Forty Years of Real Treasury Rates

Preparing graphs for my course, I generated this graph which shows the trend decline in real (risk free) rates. Is there any reason to believe in an imminent reversal of the trend?

Figure 1: 10 year Treasury (constant maturity) yield (black), Treasury minus expected inflation from Cleveland Fed (teal), Treasury minus expected inflation from Survey of Professional Forecasters (purple +), and TIPS (salmon). NBER defined recession dates shaded gray. Source: Federal Reserve via FRED, Cleveland Fed, Philadelphia Fed/SPF, NBER, and author’s calculations.

it’s hard to see exactly how the estimates of the real rate differ in recent months, so here’s a detail.

Figure 2: 10 year Treasury (constant maturity) yield (black), Treasury minus expected inflation from Cleveland Fed (teal), Treasury minus expected inflation from Survey of Professional Forecasters (purple +), and TIPS (salmon). NBER defined recession dates shaded gray. Source: Federal Reserve via FRED, Cleveland Fed, Philadelphia Fed/SPF, NBER, and author’s calculations.

Peak real rates post-recession was April 2021.

102 thoughts on “Forty Years of Real Treasury Rates

  1. Barkley Rosser

    This is not on Treasury rates, but ones in China. I have now finally seen somebody report on the shadow sector reliance of Evergrance, the Dept. 25 Economist, in a brief report says 45% of their debt is to that sector, and, surprise, it is higher interest rates than their other debt.

    Reply
    1. pgl

      A higher credit spread – no surprise. What is the real interest rate on Chinese government bonds? Generally, real rates in other nations (Japan, UK, the Euro etc.) are even lower than real rates here.

      Reply
      1. Barkley Rosser

        BTW, the Economist article had several paragraphs on regular banks heavily exposed to residential loans, if not specifically to Evergrande, with a table listing them. Ping An and Minsheng are apparently the most exposed (I know nothing about either of them). This was followed by this short paragraph starting with “Of more immediate concern…” then mentioning the 45% figure on Evergrande’s debts in the shadow banking sector, no discussion of any details. A source was given, a research outfit I have never heard of, Glavekal. Anyway, presumably the PBOC knows who those banks are. The question becomes are they much shakier than the regular ones and might some of them go down. Or will the PBOC prop them up if that looks to happen? None of this do we know.

        Reply
  2. Kevin Zhao

    It depends on whether those factors driving real bond yields lower will be reversed or maintained especially the riding inequality and globalization while ageing and technology will continue to exert disinflationary pressures in the years ahead

    Reply
    1. pgl

      I would suspect Menzie will incorporate these factors into what happens over time to the national savings rate and investment demand when he teaches his class.

      Let me just add – it also depends on how this Democratic circular firing squad over Biden’s fiscal policies pan out. We will get more infrastructure investment demand for sure but we also need the other proposals at a level higher than Manchin is supporting right now. Now once the precise nature of these proposals get ironed out (perhaps by Halloween) I’m hoping some credible economic forecaster frames the economic effects from the Biden fiscal stimulus.

      Reply
  3. ltr

    Is there any reason to believe in an imminent reversal of the trend?

    [ Not likely. Suppose though that energy prices were to climb for an extended time, possibly due to an extent to the transition away from fossil fuels. I am puzzled by the dramatic increase in coal prices and have noticed no satisfactory reason. An increase in energy prices for an extended time would lead to food price increases…

    No, I am just thinking loosely and while I expect interest rates are as low as they will go, I do not believe the trend down will be reversed. ]

    Reply
    1. ltr

      http://www.news.cn/english/2021-10/04/c_1310226141.htm

      October 4, 2021

      China goes all out to cope with power outages

      — China is making all-out efforts to ensure the nation’s power supply after power outages halted factory production and hit families in some regions, amid calls for a better electricity pricing mechanism and improved energy structure.
      — The power shortages are born from a combination of factors, including the country’s heavy reliance on coal, the instability of clean power, and surging production activities bolstered by pent-up demand amid economic recovery.
      — China has moved fast in coping with the power crunch, taking a slew of measures to ensure household power supply and keep factories of the world’s second-largest economy running.

      BEIJING — China is making all-out efforts to ensure the nation’s power supply after power outages halted factory production and hit families in some regions, amid calls for a better electricity pricing mechanism and improved energy structure.

      The power squeeze has compelled multiple provinces in China to implement power rationing, with factory operation hours limited and power usage capped.

      Factories across various industries, including furniture, food and chemical production, have suspended their operations and rescheduled production.

      “Some of our branches in Hunan, Jiangxi and Heilongjiang have suspended production because of power curbs,” said Peng Shufen, general manager of an environmental protection technology company based in southern China’s manufacturing hub Guangdong Province.

      By Sept. 28, over 20 Chinese companies had said in their filings to the stock exchanges that the power curbs had influenced their production.

      In fact, the power squeeze has been evolving throughout this summer but was noticed by the public when sudden blackouts hit households in the northeastern region….

      Reply
      1. ltr

        I had not before considered how important a natural gas source the Nord Stream 2 pipeline running from Russia to Germany will be. Angela Merkel countered the American attempt to stop the construction of the pipeline, and that will prove beneficial to Germany this very winter.

        Reply
        1. paddy kivlin

          batteries replacing internal combustion, electric vehicles create greater demand for household, and parking lot electricity usage.

          in winter photovoltaic is deficient, wind is not reliable all year.

          the result is essential “grid base load” provided by gas and crude oil will rise but not be fully utilized, the renewables will drive electric prices up, which is observable with tax credits already their source of economic appeal.

          best you can hope for green is reduced coal consumption, but increased oil/f=gas.

          or break the world economy.

          why germany is doing nordstream 2!

          or we can do nuclear and leave ov, wingd and fossil in the ground.

          Reply
          1. baffling

            or you can install a solar roof, power wall and tesla ev. then you are nearly independent of the grid and any power source you dislike. in fact, you can become a power source yourself.

            by the way, england and norway are now sharing offshore wind and hydro power through a dedicated electric line between the nations. it appears the those complaining about renewables and intermittent source were so busy complaining that they failed to see some of the solutions.

          2. CoRev

            Baffled still can not admit the Texas wind fiasco was due to intermittency. The UK already knows about intermittency: “It (the UK) has four other power cables running to Belgium, France and the Netherlands…” https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-tyne-58772572
            One of the cables from France is down for 6 months due to fire. “The blaze at a key cross-Channel interconnector in Kent adds to the pressure on wholesale power prices already pushed higher by a lack of output from wind turbines and a Europe-wide gas shortfall.
            …Low wind supply, thanks to unfavourable climatic conditions, and soaring wholesale gas prices have already forced National Grid to activate UK power station reserves by turning on coal-fired stations to keep the lights on this month.”
            https://news.sky.com/story/fire-damaged-power-link-will-be-out-for-six-months-says-national-grid-12409414

            The effect has been: “Household energy bills are to rise after prices on the UK’s wholesale electricity market soared to a record high last month, furthering concerns about more families being pushed into fuel poverty this winter. ” https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/sep/02/uk-energy-bills-to-rise-after-record-wholesale-electricity-prices

            Someone from Texas should be familiar with the impacts of renewable energy intermittency. That is if they want to admit it is a major factor.

          3. baffling

            “Baffled still can not admit the Texas wind fiasco was due to intermittency.”
            that is completely false corev. the energy sector very clearly understood the wind turbines would not be running in that weather. winter is not the peak energy season in texas. what was unexpected was the significant amount of natural gas power plants that went offline during the storm. and why did they go offline you ask? because the natural gas lines froze. and the backup generators, needed to restart the power plants, did not work because they too were powered by natural gas-and froze. if the natural gas plants had been properly winterized, something they were told to do after the last big winter storm blackout years prior, this would not have happened.

            now that said, i also advocate that the wind turbines be winterized. they can spin in north dakota winters, so they certainly can be outfitted to run in a texas winter. if the fossil fuel industry cannot winterize, then let the renewables do it and displace them altogether.

            again, let me reiterate the falsehood corev is spreading. the natural gas plants were NOT supposed to go offline during the storm. and yet nearly half of the natural gas power was idled during the storm. that is THE reason why texas blacked out.

            “One of the cables from France is down for 6 months due to fire.”
            this has nothing to do with renewables and intermittency. this is a power transmission issue, and any power generating method is susceptible to this problem. the fact that corev would make this comment simply shows a lack of intellect.

          4. CoRev

            Baffled, doubles down on his inability to accept the obvious needs in an intermittent environment: ” if the fossil fuel industry cannot winterize, then let the renewables do it and displace them altogether.” He still thinks that windmills can work without wind or solar panels can work without sun shine. YUP, let renewables displace fossil fuel generation. He still ignores the fundamental problem:”

            Baffled still can not admit the Texas wind fiasco was due to intermittency.” He whines that the fossil fueled power plants were not hardened to operate in the extreme weather conditions, while ignoring the fact that they are as necessary as renewables when the renewables stop working.

            If Texas was unique and those of his let renewables displace fossil fuel generation mindset have been warned of the intermittency issue REQUIRED BACKUP, but it doesn’t sink in to those unthinking advocates even after events like Texas and now the recent/current European events. Fires cause 6 month power shortages and a Norwegian cable fueled by hydro-energy is as liable to quit due to failed rain.

            Displace the backups with more intermittent renewables.

          5. baffling

            corev, your comments are simply full of rubbish. you cannot admit that natural gas was the primary failure in the texas problem. THE PRIMARY FAILURE. let that sink in your simple mind. the wind turbines were not expected to be operating. the natural gas was expected to operate, and failed. so apparently natural gas and other fossil fuels are simply not as reliable as you believe. even if the state had no renewables, the grid still would have failed. you need to acknowledge this corev.

            that means we need to have a more robust grid. this is not an unknown, and it is also an issue that has plenty of solutions. you keep making these antiquated intermittency arguments. you are living in the past. these are problems that have solutions. the biggest problem is people like you standing in the way of these solutions. ercot in texas has a board that has been stuffed with conservative advocates of fossil fuels-texas republicans. they have resisted implementing what needs to be done. and left us with a deficient system. get out of the way. instead they simply obstruct and then try to shed blame, rather than fix the situation.

            corev, your ideology against renewables simply lacks judgement and knowledge. it is what we call stoooopid.

          6. CoRev

            Baffled, this ” is what we call stoooopid…. natural gas was the primary failure in the texas problem.” The primary failure was that the wind stopped blowing and the sun failed to shine. Blaming the backup power source as the primary failure is even crazier as saying: ” if the fossil fuel industry cannot winterize, then let the renewables do it and displace them altogether.”

            It’s like the hybrid car owner who failed to fill the car’s gas tank blaming the gas engine for the battery’s failure to stay charged. You apparently believe that adding more batteries to the hybrid solves the problem. It is your/this misguided belief that caused the backups to fail because of disbelieve in the need to winterize/harden them.

            The world is living through this lesson, and many countries learning about the intermittency problem. Continuously blaming fossil fuels as the PRIMARY cause of problems has now raised their prices to short term records. If only Texans had learned the lesson after the previous failure, but alas too many foster your view. Backup sources are as important as the intermittent renewables and should be considered in all pricing formulas. Which BTW was my position throughout these discussions.

            Intermittency is the problem! It is you who believes that adding more intermittency “let the renewables do it and displace them altogether.” isn’t a problem.

          7. baffling

            as usual, corev continues to peddle ignorance on this blog. please see the following article for a bit of clarification
            https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/16/natural-gas-power-storm/

            “Officials for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages most of Texas’ grid, said the primary cause of the outages Tuesday appeared to be the state’s natural gas providers. Many are not designed to withstand such low temperatures on equipment or during production.
            By some estimates, nearly half of the state’s natural gas production has screeched to a halt due to the extremely low temperatures, while freezing components at natural gas-fired power plants have forced some operators to shut down.”

            and let’s note, this assessment is from ercot itself. not that i have much faith in ercot (or other institutions in the republican state of texas), but those in the know seem to understand where the flaw was in the failure.

            corev, apparently intermittency is a problem suffered by natural gas as well. who would have thought natural gas has a flaw(s) in the production of energy!

          8. CoRev

            Baffled, wow, you still can not admit the error in your statement; “you cannot admit that natural gas was the primary failure in the texas problem. THE PRIMARY FAILURE. ”

            I know its difficult for an ideologue to admit his belief in renewables is rife with intermittency. Don’t blame the 1st level backups as the PRIMARY cause of failure. This is especially true when the problem with them had been recognized after the previous storm.

            At least you recognize the primary problem: “apparently intermittency is a problem suffered by natural gas as well. who would have thought natural gas has a flaw(s) in the production of energy!” AS WELL AS WIND TURBINES, yes!

            To solve the intermittency problem don’t add more intermittency.

          9. Baffling

            Corev, ercot is the one who admitted that natural gas failed. I’m sure you did not read the linked article. But if you had, you would realize that natural gas was the main problem in the texas freeze. It now cannot be counted on to deliver power when needed. Why you continue to deny reality is simply baffling.

          10. CoRev

            Baffled, you continue to deny the PRIMARY problem is intermittency. Yes of the backup, but the backups are not needed unless the renewable was stable and not intermittent.

            Then in desperation to make your point of MORE INTERMITTENT RENEWABLES can solve the intermittent problem, you claim: “the energy sector very clearly understood the wind turbines would not be running in that weather. …. if the natural gas plants had been properly winterized, something they were told to do after the last big winter storm blackout years prior, this would not have happened.” ERCOT pricing constraints did not allow for fossil fuel generators enough profitability to fulfill the demands/orders for hardening.

            ERCOT still has not learned it s lesson of adequate backup: “The GIS report said ERCOT has 151.3 GW of projects in various stages of development, including 88.9 GW of solar, 30.3 GW of battery storage, 23.9 GW of wind, and 7.9 GW of gas-fired generation.” https://www.powermag.com/ercot-program-cut-natural-gas-supply-during-winter-storm/
            YUP! More intermittent renewables will solve the problem.

          11. baffling

            corev, nearly 25% of natural gas energy shut down due to cold during the texas freeze. that was the problem. and ercot admitted this was the problem. ercot relies on a lot of natural gas production for energy. and it failed them big time last february. this was not backup power, corev, this was primary power that failed. natural gas.

          12. CoRev

            Baffled, failure to admit intermittency as the problem has been assured in the ERCOT pricing structure , and in the past you willfully supported by claiming you bought electrical energy at renewable prices. ERCOT’s pricing allowed for: ” A pricing system that incentivizes negligence… Historically, power plant operators have been allowed to bid into the ERCOT market with no required standard for winter operation. Some plant owners skimped on winter weatherization costs to underbid their competitors who made such investments. This race to the bottom not only adversely affected minimum quality of service during extreme winter events. It also discouraged investment in reliability. …Regulators thought the expectation of reaping windfall profits for plants that rarely operate would incentivize the private sector to build more reserve and peak-demand capacity. By comparison, energy costs in the last few years typically ran 2 to 3 cents per kWh. … the tantalizing $9 per kWh market cap did not incentivize power plant weatherization. After all, owners of a weatherized power plant operating during extreme winter temperatures like those occurring in the February storm could have made a killing. It is because such weather is extremely rare. Why spend extra money on an unexpected event when you have to compete day-to-day at tight margins?” https://theaustinbulldog.org/backup-plan-part-2-how-the-texas-the-electric-grid-broke/

            Winterization/weatherization applies to both fossil fueled and renewable power plants. It is especially important for the backups, as they have little to no alternative sources. Renewables, as you note, are known for intermittency, but accepting that as a given while ignoring it as a problem is what you and ERCOT have done. ERCOT has emphasized priced competition over supply stability.

            As I said in our earlier discussions, the best way to price energy is to include TOTAL costs. For renewable plants that includes the costs for backup. For fossil fueled plants that includes the costs to weatherize/winterize. Adding more intermittent renewables to the mix is a short sighted solution. If it is a solution at all since price comparisons are seldom done.

          13. baffling

            ” and in the past you willfully supported by claiming you bought electrical energy at renewable prices.”
            i only claimed you could do so in texas. i never claimed that i did so.

            “ERCOT has emphasized priced competition over supply stability.”
            i will emphasize, ercot is a free market solution created by conservative republicans in texas. it is an example of free market ideology. you seem to be promoting the concept of a regulated utility. interesting, corev. it may be useful for you to investigate more into why republicans have fully embraced the ercot model. ercot was NOT a liberal or democrat construct.

            “As I said in our earlier discussions, the best way to price energy is to include TOTAL costs.”
            well said, corev. i could not state that any clearer myself. and that total cost includes pollution and carbon production. bravo. you finally see the light.

    1. pgl

      “02 April 2014 / The velocity of money is a function of interest rates”

      Me thinks your graph is about 7 years out of date. You do know GDP/M2 has plummeted since then – don’t you?

      Reply
    2. pgl

      Your little article never defined which money supply it was using but it did claim velocity hit 18 in 1981. No way as even GDP/M1 was never nearly that high. Now here is a reliable source for this measure of velocity updated to today:

      https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/M1V

      BTW GDP/M2 is less than GDP/M1 so your article has a credibility problem.

      Reply
    3. pgl

      Oh wait – he does have a paragraph that starts with “The monetary aggregate used in the graph is what I have called Corrected Money Supply in my book. A brief explanation is in order.”

      Seriously – who taught this dude macroeconomics? Judy Shelton?

      Reply
    1. macroduck

      Tha Mainland has been flying in Taiwan’s airspace, making aispace, for now where the first confrontation is likeliest. The question now is whether Xi is throwing a tantrum, North Korea style, or is seriously considering open conflict. If open conflict, whether invasion or harassment. Very likely, the U.S. response will influence Xi’s thinking on these questions.

      Reply
      1. Steven Kopits

        I think that’s right. If Xi perceives the US to be passive, the war is coming. Even with US commitment, it may still be coming. Either the US sits by, or it is World War III in short order.

        For Beijing, I think it’s do-or-die time. If I were advising Xi, I would give him the following scenarios.

        An Opening
        The US clearly has a leader not up to serious tasks. Biden has displayed incredibly bad judgment from one topic to the next and has folded like a card table in Afghanistan. Should he step aside, his Vice President is even more unprepared. The Democratic Party is divided and Americans are at odds with each other. The US debt situation is poor and covid remains an issue. And even if the US intervenes, China may still prevail. If you’re going to attack Taiwan, now may be the best chance during the next three years.

        The Risks of Full Scale War
        If the conflict involves serious US casualties, say the loss of a US carrier, there will be a full scale war with the US, and count on the Japanese, the UK, the Australians and probably the Koreans to be involved. It could easily escalate into a world war in Europe if Putin decides to jump in. Such a war is likely to involve nuclear weapons.. Indeed, the optimal US strategy would seem to call for a quick, limited pre-emptive nuclear strike on Chinese port or military facilities — to immediately raise the stakes of whether Taiwan is worth a nuclear exchange with the US.

        The Loss in Winning
        Even if China wins, what will it have won, exactly? It will be ejected from the global trading and finance system and be forced to turn inward — as it has in the past. How will the Chinese accept that? Will a victory prove pyrrhic, with the Chinese public rising up against the Communist Party and demanding elections, as happened with Gualtieri in the Falklands War? Or will it cement Xi as leader for life over a cowed East Asia?

        All this is potentially helpful scenario analysis, but if Xi believed the downside versions, he would not be sending large numbers of aircraft into Taiwanese air space.

        Reply
        1. macroduck

          A standard ecenario, not mne but rather gleaned from people who know stuff, is rather different from the one you offer. The problem with propaganda-based analysis should be obvious, However, if you need clarification, just ask.

          1) China must move fast. Russia’s theft of a part of Ukraine is the model. Retaking Taiwan after capture would cost too many lives, many of them Taiwanese, so it probably would not be done. Thus taking Taiwan fast is better than doing it slow. Three weeks is mentioned as a good target.

          2) China can’t afford to commit all its combat aircraft to attacking Taiwan. Taiwan must commit all its aircraft to defense, so China cannot attain air superiority over Taiwan. More like, air superiority over the Taiwan Strait to allow land troups to reach Taiwan.

          3) Use missiles and the bombers to destroy airfields in order to ground Taiwan’s combat aircraft. Taiwan would attempt to do the same in nearby China, to limit China’s ability to dominate the Strait.

          …and so on. Nowhere in this sort of scenario building does a right-wing fever-brain profile of the U.S. president figure in. Wanna know why? Because professionals don’t rely on poliical spin. They endeavor to deal in facts.

          Professionals also don’t usually bet everything on one hand, which is essentially what an attack on Taiwan would do.

          Reply
          1. pgl

            “Nowhere in this sort of scenario building does a right-wing fever-brain profile of the U.S. president figure in. Wanna know why? Because professionals don’t rely on poliical spin. They endeavor to deal in facts.”

            Well said but remember Princeton Steve is no professional. More like a con artist dressed up as a consultant.

          2. Steven Kopits

            History is replete with dictators over-playing their hands: Hitler, Napoleon, Gaultieri, Mussolini, Tojo, and Saddam Hussein, for example. If Xi were running some sort of cost/benefit analysis, he’d leave Taiwan alone. He would have left Hong Kong alone. This is about the ego of the ruler, not the essential policies of that country.

            For Japan, Korea, and Australia, control over Taiwan is existential. Hence, although Japan maintains strategic ambiguity, Japan’s deputy prime minister stated that “Japan pledges to defend Taiwan if China attacks”.

            https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2021/08/23/has-japans-policy-toward-the-taiwan-strait-changed/

            Meanwhile, 60 Minutes Australia asks “War with China: Are we closer than we think?”

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kA2KaEKs1LA

            I think this is a very dicey situation. Either the allies simply let Taiwan fall, or it will be a world war, with a good chance that nuclear weapons will come into play. I would not hesitate to drive this point home to Beijing. How many dictators, indeed, political leaders of all kinds, took a fantastically rosy view of the prospects of war. “We’ll be home by Christmas,” was the World War I refrain in Britain. And they were, five Christmases and tens of millions of casualties later.

      2. CoRev

        Macroduck thinks: “If open conflict, whether invasion or harassment. Very likely, the U.S. response will influence Xi’s thinking on these questions.”, and that’s a very frightening thought given this administration’s handling of the exit from Afghanistan. Afghanis/Taiwanese how many deaths really matter?

        Reply
        1. pgl

          Gee – John Bolton is a busy fellow. At least this version was not as long winded as that garbage we got from Princeton Stevie Chicken Hawk!

          Reply
      3. Barkley Rosser

        Steven,

        As the person here who first mentioned this air aggression by PRC against Taiwan, guess I shall comment here. I agree things are looking more dangerous than they have, although this particular unpleasant incident does not seem itself to be the beginning of an invasion.

        So I am going to question some of your remarks on Biden. I agree that the exit from Afghanistan is widely viewed as looking bad, botched in various ways, and the visuals were certainly bad. And it may well be that all that all those things that looked bad may well be encouraging Xi in his possibly invading Taiwan, which is certainly unfortunate.

        OTOH, I am going to argue that Biden was not at all folding “like a card table” there, and hopefully Xi will figure that out. As it is, Biden was in a conflict with the US defense establishment about Afghanistan, and has been for a solid decade. They did not want to leave, but he stood up to them and pulled out, something he promised he would do in his campaign., not remotely a folding card table at all, at least on that side of things.

        Ah, but indeed he did pull out and it got very messy and embarrassing, especially when we saw people grabbing onto airplanes and falling off. That was bad. But in fact it was Trump who folded like a card table in Feb. 2020, signing a surrender to the Taliban with no input from the existing government. We now know that the collapse of the Afghan military got set up after that agreement as they started cutting these local surrender deals with the Taliban that somehow the US military and intel never figured out about. Was that Biden?

        Some military people recommended sitting with 2500 troops as we had, but even some of those, see SecDef Austin, admitted that if the US had stayed in after Aug. 31it is highly likely the Taliban would have renewed attacks on US forces. Almost certainly Biden would have had to send in more troops, probably a lot, and stay in forever. Maybe morally we should have stayed, but the American people did not want to stay, with majorities in both parties supporting leaving, even if many are unhappy about all those bad visuals.

        So, what about all those bad visuals? I do think they could have and should have moved sooner to get various peoiple out, even though Trump made zero moves to get anybody out, even as he kept trying to have a sudden withdrawal, including Jan. 15, and then May 1. Biden negotiated the delay from May 1 to Aug. 31, which did allow 122,000 people to get out, including the vast majority of the Americans who reportedly wanted out (although Sean Hannity keeps saying there may be 4000 of them still left there, while most say it is probably not even 100 at this point as they have been trickling out quietly since Aug. 31). This massive removal of people has been largely ignored in the emphasis on the ISIS attack that killed 13 Americans.

        What is most forgotten and ignored is the weird black swan event of President Ghazni’s guard telling him on Aug. 15 that the Taliban was in his palace going room to room searching him out, a total falsehood. That led him to leave that afternoon, which led to the sudden collapse of the government (the military has already fallen), with the next day those awful scenes of people falling from airplanes happening. One can hold Biden responsible for this weird event with the guards, but it remains that there has been no explanation at all regarding why that happened, none.. But it was crucial.

        As it is, one of Biden’s motives for leaving Afghanistan was to focus more on China, with this new AUKUS sub deal shows it. I hope that Xi sees this and does not go along with your mistrepresentation that somehow Biden “folded like a table” in Afghanistan.

        Reply
        1. pgl

          Stevie pooh had to do this nonsense about Biden as he truly misses his buddies on Fox and Friends. Seems even they refuse to have this joker back on the set.

          Reply
          1. pgl

            Well your boy (Trump) was incompetent. But of course you do not have the guts to say that as it would get you disinvited from Fox and Friends.

          2. pgl

            “BY BRAHMA CHELLANEY, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR — 09/30/21 07:30 AM EDT 619THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY CONTRIBUTORS ARE THEIR OWN AND NOT THE VIEW OF THE HILL”

            Fess up troll – who is this Brahma Chellaney nutcase again?

          3. Barkley Rosser

            Steven,

            Oh, I shall grant another mistake by the Biden admin, if not quite him personally. It is the matter of the drone strike that hit an innocent fsmily in response to the ISIS attack that killed 13 Americans, some of whose parents cursed Biden when he showed up for the arrival of their coffins and spoke with their relatives.

            The problem with that one, of course, is that this simply shows how sloppy our drone attacks are. We have been doing these since the W. Bush admin, increasingly so as they save US lives. But we do not keep close tracks of the many erroneous or sloppy hits, and to the extent we do (somewhart), they do not make the news, certainly not like this one did. It is probably the most despicable ongoing thing the US is doing, these drone attacks, which we know are killing many innocent civilians all the time, in increasing numbers. But these do not get reported. Only this particular one, called for by Biden’s critics, but them denounced by them in a great frenzy when it happened. Hypocrisy big time on this one, although I grant you did not bring it up.

            But, I am still waiting for you to provide a specific for your rather exaggerated claim of “total incompetence”: on the part of Biden regarding the exit from Afghanistan. Yeah, the visuals were awful and probably made things worse with China et al. But the final withdrawal from there was almost inevitably going to involve “bad visuals.’

            Got it you think we should not have withdrawn, but most of the US public wanted to, and Trump set us to do so, although hodling back to let Biden finish the job, with all its bad visuals and lowered poll numbers.

          1. pgl

            The same idiot who said we should be in two wars for a generation. Even John Bolton is not as stupid as you clearly are.

          2. baffling

            steven, exactly what do you propose we should have done in Afghanistan? stayed for another two decades?
            the quick collapse of the afghan military tells us that we were wasting our time on a nation that was not willing to defend itself. that is problematic.

          3. Barkley Rosser

            Steven,

            Did I say anybody in the military advised against leaving troops? No, I did not. I said that Biden stood up against the entire military establishment in following through on the promise of leaving.

            You have proclaimed above that Afghanistan was “total incompetence.” Really? Aside from starting to get more people out sooner, although a very large number have gotten out, almost certainly including pretty much all of the American citizens with the exception of a small number who are probably dual citizens and uncertain about leaving, just what would you have done differently from what Biden did? A lot of the Fox News crowd says “Stay at Bagram,” but that would have involved keeping a lot more troops there, and then the mob scene of people wanting to leave would have been there rather than at the airport in Kabul. Not “trusted the Taliban? I hate the Taliban and they are being awful now in power. But they kept their word and did not attack American troops, and while there were some instances of blocking people getting into the airport, they largely let Americans leave. Oh, and that ISIS attack? Well, that was not the Taliban, and indeed the US and Taliban have worked together against those guys.

            Could something Biden might have done prevented the bribing of local troops by the Taliban following Trump’s surrender deal? Could he have done anything to prevent that totally unpredictable guards lying to Ghazni about the Taliban being in his palace?

            Oh, and do you think that getting 122,000 people out was “total incompetence”? It was far better managed than what happened when the US left Vietnam for good in 1975, indeed is the largest evacuation ever carried out in world history. Looks to me like you are way overstating this, Steven, although people who get their news from Fox mostly would agree with you. I mean, when was the last time, if ever, that anybody on Fox News noted that the evacuation of 122,000 people from their was the biggest and most successful evacuation in world history? When was that again, Steven? For that matter, do you recognize it?

          4. Steven Kopits

            Yes, I would have left troops in Afghanistan, just as we have done in, say, Korea.

            In the last five years, US military fatalities averaged 16 / year from all sources. For purposes of comparison, suicides of military personnel exceed 200 / year (a shockingly high number, actually). From my perspective, the comparatively low cost of the operation, the relatively low fatalities and the low number of troops committed there suggests that the cost/benefit supports staying. I think having a base in Central Asia and preventing Afghanistan from returning to being a base for Islamic terrorism is worth it.

          5. baffling

            “Yes, I would have left troops in Afghanistan, just as we have done in, say, Korea.”
            steven, that is a commitment that most americans disagree with. in a bipartisan way, most americans do not want to remain in Afghanistan.

            “From my perspective, the comparatively low cost of the operation, the relatively low fatalities and the low number of troops committed there suggests that the cost/benefit supports staying.”
            i would suggest your perspective, and your analysis, are flawed. i have a cousin who served in afghanistan. proud of him. but he returned a different person. there is a cost to that, which i can guarantee is not included in your analysis.

          6. Barkley Rosser

            Steven.

            There is a big difference between Korea and Afghanistan. The situation in Korea has been a stable one of truce with no ongoing conflict. There are no US combat fatalities there at all and have not been for decades. Clearly the presence of US troops is helping to maintain the current uneasy peace, with something sort of similar in Germany, although less tense these days.

            In Afghanistan, prior to Trump’s surrender deal with the Taliban, the Taliban were not only attacking US troops, they were winning slowly, gradually increasing the territory they held. That is why Trump surrendered. To stay in Afghanistan would have involved putting a lot more troops than we had, probably at least 25,000. We had over 100,000 in there a decade ago, and we were unable to defeat the Taliban with those numbers. This would have turned into a situation again of US troops being killed while the Taliban continued to gradually in crease their area of control.

            There is an important bottom line here: the Afghans themselves were unable/unwilling to sufficiently oppose the Taliban, and you need the locals to be willing to do that in order to maintain a situation on the ground. The South Koreans are willing to do that, which underlies the more or less stable peace there, reinforced by US troops. That is not what the situation in Afghanistan was, an unstable situation where the side backed by the US was losing. Just how long would you have kept US troops there, getting killed, especially given that doing so was highly unpopular in the US among voters of both parties?

          7. Steven Kopits

            Barkley –

            You write: “Some military people recommended sitting with 2500 troops…” This would seem to imply that some did not recommend leaving 2500 troops. This notion has been floated in the press. But who were those who did not recommend keeping 2500 troops in Afghanistan? These advisors have not been named or identified. One is left with the impression that no military advisors suggested pulling out all troops, ie, that Biden overruled the entire military establishment, and then in an interview said that no one had told him about leaving 2500 troops. Total screw up.

          8. Barkley Rosser

            Steven,

            What is it with you and what I said or did not say about what generals recommended. I think I agreed that none agreed with Biden’s position to take troops out. Those who did not want 2500 there, wanted more there. As it is I praised Biden for showing guts for standing up to the generals. He complained 10 years ago that they rolled Obama when they talked him into sending 100,000 troops there. Did not defeat the Taliban. Biden said in the campaign he would follow up on Trump’s surrender and remove our troops, although he moved the date off so we could get a lot of people out, and we got 122,000 out with more still coming out, although quietly. But nobody hears about that on Fox News.

            So, you still have to say what you consider was “total incompetence” on his part: simply removing US troops, something Trump was going to do and was supported strongly by people in both parties? You were pretty definitive about this claim of “total incompetence,” but we are still waiting for you to clarify this strong claim.

    2. pgl

      Gee – war seems to be your latest hobby horse. I guess you have given up on oil hitting $100 a barrel any time soon. Oh wait – the spot price for Brent oil just passed $81!!! Never mind the futures markets are suggesting the latest rise will soon reverse. So back to ginning up a war between Taiwan and China!

      Reply
      1. paddy kivlin

        look at the run up to May 1940…..

        is xi robustly cynical of biden’s ‘deterrence’ as hitler was in 1939?

        is xi :hitler and biden : chamberlain?

        is the pentagon any more credible/feared than the french general staff of 1939?

        Reply
  4. David O’Rear

    The sole purpose of the unregulated lending markets in China is to fill in the gaps caused by socialist banking. Published interest rates, real or nominal, are only of very limited interest to that sliver of the state-owed (mostly) economy able to secure “normal” financing. All others pay market rates, which can be in the 1-2% / month range.

    When available at all.

    As a veteran CFO in China told me, “It isn’t expensive to borrow from the banks; it’s impossible. Access (to loans) far out weighs price (of money).”

    Reply
    1. paddy kivlin

      biden is trying to make us believe he can remember his ‘story’ on the ceiling…..!

      a trillion buck coin is more sensible than believing biden will remember the tale he wove at noon.

      Reply
  5. ltr

    https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/04/world/europe/uk-christmas-turkey-shortage.html

    October 4, 2021

    Britain’s Christmas Lament: Meat Shortages and Delivery Delays
    Military personnel are driving transport trucks. Pig farmers may start culling their stock. Even the government says shortages will affect Christmas, as Britons brace for a challenging winter.
    By Jenny Gross

    BUNGAY, England — To understand the deep sense of anxiety Britons feel about the supply shortages currently afflicting the nation — and threatening disruptions to the Christmas dinner table — one need only travel to Simon Watchorn’s pig farm, about two hours northeast of London.

    In 2014, Mr. Watchorn was England’s pig farmer of the year, with a thriving business. But this year, he said, the outlook for the fall is bleak.

    Slaughterhouses are understaffed and are processing a smaller-than-usual number of pigs. There is a shortage of drivers to move pork to grocery stores and butcher shops. And there are fewer butchers to prepare the meat for consumers.

    If the problems persist, Mr. Watchorn may have to start culling some of his 7,500 pigs by the end of next month. Pigs grow about 15 pounds each week, and after a certain point, they are too big for slaughterhouses to process.

    Mr. Watchorn said the last time he can remember things being this bad was during an outbreak of mad cow disease in the late 1990s. “It’s a muddle,” he said. “It’s worse than a muddle, it’s a disaster, and I don’t know when it’s going to finish.”

    Mr. Watchorn, 66, is one of many producers of food and other goods warning of a daunting winter ahead for Britons. Shortages continued to bedevil the British economy on Monday as gas stations in London and in southeastern England reported trouble getting fuel, and the government began deploying military personnel to help ease the lack of drivers. Supermarket consortiums say pressures from rising transport costs, labor shortages and commodity costs are already pushing prices higher and will likely continue to do so….

    Reply
  6. macroduck

    Imminent? No. At some point? A positive term premium makes sense, so unless there is some structural reason for a negative term premium now that didn’t obtain in earlier periods, an eventual return to positive real rates makes sense. Picketty has identified a structural change in income and wealth disparities. Maye he’s on to something.

    Reply
  7. ltr

    https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/04/business/energy-environment/oil-and-gas-prices-clean-energy.html

    October 4, 2021

    Oil and Gas Prices May Stay High as Investors Chase Clean Energy
    Even as more costly fuel poses political risks for President Biden, oil companies and OPEC are not eager to produce more because they worry prices will drop.
    By Clifford Krauss and Peter Eavis

    HOUSTON — Americans are spending a dollar more for a gallon of gasoline than they were a year ago. Natural gas prices have shot up more than 150 percent over the same time, threatening to raise prices of food, chemicals, plastic goods and heat this winter….

    Reply
    1. paddy kivlin

      eia report shows oil/gas inventory down about 13% yoy in us! couple of weeks now. distillates a bit down too!!! not good for heating oil!

      low inventory not good for low consumer prices.

      no one will go nuke!

      Reply
      1. baffling

        there is really no desire in the usa to rebuild the nuclear industry. no politicians. no workers. no energy companies. too much cost and too much risk over too long a return time period. the nuclear ship has sailed long ago, when it comes to utility electricity. there are some small scale reactors that have potential, but the large scale uranium/plutonium power plants of the past are basically done.

        Reply
      2. Steven Kopits

        Paddy –

        Wednesday’s EIA report indicates

        1. That we still have about 38 mb of excess crude, distillate and gasoline inventories taken together on a seasonally and demand-adjusted basis.
        2. Product inventories, including gasoline, distillate and kerosene (jet fuel) are at a normal number of turnover days
        3. Propane days (mostly linked to natural gas production) are low by a margin
        4. US total product and gasoline supplied (demand) are still a bit below normal; distillate demand is 5% above normal, but has been at this level for the last few months.
        6. US production is recovering and looks to be growing at a moderate pace.

        There is no shortage or anything unusual in the US data at present. Nor does the shape of the futures curve and the implied incentive to store or draw crude imply any change in the market’s beliefs about future balances over the last two months.

        So what’s driving prices higher? Either increasingly financialization of the market (ie, increased speculation) or inflation, which implies higher prices for any given set of balances. I am inclined to favor the latter, as we are seeing inflation broadly across the economy.

        Reply
  8. joseph

    It’s pretty obvious that over the last 40 years there have been efforts by mainstream economists to support the upward transfer of income and wealth to a smaller percentage at the top. The rich now have so much money they have no idea what to do with it. They can come up with no productive use for it except buy more bonds.

    Interest rates are low because no one wants their stinkin’ money.

    Reply
    1. macroduck

      Mainstream economists? Do Nobel prize winners count?

      Esther Duflo
      Michael Kremer
      Abhijit Banejee
      Elinor Ostrom
      Peter Diamond
      Joseph Stiglitz
      Paul Krugman
      Angus Deaton
      Elinor Ostrom
      Amartya Sen
      Theodore W. Schultz
      Sir Arthur Lewis

      If you don’t know why these names mean your statement is ridiculous, you don’t know enough to express an opinion.

      Same problem as with JohnH. When it comes to doing the bidding of the rich, economics has a lot more of bad apples but it also has some plums. You don’t know enough to tell the difference. Learn before speaking.

      Reply
      1. pgl

        Impressive list but why mention Elinor Ostrom twice? Oh wait – she is married to Ray Fair which means she deserves extra credit for putting up with her husband.

        BTW – JohnH would protest that she does not publish a column every week in the NYTimes so in his ignorant world her writings do not count.

        Reply
      2. joseph

        Before you get all sanctimonious, perhaps you could explain why it is that the “good apples” are so ineffective and the bad ones are winning. Perhaps there is something deeper to explain the dysfunction in the profession.

        Reply
    2. Steven Kopits

      Interest rates are low because the Fed set them there. Low interest rates = high asset values. That is, Fed policy is making the rich richer, as well as enriching some staff at the Fed (unbelievable).

      Reply
      1. pgl

        You must have done a mind meld with JohnH. Hey – we now have a Village Idiot who pretends to be a progressive that yearns to be on Fox and Friends!!!

        Reply
  9. pgl

    Guess what dominated LinkedIn today:

    “Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp went offline in a major outage on Monday.”

    Gee fellows – you are supposed to be working and not posting on social media. BUSTED!

    Reply
  10. Barkley Rosser

    Steven,

    Let me be really blunt. Aside from not moving earlier to get more people out so that maybe we would have gotten 150,000 out rather than the record-setting 122,000 (and noting that planes are flying and more are trickling out, although I think a decision has been made to keep quiet about that so as not to disturb the ongoing low flow out), what percisely do you think was done by Biden that amounted to “total incompetence,” a claim you made above with no details? And if you think Biden was totally incompetent on this, what about Trump? Was he competent while Biden was not, or have they both been “totally incompetent” regarding Afghanistan?

    So you support keeping troops there. Do you accept that was not the policy of Trump? Maybe keeping 25,000 troops there would have signaled strength to China, but it also would have served as an expensive distraction from dealing with China in terms of both money and lives of US miltary personnel, with essentially zero possibility of a favorable outcome in the long run, given the total corruption and, yes, incompetence, of the Afghan military.

    Reply
    1. Steven Kopits

      In term of pulling out: You get all the paperwork in order, take out the civilians, and then pull out the military. This is not rocket science, but not what Biden. First he pulled out the military, then he pulled out the civilians as he could, then he did the paperwork.

      Total [edited MDC].

      Reply
      1. baffling

        based on this account, you really need to be talking to trump
        https://www.factcheck.org/2021/08/timeline-of-u-s-withdrawal-from-afghanistan/

        the withdrawal of us forces was planned for and executed by trump before he left office. it seems blaming biden for this would be based on a lack of knowledge of what actually transpired in afghanistan.

        steven, to accomplish what you are arguing would have required we return almost all of our military to afghanistan once biden took office. they were already gone when he moved into the white house.

        just curious, exactly when should the civilians have left the country? they were initially told a complete withdrawal would occur in may. why were they still there in june?

        Reply
      2. Barkley Rosser

        The problem with pulling out the civilians is that the Afghan government, Ghani anyway, said this would lead to a collapse of confidence in the government and a collapse of the government. And seeing how easily it did collapse, this was probably correct. This “get the civilians out first” bit was simply not realistic.

        Reply
          1. Steven Kopits

            Yeah, that’s what I meant. Didn’t know that it was a proscribed word. It’s not on George Carlin’s list.

  11. Steven Kopits

    As for Trump’s policies and public opinion: My views are dictated neither by any politician nor by public opinion nor by any political party. For the record, I did not vote for Trump either time.

    I personally view staying in Afghanistan, where 16 US military personnel die on average in a year — and not just the last year, but since 2015 — as worthwhile in terms of national interest, and indeed, in the interest of 30 million Afghans. My views on governance are no secret: pay for performance. If you fail to bid in for the loyalties of politicians, they will certainly rob you blind in less developed countries. They may still rob you blind, but at least you’ll get more constructive policy. Afghanistan is a particularly difficult challenge. Before you do anything, you have to do something first. And probably something even before that. If you want a military, you have to teach them to read, write and do some first grade math first. If that’s the path you choose, it’s a long path.

    Given the cost/benefit overall, yes, I would have left the 2500 troops in Afghanistan, just as what appears to be the consensus of the military was.

    Reply
        1. baffling

          biden told you exactly what he was going to do. and you voted for him anyways. you may disagree with him, but you gave him your permission to act.

          Reply
        2. Steven Kopits

          I think most in the center expected a competent, centrist administration who did not go all Messianic on us. Clearly, that’s not what Biden has delivered, and that’s why is popularity is so low among independents.

          Reply
    1. Barkley Rosser

      Except that some said we should keep more, and SecDef Austin agreed that if the Taliban started attacking US military if we did not leave when we said we would, which they said they would, we would need at least 25.000 there. 2500 was not sustainable over time.

      Reply
  12. joseph

    Kopits: “First he pulled out the military, then he pulled out the civilians as he could, then he did the paperwork.”

    You seem to have this completely backwards.

    It was Donald Trump who pulled out the military, reducing troops from 13,000 to 2,500. In fact Trump bragged about his troop reductions before he left office. Biden, instead, sent 3,000 more troops into Afghanistan to support the withdrawal, exactly the opposite of your claim.

    Regarding civilians, the Biden administration had warned Americans in Afghanistan many, many times since March that if they wanted to leave, they should do so immediately. Any American would have stepped on any of the 20 daily commercial flights from 10 different commercial airlines and easily left Afghanistan in the months before the widely advertised withdrawal deadline, right up until the day the Taliban marched into Kabul. Some of these Americans, just like the ignorant anti-vaxers, ignored the warnings and then later begged for assistance when it was too late. They wanted more 20-year-old kids in the military to die to save their irresponsible lives.

    As to the paperwork, Republicans just unanimously voted down a bill to increase Afghanistan refugee limits, just as they have voted them down repeatedly for over a year since Trump announced the withdrawal agreement.

    Once again, Kopits speaking in complete ignorance of the facts.

    Reply
  13. joseph

    Kopits: “I personally view staying in Afghanistan, where 16 US military personnel die on average in a year — and not just the last year, but since 2015 — as worthwhile in terms of national interest.”

    Ah yes, as with most keyboard commandos you are okay with this as long as it isn’t the lives of you or your kids or your grandkids that are sacrificed. Of those 13 troops killed by the suicide bomber in the final days, 10 of them were 20 years old. They were kids who had enlisted right out of high school, just out of boot camp, perhaps leaving their home towns for the first time in their lives. Now dead. Similar to your declaration that natural disaster deaths are not “excess, but merely pre-mature” I can only politely say you have a rather *peculiar* regard for human life.

    Kopits: “Given the cost/benefit overall, yes, I would have left the 2500 troops in Afghanistan.”

    And this would have been a military slaughter. There were 13,000 troops and losing ground in Afghanistan before Trump negotiated a truce with the Taliban based on a deadline for withdrawal. If Biden had reneged on the agreement and left a small deployment of 2,500, it would have been a bloodbath of retaliation.

    Reply
    1. Steven Kopits

      There is no evidence of a bloodbath, because troop fatalities had not been low for a year or two, but for six years.

      This is the conservative versus liberal quandary. For the liberal, the perspective of the individual is paramount, ie, the lives and well-being of the soldiers. For the conservative, the benefit of the group is paramount, ie, national interest. It is exactly this conservative perspective which Biden fails to grasp, in Afghanistan, at the border and in US cities. He is placing almost full emphasis on the individual. (“Joe has a bid heart,” to quote Obama.) It is the risk and potential weakness which Xi perceives in Taiwan.

      Now, the presence of US marines in Taiwan changes this whole picture, I think. It suggests that the US is increasingly extending a security umbrella to Taiwan, and I would not be surprised to see aircraft from the US, UK, Australia, Japan and others to be based there over time. Strategic ambiguity works both ways. If China does not make an issue of Taiwan, then the allies (if that’s what we’ll call them) don’t need to make an issue of it. However, if China draws the line, then the allies are in essence also forced to draw the line. And that’s happening now.

      All this is a vanity project for Xi. China has no critical, immediate security interests in Taiwan. No one is blockading its exports or embargoing its imports (both of which will happen when the missiles start to fly). It is not being excluded from international finance or trade, nor from international organizations. Its people are free to move around the world to the extent Beijing let’s them. Taiwan is going exactly nowhere, and a century from now will still be 100 miles from the Chinese coast, with every incentive to have a constructive relationship with the mainland. China is under no pressure to force the issue. This is purely a conflict of choice for Xi.

      As I have stated before, Xi and the Communist Party no longer serve the interests of the Chinese people domestically or the international security order. China needs a change, to move on and become a functioning democracy. Like Taiwan.

      Reply
  14. joseph

    The point being, the idea that a small contingent of 2,500 troops would be maintained indefinitely in Afghanistan was an untenable fantasy. After a couple of more suicide bombings and public shrieking, it would be right back to 15,000 troops. It was an all or nothing situation. We’ve been through this over and over. But some people never learn.

    Reply
    1. baffling

      “The point being, the idea that a small contingent of 2,500 troops would be maintained indefinitely in Afghanistan was an untenable fantasy.”
      actually, this was the point of why many military leaders wanted more troops on the ground. they were not really looking at two situations, troops or no troops. they were looking at the troops situation only. and from their perspective, IF you were to leave troops in afghanistan, then 2500 was not nearly enough. hence their interest in more troops. people like kopits are skewing the argument made by the military. the generals have no say in an area with no troops. they only have a say in an area with troops. and if they have troops in that area, they want enough to protect the area.

      Reply
  15. joseph

    Kopits: “:For the conservative, the benefit of the group is paramount, ie, national interest. “

    Ah yes, the authoritarian desire to bend everyone’s will to your aims using violence.

    War! You do love it so.

    Reply
    1. Steven Kopits

      We have seen time and again that democracies are slow to deter totalitarian and authoritarian leaders (‘Peace in our time’), only to later change their minds. Before Pearl Harbor, something like 95% of the US public was against joining the war. Similar in WWI, I believe. And Reagan waffled for three weeks with the Falklands before belated pulling in behind the British. If Reagan had stated up front that the US would whack Argentina, the war would never have happened and 3,000 young Argentine men — and keep in mind I am a born Argentine — would still be alive.

      The worst possible outcome is for Xi to under-estimate the resolve of the allies. At a minimum, we would see a bitter war involving thousands, and very likely, tens of thousands of US deaths, with no small probability that it all turns nuclear when the chips are down.

      There is a reason that the US and Soviets never went at it directly after the Cuban missile crisis. The stakes were too high, and we never threatened each of with nuclear weapons directly thereafter. All the fighting was thus done through proxies, the Vietnamese, the Angolans, etc. China was an isolated country at the time, so they did not live through that trauma. Xi is a poorly educated man at home in Marxist theory, but otherwise not well versed in, say, economics or world history. He hasn’t gone through a round of Russian roulette like that yet. He still thinks that a direct confrontation with the west, the US principally, is a workable idea. I would want to disabuse him of that notion. The best way to do that is to signal a first strike intention on a defined target. Make sure that Beijing understands the stakes up front. The worst of all worlds is indulging Xi’s perceptions, only to deliver a reality unspeakably harsher than had been expected.

      Reply
      1. Steven Kopits

        Let me continue with this thought:

        Xi will not be receiving good information from his subordinates. Ltr is certainly reading my comments, but will she send them up the line? Probably. Her boss? Maybe. His boss. Maybe not. Xi’s direct subordinate? No.

        Like many earlier dictators, Xi is likely getting overly optimistic assessments of risk from his direct subordinates. It is in our interest that the the problem be placed squarely before Xi unfiltered by staff.

        Keep in mind that China has threatened to nuke both Japan and Australia, both non-nuclear powers. Doing so is a very serious matter, and I take Xi at his word. He has not flinched at remarkably aggressive actions, including an attempt to annex the South China Sea, the crushing of Hong Kong, and the genocide of the Uighurs. I have no reason to question his resolve over Taiwan nor his willingness to use nuclear weapons on non-nuclear states. (It would be Nagasaki or Hiroshima in Japan, wouldn’t it? )

        Japan will intervene in Taiwan. That much is already apparent. What then if Xi, true to his word, nukes Japan? What does the United States do? Do we start a general nuclear war? Try to finesse a limited nuclear war? None of this ends well.

        Far better to say up front that the US will nuke a Chinese port or city within two hours of the start of hostilities with Taiwan. This would force Xi to explain to the Chinese public why Taiwan is worth a nuclear exchange with the US. I would imagine a great many Chinese do not think Taiwan is worth a war at all, certainly not a nuclear exchange. And that’s a domestic political issue in China that the US wants aired before the missiles start to fly over Taiwan.

        https://www.news.com.au/technology/innovation/military/china-threatens-to-nuke-japan-if-country-intervenes-in-taiwan-conflict/news-story/d9af14dc6b90628082e79ab4c77629e1

        https://www.news.com.au/technology/innovation/military/brainless-australia-a-target-for-nuclear-war-warns-top-china-expert/news-story/4652ab802a01b677c6df6de51479bd8d

        Reply
  16. Barkley Rosser

    Steven,

    Well, this is now getting to be running around in circles. I do not think anybody here likes what the Taliban are doing in Afghanistan, but it is pretty clear that they were going to take control eventually if the other Afgghans were unwilling to stand up to them sufficiently. Certainliy 2500 US troops would be able to do it, and it is unclear how many it would take, but a lot, and even then it probably would only delay the day we have now passed.

    I get it that you are not a big fan of Trump and do remember you making critical remarks about him on occasion in the past. You have somehow said nothing about his Afghan policies, which, if Biden’s have been “totally incompetent,” then presumably Trump’s were also at least somewhat incompetent.

    I am going to go out the door by pointing to something not already pointed to, something where I think you are maybe not noticing some basic facts. You seem to have great faith in the generals and their recommendations. No problem keeping troops there, so the generals told Biden and us. But in fact it seems they did not know about these bribery deals that the Taliban had made with all these local Afghan leaders and troop commanders. Were they really unaware of these? Was US intel, especially CIA who had a major independent military operation there also, unaware of these deals? If so, this suggests some level of incompetence on the part of at least the generals.

    We really get back to this problem of who knew what and who was recommending what. While the White House publicly maintained an optimistic facade about the durability of the Afghan government in Kabul and the military around the countryside, most reports have it that they knew neither would probably survive once we fully pulled out. But they apparently thought both might hold up for a few months, maybe even to the end of the year, which certainly would have allowed for getting more people out, not just American citizens, but green card holders and relatives, and more of the people who worked with us but did not have their paperwork done.

    So there has been a bit of a game in DC, although it seems to have quieted down a bit, aside from occasional misrepresentations on Fox, about who more pessimistically forecast a rapid collapse of the Afghan military and government. It seems that those who were the closest to being accurately pessimistic were some of the intel people on the ground, more so than the generals or the military in general, including those in Afghanistan. But apparently none of these got it fully right, that the Afghan military would just totally collapse in nine days from when the first provincial capital fell. Again, it seems that barely anybody, if anybody at all, was aware of these bribery deals the Taliban had made. And then on top of that failure on the part of pretty much all the Americans there and here, we had the much more understandable failure to forecast that President Ghani would just suddenly flee due to being given a false report by his guards about Taliban in his palace. Maybe people were incompetent in not figuring out those bribes were being made, and not Biden here, but nobody can be expected to forecast that business with Ghani and the guards, which indeed led to the worst of the bad visuals, those people falling off our airplanes.

    So, maybe Biden has been incompetent on this. But if so, near as I can tell, nobody else seems to have been competent, sure as heck not those generals you put so much trust in. Maybe some of the intel people on the ground were the most competent, but it looks like even they failed to get it how fragile the Afghan military was and how swiftly they would collapse. If all these people were screwing up, how was Biden to avoid doing so?

    Anyway, I think I am not going to post on this any more. Getting old and too beaten to death, if not hanging from a lamp post.

    Reply
    1. Barkley Rosser

      Ooops, meant to say 2500 US troops would NOT be able to holld them off. I think that the lower US death toll in recent years was partly due to our having fewer troops there but also that the Taliban had figured out how to work around our troops, avoiding directly fighting with them. Do keep in mind that when Trump initiated his surrender negotiation without the Ghani government in Doha, the Taliban were in control of something like a third of the country. They did not have any provincial capitals, but those were clearly coming. They had been steadily expanding the zone of control, despite the presence of US troops, and that would have continued if we had stayed in.

      Reply

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