Civilian Airliner Shot Down Over Ukraine

As those reading this post know by now a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 was shot down over Ukraine near the Russian border.

My condolences to all those killed in this tragedy,

Who’s Responsible

It is currently unknown who shot the plane down: the Russians, the Russian backed insurgents, or the Ukrainians. All have access to weapons capable of taking down the airliner.

While Ukraine has anti-aircraft weapons as well, but has no reason to be firing them at large planes since the rebels have no such aircraft at their disposal. Hence, I am more dismissive of the idea that the Ukrainian military shot down the plane, as Russia claims

Given recent activities in the area (namely the rebels shooting at and shooting down Ukrainian aircraft) I believe it was in fact the insurgents using Russian supplied equipment like the Buk missile system, which does have the capacity to reach the cruise altitude the Malaysian Airliner was said to be at. I also base this on the rebels own claims on a social networking site of shooting down an aircraft around the same time as MH-17 went down, post which later were deleted once it became clear a civilian airliner had been shot down.

So at this point, I blame the insurgent separatists and, ultimately, Vladimir Putin for instigating the military crisis in Ukraine through the invasion of Crimea and Ukraine, supplying rebels with weapons, and fomenting his pan-Slavic ethnocentric ultra-nationalism in the region.

What Should Be Done

Regardless of who is responsible for the attack, every effort (including military means if need be) should be made in ending the rebels assaults in Ukraine and bring those responsible for killing hundreds of innocent passengers on the plane to justice. I know that isn’t likely, given Putin is already spinning the blame to everyone else but his own disastrous policy in the region. If it turns out the Russian (or even Ukrainian) military is directly involved in attack, there needs to be some serious repercussions. Repercussions along the lines of a ban on all travel to and from the offender nation (or their sponsor), an world wide embargo on products, a rapid deployment of EU and NATO forces to all nations to form a buffer between the conflicting sides, stripping away of all international economic and sporting events, and so forth. In other words, no more weak willed verbal rebukes but tangible punishments that hurt those committing these acts.

What Will Be Done

Sadly, with our current president whose early thought this event was: “It looks like it may be a terrible tragedy”, I suspect nothing. I think Obama was channeling George W. there. “May be”? Seriously? Regardless of how the plane went down it is a tragedy.

Obama has shown himself to be spineless in the past in a whole manner of violence and conflicts erupting across the face of the planet so I expect little to nothing to be done.

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U.S. Aircraft Carrier to Head to Gulf

I get a strange set of irony in hearing the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier is being ordered to the Persian Gulf due to the rise of the ISIS terrorist group and it’s drive to topple the Iraqi government in Baghdad. This is especially so given the virulence of some pro-Obama anti-war towards the members of the Bush clan (admittedly their mindless ravings mostly aimed at the junior George W. rather than the senior George H.W.).

Perhaps more ironic is Iran, whose nation’s government despises everything that is the United States, has indicated that it is willing to work with the U.S. to combat ISIS.

But on a more serious note, it is concerning to see a regional war potentially cropping up in the region. A regional war that will not have clearly defined borders, opponents, or even objectives:

  • The Peshmerga (Kurdish forces) are reportedly solidifying their hold over the Kurdish region of Iraq as the Iraqi’s military and security forces pull out in the face of the ISIS assault and potential grab for Baghdad. I suspect given these events the Kurds are going to be even more emboldened to maintain or even expand their autonomy and military capabilities from external forces such as ISIS, Iran, Syria and Turkey.
  • Iran’s sudden involvement is not that surprising given they’re a Shia country where as ISIS is a Sunni based group. Other than not wanting the rise of a Sunni run government in Iraq I doubt the Iranian government cares much about their neighbors in anything other than in terms of controlling them for Iran’s benefit.
  • Iraq. I can’t say I’m surprised at the sudden rise of Sunni and ISIS over the discrimination Sunni’s have faced since the fall of Hussein. (Note that I am not too sympathetic to the Sunni’s given their own shoddy treatment of Shia’s and other non-Sunni’s during the Baath Party’s reign.) Ultimately this is a culmination of the hatred Iraqi Sunni and Shia have for one another for centuries, a hatred stoked by more recent decades of abuses aimed at one another. ISIS (a Wahhabi based group) feeds off of this with the idea that they will be victorious; beginning the first leg of their plan to create a new (allegedly sunni) caliphate in the region.
  • Syria. There’s not much really to say other than what’s happening there is a result of decades of the Assad’s and the Baath Party’s manipulation of the region and it’s people. ISIS has been successful in much of its campaign in Syria giving them a strong base from which to launch further attacks deeper into Syria and Iraq.

 

Russia siezes Crimea

Sadly Putin continues his imperialist intentions towards Ukraine by sending troops into the Crimea region, in essence setting up a de facto puppet state for Russia there ahead of elections that were moved up by Russian nationalists. So the question is: now what?

For the world, it’s about holding Russia accountable for its violation of international law and territorial sovereignty of a foreign state. Those repercussions will likely come in some form of political and economic isolation and estrangement and possibly an increase in negative worldwide popular opinion. Certainly it will prompt some former Soviet states to consider distancing themselves from Russia and furthering ties with other nations and organizations outside of Putin’s sphere like the U.S., China, the EU and NATO. It may even revive efforts by some East European nations to revive plans for their own mutual defense organization to provide their own defensive buffer zones in case of NATO or EU abandonment.

Though Putin himself may care less about such things these repercussions could play significantly into the global political dynamic. For example, China (despite their occupation of Tibet) is a nation that has staunchly staid by its position that all national boundaries and territorial integrity should be inviolate. For Russia to so blatantly have a hand in Crimea via military force may prompt the Chinese to impose economic and political sanctions that would stifle efforts to improve Sino-Russian relations on a host of territorial, economic, and political issues.

For Ukraine, they must decide whether Crimea is worth the effort of trying to oust the Russians via political maneuvering as they would likely not be able to withstand a military conflict with Russia without EU, US, and/or NATO support. Given that Crimea was transferred to Ukrainian control in 1954 from Russia some Ukrainians might be happy to shed off the pro-Russian region. For others, even Russians living in Ukraine it will be a matter of pride to not allow Putin’s military aggression to go unanswered.

For Putin, he has effectively crushed his own efforts to improve Russia’s standing in the world by interfering in such a knee jerk reaction. As one of my Russian associates put it Putin was “interfering too soon”, by which he meant events in Crimea and Ukraine did warrant the disproportionate Russian response and Putin should have waited for a “legitimate reason to invade” (per the same Russian associate). Putin’s action may play well to the blind nationalists and imperialists in Russia but it doesn’t address the nation’s ongoing socio-economic and political problems while likely harming economic and investments meant to address Russia’s woes.

For now, the region is tense but generally calm. It’s now a matter of how each side approaches the events in Ukraine, hopefully with a mind towards not repeating the mistakes of history (i.e. Sudetenland 1938), Russia returning to pre-crisis military deployments and Ukrainian territorial integrity reinstituted.

Russia Flexes Muscle at Ukrainian Crisis

Sadly it appears Russia (and by this I mean Putin and his cronies more than anything) is trying to intimidate its neighbors with its military after Ukraine ousted its pro-Moscow President amid protests over his questionable turn around from the EU in favor of Russia. Sound familiar? (I.e. 2008 Georgia invasion). Whether you support the Ukrainian’s protesters or the ousted President, I think it’s fair to say that no one wants Putin invading another country, especially when it would merely confirm in the eyes of many in the world that he has become nothing more than a dictator.

Do I think he will? Possibly, but only after he foments rebellion and stokes ethnic tensions (as he did Georgia) to justify an invasion to “protect” Russians and get nationalistic pride ramped up at home to quash any who question his actions.  Such measures in the past with the Ossetians certainly didn’t get them what they wanted from the Russian invasion of Georgia – an independent nation combining North Ossetia (which Russia hypocritically refuses to give up) and South Ossetia (which Russia recognizes as an Ossetian independent state).

As for our own politicians, I have no idea if they’ll continue to support Ukraine or if they’ll allow Putin to do as he pleases. Given the recent weak willed and limp wristed approach of our government to world affairs, I do not think things bode well for Western support for Ukraine.

Ultimately I would prefer Russia and the West (and honestly, everyone) alike stay out of Ukraine’s affairs and let them work it out internally.

China: U.S. Waging Internet War

China: U.S. ‘Internet War Being Waged Against Multiple Nations’

The Chinese military accused the U.S. on Friday of launching a global “Internet war” to bring down Arab and other governments, redirecting the spotlight away from allegations of major online attacks on Western targets originating in China.

This is one of those times where you can’t help but be amused by a nation’s hypocrisy, in this case China, over cyber warfare. As is typical of the Communist Chinese MO they conduct espionage, sabotage, or other sorts of aggression, overt and covert, and then try to claim to be a victim of, or champion for, others to deflect attention away from themselves and their own illicit activities. Problem is nobody is going to distracted.

What this is really about is China being pissed off on two fronts: a) the more public revelation of the existence of their Blue Army[1] cyberwarfare unit, and b) the United States Defense Department planning to make (or already has made) a policy in which a cyber attack proven to from a foreign power would be considered an act of war. The former reason angers the Chinese because it puts to lie (once again) China’s public proclamations of peaceful intentions in the world. The latter reason hinders how far the Chinese government can at currently attempt to hack U.S. systems without being blamed for potentially provoking a war (however unlikely that is with the currently weak willed U.S. administration and legislature). The Chinese, for all their posturing about being outside the world’s realpolitik, rely heavily on pretending to be the poor misunderstood reformed communist dictatorship oppressed by the evil West to garner sympathy and deflect attention away from its own imperialistic activities.

Ironically, in China’s latest attempt to deflect any criticism away from itself, it is hurting its image in the Arab world. How? By implying that the Arab people’s desire to get rid of their corrupt governments is not legitimate and is in fact a conspiracy by Western powers (read: United States) to undermine such efforts. That can’t possibly read well on the Arab streets of Egypt, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, and elsewhere where people rose up to legitimately protest corruption and other socio-economic problems and were met with bloodshed and violence. In effect, China is telling the people of the Arab world who support and continue to participate in the so-called Arab Spring that it supports the governments that oppress them. So much for China’s image of benevolence. The Arab world isn’t foolish enough to believe for a moment that China has Arab best interests at heart, something they already know from dealing with the West.

[1] The Blue Army is a designation not only of the cyber warfare unit in the Chinese military but of a special forces branch. Presumably the cyber warfare unit is part of this greater Blue Army unit China claims only exists during training.

North Korean Attack on South Korea

North Korean attack on South Korean island leaves U.S. with few good options

There are no good options either way. Obama and the world has a an ugly choice to make:

  1. Continue the failed policy of appeasement that the communist dictatorship of North Korea considers weakness and encouragement to increasingly violent attacks on it’s neighbors.
  2. Allow the Armistice to end and finally allow for a continuation of the Korean War until one side or the other has won.

Either way, people are going to suffer and die. One is simply more lingering and painful than the other. The only benefit of the latter choice is should China actively back North Korea in any potential war is such support would put the lie to notion so many nations and politicians have of China being a benign entity. 60 years of appeasement have led to nothing but suffering for all and the continued militant and increasingly violent regime in Pyongyang almost certainly guarantees a war sooner or later to settle the fate of the Korean peninsula.

The question is will the world capitulate in the face of violence and threats that guarantee other regimes adopting similar tactics or finally take a stand against North Korea and all regimes like them?

More of the same

Russia: We did not fire on presidential motorcade – CNN.com and Russia says U.S. mercenaries, others fought for Georgia | Reuters truly make me wonder at the paranoid wackos running Russia at the moment. Russia previously made claims about foreign mercenaries fighting in Georgia against the Russian invaders but quickly backtracked when no evidence was forthcoming. Convenient that Russian has now “found” such evidence. Show me the evidence and I might believe the Russians. Maybe. With a huge grain of propaganda wary salt. Funny how the Russians had no problem with using the Ossetians as mercenaries in their war against pro-Western Georgia.

In some ways I feel sorry for the Russian people now, being stuck with such poor, reactionary, and quite frankly backwards thinking leadership for their nation. They panic for no reason, threaten on a whim, and embarrass themselves when they can not follow through on either except to foment ethnic rivalries and bigotry. Yes, the new Russia has changed: into another country whose potential is being wasted by its corrupt leadership.