[This analysis has been written for the Unz Review]
Ever since Mr. MAGA made it to the White House, I have been awed by the level of sheer stupidity and, frankly, the immorality of this administration. Obama was almost as incompetent and evil, but Trump truly brought about a qualitative change in what we could loosely refer to as the “average White House IQ.” The best thing I can honestly say about Trump is that stupid can be good. Alas, it can also be extremely dangerous, and that is what is happening now. Just check out these recent headlines:
- Trump signs declaration recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over disputed Golan Heights
- Moscow believes Western sabotage caused Venezuelan blackout
- Explosions in Venezuela confirmed as a terrorist sabotage
- US designates Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as terrorist organization – Trump
- Pompeo to Turkey: Military Action in Syria Will Have ‘Devastating’ Consequences
I have to admit that this last one is my favorite, really! How cool is that? The US threatens a NATO member state with war (that is what “devastating/serious consequences” means in diplotalk).
Pompeo (surely one of the most evil and delusional idiots in the Trump Administration) was probably trying to emulate the role-model of this entire Administration, Bibi Netanyahu, who once even threatened *New Zealand* with war (well, kinda, I know, they did not really mean “real” war, but they did use war language, which, for a politician, is irresponsible at best).
This would all be very funny if not for the fact that it is pretty obvious that the USA is already engaged in a covert military/terrorist campaign against Venezuela and that the fact that the Maduro government has successfully foiled the “Guaidó revolution” (at least so far) only further enrages the likes of Pompeo. Besides, the fact that the US military does not appear to have the stomach for a ground invasion does not at all mean that they cannot trigger a Kosovo or Libya type of bombing and missile campaign against Venezuela.
Will the covert war against Venezuela soon turn into an overt one?
Those who now claim that three Russian S-300 air defense battalions (equipped with the export version of the S-300VM – the “Antey-2500”) or even thousands of Russian-made MANPADS can stop the USA simply don’t understand warfare in general and air-defense operations specifically. What these folks do is to take a few figures about, in this case, the theoretical capabilities of the Venezuelan S-300s and then compute how many aircraft/missiles these systems could shoot down. That is not how air defenses work.
[Sidebar: I won’t write a detailed explanation about this topic here. My friend Andrei Martyanov can do that much better than I, but I will just say that to be truly effective, any air defense system has to be 1) multi-level and 2) integrated. Furthermore, such pseudo-analyses as mentioned above always overlooks the importance of all other factors besides the number and characteristics of the missiles themselves. But in reality, electronic warfare, network integration, signal processing, combat management systems, etc. play an absolutely crucial role in air defenses. Even deceptive measures (such as inflatable “tanks” or wooden “aircraft”) can play a central role in the outcome (as it did in Kosovo and Iraq). The same goes for offensive air operations, of course. Thus no evaluation of a possible US air attack on Venezuela can be made without analyzing US capabilities, training, procedures, etc. The truth is that what military experts call “bean counting” is what only pretend-experts engage in. From a military point of view this is entirely useless and futile]
The sad truth is that absent a multi-level integrated air defense system like Russia has, air defense operations typically turn into a simple numbers game: X number of defensive missiles vs. Y number of attackers. Keep in mind that effective EW (especially SEAD) will *dramatically* reduce the effectiveness of any air defenses. The same applies to whatever number of Su-30 or even Su-35s Russia might deliver to Venezuela.
Now, look at a map and see for yourself: Venezuela is literally in the USA’s backyard (at least in military terms), and the US can bring HUGE numbers of whatever it wants (missiles, bombs, SEAD aircraft, etc.) to the fight. Not only that, but the Venezuelans lack any real counter-attack options, which means that Uncle Shmuel can fire off as many missiles as he wants for weeks and months without ever having to worry about a counter-strike.
It is only political factors protecting Venezuela from an overt US attack, not military factors. The latter are not irrelevant, of course, and I discussed them here. In military terms, Venezuela is a sitting duck which might be able to deter a ground operation, but which can do nothing against US standoff striking capabilities, at least not against a determined US effort. Against a pretend-strike, like what the Israelis and the USA did in Syria, the Venezuelans could probably meaningfully degrade the number of US bombs/missiles reaching their targets. But that is all they can reasonably hope for.
What about Syria?
Well, the AngloZionists sure lost the first phase of this war, but they remain unwilling to come to terms with that fact. So now they have defined-down their objectives from “a new Middle-East” or the “animal Assad must go” to “we will never allow peace to break out in Syria.” Not much of a strategy, but that’s is good enough for the Israelis, and that’s all that really matters to Trump or his masters. I don’t want to cover Syria in detail right now, but the simple fact that Pompeo is issuing threats against Turkey really says it all. The Turkish reaction was quite predictable: Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay declared that “The United States must choose. Does it want to remain Turkey’s ally or risk our friendship by joining forces with terrorists to undermine its NATO ally’s defense against its enemies?”
Feel the love?!
Yes, these are only words, and Turkey remains under NATO/CENTCOM occupation (CENTCOM, which the Iranians have – quite logically- just declared a terrorist organization!). Still, between the S-400 vs. F-35, the Kurdish issue, the CIA continuous support for Fethullah Gülen or the fact that the (US-controlled) EU never accepted Turkey, all create a potentially explosive background which even a small spark could ignite.
It is equally clear that both the US and Israel will continue to conduct airstrikes, assassinations, support for Takfiri terrorist groups, etc., in Syria for the foreseeable future. Trump’s famous withdrawal from Syria will end up like all his promises: tossed down the memory hole. As for the Israelis, it is absolutely vital (for psychological and ideological reasons) for them to continue to subvert not only Syria but the entire Middle-East. Furthermore, we should *never* forget the Israeli end-goal: to use the USA to destroy any country daring to resist Israeli aggression. On top of that list, there is, of course, Iran.
Simply put: there will be no peace in the Middle-East as long as Palestine is occupied by a gang of racist thugs whose contempt for international law or even basic norms of civilized behavior is as total as their total reliance on deception and violence to subjugate the region and, eventually, our entire planet. Of course, Russia and China will help, as will Iran, but that is unlikely to be enough to achieve a lasting peace (if anything, the latest Israeli statements about annexing even more of Palestine are an indicator of more bad things to come).
The truth is that while the Empire does not have the power to break the will of the Syrian people, it has plenty enough strength left to prevent peace from breaking out in Syria.
Who knows? It is possible to predict the actions of a rational actor. “Rational” implies a minimal degree of intelligence and sanity. The problem is that we cannot be sure about the intelligence of the folks currently remaining on duty at the Pentagon while we can be absolutely sure that the Israelis are completely insane and delusional (as racists always are). So far, the Israelis have failed to get the US to attack Iran. Clearly, there were some intelligent and sane people at the Pentagon (in the tradition of Admiral Fallon) but how sure can we be that by now they have not all been purged (or corrupted) by the Neocon regime?
[Sidebar: when I speak of the stupidity of the US leaders, I don’t mean that as an insult. I mean that in a diagnostic sense: these folks are simply not very bright. Check out Dmitry Orlov’s excellent “Is the USS Ship of Fools Taking on Water?” for a very good discussion of the increasingly important role stupidity is playing in the actions of the Empire. And Orlov is not the only one thinking this. By now most Russians are pretty convinced that stupidity and gross incompetence is what best characterizes US decision-making. If it wasn’t for the very real risks of war, the Russians would spend their time laughing at the cluelessness of the “indispensable nation’s” leaders…]
When I look at the fact that, at least so far, the US has not dared overt military aggression against Venezuela, I cannot imagine anybody at the Pentagon or CENTCOM having the stomach for a war against Iran. But, again, I am assuming intelligence and sanity, which applies neither to Mr. MAGA nor to the Israelis.
The DPRK? The Ukraine? Libya? Country X?
In strategic analysis, one should never say never, but I submit that the chances of a full-scale US military attack on the DPRK, in the Ukraine, in Libya or against Country X (replace X with whatever country you like) are slim. Frankly, that train has already left the station. Of course, “Country X” is vague enough to remain a possibility at least in theory (maybe some new tiny “Grenada” can be identified to, in Michael Ledeen’s immortal words “throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business” (after all, that is what this great American hero – Reagan – did after the US had to run from Lebanon), but unless the Trump Administration reaches a new level of incompetence, arrogance, and insanity, I don’t see where Uncle Shmuel might decide to “restore democracy” next.
Conclusion: Venezuela still in the cross-hairs or already under attack?
When dealing with a terminally dysfunctional administration like the Trump Administration (just look at how often people get sacked or resign from it! Check here for the latest case), we have to assume that it is capable of the worst, most illogical, and even catastrophically self-defeating actions. An overt attack on Venezuela would undoubtedly fall into this category. We, therefore, need to set aside all the many statements made by various US officials (whether threatening or appeasing) and look at what the US is actually already doing. When we do that, we see that the US is already engaged in warfare against Venezuela, even if this warfare is mostly covert. Furthermore, this covert warfare has failed, at least so far. However, and even more worrisome, the US has paid very little, if any, political price for its completely illegal aggression against Venezuela. So the real question is not whether the US will decide to launch a full-scale overt military aggression against Venezuela but whether there are any factors which would inhibit the US from crossing the deniability threshold?
I can think of at least one such factor: the inevitable blow-back against any “Yankee” military intervention in the Latin American public opinion and the subsequent and potentially severe consequences for US puppets (à la Bolsonaro for example) and various comprador regimes (in Colombia for example) on the continent. Other than that, my biggest hope is that the debacle in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere will be sufficient to persuade US officials that one more military disaster would not yield any benefits to their interests.
The clock is running and the Neocon gang in the White House has to decide either way – blame it all on somebody else (the Venezuelan people, the Russians, the Chinese, Hezbollah, Iran, Martian extraterrestrials, etc.) and leave or try an overt military intervention and hope that things go better than they always do.
What do you think? Will the Trump Administration go to war and, if yes, where?
PS: quick Ukrainian update: neither Poroshenko nor Zelenskii have anything resembling a real program (albeit Zelenskii just released a 10-point “plan” which is simply silly, no point in discussing it now). Since both of them will be US puppets, this is not a big problem: the course of the Ukraine will not change as a result of this election anyway. Poroshenko’s campaign in weak, he is trying to cater to the Russian speaking population (he even goes as far as sometimes speaking in Russian, which is technically illegal for him!), but that is way too late by now: everybody hates him and the regime he represents. Zelenskii, in contrast, has a very dynamic and effective campaign – mostly videos – in which he says stuff which Poroshenko could never say. Most observers, including myself, think that since the 2nd round of voting is a competition of anti-ratings (negative perception) Zelenskii will win. Time is running out for Poroshenko, he better come up with something dramatic, or he needs to run. As for Yulia Vladimirovna, she clearly is in discussions with the Zelenskii people to see if they can form a political coalition in the Rada. I believe that these negotiations will be kept secret until the 2nd tour, at which point a “coalition of Zelenskii supporting factions” will be created in the Rada.