Some produced videos take a long time to germinate, this one did not. This script crystallizes a concern I’ve been struggling to express for a couple months now. Sure, the United States has thrown a lot of money at the Ukraine problem, but do we have a strategy? Do we have one at all? I don’t doubt that there are capable people in the Biden administration who could execute such a strategy. In fact, they proposed one, not formally, but with their initial actions, that looks a lot like what today’s video demands. Unfortunately, they were too easily dissuaded from it. In the coming months we’ll begin to hear more about how the world’s options are hyper-inflation and starvation for the poor or some kind of Ukrainian surrender to Russia. But we have, and had more choices than that. As today’s video points out, all this horror could be a great opportunity… but I’m afraid we’re letting it pass us by.
I feel like I’m weirdly a lot more optimistic about American power today than most of the US media is. Today I lay out why I think that may be. The US is reacting to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as some inexplicable horror, another step back towards history’s chaos, and another sign that the American world order is falling to pieces. As more of a cynic, and a student of foreign relations, my sense is that the US world order has been falling apart since at least 2003. What Russia has done in Ukraine, is give us a second chance. By conclusively setting himself up as a more destructive and dangerous actor than the US government, Putin has given the US world order a new lease on life.
What’s vital in this moment is that we seize that opportunity. Europe is now back on our side in ways it hasn’t been for two decades. What we should do now, is try to win over the rest of the world by improving our relations with old enemies that no longer matter. To it’s credit, the Biden administration is already trying to do this with Iran and Venezuela. Unfortunately, they are being blocked by their efforts to do so, and not just by Republicans. I think it’s a failure of understanding. US government and media don’t understand just how bad the situation was, and how valuable a window Russia has given us. Today’s video is my attempt to explain the situation.
This isn’t really a Russia Ukraine video. But it’s certainly been prompted by that horrific event. Washington, DC got this one right, and I got it wrong, not expecting Putin to be this stupid. But I think the exultation we’re getting from a lot of pundits today is misplaced. Some see this as a Pearl Harbor moment, hoping that it will wake the US public from its slumber, make us forget the past 20 years of imperial mismanagement, and fall in line behind the same clowns who brought us the current dismal global situation. Needless to say, that’s not my take. I do see hope here though. Russia has proven itself to be thuggish, and surprisingly weak. The situation we have now, a real fight, might finally convince Washington, DC to engage in a little prioritization. The United States is actually a very capable and impressive country. This moment could cause us to do better. In today’s video I use a similar video from British Imperial history to talk about how.
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…
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.
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…
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.