Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

The text below is a full version of the anlysis entitled “Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict“, which was originally released by SouthFront on October 10, 2018:

Introduction

In the Department of Defense authored summary of the National Defense Strategy of the United States for 2018, Secretary James Mattis quite succinctly sets out the challenges and goals of the U.S. military in the immediate future. Importantly, he acknowledges that the U.S. had become far too focused on counter-insurgency over the past two decades, but he seems to miss the causation of this mission in the first place. U.S. foreign policy, and its reliance on military intervention to solve all perceived problems, regime change and imperialist adventurism, resulted in the need to occupy nations, or destroy them. This leads to the growth of insurgencies, and the strengthening of long simmering religious radicalism and anti-western sentiment in the Middle East and Central Asia. The U.S. military willfully threw itself headlong into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The United States engaged in unnecessary wars, and when these wars were easily won on the immediate battlefield, the unplanned for occupations lead to guerilla insurgencies that were not so easy for a conventional military to confront. The U.S. Army was not prepared for guerilla warfare in urban areas, nor for the brutal and immoral tactics that their new enemies were willing to engage in. They obviously had not reflected upon the Soviet experience in Afghanistan, nor the nature of their new enemies. As casualties mounted due to roadside IEDs, snipers, and suicide bombers hidden amongst civilians, the U.S. military and the defense industry were forced to find ways to protect soldiers and make vehicle less vulnerable to these types of attacks. This resulted in vehicles of every description being armored and new IED resistant vehicles being designed and fielded in large numbers. This in turn, equated to a vast amount of time, effort and money. It also focused both the U.S. military services and the defense industry away from fighting conventional wars against peer adversaries.

After a decade of fighting an insurgency in Afghanistan and almost as long in Iraq, the U.S. leadership decided to destroy the sovereign nation of Libya, and foment a war in Syria immediately afterward. There is no doubt with the knowledge of historic events today, that the CIA and State Department facilitated a foreign invasion of Syria of Islamist radicals. They funded and armed these groups, provided clandestine training, and facilitated the logistical movement of fighters and weapons into a sovereign nation to cause its disintegration. In these two examples they decided not to occupy these countries, but to destroy all semblance of ordered society and replace it with brutally violent chaos. The U.S. political and military leadership seems to have learned that their past adventurism resulted in costly occupations, yet instead of refraining from using the military option as a tool to alter geopolitical realities they did not like, they merely opted to abandon the responsibility of occupation and reconstruction all together.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

Benghazi, Libya. An example of democratic progress and stability in North Africa courtesy of U.S. led “humanitarian intervention”.

While Secretary Mattis describes the “near peer” nations China and Russia as “revisionist powers”, it was not these nations that made the irresponsible and reckless decisions that have weakened the U.S. military establishment, nor aim to revise the ill-conceived and executed catastrophes of their American “peers”. They have reached a state of military and technological parity with, and in many cases a position of superiority vis a vis the United States, because they exercised better judgement over the past two decades, invested their time, talent and treasure in developing powerful conventional and nuclear forces, and refrained from using their national defense assets to punish their perceived adversaries in such a way that more damage was caused to themselves. In many ways, the poor example of the United States and its ill-conceived military expeditions, influenced both Russia and China to advance along different paths. Now, without recognizing and acknowledging the failures of leadership and decision making that have lead the U.S. military to a weakened state, the United States has declared that it is now in a period of strategic competition with the two other strongest kids on the block.

In order to understand how Secretary Mattis has come to such a declaration, we have to look at the U.S. military decisions, actions, mistakes, and failures of leadership at the highest levels that have brought us to this point. A brief analysis of the resultant metamorphosis of the United States military from a robust and balanced conventional fighting force, backed up by a viable nuclear deterrent into a force obsessed with occupation and counterinsurgency must be conducted. This must be followed by a study of how the U.S. military has decided to invest its extensive funding, the weapons systems it has pursued, and how it envisions that it is best suited to protect the national security interests of the state. Finally, a comparison must be conducted of the capabilities of its declared strategic adversaries. A conclusion can then be made regarding the ability of the United States military to successfully engage and defeat these adversaries in a future conflict.

Imperial Expansion, Regime Change and Occupation

When the Soviet Union dissolved in December of 1991, a global power vacuum was immediately created. Regardless of the many assurances given to the Gorbachev government (which were finally revealed in the December 2017 National Security Archive releases of official NATO correspondence) that NATO would not expand and that the former Soviet federated states would be included in the established European economic and security apparatus, the United States immediately embarked on a policy of NATO expansion and economic exploitation of post-Soviet territories.

Just scant months earlier, the United States deployed military forces to Saudi Arabia as the backbone of an international coalition to confront and reverse the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. This resulted in Operation Desert Shield, the greatest deployment of combined military forces on the part of the U.S. military since the Vietnam War. By January of 1991, not even a month since the U.S.S.R. ceased to be, Operation Desert Shield transitioned to Operation Desert Storm, with the invasion of Iraq and Kuwait. The conventional military power utilized by the U.S. was greatly effective, and most combat systems worked extremely well on the battlefield. Air superiority was soon absolute, as the Iraqi Air Force largely left the skies uncontested. The great success of Operation Desert Storm largely gave the military planners of the Pentagon a false sense of superiority, which as we shall see, led to a number of wrong assumptions and poor decisions being made regarding the future development and transformation of the U.S. military.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

M1A2 Abrams tank platoon advancing during Operation Desert Storm. The armored combat vehicles of the U.S. Army proved very effective against a far inferior opponent in this conflict, yet they proved capable and reliable. Logistical requirements; however, did prove to be a challenge.

The first post-Cold War military “humanitarian intervention” conducted by the U.S. was the Yugoslavian civil conflict interdiction of 1995. Predicated upon escalating ethnic atrocities, the NATO intervention was actually designed to make the fracturing of the former Yugoslavian Republic permanent, and to establish a number of pro-NATO, or pro-U.S.-Atlantic establishment nations on the Balkan periphery of Russia. Slovenia became a NATO member state in 2004, followed by Croatia in 2009, and then Montenegro in 2017. At the same time that a civil war was raging in the former Republic of Yugoslavia, the U.S. and its Gulf State allies fomented and aided Islamic insurgencies in the Caucasus Republics of the newly comprised Russian Federation in an attempt to further weaken and encircle it. At the conclusion of U.S. intervention in the Balkans, which included the deployment of U.S. ground forces as part of multiple NATO-led operations including Operation Joint Endeavor, Operation Joint Guard and Joint Forge in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the Kosovo Force (KFOR), the United States would de facto create the statelet of Kosovo. As many as 43,000 NATO troops were serving as part of these operations at any given time between 1995 and 2002.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

U.S. Camp Bondsteel in the U.S. sponsored protectorate of Kosovo located in southwestern Serbia. The intervention in Kosovo had nothing to do with humanitarian concerns as usual, but in establishing a permanent military foothold in the Balkans.

As I have described and explained in an earlier analysis entitled “U.S. Army Armored Vehicle Developments in the 21st Century; The Future Combat System gives way to Mobile Protected Firepower”, although the U.S. military leadership was pleased with the performance of its legacy armored vehicles and weapons systems in both Operation Desert Storm and its Operation Joint Endeavor, it was not satisfied with the amount of time required to deploy large combined Arms units via available sealift and airlift capacity. The complex logistics involved in mobilizing and moving heavy armored units does not lend well to rapid deployments, especially over significant distances. Even pre-deployment of heavy armored equipment, either in host countries or loaded in sealift vessels kept on stand-by at forward deployed bases (such as Diego Garcia) or berthed at major seaports of the continental United States, present a whole host of logistical challenges.

The desire to streamline U.S. military logistics, and to create a fighting force that was more rapidly deployable, flexible and yet maintained the highest levels of lethality, and that leveraged advanced information technologies and communications systems led to the genesis of the Future Combat System (FCS). Embracing the FCS concept, the Army set very high deployment goals, which would prove to be unattainable. General Eric Shinseki, then Chief of Staff of the Army, stated that the Army would strive to attain the ability to deploy a combat brigade anywhere in the world within 96 hours, a full division within 120 hours, and no less than five divisions in 30 days. Then Secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld was a vocal supporter of the FCS concept. The U.S. Army would eventually pursue the FCS program, the largest defense acquisition program in U.S. military history with a price tag of approximately $200 billion USD. The program was eventually cancelled in 2009, yet its influence in transforming the U.S. Army have proven substantial, and have had a negative influence on the Army’s ability to fight near peer adversaries in today’s warfighting environment.

The United States military would become a force for invasion and occupation during the Neo-Con era spanning from 2000 to the present. BY 2003, the U.S. was once again invading Iraqi territory, this time during Operation Iraqi Freedom. By this time the U.S. Army had partially realized some aspects of FCS, mainly in the area of rapidly deploying combat ready forces of the Brigade size. Operation Iraqi Freedom was envisioned as a rapid invasion utilizing highly mobile, self-contained, combined-arms combat teams supported by overwhelming airpower. The Iraqi military was far weaker in 2003 than it had been in 1991. It was a shadow of its former self and had been repeatedly targeted over the intervening decade, especially its air-defense and command and control networks. A combined ground force of approximately 148,000 men was deployed and ready for offensive operations in approximately a month and a half. Ground operations of the invasion lasted from March 20th until May 1st, 2003. The initial victory was impressive, but it soon became quite obvious that there was no realistic and pragmatic plan to occupy the country and render aid to a stable and capable new government.

What followed was a time of crisis for the U.S. military. When the U.S. soldiers were not greeted as liberators, and a number of organized and ruthless anti-occupation insurgencies formed, some motivated my patriotism, some my tribal and religious factions, and still others by terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda, the soldiers tasked with the occupation of Iraq were woefully unprepared for the task asked of them. U.S. troops deployed to a nation whose minimal civil infrastructure they had just destroyed, were tasked with reconstruction and nation building in a country producing a growing anti-occupation insurgency on many different levels. Convoys and patrols were increasingly the targets of ambushes by insurgents operating along key roadways and within urban centers. Light vehicles and military transports were targeted and destroyed in significant numbers, and the crews had no protection from weapons ranging from small arms and RPGs to extremely powerful improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

The Bush administration at the time, who had claimed that the U.S. troops would be widely embraced as liberators, began to scramble for ways to reduce the mounting U.S. casualties. The answer was to add armored protection to all existing vehicles, whether they be HMMWVs, or the LMTVs and HEMMTs of the logistics units. Adding armor to logistical support vehicles not meant to see front line combat greatly reduced their fuel efficiency (of great importance in the logistics arm) and was only accomplished at great cost. The U.S. Army only had one armored security vehicle in active service at this time, the M1117, albeit in small numbers. The decision was made to armor the ubiquitous HMMWV and to give it the tasks of armored patrol, internal security and crowd control vehicle. The HMMWV was designed and used quite effectively as a light utility vehicle and had always performed well in such a role; however, it was never intended for the roles it was called upon to perform after 2003.

An Obsession with MRAPs

A number of different armor packages were developed for the HMMWV, mainly to increase the likelihood of crew survivability. The armored Hummer was merely a stopgap until purpose-built armored vehicles could be developed and fielded in greater numbers. Although effective against high caliber small arms, shrapnel and mines, the M1117 was fielded in very limited numbers in 2003 with military police units, mostly in security duties on U.S. military installations. Large orders of the vehicle were placed after the 2003 Iraq invasion, and the number grew from approximately 50 to over 1,800 units in active service.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

M1117 at the head of a column of HMMWVs and an LMTV halted along a road in Iraq sometime after the 2003 invasion.

The U.S. military enlisted the help of both the U.S. and international defense industry to produce an armored vehicle that could better serve the needs of an army now faced with occupying not only one rebellious nation, but two. Between 2003 and 2007, the U.S. military would suffer increasing casualties in both the Iraq and Afghanistan theatres of occupation. In the case of Afghanistan, casualties would continue to increase until 2010 before decreasing over consecutive years. Most of these casualties were the result of ambushes with IEDs. Such attacks increased six fold from 2003 to 2007.

The DOD would award billions of dollars in contracts for Mine Resistant Ambushed Protected vehicles (MRAP) between 2003 and the present. The total acquisition cost of the various MRAPs ordered and put into service conservatively exceeds $45 billion USD. The U.S. military has no less than seven different types of MRAPs in service as of today, more than any other nation by far. As the U.S. has reduced its active footprint in both Afghanistan and Iraq, it has sold many of these vehicles to local security forces, and even U.S. domestic police forces, as they are of little use on a contested battlefield where the U.S. military would be fighting a conventional conflict with a powerful adversary. The following list details the main types of MRAPS in use by the U.S. military and costs associated:

M-ATV

The genesis of the MRAP All Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV) was the desire to gain both the IED level protection of an MRAP and the mobility of a lighter all-terrain vehicle. It was realized early on that the armored M1114 HMMWV variant sacrificed much of its off road performance with the addition of heavy armor plate, yet failed to provide adequate protection. A purpose-built light MRAP was called for. Oshkosh Corporation was awarded the initial $1 billion USD contract to supply the new M-ATV to the U.S. Army, USMC, Air Force and Special Operations Command (which employs special operations elements of all the military services) in mid-2009. The initial contract order grew four fold within a few years, and total M-ATVs produced to date has approached 10,000 units of different variants. The acquisition cost not corrected for inflation likely exceeds $4 billion USD, and additional contracts have been awarded to update and refit all units retained in U.S. service. Many units have since been handed over to allied governments in the Middle East and Europe at far reduced prices. NATO recipients include both Poland and Croatia.  Both the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia have made use of the M-ATV in the conflict in Yemen, and have lost a significant number in combat.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

Comparative size of the armored HMMWV and the M-ATV. The ubiquitous “Hummer” was never meant to be an armored car, and hundreds were destroyed by IEDs in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Cougar

The Cougar is a much more robust vehicle than the M-ATV, resembling a heavily armored truck. It comes in a 4 x 4 and larger 6 x 6 version, with several variants based on these two platforms, depending on the intended role. The Cougar was developed by Force Protection, Inc. in 2004. The company was later acquired by General Dynamics in 2011. The Cougar was rushed into service after a very simple and rudimentary testing program in 2004, as the U.S. military wanted thousands of MRAPs for service in Iraq as soon as possible. The Cougar can trace its lineage to earlier South African designed and fielded vehicles, and was also adopted into British and Canadian service as well.

The Cougar was produced in great numbers between 2004 and 2010 for the U.S. military, with further orders filled by the British military, who have fielded the Cougar in at least 4 different variants. A number of Cougars have also be gifted to other NATO countries with contingents serving in Afghanistan. The U.S. military spent approximately $2.5-3.0 billion USD to acquire its Cougars, and additional funds have been spent to upgrade the roughly 20% of the surviving fleet selected to remain in service.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

British Army variants of the 4×4 and 6×6 Cougar (Mastiff and Ridgeback) in a convoy protecting military transports in Afghanistan.

Caiman

Probably the most cost effective MRAP to be developed to meet the requirements of the MRAP Vehicle Program is the Armor Holdings (since acquired by BAE Systems) Caiman. The Caiman initially shared 85% of its construction components with the Stewart & Stevenson/Oshkosh family of military tactical vehicles (FMTV). This family of light to medium trucks have been produced since the early 1980s, with over 74,000 units of varying configuration put into service. This commonality of construction reduced manufacturing, maintenance and inventory carrying costs. The total cost of the Caiman contract (including a later contract to upgrade and improve vehicles to the Multi-Terrain Vehicle standard) amounted to over $1.15 billion USD. The United States sold 1,150 Caiman MRAPs that had been put in surplus status to the U.A.E. to aid in their operations in Yemen.

MaxxPro

Manufactured by Navistar Defense, a subsidiary of the Navistar International Corporation, the MaxxPro MRAP is based on a commercial truck chassis and makes use of a bolt-on armor construction as much as possible. This reduces manufacturing cost when compared to welded construction, and allows for easier repair in the field. Approximately 9,000 MaxxPro MRAPs were built for the U.S. Army, Marine Corps and Air Force. At an average per unit cost of $515,000 USD, the Maxxpro cost the United States military over $4.6 billion USD, not counting a number of upgrade contracts. Of the 9,000 units constructed and delivered, the U.S. military services announced in 2013 the intension of keeping only a third of these units in service beyond 2014.

Buffalo MPRC

The largest MRAP in the U.S. inventory, the Buffalo was designed as an IED and mine clearance vehicle. Manufactured by Force Protection Inc., it is based on the Casspir MRAP that has been in service with the South African Army for decades. The Buffalo in a 6×6 armored vehicle with a maximum service weight of 25,000 kgs. (56,000 lbs.). After building the first 200 units, the Buffalo was upgraded to the A2 standard in 2009, after which an additional 450 units were produced. Over 750 total Buffalos have been produced in total, with 650 of these in service with the U.S. military at a cost of over $1 billion USD.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

Force Protection Buffalo IED and Mine Clearance MRAP removing an explosive devise by use of its articulated, hydraulically-operated claw.

The Buffalo’s origins are clearly a response to the dangers posed by a prolonged military occupation in an environment of active guerilla warfare. It was based on a proven design, and has been extremely effective in its intended role. The traditional vehicle for mine clearance or IED disposal would normally be an MBT fitted with mine clearance apparatus. The Buffalo is cheaper to manufacture, maintain and operate than an MBT, and is slightly more flexible in a multitude of environments. It also can accommodate 12 soldiers in addition to a normal crew of two.

Nyala RG-31/33

Manufactured by Land Systems OMC (BAE Land Systems) of South Africa and FNSS of Turkey, the RG-31/33 NyalaMRAP is produced in a 4×4 (RG-31) and 6×6 (RG-33) version to meet the requirements of the Mine Resistant Ambushed Protected Vehicle Program. Although used by the U.S. military in the highest numbers (almost 2,000 vehicles), ten other nations use this MRAP to some degree. The USMC ordered 1,385 of the Mark 5E variant, and operate more RG-31s than any other military service. The total cost of RG-31/33 acquisition is easily in excess of $2.7 billion USD.

JLTV

The most ambitious of all of the MRAP programs, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) is meant to replace the HMMWV in use by all of the U.S. military branches. Although the design of the new vehicle is meant to allow it to exceed at a number of military tasks, it is at its core a mine resistant, ambush protected vehicle. The JLTV is suited to take over the tasks of light armored reconnaissance, armored security, special operations, utility and convoy protection. The JLTV is meant to be flexible enough to perform all of these tasks and its very design allows for the upgrading or downgrading of armor and weapons systems tailored to the task required.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimated in 2015 that the total acquisition cost of the JLTV across all services would likely be $53.5 billion USD, with a total of 5,500 units for the UMC and 49,099 for the U.S. Army requested. In 2016, the Department of Defense claimed that the total cost of the program would be reduced due to revised unit costs and corrected “cost estimate methodologies”; however, past experience has proven that the Pentagon is usually quite bad when it comes to managing finances. The procurement timetable proposed has the first JLTVs being delivered beginning in 2018, and not being completed until 2040 for the U.S. Army. The 5,500 units requested by the USMC should be delivered between 2018 and 2022.

The JLTV program clearly embodies the U.S. military’s fixation on its experiences in both Iraq and Afghanistan with occupation and the resultant insurgencies motivated by inevitable anti-U.S. and anti-Western sentiments. Invaders are never seen as liberators, but always as subjugators and occupiers. Occupiers are never safe, as the frontline is everywhere. The U.S. military reacted to protect itself by armoring everything. Light utility vehicles and logistics transport of all categories were armored for protection. Only a nation that plans to invade and occupy other countries, and that will find itself always in a hostile environment will require so many MRAPs and armored transports. No other major military in the world has decided to follow this new U.S. model. Perhaps that is due to the fact that the main duty of their armed forces is to fight defensively in defending their own territory. Armies of national defense have no need to prepare themselves to fight a hostile native population.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

A side-by-side comparison of an unarmored HMMWV and an armored JLTV. The new vehicle is twice as heavy as the standard HMMWV.

The JLTV is an armored, all-terrain monster that can carry a payload between 1,600 and 2,300 kgs. (3,500 – 5,100 lbs.), weapons as large as the SHORAD (Short Range Air Defense variant of the Hellfire missile) or the 30mm M230LF automatic cannon, and provide crew survivability in most IED attacks. The DOD has decided to replace both MRAPs and the HMMWV family of utility vehicles with the new JLTV platform. The JLTV is equipped with a 6.6 liter diesel V8 which can generate at least 300 horse power. The vehicle weighs in at between 14,000 and 15,639lbs. depending on the variant. By comparison, the unarmored HMMWV weighed in at 7,700 lbs. fully loaded and made use of a diesel V8 (some models used a turbo diesel) generating a maximum 190 hp. Even considering greater efficiencies achieved through modern internal combustion engine technology, a vehicle that weighs twice as much and requires greater horsepower will lead to higher fuel consumption and require higher levels of maintenance.

Counter Insurgency

Not only did the U.S. military experience with occupation and counterinsurgency shape the armored vehicle procurement projects and design priorities of future armored vehicle acquisitions, but it also resulted in an over-focusing of resources toward a traditionally elite, limited and specialized subset of conventional fighting forces; special operations. All effective modern national defense forces operate a small cadre of special operations units. These units are made up of highly motivated, highly trained and highly skilled soldiers who can perform any number of military tasks, but are specifically focused on asymmetrical, hybrid and very specialized warfare subsets. They complement and enhance conventional fighting forces, and often act as significant force multipliers in any conflict.

Prior to the U.S. wars of occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States operated a robust special operations force comprising of units from all services. The considerable investment in these highly selective forces, the high standards demanded, and the extremely difficult training requirements have always kept these forces small; however this has changed a great deal over the past 17 years. The need for soldiers with a skill set specific to counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan lead to increased focus and demand on special operations. From 2001 to the present, the special operations forces under the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) have expanded from 42,800 to approximately 63,500 today. Special operations specific funding has grown four fold in the same time period, from $3.1 billion USD to $12.3 billion USD. According to SOCOM, an average of 8,300 special operators are deployed in missions in as many as 149 nations across the globe on a weekly basis, and 70 nations on any given day.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

U.S. Special Operations Command has access to uniquely qualified units from across all branches of the U.S. military.

There is little doubt that the Pentagon’s over-focus on counterinsurgency (the State Department is guilty here as well) has lead to U.S. military adventurism involving it in the internal conflicts of 75% of the countries of the world. Does this clandestine military involvement in the civil or regional strife of most of the planet really have anything to do with U.S. national security? Does it make the U.S. any safer, or is it only creating more enemies? SOCOM has even deployed assets to clandestinely train amongst the civilian population of the United States itself, a clear violation of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878.

This disproportional over-emphasis on special operations has resulted in an atrophying of more traditional martial structures and establishments. While the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation have stayed at the forefront of modern armor and artillery development, and have advanced the related tactics, the United States has fallen far behind. Even the Peoples Liberation Army has made great strides in these conventional warfare realms in comparison to the United States. The United States surely has the economic resources, and the technical capability to close the gap, but the focus of the military needs to be realigned toward conventional warfighting.

Secretary Mattis has obviously recognized the need to focus higher procurement towards conventional forces, as well as fund R&D efforts into better field artillery, rocket artillery, armored fighting vehicles such as the AMPV, and a new main battle tank (MBT). In identifying near peer adversaries as the greatest national security threat, Secretary Mattis realizes that the U.S. must waste no time in closing the technological and quality gap that now exists between the conventional fighting forces of the United States and Russia and China respectively.

A Navy in Disarray

While the ground forces of the United States have suffered from two decades of occupation and counterinsurgency, which has morphed them from a balanced, combined arms conventional fighting force, into a force obsessed with IEDs, insurgents and guerilla warfare, the U.S. Navy seems to have lost any idea of its national security role. After two decades of enjoying uncontested control of the seas and the ability to use aircraft carrier-borne airstrikes to pummel inferior adversaries, none of which possessed a viable navy or air force, nor a modern air defense network or shore-based anti-naval capability, the U.S. Navy has seemed determined to sail further into the realm of irrelevancy in any future conflict. Unless it intends to engage in battle against significantly weaker opponents, the U.S. Navy will not possess an advantage over its two most powerful possible adversaries, Russia and China.

The United States Navy has not engaged in a major naval engagement with a major adversary since the closing days of World War Two. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union largely kept one another at bay, with very close competition leading to significant advancements in naval warfare. They did not engage in any verified hostile actions. Although the U.S. Navy engaged in combat with Libyan military forces in 1986 in the Gulf of Sidra, as well as sunk a small force of Iraqi Navy vessels of small displacement at the “Battle of Bubiyan” (not really much of a battle at all and UK Navy helicopters did most of the fighting), these engagements were largely one-sided and no one could ever say that the outcomes were a surprise. Regardless, the U.S. Navy apparently has decided that it is an indomitable force that can go wherever it pleases and no one can stand in its way. Such hubris and arrogance are one of the reasons why it is in such poor shape today. The other reason must surely be attributed to a military industrial complex that has sold the service on an expensive pipe dream of wonder weapons that have failed to live up to their hype. All to the tune of huge profits. The following are the most egregious examples:

The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)

Based on a flawed concept from the start, of a small surface combatant that could make use of modularity to tailor it to specific tasks as opposed to a traditional multi-purpose design, the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) was largely doomed for a number of reasons. Two different designs were awarded contracts, the trimaran Independence Class designed by General Dynamics, and the mono-hull Freedom Class designed by Lockheed Martin. The decision to produce two different designs to meet the needs of a single class should have been seen as problematic. Here the Navy accepted the responsibility and costs associated with maintaining two different platforms, with separate maintenance needs and schedules, not to mention two separate training programs for LCS crews.

The concept of the LCS was also divergent in many respects, and quite frankly, too much was expected of a ship that was smaller in size than a conventional frigate. The U.S. Navy expected the vessels to marry significant striking power, with modularity tailored to just about every form of modern naval warfare, and new networking and information technologies that would reduce the required crew to a minimum. What resulted was what those serving in the force would begrudgingly coin the “Little Crappy Ship”. The aluminum and composite (Independence Class) and lightweight steel (Freedom Class) hulls of the ships provide little armored protection, offensive striking power is far from adequate for either surface warfare or fire support for forces deployed inland, the platform has yet to meet anti-submarine requirements, and the reduced crew size has been determined to be unmanageable.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

This image of the construction of USS Independence LCS-2, clearly illustrates the aluminum structure of the hull. Aluminum offers little armored protection, burns vigorously at high temperature, and led to increased corrosion of steal propulsion components in areas where the dissimilar metals were in close proximity below the waterline.

As a result of its overwhelming failure to meet the expectations of the U.S. Navy or Congressional oversight, the total fleet size of LCS vessels has been reduced from the original 50 planned down to 32. Project cost overruns, a number of high profile system failures, and the smaller fleet size have resulted in a total cost of $12.4 billion USD for the first 26 vessels. The U.S. Congress capped the per-unit cost at $480 million per ship, bringing the theoretical total cost to $15.5 billion USD. All for a ship that has a minimal chance of surviving most modern naval combat scenarios. There is little wonder why the U.S. Navy has decided to start building a multi-purpose frigate, dubbed the FFG(X), to pick up where the LCS has failed.

 DDG 1000 Zumwalt Class

If the LCS was not a huge and unequivocal disappointment, then the much vaunted stealth destroyer, the DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class was a total embarrassment and unmitigated failure.  Envisioned as a high-tech game changer, the DDG-1000 was supposed to make use of powerful new technologies, overwhelming firepower, and massive power generation, all wrapped in stealth that would render it invisible. Although designed as a multi-mission surface combatant, added emphasis was put on naval surface fire support (NSFS) while operating in littoral waters. Due to a number of factors, mostly the exorbitant cost of the program, the Navy is now trying to find a role for the Zumwaltclass vessels.

Originally, the Navy intended to build 32 of these stealth destroyers, yet the exorbitant initial cost plus huge cost overruns led the Navy and the U.S. Congress to reduce the fleet to 24, then 16, then 7, and finally to only 3 vessels. Correspondingly, the cost per vessel increased tremendously, as did the cost of all class-specific systems including weapons systems, power generation and propulsion systems. Cost per vessel stands at over $7.5 billion USD.

The 155mm Mark 51 advanced gun system (AGS) deck guns designed specifically for the DDG 1000s were made to fire guided rounds over a range in excess of 80 nautical miles, with a circular error probable (CEP) of just 50 meters (160ft.). Each DDG 1000 is equipped with two AGS on the forward deck. These guns were designed to strike shore targets accurately from coastal waters in support of allied ground forces and amphibious landing forces. Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems developed the Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP) for use in the AGS, but due to the now 3 vessel fleet, the per unit cost of each LRLAP had risen to over $800,000 USD. The Navy had already procured 90 rounds before the decision was made to cease purchasing the rounds due to the prohibitive costs.

The DDG-1000 utilizes the same MT-30 Rolls Royce gas turbine engines as the Freedom Class LCS vessels; however, in the case of the destroyers the gas turbine is linked to a massive electrical grid that not only powers the electric motors that propel the vessel, but just about every other system onboard, including the weapons systems. The arrangement is proving problematic, as the first two vessels in class have both experienced main engine failures and damages. The USS Michael Monsoor DDG-1001 suffered damage to the turbine blades of one of its main engines during sea trials in February of this year. The MT-30 engine will have to be replaced at the cost of $20 million USD. The USS Zumwalt DDG-1000 famously broke down during its transit from Maine to San Diego and had to be towed from the Panama Canal to its new home port.

The U.S. Navy is now struggling to find a new niche for the DDG-1000s. Now that its NSFS mission is a non-starter, it is being adapted as a platform to strike inland targets with land-attack cruise missiles (LACM) and engage other surface ships with an anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM) that has yet to be accepted into the service. The DDG-1000s lack a strong anti-air warfare (AAW) capability, and would thus be tied to other fleet components such as the Arleigh Burke Class DDG-51s and Ticonderoga Class CGs which have strong AAW capabilities. In an attempt to utilize the USS Zumwalt, the Navy has added legacy weapons systems, radars and communications antennas to the stealthy superstructure, undoubtedly negating its minimal radar signature. It remains to be seen what munitions will be provided for the two AGS turrets, as no munitions other than the cost prohibitive LRLAP exist.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

The latest revision of the DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class lead vessel’s once smooth and unblemished superstructure is now marred by various external sensory and communications arrays. Two rear deck guns for close-in defense have also been added.

CVN-78 Gerald R. Ford Class

As if the U.S. Navy was not content with wasting $38 billion USD on the failed LCS and DDG-1000 programs, an even more grandiose undertaking was envisioned for the service that would revolutionize the all too important and largely obsolete “super carrier”. It is a widely accepted fact that the U.S. Navy has been obsessed with the aircraft carrier since World War II and the pivotal naval battles between the U.S. Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy. This obsession is alive and well to this day, seemingly immune to the realities of modern missile technology, especially in regard to guidance, speed, range, and the advent of armed and semi-autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) of increasing lethality.

The U.S. Navy embarked on a program to replace the existing Nimitz Class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers currently comprising the central component of the aircraft carrier strike groups (ASG), of which the service operates 10 (with the additional CVN-65 Enterprise in reserve), in 2005 with the advanced construction of CVN-78. In 2008 the U.S. Navy signed a contract with Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding worth approximately $5.1 billion USD to build the first in a series of four such carriers. The goal is to build each carrier in four year periods under the current funding schedule. The Gerald R. Ford Class was supposed to take advantage of a number of new technologies and experience significantly improved efficiencies in aircraft carrier operations over the preceding Nimitz Class.

While the initial cost estimate for CVN-78 was around $10 billion USD (U.S. Congress had caped it at $10.5 billion USD in 2007), the total cost for the vessel has exceeded $13 billion USD as of May of this year when it was revealed that the Advanced Weapons Elevator and a main thrust bearing had suffered damage in sea trials and required repair. The CVN-78 is by far the most expensive warship ever constructed. In a controversial move, it was decided to try and incorporate a number of new, unproven systems in the new design. In retrospect, this decision was bound to result in cost overruns and a more problematic breaking-in period. New systems integrated into the Gerald R. Fordinclude an electro-magnetic launching system (EMALS), advanced aircraft arresting system, advanced weapons elevator system, dual band radar (DBR), and a more powerful nuclear reactor.

There was much discussion in the Navy regarding the wisdom of introducing so many new technologies in a single platform. Many senior officers argued that there were bound to be serious delays in working through both the foreseeable and unforeseeable problems associated with rendering so many new technologies operational. This opinion turned out to be of merit, as the Gerald R. Ford immediately experienced problems with just about all of its new systems. The vessel has experienced two main propulsion malfunctions over the past year, the advanced arresting gear has proven unreliable, and the EMALS (as well as other “critical systems”) has displayed “poor or unknown reliability” according to the Navy Operational and Test Evaluation Force. In early testing, the EMALS was unable to launch F-18 strike aircraft at weights even close to a full combat load. All of these problems or shortcomings were revealed during sea trials and the vessel returned to shipyard in Newport News, Virginian on July 15th, 2018 to undergo extensive repairs and improvements.

In should have been of little surprise to most naval architects, engineers, and naval line officers who have held vessel commands, that the above mentioned problems were inevitable. The big question is why the leadership of the Navy decided upon such a platform at all. What is the point of investing so much money and effort into such a large and advanced vessel, regardless of the unproven nature of many of the critical systems, when aircraft carriers have become so vulnerable to modern anti-ship missiles? Of even greater significance, why invest so much in a new carrier and not invest in increasing the range and striking power of the carrier air wing? An aircraft carrier is worthless without a powerful and flexible air wing element.

Carrier Air Wing Vulnerabilities

As much as President Trump and various administration officials and Senators tout the power of the U.S. military, often citing an increasing defense budget as an indicator of strength, efficiency and effectiveness, there is little doubt that U.S. naval aviation has atrophied over decades of misuse, neglect and poor decision making at the highest levels. U.S. naval aviation is arguably in its worse state since the opening days of the Pacific Theatre of operations during the Second World War. Not only is it in disrepair, but it is ill-equipped for a fight against a peer adversary.

Let us address the first issue, the ever shrinking air wing with its shrinking range. In the last decade of Cold War naval competition between The U.S. and the U.S.S.R., the Nimitz Class aircraft carriers deployed with nine, or even ten squadrons of fixed-wing aircraft. Today, that has been reduced to six. Of greater importance, the only aircraft utilized for combat operations is the F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet with all of its inherent shortcomings, most importantly its limited operational range of 370 nautical miles (full strike combat weapons load and fuel). The aircraft it replaced, the A-7 Corsair II and A-4 Skyhawk in the Navy and the F-4 Phantom in the USMC, all had much longer operational ranges and all but the A-4 had greater weapons payload capacity. The F/A-18 is a jack of all trades and a master of none. In an attempt to lower costs (although few combat aircraft has ever operated at lower cost than the A-4 Skyhawk) by using one airframes for all roles, the U.S. Navy has put all of its eggs in one basket, and that basket is not up to the task. This is not to say that the F/A-18 Hornet and F-/A-18E/F Super Hornet are poor aircraft. The plane merely cannot do all of the things asked of it as well as many other aircraft. What has resulted, is an aircraft carrier air wing that is less capable in all respects, and cannot compete and excel in a future conflict with a peer adversary.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

This image clearly illustrates the ordinance payload capacity of the A-4 Skyhawk. It could carry 9,900lbs. of munitions on 5 external hardpoints. It had an effective combat radius from an aircraft carrier of over 700 miles, and a maximum range of 2,000 miles.

Although the improved F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is significantly larger than its predecessor, and gains about 100 nautical miles in range due to larger internal fuel capacity, it still lacks the required range needed to protect its carrier. Not surprisingly, even though there was a better option, the Navy decided to use F/A-18s for aerial refueling duties as well. The S-3 Viking had been kept in service as a carrier borne aerial tanker, having given up its original role as an ASW aircraft, and was superior to the F/A-18 in this respect. Although most S-3s in service still have approximately 12,000 hours of service life left on their airframes, the Navy pushed ahead with their retirement in 2009. With a much greater range than the F/A-18 and a fuel capacity of 16,000 lbs., the S-3 was a better and far cheaper solution. The fact that it was a far cheaper option was probably its downfall. Profit drives the U.S. military industrial complex, not efficiency or performance.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

The only fixed wing aircraft that operate from U.S. Navy aircraft carriers today are the F/A-18 Hornet, F/A-18E Super Hornet and E-2C and E2-D Hawkeye AEW&C aircraft.

The second issue, which is perhaps more damning, is the fact that the F/A-18 squadrons that the Navy relies on to conduct almost all carrier air wing duties including attack/strike missions, air superiority, fleet defense, buddy refueling, anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and surveillance, are in an alarming state of disrepair. The Navy announced in February of 2017, that two thirds, or 62% of all F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets were unserviceable due to maintenance issues. Twenty-seven percent of these aircraft were undergoing major maintenance depot work, not minor or preventive maintenance. Of the 542 total F/A-18 and E/F-18 Hornets, only 170 were mission capable. Fast forward one year and a new and increased defense budget, and the Navy is still a long way from solving the shortfall in available replacement parts just to meet normal maintenance requirements. The decision was also made to take 140 of the oldest single seat Hornets (A/C variants) in the Navy and either cannibalize them for parts or transfer them to USMC squadrons that are experiencing similar maintenance issues. In the case of the USMC, they have been waiting so long for new F-35Bs that their legacy F-18s are falling into disrepair.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

Maintenance crews performing repairs on an F/A-18 aboard a carrier. The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps must address the maintenance crisis plaguing the services, yet the problem cannot be remedied at this level. Only a reduction in the tempo of deployments, flight operations or the provision of added funding will alleviate the issue which will be determined by the White House and Congress.

Has anyone asked the question, “What good is an advanced, gigantic aircraft carrier with an air wing that is limited in range and capability?” If the U.S. Navy does manage to get the first three Gerald R. Ford Class carriers in service, how many F/A-18E Super Hornets will be mission capable to fly from them? Will the F-35C and F35B Joint Strike Fighters meant to complete the complement of strike and fighter aircraft going to finally be available for deployment? Seeing that the F-35 does not close the “missile gap” that threatens U.S. aircraft carriers in general, is the Navy soliciting the defense industry to produce a carrier-borne aircraft, whether manned or unmanned, to correct this obvious weakness? Russian and Chinese anti-ship ballistic missiles and hypersonic cruise missiles can strike U.S. CSGs long before their aircraft can get within range of striking the territories of either of these near peer adversaries. This “missile gap” will not be rectified anytime soon.

The One-Size-Fits-All Fighter Aircraft

After a short review of the Navy’s decision to settle on a single airframe to fill all of the roles of the carrier air wing, it should come of little surprise that the Pentagon would come to a similar decision on a much broader scale. A cursory study of combat aviation history has proven that there is no one-size- fits-all solution to the many combat functions performed by military aviation. It appears that the decision to introduce a multi-role fighter making use of many new technologies and heavily reliant on stealth to be effective in modern aerial warfare for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and USMC was more about making huge profits for the defense industry and providing jobs to American workers than it was about providing the U.S. military with a superior tool.

The story of the development of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is a cautionary tale of a weapons development program that was ill conceived and soon spiraled out of control.  Perhaps the most controversial and scandalous of any such program, the JSF is the costliest weapons program in world history. Newly revised estimates from the Pentagon put the cost of development and procurement of the 2,056 fighters that the DOD wants at $406.1 billion USD. The total cost to procure these aircraft and maintain them over the 20 year life span of the aircraft exceeds $1.5 trillion USD.

While the F-35A first flew in 2006, the only U.S. military branch to declare the F-35 operation and to use it in combat is the USMC. The F-35 was developed from the outset for export to allied nations, and Israel has used the F-35 for strikes against targets in Syria. It is important to note that Israel has relied heavily on its decades old squadrons of F-15 and F-16 multi-role aircraft to bear the brunt of most combat missions. Approximately 300 units of all versions have been produced so far for both the U.S. military and foreign militaries, yet only Israel and the USMC have declared the aircraft combat ready. A major issue facing the program is the fact that aircraft manufacturing began years before the plane was deemed fit for operational deployment, largely because so many deficiencies have been identified and have had to be rectified. This was the result of concurrency, a procurement process that allowed for production of the aircraft prior to final approval of the design. It was agreed that all deficiencies identified would eventually be addressed and rectified in airframes already manufactured at a later date in order to bring them up to the latest standard.

Not only has the F-35 not attained wide operational status seventeen years after its first flight, but it has pulled an exorbitant amount of funding from existing, combat proven aircraft. What could have been done to maintain and improve existing squadrons of F-15 Eagles, F-16 Fighting Falcons, A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, and F/A-18 Hornets currently in varying states of disrepair and serviceability? The idea of replacing all of these front line aircraft with the F-35 is laughable. What kind of imperial hubris and institutional tunnel vision could have led to such an ill-advised decision?  The answer is the institutionalized corruption and waste of the U.S. military industrial complex. It continues to leave the United States less protected, and sends American soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen into combat with increasingly less capable weapons.

Atrophy and Exhaustion

The U.S. military has been engaged in counterinsurgency warfare in Afghanistan for over seventeen years. The disastrous invasion of Iraq, the destruction of Libya, and counterinsurgency operations in a host of nations including, but not limited to Yemen, Somalia, Niger and Nigeria, have all taken a toll on the U.S. military. Not only has a great deal of military hardware been destroyed, but a great deal of equipment has been worn out and essentially must be retired from service. More importantly, the constant deployments have undermined the personnel needs of all services, with thousands of men having been killed or physically and psychologically maimed for life. Tens of thousands of the most skilled commissioned and non-commissioned officers have left the services, many of them having served multiple combat deployments.

The fact that 62% of U.S. Navy’s F-18s are not mission capable is not an anomaly. In 2017, approximately 72% of all U.S. Air Force aircraft were not flight worthy. Many of the airframes are quite old, yet well within their engineered service life, but most are in need of maintenance. Both the Navy and Air Force claim that there is not enough money in their respective budgets to procure the needed spare parts to keep these aircraft flying. One would wonder that if this is the case, why tens of billions of dollars are being poured into new aircraft when existing fleets are being left in disrepair. The decisions being made in the upper echelon of the DOD are quite perplexing for the thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen struggling to keep weapons and vehicles ready for action.

The U.S. Army finds itself looking for buyers of surplus MRAPs, vehicles of little utility in a major conventional war with a peer adversary, while at the same time lacking spare parts and munitions for armored vehicles and artillery systems. While the Army has made some progress in procuring the first of the 49,099 JLTVs it wants, it is far behind in all other armored vehicle procurement and development programs. BAE has delivered the first batch of 29 AMPVs to the U.S. Army for extensive testing before the decision can be made to start low rate initial production (LRIP). Once the LRIP begins, it is estimated that BAE will be able to produce approximately 262 units annually, unless the company’s main manufacturing facility in Pennsylvania is expanded. The initial contract is worth $1.6 billion USD. The Army wants at least 3,000 AMPVs of six different main variants to replace the thousands of M113 armored vehicles still in service. The M113 first saw service in 1962 and a replacement for the venerable vehicle has been required for decades.

Defense Secretary James Mattis made it crystal clear in his National Defense Strategy that the U.S. must rebuild its conventional warfare capabilities. The U.S. Army’s proposed 2019 budget lays bare the new priorities of a service facing a major transition in priorities. Procurement of tracked combat vehicles, as well as artillery rounds, rockets and missiles account for much of this latest budget request. Procurement is up by 18.4% over the previous year, with procurement of weapons and tracked vehicles up 84% over the previous year. Although upgrading of the M109 Paladin self-propelled howitzer to the M109A7 level is down by 56% compared to 2018, procurement of 155mm artillery rounds is up a whopping 800%.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

The percentage of total procurement directed toward weapons and tracked combat vehicles in the 2019 proposed budget denotes that the U.S. Army recognizes its weakness in conventional warfighting capability.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

This chart clearly shows the desire on the part of the U.S. Army to upgrade and rearm conventional capabilities. 155mm artillery rounds and Army Tactical Missile System upgrades to the M207 MLRS are at the top of the list, followed by MBT upgrades and acquisition of new AMPV vehicles.

As the U.S. Army attempts to rebuild its aged and depleted armored brigade combat teams and conventional and rocket artillery, the U.S. Navy and Air Force are facing their own challenges. The Navy finds itself in a position that is far from enviable, but was very easy to predict. Having dumped $38 billion USD into two failed new classes of warships and a further $13 billion into a new aircraft carrier that will likely not become operational until 2022, the service is currently in the process of realigning its priorities. The service is struggling to procure the new VirginiaClass SSN and Columbia Class SSBNs that are required to ensure the viability of the nation’s nuclear deterrent triad well into the foreseeable future. These defensive weapons programs, which are integral to U.S. national security, could have benefitted greatly from the $50 billion wasted on the LCS, DDG-1000 and Gerald R. Ford programs. Russia and China have spent the same time wasted by the U.S. Navy on updating and modernizing their own submarine forces, chiefly their ballistic missile submarines.

Institutional Corruption

If one had to identify the main reason behind the utter failure of the U.S. political establishment and military leadership, both civilian and in uniform, to identify and prioritize weapons programs and procurement that was truly in line with the national defense needs of the country, it would be the institutional corruption of the U.S. military industrial complex. This is not a fault of one party, but is the inevitable outcome of a thoroughly corrupted system that both generates and wastes great wealth at the expense of the many for the benefit of the few.

Massive defense budgets do not lead to powerful military forces nor sound national defense strategy. The United States is the most glaring example of how a nation’s treasure can be wasted, its citizens robbed for generations, and its political processes undermined by an industry bent on maximizing profitability by encouraging and exacerbating conflict. At this point it is questionable that the United States’ could remain economically viable without war, so much of its GDP is connected in some way to the pursuit of conflict.

There is no doubt that the War Department was renamed the Department of Defense in an Orwellian sleight of hand in 1947, just a few years after end of World War II. The military industrial complex grew into a monolith during the war, and the only way to justify the expansion of the complex, was by finding a new enemy to justify the new reality of a massive standing military, something that the U.S. Constitution expressly forbids. This unlawful state of affairs has persisted and expanded into a rotten, bloated edifice of waste. Wasted effort, wasted wealth and the wasted lives of millions of people spanning every corner of the planet. Tens of thousands of brave men and women in uniform, and millions of civilians of so many nations, have been tossed into the blades of this immoral meat grinder for generations.

President Donald Trump was very proud to announce the largest U.S. military budget in the nation’s history last year. The United States spent (or more accurately, borrowed from generations yet to come) no less than $874.4 billion USD. The declared base budget for 2017 was $523.2 billion USD, yet there are also the Overseas Contingency Operations and Support budgets that have to be considered in determining the total cost. The total DOD annual costs have doubled from 2003 to the present. Yet, what has the DOD really accomplished with so much money and effort? Very little of benefit to the U.S. tax payer for sure, and paradoxically the exorbitant waste of the past fifteen years have left every branch of the U.S. military weaker.

The U.S. Congress has the duty and responsibility of reigning in the military adventurism of the executive branch. They have the sole authority to declare war, but more importantly, the sole authority to approve the budget requests of the military. It is laughable to think that the U.S. Congress will do anything to reign in military spending. The Congress and the Senate are as equally guilty as the Executive in promoting and benefitting from the military industrial complex. Envisioned as a bulwark against executive power, the U.S. Congress has become an integral component of that complex. No Senator or Representative would dare to go against the industry that employs so many constituents within their state, or pass up on the benefits afforded them through the legalized insider-trading exclusive to them, or the lucrative jobs that await them in the defense industry and the many think tanks that promote continued prosecution of war.

Possible Reforms

It would be quite simple for the U.S. Department of Defense to rectify the current endemic problems that have rendered it weaker and less prepared for a major conventional conflict with a peer adversary. The greater challenge is transforming the relationship between the federal and state governments back to the constitutionally intended one, and to dissolve the powers of the now allied executive, legislative and judicial branches of the federal government. This would undermine the ability of the military industrial complex to coerce the nation into working against the interests of the states and the citizenry. The military industrial complex and the Deep State that serves it can only exist when power is greatly concentrated in a federal system.

For the sake of argument, if the political will could be found to work against the military industrial complex in the interests of true national defense and fiscal responsibility, the following steps could be taken immediately to rectify the many problems facing the military services of the United States:

The U.S. Army

Abandon the obsession with counterinsurgency and occupation and realign the focus of the Army on the defense of the homeland and a handful of historical allies. Rebuild the Army as a lean and well-equipped conventional fighting force. The most highly trained and experienced cadres of special operations forces should be retained, with other members dispersed to more conventional infantry, airborne and reconnaissance units. Most of these men would be moved to reserve status. Personnel should be cut by at least 25%, the majority retained moved to reserve status, and many overseas bases and operations ceased. The focus should be on defense of the nation’s own territories, while also safeguarding the economic interests and maritime trade lanes that are the lifeblood of any nation.

All legacy systems that have proven capable and efficient on the modern battlefield should be refurbished and upgraded to the most modern standard. The M2 Bradley modernization program should be continued, and the AMPV program given increased priority so that the thousands of M113 vehicles can finally end their 56 year tour of duty. MRAP inventories should be reduced to the very minimum and all surplus units sold off to recoup some of the expense incurred in their procurement and the money directed into offsetting procurement costs of new AMPVs and JLTVs.

The JLTV platform is a modular, easily upgradable light tactical vehicle that can be tailored to fit the mission. Although most units should be the basic utility variant, many will need to be acquired to fill the roles of light armored reconnaissance, armored security, convoy security, and light special operations vehicles. An air-droppable airborne armored fighting vehicle should be developed based on the JLTV. The U.S. airborne forces have lacked any real armored fighting vehicle that can accompany them in parachute operations since the M551 was retired in 1996. An up-armored JLTV equipped with a 30mm autocannon would serve as a good stopgap until a purpose built tracked vehicle could be designed. The venerable and ubiquitous HMMWV should maintain its utility role in all non-combat formations, as well as the basis for the Avenger light anti-aircraft missile system for years to come.

Of greatest importance is the rejuvenation of the armored and mechanized units of the U.S. Army. The M1126 Stryker family of wheeled armored vehicles cannot bear the weight of a conventional conflict with either Russia or China. The M1A2SepV3 MBT upgrade, including the addition of the Trophy APS should be afforded adequate funding, yet the greatest need of the Army is the replacement of the M113 in combat units.  The U.S. Army’s proposed 3,000 unit procurement of AMPVs is a good start.

The artillery arm of the U.S. Army must gain the attention it has lacked since the dissolving of the Soviet Union and the success of Operation Desert Storm. U.S. military planners and the leadership of the DOD must realize the continued importance of both conventional and rocket artillery on the modern battlefield. The U.S. Army only operates two self-propelled artillery systems, the M109 Paladin and M270 MLRS. This is not necessarily a bad thing as long as both systems are maintained, upgraded and fielded in sufficient number. The M109A7 upgrade program must gain greater funding in the immediate future.

The U.S. Navy

The LCS and DDG-1000 programs are a national disgrace and should be declared as such. The two existing DDG-1000s should be used as test beds for future engineering and weapons systems. The third vessel should be cancelled immediately. As for the LCS, the existing fleet should be used for littoral patrol duties, and all units currently under construction or planned should be cancelled. Enough money has been wasted on these horribly conceived and even more horribly manifested examples of the monumental corruption and waste so integral to the U.S. defense industry.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

Freedom Class LCS (background) and Independence Class LCS (foreground). Arguably two of the most monumental failures of warship design in modern history. A cautionary tale of waste and ineptitude.

The FFG(X) program to design a modern yet conventional multi-purpose frigate for the U.S. Navy should be fully embraced. The new frigate should adhere to the traditional naval warfare duties of a frigate and should be designed to sufficiently fulfill a balance of AAW, ASW, and surface warfare missions.  In conjunction, priority should be given to procurement of the new DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Flight III. The Arleigh Burke has been the backbone of the U.S. Navy since it entered service. It is a well-designed, balanced, flexible and powerful naval combatant of significant displacement. It puts the LCS and the Zumwalt to shame in every respect, and has existed as a symbol of U.S. Navy power and presence across the length and breadth of the globe since 1991.

It is almost unconscionable that with the richest and most accomplished history of aircraft carrier aviation under its belt, that the U.S. Navy could not come up with a better design for the next generation of CVNs than the Gerald R. Ford Class. Perhaps the namesake of the lead vessel in the class was well chosen, as President Ford was far from a memorable performer; however, the wisdom of the entire program from its very inception must be questioned. The U.S. Navy must outgrow the “super carrier” fixation. There is a future for aircraft carriers, yet on a far different pattern than what the U.S. Navy has operated for the past 50 years.

The greatest area of concern for the U.S. Navy is the weakness of the carrier air wing, a weakness that will not be fundamentally corrected by the introduction of the F-35 in U.S. Navy and USMC service aboard U.S. carriers. A new, longer range fleet defense aircraft akin to a modern F-14 Tomcat must be developed. In addition, a new attack aircraft must be developed with a range that exceeds that of the F-18 Super Hornet by a factor of 100%. It is hard to believe that the F-4 Skyhawk had an operational combat radius exceeding 700 miles (2,000 mile maximum range), twice that of a Super Hornet. Additionally, the S-3 Viking must be re-tasked as a carrier borne aerial tanker, and the many airframes now mothballed, yet with thousands of hours of use left, need to be repurposed to this task. The current carrier air wing as it stands, even with the introduction of the F-35, is of little utility against a peer adversary such as Russia or China.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

S-3 Viking in use as a carrier borne aerial refueling tanker. Even without significant modification, this stout little aircraft can carry 16,000 lbs. of fuel. The US Navy has 108 of these aircraft sitting in storage at a military aircraft storage facility in Arizona.

The United States must acquire both an SSN and SSBN to replace the Los Angeles and Ohio Class vessels that are approaching the end of their service lives. There is no greater defensive role for the U.S. Navy in ensuring the security of the nation than the continued operation of its attack and ballistic missile submarine forces. Both Russia and China understand this, and have greatly modernized their own submarine forces. Much of the success they have achieved in pushing the envelope of submarine design was due to their intense competition with a U.S. Navy submarine force that was always at the cutting edge of sub-surface warfare.

Conclusion

The United States stands at a crossroads in many respects, and the nation’s military equally so. All empires experience a period of over-expansion, military, economic and political over-reach and imbalance. The United States has followed in the wake of the many imperialist endeavors before it, with apparently little lessons having been learned. Imperialism is the inevitable result of power devoid of wisdom and humility. A nation borne out of a revolution against empire and absolutism has itself devolved into a much more dangerous and immoral avatar of its former oppressor. This must change.

While Defense Secretary Mattis clearly acknowledged the need to transform the U.S. military and realign it in a direction more focused on fighting and winning a conventional conflict with the near peer adversaries he identified as Russia and China, one can only hope that he realizes how the U.S. military that he served in for decades, got to the deplorable state that it now finds itself in. The greatest enemy that the U.S. military has fought for the past seventy years is undoubtedly the military industrial complex that it is an integral component of. The Soviet Union, North Korea, Vietnam, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, and Syria were never as much of a threat to the U.S. Armed Services as the corrupt military industrial complex and the Deep State that serves as its guardian.

The United States military is in the weakest state of material strength and readiness since the conclusion of the Cold War. The conventional ground forces of the Army have been transformed into a force bent on occupation and counterinsurgency. Its heavy armored formations are in a state of disrepair and material inferiority vis-a-vis its most capable theoretical adversaries. The cornerstone of American power projection and intimidation, the aircraft carrier strike groups, are a sad shadow of their former self. The carrier air wing, the entire reason that an aircraft carrier exists in the first place, has devolved into a tool of increasingly limited utility, with an ever diminishing reach.

The corrupt military industrial system that permeates every facet of American economic, political and even cultural life has sucked the very lifeblood from the nation, eroded its morality, bankrupt its economic future, and stolen a generation of its most patriotic and selfless sons and daughters. While James Mattis acknowledges the challenges facing the national security of the United States, he clearly misattributes the blame and misidentifies the very real adversary. Russia and China are not existential threats to the continued welfare of the American state. James Mattis need only look in the mirror to see the real threat, for he has come to represent the cabal of special interests that enslaves the nation and constitution he has pledged to serve, and holds the remainder of the world equally hostage.

There is very little chance that the reforms mentioned in this analysis will be adopted, or that the United States will move in a direction that brings it back to its inception as a constitutional republic. The interests of the military industrial complex in promoting conflict, and maximizing financial profit will continue to steer the United States military, and the nation as a whole, on an unsustainable and self-destructive path. There is little doubt that if the Deep State pushes the nation to war against Russia or China, and likely an alliance of the two, that the United States military has ever been in a weaker position. Such a conflict would be of no benefit to any of the nations concerned, yet many potential flash points exist that could lead to a conflict, including the South China Sea, Syria or Ukraine. As the United States plays catch-up after decades of military adventurism, China and Russia have spent that same time patiently and judiciously gathering their strength. The scenario of a one-sided victory in favor of the United States is pure fantasy, existing only in the daydreams of the emperor who wears no clothes.

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Freedom and Other Illusions: Excursions into what used to be called “high versus low culture”

October 11, 2018

 

Freedom and Other Illusions – Excursions into what used to be called “high versus low culture”
(or, illusions concerning American art) With a view of art as revolt / counter-revolt / et cetera

by David A. Powell for The Saker Blog

Part 2 of 3 parts

“The counter concept to popular culture is art. Today artistic products are losing the character of spontaneity more and more and are being replaced by the phenomena of popular culture, which are nothing but a manipulated reproduction of reality as it is; and in doing so, popular culture sanctions and glorifies whatever it finds worth echoing. Schopenhauer remarked that music is ‘the world once more.’ This philosophic aphorism throws light on the unbridgeable difference between art and popular culture: it is the difference between an increase in insight through a medium possessing self-sustaining means and mere repetition of given facts with the use of borrowed tools.”

(From: Leo Löwenthal, “Historical Perspectives of Popular Culture”; Originally published in the American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 55, 1950; From Mass Culture – The Popular Arts in America, The Free Press: Glencoe, Illinois, 1957; pp. 49-50.)

Effectively replaced by a continually evolving universal mass (popular) culture of epic, world-historical proportions, things like art, along with the quote-unquote humanities, went out the window ages ago … in spite of all the attention these “timeless” things now get in The Web; attention and “information” much of which terminates in the clouding and neutralization of the potentially liberating, critical and / or independent-thought-inducing aspect of its subject by remaining within the illusion that one is “free” to think whatever one pleases no matter what … that is, as long as one’s thoughts never depart from group-think conditioned reflexes such as the Facebook “like” imperative.

Yet, in a world in which ONLY “information” which can be exploited has a home, this “disappearance of art” I refer to amounts primarily to the predictably logical fate of whatever refuses, due to its own inviolable inner nature, the tyranny of being instrumentalized for whatever cause regardless – those consisting of personal and / or social, political / economic worldviews and thought fallacies … all contained within a neatly pre-digested, gift-wrapped mindset existing for the sole purpose of reinforcing our cultural illusions … another endless circle we apparently can’t ever get enough of buying / buying into.

One crucial thing, in any event, should be remembered: only art worthy of its name disappears rather than submit to any kind of ideological exploitation; while the kind of art which submits and cannot ever find enough ways to compromise with the social order it obediently serves – along with all the personal “likes” it endlessly caters to – only proliferates endlessly, as can be presently observed with unambiguous clarity (that is, if one cares enough to observe such things to begin with).

What I mean here with the phrase “art worthy of its name” is exemplified by what is historically understood as the Romantic movement, a highly complex artistic / literary / philosophical / scientific / social / political phenomenon originating and flourishing during the late 1700’s in Germany, England and France – and lasting until the years immediately before the First World War (while having had its wings prematurely clipped as a consequence of the cataclysmic revolutions occurring in 1848 and affecting over 50 European countries).

But nothing directly resembling the Romantic movement in 19th century Europe ever happened in America (outside of one short-lived interlude to be touched upon below). The mainstream of American art essentially never had a viable relation to something like the tremendous, elemental force informing European Romantic thought and art. Certainly, there were “hot-house” American Romantics and sympathetic followers among a number of American intellectuals and artists during the 19th century as well as later. Nevertheless, the all-embracing, supremely PASSIONATE REVOLT of European Romanticism – which had a profound and lasting impact on all areas of human art, thought and endeavor – all this has remained an essentially a foreign entity in America.

In fact, the terms Romantic / Romanticism eventually acquired the status of pejoratives in America within certain ideologically-motivated “art circles.” The most degrading insult or criticism that my university painting professor could produce was the charge of “Romanticism” or the label “Romantic” … and I even heard the colorful variation, “warmed-over Romanticism”. My painting professor, by the way, was someone I got to know personally far better than I care to contemplate, and was the Director of my school’s Painting Department. This was during the 1970’s … and none of my professor’s anti-Romatic prejudices came out of nowhere.

Did my Romanticism-hating painting professor also paint? He sure did … that is, in a diametrically opposed direction to my own painting, which my professor, being the consistent authoritarian that he was, literally ordered me to stop doing. And, like every authoritarian dictator, my professor had more than his share of loyal acolytes and henchmen: a small army of devoted student teaching assistants who relished their roles of being able to terrorize their fellow painting students using my professor’s ideology – which, naturally, they all devoutly believed and shared with my professor to the utmost fanatical degree. The Painting Department at my school, therefore, had far more in common with a small country under the control of a ruthless dictator than anything having remotely to do with art – let alone any kind of independent thought or “creative activity.”

Then, there were the student Art Discussion Seminars which my professor held in his home during which all art-and-culture-related issues were covered (but closely “moderated” under my professor’s vigilantly censorious eye). The gist of what I took away from these events, however, were my professor’s amateurish attempts in the direction of what he mistook for profoundly “progressive” attitudes concerning “art and culture” … and all of which turned out to bear an uncanny likeness (as I remember realizing at the time) to the “Artistic / Cultural Statements To The Nation” which had come from another “artistically-committed leader” by the name of Adolf Hitler … and to the following statement in particular, in which Hitler proclaims:

“The proof of the endowment of a true artist is always to be found in the fact that his work of art expresses the general will of a period.”

[“expresses” being Hitler’s “refined” way of saying: “unconditionally obeys – or else“]

(From: Adolf Hitler, “House of German Art Dedication Speech”, Munich, July 18, 1937. https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Art)

In “the eyes of the world,” (i.e, the myth-based worldview of American culture) my former professor is now remembered as having been entirely “successful” with his art and teaching career. His motto, which he delivered in his lectures with nothing short of missionary zeal amounted to the following: “Either one totally compromises with the ruling order or one fails miserably“; and which he liked to end with: “… and if you don’t believe me and go your own way, don’t ever come back and tell me that I didn’t warn you … so, get all of those Romantic Thoughts out of your heads!”

Therefore, it was only inevitable that my painting professor would eventually score a retrospective exhibition of his work in one of New York’s major art museums (one enjoying – then as now – universal world-wide fame). How do I know this? Because I was there – having unintentionally stumbled into the exhibition’s opening reception around a decade after my university days … you know, where everyone stands around with a drink in their hand … which included a face-to-face encounter with my former painting professor during which his nearby wife pointedly asked me: “Why don’t you congratulate [name withheld] on his exhibit?” (and I even remember feeling guilty for a couple of minutes after she completely nailed me with this question due to my shamelessly rude failure of not immediately clicking my heels and doing so … while my former professor and I only speechlessly stared at one another in total disbelief most likely because we’d been nothing outside complete pains in the ass for one another during my student days) … all occurring after I’d viewed a different exhibit in another part of the museum. But more concerning my former professor a bit later …

Of course, nothing of what I write here is intended as any sort of comprehensive account of American art as a whole – one including music, literature and visual arts, etc. But the following can, with certainty, be said of the historical origins of the American visual art scene (with specific applicability for its New York based capitol). Even though American visual artists studied extensively during the 19th century in various European academies (Europe being where first-rate art schools existed at the time in contrast to America), the work they produced upon returning home was completely tailored to fit the worldview cultivated by the elite financial class then spearheading America’s developing industrial capitalism. The identification of the American artist during this period with the members of a wealthy elite amounted, on one level, to the most expedient career move possible to insure the acquisition of maximum financial and social success within the anglo-American system (while the “have-nots” of American society were summarily regarded as low-class “losers”). Yet, in a far more important sense, this identification also firmly cemented the very notion and practice of art itself within the myth-based system of American culture as a whole – together with the ethos of a thoroughly capitalist worldview – which had already begun to assume the religious character it now possesses.

To make a very long story far shorter than it should be: within the visual arts in America, the only force to ever challenge the mythology which had already engulfed American culture was a counter-mythology pursued by the so-called “New York School of Painting” of the 1940’s–early 1960’s (a very loosely affiliated group of individual New York painters inaccurately described to this day as practitioners of the critically fabricated phenomenon now known as “Abstract Expressionism”).

But when I speak of a “counter-mythology” having been pursued by this loosely affiliated group (i.e., by a few of its members), I’m using a term employed in the writings of the painters themselves: what was called “a new myth” capable of effectively coping with the entirely New Reality which descended upon all of us along with the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan (a New Reality which, at the time, was calculatedly brushed aside by both the majority of the American press and the political / intellectual power elite alike as being merely “a natural, inevitable consequence of scientific / technological progress”). The CIA’s ensuing, clandestine Cold War “weaponization” of the work of the members of the New York School of Painting during this period finally signaled, in a profoundly symbolic manner, the complete end of the only major art phenomenon in America to have ever approached the status of a neo-Romantic revolt … and fully consistent with my painting professor’s hatred of whatever he perceived as being even remotely “Romantic.”

In the words of Dwight Macdonald (appearing in Politics, September, 1945): “The Authorities have made valiant attempts to reduce the thing [the atomic bomb] to a human context, where such concepts as Justice, Reason, Progress could be employed.… The flimsiness of these justifications is apparent; any atrocious action, absolutely any one, could be excused on such grounds. For there is really only one possible answer to the problem posed by Dostoevski’s Grand Inquisitor: if all mankind could realize eternal and complete happiness by torturing to death a single child, would this act be morally justified?… From President Truman down, they emphasized that the Bomb has been produced in the normal, orderly course of scientific experiment, that it is thus simply the latest step in man’s long struggle to control the forces of nature, in a word that it is Progress.

The Bomb is the natural product of the kind of society we have created. It is as easy, normal and unforced an expression of the American Way of Life as electric ice-boxes, banana splits and hydromatic-drive automobiles.

Again, the effort to ‘humanize’ the Bomb by showing how it fits into our normal everyday life also cuts the other way: it reveals how inhuman our normal life has become.”

(From: Dwight Macdonald, “Memoirs of a Revolutionist” (Politics, September, 1945); quoted in: Serge Guilbaut, How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art – Abstract Expressionism, Freedom and the Cold War, 1983. https://academic.oup.com/oaj/article-abstract/7/2/60/1417806); See also the 1974 article by Eva Cockcroft, “Abstract Expressionism, Weapon of the Cold War” https://scrapaduq.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/modern-art-was-cia-weapon/evacockroft/ )

Comment from Serge Guilbaut: “For Macdonald, the dehumanization of society that made it possible to produce a weapon as sophisticated as the atom bomb, that made it possible for 125,000 workers to participate in a project without knowing the purpose of what they were doing, was incomprehensible. Under such conditions, he maintained, the words ‘democracy,’ ‘freedom,’ ‘progress,’ and ‘science’ no longer meant anything.”

Aside from being overwhelmed by the description of our own hellish reality already laid out by Macdonald in 1945, I was unexpectedly struck by his reference to “hydromatic-drive automobiles” (along with the now quaint-sounding term, “electric ice boxes” which I still heard as a kid). But who in the world remembers such formerly state-of-the-art wheels employing “hydromatic-drive”? (probably not many outside antique car fanatics). More importantly, though, these now-aging critical barbs aimed at the convenience-and-progress obsessions of The American Way of Life alerted me to some very nearby passages from Malevich’s The World as Objectlessness (which would have bitten me, had they been snakes):

“Life as social relations, like a homeless tramp, enters every form of Art and makes it its living space. And convinced, on top of that, that it was the cause of the appearance of that form of Art. After a night’s sleep, it abandons the housing as an unneeded thing, and it turns out that after life empties Art, Art becomes more valuable, it is kept in museums not as an expedient thing but as objectless Art per se, for it had never come from expedient life.

Objectless Art stands without windows or doors, like a spiritual sensation that does not seek prosperity or expeditious things or trade profit of ideas – neither prosperity nor ‘promised lands.’

The art of Moses is the path whose goal is to lead us into the ‘promised land.’ Therefore, he is still building expeditious things and railroad tracks, because the people being led are tired of walking out of ‘Egypt.’ Humanity is already tired of riding in trains, it is learning to fly and will soon soar up, but the ‘promised land’ is not in sight.

That is the reason why Moses was never interested in Art and is not interested now, for most of all he wants to find the ‘promised land.’

Therefore he banishes abstract phenomena and confirms concrete ones. Therefore his life is not in the objectless spirit but only in mathematical calculations of profit. Hence Christ did not come to confirm the expeditious laws of Moses but to annul them, saying ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is within us.’ By this he said that there are no paths to promised lands, therefore there is no expeditious railroad, for no one can say that it is located here or some other place, therefore, no one can lay a road to it. Millennia have passed in mankind’s travel, but there is no ‘promised land.’

Despite this historical experience of trying to find the true road to the promised land and attempts to make an expedient object, society is still trying to find it, straining their muscles ever harder, hammering the blade and trying to break through all obstacles, but the blade merely slipped in the air, since there were no obstacles in the space, merely the hallucinations of the imagination.

The historical path shows us that only Art can make phenomena that remain absolute and constant. Everything vanishes and only monuments live for the ages. […]

Up to this point, life developed from two points of view of goodness: the first is material, the grub-economical, and the second is religious; there should have been a third – the point of view of Art, but it was regarded by the other two as an applied phenomenon, whose forms come from the first two. Economic life was not examined from the point of view of Art, because Art was not yet the sun in whose warmth the tavern grub life would flourish.

In fact, Art plays an enormous role in the construction of life and leaves exclusively beautiful forms for millennia. Art has the capability, the technique, which people cannot achieve in a purely material road in the search for the prosperous land. […]

People of the most utilitarian outlook still see the apotheosis of the day in Art – of course, the apotheosis for them is ‘Ivan Petrovich’, [i.e., a representational image / portrait of “John Everyman”] the face embodying life, but still, with the help of Art, that face became the apotheosis. Thus, pure Art is still covered by the face/mask of life, and therefore the form of life that could be unfolded from the point of view of art is not visible.

You would think that the entire mechanical utilitarian world should have a single goal – to free up time for man’s main life: making Art ‘per se,’ to limit the sense of hunger in favor of the sense of Art.

The developing tendency to build task-oriented and expeditious things that try to overcome the sensation of Art should take note of the fact that basically there are no things in the purely utilitarian form, more than ninety-five percent of things come of the plastic sensation.

There is no need to seek convenient and expedient things, for historical experience shows that people were never able to make such things: everything collected now in museums will prove that not a single thing is convenient or achieves its goal. Otherwise, it would not be in museums, so if it once seemed convenient, it only seemed so, and this is now proven by the fact that collected works are inconvenient in daily life, and our contemporary ‘expedient things’ only seem that way, tomorrow will prove that they could not have been convenient. Everything made by Art, however, is beautiful and that will be confirmed by the future: therefore, we only have Art.”

(From: Kazimir Malevich, The World as Objectlessness; Kunstmuseum Basil, 2014, p. 193.)

In ending this second part, however, I have to admit something. My inclusion of the above passages from Malevich was not only because a line about hydromatic-drive autos reminded me of the technological mind-set discussed by Malevich – one which only advances with ever more break-neck speed as I write this.

I have also included the above passages from Malevich as a demonstration of the fact that there exist vitally important things which do not to amount to what is consumed and desired above all else now: mere “information” to be absorbed at a glance only confirming largely what we already believe in; what we have already concluded that we “know”; something only to be “understood” to the extent that it conforms itself according to whatever our “current understanding” of the world happens to be in the present.

Instead of what one usually gets when one tunes into the usual “information / disinformation source” of one’s choice, Malevich gives us real thoughts in rather sharp contrast to “real” news along with the “fake” variety; thoughts which are highly independent of how the majority – regardless of whatever individual political orientation – thinks and acts in our present. In short, Malevich’s thoughts are totally free from a uniform absence of thought which now only grows by the minute in spite of how “well-meaning” and sincere (or totally mistaken) this conformity doubtless remains. Consequently, what Malevich writes above requires nothing short of a reciprocal thought-effort in return – that is, in distinction to what the choir long already knows by heart and can effortlessly sing in its sleep … along with as much time as it takes to grasp the full meaning conveyed by Malevich … together with adequate patience and perhaps some courage … but with more than anything else, an open mind.

Finally, these thoughts from Malevich are in no way “out-of-date.” To the contrary – while there is nothing really “utopian” in them – they belong among the thoughts which can be said to exist largely in a future tense … that is, if the present can somehow be overcome and relegated once and for all to a dead past having only to do with ignorance, destruction and self-limitation; a present now wearing the highly deceptive mask of “progress”; an emblem only amounting to the perpetual, exclusively fear-motivated idolatry of “results that count” … one only propelling us into a more primitive past tense than can be presently imagined by our group-think instincts, reflexes, and Material Purposes.
——-
About the author: David A. Powell is an American artist living in Germany since 1990. In addition to having a lifelong, ongoing involvement and fascination with the most radically unpopular ideas and concepts capable of being imagined by anyone, he has a degree in art history and literature and – along a number of other occupations and activities throughout his life – has also exhibited his paintings (in Germany, at least).

Freedom and Other Illusions: American culture as illusory myth

October 08, 2018

by David A. Powell for The Saker Blog

Part 1 of 3 parts

As I began writing this essay, my first thoughts went something like this: I could attempt to write something on the illusion of freedom; on the reasons that this illusion is far worse than an actual absence of freedom. But who would understand me? Who knows today the state which is furthest away from an absence of freedom? … the one Alexander Solzhenitsyn describes in the following terms:

“It is a good thing to think in prison, but it is not bad in camp either. Because, and this is the main thing, there are no meetings. For ten years you are free from all kinds of meetings! Is that not mountain air? While they openly claim your labor and your body, to the point of exhaustion and even death, the camp keepers do not encroach at all on your thoughts. They do not try to screw down your brains and to fasten them in place. And this results in a sensation of freedom of much greater magnitude than the freedom of one’s feet to run along on the level.

No one tries to persuade you to apply for Party membership. No one comes around to squeeze membership dues out of you in voluntary societies. There is no trade union – the same kind of protector of your interests as an official lawyer before a tribunal. And there are no ‘production meetings.’ You cannot be elected to any position. You cannot be appointed some kind of delegate. And the really important thing is … that they cannot compel you to be a propagandist.”

(From: The Gulag Archipelago (Vol. II); Part IV: “The Soul and Barbed Wire”; Chapter 1, “The Ascent”.)

I’d venture to say that few presently know this kind of freedom – that is, outside of those finding themselves still living under one or another of the now antiquated forms of outward repression resembling the one which sent Solzhenitsyn to the Gulag.

For those who live in relative comfort outside of an actual prison in their “Free Country / Free World” there are few immediate reasons to be concerned about an outer “absence of freedom” of the kind experienced by Solzhenitsyn in the Gulag; but even less reason to be seriously concerned about the direct opposite of an outer “absence of freedom” – Solzhenitsyn’s sensation of a freedom “of [a] much greater magnitude than the freedom of one’s feet to run along on the level.”

There are far too many things to be built; mouths to be given birth to and fed; appointments to be kept; deadlines to be met; causes to be served; wrongs to be made right; Evil Empires to be established / dismantled by The Forces of Good; and last but not least, worlds to be bettered. All of these things can only be accomplished by running like crazy with one’s feet “on the level” as opposed to what Solzhenitsyn describes as an “ascent”; the direct antithesis of a slogan such as, “The result is what counts!” (a slogan later introduced and explored at some length in Solzhenitsyn’s chapter).

Nevertheless, what Solzhenitsyn pinpoints as thinking (and it might be added: along with education = learning to think) … thinking only gets in the way of what must be ACTED UPON (Period). And everyone living under the spell of our “Free Country / Free World” concept unmistakably understands this – and only this.

This is American culture in the proverbial nutshell: a practical, utilitarian, materialist culture to the core from beginning to end; a culture foremost of action, ambition and initiative; an ever-dynamic wonder of “progress” as little inclined to look forward as it could ever imagine looking backward; a one-way fast lane to the paramount goal of success (and now that the moral dimension has disappeared from the map, often a notion of success at any and all costs).

Success (preeminently of the material kind) – along with an almost exclusive reliance upon what only action-in-the-world-as-it-is can give us – are two of the primary notions which have informed and defined American culture since its beginnings. Notions such as these – almost the moment they go unchallenged – become cultural myths amounting to what might as well be described as articles of religious belief; when they remain invisible; become unthinking reflexes; are taken as natural, unchanging “facts” like the sky above and the ground beneath us; when they are seen as “just the way things are.”

Americans have never really existed outside of what amounts to an invisible, all-inclusive, all-encompassing prison without walls – the outlines of which I have attempted sketch above; what American culture adamately calls “freedom” – but one remaining, in any event, a concept which can be just as well described as an “illusion of freedom.”

… yes, in spite of people like Henry David Thoreau or Herman Melville, author of The Confidence Man – one of the most universally famous, widely read novels in all of literature (excuse my irony) … Thoreau? Melville? … do these names still ring any bells? … I honestly no longer know because during my high school days in the mid-1960’s, I remember reading Thoreau as an extracurricular project (and, yes, I still have the Modern Library edition of Thoreau’s work which I read in my late ‘teens … and I continue to read from it to this day every time I need a barrel of arctic water poured over my brain; a great way to get snapped back into the Real World whenever one begins to have the feeling that one is losing touch with it).

Or Lincoln, the great contemporary of Thoreau and Melville: “We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.” (From: Abraham Lincoln, “Annual Message to Congress – Concluding Remarks”; December 1, 1862.) http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/congress.htm

enthrall (1) : To hold in or reduce to slavery (2) : To hold spellbound : charm.

disenthrall : To free from a controlling force or influence.

No writer that I know of has laid out the role of myth within a culture with more clarity and concision than former philosophy professor John Kozy:

“Those who use Internet media to rightly point out the lies and misdeeds of both the government and the propaganda press are indefatigable in their efforts, having, it seems, adopted the maxim that says the truth will set us free. But it won’t! It never has! It never will! The claim is a legendary lie. Too few people care enough about truth for it to matter. Common people are too busy fulfilling instinctive tasks such as acquiring sustenance, shelter, and reproducing to trouble themselves with esoteric questions. So, as any social critic knows, critical efforts fall on deaf ears and blind eyes. The truth, when brought to light, is merely ignored.

In fact, no culture was ever created to discover and disseminate truth. None exists for that purpose today. A culture exists to promote a group’s existence. Cultures are instruments of preservation. Cultures are defined by myths. Unless a culture’s myths are known, its nature cannot be understood.

The myths, although obviously false, are often considered as historical truths, and a culture’s institutions are used to inculcate them. Once inculcated in the minds of people, the myths are almost impossible to expunge. Ears are deafened and eyes are blinded. The social critic is neither heard nor seen. The culture uses its ability to ignore the social critic as a defensive tactic. Ignorance defends the culture, and the culture’s educational institutions promote the ignorance. The institution cannot be divorced form its culture. In any culture, truth is something to be avoided and kept hidden.”

(From: “What Evil Lurks in the Hearts of Men” http://www.globalresearch.ca/what-evil-lurks-in-the-hearts-of-men/5418308 / http://www.jkozy.com

http://www.jkozy.com/JOHN%20KOZY%20(2017)%20-%20COLLECTED%20WORKS.pdf

There exists – at least, for this writer – far more “truth” in what Kozy writes above than in what all the well-meaning people now endlessly preach to the “already-converted.” As it always was, to “tell the truth” is now synonymous with being ignored; being seen as non-existent. It would appear to be a far more logical strategy to attempt a revolution in thinking which removes the foundations from the cultural myths which do nothing but enslave us; a thought revolutionin the direction of learning to think – that is, in contrast to the usual indoctrination into whatever happens to be momentarily conceived as “correct” thinking and conduct from either the “progressive” or “regressive” viewpoint – it matters not which one.

Genuine education, when understood as “learning to think,” is never something which exclusively depends on better school funding; or, remains only threatened by excessive educational costs. To an equal degree, genuine education also does not necessarily depend upon actually attending a school, or getting an official certification that one is “educated” from a school (a “truth” which Mark Twain was rather fond of pointing out). Independent thinking (thoughtitself) is closely related to what Albert Camus described in his 1957 address “Create Dangerously” as the aim of art: “The aim of art … is not to legislate or to reign supreme, but rather to understand first of all.” It’s a “free agent” with few commitments to anything outside of getting to the bottom of and ultimately understanding unconditionallywhatever it is occupied with quite independent of how one arrives at this understanding; a position which is potentially dangerous for every social / political / economic position in our world of the present; the sole reason Camus used the word “dangerously” in the title of his address to begin with.

Whether “regressive”, “progressive” – or whatever falls in between – practically every viewpoint of the present is primarily interested in “education” only to the extent that it can be made to fit whatever ideological agenda is to be served – while avoiding to lead anyone along the path of the desperately feared “utopian folly” of independent thought (or, “What if those insane pie-in-the-sky ideas actually work? … then, we’re in really big trouble…”).

In light of the above, therefore, most of what goes on in what’s left of public life concerning “education” might accurately be described in these terms: (1) cost cutting and raising for institutional “education” (2) the shedding of crocodile tears over the obvious fact that “no one is ‘educated’ any more because the power elite planned it that way” (for all of which, naturally, there exists more than enough evidence); and typified by the progressive mantra of guarding against losing our so-called “freedoms” and saving “independent media,” etc. (… an unceasing, hypnotic back and forth motion ending with the trance-like, totally paralyzing “increased awareness of what’s happening around us” to which we’re subjected over and over and over with no end in sight).

Essentially, we live in a world where “evil” is fighting “evil” – an image, to the contrary, which our present world would tend to prefer imagining as either existing within some historically removed “Biblical Land of Theology and Superstition”; or, conversely, within the usual futuristic Star Wars scenario “somewhere out there in outer space”; but one simply meaning (in the mundane, everyday reality back on the earth of our present) that the progressive and regressive amount to little outside the reverse sides of the same materialist coin. Add all of this to the fact that the majority mainly wants something which makes its life better and – above all else – easier and more convenient (not to mention cooler) in an almost exclusively material sense. Truly independent thinking, though, very rarely does any of the above; and in most cases accomplishes just the opposite in terms of socially-sanctified “results that count”.

Independent thinking, in the final analysis, might possibly be “good” for a least one thing: being able to live with oneself. Otherwise, it’s a damned bad idea if one wants to live in the same company of those around one in the present world we inhabit. If one makes too many waves in our world of the present (i.e., doesn’t think the “right” socially-culturally prescribed thoughts belonging to everyone else but especially the person standing right next to you), one can quickly end up in a situation where one basically no longer exists in the eyes of others – unless, of course, one has built up around oneself a group of like-minded Others or has joined an already existing group. But if groups are not one’s thing, one had better have at least one true friend or a sympathetic family member or two because otherwise – especially if one finds it impossible to engage in anything outside of independent thought – one is more or less on one’s own.

At this point it has occurred to me that it might be a good idea to pause and excuse myself for repeatedly using expressions such as “our world of the present” (i.e., any formulation where the word “present” is employed). This is due to the fact that throughout my writing here, I’ve found it impossible to get Søren Kierkegaard’s 1846 essay “The Present Age” – something I’ve known and loved for my entire adult life – for a single moment out of my mind. Written long before many of our specifically “local” concerns of the present (there it is again!) were imagined by the mainstream, Kierkegaard painted a portrait of our present revolutionary age – as opposed to a passionate age of revolt – with devastating accuracy:

“A passionate, tumultuous age will overthrow everything, pull everything down; but a revolutionary age, that is at the same time reflective and passionless, transforms that expression of strength into a feat of dialectics: it leaves everything standing but cunningly empties it of significance. Instead of culminating in a rebellion it reduces the inward reality of all relationships to a reflective tension which makes the whole of life ambiguous: so that everything continues to exist factually whilst by a dialectical deceit, privatissime, it supplies a secret interpretation  that it does not exist.

(From: Søren Kierkegaard, “The Present Age”, translated by Alexander Dru.)

Certainly, the practice of official (or, in our time, clandestine) censorship of books, etc. is not a great thing. But compared with what transpires on a minute-by-minute basis within the so-called private spheres of a thoroughly conformist world such as ours, the now relatively outworn practice of the censorship of objects such as books almost pales to insignicance.

In light of the above, then, I can’t avoid the conclusion that it might be more productive to concern ourselves with something which decisively defines, in the end, our current state: the rigidly self maintained stranglehold of never leaving the invisible, closed circle endlessly rotating around the single point defined by our very own special, exclusive brand of materialist belief. We never get beyond the age-old straightjacket of “freely choosing” to exist within a worldview which elevates socially mandated, group-approved and group-controlled material “results that count” to what amounts to an inviolable Natural Law … those material results which always have to exist before we can think about anything which does not originate in and translate back into literally the same terms; namely, exclusively political / economic terms – the only terms which appear to be operative in our present reality; the ultimate reason why an illusory freedom is far worse than an absence of “the freedom of one’s feet to run along on the level”.

What might ligitimately be called non-illusory freedom just might amount, therefore, to finally going in a direction never gone in up to the present point in time – one directly contrary to the “human nature” which we have always, as a species, unquestionably obeyed above all other authorities. I’d like to think that this is what Lincoln meant when he said that we must disenthrall ourselves … not in the first instance from some evil dictator or system … but from ourselves in order to finally save ourselves along with our very best notions of what freedom, in reality, amounts to. Within the entirely new space which would be established by this kind disenthrallment, evil dictators and systems would cease to have a home – even before they had the chance to appear in the first place.

The artist and philosopher Kazimir Malevich (1878-1935) had what still stands as an (art) historically unprecedented view of non-illusory freedom; one which perfectly mirrors in certain ways Lincoln’s notion of disenthrallment (including, in addition, some of what I’ve already written about above). Quite predictably, however, the “new space of freedom” Malevich has revealed, has made him into the most consistently misunderstood and neglected indispensable thinker and artist in his own time as well as ours – entirely independent, naturally, of the fact that “Malevich” is now a famous “brand-name” in art (along with Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Picasso, and all the rest).

To express the matter in the most direct manner possible: Malevich has now been reduced to an artist and philosopher “understood” and interpreted in a specious and often outright mistaken sense; one which attempts to force the thought and art of Malevich into the mould of a characteristically American notion of “abstract art” lying in the opposite direction relative to Malevich’s actual thought (but none of this “Americanization” is at all new since it dates at least back to year 1945 – when America ‘won’ the war, dropped The Bomb, and took over everything which couldn’t be smuggled into some kind of secret hiding place unknown to the CIA).

I’m writing this about what essentially amounts to the suppression and censorship of Malevich’s profoundly anti-materialist thought and art because it should be kept in mind when one reads parts of the following sections of this essay in which I touch upon Malevich’s thoughts along with a number of related themes which expand upon what I have written above.

What follows are three thought-examples from different Malevich texts which go in the opposite direction away from the currently prevailing “mainstream ‘art’ and ‘world culture’ narratives”:

“What is the ideology of Art, my point of view on Art is that Art has no ideology, no idea, not even an image and if anyone finds ideologies in Art, he is first of all finding elements of an ideology that is imposed on Art and the Artist.”

(From: Kazimir Malevich in what is now called “Autograph Manuscript 2”, dating from Malevich’s 1927 stay in Berlin and published for the first time in: Kazimir Malevich, The World as Objectlessness; Kunstmuseum Basil, 2014).

https://www.abebooks.com/9783775737319/Kazimir-Malevich-World-Objectlessness-Simon-3775737316/plp

“The influence of economic, political, religious, and utilitarian phenomena on art is the disease of art.”

“Throughout the world the dictatorship of speculators in pursuit of profit has disfigured life, thus destroying art. Artistic culture has been replaced by speculation; but the new art, architecture, and painting of today is an indication that we are on the threshold of a great new classical age in art. Our contemporaries must understand that life will not be the content of art, but rather that art must become the content of life, since only thus can life be beautiful.”

(From: Kazimir Malevich, “Painting and the Problem of Architecture”, 1928; trans. Xenia Glowacki-Prus; from: K. S. Malevich, Essays on art – 1915-1933, ed. Troels Andersen; Copenhagen, 1968.)

“The shell on sensations grew and hid the creature that neither comprehension nor imagination can picture. Therefore, it seems to me that Raphael, Rubens, Rembrandt, Titian and others are that beautiful shell, the body, behind which the public cannot see the essence of the sensations of Art. If these sensations were to be taken out of the frames of the body, the public would not recognize them. Therefore the public accepts the depiction for the image of the essence hidden within it, which has no resemblence to the depiction. The face of the hidden essence of sensations can be completely contradictory to the depiction, if of course it is completely faceless, objectless.”

(From Kazimir Malevich: “Suprematism”; from: The World as Objectlessness, 1927; Kunstmuseum Basil; Hatje Kantz, 2014, p. 189.)

Malevich is writing in this last quote about the shell-like “surface” of illusion-based, “realistic” visual art … but which in the meantime is now embodied, as well, by “realism”-saturated digital photos, “realism”-saturated digital films and videos (commercial and / or otherwise) along with all the other “realism”-saturated digital stuff which now practically defines the Web – since it all amounts to one big happy “realism”-saturated communal world-wide family which everyone and their pet canary takes entirely for granted due to illusionistic images of hollow “life masks” (even when pure cartoon fantasy) having become – virtually in every sense of the word – the only means by which we now orient ourselves to and within what we imagine as our FREELY CHOSEN outer and “inner” worlds; the “realism”-saturated digital depiction of our entire universe having now more or less taken over as the primary survival / sense-making tool we possess as a species.

In Malevich’s terms, these illusory projections of material “reality” – these illusionistic “shells” which only obscure instead of revealing what actually sustains us as humans; these shell-like surfaces hide the objectless, faceless face of art; i.e., “the sensations of Art”. Therefore, we can only begin to talk about what Malevich really meant in the above passage when we finally confront art as opposed to our illusory culture – one which may be seen as a “mask” concealing a great many things, ideas and objects in our culture – but nevertheless a culture in which Malevich’s objectless, faceless face of art will never be found in the cultural mainstream.

Or … does anyone ever wonder why it’s the case in Malevich’s late paintings (if one is acquainted with them) that Malevich’s human figures often totally lack faces? (OK … I’ve just given out – entirely free of charge – a significant hint in the direction of addressing this question).

Stated differently: one can print Malevich’s iconic “Black Quadrat” on a T-shirt – and one can even comfortably wear it. But within the frame of the world which has produced our culture of Material-Reality-As-It-Is-And-Nothing-Beyond – it’s virtually impossible to do what the principles of Malevich’s faceless face of Art demand of us in completely unambiguous terms: the total reversal of the object-worship embodied by the obsessive invention of narcissistic cultural fairy-tales – one which, for quite some time now, has progressively cut off the life-blood of the world we inhabit.

Ask nearly anyone randomly encountered in a public place and one will very likely learn what art in our culture now amounts to: above all else, “art” designates the popularly conceived greater-than-average manual skill for rendering – almost exclusively – the surface appearances of our world (i.e., in order to take the viewer / consumer on an effortless vacation / entertainment trip to a place the viewer / consumer already knows and just loves more than anything else to revisit time and time again) … and if one falls into the category of what is commonly considered to comprise “being a ‘good’ artist”, one can render surface appearances in a proficient manner; but if one can’t render surface appearances in a proficienct manner … well, one is judged to be “not such a ‘good’ artist” … End of Story … or, “Yes, yes … your ‘abstract’ pictures are really – well … REALLY NICE … but tell me if you don’t mind … did you – you know – ever learn how todraw?

On the one hand, therefore, “art” has been reduced to (1) nothing other than the elevation of learned craft; the strictly technically oriented over what Malevich has called the hidden essence of art – “the depiction [of] the image … which has no resemblence to the depiction”… in other words, what has been raised to the level of an cultural orthodoxy amounting to a total capitulation to the world of Material-Reality-As-It-Is-And-Nothing-Beyond; an enslavement to the (professionally well-made) illusionistic surface appearances of this world. (2) On the other hand, “serious art” has undergone the fatal reduction to “culture”; what composer Morton Feldman meant when he stated in 1976:

The big problem is that we have to differentiate too between culture and art. Art is done just by a few people. Culture is the manifestation. Publishers, students, teachers is culture. I’m a volunteer of culture, not art. And one of the things about culture, and I feel the young people are more aligned to culture, which again is society, than they are to the other things. Because in culture one has to have the illusion that one understands. You see? […]

That is not communication. Communication is what I have in my music, with myself. Do you know what communication is for me? Communication is when people don’t understand each other. That’s what communication is. Because then there is a consciousness level that is being brought out of you, where an effort is made.

[…] you’re not supposed to understand art. You are supposed to understand culture … and culture is just a department store which allows you to go and take what you want, if you can afford it.”

(From: “Conversation Between Morton Feldman and Walter Zimmermann” http://www.cnvill.net/mfzimmr.htm)

——-
About the author: David A. Powell is an American artist living in Germany since 1990. In addition to having a lifelong, ongoing involvement and fascination with the most radically unpopular ideas and concepts capable of being imagined by anyone, he has a degree in art history and literature and – along a number of other occupations and activities throughout his life – has also exhibited his paintings (in Germany, at least).

David A. Powell – Untitled (1969-2018) / Pastel on paper / 45×60 cm

US-Delisted MEK Terrorists Still Openly Committed to Violence

October 1, 2018 (Tony Cartalucci – NEO) – In 2012, the US State Department would delist anti-Iranian terrorist group – Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) – from its Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list. Yet years later, MEK has demonstrated an eager desire to carry out political violence on a scale that eclipses the previous atrocities that had it designated a terrorist organization in the first place.
In the US State Department’s official statement published in September 2012, the rationale for delisting MEK would be as follows (emphasis added):

With today’s actions, the Department does not overlook or forget the MEK’s past acts of terrorism, including its involvement in the killing of U.S. citizens in Iran in the 1970s and an attack on U.S. soil in 1992. The Department also has serious concerns about the MEK as an organization, particularly with regard to allegations of abuse committed against its own members. 

The Secretary’s decision today took into account the MEK’s public renunciation of violence, the absence of confirmed acts of terrorism by the MEK for more than a decade, and their cooperation in the peaceful closure of Camp Ashraf, their historic paramilitary base.

Yet US policy before the State Department’s delisting, and events ever since, have proven this rationale for removing MEK as an FTO to be an intentional fabrication – that MEK was and still is committed to political violence against the Iranian people, and envisions a Libya-Syrian-style conflict to likewise divide and destroy the Iranian nation.

However, facts regarding the true nature of MEK is not derived from Iranian state media, or accusations made by MEK’s opponents in Tehran, but by MEK’s own US sponsors and even MEK’s senior leadership itself.

“Undeniably” MEK “Conducted Terrorist Attacks”

By the admissions of the United States and the United Kingdom, MEK is undeniably a terrorist organization guilty of self-admitted acts of terrorism. The UK House of Commons in a briefing paper titled, “The People’s Mujahiddeen of Iran (PMOI),” it  cites the UK Foreign Office which states explicitly that:

The Mojahedin-e Khalq (MeK) is proscribed in the UK under the Terrorism Act 2000. It has a long history of involvement in terrorism in Iran and elsewhere and is, by its own admission, responsible for violent attacks that have resulted in many deaths. 

The briefing paper makes mention of “assiduous” lobbying efforts by MEK to have itself removed from terrorist lists around the globe.

A 2012 Guardian article titled, “MEK decision: multimillion-dollar campaign led to removal from terror list,” would extensively detail the large number of prominent US politicians approached and paid by MEK as part of this lobbying effort.
Yet there is more behind MEK’s delisting than mere lobbying. As early as 2009, US policymakers saw MEK as one of many minority opposition and ethnic groups that could be used by the US as part of a wider agenda toward regime change in Iran.

The Brookings Institution in a 2009 policy paper titled, “Which Path to Persia? Options for a New American Strategy Toward Iran” (PDF), under a chapter titled, “Inspiring an Insurgency: Supporting Iranian Minority And Opposition Groups,” would openly admit (emphasis added):

Perhaps the most prominent (and certainly the most controversial) opposition group that has attracted attention as a potential U.S.  proxy  is  the  NCRI  (National  Council of Resistance of  Iran),  the  political  movement  established  by  the  MeK  (Mujahedin-e  Khalq). Critics believe the group to be undemocratic and unpopular, and indeed anti-American.  

Brookings would concede to MEK’s terrorist background, admitting (emphasis added):

Undeniably, the group has conducted terrorist attacks—often excused by the MeK’s advocates because they are directed against the Iranian government. For example, in 1981, the group bombed the headquarters of the Islamic Republic Party, which was then the clerical leadership’s main  political organization, killing an estimated 70 senior officials. More recently, the group has claimed  credit for over a dozen mortar attacks, assassinations, and other assaults on  Iranian civilian and  military targets between 1998 and 2001.

Brookings makes mention of MEK’s attacks on US servicemen and American civilian contractors which earned it its place on the US FTO, noting:

In the 1970s, the group killed three U.S. officers and three civilian contractors in Iran.

And despite MEK’s current depiction as a popular resistance movement in Iran, Brookings would also admit (emphasis added):

The group itself also appears to be undemocratic and enjoys little popularity in Iran itself. It has no  political base in the country, although it appears to have an operational presence. In particular, its  active participation on Saddam Husayn’s side during the bitter Iran-Iraq War made the group widely  loathed. In addition, many aspects of the group are cultish, and its leaders, Massoud and Maryam Rajavi, are revered to the point of obsession.  

Brookings would note that despite the obvious reality of MEK, the US could indeed use the terrorist organization as a proxy against Iran, but notes that:

…at the very least, to work more closely with the  group (at least in an overt manner), Washington would need to remove it from the list of foreign  terrorist organizations. 

And from 2009 onward, that is precisely what was done. It is unlikely that the MEK alone facilitated the rehabilitation of its image or exclusively sought its removal from US-European terrorist organization lists – considering the central role MEK terrorists played in US regime change plans versus Iran.

While MEK propaganda insists that its inclusion on terrorist organization lists around the globe was the result of a global effort to curry favor with Iran’s clerical regime,” it is clear that the terrorist organization earned its way onto these lists, and then lobbied and cheated its way off of them.
The MEK is Still Committed to Violence Today 
 
While Iranians mourned in the wake of the Ahvaz attack, MEK was holding a rally in New York Cityattended by prominent US politicians including US President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudolph Giuliani and former US National Security Adviser under the Obama administration, James Jones.
During the “2018 Iran Uprising Summit” Giuliani would vow the overthrow of the Iranian government.

MEK leader Maryam Rajavi would broadcast a message now posted on MEK websites. In her message she would discuss MEK’s role in fomenting ongoing violence inside of Iran.

She would admit:

Today, the ruling mullahs’ fear is amplified by the role of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) and resistance units in leading and continuing the uprisings. Regime analysts say: “The definitive element in relation to the December 2017 riots is the organization of rioters. So-called Units of Rebellion have been created, which have both the ability to increase their forces and the potential to replace leaders on the spot.” 

The roadmap for freedom reveals itself in these very uprisings, in ceaseless protests, and in the struggle of the Resistance Units.

Riots by definition entail violence. The riots taking place across Iran beginning in late 2017 and continuing sporadically since – of which Rajavi and her MEK take credit for organizing – have left dozens dead including police.
One police officer was shot dead just before New Year’s, and another three were killed in late February 2018 during such riots.
In the region of Ahvaz specifically, MEK social media accounts have been taking credit for and promoting ongoing unrest there. Ahvaz was more recently the scene of a terrorist attack in which gunmen targeted a parade leaving dozens dead and scores more injured.

Rajavi and MEK’s ultimate goal is the overthrow of the Iranian government. As Brookings admits in its 2009 paper, the Iranian government will not cede power to US-orchestrated regime change without a fight – and MEK was recruited as a US proxy specifically because of its capacity for violence.

Brookings would note:

Despite its limited popularity (but perhaps because of its successful use of terrorism), the Iranian regime is exceptionally sensitive to the MEK and is vigilant in guarding against it. 

It was for this reason that Brookings singled them out as a potential proxy in 2009 and recommended their delisting by the US State Department so the US could provide more open support for the terrorist organization.
It is clear that Rajavi’s recent admissions to being behind political violence inside Iran contravenes the US State Department’s rationale for deslisting MEK on grounds that the group had made a “public renunciation of violence.”

MEK is not only refusing to renounce violence, MEK’s most senior leader has just publicly and unambiguously declared MEK’s policy is to openly wield violence inside Iran toward destabilizing and overthrowing the government.

From the United States’ ignoring of its own anti-terrorism laws – aiding and abetting MEK while still on the US State Department’s Foreign Terrorist Organizations list – to the US now portraying MEK as a “reformed” “resistance” organization even as its leader takes credit for ongoing political violence inside Iran, it is clear that once again the US finds itself a willing state sponsor of terrorism.

It was as early as 2007 that Seymour Hersh in his New Yorker article, “The Redirection Is the Administration’s new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism?” would warn:

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

It is clear in retrospect that the rise of the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” (ISIS), Al Qaeda, Al Nusra, and other extremist fronts in Syria were a result of this US policy. It is also clear that there are many other extremist groups the US has knowingly whitewashed politically and is covertly supporting in terrorism aimed directly at Iran itself.

It is just a matter of time before the same denials and cover-ups used to depict Syrian and Libyan terrorists as “freedom fighting rebels” are reused in regards to US-backed violence aimed at Iran. Hopefully, it will not take nearly as long for the rest of the world to see through this game and condemn groups like MEK as the terrorists they always have been, and continue to be today.

Also in retrospect, it is clear how US-engineered conflict and regime change has impacted the Middle Eastern region and the world as a whole – one can only imagine the further impact a successful repeat of this violence will have if visited upon Iran directly.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazineNew Eastern Outlook”.

On the topic of the Russia-Israel-Syria affair

September 29, 2018

On the topic of the Russia-Israel-Syria affair

On the topic of the Russia-Israel-Syria affair, which has culminated in the downing of a Russian Il-20 on September 17th just off the coast of Latakia…

by Ollie Richardson for The Saker Blog

I will first start this article by saying that I have read, both intentionally and unintentionally (stumbled upon), lots and lots of opinions about this specific topic. The main bulk of these opinions recycle the usual blaming of Russia and offer suggestions for how things “should” have been done and “should” now be done. The consensus seems to be that it is Israel that is solely to blame, and it should thus be severely punished. However, even though Russia was lambasted by social media “experts” for the fact that the state of Israel still existed on September 18th (the day after the downing of the Il-20), the criticism of Moscow’s policy vis-a-vis Israel’s general airstrikes in Syria has been unwavering.

Examples of the criticism are:

  • “Russia doesn’t defend Syrian troops against Israeli airstrikes”;
  • “Putin doesn’t verbally threaten Bibi with retaliation should he strike again”;
  • “Russia doesn’t give Syria the S1/2/3/4/500”;
  • and so on and so forth (you get the idea).

So, let’s outline, once again, what Russia’s policy vis-a-vis Israel is in Syria:

  1. Q) Does Israel violate Syrian airspace?
    A) No.
  2. Q) Has Israel directly killed Russian troops?
    A) No.
  3. Q) Does Israel put Hmeymim in any direct danger?
    A) No.

These answers are important. Why?

    1. Israel violates LEBANESE airspace, and we all know that the government in Beirut – or more precisely, Mr Hariri – is very friendly with Riyadh. Where is Lebanon’s deterrent to make Israel think twice about flying over Lebanon? There isn’t one. Also, the core of fourth generation warfare is using simulacra to position a digital hologram over actual ground warfare in order to carve out space to manoeuvre diplomatically. So even though Israel violates its airspace on paper, in reality it can do so with impunity. I.e., Lebanon is not going to down an Israeli jet. Hence Tel Aviv’s impudence in Lebanese skies.

      I seem to recall that in February, 2018 the IDF decided to test the SAA’s air defences and came as close as they would like to violating Syrian airspace. The result? Two F-16’s were downed after dozens of S-200 missiles were fired at them. This incident was the result of Moscow giving the green light to the SAA to hit Tel Aviv on the teeth using the S-200 system. But social media “experts” were adamant that Israel had to be punished long before this. Any Israeli missile being launched towards Syria is a failure, they said.

      And it is here that we recall that Russia and Israel had an agreement in place whereby Russia would not impede Israel’s bombing of “Hezbollah compounds” in Western Syria. Why did Russia agree to this? Because these strikes achieved and still achieve NOTHING. With this non-announced agreement in place, Israel was given some limited space to play out its war against Iran, but the most important thing is that this space was a CONTROLLED environment. I.e., Russia always reserved the right to exercise its options to change the parameters of the playground.

      Now some will say that Israel should be completely shut out of Syria, and Russia is weak since it can’t implement this. Such a statement comes from the deep depths of idealism. The fact is that Russia cannot stop Israel meddling in Syria in one way or another, and doesn’t have an unlimited amount of resources to try to anyway. Not to mention the fundamental fact that Jews live all over the post-Soviet space and in Russia itself, which complicates the situation. How would those who are pro-Israel and pro-Russia react if Russia openly shot down and killed Israeli pilots? This is just one factor out of many.

      Another factor is that the zionist rats that are currently in power in Israel are only a transient phenomenon. Governments and their policies come and go. It’s perfectly possible that a leader will come to power in Israel one day who is in favour of peace with Palestinians/Arabs, in the same way that a Putin can arrive after a Yeltsin. So with this in mind, why on Earth would Russia, for example, bomb Israeli territory and kill/wound Israeli civilians/troops? Why mass punish the Israeli people just because of the actions of a bunch of Zionist crooks in the Knesset? It is idiotic at best and further perpetuates this cycle of aggression that Uncle Sam feeds off.

      Also, why jeopardise the possible emergence of a situation whereby a state of Israel can exist side by side with a Palestinian state in peace? Let’s be honest: in our lifetimes, the two-state solution is the only REALISTIC solution. I will be told that such a statement is unfair or disconnected from reality, but my response to that is: please explain to me how both the Israeli and Palestinian people can be integrated into Eurasia without bloodshed. Again, as I said, Russia isn’t interested in violence, it won’t solve anything and Trump said he’s in favor of two state solution. That’s why I use the word “realistic”. Furthermore, a two state solution can be the result of negotiations between all the major powers of the world, but mainly between US and Russia. Palestinians can be given much more territory than they currently have, but giving everything back, as romantic as it is, is simply not feasible. After all, what will happen to the Israeli people in the process of claiming all the stolen land back? Will they be massacred? If not, where will they go, and who will facilitate it? And who will enforce any return process and how long will it take to implement? Will a resolution in the UNSC be passed? And what happens when Israelis refuse to leave? They will be massacred?

    2. Israel has not, to date, directly killed any Russian troops. What happened on 17.09.18 was indirect, and there is a very big difference. And I am sure that Tel Aviv knows that this line must not be crossed whatsoever, since it will seriously threaten their own statehood, not to mention Gaza or the West Bank.
    3. Israel hasn’t yet, to date, caused any damage to Hmeymim or put the lives of the soldiers stationed there (on the ground) at risk. The incident on 17.09.2018 came very close to this, but it, all the same, did not cross this line. The consequence of this would be the same as the one mentioned in point No. 2.

So now the synthesis:

I won’t discuss the details of what happened on 17.09.18. Why? Because I consider it to be irrelevant (like how people discuss the exact temperature that the steel columns melted on 9/11). What is important is how the parties reacted to the incident. And it is here that things become interesting. In December 2017, I wrote the tweet below (part of a thread):

Take note of the expression “Russia needed as fewer names as possible on the ‘targets that the S-400 should – in the eyes of the media – shoot down’ list”. It is importantLet me explain what this means when inserted into the modern context. The S-400 in Hmeymim represents the Russian state. It represents Russia’s foreign policy. When the SAA fires SAM missiles into the sky, it represents not only the Syrian state (in the borders recognised by the UN), but also Syrian foreign policy. So, when have we really ever seen Russia fire any of its SAM systems in Syria? Yes, at militant drones. Jabhat al Nusra (or whatever it is called nowadays) is recognised by the UN as a terrorist organisation. And Russia affirms that these drones are sent from Nusrats in Idlib. I.e., the use of the SAM system in this context is completely in line with international law. And note how Russia thrusted this very fact into the face of the media in order to prevent any attempts to delegitimise the Idlib operation. This was a key factor that helped to prevent the West from treating us all to another Tomahawk show of weakness.

When the SAA fired its S-200 missiles at the Israeli jets in February of this year, was this in line with international law? Absolutely, since only Russia, Iran (IRGC), and Hezbollah were invited by Assad into Syria to combat terrorism. Hence why Russia okayed the launches. Now as I mentioned at the very beginning of this article, many social media “experts” reprimand the Kremlin because Israeli jets are not blown into pieces when they fire missiles at Syrian territory. It doesn’t enter their mind that there is a substantiated reason for this. But in order to delve into this topic, there is a need to explain what it is exactly that Russia (plus Eurasian friends) is trying to build here on this planet. For too long the West has used its airforce to firstly demolish and then vassalize sovereign states.

Using Yugoslavia as an example, the West stoked a sectarian civil war and then used the NATO airforce to steer the situation in the needed direction. Milosevic was given 2 bad options to choose from (intervene militarily or don’t). As a result, he was trapped. In Afghanistan and Iraq the US enjoyed the fruits of R2P and a crippled Russia (thanks to the CIA + Yeltsin combination!) to bulldoze statehood and install the needed political circle and economic direction. The aircraft carrier plus aircraft was a winning recipe, for now. But during all this time Russia wasn’t just sat twiddling its thumbs and waiting for some miracle to happen so that “superpower” status would arrive again. Serious work was being done to target the projected curve of development of the West’s war machine.

It was understood that the US can only exert its influence on MENA via aircraft carriers, and, where possible, by building military bases on the territory of vassalized failed states. Africa is actually one very large failed “state” that serves as a MIC “testing” terrain. It should be understood that the conception and implementation of the “Kinzhal”missile, for example, was not done on the basis of some whim or to sell weapons to make money. It was done in accordance with a very strict plan, targeting the vital “organs” of the Anglo beast.

The West (puppets of USA) was able to literally bulldoze Middle Eastern nations without facing any real resistance (the Libyan army didn’t even bring the SAM systems out of the warehouses). It is here that we see that “international law” is actually an equilibrium of the energy between “superpowers”. Yes, there is the UN charter and different treaties, but we all saw what happened in 2001/2002. We saw that definitions and concepts were very flexible, and that the US’ scheme of creating proxies, turning on them, and then removing them was almost flawless.

So how to stop this bulldozer from claiming more victims? We know that when it comes to MENA Israel calls the shots, and Uncle Sam and its EU puppets come to heel, and if they don’t, well… look at JFK. Furthermore, we’ve all heard Wesley Clark’s confession – 7 states in 5 years.

Iraq was no problem for the US to bulldoze in 2002 onwards – no other powerful nation had influence there. Somalia and Sudan is in Africa, which was brought to its knees after the USSR’s influence disappeared forever. Libya was easy to squash. But IranYemen, and Syria seemingly didn’t go according to plan. Yemen has strategic ports and access to waters. It’s no secret that Iran enjoyed and still enjoys influence in Yemen, in the same way the Anglos did via their puppet Hadi. Iran developed a nuclear program, albeit a peaceful one. But it is a deterrent all the same. The Houthis are being supported by the members of “Eurasia”, and this is a) not a secret, and b) completely legitimate, since the West staged a coup first (and is feeding Al Qaeda’s presence in the East of the country) and we are now in the era of proxy warfare, since the emergence of nuclear weapons put an end to the traditional colonisation blitzkrieg. And Syria was always going to be problematic for Washington & Co because Russia already has a naval base there – in Tartus. But make no mistake, the West knew this very well, but now was the time to confront Russia in a “neutral”venue, in a “controlled” environment.

Why do I say “controlled” and “neutral”? The actual warfare is taking place thousands of miles away from US territory, and US citizens on that territory are thus not at risk (US troops are a different case). Thus, any blowback that may be incurred will have a delayed action. However, there was a need to activate a process that would gradually attack Russia’s rear. And et voila – the coup in Kiev in 2014 served as exactly this. Even knowing that Russia can potentially enter Syria, they took comfort knowing that they had the Ukraine card in play. If they didn’t do the coup in Ukraine, then Russia could enter Syria and risk very little in the process of reclaiming that “superpower” status by cementing itself in the middle of the globe, with access to important waters. Nusra and ISIS would’ve been crushed in the same way (maybe even quicker since it would be deprived of time to grow and expand).

So, in order to buy time and slow down Russia’s approach to Syria, the war in Donbass was launched. It was designed by the West in such a way that Putin would surely suffer the same fate as Milosevic, entering his troops into Donbass and starting an irreversible bloodbath. A man named Girkin, on the CIA’s payroll, tried his best to drag Russia into Donbass and to start the extermination of the Russian nation. But Putin, of course, isn’t dumb and didn’t bite on it. Instead, he engineered the Ilovaisk and Debaltsevo cauldrons, which were failsafe ways of ensuring that the West’s Ukrainian front was halted in its tracks. This resulted in the signing of the Minsk Agreements. What are they? They are the same as what the US did to Milosevic – they presented the West with 2 bad options: implement the agreements, Russia wins (collapse of statehood); don’t implement them, Russia wins (collapse of statehood).

The West had to sign the Agreements since their proxies had been encircled in Donbass and project Bandera risked being aborted early. And that, in short form, is how Putin negated the parallel process that aimed to prevent Russia from entering Syria with a lower risk level. So coming back to the key problem of the US’ bulldozing machine, the West took a gamble in Syria simply because they knew that a financial crisis is catching up with them with each passing day. Furthermore, Netanyahu doesn’t care about the consequences for the West; he wants to expand Israel in accordance with the Oded Yinon plan.

But for Russia, isn’t not just about saving Syrian statehood (note that I use this word and not Assad) and safeguarding strategic assets, it is also about shaping the next 100 years. De-dollarisation is already ongoing. But this is only one element of the greater picture. In order to counter this Anglo war machine there is a need to think laterally. By this I mean not attacking it head on, but instead flanking it. After all, the West provokes Russia so much because it WANTS a reaction. It wants to control Russia’s actions and reactions, for them to become predictable and for the room for manoeuvre to be like a sardine tin.

And it is here that we can return back to the topic of Israel’s airstrikes in Syria. Since Tel Aviv’s token airstrikes in Syria achieve absolutely nothing and de-rail nothing in the grand Eurasian scheme, this is why Russia didn’t want to completely shut Israel out. Earlier in this article I explained (see the embedded S-400 tweet) that there was a complex game ongoing whereby the West wanted to push Putin into publicly committing to firing the S-400. In the past I explained that the S-400 constitutes a philosophy and not a weapon. The philosophy is based on the notion of DEFENCE, and not pseudo R2P defence, but actual defence, against violators of international law and generally unstable/erratic actors. This actually follows in the footsteps of the very essence of what the Red Army did nearly 80 years ago, when it had the opportunity to exterminate the German nation – having the full moral right to do so, but it refrained from doing so.

The philosophy is also based on RISK. And by this I mean the now well-known expression “skin in the game”. I.e., the very foundation of international law should be based the fact that there will be consequences for one’s actions. And the UN here must be actually impartial. The problem is that the UN has been monopolised by the US (and its bullying) and its vassalized puppets for so long. The process of changing this is long, but people in general are impatient and want to eat their cake now, before they die. In other words, the S-400 embodies the notion that cooperation and diplomacy is a more effective guarantor of mass prosperity than colonisation and violent coercion. Militarily, the S-400 can act as a no-fly zone, but it is its position in the wider picture that really matters here.

This “Eurasian” project unfolding before our eyes embodies this notion of cooperation that in reality Americans have never known, since their country was founded on the back of bloodshed and spitting on the human soul. I hope I don’t offend Americans by stating this, but it’s the truth. Russia and friends want to incorporate as many nations into this project as possible, and not to make big bucks in profit, but to pull us away from this abyss that the Anglo-Saxons so badly want to throw us into.

So back to the main topic here: Israel. It’s true that Israel’s airstrikes were acting like a pest in Syria. They didn’t change anything in even the short-term, but they are a nuisance all the same, least of all because it generates this whining on the internet about “Putin/ Russia being weak”. The situation was such that if Russia downed an Israeli jet (using the tools at Hmeymim to do it), Russia would flush down the toilet all progress it has made since Putin came to power. It would be the most idiotic move imaginable and would warrant harsh criticism. Russia would become just as ugly as the Anglo Saxons are, also elbow-deep in human blood.

So, Russia instead manufactured a neat little trap for Tel Aviv. Remember what happened in December 2015? Yes, Turkey was used as a lab rat by the CIA in order to test Russia’s reactions at that moment in time, not only in Syria but in Ukraine too. We all know what Russia did – it severed the link between Turkey and its proxies in Syria and started the process of implosion. Takfiri groups were merging, disbanding, or just straight up massacring each other. The “FSA” multi-layered pyramid started to crumble. Turkey had been removed from the game. It was invited (forced via leverage of economic sanctions and the threat of ending Turkish Stream project, thus leaving Erdogan to the fate of the Gulenists) by Russia to mop up its mess in the North of Syria and end Tel Aviv’s little Rojava project. Turkey was forced to start the process of rebranding Nusra into “moderate” FSA troops and to transfer them to the “Euphrates Shield” forces. This is still ongoing today, although it’s not simple and Erdogan has problems inside Turkey to deal with at the same time.

In other words, Turkey’s room to manoeuvre was reduced in size, and not voluntarily, but because Turkey (whether it was forced to by NATO or not) tried to raise the stakes but failed to secure the needed chips beforehand. It backfired on the West, big time. Hello S-400. So now Israel has tried the same thing, essentially because it had no choice. I wrote the following on 10.05.18:

Thus, if follows from this that Russia knew that sooner or later Israel would make a mistake. And in order for the mistake to arrive, Russia needed to show patience. Does this mean that Russia waited for 15 troops to die? Certainly not. But to put things into context – 27 million Soviet people died during WW2, and it was the cost for liberation. War is war. People die in war. And troops know the danger they put themselves in when they sign up and are deployed.

Again, I stress, being outside observers who want to stop children being bombed and Anglo Saxon aggression, it is frustrating to see Israel walk all over international law and to sh*t on Syrian soil with impudence, but aggression was never the right response. The two occasions when the SAA did give Israel a little slap (February and May, 2018 – authorised by Moscow) was part of a deliberate plan to keep Israel honest; to show Tel Aviv that it risks losing much more than it gains by remaining in the Syrian “game”. And so Israel gave Russia the perfect pretext to give Syria the S-300. Israeli can’t complain to Russia about this, because of behind the curtain affairs that I will not discuss here. Tel Aviv accepts its punishment, and now pressure has indeed been taken off the S-400. By the way, many social media“experts” were flapping around like headless chickens, demanding Putin to nuke Tel Aviv, then 5 hours later demanding to send every SAM system under the sun. Here is what I said immediately after the IL-20 incident:

So I guess the question that is on people’s minds is: “Why didn’t Russia give the S-300 to Syria earlier, say, in 2011?”. The answer: without the Minsk Agreements, Russia’s actions in Syria simply couldn’t be possible. I.e., the S-300 constitutes a threat to Israel. And in geopolitics the ability to use the threat that something poses as a deterrent, rather than actually using the deterrent itself, is a very powerful mechanism. Knowing that the Syrian war would last approximately 10 years, Russia milked every piece of leverage it had to influence the behaviour of the belligerent parties. One should never ever use an Ace just like that, failing to fully utilise its potential. The S-300’s time came on September, 2018.

By the way, I will say that the story with the IL-20 is extremely bizarre. The only plausible explanation, in my opinion, is that what we are told is just a narrative for public consumption. Russian troops died, and Israel stabbed Russia in the back by using the plane as a human shield, but the exact circumstances we will never know. Now Israel is faced with a choice: if it tries to bomb Syria in the same way that it has been doing, then the SAA will respond in a much stronger way than it did before (and Israel will suffer more embarrassment as a result). This takes pressure off Russia to deliver some big hit to please social media entertainment seekers.

The IDF cannot risk using the F35 and flying it into an ambush, and Lockheed most certainly won’t want the PR disaster. But now Israel will be kept honest, and the token airstrikes on “Hezbollah warehouses” will cost Tel Aviv much more than they did before. Remember  – the “multipolar order” that is so highly spoken about is, in reality, a transition away from “buying” the ability to wage war and prop up one’s economy, to cooperation and the mutual investment in economies, based on a joint vision of the future.

I guess this article can be summarised as: everything the Kremlin does is done for a reason. In the meantime, enjoy Putin’s masterclass. In order to have peace, someone has to stop shooting. Russia is strong enough to take that burden upon itself and to set the example for everyone else.

End of the war 1945 – Advance of the Red Army in the streets of Berlin, April 1945.

DANGER? S-300 Delivery To Syria Increases US Risk, Says State Department

Source

S-300 Favorite surface-to-air missile systems. (File)

Sep 25, 2018

The delivery of Russia’s S-300 air defense systems to the Syrian government will increase the risk against the US-led coalition, a State Department official said on Monday.

“Russia’s delivery of improved air defense systems to the Assad regime will only increase the risk of escalating the conflict in an already dangerous environment and will increase the risk to the US and its partner forces conducting an operation against ISIS in Syria,” said the official of the State Department.

“This also reaffirms the maintenance of Russia’s protection of Assad’s regime and its responsibility for the actions of the regime,” he added.

On September 17, a Russian aircraft of the Il-20 model was downed by Syria’s air defense system while returning to Hmeimim’s base, about 35km off the coast, according to the official story. According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, four Israeli F-16s, targeting Syria in Latakia province, used the Il-20 as a shield, leaving it vulnerable to Syrian air defense attacks and caused the incident. The fall of Il-20 left 15 Russian soldiers dead.

The US State Department official recalled that it was Syria’s anti-aircraft defense system that brought down the Russian aircraft.

“Positioning even more air defenses will not solve the problem of unprofessional and indiscriminate missile launches by Syria, and will not reduce the risk to regional aviation,” the official said.

He also said that the death of the Russian crew is “unfortunate incident”

“It points out that many conflicts in the region need permanent and peaceful political resolutions in accordance with UN Security Council resolution 2254,” the official said.

Earlier on Monday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced measures to increase the safety of Russian soldiers in response to the fall of the Il-20 military aircraft, to which Russia attributes responsibility to Israel.

Shoigu explained that Russia will equip the command posts of Syrian air defense forces, which already operated with Russian satellite navigation systems. In addition, they would also equip radar stations and on-board systems, which would be complemented by the introduction of S-300 air defense systems.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told President Vladimir Putin that the delivery of weapons systems to what he called “irresponsible agents” would increase security risks in the region.

Trump Regime’s Rage for Regime Change in Venezuela

by Stephen Lendman (stephenlendman.org – Home – Stephen Lendman)

Beginning with the Clinton co-presidency, US regimes opposed Venezuela’s Bolivarian social democracy, wanting pro-Western puppet rule replacing it.

In 2001, after Hugo Chavez compared Bush/Cheney’s global war on terrorism with the 9/11 attacks, Washington’s ambassador Donna Hrinak was recalled for consultations.

Ahead of Bush/Cheney’s aborted two-day April 2002 coup against Chavez, State Department cables said it couldn’t be ruled out, the incident one of others to follow against him and Nicolas Maduro.

Days earlier, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza tweeted:

“Venezuela reiterates its denouncement and condemns the continuing aggressions that the US government has directly promoted against the constitutional President @NicolasMaduro, democratically elected and re-elected by a wide electoral margin in May of this same year,” separately tweeting:

“We denounce the intervention plans and support for military conspirators by the government of the United States against Venezuela. Even in US media, the crass evidence is coming to light.”

Like their predecessors, Trump regime hardliners want Maduro removed. International law prohibits interfering in the affairs of other nations, except in self-defense if attacked.

The 1970 UN General Assembly Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation Among States in Accordance with the Charter of the United Nations (Resolution 2625) affirmed “the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples” in all nations.

It proclaimed their right to “freely determine, without external interference, their political status and to pursue their economic, social and cultural development” – requiring compliance by all member states.

It prohibited the “threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state,” calling for resolving disputes “by peaceful means.”

International, constitutional and US statute laws never impede Washington’s aim to topple ruling authorities in nations it opposes – Venezuela a prime target because of its world’s largest oil reserves Republicans and undemocratic Dems want control over.

Rex Tillerson when secretary of state and Mike Pompeo when CIA director openly called for toppling Maduro.

At the time, Pompeo accused the Venezuelan president of usurping power and inflicting pain on the Venezuelan people – a bald-faced lie, ignoring US political and economic war on the country still raging.

As CIA director, Pompeo orchestrated months of street violence, falsely calling Bolivarian social democracy a threat to US security, supported by Trump instead of denouncing and preventing what’s going on.

Straightaway after replacing Tillerson as secretary of state last March, Pompeo warned about toughening Trump regime policies against US security threats in Latin America – despite none existing, aiming his remarks mainly at Venezuela.

Illegal sanctions were increased, political and economic war escalated. At the time, Trump said he wouldn’t rule out a “military option” to remove Maduro. Added toughness against Cuba was signaled.

Former Reagan administration assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs Roger Noreiga accused then-under secretary of state for political affairs Thomas Shannon of failing to pursue enough toughness against Maduro.

When Pompeo replaced Tillerson at State, he said Trump regime policies can reverse what he called “shortcomings” in Latin America by “get(ting) tough on (regional) hot spots.”

On Friday, Pompeo warned of unspecified “actions” the Trump regime intends pursuing against Venezuela, saying:

“You’ll see in the coming days a series of actions that continue to increase the pressure level against the Venezuelan leadership…who are working directly against the best interest of the Venezuelan people.”

“We’re determined to ensure that the Venezuelan people get their say.” Maybe he has another coup d’etat, political assassination, or war of aggression in mind.

The Trump regime’s notion of what National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis called “a peaceful, orderly return to democracy” is all about eliminating it wherever it exists and preventing its emergence elsewhere.

Venezuelan Bolivarian social democracy is a prime Trump regime target for elimination. Another attempt to remove Maduro could come any time.

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: stephenlendman.org (Home – Stephen Lendman). Contact at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

 

My newest book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Stephen Lendman

Stephen Lendman was born in 1934 in Boston, MA. In 1956, he received a BA from Harvard University. Two years of US Army service followed, then an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1960. After working seven years as a marketing research analyst, he joined the Lendman Group family business in 1967. He remained there until retiring at year end 1999. Writing on major world and national issues began in summer 2005. In early 2007, radio hosting followed. Lendman now hosts the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network three times weekly. Distinguished guests are featured. Listen live or archived. Major world and national issues are discussed. Lendman is a 2008 Project Censored winner and 2011 Mexican Journalists Club international journalism award recipient.
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