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Matt Warren

Is This How We Equalize the United States? - 1 views

  • For anyone that's paid a speck of attention to the tedium of political redistricting, which happens while a state grows unevenly, (and must dynamically respond to density, electorate disparity, natural resources and ridgelines, etc.), this is straight out of some psychedelic dream.
  • For Democrats, it could be straight out of a nightmare. That's because Freeman's map necessitates 50 equally populous United States. His methods for creating the map are explained thusly: 
    • Matt Warren
       
      Sound, but it also assumes that - if we went to allll this trouble to recreate the *states* - we would somehow retain the exact same political method for determining the presidency. But then I'm one of those 'radicals' that views the winner-take-all and heavily two-party system biased system suboptimal.

      A lack of appreciation for the actual compromise that took place to bring our political entity into being would offer greater understanding. Still, quite a fun thought experiment!
  • While Freeman's map is supposed to combat the idea of gerrymandering, the process of manipulating boundaries to win a higher populations for political parties, it might have an undesirable effect for Democrats.
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  • Just looking at that giant 'Ogalalla' state and knowing it contains as many people as the 'Atlanta' state, I thump my head thinking of how the demographics, cultural values and natural landscape might be newly described and compared.
  • After reviewing the map, I'm asking, "Why 50 states?" I'm jonesin' to see the version of this map that has 438 equally populous states and 100 senatorial administrative districts (to make up the 538 electoral votes).
  •  
    "Looking around the US map, we see the lines of latitude and rivers that make logic of its divisions. When I reach for the words to explain my studies in geography, I often depend on the words of Ruthie Gilmore, a high-ranking scholar in the field, "Geography isn't where is Kansas, it's why is Kansas." But it can often seem so arbitrary and mathematically devised. And it is, more or less. So why do we love the shapes of our states so much? If you walk around Williamsburg on a sunny day, everybody has a little Ohio-or whatever flyover state they hail from-tatted on their arm. "
Matt Warren

The Geopolitics of the United States, Part 1: The Inevitable Empire - 0 views

  • All of the New World entities struggled to carve a modern nation and state out of the American continents. Brazil is an excellent case of how that struggle can be a difficult one. The United States falls on the opposite end of the spectrum.
  • The Greater Mississippi Basin together with the Intracoastal Waterway has more kilometers of navigable internal waterways than the rest of the world combined. The American Midwest is both overlaid by this waterway, and is the world’s largest contiguous piece of farmland. The U.S. Atlantic Coast possesses more major ports than the rest of the Western Hemisphere combined.
  • Two vast oceans insulated the United States from Asian and European powers, deserts separate the United States from Mexico to the south, while lakes and forests separate the population centers in Canada from those in the United States.
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  • The United States has capital, food surpluses and physical insulation in excess of every other country in the world by an exceedingly large margin. So like the Turks, the Americans are not important because of who they are, but because of where they live.
  • Climatically, the continent consists of a series of wide north-south precipitation bands largely shaped by the landmass’ longitudinal topography.
  • The Rocky Mountains dominate the Western third of the northern and central parts of North America
  • Farther east of this semiarid region are the well-watered plains of the prairie provinces of Canada and the American Midwest
  • East of this premier arable zone lies a second mountain chain known as the Appalachians.
  • North of the Great Lakes region lies the Canadian Shield, an area where repeated glaciation has scraped off most of the topsoil.
  • The continent’s final geographic piece is an isthmus of varying width, known as Central America, that is too wet and rugged to develop into anything more than a series of isolated city-states, much less a single country that would have an impact on continental affairs. Due to a series of swamps and mountains where the two American continents join, there still is no road network linking them, and the two Americas only indirectly affect each other’s development.
  • The most distinctive and important feature of North America is the river network in the middle third of the continent.
  • Very few of its tributaries begin at high elevations, making vast tracts of these rivers easily navigable. In the case of the Mississippi, the head of navigation — just north of Minneapolis — is 3,000 kilometers inland.
  • The unified nature of this system greatly enhances the region’s usefulness and potential economic and political power.
  • shipping goods via water is an order of magnitude cheaper than shipping them via land.
  • in the petroleum age in the United States, the cost of transport via water is roughly 10 to 30 times cheaper than overland.
  • This factor is the primary reason why the major economic powers of the past half-millennia have been Japan, Germany, France, the United Kingdom and the United States.
  • the watershed of the Greater Mississippi Basin largely overlays North America’s arable lands.
  • The vast bulk of the prime agricultural lands are within 200 kilometers of a stretch of navigable river.
  • the river network’s unity greatly eases the issue of political integration.
  • All of the peoples of the basin are part of the same economic system, ensuring constant contact and common interests. Regional proclivities obviously still arise, but this is not Northern Europe, where a variety of separate river systems have given rise to multiple national identities.
  • It is worth briefly explaining why STRATFOR fixates on navigable rivers as opposed to coastlines.
  • First, navigable rivers by definition service twice the land area of a coastline (rivers have two banks, coasts only one).
  • Second, rivers are not subject to tidal forces, greatly easing the construction and maintenance of supporting infrastructure.
  • Third, storm surges often accompany oceanic storms, which force the evacuation of oceanic ports.
  • coastal regions are a poor second compared to lands with navigable rivers.
  • There are three other features — all maritime in nature — that further leverage the raw power that the Greater Mississippi Basin provides.
  • First are the severe indentations of North America’s coastline, granting the region a wealth of sheltered bays and natural, deep-water ports.
  • Second, there are the Great Lakes.
  • Third and most important are the lines of barrier islands that parallel the continent’s East and Gulf coasts.
  • Thus, the Greater Mississippi Basin is the continent’s core, and whoever controls that core not only is certain to dominate the East Coast and Great Lakes regions but will also have the agricultural, transport, trade and political unification capacity to be a world power — even without having to interact with the rest of the global system.
  • There are many secondary stretches of agricultural land as well
  • The rivers of the American Atlantic coastal plain — flowing down the eastern side of the Appalachians — are neither particularly long nor interconnected. This makes them much more like the rivers of Northern Europe in that their separation localizes economic existence and fosters distinct political identities, dividing the region rather than uniting it. The formation of such local — as opposed to national — identities in many ways contributed to the American Civil War.
  • What is now Mexico lacks even a single navigable river of any size. Its agricultural zones are disconnected and it boasts few good natural ports.
  • Canada’s maritime transport zones
  • Its first, the Great Lakes, not only requires engineering but is shared with the United States.
  • The second, the St. Lawrence Seaway, is a solid option (again with sufficient engineering), but it services a region too cold to develop many dense population centers.
  • So long as the United States has uninterrupted control of the continental core — which itself enjoys independent and interconnected ocean access — the specific locations of the country’s northern and southern boundaries are somewhat immaterial to continental politics.
  • The eastern end of the border could be anywhere within 300 kilometers north or south of its current location (at present the border region’s southernmost ports — Brownsville and Corpus Christi — lie on the U.S. side of the border). As one moves westward to the barren lands of New Mexico, Arizona, Chihuahua and Sonora, the possible variance increases considerably. Even controlling the mouth of the Colorado River where it empties into the Gulf of California is not a critical issue, since hydroelectric development in the United States prevents the river from reaching the Gulf in most years, making it useless for transport.
    • Matt Warren
       
      As a fun project, I'd love to create a map that depicts what could be the outer edges of the American political map without changing its core strategic position.
  • In the north, the Great Lakes are obviously an ideal break point in the middle of the border region, but the specific location of the line along the rest of the border is largely irrelevant. East of the lakes, low mountains and thick forests dominate the landscape — not the sort of terrain to generate a power that could challenge the U.S. East Coast.
  • The border here could theoretically lie anywhere between the St. Lawrence Seaway and Massachusetts without compromising the American population centers on the East Coast
  • So long as the border lies north of the bulk of the Missouri River’s expansive watershed, the border’s specific location is somewhat academic, and it becomes even more so when one reaches the Rockies.
  • On the far western end of the U.S.-Canada border is the only location where there could be some border friction. The entrance to Puget Sound — one of the world’s best natural harbors — is commanded by Vancouver Island.
  • Most of the former is United States territory, but the latter is Canadian — in fact, the capital of British Columbia, Victoria, sits on the southern tip of that strategic island for precisely that reason.
  • It is common knowledge that the United States began as 13 rebellious colonies along the east coast of the center third of the North American continent. But the United States as an entity was not a sure thing in the beginning
  • France controlled the bulk of the useful territory that in time would enable the United States to rise to power, while the Spanish empire boasted a larger and more robust economy and population in the New World than the fledgling United States.
  • Most of the original 13 colonies were lightly populated by European standards — only Philadelphia could be considered a true city in the European sense — and were linked by only the most basic of physical infrastructure. Additionally, rivers flowed west to east across the coastal plain, tending to sequester regional identities rather than unify them.
  • But the young United States held two advantages.
  • First, without exception, all of the European empires saw their New World holdings as secondary concerns.
  • With European attentions diverted elsewhere, the young United States had an opportunity to carve out a future for itself relatively free of European entanglements.
  • Second, the early United States did not face any severe geographic challenges. The barrier island system and local rivers provided a number of options that allowed for rapid cultural and economic expansion up and down the East Coast.
  • This was not England, an island that forced the early state into the expense of a navy. This was not France, a country with three coasts and two land borders that forced Paris to constantly deal with threats from multiple directions. This was not Russia, a massive country suffering from short growing seasons that was forced to expend inordinate sums of capital on infrastructure simply to attempt to feed itself.
  • Instead, the United States could exist in relative peace for its first few decades without needing to worry about any large-scale, omnipresent military or economic challenges, so it did not have to garrison a large military.
    • Matt Warren
       
      Maybe our obsession with some mythical, truly free market stems from these early roots and is nourished by continued favorable geographic conditions. I wonder if that's one reason we're incredulous that other nations don't adopt our various policies. We have unique circumstances and are oblivious to the fact. 
  • it is inevitable that whoever controls the middle third of North America will be a great power.
    • Matt Warren
       
      In classic StratFor fashion, the monograph extensively lays out the geographic (and some brief historical relevance) situation without reference to founding fathers or 'sacred' mentalities.

      On a very personal note, this is a reason that I prefer this style. On the left and right, there's a strong desire to steer perceptions. Surely, StratFor is no different, but it steers perceptions to a particular frame of scale.
  • The United States’ strategic imperatives are presented here in five parts. Normally imperatives are pursued in order, but there is considerable time overlap between the first two and the second two.
  • 1. Dominate the Greater Mississippi Basin
  • The early nation was particularly vulnerable to its former colonial master.
  • There are only two ways to protect a coastal community from sea power. The first is to counter with another navy.
  • The second method of protecting a coastal community is to develop territories that are not utterly dependent upon the sea.
  • Achieving such strategic depth was both an economic and a military imperative.
  • The United States was entirely dependent upon the English imperial system not just for finished goods and markets but also for the bulk of its non-agricultural raw materials, in particular coal and iron ore.
  • The Appalachians may not be the Swiss Alps, but they were sufficiently rugged to put a check on any deep and rapid inland expansion.
  • The Ohio River faced the additional problem of draining into the Mississippi, the western shore of which was the French territory of Louisiana
  • The United States solved this problem in three phases.
  • First, there was the direct purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803.
  • At the time, Napoleon was girding for a major series of wars that would bear his name. France not only needed cash but also to be relieved of the security burden of defending a large but lightly populated territory in a different hemisphere.
  • The Louisiana Purchase not only doubled the size of the United States but also gave it direct ownership of almost all of the Mississippi and Missouri river basins.
  • The inclusion of the city of New Orleans in the purchase granted the United States full control over the entire watershed.
  • The second phase of the strategic-depth strategy was the construction of that different route: the National Road (aka the Cumberland Road).
  • This single road (known in modern times as Interstate 40 or Interstate 70 for most of its length) allowed American pioneers to directly settle Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri and granted them initial access to Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota.
  • For the better part of a century, it was the most heavily trafficked route in the country
  • the original 13 colonies were finally lashed to the Greater Mississippi Basin via a route that could not be challenged by any outside power.
  • The third phase of the early American expansion strategy was in essence an extension of the National Road via a series of settlement trails, by far the most important and famous of which was the Oregon Trail.
  • The trail was directly responsible for the initial settling of Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho and Oregon. A wealth of secondary trails branched off from the main artery — the Mormon, Bozeman, California and Denver trails — and extended the settlement efforts to Montana, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California.
  • That project’s completion reduced East Coast-West Coast travel time from six months to eight days and slashed the cost by 90 percent (to about $1,100 in 2011 dollars).
  • Collectively, the Louisiana Purchase, the National Road and the Oregon Trail facilitated the largest and fastest cultural expansion in human history.
  • From beginning to end, the entire process required less than 70 years.
  • The Columbia River Valley and California’s Central Valley are not critical American territories.
  • among other things, they grant the United States full access to the Pacific trading basin — only that control of them is not imperative to American security.
  • 2. Eliminate All Land-Based Threats to the Greater Mississippi Basin
  • The first land threat to the young United States was in essence the second phase of the Revolutionary War
  • the British navy could outmatch anything the Americans could float
  • Geopolitically, the most critical part of the war was the participation of semi-independent British Canada.
  • Canadian forces, unlike the British, did not have a supply line that stretched across the Atlantic.
  • Canada is far enough north that its climate is far harsher than that of the United States, with all of the negative complications one would expect for population, agriculture and infrastructure.
  • What few rivers Canada has neither interconnect nor remain usable year round.
  • Most of these river connections also have rapids and falls, greatly limiting their utility as a transport network.
  • the St. Lawrence Seaway — a series of locks that link the St. Lawrence River to the Great Lakes and allow full ocean access — was not completed until 1959.
  • Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island — are disconnected from the Canadian landmass and unable to capitalize on what geographic blessings the rest of the country enjoys
  • what population centers Canada does have are geographically sequestered from one another by the Canadian Shield and the Rocky Mountains.
  • All four provinces have been forced by geography and necessity to be more economically integrated with their southern neighbors than with their fellow Canadian provinces.
    • Matt Warren
       
      Here's a key fact that I have never read anywhere else. I would love to learn more about this. It's surely plausible; I just find it funny that it's been omitted from view.
  • The British were exhausted from the Napoleonic Wars in Europe and, with the French Empire having essentially imploded, were more interested in reshaping the European balance of power than re-engaging the Americans in distant North America.
  • the Americans were mobilized, angry and — remembering vividly the Canadian/British sacking of Washington — mulling revenge.
  • This left a geographically and culturally fractured Canada dreading a long-term, solitary confrontation with a hostile and strengthening local power. During the following decades, the Canadians had little choice but to downgrade their ties to the increasingly disinterested British Empire, adopt political neutrality vis-a-vis Washington, and begin formal economic integration with the United States. Any other choice would have put the Canadians on the path to another war with the Americans (this time likely without the British), and that war could have had only one outcome.
  • Using a combination of illegal settlements, military pressure and diplomacy, the United States was able to gain control of east and west Florida from Madrid in 1819 in exchange for recognizing Spanish claims to what is now known as Texas
  • the United States’ efforts to secure its southwestern borders shifted to a blatant attempt to undermine and ultimately carve up the one remaining Western Hemispheric entity that could potentially challenge the United States: Mexico.
  • the United States quickly transformed itself from a poor coastal nation to a massively capital-rich commodities exporter.
  • But these inner territories harbored a potentially fatal flaw: New Orleans.
  • the biggest potential security threat to the United States was newly independent Mexico, the border with which was only 150 kilometers from New Orleans. In fact, New Orleans’ security was even more precarious than such a small distance suggested.
  • Just as the American plan for dealing with Canada was shaped by Canada’s geographic weakness, Washington’s efforts to first shield against and ultimately take over parts of Mexico were shaped by Mexico’s geographic shortcomings.
  • In the United States, the cheap transport system allowed early settlers to quickly obtain their own small tracts of land.
  • in time the wealth accumulated to the point that portions of the United States had the capital necessary to industrialize.
  • Mexico, in contrast, suffered from a complete lack of navigable rivers and had only a single good port (Veracruz).
  • First and most obviously, the lack of navigable waterways and the non-abundance of ports drastically reduced Mexico’s ability to move goods and thereby generate its own capital. Second, the disassociated nature of Mexico’s agricultural regions forced the construction of separate, non-integrated infrastructures for each individual sub-region, drastically raising the costs of even basic development.
  • Third, the highland nature of the Mexico City core required an even more expensive infrastructure, since everything had to be transported up the mountains from Veracruz.
  • the 410-kilometer railway linking Mexico City and Veracruz was not completed until 1873. (By that point, the United States had two intercontinental lines and roughly 60,000 kilometers of railways.)
  • very different economic and social structure
  • Instead of small landholdings, Mexican agriculture was dominated by a small number of rich Spaniards
  • The Mexican landowners had, in essence, created their own company towns and saw little benefit in pooling their efforts to industrialize. Doing so would have undermined their control of their economic and political fiefdoms.
  • This social structure has survived to the modern day, with the bulk of Mexican political and economic power held by the same 300 families that dominated Mexico’s early years, each with its local geographic power center.
  • In just two generations — by 1870 — the American population had ballooned to 38.6 million while Mexico’s was only 8.8 million.
  • The American effort against Mexico took place in two theaters.
  • The first was Texas, and the primary means was settlement as enabled by the Austin family.
  •  
    "This installment on the United States, presented in two parts, is the 16th in a series of STRATFOR monographs on the geopolitics of countries influential in world affairs."
Matt Warren

Agenda: The U.S. and China Find Common Ground - 0 views

  • Joe Biden is saying that a close relationship with China is of the utmost importance. The Chinese side of the three-day talks appear to agree, drawing back from sharp criticism of America in recent weeks. But does the dialogue spell improving relationships between the world’s two biggest economies?
  • On the public front there certainly is a lot of apparent ups and down
  • Underneath it, there’s a fairly strong economic link between the two. That link doesn’t necessarily guarantee good relations between them.
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  • they’re both trying to get a sense of reassurance and a sense that at least there is an element of stability between what are now the world’s two biggest economies.
  • I think that the talk about pulling Chinese investment out of U.S. bonds out of U.S. treasuries is more rhetoric than anything, although certainly there are elements within China that are raising that up.
  • in the end, the Chinese really have two questions:
  • One, who’s going to buy their stuff if they yank all these savings out of the U.S. and if they contribute to the crash of the U.S. economy. And the second would be who in the world is going to buy all of these if they try to dump them on the market and sell them, there have to be buyers out there.
  • two other trends
  • There seems to be a significant drop in students from the provinces enlisting in the better universities. It also looks as if Beijing is planning a new crackdown on bloggers and social networks.
  • On the one hand, being able to allow their citizens to kind of display their frustration or express themselves through these social networks has been a way to reduce potentially some of the steam that would build up in China that could ultimately kind of explode out against the government.
  •  
    "Rodger Baker reviews U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's speech in Beijing and discusses China's dilemma over social networks."
Matt Warren

Global Economic Downturn: A Crisis of Political Economy - 0 views

  • For classical economists, it was impossible to understand politics without economics or economics without politics.
  • The use of the term “economy” by itself did not begin until the late 19th century.
  • For classical economists, the political and economic systems were intertwined, each dependent on the other for its existence.
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  • The current economic crisis is best understood as a crisis of political economy.
  • Moreover, it has to be understood as a global crisis enveloping the United States, Europe and China that has different details but one overriding theme: the relationship between the political order and economic life.
  • the origin of the current financial crisis was the subprime mortgage meltdown in the United States.
  • To be more precise, it originated in a financial system generating paper assets whose value depended on the price of housing.
  • From the standpoint of economics, this was essentially a financial crisis: who made or lost money and how much.
  • From the standpoint of political economy it raised a different question: the legitimacy of the financial elite.
  • Think of a national system as a series of subsystems — political, economic, military and so on.
  • Then think of the economic system as being divisible into subsystems — various corporate verticals with their own elites, with one of the verticals being the financial system.
  • A sense emerged that the financial elite was either stupid or dishonest or both.
  • Fair or not, this perception created a massive political crisis.
  • There was a crisis of confidence in the financial system and a crisis of confidence in the political system. The U.S. government’s actions in September 2008 were designed first to deal with the failures of the financial system. Many expected this would be followed by dealing with the failures of the financial elite, but this is perceived not to have happened.
  • This generated the second crisis — the crisis of the political elite.
  • The Tea Party movement emerged in part as critics of the political elite, focusing on the measures taken to stabilize the system and arguing that it had created a new financial crisis, this time in excessive sovereign debt.
  • Its argument was that the political elite used the financial crisis to dramatically increase the power of the state (health care reform was the poster child for this) while mismanaging the financial system through excessive sovereign debt.
  • The sovereign debt question also created both a financial crisis and then a political crisis in Europe.
  • What had been a minority view was strengthened by the recession.
  • The European crisis paralleled the American crisis in that financial institutions were bailed out. But the deeper crisis was that Europe did not act as a single unit to deal with all European banks
  • There are two narratives to the story.
  • One is the German version, which has become the common explanation. It holds that Greece wound up in a sovereign debt crisis because of the irresponsibility of the Greek government
  • The Greek narrative, which is less noted, was that the Germans rigged the European Union in their favor. Germany is the world’s third-largest exporter, after China and the United States (and closing rapidly on the No. 2 spot). By forming a free trade zone, the Germans created captive markets for their goods.
  • Moreover, the regulations generated by Brussels so enhanced the German position that Greece was helpless.
  • Which narrative is true is not the point.
  • The point is that Europe is facing two political crises generated by economics. One crisis is similar to the American one, which is the belief that Europe’s political elite protected the financial elite. The other is a distinctly European one, a regional crisis in which parts of Europe have come to distrust each other rather vocally. This could become an existential crisis for the European Union.
  • The American and European crises struck hard at China, which, as the world’s largest export economy, is a hostage to external demand, particularly from the United States and Europe.
  • The Chinese government had two responses.
  • The first was to keep factories going by encouraging price reductions to the point where profit margins on exports evaporated.
  • The second was to provide unprecedented amounts of credit to enterprises facing default on debts in order to keep them in business.
  • This led to a second crisis, where workers faced the contraction of already small incomes.
  • The response was to increase incomes, which in turn increased the cost of goods exported once again, making China’s wage rates less competitive, for example, than Mexico’s.
  • China had previously encouraged entrepreneurs. This was easy when Europe and the United States were booming. Now, the rational move by entrepreneurs was to go offshore or lay off workers, or both.
  • In the United States, the first impulse was to regulate the financial sector, stimulate the economy and increase control over sectors of the economy.
  • In Europe, where there were already substantial controls over the economy, the political elite started to parse how those controls would work and who would benefit more.
  • In China, where the political elite always retained implicit power over the economy, that power was increased.
  • In all three cases, the first impulse was to use political controls.
  • In the United States, the Tea Party was simply the most active and effective manifestation of that resistance.
  • In Europe, the resistance came from anti-Europeanists
  • It also came from political elites of countries like Ireland who were confronting the political elites of other countries.
  • In China, the resistance has come from those being hurt by inflation
  • Russia went through this crisis years ago and had already tilted toward the political elite’s control over the economy.
  • Brazil and India have not experienced the extremes of China, but then they haven’t had the extreme growth rates of China.
  • But when the United States, Europe and China go into a crisis of this sort, it can reasonably be said that the center of gravity of the world’s economy and most of its military power is in crisis. It is not a trivial moment.
  • Crisis does not mean collapse. The United States has substantial political legitimacy to draw on.
  • Europe has less but its constituent nations are strong.
  • China’s Communist Party is a formidable entity but it is no longer dealing with a financial crisis.
  • It is vital to understand that this is not an ideological challenge.
  • Left-wingers opposing globalization and right-wingers opposing immigration are engaged in the same process — challenging the legitimacy of the elites.
    • Matt Warren
       
      This is why so much of American life seems like that proverbial puppet show. Politicians, at their basest, have a vested interest in portraying this as a problem between us-vs-them. It reflects heat.
  • The real problem is that, while the challenge to the elites goes on, the profound differences in the challengers make an alternative political elite difficult to imagine.
  • This, then, is the third crisis that can emerge: that the elites become delegitimized and all that there is to replace them is a deeply divided and hostile force, united in hostility to the elites but without any coherent ideology of its own.
  • In the United States this would lead to paralysis. In Europe it would lead to a devolution to the nation-state. In China it would lead to regional fragmentation and conflict.
  • These are all extreme outcomes and there are many arrestors.
  • But we cannot understand what is going on without understanding two things.
  • The first is that the political economic crisis, if not global, is at least widespread, and uprisings elsewhere have their own roots but are linked in some ways to this crisis.
  • The second is that the crisis is an economic problem that has triggered a political problem, which in turn is making the economic problem worse.
  • The followers of Adam Smith may believe in an autonomous economic sphere disengaged from politics, but Adam Smith was far more subtle. That’s why he called his greatest book the Wealth of Nations. It was about wealth, but it was also about nations. It was a work of political economy that teaches us a great deal about the moment we are in.
  •  
    Classical political economists like Adam Smith or David Ricardo never used the term "economy" by itself. They always used the term "political economy." For classical economists, it was impossible to understand politics without economics or economics without politics. The two fields are certainly different but they are also intimately linked.
Matt Warren

The Debt Ceiling Deal: The Case for Caving (Part 3) - 0 views

  • The Tea Party, in this sense, has succeeded by adopting a rational frustration strategy.
  • You can find fault with the Tea Party’s prescription for balancing the budget—most economists do—but if they hadn’t come to Washington last year, Congress would have waited for a real bond crisis, five or 10 years from now, to create its super committee.
  • We will know, at the close of the next round of negotiations, which game the Tea Party has been playing: Balance the Budget or Kill the King.
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  • I appreciate pquincy’s thoughtful comments. With regard to the reference to divorce, it’s also worth noting that – regardless of whether or not there are children involved – almost all divorce cases (along with almost all other civil cases) are resolved through a bargained solution (i.e., a settlement) rather than a trial. But in the vast majority of cases the bargained solution is not achieved until the parties arrive at a critical deadline such as the eve of trial. This is because, prior to the deadline and as suggested by Brams, “each player has an incentive to dissemble” in pursuit of a better outcome for itself. Since each player intuitively understands this, neither views the other player’s assertions about their “bottom line” to be credible, and neither can convince the other of the genuineness of its own position prior to the deadline.
  • Pquincy ‘s suggestion that this problem should eventually become less acute in a repeated game appears to be correct. But in the game of politics, it seems that (as in litigation), a player can be expected to pretend – in the pursuit of self-interest and for as long as it can – that it is less interested in arriving at a bargained solution than it is in pursuing some sort of abstract principle (such as what it would characterize as “justice” or “the public good”).
  • In contrast to some of the other people that have posted comments in response to this article, I don’t think the outcome that was ultimately arrived at in the debt ceiling negotiations can be fairly attributed to Obama’s having played the game poorly. Rather, I think the outcome was attributable to the fact that it was obvious from the outset that Obama’s objective (regardless of whether one wishes to characterize that objective as “preserving the health and safety of our most vulnerable citizens" or “holding on for a few more years to the remnants of a bloated welfare state”) would unquestionably be placed further out of reach if he were to walk away from whatever deal the other side was ultimately willing to grant as of the deadline. He could not credibly pretend otherwise.
  • Although this article muddles a few basic concepts, it serves to illustrate that game theory offers a relatively straightforward explanation for much of the conflict that exists in the world, certainly a much better explanation than is routinely put forth by partisans and commentators. Brams is spot-on. And it's a cop-out to claim that game theory assumes that people are hyper-rational, or that it does not apply when someone is seeking an unreasonable goal. Even if your adversary's goal is, at least in your view, unreasonable or irrational, game theory allows you to understand how you and your adversary can be expected to behave in the pursuit of your respective objectives.
  •  
    Part 3 of the piece.
Matt Warren

The Debt Ceiling Deal: The Case for Caving (Part 2) - 0 views

  • Game theorists distinguish between “cooperative” and “noncooperative” games.
  • A cooperative game looks to divide a pie in a way that leaves both sides with trust in the process.
  • The object of the game, as each leader described it, was about how best to divide the pain of closing the deficit, in the same way a family sits down to a pile of bills on the kitchen table.
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  • The two parties in Washington pretended to be playing a cooperative game this summer.
  • The President’s bipartisan commission on deficit reduction, set up late last year and chaired by Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan Simpson, also played a cooperative game.
  • A noncooperative game lacks a higher authority to impose agreements on both sides.
  • In Washington, no politician is bound to reach a compromise to solve any long-term problem. Everyone, however, is playing a game called “election,” and the only possible goal in that game is to win the next one.
  • If you hear someone in Congress say, “Senator X is just playing politics,” a perfectly legitimate response is, “She has to. Those are the rules of the Constitution.”
  • Anyone who promises to fix or change Washington is merely attempting to impose a cooperative game on a town that, by design, can’t play one.
  • A game theorist would say that the President is trying to play a cooperative game in a town that can’t play along with him. The trouble for the White House is that the Republicans aren’t playing a game called “fix the budget deficit.” They’re necessarily playing one called “defeat Barack Obama.” A reasonable offer seldom works in a divorce; there’s no reason to expect it would in Congress.
  • Obama and the House Republicans, says Steven Brams, were playing chicken this summer, a noncooperative, non-zero-sum game in which both players can lose.
  • Brams argues that there’s no value in trying to determine whether anger is real or feigned; it has the same effect either way.
  • frustration can actually turn a noncooperative game cooperative
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    Part two of the article, because there isn't a 'single page' option. Booo.
Matt Warren

The Debt Ceiling Deal: The Case for Caving - 0 views

  • Failure to reach a deal threatened to bring on the economic equivalent of a nuclear winter. The leaders of the two parties, Barack Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), appeared to grasp this, but a vocal band of “Tea Party hobbits,” as their fellow Republican, John McCain of Arizona, dubbed them, refused to go along.
  • Trapped in a classic game of “chicken”—a term game theorists use, too—in which both players entertain the option of killing everyone, the President did what game theory suggests a rational actor would do. He recognized his potential maximum losses were greater than his opponent’s. He caved.
  • for all the collective self-loathing that attended the debt ceiling talks, it’s important to remember that, like just about everything in human behavior, it was still reducible to a game. Looked at through the prism of game theory, it’s hard to see how the outcome could have turned out any other way.
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  • Crucially, game theory assumes that no one is crazy, and it’s true in life that almost no one ever is. There’s also a pragmatic reason to treat your opponents as sane: You can’t make predictions about their behavior unless you do.
  • People act crazy, but they’re at their craziest when they want something. All you can do in response is to make your most honest estimate of what the crazies actually want, and respond as if they are methodically pursuing it.
  • There is no advantage to be gained, for example, in pointing out that Kim Jong Il is a potbellied nut job in a bad suit. Everything he’s done during his reign as North Korea’s leader suggests he’s an amoral, but sophisticated, negotiator. Unpredictability, says Brams, can be a smart strategy.
    • Matt Warren
       
      When I was a kid, I remember hearing that Saddam Hussein was 'crazy'. I suspect that it's the only conclusion if you can't see connections.
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    "Game theory does not concern itself with good and evil. It seeks to predict not which strategies are just, but which are most effective. John von Neumann, a Hungarian-born polymath with a sideline in predicting the blast radius of an atomic bomb, co-authored the discipline's seminal work, Theory of Games and Economic Behavior, in 1944."
Matt Warren

Drew Westen's Nonsense - 0 views

  • Westen locates Obama's inexplicable failure to properly use his storytelling power in some deep-rooted aversion to conflict. He fails to explain why every president of the postwar era has compromised, reversed, or endured the total failure of his domestic agenda.
  • Yes, even George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan infuriated their supporters by routinely watering down their agenda or supporting legislation utterly betraying them, and making rhetorical concessions to the opposition.
  • First, Roosevelt did not take office "in similar circumstances." He took office three years into the Great Depression, after the economy had bottom out, and immediately presided over rapid economic growth (unemployment plunged from a high of 24.9% in 1933 to 14.3% in 1937.)
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  • As you can see, Roosevelt generally enjoyed broad public support despite having no success at persuading Americans to share his Keynesian view.
  • Roosevelt's fortunes are a testament to the degree to which political conditions are shaped by the state of the economy.
  • Obama took office at the cusp of a massive worldwide financial crisis that was bound to inflict severe damage on himself and his party. That he faced such difficult circumstances does not absolve him of blame for any failures. It sets the bar lower, but the bar still exists. How should we judge Obama against it?
  • I would argue that both the legislative record of 2009-2010 and Obama's personal popularity level exceed the expectation level -- facing worse economic conditions than the last two Democratic presidents at a similar juncture, Obama is far more popular than Jimmy Carter and nearly as popular as Bill Clinton, and vastly more accomplished than both put together.
  • He blames Obama for the insufficiently large stimulus without even mentioning the role of Senate moderate Republicans, whose votes were needed to pass it, in weakening the stimulus.
  • A foreign reader unfamiliar with our political system would come away from Westen's op-ed believing Obama writes laws by fiat.
  • In fact, the budget agreement does not include any entitlement cuts. It consists of cuts to domestic discretionary (i.e., non-entitlement spending.)
  • Likewise, he implies that Obama supported the undermining of the coverage expansion in his health care reform by cutting Medicaid
  • This is also totally false. The budget agreement contains no cuts to Medicaid or to state budgets. The automatic cuts that would go in effect should Congress fail to agree on a second round of deficit reduction exempt Medicaid.
  • Westen is apparently unaware, to take one example, that Obama repeatedly and passionately argued for universal coverage.
  • If even a professional follower of political rhetoric like Westen never realized basic, repeated themes of Obama's speeches and remarks, how could presidential rhetoric -- sorry, "storytelling" -- be anywhere near as important as he claims? The clear reality is that Americans pay hardly any attention to what presidents say, and what little they take in, they forget almost immediately. Even Drew Westen.
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    "Westen's op-ed rests upon a model of American politics in which the president in the not only the most important figure, but his most powerful weapon is rhetoric. The argument appears calculated to infuriate anybody with a passing familiarity with the basics of political science."
Matt Warren

Drunken Ben Bernanke Tells Everyone At Neighborhood Bar How Screwed U.S. Economy Really Is - 1 views

  • "And hell, as long as we're being honest, I might as well tell you that a truer estimate of the U.S. unemployment rate is actually up around 16 percent, with a 0.7 percent annual rate of economic growth if we're lucky—if we're lucky," continued Bernanke, nearly knocking a full beer over while gesturing with his hands.
  • While using beer bottles and pretzel sticks in an attempt to explain to the bartender the importance of infusing $650 billion into the bond market, the inebriated Fed chairman nearly fell off his stool and had to be held up by the patron sitting next to him.
  • "And trust me, with the value of the U.S. dollar in the toilet, import costs going through the roof, and numerous world governments unprepared for their own substantial debt burdens, shit's not looking too good for us abroad, either."
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  • "He stumbled up to the urinal and started mumbling on about the depressed housing sector or something," said Kampman, who claimed Bernanke had to use both hands on the wall to steady himself. "Then after a while he just sort of stopped and I couldn't tell if he was laughing or crying."
  • "This is what it's all about," said Bernanke, who reportedly danced alone in the middle of the dark tavern. "Fucking love this song."
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    "Claiming he wasn't afraid to let everyone in attendance know about "the real mess we're in," Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke reportedly got drunk Tuesday and told everyone at Elwood's Corner Tavern about how absolutely fucked the U.S. economy actually is."
Matt Warren

U.S., Russia Make New Deals on Supply Routes to Afghanistan - 0 views

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    "U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman visited Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan at the end of July, right before traveling to Pakistan to meet the Pakistani president and participate in a trilateral summit on the Afghan war."
Matt Warren

U.S., Russia Make New Deals on Supply Routes to Afghanistan - 0 views

  • The ability to move more cargo along these routes will strengthen the United States’ position relative to Pakistan in their upcoming summit.
  • During the past year, Russia has been cooperating more with the United States on security issues in Afghanistan, particularly by expanding the use of supply routes to Afghanistan that go through Central Asia.
  • In 2009, as much as 90 percent of NATO supplies shipped via surface routes to Afghanistan were transported along supply lines through Pakistani territory.
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  • the United States has dramatically increased the volume of supplies moving into Afghanistan via road and rail routes through Central Asia known as the Northern Distribution Network (NDN)
  • As of July, more than 40 percent of surface cargo bound for Afghanistan was transported along these routes. U.S. military officials have said they hope to increase this share to as much as 75 percent by the end of the year.
  • U.S.-Russian cooperation has increased, particularly in the last quarter, on security issues in Afghanistan and the surrounding Central Asian states.
  • before Washington can expand its use of the NDN, the United States and Russia must address several outstanding issues.
  • First, the only cargo currently allowed to move along the NDN is “non-lethal” cargo: food, water, construction materials and the like. Weapons and ammunition are not permitted.
  • What Russia really wants is an agreement on ballistic missile defense in Europe
  • An additional problem is that current Central Asian supply routes to Afghanistan only go one way; the shipment of any supplies out of Afghanistan via the NDN is prohibited.
  • The third issue is that some of the transportation infrastructure along the Central Asian networks is in disrepair and would need upgrades to handle any significant increase in volume.
  • Finally, there is the issue that NATO supply lines have served as major targets for militants.
  • it is likely that Washington and Moscow have already reached an agreement on most of these issues
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    "U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman visited Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan at the end of July, right before traveling to Pakistan to meet the Pakistani president and participate in a trilateral summit on the Afghan war."
Matt Warren

Fox News Coverage of the Phone Hacking Scandal - 0 views

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    "Courtesy of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. See also this on how the Wall Street Journal has changed under Murdoch."
Matt Warren

Barbarous Confinement - 0 views

  • Many of these prisoners have been sent to virtually total isolation and enforced idleness for no crime, not even for alleged infractions of prison regulations. Their isolation, which can last for decades, is often not explicitly disciplinary, and therefore not subject to court oversight. Their treatment is simply a matter of administrative convenience.
    • Matt Warren
       
      This makes me sick to my stomach in a way that makes me not want to read any news for a while.
  • The Supreme Court, over the last two decades, has whittled steadily away at the rights of inmates, surrendering to prison administrators virtually all control over what is done to those held in “administrative segregation.”
  • In a “60 Minutes” interview, he went so far as to call it “far more egregious” than the death penalty.
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  • Placement is haphazard and arbitrary; it focuses on those perceived as troublemakers or simply disliked by correctional officers and, most of all, alleged gang members. Often, the decisions are not based on evidence. And before the inmates are released from the barbarity of 22-hour-a-day isolation into normal prison conditions (themselves shameful) they are often expected to “debrief,” or spill the beans on other gang members.
  • Those in isolation can get out by naming names, but if they do so they will likely be killed when returned to a normal facility. To “debrief” is to be targeted for death by gang members, so the prisoners are moved to “protective custody” — that is, another form of solitary confinement.
  • The poverty of our criminological theorizing is reflected in the official response to the hunger strike. Now refusing to eat is regarded as a threat, too. Authorities are considering force-feeding. It is likely it will be carried out — as it has been, and possibly still continues to be — at Guantánamo (in possible violation of international law) and in an evil caricature of medical care.
  • Not allowing inmates to choose death as an escape from a murderous fate or as a protest against continued degradation depends, as we will see when doctors come to make their judgment calls, on the skilled manipulation of techniques that are indistinguishable from torture. Maybe one way to react to prisoners whose only reaction to bestial treatment is to starve themselves to death might be to do the unthinkable — to treat them like human beings.
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    "More than 1,700 prisoners in California, many of whom are in maximum isolation units, have gone on a hunger strike."

    By Colin Dayan at the New York Times on July 17, 2011.
Matt Warren

China, Infrastructure, Economic Development and Oligarchy - 0 views

  • For all China’s economic might, it’s worth remembering that it remains a) quite poor in per-capita terms and b) governed by an opaque, corrupt, oligarchic, anti-democratic single party apparatus that, for all the  dazzle of its economic accomplishments in recent decades, continues to immiserate large swathes of its population through internal migration controls, currency manipulation and, you know, large-scale denial of basic human rights.
  • I think it’s a bit too easy to let the U.S. off the hook, both in terms of the economics and the politics.
  • There really is a serious infrastructure problem in the United States, though, and not all of it can be explained by the fact that our infrastructure is old. Part of it can, to be sure. One of the advantages of developing late and/or having your entire continent reduced to rubble after the initial round of industrialization has run its course is that you’re allowed/forced to build new stuff rather than trying to upgrade/repurpose old stuff.
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  • we have an oligarchy here too. One that’s answerable to the larger populace through an electoral system that provides, at best, tenuous democratic accountability and uneven rule of law. And that’s fine as far as it goes. Most societies are more or less oligarchic.
  • It’s not like the wealth doesn’t exist. It’s simply so concentrated among such a small group of people who have become so good at exploiting a political system rife with veto points, useless anti-democratic institutions and geographically-dispersed power centers that it can’t be tapped. It’s not simply a matter of “reaching consensus.”
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    "Last week James Joyner had at post up over at OTB breaking down some of the unwarranted CCP-oriented Sinophilia that occasionally overtakes otherwise sensible people."

    By Matt Eckel at Foreign Policy Watch on July 18, 2011.
Matt Warren

A Competitive China-U.S. Re-Engagement - 0 views

  • The United States seeks continual interaction separate from other aspects of the relationship, whereas China cannot afford to separate what Washington views as “political” issues from its military engagements and frequently cuts off exchange. Thus it is important that the two sides are talking at all.
  • However, the visit has also attracted attention because it is an exceedingly interesting time for the two sides to be talking
  • The view among some regional players, whose national security depends on their accurate assessment of the situation, is that a kind of leveling is taking place.
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  • Despite the U.S. re-engagement throughout the region, some East Asian states suspect that weakness and a long-term lack of commitment lie at the base of its prolonged distance from regional affairs.
  • They have agreed to hold drills on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, as well as counter-piracy, and to work toward holding more traditional military exercises in the future.
  • The recent warming in U.S.-China relations has drawn inevitable comparisons to the Kissinger-style detente. However, the contrast between these events is more striking. When Kissinger traveled to China, relations between the two countries could hardly have been worse and because the countries shared a common enemy, relations had ample opportunity to improve.
  • At present, the prospects for improvement appear limited, whereas their many differences on economic, military and strategic interests present serious pitfalls.
  • The clash over the South China Sea will intensify regardless of a warmer diplomatic atmosphere.
  • the warming of relations continues apace because China is not yet the great power it aspires to be.
  • What allows both countries to defer confrontation is not only American preoccupation elsewhere but also — as Chen all too readily admitted during Monday’s meeting — China’s persistent military weaknesses, despite its recent highlighting of a fifth-generation fighter-jet prototype, an aircraft carrier and anti-ship ballistic missiles.
  • What Chen inadvertently pointed to is that, like the Soviets, Beijing’s competition with the United States has an economic basis. Economics is at the heart of military power. However, in this regard the Chinese do not have as great an advantage as is widely thought. The American economy has shown itself to be resilient after many recessions, while the current Chinese model shows all the signs of unbalanced and unsustainable growth.
  • China’s great challenge is to face not only a rising international rivalry but also its eventual combination with deteriorating domestic economic conditions.
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    "U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen continued his visit to China on Monday. He met with Chief of General Staff of the People's Liberation Army Chen Bingde, future Chinese President Xi Jinping and other officials at naval and air force bases in China."
Matt Warren

The Withdrawal Debate and its Implications - 0 views

  • The ballpark figure of this first reduction is said to be on the order of 30,000 U.S. troops — mirroring the 2009 surge — over the next 12-18 months. This would leave some 70,000 U.S. troops, plus allied forces, in the country.
  • Far more interesting are the rumors — coming from STRATFOR sources, among many others — suggesting that the impending White House announcement will spell out not only the anticipated reduction, but a restatement of the strategy and objectives of the war effort
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  • Nearly 150,000 troops cannot and will not be suddenly extracted from landlocked Central Asia in short order. Whatever the case, a full drawdown is at best years away. And even with a fundamental shift in strategy, some sort of training, advising, intelligence and particularly, special-operations presence, could well remain in the country far beyond the deadline for the end of combat operations, currently set for the end of 2014.
  • Recall the rapid dwindling, in the latter years of the Iraq war, of the “coalition of the willing,” which, aside from a company of British trainers, effectively became a coalition of one by mid-2009
  • Potential spillover of militancy in the absence of a massive American and allied military presence in Afghanistan affects all bordering countries. Even in the best case scenario, from a regional perspective, a deterioration of security conditions can be expected to accompany any U.S. drawdown.
  • Others, like Russia, will be concerned about an expansion of the already enormous flow of Afghan poppy-based opiates into their country. From Moscow’s perspective, counternarcotics efforts are already insufficient, as they have been sacrificed for more pressing operational needs, and are likely to further decline as the United States and its allies begin to extricate themselves from this conflict.
  • Domestically, Afghanistan is a fractious country. The infighting and civil war that followed the Soviet withdrawal ultimately killed more Afghans than the Soviets’ scorched-earth policy did over the course of nearly a decade.
  • But ultimately, for the last decade, the international system has been defined by a United States bogged down in two wars in Asia. For Washington, the imperative is to extract itself from these wars and focus its attention on more pressing and significant geopolitical challenges. For the rest of the world, the concern is that it might succeed sooner than expected.
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    "U.S. President Barack Obama met with the outgoing commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, and Obama's national security team Thursday to review the status of the counterinsurgency-focused campaign. At the center of the discussion was next month's deadline for a drawdown of forces, set by Obama when he committed 30,000 additional troops at the end of 2009. An announcement on this initial drawdown is expected within weeks."
Matt Warren

New Mexican President, Same Cartel War? - 1 views

  • In any democratic election, opposition parties always criticize the policies of the incumbent. This tactic is especially true when the country is involved in a long and costly war.
  • This strategy is what we are seeing now in Mexico with the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) criticizing the way the administration of Felipe Calderon, who belongs to the National Action Party (PAN), has prosecuted its war against the Mexican cartels.
  • One of the trial balloons that the opposition parties — especially the PRI — seem to be floating at present is the idea that if they are elected they will reverse Calderon’s policy of going after the cartels with a heavy hand and will instead try to reach some sort of accommodation with them.
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  • In effect, this stratagem would be a return of the status quo ante during the PRI administrations
  • no matter who wins the 2012 election, the new president will have little choice but to maintain the campaign against the Mexican cartels.
  • over the past decade there have been changes in the flow of narcotics into the United States.
  • much of the U.S. supply came into Florida via Caribbean routes.
  • Over the past decade, the tables turned. Now, the Mexican cartels control most of the cocaine flow and the Colombian gangs are the junior partners in the relationship.
  • they are also involved in the smuggling of South American cocaine to Europe and Australia. This expanded cocaine supply chain means that the Mexican cartels have assumed a greater risk of loss along the extended supply routes
  • black-tar heroin and methamphetamine, has also helped bring big money (and power) to the Mexican cartels. These drugs have proved to be quite lucrative for the Mexican cartels because the cartels own the entire production process. This is not the case with cocaine, which the cartels have to purchase from South American suppliers.
  • These changes in the flow of narcotics into the United States mean that the Mexican narcotics-smuggling corridors into the United States are now more lucrative than ever for the Mexican cartels, and the increasing value of these corridors has heightened the competition — and the violence — to control them.
  • Most of the violence in Mexico today is cartel-on-cartel, and the cartels have not chosen to explicitly target civilians or the government. Even the violence we do see directed against Mexican police officers or government figures is usually not due to their positions but to the perception that they are on the payroll of a competing cartel.
  • Consider this: Three and a half years ago, the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO) was a part of the Sinaloa Federation. Following the arrest of Alfredo Beltran Leyva in January 2008, Alfredo’s brothers blamed Sinaloa chief Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, declared war on El Chapo and split from the Sinaloa Federation to form their own organization.
  • not only did the BLO leave the Sinaloa Federation, it also split twice to form three new cartels.
  • There are two main cartel groups, one centered on the Sinaloa Federation and the other on Los Zetas, but these groups are loose alliances rather than hierarchical organizations, and there are still many smaller independent players, such as CIDA, La Resistencia and the CJNG. This means that a government attempt to broker some sort of universal understanding with the cartels in order to decrease the violence would be far more challenging than it would have been a decade ago.
  • Another problem is the change that has occurred in the nature of the crimes the cartels commit. The Mexican cartels are no longer just drug cartels, and they no longer just sell narcotics to the U.S. market.
  • Up until a few months ago, it was common to hear U.S. government officials refer to the Mexican cartels using the acronym “DTOs,” or drug trafficking organizations. Today, that acronym is rarely, if ever, heard. It has been replaced by “TCO,” which stands for transnational criminal organization. This acronym recognizes that the Mexican cartels engage in many criminal enterprises, not just narcotics smuggling.
  • Mexican cartels have become involved in kidnapping, extortion, cargo theft, oil theft and diversion, arms smuggling, human smuggling, carjacking, prostitution and music and video piracy.
  • These additional lines of business are lucrative, and there is little likelihood that the cartels would abandon them even if smuggling narcotics became easier.
  • this diversification is also a factor that must be considered in discussing the legalization of narcotics and the impact that would have on the Mexican cartels.
    • Matt Warren
       
      This would seem to be crucial, since discussion of what the U.S. can do always seems to boil (for us) down to one of decriminalization. While that may (or may not) be wise, it does not necessarily follow that it will 'fix' the problem.
  • Another way the cartels have sought to generate revenue through alternative means is to increase drug sales inside Mexico. While drugs sell for less on the street in Mexico than they do in the United States, they require less overhead, since they don’t have to cross the U.S. border.
  • There has been a view among some in Mexico that the flow of narcotics through Mexico is something that might be harmful for the United States but doesn’t really harm Mexico. Indeed, as the argument goes, the money the drug trade generates for the Mexican economy is quite beneficial. The increase in narcotics sales in Mexico belies this, and in many places, such as the greater Mexico City region, much of the violence we’ve seen involves fighting over turf for local drug sales and not necessarily fighting among the larger cartel groups
  • As the Mexican election approaches, the idea of accommodating the cartels may continue to be presented as a logical alternative to the present policies, and it might be used to gain political capital, but anyone who carefully examines the situation on the ground will see that the concept is totally untenable.
  • in the same way President Obama was forced by ground realities to follow many of the Bush administration policies he criticized as a candidate, the next Mexican president will have little choice but to follow the policies of the Calderon administration in continuing the fight against the cartels.
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    Here's the latest from StratFor regarding the Mexican Cartel War and how the upcoming 2012 Mexican election might be impacted by the events of the last few years.
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