As Plato says for Clinias of Scambonidae — “For (as he would say) ‘peace,’ as the term is commonly employed, is nothing more than a name, the truth being that every State is, by a law of nature, engaged perpetually in an informal war with every other State.”, I have seen peace not as the normative state but as a temporary interlude in an ongoing war. What first drew me to study history was observing the chain of treaties to ‘end’ European conflict that extorted and humiliated the defeated parties. The Peace of Westphalia established the supremacy of the nation-state over religious states, but it also begat machinations to maintain a “balance of power” whereby ‘balance’ more or less meant your nation maintained some level of control throughout the continent. The Treaty of Frankfurt, with the indemnity France was forced to pay and territory it was forced to cede, did nothing to establish good will on the Continent. The Anglo-Ottoman Convention allowed British dominance in the Middle East, and the borders created largely ignored ethnic division. The Treaty of Versailles punishment of Germany undermined the Weimar Republic. European nations learned, my professor asserted, and sought to ensure the treaty ending World War II wouldn’t follow the long chain of humiliating, punitive treaties. An assertion ridiculous on its face – border adjustments in the Balkans under the Paris Peace Treaties begat revolution and conflict decades later as ethnically different peoples lumped into the same country broke apart.
Punishing and embarrassing a nation, or lumping people with a long history of conflict into the same country are hardly conducive to lasting peace. I oft wonder if that was the point — see: Eisenhower’s military industrial complex speech. Demanding four billion dollars from King Salman may not be an insurmountable financial burden to the Saudis, but such payment would certainly be seen as a national embarrassment. Violating the US out of the Iranian nuclear deal — and an extrapolation of what the US will ask from North Korea — is just another event in a centuries long chain of “we win, FU” so-called diplomacy.
Viewing North Korea’s summit in light of Iran – either a set of conditions are acceptable in North Korea but not Iran or North Korea will be told to completely eliminate their nuclear capabilities. It’s one thing for Korea to offer to dismantle their testing facilities — frankly, nuclear testing is frightening, and once you’ve got a bomb there’s not much point in repeatedly exploding a nuclear device — but denuclearizing and permitting frequent, invasive inspections to ensure the program is not renewed … that’s a big ask.
A facet of world history that stood out to me as a high school student was the difference a robust middle class made in the stability of a country. Lots of destitute people (aka people who don’t have much to lose) and you have lots of civil unrest, lawlessness, and insurrection. Lots of middle class people (people who aren’t rich beyond all telling, but have enough that they want to protect ‘their’ stuff), both the upper and ruling classes retain their power and resources for decades if not centuries.
I thought of this whilst reading an article about rebranding “entitlements” as “insurance” — Medicaid as insurance in case you yourself become disabled in the future. Social Security against you yourself getting old someday.
But taxes for entitlements are social stability insurance. The entire point of redistributing income is to ensure a sufficient portion of the population is happy enough that they work to preserve existing social structures.
Alternative Fact: “I felt pretty strongly that they (China) had a tremendous power over North Korea. But it’s not what you would think.” (Donald Trump in the Wall Street Journal)
Real Fact: No, it is exactly what I thought. I had a dual major in University: history and theoretical physics. So, yeah, I may have more knowledge of South East Asian history than the average American. I’ve specifically studied the history of the region as it relates to the war in Vietnam. I don’t believe Korea had quite the animosity toward China that fomented over hundreds of years in Việt Nam — a country whose name means Southern Bách Việt (an area of Southern China) … but that’s not saying much. There’s economic dependency, but coupling economic dependency with pre-existing resentment is not a recipe for harmonious relations.
My concern is not that a firm grasp of international history is not the norm world-wide (that sucks too, but probably been the way of things since language was developed). My concern is not that Trump has changed is opinion as new facts come to light — shocked, but quite heartened that the man eventually figured out that China was propping up its currency for a couple of years now. What concerns me is that the leader of China has to convey this history lesson to the US President. Because the dude refuses to let anyone else clue him into reality. None of his campaign advisers (both the currency manipulation & they can sort North Korea claims were made prior to him becoming president), none of the guys from State, no military adviser (including those who report directly to Trump) could bring real facts into this administration. In *this* instance, the leader of another country managed to hold Trump’s attention long enough to convey his version of reality (dangerous since our president is now operating under a view that doesn’t skew our country’s way … do we support Chinese expansion into the South China Sea now? I’m sure the Chinese president has a decent rational for that move as well).
But what happens when a situation arrives where the other country’s highest ranking individuals are not on hand to brief the US president??
It is not yet hurricane season, but there are other sorts of natural disasters that aren’t so predictable. And there is not a director of FEMA. Some directors have a great deal of experience in disaster management, and some (GW’s guy who couldn’t manage to run the Arabian Horse Association) are sweet jobs given to friends or political supporters. After FEMA’s performance during Katrina, I expected the office to become the exclusive domain of people with disaster management experience. Folks from the Red Cross, or National Guards, or disaster response agencies from states prone to disasters. For some time, that expectation was realized.
Then came Trump. Like many facets of government where Republicans think government is just wasting money or causing problems … well, he hasn’t even managed to nominate a political hack to serve as the agency head. There’s no one. I have a lot of experience in M&A – any time your department doesn’t get a manager in the new org, update your resume. Your functionality is not going to be around much longer. Because, like we don’t actually ‘need’ the DOE (an agency that keeps track of nuclear materials and intercepts it on the black market) … evidently we don’t need FEMA??