Whenever something bad happens – Iran moving closer to acquiring nuclear weapons, North Korea firing another missile, civilian deaths reaching another grim milestone in Syria’s civil war, satellites revealing an alarming rate of polar-ice melt – some official or observer will call upon the international community to act. There is only one problem: there is no “international community.” In short, those looking to the international community to deal with the world’s problems will be disappointed. This is not reason for despair or grounds for acting unilaterally. But so long as “international community” is more hope than reality, multilateralism will have to become more varied.
Mere hours before President Obama is due to give his war-mongery-cum-diplomacy-Syria-needs-to-be-spanked speech to the nation, the UN Security Council is due for a closed-door meeting (no one will have a clue what is being said) to discuss Russia's plan to place Syrian chemical weapons (but not North Korea or Iran's) under international control. However, as Reuters reports:
- RUSSIA'S PUTIN SAYS SYRIAN CHEMICAL WEAPONS HANDOVER PLAN WILL ONLY WORK IF UNITED STATES REJECTS USE OF FORCE
...which one again puts the onus on Obama to back down as Putin hopes this handover plan will be a "good step towards a peaceful solution."
McCain Says Take The Deal; Assad Warns It's Obama's Problem: "We'll Do Anything To Prevent Another Crazy War"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 09/09/2013 20:22 -0400
The first clips from Charlie Rose's interview with Assad are being released and given the Russia-Syria discussions, Obama's skepticism, and now John McCain's 'dubious support' for "the US getting on board with Russia's proposal for Syria to hand over its chemical weapons," we thought this brief view of Assad's response was telling...
Two weeks ago, the Syrian regime reportedly ordered the use of chemical weapons, which U.S. sources state killed over 1400 people. Over one year ago, President Obama declared that any movement or use of chemical weapons would cross a “redline.” Right from the start, officials in the Obama White House assured the public that any decision to use force against Syria would not be designed to impose regime change. Why would the administration take such an option off the table? As strategists and policymakers have understood since time immemorial, any decision to use military force must be guided by a strategy. If Washington’s strategy is to stop Assad from using chemical weapons, demonstrate that America is committed to enforcing this international norm, and undermine states that support such atrocious actions, regime change remains the critical instrument for the United States. In fact, all other options are highly susceptible to failure. In the end, the failure to put the instrument of regime change on the table demonstrates a lack of resolve, commitment, or weakness—all of which will be interpreted by friend and foe alike as acquiescence in the face of states using chemical weapons.
Asia is a damned excited part of the world. And Singapore is the financial epicenter of all of it. For the last 24-hours, banker and fund manager friends of mine have been telling me stories about oil refinery deals in North Korea, their crazy investments in Myanmar, and the utter exodus of global wealth that is finding its way to Singapore. In the last few weeks we are seeing two new groups moving serious money into Singapore - customers from Japan and India. The contrast is very interesting. From Japan, people who see the writing on the wall just want to be prepared with a sensible solution. They’re taking action before anything happens. From India, though, people are in a panicked frenzy. They waited until AFTER the crisis began to start taking any of these steps. As a result, they’re suffering heavy losses and taking substantial risks... some wealthy Indians are trying to smuggle out diamonds... anything they can do to skirt the government's capital controls.
With the value of the rupee plunging to new lows, the current account deficit at an all-time high and inflation running at nearly a ten-percent annual clip, India is in serious economic trouble. Indeed many are beginning to wonder whether the country is edging toward a replay of the events in the summer of 1991. Back then, an acute balance of payments crisis forced New Delhi into the indignity of pawning its gold reserves in order to secure desperately needed international financing. At a small public event the other week, Duvvuri Subbarao, the outgoing head of the central bank conceded that policymakers rarely learn from their mistakes: "...in matters of economics and finance, history repeats itself, not because it is an inherent trait of history, but because we don’t learn from history and let the repeat occur."
With US President Obama now seeking authorization from Congress to attack Syria, the already spirited debate surrounding the advisability of such military action is bound to get even more lively in the coming days.
The Obama Administration believes military action will send a powerful message. In that, they are correct. Where they are wrong is in what message it will send and in what way that message will elicit a response. In much of the world where people share the religion common to much of Syria, the message will be: America attacks yet another Moslem nation. In the rest of the world, where governments have already declined participation in any message-sending action (except for the one exhibiting the quintessential Napoleon Complex), the message will be: there they go again, doing something they would never want done to them, and demonstrating that they alone think they can decide what deaths constitute a moral obscenity and what constitute mere unfortunate collateral damage.
It seems clear that it is not "if" but "when" an attack takes place and as the following world-cloud confirms; the US "know"... as the strategy "better to ask for forgiveness than permission?" And that with the Russia meeting due next week, and a UN inspector report that appears pointless now that we have social media, that the attack will occur sooner rather than later...
French President François Hollande jumped straight in declaring in more Sarkozy-style fashion than ex-President Sarkozy himself that he would attack Syria. That was even before the UN investigators had been shot at by some unidentified people.
Americans Are Sick of War
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) August 26, 2013
Perhaps in an effort to numb themselves of the daily grind of a delusional dictator amid widespread starvation, North Koreans have turned en masse to the 'bingdu' or ice. As the WSJ notes, a study in the Spring of 2013 found that "Almost every adult in that area (of North Korea) has experienced using ice and not just once," and the author noted that "at least 40% to 50% are seriously addicted to the drug." Unsurprisingly for the closed nation, there is no official data, but as poppy fields disappeared in the nation, meth dealers were quick to step in and 'Heisenberg' the people's needs. Now "doing ice is a social thing; it is a lot of fun," as the 'epidemic' has spread from mid-ranking officials and police officers in 2004-2008 to the general population of students and youth now.
Following yet another rout in Asia overnight, which since shifted over to Europe, US equity futures have stabilized as a result of a modest buying/short-covering spree in the 10 Year which after threatening to blow out in the 2.90% range and above, instead fell back to 2.81%. Yet algos appear confused by the seeming USD weakness in the past few hours (EURUSD just briefly rose over 1.34) and instead of ploughing head first into stock futures have only modestly bid them up and are keeping the DJIA futs just above the sacred to the vacuum tube world 15,000 mark. A lower USDJPY (heavily correlated to the ES) did not help, after it was pushed south by more comments out of Japan that a sales tax hike is inevitable which then also means a lower budget deficit, less monetization, less Japanese QE and all the other waterfall effect the US Fed is slogging through. Keep an eye on the 10 Year and on the USD: which signal wins out will determine whether equities rise or fall, and with speculation about what tomorrow's minutes bring rife, it is anybody's bet whether we get the 10th red close out of 12 in the S&P500.
Confidence leads to spending; spending strengthens the economy; and economic strength buttresses confidence. It’s a circular, self-fulfilling prophesy. Confidence can also fuel market movements. Belief that the price of an asset will rise causes people to buy the asset... making its price rise. This is another way in which confidence is self-fulfilling. But, of course, as Oak Tree Capital's Howard Marks points out, the confidence that underlies economic gains and price increases only has an impact as long as it exists. Once it dies, its effect turns out to be far from permanent. As the economist Herb Stein said, "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop." This is certainly true for confidence and its influence. As far as confidence today, Marks notes significant uncertainty is one of the outstanding characteristics of today’s investing environment. It discourages optimism regarding the future and limits investors’ certainty that the future is knowable and controllable. In other words, it saps confidence. This is a major difference from conditions in the pre-crisis years. In fact, Marks warns he doesn't remember when his list of 'uncertainties' was this long...