World View: Taliban Terror Campaign Seeks to Sabotage Pakistan Elections

This morning's key headlines from

  • The Generational Dynamics view of Syria's conflict
  • Russian migrants to Israel form closed ultra-nationalist community
  • China preparing for popular unrest following Sichuan earthquake
  • Taliban terror campaign seeks to sabotage Pakistan elections
  • Greece passes bill ending lifetime guarantee of civil service job

The Generational Dynamics view of Syria's conflict

Syrian army shells exploding last year in the Syrian village of Bariqa (AP)
Syrian army shells exploding last year in the Syrian village of Bariqa (AP)

I frequently receive questions about the nature of Syria's conflict, in particular why it isn't a generational crisis war, since it seems horrible enough to qualify.

The Syria conflict is a typical generational Awakening era war (like America's Vietnam war in the 1960s). There is little energy on either side. There's little hand-to-hand or face-to-face combat. Besides a few gunfights, most of the war is fought by shooting missiles or exploding remote-control bombs. If it were a crisis war, you'd see a lot more of what happened, for example, in Cambodia's killing fields or in 1994 Rwanda -- or in 1982 Syria.

The major behavioral characteristic of a generational crisis war is that the value of an individual human life plummets to zero, while the only thing that's important is the survival of the country or ethnic group and its way of life. America's last generational crisis war was WW II, and remember that we sent thousands of soldiers onto the beaches of Normandy, to be shot down like fish in a barrel by the Nazis. Did we do anything like that in the Korean War? The Vietnam War? The Iraq War? Absolutely not.

I've analyzed probably hundreds of wars throughout history in the last ten years, and I've developed a pretty good intuition about what direction they're going in. However, I don't want to convey the impression that it's all intuition. To the contrary, it would be possible to define behavioral and attitudinal metrics that would provide some clear distinctions. However, this would be a big research project, too big for me to attempt on my own. Perhaps some grad student in the 2020s will take it on. But understanding the generational classification of a war would make a HUGE difference in improving policy decisions, both during the war and in the aftermath when the combatants are trying to recover and resume normal lives.

Returning now to Syria, in the end it's going to make little difference that Syria's war is an Awakening era war, since it's turning into a proxy war between Crisis era countries -- Russia supporting al-Assad, Saudi Arabia and Qatar supporting the jihadists, and Europe half-heartedly supporting the other opposition. Without Russia's support in particular, this war would have petered out a year ago, in my opinion. But it's increasingly clear that Russia is determined to push it to victory, and the Arab countries are going to oppose that.

Russian migrants to Israel form closed ultra-nationalist community

When a young generation of Russian Jews migrated to Israel after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, it was expected that they would assimilate into the general population, especially since the pre-1948 Jewish community in Palestine was shaped by immigrants from Czarist and early revolutionary Russia. However, the opposite happened. The Russian migrants live in a separate community, comprising 20% of the total Israel population. The speak Russian, read Russian newspapers, have little contact with other Israelis, know little of Israel's history, and vote for their own party, led by ultra-nationalist Avigdor Lieberman. They hate Arabs, reject peace and support the settlers. Soviet Russian contempt and rampant racism directed at dark-skinned citizens from southern Russia has translated in Israel into contempt and racism directed towards Arabs and even other Israelis.

Israeli society consists of five main sectors, of almost equal size, as follows:

  • Jews of European origin, called Ashkenazim, to which most of the cultural, economic, political and military elite belongs. The Left is almost completely concentrated here.
  • Jews of Oriental origin, often called (mistakenly) Sephardim, from Arab and other Muslim countries. They are the base of Likud.
  • Religious Jews, which include the ultra-Orthodox Haredim, both Ashkenazi and Oriental, as well as the National-Religious Zionists, which include the leadership of the settlers.
  • Arab-Palestinian citizens, mostly located in three large geographical blocs.
  • The "Russians".
The Arabs and many of the Ashkenazim belong to the left-wing peace camp, and all the others are solidly right-wing. Uri Avnery - Palestine Chronicle

China preparing for popular unrest following Sichuan earthquake

On Saturday, April 20, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Sichuan province in China, followed by thousands of aftershocks, killing hundreds and affecting over 2.3 million people in Sichuan. This occurs five years after the May 12, 2008 8.0-magnitude earthquake claiming nearly 70,000 lives. Beijing poured aid into the region, including some 3,000 soldiers and 120 tons of relief materials.

However, public fury is growing as it turns out that thousands of government-built houses, schools and other buildings built since the 2008 earthquake did not survive the new earthquake, while many privately-built buildings survived. Local residents are saying that around 10,000 troops and armed police have arrived in the region by Thursday, not to provide humanitarian aid, but to suck up resources and guard against feared popular unrest amid widespread anger over the rescue operation and the level of damage to buildings. Beijing Review and Radio Free Asia

Taliban terror campaign seeks to sabotage Pakistan elections

At least 28 people have been killed in terrorist bombings across Pakistan during the last week, targeting political party candidates and offices in the days prior to the landmark May 11 election. The al-Qaeda linked Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Pakistan branch of the Taliban, is claiming responsibility for the bombings, and is promising that they'll continue through the election, apparently with the intention of sabotaging the entire election. The TTP is specifically targeting the secular political parties, including the Awami National Party (ANP), the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), which they claim are "secular doctrine" parties. According to a spokesman for the TTP:

"Islamic laws and values are from Allah and secular doctrine is from Rousseau, Kant and Bentham. A man cannot be secular and Muslim at a time. These are two different doctrines in nature."

So far, the Taliban bombings have not attacked offices of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI - the Pakistan Movement for Justice), which is led by former cricket star Imran Khan, who is strongly anti-American, though as far as I know, he hasn't expressed any hostility to Rousseau and Kant. Daily Times (Pakistan) and Russia Today

Greece passes bill ending lifetime guarantee of civil service job

On Sunday evening, in its last session before Orthodox Easter Sunday on May 5, Greece's parliament passed a bill ending the provision in Greece's 1911 constitution that civil servants have lifelong job security. These are the harshest austerity measures yet imposed by the Europeans in return for its bailout. The bill calls for 15,000 civil servants to be dismissed by the end of 2014. All 15,000 will be replaced by "young, capable people" in the same jobs with lower wages. Greece now expects to receive its next 8.8 billion euro bailout payment by mid-May. Kathimerini

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