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MetaFilter posts tagged with geopolitics

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Published: Fri, 30 Jun 2017 12:10:49 -0800

Last Build Date: Fri, 30 Jun 2017 12:10:49 -0800


When Chinese and American AI rule the world

Fri, 30 Jun 2017 12:10:49 -0800

A new geopolitics based on emerging tech. After sharing some commonplaces about AI, Kai-Fu Lee (Carnegie Mellon, Microsoft, Google China, now venture capital) offers an intriguing idea. Maybe China and the United States will evolve into new forms of planetary hegemons thanks to their AI supremacy. Tracy Mitrano (Cornell, University of Massachusetts) thinks this might work for China, but wonders if the US is actually prepared for such a role.

Well there ain't no time to wonder why, Whoopee! we're all gonna die.

Sun, 12 Mar 2017 20:06:09 -0800

Although there has been no major combat between the great powers since the Second World War, there are three key fronts emerging that make the prospect of a third global conflict alarmingly conceivable. Maybe we are already there.

In the autumn they issued a sack of potatoes per person

Fri, 21 Oct 2016 14:01:41 -0800

Frozen Dreams: Russia's Arctic obsession (16 min.) is a Financial Times video feature about Russian Federation preparations to take advantage of the Northern Sea Route opening up along its Arctic coast, which may at some point offer a preferable path for global shipping between the Atlantic region and East Asia, in comparison with the conventional route through the Mediterranean, Suez Canal, and Indian Ocean. A recent edition of 60 minutes discussed both US and Russian exploration and exploitation of the Arctic. (CBS link is geo-locked and time-windowed, unfortunately.)

The Dromedaries take the field!

Sun, 24 Jul 2016 06:28:42 -0800

"It is said that every new nation or groups making claims to nationhood needs to have a national football team, otherwise you may as well not exist in the first place. The late historian Eric Hobsbawm once declared: "The imagined community of millions seems more real as a team of eleven named people. The individual, even the one who only cheers, becomes a symbol of his nation himself." So, in the absence of recognition by formal political bodies, recognition by the Fédération Internationale de Football Associated (FIFA)—which is larger than the United Nations—can be a boon in struggles for political self-determination." Now Western Sahara is trying some football diplomacy of their own.

Staring down the barrel

Thu, 06 Aug 2015 06:48:51 -0800

With oil prices low and unlikely to rise, Saudi Arabia is in severe trouble, facing existential crisis by the end of the decade if the oil futures market is right. Having no industry other than oil extraction, no tax base and high expenses from supporting a largely unproductive population (not to mention increased defence spending in response to regional upheavals), Saudi Arabia is dependent on oil prices remaining high; which they have done for decades, thanks to the OPEC cartel's control of oil supplies; a slow decline in oil production thanks to Peak Oil promised to keep the party going for another few decades, leaving someone else to come up with an exit strategy. But now, unconventional oil production in the US and elsewhere and the adoption of technologies such as renewable energy appear to have permanently depressed the price well below the point where the Saudi budget is balanced. Saudi Arabia seems to have conceded that OPEC's influence over oil prices is defunct, and switched to flooding the market with cheap oil, taking what money it can get and attempting, with little prospect of success, to make investment in alternative energy sources uneconomic. (Previously, on the Saudi royal welfare programme.)

Self-Inflicted Wounds

Wed, 20 May 2015 12:47:54 -0800

Several recent developments reveal how political and institutional fragmentation in the United States has produced self-inflicted wounds for the U.S. abroad. In all of these instances, America's ability to exercise economic power in the world has been deliberately curtailed through decisions made unilaterally in Washington by American political leaders.

The best laid plans of Malofeyev and Moscow

Tue, 24 Feb 2015 11:07:53 -0800

Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta: The document we're publishing is interesting in that, in the early stages of the Ukrainian political crisis — that is, before Yanukovych's escape from Kyiv and the "Bandera junta" coming to power — it perscribes detailed, step-by-step justifications, as well as political and PR logistics, for the intervention by Russia in Ukrainian affairs and the tearing of Crimea and the eastern regions from Ukraine. [Google translated] Although the actual course of the Ukrainian drama made some adjustments, there is overall a strikingly high degree of coincidence between this project and the subsequent actions of the Russian authorities. Yesterday, Dmitry Muratov, editor-in-chief of independent investigative Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta  told a local radio station he had obtained a strategy paper that purportedly shows Moscow began plotting an incursion in Ukraine sometime between February 4 and 15, 2014, before the collapse of the Ukrainian government and the ouster of former President Viktor Yanukovych (on February 22). Today Novaya Gazeta has released the document: • Original Russian Novaya Gazeta article. • English translation of the document in question. Novaya Gazeta Political Editor Andrei Lipsky highlighted the following key points about the document:
  1. It was created before the escape of then-president Yanukovych; before the "coup d'etat" that Moscow described as it's main justification for its subsequent actions.
  2. It contains a pejorative assessment of Yanukovych.
  3. The assessment is pragmatic - even cynical - in style. It has no "spiritual-historical" justification for Russian interference in Ukraine. No arguments about the "New Russia", or the protection of the Russian-speaking, the "Russian world" and the upcoming "Russian Spring". Only geopolitics and cold expediency.
  4. The authors believe that using EU Border Regions legal instruments, Ukrainian regions with "stable pro-Russian sympathies" can be drawn to direct state-contract relationship. And then - a "legitimate" referendum on self-determination.
  5. It contains a number of gross distortions of reality that are needed to show that Russian actions are "reactive" and forced. All these arguments subsequently actively used by Russian propaganda.
  6. It also contains many geopolitical and economic arguments to convince of the need for immediate intervention in Ukraine and thus strengthening the Russian position not only in Ukraine, but also in Central and Eastern Europe: maintain control over the gas transmission networks that pass through Ukraine; use the military-industrial complex in eastern Ukraine for the faster rearmament of Russia; replace the "Central Asian" flow of migrants with "Slavic" "Western" migrants.
More background details on the possible origins and authors of the document. [The Interpreter]

Understanding Chad's intervention in Nigeria

Sun, 15 Feb 2015 03:18:19 -0800

On Thursday morning, January the 29th, news percolated through social media that Chadian forces, with the tacit consent of the Nigerian government, had crossed the international frontier and recaptured Malam Fatori – a north-eastern Nigerian town that had been captured by Boko Haram in October last year. This was a watershed moment. For the first time in Nigeria's 54 years as an independent country, foreign troops are conducting major military operations inside the country. Similarly, with Chad's intervention, the war against Boko Haram has entered a new phase, and possibly presages a wider regional intervention – the balance sheet of which can only be properly assessed in the fullness of time.
So why did Idriss Deby send Chadian troops into Nigeria? How are we to make sense of this bold gambit?

2015: Flashpoints Abound

Wed, 17 Dec 2014 11:41:19 -0800

A Pessimist's Guide to the World in 2015. Skirmishes in the South China Sea lead to full-scale naval confrontation. Israel bombs Iran, setting off an escalation of violence across the Middle East. Nigeria crumbles as oil prices fall and radicals gain strength. Bloomberg News asked foreign policy analysts, military experts, economists and investors to identify the possible worst-case scenarios, based on current global conflicts, that concern them most heading into 2015. [Bleah interface; interesting content.]

Geopolitical duct tape and costly disasters.

Wed, 17 Sep 2014 07:30:06 -0800

...the reality of ISIS and what this group seeks is opaque to the public, and to policymakers not clued into the private salons where the details of secrets can be discussed. Even among those policymakers, the compartmentalized national security establishment means that no one really grasps the whole picture. The attempt to get the US into a war in Syria a year ago was similarly opaque. The public cannot make well-informed decisions about national security choices because information critical to such choices is withheld from them. It is withheld from them at the source, through the classification-censorship process, then by obfuscations in the salons and think tanks of DC and New York, and then finally through the bottleneck of the mass media itself.
The Solution to ISIS Is the First Amendment by Matt Stoler Also,
As Kissinger said, the US does not have an ideology, only interests. Our most important geopolitical interest has been and continues to be oil. US corporations simply could not function if they did not have access to cheap oil. Saudi light crude is and remains the largest, most readily accessible pool of the most valuable crude. Oh, and the country with the second biggest proven reserves of light sweet crude is Iraq. If you want to get a handle on the politics of the Middle East, the linchpin is the US-Saudi relationship. The long-standing deal is simple: Saudi princes keeps oil prices in check in return for US support for being kept in power. The de facto discount against what the Saudis could make if they choked supply back to get better prices is protection money. However, this relationship currently looks like a dysfunctional marriage where it's clear there will be no divorce because there is no prenup in place, making the cost and uncertainty of a break-up too high for the partners. The Saudis are upset with the US because we haven't attacked Iran. In fact, we have done the Saudis a great favor by not going beyond sanctions, since Iran would retaliate rapidly, in force, against Saudi refineries and other oil infrastructure and would close the Strait of Hormuz. The Saudis are also mightily aggrieved that the US has not gone into Syria...yet.

National Greatness

Sun, 15 Jun 2014 11:11:16 -0800

Francis Fukuyama on 'The End of History?' twenty-five years later: "liberal democracy still doesn't have any real competitors," but to get there... None of this means, however, that we can rest content with democracy's performance over the past couple of decades. My end-of-history hypothesis was never intended to be deterministic or a simple prediction of liberal democracy's inevitable triumph around the world. Democracies survive and succeed only because people are willing to fight for the rule of law, human rights and political accountability. Such societies depend on leadership, organizational ability and sheer good luck. The biggest single problem in societies aspiring to be democratic has been their failure to provide the substance of what people want from government: personal security, shared economic growth and the basic public services (especially education, health care and infrastructure) that are needed to achieve individual opportunity. Proponents of democracy focus, for understandable reasons, on limiting the powers of tyrannical or predatory states. But they don't spend as much time thinking about how to govern effectively. They are, in Woodrow Wilson's phrase, more interested in "controlling than in energizing government." [...] The inability to govern effectively extends, unfortunately, to the U.S. itself. Our Madisonian Constitution, deliberately designed to prevent tyranny by multiplying checks and balances at all levels of government, has become a vetocracy. In the polarized—indeed poisonous—political atmosphere of today's Washington, the government has proved unable to move either forward or backward effectively. Contrary to the hysterics on either side, the U.S. faces a very serious long-term fiscal problem that is nonetheless solvable through sensible political compromises. But Congress hasn't passed a budget, according to its own rules, in several years, and last fall, the GOP shut down the entire government because it couldn't agree on paying for past debts. Though the U.S. economy remains a source of miraculous innovation, American government is hardly a source of inspiration around the world at the present moment... The problem is the intertwining of politics and economics... which constitutes a down escalator. All institutions can decay over the long run. They are often rigid and conservative; rules responding to the needs of one historical period aren't necessarily the right ones when external conditions change. Moreover, modern institutions designed to be impersonal are often captured by powerful political actors over time. The natural human tendency to reward family and friends operates in all political systems, causing liberties to deteriorate into privileges. This is no less true in a democracy (look at the current U.S. tax code) than in an authoritarian system. In these circumstances, the rich tend to get richer not just because of higher returns to capital, as the French economist Thomas Piketty has argued, but because they have superior access to the political system and can use their connections to promote their interests. also see... -Francis Fukuyama: "Democracy and the Quality of the State" -Francis Fukuyama's "The End of History?" 25 Years Later -Francis Fukuyama on the 25th Anniversary of the "End of History?" Essay -Bring back ideology: Fukuyama's 'end of history' 25 years on -Reflections on the upheavals of 1989 -Three events that shaped our world and btw... -Why Is Japan So Different? -Japan's Abe Is the World's Best Leader -The aim of Xi's reforms is to preserve party control -China Building Dubai-Style Fake Islands in South China Sea -China Tries to Woo India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi -Why you really want India to join the US and China as a superpower [...]

Preparing for the Possibility of a North Korean Collapse

Mon, 30 Sep 2013 06:26:04 -0800

The RAND Corporation's National Security Research Division has released a 297-page report on the likely consequences of a collapse of the North Korean regime, within the Korean Peninsula, as well as to China, Japan, the US and others (PDF).

Clown car counts noses

Sat, 02 Jun 2012 06:40:07 -0800

The Global Middle Class Is Bigger Than We Thought A new way of measuring prosperity has enormous implications for geopolitics and economics.[...] the number of passenger cars in circulation serves as the most reliable gauge we have about the size of a country's middle class.

London is full of ghosts

Thu, 01 Mar 2012 04:04:27 -0800

"Everyone knows there's a catastrophe unfolding, that few can afford to live in their own city. It was not always so." - China Miéville on Apocalyptic London

The Global Food Outlook

Sat, 28 May 2011 20:19:32 -0800

The New Geopolitics of Food. A missing piece from the analysis: food wastage.

Of spies, special forces and drone strikes

Sat, 21 May 2011 13:23:12 -0800

Warfare: An advancing front - "The US is engaged in increasingly sophisticated warfare, fusing intelligence services and military specialists" BONUS China: Police state - "China's security machine causes concern"
Many inside and outside the country believe the Communist party has reverted to a more authoritarian stance following a long period of relative tolerance. This change, they believe, is reflected in, and exacerbated by, the growing power of the security apparatus... In recent years the amount spent on internal security – police, courts, paramilitary forces, riot squads, secret agents, informants, surveillance, internet censorship and the like – has soared. At about Rmb624.4bn for 2011, it now exceeds the country's publicly stated military budget... One of the most obvious manifestations is the proliferation of surveillance cameras. Last month, the western municipality of Chongqing announced plans to expand its network from 310,000 to 510,000 by next year... Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, where almost 200 people died in the July 2009 riots, finished the installation of 40,000 cameras last year. The southern city of Guangzhou, one of the main export manufacturing hubs, boasts 270,000. The expansion of the bloated security apparatus extends to less palpable efforts, including the recruitment of huge numbers of informants to the state payroll... Leaked internal security documents reveal that the ruling Communist party believes that for a police state to work properly, it takes more than the police. "[We have] put the masses in their rightful role as the most important, the most direct and the most pure source of intelligence information," wrote Yang Guangwei, political commissar of the Domestic Security Department in Shaoxing, eastern China... Liu Xingchen, police chief of Kailu county in Inner Mongolia, said more than 12,000 of his county's 400,000 residents were on his payroll.
The Arctic Sea—a New Wild West? - "Global warming is set to bring the Arctic into play as a key strategic region for the US, China and Russia. Can a stable set of rules be crafted?"

We're not doomed, but we are in danger.

Wed, 03 Dec 2008 09:20:39 -0800

Gwynne Dyer's new book Climate Wars discusses the conflicts likely to result in the near future from our changing climate. The first chapter ("The Geopolitics of Climate Change") is available here. He is now on a lecture tour [various lecture notes] and speaks on the subject [MP3 of radio interview] next Monday in Toronto. Previous MeFi posts on Gwynne Dyer. Bonus: rare picture of Dyer sans leather jacket!

Chinese Nationalism

Sat, 19 Apr 2008 05:05:40 -0800

The "sacred flame" winds its way towards Beijing, creating new flashpoints like a car bumper scraping sparks from the pavement.

The chinese public's anger at CNN now has a wildly popular theme song. "You can't turn lies into the truth by repeating them a thousand times"

Chinese nationalism and an American backlash are both growing. Where is all this leading to? And even if we can't understand how China sees Tibet, or know whether the Shanghai Princesses will really give up their Chanel, can we at least assure the Chinese that we don't like Jack Cafferty either?

What goes Up must come Down

Tue, 27 Nov 2007 06:15:29 -0800

End of Empire : A collaboration of all areas of geopolitics affecting countries of the world in relation to the 'Empire' of the United States of America, and the 'sub-Empires', such as the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia and any other country which seeks to exploit poorer nations and their people in the quest for domination.

geopolitics of opium 2007

Tue, 16 Oct 2007 10:27:58 -0800

The amount of Afghan land used for growing opium is now larger than the combined total under coca cultivation in Latin America - Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. No other country has produced narcotics on such a deadly scale since China in the 19 th century. Opium in Afghanistan: Eradicate or subsidize? Previously. Some interesting sponsors of the Afghanistan online site, scroll down. India flanked [pdf] by opium production in Pakistan and Burma. Maps from, geopolitics of illicit drugs in Asia. The Chief Constable of North Wales Police Richard Brunstorm, recommends in a report published today, that his Police Authority officially support his call for the legalisation and regulation of drugs. Mixed thoughts on that topic. Afghanistan: Potential Opium Production 1990 to 2006, graphic. Inside an Afghan opium market Estimated world requirements of narcotic drugs [pdf] in grams for 2007

Bizarre geopolitical posturing filter

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 08:46:11 -0800

Russians plant flag on North Pole Sea bed. Russia has attempted to assert it's sovereignty over the North Pole by planting a Russian flag 4,200 metres under the ice. Norwegians, Danes react with amusement.

5,000 Years in 90 Seconds

Mon, 02 Oct 2006 22:57:37 -0800

The Imperial History of the Middle East is a flash based map of the Middle East, with a sliding timeline showing the various forces that have established dominance in the region over the last 5,000 years. Just one of many interesting interactive demonstrations over at Maps Of War.