America’s Unwinnable Wars
December 10, 2019
“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
Don’t join the book burners. Don’t think you’re going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book…
– Dwight D. Eisenhower
Torn Between Russia And The West
After Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine the leaders of four countries — Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany — started talks to find a solution to the conflict. Thereafter those so-called Normandy Format talks were abandoned until the new president of Ukraine revived them. And so it was that three presidents and a prime minister — Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin of Russia, Emmanuel Macron of France, and Angela Merkel of Germany — met in Paris on Monday. Macron and Merkel will mediate the attempt to end five and a half years of war in eastern Ukraine between government forces and separatist rebels backed by Russia.
Delivering peace was Zelensky’s biggest campaign promise, but the task will be daunting, and obstacles to a major breakthrough formidable. Zelensky’s a political novice who’s found himself at the center of US impeachment hearings for President Trump. It has cost him Republican support and weakened him internationally.
Zelensky wants to end the bitter conflict that’s cost more than 13,000 Ukrainian lives, and to regain control over the border with Russia. But prior to Monday’s talks he agreed to a prisoner exchange and to withdraw Ukraine’s military from three key areas on the front line.
Putin wants to ease the sanctions that continue to hurt the Russian economy, but he is unlikely to give up Russia’s long-term strategic objective of keeping Ukraine firmly in its geopolitical backyard, rather than see it pivot further to the West and join NATO.
Some Ukrainians fear their president will make too many compromises when he sits down with Putin, either due to a lack of Western support or his own inexperience in difficult international negotiations.
I Will Ban You, Drago
- Russia has been banned from all major international athletic events for the next four years, including the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics and the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) determined that Russia’s Anti-Doping Agency was not in compliance with WADA rules, and had failed to provide complete and accurate data about its athletic programs.
- The ban applies to Russian officials and agencies in its sports apparatus, but offers a pathway for Russian athletes to compete if they can prove they’re “clean.”
- However, WADA said it had a list of all Russian athletes who are suspected of doping — including a core group of 145 athletes it labels the “most suspicious.” (NPR)
China Is Running Out Of Room Under Their Rug
- After the US House voted last week in favor of a bill that could impose sanctions on Chinese officials overseeing the government’s drive to detain a million plus members of largely Muslim minority groups in indoctrination camps, the ruling Communist Party government went on the offensive. It released a barrage of slick videos and strident editorials on Twitter and YouTube rejecting the mounting evidence that it detains Muslims in droves, and declaring critics are part of a Western conspiracy.
- Exposes published in the New York Times and elsewhere had used leaked official Chinese documents revealing the coercive workings of camps — which the government calls vocational training centers — in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.
- At a news conference Monday the chairman of the Xinjiang government dismissed the bill as “crude meddling in China’s internal affairs,” adding that the “facilities” only held people who were there “voluntarily.” (NYT)
- Book burning by Chinese county library sparks fury: Blaze complying with ministry directive meant for schools harks back to Qin dynasty and Nazi Germany, critics say (Guardian)
India Trumps Muslims
- The Indian Prime Minister’s Hindu-nationalist agenda got a major boost Tuesday when the lower house of Parliament passed a measure establishing a religious test for immigrants. The Citizenship Amendment Bill would give migrants of all of South Asia’s major religions — except Islam — a clear path to becoming naturalized Indian citizens.
- The country’s 200 million Muslims is one of the largest Muslim populations in the world. The new bill would be the first step toward making India’s Muslims second class citizens and rendering many of them stateless. (NYT)
- Blood and Soil in Narendra Modi’s India: The Prime Minister’s Hindu-nationalist government has cast two hundred million Muslims as internal enemies. (New Yorker, $)
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America’s Unwinnable Wars
- Transcripts of documents, published by the Washington Post after a three-year legal battle, reveal that the US public has been consistently misled about the winnability of the war in Afghanistan.
- The 18-year-long battle has cost over a trillion dollars, killed more than 2,300 service men and women, with 20,000 more wounded. Tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have died in the conflict.
- The Afghanistan Papers have echoes of the Pentagon Papers — the US military’s secret history of the Vietnam war that were leaked in 1971 and told a similarly troubling story of the cover-up of military failure. (Guardian)
Horowitz Trusts The FBI, Barr None
- On Monday Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report on the FBI’s investigation of President Trump’s presidential campaign was released. The US watchdog found no evidence of political bias, and concluded the FBI had “authorized purpose” to initiate the investigation it launched on July 31, 2016. In other words, there was no basis for conservative claims that partisan hostility toward Trump had influenced the bureau’s probe.
- However, the 476-page report did find “serious performance failures” that raised “significant questions regarding the FBI’s chain of command’s management and supervision of the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court] process.” Specifically the IG identified 17 “inaccuracies or omissions” when the FBI applied to the FISA court for a warrant to wiretap Trump campaign official Carter Page.
- But Horowitz made clear the investigation was opened “in compliance with department and FBI policies,” the FBI’s use of confidential informants was in compliance with agency rules, and the bureau’s mistakes were unintentional.
- A week earlier Trump’s Attorney General William Barr told Justice Department officials he disputed one of the IG’s key findings that the FBI had had enough information to open the investigation. He also claimed the CIA and other US agencies may have information that would change Horowitz’s conclusion. Trump allies are using that pushback to dismiss the report. (BBC, NYT)
Additional USA News
- Trump’s trade war creates ‘nightmare before Christmas’ for US toy-makers (Guardian)
- Amazon Bid Protest on JEDI Claims ‘Improper Pressure’ From Trump (WSJ, $)
- Big Money Is Building A New Kind Of National Park In The Great Plains (NPR)
- Can A Computer Catch A Spy? (NPR)
Drink A Little Extra Responsibly
- The decade of the 2010s has seen the trend toward “wellness,” with people caring more and more about what they put in and did to their bodies. The way diets, fitness, and beauty has been marketed has changed drastically over the past decade, with products and regimens being touted as valuable tools for “self-care.”
- Consequently, not only is it cool to care about one’s health, but with it comes the message that it’s almost a moral obligation to practice the tenets of mindful eating and frequent exercise.
- We see alcoholic beverages, for example, being marketed to the wellness-minded as things to drink after doing some kind of athletic activity, like hiking, kayaking or running. Hard seltzers are touted as a workout recovery tool, one that works seamlessly into trendy diets like keto or Paleo.
- One writer noted: “This makes sense from a business perspective. ‘Wellness’ is for financially secure people with time to spare — on their skin, on their bodies, and on their diets.” And the associate managing editor of Wine Enthusiast adds that trend toward low-ABV [alcohol by volume] beverages also mirrors the culinary movement over the past 20 years, in which people eat more mindfully and use food as a tool of identity expression. (Vox)
- European Space Agency to launch space debris collector in 2025: Robotic junk collector will be first mission to remove item of debris from orbit (Guardian)
- Five ways to stop feeling tired all the time: Sleepiness is one thing, but tiredness can be caused by stress, pain or habitually poor lifestyle choices. Here’s how to feel more rested (Guardian)
- The science behind giving good gifts: Research shows that giving a bad gift can hurt your relationships. So how can you be sure you pick something your recipient will love? (BBC)
- The species the world lost this decade: This decade has made it clear: Humans are killing Earth’s great biodiversity. (Vox) & Scientists discovered 71 new species this year. Here are some of their favorites (CNN)
- Athletes have healthier brains that can actually hear better, study says (CNN)
- The Hidden Sexism of How We Think About Risk: If men take more risks than women, it’s not because of biology. (Nautilus)
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