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Week in Review

With WRM on his way back from a three week trip all across India, Via Meadia’s pinch-hitters were keeping the blog going. Adam Garfinkle’s long essay analyzing the Kurdish question is very much worth spending some time with. The takeaway:

In other words, KRG independence could well be just the beginning of a very messy and protracted process, not the end of one. And if the United States plays midwife to Kurdish independence, it will very likely get stuck with a shitload of dirty diapers to manage for years to come. Could such a mess possibly be in U.S. interests? Well, there are some imaginable benefits from it. It could certainly screw with the mullahs, and that’s good. It could actually increase U.S. leverage over Turkey under some circumstances. But only a fool looks forward blithely to an unpredictable upheaval of this magnitude.

(Recent VM coverage of the Kurds can be found here, here, and here.)

Meanwhile, John Ellis got nervous about Warren Buffet’s move out of municipal bonds, Chris Mead noted how chambers of commerce can be important drivers of educational reform, and Roger Berkowitz chimed in on what the Akin imbroglio tells us about our political culture, and on Archbishop Rowan Williams’s take on liberal Christianity.

Our weekly coverage slanted towards Asia, with the Senkaku dispute having just taken a nasty turn at the end of last week when a boatload of Japanese nationalists landed on the uninhabited rocks and planted a Japanese flag. The Chinese people violently protested in the streets, and the Japanese shuffled their ambassadors in response. The Chinese elites, however, looked on in dismay as a major handover of power within the Party loomed, thinking there’s no need to rock the boat at such a delicate time. Nevertheless, there were signs for those with eyes that Chinese nationalism is not monolithic, that the Chinese people want prosperity and security as much as anything for their children. It’s good to know, then, that the U.S. State Department recognizes that we shouldn’t treat the South China Sea like some kind of Sudetenland, and that the pivot to Asia is as much about encouraging trade and liberalisation as it about ensuring a balance of power in the region.

Meanwhile, the economic picture looked worse and worse all across Asia. Consumer spending was down, and the Asian Development Bank forecast the lowest growth rates for the region as a whole since the financial crisis hit. China’s manufacturing sector contracted again in August hitting 9-month lows, and its steel prices plummetted. Even reliable Vietnam was feeling the pinch, with its GDP growth rates seriously slumping.

Other stories of note:

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