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08 March 2016


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He is not alluding to Rowling but to Tolkien.

I didn't read Rowling. And it is ages ago (early 70s) I read Tolkien's Trilogy and its precursor, but I loved the example too, Babak.



Thanks, David. Which indirectly leads us back to another thread of your 'meditations', in a nutshell: the individual versus the collective. Somewhat at least it feels.

You will realize that your allusion was a bit hard to swallow for me, at least where it first caught my attention in one of your comments. Not least since in our own post NSU (national socialist underground) universe--due to the refugee crisis--the extreme right both the non-parliamentarian terrorist activists and their parliamentarian friends are on the rise. They no doubt consider themselves the right type of collectivists.


I expected an attack on Palmyra but not before the SAA reached Lake Assad at Tabqa cutting ISIS in two and severing their last road link to Turkey followed by a loud propaganda feint about attacking Raqqa to draw ISIS forces away from the southern offensive.Have either of these two things occurred? After the liberation of Palmyra does the SAA have the logistic capability to launch a dash across 150 miles of flat and mostly empty desert to relieve Deir e Zor? This could set up a blocking force to keep ISIS troops from escaping to Iraq, the Russian goal being not to drive them out of Syria but to trap and kill as many as possible especially the foreign islamocrusaders before they can return to Russia or its near abroad.


Is it possible that making public Qawwat al-Nimr's - Tiger Force's - presence at Palmyra is done thus to draw ISIL's attention here?

In connection to this, how well and how quickly can SAA redeploy forces using airborne means, say helicopters, an edge they have over their insurgent enemies? Perhaps SAA-command is banking on ISIL mobilizing their crack battalions to Palmyra, wide-open country, under the assumption that they would go toe-to-toe with the force that humbled their brothers at the Kuweires-pocket and the short-lived second attempt at an Aleppo-road blockade. Is there one historic example comes to mind where the banner of a famous combat unit was raised in one place to lure the enemies' cream of the crop to a certain location while the actual elite unit itself could strike elsewhere, thus securing victory by such subterfuge?

Even in times where banners are a thing for parades rather than organizing one's battle-lines, ideas behind such ruses don't necessarily change.



That could be any kind of weapon. Troops are always good at developing their own multi-purpose use of weapons. Ant-tank weapons have often been used tis way. Think recoilless guns and anti-aircraft weapons like the Shilka. The ultimate of course was the German 88mm anti-aircraft gun. pl


Thank you. Thank you. This is perhaps the best analysis of the partitioning proposal that I've ever seen. I have seen several partitioning proposals, including one from Michael Flynn in his Spiegel article, which really threw me off, to be honest.

I'm not sure if this New Sykes-Picot proposal by Van Buren is part of a campaign from one faction or another but it seems likely. However, Van Buren claims this is his own analysis, not part of any group. (I asked him this question).

I wonder, Dubhaltach and Col Lang, if I can get your permission to use some of this text in a blog post I'm working on. I would, of course, credit you and link it here.


I have read that Syrian Kurds do not really want a separate country but are more interested in an autonomous region in a federated Syria with a weaker central government but still a unified Syria.


Anyone watching the Future of War conference hosted by New America? I have it on in the background here. Some of it is good and some of it is terrifying, especially the future battlefield which the Marine commandant said would be populated remotely by robots and semi-autonomous weapons.

It goes on til 6pm.
Livestream near the bottom of screen here:



A dynamic map of the Syrian conflict - http://www.cartercenter.org/syria-conflict-map/


Pat & TTG,

The proper term for radical forms of this practice (at which Hezbollah seems to excel) should be "exaptation": A feature having a function for which it was not originally adapted or selected - a word borrowed from evolutionary biology.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exaptation



From today's NYT:

“WASHINGTON — President Obama believes that Saudi Arabia, one of America’s most important allies in the Middle East, …”

“The Saudis, Mr. Obama told Jeffrey Goldberg, the magazine’s national correspondent, “need to find an effective way to share the neighborhood and institute some sort of cold peace.”

Why is the President saying Saudi Arabia is an ally?



Kurds and Arabs would be considered Untermenschen back then by the French And British. The plan was to rule it and give them independence only in the far, far future (next millennium or so). I seriously doubt the Western powers didn't do it out of fear of civil war because Syria and Iraq were during their whole colonial time in constant, predictable, rebellion.


According to https://almasdarnews.com/article/tiger-forces-transferred-to-northern-hama-after-kuweires-liberation/ Tiger force was moved to Hama when the Kuweires airfield was relieved. How Tiger Force then created the Kuweires-pocket is something i don't completely get (maybe it is a example of what you mean ;-)

Babak Makkinejad

Wonder never ceases:


Larry M.

".. an explosive pomegranate of discord in the heart of the Middle East…"

Thanks for your devastating analysis of an exquisitely bad idea, but the above comparison is even more apt than it looks. The word "pomegranate", "ruman" in Arabic, is "rimon" in Hebrew where it also can mean "hand grenade".



IMO you left out a few steps

First - the taking of Kuweires air base
second - the clearing of the pocket between Kuweires air base and the main government positions to the west.
Third - the fighting to restore the LOC to Aleppo
Fourth - The present offensive to the east. pl



Yes, a judgement from the court in a jurisdiction where the DA can indict a ham sandwich but can't figure out how to indict any of the criminal bankers who collapsed the global economy in 2008.

Lord Curzon

Not the first time - in the Falklands War, the Royal Marines and the Parachute Regiment used Milans to take out Argentinian trenches, so breaking the interlocking fields of fire before assaulting forward.


I don't understand how this is possible. I clicked the button "read more"
however nothing proceeded. What proof did the court have to show Iran
was responsible?



As I understand this, Iran did not respond to a lawsuit against them and for that reason the judge ruled as he did. pl


It is an old article written a few days after Kuweires was relieved so now a couple of months old.


Given their obvious usefulness, why haven't western forces slapped (in a manner of speaking) a HE warhead on older AT missiles? For long range sniping work they are certainly very useful; a group with FO, a sniper, an AT gunner and some grunts carrying missiles could dish out a lot of pain.
During my time AT missiles were for tanks, command vehicles and engineering vehicles only...
Some kind of laser guided rocket would also work...
Found use by Marines in Fallujah...
All in all not as original as I thought...

The Twisted Genius


As Colonel Lang already mentioned, using AT missiles against targets other than armored vehicles is not new. I used 106mm recoiless rifle HEAT rounds against enemy infantry positions in 1983. I like the Russian kornet missile system. It's much lighter than our TOW. Although primarily an AT system, it has that thermobaric round. Looking at that youtube video again, it doesn't look like they were using anything other than AT missiles. It would be sweet if Russia sent a few container loads of those thermobaric missiles to the SAA.


My assumption was that words with similar phonetics can have completely different roots and timelines of developement.

David Habakkuk


I am afraid you have tempted me into some meanderings on the 'individual', and the 'collective'.

In the kind of British Cold War liberalism in which I was reared, a fundamental influence was the interpretation of the disasters of twentieth-century history by the Austrian Jewish emigré philosopher of science Sir Karl Popper.

One central thread of these had to do with the polemic against 'historicism' – in the use he gave to the term, the notion that one could identify patterns in history enabling one to make generalisations about the future with strong predictive power. With this part of Popper's reading of the lessons of twentieth century history I have stuck.

Obviously, a corollary of this is that Francis Fukuyama and his acolytes took precisely the wrong lessons from the collapse of Soviet communism. For a consistent Popperian, what unites him and Leon Trotsky is actually as or more significant than what divides them. The 'end of history' nonsense is as dangerous as 'permanent revolution' was.

Another central part of Popper's polemic was the contrast between the 'open society', and 'tribalism'. By contrast to the polemic against 'historicism', I came over the years to think that the implicit view of National Socialism as a simple reversion to a past we ought to be able totally to transcend was both false, and potentially dangerous in its implications.

This argument is made in what is, to my mind, a very brilliant short book published in 1995 by the eminent American historian William H. McNeill, under the title 'Keeping Together in Time: Dance and Drill in Human History.' It opens with a recollection of the – psychologically transformative – effects of close-order drill as draftee in September 1941.

Put simply, McNeill's central point is that human beings are, by their nature, not simply 'individuals' but members of groups, based on forms of emotional bonding created and maintained not simply by what people think but by what they do: by drill, dance, and ritual. As he noted, memories of National Socialism had served to discredit – make people wary of – such forms of emotional bonding.

But, as McNeill put it in his conclusion, 'Hitler's brutal, suicidal path is not the only way to go'. The appropriate response to National Socialism is not to attempt to escape from fundamental elements of our nature into an illusory utopia of pure individualism and total rationalism.

If instead we start by attempting to grasp the kind of creatures we are, we may understand that the need for group identity, and for drill, dance and ritual to establish and sustain it, can be manifested, and satisfied, in benign as well as catastrophic ways.

Having got so far, we can then start to think about how to try to ensure that they are manifested and satisfied in benign rather than catastrophic ways.

And here, perhaps ironically, a problem is that Fukuyama and Popper alike are treating the 'totalitarian' nightmares of the last century as essentially atavistic – relics of a past from which we ought ought to be able to set ourselves free.

In so doing, bizarrely, their interpretations lead a ludicrous overestimate of the possibilities of some kind of direct recurrence of the past. This is manifested alike in the determination of Zionists to treat the Holocaust as the result of some ineradicable and inexplicable aspiration on the part of the 'goyim' to kill Jews, which could reappear at any moment, and also the determination of all and sundry to see Putin as being, as it were, the 'Second Coming of Karla'.

At the same time, a large body of reflection – much more reflected in conventional historical writing than it used to be, but key parts of which are to be found either in less conventional historical writing, such as work on millenarianism, and also anthropology and critically fiction – does not influence political discussion.

Characteristic of much of this is an awareness of how sharp distinctions between the 'individual' and the 'collective' break down. Also, what is lost in the past, what may recur, becomes problematic in complex ways.

An example I quoted in a comment on a recent thread is Thomas Mann's 1947 novel 'Doktor Faustus'. Having read that as a student, and been puzzled at the way one could not relate its account of National Socialism to anything I was hearing in history lecture classes, I later came to suspect that this was a problem with the history classes.

In part, Mann takes one into a world which seems completely dead. So the apparently bizarre choice of a composer – whose innovations are in substantial measure modelled on those of Arnold Schoenberg – to make a point about the way that a radical emphasis on the 'individual' can collapse back into a correspondingly radical emphasis on the 'collective' may seem anachronistic.

But then, perhaps, it is but it isn't. So on the one hand the 'Borg' is characterised by a further radicalisation of the claims of the 'individual', in particular against traditional constraints linked to gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. In so doing, its members see themselves as having transcended the wickednesses of the 'collectives' of the past: and here, the 'secular cult of the Shoah' – to use Babak's phrase – is important, for its meaning for the 'goyim' quite as much as its meaning for Jews.

On the other – and partly because of this – a central feature of the 'Borg' is its conviction of its own rightness. Accordingly, its members come to form an ideological 'collective'. It is not easy attempting to engage them in debate – commonly, they simply take for granted that any substantive disagreement with them can have no value whatsoever. (I speak from experience on this.)

The only relevant question is how disagreement is to be explained away – as the product of filthy Kremlin lucre, of an innately evil disposition, or of stupidity, or of an ineffable vulgarity which any sophisticated person can only treat with contempt.

As a result, members of the 'Borg' are increasingly finding themselves trapped by the emergence of dissents and resentments they simply cannot understand.

In particular, the Jewish members treat apocalyptic anti-Semitism as a clear and present danger – and actually are contributing to a revival in (non-apocalyptic) anti-Semitism. A lot of people, who have real problems in their own lives, are frankly fed up with the culture of 'empowered victimhood' as practised by figures like Jeffrey Goldberg, Simon Schama, Ari Shavit, etc etc. (Soon, people will start saying out loud: 'when are you going to stop whining?)

And while denouncing figures like Trump in terms which come straight out of their self-images as having transcended the nightmares of the past, members of the 'Borg' are pushing a lot of people with perfectly natural concerns and interpretations towards right-wing populist leaders.

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