Archive for August, 2008

History of Central Eurasia

Sunday, August 24th, 2008

Dear Friends,

I got an e-mail from an old friend the other day. In it he reminded me of the viewpoint of the Russians. A viewpoint that isn’t portrayed in Pravda, or any where else for that matter (except in history books), but I‘m sure underlies a lot of the Russian Psyche.

Russia is in the center of the Eurasian continent. As such it has been the epicenter of empire builders from both East and the West. They have been invaded many times. The Mongols were especially brutal in conquest. With the Second World War less than a century ago, it still stings the Russian soul.

Russia and Germany had signed a non aggression pact. They were, at the time, allies. Stalin was incredulous that his ally had attacked. At first he thought it was some kind of mistake. But when the death toll rolled in the reality of his allies plans were a cold bath. ‘Sturm Drang Osten’ wasn’t dead, it had changed names.

In 1941, with the name of Operation Barbarossa, Hitler invaded the newly expanded Russia with one million five hundred thousand troops. The two million Russian troops stationed along the new boarder were annihilated, to a man. The battle hardened German army and Luftwaffe led by the panzer divisions rolled unstoppable through Eastern Poland into Russia. The fall of 1941 found the Germans knocking at the doors of Moscow, Leningrad, and the Crimea’s throat in the hands of Field Marshal Von Manstien.

Weather in the fall of that year in Russia was unusually wet and muddy. The panzers became mired in the stuff. The supply routes, now long over rebedded railroad tracks, subject to partisan attacks and over muddy dirt trails, became unreliable. With this, the War machine’s treads became plugged and ground to a temporary halt.

This gave the Russians, who had lost almost everyone put up against the Germans, a moment to dig in the new battle lines and bring in new troops to stiffen them. Without the mobility of the panzers and with the ongoing shortage of supplies, the Germans were finally repelled… for now.

The Russians by this time had lost millions of people in the conflagration. And the hunger of the war for, Russian blood, Jewish blood, Gypsy blood… human blood, was unquenchable. The winter was a savior for the Russian army and air force. The Germans had foolishly neglected to bring winter gear. They had winter gear…but it was in Germany. The supply train wasn’t up to the task of delivering it to the troops and bringing Jews and Gypsies to the gas chambers. The troops would have to go without.

Finally the Germans began to loose some troops… At the hands of the Russian winter. Thinning the battle hardened troops to be replaced with new recruits blunted the spearhead, the Germans would have to reduce the spears from three to two in the spring and summer campaign… to keep the spears sharp.

The Germans didn’t totally waste the winter however, They now had the Ukraine fully in their grip. Realizing the error of murdering everyone they came across, and wondering why they were so despised, the German SS moderated their behavior toward the Ukrainians. The Ukrainians hated the Russians, their overlords. Stalin had only in the last decade 1920s-1930s stolen the food grown by the Ukraine and sold it on the world market. Then used the money to industrialize the Soviet Union. This, of course, resulted in the starvation of fifteen million Ukrainians. Amazingly, the Ukrainians that were left held a grudge over this.

Knowing this the SS actively recruited Ukrainians into special Ukrainian SS units. They were used in POW camps, Death camps, and against the Soviet Army. The Ukrainians weren’t devoted National Socialists however, they were fighting for a purpose. They wanted freedom. Knowing the only real road to freedom is in military power, they began gathering military power. The Ukrainian SS had a horrendous death rate…on paper. They were going underground to build an eventual gorilla army.

Meanwhile the spring brought on a new campaign season. Abandoning the attack on Moscow Hitler’s army turned towards the Caucasus, and Stalingrad. But the Weirmacht wasn’t fighting an untrained army, without a head, any more. The Russians had learned from The Germans how to conduct, modern three dimensional, war. The Germans had now fallen into the trap that Lycurgus warned the Spartans against, “do not fight any one city too much, else you will teach them how to fight.” The Germans hadn’t counted on the Soviet Unions wherewithal. The ability to absorb so many casualties, and still keep fielding a bigger and bigger army. Surviving long enough to learn.

The Germans under General Paulus attacked Stalingrad. Covering his flanks with Italian and Rumanian allied troops, Paulus forced his way into Stalingrad with his elite German Sixth Army. Sixth Army fought house to house and building to building for Stalingrad. By the time Stalingrad was mostly in the hands of Sixth Army, Stalin’s generals launched operation Uranus.

The Soviets had massed Guards Tank armies supported with the new Katusha rockets. Launched from American trucks brought in from Archangel. The Massed barrage of Katushas almost obliterated the Axis troops that protected Paulus’s flanks. The Italians collapsed the Rumanians at first put up stiff resistance but were soon overwhelmed, Sixth Army was trapped in Stalingrad, by this time The city of death. Hoth tried an abortive attempt to resupply and evacuate Stalingrad but was repulsed by the better Soviet T-34 tanks.

Loss of the Sixth Army was more than Germany could replace. For all intents and purposes the war with Germany was over. All that was left was to kill more people. This all had happened by February 1942. America was only one month into the war.

By the end of the war twenty million people had died in the Soviet Union. But the bloodshed wasn’t over. Ukraine wanted independence from the USSR. They wanted freedom. The underground army the Germans had unwittingly trained began an insurgency against the USSR. Stalin being the ruthless tyrant that he was brutally suppressed it, the lucky ones ended their lives in the gulags. This culminates a history of conquest and re conquest in central Eurasia.

With this history in the modern memory it is clear why the Russians and the other members of the former USSR fear, each other, and the rest of the world. Fear that may or may not be irrational, but is rooted firmly in reality. And a fear that permeates their every action. In the Cold War and today.

With this history in mind, what about the Russian actions, or the Georgian actions, or the Polish actions, or any other peoples actions from the former USSR’s sphere of influence do we find odd?

Fairness Doctrine

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

Dear Friends,

I keep hearing about the “Fairness Doctrine.” It has been explained to me as being a law regulating what can be said on the airwaves, by the government, to insure ‘fairness’.

Seems to me that this is a natural evolution of the constitution given the course that we have been on for a hundred years or so. That is, the Constitution is evolving; from a document that protected the people from the government, to a document that protects the government from the people.

Seen in this light the ‘Fairness Doctrine’ is only another step down the road to this inevitable evolution. The government would of course be the judge of what is fair. The government would have to set up some form of censor. This agency would have to listen and look for anything that the government deemed unfair. Then would force the offender, under penalty of prison and confiscation of property, real and chattel, to air the opposite view… to be fair. The government would then determine whether the rejoinder was indeed ‘fair’ and whether further sanctions would be necessary.

No need to worry about the foolish First Amendment to the Constitution. It only protects the rights of government to say what it deems is in the public interest. Just like the Second Amendment protects the right of Government to “keep and bear arms.” Not the people, remember, the Constitution is a “Living breathing document.”

Who could be more ‘fair’ than the government to decide what we can or cannot say without a firm rejoinder or perhaps penalty. Governments have always protected the rights of the people, especially when the government also controlled the dissemination of information. That is why the government now says the Constitution is to protect itself from us. We are a threat to government.

Kidding aside, if you still believe that we need a ‘Fairness Doctrine’, you must also believe in this line of reasoning…

Remember, beware the power and precedent you give to government, or a branch thereof, no matter how much you agree with what is being done in your name today, you may not tomorrow…to your horror.

Man Made or Not?

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

Dear Friends,

It seems to me that we must cast a skeptical eye on “man made” global warming. There seems to be a suppression of debate, similar to the suppression of debate that led to the execution of Galileo.

Any scientist that disagrees with the “consensus” is reviled and his/her credentials are threatened. Take for example where the funding is made the target. Are scientists that are funded by environmental organizations equally as suspect? Here at the ad homonym attacks are plentiful.

There is a great deal of evidence against the theory “Man made” part of the theory. Take for example The planet Mars is warming in virtual lock step with Earth.

With the Voyager Spacecraft passing the Heliopause and finding that it is expanding and contracting it suggests that the interstellar “atmospheric pressure” isn’t constant. and If this is so then if we (as a solar system) pass through an area of low “interstellar pressure” the density of the local solar wind will be reduced. This would in turn result in better transmission of solar energy to the planets, Global Warming or Global Cooling. There is ample evidence condemning the man made part.

The Earth is still emerging from the last ice age. The glaciers that formed then have still not fully melted and the temperature still hasn’t fully recovered. Land is still rising from the retreat of the glaciers in Asia .

The test of a theory is the way it stands the test of doubt. The test of doubt is the foundation of Western Philosophy since Descartes said “I think therefore I am.” You could almost say that Western Philosophy is the philosophy of doubt, epitomized in the realist tradition. If Man Made Global Warming alarmists seek to stifle debate it says a lot about their confidence in their own arguments.

Makes you wonder if there is some other agenda…

Russia Georgia War

Monday, August 11th, 2008

Dear Friends,

It seems to me that the new war between Russia and Georgia is a modern example of power politics in action.

Russia is acting beyond the modern international norm. In entering internationally recognized Georgian territory, without an International mandate, UN or otherwise, supposedly to “protect the ethnic Russians,” Russia has entered into a war of aggression. To compound the crime Russia has now passed the boarder of the territory in question. It continues into the territory of Georgia. In doing this, in so blatant a fashion, Russia is announcing to the world “We care nothing for your International Laws… Because we have the power to care nothing!”

And they do. Europe depends on natural gas from Russia’s Gazprom. Winter is fast approaching and Europeans need heat. Russia has them by the… ear. Asia is dominated by communist China. China has similar ambitions itself, so it would like Russia to set the president and take the heat for it. South America has not the military or economic might to have a real say, the same with Africa. The United States Of America is the only one left.

Here we are again. The US is spending treasure and blood in the Middle East to protect the worlds interests. Like it or not. With little help from our “Allies.” The US is hated worldwide for it. The US military has returned the Georgian contingent from Iraq to Georgia, directly, by military air transport. However the US has little real substantive power to act in this situation, without substantive consequences… Other than stomping it’s feet and holding it’s breath.

This conflict has eerie echoes of the Bosnian conflict. In Bosnia, Serbia interceded to protect ethnic Serbs from Bosnian aggression. In this case however, the stakes are much higher, to the balance of world power.

I think that Russia has in its gun sights the energy recourses of Georgia. Protecting some ethnic Russians is a pretext to resume it’s control of Georgia. This would help Russia in several ways. The resources of Georgia would be in the control of Russia. The threat (as Russia sees it) of a NATO member on it’s Black Sea boarder is removed. The power of the EU is curtailed in a very substantive way. (Total inability to act). And Finally the retaking of Georgia will send a chilling message to other potential former Republics.

The international condemnation will be loud… and as powerful as a zephyr. We shall see what level of autonomy Russia gives Georgia… if it emerges victorious from this conflict. Which is not a sure thing, yet. Remember some of the Georgian troops are battle hardened in Iraq. History shows, over and over, a small republic that has a smaller more professional army has overturned a much larger army of conscripts.Perhapse Georgia can battle Russia to a stalemate, and sate both sides thirst for blood.

If that happens, Russia’s prestige / power will be greatly diminished… Perhaps this could be more dangerous than a Russian victory…

Thirst For Blood

Sunday, August 10th, 2008

Dear Friend,

It seems to me that when a nation state goes to war there is a certain “thirst for blood.” The war will last until one or the other side emerges victorious, or this ‘thirst for blood’ has been sated, at which point both sides are willing to sue for peace. That will bring on the natural end of the war. Interruptions to a war allow the blood that has been spilled to digest. When this happens the ‘thirst for blood’ is increased and the stomach has been stretched.

The Middle East is an example of how interrupting a war only serves to increase the desire for war and the blood of the enemy. But chains in the means so as to make this desire manifest in low scale violence, like terrorism. This slow burn war results in the death and wounding of far more people over far more generations than the original war would have been, had it been fought out. Later generations have to fight and die for a grievance of their grand fathers.

If we look at any of the wars of the modern (1959-1973) Middle East, (with the exception of the Iran/Iraq war), the individual war has always been truncated. The world (UN) has stopped the war short of total victory / total defeat, or until the ‘thirst for blood’ had been sated. Resulting in the slow burn of children in the war of suicide bombers killing civilians scratching for a bite to eat.

Had Israel, Egypt, Syria and Jordan fought it out to the end in any of these wars and had a democratic republic been installed in these countries in 1959, 1967 or 1973 the face of the world and the lot of the Arab people would be vastly improved. Instead of squandering billions of oil dollars on armaments and sponsoring terrorist organizations these countries might have been spending billions on education for the people, (investing in human capital), on infrastructure, (investing in the means of production), and fostering a healthy economy with low taxes and smart regulation. With the vast energy resources of this region of the world there is no excuse for there to be poverty and random death… but the rapine of the rulers.

Of course the oil in the Middle East was a factor in keeping the worlds attention on these wars. Ironically (as is usually the case) the desire to help (Liberal Internationalism) has resulted in exacerbating the original problem to an unimagined degree. A degree where the USA has tens of thousands of troops active there. Had International Pragmatism been applied, perhaps this could have been prevented, decades ago, and at less cost in blood, treasure, and human suffering.

Historic Stagflation

Sunday, August 3rd, 2008

Dear Friends,

It seems to me that Stagflation in the late 1970’s and the early 1980’s was mostly due to the large scale entrance of women into the workplace. Without passing judgment on the other social or filial implications, The affect of such a large population added to the workforce had inevitable implications for the macro economy.

As the supply of job seekers went up faster than the supply of jobs the equilibrium point of pay was lowered, and the cyclical rate of unemployment was raised. Until the workplace could effectively absorb those workers.

On the inflation front the large influx of women into the workforce put disposable income into hands of people, that until that time, had not had access to disposable income before. This increase in demand created a situation in which aggregate demand was higher than aggregate supply. The textbook definition of inflationary pressure.

With the confluence of these two factors, worker supply outstripping demand, and at the same time more money circulating in the economy as a whole, inevitably led to stagflation.

The fed aggressively fought inflation by keeping the money supply tight. This was thought to drive down demand putting the brakes on inflation. Today it is seen as the correct measure even in hindsight in most economic circles. By the early 1980‘s inflation was tamed but unemployment was at an all time high. Wages were low and taxes were high. I would argue that keeping a tight fiscal policy by the fed was the wrong course of action then.

If we keep in mind that stagflation was driven by the addition of new workers into the workforce, as we have established, then we can short circuit the event by solving the underlying cause. The three policies open to the Fed that I see are; Keep a tight fiscal policy (as was done historically), take a middle course to try to address inflation and unemployment, or finally, a loose fiscal policy to stimulate growth in the economy inflation be dammed.

Remember that the underlying problem was the rapid influx of workers (women) into the workforce that was driving stagflation, were growth encouraged instead of discouraged, growth in GDP would have driven up demand for workers. Especially with the extra demand generated by the newly disposable income, the growth would have been redoubled, making the economy absorb the additional workers much faster than historically, leading to a shorter negative growth cycle and the resulting unemployment / under utilization of the native workforce. Add to this the compounded effect on the modern GDP of the additional growth to GDP then. Think of the increase of, per capita GDP / economic standard of living, were this the case.

Of course this explanation is simplified. Other underlying factors were, the new caveat Dollar (disengagement from the gold standard), ending of the Vietnam war, early globalization of work, and European and Asian economic factors. The single biggest factor in the stagflation in the late 1970’s was however the large scale influx of women into the US workforce.