[Blog] Blog comments

I switched comments off more than six weeks ago and I didn't regret it. The felt workload from blogging evaporated to very, very little. I've seen a great many blogs disappear or fall asleep because the people behind them grew tired of the effort,

The probability of Defence and Freedom sharing this fate any time soon dropped considerably - despite a much increased professional and non-blogging private demand for time.



It's about time to reassess Saudi-Arabia

What's on your mind when you think of Saudi-Arabia?
Oil fields, seas of yellow sand, medieval social policies, guys holding hands, bed sheets as clothes?

Well, maybe it's about time to think of Saudi-Arabia as a regional power, if not great power. An unconventional one - a new great power.

Here are the signs that made me think about Saudi-Arabia possibly turning into a great power:

Their intervention in Qatar to oppress Qatar's Shi'ite majority in favour of the Sunni monarchy.

Their intervention in over Syria and Iraq against Daesh

Their intervention in over Yemen against the Shi'ite civil war party known as Houthis

Their cultural export of wahhabism

Their foreign aid to Comores etc.

Their unique privilege and opportunity to be the protector of Mecca and Medina and resulting prestige gain amongst about 1.5 billion Muslims

Their high (albeit inefficiently used) military expenditures

They politically lead the Gulf states against Shi'ite powers and (less cohesively so) against Daesh as well

Them being the anchor for the regional regimes' orientation towards EU and U.S.

Their central geographical position between Persian Gulf and Red Sea

Their relatively large (~ 31 million) population compared to many other countries in the region

Saudi-Arabia used to tail-wag the U.S. for its purposes in regard to Persian Gulf maritime security and security against Saddam's Iraq, but this has lessened considerably.

Let's compare to another great power, Russia:
Russia doesn't do interventions or exercises much influence globally. Maybe it does the latter even less than Saudi-Arabia. A foreign policy with a regional focus does not prohibit great power status. Japan is being considered a great power without exercising substantial influence beyond its own region (or even only in its own region).
China is even more similar, albeit less prone to interventions: It's exercising economic influence in much of the world, just as does the Saudi "royal" (kleptocrat) house: They used the trade balance surpluses of the past to buy many shares of large European and American corporations.

The Saudi position, capabilities and actions look dissimilar to Apartheid South Africa and Israel, two countries that felt encircled with enemies (for good reason) and proceeded to wreck their neighbourhood with conflicts. Saudi-Arabia's kleptocrat regime feels threatened by both potential Shi'ite or out-of-control radical Sunni (Salafist) uprisings mostly.*
They look dissimilar for now, maybe because it's difficult to attribute who exactly contributed how much to the mess in Iraq, Yemen and Syria. This may change, and Saudi-Arabia may very well prove to be comparable to Apartheid South Africa and Israel.


*: Though not the few Shi'ites in Saudi-Arabia itself.


The irritating flashlight issue

Do you remember 1990's cop television series? Suddenly, all law enforcers seemed to use some cool-looking arms gymnastics to alight a flashlight in their left hand with their pistol in their right hand. It sure looked cool, but I wondered about the concept itself: Didn't we teach Bundeswehr soldiers in basic not to do anything like this on guard duty?
The a flashlight right between yourself and a suspect would be a perfect aiming help for the suspect even if he's dazzled by the light. You'd want the flashlight to be as far away from you as possible

Old "Reibert" book illustration
The 90's also saw the rise of "Surefire" (tm), a flashlight to be mounted on a firearm coaxially. Countless similar products have been introduced in the meantime.

Again, I wondered about why one would mount such a presence indicator on a firearm. I figured it only makes sense if you feel vastly superior to the opposition anyway.

The use of such accessories has increased over time, propelled by the proliferation of standardized mounting rails on firearms.
Military forces use a similar concept at night; a near-infrared laser that's not visible to the naked eye even at nighttime, but is visible to someone with night vision goggles. Again, I figures this only makes sense if you expect to be superior anyway (against an opponent with no night vision goggles or sights).

This sounds fine for occupation duties, but not like a requirement for a real defence-oriented army. Vastly inferior powers attack rarely - they defend.



Who Are the Nuclear Scofflaws?


What can be done about this flouting of the NPT, some 45 years after it went into operation?

That will almost certainly be a major issue at an NPT Review Conference that will convene at the UN headquarters, in New York City, from April 27 to May 22. These review conferences, held every five years, attract high-level national officials from around the world to discuss the treaty’s implementation. For a very brief time, the review conferences even draw the attention of television and other news commentators before the mass communications media return to their preoccupation with scandals, arrests, and the lives of movie stars.



Oh, really?

Unclassified RAND war games indicate that Russian forces could overrun local defenders and the light U.S. and NATO units currently able to respond within as few as two days. While the capitals and a small number of key points could be held for some time, Russian forces could seal the border between Lithuania and Poland, prevent reinforcement by sea, and confront NATO with a fait accompli.

Once secured, these territorial gains would be defended by heavy ground forces occupying the conquered states, along with very capable Russian anti-air and anti-ship defenses on Russian territory. Any serious attempt to liberate Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania would entail attacks to suppress these systems.

If a Russian invasion of the Baltic states could not be deterred or defeated, the North Atlantic Council and the U.S. president would be faced with a very unpleasant choice: conduct a costly counteroffensive and risk nuclear escalation, or abandon the Baltics to renewed subservience to Moscow.

hat tip

Now how is this so familiar?

This has its greatest potential in sudden flare-ups of border conflicts à la South Ossetia as well as in regard to a Ukraine breakup scenario or a Baltic coup de main scenario.
An aggressor might see his chance in a coup de main (strategic surprise) coupled with deterring a counteroffensive with fait accompli and nuke threat. Would we really risk WW4 armageddon if the Russians had overrun and annexed Estonia by next week? Would we launch a conventional offensive to liberate it? Russia ain't Iraq, it has nukes. A low force density counteroffensive might actually stay below this deterrent 's actual threshold (this idea would require a lot of elaboration, of course).

I disagree with their recommendation, though. Too much dislike for tripwire forces.




Anti-Israel, Pro-Iran?

It has been brought to my attention that somebody called me anti-Israeli and pro-Iranian.

That's not how I'd call it, though I have to admit that given the choice between a world consisting only of countries with a foreign policy like Israel's and a world consisting only of countries with a foreign policy like Iran's, I'd pick the latter.

And here's why: World Peace in a nuclear arms-free world.

Iran hasn't attacked another country in almost 200 years. It has no nuclear weapons, and according to U.S. intelligence assessment not even a nuclear weapons program. It's a member of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and meets its obligations thereunder. Nuclear arms are illegal and unethical by top religious ruling in Iran.

The match-up would be considerably more tricky if it was about domestic policies, but theirs don't concern me much as a European. They are sovereign countries and both have elections. Neither has exemplary domestic policies, that's for sure.

A quick search (with search plugin on the left side) yielded merely 5 returns for the word "Israel", and but two of them are blog posts more or less critical of Israel.

The latter is more concerned about the long-term prospects than it is critical, actually.

A search for "Iran" yields MUCH more, and that's largely because I think there's A LOT of hypocrisy and bullying involved particularly in U.S. positions regarding Iran. Israel's Iran policy is in my opinion merely the result of an individual's (Netanjahu's) obsession, and may change in any election. The European's policies regarding Iran are a mystery to me, but likely the result of affinity fraud-based lobbying success particularly by the U.S.. My position regarding Iran is thus largely a "leave them alone!" position, consistent with my general distaste for militarized or bullying foreign policy.

related: Iran's Been Two Years Away From a Nuclear Weapon for Three Decades, The Atlantic


About bombing nuclear reactors to stop nuke programs

Some notorious American warmonger warmongered again ... quel surprise! *sigh*

The good thing about this is that actually nice responses were written. Amongst them this one:

U.S. and Israeli politicians often claim that Israel’s bombing of Iraq in 1981 significantly set back an already-existing Iraqi nuclear weapons program. The truth is almost exactly the opposite. Harvard Physics Professor Richard Wilson, who visited the ruins of Osirak in 1982 and followed the issue closely, has said the available evidence “suggests that the bombing did not delay the Iraqi nuclear-weapons program but started it.” This evidence includes the design of the Osirak reactor, which made it unsuitable for weapons production, and statements by Iraqi nuclear scientists that Saddam Hussein ordered them to begin a serious nuclear weapons program in response to the Israeli attack.
This perspective rarely appears in mainstream U.S. media outlets. One time it did, however, was in a 2012 Washington Post op-ed titled ‘An Israeli attack against Iran would backfire — just like Israel’s 1981 strike on Iraq.’