Oh, fsck…

[Hi everyone – I’ve gotten enough “signup” requests for this politics filter that it’s obviously a bit on the useless side. So if anyone doesn’t want to be on this filter, LMK instead; otherwise I’ll just say bugger it and post unfiltered]

Apparently the Prime Minster of Serbia, Zoran Djindjic, was just assassinated. (Store here)

While I know that this isn’t directly correlated with anything else going on in the world right now, there’s something deeply unsettling about assassinations of major political figures in the Balkans at this sort of moment.

Just to make things more cheerful, here are my notes from my latest “political analysis” file – it’s datestamped the 7th, and I haven’t had time to render it into human-readable form, but some of it still seems fairly relevant.

Political analysis notes, 3/07/2003

If we invade Iraq and hold it, the Sunnis and Shiites will start circling around each other and jockeying for position. At some point the Kurds will try something – either the Turkish or the Iraqi Kurds – unless we’re extremely brutal in suppressing that. In which case it’ll take as long as it takes for the US’ terminally short attention span to waver.

The Kurdish issue will turn into an int’l firestorm, since we’ll be trying to placate Turkey etc etc and several other people have interests in heating it up, to make life harder for the US. Once the chaos gets really high, this’ll be an opportunity for the Sunnis and the Shiites to start to openly act against one another – and then welcome to Lebanon, 2.0.

Our presence there will turn us into the “near enemy” – a lot of the danger that’s been aimed at Israel is going to start getting aimed directly against the US, instead. Many groups are going to work really hard to instigate trouble, esp. al Qaeda and Islamic Jihad. (Possibly Hezbollah as well; this depends a bit on how the cards fall in Iran) Their goal is to get everyone into a frenzy big enough to spark a crusade against the westerners, but it’s not clear if they can succeed in that sort of unification – really, most of the Islamic world doesn’t *want* the empire redivivus.

Afghanistan will revert to tribal lords pretty quickly. (It’s already well on that course) Once things have gotten into a bit more chaos, it’ll make a good enemy base. If we start going in there to flush them out routinely, we’ll discover just why most people have learned not to get into protracted fights in Afghanistan. bin Laden & co. will stabilize their forces in the Saudi deserts. (SW quarter)

Israel stays on the status quo; everyone’s waiting for Arafat to die. This will become much less of a problem for the Islamic world once America is directly in the region.

In the meantime: The fascists are trying to take power in India, and they seem to be on a good courrse for it. American distraction will only help this. Assume they can get solid control of the Northwestern part of the country. How are their numbers elsewhere? How long will it take them to really, completely consolidate?

Once they get control, it’s only safe to expect expansionism and militarism, esp. against Pakistan. If India invades Pakistan, who will we back? Anyone? What comes next, especially if the fight goes nuclear, or if Pakistan breaks up and the Afghans flood in? (The Pashtun lines are worth watching carefully in this regard)

Iran is right in the middle of this. How will they handle this? Will this help Khatami or Khameini?

What’s happening in China?! e.g.: Will Xinjiang decouple and turn into a logical extension of the central Asian republics? Also, just how much of the country does China really control, beyond the coastline and the major rivers? How bad is AIDS?

The North Korea situation seems on course to developing into a continuation of the status quo, with slight advantage for NK.

When will Japan decide to remilitarize?

The Philippines: Abu Sayyaf are some dangerous bastards, but it’s not clear that they’ll be able to spread much. I’d worry much more about Indonesia – huge and very unstable. Radical movements will find very fertile ground there. If a Pacific front opens up, it’ll probably be in the strip going from the Philippines down to Indonesia. Australia is going to have a *great* time with this…

Europe will come over to the US side in a large-scale war, but only after they’re directly threatened. The Greens won’t be in power for too much longer, and the Christian Democrats are much more pro-American. France will hold out eternally but once it starts to become a target it’ll drift over to our side. They still want to keep their heads in the sand about actual danger.

(n.b. – if Europe does get involved at some point, and both the Middle East and South Asia have gotten hot, the resulting chaos will be a time of opportunity for more troublemakers, e.g. N Korea and various Indonesian groups and so on, to make their own local power plays. This could make it look like a really good simulacrum of a world war, even though it wouldn’t really be an all-out war on all the fronts at once; more like a worldwide medium-intensity conflict.)

Central and South America – decoupled?!!

Projected Timeline:

Invasion of Iraq: March 2003?
– Establish provinicial government within a few months, maybe by June at the latest.
– Philippines should remain below-the-radar for a while; it won’t become major unless other events (e.g. explosion of Indonesia) make it relevant.
– Instabilities will wait for a while, looking for a trigger event; keep an eye on the Kurds in Turkey (and generally Turkish domestic politics) to see what’s up.
– Also monitor the political situation in India, and the various movements in Indonesia.

The Kurds, the Indian government, and the behavior of Japan and N. Korea are probably the major triggering flags for anything big to happen. The current situation is therefore not a timed course towards trouble; it simply puts us in a position where we’re set up for an awful lot of Bad Shit if any of the things go off.

Our conquest of Iraq is almost certain to lead to Bad Shit going off within a few years. Does Bush hope this will be after he gets out of office? Or is he just clueless about how bad this can get? (I’ve got a bad feeling that some of the other senior people do know this, and think they can get advantage out of it – well, a little time in the Middle East should cure them of *that* optimism)

Published in: on March 12, 2003 at 12:14  Comments (5)  


  1. So basically the mideast is shaping up to be a desert version of vietnam?
    What about NK evolving like Japan did in WWII? Wait for the US populace to be distracted elsewhere, while building up a big military near them, and then we get hit while we’re looking in the other direction (attempted ICBM launch analogous to the Pearl Harbor attack?)
    Frankly, my own thoughts are once we invade someone (Iraq), then other countries are going to get opportunistic, and take some shots at us while we’re focusing there. I’d expect NK to get more aggressive if we go into Iraq, and I think a LOT of the places that are worried about us moving from Iraq to them will decide to “proactively attack” us if we “proactively attack” Iraq.
    And that’s a path that I see quickly leading into a general world-wide melee of small wars as long-standing cold-wars (or warm-wars) flare up into all-out war, because they don’t have the kind of “mutually assured destruction” that we had with the Soviets.
    If we show how easily it is to trip the balance and start a war, I think other’s will follow suit, both with us and each other…

  2. A friend of mine is a foreign correspondent for one of the major newspaper chains in India (he works in Washington). (My company is tangentially associated with that company, as well). I could show your thoughts to him and see whether he sees fascism on the rise, and ask him what he thinks could happen, if it would help matters to do so.

  3. Just a few thoughts.
    Not sure what you mean about South and Central America being decoupled. They’re not strongly coupled now.
    Japan is already militarized. They have a very robust military. Why do you think nobody ever worries about whether or not Japan is capable of defending itself from, say, PRC? There are, simply, constitutional limitations that prevent from deploying the Defense Force abroad. But they have a very professional, modern, potent military.
    Highly unlikely Fascism will flourish in India. It may succeed in a few states, but will die out when those local government fail brings economic stagnation, fail to provide basic services, and are elected out.
    India is flourishing because it is a free state. Strong government control only brings stagnation to a flourishing and expanding economy. India has fought off extremists from across their borders, and they’ll most likely be able to keep the extremists within their borders in check.
    Fighting in Afghanistan has been between extremists and those that support a democratic Afghanistan. Not between ethnic groups. Not between tribes. Not between different faiths (now that the Buddhists and Christians are back). Suspect we’ll see the same in Iraq.
    Muslim extremists will probably cross into Iraq in order to attempt to overthrow the democratic government there [postwar scenario, btw]. Low probability of extensive fighting between Shiite and Sunni factions, or between the various ethnic groups.
    Kurd drive for independent homeland emerges from oppression and ethnic cleansing by Iraq and crackdowns against nationalists by Turkey. If new Iraqi democratic government adequately addresses Kurd representation in government and rule of law (ensures Kurd protection and security), nationalist movement will most likely lose momentum.
    Watch the Turks. Their reaction to the Kurds may significantly complicate things.
    Very low probability that India will invade Pakistan or that Pakistan will invade India. For the same reason US/USSR didn’t invade each other. Too many nukes. Very small region. Entirely too much willingness to launch nukes should things go badly. Ergo, MAD ensures status quo/stability between those two powers.
    Very likely that XinJiang will remain part of PRC. Low probability of provincial sessesion unless PRC is well into national decay and disarray. PRC willing to use force to keep provinces in line.

  4. Hmm…
    Central and South America: I agree. They seem completely decoupled from all of this, and look likely to stay that way. No obvious causes for alarm.
    Japan: The question is when they’ll amend their constitution to allow a full-scale militarization, a SDF that can go beyond their borders. The agitation for this has been slowly building, and is going to hit sometime, but that could be in a week or it could be in 20 years. Hard to tell, and hard to tell what its effect will be, but it will change the balance of paranoia in the region. A lot of people there seem very alarmed at the possibility.
    India: I hope you’re right. The BJP is making a lot of progress, though, and hearing the speeches of some of their people after the Gujarat violence is not reassuring me. It seems that they’ve started to get an idea that fairly openly exploiting anti-Muslim sentiment can get them more strength, and given that they’re no minor party, this could be very dangerous. I don’t think they’ll invade anywhere until/unless they’re strongly in power at home – but that may happen, especially if the chaos of an Iraq war keeps world attention focused elsewhere. I really hope that nuclear deterrence will work there too; I think what could compromise it is a gradual process, where they just keep ratcheting up the stakes over Kashmir. But you’re right, this is probably relatively safe for the moment. It just bears watching for future reference.
    Afghanistan: I don’t know if I agree with you here. I think support for a democratic Afghanistan is much lower than you think, and most of these “extremists” are simply warlords who are very used to ducking and looking invisible for a while when a new conqueror comes by, and then popping up later. Karzai has been having problems with them already; they don’t have any grand master plans, they just want to take power. Nor is this really an ethnic issue.
    Iraq, OTOH, may be a bit more ethnic. You’re right about watching Turkey carefully; they want to really smack down the Kurds, and make sure there’s no chance of any autonomy movement in the future. But if we set up a democratic state in Iraq, autonomy is going to be the first thing the Kurds ask for – which means conflict between our interests and Turkey’s. If they get partial autonomy, there’s a serious risk of a Kosovo-like situation, where Kurds based in northern Iraq form a staging point for Kurds in Turkey; if they don’t, we’ll have to hold them down fairly forcefully. This is going to be a very delicate line and I’m not confident that there’s any solution.
    The Sunnis and the Shiites certainly won’t start fighting immediately – they’ll be good little members of a new administration, but they’re waiting for trouble. Don’t forget how much weaponry is being bought and stored up by the locals right now; grudge-settling could begin if at any point the postwar regime seems too weak to stop it. My concern is that if the situation with the Kurds and the Turks gets too complicated, and our attention is too focused there, (e.g. if it does descend into a situation where cross-border activity is significant) this will be taken as a cue for the Sunnis and the Shiites to start to cause trouble. And Iran would love to quietly give the Shiites some incentive and assistance in that.
    Finally, you’re probably very right about Xinjiang; I don’t foresee anyone going against the PRC for now. Right now it’s more a game of everyone positioning themselves for more serious confrontations with them in the future, maybe 10 or 15 years down the road; I’m wondering more what they’ll do then, and just how much China is going to be able to hold. Maybe everything; maybe not. I just don’t have a good feel for the strength of their control beyond the main centers.

  5. Are you syinag life of innocent civilians of other nations are less important that your military personnel? If yes, then no point in arguing about it.

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