Archive for March, 2016


March 31, 2016

John Robb on his blog Global Guerrillas on March 30, 2016 reported on the return of great power war. After a brief post Cold War hiatus, great power conflict has returned and it is likely to intensify as the economic woes of China, Russia, and the US worsen. Excerpts below:

During the Cold War, great power conflicts were fought through proxies using a variety of different means (see Frank Hoffman’s Hybrid Warfare). This method of indirect fighting was used to avoid situations and military casualties that could trigger a nuclear war.

In the near future, we are likely to see the great powers — China, Russia, and the US — fight it out in the same way they did historically, in intense set piece battles (see explanation below).

What is a set piece battle?

Is optional. It only occurs when both opponents agree to fight (it’s not a siege).

Is contained. It’s only fought in a finite battlespace that both opponents agree on (e.g. a specific field or river crossing or island).

It’s a showcase of capability. It allows both opponents to execute their plans simultaneously.

…these battles will be fought and won by autonomous robotic systems.

In the next dozen years, as robotic weapons become autonomous and capable of executing mission orders, we’re going to see a spike in the number of lethal (to the system) tactical engagements between robotic weapons fielded by peer competitors. These early engagements will condition the military and political leadership to fighting in this way without escalation.

However, it won’t be long before one of the great powers decides to test their capabilities in robotic weapons against a regional antagonist.

For example, China could deploy a fully robotic A2/AD (anti access, area denial) system of precision guided munitions, autonomous drones/UUVs/etc. across hundreds of the Spratly islands. A veritable hedgehog of lethal machines capable of destroying anything that entered the territory.

China could then provoke a set piece battle by activating the system and declaring that anything within a very specific territory is off limits to all traffic not specifically approved by the Chinese government.

At this point, the US has three options in response… It could:

 Ignore it. This would likely lead to more pop-ups all over the world from any power capable of fielding robotic A2AD.

 Engage it with manned forces. There are two options here. First, the US could sail a carrier battle group into the area in a classic Cold War test of strength, challenging the Chinese to sink it, which would escalate the engagement to a nuclear war. Second, the US could choose to attack it with conventional forces augmented with robotics (teaming), however the battle would likely result in significant loss of US life (a waste of lives if the islands aren’t retaken or neutralized).

 Engage it with autonomous robotics in a set piece battle. This option would test the relative strengths of the respective militaries in robotic systems and AGI (artificial general intelligence). It would be bloodless and contained to a specific battlespace.

These battles could be short and over in hours, fought with robotics and cyber combined arms. In some cases, they could go on for decades. An eternal contest until one side or the other runs out of money or the political need to distract an angry population.

Comment: No doubt John Robb has a point here. Of the empires challenging the United States and the rest of the West are Russia and China, which may very well soon have autonomous robotic weapons. Most likely attempts to prohibit these weapons will fail. For the West they will be of great defensive importance.


March 26, 2016

Swedish daily newspapers on March 26, 2016 reported that anti-North leafletse had been launched against North Korea. UPI on March 21, 2016 reported on the plans to launch the leaflets. Excerpts below:

A group of North Korean defector activists plan to launch an anti-Pyongyang propaganda campaign in commemoration of the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan.

The South Korean organization Fighters For Free North Korea said it expects to launch 500,000 anti-North leaflets using 20 helium balloons on March 26, local news service CBS No Cut News reported.

Other organizations, including the National Action Campaign for Freedom and Democracy in Korea, a conservative group, are also to take part in the helium balloon launch.

In the course of three months, Fighters For Free North Korea plans to send 10 million flyers that condemn the North’s nuclear test and missile provocations.

In 2015, the defectors had planned a similar launch on the fifth anniversary of the Cheonan sinking, but the North had threatened to retaliate with an armed response. The police also blockaded the activists, and the launch was suspended.

Seoul’s Unification Ministry stated Monday the distribution of leaflets to North Korea is a “fundamental right to the freedom of expression” but the activists should take national security into consideration, local television network KBS reported.


March 23, 2016

John Robb on his webpage Global Guerrillas on March 23, 2016 reported that the successful terrorist attacks on Brussels and Paris have left the EU vulnerable to tens of thousands of fast, frequent and fake attacks by self-activating terrorists.

The recent attack on Brussels was big, bloody, and effective.

Unfortunately, there is a way for terrorists to get around that limitation [of real attacks]. There is a way to continue to damage the EU without mounting a new, large-scale attack. This is accomplished by self-activating terrorists making small, frequent and fake attacks. Fake attacks that have a disruptive impact similar to a real attack. Attacks like:

 threats to buildings, organizations and individuals
 suspicious packages left on trains, airports, etc. or mailed bombs/biochem
 reports of suspicious activity – building, organizations, and individuals

Why are fake attacks effective?

 in the current environment, every threat/attempt is taken seriously by the government. Police, fire, and the military responds. Buildings are searched. People are accosted.
 it costs orders of magnitude more to respond to a fake attack than it takes to mount it. Airports are closed. Subways are suspended. Traffic is stopped.
 these attacks can be made frequently, with very little risk/cost to the attacker. Simply, anybody can participate with 10 minutes of instruction.

Comment: The attacks could cost the EU billions of dollars in costs. The Schengen agreement is already under serious threat. Fake terrorist attacks could further threaten that agreement.


March 19, 2016

Washington Times reported on March 17, 2016 that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) will welcome 18,000 guests to its three-day policy conference (‘Come Together’), which begins on March 20 in the nation’s capital.

It has drawn a startling array of high-profile speakers, ready to have their say…

The AIPAC roster includes Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. John Kasich, along with Hillary Clinton, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, House Democratic Whip Rep. Steny H. Hoyer and Sens. Robert Menendez and Lindsey Graham.

A fleet of lawmakers too numerous to name will also appear, along with journalists, strategists, diplomats, clergy, pollsters, student activists, lobbyists, entertainers and assorted luminaries from the military and intelligence communities. The event is, in a word, huge, and described by organizers as “three of the most important days affecting Israel’s future.” And the mission: “To strengthen, protect and promote the U.S.-Israel relationship in ways that enhance the security of Israel and the United States.”

Comment: Presently one of the more important threats to Israel’s safety is the policies of Obama. The AIPAC meeting is therefore of especially great importance in 2016. With anti-Israeli sentiments rising in Europe similar events are needed in European countries. This is especially the case in Sweden where the present foreign minister has been banned from visiting Israel due to her vehement anti-Israel stand.


March 16, 2016

Euromaidan Press on March 14, 2016 reported on the toppling of Lenin statues in Ukraine as an artform. Excerpts below:

In Ukraine, toppling Lenin statues fulfills a number of objectives: it’s a popular spectacle, desacrilization of old myths, destructurization of historical figures, letting off steam and overt intimidation of ideological opponents

It definitely should not be viewed in a one-dimensional manner, but rather examined closely from several aspects as it contains codes that help us understand other areas of Ukrainian society.

Recently, Dnipropetrovsk got rid of its monument to Soviet revolutionary Hryhoriy Petrovsky; now residents and the city council are talking about renaming the city. Two years have passed since the Lenincrash phenomenon started in Ukraine. So, it would be a sin not to examine this particular element of decommunization. Lenincrash is worth looking at from a different perspective, as a popular manifestation. Perhaps we should also consider it an artistic performance…

The Maidan, like any major uprising, generated a flurry of folk art. Besides poetry, songs, kolomyyky, cartoons, caricatures, paintings and interesting political slogans, protesters created different and colourful means of artistic expression, such as performances, flash mobs, happenings and action events. Lenincrash fits perfectly into this context. In fact, it’s all of the fore-mentioned tied into one! And, it responds perfectly and eclectically to the desires of the Ukrainian people.

Lenincrash resembles a popular carnival… a theatrical performance with assigned roles and actions that are allowed before Christian Lent. It’s a carnival where masks are replaced by balaklavas, both of which are used for the same purpose. Don’t even try to pretend that no one will recognize you!

Like other complex popular phenomena, toppling Lenin statues fulfills a number of objectives: it’s a popular spectacle, desacrilization of old myths, destructurization of historical figures, letting off steam and overt intimidation of ideological opponents.

In addition, Lenincrash is a therapy to combat trauma caused not so much by the actual collapse of the Soviet Union, but by insufficient knowledge of traumatic experiences suffered by the Ukrainian population during this period. The symbolic act of destroying the “leader of the proletariat” and removing him from his pedestal should break all ties with the previous era, with the horrifying past, and help relieve post-traumatic syndromes. What was supposed to happen, but didn’t happen, in the eighties and nineties must be implemented now. There is great hope that such symbolic acts will make a difference.

When the Lenincrash phenomenon spread from Halychyna (western Ukraine) to all regions of the country, it demonstrated that the cult of the personality was finally debunked. Lenin is no more a sacred figure for the Ukrainian people.

Lenincrash is also a fight against the totalitarian regime that denied any other art but social realism, censored everything and left no room for creativity. Now, artists and critics, both leftists and libertarians, protect what was embodied in the era of censorship from actual “censorship”. There is no more instinct of self-preservation…

Finally, if we consider Lenincrash as a symbiosis of artistic techniques, we can assume that interpreting it as an act of barbarism is akin to censoring folk art. This is done by people who detest moral values and references to censorship.

No less paradoxical is the fact that many monuments to Lenin and other Soviet leaders do not have the slightest artistic value, but the people who organize such events and pull down old idols turn their action into real performance art.


March 15, 2016

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on March 14, 2016, reported that EU foreign ministers have unanimously agreed on “five guiding principles” of the bloc’s policy toward Russia. Excerpts below:

First, Russia must fully respect and implement the Minsk cease-fire agreement signed in February 2015, while Brussels will not recognize Moscow’s “illegal” annexation of Crimea in March 2014…

Other principles include strengthening EU relations “with our Eastern partners and other neighbors, in particular in Central Asia,” and EU resilience in areas such as energy.

Mogherini said ministers also recognized the need for “selective engagement with Russia on foreign policy issues” such as the Syria conflict and counterterrorism.

The fifth principle is the “willingness to support more and more the Russian civil society,” she added.

Comment: The fifth principle is important. It seems as if Obama has more or less decided that Ukraine is in the Russian sphere of interest. With a new president in the United States being elected in November there could hopefully be a new concerted effort by the West to increase the support for civil society in Russia and to change Moscow’s present challenge to Western culture.


March 12, 2016

Wall Street Journal on March 11, 2016 reported that recently discovered typescript of Arthur Koestler’s famous anti-communist novel, written in German, reveals that the English translation was flawed. Excerpts below:

In the April, 2016 issue) of the New York Review of Books, scholar Michael Scammell wrote about a recently discovered typescript of Arthur Koestler’s 1940 novel “Darkness at Noon,” written in German and pre-dating the “unintentionally misleading” English-language translation “that is unfaithful both to Koestler’s literary sophistication and to his penetrating analysis of the devastating consequences of Communist psychology”

When Darkness at Noon appeared in 1940, it illuminated realities that were little known (and sometimes denied) in the West: show trials, confessions, prison conditions, totalitarian psychology, and human oppression. After the Soviet Union became the West’s ally during World War II, the book’s topicality faded, only to reassert itself with the start of the cold war. Moreover, when the cold war ended, Darkness at Noon did not fade away as many cold war books, movies, and other cultural artifacts did. Like Animal Farm, 1984, and a few other novels from that time,Darkness at Noon had staying power…

The book has little in the way of conventional plot, but it powerfully illuminates the human condition, men’s moral choices, the attractions and dangers of idealism, the corrosive effects of political corruption, and the fatal consequences of psychological and ideological fanaticism.

This is all the more impressive given the novel’s flawed translation,..

Now we no longer have the excuse of being denied the original text. It’s not only possible, but in my view imperative, that someone undertake a new translation that will communicate the book’s artistic qualities more accurately and offer a richer and more nuanced account of Koestler’s complex narrative.


March 11, 2016

Washington Times on March 10, 2015, reported that Sen. Marco Rubio, a Cuban American, drew loud cheers from the debate audience at the University of Miami for his forceful criticism of President Obama restoring relations with communist Cuba. Excerpts below:

“Nothing will change for the Cuban people,” Mr. Rubio said. “Things are worse than they were before this opening. We’re getting nothing in return.”

Mr. Obama will be traveling to Cuba on March 20, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to visit the island nation in more than 70 years.


March 7, 2016

Nancy Reagan was a woman of incredible grace and strength who served as an inspiration to an entire generation of Americans. As First Lady, she chose not only to lead with her distinctive style and poise, but also to take a stand on tough issues, such as the prevention of recreational drug abuse.

For conservatives, she has been a powerful living link to her husband’s legacy as one of the greatest modern presidents. Through her work with the Reagan Library, she has been active in extending the impact of his leadership and message to a new generation.

It was an honor to have met Mrs. Reagan when I spoke at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in 2011. She went out of her way to warmly welcome Jeanette and me. She will be sorely missed by those who knew her, and forever remembered by a grateful nation.


March 7, 2016

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on March 6, 2016, reported that hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Russian Embassy in Kyiv to demand that Moscow release Ukrainian pilot Nadia Savchenko. Excerpts below:

The protesters threw eggs and rocks at the building, breaking several of its windows after smashing cars and burning a Russian flag.

Police officers at the scene did not intervene.

An embassy spokesman said that the building was “attacked” overnight and that men with baseball bats damaged embassy vehicles and threw smoke bombs onto its territory.

Savchenko said she was taken prisoner in Ukraine in July 2014 and was brought to Russia against her will for trial in connection with the deaths of two Russian journalists covering the fighting in Ukraine.

Her trial was adjourned on March 3 until March 9, prompting Savchenko to declare a dry hunger strike (refusing both food and liquids) after she was not allowed to make a final statement.

A group of Ukrainian doctors has applied for permission to visit Savchenko, he added.

On March 6, Russian journalist Irina Lesnevskaya, founder of REN-TV, wrote an appeal on Facebook to Russian President Vladimir Putin, asking him to release Savchenko in honor of the International Women’s Day holiday on March 8.

“Don’t humiliate Russia, its men, and its officers who still know what honor is all about,” she wrote. “Even if you consider a Ukrainian officer defending the sovereignty of her country to be an enemy, respect her. I also consider you my ideological enemy, but let me at least respect the president of my country as a man.”