The Stormy Winds of War
January 6, 2020
“You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” – Leon Trotsky (Selective Service System website crashes amid questions and fears of another US military draft, CNN)
“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War
The Stormy Winds of War
The long-term consequences of President Trump’s order to assassinate a top Iranian general have yet to unfold. An American drone killed General Qassim Suleimani, along with a powerful Iraqi militia leader, at the Baghdad airport last Friday. Trump asserted the strike was a preemptive act meant to avoid war, but it has actually forged a tighter bond between Iran and Iraq, and unleashed events that could dramatically alter where the US military operates, and what it is able to control.
General Suleimani wasn’t just an important military leader, but an indispensable part of his government’s security establishment and its activities across the Middle East — particularly the cultivation of proxy militias in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Suleimani was Iran’s second most powerful and visible leader. On Sunday hundreds of thousands of Iranians took to the streets to mourn the general’s death.
And Iraqi lawmakers, who called ordering a strike on their soil a violation of their nation’s sovereignty, voted to require the expulsion of some 5,200 American troops in the country. That could cripple the fight against the Islamic State and allow its resurgence. Meanwhile the American-led coalition in Iraq and Syria announced it was halting its years’ long mission — of fighting ISIS and training local forces in both countries — to prepare for possible retaliatory attacks.
The assassination prompted Iran’s leaders not only to finally end any commitments made to limit their nuclear fuel production, but also to vow their response would include an attack on US military targets. Trump warned Iran against retaliation, saying the US had pinpointed 52 targets, including cultural sites, that represented the 52 American hostages held at the US Embassy in Tehran during 1979’s Islamic Revolution. Iran’s foreign minister called the targeting of cultural sites “a war crime.”
- At West Point you learn that it is impossible to study war without studying maps: Maps: How the Confrontation Between the U.S. and Iran Escalated (NYT, $)
- The Secretary of State is a West Point grad: Pompeo Says Iran Pressed Expulsion of U.S. Troops From Iraq (WSJ, $) but the New York Times doesn’t think much of that: Mike Pompeo: Last in His Class at West Point in Integrity: The secretary of state’s behavior has been cowardly and self-serving. (NYT, $)
- More about Suleimani, and perhaps the most thorough profile on the man: The Shadow Commander (New Yorker, $)
- Trump tells Congress to follow him on Twitter for updates on war with Iran (Verge)
- Netanyahu, in apparent stumble, calls Israel ‘nuclear power’ (Reuters)
- America is guilty of everything we accuse Iran of doing (The Week)
- Donald Trump’s assassination of Qassem Suleimani will come back to haunt him | Mohammad Ali Shabani (Guardian)
- Four Years Ago, Trump Had No Clue Who Qassim Soleimani Was. Now He May Have Kicked Off WWIII. (Intercept)
- How Trump decided to kill Iran’s Qasem Soleimani (WaPo, $)
To Save The Land Down Under
- The lengthy drought that fueled scores of wildfires in the Australian states of Queensland and New South Wales last September has turned into a hellish apocalypse for the country’s southeast coast, burning almost 12.5 million acres and killing 24 people.
- Thousands of residents have been evacuated as fires reached the fringes of Sydney, destroying homes and trapping many behind fire lines without power or cell service. The smoke blackening Australia’s skies is visible from space, and choking haze has drifted to New Zealand over 1,000 miles away.
- The fires are so hot they’re creating their own thunderstorms and lightning — similar to conditions during a volcanic eruption or atomic bomb blast. (NPR, WSJ)
- Paradise lost: residents flee Eden as Australia fires race towards them (Guardian)
- We are seeing the very worst of our scientific predictions come to pass in these bushfires (Guardian)
Vote Or Die/Hack And Lie
- More than 100,000 documents relating to work performed in 68 countries by the now defunct data firm Cambridge Analytica (CA) are set to be released in the coming weeks. The trove is provided by Brittany Kaiser, an ex-CA employee turned whistleblower, and is the same as that subpoenaed by Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The explosive documents expose the global infrastructure of an operation used to manipulate voters on “an industrial scale.”
- Kaiser, who starred in the Oscar-shortlisted Netflix documentary The Great Hack, decided to go public after last month’s election in Britain. “It’s so abundantly clear our electoral systems are wide open to abuse,” she said. “I’m very fearful about what is going to happen in the US election later this year, and I think one of the few ways of protecting ourselves is to get as much information out there as possible.” CA collapsed after a British newspaper revealed it had misappropriated 87 million Facebook profiles.
- Christopher Steele, the ex-head of MI6’s Russia desk and the intelligence expert behind the so-called “Steele dossier” into Trump’s relationship with Russia, said that while the company had closed down, the failure to properly punish bad actors meant that the prospects for manipulation of the 2020 US election were even worse. (Guardian)
- We highly recommend watching The Great Hack (trailer here). It’s astounding to us how the social media giants haven’t been punished for allowing elections to be corrupted and hacked.
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To Goad With God
- On Friday President Trump participated in a prayer before speaking at an Evangelicals for Trump Coalition Launch at the King Jesus International Ministry in Miami. He then delivered a free-wheeling speech to an audience of some 7,000 adoring believers who are sure he was sent by God to cleanse America.
- The MAGA hat-wearing faithful cheered Trump’s comments on issues calculated to resonate with his churchgoing audience, including abortion, freedoms of speech and religion, and what he claimed was a “crusade” from Democrats against religious tolerance.
- Absent from the president’s remarks, however, was any discussion of one of his signature policies: the hardline crackdown on immigration that has seen thousands of undocumented migrants deported.
- The omission was a smart calculation because the pastor at this Hispanic megachurch acknowledges that many people in his congregation are in the country illegally. (Guardian)
- Trump tells evangelical rally he will put prayer in schools (Reuters)
- Donald Trump Jr and Ivanka Trump among top Republican picks for 2024 (Guardian)
Forbidden Love. A Steamy Affair. Untamed… Racism?
- A Caucasian romance novelist, Kathryn Lynn Davis, has backtracked elements of an ethics complaint she filed last summer against Courtney Milan, a New York Times bestselling author. Milan, who is half-Chinese, has for years been a prominent commenter on barriers authors of color face within romance publishing and racist tropes within popular fiction.
- Milan wrote a series of tweets commenting on a sample of Davis’ 1999 historical romance novel Somewhere Lies the Moon. The book’s heroine is half-Chinese, and Milan deemed the novel a racist mess.
- Davis said she was “encouraged” by the administration of Romance Writers of America (RWA), a trade association for romance writers, to file a formal complaint against Milan, an influential former board member and diversity advocate. Davis filed an official complaint to the RWA’s ethics committee, alleging that Milan’s tweets about racism were “cyberbullying” that caused her to lose professional opportunities including a three-book contract with an unnamed publisher.
- A few days before Christmas the RWA’s board announced it was suspending Milan from the organization for a year and permanently barring her from any leadership positions.
- But a massive backlash caused Davis to admit the original complaint about the professional harm she suffered was ‘not accurate’ and she now felt she’d been “used” to secure a political outcome that she’d never intended. The brouhaha resulted in most of the RWA’s board of directors stepping down. (Guardian)
- Schools love the idea of a growth mindset, but does it work? (Aeon)
- Time to tidy up! What to clean if you have a spare 3 minutes, 5 minutes – or 8 hours (Guardian)
- How to live a longer (and healthier) life: Nine simple tips (BBC)
- Thousands of titles from 1924 just entered the public domain, including Rhapsody in Blue (Vox)
- We are at CES this week, and it’ll be interesting to see what new technology is unveiled: CES 2020: Preview of tomorrow’s tech on show in Las Vegas (BBC) & CES 2020 is here, and here’s how to set your expectations (Verge) & these days you can’t have technology without also having some politics involved: CES chief defends invite for Ivanka Trump (BBC)
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