5 Espionage Myths — The November Man

 

By Piper Bayard

 

The November Man movie poster

The November Man movie poster

 

The November Man is an espionage movie in which an ex-CIA operative is brought back by the Company for a personal mission in Moscow, only to find himself pitted against his protégé. It is a fast action thriller starring Pierce Brosnan and Luke Bracey that rockets viewers through the Russian and Serbian shadow world with everything from brutal assassins to rogue top-level operatives. It is also a comprehensive collection of espionage myths.

 

Myth One – CIA operatives are all ready and willing to off their own at any given moment just because a bureaucrat orders it.

Truth – US intelligence operatives are not murderous automatons who blindly kill whomever they are told to, up to and including their mentors and protégés.

 

It was common in Stalin’s KGB for Soviet operatives to kill each other. In fact, the KGB had a special branch for the express purpose of targeting fellow agents. However, such pointless slaughter has never been part of the US intelligence culture. Americans don’t put up with that crap. Presidents come and go with their various agendas, and long after they are booking their lecture tours and cutting ribbons on their presidential libraries, operatives are still on the job. Our intelligence community consists of flesh and blood human beings who would not live long if they didn’t question and comprehend their missions. They are not slovenly attack dogs to be released on any target that a transient bureaucratic overlord decides is inconvenient to their political goals, particularly when that target is one of their own.

 

Myth Two – Operatives think nothing of killing innocent people.

Truth – People who randomly kill innocents are serial killers and criminal psychopaths, not highly trained intelligence operatives.

 

Killing is serious business, and the intelligence community has had standing orders for decades to avoid civilian casualties as much as possible. An operative who randomly kills innocent people would be quickly weeded out. Such behavior is unacceptable in the intelligence community.

 

Myth Three – Operatives can’t have families.

Truth – Operatives, like anyone else, can have loved ones and families that they adore.

 

While it is true that many field operatives are either single or divorced, that is due to the nature of the job and not to any taboo about bonding with other humans. The fact is that few spouses are up for, “I need to go. Can’t say where. Can’t say when I’ll be home. Sorry, but I can’t leave you a number, either.” The lifestyle is very hard on relationships, and spouses must be as committed to leading the double life as the operative is. Not many are, and they are not to blame for that. However, as my writing partner proves, some do sustain marriages and family ties for decades.

 

Myth Four – People can be killers, or they can love, but they can’t do both.

Truth – Dedicated operatives often go into the field because they DO love.

 

The notion that someone who is trained to kill the likes of Bin Laden can’t love is patently absurd. Many operatives go into the field because they are unwilling to sit still and do nothing while brutal despots butcher innocent people.

 

Myth Five – Assassins look like assassins.

Truth – Assassins look like the school secretary, the grocery store manager, the bank teller, the janitor, or anyone else who can blend in with a crowd.

 

It is not required for operatives to speak in foreign accents and wear either tailored business suits or black leather.

 

Russian Assassin from The November Man

Russian Assassin from The November Man

 

 

While not a common myth, another notable fiction in The November Man is the notion that bullets from handguns travel at four times the speed of sound . . . Excuse me? A handgun? More like a hand held rocket launcher. Clearly, Hollywood is holding out on the Navy.

 

If you care nothing for accuracy about espionage or human nature in your spy thrillers, then go ahead and spend the $13 and enjoy Pierce Brosnan doing what he does best. However, if you do know anything at all about firearms, operatives, psychology, history, NATO, or intelligence work, this movie will make your head explode at a velocity of four times the speed of sound.

Bad News for ISIS

By Jay Holmes

On June 29, 2014, after gaining control over large swaths of northern Iraq, ISIS declared itself to be a caliphate.

Its intention is to expand this caliphate from Morocco to Malaysia and Indonesia. ISIS “Caliph,” is supreme leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi—we’ll call him Abu. Abu made it clear that ISIS considers itself to be the one true Islamic authority for all of the world’s Islamic population. He called on all the world’s Muslims to declare their allegiance to ISIS and to obey his dictates. Fortunately, most of the world’s estimated 1.6 billion Muslims show no interest in bowing down to Abu. However, while Abu’s lack of majority support might confine his greater caliphate dreams to the fantasy realm, it will not keep ISIS from creating more misery in the real world.

 

ISIS logo public domain, wikimedia commons

ISIS logo
public domain, wikimedia commons

 

If you have been following the news and find yourself unable to draw clear conclusions about ISIS’s impact and the world’s response to it, don’t feel bad. The media’s interpretations and opinions on ISIS vary even more widely than what we saw during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Even well-respected analysts are struggling to achieve much consensus in their evaluations. Disliking ISIS is simple. Predicting the impacts of ISIS and defining effective responses requires a bit more work.

Reading the basics of ISIS history is a tedious challenge, even for CIA analysts that have been on the case for several years.

ISIS’s terror group pedigree is based on political incest and bastardry conducted at a frenetic pace. While ISIS is consistent in hating everyone that is not their brand of Sunni Muslim, ISIS’s best friend this morning is their avowed enemy this afternoon and their holy martyr tomorrow. Some of the rapid changes in alliances, friendships, and death lists are based on ruthless pragmatic opportunism. However, that alone can’t quite explain all of their instability. The Taliban are known to be opiate consumers, and many members of Al-Qaeda have a taste for hashish and alcohol. Perhaps ISIS is buying its “energy supplements for jihad” from Walter White. If they are not consuming meth, they are at least faking the symptoms quite well.

I am certain that publishing this article will have me near the top of the ISIS death list, but only for the briefest moment. In the ISIS universe, life is a rich pageantry of endless top priority targets that blossom with each new moment. In its loud and colorful world, hysteria is its own reward.

Western responses to ISIS have been yawningly predictable.

In the USA, Republican loyalists blame Obama, and Democrat loyalists blame Bush. In Europe, the responses range from “Blame it on America” to blaming it on whichever national political party they least like. The world is always so simple for party loyalists. It might be hard for some Americans and Europeans to imagine, but sometimes things actually do occur in the world without the USA or Europe being the cause.

ISIS has a complicated history, but it has some consistent characteristics. Such as, ISIS is barbaric and ruthlessly violent. In fact, it is so violent that it had a falling out with Al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda terrorist leaders considered ISIS to be too violent and indiscriminate in its killing of fellow Sunnis. From Al-Qaeda’s point of view, the worst brutality should be reserved for non-Sunnis. That argument with Al-Qaeda, combined with generous funding from Gulf State billionaires, resulted in ISIS’s founding fathers abandoning their Al-Qaeda affiliation and setting their sights on creating their own world order.

A small portion of ISIS’s brutality toward the Yazd minority in northern Iraq has now been well documented by the media. What the media and the United Nations have not covered well is the ongoing genocide against Christian groups and other minorities in Syria and Iraq.

For several months, ISIS has conducted a systematic genocide against Christian communities in Syria. Thousands of Christians have been raped—boys and girls alike. Torture and beheadings are daily occurrences in ISIS’s war against Christianity. Christians represent a greater threat to ISIS because they are far more numerous and more cosmopolitan than the Yazd community.

ISIS’s wealthy Gulf State supporters have been aware of this genocide since it began, but they continued to fund the group.

Now that ISIS has succeeded in presenting a credible threat to the Iraqi government, some of their Gulf State patrons are having second thoughts. Funding genocide is all well and good until they have to greet the genocidal maniacs at their own doorsteps.

A few months ago, a decrease in funding from the Gulf States would have been a crisis for ISIS. Now, it hardly matters. Intelligence estimates indicate that ISIS has stolen nearly half a billion dollars from banks in the cities that they now control. As the badly-led Iraqi Army melted away during ISIS’s advance across northern Iraq, ISIS also captured ammunition, tanks, helicopters, armored personnel carriers, anti-aircraft weapons, trucks, radios and other assorted military equipment. ISIS is in better material condition than they ever have been before.

But it’s not all good news for ISIS.

While bribing and intimidating Iraqi Army leaders into desertion was easy, ISIS discovered that the Kurds are not quite as eager to desert their positions or surrender. As the Kurds brought the ISIS advance to a halt, and the Yazd genocide became the latest cause célèbre in the West, Western governments felt a ground swell of support for action in Iraq. After long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s no simple task to get the jaded and bankrupted Western public interested in committing to action in a seemingly hopeless cause like Iraq, but ISIS has succeeded in doing just that.

The Kurds are, in some ways, unique in Iraq. Unlike other Iraqi communities, the Kurds have never seemed hopeless, and they have a track record of having delivered on the agreements that they have made with Western governments. The credibility that the Kurdish community has established with Westerners makes it easier for Europeans and Americans to accept delivering military and humanitarian aid to them. Western aid to the Kurds is clearly bad news for ISIS.

The bad news for ISIS doesn’t stop there. The group can no longer count on the feeble and inept government of Prime Minister Maliki to keep Iraq weak and fractured. Maliki is gone. He resigned on August 14. It’s possible he imagined that the West and most Iraqis were about to arrange an unfortunate accident for him, and that his Iranian pals were no longer going to be able to keep him safe.

The infamously corrupt and incredibly incompetent Maliki has been replaced by Haider al Abaidi. Al Abaidi will not remind anyone of George Washington. He in no way resembles Turkey’s founding father Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. He is not a savior, and he will not resolve all of Iraq’s problems, but unlike Maliki, he will not do his determined best to alienate most of the Iraqi population. This translates into more cooperation with the West and, more importantly, more Iraqis cooperating with each other. That’s also bad news for ISIS.

In a German blitzkrieg-like fashion, ISIS has moved quickly and deliberately. The group stripped away much of its soldiers and equipment from its battle in Syria to conduct its offensive in Iraq. Now that ISIS is facing counterattack by American-backed Kurds and a better led Iraqi Army, it cannot shift its troops back to Syria. Assad’s Syrian Army and native Syrian rebels are in a position to take advantage of ISIS’s force realignment to Iraq, and they have begun to do so. Assad has celebrated some small victories and recaptured territory from ISIS. If the native Syrian rebels can find enough support, they might now establish a solid position in Syria.

ISIS is enjoying looking at its map of its new “Caliphate.” If it looks a little more closely, it will notice that it has maneuvered itself into a three front war, and two of their principal enemies are rapidly improving. More bad news for ISIS.

Many Western viewers have seen a photo of an ISIS wannabe holding up an ISIS flag in front of the White House. That’s as close as an ISIS flag will come to flying over the White House. Before ISIS can even establish a real caliphate across Islam, it will need to do two things. It will need to destroy its growing list of enemies in the Middle East, and it will need to competently administer the territory that it now holds. I doubt that it will do either.

Here is my best guess:

ISIS will not be swept aside quickly. It will continue its skilled manipulation of on-line media platforms. It also might conduct successful terrorist attacks against the West, even as it loses ground in Syria and the Middle East. However, now that ISIS has succeeded in alienating most of the planet, it will eventually be reduced to the marginalized position from whence it spawned.

Another Day, Another Battle–The Israeli Counter-Attack on Hamas

By Jay Holmes

In April of 2014, Hamas, which governs the Palestinian Gaza Strip, and Fatah, which governs the Palestinian areas of the West Bank, agreed to make peace and form a unity government. Predictably, Israel reacted negatively to the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation. Israel viewed it as a victory for radicalism and terrorism within the Palestinian camp.

 

Woman holding Hamas flag. Unaltered image by Kimdime.

Woman holding Hamas flag.
Unaltered image by Kimdime.

 

The governments of China, the EU, India, Turkey, and the USA joined the UN in agreeing to negotiate with the new Hamas-Fatah unity government. These countries and organizations announced their agreement to work with the Hamas-Fatah union in spite of the fact that Hamas has not waivered from its stated central goal of annihilating Israel and converting all of Palestine, including what is now Israel, into a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist state. This was particularly odd on the part of the EU and the USA, since those governments had previously been very clear in declaring Hamas to be a terror organization.

After the EU and the USA announced their acceptance of the new Hamas-Fatah union, Israel became less receptive toward EU/USA brokered peace negotiations. From the Israeli point of view, the EU and the USA could easily afford to trust the new Palestinian unity government because rockets from Gaza and terrorist attacks originating in Gaza and the West Bank would not be targeting either of them. The new Palestinian government took power on June 2, 2014.

On June 12, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped from the West Bank. At the same time, the number of Hamas’s rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel increased sharply. The Israeli Air Force responded to the increased rocket attacks by launching air strikes against Hamas targets in Gaza.

 

Israel Defense Forces searching for kidnapped teens near Hebron. Unaltered image by Israel Defense Forces.

Israel Defense Forces searching for kidnapped teens near Hebron.
Unaltered image by Israel Defense Forces.

 

Hamas did not claim the kidnappings of the three teens. The culpability for that action lies with Hamas’s affiliated terror group, Qawasameh. However, not wanting to miss an opportunity to pursue its favorite pastime of shooting itself in the foot, Hamas loudly applauded the kidnappings of the three Israeli children. Evidence indicates that Hamas had supplied weapons and cash to Qawasameh to conduct these kidnappings and murders.

The kidnappings and Hamas’s gloating about them have served to silence the voices of reconciliation within Israel. On June 30, the dead bodies of the three kidnapped Israeli teens were found near Hebron. The Israeli government came under increasing pressure from its citizens to act against the kidnappers. In July, Israel rounded up Hamas leaders and some of their affiliated terrorist pals in the West Bank.

On July 17, Israel and Hamas agreed to a five-hour humanitarian ceasefire for the purpose of delivering food and medicine to Gaza. After the ceasefire ended, the Israeli Army entered Gaza with the stated purpose of destroying tunnels that served Hamas and other terrorist groups as weapons depots and passages for terrorist raids into Israel from Gaza. The Israelis claim that they found evidence indicating plans to use the tunnels for a massive, coordinated terrorist strike against Israel in September of this year.

 

 

On August 1, the EU and the USA announced that they had negotiated a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire to assist the thousands of wounded Palestinians in Gaza. About an hour into the ceasefire, Hamas fighters demonstrated their usual lack of concern for the Palestinians in Gaza by attacking Israeli Army forces and negating the ceasefire.

On August 3, the Israeli Army announced that it had destroyed most of the known Hamas tunnel networks, and that it had withdrawn from most of Gaza. Two days later, the Israeli Army completed its withdrawal from all of Gaza.

As soon as Israel withdrew from Gaza, another 72-hour ceasefire took effect. This time, Hamas did not overtly violate the ceasefire. After the ceasefire ended, Hamas again launched rockets from Gaza into Israel, and the Israelis resumed shelling Gaza.

Thanks to Israel’s “Iron Dome” air defense system, most of the Hamas rockets did not reach targets in inhabited areas of Israel. Thanks to the Iron Dome system and Israel’s well-organized emergency medical facilities, the fatality rate during this summer’s fighting in Gaza have thus far amounted to less than one hundred Israeli deaths, but approximately 1,800 Palestinian deaths. Israel claims that between forty and fifty percent of the Palestinian deaths have been Hamas and affiliated combatants. Hamas claims that nearly all of the Palestinian deaths have been innocent civilians.

In Gaza, at least three UN facilities have been hit. The assumption has been that they were hit by Israel, but Israel points out that they never target UN aid locations or shelters, and Israel says it suspects that Hamas is responsible for at least some of the damage to UN locations. The TV coverage of grief stricken refugees weeping over dead children in UN shelters has been a public relations disaster for Israel, but what actually occurred and who is responsible for the tragedies has not yet been determined. If evidence indicates that Israel is not responsible for the attacks on UN locations, it will still be too late to prevent the public relations damage.

Interestingly, the Arab nations have not loudly condemned Israeli military action. This might be because many of Hamas’s usual allies in Kuwait and Qatar are experiencing second thoughts about instigating radical Islamic movements as they watch ISIS Islamic fundamentalists rape and pillage their way across neighboring Iraq. Most of the condemnation of Israel has come from the UN and from the West.

 

Apartment yard destroyed by Hamas rocket Unaltered image by The Israel Project.

Apartment yard destroyed by Hamas rocket
Unaltered image by The Israel Project.

 

Since Hamas’s consolidation of power in Gaza in 2005, Western nations have almost completely stopped economic aid to Gaza. At the same time, Israel has tried to maintain an effective blockade of Gaza to prevent increased imports of rocket parts and other weapons from Iran. It is at times amusing to listen to various Iranian government spokesmen contradict each other as they brag about giving rockets, improved rocket technology, and other weapons to Hamas, while simultaneously denying sending Hamas rockets and weapons. I imagine that Iranian government foreign policy meetings must resemble a Three Stooges episode or a Marx Brothers movie.

In any event, while the rockets continue to fly into Israel from Gaza, the Israelis aren’t laughing. The exchange of fire between Hamas and their affiliates in Gaza and the Israeli Army continues. Early Sunday morning, August 10, Hamas rejected peace talks in Egypt. Then, around 8 A.M. Washington, D.C. time, Hamas announced that it is willing to participate in peace talks in Egypt. It could well be by the time this article is published that Hamas will have changed their minds three more times.

So what does this all mean for Israel and the Palestinian people in the near future? Sadly, my best guess is that although Hamas might be temporarily motivated to lower the level of fighting, they will still maintain their despotic rule in Gaza while they attempt to improve and replenish their rocket inventory with help from Iran. The Israelis will try to improve their very expensive Iron Dome system while simultaneously trying to improve their intelligence on terrorist activity by Hamas and their affiliate gangs in Gaza. The Israeli people will continue to live with the tension that has always been pervasive in Israel, and the civilians in Gaza will continue to suffer under the miserable administration that Hamas and Fatah have thus far delivered.

For the rest of the world, I would not recommend a vacation to either Gaza or Israel right now. Tragically, millions of children caught in the middle of the conflict don’t have that choice.

Which Despotic Dictator are You?

By Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes

Psychological tests have inundated social media lately, giving people the opportunity to find out everything about themselves from which Lord of the Rings character they are to which weapon they most resemble. However, in all of this, no one has asked the genuinely important question–the one that matters more than all of the rest . . .

Which Despotic Dictator Are You?

Have you ever read the headlines and wondered which world-manipulating, power-hungry psychopath you most resemble? Then this test is for you! We here at Bayard & Holmes consulted our team of psycho/social experts (us) to develop a short quiz that will help you determine the answer to that most pressing of questions . . .

Canstock 2014 Despotic dictator

You see a pretty young woman on the beach. What do you do?

  1. Take your shirt off and hand her a picture of yourself practicing judo. When she doesn’t respond, you accuse her of being a warmonger and invade her country.
  2. Charge her with prostitution and feed her to dogs.
  3. Drool at her from your wheelchair while your assistant accuses her of being a white supremacist.
  4. Kidnap her, try her for indecent exposure, and have her publicly stoned to death.
  5. Send your aid over to arrange a liaison. After she rejects you, introduce legislation limiting the size of women’s breasts.
  6. Start a conversation with her about what a beautiful day it is and ask her if she would like to get a cup of coffee.

You hear an annoying barking dog. What do you do?

  1. Have photographers film you as you hunt down the poodle with an AK 47 and then have a photo taken of you posing in a Poodle trophy coat.
  2. Send your chef over to collect it for dinner.
  3. Turn your hearing aid off and go back to sleep while accusing the dog of being a white supremacist.
  4. Send your guard with an invitation for a romantic candlelight dinner for two. When the dog declines, you have it arrested and publicly stoned to death.
  5. Your own annoying voice drowns out the sound of the dog.
  6. You bring your dog inside.

You have an afternoon to get away from it all. What do you do?

  1. Quickly remove your shirt and arrange a photo shoot while grumbling about warmongering Ukrainians.
  2. Celebrate the 114 gold medals you personally received for your participation in the Sochi Winter Olympics.
  3. Keep napping. When awakened by bad dreams, scream about white supremacists.
  4. Smoke hash and drink some more black market American whiskey and fantasize about the woman you saw in the bikini.
  5. Write a speech about the legislation you are drafting to limit breast size.
  6. Read a Bayard & Holmes book.

You are going to watch any movie or TV show that you want. Which one is it?

  1. Star Wars. You put on your Darth Vader helmet and practice saying, “Ukraine, I am your father.”
  2. My Little Pony. You watch fifteen reruns and then declare rainbow colored ponies to be the new national animal.
  3. It doesn’t matter. You’re going to sleep through it anyway and dream about killing white supremacists.
  4. Lawrence of Arabia. For the 58th time. Somehow, you’re still shocked, surprised, and angered that Lawrence somehow escapes with his life at the end.
  5. Godzilla. When it’s over, you write a speech asking the U.N. to outlaw all Japanese monsters.
  6. You sit down with your family and watch your Disneyland vacation video.

What is your fantasy vacation?

  1. Winning the Kentucky Derby while riding shirtless on the back of a bear.
  2. Spending a week in South Korea.
  3. Taking a long nap anywhere but Zimbabwe.
  4. Enjoying two weeks in a brothel in Tel Aviv that caters to clientele with special needs.
  5. Staying a week in Windsor castle while the royal family is away and trying on all their clothes and tiaras.
  6. A family trip to Belize.

 If you scored . . .

5 – 7   You are Vladimir Putin.

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin image by www.kremlin.ru

Russian President Vladimir Putin
image by http://www.kremlin.ru

You are unashamedly aggressive and love to be in the limelight. You are never as sensitive as you appear to be in photos. You can change your religion, your wife, or your politics in a heartbeat if it suits your ambitions. Put your shirt back on.

 

8 – 11  You are Kim Jong Un.

 

 

You are misunderstood. People accuse you of being paranoid, but it’s not actually paranoia because everyone really does wish you would drop dead. You have plenty of power, but no skill to achieve anything with it. Find a new barbor.

 

12 – 16   You are Robert Mugabe.

You have become a peaceful person in your old age, but that’s because you can’t stay awake long enough to sustain an argument. Please do Zimbabwe a favor and go back to sleep. Don’t wake up.

 

17 – 21  You are the Iranian Mullah of the Month.

You suffer from Reality Deficit Disorder. You think you are educated, but that is just the hash talking. Everyone who knows you wants to keep you happy, but only so you won’t torture them and their families. Put down your AK47 and step away from the chickens.

 

22 – 26  You are New York Mayor Bloomberg.

 

Image by Midtown Comics, altered by Nightscream, wikimedia commons, public domain

Image by Midtown Comics, altered by Nightscream,
wikimedia commons, public domain

 

You are the first percentile, but only in finances. Some of your ideas are impressive, but only when we compare them to the rhetoric of Hugo Chavez. You’ll get our soft drinks when you tear them from our cold, dead hands.

 

27 – 30  Give it up. You’re not cut out for this profession.

When Giants Dance — The Israeli/Palestinian Conflict

When the current Israeli/Palestinian conflict recently flared up, Holmes and I discussed the possibility of a fresh article on the topic. We concluded, however, that there was nothing fresh to say. To verify this, I looked up an article that Holmes wrote in November, 2012, which was the last time the ancient hostilities peaked. This is that same article, word for word. It was true then. It is true now. Generally speaking, it has been true for decades. We hope for the day when it is no longer true.

~ Piper Bayard

Israeli white phosphorous attack on UN school unaltered image by HRW, wikimedia commons

Israeli white phosphorous attack on UN school
unaltered image by HRW, wikimedia commons

When Giants Dance

By Jay Holmes

Today, news watchers in the West are seeing reports about the Israeli bombing of Gaza. Some are wondering if this week’s events in Israel and Gaza are the start World War Three.

My best guess is that this conflict will not escalate to that point, but if you happen to live in Gaza, it might feel like World War Three this week. If you happen to live in southern Israel, where the rockets fall every week, it might feel like that all the time.

Before throwing one more opinion into what will certainly not be the bloodiest war, but likely the most mediated war, let’s take a moment to consider the children on both sides of the border. These children have no control over the relations between Gaza and Israel, but the one constant tragedy in Gaza and southern Israel is that the children always suffer.

Of course, when I use the term “mediated” I am referring to the fact that the world’s “media” will deliver fantastic volumes of information about the current phase of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. It is sad how little of that information will be accurate or fairly presented. However, all of that information will likely generate revenue for the media industry.

To attempt to understand the current events in Gaza, we can help ourselves by considering a few of the less obvious facts.

We in the West think of Hamas as being in control of Gaza. Hamas likes to think that, as well, but it is not altogether accurate. Hamas appears to be one more run-of-the-mill Islamic terror group marching happily in step with all the other Islamic terror groups. But terrorists wreak havoc. This leaves them unskilled at performing anything like government. As a result, Hamas cannot control what goes on in Gaza.

Hamas is not even able to march happily in step with itself, which seriously impairs its ability to influence other Islamic terrorists in the area. The chaotic conditions in Gaza allowed competing terror groups to vacation there, and some of those vacationers decided to stay. Those groups do not obey Hamas. They obey whoever provides them with cash, weapons, hash, hookers, etc. Usually Syria and Iran would be that somebody, but Saudi Arabia and Gulf states are sometimes soft touches for cute young terror groups.

We in the West are not supposed to believe such dastardly things about our Saudi “friends.” However, the New American Reality Dictionary defines “friends” as, “Anyone who ships oil to the US.”

Many Americans find that disgusting. Many of those same Americans drive gasoline-consuming cars every day while they are finding that disgusting. Yes. Even my own car runs on gasoline, not on peaceful thoughts or good will.

Regardless of where the cash and weapons come from, we know where many of them end up—on Israeli roof tops. The current Israeli leader is Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israelis call him something else. I call him Beny Buddy. He calls me nothing at all. He never even calls me. I am not his friend. I’m not sure Beny does the friendship thing much. Living in that region might do that to a man.

In any event, his name hardly matters since this conflict predates him. Netanyahu and Likud, his political party, cannot remain in power if hundreds of rockets and mortar rounds from Gaza continue to land in Israel every month. From the Israeli perspective, the motives for the looming Israeli operations in Gaza are simple. The Israeli people don’t like rockets and bombs falling on their heads, and the current Israeli leadership does not like losing elections. Also, with Iran increasing the potency and quality of its missiles, the Israeli intelligence services might be feeling less patient than usual about the Gaza launch base.

The Hamas motives are a little trickier to define.

It takes a bit of guesswork, and that is because they are still guessing about it themselves. As long as Gaza remains in a state of chaos without any worthwhile government, and as long as start up terror groups are cutting their teeth in “Palestine,” anything can happen. And now it has.

While the Israelis love driving American tanks, they don’t always love American methods. Israel is not living on a giant Chinese credit card like the Pentagon is. If Israel calls up reservists, which it has, and it moves armor toward Gaza, it is NOT because Israelis think it is fun to waste fuel they cannot produce and can barely afford. Those tanks will end up in Gaza.

Hamas fully realizes this, and they are currently doing their best impersonation of innocent victims. They are not great actors, but they play for an easy audience—the Western media and Islamic-financed propaganda outlets. Hamas wants to generate “international outrage” as quickly as it can in order to give Israel as little time as possible to drive around Gaza blowing up rocket supplies with those cool tanks.

The Israeli lobbyists and propaganda outlets will seek the opposite. But Israelis are currently out of fad with a majority of Western voters, so they will be looking rather frustrated if you see them prowling the halls of the capitol or sitting in for some attack journalism by CNN interviewers.

I can just imagine a call from Iran to Hamas . . . “Okay. We’re sending more rockets. Rockets are supposed to blow up on those Jews, NOT in Gaza. Rockets don’t grow on trees, you know. If you can’t learn to take care of the rockets we give you, maybe we need to give them to someone else.”

One can find absurd humor in all of this as long as one does not live in or have relatives living in the region. Then the humor begins to pale. The children of Israel and Gaza have little to laugh at this week. They won’t have much next week, either.

Why Putin Has His Way with Europe

By Jay Holmes

This past February, Russian Dictator Vladimir Putin ordered his intelligence and military services to invade Crimea in the Eastern Ukraine. Western governments loudly condemned Russia’s aggression, but practical responses have been limited to minor economic sanctions and visa restrictions against major Russian supporters of Putin.

In predictable fashion, Putin responded with symbolic bans on U.S. involvement in Russian energy development. Neither Western responses nor Putin’s counter-measures count for much in the short term. However, in the long term, Russia wants the oil and gas fracking technology that U.S. companies dominate. To get that, Putin is betting that the West will forget about Russian aggression in Ukraine as quickly as it forgot about the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008.

 

Poster on Rustaveli Avenue, Tblisi, Georgia, 2008 Wikimedia Commons, public domain

Poster on Rustaveli Avenue, Tblisi, Georgia, 2008
Wikimedia Commons, public domain

 

Thus far, there are striking similarities between the Georgian and Ukrainian invasions.

In 2008, Georgia, like the Ukraine of 2014, was expanding its economic and cultural ties with the West while reducing its trade with Russia. That year, Putin quickly seized Georgian territories where there was a significant Russian speaking population. Then he moved more military assets to the Georgian frontier than Russia needed for the intended operations. The propaganda campaign projected an image of Putin’s wild popularity across all segments of Russian society and total approval of his aggression in Georgia. Georgia seemed to be on the brink of complete absorption by Russia.

The West enacted economic sanctions and demanded that Russia withdraw. Putin then announced that his army was withdrawing from Georgia, but, in fact, his army enforced an annexation of Georgian territory. Once it appeared that the crisis was de-escalated, the West quickly rescinded the economic sanctions. Putin got what he wanted and suffered nothing for forcibly annexing part of Georgia.

In Ukraine, we see Putin once again employing this same basic strategy that worked so well in 2008. The Ukrainian people made it clear that they did not want closer economic and political alliances with Russia in exchange for promised Russian financial aid. Protests mounted, and the Russian backed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia. Russia responded by sending special forces to invade and seize Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.

In response, the West enacted mild sanctions against Russia.

Putin deployed more Russian military assets to the Ukrainian border areas than were needed to take the Crimea and then he asked for and received permission from the Russian parliament to invade all of Ukraine. The propaganda campaign in the Russian media created an image of a nation of one mind and soul ready to invade and annex more Ukraine territory, or even the entire country.

 

Canstock 2014 Bear Market

image from Canstock

 

Underneath Russia’s bravado, we saw the Russian stock market take a major nose dive.

This forced Putin to use ten billion dollars in Russia’s reserves to prop up the Russian currency and avert a credit crisis. Because Putin was certain that the sanctions were temporary, he likely predicted the economic impact of Ukraine invasion and calculated it as a bargain price for the purchase of Crimea.

As the situation in Ukraine appeared to be escalating beyond the Crimea, the U.S., Poland, and Romania asked their European allies to agree to increased sanctions. Most of the E.U. opposed the increased sanctions, so nothing meaningful happened. It became apparent to Ukrainians that many of their European neighbors were not willing to lose profitable business agreements with Russia in order to support them.

About thirty-three percent of Europe’s fossil fuel imports are from Russia. If we add in the ISIS crisis in Iraq, the energy picture has to concern European governments. Even those nations that do not directly import gas or oil from Russia would see steep price increases if Russian fuel imports stopped. That reality undoubtedly figures enormously into Europe’s unwillingness to support Ukraine by enacting meaningful economic sanctions against Russia. Conversely, with fracking operations now in place and growing in the U.S., the U.S. is becoming a significant gas exporter, it is easier for the U.S. to risk economic boycotts against Russia.

One of the most visible and controversial touchstones of the economic conflict of interest for the Western world regarding Russia’s Ukrainian invasion is a pending ship building contract between France’s STX shipyard in Saint-Nazaire and the Russian Navy.

In 2011, the Russian Navy contracted and partially funded the building of four high-tech amphibious warfare ships. With the Russian annexation of Georgian territory fresh in their minds, France’s Western allies voiced opposition to the deal because most Western governments did not want to improve Russia’s ability to invade their neighbors. One ship is near completion, and the second is partially constructed. The first ship is due for delivery in October of this year.

 

Shipyard at Saint-Nazaire Unaltered image by Pouick44, wikimedia commons

Shipyard at Saint-Nazaire
Unaltered image by Pouick44, wikimedia commons

 

In addition to four powerful amphibious warfare ships, Russia will gain significant upgrades in electronic warfare systems from the French equipment installed on those ships. France benefits in that the one billion, six hundred million Euro payment from Russia fuels approximately a thousand French jobs. With France’s continuing high unemployment rates, the Paris government is reluctant to abandon the work and refund Russia its deposit.

The U.S., Poland, the U.K., and Ukraine appropriately and frankly criticized France’s ship deal with Russia. Predictably, Putin responded by saying that he looks forward to placing large orders for more naval ships from France once these ships are delivered.

On June 30, 2014, four hundred Russian sailors arrived in Saint-Nazaire for training on the shipboard systems. If and when the Russian sailors are given full access to the newer military systems and technologies, France will have allowed major warfare technologies to transfer to Putin’s navy at a time when Eastern Europeans are frantically trying to improve their security against Russian aggression.

The U.S. has suggested one easy way out for France. Rather than lose the financial value of the contracts with Russia, it could lease the two ships already under construction to NATO to be employed by NATO’s Standing Force, possibly in the Black Sea.

Thus far, Europe has been ambivalent to that idea. If Europe can cooperate amongst itself and with the U.S. enough to prevent the transfer of the French naval warfare technology to Russia, it would be a major achievement for European cooperation and security, but it would not address the deeper underlying problems.

Europe is facing major economic problems and has been relying heavily on large doses of political P.R. driven denial.

Take the U.K. as a simple case. The U.K. is the largest producer of oil and the second-largest producer of natural gas in the European Union. Production from U.K. oil fields peaked around the late 1990s and has declined steadily since then. Domestic production of natural gas is also steadily declining. Although once a net exporter of natural gas, the U.K. now imports more natural gas from Norway each year. Norway is limited in how much and how fast it can increase its gas exports to the U.K. The U.K. is also importing oil from Russia. Soon, the U.K. will have to drastically cut its natural gas consumption or find more import sources. This likely means sharp price increases for gas consumers in the U.K.

Four days ago, I had a polite conversation about the U.K.’s energy needs with a respected economist from London. He assured me that, “We can get most of the gas that we need from Norway, and recent discoveries show that in the future we can get all the gas we need from fracking.” He was unconcerned about the U.K.’s current energy dilemma.

 

Unaltered image by Battenbrook wikimedia commons

Unaltered image by Battenbrook
wikimedia commons

 

Fracking comes with serious environmental concerns.

France and Romania have already outlawed the practice. In light of these concerns, how much fracking will occur in the U.K., and how fast can it can it become a reality? Not fast enough to avoid increased prices at the pump and increased vulnerability to Russian aggression.

The U.K. is just one example of how European nations must juggle conflicting priorities in dealing with both Russian aggression against Europe and the usual turmoil in the Middle East. The U.K.’s powerful E.U. partner Germany, following initial indignation, has been somewhat muted in condemnation of Russian aggression in Ukraine. Germany is the one Western European nation that is not on the fast track to bankruptcy, and it cannot afford to ignore its major trade agreements with Russia.

We could go on, but why depress our European readers?

The fact is that North America and Europe must find the political courage to openly face the economic and energy questions that so greatly affect the future of Western civilization. A public that is unaware of energy issues cannot effectively demand that European and North American governments formulate policies that their citizens are willing to accept. Those policies shape how Europe can respond to Russian aggression. As long as the E.U., the U.S., and Canada limit their cooperation to lip service, Eastern Europe will remain at risk of further Russian invasions and energy blackmail.

Success Lessons from Parker the Drama Dog

By Piper Bayard

Meet Parker.

 

MyPhotos Parker Standing

 

 

We got Parker from the Humane Society when I had a feeling there was a dog waiting there that would be a perfect fit for our family. Parker had been taken back twice because he doesn’t play well with others. He almost completely ignored us during our initial visit, and he was about twenty pounds overweight. Perfect, right? Yes. We saw it that way, too.

Once we got him home, we also discovered he was terrified of everything from the vacuum sweeper to the guinea pig to the staircase. But after three days and two pounds of ham to coax him up the stairs, he relaxed into a self-contained, happy pup that blended well with the family. And the best part? He didn’t seem to shed much at all.

Then came the bait and switch. We got back from Vancouver Island to find Parker had started to shed while we were away. In fact, it seemed to be his new mission in life.

In a heartbeat, I had dog brush in hand and was calling our little fluff factory to the back door. But he would have none of it. Every time I stroked him gently with the dog brush, he yelped and snapped. I couldn’t even pluck away the loose tufts of hair without him acting like I was ripping off appendages.

So I had a bit of a dilemma on my hands. Traumatize the dog, or allow him to coat us and all of our belongings in his tresses?

DD and I decided to take Parker for a walk and contemplate the situation. While I glared at the dog and DD laughed about the matter, she started flipping the rope leash up and down along his hind end, coaxing off chunks of fluff and leaving his tuchus looking like a topographical map of the Rocky Mountains. Parker was so distracted by all of the sights and smells around him that he didn’t notice.

That made me bold. Every time he stopped to sniff some marvelous delight, I ran forward and started grabbing out handfuls of hair. By the time we finished the walk, it looked like we’d shaved a bear on the path, and Parker didn’t notice or object once. Clearly, when it came to helping him shed, Parker was a drama queen.

 

MyPhotos Parker's fluff

 

 

The next day, I took the brush with me on our walk and encouraged Parker to sniff every rock, plant, or animal trace we crossed as I left a trail of dog hair tumbleweeds to mystify joggers through the day.

I decided to push it and took him out on the porch at home and continued my work. Without a walk to distract him, he began yelping and snapping again, but this time, I knew I wasn’t hurting him so I gave him a firm ‘no’ and ignored his fussing. He soon settled down.

 

MyPhotos Parker sitting by fluff

 

Now, Parker still hates brushing, but he tolerates it, and I don’t have to feel like a tribble every time I lie down on the couch. And the best part? After I took charge and told him to knock off the drama, he trusts me more than ever, and the new problem is not tripping as he  walks on my heels all day.

 

Success lessons? Some fears are nothing but bad habits, and discipline will save the day when indulgence fails.

What does your pet teach you about success?

All the best to all of you for knowing when to take charge.