Oil: the market triumphs 2

Despite all President Obama’s efforts to prevent it, the US is winning the oil game. Because no human force is stronger than the market.

The knuckleheads of the Left love to hurl the accusation in the faces of conservatives that the presidents Bush “only went to war against Iraq because of oil”. (As if they themselves would never think of driving a gas-fueled car – or would be perfectly content not to.)

The accusation is not true. But perhaps the US should have gone to war against one or more Middle Eastern powers “because of oil”.

Oil is a very good reason to go to war. Would have been, when the Saudis had OPEC hyping the oil price in 1973. The results for the US and Western Europe were dire.

This is from Wikipedia:

In October 1973, OPEC declared an oil embargo in response to the United States’ and Western Europe’s support of Israel in the Yom Kippur War of 1973. The result was a rise in oil prices from $3 per barrel to $12 and the commencement of gas rationing. Other factors in the rise in gasoline prices included a market and consumer panic reaction, the peak of oil production in the United States around 1970 and the devaluation of the U.S. dollar. U.S. gas stations put a limit on the amount of gasoline that could be dispensed, closed on Sundays, and limited the days gasoline could be purchased based on license plates.

Even after the embargo concluded, prices continued to rise. The Oil Embargo of 1973 had a lasting effect on the United States. The Federal government got involved first with President Richard Nixon recommending citizens reduce their speed for the sake of conservation, and later Congress issuing a 55 mph limit at the end of 1973. Daylight savings time was extended year round to reduce electrical use in the American home. Smaller, more fuel efficient cars were manufactured. Nixon also formed the Energy Department as a cabinet office. People were asked to decrease their thermostats to 65 degrees and factories changed their main energy supply to coal.

One of the most lasting effects of the 1973 oil embargo was a global economic recession. Unemployment rose to the highest percentage on record while inflation also spiked. Consumer interest in large gas guzzling vehicles fell and production dropped. Although the embargo only lasted a year, during that time oil prices had quadrupled and OPEC nations discovered that their oil could be used as both a political and economic weapon against other nations.

War then would have been a far better answer to the Saudis than meek acceptance buttered with sycophancy.

War and drilling. Drilling wherever there was oil in America and off-shore. Including Alaska. Ignoring the Environmentalists with their philosophy of impoverishment.

Now all is changing. The US is becoming the biggest oil producer in the world. The Saudis and the other Middle Eastern tyrannies have no resource other than the oil discovered under their ground and developed into riches for them, by the infidel. And now they are losing it.

They, and all the evil powers that have wielded oil as a weapon, are taking desperate measures. Which will fail.

This is from Investor’s Business Daily:

With Saudi Arabia ramping up oil production, prices are tumbling, and the world’s petrotyrants — Iran, Russia and Venezuela — are taking a hit. Seems the old high-price, low-production tactic isn’t foolproof.

The Saudis don’t seem to be interested in budging. As prices fell to $83 a barrel for November-delivery crude, they’ve ramped up production even as others call on them to stop.

The first call came from fiscal shambles Venezuela, for an emergency meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries [OPEC] for a production hike. They were coldly rebuffed.

And on Tuesday, Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal — a Saudi entrepreneur with a lot of non-oil money who sometimes plays gadfly to the regime — warned that the kingdom would fail to balance its own budget if oil prices went below $80. But he, too, was rebuffed.

It all may be because Saudi Arabia has a strategic need to check Iran over its nuclear program and financing of Islamic State terror and to discipline Russia for its support for the Assad regime in Syria.

It’s also almost certainly a response to the great shale revolution in the U.S., which has slashed U.S. dependency on oil exports to 20% from 60% a decade ago.

A Chilean-based entrepreneur told IBD last year that the greatest fear of Saudi Arabia’s king was America’s shale revolution, which was cutting into Saudi’s role as the world’s swing producer of oil.

However it spills out, the Saudi move to raise production may be the most dramatic move to shake events since President Reagan forced the bankruptcy of the Soviet empire by … asking the Saudis to raise production, which they did.

With this most recent move, the petrotyranny model of using oil as a weapon against smaller neighbors and the U.S. is effectively dead. Over the past decade, all of the states that have staked their futures on the power of oil have effectively burned their bridges to other models for building their economies.

When Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez took over in 1998, he scrapped that nation’s high-production, low-price, high-market-share strategy. In its place came a “model” based on high prices for consumers, low output and the expropriation of state oil company profits to pay for bigger government and an expansive welfare state, leaving the company without investment.

Foreign oil properties were also expropriated, including Exxon Mobil’s in 2007. It provided a short-term boost but left the country one of the most unattractive in the world for foreign investment and capital.

Russia, meanwhile, adopted a somewhat similar strategy after its 1998 crash. It focused on becoming a petropower, much to the detriment of the rest of the economy.

Today, more than three-quarters of Russia’s economy is oil-based, leaving it dependent on high oil prices with no balance from other sectors and wasting its most valuable asset: a well-educated workforce.

Instead of diversifying, Russia used energy as a weapon, repeatedly cutting off Ukraine’s natural gas supplies since 2009 in a bid to force its neighbor to toe the Moscow line, as well as to “Finlandize” its eastern and central European neighbors into fearing more energy cutoffs.

Then there’s Iran, whose illegal nuclear program has enjoyed soggy indifference in Europe based on the region’s dependence on Iranian oil.

These three troublemakers share one thing in common: a strategy of high oil prices and low production, plus a willingness to interfere with markets to make them into power games.

But as it turns out, that strategy was another kind of dependency. And the Saudis, egged on by the shale revolution, have just ended it.

Market manipulation is peculiar. In 1998, the Saudis tried to cut output to keep crude prices from falling further. It didn’t work. From that, they learned a valuable right lesson: Nothing is bigger than market forces.

Now, the world’s remaining petrotyrants are about to be schooled as well.

Time for a little quiet celebration. And it doesn’t have to be only a little or very quiet.

Let us crow.

Tony Blair warns that … Islam is a threat! 1

Remember Tony Blair? He was Prime Minister of Great Britain in President G.W. Bush’s era.

Well, he’s found out that Islam is a threat.

Muslim immigrants poured into Britain under his watch. But suddenly he’s discovered that it was a bad idea.

The Clarion Project reports:

Tony Blair, the Former British Prime Minister, delivered a keynote speech at Bloomberg HQ in London entitled Why the Middle East Still Matters. In it he described radical Islam as the greatest threat facing the world today.

He specifies “radical Islam”, and speaks of “Islamism”, so evading the stark fact that there is only one Islam, and that it is Islam per se that is the greatest threat facing the world today. Its armies are actively waging the jihad by terrorist tactics.

Islam is not a race or a nation. It is an ideology. But like a nation, when it goes to war, its armed forces do the fighting, not everyone born into it or adopting it.

Blair is not a clear – let alone a deep – thinker. But he has at last come to an understanding that the non-Islamic world is under attack by Islam:

Wherever you look – from Iraq to Libya to Egypt to Yemen to Lebanon to Syria and then further afield to Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan – this is the essential battle.

Addressing those who regard these conflicts as distinct he said:

There is something frankly odd about the reluctance to accept what is so utterly plain: that they have in common a struggle around the issue of the rightful place of religion, and in particular Islam, in politics.

Not a good way of putting it. No Reagan-like plain speaking, let alone any felicitous Churchillian phrasing.

Yes, in all those countries Muslims fighting the Islamic jihad are engaged in the same “struggle”. But it would be hard to find a jihadi who would say that his “strugge” is “around the issue of the rightful place of religion, in particular Islam, in politics”.

Blair means that they are fighting a religious war, and he doesn’t think that religion should be a political issue. Religion has a “rightful place”, and it is not on a battlefield. He seems to have the thought swimming round in the shallows of his mind that religious wars are not the thing nowadays; that wars are fought in modern times over up-to-date political differences. (And that implies that he doesn’t see Nazism and Communism as the religions they most certainly are.)

He does see that the war is global.

He argued that this struggle does not end at the borders of the region. Rather, “The reason this matters so much is that this ideology is exported around the world.”

He asked listeners to “Take a step back and analyze the world today: with the possible exception of Latin America (leaving aside Hezbollah in the tri-border area in South America), there is not a region of the world not adversely affected by Islamism and the ideology is growing.”

Bravo, Blair! You have seen that the battle is also being fought by immigration, propaganda, and intense proselytizing:

He notes that:

The Muslim population in Europe is now over 40million and growing. The Muslim Brotherhood and other organizations are increasingly active and they operate without much investigation or constraint. Recent controversy over schools in Birmingham (and similar allegations in France) show heightened levels of concern about Islamist penetration of our own societies.

He gets better still:

The main thrust of the speech focused on “two fascinating things.”

The first is the absolutely rooted desire on the part of Western commentators to analyze these issues as disparate rather than united by common elements. They go to extraordinary lengths to say why, in every individual case, there are multiple reasons for understanding that this is not really about Islam, it is not really about religion; there are local or historic reasons which explain what is happening. There is a wish to eliminate the obvious common factor in a way that is almost wilful. …

The second thing is that there is a deep desire to separate the political ideology represented by groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood from the actions of extremists including acts of terrorism.

He acknowledged the motivation behind these fears, saying “We feel almost that if we identify it in these terms, we’re being anti-Muslim, a sentiment on which the Islamists cleverly play.”

And then he gets almost very good:

Blair swept these distinctions aside, acknowledging the laudable motives behind such interpretations, but ultimately pinpointing the profound danger posed by the Islamist ideology, and that it is fundamentally incompatible with the modern world.

He urged the West and indeed the entire world, to unite against the ideology Islamic extremism.

It’s a speech that may help to wake up European leaders. Though it has its weakness, and the columnist Douglas Murray, clear-sighted as always, put his finger on it:  

Douglas Murray argued in the Spectator that Blair went too far in his efforts to brand Islamism as disconnected from Islam and called on moderate Muslims to help combat radicalism by driving extremists from their communities.

Blair came on to suggesting what might be done about the profound danger he’d identified:

Blair outlined potential foreign policy options for the West vis-a-vis various Middle Eastern countries in order to combat Islamists and to support religiously open and tolerant elements.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any – there cannot be any – “open and tolerant elements” among Muslims. Unless they are Muslims-in-name-only. (MINOs?)

In particular he focused on Egypt saying:

On the fate of Egypt hangs the future of the region. Here we have to understand plainly what happened. The Muslim Brotherhood government was not simply a bad government. It was systematically taking over the traditions and institutions of the country. The revolt of 30 June 2013 was not an ordinary protest. It was the absolutely necessary rescue of a nation.

All of these different policies are facets of the same policy:

Across the region we should be standing steadfast by our friends and allies as they try to change their own countries in the direction of reform. Whether in Jordan or the Gulf where they’re promoting the values of religious tolerance and open, rule based economies, or taking on the forces of reaction in the shape of Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood, we should be supporting and assisting them.

Hmm. Right about the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt having to be overthrown. Wrong about the West having friends and allies among Arab and other Muslim countries. None want reform of a kind that would turn them into reliable friends and allies.

Perhaps this statement by Blair sums up the message of his keynote speech best: “When we consider the defining challenges of our time, surely this one should be up there along with the challenge of the environment or economic instability.”

It’s his saying “up there with the challenge of the environment” that shows how his mind is still murky with leftist pollution. But for a leftist to put Islam “up there” with climate change is an admirable advance. He deserves loud and quite long applause. Even more so if his speech encourages other European politicians to start facing the truth: that war is being waged on their countries by the barbarous hordes of Islam.

The Clarion Project does not report the last paragraph of the speech. Blair ended with this:

Consider for a moment since 9/11 how our world has changed, how in a myriad of different ways from the security measures we now take for granted to the arenas of conflict that have now continued over a span of years, there is a price being paid in money, life and opportunity for millions. This is not a conventional war. It isn’t a struggle between super powers or over territory. But it is real. It is fearsome in its impact. It is growing in its reach. It is a battle about belief and about modernity. It is important because the world through technology and globalisation is pushing us together across boundaries of faith and culture. Unaddressed, the likelihood of conflict increases.

Applause, applause. But then:

Engagement does not always mean military involvement. Commitment does not mean going it alone. But it does mean stirring ourselves. It does mean seeing the struggle for what it is. It does mean taking a side and sticking with it.

While it is true that military engagement alone won’t stop Islam’s subjugation of the West, and that the West needs to stir itself, and that every European country should side against Islam, if there is going to be reluctance to use military force at all, the war will be much harder to win. Perhaps he knows this, but feels it necessary to acknowledge – as he does – that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken away the West’s appetite for war.

The full text of the speech can be found here. Those who read it will find that Blair erroneously believes – or at least says – that Islam has a “true message” which “Islamists” distort. And that he praises Secretary of State John Kerry for his (absurd) attempt at yet another Israeli-Palestinian “peace process” and thinks his “commitment has not been in vain”. (It has been, and could not have been anything else.)

So – two cheers for Mr Blair. And let’s hope his speech stirs up the dhimmis of Europe to start resisting the onslaught of Islam.

Obama’s shattering success 3

In just five years, Barack Obama has succeeded in crippling the American economy and shattering the world order under the Pax Americana.

Americans feel the grave economic effects of his domestic policies more immediately and urgently, but it is the shattering of the world order that will ultimately change their lives for the worse.

President Vladimir Putin found that “he could  annex Crimea without firing a single bullet”. He has good reason to think that “he will later be able to do the same with the rest of Ukraine”. But he will probably “wait until the situation worsens and the impotence of the United States and Europe becomes even more obvious”.

That is part of the picture of the crumbling world order, described here by Professor Guy Millière (of the University of Paris), at Gatestone.

[Putin] apparently considers that he has in front of him a weak and declining America. And the general demeanor of the present U.S. administration tends to prove him right. The United States seem in full retreat. U.S. military budgets continue to fall. For the last five years, Barack Obama spoke of “ending” the wars in which the U.S. was involved, and he depends on Russia’s cooperation for further negotiations with Iran, for dismantling chemical weapons in Syria, and for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Putin doubtless thinks that Obama will not enter into an open conflict with Russia. Sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States are insignificant, and Putin has every reason to think they will not increase. …

[He] evidently considers Europe even weaker than America. The way European leaders speak and act shows that he is not wrong. For decades, Western European countries relied on the U.S. defense umbrella; none of them today has an army capable of doing more than extremely limited operations. Their foreign policy positions converge with the Obama administration positions. They all have deep economic and financial links with Russia and cannot break these links. The UK needs the Russian capital invested in the City of London. France cannot cancel its Russian warship contract without having to close its shipyards in Saint Nazaire, and without being confronted with major social conflicts. Germany could not survive long without Russian oil and natural gas. Overall, Russia provides thirty percent of the natural gas consumed in Western Europe. Putin apparently thinks that Europe will not enter into an open conflict with Russia. …

Either the West will stand up to Putin, and it will have to do it fast, or Putin will win. Obviously, Europe will not stand up. Polls indicate that Americans are turning sharply toward isolationism.

Showing his view of the situation, Obama recently said that Russia is nothing but a “regional power”, acting “out of weakness”.

What is Russia’s “region”?

Russia covers ten time zones and has borders with Europe, the Muslim Middle East, China, North Korea, and Alaska.

Yes, Russia has a common border with the United States. The US is in its region.  

If massing troops on the borders of Ukraine and annexing Crimea are signs of “weakness,” by its evident impotence, America appears even weaker.

Will Putin be content with annexing Crimea, or even the whole of Ukraine?

Several plebiscites have been held since 2006 in Transnistria, a strip of land between Ukraine and Moldova, and each of them has indicated a willingness to join Russia. Estonia includes a large Russian minority, and Russian leaders in Moscow speak of the need to “protect” the Russian population of Estonia.

Estonia is a member of NATO. If Russia were to attack it, NATO, according to Article 5 of its charter, should defend it with prompt military action. But would it?  NATO’s military power is America’s military power. Under Obama,what chance is there that America would go to war in Europe?

The world order built after the Second World War was shaped by America. For almost five decades, its goal was to contain Soviet expansion. In the late 1980s, the Soviet empire collapsed, and another phase began: an arrangement in which America would keep the peace and assure the survival of liberty.

America has apparently abrogated that responsibility.

And if Russia is not deterred, other powers will be encouraged to advance their interests abroad by force.

Rogue leaders around the world are watching and drawing their own conclusions.

[The Iranian Ayatollah] Khamenei sees no reason to stop saying that America is the “Great Satan” and that Israel has to be wiped off the map. China sees no reason to hide its intention to occupy the Senkaku/Diyaoyu Islands. Last week, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un fired six missiles into the sea of Japan. [President] Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela reaffirmed its alliance with Russia and positioned Russian missiles in Caracas.

Guy Millière predicts that the chaos will increase and speed up. He sees disaster coming fast.

If we do not see the Ukraine as a warning signal, we could quickly discover that life could now easily enter the state of nature in Hobbes’s Leviathan: [solitary, poor,] nasty, brutish and short.

Russia sniffing under the door 1

Ukraine is a far away country of which we know nothing, and Democrats and libertarians can see no reason why Americans should care if Russia swallows it.

But Americans need to take notice that Russia is also sniffing under the door of their homeland.

This is from Front Page by Joseph Klein.

Russia is also on the march far from its immediate neighborhood and much closer to the United States. According to Gen. James Kelly, commander of U.S. Southern Command, who discussed his concerns regarding the increased presence of Russia in Latin America at a Senate hearing earlier this month, there has been a “noticeable uptick in Russian power projection and security force personnel. It has been over three decades since we last saw this type of high-profile Russian military presence.”

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced last month plans to build military bases in ..  Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua

Russia is already a major arms supplier to Venezuela, whose navy has conducted joint maneuvers with Russian ships. At least four Russian Navy ships visited Venezuela last August …

“Two Russian Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers flew last October from an airbase in southwestern Russia and landed in Venezuela in routine exercise,” Russia’s Defense Ministry announced …  “The nuclear-capable bombers, which took off from the Engels airbase in the Volga region, flew over the Caribbean, the eastern Pacific and along the southwestern coast of the North American continent, and landed at Maiquetia airfield in Venezuela.”

Nicolas Maduro, the President of Venezuela, is so enamored of Putin that he expressed support last year for the Russian president to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. During a visit to Moscow by Maduro last summer, Maduro and Putin reaffirmed, in Putin’s words, “their wish for continuing their course towards strategic cooperation in all sectors”. 

Putin was the first Russian president to visit Cuba since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Pravda quoted Putin as declaring in 2012 that Russia gained the consent of the Cuban leadership to place “the latest mobile strategic nuclear missiles ‘Oak’ on the island”, supposedly as a brush back against U.S. actions to create a buffer zone near Russia.

Last month, according to a report by Fox News Latino, “the intelligence-gathering ship Viktor Leonov docked in Havana’s harbor without warning”. It was reportedly armed with 30mm guns and anti-aircraft missiles.

Left-wing Argentinian President Cristina Fernández is intent on forging closer relations with Russia, inviting Russia to invest in fuel projects. In return for Russia’s support of Argentina’s quest to annex the Falkland Islands, Fernández supported Putin’s grab of Crimea. Crimea “has always belonged to Russia,” she said, just as the Falkland Islands have “always belonged to Argentina”.  …

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa praised Russia as a “great nation” during a visit to Moscow last October after Putin pledged to invest up to $1.5 billion into new domestic energy projects in Ecuador. Correa said Ecuador was also interested in buying Russian military equipment.

Brazil is planning to purchase short-to-medium-range surface-to-air Pantsir S1 missile batteries and Igla-S shoulder-held missiles from Russia. It has already bought 12 Mi-35 attack helicopters. This is all part of what Brazil views as a growing strategic relationship with Russia, as Brazil leads efforts to counter U.S. electronic surveillance that included alleged spying on Brazilian citizens. …

After Daniel Ortega, the leader of the Sandinista revolution, returned to power in Nicaragua in 2007, Russia and Nicaragua have moved in the direction of a strategic economic and military relationship. In October 2013, for example, Nicaragua and Russia signed a memorandum of international security cooperation. Russia’s Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev noted during his visit to Nicaragua that “Nicaragua is an important partner and friend of Russia in Latin America,” pointing to the coincidence of views of the two countries’ authorities “on many issues”.  For his part, Ortega said: “We are very grateful and very much appreciate the Russian people’s support of our country.” Ortega welcomed the arrival of two Russian strategic bombers Tupolev Tu-160. …

Nicaragua’s parliament has ratified a cabinet resolution allowing Russian military divisions, ships and aircraft to visit the republic during the first half of 2014 for experience sharing and training of military personnel … Furthermore, the parliament has approved the participation of Russian military personnel in joint patrols of the republic’s territorial waters in the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean from January 1 through June 30, 2015.

Russia is also forging a closer relationship with El Salvador, which has been led by the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) that arose out of a left-wing guerrilla movement from the country’s 1979-1992 civil war. Leftist ex-guerrilla Sanchez Ceren has just won the presidential election. He can be expected to build on the Federal Law On Ratification of the Agreement on the Foundations of Relations between the Russian Federation and the Republic of El Salvador, signed by Vladimir Putin in November 2012. It was the first interstate agreement between the two countries since they established diplomatic relations in 1992. In fact, given Ceren’s background – one of five top guerrilla commanders during the civil war that left 76,000 dead and over 12,000 missing – we can expect a more avowedly anti-U.S. government that will welcome Russia’s outstretched arms. After all, the FMLN leadership during the civil war described its own ideology as “Marxism-Leninism”.

Has Putin ever renounced the Marxist-Leninist ideology of the KGB, in which he served? He thinks the fall of the Soviet Union was a great tragedy, so the answer is “probably not”. But we guess that his main reason for regretting the passing of the USSR is that it was, or seemed to be for the greater part of some 70 years, a mighty power, and he is more concerned with extending Russian power again, recreating a Russian empire, than with the old failed Bolshevik ideology. South American leftist leaders may want to cozy up to Putin because they enjoy the Gemütlichkeit of a shared love of Communism, and he is obviously happy to have them hug him for any reason, but his motive in exploiting their sentimental friendship is to achieve imperial ends. He probably hates the fact that the West won the Cold War. He surely cannot hope to reverse that outcome. It would be an insane dream – if the US were not under the presidency of Barack Obama. Putin – and Iran, and China – can do a lot of damage to the world and the US in the three years left of Obama’s feeble leadership.

Ending the pax Americana 2

We are in principle against intervention in the internal affairs of other countries. But we are not for isolationism or pacifism – we regard either philosophy as a formula for national suicide. If other countries become belligerent, build up their armed strength, send their warships towards our shores, establish bases in countries on our borders, and declare their aggressive intentions towards us, the politics of those countries become our business. That is happening now. We are under threat – because Obama is deliberately weakening America. And his reaction to the result is to weaken America even more.

The conditions for major war develop much more easily when the U.S. is too weak. They are developing as we speak. 

To a meaningful extent, the significant increase we’ve seen in unrest around the globe since 2010 has been made possible, and inevitable, by the retraction of American power. Even where we still have power in place, it has become increasingly obvious that we aren’t going to use it. 

We quote from a website interestingly named Liberty Unyielding. The article on the extreme folly of the Obama administration’s moves to weaken America is by Commander Jennifer Dyer, now retired from the US navy. (Her own blog is at Theoptimisticconservative.wordpress.com):

The collapse of order in the Arab nations in 2011 was the first significant stage of the process. The perception that the United States would do nothing about a Hezbollah coup in Lebanon was tested in January of that year. The perception proved to be true, and when protests erupted in Tunisia and Egypt, for causes both natural and manufactured, a set of radical Islamist actors – the “establishment” Muslim Brotherhood, Sunni jihadists, Iran – saw an opportunity. The establishment Muslim Brotherhood has largely won out in Tunisia, but the battle still rages among these radical actors for Egypt, Syria, and now Iraq. Lebanon is being incrementally sucked into the maelstrom as well.

In multiple venues, Russia has watched the U.S. and the West effectively back Islamists in Russia’s “near abroad”: in Turkey (with support for the now struggling Erdogan government); in the Balkans, especially Bosnia and Kosovo; and in Syria. …

There was a time when the implicit determination of the U.S. to enforce the “Pax Americana” order – the post-World War II alignments of the region – held Russia in check. The Russians still derived some security benefit from that order, after all … It appears to me, however, that 2014 will be the year in which it becomes clear that, according to Russians’ perception, they no longer benefit from the old order. If we’re not going to enforce it, Russia will do what she thinks she has to.

In fact, Moscow’s pushback against the plan for Ukraine to affiliate with the EU constitutes just such a blow for perceived Russian interests. It is of supreme importance for Westerners to not misread the recent developments. The EU and the U.S. did back down when Russia pushed hard last fall. The only ones who didn’t back down were the Ukrainian opposition. I predict Vladimir Putin will try to handle the opposition factions cleverly, as much as he can, and avoid a pitched battle with them if possible. He respects what they are willing to do. But he has no reason to respect Brussels or Washington.

And that means he has more latitude, not less, for going after the regional props to the old order, one by one. As always, Russia’s inevitable competition with China is a major driver, along with Russia’s concern about Islamism on her southern border. The whole Great Crossroads – Southwest Asia, Southeast Europe, Northeast Africa, the waterways that snake through the region – is, if not up for grabs, at least in ferment. Look wherever you like: there are almost no nations where there is not a very present menace from radicalism, or where governments and even borders are not gravely imperiled by internal dissent.

Israel is the chief standout for politically sustainable stability and continuity. Romania and Turkey seem likely to at least retain their constitutional order in the foreseeable future, but Turkey’s geopolitical orientation, in particular, is less certain. Greece and Kosovo – even Bosnia – have serious internal problems. Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia all remain in crisis at various levels. Jordan and Saudi Arabia are relatively stable, and the Arab Persian Gulf states relatively so as well. But their neighborhood is going downhill fast. Iran is riding a wave of radical confidence, and the Taliban are resurgent in Afghanistan.

In this tumultuous region, it’s actually a little funny that Pakistan looks stable and staid compared to Iran, Afghanistan, and neighbors west. We can hope that Islamabad’s perceived need to maintain a symmetrical stance against India will keep Pakistan’s loose federation of intransigents federated, and the nukes under central control. But as we move across South Asia, we near another boiling pot. Thailand – long an American ally and pillar of stability in the region – has been rocked in recent months by national unrest of a kind not seen in Southeast Asia for decades. Islamist radicalism is a growing threat in Indonesia, and an unpacified one in the Philippines, after more than a decade of U.S.-Philippines collaboration in fighting it.

And, of course, China is making real, transformative moves against regional security with her proclamations about air space and maritime rights off her southeast coast.

This disruptive process, like the battles for many of the Arab nations, is already underway. We’re not waiting for something to happen; it’s started.

China assumes, quite correctly, that there will be no effective pushback from the United States. But two other nations with power and means will regard it as intolerable for China to dictate conditions in Southeast Asia: Japan and Russia. The dance of realignment among these nations has implications for everyone in Central Asia and the Far East. The day may be on the horizon sooner than we think when maintaining a divided Korea no longer makes sense to at least one of the major players. The day is already here when Chinese activities in Central Asia are alarming the whole neighborhood, just as Chinese actions are in the South China Sea. …

Russia and Iran are advancing on the US through Central America:

It’s no accident that as radical leftism creeps across Central America (falsely laying claim to a noble “Bolivarian” political mantle), the maritime dispute between Nicaragua and American ally Colombia heats up – and Russia shows up to back Nicaragua and Venezuela – and so does Iran – and unrest turns into shooting and government brutality and violence in Venezuela – and Hezbollah shows up there to openly support the radical, repressive Maduro government.

Now Iran has a naval supply ship headed for Central America, very possibly with a cargo of arms that are not only prohibited by UN sanction, but capable of reaching the United States if launched from a Central American nation or Cuba.

We’re not still waiting for the shocks to start to the old order. They’ve already started. I haven’t surveyed even the half of what there is to talk about …

She looks at the latest defense cuts with dismay and considers what the consequences will be:

This is the world in which the United States plans to reduce our army to its lowest level since before World War II, and eliminate or put in storage much of its capabilities for heavy operations abroad (e.g., getting rid of the A-10 Warthogs, moving Blackhawk helicopters into the National Guard). It’s in this world that DOD proposes to cease operating half of our Navy cruisers, while delaying delivery of the carrier-based F-35 strike-fighter to the Navy and Marine Corps. These cutbacks come on top of cuts already made to training and maintenance expenditures in the Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force that will affect unit readiness for years to come. …

Then comes what should be a shocking observation:

By cutting back on defense so drastically, America is deciding, in essence, to “fight fair”: to give whatever opponents emerge more of a chance to kill our soldiers, damage our interests, and drag out conflicts.

That would be hard to believe of any American leadership – until now. It is ludicrous. Worse, it is lunatic. But Obama has never concealed or disguised his wish to weaken America’s military capacity.

The decision “to further limit our capabilities to use power in politically relevant ways” will result in “even more global unrest: more conflict, more shooting, more blood, more extortion and political thuggery menacing civil life in the world’s poorer and more vulnerable nations”, and that cannot be good for America. The point is that -

These unpleasant trends will spill over into civil life in the wealthier nations soon enough

As it has, she points out, in Ukraine, Thailand, and Venezuela, “whether directly or through second-order consequences”.

Peace and freedom have to be tended constantly; they are not the natural state of geopolitical indiscipline, but its antithesis. …

We’re extraordinarily unprepared for the world that is shaping up around us. …

[And] a world that doesn’t want quiescent trade conditions, tolerance of dissent, the open flow of ideas, and mutual agreements, peacefully arrived at, will not have them.

That’s the world we are sentencing ourselves, for now, to live in. Perhaps we will learn from the consequences how to think again: about what it takes to guard freedom, and indeed, about what freedom actually is. 

It is Obama who needs to think again, but there is no reason to hope that he will. It could hardly be more obvious that he does not care for freedom.

The Communist zombie rises 0

The Left, as a whole, in the Western World, has become far more extreme in this century than it was in the last. The Socialist and “Conservative” parties of Europe, the Democratic Party of America, the universities everywhere, the media and the film industries, book publishers, song writers, judiciaries, and a slightly varying half of the voters in almost all Western countries, are predominantly of one opinion, consciously or semi-consciously, articulately or silently, that Marx and Lenin, and even (though their names may be spoken a shade more sotto voce) Stalin and Mao, were right.

This is from Front Page, by Vladimir Tismaneanu:

It has become fashionable among leftist circles to invoke a return to Lenin, to radicalism, to utopia. Among those who advocate such imperatives to “retest the communist hypothesis” one can count French philosopher Alain Badiou, a former admirer of the Khmer Rouge, and Slovene thinker, Slavoj Zizek, the new idol of Western university campuses, subject of documentary hagiographic movies, and prophet of a new phantasmagoric world revolution.

To know more about Slavoj Zizek, see our post Red alert, January 21, 2009. And to get the flavor of the man, watch the video at the foot of this post.

Did the partisans of such positions ever stop to think how it would sound a call for “retesting the Nazi hypothesis”? One must be totally oblivious to history, an incurable cynic, in order to ignore the fact that Leninism, just like National-Socialism, means political terrorism, the apotheosis of fanatical partisanship, the boundless cult of violence and nihilism, etc. In short, Leninism presupposes … the destruction of the inner man. Leninism is theoretical and practical anti-humanism.

‘The inner man” in this context means the individual for himself alone, not as a unit of “society”.

There have been conferences and symposia where Lenin is presented, in an academic context and without any trace of compassion for the millions of victims of “the great experiment”, as the philosopher of the break with an order putatively condemned by history.

The “order putatively condemned by history” is of course capitalism, or the free market. Those who condemn it and praise “the great [Communist] experiment” have not noticed that the free market has brought widespread prosperity wherever it has been allowed to, or that Lenin’s experiment, the miserable Soviet Union, failed and fell and lost the Cold War.

All in all, it is unsurprising that the prophets of violence worship Lenin. What is surprising is that intellectuals, who should have learnt from the catastrophes of the 20th century, are engaged in an endeavor driven by  programmatic irresponsibility. It is simply shocking that in countries where the Leninist model was implemented, one can still read and hear hymns honoring the architect of a criminal system.

Should we be amazed by all this? What could one expect from the epigones of Georg Lukacs, the Marxist philosopher who declared … that he preferred the worst form of socialism to the best incarnation of capitalism. …

Georg Lukacs was the Hungarian Commissar, and philosopher of drama and art, on whom Jillian Becker’s character L is based in her novel L: A Novel History.

Real history does not matter for such sectarians. What does matter is the dogma to which they are faithful in total disregard of reality. … It is quite telltale that one of Hugo Chavez’s intellectual heroes was Istvan Meszaros, one of Lukacs’s former students who … has remained a flaming Marxist, faithful to the dialectical sophistries of his mentor.

An excellent example of such world-view is a recent memoir by a Romanian Marxist intellectual, Ion Ianosi, who happened to be deeply involved for long stretches of time in the ideologization of the country’s culture during communism. The volume’s title is My International. Some critics glorify the book as testimony of heartfelt sincerity. What is missing in those more than 800 pages is an honest analysis of Bolshevism as justification of social genocide. Ion Ianosi seemingly excels on topics such as “Marx and Art”, “Lenin and Art”, pretty much the same fields for which his expertise was called upon during his activity within the Romanian communist party’s Agitprop. But Ianosi shies away from trying his expert pen on topics such as the crimes against humanity inspired by the Marxist-Leninist ideology.

Even before the Bolsheviks’ coming into power, it was clear that Lenin was a fanatical propagandist, a utopian ideologue fixated on social purity and purification, an heir to Robespierre and St. Just, but no philosopher. Philosophy implies doubt and Lenin was the man without doubts. …

Lenin was the practitioner of a simplistic, partisan, and exclusivist philosophy. He rejected emphatically any possibility for a middle path, of a tertium datur between what he called “bourgeois ideology” and the “proletarian” one.

We at TAC are all for “bourgeois ideology”, if the bourgeoisie as such – the successful middle class – can be said to have such a dusty thing as an ideology. We value the middle class, anyway, above the others, because out of it has come almost every one of those men (and handful of women) who have advanced our civilization and augmented the glory of our culture in the last five hundred years. (Though also most of those who’ve done our civilization the worst harm, such as Marx, Lenin, Lukacs …)

Lenin’s Manichaeism [bourgeois bad, proletarian good] was inexorable. For Lenin and his followers, ideas were (are) always the manifestation of class interests. … This is the meaning of a notion essential for the Leninist conception about ideas, ideologies and philosophical consciousness: partiinost – partisanship, class position, militant commitment, total and abject subordination to the party line.

Leninism is a revolutionary doctrine that sanctifies political violence and condemns entire social categories to state-engineered extinction. It is … rooted in the visceral contempt for the rule of law, legality, and the universality of human rights. “Back to Lenin” means a return to barbarism, blindness, and murder.

We are not enamored of the phrase “human rights”. We prefer to speak of human freedom, which we suppose is what Professor Tismaneanu, who has lived under Communism in Romania, probably means.

Now here’s Slavoj Zizek. He starts at about the 2 minute mark. Don’t expect to be rewarded for over 15 minutes of  paying attention with any impressive ideas. He says nothing much, but with strong emphasis, and what he does say is notably wrong. For instance, that Norway is intolerant of immigrants! (Go here to test this notion, and to any other of Bruce Bawer’s numerous articles on the same subject.) He thinks the major political groupings in Europe are now the “capitalist anti-immigrants” on one side and the [Islamic] immigrants on the other. (Would it were so! ) He calls himself a Leftist, though oddly declaring that in America there is “an excess of  anti-capitalism”; calls Fox News “the enemy”; and implies that the worst problem facing mankind is … you guessed it … global-warming.

Death of a despot 1

The death of Venezuela’s despot Hugo Chavez was announced yesterday, but rumor has it that he died a week ago on the morning of Wednesday February 27, 2013.

This is from Front Page, by Matthew Vadum. He makes a comparison between Chavez and Obama, to the advantage of neither:

Barack Obama’s less media-savvy comrade Hugo Chavez is finally dead.

Venezuela’s Vice President, Nicolas Maduro, announced that the communist tyrant died yesterday after seeking medical treatment from the quacks and bunglers laughingly referred to as the Cuban health care system. Hidden away from the public for months, Chavez, whose election in 1999 sparked a leftist revival throughout Latin America, may have actually died some time ago.

Chavez will be remembered not only for his fanaticism and brutality but also for his effective use of the same Saul Alinsky-inspired community organizing techniques now relied on by President Barack Obama.

Both men hate capitalism. Chavez called capitalism “savagery,” while the smoother Obama tries to be more upbeat, speaking of the need to spread wealth.

Both men are champions of gun control, social engineering, and unlimited governmental power.

Both hate America (to varying degrees) and both utilize mobs to harass and intimidate their enemies.

Obama has used union goons, ACORN members, and his personal tax-exempt Alinskyite army, Organizing for Action (formerly Organizing for America), against his adversaries.

Chavez, who habitually used the rhetoric of class warfare, funded a network of violent, government-armed “Bolivarian Circles,” similar to Cuba’s Committees for the Defense of the Revolution. In order to identify citizens worthy of governmental persecution, the neighborhood-based militias reported on Venezuelans deemed to lack the requisite enthusiasm for Marxism. Like Hitler’s Sturmabteilung (SA), these groups broke up opposition meetings by force.

Chavez intimidated the private media by openly threatening and harassing independent media outlets. He also introduced a requirement that journalists be licensed. Obama doesn’t need to keep the media in line because they already worship him.

While Obama has been busy installing senior government officials such as Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel who lack the ability to understand the Islamofascist threat, Chavez allowed America’s terrorist enemies to set up shop in his country.

A big supporter of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Chavez permitted Iran-funded Hezbollah and the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas to open offices in Venezuela’s capital, Caracas.

Vadum might have added the shared antisemitism of the two men. Obama works against the survival of the Jewish state. Chavez openly encouraged persecution of Venezuelan Jews.

This is from the National Review, by John Fund:

One of the “hero” myths being created around Chávez is that he was elected democratically four times. …

But Chávez was a democrat the way that Mafia enforcers were policemen in neighborhoods they controlled. If you didn’t cooperate and pay tribute to them, you would regret it. He ruled through fear, intimidation, and subversion of the country’s institutions.

Merely allowing people to line up at polling stations every six years did not make Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela democratic. Nor will the snap election that must be called within 30 days to choose Chávez’s successor necessarily be free or fair. If Nicholas Maduro, the man Chávez hand-picked to take over after his death, wants to demonstrate Venezuela is running a legitimate election, let him first invite back the international election observers of whom Hugo Chávez was so frightened.

And this is from the Miami Herald:

Hugo Chávez’s folksy charm and forceful personality made him an extraordinary politician. His enviable ability to win a mass following allowed him to build a powerful political machine that kept him in office from February of 1999 until his death on Tuesday. But as a national leader, he was an abject failure who plunged Venezuela into a political and economic abyss.

Dead at 58, Hugo Chávez leaves behind a country in far worse condition than it was when he became president, its future clouded by rivals for succession in a constitutional crisis of his Bolivarian party’s making and an economy in chaos. …

Mr. Chávez had a radical vision for “21st Century Socialism” … His skillful rhetoric, which filled supporters with utopian dreams, was used to justify the methodical destruction of Venezuela’s democratic institutions and the free market. …

[He] aggressively set out to rig elections and stifle adversaries in the legislative branch and the courts. Unable to brook criticism, he turned his fire on the independent news media, eventually silencing most voices of opposition by bully tactics and economic intimidation.

His Bolivarian regime rewarded supporters and punished opponents, giving rise to enormous corruption and the creation of a new class of greedy oligarchs with political connections. …

Whatever happens now in Venezuela, his demise will have some good effects in the wider world:

On the international front, Mr. Chávez eagerly accepted Fidel Castro as his mentor, providing Cuba with cut-rate oil and making common cause with Iran and other rogue regimes. His departure leaves the anti-American front leaderless on a hemispheric level and could eventually threaten the subsidy that Cuba relies on to keep its economy barely functioning.

Ed Driscoll at PJ Media has collected opinions on the dead dictator. He includes a Statement From Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter on the Death of Hugo Chavez, from which we quote:

“Rosalynn and I … came to know a man who expressed a vision to bring profound changes to his country to benefit especially those people who had felt neglected and marginalized. Although we have not agreed with all of the methods followed by his government, we have never doubted Hugo Chávez’s commitment to improving the lives of millions of his fellow countrymen.”

He may have been “committed” to improving the lives of those who felt neglected and “marginalized” (a Leftist buzzword that, by the way), but he did not improve the lives of most Venezuelans. Quite the contrary. His economic policy so devalued the currency that the poor were made poorer. But that seems not to be recognized by his numerous and passionate fans, including the poor of Venezuela.

Driscoll goes on to quote other opinions on the Left –

Such as the Nation, which really beclowns itself:

“Chávez was a strongman. He packed the courts, hounded the corporate media, legislated by decree and pretty much did away with any effective system of institutional checks or balances. But I’ll be perverse and argue that the biggest problem Venezuela faced during his rule was not that Chávez was authoritarian but that he wasn’t authoritarian enough. It wasn’t too much control that was the problem but too little.”

“I’m what they call a useful idiot when it comes to Hugo Chávez,” the writer actually adds. And how.

But hey, that’s the far left Nation. The neutral, objective, totally without bias Washington Post wouldn’t fall for such radical chic nonsense, would they?

Yes, of course they would: “Wash Post’s Eugene Robinson Appears on MSNBC to Praise ‘Quick,’ ‘Popular,’ Funny Hugo Chavez.”

And to think I was being ironic a couple of years ago when I titled a post “Studying the Washington Post Kremlinologist-Style.” …

Sean Penn has a sad:

“Today the people of the United States lost a friend it never knew it had. And poor people around the world lost a champion,” says Penn in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter…

Meanwhile, “NBCNews.com Mourns Chavez: Who Will Become Region’s ‘Voice of Socialism and Anti-Americanism?’”

Which prompts Driscoll to ask –

Isn’t that NBC’s job, or don’t they get that network on the cable feed down there?

US foreign policy 4

Should America intervene in other countries when, for instance, a tyrant is mowing down thousands of his own people? Is it in America’s interest to transform despotisms and anarchic states into democracies – as the neoconservatives believe? Or should America ignore what is happening in the world at large unless it is directly threatened – as the isolationists believe?

Caroline Glick writes at Townhall:

In truth, the dominant foreign policy in the Republican Party, and to a degree, in American society as a whole is neither neoconservativism nor isolationism.

It is, she argues, what may be called Jacksonianism, after Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the US.

What are the essential ideas of Jacksonian foreign policy?

The US is different from the rest of the world and therefore the US should not try to remake the world in its own image by claiming that everyone is basically the same.

The US must ensure its honor abroad by abiding by its commitments and standing with its allies.

The US must take action to defend its interests.

The US must fight to win or not fight at all. The US should only respect those foes that fight by the same rules as the US does.

President Ronald Reagan, she says, “hewed closest to these basic guidelines in recent times”.

Reagan fought Soviet influence in Central America everywhere he could and with whomever he could find … exploited every opportunity to weaken the Soviet Union in Europe … deployed Pershing short-range nuclear warheads in Western Europe … called the Soviet Union an evil empire … began developing the Strategic Defense Initiative. And he walked away from an arms control agreement when he decided it was a bad deal for the US.

Throughout his presidency, Reagan never shied away from trumpeting American values. To the contrary, he did so regularly. However, unlike the neoconservatives, Reagan recognized that … the very notion that values trumped all represented a fundamental misunderstanding of US interests and the nature and limits of US power.

What would be the foreign policy of a Jacksonian president  now?  She takes one example, the revolutionary upheavals in the Arab lands:

He or she would understand that supporting elections that are likely to bring a terror group like Hamas or Hezbollah into power is not an American interest … that toppling a pro-American dictator like Mubarak in favor of a mob is not sound policy if the move is likely to bring an anti-American authoritarian successor regime to power … that using US power to overthrow a largely neutered US foe like Gaddafi in favor of a suspect opposition movement is not a judicious use of US power. Indeed, a Jacksonian president would recognize that it would be far better to expend the US’s power to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad — an open and active foe of the US and so influence the identity of a post-Assad government.

In her view, neoconservative policy was fine in theory, but in practice it brought unwanted consequences:

Broadly speaking, neoconservatives argue that the US should always side with populist forces against dictatorships. While these ideas may be correct in theory, in practice the consequence of Bush’s adoption of the neoconservative worldview was the empowerment of populist and popular jihadists and Iranian allies throughout the Middle East at the expense of US allies.

Hamas won the Palestinian Authority elections in 2006. Its electoral victory paved the way for its military takeover of Gaza in 2007.

Hezbollah’s participation in Lebanon’s 2005 elections enabled the Iranian proxy army to hijack the Lebanese government in 2006, and violently takeover the Lebanese government in 2009.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s successful parliamentary run in Egypt in 2005 strengthened the radical, anti-American, jihadist group and weakened Mubarak.

And the election of Iranian-influenced Iraqi political leaders in Iraq in 2005 exacerbated the trend of Iranian predominance in post-Saddam Iraq. …

Still, the neoconservatives’ “muscular” policy, intended to “advance the cause of democracy and freedom worldwide”, was preferable to isolationism, and far preferable to [what passes for] Obama’s foreign policy.

For all the deficiencies of the neoconservative worldview, at least the neoconservatives act out of a deep-seated belief that the US as a force for good in the world and out of concern for maintaining America’s role as the leader of the free world. In stark contrast, Obama’s foreign policy is based on a fundamental anti-American view of the US and a desire to end the US’s role as the leading world power. And the impact of Obama’s foreign policy on US and global security has been devastating.

From Europe to Asia to Russia to Latin America to the Middle East and Africa, Obama has weakened the US and turned on its allies. He has purposely strengthened US adversaries worldwide as part of an overall strategy of divesting an unworthy America from its role as world leader. He has empowered the anti-American UN to replace the US as the arbiter of US foreign policy. And so, absent the American sheriff, US adversaries from the Taliban to Vladimir Putin to Hugo Chavez to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are empowered to attack America and its allies.

A worse position with regard to US foreign relations could hardly be devised.

Is the damage repairable by a Republican president adopting Reagan-like – or “Jacksonian”  – ideas?

The ideas seem to us to be sensible enough. But much of what is happening in the world – partly as a result of the disastrous Obama presidency – has no precedent, and new threats will require new thinking.

Huge changes are looming up. The age of the nation-state seems to be passing. There’s a global trend back to tribalism. Will America alone be immune to it? Much of the world – perhaps a third of its population – is likely to be Muslim before the middle of the century.

In his new book  After America: Get Ready for Armageddon, Mark Steyn visualizes “the world after America” will be “more dangerous, more violent, more genocidal” – in a chapter ominously titled The Somalification of the World. But he does hold out some hope:

Americans face a choice: you can rediscover the animating principles of the American idea – of limited government, a self-reliant citizenry, and the opportunity to exploit your talents to the fullest – or you can join most of the rest of the western world in terminal decline.

And he warns:

To rekindle the spark of liberty once it dies is very difficult.

But to do that must be the first task of a new president. Only a free, strong, prosperous America can be an effective power in the world, however it may decide to exert that power.

Aiding our enemies 3

To which countries does the US, even when enduring economic hardship, give aid?

These are some of the recipients:

Russia, still inimical enough to the US to make disarmament treaties seem necessary.

China, to which the US is vastly in debt.

Zimbabwe, under the bloody rule of a mass-murderer.

Somalia, a savage anarchy.

Cuba, a communist prison.

Venezuela, in league with America’s most threatening enemy, Iran.

North Korea, a communist and would-be nuclear-armed hell.

Libya, where Colonel Gaddafi is still dictator.

The amounts are not important. To give any amount to any of them is indefensible. But the figures can be found here, along with more infuriating information about who gets foreign aid.