Tag Archives: war

Gaming Israel and Palestine

By George Friedman

We have long argued that the Arab-Israeli conflict is inherently insoluble. Now, for the third time in recent years, a war is being fought in Gaza. The Palestinians are firing rockets into Israel with minimal effect. The Israelis are carrying out a broader operation to seal tunnels along the Gaza-Israel boundary. Like the previous wars, the current one will settle nothing. The Israelis want to destroy Hamas’ rockets. They can do so only if they occupy Gaza and remain there for an extended period while engineers search for tunnels and bunkers throughout the territory. This would generate Israeli casualties from Hamas guerrillas fighting on their own turf with no room for retreat. So Hamas will continue to launch rockets, but between the extreme inaccuracy of the rockets and Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, the group will inflict little damage to the Israelis.

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You Need a Strong Russia

With the collapse of the USSR, the US emerged as the single global superpower. The main threats to its power and influence are the regional hegemonies of Russia, Iran and China. Understanding how the US is dealing with each will help us to understand why we need a strong Russia.

Of Elephants and Black Swans

Consider the parable of the three blind men and an elephant. As Wikipedia explains it (emphasis added):

The story of the blind men and an elephant originated in the Indian subcontinent from where it has widely diffused. It has been used to illustrate a range of truths and fallacies; broadly, the parable implies that one’s subjective experience can be true, but that such experience is inherently limited by its failure to account for other truths or a totality of truth.

 Also consider the notion of a black swan (BS) event introduced by Nicholas Taleb. As Wikipedia describes it:

The black swan theory or theory of black swan events is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. … “black swan theory” refers only to unexpected events of large magnitude and consequence and their dominant role in history.

Summarizing these two notions:

  1. Our knowledge of anything in the world is necessarily and always partial;
  2. this knowledge as far as it goes may or may not be true;
  3. there can be events that come to pass that while being known, are considered to be so improbable they are not taken into consideration in any planning or action;
  4. these improbable events may have huge consequences; and
  5. not all BS events are known. (consider that black swans existed but were unknown before their discovery in Australia by early explorers.)

We read daily, material from a number of respected sources and by very smart people. In particular, on Zero Hedge this morning, we read the essay by Michael Snyder of The Economic Collapse blog, titled Dent, Faber, Celente, Maloney, Rogers – What Do They Say Is Coming In 2014? In it he provides quotes from 14 respected economic experts about what they believe is coming in 2014 and just beyond. This got us thinking. The thoughts of 14 of the most astute blind men, taken together, should give us a better understanding of the elephant we live with and perhaps a glimpse of the next black swan.

Syria and Byzantine Strategy

Syria and Byzantine Strategy

September 4, 2013 | 0900 GMT

Stratfor

In March 1984, I was reporting from the Hawizeh Marshes in southern Iraq near the Iranian border. The Iran-Iraq War was in its fourth year, and the Iranians had just launched a massive infantry attack, which the Iraqis repelled with poison gas. I beheld hundreds of young, dead Iranian soldiers, piled up and floating in the marshes, like dolls without a scar on any of them. An Iraqi officer poked one of the bodies with his walking stick and told me, “This is what happens to the enemies of Saddam [Hussein].” Of course, the Iranians were hostile troops invading Iraqi territory; not civilians. But Saddam got around to killing women and children, too, with chemical weapons. In March 1988, he gassed roughly 5,000 Kurds to death. As a British reporter with me in the Hawizeh Marshes had quipped, “You could fit the human rights of Iraq on the head of a pin, and still have room for the human rights of Iran.”

Japan: Is This a Windshield Which I See Before Me …

Consider the fate of a bug, one quarter inch long, hovering over a highway and facing towards a windshield approaching at 60 miles per hour. Ignoring the effect of slipstream effects coming off the windshield, it will take 237 microseconds for the bug to be converted completely into a splat (the math is simple). In his January 22, 2011 essay titled The Unsustainable Meets the Irresistible, John Mauldin said that Japan is a bug in search of a windshield. Which brings us to this seminar with Kyle Bass (58:18 minutes). Kyle Bass is the smartest man we read. We recommend you listen to the whole seminar.

Click the image below from Zero Hedge for the full presentation (unembeddable):

21st Century Warfare: No One Is Safe

In recent years, the development of unmanned aerial vehicles/systems (UAVs/UASs), now commonly called drones, has evolved initially from surveillance platforms to lethal assassination platforms that can deliver high explosive precision-guided munitions such as the Hellfire missile. The advantage of this form of warfare is the downside risk is kept to the loss of the UAV. The upside benefit is a stealthy unmanned reusable vehicle that has no exposure to loss of personnel and may be reused until destroyed. The fact that they are remotely controlled further reduces exposure to anything other than the platform itself. Countries such as the US can guide these platforms from their home soil using satellite technology although ground communications may be feasible. The single limiting requirement is a home base for the UAV within its radius of operability.

This suggests that future wars will have a large robotic or remotely guided armament system component, vastly reducing the cost in terms of expensive highly trained manpower. This will be appealing to countries with a declining birthrate. Because autonomous units don’t have to be fed and have no medical requirements (although one might imagine mechanized recovery units for damaged systems), supply chains and logistics are simplified. The US is building drone a bases in Nigeria and that will allow it to cover the northern part of Africa, particularly countries where it cannot establish a physical presence. It already has other operational drone bases in the area since targeted assassinations have been the practice for some time.

Flash Point: Yappy Little Dogs

We have been monitoring although not writing about the tensions in the South China Sea and between Japan and China particularly. We have decided to comment.

Aside: we have observed that obnoxiousness and aggressiveness in dogs is inversely correlated with their size. In particular, we had a neighborhood pack  of three Shih Tzu mongrels that would surround you yapping and snapping at your heels.

It occurred to us that the recent rise of belligerence in Japan when compared to the rise of belligerence in China. Was an apt comparison. Japan is a comparatively small nation geographically although its population ranks 10th in the world. Still this is less than one tenth the population of China. And Japan ranks third in GDP, just behind China.

It is the demographic imbalance, however, that should muzzle Japan. China’s population in 2010, had a median age of 34.2 whereas Japan had a median age of 44.7. That’s a ten year difference. Japan cannot afford a war with China. A significant loss of young people in a war would have major economic implications down the road simply by its impact on the median age of the workforce – robots excepted. For a discussion of Japanese demographics see: Zero Hedge Guest Post: How Demography Is Changing Japan.

World Watch: Keep an Eye on Japan

We have long ago discounted what passes for news in the MSM (Main Stream Media) as being mostly fluff. By all means watch it. It’s all feel-good stuff. Learn how little Betty Jones rescued a chipmunk or how the latest run for something raised $13 for some charity. But of national or global events of import you will get nothing that is not long past its ‘best before’ date if at all. As an experiment, we are going to try identifying one issue every Monday that we think is of major importance and likely to have a major effect on all of us.

So we note today’s article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Revolutionary Japan is suddenly the centre of world affairs, and Zero Hedge yesterday published Japan Warns It May Fire On Chinese Aircraft Over Disputed Islands; China Retorts: “There Will Be No Second Shot”. We have previously noted the Japan/China conflict as an event of concern. It appears it may be escalating. The two countries are already involved in a low-level trade war. This could easily expand into a currency war and ultimately a hot war. In addition, Japan has a number of economic and fiscal issues that pose a threat to the global economy and markets.

In short, Japan we rate as a high probability to be the epicenter of a major global event this year.

Flash Point: The Eye of the Hurricane

The holiday season is all but over and we are left with a strange sense of quiet leading to disquiet. There appears to be nothing in the news now that the fiscal cliff deal has been reached. A discussion with friends last night reviewed what we think are a few major issues – none new – will heat up in 2013. This is a watch list not a forecast list:

Endless War

Stratfor

By Robert D. Kaplan

Special operations forces have become U.S. President Barack Obama’s weapon of choice in dealing with a variety of threats, notably those posed by al Qaeda militants in Yemen and in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area. They likely also have been active on the Syrian-Turkish frontier. This is not surprising. In fact, it is a natural, organic development that has been ongoing since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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