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The Archdruid Report: American Delusionalism, or Why History Matters

The Archdruid Report: American Delusionalism, or Why History Matters.

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19, 2014

American Delusionalism, or Why History Matters

One of the things that reliably irritates a certain fraction of this blog’s readers, as I’ve had occasion to comment before, is my habit of using history as a touchstone that can be used to test claims about the future. No matter what the context, no matter how wearily familiar the process under discussion might be, it’s a safe bet that the moment I start talking about historical parallels, somebody or other is going to pop up and insist that it really is different this time.
In a trivial sense, of course, that claim is correct. The tech stock bubble that popped in 2000, the real estate bubble that popped in 2008, and the fracking bubble that’s showing every sign of popping in the uncomfortably near future are all different from each other, and from every other bubble and bust in the history of speculative markets, all the way back to the Dutch tulip mania of 1637. It’s quite true that tech stocks aren’t tulips, and bundled loans backed up by dubious no-doc mortgages aren’t the same as bundled loans backed up by dubious shale leases—well, not exactly the same—but in practice, the many differences of detail are irrelevant compared to the one crucial identity.  Tulips, tech stocks, and bundled loans, along with South Sea Company shares in 1730, investment trusts in 1929, and all the other speculative vehicles in all the other speculative bubbles of the last five centuries, different as they are, all follow the identical trajectory:  up with the rocket, down with the stick.
That is to say, those who insist that it’s different this time are right where it doesn’t matter and wrong where it counts. I’ve come to think of the words “it’s different this time,” in fact, as the nearest thing history has to the warning siren and flashing red light that tells you that something is about to go very, very wrong. When people start saying it, especially when plenty of people with plenty of access to the media start saying it, it’s time to dive for the floor, cover your head with your arms, and wait for the blast to hit.
With that in mind, I’d like to talk a bit about the recent media flurry around the phrase “American exceptionalism,” which has become something of a shibboleth among pseudoconservative talking heads in recent months. Pseudoconservatives? Well, yes; actual conservatives, motivated by the long and by no means undistinguished tradition of conservative thinking launched by Edmund Burke in the late 18th century, are interested in, ahem, conserving things, and conservatives who actually conserve are about as rare these days as liberals who actually liberate. Certainly you won’t find many of either among the strident voices insisting just now that the last scraps of America’s democracy at home and reputation abroad ought to be sacrificed in the service of their squeaky-voiced machismo.
As far as I know, the phrase “American exceptionalism” was originally coined by none other than Josef Stalin—evidence, if any more were needed, that American pseudoconservatives these days, having no ideas of their own, have simply borrowed those of their erstwhile Communist bogeyman and stood them on their heads with a Miltonic “Evil, be thou my good.”  Stalin meant by it the opinion of many Communists in his time that the United States, unlike the industrial nations of Europe, wasn’t yet ripe for the triumphant proletarian revolution predicted (inaccurately) by Marx’s secular theology. Devout Marxist that he was, Stalin rejected this claim with some heat, denouncing it in so many words as “this heresy of American exceptionalism,” and insisting (also inaccurately) that America would get its proletarian revolution on schedule.
While Stalin may have invented the phrase, the perception that he thus labeled had considerably older roots. In a previous time, though, that perception took a rather different tone than it does today. A great many of the early leaders and thinkers of the United States in its early years, and no small number of the foreign observers who watched the American experiment in those days, thought and hoped that the newly founded republic might be able to avoid making the familiar mistakes that had brought so much misery onto the empires of the Old World. Later on, during and immediately after the great debates over American empire at the end of the 19th century, a great many Americans and foreign observers still thought and hoped that the republic might come to its senses in time and back away from the same mistakes that doomed those Old World empires to the misery just mentioned. These days, by contrast, the phrase “American exceptionalism” seems to stand for the conviction that America can and should make every one of those same mistakes, right down to the fine details, and will still somehow be spared the logically inevitable consequences.
The current blind faith in American exceptionalism, in other words, is simply another way of saying “it’s different this time.”  Those who insist that God is on America’s side when America isn’t exactly returning the favor, like those who have less blatantly theological reasons for their belief that this nation’s excrement emits no noticeable odor, are for all practical purposes demanding that America must not, under any circumstances, draw any benefit from the painfully learnt lessons of history.  I suggest that a better name for the belief in question might be “American delusionalism;” it’s hard to see how this bizarre act of faith can do anything other than help drive the American experiment toward a miserable end, but then that’s just one more irony in the fire.
The same conviction that the past has nothing to teach the present is just as common elsewhere in contemporary culture. I’m thinking here, among other things, of the ongoing drumbeat of claims that our species will inevitably be extinct by 2030. As I noted in a previous post here, this is yet another expression of the same dubious logic that generated the 2012 delusion, but much of the rhetoric that surrounds it starts from the insistence that nothing like the current round of greenhouse gas-driven climate change has ever happened before.
That insistence bespeaks an embarrassing lack of knowledge about paleoclimatology. Vast quantities of greenhouse gases being dumped into the atmosphere over a century or two? Check; the usual culprit is vulcanism, specifically the kind of flood-basalt eruption that opens a crack in the earth many miles in length and turns an area the size of a European nation into a lake of lava. The most recent of those, a smallish one, happened about 6 million years ago in the Columbia River basin of eastern Washington and Oregon states.  Further back, in the Aptian, Toarcian, and Turonian-Cenomanian epochs of the late Mesozoic, that same process on a much larger scale boosted atmospheric CO2 levels to three times the present figure and triggered what paleoclimatologists call “super-greenhouse events.” Did those cause the extinction of all life on earth? Not hardly; as far as the paleontological evidence shows, it didn’t even slow the brontosaurs down.
Oceanic acidification leading to the collapse of calcium-shelled plankton populations? Check; those three super-greenhouse events, along with a great many less drastic climate spikes, did that. The ocean also contains very large numbers of single-celled organisms that don’t have calcium shells, such as blue-green algae, which aren’t particularly sensitive to shifts in the pH level of seawater; when such shifts happen, these other organisms expand to fill the empty niches, and everybody further up the food chain gets used to a change in diet. When the acidification goes away, whatever species of calcium-shelled plankton have managed to survive elbow their way back into their former niches and undergo a burst of evolutionary radiation; this makes life easy for geologists today, who can figure out the age of any rock laid down in an ancient ocean by checking the remains of foraminifers and other calcium-loving plankton against a chart of what existed when.
Sudden climate change recently enough to be experienced by human beings? Check; most people have heard of the end of the last ice age, though you have to read the technical literature or one of a very few popular treatments to get some idea of just how drastically the climate changed, or how fast.  The old saw about a slow, gradual warming over millennia got chucked into the dumpster decades ago, when ice cores from Greenland upset that particular theory. The ratio between different isotopes of oxygen in the ice laid down in different years provides a sensitive measure of the average global temperature at sea level during those same years. According to that measure, at the end of the Younger Dryas period about 11,800 years ago, global temperatures shot up by 20° F. in less than a decade.
Now of course that didn’t mean that temperatures shot up that far evenly, all over the world.  What seems to have happened is that the tropics barely warmed at all, the southern end of the planet warmed mildly, and the northern end experienced a drastic heat wave that tipped the great continental ice sheets of the era into rapid collapse and sent sea levels soaring upwards. Those of my readers who have been paying attention to recent scientific publications about Greenland and the Arctic Ocean now have very good reason to worry, because the current round of climate change has most strongly affected the northern end of the planet, too, and scientists have begun to notice historically unprecedented changes in the Greenland ice cap. In an upcoming post I plan on discussing at some length what those particular historical parallels promise for our future, and it’s not pretty.
Oh, and the aftermath of the post-Younger Dryas temperature spike was a period several thousand years long when global temperatures were considerably higher than they are today. The Holocene Hypsithermal, as it’s called, saw global temperatures peak around 7°F. higher than they are today—about the level, that is, that’s already baked into the cake as a result of anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases.  It was not a particularly pleasant time. Most of western North America was desert, baked to a crackly crunch by drought conditions that make today’s dry years look soggy; much of what’s now, at least in theory, the eastern woodland biome was dryland prairie, while both coasts got rapidly rising seas with a side order of frequent big tsunamis—again, we’ll talk about those in the upcoming post just mentioned. Still, you’ll notice that our species survived the experience.
As those droughts and tsunamis might suggest, the lessons taught by history don’t necessarily amount to “everything will be just fine.” The weird inability of the contemporary imagination to find any middle ground between business as usual and sudden total annihilation has its usual effect here, hiding the actual risks of anthropogenic climate change behind a facade of apocalyptic fantasies. Here again, the question “what happened the last time this occurred?” is the most accessible way to avoid that trap, and the insistence that it’s different this time and the evidence of the past can’t be applied to the present and future puts that safeguard out of reach.
For a third example, consider the latest round of claims that a sudden financial collapse driven by current debt loads will crash the global economy once and for all. That sudden collapse has been being predicted year after weary year for decades now—do any of my readers, I wonder, remember Dr. Ravi Batra’s The Great Depression of 1990?—and its repeated failure to show up and perform as predicted seems only to strengthen the conviction on the part of believers that this year, like some financial equivalent of the Great Pumpkin, the long-delayed crash will finally put in its long-delayed appearance and bring the global economy crashing down.
I’m far from sure that they’re right about the imminence of a crash; the economy of high finance these days is so heavily manipulated, and so thoroughly detached from the real economy where real goods and services have to be produced using real energy and resources, that it’s occurred to me more than once that the stock market and the other organs of the financial sphere might keep chugging away in a state of blissful disconnection to the rest of existence for a very long time to come. Stil, let’s grant for the moment that the absurd buildup of unpayable debt in the United States and other industrial nations will in fact become the driving force behind a credit collapse, in which drastic deleveraging will erase trillions of dollars in notional wealth. Would such a crash succeed, as a great many people are claiming just now, in bringing the global economy to a sudden and permanent stop?
Here again, the lessons of history provide a clear and straightforward answer to that question, and it’s not one that supports the partisans of the fast-crash theory. Massive credit collapses that erase very large sums of notional wealth and impact the global economy are hardly a new phenomenon, after all. One example—the credit collapse of 1930-1932—is still just within living memory; the financial crises of 1873 and 1893 are well documented, and there are dozens of other examples of nations and whole continents hammered by credit collapses and other forms of drastic economic crisis. Those crises have had plenty of consequences, but one thing that has never happened as a result of any of them is the sort of self-feeding, irrevocable plunge into the abyss that current fast-crash theories require.
The reason for this is that credit is merely one way by which a society manages the distribution of goods and services. That’s all it is. Energy, raw materials, and labor are the factors that have to be present in order to produce goods and services.  Credit simply regulates who gets how much of each of these things, and there have been plenty of societies that have handled that same task without making use of a credit system at all. A credit collapse, in turn, doesn’t make the energy, raw materials, and labor vanish into some fiscal equivalent of a black hole; they’re all still there, in whatever quantities they were before the credit collapse, and all that’s needed is some new way to allocate them to the production of goods and services.
This, in turn, governments promptly provide. In 1933, for example, faced with the most severe credit collapse in American history, Franklin Roosevelt temporarily nationalized the entire US banking system, seized nearly all the privately held gold in the country, unilaterally changed the national debt from “payable in gold” to “payable in Federal Reserve notes” (which amounted to a technical default), and launched a flurry of other emergency measures.  The credit collapse came to a screeching halt, famously, in less than a hundred days. Other nations facing the same crisis took equally drastic measures, with similar results. While that history has apparently been forgotten across large sections of the peak oil blogosphere, it’s a safe bet that none of it has been forgotten in the corridors of power in Washington DC and elsewhere in the world.
More generally, governments have an extremely broad range of powers that can be used, and have been used, in extreme financial emergencies to stop a credit or currency collapse from terminating the real economy. Faced with a severe crisis, governments can slap on wage and price controls, freeze currency exchanges, impose rationing, raise trade barriers, default on their debts, nationalize whole industries, issue new currencies, allocate goods and services by fiat, and impose martial law to make sure the new economic rules are followed to the letter, if necessary, at gunpoint. Again, these aren’t theoretical possibilities; every one of them has actually been used by more than one government faced by a major economic crisis in the last century and a half. Given that track record, it requires a breathtaking leap of faith to assume that if the next round of deleveraging spirals out of control, politicians around the world will simply sit on their hands, saying “Whatever shall we do?” in plaintive voices, while civilization crashes to ruin around them.
What makes that leap of faith all the more curious is in the runup to the economic crisis of 2008-9, the same claims of imminent, unstoppable financial apocalypse we’re hearing today were being made—in some cases, by the same people who are making them today.  (I treasure a comment I fielded from a popular peak oil blogger at the height of the 2009 crisis, who insisted that the fast crash was upon us and that my predictions about the future were therefore all wrong.) Their logic was flawed then, and it’s just as flawed now, because it dismisses the lessons of history as irrelevant and therefore fails to take into account how the events under discussion play out in the real world.
That’s the problem with the insistence that this time it really is different: it disables the most effective protection we’ve got against the habit of thought that cognitive psychologists call “confirmation bias,” the tendency to look for evidence that supports one’s pet theory rather than seeking the evidence that might call it into question. The scientific method itself, in the final analysis, is simply a collection of useful gimmicks that help you sidestep confirmation bias.  That’s why competent scientists, when they come up with a hypothesis to explain something in nature, promptly sit down and try to think up as many ways as possible to disprove the hypothesis.  Those potentials for disproof are the raw materials from which experiments are designed, and only if the hypothesis survives all experimental attempts to disprove it does it take its first step toward scientific respectability.
It’s not exactly easy to run controlled double-blind experiments on entire societies, but historical comparison offers the same sort of counterweight to confirmation bias. Any present or future set of events, however unique it may be in terms of the fine details, has points of similarity with events in the past, and those points of similarity allow the past events to be taken as a guide to the present and future. This works best if you’ve got a series of past events, as different from each other as any one of them is from the present or future situation you’re trying to predict; if you can find common patterns in the whole range of past parallels, it’s usually a safe bet that the same pattern will recur again.
Any time you approach a present or future event, then, you have two choices: you can look for the features that event has in common with other events, despite the differences of detail, or you can focus on the differences and ignore the common features.  The first of those choices, it’s worth noting, allows you to consider both the similarities and the differences.  Once you’ve got the common pattern, it then becomes possible to modify it as needed to take into account the special characteristics of the situation you’re trying to understand or predict: to notice, for example, that the dark age that will follow our civilization will have to contend with nuclear and chemical pollution on top of the more ordinary consequences of decline and fall.

If you start from the assumption that the event you’re trying to predict is unlike anything that’s ever happened before, though, you’ve thrown out your chance of perceiving the common pattern. What happens instead, with motononous regularity, is that pop-culture narratives such as the sudden overnight collapse beloved of Hollywood screenplay writers smuggle themselves into the picture, and cement themselves in place with the help of confirmation bias. The result is the endless recycling of repeatedly failed predictions that plays so central a role in the collective imagination of our time, and has helped so many people blind themselves to the unwelcome future closing in on us.

The Failure of Keynesianism – Ludwig von Mises Institute Canada

The Failure of Keynesianism – Ludwig von Mises Institute Canada.

Saturday, March 15th, 2014 by  posted in

keynesIt’s hard not to agree with the old aphorism “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” It’s nice to think we learn from our mistakes; yet we always seem to repeat them at some later date.

Reading the daily news, you would be hard-pressed to find mention that there is still an employment crisis unfolding in many industrialized countries. The New York Times recently reported that employers in the United States hired only 175,000 workers in February. This is apparently a cause for celebration among economists. The unemployment rate in the U.S. still remains at an historic high of 6.7%, and there appears to be no date in sight for a return of full employment, but no matter; the economy is supposedly gaining steam.

The only problem is, nobody seems to care much anymore. High unemployment is a constant reality now. Nearly six years of slagging job creation has created a cloud of apathy for most people. It’s just accepted that not everyone who wants to find work will be able to; or they will wander from low-wage job to low-wage job without any kind of security.

The current economic malaise is reminiscent of what the Great Depression was like. Persistently high unemployment with no conceivable end; massive government intervention in the marketplace; a changing industrial landscape; and even social and cultural transformation. We’re less than a century removed from the biggest economic hardship ever faced in America, and the same mishaps are unfolding in front of our eyes.

Then and now, something has remained perennial: the utter incompetence on government’s part to cure economic stagnation.

Newscasters, state officials, and academic economists all tell us government is capable of spending us into prosperity. No matter how much dough is thrown at the glob known as the “economy,” large numbers of people remain out of work. During the Depression, the glut of joblessness lasted for nearly fifteen years. Uncle Sam spent like a drunken sailor while swallowing up much of the economy in fascist scheme after fascist scheme.

The very same thing goes on today, all at the behest of Keynesian-type political actors who provide the intellectual ammunition necessary to justify government’s outstretched hand. With neatly obscure formulas and obtuse language, the apparatchik darlings of Keynes love branding themselves as deep-thinking scientists capable of engineering the perfect economy. When their policy is put to work, we get the opposite. Job creation stagnates, living standards slump, and misery spreads. The siphons of entrepreneurial growth don’t pump; they are bogged down with the grimy sludge of currency manipulation and government hubris.

After decades of constant failure, I mean this wholeheartedly: the followers of the Keynesian school don’t have a damn clue on how to fix the economy. Why my gauche phrasing? Their policy prescription is a complete and total failure. The Great Depression; the stagflation of the 1970s; the Great Recession we see today; in each instance, Washington was impotent to reverse the damage. Keynesians are either pathetically ignorant, or maliciously deceptive.

Taking rhetorical shots doesn’t mean much without some evidence. So let’s meet the Keynesians on their terms. First, economic science itself will be interpreted through the lens of positivism. That means data, in whatever form, will be used to justify whether something works or not. Of course the assumption will be made that spending is the driver of economic prosperity – not saving or investment. The same goes for boundless money printing, which is said to infuse the “animal spirits” with a rejuvenating elixir.

So what have they got for successes? Keynesians used to tout the efforts of Franklin Roosevelt (not so much Herbert Hoover, who was proto-Rooseveltian) during the Great Depression as vindication for their theory. I remember being told in no uncertain terms that Uncle Sam stepped up to save the downtrodden from excess capitalism in my American Presidency 301 class. Sure, it wasn’t an economics course; but it’s the same tale spun by economists anyway.

What does the data say? From 1931 to 1940, the unemployment rate never went south of 10%. From the onset of the Depression, Washington spending went up 97% under the Hoover Administration. According to the White House’s official statistics, the federal budget increased from $3.5 billion in 1931 to $13.6 billion in 1941, jumping in size year after year. A combination of deficit spending and tax hikes (admittedly not a Keynesian remedy) allowed for this gorge in consumption. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve goosed the economy by first stabilizing the monetary base and increasing the supply of money after the initial contraction during the Depression’s early years. According to the Historic Statistics of the United States, the Federal Reserve increased its holding of U.S. securities from $510 million in 1929 to over $6 billion in 1942. During the same period, the central bank’s balance sheet went from about $5.5 billion to $29 billion.

That’s no small stimulus. And yet the unemployment rate failed to drop significantly during the Depression years. Most of Keynes’s disciples admit that nearly fifteen years of high unemployment leaves much to be desired on the part of muscular government. The counterfactual is then deployed that Roosevelt’s domestic efforts lightened the economic burden foisted upon America. What finally put the Depression to bed, they argue, was the incredible amount of spending during World War II.

But as economic historian Robert Higgs shows, measures of economic performance were highly skewed during wartime. Unemployment fell and production ramped up, but this was due to the draft and building of armaments. Rationing was widespread to the point where basic foodstuffs and toiletries were scarce. If a wartime economy counts as prosperity, then the homeless today are the living embodiment of luxury.

World War II is a bunk fantasy that in no way proves the Keynesian theory correct. The same goes for the fascist orgy known as the New Deal. Fast-forward to today, and the same charlatans are preaching from the gospel of government interventionism. They implore Washington to fight back against the Great Recession with the same blunted tools: spending and money printing.

When the housing bubble burst and the economy began to tank, then-Chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke and crew nearly tripled the central bank’s balance sheet. As of right now, the Fed’s sheet stands at about $4 trillion. In 2008, it was at $800 billion. Not to be outdone, the federal government ramped up spending by running nearly-trilliondollar deficits year-after-year. Once again, all this effort has only made a slight dent in the unemployment rate.

From a strictly empirical perspective, the Keynesian theory is a disaster. Positivism wise, it’s a smoldering train wreck. You would be hard-pressed to comb through historical data and find great instances where government intervention succeeded in lowering employment without creating the conditions for another downturn further down the line.

No matter how you spin it, Keynesianism is nothing but snake oil sold to susceptible political figures. Its practitioners feign using the scientific method. But they are driven just as much by logical theory as those haughty Austrian school economists who deduce truth from self-evident axioms. The only difference is that one theory is correct. And if the Keynesians want to keep pulling up data to make their case, they are standing on awfully flimsy ground.

James E. Miller is editor-in-chief of the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada. Send him mail

Ukraine Crisis: Just Another Globalist-Engineered Powder Keg

Ukraine Crisis: Just Another Globalist-Engineered Powder Keg.

Wednesday, 05 March 2014 02:13 Brandon Smith

When one studies history, all events seem to revolve around the applications and degenerations of war. Great feats of human understanding, realization and enlightenment barely register in the mental footnotes of the average person. War is what we remember, idealize and aggrandize, which is why war is the tool most often exploited by oligarchy to distract the masses while it centralizes power.

With the exception of a few revolutions, most wars are instigated and controlled by financial elites, manipulating governments on both sides of the game to produce a preconceived result. The rise of National Socialism in Germany, for instance, was largely funded by corporate entities based in the U.S., including Rockefeller giant Standard Oil, JPMorgan and even IBM, which built the collating machines specifically used to organize Nazi extermination camps, the same machines IBM representatives serviced on site at places like Auschwitz. As a public figure, Adolf Hitler was considered a joke by most people in German society, until, of course, the Nazi Party received incredible levels of corporate investment. This aid was most evident in what came to be known as the Keppler Fund created through the Keppler Circle, a group of interests with contacts largely based in the U.S.

George W. Bush’s grandfather, Prescott Bush, used his position as director of the New York-based Union Banking Corporation to launder money for the Third Reich throughout the war. After being exposed and charged for trading with the enemy, the case against Bush magically disappeared in a puff of smoke, and the Bush family went on to become one of the most powerful political forces in America.

Without the aid of international conglomerates and banks, the Third Reich would have never risen to power.

The rise of communism in Russia through the Bolshevik Revolution was no different. As outlined in Professor Antony Sutton’s book Wall Street And The Bolshevik Revolution with vast detail and irrefutable supporting evidence, it was globalist financiers that created the social petri dish in which the communist takeover flourished.  The same financiers that aided the Nazis…

The two sides, National Socialism and communism, were essentially identical despotic governmental structures conjured by the same group of elites. These two sides, these two fraudulent ideologies, were then pitted against each other in an engineered conflict that we now call World War II, resulting in an estimated 48 million casualties globally and the ultimate formation of the United Nations, a precursor to world government.

Every major international crisis for the past century or more has ended with an even greater consolidation of world power into the hands of the few, and this is no accident.

When I discuss the concept of the false left/right paradigm with people, especially those in the liberty movement, I often see a light turn on, a moment of awareness in their faces. Many of us understand the con game because we live it day to day. We see past the superficial rhetoric of Republican and Democratic party leadership and take note of their numerous similarities, including foreign policy, domestic defense policy and economic policy. The voting records of the major players in both parties are almost identical. One is hard-pressed to find much difference in ideology between Bush and Barack Obama, for example; or Obama and John McCain; or Obama and Mitt Romney, for that matter.

When I suggest, however, that similar false paradigms are used between two apparently opposed nations, the light fades, and people are left dumbstruck. Despite the fact that globalist financiers shoveled capital into the U.S., British, German and Soviet military complexes all at the same time during World War II, many Americans do not want to believe that such a thing could be happening today.

In response, I present the crisis in Ukraine versus the crisis in Syria…

Ukraine Versus Syria

It seems as though much of the public has already forgotten that at the end of 2013, the U.S. came within a razor’s edge of economic disaster — not to mention the possibility of World War III. The war drums in Washington were thundering for “intervention” in Syria and the overthrow of Bashar Assad. The only thing that saved us, I believe, were the tireless efforts of the independent media in exposing the darker motives behind the Syrian insurgency and the bloodlust of the Obama Administration. The problem is that when the elites lose one avenue toward war and distraction, they have a tendency to simply create another. Eventually, the public is so overwhelmed by multiple trigger points and political powder kegs that they lose track of reality. I often call this the “scattergun effect.”

The crisis in the Ukraine is almost a carbon copy of the civil war in Syria, culminating in what I believe to be the exact same intent.

The Money

Money from globalist centers has been flowing into the Ukrainian opposition since at least 2004, when the Carnegie Foundation was caught filtering funds to anti-Russian political candidate Viktor Yushchenko, as well as to the groups who supported him.

The Ukrainian Supreme Court called for a runoff due to massive voter fraud and the rise of the pro-Western Orange Revolution, determining the winner to be Yushchenko over none other than Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych went on to win the 2010 elections, and the revolution returned to oust him this year.

It has been discovered that the current revolution has also been receiving funds from NATO and U.S. interests, not just from the State Department, but also from billionaires like Pierre Omidyar, the chairman of eBay and the new boss of journalist Glen Greenwald, the same journalist who is now famous for being the first to expose National Security Agency documents obtained by Edward Snowden.

Much of the monetary support from such financiers was being funneled to men like Oleh Rybachuk, the right-hand man to Yanukovych during the Orange Revolution and a favorite of neoconservatives and the State Department in the U.S.

The International Monetary Fund has also jumped at the chance to throw money at the new Ukrainian regime, which would prevent default of the country and allow the opposition movement to focus their attentions on Russia.

The revolution in Syria was also primarily driven by Western funds and arms transferred through training grounds like Benghazi, Libya. There is much evidence to suggest that the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was designed to possibly cover up the arming of Syrian rebels by the CIA, who had agents on the ground who still have not been allowed to testify in front of Congress.

After this conspiracy was exposed in the mainstream, globalist-controlled governments decided to openly supply money and weapons to the Syrian insurgency, instead of ending the subterfuge.

The ‘Rebels’

Some revolutions are quite real in their intent and motivations. But many either become co-opted by elites through financing, or they are created from thin air from the very beginning. Usually, the rebellions that are completely fabricated tend to lean toward extreme zealotry.

The Syrian insurgency is rife with, if not entirely dominated by, men associated with al-Qaida. Governments in the U.S. and Israel continue to support the insurgency despite their open affiliation with a group that is supposedly our greatest enemy. Syrian insurgents have been recorded committing numerous atrocities, including mass execution, the torture of civilians and even the cannibalism of human organs.

The revolution in Ukraine is run primarily by the Svoboda Party, a National Socialist (fascist) organization headed by Oleh Tyahnybok.  Here is a photo of Tyahnybok giving a familiar salute:

So far, the opposition in Ukraine has been mostly careful in avoiding the same insane displays of random violence that plagued the Syrians’ public image. It is important to remember though that mainstream outlets like Reuters went far out of their way in attempts to humanize Syrian al-Qaida. Their methods were exposed only through the vigilance of the independent media. With the fascist Svoboda in power in the Ukraine, I believe it is only a matter of time before we see video reports of similar atrocities, giving Russia a perfect rationalization to use military force.

John McCain?

I am now thoroughly convinced that John McCain is a pasty ghoul of the highest order. He claims to be conservative yet supports almost every action of the Obama Administration. He is constantly defending anti-Constitutional actions by the Federal government, including the Enemy Belligerents Act, which was eventually melded into the National Defense Authorization Act; NSA surveillance of U.S. citizens; and even gun control.

And for some reason, the guy makes appearances like clockwork right before or during major overthrows of existing governments. McCain was in Libya during the coup against Moammar Gadhafi.

McCain showed up to essentially buy off the rebels in Tunisia.

McCain hung out with al-Qaida in Syria.

And, what a surprise, McCain met with the Ukrainian opposition movement just before the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych.  Here is a photo of McCain giving a speech to the opposition with none other than Neo-Nazi Oleh Tyahnybok standing over his left shoulder.

Why McCain? I have no idea. All I know is, if this guy shows up in your country, take cover.

Russia In The Middle

The great danger in Syria was not necessarily the chance of war with Assad. Rather, it was the chance that a war with Assad would expand into a larger conflagration with Iran and Russia. Russia’s only naval facility in the Mideast is on the coast of Tartus in Syria, and Russia has long-standing economic and political ties to Syria and Iran. Any physical action by the West in the region would have elicited a response from Vladimir Putin. The mainstream argument claims that the threat of Russian intervention scared off Obama, but I believe the only reason war actions were not executed by the White House and the globalists was because they didn’t have even minimal support from the general public. For any war, you need at least a moderate percentage of the population to back your play.

In Ukraine, we find the globalists creating tensions between the West and the East yet again. Russia’s most vital naval base sits in Crimea, an autonomous state tethered to the Ukrainian mainland. Currently, Russia has flooded Crimea with troops in response to the regime change in Ukraine. The new Ukrainian government (backed by NATO) has called this an “invasion” and an act of war, while Western warmongers like McCain and Lindsay Graham spread the propaganda meme that Russia made such a move only because Putin believes the Obama Administration to be “weak.”

Clearly, the idea here is to engineer either high tensions or eventual war between Russia and the United States. Syria failed to produce the desired outcome, so the Ukraine was tapped instead.

Energy Markets And The Dollar At Risk

In Syria, any U.S. led military action would have resulted in the immediate closing of the Straight of Hormuz by Iran, threatening to obstruct up to 30% of global petroleum shipments.  Foreign resentment could have easily led to the abandonment of the U.S. dollar as the petro-currency.  Both China and Russia implied the possibility of an economic response to American intervention, though they did not officially go into specifics.  In all likelihood, the dollar’s world reserve status would have been damaged irrevocably.

In the Ukraine, the chance of intervention has been countered with VERY specific threats from Russia, including a freeze on natural gas imports to the European Union through Gazprom, which supplies approximately 30% of the EU’s fuel.  In 2009, a temporary Ukranian pipeline closure led to widespread shortages across Europe.  While some in the mainstream claim that Russia’s influence over EU energy has “diminished” the fact is a loss of 30% of natural gas reserves for an extended period would inflate energy prices wildly and cripple the EU’s economy.

Another specific reaction given by Russia is the dumping of U.S. treasury bonds.  Russia’s bond holdings may not seem like much leverage, except for the fact that China has now publicly backed Russian efforts in the Ukraine, just as they backed Russian opposition to U.S. activities in Syria.  A dump of bonds by Russia would invariably be followed by a Chinese dump as well.  In fact, China and Russia have been setting the stage for a global dollar decoupling since at least 2008.   I have been warning for years that globalists and central bankers needed a “cover event”, a distraction or scapegoat imposing enough to provide a veil of chaos in which they could then destroy the greenback as the world reserve and usher in a global currency system.  The Ukraine crisis offers yet another opportunity for this plan to unfold.

The False Paradigm And The Globalist Chessboard

So far, I have outlined what appears to be a correspondence of conspiracy between Syria and the Ukraine and how each event has the continued potential to trigger regional conflict, dollar collapse, or world war. But is this conspiracy one-sided? Are only the West and NATO being manipulated by globalists to box in Russia and provoke a conflict? And what do globalists have to gain by sparking such disaster?

As with every other catastrophic fabricated war, the goal is the erasure of sovereign identity while consolidating economic, political and social power. It is not enough that global financiers dominate the banking industry and own most politicians; they want to transform the public psyche. They want US to ask THEM for global governance. This manufacture of consent is often achieved by pitting two controlled governments against each other and then, in the wake of the tragedy, calling for global unification. The argument is always presented that if we simply abandoned the concept of nation states and reform under a single world body, all war would “disappear.”

The question is whether Russia’s Putin is aware of the plan. Is he a part of it?  Are we seeing repeat theater of a puppet Russia versus a puppet NATO like that witnessed during the Cold War?

What I do know is that Putin has, a number of times in the past, called for global control of the economy through the IMF and the institution of a new global currency using the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights (SDR).

Loans from the IMF are what saved Russia from debt default in the late 1990s. And Putin has recently called for consultations with the IMF concerning Crimea. Remember, this is the same IMF that is working to fund his opponents in Western Ukraine.

Bottom line, if you believe in national sovereignty and decentralization of power, Putin is NOT your buddy. Once again, we have the globalists injecting money into both sides of a conflict which could morph into something nightmarish.  Putin wants global economic governance and consolidation under the IMF just as much as the supposedly “American-run” IMF wants consolidation.  Global governance of finance and money creation ultimately means global governance of everything else.

Is a war being created through the false paradigm of East versus West in order to pave the road for global government?  Are East/West tensions being exploited as a smokescreen for the final destruction of the dollar’s world reserve status?  It is hard to say if the Ukraine will be the final trigger; however, the evidence suggests that if a conflict occurs, regardless of who “wins” such a scenario, the IMF comes out on top.

Imagine you are playing a game of chess by yourself. Which side wins at the end of that game: black or white? The answer is it doesn’t matter. You always win when you control both sides.

 

 

 

 

 

You can contact Brandon Smith at:  brandon@alt-market.com

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Memo to Obama: This Was Their Red Line! | David Stockman’s Contra Corner

Memo to Obama: This Was Their Red Line! | David Stockman’s Contra Corner.

by  • March 2, 2014

Ethnolingusitic_map_of_ukraine[1]In 1783 the Crimea was annexed by Catherine the Great, thereby satisfying the longstanding quest of the Russian Czars for a warm-water port. In fact, over the ages Sevastopol emerged as a great naval base at the strategic tip of the Crimean peninsula, where it became home to the mighty Black Sea Fleet of the Czars and then the commissars.

For the next 171 years Crimea was an integral part of Russia—a span that exceeds the 166 years that have elapsed since California was annexed by a similar thrust of “Manifest Destiny” on this continent, thereby providing, incidentally, the United States Navy with its own warm-water port in San Diego. While no foreign forces subsequently invaded the California coasts, it was most definitely not Ukrainian and Polish riffles, artillery and blood which famously annihilated The Charge Of The Light Brigade at the Crimean city of Balaclava in 1854; they were Russians defending the homeland.

And the portrait of the Russian ”hero” hanging in Putin’s office is that of Czar Nicholas I—who’s brutal 30-year reign brought the Russian Empire to its historical zenith, and who was revered in Russian hagiography as the defender of Crimea, even as he lost the 1850s war to the Ottomans and Europeans. Besides that, there is no evidence that Putin does historical apologies, anyway.

In fact, its their Red Line. When the enfeebled Franklin Roosevelt made port in the Crimean city of Yalta in February 1945 he did know he was in Soviet Russia. Maneuvering to cement his control of the Kremlin in the intrigue-ridden struggle for succession after Stalin’s death a few years later, Nikita Khrushchev allegedly spent 15 minutes reviewing his “gift” of Crimea to his subalterns in Kiev in honor of the decision by their ancestors 300 years earlier to accept the inevitable and become a vassal of Russia.

Self-evidently, during the long decades of the Cold War, the West did nothing to liberate the “captive nation” of the Ukraine—with or without the Crimean appendage bestowed upon it in 1954. Nor did it draw any red lines in the mid-1990′s when a financially desperate Ukraine rented back Sevastopol and the strategic redoubts of the Crimea to an equally pauperized Russia.

In short, in the era before we got our Pacific port in 1848 and in the 166-year interval since then, the security and safety of the American people have depended not one wit on the status of the Russian-speaking Crimea. Should the local population now choose fealty to the Grand Thief in Moscow over the ruffians and rabble who have seized Kiev, what’s to matter!  Worse still, how long can America survive the screeching sanctimony and mindless meddling of Susan Rice and Samantha Power? Mr. President, send them back to geography class; don’t draw any new Red Lines. This one has been morphing for centuries among the quarreling tribes, peoples, potentates, Patriarchs and pretenders of a small region that is none of our damn business.

Memo to Obama: This Was Their Red Line! | David Stockman's Contra Corner

Memo to Obama: This Was Their Red Line! | David Stockman’s Contra Corner.

by  • March 2, 2014

Ethnolingusitic_map_of_ukraine[1]In 1783 the Crimea was annexed by Catherine the Great, thereby satisfying the longstanding quest of the Russian Czars for a warm-water port. In fact, over the ages Sevastopol emerged as a great naval base at the strategic tip of the Crimean peninsula, where it became home to the mighty Black Sea Fleet of the Czars and then the commissars.

For the next 171 years Crimea was an integral part of Russia—a span that exceeds the 166 years that have elapsed since California was annexed by a similar thrust of “Manifest Destiny” on this continent, thereby providing, incidentally, the United States Navy with its own warm-water port in San Diego. While no foreign forces subsequently invaded the California coasts, it was most definitely not Ukrainian and Polish riffles, artillery and blood which famously annihilated The Charge Of The Light Brigade at the Crimean city of Balaclava in 1854; they were Russians defending the homeland.

And the portrait of the Russian ”hero” hanging in Putin’s office is that of Czar Nicholas I—who’s brutal 30-year reign brought the Russian Empire to its historical zenith, and who was revered in Russian hagiography as the defender of Crimea, even as he lost the 1850s war to the Ottomans and Europeans. Besides that, there is no evidence that Putin does historical apologies, anyway.

In fact, its their Red Line. When the enfeebled Franklin Roosevelt made port in the Crimean city of Yalta in February 1945 he did know he was in Soviet Russia. Maneuvering to cement his control of the Kremlin in the intrigue-ridden struggle for succession after Stalin’s death a few years later, Nikita Khrushchev allegedly spent 15 minutes reviewing his “gift” of Crimea to his subalterns in Kiev in honor of the decision by their ancestors 300 years earlier to accept the inevitable and become a vassal of Russia.

Self-evidently, during the long decades of the Cold War, the West did nothing to liberate the “captive nation” of the Ukraine—with or without the Crimean appendage bestowed upon it in 1954. Nor did it draw any red lines in the mid-1990′s when a financially desperate Ukraine rented back Sevastopol and the strategic redoubts of the Crimea to an equally pauperized Russia.

In short, in the era before we got our Pacific port in 1848 and in the 166-year interval since then, the security and safety of the American people have depended not one wit on the status of the Russian-speaking Crimea. Should the local population now choose fealty to the Grand Thief in Moscow over the ruffians and rabble who have seized Kiev, what’s to matter!  Worse still, how long can America survive the screeching sanctimony and mindless meddling of Susan Rice and Samantha Power? Mr. President, send them back to geography class; don’t draw any new Red Lines. This one has been morphing for centuries among the quarreling tribes, peoples, potentates, Patriarchs and pretenders of a small region that is none of our damn business.

How Climate Change Helped Decimate a 4,000 Year Old Megacity | Motherboard

How Climate Change Helped Decimate a 4,000 Year Old Megacity | Motherboard.

February 27, 2014 // 05:01 PM EST 

More than 4,000 years ago, three civilizations dominated South Asia and North Africa. Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia are names you’ll surely recognize, but the lesser-known Indus Valley Civilization was actually the largest of the three. During its height, at around 2600 BCE, the Indus spread across what is now India and Pakistan, and built large cities like Mohenjo-Daro, whose population is estimated to have been well into five figures.

Around 1800 BCE, the Indus civilization began to decline, and all but disappeared by 1300 BCE. The reason has been the source of controversy for decades, but new research adds evidence to the theory that climate change led to a sharp weakening of the key summer monsoon season, which left the Indus river valley drier and inhospitable.

Tracking weather patterns from millennia ago isn’t easy. The University of Cambridge research team first started by finding an ancient lake, called Kotla Dahar, that still existed in the Indus’ time. The dirt at the bottom of an ancient lake doesn’t offer many clues, but what it holds does: By identifying the species and chemical makeup of ancient snails buried in the former lake, the Cambridge team was able to calculate how much rainfall the region received thousands of years ago. The results are published in Geology.

They found that the paleolake in Haryana, India was a deep body of water between 6,500 and 5,800 years ago, which corresponded with a time of heavy monsoon action. But, in snail shells dating to around 4,100 years ago—right before the time the Indus when into decline—the researchers found an increase of an oxygen isotope, which suggests the lake was drying up due to a weakening of the summer monsoon.

“We think that we now have a really strong indication that a major climate event occurred in the area where a large number of Indus settlements were situated,” study co-author Professor David Hodell said in a release. “Taken together with other evidence from Meghalaya in northeast India, Oman and the Arabian Sea, our results provide strong evidence for a widespread weakening of the Indian summer monsoon across large parts of India 4,100 years ago.”

At the time, drought was spreading throughout much of Asia. “The 4.2 ka aridification event is regarded as one of the most severe climatic changes in the Holocene, and affected several Early Bronze Age populations from the Aegean to the ancient Near East,” the authors write.

A map of the spread of the Indus Valley Civilization, including Mohenjo-Daro (5) and Harappa (4), another large city. Image: Wikipedia

 

Such drought would certainly have had a destabilizing effect. And even given some wiggle room within the dates—again, dating isotopes of snail shells in ancient lake beds is a tall task—the authors argue such monsoon weakening corresponds with known times for Indus decline. “The resultant age of drying at Kotla Dahar is consistent with the suggested archeological dates for the onset of Indus de-urbanization within dating uncertainties,” the authors write.

As you might expect, drought wreaks havoc on agriculture. Feeding a megacity, even an ancient one like Mohenjo-Daro, takes a strong farm sector, and without one, people will disappear. “Our paleoclimate record also provides indirect evidence for the suggestion that the ISM weakening at ca. 4.1 ka in northwestern India likely led to severe decline in summer overbank flooding that adversely affected monsoon-supported agriculture in this region,” the authors write.

The Indus civilization collapse has remained a mystery for at least a century of archeological investigation, but the climate angle has been batted around for nearly that long. As V.N. Misra notes in a deep look at the subject, British archeologists Sir Aurel Stein and Sir John Marshall both posited in 1931 that the Indus lived in a far wetter climate, which was held as fact until the 60s, when an American team poked holes in previous evidence.

Since then, the evidence has largely been on the side of drought coinciding with the Indus collapse, although there have also been arguments to the contrary. Isotopic studies have provided more conclusive evidence. A 2003 study in Geophysical Research Letters also found evidence of drought occurring around 4,200 years ago. Combined with the most recent study, it’s becoming more clear that while drought alone may not have caused the Indus collapse, it does appear to have helped push things along.

“We know that there was a clear shift away from large populations living in megacities,” co-author Dr. Cameron Petrie said. “But precisely what happened to the Indus civilization has remained a mystery. It is unlikely that there was a single cause, but a climate change event would have induced a whole host of knock-on effects.”

And guess what? Research in the last few years has shown that the current warming climate will likely lead to a decrease in India’s monsoon season. A 2012 paper in Environmental Research Letters put it rather simply: “Indian monsoon rainfall is vital for a large share of the world’s population,” the authors write in their abstract, before noting that “monsoon failure is possible but very rare under pre-industrial conditions, while under future warming it becomes much more frequent.”

Compounding the problem, Pakistani media reported last fall that researchers have modeled a decline in Himalayan glaciers, which means that rivers already feeling the effects of decreasing monsoon intensity could also have less snow melt to rely on. For the hundreds of millions of people in the region, the coming drought may feel a bit too reminiscent of the Indus’ collapse for comfort. But there is one major difference: This time, the climate change is man-made.

Commentary: Japan’s War on History Comes to America | The National Interest

Commentary: Japan’s War on History Comes to America | The National Interest.

|

February 6, 2014

Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe has a promise to keep. And it is a promise that tests his and any American governor’s ability to stand up for his constituents against economic blackmail. During his campaign hevowed to support having school textbooks note that the Sea of Japan is also called the East Sea. Japan has reacted to this small addendum by threatening to withhold trade and investment from the Commonwealth.

Japanese ambassador Kenichiro Sasae and a pack of lobbyists have warned Governor McAuliffe that allowing two names for the body of water between Japan and South Korea, North Korea, and Russia would endanger Japanese investment in the State. The Japanese government wants to retain a linguistic vestige of Western expansionism and Japanese colonialism. Korea was a colony of Japan through half of the twentieth century and was forced to abandon its language, geographyhistory and culture.

As a former prisoner of war of Japan, I am familiar with the Japanese government’s use of economic threats to defend its colonial era history and unwillingness to take responsibility for Imperial Japan’s war crimes. Tokyo used these against legislation in 2001 in West Virginia to kill a resolution calling on the Japan to offer a formal apology and compensation to former prisoners of war.

In the spring of 2001, the Rules Committee of the West Virginia House of Delegates unanimously approved House Concurrent Resolution No. 7. As this happened at the end of the legislative session (81st), the full House did not have time to consider the resolution. I was assured that it would be approved in House and Senate in the following year during the 82nd Legislature.

Japan’s Consul General in New York reacted to this delay by sending a letter to West Virginia legislators, Governor, and others stating that the “positive cooperation and strong economic ties” between Japan and West Virginia might be damaged if the resolution was approved. Japan would not buy the state’s coal and steel. His warning was successful and the result was that neither chamber of the Legislature ever reconsidered the resolution.

No governor should allow a foreign government to blackmail his state. Further, no American should allow a foreign government the opportunity to again humiliate its once subjugated peoples. In the end, Governor McAuliffe must decide what lesson that he wants Virginia’s school children to learn: that there are reasonable alternatives to geographic names or that their governor can be swayed by intimidation.

Edward Jackfert, a native of Wellsburg, WV, was a POW of Japan captured on Mindanao, The Philippines. He was twice National Commander of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor.

The Japanese government’s repeated intervention in efforts to set history straight is a painful reminder of the indignities I endured at the hands of my Japanese captors. I was a U.S. Army Air Corps mechanic, surrendered on May 6, 1942 at the fall of the Philippines. I became one of the thousands of POWs shipped to Japan in fetid holds aboard “hell ships” owned by Kawasaki’s K-Line or Mitsubishi’s NYK. In Japan, I was brutalized and humiliated as a slave laborer by four prominent Japanese companies during World War II. I was forced to work for Mitsui, Nippon Steel, Showa Denko, and Nisshin Flour Mills.

There were over sixty Japanese companies that used American and Allied POWs as well as Dutch, Indian, Korean, and Chinese civilians for slave labor. Most are major corporations that still exist and likely do business in Virginia. None have acknowledged or apologized for their use and abuse of these unwilling workers.

Virginians once questioned why a French company (Keolis) that is unapologetic for the Holocaust is allowed to service their VRE rail line. They should now ask why Sumitomo, Kawasaki, and Mitsui rail cars run on the VRE. Conditions in their factory camps (yes, plural) rivaled the inhumanity in those of the Nazis.

I think the Virginia governor should stand up to Japanese threats and ask that maybe it’s time for a means test of corporate responsibility for Japanese companies that want state contracts. Too many Virginians, native born and immigrant, suffered horribly for these companies to now allow them to operate with impunity in the Commonwealth.

“A Funny Old World” – The EM Carry Trade Collapse ‘Deja Vu, All Over Again’ From Citigroup | Zero Hedge

“A Funny Old World” – The EM Carry Trade Collapse ‘Deja Vu, All Over Again’ From Citigroup | Zero Hedge.

Spot the similarities.

From CitiFX Technicals: It’s a funny old World

  • 1989-1991: Housing and savings and loan crisis: Fed eases aggressively as economy enters deep recession
  • 1992-1994: Existing financial architecture in Europe (ERM) blows apart
  • 1995-1998: European convergence trade in both FX and Bond spreads keeps European currencies relatively stable vis a vis the USD with a good rally in 1998.By 1996 BUBA has lowered the discount rate to 2.5% while US rates remain well below the pre-crisis highs of 9.75% in 1989.
  • The carry trade and capital flow into emerging markets (Asia in particular) is center stage
  • March 1997: In a seemingly “innocuous” move the Fed “tinkers” by raising rates 25 basis points.
  • April 1997: Japan raises its consumption tax as USDJPY has rallied from a post Kobe Earthquake low of 79.7 to 127.50 . USDJPY collapse to 111 by June
  • June 1997-Jan 1998: Severe reaction in Asian currencies as “hot money flees”
  • August-October 1998: Russia defaults, Long term capital folds and the Fed eases aggressively as the Equity market drops 22% (S&P)

History may not repeat…..but it sure RHYMES

Rhyme and Reason: Why 2014 Doesn’t Have to be 1914 | The Diplomat

Rhyme and Reason: Why 2014 Doesn’t Have to be 1914 | The Diplomat.

In a recent Brookings Institution essay entitled “The Rhyme of History: Lessons of the Great War,” historian Margaret Macmillan argues that there are strong and haunting parallels between today’s geopolitical landscape and Europe of 1914. Pivoting off the well-know Mark Twain adage that history does not repeat itself, but does rhyme, Macmillan suggests that the one-hundredth anniversary of World War I encourages us to reflect on the “valuable warnings” of the past. The actual and potential conflicts in the year ahead are many, and some of the same structural forces that lead to the Great War a century ago will be prevalent in 2014.

Macmillan is an eminent historian (her book, Paris 1919 is a must-read), but analogies between 1914 Europe and the world today should not be drawn hastily. World War I continues to preoccupy scholars and pundits alike, in part because it was so destructive, and in part because there is still no consensus on why exactly it occurred. With the centennial of the conflict approaching, we can expect to see 1914 references made a great deal — particularly with respect to the power transition that is currently in progress in the Pacific —  but we should remain duly skeptical of this tempting parallel. Many of the conditions that were present in antebellum Europe do indeed prevail today.  Whether these forces actually raise the risk of war is far from established, however, and the expectation that they do may itself increase the chance of conflict.

In her Brookings essay, Macmillan identifies several conditions that were present in Europe before the Great War that, she argues, also raise the risk of conflict today.  The first of these conditions is globalization and its unintended consequences. In both 1914 and at present, there existed the common assumption that the world was becoming too interconnected to resort to war — conflict would be prohibitively costly. But, Macmillan points out, a hundred years ago as now, those who preached interdependence often ignored the fact that globalization can lead to job loss, foster intense localism and nativism, and provide a breeding ground for radical ideologies and movements (including those that employ terrorism). Globalization, Macmillan warns us, can also heighten interstate rivalries.

Related to this is a second trend — rising nationalism and sectarianism. Once trapped in interstate rivalries, leaders may seize upon nationalism and bitter historical enmity to appeal to their publics. In 1914, the predominant antagonisms were the Anglo-German and Russo-German rivalries; today they include Sino-American and Sino-Japanese competition.  Third, Macmillan reminds us that tightly-knit defensive alliances may encourage conflict or cause it to spread. In 1914, Germany saw itself as inextricably bound to Austria, as France did to Russia. Today, she warns, the United States could easily be drawn into war in either the Middle East or East Asia by its alliance ties.

Finally, Macmillan warns that “World Policemen” may be forced into retirement, leaving a vacuum of instability and uncertainty. By the early 20th century, the British clearly could not sustain the demands and costs of their empire. Likewise, Macmillan avers, the United States will not be able to preserve hegemony indefinitely. Even if it its reach is primarily confined to Asia, the most obvious challenge to U.S. influence will come from a rising China, and crises or conflicts may break out unless the dominant powers can establish a stable international order.

Macmillan is hardly the first to point to these conditions as potential precursors to conflict. With respect to China’s rise, analysts have argued frequently that Washington and Beijing’s national security interests put the two countries on a collision course. Some have gone so far as to insist that this clash is inevitable.  But in her comparison of the international conditions that preceded the Great War and those that prevail today, Macmillan fails to address one truly crucial question: Why did the forces of globalization, nationalism, interlocking alliances, and power transition combine to produce war in 1914 specifically?

The prevailing patterns that Macmillan identifies as historical rhymes may all be thought of as permissive conditions to conflict: these forces may have helped to pave the way to the Great War’s onset, but none alone was the immediate cause of war in 1914.  Moreover, these forces were almost certainly present in Europe prior to that fateful year. Why, then, did they not combine to produce a major war when Austria annexed Bosnia in 1908? Why did they not stoke the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913 and produce global conflagration then? If we are to accept that any specific set of conditions caused the First World War in 1914, we must also be able to explain why those forces did not produce war earlier or later, or why conflict could not have been avoided altogether despite their prevalence.

Indeed, in the copious literature on World War I, scholars have attempted to dissect these important counterfactuals. Some argue that the structural conditions that Macmillan identifies really did make a European conflict inevitable — interlocking alliances, the Anglo-German power transition, nationalism, and other factors meant that war would have occurred in 1915 or 1916 if it did not in 1914. But other analysts insist that the Great War was the immediate result of assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand. If he had not been killed in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914 — or if he had been shot and lived — the great powers might have avoided war, not just in that year, but in perpetuity. If an idiosyncratic event like the Archduke’s assassination is the key to explaining the war, however, it is not clear how much credence we should give to other underlying factors. Macmillan’s background conditions for conflict may be insufficient to bring about a war, and indeed, may not even be necessary. And if this is true, then the parallels that can be drawn between the onset of the First World War and geopolitics today may be impoverished at best.

So is this a simple warning that decision makers should approach historical analogies with caution? It is that, but also more. Among the many causes of the First World War that international relations scholars have identified was the widespread belief in European capitals that a great power conflict was highly likely. Combined with prevailing military technologies and strategies of the time, this assumption led statesmen to think that they would be advantaged if they struck first, rather than waiting for an adversary attack that was sure to come in due course.  By overemphasizing historical parallels, we risk convincing ourselves that conflict is imminent, when in fact it remains eminently avoidable. If we were to combine Macmillan’s warnings about economic interdependence, nationalism, alliances, and power transitions, for example, it would be tempting to flag the next fracas over the Senkakus/Diaoyus, where all of these forces are clearly present, as the new Sarajevo. Combined with great power military strategies that may be escalatory, conflict anticipation via analogy could produce disastrous results indeed.

With the one-hundredth anniversary of the First World War fast upon us, and a power transition manifestly under way, Macmillan’s essay will certainly not be the last analysis to draw connections between 1914 and present-day geopolitics. Indeed, there is surely value in paying heed to the similarities and differences between the two eras. By listening anxiously for historical rhymes that portend major conflict, however, we risk deafness to the multitude of factors that make the challenges of the present day unique, and soluble far short of war. A rhyme, after all, is a correspondence of sound, but not of meaning.

Here’s to wishing the world a 2014 that is considerably more peaceful than the centennial it will mark.

2013 in Review: The Worrying Trend of Internet Shutdowns | Electronic Frontier Foundation

2013 in Review: The Worrying Trend of Internet Shutdowns | Electronic Frontier Foundation.

2013 in ReviewAs the year draws to a close, EFF is looking back at the major trends influencing digital rights in 2013 and discussing where we are in the fight for free expression, innovation, fair use, and privacy. Click here to read other blog posts in this series.

Prior to January 2011, national or regional Internet “blackouts” were mostly unheard of.  Although the Maldives,NepalBurma, and China all preceded Egypt with this innovation, it was the shutdown initiated by former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak that set a new precedent and garnered global media coverage.  Since then, SyriaLibya, and even San Francisco’s BART police have “pulled a Mubarak.”

But in 2013, Internet blackouts became de rigeur for embattled governments: In August,Burma experienced a week of disruptions, the cause of which remains unclear. In Egypt’s North Sinai region, telephone and Internet networks were—according to a report from Mada Masr—intermittently shut down in September in the midst of military operations targeting militants there. In Sudan, where a brutal government crackdown in September on protests over fuel subsidy cuts resulted in the deaths of more than 30 people, authorities cut off Internet accessin an apparent bid to stop the demonstrations. In October, Renesys reported that the Iraqi government had tried but failed to shut down the Internet. And more recently, Renesys spotted a 45-minute national outage from North Korea, for which the source was unclear.

The Syrian Internet has seen numerous outages throughout the year, some of which appear to be politically motivated and others of which may be structural.  In October, Aleppo was without Internet for 17.5 hours, while in early December, the entire country’s Internet went down for a few hours.

Politically-motivated Internet outages are certainly trending. For governments, they pose an all-too-tempting way of stifling speech and keeping order during periods of protest or unrest, but as the BART telecommunications shutdown in San Francisco demonstrated, they can also prevent urgent communications from getting through and therefore may not be worth the risks they pose, even to the most despotic of regimes.

This article is part of our 2013 Year in Review series; read other articles about the fight for digital rights in 2013.

 

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