One of my favorite description’s of journalism is “writing the first draft of history”. I would certainly never presume to call myself a journalist, but I am definitely interested in history drafting. That’s definitely what I’m attempting with today’s video. I have already published a fair amount on Afghanistan, first in short angry bursts, and then in a longer live version. This is my first attempt to reckon with the legacy of Biden’s Afghanistan withdrawal with a full, produced video. Among foreign policy nerds like me, there is a growing consensus that Joe Biden saved both the Afghan and American people from decades of horror by biting the bullet and dragging the US military out of there. The problem is that nobody is publicizing this emerging consensus. What the voters, and the pollsters every president listens to, will remember is the two week media freak out that we all saw in late August and Early September. That’s a very bad thing, if we ever want a US president to end a war again. No matter how disappointed I am in other areas (Yemen!), I think it’s vital to celebrate Joe Biden’s Afghanistan success. So that’s what today’s video does.
Mike Pompeo really pisses me off. He’s probably the worst Secretary of State we have ever had. He owes his meteoric rise to being better at Brown-nosing Trump than anybody else. And to top it all off, he spent four years betraying Donald Trump’s one good idea, to the detriment of the country and the world. Infuriatingly, this guy now seems to believe he’s a serious candidate for US president. Unsurprisingly he’s a favored candidate of the military industrial complex, which is why newspapers continue to take him seriously. He rarely makes it to 1% in polls for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. Today’s video is an attempt to help keep it that way.
Let me explain something about the psychology of Americans to any Hamas supporters or anti-anti-Hamas folks who may be out there. This could just be me, but I think it probably applies much more widely. In recent years I have been falling away from the knee-jerk, no questions asked, pro-Israel stance I was born with. For a week now I have been following events in Israel & Palestine with growing outrage. I am stewing about the injustice of what now seems to be a permanent state of apartheid. I spent the past two days putting together a video condemning the occupation and urging change. After the news that 20 Gazans had been murdered, including 9 children, I became even more outraged, and spent last night looking for ways to make the video more scathing and angry…
…and then I woke up this morning to find that Hamas had successfully murdered two Israelis.
I just spent the morning making my video more mild and milquetoast and “Both sides”. I briefly considered bagging the vid entirely and running a rant on that pipeline attack instead. You can already see the effects in this post. I say Hamas murdered Israelis. But I just said that the Gazans were murdered. By who? Who knows? I am an American and Israelis have been murdered, I don’t care anymore. Is this unfair? Of course! I am deeply conscious of this messed up psychological tic that still values Palestinian life about a tenth as much as Israeli life. I hate that about myself. But it’s still there. And I am somebody who is trying to do better. A lot of people who may have been paying attention to this conflict for the first time will now tune it out entirely. “Sad they can’t get along, not my business.” Today’s video, which I will still run, highlighted a shift that I was seeing in US media post-Trump, and post-War on Terror. This Palestinian uprising felt different. US media was paying attention and getting beyond the AIPAC talking points. This uprising no longer feels so different. Hamas rockets have sent this set of “clashes” straight back to the standard media playbook. We ARE in a new era. Palestine does have new opportunities. But none of them will be realized with this old playbook. Hamas is the Israeli occupation’s best friend.
Ahhh, poor Hillary Clinton. One of this channel’s first great successes was a polite video explaining why she shouldn’t be president, and here I am now, fondly wishing she had won. To be clear, I made that video all the way back in 2014, I took that video down after Trump was nominated, and I kept it down throughout the 2016 election. There’s no question in my mind that Clinton was a more competent politician and would have made a better president than Donald Trump. Today’s video makes it clear how much the world lost when she lost the election in 2016. But Politics is always more complicated than the personality of individual contestants. Today’s video attempts to play the tape all the way through, and look at the ways that any Democratic president might have been defeated by the absurd politics of the Coronavirus in the United States.
Today’s video was initially supposed to be two separate ones, one on the FBI coups, and one comparing the Russia hoax and the Iran panic. Rather than try to fluff up both videos with rants, to make them long enough for the algorithm, I thought I would try just tacking them together. The topics strike me as working well together. The structure that evolved also convinced me to drag in Robert Kagan, Victoria Nuland and Ukraine again, all topics I have been needing to cover for quite some time. I think the whole thing hangs together well. Is it too packed with info though? Let me know.
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.
Trying out a new format today! Folks may have noticed that traffic has been declining a bit on the channel. I’d been wondering about this for a while, but over the holiday season I did a deeper dive, and decided to figure out why. The simple fact seem to be that YouTube’s requirements have changed. It’s true that they are less likely to point to controversial topics from small channels, but my videos are no longer algorithm friendly in a more important way as well: They’re just too short.
People may prefer short videos, I certainly do. But YouTube wants people to watch for longer. Long established YouTuber Veritasium maintains that you need to have an average watchtime of around 8 minutes for YouTube to get excited about putting your video in front of more people. Can’t get to an 8 minute watch time if most of your videos are under 8 minutes long, as mine are. So, with today’s video, I’m switching things up a bit. I’m trying to mix the produced videos with more improv-ed riffs. Let me know how you think it’s going!
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.
I have thought long and hard about each of the three options in this month’s contest to pick the channel’s next topic. But Israel-Palestine is probably the topic I have thought about the most. As somebody who attempts to cover issues in the Middle East, it is constantly thrown in my face. As someone who used to be an avid follower of conservative media I’ve become familiar with one set of arguments, and as someone who spent 6 years living in Turkey I’ve gotten a good look at the other side as well. It’s a fascinating conversation that I think I can contribute to, which I hope today’s video makes clear.
In some circles in the US today’s video could be seen as a blistering attack on Israel. For many in my old world audience, I imagine it could be seen as so wimpy that it betrays the Palestinian cause… I’m very excited for the comments on this one!
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.