Not a Bad Year

News, they say, is almost always bad news. The worse the news, the more important it is. So I decided to take a look at some of the most headline-making events of 2016 in order to see how bad a year it has really been. In doing so, I did not rely on my memory but used a website that specialized in tracing events month by month.

January. The U.S and Europe lift the sanctions on Iran. The longstanding sanctions, both financial and oil, are lifted after inspections prove that Iran has complied with the conditions specified in the nuclear deal. Around $100 billion of Iran’s assets are also released. The U.S and Iran each release some prisoners belonging to the other country they had been holding. Except for Netanyahu, everyone appears to be happy.

February: President Obama announces “historic” visit to Cuba. High time, too! It is another major step in renewed relations between Cuba and the United States since the last and only president to visit Cuba was Calvin Coolidge in 1928. But a “historic” turning point? For the citizens of Cuba, perhaps; for the rest of the world, including 99 percent of US citizens, hardly.

March: The UN Security Council unanimously imposed another round of sanctions on North Korea after the country launched a rocket that put a satellite into orbit in February and conducted a nuclear test in January. The new sanctions call for inspections of all cargo entering and leaving the country, a ban on the import of luxury watches, snowmobiles and Jet Skis, A strange list, one would say; but supposedly justified by the “fact” that Kim Jong-un and his cronies like the items in question.

April: the world first heard a new term, “Panama Papers,” referring to millions of confidential documents that were leaked from a Panama-based law firm, Mossack Fonseca. The Panama Papers reveal details of how some of the globe’s richest people funnel their assets into secretive shell companies set up in lightly regulated jurisdictions. As of the time of writing, though, it is not clear how many miscreants have been prosecuted as a result of the revelations. Nor how much, if any, money the tax authorities around the world have been able to recover.

May: Nothing. Oh, yes: for those of you who did not know, including myself, a place named Fort McMurray really exists. It is located in Alberta, Canada, and has 88,000 inhabitants who make their living by pumping oil out of the ground. In May a major fire burnt down parts of the town and it was claimed that evacuation routes were closed, leaving those trying to flee stranded. In the end, however, no one was killed.

June: Elements within the Turkish Army launch a coup attempt (many throughout the world are convinced it was staged by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself). Following its failure, a wave of dismissals, investigations and arrests sweeps the country, which now seems to be well on its way to a dictatorship. One positive result of all this: talks about Turkey joining the EU are definitely put on hold.

July: On Bastille Day, France’s most important holiday, tragedy strikes. A large truck is driven through a crowd in the southern city of Nice. The truck barrels through the crowds, fatally crushing 84 people and injuring more than 200, children included. The driver is a Frenchman (really?) of Tunisian origin, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who is shot and killed by police officers responding to the attack. In case anyone still had doubts, terrorism is in Europe to stay—and will almost certainly never go away.

August: Contrary to the expectations of many the Olympic Games, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, go without a hitch. True, they cause attention to be focused on a disease named Zika, of which few people had heard before; in the end, though, almost nothing happens.

September: Nothing. True, the first and only president of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, died from a stroke after no fewer than 25 years in power. Putin published his condolences; but I suppose I will not go very wrong if I say that few people outside his own country ever knew he had existed.

October: In Colombia, a peace deal between the government and the rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is submitted to a referendum. The intention was to end the 52-year civil war. The question read, “Do you support the final agreement to end the conflict and construct a stable and enduring peace?” An easy to answer question, one would have thought; yet the voters say no. Fortunately President Juan Manuel Santos announces that the armistice then in force with FARC will be honored. A golden ray of common sense shines onto a war-torn country.

November: Much to the surprise of many pollsters, and to the fury of Democrats, Donald Trump was elected the next president of the United States. What this means for the future remains to be seen. Not least because of the man’s own tweets, which so far have doing little except sow confusion.

December: Following a months-long battle, the Syrian city of Aleppo fell to Assad, Hezbollah, and the Russians. It makes no difference since the war, resuming its original terrorist/guerrilla character, goes on. And on. And on.

Summary: A large meteorite has not hit the earth. No city has been flooded by rising ocean water. There has been no natural disaster comparable to, say, the 2004 Tsunami which killed an estimated 250,000 people in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and eleven other countries. A nuclear war has not broken out. Peace among the most important powers has been maintained, more or less. The world financial system has not undergone a meltdown. Zika has gone, or is going, the way of SARS and swine flu and Bug 2000 (in case anyone remembers it). And Hillary will not be president of the U.S.

All in all, taking a global perspective, not a bad year.

Blaming Obama

As Aleppo has finally fallen and a new Republican administration, supported by a Republican Congress, is about to take over, everyone is pointing fingers at outgoing President Barak Obama. He left America’s allies in the lurch. He did not stand up to Assad, Hezbollah, Khameini, Putin, and other wicked people. He should have done this and he should have done that. He was hesitant and he was inactive and he was ineffective. He has left the US weaker than it was when he entered office. He was a second Carter (the worst thing, in this view, anyone can be).

The charges are baseless. What they overlook is the fact that, at the time the Syrian civil war broke out in May 2011, the U.S was just emerging from its involvement in two disastrous wars. One in Afghanistan, the other in Iraq. Between them these two wars cost the U.S tens of thousands of casualties, including thousands of dead. They also cost fortunes so large as to be almost incalculable. Yet neither of them has achieved anything except increase the mayhem in Central Asia and the Middle East respectively.

The man who created the situation that led to this mess was not President Obama. It was his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush. Bush, it seems, entered office without any particular agenda. That may have been why, once 9/11 had taken place and almost three thousand Americans had died, he reacted instinctively and ferociously by sending his troops into that graveyard of empires, Afghanistan. Initially almost no one could quarrel with his decision and almost no one did. With good reason, it should be added; a Superpower, if it wants to remain a Superpower, cannot afford to take a spectacular act of war such as 9/11 lying down without mounting an equally spectacular one in response.

What spoilt the party was the fact that, during the first weeks and months, the campaign seemed to go better than anyone had expected. Encouraging Bush and his evil geniuses, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, to extend what had started as a punitive expedition into a sustained effort to create a more or less stable, more or less democratic, Afghanistan—an unattainable objective if ever one there was. By early 2003 it ought to have been clear, as in fact it was to a growing number of people, that Afghanistan was not a minor wound in America’s side. Instead it was a rapidly growing, extremely malignant, cancer that was frustrating the efforts of Bush and Rumsfeld and Cheney to deal with it.

However, the evil trio refused to look reality in the face. Drunk with hubris, they decided to take on Iraq as well as Afghanistan. First they invented, and forced their intelligence services to “discover,” non-existent “weapons of mass destruction” to justify their decision. Next they launched a massive invasion much larger than the one in Afghanistan. Again the opening moves went well, encouraging the evil trio and providing them with all the back wind they could have wanted. Again, though, within a matter of months things started going sour.

When Obama entered office early in 2009 he did so with an explicit mandate to end the agony. Two years later it was these facts, and not any weakness on Obama’s part, which prevented him from doing more to help the Syrian militias topple Assad. Had he tried to do so, neither Congress nor public opinion, let alone those weathervanes, the media, would have supported him. Had he used his position as commander in chief to overrule them, and had the bodybags started coming in, they would almost literally have crucified him. So he did the maximum he could, which was to send in weapons—by way of the Saudis, who provided the financial muscle—as well as drones.

Drones, no doubt, are useful machines. Particularly because, being unmanned, they save casualties. Like the manned aircraft which they are increasingly replacing, though, on their own they do not win wars and will not win wars and cannot win wars. The more so when the armed forces that use them are increasingly made up of feminized, traumatized, politically-correct, pussycats; and the more so when those forces are backed up, if that is the term, by a country rightly tired of pouring out troops and treasure in useless wars that result in nothing but casualties.

And so the seeds of the present mess were sown. Perhaps I should add that all this did not take place against a domestic background of economic prosperity, as had been the case during World War II. Rather, even as the U.S vainly struggled with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq it was hit by the worst economic crisis in seventy years. The causes of the crisis do not concern us here. It is, however, worth pointing out that, entering the White House at a supremely difficult juncture, in economic matters as well as foreign-political/military ones Obama did the best he could. Not entirely without success, as the decrease of U.S military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq on one hand and the recent raising of interest rates on the other show.

Let the Republicans go on sticking pins into Obama’s effigy. Now that he is leaving the White House and Trump is coming in, all one can hope for is that the new president will do no worse than the old one did.

Where It May Lead

Israel, for those of you who do not know, has gone bonkers. Batty, crazy, soft in the head. Not a day passes without presidents, ministers, MKs, top civil servants, officers, policemen, professors, rabbis, physicians, psychotherapists, teachers, coaches and actors being charged with all kinds of alleged sexual offenses that reach from paying a woman a compliment all the way to sodomy and rape. Charges having been pressed, plea bargaining—a method, incidentally, often used by the Inquisition too—enters the picture. Essentially it consists of inventing hard to prove, but very serious, crimes so as to blackmail defendants into admitting to lighter ones. As a result, acquittals are practically unknown; even the few who do escape “justice” are often branded for life. No wonder that Israel’s prison population includes a higher percentage of “sex offenders” than that of any other country.

Does all this ring a bell? Good. Or else I would scarcely have used my own country of eight million to make my point. An enormous body of research notwithstanding, the causes of the great feminist revolt, of which the above situation is very much an outcome, remain somewhat mysterious. Betty Friedan, whose 1963 book The Feminine Mystique, played a key role in starting it all, attributed it to growing sub-urbanization which left middle-class non-working women stranded in green deserts. Other factors included the desertion of the home in favor of paid work, which brought countless women into close contact with strange men against whom, they keep claiming, they have no defense; a sharp decline in fertility, which seems to have left many of them slightly wrong in the head; the requisitioning of childhood by the state, which emptied the home and left mothers with too little to do; and a long list of others. Including, not least, the near disappearance from Western life of war, meaning that women have less need of men to defend them; a sort of dialectical reaction to the Sexual Revolution, which made women feel they had given their consent too easily; and a resurgence of that age-old phenomenon, penis-envy. See, on the last of these points, my post of 16.6.2016.

The relative importance of these and other factors, as well as the way they interact with each other, could be discussed forever. In this post, however, what interests me are not the causes of the phenomenon but its possible outcomes. So here are a few, listed in no particular order.

  1. Feminism may collapse under its own absurdities. For both men and women, this seems to be the most desirable outcome. However, at the moment it appears remote. Judging by the example of women’s parking places, discussed in my post of 10.8.2016, feminists’ ability to invent new absurdities is far from exhausted. Particularly because their demand for better defenses against men is combined with shrill shrieks requiring equality with them; making certain they will never make much headway in either direction.
  2. The barriers between the sexes may start rising again. Historically, one characteristic of Western society has long been the relative ease with which men and women were allowed to interact in public. Some observers even believe that, vis a vis non-Western one, this was their greatest advantage. True or not, feminists’ endless complaints about sexual harassment in all its varied forms seem about to change this situation. In many places separate schools, separate buses, separate taxis, separate railway-carriages, separate hotel floors, separate sport facilities and even separate police forces are multiplying.
  3. Feminism may continue to drive more Western women to work and fewer of them to have children. The long-term outcome will be smaller populations and demographic decline; resulting in the rise of societies that have resisted the disease. To put it in a different way, feminist societies will be forced to make way in front of non-feminist ones. As the fact that one in four people world-wide is now a Muslim, as against just one in six back in 1950, trend upwards, shows, this is already happening.
  4. Gaps between the life expectancy of men and women, which over the last two centuries have been steadily growing in favor of the latter, will close again. In other words, women will lose their advantage in this respect, as indeed they began doing in the mid-1970s when large numbers of them, misled by the feminist siren-song, first started taking up paid work. The situation whereby, in Western populations, women usually outnumber men 50.5 to 49.5 will be reversed and the historical one in which men outnumber women restored.
  5. More men may renounce study, work, marriage and family life. For anyone who follows the literature, the fact that there exist a growing number of men who refuse to have anything to do with women except, perhaps, have sex with them on a more or less temporary basis is obvious. These men feel that recent social and legal changes have created a situation in which they are discriminated against in every possible way; as one British man put it, he and his mates have been turned into dispensable sperm donors and ambulant ATMs. So they refuse to play ball and drop out instead, leaving legions of frustrated women in their wake.
  6. A counter-revolution and the end of democracy. As the constant feminist demand for protection against big, bad men shows, the only reason why feminism has enjoyed any successes at all is because men have failed to resist it as strongly as, perhaps, they should have. However, as more and more men feel pressed to the wall—see Article 5 above—they may reach the conclusion that things cannot go on as they do and that some kind of fundamental change is necessary. Some people see the recent victory of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton as the herald of just such a change.
    But that is only the beginning. Women now form a majority in all Western populations. Hence more fundamental change will hardly be possible without first restricting and then doing away with women’s right to vote. A change which, in turn, will almost certainly be possible only if it is accompanied by the abolition of democracy and the establishment of some form of government based on different principles.

Obviously all these scenarios are interrelated in any number of complicated ways. Being seventy years old, chances are that I will not live to see any of the last-named five changes fully implemented. But my three sons and two daughters, I am very much afraid, almost certainly will.

 

PS I just read the Trump Administration is going to include several key figures who have been accused of assaulting women. As, of course, he himself has been. A sign that change is finally under way, perhaps?

Welcome, Mr. Secretary

At one point during his election campaign, President-Elect Donald Trump promised to spend the first hundred days on the job restoring the U.S military. And following the endless unsuccessful wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, restoring it certainly needs. Now he has come up with the man who is supposed to do the restoring: four-star Marine Corps General (ret.) James Mattis.

To imitate the language of the Old Testament, I shall not list “the rest of the General’s acts, and all his might, and all that he did.” They can easily be found on the Net. A few points, however, are worth taking note of. First, he is immensely experienced, having made his way up by participating in practically every war the U.S has fought from 1972 on. Second, as a high-ranking Marine he is intimately familiar with operations “in the air, on land and sea” (the Marine Corps anthem) and not just with one of the three as so many army, navy and air force generals are. Third, along with general David Petraeus he was responsible for America’s counterinsurgency doctrine. Precisely that which, in this day and age of what I once called “non-trinitarian warfare,” is the most important and the most necessary of all. Fourth, he cares for his troops. Fifth, he is a man of considerable learning such as is rarely found among his fellow officers (having lived with them, I should know). Last not least, he has no fear of speaking his mind. A quality which, in today’s politically-correct world, is as hard to find as diamonds.

Entering office, the General will have his work cut out for him. Two issues on which he has expressed himself in the past are Iran and “the Middle East” (meaning, of course, Israel and the Palestinians). So let me start by venturing to provide him with some cautious advice on both of those. Re. Iran, I think that the present agreement with that country is as good as can be had. It is good for Iran, good, for the Middle East, good for the U.S, and good for world peace. Why re-open a (nuclear) nest of hornets when, judging by everything that has happened since Tehran re-started its nuclear program back in the early 1990s there is no need? The more so because, by doing so, the US will be widely seen as untrustworthy, a problem which will surely complicate efforts to deal with similar issues such as, for example, North Korea. And the more so because it will be pushing Iran into Putin’s welcoming arms.

As to my own country, I agree with outgoing President Barak Obama that fifty years of occupation are enough and more than enough. The present situation is untenable for the world, for the US, and, not least, Israel itself. Surprising as it may sound to outsiders, many, perhaps even most, Israelis are aware of this fact. However, they are prevented from doing what has to be done—in one way or another, get the devil out of the Territories—by the country’s complicated internal political divisions. As they say, four Jews, five opinions! So I strongly suggest that the new Secretary of Defense should put his weight behind the attempts to impose some kind of enforced solution. One which, while not perfect, will at least extinguish many flames and dispose of many sparks (as our mutual acquaintance Clausewitz puts it in On War.)

Important as these issues are, they only comprise the beginning. As readers of the present blog as well as my book Pussycats will know, I see the military crisis the U.S (and other Western countries, including, in many ways, my own) is undergoing primarily as a spiritual one. Not, in other words, one that is occasioned by lack of money. And not as one caused by defective organization, inappropriate doctrine, insufficient equipment, inadequate training, and so on. To repeat, it is the spirit, eroded partly by a whole series of unsuccessful wars and partly by domestic factors, which has been lacking and which must be restored.

Here I want to quote some little-known words General Mattis uttered two years ago (according to the Washington Times, 25.5.2014). The text of his remarks goes as follows:

I would just say there is one misperception of our veterans and that is they are somehow damaged goods. I don’t buy it.

If we tell our veterans enough that this is what is wrong with them they may actually start believing it.

While victimhood in America is exalted I don’t think our veterans should join those ranks.

There is also something called post traumatic growth where you come out of a situation like that and you actually feel kinder toward your fellow man and fellow woman.

We are going to have to have young people in our country who are willing to go toe to toe with this because two irreconcilable wills exist.

There is no room for military people, including our veterans, to see themselves as victims even if so many of our countrymen are prone to relish that role.

Coming on top of some other courageous words General Mattis has spoken over the years, it is probable that, in the entire U.S military there is no one more suitable to carry out the necessary repairs than he is. Repairs, let me repeat, whose nature is predominantly spiritual, not material.

And so I wish him good luck in what is surely going to be a very difficult task.

A Reminder of Vietnam

Charles Krohn, The Lost Battalion of Tet: Breakout of the 2/12 Cavalry at Hue, Baltimore, Md, Naval Institute Press, 2008.

I read this book, a revised edition of the 1993 original, on two levels. As a description of the operations of 2/12th cavalry battalion during the battle of Hue (February 1968) it is superb. The initial feeling of superiority—at this time, almost all US troops still believed in the war and looked down on their enemies whom they called “gooks.” The arrival of the battalion, minus its artillery support and the men’s packs, which HQ had ordered them to leave behind, at TFP (This F— Place) north of Hue. From there they were supposed to attack south so as to help relieve the city’s defenders. The order to attack an entrenched and well prepared enemy without previous artillery preparation. The attack itself, and its costly failure. What it was like, being counterattacked by the NVA, surrounded, and threatened with total destruction. The decision of the battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Sweet, to break out and its successful implementation. The heavy casualties—between dead and injured, almost two third of initial strength. The falsification of the number of enemy soldiers killed. It is all there, as detailed and as realistic as one would expect from the author who was acting as the battalion intelligence officer and a participant in the battle, from beginning to end. And who, as a professor of journalism, knows how to write.

On another level, though, the book leaves more questions than answers. From beginning to end the Americans in Vietnam had every advantage on their side. Though Krohn does not say so, along with the ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) they outnumbered their enemies by about three to one. Initially, troop morale was very high. They were well organized, well trained and better equipped than any other armed forces in history up to that time. Supported by a superb communication-network, they had heavy B-52 bombers on call. They had fighter-bombers on call. They had gunships on call. They had helicopters on call. Piloted by incredibly brave men, throughout the battle of Hue the helicopters brought in supplies and evacuated many wounded.

Above all, as Krohn says several times, they had a magnificent logistic system that stretched back across the Pacific all the way to America’s west coast. On one occasion it enabled the battalion to use three air strikes, helicopter rocket runs, and more than one thousand artillery rounds to dislodge a single sniper. A single sniper! A hero, if ever one there was. And the NVA? Their supplies, says Krohn, had to be brought from North Vietnam to Que San by way of Laos. On foot.

So taking a look around, how did the US, as the most powerful country in history, lose the war? To be sure, this is not Krohn’s topic. Nevertheless, towards the end of his book he provides a few hints. First, if the NVA succeeded in fortifying TFP as well as they did, it was due partly to the fact that they used the American’s own building materials which had been left behind. Second, a captured NVA document revealed that, in the authors’ estimation, fewer than one third of the US troops around Hue were combat. Third, compared with World War II American readiness to take casualties was minimal.

As we now know, it was not the last time the US lost a war.