There’s an old saying: There’s none so blind as they who can’t see, and that has never been truer than it is today on the political and military front.
Syria has become a stage, a play depicting a savage bear fight the destructiveness of which is compounded by the self-interest of the actors, many of them international names, who are not only acting in the play but directing and producing it as well.
Watching so intently means a new show, that has opened up the road at another theatre is missed completely – possibly to the detriment of the would-be audience.
The possibility of conflict with Russia or China seems to be something that was buried at the end of the Cold War. For two decades, The West, AKA Washington and London followed by several European nations have been so busy concentrating on manning operations in places such as Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq, Sierra Leone and Syria they have missed the global trends that have been building and now are becoming more apparent with each week that passes.
The return of power politics has crept up and now could easily bite Western leaders on the ass before they even realise what’s going on. The assumption that Russia and China would not wage war on the West and the possibility of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) should the situation arise makes them think nobody would be insane enough to kick it off, they have become complacent in the extreme.
Simmering background tensions are beginning to turn into a rolling boil and the risk factors are increasing as more and more opposing warplanes take to the skies, defending different sides in a Middle Eastern proxy war. Chinese and Japanese battle ships sail ever nearer to each other defending spits of sands barely big enough to be called islands in the disputed waters of The South China Sea.
Will a Russian fighter jet colliding with a coalition jet cause a dogfight that spills over into an international conflict between superpowers?
Will the Asia arms race result in Japan and China having a skirmish at sea that ends up with Russia, China and North Korea on one side and the rest of us on the other?
President Xi Jinping of China has made the connection between Military might and global primacy in his ‘Chinese Dream‘ speech where he said he foresees the United States being replaced as the world’s leading power. China was the leading world power in the Middle Ages, the most advanced nation on earth and the Chinese Dream is to regain that status.
If China is driven by rising power and this is why it has the confidence to take control of and militarise islands in the South China Sea what’s Russia’s story?
Russia was once a great power but is in an economic and some would say political decline. A child born in Russia today has life expectancy between that of children born in Iraq and North Korea. Is systemic weakness causing Russia to push harder to try and regain it’s power status? Putin has pushed NATO to the highest level of alert for decades.
Is it possible that both Moscow and Beijing see The West’s inability to solve the problems caused by ‘small wars’ as proof that they are weak and couldn’t stand up to the rigours of a wider conflict?
Military spending and modernisation in The Western World also falls far below nations that could easily be our enemies in the not too distant future. If this is coupled with the war that already seems to be operating in cyberspace we may find ourselves in the middle of a perfect storm.
Take Russia: for some time, its legion of cyber warriors have been menacing countries that the Kremlin wishes to destabilise. Just before the South Ossetian conflict in 2008, computer servers in Georgia came under sustained attack. Estonia was hit the year before. A few months ago, it emerged that the embassies of former Soviet bloc countries have been hacked for years by a collective known as Turla. But none of this is traceable to the Kremlin. When challenged, it suggests that patriotic hackers take matters into their own hands. And can a government be held responsible for rogue computer nuts?
Cyber attacks have become bolder and more brazen over the years, especially from China, which is understood to have devoted an entire military division to cyber espionage. The American prosecutors say they now have proof of Chinese soldiers operating from a Shanghai office block (named “Unit 61398”) spying on several American companies. A grand jury in Pennsylvania even named five Chinese military officers responsible, but the Chinese government denies it and blames random hackers. They exist, it says, even in America.(source)
In a shooting war there’s no doubt some of the classified information they have stolen would give them a military advantage against the United States.
Of course the United States (with a bit of help from Israel) isn’t lily-white when it comes to cyber war. Stuxnet was employed against Iran on the orders of the President Obama.
Stuxnet, as it came to be known, was unlike any other virus or worm that came before. Rather than simply hijacking targeted computers or stealing information from them, it escaped the digital realm to wreak physical destruction on equipment the computers controlled. (source)
The next war will be fought on many fronts, lets just hope that the powers that be are looking in the right direction when the time comes.