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Our guest this week is Richard Maybury, editor since 1991 of The Early Warning Report and author of the award-winning Uncle Eric series of books on economics, finance, governance, politics, and history. Often called “The 2,500 Year-old Man” because of his extensive reading and application of history, his insights, as you’ll see from this interview, are invaluable – and as pertinent as today’s news.
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David: Richard, there are shifts constantly taking place in public policy, in international relations, and in business and investment opportunities. I’m curious; as you survey all of the shifts currently taking place, which are the least obvious shifts and which are of the most concern to you?
Richard: I would say the least obvious is one that I covered in the May issue of Early Warning Report. What is going on with all these wars breaking out all over the world is what has been going on for probably three centuries or so. The Industrial Revolution broke out first in England, and it spread to the U.S. and to the rest of Europe. The governments of England, the rest of Europe, and the U.S. just went on a rampage with the new weapons that the Industrial Revolution provided them, and they conquered almost the entire world. Only Japan, Thailand, Iran, Afghanistan, and parts of China escaped from this worldwide conquest.
What people don’t understand is that that fight is still going on. In the United States, the native peoples that were conquered – the American Indians – were mostly wiped out. The ones that survived were completely conquered. But that is not the case in the rest of the world. The native peoples in any given geographic area are often still there, still fighting the governments of the U.S. and Europe or their puppet regimes.
In practically every war in the world today – and there are more than 40 of them – that is what they are about: established regimes trying to keep control over the native people. And by the native people, I include the Sunnis, the Shi’ites, Islamic State – it’s just all over the world.
When I was in the 605th Special Operations Squadron for the Air Force in the 1960s, we were in Guatemala, helping the government kill Mayan Indians. Those Indians were fighting the Guatemalan government the same way the Sioux and the Cheyenne and the Apaches were fighting the U.S. government back in the 1800s. Washington had put us there on the side of the government.
That is still the predominant kind of conflict that is going on around the world. It’s still the Indian wars on practically every continent. That is what these wars are all about, at bottom. There are some exceptions, but that is the basic model for the whole geopolitical system around the world right now. The countries that got the Industrial Revolution first are still trying to dominate the native peoples who were late to the industrial party.
David: It’s a helpful contrast. I’m going to be in South Africa next month, and I appreciate your framing the issue that way because it sheds an interesting light on the Zulu and Xhosa and the conflicts of the 1980s and 1990s over Apartheid. You have vestiges of Cecil Rhodes showing up in the Apartheid regime. You also have the communist influences with the Southwest Africa People’s Organization, the ANC, and those organizations politically taking advantage of what was a natural inclination of the native peoples to fight and throw off what was an oppressive experience. I guess I’ve always seen more of the communist influence in that area as opposed to the communists taking advantage of something that was already there, latent, which is natural to just about everyone on the planet – a desire for freedom and peace on their own terms.
Richard: That’s a good point, bringing up the communists. When I was in Central America, at the orders of the U.S. government, helping kill these Indians, we were told that we were doing it to protect the people against communism. I was young. I didn’t know anything about geopolitics then; I believed it all. But over the years I have studied what I had been involved in, and I’ve come to realize that the communists didn’t start these conflicts around the world, they just took advantage of them, as you say.
The people, let’s say the Mayan Indians, needed help in order to fight off the Guatemalan government, which had been established by the Spanish government. The communists would just come in there and say, “Hey, we’ll help you out. You’ll be on our side against the Americans. We’ll give you guns and training and whatever else you need.” So it appeared to Washington and to most Americans that the communists were starting these wars, but they weren’t. The wars had existed for perhaps a couple of centuries, and the communists just came in and took advantage of that. It happened all over the world. That is what was going on in Vietnam and lots of other places.
David: You have, in the Middle East, a long history of outsiders meddling. You make the case that much of the instability we see today in the Middle East comes from Franklin Roosevelt’s policies. Maybe you could expand on that, and also address policies directed from London and Paris in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Richard: Absolutely, I would include them, no doubt about it. In the 1940s the Saudi family was still trying to consolidate its power over the rest of the tribes on the Arabian Peninsula. Roosevelt contacted them and said, “How would you like a little help? If you will be on our side, we’ll help you out. You can go ahead and wipe out these other tribes if you want. We’ll give you the means to do it.” And the Saudi tribe said, “Yeah, that’s a great idea.”
I should point out that the British government was extensively involved there in the same way, backing the Saudi clan and helping them wipe out the other tribes. So the Saudis took over almost all the Arabian Peninsula and changed the name from Arabia to Saudi Arabia. It was as if somebody named Jones had taken over Texas and renamed it Jones Texas. And that’s what Saudi Arabia is today. It is still a tribe that is trying to keep control of the oil-rich Arabian Peninsula.
I would say that practically all of the conflict in the Middle East today extends from the British, French, and U.S. governments meddling in those nations’ affairs. For the U.S., it started in the 1940s. The British, French, and the Italians were in there a long time before that, doing the same thing. They would go in and they would pick a tribe that they thought might be able to beat the other tribes, and they would make those guys an offer. “We’ll help you wipe out these other people if you will be on our side and do us favors.” And those tribes would accept, and the wars that you are seeing today are the descendants of those arrangements that were made in the early 20th century and the 19th century.
David: Why do you think U.S. foreign policy has favored the Arabian Peninsula and the Saudis over Iran and the Persians, who have such a long and illustrious history? And do you think that is changing in any way?
Richard: It could be changing. I think Obama – far be it from me to say anything good about him, but you have to give the devil his due – understood what we’re talking about here much better than almost any other president has. He has tried to point out that the U.S. has to back out of these crazy wars and bring our forces home.
I don’t think that’s going to last very long. He pretty much has been beaten down on that already. But the essential point is that the U.S. and the European governments stay mixed up in those areas, and I don’t see any end to it at all. I think it’s going to go on probably for the rest of this century. That’s one of the reasons that in the Early Warning Report I recommend defense stocks because I can’t see anything but big profits for the defense companies for the rest of this century. Washington keeps meddling in these other countries, and U.S. politicians are so stupid about other countries. They treat everything like it’s a Hollywood movie, good guys against bad guys. They can’t get it through their heads that in practically every war in the world, it’s not good guys against bad guys, it’s bad guys against bad guys. And the U.S. just walks in there and takes sides. Sometimes they take both sides – they arm both sides, believe it or not. That is going on in Iraq right now; they armed both sides. It’s just absolutely ludicrous how simplistic their thinking is about other cultures.
David: The nature of warfare has changed from conventional to nonconventional over the last 20 years, but in the last three years ISIS has gained access to conventional weapons. What do you foresee as the battlegrounds of the next decade?
Richard: I don’t think there is going to be a particular battleground. I think that these wars are going to continue spreading. The main reason for that is technology. The cost of weapons is falling precipitously. The day was that a machine gun cost a fortune, and only governments could buy machine guns. Now you can get the tools to make a machine gun at Sears, and actually make a good machine gun in your garage. It’s getting to the point where these native tribes that have been beaten to a pulp for centuries are finally getting the weapons that enable them to shoot back in a very effective way. So I think that these tribal conflicts that we are watching in the Middle East right now, that the fools in Washington just can’t stay out of, I think those types of conflicts are just going to keep breaking out all over the place. Africa is probably the one that is going to be the most bloody, I would think. But it will be a very common thing all over Asia and Africa, and probably increase quite a bit in South America. The native tribes that have been trying so hard to get their land back for centuries are now going to be able to do it, and they will do it in a lot of cases.
David: Recently Al-Naimi, the Oil Minister in Saudi Arabia, was sacked. I’m wondering what the significance is of a shift in such a key position in Saudi Arabia. Now you have a 29-year-old Defense Minister. Can we assume that there is a shift in Saudi strategy and behavior? What does that look like?
Richard: There probably is. So much goes on in the world behind closed doors when it comes to government, and that is in the U.S., as well as everywhere else. The real decisions are ones that common people never hear about, and that is the same in Saudi Arabia; they are very secretive. You don’t know what kinds of deal are being secretly made, or who is stabbing whom in the back, and the situation is always very fluid.
Now, where that is going to lead I don’t know, but I can be very confident that the Saudi leadership is scared to death. The hegemony that they have held over the Arabian Peninsula since the 1940s is coming apart, and there are organizations like Islamic State that are wanting to come in. And I think there is a sense of panic. I’m just guessing at this since I haven’t been in any of their secret meetings, but I suspect that there is a sense of panic in Riyadh and I don’t know where that is going to go. You can predict, with some confidence, that there will be a lot more backstabbing. There will be sudden removal in one way or another of various officials, but the direction it will all go in is really hard to say.
David: Radical Islam is not new. There have been various versions of intense belief in those who are purists of the faith going back eight centuries. So to what degree do you think our foreign policy has contributed to a modern day radicalization of Islam?
Richard: Tremendously. Again, those fools in Washington keep taking sides with people in these conflicts when they don’t understand anything about them. It is just such an outrage that these American politicians think they are so good and wise and noble that they can stick their noses into the business of people on the other side of the world and straighten things out and make everything right. It’s insane. Absolutely insane. But they continue doing it, and the so-called radical Islam movement is a reaction to that.
As Ron Paul said so often, “They didn’t come over here until we went over there.” That is a perfect summary of the rise of radical Islam. Some Muslim tribes were beaten down by other Muslim tribes that were backed by Washington and London and Paris. It was inevitable that those beaten-down tribes would one day rise up, and they are doing that. The only rational thing for Washington to do is get out of there – just get out of there – bring the American armed forces home to create a fortress America, and let the rest of the world go ahead and fight out these conflicts that they have engaged in for centuries. There is nothing we can do about it except to stand back and wait for it to eventually be over, which will probably take the rest of the century.
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This interview has been edited for flow and readability. The interview transcript in its entirety can be read here.