Third Culture Queen vol. 27

The Baghdadi is dead, Brexit won't end, and Neoliberalism is on the run

Happy Monday, my Third Cultured folk!

I hope you’re fairing better than California is at the moment.

My partner and I are lucky to live in the City because San Francisco is the only county in the region not under a red-level warning / at-risk of losing power service. But, even on our side of the Bay, heavy brush fires are popping up wherever the wind can find a big enough collection of dry grass.

If that wasn’t dystopian enough, rich people can hire their own firefighters now.

Globally, the world looks a lot like California, but for other reasons. Namely, protests against neoliberalism, uprisings against authoritarianism, and daily doses of war.

From capitalism to communism, it looks like everyone royally f***ed up.

(Good luck in 2020, Democrats!)

Kyle

PS – If you’re looking for a couple of fun reads:


Three Things to Know:

  1. The US killed the leader of ISIS over the weekend. Unsurprisingly, President Trump’s surprise withdrawal from NE Syria complicated the operation to the point where it almost didn’t happen. This is a win for the Trump administration – and the global anti-ISIS coalition – but the caliphate itself prepares its members for the death of leadership, so the impact is negligible.

    Another military note, Microsoft beat out Amazon for Pentagon’s JEDI contract.

    Oh, Donald Trump is set to rip up another arms-control treaty

  2. Brexit was extended (again) until January 31, or sooner if the UK can get its act together.

  3. The world is fed up: Algeria, Bolivia, Catalonia, Chile, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Haiti, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Iraq, Lebanon, Netherlands, Peru, and Russia.

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Superpower Struggle

American Empire

Hard Power


China’s Belt and Road

  • Amid crises, Xi seems set to uphold Party's rule at secretive China conclave (Reuters)

    Plenums, as such Communist Party meetings are formally called, are generally held every autumn. The upcoming plenum will be the fourth since the last Party congress in late 2017.

    It is a closed-door meeting of the party’s Central Committee, which comprises about 370 people and is the largest of its elite bodies that rule China.

    Some expected the fourth plenum to have been held last autumn, but it was not, sparking speculation in Beijing of disagreements at the top of the party about the direction of the country.

    It is key for Beijing to use the occasion to cast the Chinese political system as meritocratic, unchallengeable and superior to Western democracy, said Wang Jiangyu, director of the Asian Law Institute at the National University of Singapore.

  • Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Xinjiang

  • Amid crises, Xi seems set to uphold Party's rule at secretive China conclave (Reuters)

    Plenums, as such Communist Party meetings are formally called, are generally held every autumn. The upcoming plenum will be the fourth since the last Party congress in late 2017.

    It is a closed-door meeting of the party’s Central Committee, which comprises about 370 people and is the largest of its elite bodies that rule China.

    Some expected the fourth plenum to have been held last autumn, but it was not, sparking speculation in Beijing of disagreements at the top of the party about the direction of the country.

    It is key for Beijing to use the occasion to cast the Chinese political system as meritocratic, unchallengeable and superior to Western democracy, said Wang Jiangyu, director of the Asian Law Institute at the National University of Singapore.

  • Protecting The Belt And Road (Seeking Alpha)

    With the BRI and key transport corridors passing through countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Western Balkans the threat of devastating natural disasters and earthquake in particular takes on new dimensions.

    This is especially true if investment is made in infrastructure to further open up key transport corridors, but these are located in some of the most earthquake-exposed territories of Eurasia-if not the world.

    To give an example of the scale of the vulnerability, the BRI has not yet been completed but 10,000-plus trains a year already pass through railways from China to Europe.

    The amount of disruption from an earthquake in Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan could be economically catastrophic.


“Embedded in the nakedness of any emperor is the forgetting of quotidian violence, of violations that we have not only forgotten, but forgotten that we have forgotten: a doubled refusal to remember, a loss of memory with exponential force.”

Ashon Crawley(@ashoncrawley)


European Erracticism


“But what most needs thwarting is this archaic way of looking at foreign policy—as a Manichaean struggle for influence between the United States and its allies, on the one hand, and the forces of darkness on the other.”

Robert Wright, Politico


Russian Revisionism

Hard Power

  • Decoding Russia's difficult relationship with the US (Daily Sabah)

    In the Munich Security Conference in 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered a historic speech in which he harshly criticized American efforts to promote American values across the globe and strengthen its primacy through the adoption of unilateral policies. Putin made it clear that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was a historic mistake, and his mission would be the rejuvenation of Russia as a formidable great power. Russian leaders mistakenly assumed that following the end of the Cold War there would be no need for NATO to exist as a collective defense alliance. Russian leaders argued in favor of the formation of a pan-European security organization that would replace NATO as the prime venue to discuss European security. One particular Russian priority was that Western powers recognize Russia as a great power and redefine the security structure in Europe in close cooperation with Russia. Russian decision-makers believe that Western powers promised Russia not to enlarge NATO toward Russian territories in return for Russian acquiescence to German unification and united Germany's ascension to NATO. Despite such Russian expectations, NATO has continued to enlarge closer to the Russian border.

  • Russia-Africa summit opens in Sochi (Middle East Monitor)

  • Putin Conquered the Middle East. The U.S. Can Get It Back. (Bloomberg)

    Yet Putin wouldn’t have achieved nearly as much were it not for another critical asset: his ability to capitalize on American mistakes, and to cultivate a reputation for decisiveness just as many Arab regimes, from Egypt to the Gulf, have grown worried about America’s reliability.

    There would not have been an opportunity for Russian meddling in Libya, for example, had the U.S. and its allies not left behind a disastrous security vacuum after overthrowing the Muammar Qaddafi regime in 2011. Similarly, Russia’s emergence as a central player in Syria began not in 2015, but in 2013, when Obama carelessly drew a “red line” against the use of chemical weapons by Assad’s military, declined to enforce that red line when it was breached, and then had to turn to Moscow to broker a face-saving agreement to defuse the crisis.

    All of this has been happening against the backdrop of American retrenchment from the Middle East under two presidents. That retrenchment may be wise or foolish, or some mixture of the two, but it has fractured U.S. relationships by leaving key partners uncertain about what role Washington will play in the future.


Rising Regions

Eurasia

  • Iran Is Losing the Middle East, Protests in Lebanon and Iraq Show (FP)

    Today, Iran seems to be winning the long game. Its proxy in Lebanon prevailed in last year’s parliamentary elections. In Syria, Iran managed to save its ally, President Bashar al-Assad. In the past several years, Iran has also gained a lot more power in Baghdad through its proxies, including the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), the Shiite militias created to fight the Islamic State.

    However, in its four-decade plan, Iran overlooked an important point: a socioeconomic vision to maintain its support base. While exhausting every opportunity to weave itself into the region’s state institutions, the Iranian regime failed to notice that power requires a vision for the day after. As events unfold in the region, Iran is failing to rule. Iraq and Lebanon are good examples.

    Iran created proxies in both countries, gave them power through funding and arms, and helped them infiltrate state institutions. Today, state institutions in Iraq and Lebanon have one main job: Instead of protecting and serving the people, they have to protect and serve Iranian interests.

  • Is Afghanistan Still India’s “Achilles Heel” in Central Asia? (Geopolitical Monitor)

  • What Is Turkey Really After In Syria? (LobeLob)

    Erdogan believes that a historical wrong was done to Turkey after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. He sees the old Ottoman territories as the natural sphere of Turkey’s influence. These territories stretch from the Balkans all the way to North Africa, all areas in which Turkey has involved itself. Furthermore, he believes in his historic mission to restore the old Ottoman glory, albeit in an indirect way rather than through outright territorial expansion. 

    In short, Turkey’s actions in Syria should be seen as the first steps in the unfolding of a new era of regional competition, rivalry, and possibly even conflict. This should not come as a surprise. The events of the last two decades, especially since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Western intervention in Libya, and the civil war in Syria, have collapsed four Middle Eastern governments and upset regional balances of power. They have also opened new opportunities for key regional states to try expanding the spheres of their influence. 


Indo-Pacific

  • From trade deals to climate change, middle powers are steadying the ship even as Donald Trump is rocking it (The National)

    In real terms, a middle power is not about being mid-sized; the term is not a reference to geographical area or even GDP. A generally accepted definition of a middle power comes from a 2012 thesis by a King’s College London PhD candidate. It says a middle power is "a state actor which has limited influence on deciding the distribution of power in a given regional system, but is capable of deploying a variety of sources of power to change the position of great powers and defend its own position on matters related to national or regional security that directly affect it”.

  • In Ancient Ceremony, Japan's Emperor Naruhito Proclaims His Enthronement To The World (NPR)

    Naruhito officially assumed the throne. He is the 126th emperor in a line of hereditary monarchs that is believed to go back 1,500 years in Japan.

    To mark the proclamation, in accordance with tradition, Abe's government also pardoned some 550,000 petty criminals. In 1989, upon the death of Emperor Hirohito, Naruhito's grandfather, more than 10 million people received amnesties and pardons. The following year, when Akihito ascended, another 2.5 million pardons were handed out.

  • Malaysia the Latest Country to Ban Abominable Over Controversial Map of South China Sea (Vulture)

    At one point in the film, a map of the South China Sea is shown bearing the “nine-dash line,” a boundary China has unilaterally declared to lay claim to most of the sea. However, parts of that same body of water are claimed by Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan, and the movie’s decision to depict that line of demarkation has lead to a growing release nightmare for the film.

    Malaysia’s censorship board initially agreed to permit Abominable to premiere on November 7, if the image of the map was removed from the version screening in their country. However, Universal Studios, which is distributing the film everywhere but China (Pearl Studio is Abominable’s Chinese distributor) has refused to make the cut.


Global South


Non-State Factors | Cities, Clergy, Climate & Corps

1.5+ million packages are delivered in NYC every single day. The roads can’t take it.

A recession will occur in the next two years, predicts 63% of financial officers in big cities and 49% of financial officers in larger midsized cities. (Axios)

AKA – congestion pricing works: “Air pollution associated with traffic has dropped by more than a third inside London's Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ).”

Facebook and Zuckerberg had a busy week in DC! Here’s what you need to know:

Google cracked Quantum Computing. Folks are comparing it to the Wright Brothers.

In this case, a mathematical calculation that the largest supercomputers could not complete in under 10,000 years was done in 3 minutes 20 seconds, Google said in its paper.

Israeli archaeologists uncover stunning mosaics and glass windows but remain stumped by the identity of the ‘glorious martyr’ to whom the 6th-century basilica was dedicated.