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  • Archive for the 'International Affairs' Category

    The Rough Beast, Slouching Towards Destination Unknown

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 21st July 2014 (All posts by )

    Adrift without a map, we are, in the sea of current events. Especially after this last week, which brought us a ground war in Gaza and the shoot-down of a passenger airliner over Ukraine; both situations a little out of the depth of the past experience of Chicago community organizer, even one who spent his grade school years in Indonesia. Quite a large number of the blogs and commenters that I follow have speculated over the last couple of months – at least since last year – and have predicted disaster. They know not the day nor the hour, but they have read the various augurs according to their inclinations, suspicions and particular expertise, and gloomily speculate on the odds of various events occurring. There is something bad coming, the air is thick and heavy with signs and portents, never mind the cheery cast that the current administration and its public affairs division attempts to put on it. It’s like a makeup artist, plying the art on a six-months-dead corpse; it’s just not working.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Big Government, Civil Society, Immigration, International Affairs, Latin America, Law, North America, Politics, Terrorism, The Press, USA | 18 Comments »

    How do You Say “Iran Air 655″ in Russian? — Try “Malaysia Air Flight MH17″

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 17th July 2014 (All posts by )

    It appears that the downing of Malaysia Air flight MH17 is Russian Federation President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin’s version of Iran Air 655. The accidental downing of a civilian airliner blundering into a combat situation and got knocked down by a surface to air missile. However, instead of the Aegis Cruiser USS Vincennes (CG-49), in a Persian Gulf firefight with Iranian Revolutionary Guards small boats, we have “Russian Seperatists” equipped with Russian Federation supplied NATO Reporting name SA-11 “Gadfly” medium range surface to air missiles in the Ukraine.

    See this CBS Report:

    Malaysian Boeing 777 passenger airliner carrying 295

    See also this AP report that placed an SA-11 launcher, the likely murder instrument and know locally as “Buk,” in the area of the shoot down –

    A launcher similar to the Buk missile system was seen by Associated Press journalists near the eastern Ukrainian town of Snizhne earlier Thursday.
    .
    On Wednesday evening, a Ukrainian fighter jet was shot down by an air-to-air missile from a Russian plane, Ukrainian authorities said Thursday, adding to what Kiev says is mounting evidence that Moscow is directly supporting the separatist insurgents in eastern Ukraine. Security Council spokesman Andrei Lysenko said the pilot of the Sukhoi-25 jet hit by the air-to-air missile was forced to bail after his jet was shot down.
    .
    Pro-Russia rebels, meanwhile, claimed responsibility for strikes Wednesday on two Ukrainian Sukhoi-25 jets. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said the second jet was hit by a portable surface-to-air missile, but added the pilot was unscathed and managed to land his plane safely
    .
    Moscow denies Western charges that it is supporting the separatists or sowing unrest in its neighbor. The Russian Defense Ministry couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday about the Ukrainian jet and Russia’s foreign ministry didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.

    The Debris field is seven miles (11.2 KM) long, consistant with a airliner at 33,000 feet being destroyed by a medium range radar guided surface to air missile (SAM).

    The West dropped a new round of sanctions on “Czar Putin De Santa Anna” (in honor of Putin’s continuing destruction of the Russian economy through foreign agression a’la General Lopez Santa Anna of Mexico) yesterday.

    Russian leaders acting agressive after a new round of Western economic sanctions are an old Cold War theme that Putin loves to indulges in. That is what makes a “USS Vincennes scenario” type shoot down the most likely cause of this disaster…and it also helps that CNN’s Barbara Starr is reporting that the Pentagon believes Russian side also fired a Buk type missile that took out separate Ukrainian cargo plane on Monday.

    It appears things are going to be getting much worse in the Ukraine.

    Posted in Europe, History, International Affairs, Military Affairs, Russia | 17 Comments »

    American Spartan

    Posted by Zenpundit on 15th July 2014 (All posts by )

    Cross-posted from Zenpundit.com

    ]

    American Spartan: The Promise, the Mission, and the Betrayal of Special Forces Major Jim Gant by Ann Scott Tyson 

    When I first posted that I had received a review copy of American Spartan from Callieit stirred a vigorous debate in the comments section and also a flurry of email offline to me from various parties. Joseph Collins reviewed American Spartan for War on the Rocks , Don Vandergriff posted his review at LESC blog , Blackfive had theirs here,and there was an incisive one in the MSM by former Assistant Secretary of Defense and author Bing West, all of which stirred opinions in the various online forums to which I belong. Then there was the ABC Nightline special which featured Tyson and Gant as well as an appearance by former CIA Director, CENTCOM, Iraq and Afghanistan commander General David Petraeus:

    Major Gant was also a topic here at ZP years ago when he released his widely read and sometimes fiercely debated paper “One Tribe at a Time“, at Steven Pressfield’s site, which launched all of the events chronicled by Tyson in American Spartan.  To be candid, at the time and still today, I remain sympathetic to strategies that enlist “loyalist paramilitaries” to combat insurgencies and other adversarial irregular forces. It should only be done with eyes wide open as to the potential drawbacks (numerous) and it won’t always work but the militia option works often enough historically that it should be carefully considered. With that background in mind, on to the book.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Biography, Book Notes, International Affairs, Islam, Military Affairs, National Security, Terrorism, USA, War and Peace | 4 Comments »

    Iron Dome: Winning Asymmetric Warfare Through Superior Cost Accounting

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 14th July 2014 (All posts by )

    Ted Postol, the MIT physicist, media talking head, and so-called ‘missile-defense expert’ is again putting in another Face Palm worthy political performance in analyzing technical capabilities of the Israeli Iron Dome anti-artillery rocket system at the link.

    See:
    http://www.technologyreview.com/news/528916/israeli-rocket-defense-system-is-failing-at-crucial-task-expert-analysts-say/

    There are numerous practical political reasons that show Postol’s reasoning today with Iron Dome, as it was with the with the Patriot ABM in 1991, is an exercise in political “Magical Thinking.”

    Iron Dome ABM system diagram

    Iron Dome ABM system diagram complete with “Shoot to Kill” Border Fence

    First, missile defense contributes to deterrence — even North Korea’s slightly less than “Hamas-level suicidal sociopaths” have to consider the possibility that South Korea Patriots or Standard-3s (Via the US Navy’s Aegis ships) will stop a surprise missile attack gambit.

    Second, missile defense provides a degree of political strategic confidence — governments have an option other than quick counter-strike or pre-emptive strike.

    Last, on the political level, Iron Dome today (like Patriot in 1991) buys Israeli leadership the gift of time in war, the breathing space to act from Nation-State interest in the classic Westphalian sense, rather than be driven by media pressure and constituent tribal cries of revenge for lost loved ones _Right Now_.

    However, the by far more important reasons why Postol and those relying upon him are wrong were actually laid out in 2011 by Alternatewars.com guru, and fellow “History Friday” column researcher, Ryan Crierie in terms of the actuarial cost of injuries and death in a Western Society. This cost account reasoning shows just how badly opponents of missile defense are buried in the unreality of magical thinking political cant over the realities of war on the ground.

    In a very real sense, Iron Dome is Asymmetric Warfare by a technologically advanced society on an irrational/suicidal opponent that has converted suicide terrorism into a affordable war of attrition that trades suicidal robots — Iron Dome’s Tamir interceptor missiles plus traditional guided missiles from Jets or unmanned drones — for sucidal Hamas rocket crews and the civilian “human shield” infrastructure that hides them at a cost-trade off beneficial to the advanced western economy supported Westphalian Nation-State.

    Dividing by zero in war — zero Israeli deaths and very few rocket injuries for huge Palestinian losses — is just as impossible to do in reality as it is in mathmatics.

    See this link:
    http://www.alternatewars.com/BBOW/ABM/ABM_Economics.htm

    Or simply read the text clipped below to understand why I think Israel has “Flipped the Script” of the “Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism” on its head. —

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Human Behavior, International Affairs, Israel, Middle East, Military Affairs | 19 Comments »

    Is Israel winning the Global War on Terror for us ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 12th July 2014 (All posts by )

    Hamas has attacked Israel, first with the kidnapping of three teenagers, now with rockets aimed, for example, at Tel Aviv and its airport.

    GAZA: Islamist Hamas’ armed wing has warned airlines that it intends to target Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport with its rockets from Gaza and has told them not to fly there, a statement by the group said Friday.

    So far, Israel’s Iron Dome antimissile system has been successful in intercepting those that are a risk to populated places.

    Israel’s astonishingly effective Iron Dome air defense has prevented Hamas from killing Israeli Jews and spreading terror in the civilian population. Ironically, though, the better Iron Dome works, the less sympathy the rest of the world has for a nation that remains under rocket attack.

    That sentiment is to be expected as even the Presbyterian Church is anti-Israel.

    David Goldman, who has been writing as “Spengler” for years, reports on the situation in Israel.

    the thumbnail version is that Hamas is making a demonstration out of weakness. Money is tight, 44,000 Gaza civil servants haven’t been paid for weeks, and the IDF did significant damage to its infrastructure on the West Bank after the kidnapping-murder of the three yeshiva boys. Netanyahu will look indecisive and confused, because he has to deal with an openly hostile U.S. administration on one side and his nationalist camp on the other. Time, though, is on Israel’s side: economically, demographically, strategically. The proportion of Jewish births continues to soar. The fruits of a decade of venture capital investing are ripening into high-valuation companies. And the Arab world is disintegrating all around Israel’s borders.

    Israel has been in mortal danger for 50 years. They have survived and thrived. The Arab countries are collapsing into chaos. Iran is still a threat but its demographic future is grim.

    There will be no Intifada on the West Bank: the Palestinian Arabs are older, more resigned and less inclined to destroy their livelihoods than in 2000. Syria and Iraq continue to disintegrate, Lebanon is inundated with Syrian Sunni refugees (weakening Hezbollah’s relative position), and Jordan is looking to Israel to protect it against ISIS. Egypt is busy trying to survive economically.

    Israel is becoming a huge economic success under Netanyahu. Just think of our future had we elected his friend, Mitt Romney.

    Obama promised a “pivot to Asia” but Israel may in fact be the one doing the pivot, leaving us in the dreary Socialist past.

    Richard Fernandez notes that in the view of the world press and elites being rich makes you “white.” Everybody knows that white people, even if they are Asian like John Derbyshire’s Eurasian children, are the root of all evil.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in China, Current Events, International Affairs, Iran, Israel, Middle East, Obama, Terrorism, War and Peace | 38 Comments »

    TWANLOC

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 6th July 2014 (All posts by )

    The inestimably acute and prolific blog-commenter Subotai Bahadur coined that acronym and has propagated it across the conservative-libertarian corner of the blogosphere ever since. It has achieved the status of an entry on Acronym Finder, for whatever that is worth. It is shorthand for “those who are no longer our countrymen” – itself an abbreviation for a slashing denunciation of those American colonists who were in sympathy with the wishes of Great Britain by Samuel Adams on American independence, delivered in a fiery stem-winder of a speech at the Philadelphia Statehouse in August of 1776 –

    “If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, Conservatism, Deep Thoughts, Immigration, International Affairs, Leftism, Media, Tea Party | 19 Comments »

    A Summer Day in Bosnia-Herzegovina 100 Years Ago

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 29th June 2014 (All posts by )

    This weekend marks the hundredth anniversary of the incident which was the spark that set off the cataclysm of the First World War. Which wasn’t, strictly speaking, the first world-wide war; it could be argued that the Napoleonic Wars were, and the interminable European war between France and England which spilled over into those colonies in the North American continent could also be considered a world war.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Deep Thoughts, Diversions, Germany, History, International Affairs | 13 Comments »

    The Great Iraqi Bug Out and the Death of “LOGCAP”

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 17th June 2014 (All posts by )

    This article from the McClatchy papers makes clear that the collapse of the Shia dominated Iraqi Army was arranged. See: “Iraqi soldier who fought with Americans says decision to flee left him feeling ashamed” By Hannah Allam and Mohammed al Dulaimy.

    While this explains a great deal why the American intelligence community was blindsided by the collapse, it leaves a huge strategic level issue for the Obama Administration. Will they protect American hired private military corporation personnel from torture-murder by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Forces? The failure to do so would be a huge strategic blunder that would cripple American conventional force projection for literally decades.

    Why this is requires explaining “LOGCAP.”

    LOGCAP Explained
    LOGCAP or “Logistics Civil Augmentation Program” was established in 1985 primarily to pre-plan for contingencies and to “leverage existing civilian resources.” It was not really used in a large way until the 1st Gulf War of 1990-1991, to take advantage of the Saudi and Gulf States civil economies to replace uniformed American logistical support. This was as much a political move by the Pres. George H.W. Bush Administration to manage American anti-war, and primarily Democratic anti-war, opposition to retaking Kuwait as it was a logistical exercise. (Hold that thought!)

    LOGCAP was later expanded by the Clinton Administration to cover “operations other than war” in places like Somalia, Southwest Asia, Haiti, the Balkans, and East Timor. This allowed the Clinton Administration to exercise a muscular and multi-lateral foreign policy with the minimum of senior uniformed military opposition. Opposition which balked at “operations other than war” as the American Senior military leadership’s version of the “Vietnam War syndrome,” as the US Army’s deployments during the Kosovo war made clear.

    This Clinton Administration “work around” approach to American military “Flag Rank” opposition was hugely apparent with the Croat “Operation Storm” in Bosnia, where “Military Professional Resources Incorporated” acted as an American military surrogate to plan the Croat Offensive that broke Serbian power in Bosnia.

    Effectively “Private Military Corporation” contractor support has been the keystone of American military power projection since the 2nd Clinton Administration. This fact has been documented in a lot of places. See this July 2000 article from US Army Logistician Magazine — Contingency Contracting in East Timor — or this more recent Defense Industry Daily article that speaks to the most recent LOCGCAP 4 contract — LOGCAP 4: Billions of Dollars Awarded for Army Logistics Support.

    LOGCAP after 9/11/2001
    The two Pres. George W. Bush Administrations further expanded the use of LOGCAP after 9-11-2001, not only to manage public opposition to the “War on Terror” but also as a “Fight the War on the Cheap” exercise because your average logistics/garrison specialist first class (SFC) with government income, free medical care, education benefits, and housing allowances for three dependents earn earns arguably 125-150K in “benefits.” A DynCorp or KBR contractor costs the US government up to twice what a SFC costs in terms of annual income, but it is a known, predictable, fixed cost incurred and gone; whereas the Federal government will pay for the SFC and his dependents for another 20+ years in terms of benefits obligated by service.

    This was in fact one of the reasons Democrats in Congress hated private military corporations doing uniformed military work in the War on Terror. Their extensive use in the 1st Gulf War plus the on-going operations in Iraq and Afghanistan hugely reduced the long term opportunity for graft and corruption via the Congressional administration of uniformed veterans education and medical benefits.

    LOGCAP as a Foreign Policy Disaster
    LOGCAP in Iraq and Afghanistan is only part of the private military corporation portfolio. The DEA uses a number of private military corporations in the Drug wars in Latin America for aerial electronic surveillance and training of local security forces. The American government also uses a number of private military corporations to furnish spares for things like the ATK built AC208B light gunship in Iraq.

    The torture-murder of any of those Iraq private military contractors will utterly cripple current American foreign policy as implemented since the late 1990’s by the Defense Department regional commanders.

    The lack of trust such a mass abandonment of private military contractors by the Obama Administration — a lack of trust that is already bad since the abandonment of both the American Ambassador and his private military contractor bodyguards at Benghazi, Libya — will result in demands for far more money up front in the form of letters of credit in foreign banks not under US Government control to pay for both private pre-paid “go to hell plan” preparations and death benefits.

    That sort of change will increase private military corporation contractor support costs to such a degree that it will require uniformed US military in much larger numbers to replace private military corporations. The functional impact will be the reducing of American military type “hard power” projection world-wide for decades…and increase the amount of graft flowing through Democratic interest groups if the security threat warrants the use of a lot of uniformed military to address an existential foreign threat.

    Isn’t it funny how things work out like that with the Obama Administration?

    Posted in Current Events, International Affairs, Iraq, Middle East, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, Uncategorized, USA, War and Peace | 19 Comments »

    Saigon in Baghdad — Iraq’s Corruption-Based Collapse

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 13th June 2014 (All posts by )

    While the media has made much of both the Iraqi government’s request for air strikes on the Al Qaeda aligned fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and the Obama Administration’s refusal to do so, few people have bothered to look at what airpower was available to the Shia dominated government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. In fact, the Iraqi Air Force has had light gunships based on the Cessna C208 Caravan capable of firing Hellfire missiles since 2011 that should have been fully capable of dealing with the ISIS “technicals” — armed light trucks — seen in many photos recently.

    Iraqi AC-208B Fires Hellfire

    This is an Iraqi ATK AC208B Cessna “Combat Caravan” Light Gunship with laser guided Hellfire missiles.

    See this link and text:

    http://www.defenseworld.net/news/3837/ATK_delivers_3rd_AC_208__Combat_Caravan__Aircraft_to_Iraqi_Air_Force

    Alliant Techsystems has announced delivery of a third AC-208B “Combat Caravan” aircraft to the Iraq Training and Advisory Mission in Kirkuk, Iraq. To date, ATK has delivered 11 modified C-208 aircraft in support of U.S. Government contracts for rebuilding the Iraqi Air Force: three reconnaissance aircraft, five trainer aircraft and three AC-208B aircraft. The AC-208B Combat Caravan aircraft is a specially modified Cessna Grand Caravan that incorporates an electro-optical targeting system with integrated laser designator, Hellfire laser guided missiles, an air-to-ground and air-to-air data link and aircraft self-protection equipment.

    See also this link and ATK press release photos:

    http://defensetech.org/2011/10/26/atks-ac-208-combat-caravan-gunship/

    The AC208B “Combat Caravan” light gunship in ATK Press Release Photos.

    Whether the current Iraqi government there has any left in operable condition is a very different question. I very strongly suspect that most of the 30,000 Iraqi Army troops that deserted in the face of the ISIS attack had not been paid in months, with most of their weapons, radios and vehicles either being sold or deadlined from issues of corruption.

    What we are seeing with the Iraqi government is a collapse from corruption. If the CIA had any capable human agents on the ground outside the Green Zone — ones that were paid attention too — none of that would have been a surprise to the Obama Administration.

    Now we have “Saigon in Baghdad,” with a President that has all the bad features of the Nixon Administration and is isolationist to boot.

    Posted in Current Events, International Affairs, Iraq, National Security, War and Peace | 7 Comments »

    A Compendium of Useful Reminders to be Consulted in Moments of Confusion

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 1st June 2014 (All posts by )

    Judging by what I see communicated by many of my longtime friends, there are a whole lot of confused people out there these days. Here is a helpful list for them:

    1. Only a small minority of projects, even in relatively successful organizations in highly competitive industries, deliver their promised scope, on time, within budget. A large majority are drastically scaled back, incur huge cost overruns, deliver years later than intended, or are canceled outright. Anything nefarious either fails or is publicized by whistle-blowers or investigators. There are no secret, vast criminal enterprises pulling the wool over the eyes of the populace, and the best-known entities in society, both public and private, can be astonishingly inept.
    2. Large publicly-funded initiatives, other than those intimately connected to the physical survival of the societies in which they are undertaken, are quite likely to be mainly for show, irrespective of their supposedly spectacular significance. The current American example is the ACA, which has not resulted (and almost certainly will not result) in either greater insurance coverage or lower costs, is notoriously not a fully government-operated, “single-payer” system, and has no pathway to lead to one. None of this matters; indeed, many of its provisions, if they ever go into effect, will do so only after the current Administration has departed from the scene. All that matters is that its perpetrators get to claim to have passed “historic” legislation ostensibly providing “universal” health care. For an example from an earlier generation, see the Space Shuttle, which was supposed to fly 50-60 times per year at $5.5 million per launch. The actual flight rate hovered around a tenth of what was promised, and each launch cost nearly a hundred times the original projection. Hilariously, President Obama is now being criticized for ending this, even though it was collapsing from its own weight and consisted mainly of workfare jobs in Republican congressional districts.
    3. Notwithstanding phenomena like the above, the United States is probably the most successful large-population country in the world due to its sheer realism, in particular the relative openness and process orientation of English common law, which (to quote myself) “rather than construct elegant theories and then shoehorn (or bludgeon) societies into an unchanging mold,” exhibits “a willingness to work with the world and human nature as it is.”
    4. Even ignoring the fantastic technological advances, quality of life in the US has improved immensely in the past two decades. Social pathologies have plummeted. The rates of some categories of crime are down 90%, to all-time recorded lows. There are now fewer abortions per capita than at the time of Roe v Wade. Probably three-quarters of Americans live in neighborhoods where violent crime is effectively nonexistent. And the worst labor market in 80 years has done nothing to reverse these trends.
    5. Large-scale, institutionalized technologies range from the very safe (electric-power generation [including nuclear] and transmission) to the so-safe-there-is-no-instance-of-recorded-harm (agricultural genetic engineering). The problem is that in much of the real (that is, Third) world, they are insufficiently available to provide the thoughtless, comfortable existence that pervades most of the West. Living “off the grid” / following a soi–disant “natural” lifestyle is a plaything of rich people who can slink away into town whenever they get tired of hewing wood and drawing water. Especially water with enterotoxigenic E. coli in it.
    6. Pharmaceutical companies are not trying to kill you, nor to provoke health crises to sell new drugs. They may in some instances be trying to convince you that your life depends on continuing to purchase their products, whether it actually does or not. Then again, so is the “health food” store down the street, and in all likelihood, what it’s pushing is far more dangerous.
    7. All religions are not equal. The general heuristic is to judge them by their effects, or at least by their efforts. Those prescribing global expansion through conquest and coercive displacement, and those (especially if they don’t refer to themselves as religions) prescribing the extermination of followers of other religions, are particularly problematic.
    8. Any conspiracy theory that mentions the Mossad, Rothschilds, etc, is every bit as viciously anti-Semitic as Mein Kampf and should be treated as such. Anyone expressing admiration for Marxist notions and personages is no better. Conspiracy theories involving the CIA quaintly ignore the NSA (which is ~6x larger) and, in any case, descend from Stalinist and Maoist propaganda during the early Cold War and the Korean War. Facile anger about the NSA, however, ignores its well-publicized activities with the analog wireline telecommunications of 30-40 years ago, as amply documented in Bamford’s The Puzzle Palace. The phenomena of Wikileaks and Snowden’s massive data theft are an existence proof that such activities can neither be kept secret nor have much influence on real-world events; as someone who read through the supposedly devastating Wikileaks cables remarked, “[American diplomats] sound like Canadians with better access.”
    9. No amount of “smart diplomacy” or supposed avoidance of provocation will protect a country from attack. Only a convincing ability to make an attack more trouble than it could possibly be worth can do that, and even such an ability may be insufficient to deter non-state actors and small groups. In combination with steadily declining costs of dual-use technologies, a more-or-less freelance WMD attack somewhere in the world seems inevitable. When it occurs, the greatest hazards to the immediate survivors will be 1) official overreaction, as by ordering the evacuation of a far larger area than was actually affected and 2) popular derangement, which in the worst-case scenario may create a conspiracy theory popular enough to put an extremist political movement in power, even in a large, democratic nation.

    Commenters are encouraged to provide additional examples and corollaries.

    Posted in Anglosphere, Anti-Americanism, Civil Society, Current Events, Energy & Power Generation, Health Care, History, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Management, Military Affairs, National Security, Organizational Analysis, Predictions, Religion, Society, Terrorism, USA, War and Peace | 17 Comments »

    How To Think About Catastrophe

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 4th May 2014 (All posts by )

    Many thanks to the commenters on my review. I won’t be agreeing with all of you, but I value your input for increasing my understanding of what others think. I have some related ideas on how to think about the issues raised specifically by Lightning Fall and generally by “preppers” and, indeed, anyone anticipating a societally disruptive crisis in the near future.

    NB: this is an essay in the original sense of “attempt.” It is unlikely to fully represent my thinking on these issues even a few years hence; and whether you agree with me or not, I encourage you to think these things through based on your own abilities and experience, and then act as your specific situation appears to require. Hayekian distributed local knowledge may save us. Central planning, as I hardly need admonish this audience, will not, and therefore any attempt by me to impose a uniform mental framework should (and undoubtedly will) be firmly rejected.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Civil Society, Current Events, History, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Markets and Trading, National Security, Predictions, Society, Systems Analysis, Terrorism, Tradeoffs, Urban Issues, USA, War and Peace | 8 Comments »

    2008 statement on NATO expansion from then Senator Clinton:

    Posted by onparkstreet on 30th April 2014 (All posts by )

    I enthusiastically welcome the January 11 letter from Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko, and Verkhovna Rada Chairman Arsenii Yatsenyuk to NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, which outlines Ukraine’s desire for a closer relationship with NATO, including a Membership Action Plan. Like Ukraine’s leaders, I hope that important steps toward reaching these goals will be made at the NATO summit in Bucharest in early April. I applaud the fact that Ukraine aspires to anchor itself firmly in the trans-Atlantic community through membership in NATO and look forward to working with Ukrainians and Ukrainian-Americans to reach that goal.
     
    Since the earliest days of Ukrainian independence, the strategy of the United States has always been to respect and support the Ukrainian people’s democratic choices in shaping their future. Ukraine has been and remains an extremely important partner for the United States, and I take great pride in Ukraine’s contributions to our common goal of building a Europe that is whole and free, peaceful and prosperous.
     
    When I traveled to Ukraine in 1997, I visited a memorial to the victims of Communist repression in Lviv, and made a commitment to the Ukrainian people on behalf of the United States: “In your fight for freedom, your fight for democracy, the American people will stand with you.” In recalling that commitment more than ten years later I applaud the immense contributions that Ukrainian-Americans have made to our country and the indispensable role they have played in broadening and deepening the bonds between the United States and Ukraine. I have been greatly impressed by the courage of the Ukrainian people as they emerged from decades of Soviet oppression and as they have experienced both victories and struggles on the path to democracy and freedom.
     
    I have worked for more than 15 years to strengthen the U.S.-Ukraine relationship and help improve the lives of Ukrainians. Even before my first visit to Kyiv in 1995, I supported health care programs for Ukraine, including partnerships between hospitals in the United States and Ukraine and airlifts of critical pharmaceuticals and other medical supplies. After hearing pleas from Ukrainian women in 1997 to help combat human trafficking, which had become a growing problem in Ukraine, I helped initiate an international effort to combat trafficking, including several programs specifically to help Ukraine. In 1996, I organized a 10th anniversary White House commemoration of the Chornobyl disaster and, as honorary chair of Chornobyl Challenge ’96, committed to continuing support for humanitarian efforts on behalf of those who suffer severe health consequences from the tragedy. I was honored to receive the Children of Chornobyl’s Relief Fund Lifetime Humanitarian Achievement Award in 1999 for my work in helping to improve the health of women and children in Ukraine. As Senator I traveled to Ukraine in 2005 and met with President Yushchenko and offered the U.S. government’s support for reform efforts to strengthen Ukraine’s democracy.
     
    The United States has always favored the closest possible ties between NATO and Ukraine, including the creation of the NATO-Ukraine Council. We have always insisted on an open door policy for European democracies that want to join the Alliance. The enlargement of NATO is not directed against any state; NATO does not see any nation as its enemy. I pledge to support Ukraine’s efforts to meet the criteria for MAP and eventual membership. The United States should actively encourage our NATO Allies to deepen their own ties with Ukraine, a country that has broken with an authoritarian past and pursues good relations with all its neighbors. Ukraine deserves a chance to pursue its aspirations for a wider role in the Euro-Atlantic community. In the same spirit, I call on the Bush Administration to give Ukraine all the support it needs to complete its accession to the World Trade Organization.
     
    As President, I will ensure that the United States does everything necessary to help Ukraine realize these important and achievable goals.

    – Hillary Clinton

    Statement from Senator Hillary Clinton on Ukrainian Membership in NATO
    January 28, 2008 (From The American Presidency Project)

    Posted in Americas, International Affairs | 15 Comments »

    NATO expansion and ’90s era analysis

    Posted by onparkstreet on 23rd April 2014 (All posts by )

    I found the following on NATO expansion at Fas.org:

    Russia is the main opponent to this expansion, because it interprets this as an increasing military presence on its borders. There is also a concern over old territorial claims to parts of Russia’s new neighbors that Moscow may try to pursue subsequently. For example, one vague scenario is of Russian intervention in the Eastern Ukraine to “protect the lives and property of Russian citizens”. Despite this, there has been a detectable thaw in Moscow’s opposition to NATO expansion as its leadership recognizes that the alliance no longer poses a threat to Russia, and this should be a manageable concern. For example, Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov recently stated the following: “I have become convinced NATO is not a threat to Russia, but I have millions to convince in Russia who are still worried that it is a threat.”(2)

    United States Marine Corps
    Command and Staff College
    Marine Corps University
    2076 South Street
    Marine Corps Combat Development Command
    Quantico, Virginia 22134-5068
    MASTER OF MILITARY STUDIES
    SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
    OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR
    THE DEGREE OF
    MASTER OF MILITARY STUDIES
    Author:
    Captain Gyula Bene, Hungarian Army
    AY: 1996-97

    If NATO expansion had occurred in a different way, one without the stripping of the Russian economy, aggressive democracy promotion as regime change, Iraq and Libya and a “global” NATO diluting its capabilities, what then?

    Update: Great comments by all. In case it wasn’t clear from my series of posts, I agree with commenter dearieme: “But what would be the point of expanding NATO? It’s job was done. Declare victory and dissolve it: replace it by some low-key organisation that doesn’t worry the bear. And, above all, don’t, don’t, don’t interfere in places like Georgia.” In this post I was trying to point out that even if one thought NATO necessary, the nature of its expansion hollowed it out. But I think the US has to start thinking in a very different way about our security. We are not well-served by our foreign policy elite.

    Posted in International Affairs | 14 Comments »

    Letter to the Editor from 2008 (Monday, May 12, The Washington Post)

    Posted by onparkstreet on 21st April 2014 (All posts by )


    I didn’t find Robert Kagan persuasive when he said that what Vladimir Putin, now Russian’s prime minister, has to fear from NATO expansion into Ukraine and Georgia is only democracy, not a military threat ["Ideology's Rude Return," op-ed, May 2]. Mr. Kagan echoed President Bush on the subject in writing, “NATO is less provocative and threatening toward Moscow today than it was in [Mikhail] Gorbachev’s time.”
     
    Both columnist and president are wrong. Mr. Putin sees the world around his immediate frontiers in a strategic sense of military options. NATO forces are in his face from Murmansk to the Baltic states, Romania and Turkey. Kyrgyzstan, while not in NATO, is certainly an American client with its large U.S. military airfield and staging area at Manas, near the capital. Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan have pledged to the U.S. various forms of direct military cooperation.
     
    Think about Mr. Putin’s reduced military options in backing up Russian policy if Ukraine and Georgia join NATO. Mr. Putin could not be clearer on this point: Russia will not tolerate further NATO expansion eastward. He has stated that to any media outlet that will listen. He has shown his seriousness on this point with stepped-up Cold War-style flights by his Tu-95 Bear bombers over our ships at sea and near Alaska and Great Britain.
     
    We risk a major confrontation by disregarding Mr. Putin’s “red line” on this subject.

    – Jack Broadbent

    I’ve been digging through Congressional testimony, op-eds, letters to the editors and so on from the ’90s to the present. The number of warnings is amazing. Everyone from Phyllis Schafly to the late Senator Wellstone.

    Note, recognizing the complicated multifactorial nature of the current Ukraine crisis is not the same as being an apologist. We have a form of unconventional warfare being practiced on the Ukraine by Russia; and we have a complicated form of political warfare being practiced in the Ukraine by the US, UK, EU and so on. The whole-of-it matters for understanding.

    Posted in International Affairs, Russia | 3 Comments »

    “Lightning Fall” – Review

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 20th April 2014 (All posts by )

    While this will not be a uniformly positive review, I must immediately note that the purely literary quality of Bill Quick’s Lightning Fall (subtitled either “A Novel of Destruction” or “A Novel of Disaster,” depending on whether one is looking at the spine or the cover of the paperback edition) ranks it alongside Pat Frank’s Alas, Babylon and comes within metaphorical striking distance of Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s Lucifer’s Hammer. It is a classic page-turner and a serious threat to a good night’s sleep; I began reading it after awakening shortly before 3:00 AM one morning, expecting to drift off in a few minutes, and eventually noticed that I was somewhere around page 250 and the time was after 6:00 AM. This sort of thing has not happened to me more than a handful of times in a half-century of reading, and I read a lot.

    Other reviews have included – well, not exactly spoilers, but more specifics about the events in the novel than I intend to provide here. I will mention three things that I think it useful for prospective readers to know, and then use the general thrust of the novel as a springboard for extended commentary of my own.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Civil Society, Human Behavior, International Affairs, National Security, Predictions, Society, Systems Analysis, Terrorism, USA, War and Peace | 16 Comments »

    On the academic subject of Democracies, Diasporas and nation building attempts via international elite institutions and connections:

    Posted by onparkstreet on 10th April 2014 (All posts by )

    Again, in a hurry so a bunch of comments I posted on Small Wars Journal blog. Various wealthy Ukranian businessmen have deep connections with the democracy promotion foreign relations bureaucracy and leadership. I have also found a whole set of academic literature on the nature of the eastern European immigrant vote and its supposed importance in swing states. An interesting area of scholarship.

    Mr. Pinchuk, 53, is one of Ukraine’s only oligarchs to have deep ties to Washington. Many of the country’s richest businessmen are suspected of having links to organized crime and do not have visas to the United States, much less a relationship with a former and potentially future American president.
     
    Still, Mr. Pinchuk’s image is not without blemish: His father-in-law is Leonid Kuchma, who was president of Ukraine from 1994 to 2005 and led a government criticized for corruption, nepotism and the murder of dissident journalists. As president, Mr. Kuchma privatized a huge state steel factory and sold it to Mr. Pinchuk’s consortium for about $800 million, which competitors said was a laughably low price.
     
    Since 2006, Mr. Pinchuk has donated roughly $13.1 million to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation. Mr. Clinton attends Mr. Pinchuk’s annual conferences in the resort city of Yalta, Ukraine, and Mr. Pinchuk attended the former president’s 65th birthday party in Los Angeles.
     
    He was first introduced to Mr. Clinton in 2004 by Mr. Schoen, a New York-based pollster who has advised both Clintons. Mr. Pinchuk immediately began building a friendship with the former president and enthusiastically donating to Mr. Clinton’s causes, including an H.I.V. program that was later expanded into Ukraine.

    Trade Dispute Centers on Ukrainian Executive With Ties to Clintons

    So how and where do we start? Successfully linking military engagements within diplomatic realms means less books by George Patton and more by Henry Kissinger. Currently, you won’t find too many Kissinger books in military curricula. Conversely, you’ll find fewer books on special operations in diplomatic circles. A new operational art will require closing the cognitive gap between engagements and strategy within military and diplomatic practice and culture. This doesn’t require resources. It simply requires will.

    Peace, Art and … Special Operations by Brian S. Petit

    If one were to take unconventional warfare doctrine and look at in two ways (Russian toward Ukraine, and the US/EU toward Ukraine), what would one find and how could various narratives be developed, regardless of whether you support one or the other?

    The military doesn’t control policy but I am intrigued by the “First, Do Harm” attitudes of our foreign policy and how it affects military activity. It’s the strangest thing. It’s also strangely destabilizing and dangerous business and it seems our Western and American traditional bureaucracies are making a messy, multipolar situation worse, IMO. The creation of chaos and disorder in reality; nation building and stability on paper. Very Council on Foreign Relations.

    This “test of the West” must be met with “political and economic sanctions” if Russia proceeds in annexing Crimea, Mr. Durbin said. But he did not elaborate and did not hint at support for any U.S. military action.
     
    The trip is set to last just two days. Mr. Durbin is scheduled to be back in town by March 16, when he is set to meet with — who else? — local Ukrainian community leaders (and voters) here.
     
    It’s worth noting that Mr. Durbin has been a longtime backer of democracy movements in Ukraine and visited there in 2012. He also is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and serves on its Subcommittee on European Affairs.

    Dick Durbin heads to Ukraine

    Now, do the same for various constituencies in Russia and European countries, the UK, etc.

    What now is the context within which you would consider some of the military-centric discussion taking place? How well does a focus only on American capabilites reflect reality?

    Great power competition via proxy. If you keep meddling, you may provoke a response you don’t want. And the meddling is by ALL parties. All parties:

    There’s Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who seems to be on every other panel over the two-day event, and is accompanied by a youthful looking French woman, who sports thigh-high leather boots that match her (also leather) miniskirt perfectly. DSK’s date is not being paid by the hour, another conference attendee confides, she’s a high-level French TV executive.
     
    He speaks in a gentle, almost incomprehensible voice and calls upon political leaders to show some courage to reform governmental institutions. When one attendee asks which world politician might be able to do that, DSK looks around the room and shrugs his shoulders. It’s not attainable, he admits, but it doesn’t stop him from repeating that tired line and others.
     
    “Globalization is a war,” says the man who would now be president of France, if not for allegations that he attempted to rape a New York City hotel maid. “A new kind of war. One that very few parties, especially in the EU, are prepared to fight.” He’s a man of many deep thoughts.
     
    There’s also Gen. David Petraeus, the war hero and former CIA director, who tells me to bug off when I ask for an interview, and at a more gentle moment admits that he’s suffering from a hamstring injury that’s keeping him from running his morning miles. He, too, is hoping to say nothing worthy of being quoted. And he succeeds.
     
    Larry Summers is here, too, in his first public appearance since withdrawing from being considered by President Barack Obama to be the next chairman of the Federal Reserve. I move in to ask about his withdrawal—was he pushed out by Obama, or did he willingly remove himself from consideration for a job he badly wanted? “I said no,” he screams at the reporter beside me who beats me to the Fed question. “I said no. I said no. I said no. No.”

    Another Yalta Conference

    Posted in International Affairs, War and Peace | 12 Comments »

    What Reset?

    Posted by onparkstreet on 3rd April 2014 (All posts by )

    I’m in a bit of a hurry so I will post two comments here that I posted at Small Wars Journal. As time permits, I will add various links. The point is to start a discussion and analysis. I no longer consider myself as a member of one or the other party and don’t wish to discuss the partisan angle except in an outsider “analyst” way.

    I often talk about democracy and diasporas in the comments section and Small Wars Journal has more than one article on the subject.
     
    In this case, one interesting domestic factor to consider is the way in which NATO expansion has been presented to domestic constituencies such as Polish Americans from the 90s onwards. Some live in states like Illinois and Ohio and are swing voters in key areas. As Sec. State, Hillary Clinton spoke of the future of NATO as one of expansion and she did it in Chicago which has large Eastern European diasporan communities. The choice of venue and the talks given definitely fall into the nature of what some constituencies–immigrant and otherwise–have long been working toward. Couple this with Robert Kagan as a part her then Foreign Policy Council (I believe it was called this) and you have an example of an intellectual community embedding itself within institutions; in this case, the State Department.
     
    This is what I meant in another comment. Power, ideology, immigrant diasporas, political blocs–these matter because events have a multifactorial basis. Faceless Bureaucrat at Kings of War has a brilliant post on multifactorality. There is a lot of propaganda out there from ALL sides. Fascinating.
     
    And not a little scary given how things got in Kosovo when various militaries came up against each other.

    Is Robert Spalding a Military Fellow at Council on Foreign Relations? There is confusion in this piece, IMO, between offense and defense and in using correct examples.
     
    NATO was about Western Europe. Ukraine is not Germany. And nuclear weapons change things so that the other examples seem a bit odd to me.
     
    But what I really wanted to say is that the Council on Foreign Relations seems to have this long time confusion between NATO as a defensive military alliance and the EU as a long term project to create a zone of peaceful activity and a collective or community.
     
    The Ukraine as part of a US defense security perimeter within NATO confuses the various missions and mixes up defense with offense and democratization and markets with the nature of security perimeters and where the lines are drawn. Too close, and it is permanently unstable.
     
    An example is a 1950′s book from Ben Tillman Moore, I believe, on the future of NATO. He speaks of a creating a community and this mixed-up nature of thought continues to the conversation today. I believe some of the California universities have this book on file in an open source format that can be accessed via internet.

    I think that from the right–or hawk angle– this issue has been “outflanked” by the former Secretary of State should she choose to run in a future Presidential election. I also believe this background to be one factor leading up to the crisis in the Ukraine today. A dangerous business given the presence of nuclear weapons.

    Posted in International Affairs | 6 Comments »

    “The Russian Strategy of Empire”

    Posted by T. Greer on 20th March 2014 (All posts by )

    Originally posted at The Scholar’s Stage on 20 March 2013.

    The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be.” – Ecclesiastes 1:9  [1]


    Over the last few weeks the sections of the blogosphere which I frequent have been filled with predictions, advice, summaries of, and idle chatter about the situation in Ukraine and Crimea.  I have refrained from commenting on these events for a fairly simple reason: I am no expert in Russian or Eastern European affairs. Any expertise that my personal experiences or formal studies allows me to claim is on the opposite side of Eurasia. Thus I am generally content to let those who, in John Schindler’s words, “actually know something” take the lead in picking apart statements from the Kiev or the Kremlin. [2] My knowledge of the peoples and regions involved is limited to broad historical strokes.

    But sometimes broad historical strokes breed their own special sort of insights.

    I have before suggested that one of the benefits of studying history is that it allows a unique opportunity to understand reality from the “Long View.” From this perspective the daily headlines do not simply record the decisions of a day, the instant reactions of one statesmen to crises caused by another, but the outcome of hundreds of choices accumulated over centuries. It allows you to rip your gaze away from the eddies swirling on the top of the water to focus on the seismic changes happening deep below.

    To keep the Long View in mind, I often stop and ask myself a simple question as I read the news:  “What will a historian say about this event in 60 years? How will it fit into the narrative that the historians of the future will share?”

    With these questions are considered contemporary events take on an entirely new significance.

    Expansion of Russia, 1533-1894.
    Credit: Wikimedia.

    As I have watched affairs in Crimea from afar, my thoughts turn to one such ‘Long View’ narrative written by historian S.C.M. Paine. In Dr. Paine’s peerless The Wars for Asia, 1911-1949 she spares a few paragraphs to explain the broad historical context in which Soviet statesmen made their decisions. She calls this traditional course of Russian statecraft the Russian “strategy for empire”:

    The Communists not only held together all of the tsarist empire but greatly expanded it in World War II. They did so in part by relying on Russia’s traditional and highly successful strategy for empire, which sought security through creeping buffer zones combined with astutely coordinated diplomacy and military operations against weak neighbors to ingest their territory at opportune moments. Russia surrounded itself with buffer zones and failing states. During the tsarist period, the former were called governor-generalships, jurisdictions under military authority for a period of initial colonization and stabilization. Such areas generally contained non-Russian populations and bordered on foreign lands.

    Russia repeatedly applied the Polish model to its neighbors. Under Catherine the Great, Russia had partitioned Poland three times in the late eighteenth century, crating a country ever less capable of administering its affairs as Russia in combination with Prussia and Austria gradually ate it alive. Great and even middling power on the borders were dangerous. So they must be divided, a fate shared by Poland, the Ottoman Empire, Persia, China, and post World War II, Germany and Korea. It is no coincidence that so many divided states border on Russia. Nor is it coincidence that so many unstable states sit on its periphery” (emphasis added). [3]


    It is difficult to read this description and not see parallels with what is happening in Ukraine now (or what happened in Georgia in 2008). Dr. Paine’s description of Russian foreign policy stretches from the 18th century to the middle of the 20th. Perhaps historians writing 60 years hence will use this same narrative–but extend it well into the 21st.

    ————————————————————


    [1] Authorized Version.
    [2] John Schindler. “Nobody Knows Anything.” XX Committee. 16 March 2014. 
    [3] S.C.M. Paine. The Wars for Asia, 1911-1949. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012), pp. 83-84.

    Posted in Book Notes, Europe, History, International Affairs, Russia | 2 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 20th March 2014 (All posts by )

    Michael Rubin in Commentary:

    What self-described realists misunderstand when they pursue their cost-benefit analysis without emotion or regard for principle is that friendship and trust have value. In one chapter of Dancing with the Devil, I explore the history of intelligence politicization. Iraq may now be the marquee example upon which many progressives seize, but intelligence politicization occurred under every president dating back at least to Lyndon Johnson, if not before (the scope of my book was just the past half-century or so). Iraq intelligence was flawed, but the world will get over it, especially since it was consistent with the intelligence gathered by almost every other country and the United Nations. The betrayal of allies, however, is a permanent wound on America’s reputation that will not be easy to overcome.

    This is a chronic problem. We were able to get away with being a fickle ally when we acted like a superpower. Our allies had no choice but to deal with us; our adversaries had to be cautious lest they provoke us. We betrayed Kurds, Iraqi Shiites and other groups without paying much of a long-term price. It was easy to be casual about our alliances. We could afford to see one-dimensional cynical calculations of national interest as realism.

    But now that we behave like just another country we are beginning to pay more of a cost for our unreliability. Our design margin, in Wretchard’s phrase, has eroded. It is increasingly difficult for us to protect our remaining interests. The Obama foreign policy is an inverse force-multiplier.

    Our geopolitical situation is going to deteriorate faster than most Americans expect.

    Posted in International Affairs, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Middle East, National Security, Quotations, Russia, War and Peace | 13 Comments »

    Putin, Crimea and Ukraine

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 5th March 2014 (All posts by )

    UPDATE #2: Investor’s Business Daily agrees about the best response to the Russian invasion of Crimea.

    The West’s best Russia policy is a bold energy policy.

    Russia’s economy is barely growing and is increasingly dependent on energy production. Oil and gas account for more than half of Russia’s federal tax revenues and about 75% of total exports. Three-fourths of natural gas shipments go to Europe. Europe is dependent on Russia, but the tables are starting to turn.

    Drill, Baby, Drill ! Plus LNG exports.

    UPDATE: Michael Totten has an update on Crimea.

    The new ruler is a former gangster whose street name was “Goblin.”

    Lawmakers were summoned, stripped of their cellphones as they entered the chamber. The Crimean media was banished. Then, behind closed doors, Crimea’s government was dismissed and a new one formed, with Sergey Akysonov, head of the Russian Unity party, installed as Crimea’s new premier.

    It if was a crime, it was just the beginning. Akysonov’s ascent to power at the point of a gun presaged all that has happened since — the announcement of a referendum on Crimean independence and the slow, methodical fanning out of Russian forces throughout the peninsula, ostensibly to protect Russians here from a threat no one can seem to find.

    But here’s the most interesting bit: Aksyonov’s sudden rise as Moscow’s crucial point man in Crimea has revived simmering allegations of an underworld past going back to the lawless 1990s, when Akysonov is said to have gone by the street name “Goblin,” a lieutenant in the Crimean crime syndicate Salem.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Europe, Germany, History, International Affairs, Military Affairs, Obama | 37 Comments »

    New Op-ed at War on the Rocks

    Posted by Zenpundit on 4th March 2014 (All posts by )

    I have a new op-ed on the Crimean crisis up at the military and national security site, War on the Rocks.

    Let’s Slow Roll Any Move Toward Crimean War II:

    One of the more curious implicit assumptions about the crisis in Ukraine is that the subsequent occupation of the Crimea by Russia represents some kind of triumph for President Vladimir Putin and a defeat for the United States. It is a weird, strategic myopia that comes from an unrealistic belief that the United States should be expected to have a granular level of political control over and responsibility for events on the entire planet. We don’t and never can but this kind of political megalomania leads first to poor analysis and then worse policies.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Europe, International Affairs, Military Affairs, Russia, USA, War and Peace | 38 Comments »

    Is Venezuela Collapsing ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 14th February 2014 (All posts by )

    UPDATE #2: The western bloc is growing while the Atlantic bloc stagnates.

    Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina are languishing in differing shades of turmoil, steadily losing ground to regional underdogs. The Pacific Alliance, an historic trade agreement between Mexico, Peru, Chile, and Colombia (and coming soon: Costa Rica), has the potential to recolor Latin America’s economic map and introduce some new regional powerhouses to the world stage.

    More here.

    Four nations are developing an initiative that could add new dynamism to Latin America, redraw the economic map of the region, and boost its connections with the rest of the world—especially Asia. It could also offer neighboring countries a pragmatic alternative to the more political groupings dominated by Brazil, Cuba, and Venezuela.

    UPDATE: More on the role Cuba is playing in Venezuela now.

    Belmont Club has a good post today on the collapse of Venezuela. The car manufacturers have announced they are closing their plants.

    Toyota Motor Co. said it would shut down its assembly operations in Venezuela due to the government’s foreign exchange controls that have crippled imports and made it impossible to bring in parts needed to build its vehicles.

    The country’s other car manufacturers, including General Motors and Ford, haven’t even started operations this year, while waiting for needed parts to arrive.

    The oil field workers left years ago when the Chavez government cut oil workers’ pay.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Civil Liberties, Cuba, International Affairs, Iran, Latin America | 20 Comments »

    Sink It

    Posted by Jonathan on 12th February 2014 (All posts by )

    A couple of Iranian navy ships are slowly making their way to the Americas. What’s going on? J. E. Dyer has a long and thoughtful post:

    That said, two things are worth reiterating. One, the U.S. does not have a constant-ready missile defense network that would protect the central and southeastern United States from an MRBM threat emanating from the south. We are unprotected on this axis. Shifting to a footing of 24/365 alert and anti-missile protection – e.g., by deploying Patriot systems in the continental U.S. or Navy Aegis ships offshore – would constitute a new, un-resourced requirement. We’d have to cut back defense operations elsewhere to meet it.
     
    Two, our ability to react against the “shooter” is limited by the forces we have ready today. We don’t have extra ships and aircraft to deploy for a deterrent presence in Central America. We could react after the fact with B-2 bombers, and possibly other conventional forms of attack, such as submarine-launched cruise missiles and ballistic missiles with conventional warheads. But we would have to attack to mount a response, in (most probably) Venezuela or Cuba, and that response would be inherently escalatory.
     
    It’s quite possible that our current administration would view that as a bridge too far. Realistically, I think the military would view the prospect with strong disfavor. Our ready forces would not have such a preponderance of power, or such advantages of geography, that we could do it easily and without inconvenience.
     
    Bottom line: MRBMs down south would constitute a material transformation of our security footing in the hemisphere. It’s a development we couldn’t live with.
     
    [...]
     
    The “red flag” in this whole saga is the concentration of verbal threats from the Iranians, at a time when they are making an unprecedented naval deployment to the Americas; they are mounting an unusual outreach with Fatah; and they are close enough to nuclearization – even by the expected route, as opposed to the speculative North Korean option – that dashing to the finish line is the only step left.
     
    The quality of some of the Iranian threats is deeply silly. But this doesn’t have the feel of random nuttiness to it. The Iranians are up to something.

    I agree with Dyer, who implies in the post (and states explicitly in a comment) that the lowest-risk course of action for us would be to sink the ship of the two that has a hold big enough to transport ballistic missiles.

    Dyer’s argument is long and well supported. You will have to read the whole thing to get the full thrust of her reasoning.

    My take on Iran continues to be that if it gets nuclear weapons, as now seems certain, it will use them. It will not necessarily use them to attack Israel or otherwise blow some place up, at least not in the near future. It will use them to gain leverage, to extort valuable concessions from its adversaries, including us. Obama’s feckless appeasement of the mullahs has whetted their appetite for aggression and confirmed that they have at least three more years of clear sailing ahead. They will press this advantage. We are not going to be able to contain them, because they will continue to look for opportunities to place us in situations where our disinclination to fight will give them victories by default. The current situation, with the two ships, appears to be the opener. We have a lot to lose. If we want to stop Iran we are going to have to confront it militarily at some point. The sooner we do this the less costly it will be.

    Posted in Americas, Cuba, Current Events, International Affairs, Iran, Israel, Military Affairs, National Security, War and Peace | 61 Comments »

    The Next World War

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 31st December 2013 (All posts by )

    Bumper-Stickers-MA-Deport-620x343

    This next summer will be 100 years since the fatal August of 1914. We live in a similar era of “history is over and everybody is happy.” See above. In August 1914, Germany’s major trading partners were Britain and France, as well as the US. There were people who believed that democracies that did business with each other never went to war. Sound familiar ?

    UPDATE: I am not the only one thinking about this, of course. Here is another version. I worry less about China as a geopolitical rival to the US but a China Japan conflict would not be impossible.

    The Telegraph has an excellent piece on the present world situation.

    As we look forward to the First World War commemorations, three stark conclusions are hard to refute. First, that in the course of this century we will need a great deal of luck to avoid a nuclear catastrophe. Second, that the Enlightenment has failed. Third, that this can all be traced back to the Great War.

    As a result of the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, it seemed that mankind might make a decisive break with the scarcity and oppression that had characterised previous eras. There was, admittedly, one early warning. The French Revolution proved that a radical reconstruction of society on abstract principles was likely to end in tyranny and bloodshed. But after 1815, the 19th century developed into one of the most successful epochs in history. Living standards, life expectancy, productivity, medicine, the rule of law, constitutional government, versions of democracy – there was dramatic progress on all fronts, and in the spread of civilisation across the globe.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Britain, Europe, France, Germany, History, International Affairs, Iran, Leftism, Military Affairs, National Security | 27 Comments »

    New Book Review at Pragati Magazine – The Violent Image by Neville Bolt

    Posted by Zenpundit on 25th October 2013 (All posts by )

    [cross-posted from zenpundit.com]


    The Violent Image by Neville Bolt 

    I have a new book review up at Pragati this morning. (Pragati magazine is India’s equivalent of The National Interest with some emphasis on freer markets and economic liberalism in the classic sense):

    Lethal ideas and insurgent memory 

    ….One expert who does acknowledge a paradigmatic shift and posits a powerful explanatory model for the behavior of what he terms “the new revolutionaries” is Dr Neville Bolt of the War Studies Department of King’s College, London and author of The Violent Image: Insurgent Propaganda and the New Revolutionaries. Taking a constructivist view of irregular military conflict as the means by which insurgents weave an enduring political narrative of mythic power and shape historical memory, Bolt eschews some cherished strategic tenets of realists and Clausewitzians. The ecology of social media, powered by decentralised, instant communication platforms and the breakdown of formerly autarkic or regulated polities under the corrosive effects of capitalist market expansion, have been, in Bolt’s view, strategic game changers “creating room to maneuver” in a new “cognitive battlespace” for “complex insurgencies”.  Violent “Propaganda of the Deed”, once the nihilistic signature of 19th century Anarchist-terrorist groups like the People’s Will, has reemerged in the 21stcentury’s continuous media attention environment as a critical tool for insurgents to compress time and space through “…a dramatic crisis that must be provoked”.

    As a book The Violent Image sits at the very verge of war and politics where ideas become weapons and serve as a catalyst for turning grievance into physical aggression and violence. Running two hundred and sixty-nine heavily footnoted pages and an extensive bibliography that demonstrates Bolt’s impressive depth of research. While Bolt at times slips into academic style, for the most part his prose is clear, forceful and therefore useful and accessible to the practitioner or policy maker. Particularly for the latter, are Bolt’s investigations into violent action by modern terrorists as a metaphor impacting time (thus, decision cycles) across a multiplicity of audiences.  This capacity for harvesting strategic effect from terrorist events was something lacking in the 19th and early 20thcentury followers of Bakunin and Lenin (in his dalliances with terrorism); or in Bolt’s view, the anarchists “failed to evoke a coherent understanding in the population” or a “sustained message”.

    Read the rest here.

     

    Posted in Academia, Book Notes, India, International Affairs, Military Affairs, War and Peace | Comments Off