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If you’ve never heard the Milton Friedman shovels and spoons story, you will (and I don’t just mean here). Because everyone on the right tells some version of it at some point. The other Uncle Miltie (i.e., not the epically endowed comedic genius) goes to Asia or Africa or South America and is taken on a tour of some public works project in a developing country. Hundreds of laborers are digging with shovels. Milton asks the official in charge something like, “Why use shovels when earth moving equipment would be so much more efficient?”
The official replies that this is a jobs program and using shovels creates more jobs.
Friedman guffaws and asks, “In that case: Why not use spoons?”
The story might not be true, but the insight is timeless.
Here’s another story: When I was in college, we were debating in intro to philosophy the differences between treating men and women “equally” versus treating them the “same.” At first blush, the two things sound synonymous, but they’re not (indeed the difference illuminates the chasm of difference between classical liberalism and socialism, but that’s a topic for another day). I pointed out that there were some firefighter programs that had different physical requirements for male applicants and female ones (this was before it was particularly controversial—outside discussions of Foucault—to assume there were clear differences between sexes). Female applicants had to complete an obstacle course carrying a 100-pound dummy, but men had to carry a 200-pound dummy, or something like that. A puckish freshperson named Jonah Goldberg said: “I don’t really care if a firefighter is a man, a woman, or a gorilla, I’d just like them to be able to rescue me from a fire.”
A woman sitting in front of me wheeled around and womansplained to me that “you can always just hire two women.”
I shot back something like, “You could also hire 17 midgets, that’s not the point.”
(I apologize for using the word midget, which wasn’t on the proscribed terms list at the time.)
But here’s the thing: Sometimes it is the point. Whether you’re talking about spoons or little people, the case for efficiency is just one case among many. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s an important one, but it’s not the only one. Sometimes older children are told to bring their little brothers or sisters along on some trip. They’ll complain, “But they’ll just slow us down!” or, “But they aren’t allowed on the big kid rides.” Parents understand the point, but they are not prioritizing efficiency over love. Or, they’re prioritizing a different efficiency: Not being stuck with a little kid who’s crying all day because he or she was left behind.
One of my favorite scenes in the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer is when the chess tutor Bruce Pandolfini, played by Ben Kingsley, tells the chess prodigy’s parents that they have to forbid their son from playing pickup chess in the park because he learns bad chess habits there. The mom says “Not playing in the park would kill him. He loves it.”
Kingsley replies, accurately, that it “just makes my job harder.”
And the mom says, “Then your job is harder.”
I love that. I love it precisely because it recognizes that good parents recognize that there are trade-offs in life and that the best option isn’t always the most efficient one.
This is one of those places where you can see how wisdom and expertise can diverge from one another.
The Unity of Goodness
Efficiency can mean different things in different contexts. In business, it means profit maximization (or cost reduction, which is often the same thing). In sports, it means winning. Always giving the ball to the best player annoys the other players who want their own shot at glory, but so long as he can be counted on to score, most coaches will err on the side of winning. Starting one-legged players will wildly improve a basketball team’s diversity score, but it’s unlikely to improve the score that matters to coaches—or fans.
I’ve long argued that there’s something in the progressive mind that dislikes this whole line of thinking. They often tend to find the idea of trade-offs to be immoral or offensive. I call it the “unity of goodness” worldview. Once you develop an ear for it, you can hear it everywhere. “I refuse to believe that economic growth has to come at the expense of the environment.” “There’s no downside to putting women in combat.” “I don’t want to live in a society where families have to choose between X and Y,” or “I for one reject the idea that we have to sacrifice security for freedom—or freedom for security.” Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were masters at declaring that all hard choices were “false choices”—as if only mean-spirited people would say you can’t have your cake and eat it too.
Nowhere is this mindset more on display in environmentalism. Everyone hawking the Green New Deal insists that it’s win-win all the way down. It’s Bastiat’s broken window parable on an industrialized scale. Spending trillions to switch to less efficient forms of energy will boost economic growth and create jobs, they insist. I’d have much more respect for these arguments if they simply acknowledged that doing a fraction of what they want will come at considerable cost.
Consider Greta Thunberg, the latest child redeemer of the climate change movement. She hates planes because they spew CO2. That’s why she sailed from Sweden to a conference in New York. As symbolism, it worked, at least for the people who already agree with her. But in economic terms, she might as well have raised the Spoon Banner off the main mast of her multi-million-dollar craft (that may have a minimal carbon footprint now, but required an enormous carbon down-payment to create). The organizers of this stunt had to fly two people to New York to bring the ship back across the Atlantic. And scores of reporters flew across the Atlantic to cover her heroic act of self-denial. Her nautical virtue signaling came at a price.
The organizers insist that they will buy carbon offsets to compensate for the damage done. But that’s just clever accounting. The cost is still real. And that’s not the only cost. It took her fifteen days to get to America. In other words, she actually proved the point of many of her critics. Fossil fuels come with costs all their own—geopolitical, environmental, etc.—but the upside of those downsides is far greater efficiency. If you want to get across the Atlantic in seven hours instead of two weeks, you need fossil fuels. The efficiency of modern technology reduces costs by giving human beings more time to do other stuff.
The Conservative Planners
The unity of goodness mindset has been spreading to the right these days as well. The new conservative critics of the free market see the efficiency of the market as a threat to other good things. And they’re right, as Joseph Schumpeter explained decades ago. For instance, just as earth-moving equipment replaces ditch-diggers in the name of efficiency, robots replace crane operators, and the communities that depended on those jobs often suffer as a result.
I have no quarrel with this observation. My problem is with the way they either sell their program as cost-free, or pretend that the right experts can run things better from Washington. They know which jobs or industries need the state to protect them from the market. They know how to run Facebook or Google to improve the Gross National Virtue Index. Many of the same people who once chuckled at the Spoons story now nod sagely. I don’t mean to say that there’s no room for government to regulate economic affairs. But I am at a loss as to why I should suspend my skepticism for right-wingers when they work from the same assumptions of the left-wingers I’ve been arguing with for decades.
Embracing Trumpism to Own Trump
Instead I want—or I guess need—to talk about another trade-off. I’ve been very reluctant to weigh in on the Joe Walsh project for a bunch of reasons. The biggest is that I am friends with some of the people cheering it on. But I think I have to offer my take.
I don’t get it.
Oh, I certainly understand the desire to see a primary challenger to Trump. I share that desire. And I understand the political calculation behind the effort. It’s like when one little league team brings in some dismayingly brawny and hirsute player from Costa Rica as a ringer. The other teams feel like they have to get their own 22-year-olds with photoshopped birth certificates in order to compete. My friend Bill Kristol is convinced that Trump must be defeated and that Walsh is just the mongoose to take on the Cobra-in-Chief.
I try not to recycle metaphors or analogies too much, but this seems like another example of a Col. Nicholson move. As I’ve written before, Col. Nicholson was the Alec Guinness character in The Bridge Over the River Kwai. The commanding officer of a contingent of mostly British POWs being held by the Japanese, Nicholson at first follows the rules and refuses to cooperate with his captors in their effort to use British captives as slave labor for a bridge project. But then his pride kicks in and he decides he will show the Japanese what real soldiering is like, agreeing to build the bridge as a demonstration of British superiority in civil engineering. [Spoiler alert] It’s only at the end of the film that he realizes that building the bridge may have been a kind of short-sighted moral victory, but in reality he was helping the Japanese kill allied troops because the bridge was going to be used for shipping Japanese troops and ammunition. When this realization finally arrives, he exclaims, “My God, what have I done?”
Walsh’s primary brief against Trump is that Trump is temperamentally unfit for office and a con man. Fair enough. But he has to focus his indictment on Trump’s erratic behavior. Why? Because he’s a terrible spokesman for much of the rest of the case against Trump. I may not call myself “Never Trump” any more, but I was in 2016. And back then, the argument against Trump wasn’t simply that he was erratic. It was also that he wasn’t a conservative, that he happily dabbled in racism and bigotry, and that he was crude, ill-informed, and narcissistically incapable of putting his personal interests and ego aside for the good of the country. I’m sure I’m leaving a few other things out. But you get the point.
Walsh may be sincere in his remorse over all the racist and incendiary things he said in the very recent past. He may regret supporting his anti-Semitic friend Paul Nehlen, though I haven’t found evidence of that. But none of that history should be seen as qualifications for the presidency, the Republican nomination, or support from conservatives.
And yet, it is precisely these things that make him attractive to his conservative supporters. Trump is an entertainer who trolls his enemies with offensive statements for attention, so let’s find someone who does the exact same thing!
Walsh may have been a one-term congressman, but his true vocation was as a shock-jock trolling provocateur. It’s ironic. As I’ve argued countless times, much of Trump’s bigotry in 2016 stemmed less from any core convictions than from a deep belief that the GOP’s base voters were bigoted and he needed to feed them red meat. Trump's reluctance to repudiate David Duke derived primarily from his ridiculous assumption that Duke had a large constituency he didn’t want to offend. He may have believed the Birther stuff, but he peddled it because that’s what his fans wanted. And Joe Walsh was one of those fans.
It may also be true that Walsh never really believed most of the bilge he was peddling and that he was doing the same thing Trump did—feeding the trolls—on a smaller scale. But if that’s the case, then he’s a con man, too.
I don’t want to beat up on Walsh too much because, again, his epiphany may be sincere. There are lots of people who pushed certain arguments too far only to recognize that the payoff was Trump and the transformation of conservatism into a form of right-wing identity politics. There are a lot of Col. Nicholsons out there. And I have too much respect for Bill Kristol to believe that he would lend his support to someone he believed to be as bigoted as the man Walsh seemed to be a few years ago.
But from where I sit, the prize we should keep our eyes on isn’t defeating Trump; it’s keeping conservatism from succumbing to Trumpism after he’s gone. This isn’t easy, and no tactic is guaranteed to be successful. We’ve never been here before. My own approach is to agree with Trump policies when I think they’re right—judges, buying Greenland, etc.—and disagreeing when they’re wrong. My own crutch is to simply tell the truth as I see it, regardless of whether it fits into some larger political agenda or strategy. Truth is always a legitimate defense of any statement.
But for those who see themselves as political players as well as public intellectuals, I think this is a terrible mistake. Intellectually and morally, the case for continued opposition to—or skepticism about, Trump cannot—or rather must not—be reduced to simple Trump hatred. But by rallying around Walsh—instead of, say, Mark Sanford, or Justin Amash, or, heh, General Mattis—that’s what it looks like. Because you can’t say, “I’m standing on principle in my opposition to a bigoted troll and con man as the leader of my party and my country and that’s why I am supporting a less successful bigoted troll and con man for president.” Walsh isn’t a conservative alternative to Trump; he’s an alternative version of Trump. And his candidacy only makes sense if you take the “binary choice” and “Flight 93” logic of 2016 and cast Trump in the role of Hillary.
Let’s imagine the Walsh gambit works beyond anyone’s dreams and Joe Walsh ends up getting the GOP nomination (a fairly ludicrous thought experiment, I know). If so, I have no doubt that my friend Bill Kristol will say, a la Col. Nicholson, “My God, what have I done.”
Various & Sundry
Canine Update: It’s good to be home. The beasts were delighted to see us. Everything is settling back to normal, except for one intriguing development. I think Zoë has finally had enough with Pippa’s tennis ball routine. The other day on the midday walk with the pack, Kirsten managed to film Zoë putting an end to the tennis ball shenanigans. She took the ball and buried it. It was, to use an inapt phrase, a baller move—and she was unapologetic about it. Maybe she just didn’t like all the commotion with the other dogs, because she’s tolerant of the tennis ball stuff again. Or maybe she was being protective of her sister given that many of the other dogs in the pack are known thieves. Regardless, they’re doing well and having fun.
If you haven’t tuned into The Remnant lately, please give it another try. The first episode of the week was with Niall Ferguson and the feedback has been great. The latest episode is with my friend and AEI colleague Adam White on all things constitutional. Word of mouth is really important in building up audiences, so if you can spread the word about The Remnant or this “news”letter, I’d be grateful.
a glimpse at the world map for my superhero setting, Paladin
, specifically focusing on the Middle East.
Much of the history of the Middle East went as we know it in our timeline, even with the addition of Metahumans and advanced technologies since 1945. Israel was established, and Metahuman soldiers fought on both sides, with the Israelis emerging victorious each time; European powers withdrew from the region, etc. A few things go differently, though; for instance, Dubai blossoms into a metropolis much sooner than in our timeline. In general, though, everything went as we might expect, until 1980. That was when World War III (1980-1984)
broke out, and the villainous forces of the New Order
fell upon the Middle East.
Spearheading the New Order’s efforts in the Arabian Peninsula was the S-rank supervillain, Set
. A sociopath with the ability to control sand, Set made his base of operations in the shining city of Dubai, and created a massive sand storm that threatened to swallow the entire region.
Ultimately, Set was defeated by the combined forces of two unlikely heroes: an Israeli superhero named Golem
and a Palestinian superheroine named Simurgh
. The former had the ability to create automatons out of clay, mud and dirt, whilst the latter could take the form of a fiery six-winged bird, as well as transfer her energy into others to enhance their own abilities. They both did their best to fight Set, but in the end the situation required them to not only to work together, but to sacrifice their lives in order to save the Middle East. Simurgh transferred 100% of her power into Golem, who then poured everything he had into a ten-mile-tall colossus of mud and sea water, which he directed to destroy Set. Set, along with the entire city of Dubai, was crushed and buried under half a mile of earth. The Middle East was saved. The war would still rage on for two and a half more years, but without Set, the forces of the New Order were far, far easier to fight.
The lasting legacy of Golem and Simurgh’s sacrifice was a lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, and the creation of the Federal Union of Israel and Palestine
, a secular, bi-national confederation of two peoples united by the sacrifices of each other’s children. Between 1995 and 2006, a colossal bridge covered in solar panels was constructed, connecting the West Bank to Gaza. Today, almost a million people live on the Shalam Bridge
Riyadh was destroyed by Set, killing most of the Saudi Royal Family. When the sand settled, the Saudi Civil War
began, and didn’t end until 1999, with the Treaty of Kuwait City
. The former territory of Saudi Arabia was broken up, with the oil-rich region of Nejd going to the Gulf Alliance
, a confederation of Persian Gulf states, which had occupied Nejd for almost all of the Saudi Civil War. The last remnants of the Saudi Royal Family were put in charge of a revived Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
, based in Jeddah. The Jordanians donated a member of their royal family to sit on the throne of the Kingdom of Hashemite Arabia
, based in Tabuk. And lastly, all involved officially recognized the Free Territory of the Holy Cities
, which was established during World War III by an international group of Muslim superheroes to protect Mecca and Medina first from Set, and then from the Saudi Civil War.
The Gulf Alliance is surprisingly progressive and forward thinking in its own way. As the region hardest-hit by Set’s rampage, it made sense for the governments of Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the UAE to pool their resources in order to rebuild. Though most of the Middle East has been surprisingly welcoming to alien refugees from the moon (long story), due to the massive regional drop in population brought on by Set’s Storm, the Gulf Alliance has welcomed in the most. Though the Alliance itself is mostly secular, the locals have been rather successful at converting the alien newcomers to Islam. Work is still underway to dig up many of the destroyed oil wells, even as the world is moving towards more and more renewable energy.
As for Saudi Arabia and Hashemite Arabia, the latter is a moderate Arab constitutional monarchy, the former…isn’t. The degree to which it isn’t is kinda shocking, actually. Hashemite Arabia lets their women run for positions in parliament; Saudi Arabia 2.0 doesn’t permit women to leave their homes. Hashemite Arabia is debating abolishing the death penalty; Saudi Arabia doesn’t even have
prisons – they have a waiting list for the guy with the scimitar who beheads people for anything from theft to lying about one’s virginity. Saudi Arabia is also backing North Yemen’s now-radicalized Royal Army (more on that clusterfuck later).
Moving across the Red Sea, we have the Arab Republic of Egypt
, which…well, let’s just say, they have some interesting residents these days. During World War III, Egypt came under siege by the New Order, with the Nile Delta the site of some of the war’s most intense fighting. On one side, the New Order – supervillains, Taurus Group ground and air forces, robots, dinosaurs, African mercenaries, and thousands of undead Nazi soldiers. On the other side, the Allied forces – the Egyptian Army and local Egyptian superheroes, plus some unlikely back-up from the Muslim Brotherhood and
the Israeli Air Force. However, the Allies were losing. Badly. So badly that the Egyptian government activated its covert “Osiris Plan”
See, Taurus Group was able to resurrect the entire Wehrmacht by activating what’s known as a “Charnel Womb” (another long story), which the Nazis created in 1938 through their use of arcane science and mysticism. However, top secret archeological discoveries revealed that the Ancient Egyptians created their own, much more advanced Charnel Womb. Which Egyptian government agents activated. They were then greeted by an undead Metahuman pharaoh by the name of Neherkamun
. Surprisingly reasonable, Neherkamun agreed to aid the Egyptian government. In exchange for some concessions later.
Five days later, hundreds of thousands of skeletons, mummies and zombies rode towards the Cairo war zone, astride skeletal and mummified horses, clad in bronze/crocodile leather armor, wielding swords, spears, axes, AK’s, RPK’s, RPG’s and PKM’s, backed up by lich-sorcerers and animated statues armed with massive clubs and scythes – this undead horde charged into Cairo, Alexandria and Giza, to liberate their once and forever homeland from the forces of evil. The forces of the dead were enough to turn the tide in favor of the Allies. With the New Order defeated in Egypt, the Egyptian Army and their new undead comrades then moved to assist Gaddafi in neighboring Libya.
The Egyptian government held up their end of the bargain with Neherkamun and created the Autonomous Region of the Dead
in 1990, as an autonomous domain for Egypt’s new undead citizenry. The living are permitted to live in the ARD, though at this point, the dead outnumber them in cities like Luxor (renamed Waset), Edfu (Behdet) and Aswan (Swenett). Neherkamun visited Las Vegas in 1996 (when the city was rebuilt following the devastation it suffered during WW3), and was very much impressed; today, the nightlife in Waset, Behdet and Swenett is a strange Ancient Egyptian-themed neon rainforest with very friendly dead people walking around the gentrified necropolis, with street signs in both Arabic and hieroglyphics. In 1999, another autonomous region for the undead was created in the north of the country – the Autonomous Region of Giza
, which has become even more of a tourist-y place than before, now that you can have a friendly conversation with the people who actually built the pyramids. Both autonomous regions have Neherkamun as their constitutional monarch, and all residents of the undead autonomous regions are members of the Egyptian republic.
What are the attitudes of living Egyptians towards their undead countrymen? Surprisingly positive, actually. Sure, some fundamentalists regard them as “spawn of Iblis”, but the undead have been a fairly…secularizing influence on Egypt. Being able to talk with your oldest ancestors brought about a revival of cultural interest in Ancient Egyptian history amongst the Egyptian youth, which pervades. Many undead are still waking up to this day, and they tend to be very, very curious about this new world that they find themselves in – familiar and yet so very strange. It’s not uncommon to see Undead Egyptians visiting Paris, New York, Rio, Tokyo or Moscow, though since most were peasants when they died, most simply remain in Egypt. Some Undead Egyptians have converted to Islam, but the overwhelming majority continue to worship the old gods of the Nile. 2015’s Miss Egypt is the very well-preserved Nefertiti, who became the first undead individual to win such a title.
To the south of Egypt, one can see two grey-ish territories. Before World War III, these were the disputed territories of Bir Tawil and the Hala’ib Triangle. During the war, the New Order made extensive use of combat robots during their invasion of Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia, Djibouti and Ethiopia. However, during the massacre of a village in Sudan in 1983, a simple infantry robot with the designation T9X1109
spontaneously developed sentience and led an uprising within Taurus Group’s mechanical legions in northwest Africa, establishing connections with other “enlightened autonomatons” and “uplifting” those who were not so “enlightened”. T9X1109’s mutiny was mostly successful, and he made an offer to the UN’s Joint Allied Command
; in exchange for withdrawing from the conflict, T9X1109 and his “people” would be allowed to settle these disputed territories as a “homeland” for sentient machines. A neutral “machine homeland”, the Republic of 01001001
(binary for “I”; commonly called “01” or “Zero-One”), was created in 1984. In the years since the end of WW3, many machine intelligences have immigrated to this harsh and bitter desert nation, which is covered in solar panels to provide vital electricity for its approximately ~41,233 intelligences. Increasingly, cyborg transhumanist types have made their “pilgrimage” to Zero-One as well, where they evangelize their strange techno-religion to the human refugees from neighboring war-torn Sudan who’ve been permitted to seek refuge in the mechanical country (this is one reason why Cairo likes Zero-One: it’s a convenient Sudanese refugee sponge of sorts). Zero-One has a strictly pacifistic constitution and possesses no military. Its economy is based mostly on production of batteries.
Saddam Hussein’s regime performed impressively during WW3, and he was able to win over much of the public as a result. But he over-played his hand, and thought he could go back to his old ways. He was wrong, and an idealistic, Western-educated superhero by the name of Ninurta
(real name: Mohammed Al-Doori) led the uprising against Saddam in 2002. His parents fled Iraq for Canada shortly after the Ba’athists came to power in Iraq in 1968, and young Mohammed longed to return to free his homeland. After deposing Saddam, the eagle-headed superhero abolished the Ba’athist regime and replaced it with a secular, democratic government – the Mesopotamian Confederation of Iraq
, with himself as its wise and benevolent dictator. Every office and position in the new Iraq is elected through a multi-party democratic system, with the exception of Ninurta’s position as President. The Federation is divided into six autonomous republics, plus the independent capital district of Baghdad. The six “Mesopotamian Republics” are Babylonia (Sunni Arab majority), Sumeria (Shiite Arab majority), Kurdistan (Kurdish majority), Assyria (Christian Assyrian majority), Sinjar (Yazidi majority) and Akkad (Turkman majority). Under Ninurta’s rule, much has been done to mitigate the country’s historical ethnic tensions and to modernize Iraq. Though most of the time, Ninurta is busy helping to build infrastructure, or assisting the Iraqi Defense Forces with rooting out Islamist or Ba’athist terrorists; there are fundamentalist Muslims who disapprove of Ninurta’s love affair with ancient Mesopotamia or take issue with his atheism, and the Ba’athists are salty that he overthrew Saddam.
To the east of Iraq is the Persian Technate
. In 1979-1980, Iran was a country on the verge of revolution, and between despotic monarchs and totalitarians of both the Islamist and Marxist variety, a low-level Metahuman supergenius by the name of Hamid Mousavi created a fourth option for his beloved Iranian homeland – a secular, scientifically-minded brand of populist technocracy. World War III began shortly after the Iranian Revolution, and amid the chaos, with loyalist and revolutionary forces and third and fourth parties fighting each other and
the New Order, the Iranian Technocratic Revolutionary Army managed to fight its way to be top dog in the Iran Theatre. When all was said and done, Mousavi effectively controlled the country, thanks to his brilliant grasp of strategy and his charismatic brand of “scientific populism”. In 1986, the Iranian Revolution ended, and the Persian Technate was officially recognized by the US and USSR. Today, the Persian Technate is a rationalist, secular regime governed by scientists, engineers, mathematicians. The Technate’s not very democratic, and though they have a lot of fancy doo-dads, the planned economy is kinda mediocre. Following the death of Mousavi in 2010, his successor’s lack of charisma isn’t helping the growing sense of dissatisfaction with the eggheads ruling Iran.
Turkey has not
had a fun time. During World War III, the country was invaded by Taurus Group, backed by Reticulan tripods. Immediately prior to the start of the war, Turkey’s military government was devastated by a string of assassinations carried out by ninjas sent by the Red Hand. To add fuel to the fire, a very young Metahuman in the province of Bayburt experienced a panic attack, unleashing all of its power at once. That glowing blue orb and the “Gulf of Trabzon” you see? That’s the result. The shockwaves resulted in earthquakes across Turkey and tsunamis along the Soviet coastline in the eastern Black Sea, killing upwards of a million people.
Despite all this chaos, the splintered and factionalized Turkish armed forces were able to liberate their homeland from the New Order. Following the end of hostilities in 1984, the National Transitional Council of Turkey
was formed, bringing the three main factions of the Turkish Army together – a secular republican faction, a “theodemocratic” Islamist faction, and a Neo-Ottmanist faction advocating for a constitutional monarchy. Negotiations were tense, with militias and paramilitaries clashing in the streets across Turkey, Turkish and Armenian separatists making their moves, and the Syrians expanding their sphere of influence into Hatay. The Turkish national election of 1995 ended badly
, with violence raging across the country and the military factions breaking away from the NTCT to back their political allies in the streets. The Turkish Civil War
(1995-2001) had begun.
When the dust settled in 2001, a NATO intervention in Turkey resulted in a negotiated ceasefire brokered by the Sentinel Coalition
(which still occupies the Bosporus Straits). The country was now divided into the Republic of Turkey
(“Republican Turkey”, Istanbul), the Islamic Republic of Turkey
(“Islamic Turkey”, Ankara) and the Sultanate of Turkey
(“Ottoman Turkey”, Adana). That last one is a mostly-secular constitutional monarchy headed by Dündar Ali Osman
, the last heir of the old House of Osman. Relations between the “Three Turkeys” have been tense at times, with Islamic Turkey currently in the midst of a military build-up, fearing the growing ties between Republican and Ottoman Turkey.
Istanbul, Ankara and Adana were all forced to recognize the independence of Kurdistan, as well as, more controversially, the Free State of Izmir
Allow me to explain Izmir. At the start of the Turkish Civil War, a giant, tentacled Kaiju by the name of Atlas
took advantage of the chaos in Turkey to take over Izmir and the surrounding area from the Republican and Islamist forces fighting there. A fan of Ayn Rand, Atlas decided to turn Izmir into his own little capitalist utopia. And the people living there decided to go along with the 300-foot beast’s plan. Today, Izmir is a city in the vein of Las Vegas, Singapore and Bangkok – a free market wonderland of Ottoman and Art Deco architecture with its dictator spending most of his time along the bottom of the Gulf of Izmir.
The People’s Republic of Kurdistan
started out as a socialist republic ruled by the PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party). Backed by the USSR, Kurdistan made the transition to a multi-party social democracy in 2004.
Meanwhile, in Republican Turkey’s far-eastern provinces the unrecognized and widely-hated “Armenian Republic of Tačkahayastan”
claims authority there. The ART is headed by a pyrokinetic Metahuman and Armenian ultra-nationalist by the name of Azhdahak, who is overseeing a rather ironic campaign of ethnic cleansing against the local Turks. Republican Turkey keeps asking Armenia to do something about the flow of arms that’s obviously coming across their border, to which Armenia shrugs and plays stupid every time. Increasingly, however, more and more Armenians are deciding to agitate in favor of ending the madness, and the Soviets are getting around to tapping Yerevan on the shoulder. North Yemen
is…yeah, pretty much a clusterfuck.
The Mutawakkilite Kingdom
(North Yemen) and the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen
(South Yemen) put their differences aside to fight against the New Order, and more or less reached a state of détente with the war’s conclusion. This lasted about 30 years.
Around 2010, the failing Mutawakkilite monarchy began experiencing major uprisings by left-wing protestors backed by South Yemen. On the brink of civil war, and with much of the kingdom’s military siding with the protestors, the Yemeni monarchy made the very, very questionable decision to ally with a supervillain by the name of The Claw
. For a while, The Claw was able to keep things under control, though on his watch, North Yemen increasingly became a police state. At the same time, The Claw started to gain his share of odd supporters from the populace. Believing that they could take over the security infrastructure The Claw had built, the Mutawakkilites tried and failed to assassinate him in 2013. Almost immediately afterwards, The Claw staged a coup, backed by his private army of cyborg mercenaries and his following of Yemeni supporters. The Mutawakkilites fled to Saudi Arabia while the Royal Army remained to fight against The Claw’s army, and the left-wing North Yemen Democratic Forces
rose up. The North Yemen Civil War
had begun. South Yemen continued to back the NYDF, but stopped short of committing their forces to the three-way conflict, believing that the Royalists (backed by Saudi Arabia) and The Claw’s forces (backed by nobody) could be easily defeated. South Yemen’s military was actually busy assisting the Soviets and Ethiopians in Somalia during most of the North Yemen Civil War.
Then, in 2014, half of Aden was ripped a series of explosions in the early morning hours. Suicide bombers, whose explosives were traced back to The Claw’s growing transhumanist cult of cyborgs. Though The Claw himself denounced the attack as the actions of a rogue henchmen acting against his orders, South Yemen announced that it would be withdrawing its forces from Somalia to “rectify a previous error in judgement” and invade North Yemen. The Soviet Union and Egypt have both agreed to back South Yemen’s move and have committed troops to backing the NYDF.
So, conclusion? Middle East is a bit of a mixed bag. Some good, some bad, lots of interesting, I suppose.
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