My roommates went to Coachella this weekend. When they got back I made them talk about Saudi Arabia. They were pretty beat, but it’s still a more useful conversation than you would ever get on Fox News or CNN. The talk is a bit rambling, but it’s super useful. It gave us a chance to enlarge on some of the issues brought up by the videos. It also brings in some of the issues covered by the “Everybody’s Lying About Islam” essay that may not get covered in the videos.
The most important issue that the talk covers is my personal attitude towards Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabians. It’s important to emphasize that as angry as I am about the US-Saudi relationship, I bear no ill will towards Saudi Arabians. The whole country, even its leadership is caught in a trap. It’s not a trap that’s entirely of their own making. Find out more by reading the essay…
9/11 conspiracy theorists are focusing on the wrong thing. The true scandal isn’t what happened in the run-up to 9/11. It’s what Washington, DC did after 9/11 that is truly horrifying.
US Middle East Policy is a sad, sad joke. One of the central points in my understanding of the world is this: Institutions will act in what they perceive their interests to be, not the interests of the people they are supposed to serve. When institutions are crafted with this knowledge in mind, they can serve useful purposes. But once you point them in a direction, they are hard to turn around. The fundamental ridiculousness of post-9/11 foreign policy, laid out in this video, is a great example.
On 9/11 we were attacked by Saudi Arabia. But the US foreign policy establishment had decided long ago that the Saudis were are allies. So we went out and beat up on Saudi Arabia’s enemies. This never made any sense. Worse, it hasn’t worked. The US government’s policy was always going to be a failure on the measure of finding and punishing the perpetrators of the worst attack on the United States since Pearl Harbor. That was never the goal. But post-9/11 hasn’t even succeeded in the goal it chose: Protecting and expanding Saudi and US power.
So maybe we should choose some new goals?
If you want an idea of what that might look like, and a fuller recounting of the disaster that post- 9/11 US policy has been, I suggest you check out my new essay: Everybody’s Lying About Islam.
People are good at ignoring the obvious. Saudi Arabia is finished. The 2014 crash in the price of oil has left the ruling family in an impossible position. Since 2014 the country has been burning through around $100 Billion of dollar reserves a year. At that pace, the current regime has got about 4 years left before they can’t meet their obligations. The almost 100 billion in debt (up by a factor of 4 since 2014) that the country is now carrying will accelerate this issue. This problem has been noted of course, but most financial publications have been quick to swallow the Saudi line on the issue.
The problem has been identified, and Saudi Arabia is supposedly taking bold steps to address it. What few are talking about is how inadequate these steps are. This video covers the farcical “Vision 2030″ idea that is supposedly going to turn Saudi Arabia into a new Dubai.
What I didn’t get into, because the video was already too long, was the illusion of a Saudi Aramco IPO. Saudi Aramco, the state oil company, is supposedly a multi-trillion dollar company. Selling off the proposed 5-10% of the company would give the Saudi royal family a few more years of runway. It’s not going to work. It may very well go forward, but they are not going to get the money they want. Also, the investment is something that everybody will be excited to look into, but dramatically fewer will want to actually buy.
Aramco is a state-run black box at the moment. Getting money from outside investors would require a high degree of disclosure and re-organization that they are unlikely to be interested in doing. The country is also faced with a couple of Catch-22s. First, driving up the valuation of the company requires driving up the cost of oil. To do this Saudi Arabia has to restrict its supply, which means it would lose market share, and have less funds to deal with its many issues. Second, if they don’t get Aramco up to Western corporate standards, they’ll have to rely on local investors. Those investors have plenty of money, but as the country gets shakier, they will become less interested in investing in Aramco. A great indication of the shakiness of Saudi Arabia would be the country’s needing to rely on local investors to fund the Aramco IPO.
These issues leave me convinced that by 2030 Saudi Arabia will be a completely different country. Unfortunately US policy seems to be that the Saudi money spinner will go on forever. The new administration has been doubling down on the brutal Saudi adventure in Yemen, and seems to want to escalate with Iran. This is crazy.
This is it! I’ve been preparing this “Everybody’s Lying About Islam” essay and video series for a very long time. Saudi Arabia is a problem, and nobody talks about it. So let’s talk about it. The standard establishment “Islam is a Religion of Peace” line is true to a degree. But it is deployed to deflect attention from Saudi Arabia and its very real and malign effect on world-wide Islam. Because US politicians (Trump included) spend all their effort protecting Saudi Arabia, the country most responsible for 9-11, many Americans get the accurate sense that they’re being lied to. They question why radical Islam remains a problem after 15 years of supposedly fighting it. Unfortunately this leaves them open to the Islamophobic line peddled across the political spectrum from Donald Trump to Bill Maher. The essay does what no corporate media outlet is interested in doing. It documents the US-Saudi relationship from FDR on down, and illustrates the horrific effects the relationship has had. 9-11 is nowhere near the worst of it.
This video is the first in a looong series I have prepped on the topic. Of course if you want the full story, I suggest you buy the essay “Everybody’s Lying about Islam”, available now on the Amazon Kindle. As I say in the video, it will tell you more about “what’s really going on” than a year of watching Fox News, or a year of reading the New York Times.
I find most discussion of the Syrian Civil War in the United States to be a bit childish. I get that nation-states are best understood as selfish infants that run around breaking anything they can get away with. But we ought to at least try to evolve. The first step in this would be looking at the Syrian proxy war and its origins honestly. It’s becoming harder to ignore the fact that the Syrian civil war would have been dramatically less bloody, and finished long ago if it weren’t for foreign actors. When people bring up the obvious facts of US, NATO or Gulf imperialism and what it has done to Syria, the standard response from the leading lights of our foreign policy community has become, “Well what about Russian, and Iranian Imperialism!!!”. It’s the equivalent of “But he started it Mommy!”. Well they didn’t.
This video lays out the basic facts of the conflict that Fox News and the New York Times are ignoring. It conclusively answers the question: “Who Killed Syria?”
Donald Trump has had a pretty extraordinary week. He’d already made himself a lot of friends in Washington, DC through his willingness to bomb Syria. But on Wednesday in particular he reversed himself on a number of issues he campaigned on. He is now endorsing positions he campaigned against when Hillary held them. This shift is heartening in some ways. People are breathing a sigh of relief. But can we trust him? And is a return to the Washington, DC playbook such a good thing anyway? I don’t trust Trump. And my roommate Ray really doesn’t trust Trump. Click here to view our wide-ranging discussion. It strays a little closer to the Democratic party line than I’m happy with, but hey, enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Words are important. Last week’s video on Gibraltar inspired a lot of confusion in the comments. People didn’t seem to understand why I found the statement from the UK’s Michael Howard so offensive. So this video explains in detail. Using violent words in a time of international uncertainty can lead to violence. History shows us this.
The video was already too long, so I left out examples of how this happens. In the pre-industrial era you could see this sort of thing all the time. Lands were ruled by Kings and Nobles, with a delicate sense of honor, who would sometimes start wars over verbal insults. The Spanish Armada, the most famous example of tension between Spain and Great Britain is one example. The Spanish tried to invade Britain for a number of reasons, among them religious words, but some of them were personal. Phillip II of Spain was angry that the English Queen Elizabeth had rejected his son’s hand in marriage.
You can see the importance of the words of leaders in the run up to World War I. Christopher Clark’s The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 tells the tale. For decades European leaders used belligerent nationalist talk about their enemies to legitimate their rule. They found that this got out of control. Their newly moneyed and literate publics took these words to heart, and ran ahead of their rulers in their hatred of the other. World War I was started by a perfect storm of idiocy, but a lot of it started with words. When the few leaders with sense could see what was happening, they found that they were constrained by the nationalist beast they had unleashed. That beast ended up eradicating the power, and sometimes the lives of most of Europe’s royal families. It’s a great book, and an important read as we fall back into the nationalist maelstrom. I’d suggest giving it a look…
Trump just took the first of what I expect will be many military actions. By destroying one of Assad’s airfields he’s taking a bull in a china shop approach, and it’s hard to see how this works out well. What this video emphasizes, and what very few people ever mention, is how weak Assad is. Prior to the Russian intervention he was reliant on a diminished air force to brutalize his people. Assad is a very bad man. But we should not be working towards the collapse of his regime. At the moment, Assad controls most of the population centers of the country. The rebel forces have been getting progressively more fundamentalist throughout the six year war. If Assad loses his air power, there is little to stop those forces from making great strides. Any serious movement by these forces towards Aleppo, or Damascus will result in tremendous new refugee flows. By taking this action, Trump has given the Jihadists a new lease on life. It is hard to see how this action benefits anybody other than Al Queda and ISIS.
After Ray and I shot this video I began to see reports that Russia had been informed of the attack before it was carried out. This is of course a good thing. We really want to avoid blowing up Russian soldiers. But the question of timing is important. Did the Russians know this was coming two hours before, or 24 hours before? Presumably Assad knew about this as soon as the Russians did. You can’t pack up an airbase in a day, but you can certainly fly out all the useful elements. Assad friendly media is reporting that 15 fighters were destroyed. This could be a real problem. If Assad just lost 15 useful fighters, then his air force has been significantly degraded, and the rebels have a new lease on life. But if they were 15 old or broken down fighters then this is largely cosmetic. So Trump’s action was either horrifically misjudged or useless. Either he’s given Idlib’s Jihadists an incredible gift, or he’s just engaged in the classic Clintonite “Shooting a 30 million dollar rocket at a tent to poke a camel in the ass”. Either way, it’s hard to see this action as a useful one.
Over the past day or so, we’ve seen a ridiculous controversy over the status of Gibraltar emerge. This territory, attached to Spain, but owned by Great Britain for 300 years or so, has made it into the news for the first time in a while. It’s a silly story, but it stems from much more serious developments. On Wednesday of last week, the Brexit process finally got underway. The Gibraltar issue, and the deranged comments of former Conservative leader Michael Howard, aren’t all that serious. But there’s nothing funny about the story.
It’s only the first of many Brexit related crises to come. As this Brexit process unfolds over the next two years there are going to be a lot of angry people. The British government has made promises to its people that will not be honored. The unraveling of the EU system across Great Britain will have tremendous effects, and may even result in the unraveling of the EU itself. Petty arguments over things like Gibraltar may seem ridiculous today, but they may not a few years from now. As the over-arching systems dissolve in acrimony, these idiot nationalist issues will come to the fore once again. The Gibraltar story isn’t funny because it’s a sign of things to come. Check out today’s video to learn more.
This video marks one of those “satisfying but not satisfying” moments. It’s quite unpleasant to be proven right so quickly. For over a year now I’ve been warning that the disintegration of the EU would lead to a resurgence of nationalist issues between European states. I’m a bit shocked to see one come up so early, and so far West. I’ve also predicted that this disintegration will lead to broader violence a decade or so down the line. I hope I’m wrong about that. Check out my Brexit play-list to learn more.
Oh Russia! As I’ve made clear, I don’t think much of the continued furor around that country’s role in the US election. But that barely scratches the surface of the silliness surrounding discussions of Russia’s geopolitical position. The US foreign policy establishment has been jawing for years about Putin’s “impending” invasion of the Baltic countries, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. This has always been ridiculous. A year and a half ago I made a video pointing out 3 reasons why it would never happen. It has reached a pretty large audience.
Donald Trump’s election has prompted a new wave of Baltic paranoia, however. On the campaign trail, Trump spent a fair amount of time insulting our NATO allies. Some are afraid he won’t honor our commitments to the Baltics in the event of a Russian invasion. I think these fears are exaggerated. But what if they were true? If Russia had the all powerful military machine it is credited with then maybe the Baltics would be in trouble. It doesn’t. In fact, the 2017 Russian budget imposes a 25% cut on Defense spending. Even without NATO, I’m quite confident Russia wouldn’t invade Estonia. It’s just too dangerous for Putin. Washington, DC will continue pretending Russia is a real threat, rather than a skilled exploiter of situations in countries the US has already destroyed. For those of us outside the beltway however, I’ve put together another video laying out the dismal geopolitical situation facing Russia. I hope you enjoy it..