While I am pleased to hear the sound of my own voice, it has betrayed me on more than one occasion. My noble ears, on the other hand, have never done anything to embarrass me.
Age is relentless. Pains, aches, doubts, diseases: these are the wolves of time. They hunt us down in ever-increasing numbers as our days mount in number. Victory is not in banishing these things, but in not letting them destroy faith, hope, charity, and bravery. The day of our demise draws near. Blessed is the man that can greet that day without complaint or fear.
Just had a thought and the research backs me up: if we want to reduce the total number of senseless deaths in America, we should essentially ban tobacco and alcohol before we ban bullets and guns. While I deplore senseless killings done with firearms, I deplore even more the larger number of people killed via the greed of the tobacco and alcohol industries. Let me explain.
With those in hand, it’s clear that tobacco and alcohol are major contributing factors to global mortality. Put it in the language of a wager: If I bet with a billionaire that I would pay him one dollar for every death of a person over 30 years of age not attributable to alcohol or tobacco and he were to pay me five for every death of a person over 30 that was, I’d make $2 per 10 deaths. That would be $500,000 for the USA, alone. I’d clear over $10,000,000 for the rest of the world. Sadly, that would be the only benefit from such tragedies.
If Americans understood science and math better, we would react with as much shock and horror to a person consuming alcohol or tobacco as we would to a person carrying an automatic firearm into an elementary school. The potential for damage is enormous, but is more certain and more pervasive in the case of alcohol and tobacco.
Consumption of those products is not strictly a personal choice, although conscientious users take steps to reduce overall risks to others by taking certain precautions when consuming them. Even so, alcohol use impairs judgment and can lead to accidental fatalities and assaults. Tobacco use can be sequestered so that others need not deal with exposure to the carcinogens in that product, but it is not so easy to isolate others from medical costs related to tobacco use for their loved ones. If one doesn’t have a completely self-funded medical expense account, one simply should not smoke or drink. Claiming the benefits of a health insurance scheme is no good, either, as that passes the cost on to other participants in that scheme or to the nation at large. Quite selfish to levy a tax on others, so that one could consume a given product.
And if this makes a reader angry, I’d retort that that’s the selfishness kicking in, fighting to keep the habit going. Look at the facts: smokers and drinkers can and will put others at hazard, either over time or instantly, and will pass costs of their consumption on to others, to a greater degree than killers with firearms or other weapons. Given that a goodly portion of manslaughters and murders are alcohol-related, one could even make an argument to reduce those by way of banning alcohol.
I’m not really calling for a government ban, either. I’m only calling for better education in math and science. Let those currently using quit or die on their own. It’s the new customers that we should be focusing on. How best to deter them from engaging in habits that will contribute to if not directly cause mayhem far out of proportion to their personal benefit? If we can get a generation to grow up without choosing to destroy the lives of themselves and others via tobacco and alcohol, then we can visit attention on other preventable leading causes of death.
Margot Wallström criticized Saudi Arabia for its imprisonment of free speech advocates and its horrendously misogynistic laws, such as requiring female children to marry their rapists. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations howled and the West… told her to shut up. When the Swedish arms industry became scared that they might lose sales to the Saudis, she got pressured to actually *apologize* for telling the truth. Are we Charlie Hebdo only if it doesn’t impact the profits of the military-industrial complex?
The completion of the annual revolution of the earth is marked with celebration and reflection. Our limited mortality prevents us from doing the same when our sun completes a trip around the galactic core or when our galaxy finishes its path around the central attractor of the local cluster… to say nothing of when the local cluster or its containing supercluster complete their cycles. And yet, nature has the biggest bash of all: after the heat death of the universe, quantum tunneling can lead to a release of baryonic matter and energy, in a new big bang event, starting another cycle on its way. Happy New Year, in perspective.
I just read some awful diatribe about how the West and Islam can never co-exist peacefully. Horsefeathers, I say. They can coexist just fine. We just have to do our due diligence in telling the difference between immigrant assimilation issues, geopolitically-fueled crimes, intolerant views held by a minority, and actual clashes of civilization.
I want to look first at the notion of Muslims somehow being less tolerant of other faiths than those other faiths are of Islam. In Spain in 1492, the rulers there began a set of policies that would eject Muslims and Jews from Spain. Hardly a symbol of Western tolerance – and it was Muslim nations, such as the Ottoman Empire, that welcomed in the Jewish population. The Jewish track record in the West pretty much stinks, really, what with ghettos and the whole Holocaust thing. Christian denominations within Western nations didn’t fare so well, either. Protestants, Reformed, and Catholics alike committed massacres of the pacifist Anabaptists during the religious upheavals of the 16th and 17th Centuries. My own ancestors fled the United States in the 1840s and again in the 1890s because of religious persecution. They were Christian, but the USA seemed determined to deny them a right to practice their faith as they saw fit to do so.
And lest this become some argument for atheism, let me level the intellectual cannons at that lot. Atheism in the West is simply intolerant of all faiths and, like the religions they criticize, will cannibalize its own dissenters if they don’t hold fast to a consensus view. Atheism in the West is not a movement that liberates people from group-think: it rather introduces a new paradigm for rejecting others based upon a set of beliefs. They’re no better than any other group that uses a supposed proof to justify persecution of anyone that does not agree with said proof.
No, the true salvation from religious intolerance is to practice a mature faith that realizes each person is free to make choices, even choices that disappoint us. We must practice a mature faith that allows for others to find their own ways. We must practice a mature faith that seeks to find out what common ground we have with others, and not to discover fighting grounds.
I, a Christian, walked through a mosque and a Hindu mandir with a Muslim and a Hindu at my side through both experiences. I felt the faith being expressed in both locations. I have visited the places of worship of other Christian denominations and have been moved by their expressions of faith. Though I may not worship in the same way, do I not seek the same peace that they all seek? In our devotions, we are taught the need to love others and to strive to bless their lives through our deeds. The same is taught in the Quran, though it may deny Jesus’ divinity. The same is taught in the Bhagavad-Gita, thought it may not have arisen out of the Southwest Asian monotheistic traditions. There is much more in our faiths that is alike than that which is different.
History shows that man can be cruel, but history also shows that man can be compassionate. It all depends upon our choices.
So, wherefore the existence of these conflicts? How to explain the terrorism and the lack of integration of Muslims into European societies?
Let me start with the matter of integration: integration does not happen in segregated environments. When people are free to move in and out and among society freely, families integrate over the course of roughly three generations. Put another way, allow for 75 years to integrate a wave of immigration. Looking at blacks in the USA, they were not really allowed to begin to integrate until around 1950, which puts us now in the third generation of their internal immigration experience. While not many people are shocked by interracial marriages in 2015, such things were forbidden in 1961, when JFK refused to allow Sammy Davis, Jr. to appear at his inauguration on account of his being married to a white woman.
Muslims in Europe have a difficult time integrating because of how they’ve largely been confined to ethnic neighborhoods and in the ways that they’ve faced legislation designed to keep them from participating fully in their host society. When Algeria became independent from France, for example, France then terminated the veterans’ benefits and pensions for all Algerians that had served in the French army during WW2, even if those Algerians lived in France and were French citizens. If Muslims have a hard time of integrating in Europe, look to the racism of the powerful before condemning the clannishness of the weak.
But even eliminating those racist laws will not be an immediate panacea. The three-generation process begins at that point. If the USA is any guide, there will be upheavals, riots, assassinations, murders, rapes, and anguished national questions all along the way. Our answer to those questions need not be a “final” answer, as the Germans reached for in the 1940s. It can be the more difficult answer of tolerance and decency.
So, on to terrorism. Here, I would also point a finger at the men in charge of the powerful nations. In the 1950s through the 1980s, NATO nations and nearby neutral European nations had “stay-behind” programs. These were under the umbrella of Operation GLADIO, and these groups were built up to offer partisan resistance to Soviet forces, in the event of a Warsaw Pact overrunning of Western Europe. These groups were made up largely of men that feared Communists most – many former Nazis and fascists either joined or were recruited for GLADIO teams. Once formed, groups like the CIA saw them as assets that could be used to help steer public opinion away from leftist political movements. The GLADIO groups would commit acts of terrorism and the state would then quickly blame Communists for them, causing public outcry – and a shift in electoral preferences. Anti-terror laws in those nations never focused on the actual perpetrators of the terror, but on supposed enemies of the state. While the USSR had its KGB and rather frank matter of dealing with its dissidents, the NATO nations preferred to frame their dissidents or have them die while in police custody.
As the USSR dissolved, the narrative in the West shifted from a question of whether or not it could avoid a clash of civilization with Russia and instead replaced Russia with a notional form of Islam that suited the narrative. The tolerant Islam as practiced by most Muslims around the world had to be discarded in favor of characterizing it as some sort of evil empire that hated the West. “For its freedoms,” ironically. Radicals that happened to be Muslim fit the bill nicely. Why no radical Buddhists or Hindus? Such radicals exist, but because they’re not in areas of geopolitical importance, the West had no need to rile them up.
Note that, when radical Muslims were busy destroying Russian or Russian-backed forces, they were 100% Official Friends of the West. When Gulbuddin Hekmatyar was blowing up T-72s in and around Kabul, the West praised him as a freedom-loving Mujaheddin. When the deal to build a US-backed pipeline across Afghanistan fell through, he became a dirty rotten terrorist. The plans to kick him and his Taliban out of power in Afghanistan were already underway in 2001 when the events of 11 September happened.
The same can be said for Chechens that want to rip into Russia. Those guys constitute a “moderate opposition group” to Assad in Syria, even though they’re foreign fighters that are there to acquire experience, equipment, and allies. They’re going to go home to roost in Russia, so the CIA has had no problem providing them with arms, along with the Turks and Saudis. That the Boston Marathon bombers were Chechen has been largely glossed over in the US media, the more to focus on their being aspects of evil Islam. Were we to make the Chechen connection, it would be much harder to use those forces to overthrow Assad in Syria.
Which brings me back to the GLADIO story: the USA and its allies are arming and training the radicals in Syria. Saudi Arabia is full of organizations that exist to radicalize people. We’ve known about the Saudi radicalization since the 1990s, and the Syrian operation is the latest in a string of operations that saw the USA and its allies arm extremely violent groups in Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen. When violence from those groups arrives in Western nations, how much of that is orchestrated by the state, in order to keep driving the public demand for more limitations on its freedom in the name of national security – which measures serve only to perpetuate the power of those at the top, not to protect the people from the thugs that kill indiscriminately.
“Clash of civilization” is merely a line of propaganda that suits the needs of the powerful. Should China arise to threaten the West, then I would expect a resurrection of “Yellow Peril” propaganda and a sudden realization that Muslims really are our friends, as evidenced by all those freedom-loving Muslims out in Western China, struggling mightily against the dictatorship there…
By the way, between the invasion of Tibet and Nixon’s visit to China, the USA did sponsor radical Buddhists as they committed acts of terror against the Chinese authorities. The USA did so through the CIA and the brother of the Dalai Lama. When Nixon wanted better relations with China, the aid drops to the Tibetan terrorists suddenly stopped. We now see Buddhists popularly as a bunch of vegetarian pacifists, even though there are some Buddhists that would kill their own mothers if it would get them gain in the world. If it ever suits our needs to target Buddhists as a threat to justify authoritarian legislation in the West, the Buddhists will be targeted, make no mistake.
So, in conclusion, people in general want to live in harmony, even if we have different ways of believing. It is our curse to have leaders that use the radicals that will murder to get gain in order to further their own illicit gain. Those radicals have had different ethnic backgrounds and political views, but they are united by their love of murder, making them – and their political masters – the true common enemy of the West.
I am of a school of thought that God tries to communicate to man in ways that the man of the day can understand. But, always, is the caveat from God that his ways are not man’s ways. His thoughts are not man’s thoughts. His view of life and its purpose is not man’s view. But none of those things stop God from doing what he can to make man more like him.
And when I say God communicates in ways that man can understand him, it’s not that God limits his communications. God’s communications take a certain level of preparation in order to understand and to realize that they are, indeed, messages to us from a person that has a great deal to say to us, if we will but receive those messages. And so much of that communication is mathematical.
I’m not speaking of taking numbers of things in scriptures to manipulate them to get deeper meanings. Rather, mathematics is what defines the entire universe. To me, it stands to reason that mathematics defines that which is beyond our universe, as well.
As I read the scriptures, I am fascinated with the statements that things that seem numberless to us have their number known to God. When God says that there is no time in his realm, that he has made worlds without number to us, and that his course is one eternal round, I take notice. To me, they imply of a number system that exists to properly count and manipulate the universes, to sum each beginning and end of a time-space continuum and to connect it to the ones ahead of it and to the ones behind it.
“Ones” is not even the right word to use to describe to us these bounded near-infinitudes. We exist as mortals, with our spirits barely intersecting with the time and space of this universe, completely unable to see curvature of space from our vantage point. Indeed, all that we can conclude from looking up at the stars is that our view is imperfect.
And when we look at a number such as pi, we find that, again, our view is imperfect. We have calculated 13.3 trillion digits or so of that decimal and never does it repeat, terminate, or even show signs of being a random generation. Our efforts to get to the end of that number can only be finite in this time and space that we have. A few hundred digits suffice for even the most sophisticated of our calculations, so we round it off and move on with things. Yet, there it is, its digits continuing on and on. Because we have not found the termination, we say it does not terminate. Yet, we do not know for sure. We can never know for sure because we have no way of viewing what seems to us to be infinite.
And pi is not alone: nature and natural phenomena are constantly described by numbers such as pi. The square root of 2 has been calculated out to 2 trillion places, making it the second-place number for how determined mankind is to get more digits of. The number e has only been calculated to a few billion digits. These numbers seem out of place among a people more comfortable with tapping fingers to get from one to ten. Yet, there they are. Are there operations we do not know and numbers we do not use that cleanly produce neat, exact representations of both those numbers as well as the integers we desperately cling to?
And what of the beginning and end of our time-space continuum? In ten to the tenth power to the fifty-sixth power years, a universe can go from big bang to heat death to quantum tunneling that produces a new universe. While the causality between elements exists from bang to bang, we do not see a way for causality to continue across such events. Time, therefore, exists between the bangs, but not across them. Eternity, therefore, embraces not just two or three generations of time, but all of them. Such a perspective would have a way of numbering all these things, and that way of numbering would be capable of precision beyond our comprehension, because time would not exist for those that are eternal.
So what mathematics would exist for God and those in his realm? What geometries do they comprehend? What operations are necessary for the angels to execute in order to number the generations of time and space and the matter and energy within them through eternity?
I cannot pretend to answer those questions authoritatively, but I can begin to probe in those directions and, in so doing, I find great beauty and wonderment in mathematics, more so than I did before.
Recently, Turkish F-16 fighters shot down a Russian Su-24 bomber. This is the first time a NATO member has shot down a Russian jet since 1952, when a US pilot shot down a Russian jet near North Korea. In 1960, the Russians shot down a US U-2 spy plane that was over Russian airspace. This is not the first time Russia and NATO have been involved in shooting down each other’s planes, and the previous instances did not lead to war. Will this recent one be any different?
Looking at the stories told by both sides, the Russian one survives the mathematical examination of the evidence provided. The Turks claimed that they warned the plane 10 times – in the 17 seconds that they claimed it took the Su-24 to transit a stretch of Turkish airspace less than 2 miles, which would require that the plane be moving at stall speed. The Russians claim that not only did their plane not transit Turkish airspace, but that they received zero warnings about the attack.
The Russians also point out that they shared the flight path information with the USA, as part of an effort to coordinate flights over Syria. The Russians now accuse the USA of sharing the flight information with the Turks, who then planned an ambush. To bolster the Russian side, they point out that the Turks had two F-16s in the area from an airbase 46 minutes away, while it took the Russians 34 minutes to reach the area from their base – the Turks were in place for an ambush. The Russians also demonstrate that it was the Turkish air force that entered Syrian airspace for 40 seconds at a height of 2400 meters to shoot down the Russian planes. That point of contention is underscored by a US officer’s leaking information that the Russian plane was shot down over Syria.
Circumstantial evidence includes the rapidity of producing professional videos of both the executed pilot and the attack on the rescue mission, along with evidence that Turkey has both been purchasing oil from ISIS and supplying it with arms and ammunition.
In response, the Russians have deployed anti-air surface missiles to the area and have moved naval support closer to the area. They have indicated that they will shoot down threats to their planes, and this can include jets in Turkish or Israeli airspace standing off Russian aircraft. While I don’t think the Russians will shoot first, I do think that the Russians will down any aircraft involved in firing upon one of its own. The Russians have acknowledged an increase in tensions and a decrease in their trust for the USA – which could result in NATO forces being banned from entry into Syria and Iraq, possibly even Jordan. It could result in Turkey losing access to gas supplies from Russia and Iran. It could result in a move to incorporate the Donetsk region into Russia. None of these moves, however, would lead to war.
Therefore, the decision to escalate remains in the hands of the USA and its allies.
I live in the United States of America, and today is the holiday of Thanksgiving in the USA. Like Christmas, it has been poisoned with commercialism. While this day is set aside for the giving of thanks and expressing gratitude, the day following has fallen victim to advertising campaigns that have stipulated that it is a day for grasping, greedy consumption. It is a day for assembling at the shrines of acquisition with a frenzy sufficient to trample anyone in one’s path, even unto death, that one might forget thankfulness in a rage of worldly want.
And so it goes for most people through to Christmas. The bombardment of advertising is with us all through the year: Valentine’s Day is for buying flowers and chocolate. St. Patrick’s is for buying green beer. Easter is for buying chocolate and eggs and that horrible fake grass that gets everywhere. Mother’s Day is for buying things for mothers. Father’s Day is for buying things for fathers. July 4th is for buying lots of meat and fireworks. August is for buying things for returning to school. September is for buying things in general, at Labor Day sales. October is for buying candy and costumes. But in November, the advertising takes on a sinister quality. It drives people to deadly frenzies and deep depressions. In a time that Christians have set aside to contemplate the birth of Jesus Christ and the message of love, compassion, and truth that he brought, we face the demeaning chants of mammon that overwhelm that message.
We hear and see evidence that we are worthless without making new purchases. We buy things that we don’t really want or need, but we do so and experience some form of psychic release and joy because of the imprint that advertising has burdened us with. Make no mistake: the advertising these days is a highly polished product, capable of infecting even the most stalwart of men that declares, “I’m not affected by advertising!” Yes, you are. It’s that effective. Legions of psychologists have constructed those ads to cause you to believe, with all your heart, in the lies of worldly consumption as salvation.
For the film, “Czech Dream” (Czech: Český sen), the filmmakers showed how easily a lie could be fashioned to the point of driving a mind to madness. They started by shaving their beards and getting some sharp clothes – provided free to them, if they but made an advertising mention for the product in their film. Next, they created an ad campaign for a store that would never exist. The advertisers refused to tell an outright lie, but the filmmakers got the advertisers to go with a negative campaign. “Don’t shop.” “Don’t buy.” “Don’t show up.” Those were the slogans of the campaign, which, legally, were not false advertising.
Next came the psychological touch to the construction of print ads. The filmmakers showed how the makers of the ads study the layout on the page so that they produce not only a document that informs, but that convinces the reader to desire an opportunity to pay for the goods advertised. Was there deception involved? Legally, no. But, ah, there’s that qualifier that the advertisers and psychologists hide behind as they create their propaganda! “Legally.” “Technically.” Words like those mean that, while there is no legally-defined illegal activity taking place to the best of the knowledge of the participants in the activity thereof, oh, yeah, it’s totally unethical and manipulative.
Honestly, I believe that one day, a host of outraged parents could engage in a class-action suit against Nickelodeon, Walt Disney, and, to a lesser extent, McDonald’s, for causing their children to become affected with ADHD and/or ADD. By brandishing the “kid-friendly” adjective, these agents fooled parents into trusting their children’s attention spans to their advertising onslaught, leading to minds made pliant and submissive to the whims of anything flashy. I saw this affecting my child and put a parent block on those channels. With only a few days of withdrawal, she was reading again. She was also no longer nagging me incessantly about how we needed to have a vacation in a Disney property or that we needed to purchase a DVD with a Nick or Disney label on it.
Turning off the advertising on television is only part of a solution. Sadly, I still live in a world of people that are awash in ads. The ads surround me on road signs, on the airwaves, and on whatever sneaks past my adblocker software. It’s a constant mental assault. There are even programs dedicated to the best ads, as if, somehow, the advertising itself is the content to view and not just the things we allow ourselves to endure in order to see non-advertising content. And there are ads, as well, in that content. “Product placement” is as pervasive as it is perverse.
The antidote to this advertising, in my experience, is true devotion and service. I find this in my religion, which teaches me of the constant need to express thanks and gratitude, to avoid the influences of the world, and to seek after the better things that God offers us. The time I spend in devotion and service gives me true joy. Those times give me precious memories with family and friends that are beyond the prices that the pure free-market libertarians want to put on everything, even the breaths that we take. No, there are things that have no way to be bought or sold. They are much more real than the material goods that pass through our fingers on their way to the garbage dump or resale shop.
True religion is not the cause of woe in the world. False religions do cause woe, but look at the causes of false religion: one sees grasping materialism, lusts for power, and desires for control at their roots. Those things are also the causes of many, many other woes in the world. Those things are mammon. Mammon is not some deity of old – it is the Hebrew word for “money.” One cannot serve both mammon and God. The priests of mammon know this, which is why they poison the year, and especially the religious holidays, with their propaganda. Even though service to mammon destroys humanity, it appeals to our lusts and allows them to be unbridled while blinding us to the consequences that surely follow. True religion asks us to restrain our wildness, and shows us the consequences of our actions. It then encourages us to do what is right, to do what is loving. It encourages us to seek after treasures not of the world, but the treasures of true love, for God is love.
I have never bought my wife a diamond ring, and I never will. My love for her is not of this world, so why would I want a token of the world to express it? No, I bought her a small Swiss cowbell as a token for our love. It has a meaning to us (as well as anyone else that has seen “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge” or DDLJ). The bell can pass from this world, but the symbolism contained in it is eternal. It is not a sign of my earning potential or folly: it is a small material representation of a vast, infinite network of devotion.
Thanksgiving, at its heart, is about humbling oneself. It is about realizing that there is much to be grateful for, even in the worst of circumstances. It is for accepting that the material world will pass and all the things of the world with it, but that something greater yet endures. It is not nation, it is not corporation, and it is not even land or sea. That which yet endures, which is greater than all things, is love, for God is love.
My nation might plunge itself into a conflict which I know to be immoral and abominable: yet I will give thanks for my family and friends. I might be ridiculed for my fidelity towards something that I cannot prove exists: yet I will give praise to my God. I might be assailed with messages that tell me I am nothing without a certain worldly possession: yet I will find joy in knowing that I am a child of God, and that He is part of my family and friends.
There is much that can be done to fend off the impact of the servants and followers of mammon. We serve and follow love when we give service. We serve and follow love when we humble ourselves and give thanks. We serve and follow love when we can find the quiet stillness within each of us, that allows us the simple, yet eternal, pleasure of discovering our unity with God.
We can all find this quiet stillness, each in our own way and after our own journey to that place. The secret to finding it, however, is not in wrath, but in patience. We find it not with purchasing, but with giving. We approach it not with grasping consumption, but with loving compassion. Mammon is found through acts of violence. Love is found through acts of non-violence.
Therefore, I wish peace unto one and all this year. Find a quiet place and a quiet time, and discover that loving stillness within yourself and let it grow in its influence upon you.
It’s no secret that China and Russia are both in a state of heightened tensions with the USA. All three nations have engaged in activities to provoke each other: I will leave aside an accounting of which side does more to provoke the other. The fact that the tensions exist, and that they exist at this level, let us assume as a given.
Now, what the USA is doing with these tensions is what concerns me. Yesterday, I read comments from an admiral that we need to roughly double the number of aircraft carrier groups under US command to 21 to respond to higher global tensions. Today, I read about the USA testing a Trident ballistic missile – a submarine-launched missile that is designed to deliver a nuclear warhead – just off the coast of Los Angeles, a general discussing how the USA conducted war simulations about a potential Russian invasion of the Baltic States (and how the US/NATO forces were destroyed in the conventional exchange), and now I read that Ash Carter, the USA’s Secretary of Defense, gave a speech in which he implied that Russia is intending to potentially engage in a nuclear attack on the USA.
The fact that all of these stories have come out in just a matter of days – if not hours – shows to me that it’s clear that the USA intends to continue to escalate the tensions. These three stories are basically the justification for an escalation, which would include a vast expansion of military spending. But an escalation would also increase the risk of conventional war, which in turn would lead to an increase in the risk of a nuclear war, either limited or all-out.
The USA plans to deliver MANPAD anti-air missiles to Syrian rebels – even though those rebels often become al-Qaeda or ISIS forces – and those MANPADs can be used against Russian planes. Who would Russia hold responsible if one of is planes was shot down with a US-provided weapon? If the USA deploys troops in Syria to fight alongside rebels, who will the USA hold responsible if they are killed by Russian or Iranian forces?
The fact is, Assad *is* the legitimate ruler of Syria, full stop. Assad has requested Russian aid in eliminating *all* rebels against his regime, not just those that belong to a particular group. The UN has criticized the USA for its actions in Syria, and rightly so. By supporting the rebel movements against Assad, the USA has brought forth the entity known as ISIS. ISIS then established a murderous regime that tore into the civilian populations of Iraq and Syria – and the civilian population of Syria included all the refugees from Iraq that that nation hosted. Now, those millions from Iraq and Syria are flowing into Europe, threatening to unleash a massive wave of European xenophobia. Several leaders there, including German ones, have already referenced concentration camps in public speeches.
But the USA continues to poke and probe and prod in Syria because if Assad goes, then so goes Iran’s potential pipeline to the Mediterranean and in goes Qatar and Saudi Arabia’s pipeline. If Syria wasn’t a transit country hostile to US interests, Assad could be as horrible as anyone else in the world and get away with it. Don’t believe me? Look at what Turkey and Saudi Arabia, both US allies, are doing to their people. Saudi Arabia beheads more people than ISIS and the head of Turkey is engaging in a genocidal civil war so that he can rewrite that nation’s constitution to give him dictatorial powers. Syria is all about the oil, and that is why the USA is risking a wider conflict with Russia.
Russia’s economic survival is on the line, so it will defend Assad. Syria has always been Russia’s most dependable ally in the region. Think of Syria as the Russian Israel. If massive waves of Palestinians were threatening to wipe out the Netanyahu government in Israel, you would almost count on US divisions showing up to save the day, if they were requested. We would insist upon our right to aid an allied government deal with its internal crisis and then politely ask other nations to stay out. That’s what Russia is doing in Syria, and the USA is ignoring those requests to stay out. This can lead to trouble.
In the South China Sea, China has claimed a large area of water as part of its territory. Vietnam, Taiwan, Indonesia, and the Philippines also claim those waters, or parts of them. Since claims for waters are based upon nearby land, China went ahead and built some land in shallow waters, and then made its claims based upon those lands. China then built naval and air bases on those lands, just to get the point across that it really intended to claim those waters. The US response? Sail a military vessel into China’s territorial claims.
The Chinese are very, very sensitive about their waters. When a British naval vessel sailed up the Yangtze River in 1949 to prevent the Communists from forcing a crossing of that river during the Chinese Civil War, the Communists informed the British ship to turn around, as the British no longer had rights of navigation on the Yangtze River. Those rights had been established in the wake of the two Opium Wars of the 1800s in what were called “The Unequal Treaties.” The British vessel’s presence in Chinese territorial waters was highly offensive, but the Communists nevertheless gave the British the chance to do the legal thing and withdraw.
When the British refused to withdraw, the Communists opened fire and incapacitated the ship. After several hours of shelling, the British ship surrendered. The Communists had defended the honor of the nation.
Since then, the Communists went on to be simply “China”, and took lands that it felt were rightfully theirs. Xinjiang and Tibet were both areas that Chinese emperors had once ruled over, so China sought for their return to its rule. It engaged in an unofficial war with the USSR over islands in the Amur River. It took land in Kashmir and Assam from India in 1962. About the only nation to successfully rebuff a Chinese invasion has been Vietnam, but the Chinese have still tried several times to take land from Vietnam that it views as being properly part of China.
Interestingly, neither China nor Russia has ever completely invaded a country to take it over. Their goals have always been limited and, once they secured their desired territory, they halted. Granted, the Russian record starts only in 1991 with the disbandment of the USSR, but its adventures in Georgia and Ukraine have been limited. For its part, China fought the US in the Korean War only to preserve the government of North Korea, which the South Korean leaders had threatened to invade and eliminate. China holds the view that its objective in the Korean War was attained so, therefore, it won.
But back to the matter of waters and territory: China has made its claim and has told the USA that it will not always allow its ships to sail through its waters unchallenged. But, because of matters both of oil and out of commitment to its ally, Philippines, the USA will continue to make those challenges. What will happen if the Chinese order their batteries to fire after a US vessel refuses to withdraw? Will the US vessel return fire, or will it be a paper tiger? And if it returns fire, will the Chinese escalate further by formally occupying the Senkaku Islands, thereby provoking a wider conflict with Japan?
Given the US provocations in words and actions, particularly those involving nuclear weapons, I do wonder aloud if we are about to enter a war and, when the war goes badly for one side or another, a field commander will decide to use one of the tactical nuclear weapons under his control, opening up the question of whether or not a general, strategic exchange then commences.