A Worrisome Change

Turkish President Recep Erdogan

With only a couple of exceptions, I am not too worried about any kind of major war or disruption coming out of the Middle East.  The militaries of the vast majority of these countries are of extremely low quality, and, unless we make the mistake again of attempting to occupy one of them long term, there is little they can do to hurt us.

The big exception is Turkey.  They have large and competent combat forces.  They have a long and distinguished military tradition.  They have proven themselves throughout the last century as determined fighters, as in Korea or on Gallipoli.

Turkey was once the pre-eminent Islamic power.  The last Caliphate, the political, military and religious leadership of Islam was based in the Turkish Ottoman Empire, with Istanbul as its capitol.  The Ottoman Empire was destroyed by World War One.  Things got so bad for the Turks in the aftermath, that the Greek Army landed in Asia and tried to take over the western half of Turkey.

The Turkish hero of Gallipoli, Mustafa Kemal, was able to drive the Greeks out of Turkey.  He established modern Turkey and took the name “Ataturk”.  He recognized that Turkey was backwards compared to the rest of Europe, and that Islam was the reason.  Due to his enormous prestige, he was able to turn Turkey into a secular country.

Ataturk greatly curbed the power and influence of Islam in Turkey.  He ended the Caliphate.  He made it illegal to wear beards and forbade forcing women to wear burkas or even headscarves.  Islamic headgear was banned.  He introduced democracy.  He literally changed the mainstream culture in Turkey.  He did this to modernize the country and bring it out of the middle ages.

Turkey is now changing.  While secular families tend to only have a couple of children, highly religious Islamic families tend to have a LOT more.  As a result, what had been a minority within Turkey grew to have significant political clout.  They now have as much or more political power at the ballot box than those wishing to see Ataturk’s secular Turkey continue.

Recep Erdogan is the Turkish President.  He initially espoused Islamic views in politics and was severely punished.  Since then he has attempted to mask these views.  Yet he is steadily consolidating power, arresting journalists, and dismissing military officers of differing political views.  He views a return to Ottoman glory as an objective.

Should, or rather I should say when, Erdogan takes dictatorial control of Turkey, it will mean abandoning Ataturks secular reforms.  Turkey would once again become an Islamic state.  An Islamic state with a powerful and competent military that could actually threaten a now mostly disarmed Europe and the weak in the Middle East.  This would be disastrous and a far greater threat than current terrorism.

What to Do

Our political leaders need to recognize Erdogan for what he is and what he is doing.  He should have no support and no aid.  We should stop support of his military and put limitations on Turkey’s participation in NATO.

We should encourage and support opposition to Erdogan and his party.  We should do more to arm and otherwise support the Kurds.

Even with all of the above, it may be too late.  Turkey may decide, democratically, to abandon its recent history as a stable secular state, and revert to its past as a powerful Islamic state.

Peace in our Time

Prime Minister Chamberlain holding Treaty with Hitler, 1938

It now seems as though the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, is ready to make peace and set aside his nuclear and ICBM ambitions.  I hope this is true.  But, given the history of negotiations and agreements with North Korea, I fear that this is just another ploy.

Adolf Hitler was an expert at international diplomacy.  He knew his potential adversaries wanted to avoid a repeat of World War One at almost any cost.  By being belligerent and then signing a treaty promising to “back off”, Hitler was able to grab foreign territory, rearm his military, and become an even greater threat.

The apex of Hitler’s international diplomatic career came when he got the leaders of the United Kingdom and France to let him take over large portions of Czechoslovakia in 1938.  They did this in return for a paper promise from Hitler that he would stop there.  This treaty was proclaimed by the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, as securing “Peace in Our Time”.  Less than two years later, a much stronger Germany invaded Poland and the war Chamberlain was trying to avert started anyway.

We have had agreements with North Korea before.  As recently as 2008 they agreed to “De-Nuclearize”.  And now we have a North Korea with even more nuclear weapons and even better and longer range rockets to mount them on.  Personally, I don’t think we can trust Kim Jong-un any more than Hitler.

I do, however, believe that every diplomatic means should be used to avert conflict.  But in the case of powers with a history of not keeping their agreements, we have to ensure that there is teeth any agreement.  There must be concrete PROOF of De-Nuclearization.  This proof must exist prior to providing North Korea with any of the “benefits” they seek in return.  The same kinds of things need to happen with their ICBM program.

There also need to be concrete consequences for North Korea not abiding by the conditions of any such treaty.  These should include the resumption of any threatened sanctions, or even by action to physically remove what the North Koreans have promised to remove, but have not.

I am hoping for the best, but I am rather skeptical.  Frankly, I think that talk with North Korea is cheap, and this is all just a ploy to buy more time while getting additional concessions from South Korea, Japan, and the United States.  I also think the Chinese are pressuring the North Koreans to tone things down, not because they want the world to be a safer place, but because they don’t want war to start unexpectedly and throw off their own time tables.

What to Do

We should negotiate to avert potential conflict whenever possible.  Military force, especially entering into an actual war, should be the last resort.

As I explained above, any negotiated deal with a regime of North Korea’s history, must have TEETH.  There must be concrete proof, as in unfettered on site inspections and destruction of development and manufacturing facilities, before we can even begin to trust that they are keeping their end of the agreement.

There must also be consequences if they fail to keep the bargain.  Consequences that we actually carry out.  All too often, we just let the bad guys get away with it, just like Hitler in Czechoslovakia.  And this leads to the bad guys getting stronger, and becoming even bolder.  And then we have a real war.


Barbarians INSIDE the Gates

Barbarians Sack Rome

Rome lasted as a great power for over a thousand years.  There are a lot of reasons given for its fall.  Most of these factors did contribute to the decline of the Roman empire, but its fall is primarily the cause of Barbarians.  Not just Barbarians attacking its borders.  But PRIMARILY due to Barbarians it let inside its borders.

Over time the Roman people became utterly materialistic and fainthearted.  They increasingly relied on Barbarians to join their Armies.  Barbarians that they had already let into their country.  Barbarians that continued to maintain allegiance to their Barbarian tribes.  In fact, after the battle of Adrianople, the Romans let Barbarians into their country with weapons, and as tribal groups.  The Romans were defeated as much by the ENEMY WITHIN as those invading across the border.

For ages the Romans had let Barbarians into their country.  But they broke up groups before dispersing the families of the groups to widely different areas.  The Barbarians were expected to assimilate as best they could, and to acquire Roman values and culture.  But when they started to let in giant groups, allowed them to stay together and to maintain their own tribal culture and tribal allegiances, the end of Rome was near.

Right now Europe is basically doing the same thing to itself.

Masses of people from the Muslim world are entering Europe.  They are moving there primarily for economic reasons.  They want to go to the countries that will give them the most money and the best benefits.  This is why most head to the United Kingdom, Germany, and Sweden.

They are in large groups that have little to no intention of assimilating.  Many, if not most, don’t learn the local language.  They don’t adopt societal norms.  Many don’t even want to work.

It would be fine if these groups accepted the societal norms of the countries they move into.  But, as a whole, they don’t.  They maintain their own culture and values, and it is radically different from the countries they are moving into.  They also maintain their primary allegiance to their tribe, and increasingly view the people and governments providing their every need with contempt and hostility.

Not that Europe has ever had any success in assimilating foreigners.  Europe’s history is one of separation of cultures into distinct countries behind defensible borders.  They would then fight the neighbors because they are different.

But now Europe is actually allowing increasingly massive numbers of what may well be their worst enemies into their communities.  They are experiencing rates of crime and terrorism increasing on an exponential curve.  And when the handouts end as governments face coming financial crises, much worse is going to happen.

What to Do

Countries should accept immigrants, but there should be expectations.  Expectations that the laws will be obeyed.  Expectations that immigrants are to become productive and contribute to society.  Expectations that they will assimilate to at least acceptance of the primary culture.

The problem for Europe is that this may very well be 20/20 hindsight.

The Sinking Ship

RMS Titanic

Shortly after the Titanic struck the iceberg, the overwhelming majority of the passengers and crew felt that while there had been a big bump, that everything was basically fine.  After all, the ship was still afloat.  When told that the ship was fatally compromised, and that they needed to get into the life boats, the vast majority thought this was an absurd over-reaction to the situation.

The economic situation today is like that of the Titanic.  It isn’t a perfect analogy, as the economic situation hasn’t been caused by one sudden and unexpected event, but its close enough.  The economy is fatally damaged.  It WILL sink.  The fact that it hasn’t sunk yet is not proof that it isn’t sinking and won’t shortly capsize.

Most people, like the Titanic’s passengers, and most of the crew, believe the current economic situation will just continue on similar to the way it is today.  There might be some minor problems, but they believe that everything is fundamentally sound.  Some even think that the situation is improving.  The dot-com bubble of 2000 is seen as ancient history, and the crisis of 2008, in their minds, has been completely handled.

The fact is that the world is sinking in debt.  Individuals are deep in debt.  Governments are deep in debt.  Both groups so much so that it can never be repaid.  And it is the weight of this cumulative debt that will eventually cause the economy to “sink beneath the waves”.

The iceberg in this “Titanic” analogy has been the world’s central banks.  They have moved the world away from true free market economics by their interventions and interference.  They have enabled governments to accumulate crushing debt.  They have intervened in financial markets to the point that stock prices bear little if any resemblance to actual worth, turning them into casinos of speculation.  They have taken control of the rate of interest charges by loans, and thereby have enabled individuals to also take on far too much debt, while at the same time completely destroying any incentive to save or to actually invest.

People are kidding themselves into thinking that everything is just fine.  After all, that’s what we want.  We want everything to be ok, and for the future to just be an extension of the calm lives most of us have led since World War Two.  But the facts point to the ship sinking.  And if you and your family don’t take action now, while everything still appears to be calm, you will be caught up in the panic and the calamity that is about to take place.

What to Do

Start preparing, financially and physically, for what is about to happen.  Don’t be like the masses, living life one minute to the next without much care for the future.

Start by putting your financial house in order.  Live within your means.  And don’t count the value of your house or your stock portfolio to remain the same or to grow.  In fact, both can radically move to the downside in literally the blink of an eye.

Prepare for at least some short period of extreme duress.  Be able to take care of yourself and your family with what you have in your house for a period of time.

Don’t expect the future to be like the past because that is all that you have personally experienced in your own lifetime so far.