Quotulatiousness

May 23, 2017

Top 10 Reasons the Byzantine Empire Was Among the Most Successful in History

Filed under: Europe, History, Middle East, Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 2 May 2017

You’d see a lot of changes when looking at a map of present day Europe and comparing it to a 30 year old one. Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine and the Baltic States were all part of the USSR. Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia were still states. Go back even further and the map looks even stranger. Putting all those different people under the same banner and keeping them that way was and still is next to impossible. Many have tried and most have failed, but the first to even come close were the Romans. Their inheritors, the Byzantines, managed to keep it together for over 1100 years, thus creating the longest-living Empire on the continent. Here’s how they did it.

May 4, 2017

Ici Londres: Do Theresa May’s opponents seriously prefer Juncker?

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 3 May 2017

April 27, 2017

QotD: Canada the (self-imagined) “moral superpower” … the military midget

Filed under: Cancon, History, Military, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

… Canada has no influence whatever in the world. It is unique in this condition among G7 countries, because it has a monstrously inadequate defence capability and takes no serious initiatives in the Western alliance or in international organizations.

Canadians seem to imagine that influence can be had in distant corners of the world just by being virtuous and altruistic and disinterested. That is not how international relations work. The powers that have the money and the applicable military strength have the influence, although those elements may be reinforced if a country or its leader is able to espouse a noble or popular cause with great persuasiveness. This last was the case in the Second World War, where Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Charles de Gaulle and Adolf Hitler were all, in their different ways, inspiring public speakers who could whip up the enthusiasm of their peoples. Churchill and Roosevelt stirred the masses of the whole world who loved and sought freedom. There are no world leaders now with any appreciable ability to stir world opinion, and influence in different theatres is measured exclusively in military and economic strength, unless there is a colossal moral imbalance between contending parties. Even where such a moral imbalance exists, as in the contest between civilized and terrorism-supporting countries, the advantage is not easily asserted.

[…]

But we are almost entirely dependent on the United States for our own defence. When President Roosevelt said at Queen’s University in Kingston in 1938 that the U.S. would protect Canada from foreign invasion, Mackenzie King accepted the responsibility of assuring that invaders could not reach the U.S. through Canada. Since the Mulroney era, we have just been freeloaders. If we want to be taken seriously, we have to make a difference in the Western alliance, which the Trump administration has set out to revitalize. As I have written here before, a defence build-up: high-tech, increased numbers, and adult education, is a win-double, an added cubit to our national stature influence (and pride), and the best possible form of public-sector economic stimulus. It is frustrating that successive governments of both major parties have not seen these obvious truths. Strength, not amiable piety, creates national influence.

Conrad Black, “Being nice gets Canada liked. But we won’t be respected until we pull our weight”, National Post, 2017-04-14.

April 14, 2017

QotD: How to negotiate

Filed under: Business, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

All negotiations are defined by something called the ZOPA: the Zone of Possible Agreement. The boundaries of that zone are defined by another buzzword, the BATNA: the best alternative to negotiated agreement.

The ultimate deal has to be better for both sides than their BATNA. Anything that either side considers worse than no deal at all is outside of the ZOPA, and no amount of strategery is going to get you there. Getting rid of Social Security and Medicare: outside of the ZOPA. Raising tax rates to Danish levels: outside of the ZOPA. Single-payer health care: outside of the ZOPA. Defunding Planned Parenthood: outside of the current ZOPA.

Is the ZOPA fixed? Nope. If a Republican president were in the White House, and a few more Republicans were in the Senate, defunding Planned Parenthood might well be feasible. The massacre at Newtown moved the ZOPA on gun control leftward. The financial crisis made all sorts of previously unthinkable things — like TARP and a nearly $900 billion stimulus bill — eminently feasible. The ZOPA moves all the time, which is why we’re no longer debating the free and unlimited coinage of silver at a ratio of 16 to 1.

But note that these movements didn’t come from some sort of deft negotiation strategy. They came from external events that changed the BATNA of one side or the other. Note too that even though the ZOPA had shifted in his favor, President Obama lost on gun control because he included an assault weapons ban in his list of demands as a bargaining chip, and the other side decided to walk away instead of negotiating a deal.

How did this happen? Because the bargaining chips you include send signals about your intent, and how serious you are about negotiating — and they can therefore change the facts on the ground in ways that hurt you rather than help you.

Imagine that you tried negotiating for a car by announcing that you intended to pay no more than $2,400 for a fully-loaded new truck. Would this improve your bargaining position? Of course not; the salesman would decide that you were wasting his time, and go find another customer. Similarly, if the car salesman announced that he wanted $100,000 for a well-used Camry, that wouldn’t make you more willing to pay $30,000 for it; it would make you go seek a dealer who wasn’t obviously crazy.

Megan McArdle, “Let’s See What Republicans Learn From Losing Boehner”, Bloomberg View, 2015-09-25.

March 24, 2017

Kaiser Karl Wants Peace – The Sixtus Affair I THE GREAT WAR Week 139

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, Russia — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 23 Mar 2017

The First World War & The Death of the Habsburg Empire: http://www.boehlau-verlag.com/download/163983/978-3-205-79588-9_1_OpenAccess.pdf

Since Kaiser Karl I ascended the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire he was not happy with the progression of the war. He felt that his empire was tied to their German ally more than necessary and this week 100 years ago he was starting a process of secret negotiations for a separate peace with the Entente. At the same time the British had increasing problems at the home front and the chaos in Russia continued.

March 2, 2017

Possible end-game for the British nuclear deterrent

Filed under: Britain, Military, Russia, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Charles Stross speculates on a few ways that Il Donalduce could trigger the end of Britain’s nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines:

Working hypothesis #1: Donald Trump is an agent of influence of Moscow. Less alarmingly: Putin’s people have got blackmail material on the current President and this explains his willingness to pursue policies favourable to the Kremlin. Russian foreign policy is no longer ideologically dominated by communism, but focusses on narrow Russian interests as a regional hegemonic power and primary oil and gas exporter.

Clearly, it is not in Russia’s geopolitical interest to allow a small, belligerent neighbor to point strategic nuclear missiles at Moscow. But this neighbor’s nuclear capability has a single point of failure in the shape of the resupply arrangements under the 1958 UK-USA Agreement. Donald Trump has made no bones about his willingness to renegotiate existing treaties in the USA’s favor, and has indicated that he wants to modernise and expand the US strategic nuclear capability. Existing nuclear weapons modernization programs make the first goal pointless (thanks, Obama!) but he might plausibly try to withdraw British access to Trident D-5 in order to justify commissioning four new US Navy SSBNs to carry the same missiles and warheads.

(Yes, this would break the “special relationship” between the USA and the UK for good — but remember, this is Donald Trump we’re talking about: the original diplomatic bull in a china shop who decapitated the state department in his first month in office.)

Trump could present this as delivering on his promise to expand the US nuclear capability, while handing his buddy a gift-wrapped geopolitical easter egg.

Working hypothesis #2: Let us suppose that Donald Trump isn’t a Russian agent of influence. He might still withdraw, or threaten, British access to Trident as a negotiation lever in search of a better trade deal with the UK, when Theresa May or her successor comes cap-in-hand to Washington DC in the wake of Brexit. It’s a clear negative sum game for the British negotiating side — you can have a nuclear deterrent, or a slightly less unpalatable trade deal, but not both.

In this scenario, Trump wouldn’t be following any geopolitical agenda; he’d just be using the British Trident renewal program as a handy stick to beat an opponent with, because Trump doesn’t understand allies: he only understands supporters and enemies.

As for how fast the British Trident force might go away …

Missiles don’t have an indefinite shelf-life: they need regular servicing and maintenance. By abrogating the 1958 agreement, or banning Royal Navy warships from retrieving or delivering UGM-133s from the common stockpile at King’s Bay, POTUS could rely on the currently-loaded missiles becoming unreliable or unsafe to launch within a relatively short period of time — enough for trade negotiations, perhaps, but too short to design and procure even a temporary replacement. It’s unlikely that French M51 missiles could be carried aboard Dreadnought-class SSBNs without major design changes to the submarines, even if they were a politically viable replacement (which, in the wake of Brexit, they might well not be).

February 17, 2017

Russian Bombing On The Eastern Front – US Prisoners of War I THE GREAT WAR Week 134

Filed under: Europe, Germany, History, Military, Russia, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 16 Feb 2017

After breaking off diplomatic relations, the tensions between the US and Germany are still strong. This week the so called Yarrowdale prisoners become pawns in the power play between the great powers. At the same time, the Russian air force is bombing targets all over the north Eastern Front and little skirmishes happen on the overall quiet Western Front.

February 16, 2017

The handshake

Filed under: Cancon, Humour, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Victor sent me this. I had to share:

Justin Trudeau is prepared for this. He has spent hours of watching videos of foreign dignitaries having their knucks busted by Diamond Donnie. He and a crack team of advisors have been studying them and analyzing every move. He has been overclocking it at the gym to get his forearms swole. Anytime he is off camera he is clenching and unclenching a gripmaster. He is endlessly clenching and unclenching his anus to build focus. Shaking hands with Donald Trump is really a contest of wills and Justin Trudeau will not fail. He is an aristocrat and he was bred by his father in all the fine arts of modern statecraft like clasping claws with thugs. Donald Trump is a trumped up peasant and Justin Trudeau is the heir and defender of the North American dream. This was the only thing discussed in that motorcade to the White House. Forget softwood lumber and dairy supply management and the attempt to leverage Ivanka for a roundtable on women in the workplace that sounds like a summit they would have held back in the silent era of film.

The whole trip was all handshake game plan. Every possible move, every possible contingency, from proper foot stance to recognizing Trump’s sloppy attempts at any one of 32 possible Masonic hand ciphers.

The car door opens. This is it. It’s go time. Trudeau steps out of the car and glides into Trump’s outstretched hand. He quickly braces himself on the president’s shoulder, establishing an indomitable centre of gravity. He is going fucking Super Saiyan on this handshake. But Trump will not be deterred. He ratchets up the pressure and tries to pull this punk kid in. There is a tug of war. Trudeau is not moving. His hand is too strong. Their forearms are jerking around with electrical power and neither of them were ready for this to happen.

He can barely believe it himself and he has to look down at his own hands to make sure that this is really happening that, yes, he is not broken. He raises his head again to meet Trump’s gaze with blazing eyes that scream SIC SEMPER TYRANNIS but also AINSI TOUJOURS AUX TYRANS because bilingualism. Utterly destroyed but wanting to be cool about it, Trump gestures at the cameras before leading Justin into his den of lies. He cannot hide the look of absolute mystification on his face.

February 10, 2017

Bulgaria Digs In At Doiran – The Final Blow Against The Senussi I THE GREAT WAR Week 133

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 9 Feb 2017

While the US breaks off diplomatic relations with Germany in response to unrestricted submarine warfare, the Western Front is rather quiet. On the Macedonian Front, the Bulgarian Army is digging in at Doiran. They built a formidable defence network without the Entente realising it and this week 100 years ago the British get a first taste of that. The British also deal the final blow against the Senussi tribesmen on the Libyan Front.

January 14, 2017

“We call it diplomacy, minister”

Filed under: Britain, Europe, History, Humour — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Another brilliant bit of realpolitik from Yes, Minister, disguised as humour:

January 6, 2017

The World At War 1917 I THE GREAT WAR – Week 128

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 5 Jan 2017

This war was supposed to be over by Christmas 1914. Now, as 1917 dawned, the world still knew 10 active theatres of war around the globe: Western Front, Italian Front, Eastern Front, Macedonian Front, Caucasus Front, Persian Front, Libyan Front, Palestine, Mesopotamia and German East Africa – and still there was no end in sight, no quick victory to be had for any side.

December 24, 2016

QotD: Getting NATO nations’ attention

Filed under: Europe, Military, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

How to make some NATO members move in the right direction? Here’s an idea. Let me pull one of my “NATO Motivator” concepts out of my goodie-bag.

You learn quickly in NATO that one of the most critical and important things to many in the alliance is a thing called Flags-to-Post.

It is when NATO decides which nations will get which senior uniformed and senior civilian adviser billets. Trust me on this; the conflict in AFG, refugee crisis, etc – none of that stuff goes in front of anything related to Flags to Post.

If you’d like to bring attention to the “Press allies on defense spending” point, do this; the minute an Estonian General (pop. 1.3 million, percent of GDP on defense, 2.04%) take a position usually held by say, a Belgian General (pop. 11.2 million, percent of GDP on defense, 1.05%), then you will get people’s attention.

Just an idea.

CDR Salamander, “Make NATO Great Again”, CDR Salamander, 2016-11-14.

December 11, 2016

Re-negotiating NAFTA (and the Defence Production Sharing Program, too)

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Ted Campbell is in favour of bringing NAFTA up-to-date and reminds us that there’s another diplomatic item that could use modernization at the same time:

In my opinion, if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, or the next Conservative leader is really interested in restoring Canada to a leading position in real, practical, long term peacekeeping then (s)he will abandon the United Nations and, instead, turn Canada into a free trade powerhouse by dropping our remaining protectionist measures, as Maxime Bernier and Colin Robertson both advocate, and making deals with all comers. And it is important to remember that “deals” involve two sides and both sides must gain something which means that both sides probably “give” something, too, and that produces short term “losers” and it is politically important to try to “soften” the transition for those who are bound to lose in the short term. But, in the mid to long term most losses are “covered” by gains in new products and services and the utilitarian goal of “the greatest good for the greatest number” is achieved … most of the time.

One of the things Colin Robertson mentioned was shipbuilding and it leads me to consider that one of the things we want to renew if or when we must renegotiate NAFTA is the Defence development sharing agreement between Canada and the United States of America. The stated objective of the existing (since 1963) agreement are:

  1. To assist in maintaining the Defense Production Sharing Program at a high level by making it possible for Canadian firms to perform research and development work undertaken to meet the requirements of U.S. armed forces.
  2. To utilize better the industrial scientific and technical resources of the United States and Canada in the interest of mutual defense.
  3. To make possible the standardization and interchangeability of a larger amount of the equipment necessary for the defense of United States and Canada.

The Defence Production Sharing Program is, too often, hamstrung by US (and Canadian) protectionist measures and it needs to be brought more fully into the area of bilateral free trade. I am not suggesting that the Pentagon would ever let, say, a significant shipbuilding contract to a Canadian yard but it must be possible for Canadian shipyards and factories and service providers to bid on US defence contracts on at least a “near equal” basis and vice-versa, of course. This, free(er) trade in defence materiel and services is one area where we, North Americans, can learn from the Europeans. I am not suggesting that Canada should abandon the idea of having a national defence industrial base but, rather, that we should have a base that fits, neatly, into a larger continental base that is, somehow, connected to other allied defence production systems.

So, broadly, when (if) President elect Trump says he wants to renegotiate NAFTA we should, indeed, say “bring it on!” But we should go into negotiations with our eyes wide open, prepared to surrender some “losers,” as good bridge players do, in order to finesse some winners for ourselves.

September 29, 2016

Hiawatha – II: Government for the People – Extra History

Filed under: Americas, History — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 1 Sep 2016

After getting the Seneca to join the Great Law of Peace, Hiawatha came up with a plan to convince Tadodaho. But it took Jigonsaseh to confront him and make him become a true leader. Now united, the Five Nations created a participatory democracy rooted in the Peacemaker’s ideals, one that still lives on today.
____________

Three nations had united under the Great Law of Peace, but the Seneca and Onondaga remained outside it. Both nations relied on war for their power – but also for their safety. Hiawatha and the Peacemaker came to the Seneca expecting an argument, but Jigonsaseh had already convinced them since she was Seneca herself. All but two of the chiefs were ready, but those two chiefs feared what would happen if other nations brought war to their borders. The Peacemaker called a council to discuss their concern, but it quickly dissolved into in-fighting and arguments. To solve it, he established a bicameral legislature where each tribe had a turn to speak. Hiawatha joined the Mohawk and helped legislate a solution, putting the Mohawk and Seneca in charge of the borders with the authority to call the tribes together in war if outsiders threatened the confederacy. The envoys also agreed to follow his plan for Tadodaho. They returned to the Onondaga nation and offered to make Tadodaho their leader, with veto powers over every law. He immediately saw the potential to grow his power, but Jigonsaseh confronted him for his greed and cruelty and convinced him to use his power responsibly. With him, the Onondaga joined the Great Law of Peace. Now Jigonsaseh sat with the women’s councils and selected the League representatives, for the women owned the council positions and chose the men who served in them. Those representatives met the Peacemaker on the shores of Onondaga Lake, where he demonstrated how a bundle of five arrows, like the five nations, could not be broken. Then he had them bury their weapons under a white pine tree guarded by an eagle. Those symbols would later be adopted by the United States, whose Founding Fathers studied the Great Law of Peace and adopted many of its principles into their own Constitution. The original Haudenosaunee League drafted laws based on the Peacemaker’s teachings, creating a government that served the will of the people. Hiawatha commemorated each of these laws with a series of wampum belts, most notably the Hiawatha Belt which symbolized the five nations coming together in peace. The government they created has lasted for centuries, making it one of the longest lasting participatory democracies in the world.

August 16, 2016

Would Trump pull the US out of NATO?

Filed under: Europe, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Tom Kratman regretfully says no:

The last several months have seen repeated claims and variants on claims that presidential candidate Donald Trump wants to, and intends to, pull the United States out of NATO. Hillary Clinton made the claim on 28 March of this year, repeating a version of it on 8 May on Face The Nation.

Sad to say, Trump hasn’t said we need to pull out; would that he had. Instead, he’s made far weaker calls to “reconsider” our role in NATO, and to restructure or reform NATO to deal with modern threats, like terrorism, rather than Cold War threats, like the former Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact. These were couched in terms generally reasonable and factual; to paraphrase, NATO other than the US doesn’t pay its fair share.

I’m not so concerned with what politicians may say – and Trump’s become one now – who are vying for political office. See, for example, Hillary’s lies about what Trump actually said, cited above. I’m far more concerned with what they should do following election. In this particular case, though what Hillary has claimed of Trump is a lie, it’s a lie he should follow through on.

NATO has rarely pulled its weight in the past, nor is it pulling its weight in the present. Of twenty-eight NATO countries, only five meet their defense spending goal of two percent of GDP. Even that is begging the question, though; because none of them, not one, come near to our level of spending. Britain, for example, with a GDP of 2.679 trillion, spends about fifty-two billion, or just over two percent. France’s defense budget runs under two percent. Germany, Europe’s largest economy, disgracefully, spends a mere thirty-seven billion, or just over one percent. Some smaller NATO countries, the Netherlands, for example, spend about what Germany does.

We, conversely, spend about three times what Germany does, and even more than that if one tallies in a number of indirect expenditures, like the VA, on which we spend more than twice Germany’s entire defense budget.

Frankly, all of NATO is on a kind of moral defense welfare and has been pretty much since inception.

[…]

But the Truman Doctrine! The Truman Doctrine!

I know a lot of people must have missed it, but the Truman Doctrine wasn’t designed to contain Russia. Neither should one be taken in by flighty rhetoric presented to congress. The Truman Doctrine arose in the context of containing communism. That was done. Communism is no longer an international threat (and if we can keep the Hildebeast out of the White House we may be able to keep it from becoming a domestic threat, too).

But we need European troops!

Some of them have been, indeed, excellent. I am thinking especially of the UK’s, Canada’s, Australia’s, and Denmark’s. I am not thinking of Germany’s, the reports on whom, such as I have seen, are almost uniformly wretched, and I am not thinking of France’s, the reports on which are mixed. However, in accord with their defense budgets, those troop slices were objectively small, and they generally did not come with logistic self-sufficiency. In other words, in huge part, we had to provide the transportation and other support to keep them in the field in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that, especially in Afghanistan, where our own logistic capability was badly strained.

That was bad enough, but there is something much worse. There has grown up over the decades since the Second World War a regime of treaties, advancing what is often called “International Humanitarian Law” – IHL – and purporting to subordinate the law of war to it. Some of those claims are so preposterous as to be unbelievable, except that many, many of the world’s elites do believe in them and do force us to subordinate our own laws to them. A discussion of IHL is beyond the scope of this column. Note, however, two aspects of it that have arisen, the International Criminal Court, created by what is called “the Rome Statute,” and the Protocols Additional to Geneva Convention IV. The former subverts national sovereignty by placing it subordinate to unelected, partisan, largely left wing, jurists. The latter were specifically designed and pushed forward by the former Soviet Union to undermine the west.

We accept neither of these and, in fact, have a conditional declaration of war in place, the American Servicemembers Protection Act, should anyone try to grab our troops for trial before the ICC. Unfortunately, our “allies,” for the most part, have signed onto these obscenities. What that means is that we are constrained from acting with the full rigor of the law of armed conflict by the presence of allies, for whom, should we act in accordance with the law of war but against IHL, makes them complicit in what are, by their own domestic laws, war crimes. This constraint is intolerable, a rotten, stinking albatross tied around our necks. And this is what makes the presence of allied NATO troops not worth the bother, even when those troops are superb.

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