Geopolitical Wrap – July, 2016
There were the yellow-caps and there were the brown-shirts. And the Cleveland Convention brought the impending split, Colorado walking out. They returned in time for “copy-gate”, before Cruz deflated Pence. The conclusion in Florida was emphatic, Mrs Clinton presumably playing both hard and cute at the same time:
Love trumps hate!
After that moment, “love, Trump hates” kept ringing in my ear …
He is a polarising figure, no doubt. But America was already polarised. And he [Trump] seems to be, intentionally or not, playing into that. He trusts his own ability: to get the job done; to make the deal; in the power of his will. Much derided, that personality is also seemingly much loved.
The middle ground in the American politic was vacated by a President with a penchant for the show of diplomacy. That void was claimed by reactionary rights, looking more and more like centrists to the faithful. Enter Trump.
Trump is a strong character — whether he reads books or not. But is he the right character, or, is he the megalomaniac narcissist the left, and a few on the right, portray him to be? That’s hard to say. What is easier to see is that, outwardly at least, he is chalk and Obama is cheese.
Power to the people
Staying with U.S. power plays, the newly completed Watts Bar unit 2 power reactor—near Spring City, Tennessee—will be joined by four more state-of-the-art Westinghouse AP 1000 reactors, two each in both Georgia and South Carolina, by 2019-2020. Passive-cooling harnesses convection currents for the continued pumping of cooling water, in case of loss of both grid and backup power, to prevent a replay of Fukushima and Three Mile Island. (Morning Briefing for July 8, 2016).
But according to the same article, a number of U.S. plants are being decommissioned — many have already been upgraded to a 60-year shelf-life (80 years is being considered). The United States has 99 reactors, supplying 20% of the nation’s total power, and 4 in the pipeline. Too few, according to Webster Tarpley, by way of a peer comparison. For the International Atomic Energy Agency reports that, as of February 2016, the following situation stood with respect to plants:
- China: 31 in operation — 24 under construction
- Russia†: 35 in operation — 8 under construction
- France: 58 in operation — 1 under construction
- Japan‡: 43 in operation — 2 under construction
The Chilcot Report
The United Kingdom should stand ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with the United States, felt the then Prime Minister Blair.
I will be with you, whatever.
It is easier to be wise in hindsight. Yet a number of folk in this case were wise also in foresight, according to the Chilcot Report. That said, many a British PM would have taken a similar position—to follow the United States—particularly so soon after 9/11. But leaders need to be bold and forthright, perhaps more so with their allies than with foes. An inflective voice here is Blair’s vincible ignorance.
Not so fast, gentlemen
So much is happening so quickly — so exponentially — that otherwise major events are being quickly overshadowed. But walk, don’t run, toward the Brexit sign: Mr Kerry stomping his size 18’s amid the closing door. The Secretary of State was a little too quick, for my liking, to suggest that the decision could be “walked back”.
I think there are a number of ways. I don’t, as Secretary of State, want to throw them out today. I think that would be a mistake. But there are a number of ways.
A Brexit is not what the United States would have wanted. A united Europe is vital to the NATO alliance, for instance. Sure, of its own, Brexit may not much affect NATO. But what if Britain is the first domino to fall? A disintegration, piecemeal at first, of the union would become a distinct possibility. Regardless, symbolically, Brexit is a real blow.
Diametrically opposed, geographically and politically, another NATO member (and military strength in her own right) is Turkey. Turkey has harboured aspirations to join the EU. That was so last week. Turkey is amidst internal crisis, and increasingly torn between two external hates — the East and West. Whereto then NATO?
IRAQ & SYRIA
Perhaps to rally the troops, but with a definite element of truth, ISIS has (apparently) told its followers that military-territorial collapse is near. This is surprising — that they would admit to this. While the writing has been on the wall, and this was only a matter of time, it may portend a period of renewed desperation on the part of their followers. This may spark life into their sleepers to indiscriminate and wilful acts.
What does John Bolton [rep], former U.S. ambassador to the UN think; and perhaps more importantly, what doesn’t he think?
I think the government of Iraq has collapsed. I don’t think it can be put back together.
Thirteen (13) allies have used a cumulative total of just shy of 50,000 bombs and missiles in Operation Inherent Resolve, over 3,000 in June. There is an apparent impetus of resolve of the West to fight, in the wake of Russian intervention it must be said. Between 229 and 335 deaths in June were to non-combatants, as Fallujah (Iraq) was liberated. There were 375 coalition airstrikes on Syria in June, compared to 175 in May. There has been a corresponding increase also in suicide-bombings in Iraq.
And as if one world region imploding is not enough, we’re seeing the frayed edges in others — Europe (terror in France and Germany), war rumours in the Pacific (South China Sea), despair in South America:
In Venezuela today there are two certain things: death and shortages. But not even the first one can save you from the second one: there aren’t enough coffins to keep up with demand and the funeral sector is in crisis.
An urgent restructure of the oil and gas laws may be a good start. And what of her much larger neighbour, Brazil? Two years beyond the World Cup, is she ready to samba? No doubt. But she is laden now with the extra weight of USD 230 billion of debt and a 10% unemployment rate, at a time when the risk-averse investor may be fleeing to safety (the U.S.). And with a constitutional crisis she is lopsided and prone to slip, especially after a few drinks. A fractured hip is a life-changing event.
Is Britain and China forming a bulwark against the U.S. (Morning Briefing: July 13, 2016)? Did Britain use the anti-ISIS coalition conference “to sabotage emerging cooperation between the Russian Federation and the United States in the cause of destroying ISIS”?
If these old sparring partners [the US and UK, I mean] are at it again, Brexit is the long belated blowback of the American Revolution. And four hundred years have been rolled back in a matter of weeks. This is how quickly things are unfolding before our eyes, for those who see. Turkey is racing to 1918, even as some tried this month to disembark at 1960. As flummox gave way to rage, President Erdogan managed somehow to land on his feet and was quick to make the most of any opportunity. And the Middle East proper … it has been blown back to the Middle Ages, and all before you can finish your crumpet.
Yet in all this doom and gloom, global financial markets managed to perform rather well. And so did the Bond markets. Gold also did well. It’s not unusual for all three to do well — but at the same time? To what started in 2008—the world is slowly awaking—central bankers have managed to only put off: a one-in-100 year event. You can stave off the natural reversion only for so long.
Que sera sera.
Ed: Let your discretion be the better part of valour, today. Scrutinise the choice of event that you plan attending. Trouble is very easy to find, without having to go looking. Pray about your choices, letting the Spirit guide you in all things. Stay safe, and have a good August (whatever season it finds you in).
- † Russia is planning for 20 new reactors by 2020.
- ‡ Japan is planning to bring 48 of 54 reactors, shut down post-Fukushima, back into operation.
- U.S., European Elites Just Not Equipped to Deal With Islam’s Insurgency, Jonathan Spyer – PJ Media, July 25, 2016.
- Were Turkish Coup Planners Involved in Downing Russian Jet?, George Friedman – Geopolitical Futures
- Inside a failed military coup and Turkey’s fragmented military. Aaron Stein – War on the Rocks.
- A “grave” situation. Caracas Chronicles. Posted July 7, 2016
- Blair’s vincible ignorance. Irrussionality. Posted July 7, 2016
- TWSP/UFAA Morning Briefing for Friday, July 8, 2016 – Tax Wall Street Party.
- Watts Bar Unit 2 operates under own power for first time. Electric Light & Power. Posted May 23, 2016
- Brexit may never happen, says US Secretary of State John Kerry, Adam Lusher – Independent
- International airstrikes and civilian casualty claims in Iraq and Syria: June 2016, Alex Hopkins – Airwars.org
- Women in combat: All fair in love and war?, Julia Zulver – Aljazeera
- Summa Theologica by St. Thomas Aquinas, translated by the Fathers of the English Dominican (1947) – Sacred Texts