Thursday, April 19, 2018

End of the Era of Naval Empires

For the past 500 years European nations—Portugal, the Netherlands, Spain, Britain, France and, briefly, Germany—were able to plunder much of the planet by projecting their naval power overseas. Since much of the world’s population lives along the coasts, and much of it trades over water, armed ships that arrived suddenly out of nowhere were able to put local populations at their mercy. The armadas could plunder, impose tribute, punish the disobedient, and then use that plunder and tribute to build more ships, enlarging the scope of their naval empires. This allowed a small region with few natural resources and few native advantages beyond extreme orneriness and a wealth of communicable diseases to dominate the globe for half a millennium.

The ultimate inheritor of this naval imperial project is the United States, which, with the new addition of air power, and with its large aircraft carrier fleet and huge network of military bases throughout the planet, is supposedly able to impose Pax Americana on the entire world. Or, rather, was able to do so—during the brief period between the collapse of the USSR and the emergence of Russia and China as new global powers and their development of new anti-ship and antiaircraft technologies. But now this imperial project is at an end.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Fake News Triumph

On April 14, 2018 the US fired a barrage of 103 cruise missiles at targets in Syria; 71 were intercepted; only 32 reached their targets but caused inconsequential damage. The cost of just the missiles was around $185 million. The US claimed that it was punishing the Syrian government for attacking civilians with chemical weapons, based on some obviously faked videos and zero actual forensic evidence of chemical weapons use and ignoring the fact that Syria has been internationally certified as free of chemical weapons.

On April 7, 2017 the US fired a barrage of 59 cruise missiles at targets in Syria; 36 were intercepted; only 23 reached their targets but caused inconsequential damage. The cost of just the missiles was around $100 million. The US claimed that it was punishing the Syrian government for attacking civilians with chemical weapons, based on some obviously faked videos and zero actual forensic evidence of chemical weapons use and ignoring the fact that Syria has been internationally certified as free of chemical weapons.

Taking these two strikes to mean that this is going to be an annual event, these two data points allow us to make the following projections based on the annual increase in the number of missiles launched at Syria and the annual improvement in the Syrian air defense systems to shoot them down.

Last Born In The Wilderness Interview #113: America Faded: Syria, Russia, & The Decline Of The American Empire

This interview was recorded Sunday April 15, less than two days after the events discussed in this episode. In it we discuss the recent missile strikes by the US military in Syria, the Trump Administration, as well as the broader US military establishment's true intentions and objectives behind the strike, as well as what other major world powers (Russia in particular) are doing in response to this attack.

Dmitry presents this whole event within a broader geopolitical trend: the American Empire is fading. America's influence in the Middle East, in particular, has begun to dissipate, with Russia and other regional players aligning themselves outside of American control and influence. These nations have begun to nudge the United States out of its once dominant role on the international stage, and the response to this missile strike in Syria fits neatly within this trend.

Please listen to the interview.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Groundhog Day in Syria, Take 2

Originally published on Apr 11, 2017

I'll publish a fuller update on this the 2nd annual Groundhog Day in Syria once all the results are in. The way it looks now is as follows:

• US/UK lobbed twice as many missiles as last year.
• Just as last year, most of the missiles fell in the sea or got shot down by Syrian air defenses (using Soviet-era weapons).
• One of the more significant targets was, once again, a military airfield; however, this time all of the missiles that targeted it were intercepted.
• Russian facilities and air defense sectors in Syria were not targeted.
• The US had apparently begged and pleaded with the Russians not to retaliate, and had received some assurances, allowing them to leave their sitting ducks precious naval assets in eastern Mediterranean, within easy reach of Russian missiles.
• The pretext was another certifiably fake chemical weapons provocation in Gouta, which was about to be inspected and certified as fake by experts from Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons; hence the rush to shoot first (and refuse to ask questions later).
• This year's attack, being a virtual repeat of last years, is even more pathetic and idiotic, and more evidence that the US and the UK are being run by mental defectives. Plus it has a distinct whiff of desperation and sour grapes: the US has lost Syria.

Meanwhile, here's last year's appraisal. It really seems close enough as is; just some figures will need minor adjustment.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Where is Russian Counterpropaganda?

"...If you were to go and see for yourself... you would reach the inevitable conclusion that Russia is a normal country. Your experiences there would allow you to judge that it is quite rich, rather prosperous, and socially and politically stable. And yet when you travel back to Europe, the US, Canada, or any of the other countries dominated by Western media companies and consortia, you will be told that Russia is strange, evil, ruled by a ruthless dictator and hell-bent on expanding its territory and threatening its neighbors. Why is there this disconnect, and what is the major impetus to demonize Russia? And why isn’t there a parallel effort by Russia to demonize the West?"

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Importance of Looking Dangerous

It’s a hard job being a global hegemon and the world’s sole superpower. You have to keep the entire planet in line. Every country needs to be taught its place, and kept there, by force if need be. Now and again a country or two has to be conquered or destroyed, just to teach others a lesson. Plus you have to relentlessly meddle in other countries’ politics, rigging elections so that only US-friendly candidates can win, run regime change operations and organize colored revolutions. Stop doing this, and some countries will start ignoring you. And then the rest will quickly realize that you are losing control and go their separate ways while ignoring you.

Is the United States still the world’s greatest power, in control of the entire planet, or has that moment in history already come and gone? We are constantly hearing how the situation is becoming dire: relations between the US and NATO countries and Russia are going from bad to worse; there is a trade war going on with China; North Korea remains an intractable problem and an embarrassment. Many people maintain that we are very close to a world war. But does “very close” actually mean anything? It is quite possible to stand for hours with your toes hanging over the edge of a cliff and never jump. Suicide is a big decision: big even for a person, much bigger for a large country.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Provocations and Creative Imagination

Those charged with staging provocations often seem to lack creative imagination. As a result, terrorist incidents tend to have a certain groundhog day quality. For example, there is a big explosion (or lots of gunfire), or a fireball, a scene either torched or soaked with blood… and then we find… a passport or a driver’s license belonging to the alleged perpetrator, in mint condition! And the perpetrator turns out ot be extremely well known to the authorities!

Obviously, the provocateurs are loathe to admit that their expensively designed provocations have become hackneyed and banal, and toss around for new ideas. Thus, the latest attack on the former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia was apparently cribbed from the US/British TV show “Strike Back” (because the provocateurs have no ideas of their own and don’t read books, but they do watch TV). Both featured a certain made-up weapon of mass destruction called “Novichok” (Russian for “newbie”). Apparently, it is not very effective; if Novichok were a flea powder, the instructions would read: “Catch a flea, flip it over on its back, tickle it until it laughs, sprinkle some powder in its mouth and then watch it to make sure it doesn’t spit it out.” A proper chemical WMD should be able to wipe out a whole city; this one just sickens a couple of people (one of whom—Yulia—is apparently on the mend). What will those terrible Russians (and Putin personally) come up with next? A WMD that makes enemy forces sneeze uncontrollably?

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Kemerovo and the Circles of Ugliness

You may have heard of the tragic event I am about to describe, or not. If you have heard about it in English, then, chances are, what you have heard is part of a programmatic anti-Russian hatchet job. Normally, I would be reluctant to write about it; it is generally best to make celebrations public and tragedies private. But in this case a great number of people, at different levels, have attempted to profit and to extract benefits from this tragedy, generating a gigantic cloud of black smoke far greater than that generated by the event itself.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Killing Diplomacy

There is the famous aphorism by Karl von Clausewitz: “War is the continuation of politics by other means.” This may be true, in many cases, but it is rarely a happy outcome. Not everybody likes politics, but when given a choice between politics and war, most sane people will readily choose politics, which, even when brimming with vitriol and riddled with corruption, normally remains sublethal. In relations between countries, politics is known as diplomacy, and it is a formal art that relies on a specific set of instruments to keep countries out of war. These include maintaining channels of communication to build trust and respect, exercises to seek common ground, and efforts to define win-win scenarios to which all sides would eagerly agree, including instruments for enforcing agreements.

Diplomacy is a professional endeavor, much like medicine, engineering and law, and requires a similarly high level of specialized education. Unlike these other professions, the successful exercise of diplomacy demands much greater attention to questions of demeanor: a diplomat must be affable, personable, approachable, decorous, scrupulous, levelheaded… in a word, diplomatic. Of course, in order to maintain good, healthy relations with a country, it is also essential that a diplomat fluently speak its language, understand its culture and know its history. Especially important is a very detailed knowledge of the history of a country’s diplomatic relations with one’s own country, for the sake of maintaining continuity, which in turn makes it possible to build on what has been achieved previously. Complete knowledge of all treaties, conventions and agreements previously entered into is, obviously, a must.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Migrants Wanted—for What?

In their stirring rendition of “In the Year 2525” (based on the 1969 tune by Zager and Evans) Laibach predicted: “Rivers of people flow like blood.” But there is no reason for us to wait that long; it is happening already, and has been happening for some time. Already in 2017 over a quarter of a billion people were displaced from their native lands, wondering the globe in search of refuge. Much of this had to do with the increase in failed states. Back in 2013, I wrote:

“The World Bank publishes a list of nations lacking effective sovereignty. In 1996 there were eleven entries; in 2006 there were twenty-six. Not a year goes by that another nation-state does not get shunted to the weak/defunct track: last year it was Libya; this year, Syria. How far behind is Greece?... It is too early to tell whether the increase in nonviable nation-states is linear or exponential, but a simple projection shows that if this trend continues to accelerate at the same rate there will be zero viable nation-states left by 2030 or so.” [p. 150, The Five Stages of Collapse, New Society Publishers, 2013]

Since then, Syria has recovered somewhat, and refugees are going back to Damascus, while Libya is still in chaos. In the meantime, Yemen has definitely joined the defunct column, thanks to Saudi/US bombing and blockade. And the Ukraine is definitely nearing failed-statedom, with a majority of its population either fleeing or living in poverty and with armed groups of nationalist thugs running rampant. Under the careful tutelage of the US government, its Central American protectorates of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador remain crime-riddled basket cases, generating a steady flow of migrants, and anyone in the US who points out that perhaps doing something about the huge population of homeless people (especially in California) should take priority over helping strangers from faraway lands get shouted down as racist-fascist-whatever. Venezuela is in full-blown collapse under the weight of US sanctions, while propaganda mouthpieces in the US claim that its problem is socialism. But the rapid progression nation-states toward failed-statedom has slowed down somewhat since 2014, and I think I know why.

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