Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Further Adventures in Westphalian Foreign Policy

I realized that I was operating according to certain principles when I wrote the Westphalian foreign policy post that I have not fully explained.

The Four Rules of Engagment

1. Cyberwarfare - Cyberwarfare is barely even war at all and under normal circumstances would cause zero casualties. Its aim is economic and possibly infrastructure damage. It is distinct from economic and diplomatic sanctions and part of this progression because it is offensive, destructive and uses direct coercion.

2. Covert/Special Operations - Covert Operations is defined by tactical missions and objectives rather than strategic missions and objectives. Covert ops begin and end within days or hours. They depend on the enemy never knowing about the op until it is too late, presumably because enemy forces in the area are vastly superior and would overwhelm the op if it is not extracted quickly. Covert operations also maintain some level of deniability, which is why troops operating inside foreign countries does not trigger a conventional war. Covert or special operations warfare aims to resolve minor international conflicts by making the point moot. In other words, suppose the conflict is about extradition of a criminal. One country wants this criminal; the other country refuses to give him up. A covert operation to kill or extract the criminal by force makes the point moot and solves the conflict. A conflict between countries about development of nuclear weapons could be solved by a covert/special operation to destroy a nuclear reactor, making the point moot. In other words, covert/special operations, unlike the next two rules of engagement, do not attempt to force the enemy to make any decisions in order to resolve the conflict.

3. Conventional War - Characterized by large troop movements intended to overwhelm or destroy enemy troops and occupy enemy territory. This is the normal meaning of the term "war". Conventional war aims to resolve the conflict by either occupying and controlling enemy territory and removing all its means of fighting the war, or by toppling their government and forcing a regime change on the belief that it was the enemy's particular government that caused the conflict, not necessarily its population. Conventional war is analogous to a pin in wrestling or a checkmate in chess. The killing blow never lands, but the opponent is compelled to concede defeat.

4. Total War - The use of nuclear weapons or other so-called "weapons of mass destruction" against civilian targets. Other intentional targeting or bombing of civilian populations also falls under these rules of engagement, such as the firebombing of Dresden in World War II. Conventional warfare typically causes civilian deaths but this is not intentional and is called "collateral damage". Total war on the other hand intends to cause massive civilian casualties and tries to break the will of the enemy population to continue fighting the war, as opposed to breaking the will of the enemy government and/or destroying an opposing military force, as in conventional war. The hope is that the population will give up and force its government to end the war or perhaps even surrender to the enemy. In extreme cases, total war becomes genocide if the enemy population refuses to concede defeat. Total war is almost never prescribed since it is almost never the case that an actor has the ability to break the will of an entire enemy population without first defeating its government and military forces and forcing a decision according to the rules of conventional war.

All of these categories are defined by their unique method of conflict resolution and to a lesser extent the methods used. For instance, establishing a permanent base inside another country does not necessarily escalate the conflict from covert operations to conventional warfare if the goal of the deployment is not occupation, but merely to establish a forward base for future covert or special ops. Using a tactical nuclear weapon to destroy an enemy troop concentration does not necessarily escalate a conflict from conventional to total war, since the target is not civilian. These categories are defined by different methods with which conflict resolution is pursued, not necessarily a change in weapons or tactics.


Escalation is here defined as either beginning a conflict in any of these four categories or changing the rules of engagement for an existing conflict from a lower number to a higher one.  Refusing to escalate is a defensive position, and any government which engages in conflict without escalating is considered to be defending itself. Escalating a conflict, including by beginning one, is an aggressive move and the escalator should be considered an aggressor.  In the first post I implied that escalation is never prescribed, but that was not my intention. Practically and historically escalation is not usually a good move, as there are usually more defensive minded nations than aggressive ones, and defensive nations usually band together. Escalation can be considered in specific, limited circumstances, and I will attempt to explain those limits and circumstances.

1. Escalation should never occur without thoroughly exploring the possibility for conflict resolution within the rules of engagement under which the conflict began.

Escalation should never occur at the very beginning of a conflict or before a reasonable attempt has been made to achieve a decision. A great example of escalation would be the Battle of Britain in World War II. Initially the Germans were attacking and bombing only military targets, such as airplane factories, runways and radar installations, which falls under conventional war. The Germans had a plan to invade Great Britain called Operation Sea Lion, but instead of proceeding with the plan, they chose to escalate in hopes of forcing Great Britain to surrender without invading. Hitler got impatient and decided to switch to civilian targets in an attempt to break the will of the English people. This turned out to be a grievous error, and it has always been my opinion that the Germans were winning the Battle of Britain until they escalated the conflict. It's a perfect example of an escalation which turned out to be the wrong move because the Germans attempted it without attempting to reach a decision through conventional war. Governments often tend to believe that escalation always increases their chances of winning, but this is simply not the case.

On the other hand, when the U.S. was close to winning a conventional war with Japan, it escalated the conflict to total war and ended the conflict much more quickly than a conventional war would have been expected to end it. In this situation, escalation turned out to be the right move and probably saved hundreds of thousands of lives on both sides and ended the war early in terms of years, not months. On the surface this escalation was similar to the German escalation in the Battle of Britain. However, the U.S. and Japan had been at war for four years before this escalation occurred. The Germans and British had been at war for only a few months when Germany escalated that conflict. (I am not counting the "phony war". Declarations are meaningless. Actions count.) The U.S. had taken vast territory from the Japanese and had witnessed firsthand the Japanese fanaticism and preference to death over surrender. The U.S. was therefore quite justified in believing a de facto escalation to total war would have occurred anyway upon invading the Japanese homeland. The Germans on the other hand had taken zero territory from the British and had only engaged the British Expeditionary Force in France, and the British are anything but fanatics. There is every reason to believe the British would have accepted resolution according to conventional terms had they been invaded and conquered, which the Germans had a very good opportunity to do.

Escalation is always a judgment call, but it's important that the default position be to not escalate unless there is a very good reason to believe the conflict will not be resolved according to the current rules of engagement.

2. Escalation should never be done out of feelings of anger, frustration or helplessness. Escalation should be a rational attempt to bring a decisive end to a conflict which appears to have no decisive conclusion available.

According to these guidelines, it should not be difficult to define a conflict clearly within one of the four categories initially. (An exception would be the different kinds of terrorism which I will deal with later.) However, in the course of the conflict it might become increasingly difficult to distinguish between them. It is vital to a successful conflict resolution that any change in the rules of engagement not occur "in the heat of battle" so to speak. This might result in making a mistake just because some undisciplined troops got an itchy trigger finger. Escalations should always come through the proper chain of command and not decided de facto by units on the ground, even if the other side escalated first. This requires well-trained and disciplined troops. Escalation should occur in a rational and objective fashion according to one's overall goals, methods and capabilities.

Even through the proper chain of command, any faction considering escalation should check its emotions at the door. If unable to do so, it would be a good idea to delay the decision to escalate until such time as it can be made rationally. Historically the decision to escalate has often been made out of feelings of anger, frustration and helplessness. As already stated, escalations do not necessarily increase the chances of victory, but most people tend to believe that escalations are always in their favor, especially when they appear to be losing. They tend to believe that if the other guy brings a knife to the fight, the best response is to bring a gun. In a dark alley this might be the case, but it is often not the case in conflicts between nations because these types of conflicts include political elements. (By extension, it is not always the right move to escalate political conflicts either.)

The strategic bombing campaign over Europe during World War II is a good example of an escalation made out of feelings of frustration and helplessness, compounded by a brand new theater of war, air-power, which was not yet fully understood. Before D-Day in June of 1944, the Western Allies had been somewhat stymied in the European theater. The North African campaign was a seesaw affair until the U.S. landed in Morocco, and even then the U.S. campaign in North Africa was initially an embarrassing mess. The invasion of Italy stalled completely. Even though it began years before D-Day, the Italian campaign did not end when Italy surrendered and was not even over until Germany surrendered in 1945.* All of this led to the feeling among the Allied leaders and especially the Soviets that the Western Allies were not so much losing as not making any progress. When the strategic bombing campaign began, D-Day was years away, Britain was recovering from Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain, and the U.S. was still mobilizing. The Soviets, at the time nearing total disaster and defeat in the East, were crying for help and a two-front war. The feeling was that the Western Allies must "do something", it matters not what, and that is an indicator that an irrational decision is about to be made. The military historian could perhaps forgive Germany for escalating the Battle of Britain, since an exclusively air-power assault had never been tried before, though it must be noted that the success of blitzkrieg was based on air-power in the ground support role and there should have been a realization that "air-power only" was a different, untested strategy not assured of any success. But the Western allies cannot be forgiven. They should have learned from Germany's mistake. There was always an intention to invade Europe with ground troops, but the strategic bombing campaign against Germany was explicitly not intended as ground support but to force Germany's surrender by itself, leading to the eventual escalation of the bombing campaign in the same way Germany escalated the Battle of Britain. The strategic bombing campaign targeting German industry and civilian populations was by most accounts a failure and incurred losses exceeding the losses suffered by the Germans. It could be argued this had attrition value, but that is a terrible military argument. Attrition almost never works in forcing a decision. The strategic bombing campaign of Germany must be considered a failure and the Allies would have been better off using their massive air-power to attack military, ground targets such as runways in France, defensive installations on the coast and German naval units, ports and U-boat pens. At most, it should have been used to achieve tactical air superiority over France only in preparation for eventual ground assault, in the same way the Germans should have limited their goals in the Battle of Britain to military targets and tactical air superiority in preparation for Operation Sea Lion. This is an example of a decision to escalate taken out of frustration and impatience and ultimately resulting in failure. Just because the Allies won anyway does not mean it was the right move.

Escalation should never be considered emotionally or in response to events outside one's control. It should be considered only after a failure to achieve a decision when lower modes of engagement have already been thoroughly explored.

3. The goal of escalation should always be to decide the original conflict. Escalation should never be used to pursue different goals within the same conflict. In general, it is a bad idea to attempt resolution of conflicts other than the one which precipitated military action.

In Afghanistan, what began as a conflict with the international terrorist group Al Qaeda became a mission to help the Northern Alliance overthrow the Taliban government and eventually a conventional occupation whose goal was nation-building. Al Qaeda was not directly controlled by the Taliban government and to this day there is no evidence the Taliban knew or participated in the attacks on 9/11. The Afghan government did refuse to cooperate in bringing Al Qaeda to justice, although its ability to do so had it wanted to was in serious doubt. The U.S. quite justifiably viewed this as unacceptable, and this conflict clearly and properly began under covert and special ops rules of engagement. The United States proceeded in two ways. First, they began bombing and otherwise attacking Al Qaeda targets inside Afghanistan. Second, they inserted special operations units to train, arm and fight alongside the Northern Alliance with the intent of overthrowing the Taliban government. The former is clearly within the rules of engagment for covert/special ops. The latter is not. It is possible that the U.S. government intended an escalation to conventional war from the beginning, but the evidence suggests they attempted to achieve conventional war goals using special operations. Historically this usually does not work out. See, for instance, the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Even so, this would have been an escalation right at the beginning of the conflict and was not advisable. In the actual event, the Taliban was overthrown rather quickly and the goal of regime change was initially successful. At this point the U.S. should have counted its lucky stars and re-focused on more limited covert operations targeting Al Qaeda and left it at that. Problems arose because the internal base of power of the Taliban was not destroyed, leading to the possibility they might regain power. This was not, of course, desirable, but covert/special operations cannot and should not be expected to ensure the complete destruction of a political power base. It is always a risk that an overthrown government may return to power after the conflict is decided, even in conventional war. Therefore the decision was made, seemingly unconsciously, to escalate to conventional war. This was incorrect in my view, because the escalation occurred in order to pursue a new goal: preventing the Taliban from returning to power.

The goal of this escalation had little to do with finding and destroying Al Qaeda. Rather, the goal became to establish internal security and a stable government in order to build Afghanistan into a Western-style liberal democracy which would never again refuse to cooperate in bringing terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda to justice. On top of being the internal business of Afghanistan, building a stable political order had very little to do with the conflict with Al Qaeda over 9/11 and everything to do with preventing all similar future conflicts. The original U.S. goal of destroying Al Qaeda probably could have been pursued successfully without "regime change" in Afghanistan, and that should have factored into the decision to pursue regime change. By all appearances it did not. It also seems obvious, at least in hindsight, that as an international organization Al Qaeda was not limited to Afghanistan. This might seem petulant, but the U.S. never intended to invade every country that refused to extradite Al Qaeda members. The conflict between the U.S. and Al Qaeda was separate from the conflict with the Taliban government, a conflict which ordinarily would not precipitate conventional war. It seems to me yet another good reason to make sure conflicts like this are properly defined. International organizations cannot be defeated by defeating a single national government. As it stands now, Afghanistan appears to be in not much better shape than it was before the war, and what's left of Al Qaeda has disbursed around the globe significantly diminished but not completely defeated. It seems unlikely that the new Afghan government and a continued but drastically reduced U.S. presence will be able to prevent terrorist organizations from operating inside Afghanistan in the future, though I'm sure they would prefer other places first. The conventional war in Afghanistan appears to me to be of dubious added value compared to a special operations campaign targeting only Al Qaeda. There does not appear to be anything of actual value the U.S. accomplished by occupying territory and providing security in Afghanistan that could not have been accomplished by targeted special operations. Of course I am not privy to all of the information necessary to make such a judgment, but in a certain sense nobody is. Barack Obama campaigned against the Iraq war but called Afghanistan the "right" war. Westphalian foreign policy suggests he got it backwards.

I have not written much on foreign policy in this blog, but my first love was military history. War seems so simple, but studying it as I have reveals that conflicts between nations are anything but simple, and resolving them even less so. Military histories often catalog factors which most people would never see as pertinent to war but turn out to be important, even decisive. Most people think war is about who has the biggest guns, but in the real world war is most often decided by mobility and logistics tactically, intelligence, and pursuing clear and achievable goals strategically. Commanding armies is a much different animal than fighting off a mugger in a dark alley. A mugger can be stopped with a single bullet and that is the end of it. But nations cannot be simply eliminated short of genocide, and a commander must always keep in mind that his opponent must be convinced to change his mind and accept a decision against his interests in order for victory to be achieved. Fighting fair and according to the scale and conditions of the initial conflict is important in achieving that decision, and the enemy must also be correctly identified and categorized, otherwise conflicts can spiral out of control. Clear principles should be advanced so that the world knows under what conditions and with what goals the U.S. will use its overwhelming military force. Without that, they must simply act as though we are an irrational, irresistible force of nature. They will duck and cover when we come, and do whatever they want once we leave. They have no guidelines to understand what does or does not precipitate our involvement, and thus no reason to modify their behavior according to our wishes. We need to send a clear message about our priorities and the conditions under which we will become involved. Not only have we not had such a clear position, we also appear to even enter into conflicts without fully understanding what we are doing. Sometimes I wonder if certain elements across the globe see the U.S. not as a dangerous or respected adversary, just idiots with a big stick.

Now that's whack.

*The Italian campaign was the brainchild of Winston Churchill, who called Italy the "soft underbelly" of Fortress Europe, yet another example of great political leaders of the democratic era failing miserably as generals. Political leaders tend to see political weaknesses in their opponents and discount military factors. Italy was politically weak, but the Italian peninsula was a bottleneck chock full of easily defensible terrain. Italy surrendered quickly, but the defensive positions were taken over by German troops who held out till the end of the war. Even if the Italian campaign had been successful, did Churchill really think crossing the Alps was the best approach? The Allies had much better options than were available to Hannibal. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Making of a Paradigm Shift: The Darwin Double-Step

We all learned the Darwin Double-Step, or "dubstep" for short, as children in school. Oh what fun we had. If you know the lyrics sing along with me:

Neckie the Slightly-Longer-Necked Giraffe
Had a slightly longer neck
And if you ever saw it
You lived a million years ago (like a lightbulb!)
All of the other giraffes
Used to laugh and call him names
They never let poor Neckie
Play in any giraffe games

Then one terrible drought season
All the leaves on the lower branches were eaten
Then Neckie with his neck so long
Ate leaves from the higher branches
Then all the other giraffes
Died horribly of starvation
Neckie never had any kids and the entire species died out
Because there were no females with the same mutation! (you sexist pig!)

Hmmm. Actually I think that may have been the naughty creationist version they were not allowed to teach us in school. Let me try again:

Neckie the Slightly-Longer-Necked Giraffe
Had a slightly longer neck
And if you ever saw it
You lived a million years ago (like a lightbulb!)
All of the other giraffes
Used to laugh and call him names
They never let poor Neckie
Play any giraffe games

Then poor Neckie got thirsty
And traveled to the water hole
He bent his head down to take a drink
And all the blood went straight to his head
Neckie didn't have the special blood valves
That all modern giraffes have in their neck
So the first time he tried to take a drink
He died of a brain aneurysm! (more blood than Kill Bill!)

Okay, I lied. That was another naughty creationist version they never taught you in school. I don't actually remember the real version. The lyrics to the real version don't fit the melody very well and the creationist ones are pretty much right on, so they are easier to remember.

"What does this have to do with the fourth video?" you might be asking. Well, not much to be honest, but since the material here is not very original I thought I'd take the opportunity to discuss Michael Behe's thesis in The Edge of Evolution, which actually is related to the malaria versus sickle cell anemia relationship, which Behe describes as evolutionary "trench warfare". Trench warfare as practiced during World War I was a strategy of attrition: everybody is dying by the millions with no military objectives achieved, but I'm betting that you run out of guys before I do. Evolution operates that way, at least in the real world. Once an organism runs out of genes it can break without killing itself, it's out of options. And anyway it's not a great idea to break genes unless there's a severe selective pressure involved, the kind that kills.

Briefly, malaria is a disease caused by parasitic bacteria that survive by consuming human hemoglobin right inside living human blood vessels. It is both deadly and very common in certain parts of the world. Sickle cell anemia is a human genetic disease caused by a mutation affecting hemoglobin which also confers resistance to malaria. It is caused by a point mutation in one out of two hemoglobin genes. If both genes have the mutation, the person dies very early in development. Sickle cell anemia is clearly the result of a broken gene that has only been passed on because it confers some resistance to malaria. It certainly wasn't passed on because it severely inhibits normal hemoglobin function. It's a pretty nice demonstration of the power of Darwinian evolution to destroy things if there's a fitness benefit involved. In that respect, it's no different than the other examples in these videos and does not require a separate argument.

But Behe's main thesis in the book involves the most common malaria causing bacteria, P. falciparum. Humans have been using an anti-malarial drug called chloroquine for about fifty years, and a certain strain of P. falciparum has evolved a resistance to it. In fact, this resistance required the performance of an extremely rare Darwin Double-Step, and is far more interesting than the single-step sickle cell anemia mutation. Behe calls this specific example of the Darwin Double-Step the "chloroquine complexity cluster" (CCC). It's a double point mutation that appears to cause a leak in a particular organelle where chloroquine would normally concentrate and kill the bug. The leak allows chloroquine to leak out of the organelle into the cytoplasm, drastically reducing its concentration and toxicity. The protein in question appears to be important enough to the bug's survival that it cannot simply be deleted, a job which any number of single mutations could accomplish. The double mutation is required to first cause the leak and then partly compensate for the change in its structure and accompanying loss of function. Simply causing the leak by messing up the protein doesn't appear to work, and the likely explanation is the cell needs the protein in a marginally functional capacity to survive. Like most mutations of this kind, the CCC appears to cause a loss of absolute fitness versus the wild type in a normal environment and only confers a fitness advantage in the presence of the very strong selective pressure of chloroquine.

Now at this point evolutionists would ask what the difference is between a single mutation and a double mutation. No, they haven't forgotten how to count and they still have all their fingers. Their contention is that once a single mutation occurs and provides a benefit, natural selection acts on that benefit and the mutation spreads throughout the entire population. Then the species can start over from a new, higher baseline and the process repeats over and over and over for a very long time, making dramatic changes possible. The problem in this particular case, and as far as we know in most other hypothesized cases, is that a Darwin Double-Step is required before the organism gets any benefit at all. In other words, the first mutation, whichever of the two occurs first, confers no benefit. Therefore natural selection cannot act on it and spread it through the population. In fact, the first mutation appears to be deleterious, causing a significant degradation in fitness and is actually more likely to be selected out completely, much less spread through the population. Yet the trait exists. Why? Most likely, both mutations occurred at the same time in the same individual. Poor Neckie the Slightly-Longer-Necked Giraffe would have been saved by a Darwin Double-Step giving him both a longer neck and special valves in his neck all at once. (I knew there was a connection somewhere!)

The probabilities involved for two successive single mutations versus a Darwin Double-Step are quite different. In the first case the second mutation can occur anywhere in the entire population as long as the first mutation has taken over. The second mutation then has the same probability as the first mutation, just minus the amount of time it took the first one to take hold. For a Darwin-Double Step, however, both mutations happening at the same time in the same organism multiplies the probabilities together, increasing the difficulty by many, many orders of magnitude. The same principle is at work in the Powerball lottery. The probability of matching one ball is much, much higher than the probability of matching all six in one draw. A Darwin Double-Step is a very rare occurrence, but one appears to have occurred in P. falciparum within the last fifty years. Behe estimates the total number of bugs that have lived and died in that time to be around 10^20, and assigns the probability of 10^-20 to the CCC. He then estimates the total number of organisms that have lived in the entire history of life to be around 10^40, and concludes the maximum number of steps we should rationally expect Darwinian evolution to be capable of achieving at one time with those probabilistic resources is a double-CCC corresponding to a probability of 10^-40, or a Darwin Four-Step. (Not quite the same ring to that one.) Behe equates a CCC to the difficulty of finding a new protein-protein binding site, and a double-CCC to finding via Darwinian processes two novel protein-protein binding sites. In doing so, he makes very generous assumptions, since even a single protein-protein binding site has been experimentally found to require five or six mutations, none of which are independently beneficial nor selectable, and the CCC required only two mutations. He concludes that just two novel binding sites appearing together is beyond the edge of evolution, which corresponds to complexes of three or more proteins. Most proteins operate in complexes of six or more, far beyond the edge.

Initially most public critics argued that Behe had gotten the probabilities wrong because the CCC was most likely two successive single mutations, which is hilarious because that actually hurts their case. Here Behe went to all the trouble of finding a double mutation that was actually, empirically, observed to occur and using it to propose a limit, or edge, to evolution, and the immediate response of the critics was to restrict his edge of evolution even further, without realizing that's what they were doing! "You're wrong about something, even if it hurts our position," was the response. It was all quite entertaining, especially considering that Behe referenced everything to the scientific literature. After having examined much of it myself, his case that chloroquine resistance is caused by a double mutation of the type he describes is very strong. There really are quite a lot of very stupid but well-educated and well-credentialed people in the world who think they are really smart.

The main problem seems to be that evolutionists believe there is always a pathway of single step mutations from one protein function to another, different function. Behe was trying to give the benefit of the doubt and suggest that a Darwin Double-Step, despite its rarity, was allowable as a regular evolutionary mechanism in the search for mutational pathways between functions and got reamed by a bunch of idiots who didn't understand he was being generous. As usual, he was operating several steps ahead of his critics and only failed in his overestimation of their intelligence. Behe, and most biochemists with their heads on straight, knows that there simply cannot be an unlimited supply of single-step pathways between functional proteins. Yet this is a fundamental assumption of neo-Darwinism. Evolutionists do not respond well to the contention that single step pathways may not exist in the required number because they probably know that the theory cannot explain all of biological diversity without them. The observable, empirical, scientific evidence suggests rather strongly that a very high proportion of mutations are either neutral or deleterious to the protein's function. Natural selection either doesn't favor it over the wild-type in the case of a neutral mutation or actually works against it in the case of a deleterious mutation, selecting it out of the population because it's harmful to fitness. Evolution cannot advance neutral mutations in a Darwinian fashion and must depend on luck, otherwise known as "genetic drift", in order for the mutation to spread through the population, which doesn't really help the probabilities like natural selection does. In the case of deleterious mutations it's back to square one for the population rather quickly, since the organism with the mutation gets pwned by natural selection.

Evolutionists cannot simply assume that single or even double step pathways exist. They must demonstrate such pathways exist empirically. If neo-Darwinian evolution is true then there must be an awful lot of these pathways within the protein shape space and it should not be hard to find them. They must specify which specific mutations are incrementally beneficial to fitness and also lead to novel protein functions and prove it through experimentation, otherwise no one is under any obligation to believe their cute little fables. That's how science works. Until then, they have less than nothing. They have fairy tales and a belief in something they have not observed. Last I checked, that's precisely their oft-repeated criticism of religion.

Now that's whack. 

Westphalian Foreign Policy and Its Application

The Peace of Westphalia was a series of treaties in 1648 which ended several long-running conflicts running the gamut from territorial to religious. The participating countries agreed to many details, but they also agreed on a general principle: what happens inside a country's borders is its own business. By extension, when a country does mess with another country's business, that is a breach of the agreement which becomes everyone's business. If a particular country breaches another country's sovereignty once, they become a potential threat to every other country, not to mention they have lost any right they had to protection from the agreement which they broke. That's the essence of the foreign policy section of the Paddywhack Platform, though it adds one additional policy provision which is available to a superpower possessed of overwhelming force such as the United States: all war, once begun, must be resolved decisively. It's a simple, consistent set of principles which our current schizophrenic foreign policy could greatly benefit from applying. These are the Westphalian rules of engagement for conventional warfare:

A. If a conflict occurs entirely within a sovereign country's borders, no other countries should interfere.

B. If the conflict occurs through sovereign borders, it is by definition an international conflict and is potentially everyone's business if they decide to involve themselves.

C. If a specific country is attacked within its own borders, then it is obviously and immediately that particular country's business and even its responsibility to defend itself.

To these I would add:

D. Once a conflict has begun, the goal of the war is restricted to a decisive and permanent resolution of the initial conflict. Once resolved, the conflict is over and relations return to normal, meaning the sovereignty of the defeated country must once again be respected and troops withdrawn.

What would this look like historically from the United States' point of view?

1. World War I:  Allowed. Clearly an international conflict.

2. World War II: Yes. The U.S. was attacked by Japan and Germany declared war shortly after. 

3. Korean War: Allowed. An internationally and peacefully agreed-upon border was violated by North Korea.

4. Vietnam War: No. The Vietnam War was always an internal conflict, Laos and Cambodia notwithstanding. Those spillovers came later and were largely the result of U.S. involvement. They were also difficult to distinguish from other internal conflicts native to Laos and Cambodia.

5. Grenada: No. Internal conflict.

6. Persian Gulf War: Allowed. Iraq violated the borders of Kuwait.

7. Kosovo and Rwanda: No. Internal conflicts. 

8. Afghanistan: No. The U.S. was attacked, but not by agents of the sovereign nation of Afghanistan. The U.S. declared war because the Taliban, the governing authority of the sovereign nation of Afghanistan, refused to give up Al Qaeda, a separate terrorist organization, therefore these rules would not prescribe conventional warfare. Covert or special operations warfare has different rules of engagement and would clearly apply here. In the end, the primary perpetrator of the 9/11 attack, Osama bin Laden, was killed during a covert operation inside Pakistan, a nation with whom the U.S. was not at war.

9. Iraq: No. The goal of the U.S. was regime change in Iraq, which is their business not ours. Neither we nor anyone else were attacked by Iraqi conventional forces. Besides, if the Persian Gulf War had been resolved decisively as prescribed the problem would have been resolved twelve years earlier and in line with the policy. Interpreted a different way, the policy would have allowed the Iraq War but only understood as a decisive end of the Persian Gulf War which was not resolved in 1991 after the initial invasion but remained an ongoing conflict for the twelve intervening years.

In addition, the goal of conventional forces in Afghanistan and Iraq became nation-building, which is internal Afghanistan and Iraqi business and also had nothing to do with the original conflict. It has been claimed that if Afghanistan or Iraq do not have stable internal political situations then the goals of these wars would not be met, specifically the goal of preventing all future terrorist attacks by organizations based in these countries. But these rules do not allow for resolving future, undefined conflicts. Only existing, defined conflicts can be resolved clearly and decisively. Besides, it seems ridiculous to suggest that any stable government is capable of preventing all terrorist activities by its citizens, meaning that even if the goals of nation-building were met, the future, undefined conflict could never be permanently resolved in this way.

10. Libya and Syria: No. Obviously internal conflicts. 

11. Georgia and Ukraine: Allowed. International borders were crossed by Russian conventional troops. In the case of Ukraine, the Russian troops wore no insignia and were masquerading as Crimean freedom fighters, but that is clearly a deception. At best, they might be considered covert operations troops in which case conventional war as a response would not be appropriate. This complicates the issue, but the actions of Russia's military forces within the sovereign borders of Ukraine do not follow the rules of engagement for covert operations warfare. Russia's military forces are engaged in conquest and occupation which are only within the rules of engagement for conventional warfare. They are to be categorized on the basis of their actions, not according to what Russia claims they are. Therefore despite the attempt to deceive, Russia's actions in Ukraine constitute conventional warfare and this policy would allow conventional war in response.

Now, doesn't this make a whole lot more sense than the nonsense we've gotten from our leaders over the last sixty years?

Now that's whack.

Monday, March 3, 2014

A Terrible Choice for Ukraine

People who know me may recall I predicted Egypt would be at war with Israel within five years. I will have to retract that prediction, as I did not expect the Egyptian military to stage a counter-coup and regain control of Egypt. Egypt has now stabilized and things will continue on there as normal. So much for the Egyptian experiment with democracy. Apparently the Egyptians, or at least the Egyptians with guns, hated it as much as I did.

In light of that episode, I will make another prediction with one caveat: The United States will be at war with Russia within ten years unless Putin is dead or out of power.

The events of the last few days have been surprising not because we didn't know Putin had designs on Ukraine. Anyone paying attention to the world should have known that. Generally cutting off gas during a Russian winter to influence another country's elections isn't exactly the neighborly way to behave. The crisis which started the protests in the Maidan was the Russian puppet government trying to nix a trade deal with the EU in favor of one with Russia. Russia, obviously, would like to continue having the power to smack Ukraine around by cutting off oil and gas. Ukrainians, sensibly, would rather trade for energy needs with nations that aren't bullies trying to influence their internal politics. This is why a trade deal that probably wouldn't even be in the news in other countries was a highly contentious political showdown in Ukraine.

But Putin's moves have been far more brazen than I think anyone expected. Putin appears to be trying to bait Ukraine into starting the shooting, an unfortunate situation for Ukraine to be in, especially right now. Absent a strong U.S. response, there is not much they can do. Putin appears to realize that if a shooting war begins, Russia will look like the aggressor nation and hasten a Western response. But Ukraine has the more immediate problem that a shooting war will mean its inevitable conquest. The harder they fight, the more of them will likely die and the more territory and freedom they will lose in the near term. The Nazi invasion of Poland finally convinced the world that Hitler would have to be stopped by force, but nobody wants to play the part of Poland. Putin has made a huge gamble, betting that Ukraine will fold. The decision is not yet made, but Ukraine is in the midst of an internal political crisis and lacks strong leadership, as does the U.S., which certainly figured into Putin's calculations. Putin is playing the man not the cards. It appears Ukraine will fold and Putin will end up with the Crimea for sure, and perhaps up to half of Ukraine when this is all said and done.

These events have reinforced the utility of the foreign policy section of the Paddywhack Platform. Ukraine is not a NATO member, but they are closely allied with the NATO members and for that reason ought to be considered a U.S. ally. The original version of the foreign policy section included under 5.b a provision for opposing with force any territorial aggression by China, Russia, Iran or North Korea. In fact, I included a note that Russia's invasion and occupation of Georgia in 2008 would have triggered a declaration of war by the United States under the policy. Out of all the current conflicts and hotspots in the world, this was the only example I could think of for which the policy would recommend going to war. I removed those sections because I figured it was simpler just to say that the U.S. was committed militarily to defending the territorial borders of nations considered as allies. The Russian invasion of Georgia was already over at that point and there's no sense in ex post facto war. However, that particular conflict was deeply concerning to me because of the aggression and bullying tactics Russia used. I worried that Putin would try it again because we let him get away with it in Georgia. 

Under the Paddywhack Platform, the U.S. would not have intervened in Syria, Libya or Egypt because those were internal conflicts, but would have declared war immediately against Russia for its invasion and hostile takeover of Ukrainian sovereign territory over the past few days and given Putin far more than he bargained for. If that had been our policy, the news headlines today would have been about Putin's embarrassment at being caught with his pants down trying to bully a helpless country. He never would have sent his troops into the Crimea if the price for that was a war with the U.S. that he could never hope to win. Instead we are the ones with our pants down, and Ukraine will pay the price for it. The actions of the United States in the world ever since World War II have been spotty at best. At worst, we have acted half-heartedly in pursuit of murky, ill-defined goals often motivated solely by internal politics. Because of that, when action is actually needed, which is only the case when it comes with significant cost, we are timid and hog-tied. The world does not conform to the political realities of U.S. internal politics, and there is zero connection between a workable platform of engagement with the world at large and a workable domestic political platform. I will say more about this shortly.

Unfortunately, the United States may realize this too late to stop what could have been a major embarrassment for Putin's gangster government if there had been a strong, immediate and decisive U.S. response. If Putin gets away with this as appears likely, it will only embolden him down the road. He wants all, all, of the former Soviet satellite republics under Russian hegemony and control, and he hasn't exactly endeavored to keep his intentions to himself. As I said before, this was a huge gamble for him. Having it pay off again after getting away with it in Georgia will make him even bolder. There is no telling what he might try next, but I consider it likely there will be more aggressions in the future. It is not a matter of if, but when the United States is drawn into war, and how much Putin will achieve before then. 

Now that's whack.