Archive for the ‘War and Peace’ Category

War and peace: Links & comments 2/27/15

February 27, 2015

In Midst of War, Ukraine Becomes Gateway for Jihad by Marcin Mamon for The Intercept.

Failed states, where governmental authority has collapsed, are ideal venues for warlords, organized crime and terrorists.  Ukraine fits the profile.

Ready for Nuclear War Over Ukraine? by Robert Parry for Information Clearing House.  (Hat tip to Corrente)

Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister said Kiev is preparing for “full-scale war” against Russia, and is unafraid of nuclear weapons.

The Cold War and Ukraine by William K. Polk for Counterpunch.

Russia sees NATO forces in Ukraine today as the United States saw Soviet missiles in Cuba in 1962 .

Germany’s army is so under-equipped that it used broomsticks instead of machine guns by Rich Noack for the Washington Post.  (Hat tip to Marginal Revolution)

What Is Russia’s Answer to Greece’s Plan B – Smile, Blow the Whistle, Pass the Red Card by John Helmer for Dances With Bears.

In short, Russia does not intend to bail out Greece.

 

The ebb and flow of Russia in Europe

February 26, 2015
Russia in Europe 1914

Russia in Europe 1914

Since 1848, the United States has been secure within its present continental boundaries.  That’s not been true of all nations, and particularly not true of Russia and its European neighbors.  I’ve collected a series of maps from Google Image showing the ebb and flow of Russian power in Europe.

What they show is why, on the one hand, Russia’s neighboring countries would feel in need of protection and why, on the other hand, Russia would fear any hostile military power along its border, especially in Ukraine.

The Baltic states, Poland, Belarus and Ukraine did not exist as independent countries a century ago.  People who lived in these regions during the 20th century would have lived under several different governments, including some of the bloodiest regimes in history, without having moved from the place they were born.

1wk_brest_litowsk_vertrag_karte

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The Ukraine’s familiar scenario

February 16, 2015

image-811111-panoV9free-stvuSource: Der Spiegel

Ukraine’s problems can be summed up thusly:

  • A national army that’s unwilling to fight.
  • Out-of-control fanatic militias unwilling to make peace.
  • An economy in a state of collapse.

Every country is unique, and so is every situation, but this sounds an awful lot like the situations in Iraq and other countries in which the United States has intervened.

In these countries, all factions are willing and able to fight except the faction aligned with the United States.

Also similar is the position of the U.S. government.  The President doesn’t want to accept defeat, but neither does he want to send more young Americans to another foreign land to die in a war that probably isn’t winnable.

So he ponders are compromise measures, such as sending defensive weapons that supposedly won’t be used for offense, and technical advisers that supposedly are not actually going to fight themselves.

The best thing that could happen from the standpoint of the United States would be for Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany to negotiated a compromise peace.  This would involve home rule for eastern Ukraine, and a federal system in which the Russian speakers could veto Ukraine joining NATO.

That would leave Ukraine proper in hock to the International Monetary Fund.  Paying off the IMF would mean higher prices, higher taxes and sale of Ukrainian national assets at bargain prices.  If Washington was truly interested in helping the Ukrainian people, it would try to help free them from IMF debt bondage.

It’s interesting, by the way, that one party in what supposedly is a civil war is absent from the peace negotiations.  The negotiating parties are representatives of France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia, but not of the separatists in east Ukraine.  Presumably they will have no choice but to accept whatever Russia agrees to.

LINKS

Can Merkel’s diplomacy save Europe? by the Spiegel staff.

Ukraine Denouement: the Russian Loan and the IMF’s One-Two Punch by Michael Hudson for Counterpunch.

Putin couldn’t be a Hitler if he tried

February 16, 2015

In 1938, a ruthless autocrat named Adolf Hitler claimed to be protector of the Sudetenland, a border region of Czechoslovakia, in order to protect ethnic Germans who lived there.

In 2015, a ruthless autocrat named Vladimir Putin claims to be protector of the eastern border region of Ukraine in order to protect the ethnic Russians there.

putin.as.czarIs Putin another Hitler?  Would his next step be to conquer all Ukraine, as Hitler conquered all Czechoslovakia?  Would Poland be next, as it was for Hitler?

I don’t believe these are Putin’s intentions.  Everything he has done so far is consistent with his stated goal, which is for the world’s great powers to accept Russia as a peer and to take Russia’s vital interests into account.

But, for the sake of argument, suppose Putin’s aim is to reconquer eastern Europe or even all of Europe.  How could he carry it out?

The old Soviet Union was unable to pacify Afghanistan, and had to retreat in ignominious defeat.  Putin’s Russian Federation was barely able to crush the rebellion in tiny Chechnya.  How could he hope to conquer a nation as large as Ukraine?

Germany in Hitler’s time had world-class science, technology and industrial power, an efficient government and possibly the best army, man-for-man, in the world.

The Russian Federation is ruled by a corrupt oligarchy.  It lacks high-technology industry.  Its economy is based on exports of natural resources, like Venezuela’s or Iran’s.  The military potential of Putin’s Russia is not comparable to Hitler’s Germany

Russians would no doubt fight valiantly to protect their homeland, if invaded, as they always have.  They have succeeded in protecting their compatriots in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, where most of the local people welcome them.   The Russian army could probably occupy Kiev as quickly as the U.S. army occupied Baghdad.

But then what?  The USA was able to quickly occupy Baghdad in 2003, but then became bogged down in a quagmire more.   A Russian conquest of Ukraine would be an even bigger quagmire.   The result would be a devastated Ukraine and a Russia that had been bled dry.

The Russian Federation has the power to destroy the USA with nuclear weapons, just as our government has the power to destroy them.  What neither country has the power to do is to defeat a determined insurgent force being armed by the other side.

Vladimir Putin is too intelligent and realistic to put Russia into such a situation situation.  I think that what he wants is a neutral and, if necessary, a neutralized Ukraine—to have enough of a foothold in that country, as in Georgia and Moldova, to prevent that country from allying itself to a hostile foreign power.

If that is his desire, I think it is completely reasonable—certainly not something for the USA to risk nuclear war over.

LINKS

What does Russia want? by James Meek for the London Review of Books.

Russian science is amazing.  So why hasn’t it taken over the world?, an interview of MIT’s Loren Graham for the Boston Globe.

Has the IMF Annexed Ukraine?, an interview of Michael Hudon for the Real News Network.  Ukraine faces other worse threats than Putin.

Don’t Arm Ukraine by John J. Mearsheimer for The New York Times.  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey).

The Cookie Monster in the White House

February 11, 2015

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Why would ‘boots on the ground’ even work?

February 10, 2015

Conservative and Republican leaders are calling on President Obama to put American “boots on the ground” to resist Putin in Ukraine and the Islamic State (ISIS) in the Middle East.

And the President reportedly plans to ask for authorization to use military force against ISIS.  Since he does not consider aerial bombing, drone strikes or Special Operations missions to be military force, it must be “boots on the ground” that he has in mind.

troops-on-the-groundMy question is:  Given the failure of “boots on the ground” in Iraq and Afghanistan and, before that, in Vietnam, why would you expect success this time?

Over the years, the American armed forces have taught insurgents in countries they occupy how to defeat us.  The Pentagon has not learned how to defeat insurgents.

The U.S. military has the power to attack virtually any nation except Russia or China and reduce it to chaos.  What is doesn’t have the power to do is to pacify the nation afterwards and make its people submit.

Or, as a friend of mine remarked during the Vietnam era, the United States had the power to kill all the North Vietnamese and kill all the South Vietnamese, but it didn’t have the power to make any Vietnamese do what the US wanted.

Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result.  This insanity is the real Vietnam Syndrome.

LINKS

Boots on the Ground? Yes by Thomas Donnelly for The Weekly Standard.

John McCain: US Boots on the Ground Better Than ISIS on American Soil by Greg Richter for Newsmax.

Gov. Scott Walker Wouldn’t Rule Out U.S. Boots on the Ground in Syria by Jessica Puckett for ABC News’ The Note.

Ted Cruz and Lindsay Graham at Odds Over ‘Boots on the Ground’ by David Knowles for Bloomberg Politics.   Interesting that Cruz resists being sucked into this.

Obama readying request to use force against Islamic State by Patricia Zengerle for Reuters.

It’s the lessons the U.S. didn’t learn from Vietnam that makes its loss there the real tragedy by Robert Freeman for Salon.  (Hat tip to Cannonfire).

Burying Vietnam, Launching Perpetual War by Christian Appy for TomDispatch.

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Mercenary armies and the fate of nations

February 10, 2015

Kelly Vlahos wrote a disturbing article in The American Conservative about the Pentagon’s growing dependence on mercenary troops and about how mercenary companies are becoming just as important as regular troops worldwide.

Use of military contractors offers many short-term conveniences for governments and long-term dangers for the public.

authoritarianism9fd18cHiring mercenaries frees a government from the difficulties of recruitment or a military draft.   Mercenary companies are usually willing to do whatever they’re paid to do, without concern for such things as the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the Constitution, the Geneva convention or a sense of military honor.  Their activities are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

The long-term danger is having your country’s national defense dependent on people whose services are for sale to the highest bidder.   That was the situation in the city-states of Renaissance Italy during the time of Machiavelli, and Sean McFate, a writer and former mercenary himself, thinks the world could be returning to that situation.  Very convenient—for the government in power.

The great sociologist Max Weber defined a sovereign government as the institution that had a monopoly on the legitimate use of lethal force within a given area.  But there is nothing that limits a military contractor to selling its services to a government.

Mercenaries can sell their services to anybody that can pay them, be they corporations, political parties, fanatic religious movements or international institutions.

Corporations nowadays operate like private governments and sometimes have the power to bend actual governments to their will, as the big banks are doing in Greece and Ukraine.  But while they have their own security forces, they as yet lack full-fledged armies.  If Vlahos and McFate are right, they might acquire them, too.

LINKS

A Blackwater World Order by Kelley Vlahos for The American Conservative.

Book Review: Sean McFate’s The Modern Mercenary for Scholars and Rogues Literary Journal.

Blackwater Convictions Don’t Mean the End of Mercenary War by Sean McFate for The New Republic.

The nature of a corporation and how it changed in the 1980s by Matt Stoller for Ian Welsh.  About corporations as private governments.

One Soviet sub officer averted World War Three

February 6, 2015

Hat tip to Washington’s Blog.

I probably owe my life, along with most Americans, Europeans and Russians who were alive on October 27, 1962, to Vasily Arkipov, a Soviet submarine officer whose name I’d never heard of until this morning.

During the Cuban missile crisis, the Soviet Union sent four submarines with nuclear torpedoes to Cuban waters.   One of those submarines, the B-59, came under attack from depth charges from an American destroyer.

These were dummy charges, intended to make the submarine surface, but Valantin Savitsky, the sub commander, did not know this.   He ordered a nuclear torpedo to be prepared for firing at the USS Randolf, a giant aircraft carrier leading the blockade of Cuba.

The submarine officers were allowed to launch nuclear weapons on their own initiative.  The only condition was that all three senior officers agree.  One officer, Vasily Arkipov, refused permission.  But for him, World War Three would have begun.

I remember the Cuban missile crisis vividly.   I was not afraid because it seemed to me that it was all bluff.  I did not think either John F. Kennedy nor Nikita Khrushchev would be so crazy as to begin a nuclear war.  Only later did I realize how great the danger really was.

There have been more close calls since then, when war was averted only by the good judgment of an American or Soviet officer on duty at the time.   As long as both countries have nuclear weapons, the danger exists.   We can’t count on being lucky every time.  We only have to be unlucky once.

The USA is now flirting with war with Russia over Ukraine.   I do not think either Barack Obama or Vladimir Putin would be so crazy as to begin a nuclear war—not intentionally.  But the risk of war is just as great now as it was then.

LINKS

Thank you, Vasily Arkipov, the man who stopped nuclear war by Edward Wilson for The Guardian.

A Man You’ve Never Heard of Saved Your Life by “George Washington” for Washington’s Blog.

What Stephen F. Cohen & Other Liberals Get Wrong About Obama & Ukraine’s War by Eric Zuesse for Washington’s Blog.

Failed policy and declining U.S. military morale

January 2, 2015

Morale in the U.S. military is declining for many reasons, but I think the underlying problem is that men and women in the armed forces lack a clear mission that is related to the defense of the nation, and that the American public understands and supports.

Americans supported the troops during World War Two because Japan attacked us and Germany threatened us.  Americans had trouble understanding “limited” war in Korea (although I think the American defense of South Korea was necessary) and counterinsurgency warfare in Vietnam.

The Pentagon’s solution was to end the draft so that wars could be fought without the support of the American public.  But the volunteer troops, like the draftees of an earlier era, still need a reason why their risk and sacrifice is necessary to protect the nation, and it matters to them whether they have the support of the public.

The men and women in the U.S. armed forces are well able to defend their country against attack, and are capable of destroying the armed forces and government of any weak country such as Iraq or Libya.   What U.S. military leaders have never learned how to do is to subdue a resistance force operating in its home country.

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AMERICA’S MILITARY: a force adrift by Hope Hodge Seck for Military Times.

The Real Reason For The Poor State of Military Morale by Carl Forsling for Task & Purpose.

There are no good guys in the Ukraine conflict

January 2, 2015

My e-mail pen pal Bill Harvey sent me links to a couple of articles with good information about U.S. policy in Ukraine and the folly of the U.S. covert war, economic war and military confrontation against Russia.  But, by omission, they imply an overly favorable impression of Vladimir Putin and Putin’s Russia.

The Russian Federation is dominated by a corrupt financial oligarchy, as was Ukraine before last year’s overthrow.   The original Maidan protests were a thoroughly justified movement representing a broad base of Ukrainian society and including ethnic Tatars, Jews and other minorities as well as ethnic Ukrainians and Russians.

The government in Moscow is as chauvinistic as the government in Kiev and neither has the best interests of the Ukrainian people at heart.

Pro-Russian bloggers such as Dmitry Orlov inadvertently illustrate Russian chauvinism when they say on the one hand that Ukrainians are no different from Russians, and, at the same time, dismiss Ukrainians as an inferior people with no culture worthy of respect.  Ukrainians have good reason to want to be free of Russian domination.

I oppose President Obama’s risky confrontation with Russia over Ukraine, and hope for compromise peace—but I don’t see President Putin as a liberator.  Quite the contrary.

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Obama Says He Is Improving the World by Eric Zuesse for RINF Alternative News.  (Bill Harvey)

U.S. National Public Radio Propagandizes Against Putin, for Regime Change in Russia by Eric Zuesse for RINF Alternative News.  (Bill Harvey)


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