Principia Discordia

Principia Discordia => Aneristic Illusions => Topic started by: Cain on March 24, 2010, 10:01:25 am

Title: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on March 24, 2010, 10:01:25 am
Whole point of NATO is to keep the Germans down and the Russians out.  So long as America is providing military protection for Germany, there is no viable reason for the Germans to build up their own military (which they do want to do).  And so long as Germany is kept militarily inert, France wont stick it's neck out in providing the majority of troops for a potential EU military force (which is fair, since Germany has twice the population of France).  And no potential European army means the US continues to have no peer competitors who can challenge it's foreign policy on global terms - something the EU (which is essentially France and Germany, plus a bunch of vassal states) has been inclined to do on issues like Iraq, Cyprus, Israel/Palestine, trade and other things.

All US grand strategy is predicated around preventing the rise of movements, groups, states and superstates who could even theoretically challenge it's hegemony.  That's why it remains in Central Asia (control Eurasia, control the globe) and why wherever US troops land, they only leave very reluctantly.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Jasper on March 24, 2010, 09:21:03 pm
Whole point of NATO is to keep the Germans down and the Russians out. <snip>

Wow, damn.  That whole post was kind of enlightening/depressing. 
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on March 24, 2010, 09:57:11 pm
Rule 1 of the wonderful world of international relations: nations don't have permament friends, only permament interests.  Germany nearly overthrew the international system twice in a 25 year period at the start of this century, and then near the end helped take down most of the Warsaw Pact without firing a single shot (conditional loans are neat toys) and is the biggest player in the EU, especially for the Eastern European states.  At the end of the Cold War, it was widely expected in US circles that Germany would rebuild its military, assert hegemony over Europe, and possibly even acquire nukes/intervene in the former Yugoslavia.  They obviously overstated their case, just a little, but it is true Germany is at the centre of European decision making, and other states defer to it. 
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Jasper on March 24, 2010, 10:13:18 pm
Well, I don't see a problem with Germany rising again.  The Germans are almost shockingly reformed, from what I can tell, it's a pretty good country all in all.  Am I wrong?
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on March 24, 2010, 10:25:17 pm
Well I don't have a problem with it, insofar as I don't think the Germans are going to bring the international system crashing to its knees.

But I'm not someone profiting in any way from US hegemony, so my views on the matter are not being taken into account much.  There is also a theory that says more centres of power = more war, because there is more potential for conflict, but at the same time, having one power which is massively more militarized than many others also causes lots of wars, because of the power imbalance hypothesis (namely, if you have the means, and the enemies don't seem that threatening, you're more likely to use war as a tool).

As far as I'm concerned, all the current potential great powers are essentially the same, anyway.  All act in their own self-interest, and their home political culture rarely has anything to do with their foreign policy.  One of them might go completely off the wall crazy, but so far, the most likely culprit for such behaviour would be, uh, the USA.  Teabaggers in the White House.  I mean, that's the scenario I'd be preparing for, if I was in Beijing or Berlin or Paris or Moscow.  There is a particular fascination with foreign policy there which most other political parties in other states seem to lack.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Jasper on March 24, 2010, 10:27:34 pm
If I hadn't already settled on a subject, IR would look pretty appealing right about now...  I'm hearing a lot of fascinating things here.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Jasper on March 24, 2010, 10:32:26 pm
1.  Posit a successful US world hegemony, if not in name, then functionally so.  Who benefits?  I'm not counting on benefiting, but it would be nice to think so. 

2.  Is there a situation where there are an optimum number of certain types of centers of power, such that there will be as few wars as possible?  If so, could this be proven objectively and put into practice?

3.  Even though all the current main powers are very similar, what types might exist otherwise?
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on March 25, 2010, 05:25:55 pm
Thanks.  It is a pretty interesting topic, once you get past certain parts of bullshit (which I wont bore you with).

a) A successful US hegemony was, effectively, the post Cold War world.  Even before, the smart money was always on the US outperforming the USSR, because the US was better at building international institutions, had a more powerful naval force and performed far better economically.  After the Cold War, the USA was undisputedly the most powerful nation in the international system, and while a few malcontents (Somalian warlords, Saddam Hussein, Milosevich) might make a show of defying them, the name of the game was "what we say goes".

As for who benefits - mostly Americans of its own upper class.  Weapons manufacturers, for example, since you need the might to back up your threats.  Investment banks, both to invest in critical industries and to bring foreign industries under de facto US control.  Anyone involved in international trade, since the US was effectively "keeping the peace" now.  Anyone involved in the business of empire, of keeping America at the top of the world, are those who benefit the most.

2) It really depends who you ask, since the evidence is far from conclusive.  Usually though, people say multipolarity is the worst, and unipolarity or a bipolar international system keep the peace the best.  Personally, I believe all are as bad as each other, and only differ in the type of conflicts they cause, but I don't have much in the way of evidence for this.

3) Well really, I tend to adhere to the realist principle that the internal politics of most states matter very little to their foreign policy.  Of course there is going to be some effect, to claim otherwise would be stupid, but by and large continuity is the watchword of foreign policy ministries.  The main variations would be Marxism, Fascism and Neoconservatism, I would guess.  Marxist governments are generally committed to the aim of worldwide revolution, targeted against capitalist states in addition to those which are a security threat.  Though the USSR eventually settled down in some ways, in others it was very active right up to the fall of the Berlin Wall (look up "Active Measures" for more on that).  Equally, fascist states, with their racism and valorization of warfare, are more likely to act belligerently, and more likely to engage in atrocities than defensive wars or imperialism.  Finally, Neoconservatism is essentially Marxism for liberals, targeting non-democratic states in order to push it's worldwide revolutionary agenda.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Jasper on March 25, 2010, 06:57:42 pm
Thanks!  Now, to expose some more of my ignorance,

I'm concerned about two things:  The "bubble" of the Chinese economy and how it affects America, given how much we import from them and how much of American money they control.  The other thing is the teapartiers, who (I think) are threatening the existence of sane political discourse.  With China out of the picture and insane people in power, America will burn, won't it?  Gee, that's too bad.

Wish I could respond to all of this more cogently.  This is a lot to think about.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on March 25, 2010, 07:23:15 pm
It could do, yes.

I suppose it depends on exactly how the Chinese bubble bursts.  Outside of Beijing, organised crime has a lot of power, and there is a school of thought, popular among modern day criminologists and some IR theorists (I include myself in that, despite not actually having a theory yet) that the state is essentially organised crime, codified and writ large.  Protection rackets, private militias and local detachments of the PLA may be able to keep order where the central government cannot.  While this would definitely put a dampener on Chinese military spending, defensive weapons are a lot cheaper than offensive ones, and Chinese doctrine emphasizes asymmetric, unconventional attacks, and low-tech weapons designed to undercut more advanced American systems (look up the "Assassin's mace) sometime.

Either way, China still spends much less than America on its military, so I doubt this would make much of a difference on a military level.

However, the economic level is the worry, and you're right to be concerned there.  As I understand it, China welcomed American investment to make consumer items to sell to America, and buying up enough debt and dollars to keep the US afloat, so it could continue to keep buying Chinese made goods.  However, increasingly, China is cutting America out of the picture and selling to its enriched population.  America and China have also had a tense trading relationship for about a year and a half now.  There could be a move towards protectionism in both countries, and while decreasing trade is linked to war, the more immediate worry is the economic impact.

That will create a populist backlash, and since in modern day America populism is exclusively rightwing, that means a climate friendly to Teabaggers and the GOP.  I'm pretty convinced that in 2012 or 2016, whenever the Republicans win, there will be war with Iran, as a final military "stimulus" to jump start the economy, regardless of what actual reasons they give.  However, even if China does collapse or somehow become less powerful due to internal tensions, there are other nations willing to take advantage of that.  Namely, India and Russia.  The Russians are smart, very smart.  Their leadership is mostly made up of ex-KGB men who went on to make fortunes in the new capitalist Russia, so they're mostly pragmatists, not ideologues.  They also think in terms of geostrategy.  Russia's still a declining power in the long term, but in the short term, their army is in much better shape than at any time in history and they're sitting on 3,300 nukes.  Their weapons systems are also in high demand in the Middle East and Africa, giving them a fairly steady income.  Not to mention their use of energy resources.

Russia is also fairly chummy with Germany.  Putin's plan from 1999-2004 was to use a European-Russian alliance to reign in American unilateralism.  He pretty much abandoned that after Beslan though, due to some of the circumstances around that attack (Chechen terrorism is affiliated with some very pro-American and European groups).  But the friendship with Germany remains, and with Europe needing energy from any quarter willing to sell, the Russians might start playing their old trick of "lowering oil prices for friends".

OK, that got a little off course, but hopefully I answered the main questions.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Jasper on March 25, 2010, 07:38:33 pm
New thread started next door, with apologies to OP and Cain for my incessant off-topic querying. :)
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on March 25, 2010, 07:39:10 pm
I can split these posts into the new thread, no problem.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Jasper on March 25, 2010, 07:40:14 pm
<snip snip>

Moot post
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Jasper on March 25, 2010, 07:40:58 pm
Whoops.  Already did that, non-mod style.

Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on March 25, 2010, 07:43:35 pm
My way takes a little longer, but is ultimately more stylish.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: LMNO on March 25, 2010, 07:44:47 pm
Very impressive.  Both the split, and the insight.

Someday, I hope to be able to comment intelligently on this sort of stuff.

Until then, I will sponge up information.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Jasper on March 25, 2010, 07:45:22 pm
Nice!

It won't just create a backlash of populism, but also of insularity, won't it?  For some time now people have bemoaned increased reliance on foreign resources, such as oil.  If our trade with china also becomes troublesome, "not invented here" has a chance of becoming more the norm.

Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on March 25, 2010, 07:49:36 pm
I don't know, there are too many invested interests who get rich off foreign oil right now.  And while it's something of a stereotype, many of those interests are close with the Republican Party and Teabaggers (one of the Teabagger's biggest backers is Koch Industries, who are heavily involved in the petroleum industry).

Plus the power of ideology.  Lots of the Teabaggers are "free market" diehards, at least in theory.  I can see the "buy American" thing being more popular in that sort of nationalistic mood, but what is produced in America any more?  That makes a profit, anyway.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Jasper on March 25, 2010, 07:53:48 pm
In short, weapons.  We make lots of weapons.

Granted, our AR-15 is downright atavistic compared to the Steyr or the AK-M.

Also, why do you think America has such a war-boner for Iran?  It's kind of a mystery to me.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on March 25, 2010, 08:02:12 pm
I'd say mainly for two reasons

a) its a hostile country sitting on top of a vital geostrategic choke point (the Hormuz Straits).  In the event of a possible war with China or Russia or even Iran itself, Iran can basically shut the Straits entirely, and that would probably result in a $300 oil barrel cost.  Especially with the problems in Nigeria right now.

b) Neocons are very invested in Israel, for basically mythic and in some cases tribal reasons.  With Iran's support for Hamas and Hezbollah, not to mention it's general religious nuttery, they see it as an ongoing threat to Israel's existence, especially since Iraq was smashed, leaving the entire Middle East either in the US or Iran's sphere of influence.  I just realized that's really two combined reasons, but oh well.  Yeah, Iran is now the most powerful state in the region not allied to the US, and that's potentially pretty powerful given the above.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on March 25, 2010, 08:03:17 pm
A possible third reason is that Iran played American intelligence like a fiddle in the run up to the Iraq War, then used the Iraqi insurgency as a lab, to monitor American tactical expertise.  Some in American intelligence feel rather butthurt about that.

Edit: and of course, a fourth reason is that American companies are not welcome in Iran.  By installing a friendly government, American companies, including oil companies, can once again operate there.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Jasper on March 25, 2010, 08:07:41 pm
Going with realism, I'm willing to bet the first one is the real reason, while the second and third will be the reasons presented publicly.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on March 25, 2010, 08:10:59 pm
In my experience, you usually get a war when a convergence of various interests will all benefit from it.  So with Iraq, the "democratic revolutionaries" got their chance, those who believed Iraq was the bigges thread in the Middle East and should have been taken down earlier were satisfied, human rights activists who wanted Saddam to swing for war crimes were happy, various military-industrial companies and oil companies were happy, and the purely psychotic/those who wanted to use a war abroad to clamp down on dissent at home were happy
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Jasper on March 25, 2010, 08:18:02 pm
Weird how much sense that makes.  

I will post more questions later.  For now I've got a lot to think about.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on March 25, 2010, 08:20:54 pm
No problem.  I should probably be doing stuff anyway.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Requia ☣ on March 25, 2010, 11:03:37 pm
Granted, our AR-15 is downright atavistic compared to the Steyr or the AK-M.

I had to look this up, and this sentence still doesn't make much sense to me.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on March 25, 2010, 11:08:04 pm
You know, I don't understand some of the stuff in the more technical or science threads, but I don't see fit to try and hijack them with a declaration of my lack of knowledge, which I suspect no-one would give two shits about.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Jasper on March 25, 2010, 11:08:36 pm
An american assault rifle called AR-15, which is widely used by the military, is far and away an inferior design to other, less "traditional" designs such as a weapon known as the steyr, which (I am informed by a friend who studies this religiously) superior in every way.

Mostly I just mentioned it because I hear about it from that guy so often, and it's something I can add to the discussion.

The entire American gun industry is known to be exceptionally, well, they prefer guns that fit their idea of what a gun should be like, rather than stupid shit like ballistics testing, comparative analysis, effective range, new features, or reliability.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Kai on March 25, 2010, 11:11:03 pm
Cain, reading this thread I am so glad you are here rather than selling weapons internationally. Because your precognition here is just creepy, but there it would be downright terrifying.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Requia ☣ on March 26, 2010, 12:14:51 am
An american assault rifle called AR-15, which is widely used by the military, is far and away an inferior design to other, less "traditional" designs such as a weapon known as the steyr, which (I am informed by a friend who studies this religiously) superior in every way.

Mostly I just mentioned it because I hear about it from that guy so often, and it's something I can add to the discussion.

The entire American gun industry is known to be exceptionally, well, they prefer guns that fit their idea of what a gun should be like, rather than stupid shit like ballistics testing, comparative analysis, effective range, new features, or reliability.

Ok... the AR-15 isn't used by the military, nor is it an assault rifle, its a semi auto version of the M-16 (which is an assault rifle thats heavily used by the military).  As for inferior.. well, the AR 15 basically survives on its relationship to the M-16, but the M-16 is an effective general purpose weapon.  There are certainly better weapons available, but none so much better that they would justify the cost of buying enough for the entire military, and retraining everyone so they can use the new model effectively.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Jasper on March 26, 2010, 12:22:23 am
Yes, the M-16 is the weapon I meant to refer to.  Same difference to me, I don't study guns.

The whole point to my even mentioning guns was that America makes and exports lots and lots of guns, and they're not even the best guns because of people in the industry who cling to throwbacks.  I'm not even trying to argue about the practicality of rearming the US military with guns not invented here.  I never even implied that.  I'm saying that civilians who buy guns are silly to prefer American guns given the superiority of other designs.

Way to ignore almost everything I said.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Requia ☣ on March 26, 2010, 12:48:44 am
Throwback?  It might not be the most modern weapon in the world, but its over 50 years old, antique maybe, but not a throwback.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Telarus on March 26, 2010, 01:47:18 am
Cain, seen this: http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/1221972/Pentagon-targets-Wiki-whistleblowers- ?
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Jasper on March 26, 2010, 02:49:13 am
Throwback?  It might not be the most modern weapon in the world, but its over 50 years old, antique maybe, but not a throwback.

I'm not opposed to arguing about minutiae, but you're kind of derailing the thread.  Go start a gun thread if you feel you must make your case.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on March 26, 2010, 04:21:07 pm
Firstly, the most popular weapon in the world is the AK-47.  There is a reason for that.  It is cheap, durable and reliable.  Favourite of guerrilla and terrorist groups everywhere, who tend to place a high importance on utility.  Far more so than current American weapons, which are mostly made in order to leech more money off the Procurements Committee, and have little to do with what the Pentagon actually wants.

Throwback?  It might not be the most modern weapon in the world, but its over 50 years old, antique maybe, but not a throwback.

I'm not opposed to arguing about minutiae, but you're kind of derailing the thread.  Go start a gun thread if you feel you must make your case.

Secondly, this.  Apparently my previous post wasn't clear enough.  Buzz off Requia.  If we want a pedant to argue minor points which have little to do with the overall direction of the thread, we know how to contact you.

Cain, seen this: http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/1221972/Pentagon-targets-Wiki-whistleblowers- ?

Yes, via 000's thread.  Bureaucrats thrive on controlling information, this isn't surprising.  It is also utterly useless, since there are military manuals published by the US available on every torrent site in the world.  It's a dumb fight, and the Pentagon are dumb.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: LMNO on March 26, 2010, 04:37:32 pm
Quote
the Pentagon are dumb.


While patently obvious and true, this still disturbs me.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Mangrove on March 26, 2010, 06:38:52 pm
Cain,

Given the amount of demonstrating going on in Iran, what are the chances of a popular uprising to overturn the Islamic Revolution of '79?


Side question: If there is enough juice in the protest movement to bring change in Iran, which countries would be dumb enough to a) Assist it?
                           b)  Thwart it?
 
 
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Elder Iptuous on March 26, 2010, 06:43:03 pm
Well, the US would certainly be breaking a time honored tradition if we were to pass up an opportunity to overthrow the existing regime in Iran....
 :sad:
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on March 28, 2010, 08:26:46 pm
Cain,

Given the amount of demonstrating going on in Iran, what are the chances of a popular uprising to overturn the Islamic Revolution of '79?


Side question: If there is enough juice in the protest movement to bring change in Iran, which countries would be dumb enough to a) Assist it?
                           b)  Thwart it?
 
 

There is next to no real possibility of the Green Movement overthrowing the government.  They want to reform the Islamic Republic, not undo it, and their membership mostly reflects that in their actions.  There might be a loosening of clerical power, as a concession to the Greens, but it wont be to remove clerical influence, only to open it up to more diverse opiion.

Elements in the US foreign policy community are certainly agitating to try and use the Green Movement to topple the government.  Richard Haass, head of the CFR, has suggested doing exactly that at least once before now.  The White House disagrees, for now, but depending how much of a hammering Obama takes in the mid-terms and Presidential election, that may soon change.

As for who would try and thwart it...Russia and China.  Both heavily support the clerical regime as it stands now, in return for oil (in the case of China) and geostrategic reasons in the case of Russia, though as always, their relationship with Iran is ambivalent and mostly out of mutual security needs.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Mangrove on April 01, 2010, 05:56:39 pm
Cain,

Given the amount of demonstrating going on in Iran, what are the chances of a popular uprising to overturn the Islamic Revolution of '79?


Side question: If there is enough juice in the protest movement to bring change in Iran, which countries would be dumb enough to a) Assist it?
                           b)  Thwart it?
 
 

There is next to no real possibility of the Green Movement overthrowing the government.  They want to reform the Islamic Republic, not undo it, and their membership mostly reflects that in their actions.  There might be a loosening of clerical power, as a concession to the Greens, but it wont be to remove clerical influence, only to open it up to more diverse opiion.

Elements in the US foreign policy community are certainly agitating to try and use the Green Movement to topple the government.  Richard Haass, head of the CFR, has suggested doing exactly that at least once before now.  The White House disagrees, for now, but depending how much of a hammering Obama takes in the mid-terms and Presidential election, that may soon change.

As for who would try and thwart it...Russia and China.  Both heavily support the clerical regime as it stands now, in return for oil (in the case of China) and geostrategic reasons in the case of Russia, though as always, their relationship with Iran is ambivalent and mostly out of mutual security needs.

Thank you! I would've replied sooner but a) Been busy earning some $$s
                                                       b) Didn't notice that topic had slipped down as far as it did.

I may have some more questions upcoming.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on April 01, 2010, 06:07:36 pm
Thats fine, I've been very lazy of late, so other people not getting back sooner doesn't bother me much!  Looking forward to your questions.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Mangrove on April 01, 2010, 08:37:26 pm
Thats fine, I've been very lazy of late, so other people not getting back sooner doesn't bother me much!  Looking forward to your questions.

Upcoming questions - today!

How seriously should we take Ahmadineijad?(sp?). Is he a) Completely unhinged nuclear seeking Islamic nut-job who wants to destroy the West? (ie: Fox news version)

Or b) Basically the Persian G W Bush? (says dumbs things in public to cause uproar, doesn't really care what people think of him, basically in the pocket of the Clerics) <--- My personal suspicion.

 
                                             
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Rococo Modem Basilisk on April 01, 2010, 09:47:02 pm
Let's say the US slips up somehow and loses its hegemony. What are the most likely groups to step in and take advantage of this, and how might the situation manefest itself (would we get another hegemony, a bipolar system with a weakened US as one pole, a bipolar system with two non-US poles, a multipolar system? How might it affect the economic situation in the US, the political climate, etc?)
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on October 19, 2011, 08:00:41 am
Thats fine, I've been very lazy of late, so other people not getting back sooner doesn't bother me much!  Looking forward to your questions.

Upcoming questions - today!

How seriously should we take Ahmadineijad?(sp?). Is he a) Completely unhinged nuclear seeking Islamic nut-job who wants to destroy the West? (ie: Fox news version)

Or b) Basically the Persian G W Bush? (says dumbs things in public to cause uproar, doesn't really care what people think of him, basically in the pocket of the Clerics) <--- My personal suspicion.

 
                                             

REALLY REALLY LATE ANSWERS (also I wanted to revive this thread).

I think Ahmadineijad should be taken semi-seriously.  He does act the clown in public, like Berlusconi and like Bush, and Iranian experts have referred to the group around him as the Iranian Neoconservatives.

Ahmadineijad's a shrewd bastard though, for all that.  He was the Mayor of Tehran before his role as President, which is quite usual in developing countries where urbanization has led to massive, swift growth of the capital city in particular.  He ran for President after the US invasion of Iraq, and the subsequent violence made it clear the Americans had no clue what they were doing there, his election was in part due to a backlash against more reformist and engage-focused candidates (Khatami).

Since becoming President, he has been effective in using populist rhetoric both against America and, more subtly, against the entrenched clerical elite to bolster his own position.  He has also been somewhat effective at getting his own people into influential posts, including commanding officers of the Qods Force and within the Foreign Ministry.

On the other hand, foreign pundits tend to over-exaggerate his strength within the Iranian system.  Essentially, although Iran has a "Presidential" constitution and style of rule, the "President" role is fulfilled by the Supreme Ayatollah, who has the final say on military and foreign affairs (which is why Ahmadineijad has been keen to get his own people in those two area of government).  The President of Iran is a role more akin to the Prime Minister in the French or Russian system, ultimately subordinate to the Head of State.

I can also see, due to his populist rhetoric, Ahmadineijad being convinced of the need to develop nuclear weapons potentially.  As a matter of prestige for Iran, if nothing else.  That Pakistan, a basket-case, quasi-military junta with no real history as a state (and Sunni besides) has the "Islamic Bomb" and they do not is rather humiliating, as far as some are concerned, as is the way those states with nuclear weapons (Pakistan, USA, Israel etc) can seemingly get away with whatever they want in the region.

At the same time, I suspect he more averse to undermining the regional status quo than pundits would believe.  Has Iranian rhetoric under Ahmadineijad been somewhat bizarre and worrying?  Sure.  But what has he actually done?  Not much, when you think about it.  Ahmadineijad, like most leaders, seems inclined to use foreign threats to bolster his own position at home and defeat his internal enemies in the Iranian regime.  And it seems he able to do just that without having to go to war with anyone, so far.   
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on October 19, 2011, 10:59:18 am
Let's say the US slips up somehow and loses its hegemony. What are the most likely groups to step in and take advantage of this, and how might the situation manefest itself (would we get another hegemony, a bipolar system with a weakened US as one pole, a bipolar system with two non-US poles, a multipolar system? How might it affect the economic situation in the US, the political climate, etc?)

In the immediate future, I can only see a multipolar system emerging from a reduction in US power.  China is powerful, but seemingly disinclined to act much beyond their borders, though that may change with the US no longer providing security in certain regions.

China is the only nation that even has the potential to step in as a successor to the USA as a global hegemon.  But their military are not up to the task, and the (lack of) development (and pollution) of rural areas of the country is also capping their future potential.

Russia is still a power to be reckoned with, at least in the Near Abroad.  It's army is also not up to full potential, though scheduled weapons systems purchases should act as force multipliers.  Throw in their nuclear weapons, expertise in large-scale hacking, energy resources and economic growth, in addition to their cultural influence in the Baltic/Ukraine/Belarus/Kazakhstan and military basing in Central Asia and Russia will continue to be an influential global player.

India is on the rise as well, though much slower than China, and is mostly being supported by the USA, as a hedge against any Chinese militarism in the future.  Still, India has even more problems than China, and less advantages or resources to deal with them.  India is also constrained by nuclear China on one side and nuclear Pakistan on the other.

If the EU gets through the current financial crisis, it will be in a much more unified form.  However, that it will get through the crisis is not a given.

Brazil is lagging behind India, but also on the rise.  Nevertheless, poverty and corruption are going to be a problem which will take a lot of work to solve, and will be a drag on their overall economic growth, as will their education system.  The oil deposits off the coast are no doubt a welcome find for the country.  There is also an element of cultural isolation, Brazil will not have a lot of soft power options in South America, other than economic ones, given their varying colonial pasts and linguistic differences.

Other players that may form "regional" poles of power linked to the above great powers would include Turkey, Iran, Nigeria, South Africa, Uzbekistan, Japan and Vietnam.  They dont have global reach, but their actions could have global repurcussions, for good or ill.

I can see the US seriously losing its shit once it realizes it is one great power among many.  "American Exceptionalism" is the unofficial ideology of the left and the right, whether it's "liberal interventionist" or "neocon" in flavour.  The US will likely not accept constraints on its power and ability to act until they are made obvious, ie; via military defeat.  I can see any period following such a defeat as one of economic instability within the US, political unrest and likely an increase in terrorism and political assassinations.  Think early Weimar Germany, and you're not far off.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Placid Dingo on October 31, 2011, 11:45:02 am
I have a specific case you can pm me about Cain, if you're interested in the specifics but I won't ask it publically because there's elements told to me in confidence...

But I'm curious; what do you know about the Japanese S/M scene and the nature of the connections it has to activities of the Yakuza.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on October 31, 2011, 12:26:04 pm
Not much.  I would assume, much like everywhere else, organised crime caters to extreme tastes that could not be legally acquired.  Given the Yakuza reputation, for extreme body art, cutting off little finger's etc I imagine those tastes would be quite extreme indeed.  And given the Yakuza penetration of the business world, excellent blackmail material also.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: SuuCal on December 17, 2011, 11:23:14 pm
Dear Mr. Cain.


Why the FUCK do people like Ron Paul? Is he really that good of a gerrymanderer? Or is that much of American stupid?


Hugs and Kisses,

Suu
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Chairman Risus on December 18, 2011, 05:15:48 am
Dear Mr. Cain.


Why the FUCK do people like Ron Paul? Is he really that good of a gerrymanderer? Or is that much of American stupid?


Hugs and Kisses,

Suu

(http://shewhoprecedesmen.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/inconceivable_means_02.jpg)
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Rococo Modem Basilisk on December 18, 2011, 07:58:13 pm
More to the point, why does Randall Munroe like Ron Paul?
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Mangrove on December 19, 2011, 01:05:12 am
I'm glad this thread is back.

Dear Cain,

a) How likely is a Republican victory in the 2012 US presidential election?
b) Of the candidates on show which, in your estimation is the least insane?
c) Of the candidates, who do you think is the most likely nominee? (sanity/otherwise not withstanding)


PS Thank you for commentary on Iran. You confirmed my suspicion of 'he talks a good game but, so far, hasn't done anything much'.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: SuuCal on December 19, 2011, 03:07:12 pm
Dear Mr. Cain.


Why the FUCK do people like Ron Paul? Is he really that good of a gerrymanderer? Or is that much of American stupid?


Hugs and Kisses,

Suu

(http://shewhoprecedesmen.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/inconceivable_means_02.jpg)

In one definition, it means selling yourself to the opposition in attempts to get more votes. Especially by using buzzwords and telling people what they want to hear. Otherwise, it has more to do with changing political boundaries, again, to steal votes. (We're dealing with it in RI now.)

Ron Paul is full of shit. He's a Republican, same as the other Republicans, he just calls himself a Libertarian to sound better.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on December 19, 2011, 03:18:48 pm
Dear Mr. Cain.


Why the FUCK do people like Ron Paul? Is he really that good of a gerrymanderer? Or is that much of American stupid?


Hugs and Kisses,

Suu

Bits of both, and some other stuff.

Paul essentially appeals to both radical antiwar Democrats who have realised their own party is a corporatist owned death machine, and to left wing Democrats and really libertarian Republicans who want to end the War on Drugs.

There are large constituencies for both positions, however they are almost entirely unrepresented within American politics.  I believe a good 40-something % of the population buy into isolationist rhetoric of the kind Ron Paul sells, and a similar amount believe the War on Drugs has been a terrible strain on the judicial service and civil liberties.

However, there are also structural reasons for why Ron Paul can articulate such a position.  He's essentially Congressman-for-Life in his district - he will hold his seat until the day he dies.  Because he does not have to worry unduly about re-election, he can take positions which are unpopular with his party without suffering negative consequences.

Above and beyond all that though, what Ron Paul does is offer a simple, easy to understand and rhetorically palatable solution to Americans of the political problems of the moment.  That these solutions are wrong, and will not work, is irrelevant.  The appeal is almost religious in nature, and so rational argument has little effect here.  Paul is a "Crazy Eddie" with a bit of power and a secure position.

He will never ascend to the Presidency though.  Even if he did, you'd see the largest pushback and bipartisan consensus ever in Congress that the President must be undermined.  It would be hilarious, but brief.  Fucking with the profits of the military-industrial-congressional complex (people always leave out the last one, despite it being in the original draft of Eisenhower's speech) is not a move which will contribute to one's health.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on December 19, 2011, 03:26:13 pm
I'm glad this thread is back.

Dear Cain,

a) How likely is a Republican victory in the 2012 US presidential election?
b) Of the candidates on show which, in your estimation is the least insane?
c) Of the candidates, who do you think is the most likely nominee? (sanity/otherwise not withstanding)


PS Thank you for commentary on Iran. You confirmed my suspicion of 'he talks a good game but, so far, hasn't done anything much'.

a) if they pick anyone but Romney, they have not got a chance in hell.  If they do eventually wise up and pick the Magic Underpants Candidate, I give him roughly 47% chance of success - Obama currently leads him in the polls, but not by much.  The economy could worsen in the meantime, or there could be pushback against Romney by the religious right - either way, it will be very close and the only real advantage Obama may have is being the incumbent.

b) Huntsman, followed by Romney.  Romney's still pretty mad, but his madness is that of the Beltway Consensus, and so most people wont notice.  Huntsman is mostly sane, as you would expect of someone who would be sent to China as Ambassador, but he has made a few...odd statements here and there.  And is committed to nuking the shit out of Iran, if necessary, which is not necessarily the judgement of a sound mind (the argument goes...."Iranians are a people repressed by a small theocratic elite, yearning for freedom, but if that theocratic elite do the wrong thing, we have no problem killing millions of Iranian people to teach them a lesson").

c) it's a two horse race at the moment, between Romney and Gingrinch.  The Democrats really want the latter to win, as they know he's so utterly divisive that they can easily beat him, and the polls seem to support that.  People who have worked with Gingrinch despise him, no-one in the party with any clout is looking to endorse him...his surge will probably fizzle out as the party elite reluctantly rally around Romney next year.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Mangrove on December 19, 2011, 07:55:15 pm
I'm glad this thread is back.

Dear Cain,

a) How likely is a Republican victory in the 2012 US presidential election?
b) Of the candidates on show which, in your estimation is the least insane?
c) Of the candidates, who do you think is the most likely nominee? (sanity/otherwise not withstanding)


PS Thank you for commentary on Iran. You confirmed my suspicion of 'he talks a good game but, so far, hasn't done anything much'.

a) if they pick anyone but Romney, they have not got a chance in hell.  If they do eventually wise up and pick the Magic Underpants Candidate, I give him roughly 47% chance of success - Obama currently leads him in the polls, but not by much.  The economy could worsen in the meantime, or there could be pushback against Romney by the religious right - either way, it will be very close and the only real advantage Obama may have is being the incumbent.

b) Huntsman, followed by Romney.  Romney's still pretty mad, but his madness is that of the Beltway Consensus, and so most people wont notice.  Huntsman is mostly sane, as you would expect of someone who would be sent to China as Ambassador, but he has made a few...odd statements here and there.  And is committed to nuking the shit out of Iran, if necessary, which is not necessarily the judgement of a sound mind (the argument goes...."Iranians are a people repressed by a small theocratic elite, yearning for freedom, but if that theocratic elite do the wrong thing, we have no problem killing millions of Iranian people to teach them a lesson").

c) it's a two horse race at the moment, between Romney and Gingrinch.  The Democrats really want the latter to win, as they know he's so utterly divisive that they can easily beat him, and the polls seem to support that.  People who have worked with Gingrinch despise him, no-one in the party with any clout is looking to endorse him...his surge will probably fizzle out as the party elite reluctantly rally around Romney next year.

Thank you!

Unintentionally comical 'candidate selection quiz':  http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/OTUS/fullpage?id=15177995
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Prince Glittersnatch III on December 19, 2011, 11:24:06 pm
If there is a war with Iran sometime soon how do you see that turning out? Would it be another "liberation" like Iraq where we go in and set up a new government, or would we just rape them to death with missiles and let the Iranians pick up the pieces? What do you think the chances of it becoming a nuclear conflict are?
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Golden Applesauce on December 20, 2011, 12:00:03 am
If there is a war with Iran sometime soon how do you see that turning out? Would it be another "liberation" like Iraq where we go in and set up a new government, or would we just rape them to death with missiles and let the Iranians pick up the pieces? What do you think the chances of it becoming a nuclear conflict are?

I think that Iran being just about to get functional nukes would be the trigger for the US and others to drop the covert war charade and really go nuts.  I'm not all that knowledgeable about modern nukes, but I'd think that intel that Iran actually had them would be a "now or never" kind of moment as far as starting a serious war.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on December 20, 2011, 11:07:57 am
If there is a war with Iran sometime soon how do you see that turning out? Would it be another "liberation" like Iraq where we go in and set up a new government, or would we just rape them to death with missiles and let the Iranians pick up the pieces? What do you think the chances of it becoming a nuclear conflict are?

We wouldn't go in like Iraq, unless we were feeling suicidally stupid.  Iran has three times the population of Iraq, a lot less ethnic/religious strife and a much stronger cultural identity.  Throw in the typical Shiite opinion on martydom, and you're looking at mass resistance on a scale that would dwarf the Iraqi insurgency.

Iran's infrastructure is much stronger than Iraq's as well, which would facilitate, along with advanced Russian and Chinese arms, a much stronger pushback even before the government fell.  It would be a bloodbath.  While some analysts doubt their ability to shut down the Straits of Hormuz, I am of the opinion the Pentagon learnt nothing from the Millenium 2002 wargames, which had one Marine General - simulating a low-tech enemy - sink half of the Fifth Fleet.

So it'll be airstrikes and missiles and targeted attacks by Special Forces groups, aiding our proxies already on the ground in Iran, which are the MeK and Jundullah terrorist groups.  It'll probably ruin Iran and leave thousands dead, but unless it can trigger an uprising, chances are the government wont be overthrown.  War tends to produce a "rally around the flag" effect - look at the Blitz in the UK.  Germany pounded British cities, but it didn't convince the British public to overthrow the government.  And Britain did the same in return, with roughly the same effect in that sphere.  Strategic bombing is good for destroying the industries which back wars, but little else.

And it won't be a nuclear war.  The entire idea behind this is to overthrow the Iranian government before they have a nuclear weapon which makes such an overthrow impossible.  If Iran gets a nuclear weapon, it makes attempting to subvert it, either internally or by force, so much more daneous that the US will be reluctant to attempt it.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on December 20, 2011, 11:13:43 am
If there is a war with Iran sometime soon how do you see that turning out? Would it be another "liberation" like Iraq where we go in and set up a new government, or would we just rape them to death with missiles and let the Iranians pick up the pieces? What do you think the chances of it becoming a nuclear conflict are?

I think that Iran being just about to get functional nukes would be the trigger for the US and others to drop the covert war charade and really go nuts.  I'm not all that knowledgeable about modern nukes, but I'd think that intel that Iran actually had them would be a "now or never" kind of moment as far as starting a serious war.

If they actually tested a nuke, I think it would stop the US dead in its tracks.  While its unlikely they would use it in their own country to prevent falling to enemy attack, no-one wants to risk that.  Also Bahrain, with its Fifth Fleet and incredibly large financial sector are well within striking distance for Iran, and much more valuable to the USA than Israel.  If it was close to a nuclear weapon though, and the US had intelligence which strongly suggested it, then I think it would be go time.

Just look at  US conduct with Pakistan, or North Korea.  It was hostile as hell, then the weapons were dropped, and suddenly, the US was looking to to talk and negotiate.

The only complicating factor I can see is that public opinion is far more hostile to Iran than it ever was to those two countries, and could put pressure on the US to do something stupid.  But then again, the political machinery of the US is such that it only responds to public pressure, as a rule, when it was intending to do something along those lines anyway.  The character of the President would matter a lot.  Some Christian Zionist type would be more inclined to fight it out, an Obama or Mitt Romney may be less so.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Placid Dingo on January 15, 2012, 03:10:46 pm
Dear Cain,

Am I right in saying generally terrorists are actually more wealthy/educated than the general population they come from? If so is there an accepted reason? Could it be that in a kind of Maslow sense terrorism fills a higher need?
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on January 15, 2012, 03:27:11 pm
As a rule, yes.  While in nationalist movements, such as the IRA and the various Loyalist groups there was much more of a "street presence" and working class component, groups such as the Red Brigades, Baader-Meinhof, Al-Qaeda and the Patriot Movement types in the USA typically were educated to community college or degree level, and normally were at least middle class in terms of socio-economic background or status.

That this even holds true among religious groups suggests it is an overall trend, since religion and higher education are negatively correlated.

Now, there are a number of reasons why this may be.  No-one has come up with a fully plausible reason why this is so.  It has been noted, for example, that there are a high number of trained engineers, who are overrepresented within terrorist ranks, and it has been speculated that this is because the psychological traits that make someone suited to engineering also have significant crossovers with the mentality that might draw someone to terrorist activities.

There are other reasons as well.  University usually exposes students to a number of radical ideologies, and prove to be useful recruitment grounds.  In Italy, a large number of the Red Brigades were former students, most of whom had a formal passing knowledge of Marxism and revolutionary theory.  Those from a middle class background and with greater education are usually more aware of political situations which may cause them to feel terrorism is required to remedy them, and also normally have more resources and freedom to undertake such activities.

It is also probably the case that would-be terrorists who lack a certain level of intelligence are more likely to get caught before managing to carry out any attacks, whereas the most successful individual terrorists and terrorist organizations will have a higher education background.  Also worth noting is much of the data on terrorism comes from Europe, where higher education is generally more accessible for those from working class backgrounds and incomes than it is elsewhere in the world.  While the original Al-Qaeda seemed to follow the same pattern, it should be noted that particular organization was far more Western than it, or our leaders, would like to admit (its ideology is essentially Leninist, its members almost exclusively trained in Western Universities) and this may not hold true for other transnational terrorist groups such as LeT, or essentially nationalist terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Mangrove on January 17, 2012, 11:25:18 pm
Dear Cain's Brain,

Your prophecies appear to be coming true (re: Republican candidates).

(Herman) Cain: Confused, inarticulate, wandering hands. Gone.
Bachmann: Insane. Gone. (Maybe she could get a job at the US Embassy in Iran?)
Gingrich: Unlikeable in every way.
Paul: Great if your libertarian, bad if you're not a racist asshole.
Perry: Insane and getting worse. I wonder if any of the soldiers peeing on the corpses were gay. That would be weird.
Santorum: Insane...possibly a communist. At least according to his Italian relatives that he doesn't visit anymore. 
Romney: The candidate the GOP will foist upon the republican voters like it or not.
Huntsman: Gone...but probably not completely yet.

Palin: I'm not running...OR AM I???? :ohnotache:


Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Q. G. Pennyworth on January 17, 2012, 11:35:41 pm
Dear Cain's Brain,

Your prophecies appear to be coming true (re: Republican candidates).

(Herman) Cain: Confused, inarticulate, wandering hands. Gone.
Bachmann: Insane. Gone. (Maybe she could get a job at the US Embassy in Iran?)
Gingrich: Unlikeable in every way.
Paul: Great if your libertarian, bad if you're not a racist asshole.
Perry: Insane and getting worse. I wonder if any of the soldiers peeing on the corpses were gay. That would be weird.
Santorum: Insane...possibly a communist. At least according to his Italian relatives that he doesn't visit anymore. 
Romney: The candidate the GOP will foist upon the republican voters like it or not.
Huntsman: Gone...but probably not completely yet.

Palin: I'm not running...OR AM I???? :ohnotache:
Huntsman dropped out officially on Monday, he endorsed the inevitable.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: East Coast Hustle on January 18, 2012, 01:58:48 pm
Huntsman was just positioning himself for 2016.

And given the rest of the vultures circling that election, I hope it works.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on January 18, 2012, 02:11:47 pm
Yeah, Huntsman is definitely looking to play the long game there.  He schmoozed with the Beltway media and influence peddlers quite effectively, and I'm sure they'll keep his name circulating for a few more years yet.  Unless Romney wins, of course.  And even then, Huntsman might end up with a State Department gig, or being sent back to China.  The future is pretty rosy for him.

Ron Paul is also running for similar reasons.  I'd keep an eye on Rand Paul as a future Presidential contender.  I suspect one reason Ron has not gone to the Libertarian Party for this year is he doesn't want to be accused of splitting the vote, and lose the base of support he has built up in the party thus far.  Paul himself has far too much baggage to win, but he can pass his support network onto his son.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Placid Dingo on February 02, 2012, 09:42:29 pm
Is there a political explanation for the events in Egyot other than 'everyone is retarded?'
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on February 02, 2012, 09:53:48 pm
Which stuff in particular?  A lot is going on there right now.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Placid Dingo on February 03, 2012, 03:36:00 am
Specifically the football deaths.

 ReadingMore today. Getting a feeling the main issue is security forces simply aren't presently able to cope with something as big as a riot and were possibly slow to react having been instructed to avoid heavy handed responses.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on February 03, 2012, 08:20:42 am
OK.  Well, football has a reputation for being violent in Egypt anyway.  Not normally 70+ deaths violent, but at least somewhat hazardous to one's health.

Suspicions in Egypt are the violence was allowed to happen, though, to bolster the position of the military and security services, which are under scrutiny from Egyptian liberals.  The Muslim Brotherhood, lately rumoured to be in a very cosy relationship with the military, released a statement that "the reason for this tragedy is the deliberate neglect and absence of the military and the police,".

It's worth noting that as in most developing countries, football also has political connotations.  Many football supporters, especially the more violent ones, formed the backbone of the 2011 protests that ousted Murbarak.  The economy is falling apart over there, and the military still hold many of the reins of power, in particular the economic ones.  Acting against the football fans allows them to pre-empt any attempts at further revolution.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Rococo Modem Basilisk on February 16, 2012, 10:16:18 pm
If the US goes to war with Iran and Putin gets into office, what side do you think Russia will end up on? Keeping in mind that many members of the Дума live in New York City...
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Junkenstein on February 18, 2012, 04:41:25 am
Cain, Could I take a moment and ask for a current perspective on Libya? I believe it is close to a year since the start of the shift to whatever you'd currently call it at the moment? Militarization with a veneer?
 
With Syria and Iran still not doing anything particularly productive, and Israel being Israel, It'd be interesting to see predictions for the region for the coming year.

The current rounds of finger pointing about terrorist attacks makes it look like a fun year ahead. Last one to your deity is hell bound.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on February 22, 2012, 10:00:58 am
If the US goes to war with Iran and Putin gets into office, what side do you think Russia will end up on? Keeping in mind that many members of the Дума live in New York City...

I don't believe the Russians would overtly intervene against America.  Advisors, no doubt mercenary groups who operated in Chechnya but with strong FSB/GRU links...perhaps Belarussian, given what happened in Libya, targeting data maybe, if they were feeling confident, and no doubt build up arms beforehand...but all the major powers seems fairly convinced that no vassal is worth going for war against another major power with.

For now, at least.

I believe Russia's main concern with Iran is that an American-friendly regime would be installed, which would break the anti-American monopoly on energy routes into Europe (notably Nabucco would be back on the cards).  As such, while I think Russia will try and toughen Iran up and dissuade attacks on the regime, if it comes to military action by America, then they will take the loss and attempt to subvert the new regime - bankrolling political resistance, perhaps hacking attacks, a little sabotage and assassination even under the cover of whatever insurgency invariably springs up in the country.

But I'm not sure America will attack, at least under Obama.  Israel would have to force Obama's hand in a pretty spectacular way....and I don't think Romney would especially bow to pressure from Bibi either, for personal reasons if nothing else (Romney strikes me as rather vain, as does Obama in fact, and would not want some pissant American vassal ordering him around and trying to manipulate him), but eventually a movement conservative will take the White House, or Israel and Saudi Arabia will agree on a gambit which will force the US into a position where it has little choice but to go to war.

I suspect this is why I'm hearing rumours that the US is trying to normalize the regime's relations in the region and with the US.  They are only rumours, but it will be the only way to avoid war.  That the P5+1 talks have resumed is a good sign, at least.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on February 22, 2012, 10:39:51 am
Cain, Could I take a moment and ask for a current perspective on Libya? I believe it is close to a year since the start of the shift to whatever you'd currently call it at the moment? Militarization with a veneer?
 
With Syria and Iran still not doing anything particularly productive, and Israel being Israel, It'd be interesting to see predictions for the region for the coming year.

The current rounds of finger pointing about terrorist attacks makes it look like a fun year ahead. Last one to your deity is hell bound.

My current perspective is that Libya is a clusterfuck - essentially an Afghanistan on the Med.  Relations with Algeria and sub-Saharan nations continue to be poor, due to either previous links with Gadaffi (who was generous with the proceeds of his people's mineral wealth, to other countries) or due to how the militias tend to treat all black Africans as mercenaries and covert agents of the former regime.

Torture is pretty common still and no-one seems to be able to restrain the militias, of which there are hundreds.  As you may recall, the Benghazi based rebels, the NTC, had considerable difficulty advancing further than Misrata, and it was Qatari-backed Islamic militants with links to Al-Qaeda who actually managed to take Tripoli.  As such, these militants are the predominant power in the country, not the NTC government, and that their leader is in charge of the state military, such as it is, suggests a possible coup in Libya's future.

NATO are not happy with the entire state of affairs there.  In fact, initially, NATO did not want to intervene, but their hand was forced principally by Sarkozy and to a lesser extent by Cameron to get involved.  NATO officials and certain Western diplomats feel they were played by the Qataris and by the Gulf Co-opeation Group into doing their dirty work, just so they could intervene in the last minutes with their chosen proxies and have a government of their choosing in Libya, to advance their interests.

As for the greater region....I think the presence of Iranian and Russian naval forces has finally put a stop to serious calls for intervention in Syria.  NATO, in the personage of Secretary Ramussen, were not keen on an intervention there either, but, well, he's been overruled before.  Still, the Egyptian government, in an...interesting move, allowed an Iranian flotilla to pass through the Suez Canal, and will no doubt be docking in Tartus alongside the Russian fleet.  The "Syrian Free Army" is a disjointed mess of democracy activists, Islamist rebels and former regime elements (esp low ranking military personnel) with no coordination or overarching structure and strategy.  It will be messy and bloody, but with outside intervention now unlikely, the regime will probably survive, though it may have to make some concessions for the sake of future stability.

Iraq will remain as it ever was: a clusterfuck of warring Sunni and Shiite competing interests, with assassination and bombing being as common as corruption and back-room deals in negotiating overall control of the state.  Iraq looks like a more secure Libya right now, as their security services are thoroughly Shiite and used to acting with relative impunity.

And Iran....well, as mentioned above, I don't think the current US adminstration wants war.  Israel is clearly sponsoring terrorism inside Iran's borders, and may even be using black-flag ops to make America look responsible for it.  I suspect the Saudis also have a hand in whatever chaos is happening in Iran - they have too much invested in the downfall of the Mullahs for it to be otherwise.  Iran is allegedly responding via targeted assassinations by Hezbollah, but some of those incidents are...questionable.  That they precisely mirror the tactics used by the "mystery assassins" (MeK) in Iran, and that they were thwarted has suggested to some that they are also black-flag ops, designed to feed into the idea of Iran being a global sponsor of terrorism.  I'm not sure...I wouldn't put it pass the Israelis to fake such things, but on the other hand, I wouldn't put it past elements of the Revolutionary Guard to carry them out either.  Only I would have expected them to be more professional - as pointed out during the whole "Saudi assassination plot + Zetas!" idiocy, the Revolutionary Guard are professionals, and rarely screw up.

I'm hoping the US can resist the calls for war from Israel and the oil sheikhs, and the P5+1 talks restarting is certainly a good sign.  Still, there has been a steady call for war with Iran since about 2005 onwards...its been drilled into people's heads for 7 years as the only solution.  That kind of inertia will be very hard to overcome.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Junkenstein on February 24, 2012, 02:28:20 pm
Thanks Cain, Appreciate the perspective.

Looking at the U.S presidential candidates it seems to be an all party push to keep Obama where he currently sits. Assuming he gets another 4 years I'd guess "They" would be using this as a way to further push the "Iran is crazy" agenda. 10 years of pre-war prep sounds right considering how Iraq went. It would also be perfect for a Hawk candidate to get the AMERICA FUCK YEAH voters out.

Your point regarding nuclear weapons is fair. I still fail to understand the current fear of these when you can make chemical or biological weapons. Considering how much quicker and cheaper they are, it would seem remiss to not have at least a few stashed for a rainy day. Do they simply not have the needed horror value to instigate wars quickly? I really can't decide here as that was pretty much the case for Gulf #1 and #2.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on February 24, 2012, 06:22:53 pm
Well, as the Siftung Leo Strauss pointed out, not that long ago, some Republicans are privately musing that an Obama win might actually be personally better for them than a Republican win in general, and a Romney win in particular.  The funding for conservative think-tanks, pundits and action groups is at an all time high, as various rich and paranoid conservative reactionaries are filling the coffers of such groups.  If Romney were to win...well, then, who knows who he might appoint, other than his friends in high finance?  Staunch conservative movement types in good standing may well get snubbed...for all McCain's protests to the contrary, Romney is the real maverick when it comes to everything except defense of Wall Street.

That might also feed into Iran, but I'm not sure.  Iran's been at least public enemy #3 since the revolution, I'm pretty sure not much more propaganda is needed.  You have people who have spent their entire lives having been told that Iran is a fundamentally hostile, revolutionary and unstable state.

Still, support for military action is not currently a majority public opinion, "news" consensus otherwise.

Biological and chemical weapons pack nowhere near the punch of a nuclear weapon.  Biological weapons in particular are a difficult one, as only very few organisms are virulent, easy to transmit and dangerous enough to kill vast quantities of people (and the ones that are...well, how do you know they aren't going to come back on you?).  Chemical weapons are required in vast quantities to inflict mass casualties.  Look at the Tokyo subway attacks - only seven killed, despite good conditions for their use and a not unreasonable expected death toll of in the hundreds.

Chemical weapons tend to dissipate after a few hours, and biological attacks can be treated.  Nuclear weapons, on the other hand, cause far greater casualties, and the fallout can contaminate the area for decades to come.  Also, economics.  Despite their high cost, after a certain threshold, it is still cheaper to use nuclear weapons than biological or chemical weapons to inflict millions of casualties.

There's also the point that the US has never successfully and directly fought a nuclear power, or attempted to, but has fought states armed with biochem weapons.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Junkenstein on February 24, 2012, 06:40:50 pm
I'll be honest and admit ignorance on the true capabilities of all three types, I was assuming there would have been advances on bio/chem simply due to how long they had been around. These could also play more into guerilla tactics which I would imagine Iran to come down to.

Still, lots more to research and read up on, many thanks.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on February 24, 2012, 07:00:56 pm
http://www.fas.org/irp/threat/wmd.htm is a pretty good start.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Mangrove on February 28, 2012, 04:44:47 pm
Dear Cain's Brain,

I came home from work yesterday, fed my dog and settled down to a bit of channel surfing. I stumbled upon Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine" documentary. Scared the shit out of me.

Was this the correct response?

Free marketly yours,

Mangrove.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on February 28, 2012, 08:56:30 pm
Maybe, possibly, though I think Klein kinda tried to hard to make a "thing" out of something that is a universal human instinct - use a crisis to pass your own agenda.  I mean, that is pretty obvious.  And the desire to go back to a blank slate and rebuild everything from scratch is also pretty universal too - recall the Khmer Rouge's Year Zero.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Mangrove on February 29, 2012, 07:43:50 pm
Maybe, possibly, though I think Klein kinda tried to hard to make a "thing" out of something that is a universal human instinct - use a crisis to pass your own agenda.  I mean, that is pretty obvious.  And the desire to go back to a blank slate and rebuild everything from scratch is also pretty universal too - recall the Khmer Rouge's Year Zero.

Thank you!

Seeing the footage of Thatcher chumming around with Pinochet coupled with police beating the shit out of miners in the early 80s pinged childhood memories.

I was glad to see this film because I am entirely ignorant of economics and didn't know anything about Milton 'Uncle Miltie' Friedman. Kind of weird to read about him. On one hand I was like "oh...he advocated a voluntary military" and yet he believed that all medical licenses should be abolished.  :?  (perhaps he should've signed a pention?)
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Nephew Twiddleton on April 07, 2012, 04:28:43 am
I occasionally try to figure out for myself whether I am for or against some sort of united Earth government (probably in the form of a confederacy or a beefed up UN). Sometimes I ham up support for it in order to troll people who think that the Rapture is imminent. If you have the time, could you make an argument for and against such a union? Obviously lack of war is a pro, and improbability of agreeing to any sort of unified policy on any subject a con (....or a pro....). I imagine that at the end of weighing everything, it's probably more trouble than it is worth and that it ends up being utopian balderdash, but I'm wondering if there would be a good reason(s) and a good method(s) of building up to some sort of planetary unity. And obviously there's the problem with getting the Christians on board without sending them to death camps, which only proves them right, and as such can't happen because we can't have them be right about the NWO.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Nephew Twiddleton on April 07, 2012, 04:30:43 am
And for bonus points, do you see the fairly recent trend of continental supranationalism a step in this direction (eg the EU, the AU and whatever they got in South America)
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on April 07, 2012, 02:55:19 pm
I don't see any good reasons to believe that global governance is necessary or desirable.  On the other hand, the only reason I can see it being worse than currently existing governments is that would have much more power.

My view of states is fairly cynical.  While there may be historical reasons why Belgium, for example, is a more valid nation-state than SouthDutchandFrenchistan, that doesn't invalidate my view that all government, unless you live in a city-state, is a bunch of people living far away from you, deciding to do lots of things and then saddling you with a bill.  My personal opinion, rootless cosmopolitan that I am, is that being ruled from London is no different than being ruled from Brussels (or Washington) in the grand scheme of things.  As such, being ruled by the United Federation of Planets, out of San Francisco (or, more likely, Geneva) wouldn't make a huge change in my opinion.  It would be a bunch of people, far away, delivering goods and services, some of questionable utility, others fairly useful, and charging me for them all.  Meh.

I would also posit that there is no reason to believe global government would bring about the end of war.  China was One Empire Under Heaven, yet was plagued by all kinds of civil wars, secessionist movements headed by rogue warlords, peasant uprisings, fanatical cults and insurgencies.  Europe was the same - in theory, it was Christendom, under the rule of the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor, but the Byzantines and French tested that proposition and came away with rather different conclusions.  The Pope's blessing was required to be seen as a legitimate ruler, and often the Pope would revoke that blessing - going as far as to excommunicate entire country's of people.  And of course, there were the wars of dynastic succession and so on, battling for relative power and prestige within the confines of the existing system.

The other major issues would be that of culture and religion, and on what grounds would world government procede?  A lot of assumptions are that world government would be necessarily western in outlook - liberal, respectful of human rights, involve devolved power and multiple branches of government, secular. 

But Westerners only make up a fraction of the world population.  A democratic world government would have to accomodate the wishes of a billion Muslims, many of whom are insistent on trying out this Shariah Law thing they keep reading about.  It would have to contend with 1.3 billion Chinese - who even if they were not under the rule of the Communist Party, would still be heavily informed by a strong history of Confucian legalism.  And then there is nearly a billion Indians - many of whom are, of course Hindu.  Not forgetting the nearly two billion Christians - many from places like Uganda. Already we're looking at a world where being homosexual would be very dangerous. 

Without the withering away of these religious impulses and some kind of convergence on Western social and ethical norms (which, unlike certain people (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Fukuyama), I do not consider inevitable or irreversible), you can either have democratic global government, or you can have liberal global government, but you cannot have both.

As for regional bodies...they're mostly range between "ineffectual but harmless" (ASEAN) and "somewhat useful" (ECOWAS).  The main problem is that a lot of them seem to look to the EU for guidance, and the EU is, to put it mildly, not good at the whole democracy thing.  Still, regionalism as a general approach makes sense.  It allows for easier coordination of international issues, disease, smuggling, terrorism etc, usually they have a shared history and culture, so the barriers to cooperation are low, and when problems do arise they are the closest and most knowledgeable people about them, and best suited to consider a response.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Nephew Twiddleton on April 07, 2012, 04:33:01 pm
Hmm.

This has given me more to chew on. And more to troll with.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Triple Zero on April 07, 2012, 05:32:47 pm
Another thing--although already somewhat implied in Cain's answer--is that running a useful and just government that benefits the people under it seems like a pretty damn hard job already. And the bigger, or rather the more complex the thing your governing, the harder I expect it to become.

You'd need to have a group of hyper-geniuses to run a world government, I'm afraid.

And who trusts a bunch of people that are 100x smarter than you? ;-) [seriously if they're significantly smarter, they're harder to identify with, and therefore harder to accept as leaders--at least, I'd think so, even if I'd know better]

Maybe if we'd clone Cain 50 times, and shake them a littlebit for variety (to avoid local minima in problem solving) and of course tweak them so they'd actually agree to do the task (not sure if our Cain would want the job, namely).
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Nephew Twiddleton on April 07, 2012, 05:37:01 pm
Another thing--although already somewhat implied in Cain's answer--is that running a useful and just government that benefits the people under it seems like a pretty damn hard job already. And the bigger, or rather the more complex the thing your governing, the harder I expect it to become.

You'd need to have a group of hyper-geniuses to run a world government, I'm afraid.

And who trusts a bunch of people that are 100x smarter than you? ;-) [seriously if they're significantly smarter, they're harder to identify with, and therefore harder to accept as leaders--at least, I'd think so, even if I'd know better]

Maybe if we'd clone Cain 50 times, and shake them a littlebit for variety (to avoid local minima in problem solving) and of course tweak them so they'd actually agree to do the task (not sure if our Cain would want the job, namely).

For the moment I have an image of you in a Cain factory picking Cains off of the conveyor belt and shaking them a few times and making notes on your clipboard.

Made even funnier by the fact that I have no idea what Cain looks like.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Don Coyote on April 07, 2012, 05:56:16 pm
Another thing--although already somewhat implied in Cain's answer--is that running a useful and just government that benefits the people under it seems like a pretty damn hard job already. And the bigger, or rather the more complex the thing your governing, the harder I expect it to become.

You'd need to have a group of hyper-geniuses to run a world government, I'm afraid.

And who trusts a bunch of people that are 100x smarter than you? ;-) [seriously if they're significantly smarter, they're harder to identify with, and therefore harder to accept as leaders--at least, I'd think so, even if I'd know better]

Maybe if we'd clone Cain 50 times, and shake them a littlebit for variety (to avoid local minima in problem solving) and of course tweak them so they'd actually agree to do the task (not sure if our Cain would want the job, namely).

For the moment I have an image of you in a Cain factory picking Cains off of the conveyor belt and shaking them a few times and making notes on your clipboard.

Made even funnier by the fact that I have no idea what Cain looks like.

It's obvious. He is a British Clint Eastwood.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Nephew Twiddleton on April 07, 2012, 06:34:19 pm
Im going to picture him as paul hogan. Accent probably fits.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Nephew Twiddleton on April 20, 2012, 09:02:27 am
Got another question for you. Why are Socialists and Communists so long winded?

You have Chavez, whose doctor told him to stop talking so much for his laryngeal health
You had Castro who was almost as bad
You had Guevarra who would go on long tirades and then shoot you in the head...

I'm sure I'm missing a whole ton more, but I'm wondering if there's some sort of personality trait that makes one both a Leftist and a verbose bastard.

Twid,
relatively quiet Leftist.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on April 20, 2012, 10:22:44 am
Marxism. 

You ever read Marx?  By German standards of writers, he is relatively good.  But those standards include Kant and Hegel.  "Revolutionary Dictatorship of the Proletariat" is a relatively succint phrase and understood concept, compared to "But the other side of its Becoming, History, is a conscious, self-meditating process — Spirit emptied out into Time; but this externalization, this kenosis, is equally an externalization of itself; the negative is the negative of itself."
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Nephew Twiddleton on April 20, 2012, 01:18:15 pm
Marxism. 

You ever read Marx?  By German standards of writers, he is relatively good.  But those standards include Kant and Hegel.  "Revolutionary Dictatorship of the Proletariat" is a relatively succint phrase and understood concept, compared to "But the other side of its Becoming, History, is a conscious, self-meditating process — Spirit emptied out into Time; but this externalization, this kenosis, is equally an externalization of itself; the negative is the negative of itself."

I read the Communist Manifesto, which was kinda hard to get through and seemed rambly at points.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Doktor Howl on April 20, 2012, 02:33:12 pm
I occasionally try to figure out for myself whether I am for or against some sort of united Earth government (probably in the form of a confederacy or a beefed up UN).

We - as a species, that is - cannot even run governments for a few million people.  Try the complexity of a government over 7 Bn + people.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: The Johnny on April 20, 2012, 02:36:38 pm
i tink that the problem with bigger and wider governments is that it homogenizes local communities that dont necessarily have the same needs and in a certain way alienates them from their laws.

the problem with the counterpart of local governments and autonomy is in part the infrastructure like water, energy, food, etc and the self defense needs that always arise due to human warmongering, so i think were stuck on our current political boundaries

sorry im in a bit of a rush if it sounds too vague
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Lenin McCarthy on April 20, 2012, 03:09:31 pm
I like the subsidiarity principle (that matters ought to be handled by the lowest competent authority), and if a world government were to follow that principle, IMO there wouldn't be many tasks left for the federal level that couldn't be dealt with more effectively on other levels. I can see it dealing with extraterrestrial affairs, war, peace and climate change, but not much more, just a slightly beefed up UN basically. And even then it would be difficult to keep it from doing too much/extending its own mandate.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Doktor Howl on April 20, 2012, 04:15:26 pm
I like the subsidiarity principle (that matters ought to be handled by the lowest competent authority), and if a world government were to follow that principle, IMO there wouldn't be many tasks left for the federal level that couldn't be dealt with more effectively on other levels.

Problem is, higher levels of government invariably begin to interfere with lower levels.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Elder Iptuous on April 20, 2012, 05:02:09 pm
I like the subsidiarity principle (that matters ought to be handled by the lowest competent authority), and if a world government were to follow that principle, IMO there wouldn't be many tasks left for the federal level that couldn't be dealt with more effectively on other levels.

Problem is, higher levels of government invariably begin to interfere with lower levels.

which makes sense, as the higher level beauracracy is going to judge competency from the context of a different viewpoint.  and since the power distribution is uneven, it is only natural that the tasks drift ever upward.


Cain.  Do you have any suggestions or have you written any analyses on the city state form of governance?  I've always been fond of the notion.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on April 20, 2012, 05:12:12 pm
I haven't written any in depth analyses on them, but my general feelings are thus:

I like city-states.  They tend to be more politically involved, cosmopolitan and egalitarian than the citizens of nation-states, and they are of just the right size to get the balance between accountabilty, acessability and viability correct (note: may not apply to mega-cities), going by European history at least.

On the other hand, they tend to lose wars with distressing ease to nation-states.  And they tend towards financialization of their economy, which can turn out rather badly for them.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Doktor Howl on April 20, 2012, 07:19:46 pm
I haven't written any in depth analyses on them, but my general feelings are thus:

I like city-states.  They tend to be more politically involved, cosmopolitan and egalitarian than the citizens of nation-states, and they are of just the right size to get the balance between accountabilty, acessability and viability correct (note: may not apply to mega-cities), going by European history at least.

On the other hand, they tend to lose wars with distressing ease to nation-states.  And they tend towards financialization of their economy, which can turn out rather badly for them.

Until very recently, Tucson functioned very much like a city state, as nobody else in the state cares about us, and they keep all the federal money for Phoenix.

Recently, however, we have been getting more and more mandates from the state which are harder and harder to ignore.  We still don't get any money, though.  We get back about $0.40 in services for every dollar paid in state taxes, and no federal money for anything besides armored vehicles for the police.

Our roads are falling apart, but clearly it's more important for the cops and the DHS/ICE assholes to have tanks.

This is why I agree with Cain.  City states are the best solution.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on April 20, 2012, 07:30:23 pm
As I think I've said elsewhere, the rulers in city-states also tend to be more responsive to their citizens needs.

Normally because their citizens know where to find them in order to string them up, should they fuck it all up, and organizing a city-wide mob is not as hard as organizing a country-wide mob.  It's at just the right level for a lot of things when it comes to organization, economic viability, democratic governance and so on.

Unfortunately, the trend seems to be towards super-states, 1990s secession-mania nonwithstanding.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Doktor Howl on April 20, 2012, 07:34:43 pm
As I think I've said elsewhere, the rulers in city-states also tend to be more responsive to their citizens needs.

Hell, until last year, the cops carried a crate of bottled water in their trunks to hand out to homeless people.

But Mayor Walkup is gone now, and the new regime is trying to be Scottsdale. 

But Tucson knows how to deal with that sort of thing.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Placid Dingo on April 23, 2012, 02:32:31 pm
Considering Japan is economically destabilised, politically incoherent, perpetually dealing with the crisis that never ends in Fukushima and an Iranian conflict away from losing their ability to provide power to their people... is this sending a message that a policy of nonviolence is not pragmatic? Or is it just bad luck?

I guess I mean, if Japan had post WW2 been able to remain militarily strong and had activly participated in conflicts (in greater capacity than the Iraq involvement I mean) would they be facing the same problems now, or would they better equipped to deal with them?
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on April 23, 2012, 02:44:59 pm
Well, I don't exactly see how a military could have helped in any of those situations.  Japan's always going to be an island with no natural resources of note, in a tectonically unstable region, reliant on outside fuel sources.

If you want oil, the cheapest way to get it is to buy it.  Unless wanting oil isn't the issue, and controlling it is...but as things stand, buying it is the cheaper option.

And for a country with "no military", they sure are spending a lot on military procurements.  Fifth biggest spenders in the world, according to the CIA.

I'm not entirely sure how you're getting that the economic and political crisis, as well as Fukushima and the Iranian crisis could have been prevented by a strong military.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Pergamos on August 14, 2015, 08:03:53 am
Could you offer your Cainite wisdom on the situation in Rojava?  Are they, as some have suggested, the ideological successors to the Spanish Anarchists?  are they, as the Turkey seems to think, just one ore brand of Muslim terrorist?  Or are they something else entirely?
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on September 15, 2015, 10:33:42 pm
Could you offer your Cainite wisdom on the situation in Rojava?  Are they, as some have suggested, the ideological successors to the Spanish Anarchists?  are they, as the Turkey seems to think, just one ore brand of Muslim terrorist?  Or are they something else entirely?

Sorry, totally missed this.

Their ideology is, broadly speaking, left-libertarianism.  The PKK is the largest and most well organised of the Kurdish resistance groups, and they are, without a doubt, Marxist to the core (Ocalan, the leader, was a well known Marxist agitator and student of political science in Turkey).  Their offshoots, like the YPG, are very progressive by most Middle Eastern standards.

That said, they're also vulnerable to the less attractive aspects of leftwing ideology, notably cult of personality (Ocalan assassinated several PKK members he suspected of being insufficiently devoted to the cause) and political authoritarianism in the areas they control.  However, they are by far the most progressive groups in the Middle East when it comes to democracy, women's rights, separation of church and state and similar issues.

Turkey hasn't a leg to stand on when criticizing the PKK though.  It was their harsh, wholesale repression of Kurdish culture, which they tried to completely destroy, which led to the emergence of the PKK and their war against Ankara.  You can still be arrested in Turkey for performing "Kurdish dancing" for example, and any expression of Kurdish culture is seen as propaganda for the PKK - regardless of how innocent it may actually be.

With regards to the Islamic issue, many Kurds have resisted Turkish heavy-handed attempts to promote the version favoured by the ruling AKP in Kurdish majority areas.  They're definitely opposed to Salafism, Wahhabism and similar, and while a good number of Kurds are still Muslim, they usually consider themselves to be more culturally Muslim, or vague believers, than involved in definite creeds.  The strong influence of the PKK and Marxism on Kurdish groups means that religion, as a rule, is seen as the opiate of the people, and in particular responsible for the repression of women in the Middle East (the YPG has its own female only battalions, and both the YPG and PKK sites regularly post articles on feminism).

They're not perfect, but in many ways I would say they are some of the only few good guys fighting in the Middle East currently.  They've been dicked over by everyone, including most recently ourselves, but they're keeping a valuable and worthwhile struggle alive, with mostly reasonable means.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: LMNO on November 05, 2015, 10:13:41 pm
So... what's the internet saying about the Russian plane explosion being a false-flag attack by the CIA, to get the Russians to focus their Syrian bombing attacks on the people the US would prefer they bomb?
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on November 05, 2015, 10:56:46 pm
The internet is fucking dumb.  The Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis have been blowing up tanks in the Sinai since 2014, and pledged themselves to the Caliphate less than a month after it was declared.  No-one else bothered to pay attention to the insurgency there in the media, because it wasn't "sexy" enough, but the Sinai ISIS fanbois have been capping Egyptian police officers and carrying bombings at a fairly consistent rate.  Rumour has it they have support from Muslim Brotherhood aligned former military officers and Qatar, but that could be Sisi blowing smoke up everyone's arses, since it was his coup that toppled the democratically elected MB government.

And you'd have to be at least twice as dumb as the CIA actually are to think killing a couple of hundred civilians is going to affect a change in Russia's strategy in any way.  Russia already claims they're bombing the shit out of ISIS to the home crowd, even though they're clearly not.  If this was a CIA plot, Putin would respond by...doubling down on the propaganda.  Achievement Unlocked: I killed a couple of hundred people and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.

American intelligence did apparently know something about a security lapse at the al-Sham airport, but it very much sounds like ad hoc signals intelligence that they only threw together recently.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: LMNO on November 05, 2015, 11:49:07 pm
I love you, Cain.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: LMNO on December 23, 2015, 07:12:20 pm
Thoughts on Hersh's latest speculator conspiracy piece? (http://www.lrb.co.uk/v38/n01/seymour-m-hersh/military-to-military)
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on December 26, 2015, 07:30:57 pm
It's a complex piece.  I'll tackle it when I'm back in town, in a few days.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on December 28, 2015, 10:41:38 pm
OK.

So, the Libyan arms pipeline is pretty much confirmed at this point.  Consider the words of  Libyan army commander Hamed Belkhair, when questioned about it by Reuters (http://www.reuters.com/article/us-libya-syria-idUSBRE95H0WC20130618):

Quote
"The weapons are not supplied to extremists, but only to the Free Syrian Army".

Especially in conjunction with this:

Quote
A United Nations Panel report dated February this year also backs Haroun's assertions that weapons smuggling to Syria from Libya is widely known about.

"The Syrian Arab Republic has presented a prominent destination for some Libyan fighters and Libyan military materiel," the writers say.

Transfers have been organized under the supervision, or with the consent, of a range of actors in Libya and the Syrian Arab Republic."

The report adds: "the significant size of some shipments and the logistics involved suggest that representatives of the Libyan local authorities might have at least been aware of the transfers, if not actually directly involved."

The weapons then go to Turkey or Jordan, where they cross the border.  Jordan, as you may recall, was the site of a US training program for Syrian rebels (http://www.reuters.com/article/us-syria-crisis-rebels-usa-idUSBRE9290FI20130310).

Of course, there's no smoking gun that the CIA were involved, but the transfers specifically to the FSA and to Turkey and Jordan are...telling.  The CIA would only oversee this kind of operation, working through local actors to actually procure and transfer the goods.  The CIA regularly works with arms dealers, so this kind of operation would be nothing new or exciting.  The FSA were not the richest, or biggest faction in Syria either, so monetary considerations or a desire to see Assad overthrown at all costs are clearly not paramount here.

A DIA report from 2012  (http://www.judicialwatch.org/document-archive/pgs-1-3-2-3-from-jw-v-dod-and-state-14-812/)shows the US intelligence community were aware of weapon smuggling from Benghazi to Syria.

That Turkey co-opted the rebels and purposefully supported the most extreme elements is, I think, now without question.  They definitely backed Jabhat al-Nusra (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/turkey/11093478/Turkish-government-co-operated-with-al-Qaeda-in-Syria-says-former-US-ambassador.html), and I believe they back IS against the Kurdish YPG, and to a lesser extent against the regime and the Saudi-backed rebel groups.

Quote
Germany, Israel and Russia were in contact with the Syrian army, and able to exercise some influence over Assad’s decisions – it was through them that US intelligence would be shared.

At least two of these are correct - it was recently confirmed the BND was in contact with Syrian state intelligence, and of course Russia is as well.  Via Russia (http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/Netanyahu-Israeli-Russian-cooperation-has-successfully-prevented-unnecessary-accidents-435879), it appears Israel is cooperating and sharing intelligence with the regime (not that this will stop the tiresome ISIS = Israel theories).

This, however, is false:

Quote
Russia had an alliance of very long standing with Syria, and was worried by the threat to its only naval base on the Mediterranean, at Tartus.

Russia recently negotiated and renewed treaties with Cyprus which would offset the loss of Tartus.  Obviously, they'd rather not lose it, but it's not a vital strategic interest, per se.

US intelligence cooperation with Syria is definitely correct.  You may recall the Canadian citizen (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maher_Arar) America deported to Syria?  Can't comment on what caused the bust-up, maybe that is the case, maybe something else happened.

Can't comment on JCS circumventing Obama on Libyan arms, though there is definitely some intelligence sharing going on at a military level.  After a year of sorties and bombing raids, there hasn't been a single Syrian state on USAF fire incident.  Someone is clearly communicating US attack information, to prevent Assad's anti-airforce systems and fighters from engaging them.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Pergamos on December 29, 2015, 05:24:12 am
So Israel is not supporting Daesh?
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on December 29, 2015, 09:59:26 am
Nope.  As far back as 2013, Israeli officials were being quoted as saying they would prefer Assad remain in power, however problematic he is, than Islamists take charge.

While ISIS isn't a primary concern, Jabhat al-Nusra are dangerously close to the border.

Not everyone in Israel agrees, of course, a recent publication by the National Security Institute argued the focus should still be on ousting Assad, while nevertheless supporting Russia's intervention in the country. 

The only evidence of support I have seen has been incredibly blown beyond all proportion, in that Israel provided humanitarian assistance, including medical care, to Syrian rebels who may have been part of ISIS.  Which is unlikely in the first place because the men were described as "Syrian", which most of ISIS is not, and because they were picked up across the border.  Israeli humanitarian aid may have been quid quo pro for being allowed access to civilians (fairly usual in these sort of conflicts...."treat my men and you can treat the civilians"), may also have been a military propaganda campaign to convince the rebels that Israel is not their enemy.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: LMNO on December 29, 2015, 01:15:16 pm
Thank you, Cain!  There's more meat there than I expected.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on December 29, 2015, 02:41:18 pm
No worries.  It is also worth putting this in the context of a US military campaign that, as far as most people can see, is doing very little against ISIS.

I don't believe for a minute that the Pentagon are as on the ball as they're portraying themselves to be via Hersh.  Ramadi is the key example here: the Pentagon was claiming for at least a month it wasn't going to fall.  When ISIS did their customary blitzkrieg attack, the city was taken with relative ease, only the remnants of the Sons of Iraq denying them the city centre for a time (the Iraqi army retook Ramadi recently, but only with the help of Shiite militias.  The Sunni Sons of Iraq are not going to be happy, seeing government empowered death squads who, only a decade ago were targeting them strolling around what they consider their stronghold).

Partly this is due to political constraints, Obama does not want boots on the ground.  But partly this is the fault of the military, they've shown they don't have good tactical intelligence re: ISIS and they oversold the effect of a bombing and drone attack campaign.  If it weren't for the YPG and Syrian Democratic Forces, this would be an even bigger military disaster than it already is.  Hersh is clearly being used by the military to pre-emptively cover their arse.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Brother Mythos on December 30, 2015, 04:13:34 am
Cain,

What are your thoughts on the level of civilian support for ISIL from within Saudi Arabia?

Thanks,

Gray Area
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on December 30, 2015, 12:51:06 pm
There was a poll, by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy last year, that suggested ISIS was viewed favourably by 5% of the Saudi population, or about half a million people.

Polls are notoriously unreliable in that part of the world, and especially in a dictatorship like that, but I would suggest that is in the right ballpark, it could be 3-5% higher, but I'd be surprised if it was any higher (or indeed lower at all).

Of course, it depends how we are defining civilian too.  For the purposes of this, I'll ignore the elements within the Saudi aristocracy who are still bankrolling the group, against the wishes of their government, and focus on what they call the "grassroots" support.

Out of that, a small fraction, likely less than 500 people, will be materially supporting the group.  ISIS has carried out successful attacks in Saudi Arabia, suicide bombings in particular.  Much like Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in 2002-4, they're probably sourcing and building locally as opposed to smuggling them in.  To do that, however, they will need safe houses, funding, banking expertise, a bombmaker....all the little necessities of a terrorist campaign.  More interestingly, ISIS border attacks have also succeeded, on at least two occasions, in killing high ranking Saudi military officers, one general and one...brigadier, I think.  Given how protected the Saudi military officer class normally are, and how insulated they tend to be from the front lines, that suggests they also have intelligence sources reporting to them.  AQAP also made great use of intelligence assets in their Saudi campaign, but having tactical intelligence on the location of a general for assassination...that's some serious assistance.

Also worth noting here that an estimated 1500-2000ish Saudi citizens have joined up to fight with ISIS.  Some of these may have returned, and could account for part of their support network in country, though I would expect only in a command and control capacity.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: LMNO on December 30, 2015, 01:10:53 pm
I don't say it enough, but I feel genuinely lucky to have access to a brain and skills such as yours, Cain.  IR is something I have scant knowledge of.  It's like pulling back a curtain.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Freeky on December 30, 2015, 08:28:29 pm
I don't say it enough, but I feel genuinely lucky to have access to a brain and skills such as yours, Cain.  IR is something I have scant knowledge of.  It's like pulling back a curtain.

I totally agree with this.  Cain, you are awesome.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: The Good Reverend Roger on December 30, 2015, 09:44:33 pm
So Israel is not supporting Daesh?

Why would they?
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Brother Mythos on December 31, 2015, 12:08:24 am
Thank you Cain,

If you would care to elaborate, I’d also like to know your thoughts on the Saudi aristocracy and their support for ISIL. I imagine the palace intrigue in a place like Saudi Arabia is quite interesting.

Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on December 31, 2015, 05:59:19 pm
Thank you Cain,

If you would care to elaborate, I’d also like to know your thoughts on the Saudi aristocracy and their support for ISIL. I imagine the palace intrigue in a place like Saudi Arabia is quite interesting.

It is, but it's very hard for outsiders to actually find out anything about.  You have to be a dedicated House of Saud watcher, the equivalent of a Cold War Kremlinologist, to even scratch the surface of what is really going on.

I'm not one of those people.  I don't have the time and can't sustain the interest to the exclusion of other things.

That said, I'd say it goes something like this:

Hardliners in the Saudi secret service, especially around their former head (and former Ambassador to the USA, and former foreign policy tutor to George W Bush), Prince Bandar.  Bandar was someone who wanted to see the Assad regime gone, at any cost.  While I'm sure ISIS would not have been his main choice of horse to back, or even the primary beneficiary of Saudi largesse, there is little doubt that his appointment to lead the efforts to topple Assad, and subsequent "blind eye" to funding of jihadists coming from Saudi Arabia worked to their benefit.

Alongside that, there are always elements in the Saudi aristocracy who hate Shiites, hate modernity and hate the west.  These princes helped fund and protect Bin Laden, even after 9/11, and they likely fund ISIS now.  There is credible evidence that some members of Al-Qaeda even had highly ranked supporters in Saudi intelligence (one member of Al-Qaeda was tricked into believing he was being held by Saudi intelligence.  He gave them the number of Prince Ahmed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz (http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,480226,00.html).  Prince Turki, the former head of Saudi intelligence, also allegedly kept close contact with Al-Qaeda).

Some Saudis see tactical and geopolitical advantages in these relationships.  Some of them, however, are hardliners who see the House of Saud as corrupt, too close to the Americans.  I'm sure they'd welcome a situation where more....pious custodians for the Holy Cities can come to power.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on December 31, 2015, 06:01:53 pm
Incidentally, I recommend everyone click on that link.  It really is amazing:

Quote
Zubaydah, writes Posner, said the Saudi connection ran through Prince Turki al-Faisal bin Abdul Aziz, the kingdom's longtime intelligence chief. Zubaydah said bin Laden "personally" told him of a 1991 meeting at which Turki agreed to let bin Laden leave Saudi Arabia and to provide him with secret funds as long as al-Qaeda refrained from promoting jihad in the kingdom. The Pakistani contact, high-ranking air force officer Mushaf Ali Mir, entered the equation, Zubaydah said, at a 1996 meeting in Pakistan also attended by Zubaydah. Bin Laden struck a deal with Mir, then in the military but tied closely to Islamists in Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (isi), to get protection, arms and supplies for al-Qaeda. Zubaydah told interrogators bin Laden said the arrangement was "blessed by the Saudis."

Zubaydah said he attended a third meeting in Kandahar in 1998 with Turki, senior isi agents and Taliban officials. There Turki promised, writes Posner, that "more Saudi aid would flow to the Taliban, and the Saudis would never ask for bin Laden's extradition, so long as al-Qaeda kept its long-standing promise to direct fundamentalism away from the kingdom." In Posner's stark judgment, the Saudis "effectively had (bin Laden) on their payroll since the start of the decade." Zubaydah told the interrogators that the Saudis regularly sent the funds through three royal-prince intermediaries he named.

The last eight paragraphs of the book set up a final startling development. Those three Saudi princes all perished within days of one another. On July 22, 2002, Prince Ahmed was felled by a heart attack at age 43. One day later Prince Sultan bin Faisal bin Turki al-Saud, 41, was killed in what was called a high-speed car accident. The last member of the trio, Prince Fahd bin Turki bin Saud al-Kabir, officially "died of thirst" while traveling east of Riyadh one week later. And seven months after that, Mushaf Ali Mir, by then Pakistan's Air Marshal, perished in a plane crash in clear weather over the unruly North-West Frontier province, along with his wife and closest confidants.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Pergamos on December 31, 2015, 09:59:35 pm
So Israel is not supporting Daesh?

Why would they?

Because Daesh is really bad news for Assad, and Hezbollah.  Also bad news for Saudi Arabia and Iran.  They tend to focus on other Muslims as their enemies, which could make Israel see them as a useful tool.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on December 31, 2015, 10:06:29 pm
So Israel is not supporting Daesh?

Why would they?

Because Daesh is really bad news for Assad, and Hezbollah.  Also bad news for Saudi Arabia and Iran.  They tend to focus on other Muslims as their enemies, which could make Israel see them as a useful tool.

Israel has a de facto alliance with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, and has vested interests in Christian militias in Lebanon, all of which are threatened by ISIS. 

They also may have learnt from their experience of tacitly backing Hamas against Fatah, after the first intifada.  ISIS, or more likely Jabhat al-Nusra, could try and set up shop in the Occupied Territories to gain greater legitimacy too.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Brother Mythos on January 01, 2016, 01:12:26 am
Cain,

Thanks, again, for sharing your knowledge of Middle Eastern politics. I have more questions, but I’ll give it a rest for now. Have a happy New Year!
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Mesozoic Mister Nigel on January 01, 2016, 02:06:13 am
Thank you Cain,

If you would care to elaborate, I’d also like to know your thoughts on the Saudi aristocracy and their support for ISIL. I imagine the palace intrigue in a place like Saudi Arabia is quite interesting.

It is, but it's very hard for outsiders to actually find out anything about.  You have to be a dedicated House of Saud watcher, the equivalent of a Cold War Kremlinologist, to even scratch the surface of what is really going on.

I'm not one of those people.  I don't have the time and can't sustain the interest to the exclusion of other things.

That said, I'd say it goes something like this:

Hardliners in the Saudi secret service, especially around their former head (and former Ambassador to the USA, and former foreign policy tutor to George W Bush), Prince Bandar.  Bandar was someone who wanted to see the Assad regime gone, at any cost.  While I'm sure ISIS would not have been his main choice of horse to back, or even the primary beneficiary of Saudi largesse, there is little doubt that his appointment to lead the efforts to topple Assad, and subsequent "blind eye" to funding of jihadists coming from Saudi Arabia worked to their benefit.

Alongside that, there are always elements in the Saudi aristocracy who hate Shiites, hate modernity and hate the west.  These princes helped fund and protect Bin Laden, even after 9/11, and they likely fund ISIS now.  There is credible evidence that some members of Al-Qaeda even had highly ranked supporters in Saudi intelligence (one member of Al-Qaeda was tricked into believing he was being held by Saudi intelligence.  He gave them the number of Prince Ahmed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz (http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,480226,00.html).  Prince Turki, the former head of Saudi intelligence, also allegedly kept close contact with Al-Qaeda).

Some Saudis see tactical and geopolitical advantages in these relationships.  Some of them, however, are hardliners who see the House of Saud as corrupt, too close to the Americans.  I'm sure they'd welcome a situation where more....pious custodians for the Holy Cities can come to power.

I'm gonna leave this open in my browser to check out after tomorrow's hangover wears off.

I appreciate your nutshell analyses, BTW, they are really really helpful. I trust your take a hell of a lot more than any media outlet I'm likely to come across under my own steam.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Brother Mythos on January 03, 2016, 09:21:04 am
Cain,

I was under the impression that the Iraqi Security Forces were little more than a corrupt, public welfare program. But it appears, for now at least, that the ISF are willing and capable of advancing into enemy held territory, capturing it, securing it, and holding it.

So, what’s changed within Iraq to bring that about?

Thanks.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on January 03, 2016, 03:05:00 pm
They're still terrible.  It's every bit as awful as you've heard, and worse.  Entire platoons exist only on paper, so generals can line their pockets with their pay.  Procurement is a joke, most of the money is siphoned off and the stock sold on the black market, and those divisions that do have weapons usually have substandard ones.  Officer positions are essentially paid for and/or political appointees, meaning most officers in the Iraqi Army are Shiites with little military background or training, which puts them at a significant disadvantage against ISIS (whose strategists are Saddam-era Republican Guard senior officers).

Nothing much has changed, except that the Iraqi Army is now bolstered by irregulars who are significantly more motivated to fight and, in many cases, are almost as brutal as the ISIS fighters they are being sent against.

In Tikrit, they used Shiite death squads.  Literal death squads, Mahdi Army, Badr Organization guys, people involved in mass killings and disappearances during the occupation.  In Ramadi, they decided to use local tribes instead, alongside local police forces and an elite counter-terrorism unit (who are usually where the few professionals the ISF have invariably end up).  Ramadi is something of a special case, too, as it's a stronghold of the former Awakening Councils, aka The Sons of Iraq, aka Sunnis who remember how much Al-Qaeda sucked during the occupation and so teamed up with the Americans to kill them in droves.

The Sons aren't quite the force they used to be, but they will have the alleigance, if not comprise of, the local tribes and the local police force. 

The local element is probably the critical one.  In Fallujah, ISIS leveraged tribal discontent with the central Iraqi government and, as a consequence, roflstomped the loyal security forces there and have held the city for 2 years, despite attempts by the Iraqi Army to retake it (including an infamous effort to mortar the city centre.  Yes, you read that correctly.  This is the level of "professionalism" the Iraqi Army deals in).

The Iraqi Army has also allegedly been training its more competent troops in urban warfare.  As opposed to the tactics used in the occupation, which were more of a "hit-and-run" sort, ISIS seize territory and have no qualms about fighting in urban areas.  This may account for the...significant delay in their campaign to retake Anbar.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Brother Mythos on January 03, 2016, 04:58:53 pm
From what you’ve said, it sounds to me like its going to be up to local forces to hold onto any ground taken back from ISIL.

Do you think the Iraqi central government will, at least, keep the local forces adequately supplied, or is it too corrupt to do even that much?

Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on January 03, 2016, 07:29:58 pm
I can't see the Iraqi government supplying weapons to Sunni groups under almost any circumstances.

A lot of the reason ISIS has made significant traction in Iraq is due to how Sunni Iraqis have been treated by a Shia dominated government with close links to Iran.  Sunnis were essentially cut out of most of the major government bodies, decision making etc...this led to a Sunni protest movement (in the wake of the Arab Spring).  This was countered with harsh security crackdowns, disappearances and torture.

ISIS exploited popular discontent, managed to win some tribes over to their side, and the rest is history.  While Maliki, who sanctioned much of this behaviour, has stood down as PM, his party still holds most of the power in the Iraqi Parliament and though they are not all as hardline as he was, they are nevertheless his supporters and allies.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Brother Mythos on January 03, 2016, 11:30:39 pm
Thanks Cain,

I don’t doubt ISIL has been able to recruit individuals from their areas of control in Iraq and Syria. And, I’m sure Sunni tribes within ISIL areas of control must cooperate with them on some level. I can also understand why some Sunni tribes revolted against Iraq’s Shia dominated central government.

I do realize some wealthy Saudi Arabians are partially funding ISIL, and I can understand an enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend mindset.

What I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around is Iraqi Sunni tribes buying into the Islamic fundamentalist Wahhabi movement of Saudi Arabia.

I was under the impression that the Iraqi Sunnis under Saddam Hussein were somewhat tolerant of other religions in the Middle East. I can understand Sunnis from Hussein’s government and military fomenting revolt among their tribes after getting thrown out of power. But, going from a somewhat tolerant religious attitude to full-blown fundamentalism seems, to me at least, to be a big step. However, I’m not of Middle Eastern heritage, so I might be mistaken about that. 

To your knowledge, are any of the various Sunni tribes living within ISIL controlled areas really enthusiastically and wholeheartedly supporting ISIL’s fundamentalism?

Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on January 05, 2016, 11:37:27 am
I would be very surprised if they are buying into their ideology.  While a lot of these Sunni tribes and clans are quite conservative in their worldview, their focus is, as you would expect, not only waging global jihad.  The Al-Qaeda/ISIS ideology is quite distinctive in this respect amongst Islamist groups - almost all of them are focused on their respective national governments or else endorsing separatist ethnic groups within the nation-state setting.  Only Al-Qaeda, ISIS and a few of their affiliates are so focused on the "far enemy", on global conflict and of the restoration of the caliphate.

The alliances are almost certainly alliances of convenience.  The ex-Baathist cadre allied themselves with ISIS because it offered a way to attack the Occupation, the Iranians and the "traitors".  The local tribes are thinking much the same thing.  They've been cut out of the decision making, of access to central state funds etc....

This is another thing that Al-Qaeda and ISIS have proven themselves to be adept at.  After the invasion of Afghanistan, when Al-Qaeda fled across the border, they used their relationships with the local Pashto tribes - who didn't care a whit about America, but were very concerned with asserting their independence from political control in Islamabad - to give themselves a safe haven.  They've struck alliances with groups like the Haqqani (who may be a bit of an exception, as some of them have adopted the global view of Al-Qaeda) to augment their numbers and battlefield proficiency, and with other outcast Islamist groups who are also primarily concerned with their own national struggles (Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan).

The situation in Iraq is further complicated that the occupation either deliberately, or through a brilliantly incompetent approach that just happened to mirror colonial standard practice, went about exacerbating sectarian tensions.  Somehow, the Americans got it into their head, when they invaded, that Iraq was already a sectarian mess (they modelled Saddam Hussein as a "Sunni dictator", likely using the same logic that led them to conclude he was cooperating with Al-Qaeda) and so they favoured political actors based on those religious identities over more representative or suitable actors.  They then favoured a political system under which sectarian identification became the most important factor....which predictably led to sectarian violence as those actors disagreed over their divide of the political spoils.

This in and of itself is complicated by a general worldview that has built up over the Middle East since the invasion of Iraq that sectarian enemies are being sponsored by the Americans.  Lebanon is a perfect example of this - every side is convinced the Israelis and Americans are backing the other, and that the most pressing need is to fight the [ x ]-sectarian conspiracy.  Nir Rosen's book, Aftermath, details this quite well (and is worth reading besides).  Because America is seen in such a negative light, it's also helpful for national governments there which are allied to America to use them as bogeyman or convenient excuse for their own crimes....and thus the scapegoating has significant political benefits.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on January 05, 2016, 01:32:44 pm
Back to Hersh, you may find this interesting, LMNO: http://chinamatters.blogspot.com/2015/12/hersh-gauthier-and-coming-of-terror-in.html

Quote
My interest, naturally, was attracted to Hersh’s description of a “Uyghur rat-line” organized by Turkey to funnel militants from the PRC’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region into Syria:

The analyst, whose views are routinely sought by senior government officials, told me that ‘Erdoğan has been bringing Uighurs into Syria by special transport while his government has been agitating in favour of their struggle in China. Uighur and Burmese Muslim terrorists who escape into Thailand somehow get Turkish passports and are then flown to Turkey for transit into Syria.’ He added that there was also what amounted to another ‘rat line’ that was funnelling Uighurs – estimates range from a few hundred to many thousands over the years – from China into Kazakhstan for eventual relay to Turkey, and then to IS territory in Syria.

Hersh also quoted Syria’s ambassador to the PRC:

‘China is concerned that the Turkish role of supporting the Uighur fighters in Syria may be extended in the future to support Turkey’s agenda in Xinjiang. We are already providing the Chinese intelligence service with information regarding these terrorists and the routes they crossed from on travelling into Syria.’

Hersh also consulted analyst Christina Lin (who quotes me! In her pieces) on the Uyghur issue.

So the Uyghur angle in the LRB article leans on “the analyst”, a source Hersh has relied on since 9/11 and whose conspicuous single-sourciness has been a constant complaint of critics seeking to impugn Hersh’s reporting; a Syrian official perhaps happy to add to Erdogan’s woes by hanging the Uyghur issue around his neck; and an analyst dealing to a certain extent in open source information.

Therefore, I paid attention to a statement Hersh made during an interview with Democracy Now!, describing a study by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2013:

The third major finding [in the study] was about Turkey. It said we simply have to deal with the problem. The Turkish government, led by Erdogan, was—had opened—basically, his borders were open, arms were flying. I had written about that earlier for the London Review, the rat line. There were arms flying since 2012, covertly, with the CIA’s support and the support of the American government. Arms were coming from Tripoli and other places in Benghazi, in Libya, going into Turkey and then being moved across the line. And another interesting point is that a lot of Chinese dissidents, the Uyghurs, the Muslim Chinese that are being pretty much hounded by the Chinese, were also—another rat line existed. They were coming from China into Kazakhstan, into Turkey and into Syria. So, this was a serious finding.

Unless Hersh is carelessly interpolating a non-sequitur about the Uyghurs in his remarks, it looks like his source told him there was a JCS/DIA finding, based on classified sigint/humint, about Erdogan playing footsie with Uyghur militants.

This is something I am inclined to believe, given the public record concerning the Turkey-Uyghur special relationship, and also the bizarre role of illicit Turkish passports in the travel of Uyghur refugees from Xinjiang, through Southeast Asia, and to their publicly acknowledged safe haven in Turkey.  I’ve written about the Turkey/Uyghur issue several times in 2015 including my July piece Uyghurs Move Edge Closer to Center of Turkish Diplomacy, Politics, and Geostrategic Calculation.

The other Uyghur related furor in the news concerns Ursula Gauthier, the Beijing correspondent for L’Obs.  It is speculated that Gauthier will not get her journalist’s visa extended by the PRC, in retaliation for an article she wrote pouring scorn on the PRC’s attempts to invoke a massacre of ethnic-Han security personnel and miners, apparently by Uyghurs, at Baicheng in Xinjiang, to claim “war on terror” parity with the November 13 Paris attack.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: LMNO on January 05, 2016, 03:08:30 pm
Huh.  Interesting.  Thanks, Cain.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on January 05, 2016, 03:34:31 pm
That journalist's stuff on the Uighur fighters to Turkey pipeline is very interesting.  Lots of Uighurs running around with Turkish passports, these days...quite a few Uighurs in Syria (http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/09/turkey-china-xinjiang-uighurs-isis-prevent-extremism.html), too.  Obviously Turkey, not content with just picking a fight with Russia, has decided to pick a fight with China too.

That or else someone in NATO decided the War Nerd's gameplan to militarize Xinjiang sepratists was a good idea.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: LMNO on January 05, 2016, 04:00:53 pm
This is going to work out so well.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Mesozoic Mister Nigel on January 05, 2016, 08:00:15 pm
Cain, what do you think of the idea that a lot of people are posting on the idiotbooks that the Malheur occupiers should be considered terrorists and treated as such? While I can see their point to some degree, regarding  the unbalanced response of the government compared to (thus far hypothetical situations) in which the occupiers are black or Muslim, they are occupying a completely uninhabited area, which I would tend to think makes them not terrorists. Or at least, very bad at it.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: LMNO on January 05, 2016, 08:07:46 pm
First off, I'm not Cain.  Secondly, this post isn't about whether they should be called terrorists.  Ignore the following if you want to, I understand.

So, what I'm mainly seeing is that people are trying to underline a contrast between how we're treating the White Militants, and the various liberal protest movements (Black Lives Matter, etc).  But for me, they're drawing the arrow the wrong way.  What I see is them saying, "why aren't you shooting the hell out of the whites with guns, since that's what you do to unarmed black protesters?"

It seems to me the question should be framed as, "why didn't you leave the unarmed black protesters alone, like you are doing to the white militants?"  There's still hypocrisy being pointed out, but it sets the level of morality as peaceful law enforcement responses to protest, instead of violent ones.

I dunno.  Just what's been on my FB feed of late.


Anyway, that didn't answer your question.  Just wanted to comment.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Mesozoic Mister Nigel on January 05, 2016, 08:26:20 pm
First off, I'm not Cain.  Secondly, this post isn't about whether they should be called terrorists.  Ignore the following if you want to, I understand.

So, what I'm mainly seeing is that people are trying to underline a contrast between how we're treating the White Militants, and the various liberal protest movements (Black Lives Matter, etc).  But for me, they're drawing the arrow the wrong way.  What I see is them saying, "why aren't you shooting the hell out of the whites with guns, since that's what you do to unarmed black protesters?"

It seems to me the question should be framed as, "why didn't you leave the unarmed black protesters alone, like you are doing to the white militants?"  There's still hypocrisy being pointed out, but it sets the level of morality as peaceful law enforcement responses to protest, instead of violent ones.

I dunno.  Just what's been on my FB feed of late.


Anyway, that didn't answer your question.  Just wanted to comment.

I see their reasoning, but the problem is that the only events that I can think of in recent US history involving nonwhite protesters are the Native American occupations of Alcatraz and Wounded Knee, which were both handled very similarly to how this is going down. Then there are the many instances of white cults or militants holing up in some property, which were handled similarly or (as in the case of Ruby Ridge) more aggressively. By comparing the occupation of the forest service building to riots in Baltimore and Ferguson, in my opinion people are doing a disservice to the argument, because those situations are not comparable.

In fact, a lot about this situation is not comparable to most tense protest/occupation situations involving minorities, simply because this situation is about land rights -- white people feeling entitled to Federal property, which is an attitude minorities in the US typically just don't have. The closest thing to it is Native Americans protesting being robbed of their land, which also, while typically handled poorly, is usually (in the 20th century and beyond) not handled by declaring them terrorists and firebombing the occupation.

Saying "WHAT IF people of color were doing this?" is not a convincing argument, simply because it's a little like saying "WHAT IF people of color were responsible for the economic collapse?" It assumes a social structure in which people of color could reasonably conclude that  it is their god-given right to access the resources of Federal land without paying a lease just because they want to and their Daddy did it, which isn't the universe we actually live in. And if it was, the Feds would probably be handling it exactly as they are now, because in that universe, people of color have that level of privilege.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on January 05, 2016, 08:49:05 pm
Cain, what do you think of the idea that a lot of people are posting on the idiotbooks that the Malheur occupiers should be considered terrorists and treated as such? While I can see their point to some degree, regarding  the unbalanced response of the government compared to (thus far hypothetical situations) in which the occupiers are black or Muslim, they are occupying a completely uninhabited area, which I would tend to think makes them not terrorists. Or at least, very bad at it.

It's a bit of a gray area, to be sure.

I would say it is, but I have a fairly expansive view of terrorism, and I wouldn't consider it an especially egregious case of terrorism, like the classic "plant a bomb in a cafe" sense.

Instead, I'd say this is more on a level with what eco-terrorists do.  As I'm sure you're aware, while eco-terrorists occasionally go into serious terrorism, sabotaging logging sites, assassinating scientists and similar, for the most part they bomb empty buildings to "make a point" and drive up insurance costs.  It is terrorism, but only in a very technical sense

In this case, I'd say the terrorism comes not from the occupation or the protest, but from the statements and the guns.  Protests are fine, occupation is a valid protest tactic.  However, when you throw guns into the mix, alongside comments about "being willing to use them" or words to that effect, it becomes a slightly more serious matter.  There the implication is that if law enforcement were to evict the occupiers, they would respond violently.  In effect, it's holding the property hostage, as a form of provocation, in hope of provoking a law enforcement response which would galvanise the militia movement (or at least that is how it appears - that they brought little in the way of supplies is telling).

I mean, I'd be fine if the American courts wanted to prosecute this as purely a criminal affair - it would in many ways be the best political response because it denies the legitimacy of any of the political greivances of the militia groups involved.  But under US law, if they wanted to pursue terrorism charges, I think they would have reasonable grounds to do so under existing domestic terrorism definitions (which would hinge on the "armed" and "coercing policy" aspects).  I obviously don't think that would be the smart move, and it would add credibility to the militia movement propaganda that Obama is a dictator, using anti-terrorism legislation to lock up loyal American citizens (which ironically is kinda what they're protesting about).

Academically, it would fit some definitions, but definitely on the lower end of the scale of political violence.  If wars and genocide are the top end of that scale, this would be right down on the bottom of the scale, the point after which things would turn into "arsey protests" and similar.

Some of the liberal responses have been a bit hyperbolic though, I definitely agree there.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Mesozoic Mister Nigel on January 05, 2016, 09:02:35 pm
Thanks, Cain! I definitely agree that the purpose of the protest seems to be to goad the government into escalating the aggression so that the occupiers feel they will be justified in fighting back, and also so that more of these fringe militants will come to their aid. In that respect, I think the government's response of watching and waiting is exactly the correct one.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on January 05, 2016, 09:05:28 pm
Yeah, the Feds are playing it smart for a change.

I definitely think the provocation aspect is part of what makes me feel this is more terrorism.  It's very "People's Will"...carry out a small scale, illegal operation to provoke a massive state response to justify a campaign of violence.  They were hoping for Ruby Ridge 2.0...instead, they got "medieval warfare: seigecraft edition".
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Mesozoic Mister Nigel on January 05, 2016, 10:09:56 pm
Yeah, the Feds are playing it smart for a change.

I definitely think the provocation aspect is part of what makes me feel this is more terrorism.  It's very "People's Will"...carry out a small scale, illegal operation to provoke a massive state response to justify a campaign of violence.  They were hoping for Ruby Ridge 2.0...instead, they got "medieval warfare: seigecraft edition".

 :lulz: My first thought when they took over the building is "Well, this'll be easy to wait out". There's nothing out there. Harney County has a total population of under 7500 people, and it's some of the least hospitable territory in Oregon. Plus, it's January, and the high desert is cold as fuck right now. I'm sure the building has heat... if it hasn't been shut down for the off-season.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Mesozoic Mister Nigel on January 05, 2016, 10:18:51 pm
I mean, they decided to go here, in winter, with no snacks:

(https://oregondesert.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/sagehen_lake_w.jpg)

I'm not even sure how it's made international news.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on January 05, 2016, 10:24:38 pm
Patriots burn warm with the feeling of FREEDOM.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Freeky on January 09, 2016, 08:48:19 am
Cain, why does the American government feel the need to control the entire god damn world? 


If this is a dumb question, my bad.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on January 09, 2016, 06:50:23 pm
Are we talking about any specific time period, or more generally?

Because it kinda varies post-WWI/WWII/ColdWar/current, in the specifics at least.  And while the generalised version ties all that together...it's pretty boring.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Freeky on January 14, 2016, 10:34:41 pm
Currently really.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on January 14, 2016, 10:42:16 pm
Answer forthcoming tomorrow.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Freeky on January 16, 2016, 09:41:42 pm
Yessss. :)
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on January 17, 2016, 09:54:14 am
Basically, no-one ever really planned for a post-Cold War world.

Sure, I'm sure someone, in a basement in Langley or the Pentagon, wrote a speculative analysis of how the Soviet Union might collapse and the immediate aftermath....but chances were that person a) didn't have much of a career anyway, and b) wasn't taken seriously.  All the "serious" people were either the professional Kreminologists, who were so far in the box the idea that their may no longer even be a box couldn't occur to them, and the "Team B" style nutters who spent most of the 70s and 80s hyping the Soviet threat.

So, the Soviet Union collapses.  Russia undergoes a....worrying period where Soviet hardliners try to take power, followed by the collapse of the Soviet Union, followed by Yeltsin taking power and ruthlessly crushing the competition.  Civil and interstate wars break out everywhere from Yugoslavia to the Caucasus to Central Asia as former Soviet states or factions within them try to settle scores and grab as much cash and land as possible (Pakistan played an interesting and covert role in helping stir up trouble in those states with a large number of Muslims, directing the mujahideen problem it helped create away from its own borders).

In addition to this, the collapse of Soviet support also impacted on groups in Africa.  Covert funding for wars in the USSR's interest dried up, giving a shot in the arm to groups who didn't rely on Moscow's benevolence.  Arms also flooded the market, as former Soviet military officers seized and stole military supplies in the collapse of the Union.  Ukraine in particular became a well known nexus of international arms smuggling.

So that's the background context.  In addition to that, the 1990s saw the vicious return of civil wars, religiously inspired terrorism and mass human suffering while, at the same time, the global economy was becoming more interconnected and international travel was becoming ever easier.  So you have Somalia, Rwanda, the rise of groups like Hamas and Al-Qaeda...and even internaly this was an issue in the USA.  WTC bombing in 1993, the rise of the militia/Patriot movement, culminating in the OKC Bombing in 96...and the spectre that, in this chaos, a terrorist group may acquire WMDs.  Aum Shinrikyo, even though they made their own, showed this fear was not without foundation, as did the constant smuggling of nuclear material into Europe by way of Russia (European police and intelligence agencies picked up a lot during the 90s).

The US, looking at this situation, can only come to one conclusion, "shit is fucked".  The Soviet Union's collapse created a global power vacuum which a thousand, tiny, disparate actors stepped into, spreading misery and ruin around the world.  NATO was "helpful", but Europe was barely unified, and its military spending was slacking off without a Russian threat on the borders to justify it.  China wasn't going to help...China wanted exactly two things, to make massive amounts of money, and to stare at its navel when asked about foreign issues.  Japan was constitutionally restrained, and economically a basket case.  Russia was a complete disaster in the making, and might not even be around in a decade the way things were going.

9/11 just reinforced alll these fears.

America, much like empires before it, needed to impose order on the world.  By integrating those states that stood outside the system into the global capitalist market economy, it could put them in a situation where they were inside a system in which America was dominant and impose a form of order on them.  Control outsourced, managed by foreign direct investment and Wall Street, the investment bankers and so on.  And if those nations werent willing to open their economies to such measures...well, that was what the military was for, right?  Go in, smash the existing system, depose the rulers and set up a new system run by whatever locals weren't profiting from the previous system.

Same for the terrorist groups, the nonstate actors, the insurgents.  They were hiding out at the borders of the nation-states, in places where there was no real rule of law, no effective governance.  Go in, smash the groups, and set up a new government to oversee integration into the global system.  It sounds so easy, right?
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Mesozoic Mister Nigel on January 17, 2016, 02:56:22 pm
Thanks for this. It's definitely a new perspective beyond the "American ego-driven empire".
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: LMNO on January 17, 2016, 05:01:21 pm
Cain, that was great. Thanks.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Freeky on January 18, 2016, 12:00:46 am
This makes so much sense.  Thanks a lot, Cain!
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Brother Mythos on February 08, 2016, 08:05:09 am
Cain,

What are your thoughts on the People’s Republic of China’s seemingly unwavering support of North Korea?

Is the PRC’s want of a buffer state between them and South Korea really worth the price? Is the PRC really that afraid of a unified Korea?

Thanks.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on February 08, 2016, 09:24:03 am
I think China wants in on the DPRK's vast mineral resources, which are not insignificant (http://thediplomat.com/2014/01/north-korea-may-have-two-thirds-of-worlds-rare-earths/).

Furthermore, supporting North Korea's acts of random omnibelligerence is a good reminder to Japan, who are poised to intervene (http://atimes.com/2016/01/japans-master-plan-to-destroy-the-chinese-navy-in-battle/) and lay waste to China's most heavily populated and economically successful region if demanded, that such actions are not without consequence.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Brother Mythos on February 08, 2016, 11:26:07 am
I think China wants in on the DPRK's vast mineral resources, which are not insignificant (http://thediplomat.com/2014/01/north-korea-may-have-two-thirds-of-worlds-rare-earths/).

Furthermore, supporting North Korea's acts of random omnibelligerence is a good reminder to Japan, who are poised to intervene (http://atimes.com/2016/01/japans-master-plan-to-destroy-the-chinese-navy-in-battle/) and lay waste to China's most heavily populated and economically successful region if demanded, that such actions are not without consequence.

Thanks Cain,

I’m aware of the importance and value of rare earth elements. I did not, however, know that North Korea held the world’s largest deposits. Thank you for that specific information. 

That, however, just makes Kim Jong-un’s behavior even more perplexing to me. I mean, I did not know the man is sitting on top of a vast fortune, all the while allowing his people to live with the threat of starvation hanging over their heads. It’s easy to say that the guy is crazy, but really, what the hell?

All that military activity in the South China Sea, etc. has me equally baffled, even more so after reading the article you posted. But, I’m going to take some time to gather my thoughts, and I’ll post something more on that subject later on.

Thanks again.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Junkenstein on February 08, 2016, 03:05:51 pm
Nothing substantial to add, I just wanted to call "Omnibelligerence" for a future company name.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Junkenstein on February 08, 2016, 03:32:54 pm
Also,
Quote
Pacific Century has been given a 25 year contract to develop the Jongju deposit, and reportedly intends to build a processing plant on site. However, the North Korean regime has a long history of abruptly cancelling long-term contracts with foreign companies, sometimes merely on a whim but also because of changes in the political relations between Pyongyang and the company’s home country.

During the Sunshine Policy of the 1990s, for example, many South Korean mineral companies invested heavily in North Korea, only to lose their investments when tensions between the two Koreas returned. Equally troubling for SRE Minerals, at times North Korea has encouraged foreign companies to make huge initial human and capital investments in the country, only to kick out the companies after these investments had been made. This is what happened to the Xiyang Group, a huge Chinese mining conglomerate, who invested $40 million in building a mine and training North Koreans only to be ordered to leave the country once domestic workers could handle the work independently.

That's fucking hilarious.

And also surprising really. If you're the kind of outfit that can take a punt on this level of cash, surely you have ways and means of enforcing and securing your investment? Apparently not.

Or it's possibly a cracking tax write off. "Can't pay, NK stole my shit".
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on February 09, 2016, 08:04:02 am
I think China wants in on the DPRK's vast mineral resources, which are not insignificant (http://thediplomat.com/2014/01/north-korea-may-have-two-thirds-of-worlds-rare-earths/).

Furthermore, supporting North Korea's acts of random omnibelligerence is a good reminder to Japan, who are poised to intervene (http://atimes.com/2016/01/japans-master-plan-to-destroy-the-chinese-navy-in-battle/) and lay waste to China's most heavily populated and economically successful region if demanded, that such actions are not without consequence.

Thanks Cain,

I’m aware of the importance and value of rare earth elements. I did not, however, know that North Korea held the world’s largest deposits. Thank you for that specific information. 

That, however, just makes Kim Jong-un’s behavior even more perplexing to me. I mean, I did not know the man is sitting on top of a vast fortune, all the while allowing his people to live with the threat of starvation hanging over their heads. It’s easy to say that the guy is crazy, but really, what the hell?

All that military activity in the South China Sea, etc. has me equally baffled, even more so after reading the article you posted. But, I’m going to take some time to gather my thoughts, and I’ll post something more on that subject later on.

Thanks again.

North Korea's political behaviour is constrained by specific internal conditions.  Specifically the North Korean military has a very large say in North Korean politics, and maintaining a state of affairs where North Korea is considered hostile and suspect by the world at large strengthens their hand in internal politics.  North Korea could open itself up to trade, liberalize...but that would weaken the military to the benefit of the North Korea Workers Party who, in this scenario, would quick likely develop along similar lines to the Chinese Communist Party.

My thinking is that China would like to see such a development, and indeed some of the early developments in North Korea when Jong-Un assumed power suggested this may be the case.  However, political leaders in North Korea who could've reigned in the military were either sidelined, or killed by Jong-Un for bizarre and implausible acts of "treason".  Jong-Un also wasn't seen publically for several months.  IMO, a palace coup occured, with the military taking firm control of the regime and leaving Jong-Un as a figurehead.

China isnt thrilled about that outcome, I suspect, but so long as North Korea's military is willing to stress its beserker opposition to South Korea, Japan and America, it acts as a potential headache for any future naval war between Japan and China.  So they're willing to live with it, for now.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Q. G. Pennyworth on February 18, 2016, 05:07:17 am
Any suggestions on a good, concise version of the Thai political crisis from 2008 on? Wikipedia article fried my damn brain.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on February 18, 2016, 04:29:21 pm
Any suggestions on a good, concise version of the Thai political crisis from 2008 on? Wikipedia article fried my damn brain.

As you may have guessed from the Wikipedia article, the Thai crisis has incredibly deep roots in Thai history, geography and politics, which means learning about it in any kind of depth means doing an undergrad course in Thai Modern History, in essence.

This (https://asiancorrespondent.com/2014/01/2006-2014-thailand-political-crisis-timeline/) is a pretty decent timeline, while this (http://blog) gives some more insight into the major players.  The influence of the royal family cannot be underestimated, so I'd also give this (http://www.economist.com/node/12724800) a look.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Q. G. Pennyworth on February 18, 2016, 04:40:23 pm
Any suggestions on a good, concise version of the Thai political crisis from 2008 on? Wikipedia article fried my damn brain.

As you may have guessed from the Wikipedia article, the Thai crisis has incredibly deep roots in Thai history, geography and politics, which means learning about it in any kind of depth means doing an undergrad course in Thai Modern History, in essence.

This (https://asiancorrespondent.com/2014/01/2006-2014-thailand-political-crisis-timeline/) is a pretty decent timeline, while this (http://blog) gives some more insight into the major players.  The influence of the royal family cannot be underestimated, so I'd also give this (http://www.economist.com/node/12724800) a look.

Thanks! I found this guy giving no fucks and the article was just a little too current events focused to get me all the way there: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/jun/20/thailand
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on February 18, 2016, 05:58:29 pm
Yeah, back at the start of 2014 I wrote an article on Thailand for a website...did about three days worth of research to come to the conclusion "shit is fucked and won't get fixed very quickly".  I'm sure I still have it somewhere, if you want a look?
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Q. G. Pennyworth on February 18, 2016, 06:10:26 pm
I think I've got enough for the short blurb from that timeline. Not entirely sure I've got enough room in the ol' brainmeats for the full breakdown. Don't let my lameness stop you if it's something you want to dig up, though!
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Junkenstein on June 09, 2016, 10:34:55 am
Hey Cain,

Seeing as how this ISIS thing has gone on for quite a while now, is there any chance of consolidating a nation state out of this? I'm guessing you could possibly get a Crimea situation where a large enough chunk "votes" to join a neighbouring nation, if said nation had the military facilities to back up it's claim.

More broadly, how possible is it in general for terrorists who hold territory to stake a claim for sovereignty? I'm guessing the answer varies vastly on what territory you're trying to hold which is why there's some resistance in the middle east and far less in Africa. 


Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on June 12, 2016, 05:47:55 pm
Usually terrorists trying to take over a state take over an already established one.  It's easier that way, in terms of international recognition, the existing machinery of state etc.  See the FLN in Algeria for possibly the ur-example of this type of thing (then watch Algiers).

ISIS isn't looking too hot right now.  Seems like everyone has decided to put them at the top of their shitlist, and their primary strength has been playing the sides against each other while it did its own thing.  Now the Iraqi Army (+ Shiite death squads) are attacking from one side, the Kurds and SDF are taking huge swathes of territory in the north and the Syrian Arab Army is attacking in the south.

They'd also probably be getting attacked from the west, only there's a desert and a bunch of mountains there, effectively pinning them in place.  So they're kinda fucked.

More broadly speaking it is very hard to get recognition for a breakway region without great power (and specifically American) backing.  Russia has been supporting breakway statelets with far more claim to nationhood than IS for decades, and no-one except Russia and Belarus recognise those poor sods.  By and large America supports the international status quo, and the international status quo is to accept existing boundaries and states where possible.  Compared with the previous 150 years, the post-Cold War period has been remarkably stable in this particular way, and I suspect American strategists are afraid what could happen to that stability if that norm were undermined. 

And quite frankly, no-one wants anything to do with ISIS.  Even Turkey keeps their support covert, because they find ISIS repugnant on a very basic level.  No-one is going to waste their political capital on putting forward the case for Islamic State at the UN.  No-one wants to give Islamic State the right to build embassies, or treat their insurgents as professional soldiers.

Sooner or later we will have to talk with ISIS, because the alternative is a neverending bloodbath.  But I suspect most of the world prefers that conversation be done at gunpoint, and involves convincing moderate elements to stand down and accept incarceration for war crimes.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: LMNO on January 18, 2017, 05:14:53 pm
Cain, what do you think of Samantha Powers' assessment of Russia in her UN report?
 Found here (yes, it's Vox): http://www.vox.com/world/2017/1/18/14300598/samantha-power-russia-final-speech

Basically, Russia finds it easier to gain power by destroying existing frameworks, but doesn't have a plan how to build new ones.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on January 18, 2017, 05:35:43 pm
Pretty much.  The only noteworthy contributions by Russia to international stability is the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation and the Eurasian Economic Community, which are basically warmed over, watered down variations on the EU, with little attempt to further integrate and all involving former Soviet territory.

All of those were also organizations founded in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Junkenstein on February 14, 2017, 03:36:52 pm
Hey Cain,

I've been thinking about a few situations that may arise over the next few years in the US/UK and I think it may be worth talking about the national debts of both.

In the US, Trump has had no issues in going bang to escape debts. Is there any chance that he could try and pull the same shit on a nation state level? "It's too high, it's a bad deal, we're not paying it" kind of approach?

In the UK, in between the various bouts of brexit bullshit and austerity, the national debt gets a nod here and there too. I realised I had no idea what the total actually is, so wikipedia:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_national_debt

Quote
The British Government debt is rising due to a gap between revenue and expenditure. Total government revenue in the fiscal year 2015/16 was projected to be £673 billion, whereas total expenditure was estimated at £742 billion. Therefore, the total deficit was £69 billion. This represented a rate of borrowing of a little over £1.3 billion per week.

It strikes me that if people are willing to believe that the NHS will get XXX extra million because brexit, what will they buy into if there's a possibility of £1.3 billion extra kicking around every week? I know that's not what it says, but almost certainly how it would get spun.

To try and summarise:

1 - Could the UK/US refuse to service the debts?
2 - What would/could the consequences of this decision realistically be?
2b - If(when) brexit turns everything to shit, will this raise the possibility of fucking off further payments?

I do have a few more questions and this may be worth it's own thread as we've all been dealing with this austerity bullshit in one fashion or another but the root causes of it are rarely spoken about (South Sea Company fuckery for instance with the UK).
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on February 14, 2017, 09:05:31 pm
In theory yes, a nation-state can refuse to pay its debts.

These debts are created via the Treasury bonds.  In effect, the governments in question would refuse to pay owners of those bonds what they are owed.  So, as a consequence, the percieved value of those bonds would drop through a floor in such a steep way it would make the devaluation of sterling in the aftermath of the Brexit vote seem like a mere blip in comparison.  The yield of those who continued to purchase bonds would rise as a consequence, making borrowing more expensive while providing less benefit.

(incidentally, Japanese purchasers of US bonds are getting nervous enough about Trump that they are not buying bonds at previous levels under Obama and Bush II).

Markets would plunge around the world, and interest rates would also likely spike.  It would almost certainly lead to a depression in the country that did it, as well as large purchasers of bonds, such as Japan and China.

As for the UK doing it...I don't see it being likely.  They're not going to honour any promises regarding the NHS - what are people going to do, vote Labour or UKIP?  Trump...who the fuck knows what he is doing or thinking at any given time.  He's so economically naive he had to ring Michael "fired for consorting with the Russian Ambassador" Flynn and ask him if a weak or strong dollar was better for the US economy.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on February 14, 2017, 09:22:24 pm
And of course, aside from foreign governments, a large number of companies purchase UK bonds in particular.  The Bank of England also purchases them.  So companies would go bankrupt, in particular pension funds and other financial institutions.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Junkenstein on February 14, 2017, 09:42:24 pm
Much appreciated sir, this level of economics isn't a strong suit.

Still, I can't rule out trump trying something stupid here. It just seems inevitable, really. It worked for him on a personal level and I doubt any of the advisers are going to explain the consequences with the level of detail you just did. Hell, I'd bet that most of them couldn't anyway.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: tyrannosaurus vex on February 22, 2017, 05:02:48 am
Trump could try to default on debt, but I'm not sure he actually has the unilateral power to do that. It's a flagrant violation of a specific and explicit provision of the Constitution for starters, and also Congress is the branch that writes the budget, not the President. Even if Trump did try to do something like that by ordering the Treasury Secretary to do something monumentally stupid, I can't imagine Congress (even if it is absolutely worthless in every other respect) standing by and allowing it. If anything can move them toward impeachment, the willful destruction of the entire economy would have to be it. But then again, it's Congress, so who knows.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: LMNO on June 06, 2017, 02:25:36 pm
Dear Cain:

On a scale from covfefe to bigly, how bad is the Qatar situation? (http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/05/middleeast/saudi-bahrain-egypt-uae-qatar-terror/)

Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on June 06, 2017, 06:27:39 pm
It's somewhat bigly.

It's basically every measure short of slapping sanctions on them and declaring war.  Qatar has been acting like a dick for a long time, and its support for the Muslim Brotherhood has not won it allies in Egypt or Saudi Arabia, as well as its funding of extremist factions in Libya (which contributes to Egypt's mess).

It looks like the KSA, UAE and Egypt have decided to use Trump's speech as an opportune time to lay the blame at the feet of Qatar for all Sunni terrorist funding in the Middle East, and claim its conspiring with Iran at the same time (because that makes total sense).  Qatar has been trying to use its links to the MB and terrorist groups to improve its standing in the Middle East and make itself into a power player on a par with Iran, KSA and Turkey, but clearly they overstepped their boundaries with regards to the existing power players of the GCG. 

Qatar's foreign policy has also been on collision course with KSA for a while.  Yes, the KSA is going all out in Syria, but that's because Syria is an Iranian ally - it doesn't want the chaos to spread any further than that (of course, that maybe they shouldn't support terrorism in Syria to avoid overseas chaos never occurs...), while Qatar has, through the Muslim Brotherhood, undermining the more traditional monarchies and military dictatorships in the region.  That, Saudi Arabia does not like one bit.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: LMNO on June 06, 2017, 06:58:57 pm
Wow.  So how do you see it all playing out?
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on June 06, 2017, 10:56:47 pm
Poorly.  Qatar is the forward base for CENTCOM.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on June 06, 2017, 11:20:40 pm
And CNN just ran this...

https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2017/06/06/politics/russian-hackers-planted-fake-news-qatar-crisis/index.html

Quote
US investigators believe Russian hackers breached Qatar's state news agency and planted a fake news report that contributed to a crisis among the US' closest Gulf allies, according to US officials briefed on the investigation.

The FBI recently sent a team of investigators to Doha to help the Qatari government investigate the alleged hacking incident, Qatari and US government officials say.

Intelligence gathered by the US security agencies indicates that Russian hackers were behind the intrusion first reported by the Qatari government two weeks ago, US officials say. Qatar hosts one of the largest US military bases in the region.

The alleged involvement of Russian hackers intensifies concerns by US intelligence and law enforcement agencies that Russia continues to try some of the same cyber-hacking measures on US allies that intelligence agencies believe it used to meddle in the 2016 elections.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: LMNO on June 07, 2017, 04:17:21 pm
Suddenly, isolationism is sounding less horrible...

[/selfish murkin]
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Vanadium Gryllz on June 20, 2017, 02:59:02 pm
What's going on in Yemen?
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on June 20, 2017, 03:17:52 pm
Civil war, cholera and Saudi-led intervention.

Basically, the Houthis, a tribe traditionally discriminated against by the central government, started another round of insurgency recently.  This isn't exactly unheard of, except this time around they were backed by former President Saleh of Yemen (deposed in the Arab Spring) and sort of half-heartedly backed by Iranian arms.

Seeing an advantage, both Al-Qaeda in Yemen and ISIS in Yemen decided to add to the chaos, attacking each other, the central government and, especially in the case of ISIS, the Houthis (whose Shia beliefs are anathema to ISIS Sunni chauvinism).  So, in a 4-sided civil war, in the poorest Arab state, the country quickly fell apart. 

Saudi Arabia, disliking chaos on its southern border and the possibility for AQ in Yemen to expand (AQiY is essentially made up of the remnants of the fledging Saudi branch of AQ who fled across the border), launched an invasion with the backing of the Gulf Cooperation Group and the tacit approval of the USA/UK.  It's been sold as checking Iranian influence, but the Iranian influence over the Houthis is questionable, to put it mildly. 

The Saudis have covered themselves in glory by essentially carpet bombing civilian areas to the ground, targeting aid convoys, launching missile strikes on hospitals and basically living up to my own very low assessment of the Saudi military as a daycare centre for sociopathic Saudi youths who couldn't win a real fight if their lives depended on it, but would happily skewer a toddler to show you how "badass" they are.  Unsurprisingly, this has not helped the "official" government, who are steadily losing ground and have been driven from the capital, but it has done wonders for the prospects of cholera and other diseases, which in addition to famine promise to kill even more civilians than the Saudi Air Force (though not for lack of trying - the Saudi military labelled an entire 40,000 pop town as a "legitimate military target" a few months back).

Oh, and the whole country is awash with modern arms thanks to Bush II and Obama arming them to the hilt as part of a counter-terrorism program...even though it ended up that the US would go in and drone strike the target anyway, and let Yemen take the "credit" (which raises the question of why Yemen needs those arms at all...if you're thinking "defense industry kickbacks", then you're exactly right).
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Vanadium Gryllz on June 20, 2017, 03:46:09 pm
Thanks Cain!

Sounds like a proper clusterfuck.

So the UK isn't actually /at war/ with Yemen but by supporting/arming the Saudis are linked?
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Vanadium Gryllz on June 20, 2017, 03:48:06 pm
Oh!

I would also be interested in hearing your thoughts on the implications of Russia's statement that they're gonna be shooting down any US jets they find in Syria?

All posturing or potential to fuel further conflict?
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on June 20, 2017, 03:50:49 pm
Yes, and by providing a certain amount of political cover by way of complete disinterest in the conflict.

There are ongoing Scotland Yard investigations which link into war crime allegations against the KSA, but I don't hold out much hope of them going anywhere.  I think Scotland Yard will do the work, but as you know, everything to do with Saudi Arabia in the UK is a "matter of national security" and so at some point the whole thing will get stonewalled.  Just like the Al-Yamamah bribe allegations.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on June 20, 2017, 05:54:09 pm
Sorry, was writing.

Regarding Russia...the most dangerous as fuck statement out of that conflict so far. 

If Russia tries to shoot down a US military aircraft, the US military will respond.  Russia's air presence in Syria is modest, 70ish planes, and over half of those are tactical and strategic bombers.  On the other hand, the US has the entire USS George HW Bush carrier strike group, which can carry a similar amount of planes, and has the Charles de Gaulle French aircraft carrier backing them up.  In addition to that, the UK, Jordan and the Netherlands also have F-16s operating in the area.

But that doesn't matter so much as potentially causing a war with Russia.  That's a diplomatic crisis I don't think the US could handle at all right now...even putting aside misgivings about Trump's own Russia links.  The State Department has been gutted and the WH has no clue what its Syria policy is on a day to day basis.  I can see it being a complete mess.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Emo Howard on June 20, 2017, 06:39:53 pm
So, assuming for the moment that collusion happened, and a war between the U.S. and Russia was part of the plan all along, how does Putin benefit?

If this is the case, there are three possibilities on Trump's end. He could be:

A.) just an unwitting stooge
B.) in on the plan
C.) an unwitting stooge who is in on the plan, or at least thinks he is.

How could Trump benefit from this war?
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on June 20, 2017, 07:44:48 pm
In the case of Syria?  US backs down in face of Russia, allowing them free reign to support Assad in country.  War would be in everyone's worst interests, I don't think anyone wants war between the major powers (even though Russia's only one on a technicality) but the previous scenario would work out nicely for Russia.

That said, I don't subscribe to the maximalist theory that "Trump is a Russian agent doing Putin's every bidding". 
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Emo Howard on June 20, 2017, 09:59:45 pm
Yeah, Probably not. Lately, my optimism has been on a bit of a downswing, though.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on June 21, 2017, 01:20:00 pm
Well, his authoritarian instincts and disdain for everything Obama did, no matter how sensible, do certainly look like something a Russian agent would do.  But if the Steele dossier is true, his hatred for Obama (due to being mocked at the WH Correspondents Dinner in 12?) outweighs a lot of his "political convictions".

I suspect the specific collusion with Trump was as follows: Russia will arrange damaging leaks about Clinton and set up generous loans for Trump org ventures via "independent" Russian banks.  In return, if Trump wins, sanctions on Russia go away, support for Ukraine is dropped.  In other words, it was tightly focused and a quid quo pro, not an open-ended arrangement.

However, I suspect other members of the Trump team had different arrangements.  Flynn, Manafort and Sessions, for example.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: P3nT4gR4m on June 21, 2017, 02:12:57 pm
There's also the fact that, from Putin's point of view, Trump just winning was a good enough endgame to be worth the effort. I can't imagine a player like Vlad would really need any leverage or inside track to capitalise on a complete retard being in charge of his biggest geopolitical rival.

Trump Potus will do as much damage to mainland USA as a dozen tactical nuclear strikes washed down with a land invasion chaser but with none of the guilt  :lulz:
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Emo Howard on June 21, 2017, 04:51:12 pm
Trump doesn't seem like the type who would live up to his end of a bargain for, say, ethics reasons. Once he has what he wants, the other guy can immediately go piss up a rope unless he has some expectation of further business. Same for Putin. I can't help but wonder what's going to happen once one of them has gotten everything they wanted.
Title: Re: Picking Cain's Brains
Post by: Cain on June 21, 2017, 05:25:33 pm
Well if Trump did have a deal, Russian intelligence would have blackmail material on him.  Either way, they win, because either he does what they say for fear of exposure, or the tape is released and the ensuing chaos brings down his presidency.