Archive for the ‘War and Peace’ Category

Bertrand Russell on war and utopia

November 11, 2017

The following is from Bertrand Russell’s Principles of Social Reconstruction (1916)

A great many of the impulses which now lead nations to go to war are in themselves essential to any vigorous or progressive life.  Without imagination and love of adventure, a society soon becomes stagnant and begins to decay. Conflict, provided it is not destructive and brutal, is necessary in order to stimulate men’s activities, and to secure the victory of what is living over what is dead or merely traditional.  The wish for the triumph of one’s cause, the sense of solidarity with large bodies of men, are not things which a wise man will wish to destroy.  It is only the outcome in death and destruction and hatred that is evil.  The problem is, to keep these impulses, without making war the outlet for them.

All Utopias that have hitherto been constructed are intolerably dull….[Utopians] do not realize that much the greater part of a man’s happiness depends upon activity, and only a very small remnant consists in passive enjoyment.  Even the pleasures which do consist in enjoyment are only satisfactory, to most men, when they come in the intervals of activity.  Social reformers, like inventors of Utopias, are apt to forget this very obvious fact of human nature.  They aim rather at securing more leisure, and more opportunity for enjoying it, than at making work itself more satisfactory, more consonant with impulse, and a better outlet for creativeness and the desire to employ one’s faculties.

Hat tip to Marginal REVOLUTION

Tulsi Gabbard gets what’s wrong with U.S. wars

November 2, 2017

Tulsi Gabbard, congresswoman from Hawaii, is a dedicated surfer and accomplished athlete, a Hindu and vegetarian and a member of the National Guard who volunteered for service in Iraq.

Not a typical background for an American politician!  But in my opinion, she represents the future of the Democratic Party—if it has one.

She understands something that most Democrats still do not, which is the futility of the 15-year U.S. policy of worldwide military intervention.  She understands that the first step in fighting radical Islamic terrorism is to stop subsidizing terrorists.   She acts on that understanding even though it is unpopular.

I read a good article about Gabbard in The New Yorker online this morning.   The things that the writer finds questionable about Gabbard’s record make her respect her even more.

Right after the election, she met with President-elect Donald Trump to discuss foreign policy, and came away hopeful that he might adopt a less interventionist foreign policy.   “Less hopeful now,” she is quoted as saying.

She traveled to Syria in January to talk to President Bashir al-Assad about the possibility of ending the Syrian civil war.

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Background on the North Korean crisis

October 20, 2017

The important things to remember about North Korea are:

  • North Korea for nearly 70 years has been under a totalitarian government which has indoctrinated its people with absolute loyalty and obedience.
  • Its ruling ideology—called Juche—is based on the principles of national independence, economic self-sufficiency, cultural purity and glorification of leaders.
  • Despite loss of an estimated 20 percent of its population during the Korean Conflict, and starvation in later eras, the leaders have never given in to threats.
  • Based on past actions of the U.S. government toward Iraq, Libya and Iran, North Korean leaders have good reason to think that giving up nuclear weapons would be suicidal.

The Hermit Kingdom

Korea at the dawn of the 20th century had little relation with the outside world, except for Christian missionaries.  Japan made it a protectorate in 1905 and annexed it in 1910.  The Korean language and culture were suppressed, and Korea was exploited for the benefit of the Japanese Empire.

Kim Il-sung

Kim Il-sung was born in 1912 to Presbyterian parents.  His name, which is not his birth name, means “Kim became the sun.”  His birthday is a national holiday called “day of the sun.”

The Kim family fled the repressive Japanese regime and settled in Manchuria in 1920.  Young Kim supposedly founded something called the Down-With-Imperialism Union, dedicated to liberation of Korea from Japanese rule, in 1926, at age 14.

He joined the Chinese Communist Party in the 1930s and led a guerrilla band that fought the Japanese in Manchuria.  Ultimately defeated, he fled into the Soviet Union, where he became an officer of the Red Army.

As World War Two drew to a close, the USSR declared war on Japan, overran Manchuria and occupied Korea north of the 38th parallel, with Kim as head of the North Korean Communist Party.   US forces occupied the southern party

Supposedly this was a temporary measure until Korea was unified, but an independent Republic of Korea was declared in the south in May, 1948, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, with Kim as the head, in August of that year.

In 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea and nearly conquered the whole Korean peninsula before being driven back.  Max Hastings, a British military historian, said there had been considerable pro-Communist sentiment in South Korea, which might have led to a guerrilla movement as in South Vietnam.   But the brutality and mass executions carried on by North Korean troops soon changed their minds.

U.S. intervention turned the tide, and then Chinese intervention created a stalemate.  American air forces bombed North Korea until there were no targets left, and then they bombed the river dams, flooding the country’s sparse farmland.   General Curtis LeMay estimated that 20 percent of the North Korean population were killed.

The two sides agreed to a cease-fire in 1953, in which the division of the country was frozen along existing battle lines.  Part of the armistice agreement was that neither sides would increase the size of its force or introduce new weapons.  That agreement was broken in 1958 when the U.S. brought nuclear weapons into South Korea.

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President Trump and his new axis of evil

September 20, 2017

President Donald Trump said this to say in his address to the United Nations yesterday—

We do not expect diverse countries to share the same cultures, traditions or even systems of government.  But we do expect all nations to uphold these two core sovereign duties: to respect the interests of their own people and the rights of every other sovereign nation.

He went on to say—

Rogue regimes represented in this body not only support terrorists but threaten other nations and their own people with the most destructive weapons known to humanity.

I think these would be excellent points, if only he had applied them to the United States as well as the rest of the world.

He called for an intensification of economic and diplomatic warfare against North Korea, Iran and Venezuela, his new axis of evil.

How is this in the interest of the American people?  How is this consistent with respecting national sovereignty?   Are not North Korea, Iran and Venezuela sovereign nations?

The United States has paid radical jihadist terrorists to overthrow the government of Libya and is attempting to use them to overthrow the government of Syria—two sovereign states that never have threatened the United States.   The result has been to reduce these two countries to chaos and misery, as the cost of thousands of innocent lives.

President Trump in that very speech threatened another nation with the most destructive weapons known to humanity—

The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.

He accused the North Korean government of starving and torturing its own people, and various other crimes, which were real though not necessarily current.  But then he threatened an even worse atrocity.

To be fair, it is not clear whether he is threatening North Korea with attack merely if it fails to disarm or whether he is threatening retaliation in the event of an attack, which is different.

This ambiguity may be deliberate on President Trump’s part; he may think keeping others guessing is a good negotiating strategy.   Where nuclear weapons are concerned, this is dangerous.  It may lead the other person to think he has nothing to lose by launching an attack.

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How strong is North Korea?

September 11, 2017

North Korea has the world’s fourth largest army.   It has nearly 1.2 million troops under arms, slightly less than the USA and behind India and China.

South Korea has about 655,000 active duty troops, more than Britain, France and Germany combined.  A war between North and South Korea would be catastrophic, even if the USA, China and Russia were not involved.

Click to enlarge

Some observers claim that South Korea is the stronger of the two, because, they say, North Korean troops are malnourished and South Korean troops are better trained and have better equipment.   I wouldn’t know.

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The shadow of the Korean War

September 11, 2017

Photo via The Intercept

We Americans remember and memorialize the Vietnam Conflict, and tend to forget the equally savage and lethal Korean Conflict.   I’m not sure why that is—maybe because the Vietnam fighting was stretched out over more years, maybe because Vietnam was the experience of the Baby Boom generation.

Be that as it may, the Korean War is not forgotten in Korea, and especially not in North Korea.   The North Koreans remember that they have endured the worst the United States and its allies could throw at them, short of attacks with nuclear weapons.   I think that if you remember this, it goes a long way to explaining why Kim Jong-un defies the United States.

For the record, it was the North Koreans, and not the Americans or their South Korean allies, who started the war in June 1950, when they crossed the 38th Parallel and invaded the south. Nevertheless, “What hardly any Americans know or remember,” University of Chicago historian Bruce Cumings writes in his book The Korean War: A History, “is that we carpet-bombed the north for three years with next to no concern for civilian casualties.”

How many Americans, for example, are aware of the fact that U.S. planes dropped on the Korean peninsula more bombs — 635,000 tons — and napalm — 32,557 tons — than during the entire Pacific campaign against the Japanese during World War II?

How many Americans know that “over a period of three years or so,” to quote Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, “we killed off … 20 percent of the population”?

Twenty.  Percent.  For a point of comparison, the Nazis exterminated 20 percent of Poland’s pre-World War II population. According to LeMay, “We went over there and fought the war and eventually burned down every town in North Korea.”

Every. Town.  More than 3 million civilians are believed to have been killed in the fighting, the vast majority of them in the north.

Source: The Intercept.

The total population of Korea in 1950 was slightly over 20 million, with 9 million in North Korea.

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Would President Al Gore have invaded Iraq?

September 11, 2017

Click to enlarge

Almost all of my liberal Democratic friends think the United States would have avoided the Iraq War if Al Gore had been elected President in 2000.   I’m not certain that is so.

Gore voted in favor of the 1991 authorization to use military force in Iraq.   Bill Clinton chose him as vice president partly because he had a reputation as a war hawk and had served honorably in Vietnam.   Gore chose another war hawk, Joe Lieberman, to be his running mate.

He and John Kerry criticized George W. Bush not on the grounds that the war was wrong, but that the war effort was being bungled.   The timing was wrong, more effort should have been made to get UN support, more should have been done to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.

Later on there was an argument that the U.S. should have focused more on Afghanistan rather than Iraq, or Afghanistan first and Iraq later.

But the argument for invading so-called rogue states was not questioned.  I don’t criticize them so much for that because that is what I, too, thought at the time.   I think that I, unlike them, have learned better now.

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The US has tried negotiating with North Korea

September 10, 2017

The negotiations room at Panmunjom

North Korea is ruled by a murderous totalitarian government that has committed acts of terrorism.   But that government has been willing to make arms agreements with the United States in the past, and it is the U.S. government that has broken these agreements.

 The first agreement was the 1953 Armistice that ended the Korean Conflict.   Under this agreement, the two sides agreed to stop fighting, pull back, respect and demilitarized zone and not introduce any new weapons into the Korean peninsula, pending signing of a peace treaty.

That is, each side could replace weapons, rifle for rifle and tank for tank, but they couldn’t increase the total number of weapons or introduce new weapons.   The U.S. renounced that part of the treaty in 1958 by bringing atomic weapons to South Korea.

Now, you can make the argument that this action was necessary to preserve the balance of power.   And later on, the North Koreans were discovered to have dug tunnels under the DMZ for the purpose of sending spies and agents into South Korea.   But still: It was the United States, not North Korea, that broke the terms of the Armistice.

Sometime in the 1980s, North Korea began work on a nuclear bomb.  In 1994,  President Bill Clinton sent ex-President Jimmy Carter to North Korea, where he persuaded the North Korean government to shut down its plutonium test reactor and put it under the control of international inspectors.   In return, the North Koreans got shipments of oil for its power grid and two light water reactors built by an international consortium.   All this was supposed to lead to normal relations between the two countries—which didn’t happen.

In 2002, President George W. Bush canceled the agreement.   His administration claimed the North Koreans  were cheating, by working on a uranium bomb.   The evidence for this is unclear, and the North Koreans claimed that the U.S. hadn’t fulfilled its part of the agreement.

Be that as it may, the North Koreans sent the inspectors home and resumed their work on a plutonium bomb.   By 2007, they exploded their first nuclear device.   Ending the agreement accomplished nothing.

The Bush administration resumed negotiations and arrived at a new tentative agreement to freeze nuclear weapons development at the new level.   But President Barack Obama didn’t follow through.   Maybe he thought that he didn’t have enough political capital to try to make peace with Iran, Cuba and North Korea, too.

Instead the U.S. government tried to pressure North Korea by means of economic sanctions.   North Korea responded by doubling down on its nuclear weapons program.

Now President Donald Trump threatens “fire and fury”.   The government of North Korea says that it will never give up its nuclear weapons so long as the United States is hostile and threatens North Korea with its own nuclear weapons.   Which is a way of saying it might give up its nuclear weapons if the U.S. was genuinely willing to make peace.

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Why threatening Kim Jong-un is futile

September 7, 2017

Kim Jong-un tells the people of North Korea that they live in the most advanced and admired nation in the world, but that they are under threat by the United States.

Threatening North Korea reinforces the message that they have to unify behind their Supreme Leader.

Isolating North Korea helps shut out the knowledge that not everybody in the world is as regimented and poor as they area.

Recent history shows Kim that there is no safety in renouncing nuclear weapons.  Saddam Hussein renounced nuclear weapons,   Muammar Qaddafi renounced nuclear weapons.   That didn’t save them from being killed like animals following the U.S. invasion of Iraq and proxy invasion of Libya.

Kim Jong-un surely knows that a nuclear attack on the United States would be suicidal.   His nuclear weapons tests and missile demonstrations make sense as an attempt to deter attack.   Bear in mind that the United States  conducts military exercises in South Korea as if rehearsing for an attack on North Kora.

The real danger is if Kim Jong-un comes to believe that his country is going to be attacked, and that he has nothing to lose by firing nuclear missiles (assuming he actually has nuclear missiles).

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On the ground and in the air, two laws of war

September 7, 2017

Ben Mauk wrote a good article for Granta on how bombing from the air has changed the law of war.

There is a law of ground warfare, which treats targeting of civilians as terrorism, and a law of air warfare, which treats killing of civilians at worst as a purpose and at best as unavoidable collateral damage.

The Nanking Massacre of 1937 is considered one of history’s greatest atrocities.  As many as 200,000 or 300,000 Chinese civilians were bayoneted or machine-gunned by Japanese troops.

An estimated 100,000 Japanese civilians died in a single fire-bombing raid on Tokyo in 1945, which was one of many.   But, aside from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the U.S. bombing of Japan is not widely considered to be a war crime.   One you decide on a bombing strategy, civilian deaths are inevitable.

General William T. Sherman’s 1864 march through Georgia during the Civil War was regarded at the time as an atrocity.   He ordered the indiscriminate destruction of civilian property in order to break the Confederacy’s means and will to resist.   But he only destroyed property.  He didn’t massacre civilians.

Now imagine a Sherman not on horseback, but in the cockpit of an aircraft.   How could he have carried out his policy without large-scale killing of civilians?

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Congress reins in Trump’s peace-making powers

August 3, 2017

You might think Congress would try to rein in President Trump’s war-making powers, considering his lack of judgment and self-control.

You might think Congress would have second-thoughts about giving Trump authority to engage in acts of war, order assassinations and engage in economic warfare, strictly on his own say-so.

You might thank that, and so might I.

But what Congress has done is to let all of Donald Trump’s war-making powers stand, while limiting his power to make peace.

The new sanctions legislation writes existing sanctions against Russia into law, enacts new sanctions and forbids the President to lift sanctions without consent of Congress.

  • This is a bad idea because it puts the USA in a permanent state of cold war with the world’s second largest nuclear weapons power.
  • This is a bad idea because it sets the United States against its European allies, who see their oil and gas prices go up.
  • This is a bad idea because President Putin is likely to retaliate by ending U.S.-Russian co-operation in the space program.

All this is to punish the Russian government for interfering in the 2017 U.S. election, even though such interference has never been proved.

The charge that Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign computers is treated by Congress and most of the Washington press as a proved fact, but the FBI has never been allowed access to those computers, and has never demanded access to those computers.

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Memorial Day 2017

May 29, 2017

Memorial Day was originally a holiday to honor the Union dead in the Civil War.  They should not be forgotten.   The painting below illustrates the Battle of Gettysburg, with Union defenders on the left, Confederate attackers on the right.

A Memorial Day War Nerd: Gettysburg Was The Finest Fight Ever in the World by John Dolan, aka Gary Brecher, for The eXiled.

Why the US bears the cost of NATO

May 26, 2017

My sixth most-viewed post is about a warning in 2011 by then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to European allies to pay their proportionate share of the cost of the NATO military alliance.

This is much the same as what President Trump is saying now.

I thought then, and I still think, that members of the European Union are strong enough and wealthy enough to protect themselves without relying on the USA.   I thought then, and I still think, that this would be a good thing.

But if the Europeans paid for their own defense, they might be less willing to follow the U.S. lead in military policy.  And, maybe more importantly, they might be less willing to buy their weapons from American manufacturers.

The advantage of paying the piper means that you get to call the tune.

Can the Saudis lure the US into a war with Iran?

May 19, 2017

Prince Salman meets with President Trump in March

The young new ruler of Saudi Arabia, Prince Salman bin Mohammad, is trying to organize an alliance of Sunni Muslim nations against Shiite Iran.

And President Donald Trump is expected to endorse an anti-Iranian “Arab NATO” during his forthcoming visit to Saudi Arabia.

This is a terrible idea.   It doesn’t benefit Americans and it risks a war that would be disastrous for both Americans and people in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia is an enormously wealthy nation, but it is thinly populated and militarily weak.  It depends on the United States for its defense.  In return, the Saudis buy billions of dollars in armaments from American companies and pump oil in sufficient quantities to keep world oil prices low.

So the United States since the 1970s has sided with Saudi Arabia and also Israel against their geopolitical rivals in the region.   Once Saudi Arabia’s chief rival and threat was Iraq.  Now it is Iran.

This has nothing to do with making Americans safe from terrorism, and everything to do with promoting the strategic and economic interests of Saudi Arabia.

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Can the U.S. carry out Trump’s military buildup?

May 15, 2017

President Donald Trump has called for a military buildup, which would mean more aircraft carriers, more nuclear submarines, more high-tech weapons of all kinds.

A military analyst named Daniel Gouré wondered whether the United States has the industrial base needed for such a buildup.

For the Army, this means moving forward with near-term modernization and improvements to its existing fleets of tanks, fighting vehicles, artillery, rotorcraft, and rockets.   For the Air Force, it is reaching an economic rate of F-35 production as soon as possible.   For the Navy, it is all about the numbers of Virginia-class SSNs, Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, Ford-class aircraft carriers, LX(R) amphibious warfare ships, and small combatants (Littoral Combat Ship or new Small Surface Combatant).  Without question, a military buildup will require lots of dollars for defense.

But unless the industrial base is prepared to accelerate production, all the money in the world will not produce the desired results.

Source: RealClearDefense

Do we have the industrial base?  U.S. military power depends on U.S. high-tech manufacturing, and the U.S. manufacturing base is declining and dependent on foreign imports.   The U.S. depends on China and other foreign countries for many key electronic components.  The U.S. depends on imports even for basic raw materials such as steel.

We have had two contradictory policies—a industrial policy that accepts U.S. dependence on global supply chains, and a military interventionist policy that depends on U.S. technological superiority.

This contradiction did not originate with President Trump, but it is now his responsibility to deal with it.

High tariffs on imports, as proposed by Trump, won’t solve this problem—at least not overnight.   The hollowing out of the U.S. manufacturing base has been going on for years, and rebuilding it won’t be accomplished overnight.

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Can the U.S. make credible threats or promises?

April 19, 2017

President Trump reportedly hopes that cruise missile attack Syria and the 11-ton MOAB bomb dropped on Afghanistan will make American threats more credible when he deals with North Korea and other hostile countries.

But it is not enough for a leader of a great nation to be able to make credible threats.  He also has to be able to make credible promises.

It is not enough for foreign heads of state to feel in danger if they oppose the United States.  They have to be able to feel safe from U.S. wrath if they cooperate with the United States.

Otherwise the threats will make them redouble their efforts to be able to strike back.

Saddam Hussein, Muammar Qaddafi and Bashar al-Assad all found that appeasing the United States was more dangerous than defiance.

Unfortunately for President Trump, he—for reasons not of his own making—is in a situation in which neither his threats nor his promises are credible.

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Official story of sarin attack debunked

April 19, 2017

Theodore A. Postol, professor emeritus of science, technology and national security as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has written a series of reports that convincingly debunk the claim that the Syrian government attacked civilians with sarin two weeks ago.

He said, among other things, that—

The video evidence shows workers at the site roughly 30 hours after the alleged attack that were wearing clothing with the logo “Idlib Health Directorate.”

These individuals were photographed putting dead birds from a birdcage into plastic bags.  The implication of these actions was that the birds had died after being placed in the alleged sarin crater.

However, the video also shows the same workers inside and around the same crater with no protection of any kind against sarin poisoning. These individuals were wearing honeycomb face masks and medical exam gloves. They were otherwise dressed in normal streetwear and had no protective clothing of any kind.

The honeycomb face masks would provide absolutely no protection against either sarin vapors or sarin aerosols. The masks are only designed to filter small particles from the air.  If there were sarin vapor, it would be inhaled without attenuation by these individuals.  If the sarin were in an aerosol form, the aerosol would have condensed into the pours in the masks, and would have evaporated into a highly lethal gas as the individuals inhaled through the mask.  It is difficult to believe that such health workers, if they were health workers, would be so ignorant of these basic facts.

In addition, other people dressed as health workers were standing around the crater without any protection at all.

I don’t know for sure what happened.  What Prof. Postol’s report proves is that President Trump committed an act of war against a sovereign nation for reasons not supported by evidence.  Although the attack resulted in relatively few casualties and little damage, it may well have destroyed the possibility of peace with Syria and Russia.

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Glenn Greenwald sums things up

April 8, 2017

Glenn Greenwald, on The Intercept, said pretty well everything that needs to be said about President Trump’s attack on Syria.

  1.  New wars will strengthen Trump: as they do for every leader.
  2.  Democrats’ jingoistic rhetoric has left them no ability — or desire — to oppose Trump’s wars.
  3.   In wartime, US television instantly converts into state media.
  4.   Trump’s bombing is illegal, but presidents are now omnipotent.
  5.   How can those who view Trump as an inept fascist now trust him to wage war?
  6.   Like all good conspiracy theories, no evidence can kill the Kremlin-controls-Trump tale.
  7.   The fraud of humanitarianism works every time for (and on) American elites.
  8.   Support for Trump’s bombing shows two toxic U.S. conceits:  “Do something” and “Look strong.”
  9.   Obama’s refusal to bomb Assad hovers over everything.
  10.   None of this disproves, obviously, that Hillary Clinton was also a dangerous hawk.

LINK

The Spoils of War: Trump Lavished With Media and Bipartisan Praise for Bombing Syria by Glenn Greenwald for The Intercept.   Hat tip to peteybee.

Can we have war theater without fighting?

April 8, 2017

Click to enlarge.

We Americans like the spectacle of war, but, since the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam Conflict, only a small minority of us has had an appetite for actual fighting.

President Donald Trump’s attack on Syria shows that he understands this.  It was a kind of minimalist attack.   The Syrian government was given a general notice that an attack was coming, and the Russian government a specific attack, so that casualties and damage were minimal.

Except for the unfortunate Syrian troops who were killed, this was war theater, not war.

Yet he got credit for acting decisively.    Deeply unpopular before, he has been applauded by the press, Congress and even Hillary Clinton, while even Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren equivocated.   All the speculative news about Trump conspiring with Putin has vanished from the front pages.

I fear Trump has learned a bad lesson.  When unpopular, rally Americans by attacking a designated foreign enemy.  But since these attacks won’t change anything, he’ll have do something each time that is more impressive than what he did the time before, which means a higher risk of sliding from token war into general war.

I don’t think that Trump scared Bashar al Assad, Hassan Rouhani, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping or Kim Jong-on.   I think they understand what is going on very well.  I don’t think they can be bluffed or intimidated.   As my father said, never start a fight you are not prepared to finish.

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Scott Adams on the Syrian gas attacks

April 7, 2017

[Correction 4/8/2017: Sarin, as peteybee of Spread an Idea pointed out, is a liquid, not a gas.]

Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert cartoon and a self-described expert on persuasion, thinks that the best way for President Trump to respond to fake news about Syrian gas attacks is by means of a fake response—

The reason the Assad government would bomb its own people with a nerve agent right now is obvious. Syrian President Assad – who has been fighting for his life for several years, and is only lately feeling safer – suddenly decided to commit suicide-by-Trump.

Scott Adams

Because the best way to make that happen is to commit a war crime against your own people in exactly the way that would force President Trump to respond or else suffer humiliation at the hands of the mainstream media.

And how about those pictures coming in about the tragedy.  Lots of visual imagery. Dead babies.

It is almost as if someone designed this “tragedy” to be camera-ready for President Trump’s consumption.  It pushed every one of his buttons.  Hard.  And right when things in Syria were heading in a positive direction.

  • Interesting timing.
  • Super-powerful visual persuasion designed for Trump in particular.
  • Suspiciously well-documented event for a place with no real press.
  • No motive for Assad to use gas to kill a few dozen people at the cost of his entire regime. It wouldn’t be a popular move with Putin either.
  • The type of attack no U.S. president can ignore and come away intact.
  • A setup that looks suspiciously similar to the false WMD stories that sparked the Iraq war.

I’m going to call bullshit on the gas attack.  It’s too “on-the-nose,” as Hollywood script-writers sometimes say, meaning a little too perfect to be natural.  This has the look of a manufactured event.

My guess is that President Trump knows this smells fishy, but he has to talk tough anyway.  However, keep in mind that he has made a brand out of not discussing military options.  He likes to keep people guessing.  He reminded us of that again yesterday, in case we forgot.

So how does a Master Persuader respond to a fake war crime?

He does it with a fake response, if he’s smart.

Source: Scott Adams’ Blog.

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Learning the lesson of Iraq (or not)

April 7, 2017

[Correction 4/8/2017: Sarin, as peteybee of Spread an Idea pointed out, is a liquid, not a gas.]

Back in 2003, I thought the U.S. invasion of Iraq might be a good idea.

I thought we Americans could atone for all the suffering we had caused the Iraqi people by the low-level war by the Clinton administration by overthrowing the evil tyrant Saddam—and, yes, he really was evil and a tyrant—and allowing the Iraqis to choose their own government.

The United States would then, so I thought, have a democratic ally in the Middle East whose people were genuinely pro-American, and would free ourselves from dependence on the Saudi monarchy.

The U.S. invasion made things worse, both from the standpoint of the Iraqi people and of us Americans.   Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were killed, hundreds of thousands became refugees.

Maybe there would have been a different result if the U.S. occupation authorities’ priorities had not been to get control of Iraqi oil and create money-making opportunities for American contractors.

We have to recognize that policy is going to be carried out by the government we’ve got, not the government we wish we had.

I think an invasion of Syria would have the same bad result as the invasion of Iraq.

I think a stepped-up bombing campaign in Syria would increase the suffering of the Syrian people, but would not punish the individuals responsible for the gas attacks—if such attacks occurred.

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Did Bashar al-Assad order poison gas attack?

April 6, 2017

[Correction 4/8/2017: Sarin, as peteybee of Spread an Idea pointed out, is a liquid, not a gas.]

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley states as a fact that the Syrian government used poison gas (probably sarin) against civilians in its fight against rebels.  I question this because: —

  1.   It doesn’t make sense that Bashar al-Assad would risk turning the world against him and his regime when he and his Russian allies are on the verge of victory against ISIS and other jihadist rebels.
  2.   No news account that I have read states unequivocally that such attacks have occurred.  They all use words such as “allegedly” and “reportedly” and then go on as if the fact was proven.

Haley’s speech reminds me of Colin Powell’s speech to the United Nations back in 2003 that Saddam Hussein possessed chemical, biological and/or nuclear weapons.   We now know that this was just an excuse to invade Iraq, a nation that never threatened the United States but was feared by the leaders of Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The Iraq war united most of us Americans behind President George W. Bush, at least for a time, but in the end it helped create the backlash that led to the election of Barack Obama.

Donald Trump was one who came to understand what big mistake it was to invade Iraq.   He also said it would be a big mistake to intervene in Syria in 2013.   He was right both times.   Those are two reasons I thought he might be less of a war hawk than Hillary Clinton.

Now he seems eager to go to war.   He now criticizes the Obama administration from holding back on going to war in 2013 in similar circumstances.

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The fruits of war in Syria

April 6, 2017

Source: Concern (2016)

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Mike Whitney on U.S. anti-Russian policy

March 24, 2017

Will Washington Risk WW3 to Block an Emerging Russia-EU Superstate? by Mike Whitney for Counterpunch.

Map via Wikimedia

A brief history of cyber-scares

March 22, 2017

From Russia, With Panic: Cozy bears, unsourced hacks—and a Silicon Valley shakedown by Yasha Levine for The Baffler.   It’s a bit long, but well worth reading in its entirety.