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The Way the Word is and is Not

Many people, from common and ordinary observers to those that read and think deeply on the issue, wonder about the very nature of the world we live in.  Nothing makes much sense.  A grandma in Bismarck North Dakota that only sees the world through Facebook and the nightly news and a philosopher schooled in the classics, history and public policy wonder the same thing. Something is ‘off’, things have changed and are changing in a way that does not comport to the standard explanations.

With much amusement, some in the ‘mainstream’ observe that the fringes have begun to accept conspiratorial explanations for the way things are. To be certain, much of what one sees bandied about as facts and justification on the margins left and right is easily attributed to false interpretations of easily explainable events and circumstances. That is perhaps the problem with conspiracy theorist, they see the boogeyman beyond every action, they reach too far.  Also, many sensationalize the phenomenon, and make an industry of creating and perpetuating the conspiracy narrative, Alex Jones comes to mind.

I contend and continue to contend, that the world is as it is at present because of the diffusion and expansion of bad philosophy into bad ideology and then into bad public policy, education, academics, theology and world view. (B. Clark 2019) In the West, we valued the wrong philosophers from the Enlightenment and this led to an abandonment of the Western tradition of common-sense and Christian metaphysical realism. It is easy enough to explain how Postmodernism through bad philosophy, once accepted begat bad ideology and defused into all elements of culture and how this will eventually lead to totalitarianism or authoritarianism.  (B. L. Clark 2019)

Through the lens of the arguments above, combined with a Christian worldview that says human are fallible and imperfect, it is possible to understand the world as it is without further theories or explanations.  Since this is the most obvious, reasonable and sufficient reason it is one I have accepted and continue to accept.

However, there are some things, some coincidences that seem just too strange to be mere coincidence.

For instance, Trump remains an enigma to me.  His election is explained by some as a populist reaction to the changes mentioned above, perhaps something of a last counterattack of the ordinary man. Perhaps.  His behavior in office has been perhaps the most curious thing to me.  I have commented more times than I can now count after he tweets something that most consider outrageous that he is either unhinged, like some claim, or a genius. He either has absolutely no idea what he is doing or he is well aware and doing it as part of a plan.  His communication strategy is just too bizarre when compared to what the ‘experts’ would say he should do, to be anything other than one of those extreme poles. If he is unhinged, then the Democrats would be correct to want to impeach him.  If he is executing a genius strategy of communication that speaks to his base and circumvents his distractors, he is either a masterful demagogue or part of something bigger.

A populist demagogue, that speaks to his base and confounds his enemies and their allies in the mainstream media is not necessarily dangerous, and perhaps what we need in a time of confusion. This would be a reasonable, logical and sufficient explanation, and perhaps the most likely.

Perhaps the most interesting explanation is that Trump is merely part of something bigger.  This is what QAnnon suggests and what the supporters and interpreters of QAnnon ‘drops’ suggest.  Outrageous, right?  Perhaps, maybe even probably.  I am disinclined to see complex conspiracies where simple solutions suffice.

Jeffery Epstein and the curious and odd events surrounding his life and death gave me pause to wonder. The list of people that associated with him, visited his island and other properties are extraordinary, the rich and powerful from politics and industry all there at one or time or another.  The only notable figure to be embroiled in the scandal is a rather dense spare royal heir, Andrew.  The fact that mainstream media killed the Epstein story, to begin with, is troubling. The subsequent murder of Epstein, before his trial, before he had to chance to name names and cut a deal, while in solitary confinement and protective custody - that is beyond curious.

Let’s back up for a moment.  I stated earlier I do not ascribe to conspiracy theories to explain the explainable, but that does not mean I have not found them entertaining and interesting over the years. I have been aware of certain themes and permeations of the prevailing conspiracy theories since the early 1990s.  One theme that has been present in most theories I read as a form of entertainment was the concept that elites colluded not only for power and access but that sex and sexual perversions played a central role in their ideology.  Pedophilia was often mentioned as an element of the conspirators.

Naturally then, when presented with the facts of a man like Epstein, with obscene wealth, a list of social associates that transcend political parties and reach into board rooms, and state and local government and at the center of it is sex, sex trafficking, and underage girls all culminating in a mysterious murder, apparently by the guards, while in protective custody - that is something to ponder. Did all of these conspiracy people have pieces and parts of the story right all along?  Certainly, they went to extremes at times, they reached too far to see the conspiracies hand in too many events, but were they fundamentally right about some of it?

I do not know.  It all seems too fantastic of a story to even consider.  But how else can one explain major media outlets initially killing the Epstein story, his death, his bizarre list of associates and major medias refusal to dig in and question people like Bill Clinton or Bill Richardson or demand access to the 1,000 other sealed names.

The Epstein story intrigued me, so I dug a bit and stumbled upon imagery of his complex at his island. The internet, it seems, was paying a lot of attention to a temple building on the Island. Here is an example of the sorts of stories I initially ran across.

This takes us back to another theme that has been present in the general conspiracy narrative since the 1990s and perhaps long before. The claim is that the conspirators make heavy use of symbology and that their core ideology aligns in some ways to paganism, perhaps mixed with mysticism. Folks across the interwebs have dissected the symbology of the Epstein temple and compared pieces and parts to patterns and symbols in other places, displayed by other public figures. Perhaps just coincidence, perhaps reaching in some cases but the theme has been there from the start, and now we have this provider of pedophile experiences to the rich and famous with a temple - odd. This is not to say the conspiracy folks are right, but they have been saying that this is the reality as long as I have paid any attention to them, for 30 years.

Invariably, my searches brought me to the discovery of QAnnon, a phenomenon I was unaware of until very recently.  I admit I was perhaps slow in the uptake on this.  I spent the last couple of years ignoring social media and the domestic news cycle for the most part. My initial conclusion about this person or group is It is one of the following (in order of most fantastic and difficult to believe to most likely):

  1. It is just what they claim to be.
  2. It is a complex, well-conceived and orchestrated information campaign by Trump and close Trump insiders.
  3. It is a flakey hoax that has leveraged the populism of Trump and combined it with elements of existing conspiracy theories to craft a narrative.
  4. Some combination of all of the above.

Let’s begin with item#3, I have not read any refutations of QAnnon to this point, I do not need to as I can craft enough on my own.  Also, if I want to examine the first two possibilities, I will have to accept the premise that mainstream media outlets would certainly put enormous effort into crafting a false counter-narrative.

A flakey, opportunistic hoax is a reasonable sufficient explanation. However, there are so many odd things that one would have to accept as coincidence, FISA Gate for one, and then of course Epstein. Is it actually possible that the entire current impeachment mess is a result of an attempt to cover up and detract from what was a literal coup attempt by Obama, Clinton and others?  That is a fairly extraordinary proposition, but very little of this entire drama, beginning with fabricated intelligence documents and spying on the Trump campaign make a lot of sense. Those two events are significant, bigger than Watergate ever was.  They represent a sort of desperate departure from the rule of law one expects in a banana republic.

If QAnnon is just a flakey hoax, it has hit on some elements of truth, some facts that should be alarming and some aspect of reality that we are not shown on the nightly news.  This is not to say the person or persons are what they say they are or that the interpretations of the QAnnon drops are correct.  It is to say that, just as I began this piece, something in our world does not make sense.

This leads us to item#2, that QAnnon is part of a trump driven information campaign. The ‘drops’ began in 2017 and by 2018 Q advocates were openly appearing at trump rallies and given interviews at the Whitehouse. One of the elements Q-ers use to validate the ‘drops’ by Q is ‘proofs’ - either first published photos of items close to the President or timestamps that correspond with Trump twitter posts.  These ‘proofs’ indicate to followers that Q has access to the POTUS.

In light of the question, I raised earlier about Trump and his tweets, QAnnon and the theory that it is part of a Trump information campaign make much more sense.  In some ways it is brilliant.  Trump tweets harsh words in plain language, items that frustrated the mainstream and befuddle traditional media. This language and the reaction of his opponents appeals to his base.  QAnnon, in this sense, is the explanatory arm of the campaign.  It provides the meat behind the words, the meta-narrative.

In a world where Trump was never going to get a break from the media, and one where perhaps illegal activity such as FISAGate and fabricated intelligence really exist, it seems rather ingenious to create a platform to work around the entire system. I am not saying it is moral or ethical, I do not know all the facts, but taken for what this theory of the existence of QAnnon says it to be, it is inarguably ingenious.

This leads us to the most disturbing of these theories.  What if QAnnon is what it is presented to be, some group of intelligence insiders in collusion Trump and key Trump insiders.  What if the election of Trump was not just a populist movement, but a populism combined with insiders that worked to thwart efforts of traditional power brokers to retain power by illegal means?  What if there really is a group of folks that have loosely colluded over time, perhaps a long time, to secure power at numerous levels in and out of government, in media and in corporations?  What if this group really does adhere to an ideology that has religious elements, symbolism and perhaps even a propensity toward sexual perversion?

On the face of it that is fairly outrageous, difficult to accept and perhaps even preposterous.

It is preposterous if in thinking about his cabal of conspirators’ you conceptualize something like a controlling, all-powerful, secret organization that exercises power across time and national boundaries. Think here of a legion of doom, James Bond sort of super-villain organization, with secret hideouts etc. That is obviously absurd.  This is perhaps the first thing that comes to mind, and it is dismissed as ridiculous as soon as it appears.

What if it were something else?  Instead of an all-powerful organization with a written creed, a chain of command and a discernable organization it is instead a loose association, a web of association.  Instead of controlling all things in all places it has varying degrees of power and influence in different places at different times.  It influences and manipulates much more than controls.  Instead of a rigid organization with creeds and an organizational chart, it is something more like a group of like-minded folks that share ideology, invite others into the circle of circles over time.   Instead of a centralized mechanism by which people are placed into positions, it is really more of an ad hoc process, people are brought into small circles, organically rather than deliberately.

Such an organization, not really being a real organization at all, could grow, and exercise influence slowly over time.  To be certain, there would be some that are closer to forming a core cohort, the usual suspects that attend the Bilderberg for instance. There would be powerful families that have been part of the cohort for longer periods of time, particularly those that got rich through what Kevin A. Carson calls  “the subsidy of history”. (Richman 2012) There would be individuals with enormous wealth that would be seen as prime actors and supporters of some agenda, think George Soros for instance. And there would be many organizations that would push and advocate pieces and parts of the plan.  However, none of that needs a central organization nor a master plan, and if one existed in the minds of a few not many would need be aware of it.

In fact, many people doing the yeoman’s work of the overall plan would not need to even understand there was anything larger going on, and many would actively deny that such was even possible.

If this cabal of conspirators is a decentralized, loose organization of the nature I just described it would not exercise total control.  A situation like Jeffery Epstein being arrested would occur, there are still many decent people around in positions of power.  A guy like Trump, against all predictions, could win an election against folks one might rightly expect are knee-deep in the middle of the evil side.

Such is the narrative that Q paints.  The cabal in their description is powerful, it has hooks in many places, but it does not control everything.  It simply cannot, not yet, most people still believe in the rule of law and some notion of liberty.  If such a cabal exists, it was still in the process of consolidating power and shifting events in 2016.

If the narrative Q paints were to be true, the most alarming thing would not be that it were true, that groups of people have loosely worked together to shift events toward less freedom and more control.  The most terrifying thing would be that the election of Trump and the assertion by Q that after Trump weathers this impeachment process the virtual hammer will begin to fall on members of the cabal.

Here is the crux.  If Q is on point and telling the truth they claim the ‘good guys’ are winning this whole thing.  They claim that after Trump weathers the last assault, impeachment, indictments and arrests will be widespread of a large number of folks involved in nefarious activity.  This leaves only five possibilities.

  1. Trump is not removed from office and then proceeds to more publicly speak of the cabal and arrests and indictments proceed.
  2. Trump is not removed from office, but nothing but talk, innuendo, investigation and the same old Washington dram ensues (Q was a deception)
  3. Trump, despite the extremely low probability, is removed from office, and it all seems odd. (Perhaps Q was telling the truth and the cabal is more powerful that assumed)
  4. Trump is not removed from office, but is assassinated, never taking any direct action against the cabal Q claims exists (might this mean Q was correct)

Of all those possible outcomes, #2 seems the most likely. If that means that Q was an information operation by some core Trump group, with his knowledge and consent, no matter how brilliant of an operation, I would be disgusted.

If any of the other occurs, we will all have to sit back down and reconsider what we really think is going on in the world. If #3 happened I would really scratch my head, removal from office is such a low probability event at this point. If #4 happened, well I would be convinced, that something dark and nefarious was at work in the world.

Strauss and Howe predicted the chaos of the 2000s, the 2008 financial crisis and the election of Trump.  They predict a transformative change to come soon in their work in The Fourth Turning. (Strauss and Howe 1999) Change is coming, good or bad.  Whether Q was a force of good, a hoax, or disinformation, only time will tell.

I have said all of the above to simply say, the world seems not to make a lot of sense to me right now.  I simply do not understand how we have come to this, this mess, discord, and absurdity.

 

Note to the Government guys:  I have noticed your IP addresses, perhaps because of my 2nd Amendment Post and I will perhaps see more because I said the A word above in the same sentence with POTUS.  Get real fellas, read my words and move on, nothing to see here.  I did not say I wanted to see such happen nor that someone should do such. I was speaking about what this would all look like if some crack-head loser actually did that.  I believe this Q stuff is probably either bunk or disinformation. Spend your time on real problems.  However, since you are here, might I suggest you read A Blessed Life, I am harmless, I still hold to the same oath we both took.

 

Clark, B L. 2019. “From Radical Progressivism to Authoritarianism.” SSRN Electronic Journal. https://doi.org/dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3506918.

Clark, Barry. 2019. “Fourth Turning Clash of Inter-Civilization Cultures Thesis.” https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.32977.28008.

Richman, Sheldon. 2012. “How The Rich Rule.” The American Conservative. https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/how-the-rich-rule/.

Strauss, W, and N Howe. 2009. The Fourth Turning: What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny. Crown/Archetype. https://books.google.com/books?id=d8bBFGJq79sC.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

What an interesting drama this has turned out to be.

Russia reports they detected no activity near the site where the US claims the operation occurred.

The US reports that Baghdadi “whimpered and cried” before blowing himself up in an underground tunnel.

In our world where truth seems to be an elusive commodity, we are left to wonder. Let’s consider the facts.

First, despite the fact that we might rightly not trust politicians and governments in general, because they do often lie, it is not common for the military to blatantly lie. Not a lie as in say something happened when it did not. The military will lie, has lied and does lie about the scope and nature of things – but generally not so far as to fabricate a complete fiction; not generally.

Second, it seems unlikely that if the operation occurred that one could actually know that Baghdadi whimpered and cried in a tunnel and that he actually blew himself up, as opposed to say perhaps someone else did the act of blowing those in the tunnel up. It is difficult to state unequvically that he did the whimpering and the blowing up of himself. These are small details but perhaps items that were just best to leave out of the narrative, as they diminish rather than enhance credibility. (yes, there exists technology that would make the knowing, or at least suspecting with a high degree of certainty, the facts of what occurred in the tunnel possible but this is still not relevant to the story).

The operation was reportedly conducted by Delta. These guys are not the ball bouncing amateur SEALS. It is highly unlikely there will ever be an interview, book or movie about this created with the cooperation of any SFOD-D team member. That is not how these guys operate.

It is possible if the reports are correct and the 75th Ranger Regiment provided cordon security for the operation, that some enterprising reporter might track down enough current members of the Ranger regiment and confirm or deny that such an operation occurred on the specified date. This will take time, those youngsters will not talk whilst they are still in the regiment if they hope to remain there.

It is likely this all occurred. It is likely the US suspected with a high degree of fidelity that Baghdadi was there and we are likely pretty confident he could not have escaped the cordon. It is logical to assume that he died.

It is just odd. If the event occurred and if the US government wanted to hold this out as a win why not exploit the site after the operation -of course, after the guys that conducted the event were extracted. Like we used to say when I was an OC/T, “pictures and video or it did not happen.” Why not allow and information operations and a combat camera crew a few moments on the site to document things after it was over? Why rush to dispose of Baghdadi in the ocean so soon after he died? More importantly, why even make a big deal of this at all. If you killed him, great, why talk about it?

I spent two rotations in the middle-east on a team that every evening geared up and departed our little base to hunt folks on a target list. Every night, as soon as it was dark until the early morning we were out raiding houses, blowing holes in walls, kicking in doors and detaining or killing big and small targets. (I was just a geek with some skills in geolocating, validating the target and exploiting some of the stuff left behind).

The thing about the guys on all these target lists, none of them are the villains from a James Bond movie. They are not super-geniuses, hiding out in lairs with extensive and technologically advanced defenses. They are not world-changing philosophers or thinkers that will change the nature of the world with their ideas. These are all just regular guys, many of them with good leadership skills, but regular guys that adhere to an ideology that is different than our own. It is like whack-a-mole, detain or kill one and another pops us. You simply cannot shift the center of gravity of an ideological fight by whacking a few moles.

Baghdadi was just a bigger, fatter mole. He was the leader of a group that did bad things and for that he deserved punishment. However, killing him will not change the world. He deserved to die, kill him and move on, making him out to be a supervillain, hero or a martyr simply inspires others to someday be him.

Confusion on Syria

On the 16th of October, I went out on a limb and postulated that perhaps there was a bigger strategy and significant goings-on behind the scenes in the apparent sudden US withdrawal from Northern Syria. As facts have become clearer I believe I was wrong.

First, we learn that the troops leaving Syria that the US initially stated would move to Western Iraq, to be “in the neighborhood”, are not welcomed. US troops relocating from Syria have four weeks to stay in Iraq (Military Times, 23 October). Some news agencies report that Iraq went so far as to prepare official complaints to the UN regarding the movement of US troops into its territory. This demonstrates, pretty clearly, that there was no strategy, or plan and no coordination with Iraq. Perhaps at best there was an assumption but assumptions are bad planning.

If the plan all along was to keep an eye on a resurgence of ISIS from Iraq, one would think that coordination with Iraq would be a key element to work out before announcing a departure from Northern Syria. However, three days ago we read, US military struggles to find a strategy amid sudden policy changes in CENTCOM region (Military Times, 22 October).

Finally, yesterday the US announced, After American troop withdrawal, Trump shifts focus to Syria oil fields (Military Times, 24 October).

Let’s use a first principle to analyze this:

The same thing cannot be affirmed and denied at the same time

We cannot say;

“they fight over there all the time, it is not our fight”

AND

“We need to be close to keep things under control” (Western Iraq) and when that fails, “we need to send troops back to Syria.”

Either it is true that we have no compelling strategic interest in Syria that requires us to risk blood and treasure, OR, we do. In either case, the manner in which we have executed this honestly makes no reasoned sense. We cannot claim that both are at the same time true and false.

Is this all a result of the “Military-Industrial Complex” pushing back to keep the status quo?

Is it a result of what Ann Coulter called in a recent Frontline interview a phenomenon where Trump acts on the last piece of advice he gets and more hawkish voices got to him?

Is this the “3D Chess” that some apologists suggest?

Was this a result of the Intelligence and Military community’s propensity to see the boogeyman behind every rock and pushing to get back in the fight?

Only time will tell.

Forthcoming book: Things You Are Not Supposed to Know About a Military Career

Update, published in November 2019. https://books.google.com/books/about?id=B9C8DwAAQBAJ

Available on Amazon

A practical guide for any young person considering a military career that analyzes the traditional career path and provides proven alternatives that lead to success, options and most importantly maintenance of the individual and freedom of action.

Complete a military career on your own terms, with success defined by you while achieving financial security and independence and providing post-service options to follow passions in either work, hobbies or entrepreneurialism.  

Introduction

Chapters

  1. About
  2. The Vision
  3. Principles
  4. The Problem with the Traditional Career Map
  5. The Alternative and Fun Path
  6. The Real Key to Success in Anything: Mind, Spirit, Emotions in Balance
  7. Your Brand
  8. Pathways
  9. The Journey
  10. How to Prepare Beforehand
  11. In the Beginning
  12. Lieutenancy
  13. Captaincy
  14. Majority
  15. Decision Points
  16. Leave at Twenty-Years
  17. Stay until they stop promoting you
  18. Contracting
  19. Employment with Industry, Business or Education
  20. Government Service
  21. Entrepreneurialism
  22. Dilettante
  23. The Roadmap
  24. Finances

VP Pence China Speech

Hours after VP Pence spoke today about China, Foreign Policy published a piece that laying out five takeaways.[1]

“Linking Hong Kong and trade talks”

“Hong Kong is a living example of what can happen when China embraces liberty,” Pence said, before offering an unusual note of support for an official in an administration that has often been reluctant to embrace protest movements. “We are inspired by you,” he added. “Know that you have the prayers and the admiration of millions of Americans.”

Pence

“China is becoming a great cudgel in the culture wars”

“Some of the NBA’s biggest players and owners, who routinely exercise their freedom to criticize this country, lose their voices when it comes to the freedom and rights of the people of China,” Pence said on Thursday. “In siding with the Chinese Communist Party and silencing free speech, the NBA is acting like a wholly owned subsidiary of the authoritarian regime.”

Pence

“Settling the great ‘decoupling’ debate”

“People sometimes ask whether the Trump administration seeks to ‘decouple’ from China,” Pence said on Thursday. “The answer is a resounding ‘no.’”Rather than isolate Beijing, Pence said the United States seeks “engagement with China and China’s engagement with the wider world but engagement in a manner consistent with fairness, mutual respect, and the international rules of commerce.”

Pence

“Emphasizing the intellectual property theft debate”

“American enterprises continue to lose hundreds of billions of dollars each year in intellectual property theft.”

Pence

“The political meddling bugaboo”

“Beijing’s economic and strategic actions, its attempts to shape American public opinion, prove out what I said a year ago, and it’s just as true today: China wants a different American president.”

Pence

Obviously none of this is real news, it is really more of a slow reveal. The 2017 National Security Strategy mentioned China 33 times by name, twice as much as Obamas’s last version. [2] Trump’s NSS specifically called out China and identified mounting threats where Obama’s focused on engagement. Trump’s document, in short, called on all the domains of US power to compete and combat China in every area of importance. This was a nuanced but direct shift in US policy. VP Pence’s words today are merely part of a progressively elaborating articulation of this strategy.

Trump’s next NSS document is due out in 2020 and I suspect it will be less nuanced and more direct in relation to China.

If you are like me years ago you may not grasp the importance of the NSS document. I took public policy classes in college where it was discussed but I garnered it was merely another piece of government paperwork, perhaps more political than anything. It was really not until Command and General Staff College that I realized how important the document is. The moment it is released all the machinery of government stops, reads it, and shifts gears to operationalize the strategy. Every word, every sentence, the choice of words, all are important, nuanced and have great meaning. All the nations of the world read it too and plan and react accordingly. There is perhaps no piece of paper of greater importance released by a US president in the modern era. Before the 2017 document hit the streets parties internal and external to the government began lobbying for their version fo what the 2020 document should say.

For decades, U.S. policy was rooted in the belief that support for China’s rise and for its integration into the post-war international order would liberalize China. Contrary to our hopes, China expanded its power at the expense of the sovereignty of others. China gathers and exploits data on an unrivaled scale and spreads features of its authoritarian system, including corruption and the use of surveillance. It is building the most capable and well-funded military in the world, after our own. Its nuclear arsenal is growing and diversi ing. Part of China’s military modernization and economic expansion is due to its access to the U.S. innovation economy, including America’s world-class universities.

2017 US NSS

In early 2018 the DoD released its National Defense Strategy one of the dozens of such documents that follow the release of the NSS and implement the strategy within various domains.

In June 2019, the DoD established a separate office to focus exclusively on China.

“The inward part [is] to help us drive alignment on China across the department as we carry out our National Defense Strategy and its implementation. … A lot of that is to help us internally, with the Joint Staff and the services, to make their respective decisions”

Randall Schriver, the assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs [3]

This is the only such office at the DoD level focused exclusively on one country. Trump absolutely meant what he said in his NSS that China is his focus.

Trump’s 2020 budget reflects his focus on China.

To a remarkable degree, the 2020 Pentagon budget proposal is shaped by national security threats that acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has summarized in three words: “China, China, China.”

AP [4]

The South China Morning Post reports that the US conducted four separate training operations in August and September focused on China. [5]

  • A sealift exercise designed to move heavy Army divisions
  • Joint land-to-ship missle exercises with Japan
  • US-Asean naval exercise with 10 pacific nations, Four of which – Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam – have territorial disputes with Beijing over the South China Sea.
  • Finally, US Marines conducted airfield- and island-seizure drills in the East and South China seas, near the Philippines and around the Japanese island of Okinawa

I have personally argued for years that we were spending blood and treasure in the wrong places and focusing on the wrong goals strategically. If I were to be a hawk, I am not, I would have been hawkish on China for years. Whether this course is right or wrong, and I believe it is certainly part of what we should refocus on, only time will tell.

_________________

  1. Foreign Policy, BY ELIAS GROLL | OCTOBER 24, 2019, 5:15 PM https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/10/24/mike-pence-hawkish-china-speech-hong-kong/
  2. US National Security Strategy, 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NSS-Final-12-18-2017-0905.pdf
  3. Defense News 1 OCT 2019, https://www.defensenews.com/pentagon/2019/10/01/the-pentagon-has-created-a-new-office-solely-focused-on-china-is-that-a-good-idea/
  4. PBS NewsHour Weekend, Nation Mar 16, 2019 1:19 PM EDT https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/new-us-military-budget-focused-on-china-despite-border-talk
  5. South China Morning Post, Published: 6:00pm, 21 Sep, 2019 https://www.scmp.com/news/china/military/article/3029774/growing-rivalry-between-china-and-us-plays-out-military-war

China: The Rising Dragon

Herein I will argue points that many know as facts but seldom are the implications of these facts, taken together holistically, discussed for their wider meaning. China is a great power, historically and currently, and it is increasing in economic, diplomatic and military strength at a rapid pace. China benefits from a centralized system of governance that seems to be exercising realpolitik on the global stage in a masterful way. The country benefits from a homogeneous population, and in the case where homogeneity does not exists, such as the Uyghurs, China is currently undertaking drastic and brutal steps to stamp out nonconformity. Furthermore, China leads the world in the application of the use of technology to suppress dissent and disagreement, both within its borders and abroad.

These facts combine to make China a deadly enemy to the West, western culture and the idea of liberal democracy. The threat does not manifest directly through military action, the application of economic and soft-power is proving perfectly suited to the expansionary goals at the moment. If and when direct military conflict becomes a reality with the West it will simply be too late for western democracies to oppose it.

Let me state upfront I am certainly not an advocate of the methods and style of China. I state that their advantage of a centralized government and extensive social controls is such only because the West has failed to actually adhere to the principles of good governance and culture that would otherwise decide this growing conflict long before it began. The West lost its way long ago. We have toyed with progressivism and socialism but have not perfected it the way China has, thus we have a defective hybrid system – not quite the City on the Hill and not quite a socialist dystopia. We have dismissed the homogeneity of culture enforced by the Chinese in favor of a sort of diversity that creates pockets of dissent and disagreement at all levels – we simply cannot agree enough to compete with a monolith. In essence, all of the great ideas of Western Civilization regarding good governance based upon first principles have been abandoned for an ineffective hybrid system.

Chinese history begins perhaps around 2070 BC. This is an important fact from an analysis of current geopolitics because that long history informs and shapes the narrative of the Chinese people, as crafted by the Chinese government. It provides context, lessons, pride and patience. Throughout the history of China there have been ebbs and flows in terms of power, in the last century great embarrassment; in prior centuries moments of great invention in the arts and sciences. This feeds a narrative that builds a sense of expectation. The Chinese know they are a great people with great potential and the government makes full use of this.

Lessons from the Ming Dynasty and the Treasure Fleet

Between 1405 and 1433 China dispatched seven great treasure fleets to ports throughout the Indian Ocean. This merchant navy was unrivaled in the world, no other nation could conceive of building ships of the size and complexity contained within these seven fleets. The largest of these ships had a displacement of about 1/2 of a modern US aircraft carrier. The mission of these fleets was essentially shock and awe, they did not need to go get trade, anyone and everyone came to China to trade. This was a statement of great power. In 1433 the Ming Dynasty suddenly stopped sending the fleets and either burned the ships or allowed them to rot in harbor.

China then vastly expanded the Great Wall, passed laws to forbid further foreign trade via the sea and entered an internal period for almost 500 years. During this period China culturally became the China we recognize, Han, and it was still powerful. However, relative to the West, that power, in terms of technology wained. By the late 1800’s European powers were threatening China on the mainland. By the 1900’s the Chinese were being humiliated at home.

Two lessons derive from this.

First, from a Chinese perspective, the notion that soft-power must be pushed forward, throughout the world is important. No matter how many internal resources, no matter what program of internal improvements China must control or influence centers of power else it will be dominated again.

Perhaps a lesson Americans should take from this is similar. Building walls and disengaging will have long term consequences. Perhaps America needs a long period like the Chinese Qing Dynasty to get culture right. These are questions for another discussion. However, Chinese retraction in 1433 certainly had long-term, positive and negative consequences for the Chinese. (Building walls may be important to maintain order and respect the rule of law, the lesson to be taken is perhaps not against physical walls but rather against isolationism.)

The Way Ahead

I do not intend to overburden my arguments with the inclusion of multiple data points related to the Chinese economy. I would refer you to this Congressional Research Service report from Morch 2019. I would note that the numbers are grim but the assessment less grim, although not bright. The report writers see challenges for China in terms of local debt, I predict the centralized system and expanding economy will easily overcome these.

Areas of Chinese Advantage

The Road and Belt Initiative will continue to give China inroads and access to trade and resources throughout central Asia.

BRICs, the accumulation of physical gold and US dollars will threaten the current economic system and set the stage for a new one.

Industrial espionage, state-sponsored, will close the remaining technological gaps.

Parity and potential advantages in the Cyber domain will threaten to destabilize economies and societies.

Growing Chinese power and influence will – without a doubt – alter the nature of free speech, rights and the flow of information. This is already occurring and will only increase. China will rule, by default, areas of our life without ever firing a shot.

Lastly, the Chinese seem to have mastered two concepts that bode poorly for the ordinary man; state-supported capitalism and a strong central government. They have taken what was good of the Soviet Union and dispensed with the bad and taken from the West the engine that makes an economy grow while avoiding any of the political philosophies that might protect the citizen. If their model works, if their system wins, 1984 is conceivably within the future of mankind.

Addendum (other points to consider):

Some experts assess current Chinese cyber capabilities as lagging compared to the West and the US, I suspect this is true only by a slight margin. (read “What Are China’s Cyber Capabilities and Intentions?” for an overview of the standard assessment.)

Two considerations are particularly worrying.

First, China’s stated strategic goals coupled with a marshaling of state resources to achieve that goal will close the current gap quickly.

Second, and more worrying. China will likely develop quantum computing first. Quantum computing will change everything. The playing field that exists prior to the first quantum computer going online will simply not matter. The first nation to develop this technology wins. Developing one second or third may actually not matter so much – as soon as a quantum computer comes online all secrets, industrial, military and others are vulnerable.

First Principles Working List

I humbly submit my very rough working list of First Principles. It is ironic that since Elon Musk said he thinks in first principles the Interwebs are all aquiver with folks publishing list that generally have nothing at all to do with fist principles – usually, their list do not comport the requirements of real first principles, which are:

  1. First principles are true
  2. First principles are necessarily true
  3. First principles are indemonstrable

And most importantly, generally these lists do not derive from First Causes.

My beginning work:

The same thing cannot be affirmed and denied at the same time

Nothing comes from Nothing

There is/are a creator (G)god(s)

Natural Moral law exists and is written into the spirit of all men in all times

Imperfection Abounds

There exists a Transcendent Order

Social Continuity is Good

Variety is Good

No fear if you are reading the above and think I have become a transcendental theist or polytheist even. I personally believe in one God, the Christian God. My effort with this is to build philosophical proofs into a list of first principles that argue against atheism, secular humanism and metaphysical naturalism and to articulate the foundations that bias my opinions on other subjects. In fact from the above I infer:

Inferences, Deductions and Syllogisms

11. The God of the Bible is most likely the true God

I. There is a God that created the universe (3 a.-d.), Christianity presents a system supported by evidence that aligns with natural law and is supported by reason, therefore, the God of the Bible and Christianity must be true.

II. The God of Christianity is God and the Creator of the Universe, the text of the Bible is provably accurate and authentic and states it is the word of God, therefore, the Bible must be an accurate testimony of God’s word.

Finding Purpose Rebrand

I began this blog as I prepared to retire from the Army with two missions. First I wanted to “talk” through my own journey and second, I hoped talking about and discussing what I was learning would help others.

I have accomplished, I believe, my first mission in that I found my own personal purpose after military retirement. I hope that the post I shared during the journey have helped and might someday continue to help others.

As part of newfound purpose I have decided to rebrand the site toward my passion for trying to understand the world around us. I am very dissatisfied with the pundits, experts and paid shills that appear on television and in print and digital media trying to explain the world, geopolitics, and government. I will become my own Geopolitical and military analyst. I will seek out my own foundational answers to human and cultural problems – with the assistance of the great minds to guide me. If others find the questions I pose, the answers I strive for and the analysis I arrive at useful I will be pleased. If I write to an echo chamber I at least know I can trust that the analysis was honest and sincere.

As I look upon and reflect upon the world I am very often left with a sense that things are tragically wrong – so wrong that politics and political movements cannot right the trajectory of the ship. We are in a time of tremendous transformation, perhaps greater than most want to admit. Technology will soon exponentially change us -our relationship to one another, to government and to life – we are entering this great change with many of our core values, presumptions and assumptions askew. We have lost much of our humanity in a traditional sense and have lost sight of what is permanent and important.

Words, certainly not my words, cannot change any of this. However, words are important. Ultimate truth exists and it should not be removed from the Earth merely because it has been forgotten by most and is unpopular to many that still acknowledge it.

Writing here about things that matter from a perspective that acknowledges ultimate truth and respects the great minds and ideas that have come before us is one of my purposes now. Perhaps you might occasionally find my efforts useful.

I hope within the next year to secure an adjunct professorship at a local college. I realize adjunct professors are not supposed to express an opinion and I realize from my recent dealings with academics that the sort of opinions and ideas I will express here are definitely not in favor. I believe intellectual honesty is important. Therefore, I say let it work out as it should, I will be me – much like I have been most of my adult life.

Syria, The Kurds and Russia

Over the course of my Army career, I had numerous opportunities to live with, train, fight beside and become friends with Kurds.  I am not unlike many others that had the same experiences over the last two decades in that my interactions with the Kurds left me with a sense of respect, admiration and affection for them. 

Naturally, I felt an initial sense of bewilderment and some anger last week at what seemed a sudden US policy shift relative to the Kurds.  We have had many foreign partners and extra-national compatriots over the years but in my and many other’s experiences, none match the overall worthiness and decency of the Kurds.  Also, considering this is not the first, but rather the third, major policy betrayal of the Kurds by the US in the last 30 years this all just felt wrong.  I made real friends among Kurdish soldiers, this all touched me on a personal level.

However, once I put emotions aside and began to analyze what has occurred critically, I have come to suspect that something much bigger has occurred.  The narrative spun by “national security experts” and parroted by hyperbolic media is an inaccurate picture of these events because none of these folks seems to be taking into account actual facts.

Facts

Despite the Kurds being one of the largest ethnic groups in the world without a country of their own it has never been a US policy tenet to support the formation of such – our partnership with the Kurds in Syria was always within the context of a restored Syria.

The “moderate” elements so often touted by liberal pundits and neoconic warhawks, were never really that moderate.  Many of those elements are now threatening genocide on the Kurds in support of Turkey (and by extension Saudi Arabia).  The Kurds were and are the only moderates in Syria.  

Turkey itself has a pretty dismal history.  There is, of course, the Armenian genocide in the early 20th Century, persecution of religious and ethnic minorities and growing repression of the rule of law and political dissent inside the regime.  The failed 2016 coup was perhaps the last best effort to set Turkey on a different path, but the resulting purge removed all remaining moderate and sane voices.  Their policies and action since have proven they are no ally and not within the Western sphere of thought and action.

By any objective measure, Bashar al-Assad was and is not that bad, relatively speaking, when compared to other outcomes in the Middle East.  The Muslim world works best, politically, with a strong government that keeps the passions of the people in check.  Assad was no better or worse than any other leader in the region in this regard.  In fact, pre-civil war Syria respected the rights of ethnic and religious minorities far better than many countries in the region – Turkey and Saudi Arabia as prime examples of “allies” that have much worse records in that regard. By international law and custom, Assad is the legitimate leader of Syria – objectively it was never correct to interject in the internal affairs of another sovereign nation without their invitation.

Many in the media bemoan the fact that a US disengagement from Syria empowers Russia and Iran.  The standard narrative conflates the interest of those two countries into an “axis of evil” but that is not a correct view.  Their interest have been conjoined only insofar as the recent geopolitical environment has made them bedfellows.  The other part of this flawed narrative is that Russia is an enemy to be feared which, when evaluated based upon real facts is ridiculous.  They are at worst a protagonist and adversary in terms of some strategic goals but Russia is a glass cannon, a shade of its former self.  The true peer competitive enemy of the US is China – focus on Russia “getting a small win” distracts from the real threat.

Assad is Russia’s ally.  Syria has invited Russia into Syria to assist with its internal conflict.  This complies with international law.  The US was never invited and short of declaring war in Syria, we were always wrong for being there.

Considering those facts, recent events make more sense.  Russia is not a threat to us.  The US was expending blood and treasure in a place, not in our strategic interest.  Syria is within Russia’s strategic interest and a stable Syria would control ISIS. 

Conclusion

Why would a rational person not see this as an acceptable outcome?

Consider this.  Less than 24 hours after the “infamous” tweet last Thursday the Kurds struck a deal with the Syria Army.  Is it reasonable to assume that enemies suddenly become allies following a tweet?  Is it more reasonable to assume a lot more went on behind the scenes prior to the announcement via tweet that facilitated this arrangement?  It is highly unlikely the US would announce that we brokered a deal like that but looking at the situation rationally it seems the most likely possibility.  If so, we really did not abandon the Kurds as is so readily portrayed in the media. 

Such an outcome is essentially a strategic win for the US.  We get out of Syria, the Syrian government can reestablish control of its territory and return to the status quo that existed prior to the civil war (and no matter what political grievances some people had then the situation was much better than the last several years, that is inarguable).  Russia bears the responsibility to see all this through, via financial and military support.  We can retract and refocus on our true threats in the world – China.

The only fly in the ointment is Turkey and their invasion of Syria.     

Creating New Math

Last evening, the wife and I had a dinner date that included attending a performance of Silkroad Ensemble at the Maxwell Theater over at Augusta University. I am always game for musical entertainment that may perhaps broaden my perspective a bit so a hybrid fusion ensemble of talented musicians seemed like a nice evening event. I am not a musical expert, let us establish that up front. However, I do not believe I actually heard anything that could pass as actual music last night.

Silk Road Ensemble
Silkroad Ensemble

Let me explain.

At one point early in the presentation one of the performers mentioned how the group was formed some twenty years ago to bring together all sorts of musical styles, put them in a pot and cook them into what Silkroad produces. They mentioned that 2+2 could be 5. As a metaphor, I could accept the premise. Concerning music and what music actually is, I cannot. Good music in all places, times and cultures has followed certain mathematical rules.

At another point the musicians stood on stage, essentially silent for 45 seconds, perhaps two minutes, I do not know for certain, doing ma. Ma is Japanese for a pause or gap in a sequence. I looked about the crowd in attendance and it seemed to me folks thought this was the most brilliant thing possible. I saw seven people standing on stage not playing music.

I actually had to stop the wife from laughing out loud at this point.

Music in all paces and in all times has been based upon certain mathematical certainties. (Well that and the obvious requirement to actually play your instrument and not stand silent – actually playing something is a requirement for music also I think.)

You can look anywhere, across history, and find that some cultures added 20+20 to get 40 and others 200+200 for 400 and others 5+5 to arrive at 10, etc., but all followed what can be clearly interpreted as mathematical rules to produce actual music that humans enjoy. Good music follows a mathematical ratio, the golden ratio, that all humans everywhere recognize. Tempo, style, instrumentation all vary, but real music always follows this rule. In fact, all art, architecture and even what we perceive as beauty in other humans is related to how closely something aligns with the golden ratio. It is almost like this is the mathematical basis of beauty that God wrote into the universe when he created it and we all intrinsically recognize it even for those that do not recognize a Creator.

When one of the performers stood up and told the crowd that 2+2=5 they actually meant it. Each performer clearly had talent in playing various instruments, but what they did on the stage was not at all music. It is not that I did not like it, that is not relevant. I can dislike a style of music but still, accept that it is actually music. My radio dial is filled with music that I dislike but that I still accept as actual music. It is not that I am an ignorant creten that simply cannot appreciate art. I may, in fact, be such, but as a human, I am attuned to the universal law of math and the golden ratio, I can easily discern noise from art.

The question I ask is why would otherwise talented people travel the world performing noise rather than music? Why would educational institutions such as Augusta University spend money to bring talented people to the school so that they can perform noise? Why would a small audience sit and pretend that they “get it”? Well, the answer to those questions are not very pretty I am afraid.

If one looks at the description of Silkroad it seems innocent enough:

Silkroad creates music that engages difference, sparking radical cultural collaboration and passion-driven learning to build a more hopeful world.

Seems innocuous enough, after all, who can really be opposed to a “more hopeful world”. There is, however, I suspect a lot of imagery and code in that simple sentence. When a person tells you who they are, you ought to actually believe them. The 2+2=5 statement at the beginning of the show was not merely a metaphor for perhaps thinking differently. It was a statement that these folks believe that the foundation of what has come before is not worthy of their time or effort. It is essentially a statement that the rules of the universe, created by God, are not relevant to them. It is a bold statement of rebellion against tradition. They might as well have stood on stage and stated that the Earth is flat and gravity does not exist. There is a palatable ideological bent to this group.

In the free market I would say let these folks make what ever noise they want and try to sell it as music. In a truly free market they would be on the side of the street with a bucket accepting donations for supper. However, the market this ideology exist in is not free. It is supported by funds from large endowments and educational institutions.

Make no mistake, the profit this group took from their performance on Saturday was not based upon ticket sales. Augusta University paid to have this group here under the guise of providing an enlightenment opportunity for students (I saw few students in attendance by the way). As a public institution, this means that ultimately two groups paid for this, the taxpayers and students out of their tuition and fees. Imagine that some student will pay some small amount of interest on the cost of this for the next 30 years in the form of repayment of student loans – all in the name of allowing a few eccentrics the luxury of declaring that they are smarter than all of the world’s great composers and musicians to come before them and smarter than God himself.

This performance was nothing more than another expression of the supremacy of man, a self-centered secularism that seeks to dispense with all that has proven good and acceptable through centuries of human history. It was not just the innocent act of a few otherwise talented musicians banging on drums to produce noise that three eight-year-olds running amuck in a music room might similarly produce.

I enjoyed the evening, dinner was nice, accompaning the wife was nice and watching this event was informative, but I am left to shake my head at what passes for art and enlightenment.