Why I Blog

Some three years have passed since I started this blog, and it is time to draw up a balance. No, my site has not drawn very large numbers of readers and has not developed into the equivalent of the Huffington Post. And no, I do not do it for profit; though at times I was tempted by offers to open the site to advertising, in the end I rejected them all. As a result, never did I receive a single penny for all the work I have been doing (normally, about two hours per week). More, even: since I am not very computer literate, I rely on my stepson, Jonathan Lewy, to run the site for me. But for him it would not have been possible. So let me use this opportunity to thank him from the bottom of my heart.

What I have received and am receiving is feedback. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Some people have used the appropriate button on the site to say what they think of my work or simply in order to get in touch. Others suggested that they write for me or else responded to my request that they do so. Others still have asked, and received, my permission to repost my work on their own sites. A few have even taken the trouble to translate entire articles into their native languages. Except for a few yahoos who ranted and swore, almost all my contacts with the people in question, many of whom were initially complete strangers, have been courteous, informative, and thought-provoking. Thank you, again, from the bottom of my heart.

Most of the ideas behind my posts are derived from the media. Others have to do with my personal experiences; others still, such as the series on Pussycats, have to do with the research I am currently doing or else were suggested by various people. Perhaps most important of all, I often use my posts as what Nietzsche used to call Versuche. By that he meant attempts to clarify his thoughts and see where they may lead. The most popular posts have been those which dealt with political and military affairs. Followed by the ones on women and feminism, followed by everything else. Given my background and reputation as a longtime professor of military history and strategy, that is not surprising.

At one point I tried to enlist the aid of a friend to have the blog translated into Chinese and make my posts available in that language too. No luck; I soon learnt that the Great Chinese Firewall did not allow them to pass. Why that is, and whether my work has fallen victim to some kind of dragnet or has been specifically targeted I have no idea. Thinking about it, the former seems more likely; to the best of my knowledge I have never written anything against China. But one never knows.

That brings me to the real reason why I write: namely, to exercise my right to freedom of thought. And, by doing so, do my little bit towards protecting it and preserving it. My heroes are Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. The former because he has exposed a few of the less decent things—to put it mildly—out dearly beloved governments have been saying and doing in our name. The latter, because he has shown how vulnerable all of us are to Big Brother and called for reform. Both men have paid dearly for what they have done, which is another reason for trying to follow in their footsteps as best I can.

Freedom of speech is in trouble—and the only ones who do not know it are those who will soon find out. The idea of free speech is a recent one. It first emerged during the eighteenth century when Voltaire, the great French writer, said that while he might not agree with someone’s ideas he would fight to the utmost to protect that person’s right to express them. Like Assange and Snowden Voltaire paid the penalty, spending time in jail for his pains. Later, to prevent a recurrence, he went to live at Frenay, just a few hundred yards from Geneva. There he had a team or horses ready to carry him across the border should the need arise. Good for him.

To return to modern times, this is not the place to trace the stages by which freedom of speech was hemmed in in any detail. Looking back, it all started during the second half of the 1960s when it was forbidden to say, or think, or believe, that first blacks, then women, then gays, then transgender people, might in some ways be different from others. As time went on this prohibition came to be known as political correctness. Like an inkstain it spread, covering more and more domains and polluting them. This has now been carried to the point where anything that may offend anyone in some way is banned—with the result that, as Alan Bloom in The Closing of the American Mind has shown, in many fields it has become almost impossible to say anything at all.

Let me give you just one example of what I mean. Years ago, at my alma mater in Jerusalem, I taught a course on military history. The class consisted of foreign, mostly American, students. At one point I used the germ Gook. No sooner had the word left my mouth than a student rose and, accused me of racism. I did my best to explain that, by deliberately using the term, I did not mean to imply that, in my view, the Vietnamese were in any way inferior. To the contrary, I meant to express my admiration for them for having defeated the Americans who did think so. To no avail, of course.

And so it goes. When the Internet first appeared on the scene I, along with a great many other people, assumed that any attempt to limit freedom of speech had now been definitely defeated. Instead, the opposite is beginning to happen. Techniques such as “data mining” made their appearance, allowing anything anyone said about anything to be instantly monitored and recorded, forever. All over Europe, the thought police is in the process of being established. Sometimes it is corporations such as Facebook which, on pain of government intervention, are told to “clean up” their act by suppressing all kinds of speech or, at the very least, marking it as “offensive,” “untrue,” and “fake.” In others it is the governments themselves that take the bit between their teeth.

Regrettably, one of the governments which is doing so is that of the U.S. Naively, I hoped that Trump’s election would signify the beginning of the end of political correctness. Instead, he is even now trying to prevent people in- and out of the government from discussing such things as global warming and the need to preserve the environment. Not to mention his attacks on the media for, among other things, allegedly misreading the number of those who came up to witness his inauguration. Should this line continue and persist, then it will become imperative to do without him and go against him. Not because of what he has to say about both topics is necessarily wrong, but to ensure the right of others to think otherwise.

This won’t do. That is why I promise my readers, however few or many they may be, one thing: namely, to go on writing about anything I please and go on speaking the truth as I see it. The English poet W. H. (Wystan Huge) Auden, 1907-1973, might have been referring to blogging when he wrote:

I want a form that’s large enough to swim in,

And talk on any subject that I choose.

From natural scenery to men and women

Myself, the arts, the European news.

No Exit

As some readers will know from some of my previous posts, I have been interested in the future and, even more so, the methods people of various times and places have developed in their attempts to predict it. One day, perhaps, I shall write a book about that endlessly fascinating topic. Until then, here are some preliminary reflections on it.

* Attempts at prediction are as old as humanity. As far as we can make out, Stone-Age hunters going on an expedition used to ask their shaman whether they would return alive, return loaded with quarry, and so on. We today are always looking for some device that will enable us to see where the stock exchange is heading.

* We today tend to see prophecy, astrology, divination, and similar practices as leftover from former, less sophisticated times. However, Cicero’s brother Quintus, took the opposite view: he held that only civilized societies could bring them to perfection.

* Historically, predictions have often taken poetic form. To this day, no one has been able to improve on the Old Testament in this respect. Or on good old Nostradamus (1503-66), perhaps the most famous seer who ever lived, whose quatrains (four-lined poems) have been read, interpreted, and believed by immense numbers of people over four and a half centuries. But no longer. Present-day “scientific” forecasts tend to consist of prose texts illustrated with the aid of tables and graphs.

* It used to be that practically all attempts to look into the future involved some kind of divine assistance. The old Hebrew prophets claimed that God had got hold of them—on occasion, as with Jonas, even against their will—and spoke through their mouth. So did St. John. At the Oracle in Delphi, supposedly it was Apollo who gave his advice by way of the Pythia. As Nostradamus put it, without religious faith even mathematical calculations, which he and others used to cast horoscopes, did not work. That, however, no longer applies. Regardless of whether it takes the form of mathematical modeling, or surveys, or “data mining,” most “serious” attempts at prediction have become strictly secular.

* Prophecy used to be closely linked with madness. The abovementioned Pythia uttered her prophecies while seated on a tripod positioned over a deep split in the ground from which emerged some kind of gas—said to be Apollo’s breath—which befuddled her. Casandra, daughter of King Priam of Troy who was cursed in that no one ever believed her (quite accurate) predictions, was often portrayed as incoherent and half mad. When Saul, the future King of Israel, went chasing his lost she asses and suddenly found himself prophesizing, people thought that he had gone off his rocker. That, too, no longer applies. Looking into the future, or trying to do so, is now often considered a rational, quite sober, activity. One on which billions are spent and on which some of the best minds, from that of computer guru Ray Kurzweil down, are engaged. By contrast, modern psychiatrists would like nothing better than to consign those who try to predict the future on the base of ecstasy to the loony bin. As, in fact, they not seldom are.

* Except when it was used in astrology, past attempts to look into the future seldom involved mathematics. Even as late as the early years of the twentieth century, it never occurred to the famous British science fiction writer H. G. Wells that models might have something to do with it. Basically all the tools he had were his knowledge of some recent inventions, a few rather simple trends, and his own extraordinarily fertile imagination. That is no longer true. To the contrary: the more mathematics such an attempt involves, and the fewer therefore the people who understand it, the better.

That said, there are also some things that have not changed:

* Some of the oldest methods, astrology in particular, are still in use. True, they have been pushed off center stage by supposedly better, more rational and more sophisticated, methods employed by economists e.g. As newspaper and magazine columns confirm, however, that does not mean many people do not take notice of them and are not interested in them.

* Many prophecies used to be rather obscure, often deliberately so. To adduce but one famous example, the Pythia told King the envoys of Croesus that, if he went to war with neighboring Persia, he would bring down a great kingdom. He believed her, took the offensive, and was defeated. The explanation? The Pythia had not said which kingdom would be destroyed.

Similarly, many of today’s forecasts are “probabilistic.” Meaning that, instead of providing yes/no answers, all they yield are estimates of the chances of this or that happening. From the point of view of those who make them, of course, such forecasts have the advantage that they are always right.

* To pursue this thought, here is a story that used to be told about a former Israeli chief of staff, General Rafael Eitan (served, 1978-83). One day he was asked to approve some operation the air force was preparing. When he asked about the weather, he was told that there was a twenty percent chance of rain. “Wrong,” he said. The correct answer is fifty percent. Either it will rain, or it won’t.” He had a point, didn’t he?

* The use of computers, models and mathematics notwithstanding, to date there is not a shred of evidence that we secular, supposedly rational, moderns are one bit better at looking into the future than, say, Babylonian astrologers exercising their craft four thousand years ago used to be. If the book of Genesis may be believed, the seven good and seven lean years which Joseph, on the basis of Pharaoh’s dream, predicted did not come as a surprise as much as the 1929 and 2008 depressions did. Or, for that matter, as the boom of the Clinton years.

But suppose, someone might say, we had been able to accurately predict the future; what then?

* If it happens, it will probably form the most important “singularity” ever, far eclipsing anything those who so often play with that concept have come up with. More important, say, than the development of artificial superintelligence which Ray Kurzweil has been trumpeting. And more important than meeting with an ex-terrestrial civilization.

* Such a world would require that all information at the predictors’ disposal be correct, accurate, and comprehensive. Right down to what is happening in each one of the hundred billion or so cells and trillions of connections (synapses) which make up the brain of each and every one of us. All causes and all effects would have to be known and perfectly understood.

* In such a world movements and impacts would still be possible, as they are e.g. in the atmosphere or in the heavens. However, those movements and those impacts would be blind, occasioned solely by natural laws. The reason is that such a world would have to do without intentionality, because intentionality is the greatest obstacle to certainty of all. But beware. No intentionality, no feelings to choose the objectives we are aiming at; nor thought about the best way of achieving them. In other words, no conscious life, either emotional or intellectual. Purely physical phenomena apart, such a world would be frozen in concrete. With no exit.

Make up your own mind, if you can, whether you would want to live in such a world.

Guest Article: George Michael and Brexit A View from the Thames Valley

By Prof. Beatrice Heuser

Overnight, during the Christmas news doldrums, our village became the focus of world attention. For a month ago, Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, better known as George Michael, born in London to a British mother and a Cypriot father, ended his life in his country house on the Thames in the idyllic village of Goring. Following the example of the new ritual of mass mourning which Britain invented at the death of Princess Diana, the access to his house is now strewn with bouquets of flowers in their white plastic wrappers and many very odd donations from balloons and a guitar to T-shirts inscribed “Choose Life”, the motto of an anti-suicide campaign he sponsored. Even now, a month later, fans make their pilgrimage to Goring to pay homage. One wonders whether they cared or even knew as much about the decision they took in the “Brexit” Referendum on 23 June 2016 as about the life of George Michael.

Seven months after the Brexit vote, some of us are still rattled. The outcome is proof that Europeans in different countries have always thought of the European Union in different ways. In Spain and Greece, membership of the EU is seen as a way of escaping the great divides within the country itself, with the Union at the highest, not at the lowest common denominator. Countries that were in Charlemagne’s Holy Roman Empire – above all France and Germany – had (but do young generations still have?) some emotional identification with this historic heritage that preceded nationalism and frontiers. A (declining?) majority within those countries embrace the narrative that nationalism had bad effects, leading to the creation of barriers and the wars of many centuries. Most continental peoples associate the EU with human rights and a larger, liberating identity, and with a peaceful, civilised way to settle problems.

In Britain, by contrast, most people have never seen European integration in that light. Before or after membership of the European Economic Community (EEC, the forerunner of the EU), they could travel; they still prefer taking the ferry to taking the time-saving Channel Tunnel, and therefore their passage experience is still one of Britain being separate, and passports being controlled, as it has always been. They only identified the “Common Market” with free trade (good) and otherwise see the EU as an alien empire dictating rules and regulations (bad, like the Roman Empire, and unsuccessful attempts to subject England by the Catholic Church through the agency of Philip II of Spain with his Inquisition and the Armada, of Napoleon and Hitler). Against this, England/Britain defended its Freedom – a nice flexible catch-all that throughout European history has expressed anything and everything, and now stands for poorly paid jobs with little social security, and a romance of Britain as part of a seafaring Anglosphere but not of the European Continent.

As an unemployed blue-collar worker in his late 50s said on BBC Radio in early September 2016, he had no hope of finding employment again, and could not afford to pay the medicines for his wife, and had voted for Brexit to “make Britain great again”. Unpack those assumptions: i.e. Britain was great before it joined the EEC in 1973, he would have been employed, and the National Health Service would have paid for all health needs. None of this would have been true. Labour minister Aneurin Bevan already resigned in 1951 when the young NHS was so overstretched that it could not pay for dentures any longer, and Britain joined the EEC because it was economically at rock bottom with high unemployment, labour unrest, and much poverty. But clearly, if this man is anything to go by – and a recent study suggests he is, see https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/brexit-vote-explained-poverty-low-skills-and-lack-opportunities – there is a myth prevalent among the British white lower classes of a golden age that was lost when Britain joined “Europe” (never mind geographic and historical facts).

In short, The whole narrative of the Pax Romana and Charlemagne and how the Holy Roman Empire managed most internal conflicts peacefully (until the religious wars) and co-ordinated external defence, and finally settled for religious tolerance, is never taught in British schools, nor all the wonderful things that EU does for ethnic minorities. (For a provocative book written by another fan of the Pax Romana, read Ian Morris’s bestseller War: What is it good for.)

What is incomprehensible unless it is lighting finding the only available conductor is the anti-Polish actions and other displays of xenophobia against EU citizens immediately after Brexit. Back in the early 1980s, with Solidarność and Lech Wałesa, the Poles were every Briton’s darlings. Even in the 1990s, people supported EU and NATO extension because, having guaranteed Poland in 1939, the British and the French felt rather sheepish about their inability to stop the Wehrmacht, and then the Red Army, from overrunning Poland. Everybody talked about the gallant contribution the Poles had made to the RAF and to decrypting Enigma.

The bêtise of the angry white Americans who voted Trump into office seems akin to that characterising the unemployed man quoted above. Some patterns are reminiscent of the 1930s, when nationalism was rampant, and nationalist authoritarian leaders such as Piłsudski admired Hitler and Mussolini, and when Piłsudski’s successors thought they were being clever when they joined in the carving up of Czechoslovakia at Munich in 1938. How do people not understand that a nationalist government of another country is by definition an adversary in a zero-sum game, and that any alliance with it can only be temporary? While democracies upholding human rights should logically co-operate (which the British found so difficult to understand vis-à-vis France in the 1920s and 1930s), nationalist countries by definition are each other’s enemies. What’s so difficult about that?

Any student of the history of European security and the construction of the fragile architecture that gave the Continentals the reassurance that they were covered by nuclear deterrence (to which Britain’s contribution was pivotal, and based on the unconditional mutual guarantee of the Brussels Treaty, now subsumed into the Lisbon Treaty of the EU), without further nuclear proliferation in Europe (!) should be terrified by the possible consequences of withdrawing the British pivot through Brexit. And while so far Putin “only” wants to rebuild the “Union” (so what about the Baltic states, members of NATO and the EU?), l’appetit vient en mangeant. Baltes and Poles are likely to dream about nukes – and probably want a very strong fence or wall. Call in the Israelis or the Chinese.

So when Trump thinks he can “do business with Herr Putin”, to paraphrase Chamberlain in 1938, and when Nigel Farrage and François Fillon and Marine Le Pen and the AfD in Germany and many other European leaders admire Putin (and Erdoğan? Probably…), history is clearly not taught properly to the masses.

In short, things are not looking good for human progress. Another Age of Enlightenment is coming to an end. George Michael did not “Choose Life”, the British did not choose to “Remain” in the EU. The former, a personal tragedy. The latter may become one for the stability of Europe, perhaps for the rest of the world.

 

Beatrice Heuser, who holds the Chair of International Relations at the University of Reading, is the author of (inter alia) Evolution of Strategy (2010), Nuclear Mentalities? (1998), and Western Containment Policies in the Cold War: the Yugoslav Case (1989). Her next publication will be Strategy before Clausewitz (2017).

 

The Price to Be Paid

Ours is the age of equality between men and women, or so they say. Not a day passes without the media announcing some great achievement by women who have done this or that, conquered this or that field of previously male activity. Today it pleases me to focus on the price women have paid for succumbing to penis envy.

Follow a few highlights:

* Many women now work as hard as men. Fifty years ago, the time when the shift that made it normal and acceptable for married women to obtain paid jobs got under way, many of them started by working part time. Since then, however, the difference in the percentage of men and women working full time has been shrinking. Do you want to see the result? Just look at the bookstores. In them, one volume after another dealing with how to balance work, household and family is becoming a best-seller. As if wishful thinking could lead to a day of twenty-six hours.

* The rising cost of living. Most working women incur expenses non-working ones do not have; such as clothing, transport, help in running the household, and child care. In particular, the last two have led to the rise of entire industries that are worth billions and billions a year. Women who work and pay others to work for them also have the privilege of paying all kinds of taxes (income tax, VAT, social security, employers’ taxes), which otherwise would not have been the case. All this explains why, whereas fifty years ago most middle-class families could live on one salary, today such a blessing has become rare.

* Exposure to sexual harassment. Women who work outside the home are more exposed to sexual harassment than those who do not. Period.

* Difficulty in conceiving. Paid work often means preparing for it by undertaking some kind of academic study, and the years spent on academic study are one reason why the age at which people get married for the first time has been rising until it is currently the highest in history. The outcome: more and more women who live with a partner cannot have children and are forced to turn to artificial insemination labs or adoption agencies instead.

* Estrangement from children who suffer. Historically the fact that women spent far more time with little children in particular meant that mothers were considerably closer to their offspring than fathers were. That, however, is no longer the case; today’s newborn are likely to be handed to the care of strangers within months, or even weeks, of entering this world. At least some studies have concluded that mothers’ employment is “associated with negative child outcomes when families [are] not at risk financially (i.e., when families [are] middle or upper-middle class).” A fortiori, of course, for poor and/or single working mothers.

* Payment of child support and palimony. Half a century ago, for women to pay child support, let alone palimony, was almost unheard of. Such demands indeed, tended to be laughed out of court. No longer. The courts’ bias in favor of women, as well as the fact that most men still make more than most women, means that, even today, far fewer women than men are ordered to make these payments. However, the gap is shrinking.

* Crime and punishment. Starting at the time when Medea, in a fit of jealousy, killed her children to spite her philandering husband Jason but was never put on trial, women have always suffered much lighter punishments for the crimes they committed then men did. To a large extent, that is still the case. A man who killed his children is certain to be denounced as a monster and subjected to the heaviest possible punishment; a woman can expect much lighter punishment as well as sympathy and psychological help. Still, over the last thirty years or so the gap has been shrinking. As is shown, inter alia, by the fact that women’s incarceration rate has increased nearly twice as fast as that of men.

* Military service. Throughout history, in one form or another men have often been conscripted to fight and die for their dear countries whereas women were not. To-date, the only country that made women wear uniform even against their will is Israel. This, however, seems to be changing. At least one country, Norway, now has some form of conscription for women, albeit that it has so many loopholes as to ensure that no woman (or man) should serve against their will. In other countries the possibility of registering women for conscription, though not conscription itself, has become the topic of public debate.

* Declining life expectancy. As far back into history as we can look, men have always outlived women. That was as true in Neolithic times as it was in eighteenth-century Europe. Only after 1800 or so did the situation begin to change; first in Europe and the US, then gradually in other places as well. By 1975-80, in developed countries, women had come to outlive men by 6-8 years. In marches feminism and the idea that women have to work, and endure stress, and smoke, and join the military, just as men do. The outcome? In just forty years, in some of the countries in question, the gap in life expectancy between men and women has been halved.

Has it been worth it? Let women judge.

“We Shall Win This War, and Then We Shall Get Out.”

No, this is not Vladimir Putin speaking. This is Winston Churchill, not long after returning to power in 1951. The context? The conflict in Malaysia, which at the time had been ongoing for three years with no end in sight. The immediate outcome? The war came to an end and the Brits left. The ultimate outcome? To this day, whenever anyone suggests that brushfire war, alias guerrilla, alias people’s war, alias low intensity war, alias nontrinitarian war, alias fourth-generation war (currently, thanks to my friend Bill Lind, the most popular term of all) is beyond the ability of modern state-owned armed forces to handle, someone else is bound to ask: but how about the British in Malaysia?

In response, let me suggest that, had Israel agreed to get out of the territories (I wish!) it could have “won” the struggle against Palestinian terrorism in twenty-four hours. But this is not what it pleases me to discuss today. It is, rather the situation in Putin’s own stamping ground, i.e. Syria.

The following is the story of the war, as far as I can make it out. It all started in May 2011 when terrorism against Assad dictatorial regime got under way. At first it was local, sporadic and uncoordinated. Later the opposition coalesced and assumed a more organized character; even so, by last count there are, or have been at one time or another, about ninety different groups fighting the regime. And even this mind-boggling number includes neither Hezbollah, nor Daesh, nor the various Kurdish militias, nor the so-called Baby Al Qaedas.

As in many similar wars (the one in the former Yugoslavia is a good example), some of the militias form coalitions, whereas others spend most of their time and energy combating each other. Some see the whole of Syria as their battlefield, others are local gangs out to keep certain regions or cities in their own power. Some are quite large (though none seems to have more than a few thousand fighters), others very small. Some are secular, others religiously-motivated.

What keeps the militias going are Saudi and Qatari money and weapons. Both the money and the weapons reach them mainly by way of Iraq a country which thanks to the U.S has ceased to be a country at all and is unable to control much of its territory. Earlier in the conflict Jordan too acted as a conduit. Later, though, the Jordanian Government, determined to look after itself first and stay out of the conflict as much as it could, all but closed this route. Bravo, King Abdullah. Well done.

In this war, as in so many other nontrinitarian ones, the largest formation on either side seems to be the reinforced brigade. Most, however, are much smaller. There is some use of tanks and much of artillery; however, on both sides most of the damage is done by lighter weapons. Including light quick-firing artillery (the kind that fires 20-30 millimeter rounds), mortars, machine guns of all calibers, antitank rockets and missiles, grenade launchers, assault rifles, and car bombs.

Most of Syria being an empty desert, most of the fighting takes place in and around the towns. Airpower, which the militias do not have, is used only by the Syrians and their Russian supporters. The Syrians in particular have specialized in helicopters which they use to drop explosive-filled barrels. As in so other nontrinitarian wars, often little if any distinction is made between combatants and noncombatants. That is why the number of dead is as large as it is: half a million, and counting.

In his famous work on “Protracted War” (not, as Western translations often call it, “guerrilla war”) Mao Zedong, writing from the point of view of the insurgents, divides this kind of struggle into three stages. First comes what we would call terrorism, individual attacks whose main purpose is to destabilize the government and show that it is not in control. Of necessity, such warfare does without any firm territorial base; it is at this stage, above all, that the guerrillas must be like fish swimming in the sea. The second stage is to consolidate some kind of base, usually in remote, difficult terrain that the government forces find it hard to penetrate, where the guerrillas can find refuge, train, and in general consolidate their power. The third stage is the switch to full-scale conventional war, waged against a demoralized opponents and at least partly with the aid of captured weapons and supplies.

In all this, the really critical step is finding the right moment to make the shift from the second stage to the third. Wait too long, and watch your forces becoming demoralized and perhaps disintegrating. Move too early, and you put everything you have achieved at risk. This, for example, was the error General Giap committed back in 1972. Switching from guerrilla to conventional warfare, twice he tried to launch a massive invasion of the south. On both occasions doing so left his forces exposed to US airpower which pulverized them.

Back to Syria. Until the spring of 2015 the various militias did very well. Encouraged by their success, they got to the point where they made the transition, assuming control over much of Syria in the process. By doing so, however, they changed their character and became more and more like their regular opponents. Becoming like their regular opponents, they exposed themselves to those opponents’ firepower, now directed at them not only from the ground (by the Syrian Army) but also from the air (by the Russians). Subjected to a combined conventional offensive, as at Aleppo, the various militias fought but, in the end, lost.

The recent ill-observed cease fire notwithstanding, that does not mean the struggle is over. Too many different parties are involved, of which many have not yet achieved their objectives and remain full of fight. With Assad’s forces on the upswing at the moment, fhe most likely outcome is a regression from Mao’s stage 3 back to stage 2, perhaps even stage 1. Precisely the kind of war which, in both Afghanistan and Iraq, gave the Americans as much trouble as it did.

And Putin? He seems be following Churchill, first proclaiming victory and then getting out. In other words, he knows where to stop. Isn’t that more than the Americans can say?

Guest Article: China and Iran

by William S Lind*

President-elect Donald Trump’s choices for cabinet positions have reassured his supporters that change will be real. However, for his presidency to begin successfully, there are two countries where change is needed in his approach. Those two countries are China and Iran.

As always, to see how we should relate to any state we must begin with our own grand strategic goals. The most important of those goals should be forming an alliance of all states to confront the threat Fourth Generation war presents to the state system itself. Obviously, we want that alliance to include China and Iran; all states means precisely that. China is one of three genuine Great Powers (Britain and France have that title by courtesy). An alliance of all states is possible only if it begins with an alliance of the Great Powers. Otherwise, Great Power rivalry will undermine it from the outset. Iran is an important regional power whose cooperation against 4GW elements in the Mideast is important. At present, Iran is playing a central role in upholding the state in Syria.

This grand strategy reminds us that in any situation, the worst possible outcome for our interests is the disintegration of another state and its replacement by a stateless nursery for more 4GW elements. The U.S. foreign policy Establishment has given us that outcome in Iraq, in Libya, and, in part, in Syria. A Trump administration should do its utmost not to add to that list of failures.

In this context, Mr. Trump’s initial actions vis-a-vis China, including receiving a congratulatory phone call from the leader of Taiwan, do serve to strengthen his bargaining position with Beijing. But it is important he accept the “one China” policy, with which both the Chinese Communist Party and the Kuomintang agree. Taiwan is an existential issue for China because of China’s history of centrifugal movements. If one province can become independent, so can others, and China would be heading back to a situation of “warring states”. That is the nightmare of every Chinese.

Because any movement of Taiwan toward independence has this implication for China, Taiwan has the highest potential for bringing about a war between China and the U.S. Such a conflict would be a disaster for both parties. But from the United States’ standpoint, it would be a lose-lose scenario. In the unlikely event the U.S. lost the war, our Great Power status would be called into question. If China lost, the result could be even worse. A defeat might destroy the legitimacy of the current Beijing government and with it the Chinese state. China could disintegrate into warring states in a huge victory for 4GW elements. We need China to be a center and source of order in the world. A defeat followed by disintegration would turn China into a vast source of disorder.

As China resumes her historical Great Power status, we should not merely allow but encourage her to take over the job of preserving peace, order, and commerce in a growing portion of the world. China must agree that is her role, but Chinese culture puts high value on order and harmony so that should not be too difficult. In that context, if China wishes to take over the job of protecting freedom of the seas in the South China Sea and is able to do so, we should welcome it. We should have no desire to be the world’s policeman. China, like Russia and the U.S., should have her sphere of influence, again and always in the context of upholding order and the state system.

Much the same is true of Iran on a regional basis. If the U.S. and Iran were to go to war–and Mr. Trump was elected in part because he opposed avoidable wars in the Middle East–an Iranian defeat might lead to the break-up of Iran, where the Persians are not a majority of the population. As has been the case in Iraq and Libya (thank you, Hillary), a disintegration of Iran into stateless disorder would be far worse for our interests than is the present Iranian state.

From this perspective, we should accept the Iran deal negotiated by the Obama administration. It may not be ideal in its terms, but if we tear it up, we will be on course either to accept a nuclear Iran in the near future or go to war with Iran, with all the dangers therein described above. Of these three alternatives, the present deal is clearly the least bad.

The foreign policy opposite of the neo-con/Jacobin “idealism” of Hillary and President Obama is realism. It is reasonable for those of us who supported Mr. Trump to expect realism will be the basis of his foreign policy. Realism often means accepting arrangements that are less than ideal. Realists do accept them because the other plausible alternatives are worse.

In the 21st century, the worst outcome of all will be destroying another state. Whenever and wherever the question of war against a state comes up, our thinking must begin with the realization that “victory” may, indeed is likely to, yield that outcome. We, and China and Russia and Iran and all other states face real enemies in the form of non-state opponents. Let us join together in confronting those enemies rather than pursue obsolete conflicts with each other.

 

* William (“Bill”) Lind is author of the Fourth Generation Warfare Handbook. This article has been previously posted on his website, The View from Olympus.

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.