Quotulatiousness

January 15, 2018

Khosrau Anushirawan: Trolling Justinian – Extra History – #4

Filed under: History, Middle East — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Extra Credits
Published on 13 Jan 2018

Iran and Rome had agreed to an Eternal Peace, but tensions between them proved too great and Khosrau decided to invade while Justinian’s guard was down. His army swept into Rome practically unopposed, and he made a mockery of Justinian at every opportunity while treating himself to a grand old time pillaging and parading across the Roman border.

The postwar “international order”

Filed under: Britain, Economics, History, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Niall Ferguson on the notion of a post-1945 international liberal order:

The phrase international order reminds me of the phrase Western civilization. As Indian independence icon Mahatma Gandhi wittily replied when asked about Western civilization, “It would be a good idea.” The notion that international order exists or has ever existed seems highly questionable to me. The notion of a liberal international order is even more questionable because it is neither liberal, nor international, nor very orderly.

It is often claimed by political scientists that the liberal international order came into existence in 1945. The argument goes that American and British statesmen, having learned from the terrible mistakes of the 1930s and 1940s, decided to make the world anew by creating a series of remarkable international institutions: the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and later the World Bank. According to this narrative, Donald Trump’s election as US president in 2016 was a wrecking ball directed at the liberal international order created by the generation of 1945.

Yet this is a fairy tale. For one thing, there was nothing very liberal about the economic order that was established in 1945. It was devised by people – notably John Maynard Keynes – who had repudiated classical liberal economics and believed that international trade should be limited and capital movements controlled.

It was also not a truly international order. After 1945, it very quickly became a bipolar order that divided the world. There was nothing international about the Cold War. It was a battle between two empires and two ideologies, and the rest of the world’s nations had to choose sides.

In short, the notion of a liberal international order, born in 1945, is a historical fantasy. The reality is that it was only in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed and the Cold War ended that it was possible to create a liberal international order. The era of truly free trade, truly free capital flows and large-scale migration across borders did not begin until the 1990s.

January 12, 2018

Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points I THE GREAT WAR WEEK 181

Filed under: Europe, Germany, History, Military, Russia, USA, WW1 — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

The Great War
Published on 11 Jan 2018

In the first full week of 1918, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson outlines his points for peace. In the Caucasus, the increasing instability leads to daily skirmishes between the Armenians and Ottomans. Ludendorff continues planning for an upcoming German offensive whilst his countrymen negotiate peace terms with Russia.

December 29, 2017

Ludendorff Plans for a Spring Offensive I THE GREAT WAR – Week 179

Filed under: Europe, Germany, History, Military, Russia, WW1 — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

The Great War
Published on 28 Dec 2017

This week, the peace negotiations are underway at Brest-Litovsk. Meanwhile, the German High Command begins to plan for a game-changing offensive in the spring. There’s action in Italy on the Piave Front, and the Ottomans try to recapture the Holy City.

December 24, 2017

Post-Brexit Britain as “a Venezuela without the oil or the tropical climate”

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

Theodore Dalrymple on the possible downsides of a hard Brexit:

Important (for good or evil) as Brexit may be to the future of Britain, it is not without its importance for the European Union. Indeed, it was always essential for the Union that Britain’s departure should be an economic disaster for Britain: for if it were not, why have a union at all?

It was therefore entirely predictable that the Union should drive a hard bargain with Britain, even a bargain economically harmful to itself, provided only that it was worse for Britain: for the self-preservation of the European political class is at stake. In the European Union politics always trumps economics.

In Britain too, political considerations were uppermost in the minds of those who voted for Brexit. They saw in the European Union a Yugoslavia in the making, led by a megalomaniac class without effective checks or balances. But now they are increasingly apprehensive of the economic costs of Brexit.

And the economic auguries for Britain are indeed poor, though not only, or even principally, because of the European Union’s hostility. The fact is that Britain is unlikely to be able to take any advantage of life outside the European straitjacket because its own political class is itself in favour of straitjackets that are no better, and quite possibly worse than, the European ones. The present Prime Minister, Theresa May, is very much a statist, indistinguishable from European social democrats, and the leader of the opposition, Mr Corbyn, who might well be the next Prime Minister, is an unapologetic admirer of Hugo Chavez. It is hardly to be expected that foreign investors will place much trust or confidence in an isolated country whose next government might very well weaken property rights, impose capital controls and increase corporate taxation in favour of supposed social justice. It would not take very long to turn Britain into a northern Venezuela: a Venezuela without the oil or the tropical climate.

Moreover, Britain already has many weaknesses and few strengths. It has a huge and persistent trade imbalance, because it does not produce enough of what the world wants and cannot easily be made to do so; it has a large national debt, about the same size as that of France, but without a highly functioning infrastructure such as France’s to show for it; its household debt is among the highest in the world. For many years, its economic policy might as well have been presided over by Mr Madoff; its social policy has been to smash up all forms of social solidarity or support for the vulnerable that do not pass through the state. The destruction of the little platoons has been very thorough: most large ‘charities’ in Britain are now dependent on government rather than on private funding, and hence are in effect departments of state.

December 22, 2017

The Armistice of Brest-Litovsk I THE GREAT WAR Week 178

Filed under: Europe, Germany, History, Military, Russia, WW1 — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

The Great War
Published on 21 Dec 2017

An armistice between Austria-Hungary, Germany and Russia is signed this week 100 years ago at Brest-Litovsk. And right away the Germans make their intentions clear that they want to dictate the terms for the following peace negotiations. Even Great Britain is exploring peace options but is there actually peace in Russia? After the Bolshevik Coup a Civil War is looming.

December 18, 2017

Khosrau Anushirawan: Prince of Persia – Extra History – #2

Filed under: History, Middle East, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Extra Credits
Published on 16 Dec 2017

Kavadh asked his allies in Eastern Rome for help getting Iran back on its feet. The Romans’ replies were not only unhelpful – they were insulting. By the time Khosrau inherited the throne, resentment and war had turned the delicate alliance with Rome into an open rivalry.

December 9, 2017

The Trudeau sideshow in China

Filed under: Cancon, China, Economics, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Colby Cosh on figuring out why Justin Trudeau’s trip to China didn’t end in the glory he and his handlers were clearly anticipating:

My favourite part of the fair has always been the sideshow. And when it comes to Justin Trudeau’s official visit to China, the sideshow definitely turned out to be the most interesting part of the proceedings. Interpreting the outcome of the visit involves a certain amount of old-fashioned Kremlinology, applied to both sides, but it seems fairly clear that Trudeau was gulled into providing Chinese leadership with some celebrity glamour in exchange for a big pile of nothing on Chinese-Canadian trade.

He came to China with hopes for progress on a future trade deal that would involve China accepting new labour, gender, and environment standards. But he collided with the newly aggressive Xi Jinping doctrine — a change in the official Chinese mood that insists on the country’s superpower status. China-watchers know that over the past year, in a process that culminated at the 19th Chinese Communist Party Congress in October, China has become more explicit, and more chauvinist, in claiming to pursue an independent, indigenous alternative model of economic and social progress.

[…]

Western commentators on China have, for a long time, had an implicit vision of a re-emerging bipolar world, with China in the old place of Russia as an ideological challenger to Western democracies. Xi is taking them at their word. China’s aspirations are no longer to follow or imitate the West, but to out-compete it on its own terms, without any of the untidy, politically dis-unifying elements of Western life — independent universities, newspapers that aren’t trash, multiple political parties, and the like.

Given this background, Trudeau arguably arrived in China at exactly the wrong moment. Formal talks on a China-Canada free trade agreement would have been the first ever between China and a G7 country. It turned out that there was more value for Xi in slapping the hand of friendship. The Global Times, an organ of the party’s People’s Daily newspaper network, published a cranky English-language editorial in the midst of Trudeau’s visit.

The editorial attacked the “superiority and narcissism” of Canadian newspapers, as an alternative to jabbing the prime ministerial guest in the eye personally. But it is easy enough to read between the lines. “Trade between China and Canada is mutually beneficial, more significant than the ideology upon which the latter’s media has been focusing,” wrote the tabloid’s editor, Hu Xijin. “When Canada imports a pair of shoes from China, will Canada ask how much democracy and human rights are reflected in those shoes?”

If Trudeau had been hoping to wipe away memories of his embarrassing stunt at the TPP negotiations by a Pierre-Trudeau-like Chinese breakthrough, the Chinese government clearly saw him coming a few thousand miles away and ensured that no such PR coup would be allowed.

December 4, 2017

Otto von Bismarck – Lies – Extra History

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

Extra Credits
Published on 2 Dec 2017

We’ve wrapped up our series on Otto von Bismarck, but we’ve only touched on the first half of his life! Maybe someday we’ll get to come back. Until then, James answers questions and discusses errors in this episode of Lies!

November 21, 2017

Otto von Bismarck – VI: Germany! – Extra History

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

Extra Credits
Published on 18 Nov 2017

You would think that capturing the Emperor of France would end the war, but… no. Who could Bismarck negotiate with? Eventually he forced an interim government to cave to his demands, and at the same time convinced the rest of the German states to unite with Prussia.

November 13, 2017

Otto von Bismarck – V: Prussia Ascendant – Extra History

Filed under: Europe, France, Germany, History — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Extra Credits
Published on 11 Nov 2017

The northern German states now looked to Prussia for leadership, but that power brought increased attention from their enemies. Bismarck engineered a war with France by striking at Napoleon III’s pride and wound up winning a runaway victory to secure Prussia’s diplomatic power.

November 6, 2017

Otto von Bismarck – IV: The Iron Chancellor – Extra History

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

Extra Credits
Published on 4 Nov 2017

Bismarck turned up the heat on his long-term plan to unite the German Confederation under Prussian leadership. He allied with Austria to seize a piece of disputed land, then maneuvered them into a war that he decisively won. Even an assassination attempt could not stop him.

November 2, 2017

QotD: Free trade versus modern “Free Trade” agreements

Filed under: Economics, Environment, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Once upon a time, free-trade agreements were about just that: free trade. You abolish your tariffs and import restrictions, I’ll abolish mine. Trade increases, countries specialize in what they’re best equipped to do, efficiency increases, price levels drop, everybody wins.

Then environmentalists began honking about exporting pollution and demanded what amounted to imposing First World regulation on Third World countries who – in general – wanted the jobs and the economic stimulus from trade more than they wanted to make environmentalists happy. But the priorities of poor brown people didn’t matter to rich white environmentalists who already had theirs, and the environmentalists had political clout in the First World, so they won. Free-trade agreements started to include “environmental safeguards”.

Next, the labor unions, frightened because foreign workers might compete down domestic wages, began honking about abusive Third World labor conditions about which they didn’t really give a damn. They won, and “free trade” agreements began to include yet more impositions of First World pet causes on Third World countries. The precedent firmed up: free trade agreements were no longer to be about “free” trade, but rather about managing trade in the interests of wealthy First Worlders.

Eric S. Raymond, “TPP and the Law of Unintended Consequences”, Armed and Dangerous, 2016-04-12.

October 30, 2017

Otto von Bismarck – III: Iron and Blood – Extra History

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

Extra Credits
Published on 28 Oct 2017

Bismarck was just starting to get the hang of diplomacy when the throne of Prussia passed to a new Frederick Wilhelm who promptly sent him away to Russia. But then Bismarck got tapped to serve as the Head of Government and began pushing for his great project: the unification of Germany.

September 14, 2017

The EU doesn’t want Britain to leave amicably – they want to punish Britain pour encourager les autres

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

Individual national politicians within the EU may clearly see there is no real benefit to be had in forcing a “hard Brexit”, but the permanent bureaucracy and the EUrocratic leadership seem determined to use the process to inflict as much harm as they can, for fear that other countries may decide to get out, too:

Last week’s headlines in the United Kingdom focused once again on the words of two men: the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and Brexit secretary for the UK government, David Davies.

In the ongoing negotiation between Her Majesty’s Government and the European Union, three main issues remain unresolved, notably the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, EU citizens’ rights who reside in the United Kingdom, and the infamous ‘Brexit divorce bill’. The latter has caused considerable outrage in the British public, as the French negotiator demands a full £90 million ($117 million) in payments in order to pay for the expenses caused by the British exit.

I believe the demanded payments are actually billions of pounds rather than millions. Mere millions would be a rounding error in the budget for the UK.

The measure is so unpopular that even a majority of British people who voted to remain in the European Union now oppose it.

A week ago, the UK government refused to cover this large sum and has since issued thorough explanations why it holds that position. This apparently left EU leaders flabbergasted, whose clear intent is to make an example out of the United Kingdom. With Brexit being the first time an EU-member state has chosen to get out of the union, the team around Michel Barnier and EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has every interest in making the Brexit situation a deterrent for large eurosceptic movements in other European countries. In fact, Barnier has been crystal clear on this. As the BBC reports:

    Speaking at a conference in Italy on Saturday, Mr Barnier said he did not want to punish the UK for leaving but said: “I have a state of mind – not aggressive… but I’m not naïve.”

    “We intend to teach people… what leaving the single market means,” he told the Ambrosetti forum.

Asked by the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag if other member states would follow Britain’s example of quitting the union, Commission chief Juncker said: “No. Britain’s example will make everyone realize that it’s not worth leaving.”

How exactly is the EU expecting to bring other members off their eurosceptic tendencies remains unclear. With a considerable trade imbalance in favor of the Brits, which are still one of the most important economic players on the globe, it is hard to imagine that Angela Merkel will want angry Volkswagen producers before her decisive parliamentary elections and that Emmanuel Macron will want to deal with enraged Bordeaux wineries before the upcoming senate elections.

At the same time the Brexit negotiations rumble on, the EU is now making it ever more clear what their plans are for the future:

Jean-Claude Juncker has confirmed the EU will pursue a policy of ever-continuing expansion, create its own army, and force constituent countries to open their borders and join the beleaguered Euro in an speech which will only serve to confirm the decision of every Brexit voter. In his ‘State of the Union’ address to the European Parliament this morning, Juncker restated the EU’s commitment to an expansionist set of policies to further erode the sovereignty of member states; a platform which Remainers will find difficult to explain away.

He explicitly re-stated his ambition to see the European Union continue to expand:

    “We must maintain a credible enlargement perspective for the Western Balkans… the European Union will be greater than 27 in number.”

On immigration and free movement, Juncker said the Schengen passport-less area would be extended “immediately” to Bulgaria and Romania:

    “If we want to strengthen the protection of our external borders, then we need to open the Schengen area of free movement to Bulgaria and Romania immediately. We should also allow Croatia to become a full Schengen member once it meets all the criteria.”

He confirmed that the EU will create a ‘European Defence Union’ by 2025 – that is, an EU army:

    “And I want us to dedicate further efforts to defence matters. A new European Defence Fund is in the offing. As is a Permanent Structured Cooperation in the area of defence. By 2025 we need a fully-fledged European Defence Union. We need it. And NATO wants it.”

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