Archive for the ‘World’ Category

Oil War

This contrarian argument, on the resilience of America’s shale industry in the face of the unfolding OPEC “price war”, is the pretext to host a discussion about a topic that is at once too huge to ignore, and too byzantine to elegantly comprehend. The most obvious complication — bypassed entirely by this article — is the harsher oil geopolitics, shaped by a Saudi-Russian proxy war over developments in the Middle East (and Russian backing of the Assad regime in Damascus, most particularly). I’m not expecting people here to be so ready to leave that aside.

Clearly, though, the attempt to strangle the new tight-oil industry in its cradle is a blatantly telegraphed dimension of the present Saudi oil-pricing strategy, and one conforming to a consistent pattern. If Mullaney’s figures can be trusted, things could get intense:

… data from the state of North Dakota says the average cost per barrel in America’s top oil-producing state is only $42 — to make a 10% return for rig owners. In McKenzie County, which boasts 72 of the state’s 188 oil rigs, the average production cost is just $30, the state says. Another 27 rigs are around $29.

If oil-price chicken is going to be exploring these depths, there’s going to be some exceptional pain among the world’s principal producers. Russia is being economically cornered in a way that is disturbingly reminiscent of policy towards Japan pre-WWII, when oil geopolitics was notoriously translated into military desperation. Venezuela will collapse. Iran is also under obvious pressure.

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December 4, 2014admin 47 Comments »
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The Islamic Vortex (Note-3a)

This blog has doubtless generated rafts of unreliable predictions. The one that has been nagging, however — ever since Scott Alexander called me out on it in the comment thread there — was advanced in the most recent sub-episode of this series. Quote: “Baghdad will almost certainly have fallen by the end of the year, or early next.” Even if the time horizon for this event is stretched out to the end of March 2015, I have very low confidence in it being realized. The analysis upon which it was based was crucially flawed. I’m getting my crow-eating in early (and even if — by some improbably twist of fortune — ISIS is in control of Baghdad by late March next year, it won’t be any kind of vindication for the narrative I was previously spinning.)

Where did I go wrong (in my own eyes)? Fundamentally, by hugely over-estimating the intelligence of ISIS. The collapse of this inflated opinion is captured by a single word: Kurds.

Just a few months ago, ISIS enjoyed a strategic situation of extraordinary potential. It represented the most militant — and thus authentic — strain of Arab Sunni Jihad, ensuring exceptional morale, flows of volunteers from across the Sunni Muslim world, and funding from the gulf oil-states, based upon impregnable legitimacy. It was able to recruit freely from the only constituency within Iraq with any military competence — the embittered remnants of Saddam’s armed forces, recycled through the insurgency against the American occupation, and then profoundly alienated by the sectarian politics of the new Shia regime. It was also able to draw upon a large, fanatically motivated, Syrian Sunni population, brutalized and hardened by the war against the (Alawite, or quasi-Shia) Assad regime in that country. Both enemy states were radically anathematized throughout the Sunni world, deeply demoralized, incompetent, and patently incapable of asserting their authority throughout their respective countries. In consequence, a re-integrated insurgent Sunni Mesopotamia had arisen, with such historical momentum that it served as a concrete source of inspiration for energetic holy war, and a natural base for the eschatalogically-promised reborn Caliphate.

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December 3, 2014admin 31 Comments »
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Quote note (#119)

This seems right:

Razeen Sally, a visiting associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, wrote this year in Singapore’s Straits Times that: “A global city is where truly global services cluster. Business — in finance, the professions, transport and communications — is done in several languages and currencies, and across several time zones and jurisdictions. Such creations face a unique set of challenges in the early 21st century. Today, there appear to be only five global cities. London and New York are at the top, followed by Hong Kong and Singapore, Asia’s two service hubs. Dubai, the Middle East hub, is the newest and smallest kid on the block. Shanghai has global-city aspirations, but it is held back by China’s economic restrictions — the vestiges of an ex-command economy — and its Leninist political system. Tokyo remains too Japan-centric, a far cry from a global city.”

It’s a striking indication of the extent to which the world order remains structured by the Anglo-Colonial legacy. However one would like to see the world run, this hub-net is an essential clue to the way it is run now.

October 17, 2014admin 24 Comments »
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The Islamic Vortex (Note-3)

Asabiyyah is an Arabic word for a reason. Unlike many of my allies on the extreme right, I see no point at all in other cultures attempting to emulate it. The idea of a contemporary Western asabiyyah is roughly as probable as the emergence of Arabic libertarian capitalism. In any case, ISIS has it now, which means they have to keep fighting, and will probably keep winning. Asabiyyah is useless for anything but war, and it dissolves into dust with peace. The only glories Islam will ever know going forward will be found on the battlefield, and it is fully aware of the fact.

Baghdad will almost certainly have fallen by the end of the year, or early next. The Caliphate will then be reborn, in an incarnation far more ferocious than the last. Its existence will coincide with a war, extending far beyond Mesopotamia and the Levant, at least through the Middle East, into the Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent, across the Maghreb, and deep into Africa. If the Turks are not terrified about what is coming, they have no understanding of the situation. This is what the global momentum behind militant ‘Islamism’ across recent decades has been about. Realistically, it’s unstoppable.

Eventually, it will bleed out, and then Islam will have done the last thing of which it is capable. No less than tens of millions will be dead.

Other, industrially-competent and technologically-sophisticated civilizations have no cause for existential panic, although mega-terrorist attacks could hurt them. Any efforts they make to pacify the Caliphate-war will be futile, at best. It is a piece of fate now. The future will have to be built around it.

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October 15, 2014admin 47 Comments »
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Heavenly Signs

The American Interest discusses the Chinese crackdown on Church of the Almighty God (also known as Eastern Lightning) after a recruiting operation turned murderous. The general background is most probably familiar, but it’s important enough to run through again:

The strong Chinese reaction against splinter groups — in this case, five death sentences—sometimes surprises Western observers, but we only need to look to China’s history to see why such groups give Beijing officials the willies. In the 19th-century, the catastrophic Taiping Rebellion involved a group not wholly unlike the Church of the Almighty God. In that rebellion a millenarian sect lead by Hong Xiuquan claiming to be the younger brother of Jesus, rose up against the Qing dynasty. At least twenty million people died in the ensuing conflict.

Eastern Lightning, like its Taiping predecessor, grounds itself in Christian texts and ideas. The “god” now born as a woman to bring the apocalypse is seen by the sect as the third in a series: Yahweh, who gave the Old Testament; Jesus who came to save humanity and now the third has come to judge the human race and bring the end of the world. The rapid growth of this movement shows the degree to which many Chinese feel alienated from the official ideology, the appeal of Christian messages in China, and the sense of popular unease as China changes rapidly. There is nothing here to make Beijing feel good.

There’s another reason that the rise of an apocalyptic cult would be of such concern. China’s long history of rising and falling dynasties has given rise to a school of historical analysis that looks for patterns in Chinese history. This approach, shared by many ordinary people and many distinguished Chinese intellectuals down through the ages, seeks to identify recurring features of the decline and fall phase of a dynasty’s cycle. The rise of apocalyptic religious cults is one of the classic signs of dynastic decadence, as is the rise of a pervasive culture of corruption among officials and the spread of local unrest.

Since the 18th century, the divorce of theological innovation from social revolution in Occidental public consciousness has pushed the religious question — originally identical with tolerance — into ever deeper eclipse. Until very recently, within the West, any attribution of genuine political consequence to such matters had seemed no more than eccentric anachronism, although this situation is quite rapidly changing. Elsewhere in the world, religious issues retained far greater socio-political pertinence, largely because the common millenarian root of enthusiasm and rebellion had not been effaced.

It is possible that the Chinese approach to dissident religion remains ‘strange’ to many in the West. There can surely be little doubt, however, that whatever convergence takes place will tend to a traditional Chinese understanding far more than a contemporary Western one. The gravity of the stakes ensures it.

October 14, 2014admin 3 Comments »
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Gigadeath War

Hugo de Garis argues (consistently) that controversy over permitted machine intelligence development will inevitably swamp all other political conflicts. (Here‘s a video discussion on the thesis.) Given the epic quality of the scenario, and its basic plausibility, it has remained strangely marginalized up to this point. The component pieces seem to be falling into place. The true element of genius in this futurist construction is preemption. The more one digs into that, the most twistedly dynamic it looks.

Among the many thought-provoking elements:

(1) Slow take-off is especially ominous for the de Garis model (in stark contrast to FAI arguments). The slower the process, the more time for ideological consolidation, incremental escalation, and preparation for violent confrontation.

(2) AI doesn’t even have to be possible for this scenario to unfold (it only has to be credible as a threat).

(3) De Garis’ ‘Cosmist-Terran’ division chops up familiar political spectra at strange angles. (Both NRx and the Ultra-Left contain the full C-T spectrum internally.)

(4) Terrans have to strike first, or lose. That asymmetry shapes everything.

(5) Impending Gigadeath War surely deserves a place on any filled-out horrorism list.

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De Garis’ site.

(Some topic preemption at Outside in here.)

August 22, 2014admin 19 Comments »
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The Islamic Vortex (Note-1)

An executive summary of Ali Khedery’s open letter to President Obama: Face it, ISIS is your ally bro.

August 13, 2014admin 12 Comments »
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“Which Falls First?” …

… William S. Lind asks in this recent panel discussion (third speaker, just after 43 minutes in). “The foreign policy establishment, or the country?” The relevant thread of his argument: The aggressive foreign policy posture of the United States is counter-productively promoting global disorder, which eventually threatens domestic calamity. When the US fights a foreign state, Lind argues, it advances the chaotic “forces of the fourth generation” — a more formidable opponent than even the most obdurately non-compliant state is able to be. America’s “offensive grand strategy” — tied to a high-level of concern for the internal political arrangements of foreign countries — is sowing dragon’s teeth.

TNIO has been coaxing NRx onto a path of broadened geopolitical scope. There is an unavoidable irony here. The Old Right tends naturally to a preoccupation with hearth-and-home, so that its preferred policy posture (non-interventionism) is often accompanied by — or even buried within — a retraction of mental energy from distant questions. The Neoconservative synthesis of foreign policy activism and cosmopolitan fascination with foreign affairs is far more psychologically consistent, regardless of its errors. For anti-globalists to sustain a panoramic perspective takes work.

This work is important, if realistic analysis is the goal, because distant eventualities hugely impinge. The existence and fate of Neoreaction depends far more upon the great churning machinery of world history than upon the local decisions of its favored ‘little platoons’. To misquote Lenin: Even if you are not interested in the system of the world, it is interested in you.

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August 11, 2014admin 30 Comments »
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Quote notes (#101)

Mark Yuray on the disintegration of Atlantis:

The collapse of the U.S. government and balkanization of North America will provide many great opportunities, if not a decent amount of strife. Nationalist and separatist sentiments previously suppressed by the Harvard clerisy will be unleashed. Whole regions will fragment into localized and decentralized rule. The new borders crisscrossing North America will conform much more closely to the natural geography of the continent than they did until now. It is in this moment, when trust in centralized authority is low, desire for autonomy is high, that a neoreactionary “patchwork” of small city-and-otherwise-states can come to exist. The United States’ high deposits of human and natural capital will make for a particularly vibrant new quilt of Singapores and Hong Kongs. As the original forging of the American superpower was largely a quirk of history and political suppression (suppose 1776 failed? or 1812? or 1848? or 1865?), it is unlikely that an emergent patchwork would turn back into the massive state that America is today.

The North American continent would, ideally, become a South America of the Northern Hemisphere in terms of geopolitics — benign and stable — and also an East Asia of the Western Hemisphere in terms of economics and government — technologically advanced and governmentally diverse.

In the spiral search for ‘Neoreactionary consensus’ — will the desirability of this outcome do?

(There is much else of interest in Yuray’s post — read it all.)

August 10, 2014admin 23 Comments »
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Quote notes (#100)

Adam Garfinkle on the profound pointlessness of international ambitions in the Middle East:

Iraq, and Libya have pretty much fallen to pieces, and Lebanon breathes whatever vapors Syria wafts its way. Egypt is an economic corpse that doesn’t know it’s dead and so won’t fall down. (For my ducats there is no better symbol of the Egyptian circumstance than Cairo’s City of the Dead — a vast cemetery full of countless squatters.) Jordan is suffering a multi-sourced nervous breakdown, complete with anti-Hashemite mobs. Algeria and Bahrain are armed camps, albeit for different reasons. Tunisia is a political weathervane that cannot control its borders. Morocco is fragile and faces a rising Berber challenge. Yemen is an armed mess. Sudan is a truncated basket case. Only great gobs of resource rents keep Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar afloat and seemingly quiescent. Oman may be the only Arab country that has managed to keep its balance, and it’s not a real state anyway — just a family with a flag.

This sad state of affairs is not the wayward result of the so-called Arab Spring. Not only does it long predate the Arab Spring, but all that misnamed and wildly misunderstood phenomenon wrought was to accelerate the ongoing decay of the highly unappealing authority relationships in these societies. It has disrupted the ugly and the unacceptable in different ways in different countries, since they’re all different. But with the possible exception of Tunisia (and the jury is still out), the results have not been any improvement on the status quo ante. Some state authorities have their backs up and are trying to be more oppressive than ever, while others are simply flailing.

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August 8, 2014admin 22 Comments »
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