Tag Archives: pundits

The Doctrine That Wasn’t

Here’s a lesson for you- never challenge a grifter’s scam. Here’s an example what happens if you do:

For the record yes, I am skilled at making tacos, as well as burritos with chili or shredded chicken. As for the disinfo machine comment- no. Lobbyist and “information war expert” Molly McKew was just upset because I, like many others far more qualified than myself, pointed out that there is no such thing as “the Gerasimov doctrine,” which supposedly orients the Russian armed forces towards a “hybrid warfare” strategy. A strategy, which incidentally, requires enterprising professionals like Molly McKew to explain it to wealthy governments with money to spend on lectures, think tank, and initiatives.

That truly is the hybrid warfare grift in a nutshell- pretend Russia has this brand new strategy that’s utterly alien and superior to what NATO has, and then bill yourself as an indispensable expert in this form of warfare. You interpret every new development, even those that seemingly have little or nothing to do with Russia, as being another perfect example of this doctrine in practice.

When that’s your hustle, it’s pretty important to smear anyone who points out that the emperor is naked. Hence people like McKew like to tar opponents as being “soft” on Russia, ignoring the Russian threat, or deliberately trying to downplay Russia’s aggression and encourage appeasement. This is basically a strawman argument, one which says nothing about whether or not a Gerasimov Doctrine exists.

For a more detailed analysis of this so-called doctrine, I’d recommend reading this ten-page report from a researcher at the Foreign Military Studies Office (among other positions). Chief of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov never proposed any kind of doctrine utilizing “hybrid warfare.” In general, he accuses the West of utilizing a type of “hybrid warfare” against Russia with the end goal of overthrowing the state via a “color revolution,” something that Russian academics and political technologists have been talking about for well over a decade. Gerasimov suggests that Russia needs to develop a counter-measure against this alleged strategy. Got that? Gerasimov is saying Russia’s opponents are using hybrid warfare against Russia and so they must find a way to counter it and prevent a color revolution in Russia.

“But what about Ukraine,” you ask? Well yes, about that…

There is very little new or revolutionary in Russia’s war on Ukraine. In fact, much of the actual fighting was ridiculously conventional, which of course totally destroyed Russia’s claims of non-involvement. Rather than send in covert advisers to gradually build an anti-Kyiv insurgency, thus creating a plausible civil war scenario, the panicky Kremlin could only come up with the brilliant military strategem of removing the patches and insignia from men dressed in the latest, matching Russian kit. In Donbas their attempts at fomenting an insurgency were about to go up in smoke after a couple months, so they were forced to send in tanks with heavy artillery and rocket support. And if you think that the Kremlin’s continued denial of involvement ¬†is somehow novel, you clearly don’t know your Russian military history. They tried to pull the same thing in Chechnya in 1993. ¬†The Soviet Union pulled similar operations during the Cold War, perhaps most notably the storming of Tajbeg Palace in Kabul in late December 1979. In that assault, KGB and spetsnaz personnel used Afghan army uniforms in order to help give the impression that a coup was under way.

In fact not only are these tactics not new, they aren’t limited to Russia or the USSR.¬†Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic pulled similar denial tactics during the 90’s, propping up the Republic of Serbian Krajina and Bosnian Serb Republic with his well-equipped federal army. The US did it with the Bay of Pigs, in South Vietnam, Iran, and many other places. And hybrid warfare? Well the term might be relatively new, but it’s far older than Russia’s war in Ukraine. The 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon is cited as one example of hybrid warfare, mainly because the former is a quasi-state actor, something that is sometimes seen as a feature of hybrid warfare. And just because the definition of hybrid warfare dates to the early 2000’s doesn’t mean we can identify those features much earlier. How much earlier? Well long before Molly McKew came along, that’s for sure. You almost feel sorry for those governments who had to deal with hybrid warfare in the mid-19th century- they didn’t even have think tanks or information war experts back then!

Another problem with using Ukraine as proof of a special doctrine is that as the previously mentioned report points out- what Russia did in Ukraine depended largely on a number of factors that are specific to that country. What is more, those tactics mostly failed. From a purely military standpoint, the only impressive operation Russia managed to pull off was the Crimean annexation, and that depended on so many factors that are so specific to that scenario that the Russians would be hard-pressed to repeat them anywhere except maybe Belarus, for example. It was the military equivalent of an aikido throw- it works so long as your opponent doesn’t resist and goes along with it. So if you’re trying to counter a Crimean-type hybrid warfare scenario, the first tip I could give you is don’t have a Russian military base on the territory you think they’ll invade and annex. Oh yeah- don’t have close cooperation between your military and intelligence agencies and theirs. I could go on, but then I have to start charging.

Pretty much everywhere else in Ukraine, Russia’s supposed “hybrid warfare” failed miserably. They were unable to garner support anywhere outside of those areas where they could apply sufficient armed force. Nobody in the world community seriously believes Russia’s denials about involvement. Sanctions have been imposed and increased. Russian attempts to influence politics in the West have largely failed, and even where they seem to have succeeded, they have not produced tangible results such as getting sanctions lifted. Both Putin fanboys and “hybrid warfare experts” continue to talk about Putin as though he’s this sinister 146th dimensional chess player, when really he’s a paranoid, panicky, opportunistic tactician who thinks five minutes into the future and bumbles from one foreign policy failure to another. Crimea? Isolated due to sanctions and economically devastated. Novorossiya? Basically two cities and their suburbs, utterly dependent on the Russian budget. Driving a wedge into Europe to avoid sanctions? Nope. Pivot to China? More like pivot to nowhere. Stop NATO expansion? Welcome, Montenegro, the newest Slavic NATO member! Syria? Congratulations! You helped a dictator take back some rubble, and now you’ll have to prop him up to keep it.

The funny thing is that it’s not like you can’t find examples of other states who actually do “hybrid warfare” well. Iran has had an impressive record with Hezbollah, for example. The Islamic State is pretty much finished as a physical state, but its rise and existence isn’t likely to be forgotten anytime soon, and they still have affiliates fighting insurgencies around the globe. The PPK and PYD in Turkey and Rojava (northern Syria) show resilience and innovation fighting against both governments and other non-state actors like the Islamic State. What all these groups have in common is something that Russia lacks, something which I would suggest dooms any attempt by Russia to actually create some kind of hybrid warfare doctrine to failure- ideology. In Ukraine, as well as other locations, Russia largely relies on money or force as a motivating factor to get its agents to do what it wants. If it can’t afford to pay enough people off or it can’t project force to intimidate them, it has no reach. Meanwhile ISIS manages to get people to pull off mass murder just by assuring losers that they’ll glorify them as heroic martyrs if they just go out and try to stab as many people as they can like some kind of sick reality show game.

In short- even if Russia has adopted some kind of new hybrid doctrine, it’s clearly not a very effective one. It’s most noticeable impact seems to be the rapid creation of instant hybrid warfare experts and Junior Counter-Intelligence Operatives on Twitter. If Russia set out only to make lobbyists and pundits act insane- mission accomplished.

Ultimately the burden of proof lies with McKew and her ilk to prove that such a thing as a Gerasimov Doctrine exists. So far the evidence says otherwise. Pointing this out isn’t pro-Kremlin. If you actually plan to oppose what Russia really is doing in the world today, you do need to have an understanding of their strategies and tactics. If you ignore those things in favor of a made-up blueprint such as this Gerasimov Doctrine, you are basically failing to observe and interpret what Russia is actually doing. Instead you’ll be deliberately hammering square pegs into round holes in order to make them fit your blueprint.

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Am I doing this right?

Another important thing to remember is that for all these chicken littles talk about the need to “counter” the Russian threat, they have almost nothing in terms of actual solutions or suggestions. If you can stomach it, here’s a longread from McKew herself about how the West is in a war with Russia and needs to fight back. I perused this whole thing and struggled to find anything resembling a concrete plan for defense against the “hybrid threat.” From what I could see her “solutions” amount to:

Realize we’re in a war with Russia. (You know, a war where we will trade, make business deals, etc. and don’t actually do anything to fight them directly or even indirectly.)

We need to do something to increase our security! Not just conventional military security, but other types of security as well! 

Look to the Cold War because we won that struggle. No need to point out what actually won, how it was won, or any pesky details like that. 

Wow! With great insight like that I can see why¬†Politico keeps publishing her work, even though a lot of it is based on the topic of a military doctrine that doesn’t even exist.

At the end of the day, McKew seems to be just another grifter looking for sympathetic ears, preferably with deep pockets. Either that or she literally can’t tell the difference between someone pointing out the fact that there is no Gerasimov Doctrine and someone attacking the concept of Russia being a threat because they are pro-Kremlin and trying to portray Putin as this misunderstood, peace-loving leader. Honestly I don’t care which it is with her. These people eventually move on when there’s a new game in town. Russia¬†is a threat and “we” (our definition of “we” differs significantly) are at war, but that war sure as hell isn’t going to be won by pundits and think tank academics.

 

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Dispatches from a Trump presidency

October 2018

WASHINGTON D.C.- Just¬†halfway into his first term, president Trump is struggling to explain away dozens of broken campaign promises while the nation’s economy suffers continuous blows and its infrastructure continues to crumble. Just two weeks ago, another road bridge in Ohio collapsed. State officials blame the disaster on local politicians who ignored numerous warnings about the state of the bridge, but some veteran pundits in D.C. have another explanation- the Russian connection.

“It’s painfully obvious who’s behind all this,” said journalist Abbey Appleton.

“Vladimir Putin has been waging hybrid warfare against America for years. He got his puppet Trump into the White House. Now he’s using the fifth column in this country to destroy infrastructure like our roads and that bridge in Ohio.”

Appleton is one among several well-known pundits and think tank academics who have found Russian president Vladimir Putin to be behind a number of social ills in the US. But most of all they say, is president Trump.

“In 2016, Hillary ran a flawless campaign,” said Jason Keller, another beltway pundit who sees Putin as the root of Donald Trump’s electoral victory.

“She talked about foreign policy, free trade, the need to maintain strong multilateral relations with our traditional allies abroad- all things that resonate deeply with middle America. Since she had no actual flaws, how else can you explain her loss but by the intervention of Putin?”

Keller went on to explain how he believes Trump is actually working for the Kremlin.

“No other presidential candidate has had closer ties to Moscow since Henry Wallace,” Keller declared.

Keller refused to answer any questions as to the vast ideological differences between Wallace, Trump, the Soviet Union, and post-Soviet Russia, dismissing them as trivial. When asked what he thought about Wallace’s progressive stance on civil rights, he said that this too had been an example of KGB active measures.

“You have to understand that just as the Kremlin is using Black Lives Matter to do its bidding today, they were using the so-called civil rights movement back in the 1960’s. Not only have I found a wealth of primary sources linking the civil rights movement to Communism, but I also looked at surveys of whites in pre-1964 America and a large number of them said they didn’t see any problems with racism or discrimination at all. Are you seriously going to tell me that whites would be racist and not know it?”

Keller similarly dismissed challenges that his “primary sources” came from racist organizations.

“Nonsense. We all know Russia is behind the far right. Always has been,” he said.

But while most of the pundits who see the Kremlin’s hand behind the nation’s woes tend to be anti-Trump, the struggling president does have his supporters, like Republican representative Richard Wagland of Alabama. According to him, Putin may be behind all of America’s problems, but Trump is actually trying to do something about it.

“It’s no wonder Trump might have seemed friendly to Putin during the campaign,” he explained.

“What you have to realize is that our country has been occupied by Russia since Putin came to power in 2000. They have been writing our laws since then. That’s why, for example, we have RT America in D.C. Trump, now that he’s in power, is trying to turn the tide, but we have to help him as he starts to fight back against Putin and Russia.”

According to Wagland, the solution lies in grassroots activism.

“I have created an organization I call the ‘National Liberation Movement’ to support our president and free us from the Russian yoke. Our young activists seek out anti-American activity wherever they find it.”

Critics of Wagland’s movement say it is little more than a “gang of thugs,” citing a recent egg-throwing incident at a¬†performance of¬†The Nutcracker suite by Tchaikovsky last Christmas season. Wagland, however, refused to condemn the actions of his movement.

“I realize things can get out of hand sometimes, but these young activists have a very simple demand- freedom from Russian occupation. What does it say when at Christmas, our most cherished national holiday, a theater puts on a performance of Russian music instead of something American? I can understand why some people might lose their temper.”

It’s not clear exactly where the accusations against Putin will end any time in the near future. Having already named Putin the culprit behind America’s crumbling infrastructure, Appleton is currently working on a new piece which details the alleged Kremlin connection to America’s mass shooting phenomenon.

“Mental illness? Poor gun control laws? Nonsense,” Appleton says.

“This has hybrid warfare written all over it. These spree shooters are Putin’s little green men in America.”

 

Interesting Article

By the time I found this article¬†by Rory Finnin¬†on Stopfake.org it wasn’t too fresh, so to speak, but it’s definitely worth reading. It is concise but hard hitting. To get the gist, I quote its introduction:

“There has been a lot of debate in the Western press over whether to supply Ukraine with defensive arms. How to make sense of all the editorialising? Which op-eds and columns should one take seriously? Consider the following questions.”

Obviously it may be a bit late to consider the arms debate, but Finnin’s checklist is something that was needed last year if not even earlier. For every Russia commentator, there’s maybe a dozen pundits who don’t specialize in the region yet lend their instant expertise to whatever happens to be in the news at the moment. Just to appear extra savvy, some of them will read the Wikipedia page on Ukraine and drop little nuggets of Ukrainian minutia such as how you should always call it Ukraine instead of “the Ukraine,” because the lack of the definite article in English means it’s an independent country and not just a region. You know, just like Siberia, Normandy, Flanders, or Scandinavia!

As if that weren’t bad enough, from the pro-Russian media you have bloggers who may never have visited Russia or Ukraine being given smart-sounding titles like “political analyst” or “geopolitical expert.” Some of these people never heard of Donetsk or Lugansk before 2014, and then suddenly they’re speaking with authority about “the Novorossiyans.”

In this climate, it would have helped to ask questions like those that Rory has provided. I’d like to share some of those questions which I find most relevant with the reader, and add a few of my own.

1. Has the author published anything about Ukraine prior to 2013? This war is not being fought in a vacuum. Knowledge of the ‚Äėtheatre‚Äô of conflict matters. Abstract models and theoretical systems do not wage war; people do.

Indeed. When you see a person suddenly start speaking on Ukraine in an obvious attempt to sound authoritative, you should ask how much background knowledge they have on this subject.

2. Does the author characterise Ukraine as a country with agency, independence and sovereignty in the content of his/her analysis? That is, are Ukrainians subjects of the story? A prescriptive assessment about a war is intellectually suspect when it casts the country in which the war is taking place as a passive object or superfluous detail.

This is something that gets lost both in pro-Russian geopolitical narratives and left-wing narratives in the West. For the former, human beings are not important. They exist only to advance geopolitical goals. For the latter, the Western left has long been bogged down in hopelessly outdated anti-hegemony politics. In their mind, Russia’s success in Ukraine will somehow hold back an unnamed disaster in their own country. Surely if the Donetsk and Lugansk Peoples’ Republics had been wiped off the map, Obama would announce the prohibition of trade unions and the return of workhouses in the United States. ¬†They tend to look at whoever the US media seems to be pillorying at the moment and then they work backwards to turn that figure into some kind of resistor against the IMF and global capitalism. More on that later.

6. Has the author referred, for instance, to a present attempt to ‚Äėmarch NATO and the European Union up to Russia‚Äôs doorstep‚Äô (John Mearsheimer) without noting that NATO and the EU have been on Russia‚Äôs doorstep since 2004, when Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined NATO and the EU? If so, the analysis is uninformed.

Indeed. The US even had an airbase in Kyrgyzstan from 2001; it was finally vacated by the US Air Force in 2014. ¬†In 2010 the Russian government caused a scandal when they publicly talked about setting up a NATO logistical base in Ulyanovsk. Russia used to be a member of US CENTCOM from its founding in 2001, and it aided the NATO mission in Afghanistan in various ways. But the kicker is this- During those years of Russia NATO cooperation, when NATO forces were just as much on Russia’s doorstep as they are now if not more so, life in Russia was awesome. Living standards were rising thanks to high oil prices, a flood of foreign investment, and Putin being sane. The oligarchs made out so well they were even able to let some money trickle down to everyone else. Clearly NATO’s proximity to Russia wasn’t harming the country.

7. Does the author argue that the crisis in Ukraine began, for instance, ‚Äėwhen the United States and European Union tried to move Ukraine out of Russia‚Äôs orbit‚Äô (Walt) without appearing to know that 1) the ‚Äėorbits‚Äô of Russia and the EU already intersect in the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement they concluded in 1997 and that 2) the putatively ‚Äėpro-Russian‚Äô Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych and his Party of Regions actively sought EU Association themselves?

This is a really good question because even a lot of pro-Maidan journalism perpetuated this myth and even praised the idea that Ukraine was “escaping” Russia’s sphere of influence. Pretty soon the association agreement was being sold as inevitable EU membership, and this myth still survives today even in Ukraine it would seem. Opponents of Maidan in Russia also took this to mean EU membership, which in their mind of course boils down to one thing- gay marriage.

Now I have my own question that I would have liked to add, and which I recommend readers use in debates with leftists. It goes like this:

You say that the West facilitated Maidan because Viktor Yanukovych was opposed to neo-liberal capitalism, the IMF, etc. What concrete examples can you give of his opposition?

I guarantee you that your listener will either proceed to bullshit you with claims pulled straight out of their ass or simply stare like a deer in headlights, because in there is no such record of heroic resistance to capitalism when it comes to Yanukovych and his government. Unlike leaders such as the late Gaddafi or Chavez, Yanukovych never made any pretense to being any sort of socialist or even a social democrat. See for yourself, item number 4. ¬†Here, I’ll even pick out a quote from the article for you:

‚ÄúPresident Viktor Yanukovych had made restoring relations with the IMF a major priority on taking office.‚ÄĚ ¬† –AFP

So much for that.

In short, I think questions like these ought to kept in mind when reading about any major foreign policy debate, not simply the question of arming Ukraine.*

*For the record, I vote “no” for reasons I have written about in the past.

BE THE PUNDIT!

Have you ever wanted to be a media pundit? If so, I fervently want to destroy everything you have ever loved in a flaming pyre right before your eyes before slowly cutting your…

 

Have you ever wanted to become a media pundit? Would you like to sound like an expert on the situation between Russia and Ukraine without actually knowing anything about either of these countries or their current conflict? NOW YOU CAN!

Simply copy and paste these paragraphs into comments sections or Facebook discussion and prepare to be respected as a politically astute, well informed expert on Russian issues. Try memorizing one and regurgitating it at your next social function when the topic of Russia or Ukraine comes up. With convincing delivery and a hint at the prospect of cocaine back at your apartment, you might manage to seduce a Russian studies undergrad!*

1. On the nature of Putin and the hierarchy of power in Russia

What you need to realize is that the power structure in Russia is a delicate balancing act with Putin at the top of the pyramid, the siloviki in¬†the middle, and players like Navalny and Pussy Riot on the fringes, near the corners. Those fringe elements frighten those in the middle layer, who in turn pass their concerns up to Putin at the top. Putin plays the ¬†role of an arbiter in a neo-Stalinist system where individuals possessing sufficient blat are able to air their grievances and seek redress from the leader. ¬†Until the fringe elements can negotiate the layers of Russia’s system and find themselves among the siloviki, you’re unlikely to see any substantial change in the next few years. ¬†It all comes down to whether or not Putin is a gambler or a cautious chess player, but who can possibly read him? Time will tell.

What tawdry, superficial discourse on Russia would be complete without me? Play your cards right, and you might just nail that Russian major.

What tawdry, superficial discourse on Russia would be complete without me?

2. On the conflict in Ukraine

Well you have to realize that this is a conflict which goes back for hundreds of years, and is therefore terribly complex as it is multi-faceted and synergistic. It will not be solved any time soon. The issue is that Ukraine has been traditionally divided into the Ukrainian West and the Russian-speaking East. The Western Ukrainians, who are in fact the real Ukrainians, see their destiny in Europe, whereas those in the East see it as being with Russia in Putin’s Neo-USSR. ¬†Oh and by the way, only call it “Ukraine” and not “the Ukraine.” Using the is really offensive to Ukrainians. ¬†Did I mention how old and complex this conflict is? It’s extremely complex and explaining it would involve a long, detailed lecture on its history which stretches back for centuries.

The roots of the conflict between Moscow and Ukraine are deep indeed. Here we see how it all began at the Battle of Issus in 333 BCE.

The roots of the conflict between Moscow and Ukraine are deep indeed. Here we see how it all began at the Battle of Issus in 333 BCE.

3. On economic issues in Russia

The real question is whether Russia as a BRIC country will be able to weather the prospect of drastically lowered oil prices while simultaneously facing competition in its natural gas sector. If not, your’e going to see more silent austerity in the long-run followed by a tanking ruble which might not be possible to stabilize by dumping dollars and instituting a new payment system whereby China purchases its oil in Russian currency. With Russia’s resource-based, economy still not having been properly diversified to any appreciable degree, we’re probably going to see serious trouble on the horizon very soon.

 

4. On human rights in Russia

It’s no secret that dozens of journalists have been killed in Russia and government complicity simply can’t be ruled out. Quite the opposite, these deaths must be laid at the feet of Putin, a long with all the other human rights violations which began in Russia since May 2000. ¬†Prior to his rise to power, Russia was a budding democracy with great potential. Now corruption and repression have become the norm under the neo-Tsarist, neo-Stalinist, neo-Communist, ultra-nationalist regime. Any attempt to suggest that this state of affairs might be “more nuanced” or who tries to bring up things like context or analogies is clearly nothing more than a shill for the Kremlin regime and an apologist for their bloody atrocities. As a member of Amnesty International, this is something I simply cannot tolerate and you shouldn’t either. FREE PUSSY RIOT!

The next time Putin steals the election from Pussy Riot will be the last! #humanrightsinrussia #supereasyactivism #spreadingawarenessisagreatsubstituteforactuallydoingshitintheworld #itsureiseasiertojoinsolidaritycampaignsforpeopleinothercountriesinsteadofdoingsomethingtohelpmycommunity #ilovebeingmorallysuperiortopeopleandremindingthemeverychanceiget

The next time Putin steals the election from Pussy Riot will be the last! #humanrightsinrussia #supereasyactivism
#spreadingawarenessisagreatsubstituteforactuallydoingshitintheworld #itsureiseasiertojoinsolidaritycampaignsforpeopleinothercountriesinsteadofdoingsomethingtohelpmycommunity  #ilovebeingmorallysuperiortopeopleandremindigthemeverychanceiget

5. On living in Russia as a foreigner(actually living in Russia not required)

As the song goes, Moscow never sleeps. On Friday night, whether at Propaganda or Krizis, the room is always packed. Young ladies are dressed to kill and their smiles are more than enough to charm an unassuming Westerner like me to his death. But you have to remind yourself. This is Putin’s Russia. That beautiful, svelte Slav with the golden locks of hair like a Ukrainian wheat field and eyes bluer than the waters of the Volga could be a honey trap, looking to seduce me. After I’m passed out after a wild night of passion, she’ll go through my things and try to determine if I really am just an English teacher. I don’t want her to suspect that I’m a spy, so I buy her six drinks. When she asks for a seventh I refuse and she suddenly walks off and starts talking to some drunk Russian guy. Point for me. Looks like I just narrowly missed a night of interrogation in a small room in the Lubyanka! Now at this point I begin to wonder where I can get a nice tall glass of kvas and some blini with a nice, wholesome girl who doesn’t work for the FSB. I really love kvas. I must be truly Russian.

 

 

*Probably not though.