I remember when System of A Down released, “B.Y.OB.” I remember driving along the Pacific Coast Highway, tanned from a day at the beach and a belly full of surf and turf while Serge Tankian screamed, “And we all live in a fascist nation!” This was 2006. I remember thinking I liked SOAD more for their music than for their astute grasp of political philosophy. On that note, let’s jump ahead to present-day China, where 850,000 informants work the streets in Beijing alone. Biometric enrollment required for admission to scenic parks or mountains. Facial recognition done by CCTV, drones and police sunglasses. Corporatism. Gait recognition. A “social credit system” where each citizen accrues a score based on past behavior — and reaps rewards or discrimination based on it. The subjugation of an entire Muslim province. Surveillance on schoolchildren to catch cheaters, those that don’t pay attention in class, and make note of food eaten or not eaten on a daily basis. And thanks to China’s One Belt One Road initiative, it is coming to China’s de facto colonies. Expect to see this technology and this behavior increasing in Uganda, DRC, South Sudan, and even Somalia. It is already making an appearance in Zimbabwe. Now, that’s what I call fascism. What word would Serge Tankian use?
“M: Sit down, 007. James: Thank you, sir. M: No ill effects? James: None at all, sir. M: Well now that you’re dead, perhaps some of your old friends will pay a little less attention to you for a while. Give you more elbow room. You’ll need it, too.” – You Only Live Twice (1967)”
Journalist Arkady Babchenko had pissed off the Russians many times. Being a former Russian soldier himself doubtless kept him very much in Putin’s gaze. But, according to the Ukranian Security Service (Sluzhba Bespeky Ukrayiny, or SBU), Putin’s Sauron-like eye narrowed on him considerably in early 2018. The SBU informed Babchenko of a credible, Russian-backed threat against his life, at which point Babchenko had three options: take the chance that Russians with the motives, means, opportunity and stated desire to kill him weren’t serious; devise his own plot to foil any attempt on his life; or cooperate with the SBU to stage his death as a means to expose the network behind his potential assassination. We know now that Babchenko chose Door Three. And many bien pensants are in a tizzy. Per Al-Jazeera, a Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) spokeswomen stated that “CPJ takes quite a dim view of law enforcement impersonating journalists. Now, with Arkady Babchenko basically acting as a police asset, one clear damage is to public trust for the media and for journalists.” Former NSA spook John Schindler writes, “playing the Western media for fools and taking advantage of their newfound interest in Russian terrorism abroad was terribly short-sighted….Putin’s regime lies nonstop anyway, and this gives Russia’s rancid lies a smidge of credibility.”
Historically, the countries of the EU have been allies of the US. That’s not to say they didn’t get a little passive-aggressive at times. France, Spain, Germany and Greece could even, at one point or another in the past fifteen years, been classified as a frenemy.
Vladimir Putin, however, would like to make the whole EU our enemy. And he’s doing everything he can to soften the psychological terrain for the EU — whether country-by-country or as a whole — to accept Russia as its single indispensable benefactor and ally. There are disturbing signs that Putin’s efforts are paying off.
We know ISIS is bad because it killed people in San Bernardino and Paris. We know Iran is bad because it’s still developing nuclear weapons. We know Russia is bad…because…well, didn’t Charlie Rose once say something about that? Or was it Seth MacFarlane? Either way, as Americans, we know there is a threat from Putin’s Russia, but many of us (including, of course, Donald Trump) aren’t quite sure why.
Don’t feel bad for sleeping on Russia. Thanks to a hybrid of information operations, psychological warfare and espionage, Russia has evaded the scrutiny afforded ISIS, Iran and even North Korea. But while we had little excuse for our blindness to Russia’s actions in 2012, when Barack Obama laughed at Mitt Romney’s assertion that Russia was a preeminent geopolitical threat, we have absolutely no excuse now.
[Note: This article was originally written on 1 NOV 2015. The author is finally getting around to publishing it, hoping that he’ll look really smart if it all comes true.]
“Can we really trust Turkey?”
After you’ve bored friends and family with your talk about ISIS, Iran, Russia, China, North Korea and Al-Qaeda, why would you even venture a question about Turkey? (As my wife asks me.) It’s a good question which has, unfortunately, a good answer.
Right now, Turkey is the most feasible trigger for us to go to war.
Turkey is an ally. It’s a member of NATO, it has agreed to support the US effort against ISIS and it has taken in more than 2 million Syrian refugees, which is far more than any other country. Under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has modernized its economy, bolstered the rights of minorities and even advanced reconciliation with the Kurds.