Twofish's Blog

September 13, 2006

Mea culpa

Filed under: china, iraq, long war, Uncategorized — twofish @ 5:26 am

Since I’ve been getting at Bush and Cheney for not admiting to their mistakes, let me mention a few of my own.

The big one was about a year ago when I thought that threatening to have things fall apart in Iraq would be good.  The logic was that if there might be a brief power struggle in which the Shiites and Kurds would win, and then they would be treat the Sunnis more or less as the North treated the South after the US Civil War or how the defeated warlords were treated after the Warlord era in the 1920’s.

What I didn’t consider was that in the case of both the US and China there were national institutions that existed before the war.   Northern and Southern generals had gone to the same schools and were in many cases close personal friends.  The same was true with Chinese warlords.  By contrast, in Iraq, the sectional leaders don’t have any close personal bonds, and so the likely event if things fall apart is Bosnia.

The other mea culpa was that I was assuming that the large Chinese trade surplus was due to the business cycle and that imports which start catching up with exports as they did in the 1998.  This meant that appreciation of the RMB was unnecessarily and pointless.  Looking at the trade data in which that didn’t happen, leads me now to believe that some really has changed in the world economy since 2001, and that a gradual appreciation of the RMB is a good thing.

One other mistake that I made was to attribute the looting of Russia to ruble convertibility.  In fact the Russian ruble wasn’t fully convertible in the 1990’s.  I do think that differences in currency regimes made a huge difference, and the particular currency rules that Russia had until the 1998 crisis helped in the looting of Russia, but that is a different argument. I didn’t realize this mistake until I read that Russia just now made the ruble fully convertible, which made me look back at what I had believed.  I’ve been doing some reading about the Russian economy, and that reading has lead me to conclude that economies are frightfully complex beasts.

This is in addition to the other mistakes in fact that people have kindly pointed out (i.e. the fact that I underestimated the endowment for Olin College and that I associated Opus Dei with the Jesuits).  Keep those corrections coming.

Speaking of Bush and Cheney…..

I do think that Bush does realize that he has made some major mistakes in Iraq.  You can see it in the way that he phrases things now, and you can also see it in his eyes when he talks.  Cheney doesn’t behave this way, and I think he is a dangerous fool.  Which leads to another mea culpa….

Surgeons and lawyers know which one of their colleagues are competent and which ones are dangerous, but there is a huge amount of reluctance to state that information publically.  This has some bad ramifications.

One thing that I wish had been more widely known is how incompetent Dick Cheney was at running Halliburton, and I was able to witness this first hand, because I worked there for a number of years.  The situation with Halliburton is far worse than the conspiracy theorists would have you think.  I *wish* there were some evil conspiracy to control the oil of the Middle East in the name of corporate greed, because that would result in a situation which is much better than the one on the ground now..

The reality is ****far**** more frightening which is that we have some incompetent people running US foreign policy.  If you have a selfish evil person, you stand next to them and watch your back.  If you have someone incompetent, you aren’t safe there, because they might do something frighteningly self-destructive.  After all of the basic corporate incompetence I saw at Halliburton, I’m not surprised at the incompetence I’ve seen in Iraq, and it truly scares me because we are dealing with an enemy that has some basic competence and can adapt and learn.

Yes, I’m a little afraid of the consequences of publicly speaking ill of a former employer since that might mark me as someone not to hire.  But I’m much more frightened of the consequences of not talking which is that US foreign policy in the next five years is going to be as incompetent and frightfully self-destructive as the last five years.

We are in trouble…..  We really are…..


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