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Exiting From Hegemony on the Break it Down Show

Saturday, May 16th, 2020

[Mark Safranski / zen ]

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Exit From Hegemony: The Unraveling of the American Global Order

I had the pleasure of joining Break it Down Show host Pete Turner in interviewing Dr. Alexander Cooley and Dr. Daniel Nexon, authors of Exit From Hegemony: The Unraveling of the American Global Order. Cooley is Claire Tow Professor of Political Science at Barnard College and Director of Columbia University’s Harriman Institute of Russian, Eurasian and East European Studies while Nexon Associate Professor Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University (Dan also blogs at Lawyers, Guns and Money and was the founder of the well respected group blog, Duck of Minerva). The two IR scholars have written a tightly argued, scholarly book regarding the potentially seismic shifts underway in the American-led liberal order and the potential directions a “post-hegemonic” world may take.

Without spoiling the show that I hope you will tune into below, Exit From Hegemony blends theory with contemporary geopolitical trends, strategic threats to “exit” the status quo posed by illiberal great powers of rising China and a waning Russia, transnational far-right (and far-left) populism and the role of America since the end of the Cold War up to and including the Trump administration. It’s a fascinating read an illuminating conversation.

COVID-19 on the global stage

Sunday, April 12th, 2020

[ by Charles Cameron — a miscellany of must read articles in must read times — with just a taste of each of them ]
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Be at peace, take up your courage, fight the good fight, be at peace: happy Easter

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George Monbiot, Covid-19 is nature’s wake-up call to complacent civilisation

I hope we never have to witness fights over food. But it’s becoming difficult to see how we will avoid them.

A large body of evidence is beginning to accumulate showing how climate breakdown is likely to affect our food supply. Already farming in some parts of the world is being hammered by drought, floods, fire and locusts (whose resurgence in the past few weeks appears to be the result of anomalous tropical cyclones).

Locusts?

While we’re worrying over COVID-19, Africa has its own natural calamity, threatening countless lives with death by starvation:

Newsweek, Locust Swarms as Big as Cities are causing a Crisis in Africa as experts warn they could get 400 times bigger

And in case that title is hard for you to read in red, here it is in black and white, in bold and in italics:

Locust Swarms as Big as Cities are causing a Crisis in Africa as experts warn they could get 400 times bigger

“The herders will have a real challenge of pasture, and this may also cause movement from one place to another in search of pasture, with inherent risk of communal conflict over pasture or grazing land or passing territories,” the UN Ambassador for Kenya, Lazarus O. Amayo, said in a statement.

Others will have no choice but to stay put.

“At least for livestock keepers in northern Kenya, south and eastern Ethiopia and north and central Somalia, they have an option of moving with their livestock to areas not affected by the locust swarms, but for smallholder agricultural farmers, they are left with no option but to consider their hard labor and food source gone,” said Emoru.

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Locusts? Coronavirus? When what’s barreling down the tunnel of future high likelihoods is nothing less than an uninhabitable climate, uninhabitable planet?

David Wallace, The Coronavirus Is a Preview of Our Climate-Change Future

if the disease and our utter inability to respond to it terrifies you about our future staring down climate change, it should, not just as a “fire drill” for climate change generally but as a test run for all the diseases that will be unleashed in the decades ahead by warming. The virus is a terrifying harbinger of future pandemics that will be brought about if climate change continues to so deeply destabilize the natural world: scrambling ecosystems, collapsing habitats, rewiring wildlife, and rewriting the rules that have governed all life on this planet for all of human history

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For the warfighter, all this means war:

Kahl & Berengaut, Aftershocks: The Coronavirus Pandemic and the New World Disorder

if we want to understand the even darker direction in which the world may be headed, leaders and policymakers ought to pay more attention to the two decades after the influenza pandemic swept the globe. This period, often referred to as the interwar years, was characterized by rising nationalism and xenophobia, the grinding halt of globalization in favor of beggar-thy-neighbor policies, and the collapse of the world economy in the Great Depression. Revolution, civil war, and political instability rocked important nations. The world’s reigning liberal hegemon — Great Britain — struggled and other democracies buckled while rising authoritarian states sought to aggressively reshape the international order in accordance with their interests and values. Arms races, imperial competition, and territorial aggression ensued, culminating in World War II — the greatest calamity in modern times.

And that war was a nuclear war, Hiroshima, Nagasaki remember all too well.. a coupld of small holocausts — burnt offerings, fire sacrifices — at 10,830 °F if you were close to ground zero..

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For the United States, “Democracy may be dying”:

Paul Krugman, American Democracy May Be Dying

the scariest news of the past week didn’t involve either epidemiology or economics; it was the travesty of an election in Wisconsin, where the Supreme Court required that in-person voting proceed despite the health risks and the fact that many who requested absentee ballots never got them. ..

Authoritarian rule may be just around the corner.

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And right now, in our hospital ERs and ICUs, the medical profession lices — an dies — as it saves lives..

Nicholas Kristof, Life and Death in the ‘Hot Zone’

Ms. Gifford recalled a patient who had come from an assisted-living center. “I’m really scared,” he told her. “I don’t want to have Covid. I’m in a facility and there are people dying there.”

I’ve chosen that snippet because it cuts so close to home (my own nursing facility) for me..

But more generally:

For health workers, intubation is nerve-racking because it causes the virus to spray out from the lungs into the air. In this case, the procedure was performed in a room on the edge of the hot zone with negative air pressure, so that the virus would remain in the room. A plastic box was placed over the patient’s head, and the nurse-anesthetist put her arms through holes in the box to perform the intubation.

And the doctors and nurses perform this nightmare procedure perhaps eight or more times in a day.. What an unimaginable, multiple proof of the strength of the Hippocratic Oath!! If you yearn for miracles, look no farther.

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Be at peace, have courage, fight the good fight, be in peace, : have compassion..ight the good fight, be at peace: have compassion..

New Small Wars Journal Book – China’s Securing, Shaping and Exploiting of Strategic Spaces

Tuesday, December 31st, 2019

[Mark Safranski / zen]

Our friend, Dr. Robert Bunker at Small Wars Journal has a new natsec publication:

CHINA’s Securing, Shaping, and Exploitation of Strategic Spaces: Gray Zone Response and Counter-Shi Strategies: A Small Wars Journal Pocket Book  

Originally, this study was funded by USAWC SSI originally as a ERAP project. The work provides an analysis of the CCP regime’s use of gray zone activities to further its strategic imperatives as well as suggested US response.

Bunker writes in the introduction…

“….The ‘Gray Zone’ and Mary Kaldor’s ‘new wars’ construct – with success measured by those most able to avoid battle and control population – fit well with China’s desire to asymmetrically challenge the United States and not oppose it in traditional (and conventional) force on force engagement. This is not an unreasonable approach given the ‘Power Transition’ and ‘Thucydides Trap’ perspectives that exist, most specifically the dangers in inherent in an ascendant power (China) prematurely challenging an established great power (United States). The Chinese grand strategic initiative can thus be thought of as Intelligence Preparation of the Battlespace writ large….

The book’s format is based on the following case studies:

1: South China Sea—Artificial Islands
2: Great Fire Wall of China—Golden Shield
3: Social Credit System—Population Control
4: Taiwan—Territorial and Ideological Unification
5: Uighur Muslims—Cultural Ethnocide & Han Colonization
6: Confucius Institutes—Ideological Subversion
7: Direct Foreign Investments—Resources, Trade, and Influence

You can find this timely addition to the strategic debate on China here.

Break it Down Show with Zen Co-Hosting: Mazarr on Leap of Faith

Saturday, October 12th, 2019

[mark safranski / zen]

Friend of ZP, Pete Turner invited me to join him at his place The Break it Down Show to interview RAND scholar Michael J. Mazarr about his new book Leap of Faith Hubris, Negligence, and America’s Greatest Foreign Policy Tragedy :

Mike Mazarr – Leap of Faith Hubris, Negligence, and America’s Greatest Foreign Policy Tragedy

Mark Safranski joins Pete A Turner with author, think-tanker Dr Mike Mazarr.
Mike’s book is called, Leap of Faith Hubris, Negligence, and America’s Greatest Foreign Policy Tragedy
Why is the invasion of Iraq viewed as a tragedy? Mike explains to us and draws conclusions to help us better understand by comparing and contrasting past conflicts to Iraq. Mark, brings his experience understanding presidential security council dynamics to push the show to even great depth and uniqueness.

Listen to the episode here.

Without giving way any spoilers, Mazarr has penned our time’s version of The Best and the Brightest. It’s a step by step reconstruction using the best evidence available and extensive interviews of principal figures or their aides and colleagues to explain how the Bush administration decided to go down the road to war in Iraq.  Like David Halberstam explaining the origins of Vietnam, Mazarr’s task was to explain how so experienced a national security team as the one that served George W. Bush could make so catastrophic a strategic error, the effects of which continue to unfold to this day.

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From the Bunker

Sunday, February 17th, 2019

[Mark Safranski / “zen“]
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Friend of ZP,  Dr. Robert Bunker had a few new publications lately with other Friend of ZP co-authors and I thought I would begin my return to semi-regular (or at least occasional) blogging by giving them a nod here. The first was run a few weeks ago at Small Wars Journal: 

Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 13: Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) Command and Control (C2) Geographic Variations

by Robert Bunker and John Sullivan

Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) is a well-known and extremely violent street, and in Central America, prison gang with an estimated transnational membership of 50,000 to 70,000 individuals.[1] Essentially a transnational gang network, MS-13 maintains a relatively robust media presence due to its ongoing criminal activities within the United States, many of which have resulted in homicides and even torture killings, as the gang continues to expand into new communities in Texas and the East Coast of the United States. The gang is organized on a networked, i.e. biological (and/or software program) based model with open architecture ‘plug ins’ that utilize a cellular synapse/and open coding-like strategy that facilitates network linkages and alliances, i.e., interfaces with violent non-state actors (VNSAs). Such network interfaces and organizational schemes go by a number of terms including netwar (John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt) and open-source warfare (John Robb).[2] This note specifically looks at the C2 geographic variations of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) network in the United States, Mexico, and Central America (primarily El Salvador) and MS-13s interface with more powerful violent non-state actors (VNSAs) which result in localized hierarchical organizational expressions.

Read the rest here.

The second is a monograph at The Strategic Studies Institute:

Contemporary Chemical Weapons ... Cover Image

Contemporary Chemical Weapons Use in Syria and Iraq by the Assad Regime and the Islamic State 

This monograph focuses on an understudied, but yet a critically important and timely component of land warfare, related to the battlefield use of chemical weapons by contemporary threat forces. It will do so by focusing on two case studies related to chemical weapons use in Syria and Iraq by the Assad regime and the Islamic State. Initially, the monograph provides an overview of the chemical warfare capabilities of these two entities; discusses selected incidents of chemical weapons use each has perpetrated; provides analysis and lessons learned concerning these chemical weapons incidents, their programs, and the capabilities of the Assad regime and the Islamic State; and then presents U.S. Army policy and planning considerations on this topical areas of focus. Ultimately, such considerations must be considered vis-à-vis U.S. Army support of Joint Force implementation of National Command Authority guidance.

And finally, heading back to SWJ, a book – with Dave Dilegge, John Sullivan and Alma Keshavarz  :

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Blood and Concrete: 21st Century Conflict in Urban Centers and Megacities

Blood and Concrete: 21st Century Conflict in Urban Centers and Megacities provides a foundation for understanding urban operations and sustaining urban warfare research. This Small Wars Journal (SWJ) Anthology documents over a decade of writings on urban conflict. In addition to essays originally published at SWJ it adds new content including an introduction by the editors, a preface on “Blood and Concrete” by David Kilcullen, a foreword “Urban Warfare Studies” by John Spencer, a postscript “Cities in the Crossfire: The Rise of Urban Violence” by Margarita Konaev, and an afterword “Urban Operations: Meeting Challenges, Seizing Opportunities, Improving the Approach” by Russell W. Glenn. These essays frame the discussion found in the collection’s remaining 49 chapters. Blood and Concrete continues the legacy of Small Was Journal’s coverage of urban operations, conflict and combat.

Probably not this kind of megacity…..

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