy, at least with regard to its Asian neighbors, has not been winning it many allies.

Doctor Westchester said...


I have cringed for several years while listening to people who want us to stop spending all that money on the military so that "we can spend the money on our schools." I wondered what the response would be if I told them where that money would go (as in poof) if it wasn't spent on the military. However, I think I know what their response would be.

I have been aware from the early 00's that the way we treated Russia was likely to end in grief for us. I got an early indication of these issues in the mid to late 90's since a ex-brother-in-law who was a superb oil and gas man went to Russia to help bring back up their neglected gas fields. He very successfully at doing it (as was typical for him) quite ahead of schedule, but the Russians were extremely hostile to him. He had to be hightailed out of there because of death threats. Since you don't typically make death threats against someone who helped you greatly and knowing my ex-brother-in-law, the problem had to elsewhere else, higher up. Everything I've read about our relationship with Russia that didn't stink of propaganda seemed to confirm this impression.

HalFiore said...

So how did the British avoid the senility of the decadent elites? Is it "required by the logic of history" that ours are such dunderheads?

I actually held out a sliver of hope in 2008 that the current fool just might be cut out of different cloth than the ones we had had in the recent past. Well, it was a foregone conclusion that his opponent would take us down the same path, so there wasn't much to lose by trying. The election shaping up doesn't seem to offer even the tiniest sliver.

And what about the most recent Chinese hacking incident? If we can believe our own government, anyway. Has the first shot been fired?

Tom Bannister said...

"What happened instead was that the US embraced a foreign policy so astonishingly stupid that I’m honestly not sure the English language has adequate resources to describe it."

Intoxication of victory (Arnold Toynbee) much?...

Auriel Ragmon said...

Again, JMG, you have hit the proverbial (and actual!) nail on the head, dead center.
As a retiree, immersed in bonds and stocks not of my choosing but those of my former employer,I wonder what will happen in the next few years. I've got to build a bigger garden, I think.
Jim of Olym

Kutamun said...

Not hard to see that our politicians are all starting to behave in the manner of Corporate Technocrats , or managers , rather than strong willed genuine leaders . As you suggest , like drones , they mindlessley implement deeply flawed and redundant ideologies , their most cherished aim being a certain type of "certainty " , where they can predict some type of outcome that they know they can "manage " , rather than blazing authentic and promising trails which lead off in certain intuitive directions , albeit with unknown outcomes . Above all , the system professes to be "risk averse " , which tends inevitably to stir up the quantum probablilities of "riskiness " . The espousing of "aggression " which is the mantra of every corporate leader these days also amounts to anything but .
Ego versus Will , both individual and collective .
Hitler himself bears some interesting comparisons to this ego driven system of governance , as the following insightful assessment on his old boss by no less than Field Marshall Erich von Manstein bears out - "Hitler as Supreme Commander "-. Have we collectively and individually , ( and cyclically as a species ) all become little Freudian Adolf Dictator Pygmies ?
" The Will , as he saw it , had only to be translated into faith down to the youngest private for the correctness of his decisions to be confirmed and the success if his orders ensured ....The will for victory which gives a commander the strength to see a grave crisis through is something very different from Hitlers will , which in the last analysis stemmed from a belief in his own "mission". Such a belief inevitably makes a man impervious to reason and leads him to think that his own will can operate even beyond the limits of hard reality .....Generally speaking , Hitler had little inclination to relate his own calculations to the probable intentions of the enemy , since he was convinced that his will would always triumph in the end . Hitler was disinclined to accept reports of enemy superiority out of hand or minimised them with assertions about the enemies deficiencies and took refuge in endless recitations of German production figures . In the face of his will , the essential elements of of the appreciation of a situation on which every commanders decision must based were virtually eliminated , and with that Hitler turned his back on reality . "

Kutamun said...

...his over estimation of his own will power , disregard for enemy resources and intentions , was not matched by a corresponding boldness of decision . The same man who after his successes in politics up to 1938 had become a political gambler , actually recoiled from risks in the military field . During the Russian campaign Hitlers fear of risk manifested itself in two ways . One - his refusal to accept that elasticity of operations which could only be achieved by a voluntary if temporary surrender of conquered territory . The second was his reluctance to denude secondary fronts in favour of the spot where the main decision had to fall. There are three possible reasons why Hitler evaded this risks ..First , he may have secretly felt he lacked the military ability to cope with them ; this being so , he was even less likely to credit his generals with having it . Two , the fear common to all dictators that any setback would lead to a loss of prestige , a practice bound to lead the man to military mistakes which damage prestige more than ever . Three , Hitlers intense dislike , rooted in his lust for power , of giving up anything on which he had once laid hands .
Whenever he was confronted with a decision which he did not like taking but could not ultimately evade , Hitler would procrastinate for as long as he possibly could ....The General Staff had to struggle with Hitler for days to get forces released to deal with crisis , usually too small a number too late , with the result that he usually had to commit several times what was originally required . ....His inflated belief in his own will power , a certain aversion to accepting risk when success could not be guaranteed in advance and his dislike for giving up anything voluntarily were the hallmarks of his military leadership . "

Boulderlovin Cat said...

After reading your column, I had to laugh when I clicked on this link:


Mark said...

An appropriate soundtrack for this weeks post:

Goodbye Blue Sky (Pink Floyd) Gabriella Quevedo

I haven't followed "the news media" for years now; I'm not a doomer; I'm not a prepper; I live a very small footprint pattern, because I know the Earth is not just alive, but extravagantly alive.

We human beings, we Americans, are all "stunad", and I figure that's just a little part of the extravagance.

If you read Chinese history, you find considerable "stunad", and if you read "War and Peace" what do you find? "Stunad".

Wisdom is beauty, and you find it in abundance in Nature.

Stacy said...

Last week's news plus this week's blog caused an unseasonal chill to pass through our household this evening as my husband, Grant, and I read Auden's poem. This was followed by a discussion in hushed tones to keep our worries from our teenaged daughter. "Do we stay and wait for fate to catch us at home or do we go? And where?" Perhaps our doppelgangers in Syria were asking themselves similar questions a few short years ago, too. Normally we can maintain a fair degree of detachment when reading this blog, his background being in ecology and mine in history and anthropology, but that wasn't the case today. Grant is a federal employee, presumably one of the millions whose information was stolen from OMB (the Office of Management and Budget) by the Chinese, we're told. Last week I was wondering to what use the Chinese would put our personal information. Now I have far too many ideas, all of them bad.

Mark Luterra said...

It's starting to look likely that economic collapse, if it happens soon enough, may cushion the effects of resource scarcity to some extent by forcing folks here to live with less before hard limits have the same effect, while also freeing up previously hoarded resources for salvage operations. I remember Dmitry Orlov making a similar case once that Russians, having somewhat recently collapsed, might experience a similar advantage.

Nicholas Carter said...

Two questions about the contingencies in this comparison:
1. Would it have been a viable strategy for the British to instead make overtures to Germany, form a strong alliance with the German Empire, and then make unified opposition against the United States?
2. If the US had made the hypothetical overtures to Russia and China, what would that have meant for Germany, Japan, and the UK?

Mister Roboto said...

@Bruno BL: Have you ever heard of BRICS? That is the acronym for the global trade association formed by Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. To hear JMG tell it, we may as well make that BRIICS, adding Iran to the list. So I think we know on whose side Brazil and India will fall when it's crunch time. Populous "developing world" nations such as the Philippines and Indonesia are technically wild-cards, but I'm sure they see what a sinking ship the United Stunads of America have become as much as everybody else!

John Michael Greer said...

Bruno, so far Brazil and India have cooperated extensively with the Russo-Chinese alliance in the economic sphere. So long as they continue to get the same sort of benefits they've received so far, they're likely to stay neutral -- which is precisely what would benefit the Russo-Chinese side most.

John, for the moment, that's about all any of us can do.

Pinku-Sensei, as far as I know, the DVFP is my own invention, and so is Ulrich von Hassenstein -- I figured that was probably better under the circumstances than trying to fit a historical figure into the necessary mode. As for Russia and China, of course the Chinese are the dominant partner -- and that's one of the reasons it would have been so easy to keep Russia out of that alliance. Playing second fiddle to China, though, is considerably more attractive to Moscow than being handed a kazoo by the US and being told to pay for the privilege of playing it.

Peakfuture, one does indeed wonder.

Cherokee, quantitative easing is still going full tilt over here; it's just become old news. I'm not sure whether this is still the case, but for a while there the Fed was manufacturing enough money each month to buy up the treasury bills sold that month, thus enabling the US government to go its merry way spending trillions of dollars it doesn't have. Do pick up a good Chinese phrase book, so you can sell fresh vegetables to Australia's new overlords...

Peter, you might consider talking to people from Tibet, and checking out the condition of China's ecosystems, before you dig yourself any deeper. Hegemony is hegemony.

Notes, that's one more parallel with the US in 1939; we had the same kind of bullying attitude toward our neighbors in those years, too. China's bad relations with its immediate neighbors is one of the reasons the Russian alliance, and similar though less critical partnerings with Pakistan and certain other countries, are so important to Beijing just now.

Doctor W., well, yes -- in the years immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union, the US treated Russia as a conquered province. I've heard plenty of similar stories.

HalFiore, no, that's just it. The logic of history didn't require the US to behave so stupidly. As I noted in responding to another comment, I think there's a specific cause at work, but that's a subject for another post.

Tom, well, yes. that's part of it.

Auriel/Jim, in your place I'd definitely expand that garden, and make sure you've done all the usual energy efficiency retrofits, too.

John Michael Greer said...

Kutamun, thank you for the reminder! I need to reread Manstein, because in a way, you're quite right: the sort of positive-thinking cult of the individual will that's so popular in contemporary culture does indeed tend, in extreme form, to lead precisely to Hitler's kind of self-defeating psychosis.

Cat, well, yes. It's always a source of wry entertainment to see what the media thinks our future is going to be like.

Mark, thanks for the soundtrack! Of course jawdropping stupidity is common; it's a central theme of the human experience, but sometimes it's a bit more front and center than usual.

Stacy, good. Those who don't feel the chill aren't paying attention.

Mark, it's a possibility.

Nicholas, good. Britain might have been able to work out a modus vivendi with Germany, yes, and it almost certainly would have ended up the same way the modus vivendi with the US did: with Germany as the global power and Britain as a favored subordinate. As for the consequences of a saner US strategy toward Russia and China, Japan and Germany would have been essential to such a strategy -- the obvious move would have been to encourage Russia, the weaker of the two rival nations, to develop strong ties with Germany and Japan. With Russia bristling every time China encroached on Japanese sea lanes, and China bristling every time the Russians overflew the East China Sea, it would have been possible to keep the two rival nations so wrapped up in fist-pounding and angry diatribes that neither one would have had time to hassle the United States. The UK is geopolitically irrelevant at this point -- the US has shuttered most of its bases there -- so wouldn't have been much affected either way.

Stein L said...

It was February 1, 2003. For months, the NeoCons had been feverishly pursuing justification for a preemptive attack on Iraq. In the heavens above, the space shuttle Columbia began its reentry, which ended in disaster, the fire and smoke of its scattered trajectories spreading over the state of Texas.
At the United Nations, a debate was scheduled to once again consider the requests of the USA and Britain for a resolution that would allow them to aim for Iraq's oil with impunity. The various assembled dignitaries expressed their empathy with the U.S. ambassador and his fellow citizens, over the tragedy in the skies above.
The Chinese ambassador found occasion to ponder whether it would be wise to recognize what had just occurred as portends of things to come.

That moment will feature in whatever histories are written in the future.

PRiZM said...

Here from behind the Great Wall of China, with a Russian wife, I'm a bit more guarded with some of the suggestions made from this post. While I certainly agree there are a lot of parallels to made between now and pre-WW2, I don't agree that it is so easy to declare Sino-Russia the next great world partnership.

One example is made in this article,

Russia is definitely increasing cooperation with China, but their relationship is extremely guarded. As Notes pointed out earlier, a lot of China's neighboring countries are constantly bickering with China about territory. Last year, Russia acknowledged that China has been assisting nature in changing the course of rivers which mark boundaries between the two countries in order to gain more of Russia's land. As was noted in the Strats article, China has a country deeply divided between have and have-not. The resources Russia has are greatly coveted by the Chinese, and China historically feels rightful ownership of much of the Russian Far East.

In my wife's reading of a man whom I would consider the Russian equivalent of JMG, for his historic insights of the future and deeply spiritual reverence of the natural world, by the name of Vadim Zeland, he suggests that Russia is being played as a pawn and fitting in exactly where the USA wants them, even taking a quote from Obama saying he "is not concerned with the situation" to imply that Russia is exactly where the US wants them.

Yes, US power is waning, and China is a great player in the up-and-coming battle of supremacy, but I think despite much of the ineptitude of US leadership, there still may be a transfer of power more the equivalent of UK to USA waiting ahead of us, or that something else is waiting out in the gray areas and thus will come in quite unexpectedly.

Jo said...

Like Stacy above, I did feel a momentary shiver as I read this post, as if the chill hand of Fate was descending towards us rather faster than I imagined.

But, I have decided to quit worrying about world politics. I keep a wary eye on the bigger picture, but have stopped consuming the news, because its only purpose seems to be to make me worry. Instead, I read very widely and study human nature because it is so fascinating. And it seems to me that the people who are most happy and most free are those who don't have a stake in the status quo. Living quietly outside of mainstream society means neatly sidestepping a mountain of issues that lock people in to clinging to a way of life that is ridiculous, makes them unhappy and keeps them at an infantile level of dependence.

Diogenes was eating lentils for dinner when wealthy Aristippus strolled by and told him, "If you would only be subservient to the king, you would not have to eat lentils for dinner."

And Diogenes retorted, "If I eat lentils for dinner I do not have to be subservient to the king."

I am not very far down this track, but my life is headed only in the direction of lentils for dinner, and out from under the weight of subservience to the king.

Fear of the future does not get us very far down the track of living a splendid, subservience-free life. In the modern industrialised world, most of us exist in a cosy cocoon of luxury that hardly anyone else in space or time could dream of. We are a hiccup in history. And in the face of the uncertain future that we are dished up week after week here on ADR it is tempting to scramble to find a way to preserve all of it.. when really, the way to freedom is to step away from the cocoon, and work out how to live with the immense courage and resourcefulness that everyone else has always had to..

There is a wonderful Maori proverb - "He who climbs a cliff, may die on the cliff. So what?"

Actually, I am the biggest scaredy-cat that ever lived. I want health and constant happiness for myself and my children as much as anyone, and am not at all keen for anyone I love to die on the cliff. But while I am busy building vegie gardens and saving up for rainwater tanks and learning how to knit socks, I am also trying to wean myself from the idea that me and mine are necessarily exempt from the vicissitudes of history..

I do think you were wise to end with a poem. Sometimes the only thing between us and the darkness is an Idea.

PS I was quite chuffed to read your thoughts on the future of Russia. I have set my Space Bats entry there, as being the most likely future centre of the world. It is becoming quite the epic.

PPS An email arrived today notifying me that 'Green Wizardry' is finally in at the library. It has been on hold for me for FIVE MONTHS. I was seventh in the queue. Clearly, Tasmania is a hot bed for all things green wizardry.

Derv said...


I've often wondered about Grey's Law regarding our recent leaders: "Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice." The stupidity displayed brings to my mind three possibilities, and I honestly can't decide which is true:

1. There are people in our government who, for whatever reason, want us to decline, for reasons benign or malicious;
2. The top brass are aware of a great deal more regarding Russia/China/etc. than they have let on, and we've properly concluded they're our enemies but can't disclose this for some strategic purpose;
3. They are just THAT stupid.

Obviously history argues for the third. Those who really, really hate Obama (or the previous/next figurehead) favor the first. I can honestly see the second being true, namely that at some point during or after the soviet collapse, Russia and China made common cause against us and we have become aware of it. But like cracking Enigma, we let bad things happen because we can't let them know we know, perhaps? I'm grasping at straws, of course. It's just hard to believe they are this stupid. Conspiracy can always provide a mental escape hatch, after all.

So proxy war is in our future, and this time our allies will be largely on the defensive. Russia and China are smart and will not fully play their hand until it is necessary to do so, and will use every form of carrot to lure those who don't require the stick. Thus anyone who can be won over will be. They promise Brazil and India equal footing and massive trade while providing the only viable financial system after ours falls, and they'll be on board. They promise to give half of the Middle East to the Caliphate (after Assad's fall) and the other half to Iran, and they're golden there. China has already courted Africa across the board. The proxy wars will only take place in the locations where it is both feasible and where it weakens us strategically, so Japan isn't doable (too homogeneous and unified politically).

So, uh, sorry about this then, Europe. Looks like you're the new SE Asia. Fomenting conflict in the US is possible, but any direct effort would be foolhardy. Simply collapse the economy in a coordinated effort (with plausible deniability due to external events, of course) and we'll be at each others' throats in short order. And if this collapses the Chinese and Russian economies as well, all the more reason for overt war. Taiwan, Ukraine, Georgia, perhaps parts of Japan, maybe even Poland all are prime targets. Heck, pressure on Australia might even go too far.

Europe in chaos, the US economy in ashes followed by civil war, the marching millions in eastern Europe and SE Asia, a dissolved EU, a solidified BRIC economic alliance... It's going to be very, very ugly. How will the US government handle all this? I can't see any response other than belligerence and bloodshed. They will not go quietly into that evil night. At which point, twelve well-aimed missiles (or sabatuers) can destroy our carrier groups and shut down the US grid.

What do you think, JMG? This sound like the most likely scenario to you?

KL Cooke said...


"I suspect Russia won't come out on top in an alliance with China; the Middle Kingdom will"

Orwell, prescient in so many things, foresaw an on-going round robin between "Eurasia, Eastasia and Oceania."

I can imagine the alliance between China and Russia coming apart over oil and gas and China seeking "lebensraum" in Siberia. Add to that, U.S. machinations attempting to exacerbate the situation to its advantage. Then some fool (and there are fools besides American fools), pulling the trigger on the the Big One resulting in a circular firing squad of the nuclear variety.

Somewhatstunned said...

JMG, even apart from the main meat of this post, thanks indeed for that WH Auden poem - hadn't come across it before and it hits my particular spot quite precisely.

Peter Attwood said...

I don't see how the condition of China's ecosystems relates to hegemony; it certainly relates to greed and corruption.

And Tibet and other satellite portions of China proper tell me that in view of its history of often disintegrating central authority China is a very tough place to seek autonomy and thereby threaten to bring about warlordism a in the 1920s or the era of the warring states - especially when even today the central government has trouble actually collecting taxes from the provinces. But none of this tells me that Chinese hegemony beyond China proper would take the form of a crusading expansion against the rest of the world - but that's a pattern pretty unbroken with the US since the 1630s.

There are lots of other examples of wide differences in how hegemony is exercised. The Ottoman empire and Austria-Hungary were a lot more easygoing than the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe or the US in Latin America. Persia had a lighter touch than Assyria or Babylon.

Albatross said...

Hello Mr. Greer and all,

Another fine essay. Thank you. Putin may be what and who he is yet the Russian perspective on WWII tells of a quite different story from the one popularized in the West. In Russia this period is seemingly looked at as "The great patriotic war". The very questionable blunderings of western hegemonies in their indirect confrontations with Russia, as per Ukraine at the moment, are surely perceived quite differently in Russia than what western media would have us believe. Do have a look at this revealing summary from The Eisenhower Institute.

WWII Soviet Experience

"Americans have little conception of the Soviet Union's experience in World War II. No cities in the United States were besieged, not a single bomb was dropped by an enemy airplane on any of our 48 states, no part of our population was enslaved, starved or murdered, and not one village, town or city was completely destroyed or even heard a shot fired in anger."

Denys said...

China holds $1.2 trillion in U.S. Treasury bonds and owns 10% of US real estate. How/why did we let that happen?

Johannes Roehl said...

Some people may have read it but I'd recommend Fry's "Making history" as one alternative history fiction with a more competent replacement (Rudolf Gloder) for Hitler. (The book is entertaining and explores a few interesting implications but not quite relevant to geostrategy or our future.)

As a German I am now really wondering how long Germany will stay on the US/NATO anti-Russian camp. Both economically (we are both dependent on imported Russian gas and on exporting our stuff (machines etc.) there) and with respect to peace in Easter Europe it would make much more sense to try to get along well with Putin but voices recommending such a policy are so far restricted to leftist and rightist fringes.

Marcion said...

Small correction, please. Napoleon was exiled to St Helena after his Waterloo defeat.

Vilko said...

Deborah Bender said:
" The EU (or its precursor) was not troubled over the inclusion of Spain and Portugal when those nations were fascist dictatorships."

Yes it was. Spain and Portugal joined the EU only after they had become democratic.

Mr Greer:

Governments do stupid things, yet the people who take those decisions are not stupid. Think of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese knew that the USA had ten times Japan's industrial capacity, and could therefore produce ten times more aircraft, ships, tanks, etc. They also knew that the USA had four times their population, and could therefore send four times more soldiers to the battlefield. And yet, Japan attacked the USA. Why? Because they were throttled by an oil embargo, and in the Samurai ideology, which the Japanese ruling class still adhered to, surrendering without fighting was simply unthinkable, because losing one's honor was worse than losing one's life. Even high IQ people can adhere to quasi-mystic beliefs.

In 1997, Zbigniew Brzezinski published a book in which he explained why it was in the USA's interest to prevent a Russia-China alliance at any cost. The book, "The Grand Chessboard", was an international best-seller and can be downloaded for free on the Internet. In spite of Brzezinski's notoriety and brilliancy, US policy, including the recent sanctions against Russia, has taken the suicidal course of pushing Russia, China and Iran into each other's arms. But I think that there are logical reasons for this.

To make a long story short: American leaders (Bill Clinton among them) didn't make geostrategic issues like preventing a Russia-China alliance high enough on their agenda. It was (and still is) more politically interesting for them to score domestic political points by putting Russia down. Putting Russia down, if it had succeeded, would have enabled US oil companies to control Russian hydrocarbons. Gazprom wouldn't exist, and all the Russian oilfields would belong to Chevron.

National companies like Gazprom controlling national fossil fuel resources means that, eventually, the 5% of humans who are American citizens will eventually have to stop consuming 25% of global resources, with all the dire consequences that evolution will entail (lower real incomes, more poverty, etc). All the American presidents since the collapse of the USSR, 24 years ago, have put the control of global resources higher on the agenda than anything else. They are struggling to do this, and often failing, but only because the US no longer holds all the cards, as it did in the 50's or 60's.

Similarly, putting Iran down is a must for American politicians who need the support of pro-Israeli donors. In fact, not being pro-Israel enough is often politically suicidal in the USA.

American politicians are like American car industry executives, who made SUVs long after everybody and themselves had understood that gas-guzzlers had no future, because their companies made more profits on SUVs than on cheaper cars, and if the quarterly profits had been reduced, the shareholders would have fired the executives. Understandably, the executives didn't want to lose their jobs to protect US car companies against their own shareholders. Toyota didn't have that problem, because its policies were still determined not by its shareholders' greed, but by the Toyoda family.

hereward said...

I would like to follow up on Bruno B's comment that the EU is in the USA's pocket no matter what happens.

That's certainly true of the UK and some other EU nations (Poland springs to mind) but not necessarily the case for several others and, at the moment, the US seems to be doing its level best to make some European countries wonder if the US really has their best interests at heart.

This week's essay started with the Greek situation. The American position is basically represented by the IMF, which has being taking a very hard stance. That's hardly surprising since there's quite a lot of money involved on the one hand, but equally the fact that the US has never been very happy with the emergence of the Euro as it poses a potential existential threat to the dollar as reserve currency. Nevertheless, you would think that the last thing the US would want would be for Greece to be 'saved' by the Russians. The Greek government has been trying to play this card, but so far it hasn't resulted in a relaxation from the IMF, let alone Uncle Sam stepping into the breach as every Greek's best friend.

Then there's Germany. On the other side of the divide as far as Greece is concerned, the German's can hardly be happy with a 'proxy war' being fought a hop, skip and a jump away from its borders. Moreover, Germany still needs Russian gas and would be shooting itself in the foot if it broke relations with Russia. Angela Merkel is from the former DDR, speaks Russian fluently (often has tête-à-têtes with Putin) and is known to be a pragmatist.

As for France, Franco-US relations were at their height leading up to the American Revolution thanks to a mutual hatred of the British. Since then, the relationship has blown warmer and cooler (remember 'Freedom Fries'?), but the French have always been concerned about the US having too much influence on the French way of life, they are also very suspicious about neoliberal globalization.

In short, the US should not take its (EU) allies for granted.

-Loved the WH Auden poem, BTW.

Dave Zoom said...

The USA wishes to project world hegemony with its military especialy the navy and its aircraft carriers , the day of the surface ship ended when the first exoset misile sank a british warship in the Falklands war .Aircraft carriers are appaulingly vulnerable we shall see if the USA is foolish enough to put them in harms way , someone somewhere will call the USA,s bluff or make the first mass grave of the third world war .
NATO,s baiting of Russia will only end in tears , Europe seems to think it can bully Russia into selling it natural gas , the pipelines to China and in the future India will soak up all Russia,s avalable gas exports and as the long term contracts for gas come up for renewal in the 2019 / 20 ,s ,euro watching should become intresting ,why should Russia sell gas to a potential enemy .
The west has given up national security in the intrest of corporate profit , the profit motive drives US forign policy just as it did in England circa 1938, as we see in Greece the financial oligarchs can not understand thet pushing people too far brings rebelion .
The Ukraine is a problem they are broke and cant buy military hardware but selling arms to all sides in the mid east is profitable there are no sanctions on ISIS oil exports just a " black market " . as the saying goes " follow the money " .

Morgenfrue said...

I have been feeling a sense of urgency lately. It seems like I live in a city of ghosts. Watching people bustling around, no one seems to recognize the clouds. There are parliamentary elections today and it's all the same manure in different piles, with maybe a few farfetched exceptions of too little too late.

It doesn't help that my husband is one of the "it's society's responsibility" types.

Anyway, if someone else has posted this link I apologize:
There are masses of scanned old books on the site - manuals for carpentry, furniture, tool use and maintenance, Boy Scout manuals, farming, needlecraft, watches and clocks, cooking and recipes, frugal household management. Much of it is old, some WWI, some incredibly random (diy taxidermy?!) but some great stuff.

Avery said...

The scenario you paint in Twilight's Last Gleaming seems to loom closer every day. In case anyone missed the news, America's federal HR department learned their entire network was being actively monitored by China, only because some contractor came in and wanted to show off their threat detection software by testing it on the government intranet. (Why they were allowed to do this without clearance is a whole question in itself!) And then someone inside the department told Ars Technica that this doesn't matter anyway because Chinese contractors had the administrator passwords for years!

But as you wrote above, as well as in Twilight, ordinary Americans aren't going to realize how misplaced their confidence has been until America actually tries to follow through on one of its bluffs and falls way short.

Rashakor said...

As always a masterful display of wisdom. Thanks Archdruid.

Just a few semantic nickpicking items.
- Napoleon did come back from Elba, which in this case would be the wrong name to invoque for a permanent hellish exile. The correct name for that would be St Helen.

- "collapse" of the german statelets into the german reich? Would the word "precipitation" not be a better fit here. It still conveys the concept of fall but also carries the emaning of transformation. A very good word for Alchemy. 😛

Brian said...

Well, rats. And I was starting to dream of retiring abroad so that I could experience some civilization before I croak. Of course, my retirement will be dependent on investments in the market, and to be a foreign resident when the money runs out or tribalism takes control is not a prospect that thrills me.

But after the harbinger that is Kansas (Brownback is so incredibly similar to Hitler in regard to his irrational belief in his own will and ideology, despite the insistence of reality - I hope you're all aware of his signing a law that enables him to defund the Kansas courts and shut them down if they don't rule as he wishes, thereby destroying 800 years of Anglo-American jurisprudence (, I think it's pretty clear that we're not going to end up with a rational insider in charge of our polity, but one of these tea-bagging boobs who've never been hungry in their lives and who don't understand that the New Deal-style social net was designed to keep the poor from rising up and gutting the rich like fish.

I have never wanted to live in interesting times. I have always said, give me pleasant boredom. If I want drama, I'll read Shakespeare.

Mark Mikituk said...

Thank you John for another great post. Your comment on the stupidity of our leaders got me thinking. It certainly seems to me that we have had a great load of bad to absolutely horrifically idiotic leaders over two entire generations and across most of the occidental world, and that most of our problems stem from that (imo, the fault is everyone's to bear). I have my own theories as to why, and I am sure I will greatly enjoy reading yours next week.

The reason for my posting is that I feel the need to add a small dash of hope to your scenario, and this is what your post had got me to think about: I would make the, perhaps slightly esoteric, suggestion that when things appear to be at their worst, against all the odds, truly great men (as we have not seen in at least 2 generations) rise to the call. Perhaps we are beginning to see this occur (Are Pope Francis, Tsipras/Varoufakis, B.Sanders, even Putin, the leading edge?).

Twilight said...

Over the last year or so I have been glued to my palantír, watching what is happening with Russia/China and our waning empire, the nearly step-change increase in impacts of climate change, and the ongoing peak oil/economic collapse death spiral. I talk openly about these things with my now-young adult children, but in the rest of the “real world” I am increasingly uncomfortable with attempting to discuss these things at all. The contrast between the stunning pace of what is happening and the determination of the population not to see it are beyond mere ignorance.

The same internet portal that allows me to observe what is happening conveniently also enables the masses to live increasingly in a virtual world. That's gone on long enough now that people are extending these habits of thought into all areas, apparently believing they have no need to concern themselves with physical/material realities at all. At this point one can simply define one's own physical attributes to be whatever one wants, without regard to any physical reality or social tradition, just like a character in some on line game.

You can see these thought patters moving further into any area where the universe presents limits, and it ties back into the almost universally ineffective and counterproductive approaches of our society to such limitations. We simply make up a reality we'd prefer and believe it, including redefining history, not too differently from that Corporal of the last century. And of course just as always there are those who are only too happy to help make things up that just happen to be quite profitable for them.

I wonder how this approach will work with, for example, hunger – can one simply identify as full and well fed?

rabtter said...

I recall someone once claimed on The Oil Drum that the U.S. and the Brits cranked up oil production from the North Slope and the North Sea in the 80's in an effort to drop oil prices enough to damage the Soviet Union's economy, and that it worked. Russia, China, and Iran collectively hold about 23% of global production. Oil prices have been low enough for some time now that North America's non-conventional production can't possibly be profitable, I wonder if the favor is being returned?

George Coles said...

Another fantastic post, Mr. Greer.
I would like to offer a quote
I came across recently from
Albert Camus' novel "The Plague":

"The evil that is in the world always
comes of ignorance, and good intentions
may do as much harm as malevolence,
if they lack understanding. On the whole,
men are more good than bad; that, however,
isn't the real point. But they are more
or less ignorant, and it is this that we call
vice or virtue; the most incorrigible vice
being that of an ignorance that fancies it
knows everything and therefore claims for
itself the right to kill."

donalfagan said...

I suspect the US military thinks that they have solved the problem of Fourth Generation Warfare using UCAVs, or drones, to take out the leaders of the opposition. It will be interesting when UCAVs start coming this way.

You'll probably see this link a lot:

And, I am shocked and saddened by the mass shooting of black worshippers in Charleston. We seem to be increasingly at the mercy of heavily-armed crazies.

Unknown said...

Dear JMG,

I wonder about your prediction that a century from now there will be a lot of Muslims in Europe. What about other Abrahamic monotheisms, do you see them also going strong? What about earth-based spirituality?

Best regards,

Hrast (ex-muslim, and aspiring druid, based in Sarajevo)

Chloe said...

"The UK is geopolitically irrelevant at this point" - a lot of people would take that as an insult, I suppose, but it's actually a rather reassuring thought. Not that our fine leaders have caught on, of course; they're all determined that Britain is and will remain a significant global power, rather than a rapidly fracturing collection of nations bound together by political alliances which have outlived their usefulness (the first half being true of any polity large enough to encompass multiple regions and identities, and the second about to become more apparent across large parts of the globe). They should hope, instead, that we're irrelevant enough and far enough out of everybody else's way to avoid being caught in the worst of the coming turmoil, but that would require savvy beyond the kind of savvy peculiar to Oxford debating societies and career politics, which is rare enough in the current crop...

(My grandmother claims to be confident that we are mostly led by well-meaning people who are mostly sensible and know what they're doing. There must be a lot of people, particularly those of older generations who remember better times, who think that. I rarely meet them, and I'm sure they're fewer by the day.)

It's a strange sensation, trying to look at history both from inside and outside. We view the rise and fall of ancient civilisations as if from beyond: Greece, Rome, Persia, Arabia - they are the appearance and disappearance of great cities, of languages, of agricultural systems and technology and trade and empire. We see our own civilisation from within and we don't realise it's the same thing, the same patterns, reflected in the small things: to us, military bases and loan defaults and arguments with Moscow and China are not part of history; they're simply what we do. When we realise it's not one or the other but simply part of the whole it's easy enough to reconcile the two (but a strange, new way of looking at things, all the same) and that's what all good historians need to do. Some of the most dangerous people are the bad historians - the ones who think history is not any of this but simply the American Revolution followed by the American Civil War followed by two world wars and so on and so forth. Sheer ignorance is one thing; the ones to watch are the ones who have just enough education to convince others they're wise. (A little learning is a dangerous thing.) So of course they're the ones who end up in charge at times like these - the ones who would never think to compare the current triad of USA-Russia-China to the old one of Britain-Germany-USA, or any other point in history. Certainly, in debates over the finer points of economic theory, they miss the whole ebb and flow of time and the repeating patterns - the ways the citizens of Rome were exactly like us and the ways we are exactly like them - comprehension of which would be required to have any hope of navigating this whole mess with some semblance of competence.

I like "stunad", but may I suggest "glaikit" in addition? It's a Scots word expressing sheer gormlessness. It's not that they don't understand, but that they aren't paying enough attention to even realise there's something they should be understanding.

My own consolation lies not in Auden but in the thought that people have, throughout history, managed to be about as happy and contented pretty much regardless of where and when they lived. That is, some have always lived in luxury and some have always suffered cruelty, torment and painful death. Perhaps the balance swings further one way or the other at times, but our own civilisation is not (despite its decadence) a particularly happy one nor particularly horrific, and neither extreme ever lasts for long. People can be happy in the midst of prosperity, and even in the midst of the most terrible times they can find joy.

mr_geronimo said...

"So how did the British avoid the senility of the decadent elites? Is it "required by the logic of history" that ours are such dunderheads?"

They didn't. They are just having another type of dementia, different from the one that the american dominant minority is having. They are dying from Völkerwanderung.

"So I think we know on whose side Brazil and India will fall when it's crunch time" Brazil is an enemy of the USA. Both the communists and their possible replacement, the army, are hostile to America. Of course, Brazil smells of revolution and it is difficult to predict where it will be in 10 years. If you take your time to study the brazillian question and compare it to the old Russian Empire or Old Regime France, the paralels, the rhymes, are obvious. An alienated nobility pillaging the country, a regime with no legitimacy, sinking economy and new ideas circuling among the angry young middle class. Add to that classic warband formation in the slums and rising religion among the masses and you get something like those silvertaped behemoths that look invulnerable and eternal until they crumble 'out of nowhere'.

Setik said...

I live in the Eastern Europe and I simply can not fathom why the Germans side with US policies still instead of making piece with Russia. All Ivan wanted was obviously to forgot past, trade, build infrastructure at home and simple freedom to come to EU and spent some rubles here for our fancy nonsense.

I remember few years ago even the German army publicized serious long term strategy analysis implying that with the non favorable geopolitical distribution of remaining resources it is in fact an imperative to leave current course and side with Russians. And yet nothing of the sort happened. Not even proper investigation of the Malaysian plane mass murder for Heavens sake. Media are full of smoke and mirrors, anti ISIL propaganda, dubious anti russian propaganda, mess with Brussels forced migrant quotas, and it is embarrassing to even watch it. Its like medieval pre-crsusade public massage. Fearmongering everywhere.

Grim said...

"the conflict in question will doubtless be fought using the same indirect methods as the Cold War"

IMO, the war will be fought almost entirely on an economic battle ground. The rising Russian/Chinese alliance can choke the US to death simply by keeping the ships in port for a few months. Granted they will have to find ways to deal with the economic disruptions on their end, but these disruptions are coming anyway. Why not do them on a manged basis that crushes the US in the process?

Robo said...

JMG, pragmatic historical analysis is your specialty, and this one seems particularly well considered. The forces that drive worldwide events seem beyond our collective control, but as Auden notes, each of us can be an ironic point of light that brightens the darkness, no matter how deep it may become. We thank you for providing here a consistent place to relight our torches when they occasionally sputter out.

winingwizzard said...

Generational change is a further complicating factor. Soros, Rockefeller, Kissinger - the list of old Boomers that have control is as long as they are long in the tooth. We are looking at generational changing of the guard as well in this ultra-complex, 7-billion face morass. Not just here but across the world - Boomers will die off. What happens to fortunes? Heirarchies? Goals? Plans?

China is not immune from capitalist craziness - they have their own set of economic bubbles, unhappy and poor folks concomitant with water, food and some huge pollution issues. Their "light touch" on governance is fallacious when their history is viewed. It simply appears that way, as they have the money to buy submission - economic submission is still submission. They are pragmatic as ever, but their checking account is not infinite.

I think the generational change may have as much chaotic potential as the circumstances we are in today.

Dammerung said...

You've got to wonder about the kind of people who manage to not only snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, but burn the entire concept of victory down while doing so. How are they so adroit at convincing the common people to blow their own houses into rubble and saw off their own limbs? Maybe it's more a topic for your Other Blog, but I frequently find myself wondering about Icke's reptiles. Maybe they're not lizard people as such, but is there a real possibility that it's possession by evil spirits that makes these national buffoons so influential - and destructive?

whomever said...

So, looking around the world I see 4 places where we could easily end up with a hot war literally today if someone does something stupid: China vs Taiwan, N vs S Korea, the Middle East (well, that's already started) and India vs Pakistan.

The thing that strikes me about this is that none of these would particularly affect Russia. It's always seemed to me that it's in the Russian interest to keep their heads down and play off both sides in each of these. They don't really have an existential threat, given they have nukes and control Europe's energy supply. I'm reminded of Kissinger's quote about having no friends or enemies, only interests.

That said, Russia has already sided themselves with the Iranian-Syrian axis in the Middle East, so they clearly are interested in being Imperial, which supports your thesis. A dangerous long term game, but there you have it.

On the other hand, three of these drag in the US (the US could probably stay out of India-Pakistan if they wanted to, but good luck to the companies that have done all their outsourcing to India). Two drag in China (who aren't exactly making themselves popular with their neighbors). I also strongly suspect that when china and or India are suddenly not available for the various tasks the US has sent their way, the US will find out in a big hurry just how fragile the modern economy really is.

Gordon Cutler said...

Excellent, thought provoking post as always, JMG, although, unusually, this week I was pretty much a couple of steps ahead of your prose. In my late 60s/early 70s, Right Wing, Bill Buckley-National Review-devouring youth, I learned lots about Commie propaganda [and indirectly Nazi propaganda because Commies were Nazis-lite] and the nature of totalitarian societies. I also learned a great deal about the cultural and political histories of Russia and China.

Nearly 20 years in Scotland and Germany from the mid 70s to mid 90s permanently immunized me to ideologies and broadened my knowledge of history and the psycho-dynamics of empire considerably. I returned to the US just in time for the GOP takeover of Congress under Gingrich and have since watched a parade of personality types in a profusion matched only by those in Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and reports from Cultural Revolution China. Their historical ignorance and amnesia has had me permanently gobsmacked since.

Thus for 20 years I've been thinking of Thucydides and marveling at how some societies decide to go collectively crazy. Fear is certainly one factor: it's been both the mind killer and background hum to American foreign policy and political life for all of my 64 years.

Another is the need for enemies. Several months before the Wall came down in 1989 Shevardnadze gave an interview to a German weekly. At the end he said, 'We are not your enemy. We do not want to be your enemy. We will take your enemy away from you. What will you do then?'

I got my answer 5 years later when Liberals were the new public enemy number one and people like Ann Coulter could publicly advocate the murder of the president and his wife and get away with it. And I see further evidence of that today in friends, most of whose views are in alignment with those you express here, who need Putin to be our "dangerous enemy", the "KGB thug" and so on, ad nauseum.

An ancient Greek wrote "Those whom the gods would destroy they first make mad." Since I cannot discern, much less accept, the existence of deities that look all too much like human psychoses projected onto the physical world floating among the clouds playing games with societies and cultures, I am very curious about your understanding of the para-logic of the latest empire/society to go collectively gaga. It can't be in the water, can it? A side-effect of Monsanto's latest witches brew perhaps?

But as you are only the second person in my life to ever refer to Yeats' A Vision; William Irwin Thompson, the cultural historian was the other [back in the spring semester of 1973 in a class I took at Syracuse], I can't help but think that you'll be employing at least some of those excellent insights in that para-logic post whenever it shows up.

Thanks again and best wishes. Alas, the flow of my life rarely allows me any time to chime in here.

troy said...

Regarding today being the absolute deadline in reaching a compromise between Greece and its creditors, I believe there is one last delaying tactic that could be employed: I read somewhere (maybe ZeroHedge) that Christine LaGarde has 30 days from the time Greece actually defaults before she must officially declare them to be in default (which is what would automatically trigger the long-awaited Pandora's box of 2008-like financial chaos). So it's possible the can could be kicked down the road a little further, or at least given one last little nudge of the foot.

On the other hand, they have already delayed so long that even if a compromise of some kind is reached in the next few days, the bank run currently going on in Greece may render it moot-- the next tranche of bailout money that would be released by a deal between Greece and its "benefactors" might not even be enough to keep any of Greece's banks afloat at this point. A bad situation with no easy solution. Meanwhile the NASDAQ has hit an all-time high today...

Roger said...

JMG, it's like Yogi Berra said, it's tough to make predictions, especially about the future. So you may not get it right in all its particulars but you can for sure get the broad stokes.

One of the broad strokes I was thinking about is this, even if demography doesn't put Muslims into majority status, it may not matter.

I can't remember where I read it but I read that the invading Turks numbered only about a hundred thousand when they took over Anatolia. And so the average Turk has only a great-grandparent's worth of genetic inheritance from those invading Asiatic tribes.

One county per year over about two hundred years, Angles and Saxons came to dominate Britain in the Dark Ages. Even so, they left only a slight genetic imprint, so small were their numbers in relation to the majority inhabitants.

Despite relatively small numbers of invaders, Turkish is the language of Anatolia, English in the UK. The Romans left their cultural and linguistic imprint all over Europe even though the originating population in Italy was minuscule.

I think the same may come to apply to Muslims in Europe. They may never be the majority but if they are convinced in the rightness of their religion and the superiority of their culture and are forthright in pursuit of their interests, they could dominate. It doesn't have to be violent either.

In this place we spent more than a generation strenuously eradicating Christianity from public schools to the point where you couldn't say "Merry Christmas". So what happens next? In one public school with a lot of Muslim students, they now have Friday afternoon prayers in the cafeteria. Ironic, no?

Muslims simply asked permission and, after a bit of bureaucratic folderol, were granted their wish. No problem.

It doesn't necessarily follow that what happens in one school can be scaled up to an entire continent. But maybe that's how it could happen, street by street, school by school, people appalled by their own history and unconvinced by their own religion and culture, give way to other people of differing heritage that suffer no such doubts.

There's another thing, in this time of economic upheaval, the existing powers-that-be make no bones about their preferred course of action being that which caused the mess in the first place. That course of action being, of course, more money for the rich and less for everyone else.

So picture this, contenders for power - Muslims - showing up with a helping hand and also a radically differing plan. When something stops working and people are hungry they look to new people with new ideas. There could be a willing audience.

Phil Harris said...

Despite this year being ‘target-rich’ If you don’t mind I am going to put off the next big crisis within the USA at least until 2016 or 2017.

It would be the height of folly for Russia and China to try to de-stabilise USA from within and cause a serious implosion – well, anytime in the near future. But it is hard to tell internet-fuelled stuff racing through the American psyche from malign assault by dedicated external powers.

Again thanks for the Auden poem. It has been in my mind since your reply to Karim; Era of Impact, 20th May.

Phil H

pygmycory said...

I suspect Canada would not do well in a scenario such as the one you've sketched out here. We're doing the opposite of Teddy Roosevelt's dictum: yelling while carrying a small twig. Not healthy when you live in between the USA and Russia. The north polar icecap is becoming less of a barrier all the time, and we haven't really come to grips with the fact yet.

Who knows, the stupid behaviour may improve after the election. One lives in hopes, but I'm not holding my breath.

Michelle said...

As I read this essay last night before going to sleep, I kept thinking about how hard the Russians must be laughing to see us Not Learning from history. We followed the French into Viet Nam... well, we're Americans, so surely we'll have a better result than the French did! We are following the Russians into Afghanistan... well, how's that workin' out for us?

As long as we have overgrown toddlers in elected office who chant over and over that we're Americans and what happened to others can't possibly happen to us, we're hosed. I surely do wish there were a way to let THEM collapse and not be dragged down with them.

Coboarts said...

Growing up in San Diego in the late 60s/early 70s and being interested in the methods of insurgency and counter-insurgency, knowing self-proclaimed Weathermen at SDSU and returning Green Berets from Vietnam, I realized that it was only natural that Spetsnaz forces would be milling among the Coyotes and border crossers in the hills east of Tijuana. They would build friendly relationships among the border crossers, who knew the back routes into San Diego county so well, occasionally helping a destitute family here and giving medical assistance there. And, if/when, the time came, they would be able to supply light arms and explosives to these strong, tough border crossers from easily pre-positioned caches.

That led me to discussions with my father who taught courses in political geography at SDSU. He took the discussion with me a bit further. We discussed what it would take to arouse anger in our neighbors to the south, even deep into South America, and how there existed the potential there to build and motivate a huge resistance against the United States, El Norte.

In a worst case scenario, we discussed how a growing wave of militancy and a growing population of those with a grudge, along with youthful adventurers and other opportunists, could be built deep in the south and propelled north to invade and conquer the once stolen lands of Greater Mexico. A movement such as that could, quite literally, be composed of millions.

Then, my father set me to imagining how I could stop "millions" of angry young men from making serious, deep incursions into American territory. Think it through long and hard - there aren't a lot of "good" answers - and I don't need to be reminded that the US Navy is in San Diego, because part of what would constitute the "right time" for such an adventure would be a time when our navy is tied down elsewhere in global conflict.

The potential for such a scenario today is much greater, partly due to our continued arrogance toward our neighbors to the south and also due the great increase in the "Hispanic" population in the US since then. Of course, fear about the potential for this kind of thing happening "Over Here, Over Here" does motivate those on the political right to want to militarize the borders and evict the "foreigners" - that only increases the pressure required to make their worst nightmares come true.

Russia and China are making major inroads in developing relationships in our southern hemisphere. There is no barrier against them undertaking the same kind of color revolution strategy that we are employing against them in Ukraine, Macedonia, Hong Kong. It would be silly to think that the work hasn't already begun, even as a revival of past cold war efforts. Engaging the US in numerous smaller and larger conflicts abroad can rapidly tie down the US military. And, we have no one else to blame but ourselves for the strong resentments that could easily be amplified among our neighbors. The point that I would like to make, is that we should fully embrace our hemisphere from Alaska to Tierra Del Fuego and make it right (really right) - now isn't too soon to start.

Matt Wallin said...

Clay: I get the same responses regarding Russia and China from my supposedly well informed and intelligent friends. I think that the MSM narrative absolutely nurtures that mindset. If something has not spurred you to take a more critical look at that narrative, and how poorly it meshes with the steady trickle of news to the contrary, you could easily find you are too distracted to do an in-depth reevaluation of just how tenuous the US's grasp on hegemony has gotten.

SLClaire said...

At least one corporation, the one I was employed with at the time, saw the possibilities inherent in making an alliance with the Russians right after the Berlin Wall fell and took positive steps to form one for itself, by supporting some Russian and Ukrainian researchers who worked on projects related to those that I and my colleagues were pursuing. While I was still employed we had various of the researchers visit us twice and I hosted two of them on one of the visits. I had plenty of time to talk with the two men who came over when I was host and learn of the contrasts between their lives and my own. It was just as interesting to see how much good scientific work they could do with a tiny fraction of the resources we had available to us.

Count me among you and everyone else who is astonished by how badly we botched it with Russia after Communism ended. Bush the 1st was president then. He should have been quite open to counseling by, among others, the CEO of the corporation I worked for. He'd been Director of the CIA, a US Representative, and Vice President before becoming President, and foreign policy was his main interest as President. If any president would have realized the advantages of courting Russia, of suggesting something along the line of a Marshall Plan for Russia, it seems to me it would have been him. Clinton, on the other hand, had only been governor of Arkansas before becoming President. I wonder what the effect of Bush's winning the 1992 election might have been. But then again, what happened is what happened. I'll be interested to read your paralogic post, and even more interested to keep reading your blog to find out more about how to keep the light shining in difficult times.

Nancy Sutton said...

I'll go back and catch up, hopefully this has already been mentioned, but I wait patiently for someone to refer to the Republican General President Eisenhower's last, brave warning... the 'undue influence by the military-industrial-congressional complex'. It might explain a lot of the apparently 'stupid', but actually very obvious, actions by our captured government.
Cui bono?

John Michael Greer said...

Stein, that seems very plausible to me.

PRiZM, as I noted in my post, Russia and China are only allies of necessity, having been driven to that by the actions of the US. Once the US goes down, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see the alliance splinter, just as (for example) the wartime alliance between Soviet Russia and the Western Allies didn't stop the coming of the Cold War once Hitler was out of the way.

Jo, lentils for dinner is a very good policy -- and besides, they're tasty!

Derv, that's certainly one way it could play out. The whole point of sponsoring an insurgency or two in the US, though, is to make sure the US government is too busy at home to be able to intervene abroad. All they have to do is keep President Hillajeb busy spending every evening superintending useless drone strikes against insurgents in Texas and Alabama, and they'll have a free hand with the rest of the planet.

Stunned, you're welcome and thank you. It's a great poem.

Peter, greed and corruption will give you a very good measure of how China's likely to exercise its hegemony. (Have some melamine in your coffee creamer!) I know it's fashionable these days to insist that the US is the worst of all possible worlds, but as I noted in the post, I really wonder how pleased those who push that line are going to be when they get their wish.

Albatross, I'm quite familiar with the Russian experience -- to the extent that anyone can be who doesn't live there, of course. You're right that the US has absolutely no clue what war is like, for the simple reason that it's been too long since one was fought on our home turf. (I partially exempt those south of the Mason-Dixon line, many of whom have long memories.)

Denys, let it happen? That was the great feat of international financing that was going to secure America's place in the world forever, remember? (I'll be talking next week about what undergirded that logic.)

Madeline said...

Much-respected Archdruid, whose weekly instalments I look forward to keenly each Thursday morning, on behalf of my colleagues and myself, let me ask you not to call us "faceless EU bureaucrats". We are just normal people - very much with a human face. Many of us care deeply about the natural world, and conserving energy.
Anyway, with reference to the beginning of your post this week, it seems to me that the real actors trying to do something about the Greek debacle are not EU officials, but politicians, the folks EU citizens have elected to represent them, so they too are far from faceless.
Many thanks for all your work! I have read a number of your books and they serve as daily guidance for me.

Ben said...

JMG - I enjoy alternate history a great deal, and certainly enjoyed this counter-factual on its own merits.
I would suggest though, that at this juncture in history, our current situation much more closely resembles 1914 than 1939. I will suggest a few reasons why:
First, BAU today has an aura of invincibility to it that the imperial order of the Great Powers had in the years leading up to the 'Great' War.
Second, the previous decade or so has seen repeated flare ups and hardening of the alliance system with the Russo-Chinese alliance on one side, and an American-European-East Asian entente on the other.
Third, the shakeup caused by the 'Great' War thoroughly broke the illusion of European Great Power system in a way that BAU has not been challenged in our time. My guess is a decade of proxy wars resulting in general military exhaustion and economic collapse (on the part of all belligerents), would go a very long way towards shaking people's faith in progress and BAU.
Fourth, such a shakeup would be similar to the interwar years in Europe, only this time, there would be no USA or colonial empires to prop up living standards in the industrial world. Thus, the war that would happen a generation or so after the first round of proxy wars (say about 2040 or so), would be the round two attempt on the part of the losing powers, to get some amount of revenge. Of course, by that point, resource constraints would quite probably make this the last 'World War' fought between major industrial powers.
The next would war would, in my mind, occur in 1500-2000 years or so, and probably involve tall ships, dirigibles, and maybe the rousing cavalry charge or two. Might be fought between the Caliphate of Norseland and the Teocracia Quebecois for control of the Artic Ocean?

Bruno B. L. said...

JMG, and Denys,
Wow. That one was a really stupid move. By making the Chinese buy 1.2 trillion in bonds, the American elite expected that the Chinese would have a very strong incentive to never move against the US dollar in any serious manner, because, the elites imagined, if the Chinese harmed the US dollar in any serious manner, their credit would be worth less. Their mistake was trusting too much on abstractions, such as money. They failed to see that money is just numbers on a screen, not real wealth - the Chinese will dump the dollar as soon as they see a good opportunity for exchanging real wealth for the price of 1.2 trillion units of abstracted wealth.

Ben said...

@ Nancy Sutton , I think you hit the nail on the head, as far as bone headed US policy makers being paid to start wars...

Ed-M said...


Your alternate history scenario reminds me of Harry Turtledove's Settling Accounts series of novels, beginning with How Few Remain and ending with In at the Death. Basically, the US loses the War Between the States and makes some pretty boneheaded decisions in the late 19th Century leading to another lost war and a US humiliation of losing territory to British Canada. Turns out, they learn from their mistakes and make an alliance with Germany, with bad outcomes for the UK, France, and the CSA during World Wars One and Two.

PS, and Adolf Hitler remains a nobody.

Now for the US, if Bernie Sanders loses to Hilary, chances are we'll be stuck with her, Jeb or some Tea bagging boob (thanks Brian) like Brownback, Walker or Christie.

See, there is an American English equivalent to stupad!

Ed-M said...

Gordon Cutlet,

Very APT remark concerning fear, that's been driving the US body politic crazy since 1946! When Churchill gave his Iron Curtain speech.

It is almost as if the right-wingers of the US ca. 1930s all had an ah, ha! moment when FDR stated in his first or second inaugural speech, "The only thing we have to fear, is FEAR ITSELF!"

jean-vivien said...

I wondered how long it would be until we get to see neews like this... another visit of Greece to Russia, with trade deals on the table :
...Right after a glorious video ad for Microsoft Cloud. Computer technology has become an economic driver mostly for those who study and teach it, or who are paid to develop it technically. All based on the supersition of marketing. While actual trade routes are shifting away from the US towards Russia, China... and pretty soon Greece, at the expense of the Euro countries. Here in ecnarF, the consensus is that a so-called "Grexit" would inflict terrible damage on the Greeks. But maybe the balance is shifting, and getting closer to Russia will be an advantage in the future ? I wonder if there might not be a writing on the wall, which we desperately try not to read. Let's not mention Immigration, because here the government is trying to act as tough and muscled as possible... while the problem is still limited enough to be handed this way. Another huge giant wall that people prefer to blink at.

Ed-M said...

Did I write stupad for stunad? My bad.

Scotlyn said...

And for the OTHER significant thing to happen today (Thursday 18th June), the Pope's encyclical published.

Will "Laudate Si: Care for Our Common Home" get anyone's attention? In a good way?

rapier said...

It's a new strategic world now that China has emerged. Now finally the fiction that Europe and Asia are different continents is being sent to the scrap heap. China and Russia recognize that it makes perfect sense to have an overland trade route from Shanghai to Hamburg.

This is what the US will not accept. Europe must remain a US satellite state. That is what forming the EU was all about. Making Europe one state, ours. Centralizing power in Brussels with bureaucrats raised on neo liberal economics (there is no other kind of Economics anymore).

Ukraine is the perfect place to connect East and West so we are making sure Europe won't look East. The now inevitable semi hot war by in Ukraine and former Ukraine with Russia is the way Europe will be unable to look East.

China does have a choice. Reject Russia, the last bastion of natural opposition to bankers and endless credit, and instead play the game by our rules. Which they have done with their prodigious monetary expansion. The fact is our way promises vast wealth accumulation for China's elites. Going against us promises trouble, and less wealth. I'm not saying our promise can be kept but that the promise is what China's elites will have to reject. I'm not sure they will.

Guaranteeing huge wealth for political and opinion leaders is Americas most powerful strategic weapon. Don't bet against it.

All the above errata is based on the current and short term situation.

dfr2010 said...

@Morgenfrue - Thanks for that link. That should keep hubby and I busy during these hot afternoons.

I R Orchard said...

Anyone else reading Archdruid/ with an iPad having problems with being unable to select text for quoting or having it read to them? Plus blogger's annoying habit of suddenly flicking to the bottom of the screen on the assumption I want to start typing in the comments box, losing my place in the looong scroll down through the discussions. Not sure what invokes that response.

Denys said...

I understand the mechanics and process of how China is the majority holder in our debt, but I don't understand the reasoning of why it occurred. This has been going on since the Clinton administration, yes? We as a country were led into this death by a thousand cuts debt to China by someone.

And if so much of our wealth is held by China, doesn't that make the U.S. the colony succumbing to the wealth pump of an imperial nation (China)?

Every time people buy the cheaply made throw away items from the Dollar Store, and well I guess any consumer item really, we are increasing China's ability to buy more of our country and make us poorer.

So some Chinese language skills could be handy to talk with our new imperial overloads?

John Michael Greer said...

Johannes, good question. A Russo-German alliance makes excellent sense for both parties -- just as it did in the years before 1914. (If Wilhelm II hadn't thrown away the excellent relationship with Russia Bismarck built so carefully, the First World War wouldn't have happened, and the Franco-German war of 1915 or so would have been one more German triumph.)

Marcion, yes, but he went to Elba first, and so will the bureaucrats.

Vilko, yes, but then stupidity is very often acquired rather than inherited. It's the details of how acquired stupidity comes about that have come to fascinate me of late. More on this in next week's post!

Hereward, no question, the EU will jump ship the moment Germany decides that the benefits outweigh the costs.

Dave, true enough.

Morgenfrue, I know the feeling. It's hard to see what's coming and have nearly everyone else totally oblivious to it!

Avery, yes, I heard about that. All I did in Twilight's Last Gleaming was put myself in the shoes of the Chinese government and say, "Okay, given the resources of the Peoples Republic, what can I do?" The answers were pretty obvious.

Rashakor, once again, they've got to head to Elba first! As for the collapse of the cloud, I was thinking of the collapse of a probability cloud ion quantum physics, where you go from a vague sense of "there must be a Germany in here somewhere" to "Here's Germany" -- but of course then you don't know where it's going and how fast.

Brian, no argument there. It amazes me that more people haven't noticed that a Brownback is always found in close relation to Brownshirts...

Mark, one of the real advantages of crisis is precisely that the ordinarily incompetent duffers who run nations the rest of the time very often get hauled away, feet first or otherwise, in favor of those who can actually do the job. So you may be right.

Twilight, a palpable hit! I sometimes wonder if, thousands of years from now, archeologists of a future civilization excavating the ruins of ancient American cities will find thousands upon thousands of skeletons in the ruins of homes, apartments, and condominiums, showing the telltale signs of death from hunger, still clutching the smartphones with which they were running virtual-food apps.

barthys said...

First time poster, been reading for 7 months now.

I feel we're further down the path toward internal destabilization than some here - to a certain extent, it's already started - I think it's just at present being perceived as isolated, vaguely connected events rather than the first cursory sketches of battle lines.

One other thing that needs to be taken into account is that Russia, China, and the US are all permanent UN Security Council members, which could have serious implications regarding potential tactical behavior in any proxy wars or in any full-blown inadvertent (or deliberate) hot war that gets started.

John Michael Greer said...

Rabbter, it's entirely plausible.

George, thank you! A good dose of Existentialist common sense is always welcome.

Donalfagan, it'll be even more interesting the first time the US finds out that its drones can be hacked. I suspect that discovery will be made in some lethally sudden manner...

Hrast, here in the US, at least, Christianity is in deep trouble, having largely been hijacked for political ends by pressure groups whose actual beliefs have more in common with Satanism than with the teachings of Christ. I'm far from sure how it's doing elsewhere. Nature-centered spirituality -- well, obviously that's where my heart is, but I'd be surprised if it became more than a minority movement anywhere. But we'll see.

Chloe, thanks for taking that remark in the spirit in which it's meant! The smartest thing Britain could do, in my way of thinking, is to make itself as geopolitically irrelevant as possible, so as to stay out of the line of fire as things start coming apart in a big way. The same excellent common sense that induced Britain to let go of its empire without a fight, and spared it the fate of post-imperial Spain, would be well worth applying again.

Mr. G, thanks for the information! I'd suspected as much about Brazil, but it's good to get confirmation from someone who sees conditions on the ground.

Setik, remember that the US military still has an army of occupation in Germany. (Yes, I know, they don't call it that any more, but that's what it is.) Germany's freedom of action is somewhat constrained until the US no longer has a gun pressed to Berlin's collective back.

Grim, it's already being fought using other methods, including proxy wars, so you may want to widen the range of potentials you're assessing.

Robo, you're welcome and thank you.

Wizzard, whatever else is in short supply, potential sources of chaos aren't! Yes, that's another of them.

Dammerung, that's very much a topic for the Other Blog.

Whomever, excellent! You get today's gold star, with a bright red ribbon for strategic perspicacity. What's the first rule of proxy war? Make it happen someplace where your interests aren't deeply involved but your enemy's interests are, so it can turn into a nice juicy quagmire where the other side can neither win nor leave. Funny how all the spots that are heating up just now fit that set of criteria, from Russia's point of view.

John Michael Greer said...

Gordon, hmm! I'd forgotten, if I ever knew, that Thompson worked with A Vision. As for gods and human idiocy, I'm rather partial tp Schiller's famous line: "Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain."

Troy, oh, sure, they can string it out endlessly so long as both sides want to do so; any number of delays, expedients, and face-saving gestures can be come up with. The Greek situation will go to crisis mode when one or both sides decide they've had enough of the charade.

Roger, yes, that's also a very important possibility. In much of Europe, Islam could become the religion of the downtrodden, to which people turn when they feel abandoned by the officially accepted faith.

Phil, actually, any attempt to destabilize America from within would work best by camouflaging itself as just more of the same American craziness: just keep on piling fuel on the fire until it rages out of control, then step back and laugh.

Pygmycory, no argument there. Canada could have come through this in fairly good shape. I'm far from sure that that's still a possibility at all.

Michelle, there's a way -- collapse first and get there ahead of them, so you have time to land soft while they land hard.

Coboarts, bingo. Whether that's the scenario being discussed in Moscow these days, or whether they have something else in mind, the southern US border is so permeable these days that you could probably slip a Russian infantry brigade into the US that way if the soldiers went in twos and threes, and paid the border crossers a little extra to help haul the Kalashnikovs.

SLClaire, exactly. It would have been the easiest thing in the world to end up with a solid cooperative relationship between the US and Russia, and make that the linchpin of another Long Peace -- but the US could only see the short term gains in plundering Russia like a conquered province, and now here we are.

Nancy, well, except that the stupid actions in question are in the process of wrecking the trough where the military-industrial complex feeds so lavishly. They're hard at work sawing off the limb that supports them.

Pantagruel7 said...

"Twilight, a palpable hit!"

JMG: I'm glad to see you've been reading Hamlet. But really! Quoting Osric, of all people! Pope Francis' new encyclical seems to be the good news of the day/week/month.

Denys said...

@IR Orchard - yes to he iPad troubles. But google isn't motivated to make its stuff work on Apple hardware. I'm sure blogger works great on Google Glass. Weren't we all supposed to buy a pair of those by now?

John Michael Greer said...

Madeline, that's always a challenge when talking about, or to, bureaucrats. I have no doubt that you and your colleagues are human beings and not, say, cabbages or something, but the vast majority of the people who are affected by the regulations you promulgate, interpret, and/or enforce will never know that. All they see are a steady stream of edicts that, bureaucracy being what it is, will very often be out of touch with the realities of everyday existence, sometimes disastrously so. (The current mess in Greece is a case in point: the economic policies proclaimed by the IMF and the various EU financial bureaucracies as the way to a Greek recovery sometime in the future have never, not once in the history of market economies, resulted in anything but economic disaster and immiseration.) If people try to bring such mismatches to the attention of the bureaucracy, in most cases they might as well go talk to a cabbage instead. That is to say, your facelessness is not a personal issue but a fact of the structure in which you work; unfortunately that fact may not keep you from being sent to Elba or worse in due time.

Ben, one of the advantages of historical metaphor is that it's possible to apply several different examples to any given case. 1939 is one; 1914 is another; I just spent five weeks talking about 1929 and 1789 along the same lines. One doesn't exclude the usefulness of others!

Bruno, bingo. It was a classic American move: lucrative in the short term, disastrous in the long term, and plausible only because nobody ever took the time to think about the possibility that the rules of the game could be changed by the other side.

Ed-M, maybe we should just have a President Hillajeb and call it good. Or, rather, stunningly bad.

Jean-Vivien, I wonder how soon Ecnarf will be talking about improving ties with Aissur...

Scotlyn, heck of a good question. If the Pope starts excommunicating Catholics who engage in egregious abuses of the planet, that might make waves.

Rapier, the Chinese have already made it pretty plain that they're not willing to play the game by our rules -- pay attention to the AIIB, the artificial islands in the South China Sea, etc. A land route from Shanghai to St. Petersburg is enough for now; the extension to Hamburg can follow as soon as Europe implodes. Remember that the men in Beijing know how to play a long game, which is something the US forgot a very long time ago.

Denys, very good. Yes, that's basically the shape of it at this point.

Barthys, good. You're paying attention. I'm fairly sure that the propaganda end of things, always the crucial opening wedge, has been under way for well over a decade, and the sort of little random-seeming actions that push all sides closer to an explosion are happening as well.

zentao said...

Hello John Michael,

Paralogic...hmm...I would say the issue is rooted in cognition - the pretty much non-accessible (well, except for very few who have trained for a very long time in some 'esoteric' ancient traditions) hard-wired process that takes place in every brain - of those in power.

There were some prior links to and I think Venkat (and certainly "The Corporation") has some great insight regarding those who rise to the top echelon in the capitalist system:

Unless you too are psychopathic then you are unlikely to see any logic or even comprehend the decisions of the "leaders". Which is why I still think "smoke 'em while you got 'em" will be very high on the final decision matrix as we approach this timeline's (surely up there as "the darkest timeline") 1939 tipping point...

Clay Dennis said...

My other theory, besides stupidity and senility, of why the U.S. leadership is making such poor choices with regards to Russia and China has to do with the capture of the media. As the main stream media has slowly become a corporate oligopoly its effectiveness at dispensing the chosen narrative has gotten better and better. This has been especially true of what reaches the media with regards to Russia's geopolitical position and Chinas military efforts. In Essence, the propaganda has gotten better and better. Because of this I think that the same thing is affecting the U.S. leadership that helped doom the German Leadership during WWII. They have begun to believe their own propaganda. We in on the fringes of the mainstream tend to think there are masters of the universe sitting in underground bunkers with massive computers giving them perfect knowledge of the world situation. But what if every morning they get up and read the New York times and watch CNN and think that is how it is? That would explain the dumb decisions I think.

hcaparoso said...

Excellent post this week, Mr. Archdruid, sir. And just yesterday a young, white man at a prayer meeting in an African American church in Charleston, S. Carolina, shot many people, killing nine. This is so upsetting and, to me, anyway, is one more example of the decline of America and the coming disturbances and unrest. As for me, I seem to see death everywhere. My son in law committed suicide 2 1/2 years ago, my best friend died of cancer not long ago. Her vitals, apparently were good up to the end (she had cancer), and then she just died. I think just she got tired of fighting and wanted to go home. My cousin died not long at the age of 60, much too young, considering both of our mothers are still alive, old Irish American women in their 90s. And my other cousin's daughter died, she was only 33, about 6 weeks ago. And my sister got cancer a few months ago and my other sister is slowing dying of some weird mitochondrial mutation, which also killed her daughter at the age of ten. I'm healthy, at the age of 61, but I feel as if people are just giving up. I refuse to give up, I want to live to see how this all turns out!! I'm not worried at all about my future, I can cook, bake all our bread, can make a meal out of anything, spin, weave, knit, sew without patterns (or , better yet, WITH patterns, which I also know how to draft), and can live on next to nothing, which I've had to do several times in my life. And thank you so much for this wonderful space in which I can feel sane. And an early Happy Summer Soltice to you, Mr. Greer! BTW, I ordered one of your books for my son, who seems to be interested in what is REALLY happening in the world, not the lies we hear from the MSM. Wish any of my three daughters would be more interested!

Blueback said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
streamfortyseven said...

If China can stay together long enough without having a series of internal revolts which take down the government, then a Russo-Sino alliance might be a cognizable threat. But there's pretty compelling evidence that China's elites are as senile, greedy, and corrupt as those in the US: and And there's increasing inequality which could lead - and in places has led to - violent civil unrest: There's the increasing environmental pollution and the concomitant poisoning of the food supply: and finally the fact that most of the heavily-settled areas of China are vulnerable to sea level rise and its consequences:

Russia has similar problems with corruption, and the fact that a lot of the grain supply comes from Ukraine. Taking these things into consideration, between the US, Russia, and China, it might end up as a three way tie for last.

Blueback said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
blue sun said...


Much to chew on this week. Thanks.

What do you think inoculated early- to mid-20th century British diplomats and planners from the senility of the elites that their late-20th to early-21st century American counterparts suffer from?

Is the senility of the elites not necessarily an inevitable part of an empire's decline?

onething said...

"Could a future presidential candidate, out of left field, come out and say, "America, we've got to get our act together," and steer us away from the iceberg?"

I'd say, not any time soon. Those who have tried (Ron Paul, Ross Perot, Dennis Kucinich, Ralph Nader and several others) get very little interest from voters, who are way too worried about throwing their votes away. Americans don't vote for nonapproved candidates, and the media has that locked up.

Gordon Cutler said...

@JMG "Gordon, hmm! I'd forgotten, if I ever knew, that Thompson worked with A Vision."

I don't know if Bill would agree with me, but from my POV as a former student and avid consumer of his essays and lectures, I would say that 'A Vision' and Whitehead's philosophical writings are two of the main influences on the development of his thought. An entire lecture was devoted to 'A Vison' in the course I took and Whitehead was constantly referred to.

Bill is always paying attention to processes, the dynamics of cultural change and the ways in which over the course of time social values engender their opposites.

He's essentially retired now, but does publish occasional essays at the Wild River Review. I highly recommend them and his books as companion reading to your own excellent work. A shame that I'll probably never get to see the two of you in a discussion together. That would be a treat!

winingwizzard said...


Chaos is not always bad, is it? So many of the oldest patterns have been corrupted that chaos is likely required for naturally rational order to reassert? So I am thinking of hypercomplexity resembling a pile of pixie sticks freshly upended from their can. Not 4 or 6 colors, but a full spectral rainbow of rich colors. We, the players, now get to try and fish out the colors we need, those closest to some very honest communal desires and human needs.

Things cannot remain as they are - pick most any argument - resources, pollution, climate, population, etc. My primary issue is that nature isn't static, and thus we cannot be. Storms, tides, fires, earthquakes all have a function of balancing forces. Things are so immeasurably out of whack in so many venues that chaos, while uncertain and unpredictable, ought to be expected and, perhaps, be more easily managed than what passes for our current 'normal'. The scales are badly tilted away from natural systems and thinking - adding weight to the other pan or taking it off the overflowing one will produce wild oscillations. But most of us are weary of koyaanisqatsi anyway, even the unaware.

Off to the farm for solstice - thanks for all the fish!

Malcom Kyeyune said...

JMG, I have an aquiantance involved pretty well with political organizing in segregated suburbs over on this side of the pond, and I have a hard time reconciling your view with the facts on the ground, at least as they seem right now.

I think a lot of people are talking about "islam" right now, but even an "universal" force like ISIS is actually incredibly mired in a sectarian quagmire. Their advance towards Bagdad slowed down to a crawl and then halted completely once they ran out of disgruntled Sunni areas - in Bagdad, they wouldn't be in friendly territory, they'd be in ethnically cleansed neighborhoods consisting entirely of shia who'd probably give them the same sort of welcome they gave the americans.

If anything, the middle east is moving farther and farther from some sort of unifying idea of what islam is by the day; ISIS considers shia and other "takfir" to be the most pressing enemy, and they go about the task of killing other muslims with extreme gusto.

Another thing a lot of people miss is that suburbs in europe are extremely heterogenous. They're not filled with "immigrants" or "muslims", but with armenians, druze, shiites from lebanon, political refugees from Iran, and so on. The kids often inherit old family grudges and hatreds from wherever they came from, to boot.

Basically, I think the middle east generally is going to end up being just as "fratricidal" as Europe in the coming days, and you can already see how social stress is actually reigniting latent hatreds in the suburbs over here, not galvanizing kurds and arabs and iranians into an internal proletariat.

That being said, I also don't quite see the potential for islam as some sort of unifying religion at the bottom rung of society from another angle. I tend to think that the well has just been far, far too poisoned for most europeans to ever really consider islam, regardless of its merits or wheter it manages to get its act togheter and present some sort of universal appeal rather than the sectarian settling of old grudges we see today. European islamophobia is a beast that has been fed from almost every end of the political spectrum, and given the continent's penchant for religious and ethnic progroms in the past, well... I don't see a lot of good things in the future, to say the least.

John Michael Greer said...

Pantagruel, oh, I'm an equal opportunity quoter; Osric deserves his place in the sun from time to time, too.

Zentao, nah, a sociopath's thinking is actually much more simplistic than most people's, thus easier to predict once you have adequate examples. What I have in mind is a bit more subtle.

Clay, good! Yes, that's a known part of the process.

Hcaparoso, condolences; that's got to be hard. For what it's worth, I think you're right, and quite a few people are checking out, having gotten at least a glimpse of what's coming down. Like you, I'm far too interested in history on the hoof!

Blueback, I could see that.

Stream, ruling classes are ruling classes, and they're never an edifying sight. The thing that fascinates me about all the people in the US right now who are claiming that China is about to fall apart is that all the same claims, for nearly all the same reasons, were being made in the 1930s and early 1940s about the United States, by the various fascist leaders in Europe. You'll notice how well that worked out.

Blueback, just don't lose track of the fact that traditional conservatives are just as vulnerable to ordinary human folly as the people you dislike.

Blue sun, the British had places to park their senile aristocrats and clueless nouveaux-riches that didn't give them access to power. We weren't so clever.

Gordon, now that would be a fascinating conversation! When I was in tenth grade, one of my teachers handed me a copy of At the Edge of History and said, "John, you have to read this." That was the same year I first read EF Schumacher and Theodore Roszak, so the timing was good. I haven't followed all of his later work by any means, but his earlier books were important formative influences for me -- as often as not because, disagreeing with him, I was forced to examine my own intuitions and give them clearer form.

Wizzard, I'm far from sure that labels such as "good" and "bad" mean much when applied to anything but human choices and their consequences. Chaos is; what we choose to do about it can be smart or stupid, graceful or clumsy, generous or selfish, or what have you. Certainly, though, we're going to see a lot of it. Enjoy the solstice!

Angus Wallace said...


(Great post, as usual, many thanks)

You said earlier that you thought Australia could end up being ruled by China and Australians should learn Mandarin. Can you give a bit more detail about what you think is likely, and perhaps cite a historical parallel or two? Maybe Britain's loss of Singapore in WW2? Do you think it possible/likely that Australia could maintain its independence by simply switching from one overlord to another as it did from Britain to the US without "needing" a Chinese soldier on every street corner?

I've got my grey water systems set up now, in preparation for next summer (which will be here soon enough) -- interested readers can find out what I've done here.
I've also tried to make the house warmer in winter, by building a rooftop solar space heater, and a "lid" for the shower -- it makes the shower more like a sauna and really helps when it's cold! Details here.


Screaming Sardine said...

Thank you so much for this, JMG! It's refreshing to read of a different point of view about Russia than you normally read and hear on MSM. Another interesting parallel to pre-WWII days is that neo-Nazis are fighting against the Donbass region in Ukraine.

For those interested in reading different points of view re. Russia, I suggest:
Anything by Stephen Cohen of The Nation.


Vincent said...


In your response to Cherokee, you say, “I'm not sure whether this is still the case, but for a while there the Fed was manufacturing enough money each month to buy up the treasury bills sold that month, thus enabling the US government to go its merry way spending trillions of dollars it doesn't have.”

I am not being flippant when asking, how is it possible to spend what it (US government) does not have?

In today’s monetary system, ever since exiting the gold standard, the US government can never run short of dollars. It neither has to tax, borrow, or have dollars to spend, although our system currently functions this way, an anachronism from a time when its accounts were settled with a finite commodity.

Nor is it a question of spending on A prevents spending on B. The US government can spend on both A and B, along with C … and, D, E, F and G. There can never be a shortage of US dollars.

Have you ever wondered where US dollars come from? This is not a rhetorical question, but understanding a fiat monetary system avoids the false assumption that somehow the US government is broke, has reached is borrowing capacity, or must raise taxes to be able to spend.

Karim said...

Greetings all

JMG "A century from now, due to raw demography, many countries in Europe will be majority-Muslim nations that look to Mecca for the roots of their faith and culture"

The above is a mere possibility but NOT a certainty as the verb "will" implies!
Nevertheless, don't say that to Marine Le Pen of the Front National of France, she might go berserk!

Gabriela Augusto said...

Dear JMG,

Concerning the proxy wars, there are proxy wars in the Middle East and Africa. But for Russia Mariupol, war in Odessa, Lunansk and Kharkov is war on Russia. Do the US have control of their Ukrainian allies that are now planning an attack at Transnytria? This is dangerous to the point of insanity! I suspect the same goes for Chine in what their consider as their territorial waters.
To much can go wrong, and the sum of those small probabilities is becoming more significant every day: The Yemen war may spillover to the precious oil fields in Saudi Arabia, the Russians may get scared and do the worst, the Chinese may decide the the dollar no longer serves them, the european oligarchies may loose control of their people as well off baby boomers pass away and young unemployed anti-immigrant electorate gains demographic weight amid a catastrophic economic many small probabilities that someone get scared a the war escalates to a not-proxy war! Moreover, the game is no longer "who is going to inherit the American empire" as it was for the British, and it was horrible enough everywhere but in the Americas, the game is "who is going to survive the eminent debacle of resources, probably amidst a major climatic crisis.
I hope I am wrong.

SMJ said...

Hello JMG

Further to Peter Attwood's comment - why, in Twilight's Last Gleaming, did you portray the Chinese as knowing the importance of ruling with a light touch? Do you think they do or will think that way, or were you more expressing a hope?


Karim said...

To JMG and Roger

"Roger, yes, that's also a very important possibility. In much of Europe, Islam could become the religion of the downtrodden, to which people turn when they feel abandoned by the officially accepted faith. "

If ever in Europe Islam becomes a very important religion in terms of numbers it might be because of conversion. As JMG said sometimes ago, the civil religion of progress is imploding and naturally it creates a spiritual vacuum.

I tried to imagine what could possibly take the place of Progress as religion in Western Europe. I thought of 3 near term possibilities (1) A revival of some form of Christianity, (2) Islam or (3) Buddhism.

I discarded Buddhism for its non-theistic aspects. A revival of Christianity is a distinct possibility. But a massive influx towards Islam is a real contender especially for the down trodden as this religion places social justice at the very core of its beliefs. Very appealing to the disadvantaged.

Furthermore, Islam has the knack of adapting to local cultures to an extent that always impresses me.

In the next 30 years I would not be surprised to see up to one third of people of western Europe, some how be Muslims or having a member of their family as one.

Disclaimer: I am NOT in the business of converting anyone to Islam!

blue sun said...

Interesting. Yes, I was thinking about it some more this morning and realized that US foreign policy is probably much more driven by special interests and lobbyists than it appears on the face of it. I would guess the British did not have as powerful and as plugged-in of a lobbying system that we have here.

For example, I know that pro-Israel lobbyists have had disproportionate influence here in relation to that country's size. Although I am personally quite sympathetic to that tiny cornered nation, and there is a distinction to be made between the state of Israel's versus the worldwide Jewish people's concerns, I wonder how much the US government stance towards Russia may be influenced by Russia's late-20th century treatment of its Jewish population?

James said...

Archdruid, this is an off-topic post, so you can delete it. I thought you would be interested in the link:

The summary is basically that the bigger a country's financial sector gets, the greater the drain on total national productivity. You'd think that the source of the data must come from some hard-core leftist website. Imagine my shock when the conclusion comes from a report by the IMF, the same guys who brought you "austerity".

Laughlyn said...

Great post.

I just feel the need to voice a mild disagreement regarding the purported islamization of Europe (incidentally, this similar notions are heavily employed by the neo-nazi far right movements mushrooming all over our political landscape).

An increase in the percentage of muslims is of course inevitable given continued immigration and a slightly lower birthrate among non-muslims, yet the notion that a large part of Europe will actually be majority-muslim nations by about 2120 doesn't really have very strong support.

Europe currently has a muslim population of 6% at a liberal estimation, with the Balkans traditionally having the largest percentage, and projections put it at about 8% in fifteen years. A linear growth of the muslim population then puts us at 22% in 2120. However, it's generally assumed that the period of most intensive growth is past, due to the fact that the nativity rates over time seem to abate among immigrated populations.

Obviously many factors come into play regarding complicated demographic issues such as these, but a majority-muslim Europe in the near future is unlikely.

However, an increase to about 20% percent of the population is obviously significant compared with e.g. 4%, I'm not arguing otherwise.

Kind regards,


Gordon Cutler said...

@JMG "Gordon, now that would be a fascinating conversation! ... ... but his earlier books were important formative influences for me -- as often as not because, disagreeing with him, I was forced to examine my own intuitions and give them clearer form."

Over the years Thompson has moved much closer to your positions in a number of areas. One of my favorite moments was his joint announcement with David Spangler back in the 90s of the demise of the New Age movement. [Between 1973 and 1994, I spent 16 years at Findhorn so know that things were going 'wrong'/commercial 20 years before that. Spangler had said in a 1973 talk that grounding 'New Age' values/consciousness was likely to involve about 8 centuries of trial and error. Too many people present that night, including Findhorn's founders and those who followed in their footsteps, forgot that.]

The following link to one of Bill's essays from 3 years ago shows him at his bardic, visionary best imagining the civilization that might grow out of the 21st century's "gradual apocalypse."

All that said, I'm dying to know where and for what reasons the youthful, future Archdruid disagreed with Dr T. May I live long enough to read your memoirs or perhaps you'll devote an essay or two to that sometime...

Mister Roboto said...

Its leaders have forfeited the respect of a growing majority of its citizens; its economy has morphed into a Potemkin-village capitalism in which the manipulation of unpayable IOUs in absurd and rising amounts has all but replaced the actual production of goods and services; its infrastructure is so far fallen into decay that many US counties no longer pave their roads; most Americans these days think of their country’s political institutions as the enemy and its loudly proclaimed ideals as some kind of sick joke—and in both cases, not without reason.

I propose the coining of a new word to describe the situation we have in this country: narciety, meaning a society so utterly, dysfunctionally, and hopelessly narcissistic that it is no longer really a society in any meaningful sense of the word.

Gordon Cutler said...

@Clay Dennis "They have begun to believe their own propaganda. We on the fringes of the mainstream tend to think there are masters of the universe sitting in underground bunkers with massive computers giving them perfect knowledge of the world situation. But what if every morning they get up and read the New York times and watch CNN and think that is how it is? That would explain the dumb decisions I think."

You are spot on with that. I know of numerous examples from a wide circle of friends around the country and also in the UK which is similarly gaga. Relatives who share my awareness report the same phenomenon. These people really think if they watch News Hour, 60 Minutes, CNN, MSNBC and read the New York Times that they know what's really going on the world. Sadly, most in my experience, do not appreciate being disabused of that notion.

Scotlyn said...

As a follow-up to Morgenfrue's link, here are two more treasure trove's of weird and wonderful information resources - one of them only avail via the "wayback machine"...

Dorda Giovex said...

After reading "Churchill, Hitler and the unnecessary war" it seems to me that Churchill had no small part in steering western Europe and Britain into a suicidal path that in a few years turned the masters of the world into American and Russian colonies.
I cannot stop thinking that he had an American mother.. and that maybe his loyalties were split.

peacegarden said...

Best history lesson ever…and the W. H. Auden quote to finish…I wasn’t expecting this essay to have such an impact on me. Thank you, sir!

Ed-M said...

I R Orchard,

I have an iPhone, and sometimes the site displays in a goofy manner, but only when I access Blogger from two particular wifi hot spots. Plus, I find that I must hit 'preview' first before hitting 'publish', otherwise Blogger will eat my post! Now, do I get to actually edit when I hit 'preview'? Noooo....


But had Churchill not gone up against Hitler, Europe would eventually be conquered by the Nazis, and liberated by the Soviets, who would recover from their redoubt behind the Urals. In RT, the Soviets moved their industries back there out of reach of German bombers.

John Michael Greer said...

Malcom, one of the common features in eras of social collapse is that the lower rungs of the social ladder tend to embrace religious ideologies that are despised and hated further up. Christianity in the Roman world is a great example, but it's not the only one by a long shot. The other factor to take into account is mass migration -- not the relatively modest influx Europe has seen so far, but tens of millions of people flooding into Europe out of the Middle East and Africa, driven by economic implosion and shortages of food and water. As I've noted here in the past, that's pretty much baked into the cake at this point, and it's going to have profound effects on the demographics and cultural makeup of European nations (as well as the current US, of course).

Angus, oh, I wouldn't expect a Chinese soldier on every street corner, though you may get a sharp uptick in immigration from China. If Australia switches masters in a timely manner, you may get to keep some of what you've currently got. I'll consider a post on the more general issue of what happens to the client states of major powers when the major powers implode, which should cover that in more detail.

Sardine, thanks for the links.

Vincent, I'm quite familiar with the workings of fiat currencies. The point at issue, of course, is that any currency -- fiat or otherwise -- works only so long as all participants act in accordance with the fiction that there's a meaningful connection between the abstract tokens we call "money" and the actual supply of goods and services money can buy. When a government starts paying its bills via the printing press, instead of participating in the normal circulation of money by taking in tax revenues and paying its bills from that sum, the social fiction that makes money work breaks down, usually via hyperinflation or some other form of currency collapse. That's where current US policy is headed.

Karim, given the forces pushing toward mass migration from the Middle East and Africa to Europe, no, I think it's pretty much a certainty at this point.

Gabriela, the Donbas war is a proxy war because it's being fought by proxies -- local militias on the one side, Ukrainian troops and local militias on the other -- rather than by the US and Russian armies directly. Of course there's a risk of spillover -- there always is, and that's usually the goal of at least one side in the game -- and of course things can go very, very wrong.

SMJ, I put that in Twilight's Last Gleaming purely as a roundabout way of critiquing the excruciatingly hamfisted US policies of today. How the Chinese might manage a global empire of their own is anybody's guess.

Karim, exactly. The people who are denouncing the Islamization of Europe may be right up there with the educated Romans who decried Christians as "the enemies of the human race," and so guaranteed that poor Romans who no longer felt they had anything to gain from the status quo would embrace it.

Blue Sun, yes, I suspect that had a role in it.

James, fascinating. They're quite right, of course: the more of a nation's wealth is tied up in financial speculation, the less is available as capital for the productive economy. What fascinates me is that they admitted as much!

Andy Brown said...

@Laughlyn, you treat religion almost as though it were genetic. Is it so difficult to imagine that when Europe unravels, its secularized youth could jump to Islam rather than a discredited Christianity? In three generations, South Korea became 30% Christian, which had nothing to do with demographics and everything to do with political and cultural conquests.

John Michael Greer said...

Laughlyn, as I noted in response to another commenter, you're not factoring in the mass migrations of the near future. The demographic, economic, political, and environmental mess in Africa and the Middle East is already sending millions on the move, and I see no way to avoid having that number skyrocket in the decades to come.

Gordon, I'll definitely consider an essay on that one of these days. The central issue on which I disagreed with, e.g., The Time Falling Bodies Take To Light is the transformation of evolution into a goal-oriented narrative of descent and recovery. Of course that's pandemic in contemporary thought, and also in Steiner, Gebser, and some of Thompson's other sources. To me, though, Oswald Spengler and Thomas Kuhn make considerably more sense when they suggest that cultural and intellectual transformations, like biological evolution itself, are simply ramifying outwards through the space of available possibilities; they're not going anywhere in particular; if there's a narrative pattern that fits the world of our experience, it's something closer to one of those Native American tales where Coyote is strolling along and encountering one thing after another, or perhaps the dreamscape of The Tale of Genji, than it is a nice taut dramatic tale of how we descended into (insert equivalent of vale of tears here) and how we're on our way back out of it.

Mister R., I like it!

Scotlyn, many thanks for the links.

Dorda, I haven't read the book so will withhold judgment.

MayHawk said...


“The current mess in Greece is a case in point: the economic policies proclaimed by the IMF and the various EU financial bureaucracies as the way to a Greek recovery sometime in the future have never, not once in the history of market economies, resulted in anything but economic disaster and immiseration.”

I think their proclaimed policies are their “Public Policies”. They loan Countries lots of abstract symbols of wealth which cost them nothing. Just created out of air. Knowing full well that most of the loan will wind up in the hands of the elites or be used to pacify their populations with social programs. Then the IMF, The World Band, etc demand repayment in the form of real wealth and assets. That is their true goal.

We both know what would happen if any country caught in that bind decided to repay those loans with abstract symbols of their own.

Malcom Kyeyune said...

JMG, the point is definitely noted, but it actually sort of works into why I'm a bit more sceptical than you on islam's future as a world religion, because the hatred for islam (or at least, the sort of sectarian settling of grudges in universalist drag we see a lot of today) doesn't come from high up on the social ladder, it comes almost exclusively from the bottom. The limousin liberals of Europe don't mind islam at all, because they live in places that are hermetically sealed from ever meeting the sort of poor, angry people they embrace in theory.

It's actually quite interesting that the harshest, most unforgiving criticism of islamic radicalism comes from two places right now in Sweden: from the far right, and from the segregated suburbs themselves. I know you're fond of roman analogies, so you probably know that "the barbarian" was often a rhetorical figure in roman intellectual life, a sort of polemical "other" as much as it was an actual fact of life. So barbarians were unified when romans were divided, barbarians were simple, honest men when romans were conniving and dishonest, barbarian kingship was based on strength of character when in Rome it was simply a matter of greed and backstabbing, and so on.

The reason why I'm more sceptical about this has to do with the fact that "islam" itself is fracturing at a very decent clip, and that there's essentially zero impetus seen in the segregated areas today to really bury the hatchet on old hatred and ethnic, political and religious differences, these just keep getting worse and worse in tandem with the increasing fracturing seen in the rest of society. The large influx of immigrants is something I've been telling people is inevitable for quite a while now (and whatever else you can say about it, Europe helped make the bed with climate change and destabilizing interventions, complaining about having to lie in it does no one any good!), but if those are immigrants from, say, iran and saudi arabia, the chances of them turning into "muslims" rather than sunnis and shia hellbent on killing each other seems very slim.

Interestingly enough, the secretary general of Hezbollah himself, Hassan Nasrallah, recently spoke about how he honestly worries about the future of islam itself in a time where sectarian conflicts and brutal killings are alienating as many or more as it is enticing, and when the region seems headed for a thirty-year war in the name of islam rather than christendom. Over here in Europe, chances are good you might actually end up with a sort of mini-version of the same sectarian wars, and increased immigration is just going to increase that risk with time.

Maybe we can agree to disagree? In my mind, the jury is still out on wheter islam can actually get to the point of being relatively universal and relatively succesful at forming the new go-to faith among the budding internal proletariat. The fact that outright hatred of islam (or, at the very least, hatred of your direct neighbors interpretation of it) tends to grow stronger the farther down you go today makes me a little sceptical, and the risks of self-destruction are not small in a time where the principal focus of jihad has become facing your direct neighbor and uttering a modern day version of the old christian saw: "Kill them all. For the Lord knoweth them that are His".

Laughlyn said...

"Laughlyn, as I noted in response to another commenter, you're not factoring in the mass migrations of the near future. The demographic, economic, political, and environmental mess in Africa and the Middle East is already sending millions on the move, and I see no way to avoid having that number skyrocket in the decades to come."

Thanks for your response. I agree that migration in the post-peak era will probably be one of the most important demographic factors.

However, with regard to overpopulation and critical resource constraints such as topsoil degradation, much of Europe will be worse off than North Africa and the Middle East, especially with industrial agriculture in decline. It's not obvious that migrants will flock to old Europe in the future, whereas perhaps northern Russia might be a more appealing option.

Karim said...

JMG wrote: " given the forces pushing toward mass migration from the Middle East and Africa to Europe, no, I think it's pretty much a certainty at this point. "

I agree that the forces / factors pushing people out of Africa and the middle east are powerful enough to make millions attempt the ride to Europe.

However, whether they will succeed in implanting themselves permanently there to such an extent that the ethnic and cultural make up of parts of Europe is changed significantly is perhaps an open question right now.

Let me put it another way: what factors make you believe that this mass migration will be ultimately successful?

Is it just sheer numbers or are there other factors at play?

Roger said...

Yeah, ham-fisted, clueless and that's a shame. And especially the inability to learn from past mistakes.

Now, what makes me cringe is the mantle of towering moral and intellectual superiority that we take on in Canada - and that's especially true of our intelligentsia - when we're discussing American blundering and ham-fistedness.

I'm not an admirer of our misnamed "intelligentsia", in fact, I disparage it as not being all that smart or accomplished despite its pretensions. And, I'm telling you, for every idiocy you see hatched south of the border you see one to the north, sometimes different in nature, but equally addled. See, for one thing, Ottawa thinks its a good idea to follow the U.S. lead and send Canadian fighter jets to bomb ISIS. Boneheaded, you say?

So I'll try to steer away from the sniffy superiority.

There was a discussion on PBS News Hour recently about ISIS and what to do about it.

If you want to understand the mind-boggling misfires in U.S. foreign policy, you could do worse than watch this little talk. What were on full display were the many misapprehensions about the nature of the world and about the efficacy or lack thereof in U.S. military and diplomatic efforts.

I'll give Col Bacevich credit for having the clearest take on things, he seemed to understand, likely as a result of bitter experience, the limitations of what can be accomplished by Americans far from American shores. At the other end of the spectrum was Leon Panetta who seemed to be oblivious. In my eyes, Panetta represented, at their most disastrous, conventional American officialdom and their ways of looking at the world.

As is usual there was talk of American interests. Now, God Bless America, unlike up here, it's not considered unseemly to talk of your own national interests. But there didn't seem to be a corresponding appreciation of the fact that U.S. interests may not be anyone else's.

Because those damned foreigners may not give a fig about American interests. And it may not penetrate the impermeable intellectual carapace of the American foreign policy elite that those same damned foreigners may have interests of their own and may therefore not be amenable to taking direction from people like Ash Carter.

I'm sorry, I know there's nothing more tiresome to Americans than some smug, finger wagging foreigner like myself. But I'm not sorry about this: I'm going to break with traditional English-Canadian self-abasement and claim a NATIONAL interest and do the unthinkable, that is, talk about it openly. Yes, Margaret Atwood, I don't expect to be invited to one of your soirees anyway.

And that national interest would be in NOT partaking of the latest American screw up in the middle east. It's in our national interest up here that the U.S. (and our own government) recognize that all they've been doing there is swatting a hornet's nest. What is the point of doing one's level best to unleash religious and sectarian furies and then going on to express puzzlement at how to quell those same furies?

RPC said...

"I sometimes wonder if, thousands of years from now, archeologists of a future civilization excavating the ruins of ancient American cities will find thousands upon thousands of skeletons in the ruins of homes, apartments, and condominiums, showing the telltale signs of death from hunger, still clutching the smartphones with which they were running virtual-food apps." That may be a bridge too far, but it's within the reach of today's technology to make people think they're getting filet mignon while they're actually being fed Soylent Green. It's especially easy if the subjects want to be fooled.

عبد المنعم المشايخي said...

In time of affirming flame, speculative thinking is not of much help. The human is not the sole actor on this platform of our circulating earth in this vast space of our unfathomable universe. THERE ARE OTHER UNSEEN FORCES one should not be oblivious of.Our universe is programmed on a system of checks and balances. We reap what we sow.

Bruno B. L. said...

JMG, and Laughlyn, there's no reason to believe immigrants will necessarily go to Western Europe. There's plenty of very attractive land on Eastern Europe, the Balkans and Anatolia.
I believe they will start heading that direction once Western Europe's social democracies start failing and/or becoming anti-immigrant authoritarian regimes.

pygmycory said...

JMG said: I'll consider a post on the more general issue of what happens to the client states of major powers when the major powers implode, which should cover that in more detail.

Please write this. It is very relevant for a lot of us here, and the fate of client states is more often overlooked in the history books than the fate of the main power.

Bob Patterson said...

Part 1 The US "military machine" has a lot of weaknesses. A lot of them were evident in Iraq, where it was obvious that US military thinking was still fighting WW2 and Viet Nam. It showed that most of the senior commanders were better at paper shuffling, powerpoint presentations and politics than creatively fighting a guerilla war. Ofcourse that was combined with a spineless retreat from "nation building", and a reluctance to commit sufficient troops to obtain an objective by W.

In terms of weapons systems. the government has fallen into two traps. The first is that the massive spending on "defense" is such a political football
(jobs and spending in which state for political use) that the civilian politicians now determine what weapons systems will be developed and purchased,
and where they will be produced. This has lead to items that, because of per cent age cost limitations of Federal procurement, become the primary target of defense
contractors is to make items and systems cost as much as possible. An example - if A costs $300. and you can only make 10% or $30, then you would
rather the item costs $30,000. And the politicians are complicit in this. The only recent exception to this was the F-16 aircraft that was almost developed in
secret by a military procurement guy, Spinney.

This emphasis on maximum cost then dovetails with the emphasis on superweapons that cost lots of money. Kind of like the Nazis in 1945 looking for the super weapon.
Many times the military has tried to kill projects that were not achieving good results and were overridden for political considerations.This results in the soldiers in the field, often being equipped with weapons that are very complicated, fragile and/or require a lots of maintenance (defense contractors love that). The costs have risen so high and the politics of weapons sales are so politally motivated, that recently Pakistan has partnered with the Chinese to create a fighter aircraft 80% as good as the US product (some avionics are a bit deficient) at 1/4 the price of a US aircraft. In theory then, 3 super duper F-22 will be facing 12 Chinese planes. Another note- a few years back a young fighter pilot of a Navy F-18 "got a little sideways" when landing on a carrier and ended up in the ocean. Cost of aircraft and Maverick missiles $17 million. And BTW a spark plug for an F-15 costs $15,000.

I will give you two concrete examples. In 1973 I was assigned to a mobile battle field level anti-aircraft radar system. It was built to acquire incoming enemy aircraft and transmit the location information to other anti-aircraft units so they could shoot them down. Raytheon built the radar system, and GM built the Gamma Goat vehicle.

The electronics worked pretty well in the desert where we trained, but once in Germany, the moist climate made radar system breakdowns endemic.
The Gamma Goat was a poor choice of vehicle. In the European Completion for a combat vehicle the British entry was an amphibious, articulated, 6 wheel, 4 wheel drive, 4 wheel steered. vehicle it was claimed could climb a 30 " vertical wall. This was design was obtained and given to GM, who modified the original design to install a 2 stroke GM marine diesel engine. The theory was that this was a wheeled vehicle (cheaper to maintain) that could keep up with a tracked vehicle (tanks, armored personnel carriers - very expensive to maintain). For use with the radar system, it was given a trailer with an electric generator to pull (so much for climbing walls). By the time everything was assembled, the vehicle was grossly overload, so it was in no way amphibious anymore and had very poor performance, as the engine was too small and extremely noisy (could not keep up with tanks, etc.).Eventually the Army scraped the entire programs after deploying about 100 systems. I am sure a more expensive replacement has been built.

Bob Patterson said...

Part 2

Example number two is the Hummer. Let us compare and contrast to humble WW 2 jeep and the Hummer. In general terms the Jeep was designed to fight in European forest environments (narrow to get between trees), cheap, simple, adaptable, high mileage, moderate speed, fairly light (you could get a couple of guys to flip one on its side if you needed to).. It was a simple design made of steel,and iron for the most part. Now the Hummer - high cost (lots of exotic materials and assembly),
low mileage, complicated (need auto transmission), on-the-fly adjustable tire pressure (for the desert), fast, wide (so rookie drivers will not flip them) and very, very expensive.

Bob Patterson said...

It is probably appropriate to compare the current position of the US in foreign affaire to the plight of Dick Fuld, chairman of Lehman Brothers Bank. Bear with me. Like most bankers, Dick got in over his head with derivatives, etc. Over the years he had thrown his weight around Wall Street, and made lots of enemies. When trouble came he was urges to merge as soon as possible, but always held out for a better deal. In the end, his bank went bust.

Recently the Pakistan government got fed up with US sactions on jets they had purchased and were denied delivery. So they partnered with the Chinese to develop a jet fighter about 80% as good as the US one, at 1/4 the price. Similarly the BRICS nations are setting up financial systems to negate US financial strictures. Oh well.

Bob Patterson said...

Delusion of the week: Donald Trump, in his announcing for President, says he will build a wall across our southern border and make the Mexicans pay for it. In the same speech he goes on to insult the people of Mexico.

Daddy Hardup said...

To JMG, HalFiore, blue sun et al

On the cunning of the British imperial elites:

The British lost their empire (most of it) through defeat in an unnecessary war brought about by the folly of the senile elite of the day.

I'm referring, of course, to the Thirteen Colonies, 1776-83.

Unusually, History offered the British a second chance, starting in India. They learned their lesson (mostly). A small country with a small, if highly professional, army, could not hope to hold down large colonies by force. It was necessary to divide and rule, to work with, and co-opt, local elites.

Of course, even a shrewd, far-sighted elite can be blindsided by racial prejudice, religious bigotry, and the claims of settlers and rentiers. The history of British misrule in Ireland demonstrates this all too clearly.

Ed-M said...

@JMG & Blue Sun:

About the Brits having places to stash their more clueless elites, and thus managing the "infection" of cluelessness, it should be noted that the British Empire had many possessions around the world while the US has only a few groupings of Pacific Islands. A decision was made during and after Second World War that the US would manage its sphere of influence as a "not-empire" via client states.

And on the guiding of foreign policy by what lobbyists want, a good reason why we're in the Ukraine is because Chevron wanted to go fracking there. Hence Occupy Maidan, and the snipers, terrorists and putschists who staged the *real* "color revolution".

If I were President, I would have told Chevron to go talk to Putin and Y-what's-his-name.

PatriciaT said...

Great post - Totally nailed it.

Great cartoon by Dan Piraro in today's paper -

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

Roger writes, "I'm going to break with traditional English-Canadian self-abasement and claim a NATIONAL interest and do the unthinkable, that is, talk about it openly...
And that national interest would be in NOT partaking of the latest American screw up in the middle east. It's in our national interest up here that the U.S. (and our own government) recognize that all they've been doing there is swatting a hornet's nest."

I think it is also in the interest of the USA that Canadian military forces not be directly and overtly involved in our endless wars. Please ignore the pressure from short-sighted politicians and decline politely. The PR benefits of having Canada in a coalition plus whatever she can contribute to the fight are less than the benefits of having Canada as a friendly nation that can on occasion pass itself off as a disinterested broker and engage in diplomacy on behalf of the US.

In the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, it became clear to me that our ruling classes cannot tolerate the United States being at peace ever again. The profits many of them get from the war machine are not the only reason IMO. The upheavals of the Sixties demonstrated that when a large population of young people feels economically and physically secure, has leisure and isn't dependent on authority to obtain basic food and housing, that population stops taking orders.

The ruling elites are not going to allow that to happen again.

Bob Patterson said...

JNG/Setik - With the exception of the troops stationed at Ramstein Airbase aand nearby Landstul Army Hospital ther are virually no US troops left in Germany. The last major contingents were pulled out in the 1990's

Crow Hill said...

Karim :

JMG: “A century from now, due to raw demography, many countries in Europe will be majority-Muslim nations that look to Mecca for the roots of their faith and culture"

Karim: The above is a mere possibility but NOT a certainty as the verb "will" implies!
Nevertheless, don't say that to Marine Le Pen of the Front National of France, she might go berserk!

There’s French author Michel Houllebecque’s novel “Soumission” (Submission) whose plot is that France comes under the authority of a benevolent elected Muslim leader (2nd generation French) in 2022. It came out by coincidence the same day but earlier than the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Don’t know the details haven’t read it.
Karim: “as this religion (Islam) places social justice at the very core of its beliefs.” Yes, in theory, not in practice any more than does Christianity. Same thing for gender equality: good in theory but not always so good in practice.

latheChuck said...

Re: the Pope's new document on the environment... How long until he proclaims that having another child is not always a gift from God, even if a couple needs to apply modern medicine to limit the size of their family? Wanting another child, in a world of scarce resources, could in fact be temptation from The Evil One.

"Temptation", I can resist. It's opportunities that get me into trouble, when they turn out to be temptation in disguise.

Resource demand (which leads to conflict) is a product of consumption rates x population, and the most dire forecasts I've seen tend to assume continuing exponential growth in population (until the resource under discussion is exhausted, assuming that all the others are unlimited).

rapier said...

Don't rule out the use of nuclear weapons, even by the US or Russia. Still Pakistan or India, the Saudis who probably have a few, Israel or Salafi Jihadists who may get their hands on one or two, are the most likely suspects in setting the first one off.

Then? Then Pandora's Box opens. I would be more than happy to be wrong but the most probable event which leads to real systematic dysfunction is nuclear weapons I believe.

latheChuck said...

One more reaction to the Pope's environmentalism... A US politician was quoted as saying that the Pope should not interfere in issues that are "purely political". My search for that phrase turned up an AP story describing climate change as "an issue that has long been cast in purely political, economic and scientific terms." I guess that if your politics denies the economic impact and scientific analyses, "purely political" is all you're left with.

The public behavior of American "conservative" politicians and "Christian" leaders leads me to be more than a little ashamed to count myself as a Christian and conservative.

Kutamun said...

The sneaky Poms are jumping in bed with Russia faster than you can say "god save the queen " as william engdahl has pointed out in one of his books , they are already in the process of shafting the yanks . They seem to be doing their best to stay out of the EU debacle , desperately trying to hold their union together . The Scottish descended current neo con PM is even running around declaring himself to be a greeny who is all for gay marriage . The flies in the ointment for them being hammered by climate change and lack of fuel , as well as having a huge and increasingly impoverished and radicalised muslim contingent within their Kingdom ; good luck , Poms

Caryn said...

Thanks, JGM.

Part 1)

I find it hard to follow these conversations about geopolitical power-struggles. Everyone seems to be an expert and yet everyone seems to disagree. It's also different for me to read many comments quite clearly coming from a purely US-centric POV. I have to keep reminding myself of that, because it's just not where I'm coming from.

One facet, I can add to the noise that I don't see being considered here yet is this:
The constant (hopeful) predictions about China falling apart keeps looping, in part, I think, because in it's thousands of years of history, It has only really recently been an actually united country, and frankly; even now only loosely held together. Taiwan & Tibet, even Hong Kong and Macau as cases in point , but many rural mainland provinces see themselves in a local sense first and foremost, nationally Chinese second, if that. BUT It's not really all that different to the united or divided states in the US; not totally different than the local identity vs. national identity issues found in Afghanistan. I think our local identities are stronger here than in the US, not nearly as strong as those in Afghanistan. Maybe we're 1/2-way in the middle, but it's a factor.

The CCP IS facing a constant although low-grade struggle to maintain it's power and relevance over the country as a whole - and even as described above to keep the country AS a whole in anything but name. I think this is and has been on-going and IMHO a very good thing for the ordinary people of China. For the past few decades, the CCP has done this with the carrot of economic uplifting of the masses, but this engine is slowing down and or stalled, even sliding back downhill for some. The catastrophic disaster of the Cultural Revolution did actually serve as a reminder of the potential consequences of stupidly ruling with an iron fist. The Tiananmen Square massacre is memorialized here annually with no interference from the Govt. Hu Jintao was the first president of China to have actually worked, as a child, on a re-education camp during the Cultural Revolution. The current CCP have a very different attitude towards control than did their predecessors.

Here in HK, last summer's 'Umbrella Revolution' was watched closely by Beijing, but not interfered with. IMHO, This is because after the first night, the student-protesters set up their tents and refused to disperse at the local Govt.'s behest. The police went in with tear-gas, (which was repelled by the students' ever-present sun umbrellas, hence "Umbrella Revolution"). Now MOST Hong Kongers did not and do not support democracy, as they look to the mess the West is in. They don't see it as the answer - yet when the TV showed tear-gas being sprayed on the 1000 to 2000 students - the streets filled in a few hours with 10's of thousands of angry residents from all demographics, Bankers in business suits, Ex-pat moms in yoga pants, grandma's, street-vendors, etc. The police did not intervene again, except to break up brawls between street vendors losing business, triads and protesters in Mong Kok; and the protests lasted another few months before they petered out on it's own.
Tear Gas night was briefly reported, stayed alive on social media for awhile then was not discussed much after; but I think this was showed massive turning point in policy for Beijing.

Caryn said...

Part 2)
If they rule by a 'light touch' it stands to reason, this is one reason why: They are constantly being kept on their toes by their OWN populaces/provinces, not to mention those they consider their own, who vehemently disagree, (Taiwan & Tibet).

Another reason is that they do indeed have a very long-term vision, and possibly 3rd reason is that the corruption, (as far as I can see) is not entrenched in the CCP in the same self-enrichment/ money-bragging way that corruption is in US, (corporate/lobbyist/revolving-door politics). It's not that they are NOT corrupt - but it's different. They do scramble for power and their enemies curiously end up dead, but I think at this stage of China's ascent - there is still more of a thrust for power, glory and legacy than simply retiring obscenely wealthy - asap.

But The other consideration to your post this week is what we've been talking about all along: Any of these international political war-games are going to be radically trumped, the apple-cart upset and the best laid plans gone awry due to larger global forces; Climate change and unpredictable, harsh weather, diminishing energy to fill the tanks and keep the war-games going. Doesn't it stand to reason, that if China or a Sino-Russian compact are the next hegemony, it will be a very short-lived one? You just can't exert influence if you don't have the gas in the tank to get to your 'spheres of influence'.

Personally, I think all of our great and massive nations, nation-states, Blocs, etc. are soon unravelling into smaller localized entities. This may take a bit longer here in China, but maybe not.

That's my 2-cent's worth. :)

Kutamun said...

Reports have emerged in australia this week with the release of the australian governmnets " developing northern australia " plan , that chinese who intend to invest and work in the north will be offered ten year visas , which means we are handing them a province in our north so they will leave the rest of us alone . This has alarmed many aboriginal groups who hold title over much of the land up there , and coincides with a concerted push by the neocons to close down the thousands of tiny taxpayer funded aboriginal settlements dotted throughout the australian wilderness , a sort of ethnic cleansing , if you like .
The rest of us will no doubt languish in the south , hammered by Dorothea Mackellars drought , flooding rains and bushfires blissfully unaware china has just been handed the northern territory , and western australia to the yanks without a word of debate or a shot being fired . We will grow our veges and darn our long johns and bicker among ourselves over the clueless pollies . The only point of interest really will be how well will the yanks and the chinese get along in years to come .
Western Australia is interesting as it contains many of the white apartheid south african and zimbabwean refugees , as well as many of the well heeled Poms who could no longer stand all the migrants moving to uk . There are lots of blonde women and black humvees roaring around , huge luxurious mansions and impoversished slums ringing the city of Perth ( world most remote city) . The pilbara alone has $200 billion of u.s investment up there . There is an offshore cconcentration camp at christmas island , a naval base in perth and a u.s satellite spy station and submarine base in the pilbara . I wonder who will be the first President of Westralia , billionaires Gina Rhinehart or Andrew Forrest or some charsmatic White South African Ring In ?

nuku said...

@ Bob Patterson
“Many times the military has tried to kill projects that were not achieving good results and were overridden for political considerations.This results in the soldiers in the field, often being equipped with weapons that are very complicated, fragile and/or require a lots of maintenance (defence contractors love that).“
Agreed that happens a lot, but it also happens that the military, for its own internal non-rational reasons, has equipped its soldiers with weapons that are very complicated, fragile, not appropriate for the tactical situation/terrain, and/or require a lots of maintenance.
The ”official“ US Army designed M16 rifle supplied to the troops in Vietnam is a sad case in point. After fire fights, the Vietcong stripped the dead Yanks of everything except their M16 rifles which the Cong considered worthless (up to 70% of the M16s were jammed anyway). The much more reliable, lighter, and deadlier, civilian designed and produced, AR-15 was passed over in favor of the M16 by US Army Ordnance Corps because of bias within the Ordnance Corps itself (the Corps even faked outcomes of tests between the two weapons). Old AR-15 rifles, supplied to Special Forces early on before the M16 came on-line and which cost around $100 new, were selling on the black market in Vietnam for $600 to desperate soldiers.
See “The National Defense” by James Folows, 1981

Mark Rice said...

I think the Pope is a Druid!

Quotes from the Pope's encyclical:

"We are not faced with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social," Francis writes, "but rather one complex crisis which is both social and environmental."

"The idea of infinite or unlimited growth, which proves so attractive to economists, financiers and experts in technology ... is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth's goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry at every limit."

“An integral ecology is also made up of simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness,”

"The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains: everything is, as it were, a caress of God."

" A constant flood of new consumer goods can baffle the heart and prevent us from cherishing each thing and each moment."

“It can be said that many problems of today’s world stem from the tendency, at times unconscious, to make the method and aims of science and technology an epistemological paradigm which shapes the lives of individuals and the workings of society."

KL Cooke said...


"Soros, Rockefeller, Kissinger - the list of old Boomers that have control is as long as they are long in the tooth."

These guys aren't Boomers. They're part of the Silent Generation. Admittedly Rockefeller, if you mean David born in 1941, is on the cusp.

Of course it's tempting to blame Boomers for everything. Next thing you know, the Cretaceous-Tertiary Event will be our fault.

KL Cooke said...

"...curious about your understanding of the para-logic of the latest empire/society to go collectively gaga. It can't be in the water, can it? A side-effect of Monsanto's latest witches brew perhaps?"

Perhaps it's mercury. In the food chain (particularly fish). In our teeth. The expression "mad as a hatter" derives from the days of beaver hats. Hat makers used mercury to prepare the pelts. Madness as a result of mercury poisoning was an occupational hazard of the trade.

shady said...

@Angus Wallace:

"You said earlier that you thought Australia could end up being ruled by China and Australians should learn Mandarin. Can you give a bit more detail about what you think is likely, and perhaps cite a historical parallel or two?"

I'll venture a historical parallel - New South Wales, 1788. People from far, far away just arrived. They included soldiers with weapons superior to the locals and cheap labour. They started small, got a foot hold and through a combination of guns, germs and steel plus sheer weight of numbers came to dominate the entire continent well within a century.

I could imagine a Chinese "free trade zone" somewhere in the North, as the foot hold. Likely centered around mining and agriculture.

After initial success (that is, billions being made by the people who matter) the free trade zones proliferate. The locals don't particularly like it but they don't have the power to stop it and there are trinkets and treats to ease the pain.

Around the trade zones all sorts of systems are created to deliver services familiar to the Chinese workers, management and security. A financial boom ensues. New towns grow like mushrooms. Existing towns become cities.

The locals are progressively forced off their land, mostly via lack of affordability. Others are forced out to make way for new highways, train lines, ports, factories.

In the South East the new migrants enjoy access to capital, tax arrangements and business contracts while the locals don't even get a look-in. A two-class system emerges along with new political and cultural institutions. The locals still have their old systems but they are increasingly irrelevant and ineffective.

Flashpoints occur. Insurgencies, battles, uprisings. But never focused enough or protracted enough to make a difference. The enormity of the landmass dissolves all.

At some point demographics shift decisively in favour of the new arrivals. The locals are treated as a nuisance. Uneducated simpletons clinging to their nostalgic old songs and flag. Sentimental for kangaroos and koalas, cricket and footy, free standing homes, the "bush", the beach and roaming an empty continent.

Nastarana said...

Dear Roger, Go right ahead and wave that finger all you like, so long as you do so from the comfort of your own native land. What irritates (enrages) us Americans is when the smug foreigners are lecturing us from their expensive digs (who is paying the bills?, we wonder) in Manhattan, Telegraph Avenue or similar upscale neighborhoods which (formerly) working class Americans cannot even afford to visit.

Dear Ed-M, in addition to Chevron, the biotech companies have their fingerprints all over the Ukraine adventure. Ukraine's famous black earth farming region is a major prize, especially since Russia to the east and Poland to the west are now, for the time being, closed to GMO penetration, not that the biotech bullies have any intention of respecting the laws of mere national governments.

Bob Patterson said...

NUKU There is a lot of mis information about the M-16 in Viet Nam. If you carefully research it, this was the problem. The M-16 was initially issued to the Marines. It came with a cleaning kit, with rifle rod, a bore patch and a breech brush. These brushes were made of whiskers of steel. The Marines, being Marines, were ordered to clean their rifles at every opportunity and keep them spotless. Unfortunately the locking lugs of the breech ( lugs and notches that lock the bolt into position for firing) became worn from all that cleaning.
This caused the weapon to jam. Eventually the problem was tracked down. The brushes were modified and the steel of the breech hardened slightly.

Fallows is brilliant. His writing about the procurement of the F-16 is straight on.

Bob Patterson said...

Part 3 Weakness of the US military.

Every weapon and weapon system and all tactics of the US military are predicated on air superiority (excepting secret forward ops.). There is a reluctance to contemplate a conflict without it. As we have seen in various other countries
(Viet Nam, Iraq) a US trained army seeming to hold it's own collapses when air support is withdrawn. So what would threaten this superiority? As I previously mentioned, the Pakistani/Chinese fighter (80% as good, 1/4 cost)would. So would a fuel shortage. Weather is always a problem. If a pre-emtive attack on aircraft ocurs, that would.

Another major weakness is shortage of strtegic items and materials. At present, virtually no transformers for power grids are manufactured in the US. NASA currently gets rocket engines from Russia (what an irony - US uses Russian rocket engines to spy on Russians).

Bob Patterson said...

Part 4 Perhaps the biggest weakness of the US military is fuel and power. Virtually every weapon (with the exception of rifles, artillery and mortars, etc.) and weapon system depends on power. When my mobile anti aircraft radar battery went to the field, we burned up 10,000 gallons of diesel fuel a week. US tanks get around 5 mpg. And using drones requires a USAF base, safe from the fighting and well supplied with power. These are some of the reasons the US military loves to fight in fuel rich environments (Iraq?).

So go back to the battle of Stalingrad. A battle tested army with superior weaponry and smaller numbers was defeated by a larger army of poorly trained men and inferior weaponry.
This then returns us to the procurement issue. As current military costs continually escalate
fewer and fewer units are manufactured - the best example is aircraft. I have heard the claims that US planes are so superior they can engage 20 aircraft at once. But they only carry 4 missles.

Ozark Chinquapin said...

The comments from those in China, Europe etc. Are all very interesting to read. I'm thinking, if the Chinese government is facing a crisis of legitimacy due to stagnating wealth of ordinary Chinese and environmental pollution, that's all the more encouragement for them to get to business with replacing the USA as the dominant global empire. That would bring more wealth to the Chinese and make it easier for them to improve the pollution in their country (they could more easily externalize the pollution to poorer countries).

One difference between Chinese hegemony and American is the much greater population of China itself, and I wonder how that will affect things. I can imagine a large number of Chinese moving to other parts of the world and staying, in much greater numbers than American expats, more like what happened during European global dominance. As some of the comments have been indicating, Australia may be one place this happens.

Another candidate could be Canada. Canada has a small population and lots of land that will become more and more valuable as the climate changes and the Arctic melts. I could see Canada as a Chinese client state retaining some semblance of first world conditions for a while after the USA goes down to third world levels, the catch being thaey have to receive an influx of Chinese immigrants, which could quickly dominate the increasingly valuable northern regions and eventually even be the majority in the country as a whole.

I also wonder if the context of all the issues humanity ias a whole is facing at the moment (peak oil, climate change, environmental destruction etc.) will make China's era of dominance considerably shorter than the USA or Britain had, but even an era of Chinese dominance that's half as long as the USA's was would be one of the defining features of the 21st century.

Bob Patterson said...

Denys/Bruno/JMG - First of all, there is little to be frightened of in the regard of a Chinese stake in real estate. Remember when we were afraid that the Japanese would buy the US in the 80-90's? For the most part they bought at the highs and were totally wiped in in several downturns in real estate. In addition, a lot of this real estate is residential, simply as a safe retreat for Chinese families and capital.
As regards the huge holdings of Treasure notes/bonds of the Chinese. Why do you think the US can pay its bills, run up huge deficiets,and maintain low interest rates? We wanted those investments. I suspect much like the agreement with Saudia Arabia, to price oil in dollars in return for security guarantees and weapons sales. This time we agreed to facilitate movement of huge amounts of corp. and other investment capital to China in return for bond purchases.
They made lot of dollars recycled in Tresury bonds.

Varun Bhaskar said...


Well this was an awesome week. Got my permaculture certification and made many new friends with the permaculture guild. They've asked me to play the role of network coordinator with View on the Ground, and become the information clearing house for the whole Dane County resilience community. I'll also be working on the permaculture guilds website.

It turns out that more than a few people know your name, I gave a small presentation about peak oil and mentioned your blog several times. One local farmer recognized your name but said he hadn't read the report in a few years because he was so busy. He's going to start again.

I'll post more on the Green Wizards boards.

I've long expected the next decade to be an unholy mess, there's a reason I'm avoiding the social justice marches. Still, there's pleanty we at the local level can do to protect ourselves from the dances of giants. Who knows, given lots of luck we may even get to keep a battered republic at the end of this...

Bob Patterson said...

In a US economic breakdown scenario, I am increasingly convinced that at least Texas and California could virtually (although not officially, although the Constitution does allow for it) secede from the US and quickly issue their own currency. Each would not just encompass the state, but the the region it supports. Both have needed large functioning economies and natural resources, food for CA and some agricultural crops and oil for TX. Unfortunately I could also forsee the breakaway of other regions such as a Northeast region, and Mid-east/west region. These regions would have tremendous problems as their agriculture and their manufacturing has been allowed to languish . (at least PA has some coal). But eventually some sort of agriculture might be developed.

Gordon Cutler said...

@JMG wrote " . . . The central issue on which I disagreed with, e.g., The Time Falling Bodies Take To Light is the transformation of evolution into a goal-oriented narrative of descent and recovery. Of course that's pandemic in contemporary thought, and also in Steiner, Gebser, and some of Thompson's other sources. To me, though, Oswald Spengler and Thomas Kuhn make considerably more sense when they suggest that cultural and intellectual transformations, like biological evolution itself, are simply ramifying outwards through the space of available possibilities;. . . "

Tell me about it!! LOL!

I haven't looked at Falling Bodies for years and am amused that you parted company with him on the same part of his analysis that I did. I've had a mile-wide mordant streak running down my back for most of my life that inoculated me to anyone's positivist tendencies. He also recapitulated a lot of what I think of as 'spiritual materialism' via such folks as Keith Critchlow which tuned me off completely.

But during the last 20 years he's pretty much left all of that behind. It's a wee bit ironic that Bill introduced me and many others to Kuhn in the first place.

I just reread Christopher Lehmann-Haupt's 22 January 1981 review in the NY Times and would say that in many other regards 'Falling Bodies' has stood and is standing the test of time.


Gordon Cutler said...

@JMG wrote " . . . The central issue on which I disagreed with, e.g., The Time Falling Bodies Take To Light is the transformation of evolution into a goal-oriented narrative of descent and recovery. Of course that's pandemic in contemporary thought, and also in Steiner, Gebser, and some of Thompson's other sources. To me, though, Oswald Spengler and Thomas Kuhn make considerably more sense when they suggest that cultural and intellectual transformations, like biological evolution itself, are simply ramifying outwards through the space of available possibilities;. . . "

Tell me about it!! LOL!

I haven't looked at Falling Bodies for years and am amused that you parted company with him on the same part of his analysis that I did. I've had a mile-wide mordant streak running down my back for most of my life that inoculated me to anyone's positivist tendencies. He also recapitulated a lot of what I think of as 'spiritual materialism' via such folks as Keith Critchlow which tuned me off completely.

But during the last 20 years he's pretty much left all of that behind. It's a wee bit ironic that Bill introduced me and many others to Kuhn in the first place.

I just reread Christopher Lehmann-Haupt's 22 January 1981 review in the NY Times and would say that in many other regards 'Falling Bodies' has stood and is standing the test of time.


Unknown said...

For Jo in Tasmania.

There is another Maori saying.

A pakeha (white man) works like a slave all his life to retire and live like a Maori.

I am a pakeha who moved to Tassie to live like a Maori. Its a beautiful crisp clear winters day sitting in my lounge room looking out over Table Cape and Bass Strait.

I moved here because it was the most collapse ready place I could think of.

winingwizzard said...

@ LatheChuck

Then stop counting yourself as a Christian conservative - make up your own handle for what YOU believe and run with it. I don't like most contemporary organized religions, even small congregations, because sooner or later dogma takes over or a "new interpretation" or some other thing whose sole purpose is to gain more followers and thus more money. John Boehner is stuffing the TPP up every conservative backside in America - and you want to be considered one of them?

If L. Ron Hubbard can make up a religion, you certainly can...LOL

It is OK to change, at least to independent. You don't have to be like me and refuse to choose between (warning - South Park reference) a duce and a turk sandwich. I was tired of holding my nose when voting after Reagan's 1st term! There is no such thing as a lesser evil in our political system - just a different evil.

Back to the farm...

Dwig said...

John Michael and all,

Interesting (if scary) to see a clear application of the "rhyming of history" to the currently evolving situation.

One aspect I haven't seen evaluated in depth is the combined roles of energy scarcity, water scarcity, and unpredictable extreme weather events. However the geopolitical maneuvering plays out, it will take considerable amounts of no-longer abundant energy (and of course, the energy needed for the maneuvering and combat will usually be given priority over other uses.)

Meanwhile, we've had some dramatic examples recently of the principle that the population of a nation will put up with a large amount of oppression and exploitation -- until they can no longer count on the government to deliver adequate food and water (and of course adequate energy to supply them); then, a revolution becomes very likely.

As an thought experiment in the US: suppose that, in the near future, with a deepening drought, California can no longer supply its usual large part of the nation's food, and naturally, its economy collapses at the same time, with heavy effects on the rest of the nation's economy. How important will the "grand game" seem to our dear leaders at that point? I would imagine that similar examples could be found in other countries (certainly China is having major water worries among other environmental problems, and Brazil is in deep lack of water).

I'll leave it to others to suggest weather events on the scale of Sandy or the Australian drought in critical areas of the world, and/or to fold in the effects of other environmental time bombs that our industrial civilization strews around with great abandon. (Hmm, what's that I hear? Is that the sound of a flock of black swans circling?)

Clay, regarding "believing their own propaganda": there's a definition of a politician as someone who lies to a journalist, then believes what he reads in the paper.

Gordon and John Michael, I've only recently discovered Thompson, and have enjoyed some of his works. "Transforming History" might be worth a read, at least for its project of a 12-year curriculum devoted to understanding the major currents of history and culture.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

@Bob Patterson--Regarding unofficial secession-- I haven't read deeply in Civil War history, but I suppose that the ultimate reason why Lincoln could not allow the erring sisters to go in peace is that the Confederacy and any other breakaway region would have had its own foreign policy. It would have treated with foreign powers in ways unfavorable to the national interests of the Union. The War of 1812 was about the same distance in the past for them as the Vietnam War is for us.

After McKinley and TR built the Great White Fleet and opened the Panama Canal, the US had a century of mostly unchallenged control of the western hemisphere (Cuba was contained). This century will be different.

California is so very far away from Washington and New York that 9/11 had no direct effect on me. I believe this state's economy is less dependent on defense contracts and military bases than it was fifty or sixty years ago. Our domestic market is so big that for decades, we've been passing product safety and environmental laws in advance of Congress, and the manufacturers go along with it. I think our politicians are smart enough not to put California too openly at odds with federal policies on immigration, trade or military matters. As long as we stick by that, I can imagine California becoming a sort of warmer, drier Canada (our population is just about the same) while still flying the Stars and Stripes. Perhaps I'm dreaming about having the advantages of the US nuclear umbrella without everything else that goes with it.

Texas is something else.

mary said...

The story from Australia about the gradual "introduction" (not invasion) of wealthy Chinese onto that shore certainly rings true for the West Coast of North America. Homes and condos and businesses in Vancouver BC and I expect Seattle WA. and Portland OR are being bought with cash by Chinese merchants. Neighbourhoods are transformed completely into thriving Chinese districts complete with street signs in Chinese. Young people who grew up here cannot afford to live in the city. Home owners collect obscene amounts for their older homes and move into more distant towns and in turn drive up the prices of homes there too.

deborah harvey said...

clay dennis,
i think you are the one i want to address. so many comments it is difficult to keep track.
this is about the viet nam war and political sociopaths.
go to 'coffeypot' the weblog.
read the entry 'president johnson would not listen'.
if we had such a way of hearing all politicians it would be much easier to see reality.

peacegarden said...

Green blessings to all this beautiful Solstice day. Sit in the presence of a plant today if you can…listen to what it tells you…feel the green energy radiantly pulsing…make a gesture of gratitude when you rise to leave.



Laughlyn said...


@Andy Brown

"JMG, and Laughlyn, there's no reason to believe immigrants will necessarily go to Western Europe. There's plenty of very attractive land on Eastern Europe, the Balkans and Anatolia.

I believe they will start heading that direction once Western Europe's social democracies start failing and/or becoming anti-immigrant authoritarian regimes."

This is my opinion as well. Also, the resource situation in Western Europe isn't really that great with regard to arable land and healthy topsoil. The more sparsely populated areas like northern Scandinavia has a bit to spare though.

"Laughlyn, you treat religion almost as though it were genetic. Is it so difficult to imagine that when Europe unravels, its secularized youth could jump to Islam rather than a discredited Christianity? In three generations, South Korea became 30% Christian, which had nothing to do with demographics and everything to do with political and cultural conquests."

This was not my intention, good point. I completely agree that this is possible and even likely, although I believe we will also see a resurgent Christianity here in Western Europe (I'm a resident of Sweden). Hopefully and vitally, we will be able to attain something like La Convivencia of late medieval Spain.

Thank you for your responses.

Cathy McGuire said...

Love the post and the comments, though it being the long-day season, I'm outside more than inside, and have gotten behind. So, Solstice greetings to all, and thanks for all the cogent insight and debate!

Roger said...

Deborah Bender, I doubt that we have it in us to be a dis-interested broker. Why? Well, we're not dis-interested. Not even remotely. We have way too many ties, familial and business, in too many countries, especially in the US. We wouldn't fool anyone. And, if you want to know hypocrisy, come on up. We'll show you.

In any case, do people like Vladimir Putin and John Kerry (or anyone else for that matter) need some buffoon from Ottawa to explain things?

IMO, effective diplomacy (even for someone PRETENDING to be dis-interested) depends on a couple things which we don't have enough of: money and guns. Money for bribes and guns when bribery doesn't work.

For decades now I've watched our diplomats get elbowed aside or watched them make speeches to empty rooms at international conferences. Empty, that is, except for a huddle of Canadian cameras and news correspondents. All this posturing. It's an embarrassment.

Our preening political elites, especially of the "progressive" stripe, try to get a place at the councils of the mighty and claim to us knuckleheads back home that Canada, as the supposed bastion of justice and goodness, is listened to. Hard to believe it's serious. When Obama got elected he was invited to Ottawa. He came but he could hardly be bothered to get off the plane.

Deception is one thing. Sometimes it works to your advantage. But self-deception is something else, especially in the international arena. It is a very hazardous thing.

ed boyle said...

I happened to be reading this week about napoleon from russian historical perspective and russian history up to about the liberation of the serfs, crimean war. Lots of similarities, parallels to 20th/21st century history coming out of geographical, cyclical developments. Napoleon, like Hitler largely defeated by overwhelming russian reaction. Occupation of eastern europe, suppressions of uprisings post ww2 and 1848/1849 by reactionary russian govt. Secret police, censure in russia holding population back. Existing order in both periods collapsing due to the suppression of creativity, openness in population which hindered technology, growth, efficient reforms resulting in military defeat (rimean war, cold war) and systemic implosion(communism, serfdom). Now as then the ukraine, black sea access issue is a trade/military issue but america intetests dominate western alliance. Russia has reformed and is on upswing so will not be weakened n this new 'crimean war'. Russia, as in 1812 is more simple than west. They burne moscow down and it did not matter as russia was primitive. Russia can survive sanctions, shrinking economy due to resilience. In the west debt makes growth a must. Russia has absorbed, as under Peter the Great and Stalin western modernizations and can wait for the next round of change in the west. Perhaps as against htler and napoleon russia will be seen as saving civilization against tyranny, this time american.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Vincent,

I second JMG's opinion on that matter. It is a social nicety and for everyon who yells deflation, there are twice as many people looking the other way when it comes to the actual inflation that is going on right now. Look at the inflation of securities prices or other asset classes such as property and tell me that that is not inflation at work? The Chinese are quietly swapping your unpayable IOU's for real assets such as property in the US and here too. Or pension or hedge funds are cashing them in for investment securities which involves considerable risks. There is a finite end point at which the game can no longer be played.



winingwizzard said...

@ KL Cooke -

OK - OLD, RICH, POWER-MAD GUYS and GALS - that any better? My point was that there is a changing of the generational guard in progress. And FYI - I was born in I am technically a Boomer and very much not a spring chicken. There are a TON of trolls stirring the Boomer Hate-Meme these days. ZH averaged an article a week of Boomer hating for a while this past year.

Sorry if I lumped the over 80 crowd in there, but they are kinda a small group but many supremely wealthy and influential. I just wish the Neocons were not intergenerational - be great if they faded away, IMHO.

Jo said...

@JMG I am all over the lentils, but have stopped short of living in a barrel. Although with the recent popularity of the Tiny House movement, living in barrels may soon become de rigeur.

I have just finished my first reading of 'Green Wizardry', after which I will go back do the homework. Having read it, I will now go out and buy copies for my kids - the first and last chapters are crackers, a concise and compelling summary of all your writing here at ADR. This is exactly what I want my grown-up children to be reading to prepare them for life ahead. Also, this sentence alone is worth the price of the book:


I will be sticking that one up on the fridge (yes, I will be keeping the fridge.. for now.. the dishwasher can definitely go though..)

@unknown Kiwi who has moved to Tasmania - excellent choice! I moved here nearly 20 years ago, and couldn't hope to collapse in a nicer place:) That Maori proverb you quoted, it is so uncomfortably self-evident..

Scotlyn said...

I celebrated this solstice by bringing home my first colony of bees (native Irish black honey bees)... It was a day of initiation, including first sting. Happy Solstice to all.

Ed-M said...

More evidence of the decline: USA Today has run an article about the US Marines looking to deploy on other countries' ships, because they are looking at a shortage of US Navy ships, particularly of the amphibious variety.

Wouldn't be a problem, had we brought Russia into NATO when we had the chance, instead of attaching it to the Anglo-American vampire squid.

@winingwizzard, "I just wish the Neocons were not intergenerational."

Ditto the Market Fundamentalists.

Michael McG said...

Scotlyn, Congratulations on the bees! I saw several in my yard, the former resident had a monoculture of herbicide/pesticide lovely green grass. After a few years of my neglect, clover and thistle are emerging. The Minnesota bees really love Canadian Thistle.

Vincent said...

Hello Cherokee,

I’m sorry if my response is US centric. Although I do not know where you reside, I assume much applies to your country as well.

There is no evidence that this game cannot go on for quite a bit longer. A casual perusal of the US dollar index at [ ]
shows stability of the US dollar over time; and the US Treasury does not have a problem selling new bond issues when looking at results of US Treasury Auctions
[ ]

Security (stock) prices are rising because of investor preferences for seeking higher yields, which happen to be risky. Is this wise? No, but no proof of pernicious inflation.

The Chinese should ask the Japanese how it turned out when they bought overpriced US real estate. I suspect the Chinese are no brighter than others. Please bear in mind that someone is happily accepting “unpayable IOUs” in exchange for “real assets”. In other words, the counterparty wants the cash.

Even a gold standard requires, as JMG notes, “social fiction” to function. After all, gold is nothing more than a lump of yellow metal.

I find it amusing when pundits selling, by book or newsletter, advice to trade-in worthless US dollars to buy gold and gold stocks, only accept payment for their advice in worthless US dollars. Hilarious! And, the gold marketers who advocate the need to protect against inflation by investing in gold proceed to sell this “hard” asset for paper money. Amazing!

JMG, the issue I take is we are far from any kind of breakdown. The system is working because everyone has a vested interest in its continuation. Did one group benefit at the expense of another group. Absolutely, with the 99% taking the brunt, but I don’t see anyone taking to the streets, except for Occupy, which was tolerated for only so long.

The US government has not lost its ability to tax and collect thereby giving credibility to the US dollar. Although I do not subscribe to your belief for a government that issues its own currency must have tax receipts equal to its expenditures, even that component of confidence building is displayed by the annual theatrics on the floor of the United States House of Representatives.

Delusional politicians with vested interests (mostly self) will rail against the budget and deficit with performances worthy of prime time soap opera, but in the end the budget is accepted and the depth ceiling is raised. All is well. And, the band played on.

These above monetary operations do not lead to hyperinflation or currency collapse, which is caused by external factors, most notably war, foreign denominated debt, or regime change. This scenario is more apropos to the end stages of the era of breakdown to the end of industrial civilization than the current situation.

For an excellent study of past hyperinflations and its causes, please read (short, succinct, instructive) Hyperinflation – It’s more than just a monetary phenomenon at [ ]

Janet D said...

One a side note: weather rant.

We've been running consistently 10-15 degrees above normal for at least six months here in much of the PacNW (we are supposed to hit 108 next week where I live) and mountain snowpack is currently 15% of normal. The dryland farmers in Oregon have pretty much already lost their entire wheat crop due to record desiccating heat in early June. (Some of you may also remember last summer when I posted that Idaho wheat farmers lost almost all of their wheat crop(s) due to 7+ days of hail and heavy rainstorms in the middle of August). Seattle for the past 7-8 years feels like SoCal during the 4 months that now constitute summer, and yet a Seattle maxim used to be that the sun never consistently showed its face until after the 4th of July (and that was my experience while living there for 20 years in the 80's and 90's).

Texas just finished an amazing drought with record flooding and homes being swept away. A Derecho is currently tearing through the Midwest. And yet we still have politicians (and plenty of people who support them) who claim that AGW is a hoax and the Pope is "Marxist" for even proposing that the issue is real.

It is difficult to face the reality of a shifting (and I would say vengeful) climate. I've believed in AGW for years, and done what I could to cut my own emissions, but living among the wreckage of shifting weather patterns is doing little to improve my mood or my tolerance for those who wish to proclaim that everything we're doing is just great/fine/wonderful.

On a practical note, I highly recommend ADR readers experimenting with non-grain-based staple crops: chestnuts, hazelnuts, acorns, etc (and get them planted now) as well as experimenting with amaranth, early potatoes, millet, sorghum, etc - multiple food stuffs that can help ease the years when wheat will be in short supply. Living in one of the top agricultural regions of the US, I'm seeing (and hearing) a LOT now from farmers struggling to maintain their production of annual crops amidst unpredictable weather patterns.

maDrAkDus said...

I've been enjoying this blog for years now, but this is the first time I've felt I really had something to add, so here goes. I tried to keep this brief but didn't seem to manage it so I'm posting this in two parts.

Part 1 of 2. Moving to Europe

A year ago (almost exactly) I accepted a job here in Germany and so my wife and I packed up and moved from Canada's West Coast to the region just south of Frankfurt. I work in the entertainment industry as an artist. While in Canada (where we still own a home on a rural island) I enthusiastically followed your Green Wizard advice and became proficient at gardening and together with the active community there developed many self-sufficient skills. We look forward to returning someday. Of the many adjustments we've had to make living here (most of them positive) the one that stands out the most is related to some of the topics of this week's post.

In a nutshell, I had no idea how uninformed I was living in North America, particularly in regard to world events and what goes on beyond North American shores. I am shocked when talking to my friends and family in Canada to realize how unaware I was and how much I'd accepted the highly filtered news I was exposed to. The fact is, what finally makes it through to the public there is not only a fraction of what is going on, but highly distorted as well. I am eager to share with the readers of your blog (one of the last bastions of intelligent discourse still available online) a small sampling of what I've learned.

First off, before moving here I too was worried about the stability of Europe and the long term prospects. The reality however has little bearing on what is presented in NA media! I am surrounded by the most highly educated group of people I have ever met (university education in Germany is free!). I'm not talking about a small group - I mean almost everybody. From the depths of training and pride that the trades exhibit (construction workers, gardeners, plumbers, bakers, etc) to the artists, programmers and other 'professionals' that I work with, the results of a high quality education system are evident everywhere! This presents itself in a highly maintained infrastructure and efficient systems from social services (not a dirty word here) to public transportation. Almost everybody speaks two languages and many speak three or more. Across the entire age spectrum, people are in excellent health and it is common to see the elderly and pre-schoolers alike riding their bicycles everywhere! I could go on and on but suffice to say, if all the systems shut down simultaneously here and in North America, Europeans would fare better simply because they have so much more distance to cover before they hit bottom. The social conscience alone would help Europeans fare better, on top of a system of agriculture and services not dominated by mega-corporations. Of course, things are not perfect here but the point I'm trying to make is that it is a completely different world, possibly unimaginable to those who haven't lived here.

In the next part, what I've learned...

maDrAkDus said...

Part 2 of 2 - A European Perspective

What I have learned about the world since moving to Germany leaves me embarrased about what I thought I knew.

Regarding Russia, while nobody things Putin is a nice guy, he is not demonized and it is clear to most how much his behaviour is a reaction to outrageous American meddling in his back yard, with the situation in the Ukraine as the most obvious example. Imagine the USA's response if Russia (or China) started investing heavily in Mexico and becoming involved in its politics and you have some idea of what is going on in Russia. There are major American corporations staking claims in the Ukraine and influencing the politics there to serve their free-market capitalist ideologies. Any move that Putin makes is then presented in North America as an act of aggression whereas from a European point of view he is recognized as a caged wolf being poked with sharp sticks.

China has also been quietly busy building relationships with Europe. Last summer a trade center opened using the Yuan and Euro as its active currencies. There is a 10 year project building a high speed railway from China to Berlin underway. In fact China hardly makes the news here at all except in regard to trade deals as mentioned or other common news items such as weather or political goings on. China is not seen as a threat but as a developing trading partner.

News out of Africa is common here too. I don't mean just the scary grief-porn of Ebola and Boko Haram but regular news about regular stuff. Things I never heard about in Canada. The same is true regarding the Middle East. The reporting is much more balanced, not simply demonizing those that oppose the US or Israel's interests but looking at both sides of the conflicts and getting into the lives of the people on the ground. The NA bias that I used to believe as fact simply doesn't show up here. I feel like I've been on another planet for most of my adult life. I have learned more about Africa and the Middle East in the past year than in the rest of my life!

I could go on but I hope I've made my point. Things in Europe are not as they appear from a North American perspective. The social fabric and infrastructure is strong and far more able to withstand the current influx of refugees and economic turmoil than implied by the likes of CNN and Faux news.

BTW, CNN is a completely different station here, sharing the logo but little else. Fox New doesn't exist, thankfully.

If you've gotten this far, thanks for reading and if you're living in Canada or the USA, take everything you read or hear with a generous dose of skepticism! My wife and I are enjoying ourselves but look forward to returning to our garden and community in Western Canada in a few more years.

Ed-M said...

Ten years after Katrina swamped New Orleans due to substandard flood defenses, the Louisiana Gulf Coast is still disintegrating. And so are the local cultures of Southern Louisiana. Saddest are all the abandoned dance halls of Southwest Louisiana.

By the River of Babylon: an Elegy for South Louisiana, brought to you by the US Army Corps of Engineers and America's Oil and Gas Industry... through their activities in the Mississippi Valley and the Gulf Coast, of course!

pygmycory said...

With reference to Vancouver housing prices, I grew up in greater Vancouver. All my family has moved away now, myself included, basically because housing isn't affordable. Too much speculation driving up house prices, as far as I can tell. It is a BIG bubble that I'm expecting to pop at some point soon.

As for Canada's hypocrisy, agreed. I'm not sure the conservative stripe is much better than the liberal one for that, and they replace any lack with unabashed nastiness to those who disagree with them. This whole Bill C-51 mess... I'd really have liked to keep our civil liberties intact. They're important! Of course, the Liberal Party supported that one too, so if you are talking specifically about that party I agree they're a useless bunch of hypocrites.

Patricia Mathews said...

GREECE: According to the Associated Press this morning, the Greek government has thrown back its head and offered its throat to the EU. Or rather, Mr. Tsipis has promised to institute severe austerity measures.

jean-vivien said...

The USA has been expressing concerns over China's latest developments, now over cyber security. And just now, the leak revealing the NSA's spying of French Presidents. Of course it is used politically :

The stuff we are talking about here is happening now. It's not just a theory... As for closing up ties with Aissur, the Front National has been doing it financially already.

Michael McG said...

Derv said... “We have a moral system in the West that is fundamentally individualistic”

Hello Derv , our perspectives are at opposite ends, a human nature thing

I believe the West moral system is fundamentally “collective” has become morally hyper collective over time and is trending in that direction. Per my observation anyone trying to separate from the collective morality is punished by the collective and pushed and pulled to get back in line, deviation from the collective moral norm towards individuation raises a red flag.

Simple examples from the area I live in the West related to government regulators.

• Those in the neighborhood who have a rain barrel attached to a roof rain downspout are preyed upon by city inspectors, same with large gardens (Got to fine you for that water barrel, you have to get rid of it /got a permit for that garden?) Clover/dandelions in the lawn along with grass? (Oh My! We should fine you).

• All is legally and morally fine if one wants to dump a couple tons of herbicide/pesticide on the lawn yearly and have it wash into the watershed. (no permit for chemicals needed) as long as we keep the turf of moral mono culture going green all is well.

• What difference does it make if “I” pollute? “We” will take care of the problem with some grand solution “I” will have to pay for even if “I” did not pollute or cause one whit of input to the problem “We” have?

In the paternalistic morality of the collective: Self Sufficiency = Bad, Dependency = Good. CLOVER = BAD, HERBICIDE = GOOD! Use only city water! Good citizen! Nice little piece of garbage! Stay dependent on the collective; there you go, doesn’t that feel that better?

In my opinion it should be against the law to dump chemicals

The West’s moral system in my view is all about collectivism of the “We” of dependency. I hope “We” are reaching peak “We” from a moral perspective. I believe collectivism has diluted personal responsibility resulting in the tragedy of the commons we see now.

The collective will make “me” conform even if it makes life support problems worse as long as such contributes to continuation of the norm no matter how horrible the norm is to everyone from a life support perspective. Human Nature is about getting others to be like US the “WE “should be the “I”.
As long as “They” don’t get with the program, “We” have a problem.

Derv. Thanks for your comments, helped me hone my values. Sure I can’t tempt you into more individuation? OMG I’m turning into a collectivist! :>) best ! Michael

rookiebookworm said...

I think we're deceiving ourselves to a degree not seen before in history.

Just an example: a newspaper article about teens who invented a condom which changes colors if you have a sexually transmitted disease: green for chlamydia, yellow for herpes, purple for papilloma, and blue for syphilis. All fine and dandy, except it's all a pipe dream. The "inventors" got a prize for "a concept". That is, no such condom actually exists. All we have is the vague notion that it would be a good idea if someone, somewhere, someway were to come up with something. Yet, going by their reactions, the readers seem to think the only problem is convincing industry to "make it buyable".

This is failure on so many levels, staring us in the face.

Susan J said...

Thanks John. Geez. As if it wasn’t enough to figure out how the American project will come apart, I also have to mind the foreign scavengers.