Book review: Ukraine in the Crossfire

Who’s to blame for the war in Ukraine? The great majority of Western politicians and security experts have no doubt. It’s Russia. The war in Donbass is not a civil war, but ‘Russian aggression’. If enough pressure can just be exerted on Moscow to get it to change its behaviour, the violence would stop, Donbass would rejoin Ukraine, and the country could march happily towards its inevitable future as a prosperous, free, and democratic member of the community of European nations.

A minority of commentators has a different point of view. One of them is Dutch journalist Chris Kaspar de Ploeg. In his new book Ukraine in the Crossfire, de Ploeg does not seek to whitewash either Russia or deposed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich, and admits that Russia has provided significant support to the Donbass rebels. Nevertheless, he points the finger of blame for Ukraine’s problems quite firmly at the United States of America. ‘The war in Ukraine serves to keep the EU [European Union] in line with the wider US agenda,’ he argues.

deploeg

De Ploeg’s analysis is very definitely that of somebody from the political left – full of denunciations of the past crimes of American imperialism, attacks on the neoliberal policies of the International Monetary Fund, negative references to the geopolitical fantasies of Zbigniew Brzezinski’s Grand Chessboard, and the like. These aren’t my politics, I have to say. I suspect that they’ll lead many readers from the political centre and right to dismiss de Ploeg’s analysis as typical left-wing anti-American paranoia. This would be a shame, as in amongst the America-bashing, there is some accurate debunking of widely-held myths about the liberal, democratic nature of the Maidan revolution and the government which subsequently took power in Ukraine. And, while I think that de Ploeg exaggerates America’s role in Ukrainian affairs, many of the criticisms he makes of American policy are quite fair. As a result, he provides a necessary counter-balance to the prevailing narrative.

De Ploeg begins with a description of divisions within Ukraine and the events of the Maidan revolution (or ‘coup’). He emphasizes the role played in the revolution by far right groups, and outlines the support provided by foreign powers. De Ploeg’s analysis of the results of Yanukovich’s overthrow is damning. The new regime led not to the arrival of liberal democracy but to an entrenchment of oligarchic power and increase in corruption, to IMF-imposed financial austerity and, of course, to war. It’s hard to argue with any of this. Maidan was a disaster for Ukraine, and de Ploeg does a good job of showing why.

Next de Ploeg turns to the war in Donbass, and the efforts to restore peace following the Minsk agreements. He argues (correctly, in my view) that ‘Kiev bears substantial responsibility for the failure of the Minsk accords, as it has continually privileged its own agenda over peace considerations.’ The Americans, he claims, have encouraged this irresponsible behaviour, publicly endorsing President Poroshenko’s attempts to reinterpret Minsk II to mean the complete opposite of what it actually says (i.e. disarmament of the rebels and surrender of the border prior to local elections, constitutional reform, and amnesty, whereas the accord stipulates that it should be the other way round). Particularly interesting are de Ploeg’s revelations about the past shenanigans of one of the more hawkish American analysts, Philip Karber, whose work on Ukraine has been cited by no less a person than US National Security Advisor, H.R. McMaster. It is quite remarkable how wrong can be about things, and yet still be taken seriously in the security community. De Ploeg also highlights the extreme bellicose, and often massively inaccurate, statements issued by senior officials, such as former NATO chief Philip Breedlove. He makes a convincing case that the United States has consistently worked to increase tensions with Russia and place obstacles in the way of peace.

Having said all that, I think that the focus on foreign powers diverts attention away from where it really ought to be focused, namely internal Ukrainian dynamics. For sure, Russia, the USA, and other countries, have all contributed to the mess in Ukraine. But the title of de Ploeg’s book, Ukraine in the Crossfire, as well as much of its content, rather reduces Ukraine to a helpless pawn in a geopolitical battle between the West and Russia. This runs the risk of leading people to conclude that the solution to Ukraine’s problems lies outside the country, and that peace depends upon changing the behaviour of key international actors, especially Russia and America. But ultimately the war in Donbass is the product of internal Ukrainian factors, especially a crisis of legitimacy induced by the Maidan revolution. Because of this, the solutions to Ukraine’s problems lie more inside the country than outside, and depend on the internal will to create a system that all the country’s people can accept as legitimate. Foreign powers can perhaps help push Ukrainians in that direction, but at the end of the day, it’s up to Ukrainians to sort it out themselves.

Having said all that, it is important that Americans (and Europeans and Canadians) understand that there is guilt on many sides in Ukraine, that their own countries’ hands are far from clean, and that there is much more to the war in Donbass than ‘Russian aggression.’ Only then can they begin to make a positive contribution towards finding a path to peace. For this reason, they should read de Ploeg’s book, take his criticisms seriously, and think deeply about what it all means.

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22 thoughts on “Book review: Ukraine in the Crossfire”

  1. “These aren’t my politics, I have to say.”

    Does it mean then, that you, Professor:

    – Support/ignore/deny crimes of the American imperialism, especially those perpetuated in last 20 years or so?

    – Support neoliberal politics in general and IMF racket in particular?

    – Find late and unlamented Brzezinski’s worldview to be close(r) to your own?

    I honestly want to know – so I’m asking.

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    1. I’m an economic liberal, though not a doctrinaire one; am very critical of aspects of American foreign policy, but don’t regard the USA as the font of all evil (whatever Taras Kuzio says about me, I am not ‘Anti-American’). Not a fan of Brzezinski-style geopolitics, though – have more in common with the so-called ‘isolationists’ (though since I am a free trader, I think the word ‘isolationist’ is inaccurate).

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      1. I am an American, but concede that since 9/11, the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by America in the international arena stack up far higher than those of every other sovereign nation. That’s not “paranoia,” it’s an objective observation. Denying it is like denying that Trump represents the true face of this country, and saying that if he could only be deposed we’d return to being the shining city on the hill.

        America and the world would be far better served if we would only return to pre-WW2 isolationism (which still included plenty of meddling from Latin America to The Philippines). That’s far from a perfect solution, but is very much preferable to the neoconservative/liberal interventionist madness that holds Washington in a tighter grip than communism did in the old Soviet Union prior to Gorbachev.

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      2. “I’m an economic liberal, though not a doctrinaire one”

        Which does not answer your position vis-à-vis IMF shakedowns.

        “am very critical of aspects of American foreign policy, but don’t regard the USA as the font of all evil”

        Which says nothing about your admission (or lack of it) of the crimes committed by the American imperialism.

        Only straight answer that you provided was about late Zbig. How about elaborate a little bit on others? Maybe the answer will show that you are not diametrically opposed these ideas after all.

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      3. It would be interesting for me, at least, if you were to highlight the redeeming features of recent US foreign policy. They seem to be pretty limited to me, but… When such a powerful country is so aggressive and sees itself as “exceptional” there are likely to be problems. There is still much to admire about the country, but, unfortunately, not too much at the elite level. As we speak the country seems to be in something approaching self-destruct mode over Charlottesville, which doesn’t augur well for anyone’s future. (In your answer, you might also explain how you think the architecture for international relations should be redesigned- my little joke.)

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  2. Hmm. For better or for worse the US is the single global hegemonic power these days. Dismissing any plausible analysis for it’s ‘America-bashing’ seems illogical, because America is not just America, it’s… well… the sigle global hegemonic power… I don’t see how one can be an anti-imperialist without ‘America-bashing’. The way to reduce ‘America-bashing’ is for America to become less hegemonic.

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    1. I think there’s an important distinction to be drawn between criticism and “bashing”. Of course, anyone who’s feeling unhappy about being criticized is likely to accuse the critic of “bashing”, but that doesn’t change the fact that there’s a legitimate use of the word. I think “bashing” in the bad sense could be defined as reflexively and without reflection blaming your favourite villain for bad events (Think the guy who burns his toast in the morning and says, “Thanks Obama), or applying inconsistent standards based on whether it’s a “friend” or “enemy” in question. A good example is something I saw recently in one of the danker corners of an RT comment section, where the conversation turned from some American action that was accused of not respecting international law to a discussion of America’s response to Chinese violations of international law in the South China Sea (which, as an aside, are completely indisputable. There’s simply no argument whatsoever that could conceivably render China’s actions legal). Of course, the very same people who had just been ranting about America violating international law promptly proceeded to start ranting about America standing up for international law in the South China Sea. That kind of “heads I win, tails you lose” rhetoric is properly dismissed as America-bashing. As are loopy conspiracy theories about how it’s the Americans’ fault that the trash service in Karachi doesn’t work well (unfortunately, I’m not making that up. A polling company got that complaint about the US in a focus group run in Pakistan). There are plenty of legitimate reasons to criticize America, but America also functions as a convenient target for intellectual lightweights who want to show how “knowing” they are. Bad arguments deserve to be called out, even if you generally agree with the conclusion, or at least with its general thrust.

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    1. As I recall, the main point of that entry was that the causes of terrorism are worth investigating rationally and dispassionately, and the idea that a country’s own actions might have contributed to the risk shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand in an emotionally-driven, irrational sort of way…and as an aside, the fact that you’re still butthurt months later about the very suggestion that the idea of blowback should at least be considered is a fantastic example of exactly the sort of emotionalism the post was meant to address 😉

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      1. I appreciate, Ryan, that you considerably updated your lexicon, probably, after visiting several “danker” corners of the net, and now uses such novel words and expressions as “butthurt”, which, previously, I wouldn’t imagine you’ve ever do. For the record – I’m not “butthurt”. I only want consistency. That’s it. Your recollection of that blogposts content (dealing with the terrorist attack in my country) is rather hazy – go and re-read it. Professor wrote:

        “I have no idea whether the attack in St Petersburg was blowback from Russia’s military campaign in Syria, but it’s a possibility which deserves serious consideration and shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand because it’s politically inconvenient. Generally speaking I see no evidence that military intervention in the Middle East or Central Asia has done anything to make the intervening countries more secure.”

        When you passive-aggressively apply the term “blowback” to the “bad” countries, but when someone blow you up you retort with “they attack us ‘cuz they hate our Freedom!” this is a fine example of hypocrisy. And I had similar conversation with you, Ryan, back then. I said back then: “Generally speaking I see no evidence that the LACK OF military intervention in the Middle East or Central Asia has done anything to make the NON-intervening countries more secure.” Here you go – now in Spain. Why the idea of “blowback” should be dismissed here, but not everywhere else? All the rest of my question to Professor, which I asked him in the comment section there, still stand. I expect for him to ran a “blowback” story about the Western country – not only about Russia. That would be fair.

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      2. but perhaps the blow-back has the ‘civilizational’ character. Spain is part of the Western European/North American (‘Western’) ‘civilization’, which becomes a target; all of it, not just specific states within it.

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      3. “but perhaps the blow-back has the ‘civilizational’ character. Spain is part of the Western European/North American (‘Western’) ‘civilization’”

        Bingo. But lets call spade a spade. Spain (or any other Western country) is simply a Target. No matter what they do (or don’t – remember how Spain didn’t allow “Admiral Kuznetsov” to dock while en route to Syria?) they will remain targets. In the minds of the jihadis all what they do is a “blowback” against the hive-mind possessing “Crusaders” and “Rome”. And they choose their targets based on tw primarily criterions:

        a) The potential resonance in the aftermath of the terrorist attack. Should something go boom in Bulgaria no one will really care, despite the fact that Bulgaria is the member of the EU, NATO and did in past fought against Muslims

        b) The chance of success to pull it off must be high enough. No use to gamble for another 9/11, which is, frankly, now virtually impossible after all security measures taken. Beggars are not choosers, especially in the assymetric warfare.

        But, if Professor disagrees with that and insist in his belief in the Sacred Blowback (Which Happens Only To Bad Countries), I’m open to suggestions and counter arguments.

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      4. I’ll make a longer response later, but for now I wanted to point out one giant weak spot with this whole argument (at least as far as it came up again in relation to this particular event).

        “Generally speaking I see no evidence that the LACK OF military intervention in the Middle East or Central Asia has done anything to make the NON-intervening countries more secure.” Here you go – now in Spain.

        The part you’re missing is that Spain is a part of (if a somewhat low-profile part of) the anti-IS coalition, and was explicitly identified as a target by IS on that basis. So far from being a counter-example, this is actually an example of a country being explicitly targeted because of its foreign policy positions.

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      5. Please, Ryan – enLYTTEN me! About this in particular:

        “The part you’re missing is that Spain is a part of (if a somewhat low-profile part of) the anti-IS coalition, and was explicitly identified as a target by IS on that basis. So far from being a counter-example, this is actually an example of a country being explicitly targeted because of its foreign policy positions.”

        Is it? Even a “low-profile” one? If one to believe for a change a Wikipedian article Spain is not even close to be anyone significant in the US-led “Coalition of (un)willing”. Denmark (DENMARK, Ryan!) did more shooty-bomby stuff than them – but it is Germany and Sweden that earned themselves terrorist attention. And I remind you that Spain was the original member of the US-lead coalition which invaded Iraq. The terrorist attacks a couple of years later rectified that and Spain no longer committed even anything closely reminiscent to such attempt to “wage a crusade”. Poland committed more (military!) contribution to Afghanistan and Iraq than Spain. Yet I don’t see any terrorist attacks there.

        Germany, OTOH, contributed a spiffingly grand total of 6 (six) recon planes and 1 (one) refueling plane to the US-lead war effort. Did it save them from the terrorist attacks, Ryan? Canada did provided warplanes that carried out airstrikes against ISIL, yet there were no blowback since.

        Oh, and one more thing. What about Finland, hm? Up till now they were called the “safest nation in the world”:

        “The Finnish Security Intelligence Service, or SUPO, said it had obtained knowledge of extremism-related plans being made in the country. In response, it raised the threat from ‘low’ to ‘elevated.’

        “The most significant terrorist threat in Finland is still posed by individual actors or small groups motivated by radical Islamist propaganda or terrorist organizations encouraging them,” SUPO said in a statement.

        It said the increased threat in the country was a result of dozens of foreign fighters traveling to join ISIS, some rising through its ranks and obtaining senior positions within the group.”

        And that was in June this year.

        The answer is – the jihadis don’t care. It’s all one gigantic “crusader state” for them. In late 2015 they proclaimed just about all European countries to be “crusaders”. Yes, including Finland. They have cross on their flag, duh! Back then, people were incredulous at such ignorance and even chucled at “stoopid dzhihadis”. Turns out – no, they do believe in that. They do not care.

        As for the claim that “this is actually an example of a country being explicitly targeted because of its foreign policy positions” – it doesn’t stand, given the ISIL rhetoric in the aftermath of EVERY single attack they claim as their own. For them – it’s all a “blowback” against crusaders, no matter the level of their contribution to the “”crusade.

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      6. Before moving on to the main points, there are a couple of factual errors in your post to clear up. Firstly, Canada has been attacked since joining the anti-IS coalition, twice actually. Secondly, IS didn’t start it’s rhetoric against Spain only after the attack. It first started focusing some attention on Spain the better part of a year ago.

        Moving on to the main point, your argument rests on a simple non sequitur. You take one single attack that doesn’t seem to fit the pattern as disproof of the pattern, but events in the human world don’t work that way. There’s always some amount of background noise. Compare the “line of best fit” to the data points for any social scientific theory, and you’ll see what I mean. So even if you were right that the attacks in Spain and Finland didn’t fit the pattern, two counter-examples are pretty weak evidence to present against the view that blowback is a major factor in the pattern of terrorist attacks.

        But actually, your counter-examples don’t really work. The attack in Finland was anomalous, but it also seems to have been the uncoordinated action of someone responding to IS propaganda. Of course that kind of attack can happen pretty much anywhere. Once something’s on the Internet, anyone can look at it and take action. That’s really not the point at issue. The point at issue is IS attacks that show some degree of coordination.

        Moving on to Spain and Germany, both of these countries have stirred up the hornets nest in a variety of ways. Firstly, the Wiki article you posted is not wrong, but it’s incomplete, because it doesn’t include a lot of the logistical and training support that countries provided. It also doesn’t address the question of which countries have taken the strongest action to prevent their nationals from going to join IS in Syria. These are both significant factors in the cases of Spain and Germany, both of whom have supported the Kurds with training and equipment. They’ve also both taken particularly strong action to prevent their citizens from going to Syria to join IS (In Germany, the government acted so strongly that it ignited a civil liberties debate). These are all distinct actions that obviously attract IS hostility.

        But even if we ignore all that, the general pattern remains. Again, generalizations in the social sciences always have to allow for a fair bit of noise. Given the decentralized nature of a lot of IS activity this noise can be expected to be even greater than normal. However, it doesn’t interfere with the general pattern. In Europe, by quite a margin the two countries that have been targeted the most have been Britain and France, which of course are the two most active members of the anti-IS coalition. Actually, if IS generally responded in a reactive way to countries that actively opposed it, you would expect a pattern pretty much exactly like what we see. The most active and determined anti-IS countries (France and Britain) suffer the most attacks. Other countries that have been involved, but to a lesser extent, have also suffered attacks, but not as many. The pattern is exactly what it should be if blowback is a major factor.

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      7. “Before moving on to the main points, there are a couple of factual errors in your post to clear up. Firstly, Canada has been attacked since joining the anti-IS coalition, twice actually.”

        First of all – there is zero (none) evidence that these two measly attacks with extremely low bodycount (and, ergo, zero resonance and agitprop value) were carried out by the ISIL affiliated cells (like, e.g., it was in case of France, Belgium and now Spain). Second – both attacks happened in 2014 and… nothing since then. From which we can draw the conclusion that, what – the ISIL thinks that one particular crusader nation, which actively bombs the faithful does not deserve their attention? Or maybe there is another explanation – what do you think, Ryan?

        “Secondly, IS didn’t start it’s rhetoric against Spain only after the attack. It first started focusing some attention on Spain the better part of a year ago.”

        That’s the first time I hear about Spain being singled out. From time to time ISIL propaganda mention this or that “crusader nation” and calls for jihad against it. So what?

        “You take one single attack that doesn’t seem to fit the pattern as disproof of the pattern”

        That presumes there exist a pattern, or, to be more accurate, that there exist a patter which conforms your view, and not mine. Ryan, once again – I claim that participation in the military fight against jihadis is rather not important and all talks about “blowback” are disengenious. Only two (2) things matter – One, the capacity to pull a terror attack, Two – the “hype” potential of such action. That’s it. The rest is handled by the postfactum massaging of this attack by the jihadi agitprop. With which of my points do you disagree?

        “You take one single attack that doesn’t seem to fit the pattern as disproof of the pattern”

        If your “blowback” pattern existed, then the USA, UK and Canada would be suffering Israel-level of the terror attack. They don’t. Israel does. Turns out relative “splendid isolation” and turning your countries into surveillance states pays off. Go figure!

        “You take one single attack that doesn’t seem to fit the pattern as disproof of the pattern”

        If it was just a “lone-wolf attack”, then why did Finnish police arrest not only the perp but 4 other Moroccan “refugees” (and still has them in custody) while issuing international arrest warrant for the 6th suspect? If it wasn’t a cell, what was it – a book club? Also –have you read linked Newsweek article in my post, about how Finland can prove itself a soft target for such attacks and how easily local Muslim population could be radicalized?

        “Moving on to Spain and Germany, both of these countries have stirred up the hornets nest in a variety of ways.”

        Yes, especially Germany – “Octoberfest” is so haram!

        “Firstly, the Wiki article you posted is not wrong, but it’s incomplete, because it doesn’t include a lot of the logistical and training support that countries provided.”

        Question – on the scale from 1 to 10 how would you rate “providing logistical and training” compared to blowing shit up via airstikes on the “Crusader-Nation-ISIL-Approved-Meter”? Does the ordinary jihadi concern itself with such things? Oh, and btw – those countries that do shooty-bomby stuff nearly always ALSO provide logistics and other support as well.

        “It also doesn’t address the question of which countries have taken the strongest action to prevent their nationals from going to join IS in Syria.”

        How does it matter?

        “They’ve also both taken particularly strong action to prevent their citizens from going to Syria to join IS”

        Token gesture, given the fact that, anyway, most of ISIL foreign volunteers come not from the Europe. It also assumes that Spain possessed prior to, say, 2014 a significant population of those, who would surely volunteer for jihad. Now it does.

        If we to believe in some correlation based on this:

        then Denmark, Norway, Austria, Ireland and Netherlands should be in flames by now. Not included in this list is Kosovo which supplied a “fair share” of volunteers as well, but, hey, who would attack it anyway?

        “Again, generalizations in the social sciences always have to allow for a fair bit of noise.”

        That’s our chief difference, Ryan. You think that if this is “social sciences/humanities” then you can tweak data in a pretzel to fit your narrative, even make things up out of thin air.

        “In Europe, by quite a margin the two countries that have been targeted the most have been Britain and France, which of course are the two most active members of the anti-IS coalition”

        They are not THE most active though. And those who were targeted beyond them were even less active. In fact, France’s activity have become virtually nonexistent by now.

        “The most active and determined anti-IS countries (France and Britain) suffer the most attacks.”

        Once. Again. No – they are not the most active. It’s just French police is shit. There is no spoon pattern of blowback. Get real, Ryan.

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      8. “First of all – there is zero (none) evidence that these two measly attacks with extremely low bodycount (and, ergo, zero resonance and agitprop value) were carried out by the ISIL affiliated cells (like, e.g., it was in case of France, Belgium and now Spain). Second – both attacks happened in 2014 and… nothing since then. From which we can draw the conclusion that, what – the ISIL thinks that one particular crusader nation, which actively bombs the faithful does not deserve their attention? Or maybe there is another explanation – what do you think, Ryan?”

        You could make the same objection about a lot of IS attacks (Most notably the one in Finland you’re making). The point is that IS made a special point of encouraging attacks against Canada, and these individuals responded. There certainly is evidence that both attackers were directly inspired by IS (http://nationalpost.com/news/canada/ottawa-shooter-read-posts-by-isis-convert-calling-for-attacks-on-canada). Furthermore, despite relatively meager results, IS put quite a bit of effort into encouraging lone wolf attacks in Canada. Canada is far away and hard to access, so IS didn’t have a lot of success, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. As to attacks “stopping”, that’s not actually true. There was another attack in 2016 by a known IS sympathizer that was foiled (https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2016/08/10/possible-terrorist-threat-thwarted-says-rcmp.html). And as for Canada being a country that “actively bombs the faithful”, Canada is no longer providing combat air support to the coalition. As to why IS would no longer target a nation that’s far away and hard to attack, and is no longer actively killing them, while there are nations in Europe that are close and accessible, and still killing, I think it answers itself.

        “That’s the first time I hear about Spain being singled out. From time to time ISIL propaganda mention this or that “crusader nation” and calls for jihad against it. So what?”

        Then you should read the news more 😉
        http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/705963/Spanish-jihadis-second-language-ISIS-Spain-terror-attack
        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4219118/ISIS-issues-direct-threats-Spanish-tourist-hotspots.html
        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3412030/We-recover-land-invaders-ISIS-issues-chilling-threat-launch-terror-attacks-Spain-bid-expand-caliphate-Europe.html
        https://www.thelocal.es/20161011/police-arrest-two-isis-members-in-northern-spain

        As to why this is significant, it’s because it shows your assertion, “As for the claim that “this is actually an example of a country being explicitly targeted because of its foreign policy positions” – it doesn’t stand, given the ISIL rhetoric in the aftermath of EVERY single attack they claim as their own. For them – it’s all a “blowback” against crusaders, no matter the level of their contribution to the “”crusade”,” is false. IS didn’t just jump on the bandwagon after the attack to rationalize it post facto. IS has been encouraging attacks in Spain for the past year.

        “That presumes there exist a pattern, or, to be more accurate, that there exist a patter which conforms your view, and not mine.”

        No it doesn’t. It just assumes that the existence of such a pattern is a hypothesis on the table. And if you’re going to try to argue against the hypothesis, you need better arguments than single anecdotes of attacks that don’t initially seem to flow from that cause. Raising single examples is a bad and irrelevant form of argument for any claim that doesn’t assert something about “all” cases. If I had claimed that every single terrorist attack ever could be explained by blowback and nothing else, one or two counterexamples would be relevant. As I never claimed any such thing, they’re not.

        “Ryan, once again – I claim that participation in the military fight against jihadis is rather not important and all talks about “blowback” are disengenious. Only two (2) things matter – One, the capacity to pull a terror attack, Two – the “hype” potential of such action. That’s it. The rest is handled by the postfactum massaging of this attack by the jihadi agitprop. With which of my points do you disagree?”

        I disagree with the words “only” and “that’s it”. Obviously terrorists are interested in getting maximum attention and what they have easy access to. But they’re also interested in focusing on some targets rather than others. Actually, from your other statements, I can tell that you yourself recognize another factor, “Being a traditionally Christian nation.” If, as you say, IS just wants to completely indiscriminately attack “crusader” states, obviously being a “crusader state” is relevant to whether you get attacked. But that’s not all that’s relevant. What’s also relevant is whether a country has opposed IS’s political goals, and how significant their opposition has been.

        “If your “blowback” pattern existed, then the USA, UK and Canada would be suffering Israel-level of the terror attack. They don’t. Israel does. Turns out relative “splendid isolation” and turning your countries into surveillance states pays off. Go figure!”

        This is a simplistic straw man. Again (I think for about the thousandth time now), blowback is a factor, but not the only factor. Ease of access obviously matters too. So obviously the US and Canada are going to be targeted less frequently (at least by organized cells. IS’s propaganda war, and attempts to encourage lone wolf attacks, have obviously focused on America most of all). On top of that, out of the attacks that are attempted, it’s likely that a smaller percentage will succeed. None of that is remotely contrary to anything I’ve claimed. The claim is that blowback is one factor influencing how often a country is attacked. That doesn’t mean that there are no other factors. It only means that, ALL ELSE BEING EQUAL, a country that has done more to oppose IS will, on average, be targeted more than a country that has done less.

        “If it was just a “lone-wolf attack”, then why did Finnish police arrest not only the perp but 4 other Moroccan “refugees” (and still has them in custody) while issuing international arrest warrant for the 6th suspect? If it wasn’t a cell, what was it – a book club? Also –have you read linked Newsweek article in my post, about how Finland can prove itself a soft target for such attacks and how easily local Muslim population could be radicalized?”

        It’s a possibly soft target, but that has nothing to do with blowback either way. In any case, a lot about that attack is still murky. There’s no evidence at all that it was carried out by any directed IS cell. All we know is that other people are being questioned, and the police say they have found ““some ideological feelings, background and thoughts.” Conspicuously absent is any mention of direction by IS. Maybe that evidence will come in the future, but it hasn’t yet.

        “Question – on the scale from 1 to 10 how would you rate “providing logistical and training” compared to blowing shit up via airstikes on the “Crusader-Nation-ISIL-Approved-Meter”? Does the ordinary jihadi concern itself with such things? Oh, and btw – those countries that do shooty-bomby stuff nearly always ALSO provide logistics and other support as well.”

        It doesn’t matter whether “the ordinary jihadi” cares or not. It matters whether the upper echelons do, because the upper echelon decides where to direct organized attacks, and where to focus on the most for propaganda to encourage lone wolves. But anyway, obviously direct air attacks are the most annoying to IS, and therefore the most likely to attract blowback. But that only reinforces my point. There are precisely two countries in Europe that have contributed significantly in terms of attack aircraft, Britain and France. Those are also the two countries that have been attacked the most, and have been targeted by attacks showing the greatest amount of organization. Other countries is Europe have contributed in smaller and less significant ways, and have been attacked less, just as my view on the matter would predict.

        ““It also doesn’t address the question of which countries have taken the strongest action to prevent their nationals from going to join IS in Syria.”

        How does it matter?”

        It matters because IS gets very annoyed at countries that take strong action to prevent their citizens from going to Syria, and have explicitly stated this in their videos. Back when they were targeting Canada, this was a big theme in that propaganda campaign.

        “If we to believe in some correlation based on this:

        then Denmark, Norway, Austria, Ireland and Netherlands should be in flames by now. Not included in this list is Kosovo which supplied a “fair share” of volunteers as well, but, hey, who would attack it anyway?”

        You missed my point. I didn’t say that countries that have more fighters go to join IS are more likely to be attacked. I said that countries that take strong and visible actions to prevent their citizens from joining attract hostility from IS, which is obviously true, judging by IS propaganda.

        “That’s our chief difference, Ryan. You think that if this is “social sciences/humanities” then you can tweak data in a pretzel to fit your narrative, even make things up out of thin air.”

        This comment is mostly just rudeness with little content, so it doesn’t merit much of a response, but I will comment that, when dealing with complex and multi-causal phenomena, allowing for things not to be completely clear-cut is not fuzziness, it’s simple common sense. Again, to say, “America gets attacked less than Europe, so therefore blowback isn’t a factor at all,” is a terrible and brutally simplistic argument. It’s a simple non sequitur.

        “They are not THE most active though. And those who were targeted beyond them were even less active. In fact, France’s activity have become virtually nonexistent by now.

        “The most active and determined anti-IS countries (France and Britain) suffer the most attacks.”

        Once. Again. No – they are not the most active. It’s just French police is shit. There is no spoon pattern of blowback. Get real, Ryan.”

        In Europe, they are the most active (Which is precisely what I said). But, if you have any evidence to the contrary, feel free to share it. As for France, you’re factually wrong. Just guessing, but I think you might have gotten your information from a source talking about Syria. If so, you’ve forgotten that IS is also in Iraq, and in Iraq, as recently as March, France was the #2 country in terms of airstrikes in attacking IS targets.

        https://airwars.org/news/international-airstrikes-and-civilian-casualty-claims-in-iraq-and-syria-march-2017/

        France has also been highly active in the Battle of Mosul in terms of providing special ops and artillery support. Additionally, French special forces have been active in Libya

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Op%C3%A9ration_Chammal

        It’s nothing short of ridiculous to deny that France has been one of the two foremost European countries (along with the UK) in terms of fighting IS. And again, which two countries in Europe have been getting attacked the hardest? France and Britain. If visibility and vulnerability were the only relevant factors, there would be no reason whatsoever why these two countries would be attacked more than Germany, but they have been. Are you seriously going to try to argue that German police are somehow significantly better than British or French, or that Germany is less visible and significant than these countries? Other mysteries would include why a hugely vulnerable country like Italy, with a highly visible capital city, hasn’t suffered at all, and why tiny, insignificant little Finland, that’s not as vulnerable as the southern European countries, has been. It would also be mysterious why Australia has been targeted more than Canada, given that both are not super-visible and are not easy targets to attack. Your model is too simple. It can explain why Europe is attacked more than other places, and why important countries like Britain and Germany are attacked more than little countries like Denmark, but it can’t explain why Britain and France are attacked more than Germany, why Germany is attacked more than Italy, or why Australia is attacked more than Canada. When evaluating a suggested additional variable to a model, the key test is whether the model can predict things more accurately with the variable added than without it. And a model that encompasses vulnerability, visibility and blowback accounts for a lot more of the data than a model that considers vulnerability and visibility alone.

        Like

      9. “You could make the same objection about a lot of IS attacks (Most notably the one in Finland you’re making).”

        You can (i.e. you possess the capacity to do smth) pretty much anything in the way f claiming. Won’t make it true, though. The terrorist attack on Finland had bigger bodycount and was of much value in the agitprop venue. First – it demonstrated that Finland’s much touted image as the “safest country in EU” is not true (until only two months ago, Finland had kept its assessment of the terrorist threat on the lowest possible level.). Second – it was a target against a minor, less committed partner in this “coalition of (un)willing”, as a way to demonstrate, that no “crusader nation” could be safe now. Third – victims were nationally-diverse, encompassing citizens from various EU countries (+ from Britain), which also contributed to the wider resonance.

        4 suspects arrested previously are still in pre-trial detention, one is still at large searched by Interpol. In June the security service of Finland Supo insisted on raising the terror danger level but to no avail.

        The country was being increasingly targeted in radical Islamist propaganda, including incitements to attack Finland, Supo, the Finnish security intelligence service, said. The agency added that it had “become aware of more serious terrorism-related plans and projects in Finland”. The number of individuals targeted by counter-terrorism has risen to about 350, an increase of 80 per cent since 2012. Still insisting that this was just a “fluke”, Ryan?

        “The point is that IS made a special point of encouraging attacks against Canada, and these individuals responded.”

        But why they didn’t respond in 2015, 2016, 2017? What, in the intervening they targeted Canada less in their propaganda? Or did your country became more pleasing to the norms of the sharia as the ISIL understands that? Or maybe, perhaps, it has more to do with the better work of the security apparatus of both the US and Canada, which prevented this from happening, while not compromising Canada’s unwavering support to the States foreign policy agenda?

        As per your link – Ryan, you understand the difference between a “radicalized lone-wolf attacker” and a terrorist cell, do you? In the first case it’s little different from the typical “going postal” ™ scenario. If not ISIL propaganda, it could be a anti-Reptoid tin-foil hat conspiracy theory group, calling for the expulsion of the extra-terrestrial invaders.

        “Furthermore, despite relatively meager results, IS put quite a bit of effort into encouraging lone wolf attacks in Canada. Canada is far away and hard to access, so IS didn’t have a lot of success, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.”

        Evidence of that? Can you provide relevant data, aka the statistic of the plots thwarted and attempted?

        “And as for Canada being a country that “actively bombs the faithful”, Canada is no longer providing combat air support to the coalition.”

        Since what year exactly? Do you think that now, once it stopped, it became safer than previously? Or that while it provided assistance (heck – bombed outright!) it was more of target? Evidence, Ryan!

        “As to why IS would no longer target a nation that’s far away and hard to attack, and is no longer actively killing them, while there are nations in Europe that are close and accessible, and still killing, I think it answers itself.”

        This is speculation akin to the question of “how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”, Ryan.

        It assumes that it was more of a prime target beforehand, as if (magic(k)ally!) Canada prior to election of Justin T. as the PM was not, and I quote, “far away and hard to attack”, while nations in Europe were not (and I quote again!) “close and accessible” for them. Was there a null-B teleporting device in the ISIL hands? Or was U-rope defended by some kind of the force field?

        “Then you should read the news more”

        The Daily Mail? Really, Ryan?

        1) The Express article (bloody tabloid, that lacks the saving graces of the Daily Mail’s abundance of bikini photos of celebs) claims that as of 2016 the “second popular language of ISIS is Spanish”. Which is simply not true (it’s still Russian, sadly). Oh, and they conveniently provide no sources for any of this claim. How does this correlate with the level of threats issued to any other country, Ryan? More or less?

        2) The Daily Fail puts an interesting spin on this threats – they make it sound, as if the terrorists gonna target the tourist hotspots because Brits will be there. D’uh, of course! Britannia above all! They also debunk the Express claim (from 2016) that “the Spanish is fast becoming the Second language”, revealing, that since then it is still work in the progress, they lack native speakers and are only searching for translators on-line. Again – no meaningful outgoing links to prove their points.

        One quote in the classical example of the “getting crap past the radar” is the most revealing though:

        “In January 2016, ISIS issued a chilling video threat to launch terror attacks in Spain, declaring: ‘We will recover our land from the invaders.’”

        Spanish will always be in the ISIL crosshairs, because they are “invaders”. Always.

        3) The last article shows that the Spanish police does it’s job. And? As compared to other countries, how does it rate them? I think – better than the French.

        “IS didn’t just jump on the bandwagon after the attack to rationalize it post facto. IS has been encouraging attacks in Spain for the past year.”

        You disproved nothing, Ryan. See above. Spain was targeted anyway because “muh 1492” sentiments and Reconquista. 2016 came and gone without them succeed, although the bulk of threats were issued in this year, possibly, on the trail of success of the attacks in France and Belgium. Then – virtually nothing, all the usual propaganda stuff, one part of their network busted. Looks like it was not enough and arresting 120 suspected jihadis in 2 years is, once again, not enough. All the while Spain remained, well, Spain. Absolutely nothing supernatural transpired from early 2016 to mid 2017 to make Spain a prime target ideology-wise. Because it was one already. Jihadis just waited for an opportunity.

        Oh, and none of your articles really covers this “foreign policy” angle. Try again.

        “No it doesn’t. It just assumes that the existence of such a pattern is a hypothesis on the table.”

        Da hell this means? How about stop moving goalposts, Ryan?

        “And if you’re going to try to argue against the hypothesis, you need better arguments than single anecdotes of attacks that don’t initially seem to flow from that cause.”

        Do YOU have a pattern or not, Ryan? What are YOUR arguments? I’ve provided mine. You just dismissed them out of hand. Reasons?

        “But they’re also interested in focusing on some targets rather than others… [O]bviously being a “crusader state” is relevant to whether you get attacked. But that’s not all that’s relevant. What’s also relevant is whether a country has opposed IS’s political goals, and how significant their opposition has been.”

        Wake me up, when they start blowing the shit out of Albania. Or Kosovo. Why? Both are NATO’s bosom buddies, and NATO is the tool of Iblis!

        As for the key claim of you – “whether a country has opposed IS’s political goals, and how significant their opposition has been” – I’ve seen no confirmation from you so far. Once. Again. If this “justification” would have been real, then USA would look like Moon’s surface by now. Hint – [whispers] it doesn’t! Which points out one important thing – Yes, You Can! Do Shit Unto Others, without much of “blowback”, provided you’ve taken precautions. Or be like Bulgaria. No one will bother to blow you up, cuz that’d be a waste.

        So far, you, Ryan, have provided no counter-arguments.

        “None of that is remotely contrary to anything I’ve claimed.”

        Empirically. With the lack of hard data. Can you measure the “blowback factor” Ryan? Provide some common yardstick, something that we (all of us!) can examine, weight and measure and then apply? If not – this is all cheap talks and demagoguery.

        “That doesn’t mean that there are no other factors. It only means that, ALL ELSE BEING EQUAL, a country that has done more to oppose IS will, on average, be targeted more than a country that has done less.”

        I’ll be Laconic – proof? All you’ve been saying here were just your words.

        “But that only reinforces my point. There are precisely two countries in Europe that have contributed significantly in terms of attack aircraft, Britain and France.”

        Sooo… Not Spain, Belgium, Germany, Sweden and Finland then? Huh. Go, figure! Besides – when shall we expect an attack on Denmark, Ryan?

        “Those are also the two countries that have been attacked the most, and have been targeted by attacks showing the greatest amount of organization.”

        Compare the bodycount. The UK is an odd man out.

        “It matters because IS gets very annoyed at countries that take strong action to prevent their citizens from going to Syria, and have explicitly stated this in their videos. Back when they were targeting Canada, this was a big theme in that propaganda campaign.”

        Did this “annoyance”, in the case of Canada, materialized in something like a bazillion of attacks? I guess not. So – irrelevant.

        “Again, to say, “America gets attacked less than Europe, so therefore blowback isn’t a factor at all,” is a terrible and brutally simplistic argument. It’s a simple non sequitur.”

        Nah, that’s the truth. Which you can hardly counter, do you, Ryan? What, does this idea of the lack of “justness” make you uncomfortable? Also embracing the idea that “blowback” is real in the first place IS precisely a clear-cut, simplistic argument. Unless you can measure, compare and contrast it and say precisely, how much does it contribute in reality.

        Snip about France being Stronk

        1) Nothing disproves that their police is shit.

        2) They have been constantly scaling down (in response to attacks? who knows!) going from fire and brimstone of Hollande, to, well, what they have become right now. When you were an Olympic champion, but now had (due to obvious reasons) participate only as a member of the Paralympics ream (still winning silver from tine to time) that’s not an improvement. And France will still remain a target, no matter how it’s going to scale down.

        “Are you seriously going to try to argue that German police are somehow significantly better than British or French, or that Germany is less visible and significant than these countries?”

        Definitely better than the French. Don’t lump Britain and France together – they are too different.

        “If visibility and vulnerability were the only relevant factors, there would be no reason whatsoever why these two countries would be attacked more than Germany, but they have been”

        But they ARE vulnerable and “valid” targets for such attacks IRREGARDLESS to what they do or do not do! They are simply “brands”, doing anything to which is bound to produce a resonance and hype by default! It’s like with those, who want to throw acid at “Mona Lisa”.

        “or that Germany is less visible and significant than these countries?”

        Yes. Compare their tourist rates, combine this with the the number of Anglo-, Franco- and Germanophones in the world, and multiply by their respective MSM penetration across the world . Britain and France had bigger colonial empires, exerted far reaching influence around the globe and still possess the clout and legacy of this in the minds of the people.

        Germany is less memetic.

        “Other mysteries would include why a hugely vulnerable country like Italy, with a highly visible capital city, hasn’t suffered at all”

        Don’t jinx it. I’m serious. One of the theories (theories, I remind you!) is that all things considered Italy is so junior partner in the EU, that it’s just “meh!” of a target. Another target postulates, that Italy is an excellent conduit of migrants/refuges (whose delivery earns a hefty gesheft to Mafia) that such an attack might close it down – and who really wants that?

        “…and why tiny, insignificant little Finland, that’s not as vulnerable as the southern European countries, has been.”

        I’ve already provided two links as for that – one to the Newsweek article, another to the Supo report. All deal with why Finland becoming more and more vulnerable.

        “It would also be mysterious why Australia has been targeted more than Canada, given that both are not super-visible and are not easy targets to attack.”

        Easy-peasy. Australia lacks the Big Brother to watch over it. Mind you, USA extends it’s security umbrella over you not out of the charity – you are just too valuable asset to them, loyal to the core, and having you become a breeding nest of jihadis with the long porous border you have… Nah!

        “Your model is too simple.”

        As well as the Occam’s razor.

        “It can explain why Europe is attacked more than other places, and why important countries like Britain and Germany are attacked more than little countries like Denmark, but it can’t explain why Britain and France are attacked more than Germany, why Germany is attacked more than Italy, or why Australia is attacked more than Canada.”

        You deliberately ignore what I write? Opportunity + Resonance. Part of what makes opportunity real are “conditions on the ground” and the degree of the national security apparatus’ competency.

        One thing though – the “blowback theory” doesn’t explain a shit, concerning the countries you listed above.

        “When evaluating a suggested additional variable to a model, the key test is whether the model can predict things more accurately with the variable added than without it.”

        When the variable in question is something as abstract and intangible (go, Ryan, and provide some more essence and hard data, for rectify it!) then it is no different than to try to figure how to fit in the influence of Gulfstream on the harvest potential of the gherkins in central Russia. Sure, maybe (maybe!) in some arcane roundabout way it does affect it – but it’s not enough to claim this, without tangible proof. Until then this “theory” shouldn’t be treated as “equally plausible”.

        Like

  3. “The great majority of Western politicians and security experts have no doubt. It’s Russia. The war in Donbass is not a civil war, but ‘Russian aggression’.”

    Donbass rebels: soldiers of the detachment of “Sparta”. Data published by Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, April 2015:
    http://imgur.com/a/Gh8zx
    I can’t imagine how it is possible to deny a civil war in Ukraine?

    Like

  4. …just finished watching Canadian TV show Intelligence, 2005-7. Very unflattering view of the south of the border… Surprisingly negative… Pretty much the level of animosity I imagine some of the Ukrainian folks might have felt towards Russia before the putsch, only in Canada it appears to be much more common, judging by this show.

    Any chance for a Canadian maidan, Paul? Have you watched the show?

    Like

  5. Thanks for this, Paul. Since DePloeg’s left-wing politics are also mine, I will be sure to read his book. It’s about time we heard from a true Lefty on this issue — more correctly, it’s long overdue.

    Like

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