Clinical Narcissism And Our Brand New War

This is but a mere sign of the insanity:

Top Trump administration officials will hold a rare briefing on Wednesday at the White House for the entire U.S. Senate on the situation in North Korea.

All 100 senators have been asked to the White House for the briefing by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Monday.

While administration officials routinely travel to Capitol Hill to address members of Congress on foreign policy matters, it is unusual for the entire Senate to go to the White House, and for all four of those officials to be involved.

Wednesday’s briefing was originally scheduled for a secure room at the Capitol, but President Donald Trump suggested a shift to the White House, congressional aides said.

So they are wasting a shitload of money building a secure room at the WH that can fit that number instead of having Der Hairpiece going to the Capitol for no reason other than dickwagging “make them come to me” bravado.

Meanwhile, at the NY Times:

Behind the Trump administration’s sudden urgency in dealing with the North Korean nuclear crisis lies a stark calculus: a growing body of expert studies and classified intelligence reports that conclude the country is capable of producing a nuclear bomb every six or seven weeks.

That acceleration in pace — impossible to verify until experts get beyond the limited access to North Korean facilities that ended years ago — explains why President Trump and his aides fear they are running out of time. For years, American presidents decided that each incremental improvement in the North’s program — another nuclear test, a new variant of a missile — was worrisome, but not worth a confrontation that could spill into open conflict.

Judith Miller was unavailable for comment. *** READ THIS ***

What color will we have to change the blog title to for our impending Korean adventurism?

Yom HaShoah 2017

Today is Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day*) 2017. At Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum, this year’s Yom HaShoah focused on six torchlighters. The folks at Yad Vashem define a torchlighter as:

Each year, six Holocaust survivors are chosen to light torches in memory of the six million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust. Their wartime experiences reflect the central theme chosen by Yad Vashem for Holocaust Remembrance Day. The torches are lit during the central memorial ceremony held at Yad Vashem on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day.

This year’s six torchlighters have provided video testimonies. You can see them all at the link, but I’ll post a couple below.

The US Holocaust Museum has also stated that the President will be speaking at their Annual Days of Remembrance ceremony at the Capitol tomorrow. The President was able to release a video statement of remembrance of Holocaust victims today that did not forget to mention Jews.

Today is also the 102nd anniversary of the Armenian genocide. As the LA Times reports:

Turkey has long denied that a genocide took place, arguing that the killings can’t be separated from the historical context of global upheaval during World War I, and that many Turks also were killed. But most historians outside Turkey describe a state-organized campaign of ethnic cleansing that meets the definition of genocide.

Schiff and U.S. Rep. Dave Trott (R-Michigan) last month introduced a resolution asking Congress to formally recognize the genocide.

“Over 100 years ago, the Ottoman Empire undertook a brutal campaign of murder, rape, and displacement against the Armenian people that took the lives of 1.5 million men, women, and children in the first genocide of the 20th century,” Schiff said in a statement. “Genocide is not a historic relic — even today hundreds of thousands of religious minorities face existential threat from ISIS in Syria and Iraq. It is therefore all the more pressing that the Congress recognize the historical fact of the Armenian Genocide and stand against modern day genocide and crimes against humanity.”

Schiff has, for years, sought official recognition of the genocide from Congress.

The release of the movie The Promise, which focuses on the Armenian genocide is being released to coincide with the anniversary, which should keep this horrible, and often poorly remembered, if not forgotten, historical atrocity in the news. And irk the Turks.

Update at 9:33 PM EDT

Commenter Debbie provided this interesting link to an NPR report regarding the Armenian Genocide.

Recently Discovered Telegram Reveals Evidence For Armenian Genocide

NPR’s Ari Shapiro speaks with Taner Akcam, a Turkish historian at Clark University, who uncovered an original telegram as evidence for the Armenian genocide.

We now return you to your previously scheduled post.

I’ll leave you all with a video of Professor Norman Goda, The Braman Professor of Holocaust Studies, Department of History, University of Florida. I had the honor and privilege to arrange for Professor Goda to be the keynote speaker for USAWC’s 2014 Holocaust and Genocide Remembrance Month. The video below is based on his book: Hitler’s Shadow: NAZI War Criminals, US Intelligence, and the Cold War.

* I do not know why there is an International Holocaust Remembrance Day in January and Yom HaShoah in April. Though the latter is an official holiday in Israel.

Ordnance Only A Mother Could Love

To follow up on DougJ’s post below (and to tread on Alan ADAM* Silverman’s turf):  American forces dropped a GBU-43/B bomb on a target identified as an underground ISIS complex.  The weapon, officially named the “Massive Ordnance Air Blast,” or MOAB, has the probably obvious nickname:  the Mother Of All Bombs.

It’s a no-doubt ginormous creation, with an effective yield of eleven tons of TNT.  It’s so large it is delivered by a variant of a cargo plane, the C130, and not the kind of aircraft more commonly used to deliver battlefield weapons.

A MOAB is not the ultimate bunker-buster, those weapons designed to penetrate well-hardened targets (silos, etc.) For our Vietnam vets, the analogous ordnance is BLU 82B “Daisy Cutter.”  In the open defense literature, the MOAB is at least in part a psychological weapon and in part a clear-the-ground device.  How useful it actually is against a cave complex is unclear, as this description suggests:

The weapon is expected to produce a tremendous explosion that would be effective against hard-target entrances, soft-to-medium surface targets, and for anti-personnel purposes. Because of the size of the explosion, it is also effective at LZ clearance and mine and beach obstacle clearance. Injury or death to persons will be primarily caused by blast or fragmentation. It is expected that the weapon will have a substantial psychological effect on those who witness its use. The massive weapon provides a capability to perform psychological operations, attack large area targets, or hold at-risk threats hidden within tunnels or caves.

There’s at least pretty good reason to believe that the use — its the first combat deployment ever  — was intended to send a message:

The strike comes just days after a Special Forces soldier was killed in Nangarhar province. Staff Sgt. Mark De Alencar, of 7th Special Forces Group, was killed Saturday by enemy small arms fire while his unit was conducting counter-ISIS operations, according to the Defense Department.

The fact that the U.S. dropped the MOAB in the same province where De Alencar was killed is probably not a coincidence, said Bill Roggio, of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“There might have been a degree of payback here as well,” Roggio told Military Times. “There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, especially if you’re killing your enemy.”

Whatever your response to that aspect of war, here’s the thing.  As Emily Tankin and Paul McLeary write in Foreign Policy, the use of the MOAB is one facet of the broader escalation of US military action across the Middle East and central Asia:
The news came the same day as a report that a coalition airstrike in Syria mistakenly killed 18 fighters backed by the United States.

The U.S. statement also said, “U.S. Forces took every precaution to avoid civilian casualties with this strike.” The U.S. military is reportedly currently assessing the damage from the bomb.

The strike in Afghanistan is part of a huge increase in the American air war in Afghanistan that started under the Obama administration, but has increased even more sharply under President Donald Trump. In the first three months of 2017, American planes have dropped over 450 bombs on targets in Afghanistan, compared to about 1,300 for all of 2016, according to U.S. Air Force statistics. The number of strikes in the first two months of the Trump administration more than doubled the number taken in the same time period under the Obama administration.

The FP journalists note that US military leaders “long bristled at the control the Obama administration exercised over small troop movements and sometimes individual targets.”  Donald Trump — and this is one promise he’s kept — seems to have unleashed  those commanders.  The result?

Well, it seems to me that the question isn’t whether der Trumpenführer will lead us into war.  It is, rather, how quickly the war that’s already bubbling will become recognized as such by the media, and the American people.

As for war aims? That’s the kicker, isn’t it.  Multi-ton bombs are headline-grabbers.  How effective they are, really, at counter-terrorism is, to my deeply un-expert mind…”unclear” is how I’ll put it.  The current spate of bombing and micro-deployments looks like a purely ad hoc approach to whatever our tactical or strategic goals might be in Syria, Iraq and, still, Afghanistan.  If there’s a logic — and I genuinely hope there is — it sure isn’t apparent to this citizen, in whose name (along w. 312 million of my closest friends) these small wars are being fought.

Over to y’all.

Image: Mary Cassatt, Maternité, 1890.

*type in haste, repent at leisure.

Late Night Schadenfreude Open Thread: Image of Ernst Rohm with A Single Tear Trickling Down His Cheek

If there’s any upside to the President-Asterisk’s “I have the biggest Tomahawks, believe me, all the best people say so” expensive shot-show last night, it would be the sound of prominent neo-Nazis and white nationalists yowling as they imagine themselves victims of a social-media-friendly Night of the Long Knives. Reports Politico:

The fractured elements of what was once called the alt-right were unified once more on Thursday night in condemning Donald Trump’s airstrike in Syria as a mistake. Or as Milo Yiannopoulos put it, “FAKE and GAY.”

This loose confederation of Web-savvy, anti-establishment right-wingers formed an important vanguard of Trump’s online support in last year’s election, and its unified opposition to the airstrike forewarns a political downside to intervention in Syria. While foreign wars tend to boost presidents’ popularity in the short term, Trump risks losing the segments of his base that flocked to his isolationist, “America First” message.

In addition to its nationalist, anti-interventionist and anti-“globalist” views, the alt-right and its fellow travelers have also displayed a marked affinity for Syria’s ally Russia, whose government has returned the love by tweeting images of the alt-right’s mascot, Pepe the Frog, from official accounts. In reacting to the airstrikes, leaders of the movement placed those ideological reflexes over their personal loyalty to Trump.

Most noteworthy were the herculean efforts of blogger Mike Cernovich, who took to the livestreaming application Periscope to rally opposition to the strike in a marathon session that went on for several hours…

Other callers offered even more disturbing theories. One man expressed his concern that the “deep state” had approached Trump and threatened to kill him and his family if he did not get in line and voiced his suspicion that “the whole thing” could be traced back to Barack Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice. “Yeah, could be,” responded Cernovich…

Meanwhile, internet troll Charles Johnson was not prepared to accept that the U.S. really had struck at Assad, saying that a source at CENTCOM told him the strike had actually targeted the Islamic State. “I’m very skeptical of any claims made in the media on military matters,” he said. “Especially since the Iraq War.”

NYMag‘s Jesse Singal, “It Makes Perfect Sense for the Alt-Right to Start Abandoning Trump”:

[A]ll of this should be seen not as a shocking parting of ways, but as a sensible move for the media personalities of the alt-right. Renouncing Trump, and eventually abandoning him, might actually be the most advantageous play for alt-right celebrities trying to maintain their peculiar online kingdoms, while handling the weird ramifications of having won…

…[W]hile it’s popular to conflate the alt-right and the mainstream right — say, the core GOP base — they really are two different beasts. The mainstream right will continue to support Trump because it is vested in the future of the GOP, and Trump is a GOP president. The alt-right, on the other hand, has different goals and allegiances in mind. Here are three main reasons it’s tactically smart for the alt-right’s big names to renounce Trump, if not ditch him entirely.

1. It gets them attention. One thing all the biggest alt-right accounts have in common is that they view virality as the most important goal…

2. It allows them to stay in the opposition. Those on the alt-right are, like Trump, not particularly sophisticated policy thinkers. They’re more into resentful grunts about how immigrants are bad, migration is a cancer on Western (read: white) society, and how cucks control everything. From this stance, it is much easier to criticize powerful politicians than to support them…

3. More specifically, denouncing Trump allows the alt-right to continue fueling conspiracy theories about how globalists (read: Jews) control everything.

The outsiderism really is key here. Remember that despite the noxious anti-Semitism and racism of the alt-right, the movement has always tried to maintain a pranky, anti-establishment feel. It’s much more difficult to retain that feel when your man is in charge, running everything and bombing other countries. Much as the GOP itself learned that in certain ways it’s less fun to hold power than to criticize power, the alt-right, in its own way, seems to be internalizing the same lesson.

Of course, that means the Proud Pranksters of FREEDUMB!!! need a new flag-carrier. Per the Daily Beast:

White-nationalist agitator Richard Spencer, founder of the term “alt-right,” appeared to switch his support to Hawaii Democratic congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who had met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in January. On Thursday night, he tweeted, “I absolutely condemn Washington’s military strike against Syria. #Syria #NoMoreWar,” then “Tulsi Gabbard 2020.”…

While Pepe-promoter Stephen “#RedSteeze Not the WH One” Miller proposed an even less likely scenario:

Who’d have thought The Big Swinging Boyz KKKlub would turn to a couple of not-even-white penis-lackers in their hour of torment?…

(h/t Jesse Singal)

Courtesy Bombing Coverage Will Stoke Trump’s Underlying Pathologies

Valued commenter Oldgold made the following observation in the morning thread:

For Trump reality is what he observes on TV. Almost nothing else matters. It is the key to understanding this bizarre and limited man.

Sounds about right to me, but I’d add this related point: There’s strong evidence (i.e., every scrap of his observed behavior over the decades) that Trump is a flaming narcissist on a scale rarely seen outside tragic tales of fallen empires. So, he’ll filter reality through the lens of TV and his untreated personality disorder.

The TV coverage of this routine courtesy bombing is what it always is — anchors framed by hastily contrived martial graphics somberly querying analysts about What It All Means and running film of missiles streaking through the sky on continuous loop.

I’ve been watching this same shit since our last dementia-addled president, Ronald Reagan. But leaving aside questions of whether this bombing was hatched to knock the Russia story off the front page, pump up Trump’s flaccid poll numbers, give Trump an excuse to lift sanctions on Russia after a tough-guy display, etc., consider how the coverage must play in his diseased mind. I’m rerunning the clip Doug posted earlier because it’s a perfect example:

As Doug observed, pundits just lose their fucking shit over anything remotely related to the military. Van Jones beclowned himself with the exact phrase Zakaria used above when Trump told the widow of the Navy SEAL killed in the botched Yemen raid that her husband was smiling down from heaven at the sustained applause generated by a shout-out in Trump’s speech. War boners do seem to be distributed on a bipartisan basis.

One of the things that makes narcissism so destructive is that the sweet, sweet ego hit the afflicted receives from admiration is irresistible. Like a meth head scouring a squalid slum in search of another bump, Trump will feel compelled to return again and again to any source that alleviates his soul-annihilating insecurity with an ego boost, consequences be damned. And if the richest vein of the ego-boosting narcotic is found in bombing shit, FSM help us.

Oh, and this pencil-necked, foppish, know-nothing heir to a larcenous real estate empire — along with his equally clueless bag-and-shoe mongering wife — is supposed to be the moderating force on Twitler’s megalomania:

Like I said, FSM help us. Sorry to be a gloomy gus. But electing a mentally ill demagogue is going to have consequences, and I’m afraid they’ll be more far-reaching than seeing Injustice Gorsuch’s chiseled mug on our TVs for the next 40 years as he divines new rights for corporations from the US Constitution. If Trump gets a serious war jones, Injustice Gorsuch might be the least of our problems.

For the Record, First Draft of History: Sidebar to Adam’s Post

6 April 1917 and 6 April 2017

As others have remarked, today is the 100th anniversary of the US’s entry into World War I. I recently began reading Robert Gerwarth’s The Vanquished. Gerwarth’s book focuses on how and why WW I never really ended, especially for those on the losing end of the war. Which led to almost 2 decades of civil wars, ethnic cleansing, revolutions, and acts of what we would now call terrorism. These events set the conditions for the rise of fascism, its racist offshoot of NAZIsm, and the spread of Bolshevism contributing to WW II.

I came across a reference to Gerwarth’s book in a post by Josh Marshall. Marshall’s referencing of The Vanquished spoke to me as I had just begun thinking through a report I’m working on in regard to how to set the conditions in Iraq and Syria to win the peace, not just the war, against ISIL. The President’s change of position in regard to Assad, including tonight’s limited strike on a Syrian military airfield, makes thinking of such things even more important.

Marshall highlighted one passage from Gerwarth’s book:

“Nazi Germany and its overtly exterminationist imperial project of the later 1930s and and early 1940s owed much to the logic of ethnic conflict and irredentism created by the Great War and the redrawing of borders in 1918-19.”


Marshall applied Gerwarth’s analysis to make this important point:

Cataclysmic and sustained violence is brutalizing and traumatizing to whole societies as much as it is to individuals. The victorious states at least had victory to justify what had happened. The defeated states not only lacked ‘victory’; the end of the conflict saw something approaching complete societal collapse. There was the collapse of states, recurrent revolutions, often followed by reaction and new rounds of violence. More than anything else there was a search to find some way to justify or create some value to justify the scale of loss. After a brief window of time where leaders tried to create democracies out of the collapsed states and thus become ‘victors’ against destroyed autocracies, the two most obvious channels were to build up cults of revenge or to strive to create new, ethnically pure states. In many cases, the two drives were combined.

One persistent theme of this story was that each ‘ethnicity’ had a state somewhere or was trying to create one that would vindicate and protect it and brutalize those communities which stood in the way of creating ethnically homogenous states. So Magyars were the brutalizers in one place and the brutalized in another – the same could be said for virtually every national group, albeit with the groups with new states generally having the whip hand. This story is most discussed in the arc of German history but Gerwarth places it in a broader, pan-European (at least all-East and Central European) context.

What connects WW I and today is that the US and its allies at the time failed to properly secure the peace at the end of WW I. The real strategic challenge facing the US led Coalition in the fight against ISIL in Iraq and Syria, as well as the actions of the Assad government, is not how to conduct the fight. We are very good at this. With a lot of hard won knowledge accumulated over the past sixteen years. Rather the real strategic challenge is how do we, working by, with, and through our local partners set the conditions, as part of these campaigns, to win the peace and ensure that the people of Iraq and Syria post ISIL and of Syria post civil war have the opportunity and security to move forward in a peaceful manner. Rather than devolving once again into sectarian violence and/or civil war.

One of the most difficult pieces of the Syrian problem set is that no one in Syria on the ground, or among the exile Syrian groups involved with the Syrian Civil War, can articulate what happens after the Civil War ends. There is nothing even close to a consensus on who controls what. There is nothing even close to a consensus on who would replace Assad if he should go. There is nothing even close to a consensus on what to do if Assad doesn’t go. There is nothing even close to a consensus as to who gets to consider themselves Syrian or what that will even mean post Civil War. And there is almost no discussion about the on the ground reality that this is not simply Russian and Iranian backed Assad and the Alawite minority versus all the other Syrians. Assad has support from a cross section of Syrians, not just the Alawites. But Syriac Christians, Syrian Druze, those portions of the Syrian Sunni community that have benefited from his family’s rule and/or been coopted by the Assads through patronage. The Syrian Civil War, despite the best efforts of almost everyone, cannot simply be reduced to: Assad and the Alawites with the backing of Russia and Iran against everyone else. This is simply not true. To borrow Gerwath’s formulation, or Marshall’s interpretation of Gerwath: there are brutalizers and brutalized on each side of the Syrian Civil War. Breaking that dynamic, or, at least, working by, with, and through our local partners to set the conditions to do so, will be necessary to not just win the war, but to win and secure the peace.