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Oil! Black Gold! Scottish Tea!

[ 85 ] February 5, 2016 |
Oil platform in the North Sea.jpg

“Oil platform in the North Sea”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

You cannot build socialism on a giant pool of hydrocarbons, Scotland edition:

If an independence referendum ends in a vote to leave, subsequent negotiations can take some time – so Alex Salmond was keen to make sure that, in Scotland’s case, talks would not drag on too long. He set March 24 2016 as Scotland’s Independence Day. History does not record, alas, what celebrations he planned – but we do know what kind of a future he promised. More generous pensions, a fairer education system, protection from welfare cuts – all bankrolled by huge oil revenues which the SNP expected to come flooding in from the North Sea. Now all that has changed, and changed utterly.

Just as the discovery of North Sea oil transformed the prospects for Scottish nationalism in the 1970s, so the collapse of the oil price has destroyed its economic rationale today. America has mastered fracking and doesn’t need to import much oil now; this has helped depress the price of a barrel from $110 to $30. Such prices mean less North Sea tax revenue, but the average motorist is also spending about £30 a month less at the pumps. For the UK, the stimulus from cheap petrol generally balances out the effect of lower North Sea receipts: a country of 60 million can absorb such shocks. A separate Scotland could not.

Had the referendum gone the other way, Salmond would be preparing his first Budget by now. In all likelihood he would be in a state of blind panic. His White Paper on independence envisaged Scotland enjoying almost £8 billion a year in oil revenue by this stage. But that was before the crash. The forecast today is just £100 million, some 99 per cent less than the SNP imagined. So the first question a newly-independent Scotland would have to answer is how on earth to fill the £7.9 billion black hole.

But hey, throw some of that oil together with reactionary nationalism, and you’ll have a stew that will be sure to get the neoliberals hopping mad! And that’s worth it, right?


The Beautiful Dream…

[ 108 ] February 3, 2016 |
Rand Paul, official portrait, 112th Congress alternate.jpg

“Rand Paul, official portrait, 112th Congress” by United States Senate – Office of United States Senator Rand Paul. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

…has to come to an end.

Rand Paul, who had hoped to ride libertarian support to the Republican presidential nomination, is withdrawing from the race after a fifth-place showing in Iowa.

“It’s been an incredible honor to run a principled campaign for the White House. Today, I will end where I began, ready and willing to fight for the cause of Liberty,” he said in a campaign statement.

While he entered the race on a wave of publicity, Paul could not even build the kind of support that fueled the candidacies of his father, Ron Paul.

His otherwise noxious politics aside, I had some hope that Paul’s presence in the GOP primary would drive a more diverse conversation on foreign policy than what we’ve seen. Turns out that he couldn’t even muster his father’s coalition, which I’m guessing now finds itself mostly in the Trump column. In related news, Lexington mayor Jim Gray will run against Paul in the fall, which gives us a little bit of hope.

China Wants an Ocean?

[ 4 ] February 2, 2016 |
Type 052C destroyer (Luyang II-class).JPG

“CNS Haikou (DDG-171) in Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014” by U.S Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Manda M. Emery – Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

My latest at the Diplomat takes a look at a new report on the future of the Chinese navy:

Perhaps most interesting, the report identifies several key caveats that underlie China’s effort to build a world-class navy. These include the health of long-term collaboration with Russia, the ability of the Chinese national innovation system to deliver advanced technology, the overall health of the Chinese economy, and the ability of the Chinese Communist Party and the PLAN to work well with one another. Of these, the first and the third pose the greatest concern; significant economic problems could severely crimp China’s effort at naval expansion, and a deterioration (for whatever reason) of relations with Russia would leave China in a very, very lonely place.

GOP Iowa Open Thread

[ 243 ] February 1, 2016 |

Trump!  Cruz! Rubio!  Carson?!?

Apocalypse vasnetsov.jpg

“Apocalypse vasnetsov” by Viktor M. Vasnetsov – Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

This shall serve as an open thread for discussion of the GOP side of the 2016 Iowa Caucuses. If you want to talk Clinton/Sanders/O’Malley, hit the other thread.

Democratic Iowa Open Thread

[ 240 ] February 1, 2016 |

Bernie!  Hillary!  That other guy!

Barclay barn 1875.jpg

“Barclay barn 1875” by Alfred Andreas – Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Iowa.. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

This shall serve as an open thread for the Democratic half of the 2016 Iowa Caucuses.  If you want to talk GOP, hit the other thread.

Iowa: The LGM Plan

[ 71 ] February 1, 2016 |


This evening at about 6:30pm EST, LGM will suspend normal posting activity in favor of two open threads (one Democratic, one Republican) on the Iowa Caucuses. Between 6:30pm and roughly midnight, new front-page activity will appear below those two pinned posts. Ideally, commentary on the Democratic primary will remain on the Democratic post, etc.

This would also be a great time to follow the LGM peeps on twitter…

Thank you,

The Management

Foreign Entanglements: Trump! Cruz! Bernie!

[ 1 ] January 31, 2016 |

On the latest Foreign Entanglements, Michael Cohen and I jabber about foreign policy and the Presidential primary:

19th Century Loomis

[ 47 ] January 31, 2016 |

This is how you solve a problem.salad

The Splits

[ 5 ] January 30, 2016 |
1916. Khrushhev-s-zhenojj-efrosinejj.jpg

Nikita Khrushchev, 1916 Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

My latest at the Diplomat covers some recent historiography on the Sino-Soviet Split:

In the Journal of Cold War Studies, Danhui Li and Yafeng Xia (reviewed by Avram Agov) survey the historical research on the Sino-Soviet relationship in the early 1960s. The authors focus their argument on the competition for ideological leadership between Beijing and Moscow. By their account, the ideological and security differences emerged and sharpened as the two giants tried to make space for themselves at the top of the international communist movement. The Soviet Union naturally saw itself as the leader of the movement, as it had the most powerful, longest established socialist regime. The Chinese regarded their revolution as indigenous, and saw the developing world as key to the long-term success of the socialist bloc. The two countries fought this battle in a series of pamphlets and conventions, often through proxies in the Communist world.


[ 30 ] January 26, 2016 |
Brusilov Aleksei in 1917.jpg

Aleksei Brusilov. Available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3b20079. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

My latest at the National Interest takes a look at some under-remembered battles of 1916:

The centenary commemorations of World War I will undoubtedly concentrate on a trio of well-known battles; Verdun, the Somme and Jutland. All three ended inconclusively, and all witnessed tremendous bloodshed. Verdun and the Somme etched themselves into the national consciousness of France and Great Britain, respectively, while Jutland helped transform naval architecture.

But 1916 also witnessed a number of other, lesser known battles. Although they lack the same resonance in the West, the outcome of these battles helped determine the post-war map of Europe, not to mention the nature of warfare for the next generation.

Uncertainty Kills

[ 83 ] January 24, 2016 |
The Pentagon is functioning.jpg

U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Bob Houlihan – Public Domain

Interesting find by Politico, but gets a key part of the story fundamentally wrong:

The [Joint Chiefs of Staff] report was an inventory of what U.S. intelligence knew—or more importantly didn’t know—about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Its assessment was blunt: “We’ve struggled to estimate the unknowns. … We range from 0% to about 75% knowledge on various aspects of their program.”

Myers already knew about the report. The Joint Staff’s director for intelligence had prepared it, but Rumsfeld’s urgent tone said a great deal about how seriously the head of the Defense Department viewed the report’s potential to undermine the Bush administration’s case for war. But he never shared the eight-page report with key members of the administration such as then-Secretary of State Colin Powell or top officials at the CIA, according to multiple sources at the State Department, White House and CIA who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity. Instead, the report disappeared, and with it a potentially powerful counter-narrative to the administration’s argument that Saddam Hussein’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons posed a grave threat to the U.S. and its allies, which was beginning to gain traction in major news outlets, led by the New York Times.

The article goes on to contrast the uncertainty described in the report with the public statements of Bush administration officials. It’s fair to acknowledge that there’s a significant disjuncture between the certainty with which the Bush admin publicly described intel, and the much more mushy reality of what the US intelligence community (IC) could prove. That said, in other cases officials made the case for war in terms of uncertainty; Condi Rice’s “Mushroom Cloud” comment was premised on precisely these terms.

And inside the administration, the uncertainty regarding the state of Iraqi WMD was viewed as a cause for war, in and of itself. Charles Duelfer is very good on this point; he was far from certain that Iraq had WMD, but he favored war because it was impossible to tell for sure. That may sound a bit crazy, but in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 this kind of argument carried a lot of weight within the national security community. To the extent that arguments were used strategically within the administration (not everyone was convinced that invading Iraq was a good idea; Colin Powell is the best example, but there are others) the “we don’t have enough intel to prove what Iraq is doing” case tended to support the hawks.

And so it’s really not the case that the distribution of a document raising caveats about the state of intel on Iraq might have slowed the rush to war; uncertainty was one of the key talking points of hawks within the administration (above and beyond all of the other reasons they wanted to invade Iraq). Rumsfeld may have decided not to distribute the report simply because he felt it unnecessary at that point to add to the case for war.

Foreign Entanglements: Desert Storm Revisited

[ 1 ] January 23, 2016 |

On the latest episode of Foreign Entanglements, Brian Laslie brings the beard game:

Also, if you’re so inclined you can still write in Foreign Entanglements for best International Relations podcast in this year’s Duckies…

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