So, some of you may have noticed I haven’t posted a ground update in a couple of days. I posted the internet messaging stuff instead because I’ve been seeing it unfold in real time based on my follows; it’s a function of diving a little deeper, and they meet people at the door of every rabbit hole just to see if someone is interested in what they’ve got cooking.
Not everyone who goes digging is a potential “recruit,” but all the potential recruits are people who go digging.
So in some ways, the visibility of the disinformation campaigns is a function of a reduction of anything ostensibly interesting happening on the ground.
What’s happening is that situations are intensifying while movement slows. And that is interesting.
So you get increasingly interesting and compelling images—
—and then it seems like nothing is happening. Which must be unbearable, by the way.
I think that gives us a clue to what’s going on.
Specifically, Turkey and Russia (or, perhaps, Russia and Turkey) think they can out wait out the attention spans of the West.
I believe there are two ”comparative” case studies that support this belief:
- Differences in propaganda.
- Differences in behavior according to “geography.”
So looking at the intersection of the two should allow us to triangulate on the crux of things.
I can give examples, but I’ve posted it all before. Russia is embedding reporters and showing video of how awesome their helicopters and trucks are to everyone who will listen. Sorta like we did in Iraq I? Has anyone seen anyone embedded and doing cool shit with the Coalition forces? Where the fuck are our flags?
The two images I’ve seen most used to galvanize or discourage people have been flags: The Russian one triumphantly flown over a former US base; and the American flag pictures from the oils rigs.
Each country’s home presentation of their military in the regions is pretty different right now, ain’t it?
Of course, there was that one local guy that they took for a spin in a huey, which was pretty slick. But the fact that that was consumed locally and not internationally underscores the gulf between how the countries are managing perceptions of the war at home.
Americans barely know what Syria is. Which I get; I didn’t know all this stuff two months ago and I am aware of the formidable amount where I have no idea. I don’t know the names of individual militias, or the nuances in ideology or theology and how those affect alliances, or the tribal affiliations that frequently underly all of that and create interlocking lattices of allegiances. That shot is super hard, and yet what we’re getting is mostly how ancient and complicated this situation is, ergo it is not resolvable so we have no responsibility to undertake such an impossible task. QED.
In other words: The government isn’t presenting it to us in a way that makes sense.
And certainly not to find engaging.
Have you ever thought about how hard it is to make a war seem boring? I never did before.
If anything, they’re presenting it in a way such that we don’t think about it. Or as per above, so that we’ll give up and tune out—If anything, the bickering about our fucking oil is tedious and annoying. You can literally see even the Pentagon, Dept. of State, and military all but rolling their eyes about it. They want to fight ISIS.
Russian behavior on this conflict suggests wanting their people to revel in their national glory through the vehicle of martial glory. Our side has a public other confused and maybe tuning out if they even ever managed to clear through some of the bullshit in the first place, which I think we can all agree is fucking hard.
Geographical *cough* ethnic *cough* differences.
If Americans are a little uneasy about the idea of fucking over these “Kurds” we’ve been hearing about for ages but remain ignorant about, they have no fucking clue there is basically a whole ‘nother civil war going on in the other half of the country.
Now here’s the thing: Russia and Syria behave very differently there:
Baker: Well, they, as with, as you mentioned, the international community and human rights groups right, are saying that this is a war crime, and their biggest problem there is that it’s hitting civilian areas. These are not weapons that can be targeted like a missile or even a rocket or a mortar. There’s no way. You just roll it out the back of a helicopter or the plane, so the impact is completely arbitrary and that’s where the problem is.
Werman: What does that say about the Syrian government’s kind of approach to its offense at this point?
Baker: You can look at it in two different ways. I mean they immediate assumption would be, “OK, well, the Syrian regime is running out of weapons.” That’s really not the case. They get enough from Russia and Iran to suit their needs militarily. But as a weapon of terror, this thing is extremely effective because it has no predictability. You can’t say, “I’m safe if I stay here or if I sit there or if my house is in the civilian area.” It’s completely arbitrary and that is what is so terrifying.
No fucks given. Hell, they’re both hammering the same people on the ground there despite being kinda tetchy with one another in the northeast.
So what’s different?
It’s Arab against Arab. Basically. And that’s not about being racist agaisnt Arabs, but it’s about how we are less naturally inclined to intervene when it’s considered “within the family” than we are when we see someone intruding upon someone completely foreign.
Right or wrong, that’s just how people work. It’s human.
Of course, it’s more than just Arab against Arab. I mean, it’s also become a voluntary lobster trap for the sorts of people itching to fight because anyone or anything a person could want to fight? That’s the place to do it. Religion. Ethnicity. Ideology. Death to America. Women are all Stacys. Fuck Russia. Hate your parents. Whatever. They have it all.
As I’ve mentioned before, some of the people who just want to fucking live there sound furious.
And even compared to Rojava, nobody gives a shit. Fundamentally, it’s Arab rebels under the banner of SNA (which is a slick trick to distort important differences beteeen different militias. In fairness, they probably learned from us when we asked YPG to rebrand as SDF for similar reason of mindless formalism, i.e. the world is sufficiently weird today that people actually get fixated on the specific nomenclature when deciding whether or not they are allowed to kill a person.). And now is your average American Joe find the times to discern which Arabs are hostile to Stalinist autocracies but also not aligned with militant Islam, and also related to appropriate tribes for legitimacy in social relations, and that doesn’t even include religious disagreements, etc. The situation is perfect for a Dull Details informational overload campaign.
So the two comps suggest that Syria, Turkey, and Russia are:
- Treating the two theaters very differently in terms of, well, violence.
- The difference appears to stem from group identities and relationship to public opinion.
If you think about all the messaging going on, it’s actually more daunting and depressing even than it seems… when you realize that the people of northern Syria are basically hoping that racism will be their last hope for protection from Europe’s image of the barbarian hordes Turkey so often intentionally stokes.
In fairness, they tried “western values” first but it didn’t sell. There’s a reason they’ve been screaming bloody hell that there are Christians there. Maybe we’ll care about that. But fundamentally, all of the main actors appear to be operating on the presumption that the world reacts differently if one race kills another, whereas if they wail on each other a bit, who cares, right?
02m06s in case the auto start feature doesn’t work correctly.
Frankly, the whole routine is well worth watching. Especially the part about colonialism.
So, bring all the strands together: Time is on Turkey’s (and, by extension, Russia’s) side. The day of the quickly and decisive genocide have run up against world opinion and intervention that is messy and costly the perpetrators of war crimes even if the interventions fail.
Decisive if more gradual ethnic cleansing where people surrender even attachment to place and/or are driven out by slow inexorable processes can similarly not be undone, but appear less outrageous from a distance.
So the time they need to obliterate the population from memory coincides nicely with with the time they want for everyone to forget what they’re doing.
So not a lot of movement on the ground, but an intensification of conditions to make more life unbearable and to signal mire if that to come.
That’s an intensification that doesn’t require any shots to be fired. It just makes the cities more miserable.
I’ve only been able to articulate this more recently, but this is definitely why I’ve been so intent on posting about Idlib despite it having almost no strategic importance to the parts of the conflict Americans have any interest in. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but there was an aspect to it that seemed to make it almost more fucked up. But it’s one of those things that, once you see it, there it is.
Intensification is also harder to see, especially if the sides aren’t making lots of territorial gains and losses.
At the end of the day, it’s simply easier to see and understand this:
Than this—at Rmelan airfield near Qamishli, where the Russians said that in the immediate future they were going to put like three helicopters to assist with the daily
rock fest patrols of the border.
And that’s not going to change.
Which means much of modem war can be made invisible; I mean, when the right information is presented you can literally see what is happening up to and including the attempts at manipulation of the information.
Which reinforces the need strategically to control Information.
And if we squint a bit, we can divine the intention of actors by looking at how they try to control information and disinformation.
So if we’re still into this civilization thing, we have to figure out how to grapple with how these information campaigns and wars actually operate.
Which totally fucking sucks.
Humorous side note: When I went looking for that Izzard video, this happened—
Seemed a bit on the nose.