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13 July 2016

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Lemur (prev EA)

One of the reasons Syria was destabilized, according to some analysts whose handles escape me, was rapprochement between Syria and Lebanon (in addition to the Hezbollah question).

Should the Syrian war turn out favourably for Assad, Iran, and Russia; Lebanon will be irresistibly drawn toward this loose alliance. Russia can effectively arbitrate between the competing Lebanese factions to forge a cohesive state once again. That must seriously rustle Israeli jimmies. Because now a Great Power of over whom they have no control other to point out common interests, presides over their 'security'.

Evidence from the Camel's Mouth itself Lebanon is slipping away from GCC and thus Western control:
http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/2016/02/19/saudi-arabia-cancels-3b-aid-lebanon-french-weapons-deal-held/80602784/

turcopolier

TTG

Do I remember correctly that there was a 10th LAF Brigade that was mostly Shia and largely stationed in Shia country in the Bekaa Valley? pl

JMH

On a somewhat related note, this State Dept press brief from June 27 is just stunning, and the lady middle eastern journalist is also just stunning. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pmbCjNZAfs

The Twisted Genius

pl,

The 8th was largely Christian with a sizable minority of Sunnis in 1983. It gained its chops at the extended battle of Souk al Gharb against the Druze militias. Michel Aoun commanded at the time. They had M-48s and AMX-13s as their armor.

turcopolier

TTG

What was the LAF major formation in the Beqaa? pl

The Twisted Genius

I think the 1st Brigade was in the Beqaa at the time. It was mostly Shia. The 10th was there as I was leaving and it was mostly Christian.

I don't know why I fixated on the 8th in my answer to your original question. Just shows you where my mind was.

Tony

"We may be talking about the R+7 this time next year". I was naively hoping by next year there would not be any ISIS or jihadis left in Syria.

turcopolier

TTG

Yes. It was the 1st Brigade. pl

JamesT

Actually she is Russian. She is RT's Washington correspondent.

I find it interesting to watch her work. Every time she asks hard questions you can see most of the American journalists give her sideways disapproving looks. Even the few US journalists who sometimes look a bit sympathetic never come to her aid. It is so much like a high school lunch room.

The Beaver

@ Tony

You are forgetting the chihuahua Adel al-Jubeir Saudi FM.
Looks like the Saudis are putting money in HRC campaign - how ? is another question and Jubeir ( presently in DC) is till calling for the removal of Assad and is telling to whomever is listening that KSA will have strong ties with the future POTUS.

New Queen Boadicea will be willing to help, should she be in the WH next January. As far as Trump, it will depend on as who will be across the Potomac and at Foggy Bottom.

b

I do not see much reason for Israel to be concerned about the Russian weapon supply. Hizbullah already had Kornets, lots of them, and likely now also a bunch of TOWs. T-72s would unlikely be useful for Hizb. The landscape down south Lebanon is not good tank country (just ask the Israelis :-) and there are better means to defend it or even to attack when needed.

The Twisted Genius

b,

It's not the weaponry that would concern the Israelis, it's the possibility of Russia taking the LAF under its wing and fostering a closer relationship between the LAF and Hezbollah. It complicates IDF planning for the next war.

b

There will be no next war in my view. Hizbullah has now enough potential to bring Israel to its knees. Likewise Israel can destroy Lebanon. No one has any longer illusions about that. Therefore - lots of loud talks and bragging, but no one willing to actually start the certain catastrophe.

turcopolier

b

"Hizbullah has now enough potential (in rockets and missiles) to bring Israel to its knees." Yes. Hizbullah can now destroy much of the population of the northern half of Israel. Israel. The Israelis have admitted to me that they have no ability to prevent a maximum effort by Hizbullah to fire a couple of huge salvos into their country. Is this MAD? Maybe. pl

Babak Makkinejad

So, once again MAD is ensuring Peace.

Are you paying attention David Habakkuk?

And here is V. Putin:

"... I just want to tell you something in person, and remind you of some things. After all, the world is free of large-scale wars or military conflict, and we all know that. This is due to the so-called strategic balance..."

http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/52183

ex-PFC Chuck

Babak, MAD worked out OK in Cold War I, but only in recent years has it emerged how close things came to going totally pear shaped. According to a recent review in the New York Review of Books, William Perry's recent book he goes into some considerable detail on the matter. In addition to the link to the review below, there are links about specific incidents that have recently come to light. I found the last one especially troubling; it came close to guns drawn in a cruise missile launch control room.
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2016/07/14/a-stark-nuclear-warning/
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/oct/27/vasili-arkhipov-stopped-nuclear-war
http://thebulletin.org/okinawa-missiles-october8826

Babak Makkinejad

Thanks.

What are your alternative recommendations?

ex-PFC Chuck

To back away from confrontation with Russia and China. NOW!

BraveNewWorld

I think Netanyahu and Lieberman are both crazy enough to order the war. But like the attack on Iran I believe the military will refuse to carry out the order unless Israel is attacked first and arranging to get your self attacked won't count.

David Habakkuk

Babak Makkinejad,

The effect of nuclear weapons on the likelihood of war is – as with other technologies – specific to particular situations. Some points.

1. As the pieces to which ex-PFC Chuck links brings out, the risks of conflict breaking out by accident, or a chain of events spiralling out of control, were far greater in the Cold War than generally realised.

On the reasons why this was so, I would also recommend a review of Eric Schlosser's 2013 study ‘Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety’, by Bruce Blair – a sometime Minuteman launch control officer who became one of the world’s leading authorities on nuclear command and control. In conclusion, Blair writes:

‘Eric Schlosser deserves a medal for exposing the popular narrative of the Cold War for the fiction that it is. The nuclear confrontation was anything but stable. It teetered on the edge of conflagration. Unleashing the forces took priority over preventing their use by accident, mistake, or without authority. Safeguards and safety features fell short in peacetime and degenerated in a crisis. And because of the uncertainties of retaliation – whether by means of pre-delegation, doomsday machinery, or launch-on-warning – both sides stood all too ready to initiate a first strike in a crisis.

‘Schlosser thoroughly captures this shrouded arc of Cold War history. Would that the major institutions of society and government (media, academia, think tanks, Congress) and key civilian officials most responsible for nuclear policy possessed Schlosser’s grasp of the extraordinary danger lurking beneath a false sense of security. Extreme secrecy hid the truth from them. Only a small coterie of nuclear mandarins knew the score. Excessive secrecy remains a serious obstacle to exercising democratic control over nuclear weapons, and it undermines our security, but less so thanks to Schlosser’s exposé.’

(See http://www.globalzero.org/files/bb_mad_fiction_2014.pdf .)

Do you see any reasons to believe that these grossly underreported realities, or something similar, are not going to be relevant to other nuclear confrontations? From the remarks quoted in the ‘New York Review of Books’ piece by the former Secretary of Defense William Perry, it seems clear that he does not.

2. One then needs to ask how convincing the evidence is for the claim that, had nuclear weapons never been invented, the Cold War would have turned hot.

And – unless you believe that the United States and its allies would have started such a war – you need to look at the question of whether the Soviets would have been likely to have done so. Here, a good start is to look at the realities of the military balance which emerged as a result of the outcome of the Second World War: and in particular, how these looked from the Soviet side.

On this, I would recommend an essay put up on the website of the Foreign Military Studies Office at Fort Leavenworth in 1994, entitled ‘Russian Military Strategy in Historical Perspective’. Its author, General-Mayor Valentin Larionov, compiled and co-authored the classic Soviet statement of the strategy of winning a nuclear war by pre-emption, the original 1962 edition of the study ‘Military Strategy’ published under the name of Marshal Sokolovsky.

Later, he became one of the military figures most closely identified with Gorbachev’s ‘new thinking’. In that capacity, I and a colleague interviewed Larionov for the BBC in February 1989, and he talked to us about a Soviet strategist of the ‘Twenties called Aleksandr Svechin, whom he mentions in the article. He was a scholarly man with steel teeth – I really liked him.

As I only learnt later, Svechin was one of the greatest of the former Tsarist general staff officers who taught the Red Army how to fight, as well as a notable interpreter of Clausewitz: a man of immense and diverse military experience and broad learning.

From his reading of Clausewitz, through the writings of the German civilian theorist Hans Delbrück, Svechin took the distinction between ‘destruction’ and ‘attrition’. As regards the former, think Napoleon at Jena, or ‘blitzkrieg’; as regards the latter, think Napoleon’s campaigns in Spain and Russia, or the First World War.

Contrary to some misconceptions, Svechin was not an advocate of ‘attrition’ over ‘destruction’: what he did believe was that different approaches were appropriate in different contexts, and what was critical was to adjust responses to ever-changing technological and political realities.

3. Following Tukhachevsky’s victory over Svechin in the arguments of the ‘Twenties, the culture of the Red Army became very heavily committed to Napoleon-style strategies of ‘destruction’ – and remained so through until the ‘Eighties.

What patently haunted Larionov is quite precisely the fact that, initially, the advent of nuclear weapons breathed new life into strategies of ‘destruction’ – alike in the Soviet Union and the United States. Looking back on what he terms the ‘romantic’ stage of thinking about nuclear weapons, he writes:

‘The basic form of strategic actions in such a war was considered to be the nuclear missile strikes of the offensive forces and the actions of the anti-air and anti-missile defense in deflecting these strikes.

‘Strategic offensive operations in ground theaters of military actions were planned as the way to exploit the nuclear strikes of strategic forces.

‘The war would be lightning fast, according to our forecasts, although the possibility of a protracted war was not excluded if the reserves of nuclear weapons were exhausted. At that time these nuclear reserves numbered in the dozens of weapons. I recall that the Minister of Defense at the time, Marshal Malinovskiy, said: "The 'Blitzkrieg' strategy failed because the material means for its realization were lacking, but now we have those means – nuclear weapons."

‘It must be said that all these plans and forecasts were vindicated – and with good reason – by the development in the USA of the theory and practical aspects of "massive nuclear retaliation", a concept also based on the conviction that it could be successfully implemented without retaliation. And so, we are forced to share equally this romanticism of the easy nuclear victory.’

4. Key elements of the underlying logic here are precisely those which underpinned the key NSC 68 paper masterminded by Paul Nitze in April 1950 – which, incidentally, is a fundamental source of ‘neoconservatism’.

Central to this paper is the fact that a fundamental strength of the United States, in both world wars, had been an immensely strong and invulnerable military-industrial potential.

In 1950, its superiority in industrial strength over the Soviet Union was not dissimilar to its superiority in strength over Japan in 1941 – actually, according to NSC 68’s own estimates, it had a more than tenfold advantage in the production of motor vehicles, even leaving aside its allies.

Moreover, we were not then dealing with the decadent Americans, or British, of today. Among other things, both powers had serious intelligence strength – the U.S. Navy, besides having good cryptographers, had provided for selected officers to be given a thorough ground in Japanese language, history and culture.

5. A key point underlying Malinovsky’s remark is that the experience of Germany and Japan had demonstrated that a strategy of ‘destruction’ which can achieve dramatic successes at the outset of a conflict is useless if it cannot force a successful resolution to it: the Soviet term for strategies which fail to recognise this fact, which Larionov uses, is ‘adventurism’.

In December 1941, the Japanese attempted a strategy of ‘destruction’ at Pearl Harbor. Less than a year later, the United States was mounting a major amphibious operation in North Africa, having already, with the assistance of its intelligence superiority, done crippling damage to the Japanese carrier fleet at Midway.

Absent nuclear weapons, the best that the Soviets could hope to achieve in a war against the United States would be what Hitler had failed to do – eliminate the bridgeheads on which the vastly superior military-industrial combined military-industrial potential of the United States, Britain, and the Dominions could be deployed in Eurasia.

A confrontation would, inevitably, be a prolonged war of ‘attrition’ – a prospect which, for different reasons, would be deeply unattractive alike for the Soviets and the West.

6. It is only the introduction of nuclear weapons which appeared to make possible a successful strategy of ‘destruction’, alike for the United States and the Soviet Union. On the one hand, it opens up the possibility that a pre-emptive, or even preventive, nuclear and even more thermonuclear attack could foreclose the possibility of an effective remobilisation of the U.S. military-industrial potential and its deployment in Eurasia.

It also however opens up the possibility that a parallel attack could so devastate the Soviet Union that the relative weakness of the United States in ground forces in being at the outset of a war would not greatly matter.

7. Harking back to an exchange in an earlier thread, twentieth-century history was dominated by competing ‘Zoroastrian narratives’. For complex reasons, NSC 68 ended up producing a vision of the Cold War in terms of a ‘Zoroastrian narrative’ about ‘tyranny’ and ‘freedom’ which goes back, through Roosevelt’s conception of the ‘Four Freedoms’, to Lincoln’s ‘House Divided’ speech, to the Puritan origins of the United States – (and then on to Zoroaster!)

What was obscured, in the process, was that the Marxist-Leninist ‘Zoroastrian narrative’ really was different from that of German National Socialism. It is absolutely clear, incidentally, that Paul Nitze went to his death without having the first understanding of what Stalin’s restatement of the former in his key speech of 9 February 1946 did and did not mean.

8. What happened in the ‘Seventies and ‘Eighties was that the Marxist-Leninist ‘Zoroastrian narrative’ collapsed. (This also, incidentally, is very evident in Larionov’s article.) This was not however simply, or even primarily, a response to the demonstrations of ‘strength’ and ‘will’ by Reagan and Thatcher. It had a very great deal more to do with the way the extraordinary successes of the post-war ‘Pax Americana’ in Western Europe, and parts of East Asia made glaringly apparent the fact that key predictions of Marx and Lenin were simply wrong.

9. However, rather than realising that the American ‘Zoroastrian narrative’, as classically set out in NSC 68, also suffered from fundamental flaws, élite opinion in both the United States and Britain took the collapse of the Marxist-Leninist one as its vindication. On the implications, a remark by William J. Perry quoted in the ‘NYRB’ piece seems to the point:

“Today, the danger of some sort of a nuclear catastrophe is greater than it was during the Cold War and most people are blissfully unaware of this danger.”

Chris Chuba

Regarding MAD, I have been wondering if Israel would be better served if they stopped bombing Hezbollah and trying to assassinate their leaders. Sure, Hezbollah is an enemy of Israel but periodic bombing of Lebanon and Syria isn't good for those countries and Hezbollah hasn't attacked Israel for over 10yrs. Also, Hezbollah has a strong interest in preserving Lebanon because, well, they are Lebanese, their families live there, and they now have political legitimacy that they don't want to lose. So Hezbollah is very unlikely to start a war that will destroy Lebanon.

If I was Israel, sure, I wouldn't want Hezbollah to double their rocket inventory again but it just seems like it might be time to try something different that resembles a detente. I just feel like kicking Hezbollah while they are fighting ISIS / Al Qaeda in Syria is going to lead to something bad and that there is no long term strategic gain, even in Machiavellian terms.

Babak Makkinejad

Thank you for your fine comments.

But I think you are missing my point; V. Putin disagrees with you and considers MAD to be the foundation of the long peace since 1945 in Europe.

He goes on to state that anti-missile systems are threats to strategic stability and the Russian Federation will do its best to devise technological solutions to neutralize them.

David Habakkuk

Babak Makkinejad,

I am well aware that the Russians have come to adopt Western strategies of nuclear ‘deterrence’.

And I am hardly surprised that this colours what Putin has to say about the ‘long peace’ of the Cold War.

However, the background to all this needs to be clearly understood.

As I said in my earlier comment, ‘the effect of nuclear weapons on the likelihood of war is – as with other technologies – specific to particular situations.’

As it happens, I have just come across a fascinating article entitled ‘Misreading Svechin: Attrition, Annihilation, and Historicism’ by David R. Stone, an historian at Kansas State University.

(See http://krex.k-state.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/2097/14980/Misreading+Svechin+-+publisher's+PDF.pdf;jsessionid=E8A31FCAC79216F5CC5C9855F0604165?sequence=1 ,)

This makes the most fundamental point – that Svechin knew that the world is in a constant state of flux, so that what is necessary is not to get stuck in fossilised attitudes, but continually to rethink.

In relation to the background to Putin’s remarks, a critical point is that in some ways Soviet military strategists did rethink – in others, they failed to do so.

Contrary to what was widely assumed in the West, Soviet planners moved, in the late ‘Sixties and early ‘Seventies, towards repudiation of the ‘first-use’ of nuclear weapons.

A paradoxical consequence, however, was that as it then became impossible effectively to attack the vastly superior military-industrial potential of the United States, the salience of the ‘strategic offensive operations in ground theaters of military actions’, using conventional means, increased.

An all-out conventional ‘blitzkrieg’ was intended both to eliminate the bridgeheads on which American military-industrial power could be deployed, and render the possibility of NATO implementing its nuclear threats moot.

The failure in rethinking lay in not absorbing another critical idea which Svechin took from Clausewitz. It is always absolutely imperative that military strategy be subordinated to politics, to a coherent national strategy.

A strategy that made sense in narrowly military terms was economically ruinous, and contributed to making an exit from the hyper-militarised Stalinist economic model vastly more difficult.

But then, the attempts to get out of the dead end in which Soviet military thinking found itself became involved with the collapse of what I have called the Marxist-Leninist version of the ‘Zoroastrian narrative’. The reverberations that this rethinking produced were and are very ill understood in the West.

At the time, it did seem to some of us that, while we might think that Western interpretations of Soviet military strategy were questionable, they were hardly surprising. After all, if you 1. hold down Eastern Europe by a system of ‘stooge police states’; 2. have tank armies postured for an offensive into Western Europe; and 3. embrace and attempt to disseminate globally a particularly pernicious form of ‘Zoroastrian narrative’, it is hardly surprising that this, as one might say, arouses suspicion.

And so, in the context of the collapse of the Soviet version of the ‘Zoroastrian narrative’, it seemed to many – Larionov I think included – natural enough to conclude that the security problems of the Soviet Union had been in very substantial measure self-inflicted.

If this was so, a natural conclusion was that if one ceased to hold down Eastern Europe, have tank armies postured for an offensive into Western Europe, and disseminate a ghastly ideology, then these security problems would disappear.

At the time, this seemed to quite a few of us a rational response to changing realities. These included significant figures as Vladimir Putin would become, and insignificant ones like myself.

But as it turned out, our interpretation of changing realities was flawed.

In the light of American and British responses to the retreat and collapse of Soviet power, we were shown to be naïve fools. The degree of hostility towards Russia, and Putin, in the West is actually far greater than the degree of hostility towards the Soviet Union, and Brezhnev, was.

A quite rational reaction to changing strategic realities, accordingly, has pushed the Russians into a position where they think their least worst option is to rely on nuclear ‘deterrence’.

At the same time, an – inadvertent – effect of the inability of Western leaderships to adjust to changing realities has been in substantial measure to discredit the ‘anti-Stalinist’ readings of twentieth century history to which figures like Larionov came.

All this needs to be taken into account when making sense of Putin’s remarks.

It may also be extremely relevant to the security dilemmas of the Islamic Republic.

For what it is worth – which is very little – my hunch is that its leaders do not think that nuclear ‘deterrence’ would be their least worst answer to these.

It seems to me more likely that they are looking for a ‘deterrent’ in the steadily improving missile capabilities of Hizbullah.

In their shoes, this is precisely what I would regard as the ‘least worst option’ in the face of realities some of which change and some of which do not.

However, I would also refrain from doing what both we and the Soviets did during the Cold War – that is, fail to realise that, when one is calculating the possible reactions of antagonists, what one needs to do is understand how one’s actions reverberate in their ‘narrative’, rather than trying to incorporate them in one’s own.

But precisely this Cold War propensity is what Zionists – alike in Israel and the United States – have taken over. And this is one of the reasons why they have become so dangerous, to themselves as much or indeed more than the rest of us.

Babak Makkinejad

Thank you.

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