Thursday, February 11, 2016

U.S. flight of fancy #4,591.

Needless to say, anyone remotely familiar with world history and the rise of new global powers would realize how wildly improbable this happy scenario[1] was, however the academic study of history was never the strong suit inside the Washington beltway, and in any event, given their absolute faith in American Exceptionalism, historical precedent was dismissed as irrelevant. Indeed, this misjudgment is not without parallel with events in the Middle East where desperately incompetent policy was erected based upon the childlike faith that the US model was so universally attractive that by simply eliminating secular but obstructive leaders – Saddam Hussein, Kaddafi, Assad – the populace would naturally choose a compliant, pro-Western regime, an absolute flight of fancy in a region currently undergoing a fundamentalist religious revival of epic proportions.[2]
Notes
[1] That a strong China would place "American geopolitical interests above its own."
[2] "The Widening Gyre – And The Sarajevo Blues." By Erick Kraus, republished 2/11/16 at Russia Insider from Gloom Boom Doom Report investment letter.

4 comments:

  1. Bunny, as ALMOST an aside:

    When you're trying to figure out how to handle a billion people - back in the '40s when "billion" was huge and nobody would have believed politicians could convince people of the idea of a TRILLION dollar deficit -

    You get a world view.

    I can almost see the Chinese guys saying, "Fine, the Emperor was good when we all knew each other. But we're TOO BIG NOW!"

    ONE BILLION people spread over vast distances. . . what do we do? Opium? Communism? Jees, these other nations are making vast leaps in technology and thought that could swamp our people and culture. What now?

    Let's mimic universities and advanced technology. However, let's not let Western values and politics destroy our culture and country.

    Yeah, those leaders may have been brutal or greedy. But they also understood that what was true for America or Europe was not necessarily true for China or Asia.

    Is there more than one way to skin a cat?

    Why would you want to skin a cat?

    Is there more than one way to ensure the prosperity of people?

    If you think so, and if you try to do it, aren't you almost certainly going to go against the wishes of several of those people?

    I'm probably guilty of buying into the "inscrutability of the East," and all that Confuscian mysticism, but I have a feeling that the Chines are playing the long game.

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  2. Tim, I think that the Chinese, like a lot of deluded Westerners as well, bought into utopian socialism and totalitarian politics. Sometimes people embraced a smidgin of totalitarianism to "encourage" productive people to submit to the Icarus fantasy. The Cultural Revolution was what broke the back of the fantasy in China so the leaders pulled back from the brink of disaster and made more of an accommodation with market and human realities. Now they were just one of many nations fiddling with good dirigisme. We know best (and we enjoy the political power) so we'll just keep up the tinkering (or the petty suffocations) and steady as she goes.

    It's pretty clear what makes for economic vitality (and social vitality as Fran makes clear in his essay today) so I don't think it's a question of the Chinese or others finding some Asian, middle, or "natural" way to organize things. The real problem for China is that "trillion" thingy. China must concern itself with stability (and hence legitimacy) above all. A hickup in rice or grain production or a 1/10 rise in interest rates has immense consequences in good times and bad. So, yes, that does lead to a world view and it's not surprising that Confucianism teaches an ethic of mutual obligation and not one of strong individualism. China always has placed a premium on stability and cooperation. Internal disorder, warring states, and external aggression are probably burned in the consciousness of most Chinese. Chinese school kids are taken to see the ruins of the Summer Palace destroyed by foreigners to drive home the point.

    The Chinese do indeed play the long game. They're not immune to political and economic miscalculation and I don't think the corruption of the elites sits well with the people. Even Chinese leaders, however, have to accommodate the Americans whose political system is decidedly focused on the near term and the ephemeral. We are also, perhaps, more nimble than they and that can be a superior trait in many situations. Would that I could see some of that nimbleness at work now. Trump's rise suggests that a certain change in the accepted approach is in the offing. Not that there's any rush or anything.

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  3. Three disastrous presidencies: Clinton, Bush (the second) and Obama have substantially undone the American nation.

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  4. Personally, I'd add Bush '41 to that list but that's for another discussion.

    It's astonishing how a mere three or four individuals could accomplish such ruin. Even the worst of the Roman emperors didn't seem to affect matters outside the palace fundamentally by their personal policies. There seems to have been more of a residual resilience that kept things together. No such luck for us. It's damage to root and branch here and all through the West.

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