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Ingolf Eide
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It's marvellous to see so many kind and generous comments. Brigadier Ali became a good friend after our paths first crossed here at SST back in 2007. We've corresponded ever since and based on my experience he deserves all these accolades. He will indeed be greatly missed.
I second Ed Lindgren's recommendation of a recent Spengler column. It seems to me he gets to the core of the current disarray: "But the biggest problem isn’t Trump’s misbehavior, egregious as it is, but the eruption of popular rancor against the constitutional system that has made America a model of governance for the world. Leftist mobs last spring burned police stations and destroyed shopping districts in a rampage against supposed systemic racism, and Trump supporters desecrated the Holy of Holies of American democracy, the chamber of the United States Senate. Behind the minority of violent actors is a majority that believes the system is rigged against them – whoever “them” might be." [ . . . ] "Sometimes there is a conspiracy and sometimes there isn’t. But Trump’s political supporters, bombarded daily by fake news about Russian collusion and other alleged misbehavior, have come to distrust any criticism of their president. If Trump was right that the whole impeachment business was an extra-legal conspiracy on the part of his enemies, why shouldn’t they believe that the election was rigged?" [ . . . ] "Americans are frightened for their future, with good reason. They see enormous rewards accrue to a handful of tech companies, and stagnation and decay in large parts of the rest of the country. Donald Trump gave them a frisson of hope, and the Establishment reaction against Trump confirms the popular suspicion that a malevolent global elite has seized control of their country. Trump shamefully exploited this suspicion to direct a popular storm against the Congress." Based on TTG's post about Trump's recent statement, perhaps he realised how much damage he had done, not least to himself. It may already be terminal but any step back from the brink has to be a good thing.
Indeed, Fred. I was pleasantly surprised at the tone and content of these few conversations. Seems to me Flynn did a pretty good job.
Eric, “Aggressively suppress”? That may be too strong but it certainly seems the local authorities engaged in a cover-up to begin with. Here’s how a CNN report on January 27 described it: “As more and more becomes known about the initial spread of the virus and the dangers posed by it, suspicion has grown over how authorities in Wuhan handled the first weeks of the outbreak. While there is always some uncertainty at first with regard to new pathogens, that officials in Wuhan held a major provincial Communist Party meeting, an attempt at a world record for the largest potluck lunch involving 40,000 families, and had police go after people spreading "rumors" about the virus online, does not cast them in the most positive light.” It went on to say: “There is also the almost staggering contrast in how the crisis has been handled since the central government got involved. Xi himself last week ordered "all-out efforts" to contain the virus' spread and treat those affected, about a month after the virus was first detected. Beijing-based commentator Wang Xiangwei described that as a "watershed moment." However, he added that the slow response from local officials was likely the result of "deeply entrenched issues," ones that may have actually been exacerbated by Xi's much vaunted anti-corruption campaign.” I think this highlights something which the allegations being debated here on SST don’t take sufficient account of, namely governance snafus within China. The NYT on January 27 had a long piece devoted to exactly this problem. Your working assumption seems to be that the CCP is both omniscient and omnipotent. To my mind that viewpoint doesn’t help in trying to figure out what really happened.
Eric, Well, to the extent China has succeeded in establishing a more favourable reputation over the years, whether by BS or not, the potential cost of risking those gains is commensurately higher. Of course clever people can make mistakes, they do it all the time. My doubts about the hypothesis that China deliberately created and/or released the virus have nothing to do with racist considerations but stem from my perception that ex ante it just wouldn't make sense. Any upside would be highly uncertain while a realistic appraisal would throw up a multitude of potential downsides.
Eric, The fatality risk may be acceptable from China's point of view, although I doubt anyone could have been certain about that in the early stages. The sort of risk I more had in mind is economic and reputational. There's no doubt the US (and most of the rest of the world) have suffered severe economic damage and, arguably, further loss of civil liberties. Laying this at China's door is however another matter.
Colonel, Understood. Just to be clear, it wasn't rigourous academic or legal proofs I had in mind.
Colonel, As JJackson put it in an earlier thread, it's your track record in applying critical thinking and logic to many controversial issues over the years that makes the tack being pursued on this one hard to take. The seriousness of the allegation demands the highest standards of proof. As Walrus and others have pointed out, even assuming a willingness on the part of the Chinese to take such a step, it's difficult to see how they could have viewed it as a sensible strategy. Too uncertain in its outcome, too prone to blowback and (arguably) economically counter-productive. The risk/reward seems terrible. It doesn't help that members of this Committee of long standing are treated to ad hominem attacks for questioning various aspects of the allegations.
All, Re the 404 problems with the site links. They’re working again (hopefully permanently!). For anyone interested in what had happened (I’m thinking of you TTG), each link contains a reference to the page on which it’s found and for some reason that had changed to “writings-2” (the original name of the page during its draft stage) instead of “writings”. I don’t know why the software made this change and therefore can’t be certain it mightn’t happen again. I’ll check occasionally but if it does recur please send up a flare.
And, of course, Happy Birthday Brig Ali . . . may there be many more to come. Ingolf
James, Out of curiosity I tried the site with Opera, a browser I hardly ever use. No problem, no need for a Google sign in, just straight to the site's homepage. For anyone who does have any difficulties, TTG's is probably the best answer; just copy the URL and paste it into your browser.
TTG, Yes, another in the seemingly unending sequence of unforced errors. Given your comment about “God ordained manifest destiny” perhaps it’s reasonable to bring a recent essay by Patrick Lawrence (“After Exceptionalism”) to the committee’s attention. “There is no certainty Americans will reach for any of what is available to them. To abandon our claims to exceptionalism is to give up our customary assumption of assured American success. It requires us to accept the difference between destiny and possibility. One does not find abundant signs Americans are yet ready to do this—not among our leaders, in any case. There seems to be little awareness that the only alternative to the change of course Jimmy Carter favoured forty years ago this past summer is decline—decline not as a fate but as a choice, one made even as we do not know we are making it.”
Second that from out here in Oz.
Indeed. Putin and his team have been consistent in their broader goals while retaining tactical flexibility. They've also sought to build and maintain good relationships with all the players. Given the goals are in accord with international law with a primary focus on sovereignty, it's an understated but powerful combo. So no, it's certainly not all luck . . .
Toggle Commented Oct 15, 2019 on SAA/SDF progress at Sic Semper Tyrannis
"It has not bee SHOWN. Peer reviewed academic studies generally prove one thing and that is that academics are conformists who seek approval from other academics." PL, I'm sure you're right that academics (including scientists) are prone to conformity. To conclude that a broad scientific consensus is therefore worthless, however, seems to me a step too far. Anyway, for what they're worth, here are two links of the sort that eventually persuaded me to shift away from scepticism. The first looks at the sceptics' case and also provides links to quite a few more detailed aspects: The second visually presents the contributions of various natural and man-made factors:
I'm no climate expert and don’t have the knowledge (or any desire) to debate the science. FWIW after starting out as something of a sceptic 15-20 years ago I ended up coming down on the other side of this issue. To my mind, Nassim Taleb has the right approach: “This leads to the following asymmetry in climate policy. The scale of the effect must be demonstrated to be large enough to have impact. Once this is shown, and it has been, the burden of proof of absence of harm is on those who would deny it. It is the degree of opacity and uncertainty in a system, as well as asymmetry in effect, rather than specific model predictions, that should drive the precautionary measures. Push a complex system too far and it will not come back. The popular belief that uncertainty undermines the case for taking seriously the ’climate crisis’ that scientists tell us we face is the opposite of the truth. Properly understood, as driving the case for precaution, uncertainty radically underscores that case, and may even constitute it."
Thanks John. Seems to me it's slightly understating matters to say that the birthrate and life expectancy are merely no longer in their 1990s trough. Far as I can see there have been a number of recent years where Russia once again experienced natural population growth and, according to the stats on Wikipedia, life expectancy for both men and women has hit new highs. As for controlling less territory, that's probably a net plus. Yes, the transition from Putin will be critically important. He's of course very aware of that and my guess is at least as much thought and effort will go into managing that as he seems to bring to most things. While I think Russia is better placed than almost any other nation to survive and prosper, as you suggest nothing is certain.
"Notably weaker than it was in the 1980s." Really? Seems to me the very opposite. Would you care to elaborate?
Good stuff Patrick, thanks. Russia may be uniquely inoculated against all manner of foolishness by the two catastrophes it lived through over the last century. For now at least, it seems driven by a bone hard realism.
The Quincy Institute will launch in November, with core funding from George Soros and Charles Koch and the following mission statement: "The Quincy Institute promotes ideas that move U.S. foreign policy away from endless war and toward vigorous diplomacy in the pursuit of international peace." Cofounders include Trita Parsi, Andrew Bacevich, Suzanne DiMaggio and Stephen Wertheim. Picked up from a Stephen Kinzer article:
Toggle Commented Jul 1, 2019 on Open Thread 29 June 2019 at Sic Semper Tyrannis
Much appreciated, PL. Let me acknowledge my ignorance up front and hope these few questions aren't entirely ridiculous: - I get the impression you think that if this happens it won't be half-hearted. Unlike earlier episodes of "shock and awe", it'll be for real. Yes? - If that's so, this would presumably be an existential event for Hezbollah and maybe for Iran, Lebanon (and Syria?). - I accept Russia would prefer to not get dragged in. Is it reasonable to think this might be difficult for them? It seems to me there would be an awful lot at stake, not just immediately but in the larger strategic picture. Perhaps leading to an "If not now, when" moment? - As for Iran and Syria, ditto squared? Would I be right in assuming that if it came to it, both would fight back with everything they've got, whatever that might mean? Any thoughts you're willing to share on these issues, and anything else flowing from them, would be greatly appreciated.
PL, are you willing to provide an overview of how such an attack might unfold?
Hallelujah, Colonel. I never much liked Disqus. Quite apart from everything else, the inability to easily view the most recent comments was a constant annoyance.
Toggle Commented Apr 14, 2019 on Disqus at Sic Semper Tyrannis
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May 10, 2010