Old Ending For A New Great Game?

For those not familiar with it, The Great Game is most definitely NOT a game you want to play…

Punch Magazine 1911 Cartoon per The Great Game

Punch Magazine 1911 Cartoon per The Great Game

Original caption, per the wiki:

A cartoon from the English satirical magazine Punch, or The London Charivari. With the Russian Bear sitting on the tail of the Persian Cat while the British Lion looks on, it represents a phase of The Great Game. The caption reads: “AS BETWEEN FRIENDS. British Lion (to Russian Bear). ‘IF WE HADN’T SUCH A THOROUGH UNDERSTANDING I MIGHT ALMOST BE TEMPTED TO ASK WHAT YOU’RE DOING THERE WITH OUR LITTLE PLAYFELLOW.'”

But worse, it looks like the USA is doing exactly that, but with little clue that it’s even IN The New Great Game. Though, per the wiki on it, even Prince Andrew knows it (and said so in one of the wikileaks cables):

In a leaked US Embassy cable released by WikiLeaks, it was reported that Prince Andrew, Duke of York, supports the concept of a New Great Game:

Addressing the Ambassador directly, Prince Andrew then turned to regional politics. He stated baldly that “the United Kingdom, Western Europe (and by extension you Americans too)” were now back in the thick of playing the Great Game. More animated than ever, he stated cockily: “And this time we aim to win!”

The reference given is to “Wikileaks files: US ambassador criticised Prince Andrew”. BBC. November 30, 2010.


The story is in the context of some fraud investigations of dealings between British Aerospace industries and Saudi buyers. But along the way, rails about the free press and is a bit ‘loose lipped’ about just how the “Royals” see things in Central Asia ( Think Persia / Iran to Afghanistan to Pakistan). A larger quote from that link to give a bit more depth to it:

30 November 2010 Last updated at 04:10 ET

Wikileaks files: US ambassador criticised Prince Andrew

A US ambassador wrote in a secret cable that the Duke of York spoke “cockily” during an official engagement, leading a discussion that “verged on the rude”.

The remarks by Tatiana Gfoeller, Washington’s ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, are revealed by the website Wikileaks.

She said Prince Andrew, a UK special representative on trade, criticised the Serious Fraud Office probe of an arms deal between BAE and Saudi Arabia.

Buckingham Palace has not responded to the reports about the prince.

In the cable, written in October 2008 and published on the Guardian newspaper’s website, Ms Gfoeller recounts details of a brunch in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek with British and Canadian business people.

Summing the event up, she writes: “Astonishingly candid, the discussion at times verged on the rude (from the British side).”

Under the sub-heading “Rude language a la British”, she wrote that “[Prince Andrew] railed at British anti-corruption investigators, who had had the ‘idiocy’ of almost scuttling the Al-Yamama deal with Saudi Arabia”.

She said the prince also criticised Guardian journalists – “who poke their noses everywhere” – for investigating the deal.

Ms Gfoeller said Prince Andrew told her that the UK, Western Europe and the US were now “back in the thick of playing the Great Game” – a reference to the 19th Century struggle between the British and Russian Empires for control of Central Asia.

OK, some things to ponder. This is a diplomatic cable that we know has some validity as the USA is trying to nail the leaker and a load of folks have corroborated that the leaked stuff is real.

The exchange happens in Kyrgyzstan, in the heart of where The Great Game had been played. This Great Game had gone on for over 100 years. Had sucked Britain into 3 crappy wars in Afghanistan. Had cost untold thousands of lives and great treasure (though, to be sure, Britain had sucked more net treasure out of India and the other spoils…) and generally been the cause of generations of misery in Central Asia. And here we have a Royal crowing that the game is afoot, again. And we’re sucked into it this time (we being the USA). So what does the BBC article stress? Why: the ‘rude’ language…

OK, I’ve heard the term, but never thought about it much. Vague memories of an old Rudyard Kipling reading assignment in High School, Kim… or maybe grammar school… At the time I’d not really made the connection that it was about history, about real lives and not some fictionalized Empire. I knew The British Empire had been real enough, but it was long gone to ancient history. At least, to a young kid. Besides, an author would likely have made up something of a fancy name, like “The Great Game”…

But, no, it really was called that.

The Great Game & The New Great Game

The "-ickystans" of Central Asia

The "-ickystans" of Central Asia

Original Image in an article that describes how Pakistan wanted to play in The Great Game a couple of years back too…

A thumbnail sketch of it is that Russia was spreading south into central Asia. Collecting all the -ickystans that eventually would be part of the old USSR while Britain and Russian were picking apart bits of the old Persian Empire and making sure China was firmly boxed in. At the same time, The British Empire was picking up bits of other old empires. (Old Empires never really die, they just get turned into “Empire Helper” and mixed with the excess Ego of the next batch of megalomaniacs; the bits get eaten up, to be later extruded into more fertilizer of Empire Builders… in an endless cycle.) So the Empire of Alexander The Great was just having a bit of a ‘recycle’, just like the Persian Empire… and both Britain and Russia wanted the middle Asian bits… Such is the stuff of 100 years of warfare…

Persian Empire about 400 BC

Persian Empire about 400 BC

A rather nice set of notes on history is found in this articlehttp://www.uncp.edu/home/rwb/lecture_ancient_civ.htm that includes the above map.

The wiki has some interesting summaries in it. Russia pushes here, Britain takes a snip or two there. They swap Afghanistan on and off… Kind of like the rather excellent board game of Risk, where the designers tuned it ‘just so’ and as nobody with a brain will ever let another player hold all of Asia (as the 7 “continent points” rack up fast early in the game), poor Afghanistan often ends up being ‘swapped’ between Empire builders in Europe, Africa, and the rest of Asia…

The Great Game or Tournament of Shadows (Russian: Турниры теней, Turniry Teney) in Russia, were terms for the strategic rivalry and conflict between the British Empire and the Russian Empire for supremacy in Central Asia. The classic Great Game period is generally regarded as running approximately from the Russo-Persian Treaty of 1813 to the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907. A second, less intensive phase followed the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. The Great Game dwindled after the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union became Allies during World War II.

The term “The Great Game” is usually attributed to Arthur Conolly (1807–1842), an intelligence officer of the British East India Company’s Sixth Bengal Light Cavalry.
From the British perspective, the Russian Empire’s expansion into Central Asia threatened to destroy the “jewel in the crown” of the British Empire, India. The British feared that Afghanistan would become a staging post for a Russian invasion of India, after the Tsar’s troops would subdue the Central Asian khanates (Khiva, Bokhara, Khokand) one after another.

It was with these thoughts in mind that in 1838 the British launched the First Anglo-Afghan War and attempted to impose a puppet regime on Afghanistan under Shuja Shah. The regime was short lived and proved unsustainable without British military support. By 1842, mobs were attacking the British on the streets of Kabul and the British garrison was forced to abandon the city due to constant civilian attacks.

So when we look at current events, with Russia making unhappy noises about our involvement in the area, and about the presence of US “provocations” with anti-missle systems and aircraft carriers, perhaps we ought to allow for them, just maybe, having a bit of education about The Great Game and about 100 years of warfare in the region as Anglo intruders gave them military grief…


Nuke carrier leads US strike force into Syrian waters

Published: 25 November, 2011, 18:34
Edited: 25 November, 2011, 22:34
Rumors about the no-fly zone over Syria came in the wake of Tuesday’s United Nations General Assembly resolution which condemned human rights abuses by the Syrian regime, including the killing, arbitrary imprisonment and torture of civilians.

Meanwhile, an Arab League deadline for Syria to allow an observer mission into the country or suffer crippling sanctions passed on Friday without a response from Damascus, a League source told AFP.

“Until now, there has been no response from the Syrian government,” the source said after the 1 pm (1100 GMT) deadline. Damascus has been given until the end of the day to respond, if it is to avoid sanctions.

Earlier this month Russia, the most powerful opponent of the West’s push for “international intervention,” also anchored its warships in the Syrian port of Tartus. According to unconfirmed reports, the warships were carrying technical advisors who will help Syria set up and run advanced S-300 missiles supplied by Russia. However, there is no official confirmation that the S-300 missiles have actually been delivered to Syria by any side.

Meanwhile, Moscow has announced it opposes a military scenario for resolving the Syrian problem and the use of a human rights argument as an excuse for foreign intervention in the affairs of a sovereign state. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich said that “under no circumstances must human rights issues be used as a pretext for interfering in the internal affairs of a state.”
Patrick Henningsen, a political analyst from the US-based Infowars.Com online magazine, believes that the escalation of tensions over Syria between the world’s major powers may lead to a new chilling in world politics.

“I think we are going to see a new Cold War emerge in the next two years, and we are seeing the initial steps of that new Cold War right now,” he told RT.

Note that RT is Russia Today. The folks in Russia think this is a big deal… In the US Press it’s hardly getting a mention. Here we are on the edge of starting a new Cold War, involved in Afghanistan, have Pakistan kicking us out for killing a couple of dozen of their border guards, getting Russia all worked up with anti-missile systems on their doorstep, with Egypt in a renewed melt down and new riots, and with the UK Cheering us on (‘Always glad to hold yer coat, Yank!’…) and as near as I can tell, Obama has no clue he’s even IN The New Great Game, nor that he’s screwing up the moves, and certainly is clueless that he’s on the verge of a Bay Of Pigs kind of moment with the Russians over THEIR sense of ownership of Central Asia / Persian Empire going back a few hundred years… But at least the Royals know it, even if they are just a bit too gleeful over it…


The Syrian crisis assumed a big power dimension this week with the build-up of rival United States and Russia naval air carrier armadas in Syrian waters, debkafile’s military sources report.

The USS George H.W. Bush arrived Wednesday, Nov. 23, in the wake of the three Russian warships anchored earlier opposite Tartus which established a command post in the Syrian port. They will be augmented by Russia’s only air carrier the Admiral Kuznetsov, which is due in mid-week.

By deploying 70 ship-borne fighter-bombers plus three heavy guided missile cruisers and five guided missile destroyers opposite Syria, Washington has laid down military support for any intervention the Arab League in conjunction with Turkey may decide on.

So we’ve got one really big powder keg building up there, and the UN is determined to light the match…

Oh, and that Pakistan thing…


Pakistan orders U.S. to vacate base, shuts border

Alex Rodriguez, Los Angeles Times

Sunday, November 27, 2011
Islamabad — Allegations that a NATO attack killed 24 Pakistani soldiers near the Afghan border Saturday dealt a serious blow to already tense relations between the United States and Pakistan
In response, Pakistan shut down crucial border crossings used by convoys delivering supplies to NATO forces in Afghanistan and gave the United States 15 days to vacate an air base in southern Pakistan that in the past had been suspected as a launch site for CIA drone attacks.

Local officials said the incursion occurred at about 2 a.m. Saturday at two Pakistani army posts in Salala, a border village in the restive northwestern tribal region of Mohmand.
Pakistani officials at the Torkham checkpoint at the Khyber Pass said Saturday that they had suspended all movement of NATO tankers and supply trucks heading into Afghanistan. A second border crossing in the southern town of Chaman also was shut down.

Roughly 40 percent of NATO’s nonlethal supplies bound for Afghanistan move by truck from the Pakistani port city of Karachi to either the northwest border crossing at Torkham or the southern crossing at Chaman.

So we’ve got at least 40% of supplies cut off, and many of the air routes cross Pakistan as well. Nothing like having an army stranded in Afghanistan to get you used to The Great Game…

I wonder if anyone else had had an experience like that. One from history that we could learn from, perhaps:

The retreating British army consisted of approximately 4,500 troops (of which only 690 were European) and 12,000 camp followers. During a series of attacks by Afghan warriors, all Europeans but one, William Brydon, were killed on the march back to India; a few Indian soldiers survived also and crossed into India later. The British curbed their ambitions in Afghanistan following this humiliating retreat from Kabul.

After the Indian rebellion of 1857, successive British governments saw Afghanistan as a buffer state. The Russians, led by Konstantin Kaufman, Mikhail Skobelev, and Mikhail Chernyayev, continued to advance steadily southward through Central Asia towards Afghanistan, and by 1865 Tashkent had been formally annexed.

Samarkand became part of the Russian Empire in 1868, and the independence of Bukhara was virtually stripped away in a peace treaty the same year. Russian control now extended as far as the northern bank of the Amu Darya river.

In a letter to Queen Victoria, Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli proposed “to clear Central Asia of Muscovites and drive them into the Caspian”. He introduced the Royal Titles Act 1876, which added to Victoria’s titles that of Empress of India, putting her at the same level as the Russian Emperor.

How many times must we learn the same lessons of History? Adventures in Afghanistan are a bad idea. Let Russia and the United Kingdom (or even all of the EU) take turns swapping it. Put our “continent points” at our edges and try mending things with South America as an integrated economic zone. Don’t these guys ever play Risk? ;-)

Love this picture, BTW:

Great Game Cartoon of 1878

Great Game Cartoon of 1878

Per the wiki, the caption was “Political cartoon depicting the Afghan Emir Sher Ali with his “friends” the Russian Bear and British Lion (1878)”

So from a Russian Perspective (and Prince Andrew’s) we’ve got bases in the “-ickystans” and an army in Afghanistan. We’ve supplied via (or, rather, we WERE supplied via…) the old British Colony of Greater India, and now we’re looking at a naval blockade of the other end of the old Persian Empire… but don’t worry, WE have no ambitions about Central Asia… Heck, we didn’t even know it was ‘in play’…

But even old rivals can call a brief truce if some new kid wants to horn in on the act. So it was in the lead up to W.W.I (and you thought it was only a bomb in Serbia…)

In the run-up to World War I, both empires were alarmed by Germany’s increasing activity in the Middle East, notably the German project of the Baghdad Railway, which would open up Mesopotamia and Persia to German trade and technology. The ministers Alexander Izvolsky and Edward Grey agreed to resolve their long-standing conflicts in Asia in order to make an effective stand against the German advance into the region. The Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 brought a close to the classic period of the Great Game.

The Russians accepted that the politics of Afghanistan were solely under British control as long as the British guaranteed not to change the regime. Russia agreed to conduct all political relations with Afghanistan through the British. The British agreed that they would maintain the current borders and actively discourage any attempt by Afghanistan to encroach on Russian territory. Persia was divided into three zones: a British zone in the south, a Russian zone in the north, and a narrow neutral zone serving as buffer in between.

In regards to Tibet, both powers agreed to maintain territorial integrity of this buffer state and “to deal with Lhasa only through China, the suzerain power”.

And we wonder why Persia / Iran might be just a tiny bit nervous about it’s neighborhood and folks wanting to help it ‘modernize’… Oh, and I do hope we in the USA are not seen as a New Kid like Germany was, trying to horn in on the local shake down turf…

BTW, that word suzerain, is an interesting one. It means that while you are nominally your own country, some other country controls all your external affairs. Fancy term for “puppet state”, IMHO. But here we see, too the involvement of China in Tibet with boots on throats. Some things never change…

Especially in The Great Game, where even the transition from a Czar to a Communist Paradise did not derail the play:

The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 nullified existing treaties and a second phase of the Great Game began. The Third Anglo-Afghan War of 1919 was precipitated by the assassination of the then ruler Habibullah Khan. His son and successor Amanullah declared full independence and attacked British India’s northern frontier. Although little was gained militarily, the stalemate was resolved with the Rawalpindi Agreement of 1919. Afghanistan re-established its self-determination in foreign affairs.

In May 1921, Afghanistan and the Russian Soviet Republic signed a Treaty of Friendship. The Soviets provided Amanullah with aid in the form of cash, technology, and military equipment. British influence in Afghanistan waned, but relations between Afghanistan and the Russians remained equivocal, with many Afghans desiring to regain control of Merv and Panjdeh. The Soviets, for their part, desired to extract more from the friendship treaty than Amanullah was willing to give.

I think we all know how that turned out, and the OTHER Soviet Afghan War…

However, I’m sure that this time, with Putin and a democratic republic, I’m sure “This Time Is Different” and they will have not claims on Afghanistan… and I’m sure we won’t get stuck there… /sarcoff>

With the advent of World War II came the temporary alignment of British and Soviet interests: in 1940, both governments pressured Afghanistan for the expulsion of a large German non-diplomatic contingent, which both governments believed to be engaging in espionage. Afghanistan complied in 1941. With this period of cooperation between the USSR and the UK, the Great Game between the two powers came to an end.

Twenty-first century

When everyone is dead, the Great Game is finished. Not before.
—Rudyard Kipling.

Even so, there is a New Great Game defined:

Recently there has been some use of the expression “the Great Game” to describe relations between the United States, Russia, the People’s Republic of China and other nations such as Pakistan and Turkey, over influence with the Central Asian republics and access to energy resources and military bases.[…]

While energy resources and military bases are mentioned as part of The Great Game, so is the continuing jostling for strategic advantage between great powers and between the regional powers in mountainous border regions in the Himalayas.

(And this doesn’t even mention the tensions between China, India, and Pakistan over Kashmir. All three, nuclear powers)

The wiki on The New Great Game has some useful bits, too:

Noopolitik in the New Great Game

Even a new word to learn. Noopolitik, whatever that is and however you pronounce it… Higher levels of indirection, leveraged play with more technology and attempts to cause a pivot in history with a small technical ploy… Shifting the balance without being the fulcrum, nor even having a direct grab of the lever, just a smaller lever prying at it…

After Halford Mackinder, in The Grand Chessboard Zbigniew Brzezinski had emphasized the unparalleled value Central Asia had among US geostrategic imperatives. Yet in his later book, “The Choice: Global dominance or Global Leadership” Brzezinski notably argued the USA should resort to more Soft Power in attempting to politically command The Geographical Pivot of History. Similarily, Idriss Aberkane claimed Noopolitik was playing a more central role than ever in the balance of power of the New Great Game, as innovation was the simplest way for Great Gamers to alter the complex status quo and regional balance of power. Among such military innovations capable of altering the regional balance of power in a non linear way had already been the VA-111 “Shkval” supercavitation torpedo technology and the Caspian Sea Monster ground effect vehicle deployed by the Soviet Navy. On the Soft Power side James Glanz and John Markoff reporting for the International Herald Tribune wrote in June 12th 2012 that the Obama Administration was deploying shadow connection networks to provide political allies in the New Great Game with direct access to the internet and bypass local censorship, thus granting them access to direct network-centric resistance.

“The Obama administration is leading a global effort to deploy “shadow” Internet and mobile phone systems that dissidents can use to undermine repressive governments that seek to silence them by censoring or shutting down telecommunications networks.”

Aberkane therefore argued that the projection of development and Confidence building measures was gaining momentum as a means to leverage political intercourses by other means in Central Asia, and that such was a novel feature of the New Great Game as opposed to the Great Game

Well, while I’m glad to hear that the Obama Admin at least realizes that shadow nets, set up with ersatz means, can get past the shutdowns, I’m a bit worried that they might actually think they have a clue how to play The New Great Game.

Some Ideas

Dear Obama: The British Empire used a bunch of colonial forces in Afghanistan, not many of their own guys. So ask yourself: “Who has their boots on the ground in Afghanistan?” Then ask: “Who is the colonial lackey here and who is calling the tune?”… Who is standing with a tiny lever moving the big lever on the pivot point of history, and who IS the big lever?

Similarity with the Great Game
“The Graveyard of Empires”

Afghanistan expert Seth Jones published a book analyzing its popular name as “The Graveyard of Empires”: In the Graveyard of Empires: America’s War in Afghanistan. That Afghanistan is a position of the Great Game that is impossible to hold over a protracted period seemed to have remained an invariant of the New Great Game

Might I suggest that history has pretty much shown that when an Empire thinks it can take and hold Afghanistan, it’s nearer to its end than to its beginning? Hold it too long, the other players start nibbling away at your country points in other places, maybe even try taking down some of your continent points… ( I really DO suggest playing a few rounds of Risk before you decide you know how to play it in the real world… It’s a lot easier to tell the lozenge army that it is dead than to tell real mothers and fathers they have no sons and daughters…)

So think on this: About now, Madam Hillary will have been sent over to explain again about the $Few Billion Checkbook and how we expect folks to stay bought, even if we have invaded their country, killed their people without telling them, bombed a couple of their border outposts killing their soldiers, and generally been acting like an Empire and their suzerain power… And about now, a bunch of pissed off Muslim Men will be wondering what That Woman thinks she is; to be bossing them around in their own country. So what would happen if just about then, they got a nice little phone call from their old buddy Putin asking if they would like a couple of spare $Billion in oil dollars he has laying about… in exchange for, oh, I donno… maybe a nice little newly vacated air base and a couple of closed border crossings? Oh, and maybe they could send a nuke over to Syria with a nice little missile attached, just let the Russian Ships know when to get out of the way…

How much of $200 / bbl oil would flow to Russia with Iran shut down and the USA going bat shit in the region? With a nuclear fallout cloud drifting toward Saudi and Israel getting ready to decapitate anything that goes ‘whoosh’ in the night? With the Egyptian Military looking for a reason to stay in power and Israel Right There just one provocation away from nuking Iran and having the whole Arab League go open loop.

I’m pretty sure then it would be more than a couple of $Billion… And more than $200 / bbl. With China paying that much for oil, would they be willing to loan us a another $Trillion to pick a fight with Russia? Or would they rather use that $Trillion buying up some nice countries closer to Kashmir?

Wonder what Putin and Medvedev think?

This is exactly the kind of “Foreign Military Adventure” that our founders warned about, wrote a constitution to prevent, and that generally we ought to be avoiding at all turns. It sucks a country dry of treasure and willpower. It reduces empires to dust, and it consumes more than can ever be gained. Yet stupid blind ambition continues to play the same old Games, hoping this time the outcome will be different.

But who knows, maybe this time it WILL be different. We’ve not yet had a war with multiple nuclear participants all fighting over the same pivot point of history… May I suggest a motto or ‘toast’? “To new beginnings! May your bootstraps be strong!”

You’re gonna need them for pulling yourself back up out of the Post Nuclear Empire mud…

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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21 Responses to Old Ending For A New Great Game?

  1. xyzlatin says:

    This is an interesting post but I am concerned at your wiki enthusiasm. Wiki is written from a Left viewpoint. Have you learned nothing from the battle on Wiki over global warming where any skeptical view has been squashed? Where history is revised to suit an agenda? Wiki is an easy starting point, but needs to be confirmed from other sources. I am suspicious of any and all history as told on wiki.

  2. View from the Solent says:

    “Note that RT is Russian Times”
    Needs correcting. RT used to be Russia Today.

  3. Pascvaks says:

    True if you count on wiki for “interpretation”, usually for a brief sketch of general facts/history it’s not tooooooooo bad. Well, not much.

    In the 19th Century the World was much, much bigger. Really, it was. Today it’s no where near its former size. Time and tide have brought us to this point and from here we judge all players. The Great Game is very much still in play but the reasons and stakes are so much different.

    Why is the US behaving the way it is and trying to save Afghanistan? Stupidity.

    Why is Russia so paranoid about… well, everything under the Sun? That’s just the way Russians are; Russian Royalty and Upper Class types always had a fetish for inbreeding. Well… that’s one explaination, there are hundreds.

    I think 99.9% of us can agree that the Cold War is over and we’re in a new Ball Park playing a new game and it’s the start of the 1st Inning. Unfortunately, for us, the 1/10th of 1% that’s not aware of what’s going on are in the State Department and the upper layer of the Executive Branch.

    Who has dibs on Afghanistan or SE Aisa or the Sea Floor at the North Pole is all a matter of location, location, location. One sure sign that we’re toast in the USofA is the fact that we’re in Afghanistan to this day. There is absolutely no good reason under all the stars above for the US to be there still fighting a pissant war with a bunch of third rate religious fanatics backed by two other first rate powers in the world.

    Did I ever tell you my theory about the stupidity of American leadership over the past 200 years? Well… maybe another time;-)

  4. adolfogiurfa says:

    “The Obama administration is leading a global effort to deploy “shadow” Internet and mobile phone systems that dissidents can use to undermine repressive governments that seek to silence them by censoring or shutting down telecommunications networks.”
    Funny: Man controls weather too……
    It´s like the aspirations of cancer cells: They want to conquer the body, going against the will of the central nervous system, which commands everything….but they ignore the default settings: LOL!!, once they achieve their goal the body dies taking them to a better life in Dante´s Inferno.

  5. pouncer says:

    I see the point of the game in the 19th century. The middle ground has the oil.

    All the more reason, in the 21st, to find OTHER oil. It’s not hard. There’s stuff in Alaska, stuff off the coast of Texas, not to mention fossil gas in New York, tar sands in Alberta, shale dang near everywhere…

    This, assuming we still need oil at all, which would not be true if Jane Fonda had not pushed the bogus “China Syndrome” mentality into the mass mind. Three Mile Island would not be remembered at all, nor have been considered at the time any more than a comparable “grain elevator explosion” typical of ANY industry — had not the memetic pump been primed just months before. I am readier to forgive Hanoi Jane her youthful indiscretions with our nation’s political enemies (not very!) than I am to forgive her adult decisions to attempt the destruction of our economic system (younger folks research (but do not see) also, “Roll Over” for a renewed timely bit.)

    There is nothing in that sand pit I want to play with, and too many cat droppings, to make the Great Game worth my time to play.

  6. P.G. Sharrow says:

    There is no longer anything of value in Afghanistan for us. India can now stand up to any of her enemies. And as to oil, if we wish, we can produce any amount we need in North America. This is no longer a game we need to play, and the Afganies, Pachs and Persians are nobodies friend. pg

  7. E.M.Smith says:


    I quote wiki, as it can be done without violation of copyright, but typically look for confirmation elsewhere too. I think there is no doubt that the ‘wikileaks’ cables are real, nor that the English Afghan wars happened, nor that Russia possessed the -ickystans, nor that the Persian empire existed, nor that the US and Russia are toe-to-toe in Syrian waters (note current events with political overtones using non-wiki sources…)

    So yes, I’m cautious about them. And certainly not ‘enthusiastic’. I actively avoided them for while. Only returning after they started a bit of a house cleaning on the more zealous Global Warmer biased folks. Still keeping an eye on them over that front; and highly skeptical that there was not some ‘coordination’ with Google over search engine changes… as they now are almost universally above the fold on the first search of just about anything…

    Still, when they have the story right, it’s convenient to not be ripping off copyrights and to not have to chop out so much of the ‘flow’ of a piece as to be inside ‘fair use’ as to make it read poorly…

    @View For The Solent:

    Right you are… Read it a 1,000 times. Knew it was “Today”. Fingers typed “Times”… going too fast too late at night…

    @P.G. Sharrow and Pouncer:

    You touch on a point that just galls me. That we CAN make all we want, it’s just a matter of price. And not much price at that. Coal to oil makes money at about $60 / bbl (roughly adjusting for the last 2 decades of inflation, so it could be $80 / bbl depending on the inflator applied) while tar sands make money at about $50 / bbl (some even lower near the $30 mark – depends on the price of natural gas for cooking it and the amount in the sands). Shale Oil is nearer to $100 / bbl. Then there are the ‘trash to liquids’ processes that can run a profit at about $80 / bbl. Oh, and “gas to liquids” that ought to have moved down in price break even point as gas prices collapsed from $12 to $3.xx so maybe about $50 / bbl?

    Notice that none of those is very far from the present oil range of about $70 to $100 / bbl. So we are now left with only the volatility component. SOMETIMES the price drops down toward $60 / bbl on economic downturns…

    When I first started complaining about this, oil was $35 / bbl or so. Now tar sands are making loads of oil at fat profits.

    So at this point we could essentially do what South Africa did in the 1970s and make a national commitment to manufactured oil at no real cost at all. We could even make money on the deal if you count the reduced cost of a military NOT defending the world…

    So WHY are we not drilling like crazy and building GTL and CTL and Trash to Liquids plants all over the place?

    Good question… wish I had the answer… at least, wish I had one other than ‘the power structure does not want it for other reasons’… The prior rational answer of “oil lower priced than product by $10 / bbl” is now gone. At best the economic argument is “Oil MIGHT drop below it in price on an economic collapse so the business plan has risk” and that seems a might lame… BTW, this isn’t a hypothetical. CTL has run in South Africa for over 40 years now. GTL is in use for some ‘stranded gas’ fields owned by oil companies. Trash to Liquids is, on a pilot scale, powering engines at LAX airport. Even the US Air Force has run planes on synthetic fuels and is going through the work to placard all their aircraft for it.

    We’re just not bothering to say “We have decided to keep the money at home. Gotta go.” and just do it.

    BTW, saw a report of a study by VW in the ’70s that said you could use nuclear process heat from HTGCR type nuclear reactors to make methanol fuel from coal at about 55 cents per gallon of gasoline equivalent, IIRC. For a few more cents / gallon you can dump it through a zeolite catalyst and get proper gasoline… Just saying… Even if you inflate it by a factor of 5, that’s $2.75 / gallon. IIRC, it was about $2 for lunch at a Taco Bell or Macdonalds then. It’s not $10 now.

    At any rate, I think it’s pretty clear that “national interest” is not the main driver here or we would have done this in about 1980. Increasingly, “cost” is not the driver (or we would have done this in about 1995). No, something else is standing in the way…

  8. Pascvaks says:

    @Chiefio- “No, something else is standing in the way…”

    That “something else” is driving me bat@#$%. Now great minds will tell us that “it” all depends on what the meaning of “is” is. I keep thinking that someone is not telling US what’s going on and deliberately keeping us in the dark. And people say there is no “conspiracy”, hummmmm… Where’s Indiana Jones when ya really need him?

    PS: And who’s pushing Nuke Ginreich so high in the polls? I’ll bet it’s all those Mexicans. But, once again, “Why?” It just makes no sense a’tall.

  9. cm says:

    I have read quite a bit about “The Great Game” over the years.
    Apparently the BIBLE of spycraft is a book called “Greenmantle” by John Buchan, from what i’ve read in other books (i’ve never read it myself). One of the books i’ve got is called “On Secret Service East Of Constantinople” by Peter Hopkirk, author of “The Great Game”. Here’s what it says on the inside dustcover-

    Under the banner of a Holy War, masterminded in Berlin and unleashed from Constantinople,the Germans and the Turks set out in 1914 to foment violent revolutionary uprisings against the British in India and the Russians in Central Asia.It was a new and more sinister version of the old Great Game, with world domination as its ultimate aim.
    German hawks dreamed of driving the British out of India and creating a vast new Teutonic empire in the East, using their Turkish ally as a springboard. At the same time Turkey’s leaders aimed to free the Muslim peoples of Central Asia from the Tsarist yoke-and rule them themselves as part of a new Ottoman empire.
    The shadowy and often bloody struggle which followed was fought out between the intelligence services of King,Kaiser, Sultan and Tsar. It was to spill over into Persia, Afghanistan, the Caucasus and Central Asia, and be felt as far afield as the United States and China. It was around this colossal conspiracy that John Buchan wove his immortal spy story Greenmantle.
    Here, told in epic detail and for the first time, is the extraordinary story of the Turko-German jihad of the First World War, recounted through the adventures and mis-adventures of the secret agents and other who took part in it.
    Pieced together from the secret intelligence reports of the day and the long forgotten memoirs of the participants. It is also highly topical in view of recent events in this volatile region where The Great Game has never really ceased. The rise of Islamic fundamentalism and fears of a resurgent Russia and Germany add greatly to its significance.

    That took me ages to type, give me a pen and paper any day. lol.
    Here’s a fact you might not know, the boundary map of “Iraq” was drawn up by a woman (an extraordinary woman) by the name of Gertrude Bell. This was at the same time as Laurence of Arabia was active. The Great Game again. Bill Colby of CIA fame mentions one of the “rules” of the game.
    Apparently, The agreement has been reached that the top people in the intelligence agencies will NEVER be targeted for assassination.
    You can kill James Bond but M is off limits.

  10. Saudi is playing with USA in the great game, because of it’s oil wealth, and control of OPEC (as its biggest supplier) and it’s faked up oil price which is much too high for what it really costs, which USA likes too as it’s part of the Standard Oil old game now on a global scale. Reduce supply, make reasons for a higher price.

    If you look at recent history

    (a) 1980-90s http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adnan_Khashoggi This guy was supposedly the richest man on earth. Worked with USA also in Iran Contra.



    (b) Obama and others playing now


    (c) Then you have the Saudi, playing both sides



    (d) Then you have the Bin Ladens



    (e) Then you have Iraq





    (f) Saudi and Israel
    http://www.ruthfullyyours.com/2011/10/30/saudi-royal-ups-bounty-to-1-million-for-capturing-an-israeli-soldier-see-note-please/ (notice Fox News major owners brother there)

    etc etc

    All part of the “Game”

    Now we have the http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/14/world/middleeast/iran-broadens-counter-rhetoric-on-alleged-plot-calling-it-a-joke.html which is a comedy festival

    Hey by the way, why does Saudi need nuclear reactors when they have so much energy??? http://www.arabnews.com/saudiarabia/article445147.ece

    Oh by the way, joke of the day http://www.theblaze.com/stories/saudi-electricity-company-saudi-arabia-may-run-out-of-oil-by-2030/

  11. Libertarian says:

    EM. A good read. There is a new factor to be considered, demographics. Russia may not be able to field an army and keep its factories running in a few years. Europe is demographically finished. OTOH Iran, Pak, India etc have rising populations.
    Have you read “Empire of the Mind” by M. Axworthy, pub 2004? A really good history of Persia from ancient times through to modern Iran. The sad story of how the USA has mishandled so many opportunities to wedge the perfidious Europeans in relations with Iran will upset you.

  12. E.M.Smith says:


    Ah, another couple of books to add to the ‘someday list’ ;-)


    See the flow of events in the liner notes that CM cites. Not quite the same as the “nut in Serbia tosses bomb at Archduke” taught in school, is it?

    That’s the shadow game we’re looking to find… the story behind the story.

    IMHO, part of it was a ‘deal’ after the Arab Oil Embargo of the ’70s that we’d let the House of Saud become incredibly powerful and rich as long as they ‘played ball with us’ (as they have); BUT, we have to not make oil alternatives as our side of the bargain. So they get to charge ‘market rates’, but MUST keep the oil flowing and try to stabilize prices when they spike during disasters. In exchange, we give them a ‘managed oligopoly’ and untold wealth… and we don’t rock the boat with alternatives…

    It is the only thing, so far, that matches all the known facts that I have to work with…

    FWIW, I suspect another ‘deal’ is that the USA does the fighting in the Middle East (as we are really not all THAT dependent on Arab oil) and Europe plays ‘good cop’ to the Middle East, as they are astoundingly dependent on Arab Oil. That way the “bad cop” is as far away and hard to reach as possible. In exchange for this, Europe lets us kind of do what we want militarily in the rest of the world (though is free to complain about it – in keeping with their ‘good cop’ role…) Basically, we get to be the Big Guns of the world, but from time to time they get to direct where we point…

    I also think these two ‘deals’ that seem to have been around for about 40 years now are reaching a natural end. We’ve got new large players (China and The Muslim World) not party to the ‘deals’ and we’ve got stresses in oil production and prices that were not there 40 years ago (as some countries run dry or just move from next exporter to net importer on increasing industrialization, such as Indonesia). Also the folks who pledged their honor to The Deals are increasingly dead and gone. The New Young Turks want to cut their own deals…

    It is that instability that I think it coming and that I think it going to be the hardest bit to navigate safely.

    It is, IMHO, showing up as The Arab Spring and The Tea Party both. Folks not even pawn in The Game getting damn tired of Dear Leader’s Games… And folks like China and Russia wanting to rewrite some of the ‘deals’ or willing to cheat along the way…

  13. Scarlet Pumpernickel says:

    Did you see the also bombed the Egypt Israel pipeline for the 9th time lol, it goes all the way to Syria the other way

  14. Dave says:

    I also have to recommend Hopkirk’s “The Great Game”


    It is agonizing to read about the number of traps that the British fell into in this book, but it is fascinating to learn about the politics that were going on at the same time. It boggles the mind when you read about the physical hardships that soldiers of that era had to endure.

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  16. Pascvaks says:

    @Chiefio –
    Ah yes! The unwriten treaty, the ‘gentlemans agreement’, the handshake and wink no one sees, the unpublished ‘doctrine’, honor among thieves. Yes, I too think the old ways are coming to an end and ’tis a pitty indeed that we sit in a world of economic and political anarchy and birdbrain Tsar-Emperor-Grand Poobah-Global Grand Mufti-Presidential wannabes who now seek to make their marks in their “new”, little, blank history books. Looking back, when there were just two antagonists, seems like the Good Old Days. Oh well! We made it and now the kids are going to have to live with it, but it always happens that way, right?

    @Libertarian –
    This may seem cold hearted, to some it may seem cruel, but I really don’t think that more than .001 percent of the population in the “developed” or “first” world gives a flying fig about all the little rug rats in India, or Indonesia, or China, or anywhereelse. I think many think that the population of the world is beyond their scope; and I have to admit I’m one of them. The population of these countries is their problem, not mine. This may sound worse, but I feel humanity is still very much at the stage of it’s development where Total War is still likely, indeed, very likely. And the threat of a Nurenberg-type War Crimes Tribunal by the Victor isn’t going to stop anyone from doing anything they think they have to do to win (and shape the future when they win) in a Total War.

    @Dave – “It boggles the mind when you read about the physical hardships that soldiers of that era had to endure.”

    Every War Boogles the Mind of Every Soldier of Every Era, and a hell of a lot of Innocents too. I don’t think we’re going to see the end of War anytime this millenium, and I think the worst may be yet to come.

  17. E.M.Smith says:


    In any full on war, one nuke counters a million man army in the field. Demographics need not apply.

    However, in protracted ‘slow wars’ (be they ‘wars of attrition’ like W.W.I, or wars of insurgency that drag on for generations, or even just demographic wars where a few million “others” immigrate each year) the larger population (in the area of conflict) tends to win. So it will depend on ‘the kind of war’ and on how much the protagonist realizes they are under attack.

    I’ll have to look up “Empire Of The Mind”…


    What the “dogface grunts” of the world have to do in every era just astounds.

    My wife’s Dad was at Bastogne… 101st Airborne. Nuf said. My Dad got to take up and lay down land mines when he wasn’t building bridges under fire from the opposite bank or being the last guy in front of the bad guy; as Dad was blowing up a bridge just after our guys retreated. Combat Engineer in W.W.II and while Marines like to say “First in last out”… but in front of the attacking forces is some Combat Engineer building a bridge or clearing a mine field.

    His stories of disarming the thousand and one booby traps left by retreating German forces was, er, ‘enlightening’. (Just about anything might be, and often was, ‘rigged’. Pistols, bodies, food. There was even a story of a tank mine under a slab of paving that was just under a large window a soldier might be likely to jump through. Normally a tank mine needs more than a person’s weight to set it off. The slab was JUST SHORT of the detonation trigger load.) His stories of ‘fellow Engineers’ who didn’t get it quite right are not suited to discussion without sufficient materials for “salutes” to the fallen… Part way through the war the “anti-handling fuses” started mutating and how to handle them was learned ‘a few bodies at a time’… Oddly, one of our ‘bonding moments’ (fewer than I now wish had happened) was when he was telling me how to disarm booby traps. If I ever run into a W.W.II German Land Mine, I’ll be prepared to disarm it! ;-)

    The worse ones had a wire going down from them to an anchor. If you probe at too deep an angle, you can hit the wire and set it off. If you just lift the mine and don’t find the wire, you set it off. If you push on the top, you set it off… His suggestion was, if conditions permitted, put a hand grenade next to it and go get a smoke… if you could get one… – asking the guys ‘waiting to cross the area’ for one was supposedly productive; one presumes saying something like “Gee, hope my nerves stay steady so I don’t miss any…” was a suited inducement… There were many ways the anti-handling wire was used, sometimes in various interlinked ways. The idea of dealing with that on a more or less daily basis for a year or three is just mind numbing…

    Doing it while laying on your belly in European snow with no warmth for days and cold mystery food from a can (on good days) and only distant memories of beds and showers… And he had one of the GOOD jobs… (When they moved, he drove a “Duce and 1/2” truck, so didn’t have to walk the whole way and occasionally got warmth. Sometimes got to sleep in the truck. Part of the ‘perks’ for being at risk of blowing up all the time from a truck full of explosives – both theirs and ours… Oh, and “Don’t sleep near the truck when near active fire zones, it tends to get shot at and blows up.”

    FWIW, I advised my son that maybe his desire to enlist was a good thing, but the family had ‘done enough’ for a while… and maybe his destiny ought to run through completion of a degree. Then he could think about officer applications if he was still so moved.

    At any rate, I”m prattling on, so ought to get started with other more positive things…


    Sounds to me like you have a good handle on things.

    It is unfortunate, but true, that there is nothing at all I can do to help the folks at the bottom of the 3rd world body heap. (Well, maybe if I can invent something like the Rocket Stove or a better agronomy system…) If you can’t fix it, best you can do is move on to doing what you can to make the world a better place and let go of the worry. All it can do is slow down what you CAN accomplish.

    If China and India decide to solve some of their ‘population problems’ with a mutual war that takes out a few 10s of Millions on each side, that would be about a 1% – 3% “solution”. Not much I can do about it, and in the long run it would not do much to either population. The cruel fact is that the population dynamic is entirely divorced from the personal tragedies… and from the leadership thinking processes…

    We could build a ‘paradise on earth’ for all of the occupants, but for the greed and self serving nature of most of the leadership AND their populations. Unfortunately, while Engineers and to some extent Economists are interested in “positive sum games” and making a bigger total pie; most of the society and way over most of the folks who claw there way to positions of power (in government or business) are interested in any game that gives them gain, even ‘zero sum games’ and in many cases ‘negative sum games’. So if my country can gain 10% of what you have by destruction of 90% of your stuff and population, but winning, well… such is the stuff of Empire Building. You see it all over history.

    We need to find a way to have more ‘positive sum games’ and fewer wars and ‘negative sum games’. So far, the capitalist free market seems to be the best at doing that; but we need a better way to stop the political structures from playing “the great game”… The USA had that to some extent at one time (requirement for the congress to pass an act of war, so curbing individual ambitions. General “isolationist” leanings.) But even then we played a negative sum game with the native Americans and ran off to adventures in places like the Philippines, Hawaii, … Though we got pulled into the World Wars a bit against our will (or against many folks wills). The UN was a decent attempt at it early on. Now it’s just become a coordinating body for the first assaults, provider of legal cover, and provider of the clean-up “peacekeepers” after the fact. Freeing the “Big Boys” for more interesting “play” in the Great Game writ large.

    So now we have a President getting us into a war in Libya (oh, pardon, “Limited scope, limited duration, kinetic action”) with nary a murmur about the complete lack of legality for such an act and the abrogation by Congress of the duty to provide an act of war declaration. The process begun with Korea and that “Police Action” have reached the inevitable political end where some treaty of convenience is held to over-ride the Constitution (which it can not do, but who cares about what is legal when what is plausible will do…) so a NATO or UN declaration is sufficient to send the US Military off to war… Once again we have Blind Ambition able to move the largest military powers in the world for “legacy building”. Now we just wait for the final trigger (or triggers…)

    If The People were not so (deliberately?) uninterested and uneducated in things of history and government, they would pull back the leash on Dear Leader. As it is now, as long as the people are distracted and don’t care; they seem quite happy to just elect an “Emperor du Jour” who then can declare himself “Emperor de jour” when conditions permit…

    (“du jour” is ‘of the day’ while ‘de jour’ is ‘to law’…)

    At any rate, the direction I see to the sweep of history has things marching back to Empire and competition between Empires for historical legacy… Not good, and especially not good for folks at the ‘dogface grunt’ strata.

    I think I need a night at the local pub to lighten the mood… ;-)

  18. Pascvaks says:

    Ref. your talks with your Dad, me too. Sorry I didn’t sit and listen more as well. They were, indeed, a bunch of tight-lipped guys; as well as, “The Finest Kind!”, an old title of great respect and high admiration.

    1914 – 1989
    The 75 Years War

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