In the course of one of his magnificently twisted rambling posts, Mencius Moldbug* addresses the Israel/Palestinian conflict, and specifically the claim that U.S. foreign policy is unduly influenced by the “Israel lobby”:
Which side of the Arab-Israeli conflict does the US support? Obviously, both are “special interests,” and an easy way to tell whose pull is stronger is to see whose side USG favors.
There’s a wrong way to answer this question and a right way. The wrong way is to start by asking: what should US foreign policy in the Middle East be?
Having answered this question, we can define the answer as the “center,” and then compare what USG’s policies are to what they should be. Ie, if USG’s policies are more pro-Israeli than the center, the pole is tilted to the right, and the Israel lobby must be stronger. If USG’s policies are more pro-Arab than the center, the pole is tilted to the left, etc, etc.
This procedure is not useful because, to answer the question, we must first judge the dispute . . .But this judgment is not relevant to the problem at hand, namely, ascertaining objectively which lobby is stronger.
Part memoir, part polemic, Confessions of an Economic Hitman tells the story of John Perkins, a former economic forecaster for the engineering firm of Chas T. Main, Inc. As a forecaster, Perkins’ job was to provide estimates of the effect various infrastructure projects (mainly electrification) would have on economic growth in developing countries. These estimates were then used to justify loans to developing countries from international aid agencies, which would then hire Main to complete the project.
Perkins makes two claims about his work for Main. The first, that he inflated his estimates so Main could get more and bigger contracts, sounds fairly plausible. It’s true, for example, that the actual growth resulting from foreign aid has often fallen far short of projections. I’m inclined to think that this was more often the result of wild eyed optimism than crass cynicism, but I have no doubt that this sort of corruption did occur, and my only objection to Perkins’ remarks on this score would be to the idea that corruption in transfers of money from Western governments and agencies to developing world governments somehow represents an indictment of the free market.
In addition to profit-seeking, however, Perkins claims that he was in reality an agent of the NSA, and that his true mission in getting developing world governments to agree to these loans was to so saddle them with debt so that they could be forced to abide by Western economic and foreign policy interests. Continue reading
During his election campaign, Senator Obama promised that he would if elected bring real “change” to Washington, as opposed to his opponent, who would bring “more of the same.” Now that Mr. Obama is President-Elect, things are becoming somewhat murkier. Exhibit A. Intellegence Policy to Stay Largely Intact: Continue reading
This week’s EconTalk Podcast featured Bruce Bueno de Mesquita discussing Iran, and the threat (or lack thereof) it poses to the United States. Some of the stuff in the podcast was old news to me: Ahmadinejad, while he gets a lot of attention, doesn’t have much actual power, and those who really are running things have proven to be fairly pragmatic.
Of course, the obvious question is: if the real leaders of Iran are so pragmatic, why do they let Ahmadinejad run around saying all the crazy things he does? According to Bueno de Mesquita, Iran’s actions can be seen as an example of the so-called “Madman Theory” used by Nixon in Vietnam. The basic idea is that if you act like you’re crazy (or, as the case may be, pick a President who really is crazy, but isn’t really in charge) people won’t want to mess with you. Continue reading
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