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Daidalos
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Thank you, Sir. That's really interesting because in my mind, the Byzantine model always seemed pretty good; hefty and locally integrated thematic armies for defense and elite tagmata for expeditions. I guess the one downside is that the themes did seem to rebel against Constantinople a lot, but I don't know if that's because of the system itself or just because Greeks like fighting each other so much. I really don't know enough about how the different branches' special operations work to say where they fit into things. Would you roll them into the expeditionary force, or keep them as a separate entity? Or would you train up the former Army/Marines a little more in commando and language skills? I'm just wondering because it seems like at least since Hezbollah fought Israel in '06, the really successful forces these days have enough mass for conventional operations but can also fight asymmetrically.
My suggestions from turns 1 and 2 might have seemed a little out there, and I probably didn't do a good job of respecting the time windows. I do think they'll start coming into play over time though, and especially if something similar to the Turn 3 scenario plays out in reality, this starts becoming less and less about Syria. Even today in real-world time, Daesh is starting to look more like Germany in late 1944-1945, still dangerous, but from sheer desperation, not momentum. It will be tough-going, but I fully expect the Iraqis and any Syrians (regardless of affiliation) gung-ho enough to keep fighting to mop them up eventually. At this point (in game-time), the real wild cards become Israel vs. the Palestinians, Jordan & the Saudis, and the Kurds vs. Turkey. I'm still standing by my bet that Israel's relationship with the "axis of resistance" will keep becoming less hostile day-by-day. With the political trends I mentioned before and now (in-game) Russia openly delivering weapons to Hezbollah, I expect most Israelis outside a rump on the right to adapt to the new reality. And with their diplomatic standing and policies towards the Palestinians becoming more untenable all the time, they'll need as few enemies as possible. As for the R+6, as long as they get some concessions for the Palestinians and guarantees that Israel won't attack any of them, or act as a beach-head for the US to do so, I imagine they'll also be happy to have one less front to worry about. I think Jordan is quietly becoming the nexus of the Middle-East that everyone ignores. I don't know if the Hashemites still hold a grudge against the Saudis for kicking them out of Mecca. Even if they don't, I get the impression that the Jordanian government is furious about everything that's been happening around them since at least the Iraq War, and they blame Gulf intrigues for much of it. I don't know what they might do if they are upset, but with more and more Sunnis mobilizing in Syria and Iraq against the Gulf-backed forces, they won't exactly be hurting for people if they do start planning something. If things flair up anywhere by November, I expect it will be in Turkey, and not necessarily just among the Kurds. I don't know enough about Turkish politics to lay out a clear scenario, but my gut tells me that Gulen or his followers are going to pull off a major political upset in the coming years (that's mostly based on my understanding of his movement and how it relates to Turkish history). Although the AKP just won back a majority, I wouldn't be surprised if disagreements within the party start having a real influence too. If there is a "Kurdish surprise," I imagine it will actually be a confrontation in Iraq between Barzani's KDP and a coalition of the other Socialist parties. If that happens, the question for the US is whether it's Cold-War idee fixe will lead it to completely support the KDP (the mistake in my opinion) or whether it can compartmentalize by recognizing the KDP's control around Erbil, while backing the YPG and PUK everywhere else.
Wow, that is pretty pitiful and passive-aggressive... not that it surprises me. Another revealing thing to me about that article is what it says about their intellectual framework. It reeks of the sort of thinking you see some in the ivory tower, especially economics ("I'm savvy because I have a set of narrow and cynical beliefs, and here's my Rube-Goldberg explanation of how random events will always prove me right in the end. Woe to anyone that strives differently from me.") It's really a bad sign for the state of American thinking.
Colonel, As someone without a military background outside of growing up in a somewhat military family, learning more about that side of strategy fascinates me. If you don't mind my asking (other posters too), what do you think the USMC's role should be at this point in history?
I'm going to try to stay a little more focused on the actual theater this time, though I do think as this goes on, we're approaching inflection points for Russian influence in Orthodox Europe and Iranian influence in Catholic Latin America. And the latter will start subtly influencing American policy in the Mideast as US politicians triangulate to grab more Catholic and Hispanic voters, who also don't tend to be as sentimental about Israel. China: will stick to quietly financing the R+6 through this whole mess and asking for special attention to any Uighur militants. AFAIK the Chinese economy is still merely slowing down, not in recession (the "investors' perspective" of Western news tends to reflect free-moving capital's tendency to flee the instant something ceases to provide the highest rate of return). Even then, as the Chinese economy re-balances by scrapping and selling off excess capital, some of those funds can be diverted to foreign projects. Chinese military and intel will stay focused on gaining more leverage over its neighbors in South Asia and the Pacific. Israel: The Israelis and Palestinians will still remain mostly focused on their Troubles, and I do think the Likud will still have a hold on the Knesset in June, but it will be as tenuous as ever. Some Jewish and Arab parties on the Left will continue looking less-and-less like European labor parties and begin merging into a moderate, pan-Semitic version of the Muslim Brotherhood (socially conservative, religious, but economically populist). Although it won't lead to any diplomacy yet and anger over mistreatment of the Palestinians is still strong as ever, Muslim governments (outside of the oil-sheikdoms) start seeing the upcoming coalition as someone they can potentially work with, even if only through back-channels. Syria: while I might be less sanguine about the speed of R+6 gains, the fundamental difference between the R+6's direct assertion of materiel, manpower, and willpower will keep grinding down the "hire-a-jihadi" approach of the US/Gulf coalition. I think a huge mistake of the US/Gulf coalition is they see this is a repeat of Afghanistan 2.0. Besides the fact that the terrain is effectively very different, I'd say the Salafi forces are actually the ones analogous to the Soviets in this case. The Gulf is trying to prop up a failed revolution that (regardless of what it stood for in the beginning) has morphed into an attempt to remake the Levant in the Nejd's image. Plus they are trying to do it in the face of a probable majority of the Syrian people and support from every corner of the globe (whatever support English-speaking governments have given to the JaN-affiliated forces, it looks like it's about to be swamped by aid to the YPG). Turkey: After managing to irrevocably tick-off the R+6, Europe, the US, and Israel, Erdogan has summoned his own downfall from on high. The US and Europe decide to play good cop, bad cop on Turkey, and the PKK is the phone-book that the European bad cop will beat the Turkish state with. Within a single week, European governments universally de-list the PKK as a terrorist organization, then France (at Germany's private request) submits a resolution in the UN demanding international involvement in protecting Kurdish rights within Turkey. Several protests & riots by ethnic Turks (local media plays up refugee involvement) erupt throughout European cities, but are suppressed with surprising brutality, including police allowing right-wing gangs to attack protesters. The US privately tells the Turkish government that it wants to veto the measure but can only abstain for political reasons. However, to keep Incirlik open, the US (sincerely) promises to help Turkey dilute the measure in implementation and prevent PKK attacks. All the while, the US massively increases assistance to Gulen's Cemaat and acts as a go-between for disgruntled AKP members, military, and civil officials. Iraq: The continued success of the PMUs against ISIS, along with their growing restraint and cooperation with the Sunnis, begins to eat away at the Sunni vs. Shia narrative. Inspired by this (and somewhat in line with Babak's Seljuk idea), Hanafi scholars in Turkey, Jordan, Syria, and at Al-Azhar, and Twelver scholars in Najaf and Qom begin to discuss the "fundamental unity and common longing for wise interpretation" in their schools. The Hanbali Gulf states don't catch on yet, but the "Sunni global majority" is transforming into a different sort of majority aligned against them. Jordan: On top of the germinating Hanafi resurgence, Jordanian intelligence begins receiving clearer and clearer evidence that the Gulf coalition in Yemen is actively targeting Yemeni Hashemites. This is the last straw for King Abdullah, who holds private audiences with the Syrian and Iraqi governments, Arab representatives of the YPG/SDF, and elders of major tribes driven from the peninsula by the Saud (e.g. Ash-Shammar & Ar-Rashidi). While the Gulf coalition's paranoia about Shia and Iranian plots leads it to sink further into Yemen and crack down harder on Bahrain, the Eastern Province, and Najran, the overthrow of the House of Saud is being quietly planned by Sunnis in Amman. To PL and Babak: I thought your discussion over the history between the US and Iran and whether Germany is entirely sovereign was interesting. I could be wrong, but as an American citizen that's also a bit Persianized (long story), I get the feeling you have fundamentally different notions of what "sovereignty" looks like. In much of the West and America especially, I think independence is intuitively seen as how smoothly you move towards your interests, i.e. it's about the ends. I think in Iran (and actually all the countries that survived the Mongols, including Russia and China), it's more about the means. Sovereignty there is about being able to organize and mobilize your own people and resources, even if it's to shoot yourself in the foot (e.g. Stalin, the Great Leap Forward, etc.)
I've been reading your blog for a while, Colonel; it really is one-of-a-kind. This is my first time posting though so please show me some mercy if I say anything stupid. I really don't have anything to add to what you've all said about the military theaters. I hope it's not considered off-topic, but I think the next half-year could be really interesting on the economic and diplomatic fronts though, especially if China handles its economic slowdown creatively... Pakistan & Afghanistan In order to keep a lid on sectarianism, Pakistan starts leaning even further from the Gulf Arabs. China keeps investing in the relationship; the main, up-front price is the ISI is expected to keep the Taliban in line as they continue expanding, and to tamp down on separatist and Islamist proxies in Kashmir. China looks the other way on groups merely looking to annex Jammu-Kashmir to Pakistan as a useful check against India that won't set a precedent for Xinjiang Province. Iran quietly accepts Taliban expansion so long as they demonstrate they don't intend to persecute non-Pashto or Shia. Greece As the Greek government continues to kiss the ring of European finance, civil society disintegrates further over the immigration and economic crises. The "three amigos" (Russia, China, & Iran) coordinate to exploit this. Russia takes the diplomatic initiative and pledges aid to help Greeks and refugees alike, emphasizing the Orthodox side of sobornost for conservative audiences and the collectivist for liberals. China bankrolls what the Russians can't, and also begins liquidating some of its physical capital (excess capacity) and injecting it into the Greek economy. The main condition is China maintains some managerial control over investments; inevitably some friction arises at the ground level between legalistic Chinese tendendencies and anarchical Greek ones, but not enough to stop the project. Iran's support is passive, primarily in the form of trade deals at discounted rates. The end goal is a cultural & economic version of Putin's Novorossiya in the heart of the EU. Israel As even previous supporters begin to see Netanyahu's policy as a failure on all fronts, Russia and Iran's admixture of religion and swaraj rekindles a faint memory of old Labor Zionism in the Israeli left. They begin toning down Western-style identity politics and driving hard bargains to moderate some of the religious parties and pull them out of Likud's orbit. The Israeli security apparatus is privately relieved. A rumor briefly emerges in the Israeli press, quoting an unnamed official, that a party from the Axis of Resistance has proposed a grand-bargain through back-channels. In exchange for decisive action towards a fair-settlement with the Palestinians and recognition of all members' interests, borders, and sovereignty, Hezbollah (and Lebanon), Syria, Iraq, and Iran will all sign peace-treaties and recognize the (no longer technically "Zionist" by their definition) Israeli state. When questioned, all parties vehemently deny this. South America The Venezuelan economy continues to go further into free-fall. Buoyed by early signs of success in Greece and a realpolitik need to be seen as a reliable ally, the three amigos try to apply a variation of their Greek strategy to Venezuela. China continues to spin hay into gold by shedding excess capacity and partly re-investing it in the Venezuelan economy, but Iran takes the front-stage this time by mobilizing thousands of Basijian to provide social services. In addition to having the "sandals on the ground," Iran plays up the similarities between Latin-American Catholicism and Twelver Shi'ism in press releases, conferences, etc. Russia takes the back-seat this time, providing mainly technical experts and logistics for any Cuban support. South America (Knock-on Effects) US intelligence sees the Persian rug being woven in Venezuela, but in typical fashion, forgets the difference between a rug and a nail. Against his own instincts, Obama agrees to allow more covert operations within Latin America. However, they're ineffective in the beginning and start creating some active blow-back; American influence only erodes further outside of countries already in the US camp (e.g. Chile, Colombia). Intelligence analysts report that while visiting the neighborhood, high-ranking Chinese, Russian, and Iranian diplomats supposedly hold a meeting including Ollanta Humala, Evo Morales, and Rafael Correa. Talk of a unified "Aymara/Quechua-stan" begins popping up in the Latin American press. There are also anecdotes of Mayan & Nahuatl speakers, plus poorer Mestizos, in Central America and Mexico whispering to each other, "And what about us?" US (Obama's Parthian Shot) Hemmed in by sclerotic bureaucracies and a dysfunctional (often delusional) legislature, Obama is mostly reduced to defending his social programs and preventing any reckless parties (foreign and domestic) from hijacking foreign policy. Especially after results on Cuba, the TPP, and Iran, diplomacy remains perhaps the only tool that gives him freedom of action (and he feels comfortable using). Putting aside his personal discomfort with the British empire, he notifies the UK government that the US is interested in joining the Commonwealth under a special status that still recognizes America's hard-won independence. He also privately invites China, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Iraq to do the same. In order to play sponsors off each other, Al-Sisi cannily accepts; Jordan also accepts in order to strengthen ties to the West and force Israel into zugzwang on the Palestinian issue; Israel and China both debate the issue; Iraq says "no" flat out.
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Nov 4, 2015