Posts Tagged ‘Germany’

 

In the 1970’s we heard the earth was going to get so crowded we’d be falling off. Now the panickers have flipped to population decline. They were wrong in the 70’s, so are they wrong again? Is a declining population catastrophic?

Countries from Germany to Japan are investing in mass immigration or pro-birth policies on the assumption that they must import enough warm bodies to stave off economic collapse. I think this is mistaken.

Falling population on a country level is certainly no catastrophe and, indeed, may be positive. I’ll outline some reasons here…

Historically, the first question is why population declined. If it’s the Mongols invading again then, yes, the economy will suffer. Not because of the death alone, but because wholesale slaughter tends to destroy productive capital as well.

On the other hand, if the population is declining from non-war, we have a well-studied natural experiment in the Black Plague. Which is generally credited with the “take-off” of the West. Because if the population declines by a third while capital including arable land stays the same, you get a surplus. Same resources divided by fewer people.

Think of zombie movies where dude’s running around with unlimited resources at his disposal — free cars, riverfront penthouses. That, in diluted form, is what a declining population gives us — more land, more highways or buildings, more resources per person.

Now, if the population’s declining not because of a terrible disaster like the Plague, rather because people simply want fewer children, then you don’t even get the massive hit from losing productive people. A worker dying at 40 takes a lot of productivity with him, while a child unborn isn’t actually destroying anything but hopes and dreams.

So if the Plague was a per capita economic bonanza to Europe, having fewer children should be an even larger per capita bonanza.

Take Germany; before recent rises in immigration, Germans averaged 1.25 children per woman. This translates into a 1/3 decline in population per cycle (i.e every 75 years if people are living 75 years). So without immigration, Germany might expect a 1/3 decline by 2100. Is this good or bad?

The question breaks into 2 parts: absolute number of people, and changes in age composition. On numbers alone, it’s great for Germans; same physical capital, same amount of land and air and water. True there are fewer taxpayers to amortize shared costs like defense, but these costs are small and, empirically, often scale to the population anyway. For example Holland’s military budget and population are both about 1/5 of Germany’s.

So on numbers it’s great — more stuff for fewer people.

Now the second question is age profile. The key here is that a declining population means fewer working-adults to pay out pensions, but it also means even fewer kids. Who are very expensive. The number that captures both is “dependency ratio,” which is the ratio of workers to children-plus-elderly.

To take a real-world example, the UN expects Germany in 2100 to have 68 million people, compared to today’s 82 million — about a 20% decline. The age profile shifts so they expect a third more over-65’s — from 17 to 23 million. Meanwhile, children 14 and under fall from 11m to 9m. So total dependents goes from 28 million today to 32 million in 2100. Meanwhile, population age 15 to 64 goes from 54 million today to 36 million in 2100. Upshot is today a single working-age person supports half a dependent — 54 million carrying 28 million. But in 2100 that worker will support a single dependent — 36 million carrying 32 million. So far so bad, right?

Well, there are 2 big caveats here, both based on long-lasting trends.

First, for over a century now people are not only living longer, but living healthy longer. This is called “health expectancy” and, sticking with Germany, is rising by about 1.4 years per decade.

This implies that 65 year-olds in 2100 will be as healthy as 53 year-olds today. While today’s 65-year-olds are as healthy as 2100’s 78-year-olds. This alone would bring the elderly numbers back down to today’s, but the lower number of children means worker burdens actually decline.

Of course, this would require raising retirement ages in line with health expectancy – 1.4 years per decade – which politicians are obviously deeply reluctant to do.

Second caveat is another long-term trend, economic growth. The irony here is that, from a population growth viewpoint, economic growth is actually the worst-case scenario. Because if the economy crashes instead, then historically the population actually soars — kids become your safety net if the welfare state goes bankrupt. So if we fail to grow, the demographic problem actually solves itself anyway. Either we grow, or population decline was a false alarm anyway.

Quantifying this growth, over the past 50 years Germany has grown 1.65% per year, real per capita. That trends puts a 2100 German worker making 4 times what they do today. Keep in mind this is likely underestimating the benefit, because any outperformance makes Germans richer yet, while any catastrophe probably makes them have more kids.

So, summing up, rising health expectancy implies there will actually be fewer dependents in 2100 Germany, while economic growth implies German workers will be 4 times richer, just on growth alone. The demographic burden plunges by 80% or more.

By the way, if you’re freaked out at the prospect of working an extra 1.4 years per decade, that economic growth alone suggests a 50% decline in worker burdens – twice the dependents on four times the income. So even if politicians are spineless, the welfare burden declines even with more dependents.

Bottom line, whether we look at total numbers or demographically, population decline coming from simply choosing to have fewer kids is nothing remotely catastrophic.

Now, a final point: in a worldwide context, more people does tend to increase investment, therefore innovation and economic growth. This is obvious in the aggregate – there wouldn’t be any factories if there weren’t any humans – but people forget. So, on a world-wide level, we should have a bias towards more humans, while recognizing that, on a country level, a shrinking population is certainly no catastrophe.

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Confirming, and sending the clearest sign of his previously discussed pivot toward Russia and away from NATO and the West, on Tuesday President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkey had signed a deal to purchase a Russian surface-to-air missile system, and paid the first installment. The deal cements Turkey’s recent rapprochement with Russia, despite differences over the war in Syria, the downing of a Russian fighter jet over Turkey in late 2015 and the assassination of a Russian ambassador earlier this year, and comes as Turkey’s ties with the United States and European Union have become strained to the point of breaking.

Although the missile purchase from Russia was made public several months ago, Erdogan’s announcement was the first confirmation that Turkey had transferred money to pay for the S-400 missile system.

“Signatures have been made for the purchase of S-400s from Russia,” Erdogan said in comments published in several newspapers on Tuesday. “A deposit has also been paid as far as I know.”

As the NYT writes, “the purchase of the missile system flies in the face of cooperation within the NATO alliance, which Turkey has belonged to since the early 1950s. NATO does not ban purchases of military hardware from manufacturers outside the American-led alliance, but it does discourage members from buying equipment not compatible with that used by other members.”

According to reports in the Russian media, Turkey is to get four batteries of S-400 launchers complete with targeting radar and control posts. Some aspects of the deal are reportedly to be finalized, but Russian officials said the contract furthers Russia’s geostrategic interests.

* * *

Predictably, the Pentagon promptly reiterated its concerns over the deal, which it said undermines inter-operability of weapons systems among NATO allies. “We have relayed our concerns to Turkish officials regarding the potential purchase of the S-400. A NATO inter-operable missile defense system remains the best option to defend Turkey from the full range of threats in its region,” spokesman Johnny Michael said in a statement.

A NATO official in Brussels where the alliance is headquartered, said that no NATO member currently operates the Russian missile system and that the alliance had not been informed about the details of the purchase by Turkey. “What matters for NATO is that the equipment allies acquire is able to operate together,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity as required by alliance procedures. “Interoperability of allied armed forces is essential to NATO for the conduct of our operations.”

However, on Wednesday Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed the critics of Turkey’s deal with Russia, saying Ankara had no intention of waiting for the protection of its NATO allies.

“They have gone crazy because we made a deal for S-400s,” Erdogan said Wednesday in a speech to the ruling AKP mayors in Ankara, as cited by Hurriyet.

“What do you expect? Should we wait for you? We take care of ourselves in every security point. We are taking precautions and we will continue to do so,” the Turkish leader said.

Erdogan criticized the reluctance of US and Israel to authorize supply of combat drones to Turkey as another example of how Turkish security was sidelined by its allies.

“When they did give [drones], their repair and maintenance put us in a difficult position. Now [Turkey] has come to a point where it can produce its own unmanned, armed air vehicles. And now they are uncomfortable with that,” Erdogan added.

Erdogan also dismissed issues of interoperability, brand loyalties or the geopolitical optics of such a sale. “Nobody has the right to discuss the Turkish republic’s independence principles

or independent decisions about its defense industry,” the daily newspaper Hurriyet reported him as saying.

“We make the decisions about our own independence ourselves,” he said. “We are obliged to take safety and security measures in order to defend our country.”

As the NYT adds, Erdogan’s announcement — made to Turkish journalists aboard his presidential jet as he returned from Kazakhstan — appeared timed as a response to two judicial cases announced last week in the United States. One is against his presidential bodyguards, who are charged with assaulting protesters when Mr. Erdogan visited Washington this year. The other is against a group of Turks, including a former minister, accused of breaking United States sanctions against Iran. Erdogan has angrily criticized both cases.

* * *

The S-400 SAM is designed to detect, track and then destroy aircraft, drones or missiles. It’s Russia’s most advanced integrated air defense system, and can hit targets as far as 250 miles away. Russia has also agreed to sell them to China and India, both nations who are masters at reverse engineering. Most concerning for NATO, however is that the systems delivered to Turkey would not have a friend-or-foe identification system, which means they could be deployed against any threat without restriction.

Turkey has been weighing options for acquiring long-range SAMs for years. In 2013, Ankara surprised other NATO members by announcing that it was going to purchase the FD-2000 system from China, sparking criticism from Washington. Defense observers speculated that Turkey played the China card to put pressure on its allies and get better terms for buying a NATO-compatible SAM system, such as the US-made Patriot PAC-3. The Chinese deal stalled and was eventually scrapped, with Turkey reportedly unhappy over Beijing’s reluctance to hand over the technology behind the advanced system. Last year Ankara announced that it was in talks with Russia over a potential purchase of the S-400.

Turkey has other reasons for the missile purchase. It needs to cultivate good relations with Russia, and it also needs to build its own military defense, said Asli Aydintasbas, a fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “Turkey wants the deal,” she said, “and Russia is only too happy to drive a wedge into the NATO alliance.”

While NATO’s collective defense should have been sufficient for Turkey – NATO deployed Patriot missiles there during a rise of tensions with Syria in the past – Erdogan lost trust in the West since last year’s failed “coup attempt”, which he slammed repeatedly as a Western plot to oust him, and appears determined to secure his own defense.

Furthermore, the transfer of technology from Russia is attractive to Turkey: Erdogan has spoken also of his frustration at having requests to the United States for drones turned down, and of his satisfaction that Turkey developed its own.

Notably, Erdogan’s announcement of the deal with Russia came after Germany said that it was suspending all major arms exports to Turkey because of the deteriorating human rights situation in the country and the increasingly strained ties. “We have put on hold all big requests that Turkey sent to us, and these are really not a few,” the German foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, said during a panel discussion in Berlin on Monday, according to Reuters.

While the purchase of Russian missiles will take cooperation between the two nations to a new level, but is not the first time that Turkey has bought military equipment from Russia. It turned to Moscow in the early 1990s to buy military helicopters and armored personnel carriers. Last year, Russia and Turkey reached an agreement to revive a suspended natural-gas pipeline project.

Meanwhile, as the US military-industrial complex has flourished in recent months following a spike in deals with Saudi Arabia, South Korea and other nations courtesy of rising geopolitical tensions, Russia has remained largely squeezed out of the arms market in Western and Eastern Europe, even in countries that once bought nearly all their weapons from the Soviet Union, has looked for years to NATO’S eastern flank as a promising market and the alliance’s weakest link. It has also sold weapons to Greece, another NATO member and to Cyprus, which is not a member of NATO but houses British military bases and effectively serves as an outpost of the alliance.

Meanwhile, as Turkey’s suspicions toward the West have grown, relations with Russia warmed, driven by the personal relationship between Erdogan and Vladimir Putin. Erdogan has expressed personal admiration for Putin, to the consternation of many European and American leaders, if not President Trump. Erdogan has also shown a preference for the Russian model, with its sense of restoring a lost empire, returning Turkey to a more independent place in the world and rejecting Western democracy.

At the same time, the fact that Turkey belongs to NATO has only increased Mr. Putin’s desire to forge strong relations with Mr. Erdogan despite their differences over the conflict in Syria.

Mr. Putin and myself are determined on this issue,” Erdogan told journalists about the missile deal.

The victory of Donald Trump has caught many by surprise. What kind of person is the newly elected American president? According to Gwenda Blair, US author and Trump’s biographer, Trump is polite, professional, very individually minded and hyper competitive.
Americans used to see Donald Trump “as the guy in charge who fixes things” Gwenda Blair, a US journalist and author of “The Trumps: Three Generations of Builders and a Presidential Candidate” highlighted in her interview with Radio Sputnik.

So, what kind of person is Trump?

“He was very polite, professional, not particularly interested in introspection,” Blair, who met Trump while writing his life story, told Radio Sputnik.
“He is someone who is very individually minded,” she continued, “Who speaks about America first, who wants to be first in line, who’s very much for a market economy, who would perhaps be the guy. Somebody who’s very shrewd about competition.”
According to Bair, Trump can be even called “hyper competitive.” The journalist remarked that those who followed the US presidential campaign couldn’t fail to notice it.
“[He is] spending his entire life, being able to size up his rivals and find some little points of give and to go for it. We saw it during the campaign here and I think we are going to see that on the world stage. He’s very sharp, very quick on that,” she underscored.
Likewise, Blair’s book about the Trumps is a story of a fierce competition and brilliant success.
“My book was about Donald, his father and his grandfather,” Blair said, “His grandfather emigrated here from Germany in 1885. And the book was published in 2000. So it gave the readers a very interesting picture of a century of American capitalism. And three men, who in their different times, different places, different eras, really were able to see their target market and market to it extremely successfully as we’ve seen most recently with Donald.”
Although polls predicted a solid Hillary Clinton victory over her political opponent, Trump has eventually come out on top. His astounding victory has caught many by surprise.
What lies at the root of Trump’s success?
Blair believes that Trump “saw an opportunity in an electorate who were very unhappy with the status quo, who were very receptive to a message that Washington is broken, that the elite establishment that’s responsible for how things are now is at the very least irresponsible, probably criminal and probably corrupt.”
In this context the only way to sort things out is to get someone in from the outside, she explained.
“It’s a kind of romance with disruption, with the idea, that you will turn it all over upside down and get rid of the bad people and keep the good people. And that’s a very complicated process of sorting out who’s who,” Blair noted.
The journalist called attention to the fact that the Trumps have made much of their fortune due to their ability to use government programs, sometimes jumping at opportunities to exploit loopholes to create their wealth.
“Donald Trump himself has made, his father before him, and Trump now, much of their fortune due to their being able to use government programs, very creatively, pushing the tax code to absolute limits in order to escape taxes, losing money, other people’s money, and then being able write that loss against his own future income in the next 20 years on an extraordinary level,” she pointed out.
“Is that brilliant, unpatriotic — however people might characterize that — it certainly was a successful tactic,” Blair noted.
That means Trump knows the system well and can fix it. And Trump’s other message was that he could get rid of the establishment that is keeping the American electorate from what it deserved, she added.
“Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it,” Trump told the audience at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this July.
“The problems we face now — poverty and violence at home, war and destruction abroad — will last only as long as we continue relying on the same politicians who created them in the first place,” then Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump emphasized.
He is an alpha male, he is used to being in charge and he takes that role and people responded that they want somebody to fix things,” Blair underscored.

As the U.S. elections draw nearer, the amount of bellicose rhetoric from politicians and key military commanders (in truth, “politicians” as well) has been increasing.  The main focus of that rhetoric has been directed toward Russia, and is also “blathered” in the direction of China, North Korea, and Iran when it suits U.S. political interests.  The problem is that all of it is not just talk: action has been taken, especially regarding Russia and the Syrian theatre of operations.

Within the past several weeks, the U.S. has bombed Syrian troops, killing 62 outside of Deor ez-Zor in airstrikes and then admitting to doing so “mistakenly.”  The Russians responded by firing up a UN/coalition convoy almost immediately after.  Russian naval artillery then took out a command post with approximately 30 “coalition” officers, some of them being Americans.  The U.S. then made itself responsible (indirectly) for an attack on the Russian Embassy in Damascus, Syria: anti-Assad Islamic militants did the job, and these have support with funding and materials of the U.S.

These “cat-and-mouse” exchanges have not been new by any means, as evidenced by the aerial “Top-Gun” provocative fly-by’s that have been occurring all year long, in Syria as well as in Eastern Europe.  The U.S. has retracted the cease fire agreement and suspended all operations and discussions with Russia pertaining to Syria.  What is new is the level that the rhetoric has reached…rhetoric that is no longer rhetorical but actually constitutes direct threats against Russia.

On September 29, 2016 the Washington Post reported these words from U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter:

 “Across the Atlantic, we’re refreshing NATO’s nuclear playbook – to better integrate conventional and nuclear deterrence, to ensure we plan and train like we’d fight, and to deter Russia from thinking it can benefit from a nuclear use in a conflict with NATO.”The irony of that statement is evident.  While the U.S. emplaces missile batteries in Germany, Romania, and Moldova, Russia has not responded by placing missiles in either Cuba or Venezuela, two countries she holds strong ties with both militarily and economically.  Carter champions deterrence while simultaneously works to increase U.S. nuclear and conventional buildups in Eastern Europe.  But it doesn’t stop there with his words.  This was reported by George Ourfalian of AFP in an article entitled US Using Syrian Crisis to ‘Wage a Surrogate War’ Against Russia, on October 4, 2016:

“US State Department spokesman John Kirby has made strong statements regarding Russia’s involvement in Syria, claiming that if Russia will not cooperate with the US, Moscow will keep sending troops home in body bags.”

Strong words, and quite bellicose originating with a State Department spokesman completely removed from harm’s way.  Then this came out today, the date of this writing on October 5th as reported by Alex Jones’ Prison Planet:

“I want to be clear to those who wish to do us harm…. the United States military – despite all of our challenges, despite our [operational] tempo, despite everything we have been doing – we will stop you and we will beat you harder than you have ever been beaten before. Make no mistake about that.” 

General Mark Milley, U.S. Army Chief of Staff

Milley was directing these words toward Russia.  He went on to describe the next coming war, as such:

“[The next war will] be highly lethal, unlike anything our Army has experienced at least since World War II,” and would involve fighting in “highly populated urban areas.”

Did the General mean overseas, or in the United States?  The Russians are currently (until the 7th of October) conducting nuclear evacuation drills involving over 40 million people.  Everyone from Putin and his general staff to local Moscow reporters believe that a nuclear war started by the United States is just on the horizon.  Just this week, Putin shelved an agreement between Russia and the U.S. to reduce the amount of Plutonium that can be converted into nuclear warheads.

That agreement had been forthcoming since Obama initiated it in 2012, but Putin was straightforward in his reasoning behind cancelling things on Russia’s end from PrepBlog on 10/3/16 that because of U.S. belligerence, Russia needs:

 “…urgent measures to defend the security of the Russian Federation.”

Putin and the Russian people believe the U.S.’s actions are going to lead to a nuclear conflict initiated by the United States.  The leadership of the U.S. is made up of politicians who began their careers as Marxist-Socialists.  Traitors now have their fingers on the triggers of the nuclear warheads, aided by “yes-men” of the general staffs who will not remember their oaths to the Constitution of the United States and the American people.  They will ignore that these charges take precedence above any orders given by a petty, dope-smoking, Marxist community organizer of dubious citizenship who was “emplaced” into office to destroy the country.

Instead of statesmen and diplomats, we now have self-interested, politically-motivated belligerents backing Russia and other nations into corners and pushing them toward war.  How long the war of words will be continued is unknown; however, when the missiles begin to fly you can be certain of something.  You can rest assured that the men who spoke those words will be in bunkers and other safe places and out of harm’s way…paid for by the American taxpayer.

German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel called for dialogue instead of “ice age” in relations with Russia.
Isolating Russia politically is not a way forward at a time when the world is struggling with global challenges, German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said Thursday.

“I am convinced that permanent isolation is not a sensible policy. Russia is our neighbor and also a very important global actor. Exactly now when we have profound disagreements we need a dialogue – not ‘ice age,’” Gabriel said at a national industrial conference in Berlin.

The war in Syria is significant in two ways. First, the outcome can reshape the Arab Middle East. Second, and perhaps more important, Syria is not simply about Syrians. The US, Russian, Iranian, Turkish, and French forces are engaged there along with the Islamic State (IS), al-Qaida, and secular Arabs. The Saudis and the rest of the Arab monarchies also exert political and economic influence on Syria.

I have written in the past about how the growing crises in Eurasia are increasingly interacting. Syria is the place where that interaction is the greatest and most violent.

Prior to World War II, there was a civil war in Spain. Nazi Germany and fascist Italy sent troops. The Soviet Union did as well. In addition, leftists from around the world flocked there to fight. The French and British refused to get involved, trying not to be drawn in. The Spanish Civil War was said to be a rehearsal for World War II. The major players of the European war were there—though some weren’t. New weapons were tried out. The civil war ended in April 1939, five months before Germany invaded Poland, which began World War II.

Syria is drawing in major global and regional powers. When, for example, the US and Russia are engaged in a country – with very different goals and supporting hostile factions – it is certainly not something to dismiss out of hand. On the contrary, Syria matters a great deal. If nothing else, it has become a test of the strength of powers with interests far beyond Syria.

The Origins of the Syrian Conflict

There is a class of conflicts whose importance to us diminishes over time. These conflicts involve intense slaughter and suffering and generate endless conferences, meetings, and wringing of hands by global statesman. But these wars seem never-ending. Their origins are lost in the mists of time, the situations on the battlefield are hard to grasp, and they appear to have little consequence to the rest of the world. The relief workers do a heroic job and try to shame us into caring and giving, but in the end, each conflict seems to be just another war in a faraway place having little to do with our own lives.

But Syria is far more than that.

The current regime was founded by Hafez al-Assad, an air force general, in a military coup. He was an Alawite, part of the Shiite sect of Islam. He was also a secularist. Gamal Abdel Nasser, an Egyptian military officer, had staged a coup in Egypt in 1952 and wanted to create a state based on three principles: secularism, socialism, and Pan-Arabism. His vision was the creation not of a caliphate, but of a secular, socialist, unified Arab world, based on military rule. Many regimes were patterned on this, including Assad’s regime in Syria.

But ideology aside, Assad represented the Alawite faction, and what he created was a state built around his faction. Other factions were excluded, oppressed, and not infrequently, killed. However, Alawites are only around 12% of the Syrian population, which was why he relied heavily on the minorities (Christians, mainstream Shiites, Ismailis, Kurds, and Druze) that together constitute 40% of the population. More important, he also relied on many Sunnis. Even today, the regime is alive because a lot of Sunnis have not rebelled against the state. Nevertheless, Assad kept Syria from fragmenting by suppressing any challenge to him. After he died, his son, Bashar al-Assad, kept running the family business.

The Arab Spring in 2011 generated a challenge to his regime. The problem was that the opposition was deeply split. They spent as much time fighting each other as they spent fighting Assad. Democracy had little to do with it. The Alawite-Sunni split had a great deal to do with it. But the Assad regime had a lot of support.

One of the misunderstandings of US foreign policy has been that tyrants rule only through the threat of violence. That is true, but in order to have a credible threat of violence, you have to have people who are prepared to carry that violence out. And they need to be loyal to you, or they may turn the violence against you. Tyrants do not live alone in isolated palaces. If they did, they wouldn’t live very long.

The Alawites had done extremely well under the Assads. They dominated the military, trade, smuggling, and internal business. They were hated by many Sunnis, especially the more religiously inclined. The Alawites knew that if Assad fell, their position would collapse, and they would become the target. They, therefore, had to resist the uprising, and since they controlled the military, they believed they would not be defeated. Assad was not going to be overthrown by a wildly fragmented and poorly armed and trained opposition.

Enter the Americans

The Assads had been a problem for the United States in many ways. They sent weapons and supplies into Iraq during the US occupation from 2003 to 2011. They helped destabilize Lebanon. They fought multiple wars with Israel. And above all, they were closely aligned with the Iranians, fellow Shiites. Hezbollah in Lebanon, also an ally of Iran and Syria, represented a terrorist threat for the US (even in 2011 when the Sunnis were the main enemy). When the Syrian war began, the US saw a chance to crack Assad, dramatically reduce Iranian influence in the region, and break Hezbollah.

The problem was that the US didn’t want to get directly involved in the war, at least not excessively. Since most Sunni groups were jihadist, the US had to find groups that were anti-jihadist, anti-Iranian, and anti-Assad… and that were motivated to fight. The US was looking for secularists not aligned with Assad. It was, to say the least, difficult to find such a group. It was also hard to be certain that they would stay that kind of group, and that they wouldn’t sell the weapons they were given. Still, the US felt it had enough to gain to keep trying.

At this point, IS emerged, seizing control of parts of Iraq and Syria. This put the US in a fix. If it brought Assad down, IS might extend its power. If it attacked IS, it would give Assad breathing room and alienate some of the opposition (some of which wanted an all-out attack on Assad while others didn’t want IS hindered). The US found itself “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy,” as the song about the Vietnam War went, and it had yet to create an effective opposition to Assad anyway.

More Global Powers Get Involved

Then, the Russians became involved militarily. Russian intelligence had been close to the Assads since they took over in Syria. Russia did not want him to fall. But it had far greater problems than Assad. First, it suffered a strategic setback in a crucial buffer state, Ukraine, when a pro-Russian government was replaced by a pro-Western one. Attempts to foment an uprising in the east failed, and all Russia could claim was control over Crimea, where by treaty it had already based major force.

Second, the collapse of oil prices had a massive impact on the economy that was going to pyramid. At the very least, President Vladimir Putin needed to demonstrate that, barring Ukraine, Russia was a major power.

The military importance of his decision to deploy a relatively small number of aircraft and special forces in Syria was massively inflated by the Russians, who wanted to appear stronger than they were, and by the Americans, who wanted to make Russia out as an aggressor. Both approaches helped cement Russia’s role. Then, having deployed aircraft and troops, Russia confronted the same problem as the Americans. The Russians could not reshape the Syrian landscape, especially with US resistance.

The US, Russia, and Iran were all active in Syria and unable to end the conflict. That left the Turks. The Turks hated the Assad regime, and when the Russians first intervened, the Turks shot down a Russian plane, causing a serious confrontation. Then, there was an attempted coup in Turkey, and the Turks turned against the Americans (who they partly blamed for the failed coup) and got closer to the Russians. Realizing that the Russians were inflexible on Assad, the Turks shifted back toward the Americans and were prepared to fight IS, but only if the US understood that the Turks had a simultaneous war underway with the Kurds.

Syria did not simply draw players in. It sent huge numbers of migrants to Europe as well. This triggered a huge crisis in the European Union, dividing countries that wanted to block migration from those that would encourage it. This compounded already existing tensions in Europe over the economy. It is reasonable to say that Syrian migrants shaped the Brexit vote, encouraged the rise of radical nationalist groups throughout Europe, and redefined the underlying issues.

The Paris terrorist attacks had another effect. The French sent an aircraft carrier to carry out airstrikes in Syria in cooperation with the United States. The Syrian migrants and the inability of European forces to block them, or to take effective unilateral action against IS after the attacks on Paris and other cities, generated not only greater military involvement in Syria, but long-term planning to manage the fallout from the conflict.

Syria as a Testing Ground

Syria is a battleground in which the United States, Russia, Turkey, and Iran are increasingly involved. Watching barely on the sidelines are the Israelis and the Saudis, while Lebanon is constantly uncertain. Iraq is heavily influenced by what is happening in Syria, while the Kurds, facing IS in Iraq, are now facing Turkish forces in Turkey and Syria. And the Europeans are coping with a wave of terrorism and contemplating rearmament. All of this is driven by Syria, a country that seems gridlocked in a permanent and insoluble war. But it is a country that has brought together friends, enemies, and contenders for power in a small place. It reminds me of nothing as much as Spain in the 1930s.

For the first time since the 1940s, all of Eurasia is unstable. Syria is not the pivot of this instability, but it is the showcase. Most major powers are there or nearby, except the Chinese.

My eyes glaze over when I hear about Syria, yet they shouldn’t. I have to force myself to see the increasing importance of this test war.

As a young boy I enjoyed my family’s bantam chickens that laid very small eggs and hatched very small chicks. Theirs was a small and miniature world.

One day one of my bantams started sitting on eggs to hatch its chicks. Something happened to her eggs but she continued to sit, so I decided to put a duck egg under her. Duck eggs are at least three times bigger than bantam eggs and take a few days longer to hatch, but she dutifully sat on the egg several days longer. She hatched the duckling and, as you can imagine, it thought that his world was normal and that the bantam hen was his mother.

The duckling eventually grew into a full sized mallard duck, probably five or six times the size of its bantam mother. The full-grown duck would follow its hen mother around as would normal chicks. It was a funny sight to watch.

 

But I remember thinking, even as a small boy, that the duck’s entire reality was that the bantam hen was his mother and that was the way the world worked. He had no need to consider anything else.

This is the world of the American people today. Their perceptions of reality control them and they who control their perceptions control the American people.

Our perception of America has always been that she is the mother country and ordained by God, good and just and a beacon of freedom. This is hammered into our psyches from our early days.

From pre-school up, we are taught to worship the state. I don’t know if it is still done, but in the public (non)education system, for many years, schoolchildren across the South – and elsewhere, I suppose — recited the Pledge of Allegiance each morning. Political rallies and government meetings are still often begun with a recitation of the pledge.

 People say it with patriotic fervor, with their hands placed dutifully on their hearts.

Sporting events, political rallies and other public venues are often kicked off with the playing and/or singing of the Star Spangled Banner. Before the song begins, people are instructed to rise, men to remove their hats; and people place their hands over their hearts. They don’t realize its value as a propaganda tool.

We have come to equate the flag, the pledge and the national anthem with patriotism, and patriotism with government, country and support for government, support for foreign wars and veterans. Anything less is “un-American.”

Beyond its patriot fervor is the almost religious fervor and religious symbolism of the American people’s actions when the pledge and the national anthem begin: the ritual standing, removal of hats, placing of hands and rote recitation. In the book of Daniel, Israelites Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego) refused to worship the golden image of Nebuchadnezzar contrary to the king’s decree. The king ordered them to be thrown into the furnace after it was turned up to seven times its normal temperature.

NFL player Colin Kaepernick created a stir last week when he refused to stand for the national anthem. He was not subsequently ordered into the furnace by the king, but he was burned symbolically by many football fans who torched their jerseys. Americans fumed that he should “leave” America if he can’t support the flag; and that he had disrespected the flag, the nation and veterans.

What are we saying when we say that someone “disrespected the flag,”  “disrespected the country,” “disrespected the veterans” if he chooses to not stand for the national anthem? What is the flag but a piece of cloth? By the reaction to Kaepernick, it seems it has become more of a golden calf to represent mother country or the god of government.

Our mother has become a witch. Yes, same symbols, same flag, same pledge of allegiance, but a decadent spirit controlling the perceptions of the American people, keeping them on the animal farm (controlling their perceptions) long enough to impoverish and enslave them.

Time and gradualism can change a system all the way from human liberty to slavery (the animal farm) over a few generations without anyone being aware except a very few, those who ask questions.

“America, love it or leave it,” is a tired canard. One cannot leave it except at great cost. Recall that in 1860-1861 11 states attempted to “leave it” in order to preserve their liberty and rights as sovereign states. They were branded as “insurrectionists” and attacked by the War Party and the result was their economic and social destruction, subjugation and the deaths of some 850,000 people (the equivalent of about 8.5 million people today). When one talks of secession today he’s branded as a racist, crazy or a radical and told secession is “illegal.”

One can love his country but hate his government and its actions. I love America but not the people who control America and its government. I love America, but its rulers are alien to individual freedom, its government now anathema to liberty.

If the flag is symbolic of government and that government lies at every turn, enslaves its people, steals from their labor, passes laws that are an execration to their Christian faith, takes from them their liberty, mandates the murder of 1 million babies a year, imports tens of thousands of immigrants to replace American workers and drive down wages, and that makes war on other countries that have not threatened us, why should any acknowledge its presence with more than a sneer?

Wars are not for patriotism and “democracy,” as we are propagandized. And our freedom has not been threatened by outside forces in 200 years. Wars are to kill; i.e., mass ritual murder. Additionally, big business and globalist banksters in league with Satan reap massive profits for the killing and sacrifice of young men (lambs) on all sides of combat.

If the flag is symbolic of the Constitution, that Constitution died long ago — destroyed by a crony railroad lawyer and mercantilist who made war on a sovereign people to benefit monied interests.

If the flag is symbolic of freedom, that freedom no longer exists — stolen long ago by crony corporations and globalist banksters and unaccountable oligarchical black-robed satanists and idol worshippers who usurped their authority created laws out of thin air under the guise of “interpreting the Constitution” a dictate not granted them under the original document.

The phony form of patriotism instilled within the population is strong leverage against independent thinking, keeping people ignorant of the treason by our own government.

America today is a more advanced state of fascism than World War II Germany and Italy. Fascism never identifies itself as totalitarianism. It always calls itself democracy.

Democracy is the politically correct word and cover term for modern American fascism.

American fascism has all the attributes and trappings of benevolent totalitarianism. No, benevolent totalitarianism is not an oxymoron.

The word benevolent in this instance means that the general perception of the population of the American system is that it is benevolent. This is only to say that modern America is full-blown fascism with a pretty face. It is every bit as deadly to human liberty as any tyranny in history and I would add far more sinister because of its propaganda sophistication.

Any regime that can spin tons of fiat paper money with printing presses or electronically is a slave system regardless of what it calls itself or regardless of the general population’s perception of it.

Our mother has been transformed into a witch no matter how much we love her.