China’s Slow Turn Toward Market Economy Status

When Xi consolidates his rule throughout the Party Congress this November 18, we should expect him to appoint a new Central Bank chair.  The success of Zhou Xiaochan, China’s current monetary authority will be a difficult act to follow.  Xiaochan was responsible for eliminating China’s dollar peg, modernized Beijing’s monetary policy tools, ended caps on deposit rates and engineered the yuan’s elevation as a reserve currency asset.  What could go wrong going forward?

To begin with, Asia only denominates about 2% of its transactions in yuan.  This has strong geopolitical implications evidenced throughout China’s posture in its southern littoral.  Until nations across Asia begin trusting China’s foreign policy posture, this will definitively halt Beijing’s progress toward possessing reserve currency status.

Recently, China’s central banking authorities have stepped up control over the yuan’s rise prodding Asian companies throughout Asia that have been hoarding dollars to convert them into yuan.  Any surge in yuan denominated deposits should be met with skepticism, until after the Party Congress.

China’s central bank has actively dialed back efforts to make the yuan an easier currency to possess by imposing strict domestic controls.  This official policy is charged with managing capital outflows.

Why is this happening?

China’s market fundamentals aren’t showing.  From Beijing’s mounting debt spiral and persistent industrial overcapacity to striking out-of-balance housing all suggest that Beijing needs to orchestrate a rising currency.  By any measure, China isn’t a market based economy.  In fact, China’s capacity led reform has sputtered out, disguising old flaws while creating new ones yet to be acknowledged and managed.  Chinese firms have simply carried on expanding, confident of state support.  This confidence is misplaced.

China remains a centralized based economy, with diktats actively managing supply-demand relations.  This lack of flexibility will generate volatile outcomes.  The source of China’s overcapacity is its politicized banking system that directs capital.  A nasty affliction of self imposed volatility may be unavoidable.

So what holds the minds of those in the Central Committee?

During the Party Congress, officials want to portray monetary stability to fend off any financial crisis while avoiding trade disputes abroad.  What must be immediately balanced is an appreciating yuan to China’s traditional inflationary based economic model which leans heavily on export based manufacturing.

Even still, currently, China is mired in tepid private investment and consumption.  By any measure, the boys in Beijing haven’t conjured or transformed China’s fundamentals out from an export based model.

APTOPIX China Politics

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Wayne Lotter’s Death, Illicit African Ivory & Despotic Kingdoms

When Wayne Lotter was murdered in route to his hotel in Dar es Saalam, he was fighting pitched battles against Africa’s weak institutions and perennially corrupt regimes.  Brave throughout his life, Lotter suffered for his conviction that illicit African ivory must be stopped.  After talking to investigators in South Africa, he began developing, fielding a reporting network of spies as an early warning system.  But Asia’s desire for ivory overwhelmed east Africa’s weak political economies.  He was murdered after being tracked and shadowed from agents favorable to east Asian regimes like China and North Korea.  In the end, Lotter’s death reveals how the west can assist east African reformers in strengthening the very institutions needed to thwart the Han masters in Beijing and their cohorts throughout Asia.

Strengthening the rule of law would coincide with meaningful economic and land based reform.  Since 1968, regulated hunting was introduced onto private property in both South Africa and Namibia.  Wildlife numbers have grown sixfold.

What is the alternative to regulated trophy hunting?  It isn’t manufacturing; given the speed of vertical integration that accompanies fractured world supply chains, Africa cannot wait to duplicate China’s rise.  The source of African renewal will come from within, from reforms that unleash service based industry.  Any initial view of Africa’s own illicit market behavior reveals a startling contrast to official Keynesian markets aligned with tax credits and other failed schemes.

Even tourism, once thought to be Africa’s panacea has hit a wall.  Across a continent of 538,000 square miles, twice the size of Texas, is used for official hunting.  Tourism cannot hope to compete with Africa’s illicit markets, for it remains capital intensive.  How can paved roads, restaurants, accommodations, multi-lingual staff, hospitals, airports and wi-fi reveal the immediate future.  Without transforming Africa’s illicit markets, African economies will remain stagnant, even possibly returning to overgrazed dusty cattle farms that remain unfit for even subsistence farming.

Lotter would often politely admonish westerners who pushed for conservation, openly opining how hard it is for poor African’s to muster the political will to conserve animals when they don’t have enough food, shelter or financial stability.  Even the possibility of converting large habitats to farmland isn’t viable given large expenditures required to move, sell or relocate natural habitats.

Here’s an old, hard truth that westerns cannot handle, yet remains true throughout Africa:  “Africa’s inconvenient truth is that wild spaces rarely ever occur without the presence of economic incentives.”  

This isn’t the green neocolonialism attributed to Rosie Cooney.  By linking wildlife advocacy to strong African nation states with strong legal cultures, its possible to begin seeding an emerging infrastructure that we see in Botswana. Hunting reserves, if linked to viable serviced based economies can inflect other economies throughout Africa.

Here’s one way to look at it:  when the animals are dead and their tracks paved over with malls and other failed centralized macro-schemes, the animals are never coming back.

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The Race to the Border, Iran’s Shia Land Bridge to the Mediterranean & An Israeli War Emerging

When the Israeli’s hit Iranian Shia militia’s on September 07, 2017 they hit a factory devoted to missile research, the town was Masyaf in western Syria and it was the first time the Israeli’s ever reached deep into Syrian territory.  The Hizbollah target was well over 300km from the Israeli border, even still, P.M. Netanyahu calculated that Russian anti-aircraft batteries would remain silent.  Why was he right?

The Iranian crescent proves U.S. war planners illusory gains that wars are won from the air.  Iranian subterfuge is growing, as is the reach and grasp of Israel.  With the breakdown of U.S. regional policy aims throughout the Mesopotamian region, we’re witnessing Iranian gains from the U.S. led defeat of the Islamic State.  The irony remains that U.S. war planners throughout defense knew not to permit media coverage to drive, frame the engagement, but they have and the Iranians are cleaning up moving west toward Israel.

Having commanded a battery in the Golan, Netanyahu commanded Putin in Sochi that the Israeli’s would permit al-Assad his writ in Syria, but not as a satrap of Iran.

The triangulation between Russia, Syria, Iran and Israel rests on wether Iran can muster the strategic acumen of building a land bridge from Baghdad through Syria to fortify its Lebanese proxies.  If Hezbollah can regain its composure, the Iranian will have encircled both Riyadh and Jerusalem.

The overland route begins in Baghdad, moving west to Syria it converges at Al-Bukamal, right at the Syrian-Iraqi border, from there its a short flight to the eastern Mediterranean.

We shouldn’t preclude that the American’s can’t deliver a diplomatic coup, yet gains on the ground in this part of the world have profound currency.  While the American’s seek to counter Iranian subterfuge in Golan with a ceasefire between Syria and rebel forces in its southern tier, we must remember that Turkey, the regional Sunni hegemon has left vacant its desire to topple Damascus, having turned inward to eliminate Kurdish domestic rivals.  No one can tell how this mixture will unfold between these rival dominant camps.

The future may be discerned by watching Riyadh and Amman.  Jordan has turned to normalize its relations with Syria while the House of Saudi remains locked in a stalemate in Yemen.  The only two actors with room to move and the American’s and the Iranians.

Iran is getting natural gas, mining, agricultural, commercial communication and oil rights in Syria.  While the Israeli’s believe a wedge can be driven between Moscow and Tehran, the game of action and maneuver resides with Iran.

The Israeli director general of Ministry of Intelligence, Chagai Tzuriel,  has openly stated that Russia needs Iranian ground troops to secure any regional hold in Syria.  What we’re looking at is a set match between Iran and Israel.

The Syrian civil war has exhausted Hizbollah.  It does not want a war on two fronts.  Although capable of mustering fighting columns of brigade scale battles, it remains deeply depleted of resources, hence the need for a land bridge linking Baghdad & Damascus.

Expect a game changer to emerge from team Trump around October 15, when he publicly derides the Obama deal struck with Iran.

This game of rubix-cube is deadly, and it isn’t fit for statesman.  What’s needed going forward is a open confrontation with Iran.  In a word:  offense.

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Ann Marlowe: The Oriana Fallaci of the Maghreb & Levant Returns

Ann Marlowe’s outstanding contribution to foreign affairs is easy to discern because she reports from regions that aren’t easily covered.  Having dominated the Levant, she’s moved on to cover Libya, Tunisia and the original fault line that began it all, Algeria. These aren’t easy subjects to engage from the wide disparate range of informing social, political trajectories that embody a previous unity called the Maghreb or Barbary coast.

Throughout North Africa and the Sahel, time has frozen since France disengaged from west Africa beginning under de Gaulle.  Ann Marlow’s return to an original geopolitical fault line should fortify those willing to unveil ugly truths about Qaddafi, the French enlightenment and the future of Islamism in western Europe.

Marlow reveals how Qaddafi’s longtime spy chief Abdullah Senussi has been spotted dining at fancy restaurants at the Tripoli hotel since being released from prison in July 2015.  Although sentenced to death for decades of officially sanctioned murder, his release portends a unwelcome reckoning for fellow Libyans.

Abdullah Senussi was responsible for murdering 170 people on a UTA flight 772 on September 19, 1989.  Qaddafi’s anger at witnessing France outmaneuver regional competitors in the Libyan-Chad conflict remains the ideological cause for blowing up flight 772.

Having departed from Brazzaville, Congo, stopping in N’Djamena, Chad.  A Congolese named Apollinaire Mangatany loaded a suitcase of explosives onto the flight.  The plane broke apart mid-flight and plunged into the Niger desert.

Authorities pieced together wreckage to assemble a green plastic circuit board tied to a German electrician who sold timers to Taiwan.  Libyan officials provided plausible deniability in forging alias’ that they were seeking battery operated timers for runway lights.  Sealing the deal, the Libyan Mukhabarat (intelligence services) serviced Qaddafi’s terror ambitions.  Flight 772 would be a dry run for Lockerbie.  Qaddafi’s service agents named Abdel-baset al-Megrahi and Lamin Khalifah Fhimah rendered terror again on December 21, 1988 over Scotland, killing 259 passengers.

In 2007, a memorial was built in the Niger desert to memorialize those murdered in flight 772.  Building a haunting silhouette of a airplane using black volcanic rock, the memorial is best witnessed using satellites.

Check out Ann Marlow’s latest on Libyan terror agents in The Weekly Standard, reviewing Stuart H. Newberger’s book The Forgotten Flight:  Terrorism, Diplomacy & the Pursuit of Justice.

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The Challenge Shaping African Political Economies: Geography, History & Cultural Patrimony

Africa shouldn’t have the sobriquet:  the dark continent; even clowns like Hugh Trevor Roper, Cambridge Regis chair in modern history knew the limitations of his myopic pronouncement that “Africa had no history“, but the damage was done! Nevertheless, following Hegel should fortify every intellectual in town to the ramifications of silly statements with 24 hour news cycles.  Remember Nixon’s defensive retort to his executive staff, an insight prior to the Saturday Night Massacre, “they’ll always get to weather” referenced a laziness insulating Nixon and his administration from the wiles of reality. Knowing that news networks have to get to weather, coddled Nixon toward Watergate and careening both his career, the nation and family.

Its no different with the dismal science and its hold on the emerging challenges of Africa’s political economy.  What old colonists knew is true enough today, geography, history and theology are foundation stones for political economy.  The African continent is too unwieldy to study cohesively, quadrants dividing the continent along geographic axis makes it easier to view the informing contours that shape Africa.

Here’s a difficult indigenous truth that’s coming clear in Africa’s engagement in ‘the long war.’  African nation states are quickly coalescing in favor of Israeli bilateral ties eviscerating long held racial typologies that have underwritten previous imperial, Islamic regimes. These fault lines are discovered deep inside East Africa, especially the Horn of Africa where we find hybrid ecumenism of the Swahili linking medieval nation states along Zimbabwe’s Limpopo River, Tanzania, Mozambique and Kenya to Mughal dynasties in Kabul.  The truth is, U.S. war planners in AFRICOM and Defense-State have unrivaled resources at their hands when they link the challenges of economic growth to regime change in Africa.

I mean something very specific.

Its a defeat in Malthusian proportions, but more of Africa’s population growth is moving out from agriculture and subsistence living into service economies.  The challenge for African leadership is a difficult one because trade patterns change quickly; Africans are not just competing with low wage workers in Bangladesh, but with automation.

We’ve left the paradigm followed by East Asian ‘tiger’ regimes.  China, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea moved from agriculture to manufacturing.  Most are transitioning toward service based economies.  But Africa must discover a way to insert themselves into supply chains that are global.  This means a view of structural reform outside the positivist hold of Keynes.  It means African nation states that readily avail themselves to the challenge of human capital will succeed.  It means examining the religious foundation of African culture.

A quote from Churchill’s The River War:  “How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property – either as a child, a wife, or a concubine – must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the faith: all know how to die but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome.”

Revisiting our map of the African continent subdivided along an axis reveals a startling insight; those nation states that succumbed to Imperial Christian Europe have a patrimony from which to defeat both militant Islam, atheist secularism and Keynes.

Remember how Arthur Lewis observed a simple paradigm that fast growth accompanies labor shifts out of subsistence farming into heavy capitalist production.  Well, movement out from heavy capital intensive productivity procured by technologically lead structural change has elicited a surprising new challenge; sectoral distribution of productivity variants no longer requires mass, its endemic to digital mediums. Those nation states that possess a strong Judaeo-Christian moral framework are poised for a run!

Look at it this way, massive productivity growth throughout sub-Saharan Africa was the result of population shifts out of agriculture.  By any reckoning, Africa’s manufacturing has stagnated; but illicit markets in service based industries are booming.  While Asian chaebol’s needed government authority to monopolize and thrive, African nation states with minimum comity can launch themselves into productivity with minimum effort.

So how does Africa take off?

Simple.  It openly promotes easily tradable, transferable sectors that don’t require heavy capital; it simply permits the liberty of Adam Smith’s invisible hand.

The immediate future of the African continent can no longer be reduced to quantifiable data encapsulated by neoclassical shop talk.  Its future lays in unleashing the very capital   cherished by Christianity:  the gift of humanness, as a unique repository of value, not chattel property.

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Zheng He Arrives In China with Giraffe

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Warcraft As Statecraft: A Synoptic View of Hegemony from Asia

The opening of BRICS summit in Xiamen China yesterday was instructive, for it taught American force planners how best to view our own weaknesses regarding the dismal science, conflict and trade.  Asian political economies aren’t dovish; Hayek’s concept of an extended order originating spontaneously masked dangerous indigenous configurations of culture that China exploits.  American leadership will need to anticipate offensive behavior in a manner reminiscent of 19th century statesman.  In a word, its back to the future.

In an open joint statement, both Beijing and New Delhi called on the WTO to eliminate U.S. farm subsidies.  You read that right!  And what was the efficient cause of the Arab Spring?  It was skyrocketing prices of staple products from the United States to subsistence economies. Kindly remember, those working at the commanding heights of our economy are specialists, they don’t study the impact of policy; they don’t get paid to think, their job is to keep their job.  Simply put, Lenin’s concept of exporting the revolution has monetary patrimony.  If the U.S. Congress actually dumped farm subsidies, it could wreck havoc.  The equilibrium sought should be from a supply side policy mix of engaged monetary, fiscal leadership.  Although the U.S. greenback is down, our industrial policy is shaped from within the Keynesian confines of Bretton-Woods.  This means we’ve historically been very wary of an appreciative greenback.  If anything, the U.S. should actively seek comity throughout our North American partners in Mexico, South-Central America and Canada to strengthen global food supply chains.  The error is seeking a quick fix  in American food subsidies.  Long term, the U.S. has no interest in the regulated monopoly that has become our farm belt.

Beijing has been on a war footing for two decades.  It’s only becoming apparent now.  It conceives of trade policy identical to OPEC in 1973.  The One Belt-One Road initiative is Keynesian in both outlook and temper; its a policy tool from which Beijing seeks to perpetuate itself by tying its political fortunes to the failed Keynesian multiplier.  China conceives of trade within the confines of a strategic aim or purview.  The American’s don’t and cannot do so, for institutional reasons.

For the American’s to compete, we’ll need to admit that China and other revolutionary regimes are competitors.  Secondly, we’ll need to shape the formal institutions of our Republic to resemble true Constitutional federalism; this means we need institutional memory.

China and other competitors will change up to anticipate our initial advances.  What we can hope to achieve initially is that Beijing and others get tied up in rigid disputes that multiply bilateral strains.  The American regime knows how to work when it is configured properly; decentralized, with hordes of strong human capital sprung from a vibrant civil society.  This isn’t a policy that can be replicated institutionally or formally.

This means we must adhere to a synoptic view of tax reform; viewing it outside the travails of Keynesian gnomes that troll Congress, State houses and dominant media.

What did the Himalayan standoff reveal?

It demonstrated that New Delhi’s apprehension was correct; that Beijing continues to devise racial stratagems to peel off weaker nation states in open, quiet confrontation.  All by the construction of a road through neutral territory held in covenant.  For India and others throughout Asia that aren’t used to being bullied, the U.S. remains their only hope. We’ll need to open up an old framework from the 19th century; one that recognized the cynicism at play in national strategy abroad.  New Delhi was right, the road built on an open plateau in Bhutan will be used to expropriate territorial ambitions.

Here’s the ugly part that we in the west refuse to admit; the Han that rule from Beijing openly seek confrontation with smaller, weaker nation states; not because they can, but because the Han relish a sick social-Darwinian afterthought reminiscent of a certain German corporal; a racial undertone fit for archaic vanquished leadership.

Bring on the Han, their dementia can’t stand the realism of a Truman, Reagan, or Kennedy.

Just ask Berlin!

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Framework & Rhetoric: Structuring A Coherent South Asian Policy

The overt managerial didacticism on display last Monday isn’t helpful in the articulation and execution of statecraft.  Our enemies are on the rise throughout South Asia, this isn’t something anyone on the alternate right really understands.  We don’t have the resources to shape outcomes in South Asia, hence the need to dampen official policy pronouncements riling trolls throughout the American right.  I sympathize with their plight in identifying with a strong, coherent U.S. approach to foreign policy, we haven’t had enough realism since Reagan, but if we’re going to engage the soft miasma that is South Asia, we’ll need all the deft handlers we got at State, Pentagon, Defense and the entire Executive, including the Cabinet.  We don’t have that kind of gravitas, and until American force planners at Pentagon, State and throughout Defense begin thinking synoptically about how to craft sufficient instruments openly soliciting wide swaths of South West Asia, we can’t hope to shape policy outcomes throughout the wild Hindu Kush.

Acting Imperial would work, but we cannot content with 24 hour news cycles that actually frame policy, so we’re left biding our time, by any calculus, we’re out of time.

Former American U.N. ambassador John Bolton was right to acknowledge that our conflict in Afghanistan will be won in Pakistan.  The Punjabi’s that run the Citadel know this, so do the Pashtuns running both divides of Durand; these privileged sanctuaries redouble FATA and the administrative highlands of the northwest passage that Imperial Brits couldn’t tame with musket and iron.  Haqqani, Hekmatyar, the Islamic State are all eating away at the innards that is Pakistan.  Islamabad knows it.  Pakistan’s principal adversary is cultural, not India.  Envelopment frightens the Punjabi’s that run Islamabad.   To fix the Citadel, we’ll need to address the political core that is Pakistan, namely its dysfunctional civil-military relation, we cannot do this as a war aim.  

Our task coincides with strategic patience, prudence, luck and deft statecraft in softening the north west passage by normalizing relations between New Delhi & Islamabad.

The problem remains insufficient administrative culture in Pakistan, for Indian administrative culture can handle the monetary, fiscal and logistic engagement of normalizing relations; but can the land of the pure compete?  Tacit knowledge has cognitive antecedents, this will derail Pakistan in any engagement with New Delhi, so we’ll need Punjabi trust in the engagement; this cannot occur if we continue to frame Pakistan from the podium at D.C.

We won’t succeed in South Asia by acting straightforward.  Ironically, this is implicitly understood in business, oddly enough Trump does not understand this nettle of executive statecraft.  He should remember Gorbachev’s anguish at Reagan, having to admit being beaten by a good man who was also a fox, hurt Gorbachev.  The tacit craft of executive statecraft isn’t naiveté; only a frontiersman like Lincoln or Reagan understood this.

How should we proceed?

We should threaten China by flanking its leadership toward the soft interior.  The most dangerous place for the middle kingdom is its interior.  Remember, China spends more on domestic defense of its interior than all its military expenditure.  Openly crafting a solicitous policy of egalitarianism among the Uighurs as well as confronting the profound historical grievances of non-Han within China remains a sore spot for Beijing as does the entire southern hemisphere of China’s ‘bread basket‘ from the Mekong moving south to the South China Sea.  The soft interior and China’s southern littoral are nerve centers of profound social, historical unrest.  They need to get hot for China to return your calls.

Want help with Pyongyang, flank the interior of China.  Want little Kim to play nice?  Eviscerate the biological, racial components that underwrite the mythical status of ‘The Han‘.

Here’s what only a businessman understands; if you want the boys in Being to respect you, play hard!

Mattis, McMaster, Kelly and Trump need to unleash the dogs of war.

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The Wreckage Called Islamic Civilization

Because Islamic civilization denies the emergence of civil society, its denied multiple sources of renewal.  Historians, strategists and even defense planners are mining the correlates between the demise of Russian Slavic civilization and contemporary Islamism. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that both are identical in that they are predominately Nestorian.  This means that the sources of theology, their theology of revelation serving as the foundation of Slavic & Islamic culture are hued from ideas and their consequences about time, being, humanness, conscience and its relative status to law, jurisprudence etc. . . . that deny the Incarnation.  Nestorianism believes that the Incarnation happened but that the identity of Jesus becomes primarily resided to the confines of diachronic time.  This is why John’s Gospel remains paradigmatic, for John understood something that the other other writers never witnessed.  John believed that the identity, the very substance of Jesus was identified as co-equal with divinity; as divine.

Historically, the west hued out from the Church’s suffocating grasp; a mixture from geography, politics and technology, spheres of autonomy that respected the emergence of  ‘the one & the many‘. It began with the Cappadocian Patristic fathers Basil and two Gregory’s to link ideas about singularity, unity, community and difference as sustained unities of identity possible because of Triune life.  It meant that eucharistic communion itself became identified with the reality of human identity as an unrepeatable unity.  The human person became understood as a unity of singularity, radical difference coalesced into a unity embodied in family life.  For the Orthodox Church Fathers united to the Latinate Church in Rome, the launch for the supremacy of the west in its autonomy from totalitarian life began sacramentally.

Islamic civilization denies the components of this reality.  Having denied the emergence of autonomy, Islamic cultural patrimony is left in a cul-de-sac.  

The Arab uprisings that threaten Putin and the regions autocrats remain, as do the vanquished ideas that sustained them.  But so does the power underwriting the failed autocracies.  They remain too.  Replacing the palace for czarist secret police was no renewal; nor was the emergence of socialism in pan-Arabism.  These collective polities brought the barracks and secular autocracy.  The source of the misery launching the Arab Spring was the failure of Arab liberalism.  Its cultural patrimony is a wreckage that cannot be denied.  Just witness Egypt today, a more violent form of repression identical with Mubarack even if al-Sisi’s command and writ are sustained from the streets of Cairo.  With redundant reactionary regimes commanding the Nile, Egyptian civilization is identified with the very ostracism and obscurantism that roiled the youths of the Arab revolt.  We’re back where we started.

How does this end?  Enter the study of Russia and the demise of the Tsar.

The Islamists and their violent hatred for secularism has multiple cadres.  Tunisia’s Ennahda isn’t close to the totalitarian piety of Hamas, al-Qaeda, I.S., or the Brotherhood; in fact, west Africa’s French secular influences and the Magreb in Carthage can counter militant Islamists by joining up with East African Swahili leaders; we shouldn’t forget how East Africa and Southwest Asia share a communion of history, trade, marriage and contact predating modernity.  The dire drawback is the fierce antagonism ethnicity has in East African Islam.  The future of American foreign policy craft would resign in merging Islam’s egalitarian premise to the vast swaths of migrants up the African Horn toward ecumenical Medina.

For Islamic civilization to survive the clash of modernity, it will need leaders capable of fielding ethics while commanding vast populations.  Witnessing al-Sisi engage an insurgency raging the Sinai is the immediate future.  The opening of Arab economies to politics outside Islamism doesn’t mean abjuring violence, it means growth of civil society while engaging the west.  This is why the American’s must lead.

To rescue Islamic civilization from the commanding hordes of totalitarian life, the west must lead Islamic polities in their engagement with one another and with a secular west.

The roadblock to reforming Islam resides in American isolationism; for only by learning to compete in the engagement with a superior civilization will nation states nominally allied in Islam discover indigenous national identity.

The future of Islam is the polity of the nation state writ large.

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Ayatollah Khomeini’s body broken out of coffin during burial ceremony.

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Trump’s Assessment of Afghanistan: The Preview

Tonight the President will address the nation on our commitment to Afghanistan, by any reckoning I imagine that he will continue to posture U.S. forces in line with his national security adviser McMaster, who has advocated a mini-surge of U.S. ground forces with new rules of engagement.  Ironically, it was McMaster’s own publications on dysfunctional civil-military relations throughout our Vietnam commitment that underwrote American policy after Kennedy, shaping both Johnson and Nixon’s commitments.  It is my view that McMaster’s insights will be outlined tonight.

We should expect about 8.5k troops, with 3k special operators to remain embedded with the Afghan national forces; to in effect strengthen the extraordinary weak culture that has hamstrung the Afghan national army in its engagement with Pashtun Taliban proxies supported by neighboring Islamabad.

Here’s what you won’t see tonight:  any talk of grand strategy.  It is my view that President Trump is waiting to see if he can buy time to strengthen his geopolitical hand in Southwest Asia tonight.  Why is this the case?  Fixing Kabul means hurting Islamabad, and Pakistan remains a nominally ally; we have no other land base to use in support of our policy throughout Afghanistan.  We’re stuck with ‘the Citadel‘ and its own permanently dysfunctional civil-military platform.  Pakistan isn’t a Republic anymore; Pakistan isn’t a country anymore.  Pakistan is an army with a country!  Fixing Kabul means addressing policies that aren’t war aims.  This is the heart of our failure in Afghanistan and it cannot be fixed using instruments of war. This has probably been taught ad nauseum to Trump.

If the U.S. had to field instruments to secure Kabul it would have strong civil, diplomatic and economic institutions at its hand.  It doesn’t.  Winning in Afghanistan means deploying deft statecraft that would heat up the northwest frontier.  It would strengthen Indian policy of normalizing its relations with Islamabad.  It would also mean acknowledging an exceedingly high pain threshold that Pakistan has, that the west doesn’t.

To win in Afghanistan, you must mortally threaten Pashtun culture on both sides of Durand.  It means weaponizing U.S. civilian led policy, an instrument we don’t have in our contemporary configuration at Pentagon or Defense.  If you make the Muslims inside Durand compete, they’ll fold; but it would mean providing extraordinary support and pressure to Pakistan that remains easily enveloped.  Enveloping or entrapping Islamabad is exceedingly risky and would probably push its new patrons in Beijing to counter U.S. policy.  The fact is, we’re out of time in our Afghan commitment, especially given what the Obama administration accomplished over eight years of adverse risk counter-terror policy.

We’re stuck gaming a region that’s gaming us.

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The Rage & the Fury Continues

When Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos quipped recently that “your margins are my opportunity” he laid down a general rule that governs Amazon’s success, namely the drive to work with technologies trend toward scale.  Until the arrival of digitization, electric technology worked alongside the concept of mass, like all center-margin based economies, efficiencies possessed no means to create, sustain and drive interior components of autonomy and redundancy.  Mass meant ever larger scale with more inputs.  The drive hued away from miniaturization, towards a commanding center.  It mimicked the driving contours of modernity; large, abrasive concentric movements whose only sin was compartmentalization.  Digitization and miniaturization have reversed the process.

Now, all components can be heterogeneous, autonomous, moving in eccentric modes that sustain spheres of autonomy that would have crashed previous mediums.  What the drive toward smaller scales has meant is something previous leadership couldn’t handle, now you’re competing against yourself or worse yet, your own government.

Let me put it this way, if you don’t demonstrate that your efficacious with your resources; if you fail to drive trends that sustain autonomy, you’re dead.  Raising prices kills you.  If your business is still working from a 20th century ethos, your finished.  Showing that you procure new capital for new problems is the immediate future.  When Andy Kessler wrote The High Cost of Raising Prices, he rang a bell, tolling a sound only new entrepreneurs implicitly know. Everyone else fell over dead from their own margin.

So instead of finding new efficiencies in new procured models of interaction, the U.S. Postal Service just raised prices.  That was after watching mail drop in volume.  People stay home now after work, streaming favorite movies instead of wading through movie lines for tickets, rude people and terrible service.  What have movie houses done, they raised prices.  When ESPN realized that breaking sports news was consumed on Twitter instead of obscenely priced cable, they just fired everyone.  No executive movement in the C-suite to jostle better service?  What did most companies do over the last eight years of our soft recovery?  They found mergers or acquisitions.  Or they folded.  No drive to create new velocities in their brands?  No new capital procured?  How about the stock market; huge sell-off’s when companies miss quarterly numbers.  Why didn’t Disney reform how ESPN worked?  It was easier to kill it off than reconfigure old capital.  Remember the parable of new wine in old skins?  Is the Wall St. Journal getting killed by Bloomberg radio or subscribing terminal?  Instead of pursuing what worked under Robert Bartley, its U.K. led management has sought buyouts and layoffs with a much smaller paper for circulation.

Each of these entities lost sight of customer trends.  Most clearly had no grasp of new relations emerging from new technology.

Why couldn’t newspapers figure out that classifieds remain a cash cow, only killed off by Craigslist.  Its because those that ran newspapers really believed that people bought for editorials.  They didn’t.  They still don’t.  Why couldn’t Microsoft discern that raising prices on its software would expose them to being crushed by tablets or phones?

The self-refercing ethos of the above named companies are legion.

IBM never accommodated itself to the social impact of digital technology, or other more nimble competitors like Salesforce, that’s why its failing.  Companies throughout the U.S. are dying because C-suite management thought in terms of accounting see previously wealthy companies failing from culture clashes from forced mergers and acquisitions.  3M and News Corp. are great examples of this.  With private equity circling, engaged investors are witnessing imperiled capitalism.

The fact is, companies have to learn that customers and markets are active environments. Kessler was right, Empires are lost on rising prices.

So what’s the fix?

The source of enduring growth resides in supply side policy mix favorably balancing the trends toward autonomy, digitization and liberty.  Without a return to a strong capitalist ethos we’re only going to see companies, fiefdoms and kingdoms die off from cannibalism.  Its already happening, its been on for a decade already.  Remember Mark Cuban’s policy admonition regarding IPO’s; that was the canary in the coal mine.

Its called confiscatory taxation.  That’s why we need a policy mix of tax, monetary, and fiscal reform from the House.

Don’t worry, an engaged fury called the Republic is awakening.

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