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Saudi Arabian Crown Consolidates Control as War Looms

2017 November 5
by Ian Welsh

Right, so there is a purge in Saudi Arabia, with princes arrested for “corruption” (they’re surely corrupt, but in Saudi Arabia that’s like saying they drink water), but more importantly, the National Guard commander was arrested and replaced with the Crown Prince, and the navy commander was also replaced.

A new anti-corruption committee led by the Crown Prince will continue the purge.

This has shades of what’s been going on in China, where Xi Jinping is called the “Chairman of Everything,” because he’s in charge of every important committee. In Saudi Arabia, his counterpart is the Crown Prince.

Power is being consolidated. It is true that Saudi Arabia has unavoidable problems and larger challenges coming down the pike. The most important should be the price of oil, which can be expected to continue its relative decline over the next couple decades as electric cars and so on come online.

But they’ve also chosen many of their problems: The war in Yemen is a self-inflicted wound, as is the (related) confrontation with Iran.

The latter confrontation is barrelling ahead, and it is likely to be the next significant war, not North Korea. The resignation of Lebanese PM Saad Hariri (who lives part time in Saudi Arabia) is part of the clearing of decks for the next phase, which will be another attempt to take out Hezbollah.

We can expect the US to impose significant sanctions on Lebanon as part of this, justified by Lebanon supposedly being insufficiently democratic (it was Hariri’s job to make this plausible).

Lebanon not being Venezuela, this will likely not be sufficient and military action will be required.

Note that, in this effort, Israel, the US, and Saudi Arabia can be expected to act in cooperation.

This can and may well easily escalate into an actual war with Iran. As in Iraq before, the Saudis will want the US to do the actual dirty work, and Trump is eager to do it.

Iran is increasingly a Russian ally, and, as for Hezbollah, they appear to expect Syria to support them in any war with Israel, which is not unreasonable: Without Hezbollah support, Syria would have lost its war. Additionally, the usual reason for not fighting Israel doesn’t particularly apply any more: Syria is a smoking ruin already, though I’m sure Israel will try to demolish the capital. However, one suspects it will be heavily defended by Russian air defenses, however.

The entire mess is a clusterfuck waiting to happen. Absolute stupidity: Israel would be better off leaving Hezbollah alone (they have a lot more missiles than last time and are even more battle hardened); Iran is not an existential threat to Saudi Arabia, and; the US would have to be crazy to start another major war in the Middle East or even become involved in another one as it has done in Yemen (which should be none of the US’s business).

A lot of countries are acting directly against their own self interest. The only thing Saudi Arabia should be concerned with right now is handling the end of oil, and the prestige they might gain from defeating Iran will not be sufficient to save them from the consequences of a complete economic meltdown.

So this entire mess is, again, worth keeping an eye on.


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68 Responses leave one →
  1. S Brennan permalink
    November 5, 2017

    From my FBook entry yesterday morning:

    My Father loved Lebanon as much as any country he visited. During the late 60’s I remember accompanying my father to a restaurant that served Lebanese food on Clark street in Lincoln Park called “Kasbah”. My father loved Lebanese food and I acquired my taste for the complex spices of that cuisine from our visits to that restaurant. His face would always light-up when we went there, he loved retelling me of his experiences in Lebanon, a country rich in history, an architecture that could hold it’s own against France and a people who were diverse; but who lived in peace together.

    That was until, outside forces decided to fund/train/arm young men who had no need for the old wise men who understood how to compromise. 15 years of war ensued to no internal party’s gain. However fragile; [outside of Israels periodic invasions], there has been a peace holding in Lebanon. But if past is prescient, I feel bad for what is coming to Lebanon.

    It appears, having failed to accomplish “regime change” in Syria by funding/training/arming the most vile of terrorists, the US/Saudi/Israel alliance looks to destroy Lebanon in recompense.

    This article conjectures that a proxy war in Lebanon, will only strengthen Tehran…as have our Iraq and Syrian wars. I don’t know if this is a correct prediction, but it’s apparent that the neocolonialist [aka neocons] have have succeeded in their White House coup and the idiocy of the last 14 years will continue. Trump’s pre-election view, that these needless ME wars should cease, has been ground into the dust. Bush/Cheney/Obama/Hillary’s morally disgraceful and incompetent foreign policy will remain ascendant.

    http://www.moonofalabama.org/2017/11/lebanon-hariris-resignation-the-opening-shot-of-the-saudi-war-on-hizbullah.html#more

  2. November 5, 2017

    It all comes back to Israel.

  3. bruce wilder permalink
    November 5, 2017

    A lot of us have been on the lookout for an acceleration toward self-destruction, which is typical of “imperial collapse” as a political species: over-reach, signaling strategies clumsily displacing substance, hollow military organization or “sudden” obsolescence of military technologies and tactical organization, stupid grand strategies driven by corrupt and ideologically degenerate interests, et cetera.

    The constellation of middle east conflict has been the festering potential flash point for 70 years, but it does seem like things are aligning for the worst possible outcomes. Now.

    People of good will have been trying to prevent this denouement for two or three generations, and pretty consistently, these efforts have been undermined and subverted by a combination of stupid centrism and a determined authoritarian impulse that never engages intellectually.

    An hour’s thoughtful observation and reflection would convince any disinterested American that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are enemies of the U.S. and that Netanyahu represents a dangerously stupid faction and political impulse. But, apparently there is a dominant Blob of foreign policy experts and military professionals, who are immune collectively to thoughtful reflection. And, over the cliff we go.

    I do not think Trump’s alleged impulsivity plays much of a role in this evolution. His lack of personal conviction or intellectual curiosity means that he is an unwitting prisoner, perhaps, of this evolving correlation of forces, but it seems like everyone involved, including the defacto military junta in apparent control of the executive, are trapped inside a lack of critical epistemic awareness. And isolated from any critique that calls into question their shared delusion.

  4. bruce wilder permalink
    November 5, 2017

    OT: the report on the Fitzgerald and the McCain incidents came out last week. I read them thru and thought them “symptomatic” of an inability in the Navy to assess the causes of even manifest catastrophic failure. Wondered if Ian saw anything of interest there.

  5. Peter permalink
    November 5, 2017

    The Saudis are moving ahead wih consolidating their power under the the crown prince while signaling the western business world that they will enforce the rule of law even on high ranking family members. The Saudis have the wealth and now the training to become a diversified modern economy.

    Oil will remain their main revenue source for a long time even though some people believe in the fantasy about the end of oil. They haven’t even started fracking yet but they recognise the Dutch disease that comes with total dependence on an export commodity.

    I doubt the Saudis will become involved in the coming Israel/Hezbollah conflict they have enough to deal with with the Iranian militias gaining power in Iraq and the Iranian battle flag waving over Ansar Allah in Yemen. Any weakening of these Axis forces especially Hezbollah will be welcomed.

    The poor Lebanese made a deal with the devil when they depended on Syria and Iran through Hezbollah to end their civil war and create enough peace so they could recover from its sectarian destruction. They had to accept the Iranian proxy force as an independent power not within their government’s control and now they are dependent on Israel to break Hezbollah’s grip on power over Lebanon.

    This is a sad situation because the only way Israel can break Hezbollah is to completely destroy Lebanon. Franklin Lamb reported that Israel hopes for a short, a week to ten days, of massive air attacks dismantling Hezbollahs infrastructure and action in Syria to cut the rat lines that Iran would use to rearm them. A longer conflict could be disasterous for Israel with the possibility of an invasion attempt by Hezbollah backed by the numerous Iranian militias in Syria.

  6. James Wheeler permalink
    November 5, 2017

    Ian – you are missing the elephant in the room. Peak oil.

    Despite all the fuss about electric cars, it hasn’t happened yet and a major supply crunch is looming.

    Net export decline models suggest that by 2030 the world will be in serious trouble.

    Quite frankly, I am disappointed in you. Your writings on climate change are very good but you show a complete inability to connect the dots on resource scarcity unlike John Greer.

  7. different clue permalink
    November 5, 2017

    The faster and harder America fracks itself for oil, the lower the price will stay and the more people will use. And the lower the price stays and the more people use, the sooner America will run out of frackable oil.

    If something similar happens with other countries outside the middle east, then eventually and maybe more sooner than later this current oil-burning civilization will have no oil left to turn to except middle eastern oil. At that point, the middle easterners, including KSA, can name their price.

    Unless something really changes about how much electropotential energy can be stored in batteries, electric cars will always be a niche short-range technology. Since a lot of driving is short-range commuter driving, electric cars could become very important for that purpose. That could slow down but not stop the running-0ut of non middle eastern oil. That will eventually happen.

    Unless we can push global warming hard enough and far enough to melt all the ice off of Greenland and Antarctica. Then we should have 3 million miles of freshly exposed new land to drill for oil. And mine for coal too.

    But in the meantime, I wouldn’t hope for salvation from electric cars if they are merely deployed in service of the same exact civilization we have today.

  8. Donald permalink
    November 5, 2017

    This doesn’t fit the narrative that Trump is Putin’s puppet, so it isn’t getting as much attention as it should. American support for the Syrian rebels was part of the Saudi- US-Saudi war against Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah and many Democrats thought Obama should have gone further than he did, so they are in a poor position to criticize Trump, as many of them supported a more vigorous proxy war in Syria.

    One thing that might save us is that there is some Democratic loyalty in support of the Iran agreement because it was Obama’s signature foreign policy achievement, but this is balanced by Republicans who hate it in part for the same reason.

  9. November 5, 2017

    Thank you Peter Putin.

  10. Ian Welsh permalink*
    November 5, 2017

    I am aware of peak oil, and was writing about it before Greer had a blog. I am also aware of other types of resource depletion and have written about them.

    However I do not believe that oil is going to be the key bottleneck resource going forward. Sorry. Could be wrong, but that’s my bet.

    I’m disappointed in you that you think I haven’t thought it thru, I have.

    —-

    The rule of law will be respected in Saudi Arabia, and corruption is being crushed. Oh my, thank you for the belly laugh.

  11. Jeff Wegerson permalink
    November 5, 2017

    I continue (since the 80’s) to believe that we run out of air before we run out of oil.

  12. Peter permalink
    November 5, 2017

    @Jeff

    Peak oil wasn’t about running out of oil but about not being able to produce enough new oil to meet new demand and cover depletion. The big concern now is that Peak Oil Demand will occur before peak oil production and the economic models to address this change don’t exist.

  13. November 5, 2017

    Water. Water will be the key bottleneck resource going forward.

  14. Peter permalink
    November 5, 2017

    I thought the resource scarcity alarmists had been proven wrong so many times they would give up and enjoy the abundance. They don’t seem able to leave people alone and stop spreading depressing ideas much like the CAGW doomers.

    Whenever rising demand for resources makes them appear scarce the rising price gets people moving to find more of the resource or use improved technology to gather and process resources from deposits that were unprofitable at the older price.

    True scarcity may never occur but the difficulty and cost of extracting some of these resources may become prohibitive. The Saudis are investing in NEO asteroid exploration which could supply huge quanities of high demand mineral resources such as cobalt with one rich asteroid supplying enough of that mineral to shut down all mining on Earth.

  15. Lois Lussier permalink
    November 5, 2017

    Oh my! That means all those Lebanese that came to Canada years ago because of the unrest/upheavals and then returned to Lebanon when they thought it was safe to do so (they have always been loyal to their country of origin). Problem is that every time there is another upheaval, after several years of calm, these folks return to Canada to wait out that particular crisis, then return to the country they would love to be able to live in on a regular basis, and go back and try it again.

    The problem is, the US always seems to be “involved” in these recurring upheavals and always in aid of Israel. The bottom line seems to be that if they can’t keep Israel happy (is that an oxymoron?) given they basically fund all of their military needs, and continue to support every whim of whoever is currently in charge, the big question is: what will really satisfy the whims of Israel and their varying politicians???

  16. Chiron permalink
    November 6, 2017

    It’s funny how the Shia Muslims became the “bad guys” in the Middle-East when all the Terrorism in the West have been done by Sunni Muslims.

    It’s the Saudi population aware that they’re working for Israel?

  17. Blissex permalink
    November 6, 2017

    «Hariri (who lives part time in Saudi Arabia)»

    It is even better than that: he is a saudi citizen, and he is chairman of Saudi Oger, a large construction company that went bankrupt not so long ago, and depends on Saudi forbearance.

    «Saudi Arabia should be concerned with right now is handling the end of oil»

    They simply cannot handle the end of oil, because of the need to power the desalination plants that have allowed them to have a colossal population explosion in a desert, the water and in general carrying capacity issue in places like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are “insoluble”:

    http://mazamascience.com/PopulationDatabrowser/output_en/bc379d3bb5418b099c16bb74e95ae7c68a952b6c6b3e945dc111753ef823fc2b.png
    http://mazamascience.com/PopulationDatabrowser/output_en/6dce99b52068b4daca6db3d90343922adbe2d5ea750c8ff719a2781fa786714e.png

    During the next few decades around at least 20-25 million wahabi fanatics need to emigrate from Arabia to “somewhere else”.

  18. Blissex permalink
    November 6, 2017

    «convince any disinterested American that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are enemies of the U.S. and that Netanyahu represents a dangerously stupid faction and political impulse.»

    But you know very well that likudniks and saudis are probably the biggest campaign fund donors in the USA, and that matters a lot. If USA citizens are happy with a pay-per-play political system, and are not willing to outbid them, be it on their heads.

    As to Pakistan I am not totally sure that their interests are opposite to those of the USA; they are run by the usual third world corrupt mafias that really enjoy USA protection.

  19. Jeff Wegerson permalink
    November 6, 2017

    @Peter
    Nonsense. Demand, Supply, Production, Consumption? Plenty of economic models for those concepts. I was simply addressing the common misperceptions peddled in media. You get it so not addressed to you.

    We are now glutted in supply of oil but increasingly short on air. Clean electricity is the solution for the shortage but an obvious driver of the glut. But as you and I know the gears of politics are gummed up and tarred with oil and the electric solutions are stuck in the congestion.

  20. November 6, 2017

    Let me know when you can drink oil. Eat gold.

    Seven billion people on a planet that can barely sustain one. Do the math. Take your time, I’ll wait.

  21. Peter permalink
    November 6, 2017

    @Jeff

    The analysts from the oil industry don’t think that Peak Oil Demand or the problems it may create are nonsense. I don’t think economists in the rest of the economy have produced new models for the end of growth we may face this century.

    Our economies are based and planned on the idea of steady neverending growth not a steady-state very low or no growth economy. As China and India develop and the world population peaks and stabilizes the forces driving expansion will be weakened. If the capatilists can exploit the final frontier we might be able to continue to grow on the planet and in the expanse.

  22. StewartM permalink
    November 6, 2017

    Peter

    Whenever rising demand for resources makes them appear scarce the rising price gets people moving to find more of the resource or use improved technology to gather and process resources from deposits that were unprofitable at the older price.

    That “truism” is based on a very short-term perspective of history and anthropology. Human existence is littered with the graves of societies that hit a resource limit wall and there was no magical resource unicorn that arrived in time to save the day (examples could include the Mayans, the Myceneans, the Anasazi, the Moche, and many others).

    As for your dismissal of “alarmists” I note that the predictions made by the much-derided (by people of your persuasion) Limits of Growth are right on track. And that doesn’t end well.

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/02/limits-to-growth-was-right-new-research-shows-were-nearing-collapse

    Mind you, in science, a theory is validated by its ability to make accurate predictions.

  23. bruce wilder permalink
    November 6, 2017

    Mainstream neoclassical economics grudgingly recognises “externality” as a market imperfection, not a necessary concomitant of production.

    The core insight of peak oil theory is that more and more energy is consumed producing net usable energy. A necessary corollary is that we produce vastly more waste and pollution ekeing out a gallon of usable fuel. Just so, we realise a shale gas bonanza by sacrificing the purity of ground water. Imagining that there will be a day of desperate need for oil and no oil misses the main event: fossil fuel will be available for a long time at a low price but increasing cost in terms of ecological degradation.

  24. Peter permalink
    November 6, 2017

    @Stew

    The scarcity alarmists only got one thing right that there is a limit to growth but not for any of the reasons they predicted. The almost doubling of the world polulation since 1970 didn’t produce the catastrophe

  25. Willy permalink
    November 6, 2017

    The Saudis are investing in NEO asteroid exploration which could supply huge quanities of high demand mineral resources such as cobalt with one rich asteroid supplying enough of that mineral to shut down all mining on Earth.

    Yup, the system will automatically and always ensure that everything works out in the end. As American workers cede oil purchasing power to richer Chinese and Indians, American cities should densify (assuming those people will still find work there), resulting in plenty of ripe targets. Wahabbis taking control of orbital mineral packet launchers will have an easier time culling the excess population, insha’Allah.

    How does a Trump supporter rationalize giving away ‘American greatness’ to other PTB which Americans only have a very limited means of controlling?

  26. Peter permalink
    November 6, 2017

    Oops, continuing from above,

    The almost doubling of the world population didn’t produce the catastrophe they predicted and it won’t because they neglected to include human resourcefulness in their models. They failed to predict that oil would be selling for about the same price now as in the ’70s or that midwestern farmers would be producing almost three times as many bushels of corn per acre as in the ’70s or that they would stop plowing their fields. We produce so much corn now that we use half of it to make fuel to help reduce pollution.

    The alarmists then and now have this strange defeatist view that the human race would and will sit and wait for catastrophe to overtake them staring at their wet feet as the ocean rises to drown them.

    Alarmism sells books and generates more funding to produce more alarmism and the hand-wringing goes on. Industrious humans respond to challenges with ingenuity and persistance leaving the alarmists in the dust.

  27. bruce wilder permalink
    November 6, 2017

    @ Peter

    I cannot say I am a fan of alarmist rhetoric, anymore than I think an Englishman shouting louder has found an adequate substitute for speaking Spanish in a Spanish-speaking country.

    The consequences — the actual consequences — of overpopulation and the overuse of the earth’s resources — particularly the assimilative capacity of the natural environment to “clean” the wastes of human production and consumption — are both manifest and emergent. They are there, now, if you look, and they will keep on coming. The anticipated global warming that follows on adding carbon to the carbon cycle and increasing the proportion of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will continue to mount for centuries to come. The depletion of aquifers and the loss of top soil from agricultural overproduction is having consequences now and those consequences will continue to grow in importance. The multiplication of toxic waste dumps and dispersion of wastes into the oceans and atmosphere and soil have consequences now and will continue to have consequences.

    Neither the left nor right have quite groked the necessity of constraining all energy use. The faith in human ingenuity and a future of flying cars gets in the way far more often than alarmism. Cassandra is right, but not believed.

  28. Willy permalink
    November 6, 2017

    The system cannot fail, but only be failed. And only alarmists can believe it is currently being failed.

  29. StewartM permalink
    November 6, 2017

    The almost doubling of the world population didn’t produce the catastrophe they predicted and it won’t because they neglected to include human resourcefulness in their models.

    What, weren’t there any resourceful people in all those other societies I spoke of which collapsed, and which environmental degradation/resource depletion may have been a salient cause? Your case seems to be based upon special pleading that we are somehow different.

    And actually, Limits of Growth actually overestimated world population growth compared to reality, world population has actually increased less than they predicted. On the debit side, they did not foresee the effects of climate change.

  30. Peter permalink
    November 6, 2017

    @Bruce

    You started out on the right foot but slipped back into alarmist whataboutism. There is no free lunch, nearly everything we do that improves civilization also have costs. These costs have been large but we have reduced them and no longer dump raw sewage into our rivers or create new Love Canals. The depletion of aquifiers forced farmers to develop more efficent irrigation methods. The long drought here in NM caused our irrigation district managers to rework the whole system and now the same amount of acreage is irrigated using half of the water needed before. The Egyptians were in town a while ago to see if they could use any of these innovations on their much larger system.

    The short term predictions made by the CAGW alarmists in the last twenty years have been shown to be wrong so there is no reason to think their future predictions will prove to be any more accurate. What we have seen is a moderate warming trend, with a long pause, that should be beneficial for the environment and agriculture along with a boost in plant growth from added CO2.

    In the US and Europe industry and consumers have become much more efficient in their energy use through improved technology. The idea of constraining our or especially developing peoples use of energy seems like a commie plan and only could be imposed on people by some NWO mandates by unelected technocrats.

  31. Hugh permalink
    November 6, 2017

    What we are seeing in the KSA is a rolling coup. Saudi Arabia will collapse. Its extremist theology, the anti-Shia hysteria which is part and parcel of it, the dictatorship of the monarchy, the decline of oil, and the demographics, a population moving toward 40 million by 2050 in a desert country that can not reliably sustain a population of more than 5-7 million, all these things ensure that Saudi Arabia will collapse. It could well last for another 10 years, but after that, all bets are off, and the chances it will be around in any recognizable form in 2050 are small.

  32. Hugh permalink
    November 6, 2017

    What is interesting is that those nervous Nellies, otherwise known as the entire American scientific establishment just came out with their Fourth National Climate Assessment. They state:

    Global annually averaged surface air temperature has increased by about 1.8°F (1.0°C) over the last 115 years (1901–2016). This period is now the warmest in the history of modern civilization. The last few years have also seen record-breaking, climate-related weather extremes, and the last three years have been the warmest years on record for the globe. These trends are expected to continue over climate timescales.
    This assessment concludes, based on extensive evidence, that it is extremely likely [95-100% probability] that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence.

    They go on to say that the likelihood that natural variability is a major factor in climate change is virtually nil.

    And they also state:

    While climate models incorporate important climate processes that can be well quantified, they do not include all of the processes that can contribute to feedbacks, compound extreme events, and abrupt and/or irreversible changes. For this reason, future changes outside the range projected by climate models cannot be ruled out (very high confidence). Moreover, the systematic tendency of climate models to underestimate temperature change during warm paleoclimates suggests that climate models are more likely to underestimate than to overestimate the amount of long-term future change (medium confidence).

    Human resourcefulness is a silly deus ex machina argument, that somehow we will save ourselves despite ourselves. We already know what the problems are: overpopulation and human induced climate change, and we already know what the solutions are: manage both down to sustainable levels. If we don’t, nature will do it for us at infinitely greater levels of misery.

  33. Willy permalink
    November 6, 2017

    Ah, but do these “scientists” believe in Donald Trump? Or even Jesus?

    Easter Island had no such believers. Yet the birdman cult saved their asses. Count me in as one of your followers, St. Peter.

  34. November 6, 2017

    That’s right Peter, if you can’t baffle ’em with brilliance dazzle ’em with bull-shit.

  35. Peter permalink
    November 6, 2017

    I think the research on trends and their possible effects such as the Limits Of Growth book are useful but when the author or others make predictions that end up being false they should apologise for their fear inducing mistakes and move on. As the exerpts above show that is not what happens. Insted bogus alarmist claims are repeatedly parroted as fact which leads me to believe there is more to this agenda than just science and evidence.

    I’ll bet on human resourcefulness while others may cower in the dark waiting for catastrophe. The people of the Netherlands have been in a life and death conflict with nature/the sea for over a thousand years and have suffered real catastrophe but they persisted and have tamed if not defeated nature. The Zuiderzee is now a lake and they have reclaimed almost 900 sq miles of it for farmland. This along with their costal tidal defense structures are one of the seven wonders of the modern world.

    The so-far uncontrollable parts of nature may strike out and damage parts of civilization but humans just get back to work and move on building on the civilization we started about ten thousand years ago. Humans took the first steps to control nature when the first seed was planted in the first turned earth. Everything that followed was about manipulating and controlling nature for our benefit. This is why we will be able to feed 10 billion people.

  36. Peter permalink
    November 7, 2017

    The virtue signaling by the KSA with the corruption arrests has been made old news by the Ansar Allah long range ballistic missile attack on Riyadh. This could have been an Iranian missile supplied by Hezbollah and the Saudis are pointing the finger at Lebanon. Saad Hariri’s resignation leaves Lebanon without a government but Hezbollah and their allies were already making the government an Iranian puppet. This move may save the loyal Lebanese part of the government and the military from being destroyed in the Israel/Hezbollah war.

    I don’t know if Iran would have sanctioned this attack but they are showing strain because of the likely distruction of Hezbollah and their plans for Lebanon and Syria.

  37. Willy permalink
    November 7, 2017

    The Zuiderzee Works is a public project (but we’ll let that little faux pas slip by). I’d trust our own government to manage the creation of it’s own wonder which holds back the Mexican tide, if they could only just be as determined and efficient as the Dutch seem to be.

  38. Peter permalink
    November 7, 2017

    @W

    I know it’s hard to tell sometimes but governments and the public are made up of humans and some of them promote good ideas. Governments rarely build things but do plan and finance building things for humans and civilization. This is especially true for projects that rate being called one of the seven wonders of the modern world.

    I don’t think the flood of illegal aliens across our border can be described as a phenomenon of nature. This is evident because the idea of the wall being built has caused the humans south of the border to rethink their plans to cross.

  39. Willy permalink
    November 7, 2017

    I had a discussion last night with an old (agewise) friend who spent most of the time bitching that the USA has turned into a can’t-do nation. If an asteroid was heading towards the earth none of the team heroics in “Armageddon” would be even remotely possible. The reality version of that movie would have all European or Chinese characters.

  40. johnm33 permalink
    November 7, 2017

    I guess that having lots of wives and children eventually leads to far too many with ‘royal’ expectations, in the past kings/emporers who saw this coming could create new cities to give the harems excess production a chance of surviving the chop come the succession. Hopefully after cooling their heels for a while those arrested will have reduced expectations and accept a small pension to quietly live elsewhere.
    What do you give someone who has everything – a clusterfuck, sun must have gone to their heads.

  41. StewartM permalink
    November 7, 2017

    Peter

    I’ll bet on human resourcefulness while others may cower in the dark waiting for catastrophe.

    As Willy opined, the US’s wonderfully ever-more privatized government run by those businesspeople who tell us they will ‘run America like a business’ now can’t even do relatively *local* disaster relief well, small stuff compared to what we might see.

    Funny you have this exalted idea of what capitalist private organizations can do. Not only couldn’t they do a Zuiderzee project (which may end up still failing, have you taken a look at predicted shorelines once the ice caps melt?). Think they could do a Manhattan Project?

  42. Synoia permalink
    November 7, 2017

    Perhaps one could consider the geopolitical system in the light of ISIS being defeated by the Syria-Hezbollah-Iranian alliance.

    The US’ allies, supported by the US appear have lost this fight.

    Thus the battleground must change. The current Israeli-Saudi, and probably US backed, has shifted their focus to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

    Now let’s review with a world map at hand, and look at the Silk Road routes, either South or North of the Caspian sea.

    War in Lebanon is key to continuing chaos at the Southern branch terminating in Mediterranean ports, of China’s new silk road.

    The northern route, through Russia to Germany, is under attack from chaos in Ukraine, and made less practicable by the Polish-East European opposition to any Russian success.

  43. November 7, 2017

    Illegal aliens? They from Mars? Or Jupiter?

  44. Mongo permalink
    November 7, 2017

    This is why we will be able to feed 10 billion people.

    Mein Gott; should we want to?? Anyone remember reading “Stand On Zanzibar”?

  45. Peter permalink
    November 7, 2017

    The Iraqi VP warned today that the greatest threat to Iraq now are the Iranian militias that are modeled on Hezbillah. One of them is called Hezbollah and they are moving to use their military strength to gain political power in Iraq just as Hezbollah did in Lebanon. I suppose it’s possible that Iraq could interdict the rat lines supplying Hezbollah through Iraq during the Israel/Hezbollah war. Whatever happens some of the countries in the region are taking positions before the war starts.

  46. Hugh permalink
    November 7, 2017

    It seems like some are condemned to not learn the same lessons over and over. Correlation is not causation.

    Illegal immigration across the southern border is down and been going down, not because of the threat of a future wall (Why would a currently non-existent Great Wall deter someone from crossing the border now?), but because the US economy sucks at 2% growth or less, and the high levels of deportations under Obama. Also even if a wall did exist, it would have no effect on what I believe is the majority of illegals who simply fly in and overstay their visas.

    Re the new silk road, it has always seemed to me to be a stupid vanity project. Shipping by sea has always been enormously cheaper than shipping by land. Central Asia and the Middle East are going to fall apart in the coming decades due to the effects of overpopulation, climate change, and lack of civil societies. So the southern route ending somewhere on the Mediterranean, which makes the most sense economically, is a non-starter. I say most sense because you would want such a route to link you to your markets, not your competitors. And that is one of the problems with a northern route through Kazakhstan and Russia, along with the harsh winters and the other geopolitical conflicts already alluded to.

    Do not expect any brilliant strategy emanating from the Saudis. These are the people after all who keep doubling down on their war in Yemen.

    What is funny is Peter slamming the writers of the Limits of Growth. It is a seminal work from the 1960s and touched on many of the problems we currently face, but predates the awareness about climate change. And much like Peter, it thought that most of the concerns it raised would very nonspecifically resolve themselves in the future.

  47. DMC permalink
    November 7, 2017

    John Brunner looks more like a prophet with every passing day.

  48. November 7, 2017

    “Why would a currently non-existent Great Wall deter someone from crossing the border now?”

    Psh, get out of here with your “facts” and “logic.” Trump supporters don’t want no part of those!

  49. Hugh permalink
    November 7, 2017

    Completely off topic, but Trump was able to give a medical diagnosis of mental illness to the shooter in Texas with no knowledge of the man or his criminal history. So if anyone here has a medical problem or simply would like to know if they have one, email the White House. Trump apparently has the power of giving you one, even without knowing anything about you. This unexpected talent could solve our healthcare crisis at a single blow.

    Also for anyone contemplating a crime, remember that your President has equated criminal activity with mental illness. So feel free to cite him in your defense. If you are unsure, be sure to shoot as many people as you can in the commission of your crime because this will only bolster your mental illness claim.

  50. November 7, 2017

    Strikes me that waiting around cowering fearfully for some supergenius to come up with some miracle last minute technology to save the world is not unlike waiting around cowering fearfully for some spectral being with whom some special contractual obligation has been entered to float down out of the sky on a flying rainbow unicorn with thousands of spectral helpers on flying rainbow unicorns to carry the faithful away to paradise.

  51. Peter permalink
    November 7, 2017

    @Sy

    The Israelis never lost their focus on Hezbollah and maintained their attacks on the Iranian supply lines. They are the people directly threatened by Hezbollah and now Iran and their militias in Syria and they will have to deal with that threat.

    I don’t think there has been any real winning by anyone in Syria. There has been no surrender of armies or disarmement just cease-fire and negotations and the IS may have lost ground but they are still there.

    The US was never willing to supply the arms needed by the Syrian rebels to actually win the war and they did fail to remove Assad through a negotiated transition government.

    It’s probably best that the Russians are responsible for winning the peace in Syria and making certain that Assad and the Iranians don’t go on a bloody sectarian rampage once the rebels cease to threaten the government.

    I doubt the Chinese are even thinking about putting an off-ramp in their pseudo-silk road for Syria or Lebanon now or in any forseeable future. There is a much safer and easy route just north of Syria into Turkey.

  52. Tom permalink
    November 7, 2017

    Looks like the KRG won’t be around for much longer. Abadi’s position is hardening. He told the KRG all oil revenues belong to the Iraqi Government and only the Federal Army is allowed arms. It looks like KDP’s days are numbered.

  53. Hugh permalink
    November 7, 2017

    Again with regard to the New Silk Road, you need to think in terms of resources (headed to China), markets (for Chinese goods), topographic considerations (building infrastructure across mountain ranges in Turkey, the Caucasus, Iran, etc.), and geopolitical obstacles (failed and failing states in Central Asia and the Middle East and the dictatorship in Turkey). None of it makes much sense, except perhaps for some natural gas pipelines from Central Asian fields to China which might or might not remain secure for the next ten to twenty years.

  54. Hvd permalink
    November 8, 2017

    I think that he point of the silk roads project is in significant part aspirational and inspirational. An attempt to build a win-win world which will help calm the waters by involving people in a shared rather than antagonistic world. My guess is that the Chinese understand the risks of failure that you allude to but think that the attempt alone might be in some degree transformative as a model for international relations to replace the Anglo-American model of divide and conquer. A sort of unite and conquer which of course they see as benign and which actually may be better than our war inducing model.

  55. Hugh permalink
    November 8, 2017

    The Chinese are like any imperialistic power. If there is any win-win, it will be purely accidental and incidental to the projection of their power. You have only to look at their internal treatment of the Tibetans and Uighurs to see “benign” is not in their lexicon.

  56. November 8, 2017

    Bit anglocentric, that. Anglo-American values, the white man’s way, are not universal. Nor are they, as China is beginning to demonstrate, optimal.

  57. November 8, 2017

    While we’re waiting around cowering fearfully for some supergenius to come up with some miracle last minute technology to save the world, consider: the future will speak Chinese. We, the white dogs, the anglo amero russian imperialists, are not going figure out how to get us out of an atmosphere we can’t breath. Might figure out how to save a few of the rich bitches, but not the rest of.

    Another way of putting it: all those scifi fantasy movies we’re so good at making… in the real world they will be speaking Chinese, Spanish, and Swahili.

  58. Peter permalink
    November 8, 2017

    I wonder why some people continue to smear Sultan Erdogan and project the lie that he is a dictator. We know what military dictators in the ME look and behave like with Syria and Egypt the worst examples. Erdogan has gained his position through 12 elections campaigning vigirously and winning them all in a multi-party system with strong opposition.

    With the support of the Turkish people he survived a cult/military coup attempt and has finally brought the military under civilian control a very important milestone for Turkish democracy. Erdogan is a pugnacious leader and he is exercising emergency powers granted by their constitution but what is he suppose to do allow the embedded cult to regroup and try again?

    The rise and support of cosmopolitan Islam in Turkey seems to terrorize some people who think that western secularism must be imposed on everyone. I think it infuriates some people when this challenge to secularism is successful while maintaining democratic systems and freedoms.

  59. November 8, 2017

    Peter

    “I don’t know if Iran would have sanctioned this attack but they are showing strain because of the likely destruction of Hezbollah and their plans for Lebanon and Syria.”

    Want to bet?

  60. Hugh permalink
    November 8, 2017

    Peter is channeling his inner Michael Flynn. How much does it pay to suck up to the latest corrupt Middle Eastern dictator? Saddam Hussein too won election after election, and we all know what a champion of democracy he was. And isn’t it convenient that Erdogan is only using the powers which the constitution which he rewrote gives him? And those 50,000 or so he incarcerated on suspicion of disliking him, well, I suppose in Peter’s demented view that too is democracy in action. And oh yes, the Kurds. What an enlightened policy of oppression and murder Erdogan has toward them. He is a veritable paragon of virtues, dictatorial virtues that is.

  61. Peter permalink
    November 8, 2017

    Sultan Erdogan is a hard-nosed politician and I never use the word virtue when talking about politicans even if some may be virtuous. Erdogan has shown strength and will on many occasions especially when he flew into the middle of the coup to take charge of the counterattack. He rallied Turks to oppose the Gulinist attack on their democracy. This happened while the lying media broadcast false reports of him fleeing the country which seemed to have been supporting the coup.

    The rest of your comment looks like Gulenist talking points or MSM fake news spin, it’s hard to tell the difference. The people who have been arrested have been mostly military and all were charged through legal means and all will or have had trials. Thousands have been released including the Gulanist who murdered the Russian ambassador, that was a mistake.

    Assad and al Sissi also have staged elections and like Saddam was they are military dictators who always win with 75% to 95% margins. It appears that many of the non-extremist Kurds in Turkey vote to support Erdogan’s policies and he campaigns for those votes. I doubt Erdogan wrote their new constitution but it is what he and others wanted and the majority of Turks voted for it including Kurds.

  62. November 8, 2017

    You would know fake news and talking points.

  63. Willy permalink
    November 8, 2017

    Some say the real estate value of Erdogan’s new presidential palace is almost double that of the White House. But I guess that’s how they roll over there. When a few Islamicists start talking smack, you build yourself one helluva crib. I’m having a hard time totaling the value of all the Saudi palaces…

    Sorry about the interruption. Carry on.

  64. Peter permalink
    November 8, 2017

    You can’t be too swift if you think Erdogan owns the Turkish presidential palace. He’s called a neo-Ottoman so perhaps he wants some Ottoman grandeur without the troublesome empire while he is president and for those who follow him.

  65. Willy permalink
    November 9, 2017

    You’re grasping again Peter. If Erdogan ever steps down, he shall no longer ‘own’ the “Kaçak Saray”. I wouldn’t counter if you’re arguing that many middle eastern countries would probably tear themselves apart without a strongman in charge. But vulgar displays of wealth (or the illicit use of a nations wealth) flies in the face of what’s preached in the Koran. It doesn’t help his cause, unless he enjoys playing the strongman.

  66. Willy permalink
    November 9, 2017

    The more interesting question is why did conservatives believe that when freed of their despotic strongmen, middle eastern countries would just automatically embrace democracy? Conservatives believed that mans natural first desire is for freedom. Yet the mob in those places didn’t overwhelm the troublemakers and institute freedom.

    If what’s happened in those places is any indication, it appears that mans natural first desires are actually far more complicated than that, making converting those places more difficult than just removing the strongman.

  67. Peter permalink
    November 9, 2017

    If you had prefaced your comment with ‘Hardcore Islamist’ building a James Bond villain hideout your inane comment might not seem like squaking from an old woman about an ostentatious neighbor.

    The topic is inane but with those headlines you could have at least displayed your orientalism front and center. The complex is large but Erdogan will only use 250 rooms to live in while the rest will be the center of government for the New Turkey.

    I doubt you understand what you believe or what conservatives believe, not all conservatives are neocons. Turkey is the best example so far of a modern repressentative republic developing in the ME. They are rejecting some of the degenerate liberalism of the West and much of the neocon agenda while maintaining their Islamic identity. This drives the orientalists to distraction because it challenges the superiority of western dominance.

  68. Willy permalink
    November 9, 2017

    I doubt you understand what you believe or what conservatives believe

    Learn me. Do it here, now. Tell me what conservatives believe. And you can then refer back to that comment whenever I err, and shame me accordingly.

    I believe I’d be right up Trump’s alley, if I didn’t view him as yet another corrupt and incompetent con artist who isn’t what he claims to be.

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