Quotulatiousness

July 29, 2017

QotD: Imposing “democracy”

Filed under: Government, History, Middle East, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

To be fair, the British set up monarchies, in the hope that they would become constitutional monarchies (which were their experience of something that might actually get somewhere). Jordan seems to be succeeding; the Gulf states are so successful few want to change; and Egypt was derailed by the Soviets and Americans playing Cold War games. The French tried to set up republics (god knows why, their’s [had] never worked) in Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia, and other places. In the words of Dr Phil, ‘How’s that working out for you?’. The Americans successfully undermined the Egyptian and Iranian attempts to get constitutional monarchies off the ground, and celebrated the resulting republics… very briefly. The second in particular no longer looks a very clever move.

The latest American attempts to force republics on Afghanistan and Iraq have been absolute disasters.

Afghanistan might, might… have worked if the Americans had understood that such a tribalised society required a House of Lords of all the powerful tribal leaders and major clerics, to balance [the] elected representatives. (But of course it would still need some sort of monarch to make it work, because, as Machiavelli pointed out, you need 3 powers in balance, so any two can stop the third from dominating!).) Or they could just have a system where the two major components completely ignore each other while they compete for control, and leave an easy opening for the return of the Taliban.

Iraq might, might… have worked with a federal system of at least a dozen ethnically based states that each had two representatives to a senate that had the right to block the excesses of an elected house where a 50% majority could get revenge on everyone else for every slight since the death of the prophet. Or they could go for a more simplistic version of a republic, and get what they inevitably got.

Why couldn’t the Americans have kept their big fat ideologies out of it, as they largely did after the first Gulf War. Kuwait is no great shining beacon, but it doesn’t suffer from the American idealism that lead to Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt and Iran!

Nigel Davies, “The ‘Arab Spring’, 1848, and the 30 Years War/s…”, rethinking history, 2015-09-19.

June 20, 2017

Why Arabs Lose Wars

Filed under: Middle East, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 5 Jan 2015

Read from source: De Atkine, N. (1999, December 1). Why Arabs Lose Wars. Retrieved January 5, 2016, from http://www.meforum.org/441/why-arabs-lose-wars
In the modern era of warfare, Arabic-speaking countries have been generally ineffective. Egyptian special forces fared poorly against Yemeni tribes and irregular forces. The Iraqi army has collapsed several times; The Iran Iraq War, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and against the Islamic State. And the Arabs have done poorly in nearly all military confrontations with Israel. Many Middle Eastern states have not adapted to the modern battlefield.

May 23, 2017

Remembering the Six-Day War

Filed under: History, Middle East, Military, Religion — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

With the 50th anniversary coming up in a few weeks, Jerrold L. Sobel provides a retrospective on the Arab-Israeli war of 1967:

For those of us alive during those daunting days in May 1967 leading up to the war, it was a period in time we will never forget, nor should we. Its ramifications were and are germane to this very day.

No discussion of the Six-Day War can be made without the background of its major protagonist, Gamal Abdel Nasser. Whereas today ISIS is attempting to dominate the Islamic world under an Islamic Caliphate, Nasser, then president of Egypt, attempted to do the same but with a secular approach. On July 23, 1952, he and a group of officers staged a coup and ousted the Egyptian King Farouk. Although the real leader, Nasser initially remained in the background but in fact was instrumental in abolishing the monarchy in 1953. The following year he came out of the shadows to assume absolute power and began instituting far-reaching economic reforms which instantly made him the darling of the Arab world. By 1956 his relations with the West had deteriorated to the point that he brazenly nationalized the Suez Canal, prompting an invasion by England, France, and Israel. Under pressure from the U.S., these forces withdrew, and a United Nations Emergency force was subsequently placed as a buffer between Egypt and Israel; the withdrawal of which would play a pivotal role in the conflict 11 years later.

At the pinnacle of his popularity, Nasser joined with Syria forming what became the United Arab Republic (U.A.R.), a move which encouraged the Syrians to ramp up incessant attacks against Israel from their vantage point on the Golan Heights, towering 3,000 feet above the Galilee. No Israeli farm or Kibbutz was spared the wrath of Syrian artillery. Much like the residents of Sderot and other Israeli towns adjacent to Gaza today, Jews were forced to sleep and conduct their lives in bomb shelters.

[…]

In the early hours of June 5, 1967 Israel launched a preemptive air strike on the air forces of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria with devastating effect. Five days later the armies of these nations along with Iraq, which also joined the fray were crushed and forced to sue for a ceasefire. The war may have taken only six days but its ramifications and similarities to today’s Middle East conflict is unquestionable. What were the accomplishments?

  • For the first time since prior to the Ottoman Empire, Jews have unfettered access to their Holy sites and a united Jerusalem their ancient capital.
  • The indefensible 1948 armistice line which bisected Israel from the Jordan River to within 9 miles of the Mediterranean Sea had been abrogated.
  • Israel took control of Judea and Samaria, which was illegally annexed by Jordan following the ’48 armistice.
  • Israel commands the highly defensible Jordan Valley where terrorist attacks had emanated from both Jordan and Syria.
  • Israel was able to trade the Sinai Peninsula for a peace treaty with her main antagonist, Egypt.
  • The Golan Heights, the onetime haven for terrorists and Syrian artillery, was annexed and have remained relatively quiet for the past 50 years.
  • Most importantly, by winning the war decisively, Israel staved off what was intended to be another mass genocide of the Jewish people….

What was not accomplished?

  • An end to terrorism.
  • An end to Anti-Semitic cartoons and rhetoric throughout much of the Islamic world, particularly Iran.
  • An end of vilification of Israel by the Palestinian leadership, media, and educational system.
  • A Palestinian leader willing to recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.
  • A United Nations only united in castigating the only true democracy in the Middle East.
  • A total negation of slander on campus against Jews masked under the pretense of Anti-Zionism; particularly the BDS movement.

Despite these and other seemingly irreconcilable problems, winning the Six-Day War has allowed the Jewish state to survive and rise from its fledgling third-world status into a technological, economic, and military behemoth; an island of democratic renaissance surrounded by a sea of despair.

April 28, 2017

The Battle of Doiran – Turmoil In The French Army I THE GREAT WAR Week 144

Filed under: Britain, Europe, France, History, Military, Russia — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 27 Apr 2017

The Salonica Front had been quiet over the winter, but much like the recent battles on the Western Front, it erupted this week. The British Army tried to take the Bulgarian positions at Doiran – these positions might have been some of the best defences of the entire war. After the failed Nivelle Offensive, some French soldiers start to question the whole war.

April 2, 2017

The (inevitable) failure of the “Revolution in Military Affairs”

Filed under: Military, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In an article about security incident response automation, Bruce Schneier provides a useful thumbnail sketch of a US Army attempt to dispel the fog of war in real time:

While this is a laudable goal, there’s a fundamental problem with doing this in the short term. You can only automate what you’re certain about, and there is still an enormous amount of uncertainty in cybersecurity. Automation has its place in incident response, but the focus needs to be on making the people effective, not on replacing them ­ security orchestration, not automation.

This isn’t just a choice of words — it’s a difference in philosophy. The US military went through this in the 1990s. What was called the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) was supposed to change how warfare was fought. Satellites, drones and battlefield sensors were supposed to give commanders unprecedented information about what was going on, while networked soldiers and weaponry would enable troops to coordinate to a degree never before possible. In short, the traditional fog of war would be replaced by perfect information, providing certainty instead of uncertainty. They, too, believed certainty would fuel automation and, in many circumstances, allow technology to replace people.

Of course, it didn’t work out that way. The US learned in Afghanistan and Iraq that there are a lot of holes in both its collection and coordination systems. Drones have their place, but they can’t replace ground troops. The advances from the RMA brought with them some enormous advantages, especially against militaries that didn’t have access to the same technologies, but never resulted in certainty. Uncertainty still rules the battlefield, and soldiers on the ground are still the only effective way to control a region of territory.

But along the way, we learned a lot about how the feeling of certainty affects military thinking. Last month, I attended a lecture on the topic by H.R. McMaster. This was before he became President Trump’s national security advisor-designate. Then, he was the director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center. His lecture touched on many topics, but at one point he talked about the failure of the RMA. He confirmed that military strategists mistakenly believed that data would give them certainty. But he took this change in thinking further, outlining the ways this belief in certainty had repercussions in how military strategists thought about modern conflict.

McMaster’s observations are directly relevant to Internet security incident response. We too have been led to believe that data will give us certainty, and we are making the same mistakes that the military did in the 1990s. In a world of uncertainty, there’s a premium on understanding, because commanders need to figure out what’s going on. In a world of certainty, knowing what’s going on becomes a simple matter of data collection.

March 17, 2017

The Tsar Abdicates – Baghdad Falls I THE GREAT WAR Week 138

Filed under: Europe, History, Middle East, Military, Russia — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 16 Mar 2017

The protests that emerged in Russia this week are growing stronger and the Tsar is increasingly isolated until even his generals are pushing for his abdication. And after 300 years of Romanov rule, Tsar Nicholai II abdicates and when his brother refuses to take up the throne, the dynasty is no more. Meanwhile in the Middle East, the British are taking Baghdad effectively seizing control over a large area.

February 24, 2017

Mechanised War In Mesopotamia – Toplica Uprising I THE GREAT WAR Week 135

Filed under: Europe, History, Middle East, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 23 Feb 2017

After the humiliating defeat at Kut last year, the British upped their game in Mesopotamia and this week 100 years ago the British Indian Army starts making gains towards Baghdad. In the occupied territories of Serbia the local population is rising up against the Bulgarian and Austro-Hungarian occupants and on the Western Front, the British make surprisingly easy progress against the German Army.

February 22, 2017

TEDxWarwick – Tim Harford – Management Lessons from the War in Iraq

Filed under: Middle East, Military, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Uploaded on 17 Mar 2011

Tim Harford is an economist who writes about economics theories behind our daily lives in books and as a Financial Times columnist. All of his books have been sold worldwide and widely translated, namely The Undercover Economist that has sold one million copies. He is the also only person who runs a problem page “Dear Economist” in Financial Times in which readers’ problems are answered with the thought-provoking economic ideas. Tim currently presents the BBC radio series More or Less and contributes regularly to other radio, TV programmes and publications. His talk in TEDxWarwick this year focuses on the similarities between the War in Iraq and the organisation’s top-down management.

About TEDx, x = independently organized event

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

Interestingly, the name H.R. McMaster pops up a few times in this talk…

So who is this H.R. McMaster dude?

Filed under: Military, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

John Ringo strongly approves of the choice of Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster for National Security Adviser:

McMaster for NSA.

Fuck. Yeah.

For those who don’t know much about McMaster, just check his wiki [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._R._McMaster] which isn’t all that ‘edited for lefty sensibilities.’

Short answer: Took his troop (company) in against a brigade of Republican Guard (about ten times his firepower) in Desert Storm and stomped them. In 23 minutes. And I mean Stomped. Them. Hard.

Won the Silver Star (very well deserved, there are arguments for DSC. Also later two bronze and a purple heart.)

In Iraq took over a ‘hot’ sector and turned it basically cold. (Then had it go hot when he left when the replacement unit didn’t use the same tactics.) Essentially created the tactics the Marines (under Mattis) later used to get the Al Najar tribes on our side. Which looked to actually be working right up until we pulled out and the place went to shit.

The Old Bull generals at the time hated him. He didn’t take their pronouncements of Olympian Superiority as Gospel. He wasn’t Cold War, zero defect, there’s-nothing-strategically-important enough for them. He was one of the new generation of officers who had been fighting various low-intensity mixed with high-intensity fights since the end of the Cold War. So they black balled him. (Refused to promote him to General.) Bush basically shoved him down their throat and at least partially broke the log-jam against officers with actual, you know, COMBAT EXPERIENCE making rank. (Was one of those big discussions back on boards like this at the time.)

Beloved by his troops. Well respected by his peers and superiors. Mind like a quantum physicist. Edetic memory. Universally curious.

Bright eyed intellectual warrior. Can tell you everything there is to know about the politics of any country on earth down to who’s who of the major players. (Something Trump desperately needs.) Great ‘out of the box’ thinker.

And his ‘high protein, low carb’ fruit salad makes Mattis’ balls shrivel up a little.

Q: If Rommel and McMaster went up against each other, same TOE, same level of training, same numbers, who wins?

A: God. Cause the Almighty would be breaking out the popcorn for that one.

December 16, 2016

The Mesopotamian Front Awakes – Joseph Joffre Gets Sacked I THE GREAT WAR Week 125

Filed under: Europe, France, History, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 15 Dec 2016

After the humiliating defeat at Kut, the British forces in Mesopotamia have been busy building a proper supply chain up the Tigris river. Their goal is Basra and they are even dreaming of taking Baghdad. At the same time, French general Robert Nivelle, the new hero of the French army, is promoted while Joseph Joffre is no longer needed.

July 19, 2016

Attempting to make sense of the state of the Middle East

Filed under: History, Middle East, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

At Samizdata, Brian Micklethwait links to an essay that summarizes some of the confusing and contradictory motives and actions that have roiled the Middle East for the last few years:

I haven’t much to say about all this, but one thought does occur to me, which is that it seems rather wrong for Americans to blame other Americans for this bloody shambles. (Haivry himself does not blame America.) The next silliest thing to believing that your country is an unchallengeably magnificent superpower that never ever errs is to believe that your country’s mistakes and crimes are overwhelmingly more important and blameworthy than those of any other country, these two attitudes being far more similar than those who indulge in the latter one typically realise. The Middle East would surely now be a bloody shambles whatever the Americans had recently tried to do about it.

If there are imperialist villains to be blaming, how about Britain and France? But one suspects that, again, even if those notorious “lines in the sand” had never been drawn around a century ago, what would be happening on top of this sand would still now be a bloody shambles.

The only rays of light that Haivry discerns are in the form of the various little non-Islamic and anti-Islamist statelets that are starting to form, such as the newly emerging Kurdistan. The Kurds aren’t the only ones doing this, apparently. Good to hear.

Here’s the link to the Ofir Haivry essay.

In 2007, in a seminar room in Jerusalem, a day-long session was devoted to Israeli regional strategic perspectives. I was among the participants together with several other scholars, a former Israeli interior minister, a future Israeli defense minister, and two future Israeli ambassadors to the U.S. At a certain point, the talk turned to various scenarios for the regional future and the opportunities or dangers each of these entailed for Israel. When the possible breakup and partition of Arab states like Iraq or Syria was raised, the near-unanimous response was that this was simply too fantastic a scenario to contemplate.

Now we live that scenario. The great Sunni Arab implosion that began with the 2011 “Arab Spring” was unforeseen in its suddenness, violence, and extent. But some, both inside and outside the Arab world, had long suspected that, sooner or later, a day of reckoning would indeed arrive. (Among Westerners, the names of Bernard Lewis and David Pryce-Jones come most readily to mind.) Today, those in the West who acknowledge this great collapse for what it is will be better able to face the emerging realities. But the first and most important step is to recognize that there is no going back.

[…]

And what would all this entail for Western interests and for the regional policy of the U.S. (should it wish to have an active one)? There is no point in dreaming any longer of a grand deal with Iran, or of rebooting the good old days with Turkey, let alone resuscitating an Arab hegemony led by Egypt and the Saudis. As with the huge, decades-long effort by Great Britain to prop up the Ottoman empire, finally blasted in World War I, so with the increasingly forlorn effort by the U.S. to save the Sunni Arab regional order from collapsing, now finally revealed as a road to nowhere. One might as well attempt to restore the Balkans to the Habsburg empire or the Ottoman fold, or to resuscitate Yugoslavia.

With artificial regimes and borders gone, people in the region seek protection and solidarity in the old identities that have survived the Arab reverie: their nation, their religion, their tribe. These are the only building blocks upon which a new and stable system can be founded. The process will be long, complex, and fraught with difficulty, but it offers a prospect of strategic as well as moral coherence. A region redrawn along lines of actual self-definition would give voice to the communities on the ground that will become invested in its success and work for its stability.

For Western observers and policy makers, the principle should be to look with appropriately cautious favor on significant groupings that possess their own voice and some degree of self-government, while ensuring that in the event of their political defeat, they will not be exterminated—which is far more than any of the Arab world’s political systems ever offered anyone. Some of these groupings will evolve into robust independent nations, others into weak federal states or new tribal confederations. Some, cherishing the opportunity, will build thriving and prosperous democracies, and perhaps even become natural allies of the West and Israel. Others will undoubtedly, yet again, waste their opportunities, devolving into another round of petty and corrupt tribal entities—though with the advantage to themselves of ethnic and religious cohesiveness and to outsiders of being too small to entertain dreams of internal or external genocide. In the Middle East, again, not such a bad outcome.

May 13, 2016

The British Death March in Mesopotamia I THE GREAT WAR Week 94

Filed under: Britain, Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 12 May 2016

After the Ottoman victory at Kut, the suffering for the British and Indian prisoners is not over. They embark on a death march towards their prison camps. Sick, hungry and with no protection from the blazing sun, the soldiers have to suffer again and again. Meanwhile, the Eastern Front is still drowning in spring thaws and in Verdun, the French rotation system proofs its strategical advantage.

May 6, 2016

The British Surrender At Kut – Germany Restricts The U-Boats I THE GREAT WAR – Week 93

Filed under: Britain, Europe, History, Middle East, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 5 May 2016

After 140 days, the Siege of Kut ends with the biggest surrender of British forces in history. The remaining soldiers are starting their long march into captivity. Meanwhile the Italian front lights up again as Luigi Cadorna plans a new offensive and the Germans give in to diplomatic pressure and stop their unrestricted submarine warfare.

April 29, 2016

Dividing Up The Middle East – The Sykes-Picot Agreement I THE GREAT WAR Week 92

Filed under: Britain, Europe, France, History, Middle East, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:22

Published on 28 Apr 2016

The secret agreement between France, Britain and Russia that was signed this week 100 years ago was a turning point in the relations to the Arab world. It negated all future promises made by the British and still has consequences 100 years later. The Middle East was becoming more and more important to the British in 1916 and people like T.E. Lawrence are starting to become major players in the background.

April 22, 2016

The Muddy Graves of Russia and Kut I THE GREAT WAR Week 91

Filed under: Britain, Europe, History, Middle East, Military, Russia — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 21 Apr 2016

With the spring in Russia and the Caucasus came the thaws on the Eastern Front and all the way down to Mesopotamia. The soldiers had to adapt to survive let alone fight. The Battle of Verdun still rages on though the French are not moving more airplanes to the area to break the German air superiority.

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