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A historian looks to the future. It's not pretty

Posted July 26, 2016 into Politics by John Birmingham

From a rather chilling little essay by Tobias Stone at Medium...

It will come in ways we can’t see coming, and will spin out of control so fast people won’t be able to stop it. Historians will look back and make sense of it all and wonder how we could all have been so naïve. How could I sit in a nice café in London, writing this, without wanting to run away. How could people read it and make sarcastic and dismissive comments about how pro-Remain people should stop whining, and how we shouldn’t blame everything on Brexit. Others will read this and sneer at me for saying America is in great shape, that Trump is a possible future Hitler (and yes,Godwin’s Law. But my comparison is to another narcissistic, charismatic leader fanning flames of hatred until things spiral out of control). It’s easy to jump to conclusions that oppose pessimistic predictions based on the weight of history and learning. Trump won against the other Republicans in debates by countering their claims by calling them names and dismissing them. It’s an easy route but the wrong one.

Ignoring and mocking the experts , as people are doing around Brexit and Trump’s campaign, is no different to ignoring a doctor who tells you to stop smoking, and then finding later you’ve developed incurable cancer. A little thing leads to an unstoppable destruction that could have been prevented if you’d listened and thought a bit. But people smoke, and people die from it. That is the way of the human.

So I feel it’s all inevitable. I don’t know what it will be, but we are entering a bad phase. It will be unpleasant for those living through it, maybe even will unravel into being hellish and beyond imagination. Humans will come out the other side, recover, and move on. The human race will be fine, changed, maybe better. But for those at the sharp end?—?for the thousands of Turkish teachers who just got fired, for the Turkish journalists and lawyers in prison, for the Russian dissidents in gulags, for people lying wounded in French hospitals after terrorist attacks, for those yet to fall, this will be their Somme.

61 Responses to ‘A historian looks to the future. It's not pretty’

Surtac would have you know...

Posted July 26, 2016
Yep. Scary indeed. Never fails to amaze me how most people simply won't look around them at the wider world or think beyond the end of their nose.

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sibeen mumbles...

Posted July 26, 2016
The link to the full article:

https://medium.com/@theonlytoby/history-tells-us-what-will-happen-next-with-brexit-trump-a3fefd154714#.exkkqzqjd

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Murphy_of_Missouri ducks in to say...

Posted July 26, 2016
Oh, wait . . . someone in the media is predicting doom and gloom again for America?

Well, I suppose they have to get their hits somehow.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted July 26, 2016
Actually, they're more concerned with Europe. You guys are a sideshow.

Murphy_of_Missouri ducks in to say...

Posted July 26, 2016
Ah, you got me, boss. I didn't read the entire article. Maybe because it reads like so many other similar articles I've read over the past forty years on any given part of the planet.

Halwes reckons...

Posted July 26, 2016
Off topic. A royal commission into youth justice in the NT is only the tip of the iceberg with heavy emphasis on the word ice. Our police are punishers. Everybody knows.

Halwes reckons...

Posted July 27, 2016
Enjoyed the book club last night. I think I will give Paradise Lost a big miss though. I miss Ms Hardy when she's not there. I do like intelligent women with a social conscience. The position that you had would have allowed you to check out her legs all night too. Ripped off! Probably for the best though.

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Murphy_of_Missouri mutters...

Posted July 26, 2016
Uh, I call bullshit on the European Union preventing war. I believe the institution which should have been identified is NATO, and perhaps heavy American subsidies in general with an emphasis on defense in particular.

NATO was formed in 1949 and Brexit won't put an end to NATO anymore than France leaving NATO did. Meanwhile, Great Britain didn't join the European Union until the 1970s. So I guess I'm missing this academic's point on how Brexit is going to lead to World War III when France's departure from NATO in 1966 did not cause any such thing.

Near total European Unity is a flash in the pan in terms of historical longevity and the continent has been divided and fragmented for most of recorded history, save the Romans I suppose. If anything, efforts at unification seem to lead to more wars in Europe, not less, but what do I know?

Based on historical trends we are due for another wave of destruction? Perhaps the most dangerous thing any amateur or professional academic can do is point to the history books and go, "This happens every twenty years so it is going to happen again tonight."

Case in point? Presidential candidates and sitting Presidents in this country had a habit of getting bumped off or surviving the attempt on a regular basis. JFK, his brother Bobby, a near miss with Reagan, and I'm sure I'm missing a few.

So it stands to reason that someone might take a shot at Clinton.

Nope.

Bush?

Nope.

Obama.

Nope again.

Maybe I didn't take a logic class but I'm missing the logic of the point he is trying to make.

Other than the usual gloom and doom, we're fucked for this reason, sort of thing that can be readily found in the slushpile of any given Hollywood script shop these days.

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Murphy_of_Missouri puts forth...

Posted July 26, 2016
As for the Black Death, says the guy who suffered through six graduate school hours of it, I can very easily imagine what it must have been like because the primary sources on the matter are quite vivid. I suggest that perhaps part of the problem is that this guy's imagination is not nearly as strong as he thinks it is.

Or maybe seeing a bunch of charred corpses during one of those wars a few decades back might have aided my imagination a notch.

Anyway, sorry to be irritable about this article.

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GhostSwirv mutters...

Posted July 26, 2016

Maybe Toby's just read a faded copy of Tom Clancy's RED STORM RISING?

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Nocturnalist puts forth...

Posted July 26, 2016
How does it go?

Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.
Those who do learn from history are condemned to watch helplessly while everyone else repeats it.

Murphy_of_Missouri mutters...

Posted July 26, 2016
Well, it never repeats per se. It simply finds an original permutation.

Besides, humans in general and historians in particular love to take messy, complex concepts and simplify them into something they think they can control with routine predictability.

That said, historians in reality are not akin to the ones depicted in Asimov's universe.

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HAVOCK21 swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 26, 2016
Yes well, that’s a rather bleak and fkn depressing ensemble of letters. Europe in the Toilet hey, well given I think there might well be a purge internally at the current rate, if it stayed non nuke it might be good. If it were not for the fact that I fear Millions would be killed, I do wonder on that basis if it could venture south…some cleansing there is warranted. And then I think that the Dairy industry would be chuffed, at least with EU in war they would cease almost supplying the Chinks with their heavily subsidised products, we could in turn bend the Chinese over on that score.
But wait, if the US was to abstain from supporting the EU in a slug fest with Russia, that leaves them strong still in the PAC Rim. But with red head muppet features at the helm. China might well go for the shoals. Could you form a coalition of the brave from the ASEAN fkn retards….not sure, but as a collective on the high seas, a ASEAN coalition would stand a better chance against the PLAN than the ex NATO groups of the EU against the Russian bear.

Both are bloody, both will create massive economic upheaval, but housing prices might come down a weee bit.

Good read though, fkn depressing but

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HAVOCK21 is gonna tell you...

Posted July 26, 2016
Great! ASEAN just voted to resolve their issues in a dignified and non military manner ( code for take it up the keester by China).

Tell me Murph, could Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Brunei and maybe Vietnam get their collective shit together and with some Skippy help, STAND TOO and maybe, just maybe win a fight if req. OH...JASDF might want a piece of that action too. How far East will we have to divert all the shipping trade etc when the south China sea turns RED in more fkn ways than one I fear!

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DaveC is gonna tell you...

Posted July 26, 2016
I read a great book years ago about the Bosnian war by a journo who lived through it, Slavenka Drakulic. There was one paragraph in her book which stayed with me, and it resonates with this article.

'War is not a single act, it is a state of facts and minds, a head-spinning spiral of events and gradual process of realisation. And even if my father had attempted to explain, it wouldn't have been any help to me now, because it seems that everyone has to learn this truth alone.'

Nothing's inevitable, even the status quo.

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DarrenBloomfield mumbles...

Posted July 26, 2016
I'm a fair bit with Murph on this, with a very healthy seasoning of George Friedman in "The next 100 years". Yes I know he's seen as a bit of a nut-job, But his thesis in that book draws on a mix of a few big things that are largely inevitable - the main one being the demographic-led depopulation of Russia. And some 'lessons from history' which I agree Murph can be spurious, but the one about the cycles of union/fragmentation of China is potentially instructive.

We are already seeing his prediction for the behaviour of Russia resulting from population decline, expansion (real or imagined) of NATO and the loss of buffer territory between it and the west, come true. As he puts it - St Petersburg was about 1000 miles away from NATO in 1989, now it is less than 100 miles away. Russia's response as stated in his book, seems underway already.

"Russia's grand strategy involves the creation of deep buffers along the northern European plain, while it divides and manipulates its neighbours, creating a new regional balance of power in Europe. What Russia cannot tolerate are tight borders without buffer zones, and its neighbours united against it" He concludes the passage thus: "This is why Russia's future actions will appear to be aggressive but will actually be defensive."

He predicts conflict between US/Russia/China. But not in a groundhog day kind of way. "The conflict will not be a repeat of the cold war, anymore than WWI was a repeat of the Napoleonic wars..."

In the same spirit, I just point out that a peaceful Europe is an exception rather than a rule. The 20th century peace is correlated with EU/NATO but I'm not sure where causation sits - probably the slaughter of the first half of it. Similarly, if peace doesn't last, it may be correlated with brexit (or Trump, or Putin, or me for that matter) but it may not be the cause of it.

What I will assert though, is that who governs does matter in the moment - no-one will convince me that if the cliffhanger 1960 US presidential election had have gone the other way that Nixon would have stopped crazyman Curtis LeMay from killing us all.

I reckon THAT is an alt-history novel in the writing...


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DaveC mumbles...

Posted July 26, 2016
Agree about the relevance of leadership. No escaping Captain's calls. The novel 'Ressurection Day' was a half decent already history about a hot Cuban missile crisis. Spoiler (LeMay's arse-holeyness is turned up to 11 in this tale).

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DaveC would have you know...

Posted July 26, 2016
I meant alt history. Damn you spell chucker!

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DarrenBloomfield reckons...

Posted July 26, 2016
hey thanks - I'll have a read,

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slippy ducks in to say...

Posted July 26, 2016
I think the point is not the prediction (which he doesn't really make), but whether you are prepared to recognise the signs that indicate the pattern and do something about it. That shirky guy on twitter was right: the likes of Trump's and Pauline's and Jaqui's supporters want a racist welfare state (its just 'us and them' thinking in the end - when its clear that has never worked on any analysis whether economic, political, or ethical). We've seen it before [Godwin].

The New Yorker article buried in this article is pretty damn good:

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/04/america-tyranny-donald-trump.html

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Charles Taylor puts forth...

Posted July 26, 2016
I think we are seeing the end of Democracy, it's beginning to allow the uneducated to run the world. Sturgeon in Scotland, Brexit, Trump and the slow rise of the right wing in Europe,

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Rhino ducks in to say...

Posted July 27, 2016


I'd like to introduce my newest app for sale ... "The Chicken Little Panty Unbuncher". When your little panties get twisted and bunch up in your arse and cause you to run around screaming, "The sky is falling, Trump is Hitler, People that disagree with me are RACISSSSTTTTSSSSS".



Overpopulation was going to cause famine.



Global Cooling was going to cause mass extinction.



Ronald Reagan was going to cause nuclear war.



The problem with Europe is you've got too many arrogant twats stuffed into an area that wouldn't qualify for a good Sunday drive in Oz or the US. They are governed by petty, elite bureaucrats that keep doling out the goodies in an unsustainable fashion to keep the filthy masses from expressing their true natures; an historical legacy of trying to kill everyone that isn't in their tribe. The EU is the Harrison Bergeron of markets. Impose restrictions here to level the playing field. Impose restrictions there to make things fair. And when the market naturally corrects itself, impose more edicts to try and tamp that down.



I'm not a Trump supporter. But the mental gymnastics it takes to turn him into Hitler makes me laugh. The historical parallels just aren't there. Period.

HAVOCK21 has opinions thus...

Posted July 27, 2016
ROLF. Yes Rhino and I agree. whilst he might display complete fkn nut job mannerisms now and then, that dont make him a global killing psychopath.

And here is the kicker. I guess if he gets voted in its by the majority that vote, those that dont vote dont get counted..so to speak. And that's the lovely part about a democracy. The thing that gets me, is that if he winds back Americas overseas engagement, and he has every right too I might add. we will at some point pay a steeper price to fix it. Now I am not saying its Trumps fault if that happens, its more a case of the lazy fkn munters who have been sheltering under the protective umbrella of other nations such as the US who have DONE FKN NOTHING either individually or as a collective group to raise their own level of ability and stop sucking off the US tit!

Again, you might apply that here in OZ to a degree and I would slap the previous Polys fkn silly for the same reason. We should have a larger and better equipped Defence force, not the size of the US , but certainly bigger in capability than what we now fkn have. And when that sort of group is paired with a similar collection they have capability. They dont necessarily have to rely on the US as the first and only form of defence. Now...that also means that we should have NUKES TOO, so the playing field is fkn level. After all, I trust the fkn CHINK as far as I can throw the fat pasty white fkn bastards!

Lobes mumbles...

Posted July 27, 2016
Saying "those that dont vote dont get counted" is completely wrong Havock. The leader of a democracy has the obligation to rule in the best interests for everyone. He doesnt get to just make policy for those who vote for him or donate to his campaign or give scholarships to his daughter. They must also lead for those who voted for the opponent and the children who are too young to vote and those who were ill or incapacitated on election day and yes, even those who couldnt be bothered to get out and vote.

HAVOCK21 reckons...

Posted July 27, 2016
Lobes you are correct and I was prolly not clear enough.

I agree with all, but my drive was more towards those that didn't vote not being able to winge. eg
He gets the majority vote, but from the minority value of the population, really fucked, But I suspect its a very real possibility. But govern for all, he must, yes dare I say it, even those that didn't vote but could have, the balance of persons who have legitimate cause not too, due to age, location ,illness or the likes I am fine with.

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DaveC would have you know...

Posted July 27, 2016
One thing which upsets the apple cart of forecasting Great Power conflicts, distinct from five thousand years of historical precedent, are nuclear weapons. Less rational leadership could increase the likelihood of their use. But we've had occasional dumbasses in power over the last seventy years, so who knows? In addition to the Chicken Little app, Rhino, are you developing an 'I can't believe you think this is an invasion Putin un-puckerer? ' app? The Olympics are coming, so I was just wondering.

Rhino swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 27, 2016
Nope. Except for the UK they can all go fuck themselves this time around.\

HAVOCK21 is gonna tell you...

Posted July 27, 2016
yeah...fkn kind of sick of Europe to be honest!

OH did I mention I just bought a new firearm, now its time for another , this one might be a 7mm I think.

Halwes would have you know...

Posted July 27, 2016
7 mm eh ? Probably about the same size as your dick

HAVOCK21 swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 27, 2016
troll!

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DarrenBloomfield puts forth...

Posted July 27, 2016
Trump isn't Hitler, if anything he's a pale imitation of Greg Stillson. And he'd totally use a kid as a human shield I reckon,...

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Therbs asserts...

Posted July 27, 2016
That's what I like about history, it doesn't really repeat. Sure, you can track causes and fault lines but those don't replicate. There may be some similarities in events or trends but those don't necessarily lead to similar events.
Brexit, Trump and people like Hanson in Oz are indicative of people giving "up yours" messages to those they feel have screwed them over.
Trump, if he does become president will be a similar level of scary as George W, but not as dim witted. He has yet to put on the table any coherent policies. Brain fart rhetoric designed to point fingers and promise better times during vote-gathering election mode are a long way from legislation being presented to Congress. In the meantime there's amusement to be had in his cack handed comments, as well as concern.

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Therbs ducks in to say...

Posted July 27, 2016
Ok, if things are really going bad we have The Magnificent Seven to help out.
https://teaser-trailer.com/movie/the-magnificent-seven/

FormerlyKnownAsSimon would have you know...

Posted July 28, 2016
hahahaha! the only thing that repeats itself is Hollywood.

Looks good though : (

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HAVOCK21 would have you know...

Posted July 27, 2016
"up yours" messages to those they feel have screwed them over.

therbs. THATS A REAL BIG PART OF IT! and thats the establishment has not fkn listened. and think they know best. Knights and squires and sooner or later the squire will cut your throat if you keep fking him over without lube!

GhostSwirv ducks in to say...

Posted July 27, 2016
Pretty much on the mark cry HAVOC21 - in the dim dark daze of Knights, Dukes and Dukettes the Royales were only those in possession of the systems of Communication Command and Control. Not any more - any bright spark with a SmartPhone can be King - and all the other not so brighter sparks can collaborate to make it so - even if they realise it or not. Frankly I blame SF & Alt-Hist writers for the mess we're in. If only they'd formed little teams to battle the Oliphant aliens, like in Footfall, but no ... they have to mess with the timelines, give clueless idealogues ideas and invent handheld communicators and tablets an' stuff so geeky scientists get aroused and start making sci-fyey things real - they're all like little white-coated Merlins trying to out magic one another. Despotism and Armageddon was so much more simple BWWW.

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Lobes would have you know...

Posted July 27, 2016
I laugh at your concerns about politics. We are in the middle of a climate emergency. 2016 has been the hottest year on record and we are about to transition into rapid exponential warming as the siberian tundra thaws out and releases billions of tons of CO2 and Methane. This is going to release more greenhouse gases in one event than humans have emitted in decades. The oceans will heat up and may or may not kill off most of the plankton that underpins the earths oxygen supply. Sea levels will rise very quickly, possibly in pulses. Would not want to be living in a coastal region (i live in a coastal region FML)

http://www.flassbeck-economics.com/how-climate-change-is-rapidly-taking-the-planet-apart/

Therbs asserts...

Posted July 27, 2016
As a busy arch villain I've been hatching all sorts of schemes to eliminate pesky secret agents and destroy this, burn that etc to make the planet uninhabitable for a period so my secret "Ark Base" becomes Earth's sole preserver of Terran life forms with me as the ruler. This Siberian tundra-melt option of yours seems feasible but a tad slow for my liking. I'll get my scienticians to step it up.

insomniac has opinions thus...

Posted July 27, 2016
Yes step it up will you. I'm relying on a 15m rise in sea levels to provide me with the increased values associated with a seaside property. I need just enough to drown out the neighbours at the bottom of the hill, but not enough to affect my actual property. Climate science is that accurate, isn't it?

HAVOCK21 asserts...

Posted July 27, 2016
jesus, more than that, at 150m above sea level its gotta be BIG, I want beach front too!.

Just applying a wee bit more brain power to the whole melt thing. Wouldn't the rise in ocean levels mean that the fish populations would increase. I mean with more water about for those fisher blokes to chase them in, they have a better chance etc etc.

Lobes mumbles...

Posted July 27, 2016
The last time CO2 levels were this high the sea level was 23 meters higher. Temperature records are being broken on a monthly basis, 14 straight now, and CO2 is increasing. Everything that's happening is exceeding worst case scenarios and we are too busy obsessing over Terror and elections and Kanye and how shitty we are as a civilization to step away from the ledge. Well the ledge has given way now. We are in climate freefall and I have no idea how we'll land.

Guru Bob mumbles...

Posted July 27, 2016
Why do you think I am now living on top of amountain here in sunny Armidale?

Lobes asserts...

Posted July 28, 2016
This is an interesting link. If you want to survive rapid climate change follow the military bases when they relocate.

http://www.ucsusa.org/global-warming/global-warming-impacts/sea-level-rise-flooding-us-military-bases?utm_source=tw&utm_medium=tw&utm_campaign=tw

NBlob reckons...

Posted July 29, 2016
Mr Lobes sir, your proposition intrigues me and I would like to subscribe to your pamphlet.

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jason has opinions thus...

Posted July 27, 2016
Enough of the doom and gloom. JB you are missing a winner here. Putin, Trump, Turnbull. The oligarchs conspire to carve up the world into financial empires and have their own armies to back them up. One grisly freedom fighter with a ragtag band of misfits is the only thing that can stop them (please please please name him after me). Undertones of capitalism v socialism. Chuck a little xenophobia into the mix. Can't go wrong.

Guru Bob mutters...

Posted July 27, 2016
Lots of online commentary at the moment about links between Putin and Trump.

Therbs mumbles...

Posted July 28, 2016
Trump calling on the Russians to hack Clinton's missing emails is pure gold.

HAVOCK21 puts forth...

Posted July 28, 2016
yeah, just when I thought is was safe to read the news again. The RED/ ORANGE headed fkn muppet comes out with another brain fart statement.

WOW!

jason asserts...

Posted July 28, 2016
Strangely I am a red/orange haired muppet. Sad but true. I assume you are referring to the richer muppet.

HAVOCK21 mumbles...

Posted July 28, 2016
ROFL.

um

HELL YES! the only other one I know of is the young PRATT and I'n not sure he gets into the muppet cat, just ORANGE!

GhostSwirv reckons...

Posted July 29, 2016


Jason and the Burgernauts battle the legions of Putin, Trump and Turnball ... I'd buy that for a $1!

SZF mutters...

Posted July 29, 2016
F*ck me. Not ANOTHER Young Adult dystopian fantasy series...

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HAVOCK21 reckons...

Posted July 27, 2016
Um, JASON, I was thinking there must be a book somewhere and that the odds must be short for Trump to be the next PREZ shot if he gets in!. But the real question is, which demographic will get him first?

Halwes has opinions thus...

Posted July 27, 2016
I heard of someone who backed Trump for $1000 at 8 to 1 but I think he is about 3 dollars now. Clinton is odds on I believe. To come in from 8 dollars means that there has been a shitload put on Trump. Even PJ O Rourke reckoned he's voting for Clinton rather than Trump during his national press club address. I think Trump would be excellent theatre and I believe that he's in with a chance. The money is rarely wrong in politics though.

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jl would have you know...

Posted July 28, 2016
The Trump/Hitler comparisons are overblown. The little Austrian corporal was an evil political master, The Donald is a reality show star.

I happen to know a number of Trump supporters, and the rule seems to be that he's a "fuck you" vote to the system. Another friend who is an English lady voted for Brexit for similar reasons.

Most women I know are repulsed by Trump, but dislike Hillary as well. On balance, they will support Hillary.

One thing's for sure, this will be an election to remember. I plan on getting a nice bowl of popcorn and watching the fireworks.

BTW, we have had complete assbags for presidents before, and the world did not end. Every president is constrained by the other branches of government, the voters, and powerful interests foreign and domestic.

As for continental Europe? Time to ditch the mentality that war for any reason is wrong. There is no bigger crock of shit than the saying "violence never solves anything." It does. Only massively applied violence and tens of millions of deaths solved the whole Nazi/Japan problem.

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Stephen M. Stirling has opinions thus...

Posted July 28, 2016
I detect the wails of frustrated entitlement in this article. Those who thought they were leaders and look behind... and how DARE THEY, they're not following!

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted July 28, 2016
Ha! I almost sent you this link via email.

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Guy has opinions thus...

Posted July 28, 2016
Murph is so right about the EU. There has been a deluge of articles from the liberal left about how Brexit will lead to disaster. The truth is that historians in the future will shake their heads in bewilderment about why people couldn't see that the EU was a disaster waiting to happen. A first year economics student understands that you can't have an effective long-term monetary union without a political union and nobody in Europe is willing to form a single European superstate. It's just a matter of time before the whole rotten edifice falls apart. The UK's Brexit decision was the only sane response to the lunacy that is the EU.

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Barnesm mutters...

Posted July 28, 2016
“Trouble rather the tiger in his lair than the sage among his books. For to you kingdoms and their armies are things mighty and enduring, but to him they are but toys of the moment, to be overturned with the flick of a finger.”? Gordon R. Dickson, Tactics of Mistake

Therbs mumbles...

Posted July 29, 2016
Shai Dorsai!
Gonna have to revisit those books.

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