Archive for the ‘War and Peace’ Category

Weapons from Ukraine war appear in Nigeria

December 5, 2022

Nigeria President Says Weapons From Ukraine Are Winding Up in Africa by Dave DeCamp for Antiwar.com.

Weapons, fighters from Russia / Ukraine conflict compounding Boko Haran insurgency by Johnbosco Agbakwuru for Vanguard news service.

Why India should be concerned about Ukraine war weapons in Nigeria by Sanjib Kr Baruah for The Week magazine of India.

Weapons from Russia-Ukraine War Now Slipping Into Africa, Used by Terrorists by the Sahara Reporter.

The Ukraine War: Cracks in Unexpected Places by Ted Snider for Antiwar.com.

Andrei Martyanov’s warning of U.S. weakness

December 2, 2022

DISINTEGRATION: Indications of the Coming American Collapse by Andrei Martyanov (2021)

Andrei Martyanov, an immigrant from Russia, is a writer and blogger on military affairs who for years has been warning the citizens of his adopted country of American military weakness.

In Disintegration, his latest book, he connects U.S. military failures to an an overall decline in American society – economically, politically and morally – which he fears may be irreversible.  

Born in 1963 in Baku,  he  is a graduate of the  Kirov Naval Red Banner Academy and served as an officer in Soviet Coast Guard through 1990.  He moved to the United States in the mid-1990s and worked for a time as laboratory director for a military aerospace group.  He lives in Washington state.

He said that as he traveled in the early 1990s, he always felt relief at landing in the USA, a safe haven from crime-ridden Russia.  He would stop at an airport bar and enjoy a plate of chicken wings, a beer and a cigarette.  The sitcom Cheers was usually on TV, and, to him, it symbolized the values of a peaceful, welcoming nation.

Since then, he says, his new country has been in decline, and his old country has risen from the ashes.  The United States is attempting to project power worldwide that it no longer has.  

I won’t attempt to summarize the book, but I’ll hit a few high points.

He presents evidence that, even though the United States has the world’s most expensive military, its military technology is qualitatively inferior to Russia’s and China’s.

Russia’s hypersonic missiles have changed warfare forever, he said.  They are not interruptible by existing U.S. anti-missile systems.  He said the U.S. lag behind Russias in air-defense systems is massive.  None of this can be changed anytime soon.

Although U.S. power projection defends on its Navy and Air Force, American shipbuilding and aircraft industries lag behind Chinese competitors and are being overtaken by Russians.

In 2018, 90 percent of the world’s ships were built in China, Japan and South Korea.  Russia also surpasses the USA in commercial shipbuilding.  Many tankers and other commercial ships built by these four countries are bigger than U.S. aircraft carriers.

Boeing aircraft have had disastrous crashes in the past few years, due to failures in the manufacturing process.  Martyanov says Russia’s new MC-21 plane is competitive with Boeing or any other of the world’s aircraft.  

The U.S. responded to the MC-21 by blocking exports of carbon fiber, a necessary component.  Russia proceeded to develop its own carbon fiber industry.

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Was Ron DeSantis a Guantanamo torturer?

November 29, 2022

Mansoor Adayfi was held without charge at Guantanamo Bay from 2002, when he was 18, until 2016.  He recently told podcaster Mike Prysner that he was tortured, and the Ron DeSantis, now Governor of Florida, was one of his torturers.

In 2005, Adayfi said, he and about 200 fellow inmates were carrying on a hunger strike.  Lt (jg) Ron DeSantis of the Judge Advocate General Corps arrived on the scene and presented himself as a mediator.

Ron DeSantis

Adayfi said DeSantis asked the prisoners to tell them of their concerns, so that he could take it up with prison officials.  But what DeSantis really was doing was finding out the prisoners’ weaknesses, so they could be tormented more effectively.

“It was a piece of the game what they were doing,” he said. “They were looking for what hurt you more to use it against you.”

The detainees were strapped down and force-fed Ensure, a liquid nutritional supplement, through their noses.

“Ron DeSantis was there watching us.  We were crying, screaming.  We were tied to the feeding chair.  And that guy was watching that.  He was laughing,”

He said prison administrators put a laxative into the liquid that gave the prisoners diarrhea.  Afterward, he said, they were put in solitary confinement.

“They broke all of the hunger strikes in one week,” Adayfi said. “It was a machine.  And he was there.  All of them were watching – the colonel, officers, doctors, nurses – and not just that, they used to also beat us.

“You know, we were beaten all day long. All day. There’s a team. Whatever you are doing, they just beat you. Pepper spray, beating, beating, sleep deprivation, that continued for three months.

“When I was screaming, I look at him and he was actually smiling.  Like someone who enjoyed it,” Adayfi said.

He also said he also complained to DeSantis about noise and sleep deprivation, and about the meat in prison food.  The result was more noise and more non-Halal meat mixed in the food.

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Crises everywhere, all at once

November 22, 2022

I firmly believe the world is at a historical turning point, equivalent to the French Revolution or the outbreak of World War One.

I expect more changes in the next few years than there have been in many decades.  

This is not good news.  Times of revolutionary change are not times any normal person would want to live through, even those whose results we now think are good, like the era of the French Revolution.

The world faces multiple crises, which feed upon each other, and which are not being dealt with.

Humanity is failing to deal with the growing civilization-threatening threat of global warming.  We are neither about to stop the ongoing increase of global warming nor deal with the increasing number of catastrophic storms, droughts and floods.  

Neither are we able to deal with the growing threat of pandemic disease.  Nor has the world has really recovered from the 2008 financial crash.   And now the world faces the spillover from the proxy war in Ukraine.

Adam Tooze, a famous financial historian, calls what we’re facing a “polycrisis.”  All the different crises affect each other and make the others worse.  

Tooze is an intelligent establishmentarian.  He wants the world’s leaders to change some things in order that the essential things will stay the same.  I think the things are past the point where this is possible, although I would be happy to be proved wrong.

If I made my own polycrisis chart, I would put some additional boxes on it—the continuing “war on terror,” for one; peak oil, for another.  But his basic point is right.  The world’s leaders face multiple crises, and, with few exceptions, they are not dealing with them. 

Instead of joining forces to face the existential threats to civilization, the world’s great powers—China, Russia, the USA and the European Union—are lining up for a struggle for power that will test their strength to the breaking point and damage the world as a whole, not just themselves.

Ukraine already is devastated.  The UK and EU are in economic recession and face dangerous fuel shortages.  Many nations of the Global South are unable to import food and fuel.  

I have written about why I think my own country is likely to crack before Russia does, but Russia and even China have serious problems, and if they go down first, our future still looks grim.

It is not just the great power conflict’s cost in resources and human lives.  It is the opportunity cost of neglect of turning away from the real threats that face us.

LINKS

Apocalypse Nowish: The sense of an ending by Michael Robbins for Harper’s magazine.

Defining polycrisis – from crisis pictures to the crisis matrix by Adam Tooze for Chartbook #130.

Covid, Climate and the New Denialism by Edward Snowden for Continuing Ed.

Fighting a War on the Wrong Planet by Rajan Menon for TomDispatch.

Why Is China So Obsessed With Food Security? by N.S. Lyons for The Upheaval.

U.S. is losing high-stakes sanctions war w/Russia

November 19, 2022

When Russia invaded Ukraine, President Biden threatened “sanctions from hell.”  His goal was to destroy Russia’s ability to carry on a war effort by wrecking its economy.

This didn’t seem far-fetched.  Russia ranked only 11th among industrial nations in terms of output.  It alternated with Ukraine in ranking as the poorest and most corrupt nation in Europe.  Its government and its companies were considered bureaucratic and inefficient.

If the United States had been able to rally the world behind its effort, it might have succeeded.  But it failed.  The sanctions effort was limited to the USA and its core allies.

The sanctions damaged the Russian economy, maybe permanently, but for now Russia still has both the means and the will to continue the war.

Far from wrecking Russia, the sanctions war is wrecking the economies of Europe.  U.S. demands are pushing allies and bystander nations into the arms of China and Russia.  Sanctions are hurting the American people as well as the Russian people.

Two sayings come to mind:

  • If you strike at a king, you must kill him.
  • That which does not kill me makes me stronger.

Al Jazeera reported that the sanctions included freezing nearly half of Russia’s financial reserves, expelling several of the country’s largest banks from the SWIFT payments system, prohibiting Russian ships and planes from entering their ports and airspace, introducing export restrictions for certain advanced technologies, and placing an embargo on Russian oil and coal.

The BBC reported that the US barred Russia from making debt payments using foreign currency held in US banks.  The UK has excluded key Russian banks from the UK financial system, frozen the assets of all Russian banks, barred Russian firms from borrowing money and placed limits on deposits Russians can make at UK banks.

The BBC reported that Western nations have announced these sanctions:

From December, the EU and the Group of Seven (US, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan) also want to cap the price countries pay for Russian oil.  They are telling importers of Russian crude oil that western insurers will not cover oil shipments if they pay more than the cap.

The BBC also reported that the US, EU, UK and other countries have sanctioned more than 1,000 Russian individuals and businesses – including so-called oligarchs.  These are wealthy business leaders who are thought to be close to the Kremlin, such as former Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich.

Simultaneously, more than 1,200 foreign companies have either suspended or curtailed their operations in Russia since the start of the conflict in Ukraine, according to a database from Yale University’s Chief Executive Leadership Institute.  Among the big names on that list are brands such as Apple, McDonald’s, IKEA, Visa, and MasterCard.

The new supply restrictions have not only caused inflation to climb into the double digits, but also undercut Russian manufacturers by depriving them of imported components that are critical to assembling their final products.  Russia’s car production, for instance, plummeted by a stunning 61.8 percent during the first six months of this year, according to Al Jazeera.

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I pity the poor Ukrainians

November 18, 2022

The Ukrainian government is increasingly desperate, and is doing desperate things.  

In spite of its apparent victory in Kherson, its actions are the actions of a nation with its back to the wall.  

Its only hope is to drag the United States and other NATO allies into a wider war.

Those are the reasons behind the Ukrainian strikes on Russia territorythe assassination of Darya Dagina, and the bombardment of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.  

By the way, it’s interesting that in a Google search, almost every link to the last item was to the absurd claim that the Russians bombarded the Zaporizhzhia plant themselves while their troops were occupying it, and only one to any source that questioned it. 

This is almost as absurd as the claims that the Russians blew up their own Nordstream pipe lines, but both are unquestioned in the mainstream U.S. and allied news media.  This shows the power of American propaganda.  But I digress.

The Ukrainians and their American supporters take comfort from the Ukrainians’ bloodless occupation of part of Kherson city.  But it seems clear that the Russians are regrouping for a counterattack when their newly-mobilized troops are in place and the ground is frozen.

I agree with this assessment of the ground war by Larry Johnson, a veteran of the CIA and the State Department’s Office of Counterterrorism.

Fact one — Ukraine’s economy is in tatters and there is no viable path to restore what it was on February 24, 2022. 

Fact two — Ukraine is totally dependent on Western aid to keep its army in the field. 

Fact three — Ukraine does not have a viable air force and cannot provide close air support to its front line troops. This means any Ukrainian advance on the ground is dependent on the limited armor and artillery units still intact.

Fact four — Ukraine’s ability to produce electricity and power is being steadily degraded and there is no short-term solution to keep the lights on.

Fact five — Russia has not committed its front line forces and high tech weaponry to the fight.

Fact six — Russia’s economy is strong despite Western efforts to sunder it.

Fact seven — Russia is economically self-sufficient.  It does not need foreign exports to sustain its industrial base but the world does need critical products and minerals that only Russia produces.

Fact eight — Russian factories are operating 24/7, producing essential military equipment and technology to keep its forces in the fight.

Fact nine — Russia can mobilize and train new troops on its own territory without fear of attack from Ukraine.  Ukraine cannot.

The announced Russian goals of the invasion were to protect Russians living in Ukraine, to force Ukraine to leave the NATO alliance and to “demilitarize” and “denazify” Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin evidently intends to achieve those goals through force.  Demilitarization and denazification are to be achieved by inflicting maximum casualties on Ukrainian military forces while minimizing Russian casualties.

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Diana Johnstone on the breakup of Yugoslavia

October 26, 2022

FOOL’S CRUSADE: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions by Diana Johnstone (2002)

Diana Johnstone is an American journalist, slightly older than me, who has spent most of her adult life in Europe.

Fool’s Crusade is about the lies that justified NATO intervention in Yugoslavia in the late 1990s.  I mostly accepted these lies at the time.

If I had read Johnstone’s book when it was published, I would have understood then a lot of things I have slowly came to understand over a period of years. 

I did realize that Germany precipitated the crisis by prematurely recognizing Croatia and Slovenia as independent countries, and that Croatia’s Franjo Tudgman was as much of an authoritarian nationalist strongman as Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic was accused of being.

But I still accepted the propaganda line that Milosevic was engaging in ethnic cleansing in order to create a Greater Serbia.  What he was actually trying to do was to hold together what was left of Yugoslavia and to protect Serbs stranded in other parts of the former Yugoslavoa.

Johnstone wrote that Milosovec could be criticized for his failures as a statesman, and that the Serbs were not guiltless.  But neither he nor they were not carrying out a systematic program of “ethnic cleansing.”  It was the Serbs, more than others, who were driven out of their ancestral homes.

She foresaw how U.S. intervention in Yugoslavia was to set a pattern for future interventions.

  • NATO was formed as a defensive alliance against the Soviet Union.  But this set the precedent for NATO interventions against nations that were outside the NATO region and did not threaten NATO members.
  • The United States led the intervention without any strong commitment of “boots on the ground.”  Instead the intervention consisted of indiscriminate bombings, use of proxy warriors and crippling economic sanctions.
  • The intervention was conducted without authorization of the United Nations.  The bombings of civilian neighborhoods and infrastructure were in violation of international law.
  • The justification for the intervention was to defend human rights against an imagined Hitler-like foe, who was supposedly so evil that anything was justified to bring him down.
  • The intervention was led by self-identified liberals and supported nearly unanimously by the liberal press.  The propaganda included false accusations of rape.  Critics were accused of sympathizing with the supposedly fascist enemy.
  • No good came of it.

Johnstone’s book is a model of what journalism should be.  She based her reporting on what she saw and on on-the-record interviews with named sources, plus her extensive background knowledge of the history and politics of the region.  None of it was due to inside information that the reader has to take on trust. 

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Zelensky favors preemptive strikes on Russia

October 7, 2022

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky believes that “NATO should make it impossible for Russia to use nuclear weapons.”

“Preemptive strikes are needed so that they know what awaits them if they use nuclear weapons.  Not the other way around, waiting for Russia’s nuclear strikes and then saying, ‘oh, you’ve done that, then get this’,” he said on Thursday, speaking via video link at Australia’s think tank, the Lowy Institute.

NATO, Zelensky said, “should reconsider how it uses its pressure.”

Source: InterFax Ukraine.

You might say Zelensky is willing to fight to the last American.

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On the eve of destruction

October 3, 2022

I think the world is at the beginning of a major crisis and turning point – something like the eve of the Great Depression or of World War One.  Future generations will look back on our generation and wonder how we could have been so blind as not to have seen the trap we are jumping into.

The destruction of the Nord Stream pipelines means the destruction of European economies.

The European countries are already in crisis.  Whole industries are being devastated by the direct and indirect effects of the cutoff of cheap oil and gas from Russia.

The destruction of the pipelines means this cutoff will be permanent. Cheap energy was the foundation of the European economic miracle. This is gone indefinitely, unless the Russians can be persuaded to repair the pipelines – the pipelines they supposedly destroyed themselves.

From what I read, I understand there is a window of only a few months for this to take place. After that damage from sea water will be irreversible.

The economic crisis is not confined to Europe.  It is spreading throughout the world.  Failures of key energy-intensive businesses in Europe will cascade to businesses that depend on them as suppliers or customers.  It will be a domino effect similar to the economic crash of 1929-1933.

The destruction of The Nord Stream pipelines takes the NATO-Russia conflict to a new level.

Nuclear warfare, chemical warfare, cyber warfare have all been off limits because there is basically no defense against them, and no nation’s leaders want to be the ones to initiate it.

Attacks on pipelines and undersea cables fall into this category.  A taboo has been broken.  There is no reason to believe that Russia is the culprit.  Why would the Russians destroy an asset they spent years and billions of dollars to build and which is their main means of leverage over Europe?  And Vladimir Putin has made it clear that he blames the USA. 

What happens if there is retaliation?  What, for example, would happen to the world’s financial markets if fiber optics communications between North America and Europe were broken?  We can only hope Putin does not choose to follow that path.

Russia and the USA are committed to a fight to the finish in Ukraine.

Back in late March and early April, Russia and Ukraine were conducting secret peace talks.  British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and U.S. General Mark Milley reportedly flew to Kiev to tell Volodomor Zelensky that NATO’s goal is to fight on until Russia is defeated.

Zelensky had no choice.  Ukraine is not a sovereign nation.  It couldn’t survive without not only military support from the USA and NATO allies, but also economic support from the International Monetary Fund and other international agencies controlled by the USA.

Vladimir Putin defines the war as a clash of civilizations – a clash between Russia, representing Eastern Christianity, and the secular, imperialistic West.  In his speech of annexation of Russian-occupied Ukraine to the Russian Federation, Putin denounced the USA for its history of slavery and conquest, and also its support of the new gender ideology.

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Pipeline sabotage kills last hope of Ukraine truce

September 29, 2022

I don’t know for a fact who is responsible for the Nord Stream pipeline sabotage.   But it is plain who benefits from the sabotage, who is hurt and what the results will be.

A winter truce or peace negotiations in the Ukraine war are now virtually impossible.

People in Germany and other European countries face a disastrous winter because of the cutoff of Russian oil and gas. The possibility of turning the gas back on gave Vladimir Putin great leverage in negotiating a possible truce.

The leaks in the gas pipelines take away that leverage.  Now Putin has little or nothing to offer Russia’s former European gas customers in return for peace.

The chief beneficiaries of the pipeline sabotage are Ukraine, the USA and maybe Poland.  The chief victims are Germany, other European gas importers and Russia itself.

On the day of the pipeline break, Poland announced a new pipeline that will transport gas from Norway’s North Sea gas fields to Poland via Denmark and the Baltic Sea.  It reportedly will supply 15 percent of Poland’s needs.

[Added Later]  Alex Christoforous of The Duran, in the video posted above, makes some good points.  He said Russia wouldn’t have sabotaged its own pipeline, for the same reasons I gave.  It would be a case of cutting off your nose to spite your face.

If it had been a false flag operation of the United States, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken wouldn’t have been caught by surprise.  He’d be saying there is no need for an investigation, Russia is to blame, let’s retaliate.

Also, he said, the great powers do not attack each others’ undersea pipelines and cables because they all are so vulnerable and it would be so easy to retaliate.

His speculative answer is that there is some sort of a cabal, including rogue elements of the U.S. and other governments, which is committed to bringing down Russia and deindustrializing Germany at all costs, but which hasn’t thought out the consequences.

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Ukrainian general says: Take the war to Russia

September 25, 2022

RSZV M142 HIMARS and ATACMS missiles . Photo: Mariusz Burcz

The commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces co-wrote an article saying the only way for Ukraine to win is to take the war to Russia itself.

Right now Russian missiles can hit any target in Ukraine with pinpoint accuracy, General Valery Zaluzhny wrote; Ukrainian drones can only reach 60 miles into Russian territory.  I’ve read elsewhere that these drone attacks are already taking place.

Zaluzhny is commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and a member of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council.  

General Zaluzhny

He said that, in order to win, Ukraine needs the USA and other allies to provide longer-range missiles that can penetrate deep into Russia.  

Only then will the people of Russia feel the consequences of their war of aggression and pressure their government to back off.

General Zaluzhny said his short-range goal is to reconquer Crimea, an important Russian military and population center from which attacks on Ukraine are launched.  But that in itself will not end the war, he said.  It is necessary to attack the Russian Federation itself.

He went on to say:

Ukraine’s repulsion of aggression by a superpower requires and will require significant material resources and financial costs for a long time to come.  In 2023, the material basis of the Ukrainian resistance should remain significant in terms of military and technical assistance from partner countries.

After all, despite its own losses from economic sanctions, dependence on Russian energy sources and individual attempts to “pacify” the Russian Federation, world history will not forgive any country in the world for conniving with a bloody predator that only gets drunk on new blood. 

In the long run. he wrote, Ukraine needs to create its own armaments industry, perhaps in partnership with foreign investors.

I think this is an accurate description of the situation.  Right now the balance of forces is against Ukraine, both in the shooting war and the sanctions war.  Ukraine needs a game-changer if it is to win.

But what exactly would Zaluzhny do with longer-range missiles?  Just bombard Russian forces massing along the border?   Or bomb Moscow and St. Petersburg?  

Either way, the Russians would retaliate immediately, not just against Ukraine, but its NATO allies.  Then what?

Does he think a widening of the war would work to Ukraine’s advantage?  Indeed, a general war in Europe would devastate Russia and the NATO allies, but might well leave Ukraine a fully-sovereign nation—and also a blood-soaked wasteland. 

I wonder what U.S. and other NATO commanders this of this.  Do they also want to take the war to a new level rather than admit defeat?  Have they thought about the consequences?  We live in “interesting” times.

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Escalation in Ukraine

September 21, 2022

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin did two things today that escalate the war in Ukraine and make nuclear war a little more likely than it was before.

The first thing was to announce referenda in Russian-speaking, Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine on joining the Russian Federation.  It’s reasonable to think that the vote will be “yes.”

The second was to announce a partial mobilization, which will increase Russian troop strength by about 300,000.  This could double or triple the number of troops available to fight in Ukraine.

In other words, Russia has drawn a new red line and is increasing its war-fighting ability to maintain it.

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For years, Putin’s demand was only that Ukraine grant autonomy to the Luhansk and Donetzk regions and respect the civil rights of Russian-speakers.  But early this year, he persuaded the Duma to recognize Luhansk and Donetsk as independent republics.

This provided a theoretical legal justification for the “special military operation.”  Russia was defending two sovereign nations from attack.

Annexation of the Luhansk, Donetzk, Marupol and Kherson means that Russia would say that any invasion of these regions was an attack on Russia itself.  According to stated Russian policy, Russia would retaliate by any means deemed necessary, including use of nuclear weapons.

It also means that Russia’s occupation of these lands is non-negotiable.  Russia cannot afford to give them up.

When Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, it had the advantage.  It had prepared arms production so that the Ukrainians were outgunned.  It also had bolstered its economy so as to be able to survive the sanctions war launched by the United States.

By supplying Ukraine with modern weapons, and by providing intelligence, training and possibly support by elite troops, the U.S. has changed the nature of the war.  Military analyst Scott Ritter says the war is no longer a Ukrainian war using NATO equipment; it has become a NATO war using Ukrainian troops.

Russia’s main weakness is that the Russian people themselves are not eager to go fight and die in Ukraine.  The bulk of the fighting has been done by militias of Russian-speakers in Luhansk and Donetzk, the Wagner Group (private mercenary soldiers), Chechens and fighters from the Syria and other foreign countries.

While Russia has a military draft, there is an understanding that draftees won’t be sent to fight in Ukraine.

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Book note: Regeneration by Pat Barker

September 20, 2022

REGENERATION by Pat Barker (1991)

I picked up this novel by chance at a neighborhood free book exchange.  It is a fascinating story, mostly true.

It is about the real-life encounter during World War One between Dr. W.H.R. Rivers, an Army psychologist, and Siegfried Sassoon, a poet and war hero turned war protester.

Sassoon had written a protest letter against continuation of the war.  He was not a pacifist.  He believed that the war had become a war of aggression and conquest, and that its original aims could be achieved through negotiation.

The letter was published in the London Times and read in the House of Commons.  Sassoon faced court-martial, but his friend Robert Graves, a fellow officer and fellow poet, arranged for his commitment to Craiglockhart war hospital to save him.

At the hospital, Sassoon met and mentored the war poet Wilfred Owen, another real-life patient of Rivers.  

Craiglockhart was for the treatment of shell shock (now known at PTSD).  Dr. Rivers before the war had been an expert on psychosomatic illness.  

His method of treatment, innovative at the time, began with convincing the patient that every man, no matter how brave, has a breaking point and the PTSD was not evidence of cowardice.  Then he helped the patient understand the cause of the trauma and so break its hold.

This was similar to Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis except that Rivers believed the fundamental repressed human drive was not sex, but self-preservation.  He perceived that the basic loyalty of most soldiers was not to king and country, but to their comrades on the battlefield. 

Rivers treated officers.  In the novel, he met the real-life character, Dr. Lewis Yealland, who treated enlisted men.  His method of treating PTSD was very different.  It consisted of subjecting the patient to a worse trauma than the trauma that caused the symptoms.  

Yealland put his patients into a locked room and subjected them to extremely powerful and painful electric shocks, which ceased only when, step by step, their symptoms went away.  He claimed to cure his patients with just one treatment and to have a 100 percent success rate.

Rivers was shaken by Yealland’s apparent effectiveness, but he couldn’t bring himself to torture his patients.

The main fictional characters are Billy Prior, an officer of working-class origins, and Sarah Lamb, a factory girl with whom he has a love affair.  Prior suffered from “mutism,” the inability to speak, which was commonly found among enlisted men but almost never among officers.

The moral problem for Rivers was that his mission as a healer was to restore men to mental health so they could return to the battlefield and get themselves killed.  The average life expectancy of a British officer on the front lines in France was three months.

Sassoon and Graves hated the war, but they deeply resented civilians, including pacifists.  All things considered, they preferred being at the front with their doomed comrades to being safe at home.

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Viktor Orban’s message to Europe

September 9, 2022

Viktor Orban

Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary, refuses to join in the proxy war and economic war against Russia.  He gave his reasons why in a speech last summer, which I’ve excerpted, because it sums up the situation so well.  

He is a contentious character, for reasons explained in the linked articles.  But I don’t see anything in this speech excerpt that isn’t true.

Western strategy in this war is based on four pillars.  It is a sensible strategy on paper, and perhaps even has numbers to back it up.  

The first was that Ukraine cannot win a war against Russia on its own, but it can do so with training from the Anglo-Saxons and with NATO weapons.  That was the first claim.

The second strategic claim was that sanctions would weaken Russia and destabilise the leadership in Moscow.

The third strategic element was that – although they would also affect us – we would be able to deal with the economic consequences of the sanctions, so that they would be hurt more and we would be hurt less.

And the fourth strategic consideration was that the world would line up behind us, because we were in the right.

As a result of this excellent strategy, however, today the situation is that we are sitting in a car with four flat tires.  

It is absolutely clear that the war cannot be won like this.  The Ukrainians will never win a war against Russia with American training and weapons.  This is simply because the Russian army has asymmetric superiority.

The second fact that we must face up to is that the sanctions are not destabilising Moscow.

The third is that Europe is in trouble: economic trouble, but also political trouble, with governments falling like dominoes.  Just since the outbreak of the war, the British, the Italian, the Bulgarian and the Estonian governments have fallen.  And autumn is still ahead of us.  The big price rise came in June, when energy prices doubled.  The effects of this on people’s lives, which are creating discontent, are only just beginning to arrive, and we have already lost four governments.

And finally, the world is not only not with us, it is demonstrably not with us.  Historically the Americans have had the ability to pick out what they identify as an evil empire and to call on the world to stand on the right side of history – a phrase which bothers us a little, as this is what the Communists always said.  This ability that the Americans used to have of getting everyone on the right side of the world and of history, and then the world obeying them, is something which has now disappeared.

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Europe faces self-imposed economic crash

September 7, 2022

Thousands in Prague protest energy crisis and NATO alliance

I’ve written about why I think Russia is likely to win its ground war in Ukraine and its sanctions war worldwide, and what I think the results of Russian victory might be.  This post is about one aspect of that war—how the sanctions war has brought about an economic crisis in Europe.

Six months ago, Europe’s leaders boasted they’d bring Russia to its knees through economic sanctions. Today their countries fact economic disaster because of blowback from those sanctions.

Many Germans are hunting through forests for firewood for the winter, because of the looming scarcity of oil and natural gas.  One report says there is a one-year waiting list for purchasers of wood stoves. Coal also is in great demand and short supply.

In Spain, the government is imposed rules forbidding air conditioning to be set below 80 degrees Fahrenheit. In the Netherlands, a campaign called Flip the Switch asks Dutch people to limit showers to five minutes and do without air conditioning and clothes dryers.

One expert says six in 10 British factories are in danger of closing as a result of higher energy bills. The average British household is expected to see its annual average energy bill rise to $4,180, a rise of $1,765, according to CNN Business.

Forward contracts for electricity in France and Germany are 10 times what they were this time last year.

It’s hard to see how Europe can escape a energy crisis and an economic recession this winter.  The initial reaction of Europe’s leaders has been to double down.  Germany’s foreign minister said Germany will never desert Ukraine, no matter what.

The European Union is reportedly planning to seek sweeping powers over businesses in member states that would basically allow Brussels to tell these companies what to produce, how much of it, and whom to sell it to in times of a crisis.

A public opinion poll indicates a majority of Germans would like to negotiate a peace.  Unfortunately a compromise peace is no longer being offered.  The Russians now say their terms are unconditional surrender.

Tens of thousands joined to protest against the sanctions war in Prague.  I think it is the first of many such protests.  They may lead to sweeping changes across Europe; they may lead to existing governments and the. EU itself invoking emergency powers to stay in power.

I sympathize with the European peoples who’ve been caught up in the global struggle of the USA vs. the Russian-Chinese alliance.  Europeans have a lot to lose and little to gain by joining in.

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‘Why are we in Ukraine?’

August 24, 2022

The conservative writer Christopher Caldwell wrote an article in the latest Claremont Review of Books saying that even if the USA and its Ukrainian proxy win their ground war against Russia, the USA may well lose on the economic war front and the culture war front.

On March 24, a month after Russian tanks rolled across Ukraine’s borders, the Biden White House summoned America’s partners (as its allies are now called) to a civilizational crusade.  The administration proclaimed its commitment to those affected by Russia’s recent invasion—“especially vulnerable populations such as women, children, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons, and persons with disabilities.”

At noon that same day, Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted about the “massive, unprecedented consequences” American sanctions were wreaking on Russia, and claimed Russia’s economic “collapse” was imminent.

Never has an official non-belligerent been more implicated in a war.  Russia and its sympathizers assert that the U.S. attempt to turn Ukraine into an armed anti-Russian camp is what the war is about in the first place.  Even those who dismiss this view will agree that the United States has made itself a central player in the conflict.  

It is pursuing a three-pronged strategy to defeat Russia through every means short of entering the war—which, of course, raises the risk that the United States will enter the war.  

One prong is the state-of-the-art weaponry it is supplying to Ukraine. Since June, thousands of computer-guided artillery rockets have been wreaking havoc behind Russian lines.  

A second prong is sanctions.  With western European help, Washington has used its control of the choke points of the global marketplace to impoverish Russians, in hopes of punishing Russia.

Finally, the U.S. seeks to rally the world’s peoples to a culture war against an enemy whose traditionalism, even if it does not constitute the whole of his evil, is at least a symbol of it.

It would be foolish to bet against the United States, a mighty global hegemon with a military budget 12 times Russia’s. Yet something is going badly off track.  Russia’s military tenacity was to be expected—bloodying and defeating more technologically advanced armies has been a hallmark of Russian civilization for 600 years.  

But the economic sanctions, far from bringing about the collapse Blinken gloated over, have driven up the price of the energy Russia sells, strengthened the ruble, and threatened America’s western European allies with frostbite, shortages, and recession.  

The culture war has found few proponents outside of the West’s richest latte neighborhoods. Indeed, cultural self-defense may be part of the reason India, China, and other rising countries have conspicuously declined to cut economic ties with the Russians.

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Suppose Russia wins – what happens next?

August 22, 2022

 

Ukraine in 2021

We still cannot break the advantage of the Russian army in artillery and in manpower, and this is very felt in the battles, especially in the Donbass – Peski, Avdiivka, and other directions. It’s just hell. It can’t even be described in words.   ==Volodymyr Zelensky.

If a problem cannot be solved, it may not be a problem, but a fact.  ==Donald Rumsfeld.

I think the Russians have a good chance of winning their war in Ukraine, for reasons I’ve stated in previous posts.  You may disagree.  But suppose, for the sake of argument, I’m right.  What would happen next?

The first thing to understand is that, at this point, Russians are not interested in negotiation, only in terms of surrender.  And the terms offered at the outset of the war may not be enough.

Historical map of Ukraine

Before invading, the Russian leaders demanded that Ukraine recognize Russian sovereignty over Crimea and the independence of the secessionist Donbas republics, and renounce future membership in NATO.  But that is no longer enough to satisfy.

Russia is extending its operations to absorb the pink and blue areas on the map at the right, which are the areas with the heaviest concentrations of Russian speakers.  It is issuing passports to those who desire Russian citizenship.

This indicates a plan to carve out a “new Russia” from Ukrainian territory which would extend from Russia to Transnistria on the Moldovan border.

Russia’s demands go beyond Ukraine.  Russia’s goal is to push back all NATO bases and installations from which NATO forces could strike at Russia.  This includes missile sites in Poland and Rumania.  Presumably it would include Sweden, Finland or any other U.S. ally that becomes a site for NATO strike weapons.

The ultimate goal, which Russia shares with China, is to crack global U.S. military and financial domination and replace it with a balance of power that includes Russia, China, the USA and maybe other countries, such as India.

A vain hope

Compromise is no longer possible.  Vladimir Putin and Sergei Lavrov say that US American leaders are “not agreement-capable.”  They say the USA and NATO allies have ignored their red lines for years, and the time for talk is past.  A recent speech by General of the Army Sergei Shoigu, the Russian minister of defense, gives a good idea of the Russian point of view.

The main advantage Russia has in Ukraine is superior firepower.  The USA and its allies are drawing down their arsenals to supply Ukraine and will not be able to quickly replenish them.

Russia claims to be producing as much ammunition and armaments as it is expending.  If Russia wins, this claim will have been proved right.

Where does this leave Poland, Rumania and other NATO allies?  Their governments joined NATO because they believed the USA could protect them from Russia.  This belief will have been proved wrong.  The choices for Poland and Rumania will be to submit to Russia’s demands or to fight at a worse disadvantage than Ukraine had (except for being less corrupt than Ukraine).

The European nations would have to face the fact that they must either be willing to make peace with Russia or be prepared to depend on themselves for defense.  Ideally, they would do both, as Finland, Sweden and Switzerland did during the Cold War era.

At the same time, economic warfare against Russia is failing.  Economic sanctions have backfired.  The USA’s NATO allies are hurting much more than Russia is.

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Russia is winning, and here’s why

August 16, 2022

I never thought Russia would invade Ukraine. When it did, I thought President Putin had made a big mistake.

My reason was that I thought that if Russia invaded Ukraine, it would get bogged down in a quagmire war, as it did in Afghanistan in 1979-1989.

But it hasn’t turned out that way. Rather than being a quagmire for Russia, it has turned out to be a sinkhole for Ukrainian lives and NATO military equipment.

Russia has been preparing for this war since 2014, or maybe 2008. It has created war industries capable of supplying artillery shells and missiles as fast as they are being used up. It is using strategy based on leveraging its quantitative superiority in artillery and missiles to maximize Ukrainian casualties and minimize Russian casualties

The United States and other NATO allies are supplying expensive, high-tech weapons that are hard to use and in limited supply. They are stripping their own arsenals to prop up Ukraine.

The situation reminds me of an article written years ago by a management expert named Clayton Christiansen about disruptive innovation.  The idea was that high tech companies become so focused on the high-performance, high-margin and high priced end of the market  that they are disrupted by competitors who concentrate on the cheap and reliable.  Russia is using a disruptive military strategy.

A report by Britain’s Royal United Services Institute says that the United States and other NATO allies are depleting their stockpiles of munitions and do not have the manufacturing capability to quickly replace them.

It says annual U.S. artillery production would last only two weeks of combat in Ukraine.  In a recent war game involving U.S., U.K. and French forces, the U.K. forces exhausted national stockpiles of critical ammunition after eight days.

The United State shipped 7,000 Javelin missiles to Ukraine, about one-third of its stockpile, with more shipments to come.  Lockheed Martin produces about 2,100 missiles a year, although it might ramp up to 4,000 in a few years.  Ukraine claims to use 500 Javelin missiles every day.

A 2018 report for the U.S. Department of Defense described the weaknesses of the U.S. armaments industry.  These included a lack of skilled workers, a lack of manufacturing investment and dependence on foreign suppliers for crucial components and for raw materials.

The Russian superiority in firepower is devastating.  A writer for the Marine Corps Gazette, quoted in the previous post, say the barrages are equal to the most intense shelling in battles of the two world wars.  

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A U.S. Marine analyzes Russia’s Ukraine war

August 15, 2022

‘Lambert Strether’ of Naked Capitalism came across an article in the August issue of the Marine Corps Gazette analyzing the reasons why Russia is winning its war in Ukraine.

The anonymous author, whose pen name is Marinus, said the key to Russian victory was its use of artillery – surprisingly intense in some ways, surprising restrained in others.

The Russians took great pains to avoid hitting physical infrastructure such as electric power plants, water purification plants and railroad stations. There were civilian casualties, and, of course, it was Russia’s decision to start the war in the first place, but there was a real effort to avoid unnecessary death and destruction.

The first phase of the war was a raid, bypassing big cities and intended, in the author’s opinion, to pin down Ukrainian forces and keep them from being used elsewhere.  The second phase of the war, to install pro-Russian governing authorities in areas where there was a large Russian-speaking population. In both these phases, use of artillery and guided missiles was held to a minimum.

But third phase of the war consisted of trapping Ukrainian forces in “cauldrons,” where there were no Russian ground forces and they could be pounded with artillery and missiles without restraint.  The Russian bombardments, Marinus wrote, were equal to the most intense artillery bombardments of the two world wars.

Like certain French divisions in World War One, certain Ukrainian troops are saying that they will hold their ground, but they will not attack.  I don’t blame them.

“The program of missile strikes exploited a capability that was nothing short of revolutionary,” Marinus concluded.  “Whether new or old, however, these component efforts were conducted in a way that demonstrated profound appreciation of all those realms in which wars are waged.  That is, the Russians rarely forgot that, in addition to being a physical struggle, war is both a mental contest and a moral argument.”

The four-page article is behind a pay wall, but somebody posted a copy on Reddit.  I’ve taken the liberty of copying it in my turn. 

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Patrick Lawrence on truth, lies and propaganda

August 13, 2022

The news that most Americans are getting about Ukraine is war propaganda.  That doesn’t mean that it is all false.  What it does mean is that it is next to impossible for the ordinary busy person to separate truth from falsehood.  Patrick Lawrence, a respected retired foreign correspondent, gives examples.

Ten days into the Russian intervention, the propaganda coming out of Kiev was already so preposterous The New York Times felt compelled to publish a piece headlined, “In Ukraine’s Information War, a Blend of Fact and Fiction.” This was a baldly rendered apologia for the many “stories of questionable veracity,” as The Times put it, then in circulation. I do love The Times for its delicate phrasing when describing indelicate matters.

There was the “Ghost of Kiev” story, featuring an heroic fighter pilot who turned out to derive from a video game. There were the Snake Island heroes, 13 Ukrainian soldiers who held out to the death on some small speck in the Black Sea, except that it turned out they surrendered, though not before Zelensky awarded them posthumous medals of honor that were not posthumous.

After railing against disinformation for years, The Times wants us to know, disinformation is O.K. in Ukraine because the Ukrainians are our side and they are simply “boosting morale.”

We cannot say we weren’t warned. The Ghost of Kiev and Snake Island turn out now to be mere prelude, opening acts in the most extensive propaganda operation of the many I can recall.

There was the maternity ward the Russians supposedly bombed in Mariupol. And then the theater, and then the art school. All filled with huddling citizens the Russian air force cynically targeted because “this is genocide,” as the ever-intemperate Zelensky does not hesitate to assert.

All of this has been reported as fact in the Times and other major dailies and, of course, by the major broadcasters. There have been pictures. There have been videos, all very persuasive to the eye.

And then, as evidence mounts that these incidents were staged as propaganda to frame the Russians and draw NATO forces directly into the war, a silence worthy of a Catholic chapel descends. We read no more of the maternity ward that turned out to be an improvised Azov base, or the theater, where citizens were herded, photographed in raggedy blankets, and sent away.   Ditto the art school: Nothing more on this since the initial reports began to collapse. No body counts, no mention of the fact that Russian jets did not fly over Mariupol on the days in question.

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Some voices you’re not supposed to listen to

August 12, 2022

If you are Russian and read Tass and Pravda, my guess is that there are a lot of things you aren’t being told.  My guess is that you need to check dissident and foreign sources to learn things that don’t fit the Russian government’s propaganda version of reality.

I know – I don’t have to guess- that if you are a US American and read the so-called “mainstream media,” there are a lot of things you aren’t being told.  You need to check dissident and foreign sources to learn things that don’t fit the U.S. government’s propaganda version of reality.

Petal bombs

One of the things I wouldn’t know if I didn’t check alternative sources is that the Donbass is being sprinkled with “petal” or “butterfly” bombs, which are designed to injure and kill civilians.

Donetzk authorities say they are delivered via Hurricane MLRS rockets.  Each rocket has 12 cluster munitions, each cluster has 26 bombs.  Because of their shape, they float down without exploding and can land anywhere.  

They are the size of a cigarette lighter and hard to see. If your car runs over one, you will lose a wheel—or worse.  If you step on one, you will lose a foot—or worse.  

I learned about this by reading an article by Eva Bartlett, an independent Canadian journalist.  It first appeared on the RT News web site.  Maybe you think that fact discredits her reporting.  If you do, would you say the same thing about a Russian journalist quoted on BBC News or the Voice of America?

Bartlett is lucky.  She hasn’t been charged with a crime, nor has her bank account been closed down.  Not so  Alina Lipp and Graham Phillips, two other independent journalists reporting from the Donbass.

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These may be the last days of NATO

August 9, 2022

We still cannot break the advantage of the Russian army in artillery and in manpower, and this is very felt in the battles, especially in the Donbass – Peski, Avdiivka, and other directions. It’s just hell. It can’t even be described in words.   ==Volodymyr Zelensky.

∞∞∞

Back in December, Russia issued an ultimatum to the United States and NATO that consisted of the following demands:

  • No more NATO expansion towards Russia’s borders. Retraction of the 2008 NATO invitation to Ukraine and Georgia.
  • Legally binding guarantee that no strike systems which could target Moscow will be deployed in countries next to Russia.
  • No NATO or equivalent (UK, U.S., Pl.) ‘exercises’ near Russian borders.
  • NATO ships, planes to keep certain distances from Russian borders.
  • Regular military-to-military talks.
  • No intermediate-range nukes in Europe

At the time these were understood to be fighting words.  John Helmer has helpfully provided maps of NATO installations that are covered by the ultimatum.

NATO bases in Poland

NATO base near Kaliningrad

NATO installation in Rumania

The U.S. government can’t say it wasn’t warned.  Vladimir Putin had been complaining about the eastward expansion of NATO for decades, and his complaints were ignored.  

The result is that the Russian government is no longer interested in negotiating with the USA.   Putin is done complaining.  He has decided to impose his demands by force.

So far he is succeeding.  Ukraine is in retreat.  Its U.S.-trained and U.S.-equipped army is faring no better than U.S.-trained and U.S.-equipped armies in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and South Vietnam.

The Russian strategy is based on use of artillery.  Ukrainian forces, brave as they might be, are being annihilated by  constant bombardments.

The Russian army reportedly has fired more artillery shells than U.S. forces fired during the whole invasion and occupation of Iraq.  But Russians claim to be manufacturing them faster than they are being used up.

Russia is only using a fraction of its military manpower.  A rule of thumb is that an invading force suffers heavier casualties than a defending force, and needs a three to one advantage.  But the Russian force is only one-third the size of the Ukrainian force.  

The Russians are fighting and winning with, figuratively speaking, one hand tied behind their back.

This means Russia has forces in reserve to enforce the other parts of its ultimatum.  It also has the power to escalate if the U.S. steps up its support for Ukraine.

In the early stages of the conflict, President Biden expressed the hope that Russia’s might could be destroyed by sanctions.  But the sanctions war has backfired.  European nations now realize they need Russia’s oil and gas to get through the winter.  Even we in the USA see rising prices and empty store shelves (not all due to sanctions, to be sure).

We Americans face the possibility of a great national humiliation in Ukraine.  The longer the war goes on, the greater the humiliation will likely be.  The more the conflict expands, the greater the humiliation will be.

There is no honorable way out.  It is dishonorable to encourage Ukrainians, Poles and other allies to fight and then refuse to fight by their sides.  Abandonment is shameful.  Using allies as cannon fodder is shameful.  Directly fighting Russians in a ground war, aside from the danger of nuclear war, is something we Americans are not prepared to do.

Ukraine could have had peace up to the end of last year by agreeing to withdraw from NATO, accept Russian control of Crimea and recognize the autonomy of Luhansk and Donetsk.  Now the only agreement on offer is terms of surrender.

What comes after a Ukraine defeat?  Poland and Rumania may accept the ultimatum, or they may resist.  If they resist, there is no reason to think that the United States can do for them what it could not do for Ukraine.

Either way NATO will be shattered.  It may continue to exist, but its guarantees will have been shown to be meaningless.  

The whole point of joining NATO was to gain U.S. protection and deter invasion from Russia.  If NATO bases instead bring on an invasion, and the United States is helpless to protect you, what is the point?

I fear how my fellow Americans will react.  We’ve retreated before – from Vietnam and Afghanistan – but that was on a timetable of U.S. choosing after Americans had tired of carrying on these wars.  That’s different from being defeated on the battlefield.  In history, such defeats have been preludes to revolutions and coups.  I fear our morale and our political system are too weak to absorb  such a defeat.

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The sleeping dragon awakens

August 5, 2022

The Chinese government, in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, has scheduled military drills that effectively blockade the island.  The drills are in effect a blockade of the island a demonstration of China’s potential power to impose a blockade; some shipping is being allowed through.  No ship’s captain wants to enter an area where naval forces are firing live ammunition. 

China also cut off sales to Taiwan of construction-grade sand, essential for concrete, and stopped imports of fish and fruit products from Taiwan.

And it announced that the timetable for unification of Taiwan with the mainland will be speeded up.

The Chinese actions are a signal to the authorities on Taiwan that they are at the mercy of the Chinese government, and that China doesn’t have to invade with troops to exert its power.

What is the United States going to do about it?  President Biden said a U.S. naval task force, including the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, will remain in the area longer than planned, but what of it?  Does anybody think he would be reckless enough to order the  U.S. Navy to enter the area where the Chinese are conducting military exercises?

The status quo was acceptable to everyone.  The Chinese government claimed sovereignty over the island, and nobody directly denied it.  At the same time the Chinese on the island enjoyed self-government, without Beijing’s interference.  All that was required for this situation to continue was silence on the part of all concerned.

Now this has changed.  The government in Beijing might have tolerated home rule in Taiwan indefinitely.  It will never accept even the remote possibility of Taiwan becoming a base from which the United States or other foreign power could launch attacks on China, as the Japanese did during World War Two.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think the Chinese reaction was due to Pelosi’s statements alone.  It followed a number of statements and actions by U.S. officials and politicians that ramped up tensions.  Pelosi’s visit was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

There was a time when the United States had such overwhelming military superiority that American leaders could say and do whatever they liked without concern about what leaders of other nations thought or would do.  That time is gone.

Bear in mind that while the U.S. military sought full spectrum dominance everywhere in everything, the Chinese military has been working on the one very specific problem of how to counter U.S. power in the China seas.  (And the Russian military has spent at least 15 years working on the one very specific problem of how to counter U.S. power in Eastern Europe).

President Theodore Roosevelt liked to quote the alleged African proverb, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”  The most dangerous thing that an individual person or a national leader can do is to make idle threats.  That’s what our leaders have fallen into the habit of doing.

LINKS

Endgame Taiwan: US Plans Further China Eyepoking with Planned Military Transit of the Taiwan Strait by Yves Smith for Naked Capitalism.  A good assessment of the overall situation, with important background information.

‘Taiwan lockdown’ drills stun secessionists, external forces as precision strike, area denial capabilities proved by the staff of Global Times.  A Chinese report on Chinese power.

Biden will keep aircraft carrier in the South China Sea, but postpones missile test by Christina Wilkie for MSNBC.

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Nancy Pelosi promises U.S. support for Taiwan

August 2, 2022

As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi landed in Taiwan, an article was published under her byline in The Washington Post.  She wrote that the U.S. must “stand by” Taiwan, “America stands with Taiwan,” “We cannot stand by as the CCP proceeds to threaten Taiwan,” “we never give in to autocrats” and “the freedoms of Taiwan … must be respected.”

What does this mean?  Is she saying the United States would go to war with China to protect Taiwan’s independence?  If so, by what authority does she make that promise?

Or is she saying that the United States would stand by Taiwan in the same way it is standing by Ukraine?  Is she saying the U.S. is willing to fight to the last Taiwanese?   If I were a Chinese person living on Taiwan, I would find her language disturbingly vague.

I have sympathy and admiration for the Chinese on Taiwan.  They are one of the world’s most successful societies.  They are an asset and example to the world, in terms of democracy, individual freedom and material progress.

So far the Chinese government in Beijing have been willing to tolerate their self-rule so long as they are peaceful and don’t demand recognition as an independent country.

But I don’t think President Xi would tolerate a Taiwan that was the spearhead of a NATO-type anti-Chinese alliance, any more than Vladimir Putin was willing to tolerate a Ukraine in that rule.

Is the United States willing to go to war for Taiwan?  No.  Could the USA win a proxy war with China, fighting to the last Taiwanese?  No.  Could the USA actually win a war with China, using its own forces?  Doubtful.

China is a threat to U.S. economic and military supremacy, but the reason it is a threat is that it is overtaking the USA economically, technologically and, yes, militarily.  If we Americans want to have a strong and prosperous nation, we need to regroup and rebuild our strength at home, not provoke crises.

[Added 08/03/2022]  Some think President Xi has lost face because of his relatively weak response.  But that is assuming that his response has to be immediate.  President Putin waited eight years before responding to the U.S.-backed coup in Ukraine in 2014.  

It is true that, in Rep. Pelosi’s case, her visit is a symbolic action that does not, in and of itself, change anything.  But I do think that Xi, like Putin, has lost hope of improving relations with the United States.

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The case for letting sleeping dogs lie

August 2, 2022

Al Jazeera posted a good video explaining the background of the U.S.-China conflict over Taiwan. It’s a good argument for letting sleeping dogs lie.

The Chinese government says Taiwan is part of China. The U.S. government hasn’t said whether it is or isn’t, but says it is opposed to China using force to establish control of Taiwan.

The people in Taiwan have created one of the world’s better societies. They are free and democratic. They have progressively improved their material standard of living. They are leaders in high-tech industry, and supply advanced computer chips to both China and the USA.

Taiwan would be a great potential asset to China, but it would not be an asset that if there was a ruinous war that left China ruling a rebellious, conquered population. But China might invade if it thought that Taiwan was going to be incorporated into a U.S.-led anti-Chinese alliance.

If the U.S. government tries to do that, or gives the Chinese government the impression it is doing that, there is a real danger of war.

I think there are factions in the U.S. government that would welcome a war. But I do not think that it is given that the U.S. would win such a war. The U.S. military, including the Navy, is in decline. It can’t even keep ships from colliding with each other. The Chinese, on the other hand, have spent more than a decade figuring out how to defend the U.S. in their territorial waters.

The Taiwanese have not challenged the status quo.  If we Americans care about the well-being of the people of Taiwan, it should respect their wishes.  Let’s not create a crisis where none exists.  Let sleeping dogs lie.

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