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The New Dark Age

by igor vincha Mon Sep 15th, 2008 at 01:06:53 PM EST

How did people behave until the day World War One was formally proclaimed? Life was as normal. Everyone went about doing their usual things, very few could anticipate what a global war meant. Even during the war very few people had a global perspective. Most of the little people were concerned only about their daily survival.

How did people behave before WW2 formally began? Now that is trickier question. The beginning of world-wide conflageration was envisaged only by Mr. Adolf Hitler and those close to him. He probaly foresaw many events after the anschluss of Austria, and perhaps that was the day WW2 started - from his priviledged perspective. As far as the others were concerned WW2 did not start even with the occupation of the Sudetenland or with the Italian attacks on Greece.

The world is slow to realize what is happening. It is only years later, when the winners write the history-in the manner in which they would like it to be perceived- that the ordinary guy realizes what was going on.

So it is today. We see the bank losses accruing, we see mortgage lenders going bust, we see the Northern Rock and the government's action, we see huge bank losses, we see huge increases in energy and food prices, we see the "bankrupcy" of Freddie Mac and Fannie May, the collapse of travel companies, we see the bankrupcy of Lehman and the buyout of Merryl, YET we do not see the big picture.

We do not see and do not want to see where all this is taking us. What is World War III going to look like. Is WW3 inevitable?

Let us suppose first that the world economic meltdown is possible without worldwide wars. How long shall each country be able to descend into poverty WITHOUT taking some sort of desparate action? Are human being capable of slow non-agressive suicide and slow death by hunger and cold?

Knowing human beings and their track records, isn't it more likely that some countries will decide to "protect" their own interests at the expense of those who do not have a tradition of "defending" their interests at the far flung corners of the world?  

So, I predict that within one or two years, the world will be at war. You may think or hope that I am wrong, but try to think what will ordinary life look like in London or Paris, during the war. The main question for me is, which parts of the world will be worst affected?


Display:
As you say, the Anschluss was the real beginning of World War II, but few recognized it then, nor until the invasion of France in the spring of 1940.  (Nor, for Americans, for another year and a half, at the end of 1941!)

The global War for Oil was launched by the United States in October 2001.  It will not end until the US succeeds (unlikely), or is decisively defeated (also unlikely), or is destroyed (most likely by the war itself).  

So far though, the War directly involves only the US and a scattered array of the oil-producing regions of the world.  As we pass over the peak of world oil production and production begins to absolutely decline (Peak Light Sweet Crude has already occurred--in May or November 2005) direct involvement will spread as other nations find they will have to use force if they wish to maintain a claim on oil supplies--whether their own (Note that!) or that of others.  

This is an accelerated downward spiral scenerio, as it causes much more hardship than "starving quietly"--since in war resources are actively destroyed.  

But, as you say, "starving quietly" is boring, which weighs against it, even though war leads rapidly to more impoverished outcomes.  

Who will be involved?  Except for a few primitive peoples at the periphery of our awareness, involved will be absolutely everyone, in every continent and every nation of the earth, as we are all tied to economies based on oil, foremost, and fossil fuels more generally.  

There are two basic families of scenerios:  Seeking-Sustainability and Infinite-Downward-Spiral.  These families are mutually exclusive, but the cultural choice about which to be in could--in the abstract--be changed at any time.  Of course, we are actually in IDS right now and are unlikely to change to SS at any time--though we could if we wanted to.  

IDS is based on trying to maintain things as they are, as much as possible, as long as possible.  That is, to try to maintain both our economic structures and or economic-political-social hierarchies.  Our "leaders"--in every part of society--are perforce committed to IDS--for their authority comes from the existing arrangements.  

IDS is infinite in the sense that it continues until anything resembling civilization is destroyed.  This is because it uses up today resources that would be needed to maintain things tomorrow, which means things WON'T be maintained tomorrow, and further decay occurs.  Tomorrow, the same behavior means that things will decay further the day after--infinite descent.  

IDS is well-represented in the archaeology of Easter Island.  Easter Island teaches that even AFTER civilization has been destroyed, decline can continue.  

Current "green" initiatives are a part of IDS, as they don't address the fact that our absolute demand for energy--and our system's dependence on infinite growth--are both unsustainable and a geologic impossibility.  The real purpose of "green" energy is to provide cover for IDS, to screen the fact that we have already slid into permanent decline.  

It doesn't have to be this way.  If we were ever to Seek Sustainability, we would firstly seek ways to REDUCE our energy and resource use, while living HAPPILY--primitive peoples do this so we know it CAN be done--and THEN utilize "green" energy to provide for our necessities.  But so far SS is not on the horizon.  

Will a window for SS open?  It seems unlikely.  The only place a window can open is after a widespread, visible crash discredits Business As Usual.  This is analogous to the head-in-the-toilet moment when an addict realizes that death is not merely possible, but inevitable, and decides to seek recovery.  But head-in-the-toilet moments only occasionally lead to recovery:  Usually they do not, they are explained away, excused, and forgotten, and the addict continues to progress toward early death.  

So it is with us.  Is there any way we might learn from the world-wide crash (centered in the US, true, but watch:  It will spread) that we are just now entering?  

As to your question, who will be effected?  Well, all oil producing regions will see war, unless they can adequately secure themselves.  The only country that I see with a hope for doing this is Russia.  They are correct to secure their near-abroad right now:  It is good strategy and their only hope.  

In contrast, Venezuela is sure to see war.  If they are not training an army of guerrilla resistance right now, they are sure to be occupied and destroyed.  If war comes late enough, and if they are prepared, they will be able to successfully resist an occupation that will quickly fail.  

The other effect is not war itself, but economic disruption.  In every land elites will try to claim dwindling resources for themselves, at the expense of the people.  We are talking mass die-offs, here--literally mass exterminations--and the elites will either succeed or fail.  How it plays out will vary greatly from place to place.  

The key arena is food:  Do we switch from industrial agriculture--which is dependent upon cheap oil--to community-bases organic horticulture?  This is the first, but far from the only bottleneck we must pass through.  

One stray point:  Transition to SS will only be possible where elites have been overthrown or pushed aside.  The sub-case of a revolution within the elites themselves who then guide a transition to SS is theoretically possible, but we are thus far seeing it nowhere.  South America--where old elites have ALREADY been pushed aside by a new rising class--might be the best candidate for this slim possibility.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Mon Sep 15th, 2008 at 04:41:44 PM EST
From my perspective, one would have to give some creedence to the EU as a budding Seeking-Sustainable society.  While Whoop de Joop NATO represents the IDS version of Europe, i don't see much traction there.

it pains me to think about your Venezuela scenario, though i can't discount it.  Except the overstretched US military will be no match for enraged natives and mestizos.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Mon Sep 15th, 2008 at 05:35:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
then it goes and does something just clueless.  

We'll see.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Mon Sep 15th, 2008 at 06:52:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...its civil service has been infected by market Fundamentalism.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Sep 16th, 2008 at 06:09:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting, indeed excellent post, but I take a different - and much more optimistic - view: I foresee an age of light and transparency, rather than the darkness we have now.

You are essentially taking the "Scramble" rather than the "Blueprint"

Shell Scenario

Now, I couldn't resist weighing in here

Gaianne:

As you say, the Anschluss was the real beginning of World War II, but few recognized it then, nor until the invasion of France in the spring of 1940.  (Nor, for Americans, for another year and a half, at the end of 1941!)

first by saying that one of my brothers still has my father's scrapbook full of newspaper cuttings in the years leading up to WW2.

He was very much on the Left, and told me that it was quite clear for at least 18 months to most people he knew that War was coming, despite the slanted pro appeasement Press line, which he didn't think fooled many.

Gaianne:

The global War for Oil was launched by the United States in October 2001.  It will not end until the US succeeds (unlikely), or is decisively defeated (also unlikely), or is destroyed (most likely by the war itself).  

I agree that Iraq was a war for oil, and that Iran was next in line: "Real Men go to Tehran". In 2003, the US could have had everything they now seek from Iran, and more, but of course it was regime change and oil they were really after.

The first sign of the writing on the wall for the US was Fallujah, and it is no coincidence that it was after this point that the total "Non-issue" of Iran's nuclear efforts was blown up into an issue. If there was anything in the MSM before then, I never saw it.

I believe that in or around August 2007 was the US's "End of Empire" "Suez moment" when their key creditor - China - stepped in and put a stop to any threatened attack - using the economic weapon of their massive dollar balances.

At this point we also saw the commencement of the Credit Crunch, which indeed must - if a deficit-based system is maintained - lead to economic meltdown.

The combination of a Chinese economic veto with the Credit Crunch means, I believe, that US "dollar hegemony" is therefore definitively over, and the question now is that of its replacement.

The answer may be found in the "Telluric" influence of the direct connections of the Internet which are changing the game entirely.

IMHO the logic of direct connections and "open architectures" lead to a new paradigm where it is more "profitable" to cooperate than to compete.

A future which will see our current hierarchical top down "Centralised but Connected" society evolve to a "bottom up" and non-hierarchical "Decentralised but Connected" networked Society.

Rent-seeking and value extracting intermediaries have no place in the Internet Age: they will be replaced by value-creating service providers.

And above all, this applies to the existing "deficit-based" infrastructure of credit intermediation. No deficit-based currency, be it the Euro or anything else, is mathematically sustainable in a world of finite resources.

The lessons that I drew from the Iraq war were that:

(a) no one can prevail over the US in classic "organised" warfare, so they are perfectly placed as a peacekeeper - ie they have a veto over the use of force; while

(b) despite all their firepower, the US does not have the capability to impose their will on unwilling populations.

More to the point, it is probably dawning upon the US that they cannot unilaterally sort out the economic mess they are in.  

I see no alternative to a Bretton Woods II with all options on the table, and as I have said often enough, this time maybe there will be a realisation that Keynes got it almost exactly right in 1944 when he proposed an "International Clearing Union" which the US rejected in favour of the system even now crashing around our ears.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Mon Sep 15th, 2008 at 06:39:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Because, despite Jerome's pooh-poohing the Afghani pipeline project, it seemed to be directed at Caspian oil.  

It may have been directed at Iran.  Also, it might have been a way of preparing the American public to accept the Iraq war (which had many blatant PE difficulties).  

It certainly had nothing to do with bin Laden or  "terrorism":  That was plainly an excuse and cover story from the first.  Even the oil pipeline is more credible than that.  

I don't claim I saw this at the time.  Indeed, it was not until I started reading about Peak Oil in the late fall of 2003 that I began to see what was really going on, and what was at stake.  

Fallujah (the first assault) was the turning point, not strategically, but symbolically--as a plain token of the future.  US actions revealed the deep nature of American thinking--both in the sense of the insanity--the psycho-pathologically driven nature--of its violence, and in the sense that strategy would not be success-oriented.  Thus failure is ultimately guaranteed.  

The bottom-up-connected model you describe will not include the US while its elites exist.  That caveat aside, much can happen.  I admire, though I do not share, your optimism.  May it be so!  

"Suez moment"--I like that.  Over the past month the US has been revealed world-wide as incapable of prevailing.  Great uncertainty now, as everybody in the world reassesses their strategies.  

US economic elites do not have a plan B.  Expect wild, erratic behavior.  Do not expect agreements entered in good faith.  Much must happen before that is even a fantasy.  We shall see.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Mon Sep 15th, 2008 at 07:23:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Gaianne:
The bottom-up-connected model you describe will not include the US while its elites exist.  

But it was the US where it began......!

Just look at the former elites of the music industry post Napster - running around like chickens with their heads cut off...even suing their own customers....quite mad...

..the banking elites will go the same way. Customers will evolve from music sharing to risk and revenue sharing, and there is nothing banks aka credit institutions can do about it, other provide relevant services.

They either have a future as service providers, or no future at all....

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Mon Sep 15th, 2008 at 07:43:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The US will do something sensible only after all of the alternatives have been exhausted.  But we are well on the way to that point.  Growth has ceased.  Finance and Real Estate are being immolated on a pyre formed from their own dried feces.  US oil companies are running out of places to drill and, while profitable, are buying back their stock to keep its price up. We have outsourced most of our manufacturing for consumer goods.  Industrial agriculture is depopulating our most productive farming areas and decreasing the effects that profitable family agriculture can have on local economies.  Consumption is collapsing back to necessities.  

Instead of euthanizing Wall Street, Wall Street seems to be committing collective suicide.  What alternatives are left before we are forced to try something sensible?  And how long can elites stave off recognition of this catastrophe?  Elite governance is what drives the secessionists nuts, and political violence in the US always comes from the right.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Sep 16th, 2008 at 12:21:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Also, it might have been a way of preparing the American public to accept the Iraq war (which had many blatant PR difficulties).  

The Fates are kind.
by Gaianne on Mon Sep 15th, 2008 at 10:42:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought: Peak Energy?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Sep 15th, 2008 at 11:15:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But that came later, when they failed to create a proper government of occupation.

The Fates are kind.
by Gaianne on Tue Sep 16th, 2008 at 12:06:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And I thought the end in Iraq came during the initital invasion.  I remember seeing a reporter holding the records of a local Baathist Party in southern Iraq and noting that there was no time for the "Coalition Forces" to secure or preserve these records.  I was screaming at the TV: "These Idiots are going to need those records in order to properly govern Iraq."  But then they didn't even secure the ammo dumps.  What massive incompetence.  They must have bought Chalibi's line that our exit strategy was to walk out on the rose petals strewn in our path by a grateful Iraqi people.  With leaders such as this, who needs enemys?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Sep 16th, 2008 at 12:27:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
process.  

The invasion was conducted with no thought to governing afterwards.  

Ironically, the Iraqis WERE grateful--for just about a week.  After which they began to find out how good life under Saddam had really been.  Four months later they were actively supporting the insurgents.  

As you say, no one could have foreseen incompetence this thorough-going.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Tue Sep 16th, 2008 at 12:53:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Scramble" is a version of IDS.  

"Blueprint" is more ambiguous.  Depending what goes INTO the blueprint it could be a transition to SS.  

But Shell is way too coy:  Unless you cut energy use, absolutely and by a lot, you never head toward sustainability, but head away from it, and remain in IDS.  

Cutting energy use is the key problem, because too many people on all points of the "political spectrum" believe that human happiness is equivalent to energy consumption.  This is an addict's belief, and ends in self-destruction.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Mon Sep 15th, 2008 at 10:18:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
(a) no one can prevail over the US in classic "organised" warfare, so they are perfectly placed as a peacekeeper - ie they have a veto over the use of force; while

(b) despite all their firepower, the US does not have the capability to impose their will on unwilling populations.  

Despite US rhetoric, peacekeeping--your point (a)--is not part of American thought.  The US military is more direct, they call it "full-spectrum dominance" and dominance is the key word.  

The US passed up the peacekeeper option rather visibly around 1989.  

As it happens, despite their obsession with dominance, the military has not yet figured out how to win a war of occupation.  So your point (b) is certainly correct.  

Your title:  "The war is already over"--in the sense that it is already lost--well, sure.  You could say the German Nazis lost when they attacked the Soviet Union in the late spring of 1941.  True:  They did.  But the fighting continued with great intensity for four more years.  The Global War for Oil may be lost, all the same, it is intensifying even as we write, and the fighting will not end for a long time.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Mon Sep 15th, 2008 at 10:34:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As it happens, despite their obsession with dominance, the military has not yet figured out how to win a war of occupation.  So your point (b) is certainly correct.

Actually they do know how, but ironically, in a world where a military draft has unacceptable political consequences, the pentagon didn't have access to the number of troops it knew it needed - so we had Rummy talking himself into it with his MBA style "we can do this with a streamlined army" leading to his infamous "you go to war with the army you have, not the army you wish you had" comment.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Tue Sep 16th, 2008 at 02:31:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course they know how...

WSJL White Guilt and the Western Past: Why is America so delicate with the enemy? (by SHELBY STEELE on May 2, 2006)

There is something rather odd in the way America has come to fight its wars since World War II.

For one thing, it is now unimaginable that we would use anything approaching the full measure of our military power (the nuclear option aside) in the wars we fight. And this seems only reasonable given the relative weakness of our Third World enemies in Vietnam and in the Middle East. But the fact is that we lost in Vietnam, and today, despite our vast power, we are only slogging along--if admirably--in Iraq against a hit-and-run insurgency that cannot stop us even as we seem unable to stop it. Yet no one--including, very likely, the insurgents themselves--believes that America lacks the raw power to defeat this insurgency if it wants to. So clearly it is America that determines the scale of this war. It is America, in fact, that fights so as to make a little room for an insurgency.

Certainly since Vietnam, America has increasingly practiced a policy of minimalism and restraint in war. And now this unacknowledged policy, which always makes a space for the enemy, has us in another long and rather passionless war against a weak enemy.

American doesn't have the stomach for genocide, thankfully.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Sep 16th, 2008 at 06:08:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
American doesn't have the stomach for genocide, thankfully.

Indeed.

The average US GI driving the tanks and the gunships really isn't into a campaign of continuous massacres.  

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Sep 16th, 2008 at 06:13:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah thankfully...or we would have 2-3 millions of dead Iraqis in stead of 1 million...

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Tue Sep 16th, 2008 at 08:09:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
exquisite.  

The Fates are kind.
by Gaianne on Tue Sep 16th, 2008 at 09:11:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the grunts on the ground, sure.

the airforce generals, we can hope...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Sep 16th, 2008 at 09:18:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well yes, but that's not what I'm getting at. When you create a power vacuum, you need a certain number of troops per citizen to pacify the population and keep the peace. The US didn't have nearly enough, so the looting and chaos began in earnest, and the US options were very limited.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Tue Sep 16th, 2008 at 01:06:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
so what's the figure in terms of troops per citizen?

and where does the cut-off point lie in those countries the US could occupy?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Sep 16th, 2008 at 01:17:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Assuming that Iraq was on the table before 9-11, they had at least 18 months to plan for it.  Had they even tried to stand up at least one more division of light armor and a couple of regiments of MPs, I would give them some credit.  Had they tried to train 1,000 Arabic language specialists, I would give them some credit.  Had they planned on securing ammo dumps and Baath headquarters with a squad each from National Guard troops, I would give them some credit.  Had they not disbanded the Iraqi army-even paying them just to stay in their barracks would have been a great improvement-I would give them some credit.

Instead, Iraq became, both on the grounds of the strategic decision to invade and on the grounds of the implementation of the take-over, the second biggest military disaster in US history on every count except loss of life by US soldiers.  The only outcome with more disastrous consequences I can see was that suffered by the Confederacy in the Civil War.  In fact the mentalities of those who brought us Iraq and the US Civil War have some similarities.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Sep 16th, 2008 at 02:42:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed. How much of this gross failure was dictated by Bush's yes men in the pentagon? This was a political failure.

Military men, like engineers, know what they are doing. If a military man screws up he dies, if an engineer screws up, his product / device / infrastructure fails. The feedback is instant and undeniable.

If a politician screws up, nothing happens until the public decides to do something about it - and that's a feedback loop that is often measured in generations.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Tue Sep 16th, 2008 at 05:57:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
All I said was that the US are "well placed" to be peace-keepers: I'm not saying it would be easy to change American military doctrine....!

That's why I believe that Iraq was - in retrospect - a "War that Ended Wars" - not that the US intended it to be. Because as a display of military dominance it was demonstrably so devastating and effective that it convinced both Libya (who succeeded) and Iran (who did not) to "throw in the towel".

Gaianne:

The Global War for Oil may be lost, all the same, it is intensifying even as we write, and the fighting will not end for a long time.  

The War for Oil was fought and lost by the US economically, and it was General Greenspan who definitively blew it. The US has no option now but to share global energy resources, and not from a position of strength, either.

That will be an interesting, but IMHO essentially peaceful process....

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Sep 16th, 2008 at 05:46:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All I said was that the US are "well placed" to be peace-keepers  

You are right.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Tue Sep 16th, 2008 at 06:20:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
    CC
I believe that in or around August 2007 was the US's "End of Empire" "Suez moment" when their key creditor - China - stepped in and put a stop to any threatened attack - using the economic weapon of their massive dollar balances.
This sounds so totally believable that I am surprised that I am just now hearing this account of things.  Do you have diaries or references to this that date to late summer 2007?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Sep 15th, 2008 at 11:12:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ARGeezer:
This sounds so totally believable that I am surprised that I am just now hearing this account of things.  Do you have diaries or references to this that date to late summer 2007?

There was ET discussion (Migeru's photographic memory may recall....) last year in the course of which I put this view, but the truth of it will only come out when Paulson - who would have been the message boy - and the Chinese Central Committee, write their memoirs! ie probably never.

It's only an intuitive view (most of mine are!) really.

There was some weird shit going on around then: the Israeli raid on Syria (which wwas meant to impress Iran, and probably did), the B52 lugging nuclear tipped cruise missiles around (possibly even a Dr Strangelove moment defused?); but particularly for me, it was the fact that the Chinese reinstated a pre Saddam oil contract with Iraq: could they ever have done that if they, rather than the US, weren't calling the shots?

I think a covert deal has been struck by Khatami and his co-realists in Iran with the US. That's why the Surge worked - Sadr was prevailed upon by the Iranians to call a halt and continue his religious studies in Qom, Iran.

That's not the public position in either the US or Iran, of course, because it would be political poison in both countries to be seen to be cooperating.

So, there's a lot of noise from the Israeli's (who nevertheless continue to import Iranian oil, but business is business) and the Neocons, and from a very few Iranian hotheads, but the moment passed last year IMHO.

The new President - whoever he is  - is going to have to swallow US pride and convene a Creditors' Meeting: that's the truth of it.

US Inc is about to enter Chapter 11.

And he's also going to have to come to terms with Iran  in order to be able to leave behind a remotely stable Iraq.

I think we are no longer in a Unipolar world in the sense that no one power will ever again be able to impose themselves on the rest. It might have been different if Russia had not maintained a nuclear deterrent: I never thought I would be grateful that they did.

I see this as profoundly positive: I do not foresee a future of War.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Sep 16th, 2008 at 05:24:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree that the US is being hemmed in, which is what NEEDS to happen, the only way it CAN happen, without war leaping beyond the "limited, regional" level.  

It might have been different if Russia had not maintained a nuclear deterrent: I never thought I would be grateful that they did.  

Isn't life just full of these surprises!  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Tue Sep 16th, 2008 at 05:45:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think that US creditors could essentially impose an economic settlement along the lines of:

Point One - we will no longer fund a US military industrial complex geared up for aggressive War - and you can no longer fund it yourself.

Point Two - we will fund a military industrial complex redeployed to a a War on Climate Change - Green New deal - and we will share equitably in the gains.

ie US resources at last redeployed from destructive to constructive purposes.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Sep 16th, 2008 at 06:01:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
you have a great vision, chris. to get from here to there....you say it's already happening, when will the tide turn?

to implement it sounds like it would entail the biggest re-definition of 'capital' since the middle ages.

how many more dead end avenues will it take before your way becomes the path of least resistance, i wonder.

whole lot of disaffected middlemen going to try and stall...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Sep 16th, 2008 at 02:25:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
melo:
you say it's already happening, when will the tide turn?

The tide turned years ago, and now it's well on the flood. I'm observing what people are actually doing, and analysing, refining, reporting and discussing it.

melo:

to implement it sounds like it would entail the biggest re-definition of 'capital' since the middle ages.

That is exactly right. Since double entry book-keeping came along, in fact.

Open Capital

is what I call it...

It will come about "bottom up", and probably first in those countries which do not have the barriers which we do.

eg mobile payments are being introduced in Kenya at the rate of 50,000 new users per week

And although Banks are still involved in payments we are seeing African Telco's actually buying banks......

After all, a payment is merely a "money message" between databases of obligations.

melo:

how many more dead end avenues will it take before your way becomes the path of least resistance, i wonder.

It's not so much the "dead end avenues" which are the problem, it's more inertia, and conservatism, and "the devil we know". I found until about a year ago that people said "Great idea, but we'll stick with what we know".

Now that what they know isn't working, they are saying:

 "about that idea of yours....".

melo:

whole lot of disaffected middlemen going to try and stall...

...while some of the middlemen actually morph from value extracting rent-seekers to value creating service providers....

You can resist an invading army, melo, but you can't resist an idea....

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Sep 16th, 2008 at 02:51:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
thanks chris, i appreciate it.

i wonder if the chinese will like your idea, or the russians.

we'll find out at your 'bretton woods' 2!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Sep 17th, 2008 at 01:26:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Chris Cook's "Suez Moment": here, here and developed here.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Sep 16th, 2008 at 06:04:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I see this as profoundly positive: I do not foresee a future of War.
Needless to say that I agree about the positive valence.  This could turn out to be the most fundamental irony in world history: The USA saved from Run-amok US Pirate Capitalism by the lineal descendants of Chairman Mao who have decided that it is glorious to be rich, wish to keep doing so, and, due to the blind, arrogant, short-sighted, feckless, greedy folly of the US business and political elites, have the means to do so in the form of the massive credit they have extended to the USA.

THIS IS THE BRIGHTEST RAY OF LIGHT I HAVE SEEN IN WHAT OTHERWISE APPEARS TO BE THE DESCENT INTO THE ABYSS.

Cahill needs to write another book in his series: HOW THE CHINESE COMMUNISTS SAVED CAPITALISM AND ENABLED THE WORLD TO AVOID CLIMATE CATASTROPHY.  

MAY IT BE SO!  Thank you Chris.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Sep 16th, 2008 at 08:30:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...on the other hand, I might be wrong...;-)

The problem with being an optimist is you only get unpleasant surprises: the good part is you have a happy life 'til then.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Sep 16th, 2008 at 08:44:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
True, but I suspect that any error would be a matter of details, not of the overarching conclusion.  At this point all the Chinese could do would be to warn the USA.  Should the USA take actions truly detrimental to China, they can always sell a bunch of T-bills--a jerk on the chain.  Might have had to do that when it looked like we were going to launch an air attack on Israel this summer and just possibly over Georgia.

I agree about the Russian deterrence.  Under Reagan I felt at times that the future of the world depended much more on the sensibility of the Russians than on that of the USA.  I haven't followed these things for years, but I see no reason for Russia and China not to be willing to cooperate on such matters of mutual defense as threats from the USA.  Both are pretty pragmatic and seem to have their domestic populations well under control without having to play foreign adventure games.

The other thing I like  about your scenario is that it gives me a reason why the Chinese have been willing to keep extending credit to us.  Doing so has given them a powerful weapon that greatly enhances their security.  Their behavior never completely made sense to me on purely economic grounds, even with the cushion it gave them against peak oil of $144.00/bbl.   Now I can see enough advantages for it to make sense.  Being able to destabilize the US economy on a moments notice is a powerful club.

Paul Kennedy, in

    The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers
, 1987, noted the correlation over the long term between productive and revenue raising capacity and military strength.  But our neo-con geniuses apparently thought "American exceptionalism" exempt them from the effects of this relationship or were too blind, proud, arrogant and greedy to see what would happen.  Pride and arrogance went before their fall.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Sep 17th, 2008 at 12:08:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Being able to destabilize the US economy on a moments notice is a powerful club.

But they've handed the same club to the US. Its MAD in the economic sphere. China goes all out sell off, what it sells goes at fire sale prices given the circumstances. What it doesn't sell in time gets confiscated. Ditto for US assets in China. Trade ends. Tens of millions of suddenly unemployed Chinese workers. Shortages and price shocks in the US. Mass bankruptcies in China with a collapse of the normal banking system. Euro skyrockets, dollar crashes, yuan crashes against the Euro. Europeans take measures against the sudden flood of cut rate Chinese goods.

All in all, I'd say that if anything the sort of doomsday scenario you suggest would turn out worse for the Chinese than the Americans, and that's saying a lot. The Europeans would lose the least, but they'd be hurt badly as well.  The cheap labour third world countries outside East and Southeast Asia would do well, the commodity nations would be screwed. Which also means that I don't think the oil exporters would be too happy - their wealth funds suddenly plummet in value at the same time as their export revenues do the same.

by MarekNYC on Wed Sep 17th, 2008 at 01:26:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The sword is double edged, no doubt.  But China does not have to swing to decapitate.  Just stop buying for a month and/or sell a few percent of their holdings.  They could always buy them back and resume buying new issues.  By this time the traders should be well able to read the tea leaves.  If they have been able to prosper while just holding our paper they would be in a better position than the US would be were the US forced to default.

It would not be to their advantage to push it unless their interests were truly being damaged by US actions.  Nor should it be in the US interest to destabilize China.  Who knows what might emerge from that?  This certainly does not preclude Cheney trying to play Dr. Strangelove, however.  Leaders with death wishes have the means of wish fulfillment in their hands if they are major nuclear powers.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Sep 17th, 2008 at 01:53:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But they'd be playing a dangerous game beyond very minor stuff. They can never be certain about politicians' reactions in the US. It's not just the Cheneyites. There's a lot of anti-Chinese sentiment on the populist wing of the Democratic party. Again, MAD - brinksmanship is dangerous. Even more so in a way than in the military sphere precisely because as bad as economic armageddon is, nuclear is much worse.
by MarekNYC on Wed Sep 17th, 2008 at 02:05:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As I have said elsewhere, the Chinese would be unlikely to act unilaterally in any case, and would aim for at least some consensus in relation to a new economic approach or settlement.

They would make sure that their approach was shared by others with large dollar balances, particularly Russia (that's waht the SCO is for), Norway (now mightily pissed off with the US having seen all of their Oil fund gains in the last ten years wiped out two or three times over, and counting....),and regional holders of dollar balances.

We may put the Middle East to one side, although with the exception of Iran (who would join tomorrow, but have no dollar balances to speak of) I think they would undoubtedly join an initiative if they were certain everyone else was participating.

And re nuclear, it's only the Russians who have a credible deterrent, for which I never thought I would be thankful.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Wed Sep 17th, 2008 at 04:42:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
while the Chinese may be restraining the US from a course of quick global suicide, their own environmental awareness is quite lacking, and the choice of industrialization which has enabled them to stand up to the US has also drawn them into the trap of addiction and unsustainability.  

North America is better placed physically (or geophysically) to survive its crash.  Mentally?  Not so clear.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Tue Sep 16th, 2008 at 10:47:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In 2003, the US could have had everything they now seek from Iran, and more, but of course it was regime change and oil they were really after.

Allegedly Saddam offered to go into exile in December 2002, but war is what they wanted and war is what they had.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Sep 16th, 2008 at 06:00:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How did people behave before WW2 formally began? Now that is trickier question. The beginning of world-wide conflageration was envisaged only by Mr. Adolf Hitler and those close to him. He probaly foresaw many events after the anschluss of Austria, and perhaps that was the day WW2 started - from his priviledged perspective. As far as the others were concerned WW2 did not start even with the occupation of the Sudetenland or with the Italian attacks on Greece.

You forget the Spanish civil war of 1936-9 and the Italian invasion of Ethiopia (Abysinia).

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Sep 16th, 2008 at 05:57:56 AM EST
And the Japanese invasion of China, ongoing in a limited fashion since 1932, and serious since 1936.  This is what led to the final, complete commitment of the US to World War - the US placed escalating economic embargoes on Japan to stop this war, and it was these embargoes that led Japan to the desperate act of attacking the US, the UK, and the Dutch in East Asia.
by Zwackus on Tue Sep 16th, 2008 at 05:52:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
[Igor Vincha's Crystal Ball of Doom™ Technology]

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Sep 16th, 2008 at 05:58:51 AM EST
But Chris Cook has just countered that Spell of Doom which was certainly not cast by Igor, but only problematized so as to be amenable to analysis.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Sep 16th, 2008 at 08:34:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Folks are definitely worrying too much.  

The Fates have already pruned and shaped the Tree of possibilities.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Tue Sep 16th, 2008 at 10:37:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Folks are definitely worrying too much."

Much easier not to worry when one has reasons other than the good will and restraint of your country's executive, the implacable resolution of your legislators, the integrity of your judicial system, the discerning judgment and courageous resolve of your citizens and the wise and restraining counsel of your allies, such as all are.

I would think that a suitable representative from the Obama campaign, say Al Gore, might discretely visit China, talk to the same people who presumedly spoke to Paulson, let them know what sorts of cooperation could be expected on climate issues and verify their discussions with Paulson.  Having such knowledge could be very useful in cases of surprises in October.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Sep 16th, 2008 at 11:06:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I cannot take Gore seriously for as long as he is supporting and embedded in the total bollocks of deficit-based carbon markets brought to us by the same people who brought us the Credit Crunch.

But having got that off my chest, then yes, feelers aimed at developing future frameworks for global energy cooperation are necessary asap.

After all, US energy consumers and Chinese energy consumers are all in the same boat: and US energy consumers at least actually have a vote in the upcoming election.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Wed Sep 17th, 2008 at 04:29:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I suggested Gore because Biden would get busted by the RW if he went.  If he would agree, Sen. Dick Lugar, R, Ind. or former (R) Sen. Cohen would be even better.  Harder for neo-cons to demonize.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Sep 17th, 2008 at 12:35:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
when one has reasons other than the good will and restraint of your country's executive, the implacable resolution of your legislators, the integrity of your judicial system, the discerning judgment and courageous resolve of your citizens and the wise and restraining counsel of your allies  

As we don't have these things.  

And we know where it leads.  

But I was really responding to "crystal balls of doom technologies."  In bad times one gets to think about bad things, but thinking is not bad.  And worry is no different in good times or bad.  Do it enough, but not too much.  

A good thought on Al Gore.  There is much he might do.  But for all he looks green, he is not, no more than Americans are really ready for change.  They want to change without changing at all.  The coming hard times will rearrange that, but there are more possibilities going in bad directions than good ones, and that is the near-term challenge.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Sep 17th, 2008 at 12:24:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Real change will only come after real campaign reform, and that will only come when things get really bad.  They appear to be on the way to worse.  That hope is my silver lining.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Sep 17th, 2008 at 12:37:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What is rarely mentioned is that people in developed countries can reduce their energy consumption and their accumulation of physical objects markedly without suffering more than psychological pangs, which can easily be given surcease by cleverly applied mass media salves and explanations of just how intelligent it is to go for walks instead of drives, vacation locally in a service capacity instead of flying thousands of miles to loll on a beach in a poor country.

I figure people in the West could reduce their so-called standard of living by 90%. Whether they lag or lead the Depression is their choice.

Align culture with our nature. Ot else!

by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Tue Sep 16th, 2008 at 08:28:42 PM EST
War for oil has long been an obvious scenario for the onset of petroleum shortages. As we know, war for oil has already started, most noticeably in Iraq, but elsewhere too.

Nevertheless, "world war" is probably not a good analogy to what we are now experiencing. In the old kind of world war, there were two sides and every country had to choose which side it was on. But oil wars are necessary multilateral rather than bilateral. Therefore WW1 and WW2 might not prove to be useful models for predicting the shape of things to come.

I don't think anyone can yet characterize the era into which we are now rushing. This is an entirely new global situation. Sorry, I don't believe the history of industrial civilization has yet been written. I suggest humility in the face of novelty.

by Ralph on Wed Sep 17th, 2008 at 12:18:21 AM EST
Ralph:
But oil wars are necessary multilateral rather than bilateral.

Perceptive insight.

But oil relationships are also about the direction of power in terms of "one way" competitive relationships, and "two way" consensual relationships.

The US were not proceeding on a consensual multilateral "many to many" basis, but on a competitive multilateral basis ie "one to many" fuck you basis

And IMHO that's what's just changed, for the better.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Wed Sep 17th, 2008 at 04:22:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the old kind of world war, there were two sides and every country had to choose which side it was on.
 

If you read about those wars in detail, the sides did not really coalesce until after the wars were well underway--or even until after the end when the histories were being written!  Even in World War II!:  For example, the Soviet Union was and Axis power through the first quarter of 1941, only joining the Allies after being betrayed and attacked.  

Yet your point that we should not assume just two sides is valid, and I hope it did not sound like I was assuming that.

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Sep 17th, 2008 at 12:34:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you for so many comments. Knowing how my earlier posts were "difficult to understand" and totally uninteresting I did not even bother until now to see if anyone noticed my anguish. As response I forward my new dairy entry.
JUST, DON'T PANIC.

"Only puny secrets need protection. Big discoveries are protected by public incredulity." MMcL
by igor vincha (svjeronimatgmail.com) on Wed Sep 17th, 2008 at 11:18:47 PM EST


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