Thursday, March 27, 2014

Is World War IV taking shape?

World economics seer Louis-Vincent Gave, of the Gavekal Partnership, has explained the pivotal meaning of the Crimea Incident in a larger context which he calls a looming "World War IV" -- the conflict between the Shia and Sunni branches of Islam, in which Sunnis control larger reserves of oil, but Shia populations are restive in the very places where that oil is pumped.

(* Clearly, in its decades of tension and expense and geopolitical importance, the Cold War was a tepid-simmering "World War III.")

WORLD-WAR-IVIf a rising axis of Russia, Iran, Syria and Iraq takes hold - (the latter three Shia-ruled, currently) - then fear will tighten across the Sunni belt. Tensions will drive arms sales and raise oil prices, which is the only condition under which Russia prospers.  U.S. efforts to sap the strength of that alliance make a major reason for the Obama Administration's peace efforts with Iran… which Vladimir Putin will try to wreck.

It is also a good reason to ponder whether Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan -- himself politically embattled -- might do the one thing that would settle matters in Syria… sending in the Turkish Army.  Even with the excuse of humanitarian reasons, it would be risky. (The threat to Russia's Tartus naval base would raise tensions to stratospheric levels, though.)

Russia-Iran-Iraq-SyriaThe real locus of what-if pondering must zero in on Saudi Arabia.  Are they sufficiently unnerved by the Russia-Iran-Iraq-Syria axis… and simmering problems with their own restive Shia populations… to decide upon a change in policy?  To back off from their blatant efforts to manipulate and poison American political processes, for example, and to instead meddle in more constructive ways?

One ponders all this while reading the latest missive by veteran US diplomat and Middle East expert Dennis Ross, who makes some interesting points about President Obama's coming trip to Saudi Arabia, writing in the Los Angeles Times, in "Soothing the Saudis." He refers to the Saudis biggest concern, the rise of militant Shiite Islam and an axis of Iran-Iraq-Syria that now includes an aggressively revanchist Russia. A problem that Louis-Vincent Gave referred to as "World War Four."

Alas, Mr Ross ignores the elephant in the room. That the Saudis are not the victims in any of this. Their relentless push to establish extremist Wahhabi madrassas all over the Sunni Muslim world helped to create Al Qaeda and most of the 9/11 attackers. Their own textbooks declare the west to be an evil place, to be tolerated only while necessary. Above all, they have ceaselessly striven, since 1948, to stymie any peace process between Israel and its Arab neighbors. By pushing to keep Palestine as an open wound, they ensured only that the Levant region would remain embroiled and steeped in pain, never achieving what the Saudis' Hashemite rivals once dreamed-of -- an alliance between Arabs and Jews that could strengthen all concerned.

Sixty-plus years ago, they decided to keep the Arab-Israeli simmering at near-boil, instead of helping to end it.   Now, as negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis reach a critical juncture, the Saudis might sweeten the deal with financial incentives that would finally salve this awful wound. Israel and the Levant and Egypt and Arabia have potential far beyond mere oil, if they were to help foster synergies, instead of trumped-up enmities.

That might seem worthwhile, creating a core of strength all through the region that would solve the Saudis' security problem without a shot.  Oh, but if only if those grandsons of a genius are half as smart as their ancestor.

== The Pentagon is concerned... ==

… about many things.  I spent an entire day there, a couple of weeks ago, consulting with strategic planners, who have a whole lot on their minds -- like the resurgence of a militarily advanced and aggressive Russia, after the Bush-era leaders pretty much disbanded our peer-capable military in favor of insurgency-fighting SWAT teams. Still, that's not what has the senior officers and officials breaking into a sweat.

Quadrennial-defense-2014The nation's military leadership is in unified agreement that climate change is real, and also that it poses a clear and present danger to the US and especially its armed forces. "The Pentagon's thinking is revealed plainly and publicly in its own 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review , which features no fewer than eight direct, specific, and unambiguous evaluations of climate change as it relates to geopolitics and military strategy."

Ah, but the U.S. Officer Corps is no longer respected in the heartland.  As of November 2013, 23 percent of Americans said they "didn't believe in" climate change.  Which will be about as effective as not believing in a bullet that's been fired at your nose.  No wonder a cult-like tenor has set in, waging war not just on science but every other clade or profession of knowledge and skill in American life.

To be clear, the unequivocal position by the U.S. military has had some effects upon the Fox News party line.  Facts like Russian bases erupting along the Arctic Ocean and the opening of the Northwest Passage to summer shipping are pretty undeniable… so Hannity and company have veered to changing the message: "All right, the climate is changing… but… but… climate has ALWAYS been changing and that don't mean we gotta do anything!"

In fact, that's a lie, top to bottom.  The last 6000 years has been among the most stable, climate-wise, in the last 20 million… and even so, small perturbations like the 1500s Little Ice Age wrought horrible havoc on nations and peoples. Any astrophysicist will show you how closely Earth skates along the inner edge of our sun's "goldilocks" or habitable zone… and hence why we can afford only traces of greenhouse gas.

But the greatest sign of stunning low-IQ is how Fox-viewers never notice the change in catechism!  From "there's no warming!" over to "all right it's hotter: but prove that it's human generated!"  It's like the millions of Glenn Beck followers who never once asked "WHICH eight foreign governments did you say George Soros toppled?"

Unscientific-AmericaThese and dozens of other, never asked questions show that this is the greatest know-nothing campaign against a sapient, scientific civilization in 150 years. Possibly since the Inquisition.  And you have to ask: what do Rupert and his partners hope to gain?

Finally, connecting this story to the preceding one, um… you are aware who Rupert's top co-owner of Fox News happens to be?  Maybe the rising Russia-Iran-Iraq-Syria axis will convince that House to stop financially supporting Murdoch's campaign against American sanity.

== Aw heck… while we're on the subject… ==

"Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal owns a 7 percent stake in News Corp — the parent company of Fox News — making him the largest shareholder outside the family of News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch. Alwaleed has grown close with the Murdoch enterprise…. Last weekend, at the right-wing Constitutional Coalition’s annual conference in St. Louis, Joseph Farah, publisher of the far right WorldNetDaily, blasted Fox News for its relationship with Alwaleed."

Go ahead and dismiss the fact that this particular commentator is rather left wing. Or else… maybe look at the inarguably factual content and ask yourself if the hypnosis-rally at Fox News -- which has deliberately torched any thought of compromise, negotiation or discourse in America -- is really being perpetrated out of love of this country. Or else, perhaps, our Second Civil War is being instigated by those who want us harm.

== There's a much bigger threat ==

TransactionFeeTerminateNew York State is (once again) stepping in to do what the US federal government should be doing (if it weren't deliberately crippled by trumped-up civil war.)  New York's attorney general has called for curbs on services provided to high-frequency traders, allowing giant firms with superfast AI systems to jump in between buyers and sellers and haul away the value that both saw in making a deal.  In nature this is called predatory parasitism, and I go into detail here: A Transaction Fee Might Save Capital Markets.

It is the next huge scandal.  It could easily be prevented. But the real reason to be concerned is deeper… much, much deeper.  It could make climate change look tame.

In related news…  One person is about to go nuclear in the financial computer arms race. He and his partners will make a $50 billion exaflop supercomputer for foreign exchange trading.

Ah… I, for one, welcome our new Skynet banker-overlords…


Alfred Differ said...

I doubt the Saudi's will play more than a spoiler role in the coming world order over there. Historically, the empires to watch compete for the region are Russia, Persia, and the Ottomans. Depending on who has been ascendent, they carved the border regions between them. Places like Ukraine and Iraq are the battlegrounds. Look at Kurdish history and you can see the forces acting on them.

What Turkey does right now matters more. We've (the US) worked toward a detente with Iran in order to ensure a 'persian' core is there to counterbalance the Russians near the Caucusus and to change the balance between us and the Saudi's, but Turkey will play the bigger role in all this as the 'ottoman' core. Our shift toward energy independence is sufficient to start a change of our balance with the Saudi's, but it's just a start.

Carl M. said...

We supported the Saudis in order to prevent the formation of the United Herab Republic.

Andre' Gensburger said...

What goes around will come toppling down. We are at the crossroad of the future, one we may be surprised to discover we do not like. The blind acceptance of the masses lies in the complexity in trying to understand it and to understand what is fact versus hype. Now that's a book to write.

Neil_in_Chicago said...

Every once in a while, there's a year of geopolitical fireworks. However, this is the first one since the U.S. depleted its power, both soft and hard.

sociotard said...

Worth reading: Why Google Flu is a failure: the hubris of big data

Effectively, the problem is GIGO. Big Data collects as much as it can, so it inevitably sweeps up a bunch of bad data, which leads to bad models/policies/predictions. The Google Flu project looks at people searching for flu symptoms, but it fails because people have a hard time knowing when they have a flu and not a rhinovirus.

Tom Crowl said...

Very interesting re the role of Saudi Arabia... and the Russia, Syria, Iran connections.

I have a feeling that same defense establishment... as well as foreign policy and economic policy makers are also aware of another... perhaps even more significant issue (if such a thing is possible!)...

If Russia, China, Iran, India, Brazil and a few others get together and decide to abandon the dollar standard and create an alternative or use one of these nation's existing currencies...

Its a game changer w/o firing a shot...

Between their collective capacities in energy and manufacturing... they may find that they can pull that off easier than we think.

Moreover there's a growing international frustration with how Western banking may not have been so beneficial for many of these countries (and the Middle class in this one) which may help that along.

I seriously doubt that their 'new' standard will be any better in the long run...

But the failure of Western banking should be recognized as a greater threat to the Western World than it apparently is by the Establishment.

And its failure to address its spectacular short comings...

Is the best friend the enemies of the West could ever hope for.

Acacia H. said...

Unfortunately, that runs into a problem because Russia's economy is based significantly on the export of fossil fuels, Brazil's economy has stumbled hard, China's economy is sinking as they try to turn their population into their customers (and it's not working to the extent they would like), Iran is shunned by half the world and its weak economy depends on Russia (which lacks a significant economy) and China (whose economy is, as I mentioned, starting to flare out)... and India is in the midst of a growing social problem concerning the treatment of its women and the widescale corruption of its government.

If these countries tried to create a BRIC Currency, it would plummet in value compared to the Dollar and while countries would use it, they'd not see it as a reserve currency. They'd see it as just another euro.

The U.S. has some massive problems. But all countries do. The advantage of the U.S. outweigh its disadvantages. This cannot be said for the nations you mentioned.

Anonymous said...

In case you're interested, your old alma mater, UCSD, is offering a free on-line course on climate change.

Info can be found here:

A.F. Rey

Tom Crowl said...

Very good points Robert...

but for at least some counter-argument... a considerable portion of the Bric country problems you refer to are actually connected to monetary issues (rather than physical constraints) which could be lessened by abandoning the dollar standard.

Though I'd agree that alone would not end the dollar...

That's an outcome it may well accomplish all by itself.

Tom Crowl said...

A harbinger?

Sanctioned Russian Bank Shuts US Accounts To "Protect" Russian Clients

Jumper said...

Fracking is a game changer.

Mungo said...

the game has already changed. I used to work for a company that made directional drilling equipment used for fracking. Russian companies were our biggest customers; this goes back to 2008 at least.

Acacia H. said...

Musical Pi, anyone?

Rob H.

locumranch said...

Russia & Saudi Arabia are fading powers made largely irrelevant by a shifting geopolitical axis that favours exhaustible resources, Smithian economics and interdependence to an irrational degree ... weaknesses that we all share.

Rather than intervene (and thereby become complicit) in their inevitable death spasm, we should sit back, distance ourselves and allow them both to go to hell under their own power, lest we share their fate (the inevitable fate of all nations) in a more immediate fashion.

The Pentagon has the right to be concerned, not because of Russian Aggression or Climate Change, but because it becomes increasingly apparent that our great globe-spanning civilization cannot overcome internal divisiveness without (the unifying effect of) omnipresent threat, whether that threat be manufactured, real or imagined, which is exactly what WAR -- huh, yeah -- is absolutely 'good for'.

And, similarly, Climate Change is good for 'absolutely nothing', uh-huh, because combatting it -- making climate change the great 'unifying threat' -- would favour cultural fracture, local resource affluence & economic independence and speed the death of our great globe-spanning interdependent culture.

That's the true Elephant-in-the-Room:

The cure for Climate Change requires the destruction of our great interdependent globe-spanning civilization.


Alfred Differ said...

Destroying our globe-spanning civilization won't fix climate issues unless you also cull humanity to under half a billion people or so. Our civilization is the only thing preventing billions from having a much more damaging impact on the planet than we already do.

Anyone who wants to suggest such a culling can step up. Many of us will happily beat them to a pulp and then get back to our lives of trying to do something useful.

Regarding common currencies and a new reserve currency, there is the pesky problem with the fact thta sharing currencies tends to entangle nation's fiscal policies. Show me a group of nations large enough to matter on the economic level who are also willing to get entangled with each other that way and I'll consider worrying about it. They are already entangled with us due to the way USD's get used in global trade, but we are relatively benign in our demands.

Michael S said...

Since, Obama is meeting the Saudi's right now, it is timely to review the relationship between the US and the Saudis. If the Saudis have really hijacked part of the US media and foreign policy, how does that square with US support for Israel? Or, is it in both Israel's and the Saudi's interest to keep things in perpetual strife in the Middle East because it empowers both countries, keeps their citizenry in-line and provides a covert backdrop to keeping the Shia's under control? I am having a hard time understanding this.

Jumper said...

I probably don't need to explicate, but it's the combination of horizontal drilling and fracking which is the game changer, as Mungo inferred. Israel as a huge energy exporter would be one such.

If we find enough of this we can just strip the hydrogen off of it and use that. I'd like to see it. This would also supply a "look on locumrich's face" which would be worth paying admission.

Alfred Differ said...

Both Israel and Saudi Arabia face significant issues if the US manages a detente with Iran. Our actions could force the two nations to work together a bit in mutual recognition of the potential threat from Iran. This is actually in the best interests of the US as long as things don't get overheated. We don't want anyone over there to count too much or too little on us helping them when needed and we don't want them unifying against us. It's a balancing game we learned from the British and previous empires.

locumranch said...

Alfred has it backwards:

First, we can ameliorate climate change in an immediate fashion WITHOUT culling by modifying our current socioeconomic system because human CO2 production is directly proportional to our socioeconomic behaviour.

Second, the culling of the so-called human population 'excess' would only be necessary to ameliorate climate change if we insist on keeping our current (western) socioeconomic system which, btw, is infamous for being immoderate & wasteful.

Third, our culture already practices & endorses human culling excepting that we call it 'warfare' (and/or the penal system) and, as we all know, both become inevitable when we try to maintain the socioeconomic Status Quo, making World War 4 and Abu Ghraib inevitable only if we insist on maintaining our system as is.

Our current socioeconomic system depends on trade; trade depends on inequality (otherwise we have nothing with which to 'trade'); inequality depends on a centralized hierarchy (to ensure inequality); and a centralized hierarchy forms the basis of our current socioeconomic system. History arrests to this.

Perhaps unconsciously, David knows this, endorses the destruction of centralized authority through decentralization -- 3D printing, the information super highway, enlightened anarchy, resource independence, sousveillance & the rise of the non-expert -- but refuses to accept the truth of his judgments because of his hard-won place in the existing hierarchy.

Liberty is the antonym of Authority.


David Brin said...

Locum is back in articulate and cogent phase. But that does not make him right. It turns out that his assertion-cynical-snark "apparent that our great globe-spanning civilization cannot overcome internal divisiveness without (the unifying effect of) omnipresent threat, whether that threat be manufactured, real or imagined, which is exactly what WAR"…

… runs diametrically opposite to the actual events of 70 years. Under protection of the American Pax, huge swathes of the world have been able to spend far lower amounts, per capita, on arms and defense than any other generation. Western and now eastern Europe spend dribbles (and are re-examining that in light of Crimea). Latin America spends almost nothing on arms and armies. Likewise Japan and most of southeast asia.

I'll admit that China is diving into a huge buildup, in part as a stimulative demand driver and also out of imperial ambition. I do not deny that's a phenomenon. But it is financed by WalMart. Sorry locum. Cogent and snarky… but dead wrong.

ah but then he slips back into incoherence… Given that casualty rates and collateral damage acceptability ratios in "war" have plummeted across the last several decades, to levels that do not even marginally affect population levels… where does he get this stuff?

Yes, liberty is contrary to "authority" as authority was practiced for 6000 years. So? That is one reason for the Smithian-enlightenment state, whose mission was to regulate the unregulated bullying that used to be the human norm. Indeed, nearly three quarters of a million Americans died in that fight, 150 years ago. And the liberty they advanced remained flawed… but better than anything before it…

… and kept gradually improving.

To conflate a regulatory republic with feudal authoritarianism is just… plain… stupid. Yes, the former always is in danger of tipping into the latter So?

Stop snarking and help fix it.

Alex Tolley said...

Goldman Sachs trying to head off attempts to curb HFT. Just the financial industry preserving its right to predatory activity.

The Responsible Way to Rein in Super-Fast Trading

Acacia H. said...

Dr. Brin, Here's a little story that may be near and dear to your heart - or at least your writing soul! ;)

Rob H.

matthew said...

Here, David, is another win in your predictions registry. Companies hiring "auties" to use their focusing skills. Not exactly a long range prediction, but you called it the first that I saw.

More pertinent to the discussion at hand- this really comes down to a fight between those who profit from natural resource extraction and those that profit from a post-scarcity economy. As the cost of solar / wind / geothermal / whatever else is dropping, the empires built on non-renewable resources are fading. They are manipulating the economy and geopolitical to grasp the last shreds of their power. I do know that we are a long way from "energy independence" but the oligarchs that have had such power for the last 100 years are starting to realize that the end is coming. Science is triumphing. A corner is being turned just in time. And those that have profited so much in scarcity are justifiably terrified of the world they are about to see.
Or, if science fails us, they are scrambling to have the biggest hoard to sit on and wait out the end of the world.
Truly, I think the reality is both.

locumranch said...

Though not in nomenclature, it's nice to see that David and I agree in principle on so many details:

Whereas I credit "(the unifying effect of) omnipresent threat" for global unity, David correctly credits 'Pax Americana' for such apparent unity, forgetting that both serve the same purpose from the non-American viewpoint excepting that Americans need to manufacture threats like WMDs, drugs & Grenada to maintain their Pax independent unity.

Notice, also, how David puts the term "war" in quotation marks when he talks about declining war-related casualty rates and collateral damage over the last "several decades", the right move (obviously) when we haven't had a real "war" since the WW2's 50 million + casualties.

David even appears to agree with me on the inequality inherent in Smithian Economics, excepting that David predilection toward 'optimism' forces him to pull Smith out of context while I prefer to frame Smith as incomplete, a complement to and a contemporary of both Malthus and Ricardo.

Even so, we part ways when it comes to David's unprincipled take on the 'regulated bullying' of the 'Smithian-enlightenment state'. I say instead that 'bullying' is not liberty, liberty is not 'bullying' and 'liberty is contrary to authority'.

Science cannot fail us, but Scientism has. And, on this, we can all agree.


Anonymous said...

Of course, the majority do not see this, duped as they are and have been by The System with its trickery of "democracy" and "rights". In addition, some dissent and "rebellion" is allowed, and even encouraged - so long as it does threaten in any real way the ideas and the control of The System. Those individuals, groups, organizations who do or who may pose a serious threat to The System are dealt with, often by those organizations being outlawed, and their leaders and members being tried according to some tyrannical State law and put into prison for a long time.

The System - having made itself secure among The States of the West - has recently embarked on the next part of the plan, which is to create a new Empire to ensure the material wealth and military superiority of its leading lackey government, that of the America. To this end, countries have been invaded, and sanctions used to bring others under control.

The System and its lackey States are a serious threat to our evolution - to the creation of free, strong, independent human beings. The System wants - and even demands - that we are or become subservient, to its ways, its laws, its sociological ideas, to the basic materialistic animalistic way of life its allows for its "citizens", a way devoid of real adventure, real challenges, real numinosity. This way is the way of the sub-human.

One of our aims as an esoteric Order is to continue our evolution through creating a higher, more evolved, type of human being - a strong, independent, warrior-like, individual. This individual is the antithesis of the denizens of The State - of the individual in thrall to Old Aeon abstractions and ideas - and in this truth is the essence of the understanding required to appreciate, and know, the current situation vis-a-vis Aeonics and sinister strategy.

For this aim of a new human type to be achieved, we must break-down and indeed destroy the States that make up The System, the New World Order (NWO), as we must challenge the enervating ideas, the enervating ways, of The System, and replace them with our own life-enhancing ideas and ways.

If The System is not destroyed, then our evolution will be stifled, and our promise - the greatness, Destiny and glories which await among the Cosmos - will remain unfulfilled.

--Anton Long, Order of the Nine Angles ( )

Anonymous said...

[Part 1]

The current situation that exists in the world ... is one of dominance by the so-called "New World Order", which basically means the domination of the Magian. This domination over the West - and increasingly other countries - is essentially that of what is often euphemistically called "Zionism" with the reality that most nations in the West are covertly ruled by a Zionist Occupation Government (ZOG).

This situation has arisen from two factors. First, the covert introduction into the societies of the West of Marxist, and Marxist-sociological, values and ideas, Second, from the military and economic dominance of America which is all but now controlled by Zionist interests. In respect of the the introduction of Marxism, the societies of the West have been steadily "socially engineered", through laws, through the power of the Media, through government schemes, and through indoctrination spread especially by teachers in Schools and Universities. This "social engineering" has been to produce - and has produced - a plebeian society (lacking in honour and true excellence) and tyrannical governments who rule by that organized protection racket known as State and government taxes, and by the rule of an ignoble and abstract law, which abstract law is the antithesis of the warrior law of personal honour.

The reality is that a world-wide capitalist tyranny has been created, with the peoples of the West made for the most part docile through materialism and "entertainment" and "sport" and "personal pursuits", with their opinions formed for them by The State, its educational system, politicians, and the Media - especially television and newspapers. The individual has become subservient to The State in thought, word and deed. Basically, the individual is now mostly powerless before the might of The State.

William Burns said...

The Saudis have not only not stymied all attempts at Israeli-Palestinian peace, they were the moving spirits behind the Arab League Peace initiative of 2002, the best deal the Arabs collectively have ever offered Israel. Much can be adduced to the discredit of the House of Saud, but not the lack of an Israeli-Palestinian peace.

David Brin said...

Bah, Locum. Notice he cites Iraqi WMDs and Grenada and all trumped up republican war excuses… and does not cite the much bigger campaign of restraint through strength that keep the overall peace… e.g. NATA… and avoided the scheduled major world war that would have torched the entire world. He has zero perspective, if he considers Iraq or Grenada to be “major” in any way shape or form… except that Iraq was an excuse to steal a trillion dollars from taxpayers to go to the pockets of Bush family companies.

He shrugs off the fact that “we haven't had a real "war" since the WW2's 50 million + casualties.” And utterly ignores what that fact means.

Yes, capitalism contains within it the seeds and opportunities for cheaters… and hence Smith prescribed regulatory republics to keep preventing oligarchic putches… what Locum ignores is that is exactly what we have done… till now.

Again, he ignores 6000 years. He cannot look at 600 years. 6000 years are inconvenient. So 6000 years do not exist.

David Brin said...


Paul451 said...

Let me Guess, Step One of Anon's Plan to end the Rule of The System is to end Democracy and its associated Rights.

Because... something something... underpants.