The Most Paternalistically Arrogant Diplomatic Cable I’ve Ever Seen

A few excerpts which make its status as the most paternalistically arrogant diplomatic cable I’ve ever seen secure:

Summary Questions: What do we really want for Equatorial Guinea? Do we want to see the country continue to evolve in positive ways from the very primitive state in which it found itself after independence? Or would we prefer a revolution that brings sudden, uncertain change and unpredictability? The former is clearly the path the country is on, and the latter has potentially dire consequences for our interests, most notably our energy security.

On the other hand, by remaining aloof we cede a fertile field to others (e.g., the Chinese) whose objectives differ from our own while we increase the potential for a sudden shift that might put American lives and interests at risk. Despite recent improvements, it is not difficult to imagine an EG in which U.S. FDI has been nationalized and/or turned over to others to operate, in which Americans are reviled, in which our influence withers. Worse, but imaginable, would be a chaotic change in which the hundreds of Americans here are targeted, billions in U.S. investment destroyed and lost, and — by virtue of where EG sits on the map — 20% of our national energy imports threatened. Several scenarios are possible: e.g., metastasis of the Niger Delta troubles, replication of the Gulf of Aden piracy, or “Venezuela-ization” of EG.

As indicated in previous messages, dinosaurs and fossils do remain in EG, and they continue to wield power. However, President Obiang has set a course for integrating EG with the world and, by fits and starts, is moving the country in that direction. Within the current array of alternative leaders, here in Malabo it is not obvious there is anyone else with the vision and influence to see this transformation through. However, Obiang is not a young man. Accelerating positive change while the conditions are right is a job that only the U.S. is positioned to undertake.

There are good guys and bad guys here. We need to strengthen the good guys — for all his faults, President Obiang among them — and undercut the bad guys.

Equatorial Guinea is one of the most repressive dictatorships in the world; even more repressive than Sudan. It experienced an oil boom from 1995 to 2004. Due to its oil wealth it has managed to afford itself the most comprehensive primary education system in Africa and a rank of the highest GDP per capita in Africa, but still only managed to increase its life expectancy by five years between 1994 and 2011. Though the regime is religiously tolerant, police are notoriously corrupt and rule of law is next to nonexistent. The dictatorship isn’t very business-friendly, either. To list President Obiang as among the “good guys” and to be concerned about the possibility of a democratic revolution in the country is to be so fantastically arrogant as to defy all expectations of status-quo worship among anyone, even among the most cynical.


Israel Finkelstein Paper on Late Bronze Collapse Four Times as Good as I Thought

Paper here.

Firstly, Finkelstein, Litt, and Langgut’s findings from the Sea of Galilee show that there was an intense dry period in Canaan between c. 1250 BC (when Hazor fell) and c. 1100 BC or just before (when Canaan experienced a baby boom). Secondly, the authors show that these findings can also be connected with the peak of the so-called “Minoan Warming” in this graph. Thirdly, the authors show that all the textual evidence supports their hypothesis that the 14th century BC was a wet period with no known major droughts while the 13th-12th centuries BC were a dry period with many known major droughts. The authors, however, show no real evidence of “economic and demographic decline” in Canaan in the Late Bronze IIB-III, which they claim occurred. Though Hazor, Bethel, and Shechem did lose their city-state status in the 13th century BC (Bethel later than the other two), I find the claim that either the population or economy of Canaan declined during the 13th century BC to be dubious.

Paradoxically, Finkelstein flip-flops again on the date of the beginning of Israelite settlement, placing it in the midst of the drought instead of, as he did in 2006, after the end of it. If cities like Megiddo, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Lachish, and Azekah could prosper in the Late Bronze IIB, so they could trade imported Egyptian grain with the nomads Finkelstein claims settled down during this era. It is doubtful that Israelite settlements in the Late Bronze IIB-III could survive the coercive power of Egyptian soldiers and taxmen. Like Todd Bolen and Israel Finkelstein in 2006, I see no evidence Israelite settlement predates the collapse of Egyptian rule in Canaan. In any case, it is impossible that “demographic decline” (which probably didn’t happen) could somehow spur a settlement boom in the highlands of Canaan.

The Simplest Reduction of the Farrer v. Two-Source Hypothesis Debate

Mark 6:7-11, Matthew 10:5-16, Luke 10:3-12: single common source for all three variations of the passage (Q) or gradual development from Mark to Matthew to Luke (Farrer Hypothesis)? I have found no better illustration or simpler reduction of this debate.