My talk from June’s Ron Paul Institute Conference on Foreign Policy in Houston is below.

(You will need to turn the volume up, because I can’t stand still)

To be honest, I go back and forth in my thinking as to whether geopolitics is the seven-player game of Go I talk about here or just Calvinball, as I posited in an older post here. The most salient point from that article, regardless of the game metaphor you prefer is this one:

{By invading Ukraine} Russia acted, setting the operational tempo from that moment forward. It forced the US and Europe to react to them as they created a new reality, set new rules.

The US was now the rule-taker rather than the rule-maker. You knew this because it prompted multiple rounds of scurrying to Moscow by officials from all over the West trying to talk the Russians off their new game.

To zero avail.

This rules of the global game have changed because now there is more than one player capable of dictating them.

It is always been a world of ‘might makes right’ and any real discussion of the ‘rules based order’ is wholly dependent on who has the biggest stick at the moment the rules are articulated.

This is the essential problem with modeling anything based on what’s been commonly thought of as the ‘rules of the game,’ i.e. international law and/or treaty obligations. When things get desperate, when the internal stresses become greater than the forces holding societies together, no one gives a crap about what the rules were.

And Davos just loves to think they can break a few eggs and build back a better omelet.

If treaties matter then why does everyone treat them with such utter and complete disdain? If these international structures like the UN and WTO matter than why are they so ineffective in containing certain actors?

Or is it better to dispense with the childish illusions that these institutions serve higher ideals and are in reality nothing more than cynical mechanisms through which they manufacture credence to their selfish behavior?

When you look at things like WTO rules and UN resolutions do you see fairness? Level playing fields? Or do you just see mechanisms to bind weaker players into contracts of adhesion at the international level who console themselves with trading adherence for future returns and building some international trust?

Because that’s what I see.

And is it any real surprise then, that after centuries of European colonialism running rampant around the world in its various guises that those former colonies are no longer willing to trade future considerations when there are two players willing to stand up and say no?

That’s why the board is rapidly coalescing from a multi-colored, chaotic mess into a pretty simple binary map. This is what Russia catalyzed when it invaded Ukraine. It wasn’t the end of redrawing borders by political means, it was the end of the illusion that such a state ever existed in the first place.

Even a casual read of the stupidity surrounding Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan should make this abundantly clear to even the thickest of heads…. even Jon Stewart.

We are in the period where a whole lotta ‘stick measuring’ is going on with imprecise rulers. Whose regime will reign supreme and all that. All I know is that people are people, incentives matter and no game of this magnitude ever ends the way we think it should.

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