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Brexit: A polite warning. Everyone will be fine.

I was happily away from this stuff for a few days and look what I find:-)

I comment regularly at Project Syndicate, and the tone of the overwhelming majority of the written reactions at that publication was absolute hysteria.

I can understand that for a politician or banker in the UK this screws up your summer, maybe even your year, more than any event you can remember. For the rest of the world, however? Probably not even top 5.

Just to name a few disruptive events that I can remember, and I’m not that old: Great financial crisis / dot-com / s&l. Fall of Berlin wall / reunification. End of communism throughout eastern europe, end of USSR. Bombings in UK/Ireland. Balkans war. Ukraine war. Mini oil crisis. Fukushima. Chernobyl. Tienanmen square. 9/11 and the resulting hysteria and militarization. The fairly transparent fraud of the Iraq war and the years of blowback that followed.

Nope, sky is not falling. Misguided or not, voters expressed their dissatisfaction at the ballot box. Keep in mind, the same process were done to put the European structures together — in several cases voters rejected various treaties and multiple votes were held, with some small concessions between until voters finally approved.

So this is on the whole a good thing. Firstly, a functioning democracy that makes a decision you don’t like is almost always better than an undemocratic system. Secondly, lots of small governments are less susceptible to monoculture – risk of the Big Mistake for everyone all at once.

The one Brexit-related subject I want to talk about at some point is that the debate, as far as I can tell from here in the US, focused on exaggerated economic fear-mongering on the Remain side, vs exaggerated migrant/immigrant fear-mongering on the Leave side. From my point of view in sunny upstate NY, I didn’t see that much nuanced discussion of the merits of the EU’s interpretation of democracy and sharing of power. Save that for another time.

Why the 51 US State Dept. officals are wrong to bomb Syria

This is a follow up to my previous post on this subject. That link  contains links to the original sources including the text of the actual “dissent-channel” letter from US State Dept. officials, urging direct attack of the Assad government/regime of Syria by the US.

The argument of why this group of analysts is dead wrong is below:

1. To begin with, the exact nature of the so-called moderate anti-regime forces in Syria is an uncertain matter. The one shining example are the Kurds, but they have no interest in going past their geographic limits, as stated by the letter itself (p.3). As the letter makes explicit and clear, the moderates who are to receive the benefit of proposed US action here are NOT the Kurds, but instead the motley crew consisting of a more dubious mix of backgrounds. Although not ISIS, these are far from being proponents of european style democracy. There have been repeated attempts to pass AQ affiliates such as Nusra off as part of the “moderate” group over the past few years as well, and the official narrative from the State Dept. on this subject has often left out inconvenient details. It is with very shaky credibility (trustworthiness) that this group of analysts in the State Dept. makes claims about the good nature of the anti-regime forces they support.

In the remainder of this post, I will give the authors of the letter the benefit of the doubt, that the moderates really are moderate in terms of the future outcome they want to bring about.

But first a quick final word on the subject of moderates. One would expect that some of them are mercenaries, as they are almost certainly employed in significant numbers by all sides. Insofar as the group referred to as the moderates contains mercenaries, they could reasonably be expected to behave themselves, and perhaps even restrain their less disciplined native comrades. However consider the situation once their task is complete: The well behaved professional members of the group depart, leaving who, exactly? Keep this in mind for section 7 below.

2. Syrian moderates have in the past made alliances of convenience with extremists, or been readily subjugated by extremists when moderates and extremists have come in direct contact.

3. Syrian moderates had as their goal the overthrow of Assad, hence the armed conflict. More recently some attempts at compromise were forced on both sides, with imperfect results.

4. Syrian moderates had the backing of other regional powers who have also, in the recent past, unequivocally called for the overthrow of Assad. Hence the conflict. More recently some attempts at compromise were forced on both sides, with imperfect results.

5. In addition to the moderates, extremists are also unquestionably present. Although ISIS is on the back foot, it seems foolish to assume they are on the way to being defeated – the same was said of AQ, various Iraqi and Afghan forces, etc.

6. Disarming the government with the putative reason of helping the moderates will also, at the same time, disarm the government in its ability to fight extremists.

7. Therefore support for the moderates can be expected to have the immediate result, by default, of shifting balance of power in favor of extremists. A vision of a Syria controlled by moderates raises some major doubts.

8. This would make sense if and only if the US were willing to then step in and take the place of the Syrians and the Russians etc on the ground and fight the extremists who would be empowered once the Regime is weakened. Going in on the ground to fight extremists is something the US and its european allies proved we have no appetite for in Libya, nor even in Iraq. It is important to remember that the moderates have not had good success fighting the extremists, again with the exception of the Kurds forces, who are not the subject of this discussion as explained earlier.

9. Moreover, if the the US disarms Assad, rather than a neatly executed balance of power and even handed peace negotiation, the current enforcers of the balance, Russia, would most likely simply leave, to hang the resulting mess around the necks of the US planners. It is truly astounding that the authors of the letter do not forsee this.

10. All of this, excluding Russia and the Kurds, is quite similar to happened in Libya. There the UN mandate was NOT the overthrow of Quadaffi, but rather to bring about conditions for a negotiated settlement (as proposed by the letter). The result bore absolutely no similarity to what was proposed.

11. In Libya, by disarming Qadaffi, the extremists were positively empowered to take over the country. Neither Peace nor Stability, nor the reduction of the influence of armed groups was achieved.

12. In Libya, the cure was far worse than the disease.

13. In terms of the legality of US action specifically, in Libya, there was at least some mandate by the UNSC (UNSC 1973), though insofar as the US made an active effort at regime change by arming the opposition, that mandate was exceeded.

14. In Syria, there is no such mandate for anti-regime forces to intervene at all, and there is not likely to be one. So, in addition to being hopelessly counterproductive, US Actions would also be somewhat illegal.

15. In light of the lessons learned from Iraq and Libya, the proposed US action of the type described can only be described as either extremely ignorant, or is being put forward in bad faith.

16. We have learned from the Iraq experience that the stupid-or-evil question does not really need to be answered. what we need to do is refrain from carrying out the actions in question.

Geopolitics (and Tech): Interesting document

“2018 Security Outlook”, published by Canadian agency CSIS, not to be confused with the prominent foreign policy think tank CSIS.

link: https://www.csis-scrs.gc.ca/pblctns/ccsnlpprs/2016/2016-06-03/GLOBAL_SECURITY_POST-CONFERENCE_ENGLISH.pdf       [via Irrusionality]

There are sections on Russia, China, and WMD’s, all pretty straightforward, though the writing is pleasantly light and free of some nonsense found elsewhere.

But the two sections that contained novel ideas for me were:

* The section on the Middle east, with a thought provoking and view of the region in terms of Political Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood as the organization representing its mainstream, and exploration of Egypt as the case study which highlights the author’s way of looking at the current century’s ME geopolitics. Recommended read.

* The section on IT / cyber security, a messy mishmash of paragraphs with great actual content… sign of a proper computer nerd. Most interesting within that section, filled to the brim with interesting avenues of possibilities to mull over, is the one thing that was completely left out – the approach of quantum computing and its implications to substantially all existing commercial encryption infrastructure. Perhaps it’s here already.

 

Trump Reaches Out to Christian Conservatives [WaPo]

Trump reached out to Christian conservative and evangelical audiences at an event in NY yesterday. I was waiting for this to see how it will play out in terms of 3rd parties. What I should’ve expected but didn’t was that he did so by taking an pro-life / anti-abortion position. (specifically, in his potential picks for the Supreme Court).

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2016/06/20/how-can-trump-win-the-many-undecided-evangelicals-we-asked-them/   [Washington Post, via google news]

So, being pro-choice myself and feeling strongly about it, I reiterate for the umpteenth time: The choice of Trump vs Hillary is an absolutely horrible one. You lose either way.

The only way to get out of this ongoing 2-party trap is to vote for a 3rd party, and to bring the US electoral system into the 20th or 21st century, by adopting Ranked Choice / Instant Runoff voting for presidential elections, as well as Proportional Representation for legislatures. These are well tested voting processes used worldwide that let you vote for a candidate who really represents your positions, without “throwing away” your vote. I urge everyone to read up on these 2 important electoral system features that for some reason the US does not have.

musical interlude CLXX

Nice lil cover.

See also: XCIX.

51 US State Dept. officials’ open letter asking to bomb Syria

This one is for the record.

Apparently there is a serious group within the US State Dept. who wants really badly to directly attack the Syrian government, publishing an open letter to make their case. 

They are not satisfied with on-again off-again indirect US support for the motley crew of rebels (including AQ affiliates). They want direct bombing, just like in Libya. The obvious corollary and fairly clear subtext of their letter is they want Assad out, and are not concerned about unintended consequences.

Unlike most of the world, this group does not believe that taking military action in this situation would make things worse. Despite this being the unmistakable pattern in Iraq, Libya, and elsewhere.  Quote showing how little, actually how nothing, was learned is below:

7. (SBU) Third, putting additional constraints on the regime’s ability to bomb and shell both fighting forces and unambiguously civilian targets would have a direct, mitigating impact on the refugee and IDP crisis. This crisis has deeply affected Syria’s neighbors for years and is now impacting our European partners in farreaching ways that may ultimately jeopardize their very character as open, unified, and democratic societies. Even in the United States, the crisis in Syria has lent credence to prejudiced ideologies that we thought had been discredited years ago. Furthermore, the calm that would ensue after the regime’s warplanes are grounded would lessen the importance of armed actors, strengthen civil society throughout the country, and open the space for increased dialogue among communities. [Emphasis Added – 20160620 ~1030pm EDT/GMT-4]

Note that the Assad regime, for all its many flaws, was and is fighting against AQ and IS. This is a direct repeat of the delusions that lead up to Iraq and Libya. It is exactly parallel to the argument that Saddam is bad, therefore not-Saddam will be better. Qaddafi is bad, therefore not-Qaddafi will be better. Like, literally nothing has been learned in the past 15 years.

The Alternet article below further claims these dangerous warmongers are loyal to Sec. Clinton and represent her views.

Democratic voters, consider taking this as a final warning sign of what a Clinton presidency would deliver — meaning, that Clinton would likely lead the US into another repeat of Iraq/Libya.

link: http://www.alternet.org/world/brain-dead-diplomats-why-did-51-american-state-dept-officials-dissent-against-obama-and-call [Alternet]

upstream link: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/17/world/middleeast/syria-assad-obama-airstrikes-diplomats-memo.html?_r=1 [NYT]

copy of primary source: https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/2866467/State-Dept-Dissent-Memo.pdf [NYT]

[via NC]

Tech: Court Upholds Net Neutrality [EFF]

In a crucial win for Internet users, today a federal appeals court upheld [PDF] clear net neutrality rules that will let us all use and enjoy the Internet without unfair interference from Internet service providers. The rules will keep providers from blocking or slowing traffic, or speeding up traffic for those who pay.

link: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2016/06/net-neutrality-rules-upheld-go-team-internet

And for a more fun summary of this exciting subject:

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