Source: The Independent

World War 1History never repeats itself, but it sure does rhyme, it has been said. Now an internationally respected historian is warning that today’s world bears a number of striking similarities with the build-up to the First World War.

The newly mechanised armies of the early 20th century produced unprecedented slaughter on the battlefields of the “war to end all wars” after a spark lit in the Balkans with the assassination of the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Professor Margaret MacMillan, of the University of Cambridge, argues that the Middle East could be viewed as the modern-day equivalent of this turbulent region. A nuclear arms race that would be likely to start if Iran developed a bomb “would make for a very dangerous world indeed, which could lead to a recreation of the kind of tinderbox that exploded in the Balkans 100 years ago – only this time with mushroom clouds,” she writes in an essay for the Brookings Institution, a leading US think-tank.

“While history does not repeat itself precisely, the Middle East today bears a worrying resemblance to the Balkans then,” she says. “A similar mix of toxic nationalisms threatens to draw in outside powers as the US, Turkey, Russia, and Iran look to protect their interests and clients.”

Professor MacMillan highlights a string of other parallels between today and a century ago. Modern-day Islamist terrorists mirror the revolutionary communists and anarchists who carried out a string of assassinations in the name of a philosophy that sanctioned murder to achieve their vision of a better world. And in 1914, Germany was a rising force that sought to challenge the pre-eminent power of the time, the UK. Today, the growing power of China is perceived as a threat by some in the US.

Hermes 450 drone

Source: London Guardian 

Whenever I read comments by politicians defending the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Predator and Reaper program – aka drones – I wish I could ask them some questions. I’d start with: “How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile?” And: “How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?” Or even more pointedly: “How many soldiers have you seen die on the side of a road in Afghanistan because our ever-so-accurate UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicle] were unable to detect an IED [improvised explosive device] that awaited their convoy?”

Few of these politicians who so brazenly proclaim the benefits of drones have a real clue of what actually goes on. I, on the other hand, have seen these awful sights first hand.

I knew the names of some of the young soldiers I saw bleed to death on the side of a road. I watched dozens of military-aged males die in Afghanistan, in empty fields, along riversides, and some right outside the compound where their family was waiting for them to return home from mosque.

The US and British militaries insist that this is such an expert program, but it’s curious that they feel the need to deliver faulty informationfew or no statistics about civilian deaths and twisted technology reports on the capabilities of our UAVs. These specific incidents are not isolated, and the civilian casualty rate has not changed, despite what our defense representatives might like to tell us.

What the public needs to understand is that the video provided by a drone is a far cry from clear enough to detect someone carrying a weapon, even on a crystal-clear day with limited clouds and perfect light. This makes it incredibly difficult for the best analysts to identify if someone has weapons for sure. One example comes to mind: “The feed is so pixelated, what if it’s a shovel, and not a weapon?” I felt this confusion constantly, as did my fellow UAV analysts. We always wonder if we killed the right people, if we endangered the wrong people, if we destroyed an innocent civilian’s life all because of a bad image or angle.

It’s also important for the public to grasp that there are human beings operating and analysing intelligence these UAVs. I know because I was one of them, and nothing can prepare you for an almost daily routine of flying combat aerial surveillance missions over a war zone. UAV proponents claim that troops who do this kind of work are not affected by observing this combat because they are never directly in danger physically.

But here’s the thing: I may not have been on the ground in Afghanistan, but I watched parts of the conflict in great detail on a screen for days on end. I know the feeling you experience when you see someone die. Horrifying barely covers it. And when you are exposed to it over and over again it becomes like a small video, embedded in your head, forever on repeat, causing psychological pain and suffering that many people will hopefully never experience. UAV troops are victim to not only the haunting memories of this work that they carry with them, but also the guilt of always being a little unsure of how accurate their confirmations of weapons or identification of hostile individuals were.

Source: Alt Thai News

Understanding the greater global chessboard Thailand’s political crisis is unfolding upon.

December 20, 2013 (Tony Cartalucci) – The history of Thailand over the past several centuries could be defined by its fending off of one European empire after the next. It is the only Southeast Asian nation that has never been colonized by a European power. This is in direct contrast to its neighbors on all sides – Myanmar and Malaysia were under the British, and Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam were under the French. Even China was carved up by Western powers.

The key to Thailand’s success was committing to a careful balancing act between projecting strength, adept geopolitical maneuvering, unwavering unity, and when necessary, making temporary concessions to preserve its greater sovereignty.

Image: Thailand’s geopolitical surroundings 1800-1900. Thailand was the only Southeast Asian country to avoid European colonization.
….

“Empires” Still Exist, Still Conquer, Still Exploit  

Thailand in the 1800’s, then the Kingdom of Siam, was surrounded on all sides by colonized nations. Gunboats would eventually turn up off the coast of Siam’s capital and the Kingdom made to concede to the British 1855 Bowring Treaty. See how many of these “gunboat policy” imposed concessions sound like today’s “free trade” economic liberalization:

1. Siam granted extraterritoriality to British subjects.
2. British could trade freely in all seaports and reside permanently in Bangkok.
3. British could buy and rent property in Bangkok.
4. British subjects could travel freely in the interior with passes provided by the consul.
5. Import and export duties were capped at 3%, except the duty-free opium and bullion.
6. British merchants were to be allowed to buy and sell directly with individual Siamese.

While some may claim fears of a global superpower, a successor to the old British Empire, today doing something similar amounts to “conspiracy theories,” not only are such fears well founded, but ignoring them could cost a nation virtually everything.

We need only consider the outright military conquest of Iraq and America’s Paul Bremer’s (CFR) economic reformation of the decimated state. The Economist gleefully enumerated the neo-colonial “economic liberalization” of Iraq in a piece titled “Let’s all go to the yard sale: If it all works out, Iraq will be a capitalist’s dream:

1. 100% ownership of Iraqi assets.
2. Full repatriation of profits.
3. Equal legal standing with local firms.
4. Foreign banks allowed to operate or buy into local banks.
5. Income and corporate taxes capped at 15%.
6. Universal tariffs slashed to 5%.

Iraq is a perfect modern day example of a nation overrun by brute force and made to concede to an entire restructuring of its economy, giving foreign powers access to their natural resources, markets, and population. It was absolute subjugation, both militarily and economically. It was modern day conquest.

If the US has done this to Iraq as recently as 2003, why would anyone think any other nation today is safe from a similar fate? And if not by the US today, perhaps another potential superpower like China tomorrow? Already, the same familiar lies can be heard from the US in the lead-up to war with nations like Syria and Iran. Indeed, imperialism is alive and well – and nations that choose to ignore this ancient but still thriving menace to world peace, almost guarantee that they will be next.

Source: CBS

SEOUL (CBS DC) – Tensions between North and South Korea kicked up a notch after a threatening fax was sent from Pyongyang to Seoul on a special communications line between the two rival capitals.

In it, the North’s National Defense Commission warned it could strike “without notice,” reports South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.

The move came as conservative groups and North Korean defectors held rallies against Kim Jong-Un regime.

Source: Rueters

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia has deployed Iskander missiles with a range of hundreds of kilometers in its Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad, which borders NATO members Poland and Lithuania, the pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia reported on Monday.

The missiles have been in place “for some time,” according to Izvestia’s source, a high-level Defence Ministry official it did not name. Another unnamed military source said they were deployed about 18 months ago.

The Izvestia report followed a story in German newspaper Bild on Saturday that said secret satellite imagery showed Iskander-M missiles stationed near the Polish border.

The reports caused alarm in Poland and the Baltic states, which are wary of Russian military movements after decades of dominance by the Soviet Union. Their alarm was aggravated by tension between Russia and the West over Ukraine.