Failure as a Way of Life
The logic of lost wars and military-industrial boondoggles
By WILLIAM S. LIND • February 15, 2016
The fault line in American politics is no longer Republican vs. Democrat nor conservative vs. liberal but establishment vs. anti-establishment. This is an inevitable result of serial failure in establishment policies. Nowhere do we see this more clearly than in the establishment’s repeated military interventions abroad in wars against non-state opponents. When such interventions fail in one place—first Somalia, then Iraq, then Afghanistan, then Libya, now Syria—it does the same thing again somewhere else, with the same result…
…rely on the establishment’s wealth and power to insulate its members from the consequences of policy failure. The public schools are wretched, but the establishment’s children go to private schools. We lose wars, but the generals who lose them get promoted. The F-35 is a horrible fighter, but no member of the establishment will have to fly it. So long as the money keeps flowing, all is well.
I’d say that I didn’t really start to understand it fully until I started reading Vaclav Smil, who has written a lot about this. David Christian, in “Big History,” writes about this. It’s energy intensification, where we essentially have, through our light bulbs and cars, the manpower of [hundreds of] people working on our behalf, helping our food being created, helping our materials like steel and plastic and wood and paper be created. Our lifestyles are incredibly energy intense.
I had a lot of respect for Bill Gates before I read this. He is resting on his laurels, mailing it in. Tedious, sophomoric techno-utopian gibberish. He should go head-to-head with Elon Musk. Or just stop.
As for Mr. Trump, he remains what I said at the campaign’s outset: worse than Hitler, lacking the brains, charm, and savoir faire of the Ol’ Fuhrer, and with his darkness even more plainly visible. Even Adolf could manage to get his necktie on so that it didn’t dangle around his nutsack. I don’t mean to trivialize the difference between these two psychopaths, except to say that America will be very very sorry to follow the tune of the so-far leading Republican candidate’s pied-pipings.
Frankly, if Mr. Trump actually manages to technically snag the party’s nomination, I can imagine several consequences. One, that he will indeed succeed in destroying the party. The other leaders at the dark heart of its hierarchy will never stand for Trump. In that case, they will form a breakaway rump GOP and throw their support to Michael Bloomberg, if he decides to jump in — and he might be enough of a true patriot to do that. The less appetizing alternative consequences involve the apparatus of the runaway Deep State (NSA and the military) either bumping off Trump, or staging a coup d’état against him in the event that he manages to get elected. I’m not advocating for those outcomes, but you ought to be prepared for the possibilities.
Maybe a tad hysterical. The good news is Jim has rarely been right. I thought the GOP was already destroyed. Jim led me to believe Dubya accomplished that eight years ago. Whatever. Bloomberg? Are you kidding me?
Week Nineteen of the Russian Intervention in Syria
THE SAKER • FEBRUARY 20, 2016
From a purely military point of view, it makes absolutely no sense for the Turks to mass at the border, declare that they are about to invade, then stop, do some shelling and then only send a few little units across the border. What the Turks should have done was to covertly begin to increase the level of readiness of their forces then and then attacked as soon as Russians detected their preparations even if that meant that they would have to initiate combat operations before being fully mobilized and ready. The advantages of a surprise attack are so big that almost every other consideration has to be put aside in order to achieve it. The Turks did the exact opposite: they advertised their intentions to invade and once their forces were ready, they simply stopped at the border and began issuing completely contradictory declarations. This makes absolutely no sense at all.
What complicates this already chaotic situation is that Erdogan is clearly a lunatic and that there appears to the at least the possibility of some serious infighting between the Turkish political leaders and the military.
Furthermore, there appears to be some very bad blood between the USA and the Erdogan regime. Things got so bad that Erdogan’s chief adviser, Seref Malkoc, said that Turkey might deny the US the use of Incirlik Air Base for strikes against ISIL if the US does not name the YPG as a terrorist group. Erdogan later repudiated this statement, but the fact remains that the Turks are now directly blackmailing the USA. If Erdogan and his advisors seriously believe that they can publicly blackmail a superpower like the USA then their days are numbered. At the very least, this kind of irresponsible outbursts shows that the Turks are really crumbling under the pressure they themselves have created.
Turkey’s Convenient War
Islamist strongman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan relies on sketchily attributed terrorism to consolidate power and disrupt Syria.
By PHILIP GIRALDI • February 23, 2016
But perhaps the most telling, and chilling, incident relating to Erdogan and his intelligence service cronies is something that did not happen. Back in 2014, a secret telephone recording made by police investigating criminal activity by some family members within the government inner circle revealed that the then-prime minister had conspired with his intelligence chief Hakan Fidan and his Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to stage a false flag attack on the tomb of Turkish Sultan Suleyman Shah, which for historical reasons is located inside Syria and is guarded by Turkish soldiers. Davutoglu told Fidan “The Prime Minister [Erdogan] said that in current conjuncture, this attack (on the Suleyman Shah Tomb) must be seen as an opportunity for us.” Fidan responded “I’ll make up a cause of war by ordering a missile attack on Turkey.” In the event, the attack did not take place but if it had it might have meant killing fellow Turks to create a casus belli that would have justified massive retaliation and direct intervention in Syria.
Would Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan be willing to kill his own soldiers to create an incident that would enable him to advance his own agenda? The answer is apparently yes.
Developments in information and communication technology, he has insisted, just don’t measure up to past achievements. Specifically, he has argued that the I.T. revolution is less important than any one of the five Great Inventions that powered economic growth from 1870 to 1970: electricity, urban sanitation, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, the internal combustion engine and modern communication.
First came the Great Inventions, almost all dating from the late 19th century. Then came refinement and exploitation of those inventions — a process that took time, and exerted its peak effect on economic growth between 1920 and 1970. Everything since has at best been a faint echo of that great wave, and Gordon doesn’t expect us ever to see anything similar.
Is he right? My answer is a definite maybe.
First, he points out that genuinely major innovations normally bring about big changes in business practices, in what workplaces look like and how they function. And there were some changes along those lines between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s — but not much since, which is evidence for Gordon’s claim that the main impact of the I.T. revolution has already happened.
Second, one of the major arguments of techno-optimists is that official measures of economic growth understate the real extent of progress, because they don’t fully account for the benefits of truly new goods. Gordon concedes this point, but notes that it was always thus — and that the understatement of progress was probably bigger during the great prewar transformation than it is today.
The meaning of “stability” should be clear to anyone with a rudimentary grasp of the English language: it means not moving. In economic terms, this should mean a state where prices neither rise nor fall. Yet the Fed has been able to redefine price stability to mean prices that rise at a minimum of 2% per year. Nowhere does such a target appear in the founding documents of the Federal Reserve. But it seems as if Janet Yellen has borrowed a page from activist Supreme Court justices (unlike the late Antonin Scalia) who do not look to the original intent of the framers of the Constitution, but their own “interpretation” based on the changing political zeitgeist.
The Fed’s new Orwellian mandate is to prevent price stability by forcing price to rise 2% per year. What has historically been seen as a ceiling on price stability, that would have forced tighter policy, is now generally accepted as being a floor to perpetuate ultra-loose monetary policy. The Fed has accomplished this self-serving goal with the help of naïve economists who have convinced most that 2% inflation is a necessary component of economic growth.