Ilargi: Oil, Power and Psychopaths

Yves here. One minor caveat to a fine overview. Ilargi mentions at the end that Angela Merkel has said that it is prepared to let Greece leave the Eurozone if it bucks austerity. A regular reader of the German press who also read the report in Der Spiegel thinks this is a bluff to influence the Greek election.

And there is a bigger question that goes unanswered: why so much US warmongering and destructive, and eventually self-destructive behavior (blowback, anyone?). As Karl Polanyi mentions in passing in his The Great Transformation (see our recent post) because it seems so obvious, a peace consensus had emerged among the Great Powers in the nineteenth century, largely because domestic and international commerce were now a major social organizing principle, and businessmen correctly saw war as bad for business. So why has the peace faction been successfully supplanted by a war faction? Is it that (so far) the US wars are not inflicted on parties we consider to be contemporary Great Powers?

By Raúl Ilargi Meijer, editor-in-chief of The Automatic Earth. Originally published at Automatic Earth.

Iran has a – very – long running dispute with the US about its nuclear technology. The US wants Assad (Bashar Al-Assad) out of Syria, while Iran and Russia support Assad (Russia’s sole proper base in the Middle East), who’s an Alawite (a Shi-ite branch), a people historically persecuted by Sunni’s. ISIS (or Daesh in the region) is Sunni. So are the Saudi’s. Iran is Shi’ite. Bahrain is ruled by Sunni but has a majority Shi’ite population. And I could go on for a while. A long while.

All this plays into the oil game, the falling oil prices. Blaming OPEC for the recent price fall is seeing the world from a child’s perspective. OPEC and its major voteholder, Saudi Arabia, are no more to blame for the plunge than the US, Russia or other non-OPEC producers. Everybody produces as if there’s no tomorrow, and the Saudi’s have merely concluded that their only choice is to do the same. It’s a race to the bottom.

The reason is the fast declining demand for oil; China is nowhere near as mighty as we seem to think, Europe is a basket case, emerging economies are being strangled as we speak by the surging dollar and the Fed taper, and we’re just getting started. It’s cute and all that nobody wonders how much virtual money has vanished into the great beyond as both oil itself and the companies that get it out of the earth have lost half of their ‘values’ in Q4 2014, let alone the countries that depend on oil for their very existence. But cute doesn’t cut it.

Oliver Stone talks about ‘Ukraine: The CIA Coup’. I’ve talked about exactly that all of last year. While on vacation, Obama declares new sanctions on North Korea for hacking a Japanese company only the FBI claims it was guilty of. While US sanctions against Iran are ongoing.

America is trying to control the world by throwing it into confusion, emboldened by poorly understood theories about military superiority, and creating conflicts all over the place that look like they will never be solved. Whereas all it would need to do is make sure it secures itself, its own territory, not control the entire planet.

That was always a stupid idea. No big dream empire has ever lasted long enough to truly enjoy the fruits of its dreams for more than ten minutes or so. They’ve all ended in horrific bloodshed. The dark visions of impotent power hungry masters and servants have thrown overstretched empires into lethal turmoil for many thousands of years. It’s just that now, for the first time, it’s happening on a truly global scale.

The result will be the same; only, it’ll all go even more spectacularly wrong. It’s the way things go. But they won’t go the way our deluded powerbrokers think they will. That ‘mission accomplished’ message from W. back in the day is going to start sounding a lot more stupider as time goes by. You just wait and watch.

I found this bit interesting, from Reuters, it paints a good picture of how the confusion-all-around ‘strategy’ is supposed to supposedly work:

Iran Says Saudi Arabia Should Move To Curb Oil Price Fall

The Iranian deputy minister also criticised Saudi military involvement in Bahrain, which has been gripped by tension since 2011 protests led by majority Shi’ite Muslims demanding reforms and a bigger role in running the Sunni-ruled country. Abdollahian said Bahraini authorities’ continued detention of Shi’ite opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman would have “serious consequences” for the government there.

Tehran and Riyadh accuse each other of interfering in the pro-Western Gulf island kingdom, one of several countries where their power struggle has played out. They also support opposing sides in wars and disputes in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. Abdollahian dismissed United States efforts to fight Islamic State, also known by its Arabic acronym Daesh, as a ploy to advance U.S. policies in the region. “The reality is that the United States is not acting to eliminate Daesh (ISIS). They are not even interested in weakening Daesh, they are only interested in managing it,” he said.

The United States and its allies have carried out hundreds of air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Washington has also sent military support to Baghdad’s Shi’ite-led government but its role in Syria – where it has called for President Bashar al-Assad to step down – is more limited. Iran has sent Revolutionary Guard commanders to help its Shi’ite and Alawite allies in Baghdad and Damascus battle Islamic State and other Sunni fighters. But Abdollahian denied that Iran conducted aerial attacks on Iraqi sites.

“On the ground, where the U.S. should take serious action, there are no serious actions taking place. The US is not doing anything,” he said, accusing Washington of pursing a contradictory policy towards Islamist militants. “One day they support Daesh, another day they are against terrorism,” he said.

Abdollahian reaffirmed Iran’s commitment to Assad, saying the Syrian president must be involved in any political transition aimed at ending more than three years of conflict. He also criticized the latest U.S. sanctions on Iranian individuals and entities, saying they would not have a good impact on Tehran’s talks with world powers over its disputed nuclear program. “The United States must know that these actions make them bear a greater responsibility should the negotiations fail,” he said. “If the other side is honest in their actions, then we should expect these talks to reach a desirable conclusion.”

And then why not throw in a helping of Ambrose for good measure:

The Year Of Dollar Danger For The World

A sated China is as much to “blame” for the crash in oil prices as America’s shale industry. Together they have knouted Russia’s Vladimir Putin. The bear market will short-circuit at Brent prices of $40, but not just because shale capitulates. Marginal producers in Canada, the North Sea, West Africa and the Arctic will share the punishment. The biggest loser will be Saudi Arabia, reaping the geostrategic whirlwind of its high stakes game, facing Iranian retaliation through the Shia of the Eastern Province where the oil lies, and Russian retaliation through the Houthis in Yemen.

Mr Putin will achieve his objective of crippling Ukraine’s economy and freezing the conflict in the Donbass, but only by crippling Russia in the process. Controls will not stem capital flight. Mr Putin will have to choose between a dangerous loss of foreign reserves and a dangerous chain of corporate bankruptcies. He will continue to pawn Russia’s national interest to Beijing in order to save his Siloviki regime, but wiser heads in Moscow will question how a perpetual dispute with Europe and the revival of a dying NATO can possibly be in Russia’s interest. They will check his folly.

Ambrose sees only what fits his preconceived notions; pity, he could have been a great journalist. Putin didn’t seek a fight with the west, and his people, wiser heads or not, won’t blame him for being in one, quite the contrary. The most pervasive emotion in Russia today is deep-seated anger, versus the US, EU and NATO, for their blatant betrayal of both the country itself and the deals that were made ‘when the wall came down’.

Obviously, there’s plenty folk in Moscow, as there are in Kiev, that look to sell out to the US and scrape a million left and right out of that, but Russia is not Ukraine. You can’t just send in Victoria Nuland with $5 billion, organize a street party and expect to change another regime. Pepe Escobar clarifies why, to an extent:

2015 Will Be All About Iran, China And Russia

[..] it will be all about further moves towards the integration of Eurasia as the US is progressively squeezed out of Eurasia. We will see a complex geostrategic interplay progressively undermining the hegemony of the US dollar as a reserve currency and, most of all, the petrodollar.[..] Internationally, the Chinese will accelerate their overwhelming push for new ‘Silk Roads’ – both overland and maritime – which will underpin the long-term Chinese master strategy of unifying Eurasia with trade and commerce.

Global oil prices are bound to remain low. All bets are off on whether a nuclear deal will be reached by this summer between Iran and the P5+1. If sanctions (actually economic war) against Iran remain and continue to seriously hurt its economy, Tehran’s reaction will be firm, and will include even more integration with Asia, not the West.

Washington is well-aware that a comprehensive deal with Iran cannot be reached without Russia’s help. That would be the Obama administration’s sole – and I repeat – sole foreign policy success. A return to the “Bomb Iran” hysteria would only suit the proverbial usual (neo-con) suspects. Still, by no accident, both Iran and Russia are now subject to Western sanctions. No matter how it was engineered, the fact that stands is that the current financial/strategic oil price collapse is a direct attack against (who else?) Iran and Russia. [..]

Russia’s government debt totals only 13.4% of its GDP. Its budget deficit in relation to GDP is only 0.5%. If we assume a US GDP of $16.8 trillion (the figure for 2013), the US budget deficit totals 4% of GDP, versus 0.5% for Russia. The Fed is essentially a private corporation owned by regional US private banks, although it passes itself off as a state institution. US publicly held debt is equal to a whopping 74% of GDP in fiscal year 2014. Russia’s is only 13.4%.

The declaration of economic war by the US and EU on Russia – via the run on the ruble and the oil derivative attack – was essentially a derivatives racket. Derivatives – in theory – may be multiplied to infinity. Derivative operators attacked both the ruble and oil prices in order to destroy the Russian economy. The problem is, the Russian economy is more soundly financed than America’s. [..]

Moscow’s key mistake was to allow Russia’s domestic industry to be financed by external, dollar-denominated debt. Talk about a monster debt trap which can be easily manipulated by the West. The first step for Moscow should be to closely supervise its banks. Russian companies should borrow domestically and move to sell their assets abroad. Moscow should also consider implementing a system of currency controls so the basic interest rate can be brought down quickly.[..]

Russia does not need to import any raw materials. Russia can easily reverse-engineer virtually any imported technology if it needs to. Most of all, Russia can generate — from the sale of raw materials – enough credit in US dollars or euros.[..]

Replacing imports with domestic Russian manufacturing makes total sense. There will be an inevitable “adjustment” phase – but that won’t take long. German car manufacturers, for instance, can no longer sell their cars in Russia due to the ruble’s decline. This means they will have to relocate their factories to Russia. If they don’t, Asia – from South Korea to China — will blow them out of the market.

The EU’s declaration of economic war against Russia makes no sense whatsoever. Russia controls, directly or indirectly, most of the oil and natural gas between Russia and China: roughly 25% of the world’s supply. The Middle East is bound to remain a mess. Africa is unstable. The EU is doing everything it can to cut itself off from its most stable supply of hydrocarbons, prompting Moscow to redirect energy to China and the rest of Asia. What a gift for Beijing [..]

Now imagine Russia and China jointly investing in a new gold, oil and natural resource-backed monetary union as a crucial alternative to the failed debt “democracy” model pushed by the Masters of the Universe on Wall Street, the Western central bank cartel, and neoliberal politicians. They would be showing the Global South that financing prosperity and improved standards of living by saddling future generations with debt was never meant to work in the first place. Until then, a storm will be threatening our very lives – today and tomorrow.

Escobar is nowhere near right on all accounts, but he has some good points. The US enters this self-fabricated and self-desired ‘battle’ with a huge debt disadvantage. However, it holds the reserve currency, and stories about the demise of the petrodollar are way premature. That petrodollar rules well over 90% of all international trade, and it’s going to take a lot of time before that changes in a substantial way.

But countries like Russia and China have plenty revenue coming in in dollars, plus they have huge dollar reserves. It’s not a winnable fight for the power behind the power in Washington, but they’ll fight anyway, partly because that’s all they want and understand, and partly because they won’t do the actual fighting. The way we’ve set up our societies assures the worst possible people rise to the top. That’s just the way it is. And the way we are.

Still, America is never going to control the entire world. And any attempt to achieve that goal will take it further away from it. But a lot of people will be killed in that doomed attempt. And down the line the fighting will go on until there are so few people left, and so little organization, that all that remains is communities of a scale people can actually comprehend. That seems to be the only possible outcome as long as we allow for the psychopaths among us to decide who gets to have their fingers on the nuclear buttons.

But before that, we’ll have other shades of entertainment, we’re not done yet by any means. Angela Merkel just told Der Spiegel that she can live with Greece leaving the eurozone. Though that would blow up the entire edifice. I don’t know that I would call her a psychopath, but I have no confidence in anyone who floats to the top in any of our present political systems. And Europe can’t stomach any one country leaving.

It’s high time for a new model and for new people. But the old ones, and their utterly and dramatically failed economies, hold the power, the media, the money, everything. So what other way out is there but mass fighting, mass casualties, a complete overthrow of everything that exists today, probably nuclear bombs dropping, and in the end a world none of us would recognize, let alone be able to survive in?

It’ll take a while yet to get there, and it won’t be a pretty while by any stretch of the imagination. The powers that be are not done yet pretending to rule the universe and playing God. We should kick ‘em all out today, but we won’t. Because we’re all too much like them.

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  1. joecostello

    The whole question of a supposed grand era of peace in 19th century has always been overblown, it takes a very selective view of the world, overwhelmingly a Western European one. But, its true after Napoleon, there was a relative period of peace in Europe. What were the great national boundary struggles of the previous centuries came to be solidified and much of power struggles came to be internal consolidation of national identity. But there was certainly war just not on a grand Napoleonic scale, the Crimea or French German battles, and of course the great colonial pushes by the Europeans across the rest of the planet throughout the century. And of course once the internal consolidation was finished at the beginning of the 20th century, two new wars followed immediately, redrawing Europe’s map once again, some quite radically.

    The oft repeated idea that commerce is by nature peaceful, is disputable to say the least. Lets take the British East India Company for example, the model of the modern global corporation, no one would call it peace loving, or the German Krupp Industries, and of course the list goes on. The other question is chicken and egg, which comes first commerce or warfare? Certainly since GrecoRoman era and before, military was in many cases the first thrust of commerce.

    What one can certainly argue is that commerce, leaving aside its military component, does in fact create networks of communication, transference, mutual interests, that will in the end make it more difficult to descend into military confrontations. At the same time this leaves aside the question of the functioning and power of the internal commerce relations and their stability in any given time.

    1. guest

      after Napoleon, there was a relative period of peace in Europe

      The Balkans were mired in war during the entire 19th century, till and including WWI…

    2. MartyH

      WRT the Polanyi thought and before reading Raul’s piece (and following up on JoeCostello’s and “guest’s” thoughts) … One can argue that the US invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan, and all the rest are merely the kind of Colonial actions the Great Powers were taking throughout “The Great Peace”. Even the hot-spots between Pakistan and India and such conform to such “minor skirmish” definitions that, to paraphrase, Powers will be Powers. The fact that there hasn’t been a war, a REAL war among the Great Powers themselves (US, UK, Germany, France, Russia, China, the EU, etc.) is likely supportive of Polanyi’s conjecture and indicative of the collaboration-making power of trade (particularly the power of the multi-national corporations and specifically the power of the global financial cartel(s).)

      I worry that such a view ignores the deeper non-WAR war on the lower percentiles by the uppermost fraction of a percent of the population, globally and locally. Polanyi has much to say about that, perhaps more and more helpfully.

      1. Doug Terpstra

        Interesting thoughts. There was a broad consensus in 1914, just prior to the war to end all wars, that the unprececedented continental integration of trade at that time had finally fostered a level of international interdependence that made war unthinkable. I believe the empire of chaos (h/t Escobar) has achieved a higher pinnacle of global (not just.continental) interdepedence in 2014, and that it believes with religious certainty that its dream of full-spectrum dominance, one world government under the pseudo-peaceful dominion of the Anglo-Scionist MOTU, is now inevitable.

        This psychotic neoconservative obsession, IMO, will not be deterred from achieving its holy grail by ANY moral reservations or the risk of global war between great powers, which may, in fact, end all wars … forever. The hideous evil they have unflinchingly inflicted recently supports that prospect.

        I’m still hopeful, however, that Vladimir Putin proves a better chessman than Obama, who Putin is alleged to have said, plays like a pigeon — struts around knocking over game pieces, shits on the board, flies away, and thinks he’s won.

    3. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

      There was peace in Europe really just until 1848. And has been pointed out amply already, the rest of the world was merrily going on its way (Mexican American War, and numberless colonial wars for instance)

      1. guest

        Actually, all hell broke loose around 1820, which marked the start of multiple wars involving the Ottoman empire against Greece, future Romania, Bosnia, Albania, and Russia; the first and second Carlist wars in Spain; the Miguelite war in Portugal; the war between France and Spain; a succession of wars pitting Poland against Russia, Austria and Prussia; a civil war in Switzerland. All before 1848. Plus at least one revolution in France.

        From 1848, the Italian wars of Independence; the various wars pitting Prussia against Austria and other German states, against Denmark, culminating in the Franco-Prussian war (1871); the Crimean war; more Carlist wars (till 1876); more Polish wars against Russia; Austria against Hungary; countless wars of the Ottoman empire against Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Greece, Bulgaria, and Romania, culminating in the Russo-Turkish war (1878). Plus a few revolutions.

        While the Balkans remained mired in war till WWI, the rest of Europe was from 1879 onwards quite peaceful at last.

        So the “grand era of peace in 19th century” has indeed “always been overblown”. It was one generation of peace during what the French dubbed the “Belle Epoque” (late 19th, early 20th century), and not if one lived in the troubled Balkans anyway. The supposedly long period of peace is only because of British historiography, since the UK was no longer militarily involved in the European continent between the Crimean war and WWI.

        1. participant-observer-observed

          And let us not forget these numbers leave out the earlier century’s body counts of estimated 5-9 million women burned in the Pope-sponsored witch-hunting frenzies (because women’s indigenous DIY midwifery herbal medicine is so evil, dontchaknow), crusades, and European-sponsored African slave trades that funded the domination!

          Meanwhile, 400 years on, Americans would rather not stop shopping at Walmart or banking at HBSC than stop child workers in Bangaladesh or Mexican drug cartels!

          The more things change . . .

    4. Nell

      “The oft repeated idea that commerce is by nature peaceful, is disputable to say the least.”
      This is a good point. A recent post by Nitzan and Bichler (whose papers perhaps should be linked- or may be have? – on naked capitalism) argued that the smaller wars waged either by the US or their allies have led to increased profits for oil companies.
      Quote from post
      “During the late 1980s and early 1990s, we identified a new phenomenon that we called ‘energy conflicts’ and showed that these conflicts were intimately linked to the differential profitability of the leading oil companies. Figure 1 below, which was first published in 1995, adds new data to bring this connection up to­ date.”
      And using their measure of de-cumulation of profit for the big oil companies predicts conflicts that have occurred since 1995 (except for arab spring).
      Here is a link to the article

    5. Rosario

      Agreed, consider everyone else in the world that wasn’t American or Western European in the 19th century and you get a very different story. This may be why we make the same mistakes. The big-picture is not quite big enough.

  2. margaret beresford

    Somehow the point of all the crimes and banking/corporate criminals that perpetrated them, is lost. No crimes were fully investigated, no criminals have gone to jail since 2009. That the point, they all got away with it and no one stopped using these ‘too big to fail’ banks, no one demanded the offending laws be changed back, no one stopped paying their taxes in protest. So why are so many asking why the common sense of things, including peace and stability are not now, the chosen strategy? Simple, the chaos of ‘shock and awe’ work even better because no one either believes or is too scare to ‘act’. And that decision is making those sociopaths think this can become the new but skewed normal….Anyone for bailing out these banks again? Well, that is just what is going to happen and has been set up for in law, as well as trade agreements that will finally make not only individual members of the ‘public’ of little importance but now all things paid for by the public will be cast as ‘bad’ unless ‘changed’ to private as institutions, assets, pensions, just like healthcare is and education soon will be. Now lets have an analysis of these factors..

    1. tyler durden

      humanity is “like a deer in the headlights” paralyzed and confused by all the various blinding lights of distraction…which ones you may ask?

      take your pick…

    2. James

      I think you’ve analysed it pretty well right here. With every round of forgiven corruption, the corruption becomes more and pervasive and intertwined into the basic core functions of our society, until at some point (long since past in our case) rooting it out would involve prosecutions that went so far and wide that they would immediately call into question the basic legitimacy of the entire society itself.

      Just as a grossly simple example, ever wonder why Lance Armstrong, even after his big public confessional moment on Oprah, drew a line in the sand beyond which he would not go in his admissions, and which the authorities quit pressing the issue as well? Because it was patently obvious that payoffs had been made and the entire cycling governing community had agreed to look the other way once his story – miraculous cancer survivor who comes back from certain death to become the greatest cyclist in the history of the sport – became bigger than the sport itself and turned into an historical cash cow for everyone involved. Pull on those strings and the entire sport of cycling (and possibly beyond) would be revealed as fraudulent, at least during the Armstrong years. And so it goes.

  3. guest

    Angela Merkel just told Der Spiegel that she can live with Greece leaving the eurozone. Though that would blow up the entire edifice.

    Speaking of which…

    What is the current situation with Cyprus?

    When the banking crisis burst there, stringent capital controls, restrictions on cash withdrawals, checks on currency imports and exports by travellers, and limits on bank transfers had been imposed — with the result that, for all practical purposes, a Euro in Cyprus was actually not the same currency as a Euro in other countries.

    Has the situation normalized, or are Cypriots still living within a second-class Euro area?

    And out of curiosity: I surmise that all those constraints have resulted in Euros in banking accounts outside Cyprus becoming more valuable commercially than Euros on accounts in Cyprus (or in Cypriot banks). Hence, when engaging in commercial transactions with Cypriot partners, these might be more interested in getting paid in “mainstream” Euros than in Cypriot Euros, and therefore be ready to grant discounts when paid in that way. Does anybody who has been involved in trading with Cyprus know whether this phenomenon has taken place?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Cyprus blew up its banking system. Not a case like Greece, where the foreign banks and the ECB are exposed. Very different fact sets.

  4. TheraP

    I like the thrust of this post as well as what Margaret has added (above). And I’m thinking about how so many NY City people have risen up to castigate the NYPD – even noticing that the slow-down in policing may actually benefit the city in a paradoxical way.

    If the citizenry would wake up and confront the whole issue of militarization – both at home and abroad – as counterproductive, the rule by big money as both cause and effect, then maybe we could get enough public outcry against the whole sociopathic system of interconnected plutocrats, politicians, police and military, corporate personhood, all enforcing worldwide obeisance to this new oppressive religion — In Time — To save the planet!

    1. James

      Agreed. The militarization and the sham GWOT must be the first things on the chopping block, followed closely by open and transparent war crimes prosecutions. But for that to happen, we Muricans must first conquer our now completely pathological fear of “the other.” I’m not optimistic. But either way, the whole rotten edifice is coming down one way or another. Only a question of how and when now. The whys are all public knowledge.

  5. Ilargi

    A regular reader of the German press who also read the report in Der Spiegel thinks this is a bluff to influence the Greek election.

    Of course it is. But! Deputy PM Venizelos talks today in Greek paper Kathimerini about a September 2011 meeting with Schaueble in a Polish hotel basement bar, where the latter proposed a friendly Grexit, with financial support and all. Venizelos claims he convinced Schaueble it would be too risky.

  6. paulmeli

    “The problem is, the Russian economy is more soundly financed than America’s. [..]”

    Pitiful misunderstanding of government “financing” but then he has a lot of company, pretty much everyone on the planet.

    1. James

      Perception is reality. Regardless of any of MMT’s “fundamental truths,” if everyone believes that government debt matters, it matters.

      1. paulmeli

        True…but the consequences of ignoring such “realities” are imaginary,and therefore will never materialize, at least not for the reasons we think.

        1. James

          I hear ya, but mass delusion (psychosis really) is the name of the game now, and it looks like the purveyors are getting pretty good results with that strategy so far. I put forth a truth – that the GWOT is a scam manufactured by the MIC to enslave the Murican electorate by leveraging their own fear against them and to consolidate the elite’s hold on the world’s dwindling critical natural (mostly energy) resources – that’s even more self-evident than MMT everyday, and all it get’s me is labeled crazy. And we see the unfortunate results of that imaginary war around us everyday.

          1. paulmeli

            That’s a pretty good summary of what’s happening to us, or actually what we are doing to ourselves by being Chicken Littles. As far as being labelled crazy, that’s the price we pay for pushing back against conventional wisdom.

            When the official story was that the Earth was flat, most people knew it wasn’t, but fear kept them from saying it in public. Some things never change.

          2. participant-observer-observed

            Psychosis indeed! For more recent evidence,

            Listen closely to Julian Assange explaining the close “family” relations vis a vis Google & NSA & State.

            That was 6 months ago. But even now the upper middle classes cannot see themselves being manipulated by Sony & State to do dirty work of creating bogeman for Whitehouse-Pentagon handshake.

            The ink on the torture report not dry, DC (and Wall St/HBSC etc) goes for absolution by washing blood-stained hands in the breath of public laughing over Sony “jokes” of assassination. Even the so called intelligent tech-sector IT types fall for the whole thing (not surprising given the video games keeping ripe children equating war with fun). Banality of evil rules culture of depravity.

  7. Llewelyn Moss

    My perception is: The US economy seems pinned to the health of the DIC (Death Industrial Complex) — manufacturing weapons of war and companies that profit as part of war infrastructure. This is why US is now on a Perpetual War Footing. It is always just a matter of convincing the public there is another boogieman out there. Show the public a few beheaded journalists and voila, instant backing for yet another war. Dumbass public (taxpayer) does not even notice the huge DIC bloodsucker on its jugular vein.

    This one makes me laugh: “The US wants Assad (Bashar Al-Assad) out of Syria”. Remember when the names were “Saddam Hussein” and “Iraq” — 13 years ago? 13 years of Pointless War ago. Iraq and Afgan wars worked out so well. Taxpayer Money so well spent.

    1. Doug Terpstra

      Yeah, “show the public a few beheaded journalists, and voila … another war.” Nevermind that our second closest ally routinely decapitates and dismembers its ‘crminals’, 78 beheadings last year alone. Is this ever reported by our own journalists propagandists? The hypocrisy of our war criminals and their soulless minions is breathtaking.

  8. Brooklin Bridge

    It’ll take a while yet to get there [mass fighting, mass casualties, a complete overthrow of everything that exists today, probably nuclear bombs dropping, and in the end a world none of us would recognize, let alone be able to survive in?], and it won’t be a pretty while by any stretch of the imagination. The powers that be are not done yet pretending to rule the universe and playing God. We should kick ‘em all out today, but we won’t. Because we’re all too much like them.

    Not to mention they have some powerful toys at their disposal.

    Finally! Ilargi is going all positive on us by letting his inner cynicism catch up (almost – we never actually get to nab it) with that sneaky dangerous and very nimble animal, reality!

  9. Jim Haygood

    ‘The EU’s declaration of economic war against Russia makes no sense whatsoever.’

    Why should it? It’s NATO’s declaration of war, dutifully rubber stamped by its occupied European satellites.

    And despite a new Norwegian SecGen having just replaced the previous Danish SecGen, they are all compliant puppets who read the speeches we write for them.

    Nobody in the U.S. even knows their names, because it doesn’t matter.

    1. James Levy

      It is very hard for some of us who grew up with a certain way of viewing things like “national interest” to wrap our minds around the extent to which most nations simply comply with US directives even when they are demonstrably antithetical to what any objective observer would view as their national interest. I’ve often said that as an historian the one document I would like to have in my possession would be a list of all the foreign leaders (and political parties) on the US/CIA payroll since 1945. I think that one document would tell us more about the real history of the post-war world than anything else I can imagine. The genius of American hegemony has been its ability to buy off potential opposition and employ more carrots than sticks (at least in the OECD). Three generations since 1945 of European and Asian leaders (political and economic) have been bought off by Uncle Sam. At this point even the idea of serving their own electorates must be incomprehensible to the people running most of the advanced capitalist states.

  10. Jackrabbit

    Illargi pulls together a lot of material but there are some points that I take issue with or that could use more illumination.

    H O P

    1. Jackrabbit

      1 ) . . . . . . ‘Empire of Chaos’?
      Ilargi writes:

      America is trying to control the world by throwing it into confusion, emboldened by poorly understood theories about military superiority, and creating conflicts all over the place that look like they will never be solved.

      But is ‘confusion’ and ‘conflicts all over the place’ really the goal? It seems to me that there IS a plan. The neocons are dispicable but they are more cunning than they are generally given credit for. Was Ukraine about creating chaos? I would say that it was a bold gambit to unseat Putin via the loss of the Crimea and its important military bases plus the economic burden of hundreds of thousands of ethinic Russian refuges. That Putin skillfully blocked that outcome doesn’t mean that neocons intended to create chaos.

      With Russia in check, US+allies could proceed with the overthrow Assad, but also SCO and BRICS allieances would knee-capped without Russian energy resources and military might.

      This CHAOS theoy is often seen with a commercial explanation: profit for US Military Industrial Complex (MIC). But I think such thinking is wrong-headed. Above all, neocons want to WIN.

      The Empire may cause chaos and may thrive off of it, but they can do so mostly because they spin “exceptional!”narratives that keep their population in check and their enemies off balance. In my estimation, ‘Empire of Illusion’ is a better term, in part because it points the way to how we can defeat this ‘paper dragon’ – by exposing the spin and seeing through the self-serving narratives.

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        Is it really one against the other? A devious elite that is cunning vs. one throwing chaos against the wall to see what will stick?

        The two things are not necessarily exclusive of each other. One can result from the other. Sure, there was a purpose behind the coup in Ukraine, but was it really all that well thought out? There is a purpose, or seems to be, behind many of the operations in the Middle East, but there is also a growing sense that things have gotten out of hand – if not wildly out of hand- and that the people who never feel consequences or see human suffering of any kind are starting to simply throw random violence at new developments they originally created themselves with out any serious thought to possible negative outcomes.

        Cunning people are often too smart for every one else’s good particularly when they are so far removed from any consequences. And some of these fiasco’s are really starting to look suspiciously like tantrums, such as this crazy crazy imposing of sanctions on N. Korea.

        1. Demeter

          “not well thought out”

          That is the epitaph for the Obama Madministration (2009-2016). It is Obama’s Hallmark, if you will. It is nuanced differently than “W”‘s Miserable Failure, but the end results are similar.

      2. participant-observer-observed

        And Empire of Illusion outside USA is seen as Emperor with No Clothes!

        I think you give neocon-neolib intelligentsia too much credit. Yes, thirst for power/win is there, insofar as it serves a convenient defense mechanism cloaking the deeper thirst for a contrived social status.

        Neocon-neolib class can only win so long as inflated stock prices based on no increased value inflates, i.e., so long as it can find external wealth to cannabalize. But the numbers don’t add up to enough golden threads to make a cloak for the emperor!

    2. Jackrabbit

      2 ) . . . . . . Oil Price drop: Just Markets?

      Why the oil price has dropped so dramatically is not an academic issue. If the US and allies deliberately forced down the price of oil, then that is 1) a provocation, and 2) a warning sign of the seriousness of the conflict with Russia. The “its just markets” explanation has real benefit to the ‘Empire of Illusion’: “clean hands” supports demonizing of Putin, and an unsuspecting population means no traction for critics and a stronger popular response to any counter moves by Putin.

      There is good reason to believe that the “just markets” explanation is NOT correct.

      – The Saudi’s and American’s are symbiotic and have a history of working together;

      – A Saudi ‘attack’ on the fracking industry would’ve been much more effective if it had occurred years ago (now the industry is mature); instead, the Saudi’s are hell bent on market share just as the new Cold War got underway??;

      – Obama and oil state representatives have been strangely silent about the consequences to their constituancies;

      – the Saudi’s didn’t have to drive prices down so furiously to send a message; in doing so, they ignored the pleas of their friends in OPEC and took a larger than necessary ‘hit’ to their revenues;

      – the reporting on the price drop is too propaganda-like – it is reminiscent of other campaigns that seek to drive a ‘truth’ into public consciouness (an good example of this is the NYTimes frontpage article on Christmas Day);

      – and, finally, the threat that Russia represents to the US neolibcon-led West is not well appreciated by most. Russia is the lynchpin of SCO-BRICS resistance to NWO and has stood in way of action against Iran and Syria – I doubt there is anything more important to US necons than regime change in Russia


      Also see: Mike Whitney: Did the U.S. and the Saudis Conspire to Push Down Oil Prices? and my response</b.

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        For the administration, or the people who control the administrtion, to destroy the Fracking industry, not to mention other massive petro extraction projects, as a way of hurting Russia and getting rid of Putin, would definitely be more an illustration of chaos and insanity than of cunning.

        Moreover, your points “proving” that the oil price drop is not “just markets” make the assumption that it is not just markets as part of the proof: A Saudi ‘attack’ on the fracking industry would’ve been much more effective if it had occurred years ago (now the industry is mature); instead, the Saudi’s are hell bent on market share just as the new Cold War got underway??; If it is “just markets”, then there was no Saudi ‘attack’ on the fracking industry and therefore no better or worse timing to do it in. You can’t have it both ways. The same goes for the Saudi’s “driving prices down”. That doesn’t mean they are not good points taken apart from the Markets argument, but rather that you are using circular logic to disprove markets. Indeed, if it was not “just Markets”, then all your points make perfect sense, but just because they make sense given that assumption does not prove the assumption.

        1. Jackrabbit

          The fracking industry is NOT destroyed. The industry can restart anytime that oil prices are expected to remain over a certain price.

          It’s not circular logic. Fracking steadily increased because prices were reliably high. The Saudi’s/OPEC would’ve protected their market share much better if they had demonstrated a willingness to bring down prices years ago.

          1. Brooklin Bridge

            The Saudi’s/OPEC would’ve protected their market share much better if they had demonstrated a willingness to bring down prices years ago.

            Which could just as easily indicate that they were not trying to protect their market years ago, they were simply doing business as usual, and are now reacting to weak demand and trying to maintain market share.

            I agree with Doug Terpstra below that it could be either way. But if it is conspiracy, it is the epitome of chaos and insanity (shooting yourself in the foot and saying “take that” to Russia – not to mention the whole policy of sanctions having the effect of driving Russia into the arms of China). And no, you do not just turn fracking or any other means of oil extraction on and off like a switch. Companies that provide the bread and butter of political corruption take it on the chin financially.

            1. Jackrabbit

              But what is more important? Overthrowing Putin and thereby taking the wind (mostly) out of the sails of SCO and BRICS plans are – B Y F A R – more important than the domestic fracking industry.


              “epitome of chaos and insanity”
              You cry CHAOS! because USA loses a few pawns while trying to checkmate opponents. This “chaos” view is erroneous and self-defeating. I much prefer “Empire of Illusion” because they spin fairy tales about ‘confusion’ and ‘the world is a dangerous place’ etc. so that people just throw up their hands.


              Also, I would readily admit that we can’t KNOW if USA+KSA conspired but WHY are people so ready to accept the official narrative given how we have been lied to in the past? I noted multiple reasons to question that narrative but you focus on the effect to the fracking industry.

              1. Rosario

                Destroying one of the few means of being destroyed yourself is a good reason to do something potentially self destructive (I’d cut off an arm to save my head even if I potentially bled to death). Putin is a threat to USA dominance because he doesn’t bow. He wants to create a multi-polar economic/military world and we can’t abide because it would destroy our empire. He has ambitions, he has learned from the worst in history including the USA. Note how hard Churchill fought to maintain Britain’s global empire during WWII. Attacking Germany through the “soft underbelly” (as he put it) of Europe. All BS, he wanted to maintain North African colonies first-and-foremost, and his gamble resulted in a protracted war with the loss of millions of additional ally and axis lives. Chaos can easily be part of calculation. In desperate politics, they are often one and the same.

                1. Brooklin Bridge

                  Setting up a situation where Nuclear war becomes and ever greater and ever more real possibility is not cutting off your arm to save your head. It is setting up millions of people other than yourself for wholesale extermination.

              2. Brooklin Bridge

                You cry CHAOS!

                1) I do not “Cry” anything, never mind chaos. I made a point and your response using that particular hyperbole makes another point.

                2) If what IIlargi suggests about chaos and the edge condition of power hunger is accurate to a degree (and I think that is his argument – accurate to a degree), it does not mean that “we” are powerless to do anything about it. Quite the contrary. It suggests we have more power to do something about it than we think. Also, bringing up this business of anyone who says or suggests “we are powerless” is automatically wrong because it’s a negative sign of weakness to assume one can’t do anything is starting to be used with the same intent as accusing someone of conspiracy theories as a way to belittle their argument.

                3) You keep framing the discussion as either or. As I pointed out above, the two are not entirely exclusive of each other; the administration and the people who pull their strings do indeed have plans and objectives. Just that not all of them work out and the pace of things outstrips them. Frequently, perhaps more and more, they are loosing it. They also clearly have manias and often loose as much or more control as they gain over a given situation.

                1. Jackrabbit

                  I don’t mean to belittle your argument. I’m sorry if it appeared that I was. I acknowledged that there is no way to know for sure.

                  You are right. It is not either or. But I prefer Illusion over Chaos for specific reasons that I have described in here and below.

                  1. Brooklin Bridge

                    Rats, I can’t argue with someone who is so gracious, but I can at least admire the quality. A jackrabbit, like Lucky-Luke (the French Cowboy), is faster than his own shadow so it’s hard to keep up. :-)

        2. Doug Terpstra

          True, the timing of the price plunge also supports the “just markets” thesis as well: fracking increases supply while demand is waning, so prices naturally fall. But it also fits the economic wafare (conspiracy) theory, both the speed and depth of the plunge as well as its odiferous “coincidental” timing with known machinations involving the ME and Ukraine, where proven attempts to demonize and destabilize Russia have so spectacularly failed. Knowing US history generally, and recent history specifically related to the current pawns and players, the conspiracy theory makes more sense IMO than the official coincidence theory. (Not that the CIA would engage in nefarious secret conspiracies, but it remains a possibility, however remote.)

      2. Rosario

        Yeah, I’m not buying the markets argument for lower oil prices either. What has changed in the last 6 months besides a few choice conflicts here and there? There is absolutely no way to gauge global oil demand. The only county/region I could say with some certainty that demand has dropped (somewhat) in the past 6 years is the USA and Europe and this was abrupt in 2008 followed with a stagnant increase ever since. This is an orchestrated effort. Quacks like a duck, looks like a duck…

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          The Chinese slowdown. Makes all the difference in the world. It’s killed all commodities and oil is the last to go.

          I think YOU and the rest need to make a case as to why oil should not be any different.

          1. susan the other

            It does look like a deliberate reshuffling of world industry. First thing was to crash finance which set production into a tailspin, and that brought commodities down with it. The odd thing was that oil prices were kept high until the rest of the world had tanked. Oil prices should have gone down with the whole thing in lock-step. It could be because oil is the most precious resource for lots of reasons, yet we can no longer use it if we want to survive, etc. But it will be essential to starting up industry again, building a sustainable planet and that process could now be beginning. Wishful thinking?

    3. Jackrabbit

      margaret beresford (above) makes a good point. Foreign adventures are entwined with domestic dalliances. TPTB form a tight circle-jerk that grinds on everyone else.

      Until last year, the US was the unchallenged hegemonic global power. The resulting “peace dividend” – and then some – was swallowed whole by the Western elites. The neolib “New World Order” has been revealed and it is a nightmare for most of us. We see this in how the 2008 Global Financial Crisis was handled and in recent actions like harsh policing, the FDIC guaranty of Derivatives, and the pension grab described yesterday by Michael Hudson.

      Russia and China are not necessarily better (from what we are led to believe, they are much worse) but the hope of many is that a multi-lateral world would provide a check on how governments treat their people.

  11. Steven

    2000 years ago St. Timothy warned the world that “The love of money is the root of all evil”. By the end of the 19th century, the ruling classes in the U.S. and Europe had acquired so much money devising new ways to consume the wealth to which that money gave them title, their only recourse was to make war on each other to seize their neighbors’ foreign markets and sources of raw materials. They converted the wealth acquired for them by their ancestors (by squeezing the life out of their ‘laboring cattle’ and / or stealing the ‘commons’ to which those laboring cattle were entitled by feudal law and tradition) into cash. From then on the name of the game for the West has increasingly been finance not industrial capitalism.

    Under finance capitalism what matters is not wealth creation but DEBT creation. Since the end of WWII Wall Street and Washington have given the West’s ruling classes what they thought they wanted – debt. The ruling classes in Old Europe and Japan were happy to go along with the profligacy of the conspicuous consumption in the US – and, more important, the US-sponsored Cold War with the one entity at least in theory committed to liberating the West’s ‘laboring cattle’ from their debt peonage. The alternative was sharing so much of the wealth created – NOT by their capital or that created ex nihilo (out of thin air) for them – but by simply coupling machinery to inanimate energy sources and ridding themselves of overly-expensive “useless eaters” whose labor was overly expensive and riddled with human error.

    The perfect sink for all the new debt required by the West’s Masters of the Universe and their clients was a perpetual Cold War and a DIC (death industrial complex) which devoured the productivity gains produced by advances in human knowledge as fast as they occurred. Just cost-plus contracts! No messy dealings with increasingly sated and finicky consumers! The products of the DIC had the added advantage of being useful should any party begin to question whether the debts the US and other Western nations were running up could ever be repaid with REAL wealth. (First comes Goldman Sachs then come the jackals.)

    And the rest as they say is (the end of?) history…

  12. Brooklin Bridge

    Ilargi brings out two points that are especially interesting. One is that the people that float to the top, are not only the lethal ones, but recently they are also quite apparently the loopy ones at least around the edges if not down right certifiable.

    It’s not a winnable fight for the power behind the power in Washington, but they’ll fight anyway, partly because that’s all they want and understand, and partly because they won’t do the actual fighting.

    This truth is really in the atmosphere. There is something downright insane going on in most of the power centers, but particularly in DC. You can just feel it as you listen to the mass media sound more and more like Baghdad Bob as it sing-songs the praises of politicians enacting catastrophic legislation as if they were playing Monopoly.

    And that brings up the second point: because they won’t do the actual fighting. Some of their kids will, but then as stated, the parents are a bit loopy and they get caught up in their own propaganda and patriotic jingoism. But you won’t see them going to war; they’re not that loopy. That distancing themselves from the consequences of their actions is the other singularity that has taken hold. Zero accountability, zero consequences for what ever they do. They are removed from the gore and horror of war, they are removed from the ugliness of poverty -look at the travesty in Florida, they simpy make it illegal for the poor to exist in a visible state; they are removed from the constant worry and financial drain of being in an inhospitable health care system where profit rules, from the ever present and agonizing fear of loosing their job, their house, everything.

    And finally, as Ilargi points out, this insanity has a historically new element. Never before has it played out on a truly global scale involving virtually everyone and everything.

    1. Steven

      And that brings up the second point: because they won’t do the actual fighting.

      Well there is “fighting” and then there is “FIGHTING” – as in trying to stay alive in a world poisoned by the radioactive fallout from a nuclear-decimated Russia or China. As they say “It’s not just the bombs, stupid!” It is all those pools of spent fuel rods laying around. And that’s just if we ‘win’ (needless to yell – SIC!)

      Don’t you just love the stupidity of all those power jocks! Spending trillions on missile defense (again, of course, SIC) only to have ‘the enemy’ add a little booster to their warheads to speed them past ABMs that probably wouldn’t have worked anyhow. How did Joan Baez put it in “Blessed Are” – “Blessed are the stay at home millions who want leaders but get gamblers instead.”

  13. jsn

    “So why has the peace faction been successfully supplanted by a war faction? Is it that (so far) the US wars are not inflicted on parties we consider to be contemporary Great Powers?”

    I think its not so much about who “we consider” great powers as it is about who can actually introduce real feedback into the Empire of Cash (DC). Inside the Beltway the consequences of our wars are all net positive from torture to ISIS to Mexico to Ferguson to Ukraine. The two primary cash taps driving the Empire have been QE to sustain the financial fictions of all the looters and fraudsters, and war/surveillance to sustain the balance of the Empire’s retainers.

    All toward something like Philip Bobbit’s (The Shield of Achilles, 2002) vision of a “Market State” where corporations are people and the Empire exists to ensure their freedom: like Wall Street looters who have supplanted capitalists, this vision has global corporate resource looting supplanting entrepreneurs. Why take the risk of “investing” or “innovating” when the Empire of Cash will forcibly make the world support the fiction that’s what your are doing when you loot? All of the prestige (and money) without any of the risk!

    Until real external feedback is reintroduced to the system.

    It remains to be seen just how de-stablizing the withdrawal of QE will be, combined with sanctions and the oil collapse the scope of unknowablity in the short term future is expanding considerably. This may or may not be a deliberate policy, but regardless of etiology it expands the frame in which the NeoCons can act without an external entities ability to intervene in the closed loop the Beltway has become, to murder and destroy for profit without feedback. It’s fiat money, so like QE this can go on as long as the world exterior to the system fails to force change. It is no longer about economics, it is about naked power.

    In secondary sources and anecdotally around the Empire one hears about more and more protest movements, small town France, rural Mexico, Spain, Greece, Black Lives Matter all around the states, but thus far none have perturbed the smooth surface of propaganda. I agree with Ilargi that psychopaths have taken most of the levers of power in the West, maybe the world, but I don’t share his deterministic nihilism. Maybe it is a Manichaean world, but the light also remains.

    1. Chauncey Gardiner

      Re jsn: … “I agree with Ilargi that psychopaths have taken most of the levers of power in the West, and maybe the world. But I don’t share his deterministic nihilism. Maybe it is a Manichaean world, but the light also remains.”

      I too take exception to Ilargi’s final expression: “We should kick ‘em all out today, but we won’t. Because we’re all too much like them.”

      1. participant-observer-observed

        Go stand outside your local Chase bank in your town and try convincing depositors to close their accounts.

        After that, go to Walmart, and try convincing shoppers to move their custom elsewhere.

        We ARE them, and until the codependency dynamic is broken, like Newton’s law, it will all continue!

        1. Chauncey Gardiner

          I understand your viewpoint. I invite you to watch Bill Moyer’s last show linked above, with Mary Christina Wood, then tell me you still feel the same way.

          1. participant-observer-observed

            I don’t mean to imply that there are not alternatives, Chauncey-ji.

            At the very least, I believe coalitions of the willing can build alternative power structures, at least for limiting liability and self-governance where those elected have forfeited their franchise (in the real sense) compared to their paymaster constituency.

            But the latter very much thrives on the codependent participation of general public. Chase USA retail could be ended tomorrow with a nationwide run from depositors, based on evidence that past risky and fraudulent management a la Libor has not been reformed, Cromnibus FDIC liability, etc ., but instead was rewarded. That is completely within reach and rational and needs not a single lobbyist in DC. But all that data is not enough for most people.

            In other words, even with a parallel shadow (grass roots) government administering the needs of drop-outs to prevent getting hit with falling beams of the shanty house, will not stop the codependency framework that keeps it propped up.

            Desire is a biatche, and indiscriminately plagues economic players vertically in an endless predator-prey cycle.

  14. nat scientist

    In a healthy economy, unintended consequences would be appreciated for clues to the bug, rather than creating narratives to accept it as a feature. The lurking fault in human nature gone unchallenged is the monkey stick of setting the board to blow up when the unintended checkmates, for the best chance at the remaining piece positions.
    You can trick a sine curve into being hyperbolic for a short time only.
    It was private enterprise that brought 1776 into focus, there were no institution nor compelling foreign intrigues, in fact the proof is in the opposite.

  15. Bridget

    “Moscow’s key mistake was to allow Russia’s domestic industry to be financed by external, dollar-denominated debt.”

    I’m guessing they would have done otherwise had they been able.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      It’s more complicated than that. It would have taken capital controls to prevent that, and that was too reminiscent of the old USSR for that to go over, particularly after the US led reforms (which BTW initially wrecked the economy and led to an astonishing four year fall in male lifespans) had liberalized capital movements. Not politically acceptable to turn the clock back.

      1. Steven

        “Not politically acceptable”

        I don’t understand that. To whom? Very few of us 99%ers are going to care very much if told we can’t send our money out of the country (presuming we still have any to send).

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          You’ve never lived in a small country or one with a crappy currency.

          Most Russian regard the ruble as unstable and put a fair chunk of their savings in foreign currencies. If Yeltsin or Putin had tried reversing that, there would have been a domestic uproar.

  16. TG

    A minor point:

    “That ‘mission accomplished’ message from W. back in the day is going to start sounding a lot more stupider as time goes by.”

    Is that even possible? I though that Dubya doing the ‘mission accomplished’ thing was about the apotheosis of stupider. Or something.

  17. VietnamVet

    Shock Capitalism/Chaos and Forever Wars are a characteristic of corporatist neo-liberal governments. The declining middle class and the unfettered ascension of Oligarchs is reality.

    Corporate media superficially covers these issues; but never ties them together. Psychopaths are risking a nuclear war with the campaign for regime change in the Kremlin. Austerity, union busting, militarized police, student loans, offshoring and media propaganda are direct attacks on working families.

    Western Governments are run by and for Plutocrats. Period.

  18. Banger

    Great article and interesting comments. I think we need to understand that Escobar’s term (if it is his) is correct for the current imperial stage. Jackrabbit seems to think it is all part of a centralized plot by all powerful neocons and I disagree as anyone that has followers our prior exchanges knows. I believe that there are many factions even between neocon operatives because Washington has been taken over by a class of mercenary-minded assholes who mouth all the right ideological bullshit but don’t mean any of it. It’s mainly about the money, the power, and the sex. The Empire of Chaos works because chaos offers more opportunities for criminal activity and thats how we need to view the politics coming out of Washington. That’s not to say that most people in the imperial court are criminals but, rather; that criminals are the main drivers of power. As for Europeans, they are just easily intimidated and corrupted and, as that is going on, their own ruling elites are following the example of Washington and are tempted to criminal activity as well.

    1. Jackrabbit

      Your many comments against the MSM propaganda are in sympathy with my thinking that “Illusion” is a better moniker than “Chaos”.

      It seems to me that chaos is a powerful image and a damning charge, but it is merely what US+allies leave behind or concoct as excuse to act. Illusion is fundamental to the “Empire’s” power. The ability to control the narrative. To keep us all (mostly) transfixed with spin. And it is employed with increasing frequency.

      ‘Chaos’ may be descriptive but it is superficial. And the natural reaction is to flee. ‘Illusion’ suggests that if people make an effort to see clearly, the “Empire” can be defeated.

      No doubt you recognize many of these:

      – Putin is Hitler.

      – MH-17 was destroyed by a rebel missile.

      – TARP made money. (no harm no foul!)

      – Radiation is good for you.

      – Global Warming is a myth.

      – The rich are job-givers.

      – Americans are exceptional and the USA is “the ONLY indispensable nation” (unsaid: destined to rule the world)

      – US has created millions of jobs during this ‘recovery’ (millions were lost in the GFC and most new jobs are part-time – a record number of people are out of the labor force and a record number get Govt assistance)

      – they hate us for our freedoms.

      And then there is what people are NOT told (which is sometimes just as damaging as the spinning and false narratives) . . .

      H O P

      1. Vatch

        Just curious: who in the main stream media says that radiation is good for us? Or are you referring to Anne Coulter, who is outside the main stream, in my view.

        1. Jackrabbit

          Yeah, I think it was Ann Coutler. Threw that in because it got coverage, even though it was complete BS.

      2. nothing but the truth

        Americans are exceptional and the USA is “the ONLY indispensable nation”

        and Israel – the beacon of liberty that is also an apartheid.

    2. Chauncey Gardiner

      Very minor point re: … “Pepe Escobar’s term (if it is his) is correct for the current imperial stage.”
      Escobar credits a French sociologist and geopolitical analyst, Alain Joxe, for that descriptive term, the title of a book by Joxe published in 2004. Prescient, no?

  19. G France

    “And there is a bigger question that goes unanswered: why so much US warmongering and destructive, and eventually self-destructive behavior (blowback, anyone?).”
    It has been discovered recently that war pays big bucks to the MIC who so generously return some of the profits directly to the politicians through campaign contributions. This keeps war on the front burner and the money flowing.

  20. kaj

    what a rubbish, meandering article;; surprised that Yves/NC found it interesting…. yes, the U.S. is stupid, has two left hands, unaccomplished leaders like Obama who are uninformed by history, and really uninteresting people who go through the drill of affecting leadership, eg, Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton. But so what? The U.S. has the dominant global currency and its debt as a percent of GDP is immaterial and irrelevant as is China’s which is even higher. Both of these debts are in their own currencies.

    Hate to have my brain cluttered by idiocy.

  21. nothing but the truth

    “So why has the peace faction been successfully supplanted by a war faction?”

    basically there are no real costs to the US for the wars, courtesy of the paper money/MMT system that exports the costs of dollar inflation.

    As long as the US does no feel the negative effects of the mess that it is creating, this will keep escalating.

  22. steviefinn

    Scary times & it’s a shame that all the above excellence has to be wasted on discussing the latest insanity from the turds who sadly always seem to float to the top. What does scare me is the fact that major wars have mainly throughout history escalated. No-one including the then bunch of power junkies had any idea of the consequence of their actions in the World wars. Personally I think that sowing chaos is a more realistic notion than using a plan set in concrete, as on a major scale that’s where it usually ends up anyway, but I don’t think I’m Napolean, & hubris is always a fashion accessory for megalomaniacs.
    If we were a cat, I think I am right in saying that we are running out of lives when it comes to nuclear war near misses – but if you think you are not gambling with your own life & you cannot help your disgusting self…….

  23. Rosario

    I don’t think anyone actually “knows” what is going on. Today, propaganda is just as relevant as on-the-ground, thoroughly researched journalism since they are both digested in a climate of factual flexibility (an unfortunate byproduct of global communications). We seem to know more than ever and, ironically, we understand less. Welcome to the information (and only information) age…

  24. gordon

    Interesting post and comments. One thing that emerges for me is that a search for some kind of grand strategy in the US or anywhere else is probably misguided. There are lots of little (depending on your scale) conspiracies and plots, all right, but I see no reason to think anybody (including the MIC or the Deep State or the Bilderbergers or whoever) is sitting in his moon base playing 11-dimensional chess with all the forces in play. There is a lot of reactive stuff going on, and the powerful players seem often to be playing day by day depending on who did what yesterday.

    To admit that, though, means that you have to realise that the powerful are not particularly deep thinkers. Cunning, well-connected, good at horse-trading, ruthless, maybe all those things but they don’t have a deeper insight or more profound moral purpose than anybody else. It’s strange the number of people who have trouble with this idea. There seems to be a deeply ingrained tendency to trust the guy in the expensive suit, with the smooth style, the big car, the big apartment, the pretty mistress. He may be dangerous, but he isn’t really clever.

    That doesn’t mean the situation isn’t scary. Political leaders in 1914 were probably no better and no worse than those of today, and the chain of reactions, misunderstandings, ignorances, fears, vanities and envies (in other words very ordinary human emotions and human failings) among them led to the deaths of millions.

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