I think about history a lot. And when historians look back to the beginning of this century, I’m beginning to get the sense that the only story they will be able to tell is one of US imperial consolidation. This could easily be just one part of a three-parter, but I don’t think I’m going to bother to tell the other parts of the story, because they are adequately covered elsewhere. Most know that US oil and gas is now dominant in the world, and that the US dollar is stronger than it has ever been. But few understand how much our own foreign policy disasters cleared the way for that dollar and petro-supremacy. With today’s video I lay that out…
A number of months back I ran a poll asking which of a selection of geopolitics YouTubers I should do a review of. I was surprised to see Whatifalthist win the poll dramatically. The few videos of his I had watched had struck me as inoffensive and vaguely amusing. Having now done a deeper dive, it’s clear I was missing a lot. This kid, and I do mean kid, I think he’s like 22, does delightfully nerdy deep dives on European history, but his takes on countries and events outside of “Western Civilization” are sometimes… problematic. As I looked into it further, I was surprised to find that he has a lot of the same educational gaps and right wing ideological hang-ups that I did when I was 22. It’s an odd artifact of our age that he is working out his ideas with an audience in the hundreds of thousands. I don’t think he should be pilloried for it. This was an interesting video to write. If I were criticizing someone with serious institutional backing, or over the age of 25, I think I would have been a lot harsher. But this kid literally seems to have grown up on-line, starting a YouTube channel half his lifetime ago to answer fun nerd questions. I’m not sure I got the balance right. Let me know what you think.
I am enjoying this new style of calling out folks for bad opinions. Sure, drama is a little crude, but hey it’s the internet, and it seems to succeed at winning views. Over the past couple weeks I have gone after well known YouTuber Kraut, and late night TV host John Oliver. It seems only fair, and very appropriate to the MFF channel, that I also go after “more distinguished” members of the foreign policy community today. Calling people out provides a hook for videos I have always wanted to make. In today’s video, a particularly egregious column by retired admiral and war popularizer Admiral James Stavridis has given me the opportunity to finally talk about the Rwandan Genocide, and Samantha Power’s “A Problem From Hell”, a topic I’ve been meaning to tackle for years. I hope you enjoy the video. What do you think of the whole new “YouTube Drama” approach?
Nobody has any idea how history is going to go. But it’s fun to try to predict it. I have a hunch that this AUKUS agreement, deepening military ties between Australia, the UK and the US, is really bad news. But even if it is absolutely the right thing to do, it is a lot more significant than the amount of attention it is getting. It was momentarily a big topic of discussion among geopolitics nerds like myself, but quickly faded. This is weird, because even if everything I said in this video turns out to be wrong, AUKUS is definitely a bigger deal than the withdrawal from Afghanistan we spent weeks agonizing about. An Asian NATO is now a concrete reality, and we know a lot more about what the next few decades will look like in Asia than we did two weeks ago. It’s a big deal. Here’s my very pessimistic take on what it all means.
The fall of Tunisia’s constitutional order is profoundly depressing to me. But if we’re honest, it happened long before President Kais Saied brought the hammer down on Sunday July 25th. Tunisia’s government has been a non-stop crisis for two years, leading to one of the world’s worst Covid responses, and a murderous third wave that’s happening as we speak. This provides a grim opportunity, because I’m better positioned to talk about Tunisia than I ever have been. I spent a couple months this spring studying the country and the issues facing it fairly closely. The critique I put forward in today’s video is one that I was planning to launch anyway. Tunisia’s constitution was likely to fail from the start.
On my quest to discover why the channel doesn’t grow anymore, one of the things I’ve identified is my tendency to publish videos at the end of the day on Tuesday. This means fewer waking hours for people to discover the video in the US, and it means that most of my overseas audience doesn’t get the chance to see it until Wednesday.
Which is all to explain why This week’s Tuesday video is an unproduced rant. I’ve got a produced video written, and expect to work hard on it throughout today and tomorrow. But instead of publishing it for an audience that’s mostly asleep, I’ll hold it for Thursday or Friday morning EST, and increase its chances of being seen widely.
I hope you enjoy this rant on Chad. What’s going on in the Sahel has bugged me for quite some time, but the lack of unbiased information has made it hard for me to dive in. Interestingly, the bizarre death of this pillar of French policy in the region is bringing some more scrutiny and ways into the story.
I wrote this video about a month ago, but then got cold feet. I’m glad I did, because the Vienna attack occurred the day I was going to upload it. That attack was initially sold as a serious, organized, multi-person act of terror. It’s now clear that it was committed by just another lone psycho. This video’s central message, that what we are seeing now is nothing compared to five years ago, and that Islamist terrorism has largely run its course, seems pretty clearly true to me.
One interesting aspect, that I left out of the video because it was already too long, is the difference between the US and French attitudes towards counter-terror. Even under Trump there’s a serious effort to move away from worrying about Islam. A Saudi military officer, likely affiliated with Al Qaeda, shot up a US military base last fall, killing 3 US soldiers! It’s been forgotten completely. The French government, on the other hand, is eager to make the actions of lone psychos the centerpiece of its domestic political agenda. What explains this difference?
Well, it’s quite cynical. The US military industrial complex, from defense contractors to the military to the media that promotes them, it’s all moving on to China. We don’t need to freak out about Islam to justify our pentagon budgets anymore. But France’s military budgets depend on fighting “Terrorism” in Africa. So they remain very big on demonizing Islam. Grim. But hard to deny.
Today’s video is a particularly crotchety one. I sometimes worry a bit that I’m insufficiently respectful to the heads of state of these countries in videos like this one. But in reality it’s these politicians that are being disrespectful of their duties to their countries. The East Mediterranean issue is fundamentally not a very serious one, yet Turkey, France and Greece are committing military forces as if real issues are at stake. This kind of thing could back fire terribly. I don’t think it will. But the reckless actions that these men are taking are certainly not going to get me to treat them respectfully. I hope you enjoy my explanation of one of the more requested topics in recent months.
Man, I was really hoping to make it to Egypt one last time before I started critiquing the Sisi regime. Oh well! This regime could have as much as a decade to go, so no pyramids for me for the foreseeable. I feel like Egypt’s dictatorship forced my hand a little bit, by threatening to invade Libya to back up one of the region’s most pointless strong men, Khalifa Haftar. It’s a shame. I do hear mixed things about Egypt under Sisi. Some claim the economy has turned around, though I don’t see much proof of it. Some claim that he brings stability, but it looks to me like the sort of stability the Shah of Iran provided in the 1970s.
If your regime is based savage repression, as Sisi’s very much is, it tends to lead to bad decisions. I believe that this threatened intervention in Libya is potentially one of those very bad decisions. Today’s video lays out why Libya is a conflict that Egypt should avoid getting more involved in.
I have meant to do a series on frozen conflicts for a while, and I’m glad that my North Africa focus has finally led me to do a video on one of the oldest and dumbest. The frozen conflicts in the former Soviet Union are probably the most famous, including Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan, Transdneistria, Ossetia and South Abhkazia in Georgia, and now Donetsk and Luhansk in Ukraine. These conflicts are famously a way for the dastardly Putin to keep his border unstable, and maintain a Russian sphere of influence. The conflicts that the US maintains aren’t generally referred to this way, but they serve the same purpose. Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq and now Syria are also frozen or lukewarm conflicts that the United States maintains for its own (wrongly) perceived strategic interest.
Most of these conflicts are unlikely to be solved, because a regional or world power has an interest in them. That’s not the case for Western Sahara. France definitely has an interest in the continued fight between Morocco and Algeria, but nobody else does really. The fact that this conflict has derailed Moroccan-Algerian relations for almost 50 years is just dumb, as I explain in today’s video.