Not my usual style, but I had the fantastic opportunity to write a feature after a long time, thanks to Lapsus Lima magazine, a beautifully designed magazine from Peru.
Bombs + Dollars Editor-in-Chief Mitchell Blatt’s commentary on his analysis of public opinion toward ISIS was published today at the website of the Central European Journal of International and Security Studies (CEJISS).
Are public fears about ISIS rational? A detailed global survey released by the Pew Research Center in August found that across 38 countries, ISIS is the issue the world’s people are most concerned about, besting climate change, in a plurality of countries surveyed. … I focused on analyzing whether, within the confines of human psychology, the relative risk assessments of various countries are in line with the threat posed to those countries by ISIS.
Read his commentary to see the findings and explanations: Is Fear of ISIS Rational? – CEJISS
In the context of ongoing discussion over whether or not publics in the world are rational in their views on terrorism, this analytical commentary uses data about fatalities from terrorist attacks and results of a Pew Research Center global survey on public attitudes to assess whether concern about ISIS tracks with the threat ISIS has posed to countries. This analysis found that concern about ISIS in most regions of the world tracked with both fatalities caused by all terrorism and fatalities caused by ISIS specifically. Globally, concern about ISIS in a country showed the strongest correlation with fatalities caused by ISIS. The publics of particular countries that faced divergent threat levels from ISIS-affiliated terrorists and non-ISIS-affiliated terrorists also showed the ability to distinguish between the different threats. The results indicate that publics are not, in general, extremely irrational.
My commentary on public opinion and ISIS has been published at the Central European Journal of International and Security Studies. Read my CEJISS commentary here.
Are public fears about ISIS rational? A detailed global survey released by the Pew Research Center found ISIS is the issue the world’s people are most concerned about in a plurality of countries surveyed. Across 38 countries, 62 percent of the world is concerned about ISIS, narrowly surpassing climate change as the top issue.
This has caused some to suggest that the public’s fear of ISIS is irrational. Michael Cruickshank wrote, “Crazy how irrationally afraid people are off ISIS. Shows how effective their propaganda is”. It’s true that everyday risks like car crashes and murders by common criminals are bigger threats for ordinary people, but the impact of intentional, targeted attacks on civilizational values causes a bigger fear impact in many people’s minds. Whether or not that is “rational” per se is a question for psychologists and philosophers and others to debate some other day. Instead I shall undertake to assess whether, within the confines of human psychology, the relative risk assessments of various countries are in line with the threat posed to those countries by ISIS.
This analysis focuses on concern about ISIS, as registered in the survey; fatalities caused by terrorism within each country, as tracked by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism’s (START, at the University of Maryland) Global Terrorism Database; and fatalities caused by ISIS, also tracked by START’s database. The results were predictable: there were generally positive correlations between a country’s exposure to fatalities caused by terrorism and that country’s concern about ISIS. There were also some notable departures from correlation, which showed many publics are attuned to specific regional dynamics.
Peter W. Smith, the Republican operative who was trying to obtain Clinton emails from hackers, kept a blog until shortly before he ended his life, where he strenuously defended President Donald Trump and the Republicans from allegations about the Russia investigation.
On the day before Smith committed suicide in a Rochester, Minnesota hotel room, he posted, “Three Agencies, Not 17, Behind Russian Interference Allegations.” The post calls the Russia investigation “just part of the Democratic storyline that Hillary Clinton had the election stolen from her by Russian interference” and criticizes the directors of the FBI, CIA, and NSA as “all are suspect in terms of their credibility.”
It was one of eight blog posts Smith wrote defending Trump from Russian interference-related allegations or raising questions about the investigation between the day of the election and the day of his death. Other blog posts Smith wrote were supported the Republican Party and the Trump agenda. In all, he wrote 22 posts.
Smith’s blog reveals a man avidly interested in politics, strongly supportive of Trump and the Republicans, who offered political advice and opinion on a variety of issues. The issues he cared about the most, judging by the frequency of posts, were the investigation and Clinton’s emails.
Is Russia an existential threat to the West? Is it just another geopolitical adversary? The answer to this question can determine Western action and Western goals. If we consider the Second World War definition of the West, which is limited to Western Europe and North America, policy prescription will be radically different than when one compares an ever expanding NATO and EU. This is important, and has been a major factor in punditry’s analysis of US President Donald Trump’s meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Hamburg G20, at a time of extreme global turmoil.
What we know so far is that there has been external interference in the US presidential election, by cyber attacks, originating from Russian mainland. That’s the US joint Intel assessment. Although the assessment claims that the cyber attack was ordered by Vladimir Putin, no public evidence was forwarded to corroborate that claim, and it is all classified. Nor is there any evidence of any active collusion between Russian intelligence and Trump campaign, yet, nor any clear indication of whether Russian interference decisively tilted the vote count.
Reporting continues to attempt to flesh out details, as investigations continue. Last week the Wall Street Journal reported last week that a Republican operative, Peter Smith, who claimed to have had communications with former Trump official advisor Michael Flynn, was actively seeking Clinton emails from hackers. Matt Tait, a cybersecurity professional who was a source for the Journal‘s reporting, wrote that he was contacted by Smith, who represented himself as working with the Trump campaign, to verify emails he said he had received on the dark web.
Whatever else turns out, Russia is still a geopolitical adversary of the United States and Europe. It is imperative for countries to have a clear coherent grand strategy and one based on a clear understanding of the issues. In light of that, we asked three International Relations experts, two from US, one from UK, on how should the West deal with Russia.
Here’s what they said.
While Donald Trump was meeting with Israelis, he seemed clueless as to Israel’s geography. “We just got back from the Middle East,” he said.
Some Twitter users thought they caught Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer stiffling a laugh.
WATCH: Pres. Trump to the President of Israel (while in Israel): "We just got back from the Middle East." (Watch the guy on the right) pic.twitter.com/q6nVq31WGu
— The Reagan Battalion (@ReaganBattalion) May 22, 2017
Other things we have learned from Trump himself in his short tenure in office:
– Frederick Douglas is just now getting the credit he deserves.
– Korea was once a part of China.
– China has 8,000 years of history as a civilization. (Even the Chinese themselves only assert 5,000.)
– The Civil War would have been so easy to prevent. Andrew Jackson would never have let it happen!
And some we’ve learned from the Trump press office and other members of the administration:
– Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons. Well, at least he didn’t use chemical weapons on his own people. I mean… (via Spicer)
– The Jews didn’t suffer enough in the Holocaust to afford a specific mention on Holocaust Remembrance Day. (the whole administration)
– Historically black colleges were pioneers of “school choice,” not the result of segregation. (DeVos)
– Trump had the largest inauguration crowd in history. (Spicer)
Imagine a situation, where a female professor writes something or asks something in class, or explains a bizarre chain of causality, and a male student, colleague, or researcher points out how flatly wrong it is. What would be the logical step after that in civilized circles? Debate at best, disagreement and parting ways at worst? Or an appeal to authority, and charge of “mansplaining”? The second one, happened to me, when I pointed out something in public.
The entire, hilariously short conversation is here on record. I have taken screenshots as well.
Getting retired from the United States Marine Corps at age 23 with zero deployments under my belt was a huge blow to what I figured to be my destiny on this planet. That “retirement” came in 2010 after three years on convalescent leave, recovering from a traumatic brain injury sustained stateside. I got my chance to vindicate myself in 2015 by volunteering to fight in Syria with the Kurdish Yeni Parastina Gel (YPG), or the “People’s Protection Units” in Kurmanji (Northern Kurdish language).
The YPG is the military apparatus of the Partiya Yekitiya Democrat (PYD), the Democratic Union Party, and one of the main forces of the Syrian Democratic Forces fighting ISIS and Bashar al-Assad’s regime. While they are a direct ideological descendant of the Soviet Union, their take on Marxism has a much more nationalistic bent than that of their internationalist forebears. At their training camp that I attended, they constantly spoke of their right to a free and autonomous homeland–which I could support. On the other hand, they ludicrously claimed that all surrounding cultures from Arab to Turk to Persian descended from Kurdish culture. One should find this odd, considering that the Kurds have never had such autonomy as that which they struggle for.
All of this puffed up nationalism masquerading as internationalism was easy to see through. The Westerners were treated with respect by the “commanders” (they eschewed proper rank and billet, how bourgeoise!), but the rank and file YPGniks were more interested in what we could do for them and what they could steal from us (luckily, my luggage was still in storage at the Sulaymaniyah International Airport in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq). By “steal from us,” I mean they would walk up to a Westerner/American and grab their cap, glasses, scarf and whatever else they wanted and ask “Hevalti?” which is Kurmanji for “Comraderie?” and if you “agreed” or stalled (a non-verbal agreement) then they would take your gear and clothing. “Do not get your shit hevalti-ed,” the saying went.
Not only was their idea of Marxism fatuous, their version of feminism was even worse.
John Lee is the Conservative Columnist at NK News and the writer behind The Korean Foreigner. Born in Brunei to immigrant parents, Lee was educated in English (a legacy of British colonialism) and then went to study in the U.S., before taking up citizenship in his ancestral Korea. As such, he says he feels like “a foreigner in my own country.” I interviewed him about the upcoming Korean elections, policy towards North Korea, Korean politics, and other topics.
Mitchell Blatt: There’s been lots of news about North Korea launching missiles and threatening to test an ICBM that could hit the U.S. South Korea is having elections, and the Trump administration seems to be suggesting that they might take a more aggressive policy towards North Korea. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the time for “strategic patience” is over. Do you think that Trump and Tillerson are going in the right direction on this?
John Lee: I don’t think that either Donald Trump or Tillerson are going in any direction regarding North Korea. Just recently they said that all options are still on the table. But that’s the same thing they’ve been saying since the Clinton administration. And anytime you say, ‘All options are on the table,’ what that means is, yeah, we have options, but we haven’t picked one yet. So I think they’re just going with being ‘tough’ on North Korea as far as their rhetoric goes, but I am not convinced that their rhetoric can be backed up by any significant actions.
Blatt: Suppose there was an attempt to go in a new direction. Do you think a new direction is needed?
Lee: If by “new direction,” you mean something more kinetic, then I think that would be a horrible idea. I think deterrence has worked for the past seventy years, and I think it can continue to work. Strong deterrence militarily and economic sanctions, I believe will help contain the situation as much as possible, but something more kinetic would involve a lot of human lives being lost. I think that would be the absolute worst case sanctions.
Blatt: China is talking about trying to open up four party talks. What kind of role does China play in this, and is there any possibility for China to play a bigger role in keeping North Korea in check?
Lee: I think China’s role is more limited than people think it is. It has been proven repeatedly that the North Koreans do not listen to China all that much. China does not want the North Koreans to conduct these missile tests, but they’re conducting them anyway. Recently, because of the unofficial sanctions that the Chinese has imposed on South Korea, China has lost a lot of good will with the South Koreans, too. Four party talks might be enticing for the next progressive government, but I think they will have a hard time juggling the economic interests of China with the military alliance of the United States. The military alliance, as much as they [the progressives] disdain it, is not something that they can just ignore. It would just be irresponsible.
Blatt: One of the big sticking points there is THAAD, and most of the Minjoo Party candidates over the past year have opposed it, but now they seem to be shifting their positions. Do you think in the end, they are going to—if not support THAAD—support the status quo, which is the deployment of THAAD?
Trump declares (trade) war…for now
Donald Trump’s inauguration marked a change in the world order, the free market liberal order that continued from 1945 in the West, and spread across the world around 1989. Here’s the transcript of the entire speech. But here are my quick three takeaways. The speech means, firstly, Trump is planning a 1930s-type national nation building project. Secondly, and inevitably, there’s now all possibility of a devastating trade war. And thirdly, Islamists are now the prime target of the administration.
The speech highlighted the new American credo of manufacturing in US, with American workers, and American infrastructure getting priority. It is unclear how he can do it, however, as if he imposes legal procedures on manufacturing outside US, his own company which outsources to China, will also suffer. The world is not stuck in the 1930s, and one cannot change the direction of capital flow or alter the comparative advantages. The center of gravity of economy moved to the East, and one can only adapt so far.
Trump’s inauguration statement was straightforward and refreshingly neutral in tone. In a certain way, it was without all the ridiculous and optimistic and hopeful balderdash we seem to have expect from American inaugurations. This was like a whistle for a firing squad. The world is now without leadership, and every power for its own. If you’re a strong power, then be stronger, if you’re weak, choose a side. Simple as that.
Researchers who deal with grand strategy often tries to find historical patterns in foreign policy.
Page 1 of 5
U.S. doesn’t need anything from North Korea and shouldn’t meet
May 24, 2018
Harvey Weinstein isn’t a Democratic Senator, and neither is Al Franken anymore
May 19, 2018
Korean corruption scandal and Donald Trump
May 11, 2018
Long essay on the British housing crisis
May 11, 2018
The real Nobel comparison? Kim Dae-jung and the failed Sunshine Policy
May 5, 2018
Resolving the “52% of white women voted for Trump” question
April 29, 2018
A disaster of a summit
April 28, 2018
Free speech ≠ forced speech; Facebook can and should control its own platform
April 11, 2018
Read Ralph Peters’ letter disavowing Fox News as a Trump’s propaganda arm
March 21, 2018
A Conservative reading of Pinker’s new book
March 5, 2018
State of the Union highlights: Trump’s unpatriotic appropriation of the flag – Bombs and Dollars
"[…] Trump doesn’t understand why anyone would be an official, because he doesn’t ..."
Responding to Daniel Kim: What he gets wrong about Trump and immigration – Bombs and Dollars
"[…] starts his article by telling us, “Trump has been called an ‘anti-immigrant’ ..."
The Left’s Moral Kulturkampf Reaps the Whirlwind – American Greatness
"[…] are the liberal left. From Labour members of Parliament to socialist male ..."
Just a reminder: Trump is unhinged – Bombs and Dollars
"[…] Just a reminder: Unhinged attacks are something of a hallmark for Trump. ..."
Just a reminder: Trump is unhinged – Bombs and Dollars
"[…] Halperin, Louie CK, and so many others were fired or forced out. ..."