FIRST: International Relations Has a Mearsheimer Problem
One thing worth reading:
Jarrod Hayes & Adam B. Lerner: ‘Mearsheimer’s interventions reveal some larger problems for IR… First and foremost is the issue of agency and responsibility…. If, as Mearsheimer’s theory predicts, the Russian invasion is due to its inevitable quest for regional hegemony in the balance of power, why blame anyone?…. Second… the Politico… describ[ing] weighty moral issues in the same gamified tone as fantasy baseball… portray[ing] the predictions of our theories as excuses for war crimes…. If the Russian Foreign Ministry is citing you favorably, you might want to have a good look in the mirror…
And another one:
Stephen Kotkin: Don’t Blame the West for Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine: ‘Way before NATO existed in the 19th century, Russia looked like this. It had an autocrat, it had repression, it had militarism. It had suspicion of foreigners and the West. This is a Russia we know, and it’s not a Russia that arrived yesterday or arrived in the 1990s. It’s not a response to actions of the West. There are internal processes in Russia that account for where we are today…. NATO expansion has put us in a better place to deal with this historical pattern in Russia that we’re seeing again…. Russia is a great power, but not the great power…. In trying to… manage the differential between Russia and the West, they resort to coercion, a very heavy state-centric approach…. That works for a time, ostensibly…. And then, of course, it hits a wall…. The worst part of this dynamic in Russian history is the conflation of the Russian state with some personal ruler…. They get a dictatorship, which usually becomes a despotism. So Putin is what he is… ruling in Russia…. Russia cannot successfully occupy Ukraine…. They don’t even have a quisling yet…
Russia today has a population of 150 million people. Of those some 120 million are "Russians" and 30 million are classified as ethnic minorities. Russia’s GDP is in the range of Japan, Germany, Indonesia, Brazil, Britain, and France—20% above France, 30% below Japan. In a world in which nato exists to make real into implement, for Europe at least, the dreams of ending war and military coercion set out at the San Francisco founding of the United Nations, Russia’s ability to bully other countries via its military is very small. It can wreck things, but “making a desert and calling it ‘peace’” is on longer a rational strategy.
Military conquest seems unlikely to be durable in this day and age, unless accompanied by nigh-complete ethnic cleansing and demographic replacement. But was it ever? In 1721 King Frederick I Vasa of Sweden surrendered Swedish Ingria, Estonia, Livonia, Kexholmslän, and Karelia to Tsar Peter the Great. But Peter accepted that his conquest was limited: the Germanic-speaking Baltic nobility retained “their financial system, their existing customs border, their self-government, their Lutheran religion, and the German language”. Starting in 1860 the Tsarist Empire attempted to erode these privileges and “Russify”. But as of today of all these conquests of the Great Northern War of the early 1700s, only Peter’s conquest of Swedish Ingria—where St. Petersburg now stands—has stuck.
Indeed, in this day and age, military adventures appear more likely to make durable enemies rather than win subjects and influence. It will be very difficult to get Ukrainians to think of themselves as in any sense Muscovites after this.
Thus if Russia wants to be a great power rather than a contained menace, it must rely on its soft power. Hence a Russia that wants to have influence over the course of the world in the future and lead the people of Ross and the other Slavic peoples and their neighbors into the future will have to rely on its soft power: its role as a provider of natural resources, and both the wealth and the possibly weaponized interdependence that come with resources; plus its cultural power. A Russia that wants to be an influential Russia should be building not tanks but touring companies of the Bolshoi Ballet, and binding the world economy to its resource base.
The problem is—the problems are—(a) that Putin is not rational, (b) that Russia’s autocratic domestic politics have long leaked into its foreign-policy adventurism and right now is doing it again in a way that seems strongly counterproductive, and (c) the very unrealistic “Realist” assumption that only the United States has agency, and as the only actor with agency bears complete responsibility for whatever bad things happen, would cloud our thought on all this, if we let it.
Perhaps the most strange and bizarre thing about Mearsheimer is that the theory he draws on implies that states seeking regional hegemony are never satisfied with any borders, and continue adventuring in a pointless quest for more security until they run up against a force to contain them. “Realism” in its tragic model recognizes that spheres-of-influence borders are always and inherently potentially bloody. Thus the only question for a consistent Mearsheimer is whether Muscovy will bloody Donbas, Moldava, the Hungarian Plain, the Fulda Gap, or the Rhine. But the drive to blame America first overrides consistency.
Kings & Generals: How Ukraine Won the First Phase of the War <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yBZPE9o2gHU>:
Very Briefly Noted:
Tony Fadell: Build: An Unorthodox Guide to Making Things Worth Making<https://www.harperbusiness.com/book/9780063046061/Build-Tony-Fadell/>
Nilay Patel: Chris Dixon Thinks Web3 Is the Future of the Internet—Is It? <https://www.theverge.com/23020727/decoder-chris-dixon-web3-crypto-a16z-vc-silicon-valley-investing-podcast-interview>
Cory Doctorow: The Big Lie that keeps the Uber Bezzle Alive <https://doctorow.medium.com/the-big-lie-that-keeps-the-uber-bezzle-alive-8d6e8c0ccde7>
Riley Griffin: Pfizer’s Advice for When Paxlovid Isn’t Enough: Take More: ‘“Paxlovid does what it has to do: it reduces the viral load,” Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla said of its Covid pill in an interview on Tuesday. “Then your body is supposed to do the job.”… “This is more about the virus and the disease in certain patients than a characteristic of Paxlovid,” Chief Scientific Officer Mikael Dolsten told me in our interview… <https://www.bloomberg.com/news/newsletters/2022-05-04/pfizer-s-advice-for-when-paxlovid-isn-t-enough-take-more?cmpid=BBD050422_CORONAVIRUS>
David Rovella: Fed Fires Opening Shot on Inflation With Big Hike: ‘The U.S. Federal Reserve delivered the biggest hike in interest rates since 2000 and announced it would start shrinking its massive balance sheet… at an initial combined monthly pace of $47.5 billion, stepping up over three months to $95 billion. “Inflation is much too high and we understand the hardship it is causing and we are moving expeditiously to bring it back down,” Chair Jerome Powell said… <https://www.bloomberg.com/news/newsletters/2022-05-04/bloomberg-evening-briefing-fed-fires-opening-shot-on-inflation-with-big-hike?cmpid=BBD050422_BIZ>
Barry Ritholtz: My Investing Philosophy in a Nutshell: ‘Stock picking is exceedingly difficult…. Market Timing is even harder…. We are oblivious to our own cognitive shortcomings…. Consistent average returns turn into above-average returns over time…. Tax alpha…. Fees matter…. The best investment strategy for you is the one you’re likely to stick with. Achieving this requires dedication and commitment, something most of occasionally find ourselves lacking… <https://ritholtz.com/2022/05/my-investing-philosophy-in-a-nutshell/>
Roland Rajah & Alyssa Leng: Revising Down the Rise of China: ‘China will likely experience a substantial long-term growth slowdown owing to demographic decline, the limits of capital-intensive growth, and a gradual deceleration in productivity growth. Even with continued broad policy success, our baseline projections suggest annual economic growth will slow to about 3% by 2030 and 2% by 2040, while averaging 2–3% overall from now until 2050… <https://www.lowyinstitute.org/publications/revising-down-rise-china>
Madison Muller: For Covid Long Haulers, Hope in Rehab: ‘Concentration issues, memory problems and brain fog…. The effect is comparable to losing 10 IQ points, one of the authors told Bloomberg… https://www.bloomberg.com/news/newsletters/2022-05-05/for-covid-long-haulers-hope-in-rehab?cmpid=BBD050522_CORONAVIRUS>
Joseph Kopecky & Alan M. Taylor: The Savings Glut of the Old: Population Aging, the Risk Premium, and the Murder-Suicide of the Rentier <https://www.nber.org/papers/w29944>
Twitter & ‘Stack
Matthew Yglesias: What the DLC Got Wrong…
Adam Ozimek: Think Bigger About Remote Work
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