NATO’s Video on the Forest Brothers

We and the news media are so entrapped by the doings in Washington that we miss stuff going on in the rest of the world. That’s not without reason; having an unqualified boor as president of the most powerful nation on earth provides a great deal of scary copy. But the other side is an opportunity cost. There is stuff going on besides the Trump-manufactured crises. Other nations have their own ideas as to what is important, although they are affected by the crazy too.

The Baltic States – Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania – are members of the EU and NATO. They were absorbed into the Soviet Union after World War II, but most nations of the world continued to recognize them as independent states. They were instrumental in breaking up the Soviet Union in 1991.

After World War II, resistance fighters continued in all three states. They were called the Forest Brothers and were widely supported by the population. Their activity continued through the 1980s. The last Forest Brother in Estonia drowned himself in 1978 rather than be taken by the Soviets.

I figured when Russia seized Crimea that Baltic young people were consulting their grandparents and that stocks of guns, ammunition, and food were being hidden away. Earlier in July, NATO released a video about the Forest Brothers, with interviews from two people who were involved. Here’s a longer history of the Forest Brothers, and a bit more. And here’s the video.

 

 

And open thread!



Lessons from History: The US During WW I

While the French celebrate the final hours of Bastille Day, including historic displays of US troops in Paris on this day in 1917, I want to take a moment and focus on what was happening on the home front in the US 100 years ago. Reflecting on this history is important given the concern expressed in comments and on the front page here and other places about what is happening in the US.

It is not often remarked, if it is even remembered, that during WW I President Wilson essentially leveraged all forms of national power to achieve his objectives – in terms of both the war effort in Europe and domestically at home. As a result he converted the Federal government into something of an authoritarian regime. There were still elections. The Constitution and Bill of Rights were technically still in existence and in force, but in reality the US under President Wilson during World War I was about as far from its ideals as it has ever been. President Wilson essentially federalized Jim Crow, which was in line with both his racism and his obscure religious beliefs in Anglo-Israelism.

The power of the Presidency and the Federal government was leveraged through what we now call a psychological operation (PSYOPS) campaign to ensure broad and deep support for President Wilson’s agenda. To this end he tapped George Creel who created the propaganda campaign that would mobilize Americans behind President Wilson. Creel’s work is a textbook example of how to plan and implement a PSYOPS campaign. And it was incredibly successful. Through Creel’s work, President Wilson was able to convince Americans to not just go with meatless or wheatless days at home, but to turn in their neighbors if they suspected them of not getting on board with these initiatives to ensure that the troops in Europe had what they needed for their sustainment. Creel also set the conditions for forced charitable contributions to the war effort, including enforcement that would bring public pressure (shaming, denigration, job termination, extrajudicial violence) against those that didn’t give or give enough.

And even though Creel tried to tone down the official anti-German components of his propaganda, he largely failed. German nationals in the US and German-Americans were forced to register with the government and carry ID cards. In a grim foreshadowing of what Germans would do throughout Europe during WW II, as well as what the US would do to Japanese Americans and Japanese nationals in the US, German nationals and German Americans lost their jobs, had their property taken away, were relocated into internment camps, and were subjected to extrajudicial violence and punishment. Simply for being German or Americans of German descent.

For instance:

As the war dredged on, nativism took root. Newspapers printed one-sided war coverage. President Wilson railed against “hyphenated Americans,” a slight against German-Americans. Even the growing support for Prohibition was seen as a fight against the Germans.

Then, when the U.S. entered the war in 1917, all pretenses disappeared. German culture was attacked. Anti-German hysteria swept the nation – especially here.

German language classes, taught in Cincinnati schools since 1840, were dropped. The Enquirer offered the headline: “Bang! Hun Study Is Floored.”

The public library moved their 10,000 German books to the subbasement. “This library has been used to further a reptilian and insidious propaganda by enemies of the United States,” said board trustee James Albert Green. “German literature published during the last 40 years is tainted with the ideas and ideals which American boys now are giving their lives to combat.”

For those wondering what tyranny and authoritarianism in the US looks like, the US during World War I is the real example. The US and its ideals survived President Wilson and his efforts during World War I. It still has the resilience to survive the trials and tribulations it is facing now. All that is required is that Americans, regardless of background, remember the ideals that America is based on and act accordingly. Small acts are as important as large, grand sweeping gestures.

For an excellent four hour documentary on the US and World War I, including an in depth examination of what was occurring domestically, I highly recommend PBS’s The American Experience: The Great WarIt will be four well spent hours.



Cyber Strategy – Different From A Shooting War

Big hack of pretty much everything in Ukraine this morning: internet, power plants, government. I wrote this post before that happened, but it applies.

The Obama administration was in an extremely difficult position after learning about Russian hacking of last year’s election. Several factors came into play: the difficulty of dealing with international cyber attacks, intransigent Republican partisanship, and the decaying relationship with Russia. I’m going to break down those factors into at least two posts.

Cyber attacks present a national security problem different from any encountered before. Lumping them into a designation of “cyberwar” projects assumptions of conventional war onto them and distorts the difficulties and possibilities. I haven’t seen much analysis of these differences and how they affect strategy. Please point me to them, if they exist. Most punditry assumes that cyber attacks can be equated to war, and numerous opinion articles have referred to the Russian hacks as a form of war. In this post, I will consider only that part of last fall’s situation. A later post will consider the political ramifications. Read more



Breaking: White House Statement on Syrian Chemical Weapons

The White House has just released the following statement:

It went up at 10:04 PM EDT on Sean Spicer’s official twitter feed, but is not yet up on the Office of the Press Secretary Statements and Releases page.

Unless someone’s been reading the Mass Atrocity Prevention and Response Handbook*, which presents publicizing mass atrocities/potential mass atrocities as having a potential deterrent effect, I have no idea why this information would be released right now. It is possible that LTG McMaster thinks this may actually deter a forthcoming action. It may be something else entirely. But this is a type of public strategic communication I’m not used to seeing out of any administration – Democratic or Republican.

While we wait for more information: Open Thread!

Update at 10:45 PM EDT:

* The author of the handbook is a friend and former colleague.

 



The Smoking Gun: Putin’s Specific Instructions for Active Measures Against the United States During the 2016 Presidential Election

The Washington Post reports (emphasis mine):

The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.

Specifically:

Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried “eyes only” instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides.

The White House debated various options to punish Russia, but facing obstacles and potential risks, it ultimately failed to exact a heavy toll on the Kremlin for its election interference.

But it went further. The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.

At that point, the outlines of the Russian assault on the U.S. election were increasingly apparent. Hackers with ties to Russian intelligence services had been rummaging through Democratic Party computer networks, as well as some Republican systems, for more than a year. In July, the FBI had opened an investigation of contacts between Russian officials and Trump associates. And on July 22, nearly 20,000 emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee were dumped online by WikiLeaks.

Miller, Nakashima, and Entous’s excellent, detailed reporting now tells us exactly what Putin’s guidance to his subordinates was. It also tells us what his strategic objective was: to elect Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States. It is important to be very, very, very clear here about what this reporting tells us. It confirms that not only did Putin order active measures against the United States, specifically during the 2016 presidential election. He did so specifically to damage Secretary Clinton and elect President Trump.  As I wrote in July 2016 we are at (cyber) war. And again in March 2017 – we are at war. The only question now is what do we do about it?

ETA at 1:05 PM EDT

The US government has specific actionable intelligence, that is assessed to be of high confidence, that a hostile foreign power has attacked and continues to attack the United States for its own ends. This is a national security problem. And every part of the solution, including election system reforms, need to be understood within the discussion national security responses and solutions to the threat we face.



The Overarching Middle East Problem Set: Proxy War and Forced Realignment

Over the past several weeks the just below the surface proxy wars and attempts to forcefully realign Middle Eastern politics, power dynamics, and alliances have come into full view. Over the past two weeks the Saudis and Emiratis have attempted to isolate their erstwhile Qatari partner. Turkey and Iran have come to Qatar’s aid as a result of the Saudi led blockade. ISIL conducted an attack in Iran and Iran retaliated with a missile strike on ISIL in Syria. We’ve also had ongoing Saudi operations against the Zaydi/Fiver Shi’a Houthis in Yemen and the ongoing low intensity war in Libya.

All of these actions and events have one thing in common: they are all about attempts to forcefully realign the politics, power dynamics, and alliances within the Middle East. A significant portion of this attempt to remake the Middle East’s political map is the result of a several year old proxy war between Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Turkey for hegemony in the Middle East. This proxy war is being fought over who will be the preeminent regional power; a power that will speak not just for the region, but for Islam. And this latter component is a major complication. The Saudis are promoting the Wahhabi understanding of tawheed – the radical unity of the Deity, which also forms the basis for both al Qaeda’s and ISIL’s doctrine/theology. Iran seeks hegemony not just to represent the Ithna Ashari/Twelver Shi’a that are the majority in Iran, Iraq, and Bahrain, a significant plurality in Lebanon, a significant minority in Syria – including the Alawite sect, and are a minority in several of the other Gulf states, but also on behalf of the Ismaili/Sevener and Zaydi/Fiver Shi’a throughout the region. Finally, Erdogan’s Turkey seeks to not just reassume its historic role of being the North-South and East-West bridge and power player in the Middle East, Central Asia, and the trans-Caucasus, but also to represent and speak for Islam throughout the region. Specifically Erdogan’s politicized Islam.

Against this backdrop we also have the ongoing activities of al Qaeda’s regional proxies throughout the Middle East, as well as ISIL’s ever more tenuous attempt to hold on to actual physical territory as part of their self proclaimed caliphate: the Islamic State/al dawlah al Islamiyah.

Read more



That First International Crisis May Be Happening Now

This is really a place holder until Cheryl and/or Adam show up, but if you don’t count Qatar-follies, we’ve got a situation brewing in Syria that could truly end up being double-plus ungood:

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said Sunday it launched missiles into eastern Syria targeting Islamic State militants in response to an attack on Iran’s parliament and a shrine in Tehran, warning that it would similarly retaliate on anyone else carrying out attacks in Iran.

The launch of surface-to-surface medium range missiles into Syria’s Deir el-Zour province comes as Islamic State militants fleeing a U.S.-led coalition onslaught increasingly try to fortify their positions there.

Meanwhile:

A U.S. F/A-18E Super Hornet fighter jet downed a Syrian SU-22 plane on Sunday in the southern Raqqa countryside, said the U.S. military, the first time since the civil war broke out.
read more: http://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/syria/1.796428

I’m not going to even to pretend to offer meaningful analysis, given the availability here of folks who actually know about such matters.  I’ll just point out the scorecard as context for what I’m sure will be more sophisticated thinking to come.

First:  Iran strikes ISIS at bases in Syria.

Second:  the US knocks down a jet flown by the armed forces of Iran’s ally/client, the Assad government of Syria.

Third: …that’s what I’m afraid of.

Over to you folks.

Image:  Thomas Cantrell Dugdale, Charge of the 2nd Lancers at El Afuli – in the Valley of Armageddon, 5 am, Friday 20th September 19181918.