Monday, September 28, 2009

Ahh gelmez olaydım

Ahh görmez olaydım

Hat tip to my dear friend Fatih for finding this beautiful song...and judging by the youtube comments, brilliant as always, there is actually a somewhat-decent lede into this post.

According to, well, just about everybody (even Clinton! Jeez, who could've guessed?), Turkey and Armenia are about to normalize relations. This is big-deal stuff, rewrite the history books stuff. And really, can only be sniped about by the extremists on both sides. Good stuff, fellas.

So, uhh, where do we go from here? I should go forwards by saying that I know very little about Armenia as a sovereign (or communist) state. Soooo yeah, keep that in mind. Say, did you know that it's a member of La Francophonie? That's weird.

So trade with Turkey is a really good thing for Armenia. The border has been pretty much welded shut since Armenia and Azerbaijan got into a fight over Naxcivan and Nagorno-Karabagh (which I always confuse with Kabardino-Balkaria) back during the Soviet Breakup. Armenia is basically the southern border of the Caucasian Confusion, and being landlocked and ex-Soviet and bordering Azerbaijan (getting out of a war), Iran (still kinda/sorta doing the Islamic Revolution, which is awkward for Christian neighbors), and Georgia (YOU try dealing with Misha) is no fun. So a link with Turkey, by far the biggest economy between Germany and India is really only good news, on the business suit side of things.

Unfortunately, that also means that the alphabet suit of economic hitmen are well entrenched there, and the Turks are going to deal with them and everyone else trying to get a piece of the pie. $1.1 of IMF money ain't nothing to sneeze at, and you can bet that the IMF won't be forgetting it. And this pretty much precludes Armenia from developing a self-sufficient economy for reasons that are a whole other post, unfortunately.

Basically...Armenia doesn't have a lot of resources. It's an awful lot similar to Georgia in a lot of regards, except with a better-situated diaspora (hey, did you know that Kardashian = "Son of the brother" in Turkyeren?) So the real big deal that this treaty hopefully represents is a way out for the Armenian government, in a way. Georgia, Israel, and Armenia (and Uzbekistan and Thailand and a whole lot of other places...but let's stick with these 3) are the West's pet projects. They are 3 burgeoning democracies with doo-rah nationalisms and reliant on foreign aid. Georgia and Israel have both been very big on using their militaries to protect their borders above anything else. Armenia fought a pretty one-sided war with Azerbaijan, sure, but they never tried to get back the areas of Turkey they could have claimed with some legitamacy. Which probably was pretty smart, because Turkey was really just itching for an excuse to break out their toys for oh, the past 40 years or so.

So Armenia can be one of these pet democracies, but without the military complex. Here's there chance to open up some nice trade routes, hope that the Aliyevs won't try anything too brash, and try to get rich Armenians abroad to come back (how does Herzl translate?) Crazier things have happened. But Armenia is probably in a great spot to become a successful ex-Soviet state, and can maybe even give my Central Asian Republics, particularly the resource-poor Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, a blueprint to success. A blueprint that involves wealthy diaspora and economic powerhouse neighbors, but still, a blueprint. I'm admittedly optimistic about the whole thing.

And hey! A post on Armenia-Turkey stuff without talking about Ottoman times. Well, almost. Operation Nemesis had one of the more Metal names (and goals) of pre-WWII history. And Tehlirian's trial is always a fascinating read for any law students.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I'm a-walkin' in the rain,

Tears are fallin' and I feel the pain.

How about the tremendous amount of dancing women in that video? Anyone who is going to bark about how folks like the Hot Boys objectify women has to realize they have nothing on Del Shannon.

So this is pretty much the part 2 of my previous post on water issues. It basically sets up the point of view this blog will take going forwards, but I wanted to get it out of the way early on.

As mentioned previously, water law in the US is incredibly confusing. Basically, states rights mean that there is no set rule, obviously, but states with conflicting rights kind of obviously run into trouble. And in the Southwest, where the first person to put water to "beneficial use" gets property rights, well, that's basically an open invitation to waste water. It ain't too much better for my dearly departed (from me, at least) Coasties, where riparian rights mean that you just need to "front" the water source (have property abutting it), so you get gerry-rigged gerrymandering of property lines so that the corporations who need the water the most (for, you know, dumping) get it.

However, I can't knock it too much. Well, I probably could, but that's not the point of this blog. And besides, it looks like I may have been wrong about California having the next big drought. It looks like Mexico beat 'em to it. This is, like, incredibly bad. The last time Mexico had a natural resource crisis was the corn crisis, which pretty much led to the narcolypse, I would wager (I don't know enough about Mexico to say with any assertion, but I'm sure there may be a CAmerica expert who would like to chime in/lead me to research). But Mexico ain't the focus either.

Law in the CIS is still based on lots of the worst parts of Russian, European, and IMF-based law. Basically, capitalism tinged with kleptocracism, the government can feel comfortable bossing people around and telling them what to do with their natural resources. This isn't necessarily bad, of course. For as much heavy-handed authoritarianism there is in the north, south-central Asia is, in case you forget, an anarchic melting pot. And environmental concerns are pretty low on a lot of folks' priorities. (aside: those forums look moderately fascinating in their batshit crazyosity...I may have to check those out later)

There is no defining water law for the world. I mean, even the EU can't get everyone on the same page, and they do a LOT more with each other than take awesome pictures with each other. This is one of those fun parts of international law where you realize that it's hopeless and pointless. Dudes who suspect their own cabinets (and for good reason, often) aren't prime for finding equitable ways to split Amu Darya water. This shouldn't be shocking, you could say the same exact sentence about Colorado River water and not be logically inconsistent.

So at some point, it would be nice to have a sitdown outside of UN frameworks where people sit down and rationally agree to share water rights. Because that's what international natural resource law is all about. I'm not going to bet on that happening before I'm done with school. So, more likely, there'll have to be a paralegal, or extralegal, solution. Some other way to convince folks why sharing is, indeed, caring. I'm not sure what it is yet. That's what I'm in school to find out.

Also, I've also been scooped in the ultra-awesome-water-issue-news by BldgBlog, which shouldn't be a shock. If you haven't seen this piece, or really any piece they do, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I Get Wet Whenever You're Trying

I get wet when I know that you're dying.

So I've been focusing, as much as I have been focusing, on the "oil" part of "oil and water" thus far. But if I had to bet on it, the stuff we're looking at on this blog is going to get really nasty because of water shortages, not energy shortages. Basically, people can always find new energy sources (or just get off the grid...whatever works) but yeah...you kinda need water, don't you?

Central Asia has been lucky in that it's so unindustrialized. There's none of the massive contamination issues that plague other countries. And, in interesting news that you can pretty much only find on EXiled, the first big, economy-crippling, drought is going to hit the United States. Don't buy real estate in the Imperial or Fresno Valleys, if I were you.

But what you have in Central Asia are a lot of folks used to one way of life, and aren't quite sure what to do when that changes. And thanks to Soviet Education, quite a number of folks are trying to get the environment to change. River courses, salinity levels, and you know, the entire economy of Uzbekistan, are going to change. It will be big, and it will be the next few decades. And it's going to be real, real, tough to blame it on the Muslims.

Basically, back during Pax Sovietica, it was decreed that Uzbekistan would be the place to grow all the cotton. And even though this involved massive irrigation projects, the disappearance of the Aral Sea, and resulted in really seedy, mediocre, cotton, it happened. So now Uzbekistan has a cotton addiction like nothing else (they don't have the energy reserves of Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, or even Xinjiang) and needs to feed this addiction with water. Water that, as mentioned earlier, Turkmenistan is siphoning the heck out of. And since Uzbekistan actually has a decent military (thanks, anti-terrorism measures!) while Turkmenistan are basically the bad guys from Top Gun it will end badly.

It will be very interesting to see the valuation of land in Central Asia going forward. My bet is, access to the Baikal and Issyk-kul are going to be huge once energy diversifies from fossil fuel (the Caspian is a bit, uhh, unattractive these days). I think the Buryat Republic and Mongolia are going to be especially interesting, considering they're flat and seem to be great for wind farms. Issyk-kul would make Kyrgyzstan more prime for stuff along the lines of Micro-hydro power if that ever gets implemented whole hog. And yeah, the Amu Darya and Syr Darya are still going to be important.

The funny thing is, water law is still awfully backwards, in the US and Central Asia. It's still dealt with much more as a fossil fuel-esque resource in the statutes here rather than a public good (but that may be me just being Maoist again). It'll probably take a disaster (aforementioned central Cali) to get the United States to wake up to it. This is a whole other post in and of itself. Probably tomorrow's. But meanwhile, Central Asia has the opportunity to become THE center of ecological, renewable, sustainable, buzzwordy, growth. It has the tiny population density, it has the communal culture, it has the resources that are going to be huge. I'd love to see some dude get innovative there and bring in some real innovative thinkers from the local context and all around the world to get all DesignObserver about Central Asia. I'd love to say Kazakhstan, but that library is a bit too Gehry-atric to be the Next Big Thing. But the future hot commodities are there, and it would be awesome for someone to take advantage of that.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

This is Not Appropriate for Blogging Purposes

But when I find a clip (courtesy of That's On Point, but hey) about the courtroom from Trailer Park Boys, you best believe I'm going to put it on here. I would start smoking if I could smoke in courtrooms.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

You pay the prophets to justify your reasons.

I heard your promise,but I don't believe it.
That's why I've done it again.

One of the more fun things about writing a blog is the ability to blindly assert things. I can just say "historiography is incredibly screwed up 6 ways to Sunday" and get away with it. Of course, I did mention this before on the previous blog, for whatever that's worth.

The thing I love about history, and the thing that not a lot of people get, is that it's subjective. Really, really, really, subjective. The biases of the writer are always present in his work, and all of the other stuff I wrote about in the post linked to above. I'm not just going to reiterate that, though. I'd like to apply it to the natural resource goodness I'm trying to get into now.

My senior thesisesque paper, which I can't link to because, well, I don't know how to attach files and couldn't be bothered to learn, was all about the oil industry in West Texas. One of the things that I hit upon pretty early in my research was that just about every single source I could find was financed by someone linked up to the oil industry, the railroad industry, or the Texas government. Usually they involved all three.

It's going to be very similar in recent stuff written on Central Asia. Most any writer is going to come into it with a bias. And even the really sharp writers have to write for an audience. And a lot of audiences just want to hear what makes them happy, so a bunch of otherizing works about how STRANGE them Ayjuhns are get written. It's no good, and it doesn't really push the debate forwards.

So the question remains: what sources and types of history are going to be useful if you're trying to get some answers about Central Asia? What's relevant and what is not?

Basically, Alexander the Great is not as relevant as pretty much any columnist may have you think. I would like to see more about the Anglo-Afghan War(s) get talked about, I'm not sure why that time period was somehow decreed Not Relevant. I sometimes wonder of the guiding hands of the Afghanistan War, or really the entire Central Asian Policy for the US and related corporations have at least read Hopkirk's Great Game. Or at least, like, read the wiki entry.

I realiz this is complaining for no real good, constructive, reason, but I wonder why no Central Asian historian has been able to make the leap to pop historian a la Keegan, Ambrose, etc. If it's because people don't care, then how are you planning to get people to care?