Tag Archives: Peace

The New Art of the Diplomatic Deal


Trump and Kim

When I read “Art of the Deal” years ago I was impressed by the pragmatism but did see some parts that to me as a young man starting out in business did not make sense. I have continued to read Trumps books, “Art of the Comeback” etc., and they now make sense. I also remember a scene in the movie “Patton” in which, after defeating Rommel, Patton yells out “ I read your book.” Today we don’t read books but get our information from TV or the web, at least that’s how it appears listening to politicians and pundits. If you see Trump as an enemy I suggest you follow Sun Tzu and “Know your enemy as you know yourself,” read his books and study his back ground.
The most recent political blowback on Trump has been his pulling out of negotiations with North Korea, with the talking heads and opposition politicians trumpeting how Kim has played us and that it was never going to work etc. Many of those who are saying these things went to the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard or got there degree in political science from Georgetown and so forth. Had they gone to Harvard Business School or Wharton they may understand how Trump will handle negotiations. It would also have helped if any of them had bothered to read his books.
What we are seeing, playing out in the open is the give and take of true negotiations. These types of negotiations used to go on in government and between governments after the lights went out, at cocktail parties and behind closed doors. Today there are no negotiations just posturing for the cameras and picking positions based on ideology and the latest poll. Little thought is given today on the impact of decisions for the future if that future goes beyond the next news cycle. Business cannot run that way and neither should government. A politicians legacy should not be decided on just getting a deal but getting the right deal.
The other difference here is that Trump is use to moving fast while government moves glacially, if at all. There will be a summit with North Korea, just don’t know when. The stage has been set and Trump maneuvered China to our side which has blocked North Korea. This is a beginning and will play out. It will take time and more back and forth, but it will end. Its time for those who report the news and work in government to catch up with the new paradigm or get out of the way. The cost of failure is to great and should not be the subject of a sound bit.

History is about to Repeat Itself in Kurdistan


Hitler and Chamberlain

“APPEASEMNET” Giving into someone in order to avoid potential conflict”

As my readers know I like to connect current events with their historical forbearers. It has always amazed me how many people can recite George Santayana warning that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” and how few live its caution. Today in Kurdistan we are witnessing a repeat of history which bought the world to a great war and in the end introduced us to the atomic age.
Following the devastation of World War I most of the world was exhausted and did everything to never have a major war again. The war to end all war was not, and the mechanisms set up to prevent the next war failed. They failed because the participants refused to accept the fact that there are times when force must be used to stop a greater violence.
The League of Nations and its member states set up high ideals and moved forward with great expectations, but when faced with actual crisis that revolved around its main charter it proved incompetent. The attempts at resolving the problems through diplomacy or attempts to bring the parties to the table were an absolute failure. The inability to resolve the Japanize invasion of Manchuria, or the Italian assault on Abyssinia (today Ethiopia) as well as both the league and the great powers to respond to German rearmament, and the reoccupation of the Rhineland and Europe conceding the Sudetenland, all in the hopes of evading war. One action of the league that may have been considered a success was the resolution of the Mosul question, rejecting Turkey’s claim to the province of Mosul as historic Turkish territory and awarding Mosul to Iraq under a British mandate for 25 years to ensure the autonomous rights of the Kurds. The intent however did end as failure.
The result of all this was that the aggressor nations of Germany, Italy, Japan, and the Soviet Union saw the weakness of the world and exploited it. The League of Nations was toothless without the British or French military and the leaders of those nations were still so traumatized by the last war that a military option to any problem was just not considered.
Today we see much the same happening in the Middle East. Aggressor nations have been testing the west and finding it war weary, attempting to extract itself from current confrontations while avoiding new ones. While viable diplomatic solutions are advanced, with no threat of war they are simple rejected. When they are successful, such as a ceasefire in Syria, it is temporary and used to rest and rearm the combatants.
Iran is currently the most dangerous aggressor by far. Its direct use of its military through the IRGC and indirect use by proxies including Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, Hezbollah and Hamas. These forces have given Iran control of Iraq and Lebanon as well as much of Syria. This control gives Iran a land bridge from Iran to the Mediterranean. It has effective control of Iraq and Lebanon and Syria.
How could this happen? Let us continue the lessons from history. Consider the disputed territories in Iraq as the Rhineland/Sudetenland of the 1930’s. Germany marched into the Rhineland to diplomatic outrage but no action and then used diplomacy to take the Sudetenland without Czechoslovakia’s input or presence. These last are examples of the west failing to stop aggression in the hopes of stopping aggression. When Iraq, under the direction of Iran, violently seized Kirkuk and the other disputed territories from the KRG without warning, the west allowed it in the hope of ending aggression.
Following failed diplomacy and a worthless embargo of Japan the Japanized attacked Pearl Harbor with the intent of reducing the US military and removing its power from the Pacific. Japan had shown itself to be ruthless in its military conquests prior to Dec 7th ,1941 and continued it brutality up until the end of the war. The Iraqi PMF has shown itself to be brutal with the mass slaughter of Sunni civilians following its occupation of cities such as Fallujah. This has continued even into the disputed territories. The US can stop this by extending military protection. Recently however the PMF have declared the US military as the new targets and the leader of Sadr’s militia, Abdullatif al-Amidi, has called on the Iraqi parliament to force the removal of all US forces from Iraq.
In the end this will result in an eventual all out war in the Middle East. This war will not be confined to the current areas. As we have seen, Saudi Arabi has been pulled into the battle in Yemen and is under attack by forces trained and supplied by Iran. The leadership of Iran has also said that the next war will result in the destruction of Israel. Russia has already staked out its claim in Syria and Turkey is drifting rapidly into dictatorship set on recovering at least part of the Ottoman Empire (Mussolini was intent on reestablishing the Roman Empire.)
It is always hoped that war can be avoided but history has shown us that diplomacy works best when both side understand that there is a military option available and that the other side is willing to use it.

 

 

The New Cold War


Cold War

Recent international activities are beginning to remind me of the cold war, and its heating up. Over the weekend the US shot down a Syrian SU-22 ground attack aircraft, after it had attack US supported Syrian and Kurdish forces who were in combat with ISIS. This action in and of itself is significant and indicates a sea change in US policy. But it is not an isolated incident and is a continuing march toward a new cold war that has been in development since the fall of the Soviet Union.

For those who do not remember, the cold war lasted from the end of the second world war in 1945 until the fall of the Soviet Union on 1991. During this time, there were both political and military confrontations between the West and the East. To correct the wrong impression while the term is “Cold War” there were some very hot spots during this time. From the Korean War through Vietnam and smaller conflicts in Africa and South and Central America, the west faced off against the agents of the Soviet Union in many ways. The main difference is that while the West (US) would engage directly with military force the East (Soviet Union) used proxy fighters.

Today we are seeing a rise in tension and a return to many of the same patterns we saw in the past. Both Russia and China have begun to once again challenge our military by close encounters at sea and in the air and by testing our ability to detect and react to air and submarine incursions.  The subs have mostly been in Scandinavian seas, we have not heard of others. Like the last time however this could lead to unforeseen problems. From the proxy side, we see Russia fermenting a civil war in Ukraine and a direct annexation of Chimera. They have also returned to the Middle East by propping up the regime of Assad in Syrian and this time they have committed their own forces.  China is challenging us in the south china sea by the expansion of territorial claims and an increase in military presence.

It may be assumed we won the last time and we will win this time. This time however there is a major change. The United States is seen by many as a paper tiger. Regardless of what we have done in Iraq and Afghanistan it is greatly assumed we will not commit to a major defense of the west. Some of this can be laid at the feet of the current administration for its talk about NATO and the need for Europe to be more proactive in its own defense. But for the most part, on a macro level, we have over the past few years reduced our own military and shown a reluctance to engage in any meaningful way with the growing threat from Russia or China.

During the last cold war, we stayed out of direct confrontation with Russia through something called Mutual Assured Destruction, (MAD).  The concept of MAD was that in the event of a major war both sides had the capability to destroy the other. In a true sense, it was not the fear of mutual destruction that held back the missiles it was the fact that retaliation was assured. Neither side doubted the other would retaliate. In diplomacy, much the same concept is valid. Why would one side bother to negotiate with another if there is no fear of a military response that could be devastating.

Why has Russia run roughshod over the west, in the last few years presidents from both parties did little to react to Russian military adventures other than wag a finger and level ineffective sanctions. The danger today with the sea change I discussed is that it may take a lot more convincing to reign in Russia and China. This will mean there will be violence and death. Should this however work, as history has taught, then if we are still in time it will be less violent that if nothing is done. If we are not in time then nothing will reduce the carnage.

I hope I am right and we are in time. We must however present a more united front to the world then the fighting and inexcusable rhetoric that is coming out of Washington. It is a dangerous time and it will take a strong front to deflect the carnage and save civilization. PLEASE THINK before you get all bent out of shape over some mundane action of a politician, your child could have been Otto Warnbier. I am not sure if we had a better reputation for protecting our citizens there would have been a different outcome, or if he would have been arrested at all. But we need to try. We need to be that country that other would rather talk to then fight.

 

 

 

Turkey, PKK and the Kurds


20150517_184500[1]

Why the Kurds Must Move Forward United and Why Turkey is Resisting the Future

By Paul Davis

As many of you know, and for those who don’t I will tell you, I am a long time supporter of Kurdish unity and Kurdish independence. As you can see by my photo and name I am not Kurdish. I am an American, originally from New Jersey, now living in Virginia. My opinions are shaped from a lifetime of studying history and politics and a career in intelligence.. I give this introduction so my readers will understand my positions.

Turkey is a country that has faced great change in the last century from the base of a once great empire through defeat and breakup and resurrection. Kemal Mustafa Ataturk saved Turkey from falling into the trap many of the new nations did after the first world war. Turkey carved out a new and forward moving country whose people enjoyed political and economic freedom and growth. There were of course problems, there always are, but for the better part of the 20th century  the country moved forward. Recently however Turkey is backsliding both politically and socially. This is a period of change that can be documented in almost any society. This is not a good or bad period, just one that happens because societal changes sometimes happen faster than societies can accept. During this time societies look backward toward a time of a better life and greatness. In fact these times were never better and the perceived greatness was never all that great, at least not for the average person.

The Kurdish people have a different perspective on the world, one that produced a history and a society different than that of  conquerors that ruled the Kurds. What they have is a culture shaped by the different societies under which they have lived but a society that has evolved into  its own uniqueness. The Kurdish people are not however immune to the traps of history and are themselves now caught in that period of change. Like Turkey they can move forward or try to move back, the latter never a successful option. What they and the Turks cannot do is remain where they are.

Much of recent Kurdish history is covered in blood and social and political alienation. As stated above Turkey moved forward in the 20th century, but left behind its Kurdish minority. In point of fact, Turkey refused to admit it had a Kurdish minority and moved to forcibly assimilate them into the new Turkey, again history should have told them this is never a good idea. A number of Kurdish political movements grow up, and most died, in this transitory period. The Kurds fought the Turks, the British, the Iranians and the Syrians. These fights resulted in the current group of political parties that for the most part have their own military. These include the KDP. PUK Gorran, PJAK, PYD, the HDP, and to the point of this paper the PKK.

While all  parties evolved from a common base of Kurdish nationalism they have traveled different roads to arrive at where they are today. In Iraq the KDP is the oldest of the major movements and as such tends to be more conservative, based on tribal and familial rule . The PUK which broke from the KDP derives its base philosophy from the political left and is considered a center-left party. Gorran which broke from the PUK is what in today’s world would be considered progressive. While philosophically different they have one thing in common, they are responsible for running a government, providing basic services and protection. They interact with the central government as well as play on an international political stage.

Those Kurdish parties outside of Iraq, with the current exception of HDP, do none of the above.  For the most part these other organizations are ideologically driven insurgencies with  militias. Both the PKK and the YPG (militia of the PYD) have recently fought valiantly against ISIS. But is fighting enough to claim leadership. have any of these parties provided food, clothing, housing or jobs to a general population that they govern.  I have just read some of the most recent writings coming from the PKK and they brought me back to my college days in the 1970’s with the discussions of total freedom and release from servitude. The socialist and anti-capitalist, non-statist world to come. The only thing missing were unicorns and rainbows. These are easy statements for an organization to make that has no actual duties or requirements to the average citizen. The PKK took to the mountains to plan their utopia and there they stay, except to come out and kill.

Turkey on the other hand does have these duties to its citizens, and in the case of its ethnic Kurdish population abandoned them. The continual repression of the Kurds and the suppression of Kurdish ethnic identity caused the existence of the PKK. For the last three decades Turkey and the PKK fought a running battle. Changes on both sides continued. For Turkey the transition was from a militarized democracy to an elected democracy to, for the last decade, a one party rule that mimics democracy. The PKK for its part started out as radicalized Marxists, through a form of pragmatic socialism to what they are today, a bureaucratic insurgency claiming socialist values . The bottom line however is that neither side has much to show for its efforts against the other.

Now to the KRG. The Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil Iraq is the only internationally recognized body that has any legitimate authority relative to Kurdish interest. They have been legally entitled by the constitution of Iraq. They have been accepted by the international community as the Kurdish entity that speaks for the Kurds. With this power comes responsibility and restrictions. While many will argue that the KRG is not a democracy but an oligarchy it is the closest thing the Kurds in Iraq have to self rule. Is it democratic – a little, is it corrupt – very likely, is it legitimate – yes.

Putting all of this together;

Turkey is a legitimate government, regardless of how far it has traveled toward dictatorship. Dictatorial regimes are legal entities until they piss off the wrong group. This generally takes a long time. We can look to Iran and North Korea as examples of dictatorships that violate international law and continue to function.

The PKK has no international legitimacy, regardless of how much it feels it does through its Ideology and international mindset, it is not a nation and when it commits acts of violence it does so outside of law and international standards. It is not a state and only a state, according to Weber has “ a monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force. ”

The KRG is a legitimate regional government with international standing, regardless of how some citizens feel disenfranchised by the ruling elite. On the domestic and international stage they have the authority to act as any government entity and as a semi-autonomous region they have their own military, the Peshmerga.

Turkey is a legitimate government that currently has lost the moral high ground. The recent attack on Kurdish positions in Iraq and Syria have been conducted under the cover of fighting terrorism. Until very recently the Turkish government would not get involved in the fight against ISIL. In fact they stood by while ISIL attacked its neighbor Iraq and made gains in Syria into territory claimed by the Kurds. Two important things have happened to change Turkish minds. The first is that the Kurds fought back and not only recaptured lost territory but expanded into territory they did not control before. In conjunction they also did what they have not done before, effectively cooperated. The second, and more important thing to happen was the ruling party lost the majority in the  last election and is in jeopardy of  losing control of the government.

The first item, Kurdish victory and cooperation are terrifying to the Turks who have always feared their indigenous Kurdish population’s desire for freedom or, at the least, autonomy. The second is even more frightening to the ruling party elite who are losing control over a citizenry looking for economic growth and political freedom. The ruling party, the AKP, has ruled over what has become a safe and stable country for the last 12 years. With rising expectations and no existential threat the people looked to change.

The two winning parties need to build a coalition in order to form a new government. While neither one likes the other they both have no love of the AKP. The two avenues to follow would be for the two parties to swallow their pride and form a government or if too much time passes for the President to call for new elections. With no change a new election could be more devastating for the AKP and give enough seats for one of the other parties to form a government. What is needed is a crisis to turn the tide.

For the Turkish government the Kurds have always been the go to crisis and this time is no different. Of course this time, as in the past, the PKK gave them an excuse by attacking and killing 2 Turkish police officers then taking credit. Sending jets to attack PKK positions in Iraq, over and over, is not a justifiable or proportionate response. It is however not an unexpected response given the current state of affairs with-in Turkish politics. Recent polls show AKP growing in popularity since the violence started.

The PKK for its part has continued to foment its version of revolution against the Turkish government. Make no mistake the PKK is well armed and funded, but is impotent relative to its founding purpose. I would equate the current state of the PKK with that of the Colombian guerrilla movement The FARC. The PKK has past its zenith and to use an economic term is past the point of  diminishing returns. The best way the Kurds in Turkey are going to achieve their aims today is politically. The recent strong showing of the HPD in the last Turkish election should be an indicator of what can be done.

Both the AKP and the PKK are opposed to an open democratic resolution to the problems faced by Turkey and the Kurds in the region. To be honest the PKK cannot defeat the Turkish military, and it should be obvious, by now, will not wear down Turkish resolve. Equally obvious is the fact that Turkish military action will not defeat the PKK, in fact it makes it stronger.

The Kurdish future, today, lies in the ballot box. The true aims of Kurdish unity and independence can not be won through force of arms. Acknowledging that a lot of what the Kurds have in Northern Iraq was won in battle, it was not just the Kurds in the fight but the world. At the end of the day it was through politics and diplomacy that the KRG rose to the level of legitimacy. The west is not sending troops to fight the Kurds but diplomats to negotiate treaties.

I have not forgotten ISIS or the other factors that have the region in turmoil. As I said in the beginning I am a student of history and will say that ISIS and the rest of those who are walking backwards will eventually disappear into the dustbin of time.  It is important to continue to move forward to separate yourself from the rest. A warning however is that ISIS will not go quickly or quietly and the world needs to unite to defeat this evil.

The Iran Nuclear Deal: Audacity of Arrogance


Iran Deal

OK I did it, I read the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that outlines the deal the US and the EU made with Iran in regards to Iran’s nuclear program. My head hurts, my eyes are bleeding and I am very frightened. The agreement is a total capitulation to a terrorist regime bent on regional hegemony and total subjugation of any person or country that it deems an enemy. First off, Iran gives up nothing concrete and receives a number of concessions with nothing more than a promise to stop what they have been doing.   Now the president tells us that this is a good agreement that stops Iran from moving down the road to building a nuclear device. “After two years of negotiations, the United States, together with our international partners, has achieved something that decades of animosity has not: a comprehensive long-term deal with Iran that will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” the president told the country Tuesday morning, I just don’t see it. Had a country other than Iran been involved I might have more faith, but Iran has not shown itself to be trustworthy. The diplomatic writing lays out the responsibilities of the parties. In the third provision of the preamble it states that “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons.” In 2000 the North Koreans promised the United States and subsequently in the Six party Talk that “Both sides commit not to nuclearize the Korean Peninsula. The United States must “provide formal assurances” not to threaten or use nuclear weapons against North Korea. Pyongyang is required to “consistently take steps” to implement the 1992 North-South Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. As history shows, all of the talks and frameworks and agreements broke down and North Korea is now a nuclear power. What will keep Iran from doing what North Korea did? The JCPOA spends a lot of time on the need for the US and EU to end any sanctions and to ensure the lifting of UN sanctions, but not much on what happens should Iran renege. There is discussion of a Joint Commission that is responsible for monitoring implementation and conflict resolution but not much else. The president speaks of the ability to snap back sanctions in the event Iran does not comply with the letter of the agreement, but the language indicates this will not be easy if even possible without full agreement of all parties.

This Agreement does little to stop Iran from nuclear research; it may slow it for a while but not stop it. To make matters worse I feel that this agreement which shows a lot of back pedaling on the part of the US will make it that much more difficult for us to negotiate in the future. Much of the concern of the west was stopping Iran from producing weapons grade nuclear material through uranium enrichment. In order to enrich uranium centrifuges are required. We know Iran has these and in the agreement they must phase out the largest number of those they have, which are denoted as IR-1 centrifuges. The fact is these are old designs that have never worked properly and have reduced the anticipated output, and it is expected that they would have been replaced by the more efficient IR-4 and IR-5 units which requires Iran to have less centrifuges to produce more enriched uranium. The concern was part of the Nov 2013 Joint Plan of Action, which required Iran not to feed the IR-5s, and it was assumed the IR-5 and other more efficient centrifuges would be disallowed in any agreement. Not only did Iran continue to feed the IR-5 but the JCPOA allows Iran to keep them provided use is only for R&D.

President Obama in announcing the agreement indicated that this is not built on trust but on verification. One of the activities Iran said it would not engage in is “Designing, developing, acquiring, or using computer models to simulate nuclear explosive devices. How do you stop a country from developing computer models? How do you verify that Iran is not doing so?

This is not a completely bad agreement if everything goes absolutely as planned. The odds of that happening are very remote given Iran’s track record of keeping promises. The “best’ we can hope for is that Iran focus’s its attention on funding their exporting of terror to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon with their new found wealth and delay developing a nuke for a few years.

I hope I am wrong. If I am wrong then nothing will go wrong. If however I and a number of others are right we could face a nuclear holocaust in the Middle East in a few short years. I hope congress has the courage to stop this agreement in its tracks. This is not a good deal, its not even appeasement it is a deal for deals sake. To ignore the potential of destruction just to build some self-indulgent legacy is the audacity of arrogance

Does Russia Plan to Stop with Ukraine or Turn Left at Kiev and Continue to Poland


Does Russia Plan to Stop with Ukraine or Turn Left at Kiev and Continue to Poland

Today NATO has confirmed what the Ukrainian government has been saying for months; Russian troops have crossed the border and are in eastern Ukraine. Not some advisors, but troops, tanks and artillery with all the support required. Moreover, why not, the West has given them permission to invade and told Putin that nothing will happen other than economic sanctions. Sanctions that will only bolster his standing with the Russian people and lend credence to his claims of US support to the “fascist” in Kiev.

Unfortunately, most Americans will not know this is happening since the news media is still concentrating on the recent election results and current developments in Iraq and Iran. I suppose it is important to concentrate on who will be the Democratic nominee in 2016, devoting multiple columns on speculation while Ukraine is being invaded. While the troubles in the Middle East are important Ukraine present a larger danger to the West. Why is Ukraine important and what should the West do?

The short answer (or shortsighted answer) is that Ukraine is not very important to the US and only marginally important to Europe. The US does very little business with Ukraine and Europe is tied through the natural gas that flows from Russia through pipelines in Ukraine. The importance of a response to Russia’s invasion is in the long term. For the US, which has lost the respect of the world, is to reestablish the foundations of peace in Europe which has allowed growth and prosperity. It is further important to establish diplomatic boundaries; boundaries which when crossed do invite a military option. These boundaries use to exist; there was some certainty of a response when crossed. With the loss of those boundaries, invasions happen.

The invasion is moving slowly while Putin and his thugs continue to test Western resolve and capabilities. Recent activities, reminiscent of the cold war, are being used to judge us. Russian planes are flying near US, Canadian and European airspace causing fighters to scramble to intercept. Naval forces have also been involved testing the waters off Sweden. The “non-Russian forces”, disguised as Ukrainian separatist, who took control of eastern Ukraine and allowed Russia to annex Crimea, preceded these tests. Now that we have been judge and found deficient Russian forces are flooding over the border. The question is where will they stop? Once a Russian military force begins to move it will stop only when it runs into a force larger then itself or is sufficiently degraded that it can go no further. Of course, an alternative is to ensure it never begins to move.

It is somewhat late in the game to try incremental steps to convince the Russians it is a bad idea to invade Ukraine. It is not too late to show resolve and indicate that there will be a price to pay and that price will be painful. I doubt that the U.S. can pull it off and will need someone that the Russians believe will be true to their word. Germany, England and France, along with Poland and the Baltic states could provide a sufficient force to make a threat credible.

I hope that a united European front would be able to stop a war from happening or at least contain it to a limited war that would not lead to a major conflict. The problem, as I have written before, is the longer it takes to meet this challenge, the larger the war that will come. Make no mistake, unless Putin is stopped, there will be a war.

The New Cold War


The New Cold War

Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin wall, we seem to have come full circle. On that day which began the true end of the Second World War, returning pre-war countries to the control of its citizens, the future looked bright. Country after country reclaimed its heritage, not without problems and adventures. Even the Soviet Union fell and gave back control of many of its vassal states to the people. The down side of all this was the closing of minds in the West to any potential reversal of these activities. In the intervening years, all eyes have moved toward the Middle East, with all the problems, wars, and barbarity that has become the Middle East.

To play down the dangers of groups such as ISIL or countries like Iran that can and have plunged the region into war and fear would be foolish. The darkness that has enveloped that part of the world has the potential of spreading outward to engulf the rest of the world. However, the immediate threat to the Western world is once again coming from Russia. The fall of the Berlin Wall did not remove the danger of men such as Putin; it only drove them underground for a little while. While the West went forward into a new age of freedom and prosperity, Russia remained, well Russian.

The West has forgotten the Cold War and what it pertained. The barbarity of ISIL notwithstanding, the current rash of Russian aircraft and ships testing NATO defenses in conjunction with the Russian invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea must be understood in an older context then the current batch of leaders appear willing or able to do. I suggest a rereading of the book “Arms and Influence” by Thomas Schelling for all decision makers. Understand what Russia is doing and what responses are required.

First off, and this is important, we must understand that Russia will continue limited wars until its objectives are meet. That is until the price is too high. Lines must be drawn and aggression contained. If NATO and the West continue to fail to respond to Russian provocations, they will become more belligerent. Who is to blame? Schelling would likely say the West. By failure to up the ante, we are giving Russia permission to continue its actions. Economic sanctions are not going to contain military action. Russia, as Putin envisions it, is capable of self-preservation. The West, as Putin envisions it, is incapable of sustaining an economic embargo against Europe’s energy supplier. So then, the answer is to nuke Moscow, not really.

The answer is to show resolve in the face of this naked aggression. Movement of NATO forces into western Ukraine close enough to be a threat but far enough back not to be an immediate danger. Then it becomes quid pro quo. Russian forces advance deeper into Ukraine so does NATO. Is this brinksmanship or a game of chicken? Yes it is. Could it lead to a larger war? Yes, it could. But the alternative is to allow the Russians to continue to move west until??? At what point do we call a halt and at that time what would it take to stop the advance? The longer it takes the less likely Russia will feel anything is going to happen. The longer it takes the larger and more dangerous will be the response.

The new cold war can only remain cold while there is a credible threat of actual war. Currently Russia does not see that threat. I do not advocate war, just the opposite. We need to set the boundaries, to let Russia know what the limits are. A new cold war is a terrible thing and should never have been allowed to happen. However, it did happen and now we must respond. If we learn from the past, we can contain war and avoid conflict. If we ignore what was learned the world may pay a terrible price.

Why Putin is pushing the door open to a New Cold War


Putin

In a March 17th article in Foreign Policy Magazine Gordon Adams, a professor of international relations at American University’s School of International Service, advices that we “Don’t Poke the Russian Bear.” It is Professor Adams’ contention that the reasoning behind Russia’s actions in Ukraine is driven by traditional Russian paranoia, and I agree. He also states that American policymakers do not get it, and again I agree. He then goes on to discuss how there is not only little we can do about it but that we should just accept the current reality and accept these actions as an inevitable part of Russia protecting its interest and its borders, now I have to disagree. According to the good professor the current crisis:

“It’s not about democracy. It’s not about annexation. It’s not about aggression or a new Munich. It’s not about a return to the Cold War. It’s about centuries-old Russian paranoia about the states on its borders and what Moscow think the Europeans, the Chinese, or the Americans are up to in its near abroad.” [1]

I am sorry professor, but it is about democracy, it is about annexation, it is about aggression, it is about a new Munich and it most certainly is about a return to the cold war.

So let us discuss these points. Is it about democracy? When did Vlad the impetuous decide that the evil government in Kiev was subjugating the Russian-speaking people of the Crimea? If I recall it was after the Ukrainian people in a popular move removed the President of Ukraine who just happened to be pro-Russian and was refusing to accept a relationship with the European Union, supported by most Ukrainians, in favor of closer ties with Russia. Of course this raises the question, does the removal of a duly elected president, by popular rebellion, encompass democracy, or is it an undemocratic action. I would remind Mr. Putin that he became the second (and fourth) president of Russia due to the removal of the Soviet era government by popular rebellion, supported by the military. Russia will not accept the new government in Kiev and considers Viktor Yanukovych as the legitimate leader of Ukraine. This following an election considered by most to be free and open, even those in the rebellious east had an opportunity to vote. Understanding that a reason for keeping control of the Crimean peninsula was to maintain a warm water port for the Black Sea fleet, allowed under treaty, there was no attempt to discuss this with the new government. The democratic loving Putin fermented a revolt supported by Russian forces, even though Moscow denied it, and then sending in the Russian army to keep the peace. So much for democracy, let us try aggression.

Well I guess we kind of did aggression but let’s recap. A large country with millions of soldiers under arms backed up with modern equipment attacks a smaller country with a small army and little in the way of modern equipment and secures some land. That’s aggression, oh no I guess it’s not really you see Putin got permission from the Russian Duma (Congress) to use the army if needed to protect the subjugated Russian speaking population of a foreign country. You see that’s not aggression…its war. Of course, the professor wrote this article before the downing of Malaysian Air flight MH17 and before the revelation that the Russians were firing on Ukrainian positions from inside of Russia, but nonetheless to say that this is not about aggression is a little much.

What about this being a new Munich. This requires us to understand the full implication of what happened in 1938 and how it does relate to Russian and Western actions today. The short of it is that the United Kingdom and France in order to appease Hitler gave Germany a portion of Czechoslovakia based on the argument that it was home to mostly German speaking peoples, without the Czechoslovakian government being invited to the table. The Czechoslovakian government considered this a great betrayal as they had a pact with both Britain and France to protect Czechoslovakia. Ok so we have not signed a pact with Putin to cede eastern Ukraine. The military actions taken by Russia violates a treaty signed between the US, UK, Russia and Ukraine to protect Ukrainian borders in recognition of Ukraine giving up its Nuclear arsenal following the breakup of the USSR. Germany completed the takeover of the remainder of Czechoslovakia in March of 1939. While Britain and France protested, they could only increase military preparedness with no other follow on action. WWII started in September after Germany invaded Poland. This should also cover annexation.

As to the return of the Cold War, we would need to define Cold War. According to most, it is a heightened level of political and military tensions between two sides. In the old days, that was the West (NATO and others) and the East (Warsaw pact and others). While NATO still exists, the Warsaw pact is gone. Putin however is trying to reestablish it through a Russian federation. This new federation established the same way as the Warsaw pact was, through force of arms. The real question is this a new Cold War or a continuation of the original following a lull. Does not matter, ITS BACK.

Which raises the question, does Putin know what he is doing and does he care. From a Western mindset, it would appear that everything Russia is doing is counterproductive to a desire to be a full partner in the world community. Nevertheless, let us return to the last part of what the professor said. “It’s about centuries-old Russian paranoia about the states on its borders and what Moscow think the Europeans, the Chinese, or the Americans are up to in its near abroad.” [2] Russia has always been an outlier to the western world.

The cultural bias that drives the why a person or government thinks and acts is no small item. First, let us define cultural bias. Most of us view cultural bias as the problem with standardize test, such as the SAT. This is a good place to start to understand. When a group of people designs a test, whose questions are constructed in a manner that is unintelligible to the intended audience, based on a different worldview or understanding, it is cultural bias. There is a lot more to it than that but you get the idea. A case in point of the larger picture of cultural bias is a recent posting from Russia that set out side by side a photo of Putin petting a leopard and one of President Obama holding a dog. From the Russian perspective, this shows Putin as a “MAN” who is fearless and capable of standing up to a west as defined by Obama holding a tamed dog. From the western perspective we see a kind and humanitarian Obama (no politics here just an observation making a point) and a person doing something (holding an animal that can tear you to pieces) only a circus performer or an idiot would do. The photo was in a Tweet from the deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin and captioned “We have different values and allies.”

Let us now extend this to the current crisis. Is Vladimir Putin acting as a lone wolf, angry at the west for some perceived slight or is he acting like a, well, Russian. To re-quote the professor “It’s about centuries-old Russian paranoia about the states on its borders and what Moscow think the Europeans, the Chinese, or the Americans are up to in its near abroad.” This is not a condemnation of Russia or Russian leadership or a statement of good or evil, it is a statement. If we accept that there is truth to the statement, then we can look for answers to the crisis. I warn you these answers are not always the ones we want or want to deal with.

In a recent article in The New Yorker, David Remnick discusses the problems Michael McFaul, who recently resigned as the US Ambassador to Russia, had with Putin. McFaul an academic and an expert on Russia should have understood the culture and cultural bias. Like many Americans, however McFaul was caught up in his own worldview, which sees only the good. When nominated Dmitri Medvedev was President of the Russian Federation and US-Russian relations was OK, not great but OK. After his official appointment, Putin declared his intention to run for the office, which sparked demonstrations in Moscow.

“In the three months between McFaul’s appointment and his arrival in Moscow, a great deal changed. Putin, feeling betrayed by both the urban middle classes and the West, made it plain that he would go on the offensive against any sign of foreign interference, real or imagined. A raw and resentful anti-Americanism, unknown since the seventies, suffused Kremlin policy and the state-run airwaves.”[3]

From the beginning, Putin was set to prove that Russia was going to be a great power once more. As before, the concept of power was through force of arms and other traditional Russian methods. Most recently, the management of REN TV canceled a Russian political program, which was the last TV show to be critical of Putin and the current government. Is Vlad just being an impetuous leader out of touch with the Russian people? His latest approval rating is 80%.

We are in what appears to be a cold war with an advisory that is trying to compel us to do something. So what is the something we need to do. We can discuss diplomacy but to Putin that just give him more time to do what he wants. We can discuss economic sanctions, which will be of little effect on a country that does not have a strong economy outside of oil and gas exports and does not fear losing that revenue. We can discuss deterrence. Yes, we can discuss deterrence.

To be up front I am not suggesting that the next time Russian artillery fires into Ukraine that we nuke Moscow. What I am saying is that we can provide weapons and training, intelligence and logistics support. What I am saying is that the 6th Fleet can run some exercises in the Black Sea. We can make life more difficult for the Russian military as it tries to reinvent itself into what was the Soviet military. Back in June, some Russian bombers flow off the coasts of Alaska and California to within 50 miles of the US. Bing honest they were within their rights and according to the Air Force the encounter was “professional.” Next time maybe a little less professionalism and a little more swagger.

Putin is not going to stop until he sees the potential of an encounter that may cost him masculinity points. An old saying goes something like this “All evil needs to succeed is for good men to do nothing.” We need to do something to shut the door on this new cold war.

Adams, G. (2014, March 17). Don’t Poke the Runnian Bear. Retrieved July 24, 2014, from foreignpolicy.com: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/03/17/don_t_poke_the_russian_bear_ukraine

Remnick, D. (2014, August 11). The New Yorker. Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/08/11/watching-eclipse

[1] (Adams, 2014)

[2] (Adams, 2014)

[3] (Remnick, 2014)

On the need to return the military option to US foreign policy


What is Old is New Again

By Paul Davis

As we grow older, we discover through events that occur around us that the world changes little and that history repeats itself regardless of what we should have learned and passed on. Not all lessons are benign, not all lessons that would keep us from harm are learned. I began my military career in the early 1970’s just as the war in Vietnam was winding down. The enemy at the time was the Soviet Union with its large army and nuclear capabilities. Through a series of deterrent actions such as the Berlin Brigade or direct actions such as the Cuban Missile crisis we out lasted the evil empire and watched as peace broke out around the world, or most of it, or some of it, well at least for a little while.   My analytic career as well began with the Soviet Union then progressed, both in the military and then as a civilian, from the Soviet Union, through North Korea and then the Middle East. So now, after all these years, and triumphs and the peace dividend, where are the hot spots, and which regions/countries threaten world peace, Russia, North Korea and the Middle East. The news and events of the day continue to remind us that the world is a dangerous place to live.

Russia (USSR, Czarist Empire) has always been paranoid and xenophobic. It has always relied on hard power, its military. Even under the Czars, it was never an economic power, though it had the potential after the fall of the Soviet Union. Today it has Oil and Natural Gas and uses these resources as a weapon to subjugate and control. It has always been expansionist and it has never gotten along with the West. Now today thugs run the country. These thugs envision a return to empire and to expand back to the lands they lost; historically they have expanded through force of arms.

The West apparently does not understand Russia. We rejoiced when the Soviet Union fell and elected the first president of Russia, a verbose alcoholic. We then saw a “democratic” transfer of power from the alcoholic to an unknown former KGB agent. The KGB agent then engineered another election in which his handpicked successor became President and he became Prime Minister. This was convenient since it allowed for no real transfer, which became official in the next election when the KGB agent was once again the President and his successor became the Prime Minister. During this time things started to get interesting. In 2008, Russia decided that the regions of a former Soviet Republic, Georgia, actually should be independent since they had Russian speaking separatist movements. Therefore, while the West tried to negotiate a resolution, Russia invaded and “freed” Abkhazia and South Ossetia; the US imposed economic sanctions, which did not last after the next administration reset the world. The thugs also decided that this whole experiment in a free market economy needed to be brought under the thumb of the thugs. How to do this? The KGB guy had an idea. In 2003, a privately owned oil company under the leadership of Mikhail Khodorkovsky was in direct competition with the government both economically and politically. The government, now stop me if you have heard this one, arrested Mikhail Khodorkovsky on trump up charges and shipped him off to Siberia. Next take the private company and roll its assets into the government run oil industries. The West will not object as long as they get their oil. The West did not object. OK now let’s see what can be done about all this foreign capital in Russia that the thugs don’t control. In 2007 a financial group called, Hermitage Capital Management was accused of trump up tax evasion charges and taken over by government goons. This time an employee of the firm, Sergei Magnitsky, thought he could help by bringing out the truth. He was wrong. He is dead. This time the West, after several years, did something. The US congress passed a law that barred some Russian officials blamed for the death from entering the US.

Now let us move forward to 2014. The thugs have now seen that the West in more interested in oil and peace then right and wrong. That when their morals are affronted they will resort to wholesale diplomatic finger wagging. So next, the thugs chopped off a piece of Ukraine that they claim is full of Russians and really should be independent like those parts of Georgia. No wait, the West did nothing then so let us not just say they are independent lets hold an open and honest vote with Russian troops in the street that makes this part of Ukraine part of Russia. This now is too much for the West that, after days of finger wagging, decides to punish the thugs by economic sanction of about seven people, most of whom have no economic interests that the West can control. You know the rest some additional sanctions imposed on additional people. Yes, the sanctions have hurt the Russian economy but as we said, they have never been an economic power so the thugs will not feel the pain.

Now the thugs have been trying for years to bring the whole of Ukraine back into the new empire but most Ukrainians do not like the Russians, and would like to be part of the West. Well the thugs cannot have that, so they send in special army units to pretend to be Russian speaking Ukrainians to arm and train Ukrainian thugs who may be able to chop off more land for Russia. To this end Moscow continued to arm the rebels with more and more sophisticated weapons, until it resulted in the deaths of 298 innocent people going home or on vacation or, for some of the top researchers in the world, to an AIDS convention. This horrific consequence of war shook the resolve of the Russians and their Ukrainian proxies for about 24 hours; long enough to remove the anti-aircraft missile launcher back to Russia. The Russians did hold back for a while until the Ukrainian terrorist started to lose the fight. The Russians then invaded with a small army to rescue the agenda they had set out, the annexation of Ukraine. Up to today. The west has failed, the Russians are looking more and more like they will annex east Ukraine and the Ukrainian government is helpless to stop it without western support. DIRECT western support.

HOW DID WE GET HERE

Now let’s get back to lessons learned or not learned. In order to do this we need to travel back in time (this is when you see the wavy lines and hear strange music) back to 1532. In his book, “The Prince” Nicolo Machiavelli asked “… is it better to be loved then feared or feared then loved…” The answer obviously is feared. Am I endorsing Machiavelli, of course not, but sometimes he does make a good point. Now let’s move a little forward in time to 1832. Following his death, the book, “On War” by the Prussian General Carl von Clausewitz was published. I will not go into all of what he wrote but one thing he did point out is that war is a continuation of foreign policy by other means. There are many interpretations of what he meant, but all agree that at a minimum when diplomacy fails, the state still has the military option. How does all this tie in. In 1966, Thomas Schelling an American economist and professor of foreign affairs, national security, nuclear strategy, and arms control wrote “Arms and Influence” in the first chapter, he wrote about the “diplomacy of violence.” The diplomacy of violence states, amongst other things, that regardless of the size and capability of your military should your enemy perceive that it will not be used then the deterrent effect is nullified. In other words if the military option is off the table then the bad guy has nothing to fear. This is the lesson the leaders of today have not yet learned. That what has been passed down to us by all of the above and others is that without the military option there is no diplomatic option.

Russia has no reason to be concerned over its actions, there is nothing the West will do, we have removed the military option. As I stated above no iteration of Russia has ever been an economic power and the threat of economic sanctions is of little effect. In fact, I can think of no place in modern history where economic sanctions had any effect other than punishing subjugated populations.

This is not a call to arms every time someone pisses us off. Diplomacy is always the preferred method to conflict resolution. Nevertheless, we must understand that diplomacy has to be a two way street with both sides acting to come to a reasonable accord. When you are dealing with thugs, if there is no fear of a violent response, there is no hope for a peaceful resolution. There was nothing we could have done when Russia took the Crimea. Yes, we could have streamed ships into the Black Sea or sent troops to Kiev. This would not at the time been a credible deterrent since there was no belief of any actual engagement. Had there been, then maybe the threat would have been enough. Had there been then maybe the crisis would not have begun. Had Europe stood up to Hitler in the 1930’s would so many have died. In 1962, did the world become safer when the US confronted the Soviet Union over missiles in Cuba and the Kremlin understood that the threat of force was real? I do not believe that war is an answer to the world’s problems but I do believe that sometimes there needs to be a credible threat of violence to contain violence.

Benjamin Franklin said “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Can we paraphrase that to say those who give up someone else’s liberty to secure their own temporary safety… well you get the point.

Civilization should only move forward


“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” – Albert Einstein

 

Civilization should only move forward. The problem is that is goes forward very slowly, so slowly in fact that the past occasionally catches up. That is one of the reason we often hear the quote from George Santayana “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The world has found itself in one of those periods today and needs to remember the past, because this time repetition could prove very costly. Social, religious and political difference has very often become social, religious and political intolerance. Welcome to a period of intolerance.

Currently the world is confronting the Islamic terrorist group ISIL. ISIL is a group of religious fanatics, similar to the Spanish Inquisition, spreading the word through torture, murder and forced conversions.   ISIL is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Muslims, Christians and Yazidi in Syria and Iraq. Yet the United States did very little to stop these crimes against humanity until two Americans were gruesomely beheaded.   While we did provide air support to Kurdish and Iraqi forces that fought back, it had to be forced on the administration to do so. Why the delay? Reason and history should have shown the need for immediate and forceful response. However, fear of a new war if we committed ground forces, boots on the ground, paralyzed the government. This is a case of reality and reason running into political doctrine and dogma. ISIL is dangerous and a threat to the region, to Europe and the United States. Air power can blunt the advances to a degree but it will require ground forces to destroy them. There is no Army in the region that can destroy them without massive support and training over a long period. Therefore, the two options are to pretend we are doing something, which will result in ISIL growing stronger and becoming a direct threat, or commit ground forces, in conjunction with others, and degrade and destroy them. We have currently committed 3000 troops to Africa to help contain the Ebola outbreak that to this date has taken 2500 lives. It is the right thing to do, but how many lives will be lost if we do not commit forces to contain the ISIL threat? Are there consequences for taking the latter course, yes. However, I suggest if viewed through the prism of history the result will show it to be the correct choice.

A greater threat to world peace is taking place in Europe. The Russian invasion of Ukraine represents a much larger and more direct challenge to the US and its European allies. One we have faced before. The building confrontation between the West and Russia will require a much different response then the one planned for ISIL. We are in what appears to be in a standoff with an advisory that is trying to compel us to maintain peace at any price. That price is the abandonment of a sovereign nation to a predator. We now, once again, face a foe that, as they have reminded us, is a nuclear power. What does history reason and logic teach us? We can discuss diplomacy but to Putin that just gives him more time to do what he wants. We can discuss economic sanctions, which will be of little effect on a country that does not have a strong economy outside of oil and gas exports and does not fear losing that revenue. We can discuss deterrence. Yes, we can discuss deterrence.

To be up front I am not suggesting that the next time Russian artillery fires into Ukraine that we nuke Moscow. What I am saying is that we can provide weapons and training, intelligence and logistics support. What I am saying is that the 6th Fleet can run some exercises in the Black Sea. We can make life more difficult for the Russian military as it tries to reinvent itself into what was the Soviet military. We can draw a line and say no further. Back in June, some Russian bombers flow off the coasts of Alaska and California to within 50 miles of the US. However they were within their rights and according to the Air Force the encounter was “professional.” Next time maybe a little less professionalism and a little more swagger.

Putin is not going to stop until he sees the potential of an encounter that may cost him. An old saying goes something like this “All evil needs to succeed is for good men to do nothing.” The threat of force has to be real and right now, it is not. The President removed the military option, which was a mistake, and even if he promised to return it, it is likely Russia would not believe us. The threat of military action, unbelievably, has stopped wars. Failure to use all tools, including the military, has led to major wars. The world may have been different had Japan been stopped in Manchuria, Italy in Ethiopia or Germany in the Sudetenland. If the US can lead a coalition into Syria, confront, and destroy ISIL, even a fast strike into the heart, would show a resolve that Russia has not seen from the West. I do not suggest we put young lives in harm’s way lightly. Once we can show resolve and commitment, standing up to evil, the world becomes a little less dangerous.