Game theory + Qatar cut-off = uh-oh…

by on June 13, 2017 at 10:33 am in Current Affairs, Political Science | Permalink

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:

Typically, if you put a major military base in a country, there is a general expectation you will not actively work to subvert the sovereignty of the host government. But right now the U.S. is violating that understanding.

Now imagine you are the leadership of Singapore, which faces political pressure from a much larger China and Indonesia. Singapore also hosts a significant American military base. You will think twice about the benefits you once expected from this arrangement. Kuwait and Bahrain, too, will be reconsidering their options. Other vulnerable countries with American military bases include South Korea, Kosovo, Greece and Djibouti. Yet other nations, such as Taiwan, do not host American military forces, but rely in part on the potential for American military assistance.

In sum, many more countries will feel less secure, and many of these countries will most likely court additional favor with their local or regional hegemons, which are typically less liberal influences than the U.S. In the Middle East and Gulf, for instance, Turkey and Iran stand to gain in influence.

Do read the whole thing.

1 The Anti-Gnostic June 13, 2017 at 10:40 am

It’s funny how Trump is turning so many libertarians into imperialists.

2 Thiago Ribeiro June 13, 2017 at 10:43 am

American is an Empire, any proposed policy that does not take it into account is not realistic.

3 Thiago Ribeiro June 13, 2017 at 10:43 am

America is an Empire, any proposed policy that does not take it into account is not realistic.

4 Rich Berger June 13, 2017 at 10:44 am

And economists into political pundits.

5 Milo Fan June 13, 2017 at 11:01 am


He treats this as a bad thing, I think it’s great. America First!

6 FUBAR007 June 13, 2017 at 11:06 am

Less that than Trump’s actions are driving people to pick a side whereas before they didn’t feel the need to.

Cowen’s a libertarian and thus a free trade guy. The international trade system is presently undergirded by the U.S. military and its capacity for force projection just as it previously was by the military of the British Empire. Withdraw the U.S. military from the rest of the world and international trade starts to look very different, particularly in Asia. China and others will fill the vacuum and set the terms of trade instead of the U.S. and the West. TL;DR: no U.S. “empire,” no Davoisie global trade system.

Does it really surprise you that, when it comes to choosing between globalism and isolationism (or localism, or America First-ism, or whatever the hell we’re calling it this week), Cowen’s a globalist?

7 The Anti-Gnostic June 13, 2017 at 11:18 am

IOW, this much-vaunted “free trade” isn’t so free after all. And all these non-serious countries that we pledge to fight to the death for aren’t actually sovereign and it’s just a ridiculous and expensive pretense.

The intricate negotiations around “Brexit” belie the same conclusion: countries impose all sorts of rules, tariffs, exceptions, subsidies, etc. that are haggled over and traded back and forth, and the end result is a thousand page treaty that everybody calls “free” trade.

8 the price of everything and the cost of nothing June 13, 2017 at 3:20 pm

there is no such thing as free trade and never has been. it is equally as hallucinatory an idea as the free market. economic affairs are not free exchanges, and have never been, and can never be. commerce is always performed in an environment and a context. the environment and context are foundational and definitional. the ability for 2 parties to possibly agree on a transaction is predicated on having enough consent to operate within that environment and context that the economic activity can take place at all.

9 Thiago Ribeiro June 13, 2017 at 11:20 am

Deprived of the resources of its Empire, America will fall. Trump is America’s Gorbachev.

10 FUBAR007 June 13, 2017 at 11:22 am

Obama was America’s Gorbachev.

Trump is America’s Yeltsin.

11 The Anti-Gnostic June 13, 2017 at 11:23 am

Trump’s successor will be our Putin. :smug:

12 FUBAR007 June 13, 2017 at 11:32 am

Trump’s successor will be our Putin.

Quite possibly, yeah.

13 Thiago Ribeiro June 13, 2017 at 11:51 am

“Trump is America’s Yeltsin.”
Because he is very corrupt.

14 GoneWithTheWind June 13, 2017 at 12:21 pm

‘“Trump is America’s Yeltsin.” Because he is very corrupt.’

And yet no corruption in sight. Trump is probably the only person in DC that isn’t corrupt. And THAT is why we need a special prosecutor because we have to hunt for witches and set up perjury traps for innocent people.

15 Thiago Ribeiro June 13, 2017 at 3:31 pm

Yep, and the reason Kenneth Starr had to investigate a president’s sexual life is that Bill Clinton was too chaste. It is sad seeing you buying, line and sink, your regime’s propaganda.

16 GoneWithTheWind June 13, 2017 at 6:39 pm

The world is divided into two kinds of people. Those who think/claim Bill Clinton was impeached for having sex and those who read the charges and saw the multiple felonies he committed.

What I don’t understand is why anyone who wants to hide behind this fiction that all Bill did was have sex with that woman would make that claim and leave themselves open to being proven horribly and stupidly wrong. Are you simply so naive that you think the world doesn’t know about Bills crimes and misdemeanors? Or is it simply a case of you don’t know what you don’t know? Help us understand that…

17 Barkley Rosser June 13, 2017 at 8:27 pm

“No corruption in sight” opines Gone with the Wind. Really? Actually this looks so far like it is by far the most corrupt presidency in US history, not even close. We have just had some state AGs bringing suit against Trump for violating the emoluments clause. We have never had this happen, ever. Indeed, some of his more questionable foreign policy moves seem to be in response to blatant monetary payoffs, including this incompetent and stupid Qatar business.

Why has he been so willing to undo the more neutral policy of previous presidents and tilt so hard to Saudi Arabia? Does this have to do with a bunch of Saudis spending a reported $270,000 dollars on staying at the Trump Hotel in Washington? And then we have his strong tilt to China after being so critical of them. How much does this have to do with them granting a bunch of trademarks to his daughter’s company? Unfortunately, this looks to be just that crude.

Remember that not only has he not made public his tax returns and lied about why not (he claimed it is because he is being audited, but Nixon released his while he was being audited), but he has been sued literally thousands of times for cheating people he was doing business with and found guilty more times than not in those suits. This is a lying crook we are talking about, a screamingly blatant one. And then we have his just plain out refusal to put his holdings in a blind trust or sell them off or anything, turning over management of them to his sons, one or another of whom has actually inappropriately shown up in meetings he should not have. We simply have never seen any president be accused of violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution, but Trump seems to be violating it right and left, and his actions in this Qatar matter look to be right up there. He belongs in jail, frankly.

18 TMC June 13, 2017 at 9:13 pm

“Actually this looks so far like it is by far the most corrupt presidency in US history, not even close”

About 6 months too late Barkley.

19 GoneWithTheWind June 14, 2017 at 12:02 am

Are those state AG’s Democrats? Is this more of the Democrat dirty tricks? Talk about corruption.
Not making your tax return is not corrupt nor illegal and in fact it is wise. As for him lying you failed horribly to prove that, any tax consultant would tell you that until the audit is over you don’t make waves. So no lie, no harm, no foul.

20 Barkley Rosser June 14, 2017 at 2:33 am

Of course the state AGs are Dems, one from MD one from DC. So what? The fact remains that they have a case and that we have never seen such a suit ever in US history before, and lots of people have spoken about and worried about Trump’s obvious violations of the emoluments clause of the Constitution from even before he was sworn in ,including some GOPsters, even if they did not bring the suit. The hard fact is that we have never seen a previous prez even remotely close to being in trouble on this as we do the current one, who seems to be violating it repeatedly, including to the point of doing stupid things for foreign governments paying him money, outright in-your-face blatant corruption, which is exactly the isssue the emoluments clause was put into the Consgtitution to prevent, foreigners buying out our presidents.

Of course there are all kinds of reasons why private citizens should not want to release their tax returns. But that is not what Trump is any more. It has been a norm of presidents and in fact candidates since Nixon to do so. He is the first not to do so, on top of which he has lied about why he has not done so. Given that there is a lot of evidence that he may be in serious hock to Russian oligarchs, this may be why he has not done so, and if this is why he has been tilting to the Russians all over the place, well, yet another violation of the emoluments clause.

You are really out of it, aren’t you? .

21 Zzz June 13, 2017 at 11:37 am

“Deprived of the resources of its Empire”

The US was getting paid in some way? The British empire levied taxes on trade to and from it’s territories to support it’s overseas forces. The US pays out of pocket.

22 FUBAR007 June 13, 2017 at 11:47 am

The US was getting paid in some way?

Not directly. The ROI for the U.S. has been in the second-, third-, and fourth-order economic effects of U.S. hegemony. Keep in mind, though, those benefits have primarily, though not exclusively, accrued to the U.S. investor class.

23 Thiago Ribeiro June 13, 2017 at 11:53 am

America’s control over its semicolonies allow it to have higher standards of living than its produtivity would allow.

24 Zzz June 13, 2017 at 12:14 pm

So nothing like the British empire then? The British empire wasn’t rich because of trade, it was rich because of it’s large tax base. The fact that trade was largely what was taxed is because of the technical limitations of the time not because it’s trade was especially valuable or unique to them. Overseas military operations are a net loss to the US regardless of what ever minor, second order benefits are gained from trade.

25 msgkings June 13, 2017 at 12:32 pm


Would that be large groups of ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ?

26 Thiago Ribeiro June 13, 2017 at 2:59 pm

“Would that be large groups of ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ?”
Countries the American regime subject to its will. Iraq, Japan, where American soldiers keep raping schoolgirls, Pakistan and Saudi Arabis, where Americans support Sunni Fundamentalism, etc.

27 dearieme June 13, 2017 at 7:04 pm

“The British empire levied taxes on trade to and from it’s territories”: what do you have in mind, and when?

28 Barkley Rosser June 13, 2017 at 10:24 pm

Sorry, TMC, try and name one instance of corruption from the Obama administration. Oh yeah, I remember, he refused to release his tax returns and had Iranians handing him bags full of cash in the Oval, right after they helped make up his phony birth certificate that our current prez so accurately raised questions about the vaiidity of. You are clearly brilliant, TMC.

29 Lurker June 14, 2017 at 3:53 am

Sad, sad troll seeks partisan hackery. Do not feed it!

30 Barkley Rosser June 14, 2017 at 4:52 am

I am being sarcastic, “Lurker.” And you have anything useful to add to this discussion? Perhaps you would like to explain how Trump is not the first president to be in massive violation of the emoluments clause of the constitution and maybe actually it was not because the Saudis were piling money on him that he has gone along with this dangerous and stupid cutting of relations by the Saudis with Qatar?

31 Barkley Rosser June 14, 2017 at 4:55 am

BTW, “Lurker,” trolls are anonymous, pieces of manure like you. Everybody here knows who I am, and anybody who has been paying attention knows that I know far more about this subject than anybody posting here, including even Tyler. Really.

32 The Anti-Gnostic June 14, 2017 at 9:04 am

Fast & Furious. $60M back-end loaded bribe for a ghostwritten book. And one of the largest policy blunders of the century: Libya.

33 Barkley Rosser June 14, 2017 at 4:40 pm

Sorry, Anti-Gnostic, you fail.

Fast and Furious was a program set up under Bush. There was corruption, but it was all at local ATF and police levels, not remotely involving anybody at the WH, either Bush or Obama. Nope, not that one, although a bad policy blunder that both the Bush and Obama admins duly embarrassed about, although GOPsters largely forget that people under Bush were in on it too.

Last I checked, Obama largely, if not entirely, wrote his own books. What ghostwriter are you talking about? Is this some fantasy spouted on Fox News like Obama was born in Kenya? The guy knows how to write and does it well.

As for Libya, that was a serious policy disaster that Obama himself has expressed regret regarding. However, as I have explained in detail, it is not obvious what other policy would have led to any better outcomes. Do you want to explain that, Anti-Gnostic? Do you know what would have been the ideal policy to follow and what it would have led to? And as for corruption, this one certainly involves nothing of the sort. Rebels against Qaddafi were sending money into Obama’s secret Swiss banking account? Is this more Fox News nonsense? You have just missed the boat with this comment 100%, not one comment worth anything at all other than contempt for your rank stupidity.

34 Milo Fan June 13, 2017 at 1:08 pm

Free trade has nothing to do with the Americas military bases. America doesn’t impose its will on trade using them, and if China were to start threatening other countries, America could much more effectively harm China with trade sanctions or nuclear weapons. Anyone who thinks we’ll be fighting a conventional war with China needs his head examined.

No, what it’s really about is jobs for Tyler’s class of academics and government workers. All those kids who majored in international relations, what are they going to do to get that upper middle class wage their professors promised? Learn to code and compete with engineers? Get their hands dirty and manage a restaraunt? Hahahaha.

I’ve been disappointed by Trumps lack of swamp draining, maybe this will do it.

35 Alain June 13, 2017 at 2:37 pm


Indeed. I look forward to someone giving a detailed plausible scenario where the US pulling back somewhat causes “international trade to look very different.” I’ll wait. I’m sure someone will show their work.

36 Jan June 14, 2017 at 5:45 am

Trump already pulled out of TPP. His goal is less trade in general. What evidence does one need besides looking at actions?

37 The Anti-Gnostic June 14, 2017 at 8:59 am

Container ships, rotting in the Pacific …

38 FUBAR007 June 13, 2017 at 6:08 pm

Free trade has nothing to do with the Americas military bases.


The strength and force projection capability of the U.S. military, particularly the Navy and the Air Force, ensures the safe operation of global shipping lanes. When I say it undergirds the global system of trade, I mean the actual physical movement of goods. Since 1991, and arguably since 1945, the world’s oceans have been a de facto American lake. We rule the waves. Global shipping by sea occurs in an environment we dominate and whose security we largely guarantee.

This is why, for example, the Chinese throwing their weight around in the South China Sea has the globalists so twitchy.

More broadly, all those international institutions that you right-wingers hate and fear so much–the UN, World Bank, etc.–are, on their own, completely toothless. They have no military forces of their own, independent of their member states, with which to back up all their innumerable little rules. The entire system of “international law” with its thick web of treaties and compacts and agreements–the whole post-World War II order–relies on the presence and capability of the U.S. military to prop it up.

Withdraw the U.S. from the world, and that order fragments. Sure, some of form it will continue in Europe and North America, but the rest of the world will revert to the pre-World War I status quo of regional powers jockeying with each other and calling the shots in their neighborhoods. The regime of international standards and laws will weaken and fray, becoming increasingly optional for regional powers on the rise.

The Davos crowd wants the U.S. to continue playing global cop because it ensures the continued existence of a global system that they dominate and profit from. If the U.S. withdraws from that role, their power diminishes. They lose their influence over rising powers like China. Such powers can once again start playing more and more by their own rules and, if possible, leverage their neighbors into doing so as well.

39 GoneWithTheWind June 13, 2017 at 12:44 pm

“Turkey and Iran stand to gain in influence.” And do what? It is their intent to create the caliphate and to force world war because they believe they will win/survive and install Islam as the world religion. Therefore it seems odd to me to take their side simply because you suffer from Trump derangement syndrome.

Perhaps the answer to the question is easy. Qatar asked for an American base in their country because they are filthy rich in a dangerous part of the world and incapable of defending themselves. The U.S. agreed because it gave them a base in the center of this dangerous part of the world where they could try tamp down the threat(s). But since that day Qatar has embraced the radical Muslims and naturally the U.S. wants to “tamp” down that effort as well. Should they NOT try to bring Qatar back into the fold???

40 Bob from Ohio June 13, 2017 at 1:02 pm

“Should they NOT try to bring Qatar back into the fold???”

Of course.

Plus we benefit more from backing Saudi Arabia and Egypt than from tiny Qatar.

41 Barkley Rosser June 13, 2017 at 8:37 pm

Really Bob from O? Just exactly what have either Saudi Arabia or Egypt EVER done for us? Oh, the Saudis did used to host some military bases for us, but not much lately. Qatar has been carrying the load on that one.

So, in 1973 the Saudis trashed our economy by imposing an oil export embargo on us because the US supported Israel during the Yom Kippur War. Then they supplied 15 out of the 19 terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. Sure, there has been some sharing of intel, which we are not privy to, but offhand their record of supposedly doing things for the US is pretty slim. I grant they gave G.W. Bush good advice not to invade Iraq and then did provide him some basic support when he did. But this is pretty thin gruel, frankly. And, of course it was their intel people who sent Osama bin Laden to Pakistan in the first place, another great favor they did for us.

As for Egypt, it is the second largest recipient of US military foreign aid in the world after Israel, many billlions of dollars worth. At least the bloody Saudis pay for all the stuff we give them. What do the Egyptians do for us? Frankly not a damned thing. Oh, there is the matter that they signed the Camp David Accord 40 years ago and have kept it. That was when we started giving them all that aid, so they have done big favors for Israel. But, I challenge you to name one damend thing they have done for the US beyond that, one. Go ahead and try. Ooops, nothing there.

42 albatross June 13, 2017 at 5:50 pm

Is there any reason to think Qatar is more in bed with radical Muslims than Saudi Arabia?

43 GoneWithTheWind June 13, 2017 at 6:40 pm


44 Jan June 14, 2017 at 5:48 am

No. They all sponsor terror. Gonewiththewind is apparently not familiar with the madrasas all across Central Asia and Pakistan that spawned so much radical Islamist violence.

45 Jan June 14, 2017 at 5:48 am

Madrasas and radical training grounds that Saudi Arabia funds, to be clear.

46 Barkley Rosser June 13, 2017 at 8:31 pm

Wow, you are probably the most out-to-lunch of many in that category commenters on this thread, GWTW. Neither Turkey nor Iran has declared any intention of creating a caliphate or forcing the world to install Islam as a world religion. What insane source did you get this looney bin stuff from? I would note that while they may both be supporting Qatar against this wild craziness from Saudi Arabia, one is Sunni and the other is Shia. Just which version of Islam do you think that they are plotting to impose and which of them gets to have the caliph?

As for “embracing radical Muslims” it is only because you are a sucker for propaganda that you believe that whom the Qataris are embracing are any more radical than whom the bloody Saudis have been embracing. You should be ashamed of yourself for posting such blatantly stupid and ignorant nonsense.

47 TheRandyNewMan June 13, 2017 at 9:41 pm

“They all hate us anyhow, so let’s drop the big one now…”

48 Boonton June 13, 2017 at 12:50 pm

Or he is reminding American libertarians that they are also Americans. Undermining other gov’ts isn’t libertarian. If you want fewer bases overseas then do that but undermining other countries while you also have bases in them is basically sawing off the tree branch you’re standing on.

Perhaps some libertarian Americans are also noting that Russia’s agenda is not a worldwide adoption of Ayn Rand’s dictums.

49 Jeff R June 13, 2017 at 1:30 pm

Fair enough. I just want to point out that Switzerland is a tiny country surrounded by, historically, some pretty formidable neighbors. Part of this was accomplished by Switzerland adopting policies of neutrality so as not to antagonize its neighbors. Has Qatar done the same? If not, do we think the presence of US troops has made the government act as if it has license to do as it pleases? I would not be surprised if that was the case at all.

50 Alain June 13, 2017 at 2:39 pm


This is a call to behave.

51 dearieme June 13, 2017 at 10:43 am

“local or regional hegemons, which are typically less liberal influences than the U.S.”: maybe. And will the Qatar episode really worry anyone any more than, say, the fate of Gadaffi?

52 Taeyoung June 13, 2017 at 1:02 pm

I think it’s kind of a one-two punch here. The Obama administration screwed over Gaddhafi, sure, but that’s mostly about our interactions with hostile countries. It told Iran and North Korea, for example, that sweet American assurances exchanged for a termination of their nuclear programme would mean absolutely nothing . . . but I don’t think they were inclined to put much stock in American promises anyway. Gaddhafi was in the unusual position of (1) having just seen us destroy Iraq over their nuclear weapons program and (2) not having a meaningful deterrent (e.g. the ability to turn Seoul into a sea of flame).

As far as allies, though, Obama betrayed the Egyptian military at the first opportunity to support the Muslim Brotherhood. That was an important signal about the reliability and value of American friendship (viz. that Perfidious America will screw you over at the first opportunity for perceived momentary advantage). Together with the antiwar movement, it must surely have prompted other countries to downgrade the expected value of American promises of friendship and military assistance. Trump moving against Qatar arguably extends and amplifies that message — “arguably” being dependent on just how bad whatever they were doing was. Singapore’s interests are not necessarily congruent with ours, but I have difficulty imagining anything they would want to do that would be seriously adverse to American interests. That is not the case with Qatar.

53 dearieme June 13, 2017 at 7:09 pm

“(1) having just seen us destroy Iraq over their nuclear weapons program”: which appears to have been non-existent anyway.

All countries make foreign policy mistakes – it’s human nature. But only the USA seems to have a policy of making foreign policy mistakes.

54 Rich Berger June 13, 2017 at 10:45 am

I think Don Boudreaux has become totally unhinged over Trump, and Scott Sumner is suffering from an understated form of the same syndrome.

55 Zzz June 13, 2017 at 10:48 am

I think the problem is Qatar felt too secure and thought there could be no consequences for their actions. This also serves as notice to Singapore, South Korea, NATO and elsewhere that if you want American protection you need to play ball. Or To put it another way, freedom isn’t free.

56 Brian June 13, 2017 at 11:05 am


This has little to do with Trump. And is not “sudden.” This has been predicted. When the US was an oil and gas importer it had to make concessions. It had to demonstrate resolve, allegiance, etc. to its allies. It had to guarantee oil and gas flows. Now that the US is a net oil and gas exporter (oil for the first time in 20 years, gas in 60 years!) the shoe is on the other foot. If the Gulf states want to be guaranteed safe export of their oil and gas, if Singapore, Korea, Japan want to be guaranteed safe import of oil and gas, well, the US has leverage that it has not had in a very long time. My guess is that this, more than anything else, heralds the end of TGS.

57 Zzz June 13, 2017 at 11:14 am

Definitely not sudden, Trump didn’t align the foreign policies of half a dozen middle east countries is a short overseas trip. Whether it was US lead or Saudi lead I don’t know but this has been in progress behind the scenes for months or more.

58 Alain June 13, 2017 at 2:41 pm

All due to Bush’s 2005 energy act.


59 Brian June 13, 2017 at 3:13 pm

More Nixon than Bush, perhaps.

“Facing fears of a broad energy shortage, in the shadow of an embargo by Arab oil producers, the Nixon administration and Congress laid the foundation of an industrial policy that over the span of four decades developed the technologies needed to unleash American shale oil and natural gas onto world markets.”

60 Alain June 13, 2017 at 4:10 pm

Meh. I’d wager that the vast majority of the spending in that bill was virtue signaling garbage to placate the greens. No doubt George P. Mitchell was marginally helped by some random government spending, but fracking got traction when Bush, an oilman, was able to get the government out of the way.

The result has been inexpensive energy for the masses for almost a decade. Increasing human welfare, something a green would never understand.

61 Brian June 13, 2017 at 5:59 pm


“However egregious the provision might be, that description discounts the significant technological changes in both hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling that led to a surge in drilling from Texas to Pennsylvania, underway long before 2005.”

62 Barkley Rosser June 13, 2017 at 8:44 pm

Um, sorry Brian, but you are dead wrong about the US net import situation regarding petroleum.

It is true that net imports of crude petroleum have fallen substantially to about a third of what they used to be. So now we are only net importing oil at the rate of about 4.000 mbd as compared to a peak of nearly 12,000 mbd some years ago. That is still quite some distance from being a net exporter. Sorry about that, Brian.

So, no, this is not some long in place plan, this is sucker Trump doing something stupid because he has been paid off and bamboozled by his son-in-law and a lot of silly stuff like sword dances and glowing globes. Really.

63 Kris June 13, 2017 at 11:07 am

thought there could be no consequences for their actions

Which are what? And in what ways are those actions worse than those perpetrated by the holier-than-thou countries now ganging up to sanction Qatar?

About the rest, I agree with you. I think the US military should pack up everywhere it’s in right now (I didn’t even know there was a presence in Singapore; whatever the hell for?) and go back home. Have fun with all your post-traumatized veterans.

64 FUBAR007 June 13, 2017 at 11:20 am

I didn’t even know there was a presence in Singapore; whatever the hell for?

Location, location, location.


From an economic and strategic perspective, the Strait of Malacca is one of the most important shipping lanes in the world.

The strait is the main shipping channel between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, linking major Asian economies such as India, China, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea. Over 94,000 vessels pass through the strait each year,[4] carrying about one-fourth of the world’s traded goods, including oil, Chinese manufactured products, and Indonesian coffee. About a quarter of all oil carried by sea passes through the Strait, mainly from Persian Gulf suppliers to Asian markets. In 2007, an estimated 13.7 million barrels per day were transported through the strait, increasing to an estimated 15.2 million barrels per day in 2011. In addition, it is also one of the world’s most congested shipping choke points because it narrows to only 2.8 km (1.5 nautical miles) wide at the Phillips Channel (close to the south of Singapore).

65 roversaurus June 13, 2017 at 7:21 pm

I am all for complete, unilateral free trade. But I do not want subsidized “free” trade. If importing products from China requires multiple military bases around the world let Walmart build those bases and incorporate it in to the price of their products.

66 CM June 13, 2017 at 11:25 am

Its a slight misnomer to say that the US has a military base in Singapore. There is a logistics facility and plans to base US warships out of facilities owned and controlled by Singapore. But there are no US bases.

Anyway, the point holds that the election of Trump (as well as his behavior) reduces the reliability of US security assurances (however those assurances are made).

67 Ricardo June 13, 2017 at 11:46 am

That’s what I thought. The big bases in East Asia are in Japan and South Korea. The U.S. quietly maintains a navy presence in Subic Bay in the Philippines which both sides avoid calling a “base” for political reasons and has even lower-key arrangements in other parts of that country and in others.

68 Zzz June 13, 2017 at 11:29 am

Every country in the middle east supports terrorism at some level but there is a very strong feeling of “us vs. them”. So it’s one thing to support terrorists that attack outsiders, it’s very different to support terrorists that attack or destabilize other middle east countries. Qatar was funding groups against the governments of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. That’s a very dangerous game to play, especially when you’re small and share a border with one of those countries.

69 Bob from Ohio June 13, 2017 at 12:50 pm

Egypt and Saudi Arabia are the two most important Arab countries and are semi-allies of the US. We rely on them for things no one else can provide.

Qatar is a (increasingly pro-Iran) Grand Duchy of Fenwick with oil.

70 Barkley Rosser June 13, 2017 at 8:46 pm

I repeat: neither Egypt nor Saudi Arabia does anything worthwhile for us. Neither hosts a military base, and we have been paying Egypt billions of dollars a year in military aid so they do not attack Israel. The Saudis have jacked us over on oil supplies, terrorism, and a lot of other stuff as well. Name one thing either one of them is doing for us right now besides dragging us into a stupid and unnecessary war in Yemen and an unnecessary conflict with the nation that hosts our largest and most important military base in the region.

No, Qatar is not the Duchy of Fenwick.

71 carlospln June 13, 2017 at 9:52 pm

“Qatar is a (increasingly pro-Iran) Grand Duchy of Fenwick with oil”

Jesus, you’re a fucking moron.

Qatar has gas, not oil.

72 Barkley Rosser June 13, 2017 at 10:29 pm


Yes, Qatar’s wealth largely comes from its natural gas production and exports, but it also does have oil as well and produces it and exports it, about half a mbd per day. Why is it that so many people here make so many just plain ignorant statements with such great certainty?

73 Anonne June 13, 2017 at 11:45 am

It’s Saudi Arabia that thinks there will be no consequences for its actions, and Trump is giving them a blank check. Of all the countries from which to desire restricting access to travelers, that should be the one, but they greased a deal. Granted, there has been a pro-Saudi tilt in the foreign affairs community since Desert Storm, but this is getting ridiculous. They are even worse than Qatar and yet they are going to starve out these people?

74 Bob from Ohio June 13, 2017 at 12:47 pm

“Granted, there has been a pro-Saudi tilt in the foreign affairs community since Franklin Roosevelt.” We have courted the Saudis since the 1940s.

“They are even worse than Qatar and yet they are going to starve out these people?”

Qatar funds both Hamas and Al Queda’s tv station. The Saudis may fund imans who spread poison but the effect on terrorism is more indirect.

Saudis are horrible, Qatar is probably worse.

75 Anonne June 13, 2017 at 1:44 pm

Funny, if you mean Al Jazeera, it actually does good reporting and isn’t an obvious propaganda arm, like, say, Fox or Breitbart.

Still, it’s Saudi Arabia that had 19 attackers on the planes for 9/11. It doesn’t get more direct than that. People seem to forget that fact, and the most militant Wahhabism comes from there. But they nominally want to play ball with oil, and money talks, so they get a pass.

76 TMC June 13, 2017 at 9:20 pm

“it actually does good reporting ” Yes it does.

“and isn’t an obvious propaganda arm,” Yes it is.

“like, say, Fox or Breitbart.” You are an idiot.

77 Barkley Rosser June 14, 2017 at 2:37 am

Not as big of an idiot as you are,TMC. You are really a joke,although a sort of nauseating one.

78 OldCurmudgeon June 13, 2017 at 1:25 pm

There is also a double-deference problem. Qatar acts more aggressively knowing that, as an ally, they’ll normally get the benefit of the doubt.

79 otto June 13, 2017 at 10:54 am

“Typically, if you put a major military base in a country, there is a general expectation you will not actively work to subvert the sovereignty of the host government.”

Bizarre. In the long sweep of history, the general expectation is that you would certainly be trying to subvert the sovereignty of the host government, indeed your placement of troops there was exactly the establishment of a colonial relationship of one sort or another.

80 ladderff June 13, 2017 at 11:52 am

Thank you. Cowen’s use of sovereignty is Orwellian.

81 The Other Jim June 13, 2017 at 3:12 pm

Well, his goal is to make people worry about literally anything possible, because Hillary got her ass kicked in the historic 2016 election.

If he has to invert the meaning of words, that is not a problem.

Next up: will the skyrocketing stock market drive everyone to bankruptcy?

82 Barkley Rosser June 13, 2017 at 10:32 pm


Did you ever praise Obama for having a stock market way more than double during his presidency? I do not remember that, offhand. Oh, and maybe she got her “ass kicked,” but HRC did beat Trump in the popular vote by more than 2%, and Trump is now 24% in the hole in popularity, by far the worst performance ever seen by a new president. Great stuff that, TOJ.

83 the price of everything and the cost of nothing June 13, 2017 at 3:24 pm

it’s not, because he almost certainly did it unconsciously. Orwellian newspeak is intentional. Tyler’s is conditioned.

84 NikolaiRostova June 13, 2017 at 12:12 pm

Well… In the sweep of history, yes. In modern history, if a small country asks the US to ‘please leave.’ The US will leave. The dynamics seem to be slightly different now, as the US has accepted an international norm of avoiding any explicitly colonial appearing relationship.

85 Taeyoung June 13, 2017 at 1:11 pm

Haha, good point. Particularly appropriate in the case of South Korea, where the US military presence explicitly subverts the sovereignty of the host government. Until 1994, South Korean troops were under US command, which is kind of like the opposite of sovereignty (and yes, arguably this leaves Carter on the hook for the Kwangju Massacre, under the Yamashita principle — but we’re not going to hang Carter for war crimes). After 1994, we gave peacetime command to the South Korean government, but retained wartime command over their troops. We were going to give them wartime command in 2014 (?), but I think that got delayed.

86 Borjigid June 13, 2017 at 2:13 pm

I think what he is getting at is that hosting a US military base is usually proof against bullying from local rivals, i.e. Kuwait vs.Iraq post-1991, South Korea vs.North Korea/China, Europe vs. USSR/Russia. Clearly, the US is not averse to subverting the host nations sovereignty itself.

In the current scenario, Qatar looks to be in danger of losing sovereignty to KSA/UAE, with the US being purely a bystander.

87 Barkley Rosser June 13, 2017 at 8:48 pm

Unfortunately the US is not purely a bystander. Trump has actively encouraged this abysmally stupid move against Qatar by some nations that are doing a big fat nothing for the US. Frankly it looks like blatant corruption, Trump personally paid off in hotel revenues, along with a lot of ego tripping and flattery. This is just shameful and disgusting.

88 Alain June 13, 2017 at 2:45 pm

Since joining Bloomberg Cowan has had to play ball. Bloomberg demands continual anti-trump reporting and Cowen, like all members of the staff except perhaps McArdle, does as he is told.

89 msgkings June 13, 2017 at 5:05 pm

Also Trump is awful so smart people like Cowen point that out all on their own.

90 Jay June 13, 2017 at 10:55 am

Remind me again why we spend hundreds of billions of a dollars a year to play military police for the world? Let Saudi Arabia spend out of its sovereign wealth fund to be military police of the Middle East. Honestly, what percentage of the US voting population is Jewish?

91 Kris June 13, 2017 at 11:13 am

Be careful what you wish for. How are you going to drive your Hummer without a reliable supply of cheap gas, eh?

92 The Anti-Gnostic June 13, 2017 at 11:22 am

You’re missing the thread: that gas ain’t “cheap.” It apparently requires billions of dollars in military deployments to defend everybody else’s borders.

God forbid we stop paying medieval, inbred monarchs for the privilege of burning their hydrocarbons and looking at alternatives.

93 The Anti-anti-gnostic June 13, 2017 at 12:09 pm

Yeah, but that price has never been made visible to the average consumer. It’s been a huge subsidy to the US energy consumers … time to pay up.

94 The Anti-Anti-anti-gnostic June 13, 2017 at 12:26 pm

U mad cuz u agreein wit Alt-Right.

95 Jay June 13, 2017 at 12:42 pm

So when you measure European healthcare costs do you include the 100% government subsidization of medical school? Those are counted as education costs in Europe but in the US doctors pay for medical school and the cost gets passed on and counted as healthcare costs.

96 The Anti-Gnostic June 13, 2017 at 12:49 pm

That would be economically accurate. If gas would be more expensive without US soldiers defending Qataris who sit around and pretend to run businesses then it goes on the tab.

97 Jay June 13, 2017 at 12:06 pm

I probably purchase about 150 gallons of gasoline a year. Not a big expense for me even if it skyrocketed to $10 a gallon.

98 Brian June 13, 2017 at 12:21 pm

When we bring the military home, we won’t have to fuel Hummers anymore.

99 Brian June 13, 2017 at 12:20 pm

Saudi Arabia is not the Jewish Zion. There is another country for that.

100 Bob from Ohio June 13, 2017 at 12:59 pm

“Honestly, what percentage of the US voting population is Jewish?”

What has that have to do with anything?

Our involvement in the MidEast pre-dates our concern with Israel. FDR played patty cake with Ibn Saud and we restored the Shah in 1953. Pre-1967, France, not the US, was Israel’s patron.

We could defend Israel with an airbase in the Negev and the 6th Fleet in the Med.

101 Milo Fan June 13, 2017 at 2:58 pm

It’s primarily jobs for the boys but Israel benefits from keeping the Middle East divided. The last thing it wants is for Saudi Arabia to be replaced by a modernizing regime that could buy weapons and actually fight.

102 A waco demolition called morrison June 13, 2017 at 9:29 pm

Shouldn’t we just face that a non-contiguous Palestine will never happen. And it’s obvious the Shia rule in Iran has never cared about the Sunnis in Palestine. And that the Sunnis in Saudi Arabia are too politically impotent to do anything about it. So American interest in oil and gas, which is canbefound now in America, seems to miss the mark in these negotiations even if gas pressure is problematic for the middle class.

Hezbollah is a Shiite political party and resistance movement. And Saudi Arabia’s right hand man looks to be Pakistan. How is it again that a nuclear armed Iran is more dangerous than a nuclear armed Pakistan? There is a civil war being fought and it’s being fought in Syria, and that’s all I have to say about that.

103 P A June 13, 2017 at 4:22 pm


104 Thanatos Savehn June 13, 2017 at 1:45 pm

Because every time a regional conflict erupts the flotsam and jetsam of their failed states washes up on our shores and we feel obliged to pick it all up and haul it off to places like central Ohio and dump it there; which in turn pisses off the locals.

105 The Anti-Gnostic June 13, 2017 at 2:49 pm

We invade the world, because we invite the world.

106 DanC June 13, 2017 at 11:34 am

Qatar should know that they need to pick sides, as should Singapore etc.

I don’t understand Tyler’s logic. The US must tolerate duplicitous behavior from nations with US bases or those countries will engage in duplicitous behavior.

Informing Quatar that they must not support groups openly hostile to US interests seems more like common sense then a failure of American policy. Expecting other nations that allow US bases to at least remain neutral in their dealings does not seem like a radical concept.

South Korea does face tough choices. The US has an interest in containing North Korea. But South Korea is a hostage with a gun to it’s head. What is in the best interest of the region may have horrible consequences for South Korea. There is no great solution. However absent the US, South Korea must submit to blackmail or face the same potential horrible consequences of standing wit the US. Which would Tyler suggest they follow?

107 Tom T. June 13, 2017 at 11:47 am

Indeed, Tyler seems to be using “game theory” as shorthand for “crude single-variable analysis that ignores crucial factual differences.”

108 Jeff R June 13, 2017 at 1:47 pm

Well, at least it’s consistent with his earlier “you hate freedom and are a coward if you don’t love refugees” rhetoric.

109 Lurker June 14, 2017 at 4:40 am

Perhaps he should stick to economics

110 dots June 13, 2017 at 2:56 pm


111 Barkley Rosser June 13, 2017 at 8:54 pm


Your question is flamingly stupid. Saudi Arabia has been aggressively pushing an unnecessary and stupid conflict with Iran in Yemen and elsewhere. The Iranians recently made an offer to have direct negotiations and reopen diplomatic relations. This is crazy garbage being pushed by the egomaniacal and out-of-control Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He should be shut down and this conflict shoujd stop.

So, Qatar and nobody else should be forced to pick sides in this stupid conflict. This is disgraceful, and it is shocking and embarrasing that our corrupt president has been such a sucker for this drivel coming out of Saudi Arabia.

BTW, there are several other Arab states that are also not “taking sides” in this, including fellow GCC members Kuwait and Oman. But the Saudis are not pulling this outrageous and unacceptable garbage with them. This is just hypocritical garbage. As for Trump, the question is which is more the point, that he is stupid or that he is corrupt, although he is clearly both big time.b

112 DanC June 14, 2017 at 9:42 am


You want to side with Iran in the Middle East go ahead. I don’t know if that is flamingly stupid, ignorant, silly, or just the rantings of someone off their meds. In any case, good luck with that.

113 DanC June 14, 2017 at 9:55 am

for those who might like another view on Qatar

114 DanC June 14, 2017 at 10:08 am

And after reading this article if you agree with the Obama/ Hillary Clinton approach to Qatar well at least you know where you stand

115 Barkley Rosser June 14, 2017 at 4:57 pm

Oh, you are really going to try to defend your stupidity?

So this article shows that the same bunch, four Arab states, did not like Qatar back in 2014 that do not like it today. Indeed, they withdrew their diplomats, but they did not engage in an economic boycott.

However, even a remotely informed reading of the article shows that what is going on is that KSA and some of its pals have been funding radical groups in Syria, just different ones from Qatar does, and also radical groups in Libya, but different ones from Qatar’s. It provides no evidence that the Muslim Brotherhood is actually a terrorist group, which it is not, although the Egyptians, Saudis, and Emiratis do not like it. It is all the same cast of characters as now, but with no particular evidence that the people Qatar backs are any worse than those the Saudi crowd back.

As for Iran and Saudi Arabia, the US should stay out of their conflict and rivalry. The Saudis have been the aggressors here, even as they claim the Iranians are. They are the ones bombing heck out of Yemen and creating a humanitarian famine crisis, not the Iranians. Clearly the worst enemy of the US in the Middle East is ISIS. We are in a de facto alliance on the ground militarily in Iraq with Iran against ISIS. Frankly, the Saudis have done near zero against ISIS, with good reason to believe that they have had citizens supporting ISIS.

Sorry, if anything in terms of US national interests, we should be in an alliance with Iran, but clearly the wiser approach is to stay in the middle as Obama did, who eventually got the Saudis and pals to return their diplomats after nine months of their silly behaviors back to Qatar. But now they have this corrupt idiot in the White House who is supporting all this nonsense, which is not remotely in the US national interest. I know that Trump got $270,000 in payments to his hotel in Washington from a bunch of Saudis, not to mention the ego trip of sword dancing and lecturing a hall full of Muslim Arab leaders, but what did the US as a nation get from this increasingly dangerous farce, and Tyler is right that this is dangerous.?

116 Barkley Rosser June 14, 2017 at 5:41 pm


Just to pound this down further, the article you linked to contains rank inaccuracies that much of US media spread because they are told them by officials from supposedly friendly nations, especially Egypt and Saudi Arabia, neither of which does much of anything useful for the US, with Egypt in particular the annual recipient of billions of dollars in military aid from the US. Anyway, poorly informed US reporters accept drivel from these people that they repeat.

So, a very big piece of drivel is this claim that the Muslim Brotherhood is a “terrorist group.” Sorry, no. It abjured violence over two decades ago, an act that led a faction of it to leave and joint the budding al Qaeda, where that group is now in charge of things there. They were democratically elected to lead Egypt after Mubarak stepped down in Egypt (they are based in Egypt and date back to the 1920s there), only to be overthrown in a coup by the current ruler, al-Sissi, who, big surprise, is constantly spreading this lie that they are a terrorist group, which the Saudis repeat along with the Emiratis.

As it is in terms of what our policy should be, even our current SecState Tillerson and SecDef Mattis know, even though they both have reputations as being anti-Iran hardliners. Both of them have called for a scaling back of the anti-Qatar boycott. This peaked last Friday when Tillerson was especially forceful about it (and as a former Exxon Mobil CEO, he does know his way around the Middle East well), that the blockade against Qatar should be lifted. Both Tillerson and Mattis are highly aware of the the US air base there and its role in the war against ISIS, although KSA leaders do not give a hoo about that, being ideologically in line with ISIS to a large degree, Sunni Wahhabists. But an hour after Tillerson made his obviously highly reasonable request, our corrupt Idiot-in-Chief countermanded that and doubled down on backing this stupid and dangerous blockade.

Oh, I just read that the Chinese have given the Trump Organization even more trademarks. Well, US allies in Southeast Asia can just suck it up, unless they can come up with their own payoffs to Trump and his family. Really. This is how degraded and bad this situation has become. Nothing remotely like it in all of US history.

117 JCC June 13, 2017 at 12:04 pm

I still can’t grasp who are the bad guys in this Qatar vs. Everybody… they all look like bad guys (including Trump).

118 rayward June 13, 2017 at 12:08 pm

Excellent post. Your best at Bloomberg, and one of the best ever at Bloomberg. Reason does have a place in the national discourse.

119 The Anti-anti-gnostic June 13, 2017 at 12:10 pm

Except for this closing statement: “All of a sudden, the stakes are frighteningly high.” Really? I think that became clear when Trumpy McDumpy became our so-called President.

120 John Hall June 13, 2017 at 12:22 pm

Doesn’t it seem reasonable that if we agree to defend a country then that country shouldn’t support policies that our country opposes?

121 Borjigid June 13, 2017 at 2:16 pm

Do we have a mutual defense treaty with Qatar? Or just basing rights?

122 collin June 13, 2017 at 12:47 pm

I think your game theory is analyzing the wrong situation here. I bet Singapore or South Korea can understand that their nations are different and now would be a good time of join Trump for cake at Mar-A-Lago weekend. (That and China is much more of rational actor than the Middle East.) Also the closing down of US military bases is not a bad thing for the average person in the US as our workers are hurting by the US over-supplying military support for our Allies.

My problem with the Middle East with Qatar and Saudia Arabia game theory is each side seems to be making the wrong game theory decision in which SA gets Egypt support and continues to bomb Yemen while Qatar moves closer to Turkey & Iran. (And better yet Saudia Arabia calling Al Jazeera Fake News!) This is still in the early stages of continued game theory errors but isn’t that how Europe 1914 ended up in World War 1? It was just a lot nations making really bad game theory decisions that it was better to be part of the war instead of backing away?

123 Cooper June 13, 2017 at 1:38 pm

If Trump were better at his job, he’d be having long phone conversations with each of our allies and assuring them that our abandonment of Qatar will, in no way, impact the American security guarantees for their country.

Instead he’s probably continuing to behave rudely and crudely, scaring our allies.

His failure to enthusiastically endorse Article 4 while in Europe was a bad move.

I’m fine with him pressuring NATO to take its own defense more seriously but he also needs to start behaving more like the leader of the free world and less like a reality TV host.

I don’t want to live in a world where every country feels the need to develop nuclear weapons as a deterrent because they can’t rely on US security guarantees.

124 August Hurtel June 13, 2017 at 12:51 pm

Qatar was actually funding terrorism. So was Saudi Arabia. I think Singapore feels relatively certain they don’t have to worry much.

We should have a series called ‘school for thinktank libertarians.’ Start with simple things, like how gay marriage has nothing to do with freedom, and everything to do with getting more money to lawyers via divorce courts (should anyone be dumb enough to take the state up on the offer). Who knows, perhaps we can rehabilitate them…

125 Barkley Rosser June 14, 2017 at 2:41 am

Oh great, a homophobic piece of stupid manure shows up here. Go eff yourself, August.

126 August Hurtel June 14, 2017 at 9:31 am

If you ever find your relationship subject to the divorce industry, it shall dawn on you that government marriage has in no way increased your freedom.
This is what these poor think tank libertarians need to learn about this subject, because they currently run around like there’s been some great increase in freedom.

Instead they’ve just sown more confusion. We are rapidly losing most arguments- even just simple arguments for free markets, because we are going to end up sounding like Marxists, saying it’s never been tried. It is technically true free markets haven’t been tried, since pro-growth policies aren’t neutral policies, but too much stuff is marketed as free market with think tank libertarian approval, so it’s going to be pointless.

Much like it’s probably pointless to talk to you. It sounds too much like you just emote all over your keyboard rather than take the time to think about whether the fad of the day actually increases freedom.

127 Barkley Rosser June 14, 2017 at 4:48 pm

Oh, so you had a bad divorce, eh, August? Well just try to avoid going all homophobic in your unhappiness over it. Frankly, this is not an important issue and has nothing to do with this thread. All you have done is make yourself look like a bigot, although maybe all you really care about is ranting against divorce lawyers.

128 Barkley Rosser June 14, 2017 at 5:00 pm

BTW, August, I have been divorced, but somehow I managed to avoid having the bad time you did. Some of this is being rational and reasonable with your ex rather than acting like a total asshole and jerk, which is what leads you to get ripped off by divorced lawyers. Obviously you were a sucker whose jerk behavior let him get ripped off. I suggest you obtain counseling to deal with it.

129 August Hurtel June 14, 2017 at 5:34 pm

Government marriage is subject to bad analysis from libertarians, just like this foreign policy piece. It all stems from the same obtuse behavior we see from our think tank libertarians. These ‘professional’ libertarians are whom I am talking about- government marriage is an example; I heard some nonsense recently from a think tank libertarian about it. And, of course, in the same podcast, they were opining on why no one listened to them.

Qatar is no different. This analysis is bunk. In fact, one would hope, frankly, that countries would start politely asking the U.S. to take it’s toys and go home, but a bunch of Sunni nations trying to scapegoat Qatar in the hopes that Lord Trump won’t notice they are just as guilty isn’t going to do it.

Personal attacks suggest you either can’t or don’t want to actually think. Why has libertarian analysis failed miserably? Why isn’t Gary President? Why are the kids turning up NAZI? Are you blind to the injustices, just like you are blind to state encroachment when it comes in rainbow colors?

130 Barkley Rosser June 15, 2017 at 1:57 am

Oh, August, so you actually want to make a point about the Qatar issue, and this talk about gay marriage and the divorce industry was supposed to reveal something about what libertarians say about Qatar. Really? It certainly was very unclar.

As it is, it remains very unclear what your position is. “This analysis is bunk.” Which analsys? Tyler’s? Trump’s? Somebody else’s? It seems that you think the US should not be involved over there and you want those nations to ask us to take our “toys” home, and that we should do so. Or is that the supposed libertarian think tank position you are trying to critique?

OK, although you continue to make weird homophobic-looking remarks in your final paragraph, apparently you are really trying to make a statement about the Qatar issue. But I confess I cannot tell what it is. So, maybe you are not at all homophobic, but the point of bringing up the divorce issue with or without gay marriage is frankly totally unclear. Maybe I am dumb for not figuring it out. Instead I shall shift my critique to saying that you are dumb for being totally unable to make clear what your position, irrespective of whatever your views on divorce or gay marriage are.

Oh, and I am just taking out anybody here posts ignorant or stupid points on this issue, and you certainly fill the bill on that one, August, extremely stupid to the point of total incoherence. I agree with Tyler this is dangerous and serious, and a lot of people here have spouted utter ignorant stupidities, and I am dispensing with normal politeness in my lack of respect and the usual forebearance for this. We have had way too much of it.

131 August Hurtel June 15, 2017 at 10:25 am

The virtual signaller fails to signal virtue, for the virtuous do good things, rather than just comment on how they are better than me.

The moral posturer fails to do good analysis, for he is to busy defending his ego, and belittling his interlocutor to think about why think tank libertarians are on such a losing streak.

On every level, you fail. I can’t fathom why people continue to do this.

132 Bob from Ohio June 13, 2017 at 12:53 pm

“isn’t that how Europe 1914 ended up in World War 1?”


Past time for the MidEast to have a reckoning.

133 Mike W June 13, 2017 at 1:17 pm

From a WSJ editorial today: “It is a striking and dangerous contradiction: Qatar invests billions of dollars in the U.S. and Europe and then recycles the profits to support Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and groups linked to al Qaeda.”

How is Singapore, Kuwait, Bahrain, South Korea, Kosovo, Greece, Djibouti and Taiwan similar that they should “think twice about the benefits” of hosting American military bases.

134 Barkley Rosser June 13, 2017 at 9:00 pm

Mike W.,

Sorry, but the Muslim Brotherhood is not a terrorist group, despite the claims to the contrary by Egypt and Saudi Arabia. They led a democratically elected government that the US backed but that was overthrown by the current military dictatorship, who has been going all out to suppress them. They ran a somewhat oppressive government in Egypt, although not obviously more so than the current regime, but go ahead and name a terror attack made by them, just one. The fact is that abjured violent action some decades ago.

Hamas is a more complicated matter, but they rule Gaza and most of their terrorismm is directed at Israel, more in the form of half-baked rockets than people suicide bombing and the like. So, fine, Israel certainly does not like Qatar supporting them, and I think Qatar should stop that one. But what does Hamas have to do with Saudi Arabia?

As for supporting groups linked to al Qaeda, Saudi Arabia has had such links as well, some of them worse than the Qatari ones. The WSJ is just repeating half-baked lying propaganda coming out of Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

135 wiki June 13, 2017 at 2:05 pm

How is this nearly as bad as O bringing down Libya after GWB negotiated a deal to get rid of advanced weaponry from Qaddafi?

Pfft. The whole history of American foreign policy since the 1940s is the US cutting and running when times get tough or undermining leaders that they suddenly decide are “horrors” not democratic.

136 John Thacker June 13, 2017 at 3:51 pm

It’s nearly as bad, but, yes, Libya was also bad and could have used a mention in the article as another example. However, Obama is not President now, even though all the Obama-Trump voters got their wish in electing the President most likely to continue his foreign policy.

137 Barkley Rosser June 14, 2017 at 2:51 am


At least one thing about Obama and Libya is that he realized that it was a major botch and said so publicly, stating that it was the greatest failure of his presidency. That said, it is not obvious what Obama should have done or how it was going to come out a whole lot better. The Arab Spring triggered an uprising in Libya against Qaddafi that was based in the eastern Cyrenaica region whose largest city is Benghazi, with that region long alienated from the rest of the nation. You had a move by the Arab League to support the revolt that went to the UN, with both the British and the French supporting it strongly, and even the Russians and Chinese standing back and letting it go through.

At the time the US took this sort of midldle position that led to the weird episode of “leading from behind” that was so widely mocked. But in fact there were basically two alternatives,neither of which is obviously superior: attempting to block the move in the UN and opposing any support for the Libyan rebels, or going in full force with boots on the ground and all that. On the first, it is unlikely our opposing the resolution would have halted the massive foreign support the rebels would get, as both the Brits and French and a lot of Arabs would have supported them even if we had not, although that might have had the actual victory by the rebels put off some. But they probably would have won anyway, leading to something like we see now. At the other extreme, well, maybe Ambassador Stevens would have not been killed if we had gobs of US troops there, but lots of them would have gotten killed,and it is unlikely we would have succeeded in imposing a unified government. This was an almost inevitable mess no matter what we tried to do.

In contrast,Trump is engaging in a completely avoidable mess that did not need to happen. He should have just told the bloody Saudis to stuff it and do not do it rather than encouraging them. In that regard this resembles the stupid war of choice that George W. Bush engaged in when he invaded Iraq, although hopefully this will not turn out as badly as that did.

138 Jack June 13, 2017 at 2:28 pm

Very though provoking article. Trump approaches a lot of games as if they are in limited time. Wonder if that is a reflection of his particular business background.

139 Dots June 13, 2017 at 5:29 pm

Qatar’s enemy-of-my-enemy value diminished as Sunni clients lost to Assad, I think

supply tantrums like this should be healthy for Penn, ND, etc – not suggesting this is a motive for Trump’s hazing Qatar, probably only an ancillary boon. I would think the importance of Qatar to the world LNG market would also slow some transitions from coal to gas, marginally. hopefully Russian and C. Asian pipes to E. Asia will reduce the importance of these troublemakers

coal must get a sweet bump from US gas’s increasing exportability and effective demand via LNG port terminals, pipelines to Mexico, and new gas plant activation in response to the low prices of recent years

140 Evans_KY June 13, 2017 at 6:26 pm

A showdown between the Shia and the Sunni with 15,000+ American troops currently in the region. We need to de-escalate the situation.

141 Evan June 13, 2017 at 9:05 pm

Tyler I continue to be astonished by how fragile you believe the international system to be. The most important fact about America’s allies is that they all need us more than we need them. They will appease us, the distant hegemon, in order to preserve our support against potential local hegemons. One of the most robust empirical results of the international relations literature is that “balancing” is far more common than “bandwagoning.” The allies have little choice but to put up with Donald Trump in the short run. In the long run they should all be spending more on defense anyway.

Also please be careful which countries you refer to as “allies.” Japan is an ally. It has a formal mutual defense treaty. Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Jordan are clients without formal promises.

142 David Khoo June 13, 2017 at 9:28 pm

There are a few factual errors regarding Singapore in the article.

There is no US military base in Singapore. The US makes use of our bases under an arrangement once dubbed “places not bases”, and there is a small permanent US presence that handles logistics. However, Changi Naval Base (where the US bases the LCS and performs maintenance on US carrier battle groups) and Paya Lebar Airbase (from which the US covers the South China Sea with P-8 Poseidon spy planes) are in theory open to any friendly armed force to visit and use, and in practice have hosted Chinese, Indian and many other forces. Of course, the fact that these bases were upgraded to the specific standards of US warships and planes (at 100% Singaporean taxpayer expense) was just a happy coincidence.

There is no alliance between Singapore and the US, nor any public security guarantee. Despite being offered Major Non-NATO Ally status several times, Singapore has steadfastly refused to accept as part of a policy of strategic non-alignment. It is dangerous for small countries to take sides, for precisely the reasons you state in the article. When a small country chooses to become a piece on a superpower’s side of the chessboard, it is only a pawn to be defended when convenient and sacrificed without hesitation when not. Far better to play all sides, which is what our independent foreign policy that walks a line between all major powers aims toward. At the same time that we host a US military presence and criticise China over its refusal to accept international law over the SCS, we became a founding member of the AIIB and strongly support Chinese diplomatic and economic initiatives like One Belt One Road.

We are serious about not relying on foreign powers for our defence. Unlike Qatar, thanks to universal conscription and a strong economy we have an armed force that is fully the equal of any of our neighbors, built at immense cost of resources, time and liberty. That is simply the ante if we are to have a truly independent and sovereign foreign policy. We don’t rely on anyone but ourselves against Indonesia or Malaysia. China is a different matter, but that is more properly a problem for the whole ASEAN region, and one reason why we strongly encourage and support US engagement with the region.

143 Paul June 13, 2017 at 11:16 pm

Not a base in the sense that people would normally interpret. Rather the US making use of Singapore facilities.

Not unlike the US Marines in Darwin conducting joint exercises with Australian and… Chinese forces.

144 anon July 4, 2017 at 1:46 am

As I understand it, there is a treaty of some sort, though it is difficult to find information on the details of the contents. The base deal, I believe it was renewed in 2013 and should be in effect until 2024, Google cached text here: Maybe this paper has more details as it mentions a bilateral defense agreement: I didn’t have access and was not inclined to buy it. By the way, those asking about costs of the base, the base was bankrolled by Qatar, for over 10 billion and Qatar continues to shoulder significant costs and owns the actual base (similar to Singapore’s arrangement). Qatar also has started a national service program for the last few years, but the population is simply to low for that kind of army to ever really matter except against other small countries like Bahrain. I doubt conscription would make much of a difference for Singapore either if China went at it seriously. Like you say, it is a different matter, likewise Saudi and Iran are in this region a very different matter from the likes of Kuwait, the UAE, Oman, Yemen, and Bahrain. It is also beneficial for the US because of the strategic location and that Qatar allows them to run planes and missions from the base that Saudi would not allow following 9/11. It is used not only by the US, but also by their partners, so there are also NATO forces there from various countries. Terrorist groups with presence in Qatar are reportedly by request of the US (this arrangement makes sense as the US wants to avoid officially engaging in “negotiations with terrorists.” In the past, when they had relations, Israel also took advantage of these to negotiate and prefers even now that they stay in Qatar instead of moving to Iran where they may get real funding, as reported by Israeli paper Haaretz. In terms of financing accusations, they have been denied. While possible, no evidence has yet been presented. In the case of the alleged ransom in Iraq, the Iraqi prime minister says the money was actually given to them and is still in their bank. Ashcroft’s firm has been hired to go over the government’s books. US military works closely with Qatar in combating terrorism and were even participated in exercises with Qatar’s Navy during this rift and have reaffirmed that they have no intention of moving the base. I think that the US take here is that they think there is some funding, most likely of Hamas that they have an interest in stopping, most other things that have any chance of being funded by Qatar are the same ones the US would like to fund. Trump probably blustered on these and looked like he was giving a green light for Saudi and UAE to try and make Qatar like Bahrain, a Saudi vassal state when they took advantage of him by pointing fingers for their own interests. Most other major nations in the news seem to be following Tillerson’s stance, they make the point about cutting terror funding but also say that the countries need to sit down and negotiate and that demands should be reasonable and actionable…. which the Saudi block’s ultimatum really isn’t. The US actually has LNG interest in Qatar as well, since some of the countries Qatar supplies most heavily are South Korea and Japan, which are critical to their strategy in Asia.

145 Cornflour June 15, 2017 at 9:07 am

For those still interested in Tyler Cowen’s column on the Qatar dispute, you might also like to read Lee Smith’s piece published yesterday in “The weekly Standard.”

Here’s an excerpt:

“The diplomatic crisis splitting the Gulf Cooperation Council isn’t really about Sunni extremism, or Qatar’s easy flirtation with Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. Thus it has nothing to do with the larger issues shaping American foreign policy and the role of our GCC allies in implementing it. No, it’s just Abu Dhabi waging political warfare against Doha with a specific goal in mind—to get the United States to move its military base from Qatar to the UAE.”

146 vivek rawat June 16, 2017 at 2:52 am

great news..
send me how to get daily updates related links

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