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The Expert Class: Things Fall Apart
This post will be a bit different. It’s a transcript of a video interview with Larry Wilkerson, most of whose career revolved around Colin Powell. Listening to this interview I see Wilkerson as part of the “expert class”—assistants to the Ruling Elite. You can see that he has all the credentials for membership in that class—in spades. What I’m hoping readers will find interesting is his mentality, which I take to be fairly representative of that class. He views himself as largely above politics, but you’ll see he has strong views on politicians. With all his experience, he seems to have largely adopted the views of those whose coattails he rode—which means, mostly Colin Powell. He has harsh views of certain people—especially Trump and Bill Clinton—while absolving others. Most of all, though, he appears baffled at how the people he served for decades have screwed up so royally, how we came to this pass. He can’t quite figure that out, and the only way forward he sees is submission to the Leadership Class that he served. In that sense he doesn’t seem to have learned much at all.
See what you make of it. Some of his opinions are fairly shrewd, others … not so much. He derides populist type Republicans as “morons”, without seeming to have any inkling what is driving the movement. He similarly excoriates Bill Clinton as “dangerous”, but without any clue of why the Ruling Class like him. I take it that this is the mentality of the people who populate the higher reaches of our government—devoid of much in the way of principles, even suspicious of principles, worshipful of what they take to be competence, but not too discriminating, slightly sycophantic.
One more preliminary observation. Wilkerson cites the disastrous Athenian Sicilian Expedition in the Peloponnesian war in discussing the American proxy war against Russia. It’s an interesting comparison, especially in terms of the hubris and lack of self knowledge of the Ruling Class, pointing as it does to the end of empire. Part of that comparison, or so it seems to me, is the treatment that Athens meted out to its allies, to keep them in line. We see that, too, in the coercion used by the US, terrorist attacks on the critical energy infrastructure of allies (Nordstream), etc.
Anyway, regard this as a sociological venture.
Col. (ret.) Lawrence Wilkerson's last positions in government were as Secretary of State Colin Powell's Chief of Staff (2002-05), Associate Director of the State Department's Policy Planning staff under the directorship of Ambassador Richard N. Haass, and member of that staff responsible for East Asia and the Pacific, political-military and legislative affairs (2001-02).
Before serving at the State Department, Wilkerson served 31 years in the U.S. Army. During that time, he was a member of the faculty of the U.S. Naval War College (1987 to 1989), Special Assistant to General Powell when he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989-93), and Director and Deputy Director of the U.S. Marine Corps War College at Quantico, Virginia (1993-97). Wilkerson retired in 1997 and began work as an advisor to General Powell. He has also taught national security affairs at the George Washington University and is currently working on a book about the first George W. Bush administration.
Sevastopol in Crimea is under attack. Russian media is reporting that U.S spy plane was flying over the Black Sea at the time of the attack on Sevastopol, and the Russians are considering that, they're saying that, NATO's pipeline should become legitimate targets for Russian pilots and air defenses. Where are we headed in your opinion?
Well this is one of the things that many of us were pointing out for a long time now--at least six seven months--and that is that the closer you get to the conflict, NATO, then the more apt you are to be enbroiled in it yourself. There's no question in my mind that we are probably providing, at a minimum, intelligence from planes that are flying in the area if not more--maybe even targeting guidance and such. And that's an act of war by NATO against Russia and its allies. So we're playing a very dangerous game here. We're trying to get away with it by being clandestine, covert, but Russia would be within its right if it interprets that as being NATO entering in another stage of support for Ukraine, attacking those assets.
General Mike Milley talking about this war in Ukraine, this counteroffensive, and how they're going to continue this war. He's talking about this war going to be so long that we have to provide Ukraine with weapons, with everything. How do you see the strategy on the part of the U.S in this war? Because it doesn't seem, when he's talking about this war it seems to me that he's a politician. It doesn't seem he's a military commander.
I don't understand it. Milley earlier seemed to be a a reasonable voice in a room full of non-reasonable voices, or unreasonable voices. Of late he has taken on tone intent that seems to be joining the crew of unreasonable voices. But I can't say much different about any U.S military officer who is opining on this conflict in a more or less visible way that is singing the song of the White House and of NATO in general, as being any different. They all seem to be, I thought the mantra was kind of cute, but I didn't think it was very indicative of anything, when people said 'to the last dead Ukrainian.' I'm beginning to change my mind. I think we--NATO, particularly Washington and London, particularly--we're prepared to run this thing to the last dead Ukrainian just to make money off of it, and just to make sure that at the end of the day the United States has reestablished its economic security and otherwise hegemony over the Europeans, minus Russia. As I've said before this is nonsense, but I'm almost tiring of saying this because I keep seeing people who are advocating it who ought to be otherwise more sane, and they ought to be saying differently.
Russia and China on one side, U.S on the other side, how do you see the U.S foreign policy?
I think our foreign policy has been dictated mostly by the security instrument. I don't think we really have a foreign policy anymore. I think what we have is a security policy, and that security policy is more or less confined to the actual use of military force, the threat of the use of military force, and sanctions. That has become American policy in the world. I talk to people all around the world, from the team around president Lula now in Brazil, to the people in Havana, to the people in Europe who aren't necessarily a part of this godawful war effort, and they don't understand it. They they do not understand why the United States is minus a foreign policy. And we are. All we have is a security policy. And even that is being very stupidly and ineptly implemented.
Take, for example, the recent bending of the arm behind the back of the president of the Republic of Korea, South Korea. Look what we did. We coerced him, a good ally, into sending, I think, 500 000 artillery rounds to Ukraine. What did that do? Well that forced Kim Jong-un and Putin even closer together, so much so that I'm told by reliable sources now that Putin has guaranteed Kim Jong-un that he'll be able to strike the heart of the United States within the next two to three years with a nuclear warhead or two, because Putin is going to give him the technological advice and help to build a warhead equipped weapon that will go all the way. Maybe more than one. So the worst fears of the United States in terms of an extension of the nuclear powers in the world to those who could hit the United States has been fulfilled. It was a stupid move to do that with the president of South Korea.
Not only that, they followed it up with something we in the State Department--when I was there in the early 2000s--have been working on for a long time. That was to try and get the Japanese and the Koreans to sit down together at security consultative talks. ... Now they will sit down together, apparently, and we're touting that as a success, but look at the circumstances under which we ratcheted out that commitment. The circumstances are such that Beijing is now looking at Tokyo and Seoul and Washington as an axis arrayed singularly against it.
This is not good for South Korea, whose trade policy and trade actuality is China, China, China. Or Japan, for that matter. We're forcing a NATO-like Alliance, if you will--which we've wanted for a long, long time, in Northeast Asia--but we're forcing it under very adverse circumstances that are ultimately going to redound to our discredit, I think. We may even lose some allies, because sooner or later they're going to wake up to the fact that the United States is over there, and China is right here, and China is very powerful economically. Their economies are tied to China and they can't keep doing this, just as the Australians are going to realize very soon that China is a major part of their trade world and that to isolate China or isolate Australia from China, even with the United States, is a big mistake.
It seems that China and Russia are going to have have a military Alliance. They were talking about this during the last week. How it's going to be perceived in the U.S., in your opinion?
Well this is what you do when you have no empathy. If I had to say one word to define what Tony Blinken, Jake Sullivan, and Joe Biden, and the Hill, the Congress en masse almost, is missing--its empathy. And I mean empathy with the ability to look into your enemies' and your friends' policy, if you will, his portfolio, her portfolio, and say, 'Okay, what is driving them? Why do they feel this way, what are they after? What [is there] about what they're after [that] is adverse to my interest, and what is neutral, and what is in line with my interest?' They don't do that. This is an arrogant, in your face--even with our allies, like Biden and the president of South Korea--it's just total arrogance. There's no attempt to understand what friends, neutrals, or enemies actually think and want and then play that--and I don't mean that in a pejorative sense--I mean use that for diplomatic purposes, not for war fighting purposes.
It's really the same thing with Ukraine. Look at what we're doing. We're just supporting a war that makes a lot of money for a lot of people and maybe re-establishes us in Germany over Europe. I don't think it'll last long. It will probably be as ephemeral as anything we've ever done in this world. But that's what we seem to be doing. I was talking with some Germans last week and I was sort of shocked to understand that the party that's sort of polling number two in the German polls right now [the AfD] is composed mostly of East Germans. And I started thinking about that and, yeah, that makes sense. It really makes sense, because the East Germans, one, probably feel some sort of affinity to that direction more so than the West Germans, and two, the East Germans are like the Poles, like the the other countries that came out of the Warsaw Pact in many respects, but in one respect they're not. They're a fundamental part of the unification that took place under great stress under Helmut Kohl, and that was blessed by us, and that was the subject of the promise with regard to Russia being a full member of Europe, and NATO going no further east, and all the things that people now pooh pooh--as if they didn't mean anything because they weren't written down in blood. And the East Germans probably feel more angst about that than the West Germans do, so we've got we've got a party in Germany, apparently, that's ... polling number two now that's composed mostly of East Germans. This is not good for Germany. This is very divisive for Germany, I would think. And Ukraine is the gestation of this, the war in Ukraine [i.e., the war in Ukraine is what has led to these divisions in Germany]. I'm hearing from other Germans that there are other Germans in West Army who are not happy with what's going on. This is not going to last. It's simply not going to last, and the most powerful country in Europe is going to be looking for a different way and a different process to satisfy its national security interests, its economic interest, and ultimately its geopolitical interest, and we will lose Germany. That's a huge loss.
The Economist published an article saying that Germany's economy is sick, right now. So it's the production of this war. It was literally produced by this war.
Certainly seems that way. I'm thinking about this rather deeply, which is difficult to do with all the noise that's coming out of the mainstream media, but if you think about it for a moment and and you consider exactly what might be happening we're probably looking, not only at the ultimate dissolution of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the severing of the transatlantic link, but at several allies, ostensible allies within the current architecture, who are doing all they can to bring that about. One of those is perfidious Albion. It's England. The English people of course don't know anything about this but there's this sort of subtle movement to 'Brexit' everything, to 'let's just cut and run from Europe and let's ride with the United States into the sunset.' It's going to be a very dim sunset, I think, and and Britain is probably saddling its worth with someone who--as I think is going to happen with Israel, that Bibi has no clue about--is suddenly going to discard them, and the special relationship is going to be nothing.
So why are they doing this, and why do I listen why do I listen to debates in the House of Commons? I can't figure them out. The sane voices are subdued and the voices that sound like they're coming from Rupert Murdoch or Fox News or whatever are outstanding. I mean, I've been in the House of Commons, I've listened to the debate when Tony Blair was prime minister. I was there. It's a very reasonable debate, normally. You could sit there and say, 'Yeah that's right, that's probably the way it should be.' Not anymore. It's crazy, and I think that's reflective of what's going on right now. You might call it a realignment, but it's a crazy haphazard realignment. I don't know what is going to replace the transatlantic link, and I don't know what's going to replace NATO, but I know they're going away. I'm absolutely certain that they will not be here in a decade or less.
Biden thinks differently. He thinks that NATO has never been so strong as now and with new members--Finland, Sweden. When he was elected I thought that he's going to be a change in the U.S foreign policy. It totally went the wrong direction. How do you say this?
Same way the Athenians felt right before they invaded Syracuse. In many ways it's the hubris of empire, especially an empire that is beyond thinking anymore, as Athens was at that point. Biden is an enigma to me. As I've said before, maybe 29 30 years I've been privy to his thinking, if you will, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I've been privy to the errors he's made. privy to the screw-ups he's made, privy to the times that he couldn't keep his mouth shut when he should have. That's not all that harmful for a congressman, as we've seen from people like Ted Cruz and Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Bobert and all the rest of the morons we have in the United States Congress. But it is kind of odd for a president. I mean, we had Trump, so I can't say that with firmness anymore, but it is sort of odd for a president other than Trump. I don't understand it and I don't understand in particular this ineptitude at diplomacy and foreign policy because, as Powell would say to me, Colin Powell would say to me on more than one occasion, 'Joe knows what he's doing.' Sometimes he lets his mouth get out of out of hack, sometimes he's a little bit too senatorial, in the most derisive sense of that term, but he knows what he's doing. He fundamentally knows the issues, he keeps up with them and he knows what he's doing. I don't see that anymore. I know part of the problem. Part of the problem is he is so focused on 2024, he is so focused on a second term that he can't see his hand in front of his face. If that hand seems to be reflective of a disadvantage. He is going to do anything he has to do to get reelected.
This is a very, very dangerous quality of our democracy in the post-world War II era. It's gotten more and more dangerous as time has gone by because it has been the dictator of when, and when we do not, use military force, and we've been particularly inept in doing that. But a lot of that is the pressure from the domestic audience, and it's not the majority normally. It's a minority that puts this pressure on, whether it be the the kind of iconoclastic morons in the Republican party or it be the Bill Clintons. I watched Bill Clinton the other day defend again--this is about the third time I've watched this, I almost get ill every time I watch it--defend his eight years in the presidency. The smarmy bastard defends it as if everything from the expansion of NATO to his affairs was okay. It was good stuff for the Republic. His moving everybody in the Democratic party into Ronald Reagan's and Milton Friedman's economic model was good stuff. It really helped the party, it really helped America. It's ruining us! We have the greatest maldistribution of wealth in our history, worse than in 1929, 1930, and he's claiming credit for having moved the Democrat party into that mire! I don't understand it, and I mark Bill Clinton down, as I did in my seminars at William and Mary, as one of the most dangerous men we've ever had in the White House.
At the U.N the only person who is talking about negotiations is Russia.
It's so strange why they're not considering negotiation with Russia. At this stage Ukraine is getting destroyed, totally. The number of disabled people in Ukraine has increased by 300,000 during 18 months, and nobody seems to care about that. Why they're not considering negotiations with Russia?
I was hearing that Bill Burns and others had convinced President Biden that there needed to be some talk, and it needed to start yesterday. Now I'm hearing what you just indicated, that there's nothing from our side. There are feelers from Lavrov, there are feelers from Putin, even, and there are other people--intermediaries, the usual people offer good offices--but no one's biting on this side. And my conclusion is that domestic politics which, particularly in a season like now, with Trump on the sidelines seemingly resurgent even though he's got, what, 61 indictments against him or something like that, everyone's focused on that. And Biden is focused on it like a laser. So no one is going to do anything to disturb that until they get to the point. And they don't realize, I think, sadly enough, that getting to the point may never happen, because of the neglect of the situation in front of them which is Ukraine.
It's just nonsense and brings you back to your first question, What's going to happen when Putin decides--which is a legitimate decision for him to make--that NATO is, over the Black Sea or wherever, participating in this conflict, and he escalates by going after that participation--shooting down the airplane or whatever it might be. What are we going to do then? I hope all we do is act like the preposterous idiots we are, and shout and scream and everything, and not escalate even further. But I can't guarantee that.
How did you see this counteroffensive? Is it the way that General Mike Milly is describing for us?
It's like having a behemoth in front of you and not even a David with a slingshot or Bre'r Rabbit with some kind of subterfuge that he's gonna--this is really stupid! This is beating your head against a wall that is impervious. It's not going to change, it's not going to move. Einstein said something, at least I think he said it. Someone asked him a question: 'What's the difference between intelligence and stupidity?' And he said, 'Well, intelligence is limited.' That's true, and we have a lot of stupid people. How any military officer in the United States Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Space Force, Navy, can look at this situation and say that Ukraine has a chance to beat Russia and not feel like a godawful, filthy, purple-headed liar is beyond me. Or worse, worse, someone taking the payroll of Lockheed Martin or whatever, which I can say is quite a few of them. I just don't understand it.
They are proving what Senator Chuck Hagel said to Colin Powell in around 1993, 1994, when Powell was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Senator Hagel called Powell and said, 'I am looking'--in our country the two stars, three stars, and four stars have to be approved individually for promotion by the Senate, it's usually pro forma. Well Hagel was looking at the list of the officers in line for three stars and those in line for four stars and he said to Powell, 'There's no one here that I would make a commander-in-chief, that I would make a chief of service, let alone the chairman or the vice chair. No one here. What's wrong Colin?' He was marking the future.
We have no competent mlitary officers on active duty. They're all charlatans. They're all products of a personnel system which promotes the worst and keeps the best back. They're all bought and paid for. It's unconscionable at what is happening with them. David Petraeus, for example, is a leading example of it. They have no problem lying. If they're not lying then they're idiots. When a general stands up and says some of the things that Breedlove and Petraeus and others have said about Zelensky and Ukraine and their chances of beating Russia, when they do that they are either declaring themselves as idiots or on the payroll, and I think most of the time it's the latter.
Did you see the the pictures of Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell meeting with Zelensky. Chuck Schumer was literally bowing Zelinsky! Are they thinking that Ukraine has still a chance of getting out of this war victorious?
Well this is nothing new for them, particularly the ones you named. They do this with Bibi and Bibi's predecessors now for half a century. Not only that, they give them 150 billion dollars over that half a century. They give them carte blanche with regard to U.S armaments and U.S security interests. Mossad occupied the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy office during the entire Iraq war. Mossad! Without even having to go through security clearance to get into the Pentagon. This is the kind of thing these people do. Now, let me hasten to add. They've got a significant problem with Zelensky's second shot at the U.S Congress, in an attempt to get billions more. And that problem is that recalcitrant group in the Republican party which I would otherwise have very little good to say about, but in this case they just might stop the House of Representatives--where all revenue must start in our Congress--from approving it. So Zelinsky may go away from this visit empty-handed. There's a good chance of it.
Already the head of intelligence, of Ukrainian intelligence, said that it was our ancestors who were burning Moscow in their times. You get the sense of this hatred between Ukraine and these people who are in power in Ukraine toward Russia.
I watched these guys, and some of them were women, get in the position throughout the 2000s, on up to when I left government, and then from my perspective as an academic I watched them from roughly 2006 on to certainly the 2014 fairly intensely. And, yes, we wanted people who hated Russia to be ultimately in charge in Kiev. At first I couldn't figure out why it was that way. Then after Victoria Nuland made her very impolitic remark ['F* the EU!'] I began to look at places like the American Enterprise Institute and other bastions of neoconservatives. I began to understand, I think, that they transferred their hatred for Saddam Hussein, Bashar al-assad, the Ayatollah and Iran, a number of other characters they wanted to go after, but were thwarted--other than Saddam Hussein--to Russia. They saw that as the new bugaboo if you will--China behind it, of course, but they got to get rid of Moscow first. China's second. That's the way these people think. That's the way they operate. That's their whole life is being on the [qui vive?] for the next enemy, and they've always got a lineup ready to take place.
People ask me today when I say things like that, 'Well they can't still be in charge, can they? They got really, really beaten to death with regard to Saddam Hussein?' 'Now, you don't understand the neoconservatives, I say.' They're still there, they're still all around, they've got new people trained up, they got new people in new places. They are here in the [FDD?], for example, the group that now sort of replaces AIPAC, in a sense, since AIPAC lost on the Iran deal, the JCPOA, so badly. AIPAC is back with big money, though. There are groups of these people all over Washington and they still have enormous influence, and their influence is on war making against whatever and whichever they call our enemy. It all started with Scoop Jackson, who was a Democrat who got mugged by reality, people tell me. Well, he got mugged by reality, all right. He became just short of a fascist and a lot of these people are, they remind me of the rise of Mussolini the rise of Hitler. They remind me of those kind of people.
I was just watching '1900'. If you've never seen that movie, six hours is the longest version of it. Burt Lancaster, Jack Nicholson, Donald Sutherland, Gerard Depardieu, very young, and it's a six hour movie. It's all about the rise of Mussolini in Italy and, of course, it has to be about the rise of Communism too, because they're the two forces that even in 1948 we're funding to beat the Communists in Italy. It's a marvelous movie in terms of what it shows about these kinds of people. We got lots of them today.
Xi invited Putin to this Belt and Road Forum in China. Bashar Assad, president of Syria, was invited after two decades, he was invited to China. How do you see these changes that are happening right now, considering that part of the war--China, Russia, Syria, Iran?
I think those are the cosmetic effects from this change in the world, people trying to grapple with this change and put, however temporary, instruments in place to accommodate the change. They're not doing a very good job of it. I said the other day to a friend of mine who was talking about the tragedy in Morocco and the tragedy in Libya, and I said, 'Look at the tragedy in Libya. Do you think that even a quarter of those people would have died, those dams would have flooded those houses and so forth, if Gaddafi were still alive?' Who took out Gaddafi? I mean, Gaddafi controlled Libya. However much we might have hated him he controlled Libya. And he took care of people in Libya--in both ways, rewarding them and punishing them. Maybe we disagreed with his method of government and everything but I think it is unquestionable Libya would not be going through the trials it is right now and the turmoil it is right now if Gaddafi was still there. So why did we do that? And, for that matter, why did we take the man out in Iraq--heinous creature that he was in many respects--when Iraq was the leading country in the Levant? It had women's rights, it had women in education, it had women doctors and nurses, and we changed all of that. Well why did we do that? Why are we going around the world like a wrecking ball, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa? Why is what's happening in the Levant or in the Sahel region of Africa right now, with all the coups and everything and different people doing different things to each other and all using military force to do it, while their people are starving or don't have enough water to drink or both?
This is crazy, and a lot of it can be laid at the feet of the American Empire and its impulses since 1945, and it's acts since 1945, but particularly since roughly the beginning of the 21st century. We have been idiots and we're doing all this damage and we don't even seem to know we're doing it. We act as if the world is getting better and it's getting better because we are doing it to make it better--and it's getting worse and we're doing it to make it worse. That is a true tragedy.
Tony Blinken has a book. He published this book in 1987. It's called 'Ally vs. Ally.' Criticizes the Reagan foreign policy toward Russia, and now he is the head of the U.S foreign policy, he's doing the worst even--how he is changing your opinion?
At least Ronald Reagan, wherever he got it, out of a Hollywood script or out of his own mind or from some advisor, at least he had a purpose in doing what he did. The greatest build up in American defense spending since 1945, the Star Wars initiative, all those things in Reagan's mind I think this is genuine. I've read a lot about him and taught him, it was genuine that he thought that was what was necessary to get Gorbachev ultimately to the table, and to get some concessions and to end the Cold War. And, my gosh, it did! You can't say that was everything about it, but it was part of it. Afghanistan and the Russian experience there was another part of it, and all those things combined to make an economy that simply couldn't work, and Gorbachev realized that. But Reagan at least had a purpose for what he was doing. I think he started a mess that's still ongoing, and the results of which are going to be really negative, including nuclear weapons and arms control and treaties and so forth, but nonetheless he had a thought. I don't see any thoughts here. All I see is blind hubris, arrogance, moving down the road, intent on keeping American hegemony wherever and whenever at any cost, and the cost is becoming astronomical.
We had the G20 Summit in India and Xi and Putin didn't participate in this Summit. Why they didn't participate, in your opinion?
I think we're we're at a crossroads to a certain extent with regard to all of these international organizations but particularly--and maybe I'm one of the first to say this sort of thing, and I'm not an economist, let me make sure everybody knows that--but particularly in the economic realm I think all of these things are moribund, and the attempts are now flagrant trying to keep them otherwise. Whether it's the WTO, whether it's the other things--the IMF, the World Bank, all those things that we the rule-based order, that we call--or whether it's something a little more modern like some of the things we've attached to these international entities, everything from sovereign wealth funds to the different kinds of ways that different countries help other countries and help themselves at the same time. All of these things are going to have to be re-examined. So instead of marching out and saying, 'Okay, Bretton Woods is dead, all this stuff is dead, we need a whole new regime. We need a regime that is based first and foremost on collaboration, cooperation, and comity--the three C's.
Instead of doing that, we're trying to preserve the old things and we're each doing it in our own little fiefdom whether, it's the WTO or it's--what's that group, the World Economic Forum--all these people, they're trying to do it in their own fiefdoms. It's kind of like women's soccer, trying to deal with with all the problems FIFA has. It's gone, or it's going, and somebody needs to start scratching around in the dirt and coming up with some new ideas, some new architecture, and some new plans. And those plans, as I said, need to be based on three very basic things: climate change, nuclear weapons, and economies. And everything associated with those things needs to be prioritized and the only way you can do that is through cooperation, collaboration, and comity. Otherwise you're going to be in a godawful mess.
I remember Royal Dutch Shell way back, their strategic think tank for which I had great respect talking about the future and defining it as ‘blueprint’ and ‘scramble’. Blueprint was what I just said--everybody thinks roughly the same and starts working together to meet these challenges. Scramble is everybody does exactly what they want to do and it's a mess. And Shell bet on the scramble, put a lot of money aside to deal with some of the things that the strategic think tank said were going to emanate from this scramble, because it wasn't going to be pretty. And I think they were probably right. I don't know what Shell's blueprint for the future is now--their strategic think tank has changed a great deal since that one, which I think was one of the best in the world at the time. The only ones better than that were probably the Singaporeans. The Singaporeans at that time had a really good strategic think tank apparatus associated with the government, not with a corporation.
One of the things I found out at National Defense University way back when under Leon Firth, former National Security advisor to Al Gore when he was vice president, under his sort of tutelage, because we were working on a project together, I found out that there was a lot of convergence at that time with all these different strategic entities that we called in to comment and brief us and so forth, there was a lot of convergence on this idea of, 'the future will be a real mess or we'll get our act together and we'll handle it.' Well, in order to get our act together and handle it you need leadership, and you need leadership big time from Beijing, from Washington, from Tokyo, from London, Paris, and we aren't getting it. Instead, we got a war in Ukraine, in the heart of Europe, killing people by the thousands, and everybody relishing the money being made. That is the exact opposite of what we were all recommending back there in 2005, 2006.
It's been 18 months in this war in Ukraine. Do you see any sign of weakness in Russia, economically or militarily?
Everyone, as I just tried to generally indicate, has weaknesses. Right now there's no question about it--we have a 32 trillion dollar aggregate debt now, I think, and I was told yesterday by a member of the Congress that we are going to be absolutely devoid of discretionary federal spending in just another couple of years, because we're gonna have to spend the entire discretionary federal budget on the debt interest. Think about that for a minute! Never been there before, not even during the Civil War, or after World War II, or World War One, or or in our beginning when Alexander Hamilton was trying to buy things to help America survive. We're in sad shape, and a lot of the other countries are not in the best of shape either. I was briefed yesterday on China's economic situation by a person who knows, and I was kind of shocked at the problems that China has right now. Other countries similarly.
The Bank of International Settlements put out this report that no one is paying attention to. Essentially the report said there was 30 plus trillion dollars in the world that was unsupported by anything. Then they said in an addenda that maybe it was 60 or 70 trillion. A lot of it was in Asia, a lot of it was in South America. You think about that for a minute. This is kind of the U.S housing crisis on steroids times 10, because we're looking at all these assets in the world, all these debts, all these trades, all these corporations and everything which are founded on clouds. Nothing. What's going to happen when someone, somewhere, starts the realization that takes place that brings that apparatus down globally the Way We Were really hurt in 06, 07, 08 with the housing crisis, because that's what the Bank of International Settlements report intimated. No one pays any attention to the BIS, and yet that's pretty devastating when you think about it.
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