Category Archives: Guest Post

The War to Start All Wars: The 25th Anniversary of the Forgotten Invasion of Panama

Yves here. Why is war becoming a dominant line of business for a soi-disant democracy? In the 19th century, the consensus among the capitalist classes was that armed conflict was bad for business. Europe had a nearly 100 year of peace, with only short-lived conflicts as punctuation.

The rationale for America’s militaristic foreign policy was that spreading democracy would promote peace, since as conventional wisdom had it, democracies don’t go to war with other democracies. But the more accurate statement might be that many democracies (Russia and most countries in South America being noteworthy exceptions) have accepted the US security umbrella and are no longer capable of defending themselves (for instance, Mathew D. Rose noted that “much of the German military hardware is dysfunctional due to austerity and endemic corruption“). But the promise of a Pax Americana in the wake of the fall of the USSR has instead morphed into the US running ongoing wars and counterinsurgencies, even as our troops are strained to the breaking point. And it’s clear that these campaigns are more about looting than about making America and its allies safer. The classic Military Misfortunes: The Anatomy of Failure in War has an afterword which discusses the failed Iraq peace, pointing out that it was absurd to expect the Iraqi army to be able to stand up against foreign attack (this years before it collapsed when ISIS looked cross-eyed at it). Similarly, that a big part of the failure to reconstruct the country was due to the use of US contractors. Not only did they cost ridiculously more, but the failure to employ local firms and hire locals meant little of the spending went into the Iraq economy. Rebuilding would also have given young men meaningful and well-paid work. The absence of that made them good raw material for the opposition.

In other words, America has turned long-standing commercial logic on its head. Yet there has been perilous little in the way of complaint from the business community. Is it because one of America’s recent growth engined, the tech industry, gets far too much in the way of goodies from defense-related R&D to challenge this equation? Or that US multinationals believe, rightly or wrongly, that the safety of their extended supply chains depends on military might, and so they see their interests as aligned with US adventurism? Or is it simply that the US has gotten to be very good at propaganda (see Alex Carey, Taking the Risk out of Democracy, for a long-form treatment), with the result that many people operate from assumptions that would not stand up to scrutiny?

Read more...

Putin: Battered, Bruised But Not Broken

Yves here. The triumphalism among Western commentators as the ruble plunged last week is more than a little cringe-making. We’re not yet in Two Minute Hate territory yet, but this feels like a warmup. Robert Parry provides an insanity check:

Official Washington’s “group think” on the Ukraine crisis now has a totalitarian feel to it as “everyone who matters” joins in the ritualistic stoning of Russian President Putin and takes joy in Russia’s economic pain, with liberal economist Paul Krugman the latest to hoist a rock…

Indeed, much of what Krugman finds so offensive about Putin’s Russia actually stemmed from the Yeltsin era following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 when the so-called Harvard Boys flew to Moscow to apply free-market “shock therapy” which translated into a small number of well-connected thieves plundering Russia’s industry and resources, making themselves billionaires while leaving average Russians near starvation.

The piece goes on to debunk in considerable detail the caricature of Putin presented in America, the most important element being the charge that Putin was the aggressor in Ukraine and is therefore getting what he deserved. Mind you, Putin is still an authoritarian, but we don’t find that objectionable in many of our putative allies, starting with the Saudis.

Read more...

Ilargi: Drilling Our Way Into Oblivion

Lambert here: So the fracking companies have purchased “risk insurance.” I wonder what happens when they all file their claims at the same time. What could go wrong? By Raúl Ilargi Meijer, editor-in-chief of The Automatic Earth. Originally published at Automatic Earth. Oh, that sweet black gold won’t leave us alone, will it? West Texas […]

Read more...

Bill Black: Obama and Holder Choose Banksters Over Whistleblowers

Yves here. At this point, the Obama administration’s fealty to banksters is a “dog bites man” story. Nevertheless, it’s useful to catalogue particular incidents to show how consistent its behavior is. The latest case study is its shoddy treatment of whistleblowers.

Read more...

John Helmer: Ukraine Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko Accused in Colorado Court

Yves here. Helmer was first to provide in-depth reporting on the US citizen and State-Department supported Natalie Jaresko, who was mysteriously parachuted into the post of Ukraine Finance Minister a few weeks ago. Jaresko is in the midst of a nasty divorce from her former business partner. As Helmer wrote:

It hasn’t been rare for American spouses to go into the asset management business in the former Soviet Union, and make profits underwritten by the US Government with information supplied from their US Government positions or contacts. It is exceptional for them to fall out over the loot.

Helmer gives us the latest update on this protracted battle, and what it says about the Natalie Jaresko’s willingness to play fast and loose.

Read more...

Michael Pettis: Is China Really Turning Away from the Dollar?

Yves here. This important post by Michael Pettis addresses whether the efforts of the Chinese to diversify their foreign investments away from the dollar will be a negative for the US. Pettis is skeptical of that thesis, and some of his reasons are intriguing. Like quite a few experts, he doubts that China’s role in sponsoring an infrastructure bank will be a game changer, and he also points out, as we have regularly, that the Chinese cannot deploy their foreign exchange reserves domestically without driving the renminbi to the moon (via selling foreign currencies to buy RMB), which is the last thing they want to have happen. A more surprising, but well argued thesis is that reduced Chinese purchases of US bonds would be a net plus for the US.

Get a cup of coffee. This is a meaty, important article.

Read more...