Cyreenik Says

December 2018 issues

More proxies getting tired of playing in the Middle East

First a truce in Yemen and now the US announces it is pulling out of both Syria and Afghanistan. This means at some of the proxy players are getting tired of playing in the Middle East and are ready to move on. This is a step towards peace. When all but one of the proxy players decide to move on then peace comes to a region afflicted with proxy war.

This 19 Dec 18 WSJ article, U.S. Military Preparing for a Full Withdrawal of Its Forces From Syria by Dion Nissenbaum and
Nancy A. Youssef, announces the Syrian move.

This 20 Dec 18 WSJ article, Trump Administration Is Considering Substantial Afghan Troop Drawdown by Gordon Lubold and Jessica Donati, talks about leaving Afghanistan.

I admit it: I'm surprised at how vigorous the criticism of Trump's Middle East Pullout has been. I see it as a step in ending a proxy war. The high-profile media and government people see it as a pullback from fighting ISIS. I see ISIS as a dead issue these days -- its time as a popular and virulent End Of World movement has come and gone. Whoever gets stable control of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan can quickly deal with the remnants of ISIS, and will if they continue to promote violent programs. If the goal is peace in the region, then getting proxies to move on is the big step that has to be accomplished. Trump's move is such a step.

A surprise outcome of the Khashoggi Killing Fiasco: a truce in Yemen

The murder of Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents earlier this year turned into a high profile fiasco for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It did lots of damage to his reputation. One of the surprising places that damage has changed is the years-long war going on in Yemen. The change is... a truce! The Saudis are loosing interest in being a proxy player in that war, and without that interest peace becomes more possible.

This 13 Dec 18 WSJ article, Yemen Foes Agree on Cease-Fire Amid U.S. Pressure by Sune Engel Rasmussen, Natalie Andrews and Dion Nissenbaum, talks about the truce that has been arranged. This is far from peace, but it is a start.

From the article, "Yemen’s government and Houthi rebels agreed Thursday to a cease-fire in an embattled port city, a breakthrough in the nearly four-year conflict that came as lawmakers in Washington ramped up pressure on a Saudi-led coalition fighting the rebels."

The "Pie Problem" with Populists

The protesting being done by the "gilets jaunes" in France is part of a disturbing pattern. These people are just the latest outbreak in protesting and voting by populists around the world. What these populists have in common that is so distressing is no interest in "growing the pie" -- growing the total wealth of their community. Instead they are interested in simply spreading around the existing pie so that more of it goes to poor people... other-than-rich people actually. This is a good intention that isn't producing good results.

The current worst case of this thinking pattern is what has been happening in Venezuela since Hugo Chavez took over way back in 1999. Since then the country has lost about one third of its wealth and now thousands are leaving in discontentment. But the people in charge are still backing this program, currently being conducted by Chavez's successor Nicolas Maduro. It is an ongoing mystery to me why lots of people in Venezuela still think this program is a good idea. The related ongoing mystery is why populists around the world are still enthusiastic for bringing similar programs to their communities. What instinctive thinking is supporting this?

This 8 Dec 18 Economist article, Emmanuel Macron’s problems are more with presentation than policy, talks more about this issue as it applies currently in France.

From the article, "Does all this mean that have-your-cake-and-eat-it populism must triumph, and that reformers will always be thwarted? It is depressingly easy to conclude so. Mr Trump has won the support of his base by offering Americans tax cuts that are not affordable in the long term. In Italy the all-populist ruling coalition promises to lower the pension age that a more prudent predecessor raised, while also offering deep tax cuts. Even Vladimir Putin did not have the courage to face down Russian pensioners this year."

Big Vision is missing in France

France has been undergoing some ugly rioting for the past month. The rioters -- gilets jaunes -- can't get behind President Emmanuel Macron's programs to revitalize France's economy. They feel these programs are benefiting the rich and they are being left out. An interesting twist in this series of protests is the lack of high-profile protest leadership -- the protests are happening but no one is claiming to be 'leading the parade'. This twist is likely a result of our new social media technologies.

What this violent protesting indicates is that Macron is failing to produce a Big Vision, as in, a plan that all of France can get behind. (he's got half, but not all) Creating a Big Vision is a challenge for every leader: some do well, some struggle mightily. It seems that Macron is currently in that second category.

Next we get to see how this crisis evolves.

This 2 Dec 18 WSJ article, Paris Rioting Puts Macron’s Economic Overhaul to the Test The French leader is considering an emergency crackdown after protests escalated violently by Matthew Dalton, talks about the violent protests going on in France the last few weeks. It does a good job of describing the challenges Macron is facing and who is behind those challenges.

From the article, "PARIS—The worst rioting to hit the French capital in years left President Emmanuel Macron weighing an emergency crackdown on protests and scrambling to shield his pro-business agenda from surging public anger at his government.
The gilets jaunes movement ... has since broadened to a rallying cry for those who say his policies favor the wealthy and punish the working class."

This 3 Dec 18 Economist article, Emmanuel Macron faces the toughest test of his presidency, also covers this well.

From the article, "Perhaps most unexpectedly, the gilets jaunes seem to be the expression of a form of digitally enabled populism which prizes an uncontaminated connection with the people. The movement emerged via Facebook and social media, and values its identity as a spontaneous expression of “the people”."



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