The Intellectual Wilderness There is nothing more useless than doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.

2008.04.30 13:10

Do NATO members really not want Ukraine, or do they not want another Russian energy crisis?

Filed under: Politics / Geopolitics — zxq9 @ 13:10

Viktor Yushchenko, the current President of Ukraine, said on April 18th (sorry I missed it earlier) that most members of NATO don’t want Ukraine as a member.

After all the work that went into defying Russia, having the Orange Revolution, placing Eastern Europe into a pro-Western condition, etc. why would Yushchenko say something like that? Further, if it is true that most NATO countries don’t want Ukraine as a member, why on earth would NATO pass up an opportunity to critically weaken Russia and place a perfect and possibly unsurmountable stumbling block in the way of another Soviet VS. West styled Cold War II? This does not make a lot of sense over the long-term, as Ukraine is fundamentally capable of adapting to and working within NATO, particularly since NATO does not have an actual mission anymore other than to identify who is “in” the Western club.

There are a few possibilities for why, I believe, and I’m not sure enough yet to state firmly that any one of them is correct.

  • Yushchenko is worried that Ukraine is changing too fast for its own good. Countries are not capable of complete change overnight. If they were, then all of the “developing” would would have developed quite a long time ago. In this case an already developed nation is trying to shift its orientation from East to West, but this may be more of a desire to become independent of Russian influence (read as: “dominance”) than a desire to actually become close to the West. Ukraine voted to join the WTO this month, and that may be far enough for now as far as Yushchenko is concerned.
  • Yushchenko is worried that moves beyond WTO membership will throw too much at Russia all at once and force the Russian hand to aggression. This is not an idle worry, as Russia has basically threatened to break-up Ukraine and take over parts of it through surrogate separatist groups. It does have Ukraine hemmed in from the east and the west militarily as well as having intimate contact with separatist elements in all of the former Soviet satellite States. Russia’s ability to spend little to achieve much in the way of civil, political and material destruction and chaos should never be underestimated.
  • NATO really does not want Ukraine, not because it is a bad idea to critically weaken Russia’s strategic foundation but because Europe is full of fundamentally weak-kneed nations which have lived under an American subsidized security blanket for over sixty years. The concept of “soft power” ruled until just recently and now Europe is pulling apart at the seams, each nation going for itself in the face of the breakup of the regional boogeyman: the Soviet Union. This among other reasons is seeing the demise of the E.U. as we know it, will likely eventually kill the Euro — but not before it reduces the smaller exporting nations to near poverty — and will definitely see the restructuring of Europe along ancient lines of pull-and-push power plays. Interestingly, the nation in Europe which is displaying strength and progressive thinking (other than the United Kingdom) is France. Germany is looking to make a splash on the international scene independent of Europe, but I do not see them as politically competent as France in the subtle games of solo foreign policy and as France is currently aligning itself with the U.S. (albeit for intelligent self interest) Germany will likely feel forced to “counter” this and fall upon its sword in doing so. Almost nobody in Europe other than France would have the gall to tell Russia to go eat crow while NATO gobbled up Ukraine, and further, almost no nation in Europe wants to face another Russian-inspired energy crisis. At least not until long after Europe has secured alternate sources of natural gas or comparable energy.
  • Somebody else has something better to offer Ukraine as a long-term alternative to NATO membership. What this could be, I have no clue. It certainly would not include a continued position as Russia’s prized toady and trophy vassal state. Along this line of thinking I have to imagine that the most likely form of this would be Ukraine having a better deal over the long term by becoming independent of any external control. Perhaps Ukraine sees itself as having significantly blocked Russian advances culminating in its own admission to the WTO and no longer fears Russia enough to desire the protection and yoke that NATO membership would entail.

In a way, I feel this last is the most likely factor in Yushchenko’s decision to state things the way he did, though he likely used the unwillingness of current European NATO to face another possible energy struggle with Russia as a chance for factual inflation. He did not exclude himself from wanting to join NATO in his statement, he did not ruin Ukraine’s chances with a single statement considering the referendum is still two years away (in 2010), but he did distance himself from certain membership in NATO and that leaves open the option of  await-and-see approach to feeling out Ukraine’s strength in a situation of near complete national independence from both Russia and NATO.

The situation is not entirely clear right now, but one thing is absolutely certain: What is happening in Ukraine today and over the next two to three years will shape the way the rest of the world looks in the coming Cold War II, whether such a Cold War will be a mini or major global struggle and further, what the inevitable world energy struggle will look like.

2008.04.29 03:03

Why is the term “pedophile” four times more prevalent than “Hezbollah” or “Iran”?

Filed under: Admin,Politics / Geopolitics — zxq9 @ 03:03

This is most shocking. I wrote a story a while back about how “To Catch a Predator” was losing itself to the overzealous, fever-fueled media sensationalization drive that promotes and sells the witch-hunt that counter-pedophilia initiatives have become. The article was a response to a YouTube video titled “Sex Crimes Sell: To Catch a Predator” in which Daniel Guiditta had made some well-grounded points against the show and the way the vigilante group, Perverted Justice, does business and seeks to silence detractors

Something I find far more damaging to children than penis

These children are being exposed to issues far more destructive than penis or sex at any age.

I wrote about it, posted what I thought was a pretty funny image with it — a cover image of a facetious magazine called “The Gentleman Pedophile”, sort of a Playboy parody — and now that story has become my number one hit-producer. As a test I installed a hit-counter for people who view full pages on my own site (not all the ones who see my writing either plagiarized by the rampant army of feeders or previewed by legitimate feeders) and in a few days its nearing 200. Not a stellar amount, but the fact that I’m on the top of the Google results for strings like “pedo” has to count for something!

The number one search word to find my site is “pedophile”, “pedo”, or something similar. At first this was a little alarming to me, because it certainly seemed that there must be heaps of pedophiles out there searching the internet. But when I looked over the search data by search string (the whole search phrase) an interesting thing was uncovered, and this is perhaps even more alarming. By phrase about 80% of the search strings are things like “string up the pedophiles” or “evil pedophiles burn in hell” and things like that, about 10% of them are “to catch a predator” by itself, and the remaining 10% are either people looking for kiddy porn (its easy to tell when a string is something like “kiddy pr0n picz!!1!”) or perhaps people who are legitimately curious about the story itself (strings like “is to catch a predator justified?”).

So of all the creepy search hits I get, about 80% of them are people who are out for blood. I can understand this to a degree because this is a very emotionally charged issue, but what I don’t get is that I get 3 to 4 times the hits from this group as I do from people who are genuinely curious about the way things are going between Saudi Arabia and Iran or want to know what Cold War II might look like. The world is wrapped in an ever shifting mass of overwhelmingly important issues which impose massive change across entire societies — changes which result even in genocidal extremes — but the folks who are searching the Web seem to be focused more on the evils of a deviant segment of the population than massive existential threats to the society itself.

It is small wonder that with this sort of thinking being so prevalent the Americans and Europeans still think that the U.S. invaded Iraq because of oil, despite the absolute lack of massive Iraqi oil production over the last five years and the rising oil cost which is hurting the U.S. as much if not more than anyone else. Such shallow thinking. It reminds me of a video my brother recommended to me a while back called Idiocracy. A badly produced movie by any account but at once insightful and appropriately shallow.

2008.04.28 10:43

Israel’s Recent and Uncharacteristic Aggressive Stances: A Possible Explanation

Filed under: Politics / Geopolitics — zxq9 @ 10:43

Aggressive stances don’t usually come out of Israel, despite what the press likes to say. Without committing to overtly offensive maneuvers in the region, though, Israel has had some strong things to say to neighbors and even allies lately, and has committed to some very serious military and social exercises. All of Israel’s maneuvers and exercises have been training-only, and all have been focused strictly on defense, but it is important to understand that anything Israel does is closely watched by its Arab neighbors and any sign of Israeli capacity is regarded as a threat, whether the capacity is defensive or offensive. The countries surrounding Israel do not have peaceful intentions for that Jewish state, regardless of the Israeli live-and-let-live national policy and military posture. The Arabs want the Jews dead, and any sign that Israel won’t die easily is therefore viewed as a threat. Israel is well aware of this perception and has used the recent civil defense exercises as an opportunity to evaluate its actual national survivability in the event of a massive air, missile or unconventional (NBC) attack on the country as well as deliver a silent message of collective strength to its neighbors.

Why would Israel feel the need to make speeches about “non aggression” — which are always, no matter who is talking, regarded as speeches about actual aggression — and conduct massive military exercises to demonstrate their strength, organize for action and prepare for conflict? Further, why would Israel be more focused than usual on the Hezbollah threat in Lebanon? Why would Israel have recently bombed suspected nuclear sites in Syria? Why would Syria be posturing in such a way as to demonstrate their military weakness? Why would Hezbollah be all talk and no action even after the assassination of one of their prime leaders?

There is a pattern emerging in my view, but the meaning of it cannot be found here, strictly in the local region of Israel, Lebanon and Syria. The bigger picture here leads back — as almost all roads in current Middle Eastern intrigue seem to — to Iran.

Iran has has a rough time of things lately. They’ve overplayed their hand with the Americans; their militia groups got so smashed in Iraq that they became confused, frustrated and even reverted to the old factionalized fighting that split and weakened the Shiite community in Saddam’s Iraq; the Iranians lost enormous amounts of material and money supporting Hezbollah during and after the recent Israeli attacks into Lebanon; they’ve lost political clout by presenting themselves badly to the Russians; thei nuclear program pissed everyone off with no gain for them; etc. The list goes on and on. Irans’ sucking, and they’re showing it.

Iran has their military celebrations scheduled very soon, and during those everyone will be able to see the “Iranian military might”, which is really not that much to speak of in American, British or even Japanese military terms, but relative to the other potential opponents in the region is considerable. But the Iranian military, while it might look good in a parade and scare the weak Saudis, is built for domestic control, not offensive operations. The Iranians have plenty of self-policing to do and the military, not the police, do this sort of work inside Iran. The real offensive arm of Iran is Hezbollah, which though it often seems more like a drug cartel than a normal terrorist group, is supported and organized by the Iranians and acts internationally as Iran’€™s offensive military arm in everything but name.

How does this connect with Israel? First, in the most obvious sense, Hezbollah is hellbent on destroying everything Jewish in the world. That brings Hezbollah into direct conflict with Israel to begin with. But Hezbollah has been based in Lebanon for a long time and has focused almost exclusively on anti-Israeli campaigns. There are lots of groups that fit that description and while its a scary phenomenon when taken all together, individually there is no single group that makes any Western government tremble, and none of these groups can independently have any strategic impact. They simply spend too much time infighting and worrying about who follows what prophet’s cousin or whatever to really get a hold on things. They’re too disorganized.

But Iran is hoping to change that. Hezbollah is undergoing a massive expansion, an expansion most people aren’t seeing because they think Iran does not have the capacity for it due to its almost entirely distracting American involvement — and granted, America does have Iran surrounded on both sides. But Hezbollah is not Iran. Hezbollah runs itself, is funded in part from drug smuggling into Israel (what they would do without that money if they actually did destroy Israel and all its recreational-drug-enabling economic weight is an interesting question), but it is an independent organization which is not totally dependent on Iranian instruction. They can make their own decisions, develop their own situations, and act on their own. With that sort of independence and the organizational experience and skill Hezbollah has accumulated over the years it is entirely plausible that Hezbollah could be receiving material support from Iran with broad and ambiguous instructions to conduct a regional expansion into all Shiite communities in the Middle East and act on such guidance all on its own without wasting much Iranian brain-power or leadership bandwidth.

Whether Iran told them to or not, this is what Hezbollah is doing: expanding at an unprecedented level. There are new Hezbollah organizations springing up in Kuwait, Qatar, U.A.E., Iraq, even Saudi Arabia — which much be tricky going for them. They are hiring away highly experienced and like-minded Palestinians who do not ordinarily have anything in common with Iran or Hezbollah other than wanting to murder Jews. This is a new trend that has never been seen before.

Sure, Hezbollah has operatives working in Southeast Asia, Europe, etc. But these are Hezbollah operatives working out of Lebanon or Iran and conducting specific business in these areas, not new Hezbollah organizational structures headquartered in such far-flung nations acting under broad guidance from Hezbollah Central Command. An indication of this trend and of Hezbollah’s truly independent nature is the process of new Hezbollah regional cadres being moved to the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon to be trained at Hezbollah’s main bases instead of Hezbollah cadres being moved to Iran for training. In the past, Hezbollah sent people from Lebanon to train in Iran and Iran sent Republican Guard units to Lebanon to train and support there. So now we see the shift that Hezbollah is running more and more of its own show, and basing operations in Lebanon, away from Iran, with an obvious eye to expand out all over the Middle East.

To what end are they conducting this expansion? Iran’s stature has fallen recently. As discussed above, they are in a tough situation with the U.S. and they know they have lost this round. They know they will not wind up getting absolute control of the Iraqi government. They will not be able to put up bases across the sand from Saudi oil fields. They will not be able or allowed to do a lot of things they want to do under the banner of Iran for Iran’s sake, so they are standing up regional Hezbollah brigades to make up for their lack of future overt military capacity and power projection.

This is where Israel comes in. Iran is Israel’s sworn mortal enemy. Anything good for Iran regionally is bad for Israel’s future prospects of existence. Israel does not want to see Hezbollah expand to the point of having regional headquarters and local battalions scattered from Southern Europe and North Africa to the Persian Gulf.

The situation is too confused right now to predict the actual effect of such an expansion, but it is certain this would be bad for Israel somewhere down the line. So Israel is looking to cut this movement off before it really gets started. Expect an attack by Israel against Hezbollah once the intended future big names of Hezbollah are collected in Lebanon. Hezbollah needs Lebanon as a base. If it is denied that, it has nowhere left to go. All its infrastructure, civil support, hospitals, drug lines, etc. are there. No country really wants to host Hezbollah, and Iran cannot host Hezbollah and maintain any separation between their own military and the Hezbollah force nor can they evade responsibility for Hezbollah’s actions if they become the primary host. Israel knows this and so before any other country becomes sufficiently infected with a firmly entrenched Hezbollah presence Israel is looking to attack, weaken and distract Hezbollah from its expansive plans now rather than fight them from all angles later.

Syria wants to stay out of it. Assad’s regime is weak and everyone knows that. Israel does not want to knock Assad down because while today’s Syria might be irritating, it does not pose a real threat to Israel. Israel could wipe Syria off the map with a conventional invasion force, and this power imbalance acts as a stabilizing influence on the situation between them. Assad wants to stay in power and he can’t do that if his country is destroyed, so he will not actually commit to an attack on Israel. Israel does not want to deal with managing an even more agitated and radicalized Syria after an invasion of the country, so to avoid muddying the waters the policy of both nations is live-and-let-live. That is why Syria conducted maneuvers recently near the Golan Heights: to make Assad appear resolute and powerful to his own people, and at the same time show Israel just how weak he is so the Israelis don’t make the mistake of accidentally or inadvertently knocking his regime over with a few military strikes inside Syria.

So what is the “emerging pattern” Hezbollah is looking to expand all over the region in a serious way which will allow Iran to comfortably accede to an American-dominated Iraqi government while they develop their local state-within-a-state Shiite structures all over the region through Hezbollah. Israel is looking to prevent this potential expansion right now which will be a severe blow to Hezbollah right now, but also a critically damaging strike to everything that is future Iranian regional dreams of hegemony.

A Potential for Hezbollah Independence: What Does it Mean for Us?

Filed under: Politics / Geopolitics — zxq9 @ 10:40

There is a potential for Hezbollah to become an entity independent of national support. What does it mean for us? I will here try to (briefly) explore how Hezbollah could become an independent organization and further how that would effect the games currently being played in their name as well as the games being played through them by sponsors.


Hezbollah has always filled the role of the extra-national, deniable and politically inexpensive force of choice for Islamic states who feel the need to make a violent statement against civilians without the tangle of being directly blamed for the death and dismemberment of kindergarten students or other such victims. This group emerged from the chaos of the Lebanese civil war, gained the massive sponsorship of Iran and somewhat of Syria and have since become the single most powerful indigenous political influence in Lebanon. This influence was largely paid for by Iranian money, material and direct training support. Hezbollah has outgrown its original narrow focus on Jew-killing and political mayhem over the last few years and has initiated moves which are far beyond that limited scope. Hezbollah has opened hospitals, civil offices, political arms, media outlets, illegal narcotic production and distribution systems, and even schools — where they appropriately teach/preach the mass destruction of all Americans, Europeans and Israelis as well as (it is hoped) literacy and mathematics. Hezbollah is Shiite and is accordingly a long-term threat to Sunni-dominated countries where they are currently setting up shop for an apparent massive future expansion at the request of Iran.

Though Hezbollah got off the ground through the deep and intense direct support of Iran and Syria, it has taken on a life of its own. Starting up a political arm and creating a physical civil presence that exists for any purpose other than terrorism operations tends to slowly force a terrorist force to moderate itself. Survival through only external support also threatens the long-term survival of any group and for the senior leadership in Hezbollah who have effectively created long-term careers out of being professional Hezbollah leaders the chance that it may someday be politically unpleasant for Iran or Syria to continue supporting Hezbollah is unacceptable. For this reason Hezbollah has developed its own revenue-producing arms which specialize in local taxation, sale of weapons and military expertise and the production and sale of illegal narcotics. Hezbollah has been blacklisted by just about every government that means anything and this also does not bode well for the long-term career plans of the senior leadership. For an example of how to overcome this they look south, to the PLO and even Hamas (as terror-oriented as they still remain) for examples on how to normalize. For this reason they have sponsored their own hospital, educational and political initiatives and are trying to slowly reshape their image.

This sort of a transformation begins to soften not only the image but also the realities of such an organization. The realities of political entanglement (starting within the Lebanese political process and extending internationally), the internal drive to increase controllable revenue (i.e. sales), limit dependence on uncontrollable revenue (i.e. donations), and otherwise improve the prospects for the long-term survival of the organization begin to change the aims of the group in fundamental ways. In other words, today’s Hezbollah is at least as much about Hezbollah’s own survival as it is about the “fight against Israel” or whatever else Iran asks it to do. This is an irreversible and unstoppable process. No group wants to be reliant entirely on the outside for support, and the transition from an old-version Hezbollah which was basically part-timers who fought for money and perceived grievances is significantly different from the Hezbollah of today which is staffed primarily by full-time careerist operatives and leaders with technical and operational expertise unique to the scope of each position formed. This formalization and careerist shift will slowly dictate a slow weaning of Iranian and Syrian support and an eventual split from Iranian control and ideology.

The end result would be a Hezbollah which attempts to gain civil control over Lebanon, will likely spin off and rename its extended surrogate Hezbollahs for use as its own extra-national and deniable terror group (in Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, etc.), an increase in narcotic export, an interest in developing legal alternatives to narcotics revenue, and an eventual request to be recognized as a political movement rather than a terror group. In short, it will try to copy the “success” of the PLO. In doing so, however, it will alienate many of its truly radical members. Hezbollah will cease to be the Hezbollah that we know and will eventually become a political entity far removed from its terrorist roots. The violent, radical elements are a fundamental feature of the failed culture of the modern Middle East and will remain, but they will no longer be welcomed by Hezbollah despite what will likely be continued and violent-sounding anti-Semitic rhetoric. If Hezbollah actually achieves political control in an area such as Lebanon, the last thing on their agenda would be a war with Israel.

In short, Hezbollah is on a path which will result in its slowly becoming more pro-Hezbollah than anti-Israel. Iran is going to eventually need to find another surrogate actor to carry out terrorist activities and will find its adopted prodigy child soon coming of age, gaining independence and maturing to the level of a sometime competitor with its own agenda in the surrogate-terror sponsorship game.

I haven’t given enough thought to how Israel will wind up feeling about such a transition, but my initial thought is that Israel would welcome any group which could place a stable government in Beirut, Islamic or not. Overall it would be a good thing for everybody if the lawlessness in Lebanon were to end and if the government were even somewhat democratic the ruling party (assumed to be Hezbollah) would be forced to moderate itself to prevent another civil war. Hezbollah would never be strong enough to firmly control Lebanon and all its diverse groups and would never survive in politics without aiming to secure loose control in the interest of stability versus strong control in the interest of domination. For these reasons I believe Israel would welcome Hezbollah’s evolution toward politics and away from terrorism. Iran would hate it, but they could not really do much about it. Lebanon would be lost as a safe-haven for terror groups and Israel’s northern border would be more secure. But currently Israel still seems to be ramping up for some sort of military action against Hezbollah and just because Hezbollah may someday become a self-moderated and independent political entity does not mean it is anything close to that today or will move in that direction for a while — particularly not while Iran is in a tight spot and accordingly willing to pay through the nose to ensure Hezbollah does its assigned job of menacing the world.

2008.04.18 10:29

Food Shortages and Beyond… way Beyond

Filed under: Politics / Geopolitics,Society — zxq9 @ 10:29

Quietly but steadily, food prices have been edging up worldwide. This is in direct response to traditional supply and demand issues but the type of governmental maneuvering this is causing is interesting, indicating this is not simply a traditional event. Several typical food (and by this I really mean grain) importers have been imposing new forms government control where there previously was very little or none (i.e. E.U. countries), changing staple food export agreements (i.e. Kazakhstan), adjusting market positions or preparing for the loss of previously reliable food import situations through domestic food redistribution (i.e. Russia), or otherwise making adjustments at the national level in response to the rising food prices. So far the trend has seemed to miss the U.S., perhaps demonstrating the U.S. economy’s amazing balance and diversity.


I do not pretend to fully understand everything that is going on, but I intend to research this a bit and write an (already anticipated) implication/prediction type article later on. Before I do I would like to present a basic economic and political principle that I have come to realize over the last few years: that economics is all about energy.

Economics is about energy. So is food consumption and societal structuring. The political systems we impose upon ourselves and the societies upon which they are based are merely various structures which acquire, process and transmit or broker energy. By energy I do not mean only the media correlation of the day: petroleum. I mean “energy” in a more broad sense: energy that people use to fuel technological systems (mechanical, chemical and electrical — of which petroleum plays a part), innovative and intellectual energy, and food resource energy used to grow ourselves and directly impact our environments. The three types of energy must work in concert and all are absolutely essential to having a powerful and productive society. The United States has done the best so far at flexing itself around the changing ways energy is collected, used and moves and therefore is currently on top.

I won’t delve too much into how these factors work together or how much cultural, societal, and political factors play into all that, but suffice to say that some cultures are simply better than others at succeeding in the modern world… or actually, not the modern world as this is a relative term, but the world in which they exist and function. Societies scale just like transportation systems, mathematical calculations or programming languages. Systems are derived from the societies which instantiated them. Inflexible societies and systems eventually encounter a situation where they have grown to their maximum effective scale and if they do not change soon overload, crumble, and fail forever. In taking this view I am being critical of cultural systems. I am saying that cultures which fail to survive were not worthy of survival. I am also saying that there is likely a way to quantify a particular culture’s value relative to others in a given time and environment other than the basic test you can already assume: whether the society survives its time or not.


All that being said, we are seeing food prices rise, and eventually nations will begin to compete in extra-economic ways over such things but not before they begin to compete much more fiercely and lethally over mechanical energy resources. I propose that in the mid- to distant- future a massive global struggle is in the making (I will eventually settle on a chronology for this, forgive me for being vague right now). This particular struggle will be greater than anything yet known because the victor of it will be in a position to dictate the future course of all humanity for a brief period. I know such statements are overused in the world of historical study but like most tired phrases they have never been absolutely true so far, but rather a fun and easy thing to say. For example, it is often said that the Roman Empire ruled the world. — but it didn’t rule the Maya, the Aztec, or the Japanese. It is said that the world at one time was ruled by the Coptic Egyptians — but while the Egyptian part of the world certainly was, they had little to no impact on Asia or Northern Europe. The same goes for the Greeks, though the long-lasting influence of some of the original Greek social processes have carried on and in this way they have been heavily influential, but never actually controlling.

There is a global energy war coming, and that energy war will be fought firstly over mechanical energy, secondly over caloric energy and most interestingly, fought not over but exclusively with and through the fruits of properly harnessed intellectual energy. The victor of that war will dominate all there is to humanity for a time. There will be a single global government, however. Individual national identities will remain as will low-scale conflict. Not to worry, the world will ever be an interesting place. This energy war will also not necessarily take the form of a massive nuclear exchange or even a conventional WW III-type contest. Those modes are not ruled out and are in fact inevitable on small scales, but I feel that the most likely form of global energy conflict will occur in a sort of Cold War type endless proxy play play among three or four acting groups. The general setting is already forming now on the tails of the current U.S.-Jihadi war.

When? I don’t know, nobody does right up until we’re knee-deep in it, but there are two indicating factors:

  1. The level of population and mechanical density in the world
  2. The state of space technologies

The level of population and mechanical density is going to dictate and predict the occurrence of such a war. Saving some massive technological leap forward we are simply living in a mode which is endlessly consumptive, and as societies scale further and reach their effective limits of scale, change form, and need more energy to progress, we are simply bound to begin colliding in much more intense ways with each other on this planet.

The other factor, the state of space technologies, dictates and predicts whether or not any particular position of global dominance will be the last great one in terrestrial history. This may sound a bit wild, but its a simple fact that humans tend to be capable of anything they can envision in detail and extra-terrestrial colonization has been envisioned in great detail. So great is the detail of it that I believe it to be an achievable reality within a generation or two.


What does this have to do with global hegemony? A true global dominator is the only type of societal entity which has enough situational and intellectual bandwidth to properly tackle the myriad exploration and colonization problems which have not yet been envisioned. This is very important to understand. In the same way that a situation of global hegemony predicts extra-terrestrial colonization, extra-terrestrial colonization also predicts the collapse and failure of universal hegemony.

Once a new generation is born away from Earth, they will no longer be Earthlings, but rather non-Earthling humans. They could well be Martians, space-station brats, asteroid colonizers, Mooninites, whatever. The issue here is not that they will be in some way inhuman, but that they will ultimately identify with their fellows more than with people born on Earth. This is an entirely natural process already well documented in the histories of American, African and Asian colonial efforts.

The reason the powers of Earth will send colonists out in space in the first place is the same reason Europeans sent their colonists out to new worlds: to harvest and transmit energy to be consumed by the mother country. This mercantilist drive may sound archaic, but it is in no way outdated. After a generation of colonial existence this original purpose will be lost on the colonists and they, rich with energy, will wonder why it is they send all their energy off and do not realize any return from it. They will feel underrepresented and disconnected from the home country and in fact the place referred to as “home” by the language of officialdom will be entirely foreign to them. This will cause friction and a fracturing of the power structure. Their sense of colonial self-worth will be supported by a realization of the original Earth territories being suddenly exposed as vulnerable to blockade or embargo from space for the first time ever. This will give the colonies power, force a relatively peaceful fragmentation which  will grant the colonies national rights (regardless of their physical situation, be they station- or planetoid-based), and lead to a new type of decentralized economy which would be easily recognizable to anyone with a background in 18th-century history.

Is it a stretch to push my assumptions about an upcoming global energy war to predictions of impending space colonization efforts and the fracture of such a structure after a single generation? Perhaps. But I feel quite confident that history demonstrates the dynamics outlined above to be entirely reliable and predictive influences upon geopolitics. One of those influences is obvious and totally inescapable: we’re running out of [name something] and as we’ve already conquered Earth, we can only look to places other than Earth to find more of [name something].

This transition will be no different from what happened after the discovery of the New World, but it certainly will have a different feel to us — because we will be the actors doing things immediate to us not students studying the changes from the perspective of history. The people of the 16th century thought it was absolutely ridiculous to propose that colonies would stand in America, and further thought it so ridiculous to assume they would take on a national character and identity that it was never seriously considered. So if you think the idea of broad-based space colonization and the eventual rise of non-Earth centric political and social systems ridiculous you stand with the majority of 16th-century thinkers, which is not bad company really — they were smart, just wrong.

In this I disagree with Naom Chomsky’s opinion that global hegemony is the doom of humanity as he asserts in his scary, somewhat anti-American book Hegemony or Survival because he assumes the struggle for hegemony is ultimately a nationalist goal in opposition to survival rather than a survivalist struggle among nations. Further, he ignores the next step in energy accumulation: space. People have very little faith in the ability of Man to conquer space but I firmly believe that humans are too smart to give over and die out save some huge, unpredictable cataclysm (Islamic-driven nuclear destruction, a massive asteroid impact prior to sustained colonization, etc.).

I will develop this idea a bit further eventually, but I wanted to put out a broad-stroked view now and see what folks think of it. There are several aspects of the coming changes that are significant of themselves — particularly to the most leading of nations — such as land use policies, energy use policies, mechanical and caloric energy collection and transmission policies and technologies, space domination and research/exploration, and societal shifts. These are all closely related and will become even closer as time goes on. Since I’m not a sponsored writer or anything I hope I can get the free time to do some in-depth study of events and touch on each factor and related ideas as they become more distinct in my mind.

2008.04.17 10:18

Actors Thought Team America Was (Almost) Real, Springsteen Follows Example of F.A.G.

Filed under: Politics / Geopolitics,Society — zxq9 @ 10:18

Everyone! You can stop thinking for yourselves now if you haven’t already, noted genius/political scientist/played-out rock star Bruce Springsteen has endorsed Barak Hussein Obama for President today. We all know he was very much boooorn in the U.S.A. and all, and he wrote a lot of songs but why is it that so many people give such creedence to the political and “scientific” opinions (think global warming and energy, healthcare or land policy) of people who have spent their lives on stage putting on imaginary shows over those who have spent their lives engaged in the study of or at the center of real issues?


Of course, when it comes to politics, I think it is interesting to note that by and large the people who are successful politicians are not the most well studied, either. In fact, it is further interesting to note that we vote on political candidates largely not based on their qualifications relative to the job at hand, but rather on how well they perform on stage (i.e. campaigning). With this in mind, I suppose it isn’t so peculiar that we, as a culture of lazy-thinkers, should place such emphasis on the political leanings of such completely unstudied persons as George Clooney, Ben Afflick, or Bruce Springsteen.

I remember a few years back when the Republican National Convention hosted General H. Norman Schwartzkopf as a key speaker. Here was a man who had spent a good bit of his youth in Iran prior to the revolution there, served a lifetime in every conflict since Vietnam, had studied at the War College (among other places), had advised and commanded in various theaters at levels where economics, long-term national strategy and political and military maneuvers merge, and was generally qualified to have a strong opinion on a great many things — whether I agree with everything he thinks or not, his opinions were valid to listen to and ponder. That same year, the Democratic National Convention hosted Tommy Lee Jones as a key speaker. Here was a man who had spent a a professional career pretending to be a general, a U.S. Marshall or some other authority figure in such magnificently shallow movies as Under Siege.

I’m not making a broad statement against the Democratic Party, but it is worthy to note from whither their publicity support base is derived (this is different from “public support base”) and where the Republican publicity support base is generally derived from.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand, Springsteen “endorsed” Barak Obama today, but that is a pretty meaningless gesture. If I were to “endorse” a candidate today, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference because I have absolutely zero control over the functions of any political party, nor do I have a large public voice (rather a small public squeak). So why is this newsworthy? Because Bruce Springsteen is a household name and the people who are flashing his name across headlines everywhere are clearly in support of Barak Obama themselves. It is absolutely not newsworthy that a singer supports one candidate or another, any more than the guy living two streets down does. Who cares? The editors sure do. You didn’t see any big news come out about who is (meaninglessly) “endorsing” McCain, even when the Republican nomination was up for grabs.  The press is just did not really have their heart in it.

Enough picking on senior editors, singers, actors and other people who have very little background from which to tempt the influence of my political views…

What does all this mean?

The Republicans know they are in for a serious fight for the White House, even if The Jeezus Himself was going to run against Dukakis this year. The country is generally split on the war, and in that way the domestic issues are all going to take a back seat to foreign policy issues. Because of that the Republicans want to have an easy opponent when November comes. They want the least qualified, the least informed, the most emotional and immature opponent they can get, and between Obama and Clinton, Obama is that guy. For proof of this one need look no farther than what the conservative media is saying about the Democratic candidates. They are throwing campaign grenades at Clinton as fast a possible, but have the training gloves on with Obama. It is pretty clear who the conservatives want to see McCain face-off with, and it is not Clinton. They will likely get their wish, as the “I’m have a vagina” card isn’t nearly as effective in this day as the “I’m black and have a Muslim name” card is with the thoughtlessly apologist left. Obama has played this position to its fullest by not drawing attention to it, and that has worked out well.

Clinton — or someone on her staff — knows too much about the way the world works and understands the interactions and long-term strategies of the United States (with regard to the war on terror, the upcoming Cold War II scenarios, China rising, Asian security postures, energy policy, the fight over maritime and space dominance, etc.) to be a pushover in the real debates which are set to begin in a month or so. Obama is playing catch-up and is largely clueless about most of the issues I mentioned above. He speaks in absolutes and is generally uncompromising in his strong remarks without the benefit of knowing what he is talking about. In short, Barak Obama sounds a lot like he is running for Student Council, not President of the United States — the leader of not just the “Free World” but also the implementer of a massive and diversely nuanced foreign policy. It is a post that requires enormous amounts of information, consideration and council; which is all background information that he does not have. John McCain is prepared for it as is Hillary Clinton, though McCain’s domestic policies are far more realistic and informed than Clinton’s. Their foreign policy is nearly the same though, and Clinton being a woman and a not-Republican will have a distinct advantage in the current environment, no matter what she says, during debates which will focus enormously on foreign issues (despite current campaign rhetoric to the contrary).

Obama will have an advantage too, being also a not-Republican and somewhat black. Note that I’m saying “not-Republican” with specific intent: nobody likes the Democratic Party right now, not even the Democrats. The Democrats are torn internally right now because of a series of image and political issues. Most of the issues stem from being so vehemently anti-Republican and anti-Bush has caused them to entirely cease being pro- anything. In being such anti’s they have robbed themselves of any platform at all, so it is very appropriate to say not-Republican as opposed to being an actual Democrat in the current climate. This was reflected in Obama’s somewhat contrarian campaign slogans of “Hope”, though he absolutely resisted the urge to ever reveal what anyone had to be hopeful about under him.

Anyway, lots of support for Obama from the right and left. This is natural given the current circumstance. After he wins the nomination expect all of that to change, swiftly. The media will still support him but remember that the reason the right hasn’t been saying too many nasty things about him so far is not because there are not nasty things to say — it is merely because they want to save their ammo for later when their shots will count. Their shots on Clinton count right now and the anti-Clinton fight will very likely soon be over, so they’re using up all their anti-Clinton devices right now while it means something.

Of course, since Bruce Springsteen and F.A.G. are on the Obama wagon now (meaninglessly, along with most of the residents of the Land of Makebelieve), he just might pull off a victory in the general election. If that happens be prepared to see him do his best… and that really simply means watch him get very, very quiet for a long time. When he gets into office and is suddenly privy to all the information and analysis he has not yet been exposed to (keep in mind he is a new senator and is not a member of any special committees, but Clinton and McCain both are) he will realize how deep down the rabbit hole he fell and will certainly appreciate the need to pick his way carefully out of it. This is what Russia and China are praying for: a weak, uninformed next U.S. President. If Obama comes to office, expect to see U.S. power placed in a holding pattern while the other two big kids make big moves, and Europe starts to strain against the flow (what that means is entirely beyond the scope of this already meanderingly huge article). The U.S. can recover from him later on, but it will take some serious doing, and in the weird world of geopolitics four years can be a very long and short time all at once.

2008.04.15 11:45

How to Display East Asian Fonts (i.e. Japanese) with WordExpress

Filed under: Admin — zxq9 @ 11:45

I had been using Japanese text on and off for quite a while but I realized after I upgraded that my old posts had the old Japanese text changed from 日本語 to ?????? (2019-06-19 update: it happened again). It was a permanent change, too, and all my previous Japanese text was lost to the mystery of entropy. I wasn’t happy with it, but what can I do other than rub my hands and quietly plot revenge? I did find the problem and have fixed it though, and I’m posting the fix so nobody has to go through what I did (the changes recommended through searches were generally outdated, dead-ends or involved and complicated, so I’m posting the simple one).

Somewhere in there a change in the standard WordExpress configuration file defaults set things to UTF-8, which somehow kills whatever used to be in the database. The offending bit of code can be found in the ~/foo/public_html/wp-config.php file. Here is where to find it if you have WebExpress at the front of your file tree:


Once you locate it, open it for editing and comment out the two lines that read:

define(‘DB_CHARSET’, ‘UTF-8’);
define(‘DB_COLLATE’, ”);

like so:


I recommend commenting things out instead of deleting because its a habit formed out of long experience with screwing up configuration files and not saving an original to refer to later… (In php and other C-based languages this means putting the “//” in front of them so they get ignored.) Once you comment out (or (>.<) delete!) the two lines you see above, everything should work fine.


So, happy blogging!
…internet nerds…

The Extra Element of European Instability: Common Currency

Filed under: Politics / Geopolitics — zxq9 @ 05:54

Europe has been a prize of conquest many have sought over the centuries. The Romans, the Gauls, the Teutons, the Prussians, the Napoleonic French, the English in one way or another, the Germans in World Wars I and II, etc. all coveted having complete control over the Continent, despite the inherent difficulty in assembling the mishmash of cultures, economies, resources into a coherent whole. While achieving an early military or political victory is possible, maintaining control once the conquest is over is incredibly difficult to do because it is fundamentally an unbalanced collection of cultures and economies.


Consider that the French and Americans have more common international interest than the Germans and French do. Consider further that the British (and even here I am condensing a wide array of cultures) and Americans have far more in common than do the French and Americans. Consider that the Germans and Americans often have more strategic interest in common from a historical point of view (both want to avert the rise of an hegemon). Finally, consider that the fundamental necessity for economic, strategic and political competition among European states begins with the simple fact that some European nations are generally agrarian and some are generally industrial and technical powers — and that these differences are dictated by geography, not something one can simply will away through the sheer power of hope.

The usual situation in European history is for there to exist a certain balance of tensions and pressures across the continent. The tensions and pressures are constantly shifting and exploding into small and localized conflicts, but overall stability is maintained among a patchwork of societal pockets defined generally along the major river basins of Europe which themselves create a web of mutual threats and shifting alliances — somewhat the same way that the Earth is fraught with earthquakes but the general equilibrium is held well enough to support life. Collective European defense against outsiders is always in the common good, so when a common enemy arises to threaten Europe as a whole the differences of the day are forgotten and the enormous economic and military capacity represented by Europe becomes (generally) united and is turned against the outsiders. Once the continent-sized conflict is concluded the European nations return immediately to plotting on one another as advanced states always do almost by definition.

That this dynamic is reality is undeniable. That it also contradicts the imaginary model of Europe that most of us wish very badly to believe in is also undeniable. The fact remains that if advanced states states did not plot on one another they would eventually fail as states and disappear into history (as many have done). Consider, for example, that one of the goals of many in the pro-E.U. camp is to actually eliminate nationalities entirely. Is it possible to imagine a world where a majority of French parents actually want their ethnically French child to grow up in a non-French France? How about if that non-French France were a Muslim-dominated France entirely void of European style values of liberty?

After the Cold War the general thinking was that military competition could and should be replaced by economic competition. This felt like a very nice idea, as it would be to the overwhelming benefit of everyone involved. The losers would come off indirectly sponsored by the winners and thus be in a much better state than even the victor of a military conflict would have been (no war debt or rebuild). This sounds fine and fair except it is decidedly unnatural. It creates a situation where consistent losers can make a career of losing, and this eventually could become a fatal drain on the consistent winners who would become eager to shed the dead weight. How long could the winners be expected to tolerate the dead-weight losers? After all, the losers would be, by their very nature, so weak as to not pose a military threat even if that were allowed — and they would not have the internal capacity to generate a military (or economic) threat, but the winners would. This creates a fundamentally unbalanced situation.

Somewhere along the line someone decided that instead of conquering Europe the old-fashioned way (running it over with an army or two), there would be an easier way to subversively conquer it all. Without putting armies on the march across Europe it seemed unlikely that the average Joe Euro would even noticing the attempt, as it would be wrapped in the popular-sounding phraseology and rhetoric of post-Cold War economic globalism.

Enter the Euro. This single currency links Eurozone States in a way that goes much deeper than simple military conquest. Currencies are valued at varying rates influenced by a myriad of factors, factors which are endlessly studied and panicked over by the national banking institutions of whatever country they are tied to. The problem with the Euro is that there are too many nations with too many different economic interests and systems for a single currency to make sense. This fundamentally links the union members in exactly the same way an armed conflict would have, but does nothing to prevent the minority opinion states from expressing their anger or turning to rebellion against the union — whereas after a war one can occupy and colonize a country and outlaw its native military force to quell rebellion.

Agrarian, exporting states generally have lower-valued currencies. This is also true for externally industrialized states, and by this I mean countries which did not arrive at industrialization on their own, but were prodded toward it by foreign money on the expectation of low labor costs (think Philippines, not England). Internally industrialized states (think England, not Philippines now) have different economic values and a way of developing advanced wealth-generating systems which both produce technical wealth and servicing capacity which flows from their country to others and therefor tend to have a higher-valued currency. Non-industrialized states tend to remain that way for a combination of geographic (think logistics) and social factors, have very low-value currencies, and find their best path toward development to adopt successful elements of advanced cultures and solicit their labor market and currency situation as a way of attracting economic engagement and investment from the internally industrialized ones.

This setup makes sense and the fluctuations of currencies, when properly managed, contribute to the stability of the economic system. Some currencies can fail, but no single failure is ever enough to squash the entire system at once — failures are isolated by currency, national boundary, and incidentally geographic zone. A failure in one quarter becomes a major opportunity the next (currency collapse often means that what was once expensive is now cheap).

Fespite the media’s ignorant readiness to panic about the state of the U.S. economy, for example, the low dollar (as of April 2008) puts highly desirable American goods at a 20% discount to foreign importers as well as puts American public stock at a similar discount. This is flooding the American economy with foreign investment capital, drawing American investment capital out of Europe and generally ensuring that there really aren’t any problems for the next 5 to 10 years (this is a simplification, of course, there are other fundamental reason why the American economy is bound to continue to plow ahead). Conversely, the artificially priced Chinese currency is running them into a dead-end where they will either be forced to face revolution or exert centralized control by typically Chinese methods (once again a simplification, and there will surely be some insane attempts to bolster the perceived value of the Chinese currency through political maneuver at some point in the future, but at any rate… ouch!).

Now let’s consider Europe again. Just because World War II happened and the generation that fought it decided that war was a shitty experience does not mean that the war-naive generation of today which lacks such hard earned experience would adopt the same views. It is highly fashionable to talk trash about “belligerent” nations — particularly when that nation is the United States — and generally the current generation has no clue what they are talking about. Wars are something you watch on TV, tragic stories are things you can wipe away with a tissue, and so long as the cause is sufficiently anti-American (or some other much-hated establishment) violence is perfectly acceptable so long as the rhetoric supporting it is wrapped in the language of peace and freedom. While it is true that war is a shitty experience, it is also true that it is entirely survivable (that I am alive is witness to that) and sometimes necessary.

The problem is that the European population today does not understand how to make the social tradeoff assessment of war, nor are they capable of making a realistic cost/benefit analysis of war due mostly to a profound lack of experience in the current generation. War is terrible, yes, but having your population overrun against their will, having your nation’s sovereignty stripped, and making your people economic slaves to a subsidy scheme that does not even help your own people is much worse (that is a recipe for societal failure and civil war — a dramatically more messy, violent, and difficult to recover situation).

Europe is a combination of agricultural (Portugal, for example) and internally industrialize states (such as Germany). When Germany makes a new deal with the Americans to sell millions of German cars to the Americans at a certain price, this influences the price of the Euro a bit, as billions of U.S. Dollars are likely to become Euros. This impacts the price of a principal Portuguese export: wool. When the Euro is high, Portuguese wool is nearly unsellable but a Mercedes may still be a viable export — or perhaps not need to be exported at all, as the high Euro can easily afford a lower-cost U.S. Dollar founded factory to be built in the U.S. This causes temporary shifts of wealth between currencies, but ties the collective European nations together without the benefit of a common foreign policy. So a system of trade tariffs can seem to make sense at first as a bulwark against cheap foreign goods. But protective trade practices always have a way of biting smaller participants in the ass because the voting nations with the most power in any union (in this case Germany and France) tend to be the more populous and more highly industrialized ones. This leaves the unfortunate weaker, agrarian members out in the cold.

This is precisely what caused the American Civil War. States with too much autonomy had been pushing their agendas against the Federal government since the early 1800’s, often using the language of the then-recent American Revolution. In to complicate matters, states with similar geographies (and therefore aligned economic interests) formed voting cabals in a fundamentally unbalanced version of Congress. Were they right? Who knows. But the fact is unlimited states rights become breaking factors in any union of states, and an equilibrium of power between central and local levels tends to start with the economics among regions and end with the cultural ties between them. Europe does not have common cultural ties (and anyone who pretends different is wishfully ignorant or ignorantly arrogant) and observes drastically different economic systems which have never been in harmony. In the U.S., the only reason a hugely powerful economy like that of Texas can be connected to such a different economy such as that of Alabama is because the two states internally observe and manage their cultural, geographic and economic differences while the federal level manages the collective foreign policy of the whole. This is what is missing in Europe.

Granting the European Union control over each nation’s foreign policy will open the door to ever-increasing central control over other aspects of national existence, including domestic law. This is not going to suit everyone or be found acceptable to any other than the huge, controlling states such as France and Germany. This would cause a fractious split in the E.U. and pit the central powers against the smaller peripheral states. Another problem with granting the E.U. government any level of domestic or foreign political control over member states is that the average European has little to no direct say as to what gets voted on and how inside the E.U. ruling bodies. There are many layers of insulation between the average Joe Euro and his current and future E.U. government. This will be found unacceptable by nearly everyone and is yet another lesson that can be learned from the American Civil War — back in the early 1800’s the American Senate insulated the government from the public as the Senators were nominated exclusively by the state legislatures, the Executive Branch was insulated from the public by an enhanced electoral control system and the Judiciary was entirely insulated from public influence. Today the Europeans are blissfully ignorant of all but anti-American political maneuvers and yet live in an American-subsidized security bubble. As is typical for a public, they will likely not notice what is happening until things get either to the level of the central E.U. authority exerting domestic control (affecting daily life in some way) or the “open borders” concept backfiring and flooding the developed states with people from primitive countries who bring their primitive problems along with them. Situations such as this historically lead to revolution, secession and war.

Expect to see the Euro tie nations together in ways that were not predicted at the outset of the E.U.’s formation. Expect to eventually see disharmony once the public begins to perceive what logically must be a tighter domestic control by the E.U. over each member state. Expect to see fundamental shifts in the way Europe governs itself, a massive move toward national identity politics, or another long series of European wars (and these are not mutually exclusive). There is far too much cultural and economic inertia inside Europe to be contained by such a flimsy net as the E.U. as it exists today and far too much national ambition for any state to allows a select few to dominate their domestic and foreign agendas forever.

I don’t know who came up with the Euro or the E.U., but they have temporarily accomplished with a piece of paper what neither Napoleon nor Hitler could by force of arms — but will fail over the long term for some of the same reasons.

Yushchenko’s NATO Delay Shrewd, Best of Shitty Alternatives

Filed under: Politics / Geopolitics — zxq9 @ 04:10

The Ukrainian President, Viktor Yushchenko, has made several moves toward joining the West and separating from Russian influence. There are internal debates about this but overall it seems that pro-West influence is rising and generally the public seems to realize that life under a Western-style capitalist, decentralized and democratic government tends to be more prosperous and enjoyable than life under a socialist, centralized, authoritarian one — particularly when the primary governmental influence comes from Moscow, which is not even in Ukraine and therefore does not hold Ukraine’s or Ukrainians’ best interest at heart.


[Interestingly the above demonstration was held in Washington, D.C. in 2004]

Ukraine separating from Russian control worries Putin and his organization very much because the western half of the former Soviet Union was where most of the cities, technology and economic activity were centered, a large portion of that being in Ukraine near Kiev. Cutting this part off of the Old Empire removes roughly 1/4 of the former Soviet’s power-generation, urban, technical, educational and economic infrastructure. That is a frightening loss for Russia right now, particularly since they are maneuvering to engage the U.S. in something amounting to Cold War II (all over again! Oh noes!) while the Americans are distracted by Iraq, Afghanistan and general Muslim chaos. Nobody likes to a lose large part of their “side” right before a fight… particularly when the lost part could become an asset to the other side. Make no mistake about it, Russia absolutely thinks of the Ukraine as “theirs” in the old Soviet sense.

I also believe the mafia elements headquartered in Russia are worried about the Ukraine joining NATO. While not all NATO countries are as settled as Britain and France, becoming a NATO member tends to open the door to eventual EU membership, greater participation in Interpol, and an associated loss in the ability to corrupt enforcing officials and therefore an accelerated loss of mafia traction in an area. All of these changes would take years to mature but considering the mafia tends to think of itself as a second government operating independent of international borders a change in actual national leaning from well-understood East to less-understood West would create a long-term shift in policies and popular prosperity and out-date the mafia’s current methods. Organizations, once successful, tend to resist change and be defensive rather than offensive. They shift their focus from creating success to not creating failure and this forces them from a proactive to a reactive stance. In this mode the mafia would not be very well capable of organizationally shifting to cope with the major changes that membership in NATO would likely precipitate.

We have two groups which consider themselves to have Old Empire controlling rights in Ukraine, the mafia and the government of the Russian Federation, both desiring to see Ukraine move squarely back under Eastern/Russian influence. We have Europe, the seat of the majority of NATO voting members (but not actual NATO might, that is almost all held by the U.S.) greatly dependent on Russian energy exports. We have the United States, the majority power wielder in NATO (but representing only one real vote), interested in preempting the Russians immediately by splitting the potential opponent power base before they’ve consolidated and Cold War II becomes an inescapable political reality. And lastly, we have the country of Ukraine still trying to find its political and economic equilibrium since the upheavals of the Orange Revolution.

How will all this play out? The Ukrainian President had originally called for a decision by popular referendum to happen soon. Then he changed his mind and delayed it for two years. Why would he do that? There is a presidential election between now and then and he could even be running against his vice-President in that election which might split the pro-West voters. This doesn’t appear to make sense. Giving some thought to events inside and outside of Ukraine could give us some insight.

First, let’s consider what the Eastern side wants (and here I include both the Russian mob and the Russian government). They have considerable indirect control over the Ukrainian and European economies. Europe is dependent on Russian energy exports, the Russian government can control that flow, and importantly most of the Russia-Europe pipelines run through Ukraine which could give the Russians many public excuses to embargo or otherwise cut off energy exports. Cold War phraseology comes to mind: security concerns, abuse of whatever, tax issues, domestic needs, etc, anything to avoid saying they are attacking Europe for trying to “steal” a territory that they believe is “theirs”. The mafia controls many other industries in effect and could impose a different sort of embargo on financial and commodity transactions, or simply hamstring foreign business interests in the country if they decided to suspend infighting and work together to that end — and I believe the Russian mob is sharp enough to catch on that this would be a benefit to them.

Europe, for its part, is interested in defusing the upcoming cold war, but not as much as the Americans are. The Americans are used to making sacrifices on behalf of everyone else to maintain the stability which continues to buoy Western primacy. Europeans and their governments have grown massively complacent over the last 60 years because of this and tend to not recognize that true diplomacy carries with it the exact same costs as war. I do not believe that Europe will stick together in the face of an anti-European energy embargo from Russia or even be willing to face the disruptions to business that mafia interdiction could represent. Europe is too used to “soft power” and still believes that it means something. Power, “soft” or “hard, is power, and power is always a double-edged sword that must be wielded delicately and with finesse. They simply don’t have the balls to avert a future cold war and as much of European history has shown this aversion to early and preemptive confrontation generally results in overgrown tensions which explode into orgies of violence or popularly disastrous economic and governmental actions in last-ditch efforts to diplomacize their way out of sudden-seeming impending wars — and usually both at once. They will recognize the need for something to be done and understand the benefit of pulling the Russian’s legs out from under them early on by stealing Ukraine away but just won’t gather enough organizational momentum to do so.

The U.S. wants to push the issue very hard but are distracted by the Middle East. The Russians want to push the issue very hard while the U.S. is distracted because this is their only chance to really win any last-minute strategic gains prior to the U.S. being able to focus attention on the impending Cold War II-type conflict. If the Ukrainian NATO referendum were to happen right away with Ukraine not stabilized socially just yet, the Russians fresh on the heels of a centralizing consolidation of domestic and economic power, the Europeans sounding noisy but in fact remaining so typically and ineffectively lukewarm, and the Americans distracted so there is no way a clean victory would emerge for either side. This would leave Ukraine naked in the middle: without NATO membership and protection on one side, with a suspicious and subversive (bordering on hostile) Russian Federation on the other, and the Ukraine likely economically and socially ravaged by the economic and energy embargoes and other destructive global political tools playing out not in the NATO, UN or EU chambers as people see on TV but on the streets and in the business environments where they are realized. That is untenable for Ukraine, though likely a relatively balanced outcome in the view of the U.S. and only a slight frustration for the Russians over the long term.

Yushchenko wants to delay such a fight because it is simply not worth the cost to his country for the non-decisive outcome that would likely result.

He is obviously pro-West and would like to see the NATO bid bear fruit. With the U.S. already having accomplished most of its goals in Iraq, making end-game moves in Iranian and Syrian negotiations, and posturing to merely maintain pressure on Afghan/Pakistan issues, it is very likely that within two years the U.S. would be in a position to significantly influence the outcome of a Ukrainian referendum if it were to happen two years from now. This is what the Ukrainian President is betting on. Russia accepts this because it gives them two years and a known target date to work towards in influencing the public and private sectors in Ukraine to pitch in with them. The U.S. accepts this because it gives them the same opportunity and further gives them the chance to consolidate its political and military forces prior to having to face serious confrontation with the Russians. The Ukrainians like this because it gives them the chance to benefit from the attention of two great powers and pick an exit between now and then instead of racing to one in their current, unstable and unsettled state.

2008.04.14 11:16

Why Hadley Considers an Olypmic Boycott an Empty Gesture

Filed under: Politics / Geopolitics — zxq9 @ 11:16

The national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, called a boycott of the Olympic Games opening ceremonies a cop-out response by leaders to human rights issues. Note here that this is a very different thing from actually boycotting the Olympic Games. Lots of folks in the public are upset about this without fully understanding what Hadley meant with his statement because for the most part the version of the story they’ve read was either just the headline, just the first paragraph or a severely cut-down version of the AP article (which I linked to above).


If you are not going to read the whole thing, here’s the most significant quote from Hadley:

“I think, unfortunately, a lot of countries say, ‘Well, if we say that we are not going to the opening ceremonies, we’ve checked the box on Tibet.’ That’s a cop-out. If other countries are concerned about Tibet, they ought to do what we are doing through quiet diplomacy, send the message clearly to the Chinese that this is an opportunity with the whole world watching, to show that they take into account and are determined to treat their citizens with dignity and respect. They would put pressure on the Chinese authorities quietly to meet with representatives of the Dalai Lama and use this as an opportunity to help resolve that situation.”

He is concerned, and rightly so, that countries who do observe a boycott would merely avoid attending the opening ceremonies, which costs them nothing and influences China none at all, and leave it at that. True diplomatic measures that influence events almost always carry a cost for the acting country and are also often misunderstood or invisible to the public. For example, if the U.S. were to impose a trade restriction on Chinese goods as a way of hurting China, this would also hurt the U.S. and its consumers because the cost of related goods would increase leading to inflationary worries and complaints that “things just keep getting more expensive.” If the Americans impose military action on China, or even station troops nearby, this costs money to deploy the force as well as being highly expensive in the current environment by removing the involved troops from engagement elsewhere.

Hadley is saying that leaders skipping the Olympic games opening ceremony accomplishes nothing other than making such leaders look strong and engaged to their own publics. Most countries have taken “strong stances” against various nefarious Chinese policies ranging from human rights to environmental degradation, but these actions take the form of talk or publicly visible boycotts of such meaningless events as the Olympic Games and as such are merely posturing tactics for domestic media consumption in their own countries. China knows this and also knows that the same politicians will readily attend a trade convention or any other real conferencing event because not attending such events actually represents a cost to the countries involved. So we have China, ready and willing to accept a boycott of the Olympic opening ceremonies (a complete boycott of the actual games would be a different issue), continuing along its same course, not worrying a bit about what regional political leaders wish to do to make themselves look tough and decisive to their respective publics.

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