AEI » Blog http://www.aei.org American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise Fri, 31 Oct 2014 04:52:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Beware! The US sugar lobby may have its claw in your Halloween baskethttp://www.aei.org/publication/beware-us-sugar-lobby-may-claw-halloween-basket/ http://www.aei.org/publication/beware-us-sugar-lobby-may-claw-halloween-basket/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 04:01:22 +0000 http://www.aei.org/?post_type=publication&p=818913 Almost every Halloween candy bar and treat costs just that little bit more to ensure that a relatively small number of sugar beet and sugar cane producers receive a few more dollars on every ton of sugar beet or cane they raise.

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Ghouls, ghosts and goblins abound at Halloween, along with wonderfully cute sleeping beauty princesses, lions, tigers, bears, crocodiles, marvel comic heroes, Peter Pans and lost boys.  Almost of them all of them are charming, well-intended little people having lots of fun. But there is a mean old Captain Hook making piratical money-grabbing hay with every handful of candy handed out to the young trick-or-treaters who visit our front lawns every October 31. Who is that candy-land Captain Hook: the US sugar lobby, that’s who.

Sugar growers and processors, through the American Sugar Alliance, continue to lobby for the current US sugar program that ensures US consumers on average pay over $3 billion a year more for the sugar they use. So almost every Halloween candy bar and treat costs just that little bit more to ensure that a relatively small number of sugar beet and sugar cane producers receive a few more dollars on every ton of sugar beet or cane they raise.

While the cost of the US sugar program to the average American household is only about $25 a year, the benefits to sugar processors and sugar beet and cane farmers is substantial. A typical grower with a relatively small farm who plants about 300 acres to sugar beets typically harvests between 7,500 and 9,000 tons of the crop, with yields of between 25 and 30 tons an acre. Through price supports and import restrictions, the US sugar program increases the prices of those beets by several dollars a ton. When world prices fall below six or seven cents below the US sugar beet support price of 22.9 cents per pound, as is the case this year (the current world price is about 16.5 cents a pound), that farmer benefits from the program to the tune of $2 to $4 a ton. So our representative sugar beet grower is likely to obtain between $21,000 and $27,000 from American consumers and taxpayer, courtesy of a government program for which there is no real need.

If the average sugar beet farmer were dirt poor, and struggling to put food on the table every day, then perhaps we wouldn’t worry about the cost of the sugar program to ordinary households. But that farmer is almost surely not dirt poor. On average farmers in the United States are much wealthier and have substantially higher incomes than non-farm households, and, if anything, sugar beet and sugar cane growers are generally wealthier than the average farmer. So perhaps it is not too unreasonable to propose that the American sugar growers and processors lobby is the Captain Hook Halloween analog of the Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

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Neil Cavuto: What’s weirder than gas prices tumbling? Not a single politician demanding to know why.http://www.aei.org/publication/neil-cavuto-whats-weirder-gas-prices-tumbling-single-politician-demanding-know/ http://www.aei.org/publication/neil-cavuto-whats-weirder-gas-prices-tumbling-single-politician-demanding-know/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 02:16:11 +0000 http://www.aei.org/?post_type=publication&p=818931 Earlier this week on CD I posed the question: If greedy oil speculators were to blame for the $12 per barrel increase in oil prices between January and June earlier this year, do they now get credit for the recent $25 per barrel drop in prices over the last four months? After all, if speculators [...]

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Earlier this week on CD I posed the question: If greedy oil speculators were to blame for the $12 per barrel increase in oil prices between January and June earlier this year, do they now get credit for the recent $25 per barrel drop in prices over the last four months? After all, if speculators are responsible for rising oil prices, shouldn’t they also then be responsible for falling oil prices? Or do they somehow irrationally only try to make money from rising oil prices, but ignore the huge profits they can also make from falling prices?

In the video above from earlier today on Fox, Neil Cavuto makes a similar point and starts by asking the question: “You know what is weirder than gas prices tumbling the way they have been? Not a single politician demanding to know why they have been falling.” Here’s more:

Because they [politicians] sure didn’t waste a nanosecond taking to the microphone when gas prices were going in the other direction. Where is their rage? Where are the hearings? Why isn’t someone dragging these no-good greedy oil guys to Washington to explain this curious crumbling of gas prices? Someone must be manipulating all this, right? You don’t go from $4 gas to under $3 gas in less than a year and say all is well. Don’t you find it a little odd that the same bunch that said the oil industry manipulated oil prices when they were going up aren’t saying boo when they’re coming down? Odder still, because the prices are coming down faster than they went up. Maybe the energy guys weren’t fixing prices any more on the upside than they are now apparently on the downside. Sometimes it just market forces, sometimes it just supply and demand, maybe it’s just the world economy slowing down.

MP: Isn’t it interesting that when oil and gas price are rising, politicians blame Big Oil, oil speculators, and industry price manipulation, and not market forces. Congress holds hearings, proposes legislation to eliminate excessive speculation, and tries to impose higher taxes on Big Oil’s supposed “windfall profits.” But now that oil and gas prices are tumbling, we don’t hear anything from Washington. As Cavuto says all we hear is “crickets.”

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George Will: We have more to fear from too much, rather than too little, faith in governmenthttp://www.aei.org/publication/video-60-seconds-george-will-explains-fear-much-faith-government-little-faith-government/ http://www.aei.org/publication/video-60-seconds-george-will-explains-fear-much-faith-government-little-faith-government/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 01:25:43 +0000 http://www.aei.org/?post_type=publication&p=818924 In the video segment above from Fox News Sunday, George Will skillfully explains in 60 seconds why we have more to fear from too much faith in government than from too little faith in government. Here’s a summary of his comments: Government is not competent. It’s not competent under Republicans or Democrats. It is always [...]

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In the video segment above from Fox News Sunday, George Will skillfully explains in 60 seconds why we have more to fear from too much faith in government than from too little faith in government. Here’s a summary of his comments:

Government is not competent. It’s not competent under Republicans or Democrats. It is always a monopoly, and monopolies are not disciplined by market forces that connect them with reality.

I think we have much more to fear from too much faith in government than from too little faith in government. Can we trust the government to do its job? What isn’t its job these days? I just made a list here: it’s fine tuning the curriculum of our students K-12, it’s monitoring sex on college campuses, it’s deciding how much ethanol we should put in our gas tanks, it’s designed our light bulbs and it’s worried sick over the name of the Washington football team.

Now this is a government that doesn’t know where to stop. The distilled essence of progressivism is that government is a benign, disinterested force – that’s false – and b) it’s stocked with experts who are really gifted at doing things. Republicans do this also. Democrats do it with domestic policy and Republicans brought us nation building and regime change. A common theme is the excessive faith in the skills of government.

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4 charts that show how an intact family affects kids’ economic futureshttp://www.aei.org/publication/4-charts-show-intact-family-affects-kids-economic-futures/ http://www.aei.org/publication/4-charts-show-intact-family-affects-kids-economic-futures/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 20:32:22 +0000 http://www.aei.org/?post_type=publication&p=818869 Children raised in intact families are more likely to acquire the human capital they need to live the American Dream.

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Today, Brad Wilcox and Robert Lerman have a must-read piece at NRO on “what’s happening to the American family and why it matters for the health of the American Dream.” Here are four charts from their article that show that young men and women “who grow up in an intact, two-parent family have a leg up in today’s competitive economy.”

1.)  Children raised in intact families are more likely to acquire the human capital they need to live the American Dream: “Having two parents in the picture typically increases the amount of time, attention, encouragement, and money that can be devoted to a child’s education.” This also “protects children from the household moves and emotional stress associated with family instability” – two factors “that seem to hurt children’s odds of educational success in high school and beyond.” [See feature chart. Note: The "0" baseline on the graph represents single-parent families; these changes are all relative to single-parent families.]

2.)  Children raised in intact families are less likely to fall afoul of detours on the road to the American Dream: “A nonmarital birth, for instance, puts a real economic strain on both women and men. That’s partly because such births can derail schooling and decrease adults’ future chances of getting and staying married. And a stable family protects them against these kinds of detours.”

For_Richer_For_poorer_Chart_8

 

3.)  Young men raised in intact families make more money: Note that “one reason that these young women and men enjoy higher family incomes is that they are more likely to be married compared with their peers from non-intact families.” 

For_Richer_For_poorer_Chart_11

 

4.)  Young women raised in intact families earn more: In addition, young adults raised in intact families work more hours. “On average, the more hours you work, the more experience you gain in the labor force and the more money you make.”

For_Richer_For_poorer_Chart_13

Read Wilcox and Lerman’s fascinating new report “For Richer, For Poorer: How family structures economic success in America” to learn more.

Follow AEIdeas on Twitter at @AEIdeas, and Natalie Scholl at @Natalie_Scholl.

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Throwback Thursday: Ukrainehttp://www.aei.org/publication/throwback-thursday-ukraine/ http://www.aei.org/publication/throwback-thursday-ukraine/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 20:13:13 +0000 http://www.aei.org/?post_type=publication&p=818866 Having annexed Crimea in March and having established de-facto Russian protectorates in Donetsk and Luhansk, the Kremlin has tightened its grip on Ukraine's young democracy, tipping the regional geopolitical scales in its favor.

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Ukraine’s October 26 parliamentary election was a resounding victory for pro-Western democratic parties. Yet, the occupation of Ukraine’s eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk by Russia’s proxies cast a long and deep shadow—a reminder of Russia’s retaliation against the former Soviet states that seek closer relations with the West and pursue democratic reforms.

Ukraine was not the first of Putin’s revanchist operations. In 2008, when Georgia pushed for NATO membership, Russia intervened with force into Georgia’s regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, resulting in two de-facto Russian “protectorates” – the same status Moscow seems to want for Donetsk and Luhansk. That same year, Dr. Leon Aron feared that Ukraine’s Crimea would be the next victim in what has since become a long-term strategy by Putin to exert increasing influence and control over Russia’s periphery.

In a September 10, 2008 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Aron wrote:

Countries seeking greater ties with the West are in danger of more direct Russian intervention. In particular, the Crimea is Ukraine’s weak spot and may be Russia’s next target.

He continues,

Kiev has defied and angered Russia by the domestic politics of democratization, a decidedly pro-Western orientation, and the eagerness of its leadership to join NATO.

There is no better place to cause a political crisis in Ukraine and force a change in the country’s leadership, already locked in a bitter internecine struggle, than the Crimean peninsula…Once established, Russian sovereignty over Sevastopol would be impossible to reverse without a large-scale war, which Ukraine would be most reluctant to initiate and its Western supporters would strongly discourage.

Having annexed Crimea in March and having established de-facto Russian protectorates in Donetsk and Luhansk, the Kremlin has tightened its grip on the young democracy, tipping the regional geopolitical scales in its favor.

In September of this year, Aron wrote for Foreign Policy magazine on Putin’s future objectives in Ukraine and Eastern Europe:

It is not clear whether Putin’s appetite for destroying a Europe-aligned Ukraine has been temporarily sated. What is clear is that he has achieved virtually everything that he could have hoped for when he ignited the conflict seven months ago. After being driven to near-extinction a month ago, the Russia-controlled enclaves of Luhansk and Donetsk are well on their way to becoming de-facto permanent Russian protectorates. These impoverished regions contain about 15 percent of Ukraine’s population, and are bristling with Russian arms. Like Transnistria in Moldova and Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia, Luhansk and Donetsk are Russia’s Trojan horses. They can be activated for another round of armed conflict the moment Ukraine moves too close to Europe or becomes too much of a Western-style democracy.

Dr. Aron offers additional analysis on Putin’s strategy moving forward that you can find below:

Articles

Interviews

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Texas oil production in August topped 3M barrels/day for the fourth month, as the Lone Star State produced 37% of all US oilhttp://www.aei.org/publication/texas-oil-production-august-topped-3m-barrelsday-fourth-month-lone-state-state-produced-37-us-oil/ http://www.aei.org/publication/texas-oil-production-august-topped-3m-barrelsday-fourth-month-lone-state-state-produced-37-us-oil/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 19:38:06 +0000 http://www.aei.org/?post_type=publication&p=818868 The Energy Information Administration (EIA) released new state crude oil production data today for the month of August, and one of the highlights of that monthly report is that oil output in America’s No. 1 oil-producing state – Texas – continues its phenomenal, eye-popping rise. Here are some details of oil output in “Saudi Texas” [...]

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The Energy Information Administration (EIA) released new state crude oil production data today for the month of August, and one of the highlights of that monthly report is that oil output in America’s No. 1 oil-producing state – Texas – continues its phenomenal, eye-popping rise. Here are some details of oil output in “Saudi Texas” for the month of August and the economic impact that production is having on the state’s economy:

1. For the fourth straight month starting in May, oil drillers in Texas pumped out more than 3 million barrels of crude oil every day (bpd) during the month of August. The 3.182 million bpd in August was the highest daily oil output in the Lone Star State in any month since at least January 1981, when the EIA started reporting each state’s monthly oil production (see chart above). Texas reached the two million barrel per day oil production milestone in August 2012, and has since added a million more barrels of daily oil production in less than two years to reach the three million barrel milestone in May of this year. Compared to oil production a year ago, Texas posted a 21.5% increase in August marking the 40th straight month starting in May 2011 that the state’s oil output has increased by more than 20% on a year-over-year basis.

2. Remarkably, oil production in the Lone Star State has doubled in less than three years, from 1.60 million bpd in October 2011 to 3.20 million bpd in August of this year (see chart above), and that production surge has to be one of the most significant increases in oil output ever recorded in the US over such a short period of time. A 1.6 million bpd increase in oil output in only 34 months in one US state is remarkable, and would have never been possible without the revolutionary drilling techniques that just recently started accessing vast oceans of Texas shale oil in the Eagle Ford Shale and Permian Basin oil fields. As I have reported recently on CD, the Eagle Ford and Permian Basin oil fields in Texas are now each producing crude oil at a rate of more than 1 million bpd, joining an elite international group of only ten super-giant oil fields in the world that have surpassed the one million barrel per day milestone at their peak level of production.

3. The exponential increase in Texas oil output over roughly the last three years has completely reversed the previous, gradual 28-year decline in the state’s conventional oil production that took place from 1981 to 2009 (see arrows in chart) – thanks almost exclusively to the dramatic increases in the state’s output of newly accessible, unconventional shale oil.

4. As recently as mid-2009, Texas was producing less than 20% of America’s domestic crude oil. The recent gusher of unconventional oil being produced in the Eagle Ford Shale and Permian Basin oil fields of Texas, thanks to breakthrough drilling and extraction technologies, has recently pushed the Lone Star State’s share of domestic crude oil all the way up to more than 36% of America’s crude output for the last four months, and almost 37% in August.

5. Oil output has increased so significantly in Texas in recent years that if the state were considered as a separate oil-producing country, Texas would have been the 8th largest oil-producing nation in the world for crude oil output in June (most recent month available for international oil production data) at 3.07 million bpd – just behind No. 7 Iraq’s production of 3.22 million bpd.

6. The dramatic increase in Texas’s oil production is bringing jobs and economic prosperity to the state. For example, over the last 12 months through September, payrolls in the state of Texas increased by 413,700 jobs, which was a 3.7% annual increase in the state’s employment level, almost double the 1.9% increase in total US payrolls over that period. With only 8.4% of the US population, Texas created 16% of the new US payroll jobs over the last 12 months through September.

Every business day over the last year, almost 1,600 new jobs were created in the Lone Star State, and many of those jobs were directly or indirectly related to the state’s booming energy sector, which experienced an 7.8% increase in payrolls for oil and gas extraction jobs (8,200 new jobs) over the most recent 12-month period through September. Oil and gas companies in Texas hired nearly 32 new employees every business day over the last year just for extraction activities, or almost 4 new hires every hour!

MP: The significant increase in Texas’s oil production over the last several years is nothing short of phenomenal, and is a direct result of America’s “petropreneurs” who developed game-changing drilling technologies that have now revolutionized the nation’s production of shale oil. Thanks to those revolutionary technologies, Texas is now home to two of only ten super-giant oil fields in the world to ever produce more than 1 million barrels of oil per day – the Eagle Ford and Permian Basin.

For oil output in Texas to increase from 2 million to more than 3 million bpd in less than two years, and increase so dramatically that the state now produces almost 37% of US oil, is undoubtedly one of the most remarkable energy success stories in US history – and it’s just getting started. At the current pace of annual increases of about +20%, Texas oil production will likely surpass 4 million bpd by late summer of next year. With those projected increases in Texas oil output, the state could soon surpass Iraq, Iran and even Canada to move up in the international oil production rankings to become the world’s No. 5 oil producer in 2015.

“Saudi Texas” continues to be the shining star of The Great American Shale Boom.

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That’ll do, Fed. That’ll dohttp://www.aei.org/publication/thatll-fed-thatll/ http://www.aei.org/publication/thatll-fed-thatll/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 17:20:04 +0000 http://www.aei.org/?post_type=publication&p=818852 The point of quantitative easing was to boost growth through higher assets prices and through expectations -- that expectations of higher future NGDP tend to boost current spending. QE might have been more effective if paired with an explicit NGDP level target. But it still left the US economy in better shape than the eurozone's -- victimized by the tight-money ECB. There's your counterfactual. The US is growing and adding jobs, while the EZ may be slipping into a triple-dip recession and a return to prosperity is nowhere in sight.

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From the Wall Street Journal:

The Federal Reserve said it would end its long-running bond-purchase program, concluding a historic experiment that stirred disagreement among policy makers, economists and investors about its impact.

Now the WSJ headline put it is this way, “Fed Closes Chapter on Easy Money.” But easy money, from one perspective, is still here with interest rates so low. And to some economists, it’s the stock  – the size of the Fed balance, currently at some $4.5 trillion — rather than flow from more bond buying that matters.

Then again, the slow pace of nominal GDP growth and the gap between actual NGDP and the path of potential NGDP suggests the Fed’s easy money policy really never was so easy. The point of quantitative easing was to boost growth through higher assets prices and through expectations – that expectations of higher future NGDP tend to boost current spending. QE might have been more effective if paired with an explicit NGDP level target. But it still left the US economy in better shape than the eurozone’s — victimized by the tight-money ECB. There’s your counterfactual. The US is growing and adding jobs, while the EZ may be slipping into a triple-dip recession and a return to prosperity is nowhere in sight. QE will surely remain part of the central bank’s toolkit.

One can also argue that a helicopter drop would have been more effective than bond buying, getting money directly into the hands of consumers rather than through a “wealth effect” that also increased inequality.  But again, I give you the eurozone.

Now it’s time for Washington to get busy with the tax and regulatory reform necessary to raise the economy’s potential growth rate, which may be just half of what it was in 2000.

But as for the Bernanke-Yellen Fed:

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My, how time flies when Bin Laden is fish foodhttp://www.aei.org/publication/time-flies-bin-laden-fish-food/ http://www.aei.org/publication/time-flies-bin-laden-fish-food/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 16:32:00 +0000 http://www.aei.org/?post_type=publication&p=818834 For Islamist terrorists, like Osama Bin Laden, grievances are just window dressing, meant to distract those who actually believe that incentives and diplomacy can defeat terror.

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While we were debating at the University of Connecticut-Stamford this week, noted terrorism analyst and Georgetown University Professor Bruce Hoffman reminded me of what otherwise would have passed forgotten: yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of the late Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden’s last video. It seems like only yesterday that programs would be interrupted by breaking news announcing a new Bin Laden message.

The anniversary of Bin Laden’s last video should remind on a number of points:

  • Every message Osama Bin Laden released sought to justify Al Qaeda’s actions in new and shifting grievances. The inconsistency between messages demonstrates that for Islamist terrorists, grievances are just window dressing, meant to distract those who actually believe that incentives and diplomacy can defeat terror. What motivate Al Qaeda and, for that matter, Islamic State terror isn’t any particular grievance but rather ideology: the desire to restore their vision of what a perfect Islamic caliphate would be.
  • How many times must Bin Laden claim responsibility for the 9/11 attacks before the conspiracy theorists stop blaming everyone else but him? How frustrating it must be for Middle Eastern conspiracy theorists to be outplayed by bored and naïve American college students and attention-seekers.
  • Bin Laden’s video was apparently timed to sway the 2004 US presidential elections which would occur less than a week later. Bin Laden might be gone, but the rogue regime and terrorist tactic of using the American media to play politics is not. As campaigns ramp up ahead of the 2016 polls, let us hope that the American media won’t allow itself to be used as useful idiots for terrorists while, at the same time, we remain vigilant at what will surely be coming as Election Day 2016 nears.
  • Let’s give Obama credit where credit is due: He’s much better at killing individual terrorists than he is at talking about killing them. That said, the notion embraced by the likes of Peter Beinart, Peter Bergen, Tom Friedman that Bin Laden’s death meant an end to Al Qaeda was naïve and wrong, even if such statements are what Obama likes to hear. Terrorism did not decline with Bin Laden’s death; quite the contrary.
  • Perhaps this is one more reason, a decade after we were last graced with Bin Laden’s visage on video, that we should focus less on the individual and more on the ideology that motivates them and filling the vacuums in which they thrive. It is this latter part in which Obama’s policies are so counterproductive: With his embrace of unilateral withdrawal, he has transformed Iraq and is transforming Afghanistan into one giant TV studio for the next generation of Bin Ladens.

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Erdoğan and Barzani spin press on Kobanehttp://www.aei.org/publication/erdogan-barzani-spin-press-kobane/ http://www.aei.org/publication/erdogan-barzani-spin-press-kobane/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 15:24:40 +0000 http://www.aei.org/?post_type=publication&p=818801 By allowing Iraqi Kurds to cross his border—even if just symbolic—Erdoğan’s goal is less to see a Kurdish victory and more to prevent the United States from again working directly with the PKK.

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Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga have now transited Turkey and are on their way into Kobane, the Syrian Kurdish canton currently under siege by the Islamic State (ISIS). The New York Times, for example, reported “Syrian Kurdish leaders from Kobani said the small numbers of fighters so far were not enough to turn the tide,” but gave Turkey benefit of the doubt, continuing:

The United States for weeks pressed Turkey, a NATO ally, to do more. But Turkey had held out for stronger American action to oust President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, and it has strong reservations about helping Kurdish communities in Syria and Iraq that are aligned with its own restive Kurdish population. The groups fighting for the town of Kobani meet the politics behind Turkey’s recent decision to assist them in pushing back the Islamic State. Analysts said it was significant that Turkey had relented.

Such a spin misunderstands Kurdish dynamics or consciously carries water for President Erdoğan. When Erdoğan looks at Syria, enemy number one is Assad, number two are the Syrian Kurds, and a distant third is ISIS. Over the past few months, Erdoğan hoped that ISIS would do its dirty work against the Syrian Kurds and hand them a defeat. Two things happened, though: the Syrian Kurdish peshmerga (YPG) didn’t surrender and may even have turned the tide of battle, and the US actually decided to break its prohibition on working with the YPG and has supplied them, effectively arming the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) for the first time. Erdoğan played his cards, and the United States—finally—called his bluff. By allowing Iraqi Kurds to cross his border—even if just symbolic—Erdoğan’s goal is less to see a Kurdish victory and more to prevent the United States from again working directly with the PKK.

It’s not just Erdoğan who is hostile to Syrian Kurds. Iraqi Kurdistan president Masud Barzani is as well. Barzani talks a good game about Kurdish nationalism, but history is important. Barzani is first and foremost about personal power. He is all for Kurdish nationalism as long as he is in charge. However, he would rather see the Kurdish enterprise collapse than have a rival take the top spot. In 1996, for example, he risked everything Kurds had achieved by inviting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guards into Erbil to support his fight against rival Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani. Mind you, this was just eight years after Saddam’s regime used chemical weapons against Kurds.

Barzani now sees the Syrian Kurds as political rivals given how they look more toward PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan for inspiration than to him. When I was in Syrian Kurdistan earlier this year, Barzani was actively blocking humanitarian aid needed by his Syrian Kurdish counterparts. He had seized and warehoused literally tons of medicine donated to Syrian Kurds. The YPG’s rescue of some Yezidis at Sinjar—after Barzani’s own peshmerga had fled—only raised the YPG’s stature in Kurdish eyes even further. Simply put, if ISIS managed to cut the YPG down to size, Barzani wouldn’t shed any tears.

What’s going on now with the dispatch of a symbolic contingent of Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga to Kobane is simply Erdoğan and Barzani’s plan B. The YPG didn’t cry uncle, and their defense of Kobane has only increased their stature. Putting Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga into the mix won’t change the tide of battle, but it will allow both Erdoğan and Barzani to stake a claim to the Syrian Kurds’ victory should the YPG pull it off. Basically, Erdoğan and Barzani hope to take the shine off the YPG and share its glory.

The United States might want to defeat ISIS, but we should never forget: ISIS would not have grown so large had it not been for the complicity of Turkey and, more specifically, Erdoğan himself. When American policymakers look at Kobane, it would be a fatal mistake to assume anyone else in the region shares our agenda. That doesn’t mean we can have allies of convenience, but let’s not paint them to be something they are not.

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Hong Kong eats one of its ownhttp://www.aei.org/publication/hong-kong-eats-one/ http://www.aei.org/publication/hong-kong-eats-one/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 15:15:06 +0000 http://www.aei.org/?post_type=publication&p=818788 Tien is not your average businessman; he had relatively close ties to the Chinese leadership and headed up a leading Hong Kong real estate company. But Beijing, it appears, is more than willing to “eat one of its own” if there is even the slightest hint of criticism about its decisions—in this case it’s decision to stand firmly behind its hand-picked, top city official.

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Among the “sophisticates”—long-time sinologists and Hong Kong tycoons—commentating on the student protests in Hong Kong over China’s decision to renege on its promise of self-rule for the city, there is an inclination to dismiss the protesters’ goals as not only impractical but also not really needed.  Hong Kong, from their point of view, has it about as good as it gets, especially when compared with the rest of China: secure property rights, bustling commercial life that is largely free of state and party interference, and a culture in which the rule of law still predominates.

But yesterday’s news ought to put a bit of hitch in the sophisticates’ step.  The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Body, the top advisory body to the Chinese government, kicked out Hong Kong lawmaker and businessman James Tien because he said the current Hong Kong chief executive CY Leung should consider resigning in light of the protests, asking the obvious question of “How is he going to govern?”  Tien is not your average businessman; he had relatively close ties to the Chinese leadership and headed up a leading Hong Kong real estate company. But Beijing, it appears, is more than willing to “eat one of its own” if there is even the slightest hint of criticism about its decisions—in this case its decision to stand firmly behind its hand-picked, top city official.

Of course, Beijing’s autocratic shadow over Hong Kong has grown increasingly obvious in recent years with once free-wheeling newspapers firing editors who were too free-wheeling; businessmen pulling their ads from papers that didn’t toe the Chinese line; the police ransacking the homes of pro-democracy politicians and supporters; hackers busting into email accounts of local citizens and spilling them out over the front pages of pro-Beijing newspapers; and, most ominously, the Chinese government issuing a white paper not-so-subtly instructing the members of Hong Kong’s long-standing independent judiciary that they should be “patriotic.”

Tien’s dismissal puts the question directly on the table: how really free is Hong Kong if even the city’s elite cannot express the simplest of complaints? Maybe those student protesters are not so naïve after all.

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