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A one-two punch for the president, and three

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — Cohen and Manafort, drones & CBRN, and when wave fronts meet at Big Sur and elsewhere ]
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NY Times email, Wednesday:

A one-two punch, two wave fronts crashing / clashing, wave upon wave — but how to represent such things graphically, to model them, to open our too-literal minds to their complexity?

**
Here’s an example of two dangerous waves overlapping on the world stage, world scale:

One:

Bunker, Sullivan &c on the drone attack in Baja, Small Wars Journal:

On Tuesday, 10 July 2018, an armed drone targeted the residence of Gerardo Sosa Olachea, the public safety secretary/Secretario de Seguridad Pública Estalal (SSPE) of Baja California, in colonia Los Laureles in Tecate—a border city in the San Diego-Tijuana etropolitan area. A second drone, which may have been utilized for ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) and C2 purposes, was seen over the incident scene. At least one of the drones was equipped with a video camera link and was armed with two IEDs that did not detonate. For a number of international security professionals tracking cartel and gang violence in Mexico—including the authors of this note—an incident like this has been expected for some time now, given the earlier I&W (Indications & Warnings) event that took place in Guanajunto state in October 2017 when a weaponized drone was seized from Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) operatives.

Now think of ricin delivery by drone..

Two:

Daniel Koehler, Mapping Far-right Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) Terrorism Efforts in the West:

The threat of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) terrorism is widely attributed to collective actors based on a religious ideology, e.g. globally operating Salafi-jihadist groups like al-Qaeda or ISIL. Only limited attention has been given to the CBRN threat of violent domestic extremists in general or far-right terrorists specifically. Nevertheless, a number of incidents involving far-right activists and CBRN agents in Western countries are known to the public, even though these have had comparatively little impact on public threat perception. This study systematically collected public information about far-right CBRN incidents to identify their main characteristics. The authors were able to identify 31 incidents in Western countries since 1970, which display features contrary to generally assumed forms of CBRN terrorism. Far-right CBRN terrorism appears to be predominantly a lone-actor phenomenon oftentimes involving middle-aged and comparatively well-educated male perpetrators, mostly motivated by non-religious forms of far-right ideology (i.e. neo-Nazism, non-religious white supremacism) and indiscriminately targeting victims. Overall, far-right actors attempting to weaponize CBRN agents have been few and generally technically inept. However, the characteristics of the plots pose potential challenges for effective counter-measures and intervention, should the number of actors or the technical sophistication of plots increase in the future.

Consider the overlap of those two very current waves — and there are others, at all scales, up and down the metaphorical coast of risk

Then think Aum Shinrikyo, as an example of a non-state religious sect utilising sarin gas in an attack in Tokyo:

The 1995 Aum Shinrikyo attack on the Tokyo subway system was a seminal event in the history of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) weapons. It marked the first major use of a Chemical weapon by a non-state actor that received widespread worldwide attention, and led to efforts to combat the threat of CBRN terrorism around the world.

**

Out there in Manafort > Cohen > Manafort wave land, there are two waves whose wavefronts met and clashed (“mutually reinforced”) yesterday, with a third wave following up behind the first, and more, wave upon wave, body blow upon body blow.. I don’t have the graphical skills to represent this, but multiple wave fronts intersecting would be a useful model to have depicted — and not unlike waves clashing at Big Sur.. where such things are multiplied and magnificent ..

— not unlike clashing waves at Big Sur..

For the Cohen and Manafort wavefronts and their possible combined implications, readings from this morning’s Washington DC post:

  • WaPo, After two convictions, pressure mounts on Trump
  • WaPo, Manafort convicted on 8 counts; mistrial declared on 10 others
  • WaPo, Michael Cohen: Trump’s greatest fear comes true
  • WaPo, Michael Cohen says he worked to silence two women ‘in coordination’ with Trump
  • WaPo, Cohen’s claim about Trump may spark calls for impeachment
  • WaPo, Manafort’s verdict and Cohen’s plea gave Trump his worst day so far
  • WaPo, ‘Doesn’t involve me’: Trump tries to distance himself from Cohen, Manafort cases
  • The Post’s View, Twin convictions are a stunning rebuke of Trump
  • Also, from the New York sister city and publication:

  • NY Times, Trump, Cohen and Manafort: What’s Next?
  • Oh, and btw:

  • The Atlantic, Christopher Steele’s Victory in a D.C. Court
  • The Hill, Senate Intelligence Committee leaders want Cohen to testify
  • **

    — not unlike clashing waves at Big Sur ..

    terrific photo from Teresa Espaniola Gallery

    .. up and down the metaphorical coast of risk ..

    Anthropogenic global warming, anthropogenic Mexican earthquake

    Thursday, July 12th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — a matter of scale, scale, scale ]
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    Amnthropogenic — lovely word. But until recently, I’d only ever thought of it in terms of anthropogenic global warming, which is to say on a global stage.

    Here’s the DoubleQuote:

    **

    Mexico is a little less than global.. yet here again we see human activity registering on a scale studied by the natural sciences…

    I found that intriguing..

    Sources:

  • Environ. Res. Lett., Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming
  • Washington Post, Mexico delivers a World Cup earthquake with defeat of Germany
  • Max Boot on a subtly strategic game..

    Thursday, July 12th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — by thinking of soccer as strategy I see how to make it relevant here ]
    .

    That time when Germany and Argentina faced off in the final of the World Cup 2014 —

    — Germany’s Mario Götze scored the match-winning goal in the 113th minute. That’s drama for you. That was last time..

    **

    France will face off against Croatia Sunday for the World Cup, soccer’s peak and pinnacle — but that’s not to say all the excitement this year is yet to come. Strategist — well, military historian — Max Boot has been unexpectedly riveted by the lead-in to the Cup Final, and explains why:

    I have thrilled to every dramatic turn:

    The 70th-ranked Russian side getting to the quarterfinals by beating Spain on penalty kicks, only, in a bit of poetic justice, to lose on penalty kicks to tiny Croatia. South Korea, another underdog, defeating top-seeded Germany, thereby allowing Mexico to advance. (Delirious Mexicans showed their gratitude by buying drinks for every Korean they could find.) Lowly Japan leading mighty Belgium by 2-0, only to have the brilliant Belgians storm back and win on a last-second goal. (The well-mannered Japanese players were heartbroken but still meticulously cleaned out their locker room and left a classy “thank-you” note.) Powerhouse Brazil, the favorite after Germany’s defeat and the winningest team in World Cup history, losing its quarterfinal match in part because of an improbable own goal. England, a perennial disappointment that won its only World Cup in 1966, exceeding expectations by advancing to the semifinals — only to lose to Croatia (population 4.1 million ), which became the second-smallest nation to reach the final.

    This, of course, only hints at the drama that has enthralled much of the world’s population

    **

    Boot backends his power paragraph, as you see, with the word “drama” — and goes on to speak of poetic justice, an undergog, delirium, gratitude, lowly Japan, mighty and then brilliant Belgians, a last-second goal, powerhouse Brazil the winningest team, an improbable own goal, a perennial disappointment — that would be England — and Croatia, the second-smallest nation..

    Drama, which is emotion.

    Underdog is the key word here, indicating that which we instinctively support as decent humans. And decent humanity is the inner nature of the game here, as subtle strategy is its outer formalism.

    With all your elbow pads and helmets, America, you failed to make the true “World” Series, the World Cup — oh yes, Boot is suitably humble about that:

    I assumed that, as the greatest country in the world, we must have the greatest sports. It never occurred to me there was anything commands my attention, sympathy and praise. about using the term “World Series” for a contest in which only U.S. competitors (plus one token Canadian team) take part, while disdaining the true World Cup.

    Me? I’ve probably never written about sports since I was forced into produce an essay on “goalposts” in my painful youth. But Boot’s conversion touches me. Amen, or its secular soccer equivalent!

    **

    I mean, there’s something in the tone here, an emphasis on emotion, with ecstasy even at least hinted at..

    And then you see the New York Times today commenting on body language in Brussels, again an emphasis on irrepressible emotion. Right at the heart of the NATO fault line..

    President Trump kicked off his trip to Europe with a biting critique of the United States’ longtime allies, declaring at a breakfast meeting that Germany “is captive to Russia.” Next to him, three of his senior officials seemed uncomfortable at times, pursing their lips and glancing away from the table.

    I mean, at breakfast.. pursing their tell-tale lips.

    We really need to focus our attention on the factor sometimes called “morale”. Call it esprit, spirit: it’s the better half of the battle, or of any contest.

    And then, here we go with the “underdog” again, in today’s WaPo:

    The Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, inhabited by 173 people, may seem unassuming, with homes made of wood and tarpaulin and surrounded by animal pens. But its strategic location puts it at the heart of the decades-long conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

    What taste does that paragraph leave in the mind, the heart, decision-making?

    **

    And Boot didn’t even mention the small artificial earthquake detected in Mexico City “possibly due to mass jumping” when Mexico scored against Germany..

    Guest Post: Hays on From Matamoros to Managua

    Wednesday, June 20th, 2018

    [mark safranski / “zen“]

    See the source image

    “Jack Hays“. Mr. Hays has considerable experience in a number of political and policy positions inside government and out and shares with the ZP readership our appreciation for history, strategy and other things further afield. Mr. Hays also has extensive time south of the border. He wrote this brief essay elsewhere and gave permission to share it.

    From Matamoros to Managua live just under 170 million people. Their societies are coming apart. That doesn’t mean they are necessarily poor — especially in Mexico — though they frequently are. It does mean that for various reasons, be it the stresses of global trends, misgovernance, societal pathologies, historical causes, or beyond, their institutions are failing. It is likely no accident that this comes to pass in the generation after the era of autocratic parties and strong men. The succeeding era of democracy and pluralism is both liberating and rapacious: for many it has exchanged the danger of being killed by the state for the danger of being killed by nearly anyone. What arises in the aftermath is therefore exceptionally violent. It is not unfamiliar in human history: even at the most glorious moment of the Siglo de Oro, everyday Spanish life was also exceptionally violent. But that isn’t the right comparison: what you see in, say, northern Mexico or urban Honduras is less 16th-century Spain than 17th-century Germany — or 21st-century Damascus. It is a terrifying and brutal existence, and people quite rationally flee.

    They especially flee when they are trying to protect children they love.

    There is nothing — nothing short of murder — that deters flight and migration in those conditions. Therefore, there being still some things we won’t try, the questions arises: what will we try? If we aren’t going to take them in, what do we do?
    What are you willing to have America do to stabilize these societies? The probable answer probably includes things like open or preferential trade. It probably includes aggressive engagement with local politics. It probably includes forcible imposition of our own law-enforcement institutions upon theirs. It may even include the use, in some form, of the United States military. None of this is speculative. All of it has happened before. All of it also ended in mostly the same way: there was a desultory clash of arms, the United States demanded certain things of local sovereigns, and events resolved when someone assumed autocratic control of the southern reaches.

    None of this is consonant with our postwar models of American behavior. Yes, we are the country that conquered Panama in 1989; we are also the country that was turned away by a mob from Haitian shores in 1994. We are also the country that doggedly tries to inculcate democratic civic norms in places like Afghanistan when a monarch or a warlord would quite suffice. We have an aversion to nation-building and then we do a great deal of it badly.

    But nation-building is precisely what is needed from Matamoros to Mexico. It is for their sake, and ours. The task is gigantic, and before the real crisis is upon us — which will involve millions on the move, not mere thousands — we still have time to undertake it. But we think it is about ourselves, we think they can govern themselves, we imagine we have anything more compelling to pressure them with than the things they fled in San Pedro Sula, in Ciudad Mier, in San Salvador, in a thousand over violent corners of an ancient and bloody land. We are wrong on all counts.

    We act, or action is forced upon us. So what are you willing to do?

    Metaphors, more ii

    Monday, June 18th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — continuing from Metaphors, more — which has become seriously overloaded and is listing to port ]
    .

    This one’s from Cass R. Sunstein, It Can Happen Here, in the LRB:

    What matters are “we anonymous others” who are not just “pawns in the chess game,” because the “most powerful dictators, ministers, and generals are powerless against the simultaneous mass decisions taken individually and almost unconsciously by the population at large.”

    That’s worth reading and (critically) pondering in its entirety — partly because Sunsttein’s a writer worth pondering (I was particularluy taken with his exploration of Conspiracy Theories: Causes and Cures), but also because the comparison of developments leading up to Nazi Germany and events here in Trumpian USA is both a significant topic and one that is all too easily and often marred by hyperbole, and therefore demands deliberative elucidation in long form, rather than brash assertiveness or denial in short.

    **

    Okay, now here’s a doozy.

    I’m more used to questioning “prophetic” explanations of earthquakes and the like as literal acts of God, but some seismologists in Mexico have an altogether more engaging explanation:

    Did Mexico’s Revelry in World Cup Win Over Germany Cause an Earthquake?

    Late Sunday morning, seismic sensors in Mexico City detected what was reported to be a small earthquake. But it was triggered in an “artificial manner,” according to the group monitoring the gauges.

    “Possibly because of mass jumping,” said the group, the Institute of Geologic and Atmospheric Investigations in Mexico, which said that at least two of its sensors picked up the activity.

    The cause of that mass jumping? Moments before, the Mexican men’s national soccer team had scored a goal against powerhouse Germany in their group-stage match in the World Cup in Moscow.

    I’ve heard of the idea that soldiers marching across a bridge might cause it to collapse — but an entire earthquake? I stand impressed..

    **

    Ourob, New Yorker:

    The Reputation-Laundering Firm That Ruined Its Own Reputation

    Bell Pottinger’s work in South Africa included the covert dissemination of articles, cartoons, blog posts, and tweets implying that the Guptas’ opponents were upholding a racist system. As the brothers’ influence over Zuma’s government fell under increasing scrutiny, Bell Pottinger’s tactics were exposed. More details of the Oakbay account became public, including revelations about the inflammatory economic-emancipation campaign. Soon, one of the world’s savviest reputation-management companies became embroiled in a reputational scandal. Bell Pottinger could not contain the uproar, and, in September, 2017, it collapsed.

    **

    Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan:

    [Coming 8/31] When CIA analyst Jack Ryan stumbles upon a suspicious series of bank transfers his search for answers pulls him from the safety of his desk job and catapults him into a deadly game of cat and mouse throughout Europe and the Middle East, with a rising terrorist figurehead preparing for a massive attack against the US and her allies.

    Ah, yes, “a deadly game of cat and mouse”.

    **

    I’ll add more good or odd ones as they occur..


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