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The Saker
A bird's eye view of the vineyard

offsite link Azerbaijani Troops Are At Gates Of Capital Of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Fri Oct 30, 2020 18:19 | amarynth
South Front The Nagorno-Karabakh war has apparently been developing in the favor of the Turkish-Azerbaijani bloc. On the evening of October 29, the Armenian side confirmed that Azerbaijani troops have

offsite link A Dem Presidency means The Return of the Blob Fri Oct 30, 2020 12:07 | amarynth
by Pepe Escobar with permission and cross posted with Asia Times What happens on November 3rd ? It?s like a larger than life replay of the famous Hollywood adage: ?No

offsite link Data in the Cloud Fri Oct 30, 2020 12:05 | amarynth
by Jimmie Moglia for the Saker Blog If flattery is the infantry of negotiations, then mendacity is the air force of politics. There are exceptions, but as a practical rule

offsite link MUST SEE interview of Glenn Greenwald MUST SEE Fri Oct 30, 2020 03:38 | The Saker
Note: listen to what a REAL progressive/Leftist thinks of the Dems and what they represent!

offsite link Cui bono from the situation in France Thu Oct 29, 2020 19:22 | The Saker
I won’t even bother repeating it all here, those who are interested in my views of this entire Charlie Hebdo canard can read my article “I am NOT Charlie” here:

The Saker >>

Public Inquiry
Interested in maladministration. Estd. 2005

offsite link David Quinn’s selective tolerance

offsite link A Woulfe in judges clothing Anthony

offsite link Sarah McInerney and political impartiality Anthony

offsite link Did RTE journalists collude against Sinn Fein? Anthony

offsite link Irish Examiner bias Anthony

Public Inquiry >>

Spirit of Contradiction

offsite link The Party and the Ballot Box Sun Jul 14, 2019 22:24 | Gavin Mendel-Gleason

offsite link On The Decline and Fall of The American Empire and Socialism Sat Jan 26, 2019 01:52 | S. Duncan

offsite link What is Dogmatism and Why Does It Matter? Wed Mar 21, 2018 08:10 | Sylvia Smith

offsite link The Case of Comrade Dallas Mon Mar 19, 2018 19:44 | Sylvia Smith

offsite link Review: Do Religions Evolve? Mon Aug 14, 2017 19:54 | Dara McHugh

Spirit of Contradiction >>

Giovanni Legorano - Fri Oct 30, 2020 15:43

As governments once again shut businesses across Europe to stop a surge in coronavirus infections, acceptance of restrictions is fading and some small businesses are refusing to cooperate.

The sense of a common goal and solidarity with front-line medical workers evident in the spring has given way to frustration among restaurateurs, hoteliers, retailers and other business owners who are rapidly running through their financial reserves.

This month’s lockdowns are more targeted than in the spring and in some cases come with substantial aid for those affected. Yet they are raising more opposition everywhere, from lawsuits in Germany to riots and demonstrative flouting of the rules in Italy.

Restaurants, bars, clubs, entertainment and sport venues will largely close under the new measures. In France, curfews will confine people to their homes. Germany is barring hotels from hosting tourists for a month and banning normally legal prostitution.

“The government wasted the summer and didn’t prepare for the second wave which everyone knew was coming, and now they are using the same lockdown as before,” said Antonio Bragato, owner of the Il Calice restaurant in Berlin. “But this will not end the pandemic.”

Mr. Bragato took out a loan of €250,000, equivalent to $292,000, during the first lockdown. He has since invested into outdoors heating and an indoor ventilation system. The restaurant hasn’t had a single coronavirus case among staff or guests, he said.

The German restaurateur association Dehoga said it was considering suing the government, saying revenues between March and August had dropped 40% from the same period last year. A third of 245,000 businesses are now facing closure, it said.

Berlin bar owners successfully sued the local government earlier this month after it forced all bars in the city to close at 11 p.m.

Health clubs also are pushing back. “This is a catastrophe that comes after all the investment we made into hygiene concepts,” said Frank Böhme, chief executive of a gym chain in Cologne. “I am forced to take legal action against it…but I fear many businesses will not survive the winter.”

In Paris, Eric Hassan on Thursday was busy shutting down his large antiques shop in front of the Élysée Palace, seat of the French president, that used to cater to international clients.

“We were already sinking, and now we will definitely sink,” said Mr. Hassan, who also manages other antiques outlets in the French capital. “What we have been building our entire life is disappearing, the economy is collapsing—but those politicians and senators, they will still have their salaries and their pensions.”

Mr. Hassan, who said he was ill with Covid-19 in March, said the mood has changed this time around. “A lot of people won’t respect these restrictions. At the time, we were all good soldiers and did what we were told. But now, no longer. People have to feed their families.”

At brasserie Au XV Du Rond Point, evening shift manager Josiane Doyhenart warned that “if the government now tries to prevent people from seeing each other and their families on Christmas, there will be a revolution in this country.”

Politicians defended the new restrictions as necessary as hospitals swell with Covid-19 patients. France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, on Wednesday said the spread of the virus was exceeding the most pessimistic predictions.

France recorded over 50,000 new coronavirus cases Monday. Mr. Macron said the lockdown could help bring that figure back down to 5,000 by Dec. 1.

Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, warned that her country was in a dramatic situation after new confirmed cases reached 16,000 on Thursday, a record. The measures—which include shutting restaurants, bars, gyms, concert halls and theaters—are necessary and proportionate, she told parliament.

Yet opposition parties that supported her government in the spring now question whether the new constraints are worth the economic toll—and if they can ever be lifted for good.

“We hope that the measures will stop the current wave, but what will happen in December?,” said Christian Lindner, leader of the opposition Free Democrats, speaking to parliament. “Will there be another lockdown in January? No one is speaking about that.”

The German government wants to soften the economic impact with €10 billion in aid. While details remained sketchy Thursday, the Economics Ministry said it would offer quick support to large companies, small businesses and freelancers affected by the new measures.

The aid will include grants worth up to 75% of these businesses’ November 2019 revenue.

A Forsa poll for German broadcaster RTL on Thursday showed 50% of Germans supported the measures while a third found them excessive and 16% thought they were insufficient.

The French government said it would help out small companies that have to shut by contributing to their payroll and distributing cash payments of up to €10,000 to firms with fewer than 50 employees. French employers’ organizations say these measures are insufficient to stave off a wave of bankruptcies.

The Italian government approved aid to shore up businesses worth more than €5 billion, including grants, funding to extend furloughs and tax holidays.

So far, this has done little to defuse opposition in Italy, which spilled over into the streets on Sunday when the new measures were announced. Some protests turned violent, with fringe groups of far-right organizations and other individuals attacking shops and the police.

The latest Italian measures, introduced Monday and running until Nov. 24, include the closure of all bars and restaurants at 6 p.m., the suspension of many sporting and leisure activities, and a return to online classes for some high-school students.

“The new measures are based on principles of maximum caution, proportionality and adequacy,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told parliament on Thursday.

Yet a survey by pollster SWG published on Monday found that only 28% of respondents in Italy considered the new measures adequate, while 36% believe they are insufficient and 25% excessive. The remaining 11% didn’t have an opinion.

“They are destroying ordinary people. They are taking away our future,” said Giorgio Perna, owner of Bistrot Bonaccorsi, a restaurant in the northern Italian city of Bologna, who said he makes 70% of his sales after 5 p.m.

Mr. Perna said he decided to keep the restaurant open beyond 6 p.m. and has already received three €400 fines. He stuck the fines on a wall inside his restaurant.

“It’s a matter of survival,” said Mr. Perna, who said he has debts of hundreds of thousand euros. On Wednesday night he served 250 meals, a sign that clients are supporting him, he added.

Clients are also backing Chiara Casatello, owner of New Diego Caffè in Rovato, a city in northwestern Italy, who has been keeping her bar open until 8 p.m. and has stuck a sign on the window reading “I am not shutting at 6. Arrest me.”  She said four lawyers have already offered to represent her if she gets in legal trouble.

“I am so angry,” she said. “This time is completely different. People just don’t understand what’s going on.”

Source: The Wall Street Journal

As governments once again shut businesses across Europe to stop a surge in coronavirus infections, acceptance of restrictions is fading and some small businesses are refusing to cooperate. The sense of a common goal and solidarity with front-line medical workers evident in the spring has given way to frustration among restaurateurs, hoteliers, retailers and other business owners who are rapidly running through their financial reserves. This month’s lockdowns are more targeted than in the spring and in some cases come with substantial aid for those affected. Yet they are raising more opposition everywhere, from lawsuits in Germany to riots and demonstrative flouting of the rules in Italy. Restaurants, bars, clubs, entertainment and sport venues will largely close under the new measures. In France, curfews will confine people to their homes. Germany is barring hotels from hosting tourists for a month and banning normally legal prostitution. “The government wasted the summer and didn’t prepare for the second wave which everyone knew was coming, and now they are using the same lockdown as before,” said Antonio Bragato, owner of the Il Calice restaurant in Berlin. “But this will not end the pandemic.” Mr. Bragato took out a loan of €250,000, equivalent to $292,000, during the first lockdown. He has since invested into outdoors heating and an indoor ventilation system. The restaurant hasn’t had a single coronavirus case among staff or guests, he said. The German restaurateur association Dehoga said it was considering suing the government, saying revenues between March and August had dropped 40% from the same period last year. A third of 245,000 businesses are now facing closure, it said. Berlin bar owners successfully sued the local government earlier this month after it forced all bars in the city to close at 11 p.m. Health clubs also are pushing back. “This is a catastrophe that comes after all the investment we made into hygiene concepts,” said Frank Böhme, chief executive of a gym chain in Cologne. “I am forced to take legal action against it…but I fear many businesses will not survive the winter.” In Paris, Eric Hassan on Thursday was busy shutting down his large antiques shop in front of the Élysée Palace, seat of the French president, that used to cater to international clients. “We were already sinking, and now we will definitely sink,” said Mr. Hassan, who also manages other antiques outlets in the French capital. “What we have been building our entire life is disappearing, the economy is collapsing—but those politicians and senators, they will still have their salaries and their pensions.” Mr. Hassan, who said he was ill with Covid-19 in March, said the mood has changed this time around. “A lot of people won’t respect these restrictions. At the time, we were all good soldiers and did what we were told. But now, no longer. People have to feed their families.” At brasserie Au XV Du Rond Point, evening shift manager Josiane Doyhenart warned that “if the government now tries to prevent people from seeing each other and their families on Christmas, there will be a revolution in this country.” Politicians defended the new restrictions as necessary as hospitals swell with Covid-19 patients. France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, on Wednesday said the spread of the virus was exceeding the most pessimistic predictions. France recorded over 50,000 new coronavirus cases Monday. Mr. Macron said the lockdown could help bring that figure back down to 5,000 by Dec. 1. Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, warned that her country was in a dramatic situation after new confirmed cases reached 16,000 on Thursday, a record. The measures—which include shutting restaurants, bars, gyms, concert halls and theaters—are necessary and proportionate, she told parliament. Yet opposition parties that supported her government in the spring now question whether the new constraints are worth the economic toll—and if they can ever be lifted for good. “We hope that the measures will stop the current wave, but what will happen in December?,” said Christian Lindner, leader of the opposition Free Democrats, speaking to parliament. “Will there be another lockdown in January? No one is speaking about that.” The German government wants to soften the economic impact with €10 billion in aid. While details remained sketchy Thursday, the Economics Ministry said it would offer quick support to large companies, small businesses and freelancers affected by the new measures. The aid will include grants worth up to 75% of these businesses’ November 2019 revenue. A Forsa poll for German broadcaster RTL on Thursday showed 50% of Germans supported the measures while a third found them excessive and 16% thought they were insufficient. The French government said it would help out small companies that have to shut by contributing to their payroll and distributing cash payments of up to €10,000 to firms with fewer than 50 employees. French employers’ organizations say these measures are insufficient to stave off a wave of bankruptcies. The Italian government approved aid to shore up businesses worth more than €5 billion, including grants, funding to extend furloughs and tax holidays. So far, this has done little to defuse opposition in Italy, which spilled over into the streets on Sunday when the new measures were announced. Some protests turned violent, with fringe groups of far-right organizations and other individuals attacking shops and the police. The latest Italian measures, introduced Monday and running until Nov. 24, include the closure of all bars and restaurants at 6 p.m., the suspension of many sporting and leisure activities, and a return to online classes for some high-school students. “The new measures are based on principles of maximum caution, proportionality and adequacy,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told parliament on Thursday. Yet a survey by pollster SWG published on Monday found that only 28% of respondents in Italy considered the new measures adequate, while 36% believe they are insufficient and 25% excessive. The remaining 11% didn’t have an opinion. “They are destroying ordinary people. They are taking away our future,” said Giorgio Perna, owner of Bistrot Bonaccorsi, a restaurant in the northern Italian city of Bologna, who said he makes 70% of his sales after 5 p.m. Mr. Perna said he decided to keep the restaurant open beyond 6 p.m. and has already received three €400 fines. He stuck the fines on a wall inside his restaurant. “It’s a matter of survival,” said Mr. Perna, who said he has debts of hundreds of thousand euros. On Wednesday night he served 250 meals, a sign that clients are supporting him, he added. Clients are also backing Chiara Casatello, owner of New Diego Caffè in Rovato, a city in northwestern Italy, who has been keeping her bar open until 8 p.m. and has stuck a sign on the window reading “I am not shutting at 6. Arrest me.”  She said four lawyers have already offered to represent her if she gets in legal trouble. “I am so angry,” she said. “This time is completely different. People just don’t understand what’s going on.” Source: The Wall Street Journal
A.J.Kay - Fri Oct 30, 2020 14:00

This will be the final Thanksgiving for 2.8 million (the annual all-cause death toll) of our fellow Americans. It could be my last — or yours. That likelihood is significantly higher for our elderly loved ones, too many of whom will not have seen or hugged their family in nine months.

…some of whom don’t understand why.

The hard truth is that we do not know who will be around for Thanksgiving next November. What we do have is right now — this moment — today.

We aren’t promised one second more.

We’ve all seen some version of the CDC’s Thanksgiving recommendations and California Governor, Gavin Newsom’s, Thanksgiving ‘rules’ by now. Twitter is abuzz with our newly-christened ‘expert’ class pontificating on ‘safety’ (and morality), asserting that the ‘right’ thing to do is to physically distance from one’s family this year.

We’ve already forgone countless once-in-a-lifetime events to mitigate a newly-minted definition of risk which takes only one variable into account.

And have neglected to acknowledge that many of our seniors — the most vulnerable among us — don’t even want that kind of ‘safety’ because it costs precious moments with their families.

They already achieved quantity in life. What most of them want more than anything is quality.

Thanksgiving presents an opportunity to recapture some semblance of our humanity and remind us why we want so badly to live.

People who need hugs from their families should be able to get them. That’s not a frivolous or selfish desire to be dismissed or diminished. For many, it has become a matter of life and death.

There’s only one ‘unsafe’ version of Thanksgiving for me and that’s failing to be present with my family, allowing weaponized shame and performative restrictions to keep us apart.

God forbid one of us isn’t sitting at that table next year, I can’t imagine grappling with that regret.

And if one (or all) of us get COVID, so be it.

We will keep calm and carry on. For our family, risk is relative and safety is never guaranteed. Those facts have certainly never stopped us from living true to our values, one of which is ‘family first’.

And we’re better for it.

And if, despite the overwhelmingly favorable odds, lightning strikes and COVID takes one or more of us from the rest, we still won’t regret that day for a second.

Because if “safety” requires us to indefinitely forfeit the most valuable parts of our lives, what exactly are we trying to save?

Source: AJ Kay

[caption id="attachment_37437" align="alignnone" width="700"] "There’s only one ‘unsafe’ version of Thanksgiving for me and that’s failing to be present with my family, allowing weaponized shame and performative restrictions to keep us apart"[/caption] This will be the final Thanksgiving for 2.8 million (the annual all-cause death toll) of our fellow Americans. It could be my last — or yours. That likelihood is significantly higher for our elderly loved ones, too many of whom will not have seen or hugged their family in nine months.

…some of whom don’t understand why.

The hard truth is that we do not know who will be around for Thanksgiving next November. What we do have is right now — this moment — today.

We aren’t promised one second more.

[embed]https://twitter.com/justin_hart/status/1310705415030628352?s=20[/embed]

We’ve all seen some version of the CDC’s Thanksgiving recommendations and California Governor, Gavin Newsom’s, Thanksgiving ‘rules’ by now. Twitter is abuzz with our newly-christened ‘expert’ class pontificating on ‘safety’ (and morality), asserting that the ‘right’ thing to do is to physically distance from one’s family this year.

We’ve already forgone countless once-in-a-lifetime events to mitigate a newly-minted definition of risk which takes only one variable into account.

And have neglected to acknowledge that many of our seniors — the most vulnerable among us — don’t even want that kind of ‘safety’ because it costs precious moments with their families.

[embed]https://twitter.com/anish_koka/status/1318948506967674880?s=20[/embed]

They already achieved quantity in life. What most of them want more than anything is quality.

Thanksgiving presents an opportunity to recapture some semblance of our humanity and remind us why we want so badly to live.

People who need hugs from their families should be able to get them. That’s not a frivolous or selfish desire to be dismissed or diminished. For many, it has become a matter of life and death.

There’s only one ‘unsafe’ version of Thanksgiving for me and that’s failing to be present with my family, allowing weaponized shame and performative restrictions to keep us apart.

God forbid one of us isn’t sitting at that table next year, I can’t imagine grappling with that regret.

And if one (or all) of us get COVID, so be it.

We will keep calm and carry on. For our family, risk is relative and safety is never guaranteed. Those facts have certainly never stopped us from living true to our values, one of which is ‘family first’.

And we’re better for it.

And if, despite the overwhelmingly favorable odds, lightning strikes and COVID takes one or more of us from the rest, we still won’t regret that day for a second.

Because if “safety” requires us to indefinitely forfeit the most valuable parts of our lives, what exactly are we trying to save?

Source: AJ Kay

JP Sottile - Fri Oct 30, 2020 13:13

President Donald J. Trump’s peace deal between countries-not-at-war added another buyer when he announced the opening of normalized relations between Israel and Sudan. On its face, it’s a good thing. Sudan got de-listed as a “state sponsor” of terrorism and the US agreed to lift its sanctions on the economically challenged nation. Israel moved a step closer to regional acceptance by adding Sudan to the Abraham Accords. Sudan joins the UAE and Bahrain in ending its official rift with Uncle Sam’s “mighty aircraft carrier,” which now sails in a slightly smaller sea of animosity. And not for nothing, Donald J. Trump got a much-needed PR win entering the homestretch of the 2020 Presidential election.

So, it’s a win-win-win. Right?

If only it were that simple.

First and foremost, this deal is about Jared Kushner’s and Bibi Netanyahu’s plan for an “Outside-In” resolution to the Palestinian question. As opposed to the “Inside-Out” attempts of the past, this approach is based on flipping the traditional “Peace Process” on its head. Instead of making peace with the Palestinians (the “Inside”) and then using that predicate to make peace with the Arab world (the “Out”), the idea is to make “peace” with all of the Palestinians’ Arab supporters (the “Outside”) and use that predicate to force the Palestinians (the “In”) to accept a deal because they’ll be too isolated to resist.

That’s the “Outside-In” approach Kushner, whose family has a longstanding relationship with Netanyahu, is using to build the Abraham Accords and, in so doing, he’s setting up the Palestinians to accept his proposed resolution to Israel’s military occupation and, through what amounts to a piece-by-piece process, its eventual annexation of significant portions of the West Bank.

To set up this Outside-In foreclosing of the Palestinians’ options, the Trump Administration cut aid to the Palestinians and, during the announcement of the initial Abraham Accord, it is why some of the Palestinians’ longtime Arab financial benefactors suddenly scolded the Palestinians for not going along to get along … with the new shape of things. And this is also why Bibi has such a hard-on for Iran … because Iran is the one power (other than Turkey, which is also a non-Arab regional power) that remains a steadfast, defiant supporter of the Palestinians.

And that leads to the other motivation, which is not just the Israelis using their Bibi-based connection to Kushner and Trump as leverage with the UAE and Saudi Arabia to isolate Iran and, therefore, the Palestinians … but it is also the UAE and Saudi Arabia using Kushner’s and Trump’s ties to Netanyahu to contain and constrain Iran. Like Netanyahu, underestimated regional power-broker Mohammed bin Zayed (MBZ) of the UAE and bonesaw enthusiast Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) of Saudi Arabia both have Iran on the brain.

Specifically, they are thinking about Iran’s large oil and even larger natural gas reserves. Add to that Iran’s US-created influence over Iraq, and they could (particularly if not under draconian, Trump-imposed sanctions) make major mischief in the oil market that made the Emiratis and Saudis rich and powerful. Iran is also Saudi Arabia’s main theological rival in the Islamic world. And regionally, they are a major military force … although now Turkey is starting to challenge Iran’s position as the main rival of the UAE-Saudi power coupling.

So, the irony of the “peace deal” is that the Saudis, who are again struggling with an oil glut after enjoying some relief from two-plus years of Trump-stoked oil prices, are banking on its “still in the closet” link-up with Israel to help ameliorate its even more tenuous grip on regional dominance. It’s a grip that has been loosening in no small part because it and its oft-overlooked partner in the UAE have gotten bogged down in military adventures in Yemen (where Iran has supported the Houthis) and in Libya (where Turkey and a motley crew of foreign interests are all jockeying for power and influence).

And now we have this deal with Sudan, which came after Pompeo negotiated a $335 million payout to American victims of terrorism. In an ironic twist given the provenance of 9/11, that payout may have been paid by Saudi Arabia. Either way, the “peace” deal with Israel (which, of course, was not at war with Sudan) was actually a “pay to play” deal that bought Sudan a much-needed normalization with the US. But wait, there more … because over the long haul, this deal could lead to more US weapons sales as Sudan becomes a “partner” of this new regional alliance to isolate Iran.

As if on cue, Sudan has reportedly agreed to designate Hezbollah a “terrorist organization,” thus eliminating a potential obstacle to future weapons’ sales. In fact, that’s the subtext of this whole effort. For the US, this is about selling more weapons in a weapons-hungry region where Russia and China are making renewed efforts to grab more of Uncle Sam’s profitable market share.

To wit, the UAE’s desire to buy into the US Military-Industrial Complex through Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jet was a key concession they sought from Israel for joining the Abraham Accords. Israel had been playing coy … until the Sudan deal was sealed during the campaign event phone call between Bibi and Trump. Shortly thereafter, Israel announced it would drop its opposition to the sale of F-35s to the UAE. Now the UAE has its multi-generational “buy-in” to the Pentagon customer service system and Israel has, by extension, another brick in the wall it’s methodically building around the Palestinians’ slim hope for autonomy.

One fly in this ointment is the growing regional power and assertiveness of Erdogan’s Turkey, which is positioning itself as the new rival to Riyadh. That’s why he’s pushed back so hard on the dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi. He’s letting the Saudis know there’s a new Pasha in town. Then, of course, there is Russia, which is positioned in Syria and in Libya and is, at the same time, still allied with the UAE and Saudi Arabia in the oil glut-obsessed OPEC+ alliance … with all three oil-dependent powers desperate to prop up the price of oil with production cuts … and no doubt desperate to keep Iran’s oil and, more importantly, its gas off the market.

To add to the complexity, Qatar shares the world’s largest gas field with Iran (under abutting territorial waters in the Persian Gulf) and they have been blockaded and isolated by the UAE and the Saudis, which may have been a punitive response to its cooperative agreement to develop that gas field with Iran. That response also came after Kushner’s dad tried to shake them down for a bailout of Jared’s 666 Fifth Ave. boondoggle and it might even have catalyzed Rex Tillerson’s departure from the State Department, because Tillerson reportedly scrambled to stop a military move on Qatar by their Arab brethren. Perhaps not coincidentally, Qatar remains a holdout to the Abraham Accords.

Ultimately, the people who will pay the steepest price for all of these moves are the Palestinians … who, I believe, are now destined to live in an ever-smaller patchwork system of de facto reservations and, therefore, remain perpetually stuck in a non-state limbo with only limited rights as non-citizen wards of the Israeli state.

Source: Antiwar.com

President Donald J. Trump’s peace deal between countries-not-at-war added another buyer when he announced the opening of normalized relations between Israel and Sudan. On its face, it’s a good thing. Sudan got de-listed as a “state sponsor” of terrorism and the US agreed to lift its sanctions on the economically challenged nation. Israel moved a step closer to regional acceptance by adding Sudan to the Abraham Accords. Sudan joins the UAE and Bahrain in ending its official rift with Uncle Sam’s “mighty aircraft carrier,” which now sails in a slightly smaller sea of animosity. And not for nothing, Donald J. Trump got a much-needed PR win entering the homestretch of the 2020 Presidential election. So, it’s a win-win-win. Right? If only it were that simple. First and foremost, this deal is about Jared Kushner’s and Bibi Netanyahu’s plan for an “Outside-In” resolution to the Palestinian question. As opposed to the “Inside-Out” attempts of the past, this approach is based on flipping the traditional “Peace Process” on its head. Instead of making peace with the Palestinians (the “Inside”) and then using that predicate to make peace with the Arab world (the “Out”), the idea is to make “peace” with all of the Palestinians’ Arab supporters (the “Outside”) and use that predicate to force the Palestinians (the “In”) to accept a deal because they’ll be too isolated to resist. That’s the “Outside-In” approach Kushner, whose family has a longstanding relationship with Netanyahu, is using to build the Abraham Accords and, in so doing, he’s setting up the Palestinians to accept his proposed resolution to Israel’s military occupation and, through what amounts to a piece-by-piece process, its eventual annexation of significant portions of the West Bank. To set up this Outside-In foreclosing of the Palestinians’ options, the Trump Administration cut aid to the Palestinians and, during the announcement of the initial Abraham Accord, it is why some of the Palestinians’ longtime Arab financial benefactors suddenly scolded the Palestinians for not going along to get along … with the new shape of things. And this is also why Bibi has such a hard-on for Iran … because Iran is the one power (other than Turkey, which is also a non-Arab regional power) that remains a steadfast, defiant supporter of the Palestinians. And that leads to the other motivation, which is not just the Israelis using their Bibi-based connection to Kushner and Trump as leverage with the UAE and Saudi Arabia to isolate Iran and, therefore, the Palestinians … but it is also the UAE and Saudi Arabia using Kushner’s and Trump’s ties to Netanyahu to contain and constrain Iran. Like Netanyahu, underestimated regional power-broker Mohammed bin Zayed (MBZ) of the UAE and bonesaw enthusiast Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) of Saudi Arabia both have Iran on the brain. Specifically, they are thinking about Iran’s large oil and even larger natural gas reserves. Add to that Iran’s US-created influence over Iraq, and they could (particularly if not under draconian, Trump-imposed sanctions) make major mischief in the oil market that made the Emiratis and Saudis rich and powerful. Iran is also Saudi Arabia’s main theological rival in the Islamic world. And regionally, they are a major military force … although now Turkey is starting to challenge Iran’s position as the main rival of the UAE-Saudi power coupling. So, the irony of the “peace deal” is that the Saudis, who are again struggling with an oil glut after enjoying some relief from two-plus years of Trump-stoked oil prices, are banking on its “still in the closet” link-up with Israel to help ameliorate its even more tenuous grip on regional dominance. It’s a grip that has been loosening in no small part because it and its oft-overlooked partner in the UAE have gotten bogged down in military adventures in Yemen (where Iran has supported the Houthis) and in Libya (where Turkey and a motley crew of foreign interests are all jockeying for power and influence). And now we have this deal with Sudan, which came after Pompeo negotiated a $335 million payout to American victims of terrorism. In an ironic twist given the provenance of 9/11, that payout may have been paid by Saudi Arabia. Either way, the “peace” deal with Israel (which, of course, was not at war with Sudan) was actually a “pay to play” deal that bought Sudan a much-needed normalization with the US. But wait, there more … because over the long haul, this deal could lead to more US weapons sales as Sudan becomes a “partner” of this new regional alliance to isolate Iran. As if on cue, Sudan has reportedly agreed to designate Hezbollah a “terrorist organization,” thus eliminating a potential obstacle to future weapons’ sales. In fact, that’s the subtext of this whole effort. For the US, this is about selling more weapons in a weapons-hungry region where Russia and China are making renewed efforts to grab more of Uncle Sam’s profitable market share. To wit, the UAE’s desire to buy into the US Military-Industrial Complex through Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jet was a key concession they sought from Israel for joining the Abraham Accords. Israel had been playing coy … until the Sudan deal was sealed during the campaign event phone call between Bibi and Trump. Shortly thereafter, Israel announced it would drop its opposition to the sale of F-35s to the UAE. Now the UAE has its multi-generational “buy-in” to the Pentagon customer service system and Israel has, by extension, another brick in the wall it’s methodically building around the Palestinians’ slim hope for autonomy. One fly in this ointment is the growing regional power and assertiveness of Erdogan’s Turkey, which is positioning itself as the new rival to Riyadh. That’s why he’s pushed back so hard on the dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi. He’s letting the Saudis know there’s a new Pasha in town. Then, of course, there is Russia, which is positioned in Syria and in Libya and is, at the same time, still allied with the UAE and Saudi Arabia in the oil glut-obsessed OPEC+ alliance … with all three oil-dependent powers desperate to prop up the price of oil with production cuts … and no doubt desperate to keep Iran’s oil and, more importantly, its gas off the market. To add to the complexity, Qatar shares the world’s largest gas field with Iran (under abutting territorial waters in the Persian Gulf) and they have been blockaded and isolated by the UAE and the Saudis, which may have been a punitive response to its cooperative agreement to develop that gas field with Iran. That response also came after Kushner’s dad tried to shake them down for a bailout of Jared’s 666 Fifth Ave. boondoggle and it might even have catalyzed Rex Tillerson’s departure from the State Department, because Tillerson reportedly scrambled to stop a military move on Qatar by their Arab brethren. Perhaps not coincidentally, Qatar remains a holdout to the Abraham Accords. Ultimately, the people who will pay the steepest price for all of these moves are the Palestinians … who, I believe, are now destined to live in an ever-smaller patchwork system of de facto reservations and, therefore, remain perpetually stuck in a non-state limbo with only limited rights as non-citizen wards of the Israeli state. Source: Antiwar.com
John Helmer - Fri Oct 30, 2020 10:27

Armenia has lost the October war with Azerbaijan because of Armenian failures in battlefield intelligence, obsolete defences, and the political miscalculations of Prime Minister Nicol Pashinyan (lead image). His only allies now are the mountains and the weather.

This is the consensus this week of Moscow’s leading military analysts. “During the period of Nikol Pashinyan’s premiership,” Vzglyad reported the Russian General Staff assessment on Tuesday, “three intelligence chiefs were replaced, and one of them had no competence and was a purely political appointee from the West. All this was accompanied by internal anti-Russian rhetoric, multiplied by national arrogance. Some leaders of Nagorno-Karabakh have said things like ‘we don’t need the Russians at all, we can walk to Baku without you.’”

“Moreover, over the last six months, in the General Staff of Armenia there has been a mass dismissal of officers who were trained in Moscow.”

“It’s probably about time that real purges within the government took place,” Pashinyan had announced in April. According to the Russian assessment, Pashinyan then made the nervous novice’s classic mistake: he reinforced his palace guard against rival Armenians, but underestimated his traditional Azeri enemy and has now lost control of territory.

The Armenian riposte is that Moscow analysts who say this “receive money from Turkey and Azerbaijan.”

“Why was the Armenian army weaker and what mistakes did it make when preparing for combat operations?” reported Yevgeny Krutikov, Vzyglyad’s military analyst with close ties to Russian military intelligence. “October 27 is the significant date, since the pace of the Azerbaijani army’s offensive was calculated for this month. These rates were not met, and in some areas they failed altogether. The main political tasks for Baku have not been solved as well.”

“Nevertheless, the Azerbaijani armed forces achieved a number of successes, broke the defense line in Nagorno-Karabakh and advanced tens of kilometers. By Saturday, October 24, the defense of the Armenian forces in the southern sector of the front was hanging by a thread and could have been destroyed with disastrous consequences for Armenia. This did not happen, but the situation itself gave reason to talk about the strategic defeat of the Armenian troops. Although these arguments were premature, the results of the first month of the war are not very encouraging for Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh (NKR).”

“If you look at the map of the region, the main direction of a possible strike by Azerbaijan on the NKR looks like the central zone along the Karkarchay [Karkar] River. Just go directly through the ruins of Aghdam to Khojaly and then to Stepanakert. It was in this area that the main line of defense of the Armenians was organized for a quarter of a century. But it was in the central sector that the Azerbaijanis did not even try to imitate the offensive. There is an intense artillery duel on this front, but nothing more. But the Armenian side is forced to constantly keep large forces in the central sector, which in another scenario could be used, for example, to organize pockets in the South.”

According to the analysis agreed on by the Russian General Staff, the first big mistake the Armenians made was the intelligence failure in underestimating the effectiveness of the Azerbaijani forces’ combination of highly mobile drone missiles and rockets with long-range howitzers. “Armenia and the NKR should have thought about what was happening in the summer, when sporadic skirmishes began almost along the entire front line…. Azerbaijan gradually formed two shock corps, which brought together the most combat-ready parts of the entire army, including parts of the deep reserve. Warehouses were built closer to the contact line, and the fuel supply system was supplied. All this could be seen simply through binoculars, without resorting to complex intelligence manipulations.”

“In addition, the Armenian intelligence did not inform the political leadership of the country of the correct assessment of what weapons, in what quantity and why Azerbaijan has been buying. Based on analysis of these purchases, Armenia and the NKR could have built a model of military tactics that Baku was preparing to use, and organize counteraction to it. First of all, this applies to imported drones (UAVs) and the self-propelled artillery supporting the advancing battalion-tactical groups (BTG). This alone would be enough for the Armenian military to understand what was being planned on the other side of the front.”

There has been no Russian confirmation of western reports that Russian Army electronic countermeasures (ECM) have been deployed to assist the Armenian side to neutralize the Azerbaijani drones.

The second big mistake of the Armenians was to present obsolete, fixed-point and insufficient numbers of air defence units, adequate against a manned airforce attack from the Azeri side, but “useless” against Israeli and Turkish drones. “There are simply not enough air defense systems in the NKR, and there are very, very many UAVs in Azerbaijan. The Armenian side on the ground is suffering heavy losses from the actions of UAVs, especially since the Azerbaijanis purposefully knocked out the positions of the Armenian air defense systems with missiles and long-range artillery… For what reason Yerevan did not bother to re–equip the air defense system and create its own group of drones, this is a question more psychological than purely military.”

The obsolescence of the Armenian combat equipment reflected also their outdated fighting tactics. “The NKR defense system was based on several consecutive fortified lines, the most advanced of which in the central and southern sectors was built in the 1990s in the plains zone as part of a so-called security belt. This defence worked well for 25 years. But over a quarter of a century, Azerbaijan and its army have changed a lot. But nothing has changed in Karabakh and Armenia, including in terms of their perception of military reality. In the new situation, it was necessary to hold the plains zone of the security belt by other measures and methods. Otherwise the prospect of losing Jebrail, Fizuli, Hadrut, Zangelan and Kubatly were visible to the naked eye. Which is what happened in the end.”

“Now Azerbaijani troops in the southern sector have reached the second line of defence and by last Saturday they were critically threatening the ‘Lachin Corridor’ – this is the the main supply road from Armenia. The loss of Lachin, which was 10 to 15 kilometers away in a straight line for the Azerbaijanis, would have been a truly strategic disaster for the Armenians. In addition, the loss of a significant territory in the south right now means serious political problems and moral defeat for Armenia. It is the advance in the south that Baku can record as its main victory and main political achievement after a month of fighting in Karabakh.”

Since the weekend, in the most recent fighting in the gorge and mountainous terrain of the Lachin Corridor, however, this Azerbaijani combination of weapons is inadequate. “Sometimes even primitive methods of protection in the mountains are very effective. For example, in the gorges around Lachin and Shusha, steel cables have been stretched since the late 1990s, which completely excludes the use of assault aircraft or drones there.”

The Moscow assessment blames the military defeat of the Armenians on the ground to Pashinyan’s anti-Russian strategy since he took power in May 2018. That was an operation, he told the US press at the time, which had “no geopolitical context to our movement, our velvet revolution.”

“Over the past year, the Armenian military lost contact with Moscow, and all contacts in the intelligence sphere between the two countries were curtailed – and this was done at the initiative of the political leadership of Armenia. During the period of Nikol Pashinyan’s premiership, three intelligence chiefs were replaced, and one of them had no competence and was a purely political appointee from the West. All this was accompanied by internal anti-Russian rhetoric, multiplied by national arrogance…Moreover, over the last six months, in the General Staff of Armenia has been mass dismissal of officers who were trained in Moscow. The ostensible reason for this was the wedding of the Chief of the General Staff’s daughter, who allegedly ‘did not follow the rules of conduct in the coronavirus pandemic.’”

Pashinyan’s rationale for the dismissal of General Artak Davtyan was announced on June 8. At the same time he also sacked the chiefs of the police and national security administration. That, according to the Russian assessment, left Pashinyan in charge of a command-and-control system which was hollow.

The Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev saw the opportunity to strike. “It seems that the Armenian General Staff either did not have a mobilisation plan at all, or it suffers from a number of strange features. For the defence of the ‘mountain fortress’, forty to sixty thousand people are really enough, but this is clearly not enough for the organisation of mobile defence. Armenians behave passively, simply fending off threats as they emerge.”

“The Azerbaijani side (and the Turks behind it) have full operational initiative,” reported Vzglyad yesterday. “They can afford to redeploy forces along the entire front line, form new groups, replenish reserves, and initiate new plans. The Armenians, having lost most of their ‘security belt’ in the south, can no longer think about any counter-offensive operations. Especially about regaining the territory lost in the past month. In general, this is, of course, a military-strategic impasse for Armenia and the NKR. Azerbaijan will use the political breathing space for redeployment, replenishment of units and the development of new offensive plans. The Armenians are now ready only for passive defence.”

According to the Kremlin record, this year President Vladimir Putin has had seven telephone conversations with Pashinyan. After the war began on September 27, there have been four calls, each at Pashinyan’s insistence. Putin refused to cast blame on either the Azerbaijan leadership, or on the Turks for their support of Aliyev. The Kremlin communiqué records Putin agreeing with Pashinyan in their “serious concern over the incoming information on the involvement in hostilities of militants of illegal armed units from the Middle East”.

Pashinyan stopped telephoning Putin after October 5. At that point, Putin was “emphasis[ing] the urgent need for a ceasefire.” Putin then delegated the talking to the Foreign Ministry.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has spoken several times by telephone with the Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, and their Azerbaijani counterpart, Jeyhun Bayramov. They also met directly in Moscow on October 9; then again directly but separately on October 20-21.

In Moscow on October 12, after his meeting with Mnatsakanyan, Lavrov emphasised the Russian role of impartial mediator at the diplomatic level, and also on the battlefield:

“As for Russia’s continuing participation in the settlement process, we will be actively involved in this, both as one of the third co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group and simply as a close ally and strategic partner of our neighbours. I think that our joint overnight vigil, which produced a very important document, was not in vain and we will still be able to overcome the situation ‘on the ground’ very soon. At any rate, we are interested in this just as much as the confronting sides ‘on the ground’ are.”

On the same day Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu spoke by telephone with the Turkish Defense Minister, Hulisi Akar. The curt press release in Moscow indicated that Shoigu had spoken of “stabilisation”; that was a warning to the Turks not to escalate their presence on the battlefield, either with their Syrian proxies or with Turkish military personnel. This was followed by Shoigu’s contacts with his counterparts in Baku and Yerevan to discuss their willingness to accept a Russian role in implementing and observing a ceasefire mechanism. There was no agreement, however, and in the intervening fortnight the Armenians have continued to lose ground.

Lavrov has spoken more often with the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu; in fact, five times over the past month. In their last conversation on October 27, they agreed on “the need to ensure a sustainable ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan as soon as possible. Both ministers stressed that there is no alternative to a peaceful resolution to the problem, and called for an immediate ceasefire and resumption of negotiations through the established OSCE Minsk Group mechanisms. The sides specifically noted that internationalising the crisis through the involvement of foreign fighters was unacceptable.”

Igor Korotchenko, editor of National Defence Magazine in Moscow, confirms that the Azerbaijani tactics have been successful on the plains and in the valleys, but their advance has stopped in the mountains of Lachin. “Lachin was a failure of the Azeris. The main reason was local terrain. The well-prepared (for about 20 years) defensive positions of the Armenian army on the plains were penetrated by the Azeri army but the mountains have become a great difficulty for them, even for special troops. The Azerbaijan army is the more trained and prepared, partly with Turkish and Russian help.”

Korotchenko was asked if he can confirm whether Russian electronic countermeasures (ECM) systems like the Krasukha have been used to attack the Bayraktar. According to this October 21 report, “sources at BulgariaMilitary.com in the Russian Ministry of Defense claim that since the start of hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh, Russian electronic warfare systems have been brought into full combat readiness, but have only now been used, as there has been no such saturation of drones in the area of ​​the military base. Photographs of some of the downed Turkish drones and their fuselages show that these drones were indeed removed by an electronic warfare system, as there are no traces of a missile strike or other firearm.” In fact, the report originated from Yerevan.

In Moscow Korotchenko responded: “For the last year Armenia has lost its contacts with Russia in the military sphere, so it is hard to say anything about [the Krasukha]. We can definitely say that Russia is interested in the diplomatic settlement of the conflict as soon as possible. It’s too early to talk about the lessons for both sides. Azerbaijan is using very effective drones plus artillery tactics, but the new terrain will require them to make some changes.”

Ilya Kramnik, a military expert at the Russian International Affairs Council, believes that “even after their latest failure, the Azerbaijan forces continue in control of the Lachin Corridor, because their drones and artillery can be still used for blocking the passage for Armenian troops. But the terrain and the unstable autumn weather will play for the Armenian army, which has experience of war in such conditions.”

Source: Dances With Bears

Armenia has lost the October war with Azerbaijan because of Armenian failures in battlefield intelligence, obsolete defences, and the political miscalculations of Prime Minister Nicol Pashinyan (lead image). His only allies now are the mountains and the weather. This is the consensus this week of Moscow’s leading military analysts. “During the period of Nikol Pashinyan’s premiership,” Vzglyad reported the Russian General Staff assessment on Tuesday, “three intelligence chiefs were replaced, and one of them had no competence and was a purely political appointee from the West. All this was accompanied by internal anti-Russian rhetoric, multiplied by national arrogance. Some leaders of Nagorno-Karabakh have said things like ‘we don’t need the Russians at all, we can walk to Baku without you.’” “Moreover, over the last six months, in the General Staff of Armenia there has been a mass dismissal of officers who were trained in Moscow.” “It’s probably about time that real purges within the government took place,” Pashinyan had announced in April. According to the Russian assessment, Pashinyan then made the nervous novice’s classic mistake: he reinforced his palace guard against rival Armenians, but underestimated his traditional Azeri enemy and has now lost control of territory. The Armenian riposte is that Moscow analysts who say this “receive money from Turkey and Azerbaijan.” “Why was the Armenian army weaker and what mistakes did it make when preparing for combat operations?” reported Yevgeny Krutikov, Vzyglyad’s military analyst with close ties to Russian military intelligence. “October 27 is the significant date, since the pace of the Azerbaijani army’s offensive was calculated for this month. These rates were not met, and in some areas they failed altogether. The main political tasks for Baku have not been solved as well.” “Nevertheless, the Azerbaijani armed forces achieved a number of successes, broke the defense line in Nagorno-Karabakh and advanced tens of kilometers. By Saturday, October 24, the defense of the Armenian forces in the southern sector of the front was hanging by a thread and could have been destroyed with disastrous consequences for Armenia. This did not happen, but the situation itself gave reason to talk about the strategic defeat of the Armenian troops. Although these arguments were premature, the results of the first month of the war are not very encouraging for Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh (NKR).” “If you look at the map of the region, the main direction of a possible strike by Azerbaijan on the NKR looks like the central zone along the Karkarchay [Karkar] River. Just go directly through the ruins of Aghdam to Khojaly and then to Stepanakert. It was in this area that the main line of defense of the Armenians was organized for a quarter of a century. But it was in the central sector that the Azerbaijanis did not even try to imitate the offensive. There is an intense artillery duel on this front, but nothing more. But the Armenian side is forced to constantly keep large forces in the central sector, which in another scenario could be used, for example, to organize pockets in the South.” [caption id="attachment_37510" align="alignnone" width="600"] Azeri gains in blue[/caption] According to the analysis agreed on by the Russian General Staff, the first big mistake the Armenians made was the intelligence failure in underestimating the effectiveness of the Azerbaijani forces’ combination of highly mobile drone missiles and rockets with long-range howitzers. “Armenia and the NKR should have thought about what was happening in the summer, when sporadic skirmishes began almost along the entire front line…. Azerbaijan gradually formed two shock corps, which brought together the most combat-ready parts of the entire army, including parts of the deep reserve. Warehouses were built closer to the contact line, and the fuel supply system was supplied. All this could be seen simply through binoculars, without resorting to complex intelligence manipulations.” “In addition, the Armenian intelligence did not inform the political leadership of the country of the correct assessment of what weapons, in what quantity and why Azerbaijan has been buying. Based on analysis of these purchases, Armenia and the NKR could have built a model of military tactics that Baku was preparing to use, and organize counteraction to it. First of all, this applies to imported drones (UAVs) and the self-propelled artillery supporting the advancing battalion-tactical groups (BTG). This alone would be enough for the Armenian military to understand what was being planned on the other side of the front.” There has been no Russian confirmation of western reports that Russian Army electronic countermeasures (ECM) have been deployed to assist the Armenian side to neutralize the Azerbaijani drones. The second big mistake of the Armenians was to present obsolete, fixed-point and insufficient numbers of air defence units, adequate against a manned airforce attack from the Azeri side, but “useless” against Israeli and Turkish drones. “There are simply not enough air defense systems in the NKR, and there are very, very many UAVs in Azerbaijan. The Armenian side on the ground is suffering heavy losses from the actions of UAVs, especially since the Azerbaijanis purposefully knocked out the positions of the Armenian air defense systems with missiles and long-range artillery… For what reason Yerevan did not bother to re–equip the air defense system and create its own group of drones, this is a question more psychological than purely military.” The obsolescence of the Armenian combat equipment reflected also their outdated fighting tactics. “The NKR defense system was based on several consecutive fortified lines, the most advanced of which in the central and southern sectors was built in the 1990s in the plains zone as part of a so-called security belt. This defence worked well for 25 years. But over a quarter of a century, Azerbaijan and its army have changed a lot. But nothing has changed in Karabakh and Armenia, including in terms of their perception of military reality. In the new situation, it was necessary to hold the plains zone of the security belt by other measures and methods. Otherwise the prospect of losing Jebrail, Fizuli, Hadrut, Zangelan and Kubatly were visible to the naked eye. Which is what happened in the end.” “Now Azerbaijani troops in the southern sector have reached the second line of defence and by last Saturday they were critically threatening the ‘Lachin Corridor’ – this is the the main supply road from Armenia. The loss of Lachin, which was 10 to 15 kilometers away in a straight line for the Azerbaijanis, would have been a truly strategic disaster for the Armenians. In addition, the loss of a significant territory in the south right now means serious political problems and moral defeat for Armenia. It is the advance in the south that Baku can record as its main victory and main political achievement after a month of fighting in Karabakh.” Since the weekend, in the most recent fighting in the gorge and mountainous terrain of the Lachin Corridor, however, this Azerbaijani combination of weapons is inadequate. “Sometimes even primitive methods of protection in the mountains are very effective. For example, in the gorges around Lachin and Shusha, steel cables have been stretched since the late 1990s, which completely excludes the use of assault aircraft or drones there.” The Moscow assessment blames the military defeat of the Armenians on the ground to Pashinyan’s anti-Russian strategy since he took power in May 2018. That was an operation, he told the US press at the time, which had “no geopolitical context to our movement, our velvet revolution.” “Over the past year, the Armenian military lost contact with Moscow, and all contacts in the intelligence sphere between the two countries were curtailed – and this was done at the initiative of the political leadership of Armenia. During the period of Nikol Pashinyan’s premiership, three intelligence chiefs were replaced, and one of them had no competence and was a purely political appointee from the West. All this was accompanied by internal anti-Russian rhetoric, multiplied by national arrogance…Moreover, over the last six months, in the General Staff of Armenia has been mass dismissal of officers who were trained in Moscow. The ostensible reason for this was the wedding of the Chief of the General Staff’s daughter, who allegedly ‘did not follow the rules of conduct in the coronavirus pandemic.’” Pashinyan’s rationale for the dismissal of General Artak Davtyan was announced on June 8. At the same time he also sacked the chiefs of the police and national security administration. That, according to the Russian assessment, left Pashinyan in charge of a command-and-control system which was hollow. The Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev saw the opportunity to strike. “It seems that the Armenian General Staff either did not have a mobilisation plan at all, or it suffers from a number of strange features. For the defence of the ‘mountain fortress’, forty to sixty thousand people are really enough, but this is clearly not enough for the organisation of mobile defence. Armenians behave passively, simply fending off threats as they emerge.” “The Azerbaijani side (and the Turks behind it) have full operational initiative,” reported Vzglyad yesterday. “They can afford to redeploy forces along the entire front line, form new groups, replenish reserves, and initiate new plans. The Armenians, having lost most of their ‘security belt’ in the south, can no longer think about any counter-offensive operations. Especially about regaining the territory lost in the past month. In general, this is, of course, a military-strategic impasse for Armenia and the NKR. Azerbaijan will use the political breathing space for redeployment, replenishment of units and the development of new offensive plans. The Armenians are now ready only for passive defence.” According to the Kremlin record, this year President Vladimir Putin has had seven telephone conversations with Pashinyan. After the war began on September 27, there have been four calls, each at Pashinyan’s insistence. Putin refused to cast blame on either the Azerbaijan leadership, or on the Turks for their support of Aliyev. The Kremlin communiqué records Putin agreeing with Pashinyan in their “serious concern over the incoming information on the involvement in hostilities of militants of illegal armed units from the Middle East”. Pashinyan stopped telephoning Putin after October 5. At that point, Putin was “emphasis[ing] the urgent need for a ceasefire.” Putin then delegated the talking to the Foreign Ministry. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has spoken several times by telephone with the Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, and their Azerbaijani counterpart, Jeyhun Bayramov. They also met directly in Moscow on October 9; then again directly but separately on October 20-21. In Moscow on October 12, after his meeting with Mnatsakanyan, Lavrov emphasised the Russian role of impartial mediator at the diplomatic level, and also on the battlefield:
“As for Russia’s continuing participation in the settlement process, we will be actively involved in this, both as one of the third co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group and simply as a close ally and strategic partner of our neighbours. I think that our joint overnight vigil, which produced a very important document, was not in vain and we will still be able to overcome the situation ‘on the ground’ very soon. At any rate, we are interested in this just as much as the confronting sides ‘on the ground’ are.”
On the same day Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu spoke by telephone with the Turkish Defense Minister, Hulisi Akar. The curt press release in Moscow indicated that Shoigu had spoken of “stabilisation”; that was a warning to the Turks not to escalate their presence on the battlefield, either with their Syrian proxies or with Turkish military personnel. This was followed by Shoigu’s contacts with his counterparts in Baku and Yerevan to discuss their willingness to accept a Russian role in implementing and observing a ceasefire mechanism. There was no agreement, however, and in the intervening fortnight the Armenians have continued to lose ground. Lavrov has spoken more often with the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu; in fact, five times over the past month. In their last conversation on October 27, they agreed on “the need to ensure a sustainable ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan as soon as possible. Both ministers stressed that there is no alternative to a peaceful resolution to the problem, and called for an immediate ceasefire and resumption of negotiations through the established OSCE Minsk Group mechanisms. The sides specifically noted that internationalising the crisis through the involvement of foreign fighters was unacceptable.” Igor Korotchenko, editor of National Defence Magazine in Moscow, confirms that the Azerbaijani tactics have been successful on the plains and in the valleys, but their advance has stopped in the mountains of Lachin. “Lachin was a failure of the Azeris. The main reason was local terrain. The well-prepared (for about 20 years) defensive positions of the Armenian army on the plains were penetrated by the Azeri army but the mountains have become a great difficulty for them, even for special troops. The Azerbaijan army is the more trained and prepared, partly with Turkish and Russian help.” Korotchenko was asked if he can confirm whether Russian electronic countermeasures (ECM) systems like the Krasukha have been used to attack the Bayraktar. According to this October 21 report, “sources at BulgariaMilitary.com in the Russian Ministry of Defense claim that since the start of hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh, Russian electronic warfare systems have been brought into full combat readiness, but have only now been used, as there has been no such saturation of drones in the area of ​​the military base. Photographs of some of the downed Turkish drones and their fuselages show that these drones were indeed removed by an electronic warfare system, as there are no traces of a missile strike or other firearm.” In fact, the report originated from Yerevan. [caption id="attachment_37428" align="alignnone" width="716"] The Krasukha[/caption] In Moscow Korotchenko responded: “For the last year Armenia has lost its contacts with Russia in the military sphere, so it is hard to say anything about [the Krasukha]. We can definitely say that Russia is interested in the diplomatic settlement of the conflict as soon as possible. It’s too early to talk about the lessons for both sides. Azerbaijan is using very effective drones plus artillery tactics, but the new terrain will require them to make some changes.” Ilya Kramnik, a military expert at the Russian International Affairs Council, believes that “even after their latest failure, the Azerbaijan forces continue in control of the Lachin Corridor, because their drones and artillery can be still used for blocking the passage for Armenian troops. But the terrain and the unstable autumn weather will play for the Armenian army, which has experience of war in such conditions.” Source: Dances With Bears
Brendan O’Neill - Fri Oct 30, 2020 06:30

And still they’re silent. Even following the decapitation of an elderly woman while she was praying at church. Even following the stabbing to death of two others whose only crime was to be Christians attending the Notre-Dame church in Nice. Even after these latest acts of barbaric intolerance, of Islamo-fascism, as the mayor of Nice aptly described it this morning, the West’s self-styled guardians of liberal thought and usually noisy anti-fascists are silent. No hashtags, no angry commentary, no clear, unconditional expression of solidarity with the French Republic. Just another round of craven hush, of looking the other way.

The news from Nice is grim, even by the standards of the Islamist horrors that have rocked France in recent years. A man with a knife ‘repeated endlessly’ the Islamic phrase ‘Allahu Akbar’ as he stabbed and slit the throats of churchgoers. The elderly woman merely wanted to pray; she was ‘virtually beheaded’. A man’s throat was cut open. Another woman managed to flee after being stabbed numerous times, but she died shortly afterwards, after taking refuge in a cafe.

It was an ‘Islamist terrorist attack’, said President Macron, and it is surely an indictment of the West’s cowardly culture of silence in relation to Islamist extremism that it feels odd to hear a Western leader firmly use the i-word – Islamist – to describe one of these acts. Normally euphemism abounds. They’re ‘knife attacks’, as the New York Times infamously referred to the Islamist beheading of schoolteacher Samuel Paty two weeks ago. Macron has dispensed with such dishonest terminology and said outright what threatens France right now: a separatist and increasingly deranged form of Islamist extremism.

Many people should be taking a long hard look in the mirror today following this slaughter of Christians in Nice.

The cynical demagogues of the Muslim world, in particular Erdogan in Turkey, have whipped up hatred for France over the past week, branding it a foul Islamophobic country simply because President Macron has promised to confront and defeat Islamist extremism. These people have helped to stir up the Francophobic jihad of which today’s attack in Nice is the latest bloody expression.

And then there’s the political figures and opinion-formers in the West who responded to the beheading of Samuel Paty either by shamefully zipping their lip or by engaging in the contemptible apologism of ‘but’ – ‘Of course Paty shouldn’t have been murdered, but it is wrong to display caricatures of Muhammad’. These people, too, cannot be surprised that France is still under attack from regressive religionists, given they refused to defend France the last time it happened; given they have drifted dangerously close many times to suggesting that France brings these attacks on itself by permitting ‘Islamophobic’ speech.

Unique among all forms of violent extremism, Islamist terrorism is always viewed as a response to a provocation. If Charlie Hebdo hadn’t published those cartoons, the massacre wouldn’t have happened. If Samuel Paty hadn’t shown kids a picture of Muhammad’s arse, he wouldn’t have become a target for attack. This is as morally degenerate as it would be to say that the Muslims massacred in Christchurch by the racist terrorist Brenton Tarrant brought it upon themselves by attending mosque – don’t they know that’s offensive to white-nationalist extremists?

What will the unprincipled excuse-makers for Islamist violence, these people who genuinely believe that France’s ‘Islamophobia’ is a key reason 250 of its citizens have been slaughtered over the past five years, say after Nice? That an old woman going to a Christian church is a provocation? That such public displays of fealty to Christianity are bound to upset Islamists and therefore people should stop doing it? That would be the logical conclusion to the depraved victim-blaming they have engaged in following the Charlie Hebdo, Paty and other atrocities.

The failure of too many liberals to take a stand against the Islamist threat to life and liberty in France makes it harder for us to confront these violent regressive forces. Worse, their criticism of the victims – whether it was famous novelists criticising American PEN’s decision to give a bravery award to Charlie Hebdo or people responding to the beheading of Samuel Paty by talking about the problem of the caricatures – plays into the censorious extremism and violent cult of victimhood that are key aspects of the radical Islamist worldview. Indeed, one of the most worrying trends of our time is the interplay between the woke elites of the West and the ISIS-inspired extremists carrying out barbarous assaults in France and elsewhere: both believe that criticising Islam is wicked and punishable. One side calls it ‘Islamophobia’ and wants to No Platform it, the other calls it blasphemy and wants to execute its practitioners.

How will they explain the ‘virtual beheading’ of the elderly lady in Nice? She did nothing wrong. But then, crucially, neither did Charlie Hebdo or Samuel Paty. All these people were merely seeking to live their lives and express their beliefs in the way that feels best for them.

Anyone who has so much as hinted at the possibility that the victims of terrorism in France brought their fate on themselves – by speaking or behaving in a particular way – has abandoned the cause of freedom and thrown his lot in with the extremist view that violence is an inevitable, if not understandable, response to those who would dare, whether wittingly or unwittingly, to upset Islamist sensitivities.

That’s the question now: will we stand with the French Republic against its internal foe of radical Islam, or will we not? [Would be an easier choice to make if the French Republic itself had not weaponized radical Islam against Syria, Libya, Yugoslavia...] The silence and apologism of too many in the West suggests they’ve made their choice: they have chosen to abandon France when it needs us most.

Source: Spiked

And still they’re silent. Even following the decapitation of an elderly woman while she was praying at church. Even following the stabbing to death of two others whose only crime was to be Christians attending the Notre-Dame church in Nice. Even after these latest acts of barbaric intolerance, of Islamo-fascism, as the mayor of Nice aptly described it this morning, the West’s self-styled guardians of liberal thought and usually noisy anti-fascists are silent. No hashtags, no angry commentary, no clear, unconditional expression of solidarity with the French Republic. Just another round of craven hush, of looking the other way. The news from Nice is grim, even by the standards of the Islamist horrors that have rocked France in recent years. A man with a knife ‘repeated endlessly’ the Islamic phrase ‘Allahu Akbar’ as he stabbed and slit the throats of churchgoers. The elderly woman merely wanted to pray; she was ‘virtually beheaded’. A man’s throat was cut open. Another woman managed to flee after being stabbed numerous times, but she died shortly afterwards, after taking refuge in a cafe. It was an ‘Islamist terrorist attack’, said President Macron, and it is surely an indictment of the West’s cowardly culture of silence in relation to Islamist extremism that it feels odd to hear a Western leader firmly use the i-word – Islamist – to describe one of these acts. Normally euphemism abounds. They’re ‘knife attacks’, as the New York Times infamously referred to the Islamist beheading of schoolteacher Samuel Paty two weeks ago. Macron has dispensed with such dishonest terminology and said outright what threatens France right now: a separatist and increasingly deranged form of Islamist extremism. Many people should be taking a long hard look in the mirror today following this slaughter of Christians in Nice. The cynical demagogues of the Muslim world, in particular Erdogan in Turkey, have whipped up hatred for France over the past week, branding it a foul Islamophobic country simply because President Macron has promised to confront and defeat Islamist extremism. These people have helped to stir up the Francophobic jihad of which today’s attack in Nice is the latest bloody expression. And then there’s the political figures and opinion-formers in the West who responded to the beheading of Samuel Paty either by shamefully zipping their lip or by engaging in the contemptible apologism of ‘but’ – ‘Of course Paty shouldn’t have been murdered, but it is wrong to display caricatures of Muhammad’. These people, too, cannot be surprised that France is still under attack from regressive religionists, given they refused to defend France the last time it happened; given they have drifted dangerously close many times to suggesting that France brings these attacks on itself by permitting ‘Islamophobic’ speech. Unique among all forms of violent extremism, Islamist terrorism is always viewed as a response to a provocation. If Charlie Hebdo hadn’t published those cartoons, the massacre wouldn’t have happened. If Samuel Paty hadn’t shown kids a picture of Muhammad’s arse, he wouldn’t have become a target for attack. This is as morally degenerate as it would be to say that the Muslims massacred in Christchurch by the racist terrorist Brenton Tarrant brought it upon themselves by attending mosque – don’t they know that’s offensive to white-nationalist extremists? What will the unprincipled excuse-makers for Islamist violence, these people who genuinely believe that France’s ‘Islamophobia’ is a key reason 250 of its citizens have been slaughtered over the past five years, say after Nice? That an old woman going to a Christian church is a provocation? That such public displays of fealty to Christianity are bound to upset Islamists and therefore people should stop doing it? That would be the logical conclusion to the depraved victim-blaming they have engaged in following the Charlie Hebdo, Paty and other atrocities. The failure of too many liberals to take a stand against the Islamist threat to life and liberty in France makes it harder for us to confront these violent regressive forces. Worse, their criticism of the victims – whether it was famous novelists criticising American PEN’s decision to give a bravery award to Charlie Hebdo or people responding to the beheading of Samuel Paty by talking about the problem of the caricatures – plays into the censorious extremism and violent cult of victimhood that are key aspects of the radical Islamist worldview. Indeed, one of the most worrying trends of our time is the interplay between the woke elites of the West and the ISIS-inspired extremists carrying out barbarous assaults in France and elsewhere: both believe that criticising Islam is wicked and punishable. One side calls it ‘Islamophobia’ and wants to No Platform it, the other calls it blasphemy and wants to execute its practitioners. How will they explain the ‘virtual beheading’ of the elderly lady in Nice? She did nothing wrong. But then, crucially, neither did Charlie Hebdo or Samuel Paty. All these people were merely seeking to live their lives and express their beliefs in the way that feels best for them. Anyone who has so much as hinted at the possibility that the victims of terrorism in France brought their fate on themselves – by speaking or behaving in a particular way – has abandoned the cause of freedom and thrown his lot in with the extremist view that violence is an inevitable, if not understandable, response to those who would dare, whether wittingly or unwittingly, to upset Islamist sensitivities. That’s the question now: will we stand with the French Republic against its internal foe of radical Islam, or will we not? [Would be an easier choice to make if the French Republic itself had not weaponized radical Islam against Syria, Libya, Yugoslavia...] The silence and apologism of too many in the West suggests they’ve made their choice: they have chosen to abandon France when it needs us most. Source: Spiked
James Holmes - Fri Oct 30, 2020 05:00

Last week the Trump administration informally approved a sale of 66 F-16V Viper fighter jets to Taiwan, presumably to replace the elderly contingent of F-5E/F Tiger II fighters flown by the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF). The sale was bundled into a $62 billion contract award to defense manufacturer Lockheed Martin. Taiwan’s share of the deal will reportedly total around $8 billion. The air force’s fleet of 144 older F-16A/B aircraft is currently being upgraded to F-16V standards. Assuming the U.S. Congress endorses the sale, as seems likely, the two projects will yield a more modern air force centered on more uniform airframes and equipment.

But is it money well spent for the island?

Yes and no. Yes, arguably, on the politics of the deal. For years reputable analysts have cast doubt on whether the ROCAF can still rule the sky over the island. Back in 2016, for example, a team from RAND pointed out that both numbers and the quality of individual aircraft and weapons increasingly favor China’s air force. This is not the large but backward People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLA Air Force) of old, waiting to be clobbered by superior ROCAF aircraft and airmanship. But the aerial correlation of forces might not even matter. The People’s Liberation Army fields a panoply of ballistic and cruise missiles that could destroy ROCAF fighters before they ever took to the sky.

And yet. Weapons have political as well as combat value. Think about the message President Tsai Ing-wen would be broadcasting to her constituents if the ROCAF more or less dismantled its fighter force and shifted the resources that now go to fighters to fund surface-to-air missiles, as the RAND team suggests. Preemptively admitting that Taiwan would lose the battle to command its own airspace could deflate morale on the island—and human morale is as important as a formidable armory to martial success. Continuing to upgrade the air force projects confidence that Taiwan remains the master of its own fate. Islanders will take heart.

There’s also the matter of transpacific relations. The U.S.-Taiwan relationship has been awkward since Washington shifted diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in the late 1970s. Since then the United States has maintained a posture of “strategic ambiguity,” arming the islanders while remaining noncommittal about whether it would take a direct hand in fighting a cross-strait war. The prospect that America might involve itself in the Taiwan Strait—skewing the balance toward smaller but superior Taiwanese armed forces confronting bigger but inferior Chinese forces—seemed to create enough doubt among Chinese Communist magnates to deter them from making war.

Strategic ambiguity may no longer suffice if PLA forces are now bigger and better than the island’s, as RAND warns. If it no longer suffices, Taipei and Washington need to show a solid front to implant doubt in mainland minds anew. In recent years U.S. administrations have edged toward excising the ambiguity from strategic ambiguity, putting Beijing on notice that the United States would join forces with Taiwan to stymie an assault on the island. But they haven’t quite removed the squish. Foreign-policy officials have yet to issue an unequivocal commitment to Taiwan’s defense. They insert hedging language into statements assuring the islanders America will keep faith with them. Presumably the dissembling is meant to dissuade Taipei from declaring independence from China—and rupturing a redline Beijing has drawn time and again.

Weapons sales are one token of solidarity between the two partners. Furnishing the ROCAF with frontline—albeit non-stealthy—tactical jets shows that the United States intends to honor its commitment to Taiwan as required by U.S. law. America has skin in the game of Taiwan’s defense. For Taipei’s part, procuring a modern fighter force from U.S. suppliers shows that Taiwan has skin in the game of its own defense. It will fight hard if attacked, and is a worthy beneficiary of U.S. military help. This mutual show of political solidarity could convince Beijing that the PLA will not have the luxury of fighting an isolated Taiwan. Allied forces will do battle in unison.

That’s the yes side of the ledger. Here comes the no side—the strategic and operational side. Earlier this month the Tsai administration announced a 10.2 percent increase in the defense budget over last year’s figure. That is excellent news. Unfortunately, Taiwan is a compact island with a modest-sized population and thus a modest tax base. A 10.2 percent increase in defense spending comes to just $1.4 billion. For comparison’s sake, that’s roughly what the U.S. Navy expects to pay for the first copy of its new guided-missile frigate. Taipei cannot afford to keep pace with the mainland in defense spending. If it cannot spend more, it must spend more wisely.

It is incumbent on President Tsai and her advisers to mull the opportunity costs of the looming F-16V purchase. What Taipei spends on Vipers cannot be spent on something else, barring a major increase in the fraction of GDP allocated to defense. If $8 billion would buy platforms and weapons with greater operational and strategic heft, budgeteers should redirect funding to procure them.

How to tell whether one widget is more valuable than another? Well, start with political aims. Taiwan’s political goal is simple: survive. To preserve its de facto independence it must field forces able to repulse a cross-strait amphibious assault and devise inventive ways to use them in combat. Granted, Beijing has other strategic options. It could batter the island with air or missile strikes, seize outlying islands, or impose a naval blockade. The PLA can punish it without essaying amphibious landings. But Chinese leaders covet possession of the island. To occupy it they must put superior firepower on Taiwan to overwhelm the defenders and exert control. That means placing boots on the ground in large numbers. Shipboard transport remains the most plausible way to move mass armies across the sea.

In 2008 my colleague Professor William Murray urged Taiwan to make itself a “porcupine,” acquiring weaponry to make an amphibious attack a loathsome prospect for the PLA. That makes strategic sense. The island has the makings of an exceptionally prickly and indigestible porcupine. For example, an older RAND study overlaid the map of likely landing beaches on Taiwan onto the map of the Normandy beaches where Allied forces landed in 1944. The proportions and the roughness of the terrain were comparable. The coauthors suggested that assaulting Taiwan today would be as fraught with hazard as assaulting Fortress Europe was back then. That’s a daunting prospect for any force.

Taiwan’s armed forces can make it more daunting still. For instance, truck-launched anti-ship and anti-air missile batteries pack a wallop. They could deal out heavy punishment against approaching PLA surface shipping and warplanes overhead, and then scoot away to evade counterattack. Coalition air forces’ vain “Scud hunt” during Desert Storm shows how hard it is to find and dislodge mobile missile launchers. If that’s true on a barren plain like western Iraq, it would be doubly true on a mountainous, densely wooded island like Taiwan.

You can buy a lot of missiles for $8 billion.

A couple of years after Bill’s article, Toshi Yoshihara and I took to writing about Taiwan’s seaward defense for the Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief. We carried the logic of the porcupine strategy out to sea. After studying the problem we concluded that the Taiwan Navy stood little chance of commanding the sea. In other words, it could no longer wage a major fleet action, sweeping the PLA Navy from vital waters more or less permanently. But a reconfigured fleet could deny China command—and sea denial would satisfice for Taiwan. The Taiwan Navy doesn’t need to use the sea to project power outward. It merely needs to keep the PLA Navy from using the sea to project power inward.

In effect, we implored Taiwan to extend its defensive quills out to sea. Shipbuilders should construct swarms of small, stealthy, fleet-of-foot missile craft able to harry surface vessels in the strait. These winsome boats should turn the island’s rugged, indented geography to advantage, using fishing harbors and coves around its periphery for concealment and as launchpads for raiding PLA shipping. The fleet should operate in concert with shore-based porcupine forces to fend off attack. The result was a sort of “people’s war at sea” strategy, a strategy that harnesses irregular operational methods and tactics for defensive ends. In effect we called on Taiwan to turn Maoist strategy against Maoists.

No sea control for China, no amphibious invasion.

To its credit, the Ma Ying-jeou administration started acquiring a fleet capable of executing such a strategy. A flotilla of Tuo Chiang-class stealthy missile corvettes has been building for the past decade. Tsai Ing-wen has carried the initiative forward during her tenure in the Presidential Office. The new-construction boats are impressive on an individual basis. What the new contingent lacks is mass—and numbers of hulls matter a great deal in naval warfare. Just a dozen Tuo Chiangs will reportedly be built. They will join the fleet by 2025. (They will keep company with 31 older—and far less battleworthyKuang Hua VI boats.) Twelve corvettes does not a swarm make. It would take far more than that to stem a PLA cross-strait surge, or so enfeeble it that the Taiwan Army can hold the beaches.

Taiwan could buy lots of Tuo Chiangs for the $8 billion now earmarked for a luxury fleet of fighter jets that have some political value but doubtful combat value. (The lead vessel in the Tuo Chiang class reportedly cost all of $66.39 million. Crudely speaking, that’s the price of one F-16V.) On balance, Taipei would be better off investing in armaments that would help the island ride out an assault—and achieve its strategic and political aims. President Tsai swept into her second term in a landslide. She should spend some of that political capital weaning the military and populace away from the conceit that the island’s air force and navy can win a stand-up fight against PLA air and sea forces.

Once the precept that sea denial is both necessary and sufficient takes hold, setting priorities for force acquisitions and selling the electorate on them should prove straightforward enough. And the alliance factor? If Taipei shows Washington that porcupine measures could stall a cross-strait offensive, that would actually make it easier for a U.S. president to order the U.S. Pacific Fleet and affiliated joint forces into battle. It would grant the White House time to deliberate and formulate effective war plans rather than feel compelled to hurl forces headlong into the fray. Plus, it would show Americans that Taiwanese are stalwart about helping themselves and are not passively awaiting rescue.

Such a people is a good cause.

In the end, then, the strategy and politics of the situation would profit more from a clutch of unglamorous missile boats and truck-launched missiles than from squadrons of high-tech fighters. And strategic and political success is what it’s all about.

Source: The National Interest

Last week the Trump administration informally approved a sale of 66 F-16V Viper fighter jets to Taiwan, presumably to replace the elderly contingent of F-5E/F Tiger II fighters flown by the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF). The sale was bundled into a $62 billion contract award to defense manufacturer Lockheed Martin. Taiwan’s share of the deal will reportedly total around $8 billion. The air force’s fleet of 144 older F-16A/B aircraft is currently being upgraded to F-16V standards. Assuming the U.S. Congress endorses the sale, as seems likely, the two projects will yield a more modern air force centered on more uniform airframes and equipment. But is it money well spent for the island? Yes and no. Yes, arguably, on the politics of the deal. For years reputable analysts have cast doubt on whether the ROCAF can still rule the sky over the island. Back in 2016, for example, a team from RAND pointed out that both numbers and the quality of individual aircraft and weapons increasingly favor China’s air force. This is not the large but backward People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLA Air Force) of old, waiting to be clobbered by superior ROCAF aircraft and airmanship. But the aerial correlation of forces might not even matter. The People’s Liberation Army fields a panoply of ballistic and cruise missiles that could destroy ROCAF fighters before they ever took to the sky. And yet. Weapons have political as well as combat value. Think about the message President Tsai Ing-wen would be broadcasting to her constituents if the ROCAF more or less dismantled its fighter force and shifted the resources that now go to fighters to fund surface-to-air missiles, as the RAND team suggests. Preemptively admitting that Taiwan would lose the battle to command its own airspace could deflate morale on the island—and human morale is as important as a formidable armory to martial success. Continuing to upgrade the air force projects confidence that Taiwan remains the master of its own fate. Islanders will take heart. There’s also the matter of transpacific relations. The U.S.-Taiwan relationship has been awkward since Washington shifted diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in the late 1970s. Since then the United States has maintained a posture of “strategic ambiguity,” arming the islanders while remaining noncommittal about whether it would take a direct hand in fighting a cross-strait war. The prospect that America might involve itself in the Taiwan Strait—skewing the balance toward smaller but superior Taiwanese armed forces confronting bigger but inferior Chinese forces—seemed to create enough doubt among Chinese Communist magnates to deter them from making war. Strategic ambiguity may no longer suffice if PLA forces are now bigger and better than the island’s, as RAND warns. If it no longer suffices, Taipei and Washington need to show a solid front to implant doubt in mainland minds anew. In recent years U.S. administrations have edged toward excising the ambiguity from strategic ambiguity, putting Beijing on notice that the United States would join forces with Taiwan to stymie an assault on the island. But they haven’t quite removed the squish. Foreign-policy officials have yet to issue an unequivocal commitment to Taiwan’s defense. They insert hedging language into statements assuring the islanders America will keep faith with them. Presumably the dissembling is meant to dissuade Taipei from declaring independence from China—and rupturing a redline Beijing has drawn time and again. Weapons sales are one token of solidarity between the two partners. Furnishing the ROCAF with frontline—albeit non-stealthy—tactical jets shows that the United States intends to honor its commitment to Taiwan as required by U.S. law. America has skin in the game of Taiwan’s defense. For Taipei’s part, procuring a modern fighter force from U.S. suppliers shows that Taiwan has skin in the game of its own defense. It will fight hard if attacked, and is a worthy beneficiary of U.S. military help. This mutual show of political solidarity could convince Beijing that the PLA will not have the luxury of fighting an isolated Taiwan. Allied forces will do battle in unison. That’s the yes side of the ledger. Here comes the no side—the strategic and operational side. Earlier this month the Tsai administration announced a 10.2 percent increase in the defense budget over last year’s figure. That is excellent news. Unfortunately, Taiwan is a compact island with a modest-sized population and thus a modest tax base. A 10.2 percent increase in defense spending comes to just $1.4 billion. For comparison’s sake, that’s roughly what the U.S. Navy expects to pay for the first copy of its new guided-missile frigate. Taipei cannot afford to keep pace with the mainland in defense spending. If it cannot spend more, it must spend more wisely. It is incumbent on President Tsai and her advisers to mull the opportunity costs of the looming F-16V purchase. What Taipei spends on Vipers cannot be spent on something else, barring a major increase in the fraction of GDP allocated to defense. If $8 billion would buy platforms and weapons with greater operational and strategic heft, budgeteers should redirect funding to procure them. How to tell whether one widget is more valuable than another? Well, start with political aims. Taiwan’s political goal is simple: survive. To preserve its de facto independence it must field forces able to repulse a cross-strait amphibious assault and devise inventive ways to use them in combat. Granted, Beijing has other strategic options. It could batter the island with air or missile strikes, seize outlying islands, or impose a naval blockade. The PLA can punish it without essaying amphibious landings. But Chinese leaders covet possession of the island. To occupy it they must put superior firepower on Taiwan to overwhelm the defenders and exert control. That means placing boots on the ground in large numbers. Shipboard transport remains the most plausible way to move mass armies across the sea. In 2008 my colleague Professor William Murray urged Taiwan to make itself a “porcupine,” acquiring weaponry to make an amphibious attack a loathsome prospect for the PLA. That makes strategic sense. The island has the makings of an exceptionally prickly and indigestible porcupine. For example, an older RAND study overlaid the map of likely landing beaches on Taiwan onto the map of the Normandy beaches where Allied forces landed in 1944. The proportions and the roughness of the terrain were comparable. The coauthors suggested that assaulting Taiwan today would be as fraught with hazard as assaulting Fortress Europe was back then. That’s a daunting prospect for any force. Taiwan’s armed forces can make it more daunting still. For instance, truck-launched anti-ship and anti-air missile batteries pack a wallop. They could deal out heavy punishment against approaching PLA surface shipping and warplanes overhead, and then scoot away to evade counterattack. Coalition air forces’ vain “Scud hunt” during Desert Storm shows how hard it is to find and dislodge mobile missile launchers. If that’s true on a barren plain like western Iraq, it would be doubly true on a mountainous, densely wooded island like Taiwan. You can buy a lot of missiles for $8 billion. A couple of years after Bill’s article, Toshi Yoshihara and I took to writing about Taiwan’s seaward defense for the Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief. We carried the logic of the porcupine strategy out to sea. After studying the problem we concluded that the Taiwan Navy stood little chance of commanding the sea. In other words, it could no longer wage a major fleet action, sweeping the PLA Navy from vital waters more or less permanently. But a reconfigured fleet could deny China command—and sea denial would satisfice for Taiwan. The Taiwan Navy doesn’t need to use the sea to project power outward. It merely needs to keep the PLA Navy from using the sea to project power inward. In effect, we implored Taiwan to extend its defensive quills out to sea. Shipbuilders should construct swarms of small, stealthy, fleet-of-foot missile craft able to harry surface vessels in the strait. These winsome boats should turn the island’s rugged, indented geography to advantage, using fishing harbors and coves around its periphery for concealment and as launchpads for raiding PLA shipping. The fleet should operate in concert with shore-based porcupine forces to fend off attack. The result was a sort of “people’s war at sea” strategy, a strategy that harnesses irregular operational methods and tactics for defensive ends. In effect we called on Taiwan to turn Maoist strategy against Maoists. No sea control for China, no amphibious invasion. To its credit, the Ma Ying-jeou administration started acquiring a fleet capable of executing such a strategy. A flotilla of Tuo Chiang-class stealthy missile corvettes has been building for the past decade. Tsai Ing-wen has carried the initiative forward during her tenure in the Presidential Office. The new-construction boats are impressive on an individual basis. What the new contingent lacks is mass—and numbers of hulls matter a great deal in naval warfare. Just a dozen Tuo Chiangs will reportedly be built. They will join the fleet by 2025. (They will keep company with 31 older—and far less battleworthyKuang Hua VI boats.) Twelve corvettes does not a swarm make. It would take far more than that to stem a PLA cross-strait surge, or so enfeeble it that the Taiwan Army can hold the beaches. Taiwan could buy lots of Tuo Chiangs for the $8 billion now earmarked for a luxury fleet of fighter jets that have some political value but doubtful combat value. (The lead vessel in the Tuo Chiang class reportedly cost all of $66.39 million. Crudely speaking, that’s the price of one F-16V.) On balance, Taipei would be better off investing in armaments that would help the island ride out an assault—and achieve its strategic and political aims. President Tsai swept into her second term in a landslide. She should spend some of that political capital weaning the military and populace away from the conceit that the island’s air force and navy can win a stand-up fight against PLA air and sea forces. Once the precept that sea denial is both necessary and sufficient takes hold, setting priorities for force acquisitions and selling the electorate on them should prove straightforward enough. And the alliance factor? If Taipei shows Washington that porcupine measures could stall a cross-strait offensive, that would actually make it easier for a U.S. president to order the U.S. Pacific Fleet and affiliated joint forces into battle. It would grant the White House time to deliberate and formulate effective war plans rather than feel compelled to hurl forces headlong into the fray. Plus, it would show Americans that Taiwanese are stalwart about helping themselves and are not passively awaiting rescue. Such a people is a good cause. In the end, then, the strategy and politics of the situation would profit more from a clutch of unglamorous missile boats and truck-launched missiles than from squadrons of high-tech fighters. And strategic and political success is what it’s all about. Source: The National Interest
Timothy Obiezu - Thu Oct 29, 2020 14:14

Amid the ongoing protests in Nigeria over police brutality, mobs of citizens have overrun several government-owned warehouses and looted food meant to be distributed during this year’s coronavirus lockdowns. In the latest incident, a mob looted packages of rice, sugar, salt and noodles Monday from a facility in the Nigerian capital. On Saturday, security officials dispersed mobs at another storage facility under attack in Abuja.

Some protesters were demonstrating in front of a facility in Garki, Abuja, as military and police vans barricaded the entrance to the facility.

Earlier, mobs of people trying to attack the facility and make away with some food items were dispersed after security officials fired their guns into the air.

But many, like David Ojo, remained adamant and said they wouldn't leave until they got some food.

"We need our palliatives. It is our right. My neighbor almost died of hunger because of COVID-19," said Ojo. "He used to work as security guard at a government institution, but he was sacked. What do you want him to do? I gave him beans and rice, he almost died of hunger."

Storage facilities holding tons of relief materials have been burglarized and looted in nine states across Nigeria over the last few days.

https://twitter.com/FRIISTII/status/1319965840922599424?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7...

A private sector coalition against the coronavirus, known as CA-COVID, had collected tens of millions of dollars' worth of aid for coronavirus victims and given it to the government.

But many state authorities have halted distribution of the aid since the easing of lockdowns.

Some Nigerians accuse authorities of hoarding items while millions of people experience hunger.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgWCCvwUzsY

Abuja residents like Sunday Chukwu say they didn't receive any government assistance during lockdowns.

"They didn't share anything here," said Chukwu. "Maybe they shared for themselves. But they didn't share for everybody and these ones now they are hiding it so that people may leave it, they'll now gather them, they'll be selling it to the people."

The coronavirus pandemic [lockdown] exacerbated hunger for many of the country’s extremely poor, who number some 83 million, about 40 percent of the population, according to the country’s statistics bureau.

https://twitter.com/fhateemah_/status/1319949939854741505?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw...

Vivian Bellonwu, the head of Social Action Nigeria, says the amount of food kept in storage is an indication of “systemic failure.”

"To think that certain persons could lock down this quantum of food and materials as we are seeing them in their premises, in their custody and watching while people wallow in poverty and difficulty, is really unthinkable," said Bellonwu. "I think that it is quite mean, I think it's highly insensitive and I think that this is a betrayal of trust of the people.”

The Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF) on Monday said the looted items in warehouses in some states were being held for vulnerable people, not hoarded.

As security officials monitor facilities across Nigeria more closely, various state authorities are making plans to commence distribution.

Source: Voice of America


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0oJtZ6w2h8

JOS (NIGERIA) - Several thousand people ransacked and looted a government food warehouse in central Nigeria on Saturday in the latest in two weeks of unrest sweeping over Africa's most populous country.

After pillaging hit Lagos and Ede in the country's southwest, crowds of people raided a huge warehouse in Jos that was storing supplies destined for distribution during lockdowns imposed to control the virus pandemic.

Videos on social media showed thousands of people in Jos carrying away sacks of cereals and rice and bags of pasta. Looters stripped away parts of the roof of the building.

"So during the lockdown they were just hiding the food. I wonder about the kind of government we have," said Mafeg Pam, who lives in Jos. "Many people have died from hunger."

Another Jos resident, Mohammed Ibrahim, said: "They hid this food since the lockdown. By now they should have shared it."

Source: AFP


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HqLL-j392nY

The warehouse in Jos is just one among a string of similar buildings to be hit, with almost a third of the country's 36 states reporting raids on food aid.

Ministers say the food was intended to help those hit hard by coronavirus lockdowns, and that it was in the process of being distributed.

But amid widespread anti-government protests and in the wake of peaceful activists being shot dead as security services watched on, people were not buying it.

One person at the Jos food warehouse told France24: 'How can we have such a wicked government, where their citizens are dying of starvation and they hide these relief materials from them?

'There is hunger and starvation because there is high inflation of food prices in the market and not everyone can afford to buy due to lack of employment and poor wages and salaries.'

Another who was present during the Abuja raid on Monday added: 'We are hungry, you understand.

'There is plenty of food in this country but people are suffering. The government is cheating us by parking away this food. We are not stealing, it's our food and our right.'

According to the Nigerian government, more than half of the country's population was forced to take out loans to pay for food during lockdown earlier this year.

Meanwhile 68 per cent of households experienced moderate or severe food insecurity during August, even after the lockdown had eased.

Source: The Daily Mail


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66roM-EDPbE

News began to spread on social media that other warehouses may contain food and emergency supplies after Covid-19 palliatives – mainly foodstuffs such as guinea corn, maize, rice and noodles – were looted in Lagos on October 22. Numerous posts encouraged Jos residents to search for stockpiles of Covid-19 palliatives nearby, causing crowds to descend on several Jos warehouses – and the home of a politician.

Michael (name changed on request of anonymity), a 23-year-old student from Jos, said he believed the raid was a symptom of increasing precarity in Nigeria.

People decided to go there because they are suffering and starving. When I arrived everyone was trying to get hold of the food items for themselves. I felt bad because how can we have such a wicked government, where their citizens are dying of starvation and they hide these relief materials from them? There is hunger and starvation because there is high inflation of food prices in the market and not everyone can afford to buy due to lack of employment and poor wages and salaries. People were just struggling to go in and out to get the foodstuff.

Source: France 24

Amid the ongoing protests in Nigeria over police brutality, mobs of citizens have overrun several government-owned warehouses and looted food meant to be distributed during this year’s coronavirus lockdowns. In the latest incident, a mob looted packages of rice, sugar, salt and noodles Monday from a facility in the Nigerian capital. On Saturday, security officials dispersed mobs at another storage facility under attack in Abuja. Some protesters were demonstrating in front of a facility in Garki, Abuja, as military and police vans barricaded the entrance to the facility. Earlier, mobs of people trying to attack the facility and make away with some food items were dispersed after security officials fired their guns into the air. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zE95eYz7OfU[/embed] But many, like David Ojo, remained adamant and said they wouldn't leave until they got some food. "We need our palliatives. It is our right. My neighbor almost died of hunger because of COVID-19," said Ojo. "He used to work as security guard at a government institution, but he was sacked. What do you want him to do? I gave him beans and rice, he almost died of hunger." Storage facilities holding tons of relief materials have been burglarized and looted in nine states across Nigeria over the last few days. https://twitter.com/FRIISTII/status/1319965840922599424?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7... A private sector coalition against the coronavirus, known as CA-COVID, had collected tens of millions of dollars' worth of aid for coronavirus victims and given it to the government. But many state authorities have halted distribution of the aid since the easing of lockdowns. Some Nigerians accuse authorities of hoarding items while millions of people experience hunger. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgWCCvwUzsY Abuja residents like Sunday Chukwu say they didn't receive any government assistance during lockdowns. "They didn't share anything here," said Chukwu. "Maybe they shared for themselves. But they didn't share for everybody and these ones now they are hiding it so that people may leave it, they'll now gather them, they'll be selling it to the people." The coronavirus pandemic [lockdown] exacerbated hunger for many of the country’s extremely poor, who number some 83 million, about 40 percent of the population, according to the country’s statistics bureau. https://twitter.com/fhateemah_/status/1319949939854741505?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw... Vivian Bellonwu, the head of Social Action Nigeria, says the amount of food kept in storage is an indication of “systemic failure.” "To think that certain persons could lock down this quantum of food and materials as we are seeing them in their premises, in their custody and watching while people wallow in poverty and difficulty, is really unthinkable," said Bellonwu. "I think that it is quite mean, I think it's highly insensitive and I think that this is a betrayal of trust of the people.” The Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF) on Monday said the looted items in warehouses in some states were being held for vulnerable people, not hoarded. As security officials monitor facilities across Nigeria more closely, various state authorities are making plans to commence distribution. Source: Voice of America
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0oJtZ6w2h8 JOS (NIGERIA) - Several thousand people ransacked and looted a government food warehouse in central Nigeria on Saturday in the latest in two weeks of unrest sweeping over Africa's most populous country. After pillaging hit Lagos and Ede in the country's southwest, crowds of people raided a huge warehouse in Jos that was storing supplies destined for distribution during lockdowns imposed to control the virus pandemic. Videos on social media showed thousands of people in Jos carrying away sacks of cereals and rice and bags of pasta. Looters stripped away parts of the roof of the building. "So during the lockdown they were just hiding the food. I wonder about the kind of government we have," said Mafeg Pam, who lives in Jos. "Many people have died from hunger." Another Jos resident, Mohammed Ibrahim, said: "They hid this food since the lockdown. By now they should have shared it." Source: AFP
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HqLL-j392nY The warehouse in Jos is just one among a string of similar buildings to be hit, with almost a third of the country's 36 states reporting raids on food aid.

Ministers say the food was intended to help those hit hard by coronavirus lockdowns, and that it was in the process of being distributed.

But amid widespread anti-government protests and in the wake of peaceful activists being shot dead as security services watched on, people were not buying it.

One person at the Jos food warehouse told France24: 'How can we have such a wicked government, where their citizens are dying of starvation and they hide these relief materials from them?

'There is hunger and starvation because there is high inflation of food prices in the market and not everyone can afford to buy due to lack of employment and poor wages and salaries.'

Another who was present during the Abuja raid on Monday added: 'We are hungry, you understand.

'There is plenty of food in this country but people are suffering. The government is cheating us by parking away this food. We are not stealing, it's our food and our right.'

According to the Nigerian government, more than half of the country's population was forced to take out loans to pay for food during lockdown earlier this year.

Meanwhile 68 per cent of households experienced moderate or severe food insecurity during August, even after the lockdown had eased.

Source: The Daily Mail
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66roM-EDPbE News began to spread on social media that other warehouses may contain food and emergency supplies after Covid-19 palliatives – mainly foodstuffs such as guinea corn, maize, rice and noodles – were looted in Lagos on October 22. Numerous posts encouraged Jos residents to search for stockpiles of Covid-19 palliatives nearby, causing crowds to descend on several Jos warehouses – and the home of a politician. Michael (name changed on request of anonymity), a 23-year-old student from Jos, said he believed the raid was a symptom of increasing precarity in Nigeria.
People decided to go there because they are suffering and starving. When I arrived everyone was trying to get hold of the food items for themselves. I felt bad because how can we have such a wicked government, where their citizens are dying of starvation and they hide these relief materials from them? There is hunger and starvation because there is high inflation of food prices in the market and not everyone can afford to buy due to lack of employment and poor wages and salaries. People were just struggling to go in and out to get the foodstuff.
Source: France 24
Jeffrey A. Tucker - Thu Oct 29, 2020 12:00

The lockdowns have disproportionately targeted fun. No house parties. No travel. Bowling, bars, Broadway, theater, amusement parks, all banned. Weddings, forget it. Restaurants, hotels, conventions, and even golf were all targeted by the lockdowners.

There is an ethos here. To beat the disease, you have to suffer. You have to eschew joy. You must sit at home and go out only for bare essentials. Even today, the great disease mitigator Andrew Cuomo, who already admitted in a phone call that the lockdowns were not science but fear, has warned New Yorkers not to travel outside the state except when absolutely necessary.

There is even a costume associated with the new national penance. It’s a long sweater dress, wool leggings, clompy sneakers, gloves, and the biggest face covering you can find. It’s not about safety. It’s about symbolizing your virtue, contrition, and allegiances.

The first time I saw this costume, which reminds me of women at a Taliban funeral, was back in mid-March. A hipster millennial, once living a carefree life, found new meaning in suffering for a cause, and quickly turned on anyone not dressed in dread while listening to the Dies Irae in one’s head.

What’s going on here? Surely this is not about the science. There is a moral drama at work, one that taps deeply into some spiritual impulse within people. It’s about the belief that bad things are happening to us because we have sinned. The clothing and the banning of fun are part of our acts of contrition and our penance for wrongdoing. Sounds crazy? Not so much. Otherwise, it is hard to explain. And this kind of response to disease is not unprecedented.

Eyewitness to History explains that the Flagellants were a religious movement that arose during the Black Death:

The Flagellants were religious zealots of the Middle Ages in Europe who demonstrated their religious fervor and sought atonement for their sins by vigorously whipping themselves in public displays of penance. This approach to achieving redemption was most popular during times of crisis. Prolonged plague, hunger, drought and other natural maladies would motivate thousands to resort to this extreme method of seeking relief. Despite condemnation by the Catholic Church, the movement gained strength and reached its greatest popularity during the onslaught of the Black Death that ravaged Europe in the mid-fourteenth century. Wearing white robes, large groups of the sect (many numbering in the thousands) roamed the countryside dragging crosses while whipping themselves into a religious frenzy.

Here is a firsthand account of the Flagellants in the 14th century by Sir Robert of Avesbury, as quoted from Norman Cohn’s classic work Pursuit of the Millennium:

In that same year of 1349, about Michaelmas (September, 29) over six hundred men came to London from Flanders, mostly of Zeeland and Holland origin. Sometimes at St Paul’s and sometimes at other points in the city they made two daily public appearances wearing cloths from the thighs to the ankles, but otherwise stripped bare. Each wore a cap marked with a red cross in front and behind.

Each had in his right hand a scourge with three tails. Each tail had a knot and through the middle of it there were sometimes sharp nails fixed. They marched naked in a file one behind the other and whipped themselves with these scourges on their naked and bleeding bodies.

Four of them would chant in their native tongue and, another four would chant in response like a litany. Thrice they would all cast themselves on the ground in this sort of procession, stretching out their hands like the arms of a cross. The singing would go on and, the one who was in the rear of those thus prostrate acting first, each of them in turn would step over the others and give one stroke with his scourge to the man lying under him.

This went on from the first to the last until each of them had observed the ritual to the full tale of those on the ground. Then each put on his customary garments and always wearing their caps and carrying their whips in their hands they retired to their lodgings. It is said that every night they performed the same penance.

The Catholic Encyclopedia explains the terrifying movement in more detail:

The Flagellants became an organized sect, with severe discipline and extravagant claims. They wore a white habit and mantle, on each of which was a red cross, whence in some parts they were called the “Brotherhood of the Cross”. Whosoever desired to join this brotherhood was bound to remain in it for thirty-three and a half days, to swear obedience to the “Masters” of the organization, to possess at least four pence a day for his support, to be reconciled to all men, and, if married, to have the sanction of his wife.

The ceremonial of the Flagellants seems to have been much the same in all the northern cities. Twice a day, proceeding slowly to the public square or to the principal church, they put off their shoes, stripped themselves to the waist and prostrated themselves in a large circle.

By their posture they indicated the nature of the sins they intended to expiate, the murderer lying on his back, the adulterer on his face, the perjurer on one side holding up three fingers, etc. First they were beaten by the “Master”, then, bidden solemnly in a prescribed form to rise, they stood in a circle and scourged themselves severely, crying out that their blood was mingled with the Blood of Christ and that their penance was preserving the whole world from perishing. At the end the “Master” read a letter which was supposed to have been brought by an angel from heaven to the church of St. Peter in Rome. This stated that Christ, angry at the grievous sins of mankind, had threatened to destroy the world, yet, at the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, had ordained that all who should join the brotherhood for thirty-three and a half days should be saved. The reading of this “letter,” following the shock to the emotions caused by the public penance of the Flagellants, aroused much excitement among the populace.

To reiterate, these people expected everyone else to celebrate them, for it was they who were keeping the world from falling apart completely. Their sacrifice was an act of benevolence to the rest of humankind, so how dare people show ingratitude! Even worse, the more people continued to live in revelry and fun, the more the Flagellants had to punish themselves. For this reason, they felt and showed disdain for anyone who declines to join their cause.

If you do not see the parallels here with what’s going on today, you haven’t been paying attention for 7 months. See, for example, the tremendous media hatred for Trump rallies. This also helps explain why the lockdowners celebrated the BLM protests but condemned the anti-lockdown protests. The former are seen as part of penance for sin whereas the latter are calls to persist in sin.

The Catholic Church, which has a long history of crushing nutty extremism within its ranks, was clear: this was a “dangerous heresy;” the real epidemic, the Church opined, was not the disease but an “heretical epidemic.” None of it mattered: the movements grew and persisted for hundreds of years, proving yet again that once fear and irrationality take hold, it can take a very long time for rationality to return.

But how can this be? We are not a very religious people as we were in the Middle Ages. Where are the priests guiding the new Flagellants? What is the sin we are attempting to expiate? It doesn’t take that much imagination. The priests are the data scientists and media stars who have been calling for lockdowns and celebrating them now for most of 2020. And what is the sin? It doesn’t take that much imagination to extend this analysis: people voted for the wrong person to be president.

Maybe my theory here is wrong. Maybe there is something else going on. Maybe we are really talking about a general loss of meaning in life, a guilt that comes from prosperity, a desire on the part of many to turn lights of civilization off and wallow in suffering for a time to purge ourselves of the stain of vice. Whatever the answer to the question of why that this is really happening, and that it has nothing to do with actual science, is an observation that seems incontrovertible.

In England in the 14th century, when the marauding Flagellants came to town, good members of the community found these people amusing and rather ridiculous, and otherwise they went about their lives, having fun and building a better and more prosperous society. Let those who desire to suffer be free to do so. As for the rest of us, let us get back to having good lives, including partaking in actual fun.

Source: American Institute for Economics Research

[caption id="attachment_37412" align="alignnone" width="1200"] At least these nutters were responding to a disease that actually was extraordinarily deadly[/caption] The lockdowns have disproportionately targeted fun. No house parties. No travel. Bowling, bars, Broadway, theater, amusement parks, all banned. Weddings, forget it. Restaurants, hotels, conventions, and even golf were all targeted by the lockdowners. There is an ethos here. To beat the disease, you have to suffer. You have to eschew joy. You must sit at home and go out only for bare essentials. Even today, the great disease mitigator Andrew Cuomo, who already admitted in a phone call that the lockdowns were not science but fear, has warned New Yorkers not to travel outside the state except when absolutely necessary. There is even a costume associated with the new national penance. It’s a long sweater dress, wool leggings, clompy sneakers, gloves, and the biggest face covering you can find. It’s not about safety. It’s about symbolizing your virtue, contrition, and allegiances. The first time I saw this costume, which reminds me of women at a Taliban funeral, was back in mid-March. A hipster millennial, once living a carefree life, found new meaning in suffering for a cause, and quickly turned on anyone not dressed in dread while listening to the Dies Irae in one’s head. What’s going on here? Surely this is not about the science. There is a moral drama at work, one that taps deeply into some spiritual impulse within people. It’s about the belief that bad things are happening to us because we have sinned. The clothing and the banning of fun are part of our acts of contrition and our penance for wrongdoing. Sounds crazy? Not so much. Otherwise, it is hard to explain. And this kind of response to disease is not unprecedented. Eyewitness to History explains that the Flagellants were a religious movement that arose during the Black Death:
The Flagellants were religious zealots of the Middle Ages in Europe who demonstrated their religious fervor and sought atonement for their sins by vigorously whipping themselves in public displays of penance. This approach to achieving redemption was most popular during times of crisis. Prolonged plague, hunger, drought and other natural maladies would motivate thousands to resort to this extreme method of seeking relief. Despite condemnation by the Catholic Church, the movement gained strength and reached its greatest popularity during the onslaught of the Black Death that ravaged Europe in the mid-fourteenth century. Wearing white robes, large groups of the sect (many numbering in the thousands) roamed the countryside dragging crosses while whipping themselves into a religious frenzy.
Here is a firsthand account of the Flagellants in the 14th century by Sir Robert of Avesbury, as quoted from Norman Cohn’s classic work Pursuit of the Millennium:
In that same year of 1349, about Michaelmas (September, 29) over six hundred men came to London from Flanders, mostly of Zeeland and Holland origin. Sometimes at St Paul’s and sometimes at other points in the city they made two daily public appearances wearing cloths from the thighs to the ankles, but otherwise stripped bare. Each wore a cap marked with a red cross in front and behind. Each had in his right hand a scourge with three tails. Each tail had a knot and through the middle of it there were sometimes sharp nails fixed. They marched naked in a file one behind the other and whipped themselves with these scourges on their naked and bleeding bodies. Four of them would chant in their native tongue and, another four would chant in response like a litany. Thrice they would all cast themselves on the ground in this sort of procession, stretching out their hands like the arms of a cross. The singing would go on and, the one who was in the rear of those thus prostrate acting first, each of them in turn would step over the others and give one stroke with his scourge to the man lying under him. This went on from the first to the last until each of them had observed the ritual to the full tale of those on the ground. Then each put on his customary garments and always wearing their caps and carrying their whips in their hands they retired to their lodgings. It is said that every night they performed the same penance.
The Catholic Encyclopedia explains the terrifying movement in more detail:
The Flagellants became an organized sect, with severe discipline and extravagant claims. They wore a white habit and mantle, on each of which was a red cross, whence in some parts they were called the “Brotherhood of the Cross”. Whosoever desired to join this brotherhood was bound to remain in it for thirty-three and a half days, to swear obedience to the “Masters” of the organization, to possess at least four pence a day for his support, to be reconciled to all men, and, if married, to have the sanction of his wife. The ceremonial of the Flagellants seems to have been much the same in all the northern cities. Twice a day, proceeding slowly to the public square or to the principal church, they put off their shoes, stripped themselves to the waist and prostrated themselves in a large circle. By their posture they indicated the nature of the sins they intended to expiate, the murderer lying on his back, the adulterer on his face, the perjurer on one side holding up three fingers, etc. First they were beaten by the “Master”, then, bidden solemnly in a prescribed form to rise, they stood in a circle and scourged themselves severely, crying out that their blood was mingled with the Blood of Christ and that their penance was preserving the whole world from perishing. At the end the “Master” read a letter which was supposed to have been brought by an angel from heaven to the church of St. Peter in Rome. This stated that Christ, angry at the grievous sins of mankind, had threatened to destroy the world, yet, at the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, had ordained that all who should join the brotherhood for thirty-three and a half days should be saved. The reading of this “letter,” following the shock to the emotions caused by the public penance of the Flagellants, aroused much excitement among the populace.
To reiterate, these people expected everyone else to celebrate them, for it was they who were keeping the world from falling apart completely. Their sacrifice was an act of benevolence to the rest of humankind, so how dare people show ingratitude! Even worse, the more people continued to live in revelry and fun, the more the Flagellants had to punish themselves. For this reason, they felt and showed disdain for anyone who declines to join their cause. If you do not see the parallels here with what’s going on today, you haven’t been paying attention for 7 months. See, for example, the tremendous media hatred for Trump rallies. This also helps explain why the lockdowners celebrated the BLM protests but condemned the anti-lockdown protests. The former are seen as part of penance for sin whereas the latter are calls to persist in sin. The Catholic Church, which has a long history of crushing nutty extremism within its ranks, was clear: this was a “dangerous heresy;” the real epidemic, the Church opined, was not the disease but an “heretical epidemic.” None of it mattered: the movements grew and persisted for hundreds of years, proving yet again that once fear and irrationality take hold, it can take a very long time for rationality to return. But how can this be? We are not a very religious people as we were in the Middle Ages. Where are the priests guiding the new Flagellants? What is the sin we are attempting to expiate? It doesn’t take that much imagination. The priests are the data scientists and media stars who have been calling for lockdowns and celebrating them now for most of 2020. And what is the sin? It doesn’t take that much imagination to extend this analysis: people voted for the wrong person to be president. Maybe my theory here is wrong. Maybe there is something else going on. Maybe we are really talking about a general loss of meaning in life, a guilt that comes from prosperity, a desire on the part of many to turn lights of civilization off and wallow in suffering for a time to purge ourselves of the stain of vice. Whatever the answer to the question of why that this is really happening, and that it has nothing to do with actual science, is an observation that seems incontrovertible. In England in the 14th century, when the marauding Flagellants came to town, good members of the community found these people amusing and rather ridiculous, and otherwise they went about their lives, having fun and building a better and more prosperous society. Let those who desire to suffer be free to do so. As for the rest of us, let us get back to having good lives, including partaking in actual fun. Source: American Institute for Economics Research
The Onion - Thu Oct 29, 2020 11:00

FAYETTEVILLE, NC — Saying he “never could have imagined” he would have the opportunity to follow directly in his father’s footsteps, 19-year-old U.S. Army Pvt. Tyler Corcoran was reportedly excited Tuesday to take over his dad’s old patrol route in Afghanistan.

“It’s just so incredible that I’ll soon be walking the very same footpath as my old man, securing the perimeter of Camp Chapman in Khost Province just like he did so many years ago,” said Corcoran, who explained how, throughout his childhood, he had heard his father’s stories of guarding the forward operating base but never once considered that he would one day be traversing along the exact walls and securing the identical checkpoints his father had during his tours of duty.

“To think that I’ll be monitoring the road between the airstrip and detention facility that Dad always talked about, keeping an eye out for IEDs and any suspicious activity the same way he did all those years ago. Honestly, it’s hard to believe—but, wow, it’s really happening.”

At press time, a tear fell from Corcoran’s eye as he hugged his dad goodbye in the very same manner he remembered his father doing to him when he was a toddler.

Source: The Onion

Text may contain traces of satire.

FAYETTEVILLE, NC — Saying he “never could have imagined” he would have the opportunity to follow directly in his father’s footsteps, 19-year-old U.S. Army Pvt. Tyler Corcoran was reportedly excited Tuesday to take over his dad’s old patrol route in Afghanistan. “It’s just so incredible that I’ll soon be walking the very same footpath as my old man, securing the perimeter of Camp Chapman in Khost Province just like he did so many years ago,” said Corcoran, who explained how, throughout his childhood, he had heard his father’s stories of guarding the forward operating base but never once considered that he would one day be traversing along the exact walls and securing the identical checkpoints his father had during his tours of duty. “To think that I’ll be monitoring the road between the airstrip and detention facility that Dad always talked about, keeping an eye out for IEDs and any suspicious activity the same way he did all those years ago. Honestly, it’s hard to believe—but, wow, it’s really happening.” At press time, a tear fell from Corcoran’s eye as he hugged his dad goodbye in the very same manner he remembered his father doing to him when he was a toddler. Source: The Onion Text may contain traces of satire.
Mark Perry - Thu Oct 29, 2020 10:00

U.S. Marine officers are notoriously dismissive of those who talk about strategy. “Strategy?” a Marine who served in Vietnam says. “Here was our strategy: hey-diddle-diddle, straight-up-the-middle.” The description rings true: the Marine Corps’ most famous fights were straight-ahead affairs that gave the Corps its most celebrated moments: at Belleau Wood (in World War One), at Tarawa, Iwo Jima and Okinawa (in World War Two), at Inchon (during Korea), at Hue (in Vietnam) and, most recently during the battles for Fallujah, back in 2004. Now, it seems, all of that is changing.

In August of last year, Marine Corps Commandant David Berger published his Commandant’s Planning Guidance, a detailed recasting of the Marine Corps’ force structure.

By any measure, Berger’s guidance marked a breathtaking shift away from the service’s urban combat focus and its follow-on mandate of “countering violent extremists in the Middle East” to a “great power/peer level competition, with special emphasis on the Indo Pacific…” The shift, Berger admits, is sweeping: “from inland to littoral, and from non-state actor to peer competitor.”

The guidance reduces tank companies (from 7 to 0), artillery batteries (from 21 to 5), infantry battalions (from 24 to 21), amphibious vehicle companies (from 6 to 4), helicopter attack squadrons (from 7 to 5), and the number of F-35Bs in its air squadrons. The guidance eliminates law enforcement battalions and bridging companies. And the force itself will be cut by some 12,000 personnel over a period of ten years.

More simply: Berger’s guidance (“to be clear, it’s not really a new strategy,” one senior Marine officer notes, “it’s more like a new operational concept”) cuts structure in favor of adopting “long range precision fires, advanced reconnaissance capabilities, unmanned systems and resilient networks.”

The shift is here to stay: Berger clamped a non-disclosure requirement on participants in the wargames that led to the rethinking and, just last week, cancelled the “Metropolis II” exercise testing tactics the Marines would adopt to fight in cities. Instead, the service will focus on building a new Marine Littoral Regiment (an MLR) that would allow it to operate on small atolls and islands against a projected threat in the Pacific — read: China.

Berger’s new MLR is billed as “dispersed, agile and constantly relocating” (a combat team, a logistics element and an anti-air battalion), and delivered to the battleground by a yet-to-be-designed class of amphibious ships. Dispersed and agile? For Berger’s critics, the MLR looks more like a Navy landing party (of some 1800 swabees) than an all-arms 3600 trooper Marine regiment of hardcore fighters. Berger would almost certainly reject the claim, but his guidance ties his service more closely to the Navy than it has been since the Marines landed on Guadalcanal.

“During World War II, we as a Service, clearly understood that Marines operated in support of the Navy’s sea control mission,” the guidance argues. “In subsequent years, the luxury of presumptive maritime superiority deluded us into thinking the Navy existed to support ‘Marine’ operations ashore. That era was a historic anomaly, and we need to re-focus on how we will fulfill our mandate to support the fleet.”

Berger’s guidance earned initial praise, even from would-be detractors (“it’s one of the most well-written documents to come out of the Pentagon in a long while,” a U.S. Army force planner admitted), as well as a host of respected military thinkers, including Dr. James Lacey, a former U.S. infantry officer and director for War, Policy, and Strategy at the Marine Corps War College. “I think Berger has boldly taken the Corps in a direction it must go as we reenter a period of great state competition,” he wrote in an email. More crucially, Chris Brose, the former staff director of the Senate Armed Services Committee — whose questions to the services in 2018 helped to fuel Berger’s thinking — told columnist David Ignatius that the new Marine guidance “looks reality in the face and says we’ve got to make changes. He doesn’t hedge, he doesn’t fudge. He makes choices. He’s thrown down the gauntlet for the other services.”

Not everyone agrees. An early and outspoken critic of Berger was James Webb, a former Marine Corps officer, Vietnam veteran and Secretary of the Navy. For Webb, the Berger guidance reads like a pointy-headed power point presentation cooked up by draft dodging Marine Corps wannabes: “Interestingly, when citing his philosophical inspiration at the outset of his proposal, General Berger chose to ignore two centuries of innovation and ground-breaking role models who guided the Marine Corps through some of its most difficult challenges,” Webb wrote in a much-circulated article in The National Interest. “The giants of the past — John LeJeune, Arthur Vandegrift, Clifton Cates, Robert Barrow and Al Gray, just for starters — were passed over, in favor of a quote from a professor at the Harvard Business School who never served. Many Marines, past and present, view this gesture as a symbolic putdown of the Corps’ respected leadership methods and the historic results they have obtained.”

Webb’s critique is echoed by other experts, including Dr. Williamson “Wick” Murray, one of the nation’s most respected defense thinkers. “The Marines are the most intellectual of all services,” Murray told me in an extensive telephone interview, “so I’m a little surprised that the guidance leaves so many unanswered questions. It goes too far in stripping out capabilities, lacks important details on how these capabilities will be replaced and doesn’t provide strategic solutions to strategic challenges. This guidance needs to be more nuanced and more flexible. It’s not. It puts everything on the table for countering China, but if history teaches us anything it’s that the enemy you get is rarely the one you plan for.”

Murray also notes the unease that greeted the guidance from the U.S. Navy. “The big assumption here is that the Navy wants to cooperate, that it’ll be a willing partner. Maybe: but its yet to be seen whether they’re capable of taking this on.” A senior U.S. Navy strategist, speaking on background because of the sensitivity of the topic, agrees: “The Navy has largely ignored strategy and focused on what to buy and how to buy it, then figuring out how to use what they have.”

Which is to say that the Navy leadership seems strangely out of touch with what Berger is doing — a kind of hey-diddle-diddle-let’s-buy-more-ships focus that retains its legacy platforms (Berger dubs them “large ships” — like aircraft carriers — “with large electronic, acoustic, or optical signatures”) at the same time that the Marines are shedding theirs.

That the Navy seems relatively clueless is something of a surprise, since the Navy that was one of the first services to pivot to Asia.

In 2010, Adm. Gary Roughead, the chief of naval operations and Gen. Norton Schwartz, the head of the air force, signed a classified memorandum directing their services to develop “AirSea Battle” — a new operational concept designed to overcome China’s development of anti-access and area denial weapons. The idea was to find ways to preserve the U.S. military’s access to the Western Pacific.

“The Air Force and Navy arrived, almost simultaneously, at the same ‘aha’ moment,” defense intellectual and Navy expert Bryan McGrath told me in 2015. “They saw that there was a power rising that could challenge what each of them do best. For the Navy, that’s power projection — and for the Air Force, that’s air power. And for decades, neither of those battle spaces was in jeopardy. But suddenly, with what China was doing, that was no longer true. Suddenly, there was a power in the Pacific that was going to challenge the way they fight.”

Retired U.S. Army Colonel Kevin Benson, one of his service’s premier thinkers, puts it this way: “Close combat is a thing of the past,” he says. “If the enemy knows where you are, he can kill you. We live in an era of hypersonic weapons and satellite-linked units. So you have to get under that umbrella, you have to look for a seam in his defenses, or you have to create one. You have to put more fire on the bad guy faster than he can respond. Berger’s guidance is incomplete, but that’s what he’s trying to do.”

Berger’s thinking reflects this reality. “The rapid expansion of China’s area-denial capabilities, coupled with its pivot to the sea . . . have fundamentally transformed the environment in which the U.S. military will operate for the foreseeable future,” Berger wrote in an article in War on the Rocks last December. “For the first time in a generation, sea control is no longer the unquestioned prerogative of the United States.” To counter this, the Marines will deploy “low cost, lethal air and ground unmanned platforms, unmanned long range surface and subsurface vehicles, mobile, rapidly deployable rocket systems, long range precision fires, loitering munitions… mobile air defense and counter-precision guided munitions capabilities, signature management, electronic warfare and expeditionary airfields.”

But while Berger’s focus is on China, some Pentagon officials suspect that other realities are driving his thinking. Berger says as much one-third of the way through his guidance: “The principle challenge facing the Marine Corps today,” he writes, “lies in continuing to fulfill its charter as the naval expeditionary force-in-readiness, while simultaneously modernizing the force… with potentially fewer Marines, and a possible reduction in total resources.” Berger makes it clear that he’s willing to “secure additional modernization dollars in exchange for force structure…” — another way of saying that the Marines are willing to live with fewer numbers so long as they get new weapons. [Surprise, suprise, generals who make their money by shoveling taxpayer dollars to defense contractors, are willing to do so even at the cost of massive cuts in manpower.]

In truth, the Marines may not have a choice: Pentagon officials concede that the services are entering an era of flatline or even plunging budget authorizations at the same time that they’re having difficulty signing up and retaining new recruits. It’s easy to say you’re going to have fewer Marines when no one is showing up at your recruiting stations. Among Berger’s critics are those who discuss his ideas while giving a wink-wink at this reality: the enemy the Marines are fighting isn’t China, they say, it’s the defense budget.

But suggesting that it’s the budget, and not China, that is behind Berger’s thinking brings often angry responses from those paid to think about naval strategy. “Usually when budgets flatline, services become conservative and double down on what they consider to be their ‘core,'” the senior naval strategist to whom I spoke, says. “That’s doesn’t seem to be what the Marines are doing here . . . This is really just the Marines figuring out how to do their job.”

Finally, the guidance’s most outspoken critics, including one senior Marine who served in Afghanistan, point out that Berger plans to fight China with “units yet to be formed, transported on amphibious ships yet to be built, linked by networks yet to be developed and armed with anti-missile capabilities yet to be tested.” The rejoinder from the Navy strategy expert with whom I spoke is pointed: “Does a lack of completed technology mean that you don’t start pushing forward? The Marines worked on amphibious doctrine before the Higgins Boat was done [in World War Two] and worked on helicopter doctrine way before they had helos with the range and capacity to actually do it. Working on the technology hasn’t stopped the Marines before.”

Of course, there is also an unstated agenda here, as any number of Berger critics note. The new guidance positions the Marines as the lead service for the emergent and increasingly empowered China-is-the-enemy lobby. And while that view is far from an accepted fact, the guidance will help sell it. Or, to paraphrase one Asia expert: if you treat China like an enemy, and name them as an enemy, you’re going to get what you ask for. It’s a smart move for Berger and his service, but it’s also transparent — and cynical: in an era of flatlining or eroding budget numbers, the Marines can not only claim to be “the first to fight,” they can claim to be the first in line to get the anti-China defense dollars. Which, presumably, is exactly where Berger wants them to be.

If there is a bottom line here, it is that while Berger partisans argue that his guidance is “visionary, disruptive and transformational,” his detractors use the same adjectives to highlight its weaknesses: it’s too visionary, too disruptive and too transformational.

But it’s also “subversive,” as the Marine veteran of Afghanistan told me. “If Berger is right, if it’s possible to do better with less, than why can’t the Army, Navy and Air Force do the same?” he asks.“If Berger’s planning guidance is the wave of the future, then why are the Army, Navy and Air Force stuck in the past?” Which suggests other, yet to be answered, questions: if aircraft carriers and other “expensive and exquisite capabilities” (as Berger describes them) are vulnerable, then why do we continue to build and deploy them? “The Navy, especially, needs to provide answers,” this Marine says, “and the last time I checked, Berger’s office was on the same corridor as the chief of naval operations. So if he really wants to know what the Navy thinks, all he has to do is walk down the hall and ask.”

Source: Responsible Statecraft

[caption id="attachment_37406" align="alignnone" width="1200"] ...plans to fight China with “units yet to be formed, transported on amphibious ships yet to be built, linked by networks yet to be developed and armed with anti-missile capabilities yet to be tested...[/caption] U.S. Marine officers are notoriously dismissive of those who talk about strategy. “Strategy?” a Marine who served in Vietnam says. “Here was our strategy: hey-diddle-diddle, straight-up-the-middle.” The description rings true: the Marine Corps’ most famous fights were straight-ahead affairs that gave the Corps its most celebrated moments: at Belleau Wood (in World War One), at Tarawa, Iwo Jima and Okinawa (in World War Two), at Inchon (during Korea), at Hue (in Vietnam) and, most recently during the battles for Fallujah, back in 2004. Now, it seems, all of that is changing. In August of last year, Marine Corps Commandant David Berger published his Commandant’s Planning Guidance, a detailed recasting of the Marine Corps’ force structure. By any measure, Berger’s guidance marked a breathtaking shift away from the service’s urban combat focus and its follow-on mandate of “countering violent extremists in the Middle East” to a “great power/peer level competition, with special emphasis on the Indo Pacific…” The shift, Berger admits, is sweeping: “from inland to littoral, and from non-state actor to peer competitor.” The guidance reduces tank companies (from 7 to 0), artillery batteries (from 21 to 5), infantry battalions (from 24 to 21), amphibious vehicle companies (from 6 to 4), helicopter attack squadrons (from 7 to 5), and the number of F-35Bs in its air squadrons. The guidance eliminates law enforcement battalions and bridging companies. And the force itself will be cut by some 12,000 personnel over a period of ten years. More simply: Berger’s guidance (“to be clear, it’s not really a new strategy,” one senior Marine officer notes, “it’s more like a new operational concept”) cuts structure in favor of adopting “long range precision fires, advanced reconnaissance capabilities, unmanned systems and resilient networks.” The shift is here to stay: Berger clamped a non-disclosure requirement on participants in the wargames that led to the rethinking and, just last week, cancelled the “Metropolis II” exercise testing tactics the Marines would adopt to fight in cities. Instead, the service will focus on building a new Marine Littoral Regiment (an MLR) that would allow it to operate on small atolls and islands against a projected threat in the Pacific — read: China. Berger’s new MLR is billed as “dispersed, agile and constantly relocating” (a combat team, a logistics element and an anti-air battalion), and delivered to the battleground by a yet-to-be-designed class of amphibious ships. Dispersed and agile? For Berger’s critics, the MLR looks more like a Navy landing party (of some 1800 swabees) than an all-arms 3600 trooper Marine regiment of hardcore fighters. Berger would almost certainly reject the claim, but his guidance ties his service more closely to the Navy than it has been since the Marines landed on Guadalcanal. “During World War II, we as a Service, clearly understood that Marines operated in support of the Navy’s sea control mission,” the guidance argues. “In subsequent years, the luxury of presumptive maritime superiority deluded us into thinking the Navy existed to support ‘Marine’ operations ashore. That era was a historic anomaly, and we need to re-focus on how we will fulfill our mandate to support the fleet.” Berger’s guidance earned initial praise, even from would-be detractors (“it’s one of the most well-written documents to come out of the Pentagon in a long while,” a U.S. Army force planner admitted), as well as a host of respected military thinkers, including Dr. James Lacey, a former U.S. infantry officer and director for War, Policy, and Strategy at the Marine Corps War College. “I think Berger has boldly taken the Corps in a direction it must go as we reenter a period of great state competition,” he wrote in an email. More crucially, Chris Brose, the former staff director of the Senate Armed Services Committee — whose questions to the services in 2018 helped to fuel Berger’s thinking — told columnist David Ignatius that the new Marine guidance “looks reality in the face and says we’ve got to make changes. He doesn’t hedge, he doesn’t fudge. He makes choices. He’s thrown down the gauntlet for the other services.” Not everyone agrees. An early and outspoken critic of Berger was James Webb, a former Marine Corps officer, Vietnam veteran and Secretary of the Navy. For Webb, the Berger guidance reads like a pointy-headed power point presentation cooked up by draft dodging Marine Corps wannabes: “Interestingly, when citing his philosophical inspiration at the outset of his proposal, General Berger chose to ignore two centuries of innovation and ground-breaking role models who guided the Marine Corps through some of its most difficult challenges,” Webb wrote in a much-circulated article in The National Interest. “The giants of the past — John LeJeune, Arthur Vandegrift, Clifton Cates, Robert Barrow and Al Gray, just for starters — were passed over, in favor of a quote from a professor at the Harvard Business School who never served. Many Marines, past and present, view this gesture as a symbolic putdown of the Corps’ respected leadership methods and the historic results they have obtained.” Webb’s critique is echoed by other experts, including Dr. Williamson “Wick” Murray, one of the nation’s most respected defense thinkers. “The Marines are the most intellectual of all services,” Murray told me in an extensive telephone interview, “so I’m a little surprised that the guidance leaves so many unanswered questions. It goes too far in stripping out capabilities, lacks important details on how these capabilities will be replaced and doesn’t provide strategic solutions to strategic challenges. This guidance needs to be more nuanced and more flexible. It’s not. It puts everything on the table for countering China, but if history teaches us anything it’s that the enemy you get is rarely the one you plan for.” Murray also notes the unease that greeted the guidance from the U.S. Navy. “The big assumption here is that the Navy wants to cooperate, that it’ll be a willing partner. Maybe: but its yet to be seen whether they’re capable of taking this on.” A senior U.S. Navy strategist, speaking on background because of the sensitivity of the topic, agrees: “The Navy has largely ignored strategy and focused on what to buy and how to buy it, then figuring out how to use what they have.” Which is to say that the Navy leadership seems strangely out of touch with what Berger is doing — a kind of hey-diddle-diddle-let’s-buy-more-ships focus that retains its legacy platforms (Berger dubs them “large ships” — like aircraft carriers — “with large electronic, acoustic, or optical signatures”) at the same time that the Marines are shedding theirs. [caption id="attachment_37404" align="alignnone" width="2048"] "If you treat China like an enemy, and name them as an enemy, you’re going to get what you ask for"[/caption] That the Navy seems relatively clueless is something of a surprise, since the Navy that was one of the first services to pivot to Asia. In 2010, Adm. Gary Roughead, the chief of naval operations and Gen. Norton Schwartz, the head of the air force, signed a classified memorandum directing their services to develop “AirSea Battle” — a new operational concept designed to overcome China’s development of anti-access and area denial weapons. The idea was to find ways to preserve the U.S. military’s access to the Western Pacific. “The Air Force and Navy arrived, almost simultaneously, at the same ‘aha’ moment,” defense intellectual and Navy expert Bryan McGrath told me in 2015. “They saw that there was a power rising that could challenge what each of them do best. For the Navy, that’s power projection — and for the Air Force, that’s air power. And for decades, neither of those battle spaces was in jeopardy. But suddenly, with what China was doing, that was no longer true. Suddenly, there was a power in the Pacific that was going to challenge the way they fight.” Retired U.S. Army Colonel Kevin Benson, one of his service’s premier thinkers, puts it this way: “Close combat is a thing of the past,” he says. “If the enemy knows where you are, he can kill you. We live in an era of hypersonic weapons and satellite-linked units. So you have to get under that umbrella, you have to look for a seam in his defenses, or you have to create one. You have to put more fire on the bad guy faster than he can respond. Berger’s guidance is incomplete, but that’s what he’s trying to do.” Berger’s thinking reflects this reality. “The rapid expansion of China’s area-denial capabilities, coupled with its pivot to the sea . . . have fundamentally transformed the environment in which the U.S. military will operate for the foreseeable future,” Berger wrote in an article in War on the Rocks last December. “For the first time in a generation, sea control is no longer the unquestioned prerogative of the United States.” To counter this, the Marines will deploy “low cost, lethal air and ground unmanned platforms, unmanned long range surface and subsurface vehicles, mobile, rapidly deployable rocket systems, long range precision fires, loitering munitions… mobile air defense and counter-precision guided munitions capabilities, signature management, electronic warfare and expeditionary airfields.” But while Berger’s focus is on China, some Pentagon officials suspect that other realities are driving his thinking. Berger says as much one-third of the way through his guidance: “The principle challenge facing the Marine Corps today,” he writes, “lies in continuing to fulfill its charter as the naval expeditionary force-in-readiness, while simultaneously modernizing the force… with potentially fewer Marines, and a possible reduction in total resources.” Berger makes it clear that he’s willing to “secure additional modernization dollars in exchange for force structure…” — another way of saying that the Marines are willing to live with fewer numbers so long as they get new weapons. [Surprise, suprise, generals who make their money by shoveling taxpayer dollars to defense contractors, are willing to do so even at the cost of massive cuts in manpower.] In truth, the Marines may not have a choice: Pentagon officials concede that the services are entering an era of flatline or even plunging budget authorizations at the same time that they’re having difficulty signing up and retaining new recruits. It’s easy to say you’re going to have fewer Marines when no one is showing up at your recruiting stations. Among Berger’s critics are those who discuss his ideas while giving a wink-wink at this reality: the enemy the Marines are fighting isn’t China, they say, it’s the defense budget. But suggesting that it’s the budget, and not China, that is behind Berger’s thinking brings often angry responses from those paid to think about naval strategy. “Usually when budgets flatline, services become conservative and double down on what they consider to be their ‘core,'” the senior naval strategist to whom I spoke, says. “That’s doesn’t seem to be what the Marines are doing here . . . This is really just the Marines figuring out how to do their job.” Finally, the guidance’s most outspoken critics, including one senior Marine who served in Afghanistan, point out that Berger plans to fight China with “units yet to be formed, transported on amphibious ships yet to be built, linked by networks yet to be developed and armed with anti-missile capabilities yet to be tested.” The rejoinder from the Navy strategy expert with whom I spoke is pointed: “Does a lack of completed technology mean that you don’t start pushing forward? The Marines worked on amphibious doctrine before the Higgins Boat was done [in World War Two] and worked on helicopter doctrine way before they had helos with the range and capacity to actually do it. Working on the technology hasn’t stopped the Marines before.” Of course, there is also an unstated agenda here, as any number of Berger critics note. The new guidance positions the Marines as the lead service for the emergent and increasingly empowered China-is-the-enemy lobby. And while that view is far from an accepted fact, the guidance will help sell it. Or, to paraphrase one Asia expert: if you treat China like an enemy, and name them as an enemy, you’re going to get what you ask for. It’s a smart move for Berger and his service, but it’s also transparent — and cynical: in an era of flatlining or eroding budget numbers, the Marines can not only claim to be “the first to fight,” they can claim to be the first in line to get the anti-China defense dollars. Which, presumably, is exactly where Berger wants them to be. If there is a bottom line here, it is that while Berger partisans argue that his guidance is “visionary, disruptive and transformational,” his detractors use the same adjectives to highlight its weaknesses: it’s too visionary, too disruptive and too transformational. But it’s also “subversive,” as the Marine veteran of Afghanistan told me. “If Berger is right, if it’s possible to do better with less, than why can’t the Army, Navy and Air Force do the same?” he asks.“If Berger’s planning guidance is the wave of the future, then why are the Army, Navy and Air Force stuck in the past?” Which suggests other, yet to be answered, questions: if aircraft carriers and other “expensive and exquisite capabilities” (as Berger describes them) are vulnerable, then why do we continue to build and deploy them? “The Navy, especially, needs to provide answers,” this Marine says, “and the last time I checked, Berger’s office was on the same corridor as the chief of naval operations. So if he really wants to know what the Navy thinks, all he has to do is walk down the hall and ask.” Source: Responsible Statecraft

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