I guess I should be grateful to Samantha Power! Late last year I set out to read her book “The Problem From Hell” covering genocide in the 20th century. The book, and Power herself, are famous for helping to justify the Obama administration’s continuation of Bush’s war on terror, on a “kinder, gentler” basis. I was prepared to mock, but I found the book to be quite powerful. It helped me deal with a quandary I’ve had for quite some time. For over a year now, I’ve struggled to say something new about the horror in Yemen. I’ve covered it extensively on the channel, but how many different ways can I say it’s a horror show? Ms. Power provided that new avenue. Her description of the horrific genocide in Bosnia in the 1990s, something Power covered personally, is compelling. It’s truly grim stuff, and I now understand why it was so dominant in the mindsets of 1990s policymakers. The Serbian war on Bosnia was a horrific crime. But it pales in comparison to what the United States and Saudi Arabia have been doing to Yemen. As I lay out in today’s video.
This video is another attempt to shake up the style a little bit. It’s been a while since I’ve done an all visual video, and this one almost qualifies. I’ve noticed that a lot of the successful geopolitics videos on YouTube tend to be lighter on the speaking in person, and heavier on the storyblocks and animated maps. Storyblocks is a stock video website I’ve been subscribed to for about six months now. It’s a cheap service, and you get what you pay for, but it’s a fun way to build a video. The selection is limited enough that after going through the library, I am beginning to see the same clips over and over in the work of my competitors. I think I have a few more rudimentary animation skills than a lot of the other geopolitics YouTubers, and I think I mixed animated graphs well with the storyblocks clips. Let me know what you think!
This is the longest produced video I’ve ever done, and I think I’m fairly proud of it? It’s the product of reading a few books and multiple lengthy reports on Ethiopia’s conflict, and following the coverage closely for over a year now. I think my coverage has also been aided by having multiple viral videos on the country on TikTok, and the responses I have gotten over there. I hope you like it!
I’ve been meaning to talk about this for a while. Heck, and one point, I thought I might make a multi-video series covering all the ways the Gulf Monarchies worked to destroy the Arab Spring. It’s a vital point that gets over-looked. Yes, as my “Everybody’s Lying About Islam” series documented at length, Saudi Arabia’s century of power and wealth has been terrible for world Islam. The Saudi Wahhabi project has been a sort of cultural genocide against what was a much more diverse body of Islamic practices half a century ago. That matters. But beyond the religious aspects there is the fact that Saudi Arabia and the UAE are proselytizing monarchists as well. They have extraordinary wealth and influence in Washington, DC, and for the past 10 years they have used it to crush democracy across their region. This is the real tragedy of declining democracy this century. The Arab Spring could have made 2011 a new 1776, or 1989. Instead Arab Democracy was strangled in the cradle by a set of absolute monarchies that simply would not exist without the United States.
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?
John Oliver is an interesting figure. He’s probably the closest thing we have to an H.L. Mencken, or an Upton Sinclair in our modern digital age. I haven’t watched him consistently since the first or second season of his HBO show, Last Week Tonight, which premiered back in 2014. But whenever he covers something that I’m interested in, I’ll check him out. Usually his take makes me less angry than any other mainstream perspective. The main virtue of his approach is that he gives a single topic 20 minutes to a half hour of his show. Whether the segment is more muck-raking or educational, he’s always able to cover more of the story than any three minute segment. But not even John Oliver is immune to military industrial complex propaganda. Per usual, he does better than most, but even he left some important stuff out in his recent video on Taiwan. So I corrected it for him…
I’ve been avoiding watching videos by the YouTuber Kraut for years now. At the request of a viewer, I finally took the plunge this past weekend, and found it pretty irritating. Having now written and produced a 15 minute video, I think my problem is largely with the style of argument. The blithe assumption that there is no point in even discussing the details of politically useful mayhem is infuriating to me. This style of argument is often used against my attempt to analyze the horror in Syria. Part of Kraut’s anger at Chomsky is that he would even dare to attempt to construct a chronology of deaths in Kosovo. A chronology of death, and the awareness that only a few thousand people died in Syria before the US intelligence community and ally intervention is a key part of my critique of what happened there. If Kraut and folks like him got their way, we wouldn’t be able to establish basic information about catastrophes. That’s not a world I want to deal with. So, to the horror of my 20something self, I’ve managed to make a 15 minute video defending Noam Chomsky.
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.
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.