The US should promote more growth and order abroad, and less chaos
"it became clear that Ukraine could fight back and the US could help it do so effectively"
Your argument for Ukraine continuing to fight assumes the above statement still stands today despite the fact that the median age of a Ukrainian soldier is now 45. In other words, the cost of Ukraine appearing effective was slaughtering a generation of its own men. Also, does "preserving norms" mean anything more substantive than the ability of the demons who run US foreign policy to go on TV and make sweeping statements?
Also, if it's acceptable for Ukraine to negotiate with Worse than Hilter™ right now, why wasn't that acceptable in early 2022? In fact, if negotiation was ever acceptable in your mind, war should have never been on the table. Instead, the US couldn't resist using Ukraine as cannon fodder, and they did so with the full throated support of every shitlib with an MBA who thinks I'm a mouth-breather "because Trump". If anything, you should have taken an even more contrarian position as events developed in real time.
To end on a positive note, thank you for your continued takes on crime/Bukele.
I’m glad you’re getting around to this.
When RW Populists (sometimes rightfully in the modern context) complain about the American Empire, they are referring to Samantha Power and pride flags in Kosovo, not Henry Kissinger and overthrowing communist hellholes.
"But elites in Washington by and large believe in free trade, prices being set by markets"
Can't believe I initially missed this howler. Do you picture Washington elites handing out The Road to Serfdom to some benighted 3rd world despot? The same people set up Russia's economy as a literal oligarchy after the Soviet Union collapsed and blew up a pipeline last year that prevented our ally from buying cheap natural gas. Nothing free market about that, unless the free market is defined as unimpeded US hegemony.
"The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Zero Covid policy in China are mistakes on a different level than the worst of what we’ve seen in Western democracies".
You don't consider the "war on terror" to be on that level?
Much simpler theory: lower post-WW2 death rates are just the consequence of refrigeration, antibiotics, and the Haber–Bosch process.
The imperialist coups and wars that "moderates" have waged do not promote peace. Virtually every war from the start of the 20th century has been one of Western hegemony, if not American hegemony. Even washing our hands of the October Revolution is questionable considering the immense aid we gave the Soviets to keep them afloat (thanks Herbert Hoover), and the proposition is totally absurd post-WW2 when FDR very explicitly supported Stalin in every effort, creating not a period of American dominance but nuclear duopoly, which would lead to the extermination of millions more throughout Asia, Africa, and the Middle East into the 1970s. Bringing up Iranian theocracy and ignoring the Western reasons for why it came to be (the overthrow of Mossadegh under a relatively liberal Iran and appointment of another corrupt Western-controlled "moderate") is laughable.
From a safe position on the other side of the world it's easy of course to pretend consequentialism isn't a thing in geopolitics, that we are only responsible for the direct violence of our puppets and have no responsibility for any ensuing civil or regional war when those puppets are removed. But the second another 9/11 hits, how quickly the tune changes.
I think you're underrating Sailer's "dirt theory" of war. Things didn't change much even as Trump was explicitly insisting the US should withdraw because the US is not actually that pivotal to outcomes abroad.
> the interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya were such disasters that we are unlikely to make the same mistake again
The fact that Libya occurred despite the prior two examples being available to learn from suggests otherwise. As does our famous misadventure in Vietnam occurring before all of them.
Good post thank you. To steelman Taleb a bit, I don't think he disbelieves the data showing we're more peaceful, rather his point is that Pinker's book would have made a lot of sense based on data, if it were published in 1913.
I would suggest you enlarge your Overton window to include a multipolar vision. America as the global policeman is going away, probably in your lifetime. Hard no to this: “If anything, we might now be too hesitant to overthrow governments.”
If the dominant power player in the world uses their power for good, then global interventionism is a good thing and vice versa. The US fulfilling that role since the 40’s was generally a net positive for the world, until a little over two decades ago.
US military involvement should only occur, after CAREFUL CONSIDERATION, to achieve a specific/set aim, for the right reasons. Profits, the exportation of ideology, nation building etc are definitely not the right reasons. Doing so based upon lies is despicable. Virtually every military intervention the US undertook, since the first Gulf War, brought zero net positives to the world. All they did was drain America’s resources/national treasure, tarnish our reputation/standing in the world and sacrifice the lives of our best & bravest. Worst of all, we could have accomplished infinitely more by embracing the doctrine of Peace Through Strength.
America’s most powerful/impactful tool for improving the world is undoubtedly economic aid. When used properly, foreign aid and withholding aid become the proverbial carrot and stick.
Unfortunately, the US can’t seem to get this right either. Case in point- Biden and Iran. Since being elected, Biden has lifted sanctions, reopened nuclear talks, gifted them billions in seized funds and what have we gotten in return? Over one thousand dead Israelis, thousands of dead Palestinians and chaos around the world. Iran is universally recognized as the world’s leader in fomenting/exporting terrorism, why on earth should we reward them?
American foreign policy is responsible for the conflict between Russia and Ukraine as well. Russia made it crystal clear that Ukraine’s acceptance into NATO was a red line for them and we refused to listen. The color revolution the US initiated, along with a dozen other things over the last decade or so led to that conflict.
Once US foreign policy morphed into a visit from Victoria Nuland meant chaos down the road, we ceased to be beneficial to the world. Once the US started using its military power to unilaterally eliminate government heads, creating a destabilizing power vacuum at the top, we became a threat to the world.
There’s a reason the world is happy with our spiral towards destruction.
A thought: the apparent stupidity of certain dictators is an application of the Peter Principle.
A dictator is a guy who has been repeatedly "promoted" on account of his high degree of competence at one field of endeavor (outmaneuvering domestic political opponents). Unfortunately, many of these skills and talents don't necessarily transfer to economic administration, geopolitical strategy, or military strategy.
Though most dictators are still very good at the "suppressing domestic opponents" part of the game. They're tough to dislodge unless foreign intervention is involved.
Great article, but it's laughable to think Hamas wouldn't have attacked Israel if Trump had been president. It's not as if Hamas has the military power to stop Israel from killing them all, the addition of American military force doesn't do anything to change their situation. Hamas knew they were going to sacrifice vast numbers of their population in this fight, that's part of the point of doing it. Trump saying awful things about Palestinians would have just fueled the fire for exactly what Hamas wants, an all out war between the Muslim and Jewish/Christian world. If he ads a few more rockets to the battle, what's the difference?
It's not as if Biden could actually convince Israel to change anything about the war. Bidens policy has been to say in public that they shouldn't kill too many civilians while also trying to get them more weapons with which to fight the war. The only difference in US action if Trump were president would be for him to say something about how Israel should be killing more civilians and how Jewish Americans should have given him more votes. Nothing material about the US response would have changed.
Trump had some foreign policy successes but mostly served to weaken the ability of the US to project force abroad. He repeatedly abandoned US allies such as the Kurds and Afghan government and everyone knows he would have abandoned Ukraine. He said multiple times that it should belong to Russia. Remember that Russia had already invaded Ukraine while Trump was president and he repeatedly tried to prevent the US from sending them military support but was overriden by congregational Republicans. He's said repeatedly that we should get out of NATO and he certainly wouldn't do anything to stop China from taking Taiwan. Trump does not share your views on furthering the American Empire, he just likes having the power to order the occasional drone strike.
Definitely -- the U.S. should invade the Ukraine, put the Zelensky regime and assorted neo-nazis on trial for war crimes and international terrorism and force them to adopt democracy and a transparent market economy. Win-win-win.
> A hawkish policy on the Middle East makes sense. When it comes to questions surrounding how much to defend Taiwan or Ukraine, the issues involved are complicated by the fact that in each situation the US might find itself in conflict with another nuclear power. But in the Middle East there isn’t a similar reason to not strike hard against those who are hostile to American values or interests.
Pakistan has nukes, and also has crazy Islamist politicans. So the nuclear risk is not zero. Also, there is always the risk of provoking more 9/11-style attacks against the US homeland.
> It’s difficult to believe that Hamas would have undertaken an operation like that of October 7 if Trump was still in office. It’s clear that their entire strategy was based on the West pressuring Israel on human rights. It needed liberals, or quasi-liberals like Bush, to be in power, for it to have a chance of success.
This is true, but it's only one side of the coin. An Israeli government that was totally unbound by human-rights considerations would simply kill or evict all Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, which would destroy Hamas. But an Israeli government that truly desired compromise and peace would have (years ago) stopped settlement in the West Bank and continued negotiations with Fatah; this would also have led to the eventual end of Hamas.
Netanyahu and co. have always known this. That's why they deliberately kept Hamas alive; an intransigent counterparty excuses their own intransigence. https://original.antiwar.com/scott/2023/10/27/netanyahus-support-for-hamas-backfired-2/
The right thing for US to do right now, is to fully support Israel going postal on Hamas in Gaza, but conditioned on Israel stopping abuses in the West Bank.
"And among autocrats, the Chinese are the smart ones. Most dictatorships, and even democracies, are run by people who are much stupider than Xi Jinping."
Xi Jinping also has to juggle competing priorities for China. I think the most obvious one is: do you want to be a world power that can project its power to every continent, or do you want to have a "security ring" of economically well integrated neighboring countries that see their prosperity and stability inherently attached to yours? (for the US think of Canada, Mexico, DR)
Xi seems to have chosen the former considering judging by the obsession with taking control of the South China Sea even if it means ditching any chance of having a good relationship with Vietnam and the Philippines.
"Third world countries are basket cases for a reason, and the few things the leaders of such nations do right are often the result of them being disciplined by international markets, global institutions like the IMF, and the shadow of American coercion."
This also works for America. Trust on America as a benevolent world power depends to a certain degree on the existence of international institutions (UN, security council, Non-Proliferation Treaty) were the US voluntarily participates and subjects itself to their rules thereby showing restraint.
Wow, Richard. This was very good.
I feel like Richard probably resonates with Mike's Breaking Bad speech here in his utilitarian suffering aware concern that too much attention to human rights causes more suffering in the long run.