What Syria Reveals About the Future of War

Syria demonstrates something that has been evident for decades: The United Nations is unsuited to play a major role in complex, modern wars, particularly when permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, each with a veto over its actions, are involved. But there is also no chance that any other multinational organization with the possible exception of NATO might serve as a platform for collective action to stop a war. And after Libya, even NATO is unlikely to do that outside Europe.

So this is what the Syrian war suggests about future conflicts: They will be intricately complex; they will involve conflict-specific configurations of participants; there will be no humanitarian intervention to stop them; and the United Nations will be a nonfactor. But that isn’t all. It gets even worse.
— Read on www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/24205/what-syria-reveals-about-the-future-of-war

Syria has strengthened or reaffirmed some relationships (US/Israel), but has challenged others (US/Turkey and Russia/Iran, the latter of which was never strong). The clear victors appear to be Russia and Iran, but even these victories appear to be under threat. The complex realities of Turkish, American, and now Israeli involvement in Syria is demonstrating how little real power Russia brought to Turkey, and increasing risks that will prove unpopular at home. Iran’s gains are already undermined by domestic turmoil.

Syria is clearly Obama’s greatest foreign policy blunder, but it isn’t clear yet how much can be extrapolated from a sample size of one.

Global Temperatures Reached New Highs in 2017 – Futurism

Unfortunately, recent trends in the US are not encouraging. The response of the US in 2017 was:

  • Lie about the accuracy of the data
  • Stifle the collection and dissemination of the data
  • Muzzle scientists likely to publicize “inconvenient” findings
  • Question the integrity of the scientists who make statements that contradict the official doctrine of the administration
  • Blame extreme events on the victims

“If people foresee 2018 bringing comparable or worse disasters than 2017, however, that could put us in a better position to prepare for the likely occurrence of new extreme events. No one wants to be in the position Puerto Rico was in following Hurricane Maria, even if companies like Tesla are there to help. And although preparedness requires time and huge amounts of money, greater awareness is an important first step.”

https://futurism.com/global-temperatures-reached-new-highs-2017/

Shrugging Toward Doomsday – Defense One

“But there was something especially dismal about this year’s announcement. Many Americans know that the world has gotten more dangerous in the last few years (which would be true, by the way, no matter who won the 2016 election). But the necessity of daily life—of doing homework, having a career, going to the gym, getting dinner on the table—has compressed that fear into an ignorable background hum. And so the country once known for its can-do spirit has begun to adopt a personality tic more common in besieged cities and late Soviet states: Well, yes, the situation is terrible, but who has time to feel something about it?”

http://www.defenseone.com/threats/2018/01/shrugging-toward-doomsday/145529/

Glenn Greenwald: Russia Investigation Is a Red Herring

‘Rather than see Trump as a product of a rotten power structure, as Greenwald does, and the 2016 election as a wild reaction against that power structure, as Greenwald also does, it was easier for most American liberals to frame his victory as an accident. And rather than look within to eradicate the conditions that wrought Trump, it was more comforting to pin his rise on an external foe.

The Russian scandal proved ideal. “Across the political aisle, American elites are preoccupied with rejuvenating a Cold War in the name of believing that all of our problems are traceable to the Kremlin,” Greenwald argued. The notion that “Putin is not some fumbling dictator but some kind of an omnipotent mastermind,” he went on, “stems very much from this human desire to believe that when things go wrong, it can’t be our fault.”’

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/01/glenn-greenwald-russia-investigation.html

With Turkey’s Rush to War Against Syrian Kurds, What Is the Endgame in Afrin?

The YPG has been the primary ally of the United States in its mission to smash the so-called Islamic State. That mission is now mostly complete, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said the United States will shift gears to focus on stabilizing former Islamic State areas now under YPG control, including by training Kurdish security forces.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan didn’t take kindly to this news, accusing the U.S. of building a PKK “terror army” on Turkey’s southern border. America’s strategic recommitment to the Kurds seems to have been one reason for the sudden rush to war.

Erdogan’s choice of Afrin was simple: It is the only YPG-held area not protected by the U.S. Air Force. Due to the political geography of northwestern Syria, Kurdish forces in Afrin haven’t primarily fought the Islamic State. Instead, they mainly faced Turkish- and American-backed rebels vying for control of the border region north of Aleppo. For the U.S. to give air support in Afrin would have meant being drawn into a “proxy war with itself.”

https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/24058/with-turkey-s-rush-to-war-against-syrian-kurds-what-is-the-endgame-in-afrin

If the Kim Regime Falls in North Korea, Sustained Armed Resistance Could Follow – WPR

Today, South Korea recognizes that stabilizing, rebuilding and integrating North Korea will take a massive effort, but it also believes that it will be relatively peaceful. History has made Koreans leery of external intervention, but Seoul assumes most North Koreans will see South Koreans as fellow countrymen and therefore accept—even welcome—unification engineered by their southern brethren and immediately embrace democracy, the rule of law and the free market system.

While this would be optimal, unification may not be that easy. There is much to suggest that the removal of the Kim regime, whether by internal or international conflict, would be followed by armed resistance. The steady diet of xenophobic propaganda that North Koreans have been fed for 70 years may make them see South Koreans, whose culture has evolved in a different direction, as foreigners who happen to look like them and speak the same language. The lack of access to information has left North Koreans ill-prepared to distinguish truth from propaganda; if the regime were to collapse, they could be vulnerable to calls for resistance by regime remnants or other forces opposed to the reunification of Korea. In Iraq, the United States underestimated the impact of decades of brutal repression and propaganda by Saddam Hussein, whose toppled regime was still able to rally loyalists and insurgents to take up arms after his removal. South Koreans may do the same in North Korea.

https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/24060/if-the-kim-regime-falls-in-north-korea-sustained-armed-resistance-could-follow

Trump Administration: End ISS Funding, Return to Lunar Exploration – ExtremeTech

It took 13 years to complete and launch the various ISS modules, from 1998 to 2011. Currently, NASA spends about $4B per year on the space station, out of a $19.5B total budget. At 21 percent of NASA’s total budget and roughly 40 percent of its human exploration outlay, it’s not chump change. One of the most significant complaints around NASA’s upcoming Space Launch System is that the agency lacks the funds to plan missions or launch the rocket. (It’s currently not clear if the SLS could fly even once per year, at a cost of more than $1B per launch, partly due to the cost of maintaining expensive manufacturing and test facilities for a rocket that almost never flies.)

Killing the ISS portion of NASA’s funding frees up that $4B in yearly cash. But we have no idea yet how that funding would be split between the SLS and any effort to put NASA back on the Moon, or what kind of exploration or even longer-term habitation plans the administration has in mind. Any kind of manned mission would require the development of lunar modules, longer-term habitation modules (if intended), and various support equipment. If the long-term goal is to create a lunar base as a stepping stone or useful waypoint for a Mars mission…

https://www.extremetech.com/extreme/262867-trump-administration-ending-iss-funding-2025-return-lunar-exploration