I have just awakened on the first day following a 24-hour trip from Austin to Constanta, a city in Romania that few Americans know of. It is where the Danube meets the Black Sea, and it has been a pivot point since before even the Romans arrived. The Danube is something like the American Mississippi, a river drawing in the waters and the trade of the tributaries that flow from the Alps and Carpathians. It reaches the Black Sea, which is where the similarity ends. The Mississippi reaches the Gulf of Mexico, which opens on the waters of the world. But the Black Sea is an enclosed body of water from which the Mediterranean Sea can be accessed only through the narrow Bosporus, and the world’s oceans only through the Strait of Gibraltar. (click to enlarge) The Mississippi trades with the world. The Danube trades mostly within the Black Sea Basin, which today is a body of glowering mistrust, much as it has always been. The Ukrainians and Russians are to the north; Bulgarians and Turks to the south; and across the sea, Georgia and the Caucasus, where Russians, Turks and Iranians have battled for domination for centuries. These nations […]
My job is to write, and my goal in writing is to put things in perspective. The world has been to me an endlessly shifting kaleidoscope of nations, all moving in different directions that can be predicted by understanding the forces that shape their actions. I take pleasure in seeing the order behind the chaos. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail, but I have lived in a world of many colors, shapes and tempos. For the past month, a vast fog has made that world difficult to see. The coronavirus pandemic has rendered normal global events irrelevant. Something deadly is stalking the world, and it respects neither power nor money. Governments are obsessed with protecting us, or at least with appearing to protect us, but there is no protection except for what we provide ourselves. An infection cannot be destroyed yet. It will run whatever course it runs. Our bodies may or may not rally to overcome it. Our will has nothing to do with what happens. Therefore, the only action we can take is to not allow the virus to enter our bodies, and the way it can enter our bodies is not through the air, or through food, […]
Putin has invoked the crisis to revive the perception of Russia as a superpower.
The protests in Hong Kong must be understood in the context of a global economic slowdown.
The fundamental problem of geopolitical theory is simple: Why do soldiers choose to die for their country? Gen. George Patton famously told his troops that he didn’t want them to die for their country. He wanted the other poor bastards to die for theirs. He and his troops knew that as solicitous as Patton appeared to be of their health, many of them would die in the course of killing their enemy. Thomas Hobbes wrote that the passion of men was to avoid pain and achieve pleasure. It is out of this concept that much of modern utilitarian philosophy arose. Utilitarianism argued for the greatest good for the greatest number. It never settled, from my point of view, why I should care about the happiness of the majority. Out of this came Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, who argued that the greatest good came from everyone selfishly pursuing their own ends. Smith was trying to square the circle, solving the problem that Hobbes posed (the passionate pursuit of one’s own pleasure) and that John Stuart Mill (the father of utilitarianism) argued for: the pursuit of the good of the many. Thus was born Smith’s economic man, feeling virtuous […]
The evolution of the American political system inevitably has an impact on the global system. If the United States shifts direction in even minor matters, there are regional consequences. Political events are difficult to predict, but the key variables of the process can be identified by comparing the current evolution to a roughly similar prior event. My intent is to benchmark the current impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump to the one that forced Richard Nixon to resign. It is an attempt to define what matters and what doesn’t within the impeachment process, rather than the potential global outcome triggered by hypothetical events. The Watergate Scandal Nixon resigned as president in August 1974. Tapes of him discussing the break-ins at Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate building were released on Aug. 5, and he resigned four days later. Until that point, a substantial segment of the electorate continued to support him. He had won reelection in 1972 by defeating George McGovern, who ran on an anti-war platform. That platform was perceived by many as supporting what was then called the “counterculture,” which was seen as a systematic attack by a marginal group on American middle-class values. Nixon positioned himself as […]