I have been reading a lot about China lately, and the more I read, the more disturbed I get about the way Taiwan is currently discussed in the United States. For half a century this topic has been understood as the mother of all red lines when it comes to US-China relations. That is no longer the case for discussions in the United States. I am pretty sure it’s still a massive red line for China. Uncharacteristically, I now do think there is a chance of war between the US and China. But because of US aggression, not US withdrawal…
Does the United States do any strategic thinking at all? During the Cold War the United States was focused on defeating the Soviet Union, and everything was secondary to that. Even the insult of the explicitly anti-American Iranian revolution was largely ignored in the name of fighting the Soviets. The US government colluded in arming Iran during the 1980s after all. But for the thirty years since the cold war it really hasn’t been about focus… it’s been about finding or creating the enemies necessary to keep the defense money flowing. We’ve been going everywhere and been acting as offensively as possible to keep the world dangerous.
We have clearly reached the limits of that approach. Biden’s supposed withdrawal from Afghanistan (I’ll believe it when I see it) could be an early recognition of this. The US is still overwhelmingly powerful, but when we’re on the border of an enemy that cares infinitely more about a piece of territory than we do, like Ukraine or Iraq or Taiwan, we can’t effortlessly exert our will anymore. If we continue to act as unwisely as we have in the past two decades, we seriously risk getting caught out in a much more serious way than the Iraq disaster. The most obvious way this could happen would be if we somehow blunder into a simultaneous war with Iran and China, in two different regions. With today’s video I examine that possibility, and come to the obvious conclusion that the best thing we can do for the security of Taiwan is get back into the Iran nuclear deal. Fewer enemies mean we might be able to more effectively compete in the rivalries we maintain.
I have been meaning to get today’s video out for quite a while now. I didn’t plan on it, but it’s coming out at a pretty useful time as well. After months of dithering, and posing for the benefit of hawks in the United States, the Biden administration has finally sat down to talks with the Iranian government. It’s not clear why they need to talk, the Iranian position is pretty clear… Iran will comply fully with the JCPOA if the US complies fully. But nonetheless, it is a heartening step that the negotiations have finally started. I am happy to be making this argument for the Iran Nuclear Deal at this time. This video is meant to persuade. I tried to make it less angry and more shareable than some of my other videos on the topic. If you think I succeeded, please share it widely.
I have been meaning to get this, and its follow on videos, out there since November. It’s pretty clear to me what Biden has to do to ensure that Donald Trump does not find his way back to the white house. I’m sure it’s not surprising that I think foreign policy is key to this. I’m biased for sure. But it really does seem clear to me that ending the forever wars isn’t just the right thing to do, but it’s also the best way for Biden to achieve political success. It’s just such low-hanging fruit politically speaking.
This one’s a little ambitious. I hope it will make up for the serious lack of produced videos so far this month. Despite only reading like half a dozen books, and following the news from the region only half-heartedly, with today’s video I’m rolling out my grand theory of Latin America. The parallels between what happened two centuries ago and what is happening today seem too obvious. I really believe that Latin America is going through it’s second wave of independence as we speak, except this time, it’s the United States it’s gaining its freedom from. As an over-arching theory I think it has some explanatory power. I can’t wait to see people poke holes in it in the comments!
I have been thinking about this video for years now. The thing I’m most proud of in this one is the way it attempts to tell the whole story of a region through two world systems, the British and the American one. Hey, if YouTube demands longer videos, no reason not to be ambitious with them.
That old, way over-quoted saying, attributed to Keynes, keeps reverberating in my head lately. “The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent”.
Almost three years ago, I put out a video mocking Saudi Arabia’s investing strategy, calling it plainly irrational and irresponsible, and destined to end in tears. Well, so far it looks like my prediction is a failure. In fact, this investing strategy may be the most successful thing that MBS has done, staving off financial disaster for his country, and in the process making himself just as valuable to US politicians as Saudi Arabia was back in the 20th century when we needed their oil.
This one was interesting. The fact that I need to produce longer videos kind of ambushed me here. I intended to focus on how the MBS-Khashoggi issue is a side-show to what our true priorities should be, but the need to correct my older video on Saudi investing kind of swallowed my scripting process, drawing in Gamestop and some media critique.
It’s amazing how little investment the US has in the priorities of our allies. It’s well established that our foreign policy establishment is utterly incapable of seeing anything from the perspective of any of our “adversaries”. This would be a tremendous problem if the United States were actually in anything like a real competition with anybody. The dumbest actor in a contest rarely wins. But it’s not a contest. At this point, we’re so much more powerful than any of our opponents that it just doesn’t matter (leaving aside moral questions). What we should be doing, in this waning, but still present historical moment, is building up our position with allies, and working to stretch this sweet spot out as long as possible. We’re doing the exact opposite of that, of course.
A system that wants to stand the test of time needs to be aware of, and at least not obstruct, the wishes of smaller members of that system. As today’s video illustrates, we’re not doing that. Our oldest and strongest allies in Europe have opted to kick off the “New Cold War” by committing to an investment agreement… with China. This should be a wake up call. I doubt it will be.
Over the course of Trump’s presidency, outraged politicians across the US system took many principled stands against Saudi Arabia. With a president who was so shamefully subservient to crown prince Muhammad Bin Salman, Congress, and every democratic politician running for president was free to condemn the country, and propose a number of concrete ways to punish and humiliate the Kingdom’s out of control leadership. My guess is that it is going to be shocking how quickly all of that evaporates.
But, as I lay out in today’s video, that’s not necessarily a reason for despair. An emotionally satisfying blow-up with Saudi Arabia is vastly less important than the end of the invasion of Yemen and the speedy restoration of the Iran Nuclear Deal. That ought to be our true measure of success in dealing with Saudi Arabia.
It’s interesting to reflect on how much has changed over the past four years. This video comments on the ways my view of things have changed directly, but the process of making it was also clarifying on shifts in my own attitude. It reminded me that two years ago, right after her upset victory, I wrote half a script about AOC I never produced. In introducing her, I wrote in a joke about my inability to pronounce her name. It’s a small thing, but I don’t find that “joke” funny anymore.
It feels like the period since late 2016 has just flown by, as a never-ending flood of chaos. But it has been four years. I have changed. We have changed. The country has changed. In addition to the arguments I make in this video, that may be one of the best reasons to support Biden. He could finally give us a moment to pause, collect our breath, and reckon with what we have done to ourselves.
Cancer Sucks. Fundamentally, that’s what today’s video about. It’s absurd that a 43 year old should be dying of cancer in the 21st century, and honestly it’s absurd that anybody should. We have the technologies and principles we need to be moving much more quickly on cancer than we are today. The main thing holding us up today is a failure of political imagination and a dramatic mis-allocation of funding.
The death of Chadwick Boseman is significant for many reasons, but I don’t think this aspect has been covered enough. Today’s video is an attempt to correct that oversight.