Palladium Podcast 9: Samo Burja on Botswana

Geran de Klerk/Chobe National Park, Botswana

Welcome to the ninth episode of the Palladium Podcast, where we explore the future of governance and society. This week, Jonah Bennett and Wolf Tivy interview Samo Burja, founder of Bismarck Analysis, a political risk consulting firm, on his recent Botswana piece and his thoughts about China’s Belt & Road in Africa. You can find Samo on Twitter and YouTube.


0:00:31 Jonah Bennett: Welcome to the Palladium Podcast, episode 9. I’m joined here this time with Wolf Tivy.

0:00:39 Wolf Tivy: Yeah, I’m here.

0:00:40 JB: And Samo Burja, who’s the founder of Bismarck Analysis, a political risk consulting firm, and he’s also a brilliant sociologist. Samo, thanks for joining us on the show.

0:00:51 Samo Burja: Very much looking forward to the conversation.

0:00:53 WT: Wait, we forgot to introduce our editor-in-chief. Who are you, Jonah? [chuckle] What do you do here?

0:00:58 JB: Well, I run the magazine day-to-day, mostly just strategy. And I let everyone else do all the hard work.

0:01:04 WT: Of course, we work for you.


0:01:07 JB: Alright, that’s enough of that. We’re gonna go open the reader mail bag this week, and let’s just open up that here and see what question we’ve got. The question of the week is, “What mythical creature would improve the world most if it existed?” Wolf, let’s start with you.

0:01:24 WT: Well, my answer is The Lorax, because someone has to speak for the trees. I couldn’t come up with a better answer.


0:01:32 JB: Alright. Fair enough. Samo?

0:01:34 SB: I think The Sphinx would be an important addition. It will encourage introspection at the point of some really harsh incentives, tearing apart people who don’t think through puzzles.

0:01:46 JB: I’m gonna go with Medusa. She’s obviously a monster in Greek mythology who’s got hair made of venomous snakes. Her head was cut off by the hero Perseus. And he kind of weaponized that sort of evil magic, and that’s something I can appreciate.

0:02:05 WT: Gee whiz, JB, that’s a pretty edgy answer.


0:02:07 JB: Alright, so enough of that. You can delve into what our answers mean psychologically for each of our profiles. But aside from that, let’s talk about Samo’s Botswana article that he wrote for us recently. It’s a fantastic article, and we can start by having Samo just give us a brief overview of it to catch up the audience on what was in the article.

0:02:32 SB: Yes, I think the thing that is most interesting about Botswana and why I decided to write the article is that it flaunts a lot of the wisdom of conventional developmental economics. It is a landlocked country. It is a country where 30%-40% of the population is HIV positive, it is a country where the primary industry is export of diamonds. This already sounds like a basket case. But it’s not, it’s been very politically stable, it hasn’t had either coups or civil wars. Note that during the same time period, this Cold War time period, countries in Europe such as Greece, France, Portugal had coups, and sometimes even full civil wars. That’s a remarkable achievement. And beside that, it has experienced very good economic growth over the last few decades. Now, the question was obviously, “Why?” And in the article I go into what I believe is the crucial and neglected factor in Western political thought which is the importance of succession, where it matters very much how an office is transferred from one holder to the next. And if the holders are political allies and if the skill level of the people holding the office is high enough, you can have very, very stable governance, surprisingly so, even in an institution sparse environment.

0:03:53 JB: What motivated you to look into Botswana in the first place? When you’re thinking about countries in Africa that perform well, Botswana is almost never on the main list of countries people would cite. I think people would talk about Nigeria, they would talk about Kenya, they would talk about South Africa. How did Botswana come onto your radar?

0:04:15 SB: We were doing some general research on East Africa in particular. It seems to be the next important global region. It’s where Chinese investment will either successfully or unsuccessfully play it out.

0:04:27 WT: This was Bismarck research?

0:04:28 SB: Correct, yes. I was also very much interested in looking at non-Western countries. I think it’s extremely important to go beyond our comfort zone, beyond the space of what we’re usually interested in. And I think part of the reason why Botswana tends to not be written about is because it’s a small country. You don’t get a large audience from writing about a small country. Most pundits are not that interested in writing about what’s the most intellectually interesting thing, they’re interested in writing about what’s gonna get the most clicks.

0:05:00 WT: Also, by being stable, there’s not a lot of news coming out of it.

0:05:02 SB: Exactly, exactly. Trash fire is much more interesting.


0:05:07 SB: But from a trash fire or from a train wreck, there’s only so much you can learn. You can certainly learn how the train got derailed, but if you wanna study how to build trains, find a nice working train, reverse engineer it, and that’s something I’m very much interested in in my research. I ran across the country, I tried to find what was said in the literature. What the academic literature had to say about Botswana did not make much sense, and I ended up having this draft on my hands, and talking to people, several people recommended I submit it to Palladium.

0:05:40 WT: Great. Well, we’re definitely glad to have it. It’s a really interesting article, totally in line with what we’ve been trying to look at, which is the big picture of what’s actually working and not working, what are the actual mechanisms behind success. Once we pop ourselves out of all our usual limiting assumptions, let’s dig into these detailed cases, what actually is making things work, so that we can then take that stuff and synthesize it and make sure that it ends up in our world view and in the consciousness of future decision makers.

0:06:16 JB: One of the questions I wanted to ask was about the succession model that they have in Botswana for transferring power from Head of State to Head of State. How does this contrast with some of the stuff you’ve written in the past about Roman succession, for example? Would this be some sort of hybrid model?

0:06:37 SB: This is a very, very… Well, first off, I wrote about a period in Roman history where succession was handled quite well. This is a period of the so-called Five Good Emperors, where each emperor is the adopted son of the previous emperor. This is a period of great prosperity and stability for the late Roman empire. Very much needed after the failure of the early Republic that led to these deep unsolved social issues, and civil war, and so on. And in a contrast to the later imperial period that also has ubiquitous civil wars. The key interesting thing there is the practice of what’s almost a political alchemy. By a stroke of a pen, you make your worst rival, that is a powerful general with political ambitions, your strongest supporter. When you make them your adopted son, you have made your own political legacy their inheritance. Which means that they need to build on your legitimacy and build on your successes to legitimize their own success and their own legitimacy. If you have a system of government where you need to destroy the legitimacy of the previous administration to be legitimate, such as is often the case with many post-colonial ideologies.

0:07:53 SB: We can hear, for example, look at a country like Zimbabwe. In Zimbabwe, I think Mugabe, you could build his prestige precisely proportionally to how much he discredited the previous regime. And of course, not to say that previous regimes don’t do things incorrectly, the previous emperors don’t do things incorrectly. It just means that you can’t really say nice things about the previous government, which means even before you reach your office, you kind of wanna sabotage them.

0:08:21 WT: And you don’t, you don’t get to inherit their people either.

0:08:24 SB: No, you don’t inherent their social connection. And in the Roman case, adoption of adults was not just a legal fiction, it was a concrete social reality. People would do this when they did not have children and they wanted to continue their family name, even if their family line had ended. They wanted the legacy of the family to be transferred to the future and preserved in this way. I think this makes a lot of sense. I think if you think about it in terms of western countries, there are plenty of monarchies, such as the British monarchy, which is this possession that’s been transferred between several dynasties and several ruling families. And the legacy of Henry VIII is safeguarded. All those nice buildings, and castles, and so on, just as surely as if the line had continued. I think the Romans understood this on a number of levels in their own society. The model of Botswana is different.

0:09:20 WT: Going back to the Roman example, I wanna delve a little bit deeper into some of the institutional pre-requisites or structural pre-requisites to being able to do that move of picking your rival as your successor.

0:09:34 SB: Correct.

0:09:35 WT: One of the obvious barriers to that is if you actually have some strong disagreement with your rival, which is to say they’re not just your political rival, they’re somehow your ideological rival. And thinking through that, it strikes me that in some systems, more conflict between ambitious rivals is gonna be of an ideological type. And in some, it’s gonna be more of a personal power, or military, or whatever it was, the kind of thing the Romans were competing over. And so if you have a system where the conflict is more ideological in character, I would say it makes it much harder to do that transference of legitimacy, whereas if it’s just like, “Oh, you have that big chunk of the empire and I have this chunk and we seem to be fighting a little bit, but we could just as easily not fight,” then it makes such deals possible. And so I’m interested in your thoughts on whether those structural issues or what you think about those structural things.

0:10:37 SB: It’s an interesting question to what extent Romans engaged in ideological warfare or not. It’s very difficult to study ancient states. I think it’s very important to study ancient states, because they represent this… They’re an example of society being run, sometimes notably differently, and other times very similarly. For an example, I think it’s the Optimates and the Populares, are often interpreted by modern historians as ideologically distinct factions. All things considered, however, Roman elites were operating on a shared understanding of what are the viable sources of legitimacy. It was things such as operating in the context of laws they highly valued, displaying personal virtue of various kinds. They definitely engaged in large scale propaganda campaigns. If you think of Julius Caesar’s… Basically, Julius Caesar was blogging about his conquest as it was ongoing. He was sending back these written reports that were read out in Rome to the public.

0:11:41 SB: So the Romans are certainly doing PR, perhaps not the way Americans would. And part of the PR was there was this understanding that the transfer of prestige from one notable individual to another was stronger in that society than it is today.

0:12:00 WT: Well, also that the prestige was held by individuals is…

0:12:03 SB: Of course, of course. To be fair, our society also allows for some kinds of prestige to be held by individuals as individuals. It works in hip hop and it works in entertainment. If you have a great celebrity endorse another talented artist, often that name is a big kickstart to their career. I think Eminem basically became a notable rapper that way. And in politics, it does not quite work that way. Presidential endorsements are shockingly weak. I think it’s because we tend to distrust or don’t even expect the ability to evaluate a person’s character to being vital for office holders. We want our office holders to be connected to the mass of the people, we want our office holders to represent the interests of the citizenry. And we don’t really think through whether they are good judges of character. We almost prefer to just judge their character rather than judge them on the basis of: Well, can they evaluate other individuals? And I think Romans very much believed that if anything, Julius Caesar, or Augustus, or Marcus Aurelius, they know better than I do: Who has the right character for an office that I have never held and that they have held?

0:13:20 WT: Right. And the incentives on modern politicians are such that, even if you could judge that they have good judge of character, you don’t necessarily actually trust what they’re saying. Because they are under so many pressures to say things that are essentially political moves rather than being reflective of their inner judgment or something.

0:13:45 SB: I definitely agree. That’s a negative political pressure. It pushes away from good outcomes, it pushes away from what is known to be the best solution, because what is known to be a good solution is often messaged as its complete opposite. A lot of the critiques that came out of Macron’s carbon tax was that, “Oh, you implemented it wrong, you implemented in such a way that the population knew it was being taxed.” Isn’t that funny? Whether or not such a tax is correct, it’s really funny that that implementation detail matters so much, and that messaging detail matters so much. Now, on the other hand though, I do have to stand by the statement that the Romans were doing their own form of PR.

0:14:24 WT: Yeah, of course.

0:14:26 SB: Romans were… As long as you had Mark Anthony, being a close ally with Octavian, Octavian would only say positive things. As soon as Mark Anthony was in cahoots with Cleopatra, suddenly rumors would spring up in Rome that Mark is practicing Egyptian witchcraft and is dressing as an Egyptian and is bewitched by this terrible witch. He is no longer the Roman war hero, but this poor enslaved man. And you realize, “Oh okay.”

0:14:58 JB: There might have been some truth in that. Who knows?

0:15:00 SB: I mean there might have been some truth, whether there was truth or not. I think it was the propaganda value.

0:15:04 JB: Sure of course.

0:15:05 SB: That made this stuff deployed. On the other hand Mark Anthony was like, “This kid Octavian, he has no experience, he doesn’t even know Caesar. If Caesar saw Octavian today, he would be disappointed. If you think it through, I’m the true heir of Caesar. Caesar would have endorsed me.” etcetera, etcetera. This was very much a tug and pull type of situation, and had Antony and Cleopatra won, well, maybe Shakespeare would have written a play about the tragic mad child Octavian drunk on power, instead of his play on Cleopatra. Often, the winners set history. But I do actually want to return to Botswana.

0:15:50 JB: Yeah, back to Botswana.

0:15:50 SB: Because in Botswana, there is no adult adoption. Every president, however, so far, since independence, has been the vice president of the previous one. You have an interesting situation where Seretse Khama is the President that leads Botswana to independence. Note, by the way, Seretse Khama, is the grandson of Khama III, who reigned from 1875 to 1923. And is also the king of Botswana that wisely chooses to join the British Empire as a way to prevent himself from being conquered by Cecil Rhodes. Cecil Rhodes wanted to add Botswana to the British empire anyway and to his own burgeoning diamond and mining empire. And this was a very wise active political move by the Khama family because it allowed them to preserve political autonomy and authority. Within the British empire, they still basically got to manage many facets of Botswanan life. And this was very different from what was the case in, say, South Africa, or what was to become Rhodesia, and so on.

0:16:57 SB: His grandson, Seretse Khama, leads the independence movement. He ascends, not as the king of Botswana, though Tswana traditionalists, and the Tswana make up 80% of the population of the country, still consider him the rightful chief. After that, his vice president Quett Masire serves as president for 18 years. After him Festus Mogae who is again, the Vice President of Quett Masire, and finally Ian Khama, the son of Seretse Khama, the great-grandson of Khama III, serves not only as a vice president, but as president and holds office from 2008 to 2018. The current president, I’m not sure how to pronounce his name, Mokgweetsi, I think, he served as Ian Khama’s vice president and is the current president of the country. We have an unbroken chain of president, vice president, over and over and over again.

0:18:00 WT: I think, notably, you started this research in 2018 when that hadn’t happened yet…

0:18:03 SB: Correct.

0:18:04 WT: And formulated this thesis and then it came to be.

0:18:07 SB: Yes, recent events showed that the political order of Botswana persists, and I would in fact expect it to persist for the foreseeable future. They solved, in their own institutional way, the very difficult problem of political succession. Also, I’m going to note, of the people named, Ian Khama was for a while, commander of the Armed Forces, was very active in military affairs. The high trust between Botswana and elites is very important, both between the civilian government, and the military government. One of the few blessings the United States has had, historically, has been this absence of military coups, often because the most powerful and most popular generals, know they can just run for president and win. For examples, you have, I think Ulysses Grant, I think you have Dwight D. Eisenhower and these are notable routes. Why would you carry out a coup, if you can just carry out an election campaign and win?

0:19:07 JB: Yeah, I wanna know something interesting, which is that a peaceful succession regardless of regime type is a difficult thing to secure, and we shouldn’t use the example of the US purely to recommend, say, democracy over other forms of government necessarily, because it may be that democracy as such is not the most salient variable in guaranteeing peaceful succession. It may be something like lack of rival powers who are capable of pushing the election in one direction or another in a serious way because I know that in other countries, democratic elections are very easily overturned via military coups with the aims of, say, restoring true democracy, or people could just contest the results of the election. And often, because there is election fraud on both sides, it’s kind of difficult to tell what actually the real legitimate outcome in fact was.

0:20:09 WT: Yeah, one other factor here is, peaceful succession is itself, a pretty low bar, it’s not necessarily successful succession. And like we’ve seen with Trump, basically, that was not a successful succession event from… You see a lot of conflict around that because it’s not representative of…

0:20:31 SB: Well, ideally, what you want is for political offices to be self-sustaining. If every time a new office-holder comes into office by destroying and undermining the previous office-holder, the power and influence and administrative capacity of that office will fall. It’s the same if it is a monarchy or if it is a democracy. Over time, the role of a prime minister or a president can become purely ceremonial if the best way to achieve that position is to undermine the previous holder of that position, because you are undermining both the man and the office, simultaneously.

0:21:08 WT: Yeah, and the people who need to seriously get stuff done will tend to build their institutions such that they don’t have to rely on that position anymore.

0:21:16 SB: With the example of the United States, I was more trying to point to the high trust that exists between US civilian and military elites.

0:21:24 WT: Yes, for sure. Totally.

0:21:25 SB: And that is possible to cash in your personal success and your notable virtues, and popularity gained in the military field, in civilian politics. As long as that is possible, ambitious military leaders will choose the civilian route because it’s strictly better. An interesting example here of a country working differently, is Pakistan, where Musharraf, many years ago, we used to… I think he came to power in a military coup, if I remember right, and then legitimized his rule with an election. I think the election was probably fair. He achieved the office but eventually he was, I think, just voted out. JB, you should correct me if I’m misremembering the history there.

0:22:10 JB: This is in…

0:22:10 SB: President Musharraf, of Pakistan.

0:22:12 JB: I actually don’t remember the history of that particular case…

0:22:14 SB: Well, I was merely gonna bring it up as an interesting example. In weak states, the contesting of election results backed by military force, is often a precursor to civil war, and civil war is one of the most economically and socially destructive things that can happen to a country. And sometimes, it’s internally generated. I think Roman civil wars, for the most part, were internally generated, though, again, we can talk about Cleopatra being a queen of a whole independent country we call Egypt. Though, Egypt at that point, it’s a Roman client state. It is, however, still legitimate, foreign meddling. And…

0:22:53 JB: The point I was trying to make earlier, is that I think a lot of these mechanisms of succession are actually downstream of general elite coordination, in general. What does the coordination levels between different power centers that really matter in the country?

0:23:10 WT: And that resides in the skill levels and in relationships of individual people.

0:23:14 JB: And there’s no possible mechanism of succession that you can paste on top of an extremely fractured elite and not expect that it will go wrong.

0:23:26 WT: Yeah.

0:23:27 JB: I think that’s true. Maybe it’ll move things on the margin, one way or another, good or bad…

0:23:32 WT: Yeah, well, I think…

0:23:33 JB: But it’s not fundamentally… You can’t just… It doesn’t solve the conflict by pasting on this mec…

0:23:38 WT: Yeah, well… I think what it… The way to understand this is these institutional mechanisms are the internal social technologies of how a coordinated group governs itself. They’re not something that themselves create that internal coordination. They can help, but they’re not like… You can’t just… You can’t throw law onto a battlefield and suddenly the soldiers are in court, it doesn’t work like that.

0:24:06 SB: One could take a page from the Daoists. The Daoists say, “The true Dao can’t be written,” and I think maybe the true constitution can never be written. The word constitution in 18th century discourse meant not just a legal document, it meant the actual political composition of a country and this is the way Aristotle uses the term constitution.

0:24:27 WT: It’s the institutions.

0:24:27 SB: Exactly. When you read the constitution of Athens, it’s not a wish list, it is Aristotle’s best description, as a political scientist, of how Athens functions. I think it’s very important for us to have more such clear descriptions, both in American politics, and also abroad. I think with such a clear description, often seemingly mysterious features of governments become quite explainable.

0:24:53 WT: Right, and that’s why the Botswana piece is so important, because it actually goes into these institutional factors and looks at, “Okay, how does the thing actually work? What are the real mechanisms here?” And so, that’s why I’m really excited about this.

0:25:06 SB: Yes, interesting thing about Botswana, it has several things working in its favor, with regard to its internal stability. One of them was they navigated the Cold War fairly well.

0:25:18 JB: Yeah.

0:25:19 WT: Yeah.

0:25:20 SB: A little bit of it is luck, but there were plenty of countries in South Africa… I use South Africa as a region, not as a country.

0:25:27 WT: Yes, Southern Africa.

0:25:27 SB: Southern Africa, exactly. Southern African countries tended to be dominated either by communist insurgencies or by South Africa aligned governments. South Africa would literally invade several of the states, even, I think, trying to annex one or two. They did this to try to secure themselves, and Botswana is right on the border. There are more members of the Tswana tribe that live in South Africa, than there are in Botswana itself. There’s a large population of Botswana in South Africa and one of the interesting things there was that while Botswana was aligned with the West, including… Because of its close economic and arguably political ties to the De Beers Mining Corporation, which is very known for its global diamond monopoly.

0:26:16 WT: Right.

0:26:16 SB: Yes, they’re perhaps the reason you buy diamond engagement rings. Now, whether that’s…

0:26:25 WT: Some people…

0:26:25 SB: Whether that’s good or bad, it presented Botswanan elites with an interesting problem. If you trash the corporation that is mining your diamonds to try to remove their diamond monopoly, can you actually maintain the high price of diamonds? It’s not clear you can. So you sort of have killed the goose that’s laying your diamond eggs.

0:26:47 WT: Right.

0:26:49 SB: And, the second point being Western countries aware of how vital Botswana is do not want to encourage South Africa’s intervention.

0:27:00 WT: You mean geopolitically vital?

0:27:01 SB: Correct, correct. Where South Africa is somewhat Western aligned, but already has serious disagreements with other Western countries by the 1970s and ’80s over the apartheid issue. Soviet Union, on the other hand, is trying to support communist groups all around Southern Africa and is trying to, if possible, overthrow the South African government with the communist government. The ANC carried out some operations using Botswanan territory as a base of operations. The ANC is the African National Congress, the African National Congress at this point is receiving Soviet aid. From the perspective of the Soviet Union, if they toppled the government of Botswana, this tiny country next to South Africa, which is militarily quite powerful, not only will they nullify Western interests in keeping that country independent, they will perhaps simply provoke a South African invasion.

0:27:56 SB: The result then is very interesting. I know that Botswana has no active political Communist Party that is aligned with the Soviet Union, it has small Trotskyite groups and small Maoist groups. In other words, I think the Soviet Union is just not supporting local communists there. Because they think they like Botswana as a thorn in the side of South Africa, much more than they could gain from a communist Botswana.

0:28:21 WT: Yeah, so this could be construed as luck, but on the other hand, given the other successes achieved by the regime in Botswana, it’s a pretty good hypothesis that they were thinking actively about these things and positioning themselves.

0:28:37 JB: And able to navigate both West and East on that one, it kinda reminds me a little bit of Pakistan, the way that they’re normally friendly with the US, and yet harbor the Taliban, for example.

0:28:51 SB: I think the extremely important point was, while Botswana was not friendly with South Africa because of obviously these clashes and disagreements over the racial questions, they were able to walk the line where they never provoked a full-scale invasion from South Africa. Had they had poorly disciplined military leadership or poorly executed foreign policy, South Africa would have manufactured a pretext to remove the thorn from their side, yet they never gave South Africa the rope that South Africa could have used to hang them. And I think this is rare for many countries. Many countries, due to internal disorganization, fail to avoid giving much more powerful states the pretext that the much more powerful states crave to invade the weaker ones, or intervene.

0:29:42 WT: Yeah. If you’re in a weak position, you have to be very careful, to step carefully so that you don’t get squashed by these larger players. And, it seems like they were able to do that in the Cold War.

0:29:54 SB: Right, right. I think that this sort of relatively disciplined foreign policy, I have to emphasize the proactive, positive sides of it, where when Botswana Royal Family is trying to solve the serious problem of “Will Cecil Rhodes invade our country and just add it to his mining empire?”, they sent out an expedition of three of their best statesmen. Some of them, basically, I think educated in England, to go petition the British government. You have to imagine, this is a really desperate diplomatic expedition, there are these wonderful statues of Khama III, that’s the king of Botswana at the time, Sebele I and Bathoen I. And I think Botswana has rightfully considered them national heroes because they preserve what autonomy could be preserved.

0:30:47 WT: And that’s the cover article… Or the cover photo on the article?

0:30:49 SB: Yeah, there’s some beautiful statues. And I think this kind of active, proactive statecraft had been continuously executed by the state, and I expect it, too, in the future. I expect it’s one of the African countries that will continue to be a beacon of stability. And if I had to bet, were diamond prices to fall because of the diversification of their economy and because of political stability and the other kinds of mineral wealth that exist in the country, I think their stability would persist. I think their partnership with de Beers, over time, is working out more and more in favor of local independent elites, rather than being managed from afar. It’s not a Banana Republic. That’s the second cynical take I would hear. When I would travel in DC or New York, they would propose that it’s a country dominated by foreign economic interest, but when you look on the ground, there are just no signs of that. You have a relatively high standard of living, and it’s much more a partnership that I think is working out well for the government and people of Botswana.

0:31:58 WT: Well, and that goes into the government of Botswana purchasing a stake in De Beers, rather than just expropriating them.

0:32:07 SB: Correct, correct. You could call Saudi Arabia a Banana Republic and that will be an incorrect statement because originally, all their oil infrastructure was built by Americans. Aramco used to be the… What was the…

0:32:22 WT: It was Standard Oil, I think?

0:32:23 SB: It was like in the Arab-American oil company, and over time, the Saudi Royal Family have bought out more and more of the stake of Aramco until it’s purely the property of the Saudi Royal Family.

0:32:38 SB: The partnership between De Beers and Tswana elites results in a pretty straightforward mutual stake in the stability of the country. It’s an interesting way to have your cake and eat it, too. Economic influence is often followed by political dependence. And here I think we have economic benefits and continued political independence. And that’s a very important, very difficult game to play.

0:33:06 JB: One interesting question about going back to succession is the way that Botswana has interspersed royal families with non-family presidencies. Because there could be a potential conflict where some faction of the elite has a conception of legitimacy that necessitates, like hereditary monarchy, for example. It’s interesting that Botswana has managed to navigate that. And I’m curious for your take on how they were able to successfully navigate that.

0:33:40 WT: Yeah, like they’ve got the hereditary monarchy swapping out, tag-teaming with the civilians, basically.

0:33:47 SB: Yes, this is true, though often, these come out of the long-term personal associates, right? I think the partnership between the president and the vice president should be understood as important. The vice president is not a ceremonial role like it is in the United States. It’s an active governing role in the country. You are assisting the president and if the president is not happy with your performance, they can always replace you. These are people that have built close personal political partnerships before they take the helm. One of their continued basis of support is the royal family. Even if the royal family doesn’t hold the presidency in the moment, you are strictly better off continuing working with the royal family than not. An interesting parallel could be here made between Putin-Medvedev-Putin, where the situation was such that had Medvedev tried to sideline Putin, he would have been cutting down one of the pillars on which his own presidency stood.

0:34:45 SB: And I think now, in retrospect, people tend to underestimate Medvedev’s power and overestimate Putin’s power. I think it was a legitimate partnership between the two during the Medvedev presidency. It’s only because it’s worked out for Putin to be able to return into presidency that people have kind of forgotten about Medvedev. The other factor here is a lot of the members are members of basically lower nobility or are related at a greater distance. And another relevant factor is there is this large pull of resources that is very easy to distribute centrally.

0:35:25 SB: I think some of the board members of De Beers Botswana are members of the royal family. If you try, as a president, to move against the royal family, I think you’re trying to move against the largest company as well. And where does that end? Does that end with nationalization? Well, that kills the goose that lays the diamond eggs, so not an option.

0:35:48 WT: Yeah, so one my contrary take here is that a lot of the stability is coming from the relative centralization, like there discussed in your article, that there’s basically… There’s the one big company, there’s the one big ethnic group, there’s the one big royal family and their game has basically just been, by aligning all these things quite well, they’ve managed to keep things working together and they haven’t really had any established rival groups that they have to deal with, whereas in a more dynamic polity like the United States where you have many things going on, many different industries, many different factions and organizations, and so on. It brings to mind that there is this contrast, like how well would this mechanism work in a more dynamic context? Or in a more dynamic context, what additional things would you have to do to make this work? And I’m curious in drilling into that a little bit.

0:37:02 SB: It’s interesting, right? I think relevant factors here, people might cite a resource-rich economy, they might cite low population as things that favor them. But then consider the comparison between Kazakhstan and Venezuela. I think that’s a very relevant comparison, where Venezuela seems to fail at this quite badly, despite being in all of these ways quite similar to a country like Kazakhstan or a country like Botswana. It still requires competent government and stable government. Another counterexample would be Libya. Libya has a relatively low population density. It has, in theory, pretty good base for exporting oil, but the state has simply not returned. Libya today remains a failed state after the fall of Gaddafi. There has been no reconsolidation.

0:37:53 WT: Yeah, so it’s clear that Botswana is more towards the end of competent government on that spectrum. I guess the question I’m asking is, how much harder would it be… There’s the difficulty of what they’ve done, which is bring stability to this particular situation. And then, how much harder would it be to bring stability to a more dynamic, larger polity with more going on? That’s the question I’m getting at, is like, what’s the level of… Is it like, okay, they’ve got competent government and competent government could manage Nigeria as well as they can manage Botswana, or is it like… Actually, there’s this huge extra set of issues to manage, say, Nigeria?

0:38:35 SB: First off, if we think about Nigeria, I think Nigeria has several other problems. I do think however, Nigeria with competent government could be run as well as Botswana is. I don’t expect Nigerian institutions to progress to that point. I think they have a very talented population. But for now, I expect that population, the talented fraction, to continuously leave Nigeria rather than stay. And I think the patronate structure around oil in Nigeria is politically dysfunctional. When people talk about the resource curse, they don’t think about, well, is the patronate structure around resource extraction functional or not functional? Does it add to honest government, or does it detract from it?

0:39:23 SB: I think in Nigeria, many political fights are fought using patronage, using the resources acquired through a fragmented patronage of oil. The normal story might be that you want to disperse oil wealth. I actually think that if you try to disperse oil wealth, you breed political instability in a country. Even if you look at a country such as Norway, they’ve intentionally depoliticized; a European country, long history of stable government; they’ve depoliticized oil and just put all the winnings, essentially, into a national sovereign wealth fund, and the sovereign wealth fund, it is politically taboo to propose tapping the wealth fund for either military expenditure or social expenditure. It’s considered the retirement fund of the country, if we’re being a little bit cynical about it. But I think that’s extremely important. You want these very lucrative resource flows to be as depoliticized as possible.

0:40:21 SB: I think this is quite viable even in a more complex country. Now, what if you’re dealing with a diversified economy that’s not resource-based? I think Singapore is the relevant counter-example here, where in Singapore, you also have successful succession. I think Lee Kuan Yew’s son is the current prime minister of Singapore. I think Lee Kuan Yew was brilliant. I think the son is competent, but I think that competence is sufficient to preserve Singapore’s status as a developed economy, a stable political system and so on.

0:40:54 JB: Samo, while we still have you here, let’s… I wanna switch gears from Botswana to a broader discussion of Africa and China’s involvement in Africa. I know you’ve been doing some research into that. I wanted to talk specifically about China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which is China’s global economic initiative to build infrastructure in places like Southeast Asia, the Balkans, and especially Africa. My question is basically, how is China going to avoid the same problems of nationalization of infrastructure that countries like the US suffered with the Panama Canal and oil assets in Saudi Arabia, etcetera?

0:41:43 SB: Well, the US government solved the problem of nationalization of the Panama Canal through exercising quite a bit of political authority over Panama, all up until the 1980s. I think the Chinese will likely solve the problem in a similar manner. If the investments are made by politically well-connected people, which is often the case in China, I do believe they will bring to bear political pressures on the relevant countries, up to including, perhaps sponsoring coups, or…

0:42:11 JB: We saw that…

0:42:12 SB: We saw that with Zimbabwe.

0:42:14 WT: Yeah, Zimbabwe.

0:42:15 SB: Yes.

0:42:15 JB: In fact, they’re now on the Yuan as the currency.

0:42:19 SB: Yes. And the other possibility is, people don’t tend to think about France’s neo-colonial empire. But France has a neo-colonial empire in West Africa. They regularly deploy special forces to intervene militarily in the relevant states. It might seem impossible to imagine Chinese interventions, even military interventions in these states with special forces or with small ground forces, but I do expect this will happen. Their naval presence in the region is stronger than ever. They played a vital role in solving the Somali piracy problem and they are continuously also patrolling around the Horn of Africa and the naval presence there is going to be developed further and further. With enough naval presence comes the possibility of some small scale interventions.

0:43:08 SB: Who exactly is going to stop them? I’m going to note that even a few decades ago, had the Soviet Union toppled a government in Zimbabwe, the West would have felt obliged to counter-move and take the place back, take it back or prop up a friendly government. This was not done. Was it not done because it’s not an interesting or important enough country, or was it not done because our collective attention is not yet looking at the importance of East Africa? East Africa is one of the three corners of the Indian Ocean. East Africa is one of the best places in terms of economic growth. You can control basically… I think the Red Sea is very much held hostage by anything that happens around the Horn of Africa. There’s a bunch of trade that’s going to be coming between India and East Africa as well. The other corners such as countries such as Sri Lanka and Pakistan are also part of the wider Chinese strategy, as is perhaps Australia.

0:44:08 JB: Well, there’s an argument to be made that neglect of the situation in… Like US neglect of the situation in Zimbabwe is partly because a lot of American media has been obsessed with Russian interference in Europe and in America and potentially invading various countries in Europe and “Is this whale a Russian spy whale?” I don’t know if you guys recently saw that article. But also that’s partly… That’s downstream of conflicts between the Trump administration and other American leads about legitimacy over the election results. And so, there’s been a lot of upsetness and anger and also obsession with Russia as the main geopolitical foe.

0:45:03 JB: But now that the Mueller report has come out and a lot of these issues have basically died, the pivot to considering China as the main geopolitical rival is definitely happening and you’re seeing that reflected in the media as well, so it’s possible now, if China were to make big moves again in Africa, maybe more coups, actually, that we would pay closer attention to it now, as opposed to one or two years ago.

0:45:34 WT: That’s interesting.

0:45:35 JB: And another interesting point is that China’s efforts in Zimbabwe were a wild success, whereas ours in Venezuela didn’t do quite so well, to put it mildly.

0:45:49 WT: Yeah, and on the Trump thing in general, the fight with Trump is sort of ongoing.

0:45:56 JB: It’s ongoing, it’s ongoing, but a lot of it has subsided.

0:46:00 WT: Yeah, at least on the Russia issue, but in so far as that issue is ongoing, the American elite is gonna have a lot of its attention turned towards its internal issues rather than managing the empire.

0:46:13 JB: Yeah.

0:46:14 SB: I’m also going to say that the US had not had a strong presence in East Africa, where after the end of the British Empire, there was never a massive US presence there, and some previous interventions had also failed. What was the case of the downed helicopter? I forget. Was that in Somalia?

0:46:31 JB: Yes, that’s right, the Black Hawk down.

0:46:33 SB: Exactly, exactly. They made the Hollywood movie about it. I think the view was that this area has no true power trying to project influence, so the gains of trying to control the area are very low. If it’s uncontested, if it must work with the international order as set up by the United States and its allies, why bother? Why fix something that’s not broken?

0:46:58 WT: Yeah, I guess a lot of the importance of East Africa is to an Indian Ocean power, like…

0:47:03 SB: Correct.

0:47:03 WT: If an Indian Ocean power trying to develop Africa.

0:47:06 SB: Correct, correct. And further, during Soviet times, there was US thinking in the area. And let’s remember the Soviet Union had some early gains. When people think about the famous famine in Africa, they don’t consider this famine came in the aftermath of a communist revolution where the emperor was deposed, the emperor of Ethiopia was deposed and they collectivized land, and much as in Ukraine in the 1920s and ’30s, that was famine in Ethiopia in the 1980s. It wasn’t a mysterious feature, it wasn’t a result of developmental issues, it was straightforwardly land collectivization causing the famine.

0:47:44 SB: There were other states in Africa that aligned themselves with the Soviet Union. And during the Cold War, I think Africa received much less attention from Western media than, say, Asia, or Europe, even though to the Soviets, it was a vital part of their strategy. Let’s remember, Che Guevara, I think, dies in Angola trying to overthrow the government. Damn, am I remembering that right? I know he was supposed to go there at one point.

0:48:09 JB: I can’t recall that specific…

0:48:10 SB: Then I’ll check out, check my facts. I do know Castro gave a big speech congratulating comrade Che for leaving the country and working with revolutionary forces in various countries.

0:48:23 WT: Truly a Thomas Jefferson-like figure.

0:48:26 SB: Oh man, oh man.

0:48:27 WT: Precisely.


0:48:29 SB: Well, you should read some of the early articles on Fidel Castro as well. The 1950s articles say ambiguously good things about him. It’s very interesting. But to go back, there were definitely Cuban fighters fighting in Angola, whether or not Che was with them. There were Soviet fighters in various civil wars in Africa. And the US understood this. The Soviet idea was, “Well, we lost the Middle East. We have failed to acquire the Middle East. Maybe we can get Africa on our side.” And that was their last major attempt at expansion of their sphere of influence. After the Cold War ended, there was no seeming geopolitical foe, no Indian power. I think China, as an Indian Ocean power, is quite viable a future. It’s quite plausible. It helped secure the problem with oil supply as well, where almost all Chinese oil, all the oil the Chinese economy’s consuming goes through the Indian Ocean. That’s why Singapore is so important, the Straits of… What is it, the Straits of Malacca?

0:49:30 JB: Yeah.

0:49:30 SB: Yeah.

0:49:30 WT: Straits of Malacca is what’s important.

0:49:32 SB: Yeah. So you’re securing a route from Suez to Malacca, the route can be secured with an Indian Ocean presence.

0:49:40 JB: There are at least two possible outcomes for Belt and Road. One is that, in basically most regions, the US is displaced as the hegemon and China has a shocking amount of direct or indirect power over local governments and states. The other is that China makes a lot of foolish investments. It does build some infrastructure, and unfortunately, it ends up being kicked out by the local governments in a lot of cases, and they say, “Thanks for the infrastructure investments, but we’ll see you later.” Which outcome do you think is more likely? Because I’ve seen various China analysts I respect on both sides.

0:50:28 SB: I would say the Chinese are making at least one big mistake. Their one big mistake is they are relying on Chinese companies to build all the infrastructure. In other words, there’s no large local political stakeholder from the construction business that wants to keep Chinese money coming in. If a government nationalizes a Chinese infrastructure project, from the perspective of the locals, it is all pure win. If, however, they nationalized a project that was built by local construction companies, the local construction companies would object. This might seem politically irrelevant until you realize that construction is one of the most corrupt industries possible. A lot of political money is usually laundered through construction projects that have very bloated budgets. In other words, China would be paying a high price for overpriced infrastructure, but a part of that high price would be translated into straightforward economic support to local politicians in a number of the countries.

0:51:31 WT: Does that happen internally in China? ‘Cause I know they do a lot of really weird construction stuff.

0:51:36 SB: That happens a little bit in China, but the party is trying to maintain discipline. Whenever they find that happening in a province of China, they clamp down quite hard on it. I think it does happen in People’s Liberation Army construction projects because of an unusual quirk of the way Mao’s China is set up. The People’s Liberation Army just runs factories. They just run factories, and can build factories and can even produce civilian gear in military factories. So if you want to think about it, it will be the difference between having a defense contractor and having a factory run directly by the Pentagon, and having a factory run by the Pentagon, not just build rifles, or tanks, but build phones or make t-shirts and sell them abroad.

0:52:25 SB: That’s an example of politically-induced corruption where things that are normally supposed to be used for defense purposes are allowed to be used for some civilian production, and are hence re-specialized toward civilian production making a profit for Chinese military officers and officials. And the party is less and less happy with this, but doesn’t really have the power to challenge the PLA on their own ground. I think the construction stuff is very prominent in Turkey. Erdoğan…

0:52:55 JB: That’s right.

0:52:56 SB: Erdoğan funded a bunch of his early political stuff through construction projects in Istanbul, where he got a cut and where his political allies got a cut.

0:53:05 WT: Unlike the analysis of Belt and Road sort of contrasting the, okay, it’s a really efficient geopolitical expansionary measure that’s actually gonna work versus the narrative that it’s just a waste of money, it’s just them LARPing as liberals or whatever. I’ve heard various criticisms like that, or it’s just like Chinese money trying to escape from China. These could be simultaneously both true at the same time in that, there could be a disciplined geopolitical push putting through the key infrastructure, and then also just a lot of corruption coming along for the ride.

0:53:53 WT: And so people will look at the thing and they see huge amounts of corruption. They see a lot of wasteful, dumb investments of the type that you see generally with Chinese foreign money where there’s a lot of money trying to escape from China or get laundered in various ways. And so you see all these weird investments and you look at that and you say, “Okay, well this isn’t the Chinese Communist Party playing some smart game,” but actually it could be that’s lost in that mess. They are actually playing a smart game. This is just a possibility that occurs to me. I haven’t looked into this. I’m curious, what do you guys think?

0:54:26 SB: I would say that the story where both is true is a very good story. There’s a lot to be made even when you… There’s a lot of money to be made, a lot of reputations to be won, even when foreign policy is executed competently. If you looked at British foreign policy at its peak, there was both personal profit and corruption as well as some firm strategic directions.

0:54:48 WT: And piracy even.

0:54:49 SB: Correct, correct. You had people who would transition from piracy to a leisurely merchant life and back again, depending on where the ROI was better. And let’s think about this, if you look at Silicon Valley in the 1990s, or even more so the early 2000s. Was it something of a joke with many billions of dollars spent on completely failed, foolish and corrupt projects? Almost certainly.

0:55:16 WT: Yes.

0:55:16 SB: Was it the center of technological innovation, 2000 to, say, 2015? I think it was.

0:55:23 WT: Yes.

0:55:23 SB: And I think with China, there are clear cases of geopolitical wins. Italy essentially signing on to Belt and Road is massive. This means that in the future, Italy is going to want to continue receiving Chinese subsidies as much as it can, and Italian politicians will figure out ways to gain patronage from Chinese support. You now have one of Europe’s biggest economies, no longer a small, easy to ignore state, but one of Europe’s biggest economies vetoing any sort of common measures the EU might try to push versus China. I think this is one of the European Union’s structural weaknesses. It’s possible for a country like Russia to make friends with a country like Hungary and perhaps derail a process. It is possible for a country like China to make friends with Italy and derail a possible common process against China. And it’s possible for the United States to block any measures it doesn’t want previously with the help of the United Kingdom, and perhaps in the future, with the help of a state like Poland.

0:56:25 WT: Yeah, I wonder how much this was deliberate in the aftermath of the war, obviously. They just fought a big war to prevent the construction of a continental hegemon. And so, obviously any kind of federal-ish project that they’re setting up on the continent is not going to be real enough to be able to resist the United States and thus, not real enough to be able to resist Russia, or China, either.

0:56:53 SB: France, under de Gaulle, objected to adding Britain to the European Community. Meanwhile, the United States strongly lobbied for adding the United Kingdom to the European Community, which was the precursor to European Union.

0:57:09 SB: I think though, you will have clear wins in Europe, I think you will have mixed results in Central Asia where, I expect, the Russian cultural and military and political influence should not be underrated in a very serious way, much as Australia remains very much western aligned on security questions, but is Chinese aligned on economic questions. You might have a state such as Kazakhstan or Tajikistan be security aligned with Russia and economically aligned with China. So their gains might be limited there.

0:57:43 JB: And this is an interesting thing that we’ve kind of, a point we made previously is that the Chinese Communist Party is, in fact, has some Marxist sympathies which means they do consider the economic power to be the foundation of later types of power, and so they pay close attention to where they have that economic power.

0:58:03 SB: They might be right, they might be wrong. I think if they were good Marxists, they would understand that economic power can be expropriated through other means. And it’s not clear. There’s a fun discussion to be had: How communist? How Marxist is China? Like in another one: How Marxist is Maoism? Maoism proposes, you can skip urbanization and have peasants gather together and make steel economically. This obviously did not work out, the great leap forward did not work out in a number of ways.

0:58:37 SB: China did not industrialize through this, and the reformist faction, who are usually interpreted as pro-capitalist, well, they might have just been orthodox Marxist. Marx believed there is a necessary stage of capitalism that results in massive accumulation of wealth. If you are, right now, a straightforwardly orthodox Marxist without many Maoist influences, China seems to be validating your theories. You can say, “Well, the Soviet Union’s mistake was they tried to be powerful before they were rich. We have now become rich, we will become powerful and we’ll create a society of plenty, where capitalism will slowly abolish itself with the guiding hand of the Communist Party.” That’s where perhaps a Leninist element comes in.

0:59:22 SB: I think one of the things that we should consider is that, is Chinese leadership actually significantly Marxist? If so, you might, for the first time in the US’s history, have a serious economic rival with a very different economic ideology.

0:59:39 JB: Yeah, and I think, whether or not they’re Marxist I’m not sure, but certainly they have a very different ideology than America does right now, and they are quite powerful economically, and this is one of the big bets we’re making, is that, in the Cold War, we could kind of get away with having an incompetent and impoverished enemy, whereas we’re shaping up for a new geopolitical rivalry where we no longer have the benefits of an economically inferior rival.

1:00:11 SB: People forget that the United States’ economy far outshone the Soviet economy even when the Soviet economy was at its best.

1:00:19 JB: Yeah, I’ve heard figures like five times.

1:00:21 SB: Five times. And also, let’s not forget European allies such as Britain, France, West Germany, Italy, or Asian allies that developed such as Japan. The economic stack, economic power was firmly on the side of international Western-style institutions. I think in China, there is reason to be optimistic with regards to their foreign policy and the reason is they have few immediate security concerns. An invasion of mainland China is essentially impossible. They do not have the kind of concerns that, say, Russia has with security in Ukraine. They do, however, have issues of national pride, and issues of national pride can be just as devastating and can derail a good foreign policy, as obviously happened in World War I with the entangled national prides of Germany and Britain and their rivalry. I think something like that could happen in Asia over a state like…

1:01:16 WT: Like with Japan.

1:01:18 SB: Or with Japan, over a state like Taiwan, for example.

1:01:22 WT: Right. And Taiwan’s a more close example. Yeah.

1:01:25 JB: Even if China isn’t properly communist in sort of like a doctrinal sense, first, its leaders definitely say it is, whether they believe it is or actually believe it is, is another question. It’s interesting that there might be every incentive on a foreign policy level to say, “Actually, we’re more or less like Singapore, it’s authoritarian democracy. Or like capitalism, just with Chinese characteristics, as it were.”

1:01:57 JB: And so, the reason why that might not be happening, for example, is that expressed loyalty to communism might be the prerequisite for playing social games and party leadership. You can’t be seen, especially if filial piety applies to ideologies, you can’t really be seen to be disparaging communism if that’s the mechanism of advancement, for example.

1:02:25 SB: There’s a strong parallel I want to tie to some of the previous discussions on Rome and so on. If you were to denounce or try to fight Marxism within the Chinese Communist Party, you are undermining one of the pillars of Chinese legitimacy. The pillars are prosperity through this guided development from capitalism, eventually to socialism, the idea that this will eventually benefit all Chinese because we’re evolving into a socialist society and the idea that we defeated the Japanese, and therefore, we’re national liberators, both socially and nationally.

1:03:00 JB: Yeah, it might very well be the case that by adhering strongly to communism on a public-facing level, they lose foreign legitimacy, but they’re willing to make that sacrifice to maintain domestic legitimacy because a lot of the top leadership just was active during the early days of the Communist Revolution in China.

1:03:21 SB: Well, and it’s often a matter of family, as well. We should remember this is second, third generation… These are sometimes second or third-generation party officials.

1:03:29 JB: Yeah, that’s right.

1:03:30 SB: Like the term ‘Red Princeling’ has been used for someone that’s born into a high level party family.

1:03:37 WT: One point that’s important to make on the ideology of the party is it’s actually pretty difficult for an elite that’s coordinated around ideology to change that ideology. Like what are you gonna do? Go to the Party Congress and say, “Hey, actually guys, I think we should do something different. I think we should call ourselves capitalists now.” Obviously that kind of frank discussion about the core commitments of the elite are very difficult to have.

1:04:07 JB: It might just be unnecessary. Like why would you do that? Why?

1:04:10 WT: Right. So the point is, if they’re going around saying that they’re communists and their internal legitimacy is based on being communist, well, what are they gonna run? Some secret other ideology internally? They’re just going to reframe the things they wanna do within the system of communism and be shaped by that system. But I think the most important thing about the Chinese Communist Party in China or one of the most important things is, whatever their internal ideology is, they are in fact like a party. They’re a single party that, as a single party political system, they control the state. They don’t really have to have accountability, etcetera. And so they can just choose to take the thing one way or another, which is very structurally different from things in the West, and so on and just much more unitary in the party.

1:05:15 SB: I think this is significantly true. However, the People’s Liberation Army has significant elements of being a state within the state. And there are some frictions between the Chinese Communist Party and the leadership of the PLA. PLA generals are scrutinized quite severely for any sign of political ambition. This might actually be an argument in favor of a peaceful China. Here’s the argument against foreign military intervention: successful and high profile foreign military intervention elevates generals into positions of prestige and adoration across society.

1:05:50 WT: Very much would weaken the party.

1:05:52 SB: Exactly. And if you look at examples such as the Soviet Union’s treatment of its top generals, even during a dire situation like the Great Patriotic War, that is the eastern front of World War II, political considerations would often win out over the necessity of defeating Germany.

1:06:08 WT: One thing I noticed about the whole military situation in China though, is the military propaganda in China is quite good, quite powerful stuff. You look at their advertisements for joining the People’s Liberation Army, and I think the movies where they portray Chinese military operators operating in East Africa doing all kinds of heroic things, this is very much like boosting the military. And I wonder, obviously that propaganda must be in part funded by the military…

1:06:44 JB: But it certainly allowed by the party and is even perhaps encouraged.

1:06:46 WT: Yeah, and so the question is, I wonder what the party stance on that stuff is.

1:06:51 SB: I think the party is very much hoping that they can both marginalize or politically make irrelevant the rising class of the very wealthy in China, and simultaneously fragment military control and put it in the hands of party people. If you do that successfully, pro-military propaganda without personal positions of authority and power by military leadership still results in a politically stable setup. If the power is all in the hands of civilian leadership, the soldiers can be very motivated but is any individual general elevated in the propaganda? I have watched some Chinese propaganda as well, and I see bravery of the troops, I see beautiful modern technology, but I see no great figure, like a Patton or like a MacArthur. Note how those were prominently featured during World War II US propaganda, and even 1950s American propaganda.

1:07:50 WT: That’s an important point.

1:07:51 SB: Yeah. Yeah, without name, without leadership, when soldiers are given an order, who to shoot on and who not to shoot on, they’re probably gonna listen to the party, they’re not gonna listen to a general that’s not their personal hero. Note the fact that soldiers would listen to the party was possibly what saved the Chinese Communist Party in 1989.

1:08:14 WT: You mean in the Tiananmen Square incident?

1:08:17 SB: Yes, yes.

1:08:19 JB: Well, I think that’s a good place to end there, we could keep going but we’ll probably have to have Samo on again for another podcast down the road. This has been the Palladium Podcast episode nine. I encourage all our listeners to go check out Samo’s other work. You can find him online @SamoBurja on Twitter, that’s B-U-R-J-A. And he also has a personal website: And you should also check him on YouTube as well. We’ll include all of the links in the show description so you can check them out there. Samo, thanks for coming on.

1:08:54 WT: Yeah thanks, this was a lot of fun, this is great.

1:08:57 SB: Thank you. Thank you for having me on the show.

1:09:00 JB: And we’ll see you all next time.