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Bombing Syria Considered Stupid

Various commenters have been badgering me to run a discussion of the Paris massacres and subsequent international response on this blog. I've been reluctant to go there because we invariably get far more smoke than light in the heat of the moment, and because it's not a terribly productive use of my time.

(Update: as of 2-Dec, the war faction won in the British Parliament and the bombers are already flying missions. How this plays out remains to be seen.)

Once the scale of the atrocity was clear certain responses became inevitable. President Francois Hollande of France is facing re-election in early 2017, 18 months out, and he is both relatively unpopular and threatened by Marine le Pen, leader of the anti-immigrant, racist, neo-fascist National Front. Failing to go Full Bush on those to blame for the massacres—in this case, ISIL/Da'esh—would be electoral suicide, and so within days France sent its nuclear carrier battle group in the direction of Syria. Aide Memoire: do not fuck with the French, they have a centuries-long history of being an aggressively expansionist imperial power. Their collapse during the second world war was an historical aberration arising from the scale of their war dead a generation earlier (8% of total male population killed, many more injured; compare that to the ~2% death toll of the US Civil War). That they successfully resisted pressure from George W. Bush and Tony Blair to join the Iraq invasion is largely attributable to then-President Jacques Chirac, who as a young man had fought in the Battle of Algiers, and had a much better idea of the likely consequences of trying to occupy an Arab nation than the neoconservative adventurers. But these recent precedents are both anomalies, and expecting the French to sit on their hands in the face of a direct attack would be as delusional as expecting Margaret Thatcher to ignore the Argentinian invasion of the Falkland Isles in 1982.

Also from the let-sleeping-empires-lie department: it's a bad idea to piss off the Russians, too. In particular, Vladimir Putin's current presidency appears to be running off a very traditional Russian script whereby economic woes at home can be ignored by playing to the gallery with a display of strength. When Metrojet Flight 9268 was blown up by a bomb over the Sinai Peninsula and Da'esh claimed responsibility it was only a matter of time before the White Swans were brought out to score the entirely gratuitous point that the Russian Air Force has got a very big dick indeed. (Syria is within range of Su-24M and Su-25 tactical aircraft, which are far more numerous and much cheaper to operate; also, Scotland, Spain, Italy, and Greece are just slightly off the shortest route between Olengorsk and Idlib. Someone was not only waving their dick in public, but anxious that it be adequately admired by NATO.)

The Russians are also, cannily, building bridges. Their support for the Assad regime—a very long-term client state—is not unexpected; their tactical measures seem to focus on allowing the Syrian government to maintain contiguous territory for the Alawaite minority that it represents. Negotiations with Iran appear to be focussed on building a coalition of people who really don't get on with Wahhabite militias, such as Al Qaida in Iraq and the even-more rabid Da'esh, but also with Saudi Arabia (the elephant in the room who the west are habitually ignoring).

But there is another threadbare former imperial player in the region who we've been ignoring—and finally there's climate change.

Turkey was, prior to 1918 and the Sykes-Picot Agreement, the hegemonic imperial power in the middle east, in the form of the Ottoman Empire. Syria was as much a part of Turkey's "sphere of influence" as the Eastern Ukraine was of Russia's—incidentally, another zone where the post-1918 settlement is going up in gunsmoke and it's raining airliners. More to the point, geopolitically Turkey is in a weird position. It was roped into NATO in the wake of the second world war as part of the USA's policy of encirclement of the USSR—but Turkey's national aspirations are intrinsically at odds with some of its NATO partners, spiking on occasion to the level of warfare. Let us not forget that Turkey was also the imperial hegemon that ruled Greece and the Balkans. And today Turkey controls a vital regional resource—the tributary rivers that flow into the Euphrates, the main supply of irrigation of water into Syria and northern Iraq. Turkey has been damming the Euphrates and restricting the water flow to Raqqa province, violating international water sharing conventions. Syrian anger over the Güney Doğu Anadolu project was a major reason why the Assad government began providing material support to the PKK insurgency in Turkey. In turn, Turkish control over the Euphrates headwaters is a potent weapon against the Kurdish independence movement.

I'm an outsider and not adequately informed on this area. However, it looks (from here) as if the Turkish centralizing obsession with suppressing the PKK has led to the destabilization of Syria and northern Iraq. Syria's government encouraging a push towards water-intensive agriculture coincided with the most intense drought on record in Syria, from 2007 to 2010, then ran into the generalized political discord of the Arab Spring: the Ba'ath government badly mishandled the demographic/economic situation during the 00's and it would be a mistake to lay the blame for the Syrian civil war entirely on Turkey. However, cutting the river water supply to a drought-stricken region in the middle of a period of popular discontent didn't help.

Today, 4 years after the war began, Syria is a shattered mess. It's noteworthy that Da'esh controls areas where the water supply has been most badly affected, crippling agriculture, the main support of the poor, mostly conservative Sunni locals. Add in lots of former Iraqi army officers (pushed into fighting by the de-Ba'athication policies imposed by the US occupation and then the anti-Sunni policies of the subsequent Shi'ite government in Baghdad) and a seasoning of Wahhabite fanatics, and you have the recipe for Da'esh to get started, take root, and hold territory.

So what is to be done?

The British government of David Cameron, for no sane reason, seems to think that bombing the crap out of these drought-stricken regions is going to make Da'esh go away. (There's a parliamentary debate tomorrow, to be followed by a vote that the proponents of bombing will probably win). The trouble is that bombing may initially show some signs of successfully killing off groups of insurgents. But air strikes are a very blunt instrument—the post-1920s replacement for massed artillery—and sometimes it goes horribly wrong.

More to the point, it won't cure the underlying problem, which is idiots in Ankara messing with the region's water supply in the service of short-term political expediency. The Turkish Deep State is becoming increasingly brutal in its murderous attacks on peaceful Kurdish dissidents, and it seems willing to risk a much more dangerous escallation in the process.

What we need, I think, is not more bombs: there are too many bombs falling already. What we need is enough coastal desalination plants to relieve pressure on the Syrian water supply, combined with resettlement camps for refugees fleeing the war, and systematic initiatives at ground level to protect them from the Da'esh revenants—whose support will fade away once someone else is providing the basic services that Da'esh offers to those it conquers (when it's not enslaving, raping, and murdering them).

(And I think it's clear that we need to be rid of Da'esh for good. Even the Nazis didn't lower themselves to booby-trapping the mass graves of their genocide victims to prevent them being decently reburied.)

281 Comments

1:

Note: This is my attempt at explaining why I think the RAF joining in the bomb-Syria business is a bad idea, framed for people who think we ought to be doing something about Da'esh, up to and including military action. Obviously if you don't hold with bombing people you've never met then you don't need me to explain why it's morally abhorrent. But if you're the kind of person who thinks "we-e-ell, those guys are assholes -- why shouldn't we bomb them?" hopefully this will give you something to think about instead.

2:

Thanks for writing this Charlie.

I'd add that it's not just a matter of aiding refugees. If all the money goes to the refugees in their camps, the surrounding people, who often aren't much better off, get very upset, typically with ugly consequences. The people and countries taking in the refugees have to be supported too, so that the refugees are seen as "the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free," rather than as barbarians at the gate.

IMHO, we're stuck with an age of migration, like it or not. Like it or not, we're also stuck with the nation-state, the idea of a more-or-less contiguous area (the state) that contains a single, unified people (the nation), and that colonies are questionable at best. Migration and nation-state are going to be in increasing conflict, and I don't think the conflict is going away any time soon.

3:

A chunk of the pressure to send the bombers in within the UK and other western European nations is an attempt to wilfully deny the need to do something for the refugees; if only we can wave a bomber-shaped magic wand the Bad People will stop being Bad and the refugees will pack up and go home.

That it's a side-effect of climate change (aggravated by bone-headed local politics) doesn't seem to be anywhere in the public discourse.

4:

Agreed. I'm not surprised that nobody wants to talk about the likelihood that most Syrian and Iraqi refugees won't be able to go home.

There's more than a bit of this in Hot Earth Dreams, mostly because the politics really are the most difficult problem at this point, after which we can get around to the slightly less difficult problem of rebuilding civilization more or less in its entirety to deal with a warmer world.

Guess it's easier to not talk about it...

5:

Admitting it's climate change means admitting that agriculture breaks first.

Never mind sea level, or heat, or flooding, or any of that rhetorically safely distant concern; agriculture breaks first, and no food, no civilization. No one in a position of power in the west will willing do that, because the necessary actions following from that admission involve breaking the entirety of the existing power structure; agriculture and industry sit on fossil carbon. Half of everything sits on fossil carbon. The outcomes are just as unpredictable as the October Revolution, and most people in power are old and can believe they'll be dead. (Obviously not, eh?)

(Note that the outcomes are not necessarily lasting bad, but they're not predictable. People have really terrible heuristics for making decisions about unpredictable outcomes.)

The refugees need to leave, go somewhere with water and soil, and live there. That's going to be true for a century as the habitability of the region goes away. (On a scale we could only hope to handle with desalination if one of the cheap-and-easy fusion schemes works with bells on.)

There needs to be a recognition that the expected climate outcome destroys Turkey; one way to view the Turkish water control projects is an attempt to get Turkey further into the future than it might otherwise reach. (Also Israel and horribly-own-goaled-by-the-Aswan-dam Egypt. Probably Greece, FYROM, etc.) That's an awful lot of people. It's not the only region that's going to have this problem.

6:

By the way, I've got to be very careful about the "barbarians at the gate" phrase, because it's BS.

It's worth remembering that civilization as we in the west know it was first invented in Syria and Iraq, what, 7,000 years ago, give or take, and Christianity as we know it was more or less "ignited" on the Road to Damascus. The Syrians and Iraqis are arguably the most civilized people on the planet, and not at all barbarians. Afghanistan's been wired to the rest of the world since the Middle Eastern bronze age.

In the US, we run into this prejudice when dealing with Mexican immigrants (Mexico has a much longer history of civilization than does North America). While I don't know how it plays out in Europe, I suspect that the idea of refugees and migrants as untutored barbarians gets wide currency, even when some thought to history shows how problematic it is. I have to remind myself constantly about this prejudice. Perhaps I'm not the only one?

7:

@Heteromeles --

How people behave to an outgroup is nearly completely driven by their economic circumstances and expectations, so one intent of the "barbarian" rhetoric is to get self-justifying bad behaviour by destroying positive expectations.

I find it's easier to think about "what supports a good outcome?" rather than to try to debug the reflexive responses, on the principle of however many ways there are to get a good outcome, there are arbitrarily more ways to get a bad one. One could be debugging the bad rhetorical triggers forever.

In this case, the good outcomes require resettling a quarter of a billion people in sufficiently habitable places over the next century. (Plus what ever else happens to require resettlement.) On that scale, the current refugee numbers are statistically zero, and can be thought of as necessary practice for performing a welcoming ethnogenesis.

8:

Bombing Syria is an example of the "Something must be done! This is something" way of thinking, which pretty much always leads to the wrong thing being done. Hopefully some day governmental types will realize the military action doesn't work well against terrorists.

Those last few links look like you're reading my sister-in-law's FB feed. As an Iraqi Kurd, she's one of my main sources for what's going on there, and one reason I pay attention to the region.

9:

The most obvious point being that even with all these various nations bombing Islamic State none of the locals on the ground are able or willing to eliminate it with troops.
If there is to be a "final solution" to the IS problem it will probably involve serious military intervention, back Assad at least in the interim, breaking up both Syria and Iraq (which should have been done a decade back) and creating a central Sunni state hopefully less rabid than IS.

10:

Alternatively (my favorite option) do nothing and let Darwin sort it out.

11:

I have to remind myself constantly about this prejudice. Perhaps I'm not the only one?

Part of the problem is that one way of looking at Human history is to split it into two eras: the age of muscle and environment power (wind and water), and the subsequent era of high energy civilization. Something like 99% of our species' cumulative energy budget over the past 200,000 years has been spent in the past two centuries, and something like 90% of that in the past five decades.

We tend to associate "civilization" with monumental construction, and in the high energy era we associate it with large scale energy utilization (hint: lots of poured concrete, big airliners and rockets, high speed trains) and so on. So the onset of the high energy era swamped our historical legacy of infrastructure (for example, the qanats of Asia or the Roman aquaduct system) and rendered it culturally invisible -- we don't give the Middle East credit for inventing little things like the concept of civil law, algebra, cities, and so on.

At the time of the transition the Middle East was dominated by a climax empire of the old order -- the Ottoman empire -- and it fell behind compared to the Western European trade-states (that had been little more than illiterate and impoverished iron-age barbarians just five centuries earlier). So they've been catastrophically eclipsed in the past 1-2 centuries ... but this is actually a short-term trend.

12:

In this case, the good outcomes require resettling a quarter of a billion people in sufficiently habitable places over the next century.

And the good news about that is that thanks to the great Chinese Experiment of 1990-2020 we now have a huge amount of data about how to resettle people on that sort of scale. (Phrases like "building developed-world middle class accommodation for 400 million people within one generation" spring to mind.) Not, mind you, that the Chinese experiment has been entirely successful -- but know how not to do it is probably as important as anything else.

13:

Alternatively (my favorite option) do nothing and let Darwin sort it out.

Which will only work if they keep to themselves.

14:

Leave a hornets' nest to grow in your neighbour's back yard and sooner or later you will get stung. (See also France, last month.)

On the other hand, throwing bricks at the hornets' nest in your neighbour's back yard pretty much guarantees that you'll get stung sooner rather than later.

Throwing bricks generally doesn't work against mobile swarm threats. (Metaphor entirely intentional.)

15:

Which they will. It will become exponentially harder for terrorists like the Paris lot to operate in future because of total surveillance.
Or are we talking about IS jihadis storming the White Cliffs of Dover within 45 minutes?

16:

"Throwing bricks generally doesn't work against mobile swarm threats. "

They are welcome to their Caliphate and will have a fun time subduing the entire Middle East, especially Iran.

17:

Okay Dirk, yellow card for trolling.

You're not usually this stupid. Engage constructively or STFU.

18:

The climate conference is taking place in Paris right now. If reports are to be believed, there's somewhat more buy-in as in more governments are at least saying that 'something's got to get done'. There's also talk about encouraging economic development via funding of climate-protective research and industry. (Or am I being too optimistic?)

19:

One of the nice things about the use of air power is that it helps to minimize the risk of your own sides casualties. Another thing is that air power has been over sold since before WW1, see Douhet and his contemporaries. A recent USA example is Col. John Warden in the First Gulf War.
Regardless the problem is political in nature, but since it has moved into the realm of armed conflict it will require ground combat troops. The serious question is who's and how many.

20:

Agreed on ground forces.

The big worry is that they may turn out to be Russian ones, as military advisors to Assad. Think Grozny squared.

21:

We tend to associate "civilization" with monumental construction, and in the high energy era we associate it with large scale energy utilization (hint: lots of poured concrete, big airliners and rockets, high speed trains) and so on.

Some wit here in Southern California referred to this disease of powerful white men (mayors, magnates, and so on) as Edifice Complex. At a certain point in their life cycles, they want to build something monumental for which they will be remembered.

It's a very old disease, and certainly not limited to white males.

22:

Re: 'It will become exponentially harder for terrorists like the Paris lot to operate in future because of total surveillance.'

Not buying this ... there's just too much information pinging hither and yon to be able to predict which pings are meaningful and require action. Catching the preps after the fact, okay, increased surveillance helps and which is probably why this bunch doesn't care about getting caught.

Increased border patrols are also a waste of time ... Europe is wall-to-wall towns with a good chunk of the population driving between countries at any one time.

23:

Which they will. It will become exponentially harder for terrorists like the Paris lot to operate in future because of total surveillance.

Tempted to say something rude, but not worth getting into an argument, and the Yellow Card is already out.

Surveillance isn't going to stop attempts, after all the 'Paris lot' were communicating with unencrypted text messages. Attacks like those work for them in two ways; it makes them look tough to their supporters and attracts more. It also gets governments to "Do something" (see above) = more surveillance and bombing, and putting the wedge between native citizens and immigrants/refugees, doing their work for them. Which leads back to the beginning all over again.

24:

Point of order: I'm not sure that it's accurate to derive the perceived fuckability of France purely from the events of 1940. The French got stomped by the Germans three times in a row: in 1940 as mentioned; in 1914-18 (they would not have taken their eventual place among the victors had it not been for all the other countries joining in on the same side); and in 1870. When they had started it, the general expectation had been that they would win, and the rapid and comprehensive German victory was pretty much of a surprise to everyone. I think it is that - and its involving the capture of his heir along with his army - that first guaranteed the removal of Boney from his status as the bogey mothers used to frighten their children with.

Of course the other point to be noted from 1870 is that it is very easy to wind the French up and get them into a tizz, in which condition they will readily engage in unwise actions.

And the other point concerning the French in general is that they are not all that bothered about other countries having negative opinions of their actions. The Russians, of course, are even less bothered. (cf. Russian ships merrily continuing to blow up Somalian pirates.)

I also don't think it's helpful to append the word "change" to "climate" concerning Syria. Syria being a dry place and largely dependent on a water supply controlled by upstream imperialists is not a new development; it has been like that for a very long time, and for the Syrian government to have encouraged the expansion of water-intensive agriculture at all is stark staring bonkers. (Indeed until reading this I had no idea they had done that, and it would never have crossed my mind that anyone in such a climate would consider such a barmy idea. What will we see next, rice paddies in the Gobi Desert?)

25:

The climate change issue here is that with increased temperatures, crops require more water and produce less food per unit water due to heat stress (although changing varieties can help with this last issue, and it's one the plant breeders are working on diligently).

In Syria's case, the nasty, long drought they experienced prior to the start of the civil war was also very likely exacerbated by climate change. In other words, it would have been shorter and somewhat wetter without us juicing the atmosphere.

A number of experts have independently said that climate change "helped spark" the Syrian civil war. No one says climate change was the only cause of the war, but equally, the researchers who have looked at the issue think it was an important driver and it would be foolish to ignore it.

Politics matter with climate change. Australia, Israel, and Syria were (so far as I know) hit with equally nasty droughts at about the same time (the last few decades), and both Australia and Syria suffered major crop losses. Subsequently Australia and Israel are becoming major exporters of technologies that allow people to adapt to drought, while Syria plunged into civil war. Climate change isn't destiny (yet), but messy politics and incompetent leaders are not what you want when you're dealing with a major environmental problem.

26:

The big worry is that they may turn out to be Russian ones, as military advisors to Assad. Think Grozny squared.

Note that German, and thus EU, food prices are falling despite drought-driven production shortfalls in central Germany because Putin closed Russia to EU food exports in retaliation for the Ukraine sanctions, and that there is enough food involved in the suddenly lost market to have a major effect on prices. It's not clear what the substitute food sources for Russia might be.

(If you aren't feeling twitchy enough today, there's always http://www.worldagweather.com/metric/#summary or look at the sidebar maps at http://nogger-noggersblog.blogspot.com/ )

27:

Agreed. "Total surveillance" would have to mean an incorruptible minder looking over everyone's shoulder on a continuous basis. Sugar, salt and electricity gets you a bomb; absent telescreens in the kitchen, who is going to know you're cooking bombs rather than food if you don't tell anyone that's what you're doing?

28:

Remind them that the low quality modern concrete only lasts less than 100 years. The modern day Ozymandias needs to build something more relevant for the times: a desalination plant and water pipeline.

29:

A number of experts have independently said that climate change "helped spark" the Syrian civil war. No one says climate change was the only cause of the war, but equally, the researchers who have looked at the issue think it was an important driver and it would be foolish to ignore it.

The thing about climate change is that it's a cause of conflict you can't remove.

In principle, human conflicts can be resolved peacefully. The consequences of climate change can't be; you get a (in human lifespan terms) permanent alteration of circumstances. This is one of the reasons it's so essential to get off the fossil carbon economy as completely and as fast as possible. (To a first approximation, all the altered circumstances are bad.)

30:

Actually, I am quite serious. This is how real nations form. If they can hold the ground and make it stick they have their caliphate.
The real question is whether IS leadership is willing or even able to negotiate its permanent existence. Because some Sunni state will have to occupy that land when all of this is over.

31:

BTW, I created the first draft of this document:
https://transhumanistparty.wordpress.com/2015/11/25/press-transhumanist-party-views-on-action-in-syria/

TLDR:

The Transhumanist Party would only support the bombing of Syria under the following conditions:

(a) That the military action is limited to strikes against Islamic State and will not be widened to include other factions in the civil war or elsewhere.

(b) That it is part of a wider plan to end the war in Syria to enable refugees to return home, even if it means backing Assad on a temporary basis with Russian assistance.

(c) It must have the consent of the Syrian government or the United Nations.

32:

My point is that the local climate has been such that water-intensive forms of agriculture have been a silly idea for many thousands of years. They should have expected it to go horribly wrong no matter when they did it: like Neil impaling Vyvyan with the pickaxe, it was bound to happen eventually. There were extended droughts in the region due to cooling events in the Holocene; conditions in which such things can be expected are by no means a recent development.

33:

It won't surprise those of you that know me that I'm opposed to bombing in Syria. And Iraq.

It's not clear to me that it gains us anything except increasing the risk of being targeted and convincing people that we're the bad guys. Like they need continued reminders of that.

But military action of some sort seems like a nice easy thing to do. Especially when you aren't going to, in the current parlance, put boots on the ground. And, for some reason - I suspect it's part of the psychology of the drive for power - there seems to be a drive to get involved and send in the troops, or the bombers or whatever.

John Major didn't start a war (or a major, extended military action) did he? He was the last PM of any real longevity I remember that didn't. Callmedave has, Brown didn't have long enough, Blair obviously did, Thatcher obviously did, I get hazy or have to look them up before her, but we have a fairly bloody history...

34:

It has become blindingly obvious that winning the war is easy, as long as you declare victory and fuck off sharpish, allowing the enemy to once again run things, albeit under a different name (sometimes...).
The alternative is a full neo-colonial occupation coupled with social engineering and financial support for decades, ideally with UN backing.

35:

The assassination of Tahir Elci is so recent and such a farce, I guess it's possible that it was a cross-fire event. As one of my friends noted 'Surely if it was planned, no sane person would have planned like this'. Even then, the first instinct of the Turkish Government is to close ranks and never admit any blame at any cost.

They are a strange beast. In 90s my home was raided because of a file hosted on my BBS, my mum was scared to death. I was eventually picked up, questioned for some hours and let free once I gave them a reasonable explanation (see technobable (n)). Regardless, the same file would have gained me a hefty prison sentence from our own CPS in 2015 so I guess what we used to call 'The Political Section' of the Ankara Police did go easy on me, a rather naive left-leaning university student running a BBS in early 90s, they didn't have any idea about any technological aspects of it, leave alone heard such a thing called Internet which had arrived to Turkey just weeks before... I guess they had bigger fish to fry, more important people to torture, more people to throw down the stairs (and they frequently did).

I digress...

36:

@El --

A standing army has to justify its existence. If you promote for success in combat, it's got both personal and institutional reasons to want a war. And since there's money in involved, you get a structural problem where part of the purpose of government is to fight wars in an active, people-making-the-decisions-benefit-from-this, sort of way.

37:

@El,

You can argue that Major's inaction Bosnia caused endless suffering. Siege of Sarajevo happened completely during Major's tenure, and could have been prevented.

IMHO, sometimes you have to act.

38:

So ... outgovern Da'esh in Syria, by providing water and modern low-loss irrigation infrastructure as well as the usuals such as electric light, law, and security?

The theory being, people with something to lose are more peaceful than those with nothing?

- Neutralises Turkish aggression to some degree.

- Goes either way with the Russians. Easily spun by them as their achievement.

- The alternative we're seeing already: mass emigration. This might work for Syria, but it won't work again. So what will our leaders do then? The Arid Zone has a lot of people in it. Yemen, Libya, Sudan, the Sahel..the Arid Zone has a lot of people. Where does it stop? And how does it stop? (My mind blanches.)

Benign government would work, Charlie, and I think it would be cheaper than the alternatives in the long run, but I fear the reasoning is far too sophisticated for our leaders in NATO.

And it would require far more persistence than they've ever displayed* -- hanging in there for a generation at the minimum.

So far, climate change seems to be playing out as the more pessimistic prognosticators predicted, except more rapidly. I don't think anyone was expecting mass migrations before the 2030s.

* except when it comes to enriching themselves at the expense of the rest of us, of course.

39:

Bombing was tried, Belgrade got done over by the Luftwaffe (again) along with the Chinese embassy but it took boots on the ground to cut the fighting down to a dull roar. The tensions are still there of course. See also Green Line on Cyprus et all.

40:

Re: 'So ... outgovern Da'esh in Syria, by providing water and modern low-loss irrigation infrastructure as well as the usuals such as electric light, law, and security?'

I thought the Da'esh were trying to bring about the end of the world. If so, then whatever good governance that has occurred is an unintended by-product.


41:

It's nastier than that, I'm afraid. Still, before I start babbling, you might be amused by a report titled Camels Don’t Fly, Deserts Don’t Bloom: an Assessment of Saudi Arabia’s Experiment in Desert Agriculture, which basically said that Saudi Arabia's attempt to secure its own food supply by tapping into the groundwater aquifers in its territory was doomed because there was a limited supply of groundwater that they've largely used up.

Speaking of food security, you are aware that the US uses food exports as a major form of soft power projection? Because it takes water to grow food, food exports can be seen as a really good way to move water around. You can have an arbitrarily large number of people in a desert, so long as they have enough water for drinking and sanitation, and all their food is imported from areas that have a surplus of water to grow food and a wish to sell that food to people who need it. And sometimes there are strings attached to that sale.

When everyone's being nice to each other, this is an economist's dream. A desert country may not have enough water to grow food for its people, but it can have other resources that it can export for money with which it can buy food from abroad.

Unfortunately, the US, Russia, and other grain producers have for decades taken advantage of this trade to influence weaker, drier countries around the world. In the last few decades, this has led to countries like Saudi Arabia experimenting with growing their own food, as a way to become independent from the great powers.

While I don't know whether Assad's policy of growing wheat in northeastern Syria was an attempt to gain more independence for his country, it wouldn't surprise me. Food security is a major issue in the Middle East. A decade ago, a drought in Russia, with corresponding decreases in wheat supplies to the Middle East and increases in food prices, was a major cause of the Arab Spring uprisings, including in Syria.

So yes, it's daft to grow crops in a desert. And sometimes, it's also daft to not grow crops in a desert.

42:

A persistant meme in these discussions is that leaders without direct experience in war are more likely to go to war themselves. Then John McCain comes along.

Can someone shed some light on the hawkish or dovishness (to use USian terms) inside the militaries? My impression from far outside the military is that military planners like to think 'this time it will work'. Or maybe define themselves some achievable military goals, wether these make sense politically is another question.

The difficulty here is that of course in a democracy, the civilian government should make the grand decisions. But I hardly perceive big reluctance on the parts of military higher ups against going to war. But I could be wrong.

43:

Agreed with Mage, and yourself - although it's too late to mention Groznyy. If you look at the footage, much of several Syrian cities already looks like that, and each side is fighting with a similar level of barbarity (Russians in Chechnya would allegedly keep a last grenade for themselves, rather than risk capture by Chechens). ANNA News gives an insight into the level of destruction.

A point to note is that the British are already operating in Syria; we're just not dropping bombs or (occasional SF types aside) killing Syrians. British Predators, RIVET JOINT, and Tornado fitted with RAPTOR pods are gathering intelligence, and you can bet that Mount Troodos is running a three-shift system. I don't know whether the refuelling aircraft are busy in theatre, but that has traditionally been a heavy British contribution.

It's rather apparent that it would be best for regional forces to do any ground fighting; the obvious candidates are Saudi Arabia (currently too busy in Yemen, and probably too closely aligned at the IS end of Syrian politics), Jordan (too sensible to get involved on the ground on a large scale?), and Iran (thus giving the Saudis, the Israelis, and the Americans the screaming heebie-jeebies). There's also Turkey, easily the most capable force in the area (but AIUI that would give the Kurds and the Iraqis the screaming heebie-jeebies). Just to add to the unreality, there have been admissions that there are already backchannels allowing American air power to coordinate with Iranian Revolutionary Guard types at a tactical level...

So the problem is "who"?

My only suggestion is an end-game that starts with some kind of partial political solution that retains Syrian territorial integrity; gives the saner end of the Syrian opposition some form of voice and freedom from a midnight visit by the Mukhabarat; and turns the fight into "less-tyrannical Syrian state versus Da'esh".

The compromises involved might be very ugly, but in terms of external support you'd need to see the Kurds abandon a single Kurdish state, the Russians keep Tartus and some hefty local influence, the Israelis happy that the nutters weren't shooting at the Golan as well as the Lebanese border, the Saudis happy that the Iranians weren't getting a bit too much influence, not too much score-settling against the Alawites / Turkmen / Kurds / Yazidis / Circassians, and everyone apart from the Russians happy that Sic Semper Tyrannis.

Meanwhile, I rather suspect that any actual tonnage dropped by the RAF would be rather small - the important contribution is symbolic, although BRIMSTONE is apparently much envied by the USAF (it's a rather smaller and more precise way to apply force than their current weaponry).

My take on it is that it might be worthwhile if the UK willingness to use force, along with all of the other statements of political will (e.g. UN resolutions), is designed so as to change some of the local political perspectives enough to hasten the start to a negotiated solution.

Meanwhile, it would IMHO be justifiable to use force to prevent the military expansion of Da'esh, where necessary and possible by strikes against its manoeuvering military forces rather than by trying to bomb its heartland.

So - shades of grey and caveats apply. Force isn't always bad, but should be used in proportion and as part of a cycle of local escalation and de-escalation - none of that "if you have a hammer every problem looks like a nail" which results in running out of appropriate targets and deciding "let's just make the rubble bounce", etc.

If Middle-Eastern politics was easy, everyone could do it. BTW, who could answer the Schleswig-Holstein question?

44:

@martin089 --

There were multiple resignations from the US Army over Iraq. They thought it was a crazy, stupid plan with zero chance of success. They also think it's their job to do what the civilian leadership tells them, crazy and stupid or not.

Plus, all the incentives for personal career advancement involve fighting; you get promoted for success in battle above all else. So to get resignations over a regional war you have to be proposing something the professional officers think is extremely stupid.

(Consider that the entirety of the Cold War MAD doctrine is, from a military perspective, barking. You arrange so you cannot possibly fight decisively and wait for a miracle to occur. Civilian control of the military held through three generations of that. It also massively corroded the ability of the professional military to tell any Western government "this is not a good idea".)

45:

SO - targetted action, really targetted, like an armoured division?
Meanwhile, Turkey's supposedly "moderate-islamist" guvmint under Erdogan needs slapping round the face with a wet fish (they've been buying Da'esh's oil, or so some say) & an accomodation with the Kurds is needed yesterday.
What are the odds on a Turkish Army coup, reclaiming Miustapha Kemal's secularist legacy?
As fo Da'esh, "kill them al;l" isn't actually enough, we need to kill the sunni-extremist whole narrative, in which Saudi wahabism is only marginally better than Da'esh - see the cartoon I liked to elsewhere ...
Yuck.

46:

A major obstacle to boots on the ground is the perception problem: Whatever the west does, Iraq and Afghanistan blew so much goodwill that any action will be viewed as colonizing crusaders, if not to speak from Daesh's own particular brand of crazy.

The same obstacle seem to be the benign government option: Infrastructural investment belongs to someone or is build with the help of someone. Which reeks of neocolonialism.

Who is part of a solution seems as important as the How of a solution. US/Europe? Colonialism. Assad & Russia? Ehm. Iran? Saudi-Arabia? Sectarianism. Maybe we can invite China?

47:

If they can hold the ground and make it stick they have their caliphate.
Which will look remakably similar to Saudi - as if it didn't do so already.
Isn't religion wonderful?

48:

It's worth realizing, again, that climate change is not necessarily destiny.

Brian Fagan, in The Great Warming, talks about the Chumash, an Indian tribe on the southern California coast and islands from around Malibu (one of their words) up to Point Conception. According to the archaeologists, around the 12th Century their ancestors were getting hammered by long-term drought (The Medieval Warm Period), and there's ample evidence of skulls crushed by clubs and skeletons with arrow wounds from that period. Unlike the Maya, though, the Chumash managed to stop the warfare, come together, and work with their former enemies to survive. It's totally unclear how they did it--if the living Chumash know the story, they're not telling--but it's a counter example to all the idea that drought inevitably leads to chaos and the collapse of society. At least occasionally, people figure out peaceful solutions to dealing with a conflict caused by a changing climate.

49:

WRONG
The madwoman may have done many stupid & evil things, but she did NOT start a war.
The Argentine fascist junta started a war, which is not the same thing at all .......

50:

Emotionally and logically I find it very hard to turn the other cheek to ISIL/DAESH. Of all the recent nasties they come pretty much top of the pile as deserving eradication.

Of course trying to bomb/drone them won't on its own achieve that and will add an increment of collateral kills to their own massacres.

But they are one of the (many) major impediments to any improvement of the Syrian situation that need to be reduced before progress can be made. So the questions for me are:

- How to achieve some reduction of the ISIL problem within Syria/Iraq within the next 12-24 months?
- What strategy will best minimise them over the next 5-10 years?

51:

Surely if it was planned, no sane person would have planned like this.
you have forgotten something.
Erdogan is an islamist, that is a religious believer using state military force d=for his objectives.
He is, by our definitions, insane from the word "go".
You were saying?

52:

I have to agree with the main thrust of Charlie's comments.
From my limited knowledge of entrenched civil wars, typically; either a stabilising force invades and then governs, or all the major players are cajoled in to some sort of mutually assured power sharing agreement (Lebanon or NI).
On one of the spiralling several hundred comment threads earlier this year, I got the impression that CiaD was implying that the methods that turn young men (mostly) into slaughtering machines, while nothing new, had been improved to the point that they escaped into the general tool kit, I thought about that a lot after Paris.

53:

The major problem with boots on the ground is that it would be in service of a delusive expectation that the people in the region can stay in the region.

Any such plan is doomed to failure.

54:

I don't know whether the refuelling aircraft are busy in theatre,
They are - & heavy-lift for logistics too - I think we are supplying the French - repeating what we did for them in Mali .....
On other matters, at this stage, it may be that we must ignore, in spite of his past horrible deeds, & character of Assad, & offer him immunity from ANY prosecution, provided he walks ....
BTW, who could answer the Schleswig-Holstein question?
Otto von Bismarck, actually, see: "War of 1866"

55:

What "inaction"?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peace_plans_offered_before_and_during_the_Bosnian_War

The Vance-Owen plan was backed by UNPROFOR trying to get the aid convoys through, while at the same time keeping the various parties engaged in local ceasefires and national negotiations. The tragedy is that the Dayton agreement was near-enough the same outcome as would have happened after Vance-Owen.

It got sunk because each side didn't believe that it was all there was on offer, and each side thought it could still benefit (this wasn't helped by the US covert arms supplies into the region, convincing the more hawkish Bosnians that the USA was a breath away from coming in on their side).

I was at a fascinating lecture by General Michael Rose on the subject in the mid-90s; he was quite exercised by any claims that the early 90s were somehow a failure due to "inaction", and wanted UNPROFOR to be given the credit for the hundred thousand lives that it saved.

56:

Considered stupid?

Maybe. Lets consider what would sound clever to a Front-Bench MP:

Approval from the Daily Mail (oops, sirry) and adulation - standing ovations! - from the Party Conference.

Suppliers of military equipment have jobs in my constituency.

Suppliers of military equipment are ever so, *ever so* generous.

The big boys are already bombing Syria and we don't want to feel left out.

I do amazingly good 'serious and caring' speeches and photo opportunities at military funerals.

The refugee problem means lots of cheap and exploitable undocumented labour...

...Which means that I can speak out against illegal immigration, in my best British speaking voice - more winning at Daily Mail! - while doing nothing to stop it. Because I don't want to stop it: our generous friends tell me that this nasty socialist 'living wage' is driving everyone out of business.

I can do overt racism against migrants and refugees and get even more votes: create enough of them, and that'll be me getting the UKIP floaters, come the next election, then.

And, best of all, bombing people makes them hate us! Which means terrorism is real enough to ram through all the surveillance and security powers my clever friends want.

57:

Nile, while each individual point you make holds water, I suspect the job lot of them would require the holder to have horns and cloven hoofs, not to mention a pointy tail and a family home somewhere extremely hot.

(Cynicism? Sure. Hypocrisy? Lay it on. Total malevolent scum-sucking evil combination of the above with all the trimmings ...? I can see the crazy-ass fringe of the ruling party holding it, but not an outright majority. Most people like to believe they're good, after all.)

58:

And here's a view from a former head of Israel's National Security Council. (Plenty of ideological assumptions here, but it's interesting to see a shared consensus between Israel and Russia, and their own view of Turkey's motivations.)

59:

Note that Germany will join France and send troops (not directly to Syria, but doing reconnaissance there) since Hollande basically called the banners and Merkel has no choice but to follow (unless she wants to bury the German/French relations and split Europe).
And we all know how long the last German expeditions (Kosovo, Afghanistan) lastet... :-(

60:

Hello there. You'd be surprised to the depth of environmental old fuddy duddies that you've reached recently (for the record: I, for one, never wore a kerchief).

So, I have been poked and dug up. And, I'd like to state: no, I do not have Facebook and I never will. I do have a niece who has "poked" me (via email) to do this.

Well, Mr Stross has hit a good number of right notes, but there's some things missing. Any sane response to this starts with focusing on Olive Groves.

Hold with me here: one of the most depressing things about the region has been the willful destruction of agriculture and life for geographical or political gains, as noted in the starting essay. This has occurred for the last thirty years or so, as has regional aquifer degradation.

Since we're doing history: the region is the birth of so much, as user Heteromeles notes, precisely because it was a fertile river, although with differences to the Nile Delta (largely floods). Looking to S. Hussein, the willful draining of marshlands to root out rebels (although, California is just as bad) was a crime both in human and ecological terms: however, Lebanon and Yemen have also fallen into this downward spiral (Lebanon's forests and trees are so important they feature on their flag, sadly now being reduced; Yemem's water usage has devolved into a third being used on drug production). A challenge: apart from the drought, can anyone give a good oversight into the whys of the desertification of Iraq / Syria, or more pertinently, Jordan? Jordan and Israel have many issues, one being water usage and pollution!

You might wonder what I'm getting at (although my name is a clue - having read through some prior discussions I noted a few things missed): the solution to this is an organic one (quite literally).

Instead of building skyscrapers (of little or no use in desert climes anyhow, look to the ancient Mosques to see how architectural cooling can work without energy waste!), the region should be building (or, ha! re-building!) gardens and green zones. A start would be to stop wasting water (and installing proper drainage / sewerage plants that everyone is so keen to immediately bomb) and then re-green the entire zone (starting from the rivers edges and moving out; reinstating the marshland would drastically help).


Ah. And we have the Pope involved: there are old men convinced that this is all far more important than a regional dispute.

To sum up: without oil (I did mention Jordan deliberately) as a currency generator (I notice the Telegraph and Haaretz are leading with Russian claims that not only has ISIL been shipping oil to Turkey but the PKK have been shipping it to Israel) then you might have sanity.


No-one wants to live in a desert: transforming desert into gardens is as old as my namesake. Sadly, somewhere along the line all three religions of the region lost this spirit.

And yes: if you need references to great gardens produced by our Jewish, Christian or Islamic historical figures, there are plenty! (Not to mention those who proceeded them!)


I apologize for the ramble: most interesting discussion however (I am being told that pithy comments will be read more. I am interested in "Gregs" gardening though - perhaps we need more teachers than Imams to solve this!)

61:

Eh.. Syria can be *made* a perfectly viable agricultural power house. It's a coastal nation, Israel is an existence proof that you can supply a nations water needs entirely with desalination plants if you care to expend the effort, and there are even more elegant solutions than this - Google seawater greenhouse.

Climate change is real. It's not automatic doom. Micro-climates can be engineered to be cooler and the landscape made more resistant to weather events - it is all a matter of planting the right things in the right places.

Of course carrying out this plan would pretty much require that France turned the place into an overseas department because no faction likely to come to power there is going to just up and build a modern hydraulic state.

RE; stupidity.

Daesh committed an act of war against France. They're not even denying this. Because they're bonkers. Fighting them is thus necessary. It doesn't make sense to call that stupid, because forced moves are forced.

The chosen strategies, goals and tactics, however can easily be stupid. For example restricting retaliation to bombing is, indeed, stupid because trying to wage a war entirely from the air always is.

Without people on the ground telling you who to blow up, you are going to blow up the wrong people, which is unhelpful, and also evil, and Syria seems to be a bit short on organized forces to hand out the laser pointers of death to.

At this point I'm obviously talking myself into the logical position that France should just go right ahead and conquer Syria, which is giving me a headache. Can anyone think of a better plan than "tanks, then massive construction projects"?

62:

Well, that's the humanitarian disaster no-one's talking about: what will happen when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia runs out of money?

No, really: it's not a rich country. There are some very, very wealthy individuals and families: but the state itself is fiscally incontinent and effectively bankrupt.

it's not just about all those high-rolling princes and their stipends, and the larger payments to ensure the loyalty of clans and fractious factions and ambitious relatives: the whole country runs on patronage and monopolies and licenses and largesse - thirty million utterly unproductive citizens.

Thirty million, and none of them grow the food, maintain the generators and the water treatment plants and the hospitals; and the economy is designed that way - no middle class with dangerous ideas of democracy and constitution and the rule of law, no productive class with dangerous economic power...

It's all rented in. intentionally so. And the education system remains in the hands of the Wahhabites for a reason.

Saudi Arabia needs to sell expensive oil, and it's run out of the cheap oil that terrified the rest of OPEC into keeping to their quotas; so everyone is pumping and pocketing a profit, secure in the knowledge that the Kingdom cannot pump the price below twenty a barrel.

The kingdom needs oil at forty a barrel, and it's currently pumping for thirty; and they've still got a lot of oil, and it's still got a value - but it's getting more expensive to extract, and the country's getting more expensive to run.

.. And that's without an expensive war on the Southern border. We're not giving them those weapons for free, and we're charging them a bloody fortune to maintain the aircraft that they're piloting to bomb their racial enemies.

War breeds war, and this will only worsen. Only, not enough to be a European (or Iran-Iraq) land war with the slightest hope of killing enough - millions! - to make a difference.

So what will happen to those thirty million people when the money runs out? They can't farm - and couldn't anyway, in a desert, even if they had the skills. They have no industrial skills, and very little experience of productive labour - and they have some work to do in overcoming prejudices that they've worked extremely hard to earn, as everyone who's had a local quota hire imposed on their business will tell you - as a rule of thumb you need to hire two extra foreigners to offset their negative effect on productivity.

It will take a generation to undo the damage that's been done to them by the House of Saud's deliberately-imposed culture of designed uselessness, and they won't get that much time when their economy collapses.

The countries that they rented low-end labour from absolutely do not want them, and I'll let you guess the reasons.

We want the rich ones - or rather, we want their money - but that leaves most of thirty million. We'd probably like the seriously bright and motivated Saudi citizens who work for Aramco - but they can pick and choose their destination and they probably won't choose *us*.

And some country, somewhere, will have its economy transformed by a modest fraction of the million and a half peaceful, productive and educated Syrians who need a place to live right now... And will keep on leaving Syria for the next ten to twenty years. So if we're taking anyone from that part of the world, it'll be them: not the Saudis.

...So what will happen to thirty million Saudis when the money runs out, the foreign experts and the technicians and the labourers go home, and the food and water stop?

Thirty million people.

63:

Desalination is currently a temporary strategy. While it works, it takes a large amount of energy to desalinate sea water. Currently that energy comes from fossil fueled power plants, so desalination is the option of the wealthy minority to keep their agriculture going awhile longer, as seen in places like Israel and Australia.

Now, for the tech geeks, the desalination community is rather frustrated by this state of affairs. Research into desalination reportedly stagnated in the 1980s (IIRC) and several promising alternative approaches that *might* be more energy efficient died on the vine.

On the other hand, at least one report noted that building a large desalination plant costs less than one day's worth of Iraqi ground war, American-style, without the surge. In absolute energy terms, building water infrastructure is cheaper than war. Whether it can prevent war is another matter, as Daesh has been happy to fight over control of reservoirs in the last few years.

Can we get to solar-powered desalination on the large scale? Probably, but it's going to take a big investment in new technology. Good thing that the Gates Foundation's interested in that sort of thing.

64:

and Syria seems to be a bit short on organized forces to hand out the laser pointers of death to

Which is why you might see the 13e RDP and the successors to the 11e Choc driving around Syria...

...not to mention Troops Hereford and sundry denizens of Fort Bragg.

Possibly relevant story from the Bosnian War and an insight into French attitudes. After a number of attacks, and the recent death of two French peacekeepers, the home in Pale of a senior Bosnian Serb aide to Karadic received several laser-guided bombs by way of sending a message that such behaviour would be taken... personally.

What is interesting is that no-one's mentioning another country that has had Western support for the conflict against Islamist irregulars; namely Mali, under Operation Serval / Operation Barkhane. The French (and Dutch) have had ground combat troops fighting there, alongside the Malians, for several years now; complemented by UK and US logistic and sensor support, among quite a few others.

65:

The energy cost isn't a problem, because the places that need to do this also have a solar power resource of vastly higher quality than we do. If solar is ever going to beat coal on cost, it will happen there about fifteen years before it does in the west. And while storing electricity is a pain in the neck, storing water is easy. Or alternatively, well, running desalination off nuclear heat is also a solved problem.

66:

Some of this conversation has reminded me of an NPR story from last week:
Saudi Hay Farm In Arizona Tests State's Supply Of Groundwater

Basically a Saudi dairy company is bringing water from Arizona to Arabia in the form of Alfalfa because they can no longer grow their own.

67:

You do realize long-term irrigation is not a solved problem? You wind up with mineral concentrations in the soil, hopefully as simple as salt buildup. Even if you have magic fusion desal you don't have a solution to the agricultural problem. (Current bulk desalination isn't especially effective; at least .5 USD/litre and it's fiddly stuff with osmotic membranes. There are lots of ideas but very few demonstrations of something better, in part because dehydrated seawater is nasty stuff.)

There are no fast, simple, cheap long term solutions for agriculture; it's not pick any two, it's you can't have any. Stable agriculture is at least somewhat more labour intensive than we've been used to with mechanized agriculture in the West and it's different.

(Go find a plot of average topsoil depth in Iowa versus time, for example. Even absent climate change we'd be looking at a very definite limit to current agricultural practices.)

68:

If our proposed candidate had a range of ideological delusions that made all of these things individually seem The Smart Money to him, the fact that they cumulatively amount to naked evil could well be invisible to said candidate. We have had politicians like that in Australia (such as Abbott and Morrison), people who genuinely believe everything they're doing is for the best even as people are tortured and killed.

On entirely another note, the first thing that came to mind when Russia and France joined in bombing was target selection. Unless, as seems very unlikely, they had new information that the US did not have, then they would be bombing almost at random for the sole purpose of posturing. This very obviously could not end well.

That there were hospitals and civilian homes under bombardment pretty much immediately was therefore practically guaranteed. The US holds the gold standard of surveillance and if there were known-good targets then they'd already have flattened them.

Semi-random bombing is a fantastically terrible idea and seems basically guaranteed to create enemies, doing Daesh's work for them. Why any nation not under direct internal threat from its own extreme right would even consider it is beyond me.

69:

The current state of desalination, and water-intensive agriculture in deserts, I would consider examples of misuse of resources which display comparable barminess.

The need for desalination is caused by the same conditions which are ideal for doing it: lots and lots of empty, useless land which is sunny and hot by day, but cold at night. So you use it for solar stills. Such things have long existed. You can get them for such purposes as providing drinking water in a lifeboat. They don't work very well, but they work well enough, and at their simplest they are basically complicated plastic bags. This technology, scaled up, is just what is needed. Inefficiency is not a problem since the space and energy are free, and it is dead simple and easy to make the stuff in large quantities.

(And incidentally, such a setup would, like an airship, be very hard to destroy by military action. The effects of damage would only be to knock out the particular spot that was damaged; you would have to meticulously devastate a very large area to make a significant difference. The connecting pipelines would be a target, but they are anyway.)

What we actually observe is exactly the same as what you would get if Birmingham was doing it: a standard-Western-industrial-pattern factory. It takes in energy and raw materials and produces stuff - cars, water, whatever. It does its best to isolate itself from all conditions that might affect it, even if the effect might be beneficial, because it cannot control them and fears what it cannot control; it cares nothing for its surroundings or even its sources and sinks, as long as the flows are maintained. And it is not designed for its ostensible purpose: it is not designed to extract pure water from seawater. It is designed as the physical component of a system to extract money from people, with the other components being things to convince them that the system as a whole is the only possible option. It treats appropriateness as something to be ignored or swept aside rather than acknowledged and incorporated, and the result is a solution than which a more inappropriate can hardly be imagined.

The ancients managed to use these conditions to obtain water - very badly, but well enough to be useful - using nothing but blocks of stone. It boggles the mind to think of their descendants, with all the vast array of materials available, concluding that the most suitable is blocks of Birmingham. Of such things are the legends of ancient lost wisdom made.

70:

Given climate change is going to cause more than a few migrations over the next decades, what is going to be the response of rich countries? Putting up barriers to entry? Reducing the affected populations by laissez faire attitudes including allowing genocides (and selling arms to help it along)?

The stupidity of some smart people can be amazing. I once sat in on an economics talk that proposed to model the impact of climate change (latitudinal warming) on agriculture and industry. It was all very much "assume a spherical planet..." sort of stuff with no regard to the reality of farming, let alone the small problem of nations getting in the way of migrations.

It would be great if we could solve some of these problems like the Chumash supposedly did, but I just don't see it, especially in the USA as constituted at present. I suspect attitudes of "I've holding onto mine" will just become nastier. Are European countries any better?

We really do need to hammer out some sort of viable, preferably non-violent, policy as we are now committed to significant warming whatever CO2 emissions we agree on.

71:

"What we need is enough coastal desalination plants to relieve pressure on the Syrian water supply, combined with resettlement camps for refugees fleeing the war..."

Since we're starting from reality now as opposed to, say, reality ten years ago, need I point out that a water pipeline is just about the last thing that Da'esh wants going to its territory, and the Assad government will have pretty much the same attitude concerning one going anywhere held by the rebels? Water pipelines are insanely easy to blow up.

Also, you've got major "coincidence is not causation" problems with your whole hypothesis. The civil war started down around Damascus and the coastal areas, which are more Euphrates watershed than they are consumers of Euphrates water. Perhaps Da'esh got some willing labor from Euphrates farmers, but the more obvious reason for them being where they are is because it's the perfect safe haven for mounting an insurgency in Iraq: the Iraqis couldn't get to them, and Assad was busy elsewhere.

Let me also say a few words in defense of bombing. The lesson of Paris is that trained fighters are at least 1-2 orders of magnitude more lethal than untrained nutjobs. Training camps have easily identifiable logistical tails that can be disrupted by bombing. My guess is that any sensible terrorist organization would site such camps and logistical tails in civilian areas to make them hard to bomb. But they're actually very easy to bomb--you just have to be willing to be a little more cold-blooded about your rules of engagement. My reading of what the US, French, and Russians have done over the past few weeks is exactly that sort of ROE relaxation.

Charlie, as you said above, "Leave a hornets' nest to grow in your neighbour's back yard and sooner or later you will get stung." But the nest is the important part of the metaphor, and spraying the nest with bug bomb from your side of the fence makes for a very sickly nest.

Terrorism is asymmetrical but it's not magic. It still needs a logistical tail to do anything you'd worry about. It's a different kind of tail, but a tail nonetheless. Disrupt it and Da'esh becomes a lot more like a roach motel than a hornets' nest.

72:

With regards to the entire "can't win a war with air power alone" maxim, military maxims are only true until suddenly they aren't

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if the UN or NATO blanketed Syria with literally a million drones. Make them semi smart and cheap, good image recognition and then just stated , "we see a gun, or a military anything, we shoot it "

Wouldnt exactly be a conquest but might be kind of an interdiction

A million drones is feasible, at least when I do the math...

73:

Graydon: You replaced a decimal point somewhere. The current cost of desalinisation is 0.5 dollars per cubic *meter*. Not liter. This is rather a significant difference. As for soil, we do in fact know how to make good agricultural soil, and manage salt, both, the issue is that best practice in these areas is not very widely used.

74:

I know. It's one of those cases where there's no good reason: so the logical thing to do is pick a bad one.

I left out internal party politics, having no desire to explore such motives in decisions to despatch lethal weapons: even *my* cynicism has a safety cutout.

As for the mental processes involved, pick any two for your MP and mine, and ask how they might internalise or rationalise, or delude the bad stuff away...

...Which is where we might find cloven hooves, horns and brimstone - or a living breathing human being who is worse than any mediaeval fantasies of antichrist: the most effective evil isn't to commit an evil act, but to facilitate it in others with an unending source of rationalisations.

75:

Nile & Charlie @ 56/57
Agree 150% with Charlie, but additional point.
"They" - meaning Da'esh ALREADY HATE US & everything we stand for.
Their rhetoric is indistinguishable, apart from the islamist gloss, to that of the NSDAP.
They will try to attack us, anyway, same as they did in Paris & here on 7/7/2005.
As to the "best" means of stopping them, permanently, since "Killing them all" is good, but that is a temporary solution. We need a permanent one, consisting of arguments & evidence, not physical force.

76:

Oh would-be-maker of the preserver of life .....
Yes, thank you.
My home garden is a bit disorganised at present, but I keep it under control.
My allotment, however is well organised - apart from onions, I do not buy vegetables - I grow all of my own & usually give quite a lot of the occasional surpluses & gluts away.
It is no December & I'm still collecting:
Brussles Sprouts, permanent "brusseltops" (an experiment) Romanesco cauliflower, Chinese Garlic, Leeks, Rocket, Japanese Spinach, potatoes & mustard greens.
I collected the last of the Raspberries on Saturday ....
Voltaire had it right:
"Let us cultivate our Garden"

77:

Martin, err ... I mentioned Mali, back @ # 54 ....

78:

"Wash" irrigation produces salination.
I'm given to understand that "sprinkle" & "drip" irrigation do not produce salination of the land.
Someone else check on this?

79:

Both the Saudis and the UAE are building nuclear power plants at the moment and other nations in the area are making motions towards doing the same thing. The main reason is to displace local oil and gas consumption for power generation so they can sell it to the rest of the world but in some cases the reactors will also be used to desalinate seawater.

The bad news is that the current generation (no pun intended) of nuclear power plants can't carry out direct desalination using process heat from the reactors. That requires much higher temperatures than the BWR and PWR designs can produce (absent a thermal excursion like Three Mile Island or Fukushima). The electricity generated will be used to power separate desalination plants, a rather wasteful two-step process but one that is known to work with off-the-shelf technology.

The only successful production direct-desalinating reactor I know of was the Soviet sodium-cooled BN-350 fast reactor which ran for about 30 years before it was retired and decommissioned. The Russians are operating a new reactor of similar design, the BN-800, in test mode at the moment, trying out new fuel combinations and technologies but it's not meant for desalinating. Future versions could perform direct desalination though.

80:

Comment on something from "Graydon" in a n other thread, but on this topic.
Syria is not a rehearsal for WWIII.
BUT
It might easily be a rehearsal for the Spanish Civil War.
Isn't that a nice thought?

81:


Agreed. I'm not surprised that nobody wants to talk about the likelihood that most Syrian and Iraqi refugees won't be able to go home.

There has been some talk about this in Finland. Many of the Somali people who got here 20-25 years ago want to go back to Somalia, but the Syrians who have arrived recently do not see that as a possibility.

Well, if agriculture is as hard as it seems to be there, I don't wonder why.

82:

All of the people in power are remarkably good at saying no to requests - except to requests from the armed forces it appears.

83:

Having read the extraordinary Gruaniad piece that Charlie linked to [ I would have expected said paper to have crawled up Corbyn's arse & blamed Israel &/or the USA for everything, along with the "racist West" ]
Yeah, I know, sarcastic snark, but how far out am/was I?

Never mind WWIII, WWI isn't finished until Da'esh are exterminated, I'm afraid.
Their on-the-ground behaviour is indistinguishable from that of the Waffen-SS or the Camp guards. And, as we all know, their rhetoric also sounds horribly familiar.
Yuck

84:

I think there are times when inaction is the worse course of action, and it's really hard to distinguish them at the time.

We, to steal some lazy terminology and very emotive, "The Western Imperialists" tend to have an interventionist, over-reaching sense of our own importance. And thus we get involved in places where we shouldn't, and get involved with military action where other actions would be better.

Bosnia is one of those places where it certainly looks like intervention to prevent massive, systematic crimes against humanity seems like a good justification. The actions against Da'esh seem like a self-fulfilling circle-jerk of justification. "We must strike against you because you did this!" "No, we must strike against you because you did that!"

We can look at Northern Ireland, loads of examples in the Middle East (the lovely situation between Israel and the Palestinians and Gaza) and so on to see just how well escalating military force works there.

85:

@Thomas --

So I did! Urk!

Fifty cents a cubic metre is getting into gardening ranges, at least, but probably not wheat fields.

(I'm going to back away from a discussion of the distinction between a best practice that isn't known and not knowing how to do things. Also that agricultural best practices are disturbingly localized.)

@Greg --

Drip irrigation takes a lot of high-maintenance plumbing. Sprinkle takes less but it's still not cheap. Flooding/having a ditch is still the relatively easy, low-capital approach, still widespread. Also you get into issues with any irrigation and pesticides or fertilizers not staying put.

(Also, Graydon is my actual name. Not sure where the quotes are coming from?)

86:

At the risk of incurring the wrath of OGH, might I point out that the experiment in total surveillance has been done, at least twice? Once in East Germany and once now, in America.

East Germany isn't with us any more, so their model wasn't too successful.

America has a recurrent problem with people going loony and shooting at their fellow citizens; these are generally NOT any of the terrorist stereotypes but are instead Christian-like white males, quite often not all that young ones either.

The surveillance doesn't pick up on these people because many don't telegraph their intentions in any way that can be snooped on, or doesn't differentiate it from the normal background of loopiness; this despite the billions spent on snooping projects by the NSA.

87:

The surveillance doesn't pick up on these people because many don't telegraph their intentions in any way that can be snooped on, or doesn't differentiate it from the normal background of loopiness; this despite the billions spent on snooping projects by the NSA.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and propose that the Christianist terrorist epidemic sweeping the USA this decade is not picked up by surveillance because it has powerful official sponsors. Ahem: the NRA don't want anything to hit the legality of their gun and ammo sales, and the Jesus-hugging "pro-life" movement has built a very nice little earner for its spokespeople on top of denunciation of "the abortion industry" for building a pyramid of "baby parts". It's also of political utility to the angry right wing male loser demographic that consistently supports the Republican party at grass-roots level, because restricting womens' reproductive autonomy is the first step to restricting their participation in civil life (see: patriarchy; see also: Saudi Arabia, Da'esh's Caliphate -- this appeals to the male side of their vote). Also, scared people tend to vote for authoritarian/right wing leaders, and restricted reproductive autonomy makes life insecure for women in general (even if they're "good girls" who think they're unaffected by this) so they become cautious and conservative in outlook.

Finally you get to the elephant in the room: the murderous thieves who riddle the majority of American police forces at grass-roots level, and the ongoing use of police repression against ethnic minorities, especially African-Americans.

So -- where was I? -- we have a situation where the NSF is forbidden by Congress from collecting statistics on gun deaths in the United States (because guns are the favoured weapon of Christianist terrorists), where multiple powerful lobbying groups converge to make huge golden shitpiles of money by scaring the crap out of and then arming angry white guys and pointing them at hate figures. If the attacks on family planning clinics in the USA took place in Pakistan we'd say that the Taliban was waging a war on women's reproductive freedom; but the cunningly designed gridlock imposed by the US constitutional system (in a well-intentioned but long-term disastrous attempt by the founders to design a system resistant to despotism) makes it impossible to fix this mess.

... And meanwhile, whenever the FBI need a success in point to in the "war on terror", they fool a brown-skinned guy with learning difficulties into accepting a bunch of non-functional explosives and agreeing to blow up an interstate, whereupon they arrest him and sling him in jail for a century or two.

88:

I'm going to go out on a limb here and propose that the Christianist terrorist epidemic sweeping the USA this decade is not picked up by surveillance because it has powerful official sponsors.

I wish I could argue against this...but stories keep surfacing about people in counterterrorism told to lay off the far right fringe nuts. It's not considered good form to notice that the US has a lot of home-grown lunatics mouthing the same slogans as some of our politicians.

This is particularly embarrassing this week, when a guy known for frothing rants about Obama suddenly shot up a Planned Parenthood clinic, sending presidential candidates who'd spent the last month or two spinning lies about Planned Parenthood into frantic denials that they'd ever said the things they'd been saying, and killer certainly didn't mean what he actually said in front of the press, and that there's no causal connection anyway.

89:

Greg, the Grauniad has gone significantly downhill since 2012 when it basically completely ran out of money. Since then, the investors and the US arm have led to a noticeable shift of their focus from centre left to centre right - still Left Wing by US standards, but much more right wing than before the financial crisis. The Long Reads are still good journalism, but most of the day to day stuff is hack work.

They also really don't like Corbyn at all - they've been following the lead of the right wing press and jumping all over anything he says or is said against him. The only paper that does seem to like Corbyn is the Independent, and they're relatively neutral in focus.

90:

Re the earlier comments on growing unsuitable crops and messing with water distribution in the middle east - take a long look at Australia, where Queensland has made quite a bit of money growing Cotton and Rice in the Darling Downs, and therefore completely fucked the states downstream by using most of the Darling water.

Adelaide is getting roughly 20% of the volume it should, and they're destroying wetlands to try and stop the stagnant water getting worse - thereby demonstrating a complete lack of understanding of ecosystems, but that's a typical Australian thing too.

Apparently people can still be surprised that Australia's default condition is Drought.

91:

Alternatively: Labour was rooted by careerists in the late 80s/early 90s, careerists who came to cabinet-level rank in the late 90s/00s under Blair and Brown, and who would be at home in any political party as long as its primary interest was taking and holding power rather than promoting an (any) ideological perspective.

The Graun's commentariat include numerous NuLab sympathizers, going back decades. (You'll note that in addition to the revolving door between boardrooms and cabinet posts that exists in the Conservative party, there's a slightly less prestigious newspaper/magazine editorial revolving door -- see for example Boris Johnson or Michael Gove in the Conservative Party.) They're now extremely disgruntled that Corbyn has taken back "their" party with the help of the grass-roots socialist activists they successfully alienated and thought they'd gotten rid of for good. It's kind of fascinating to watch a newspaper that came close to being a party mouthpiece in the late 00s/early 10s turn savagely on the leadership of that very party ...

92:

Not to mention that surveillance is only really useful for rapid movement after the fact, a case well demonstrated by the French. Half of the attackers as usual were known to authorities, but they had no real way of tracing their movements because they get lost in the swarm.

Not to mention that one car load was stopped and inspected before being released because they weren't recognised.

100% surveillance doesn't prevent crime, it only makes it easier to prove once the crime has been committed. The Stasi were good at catching spies because they completely locked down the movements and behaviours of their entire population. Act out of the ordinary and it is easy to focus.
Our modern world is based on free and easy movement and tolerance of free thinkers and weirdos. I know where I would rather live, and I consider the extremely low risk of terrorist activity an acceptable cost.

93:

Weapons suppliers/manufacturers - why are these not mentioned in the on-going 'war against terror'? The classic first step in waging a war is to cut off supplies.

Gardening - Encourage more small scale local indigenous flora gardening. Waiting for a government to agree on a large project wastes time, funds and energy. Not familiar with desert type gardening issues, only know of acacias.

Water purification and recycling/re-use - Yes to desalination provided its part of an overall water management strategy.

Rescale the thinking and the solutions - I think decentralization re: water management should be encouraged and household-level options should be encouraged. It can be done - consider what happened with computers. Each household typically has its own kitchen and bathrooms filled with appliances, etc. Water management - collection, filtration, desalination, recycling, etc. - could also be addressed via a 'home appliance' strategy. Consider that we've already started thinking this way for power - water is a logical next step/need. IMO, what's really holding folks back from adopting this path is that no one knows how society/the economy will work if humanity pulls back from mega organizations. At the same time however, considering that the business of large business is to cut costs primarily by cutting jobs for humans, it's probably time to start cutting the apron strings with big corps.

94:

Our modern world is based on free and easy movement and tolerance of free thinkers and weirdos.

No it isn't; it's based on the illusion of free and easy movement and tolerance.

In reality, if you catch a train or bus you're being watched constantly (my local bus company proudly boasts of the eight cameras they have recording the whole time on every bus), if you fly you're tracked with extreme precision, if you drive your car/bike movements will be tracked by national-level ANPR (at least in the UK; I think it's a bit less joined-up in the USA -- for now), and so on. You can no longer leave the UK without presenting travel papers (a passport, which the government can withhold or confiscate). All your communications are monitored, needless to say.

And as for tolerance of dissent and weirdos? You ask the (non-violent) animal rights activists Bob Lambert spied on (and fucked), or the muslims under surveillance by MI5's paid informers.

The difference between the UK and East Germany today is that the government doesn't yet require vocal assertions of ideological loyalty from the population at large (although David Cameron routinely talks as if he'd like to go there). But if you think we're tolerant? Just as an experiment, go and express an "unpopular" opinion in writing (e.g. tolerance for direct action campaigners for animal rights, relaxing limits on immigration, or sympathy for islamists) and see what happens.

95:

Without people on the ground telling you who to blow up, you are going to blow up the wrong people, which is unhelpful, and also evil, and Syria seems to be a bit short on organized forces to hand out the laser pointers of death to.

Even if you were able to blow up the "right" people it wouldn't help the situation. Da'esh thrives in a power vacuum and any bombing will just enhance the breeding ground. Any long term solution must fill that power vacuum and provide security, stability and welfare on the ground.


At this point I'm obviously talking myself into the logical position that France should just go right ahead and conquer Syria, which is giving me a headache. Can anyone think of a better plan than "tanks, then massive construction projects"?

Western or Turkish boots on the ground would be water on the propaganda mills of Da'esh: they believe that the final battle between Islam and "Rome" will take place in Syria.
Any long term strategy should start with a vision how Sunni and Shiite muslims can live peacefully in the same country, both in Syria and Iraq. Then enforce that vision.

96:

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia will go bust slowly, is what will happen. As they go bust, seawater greenhouses will start to be built and possibly also a variant of this technology that is a hybrid of the solar tower and the seawater greenhouse. Saudi Arabia has the land to make a go of this, and if it can but grow the hell up and start thinking instead of relying on an Iron Age book it has the capability.

What will also likely happen is that the annual Haj pilgrimage will be monetised, so that each and every pilgrim to Mecca will have to pay a charge to visit that country. Essentially Islam its self will be monetised, and this will have the effect of moderating the entire religion, as many will simple balk at paying the Saudis to fulfil a religious obligation.

97:

It's rather more than a hypothesis. You might want to read https://heteromeles.wordpress.com/2013/09/14/the-syrian-water-war/ if you want the timeline for how the Syrian mess started. Syrian farmers ran out of water, migrated to Damascus, drilled a bunch of wells there, and when those wells turned saline (they were pulling in saline groundwater from under the Mediterranean, having tapped out all the other water) is when the Syrian civil uprising started. I've also got links to the original articles. Probably at some point, I should update that with subsequent research.

Incidentally, we're starting to see the same pattern in California's Central Valley, where I live. Fortunately for us, people can migrate to, say, Chicago, rather than all moving to Los Angeles. That's one advantage of living in an intact empire.

98:

Um, according to Google, desalinated sea water costs around $2,000 per acre-foot, about twice the cost of reservoir water and recycled wastewater. There are 1233.48 cubic meters in an acre-foot, so desalinated seawater runs $1.62 per cubic meter.

The typical way to manage salt, incidentally, is to flush it out of the soil with water. That's why the Salton Sea still exists. It's also why farmers in California flooded their fields until recently, since much of California farm land in the Central Valley and in the Imperial Valley was sea floor in the last few million years, and there's still a fair amount of salt underneath what the rivers carried down.

As for making agricultural soil, yes, we know how to make potting soil, and we know how to do permaculture on the small scale. Since half the world's topsoil has been lost in the last 150 years (mostly through erosion and loss of soil carbon), I'd say we're rather better at mining it than we are at making it. Industrial farming wants to regard soil as a matrix to which fertilizer is added in the same rate as it is taken out by the plants. This is, of course, not the case, as soil is also a great matrix for the spread of pathogens and salts that could be ameliorated by healthy top soil.

Here's the general reason why we're having fun playing pinata with your models: they don't scale up. Yes, I can make a reasonable approximation of topsoil by using (mined) peat moss, (imported) coconut coir, (manufactured) perlite, (homegrown) worm castings, and (purchased) fertilizer and putting in a pot. Yes, I can use a solar still to water the resulting plant. However, I cannot scale this little hobbyist setup to cover even California's Imperial Valley, let alone any of the great grain growing regions of the world. That's the problem.

99:

Any long term strategy should start with a vision how Sunni and Shiite muslims can live peacefully in the same country, both in Syria and Iraq. Then enforce that vision.

You mean something like rebuilding the Ottoman Empire, that last, corrupt, but long-lived version of the Caliphate? Yeah, that could work. Unfortunately, the only people interested in making a Caliphate seems to be Daesh. Maybe we should help Turkey recapture its lost imperial glory?

Actually, Syria was "French Mandate Syria" after WWI, just as the British had Palestine and Iraq, and French Mandate Syria was subsequently broken into Lebanon and modern Syria. That's when this whole mess started.

This is snide, but the carving the Ottoman Empire into modern nation-states was the root of the problem. The thing about empires is that they're multi-ethnic by nature, and they move people around inside their borders. The modern Middle East has been subject to empires for thousands of years, and peoples have moved (and been moved around) within these empires for the entire period. As the result, it's a hodge-podge of enclaves, minorities, splinter groups, and so forth.

During a time of empire, cosmopolitan cities aren't necessarily a problem, because there's a bigger outside force keeping the lid on any conflicts. When the empire crumbles and would-be authoritarian leaders start exploiting the politics of difference, then it's a problem. It's much worse when clueless outside forces carve out state borders and expect everyone inside them to act as if they're all a single people now.

100:

What will also likely happen is that the annual Haj pilgrimage will be monetised, so that each and every pilgrim to Mecca will have to pay a charge to visit that country.

I'm pretty sure that's already the case. They also have country quota for visa. And of course plane tickets and hotels during haj time cost three times as much as at other times.

101:

Well, how far back do we want to talk about right-wing terrorism in the US? The KKK? That kind of thing's part of the culture here in the US of A probably since we tried keeping slaves on the plantations. Goes right along with exploiting agricultural workers to pay back the rich urban bankers who own your loans.

I wish I was less pissed-off about it, but it's kind of a fact of life around here. It goes right along with the NRA being the lobbying organization for American gun manufacturers, who used to manufacture such a good product that they'd almost put themselves out of business before they stumbled onto the assault weapons scam (infinitely customizable nerdy weapons that are fun to use! Every consumer should have a couple!).

Anyway, if you think the politicians are "frantically backpedalling" after any of these incidents, you're not quite right. This is part of the standard playbook. Google "stochastic terrorism." The threat of their unhinged followers destroying everything their opponents hold dear is part of the power base of the far right in the US at the moment.

102:

Cali is rich, and much better governed than most of the middle east. The water crisis there will get solved, because, well, building desal until the problem goes away is much cheaper than moving that many people, and the water prices *already paid* by consumers there are high enough to make a profit doing this. Much higher, mostly because the state is cross subsidising farmers by screwing the general citizenry, but heck, even the farm sector in cali could pay the piper here for the less water intensive crops.
This holds as a general point. Potable water isn't a limited resource if you have a coastline, because desal is "cheap enough". The issue is that some places are not able to carry out any sort of plan based on this insight.

103:

You mean something like rebuilding the Ottoman Empire, that last, corrupt, but long-lived version of the Caliphate? Yeah, that could work.

No, it would not. I'm pretty sure the time for empires is over.

I agree that cutting up the empire along arbitrary borders caused many problems. But moving these borders now will probably not solve any problems. I'd prefer some federal arrangement within existing state borders.

104:

No it isn't; it's based on the illusion of free and easy movement and tolerance.

Fair point. The UK has become far more of a sinister spying state, and even my fond memories of NZ have been tainted by investigations into the Maori splinter groups.

But the rise of CCTV in Europe is astonishing - back home it's a rare thing, whereas in the UK it feels odd *not* to be watched.

On the subject of MI5 though, I'm still partial to the idea that says that MI5 wouldn't know a clue if it snuck up and tapped them on the shoulder. Spying on completely innocent groups is part and parcel of a group that trained gerbils to detect fear.

105:

What would probably really make the Middle East interesting would be using the Chinese as peacekeepers. Boots on the ground would not be an issue - the hardest part would be shipping them all there as logistics isn't yet a strong point. But march a couple of hundred thousand troops through Iraq or Syria and you could easily pacify a large area. Bring the construction equipment in behind, and it would go a long way towards stabilisation.

I do think they probably need to break the area back up into a lot of little states because the current Nation State borders are a legacy that could do with being replaced, but I'm not sure how stable any of them would be without a dictatorship. A UAE style competing city states group replacing Syria would be interesting - the oil would fund each one enough to provide for hours of fun.

106:

It's worth noting that a lot of CCTV in Britain and Europe generally is operational rather than for national security or policing. The cameras on roads and other traffic infrastructure are there to keep tabs on what's happening on the ground, accidents, tailbacks and so on. Shop owners are looking after their stock (so-called loss prevention or profit protection), the bus and train cameras are there to deter anti-social behaviour; one common reason for bus drivers to quit is after they've been assaulted or puked on by idiots and it gets to be a pain to have to keep recruiting replacements after a while.

I've just got off a tram in Edinburgh -- there are cameras inside and outside the tram and the ticket inspector was wearing a body camera labelled "CCTV" in big letters, the sort of thing civil rights activists want all the police to wear. Nobody looks at the recorded footage from the tram cameras though, it's not stored or forwarded en masse to some secret government installation for analysis and retention for decades because it's too much like hard work and costs money. It's only when something anomalous happens that it can be important and then it will be inspected before it is deleted or overwritten.

There is a delusion of a Golden Age of privacy which never really existed -- everybody in any social grouping greater than a hamlet knew everybody else's doings and now in this urban world the same thing applies even though there are a hundred times as many people as there were before. What we have now is the Great Indifference; people just don't give a shit about what their neighbours do as long as they don't frighten the horses. I think this is a better world to be in, frankly.

107:

"I do think they probably need to break the area back up into a lot of little states"

How did that work for the Nation Formerly Known As Yugoslavia? Peace and prosperity, sunshine and rainbows and unicorns frolicking with the teddybears?

Oh, and who is the "they" that's going to do this breaking-up? Somebody called Sykes, perhaps? A white man, guiding the sullen benighted natives in the Way of Civilisation, I'm sure. I understand Tony Blair is at a loose end at the moment, or perhaps Henry Kissinger (not dead yet, I think the fix is in).

I'm pretty sure most of the locals don't want their nation-states broken up. Da'esh are typical of the sort who do want to rearrange national borders in that area...

108:

You've got to remember that the US is technically an empire, in that we've got different groups of people in the US who are governed under different laws, which is the technical definition of an empire (it's more than a single state containing a single nation). In the US case, the separate peoples are the Indian Tribes, Native Alaskan natives, commonwealth/trust territories/etc. I'd also suggest that, after that big push to mainstream all the tribes by destroying their cultures, that this "imperial" system is arguably more just than forcing the US to be a true republic, given the cultural genocide involved in homogenizing the population into truly one people.

Still, I agree that historians argue that the age of empire is past. Personally, I suspect that the age of empire is quite a lot like the Chinese Mandate of Heaven. Both are argued to have passed, but if you look at Chinese history (and at imperial history, for that matter), I don't think either has been gone long enough for us to say that they're gone for good. Chinese history contains several long stretches when there was no emperor or even unified China, but they still claim continuity. It's possible there will be another Chinese emperor in the fullness of time, and it's equally possible that he'll rule another empire.

109:

How did that work for the Nation Formerly Known As Yugoslavia?

Well, based on visits to Bosnia and Croatia, they seem pretty happy these days. There is still lingering resentment from the wars, but both are pretty happy to be out of the larger country. Serbia is probably different - they were in charge and now they aren't.

Yugoslavia is probably a good example to look at - multi ethnic, multi religion, and an artificial nation held together by an autocratic ruler. The civil war causing/following the breakup was about as messy as they usually get. If the UN actually had been backed up like it should have been, Srebrenica wouldn't have happened. Other stuff might have, and the end result might have been the same, but that was a specific UN safe zone that was violated and that shouldn't have been possible.

I would say that "They" should probably be the Arab League, backed by A Major Power or the UN. I'd expect the country to be broken up on ethnic, religious or tribal lines, and a lot of funds to have to go in to bring outlying areas up to standard, but since most of the country has been shattered, it isn't like there is a huge disparity any more, so investment should be equal.
Oil sales can be arranged by the existing Gulf supply networks, that should keep the kickbacks flowing in the right direction. Smaller nations have a vested interest in keeping the finances within their borders, and there is no reason that a nation formed in Syria on the border of Iraq couldn't replicate say Qatar with appropriate agreements with neighbours for pipeline passage.


But that requires common sense and less deliberate exploitation by the west, so it'll never happen.

110:
On entirely another note, the first thing that came to mind when Russia and France joined in bombing was target selection. Unless, as seems very unlikely, they had new information that the US did not have, then they would be bombing almost at random for the sole purpose of posturing. This very obviously could not end well.
Given Russia is backing Assad and not concerning itself with complications, their target selection process is (or should be) very straightforward: ask Assad's army where they want them dropped. The US and UK don't seem to be decided on who they're against (Daesh? Assad? Al-Nusra Front, the reason not to arm the rebels in the first case? All of the above?), never mind who they're for, so their job is more complicated.

France is very sure who they're against and has little problem deploying land forces once it's considered justified (witness how fast they went into Mali); that they've already asked other EU countries to replace French peacekeepers abroad to free up troops may be indicative.
111:

Cali is rich, and much better governed than most of the middle east. The water crisis there will get solved, because, well, building desal until the problem goes away is much cheaper than moving that many people, and the water prices *already paid* by consumers there are high enough to make a profit doing this. Much higher, mostly because the state is cross subsidising farmers by screwing the general citizenry, but heck, even the farm sector in cali could pay the piper here for the less water intensive crops.
This holds as a general point. Potable water isn't a limited resource if you have a coastline, because desal is "cheap enough". The issue is that some places are not able to carry out any sort of plan based on this insight

I'm not sure if this is ignorance or trolling.

California drained about 41,000,000,000,000 gallons of groundwater between 1920 and 2013 (source). To scale, the Carlsbad desalination plant, the "largest desalination plant in the western hemisphere" will produce 50,000,000 gallons per day. Natural recharge in a 20th Century normal year is around 650,000,000,000 gallons from the Sierras, and that is not only being used, we're losing water.

To replace even the natural recharge of 650 billion with desalination, we'd need 13,000 desalination plants. California has 840 miles of coast, so this would require a Carlsbad-sized desal plant every 340 feet along the entire coast, which is either impassable or about the most expensive real estate in the west and possibly the country. And note that the Carlsbad desalination plant looks about 1500 feet wide on Google.

And since food is about 80% water, we can safely say that this would double the price of produce from California, pricing us out of the market.

Do you want me to continue debunking this? The rest of this is equally fallacious. You're well into trolling territory at this point, and I'd be happier if you thought your comments through before publishing them.

112:

I think you are misplacing some decimals Heteromeles. It doesn't help that you are comparing daily and annual figures.

Carsbad's 50 million gallons/day becomes 18.26 billion gallons/year (this assumes 100% uptime of course).

Thus to match the 650 billion gallons you gave for the annual recharge figure would require 35 Carlsbad-scale desalination plants rather than 13,000.

That's undeniably a major undertaking but it's not pants-on-head ridiculous.

Regards
Luke

113:

Heteromeles @ 111 -- I think your math is a little off. A desal plant creating 50,000,000 gal/day is making 18.25 billion gal/yr. To replace 625 billion gal/yr from the Sierras requires about 35 plants, not 13,000.

And, even if the desal plants had to be on the coast (and, AFAICT, they don't) they'd be every 25 miles or so. That sounds a lot less impossible.

As for agriculture -- well, it would certainly knock the alfalfa farmers out of the CA market.

114:

I was in CA last week, Bay area, and got a copy of "Cadillac Desert", by Mark Reisner. It's a history of the water problem in the American west, i.e. there isn't much and it is in the wrong places and people didn't know how to use it.

Jaw dropping stupid moments included reading about how back in the 60's or so they were casually talking about drawing down the Ogallala aquifer in 40 to 100 years, as if it was just something you could use and not have any problems with using it. Now, 50 years later, the aquifer is indeed on its last legs and there are major issues to be faced.
Or the dam that was built in the stupidest place for it, and it collapsed. Or the legal shenanigans, or the way the water pricing has been a major subsidy for farmers for decades, and the farmers (often rich people and companies) often got their massive farms by illegal means.

115:

Some insights from this week's Nature re: terrorism science.

Excerpts:

a) 'Religion is not the trigger... Violent extremism emerges first, with a religious justification tagged on after, ...'

b)'Resentment is common ground .. .(several target audience segment definitions) ... Almost all European extremists and terrorists are second- and third-generation immigrants, whom Khosrokhavar says are often “stigmatized, rejected and treated as second-class citizens”.'

c)'Terrorism breeds in prisons ... prisoners often come under the influence of — and form lasting bonds with — radical Islamists and terrorist networks.'

d)‘Entrepreneurs’ drive terrorism ... a much smaller number of “entrepreneurs” ... seasoned, ideologically driven activists ... transnational terrorist webs ... extremist groups ... armed groups in conflict zones. They ... bring structure and organization to the disaffected majority, through recruitment and indoctrination.' (In other words: Terrorism is a fast-growing franchise op/opportunity.)

e) 'Molenbeek isn’t the terrorist capital of Europe ... The key ingredient in the spread of jihadism in any location is a critical mass of jihadist entrepreneurs'


The notion of a 'terrorist entrepreneur' really helps put things into perspective for me. They probably cross-promote (partner) with weapons dealers. One sells the concept (ideology), the other sells the tangibles.

117:

I stand corrected. Still, if you can find room on the coast for 35 desalination plants and then figure out how to pump the water uphill and across the San Andreas and other faults to get to the Central and Imperial Valleys, go for it. It's more feasible to site all 35 plants in the San Francisco Bay and pump it through the delta, although I have no idea where you'd lay all the required pipes.

118:

will require ground combat troops. The serious question is who's and how many.

These things often make me wonder how far off robotic 'clean up' swarms are that will be sent in to remove the entire population to 'pacify' a region.

119:

Well, considering that you can't actually do anything useful with ground troops[1] right now, someone might well want to try that. It's much simpler and less expensive to commit one of the old-fashioned forms of genocide, though.

[1] Defeat happens in the mind. Destruction is not optional. If your goal is to establish peace, you need to restore or create services and infrastructure and improve people's lives. You can't do that unless people inside the entire scope of your infrastructure activity accept it enough to not sabotage it.

120:

Another couple of years of progress and I can image a bomber dropping 10,000,000 1 gram robots over a city programmed to behave like ticks/bedbugs but instead of sucking blood they inject some botulin toxin. If it's city with a million people you have 10 little friends for every person.

121:

Hmm. Do the math says that multi stage flash distillation takes about 18-25 kWh/m³ freshwater. Say you get 10kWh/dm² (day m²), that could yield you 200l a day per 1m² collector. Sounds like much, but is it?
(I used the lower efficiency because I assume the better value is for for large installtion and high temp. heat = finicky solar concentrators)

Hoy much do common crops need? I don't know, I found no easy and quick reference. Pulling some numbers from where the sun don't shine, say you need the equivalent of 20mm rain every day. Then you need 10% of your growing area dedicated to solar thermal collectors. Sounds doable? Not to me.

122:

a) nukes are probably cheaper, and
b) both are undoubtedly considered weapons of mass destruction, and deploying either would be a war crime.

Now, if you had all your flying injectors mainlining THC or some similar non-lethal mind bender (LSD? Ketamine?), things might get more interesting.

Heck, I think OGH's idea of dropping large numbers of cell phones connected to Amazon rapid delivery and a billion dollar spending account might work even better than that (why yes, please send me a lot of clean water and some first aid supplies right now. Thank you!).

123:

(why yes, please send me a lot of clean water and some first aid supplies right now. Thank you!).

obligatory xkcd

124:

I like the cell phones. Apart from that, I'm always flabbergasted by how quick a thread about such a topic turns into military power fantasies. Mass murder by poisonos swarm robots, chinese invasion because, bomb everything.

Guy (I'm almost certain), that is the thinking of Generals etc. who support the string on insanities the wars on nouns have been so far. Except that presumably none of you will get a nice job with a military contractor or think tank or other promotion out of it. You dream of competent and benevolent war machine that solve the mess the actually existing war machines started. Snap out of it. The only actors available are the ones that swcrewed everything up in the first place.

125:

I was intending to post some more arguments in favour of solar desalination for irrigation, but on the way I discovered this land use map of Syria and now I think the whole irrigation sub-thread is something of a red herring.

That map says to me that by far the majority of Syria's arable farming does not depend on irrigation, and such farming accounts for something like 20% of Syria's land area (inaccurate visual estimate). The irrigated areas are much smaller and account for the low single digits %. Presumably the irrigated areas produce more food per unit area but I can't see the difference being anything like enough to counteract the much smaller area concerned.

126:

Check out the way my Labour MP is being treated by "activists"( i.e. crawlers to the Da'esh nazis ) within this borough & constituency.
Needless to say, I'm backing her.
She really won't stand for bullying or religious posturing

127:

Any long term strategy should start with a vision how Sunni and Shiite muslims can live peacefully in the same country
Since the battle of Karbala, which was when?
Err ......
Makes NornIron look REALLY EASY

128:

I'm pretty sure the time for empires is over.
Ah, has anyone told the Central Kingdom, this?
IIRC the "PRC" has just started negotiations over a naval base in Djibouti?

129:

Yes. Historically we can see that empires do not completely prevent conflicts between subgroups, but they do keep them down, and more importantly, as long as they are sufficiently localised not to threaten the integrity of the empire as a whole and get other people thinking about grabbing bits of it, they keep them internal. As an example, ding-dongs between Balkan entities are a centuries-old tradition, but they have only been significant outside the Balkans in those periods when either there was no superarching hegemony or when it was falling apart and the vultures were circling.

Under a restored (and functioning, which the original didn't a lot of the time) Ottoman empire or similar all this would simply be an internal conflict to be suppressed by overwhelming force of the empire's own imperial armies. The involvement of outside entities would be to sell arms to the empire and then tut about what they did with them but still carry on selling them. Even if the empire decided that genocide of what they considered the troublemaking factions was the best idea, the outside world would do nothing beyond saying how awful they are and before very long would have almost entirely forgotten that it ever happened.

And, let's face it, that is what the outside world really wants: not to have to take any notice. After all, the only reason why this is a hot topic now is because they killed a small number of outside-world people. The much larger numbers of inside-world people they have killed didn't get anyone going nearly so much.

The big difficulty is, of course, that the outside world cannot create the empire; it has to create itself, otherwise it only lasts as long as the outside world keeps it propped up, and also needs far more of that propping up than an autogenous empire would.

130:

Given what a n other poster said a few back ...
I think a French armoured division or brigade might just do the trick.
Da'esh have not actually faced serious 1st-world military opposition.]They might be in for an interesting learning experience.

131:

I think that would be a truly excellent idea; on the same lines I have long thought that perhaps the biggest disadvantage of weed being so smelly is that it makes it impossible for the perfusion of government chambers with its vapours to remain undetected. So, so many reprehensible actions of governments everywhere make it obvious that the fundamental problem common to all forms of government is that its practitioners are nowhere near stoned enough.

132:

The point is that nobody in the region, or outside it, wants to occupy the Sunni areas that are now Islamic State. The Kurds don't and the various Shia groups don't. Only fools and fanatics want to.
Even Assad doesn't want that bit of Syria back.

133:

Greg, the problem is that people are starving.

Shooting all the starving people doesn't solve the problem.

Being a gibbering fanatic -- the current local solution in conditions where the entirety of civil society had been shot off the region -- in the hopes that doctrinal purity will make things better doesn't solve the problem.

The only real way to solve the problem involves feeding the people who are starving. The best way to do that is to move them somewhere there is food. (The agricultural potential of the region they inhabit is dropping sharpish, even if the political situation was a model of comity, which it most emphatically is not.)

134:

Weapons suppliers/manufacturers - why are these not mentioned in the on-going 'war against terror'? The classic first step in waging a war is to cut off supplies.

Because arms dealing is a profitable business?

(Yes, I know you were being facetious.)

135:

Hoy much do common crops need? I don't know, I found no easy and quick reference. Pulling some numbers from where the sun don't shine, say you need the equivalent of 20mm rain every day.

What are you growing? 2 cm of rain a day?!!!! That's over 7 metres a year!

Saskatchewan, where I grew up, gets 0.1 to 0.2 m of precipitation a year (all forms). That's enough to grow wheat, although the 0.1 parts are pretty borderline.

136:

Well, if you want to see global military bases get a map and start colouring in all the US bases. Despite all the hysteria about China's military rise, there's really only one global military power at the moment…

137:

"That bit of Syria" - maybe, but what about Mosul?
Oil wells & facilities there .....

138:

Agreed & not ....
One of the prime drivers for the French & Russian revolutions & certainly in 1848 was a collapse of food supplies.
But, when Robespierre's mob started killing *everybody*, enough was enough.
So: Da'esh require sterilisation, but you must then have methods available to feed the remaining, still desperate population. You don't need to evacuate them, since food takes up a smaller volume than people, actually.
So, & but it IS a soluble problem, provided it's thought of in advance ....

139:

The Obama administration's plan for dealing with Daesh is containment. The idea is that the group is a lousy administrator, so by cutting off their ability to keep funds coming in by looting and pillaging you hurt their ability to pay their fighters and keep them happy (Juan Cole at least thinks the comparison of Daesh to plundering pirates is a useful one). If this works it would have the big advantage of discrediting the group as a bunch of failures when the"caliphate" falls apart.

As for bringing the UK into the air war, the main usefulness I can see is adding legitimacy to the American effort (n.b. I mean this as observation, not advocacy). I suppose we could use help on that front, as many Iraqis seem to think we're giving active, direct support to Daesh. From the Washington Post:

"It is not in doubt,” said Mustafa Saadi, who says his friend saw U.S. helicopters delivering bottled water to Islamic State positions. He is a commander in one of the Shiite militias that last month helped push the militants out of the oil refinery near Baiji in northern Iraq alongside the Iraqi army.

The Islamic State is “almost finished,” he said. “They are weak. If only America would stop supporting them, we could defeat them in days.”

Targeting France and especially Russia had to be intended as provocations (at least if the Egypt branch didn't go off the reservation and start sabotaging Egypt's tourism industry on its own initiative). Russia in particular, despite Putin's previous rhetoric, had been focused on bombing opponents to Assad and not Daesh. My best guess is that Daesh thinks that provoking foreigners into putting in ground troops will change the equation in their favor, either because the attacks will attract funding and fighters or because they think they have a better chance against ground forces.

140:

The jihadist pdf “The Management of Savagery” from 2004 outlines the strategy ISIS is following. Provocation, polarization, and breaking the “halo of invincibility” around the superpower. Force the population to choose sides with extreme violence, provoke the superpower in order to drive recruiting, and use terror to demoralize them. And all the while following the “prophetic methodology” of the early Muslim conquests. It's interesting reading. ISIS kinda reminds me of the Fremen.

141:

There's also an interesting article about how a former da'esh hostage sees things. He has the interesting theory that the Paris bombings are a reaction on the refugee crisis and that the expected reaction from the west is bombing ISIS and stop welcoming refugees.

I really hate it when the only people with a sound political strategy are a group of insane murderers.

142:

Topic deviation, but ...

French defeats in 1870, 1914, 1940 had a lot to do with relative deficiencies in tactical and operational doctrine and training, although they definitely caught up by the end of the Great War. There was little enthusiasm for a renewed slaughter in 1940 in France or the UK, but what actually did for France was a lack of strategic depth in an era of rapid mechanised warfare. Britain was as badly outclassed tactically and operationally, but luckily we had a water barrier.

143:

Large scale migrations, slaughters on the streets of capitol cities, retreating empires, lost wars, brutal barbarians on the periphery -- it's starting to look a lot like Late Rome II to me!

144:

I've been doing a lot of looking at the last era of Mediterranean dominance (the late Middle Ages), and the thing that's really striking is that there are long term trade systems that make the Med and the trade routes across the Levant/Gulf region the dominant wealthy trading region of the world. Indian Ocean trading systems date back to the time before Alexander, so that's about two thousand years when Da Gama lands in Calicut. The Silk Road is a similar age. All of this trade flows into the Levant and to Constantinople/Istanbul - and then across the Med. These trading routes have been the foundation for more civilisations than you can shake a stick at.

And then they end, almost overnight. In the single decade of the 1490s.

The economic geography of the world changed, in a way that it hadn't done in thousands of years. There were direct routes from the Indian Ocean to Europe; there was an entirely new continent to exploit trade with.

It is a very unsafe assumption that the centrality of the Levant/Gulf will return. That centrality depended on trade routes that just don't exist any more.

145:

Daesh strategy is hardly a secret, although it appears to be batshit crazy.

1. Declare a Caliphate (done)
2. Rally the faithfull (in progress, to some extent )
3. Fight a stand-up battle with "Rome" and usher in the new age

The problems with (3) are
a) the west and/or Russia (if that's what "Rome" translates to) have no intention of committing large scale ground forces to Syria
b) Daesh militia would be crushed by a trained first world army fighting a conventional stand-up battle with air and armour.

Our problem with 3(b) is that pottery barn rules apply. You break it, you own it, and nobody wants to own a military occupation of Former Syria.

146:

The map people need of Syria is this one: http://gulf2000.columbia.edu/images/maps/Syria_Ethnic_Detailed_lg.png

The wider context is here: http://gulf2000.columbia.edu/images/maps/Levant_Ethnicity_lg.png

Note that the Alawite regions are the coast. If you build solar-powered desalination plants there, then the Alawites control the water for the rest of Syria. This isn't necessarily much better than the Turks controlling it.

Note that the Arab, Sunni muslim majority controls almost no coastline north of the Saudi border.

147:

Robert, 2cm per day is pretty much typical monsoon weather in the tropics. It's also IIRC about what a tropical rain forest gets (and needs). So plants will grow in that -- and grow well -- but forget about wheat!

148:

Why the insistence that 'serious' or 'trained' military opposition must be First World?
Pedantically, that discounts Russian troops.
Facetiously, it also discounts the YPG international recruits which have included US and Canadian veterans, at least.
Seriously - what are the Peshmerga, chopped liver?

149:

Greg, food production in Syria is basically gone for good at this point (for values of "for good" meaning "within the lifetime of the people currently living there") -- thanks to climate change. Short of taking steps to install an energy-intensive agriculture system (think desalination for water, greenhouses with air conditioning to prevent the crops from dying of heat) everything's going to need to be shipped in.

As you're looking at on the order of 0.5-1 ton of food per person per year, not to mention water consumption in a near-desert, I'm with Graydon on it being a lot more cost-effective in principle to resettle everybody somewhere that can still sustain them.

151:

Weapons suppliers/manufacturers - why are these not mentioned in the on-going 'war against terror'? The classic first step in waging a war is to cut off supplies.

Because unlike G.B.Shaw's view of the world, today's arms manufacturers are quite closely controlled by nation-states; and they're the only people who can afford the stuff.

At the point of manufacture, a 30-round magazine of ammunition for an assault rifle costs $15 to $20 in bulk; a grenade costs tens of dollars; a single artillery shell, or round of tank ammunition, costs hundreds of dollars. Guided weapons cost thousands, and aircraft cost thousands of dollars an hour to operate.

The problem is that unless all sides have their supplies cut off, it doesn't work - and the Russians are shipping stuff in bulk to Assad, while the Saudis are shipping to the Sunni rebels. You have to persuade the external suppliers to stay out, and they have their own motives that mean that is unlikely to happen.

Attempts at a diplomatic solution have been ongoing since the beginning, as have efforts to attack the economics that keep them fighting (targeted sanctions against individuals, etc, etc). Hasn't worked yet, unfortunately.

152:

Seriously - what are the Peshmerga, chopped liver?

As the nice man from Washington pointed out when Da'esh was taking Mosul, they were commanded by political appointees and relatives-of. Nice work if you can get it, and he did point out that said "relative of" had a very nice multi-million dollar house in Washington DC, and perhaps that was where the pay and equipment funds had gone that would have sustained a formed paramilitary force capable of holding off a bunch of yahoos in pickup trucks (the Iraqis had a similar issue, it was just that the PM had also demanded the replacement of the competent with the politically-acceptable)

Screaming about how desperate you are for supplies, after you've spent a year padding the nominal rolls and stealing the money, does seem rather hypocritical...

...it's also reminiscent of the Bosnians, who always had lots of shots of queues of wounded soldiers outside aid stations, with over worked doctors and operating theatres (great for CNN, cue the breathless journalists commenting on how desperately they need "medical supplies"), because they seemed unable to plan their operations with regard the logistics of their medical evacuation chain. Attacking "everywhere, all at once" sounds great, until you try and organise your ambulances to follow up all those attacks...

153:

How did the long-term irrigation of the hydraulic river-valley civilisations work, then?

154:

As someone who is not well versed in this conflict, what does Turkey want in all this? They have seemingly distanced themselves from Assad in recent years, and want him to fall, but aren't interested in alienating Assad's allies by actively helping that scenario along. According to Graber, they seem more interested in hitting Kurdish forces in Syria than demolishing ISIL.

In realpolitik terms, I get how such a situation can exist. Pakistan, for example, seemed to arrive at some sort of arrangement regarding the GWOT that they would work with NATO on any international terrorist threats so long as they could, essentially, take a soft approach on their taliban situation. Avoid pissing off their northern civilians in exchange for providing intel on al qaeda.

At this point, is it really just a populist ploy to lean hard on the Kurds? Why is that more important to Turkey than, I guess, appeasing NATO by hitting ISIL? Do they expect any rebels that overthrow Assad to be better to deal with? I honestly can't see the sense, here. What am I not seeing?

155:

How did the long-term irrigation of the hydraulic river-valley civilisations work, then?

Quite badly, in many cases. Egypt was OK because the Nile floods deposited silt, i.e. fresh topsoil, not just water, but the irrigation-dependent agriculture of ancient Mesopotamia seems to have been prone to crises caused by build-up of salt in the soil: see here, here, and here.

156:

As someone who is not well versed in this conflict, what does Turkey want in all this?

Per the Israeli/Russian source I linked to in comments above (and which isn't entirely trustworthy -- they have their own axes to grind) Turkey wants a chunk of empire back. Draw a dotted line across the northern two-thirds of Syria and the top third of Iraq, that'll do nicely: see also Russia/Ukraine. Former imperial hegemonic powers who lose territory to external threats tend to get all revanchist when a nationalist 'strong leader' like Putin or Erdogan comes to power, especially if the territory in question shares a land border and shows signs of weak governance.

In Turkey's case they're not interested in the Arabs or the Alawites, but there's a substantial Turkmen population in those territories, like the Russian population in Ukraine ...

This is all Great Game Stuff. The TL:DR is that the dust from the post-1918 imperial collapse has settled and the old demons are stirring from the Balkans to the Arabian Gulf. Those who fail to study history (like David Cameron) are asking to be burned by it -- and that's before we factor in global climate change, which has always been a driver of revolutions and is now shifting from being an exceptional circumstance to the new normal.

157:

Turkey as far as Syria goes; who knows what their aims are, other than not to give up any of their territory (and maybe gain some?). Erdogan seems to have a racist attitude toward the Kurds, or they are at least a convenient scapegoat for him.
As for the Kurds, they want an independent nation made up of the historic Kurdistan. The problem with that is that it's made up of bits of Syria, Turkey, and Iran as well as Iraq, and none of those countries are willing to give an inch. Meanwhile the Kurds are the only ones having any measure of success against Da'esh. They're the ones we ought to be supporting, but that pisses off our "allies" too much, so what we do give them is too little. Israel is the only country that has fairly consistently given them support, but that doesn't help much with the attitudes of their neighbors.
I'm sure this doesn't answer your question, it's what came to my mind.

158:

There's also the point that the Kurds are an internal threat; ISIL aren't causing Turkey in particular any trouble yet (the refugees were happening anyway, there's still a civil war on even without Da'esh), whereas there was an active Kurdish insurgency for 20 years.

159:

Short term aim? Making sure that any independant Kurdish state dies in the crib. Da'esh are a useful proxy for that objective.

Longer term? Well to quote a Turkish govt official from the article Charlie linked upthread in post #58:

Turkey will find a way to return to its natural borders in the south – the line between Mosul in Iraq and Homs in Syria. That is our natural aspiration and it is justified because of the large Turkmen presence in that region.

So I think they view Assad's recent troubles as a threat-cum-opportunity (we need a coinage for that - thropportunity?).

Chaos and a failed state on your borders ain't good, but if you can snaffle a few core provinces (to borrow Europa Universalis terminology) in the confusion then it's all good.

Regards
Luke

160:

Thanks for the quick response. I personally find that motivation difficult to fathom. Which I don't say to mean I doubt your explanation, so much as it boggles my mind that Turkey would back such an ill-conceived hedge. There are a great many examples from the last century we have which show us that state borders, even when arbitrarily fashioned, are not easily undone. The 38th Parallel being an obvious example. That is, I don't envision any scenario where Turkey just quietly appropriates a little territory and the world community is fine with that.

161:

Who'd stop them? NATO wants them onside (witness the blind eye turned on their over-the-border PKK suppresssion activities basically since Gulf War I), Russia is (theoretically) limited by NATO in its ability to remonstrate, China isn't likely to care, and the EU has done so much performative hand-wringing over Turkey it'd be regarded as farce.

162:

Small corection:
....while the Saudis are shipping to the Sunni rebels Da'esh
There, fixed that.
Maybe not 100% true, but someone, & someone fairly extreme sunni is funding/supporting these nutters.

163:

Robert, 2cm per day is pretty much typical monsoon weather in the tropics. It's also IIRC about what a tropical rain forest gets (and needs). So plants will grow in that -- and grow well -- but forget about wheat!

Yes, but tropical rainforest isn't "common crops", which was the topic of the original post. If you're desalinating ocean water for food production, it makes more sense to aim for drylands crops like wheat rather than, say, Brazil nuts.

It also makes the project more doable if you don't need artificial monsoons :-)

164:

Erdogan's "moderate" islamism & his remarks about "Democracy is a useful train" worry me enormously.
Turkey could get kicked out of NATO, if it wasn't for Putin's posturing elsewhere ....

P.S. Syria's agriculture / water could be fixed, as could "Iraq" s... but it requires a general peace in the area first.
Nice try, if you get to go at it.

165:

"There are a great many examples from the last century we have which show us that state borders, even when arbitrarily fashioned, are not easily undone."

Especially when the existing "great powers" hold the unitary nation state as an almost sacred ideal. It was obvious in Yugoslavia, and even more so in Iraq that these "nations" (colonial straight lines on a map) are not viable and need to be broken up.
Spending money on sweetening real estate deals rather than dropping bombs is more rational.

166:

P.S. Syria's agriculture / water could be fixed, as could "Iraq" s... but it requires a general peace in the area first.
Nice try, if you get to go at it.

This is a lot like saying "we could change the spark plugs if the engine wasn't on fire".

Only, no.

Agriculture rests on rain.

Really large scale desalination is unproven; Israel's trying hard, but they're not doing it in a no-fossil-carbon way, and they're not making their project performance projections or their deadlines.

It is actually a fairly hard problem because dehydrated sea water -- "brine" -- is nasty stuff; you get mineral deposits crudding everything up, there's corrosion, and the actual scale of desalination is small, fiddly, and fragile. (Things like salt water greenhouses involve plumbing and a lot of glass which is more fossil carbon, aka not improving matters overall.)

So, the options are "do something without a known-good technical solution better than the desperately determined first world society in more or less the same boat can manage while establishing peace during a period of critical food shortages" or "move the people".

I know which of those two options looks actually possible to me.

167:

Only that the PKK doesn't necessarily promote secession from Turkey any more and probably could be reintegrated - as Turkey's policy was until the lost election this summer. Then Erdogan stopped that process and began PKK bashing once more.

Da'esh does not accept any borders and considers Islam rulers who don't enforce sharia as apostates.

Also note that Da'esh allegedly committed bomb attacks in Suruc and Ankara killing approx. 150 pro-kurdish people.

The relation between the Turkish government and Da'esh isn't clear. Turkey says they fight against Da'esh, on the other hand there are rumors that the bombings where aided by Turkish police/intelligence and some (like Putin) accuse Turkey of supporting Da'esh by buying their oil. I think Turkey is using Da'esh for their own goals: destabilizing Syria, destabilizing the Kurdish provinces in Northern Iraq and Syria, and infiltrating Da'esh splinter groups to organize "helpful" bomb attacks in Turkey.

Meanwhile Europe supports Turkey in exchange for closing its borders for refugees. Turkey could play a key role in fighting Da'esh in supporting a safe zone in northern Iraq and Syria and cutting the supply lines of Da'esh. They don't do it and neither Europe nor the NATO puts pressure on Turkey to do so. So Da'esh wins.

That might change if Da'esh grows stronger and states realize that their pet projects (keeping refugees out of EU, keeping Kurds down, keeping Assad in power, arm wrestling between Iran and Saudi Arabia, ...) aren't worth it.

168:

First: I made my usual mistake and dropped a decade - it was a ~30-year insurgency. Some part of my brain refuses to acknowledge we're in the second decade of the 21st century. Sorry, all.


The PKK could - they've moved from Marxist-Leninist separatists to Dalai Lama-neighbourhood demands for self-determination and cultural rights, while moving to communitarian anarchism (complete with EZLN-influenced communication strategies and International Brigades). Unfortunately the Deep State in general and Erdogan in particular don't appear to give a toss; they make good bogeymen.* There was plenty of evidence during the Kobane siege that while Da'esh may or may not have support within factions in the Turkish state (there were allegations of them being able to bring supplies across the border freely) helping the Kurds was Not On - they closed the border to civilians fleeing the fighting and refused to allow Pershmerga with anti-armour weaponry into the town.

All of the above being a long-winded way of saying "I think you're right."

*[insert acknowledge that there was and is more to Kurdish separatism than the PKK here]

169:

I admit my 20mm per day where a ludicros number. I've since seen that solar desalination plats are less efficient by orders of magnitude than the MSFD I picked the numbers from.
On the other hand - from the wikp age on virtual water I take a water demand of 1000m³/a & person (between china and Germany, USA is way off), for direct consumption and embedded in food and other goods. That's about 3m³/d

I assumed 10 kWh/d m². With the high efficiency MSFD that's 200l/m² d, or 15m² per person solar collector just to make potable water. another way to see this, a village of not 700 people would need a hectar of solar collectors. I don't see it. Not totally impossible, but hard to imagine.

Remember that most sunstills are fastly inferior, so with other technology our village would have to maintain even more collector surface.

170:

Nations are imagined communites. A book has been writtn on this. As long as nationalism is a viable idea, someone will find a or make up a group outside their borders who are 'long lost brothers', 'share the language (family)' or some such, and sometimes a few of these people return the motion. Borders are straight lines on a map but may be quite porous locally, there was much intermarrying between eatern Ukraine and Russia for decades for example. Not that everyone speaking russian or having relatives on the other side neccessarily identified as russian. The idea of the ethically homogenous nation state is just a pretext for bloodshed.

In Turkey, the Kemalists had for years ideas of integrating all the 'turkmene' people (+ territory), if this is a new thing with the AKP I don't know.

The point is not necesarily to actually annex and gain territory, but to keep a constant national fervor and mobilisation up. The better to silence these untruly Cakpulu.

171:

Not only is "move the people" more possible, it's also the humanest to do in sight of the butchers these people move from. Yes, I see the current war as reason enough to pack up, no need to wait for further draughts and climate change. Making refugees welcome - actually something many of us commentaryat here can do a little about.

172:

IIRC, the UN's recommended daily limit for people is 10 gallons/day of water for drinking, cooking, and sanitation. You can, of course, get by on much less if all you're doing is drinking the water, but if you add in things like plumbing and boiling food, the amount of water used goes up substantially.

Also for reference, a cubic meter of water weighs 1000 kg or 1 tonne.

Another factoid is that plants as a whole use more water than do animals, because plants have an open vascular system that draws water out of the soil and transpires it into the air through stomata. This is one major way that plants pull dissolved nutrients out of the soil. Plant tissues, like our own, are generally mostly water as well.

This plays out in two ways. While crops vary wildly in water use efficiency, in general, vegetables use less water per unit product than do fruits, and fruits use less than do grains. The reason is that the grain is a tiny part of the adult plant that produced it, and you have to factor in the water use by the adult plant when you're talking about grain production. In contrast, vegetables are plant bodies, so you're capturing more of the water in the leaf and stem tissues. Lettuce is more water-efficient per weight of product sold than wheat or rice, because a larger chunk of the water used in growing the lettuce ends up in the grocery than happens for wheat or rice grains. This is one reason why California has been getting away from growing grains (San Diego, for example, was a wheat-growing region 100 years ago) and getting into vegetables and fruits. Things like olives and grapes are among the most water-efficient fruits out there, and if there's not enough water to grow them, there's certainly not enough water to turn those vineyards into grain fields.

Similarly, food embodies a lot of water, so (as I've pointed out before), it's an indirect way to ship a lot of water from where it's plentiful (as in the grain belts of the world) to where it's not plentiful (the deserts).

173:

Lettuce is more water-efficient per weight of product sold than wheat or rice, because a larger chunk of the water used in growing the lettuce ends up in the grocery than happens for wheat or rice grains. This is one reason why California has been getting away from growing grains (San Diego, for example, was a wheat-growing region 100 years ago) and getting into vegetables and fruits. Things like olives and grapes are among the most water-efficient fruits out there, and if there's not enough water to grow them, there's certainly not enough water to turn those vineyards into grain fields.

To get a minimal 1200 daily calories a person would need to eat 8000 grams of lettuce or 370 grams of wheat. Is lettuce production actually 22 times more water-efficient than wheat? Even if so, can a person actually eat 8 kilograms of lettuce in a day?

My father's family once practiced dryland farming of grains in central California. When vineyards moved in, so did groundwater-sucking irrigation. Switching to growing grapes was about more money per hectare, not thriftier use of water.

@Graydon: building solar-desal greenhouses in the Middle East has an emissions cost. So does resettling people from the Middle East to Europe. The per-capita emissions in Germany, 2011 were slightly more than triple those of Syria, 2011. Resettled refugees are going to be poorer than average, thus consume and emit less per-capita than average, in their new countries. But are they going to remain so much poorer that the marginal CO2 increase from resettlement is smaller than that from Syrian solar greenhouses? That's less obvious to me. If the refugee emissions per capita never converged with the native born population, that would make a stronger emissions-benefit case for resettlement but also imply that refugees remain a permanent underclass, with all the attendant problems. Best of all would be resettling refugees to currently-stable regions, and those stable regions decarbonizing rapidly enough to more than offset the intake of refugees. Stranger things have happened, I suppose.

174:

I'm an outsider too, but I've spent quite a bit of time studying jihadist thought, and my takeaway is that secular Westerners who insist on viewing everything through a materialist, rationalist lens and don't take seriously the religious and mythic currents that are motivating many people over there are never going to understand a group like ISIS.

It's not just a matter of providing people with enough food, water, arable land, disposable income, etc – the jihadists themselves are the first to mock this mentality. The two sides are speaking different languages, and using different maps to try to understand the same territory. It's a clash of civilizations and mythologies, between the two main world domination projects in the world today: The “New World Order” of Western capitalism, liberalism and materialism, and the “Caliphate”. They see themselves fulfilling prophecies and saving the world from the Western "Dajjal System" of Satanic values, which has been set up in preparation for the arrival of the Dajjal (Antichrist). It may be crazy, but hey, at least they have a mythos that they're willing to fight and die for, which is more than one can say for most Westerners these days...

175:

I guess the question, Matt, is why your family stopped farming grains?

Note also I was talking on a per weight basis, and you, of course, are talking on a per calorie basis. We're both right, but it's an important distinction. There's a reason to grow wheat, or rice, or maize, and there's a reason that we don't ship lettuce as emergency relief supplies. Thing is, we can't turn around and plant wheat in the desert (as Assad did) and expect it to work very well, unless there's either good rain or a steady source of irrigation.

176:

Well, yes and no.

Throughout history, there have always been nut jobs, excuse me, prophets, off in the wilds, running away from the real evils of civilization, trying to follow what the divine is telling them. It's not unique to Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Taoism, Shintoism, or Buddhism: they've all had (and have) their millenialists. Heck, we could throw the Ghost Dance and some forms of Cargo Cult into the mix if we wanted. It seems to be a worldwide phenomenon.

When people are happy and fairly content with their lives, these would-be prophets are seen as nut jobs and ignored, except by the few outsiders who need their vision. These prophets are not honored even in their own country, or as the Bible say, many are called, but few are chosen.

It's when things are miserable or grossly unfair that the wild-haired prophets of doom get a larger following. There's almost a standard scenario of how millenial revolts go, from someone announcing the coming true of prophecy, the return of God, the blossoming of a Field of Merit, or whatever (I've forgotten the Taoist equivalent). People are supposed to live right by giving up the sins (typically) of alcohol, drug use, and unsanctioned fornication. When such a movement grows big enough, it pretty much inevitably attacks the local Evil Empire. The normal result is that the Evil Empire wins, the movement is crushed, and the survivors run into the hills, where a few keep alive the legends of the beautiful time when heaven almost came to Earth. In due course, another generation of prophets heads for the hills again.

So yes, we here in the evil empire have seen this before. It's a normal response to things going horribly pear shaped, and we do, collectively, as citizens of the evil empire, bear a great deal of responsibility for screwing them up.

However, what the militant Jihadis don't want to talk about is how their movement will gradually dissolve if their subjects are given a better life. That's the one thing they can't give them in this life, and it's something we can do, if we have the guts to do it.

Since we created the mess, out of fairness, we should try to make the survivors' lives better. If they are refugees, take them in and give them a place where they, at least, can speak their language and practice their religion, even if the climate, land, and food are strange. This is how good triumphs over evil, after all.

But I think the militant Jihadis know that their power ultimately comes from the despair and fury of their followers, which is why they keep attacking, using that fury to try to get us to play by the rules of their reality. Thing is, we've seen this before as a society. It's not new.

Incidentally, if you look at the US, it appears that the highest concentrations of apocalyptic Churchianity seem to be in the places where life is regarded as most unfair, where the best and brightest leave for the cities, and leave the rest resentful. There's as much a need for justice in the Bible belt as there is anywhere else, and I'm sure the problems over "language" are every bit as bad there.

177:

I guess the question, Matt, is why your family stopped farming grains?

They stopped farming altogether and sold the land. The well that was dug in the 1940s is delivering water with gradually increasing salinity as the water table drops and eventually it won't deliver water at all. That well was used just to supply household needs, not irrigation, but the property would be considerably less attractive without running water to the homestead. The neighboring aging farmers already sold to well-capitalized buyers who planted vineyards and could afford to keep drilling deeper wells. Until very recently anyone who could afford to pump more water out of the ground was allowed to pump more out of the ground, never mind what happens to your neighbors. The aging farmers in the family could either join that race to depletion, with big cash expenditures for a new deep well, or sell while there are still eager buyers. They chose to sell and retire.

178:

"...some (like Putin) accuse Turkey of supporting Da'esh by buying their oil."

They are. Turkey are not a trustworthy player, and never have been; they have their own agenda and will pretend to be on whatever side best suits it while playing off those who have an interest in them concerning influence in the region against each other. But even groups who are unquestionably opposed to Da'esh are still buying oil off them, because otherwise they can't get it at all.

179:

Sigh.

Logging in (that's costing me a soul, you're welcome "UnHolyGuy", off the hook) to say a few things:

1) Site is being heavily monitored atm - there's at least four .gov stuff filtering things. (Hilarious: check how many clones of your accounts are active. It's >2. You're welcome to the joke about CA Smog btw 5 Eyes peeps, the loop back into that from 2003 was deliberate. #datasmog. Oh yes, some of us iz smart little catz. And yes, the only reason UHG is off the hook is because warning the lesser un-Langely types is worth a small sacrifice).

You. Are. Being. Monitored. 100%. Naughty, naughty.

2) No-one is going to glass the M.E. What's going to happen is far, far worse. You've all major Great Game players involved and the upshot is... they cannot even solve a localized crisis. Stirring speeches about the Nazis, Franco et al don't hide the fact that there's no new thought or ideology or religion or belief or brand solving this one. I don't see Coke or Nestle saving the day. If you want the low-down, there's a serious move [tm] about Techne and MIC contracts - some "people" are wondering just why you need $50,000,000,000 yearly expenditure to swat gnats.

Real money is on putting that into a real world scenario like Bangladesh. Think a little about what that just said. Songdo in Korea isn't the bright new world, nor is Dubai et al (and they now know it).

3) I was in France recently (HoHoHo - our little 'fox' has somehow made it to Syria? Hilarious - he's in a holding tank or dumpster, chumps) and there's a lesson to be learnt.

Down in the south, a farmer would create a poplar stand (2-3 acres) on the birth of a daughter to provide a bridal gift. Even farmers without daughters did it. The lesson is thinking 10+ years, not 4 month business cycle or the immediacy of oil (which is why the M.E. is fucked btw). Upshot is, environment is pretty solid down there (the internet coverage, far less so - France is like a desert, literally, if you're sensitive to EM like we are).

Bliiiiis.


4) Returning to #2: y'all need your Banks learning. "Assad" isn't just a pivot point in the middle East, it's a game... (I'd say "tee hee", but at this point, it's more like, "you dumb mother-fuckers").

~

Piggy Backing off one of your operatives. Weak-willed, likes sex, easily infiltrated. You really shouldn't allow them to carry phones or laptops into the country, derp. No serious business allows it, but you do...

~

In France, I was the beautiful little kitten who magically appeared with the bent tail. Meowed cutely, used the tires as a scratching pad, rubbed my cute little ass over your luggage.

~

Oh, and since Greg et al need novelty: I did warn you about all of this. In 2012.

>look to Cyprus (military base explosions, 2012?) etc. Oh, and Troy (dardanelles).


Meh.


If you've not realized it yet, this one is about sucking in all the players and teaching them that they shouldn't play the "Great Game" when there's Go players around (even China).

Stay tuned. Shit gets Biblical and unfunny real fucking fast. (And... not driven by dominated sub-minds slaved to crappy dominion G_D zone memes).


p.s.

@Host - there's a reason.

You're doing the Peanut Gallery a service, providing logical and rational discourse. This is a good thing [tm].

180:

It's never just about water, is it?

The frustrating thing about California is that we're only now, at long last, starting to regulate groundwater. We're really not that different than Syria.

181:

I think I've mentioned this before, but I have newspaper clippings about my farming uncle warning county officials about groundwater depletion in the 1980s. They're taking action only 30 years late. And actually it wasn't even the county that finally started to deal with the problem but the state.

182:

Certainly that is true, but sheer numbers also had a lot to do with it. France judged itself stronger than Germany in 1870 pretty much on the basis of wishful thinking, only to find themselves greatly outnumbered in every battle. Having half their army not doing anything didn't help, but even had that not been so the Germans would still have had a big advantage in numbers.

The Germans then continued to breed orcs in the subsequent decades while the French didn't, so the situation continued into the next two conflicts.

The thing about 1870 though was that it marked a major shift in the balance of power. The empire ruled by the namesake and heir of the guy who had been the terror of Europe a few decades before, high on overconfidence, got suckered by Bismarck into doing exactly what he wanted them to do and getting flattened; Germany unified; and overnight Prussian-led German militarism became the big threat that everyone was scared of, with France finding themselves having to cosy up to historic enemies in self-defence.

183:

"y'all need your Banks learning"

Indeed, my mental list of "solutiony-type things that would actually work" goes something like:

1) GSV

2) er...

184:

Best of all would be resettling refugees to currently-stable regions, and those stable regions decarbonizing rapidly enough to more than offset the intake of refugees.

If we -- meaning the whole human species, but the affluent had best go first -- don't get down to zero on the carbon relatively quickly, the general opportunities for a prosperous descent are likely to be rather truncated.

I consider this a separate problem from the immediacy with which the refugees will die without an opportunity to escape their circumstances.

185:

30'(+) of subsidence in the Valley says otherwise.

It's gone.

You're fucked.

I think I've mentioned this before, but I have newspaper clippings about my farming uncle warning county officials about groundwater depletion in the 1980s. They're taking action only 30 years late. And actually it wasn't even the county that finally started to deal with the problem but the state.


In 1927 there are warnings from CA about aquifer usage. In 1957 there was a serious report put to Congress.

Hetero, while it's cute you're defending your zone, don't be coy.

You had your milkshake and you sucked it all in. [This is a real world example]


~

The real lesson is that you do that [British Empire; Coal, Scottish industrial revolution in engines and so on] and you move onto better things.

~


That's the lesson of M.E. at the moment: you couldn't move on, or develop or evolve.


And, you're fucked.

186:

Actually, it's about ethics in torture.

Assad is the central point of "Player of Games". It's also... somewhat important nowadays.


No, really.

They really did torture someone for three years because of that.


Really.

187:

Maybe, but what constitutes a “better life” is a lot of what the conflict is about. Osama Bin Laden had a great life by most standards, and I can point you to quite a few comfortable Westerners and Western-raised Muslims who decided that something was lacking from our way of life and went seeking an alternative on the fields of jihad. I am in personal contact with young men who feel this way. It's a serious problem for the modern West, which I don't think is going away. In fact, I think we're going to see ISIS-like groups emerging in our own lands. It seems that “progress”, as you define it, is missing something ineffable that makes life worth living, at least for some. Nor do I think we can just label anyone who feels this way “nut jobs” or “wild haired prophets”, since such people do from time to time win and found entire civilizations. How do we know it isn't you that's the nutjob, anyway? Maybe this entire civilization is insane, and "barbarians" are the cure?

188:

Sufi. No files found.

~

Sigh. Ignorance, ignorance.

You need at least a little understanding of the persecution of the Sufi movement / philosophy, and spiritual (rather than physical) elements of Islam and so on.

Hint: Christianity, circa ~800 AD fled to their monasteries and then came forth. Islam wiped all those schools out.


That is where your should be outraged at Saud etc.


~

It's not about Prophets, it's about a willing and deliberate destruction of those parts of Islam that they didn't like.

Fucking Children in here.

189:

Some like to caterwaul, some like to try to make a difference.

Here's the deal: I think about the present and the deep future, less about my own mayfly life.

My personal future doesn't particularly matter, because no matter what happens, my culture as a born consumer is going to disappear in the next few decades. But I have different goals related to the ongoing mass extinction that you're quite obviously too afraid to understand, so I won't bother trying to tell you.

And yes, I get fucked, regularly, and unlike you, I enjoy it. It's interesting that you think that's a problem.

190:

"It might easily be a rehearsal for the Spanish Civil War.
Isn't that a nice thought?"

To mimic the Spanish Civil War would require opposing worldviews in conflict, on the order of fascism versus socialism. Free market liberalism, with its enabling legal infrastructure for contract enforcement, now dominates globally as never before. There is no serious challenger in sight, just lots of frivolous ones like totalitarian Islamic statism, which has zero appeal for economically productive entities with the funds to support an ongoing struggle. Can't imagine Aramco taking a squabble with BP down to the local mullah for a Shariah law settlement any time ever.
What liberalism's weak competitors can and do offer, is to serve as lightning rods for the hopeless ignorant malcontents of the world to rally around, and there's never been a shortage of such focal points. Pick any quixotic lost cause through history, in fundamental ways they're alike, the Taiping Rebellion in China, the Albigensian Heresy in France, the American Confederacy, every time it was poor, excluded and deluded farmers rising up just to be put down. The only solution for the world's hopeless ignorant malcontents is to find ways of providing hope, education and contentment, anything else is just staving off the inevitable next attack.
Arguably the imposition of liberal democratic structures on Iraq and Afghanistan was the end point envisioned by American invaders, but results are discouraging. More of the same will likely generate, surprise, more of the same. Self defense is top priority as ever, neutralize attackers but that should end military engagement. The resources poured into any other military adventures would get better results through economic developmental assistance, to the marginalized outgroups spawned by local elites. Plus political support to those same outgroups if they ever develop an interest in joining the rest of the world, above and beyond simply replacing the exisiting elites themselves, like playing musical chairs.
Charity begins at home, however, so helping dismantle stifling elite oligarchies abroad will never gain credibility unless we come to terms with our own oligarchs. 70% of assets owned by the top 10% may be survivable for the poor in a rich country, but not for the poor in a poor country. Defusing instability worldwide requires less wealth concentration, not more, and if spontaneous economic forces tend to centralize wealth, which they do, then the solution's going to be political, not economic. Political as in redistributive taxation. Not always pretty, but then real solutions frequently aren't. Vote accordingly.

191:

Aww, that's really cute. You went profane!

But, I'm actually happy you're getting your old goat rammed and all, I never, ever, have anything against that kind of thing.

Hint: that old dualism about Sacred and Profane is dead.

~

But, Honey: given I've read your book, and might have had something to do with that old bugbear: Agenda - 21. (2.1 - see? it's funny...)


~


And, again: since we're doing the profane: I got fucked by the howling void of 'Hell' and I kept my panties dry enough to also fuck them back. As well as a few years of other things...


Which is why you can still get fucked regularly and not worry.


p.s.


You're welcome.


But you fucked the planet. You had three years, you did fuck all, glad you got your dick sucked honey.

192:

"To mimic the Spanish Civil War would require opposing worldviews in conflict, on the order of fascism versus socialism."

That's just what we do have, only the F and S are fundamentalism and secularism (the latter being defined sufficiently loosely to include the non-looney majority of Muslims). Which is, after all, pretty much what the Spanish Civil War was about: fascism and socialism were the banners, but Catholicism-based reactionary authoritarianism vs. more progressive and secular models was the root of it.

193:

GSV + GCU + SC = CONTACT

194:

I'd actually disagree with OGH (wot, again?) and say that stirring the rubble is probably a good move. Not because it's going to fix anything, but because it prevents ISIS getting fixed, entrenched, and settled in. If they did, their next step would be to expand and export their insanity even further - so keep them ducking bombs.

Let's face it, Syria, ISIS, and the migrant wave saying "sod this, we've leaving permanently" is a direct result of the west in 2013 saying "well we don't see anyone we like, and we are sick of fighting, so we'll keep hands off." That policy didn't work too well ... and we now have the complete clusterfuck formally known as Syria to deal with.

Lesson that should be learnt is that the colonial approach is probably going to be needed for ANY region that starts to totter on the edge - you remove the leaders, impose structures, and make it somewhere for decent people to live without a gun to their head. Otherwise it breaks out in terrorists and you have a million asylum seekers on your doorstep. It's cheaper to take control (and could be a good employment opportunity as well).

As for dealing with ISIS - you fight ideas with better ideas and the only way to really deal with them is to deal with islam and it's perverted meme. And for the hard core fanatics, you treat them as the vermin they are, and eradicate them.

195:

"Pick any quixotic lost cause through history, in fundamental ways they're alike, the Taiping Rebellion in China, the Albigensian Heresy in France, the American Confederacy, every time it was poor, excluded and deluded farmers rising up just to be put down."

One of these things is not like the others, one of these things does not belong...

At the start of the American Civil War, the leaders of the Confederacy were some of the wealthiest men on the planet. Slave plantations were thriving big businesses. The South rebelled so the ruling class of the South could continue to enjoy a wealthy and privileged lifestyle based on slavery. They were pretty up front about this. And they had a sensible plan - secede, build a state around supporting slavery, export the products of the slave plantations and import whatever manufactured goods they didn't make themselves. Had they won I'm sure they would have been happy to let foreign companies set up slave factories. The poor and excluded farmers tended to be less enthusiastic - why do you think there's a West Virginia?

196:

I don't think spiritual yearning has much to do with it. Personally, I like Gary Brecher/John Dolan's take:

"...people want to find a way to explain the horrific stuff IS does without admitting that it’s the sort of horrific stuff young males with god on their side have always done. It’s much more reassuring to blame some drug than to face the grim fact that, in the next few generations, before Islamic culture is mulched into the global norm, there’s going to be a lot of ultra-violence from young Muslim men who are just smart enough to see that the tide is running against them, but not smart enough to come up with any better response than killing a lot of people eating pizza in Paris."

The jihad is just an excuse to live out some very dark fantasies. When all is said and done Daesh has mostly killed Muslims.

197:

No
Just look at the lunacies prevalent in Britain after the Reformation or the horrible outbreak of insanity called the 30 years War, or the witch-trials etc.
It's all too understandable, IF you have read some history.
Actually, "they" are catching up, since islam is supposed to be 622 years behind christianity & now they are up to about 400 years down ....
[snark]

198:

1) Site is being heavily monitored atm
Of course - they probably want to steal our ideas.
I must be logged at least 3 time on GCHQ's radar, because of people either I or my wife know ( And who are themselves guvmint employees or ex-employees, I hasten to add. ) & therefore our names will have registered.

Seriously, if the guvmint can get a better handle on the real dangerous nutjobs, form reading our *wild" ideas, good luck to them, because they've made a royal screw-up of it, so far, haven't they?

2)Bangla Desh - now there's a hopeful case going to hell in a bucket, with the repeated murder of scularists & bloggers.
A very unpleasant downhill road.

If you've not realized it yet, this one is about sucking in all the players and teaching them that they shouldn't play the "Great Game" when there's Go players around (even China).
You've done it AGAIN - you were making sense & now you're using English words with no coherent meaning.
PLEASE STOP IT?
Unless Pigeon @ 183 is on to something?

They really did torture someone for three years because of that.
But you don't say what "that" was, do you?
For fuck's sake, can't you write plainly - PLEASE?

199:

Heteromeles & Matt
Very depressing, but at least something, probably too little, but maybe not yet too late is being done about California.
Assuming, of course that Rethuglican nutjobs denying climate change don't get elected.....

200:

"...some (like Putin) accuse Turkey of supporting Da'esh by buying their oil."


They are.

Then why doesn't Putin publish his evidence and force Erdogan to resign? They could give it to The Guardian and Der Spiegel to get some traction in the media and then run a campaign to force him out of office (and for Turkey to change its Da'esh-tolerating politics).

201:

I don't know about real, actual 99+% proof, but try:
Here, here, and here too.
That both the Grauniad & the Indipondent are saying it is interesting ....

202:

Okay, words of one syllable: it's the Great Game, game on, the post-1917 settlement has broken down and a bunch of pre-existing pathologies are re-asserting themselves.

However, there are other players playing different games on the same board, with a much longer time-span in mind. There's the House of Saud and the turmoil out of Wahab, who think they're locked in an existential cold war with the Shi'ite heretics -- a cold war that's been running for 1300 years at this point, and the parameters of that cold war dictate a lot of how the local players are performing. (For a metaphor: if the Saudi royal family are mapped onto the corrupt corporatist end of the US Republican Party, then Da'esh are the Tea Party/Militia/Survivalist end of the same continuum, and they all think Iran is the USSR.)

There are the oil and coal industries. They were willing to spend hundreds of millions on climate change denying propaganda despite knowing we were fucked as far back as the early 1980s. How much more money do you think they've spent lobbying for policies to keep the Middle East unstable and therefore justify keeping oil prices high? It's a bust-out and it's corrupt and it's almost certainly happening in the background (and have you noticed the Koch brothers trying to buy the US republican party? Why might they be doing that?).

There's the Chinese great gamble -- the one-child policy has backfired disastrously in the long term and they're going to hit peak labour:dependent ratio before 2030 and then enter a long down-slope similar to the demographic woes of Japan, only with a half-assed industrial base, horrible environmental degradation, and a corrupt banking system that has made everything worse (and fucked the current generation's pension plans). If they're lucky the Japanese robotic-carers breakthrough will come along in time to save their asses, but that's very much underpants gnome territory in terms of forward planning ("... and then a miracle happens").

There's the military-industrial-espionage complex, which is out of control and has synergized with the emergent western global oligarchy in the pursuit of profit via control (as the millennial generation in the west finally wake up and realize how badly they've been screwed).

But basically thanks to the greed of the fossil fuels lobby we're going to lose about half the planet's remaining agricultural output before population stops rising, and we've already had our green revolution (all praise Norman Borlaug, without whom we'd already be dead).

203:

One of Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s recent programs showed there actually were a few African American soldiers who fought for the Confederacy. Confederate officers were heavily recruited from plantation owners, a tiny minority. But with an agrarian society closely resembling the hacienda system of South America, negligible urban population, most manufactured items bought from Europe and the North, and a middle class restricted to professional plantation hangers-on like doctors,lawyers, and clergymen, you have to ask where all the Confederate soldiers came from. Poor, excluded and deluded white subsistence farmers defending their favored racial status had to be the bulk of it. Who else was there?

204:

See, this is how you fight against bombs. Do you think Putin's "evidence" will come out on top against that story? Looks to me like he's been outsmarted by Turkey.

Of course the victims of NATO bombs won't get such coverage in Western media, instead Da'esh will use them in Muslim media for propaganda.

205:

Okay
Para # 1 & #2 I had already worked out - "Great Game" is a bot of a give-away.
#3 I know about, but didn't connect to international meanouverings
#4 I did emphatically NOT factor in the Chinese/Japanese population problems in to the mix.

But, do you think it's gone that far?
CD obviously does, but I'm not convinced myself.
The problem in the UK, of course is that there really IS a Global Warming Scam" - perpetrated by guvmint & the civil service as a tax-raising con, whist actually doing nothing (or almost nothing) about the real problem.
We should have been copying the French & building nuclear power for the past 20+ years.
Grrr ....

206:

It's easy to blame various boogeymen for the planets ills but most of it comes down to the actual populations and the micro choices they make. Generally they don't need help making stupid and short sighted choices

The fundamental problem underlying it all is the talking monkies don't think so good. It's hard to train them to think and as soon as you manage it in one part of the world, that smarter set of monkies then goes and beats crap out of the rest and steals their nut trees

Big oil, western imperialism , crazy religious nuts of various flavored all just symptoms not causes

It's why science fiction is actually part of the solution it's a tool too get people trained in thinking about the future

207:

The UK took "the colonial approach" in the North. Then Bloody Sunday happened.
Killing terrorists is a stupid thing to do; it hands propaganda victory to an enemy who uses propaganda as its lifeblood. You can suppress terrorism with violence; it takes horrific amounts, and historically only buys a generation or two of peace - and that the resurgent movement will be ruthless, expecting the same repression.

208:

Almost - but not quite.
The "English" Brits made the stupid mistake of believing almost everything the Ultra-Protestant ruling clique in the N told them.
And it took some time to work out that it was cobblers, by which time it was much too late.
Also see JPR(?)'s comments on the guvmint of the S, which was an equally-corrupt mirror-image of the N.
You have to remember that there are AT LEAST THREE "sides" involved in NornIron.

209:

Oh, yes Update
With murderous tossers like this in charge, you might as well go & fight for Da'esh - or maybe not?
Nothing at all, from an, (excuse me for my pink,elitist, "Western" smug satisfaction) enlightened, secularist viewpoint, but then I'm nowhere near Saudi & I'm not sure I'd go, even if you paid me ....

210:

Ah, the "we just need to kill more people in the middle east" strategy, well I suppose it has the virtue of tradition.

"Terrorism is asymmetrical but it's not magic. It still needs a logistical tail to do anything you'd worry about. It's a different kind of tail, but a tail nonetheless. Disrupt it and Da'esh becomes a lot more like a roach motel than a hornets' nest."

Afghanistan, Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria - trouble with your strategy is it doesn't work, you get a few terrorists and break up the camp then the rest set up elsewhere and the place you bombed usually remains destabilised so they can return in ten or twenty years when you've bombed their new camps halfway round the world. To win a war you have to kill everyone or change their minds bombing just spreads the problem over a wider area.

211:

"Weapons suppliers/manufacturers - why are these not mentioned in the on-going 'war against terror'? The classic first step in waging a war is to cut off supplies."

A decent blacksmith can turn out a working AK47. You can make a bomb in your bathtub with some chemistry and basic supplies. Gunpowder is a medieval technology and lead is easy to find. Cars and trucks are common everywhere people are.

And that's just the basic stuff I'm curious to see how long it takes someone like Hamas to fit a bomb to a hobby drone for a low tech cruise missile (given current carry weights I suspect early versions are unlikely to be lethal but fly one into a school or a hospital emergency ward and we'd hear the bang round the world) - there was a video of someone who did it with a gun floating about not long ago.

212:

screw guns on drones imagine if all you set out to do is sabotage vital infrastructure. Fires are nice if there is no functioning fire department and/or water pressure for instance. Gets even more entertaining when you start thinking of things to do with poison gas

in some ways the easy gun access is a bit of a safety valve

213:

Heteromeles & Matt
Very depressing, but at least something, probably too little, but maybe not yet too late is being done about California.
Assuming, of course that Rethuglican nutjobs denying climate change don't get elected.

Yeah, that's why I keep working as an environmentalist here.

Sometimes the best you can do is make like Tolkien's Elves and fight the long defeat. It's not as glorious as a victory, but it's massively better than giving up.

One small bit of light is that I don't think we're going to get Rethuglicans running the state any time soon. The real problem children are heading to Washington, rather than Sacramento.

Anyway, get more people to buy my book and I can do a bit more about life here.

214:

look to Cyprus (military base explosions, 2012?) etc

Errr.... no. Sorry, that big bang in Cyprus was down to plain old incompetence, no conspiracy required.

On average around the world, there's an ammunition dump goes bang every month :(

The Cypriots lifted a smuggled cargo of weapons bound for Syria from Iran; and decided to store them "carelessly". It turns out that if you leave critical masses of varied ammunition natures, in 98 closely-stacked metal shipping containers, in the Mediterranean sun for two years, without bothering to separate out said ammunition natures by well-understood distances and without bothering to do any checking or maintenance other than "count the containers, check they're still sealed" (allegedly because the Cypriot PM was a bit matey with Assad, and didn't want to embarrass him by digging through the contents)...

...and if you turn down the offers of assistance from Subject Matter Experts, i.e. the Ammunition Technical Officers in the nearby Sovereign Base Areas...

...and if the Naval Base you chose to stack all of these containers full of explosive substances, just happens to be right next to your biggest power station...

...then when it goes *BOOM*, and in doing so wrecks said power station, you can look forward to a few months of summer power cuts while you rebuild it.

215:

Terror is about media impact, the damage is collateral - go with an explosive rather than a gun, though an incendiary might be better still then try to fly into somewhere 'interesting' and if you're lucky you get headlines about 'the new terrorist threat' over pictures of burn victims. Retaliation is all but guaranteed.

There's a lot of commentary that really doesn't get strategy - wars can only be won by killing everyone or by changing their minds and killing everyone is pretty much always impractical therefore you need a strategy to change your opponent's mindset. Outside some of the comments in this thread I haven't seen a whole lot that look like they're even considering what a realistic and a good outcome would look like.

216:

Media impact indeed - try this:

Manchester council, police, and newspapers, one morning, receive copies of a video. Copies are also sent to the custodians of selected twitter and facebook accounts. It is shot in bad light with a crappy phone camera but you can still make out certain features:

- a hose connected to a bowser, discharging some liquid into a lake (it is actually only water, but you can't tell that)
- some people wearing turbans/ballies/whatever else the fashionable terrorist is wearing this season
- a newspaper from two days ago that one of these people exhibits to the camera
- in the background, the Thirlmere straining tower.

For extra impact, at the same time media and authorities in Birmingham receive a similar video only the straining tower is the Elan valley one.

As for "realistic and good outcomes", I don't think you can have both (and I'm not convinced that "evacuate the entire country" which this thread seems to be tending towards is either). The problem is of the class "some other country/set of countries/region/whatever - the point is, it is Not Us - is behaving in a way of which We disapprove". This class of problems has been demonstrated to have no practical solutions. To ensure peace in a region that isn't naturally that way inclined requires the imposition of a totalitarian dictatorship with a policeman on every corner to make sure everyone loves each other very much. And you have to keep that up indefinitely because as soon as you stop it the place goes back to how it was before, even if "before" was hundreds of years ago. And you have to go properly full-on at it, because half-arsed - or even only 99%-arsed - versions make things worse. Of course, this ain't gonna happen.

The other maximum on the curve is right at the other end: disengage from the region 100% and leave them alone to sort it out among themselves. And this too ain't gonna happen. Firstly the West wants the oil, and even when that runs out there remains the worry that the country which owes its existence to continued Western interference and support is going to make up for the withdrawal of same by chucking nukes about.

About the only point which is clear in the whole mess is that it has got the way it is mostly because of Western military interference, and so carrying on with more of the same in the hope that suddenly the magic will catch and it will start working is akin to thumping the TV to make it work and continuing to do so even when the screen is smashed and the casing hanging off in pieces.

217:

Consider the Welsh.

I don't know if the quote's online but something to the effect of three hundred years to utterly forget they had ever been anything but Roman, and in the thousand years since they have never once forgotten they are not English.

There are reasons for both those things.

If people are threatening you by using their helplessness as a weapon, the sensible thing to do, the effective thing to do, is to take their helplessness away.

(Those helpless groups include folks willing to blow themselves up and the kind of ignorant panic that goes with assuming there's something in the water.)

Going for making helplessness total or going for your moral intuitions despite no evidence anyone's moral intuitions work very well at large scales of people doesn't help. (Realizable access to choice in the population doesn't increase; peace (you conduct is constrained but not subject to the exercise of social power) doesn't increase.)

Everybody at the eastern end of the Med's general helplessness is increasing; it's getting dry. It's going to keep getting dry. Dryness is not a moral issue.

218:

It is as Unholyguy said in the post following yours - the talking monkeys don't think so good... Even as a child I thought the designation "Homo sapiens" outrageously egotistical (although I didn't know the word "egotistical" yet); as soon as I learnt a bit of Latin myself I began to prefer "Homo stultus" and have done ever since.

The Japanese/Chinese so-called "demographic problems" are a case in point - the real problem is that they don't realise that nothing is actually changing. Retirement is just a formal declaration that the person retiring is not going to do anything useful henceforth. The chance is something like 90% that they never did anyway, so it's only marks on paper.

Oil-based agriculture is another one. Food can be made from oil (figuratively); oil is easy to get; let's breed like rabbits and sustain the population on oil. In 200 years or so there won't be any left and everyone will starve, but we who are setting it up will be dead by then anyway so bollocks to it.

Or, for that matter, political interference in countries that have a lot of oil to make sure we can keep on getting it. Find something else to use instead? nah, 's OK, we've got more guns than them.

(As an aside, this is what gets me about the climate change lobby - by and large the kind of things they are advocating are things I was in favour of back when the concern was that we were about to have another ice age. The climate bit is irrelevant; opinions on that matter can switch from one opposite to the other and it doesn't affect the outcome because there are plenty of other reasons to do the same things based on very simple facts which remain unalterable, like "finite resources are finite" and "humans are stroppy buggers". The simpler and less controversial the premises the stronger the argument.)

And of course the overarching stupidity is that humans are the one species that has the ability to foresee the consequences of population increase and to limit it voluntarily, but they won't bloody do it (apart from the Chinese one-child thing which, implementation faults aside, is still the most sensible policy any bunch of politicians has ever conjured up). Even those people who are willing to admit that excessive population is a problem somehow manage to think that it doesn't apply to their own reproduction but only to everyone else's, and still have kids.

219:

"Dryness is not a moral issue."

The consensus on this thread is also that it is a problem that has no solution, because it isn't possible to make enough water. (Personally I'm not convinced that this is true, but I'll go with the flow for now.)

Therefore the place is uninhabitable. But evacuating the entire population is impractical. There are a lot of them and there isn't anywhere that wants millions of refugees, or even a fraction of that: nobody knows what to do with the ones that exist already. And in any case they don't want to go. They really don't want to go, because the threat of slow starvation isn't enough to get them moving, it takes the threat of sudden violent death. Home is home, after all, even if it is shit.

We have to let them make up their own minds what to do about it because people do not like outsiders imposing their own ideas of what is a better solution and resent the consequences, even if it really is an improvement. I'm not saying we shouldn't help. But it is up to them to decide what help they want and they have to be the ones in charge of its implementation, not us.

220:

To win a war you have to kill everyone or change their minds
Really?
Germany & Japan, 1945.
Though, of course, especially in Germany, it's worth remembering that Adolf never got more than about 35% of the vote, but once he was in charge, it was too late ....
Japan?
Um, err ....

221:

See my previous comment
But agree re "Changing mindset"
Which is where our politicians are such total incompetent wankers that I don't believe it.
All of the M.E insanity is based on RELIGION.
And there isn't any BigSkyFairy.
Yet Camoron & Tony B Liar & all the others PERSIST in crawling up the diseased arses of every religious "leader" they can find - & then wonder why nothing works.
The stupid, it burns.

222:

Homo sapiens sapientes Africanus
"Man who thinks he thinks & comes from Africa."
And if my Latin is wrong, someone please correct it?

223:

That was the whole point of going for unconditional surrender convincing the Germans and the Japanese to accept they were defeated. The Germans could have made life hell for the allies if they'd changed tactics and started a full fledged asymmetric campaign but by the time the allies reached Germany their moral was collapsing and they were increasingly convinced of defeat. The Americans were so worried about invading the Japanese home islands they nuked them twice to convince them to give up and that's on top of the Russians destroying the Japanese armies in Manchuria.

224:

"And of course the overarching stupidity is that humans are the one species that has the ability to foresee the consequences of population increase and to limit it voluntarily, but they won't bloody do it... "

Except most of the world outside of Africa is either approaching replacement rate or the population is already collapsing.
India, for example...
https://www.google.co.uk/publicdata/explore?ds=d5bncppjof8f9_&met_y=sp_dyn_tfrt_in&idim=country:IND:CHN:USA&hl=en&dl=en

225:

Unconditional surrender - and Military Occupation.

There's something utterly unambiguous about having the armed forces of other nations, wearing uniform, on your streets, redesigning your Government and rewriting your Constitution.

The German Army was utterly defeated in the field in 1918, and retreating as fast as they did in 1944; twenty years later, the Nationalist nutjobs were busy telling the party faithful that it was all just a stab in the back, they shouldn't have lost, etc, etc.

The Japanese army was utterly defeated in the field by 1945 (and they never even tried going up against the Soviets after Khalkin Gol in 1939); they were being burned out of the islands by MacArthur, beaten in Burma by Slim, and their Navy was being sunk whenever it sailed. The B-29 raids were burning Tokyo in a way that makes Dresden pale by comparison.

And yet, there was still internal opposition to the Japanese surrender (even after LITTLE BOY and FAT MAN); in 1945, their military units were still mostly fighting to the last round and the last man (Okinawa was seen as an indication about what to expect during any invasion of the Home Islands).

However, it doesn't always work; consider Occupied Europe or Iraq as a counterexample. The Werewolves never got going in Germany, so the question has to be whether external support to the unhappy and motivated is the key factor in the "success" of any occupation...

226:

1) Not out of choice, it just happens to be turning out that way; and
2) way too late.

227:

On which note, you might find this think-piece interesting. It's a discussion of what it would take to "win" World War IV -- the conflict that the USA has been engaged in since 2001 (in a classification whereby the Cold War was World War III).

The suggested recipe is: a standing army of 1.5-2.5 million soldiers, and a rise in the defense budget to roughly $1.8 trillion a year (current money), sustained for 25-50 years, total mobilization, possibly reintroducing conscription, and being prepared to occupy two or more countries simultaneously while fighting insurgencies in two more. Oh, and willingness to take casualties on the scale of Vietnam on a long-term basis while conducting long-term occupations of hostile territory. (That this would probably also involve atrocities on the scale of Operation PHOENIX goes without saying.)

It's also pointed out that while this might "work" (FSVO work), fifty years of Total War won't leave the USA in any state recognizable today.

228:

I know that is what "they" say, but Japan had already had it by then no matter what. The Americans had got so good at wiping out entire cities by initiating firestorms that the nuke boys had to beg them to leave a few alone so they'd still have some untouched targets left. Japan was out of resources of pretty well every kind, including food and the means to get more food; they could have been starved out. The primary audience for the nukes wasn't so much Japan as the Americans themselves, wanting to see what they'd do to a real target (and not wanting to have to say they'd wasted all that effort); and, of course, Stalin. Who knew already, but they didn't realise that at the time...

The important part about Japan was that they were simply too fanatical to admit they were beaten, and it required a credible threat of mass extermination to get them to give up - whether that was nukes, firestorms, or starvation doesn't really matter - the thing is that fanaticism meant defining "credible" as "has already killed hundreds of thousands of people". And Da'esh exhibit comparable fanaticism and conviction of superiority.

229:

Da'esh don't exhibit comparable industrialization. (Or organization.)

Da'esh are pretty obviously a symptom.

230:
The important part about Japan was that they were simply too fanatical to admit they were beaten

Absolutely not; they had opened negotiations with Molotov to officiate seeking terms before the Potsdam Declaration. They hadn't accepted unconditional surrender yet, but they knew they were losing.

231:

Germany and Japan were largely culturally homogeneous nations. When it was time to surrender, they all did. Not so places like Iraq, because Iraq is not a nation. It was an empire held together with force and fear by a dictator.

232:
Germany and Japan were largely culturally homogeneous nations.

You tell that to a Bavarian from Munich or an East Prussian...

It's just that for a variety of reasons, the, err, German Insurrection didn't catch on.

A "Nation", like any other identity, is just something constructed and reinforced in daily life. Just observe any extreme right-wing nut you know.

233:

That's assuming you fight WW4 using conventional means. The CIA and Obama are busy fighting it using drones because boots on the ground are expensive and end in friendly casualties.

The same reasons that make it dumb to send humans to Mars make it dumb to send them to Syria

At current prices 1.8 trillion gets you 200,000 drones. If you actually went on a drone building spree economies of scale kick in and it's probably in the millions

If you don't need to extract anything from the country in question you don't need to actually occupy it you just need to kill most everyone in a deniable way

WW4 is going to look a lot like the future scenes in The Termibator

234:

Also, quite a few of the "elemental" Iraqi and Syrian groups are of debatable homogenity. E.g. the Assyrian Christians contains Christian groups that have been seperate since Chalcedon and Nicaea...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategic_essentialism

235:

Nations are geographically defined groups of people who want to live together under their own laws and polity. By such a measure Iraq is not a nation and Scotland is.

236:

And to go further with the Scotland example, what about the UK as a whole or the Orkneys as a part of Scotland?

237:

That is for those subgroups to decide. Not you or I. The land belongs to those living on it. If they can form a viable nation I say go for it.

238:

The problem is that even now with all the forced segregation, in places like Iraq and Syria, there aren't ethnically pure enclaves within them, even after all that's happened, that could be budded off into their own states.

This is the contradiction of the nation-state.

A nation-state is notionally a single people (the nation) living within a geographically-defined border (the state). This is always at least partially a lie, excuse me a political term of art. The US, for instance, sees itself mythologically as "mother of exiles" where "the tired, the poor, the huddled masses" gather to become "one nation, under God." And it does happen. Immigrant's kids generally end up speaking English and eating cheeseburgers no matter where their parents came from.

No obviously, if you think about it, the US isn't as homogeneous as all that. It's riven by racial, ethnic, and cultural divides. Equally obviously, every growing state likes attracting immigrants, especially when it needs low wage workers. It also tries to integrate these immigrants into the nation as thoroughly as possible.

The nasty question is, what happens when a state fails?

In the case of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, and Jordan, we're talking about states carved out of the Ottoman Empire. In the case of Syria especially, we're talking about an area that's been occupied by successive empires since Roman times, if not before. During empires, people move around, intermarry, settle enclaves here and there, or (equally importantly) have their enclaves broken up and are forcibly split up and resettled due to imperial politics and the desire to quash rebellions.

When such a melange gets fragmented into smaller states, there are no clean dividing lines. Certainly groups can try to segregate (see Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India after the breakup of the British Empire), but it inevitably leads to a lot of acrimony.

The tl;dr version is that Iraq and Syria can't fragment their way to peace, although I suspect they'll try to do so, using ethnic cleansing to try and purify the "nations" within the "state boundaries." It's a horrible process, and an ineffective one as well, for it destroys intermarried families, disrupts industries and cities, a generally favors the rise of authoritarian monsters over cosmopolitan mixers. They've been mixing longer than even the Balkans have, and I don't see a simple end to it.

If you like messing with US politics, you can have fun figuring out what will happen when we finally fall apart, whenever that is. California looks a lot like the cosmopolitan, intensely civilized Middle East before the oil era, after all. Some day we'll almost certainly be in Syria's shoes.

239:

You'd have to go back at least a thousand years to get a cosmopolitan civilized Middle East

The thing that has always been fascinating about the U.S. Is that the "nation" part of the nation state has never been based in ethnicity it's based in philosophy and common values. Nations don't need shared ethnicity to be nations they need a shared vision that leads to identity and culture . Ethnicity is simply the easiest path to that but not the only one and not even the most powerful

The EU is going through this exact transformation as well, albeit slowly

240:

You'd have to go back at least a thousand years to get a cosmopolitan civilized Middle East

I doubt the whole of it has ever been cosmopolitan and civilised - the Arabian peninsula just doesn't lend itself to that. On the other hand, a mere 50 years ago Beirut was quite the place to visit. The shape of the Middle East as we know it now is to a large extent reaction against corruption brought in by the oil boom, and then new corruption on top.

241:

Thanks for showing you understand the principles of Imagined Communities, though I guess a little less 19th century rhetoric might be worthwhile. ;)

242:

The bottom like is that a nation exists if it can exist. If it can't, it can't.
Is Scotland a nation, or a region of the English Empire?

243:

And one other minor point. In all this talk about the obsolescence of nations etc does anyone bother to wonder who makes the laws and enforces them with guns?

244:

Sorry, on my way to a family birthday, so I'll try to be somewhat short (and fail).

I'm not that sure about the differences between "empire" and "nation" beside the rhetorics, e.g. an empire is a nation we want to carve up into different parts, a nation is an empire that has worked out a way of living together or that we want to preserve. You just have to look at France at the eve of the French Revolution, one of the ur-examples of the modern nation-state, with the language spoken either somewhere on the Romance dialect continuum or some form of German, Basque or Bretonic.

The article on wiki about French quotes Hobsbawn:

"the French language has been essential to the concept of 'France', although in 1789 50% of the French people did not speak it at all, and only 12 to 13% spoke it 'fairly' – in fact, even in oïl language zones, out of a central region, it was not usually spoken except in cities, and, even there, not always in the faubourgs [approximatively translatable to "suburbs"]. In the North as in the South of France, almost nobody spoke French."

In Germany, eastern Germany was only germanised in the late Medieval period, and there are still some Slavic remnants. This with quite a part of Early Modern Prussia, the centre of the Modern German nation state.

And as often noted, even the "ur-nation" of Europe, the Swiss, are a multi-ethnic state. OTOH, the differences between Croatian, Serbian and whatever are not that big, and the religious differences in Bosnia are partially explained by the urban population converting to Islam, while the rural one didn't.

In general, European and Middle-Eastern history is "who's invading or immigrating today, preferable from Central Asia?", later on, the local mob bosses, err, nobles fight it out who's top, and when with the resulting warfare and epidemics two digit percentages of the population perish or emigrate, there are always immigrants like the Hugenots or like, usually fleeing from similar conflicts, with whom the levels are stocked up. And if some invasion is pushed back, there is usually some remnant of said invaders, who you keep e.g. as a puffer. Or there are different niches, e.g. with height in mountainous areas, with rivers or swamps vs. agriculture and last but not least urban centres vs. rural areas. All of this also with quite small semi-independent areas, e.g the individual German states after the Thirty Years war.

So I don't think Syria is that much different from Early Enlightenment Europe even in the non-Empire (e.g. France, Austria-Hungary or Prussia) parts of the latter, it's just that in Europe, we have about 200 years of more or less polite genocide levelling things up or showing that pressing for too much uniformity is a really bad idea.

As for the idea of a nation state, IMHO part of this stems from Roman, Greek and last but not least Ancient Jewish literature, which is quite often gouvernment propaganda or somewhat centered on a somehwta uniform but still quite diverse city-sized territory or filtered by an stratified elite. Sadly the rural Pelasgians, Galatians et al. left us little trace to show what a salad bowl Ancient history really was like. Prior to the Slavic invasions, there was no place as romanised and hellenised as the Balkans, and still we have the Albanians, of whom there is no mention before the Medieval Period and scant information about the Illyrians, Thracians or whatever they come from. Speak abou ghost lineages.

Personally, I think the dichotomy is not so much empire and nation but empire (like France) and federation (like Switzerland). It's either a group dominating others, quite often leading to some homogenization, or it's Subsidiarity. With the problems usually changing between the two.

That might also explain some of the problems with the Middle East, OTOH it's both at the focus of some old empires (whoever holds the power in Egypt, Persia/Mesopotamia and Anatolia, with some Western European intermezzos) and source of some empires itself, OTOH it's a rugged terrain that lends itself to Zomia type politics, with the Druze, Alawites or Maronites as examples of the "mountain tribes". And the external players mean you can always play one against the other.

As an example of said cycle of empire, Zomia style rebellion, tries at a federation and another empire, Ancient Israel might stem from some of said mountain rejects, who later came to the coastal plains and tried to create an empire of their own.

As for California, who's to say you won't be Swiss of an US breakup. Even if diverse, you have a strong shared identity and a way to settle things somewhat peacefully, so while the superficially more uniform bible belt decays into it's version the Thirty Year War between crazy (fuck federal law, but some remnant of state law remains) and more crazy (fuck state law) teabaggers, you stay relatively peaceful:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reformation_in_Switzerland#Thirty_Years.27_War

245:

I think the role of ethnic homogeneity for nations is overrated. You just need to have a working narrative that pulls the nation together. When this narrative breaks down, e.g. from external stress by war or sanctions, the society will fracture along fault lines. Ethnic difference is just the most visible of those lines, in its absence religion, geography, social status or eye color would work just as well.

246:

I think the difference between nation and empire is that an empire is stratified into center and periphery. A nation usually defines rules and law that apply to it in its entirety (at least according to the narrative). An empire has different rules and law for its center and the provinces. Eg. the US are the center of the American empire. Canada, UK, AUS and NZ are the next tier, Mexico and Puerto Rico subordinate provinces, Japan, Taiwan, S-Korea, EU, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt high level border provinces.

247:

Err, Greg, actually another military "memorandum" in Turkey would be one of several ways the situation could become even worse.

Let me elaborate; Kemalism, like French republicanism, is a somewhat diverse nationalistic doctrine, and even with only the inherent problems of a post-coup Turkey, the best way to pacify the also somewhat nationalistic AKP sympathizers would be to stress said nationalism. Given the fact there are Turkish speaking Turkmens in Northern Syria, which better way than to play the good old imperialism (actually it'd be better called irredentism in this case) card.

And actually, the Turkish Kemalists are hardly a moderating influence in the conflict, more to the contrary. Kurdish autonomy in Northern Syria would raise some questions in neighbouring areas of Turkey, the Turkmens make for a strong irredentist narrative, and the dams of the Southeastern Anatolia Project are tied both to Atatürk and the military regimes. Also, anybody mentioned the history of Hatay lately?

Maybe it's even Secularist Kemalism driving Turkish expansion into the areas; or one could argue that Rightist Kemalists and the AKP are playing some sick kind of Risk-on-steroids here...

TLDR, religions might be meshuggah, but this also goes for secular religions, like nationalism. Hoping one obliterating the other will better things is like switching from heroin to crystal meth. OTOH, therapeutic dosages of buprenorphine and psychostimulants...

248:

Though it might be wise to mention this is the same author as the one of this piece:

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4554583,00.html

(Have fun face-palming, not so much because it's morally wrong but because it's quite funny in the context of the, err, creative interpretation of international law the Israeli government and the Palestinians engage in. Justifying violence against civilians is also used by Palestinian suicide bombers, while declaring Gaza an enemy state for me would necessitate Palestinian statehood. Oouch.)

I guess we have to look at the context of Israel's deteriorating relation with Turkey, its somewhat growing relations with Russia and the fun Benni is having with Obama. Might be Benni is trying to switch alliances or doesn't like another player in the area.

Sorry, first rule of realpolitik, "there is no Good and Evil, only Evil, but in different coalitions" (H. Vetinari).

And Russia, Turkey, Israel, Saudi-Arabia etc. making a fuzz about each others imperialism makes me go for the popcorn.

http://www.reactiongifs.us/popcorn-stephen-colbert/

249:

Maybe, but then nearly all nations are empires. Just look at language policies:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_policy

250:

Empires are where you determine economic success by in-group status mediated access to force.

(It's very common, but it's not universal. "Nation" is a dialect with an army; not the same axis of concern.)

Ethnogenesis is how you get a non-local, non-kin-group "us". (supra-kin-group is something else; call it tribalism.)

Ethnogenesis is work, because if you're not including people you're not comfortable with you're doing it wrong. Same with having to give up stuff because there's a finite amount of "us" indicators and they can't all be yours.

This all used to work very differently, pre-industrialization/carbon binge. Lately, it's been "have we been getting rich?" that functions as the filter for social legitimacy. That's not going to keep happening as the Carbon Hangover sets in. Some other, more traditional legitimacy selector ("are we starving to death?") will have to take over, but it's going to be direly messy; nobody likes giving up aspirational expectations.

251:

"TLDR, religions might be meshuggah, but this also goes for secular religions, like nationalism. Hoping one obliterating the other will better things is like switching from heroin to crystal meth."

Not really. Nationalism can come and go in the space of a generations. Religion lasts for centuries.

252:

Scotland became a nation, very slightly later than England, in the late 10th C ( Kenneth McAlpin ).
The "English Empire" has never existed, & the British Empire, ceased to exist some time ago.
What we are, hopefully, heading towards is a "union of the Isles" - a confederation of 4/5 countries which have always been very closely associated - with greater degrees of internal self-government [ The current fashionable phrase is: "Devo-Max" - maybe you've heard of it? ] than has been prevalent since approx 1800.

253:

Carbon energy is in no way required to run an industrial society - Energy is, but it doesn't have to be sourced from fossil carbon.
Proof one:
Go look up an inflation adjusted cost of electricity production time series. Then look up the current cost of renewable energy inclusive of storage and balancing. Thus is it proven that the present state of the art in this field is, in fact, sufficient unto the task of keeping industrial economics rolling unto the end of the world.

Proof the second, if you are not inclined to do that much googling.: "Nuclear Fission. It exists. If fossil fuels and renewable both manage to fail, objections to it will evaporate."

In the long run, this implies an industrial ecology somewhat different from the one we currently have - because it recycles everything, But it isn't like doing that would be any kind of show stopper.

254:

It should also be noted that this is all or nothing - Either industry keeps rolling, or we do all starve to death and take 90 % of the macroscopic biosphere with us to oblivion. 7 billion people isn't viable without an advanced economy, and seven billion hungry people would eat,, well, everything.

256:

Yeah, no.

That might have been the choice in 1980.

The present choice is between a sustained state of emergency, full industrial mobilization, and replacing the entirety of the fossil carbon input to civilization in a decade or less, or the dead billions.

That a minister in a Tory government is admitting on the record that climate change is going to cause significant population displacement makes me wonder what their actual briefings are saying.

257:

Sigh.

Watch Sicario

The last line (which is supposed to pack a massive emotional punch and bring the audience to tears) is something along the lines of: "...retire to a small village where Order still exists, this is the land of the Wolves now".

Hint: This is Hollywood admitting that the land of Lions, Tigers and Bears is now go.

It's largely wank-fantasy for MILSPEC OPS solving complex eco-socio-political issues, so it's all a total lie.


~

For the gallery: are you not entertained by a Combat. Evolved. Consciousness. being forced to play Jesus?

Even given the degradation and combat scars forced onto this consciousness, you'd really don't want to know how modern Minds play games.

Hint: Ooooh. Oooooh. We did China; We did France; hmmm.


I'm thinking it's ("SDF*%148634ASeGJ"!£! [error]

~


@HUGH

Should have paid more attention to the mention of the "Talos Principle" ;)


And that one was the Real Deal PreCog stuff ;)

258:

You'd have to go back at least a thousand years to get a cosmopolitan civilized Middle East


Hello Langley.

Stupid fuck.

Not true.

On the other hand, a mere 50 years ago Beirut was quite the place to visit. The shape of the Middle East as we know it now is to a large extent reaction against corruption brought in by the oil boom, and then new corruption on top.


Beirut was shifting >7-15 bil a year in FOREX etc trades back when billions meant something.

The greatest shame / schism / lost opportunity was when interested parties allowed Beirut to cease acting as a major Commerce / Banking sector.

IF anyone had any idea about stabilizing the ME or actually improving the zone, that was the Nexus point.

They did the opposite, so I have no compunction about the next stage.


Oh, wait. I did point to that already.

Slow Minds are Slow.

259:

Greg.

*shrug*

It wasn't the GamerGaters, it was the $*$%!! [ERROR] bunch and I called it within two weeks. As stated: we're not allowed to front run too much, but come on.

I think it was along the lines of... "they're going to use the immigrants and then take the right wing reaction and use it for...".

*shrug*

Stop fucking with the Sufis and I might relent. Oh... loook.


You should be careful about WAR GAMES.


Some of us are far better than others and we don't like you very much.

260:

Meanwhile, you might find it "enlightening" & horribly depressing to read some of the comments appended to that article.
Mainly because the "torygraph" employs deliberate public liar Booker (he's paid to lie, I know not by whom - & this is not a libel risk, because I've called him out before ) to deny GW, never mind AGW & there's a lot of gullibles out there who believe him ....
It's even worse in the USA, of course.

NOT helped by the fact that our guvmint, as I've said before are not actually, you know doing anything - like nuclear power - about it.
Grrr.

261:

STOP IT
You obviously delight in telling us "You'r all DOOMED" without sufficient authority & evidence to back it up - your technical leads have, all too often been shown to be rubbish (Simple Harmonic Motion comes to my mind)
Furthermore, you also delight in suggesting that nothing is ever going to work, so we might as well lie back & watch the destruction.

There's a word for this sort of thing:
Nihilism.
Took me long enough to work it out, but I think, maybe, I finally have.

Now, like I said before talk sense in plain English or get lost - as in your comment at #259.
Stop fucking with the Sufis
Err, I have not "fucked" with the Sufi, or the Ahmahdiya, either, at all.
I think you are most likely seriously deluded, or lying, but given your "previous" I think it's deluded.....
I don't believe a word of it, you are just posturing for religious ( as in poor-humble-exile to the desert ) effect & I'm seriously unimpressed.

262:

Oh great. Da'esh-backed FN wins28% in French elections. As a thank-you, FN will now send thousands of Muslim fighters to Syria + Iraq to support Da'esh.

Meanwhile Germany and France decide that if Greece doesn't want to stop refugees, they'll send Frontex cannon boats against Greece's will.

263:

If you like messing with US politics, you can have fun figuring out what will happen when we finally fall apart, whenever that is.

Check out the map here: http://colinwoodard.blogspot.com/2012/04/presenting-slighty-revised-american.html

It's from Colin Woodard's American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America. He expands from David Hackett Fischer's thesis in Albion's Seed that Anglophone American culture derives from four regional British subcultures.

Woodard's operating from a socio-cultural perspective. Whether or not his map makes sense from an ecological perspective as well would be interesting to know.

Anyway, I suspect when the Great Fracturing finally happens in America, Woodard's map is a rough guide to how it's going to shake out.

264:

Nihilism is something I'm strongly against.

I'd suggest searching "The Talos Principle" and digging a bit into what it represents. (The achievement you want is called "Pressing the Serpent").


p.s.


My leads are totally clear. Anyone claiming I don't understand what I'm saying is sadly a blinkered old mare (do you remember the saddest part of Black Beauty? It's when her friend is in the street and collapses and dies due to being used until destruction).

On teleporting? Should have checked the popular press a week or so later for the breakthrough.

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have "teleported" or transferred quantum information carried in light particles over 100 kilometers (km) of optical fiber, four times farther than the previous record.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150922114740.htm

Which wasn't the reference I was actually seeing, that one is a lot more kinky [hint: 2km, instantaneous, uses the same time/space breaking elements that photons possess. Wave, not Point)


Go check it out.


Just because muppets close their borders doesn't mean what you think it does.


And yes.


Anyone who can point to the Oscillation principle involved in both Earth and Star science isn't actually dumb.

They're just fucking with you.

265:

Oh, wait.

I remember.

When autistic types didn't get Shark and Orca analogies.

Hint:


I was doing that, just on a much, much, much wider scale.

266:

You were warned.

*shrug*

You put a drop there, ripples spread; you put drop there, ripples interact. You let something happen, then mop up the web; Europe doesn't have to fake it as much as America [FBI: creating terror plots since 1922]

Clotho (spinner), Lachesis (allotter) and Atropos (unturnable)


Hmm. I'm feeling a bit of Eternal Return here.

Oh, and no.

FN won't win. It's like UKIP in the UK, but less developed [UKIP was a response to BNP / EDL etc]. Already woven into the resulting web.

*yawn*


Wake me up when you can move from Chess to Go.

267:

Re: what Russia wants in Syria.

Russia joined Islamic Thirty Years' War on side of Shia alliance.

Right now, the Shia xis comprises Iran and parts of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

Russia intends for the Shia to win the war globally. Total Shia victory means also the break-up of Saudi Arabia and independence for its oil-rich eastern province.

The end result for Russia - Warsaw pact like exclusive sphere of influence stretching from eastern Mediterranean to Pakistan and from Caspian to Indian ocean.

And oh, about half of world's oil and gas reserves.

That's what I call playing for high stakes...

268:

OK
Checked on "Talos Principle"
It's a "game" - & appears to be based on Cabbalistic mythical nonsense.

Is that "Science Daily" piece actually claiming FTL, or not? No, it isn't - so you can't read, either, then, it would appear to seem.

No - you don't understand what you are saying, do I need to repeat the Simple Harmonic Motion fiasco?
And your apparent get-out, lower down the post is rubbish.
Reminder: my training, long ago, was in Physics & Engineering & I really, really don't like "mysticism".
IF you have a real physical claim, make it, otherwise, I'm going to rubbish it - same way as I do to any & all religious types.
Your follow-up message @ 265 contains no information as far as I can see.

Also 266
UKIP contain racists, but the FN are racists, again as far as I can see.
Although I think the EU is a disaster, I can no longer feel any sympathy for UKIP, because of their loonie-racist component.
Hint: my wife is from NZ, the EU is more corrupt than Washington & their accounts are such that lotsa-people ought to be jailed

269:

Wake me up when you can move from Chess to Go.

I think both Chess and Go are too simplistic to model real life. For one, Go pieces don't stand up and walk around on the board on their own.

270:

Oh dear.

No.

The writing was done by someone with a M.A. in philosophy who has been mentioned on this blog before. He's a good guy, and in Game Design terms (The Swapper) a bit of a legend.

It's explicitly about the conflict between G_D, free will, philosophy, freedom and A.I. / virtual worlds.

So, no: no mysticism there, rather the opposite [hint: if you serve the AI in the game you never gain the actual ending].

The title is based on an ancient Greek protest against Plato: “Even the most dedicated philosopher cannot live without his blood.” i.e. the Theory of Forms still needs organic life to be embodied in.

http://blogs.iac.gatech.edu/heyitsjosh/philosophy-and-game-design-in-the-talos-principle/


As a meta-point (which is me being sneaky): without actually playing the game itself (or watching some play-throughs for the time or interest constrained) you won't get this.

do I need to repeat the Simple Harmonic Motion fiasco?

Here's the thing:

I expect and willfully imagine that many posters here (such as Susan, Dp etc) "know their shit".

No-one apart from host actually saw the connective web though, so *shrug*.

It's never simple.

271:

OH Piss off!
It's a GAME - life is tooooooo short ...

How about dealing with reality?

"MA in Philosophy" so - done any Engineering?
Sounds like the religious fuckwits telling everybody that Dawkins "needs to study Theology" - which is also utter crap, isn't it?

272:

Greg.

You're writing that on a blog of a man who professionally "tells lies" (his words). Who has invited other people to put their point of view across who explicitly mention this Creator.

I was, for the 13th time, attempting to show you other ways of thinking and so on.

And, reality check: The Swapper is actually very much based in engineering. Quite brilliantly so.

Hint: Rules are defined; all puzzles are defined by rules; story is not subject to rules.

Do us a favour.

http://facepalmgames.com/the-swapper/


Just play the fucking thing. Without being flippant, it is wired into your mind set.

Literally.


You will get pleasure and satisfaction out of playing this game.

273:

You are telling me to go & spend money on something I have no idea about as to whether it is useful or not?
I have enough trouble in BOOKSHOPS already, without that.
Nice try, no banana, get lost & don't believe you.

"Other ways of thinking"
Like the christian or muslim or bhuddist mystics, you mean?
No thanks.

274:

Greg, when at SF cons, if I've nothing "better" to do I'm usually found in the games room. I've never heard of that game, or indeed of the awards that were sprayed so copiously over the linked webpage.

275:

Catina, since when has telling people what to think ever worked, in your experience?

276:

Then, sadly, you know nothing about Games.

Part and Parcel of our remit is finding excellence and beauty in Games. (It's kinda our "thing"; really).

It's $14.99 (cheaper, perhaps, if you wait for the Winter Steam Sale - probably 50% to 75% off) and worth it.

And Paws. That was a grievous error of knowledge, aesthetic taste and hubris.

The game is great. Much like Waking Mars.


p.s.


The Peanut Gallery is also watching, and you just outed yourselves as non-Mogwai. You'll notice something - "SunSet" isn't going to get a mention *shrug*

NelC


It was actually something completely different; much like those who would never read Virginia Woolf. If you don't think that Greg's psych profile has already been run and the recommendation is based on his MRI scans, then...

*shrug*

It's recommended because a) low comp specs, b) low geek tech [2d side-scroller] and c) engineers cum buckets over the game when they play it.


~


Have fun.


Meta Lesson: ignorance, fear, doubt and trust.


Fucking Apes.

277:

If you don't think that Greg's psych profile has already been run and the recommendation is based on his MRI scans, then...
*shrug*

What I said elsewhere.
Your open & hideous enjoyment of other people's suffering & deaths. Your obscurantism, hiding, as ilya187 has noted, a consistently WRONG understanding & interpretation of science & maths.
You are a nihilist, despite your protestations.

P.S. WHAT MRI scan - I've never had one done.

I think you need treating a as "Black holy fool", since your utterances seem, usually, worthless - the bit about Quantum Computing was a welcome exception.

278:

I'm confused; how is saying "Neither I nor anyone besides yourself that I socialise with has heard of this game" and "Your link is to an awards 'puff page', and not anything that will actually tell me about the game" either an error or hubris on my part?

Actual gameplay impresses me; awards (and particularly nominations for awards I've never heard of) don't.

279:

Your open & hideous enjoyment of other people's suffering & deaths.

Again, you're mistaking something for something.

The first part, I hope you never discover; the second I hope you do (and, no, it's not religious).

Actual gameplay impresses me; awards (and particularly nominations for awards I've never heard of) don't.


Yes, I understand you.

However, I have enough confidence in both games mentioned (The Swapper / Waking Mars) and their low-entry requirements (I suspect that Greg isn't playing Platinum DOTA2 or SC2 leagues or running a "gaming rig") and suitability (Greg is an avid gardener: I'm sure that Waking Mars with its engineering, subject matter about making mini-ecologies work etc) would entertain.

I'm happy to generate a one-time-use email and provide both of you with copies if/when sales come around.


(Note to Gallery - yes, this actually does have something to do with the topic at hand, can you see it yet?)

280:

I know people with non-trivial game collections (really) and you're overlooking something. Several factors really, but the critical one is that this requires a previous investment in specialized electronics that Greg might not have made. I haven't acquired a custom gaming rig and I'm sure I'm not alone. The website is built such that it won't tell me what platforms it runs on now (hidden behind a tab that doesn't open) so I'm not terribly trustful of its Playstation promises either.

281:

I play NO electronic games AT ALL
I'm not even remotely interested.
( I do, very occasionally, do "logic puzzles" )

Remember that they are entirely artifically-constructed fake scenarios, with no reference to what we laughably call "real life" at all.

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on December 1, 2015 7:11 PM.

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