Posted from Tokyo, first time in Japan, which is awesome so far. An open society without being stupid about it would be the NRx fast-summary (sound, but limited). It was vastly easier to get into Japan than the United States.
Staying in the AirB&B equivalent of a coffin-hotel, but the situation is good (in Ueno).
Civilization level meets high expectations, and friendliness level exceeds them.
Much more English signage than expected, and the inherited Chinese characters have preserved their meanings, if not their phonological values, so the urban landscape is surprisingly intelligible.
Micro-artisan businesses of extreme excellence, typically run by elderly people, are everywhere.
Automation dialed up to eleven.
Yet to see a single over-weight person (which out-performs the stereotype).
Barry Crump is seen as capturing the edge of the place. There’s a recent movie based on one of his books (recommended for the Outer-Anglosphere cultural flavour).
There’s also a route to Samuel Butler, through the back country.
The outlaw myth is far more integral to the Anglo culture than much of NRx can easily be happy about. Everyone is going to sympathise with the runaways, not with the search party.
Some (real) advice from the bush: “Keep moving or you’ll be eaten.” (Deeper than it was meant to be at the time.)
Hard to remember last seeing so much geopolitical insight being packed into a single, simple sentence:
The CIA is institutionally quite close with the Saudis right now, and has been in charge of their covert war against Assad.
Everything is proceeding as foreseen.
“They say all Sunnis are Daesh, but it isn’t true,” said former truck driver Jassem Nouri, 50. Nouri has spent the past two years living on a building site in the northeast of Salahuddin province; his home, in the Sunni village of Salman Beg, is just six miles away, but the Shiite militias that ejected the Islamic State from the area over two years ago have refused to allow any of the residents to return. Last year, his two sons, former university students, were detained by masked men in unmarked uniforms and accused of working with the Islamic State. Nouri insists that they are innocent, but he has not been able to secure their release. […] “The one thing that is breaking my heart is that my sons are in jail and I can’t prove their innocence,” he said. “If this government doesn’t change, there will never be security and stability in Iraq, just an endless blind revenge.”
No one has the slightest (realistic) idea what equilibrium would even look like. The Sunni-Shia war has no end short of utter exhaustion. For everyone else, staying mostly out of it — and keeping it out — has to be the basic principle of strategic wisdom.
ADDED: From The Economist — “Horrifyingly, although home to only 5% of the world’s population, in 2014 the Arab world accounted for 45% of the world’s terrorism, 68% of its battle-related deaths, 47% of its internally displaced and 58% of its refugees.”
November 28, 2016admin
FILED UNDER :World
TAGGED WITH :Islam
Could the escalating Sunni-Shia War (intensified by the fracking revolution) take out Saudi Arabia?
(Cold Western indifference would be nice.)
Fernandez digs a finger into the wound:
Obama’s biggest mistake was to imagine you could have a globalized world without someone to run it. One or the other, but not both.
According to the geo-economic logic of the dying status quo, the Islamic Vortex supported oil prices by injecting menace into the supply chain. Peaks of turbulence were associated with oil shocks. ‘Middle East peace initiatives’ (or more drastic interventions) were so deeply entwined with oil supply security imperatives as to be scarcely distinguishable.
Many energy analysts became convinced that Doha would prove the decisive moment when Riyadh … would agree to a formula allowing Iran some [production] increase before a freeze. … But then something happened. According to people familiar with the sequence of events, Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince and key oil strategist, Mohammed bin Salman, called the Saudi delegation in Doha at 3:00 a.m. on April 17th and instructed them to spurn a deal that provided leeway of any sort for Iran. When the Iranians — who chose not to attend the meeting — signaled that they had no intention of freezing their output to satisfy their rivals, the Saudis rejected the draft agreement it had helped negotiate and the assembly ended in disarray. […] … Most analysts have since suggested that the Saudi royals simply considered punishing Iran more important than raising oil prices. No matter the cost to them, in other words, they could not bring themselves to help Iran pursue its geopolitical objectives, including giving yet more support to Shiite forces in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon. Already feeling pressured by Tehran and ever less confident of Washington’s support, they were ready to use any means available to weaken the Iranians, whatever the danger to themselves.
With ‘Peak oil demand‘ in prospect, and a brutal zero-sum struggle beginning for shares in a market tending to secular shrinkage, the deepening Sunni-Shia has become an engine of systematic oil price suppression. According to plausible Saudi calculations, the Iranian enemy will simply use oil revenues to pursue their geopolitical objectives more competently than the Saudis can themselves. A higher oil price, therefore, is comparatively advantageous to the Shia bloc (at least in the eyes of the Saudis, whose perceptions in this regard uniquely matter, due to their status as sole swing-producer). Any rise in revenues is overwhelmed by the quantity of additional military challenge it brings with it. This holds true whatever the level of social stress a low price inflicts on the Sunni side.
It’s quite a box the Saudis find themselves in. There’s no way out of it that doesn’t require winning a religious war.
Yuletide comedy supplement:
The four core elements of Obama’s Syria policy remain intact today: an insistence that Assad must go; that no anti-IS coalition with Russia is possible; that Turkey is a steadfast ally in the war against terrorism; and that there really are significant moderate opposition forces for the US to support.
(The entire essay is a valuable American Proxy Civil-War primer.)
Robin Wright (in The New Yorker) expresses the frustrations of a modern Jacobin about as straightforwardly as one could hope:
What seems to have been lost in the past five years is American strategic support for the Arab Spring’s aspirations — and for the innumerable other Bouazizis still struggling for rights and justice and jobs. One of Obama’s boldest decisions, in 2011, was to abandon longstanding U.S. support for Arab despots, personified in President Hosni Mubarak, who ruled Egypt ruthlessly for thirty years. For the first time, Washington opted for the unknowns of potential democracy over the guarantees of autocratic stability in the Arab world.
A speaker for HRW is even clearer about the ideological lineage at stake (and it isn’t anything coming out of the Middle East):
Each local crisis has been complicated by regional players who have intervened to block a new Arab order. “It’s no longer about what Egyptians want. Or what the Syrian people want,” Whitson, of Human Rights Watch, explained. “It’s so much broader and wider — and more complicated than during the French Revolution. Now a revolutionary doesn’t just fight the bureaucrats in the capital but bureaucrats thousands of miles away. There are so many horses in the game who have the resources and power to dictate or sway the outcome. It’s a much more difficult battle.” […] Speaking of the idealistic protesters of five years ago, Whitson said, “Sometimes it makes you wonder if they ever had a chance.” Yet she remains sanguine about the future. “The fight is not over,” she told me. “Because it can’t be over. The aspirations that inspired the spark over a seven-dollar bribe are universal, and we know it. As long as governments deny people basic justice and dignity, people will rise up.”
Yes, “rise up” [*facepalm*]. If there’s any distinction at all between (subjective) ‘caring’ and (objective) raw evil it’s getting ever harder to discern. The bleeding-out of universalistic Cathedral evangelism in the Middle East has been an event of far greater consequence than anyone is yet able to acknowledge.
Spengler (Goldman) at his sanest (“Why do Americans persist in believing that they can remake the world in their own image, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary?”):
Writing in the New York Daily News, former Forward reporter Ira Stoll gushed, “To me, Chalabi was Iraq’s Samuel Adams, its revolutionary leader who inspired, agitated, persuaded, and persevered in the face of overwhelming odds and when others lost hope.” The notion that some countries do not have a Sam Adams and never will have a Sam Adams simply doesn’t occur to the neo-conservatives. Like the last academic Marxists, they will die convinced that the theory was right and the failure lay in the implementation. Somehow they managed to gain the confidence of George W. Bush and did more to undermine America’s power and credibility than all of America’s declared enemies.