The US to arm the Kurds

From the BBC:

US President Donald Trump has approved supplying weapons to Kurdish forces fighting so-called Islamic State (IS) in Syria, the Pentagon says.

Well, why not? They seem to be the only bunch out there that don’t completely hate us. If we’re going to insist on giving people weapons, might as well be the Kurds.

The US was “keenly aware” of Turkey’s concerns about such a move, she said.

Turkey views the Kurdish rebels as terrorists and wants to stop them taking more territory in Syria.

Turkey? Presumably they mean the nation whose president recently said:

“If Europe continues this way, no European in any part of the world can walk safely on the streets.”

And whose interior minister said:

“If you want, we could open the way for 15,000 refugees that we don’t send each month and blow the mind of Europe”

And the same Turkey whose pro-government newspapers say things like this:

President Erdoğan is totally right to compare the situation to a struggle between the cross and the crescent. And so is Minister Çavuşoğlu arguing that holy wars will soon begin in Europe. The refusal by the West to accept the equality of Muslims and Muslim nations is the sign of a clash of civilizations.

If you have decided to clench your fists, you are getting ready for a fight; if you hit, you will be hit back.

President Erdoğan and other government officials are raising their voices since Western governments have aggrieved Turks and Muslims.

Turks are warning one last time. They are asking: “Are you aware that you are playing with fire? What on earth is going on? Are you insane?” The rest is up to the Western governments.

Turkey has chosen sides, nailing its colours firmly to the mast. And now the US is arming its enemies.

Pentagon sources told the BBC that the equipment would include ammunition, small arms, machine guns, heavy machine guns, construction equipment such as bulldozers and armoured vehicles.

And if the threats keep up, maybe a MANPAD or two. Over to you, President Erdoğan.

Share

Time to Apologise

The people who make up ISIS are not entirely stupid:

Isis-affiliated fighters “apologised” after launching an attack on Israeli soldiers, the country’s former defence minister has claimed.

Moshe Ya’alon was reportedly referring to an incident when a group linked to Isis in the Syrian Golan Heights exchanged fire with Israeli forces last November.

“There was one case recently where Daesh [Isis] opened fire and apologised,” Mr Ya’alon said.

That’s probably sensible, yes. The scene was captured in cartoon form below:

This was interesting, too:

According to the first Western journalists, who have entered Isis’ territories and survived, Israel is the only country in the world the Islamic group fears because it believes its army is too strong to face.

And the reason Israel ensures it has a very strong army is precisely because of groups like ISIS and those who think like them.

Share

Russian ship sinking: it’s all relative

Not the Russian navy’s finest hour:

A Russian naval intelligence ship sank off Turkey’s Black Sea coast on Thursday after colliding with a vessel carrying livestock and all 78 personnel on board the navy ship were evacuated, Turkish officials said.

The rescued crew members of the Russian ship Liman were in good health after the collision with the Togo-flagged Youzarsif H, Turkey’s Transport Minister Ahmed Arslan said.

The incident took place in fog and low visibility 18 miles (29 km) from Kilyos village on the Black Sea coast just north of Istanbul.

A spokesman for Hammami Livestock which owns the Youzarsif H said there had been no loss of life on board the vessel. “It is considered a slight hit, for us,” he told Reuters in Lebanon, adding he had no information about the cause of the collision.

So, a lot of Russian surveillance equipment lost but no cows. I refer to this article as an excuse to cite my favorite story regarding the Russian navy: the Dogger Bank Incident.

The Dogger Bank incident (also known as the North Sea Incident, the Russian Outrage or the Incident of Hull) occurred on the night of 21/22 October 1904, when the Russian Baltic Fleet mistook a British trawler fleet from Kingston upon Hull in the Dogger Bank area of the North Sea for an Imperial Japanese Navy force and fired on them. Russian warships also fired on each other in the chaos of the melée. Three British fishermen died and a number were wounded. One sailor and a priest aboard a Russian cruiser caught in the crossfire were also killed. The incident almost led to war between Britain and Russia.

Why the hell would the Russians think a British trawler in the North Sea was a Japanese warship? Because:

The Russian warships involved in the incident were en route to the Far East, to reinforce the 1st Pacific Squadron stationed at Port Arthur, and later Vladivostok, during the Russo-Japanese War. Because of the fleet’s alleged sightings of balloons and four enemy cruisers the day previously, coupled with “the possibility that the Japanese might surreptitiously have sent ships around the world to attack” them, the Russian admiral, Zinovy Rozhestvensky, called for increased vigilance, issuing an order that “no vessel of any sort must be allowed to get in among the fleet”, and to prepare to open fire upon any vessels failing to identify themselves. With ample reports about the presence of Japanese torpedo boats, submarines and minefields in the North Sea, and the general nervousness of the Russian sailors, 48 harmless fishing vessels were attacked by the Russians, thousands of miles away from enemy waters.

As military blunders go, this one is hard to beat. As The Times said the next day:

“It is almost inconceivable that any men calling themselves seamen, however frightened they might be, could spend twenty minutes bombarding a fleet of fishing boats without discovering the nature of their target.”

Hitting a boatload of cattle in fog off Turkey seems almost professional by comparison.

Share

Different Era, Different War, Same Mistakes

Via Adam, Breibart has an interview with a former American soldier on the manner in which the United States is conducting itself in war:

“My First Sergeant, Tommy Scott, and myself, we led a heavy weapons company in a violent province in eastern Afghanistan,” he recalled. “It seemed like the enemy was always one step ahead of us, and we discovered why. Through the aid of a counter-intel team, we uncovered twelve spies operating on our base. These were Afghan laborers that were hired by the U.S. government to serve as translators and other workers to support us so that we could focus on combat operations.”

What’s incredible about this is the exact same thing was happening in Vietnam: huge numbers of the South Vietnamese employees of the American military were spying for the Viet Cong. Either due to negligence, incompetence, or ignorance the American officers would nonetheless talk openly in front of them, often even sharing sensitive information with their supposed allies. In one chapter of his book About Face, David Hackworth tells of how he transformed an army outpost he took over, which included the installation of a sauna. He made a point of conducting his briefings in there because it was the only place he could be sure there were no Vietnamese present.

There was another amusing anecdote in Robert Mason’s Chickenhawk, his memoir of being a Huey pilot in Vietnam. He tells the story of being told by a superior officer to pick up two kids of around twelve years old who were loitering around nearby and fly them back to base for interrogation, as they were suspected to be spying for the Viet Cong. He duly did, noticing the kids in the back – who had obviously never been in a helicopter before – were staring intently out of the doors. The two were released almost immediately because, well, they were kids, and got flown back to where they were picked up. Mason then made a wry comment about how even though the Viet Cong didn’t possess any aircraft they were nonetheless able to conduct a full aerial reconnaissance of a major American base.

It seems some things never change.

Share

Decline and Fall, BBC Version

Good grief, the BBC doesn’t half peddle some shite. This is from an article entitled How Western civilisation could collapse:

The political economist Benjamin Friedman once compared modern Western society to a stable bicycle whose wheels are kept spinning by economic growth. Should that forward-propelling motion slow or cease, the pillars that define our society – democracy, individual liberties, social tolerance and more – would begin to teeter.

So individual liberties suffer when the economy performs badly, eh? How do we explain the Blair years, then? And we’re always being told how Obama rescued the economy, yet social tolerance deteriorated markedly. If we’re sticking to the bicycle analogy, this article has gotten off to a wobbly start.

Our world would become an increasingly ugly place, one defined by a scramble over limited resources and a rejection of anyone outside of our immediate group.

Is this what happens in a recession? Some examples would be nice. But I suppose there’s no need: if it’s on the BBC, it must be true.

Should we find no way to get the wheels back in motion, we’d eventually face total societal collapse.

I’m glad the lefties at the BBC have finally figured out that a functioning economy is essential to stop us descending into a chaotic, authoritarian, basket-case. If only they’d extend this awareness to Cuba and Venezuela we’d be getting somewhere.

Such collapses have occurred many times in human history, and no civilisation, no matter how seemingly great, is immune to the vulnerabilities that may lead a society to its end.

They have? Civilisations have collapsed due to the economy not growing? I suppose the Soviet Union might count but they had, erm, a rather particular approach to their economy which might not apply to us.

Regardless of how well things are going in the present moment, the situation can always change. Putting aside species-ending events like an asteroid strike, nuclear winter or deadly pandemic, history tells us that it’s usually a plethora of factors that contribute to collapse.

Imagine how good this article would be with examples to support such bold assertions of fact.

What are they, and which, if any, have already begun to surface? It should come as no surprise that humanity is currently on an unsustainable and uncertain path – but just how close are we to reaching the point of no return?

Oh, they’re talking about mass immigration! Now it all makes sense! Actually, no, they’re not. This is the BBC.

Safa Motesharrei, a systems scientist at the University of Maryland, uses computer models to gain a deeper understanding of the mechanisms that can lead to local or global sustainability or collapse. According to findings that Motesharrei and his colleagues published in 2014, there are two factors that matter: ecological strain and economic stratification.

Presumably his computer model rejected political stupidity as being too obvious a cause. And when he tried to enter ethnic hatreds as a factor his Twitter account reported him to the police.

The ecological category is the more widely understood and recognised path to potential doom, especially in terms of depletion of natural resources such as groundwater, soil, fisheries and forests – all of which could be worsened by climate change.

With the possible exception of Easter Island, where has this ever led to the breakdown of society? It seems that this is “widely understood and recognised” only by those who for some perverse reason yearn for it to happen.

That economic stratification may lead to collapse on its own, on the other hand, came as more of a surprise to Motesharrei and his colleagues. Under this scenario, elites push society toward instability and eventual collapse by hoarding huge quantities of wealth and resources, and leaving little or none for commoners who vastly outnumber them yet support them with labour.

Boilerplate Marxism came as a surprise to a researcher looking at human societies?

Eventually, the working population crashes because the portion of wealth allocated to them is not enough, followed by collapse of the elites due to the absence of labour.

Well, yes. Marx was forever telling us this was imminent over a century ago. Did it ever happen?

The inequalities we see today both within and between countries already point to such disparities. For example, the top 10% of global income earners are responsible for almost as much total greenhouse gas emissions as the bottom 90% combined.

Sorry, what? What have greenhouse gases got to do with dissatisfaction over wealth allocation? Is that really at the forefront of the minds of those eking out a living on a rubbish dump in Lagos?

Similarly, about half the world’s population lives on less than $3 per day.

Things have improved, then: the metric used to be $1 per day. Must have been the roaring success of international socialism that brought about the change.

For both scenarios, the models define a carrying capacity – a total population level that a given environment’s resources can sustain over the long term.

Are they still talking about economic growth here? Or have they abandoned that entirely? I’m not sure. If the former, they’re making the fallacy that Tim Worstall makes part of a living pointing out, that of believing economic growth must involve the consumption of more resources. Which is bollocks. If not…well, they’re peddling Malthusian nonsense and Ehrlich’s utterly discredited Population Bomb. Apparently this passes for noteworthy research at the BBC.

If the carrying capacity is overshot by too much, collapse becomes inevitable.

This seems to rely on a model of society which is analogous to an engine draining a fuel tank.

That fate is avoidable, however. “If we make rational choices to reduce factors such as inequality, explosive population growth, the rate at which we deplete natural resources and the rate of pollution – all perfectly doable things – then we can avoid collapse and stabilise onto a sustainable trajectory,” Motesharrei said. “But we cannot wait forever to make those decisions.”

So the answer is increased political control over society with fewer choices and rationing. And we must act now. I bet you didn’t see that coming.

Unfortunately, some experts believe such tough decisions exceed our political and psychological capabilities.

The oiks won’t do what us experts think they should.

“The world will not rise to the occasion of solving the climate problem during this century, simply because it is more expensive in the short term to solve the problem than it is to just keep acting as usual,” says Jorgen Randers, a professor emeritus of climate strategy at the BI Norwegian Business School.

Those pesky citizens don’t want to respond to our doom-mongering by impoverishing themselves.

“The climate problem will get worse and worse and worse because we won’t be able to live up to what we’ve promised to do in the Paris Agreement and elsewhere.”

In other words, the Paris “Agreement” wasn’t.

While we are all in this together, the world’s poorest will feel the effects of collapse first. Indeed, some nations are already serving as canaries in the coal mine for the issues that may eventually pull apart more affluent ones.

Venezuela? Zimbabwe? France?!

Syria, for example, enjoyed exceptionally high fertility rates for a time, which fueled rapid population growth. A severe drought in the late 2000s, likely made worse by human-induced climate change, combined with groundwater shortages to cripple agricultural production. That crisis left large numbers of people – especially young men – unemployed, discontent and desperate.

“Likely” made worse by human-induced climate change. Uh-huh. Anyway, poor governance, poor infrastructure, and a population with nothing to do but breed caused problems. Note that Israel – right next door – didn’t suffer the same fate.

Many flooded into urban centres, overwhelming limited resources and services there.

A rural society, then. Naturally, this is relevant to the West.

Pre-existing ethnic tensions increased, creating fertile grounds for violence and conflict.

Eh? What ethnic tensions? This may come as a surprise to the BBC, but the war in Syria is largely between the government of Bashar al-Assad and those who oppose him. It’s not Muslims v Christians v Kurds, is it?

On top of that, poor governance – including neoliberal policies that eliminated water subsidies in the middle of the drought – tipped the country into civil war in 2011 and sent it careening toward collapse.

Oh right. So insofar as there was appalling governance it was actually that which constituted sensible economics which caused the problems. And of course it was the drought which brought Syrians onto the streets in armed rebellion against the government, not decades of living under a corrupt dictatorship and the torturing of a bunch of teenagers by the regime’s secret police.

In Syria’s case – as with so many other societal collapses throughout history – it was not one but a plethora of factors that contributed, says Thomas Homer-Dixon, chair of global systems at the Balsillie School of International Affairs in Waterloo, Canada

Nobody thinks civil wars happen because of one thing. But if we’re going to list factors which led to the Syrian civil war, perhaps we ought to focus a little more on the regime of Bashar al-Assad and not so much on “neoliberal polices” regarding water subsidies?

Homer-Dixon calls these combined forces tectonic stresses for the way in which they quietly build up and then abruptly erupt, overloading any stabilising mechanisms that otherwise keep a society in check.

Which in the case of Syria was a ruthless and highly authoritarian government. Sort of like the one half these lunatic environmentalists want to foist on us. With them in charge, of course.

The Syrian case aside, another sign that we’re entering into a danger zone, Homer-Dixon says, is the increasing occurrence of what experts call nonlinearities, or sudden, unexpected changes in the world’s order, such as the 2008 economic crisis, the rise of ISIS, Brexit, or Donald Trump’s election.

You knew it was coming, didn’t you? Never mind civil war and depletion of resources, the real danger to society lies with citizens voting in ways not approved by the enlightened elites who peddle this crap. And the election of Donald Trump in a free and fair US presidential election is exactly like a murderous medieval Islamic cult seizing lands across the Middle East and slaughtering anyone in their path. In fact, the two are so similar I don’t know why we even bother to differentiate any more. We should just call them TRISIS.

The past can also provide hints for how the future might play out.

Well, yes. More so than Motesharrei’s bloody computer models at any rate. Hence my call for examples.

Take, for example, the rise and fall of the Roman Empire.

I won’t quote the whole lot, and I have no idea if the BBC has got any of this right, but the lesson seems to be that large empires are hard to maintain. How this is relevant to any Western country in 2017 is beyond me.

The Empire tried to maintain its core lands, even as the army ate up its budget and inflation climbed ever higher as the government debased its silver currency to try to cover its mounting expenses.

Eventually, it could no longer afford to prop up those heightened complexities. It was fiscal weakness, not war, that did the Empire in.

One would think the lesson here is for governments to limit their size and spending and not debase their currencies. But the BBC doesn’t want its readers to reach this rather obvious conclusion and goes back to climate change doom-mongering. But before they do we get this rather bizarre history of the oil industry:

So far, modern Western societies have largely been able to postpone similar precipitators of collapse through fossil fuels and industrial technologies – think hydraulic fracturing coming along in 2008, just in time to offset soaring oil prices.

Eh? Here is a chart showing the oil price between 2008 and 2017:

The collapse in the oil price in 2008 game as a result of the global financial crisis stymieing demand, not hydraulic fracturing making oil production cheaper. Fracking only really started to play a role after the second collapse in 2015 – again caused by weak demand – when America became (theoretically) self-sufficient in oil production due to the new technology. But according to the BBC, fossil fuel production and hydraulic fracturing is what has kept Western civilisation going the way of the Roman Empire.

Which makes me somewhat of a hero, doesn’t it? Finally, a use for the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square.

Tainter suspects this will not always be the case, however. “Imagine the costs if we have to build a seawall around Manhattan, just to protect against storms and rising tides,” he says.

A minute ago we were being told about historical precedents and the Roman Empire. Now we’re being asked to imagine ludicrous future scenarios.

Eventually, investment in complexity as a problem-solving strategy reaches a point of diminishing returns, leading to fiscal weakness and vulnerability to collapse.

I have no idea what that means, sorry. Was this article even edited? Perhaps with their £3bn per year guaranteed income, times are tough at the BBC.

That is, he says “unless we find a way to pay for the complexity, as our ancestors did when they increasingly ran societies on fossil fuels.”

This is what happens when you use a 2008 version of Google Translate when writing articles.

Also paralleling Rome, Homer-Dixon predicts that Western societies’ collapse will be preceded by a retraction of people and resources back to their core homelands.

You mean immigration will reverse? When?

As poorer nations continue to disintegrate amid conflicts and natural disasters, enormous waves of migrants will stream out of failing regions, seeking refuge in more stable states.

This doesn’t sound much like people retreating to their core homelands. It sounds pretty much like present day Europe.

Western societies will respond with restrictions and even bans on immigration; multi-billion dollar walls and border-patrolling drones and troops; heightened security on who and what gets in; and more authoritarian, populist styles of governing.

Expert academic solemnly predicts the future by stating what is already happening.

“It’s almost an immunological attempt by countries to sustain a periphery and push pressure back,” Homer-Dixon says.

So less of a “retraction of people and resources back to their core homelands” than staying put with the fruits of their labour and keeping invading hordes at bay.

Meanwhile, a widening gap between rich and poor within those already vulnerable Western nations will push society toward further instability from the inside. “By 2050, the US and UK will have evolved into two-class societies where a small elite lives a good life and there is declining well-being for the majority,” Randers says. “What will collapse is equity.”

Well, yes. It was partly recognition that a wealthy elite are running the show for themselves at the expense of the majority that delivered victories for Trump and the Brexit campaigners.

Whether in the US, UK or elsewhere, the more dissatisfied and afraid people become, Homer-Dixon says, the more of a tendency they have to cling to their in-group identity – whether religious, racial or national.

Presumably this explains the rise of Black Lives Matter and the left-driven identity politics.

Denial, including of the emerging prospect of societal collapse itself, will be widespread, as will rejection of evidence-based fact. If people admit that problems exist at all, they will assign blame for those problems to everyone outside of their in-group, building up resentment. “You’re setting up the psychological and social prerequisites for mass violence,” Homer-Dixon says. When localised violence finally does break out, or another country or group decides to invade, collapse will be difficult to avoid.

A better description of the left’s reaction to Trump becoming president is hard to find.

Europe, with its close proximity to Africa, its land bridge to the Middle East and its neighbourly status with more politically volatile nations to the East, will feel these pressures first.

They’ve been feeling them for quite some time now. Only so-called leaders are in – what was that word you mentioned earlier? – denial.

The US will likely hold out longer, surrounded as it is by ocean buffers.

And with Trump at the helm, building his wall.

On the other hand, Western societies may not meet with a violent, dramatic end. In some cases, civilisations simply fade out of existence – becoming the stuff of history not with a bang but a whimper.

Indeed. Unless we start hanging our current crop of politicians from lamp-posts (the French may use guillotines if they so desire), this is quite likely.

The British Empire has been on this path since 1918, Randers says, and other Western nations might go this route as well. As time passes, they will become increasingly inconsequential and, in response to the problems driving their slow fade-out, will also starkly depart from the values they hold dear today.

“Western nations are not going to collapse, but the smooth operation and friendly nature of Western society will disappear, because inequity is going to explode,” Randers argues.

He is right about the smooth operation and friendly nature of Western societies disappearing, but it has nothing to do with inequality. What will cause it is something the BBC and its supporters refuse to even discuss.

“Democratic, liberal society will fail, while stronger governments like China will be the winners.”

Then shouldn’t we be pleased that Trump is Hitler?

Some of these forecasts and early warning signs should sound familiar, precisely because they are already underway.

I want this guy’s job.

Western civilisation is not a lost cause, however. Using reason and science to guide decisions, paired with extraordinary leadership and exceptional goodwill, human society can progress to higher and higher levels of well-being and development, Homer-Dixon says.

Alternatively, we could just shoot those who are calling for a carefully-managed Utopia grounded in “science” and “extraordinary leadership” and let people get on with their lives. It seems to have worked pretty well so far.

Even as we weather the coming stresses of climate change, population growth and dropping energy returns, we can maintain our societies and better them.

Particularly if we ignore rubbish like this.

But that requires resisting the very natural urge, when confronted with such overwhelming pressures, to become less cooperative, less generous and less open to reason.

If we abandon our natural urges, we can live better lives. How very Soviet.

“The question is, how can we manage to preserve some kind of humane world as we make our way through these changes?” Homer-Dixon says.

Here’s my suggestion: allow British citizens to keep their money in their pockets instead of forcing them to shell out £3bn per year for the BBC to publish garbage like this. A more humane gesture I cannot imagine at this juncture.

Share

Pointless Anger at the UN

From the BBC:

Syria war: Anger after Russia vetoes resolution at UN

Anger?

Russia has vetoed a draft resolution at the UN Security Council that would have condemned last week’s alleged chemical attack in Syria and demanded that Damascus cooperate with investigators.

The resolution was presented by the US, UK and France, who reacted angrily to Russia’s decision.

It was the eighth time Russia has protected its ally at the council.

Why is anyone angry at this? It was an absolute certainty that Russia was going to support its ally Assad and veto any resolution, if anyone was surprised – let along angered – by this then they ought to be fired immediately for being so unimaginably stupid that euthanasia becomes a serious consideration.

There’s no point being angry at Russia: they have made it clear they support Assad and either don’t believe he used chemical weapons or don’t care that he did. And there’s no point in being angry at their wielding a veto, this is what all the permanent members do when their allies are ganged up on (justifiably or not).

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley condemned Russia’s action: “You are isolating yourselves from the international community every time one of Assad’s planes drop another barrel bomb on civilians and every time Assad tries to starve another community to death,” she said.

So what’s new? If you don’t like how the system works, then change it or walk away. All this latest resolution has done is provide an opportunity for people to go on a jolly to New York and to demonstrate how useless the United Nations is. Again.

Share

US Foreign Policy Lacks Clarity? Good

The BBC, like everything else except perhaps the weather, costume dramas, and cookery shows, isn’t very good at analysing foreign policy:

Of course the thing about red lines is that they need to be crystal clear.

Yes, which was exactly the problem with Obama’s use of the term: a “bunch of chemical weapons” indeed.

In the immediate aftermath of the strike this seemed to be the case.

Well, yes: use chemical weapons, get Tomahawks fired at you.

The message was: use nerve gas again and consequences will follow.

That too.

But on Monday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer muddied the waters.

Asked if air attacks with conventional weapons might also draw US punitive action, he said: “If you gas a baby, if you put a barrel bomb into innocent people, you will see a response from this president.”

Barrel bombs, though, tend to be large canisters filled with explosives and shrapnel that are typically dropped by Syrian government forces from helicopters. In other words they are conventional rather than chemical munitions.

So was Mr Spicer broadening the red line? Belatedly the White House had to issue a clarification noting that what he really was saying was that barrel bombs containing chemical weapons would draw a US response.

I think the BBC is reading too much into this: Spicer could have used any terminology. The message is: the Trump administration can and will use military force against those it doesn’t like, in stark contrast to the policies of Barack Obama.

This lack of clarity would not matter quite so much if it was not characteristic of the Trump administration’s whole approach to foreign policy. And the stakes could not be higher.

The stakes are the same as when Obama was in charge, and we didn’t see the BBC running front-page articles about how his policy of dithering, hand-wringing, and backtracking was catastrophic even though it so obviously was.

There seems to be no central guiding brain behind the evolution of the Trump team’s foreign policy. The US president himself has failed to articulate any clear approach.

Which can be both a good and a bad thing. One of the worst aspects of Obama’s foreign policy was his constant flip-flopping and failure to back up his words with actions. This emboldened the likes of Putin and Assad to take steps which they were confident would not result in any serious reaction from the United States. The problem with this was it left the road wide open for a miscalculation, whereby somebody like Putin would either take a step too far or lose control of a situation and America would have no choice but to act, resulting in a war that nobody really wanted. Obama and Kerry also had the habit of immediately telling the world what they were not going to do in the wake of a geopolitical crisis, helpfully crossing off those options they weren’t considering. This only served to embolden America’s enemies further and increase the likelihood of a misstep.

As things stand, Trump’s approach seems to be a lot more sensible: show that he is willing to use force, and willing to use it where Obama wouldn’t, but otherwise keep quiet about what he will or won’t do given any particular situation.

With regard to Syria that may be unsettling. With regard to North Korea, it could be potentially catastrophic.

Sure, it might be better to come up with a concrete, workable policy on issues such as Syria and North Korea  – but this assumes it is possible to arrive at one. North Korea has been an intractable problem since the 1950s and there is no solution that I can see regarding Syria short of keeping well out of it. In the absence of a clear policy, it is probably better that Trump remains unpredictable and keeps America’s enemies guessing. This is far less likely to result in a catastrophe than Obama’s idiotic habit of using empty words, encouraging escalation, crying when it happens, and then doing nothing.

Share

War Preferable to Immigration Controls

Robert Tracinski has some ideas about how to deal with Syria:

If Syria seems too far away, too brutal, too primitive, too wrapped up in its own internal strife between equally unappealing factions—well, that’s exactly what I thought about another conflict a few years back. It was the mid-1990s, and the conflict was in Afghanistan. And that part about how this was irrelevant to American interests? That didn’t end well.

It turned out that the chaos in Afghanistan was not so remote as to be none of our business, because it provided a breeding ground, safe haven, and international recruiting program for terrorists who wanted to attack the United States. We found that out on September 11. Well, actually, we found it out before then, when al-Qaeda staged big attacks on US citizens and assets in East Africa and Yemen. But it took September 11 to make the threat undeniable.

So here we are, sixteen years later, sitting back and watching the Islamists recreate exactly the same conditions. There is a zone of constant warfare and chaos that allows terrorists to establish themselves. There is a new safe haven where a brutal terrorist group seizes state power, or quasi-state power, and puts themselves forward as a champion of Islam and a model of successful jihad. They call on supporters from around the world to rally to their banner, and then they support or incite terrorist attacks back home in the West—in Paris, in Brussels, in Sydney, in San Bernardino and Orlando.

I’m just a dumb engineer, but wouldn’t stopping terrorists trained in Syria from carrying out attacks in the United States involve limiting the ability to travel from Syria to the US and enhancing the screening of those that do? In other words, doing that very thing that Trump tried to do and was struck down by regional courts citing the effects it would have on tourism?

I’ll believe the US and European nations are taking the threat of Islamic terrorism being imported into their countries seriously when they put far greater controls on who comes in and what they do once they are there. But Tracinski has a better plan:

For example, when it comes to pushing the Russians out of Syria now that they’re ensconced there, there’s a straightforward model for that: Afghanistan. Of course we shouldn’t challenge the Russkis directly, because that would risk escalation into a great power war. But we can give very substantial covert support to select groups of rebels—far more than the half-hearted, going-through-the-motions efforts so far—and make Syria a quagmire the Russians can’t sustain. Russia is a shrunken shadow of the Soviet Union and in far less of a position to maintain a serious effort in Syria over the long term.

What could possibly go wrong?

All of this to avoid having to admit that the immigration policies of the United States and Europe have failed and are endangering its citizens.

Share

Praying for War

Via Bardon in the comments, I find this article by a Turkish writer to be a good example of what happens when people start to believe their own bullshit.

Under the heading “Turkey’s last warning to the West before it’s too late” we get this:

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Thursday that the new ban on headscarves in the workplace by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) would commence a struggle between the cross and the crescent.

Also speaking on Thursday, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu predicted that holy wars would soon begin in Europe.

Employers are now entitled to ban their staff from wearing visible religious symbols. You may say that it is not just for Muslims, but it is certainly intolerable for them. It is a direct attack on Muslim women wearing hijabs at work.

Can someone show me the difference between the ECJ’s ban on headscarves and new U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban, please?

President Erdoğan is totally right to compare the situation to a struggle between the cross and the crescent. And so is Minister Çavuşoğlu arguing that holy wars will soon begin in Europe. The refusal by the West to accept the equality of Muslims and Muslim nations is the sign of a clash of civilizations.

If you have decided to clench your fists, you are getting ready for a fight; if you hit, you will be hit back.

President Erdoğan and other government officials are raising their voices since Western governments have aggrieved Turks and Muslims.

Turks are warning one last time. They are asking: “Are you aware that you are playing with fire? What on earth is going on? Are you insane?” The rest is up to the Western governments.

To summarise: Western governments must do as us Turks and Muslims want or we will get violent and a bloody, religious war will ensue. But this is just a warning, not a threat. Uh-huh.

Here’s something for the author to consider: if things keep going the way they are, it may not be long before it is those very politicians to whom her countrymen are issuing “warnings” that are all that stand between Muslims and the general population in the war they appear to crave. I wonder how long she and her ilk expects to last should such a war begin and those politicians are out of the picture? Personally, I’d give her a matter of hours.

I might have said this before, but I think Muslims are making an enormous mistake, one that our current crop of leaders are facilitating and for which they will bear an enormous responsibility in future, in believing that the entire Western population has been cowed. Given the behaviour of the government in each country and a good chunk of their citizens I can see why they may think this, but I nevertheless believe it is a rather dangerous assumption to make. They may ought to read some history books and brush up on the fanatical violence we were willing to inflict on each other just a short time ago, and the fact that when push came to shove the Americans were prepared to obliterate two Japanese cities and sleep well that night. Much is made these days about how civilised we all are and how the EU is a guarantor of peace, and I daresay some people believe it. But I don’t see sixty or seventy years as being particularly long in a historical context, and certainly not long enough to have completely pacified an entire continent. Yugoslavia used to be a holiday destination for Brits wanting a beach and sunshine; a few years later we had the Siege of Sarajevo and Srebrenica.

I’m of the opinion that Europe and America still contain enough people who are, deep down, as fanatically violent as their forebears and this is kept in check only by a complex political and economic system which has been arrived at precisely to avoid any more bloodshed. However, two generations have now passed and people have gotten complacent, thinking this happy state of affairs is destined to be permanent, as if it were some sort of historical inevitability. What we are now seeing is outsiders kicking at the pillars of that political system and being encouraged to do so by hubristic insiders who don’t understand quite how delicate it is and what those pillars are made of. When those pillars have fallen in the past they did so rather unexpectedly, often at a time when people thought that peaceful times were here to stay. What were people saying about “the war to end all wars”? Didn’t quite work out like that, did it?

I’ve read about The Bloody Angle, Chancellorsville, Verdun, The Somme, Stalingrad, and Dresden. Not much love lost there, and everyone looked vaguely alike. I’ve also read about Auschwitz and the Gulags, and the Confederate POW camp at Andersonville: again, this was done by one set of people to another who spoke the same language, ate the same food, and listened to the same music. I’ve read about the Provisional IRA and their policy of kneecappings, and accounts of what happened when Russia’s OMON went into Grozny after artillery flattened it. None of what took place needed a translator. I’ve read about what the British, French, Belgians, Portuguese, Spanish, and Americans were prepared to do to people who were brown or yellow and didn’t sound much like them, and it is grisly stuff. When it comes to barbaric savagery, us Westerners have a pretty impressive record and much of it is within living memory.

But hey, perhaps the West has gone soft. Perhaps the current crop of politicians really are representative of their populations and everyone will sit idly by and do nothing as strange foreigners turn up in large numbers and unleash a holy war over issues such as wearing the hijab. All I’m saying is that are running one hell of a fucking risk. Perhaps they ought to tone down the “warnings” and think this through a bit.

Share

Syria: Fuck the lot of ’em!

So the US has decided to throw a few Tomahawk missiles at the airbase from which Syria launched the planes which delivered the alleged chemical attack a few days ago.

A small part of me is thinking yeah, good. While Obama mumbled and wrung his hands and talked tough before backing down and blaming everyone else, Trump has at least shown he has the balls to make a decision. On a fundamental level, nobody is going to convince me that throwing missiles at murderous dictators, especially those who have most probably used chemical weapons on their own people, is a wholly bad thing. I had similar feelings about the Iraq War, unrelated to whether and why I supported it: kicking the shit out of the Saddam Hussein’s supposedly invincible army in a matter of days, killing his sons, and seeing him hanged in an amateur fashion from some scaffolding were, taken in isolation, things of which I approved heartily.

But that aside, I’m not overly impressed with this latest attack. As I said yesterday, Assad is there to stay: he cannot be dislodged while the Russians are supporting him. Provided he has Russian support he can, pretty much, gas who he likes. Or not. What he does or doesn’t do is up to him. I doubt anyone believes the US’ claim that this strike has limited Assad’s ability to carry out further strikes. Airfields can be repaired in hours and new planes ordered from Russia in days. If the Syrian government really wants to carry on with such attacks, it can.

What is missing is how this strike fits into an overall strategy. Yes, there is something to be said for rapid, decisive action but not if there is no coordinated followup that makes sense. It would be far better for Trump’s administration to have understood exactly what they are dealing with as regards Russia and Syria and come up with a long-term plan which puts the interests of America and its allies first and doesn’t involve making things worse or putting their citizens in harm’s way. I suspect the reason this hasn’t happened is because any such plan would involve staying the hell away from the whole mess and keeping a beady eye on Russia elsewhere. Once the western media starts filling up with pictures of dead babies and weeping relatives, a plan of this nature becomes politically unacceptable and the leadership starts lobbing missiles to show they are doing something.

Personally, I don’t think it’s completely the politicians’ fault. Having read this morning’s papers and social media, there are plenty of people – both in the Estalbishment and among the general public – who want the West (i.e. the US with some “help” from Britain) to “stop” Assad from committing any more humanitarian abuses. These voices are numerous and loud enough that politicians cannot ignore them, even if they wanted to. It is a simple fact that a policy of “fuck the lot of ’em” is not politically acceptable in the West right now.

Personally, I wish it was. Not because I wouldn’t want to help civilians being gassed by their own government, but because I honestly cannot see a solution to this. Every course of action I can think of other than “fuck ’em” has an almost zero chance of succeeding in its aims and a very high chance of making things worse. Were any Russians killed in this airstrike? I seriously hope not. I don’t have much time for the policies of the Russian government, but I really don’t want to go to war with Russia. Whether we like it or not, Russia is a permanent member of the UNSC and if they are okay backing a dictator who is using chemical weapons on his own people then what the hell are we supposed to do? The only thing I can think of is to get the hell out of that useless organisation ASAP. I’m sure Trump can do something with the HQ on Manhattan’s East Side.

What I don’t get is how people can’t see that. Back in October I wrote a post about changing my mind on a major issue.

I supported the Iraq War for several reasons, one of which was I thought the Iraqis deserved the chance to be free of Saddam Hussein and run their country without him.  I genuinely thought they would seize the opportunity to demonstrate to the world that Arabic people are not incompatible with democracy and, so thankful that Saddam Hussein is gone, they would make a pretty decent effort to make things work.

Instead they tore each other apart and did everything they could to demonstrate that those who dismissed them as savages that needed a strongman to keep them in line were right all along.  I think this was probably the most depressing aspect of the whole shambolic affair.

This is not 2003. We know from bitter, bloody experience what happens when we try to make things better by intervening with the military in that part of the world (or any). Iraq was a disaster, so was Libya. Syria we barely got involved in, thanks to a majority of sensible MPs who said “enough is enough”, but if we had there is little chance we’d not be neck-deep in a quagmire by now.

When we got involved in Iraq, supposedly to help the Iraqi people, the entire Arab world detested us, including those we ostensibly came to help. As I said here:

The US-led intervention in Iraq was deemed a “war on Muslims” and the Americans and their allies demonised in every possible way by locals and foreigners alike for how they executed the war and handled the aftermath. They were not just criticised, which would have been more than justified, they were made out to be a rogue nation, carrying out atrocities on a scale not seen since World War II. This was bollocks on stilts.

But the demonisation worked.  Well done.  America and its allies were detested, and eventually they left. Only a short time later when people wanted them to come back to prevent yet more butchery, they politely declined.  Instead the locals got an altogether different military turning up, one whose savagery surpasses anything the Americans could dream up never mind get away with, and whose population back home would be completely unconcerned if indeed they bothered to learn about it.

At what point are Western populations going to realise that we are hated in the Middle East, probably by the very fathers of the children who were gassed and now crying out for our help? It has been demonstrated, time and time again, that when we try to do the right thing we are hated even more. Parts of the Arab world thought they would rather have the Russians than the Americans, and now they have the Russians. How is this our fault?

It’s not through moral principle that I am saying this, it is from practicality based on fourteen years of recent, bloody experience: Assad is a monster, the Russian government is showing the world exactly what they are like by backing him, and the Syrian people are suffering terribly, but there is nothing – nothing – we can do about it. It is a terrible indictment on the state of the world, but a policy of “fuck the lot of ’em” is the only workable one on the table right now. It’s high time our leaders started taking it seriously.

Share