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23 august 2018, little amber man

Thursday, August 23rd, 2018

Russia's has used "alternative warfare" for years, its most notable victory the little green men's bloodless invasion of crimea and successful destabilisation of ukraine, stopping modernisation and leaning to europe (and more importantly away from russia) in its tracks (see and the beast goes on, 17 april 2014). Divide and rule and undermining western democratic institutions are now standard russian infowar with its own specialist division (the internet research agency). China is at it too, establishing armed artificial islands in the disputed waters of its self-declared nine-dash line. Economically, from 1991 to 2013, china's share of global exports rose from 2 to nearly 20%, all but wiping out parts of american manufacturing. Despite chinese investment in military tech, america's overwhelming firepower still makes the mcmasters doctrine about how to fight the us - asymmetric or stupid - true. Alternative warfare has the distinct advantage of avoiding head-on conflict, so if the hegemon hesitates, as both bush and obama did, gains can be banked. No-one has any plans to challenge russia's intense integration of the crimea. Trump's law-of-the-jungle worldview means positive connivance. Indeed, the us now seems an active alternative warfare player itself, with the strengthening dollar its main weapon. It broke the iran agreement and actively sabotaged the turkish economy with barbs and tariffs designed to force submission. Trump's mercantilism though confused iranian adversary and turkish ally, risking devastatingly tipping the latter away from the west entirely. Richard haas already noted we are "witnessing the gradual but steady demise of a relationship that is already an alliance in name only". Without qatar's billions to save it (and make the emirate a good return) continued currency turmoil could (and may yet) have tipped turkey into recession, inflation, banking collapse and mass bankruptcies - for which all would blame washington instead of turkey's own debt-fuelled profligacy. The risks of reckless vandalism are a very high-price to pay for the meagre gains alternative warfare practioners eke out because they don't have the means and global alliances america forged over decades, and which without superpower sponsorship look increasingly fragile defences against a dangerous dystopian world.