- Islamic State, Facebook, and vigilante archaeologists Jenna Scatena, Atlantic
- Hoffer-esque essay on totalitarianism. Refreshing. Brent Holley, Quillette
- The STEM cycle Nick Nielsen, Grand Strategy Annex
- Vietnam and America’s Indo-Pacific narrative Derek Grossman, Diplomat
- The Left lost yet another election. Its response? Reposting old essays… Chris Bertram, Crooked Timber
- Israel, Syria, and the Kurds Wilkofsky & Zaman, Al-Monitor
- Automation as a colonization wave Robin Hanson, Overcoming Bias
- The geopolitics of liberalism Nicolas Hausdorf, Jacobite
- Who betrayed Syria’s Kurds? Amberin Zaman, Al-Monitor
- How the Physiocrats confronted France’s empire (Smithian-Misesian-Hayekian federation) Pernille Røge, Age of Revolutions
- Strange respect for central banks Scott Sumner, MoneyIllusion
- This is just the beginning of Brexit Tom McTague, the Atlantic
As I write (10/22/19) the pause or cease-fire in Northern Syria is more or less holding. No one has a clear idea of what will follow it. We will know today or tomorrow, in all likelihood.
On October 12th 2019, Pres. Trump suddenly removed a handful of American forces in northern Syria that had served as a tripwire against invasion. The handful also had the capacity to call in air strikes, a reasonable form of dissuasion.
Within hours began an invasion of Kurdish areas of Syria by the second largest army in Europe, and the third in the Middle East. Ethnic cleansing was its main express purpose. Pres Erdogan of Turkey vowed to empty a strip of territory along its northern border to settle in what he described as Syrian (Arab) refugees. This means expelling under threat of force towns, villages, and houses that had been occupied by Kurds from living memory and longer. This means installing on that strip of territories unrelated people with no history there, no housing, no services, and no way to make a living. Erdogan’s plan is to secure his southern border by installing there a permanent giant refugee camp.
Mr Trump declared that he had taken this drastic measure in fulfillment of his (three-year old) campaign promise to remove troops from the region. To my knowledge, he did not explain why it was necessary to remove this tiny number of American military personnel at that very moment, or in such haste.
Myself, most Democrats, and a large number of Republican office holders object strongly to the decision. Most important for me is the simplistic idea that
There’s no reason to keep writing. I have an nine month-old (nine-month old?) boy and a twenty-nine month-old girl. My vote doesn’t matter. I’ve lost my zest for ideas and events. Nobody cares what a libertarian has to say anymore, anyway. We’re back in the wilderness, wandering aimlessly and pettily bickering with each other about the stupidest things. We had our moment, we truly did, and it got flushed down the toilet along with the big, racist turds we dropped in the porcelain bucket.
Something in the world of ideas has turned stale. Or, I’ve gone stale. I don’t think I have, though. I’ve been reading plenty of books and plenty of internet, and much of it is enjoyable and provides me with a better sense of the world I inhabit. Has the world of ideas always been this stale? Has “the world of ideas” been a Big Lie to begin with, a cover-up invented by political strategists to influence youth and vie for power?
Libertarianism itself is no longer what I thought it was. Consider Syria. What’s a libertarian to do? A libertarian from the US would probably say that his country’s military leaving Syria is a good thing. A libertarian from Syria would probably say that the US leaving Syria is a bad thing. Actually, this is pretty cool now that I’ve thought about it. What is the libertarian position on Syria? Abandon it and regroup somewhere else? Would this “somewhere else” then become a fortress of libertarianism? Would it become a launching pad for military action, for violent acts of aggression against an equally violent polity?
Libertarianism seems to work great in an American institutional context, but what happens when libertarianism moves abroad? Now, I’m not about to go all sideways (to borrow a phrase from an old black cook that I know here in Texas). I’m still a libertarian, but only because it’s the least bad option out there. The world could use more liberty. This liberty can be gained through non-violent indigenous means most of the time. As a citizen of the world’s big, bad hegemon, this is the position I have a duty to take. If I was born in, say, Kurdistan, though, or Angola, violence might be the best least bad option to take en route to more liberty.
Edwin’s 2014 post continues to impress. Is this because I am getting older? Is this because I have other shit to do besides ensure (online…) that liberty remains as pure as possible?
Donald Trump pulled the US out of Syria, and Turkey brutally pounced on the Kurds. What a mess.
I have just two quick notes on the subject: 1) the American Foreign Policy Establishment has upset me for many years now, mostly because they are liars. The allegations of American betrayal in regards to our Kurdish allies are simply not true. If the Kurds were truly American allies, then the hawks would have gone out of their way to call for a Kurdish state in the region (something some Kurds have been trying to found for a long time). This has not happened in the 50 or 60 years that the United States has been deeply involved in the Levant. Have you heard hawkish politicians in the US call for an independent Kurdish state? Instead, Washington’s Foreign Policy Establishment has been content to use the Kurds as pawns against its Persian and Ba’athist enemies. Once the Kurds outlived their usefulness, they were abandoned by the American Foreign Policy Establishment, ironically in the name of state sovereignty.
2) The Kurds should have known better by now that their only friends are the mountains. I don’t know why they thought they could hold Syria. I don’t know why they thought they could trust Washington. My best guess is that geopolitics is hard to do when you’re as politically decentralized as the Kurds, and there was simply no overall game plan for going to war alongside the Americans, except to maybe slaughter some Arabs and Turks and build rapport with Washington for an eventual Kurdish state.
One last note: Not only is Turkey slaughtering Kurds, but Iran is calling for Turkey to stay out of Syria. The Russians are still there, too. The withdrawal of American troops from Syria means that Russia, Turkey, Iran, Syria, and several non-state actors will now fight for control of the Levant. Having Moscow bogged down in the Levant bodes well for peace in Europe for the time being. A Turkish-Persian small war would likewise give the West a breather, at least militarily. If anti-refugee parties in Europe thought the first wave of refugees was unbearable, they’re in a for a world of surprise now. The bloodshed that will result from the world’s hegemon leaving a power vacuum will likely make Europe’s populist parties even more popular.
- From “open seas” to unconstitutional warfare Grant Starrett
- From “open governance” to covert wars Christopher Preble, War on the Rocks
- What reconstruction in Syria might look like Frederick Deknatel, Los Angeles Review of Books
- The most dangerous man in the world James Pontuso, Claremont Review of Books
I voted for Donald Trump for two clear reasons. First, his name is not Clinton. Second, he promised to nominate Supreme Court Justices from a published list of conservative judges. I have been amply satisfied on both counts.
Then, I watched pleasantly surprised as the Trump administration engineered a tax reform that could only improve economic growth. Then, it quickly dismantled hundreds of federal regulations, a strategy that could only benefit entrepreneurship and business activity. Sure enough, there was a sudden rise in Gross Domestic Product growth. I don’t have any proof of causality here but the temporal coincidence is gratifying! At the same time, the unemployment rate – which had been going down even in the waning days of the Obama presidency, it’s true – continued to nosedive. It reached an all-time low for African Americans and for Hispanics. That fact illustrated nicely the basic conservative idea that results count more than intentions. (Remember, that Adam Smith wrote the same in 1776 but who reads Adam Smith nowadays?)
Soon, there was the blessed withdrawal from the comedy of the Paris climate “accord.” Then, there was the abrogation of the weak-kneed, poisonous agreement (not a “treaty) with the totalitarian and aggressive Islamic Republic of Iran. I applauded both with both hands. I was pleasantly surprised later by the initiative toward North Korea although I reserve judgment because nothing much has actually been accomplished on that front, except, possibly (possibly) a better mood. I do think President Trump has gone farther on the road to disarming that kingdom of cruelty and madness than any previous president. Yet, Continue reading
- American Nightmare: the story of a prime FBI suspect in 1996 Atlanta Marie Brenner, Vanity Fair
- The disappearing conservative professor Jon Shields, National Affairs
- Why the British love the oak tree Philip Marsden, Spectator
- Russia, Turkey, and the fate of Idlib Ömer Özkizilcik, Cairo Review
- How Buddha became a popular Christian saint Blake Smith, America
- Russia, Germany at loggerheads over Idlib Yekaterina Chulkovskaya, Al-Monitor
- Arab melancholia Thomas Patier, Los Angeles Review of Books
- Does Locke’s entanglement with slavery undermine his philosophy? Holly Brewer, Aeon
- Srebrenica and Demagogues Keith Doubt, Berfrois
- Habermas and pimps: the world of the day and the world of the night Branko Milanovic, globalinequality
- Why didn’t the Crusades succeed? (Aleppo is not a Syrian city) Harry Munt, History Today
- The awkwardness of remembering the Romanovs Bruce Clark, Erasmus
- Did Cicero Devise Modern Constitutional Thought on His Own? David Potter, Law & Liberty
- Russia’s Pacific history is little known, perhaps even in Russia Peter Gordon, Asian Review of Books
- The Opium War and the Humiliation of China Ian Morris, New York Times
- The Puzzle of Russian Behavior in Deir al-Zour Kimberly Marten, War on the Rocks