Ferguson Farce

While I find this story interesting, we have seen this movie before in Watts, the LA Riots, and in Crown Heights:  a shooting under murky circumstances, a leftist media that creates more confusion, and the protest-industrial-complex that exploits aimless, angry minority youth as the source of its power.  It’s Trayvon Martin Part 2, complete with the “victim’s” propensity for violence.

Three important facts have emerged since the initial shooting.  Brown was a violent crook, who earlier that day assaulted a shopkeeper and stole some cigars.  (Even if the arresting officer did not know this, it says something important about who initiated the violence of their encounter.)  Two, Brown may have charged at the policeman who shot him and had earlier been involved in some kind of confrontation in the officer’s car.  Three, Brown was not shot in the back, contrary to his criminal accomplice’s initial statements.  As with so many shootings, rumor and speculation have done much to fuel increasing unrest, but the emerging facts have undercut that narrative.

Of course, it is not beyond belief a policeman had a bad shoot.  They can make mistakes, and in some cases they may even be bad people.  Every shooting should be investigated, and criminal shootings, even by police, should be prosecuted. But here the facts suggest that, while the shooting may not have been an absolutely necessary, it wasn’t a lunatic decision. When you carry a gun, every fight is a gun fight.  And why is that?  Because someone–in this case a 6’4 300 pound someone–can easily take your gun and kill you.

I do find it pitiful that the release of the strong arm robbery video was criticized and attempted to be suppressed by the Holder Justice Department.  Not only is the government trying to perpetrate a cover up, but it is doing so openly and shamelessly.  We have a classic situation of local communities dealing with tangible problems like robberies, shoplifting, and disorder fighting a two front war against criminals and the civil rights establishment that is woefully indifferent to law and order. Instead of these two law enforcement agencies being on the same side, the federal government is on the side of the instigators.

From the other side of the spectrum, certain conservatives and libertarians have suggested that this episode is a phenomenon arising from “miltiarized policing.”  I completely disagree. Officer Friendly or not, police depend on authority and at times force to use their job.  In spite of their “militarization,” police shootings have gone way down since the early 70s. Further, the militarization is related mostly to the “guerrillaization” of criminals, whose weapons, tactics, and support from dysfunctional communities make the police’s jobs very difficult in decaying urban areas.  Even the “peaceful protesters” embrace a way of thinking that leads to more crime and disorder, namely, failing to give the police some background respect and benefit of the doubt in the dangerous, crime-ridden world we live in.  When people cooperate with police and reject the antisocial “snitches get stitches” thinking of the ‘hood, we can live in a safer world where police use less force, and we all benefit from less crime.  Instead, in a world where the chief threat to young black men is other young black men, we focus disproportionately on the rare and preventable episodes of violence where whites are involved, while implicitly sanctioning the background violence from which those events arise.

Probably the most sad thing about this whole episode is that America was promised Obama would do something to support the cause of racial peace.  That his very presence would tamp down the alienation, violence, and disorder that characterizes so many minority neighborhoods.  Instead, we see as much mutual hostility as ever, and we see arrogant people who have little exposure to the anarchic disaster of the inner city, waxing eloquent about “how policing should be done,” while remaining conspicuously silent about the way “life should be done” by those who populate these ruined communities. 

As I wrote at the time of the Trayvon episode:

The one potential positive of the Obama presidency, the one that I think led many moderate whites to vote for him, has never been exploited at all.  He could have, like Nixon going to China, called out all the charlatans, frauds, flatterers, phonies, and crooks that have demoralized and brought shame to America’s troubled black community.  Instead, and perhaps reflecting an insecurity of identity due to his mostly white upbringing, he has only stated the party line or remained silent on these issues.  At the same time, he has done little to show he cares or understands America’s whites.  So he has become a leader of a coalition of the alienated, and an alienator of the rest of the nation.  Like Mayor Dinkins and Mayor Washington, he may unwittingly unify the very whites who were so hopeful that he would do something to reverse the festering dysfunction and hostility of “urban” America.


Obama is a failure, in other words.  And this episode is just the most salient proof to date.

Without much fanfare, the Army has thankfully reversed its decision to equip our soldiers with the ugliest, least effective, bullet magnet camo that came on the scene in 2003. ACU is a terrible pattern, was not picked after proper testing, and in fact was the brainchild of an armchair warrior, Army Chief of Staff Schoomaker, who ignored the Natick testing that promoted a pattern much closer to the one just adopted, but that information was ignored for 10+ years.

The new uniform looks sharp, unlike the debacle it has replaced. This is now doubt good for esprit de corps and for soldier survival.  I wonder how many soldiers died from the poor ACU pattern. It’s probably hard to know for sure, but it has to be some, as getting seen is a prelude to getting shot or shelled, and there is no doubt in Iraq and Afghanistan that the new uniform (or its near twin, Multicam, used only in Afghanistan for the last several years) performs this important task much much better.

Army M. Sgt. Shows New Uniform, Which Unlike Predecessor Actually Looks Kinda Like the Woods/Deserts Where Our Soldiers Fight

Bullet Magnet Blueish ACU Camo Army Used for Last 10 Years

Some think this is a good thing, others not so good, but the thesis of these authors–that the economic recovery is causing the current border crisis–makes sense.  After all, it’s not like Honduras and El Salvador were perfectly safe places in 2008.  Probably dreadful in fact, as they are now.  But the difference is that now the Home Depot parking lots are filled with contractors and workers looking to do cheap and substandard construction work in every suburb in America.  There is a mini-real-estate-boom, particularly among “rehabbers,” and low skill, low wage, low complaint Latin American workers have become a key part of that industry.

The idea that somehow you can escape violence completely by allowing the movement of teenagers and other people from Central America to the United States is ridiculous.  It reminds me of the movement to allow domestic violence victims refuge status, as if domestic violence doesn’t happen in immigrant communities in the US.  Indeed, whatever dysfunction exists in Central America is chiefly a product of the people themselves and their political system, and by coming here they will change our political system and continue on whatever endogenous trajectory they are already on towards domestic violence, gang membership, or a preference for socialism and corruption.  In other words, doing anything to accommodate mass third world immigration hurts us and eventually hurts the immigrants themselves as our country resembles more and more the ones they fled.

The only slight schadenfreude aspect of this whole thing that makes me smile is that for whatever reason, lots of Central Americans have settled around our nation’s capital. Maybe as their own lifestyle is impacted by all this immigration, and as their kids start bringing home their MS13 buddies to play video games (when they are not dodging their penchant for carjacking), the leadership classes will begin to have an awakening as to what this all means.

Gaza Incursion

While it is terrible to see civilian casualties amass in Gaza, it’s not so clear what choice Israel has, and Hamas’s tactics have much to do with this, including the colocation of its attacks from sensitive locations.  Gaza is a dense settlement led by terrorists that shoot rockets at Israeli territory regularly.  Hamas has no interest in peace, yet Israel cannot for reasons of internal and external politics deliver a blow or expulsion that will permanently resolve this conflict.  This cycle will continue for a very long time, and there is no end in sight.

I do find it dubious that the Europeans who are fully supporting Ukraine’s artillery shelling of large cities are so critical of Israel.  Indeed, the US which supported a coup in Ukraine has opposed one in Egypt, and while we supported rebels in Libya we oppose them in Donetsk.  I am starting to get very cynical about invocations of human rights in general.  No one is really consistent, and everyone has realpolitik concerns behind these selective cries for justice. For the US and Europe, it is clear their concern is to weaken Russia’s influence on the world scene, and for Russia it is the opposite concern. 

Obama also appears, as usual, like a moron.  When the best course is silence, he speaks, and in this case he demanded a ceasefire, which Israel agreed to, only to have one of its soldiers kidnapped 90 minutes later.  While we are in close contact with Israel and give them funds–a policy that should be revisited–there is no reason also to get involved and weigh in on things that only affect the US tangentially and where Israel has a pretty legitimate argument of self defense.  Our funding hurts us and arguably hurts israel too.  We feel obliged to question their tactics in the name of consistency and humanitarian concerns, but in the process we hurt our credibility by not doing so quickly or forcefully enough.  And Israel is required to do things that we cannot stomach, but they hold their hand at times out of concern for US criticism.  We should have more distance from one another and largely avoid this tar baby.  But that also goes for Syria, ISIS in Iraq, Ukraine and who leads it, and much else.  While the world appears to be going to hell in a handbasket, we must remember that is to some extent its natural condition.  There are disputes, conflicts, rivalries, and fears the world over that Americans do not have the time or patience or life experience to understand or manage.  The way to maintain our strength is to conserve it and not allow other, parochial, and local fights become our own.  This should be particularly salient on the 100th Anniversary of World War I, where a too-enmeshed world and system of defensive alliances allowed a regional war in the Balkans to cascade into a bloody and pointless world conflict.

The Russian speaking East of Ukraine appeared to have a plurality opposed to being ruled by what they call the Kiev “Junta.”  Locals, Russian adventurers, and possibly a smattering of Russian covert agents, arranged for their declarations of independence only several months ago.  It seems they hoped Russia would annex these regions in the same fashion as nearby Crimea.  But Russia has apparently remained aloof, providing, at most, some small arms and turning a blind eye to the entry of mercenaries, volunteers, and heavy weapons from Chechnya and other places.  Russia likely sees some benefit in continuing disorder in Eastern Ukraine, and, even if the rebels lose, there will be an even more radicalized pro-Russian minority in Ukrainian politics, which is to Russia’s advantage.  It is fairly clear that Crimea had stronger historical claims to reuniting with Russia, and Crimea had important Russian strategic value as the home of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

What appears almost certain now is that the rebels are losing the battle and are going to lose this war.  The rebels have lost almost all of their strategic cities, are in a tiny enclave in Eastern Ukraine, and depend on foreign fighters, such as the Chechen Vostok force and various Ossetian and Serbian volunteers.  While the rebels have some air defense capability, they are on a small, flat part of Ukraine, lack large quantities of artillery, and are outnumbered by the large numbers of Ukrainian forces that have been brought to bear in the region.

The way the rebels have fought also has a lot to do with their strategic ineffectiveness.  A small enclave like that rarely can go “toe to toe” with a professional military, even one thrown together on the fly such as the Ukrainian National Guard or the Donbas Battalion.  The usual advantage for a regional separatist force is to fight a guerilla campaign, and one may easily contrast the relative success of the Iraqi insurgency relative to the quick defeat of the conventional Iraqi Army in the 2000s.  But Ukrainians, unlike the tribal peoples of Iraq, clearly have some respect for law and order.  The rebels set up a government, complete with police cars, twitter accounts, elections, and the rest.  Unlike the ragamauffin Arab insurgents–whether in Iraq or Syria–they tend generally to carry their arms openly, wear some kind of uniform, have a chain of command, and have not engaged in gratuitous atrocities.  That is, they are anything but terrorists, as commonly understood, and their desire to create a real statelet that Russia could annex has carried forward to their manner of combat.  While this made some sense at the beginning, now that Russian annexation appears unlikely, this structure of things is to their strategic disadvantage.

For now, Ukraine is following the Russian example from Chechnya and bombing whole cities into smitherenes.  And, in spite of demands that Russia stop aiding the rebels, it is financially mismanaged Ukraine that depends on large amounts of western aid, but it is getting a lot of it.  Ukraine’s forces were unnerved and incapable after the Crimean event.  Now, filled with highly motivated and politicized former teachers, programmers, engineers, and other ordinary citizens from the Maidan protests, it makes up for in enthusiasm and good equipment what it lacks in experience and operational art.

It is possible this war will transition into one of guerilla war over the next few months.  But the qualities that make a good army often make for a bad guerilla. For Donetsk People’s Republic Defense Minister Igor Strelkov–who is a Russian Army veteran and all around military buff–the very different and less honorable tools of the trade for guerilla war may not be his cup of tea.  On the other hand, he has been around to some rough spots including Bosnia and Chechnya.

Now that the main Ukrainian military has gone into full pursuit and crush mode, it appears as if these “countries” will be short lived and either return to the Ukrainian fold or continue as restive provinces crawling with disaffected guerillas.  My money is on the former; guerrilla war, while having a long and storied place in the imagination of Soviet peoples, appears to have been the result of the earlier pre-Soviet nationalist and localist passions. The partisan campaigns of WWII went hand-in-hand with the locals being a somewhat ungovernable people, exemplified by the storied free-spirited ethos of the Cossacks.  70 years of Soviet rule diminished much of that spirit, and without the state-type structure of the Donetsk People’s Republic, it does not appear this conflict can last much longer.

I was initially skeptical that the Donetsk People’s Republic separatists could pull off this shootdown, speculating it was the act of trigger-happy, that is negligent and mistaken, Ukrainian or Russian air defense crews.  Now it appears there is some evidence that a single SA-17 launcher, which apparently has organic tracking ability in the form of its “TELAR” vehicles, may have shot down the airliner.  The inability to determine it was a civilian airliner likely was related to the crew’s inexperience with this sophisticated weapon system, coupled with some confusion over the extent of civilian air traffic over the area owing to the closing of the Donetsk airport.

There is a lot of overheated rhetoric regarding this incident. It is not terrorism. Terrorism requires intent.  If I run over an old lady because she darts in front of my car, it’s not terrorism or even a crime, it’s just a tragic accident.  It might result from my negligence or not.  But that doesn’t make it terrorism, any more than errant US bombs that killed Iraqis were “terrorism.” In wars we call this collateral damage.  Maybe it is good we are all reminded what this looks like up close.

It’s worth noting who else has done this sort of thing over the years.  America shot down an Iranian airliner in 1988 from the USS Vincennes. Israel did in the 70s against a Libyan airliner. France may have shot down an Italian airliner in this matter in 1980.

Let’s consider some first principles.  America has no business in getting involved in a Ukrainian civil war over control of Eastern Ukraine.  Russia may or may not be supporting the rebels, but this to has nothing to do with us. Ukraine is understandably concerned to preserve its territorial integrity, but its current regime is the outcome of a violent coup, where the coup leaders quickly scrapped an agreement they reached earlier this year and found thugs from Pravy Sektor and other groups in charge.

Russia, wishing to be a respected as a civilized world power would be well served to permit neutral observers to investigate the crash.  Candor about events would help its standing, even if its intelligence services or others had some tangential responsibility for this tragic event. Perhaps Russia had more to do with the manning and training of this SAM crew, but, judging by the results, it appears just as likely they over-confidently thought they could figure it out from reading the manuals and the like.  In any case, this is a sad situation, but it would become a ridiculous situation if this event somehow became widely thought to be a terrorist incident and cause for additional counterproductive Western opposition to Russia.

O Lord our God arise, Scatter her enemies, And make them fall:

Confound their politics, Frustrate their knavish tricks,

On Thee our hopes we fix:  God save us all.

-Excerpt of God Save the Queen

While war is a terrible thing for the innocent, there are degrees of innocence and degrees of concern.  My first concern is for my family and my countrymen.  Is it not to the advantage of the Western Christian world that the crazies of Shia and Sunni Islam, each with equally crazy fanatic branches of a mostly violent tree, fight one another, destroy their monuments, and turn their attention away from Europe and us, the “Great Satan?”  This was indeed the situation from 1980-1988 during the Iran-Iraq War, where terrorist incidents continued, but none on the scale of 9/11 and with most jihadi tourism focused on the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

In other words, why do we think we’re smart enough or that it’s even in our interest to end the Sunni-Shia fighting in Syria or the fighting of Sunni-Shia fighting in Iraq.  Indeed, even if the Sunnis of ISIS win, would they not be more deterrable, more easily managed, and more easily hurt when they purport to run a nation state than if they are an amorphous, stateless entity like al Qaeda.  After all, governments can make mistakes and become unpopular, and being unable to keep the lights on because of US retaliatory bombing matters more for a government than a mere gang.

America does not need to pick sides between Shia and Sunni extremists in the Middle East.  It is in an inherently thorny and complicated problem with no obvious right and wrong side.  Instead, as with so many other foreign policy issues, strategic disengagement and repairing our own financial house and improving our military readiness at home is more directly in our interests and more easily achieved than solving this three dimensional chess game that is Middle Eastern sectarian fighting.


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