Friday, 29 July 2016

How mistakes can be the greatest truth

When writing a political or analytical piece online, occasionally and at strategic times include at the bottom of the story a small addendum pointing out a correction. It should be dated perhaps a day after the story was released, the word “correction” and the date should be in bold and the correction itself should be written in italics.

The correction should be minor, such as the age of a quoted person, city, their title, a date, etc. Perhaps these minor mistakes can be purposefully introduced to a story before it is published in order to manufacture the correction later. However, corrections with major impact should be avoided and not manufactured.

The strategy is threefold: it shows the paper is dedicated to discovering the truth, and will respond to constructive criticism. It shows reader engagement with the article (it looks like someone outside the paper's staff had to read it to see the mistake). And most importantly, it tricks the reader into thinking the paper is so dedicated to finding mistakes that if it picked up this tiny detail, then all the other assertions and details in the article must be correct.

What effect would this have? No one at the paper needs to say the media is dedicated to truth, that assumption is now made by the reader. This is crucial, because if you have to say something, it’s not true. It must appear in the reader’s mind as if they thought of the conclusion themselves.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Why TPP (or something like it) is inevitable

I

There seems to be two types in the anti-Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) camp. In one corner sit people pleased the deal may be discarded entirely. While in the other, they hope a failure is a chance for renegotiation towards a more comprehensive deal. Either way, they seem happy the TPP might be dying.

Leaving aside that the TPP isn’t yet ruined (Washington sources report plenty of bartering heating up the Beltway) this TPP schadenfreude appears to come from politics in the disgruntled middle class frustrated with productivity and wage losses who blame the economic system for their plight.

But their reasoning is flawed. First, the link between productivity and wages is inverse. Productivity is a function of technology and business organisation much more than it is of labour. Boosting productivity is achieved by deploying better technology, which allows a company to hire fewer, less skilled workers who can be paid less. Trade deals aren’t responsible for this.

Second, there is no middle class. I'd love to write a screed about how the system is ripping people off and the wealthy manipulates the social order to enrich themselves, but that would be dishonest. There are too many people in the so-called “middle class” who have never driven a ten-year old car, spending upwards of $200/month on cell phones and have internet TV packages with premium channels to place all the blame on the system.

The middle class is largely comprised of spendthrifts and idiots. They are still buying petrol guzzling cars at $2.00/litre even when more economical options are available, and their justifications for doing so are entirely irrational. They are completely and hopelessly uneducated. And yes, I too land squarely in this “class.”

And considering the present house prices, apparently the middle class can’t calculate the affordability of mortgage payments either. They can’t be bothered to learn what they don't know, despise being told what they don't know, and they hate it when they can't have something. Getting more things is extremely important to the middle class, unless people believe shopping malls are patronised exclusively by the rich and the destitute.

II

The rationale against TPP is: “We are all [insert nationality] and we want what’s best for [insert country]. We just disagree on what best is.”

But that’s not quite true. People want what they think is best for a particular country, but often they don’t know what actually is best.

For instance, some on the right want to abolish trade protectionism. That’s fine, but lowering trade barriers means New Zealand companies which are less efficient in innovation, design and manufacturing can’t compete against better foreign competition.

On the left, people want environmental regulation and improved labour laws. That's nice too, but it ensures no one builds factories or hires large labour forces in New Zealand. This country may be less polluted, but it's hard to enjoy that when no one can afford food and rent.

Of course, environmentalists and free traders aren’t wrongheaded, I think they are both right. There should be environmental protection because we (well, at least I) live in New Zealand, not China, and there should be free trade policies because I don't depend on manufacturing for a job.

The factory owner in China agrees with me. He wants New Zealand to have strong environmental and labour protection laws so it doesn’t manufacture any goods to compete with him. He also wants free trade so New Zealanders can buy more of his goods.

Am I a traitor because I “side with” someone in China? Is he a traitor because he sides with me? Both positions result in long-term damage for the respective countries. More importantly, notice how completely opposite politics (liberal environmentalism and conservative free trade) lead to the exact same result – goods are made in China, but sold here.

With the TPP, the notion of comparative advantage is being codified into law. Cheap manufacturing centres are shifting around the globe and access to those are being prioritised. Whatever helps manufacturing will be written into laws and whatever hinders it doesn't even get discussed.

III

Consider how the US is by far the world’s largest exporter of agricultural commodities. Agriculture is a winning industry for the US through the entire vertical market: seeds, fertilisers, farming, farm equipment, rail, processing and export.

In New Zealand, lots of people are out of work, but they aren't out of work at agriculture companies. The industry is the last line of defence against a working class depression. About 11% of New Zealand’s workforce is employed directly in agriculture, forestry and the food sector. This doesn't include those working in related industries such as mining (fertiliser), rail, logistics and many others.

This keeps Americans and New Zealanders well-fed. Food is cheap. A dozen eggs costs a few dollars. Meat is insanely cheap. In-season fruits and vegetables cost functionally nothing, and out of season they aren't prohibitively expensive either.

Those aren't the prices in other countries, but that has more to do with tariffs on imports and moronically managed government price control boards which, in an effort to lower the prices of domestically grown food, inadvertently discourage farmers from actually growing any food.

Case in point: corn in 2012. When corn was at its peak, many developing countries forbade their local farmers from exporting corn to the global market, under the theory that the local population could not afford those prices. The hope (and that's all it was) was that by prohibiting the exports, the price of corn would find a lower market price internally rather than externally.

Except those farmers stopped growing corn, because they still had to water, plough, fertilise and harvest, all of which costs money they couldn't recoup. Seeds and fertiliser also needed purchasing on the international market, where the price is set related to the price of the agriculture commodity. So the local population didn't get their food and local farmers were rendered poor.

By banning corn exports governments created a market imbalance which hurt farmers. It also reduced supply on the international market, raising corn prices even further. Nice going.

This happened because those governments didn't want to be out of the agriculture business and turn control and ownership over to farmers. Rather than rioting as consumers of food, farmers rioted over seed prices, wages or percentage. Either way, the attempt to control led to riots.

IV

The TPP reflects an understanding that nations cannot feed themselves.

National borders are based on politics and history, not agricultural efficiency. That's outdated collectivist thinking. TPP is a step closer to everyone on earth being able to feed themselves. If that means Indians buy poultry from Americans who buy rice from the Chinese who buy milk from New Zealand, fantastic, as long as no one is starving.

The alternative is to continue grouping people by nation where political and geographical inefficiencies guarantee some people won't eat, and that everyone else pays more than they should. There’s no need to repeal the free market because the free market works, even in agriculture. No government can control prices. Marijuana is an agricultural product and the most powerful nation on earth has been trying to ban it for a century. Yet there is still a healthy free market for it.

The reality is the concept of “nations” is rapidly approaching the end of its useful life. Why would governments want to protect the New Zealand way of life when the only difference between it and the British or Swiss way of life are the brands of consumer goods? The way of life in Blenheim is more different from the way of life in Auckland than Auckland's is from London's.

The whole concept is becoming silly which is why the TPP is a vision of the inevitable future, not a fix for the past. And the fact that political opinions on international issues like this fall along racial or religious lines reveals the root of the “nation” concept lies in those outmoded ideas.

As those increasingly become the province of a culturally conservative minority, the benefits of "what is best for our country" becomes gradually less obvious and are decided by how a particular person earns money. This anti-trade sentiment is not about democracy and economics, it is about politics. And politics can’t hold back geopolitical realities for ever.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Sitrep - 27 July, 2016

Four terror attacks in the German region of Bavaria in a week have prompted officials to consider deploying troops onto the streets for the first time since WWII. The separate attacks included a shooting at a McDonalds, bombing at a café, axe assault on a train and the use of a machete.

Bavaria is the core of German way of life and its politics. It is also the entry point for refugees flowing into the country since Berlin opened the EU borders late last year. After tightening asylum regulations, accepting border controls along the Balkans and forging a deal with Turkey the refugee torrent has since slowed to a trickle. Yet the task of integrating refugees is only beginning.

The attacks were conducted by young Muslim men. While they do not directly link with the refugee issue, it will encourage anti-Muslim sentiment in the EU. German chancellor Angela Merkel’s political security will also be weakened as opposition parties take advantage to claw back some of her prodigious support. Upcoming regional elections will display if her party is declining.

In Turkey, Amnesty International released evidence showing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s crackdown on coup sympathisers includes torture. Although numbers vary, more than 50,000 people from the military, judiciary, civil service, education and media have been arrested since the failed putsch on July 15. Mr Erdoğan has also suggested a reintroduction of the death penalty.

The allegations and warning of capital punishment will increase friction between Turkey and the EU at a time when Brussels needs Mr Erdoğan’s cooperation in managing migrants. The present EU/Turkey deal (swapping one illegal migrant for a vetted migrant) was set for renegotiation in September but following the coup and the attacks in Germany it may now struggle to pass.

Mr Erdoğan’s is increasing his power and creating room to reform other international relationships. Already, Turkey’s relationship with Russia and Israel is showing signs of mending, but the US wonders where it stands with the Middle Eastern power. Turkey will take time to cool, but Mr Erdoğan is shifting the country into a new, powerful and more aware geopolitical position.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

The new terror trend no one can stop

An effective trend in transnational terrorism is emerging. While not strictly new, its increasing adoption represents a break with an older model and one security services aren’t capable of defending against.

On July 25, a video was discovered of the Syrian refugee who detonated a bomb near a German festival, killing only himself but injuring a dozen others. A week prior, another video surfaced showing the 17-year-old axe attacker who injured more than 20 people on a train in Bavaria.

In both videos, as with many other attacks this year, the attackers pledged “allegiance” to the Islamic State (IS). The shooter in Florida who killed 50 last month phoned the local police department during his assault to make the same pledge. Other terrorists use social networking to display their affiliation.

What separates this emerging trend is the lack of any direct contact by the terrorist to core IS or jihadist operatives. While some of the recent attackers did indeed travel to IS or al qaeda-controlled regions, most had nothing to do with the groups before committing their acts.

To explain what is happening, the concept of “pledging allegiance” doesn’t help describe either the attraction of these seemingly isolated acts or their proliferation. These are not simply declarations of loyalty, they are expressions of fealty. Whatever al qaeda represented for the Muslim world, it did not approach the significance of what IS has created. And the concept of fealty to the Caliphate is transforming modern terrorism.

Fealty is a recycled medieval idea. It is a life-long, public and irreversible oath of loyalty from a vassal to a lord. It also referred to the duties incumbent upon a vassal that were owed to the lord, which consisted of service or aid, without specific direction or instruction from the lord. In a religious context, fealty promises salvation, absolution and redemption to the vassal.

In medieval Europe, fealty linked people across geography in a time before light-speed communications. Now, in the age of the internet, IS instructs its followers not to declare fealty until they commit the attack to avoid discovery by authorities. It also tells them not to request or search for support in planning, again to limit the threat of exposure.

For Muslims who believe in the validity of IS’ Caliphate, declaring fealty immediately accepts the believer into the group, cleanses their sins while opening the way to Paradise – all without having to travel. All the benefits of holy war can be gleaned by opening fire on a McDonalds in Bavaria, using a simple digital camera and uploading a file to Facebook.

And from the perspective of core IS, fealty supplies a perfect method of circumventing the heavily-centralised security and intelligence apparatus set up after 9/11. For past terrorism to function effectively, it needed communication and grooming to flow between terror operatives and their radicalised targets inside anarchist, Islamist or Marxist communities. With internet propaganda and declarations of fealty, this need for grooming is completely discarded.

So if there’s nothing to intercept, and potential jihadists do not breach the law and justify arrest, then security services are effectively useless. Without seriously rupturing social freedoms, free speech and enacting extraordinary measures of state power over the individual – none of which is possible in modern politics – security services are severely constrained.

In the context of this year’s attacks, it must be remembered that terrorism doesn’t occur in a vacuum. The idea of an isolated “lone wolf” is dangerously misleading. All terrorists are part of a social group. As with Marxists in the 20th century, radicalised individuals require some grand meaning to act. Yet today, spreading IS’ grand meaning among sympathetic Muslims is a way to create self-activating terrorists.

On the internet a person can be radicalised wherever they are, at any time, without obstacle. Try as they like to censor and disrupt Islamist communication channels, private companies and governments are fighting with both hands tied while on the internet – a communications tool specifically designed to thwart centralised control of messages.

Declaring fealty during or after an attack turns the terrorist act itself into a ritual of initiation. It is a public, online declaration of loyalty in which an individual connects both with the IS grand meaning and to a friendly social group. Promising forgiveness or washing away of sins – crucial for the mentally disturbed – anyone who truly believes can participate.

The most important lesson here for security services seems to be that a decentralised approach to domestic counterterrorism is needed, one which encourages all civilians to take some responsibility in their own security – although, tighter gun control in most developed countries will make this difficult. The other response is to recognise the impossibility of defeating the threat and concentrate on resiliency.

In other words, when (not if) terror attacks occur, the society targeted must absorb the act and respond without panic or retribution. Although given the nature of humans, this too may be wishful thinking. One thing is clear for this developing trend: more attacks are certain and security services will not be able to stop them.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

There WAS a successful coup in Turkey, just not the one you think

The failed coup attempt in Turkey last week is suspicious, and that’s understating it mildly.

Firstly, the facts. Early Friday evening in Istanbul and the capital Ankara, tanks were spotted blocking arterial routes while warplanes circled low in the skies. After only six hours, the plotters had failed to secure the country’s communications or its President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the coup had failed.

During the week, the Erdoğan regime captured close to 6000 individuals suspected of participating, all the way up to senior officer levels. The president also sent bellicose messages to an Islamist cleric living in exile in the US claiming the holy man had orchestrated the plot. More obfuscation.

One reason the coup failed was the military’s inability to block social networking and the internet. The plotters did manage to secure traditional media outlets of television and newspapers, which would have been a good move in the 1980s. Yet the turning point against the coup was the moment Mr Erdoğan used FaceTime to talk to audiences on television. Sloppy work by the plotters.

Mr Erdoğan’s calls during the night for his political supporters to come onto the streets and confront the military, while a sign of weakness, was effective. Loyalist police elements were emboldened by the support, and social networking coordinated the civilians in pushing troops back from key infrastructure.

What’s interesting is that in the internet era, coups should be much easier. Why? Because, once enough people have stopped supporting the present government, a coup is simply a matter of communication and coordination. The internet is very good at these things. And yet because the plotters needed secrecy, it precluded them from employing social networking for their benefit. Instead, the countercoup used those networks freely and ultimately won.

But this is definitely worth pondering as it probably fatally undermines every future coup, it wasn’t the strangest thing about the event. To get a sense of the weirdness, consider the fundamentals.

The basic question facing any potential supporter of a coup is: do you prefer this government, or would you rather take your chances with that government? Since sovereignty is irreversible, this is never an easy decision. For any discontinuous transition in sovereignty, the word ‘reset’ is better than coup. Not every coup is a reset, but every reset is a coup.

So the coup planner faces three tasks. First, he must design the new regime – yes, before the coup. (Poor attention here is the most common cause of coups gone wrong.) Second, he must recruit enough supporters to complete the operation. Third, he must coordinate his supporters to perform it.

The problem, in a coup, is not getting people to oppose their present government. There is never any shortage of potential supporters. The coup planner's problem is getting people to support his coup. Support for a coup comes from a desire for change, assuming it can be made instantly and non-violently. This is less strenuous than joining a coup, which should only be done if one thinks it will succeed. Otherwise, the efforts are a waste of time – at best. Governments don't like to be existentially threatened.

Given the above, it looks like a coup did take place over the weekend. Turkey has a history of coups and it is unlikely its intelligence services – who were watching the military for precisely these signs– missed the conspiracy. So if they caught it, and they weren’t in on the planning, then the information would have been fed to Mr Erdoğan who may have decided to let the coup proceed to highlight his rivals.

Consider that twenty minutes before troops landed on the roof of the hotel in which Mr Erdoğan was known to be staying, the president departed. He then phoned the media station while wearing a suit and tie, before boarding a jet and flying, not to the capital Ankara, but to Istanbul. Now thousands have been arrested as though a list was already drawn before the coup began.

But if the coup was allowed to unfold, then what was the goal and who was the intended audience? In this analysis – tentative as it is – Mr Erdoğan’s history since his party’s election in 2002 has been one of increasing personal power. A military is tough to control in any sovereign country, but a fractured military is much easier to direct. And after this week, the military is severely split.

Zooming out to a geopolitical level, the audience was likely Washington. The US is building a balance of power in the region between Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Maybe Mr Erdoğan is tired of being used as a US tool but also sees an opportunity emerging. Turkey is a historic Middle East power and it would make sense if it has now decided that securing some agency in its future is the best route.

Even if the above is incorrect, Mr Erdoğan now has the power to neutralise anyone he considers a threat. He also has the leverage to command the remaining military without obstacle, and clearly has support of the populace and police. Those are not to be sniffed at for a powerful country like Turkey. This may be the moment it finally wakes up after a century of silence.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The Chilcot Report and the American democratic project that ate the world

I

In the UK last week, a "bombshell" 600-page analysis of the 2003 Iraq War, called the Chilcot Reportfound the war's justification deeply flawed. The report suggests the intelligence for Iraq leader Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programme was incorrect, leading to an ultimately disastrous decision by Whitehall.

The report is highly political, as was the US torture report last year, so it will struggle to get the traction its writers desire. A lot of "humanitarian" and "progressive" people want to use the report to deliver former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair as a criminal to the International Criminal Court for his role in the invasion. That's a nice sentiment, but those people don't know the score.

Mr Blair was working from intelligence showing not only that Saddam had used WMD against his own citizens in the past, but was also collecting chemical and biological components for future use of such weapons. All major nation's intelligence services with sources in Iraq agreed with this assessment – every single one – including the Europeans and Russia. They were entirely wrong on the latter point. This doesn’t prove intelligence is useless, only that exact intelligence is impossible.

A full 13 years later, most people forget there were twelve reasons submitted for legitimate military intervention in Iraq, based on the United Nation’s own rules. They were displayed in the October 2002 US Congress Iraq War Resolution document, reproduced here:

  • Iraq's noncompliance with the conditions of the 1991 ceasefire agreement, including interference with UN weapons inspectors.
  • Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, and programmes to develop such weapons, posed a “threat to the national security of the United States and international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region.”
  • Iraq's “brutal repression of its civilian population.”
  • Iraq's “capability and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction against other nations and its own people.”
  • Iraq's hostility towards the US as demonstrated by the 1993 assassination attempt on former President George H. W. Bush and firing on coalition aircraft enforcing the no-fly zones following the 1991 Gulf War.
  • Members of al-qaeda, an organisation bearing responsibility for attacks on the US, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq.
  • Iraq's “continuing to aid and harbour other international terrorist organisations,” including anti-US terrorist organisations.
  • Iraq paid bounty to families of suicide bombers.
  • The efforts by the Congress and the President to fight terrorists, including the September 11, 2001 terrorists and those who aided or harboured them.
  • The authorisation by the Constitution and the Congress for the President to fight anti-US terrorism.
  • The governments in Turkey, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia feared Saddam and wanted him removed from power.
  • Citing the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, the resolution reiterated it should be the policy of the US to remove the Saddam Hussein regime and promote a democratic replacement.

In the above, and many other instances not included, the Baathist Iraq regime violated every rule the international body for allowing a country to keep its sovereignty under international stipulations. Unfortunately, the US and UK government chose to emphasise WMD infractions to stir popular support for military intervention, even though Saddam had declared war on his neighbours and committed genocide. That bears repeating: modern, humanitarian officials knew that not even genocide would compel modern, humanitarian voters to act. This, in the age of light...

II

The result, if not the purpose, of the Iraq War was as the creation of a 'ring-fence' around sections of the Middle East – only a few years after al qaeda struck a body blow to the US – to contain a spreading feeling of superiority among many Sunni Muslims. The war also set up a 'honey-pot' for jihadists who worshipped 9/11 and wanted to fight the "crusaders.”

That al qaeda failed to enact a follow up attack to 9/11 was largely due to the dismantlement of its core in Afghanistan, but also the success of the Iraq 'honey pot'. Simply put, US forces killed would-be jihadists in Iraq for years at a ratio of almost 50 to 1, which meant fewer skilled and not-so-skilled terrorists were available to conduct attacks outside of Iraq. That alone makes Iraq both a tactical and a strategic victory.

However, the report also emphasises the illegality of the war, rejected as it was by the UN. I submit this is a non-starter and obfuscates the issue. Either the US and its allies should not have gone to war in Iraq, or they should have gone with greater force. But to think a war is “illegal” based on Articles 39, 42, 46, and 51 of the United Nations Charter is to misunderstand the UN as an institution.

The UN was created after the League of Nations failed to prevent World War II. Former US President Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted an international body to function as a type of world congress, whose members were representatives of states. The right to wage war would be given to Security Council (UNSC) members who would act together. The only exception would be if a country was attacked. That country would have a right to defend itself pending action by the UN.

Yet at the very beginning veto powers were allotted to all five permanent members of the UNSC. This rule immediately destroyed any hope of the UN acting as a coherent entity because none of those members shared or share a common vision for the world or national interests.

This is not a bug in the system, it is a feature. So to say the UN declared the Iraq war illegal is like saying the sea is wet. The UN is not an independent body, as the Chilcot Report would like people to think. The UN is the sum total of the international community’s thoughts and goals – in other words, incoherent and broken.

III

Repeat after me - there is no international law. There are no international statutes and no international enforcement agencies other than the UN, which enforces nothing unless the US military says it can. The UN cannot make law. International law has norms, and to the extent two sovereign nations in a dispute agree to appear before an international court and have their dispute resolved does not imply they are obligated to do so, or that failure to do so would be illegal.

It can't be illegal because there isn't any international law that would make it so. Just because the UN passes a resolution, does not mean it has the force of any national law, and governments are free to ignore it. It isn't illegal to ignore it, because things can only be illegal if a law prohibits them, and there is no international body in existence with the power to make law.

Focusing on the lack of resolutions for the Iraq War as some immutable legal authority is a red herring. The highest legal authority in the United States is the Constitution. Treaties with any other entity are not only subordinate to the Constitution, but also to the federal government enacting legislation to put them into force.

UN resolutions aren't worth the paper they are printed on, including nuclear arms control treaties signed with the Soviets, human rights treaties and climate change decisions. They are all worth nothing. Consider how the US, by upgrading its nuclear capabilities and missile forces, is actively creaking its arms control treaty with Russia, a country with the ability to destroy all human life in North America. Do people really think the US government cares about some dumb UN resolution? Do we think any nation does?

Nations care about their own laws. A government is concerned about human rights treaties to the extent some subsection of its own code describes how its soldiers can and cannot treat enemy combatants. But it only cares about this because it's part of the code. If the government doesn't act in accordance with the code, they are breaking domestic law, and will have to go to court to defend themselves. Individuals who break that law can go to prison if they are convicted. But they wouldn't be convicted of violating the Geneva Convention, only of violating their domestic laws.

The only, repeat, only reason Washington abides by an international treaty or resolution is when it becomes part of US law through enacting legislation. The moment the enacting legislation is repealed, the treaty is broken, and there is no international recourse.

IV

I would go one step further. The UN is best understood as a tool of the US State Department. Its goal is to ensure and uphold the status quo of democratic world peace based from American liberal values. It was created in a post-WWII reality when the only two forms of democracy remaining were US liberal parliamentarianism and Soviet communism. And eventually there was only the former.

The UN is the glue for the “international community,” otherwise known as the nation states which are nominally or convinced democracies. Every member of the international community wants the same thing: what Washington wants. In other words, to transform all nations to blessed liberal democracy. If the State Department (Foggy Bottom) can’t convince a country to convert, then its rival – the Pentagon (Arlington) – will organise a compelling argument at the tip of a JDAM. This is the story of the 20th century, and, so far, the 21st as well.

Both banks of the Potomac compete for control over the swampy Washington apparatus using other nations and people groups to further the overarching cause American liberal democracy. A fine example is the Israel-Palestine conflict. Israel and Palestine are fighting over the same thing – real estate. But they do not fight alone. Washington's factions are tied like pretzels to the conflict. Arlington supports Israel with its strong, but weakening, Zionist lobby, while Foggy Bottom’s hordes of humanitarian progressives raucously support the Palestine cause.

As far as most of us are concerned, Washington’s support for Israel is simply a fact. Other facts in the category include water, which flows downhill; Elvis, who is dead; and Mentos, which is the freshmaker. The US government delivers billions of dollars in military hardware and goods to both sides every year. If that’s not support, what is?

Without this support, Palestinians and Israelis would have to settle their dispute bilaterally. Israel possesses its own arms industries, while Palestinians in Gaza or the West Bank do not. So in such a clash, the stronger of the belligerents will be the victor. However, over the past 30 years or so disputes in the Middle East usually end with Israeli concessions along the well-known “Land for Peace” structure. This is curious. The strong generally are not overridden by the weak unless something fishy is going on.

V

And a piscine odour certainly fills the room. On the one hand Washington appears to support Israel, but clearly Israel's military would be stronger if the US disappeared. So by this logic Washington opposes Israel at the same time. But then why does it continue sending Israel billions of dollars in aid? The explanation is that Washington's opposition is more subtle.

Consider how under classical Westphalian international law, Israel as a sovereign nation state actually has full rights to defend itself however it sees fit – for instance, by destroying every rocket launcher in Palestine and rounding up recalcitrant Palestinians who refuse to stop fighting. With the military hardware available to Jerusalem and the stone-age tactics of the Palestinians, it could do this in a matter of months. But we do not live in a Westphalian world anymore, therefore Israel is constrained artificially.

The US constrains Israel, being as it is the controller of the UN and other international institutions, by forceably removing the rights of that sovereign nation to conduct respectable warfare. It has transferred those rights onto itself, its UN tool and the "international community" - by which I mean only to Washington, which acts as judge, arbitrator, enforcer and governor in one neat package.

This is the backbone of modern international law since 1945 - considered much more civilised and humanitarian - and is responsible for 60 years of tortuous war in the Middle East Conflict. Washington's factions facilitate or constrain the combat of Palestinians and Israelis, depending on the battle being fought inside the Beltway. Support, according to the stalwart US foreign policy of Woodrow Wilson, must be given to “men anywhere fighting for their rights.” This is how you fight fire with petroleum.

VI

To show this unfortunate reality, the following is a quote from Mr Wilson made on July 4, 1914, outlining precisely what is going on. Everywhere fires curiously still rage, decades after the original tinder has been consumed:

“My dream is that as the years go on and the world knows more and more of America it will also drink at these fountains of youth and renewal; that it also will turn to America for those moral inspirations which lie at the basis of all freedom; that the world will never fear America unless it feels that it is engaged in some enterprise which is inconsistent with the rights of humanity; and that America will come into the full light of the day when all shall know that she puts human rights above all other rights and that her flag is the flag not only of America but of humanity. 
“What other great people has devoted itself to this exalted ideal? To what other nation in the world can all eyes look for an instant sympathy that thrills the whole body politic when men anywhere are fighting for their rights?”
Consider again these are the words of the former president of the United States expounding his namesake policy of spreading American democracy to all corners. Note the particularly charming phrase "unless it feels that it is engaged in..." Messrs Bush and Obama would adore this entire passage, being, as they are, only the most recent acolytes of Wilsonian foreign policy. What is meant here is that no government will ever fear the US unless the US feels that government is engaged in some enterprise which violates the rights of humanity. In other words, the US will judge the world, which is the same as dominating it.

Since Washington is always honest (being democratic, of course) it and any other honest government will always agree on whether the latter is "violating the rights of humanity." And if they don't, it is. Therefore Washington is always right. So when Israel wishes to recover some land, it is violating the rights of humanity, whereas when Palestinians do the same they are defending them. The former fears Washington, and rightly so. The latter is helping it support democracy. Only the muddy waters of the Potomac separate them.

Palestinian belligerency is simply irredentism – a special case of revanchism. This is a particularly wicked action, and no one speaks of the conflict along those lines, but it is true nonetheless. It is not merely that US petroleum hoses keep the Palestine-Israel conflict burning, Washington’s sponsorship of Palestinian irridentism informs them that fighting – as opposed to either accommodating to the newfound diversity of Jewish immigration, or leaving the region – is the correct option, and may actually succeed.

Elie Kedourie’s The Chatham House Version explains this in excellent detail. The Palestine-Israel conflict is best seen as a profession, providing employment for thousands of Americans - and the entire population of Gaza and the West Bank. "Employment" here is parading daily with green Hamas flags and AK-47s for in exchange for bags of UN wheat. Wilsonian foreign policy, superseding every pre-WWII classical international norm, is considered more humanitarian than letting Israel and Palestine govern their own affairs. Has this policy been good for Palestinians? It's hard to see how.

VII

How does this framework connect with Iraq? Well, Iraq was a recalcitrant regime in the eyes of Washington and most certainly not a democratic country. Saddam did maintain the concept of the nation state, something dear to the American heart which is probably what kept him alive for so long, but it was only a matter of time before Washington using its international institutions (or military), would remove the dictator and replace him with democracy.

Saddam’s attack on Kuwait was also revanchist, not expansionist. In a similar way to Russia’s actions in Crimea, or the Palestinian's useful nationalism. Yet for 40 years Washington's main enemy in the region has been Iran – an actual expansionist, usurper regime. Saddam played an important proxy role in keeping Iran from expanding into the Euphrates river valley. And one degree of separation away, Saddam also kept the Soviets from expanding into the Middle East.

That the US chose to emphasise Iraq’s WMD as its casus belli for war, when the intelligence was ultimately incomplete, is a serious stain on Washington's history. But Saddam would have been ousted sooner or later. Only very ignorant people underestimate the power not only of the federal US government, but also of the its non-governmental entities (aka, the extended civil service) as enforcers bending the world to its ideological progressive will.

It doesn’t matter if one thinks Wilson's, FDR's or Obama's goal (they are all iterations of the same thing) for world democracy is a bad thing or a good thing - it is true either way. We live today in a world where there are only two types of nation states: full democracies or countries on their way to becoming democracies. The 2003 Iraq War must be seen as a natural extension of this centuries' old structure dating back the British before the Americans, or it will not be understood at all.

VIII

What is now also clear about the Iraq war is how illusory the border lines in the Middle East actually are. Iraq's landmass was held together by a strongman, as was the case in Libya and Syria. Its people groups never considered themselves primarily Iraqi, they were described as tribes/religions/sects/families first. Yet once the strongmen were removed, the people began to sort out how new lines should be drawn to create a different equilibrium.

The frightening thing for Washington is there is no guarantee new lines will be drawn at all – consider the Islamic State’s ideology of a single global caliphate without borders – but the US and its international institutions will corral the squabbling groups towards organising nation states. The "international community" would have it no other way. If Iraq, Syria and Libya dissolve, then the freedom to grow their own governments is fine – but they do need to be democratic and Westphalian. In other words, they are free to choose anything they want, so long as they choose the right answer,

The liberation also freed the Iraq people on a metaphysical level, which everyone agrees is a good thing. But when one is given power over one's choices, tragedy is equally as possible as joy, if not more so. Iraq's freedom has certainly proven dangerous and deadly, but at least they now have choices - constrained as they are. That is a positive legacy of the 2003 war.

Say what you will about the American democratic project, and the blood spilled to attain that goal, but it rests on the assumption that liberal parliamentarian democracies do not go to war with each other. Since 1945, this prediction has proven somewhat accurate, so adding the last few countries to the pile can't be a terrible policy. If everyone thinks identically, then no one will rise up. Peace will be achieved under this glorious regime, but at what cost?

IX

Finally, the ripples of the Iraq War led to the collapse of a good chunk of autocratic Middle East regimes living well past their used-by date. Washington needed them during the Cold War, when their strength and stability helped defend against Communism. But the US now stands alone, its project without competition. Autocratic regimes are an unsightly blemish on an otherwise beautifully democratic world. They had to go.

US foreign policy during the Arab Spring was to callously pull the safety net from under its dependant strongmen and they were thrown from office, killed or imprisoned. Washington painted its long strokes over the uprisings, calling the protesters "democrats" (lower-case ‘d’) and lauding them on Twitter. Perhaps the ones speaking English really did desire democracy, but they also wanted to keep the concept of the nation state and promised to eventually hold elections. Those magic words was all the State Department needs to hear before it sends support.

The junta in Egypt is now under pressure to set conditions for new elections, Libya is still sorting out where its border lines will be, as is Iraq and Syria. The end goal for these countries, from Washington’s perspective, is either full or partially "independent" parliamentary democracy.

The Iraq War pushed the 21st century along the same direction as the last. Since the 1890s, the world has been slowly transformed into Washington's own image in the pursuit of world peace. Was it worth the blood? Will it be worth more blood to maintain? History will be the judge.

Sitrep - 20 July, 2016

An attempted coup in Turkey was successfully quashed over the weekend. Tanks were spotted early Friday evening blocking key bridges and arterial routes while warplanes flew low over Istanbul and Ankara. However, a few poorly organised hours later, the plotters were pushed back from their positions and began to surrender as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan regained control.

Up to 10,000 people across the Turkish military, judiciary and civil services have since been arrested. Mr Erdoğan claims the exiled Fethullah Gulen, who presently lives in the US, was behind the plot. This was a veiled accusation the US may have been responsible for the coup in some form. However, no clear proof has emerged pointing to outside influence involved in the coup.

The result of the coup and the ongoing purge will be the strengthening of Mr Erdoğan who has been focusing his control over the country for the past two decades. He can now arrest anyone he calls a traitor and will leverage the military completely. How Mr Erdoğan uses his new-found power will likely manifest in Syria first, but his plans for Europe will be crucial to watch.

On the other side of the world, a Hague ruling declared China’s historical territorial claims along its “nine-dash line” illegal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) treaty, of which China is a signatory. The UNCLOS provisions compel China to shrink those claims.

Beijing knows it is on the back foot in the South and East China Seas. But along with its neighbour’s perceptions, it is difficult to control where fish swim and few of the territorial claims are formally recognised by international dispute mechanisms. Beijing’s tactic with resource extraction and fisheries is consistent with its doctrine of “use it or lose it” regarding natural resources.

If countries lack the means to protect their sovereign territory in disputed areas, China will oblige by barging in. While this is illegal in most cases, the country’s weakness means they do not have an ability to stop China and the US doesn’t care about illegal fishing enough to send warships of its own to act as glorified coastguards.

Once China’s neighbours construct strong coast guards, as the Japanese and Filipinos have done, Chinese fishing boats will be pushed away. Beijing likely won’t push back when this happens because it doesn’t want a hot war. Right now China is simply taking economic advantage of weaker states and will likely ignore the Hague ruling.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

The society you're searching for is unavailable right now, please try again later

I

There is a baffling return to tired old culture wars on the internet, especially concerning feminism. It appears to come, at least from my perspective, mainly from a sense of confusion among men about what constitutes the good life in the modern world. On the one hand, everything they were been told since pre-school was built on the future being a certain way. But nothing seems to fit those promises anymore, so the confusion is spilling over. 

In saying that, women seem not to understand what's going on either. Men want to agree how this post-feminist world is a good thing for everybody, but there's a niggling feeling they've lost too much without any reciprocity and replacement. This isn't meant to justify the reflex reaction to feminism thought and rhetoric, especially the nasty online responses and debates. Rather, the neat little packages of meaning - the signifiers - society once used to discuss each other's roles (gender or otherwise) have all been broken down and discarded. 

Their replacement is, well, decidedly not sufficient. The meaning of old words and concepts today don't make sense or aren't available to the vocabulary of polite people, limiting and adding new shackles to what should be simple communication. What hurts is that our brains continue to make those disavowed assumptions but our tongues can't follow through. This alchemy creates a dissonance, manifesting as impotent rage. Not that individually we are impotent, instead the rage shows everybody is discovering how none of us have any power over our lives, and that hurts more than anything in a world where we are supposed to be free. 

So upwards boils this reaction to the post-feminist woman's assertion of her power. These new feminists "took the power back" from men but they were misguided because, unlike the younger generation in the movement, they failed to realise what men have always known: women already have the power. Now that women know they have the power, are willing to assert it and know the power's effect on men - men are scared senseless.

Men rightfully worry that when enough women become aware of their overwhelming power, there is little role in developed society for men, maybe even in undeveloped society too. Look at any men's magazine to see images of a world men fear this one will become. Lots of smart, funny, attractive women who keep a guy or two around to help with the plumbing. They are afraid of this new world, because they don't understand it - at least not in its entirety. Men are vaguely aware women want different things, and that women their age are often annoyed by other things, but they don't really know what specifically is annoying them or why. 

II

Men are deeply convinced women are the gatekeepers of sex and are acutely aware of the changing sexual dynamic occurring in society. Ultimately, the male worry is about getting sex. How will they get sex from women who can get for themselves everything women of previous generations needed from men? Even worse, if women are independent free thinkers with an awareness of the power of their sexuality, what hope do the black-shirted, sneaker wearing, pimple faced, Xbox-playing men of the world have? Men worry that they, beckoned with a smile and a coquettish laugh, will be over at some girl's apartment installing her home theatre while she sits delicately talking to her alpha-male, MBA, banker boyfriend.

Enough men know how in a post-feminist world, human society will become like that of the bees. Men will be little more than drones, bumbling and stumbling into each other collecting food, building a home for the babies in the hope of a slight chance to mate a single time with the queen - before dying a cold and confused death. 

In other words, the post-feminist woman has reduced the pre-feminist male to operate on his most instinctive level. Men aren't worried about competition in the workforce or being outperformed economically. Instead, they're thinking, "Women are smart and sexy and they know it," and their next thought is, "OH MY GOD HOW I WILL I EVER HAVE SEX AGAIN?!"

Such women make men feel intellectually and socially inadequate, and in men, inadequacy nearly always manifests itself sexually. For evidence, look no further than gmail's spam folder. Men are flooded with solicitations to make their genitals monstrous and their ejaculations prodigious. If those ads weren't successful, they wouldn't keep sending them. So why the obsession? Because even though a drone can never be king, he can still be reproductively successful. Maybe she'll keep me around because, as the ad says, "IM HUGE!!!!"

III

There's another part to the felt confusion. It extends back to childhood and those intertwining, good-intention messages which simply aren't coherent anymore. Children receive signals too, except they understand things in the concrete, rather than the abstract, so those messages hit deeper and impact thought more directly. I can't be the only one who's noticed the discouragement for boys to be boys. I also won't be the only adult male to say how dangerous this message can be for most boys.

People, particularly women, need to understand something about boys. It's cute to dismiss puberty as "raging hormones." Testosterone takes males from slightly androgynous little boys and increases their muscles and bone size without any exercise. It makes them huge and hairy. The hormone basically rebuilds the plucky li'l tikes specifically to make them heavier, stronger, faster, taller, pain resistant and quicker to heal from injury. In other words, the biological purpose of puberty in males is to enable them to have sex with females by literally beating the cheese out of other competing males. Circle of life, law of nature, red in tooth and claw, etc.

That raging testosterone hormone allowed Alexander the Great to subdue an untameable horse, then to ride that horse across the known world battling, conquering, or fornicating with everything and everyone in his way. The Iliad is about the rage of Achilles whose temper is only slightly cooled by ten years of a brutal war of attrition on the forgotten Aegean coast.

The chemical making boys huge and hairy is taken by professional athletes allowing them achieve feats of physical greatness which remain beyond the reach of their peers, despite decades of constant physical training and conditioning. 

More to the point, people need to understand that testosterone is an anabolic steroid, and that boys experience "'roid rage" just like adults who take testosterone. In fact, they experience it more acutely because the change is so dramatic. Some boys get so angry - inexplicably - that they cry. How many mothers have stories about their son's shouting at them over the slightest perceived offence, throwing things or slamming doors when as they become angry and losing control of their emotions, when only a few years earlier they were perfectly normal?

This isn't madness. This is Sparta.

Exercise probably can't cure it, but it can cool it. The unpredictable effects of puberty on the emotional state of even the most normal of boys makes for a volatile condition, and at the very least one should try to mitigate the effects of the hormones. If nothing else, boys should expend their energy on the field, in the weight room, or on the heavy bag instead of at home. Your mileage, as always, might differ.

People can't fear this. They have to understand that boys naturally become more aggressive, and if that aggression finds no outlet in sex, sports, or physical labour, then the aggression becomes violence. It can't be suppress, the boy can't be told to control himself because he is quite literally under the influence of a massively powerful substance. Boys can however be conditioned to express this aggression in socially acceptable ways. But for the love of Jupiter, don't tell them they shouldn't acting like boys. 

IV

Freud famously asked: “What do women want?” Notice how the doctor didn’t ask what men wanted - perhaps he thought that he’d figured that one out. 

But what men want is a question advertisers, media executives and cultural entrepreneurs have pondered a lot in recent years. They hire psychiatrists who pretend to probe the depths of the human psyche, but are actually hucksters trying to figure out how to trick men into handing over their money. Advertising doesn't ask the tough questions, it tries to figure out what men are like so they can be sold to. 

Despite all this semiotic confusion assaulting the modern man's mind, knowing what men want today is as easy as it ever was: sex, money, power, glory and fame. Each man differs only in how he ranks them, and each man's ranking will change over time. This has been true forever. There is an argument in the post-feminist discussion that men feel threatened by female empowerment and in their anxiety, they cling to outdated roles.

There's an element of truth to this, I suppose, but men's anxiety does not manifest as clinging to outdated roles. What these female thinkers do not understand is that what drives a juvenile 20-something male is the assiduous attempt to avoid becoming their fathers. They grew up watching their fathers be grown-ups, take responsibility and follow a career path. And they saw their fathers regret it.

They saw the dead end terminating most career paths. They saw their fathers, despite raises and promotions, earn just enough money to stay afloat. They saw the frustration in their fathers who knew they were stuck on the same track because they followed their own fathers before them, with each generation regretting not doing something else.

This is why, while most professions are increasingly becoming staffed by women - and more women than men are enrolling in law and medical schools - most high risk ventures are still undertaken by men. More start-ups and small businesses are started by men. More men drop out of college to undertake these ventures. Men by and large understand the traditional career path is a slow death. I think that's why men are happy to let women fight for and take these jobs. Women have succeeded in joining the working world of the 1980s. Now, they "get to have it all."

Well, perhaps they can phone back when they're 65 and realise, just like our fathers did, how they've devoted their lives to memories behind a desk in exchange for earning a few measly dollars. By all means, women can and should have it all. A lot of men today, especially my age, want nothing to do with it. Been there, done that, and we don't want to cry over our fathers' graves because of it.

V


On another side of this post-feminist world of male confusion is the strange subculture of self-hating nerds and their inevitable evolution - the pick-up artists. Seeing either group makes my eyes go Sauronic, but I have discovered an entirely new dimension of loathing. So it's not all bad, I guess.

Nerds have to take responsibility for their own lives. Plenty of them were nerds in high school, and high school for nerds is horrible in every way imaginable, for either gender. But once they make it to university, there are no more exclusionary cliques, no more baggage and no more parents. They are on their own. If two months into college the person is still alienated and ostracised, it's probably their fault, not society's. They lack crucial social skills others have forged, and this deficiency holds them back. This doesn't magically stop after university, by the way, it's something everyone must work at.

For some reason, it became socially acceptable for nerds to retreat into computers and wallow in their alienation, instead of trying to improve themselves. The inability to talk to girls, strangers and adults became a source of pride. Nerds have built a subculture for themselves which is so cripplingly insular, they've actually convinced each other the rest of society is backwards, while they're the smart and enlightened few. And of course, when these males (generally they are men, although women occupy a significant minority in nerdish cultures) hear about how feminism poisons maleness, the ideology becomes a perfect target on which to pin blame for their plight to avoid pinning it on themselves.

Truth be told, it is very easy to talk to women once it is realised they are people with a mind and something interesting to say. Women aren't a collection of sex parts behind a security system needing to be bypassed before they can be accessed. If a man is thirty and can't talk to women, he probably needs to see a psychologist. Acknowledging this is part of the solution, but not the entire solution.

The idea of pick-up artistry appeared because nerdy men couldn't talk to women and hated that other men could. They want an entirely interpersonal interaction extending beyond conversation collapsed down to the level of polite, iterative questions. That is insane.

What awful non-humans these people want to be. Where is the love of romance? Where is the passion? Don't they want to have the chance to be charming, to be charismatic? Don't they want to connect with someone on so deep a level they make themselves vulnerable to them? Don't they want to do the same? Don't they want to look into someone else's eyes and explore the unfathomable mystery found there? 

Or have they convinced themselves that charisma, charm and wit are "tricks" which men ply to dupe women into sex? Understand that for most people - most healthy people - sex isn't the objective, the relationship is the objective. A connection with another person that remains even during physical separation. A connection so deep and profound it makes physical intimacy both frightening and exhilarating, no matter how experienced they are.

VI

Often these wretched people don't get far. Although what's worrying is the sheer number of them especially, again, on the internet. Rather than fix their anxiety the computer is enabling social interactions they are not otherwise able to have.

A habit or pastime rises to the level of a disorder when it interferes with life or inhibits personal growth. If someone is unable to form deep and lasting social attachments in the real world, but does so on the computer, the computer (the internet) will prevent them from ever overcoming whatever problem is inhibiting them in real life. This is the definition of a problem. But many people have taken to computers precisely because they feel the world is too confusing and difficult to navigate given all the reasons outlined above - and more.

Much as an alcoholic might think they are a social drinker because they only drink in bars or parties, a test for these people could be asking them if they'd go to a bar or a party without any alcohol.

There is a lot of denial among nerds for whom the physical isolation coupled with the illusion of social connectedness offered by the internet has made them feel empowered and/or socially capable when they otherwise were not. This denial is manifestly real and a powerful and destructive thing. In many people, the denial has decelerated what was otherwise slow or delayed social development, bringing it to a complete halt. Users who find themselves able to make connections online but not in real life should ask what it is about real life that makes it difficult, and what it is about being online that makes it easy. 

In addition, they need to recognise how spending hours on the computer is actually harmful to one's real life experience. If there are people in their lives, such as a spouse or children, time on the computer is time not being spent with them, and that amounts to denying someone else the time and attention to which they are entitled.

It's not clear whether internet addiction is a disorder on par with others in the DSM, but for many people it is a problem, and most of those people are still stuck in the denial phase.

I refuse to believe the world is more confusing. More complex, maybe, and there's certainly more ways to spend time towards ever-expanding distractions. The way I see it though, men need to realise that in the end women want the same thing as men - pleasant company and a decent meal every once in a while. The only thing culture wars do is subtract us from this truth.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Coup attempt in Turkey fails

LATEST - 6pm - Social media is now showing soldiers abandoning their posts along Istanbul’s Bosphorus Bridge while pro-government forces have recaptured broadcaster stations.

As dawn rises over Turkey, the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appears to have the initiative in pushing back against coup positions in both Ankara and Istanbul. Although the plotters were able to briefly occupy state media stations - a critical component of any successful coup attempt - they lost control of those buildings early in the morning.

And despite the obvious planning and coordination (exactly how the plotters managed to remain undetected is something the government will have to investigate in coming weeks) the coup leaders were unable to capture Mr Erdoğan. In the confuson, the president was reported to be in four places at once, but was actually resided at a seaside resort on the Aegean at the time of first action.

Pro-government military units managed to shoot down a coup helicopter which was involved in the assault on the presidential palace in Ankara. Fighting on the ground continues around Ankara, but with other coup positions evaporating the likelihood of the attempt being successful at this point is diminishing.

Mr Erdoğan has been quick to capitalise on the momentum, telling media the coup is over and that the government is in control. He immediately placed blame in this live address on Fethullah Gulen, a high-profile political figure and religious scholar based in US and an ideological father of the Gulenist movement.

"Now I’m addressing those in Pennsylvania,” says Mr Erdoğan.

“The betrayal you have shown to this nation and to this community, that’s enough. If you have the courage, come back to your country. If you can. You will not have the means to turn this country into a mess from where you are."

Any investigation into the broken coup will have to reveal both how multiple branches of the military could coordinate under the noses of Turkish domestic intelligence, and must answer just how far up the chain of command the coup plotters were ranked. Some senior officers were probably involved, however given significant sections of military refused to participate, the coup must have drawn much of its support from lower ranks.

There is obviously a serious power struggle occurring in Turkish politics, and today’s coup is unlikely to be the closing chapter. A comprehensive purge of rebel elements in the military will be the government's first task, but Mr Erdoğan will need to reassess the depth of his control over other sections of Turley’s institutions. It was assumed the president had solid control over the military. That estimation is now discredited, so who exactly Mr Erdoğan can trust is unknown and will be worrying him.



4pm - Although slow to secure Turkey’s major cities, the coup’s forces appear to have succeeded in taking control of major media broadcasters.

Whether this indicates the plot’s success is yet to be determined, but the junta’s control of media allows their message to be delivered across the country without opposition.

Turkey’s deputy prime minister Mehmet Simsek told CNN the coup has failed, and that “the government is still in control,” yet the broadcaster’s Turkey channel is presently off air after troops landed in a helicopter outside the building and took control of the station, so his message was presumably to foreign audiences only.

Mr Simsek also told media many of the officers involved in the coup have been arrested and the jets conducting the low flyovers in support of the plot have been shot down. However, jets and helicopters are still observed patrolling the skies above Istanbul and Ankara and soldiers remain standing - along with armour - on key arterial routes.

State media employees have informed viewers that the next broadcast will be in the morning (GMT +3 hours). YouTube and other Internet media outlets are either shut down or operating intermittently.

There is fighting in the capital Ankara, although special forces groups and combat helicopters appear to have neutralised most pockets. The resistance appears to be elements of police riot squads mixed with civilian regime supporters. Up to 50 people are reported dead as a result of the fighting.

And although the situation is still messy, there are conflicting reports describing which faction lead the coup. Earlier suggestions placed the Islamist Gulenists at the spearhead of the plot, but some sources are now saying the factions representing the secularists are in control of the coup.

If the coup holds, and the secularists are in charge, Turkey’s military government may reach out to the US to ask for support, and in return promise to clamp down on the Islamic State (IS) in Turkey and in Syria in support of the international intervention against the group. Although it remains unclear whether the coup has been successful.

Secularists in the military have been uncomfortable with the regime’s decisions both to turn a blind eye to IS movements in the country and in some cases allegedly protect and abet the jihadist group and therefore alienate the international community.



1pm - The coup event in Turkey is already showing signs of slowing and a counter-coup appears to be forming.

The ruling faction has called upon supporters to take to the streets against the coup plotters. Turkish soldiers reportedly fired on protesters trying to cross Istanbul's Bosporus Bridge and an explosion has reportedly taken place at the Turkish parliament building, although this has not been verified.

An aircraft carrying Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has also reportedly landed at Istanbul's Ataturk airport while Turkish F-16 fighter jets reportedly shot down a helicopter carrying supporters of the ongoing attempted military coup.

As mentioned earlier, members of the Gulenist movement appear to be involved with the military units pushing the plot. The Gulenists are an Islamist movement which emerged in the 1970s. Since that time, its members have infiltrated many positions throughout the country’s military, media and politics. Although not without drawing criticism and crackdowns by Mr Erdoğan.

It appears members of the movement are leading the coup, although details are still unclear. This would suggest the factions representing the secular groups of Turkey’s elites are probably not supporting the attempt, or at least are holding back to see whether a counter-coup will emerge.

Reports indicate that Col. Muharrem Kose, a former military legal counsel who was dismissed from his position in March, is behind the ongoing coup attempt in Turkey. At least three other co-conspirators are believed to be complicit in the plot.

The commander of Turkey's First Army, Gen. Umit Dundar, said on live television the Turkish army does not support the coup launched against the Erdoğan government. Civilians and police units have in the past hour been seen retaking control of intersections and squares occupied by coup forces.

Mr Erdoğan clearly does not have control or the support of the entire military, so he will have to rely on police units and popular support for the time being. It is even more clear that the coup plotters do not have enough force to control the citizenry, and this may be why the plot is slowing and could fail.

Unconfirmed reports are also showing that Iran has closed its border with Turkey.



9am - Details are emerging from Turkey – an associate member of the EU – where military vehicles and personnel are in the streets of historic Istanbul and capital Ankara.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim says elements within the military have taken actions without authorisation but would not say a coup had taken place. In Istanbul, military personnel are blocking the Bosporus Bridge, while reports in both cities tell of the army taking up key positions and setting up checkpoints.

In Ankara, Turkish F-16 fighter jets have carried out flyovers over the city, and roads to the General Staff headquarters have been blocked, according to Turkish media. There have also been unconfirmed reports of gunfire at the headquarters building. Notably, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was last reported to be on vacation in Bodrum, on Turkey's southwestern coast.

Traffic has been stopped from crossing both the Bosphorus and Fatih Sultan Mehmet bridges in Istanbul. Tanks are also said to be stationed outside Istanbul airport.

Mr Yildirim told NTV television by telephone: "We are working on the possibility of a [coup] attempt. We will not allow this attempt." He did not elaborate.

The Turkish military this morning did release a statement that it had taken over the country in order for democratic order and human rights to remain. In the statement, the military said that all existing foreign relations would continue and that rule of law would be a priority.

Civilians are being informed that martial law has been imposed and that they should return to their homes. It is unclear at this point which military units are participating in the coup attempt and which are responding to it.

Turkey’s recent history
The newly installed prime minister announced this month Turkey would pursue a foreign policy in which “increasing the number of friends” across the region would be a priority. He told media: “There is no reason for us to quarrel with Iraq, Syria, Egypt; with the countries of this region.”

In June, Turkey apologised to Russia for downing one of its Su-24 bombers over Syria in 2015. It also normalised diplomatic ties after nearly three years of chilly official reception. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has also alienated the US by showing reluctance to assist in the international campaign against the Islamic State (IS).

However, as Syria’s implosion to the south has shown, Turkey’s “no enemies” plan to stubbornly stand with hands shoved in pockets has proved impossible for its worried and vulnerable leader. Power-hungry Mr Erdoğan watched with indifference the immolation of the Middle East after the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, preferring not to become involved in what he considered a geopolitical dead end. That luxury has now ended.

During that time Turkey developed into a significant regional power. Aside from US forces stationed in Europe, Turkey boasts the largest military force on the continent. Its geography also covers some of the most strategic points in Asia, and its history is deeply connected to the inner workings of the Middle East.

Worry at the top
Experts at the American Enterprise Institute in March described Mr Erdoğan’s increasingly fractured and autocratic rule as leading to a state of possible chaos.

“His outbursts are raising eyebrows both in Turkey and abroad. Even members of his ruling party whisper about his increasing paranoia which, according to some Turkish officials, has gotten so bad that he seeks to install anti-aircraft missiles at his palace to prevent airborne men-in-black from targeting him in a snatch-and-grab operation,” says the AEI.

Mr Erdoğan has also increased pressure on Kurdish separatists in the country and pushed back at IS elements. Both of those groups (the Kurds have many militant factions in Turkey) have conducted multiple high-profile terror attacks on Turkish civilian and military targets this year.

He has also clamped down on rivals heavily over the past year, including the Turkish Gulenist movement. That group may be responsible for the coup attempt.

The situation is still fluid and there could be a chance for a counter coup if the acting faction does not secure power quickly.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Understanding the four models of US foreign policy

The tragic, racially motivated terrorism in Dallas last week cannot be ignored by the world since America’s social tension will certainly influence its politics. US elections are watched closely by the world because whatever national security model is chosen is the best indicator of how the US will engage with the world.

No matter how much they might wish it were not true, the US today is the indispensable nation and its actions impact everyone. So what it is that the US – all 320 million of them – think should be their role in this fragile world is a fundamental question not just for Washington but for the rest of the international community as well.

US scholar Walter Russell Mead explains how US national security policies fit broadly into models reflecting four of its most influential historical leadership figures.

The first emerges from statesman Alexander Hamilton’s doctrines which advocate a strong executive leadership in both the formation and implementation of foreign policy. Hamiltonian policy is commercially-focused, boiling down into a simple logic chart: the US cannot be free unless it is prosperous and the US cannot be prosperous unless it is strong.

The 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, would have been a Hamiltonian president. He outlined exactly those ideas during one of his campaign debates against President Barack Obama. And aside from being uncouth, there is a lot of Hamiltonian thought in the ideas by presidential hopeful Donald Trump as well.

The second is Wilsonian, drawing from the progressive ideology and American idealism of US President Woodrow Wilson. Mr Wilson enshrined the concepts of the war-to-end-all-wars a century ago and pushed to make the world safe for democracy. In the Wilsonian view, the US role is to package the idea of American democracy and to spread it throughout the world under the rubric of free markets, people and ideas.

The third is Jeffersonian, connecting to the thoughts of Thomas Jefferson who organised the Louisiana Purchase (essentially creating the modern US landmass) and waged the country’s first war in North Africa. However, Mr Jefferson was remarkably inward-turning, deciding against intervention and entanglement and chose instead to work on building the shining city on the hill.

But during Mr Jefferson’s terms, there was an undeclared naval war taking place off the coast of New England between the French and the British. The US wasn’t involved, but both belligerents were grabbing US merchantmen and sailors. He needed to respond to the predations and asked Congress to pass a series of laws call the Non-Intercourse Acts, giving him the authority to direct American merchantmen to stay in port. His was a national security policy of avoiding trouble.

The fourth is Jacksonian, delivered by President Andrew Jackson – man of the frontier and man of the people. Mr Jackson is considered the first democrat, whether that word is spelled in the upper case or the lower case. Jacksonian policies are succinct and to the point, organised around the immortal line of Robert De Niro’s character in the movie Taxi Driver – “Are you talking to me?”

President George W. Bush was Wilsonian. And some officials who worked with Mr Bush have written he was the most Wilsonian president since Woodrow Wilson himself. But there was more than a little Jackson in Mr Bush’s policy as well.

This writer remembers a television clip of Mr Bush stepping off his personal helicopter, known as Marine One, on the south lawn of the White House after a long week sometime in early 2007. As he’s walking to the building, a journalist from behind the press rope line calls out querying the president’s view of the growing insurgency in Iraq. Mr Bush stops, pivots, points and says: “bring it on.” That was classic Jackson.

Presidents who are a combination of Wilson and Jackson can be adventurous in their national security policy, but not bombastic. President Obama is certainly as Wilsonian as Mr Bush was. His two well-known speeches in Cairo and Ankara envisioned a world of one humanity and democracy. He also gave a speech in Prague where he seriously proposed building a world without any nuclear weapons. It’s hard to get much more Wilsonian than that, especially given the global situation.

Mr Obama is also deeply Jeffersonian. Consider his statements that the “tide of war is receding” and “al Qaeda is on the run”. In a speech this week about increasing US troop levels in Afghanistan, the US president managed to fit the words good war, necessary war, increase and drawdown in the same paragraph. It barely needs to be said that getting the ideas of troop increases and time limits into the same speech is the mark of an inner Wilson struggling with an inner Jefferson.

Some partisans and ideologues in Washington, themselves fitting into the one or multiple of the above models, might think a particular national security policy is appropriate. While still other officials think the opposite policy is preferable. Yet for the rest of the world a consistency from Washington is crucial. Oscillating between extremes is a bad idea, and unfortunately that has been US national security policy for the last 16 years.

In November, US citizens will choose their desired mix to deal with the fragility of this world system. Geopolitics discounts the effects of individuals over the long term, but in the short term individuals can have disproportionate impact. The question is: which mix best fits the world today?

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Sitrep - 13 July, 2016

US President Barack Obama confirmed Washington will increase the total number of US troops in Afghanistan. He plans to keep them in the South Asian theatre until beyond his administration ends. The expected surge is expected to reach 8400 combat troops and support personnel, which is lower than the 9800 originally requested but higher than the 5500 Mr Obama proposed in 2015.

Despite Mr Obama’s hopes to end Afghanistan combat operations during his term, his hand was forced by a resurgence of Taliban aggression throughout the country – a result partially of the drawdown of foreign forces. This year’s fighting season (warm months) has already been the deadliest in recent years. An introduction of Islamic State groups into the country is also a factor.

Washington is urging that Kabul and the Taliban reach a “political settlement.” This reflects an acceptance that any post-NATO Afghanistan must accommodate the militant group into its political system or risk serious instability in the future. However, US troops will have tightly restricted rules of engagement for the remainder of their service and may not be able to enforce sufficient security to allow such a settlement.

In the UK, a 600-page analysis called the Chilcot Report found the case for the 2003 Iraq war was flawed for the UK, and by extension the US. The report suggests the supplied intelligence for a weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programme, organised by Iraq leader Saddam Hussein which prompted the invasion, could not be justified. The report however does not suggest any disciplinary actions for former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Aside from reopening political wounds, the report underlines the invasion was “illegal” because it wasn’t authorised by the United Nations. However, Saddam Hussein’s regime violated UN statutes many times – including attempted genocide – every one of which are considered sufficient reasons for foreign intervention in a sovereign nation state under UN law. The UN itself is flawed in that the permanent members of the Security Council cannot agree on when military force is justified.

The report, initially commissioned in 2009, will stoke fresh debate about the Iraq war. But history will be the judge regarding the conflict’s legacy. In many ways, the war has not ended, simply evolving into its current internecine form. And while bloody, the Iraqi people today do have the freedom to structure their own state (or states) as they see fit without foreign or tyrannical influence.

Friday, 8 July 2016

How Independence Day 2 captures the West’s confusion about radical Islam

I

The movie Independence Day 2 was terrible. About five people stood up and walked out. I haven’t seen that in a long time.

It felt like being bashed over the head with an idiot stick. None of the dialogue made sense, the aliens were two-dimensional and no character was interesting. Even if the special effects were new, they weren’t. They were dumb. Not even Jeff Goldblum saved that garbage.

But it wasn't why the movie failed. It failed because it was identical to the 1996 original. That is a major problem for disaster movies because they are a catharsis for a particular group of people at a particular time of history. Independence Day 2 missed the timing but it judged the audience exactly right.

Consider how Godzilla is a classic in Japan because it made sense to them at a perfect time. When the original movie was released in 1954, Japan had recently been subjected to the only two combat uses of atomic weapons in history. That, coupled with total defeat, created a national psychology leading to a movie about a mutant lizard, exaggerated by radiation, horribly trampling Tokyo’s metropolis. It was an artistic metaphor understood by a specific Japanese generation. The US remake was barely-veiled satire because every piece of psychological context was lacking.

National psychology also made the original Independence Day a great film. At its release in 1996, the US was in a period of seemingly-unlimited expansion and economic health. Aside from a few peripheral wars and isolated incidents, the world was stable and wasn’t as immediate as it appears today. The Americans ignored those threats not because they chose to, but because they didn’t understand this new era. They would pay for that ignorance in the early 21st century, but at the time it was as close to utopia the country had ever been.

II

Only a handful of years prior, the Evil Empire of the Soviet Union collapsed.

For half a century, the two powers of the US and the USSR competed for world domination without ever coming to direct blows. The Cold War was extremely hot between the two power’s proxy forces in the third and second world, but never rose to the level of combat for Washington and Moscow.

But those years, the West felt a menacing threat looming just over the horizon. Perhaps you had to be there to understand the perennial fear or to comprehend the choices – some of which seems ridiculous and pointless today. The spectre of Communism hovering over the world was a reality for countries which had already fallen to its ideology, although the US avoided Communist expansion.

So the enormous city-sized alien spacecraft in the original Independence Day hung over American cities as a metaphor for the Communist threat. There are scenes in the movie showing computer screens displaying similar spacecraft positioned over major world cities. The fear of Communist expansion.

Eventually the spacecraft annihilate the cities, filmed as a suspiciously nuclear-esque explosions rolling fire across streets and through paper buildings. The spacecraft are immune to the strongest US weaponry, defeating all of Washington’s aircraft and immolating its secret bases.

Then a captured alien tells the character of the US president there will be no compromise and hopes for the complete destruction of humanity – harking back to the propaganda against the USSR. But the alien’s own technology is eventually used against them by humans who stand out from the crowd, a not-so-subtle depiction of the great American enterprising spirit.

But the fifth act of the movie is the most important. It depicts the removal of the alien threat, with spacecraft now lying messily in ruins inside flattened cities. It also shows the coming together of a united world brought together in victory against a common enemy. The world celebrates a global Independence Day, a scene which resonated as a key facet of collective American psychology in the 1990s.

After the danger of the USSR and Nazi Germany, suddenly in 1989 no other form of democracy competed against American liberal market democracy. Washington was the last man standing, not because it was the best, but because its rivals dissolved. Now the entire world could either come willingly or be compelled to mimic the US model and usher in a new era of peace. Few predicted those metaphorical 1990s would come to an end. But they did.

III

Everyone now knows the events of 2001. The problems ignored by the US in the 1990s slipped into the largest and most secure empire the world has ever seen and struck highly symbolic targets at its core.

New York and Washington do not represent the core of the American way of life – for that, striking Austin or Denver would be more appropriate. The two East Coast cities represent the core of the American political and economic system which ate the world after 1989. Al qaeda chose its targets carefully, hoping to destroy the empire not the country – which, by the way, was precisely the goal of the Soviet Union.

A shocked US psychology was then exposed to grim reality: it had not defeated every competing ideology conspiring for world domination after all. Yet Islam was a different beast entirely to Communism. At least with the Communists there could be a discussion of differences. Karl Marx was a Prussian writing his ideas from a library in London. His was a post-Christian idea which took root because his readers understood the context and history as their own.

So when it came to changing minds during the Cold War, there was at least an affinity of Christ’s message of equality and shared humanity. The narrative after 1945 created a split between the two remaining forms of post-Christian democratic government which every country had to choose between. Fascism, the third form, was already dissolved. In hindsight this was a deeply dangerously and confused analysis.

During the 20th century, Islam remained unseen not because its ambitions for global domination were less fierce, but because its actors lacked the might to make things right. Its ideology was also purposefully concealed in Western minds because they had no idea what to do with an ideology that does not set Christianity as the main character in the movie of history.

The West was so enamoured with this thinking it could not see how it is an extra in someone else’s movie. This is the problem of the present turmoil: the West cannot grasp how conflict in the Islamic world reflects a reality in which Islam is the main character in its own movie. They are ships passing in the night.

Muslims are violently organising not only the Islamic version of the Thirty Year’s War but also a version of the Cold War between the two major forms of Islamic government – Sunni and Shia. Whatever emerges will be a stronger and more united Islam, perhaps with a unique understanding of modernised government. Terror attacks on Western symbols are but a spillover from this fight. It is not about us. It is about Islam sorting itself out.

IV

In this complex context, Independence Day 2 was released in 2016, a full 15 years after the Islamic narrative slammed headlong into the delusional narrative of the last remaining Western power structure.

Throughout those years the West has failed to discuss honestly how the two narratives interact. It rejects that an entirely different way of thinking may also have global ambitions or be a legitimate competitor. The result is a confused strategy and poor tactical response. The perfectly-named “Global War on Terrorism” captures this confusion. It is folly to think a tactic of warfare (terrorism) will be removed.

Old German philosophers understood how naming a phenomenon is the first step in controlling not the thing itself, but one’s reaction to the thing. So a refusal to name Islam as the movement behind today's terror threat reveals a defence against the idea the West may not be the central character in history’s movie at all, and there is another, equally motivated ideology competing for control.

Understand that this is a denial of agency for the entire Islamic world – the ultimate control mechanism. Rather than admit Muslims can act independently inside their own historical narrative, a Muslim’s actions are instead framed as a reaction to the West's actions. The Iraq War in 2003 caused the Islamic State, drones cause terrorism and the West’s freedoms are the reason they lash out. This is nonsense and demeaning.

Feminists have rightly pointed out a similar dynamic as an insidious psychological control over society’s subjects. It is a power dialectic of control. It diverts the narrative away from clashing ideologies, to a narrative in which only the arc of democracy exists along which every people group fits somewhere, either on the way towards democracy or having achieved democracy. Again, this is a demeaning and a deadly misunderstanding of history.

V

The movie fails to tackle this reality, not because it refuses to, but because it cannot do so. Its writers have no frame of reference.

Its directors know there is a conflict occurring across the world. And they know there must be an enemy because people are violently dying and people on television wearing symbolic green uniforms or white kufiya say they are at war with each other. But the reality from which the film emerged cannot access this truth because it is operating from inside a simulation.

The simulation tells the West it is not fighting the “other” – there is no “other.” The simulation explains how there are no enemies, only citizens and democrats it hasn’t naturalised yet. To name the threat as Islam and place its belligerency into the simulation would be to create an enemy and therefore dispel the simulation itself. An impossibility.

The directors could not discuss the modern enemy. How can an enemy be discussed for whom there is no name? How can an enemy be defeated when the West denies even the concept of enemy? Officials hypothesise if only Muslims are shown enough kindness they will eventually see the truth of democracy and the Western system. But what if it’s the other way around? What if it is the West’s psychology which will be captured?

Officials invite Muslims into their nations. Those same officials cancel the concept of borders, which Europeans spread to every corner of the globe under the model of Westphalian sovereignty. The officials allow millions of people who believe in a competing ideology to travel freely and live without control inside their own cities.

Independence Day 2 has no clue how to depict this confusion other than choosing a recreation of an ideal era to which most Americans still believe the US will one day return. But it won’t. It can’t. The days of easy credit and global friends are never coming back. Or, more appropriately, those days can only return if all competing ideologies are crushed.

The actors for Islamic radicalism clearly understand what is going on. They are under no illusion that competition on a global scale must result in a single victor. The Taliban in Afghanistan say publicly they will continue fighting the NATO-led war for as long as it takes. They know the West lacks the stomach and a sufficient government structure to organise a competent empire to maintain its ideological capture.

If Islamists push the West for long enough, eventually it will capitulate. The West is not militarily weaker, but it refuses to use its military might to engage the enemy appropriately. It purposefully constructs rules of engagement so convoluted and regulated its forces are denied the necessary freedom to function on the battlefield.

It does this for two reasons: the West believes in an illusory arc that all people eventually will choose freedom and democracy. From this flows the idea of collective guilt and how one’s good actions will compel an enemy to cease fighting and adopt one’s own ideology (a legacy of Christian ethics).

From the Western perspective, it is a time-tested strategy. Since it worked against the USSR, why wouldn’t it work against political Islam? But from an Islamic perspective, which wants not compromise but replacement of the Western system, the strategy must look like suicide.

VI

I want to give this wheel one more turn.

Nowhere is this confusion more apparent than at a refugee site near the French town of Calais. Recently, a Canadian reporter travelled to the “Calais Jungle,” a camp estimated to hold between 4000 and 5000 people of mostly North and Sub-Saharan African descent.

Many of these people wish to use the camp to sneak into the UK. French NGO Médecins du Monde (Doctors of the World) estimates 62% of the camp occupants are male with a mean age of 33. However, the reporter found a very different demographic make-up.

In this short video, she and her camera operator depict a separate journalist team who have found the only four children in the camp. She points out their hypocrisy of failing to capture the reality of the camp behind them. So her camera spins around showing the camp’s true majority occupants: young adult males. I recommend the entire report. The distinct impression is of something fishy happening to the coverage of this so-called “refugee crisis.”

Her most interesting interview is later with an Eritrean migrant. The man tells her he is a Christian, describing how Muslims in the camp often beat and persecute him. The man speaks in broken English which is an indication of some bias. After all, if he knows English, then he also reads English language newspapers and watches English language television. Which means he probably knows Western concerns. And since he made it to France from Eritrea, he’s probably smart enough to use Western narrative for his own benefit. I know I would in his situation.

So when he tells the reporter there are “Islamic State” operatives inside the camp working to radicalise and connect travelling Muslims, one shouldn’t take the information as exact. However, she isn’t the first reporter to expose what’s happening in migrant camps. Apparently IS and al qaeda operatives have for months been moving through these camps and alongside migrants as they enter Europe.

VII

The real question then becomes: what is IS’ strategy here?

Clearly there are enough operatives in Europe if multiple journalists have heard about them. So even if they are trying to hide, their numbers are large enough that IS controllers aren’t worried if some operatives perform poor operational security and are discovered. Intelligence services likely know of these people too. Or perhaps the operatives aren’t trying to hide because know their stay in Europe will not be compromised even if they expose themselves.

Whatever is going on, what cannot be dodged is the low number of terrorist attacks these terrorists are conducting. Only a handful of high-profile attacks have made headlines, but the ratio of operatives inside Europe to successful attacks is heavily unbalanced. So why isn’t IS conducting more attacks?

The answer is unnerving. Terrorism is a tactic of warfare, not a strategy. It is used when one force faces a stronger foe it cannot engage on parity. The strategy behind terrorism is to destroy an enemy’s forces or for the enemy to cease its aggression – the goal of all warfare. Said in another, more frightening way, a force only engages in combat if it has not defeated its enemy, and will disengage from combat either once an enemy is defeated or its own forces have been defeated.

How does this apply to Europe? Clearly, those who adhere to the ideology of radical Islam think terrorism and other combat tactics are unneeded to compel European nations to bend. This is not because their forces have been defeated, but rather because they believe European forces have been defeated.

It appears IS operatives are positioning their fellow ideologues across Europe to occupy places through which the system of Western government can be directly affected. Engaging Europe’s militaries was unnecessary once the borders were dissolved. So the second stage of conquest now begins: domination of the defeated society’s minds and an eventual replacement.

VII

Power cannot be destroyed. Like energy, it only changes form.

There are many ways to seize power. Sometimes, all that is needed is the illusion that an enemy is actually a friend or that the enemy possesses no agency. Yet if that enemy continues to parse an accurate reality while its adversary chooses illusions, power will flow to the former. The Western system is assumed to be an immutable “end of history,” but it is neither. It is fragile and requires constant psychological maintenance.

This messaging must be reinforced by military might if it is to retain its claim of being right. When those steps are not taken, the system does not collapse, it is replaced. The Western model of society and government is not the truth, it is only the most effective lie. And if a more effective lie captures the psychology of a populace, then power will flow to it without obstacle.

Independence Day 2 is a window into this horrifying confusion. The West lives in a dream world without enemies where it is the hero of its own movie. If it does not maintain the system, then it will not be maintained. That might sound tautological, but it really is that simple.