Monday, June 28, 2010

Of MICE and Men

In the counter-intelligence field, there is an acronym known as MICE, which attempts to categorize and explain the motivating factors behind a persons decision to betray their country and become a spy. This concept can also apply to terrorists or revolutionaries, and was popular for a time with ‘intel weenies’ or forensic profilers who’s job it is to get inside the head of a suicide bomber or an insurgent leader.

It goes something like this:

M= Money

I = Ideology

C= Compromise, Coercion and/or Conscience

E= Ego

For some reason, I thought of this acronym over the weekend while I was watching media reports coming in from downtown Toronto, which had materialized before my eyes into a special security zone where civil liberties mysteriously disappeared for a few days as thousands of citizens were questioned, detained or forcibly obstructed from exercising freedom of speech and assembly by the actions of 19, 000 Darth Vader look alikes, each of whom were sworn to protect and serve a handful of foreign dignitaries holed up in a large section of the city’s inner core.

As I watched images of squad cars burning and protesters getting manhandled (or worse), I wondered to myself: why on earth did they have to put the summit in downtown Toronto? Of all the places in Canada where they could have hosted the G20, you would think the heart of Toronto would be the least desirable from the standpoint of security, public relations and a cost to benefit analysis.

I happen to be watching the news with my Mom, and when I mentioned this to her, she exclaimed, “Yeah, I agree!”, and while I continued ranting at the TV screen, she added with a completely straight face, “they could have put it anywhere, like even the zoo!”


I almost lost my mouthful of coffee, but once I recovered from laughing, I actually gave the idea some consideration. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the Toronto Zoo would have been an absolutely ideal location for the G20 Toronto Summit.

With all satire, symbolism and allegory aside, it actually does make perfect sense. The cost savings alone would have made it the best choice. There would have been no need to build any fabricated nature scenes, as the zoo has real life watering holes, ponds and even full fledged waterways complete with river boats. They have gift shops and a McDonalds where Barack Obama and the Russian President could have enjoyed another burger. As far as security, the zoo has it’s own private guard force and the entire facility is festooned with cameras and encircled by fences or natural barriers.

They have washrooms and even first aid facilities. I’m not sure what they have in the way of lodgings, but even if they had to build some temporary structures, for sleeping or for the meetings themselves, Canada would have still saved a pile of money.

Since the zoo is divided into several zoo-geographic regions, like Africa, Eurasia and the Americas for example, all the summit participants would have found a place to call their own and feel more comfortable.

As an extra bonus, the zoo, which is large enough for both summits, has a huge fleet of golf carts perfectly suited to shuttling world leaders around on. Man, just imagine the savings when you eliminate the need for helicopter rides or heavily armed motorcades.

Best of all, the caged animals available for display, some of which are probably on the endangered list (?), would have been a perfect backdrop for any discussion among the delegates about meeting climate change targets and protecting the environment. If our leaders (and the rest of us) continue to “fiddle while Rome burns”, the zoo will soon be the only place to observe a long list of animals who are presently close to extinction.

Of course, at the end of the day, the Toronto Zoo doesn’t have a fake lake, and perhaps a barren, man made body of water which is devoid of an eco-system, was the most significant backdrop of all, but I doubt any of the big wigs understood the deeper connection.

To quote the wisdom of Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Society:

“If we diminish biodiversity in the oceans, we can cause an ecological collapse in the oceans, and if the oceans die then humanity dies, because we have an intimate connection with the sea. It sustains life on the planet. It's our life-support system. And people don't seem to realize that. When you think about it, this is not Planet Earth, this is Planet Ocean. There just happen to be some earth pieces floating around on it.”

Keeping that in mind, it helps me understand why 10, 000 or more of my fellow citizens felt compelled to risk imprisonment and even bodily injury to protest a meeting which they believed represented a system of incompetent and corrupt global governance; that at best was proving incapable of addressing the climate change crisis or the endemic poverty which kills upwards of 24, 000 children a day (according to reliable sources), or, at worst, represented a system that is the problem, and therefore can not be a part of any solution.

I guess this is why I thought of the MICE acronym when listening to news reports about violent “thugs” who should be charged with “terrorism” (whatever that means); I just wanted to better understand the human motivations behind the scenes of chaos. Of course, most of the protesters were law abiding, which didn’t keep hundreds of them from being carted away like cattle to make shift detention centers, but most of the media interest was focused on only a small segment of black clad “hoodlums” who actually caused most of the damage.

Now, assuming that at least some of these “anarchists” were legitimate activists and not “agent provocateurs” working for the security apparatus, I think it’s fair to ascribe at least three of the 4 MICE categories as factors which led to their civil disobedience; ideology, coercion (peer pressure?) and conscience, with a final possibility of Ego playing a role.

Some experts have suggested that money plays a part (from unknown parties, both foreign and domestic), but I don’t think anyone becomes an anarchist or a Black Bloc protester for the cash, nor do I think there is many anarchists who make a grand living by sticking it to the man and living like an imagined revolutionary.

With CSIS agents and members of any number of alphabet soup “task force” groups keeping tabs on their movements, while perhaps influencing those they frequently come into contact with, such as school officials, employers, neighbors, parents, etc., it stands to reason that the more active and high profile anarchists probably have a tough time living a normal and financially successful life. These notable anarchists also have a vested interest in keeping up appearances, such as maintaining a capitalism-free mode of living, so I don’t think living large with lots of ‘bling’ is ever on the dissident agenda.

Regardless of how ineffective and counter-productive (or just plain silly) I think the Black Bloc tactics are, I appreciate the fact these folks really believe that humanity faces an immediate and very grave threat posed by capitalism, and I think they understand their actions to be a desperate, last ditch effort to save us all; protesters, cops, politicians, captains of industry and general citizens alike.

Now, if a few capitalist tycoons or fat cat politicians die in the process of global liberation, I’m sure the Black Bloc crowd will not shed any tears, but it should be recognized that their acts of “violence” (when not defending themselves) has been directed towards inanimate objects, like windows or vehicles, and not people. Further, I think its accurate to say that all their targets have enormous symbolic value, which suggests that the damage is not mindless vandalism but in fact comprises a deliberate strategy on their part, however ill conceived or advised.

I’m willing to bet these kids are good people, who probably read some books passed on to them by an older peer or maybe attended some lectures and became deeply moved and profoundly convinced that something wasn’t right in our society. Maybe a few cried themselves to sleep on occasion or became so hopelessly depressed that they decided to drop out of school. Then they perhaps stumbled on a way where they could protest and maybe change things for the better, while also adopting a “cool” identity that met some of the more basic and less altruistic needs that every human has.

I think these pimply faced teenage guardians of humanity may be on to something in regards to capitalism, but in all objectivity, trying to understand their world view has helped me better understand the crisis of democracy that occurred this past weekend.

When I allow that concept to sink in, it makes my blood boil to see the corporate media and police so totally denounce and vilify them.

Speaking of the police, I think the MICE formula (in addition to some Freudian and other psychological/social-psychological principals for example) can be used to better understand why cops do what cops do and perhaps its even more appropriate, given all the violence and terror I observed directed towards protesters during the Toronto summit.

But I will save that topic for the reader to examine on their own . The most important thing, in my humble opinion, is to look beyond the rhetoric or “newspeak”, and really try to understand what these protests represent. Maybe then, us “normal folks” can learn and understand what these rebellious kids are on about, which might teach us some important lessons about what is really going on in the world.

"In every bit of honest writing in the world there is a base theme. Try to understand men [people], if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man [person] well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love. There are shorter means, many of them. There is writing promoting social change, writing punishing injustice, writing in celebration of heroism, but always that base theme. Try to understand each other."

John Steinbeck in his 1938 journal entry

A Few Thousand Words

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Runaway News

"We need every swinging dick in the field. You know that.” - Sgt. Barnes

Well, it’s been a big, big week for news. From Rolling Stone articles about “Runaway Generals” to our own scathing editorials here in Canada about “Runaway Spies”, there was almost too much news to adequately digest.

In between reading news about the Korean War anniversary and the fortress Toronto fiasco, I spent a good deal of time wading through Michael Hastings piece on General Stanley McChrystal, and devoted roughly the same amount of time reading up on CSIS chief Richard Fadden.

In total, I have skimmed though 19 editorials and 39 news reports on the McChrystal incident, while also reading 9 op-ed’s and a few other articles about our outspoken CSIS chief.

Yeah, I know what your thinking...I have too much time on my hands and maybe I should start a career or something instead. You’re right.

Truth of the matter is, I couldn’t help myself. For reporters, wannabe journos and news junkies everywhere, this last week was off the charts. To think that an entertainment magazine could engineer the sacking of a U.S. Army commander, during war time no less, or that a normally secretive and relatively unknown spook like Richard Fadden would inform CBC that some of our politicians were being controlled by foreign powers - well, it’s almost surreal.
Many are cheering over Obama’s firing of McChrystal and are equally jubilant about the impending downfall of our secret police boss, but I’m getting that “devils advocate” feeling again.

After reading the McChrystal piece the first time, and coming to grips with my sense of awe over Michael Hastings journalistic prowess (it really was a great read), I went over it again with a more critical eye. In all, I counted only 25 quotes (see here) directly attributable to McChrystal, the rest were quotes from the Generals advisers (many unnamed), classmate's, his wife, critic's, and a whopping number of assertions or opinions by Hastings.

Assuming we should not hold the good general responsible for what others say about him, but only what he himself has uttered, and assuming that his quotes were not taken out of context or otherwise manipulated, I came up with only 5 or 6 short quotes, more like snippets, that could be considered even remotely “controversial” or "derogatory" towards Obama and his administration.

Now, it seems to me that if I were Obama (and not blogger extraordinaire, hippie wannabe, non-president, Steve, who opposes the war) , I would want to have a little chat with the opinionated General, but the question is, would I fire him over the aforementioned remarks? Personally, I wouldn’t think so, or at least that’s my perspective as an armchair president. I would certainly rip McChrystal a “new one” regardless of any other consideration, although I'm not sure if I would be adequate for the job as Obama or if presidents can even do that.

In any event, I wouldn’t fire the guy. I would also ask him to discipline his big mouthed subordinates and I would make a big show of having McChrystal apologize and scurry around in front of the White House press corps, but I would keep him on the job, albeit with a tighter leash.

Now, before anyone accuses me of being an imperialist war monger, make no mistake, I think the AFPAK occupation is illegal, just like the Iraq invasion was, and neither war should ever have happened in the first place. But we are talking about Obama here, and from his perspective, he wants to continue the occupation and hopefully secure some level of success before he brings the troops home.

Doing that without McChrystal won’t be impossible, as General “Nerd with a Ranger tab” Petraeus helped write the COIN play book McChrystal was following, but just like the fictional Sergeant Barnes realized during his war, Obama needs all the help he can get to prosecute his stupid war and mitigate the disaster that is AFPAK, and losing a bright mind like McChrystal will not help that effort in the least.

From some of what I’ve read, I take it that McChrystal is tough a nails, super intelligent and a good combat leader, although many of the rank and file are questioning the COIN strategy and rules of engagement which hamper their efforts to “get their gun on”, in favor of protecting civilians.

I guess you could say McChrystal seems to be the Richard Marcinko , AKA Rogue Warrior, of his generation and if I were Obama, I would want a man like that hunting and killing things on my behalf.

Maybe I’m wrong about McChrystal and he’s more like “Pinky de Turd”, Marcinko’s former boss and arch nemesis who was super fit, looked great in a navy outfit complete with lots of medals, but was nothing short of useless as a “knuckle dragger”.

All in all, I have to wonder what prompted Obama to allow McChrystal's resignation. Was it pure political optics, did McChrystal himself want to bow out before things get ugly for the history books (doing what he accuses U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry of doing - protecting his "flank", which might explain why he started running his mouth in the first place) or perhaps he decided to fall on his sword to protect his subordinates, who Obama may have been hunting for. Then again, maybe he's planning to run for office himself in 2012? Who knows, who cares, I just think its weird that’s all.

If Obama had denounced McChrystal's COIN strategy and therefore decided not to appoint one of it's key architect's as his replacement, I might understand his reasoning. COIN may be doomed to fail, although it's hard to see what type of direction would succeed at this point, so if Obama had a better strategy in mind and chose someone outside of the "COINdinista" crowd, than that would make some sense at least.

As for the other big news story, the wayward CSIS spy boss who came out of the cold, I will risk losing my Zcommunications profile space, by saying Richard Fadden was probably right about his allegations. Of course, I question his motives (in particular the timing of his announcement), do not necessarily support his actions and I deplore any racist backlash his allegations might promote, but in a strictly factual sense, he was probably correct.

Furthermore, If I have to choose between trusting politicians like B.C. premier Gordon Campbell, who expressed outrage at Fadden's candid assessments, or a professional spook, I will go with the spook.

To be frank, I stand opposed to the ugly side of U.S. foreign policy (past, present and future, with few exceptions), and I detest how Canada trots along after "big brother Yankee" under our runaway Prime Minister Stephen Harper. I also think that neo-liberal capitalism should be replaced by a system of participatory economics (PARECON for short) or some other more sensible system that values people over profit and abandons the absurd notion that infinite growth is possible on a finite planet.

I think a lot of other ‘crazy’ things too, but I have no illusions about how corporate, political and military elite's of other nations, like China or Russia for instance, operate. For example, if you think its bad here in Canada for freedom of Speech, try being a dissenting journalist in Russia. Ruthlessness and cunning, the hallmarks of espionage, are not the sole domain of any single nation state.

I may rant and rave about our government, but that is because I’m Canadian and it makes more sense for me to discuss what my own leaders are up to, or what the U.S. is doing (as they pretty much run the show) and even try to influence their behavior, than it does to point fingers at North Korea or Iran for example, while safely ensconced behind Canadian borders.

I have no doubt in my mind that foreign intelligence services conduct operations in Canada, just like we do outside of our borders. I also think there exists several
nations, groups and individuals who may wish to spy, influence and/or inflict harm on Canada's populace and systems of governance. Not limited too but including the U.S. for starters. So therefore I think Fadden is correct about foreign influence in general, although I have no clue about the veracity of his claims against the individuals he reportedly suspects but does not name.

In that case, I support efforts to protect our nation, but the trick is to avoid fueling racism or causing divisions within our multicultural society, while making sure that our national security apparatus does not seek to squelch dissent or maintain “social control” in the name of national security, which they are currently doing. If you need any evidence of that, take a trip to downtown Toronto this weekend and find out for yourself.

Just please don’t mention my name when some goon with a badge demands to know why you’re tresspassing on corporate land :-)

General Stanley McChrystal Quotes from "The Runaway General" Article

Copied from Rolling Stone Magazine Article titled, “The Runaway General

This article appears in in RS 1108/1109 from July 8-22, 2010, on newsstands Friday, June 25.

1) “How'd I get screwed into going to this dinner?" demands Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

2) "The dinner comes with the position, sir," says his chief of staff, Col. Charlie Flynn. McChrystal turns sharply in his chair. "Hey, Charlie," he asks, "does this come with the position?" McChrystal gives him the middle finger.

3) "I'd rather have my ass kicked by a roomful of people than go out to this dinner," McChrystal says. He pauses a beat. "Unfortunately," he adds, "no one in this room could do it."

4) McChrystal wonders aloud what Biden question he might get today, and how he should respond. "I never know what's going to pop out until I'm up there, that's the problem," he says.

5) "Are you asking about Vice President Biden?" McChrystal says with a laugh. "Who's that?"

6) "I found that time painful," McChrystal tells me in one of several lengthy interviews. "I was selling an unsellable position."

7) The biggest military operation of the year – a ferocious offensive that began in February to retake the southern town of Marja – continues to drag on, prompting McChrystal himself to refer to it as a "bleeding ulcer."

8) McChrystal steps away from the circle, observing his team. "All these men," he tells me. "I'd die for them. And they'd die for me."

9) At one point on his trip to Paris, McChrystal checks his BlackBerry. "Oh, not another e-mail from Holbrooke," he groans. "I don't even want to open it." He clicks on the message and reads the salutation out loud, then stuffs the BlackBerry back in his pocket, not bothering to conceal his annoyance.

10) McChrystal and his team were blindsided by the cable. "I like Karl, I've known him for years, but they'd never said anything like that to us before," says McChrystal, who adds that he felt "betrayed" by the leak. "Here's one that covers his flank for the history books. Now if we fail, they can say, 'I told you so.'?"

11) "If the circumstances of Corporal Tillman's death become public," he wrote, it could cause "public embarrassment" for the president.

12) "We've shot an amazing number of people," McChrystal recently conceded.

13) "insurgent math,"

14) "I'm saddened by the accusation that I don't care about soldiers, as it is something I suspect any soldier takes both personally and professionally – at least I do. But I know perceptions depend upon your perspective at the time, and I respect that every soldier's view is his own."

15) "I ask you what's going on in your world, and I think it's important for you all to understand the big picture as well," McChrystal begins. "How's the company doing? You guys feeling sorry for yourselves? Anybody? Anybody feel like you're losing?" McChrystal says.

16) "Strength is leading when you just don't want to lead," he tells the men. "You're leading by example. That's what we do. Particularly when it's really, really hard, and it hurts inside."

17) "We are knee-deep in the decisive year," he tells them. The Taliban, he insists, no longer has the initiative – "but I don't think we do, either."

18) "This is the philosophical part that works with think tanks," McChrystal tries to joke. "But it doesn't get the same reception from infantry companies."

19) "Winning hearts and minds in COIN is a coldblooded thing," McChrystal says, citing an oft-repeated maxim that you can't kill your way out of Afghanistan. "The Russians killed 1 million Afghans, and that didn't work."

20) "I agree with you," McChrystal says. "In this area, we've not made progress, probably. You have to show strength here, you have to use fire. What I'm telling you is, fire costs you. What do you want to do? You want to wipe the population out here and resettle it?"

21) "That's the way this game is," McChrystal says. "It's complex. I can't just decide: It's shirts and skins, and we'll kill all the shirts."

22) "There's no way I can make that easier," he tells them. "No way I can pretend it won't hurt. No way I can tell you not to feel that. . . . I will tell you, you're doing a great job. Don't let the frustration get to you."

23) "Even Afghans are confused by Afghanistan,"

24) "rising tide of security."

25) McChrystal dismissed the counterterrorism strategy being advocated by Vice President Joe Biden as "shortsighted," saying it would lead to a state of "Chaos-istan."

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Honoring the Peace

"Nobody can get the truth out of me because even I don't know what it is. I keep myself in a constant state of utter confusion." -- Col. Flagg

I had an embarrassing moment this last weekend. I walked into a local store, a small ‘Mom and Pop’ that resells supermarket goods at twice the original sticker price (but has a great selection of cheap calling cards to Asia), and after I loaded up my basket with a few bachelor essentials (like a box of Kraft Dinner and a bottle of ketchup to wash it down with) I looked at the paper stand and I noticed that the storekeeper had Friday’s edition of our local paper, the Times Colonist, on display. I thought it was a little weird that Friday’s paper would still be available for sale, so I asked the clerk, who is also the owner of the store, if he had any Saturday editions left over. He looked at me with a bemused expression and politely informed me that today was Friday. I stuttered and laughed, trying to make a joke of it, but I could tell my face was getting hot and I just wanted to buy my junk food and get the hell out of there before I said or did anything else even more stupid.

I always chalk up these lapses in space/time/Gregorian calendar awareness to the “Groundhog Day” effect. Anyone familiar with that Bill Murray comedy classic will know what I’m talking about. When you work the night shift, as I do, and you follow a particular routine where nothing much of any significance occurs for long stretches, everyday is pretty much the same as any other and it is very easy to lose track of time. At least that’s what I tell myself. It also doesn’t help when spiritual and literary luminaries like Eckart Tolle, who's books I have enjoyed, reminds us all to live in the “now” and to stop being so concerned with temporal absurdities like Monday or Saturday, but I’m sorry Eckart, there is no excuse for not knowing what day it is. So shame on both of us.

I don’t feel so bad though, because when it comes to being blissfully unaware of external reality that can be categorized as important (however transient and unimportant in the grand scheme of things), I am by no means alone. I would argue that most of the planets 6.5 billion people fall into this category, or, at the very least, I would say most of us wage slaves toiling away in the developed world are guilty of putting our collective heads in the sand, but I’ll save that topic for another post.

Despite my notable lapse in memory last weekend, I won’t be making the same mistake this Friday. One side effect of being a news junkie and spending inordinate amounts of time reading online newspapers, is that once in a blue moon I will come to understand the historical significance of a particular date and when that date rolls around, I will respond accordingly.

While most people will be thinking of Michael Jackson on June 25th, I will be thinking of our Korean war veterans who will be marking the 60th anniversary of the North Korean invasion of South Korea. I know from my experience talking with many veterans while attending Remembrance day parades and ceremonies as a young sea cadet and reservist, anniversaries and occasions of remembrance can be bittersweet for veterans of any war. For those that fought in Korea, this is even more the case. That horrible war, once mislabeled a ‘police action’ and often referred to only as a ‘conflict’, was overshadowed and eclipsed in terms of recognition by the world war that had preceded it, which meant that many Korean war vets felt unappreciated, unrecognized and abandoned by their government and countryman once they returned home.

After three years of brutal combat, with atrocities committed by both sides (such as the mass slaughter of North Korean citizens by U.S. bombers), at least three million civilians and soldiers were left dead, including 561 Canadians. The Korean war, which was the first case of open warfare with the “Commies” during the cold war, was as nasty and real as it gets, but the episode is still relegated to the back pages of history and the public consciousness.

This phenomenon of mass amnesia and lack of awareness regarding the Korean conflict continues to this day. For example, I’m not sure the average person in the U.S. or any of the commonwealth countries realize that our respective nations (meaning all those countries that contributed to the United Nations war effort during the Korean war) remain, technically speaking, at war with both North Korea and (I presume) her ally China, which constituted the bulk of resistance after North Korea was all but defeated.

At the conclusion of hostilities back in 1953, an armistice, which is a fancy way of saying that both sides are tired of shooting at each other and want a ‘time out’ from the killing (that's according to Hawkeye Pierce), was signed and put in effect, but no peace treaty or formal declaration that war was officially ‘over’ has ever been agreed upon. In fact, combat operations (however small, sporadic, ineffectual, clandestine or covert) among both combatants have continued over the decades, leading right up until our present day.

This combat includes the recent sinking of the Republic of Korea naval vessel Cheonan (if the official version of events is to be believed) but also includes the sinking of a DPRK navy boat and the killing of sailors in 1999, which was followed by other 'battles' along the Northern Limit Line. To my way of thinking, this makes the big stink about the Cheonan sinking seem a little hypocritical. I realize the deaths of 46 sailors can not be dismissed, but ROK actions, DPRK losses and the ‘totality of the circumstances’ should also be taken into consideration. In point of fact, there has been countless skirmishes that occurred over the years, not all of which became publicly known I would guess, which have caused needless death and destruction.

Of course, some of these scraps are less deadly and even ‘border’ on the absurd. For instance, a friend of our family taught English in South Korea for a year or so and she recounts a story she heard while touring the most popular tourist attraction known as the DMZ. According to her guide, the Republic of Korea troops who guard the border engage in all sorts of head games with their DPRK counterparts and occasionally this leads to physical violence or even raids by DPRK troops.

The guide explained that there are buildings, which spans both sides of the 38th parallel, and one such building is guarded by fully armed DPRK troops who stand at full attention in the northern half, while fully armed ROK troops stand at attention in the southern portion. According to the guide, there is a door which separates the two rooms, and the responsibility of opening the door and performing some sort of physical check or perhaps exchange (I don’t remember all the details unfortunately but you might be able to google it) falls on one of the ROK guards. In order to accomplish this heroic feat of arms without being kidnapped by the DPRK goons, who reportedly have snatched ROK soldiers in the past during this check and subsequently sent them off to Pyongyang for ‘Yankee-Imperialist-Dog-Capitalist-Pig’ deprogramming, the guard has to tie a rope around his waist and have a section of his people hang on to him as he opens the door and enters the room.

I guess that’s a different twist on tug-of-war, but sadly not all border clashes are this comical, as many soldiers and citizens alike have been killed in or around the border areas. The 38th parallel remains the most fortified and heavily guarded border in the world, with the worlds 4th largest standing army squaring off against a smaller but more advanced South Korean/U.S. force, and this fact does not go unnoticed among Koreans on either side of the line.

In the context of this, it is not hard to believe that DPRK forces would sink a ROK ship and I believe, despite assertions to the contrary by so called “experts”, that the North Koreans were certainly capable of sinking the Cheonan. Of course, its possible that the Cheonan sinking was a hoax, a disguised friendly fire incident or a false flag attack,

and if it was a false flag, there is (beyond the obvious suspects) two or three other countries or perhaps even state sponsored, non-state actors, that might have the means and motive to conduct this kind of trickery.

In my opinion, unless some Wikileaks type expose' of documents is released that conclusively proves the existence of some “conspiracy”, I don’t think the public will ever know for sure, nor do I think its terribly productive to entertain alternative theories at this point. The fact of the matter is, both sides in this conflict have committed acts of war, espionage and even atrocities towards the other since the start of hostilities 60 years ago (and perhaps even before, which led to the war in the first place, if some scholars are correct) and in view of that reality, I think its more important to focus on trying to convince our world leaders that war with North Korea must be avoided.

As much as I loathe Kim Jong-il (from what I understand of him) and his regime, war with DPRK is not the answer. The cost in terms of blood and treasure is just too horrifying to contemplate. I also think our veterans, who answered the call to duty that our United Nations and government leaders of the day demanded of them, should be honored and the 60 years of relative peace they fought for should be observed and sustained with whatever diplomatic effort is necessary.

Anything short of that could be disastrous for millions of civilians caught in the crossfire, and would be an insult to the millions of civilians and thousands of veterans who have already suffered so much before those responsible decided to end the large scale bloodshed of our ‘forgotten war’ 57 years ago.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Nord Stream Effect

"This report is republished with permission of STRATFOR"

Germany and Russia Move Closer

June 22, 2010 | 0856 GMT

By George Friedman

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle will brief French and Polish officials on a joint proposal for Russian-European “cooperation on security,” according to a statement from Westerwelle’s spokesman on Monday. The proposal emerged out of talks between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev earlier in June and is based on a draft Russia drew up in 2008. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will be present at the meeting. Peschke said, “We want to further elaborate and discuss it within the triangle [i.e., France, Germany and Poland] in the presence of the Russian foreign minister.”

On the surface, the proposal developed by Merkel and Medvedev appears primarily structural. It raises security discussions about specific trouble spots to the ministerial level rather than the ambassadorial level, with a committee being formed consisting of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Russia’s foreign minister.

All of this seems rather mild until we consider three things. First, proposals for deepening the relationship between Russia and the European Union have been on the table for several years without much progress. Second, the Germans have taken this initiative at a time when German foreign policy is in a state of flux. And third, the decision to take this deal to France and Poland indicates that the Germans are extremely sensitive to the geopolitical issues involved, which are significant and complex.

Reconsidering Basic Strategy

The economic crisis in Europe has caused the Germans, among others, to reconsider their basic strategy. Ever since World War II, the Germans have pursued two national imperatives. The first was to maintain close relations with the French — along with the rest of Europe — to eliminate the threat of war. Germany had fought three wars with France since 1870, and its primary goal was not fighting another one.

Its second goal was prosperity. Germany’s memory of the Great Depression plus its desire to avoid militarism made it obsessed with economic development and creating a society focused on prosperity. It saw the creation of an integrated economic structure in Europe as achieving both ends, tying Germany into an unbreakable relationship with France and at the same time creating a trading bloc that would ensure prosperity.

Events since the financial crisis of 2008 have shaken German confidence in the European Union as an instrument of prosperity, however. Until 2008, Europe had undergone an extraordinary period of prosperity, in which West Germany could simultaneously integrate with East Germany and maintain its long-term economic growth. The European Union appeared to be a miraculous machine that automatically generated prosperity and political stability alongside it.

After 2008, this perception changed, and the sense of insecurity accelerated with the current crisis in Greece and among the Mediterranean members of the European Union. The Germans found themselves underwriting what they regarded as Greek profligacy to protect the euro and the European economy. This not only generated significant opposition among the German public, it raised questions in the German government. The purpose of the European Union was to ensure German prosperity. If the future of Europe was Germany shoring up Europe — in other words, transferring wealth from Germany to Europe — then the rationale for European integration became problematic.

The Germans were certainly not prepared to abandon European integration, which had given Germany 65 years of peace. At the same time, the Germans were prepared to consider adjustments to the framework in which Europe was operating, particular from an economic standpoint. A Europe in which German prosperity is at risk from the budgeting practices of Greece needed adjustment.

The Pull of Russia

In looking at their real economic interests, the Germans were inevitably drawn to their relationship with Russia. Russia supplies Germany with nearly 40 percent of the natural gas Germany uses. Without Russian energy, Germany’s economy is in trouble. At the same time, Russia needs technology and expertise to develop its economy away from being simply an exporter of primary commodities. Moreover, the Germans already have thousands of enterprises that have invested in Russia.

Finally, in the long run, Germany’s population is declining below the level needed to maintain its economy. It does not want to increase immigration into Germany because of fears of social instability. Russia’s population is also falling, but it still has surplus population relative to its economic needs and will continue to have one for quite a while. German investment in Russia allows Germany to get the labor it needs without resorting to immigration by moving production facilities east to Russia.

The Germans have been developing economic relations with Russia since before the Soviet collapse, but the Greek crisis forced them to reconsider their relationship with Russia. If the European Union was becoming a trap in which Germany was going to consistently subsidize the rest of Europe, and a self-contained economy is impossible, then another strategy would be needed. This consisted of two parts. The first was insisting on a restructuring of the European Union to protect Germany from the domestic policies of other countries. Second, if Europe was heading toward a long period of stagnation, then Germany, heavily dependent on exports and needing labor, needed to find an additional partner — if not a new one.

At the same time, a German-Russian alignment is a security issue as well as an economic issue. Between 1871 and 1941 there was a three-player game in continental Europe — France, Germany and Russia. The three shifted alliances with each other, with each shift increasing the chance of war. In 1871, Prussia was allied with Russia when it attacked France. In 1914, The French and Russians were allied against Germany. In 1940, Germany was allied with Russia when it attacked France. The three-player game played itself out in various ways with a constant outcome: war.

The last thing Berlin wants is to return to that dynamic. Instead, its hope is to integrate Russia into the European security system, or at least give it a sufficient stake in the European economic system that Russia does not seek to challenge the European security system. This immediately affects French relations with Russia. For Paris, partnership with Germany is the foundation of France’s security policy and economy. If Germany moves into a close security and economic relationship with Russia, France must calculate the effect this will have on France. There has never been a time when a tripartite alliance of France, Germany and Russia has worked because it has always left France as the junior partner. Therefore, it is vital for the Germans to present this not as a three-way relationship but as the inclusion of Russia into Europe, and to focus on security measures rather than economic measures. Nevertheless, the Germans have to be enormously careful in managing their relationship with France.

Even more delicate is the question of Poland. Poland is caught between Russia and Germany. Its history has been that of division between these two countries or conquest by one. This is a burning issue in the Polish psyche. A closer relationship between Germany and Russia inevitably will generate primordial fears of disaster in Poland.

Therefore, Wednesday’s meeting with the so-called triangular group is essential. Both the French and the Poles, and the Poles with great intensity, must understand what is happening. The issue is partly the extent to which this affects German commitments to the European Union, and the other part — crucial to Poland —is what this does to Germany’s NATO commitments.

The NATO Angle

It is noteworthy the Russians emphasized that what is happening poses no threat to NATO. Russia is trying to calm not only Poland, but also the United States. The problem, however, is this: If Germany and Europe have a security relationship that requires prior consultation and cooperation, then Russia inevitably has a hand in NATO. If the Russians oppose a NATO action, Germany and other European states will be faced with a choice between Russia and NATO.

To put it more bluntly, if Germany enters into a cooperative security arrangement with Russia (forgetting the rest of Europe for the moment), then how does it handle its relationship with the United States when the Russians and Americans are at loggerheads in countries like Georgia? The Germans and Russians both view the United States as constantly and inconveniently pressuring them both to take risks in areas where they feel they have no interest. NATO may not be functional in any real sense, but U.S. pressure is ever-present. The Germans and Russians acting together would be in a better position to deflect this pressure than standing alone.

Intriguingly, part of the German-Russian talks relate to a specific security matter — the issue of Moldova and Transdniestria. Moldova is a region between Romania and Ukraine (which adjoins Russia and has re-entered the Russian sphere of influence) that at various times has been part of both. It became independent after the collapse of communism, but Moldova’s eastern region, Transdniestria, broke away from Moldova under Russian sponsorship. Following a change in government in 2009, Moldova sees itself as pro-Western while Transdniestria is pro-Russian. The Russians have supported Transdniestria’s status as a breakaway area (and have troops stationed there), while Moldova has insisted on its return.

The memorandum between Merkel and Medvedev specifically pointed to the impact a joint security relationship might have on this dispute. The kind of solution that may be considered is unclear, but if the issue goes forward, the outcome will give the first indication of what a German-Russian security relationship will look like. The Poles will be particularly interested, as any effort in Moldova will automatically impact both Romania and Ukraine — two states key to determining Russian strength in the region. Whatever way the solution tilts will define the power relationship among the three.

It should be remembered that the Germans are proposing a Russian security relationship with Europe, not a Russian security relationship with Germany alone. At the same time, it should be remembered that it is the Germans taking the initiative to open the talks by unilaterally negotiating with the Russians and taking their agreements to other European countries. It is also important to note that they have not taken this to all the European countries but to France and Poland first — with French President Nicolas Sarkozy voicing his initial approval on June 19 — and equally important, that they have not publicly brought it to the United States. Nor is it clear what the Germans might do if the French and Poles reject the relationship, which is not inconceivable.

The Germans do not want to lose the European concept. At the same time, they are trying to redefine it more to their advantage. From the German point of view, bringing Russia into the relationship would help achieve this. But the Germans still have to explain what their relationship is with the rest of Europe, particularly their financial obligation to troubled economies in the eurozone. They also have to define their relationship to NATO, and more important, to the United States.

Like any country, Germany can have many things, but it can’t have everything. The idea that it will meld the European Union, NATO and Russia into one system of relationships without alienating at least some of their partners — some intensely — is naive. The Germans are not naive. They know that the Poles will be terrified and the French uneasy. The southern Europeans will feel increasingly abandoned as Germany focuses on the North European Plain. And the United States, watching Germany and Russia draw closer, will be seeing an alliance of enormous weight developing that might threaten its global interests.

With this proposal, the Germans are looking to change the game significantly. They are moving slowly and with plenty of room for retreat, but they are moving. It will be interesting to hear what the Poles and French say on Wednesday. Their public support should not be taken for anything more than not wanting to alienate the Germans or Russians until they have talked to the Americans. It will also be interesting to see what the Obama administration has to say about this


All data and information provided on this site is for informational purposes only. The Brazen Head Press blog makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.

Fair Use Notice

This site contains copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner.

The material is being made available in an effort to advance understanding of world affairs and is being offered for non-profit research and educational purposes only.

I believe this constitutes a 'fair use' (and fair dealing for Canadian and Commonwealth based copyrights) of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law (or the Fair Dealing clauses found in the Canadian Copyright Act and similar Commonwealth based law statutes).

If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use,' you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

This is a completely non-commercial site for private personal use. No fee is charged, and no money is made off of the operation of this site.

Search This Blog