RUSSIAN OFFENSIVE CAMPAIGN ASSESSMENT, OCTOBER 29, 2023
Israel-Gaza Update: Merkava Tanks Roll Down Gaza Beach. This line from today’s update was was noteworthy: Meanwhile, it is circulating that Hezbollah’s leadership is calling out Iran for inaction, including questioning why Iran has stockpiled weapons under Hezbollah’s banner if they do not use them now. We are trying to confirm the authenticity of this video, but this would be a bizarre fracture in this incredibly tight relationship if true.
Despite incendiary rhetoric, Iran walks tightrope to avoid direct Israel war
“Pro-Palestinian” Mobs Shouting “Allahu Akbar” Hunt Jews At Makhachkala, Dagestan (Russia) Airport. Related: ‘We’re not touching non-Jews today’. If I was a Russian, I would wonder what was meant by “today”.
China’s debt-saddled regions owe far more than they can pay back without Beijing’s help
Pakistan gives last warning to undocumented immigrants, many Afghan refugees, to leave
Hurricane Otis smashed into Mexico and broke records. Why did no one see it coming?
‘Pharmageddon’ is coming: Thousands of pharmacists plot next walkout over work conditions
Monstrous ‘zombie catfish’ are appearing in US waterways. What’s causing it?
Harvard’s Double Standard on Free Speech
1. There are three things that separate a great general from a poor one. The first and most important is that a great general will want to win above all else, a poor general will want to avoid losing above all else. The second is that a great general will know when time is on his side and when it is not where as a poor general is governed by the mood of the crowd and not by the favor of time. And the lastly, the great general will work well with allies and talented subordinates where is the poor general will be a micromanager who does not understand how to bring people to his side.
2. If Hezbollah has a great general, the current situation in Israel must be giving him a headache. All of his choices are bad. By my definition of a good general, he will choose the path that offers victory no matter how dangerous and ignore any path that merely puts off defeat no matter how safe it seems in the short term. But what path offers victory?
3. If we look purely through the lens of what would give Hezbollah the most power, the victory for Hezbollah must be the destruction of Israeli military power. Currently no other regional actor has the power to constrain Hezbollah. The Lebanon’s government is no match for it. The Syrian government is too weak to counter it even if it wanted to. Jordan would be hard pressed to take on Hezbollah alone if it ever came to that. Only Israel could credibly threaten Hezbollah. In other words, even if you throw ideology aside and imagine that institutions are at their core guided by the desire to maximize their own power, Hezbollah has every reason to want to see Israel severely weakened or destroyed.
4. Granting point #3, is this the right time for Hezbollah to try to weaken or destroy Israel? This is not a question of whether Hezbollah “can” destroy Israel or not. Great generals always go for victory even it if seems impossible. Rather, the question if time is on Hezbollah side or not. If Hezbollah will be stronger in a year or two then a great general would wait a year or two. But if Israel will be stronger in a year or two then a great general would strike now regardless of the risks.
5. In the abstract it would be better for Hezbollah to wait for a year or two. Hezbollah has put a lot of work (and rumor has it, suffered a lot of causalities) ensuring that Syria remains ruled by an ally. For the most part it appears that it has succeeded in this goal but Syria is still a wreck. It would benefit Hezbollah if the Syrian state could be given a chance to grow back into a semblance of its former power. Much has been made of Hezbollah’s growing strength but this has been counterbalanced by the great fall in Syria’s power. Back when Hezbollah was weaker, it could count on Syrian help. Now Hezbollah is mighty and has more effective power then Syria but it can’t count on any effective help from Syria. It would benefit Hezbollah to have a stronger Syria to help out Hezbollah.
6. But now Hamas has made its play, can Hezbollah afford to let Israel destroy Hamas? There is always the risk that a newly paranoid Israel will turn on Hezbollah after destroying Hamas. If this is a possibility maybe it would be better attack Israel while Hamas is still in the game.
7. A deeper problem for Hezbollah stems from the nature of its power. Hezbollah’s core strength stems from the fact that it can rally lots of people who are willing to die for it. This is why Hezbollah’s enemies fear them and why their allies give them lots of weapons and money. But this is a double edge sword. Groups whose source of power is money or great numbers can withstand a loss of respect because money and numbers are a source of power all by themselves. But if Hezbollah loses respect, will people still be willing to die for it?
8. In other words, losing respect is an existential threat for Hezbollah. And if Hezbollah does nothing while Hamas is destroyed, it is hard to see how they will not lose respect.
9. Another problem is that Hamas attack has temporarily rallied Israel’s allies. There is a chance that full on Hezbollah attack would bring the US into the fight on Israel side. Is the pain of fighting Israel and the US worth saving Hamas for (who after all are similar in ideology to the people that Hezbollah has been fighting in Syria)?
10. But what is more deadly to Hezbollah, US bombs or losing respect? All of its prestige and support is based around being an effective counter to Israel (or at least, more effective then all the alternatives). Whatever the US does to Hezbollah, it will only increase the respect that Hezbollah has. On the other hand, respect does not do you any good if you no longer have a functioning organization. So can Hezbollah survive the wrath of the US and Israel in enough of functional form to take advantage of this respect?
11. It is true that the US might join in if Hezbollah attacks Israel. But it is unlikely that they will do anything beyond bomb. Hezbollah is used to getting bombed by Israel and what is the US likely to do that Israel has not already done in that regard? Is it really possible for Israel to occupy southern Lebanon and Gaza at the same time like it has in the past? Demographics have been marching on and not in Israel’s favor. That said, a desperate Israel with US support would be deadly. It is an Israel that is off the leash that is more likely to inflict real damage then American air power. But Israel has already tried to take on Hezbollah twice and Hezbollah has only grown stronger. Why should this time be any different?
12. The fundamental problem for Hezbollah is that the fundamentals of good generalship are all mixed up in this fight. There are lots of good reasons for them to want to wait (need to rebuild Syria, the fact that demographics are on their side, the fact that the US is waiting in the wings) but lots of reasons for them to feel compelled to join in (the fact that they can’t rule out that Israel would turn on them after Hamas regardless of what they do and the fact that even if Israel did not do that they would lose respect for sitting the fighting out). A good general does not let the crowd tell him what to do but the respect of the crowds is the core of Hezbollah’s strength and a good general does not disregard the pillars of his strength. So since a good general desires victory above all else, what would a good general do with these conflicting demands?
13. On the balance, I think that a great Hezbollah general would wait until Israel seems maximally committed to Gaza before attacking with full strength. This would make it harder for Israel to just contain Gaza and focus on Hezbollah and it would ensure that there was maximum reason for the world at large to be horrified by what happens when you send a conscript army into an urban area. The goal would be to inflict so much economic damage on Israel that it would not be able to recover from it. At the same time the hope would be that the prestige and support for such an act would help Hezbollah repair its own damage in record time after the war was over.
14. The above presumes that Hezbollah is an independent actor and has a good general. As for the independent actor part, I think it has about as much independence from Iran as Israel does from the US. That is to say, Iran has a lot of influence but is not as controlling as many think. As for Hezbollah having a great general, I don’t know. But throughout my life time it has been growing in power compared to Israel. Hezbollah’s main set back has been Israel’s other enemies have been getting steadily weaker. Syria is no longer a threat to Israel and Egypt is dependent on charity to avoid descending into mass starvation. This means that even though Hezbollah is stronger than it has ever been, it has less chance of anyone coming to its aid than ever before. The one small bright spot has been the fact that Hamas has been growing more effective. That only sharpens the question if Hezbollah can afford to watch them get knocked out.
15. On the other paw, Hezbollah’s leaders are human. And they have to know whatever the abstract calculations are; there is a good chance they or people they care about will die if they take war to Israel. The gloves will come off and it will be very bloody on both sides. Maybe this human fear for their own lives will keep them out of the conflict. But if it does, and Israel succeeds in more or less wiping out Hamas then Hezbollah will be weakened by the resulting loss of respect. And so the question will be, can an organization like Hezbollah that depends on people being willing to give up their lives for it survive a loss of respect?
RUSSIAN OFFENSIVE CAMPAIGN ASSESSMENT, OCTOBER 25, 2023
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The story of a woman who fled the war in Ukraine, only to become homeless as a refugee in Russia
Israel-Gaza Situation Report: Delay Of Ground Offensive Agreed To
Former chief of Israeli military intelligence Amos Yadlin on where the war goes from here.
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Chinese President Xi Jinping’s removal of four ministers and demotion of former foreign minister Qin Gang makes Xi look powerful, but actually is a symptom of weaknesses in his leadership, analysts say.
A rare sighting of people talking about the oncoming fiscal crisis. The biggest victim of Fed rate hikes is the US government as interest on massive debt soars, billionaire investor Barry Sternlicht says and Treasury bond supply could soon hit record levels as unsustainable deficits and high rates create spiral effect, Bank of America says
Personally I think all diet based explanations for obesity are wrong. Most people don’t understand how massive the drop in activity level has been and they think that if they can’t make up for it with 30 minutes of moderate exercise 3 or 4 times a week then it must be diet causing the problem. Having said all that, the fact that fructose might cause a drop in ATP is interesting to me as it would explain “why sugar makes you weak” which if you have eaten bunch of sweet stuff and then tried to lift you will know for a fact. Johnson and his colleagues undertook an exhaustive study of all the known contributors to obesity, and found that the metabolism of fructose in the body causes a drop in a compound called adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which provides energy for your body’s cellular processes.
Johns Hopkins doctor’s bullying exposes whole profession