zenpundit.com » War on the Rocks

Archive for the ‘War on the Rocks’ Category

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 ]
.

Be at peace, take up your courage, fight the good fight, be at peace: happy Easter

**

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.

**

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

**

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..

**

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.

**

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.

**

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

Okay this re North Korea this morning from WotR

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — from Korea hands vs nuclear wonks ]
.

Okay, the title of this piece intrigued me: Korea hands vs nuclear wonksVan Jackson at War on the Rocks today.

Okay, I mostly like wonks, but hands have on-the-ground awareness that beats the hell out of book-footnoted research and chat with like-mindedd others, so to my mind, Korea hands would naturally beat nuclear wonks (Cheryl Rofer and friends explicitly excepted), no contest. Anyway, neat, interest-grabbing title. I therefore clicked to see the piece, and while my own opinion was not affirmed, I found this:

I ranted about this a bit on twitter over the weekend, but what we’re witnessing is an open split between the United States and South Korea over North Korea policy. It’s not the first time; this happened in the early years of the George W. Bush administration too. Both sides have an interest in papering over differences in public, but the rift is there. The question is why.

Nuclear scholars see the emerging differences in the alliance as strategic “decoupling”—North Korea’s growing nuke threat is leading South Korea to search for security by other means because U.S. reliability shrinks as U.S. territory falls within range of North Korean missiles. South Korea would be hard-pressed to have faith that Trump would be willing to let Seattle eat a nuke in exchange for Seoul not eating one.

But Korea scholars see a more familiar pattern in the current divergences between South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in and President Trump. The breakdown of the U.S.-Korea alliance in 2002 and 2003 was about as bad as it’s ever been, it was due entirely to the politics (on both sides) of North Korea policy, and it was years before North Korea had a functional nuke.

So we all see a fissure opening up between allies, but what’s the best explanation for it? If the nuclear scholars are right, and the fissure is a function of North Korea’s growing nukes, then the alliance is in big trouble, because the nuke problem is on-trend to get worse not better.

If the Korea scholars are right, then the alliance is in a bad place but the situation is recoverable. South Korea’s president is just being a political opportunist, in this interpretation, and once the domestic mood in the South shifts against him (or North Korea), then the alliance will be in a better place.

Either way, we’re effectively out of the nuclear crisis from last year. It would take a major miscalculation or act of violence by someone to bring the crisis roaring back. Unfortunately, that’s entirely plausible.

**

Two points-of-view — the view from two points, two perspectives — distinct but not necessarily opposed, ie capable of binocular vision, if the balance between the two lenses is adjusted to the perceiver’s taste.

Binocular vision, adjusted to balance the inputs from the two lenses, is — if nothing else — an opportunity for dialectic, or for the HipBone approach (stereophany — see Meditations for Game Players, vii).

Binocular — stereoscopic — dialectic vision is a central aspect of my interest in polyphony, the capacity to hear twwo or more points of view at once. F Scott Fitzgerald once said, much to my delight:

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.

Then there’s Sir Lawrence Freedman, in The Meaning of Strategy, Part II: The Objectives:

For Beaufre, strategy was the “the art of the dialectic of two opposing wills using force to resolve their dispute.”

Strategy! Dialectic! Stereophany!

**

And now, back to N Korea and Van Jackson with all that in mind..

I’ve taken into account two viewpoints in my “binocular” discussion here — but Jackson offers a third possibility at the very end of his piece:

Either way, we’re effectively out of the nuclear crisis from last year. It would take a major miscalculation or act of violence by someone to bring the crisis roaring back. Unfortunately, that’s entirely plausible.

Ack!

WHat do you think, Zen, Scott, Tanner, Cheryl, Michael??

Jacquelyn Schneider at War on the Rocks Plus One

Saturday, January 13th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — jazzing on WotR plus Hesse’s GBG ]
.

**

Towards the end of her fine War on the Rocks piece, Blue Hair in the Gray Zone, Dr. Jacquelyn Schneider, Assistant Professor at the U.S. Naval War College (and lucky they are to have her) wrote:

The U.S. military has devoted immense resources to technology, but the future forces will fail without humans designing, adapting, operating, and maintaining the technology.

That’s pretty much the thrust of her whole piece — towards the beginning she’s already said it:

With the pace of current technological change, future force architects should care just as much about the people that man the forces as they do the machines.

**

I applaud Dr. Schneider’s article, obviously — but to my mind’s eye it sums to a tiny, concentrated, powerful relationship:

technology : humans

We have the technology, the relation says, we need the humans.

I’m with that, but as always when I see writings that sum to that relation, I think of my own, repeated, obsessive equivalent:

humans : ideas

That’s my obstinate Plus One.

**

It began, I suppose, with Hermann Hesse, who described his Glass Bead Game in a poem as a game played in a garden:

In the title poem of his book, Hours in the Garden .. is the Game as he played it himself, while raking leaves in his garden and burning them. In this simpler form, the great Game consists in imagining the great minds and hearts of the past — “wise men and poets and scholars and artists” — meeting across the centuries and talking…

That’s the game as an interaction between humans. In his great, Nobel-winning novel The Glass Bead Game, however, he has abstracted the game, and it is now played with ideas, rather than people:

The Glass Bead Game is thus a mode of playing with the total contents and values of our culture; it plays with them as, say, in the great age of the arts a painter might have played with the colors on his palette. All the insights, noble thoughts, and works of art that the human race has produced in its creative eras, all that subsequent periods of scholarly study have reduced to concepts and converted into intellectual values the Glass Bead Game player plays like the organist on an organ. And this organ has attained an almost unimaginable perfection; its manuals and pedals range over the entire intellectual cosmos; its stops are almost beyond number. Theoretically this instrument is capable of reproducing in the Game the entire intellectual content of the universe.

Hence for myself, once and always:

humans : ideas

**

But that’s my background motif, the ostinato of my passacaglia, always running in the background of my mind, even when I’m reading War on the Rocks.

And then I’m reading Dr. Schneider, and in the overlap of concepts —

technology : humans meets humans : ideas

or more simply:

technology : humans : ideas

**

That’s what I’m impelled to say: just as we need the people to give algorithms to meaning and extract meaning from them, so we need the algorithms, and their contexts on a range of scales from tactical issues to the great questions of war and peace, conflict and resolution, pacifist’s and warrior’s codes…

What say your heart and mind?

Oh, the Trumpian DoubleQuotes I’ve missed!

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — praise of Bruce Hoffman’s review of The Exile (ie Osama bin Laden) — interrupted by Trumpist verbal pyrotechnics ]
.


Saif al-Adel, key AQ operative

**

War on the Rocks has a tremendous review by Bruce Hoffman of Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy, The Exile: The Stunning Inside Story of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda in Flight, a must-read.

Never mind that, I’ve been missing tremendous DoubleQuote opportunities, as I discover now I’ve seen Kathryn and Ross PetrasTrump’s Elements of Style in McSweeney’s. Consider some of my options:

I know more about renewables than any human being on Earth.
— interview, Sean Hannity, 4/13/16

I think nobody knows more about taxes than I do, maybe in the history of the world. Nobody knows more about taxes.
— interview, AP 5/13/16

I know more about ISIS [the Islamic State militant group] than the generals do. Believe me.
— speech, 11/12/15

There is nobody who understands the horror of nuclear more than me.
— speech, 6/15/16

And then:

I have a great relationship with the blacks. I’ve always had a great relationship with the blacks.
— TALK1300 radio interview, 4/14/11

I have a great relationship the Mexican people. I love them, they love me!
— MSBNC interview, 7/8/15

I have a great relationship with the people of Scotland and an unbelievably good relationship with the people of Aberdeen.
— press conference 6/8/15

And, for good measure, assuming you can stretch this far:

What I like is build a safe zone in Syria. Build a big, beautiful safe zone, and you have whatever it is so people can live…
— campaign rally, 2/13/17

We’re going to have beautiful clean coal.
— CPAC address, 2/24/16

And then again:

I have had tremendous success.
— interview, ABC News, 7/30/16

I am worth a tremendous amount of money
— interview, CNN 6/26/15

I have a tremendous income.
— presidential debate, 9/26/16

I pay tremendous numbers of taxes
— presidential debate, 10/9/16

I have to admit, those last four — besides being a tremendous source of potential DoubleQuotes — is and are beautifully consistent. But do yourself a favor, unless I’ve displeased you, and go read the whole of the McSweeney piece.

**

I believe I mentioned Bruce Hoffman’s review of The Exile for War on the Rocks? One among many items of interest in that book would appear to be the significant role played by Saif al-Adel (see illustration above). Hamid Gul and Qassem Suleimani likewise. A key para:

This tale of Iranian connivance provides additional evidence debunking the popular misconception that extremists do not cooperate across sectarian lines. Rather, it demonstrates how when interests overlap, they have repeatedly shown a remarkable ability to cast aside their otherwise rigid differences to work together. The ancient proverb that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” has long characterized the shifting and sometimes inexplicable alliances formed across the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia since the war on terrorism commenced 16 years ago. In this instance, the intensity of the shared enmity between Salafi-Jihadi Sunnis and Shia militants against the United States can never be prudently forgotten.

A tie strong enough to bind Sunni and Shia together — their joint hatred of America? For those of us who take a keen interest in religion and love America, that’s a notion that may take quite some time to digest.

Mattis and Kim: mirrors have consequences

Friday, April 21st, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — the current nuclear standoff, with a coda on silver beech and copper birch ]
.

**

I spend a fair amount of time suggesting that formal characteristics found in events are frequently worth special note, and mirroring is a good example. Here, in Why Mattis versus Kim Jong-Un Will End Badly for Us All, War on tnhe Rocks indicates the potential (and potent) peril of mirroring in the context of our latest Korean adventure:

Inadvertent war in Korea is more likely now than at any point in recent history. Whereas a second Korean war has always been possible, clashing U.S. and North Korean “theories of victory” — beliefs about what it takes to successfully coerce and control escalation — now make it plausible, even probable.

Patterns of bluster and brinkmanship have of course long characterized affairs on the Korean Peninsula. For “Korea watchers,” there’s a perverse comfort in the predictability of a situation that, to the uninitiated, sometimes looks anything but stable.

So on some level, the rhythm of recent saber-rattling between the Trump administration and North Korea recalls the perverse comfort of typical Korea policy. On a recent visit to South Korea, Vice President Mike Pence cited U.S. attacks in Syria and Afghanistan as indications of U.S. resolve against North Korea. This statement followed numerous officials confirming that the administration is contemplating preventive strikes against the North, and a recent policy review on North Korea yielding one overarching imperative: “maximum pressure.” North Korea’s rhetoric and posturing has been no less confrontational and no less familiar. As Pence departed Alaska for South Korea, North Korea attempted a submarine-launched ballistic missile test that failed. Upon news that a U.S. carrier group was headed to its neighborhood, North Korea responded that “a thermonuclear war may break out at any moment” and that it’s “ready to react to any mode of war desired by the U.S.”

These words and deeds themselves are more heated than usual, but unremarkable in the context of all that’s come before. North Korea routinely threatens war, often summoning images of a future mushroom cloud. The United States routinely dispatches aircraft carriers, bombers, and other strategic military assets in hopes of signaling resolve while actually registering little more than displeasure with North Korean behavior. The notion of “maximum pressure,” moreover, only differs from the approach of past U.S. presidents in the ambiguous adjective “maximum.” Pressure is the historical mean of U.S. policy toward North Korea. My concern is not with these observable dynamics to date, but rather with what lies beneath them, and what may be coming soon as a consequence.

It’s getting harder to ignore that the Pentagon, under Secretary Jim Mattis, may have a coercive theory of victory that largely mirrors that of North Korea under Kim Jong-Un. The danger is in the fundamental incompatibility of these disturbingly similar sets of strategic beliefs.

**

Smoke and the hall of mirrors, a digression:

An excellent place for final confrontations with heroes, the Hall Of Mirrors wins high marks for ease of use. All you have to do is lure your victim inside by dashing in yourself, and then cackle with glee as they find you reflected back not once but a thousand times… When you have had your fun, seal the exits and fill the cramped space with some kind of liquid. Plain water works as well as anything, but why not add food dye for color. Or, for a touch of whimsy, use a sickeningly sweet fruit punch.

Neil Zawacki, How to Be a Villain, in TV Tropes: Hall of Mirrors

**

Mirroring sets up an echo chamber — consider the myth of Narcissus** — which is also a sort of ping-pong game and a feedback machine —

and hence a magnifier or an accelerator. It can allm too easily howl out of control, with — in this case — nuclear consequences.

** Narcissus sees his reflection, Echo echos his voice back to him, thus the myth encompasses a parallelism between visual and aural self-perceptions in a wonderful act of inter-media symmetry.

**

Form is the decorative act of the creative mind, adding to meaning by the use of devices of art in the way the materials of the art are deployed — as when the poet notes (specifically) beech and birch trees in a wood, delighted by the verbal felicity between the two words, or Coppola matches helicopter rotors against the blades of a hotel room fan in the beginning of Apocalypse Now.

And then the delight triples with the addition of a metallic match:

But again, I digress..

**


Switch to our mobile site