Monday, January 18

The Geopolitics of 2016: Oil, War, Chaos and Pathological Altruism.







   Word on the ground at the Pentagon is that the Obama Administration's foreign policy is viewed as so inept, directionless and without clear objective that the US Joint Chiefs of Staff have had to step in behind the scenes and offer tacit assistance to Assad in Syria to help him shore up his defensive line before the whole Middle East goes to shit. Based on pragmatism alone, any combat theater that puts US, French, UK, Turkish, Israeli, Syrian and Russian combat aircraft together in the same war fighting environment demands from an Administration, at the very least, delicacy and tact, but even more importantly, leadership and craft. The current US Administration's policy on Syria exhibits none of these qualities to its allies, but far worse than this, it exhibits none of these qualities to its enemies.



    War will always be the extension of politics by other means. 




   That's why every time Obama deploys one of his cloned spokeswomen wearing the "problem glasses" to a White House press briefing, I cringe as they tell Russia how very concerned the Administration is with all that nasty interventional bombing stuff going on in Syria. Putin and his cronies must be playing that drinking game in the Kremlin where you have to take a vodka shot every time the problem chick says trigger words like "counterproductive" or "indiscriminate bombing" and you must double shot when the term "civilian casualties" gets used. The truth is, US foreign policy is chaos and reeks of hypocrisy and the rest of the world knows it. And its presentation is even worse. Say what you will about the tenets of Bush-era neocon aggression and naked Cheney Halliburton rapine, but at least it was an ethos dude.





   And this very lack of a coherent American foreign policy over the last two years is having all kinds of unintended consequences across the globe. When the Russians took what could be taken (Crimea) in what in hindsight remains a brilliant strategic maneuver – bloodless – (well, you know what I mean, a few people burned to death here, some more maimed and vaporized there) but in the grand scheme of things the Crimean annexation was something any general in any time would call a cheap victory. Either way, NATO was caught flat-footed, responded only after much chin scratching and imposed its sanctions rather limply at first, making attempts to freeze up all that sleazy Russian oligarch money in foreign banks. When that didn't hurt enough, the US turned on the fracking spigot, squeezing once-dead wells into gushers and suddenly the US became the world's largest oil producer again. Along with Canadian shale oil, 'they' flooded the US market with so much cheap crude that every Texan with a Hummer or Escalade to feed began praising Jesus before ordering a hooker.


   Oil's precipitous decline on world markets during 2015 was a marvel to watch.


   If only it was cooking oil, I could've made more popcorn.


  The whole Russian economy is a one trick pony that needs $110 a barrel oil as a base price just to keep up Moscow's balance of payments. Putin's drinking game crashed up against a raging hangover when Russia went into recession and the ruble began to shed value as oil plummeted. That's how wars begin of course. They slow boil for years and are waged economically first before any shooting starts. But who's going to start a shooting war in a post-nuclear world with Russia? Still, it's worth remembering Japan had been under a US oil embargo for years before they 'suddenly' attacked Pearl Harbor in '41. 

   Low oil prices have had all kinds of domino effects that complicate the global chessboard.

   For one thing, Saudi Aramco (basically the House of Saud's personal corporation) and the largest company on earth with yearly earnings three times that of the GDP of the UK, does not particularly like low oil prices either. Go figure. Just like Russia, they too like it when oil prices are in the hundred dollar a barrel range because a new Ferrari a week per obscure Saudi prince is seen as a divine right and cheap oil tends to make the royals skimp on the options package. Also, the Wahhabi ruling class in Saudi Arabia need a constant stream of cash to buy off their captive population of restless sex-starved street racing youth who, without regular pay offs, might get all romantic and rebellious and wonder if ISIS could help them revolt and get their hands on all those sweet sweet spice exporting terminals the princes own and grab all of that for themselves. Wealth beyond the dreams of avarice is always a temptation for revolt as is access to 72 virgins but in this life before you die. Due to the crash in oil prices, the ruling Saudi royals are having to dip into their savings accounts. Deep though they may be, paying off their population with the usual stream of benefits does not come cheap because no matter how you cut it, you can behead only so many people before your Bastille gets stormed.


   In chaos and war, it always comes down to the money. But more on oil prices later.


  One major interesting Obama Administration foreign policy maneuver in 2015 was the nuclear deal signed with Iran. Now that was popcorn-worthy. It was worth it just to watch the Israelis squirm. The Zionists are so used to running American foreign policy for their own benefit and having the US Army take care of their enemies for them (Hussein, Gaddafi, Assad etc) that it was hilarious to watch Netanyahu throw a shit fit in the US Congress against the Iranian deal. It was so tasty to watch that I bought some kosher popcorn, sprinkled it with bacon fat and almost put it in the blender so I could drink it through a straw like a freedom smoothie. Standing up to AIPAC and the Zionist lobby is the single jewel I can admire in the Obama Administration's non illustrious crown. As to the grand chessboard of the Middle East, it's now hard to see Israel making a move on Natanz or the other Iranian nuclear facilities. Not only because of their lack of long range refueling tankers and need for US logistic support, but mainly because the worldwide blowback that would ensue would be a PR shit storm too much even for the Israelis to endure.

This is popcorn. It is tasty. Eat some.


  As to Syria, as I've written before, it is just the current year in the wider Sunni v Shia regional proxy war. But here's the fun part. With sanctions about to be lifted on Iran, that means their oil can come to market. The Iranians, in need of hard foreign currency, will begin pumping immediately. Right now, the Saudis have continued pumping oil despite the low price, not just because they can, but because they want to punish US and Canadian shale oil producers who desperately need high oil prices to function simply due to their high costs of extraction. Saudi Aramco would very much like these competitors knocked out of business, workers laid off and all investments in energy self-sufficiency go belly up before the Sheikhs turn down the flow rate on the spigot. Oil is a dirty business because the profits are so huge and men will kill and die for it. Yet the sleazy template always remains the same. First neutralize the competition because the Saudis can pump cheap. Next, let all those bloated storage terminals and offshore tankers unload the glut of contango oil to Gulf refineries. Pump nothing. Wait for prices to climb steadily as shortage inflates prices just before the summer driving season. Hey presto, a Saudi prince just earned himself a new Ferrari because he woke up in the morning.


   This is basically the Saudi economy in a nutshell. 

   But here's the fun part.

   This dollar harvest is going to be harder to farm now that Iran is waiting in the wings ready to pick up any slack in supply. Hungry for hard currency, the Iranians will pump for any price, killing Saudi ambitions to get back to mythical 2007 money. That is one reason why the Shia v Sunni proxy war in Syria is fought also in Yemen, Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan and Bahrain, all of these countries being about as politically stable as a waste water containment tank at Fukushima. 

   It's Sunni oil versus Shia oil and most people in the West with a vehicle don't care.
   







   The irony here is that Israel is now Saudi Arabia's new best friend. True, their interests have been aligned for years based on that old "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" maxim, but still, it's interesting. Both of them have excellent US supplied air forces, overwhelming when compared to the Iranians’ Shah-era F-14s. But the latest word on the international arms market is that the Russians have cleared their long standing deal with the Iranians and will begin delivery of the promised state of the art S-300 air defense system by the end of 2016. This would make any attack on Iranian facilities by air orders of magnitude more costly to any aggressor outside of stealth aircraft. And even then, who knows? The Serbs shot down a stealth fighter during the Kosovo war back in the ‘90s and gave the wreckage to the Chinese whose embassy in Belgrade got 'accidentally bombed' by the US days later. Still, you can make a safe bet that if some NATO anti-tank weaponry just happened to fall off the back of a truck in Eastern Ukraine any time soon, then I'd bet that Iran would have a Russian S-300 anti-aircraft dome deployed over Tehran the very next day.




   The chessboard in 2016 is complicated my friends.


  No discussion of the price of oil and US foreign policy would be complete without mentioning the dollar or, more precisely, the petrodollar. Yeah, I know, every guy on the Internet has a Ph.D in this theory but, if all oil must be bought in dollars then this artificial demand for dollars means that, from Russia and China's point of view, they are indirectly funding America's foreign wars every time they buy or sell a barrel of crude. Putin has signaled he wants to create an oil index and buy oil in rubles. Sure, it’s a farfetched idea right now considering the ruble makes up only about one percent of the FOREX market but it is also the kind of idea that can get you killed, or start a war, just ask Saddam Hussein or Gaddafi... oh wait.


   They already tried it and they're dead.


  Europeans can and should rightly lay some blame at the door of the Obama Administration for its current influx woes. Buying oil in dollars means that European nations are indirectly paying for the very US machinations in Syria that have flooded their own countries with a million ‘refugees’ in a single year. The Obama Administration's total ineptitude when it came to handling post-war Iraq, leaving the field by some arbitrary date as a campaign promise just to woo the young Starbucks-drinking urban hipster vote left a power vacuum in Iraq into which ISIS flowed. Even the Joint Chiefs of Staff were mind-blown by the stupidity. Sure, the Bush neocons broke the vase and did all the damage in the first place, but walking away and leaving the pieces broken was as short-sighted as it was politically expedient for re-election purposes.


  As Churchill liked to say, "The greatest argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter."


  Now, after the atrocities, the burnings in cages, the medieval barbarity on the nightly news, this same Administration wants to go after the last dictator left in the Middle East, Assad, the last man standing, he who is holding back the tide. Say what you will about Gaddafi or Hussein. They were dictators, killers and brutal, but you have to be brutal in tribal lands just to keep order. Factional desert people just don't do voting booths and a polite letter to their Congressman. Arabian concepts of grievance are that when there's a problem they grab an AK and march their way towards the problem until the problem owns a tank and then they shut the fuck up and go home.


  Tribal politics are based on power and this economy of power has existed in Arabia for a thousand years. That power trickles down from a leader in a hierarchal pyramid much like the one printed on the back of every dollar bill. The West, terrified by the upheaval brought about by the ‘Arab Spring’ sided with the mob and those at the bottom of the pyramid in the name of ‘democracy’.


  Yeah, I don't swallow that one either, but it's what they printed in the newspapers and said on TV so it must be true. Right?


  Either way, with the tacit and logistic support of the US, the French and British air forces took out Gaddafi's armor and military infrastructure and now there's a boat leaving from the Libyan coast to Europe every day just like Gaddafi had warned; boats and rafts filled with the dregs of humanity from backward shit holes like Eritrea, Yemen, Somalia; places so far removed from any concept of European civilization that it boggles the mind that these people show up as refugees in cities from Cologne to Stockholm and have to be given classes on how not to rape women in skirts because Europe, contrary to their belief system, is not an ongoing live action roleplaying porno movie.

Miss us yet?

   The hordes pouring out of Syria are unwelcome in every other Middle Eastern country outside of Jordan because even their fellow Arabs do not want them around and see fractious Syrian ethnic Druze, Alawites, Sunni Arabs, Turkmen etc as a destabilizing force. The Israelis on the Syrian border accept zero refugees. Funny how Zionists promote multiculturalism in every country except their own. Funny too how over 80% of the migrants are military aged men and a million alone entered Europe in 2015 with a million more to come in 2016. The Battle of Vienna was fought in 1683 at the gates of Western Civilization to keep out the Ottoman Turks. This current migrant crisis is not immigration; it's a fucking invasion. How many of these men are veteran militia fighters, cells waiting to be activated to wage the same war they've fought in Damascus and Dara'a on the streets of Cologne, London or Stockholm?


  Or like Paris recently, link up with their homegrown brethren for more asymmetrical warfare.




  European citizenry, or at the very least the officials they elect, are suffering from some kind of post WWII abhorrence to violence that borders on self destruction. Decades of plenty has given rise to a pathological altruism among European populations that would shock their world conquering ancestors. WWII has left such an indelible mark on the mainland European psyche and created a mythical egalitarianism where populations believe every foe can be defeated if only you just love them enough. It's like Jesus on steroids except they're all atheists. For the Germans, they seem to have this need to prove to the world they're not Nazis anymore and think Angela Merkel can accomplish some kind of sainthood by flooding quaint German villages with peoples from foreign deserts who have no wish to assimilate, no love for their new land, worship a strange god and see everything European civilization has produced as worthless blasphemy.

  Think of it this way. If one percent of the refugees entering Europe in 2015 are veteran militia fighters (a conservative number) that means 10,000 men operating behind enemy lines. No European country since the fall of Rome would have allowed foreign infiltration on this scale without conflict or confrontation. And yet today, a million people have walked into Europe and to even raise the question as to why this is so and who they are means you're a racist and a bigot. Such is the power of media driven thought control and political correctness.

   This is the power of pathological altruism.
    
    Oil funds it.

    War fuels it.

    Chaos enjoys it.

    And so welcome to 2016.

    Quite possibly the most interesting year to be alive ever so long as you've got popcorn.

    


Monday, October 6

The West v ISIS: Air strikes just mean endless war minus victory.





   So there's a US led war party in the desert and every Euro country with an F-16 to spare is piling in to the fray just so they don't miss their chance to get a swing in at the bad guys. Even Belgium rustled up a squadron. It's popcorn material for sure but it's also just an air offensive which means, for Western nations, you've just subjected yourself to never winning a war but continuing it indefinitely. Everyone with a TV or web connection already knows ISIS are the bad guys. Populations hate them. And the ISIS media wing loves this and drinks foreign civilian tears like it's freedom fuel. ISIS have been beheading people on video for a reason. They want attention. The interesting game at work here is the weight of military history working against the idea that air strikes ever won a war. Strategic bombing is nice WWII style but that only works when the enemy have factories to bomb. ISIS have none of that. They've got a loose social network, a hostage civilian population, some stolen Hum Vees and no production capacity of any kind. So where is the win here via JDAM?

   ISIS picked this fight once they started beheading people on your TV screen and nobody nowhere ever picked a fight they believed they could not win. And that's remarkable for what it reveals about ISIS command ideology.

  They really believe they can win this war.

  ISIS have taken a leaf from the 9/11 playbook. A lot of empty places and Iraq got carpet bombed in the wake of the twin towers coming down. But, let's face it, the terrorists won that war a long time ago. If the goal of 9/11 was to damage, degrade and destroy the freedom of Western democracy then 19 religious nuts pulled it off. We're a police state now. In 1970s America you could get on a plane to Vegas just by rolling absently up to the check in counter and claiming you're the guy whose name was printed on the ticket. In 21st century America, your toddler's genitals get felt up by a government agent and the parents say yes sir, diddle my kid, this is acceptable because Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia and we need to be protected from the bad guys who fuel our cars. Let's face it, al-Qaeda won the war on terrorism a very long time ago.

   ISIS, new kids on the block, believe they can top that because they're banking on the fact that we're that stupid.

   One of the strengths of any guerrilla army throughout history is knowing when to stand your ground and when to run like fuck. ISIS will know how to run like fuck. They'll blend away once the rain of US and Euro JDAMs reach a crescendo. But their media wing won't. And that's why I've got serious reservations about 21st century warfare waged the way Western governments are waging it versus ISIS. If you're like me and have been hitting up LiveLeak all week to get some behind the scenes footage beneath the sanitized cool explosions Western news networks have been showing on TV, where the enemy dies clean and there is no unsightly limb separation or agonizing slow death under rubble, then I see an opening for the bad guys. This is where the ISIS media wing will gain some traction through social media. With a proper supply of dead baby footage, they stand a serious chance of enacting some counter narrative of their own.

   Why?

    Because air campaigns don't do shit v militias.

    Never. Nowhere. Ever in time. 

    Air power is an awesome tool but nobody ever won a war from 20,000 feet.

    Let's talk West Point 101. When you're at war, killing the enemy is always good. Killing the enemy while also killing civilians as collateral damage, while distasteful in the post war analysis (Hiroshima), is, by and large, acceptable  (if you want to win). The interesting new paradigm at work here is what I hate to call the 'dead baby dynamic'. Since 21st century warfare has become a live popcorn munching event thanks to the Internet and 24hr TV news, parading casualties in front of news cameras has become a sort of counter propaganda and anti narrative that would've made Joseph Goebbels jizz his pants. For the defeated, if you can supply enough dead kid videos, there's a serious chance that you can convince a sizable segment of the enemy civilian population that war is bad. 



Because humans are retarded by war.


   But guess what... war is always bad

   That's a given. And the truth is grim. Ask the average war protester what he'd do if an intruder broke into his house to steal all his shit and kill his wife and the likely answer is that he is going to freak. Your mild mannered protester will quickly resort to 'warfare' with that burglar and attempt to beat the living shit out of the intruder via the two by four which once boasted his protest sign that now suddenly comes in handy as a weapon while he swings away to break invader skull open. War, despite what Jesus might say, works as the enaction of a policy where you don't die but the guy breaking down your front door does. It's never pretty. Bear with me here, I know I'm stretching the metaphor but the ISIS threat they're advertising on TV is exactly this.... What do you do if there's a guy hanging out across the street openly telling the neighbors he wants to kill your wife? He could be full of shit or he could be serious. Do you call the police? What happens when you are the police? America's self appointed role and Obama's tech heavy foreign policy is to run the numbers through the NSA's mega computer and the resultant actuary tables say that that asshole across the street needs to die. The risk of an ISIS dirty bomb in Times Square and the global wreckage that would ensue outweighs the right for ISIS to exist; so logic dictates letting loose the greatest advantage any war fighter anywhere ever had.

   The US Air Force.

   My problem is, can you win that war from the air?

   Am I advocating for a ground invasion?

   Nope. I'm just interested in how wars, once put into effect, get won.

   Air strikes without boots on the ground  never work if you're interested in defeating the enemy. What's bothering me about this campaign is the stated objectives. The West says they want to "degrade" ISIS. Surely this is the shitiest and most obscure objective ever enacted as policy. In many ways, war is very simple. You win or you lose. If you want to defeat ISIS you win by occupying the territory they do and leave them no space to run like fuck to. The West is selling this war thinking superior technology from the air can beat 'the idea of ISIS'. The only way you can beat the "idea of ISIS" is to kill every militia fighter hiding in a hole, or, crazy though it might seem, come up with a better idea. Each option is equally impossible so what do you do? Despite the laser guided, infrared and night vision tech getting advertised on our nightly news as a problem solver via destruction, at the very least you need, in order to 'win', a recon team on the ground designating by eyeball who should and shouldn't get killed. That kind of HUMINT shields you from the media explosion of accidentally wiping out a wedding party though it looked, to the pilot, exactly like a terrorist campfire from 20.000 feet.

   And that's how we know there are already US boots on the ground in Syria and Iraq.

   Western populations demand clinical war now that Wikileaks and Snowden are all over the government's ass. The war we get sold on TV demands precision lest the population back home on their iPhones throw a shit fit if a baby gets killed. Just imagine if WWII had been fought that way? We'd fucking lose every time a Nazi baby died. Proxy wars are hard to fight in a world where information spillage is everywhere, bullshit is rampant and death is as cheap as it ever was, but it does mean that today, more than ever, attack policy can go against foreign policy if governments don't get a serious grip on the narrative. ISIS are media whores operating in an environment where the threat of a dirty bomb in Time Square is nearly as good as actually detonating a real one.

  Why?

  Because social media penetration is a very profound thing that changes the dynamic of warfare in the 21st century from all that's come before. Napoleon would've cried tears of joy and held Moscow if he'd had a media wing broadcasting to the Russian population just exactly why they should speak French. The Internet is changing how wars get fought..

   Let's get even more technical.

   Drones.

  When you're top dog on the global human hegemony heap like the US military is, conducting warfare while not subjecting your personnel to death is desirable. Obvious right? A functional given since Sun Tzu. Right now, the skies over Raqqa and other places in Syria and Iraq are filled with hardcore Western remote control technology. If you approach a HumVee in Syria or northern Iraq, a guy half way around the world at his work station nods to his supervisor and minutes later, the vehicle and its environs get carpet bombed by a guy who pulled the trigger from the opposite side of the world.

   The military call it suppression.The politicians call it 'degradation' and I call it war via call center and none of it means you win. It just provides a prescription for endless war. ISIS have done their homework and learned how to challenge civilization.

   Let's face it, we're living in Blade Runner.

   Victory will remain elusive for Western governments so long as your population demands safety. And who doesn't demand safety? ISIS doctrine is exploiting this and forcing Western governments to act in a bombing campaign that makes no sense. The world in 2014 is a boiling cauldron of seething rivalry between the great powers but, unlike 1914, nobody can make a big geopolitical move because nukes provide a cap on ambition where nobody can win, so proxy warfare, economic warfare and war via computer espionage have become king. None of the above will work against ISIS.

   Let's state what we know for a fact.

   Energy wars are complicated.

   Any military action by any state actor in the Middle East is by default an energy war.

   ISIS are formidable because the 'idea' behind ISIS recruits angry Sunni youth from many far flung places and that strikes fear into the heart of power elites in Sunni dictatorships like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and every other Arab state that chucked an F-16 into the recent attack. The Shia in southern Iraq are not afraid of ISIS because they can rely on Iran for support. Mosul has become expendable. 

   Meanwhile, the Kurds, wielding their own excellent militia and capitalizing on US air strikes, will hold Kirkuk, the oil producing gem that cannot be allowed to fall. Interestingly, the Turks, NATO members next door, have chosen to sit the whole thing out because it's getting dangerous for them a) because fellow Muslim foreign fighters are spilling over their borders into the war zone b) because the political situation in Turkey is tenuous and Erdogan got elected by religious conservatives whose goals align with a fundamental idea of Islamic unity and c) because any help Turkey provides v ISIS makes an independent Kurdistan more likely. Remember, ISIS had 49 Turks held hostage a few weeks ago but guess what... they released all of them. Not a single beheading of any kind. Talk about knowing where your bread is buttered. ISIS atrocity is firmly directed against the West. 

   It's a clusterfuck of the first order and a very complicated war fighting environment.

   Meanwhile, ISIS are loving it.

   The only real question for Western policy is, where does victory against ISIS lie?

   The only way to win is via occupation and who has got two million troops to spare to subjugate Sunni Arabia? The cost benefit analysis is exactly what ISIS are exploiting. That's why we get the current air campaign that amounts to a capitulation, Kony 2012 style, to popular opinion because beheading people on TV is making people rage and the public want action.

   Every smart person alive today knows we're living in a kind of dystopia, a best of times, worst of times consumerist cornucopia that would make Orwell shit bricks. That's why I believe it's reasonable to stand back and resort to, and end on, a philosophical question regarding our species. 

  Warlike upright apes though we may be, we're still apes who managed a moon landing and currently have robots scouring Mars via remote control So the question must be why are we wasting our time with this shit? Should we not be directing our attention to a moon base, a human Mars landing and colonizing the galaxy?

   I understand the current tactical fight for resources here on Earth, but how many ISIS fighters, and fighters on every side, are smart enough to realize the fundamental question that has been bothering humanity since Thucydides wrote his terrible account of self destruction in the 5th century BC. That question posed 25 hundred years ago remains terribly relevant in 2014.

   'Why are we losing the war?'

    Against ourselves.