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Oil, Empire and Playing the Great Game

October 1, 2014


Those waiting for the U.S. and its dollar to collapse in a heap may find their own stability is more contingent (and fleeting) than they reckoned.

Many observers (including myself) question the coherence of U.S. foreign policy in the Mideast: The Fatal Incoherence of the Bush/Obama Foreign Policy (June 18, 2014).

In my view, the incoherence stems from the intrinsic conflict between traditional (i.e. pre-1941) U.S. foreign policy (based on an uneasy marriage of non-intervention and the explicitly interventionist Monroe Doctrine) and the anti-imperialist values of the Founding Fathers, and the demands of maintaining global hegemony.

The other source of incoherence is the recent policy dominance of an intrinsically incoherent ideology of neo-Conservative Imperialism that is disconnected from both traditional non-interventionist U.S. values and the nuanced demands of maintaining global hegemony.

If we strip away these sources of incoherence, we're left with the Deep State playing the Great Game of controlling the master resource, oil. A consistent narrative has little value in the playing of this game, other than for public-relations value, and those seeking a single narrative are inevitably perplexed by the multiple paradoxes and agendas of the Deep State.

This leads many observers to declare the Deep State's game plan a disaster.

The important question is: which game plan? The incoherent one articulated by the president and his secretary of state? Or the one that nobody lays out because it would be the equivalent of showing everyone at the table all your cards?

The real game plan is flexible enough to tolerate multiple inconsistencies and paradoxes. The only goal is controlling the extraction and distribution of oil, and whatever serves this goal is in play. Switching sides, abandoning proxies, cutting deals with enemies--it's all in play, all the time.

From this perspective, the game requires constant shifting of strategies in response to what's working and what's not working. If taking down Syria's Assad with proxies didn't work, then move on to Plan B or Plan C. If degrading Iran's influence isn't working, then move on to reproachment (privately at first, of course).

In other cases, the strategy is public but the working parts are not necessarily public. Financial sanctions are a good example; beneath the PR bravado and the propaganda war of sanctions and counter-sanctions, one side is getting hurt where it counts (i.e. in the personal fortunes of its Power Elites). If sanctions aren't working, they're replaced with Plan B or C. What Plan B or C might be is only visible between the lines.

In other cases, allies are reminded of who controls $40 trillion in financial resources and who controls $2 trillion.

The U.S. Deep State isn't collecting "likes." Everyone with a piece on the board has to deal with the U.S. in some fashion, whether they like it or not. Even the cliche of the enemy of my enemy is my friend doesn't explicate the conflicting alliances the U.S. maintains.

One need only recall Nixon's visit to China as evidence that all sorts of sacrosanct policies are fluidly jettisoned once the board changes and the Deep State sees the advantages of another arrangement.

In the case of Nixon and China, Nixon sought to rearrange the triangle of China, the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. to the advantage of the U.S. and China at the expense of the U.S.S.R.

In other cases, the U.S. game is served by disrupting competitors' control of resources; if direct control isn't possible with available assets, then indirect control via global finance is always an option. If that isn't possible, then disrupting competitors' control until other stresses bring them to their knees might work.

Everybody with a piece on the board is serving their own best interests. When cutting a deal with an implacable enemy serves your interests better than remaining enemies, that's what you do--consistency doesn't count. Friends, enemies, frenemies--labels, like consistency, don't count.

I don't know any more than any other marginalized, non-insider citizen. But just reading between the lines, I see the various Deep States playing 3-D chess and constantly adjusting strategies and game plans in response to other players' moves. I would guess one U.S. Deep State strategy involves disrupting the alliance of Russia, Iran and Syria by whatever means are available, with the goal of securing working relationships of some sort with all three such that energy flows serve the U.S. Deep State agenda.

This doesn't mean others' interests aren't being served; arrangements are only stable if they meet all the players' core interests. Costs are raised or reduced, changing the incentives to deal, and at some point the benefits of changing the arrangement outweigh the costs.

Just glancing at this map, I'd guess it would serve both the U.S. and Iran to reach some sort of mutually beneficial arrangement.

Glancing at this map, it follows that the energy stranglehold Russia currently enjoys on Europe is not permanent:

source:

Again, reading between the lines, we can discern these Great Game possibilities:

1. As I described on Monday, I expect oil to plummet at some point as the global economy implodes. As demand and price crash, oil exporters on the thin edge of domestic instability will maintain production in a desperate attempt to keep their welfare states afloat. The Oil Head-Fake: The Illusion that Lower Prices Are Positive.

2. This dramatic decline in oil revenues will trigger domestic regime change in nations which are dependent on oil revenues for the maintenance of their welfare state/Armed Forces/Political Elites.

3. Capital restrictions will increasingly be viewed as necessary as nations awaken to the fact that their sovereignty and control of their own assets will be lost if they allow uncontrolled flows of capital in and out of their economy.

The currency that will be needed for reserves and to service debts is the U.S. dollar. As demand for USD rises and U.S. imports (i.e. the supply of USD being exported) decline, the value of USD will rise sharply.

4. That means the U.S. can outbid other bidders for any global resource. The U.S. funds its Empire by selling its bonds (debt) to those who have traded goods for our dollars. Thus the cost of the Empire is largely borne by other nations as the U.S. exports inflation and its currency in exchange for goods and resources.

Until China gains an equivalent advantage (and as I have explained many times, nations with trade surpluses cannot issue reserve currencies), then it will have to bid for resources with earned income. Recall that China's apparently substantial wealth is ultimately based on its currency's peg to the U.S. dollar and an export-dependent economy that will run aground once the global recession kicks in.

The Impossibility of China Issuing a Reserve Currency (October 14, 2013)

Understanding the "Exorbitant Privilege" of the U.S. Dollar (November 19, 2012)

5. Capital controls will be followed by resource controls. The export of energy, food and minerals will be limited as a matter of necessity. The excuses given won't matter; there will be no alternative. Governments which let their own populaces starve in order to ship food overseas will be overthrown by whatever means are necessary. As Bob Marley observed, a hungry mob is an angry mob. That's how Bastilles get torn down, brick by brick, by enraged mobs.

That means there will be far fewer resources available for export.

6. The clock is ticking on China's moment in the sun. Its citizens' monumental ambitions will be thwarted by the limits facing all consuming nations, and as the costs of its aging (and increasingly diabetic) populace ratchet higher, China's resources will be stretched too thin to construct a Global Empire with a reserve currency and decisive hard and soft power.

Perhaps if Mao hadn't struck down an entire generation in the Cultural Revolution and China had started integrating its economy and ambitions 20 years earlier, that hard and soft power might have been assembled. But now there are too many demands on China's financial resources and too many imbalances in its corrupt, centrally planned financial house of cards. Its stash of foreign reserves is modest compared to the demands of Empire and a populace of 1.2 billion people with expectations raised to the sky.

When competition between the U.S. and China comes up, I always ask this: Which nation's Power Elites have made sure their children have green cards and homes in the others' home turf?

If the U.S. Power Elites had secured Chinese citizenship for their beloved children and purchased properties in Beijing, then that would be proof that the leadership of the U.S. Empire had lost faith in the Empire's durability and future.

But it is the other way round: it is China's leadership which has moved its capital and offspring to Canada and the U.S. Indeed, having U.S./Canadian passports or green cards for one's children is unequivocal evidence of membership in the Chinese Elite.

In many cases, core goals can be met by doing nothing more than waiting patiently for already-visible internal instabilities to blossom in competing nations and alliances. Those waiting for the U.S. and its dollar to collapse in a heap may find their own stability is more contingent (and fleeting) than they reckoned.

The game is many boards deep. Nobody has god-like powers, every player makes mistakes and miscalculations. The advantages and arrangements are all contingent and temporary; those with the most flexibility and the deepest spectrum of assets will eventually increase their influence at the expense of those with weaker hands and those who fail to respond promptly and decisively to new configurations on the multiple boards in play.


Of related interest:

Ukraine: Follow the Energy (March 4, 2014)

The Systemic Sources of Geopolitical Turmoil: Instability, Fragmentation, Resource Wars (June 30, 2014)

The Great Game: Geopolitics and Oil (October 19, 2010)

The Great Game: Regime Change in Syria (September 6, 2012)








Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy (Kindle, $9.95)(print, $17.76)
go to Kindle edition
Are you like me?
Ever since my first summer job decades ago, I've been chasing financial security. Not win-the-lottery, Bill Gates riches (although it would be nice!), but simply a feeling of financial control. I want my financial worries to if not disappear at least be manageable and comprehensible.

And like most of you, the way I've moved toward my goal has always hinged not just on having a job but a career.

You don't have to be a financial blogger to know that "having a job" and "having a career" do not mean the same thing today as they did when I first started swinging a hammer for a paycheck.

Even the basic concept "getting a job" has changed so radically that jobs--getting and keeping them, and the perceived lack of them--is the number one financial topic among friends, family and for that matter, complete strangers.

So I sat down and wrote this book: Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy.

It details everything I've verified about employment and the economy, and lays out an action plan to get you employed.

I am proud of this book. It is the culmination of both my practical work experiences and my financial analysis, and it is a useful, practical, and clarifying read.

Test-drive the first section and see for yourself.     Kindle, $9.95     print, $17.76

"I want to thank you for creating your book Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy. It is rare to find a person with a mind like yours, who can take a holistic systems view of things without being captured by specific perspectives or agendas. Your contribution to humanity is much appreciated."
Laura Y.

Gordon Long and I discuss The New Nature of Work: Jobs, Occupations & Careers (25 minutes, YouTube)


HUGE GIANT BIG FAT DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site should be construed as investment advice or guidance. It is not intended as investment advice or guidance, nor is it offered as such.... (read more)

WHY EMAIL TO THIS SITE IS READ BUT MAY NOT BE ACKNOWLEDGED: Regrettably, I am so sorely pressed for time and energy that I am unable to respond to the vast majority of emails. Please know I read all emails, but I can only devote a very limited number of hours to this blog and all correspondence....



This Month's entries:

Oil, Empire and Playing the Great Game
October 1, 2014

Is the Stock market Top In?
September 30, 2014

The Oil Head-Fake: The Illusion that Lower Oil Prices Are Positive
September 29, 2014

Homemade Enchiladas: Flexible, Fun
September 27, 2014

What the Global Status Quo Optimizes: Protecting Elites and the Clerisy Class That Serves Them
September 26, 2014

Global Bellwether: Japan's Social Depression
September 25, 2014

What Metric Are We Optimizing For?
September 24, 2014

GDP = Waste
September 23, 2014

The Counter-Intuitive Rise of the U.S. Dollar
September 22, 2014

Are We Ready for Daily-Life Drones?
September 20, 2014

My Sexploitation Foray: Bare Naked Breasts Galore!
September 19, 2014

Which Global Hegemon Is on Shifting Sands?
September 18, 2014

Why the Dollar May Remain Strong For Longer Than We Think
September 17, 2014

Janus Yellen and the Great Transition from Risk-On to Risk-Off
September 16, 2014

Is Risk-On About to Switch to Risk-Off?
September 15, 2014

The Hidden Value of Gardens
September 13, 2014

What If the Easy Money Is Now on the Bear Side?
September 12, 2014

Why Has Classical Capitalism Devolved to Crony-Capitalism?
September 11, 2014

How the China Boom Unravels: One Person at a Time
September 10, 2014

Could the Alibaba Model Undo the Wal-Mart Model?
September 9, 2014

The China Boom Story: Alibaba and the 40 Thieves
September 8, 2014

Stocks Have Reached a Permanently High Plateau
September 6, 2014

Here's Why the Market Could Crash--Not in Two Years, But Now
September 5, 2014

Have We Reached a Financial Singularity?
September 4, 2014

Central Bank Monetary Policy Enables Us to Put Off Real Reforms
September 3, 2014

The Underbelly of Corporate America: Insider Selling, Stock Buy-Backs, Dodgy Profits
September 2, 2014

Labor Day 2014: In Praise of Messiness
September 1, 2014


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Extra-Special Bonus Aphorisms:


"There is no security on this earth; there is only opportunity."
(Douglas MacArthur)

"We are what we repeatedly do." (Aristotle)

"Do the thing and you shall have the power." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction." (E.F. Schumacher, via Tom R.)

"He who will not risk cannot win." (John Paul Jones)

"When we drink coffee, ideas march in like the army." (Honore de Balzac)

"Progress is not possible without deviation." (Frank Zappa, via Richard Metzger)

"Victory favors those who take pains." (amat victoria curam)

"The man who has a garden and a library has everything." (Cicero, via Lee Bentley)

"A healthy homecooked family meal and a home garden are revolutionary acts." CHS

"Do you know what amazes me more than anything else? The impotence of force to organize anything." (Napoleon Bonaparte)

"The way of the Tao is reversal" Or "Reversal is the movement of Tao." (Lao Tzu)

"Chance favours the prepared mind." (Louis Pasteur)

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." (Winston Churchill)

"Where there is ruin, there is hope for treasures." (Rumi)

"The grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love and something to hope for." Joseph Addison (via Susan J.)

"The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, via Wayne H.)

"Passive absorption of marketing-dominated media is the primary activity on the plantation of the mind, and that of course is the goal of the colonial overlords: distraction, passivity, confusion, divide and conquer, and the old stand-by, financial desperation." (CHS)

"While we can always buy back into a trending market, we cannot go back in time and recover a profit lost to greed or complacency." (CHS)

"Whatever remains unconscious emerges later as fate." (Carl Jung)

"Any sufficiently advanced cartel's actions are indistinguishable from magic." (CHS)

"We have no leadership, just cronies and puppets." (CHS)

"The secret sauce in an investment isn't the upside, it's the viability between people who choose to share your dream in business or in life." (Eric P.)

"The ultimate goals of making money are balance and independence from money." (An Chu)

"Central planning perfects the power of threats to bypass the system's defenses." (CHS)

"Independence requires independence of thought, habit and action." (CHS)

"Certainty has another advantage: it's more persuasive than hedged hesitancy." (CHS)

"That which is cheap and abundant will be squandered until it is no longer cheap or abundant." (CHS) (3/5/2014)

"The prime directive of any bureaucracy is to eliminate all accountability." (CHS)

"In a world besotted with the artifice of consumerism, what matters is not what can be commodified and bought but what can't be commodified and bought." (CHS)

"The Mobile Creative credo: trust the network, not the corporation or the state." (CHS)

The Smith Market Uncertainty Principle: The more precisely we can determine the likelihood of a trend change, the less precisely we can determine the timing of the trend change--and vice versa. (June 20, 2014)

The Smith Uncertainty Principle: Every sustained action has more than one consequence. Some consequences will appear positive for a time before revealing their destructive nature. Some consequences will be intended, some will not. Some will be foreseeable, some will not. Some will be controllable, some will not. Those that are unforeseen and uncontrollable will trigger waves of other unforeseen and uncontrollable consequences. (July 8, 2014)

"The truth at any cost lowers all other costs." (Robert David Steele)

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    long-format interviews

    KALW KALW public radio

    Living Wealthy Radio (Teresa Kuhn)

    ignoranti.org interviews


    International
    Ekonomi Turk

    lloydsauvante, expatriate in Ukraine


    Energy

    oilprice.com

    The Oil Drum (TOD)

    postcarbon.org

    bravenewclimate.com

    peakoil.net

    iea.org

    Post Carbon Institute


    Policy/Ideas

    Transforming Economy (Citizen Zeus)

    Gregor.us

    The Archdruid Report

    Fabius Maximus

    Global Guerrillas

    Shadow Government Statistics

    Drug News/Health Blog Doug Bremner MD

    Pension Watch

    Directory of U.S.-made products

    Exponential growth explained (YouTube)

    Who Rules America?

    The Economics of Happiness (film and site)

    Freeacre & Murph

    Out of Your Rut

    Sacred Economics

    Interfluidity

    Michael O. Church

    nsfwcorp.com

    Infographic of the Status Quo (Rebooting Capitalism)

    Verso Books

    Squeezing the hour glass


    Authors/Artists

    Dangerous Minds Richard Metzger

    A Change in the Weather Ray W.

    James Howard Kunstler

    John Francis Kinsella

    The Rhythm of War

    Operation SERF (Strategic Action Thriller) Chris Sullins

    Gigi-Hawaii

    Deep Into ArtLife West

    Dan Tyler

    Jill K. (copyediting)

    Eaton Rapids Joe


    Permaculture
    (via Jason C.)

    Gaia's Garden: A Guide To Home-Scale Permaculture

    Perennial Vegetables: A Gardener's Guide to Over 100 Delicious and Easy to Grow Edibles

    Moringa: Nature's Medicine Cabinet

    Edible Forest Gardens (2 volume set)

    Permaculture: A Designers' Manual

    Permaculture Activist (website)

    Zaytuna Farm Tour (Geoff Lawton) (video)

    Urban Permaculture with Michele Margolis (video)

    Greening the Desert (Geoff Lawton) (video)


    Farming/Gardening / Self-Sufficiency

    Everlasting Seeds (heirloom, USDA organic)


    Architecture

    Architext
    Red-Tile Style (website)
    Red-Tile Style (book)
    Storybook Style: America's Whimsical Homes


    Health

    Ayurvedic nutrition
    New book:
    Ayurvedic Nutrition

    European Institute of Vedic Studies

    New Medicine Foundation

    healthy skeptic.org


    Pro-Bicycle/Car-Free

    Waterside Workshops

    Halcyon Bike Shop

    electricbikeworks.com

    streetsblog.org

    carfreeusa

    bikeportland.org

    bikesnobnyc

    carfreewithkids

    howwedrive


    Smart Growth/Alt. Transpo

    t4america.org

    discoveringurbanism

    theoverheadwire

    Regional Communities


    The Great Transformation

    Club Orlov

    Mat Stein: When Technology Fails

    Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group (AIDG)

    The Survivalist Blog

    Little Homestead in the City


    Dumpster-Diving/Freegan

    Urban Dumpster Diver


    Hawaii

    ilind.net (Ka'a'awa)

    Richard Ha/Hamakua Springs

    Hilo Living


    Leaving America

    Yield Qwest: Overseas Business Emigration


    Buy gold online:

    Buy gold online at low prices: BullionVault

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    Amazon.com gift certificates

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    Original Music

    2 new songs:


    Obsession (Song 29)
    (rock/grunge; CHS & CC, lead guitars)

    The Bridge
    (jazz; CC, bass & guitars)


    My Big Island Girl
    (CHS/CC)

    Alex and Daz Theme
    (2013, reggae/rock/jazz; lead guitar: 1st half CHS, 2nd half CC)

    My James Bond 2016 Theme
    (2013, CHS and CC, guitars)








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    My "definition" of success:

    1. Did I make myself useful today?
    2. Did I take care of myself today and avoid burdening anyone with my cares and troubles?
    3. Were I to meet the living Jesus or Buddha at day's end, would I feel ashamed of my conduct during the day, or could I meet his gaze with the inner knowledge that I emulated his teachings to the very best of my ability?


    live free
    live well
    live with integrity
    live with kindness
    be average but with self-discipline


    7 things to aspire to:

    austerity
    restraint
    humility
    responsibility
    patience
    sacrifice
    thrift

     

       
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