Friday, September 11, 2015

Get Used to It. This Is Just Beginning.

It's amazing how the plight of refugees fleeing a war on the other side of the world has had such a deep impact on electoral politics in Canada.

I'll bet we won't be nearly so caring and concerned about this sort of thing ten years from now.  Our hearts may harden and our purse strings may tighten.

This Syria business?  At its root lies one thing - climate change. Syria got hit with a major drought that triggered severe food shortages. What relief Assad dished out he ensured went mainly to his fellow Allawites, the Shia minority. Left largely to fend for themselves was Syria's Sunni majority. And then it was on.

This sort of unrest is tailor made for exploitation by radicals and, in Syria, that was a perfect opportunity for ISIS to step in. Pretty soon it turned into a Battle Royal with the Syrian rebels, the Syrian government and ISIS all fighting each other, a formula for never-ending Hell on Earth.

In a way, today's Syrian refugees are the lucky ones. They're the first wave and Europe is remarkably opening its doors to accommodate them. Don't expect the welcome mat to be out for the next bunch and the one after that and the one after that...

The former leader of Britain's Liberal Democratic party, Lord Ashdown, warns that, without immediate and drastic action to arrest climate change, the Syrian exodus will be a mere "rehearsal" for a vast humanitarian catastrophe to follow.

“The numbers we now have of refugees fleeing battle zones are going to be diminished into almost nothing when we see the mass movement of populations caused by global warming.”

He said evidence of the impacts of climate change was plain to see: “You need only to fly over some of the areas that are being affected – like the Naga Hills on the border of India and Burma, or vast areas of the Ganges delta – to see clearly what’s happening.”

Tahmima Anam, a Bangladeshi writer and novelist, says that 50,000 people migrate every month to Dhaka, the capital city, because rising sea levels are making their villages uninhabitableand their arable land impossible to cultivate.

In both the UK and the US, military leaders are aware of the growing threat from climate change and expect to be ordered to react to its effects.

Yes, you read that right. Western military leaders are preparing to respond to these challenges, including if deemed necessary, arresting migrations. And, yes, you know what that means. If you don't, get your hands on a copy of Gwynne Dyer's 2008 book, "Climate Wars."

From people I speak with, it's apparent that we're intellectually distanced from this. Sure it's happening but, you know, not here. We're Canada, that forgotten land north of the United States. That is nothing more than whistling past the graveyard and that is hardly a strategy for dealing with a world heading into chaos.

We would do well to heed Lord Ashdown's warning:

“The Syrian crisis is simply a dress rehearsal for an immense climate-fuelled disaster, which I think will begin to be felt within the next decade, perhaps within five or six years from now.”

Asked what his priorities would be for a government facing mass migration of this sort, Lord Ashdown replied: “Once the crisis is upon you, it’s too late to start working out your priorities.


kevin said...

not to diminish the significance of climate change as a major factor but this is a fitting post for the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks; that day I remarked that what scared me most was what would come after--meaning the u.s. response. my fear was clearly not misplaced; I'd read my Chomsky, zinn, etc., and, like a bizzarro Grinch, the dark heart of America's foreign policy grew three sizes that day. the west's role in stoking Syria's unrest into what it is today is only one recent example.

the post also expresses why I will vote ABC this election; (likely the only real disagreement with The Disaffected Lib...!) I agree with most of what you've written about the libs, the ndp, neo-liberalism, etc., but I anticipate events overtaking the next government and the possibility of harper and his science-, reason- and morality-averse ilk holding the reins horrifies me. so while I'd absolutely prefer to vote green I will vote for whatever candidate has the best chance to beat the conservative in my riding.

thanks for your work; I've enjoyed the blog for years, particularly your occasional military-related posts.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Kev. I do understand your ABC point. The great majority of self-identified progressives are like minded on that.

In my riding, judging by the unprecedented display of lawn signs, the NDP will prevail with, I suspect, the Greens a close second.

The Tory, John Duncan from Courtenay, doesn't seem to be on the radar here. He might be counting on support up his way to bolster his campaign but he sure doesn't seem to be doing well down here.

As for the military posts, I sort of backed off because they didn't attract much in the way of comments (i.e. interest). I still do research and online courses into warfare in the 21st century, terrorism and counter-terrorism, global food security and resource conflicts.

To be honest that stuff is hard to digest. It's grim. Canadians seem to be increasingly insular. They don't talk much about the very worrisome regional arms races underway and the dangerous shifts in balance of power.

Our military is structured to fight what the great minds now call "old war." That's the relatively conventional, state on state, conflict. Yet the conflicts we keep getting drawn into are what are termed "new war." These are multi-party conflicts embroiling state actors and a variety of hybrid and non-state actors from militias to rebels, insurgents, terrorists and outright criminal bands. Each brings to the conflict its own agenda which often shifts as the overall dynamic evolves. Parties that were allied yesterday may turn on each other the next day.

These new wars are the sort of conflict into which state actors can become trapped. When victory goes to the last party still on the field when all others have left, the odds are stacked heavily against foreign intervenors. Remember that Vietnamese adage about how the Americans had all the watches but the Vietnamese had all the time? That goes in spades today.

We're still unbeatable at winning the military war but, once we gain our quick victory, we become mired in the political war- the decisive war - and the one we can't hope to win except at costs the voters at home aren't prepared to endure.

kevin said...

I agree, grim stuff. I read dyer's book when it originally came out after hearing him on cbc radio's 'ideas', and have appreciated his work since the documentary 'war' (I think in the 80's) and in the last few years his syndicated column.

one thing regarding your last point on winning/losing: nowadays, after so many military and foreign policy 'misadventures' I'm wondering whether the fact that they, one after another, have gone so wrong is a feature, not a bug. particularly in light of military/strategic planning for global climate disruption. in the same way that Chomsky in some ways regards Vietnam as an American win, and the Cuban embargo a success, I'm not certain that military/cia/state department planners think "yeah, I know, but this time it's gonna work".

The Mound of Sound said...

You could be right. If you have a chance take a look at the US military's counter-insurgency field manual, FM 3-24. I think it's still available free in PDF format online.

It was a project headed by a then unknown general, David Petraeus. He brought together the best minds, military and civilian, and they digested the wisdom of how insurgencies work and how they're defeated going back all the way to Julius Caesar and on to Lawrence of Arabia, the French experience in Algeria and, of course, Vietnam.

What's remarkable about FM 3-24 when you read it is how America took all those lessons and wisdom and threw it straight out the window in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We followed suit. Imagine taking on responsibility for the counter-insurgency combat mission in the province of Kandahar with a minuscule force of just 2,500 out of which we could deploy a force of just a few hundred soldiers on any given day.
Given the population of Kandahar, Petraeus' manual stipulated a divisionary force, from 10,000 to 20,000 soldiers in the field and at least as many in garrison in support for that mission to succeed.

The stupidity was breathtaking.

The Mound of Sound said...

I guess the point is, Kevin, that it's insane for us to wage "whack a mole" wars that we're not capable of winning. Look what our efforts in Libya produced? All we did was enable Islamist radicals to become entrenched guaranteeing a post-Gaddafi civil war bloodbath.

Our air war in Syria/Iraq is following the same, repeatedly failed blueprint.

We have to stop fighting wars we're not prepared to win because they're too costly, too protracted and we don't have any real skin in the game. If there's going to be a Muslim civil war, Sunni versus Shia, there's nothing we're going to be able to do to avert it. We (the West) and Russia are now serving as their proxies, not the other way around. Without our interference I'm not sure the rivals wouldn't find peace on their own just as they co-existed more or less peacefully before we showed up in their backyards.

Toby said...

Mound, a part of me wonders if some of the evil minds in Washington (I won't mention Cheney, Rumsfeld & their crew of Reagonites) planned and hoped for chaos in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. If so they succeeded. They just didn't manage yet to destabilize Iran.

Chaos in the Arab world eases the pressure on Israel and provides a near limitless opportunity for the American arms and security industries, much needed now that the Cold War is over.

I don't always think like this but sometimes I wonder.

The Mound of Sound said...

Toby, I'd recommend you read Andrew J. Bacevich's "The New American Militarism." A retired US Army brigade commander turned progressive academic Bacevitch chronicles how what Eisenhower branded the "military-industrial complex" has morphed into today's military-neoconservative-evangelical fundamentalist-commercial warfighting-industrial complex.

He offers a brilliant discussion of how the evolution of precision guided munitions was instrumental to the emergence of this modern militarist monster and today's first 'permanent warfare state.'

It's very well reasoned and very well written. Bacevich's conclusions are chilling. You'll find your suspicions are very well grounded.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately for Syrians, most of their neighbors have interest in / benefit from destabilizing their country. Turkey, Israel, most of Gulf States. And of course US, because Syria is Russia's client state.
ISIS project would never germinate without outside help...

Steve said...

climate change real estate, Russia or cANADA, and Mound I fear Fuckashima has made the west coast future toxic

The Mound of Sound said...

@ A..non. There's a line of thought that posits the conflict in Syria as a proxy war between
Sunni Riyadh and Shia Tehran. With Western and Russian intervention this could be poised to become a lot uglier. What if Russia began flying air support on behalf of Assad against ISIS? Can you imagine Russian warplanes and Western jets vying for the same airspace?

If this is a Sunni v. Shiite proxy war is it a precursor to the larger, pan-Arab theocratic civil war that's rumoured to be next? If so, what possible good are we doing with our intervention?

Anonymous said...

"proxy war" simplification allows other actors to hide in the shadows.
The reason Russki is airlifting personnel and supplies to Syria now is to stake the territory first and stave off Western (read US) intervention...

Anonymous said...

Anyong said: You might be interested in the fact that ABer's have as of two days ago, been told AB has the highest environmental pollution in the country. But low and behold, ABer's are not buying it. After all, there isn't a gray foggy colour to the atmosphere and the sun is still shinning. Of course the gray foggy atmosphere is referring to China. The levels of nitrogen in the air is related to coal burning and we have had an awful summer of drought. But no, those far, far, far righters are just not buying this blast fumiest report from those retched NDPer's in Edmonton. How dare they make public such a report. Whop-de-do!!!

Owen Gray said...

We think all of this is far away -- until a drowned child's father says we closed the door on him and his family. And we continue to deny the evidence immediately in front of us.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ A..non. There's no question that what began as a Syrian civil war has been transformed into a never ending hell by outside intervenors.

From the point that Washington refused to open a ground war against Assad, Saudi prince Bandar bin Sultan ("Bandar Bush") promised to raise, train and arm a Sunni private army which seems to have been the foundation for ISIS.

Once they realized how, yet again, they had created and quickly lost control of their monster the Gulf princes turned against ISIS. The real contribution of the Gulf princes, however, was mainly to promise to stop funding the Islamist radicals. They've made those sorts of promises before and they're often honoured more in the breach.

We think of ISIS as particularly monstrous yet their religious views and their resort to bloodthirsty tactics such as beheadings are eerily akin to what we see from the House of Saud.

As for prince Bandar, a few years ago he met with the head of MI6, Sir James Dearlove, and shocked Dearlove by stating his government's resolve to wipe Shiite Muslims off the map. After his retirement Dearlove recounted the warning.

The Mound of Sound said...

Sorry it was Sir "Richard" Dearlove, not James.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Owen - we are in denial about what is happening in Syria and the full extent of the role Canada is playing.

When we signed that deal to sell the Saudis $15-billion worth of light armoured vehicles (LAVs) there was little analysis of what it meant other than a juicy export deal. To make any sense of it one has to have an understanding of all the other arms deals - tanks, artillery, jet fighters - Saudi has been pursuing.

This is offensive weaponry and you don't buy that amount of lethal hardware without some idea of how it will be used. Saudi Arabia is at peace with Israel and in no danger of being invaded so what conceivable need could it have for its massive rearmament? The only thing I can imagine is an all-out invasion of Iran. This is consistent with the warning Bandar bin Sultan delivered to then MI6 chief, Sir Richard Dearlove.