Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Embrace, You Millions!

I once went for a walk with a friend and his girlfriend, whom I hadn’t met before. I found her to be quite a lively conversationalist, and after a while we had a nice little fire going, the two of us. We were speaking in English, and my friend, whose English wasn’t quite up to snuff at the time, felt left out. After a few unsuccessful efforts to enter into the flow of the conversation, he felt compelled, right there in the middle of the street, to drop his pants and start wailing. This caused me and his girlfriend to spontaneously embrace… and keep walking. After a few awkward moments my friend sensed that this tactic wasn’t working, stopped wailing, pulled up his pants and caught up with us, and all was well again.

Friedrich Schiller’s Ode to Joy, popularized by its use in Ludvig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, contains the line “Seid umschlungen, Millionen!” Conventionally, it is translated into English as “You millions, I embrace you.” But I beg to differ with this interpretation; there is no “I” (“ich”) in the German and the phrase is in passive voice: “be embraced,” not “I embrace.” Be embraced by whom, then? By Schiller? Well, theoretically, yes; at around one minute per hug and working the typical 40-hour work week, it would take Schiller about a decade just to get through the first million. But it seems highly doubtful that this is what old Friedrich was suggesting. It seems quite obvious to me that what me meant was “Embrace each other, you millions!”

I am unsure of the efficacy of odes in persuading people to embrace, but I do have a single data point which indicates that dropping one’s pants can be quite efficacious. And now I appear to have found another.

Recent actions taken by the US in the international space seem to me, metaphorically speaking, functionally equivalent to dropping one’s pants in public. And, surely enough, it is causing previously hostile or aloof nations to spontaneously embrace, finding common cause in avoiding this new source of planetary-scale embarrassment. It remains to be seen whether the US will recognize the error of its ways, or whether it will forever remain standing there wailing with its figurative pants around its figurative ankles.

Last week, while moderating the plenary session at the St. Petersburg World Economic Forum, editor-in-chief of Bloomberg News John Micklethwait said this: “I think the coming together is a tribute to Mr. Putin’s energy and power of persuasion. But it may also just be a sign of Donald Trump’s unique ability to bring people together… without him.” (Laughter. Applause.) Indeed, thanks to Trump’s tireless efforts to mess things up, things said at that meeting would have been unthinkable just a couple of years ago. French president Macron stated that, of course, Russia is part of Europe, and kept repeating the word “sovereign” with reference to France (a jab in the direction of Germany, France’s main competitor within the EU, which has remained under US military occupation ever since World War II). Of course, Macron said, France does have some obligations… (meaning to US/NATO) to which Putin quickly responded, “No need to worry, we can help you with that.” Indeed, Russia already secures one-eighth of the Earth’s landmass. Now that it is again part of Europe, expanding that function to secure the rest of Europe as well would provide good economies of scale for all involved.

Trump has done a lot to bring the rest of the world closer together, mostly by acting like a moron and by surrounding him with morons. Trump initially chose Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, giving the top diplomatic post to someone who isn’t a diplomat. Then Tillerson does something moronic: he calls Trump a “moron” at a Pentagon meeting. If he weren't a moron, he would have known that calling a moron a moron just makes the moron mad. Then White House chief of staff John Kelly does one better and says that Tillerson calling Trump a “moron” is “total bullshit.” How colorful! And then Tillerson gets fired (of course!) and replaced with CIA head Mike Pompeo (who is also not a diplomat) and at the CIA Pompeo gets replaced by the torturer extraordinaire Gina Haspel, who can’t travel outside the country for fear of being arrested and charged with war crimes. In the meantime, Trump appoints a fellow-moron by the name of John Bolton to the National Security Council. Bolton is proud of his work in promoting the Iraq war, would no doubt do it all again, nonexistent weapons of mass destruction notwithstanding, and is now itching to start an equally “successful” war with Iran. Another prime specimen is Nikki Haley, whose frozen, deer-in-the-headlights stare, strange scowl and delusional utterances are suggestive of an intimate acquaintance with psychopharmacology. Trump pulled her off her South Carolina psycho farm and sent her to the UN Security Council in New York; a moronic move, that! Most recently, Haley has done everything possible to make sure that the already toxic move of the US embassy to Jerusalem would go off as embarrassingly as possible.

The moronic nature of the Trump administration definitely passes the duck test—it both looks and quacks like a bunch of morons. But to really let the point sink in, we have to look at what they have accomplished. Most notably, Tempestuous Trump is both a flipper and a flopper. He threatens North Korea with absolute, total destruction (flip!) even though North Korea, if attacked, would obliterate South Korea with conventional weapons and possibly lob a nuclear missile or two at Japan, thus invalidating US security guarantees given to these two US allies. Then, seeing a sudden rapprochement between North and South Korea, he decides to hold a summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, whom he previously insulted in a childish manner—“rocket man,” etc. Flop! Then a few more moronic things happen: Vice Moron Mike Pence threatens North Korea with a “Libya scenario” (Libya voluntarily gave up its nuclear weapons program, only to then be attacked and destroyed). Then a senior North Korean official calls this “stupid.” This caused Trump to flip and cancel the summit. And then he flopped and now the summit is back on.

But why on God’s Earth would the North Koreans want to make a deal with Trump? You see, in the meantime, Trump decided to renege on US treaty obligations under the Iran nuclear deal, which was Barack Obama’s only major foreign policy achievement. Mike Pompeo then added insult to injury by voicing twelve impossible demands: if Iran complied, the deal might be saved. Pompeo is not a diplomat, so he wouldn’t know this, but the only time it is reasonable to voice demands in this manner and expect a positive answer is when negotiating terms of surrender, but that requires a military victory first. No victory—no surrender—no demands. Doing so anyway, and to a nation that could easily shut down the Strait of Hormuz, through which passes 20% of the world's traded oil, thereby blowing up your own economy, is quite moronic. In any case, why would Kim Jong Un be willing to make any sort of deal with Trump now that the US has shown itself incapable of honoring the terms of treaties to which it is a signatory?

But that’s not all. To really finish off his country’s reputation as a worthwhile negotiating partner, the Trump administration has threatened to sanction anyone who does business with Iran, causing much consternation within the European Union, which depends on Iranian oil exports. Such sanctions, which are essentially extraterritorial claims that encroach on other nations’ sovereignty, could be a bit of a temporary headache for transnational corporations that were starting to do business with Iran. Boeing, for instance, stands to lose a lot of aircraft sales. The reason the headache is temporary is that there is a standard procedure for circumventing such sanctions. First, the corporation that wants to do business with Iran creates an affiliate in some third nation, such as Russia or China. That affiliate, which is still partially under US jurisdiction, then creates a local affiliate that is entirely under Russian or Chinese jurisdiction and is free to do business with Iran.

There is really just one remaining problem, which is that something like 80% of all international trade is still conducted in US dollars. But this too is changing rapidly: Russia and China, Russia and Iran and China and Iran have already eliminated the US dollar in their dealings. And now the EU is planning to pay for Iranian oil using the Euro. In the meantime, China’s recently launched gold-backed PetroYuan futures are gobbling up market share from US dollar-denominated oil futures. The days of the petrodollar seem numbered, along with the ability of the US to print dollars and generate dollar-denominated debt with wild abandon, exporting inflation while importing everything it needs at a discount. The ability of the US to impose unilateral sanctions will vanish as well; instead of coercing others, such sanctions will only serve to isolate the US.

In the meantime, it would be fun to watch if Trump actually meets with Kim Jong Un, shakes his hand… and is then presented with a list of non-negotiable demands: halt all joint military exercises with South Korea; turn over command of the South Korean military back to South Korea; withdraw all US military personnel and weapons from South Korea, Japan, Okinawa and Guam; sign a treaty with Russia and China guaranteeing North Korea’s security; allow North Korea to maintain a small nuclear deterrent just in case the US decides to renege on its treaty obligations like it just did with Iran; and, of course, cancel all sanctions.

A massive shift has already occurred: much of the world has decided that the US is no longer a worthwhile negotiating partner. If you want to sign deals, fly to Moscow, St. Petersburg, Beijing or Shanghai. And if you want to laugh at a bunch of flip-flopping fools, fly to Washington.

10 comments :

peakfuture said...

The expansion of NATO and what happened in Libya - what happens when you bring these up to anyone who believes the US? It used to be that bringing up the treaties we had with Native Americans were tossed off as "old thinking", but it seems that isn't the case.

And, if Americans are thinking "oh, it's just outside the US," perhaps Social Security bankruptcy, printing of money leading to loss of real savings, inequities in justice, "iron-clad" pensions that may be renegotiated, and so on will give them pause.

Could trust in the US ever be restored? What would that take? Is this the same all over the world, or is the US just the most egregious offender of the day?

Karl K said...

The sixth paragraph, forever to be known as the "Moron Paragraph" is the best!

Thanks for the laughs this morning!

KK

Slo Mo said...

It seems doubtful that collectivistic Russia is a part of individualistic Europe. Look back as far as you want - they have always been fighting. I don't see them ever becoming good neighbours, leave alone partners.

Paul Kostel said...

Dmitry didn't you give us a Russian word that meant"non agreement capable"? Can you remind us of this word since it applies to your article? Also the best we could hope for is a president that would break things whether on purpose or by accident and not having WW3. The rest is cooked into the physical world so unless a leader can change math,physics and thermodynamics we are going back to a world made by hand.

Isabella said...

" Now that it is again part of Europe,"

No. Russia isn't "part of Europe". Never think it, never say it. It's the first step down a perilous route to conceptual Balkanisation.
Europe is primarily Germany and France with a handful of lesser nations which cluster around these two located on the Western Peninsula of the Northern Continental Massif.
Once you invoke the Symbol that is "Europe" by using the primary syllable, you're gone. The perception of wonderful, wonderful Europe, fount of all that is good and desirable, is invoked, and Russia as an object "belonging" to Europe [in other words, an item owned by it] is fixed in the mind.
Did you know that the much referred to great reference source, the American produced Encyclopaedia Britannica has a map in which the Russian Steppes are labelled the "European Steppes". There is no "Taiga". It was obliterated because, said the En.Brit. It was "merely a Russian word meaning wood and had no relevance". Each your heart out Mr. Putin and your irrelevant metaphor of the Russian bear never giving up it's Taiga.
More, there is a European Geographical Society map, which has a strong brown line running through Russia, North to South, dividing her into two. The mass is called "Eurasia". West of the line, which is called the European Border is labelled European Russia. East is called Siberian Russia. And the Urals?? They are labelled "Disputed Territory" would you believe.
You see, this is what happens when you stop thinking of the power of words, especially words which have become Symbols. Slowly but surely your enemy starts to rename you, thus owning you. If Russia doesn't do something to fight this, in 50 - 75 yrs time, during some contretemps over whether Germany can go and dig up a piece of ancient revered forest, like for example, the Taiga - sorry, European Steppes - as they are currently doing in Poland to the distress of the Poles, who failed to realise that this is what happens when you become "part of Europe" the response will be "but we have been labelling you this for years, and no-one ever protested, so you have always accepted it and we can do as we choose.".
I am with Alexander III here, 100%. Russia must accept that she stands alone - along with her Army and Navy. She has Europe to her West along with the Baltic states, and the Oriental countries to her East. She is happy to trade with both, but is "of" neither.
And this fact now, more than ever before in an age of perception management and Soros and the American Deep State is more important of grasping than it has ever been so far.

MoonShadow said...

Just a quibble, but the Iranian deal by Obama wasn't a treaty.

shakree said...

So, an excellent insightful article, once again. But we should remember that the JCPOA (Iran Deal) is not a "treaty". In fact, it has never been voted on by Congress.
A treaty must be ratified by a 2/3 majority of the US Senate. Because of the enabling legislation for JCPOA, the Congress can only vote to disapprove and would only vote if they choose to. This makes the Iran "Treaty" not a treaty at all,but just a presidential fiat that can be easily dismissed by the current or a future president. No wonder that Iran kept their nuclear ambitions mothballed, rather than totally destroying their nuclear caapability.

Another intersting thing is that in the early spring months of 2014, Ben Netanyahu came to DC and delivered a blistering attack on any deal with Iran. He was very well received at least on the red side of the aisle. However Netanyahu's appearance was within days of the Senate passing 99-0 the enabling legislation for JCPOA. The House of Representatives was nearly unanimous also. Such hypocrisy!

Dmitry Orlov said...

All this talk of JCPOA not being an internationally binding treaty is nonsense. It's very convenient to say that it isn't because congress hasn't done this or that, but that's just noise. Point is, if the official leader of the country isn't capable of signing a treaty, then the country isn't capable of signing a treaty, and negotiating treaties with it is a waste of time. The Russian word for non-agreement-capable is недоговороспособный, and this is a case in point.

And as far as Russia being part of Europe, don't take it in the sense that the EU would like to hear—that Russia is just another European nation. It isn't it is a federation of over 100 nations. If you like, think of it the other way around: Europe is once again part of Eurasia. It is just another handful of nations.

Jayhawk said...

I would suggest, Dimitri, that the discussion as to whether or not the JCPOA is or is not a treaty is very pertinent indeed, and relates to the reason that the US cannot be relied upon to make agreements with other nations.

The United States is in transition between forms of government at this point, and has been since Nixon, from a country governed by a Congress to one governed by a President. Obama made the largest incremental step in that transition when he made the statement that, "if Congress does not act then I will," and issued executive orders which directly contradicted laws passed by Congress.

Congress is finally waking up to the fact that it gave away more power than it meant to give to an Imperial Presidency and is trying to stage a coup against the current President by using the media, for the most part, and by distracting the public with foreign issues and domestic social issues. So, which the branches of government wage war with each other for control of government, a war which the Judicial branch has now illogically joined, the country is essentially ungovernable.

This results externally in an inability to make agreements with other nations and an equally ineffective military posture, and internally with ever increasingly open warfare between classes and genders, stoked by liberals in the guise of "social policy." We may be lucky enough to emerge from this without a another civil war, but not if Democrats win control of Congress and impeach the sitting President as is their current plan.

PatOrmsby said...

President Trump turned out every bit as awful as I was afraid he would be. I'm so glad he got elected! Yes, I feel awful for the average American--good grief! But it was inevitable, probably worse if postponed, and possibly worse if the chef's recommendation on the ghastly menu of American politics had been chosen, warmed over and served up.

@Paul Costel
The word is "nedogovorosposobny" and there is a bit on it here: http://thesaker.is/why-the-recent-developments-in-syria-show-that-the-obama-administration-is-in-a-state-of-confused-agony/