Selected news & analysis re present and future great power wars, Aug. 1-13

This is a first attempt at pulling together recent articles of interest to our members. This format is experimental and will no doubt change. I (Greg) have included what I think are some of the most interesting articles bearing on present and future great power wars, just from the past thirteen days. Articles on other themes will follow, perhaps in a simpler format.

You will understand that memes of “Russian aggression,” “our adversaries in Asia,” etc. ad nauseum bear heavily on U.S. conversations about nuclear weapons. A massive mountain of propaganda is being dumped on us daily, which is difficult for many people to see through. We must try, and we must succeed one way or another, or our civilization will surely end. Hence the subject of this first summary.

    Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) has disrupted a plot to carry out terrorist attacks in the Republic of Crimea. The attacks, planned by the Ukrainian Defence Ministry’s Chief Intelligence Directorate, targeted critical infrastructure and facilities in Crimea. Russia’s intelligence services take the view that these planned acts of sabotage and terrorism were intended to destabilise the socio-political situation in the region in the run-up to federal and regional elections….
The attempts to enter Crimea unlawfully, the recent attempt on the life of Head of the Lugansk People’s Republic Igor Plotnitsky, the constant firing along the line of contact in Donbass, and the actions of radical nationalists and so-called ‘activists’ from around Ukraine that go beyond the bounds of any lawful framework are a vivid illustration of the state of affairs in Ukraine today. The numerous provocations, efforts to portray Moscow as the enemy, and the deliberate cultivation of anti-Russian sentiments are an attempt by the Ukrainian government to distract the public from the country’s own troubles and the problems affecting the majority of people in Ukraine. We see a deliberate effort to divert public attention from the actions and responsibility of those in power and their inability to carry out long overdue reforms and conduct an honest investigation into the murders of journalists and human rights activists and the crimes committed in 2014 during the Maidan protests, in Odessa, Mariupol, and other cities….
Attempts to destabilise the situation in Russian Crimea are doomed to fail. Russia unconditionally guarantees Crimea’s stability and security.
Kiev and its foreign backers should know that any harm to Russia or the deaths of Russian personnel will not go unanswered.
As President Vladimir Putin noted on August 10, given the current situation and until we see real positive steps from Kiev, like renouncing terror and provocations, it makes little sense to hold Normandy format meetings, like the Beijing meeting in early September requested by Mr Poroshenko recently.
Once again, we call on our partners to use their influence with Kiev to dissuade the government from taking any dangerous steps that could have grave consequences. Playing with fire is dangerous.

    A “Russian cyberattack”? How can the NYT claim such, in an opening paragraph, when even the Director of U.S. National Intelligence is unable to make such a judgement?…
The “Russia is guilty” claim for whatever happened, without any proof, is becoming a daily diet fed to the “western” public. A similar theme is the “barrel bombing” of (the always same) “hospitals” in Syria which is claimed whenever the Syrian government or its allies hit some al-Qaeda headquarter.
All this propaganda is in preparation of the rule of the “We came, we saw, he died. Hahaha …” psychopathic queen of war Hillary Clinton.
As Marc Wheeler, aka emptywheel, reminds us: 6:13 AM – 10 Aug 2016 emptywheel @emptywheel: “The actions to ensure we will escalate our wars are being taken as we speak. January will be too late to stop it.”

    Stepping back a bit: in August 2011, when Obama and Clinton both demanded Assad’s departure, and closed down the U.S. embassy in Damascus, the opposition to Assad had been largely nonviolent. But armed factions were, with U.S. encouragement, already taking shape, loosely coordinating as something called the “Syrian Free Army.” They included many pro-al-Qaeda elements who officially formed the al-Nusra Front (Jabhat al-Nusra) in January 2012.
(The rule, if you haven’t noticed, is: When the U.S. overthrows a secular leader in the Middle East, or tries to, it creates a power void; it creates promised lands of opportunity for vicious jihadis, whose atrocities justify the redeployment of U.S. troops to the country involved in order to “preserve regional stability” and so forth. It is as though Washington is actively working to enrage, not only your everyday Muslim anywhere in the world, but your everyday anyone anywhere in the world, by its regime change bombing campaigns rationalized by lies.)
Al-Nusra gained widespread respect among the armed rebels in Syria in 2012. The U.S. press gave slight attention to the fact that the “Free Syrian Army” publicly justified and insisted upon its alliance with this al-Qaeda chapter.
Currently most factions (80% in one estimate) of the hundreds of Syrian Free Army factions work with al-Nusra. They value its experience and competence, even if they may dislike its puritanism in such matters as tobacco smoking and personal appearance. U.S. officials have long since realized that to topple Assad they need to—if not befriend al-Nusra directly (repeat: al-Nusra/ Fatah al-Sham was until yesterday an official al-Qaeda affiliate)—at least give their (more) directly subsidized associates leave to mingle as needed, to get the regime change job done.
By 2014, with Assad still in charge and al-Nusra coming to dominate the “opposition,” Obama asked Congress for money to fund a program for U.S. personnel to train in Jordan some 15,000 armed rebels in marksmanship, navigation and other skills. But as of September 2015, as a sheepish-faced General Lloyd Austin, commander of U.S. Central Command, told Congress, “We’re talking four or five” fighters actually trained.  In that same month, it was announced that about 70 fighters of “Division 30”—Syrians trained in Turkey, under the “Syrian Trade and Equip” program, had upon entering Syria turned over their weapons to al-Nusra…
The fact of the matter is, the U.S. has found it difficult, after all that’s happened in the region in this young century, to recruit Syrians willing to work with them. Blinded by their Exceptionalism, U.S. policy-makers can’t get it through their heads that U.S. actions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Libya do not endear them to the peoples of those countries. Quite the opposite.

Kerry like Obama seems conflicted about what to do in Syria. He wants to topple Assad, because the U.S. government has announced he must go, and once such a proclamation is issued, it cannot (like a law of the Medes and Persians) be retracted for fear of loss of face. But Kerry’s also been (like Obama, who as you recall cluelessly called ISIL a “JV team” in August 2014) shocked by the sudden rise of that horrid outgrowth of the U.S. destruction of Iraq. It would be embarrassing if ISIL takes Damascus and blows up all the ancient Christian sites. Especially if Putin and tens of millions of Russian Orthodox believers who feel akin to Syrian       Orthodox Christians are standing around saying, “I told you this would happen, if you keep focusing so stupidly on Assad”).
So of course U.S. leaders have to condemn, and to some extent wage war on, ISIL as well as al-Nusra. The problem is how to pursue that objective while simultaneously maintaining that Assad is the main problem, and arguing that his very persistence in power strengthens the terrorists. It doesn’t make any sense.
In fact, the weakening of central state power encouraged by the U.S. since 2011 has allowed these groups to seize territory and advance their positions, while the reclamation of state authority when it’s happened has set back the bad guys. Or at least the worst guys.
The faction in the State Department that never learns anything and is currently demanding regime change is getting louder. The manifesto published by the 51 State Department dissidents suggests too much attention has been placed on countering ISIL. What we really need to do, they say, is step up efforts to remove Assad.    Despite The weird, unprecedented nature of the dissidents’ memo leak, Kerry has pronounced himself sympathetic. Meanwhile the recent statement from the “Center for a New Security” headed by key Clinton aide and likely future Secretary of Defense Michele Flournoy similarly promotes regime change.
On July 29—the day that she secured the Democratic nomination in that sickening display of USA! USA! jingoism—Clinton’s campaign stated that she will “reset” U.S. Syrian policy as a top priority in office, to focus on toppling Assad from power. (Surprise, surprise, you fools who assumed she’d learned something from Libya.)
For all with ears to hear—and have learned anything at all since 9/11 and the inception of the era of constant wars, based on lies—the war-drums are sounding. But as MSNBC’s Chris Matthews notes, “Americans don’t care anything about foreign policy.”
One can only hope that the crazies in Syria are rolled back by rational secular forces before January, aided perhaps by welcome, coordinated foreign air power, when the Queen of Chaos comes to the throne (if so she does).
Because if she gets her chance, she will be looking for excuses to bomb Damascus.

    Last week, U.S.-based think tank RAND Corporation – which also studied the prospects of war in the NATO member Baltic states – unveiled its latest thinking on what a potential clash between the United States and China would look like…
RAND examined two different scenarios, one for an inadvertent conflict taking place in the present day and one in 10 years from now, assuming Beijing’s military and economic buildup continues at roughly its current rate. China will substantially close its military gap with the United States over the next decade, it predicts – but the fundamental dynamics of how things will play out might not be hugely different.
Even now, the People’s Liberation Army is seen as having the ability to give a bloodied nose to U.S. forces in the region. Washington could expect to lose an aircraft carrier and multiple other surface warships in the opening stages, RAND warns, citing Chinese advances in ballistic and guided missiles as well as submarines.
The report does not estimate the number of human casualties, but they could be substantial. The loss of an aircraft carrier or several major surface warships could easily cost thousands of lives in an instant.
At the same time, it’s also generally assumed that both Beijing and Washington would have considerable success with cyber attacks.
The real decision for Washington would be how much military force to commit to the Asia Pacific theater….
Whether a conflict only endured days or weeks or dragged on for a year or more, Washington would almost certainly retain the ability to strike widely at Chinese targets across the battle space – including, in at least a limited way, into mainland China….
The real battle of attrition, however, would be economic – as it almost always is when great powers confront each other….
Perhaps most importantly, China might find itself cut off from vital external energy sources while Washington’s energy supply chain would be far less affected…
While RAND estimates a year-long Asian war would take 5-10 percent off U.S. gross domestic product, it believes China’s economy could shrink by up to 25 percent…
In the case of the United States and China, RAND’s analysts say they believe nuclear escalation would likely be avoided even if both sides fought prolonged naval and air battles.

    If anything, the proposals would serve Saudi Arabia’s agenda to import its austere Wahhabism in the Arab Gulf to the Levant and Eastern Mediterranean, and empower radical Islamist groups in the Mideast to harm US national security as well as Eurasian stability.
US/Saudi air campaign in Yemen has already devastated the country and empowered Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and Washington is again illegally bombing Libya to fight the jihadists it supported from its bombing five years ago.
It is also mind-boggling why Washington boasts US is a global leader in counter-terrorism while simultaneously stating it has no problem supporting jihadi groups that violate human rights and commit war crimes: chop off children’s heads;[6] use chemical weapons on civilians;[7] oppress women; massacre Christians, Alawites, and other religious and ethnic minorities.
Nonetheless, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said ‘one incident here or there” of beheading or chemical attacks will not stop Washington’s funding of jihadi groups.

    I just listened to Obama give Washington’s account of the situation with ISIL in Iraq and Syria.
    In Obama’s account, Washington is defeating ISIL in Iraq, but Russia and Assad are defeating the Syrian people in Syria. Obama denounced Russia and the Syrian government—but not ISIL—as barbaric. The message was clear: Washington still intends to overthrow Assad and turn Syria into another Libya and another Iraq, formerly stable and prosperous countries where war now rages continually.
    It sickens me to hear the President of the United States lie and construct a false reality, so I turned off the broadcast.
    If Helen Thomas were still there, she would ask the Liar-in-Chief what went wrong with Washington’s policy in Iraq. We were promised that a low-cost “cakewalk” war of three or six weeks duration would bring “freedom and democracy” to Iraq. Why is it that 13 years later Iraq is a hellhole of war and destruction?
    What happened to the “freedom and democracy?” And the “Cakewalk”?
    You can bet your life that no presstitute asked Obama this question.
    No one asked the Liar-in-Chief why the Russians and Syrians could clear ISIL out of most of Syria in a couple of months, but Washington has been struggling for several years to clear ISIL out of Iraq. Is it possible that Washington did not want to clear ISIL out of Iraq because Washington intended to use ISIL to clear Assad out of Syria?
    Washington produced this violence. Where is the question: “Why, Mr. President, did Washington introduce 15 years of massive and ongoing violence into the Middle East and then expect us to believe that it was the fault of someone else?”
    …
    Meanwhile, Moscow and Beijing have understood the message. Washington intends war. The purpose of Washington’s lies is to prepare the insouciant Western peoples for war against the two countries that Washington cannot subjugate except by victory in war…

    In the latest escalation of bellicose rhetoric over the territorial dispute involving the South China Sea, Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan warned of “offshore security threats” and urged for a “substantial preparation for a people’s war at sea” to safeguard sovereignty, China’s Xinhua writes.
    The warning comes a day after China launched a massive naval drill which is set to prepare China for a “sudden, cruel and short” war.
    Chang was speaking during an inspection of national defence work in coastal regions of east China’s Zhejiang Province. He called for recognition of the seriousness of the national security situation, especially the threat from the sea.
    Chang said the military, police and people should prepare for mobilization to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity. He also asked to promote national defense education among the public.
    [The newspaper] said that “China doesn’t want wars, a war with the US in particular. The only possible scenario for a Sino-US war is that the US corners China on its doorstep with unacceptable provocations and China has to fight back.”    We will be very prudent about going to war, but if a war is triggered, we will have greater determination than the US to fight it to the end and we can endure more losses than the US.

The contiguous US can only avoid being stricken under the condition that China’s land is not attacked….The biggest risks that countries such as Japan and the Philippines will be embroiled into war come from their alliances with the US, which will tie them to the chariot of the US.

Mello (more on this in a pending article from us):

    RAND seems to think that China does not now have and cannot soon make more high-tech missiles and other theater defenses, cannot hide them, and that we can “take out” their bases and capabilities, leaving our [presumed huge, and presumed available] military forces available to win. I think the truth might be, or might be soon, otherwise.
LRSO [the Long Range Stand Off air-launched stealthy nuclear cruise missile] is needed to “signal” that the “rules of the game” are that the US must always win and therefore must always dominate, end of story. LRSO makes them back down before taking out carriers, other capital ships, and US bases. That is the idea. It is why JASSM-ER is not enough, why LRSO is not completely redundant. We need a BIGGER stick than JASSM-ER, not just something to throw back that is similar to what they might throw at us, and it has to be stealthy. 300 tons (unboosted yield, easily done) or 4-5 kt, on up to 150 kt, or whatever is deemed a big enough stick.

When STRATCOM uses the word “deterrence,” they now mean deterring the prospect of losing any war, anywhere, anytime. They mean the old Roman ultima ratio, the final decider, the winning weapon. Which is why Obama will not sign a no-first-use (NFU) declaration, or if he does it will be meaningless. The objective situation is that the US is inexorably losing control of its empire. The American Century is over. LRSO is a desperate measure. It is a very dangerous situation.

Comment on this from a colleague:

RAND is not in touch with their home planet.
The US flew, what, 50,000 missions in Iraq and couldn’t take out all of Saddam’s Scuds.  Even a preemptive nuclear strike wouldn’t take out everything.
Chinese hypersonic missiles will quickly sink the US ships in the South China Sea.  They would probably hit US bases in Japan and Okinawa, which would remove any advantage current forward basing allows….

    The current attack on the government held Aleppo by al-Qaeda in Syria (aka Jabhat al Nusra aka Fateh al Scam) was launched on August 1st. With up to 10,000 insurgents participating the attack was unprecedented in size. August 1st is exactly the same date Kerry had set as starting date for “a very different track”. This is likely not a random coincidence.
Despite the very large size of the “Great Battle of Aleppo” and its possibly decisive character for the war neither the New York Times nor the Washington Post has so far reported on it.
The U.S. had long prepared for an escalation and extension of the war on Syria. In December and January ships under U.S. control transported at least 3,000 tons of old weapons and ammunition from Bulgaria to Turkey and Jordan. These came atop of hundreds of tons of weapons from Montenegro transported via air to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. According to the renown Janes Defense military intelligence journal these Bulgarian weapons ended up in Syria where the Syrian army confiscated some of them from al-Qaeda and U.S. supported insurgents.
During the ceasefire and negotiations with Russia, the U.S. and its allies continued to arm and support their proxies in Syria even as those were intimately coordinating and integrating with al-Qaeda. The U.S. does not consider these groups to be terrorists, no matter with whom they associate or whatever they do. Even when such a group beheads a 12 year old, sick child in front of running cameras the U.S. State Department continues to support them and opines that “one incident here and there would not necessarily make you a terrorist group.”
Good to know …

Comment on this from a colleague:

Endless unreported support for Al Qaeda by the US.
The unreported story of massive US arms shipments to Al Qaeda in Syria in preparation for their unreported massive attack on Aleppo and its disastrous results. Weren’t they the reason we invaded Afghanistan and passed the Patriot Act? You know, the Act that ended the US Constitition?
How many millions of people has the US injured, killed, and made homeless in the last 16 years? Does anyone here even care? It is just business as usual as far as I can tell.

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