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Sandpit

October 6th, 2014

A new sandpit for long side discussions, idees fixes and so on.

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  1. ZM
    October 7th, 2014 at 17:46 | #1

    On the ongoing discussion area of over-consumption, un/sustainability, and future economics, The Guardian reports Nobel prize winners will have an event in Hong Kong to say we need to make changes in these areas, with an Australian Nobel Prize winner saying ““We are poised to do more damage to the Earth in the next 35 years than we have done in the last 1,000.”

    “Eleven Nobel laureates will pool their clout to sound a warning, declaring that mankind is living beyond its means and darkening its future.

    At a conference in Hong Kong coinciding with the annual Nobel awards season, holders of the prestigious prize will plead for a revolution in how humans live, work and travel.

    Only by switching to smarter, less greedy use of resources can humans avert wrecking the ecosystems on which they depend, the laureates will argue.

    The state of affairs is “catastrophic”, Peter Doherty, 1996 co-winner of the Nobel prize for medicine, said in a blunt appraisal.

    He is among 11 laureates scheduled to attend the four-day huddle from Wednesday – the fourth in a series of Nobel symposia on the precarious state of the planet.”

    http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/oct/07/nobel-laureates-call-for-a-revolutionary-shift-in-how-humans-use-resources

  2. Ikonoclast
    October 8th, 2014 at 07:12 | #2

    In reply to Fran, Both Imperial Russia and Soviet Russia acted as empires.

    “Russian Colonialism describes a process that has evolved in the course of over five centuries – in the wake of military conquest and ideological and political unions in four eras. Its starting point is believed to be 1477 and its end in 1991.[citation needed] *

    Ivan III and IV expanded Muscovy’s borders considerably by annexing Novgorod and settled the annexed territories with Muscovite/Russian servitors and peasants from the Kliazma-Suzdal region. After a period of political instability the Romanovs came to power and this expansion-colonization of the Tsardom continued.

    While western Europe colonized the new world, Russia expanded overland to the east and south. East of the Urals it encountered little resistance in a region that had developed little since the height of Mongol power.

    This continued unceasingly; by the end of the 19th century, the Russian Empire reached from the Black sea to the Pacific Ocean, and for some time even included colonies in the Americas

    The region was governed from Moscow, settled by Russians, and continued to grow under Soviet rule. Areas that were formerly part of the Russian Empire, and others still that had been captured from the Nazis during World War II were proclaimed as autonomous republics, within the USSR.” – Wikipedia.

    The informal term “Soviet Empire” is used by critics of the Soviet Union to refer to that country’s perceived imperialist foreign policy during the Cold War. The nations said to be part of the “Soviet Empire” were independent countries with separate governments that set their own policies, but those policies had to remain within certain limits decided by the Soviet Union. Failure to stay within the limits could result in military intervention by the Warsaw Pact. Countries in this situation are often called satellite states. This arrangement was always unofficial.

    Though the Soviet Union was not ruled by an emperor and declared itself anti-imperialist, critics[1][2] argue that it exhibited tendencies common to historic empires. Some scholars hold that the Soviet Union was a hybrid entity containing elements common to both multinational empires and nation states.[1] It has also been argued that the USSR practiced colonialism as did other imperial powers[3] , Maoists argued that the Soviet Union had itself become an imperialist power while maintaining a socialist façade.

    The other dimension of “Soviet imperialism” is cultural imperialism. The policy of Soviet cultural imperialism implied the Sovietization of culture and education at the expense of local traditions.[4]” – Wikipedia.

    * Note – Russian imperialism has revived under Putin with the annexation/re-admission of Crimea albeit apparently with majority local support.

    The important thing to note, IMO, is that ALL great powers are ALWAYS imperialists or at least always have imperial ambitions. This occurs regardless of their dominant ideology. It is not ideology that is the predicator of imperialism but any position of relative wealth and power which subsequently and consequently demands ever more wealth and power and seeks it by force. This is the ineluctable truth of power and its misuse.

  3. Ivor
    October 8th, 2014 at 09:18 | #3

    the Warsaw Pact and COMECON were a response to imposed circumstances. They were not Empire building in their own right.

    The invasion of Czechoslavakia was not Empire Building for its own sake, but defending a status quo against perceived Cold war machinations.

    Whether this perception was right or wrong is a different matter. In hindsight it was obviously wrong, but you have to understand the motives for what they were in situ.

    It is not typical for Empires to admit that such military interventions were mistakes, but this is precisely what the Soviet Union did in 1989.

  4. Ikonoclast
    October 8th, 2014 at 11:14 | #4

    @Ivor

    Where does one draw the line? Is the US being in the Middle East now empire building or securing global resources against “threats”? Is there any functional difference? Is the US employing forward defence in the Pacific against China or securing the stance for global hegemonic empire?

    Empires force each other to empire-build in many senses including that of securing border states as vassals, tributaries, clients or buffers. Causes of empire building do not neatly divide into endogenous and exogenous causes. Both causes operate in an inextricably linked feedback fashion.

    It’s a matter of looking objectively at international power relations and recognising that the theory of offensive realism as developed by John Mearsheimer most aptly describes Realpolitik geostrategy. His theory is not morally judgemental. It simply describes what happens. Where his theory is prescriptive it perhaps simply prescribes that we be logical and rational amoral realists rather than illogical and irrational amoral realists (when it comes to geostrategy).

    To give an example of that last sentence, Mearsheimer advocates that the USA retreat from the attempt at global hegemony (unrealistic and prohibitively costly in the long run) to a position of hemispheric hegemony (realistic and sustainable in at least the medium term). With respect to Russia, he advocates the realism and survival common sense of not pushing another great nuclear power to the brink. Russia’s desire and indeed strategic imperative to possess Crimea is understandable and “legitimate” in the Realpolitik world of geostrategy. The West’s destabilisation of Ukraine and general strategic creep right up to the borders of Russia is provocative and destabilising and should cease.

    If I have got Mearsheimer’s thesis right as it applies to this matter, he is saying whilst you can never trust a superpower rival, it is counterproductive to push containment to the point of rendering that opponent desperate and dangerous. Nuclear powers with the ability to destroy the world by launching mass nuke strikes alone or mutually, have a vested interest in keeping themselves at a respectful distance from each other.

    Mearsheimer’s “doctrine” if put into full action would mark an advance on the current state of the world. There is an incremental improvement in changing from a position of illogical and irrational amoral offensive realism to a position of logical and rational amoral offensive realism. The latter position is less dangerous and meets more of the requirements for enlightened self-interest. It is also the best that can be hoped for from humans, at least in the present world system.

  5. Ivor
    October 8th, 2014 at 17:33 | #5

    The United States is in the Middle East to oppose a oppressive phenomena that is some what comparable to the Wests campaign against slavery. No doubt it has other gains in mind. It would be better if the intervention against the very worst form of Caliphate Islamic Fascism was a UN controlled affair.

    Just because there are such military expeditions does not mean they are necessarily Empire building. People travelling to Spain to defend the elected government against Franco were not Empire building. They were defending a legitimate status quo.

    The military expeditions against Soviet Russia through Archangel (UK, America, Australia etc) and through Vladisvostok were opposing a legitimate embryonic government.

    According to Wikipedia, the numbers were:

    The various Allies are estimated to have sent the following strength of troops to the Russian campaign (from Wikipedia):

    50,000 Czechoslovaks[4] (along the Trans-Siberian railway)
    28,000 Japanese (later increased to 70,000[5], all in the Vladivostok region)
    24,000 Greeks (in Crimea and the Ukraine)
    13,000 Americans (in Arkhangelsk and Vladivostok regions)
    12,000 Poles (mostly in Crimea and the Ukraine)
    4,000 Canadians (in Arkhangelsk and Vladivostok regions)
    4,000 Serbs (in Arkhangelsk and Vladivostok regions)
    4,000 Romanians (in Arkhangelsk region)
    2,000 Italians (in Arkhangelsk and Vladivostok regions)
    1,600 British (in Arkhangelsk and Vladivostok regions)
    760 French (mostly in Arkhangelsk and Vladivostok regions

    Wikipedia is wrong as Australia was there too (maybe mustered under the British).

    You need a basis for supposedly looking at things objectively.

    This constant theme about

    Russia’s desire and indeed strategic imperative to possess Crimea

    is not objective.

    All States have desire to retain borders and access to canals, railways, rivers and etc.

    It is just that the British, Americans and other Europeans demanded the right to use military force to obtain other peoples canals, railways, rivers, ports, and territory.

    You could argue that Tsar Nicolas of Russia was an Empire builder in the 19th C against the territory of Ottomans. But not the 20th C defensive moves necessarily taken by Soviet Russia in areas surrounding its borders (within the status quo after WWII) or defending Cuba or Vietnam.

  6. J-D
    October 9th, 2014 at 08:21 | #6

    @Ivor

    The Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia in 1968 was not justified. Obviously some people at the time thought it was justified (the people who ordered it, at least). I don’t know whether you were one of those. Many people at the time, however, and not just with the benefit of hindsight, were able to perceive that the intervention was not justified. The name of Vaclav Havel is the one that springs to my mind. Perhaps you are not as insightful as Vaclav Havel, but then which of us could claim that?

  7. TerjeP
    October 9th, 2014 at 17:30 | #7

    In the past on this blog the worldview of commenters at Catallaxy has been cited as representative of libertarian thinking. Love him or loath him I believe Liberal Democrat senator Leyonhjelm is a vastly superior expression of the libertarian worldview.

  8. jungney
    October 9th, 2014 at 18:32 | #8

    @TerjeP
    The fervour of your support for Leyonhjelm reminds me of the Russians who would queue for hours to honour Stalin’s corpse. Touching, to say the least, but it is a sign of madness to advocate for those who channel Nozick, like Leyonhjelm, rather than deal with reality.

    Your time is over.

    Shakespeare is great compensation for those on the wrong side of history.

    Nurse! Nurse! Fruit, I must have fruit!

  9. Fran Barlow
    October 9th, 2014 at 20:33 | #9

    @TerjeP

    While Catallaxy certainly held itself out as a ‘libertarian’ blog, in the time I used to visit there, the bulk of the commentary seemed to come either from conservatives or reactionaries, who now and again, would pay lip-service to some ‘libertarian’ shibboleth.

    The ‘libertarians’ at Catallaxy, like those in the real world, know that they can have no influence without an alliance with populist conservatives and reactionaries, and have a doctrine that allows them to look away in dissonance whenever some necessary ally says or does something that in theory, ought to offend them.

    Leyonhjelm may well be an improvement in some senses over the Catallaxy commentariat, but as the standard there is very low, that’s not much of a recommendation. His remark that a burqa ban might lead by slippery slope to a bikini ban (‘stuff I like’) suggested he’s not someone who dwells long in his left brain.

  10. Fran Barlow
    October 9th, 2014 at 20:57 | #10

    @Ikonoclast

    The other dimension of “Soviet imperialism” is cultural imperialism. The policy of Soviet cultural imperialism implied the Sovietization of culture and education at the expense of local traditions.

    The use of ‘imperialism’ to describe the rise of exotic cultures at the expense of the local is simply a misuse of the term — one that debauches it and gives aid and comfort to parochialism. It’s also a mistake to use the term ‘sovietization’ since the Stalinist caste leading the old USSR rendered the soviets — in theory the workers councils — a mere adjunct of the CPSU, which in turn ceded power to the politbureau etc …

    Unless one talks very carelessly about the concept of empire and colony, about metropole and periphery, the USSR was not an empire. That doesn’t make it progressive, for the same reason that merely not being capitalist is not necessarily progressive, but one should have a care to how one describes social formations, if one is serious about one’s desire to stand alongside working people.

    The important thing to note, IMO, is that ALL great powers are ALWAYS imperialists or at least always have imperial ambitions. This occurs regardless of their dominant ideology. It is not ideology that is the predicator of imperialism but any position of relative wealth and power which subsequently and consequently demands ever more wealth and power and seeks it by force. This is the ineluctable truth of power and its misuse.

    That sounds like a circular claim, and certainly one that would fail any no true scotsman test. Imperialism is about the drive to acquire markets and achieve monopoly rents, concentrating wealth in metropoles at the expense of peripheries. In some variants its provenance is said to lie in the dominance of finance capital over other fractions of the boss class, and the desire to export capital. None of this describes the old USSR, which was inward-looking and fearful of jurisdictional overreach but wanted buffer states to foreclose a repeat of Operation Barbarossa.

  11. Megan
    October 10th, 2014 at 00:01 | #11

    I can think of many examples of CIA (I use the term as amorphously describing the branches of the US fascist enterprise) misconduct/criminality (e.g. death squads, drug running, overthrowing governments, arming funding and controlling ‘terrrsts’, creating and carrying out false flag operations, psy-ops etc..).

    But I can’t think of a single example of the “CIA” doing anything that resulted in the betterment of humanity as a whole. Or doing any good at all.

    Given that, I have a question (for anyone except JD): Isn’t it at least possible, if not probable, that the CIA directly or indirectly organized the ‘ISIS’ beheadings – and their hugely successful video distribution online and, much more so, via the establishment media – as part of a drive for bipartisan and public support of more military action in Iraq and Syria?

    I mean, if they’re capable of murdering kids with drones every Tuesday without any judicial process, what makes anyone think they’d be unable to behead some guy? From their history, you’d have to conclude they’d probably enjoy it.

  12. J-D
    October 10th, 2014 at 07:02 | #12

    @Megan

    I am confident that many people at the CIA would be morally capable of doing something like that.

    But the course of wisdom is to proportion belief to evidence. In this case you’ve produced no evidence to support the conclusion. So there’s nothing to make the conclusion probable. (It’s possible, in the sense that anything is possible. For example, it’s possible that you yourself are a CIA operative, deliberately contributing to the creation of confusion to distract attention from whatever it is that the CIA is really doing. I don’t believe in that conclusion, because there’s no evidence for it, but there’s nothing that makes it impossible.)

    (Did I notice that you specifically directed your question at anybody but me? Yes, I did notice that.)

  13. Fran Barlow
    October 10th, 2014 at 08:32 | #13

    @Megan

    Isn’t it at least possible, if not probable, that the CIA directly or indirectly organized the ‘ISIS’ beheadings – and their hugely successful video distribution online and, much more so, via the establishment media – as part of a drive for bipartisan and public support of more military action in Iraq and Syria?

    It certainly is possible. Technically, the means exist. There are no ethical considerations that would restrain them and they surely believe that they are accountable to few.

    In practice though, this would be a high risk low return act. They have means of fabricating things that would meet the wag the dog requirements that are far less risky and more deniable. They have a compliant media. So in risk reward terms, one would bet against this. Killing westerners deliberately — particularly those likely to be generate sympathy — is a big gamble. It makes little sense to take big gambles when the upside is the same as the small gambles.

    The folk who do this kind of stuff don’t need the urging of the CIA. The CIA only has to fail to stop them.

  14. Ikonoclast
    October 10th, 2014 at 11:33 | #14

    @Fran Barlow

    It is not valid to use ideosyncratic definitions of terms and phenomenona and then declare oneself correct on one’s own definitions. This is what you do Fran and you do it very frequently.

    “Imperialism: State policy, practice, or advocacy of extending power and dominion, especially by direct territorial acquisition or by gaining political and economic control of other areas. Because it always involves the use of power, whether military force or some subtler form, imperialism has often been considered morally reprehensible…” – Encyclopedia Brittanica.

    Are you trying to tell me that the oppression of various minorities and peoples especially but not only on the periphery of the Soviet Union was not imperialism? And that the various conquests of Russia and then Soviet Russia were not imperialistic? “In the Soviet Union, political repressions targeted not only individual persons, but also whole ethnic, social, religious, and other categories of population.” “During the early years of World War II Soviet Union annexed several territories in East Europe as the consequence of the German-Soviet Pact and its Secret Additional Protocol.” “In the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, repressions and mass deportations were carried out by the Soviets.” (Quotes from Wikipedia).

    It seems you subscribe to an almost legalistic definition of imperialism. If a country conquers, colonises or exploits a periphery (or resistent internal pockets) and declares this area part of its polity or part of its administrative zone then ipso facto it cannot be imperialism because the charge of imperialism only applies to force, colonisation and exploitation that is very clearly extra-territorial and remains so. This very much seems to be your definition.

    It is you who talks very carelessly of what is or is not imperialism by legalistically and semantically defining much real imperialism out of existence. I suppose China’s absorption of Tibet is not imperialism in your definition.

  15. Ikonoclast
    October 10th, 2014 at 11:40 | #15

    I must add the following. Your closest attempt at a definition of imperialism completely misses out the reality of the use of force (other than a reference to the power of finance capital).

    “Imperialism is about the drive to acquire markets and achieve monopoly rents, concentrating wealth in metropoles at the expense of peripheries. In some variants its provenance is said to lie in the dominance of finance capital over other fractions of the boss class, and the desire to export capital. None of this describes the old USSR, which was inward-looking and fearful of jurisdictional overreach but wanted buffer states to foreclose a repeat of Operation Barbarossa.”

    Your definition is so deficient it automatically exludes any country or empire from the charge of imperialism if it does not have a market economy. This is laughable really.

  16. Fran Barlow
    October 10th, 2014 at 12:21 | #16

    @Ikonoclast

    In your posts here, Ikono, you frequently refer to yourself as coming from a leftwing perspective. If you want to use the Encyclopaedia Britannica perspective, that’s fair enough I suppose, but it does rather empty the term of any definite content beyond handwaving and impressionistic references to the assertion of sovereign or cultural rights by one jurisdiction at the expense of anothers. Really, used that way, it’s simply a term of abuse, much after the fashion of impressionistic liberal lefties who toss about the word ‘[email protected]’ for anyone they deem authoritarian.

    Let me stipulate that the USSR behaved dreadfully towards its minorities (chauvinism is an apt term) and one may say the same of China in relation to, for example to Tibet. Imperialsim in a modern context is about markets, metroples and peripheries — at least for consistent leftwingers.

  17. Ikonoclast
    October 10th, 2014 at 14:56 | #17

    @Fran Barlow

    All of the handwaving is coming from you. The Encyclopaedia Britannica definition of imperialism is quite standard and not in and of itself left-wing or right-wing. It is simply descriptive of the basic features – “extending power and dominion, especially by direct territorial acquisition or by gaining political and economic control of other areas. … it always involves the use of power, whether military force or some subtler form…”

    Imperialism, as it is defined by the Oxford Dictionaries, “is a policy of extending a country’s power and influence through colonization, use of military force, or other means.”

    From a Marxist perspective, “… “imperialism.” This word has its origin in the Latin imperilcrn (empire). In its general meaning it is the expression employed for the aspiration to form a single, powerful empire encompassing the entire world; an aspiration which one state or another may realize by conquest, or by colonization, or by a “peaceful” political unification of existing sovereign entities, or by the simultaneous application of all these methods. In this sense, we speak of the Imperium Romanum, of the empire Julius Caesar founded in 45 BC, when he extended his personal power to all Roman countries and entrenched this power by assuming the title Imperator. In a similar sense one may speak not only of the Roman Empire, but also of the Greek Empire of Alexander the Great and, later on of Charlemagne’s empire, etc.

    However, when we speak of modern imperialism, we have in mind that imperialism which was raised on the soil of a highly developed capitalism, the imperialism of the capitalist bourgeoisie, that imperialism whose main prop is finance capital.” – Gregory Zinoviev, “What is Imperialism”.

    This latter part comes closer to your definition but one must never forget that raw power, namely military power is always used or kept in the wings ready for use to bolster the operations and power of finance capital. Marxists and leftists who understand what it means to be a “consistent left-winger” know this all too well.

    “The ruling classes strive to subject to themselves as completely as possible the national territories into which they import their capital. The latter, on the other hand, try as much as possible to secure for themselves independence of the countries which bring their capital to them.

    “This independence movement threatens European capital precisely in its most valuable and promising areas of exploitation and to an increasing extent it can only maintain its domination by continually expanding its means of coercion.” [14]

    That accounts for the insanely rapid growth of militarism, the persistent demand of all capitalists interested in foreign countries for a strong state power which will be able to defend their interests with the mailed fist at all times and everywhere, even in the remotest corners of the globe. Export capital naturally feels most secure when the state power of its “fatherland” subjugates some new territory to itself (“annexes” it, “leases” it for a hundred years, etc.) Then its interests are best assured; it is protected against the invasion of rival export capital; it enjoys a privileged situation; the state with its army provides it with a guarantee for its invested money, its profits, etc.” – Gregory Zinoviev, “What is Imperialism”.

    The Marxists are concerned with capitalist imperialism. I was and am concerned with all forms of imperialism in my comments on this blog. I don’t limit imperialism in definition or diagnosis to capitalist imperialism as if no other form of imperialism could exist or has existed. The Roman Empire was not capitalist but it was imperialist.

    You say “Imperialism in a modern context is about markets, metropoles and peripheries — at least for consistent leftwingers.” This is true if you want to talk about the modern capitalist variant of imperialism and so long as you don’t forget about the raw power aspects such as the military invasions of Iraq (to secure oil mainly but also to secure other things like the continuance of the petrodollar) or the oppression and dispossesion of the natives of Diego Garcia to steal their land for a military air base.

    I am a consistent left-winger but not an ideologue to the point that I forget that history teaches us there are many forms of imperialism (empire) other than just capitalist imperialism. It is that limited, ideologically conditioned and time-parochial thinking that leads to precisely the kind of blind spot you have about Soviet imperialism.

    If you want to limit your analysis to capitalist imperialism you should call it that but don’t limit the term “imperialism” to “capitalist imperialism”. I suggest you would not do that if you had a broad enough reading of history.

  18. Fran Barlow
    October 10th, 2014 at 16:00 | #18

    @Ikonoclast

    The Encyclopaedia Britannica definition of imperialism is quite standard and not in and of itself left-wing or right-wing. It is simply descriptive of the basic features – “extending power and dominion, especially by direct territorial acquisition or by gaining political and economic control of other areas. … it always involves the use of power, whether military force or some subtler form…”

    This is a class-power ‘blind’ definition, which necessarily obscures the provenance of imperialism in the power of the possessing classes. i.e. It’s a conservative and pro-capitalist definition, much as one would expect from a source of official wisdom on a matter bearing upon the power of those whose coin they take.

    It is true that empire building has been a variant process but the term imperialism is much more recent than empire, and lies firmly within modern history. It began being used around the time of Napoleon. Today, the term is mostly used by left-wingers which is what prompted the right (and for different reasons, the Chinese Stalinists after the Sino-Soviet split) to start speaking of the Eastern Bloc as a ‘Soviet Empire’ and from there to start speaking of ‘Soviet Imperialism’. It was an attempt at global wedge politics.

    To use the term as you seem determined to do invites inferences that you’d presumably not want — that you don’t understand the doctrine that you reference and/or are a kind of ‘cold war’ liberal or perhaps some jejeune radical. It’s a poor use of language if people have to work harder than you want them to work to understand your claims.

    You seem to be arguing that my disinclination to call the USSR ‘imperialist’ stems from some sympathy for the autarkic regime, or a desire to apologise for its conduct in relation to the states held within its coercive grasp, but as I’ve already made clear, that’s not the case at all. I like tidiness in the use of historical and political terminology, and your use of the term introduces layers of ambiguity that obfuscate power relations both here, within the belly of the beast and retrospectively, in the now defunct USSR. Your reference to ‘sovietization’ struck me as particularly unhelpful, in this context. I presume that if here, governance were the product of bona fide councils of working people, you’d not be complaining that Aussie culture were being ‘sovietized’.

    As far as I’m concerned, the use of suitable descriptors in such matters is the beginning and the end of my objection to your usage.

  19. Fran Barlow
    October 10th, 2014 at 16:07 | #19

    Ha. … and on almost this very day:

    http://www.fool.com.au/2014/10/09/what-does-the-anus-divestment-decision-mean-for-energy-focused-stocks/#

    What does the ANU’s divestment decision mean for energy-focused stocks?

    I was pleased to hear that my alma mater, the Australian National University, has once again proven that it is one of Australia’s leading universities, with regard it is committing to sell shares in seven fossil fuel companies deemed to fall short of increased Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) standards.

    {…}

    But the outrage award goes to Whitehaven Coal Limited (ASX: WHC) CEO Paul Flynn who has described fossil fuel divestment as “green imperialism at its worst.” I presume Al Gore is the Emperor.

    Isn’t it great that you’re not alone in playing fast and loose with the language?

  20. J-D
    October 10th, 2014 at 17:30 | #20

    @Fran Barlow

    I agree (I wonder what effect that will have on Megan’s estimation of you and your opinion).

    Your last sentence got me thinking. By definition, whenever any event actually takes place, the CIA has not prevented it, just as, by definition, whenever any event actually takes place, you and I have not prevented it. You and I, of course, did not have the power to prevent those beheadings. Did the CIA? Mostly the CIA tries to operate in secret, which makes it difficult to make an accurate estimate of its power. The CIA itself has no incentive to give people an accurate impression of its power and a lot of incentive to give people an exaggerated impression. (I wonder how much people’s ideas about the CIA, and intelligence and security agencies generally, are influenced by fictional portrayals, given the secrecy surrounding most of the facts. Thriller writers also have a lot of incentive to exaggerate the power of such agencies, although the occasional writers of spoofs and parodies sometimes have a contrasting incentive to make the CIA and its like appear bumbling clowns.)

  21. ZM
    October 10th, 2014 at 17:47 | #21

    I did read somewhere that some of the leaders of ISIS were trained by Israeli , American and British secret agencies. Because they wanted to find out who was interested in becoming a t—-rist – and the together decided the best way of finding this out would be to set up a t—-rist training camp.

    It is difficult to know if this is true or not. I do not think the government should have any secret public services – how can we keep track of them that way? And they are always being troublesome with drug running, murders, and regime change – they should just be transparent and concentrate on building good peaceable relationships with other countries – not sneakily trying to find out who wants to be a t—-rist by offering people training in the area which is quite improper.

  22. ZM
    October 10th, 2014 at 17:48 | #22

    Oh dear – wrong thread :/

  23. Ivor
    October 10th, 2014 at 17:59 | #23

    @Ikonoclast

    The West has a ruling ideology reflected in words such as democracy, freedom, equality and of course imperialism – all of which are adjusted to suit the underlying civilization (from which they sprang).

    You certainly would not want to accept the Oxford English Dictionary definition of capitalism would you?

    It is a trick of Western propaganda to associate the Soviet system with imperialism.

  24. Fran Barlow
    October 10th, 2014 at 18:10 | #24

    @J-D

    I agree (I wonder what effect that will have on Megan’s estimation of you and your opinion).

    I didn’t take that into account when answering. I confess, it’s not my practice to weigh how favourably people will see me before posting, though sometimes I reflect on the words to ensure that I avoid gratuitously offending others.

    Your last sentence got me thinking. By definition, whenever any event actually takes place, the CIA has not prevented it, just as, by definition, whenever any event actually takes place, you and I have not prevented it. You and I, of course, did not have the power to prevent those beheadings. Did the CIA? Mostly the CIA tries to operate in secret, which makes it difficult to make an accurate estimate of its power. The CIA itself has no incentive to give people an accurate impression of its power and a lot of incentive to give people an exaggerated impression. (I wonder how much people’s ideas about the CIA, and intelligence and security agencies generally, are influenced by fictional portrayals, given the secrecy surrounding most of the facts. Thriller writers also have a lot of incentive to exaggerate the power of such agencies, although the occasional writers of spoofs and parodies sometimes have a contrasting incentive to make the CIA and its like appear bumbling clowns.)

    I suspect the CIA’s principal interest is in keeping their exact power to effect outcomes they prefer hard to gauge but to leave the impression that they act for good. Like god, we are supposed to see them as acting in mysterious ways that by definition your average citizen dare not question.

    I suspect that in practice their ability to shape major human conflict directly is quite limited, except to the extent that the protagonists may themselves assume that behind the CIA stands the US regime for good or ill, and respond accordingly. When President Diem was murdered in the what was then Saigon it was by fellow officers who knew that the US wanted him gone. Similarly, the Chilean coup against Allende was provoked by the US. The CIA probably has a lot of symbolic power, but for that reason, arouses great animus in places that are seen to be in the cross-hairs of the US.

  25. Ikonoclast
    October 10th, 2014 at 19:19 | #25

    @Fran Barlow

    “The term (imperialism) as such primarily has been applied to Western political and economic dominance in the 19th and 20th centuries. Some writers, such as Edward Said, use the term more broadly to describe any system of domination and subordination organized with an imperial center and a periphery.” – Wikipedia.

    I see if I agree with Said I am in pretty reasonable company.

    “Imperialism has been found in the histories of Japan, the Assyrian Empire, the Chinese Empire, the Roman Empire, Greece, the Byzantine Empire, the Persian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, ancient Egypt, the British Empire and India. Imperialism was a basic component to the conquests of Genghis Khan during the Mongol Empire, and other war-lords. Historically recognized Muslim empires number in the dozens. Sub-Saharan Africa has also had dozens of empires that pre-date the European colonial era, for example the Ethiopian Empire, Oyo Empire, Asante Union, Luba Empire, Lunda Empire and Mutapa Empire. The Americas during the pre-Columbian era also had large empires such as the Aztec and the Inca.” – Wikipedia

    Now pay close attention Fran or you might miss the nuances here. The strict Marxist-Leninsist concept of imperialism “minimally connotes the use of state power to secure or attempt to secure economic monopolies for national companies. On this basis, imperialism is not necessarily an extra-national project, which would appear to distinguish it from colonialsim. Moreover the monopoly criteria excludes open door policies, relegating “U.S. imperialism” and “cultural imperialism” to the realm of rhetoric but seeming to leave “Soviet Imperialism” with at least a leg to stand on. Since the term “imperialism” has been so closely associated with Left opposition to U.S. foreign policy, it is apparent that later useage of the term has not been too respectful of Marxist technicalities.” – Patrick Wolfe.

    If you attempt, in too scholastic a fashion, to insist on the over-narrow academic definitions of a particular “school”, the above internal contradictions are likely to creep into your thinking.

    Furthermore, having once identified the “imperialism” of one particular age in its particular form it is possible to re-evaluate history and discover or re-evaluate earlier forms of imperialism in its broader definition.

    Your too-narrow scholastic definition in this case is a hindrance not an aid to broader understanding. There are clearly many scholars on the left and even on the Marxist-Leninist Left (not that I regard the latter as final arbiters in these matters) who would support my broader definition of imperialism and the broader illumination it provides.

  26. Ikonoclast
    October 10th, 2014 at 20:46 | #26

    On the other hand Fran, if I studied in your school (of graduation or current work) I would have to adopt and follow the accepted definition of imperialism in that school if I wanted to be understood and get at least a pass grade. And I would do so. I wonder if I used the term “primitive imperialism” for say Roman imperialism whether this would be understood and accepted? I mean in more or less the same spirit that the term “primitive accumulation” is used.

  27. Ivor
    October 10th, 2014 at 22:28 | #27

    @Ikonoclast

    “minimally connotes the use of state power to secure or attempt to secure economic monopolies for national companies.

    Wrong – imperialism does not have to use state power.

    Consequently everything in your post that followed:

    On this basis,…..

    was misconstrued or wrong.

    There is no reason why attempting a scholastic, narrow, academic view would lead to contradictions. A accurate view avoids contradictions. Its called rigor.

    A broad understanding is a hindrance not an aid to a clear understanding.

    Which is what we want.

  28. Ikonoclast
    October 11th, 2014 at 04:14 | #28

    @Ivor

    It looks like I have run into one (or two) old school Marxist-Leninists. I really am not interested in what doctrinaire Marxist-Leninists have to say. After the experience of Soviet Russia, Marxist-Leninism is entirely disgraced. This is just as one can say after our experience of capitalism to date that capitalism is entirely disgraced. Lenin, though highly intelligent and successful within his own parameters, was a disgraceful and contemptible human being in nearly every sense. Marxist-Leninists were and are totalitarians wearing a false socialist face.

    I am Marxian rather than Marxist. The Marxian strains of my thinking do not by any means constitute or exhaust the entirety of my thinking. I know this is difficult for those who deify Marx and Lenin (and probably Stalin) to understand. I study and think to understand ideology not to be captured by it.

  29. Ikonoclast
    October 11th, 2014 at 04:53 | #29

    Footnote: Marxist-Leninists have to ask themselves why Marxist-Leninism ended in Stalinism and very little that was much better after that. Clearly, violent revolution and revolutionary terror lead us down the wrong path and engender ever more violence in subsequent convulsions.

    If doctrinaire Marxist-Leninism is not the cause for it, I remain baffled by the insistence on a Marxist-Leninist construction of the word “imperialism” rather than a wider and more useful interpretation of Imperialism as “any system of domination and subordination organized with an imperial center and a periphery”. I will continue to insist on this construction. Those who can’t accept this because of their specific indoctrination may please themselves.

  30. Ikonoclast
    October 11th, 2014 at 07:31 | #30

    @ZM

    I note that in my general predictions that we are very likely in catastrophic ecological danger I am supported or more correctly led in my views by 11 Nobel prize laureates, among many other scientists.

  31. Ivor
    October 11th, 2014 at 08:31 | #31

    @Ikonoclast

    You are now conducting yourself in a very filthy manner. You appear to have no control over your overly fertile imagination.

    Deliberately and falsely implicating others in totalitarianism is a contemptible ploy that brands you irretrievably as some backward ancient cold-war warrior of the worst kind.

    Your world – your wealth – which is about to come tumbling down according to the IMF, was and is a blood soaked criminal construction based on lies and rank, insipid, delusional propaganda – the last refuge for scoundrels.

  32. Ikonoclast
    October 11th, 2014 at 09:02 | #32

    @Ivor

    I apologise for the jibe about Stalinism. That was uncalled for. I do however ask you to declare whether or not you are a Marxist-Leninist and/or whether or not you support revolutionary violence and in what circumstances.

    I wholly agree that my world – my wealth – is about to come tumbling down. I wholly agree that my world (as a denizen, as a coincidental and sometimes colluding benefeciary of capitalism, as a first world worker who benefited from the welfare state “social democratic” accomodation with capitalism and from an accumulated history of colonialist and capitalist imperialism, oppression and wealth stealing is a “blood soaked criminal construction based on lies and rank, insipid, delusional propaganda.” I mean to say, do you think I don’t know all that? Of course I know all that. That does not prevent from also knowing and rejecting the bloodsoaked Marxist-Leninist movement which is equally reprehensible and another hisotrical blind alley in terms of developing a peaceful and sustainable society.

    In the interests of full disclosure, need to make a political position statment and a short philosophical statment.

    I am probably an unaligned left-wing individual with misanthropic and nihilistic tendencies. I am a religious and political agnostic still troubled by lingering superstitions instilled in childhood and hodgepodges of anachronistic ideologies received in social and formal education. I now advocate peaceful, democratic transition from corporate-oligarchic capitalism to worker cooperative socialism. However, I think the most likely outcome of current trends is a most horrendous barbarian dystopia of ecological catastrophe and remnant populations governed by corporate dictators or warlords. I see little that is good in ambitious human nature, “leaders” and the seemingly all too common desire to dominate others and external nature. On the other hand, I take comfort in the unconscious goodness of the many obscure, little people who daily do good little things to help people near to them.

    I take comfort in the fact that production must precede both consumption and destruction (including of course reactionary and revolutionary violence). This reality forces a kind of virtue onto us. Survival can only be assured by constructive production. Absolute human evil, as complete negation of human life, is impossible as production of life and at least initial affirmation of life must precede both destruction of life and nihilistic despair. Absolute human evil cannot exist nor reproduce itself for both self-care and other-nurture are not just life-affirming in a fuzzy sense but strict necessities for creating and sustaining life. On the other hand, imperfect or partial good is good enough in most cases to affirm, to generate and to prolong life.

    The closest human approach to “evil”, as life negation, occurs, perhaps paradoxically, in human political power and ideology systems and in material production systems which can become massively and systemically maladaptive, inhumane and inhuman, thus becoming life negating at the very point where they promise life affirmation on a mass scale.

    As a final note, being a thorough-going agnostic means not just taking the position of claiming no knowledge about God or gods, their existence or otherwise, their qualities and attributes. It also means taking a position that one can claim no special incommunicable knowledge about the nature of Reality. Being a thorough-going agnostic means disavowing the validity of gnosis as a means of obtaining knowledge. Gnosis is quite distinct from empirical observation with the senses and consequent investigation using the scientific method. A thumbnail definition of gnosis would be “just Knowing the Truth through (spiritual) experience”.

    From my standpoint I found Buddhism (the most profound of all religions to my knowledge), though initially very interesting and still containing much philosophy of interest, to founder on the rocks of gnosis. It cannot escape the charge of being a kind of gnostic subjectivism. There is no way to differentiate gnostically known reality from subjective illusion.

  33. Fran Barlow
    October 11th, 2014 at 09:58 | #33

    Ikono

    It has been a decade and perhaps two since it would have been warranted to call me an old school Marxist-Len|n|st.

    I’m a member of The Greens, as you’d know, which is a capitalist party composed largely of people who are called ‘petit bourgeois’ by old school M-Ls with no organic connection to workingclass organisation and a perspective of nudging the existing social system in the direction of reduced inequity, more permissive social policy, more accountable and inclusive governance and greater respect for the integrity of the ecosystem. The party asserts and assumes that capitalism can accomplish these things. I come here most weeks offering my own suggestions within this paradigm.

    For an old school M-L, that would be ‘crossing the class line’ – a form of class treason.

    My enthusiasm for precision in language has nothing to do with my political inclinations, though inevitably, language, at least implicitly, expresses one’s position in relation to class power on each occasion one begins to discuss matters bearing upon public policy.

    You say you are ‘baffled’ by ‘insistence on a Marxist-Len|n|st construction of the word imperialism’ yet you cite Said, who is not any kind of Len|n|st for his focus on the metrople and periphery on the basis that I raised it. I merely include these more ‘third worldist’ usages because they at least retain the idea of the exploitation of the periphery by the metropole and are therefore, at least in broad terms, about property rather that mere handwaving about abstract power.

    You can see though surely your construction above ‘an imperial centre’; ‘domination and subordination’ is both question begging and (outside of an analysis of trade flows, transfers, divisions of labour and provision etc) altogether too nebulous to be used in anything but the proverbial soap box in the corner of a public park.

    It is generally the case with terms that they arise precisely because one wants to distinguish one thing from another. We use different words for knife and razor for example, because although they are both metal cutting objects with sharpened edges we want to distinguish them so that people understand what we mean. Giving one term too much work often makes it less rather than more useful, and indeed ‘equivocation’ is a form of argument in which the slippery use of terms seeks to obscure specious claims. One sees this in public policy debates with painful frequency. I see no value at all in lending the term ‘imperialism’ a looser interpretation, though as I point out above, even the occasional CEO agrees with you on that. Apparently, giving investment advice amounts to imperialism.

  34. J-D
    October 11th, 2014 at 11:17 | #34

    @Fran Barlow

    It is true that we use different words for different things because of the differences between them, but it’s also true that we use the same word for different things because of the similarities between them. Different knives, to borrow your example, have different appearances, properties, and uses, but we use the same word ‘knife’ for all of them when the similarities have more relevance than the differences. A thesaurus offers many synonyms for ‘knife’, including ‘blade’, ‘cutter’, ‘dagger’, ‘scalpel’, ‘shank’, ‘shiv’, and ‘sword’. Is every blade a knife? is every knife a scalpel? should we say that a shiv is a specific variety of knife, or should we say that shivs are not knives but resemble them closely? If we prefer the word ‘dagger’ in a context where we want to emphasise points of difference, but prefer the word ‘knife’ — for exactly the same individual object — in a different context where we want to emphasise points of similarity, isn’t that reasonable?

    So if we can agree that specific instances A, B, and C are all examples of ‘imperialism’, but we can’t agree about specific instances Y and Z, instead of arguing about what the correct definition of ‘imperialism’ is and whether Y and Z are genuine examples of it, wouldn’t it be more productive to discuss both the points of difference and the points of similarity, and then to discuss which contexts might make the differences more relevant and which contexts might make the similarities more relevant?

  35. Ikonoclast
    October 11th, 2014 at 12:37 | #35

    @Fran Barlow

    The Online Etymology Dictionary says of “imperial”:

    late 14c., “having a commanding quality,” from Old French imperial (12c.), from Latin imperialis “of the empire or emperor,” from imperium (see empire). Meaning “pertaining to an empire” (especially the Roman) is from late 14c.

    And for empire:

    early 14c., from Old French empire “rule, authority, kingdom, imperial rule,” from Latin imperium “rule, command,” from imperare “to command,” from im- “in” (see in- (2)) + parare “to order, prepare” (see pare).

    So both English words have roots in the Latin imperium (at one stage or another) and come to English via Old French where they spelled one with an E and one with an I.

    Imperialism.

    1826, “advocacy of empire,” originally in a Napoleonic context, also of Rome and of British foreign policy, from imperial + -ism. At times in British usage (and briefly in U.S.) with a neutral or positive sense relating to national interests or the spread of the benefits of Western civilization, but from the begining usually more or less a term of reproach. General sense of “one country’s rule over another,” first recorded 1878. Picked up disparagingly in Communist jargon by 1918. (Note: I will come back to this one very biased sentence.)

    “It is the old story of 1798, when French republicanism sick of its own folly and misdeeds, became metamorphosed into imperialism, and consoled itself for its incapacity to found domestic freedom by putting an iron yoke upon Europe, and covering it with blood and battle-fields.” – Francis Lloyd, “St. James’s Magazine,” January 1842”

    So, the word “imperialism” has existed in English from about 1824 or a little earlier so far as this tells. This first usage, as description of the advocacy and/or processes of empire, was first applied in the Napoleonic context.

    Marxist-Leninists later appropriated the word to mean specifically capitalist imperialism (and all that that implies and entails). The sentence above “Picked up disaparingly etc.” is itself very prejudicial and biased as the Marxist-Leninist analysis of capitalist imperialism has comnsiderable validity and applicability. The revealed crude bourgeois bias in that sentence does not obviate the correctness of the rest of the entry about the origin of the word in strict etymological terms.

    Thus I hold that my more general meaning has the better historical precedent and further allows better analysis and categorisation of the various types of imperialism, ancient and modern. In terms of nomenclature, capitalist imperialism is appropriately dealt with precisely by adding that adjective.

    To continue to insist solely on the Marxist-Leninist construction of the word “imperialism” after having the above pointed out is to remain rooted in doctrinaire Marxist-L.ist (or like dogmatic leftist) nomenclature at least at the scholastic or academic level. The best construction I think that can be put on this is that the broader, more etymologically correct, more semantically and conceptually useful meaning of the word “imperialism” simply grates on certain persons after many years of political indoctrination or academic pedagogic inculcation in a limited specialised meaning.

    The dimensions that such a narrow construction of “imperialism” (as capitalist imperialism or the like) misseinclude the military aspects of empire which have remained rather constant in some strategic nnd geostrategic senses for at least several thousand years. Clearly I am not referring to military technology and tactical doctrine based on the technology level.

    I wonder why it is common for modern scholars (other than perhaps M-L scholars and their rather slavish intellectual offspring) to commence the history of imperialism (broadly defined), as a description of some of the processes of empire, including especially but not only military behaviour and consequent looting and tribute, from as early as the 24th C BC? You need to work at becoming more of a polymath. Your lack of understanding of military strategy and geostrategy and how it dovetails with and is indeed integral to the processes of empire (broad imperialism) is quite clear. But I will not argue further with a pedagogical pedant generally impervious to logic as you have proven yourself to be on at least one other clear occassion (the issue of the ETS as a beginning wedge for the privatisation of a commons). You clearly didn’t understand the basic logical categories of the analysis on that occasion either.

  36. Fran Barlow
    October 11th, 2014 at 17:05 | #36

    @J-D

    instead of arguing about what the correct definition of ‘imperialism’ is and whether Y and Z are genuine examples of it, wouldn’t it be more productive to discuss both the points of difference and the points of similarity, and then to discuss which contexts might make the differences more relevant and which contexts might make the similarities more relevant?

    Arguably, depending on whether one was insistent on using the term ‘imperialism’ in cases where it was likely to be misleading.

  37. Fran Barlow
    October 11th, 2014 at 17:09 | #37

    Ikono

    But I will not argue further with a pedagogical pedant generally impervious to logic as you have proven yourself to be on at least one other clear occasion (the issue of the ETS as a beginning wedge for the privatisation of a commons). You clearly didn’t understand the basic logical categories of the analysis on that occasion either.

    LOL … Fair enough then. You seem overwrought. Let’s leave it at that.

  38. October 11th, 2014 at 17:10 | #38

    A little news: The Hinkley C nuclear power plant in the UK has been approved and will apparently go ahead, at a cost of over $14,000 a kilowatt-hour. That is more expensive than utility scale solar even in dreary old Britain and vastly more expensive than point of use solar. And it won’t even come online until 2023 even if everything goes right, which it simply doesn’t when looking at new reactor construction in Europe. And the comparison with the cost of other low emission alternatives will be even worse by then. (And yes Hermit, feel free to have your weekly revelation that the sun doesn’t shine at night. How nice it must be to retain that childlike surprise at things like sunset.)

    In other news China is slapping a 6% tariff on imported thermal coal and a 3% tariff on imported metallurgical coal. Good for the planet, not so good for the coal export industry but pretty insignificant compared to the 58% drop in coal prices from their peak in 2011.

    And on a personal note my bank has sent me a new card with pay wave on it but no mention of charges if I exceed the 10 free withdrawals I get per month. Is it legal to tell people they can just wave their card to pay for things but not mention the charges they will get if they actually do that? I’d call not making it explicit lying through omiss… omish… omisshun… lying through lying.

  39. Ivor
    October 11th, 2014 at 17:20 | #39

    @Ikonoclast

    I do not engage in such poorly conceptualised endeavours.

    I have already made it clear, I support the program of Edvard Kardeli, which I have experienced first hand.

  40. Hermit
    October 11th, 2014 at 17:51 | #40

    @ RB I think you’ll find Hinkley C power will cost about 17c per kwh = 9.25p X 1.85 exchange rate. It should provide 60 years of electricity at 90% capacity factor
    http://theenergycollective.com/robertwilson190/2140086/hinkley-point-nuclear-power-station-isnt-great-neither-are-alternatives
    In contrast the Royalla ACT solar array will cost 18c per kwh (if I recall) at 16% capacity factor for 25 years.

  41. October 11th, 2014 at 19:16 | #41

    Hermit, if you are aware that the actual cost of new solar before subsidy averages about $2.50 a watt or less for a typical Australian installation but chose to the extremely unusual Royalla installation because it was expensive then you are a liar.

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