Fifty Shades of Black

Come out from behind that door

Israel is peering intently past its borders but its world has changed so much it doesn’t know quite what it is looking for.  “The [Israeli] Air Force’s reconnaissance aircraft have been flying more intelligence missions in light of rising threats along Israel’s borders and the continuing wave of Palestinian violence in the West Bank.”  The reason is explained by the Jerusalem Post.


“We are living a historic decade, where everything in the Middle East is changing; the superpowers, the local powers, and religious powers are all changing,” a senior IAF officer told The Jerusalem Post this week. “What happened in 2010 across the Middle East, you can call it the ‘Arab Spring’ or now the ‘Arab Winter,’ but I call it ‘50 Shades of Black,’” he said, referring to the jihadist groups across the region.

That shift is happening all over the world.   It is not just the Middle East that is changing.  From Europe to the Far East history is on the move again.  If the bombing in Manchester shows the Wahabi threat is more active than ever,  the Iranian missile threat (which prompted the establishment of “Site K” in Turkey) and a possible confrontation with Tehran in Syria show a challenge from that quarter too.

The grand strategic equivalent of Israel’s reconnaissance flights are eyes in space in space the US is upgrading. America is also beyond peering beyond its borders at indistinct shapes. “The Missile Defense Agency is aiming to create a more robust network of space-based sensors and communications technologies to help protect the United States from ballistic missile attacks. … North Korea’s fervent efforts to advance its long-range missile and nuclear weapons capabilities have created a sense of urgency in Washington, D.C.”

“In the not too distant future … North Korea is going to be able to test and have the capability to fire an intercontinental ballistic nuclear missile that can hit the lower 48 of the United States,” said Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, a member of the Senate Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, which oversees the Missile Defense Agency.

“The classified estimates might be a little scarier than some of you imagine,” he said at a recent missile defense conference hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “We need to develop an integrated layer of space-based missile defense sensors, and we need to start now.”


In what future historians may regard as a below the fold epitaph for nonproliferation “the Pentagon will try to shoot down an intercontinental-range missile for the first time in a test next week. The goal is to more closely simulate a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile aimed at the U.S. homeland, officials said Friday. … The basic defensive idea is to fire a rocket into space upon warning of a hostile missile launch. The rocket releases a 5-foot-long device called a “kill vehicle” that uses internal guidance systems to steer into the path of the oncoming missile’s warhead, destroying it by force of impact. Officially known as the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, the Pentagon likens it to hitting a bullet with a bullet. ”

While it’s heartening such a defense exists work on “Site K”, global space monitoring system and the ICBM test for all their technical impressiveness are an implicit admission that states like North Korea and Iran can no longer be stopped from developing a nuclear umbrella under which they can advance their terrorist or conventional armies.  In so doing they will free not only themselves to wage war but everyone else.  Perhaps the Long Peace has long been sputtering to an end but the world is only now realizing it.

The new secretary of defense certainly sounds like he’s in contact with the foe. “No New Ships: Trump Cuts Navy Shipbuilding, Aircraft Procurement,” says one story reporting that Mattis lobbied against new equipment in favor of  ‘fill[ing] the holes first’. “It reflects Mattis’s decision to prioritize readiness over modernization.” He’s worried about ammunition. “Mattis Personally Intervened To Jam As Many Bombs As Possible Into The DoD Budget” says another article. The urgent need for reammunitioning is the result of the US expending 65,000 bombs since August, 2014.  Even Russia is running short.


The strikes have “bled our arsenals, according to some estimates, nearly 40 percent,” the influential Russian defense newspaper Military-Industrial Courier noted in a recent report about the Russian military’s chemical shortage. “And there is no way to quickly replenish them.”

The class 5 resupply requests of the world’s militaries appear to tell a more somber story than the calm media narrative where Europeans fret over Climate Change and worry about the style of Donald Trump; where former president Barack Obama recently told an audience “no challenge poses a greater threat to our future and future generations than a change in climate”.  That to most means there’s nothing to worry about.

But as the Israeli officer noted maybe there’s more out there than we acknowledge.  Something we may not completely understand:  maybe chaos itself.  Perhaps the difference is motivation.  The Israelis want to recognize it at the earliest possible moment and the West still isn’t worried enough to bother.

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The Mattis Way of War: An Examination of Operational Art in Task Force 58 and 1st Marine Division, Author Major Michael L. Valenti examines General James N. Mattis’s staffing philosophies, the influence of history on his operational planning and execution, and his general command and leadership philosophies using Task Force 58 as a formative base. A brief look at his time commanding the 1st Marine Division in Operation Iraqi Freedom (Oif) examines whether his philosophies and concepts evolved or remained consistent.


A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution (pre-order: to be released on June 13, 2017), by Jennifer Doudna and Samuel H. Sternberg. CRISPR is the cheapest, simplest, most effective way of manipulating DNA ever known. In this book, Doudna shares the thrilling story of her discovery, but also passionately argues that enormous responsibility comes with the ability to rewrite the code of life, an argument that echoes her call for a worldwide moratorium on the use of CRISPR in the spring of 2015. With CRISPR, she shows, we have effectively taken control of evolution. What will we do with this unfathomable power?

Swift Boats at War in Vietnam, edited by Guy Gugliotta, John Yeoman, and Neva Sullaway. The stories in this book cover the Swift Boats’ early years, which saw search-and-inspect operations in Vietnam’s coastal waters, and their later years, when the Swift Boats’ mission shifted to the Mekong Delta’s labyrinth of 3,000 miles of rivers, streams, and canals. An intimate, exciting oral history of Swift Boats at war in Vietnam.

China’s Asian Dream: Empire Building along the New Silk Road, by Tom Miller. Combining a geopolitical overview with on-the-ground reportage from a dozen countries, this book offers a fresh perspective on the rise of China and what it means for the future of Asia. From the Mekong River Basin to the Central Asian steppe, China is flexing its economic muscle for strategic ends. By setting up new regional financial institutions, it is challenging the post-World War II order established under the watchful eye of Washington, and by funding and building roads, railways, ports and power lines across Eurasia and through the South China Sea and Indian Ocean, China aims to draw its neighbors ever tighter into its embrace.


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Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with your friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.
The War of the Words, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
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The Three Conjectures, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
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