Thursday, September 20, 2018

A Modest Proposal For Russia's Response To Israel In The Wake Of An F-16

So now the dust (or, perhaps, some measure of the 'fog of war') is starting to clear over Monday's events in Syria, it's probably prudent to reflect on what Putin can and should do in response to what has occurred.

At this stage, and especially given Russia's previously positive relationship with Israel, the "right" being reserved here is very unlikely to include direct military action.

But before I put forward what I have in mind instead of this, let us briefly parse the likely course of events which have lead us to this point:

Everybody agrees that on Monday evening, four Israeli F-16s carried out a missile-strike against Syrian targets in Latakia; and that in the course of this, a Russian electronic reconnaissance plane - an IL-20 - was shot down over the Mediterranean.

American media accounts have tended to basically stop there, except to occasionally add that it seems likely that Syrian air-defences were directly responsible for the shooting down of the IL-20.

As it happens, Russian Defence Ministry statements have confirmed this - noting that it appears that a Syrian S-200 SAM was indeed what brought down the IL-20. However, they have also stated, and at this stage there appears no reason to disbelieve them, that the Israelis deliberately took advantage of the IL-20's radar profile to provide cover for their incoming F-16s.

Now, an IL-20 is a pretty massive aircraft. It's roughly thirty six meters long, with a thirty seven meter wingspan; and would have represented the single largest object in the sky at that point, with its turboprop-derived lower speed and regular figure-of-eight flight-path making for a pretty predictable source of screening.

A further piece of evidence in support of this contention, is that the Israelis only sought to notify the Russians of their operation ... approximately one minute before the commencement of hostilities.

This matters; as it is a considerable break from how the Israelis have handled the previous two hundred or so airstrikes they've carried out in Syria over the past year and a half - wherein in order to avoid exactly these sorts of incidents, they've given the Russians ample warning of any intended Israeli air-incursion.

The strong implication, here, then, is that the lack of notice which would have allowed the Russians to get their plane out of the line of fire, was very much deliberate on the Israeli part. And given the periodic successes of Syrian S-200 systems against Israeli jets in recent months (including at least one instance earlier this year involving an F-16 that the Israelis have been forced to admit occurred), it is perhaps not hard to see why.

It is unclear at this stage just what the French frigate also in the area was firing at; or whether it was operating in co-ordination with the IDF.

In any case, the Syrians proceeded to do exactly what one would expect - and, for that matter, what they are completely entitled to do: they attempted to defend their airspace and their nation from the Israeli sortie, by firing back.

This evidently included the use of an S-200 system - a comparatively antiquated Soviet-made surface-to-air missile first designed in the 1960s, and supplied to Syria by the USSR from the 1980s, with sporadic modernization and maintenance occurring with Russian assistance over the last three years.

Now, *in theory*, the IFF (Identify Friend-or-Foe) tagging system would have made it less likely for the IL-20 to be hit by an S-200, not least due to the Russian/Soviet manufacture of both pieces of hardware. But "theory" is a fine work of fiction when it comes to actual battlefield conditions; and evidently this has not worked out in practice - perhaps due to the IFF system aboard the IL-20 being turned off (it is, after all, a reconnaissance plane), or maybe due to incomplete informational sharing between Russian and Syrian forces. It's also probably worth noting that the S-200 has a rather notoriously 'spotty' record anyway in this department - with a Ukranian S-200 system in 2001 having managed the supposedly 'impossible' feat of taking down a Soviet-made TU-154M civilian airliner 250km away from the S-200's designated target during the course of military exercises, as a result of the missile autonomously attaining a new target lock upon the airliner once it lost its original target, despite (according to the Ukranian Defence Ministry, at any rate) an IFF system and on-board self-destruct which should have prevented this from happening. It is certainly possible that something like this has occurred with regard to the downed IL-20. Namely, that an S-200 either inadvertently locked onto the IL-20 once it was no longer under human targeting control; or alternatively, that the S-200 was initially locked on an Israeli F-16, and upon losing that target due to Israeli countermeasures or evasive maneuvers, instead re-acquired a new target in the form of the IL-20 rather than simply self-destructing. However it transpired, it is a tragedy. And, worse than that, an eminently *avoidable* one. Rendered all the more lamentable by the fact that the Russian crew were in Syria to assist in the eradication of dangerous extremists - while the Israelis who ultimately spelled their doom were over Syrian airspace in order to *help* those self-same extremists through strikes against their opponents. We used to 'joke' that it was not accurate to suggest ISIS and Al-Nusra lacked an airforce - as they had the IDF. This does not seem something to laugh about, now. Anyway, having dissected in a limited way the likely course of events on Monday evening, this now capaciously informs the likely solutions going forward and from the Russian perspective. It would seem that there were two significant contributory factors here: i) the Israeli 'bad-faith' abrogation of the proper protocols for communication between themselves and the Russian Military, in order to attain a deliberate advantage for carrying out their attack; and ii) the regrettable features of outmoded air-defence hardware which ultimately lead to the shoot-down. The solution to the second issue is rather straightforward: Russia had earlier proposed selling S-400 systems to Syria - a move which wound up effectively 'veto'd' by Israel stating in no uncertain terms that they would carry out airstrikes against any such systems before they had been fully installed, regardless of whether they were still Russian crewed at that point. Given Israeli airstrikes are presently causing Russian casualties anyway; as well as the fact that the Russians have already had their own advanced SAM systems for *Russian* defence set up in Syria for some time now, in the present situation of Israeli diplomatic weakness created by Monday's events, now is the ideal time to engage in such technology-transfer directly to Syria with an explicit view to ensuring that Monday's events do not recur thanks to half-century old hardware malfunctioning. The first issue is much more complex, as I would be rather surprised if Russia genuinely wanted to seriously contemplate abandoning its significantly close relationship with Israel - although it may potentially be convinced to 'downgrade' it somewhat, assuming that we do not see a repeat of what happened following Turkey's downing of a Russian military aircraft in 2015 (ironically, a seeming catalyst for the two countries beginning to work more closely together than ever before). Whether Russia chooses to remain on 'friendly' 'terms with Israel in a militaristic sense or not, the plain reality is that the Israelis have demonstrated that they cannot and should not be trusted to behave in an up-front manner when it comes to the communication and co-ordination protocols essential to allowing them to continue to operate with relative impunity above Syrian airspace. Russia should therefore suspend this facility they have provided to the Israelis forthwith - and openly state that future instances of Israeli military aircraft turning up unannounced above Syria will simply be treated as hostile, and dealt with accordingly. After all, from the perspective of that IL-20 crew, what else characterizes the Israeli conduct than this designation? Certainly not the actions of something approaching a 'trusted' ally! The net effect of this would be to impose a 'no-fly zone' of sorts over Syria - thus allowing operational freedom for Russian and Syrian air assets, and denying precious, vital air-cover to the extremist forces which theoretically everybody agrees need to be wiped out. I am aware, of course, that a Russia-provided no-fly zone in this way would form an ironic (and unquestionably improved!) 'echo' of the NATO no-fly zone imposed upon Libya during the ouster of Gaddafi, as well as the no-fly zone which former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was seeking to have imposed upon Syria not so long ago. But that is the case with 'mirror images' - everything in them is 'the other way around'; and so, in this instance, it would be to the welcome relief of the host-nation and positive contribution to a safe outcome to a conflict. Not, as ultimately resulted from the NATO intervention in Libya, or would unquestionably have occurred had Clinton gotten her way, a neo-imperialist ploy to ably assist ISIS et co. The coming days will, no doubt, demonstrate that Putin and those working for him in Russia's foreign and defensive ministries, are both more creative and more perspicacious than I in these matters. I shall await with great interest their ultimate decision as to the appropriate response here. But it seems plainly apparent to me that the hitherto-current approach - of Russia attempting to treat Israel as a potential friend and even ally, whether geopolitically, or in the specific conflict against extremist forces in the Middle-East - has demonstrably not 'delivered the goods'; and needs to be reviewed with the goal of providing greater assistance and credence to those forces such as the Iranian, Syrian, and Hezbollah military arms *actually* doing much of the fighting - not coincidentally, the exact same forces which Israel seems year in and year out most hell-bent on annihilating where possible. Indeed, some might say that unless and until the Israelis can demonstrate a genuine commitment to attacking rather than assisting the *real* adversary in Syria - that they should perhaps be treated, in exactly that light, as part and parcel with them, and shunned in a similar manner.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Jihad Vs McLanguage

Over the past year or two, I've endeavoured to popularize the concept of "Jihad Vs McWorld". If you want a really tangible demonstration of "McWorld" in action, look no further than the McDonalds workplace policy brought to light by Newshub this evening - wherein Maori staff responding to Maori customers attempting to place an order in Te Reo Maori, was firmly clamped down upon by McDonalds' management, on grounds that "English is our McLanguage" .

It is no coincidence that McDonalds has declared English to be its "McLanguage". Rather than, say, the 'lingua franca' of its day-to-day interior operations.

The very concept of "McWorld" is the homogenization, the monolithicization of human diversity - the reduction of the spectrum of human cultures and customs down to easily commodifiable and capitalistically, neoliberalistically exploitable kernels.

On a trite level, I suppose you could say that it's the replacement of genuine Kiwi cuisine with the "KiwiBurger" - an item of culinary cardboard fundamentally the same (possibly minus the egg) as the Australian burger McDonalds marketed in *that* country as something distinctively "Oz".

And if all it is, this "McWorld", this "McLanguage" concept, was the endeavour to appeal to soft-pap simulacra-patriotism when entrepreneurially exploiting the hunger of the masses ... then that would perhaps be one thing. A 'bait-and-switch' carried out with beetroot in a burger.

But that is not at all what we have here.

Instead, it is the concerted effort to expunge the very realities of being 'human' [one of which, of course, is that there is no 'singular' reality of humanity - and instead many and various different heritages, perspectives, and other nexes of peoples worth preserving within their own spheres] in favour of increasingly incredibly bland vague platitudes.

"Ananda?" No, we won't have any of that. Simply be "happy" - as in "happy meal". An emotional stimuli inculcated into us since childhood via the mediums of birthday parties and made-in-China toys-of-the-week. A commodified 'feeling', that has as much resemblance to actual "happiness" and contentment as a cheeseburger does to promoting [stomach-]fullness and dietary health.

Your own language, culture, and customs? Nah, can't have that. Gets in the way of the verisimilitude. Management might have to learn some new words, and Marketing might need to put a bit more effort in. And in any case, a 'distinctive' people, who remain 'disconnected' from the "realities" of corporate-carbon 'consumerhood' as the highest expression and authenticity of 'being' - are a harder market to crack and profit-maximize on anyway.

Now, to be sure, this phenomenon is not entirely sui generis. The rapacious history of colonial-cultural exploits includes quite the array of previous comparable instances to draw from.

We could talk about the Macauley educational pogrom (it seems altogether too 'sanitized' to simply call it a 'programme') in British India - wherein the Brits decided that the key to turning the Indian peoples into pliant, pliable subordinates of Empire meant attempting to rob them of their own ancestral heritages and traditional sources of knowledge, languages, means of instruction and other nexes of nascent identity for the young.

In their place, substituting a very much 'English' educational impetus - replete with the trashing of Sanskrit-derived literature in favour of Jane Austen.

The impacts of that most egregious act of wilful attempted civilizational vandalism continue to be felt to this day, in India. Even despite Independence being achieved, there remains a certain curtailment of the permeation of pre-British Indian culture and heritage within India itself as a result - more than a hundred and fifty years after the fact!

This, arguably, is the *nicer iteration* of the fate which awaits any nation - any people, any ethnos, any tradition - which is insufficiently prepared and On Guard to ward off the pernicious permutations of what I suppose we may have to start calling [oxymoronic in the extreme though it might be] "McCulture".

But if there are not overwhelming differences of 'kind' between this 'Macaulayism' and latter-day McWorldism [perhaps we shall soon see 'McMacaulayism' as a 'term of (mc)art' ] , there are nevertheless distinctions of degree which may render McWorld-ism in some parts *worse* - due to its very banality.

I mean, I do not *at all* approve of what is entailed by Macaulayism. Do not get me wrong. But there is a qualitative difference between English, as the language of Shakespeare - and utilized in the engagement with same - versus what I unheartily expect that "English is our McLanguage" presumably entails.

In that regard, this "McLanguage" concept most likely represents an unutterable act of vandalism not just against the non-corporate(//-)metropole cultures it seeks to (neo-)colonize and vanquish - but against the very cultures and language which somehow inadvertently gave it birth in the first place.

McLanguage - and therefore, by extension, McWorld - is therefore a virus, a parasite. Something that is inculcated into a 'host', via a 'carrier' [funnily enough often from thirty thousand feet, so to speak; or perhaps launched off a rather more literal 'carrier' somewhere offshore, in either case to make the way for what comes next] , and which then begins the drawn out process of drawing and quartering its new bio-cultural environment until it has simply remade itself, over and over and over, and sought to most successfully repress anything *not* of itself which might plausibly thus resist it (or - 'worse' - allow others to organize to do the same).

That is why 'McLanguage' (again, not my term - literally McDonalds' own word from their own policy and internal propaganda documents, issued in the form of poster-mounted commands to workers) and McWorld are so viciously, vigorously, vitriolically, vindictively *opposed* to the yet-remaining instances of Human distinctiveness, cultural diversity - actually-existing Nationalism that cannot be suborned into simply another 'human face' for neoliberal 'civilizational'-tier nightmare.

Because *those* things - those sacred, important, autochthonous, above all *genuine* things - are the bulwarks, the tools, the floodgates, the ramparts, the *weapons* via which "McWorld" can yet still be meaningfully opposed.

And through such, reminding people - people*s*, in fact, in the definite plural of pluralities - who they *actually* are.

It is no coincidence, either, that successful anti-/de-colonial projects have historically functioned on exactly this basis.

The only difference there, then, was that the subject-peoples [in both senses of the term - albeit the latter only realized in the progression of time once they had successfully reclaimed some measure of agency from the mire of 'object'-ification *as* 'subjects' of Empire] *knew* who The Enemy was, and how to fight him.

Today, we are implicitly, effectively, living in a world ruled by a Clown ; and just as Ronald McDonald hides behind Mayor McCheese in the exercise of temporal power - far too many people today remain patently unaware of this intransigent, indolent fact.

The waging of 'Jihad' against McWorld, then, requires the deployment of potent ideological weapons - one of the most important and significant of which being the very idea that there is a War going on in the first place.

And the second, perhaps, being that the 'tools' with which we fight the clown-faced oppressor - those of our own language, heritage, culture, religion, tradition, (communication/confirmation), .. and yes, actually, 'cuisine', also - are not simple 'weapons' of 'memetic warfare'. But are instead, *also* the effective building blocks, the skeletal - spinal - and nervous structure for the World, the Worlds, That Is To Come , next.

So with that in mind ... celebrate your own culture; reconnect with your own heritage; and tangibly reject the globalism - not least by "work[ing] as if you lived in the early days of a better nation".

Short of imitating the example of anguished Serbians against Belgrade's only McDonalds immediately following the outbreak of NATO's air-war against their country; or perhaps more recently, the closing down of symbolic McDonalds outlets in Moscow by the Russian state ... that is what we can do. What we *must* do.

Fortunately for us, as far as actions against the McWorld go - whether physical or metaphysical - these are unquestionably some of the most potent!


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Plaudits For Law-Change Free Prison Muster Reduction

I note with some interest a piece from yesterday's Herald, observing the positive results of a series of changes that have lead to somewhere between six hundred and a thousand New Zealanders fewer being incarcerated unnecessarily.

Now, without going into too much detail as to what's changed and how - this has not actually involved any alterations in the law around parole, bail, or anything of that nature. But rather, a set of fixes to issues which fell 'between the cracks' of existing policy - and which had lead to these aforementioned numbers of Kiwis being placed in prison when they otherwise, by rights, would not have been.

The actual nature of these changes were succinctly summed up by Corrections' National Deputy Commissioner, Leigh Marsh, as being "embarrassingly simple" fixes; which took as their baseline actually listening to front-line staff across the Corrections, Justice, and policing portfolios in order to try and sort out some of the "madness" (again, a quote from Marsh) of the previous status quo.

["Status Quo", as Ronald Reagan pithily observed, being Latin for "the mess we're in [currently]"]

I am sure that the reaction from some quarters is going to be howls of protest about how this makes ordinary New Zealanders more unsafe through having hundeds of additional hardened criminals wandering the streets.

Yet the plain reality is, once again, that under our current laws, *none* of these Kiwis who've been spared incarceration as a result of these changes, would actually have been jailed had 'the system' been working properly in the first place.

A similar note of disquiet can and should be sounded about the ongoing opposition of the reforming of our bail laws to do something about the - again, hundreds - of New Zealanders who find themselves incarcerated on remand, especially for relatively less serious crimes, only to come out following their day in court declared an innocent man; or guilty, but sentenced only to a far lesser punishment.

It is worrying in the extreme that a situation of unjust imprisonment may be welcomed 'just because' it may make somebody else feel a little bit safer - indeed, it is tantamount to starting down the greased incline of asking whether certain segments of the population ought be 'walled off' for the general protection of the rest of us even regardless of whether they've actually been proven to have committed any crime.

(That said, I do have a vague soft-spot for the idea of ring-fencing parts of Remuera and cutting off their access to global financial markets and tax-accountants to see if it lessens the chances of both white collar crime and more general economic vandalism occurring in the wider country ... but another punitive policy-set for another time).

The sheer simplicity of these 'fixes', and their demonstrably substantial impact (last month's NZ prisoner muster was ~10,205 - meaning that the reductions in inmate numbers these shifts in policy has achieved range from about five to just under ten percent of our overall prison population), suggests that they should have taken place years ago.

That said, the fact they did not would appear to indicate that one of two (possibly both at once) things has happened.

Either a) National and its various Ministers to have held the portfolio, were incompetent. That is to say, despite Bill English's declaration of our prison system and our country's massive incarceration rate to be "a moral and fiscal failure", it never occurred to anybody in power at any point over the past nine years, to stop and realize these problems - these *easily solvable problems - existed. Or, given the habitual Nat management strategy, to allow or otherwise empower their various underlings to come up with the solutions so that they might more deftly take credit for them.

Alternatively - and I suspect that this is vastly more likely - b) National and its various Ministers to have held the portfolio (including one Judith Collins, in what appears some sort of inverse, ironic, contrapasso of the damned) *were* at least vaguely aware, or should have been, of these ongoing issues and the ease with which they might be sorted ... and *consciously* (or, at absolute best, wilfully negliglently/recklessly) chose to do nothing about them. For the simple reason that for a certain portion (although not everybody) of the "law and order" crowd - escalating prison numbers mean axiomatically safer communities, and that the police, courts, government ... society at large .. is somehow doing its (various) job(s) properly.

High prison muster figures, therefore, are thought to be akin to a notable budgetary surplus, so to speak, when it comes to courting those people and their votes.

(There is a separate rant about the frank bizarreness of endeavoring to run a surplus in the midst of a recession, despite a historically low cost of crown borrowing, and accomplished via a studious string of cap-handed cuts to essential services and vandalism of a well-earning asset portfolio ... but that is, again, another immanent critique of the previous round of 'Status Quo', for another time)

Criminal justice policy, along with creationism in school science lessons, is one of those curious areas of the socio-political landscape wherein otherwise seemingly rational and indeed intelligent people start abandoning their critical faculties in a bid to make the loudest emotive arguments and the swiftest progress to a state possibly adjacent to that of Texas.

It is refreshing, indeed, therefore, to have made such a shift from a situation wherein Corrections was being presided over by a Minister who thought that prison-rape would be a desirable deterrent element against future offending, through to more reasonable figures capable of looking at the sector through the lense of 'lives' rather than 'votes'.

Let's see if this trend continues with the reception to some of Andrew Little's proposed further reforms in this area :P