A Bank made of BRICS?

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While the international attention is focused on Ukraine and Gaza, something of arguably larger consequence occurred recently: the ‘BRICS’ (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) launched a development bank to compete with the World Bank. This is indeed exciting – while the post-Breton Woods era has produced some impressive economic gains, especially after end of the Cold War, the World Bank is far from living up to its potential, and could surely use some competition. But as far as an antidote the that mythical demon of ‘neo-liberalism’, the New Development Bank doesn’t have a very good chance.

The recent crisis in Ukraine has caused some contrarian-leaning liberals to embrace Russia as a counterweight to American ‘neo-liberalism’; China has long been viewed in the same way. But even a cursory glance at the numbers indicate that this is far from the case. The weighted (by nominal GDP) average Gini coefficient (a method for comparing economic inequality in countries internationally) of the BRICS countries is a whopping 46.2 – by comparison, the US comes in at 36.7, and Mexico, the least equal of the OECD nations, is at 47. In terms of workers’ rights, the environment, or corruption of Democracy, the other prime accusations hurled at ‘neo-liberal’ institutions, the BRICS nations again fail to distinguish themselves as substantially better than the OECD or leading World Bank states.

The lesson? Those who see the US as the cause and center of globally exploitative economic system ought to look twice before assuming that America’s nominal ‘rivals’ represent a better, or even substantially different, system. While there are some truly ground-breaking programs for fighting poverty coming out of Brazil, and some successes as well in the ever-challenging realm achieving democratic governance in a highly multi-ethnic states in India and South Africa, by and large those countries competing economically with the “Washington Consensus” are running parallel to it, using largely the same methods (indeed, with a greater emphasis on state power and centralization), not innovating in some kinder, gentler system. A rival organization to the current global economic norms will not lead to a global system more responsive to inequality and the needs of the poor unless it helps motivate the World Bank/IMF system to reform itself.

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The Polish Wolf

16 Comments

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  • NATO’s value is its predictability. Mutual defense is a powerful and much needed idea; it sends a clear signal to both NATO members and those who threaten them that the most powerful military in the world is watching and assessing any potential infringement. The salutary effects are two-fold: one the one hand, it has kept NATO members safe from encroachment, ending Russia’s periodic incursions into Central Europe as well as keeping peace (to an extent) between Greece and Turkey. On the other hand, it has left member countries relatively secure, to the extent that they haven’t needed to build up dangerous arsenals or maintain enormous armies. Turkey’s continuing status as a non-nuclear power (and likely Italy’s, as well) is likely a result of the conventional security it enjoys as part of NATO. If Ukraine and Georgia become full members of NATO, we can expect threats to their sovereignty AND belligerent actions arising from those feelings of threat to decrease. Russia may be frustrated, but the actual potential for conflict will be greatly lessened.

  • Is Libya part of NATO’s “predictability” or an aberration? Russia was not threatening “infringement.” Nor was Libya disrupting relations between Greece and Turkey. NATO’s primary purpose seems to be more about controlling the EU as an occupied, vassal colony. It also serves to expand Empire into the void left unclaimed following the collapse of the USSR.

    With very limited numbers of ground troops NATO/US/UK would be wise to avoid at all cost a face-to-face showdown with Russia, as is being suggested by U.S. neo-cons, and our silly govenment puppets talking about “taking back” Ukraine, or Crimea. Ain’t gonna’ happen without a real war with real Russian troops, super-committed to defending Mother Russia — commitment and numbers we are not likely to match anytime soon.

    NATO’s best days are far behind us in my opinion.

  • If you think that the U.S. is “the most powerful military in the world” then you have forgotten to factor in the nuclear arms arsenal of Russia, or the power in protecting the home front. Both the U.S. and Russia have enough nuclear weapons to annihilate the world–they are equally powerful. But Russia is protecting its borders, while the U.S. is attempting to project its hegemonic might 5,000 miles away from the Pentagon.

    The U.S.S.R. experienced almost 100 times the number of casualties in WWII protecting its borders as did the U.S. in helping the Allied forces. How many American lives you willing to expend bullying up to Russia? More important, how many lives do you think the Russians are willing to lose standing up to NATO posturing, aggression and “rapid attacks?”

    If you attempt to base foreign policy rationalizations on conventional military strength or neocon/liberal rationalizations, then you are necessarily going to come to bad conclusions. Par for the course for a young, naive blogger.

    Try again.

  • There will not be a confrontation between Russian Federation and NATO. Period. There will be proxy conflicts, but it is understood that Russia is too strong to confront directly, so it is done by proxy. But the reason is far more interesting: Russia stopped a full-fledged bombing attack on Syria in 2013. Is the US, because of the Ukraine side game, now free to bomb without Russian interference?

    We cannot know, of course. These games are played on a high level, we know very little down here on the ground. We can only judge actions: US indeed backed down after the false flag chemical attack, and NATO and US indeed undermined the Ukrainian government and started a civil war thereafter.

    Regarding BRICS, consider this: Iraq was doing no more than trading its oil in euros before the IS invasion, but there was urgency, near panic, here, seen in the think tank report Project For a New American Century, urging clinton to invade Iraq. (he tried, but could not muster public support. A New Pearl Harbor was needed.)

    If a little and non-threatening country, like Iraq can provoke such a monstrous response, what might five relatively more powerful countries be able to do if they attempt to undo IMF and its neoliberal privatization agenda?

  • i think the Polish Wolf needs to explain what went wrong with his best laid plans in Libya before he starts talking about his next dubious project.

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/07/libya-khartoum-weapons-islamist-rebels

    250,000 humans displaced thanks to the plan you endorsed, PW. What about all those people getting completely screwed over thanks to your great ideas and optimistic outlook?

    Do you bear any responsibility at all for all that misery? Or is that someone else’s problem? I look forward to hearing how you rationalize raining chaos down on an entire country. A country that before your proscription enjoyed the highest standard of living in Africa.

    Your proscription ended up, in hindsight, being stupid and leading to massive human tragedy.

    And you are silent about it. Shame on you. Shame on Obama. Shame on John Kerry. Shame on all the Republicans and Democrats in our government. You all stood up and created needless human suffering for no good reason.

    • Sorry Steve, I have things to do besides argue about Libya. But here I’ve got second. Libya did NOT have the highest standard of living in Africa before NATO intervened. Libya had the highest standard of living in Africa until the rebellion started. Hundreds of thousands were already displaced, militias already controlled a huge portion of the country, and thousands of people were already dying, before the UN approved an intervention which Russia did not veto. Before NATO intervention, civilians were violently dying at approximately 100 per day. Libya still has severe problems, but these were not caused by NATO intervention. If NATO had not intervened, there is no reason to believe the situation would be substantially different. If NATO did not exist, there is no reason to believe that Sudan, the UAE, and European nations wouldn’t be intervening right now. Without NATO intervention, in fact, what powerful evidence do you have that Libya would be in a substantially different situation than Syria is today? Libya is in a bad way, but that’s not NATO’s doing; NATO can’t fix what’s wrong with it (but it does seem they averted the far worse possibility that occurred in Syria).

      But on a broader level, I do think it’s worth questioning whether it was worth it – in Libya, or Afghanistan, or any where else NATO has stretched beyond its immediate goals of keeping the North Atlantic safe. If NATO intervention in Afghanistan and Libya could have been replaced by NATO expansion into Georgia and Ukraine, they would have been doing their jobs a great deal better. And no, I don’t opt for a full on confrontation with Russia. But if they insist they aren’t arming the rebels, they can’t admit that we’re in a confrontation with them if we provide weapons to Ukraine. Ultimately, Ukraine has to give up its claims to the Crimea. It may not effectively control the Donbass again for a long time. But putting a real roadblock in the way of Russian revanchism is still worthwhile, and the addition of Ukraine and Georgia will put an end to the sort of geo-strategic uncertainty that creates situations ripe for violence.

  • PW, your propaganda driven understanding of the facts is understandably wanting. One hundred civilians a day? Says who? Here, read and learn.

    http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/publication/23387/lessons_from_libya.html?breadcrumb=%2Fpublication%2F23297%2Fmodel_humanitarian_intervention_reassessing_natos_libya_campaign

    I’m not surprised you won’t take any responsibility for the pain and suffering of tens of thousands. No one wants to admit they were wrong.

  • Your source gives an unexplained low death estimate – less than a third of what the Libyan health ministry quotes (100 dead per day is just deaths/days according to their count). The bigger issue is the enormous assumption made here – 1) that the government would capture the rest of Misrata and Benghazi without substantial civilian casualties, or at least nothing more substantial than had previously been the case (ignoring the relative size and difficulty in controlling Benghazi) 2) that the capture of these major towns (and the retreat of these fighters into Egypt) would be the end of the human rights crisis any more than the capture of of Tripoli ended them in the first case, and 3) that without NATO intervention, Qatar & UAE intervention would not have occurred or would not have strengthened the hand of Islamist militants. These assumptions are all difficult to defend, especially in light of what has happened in Syria. Your source puts forth a relatively rosy picture – absolute victory, the total end of armed resistance, and a restoration of the previous human rights/standard of living situation. But the experience of the region in the last decade is entirely DEVOID of such an outcome. This necessarily means that the scenario NATO envisioned was overly optimistic as well. However (even accepting your source’s low figures) the rate of deaths sharply contracted with the end of the regime; in Syria the casualties keep piling up. The same factors that keep the civil war going in Syria – porous borders, religious extremism, foreign assistance from the Gulf – all apply as well in Libya. Expecting a very different outcome in Libya compared to Syria seems to be an assumption too far.

    All of that said, nothing about Libya is relevant to the conversation about NATO expansion; indeed, if any thing, it’s a distraction. ‘NATO’ did not lead the charge in Libya, the UN did. And there is no reason to believe that without NATO at all (much less a NATO minus expansion) France, the UAE, and Qatar would have acted any differently. NATO ought to expand to include Georgia, and it ought to give Ukraine the chance to fast track in (though I’d suggest a national referendum on the issue, and link it to substantial economic benefits).

    • My god I wish you would cite your sources, as you are parroting someone without attribution. It’s exclusively pro-imperialist too. Methinks you’re full of shit.

  • My sources are the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. I linked to it above so that you would be able to actually see and read the source of the info I was conveying to you.

    Why won’t you link your sources? Does the Libyan Health Ministry publish their reports in English or did you get someone to translate from Arabic or Berber into English? Or are you an Arabic or Berber reader?

    If you won’t link to your sources then I can only conclude that you are making it up or have been duped by clever propaganda and don’t want us to know.

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