“The Emperor has no clothes!” by FB Ali

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FB Ali - 2 (2010)

The recent (April 17) meeting in Geneva on Ukraine was a game-changing event. Yet this significant aspect of it has not been explicitly recognized in any analysis or commentary on the situation; at least none that I've come across. It seems that the prior chest-thumping by Western politicians and their lackeys, and the drumbeat of propaganda in the media has so overawed the commentariat that they are afraid to adopt such a different view. A few have tiptoed around the issue, hinting obliquely at the real outcome, but shied away from anything definitive.

If no one else seems willing to do it, then I am going to stick my neck out and say what others hesitate to articulate: at Geneva the United States folded!

Compare the rhetoric in the period before the meeting to the actual terms of the agreement, not only what it contains but, even more importantly, what it doesn't. There is no mention of Crimea. It says nothing about the Russian troops "massed along the Ukraine border". It equates the armed men in the East with those in the West, requiring both to disarm and withdraw from the locations they have occupied. It commits the Ukraine government to a constitutional process involving negotiations with all "regions and political constituencies" (designed to achieve decentralisation and regional autonomy). It gives Russia a role in Ukraine both through the OSCE and in possible upcoming consultations on economic and financial support.

Compare the rhetoric in the West before the Geneva meeting to that afterwards − or rather its absence. There is now almost a deathly hush among politicians and the media (apart from some half-hearted efforts to spin the terms of the agreement). Where are the daily thunderings of the Kerry's, Rasmussen's, Breedlove's?

What caused the US to fold? We can only speculate, but it seems that it realised that its threat of further sanctions was proving an empty one. Most likely, powerful elements of the European industrial and financial sectors told their governments of the damage they were likely to sustain should broader sanctions be applied. It is quite possible that their US equivalents told the US government the same thing. With wider and deeper sanctions likely to inflict as much damage on the West as on Russia, and with the reluctance of European leaders to impose them, there wasn't anything left in the US's arsenal − except for the 'financial neutron bomb'.

A recent article in the London Telegraph described this 'neutron bomb' (referenced by Zanzibar recently in a comment on another thread). If the US were to use this financial weapon (the "scarlet letter") it could probably fry Russia's financial sector and bring its economy to a standstill, even though this would inflict much collateral damage on US allies, especially Germany. Arguably, this weapon is too powerful to risk using it on a peripheral issue such as Ukraine. There is also the likelihood of a riposte.

While Russia does not have anything comparable in the financial and economic sphere, it does have a marked advantage in another equally deadly sphere − cyber war. Former DNI Mike McConnell said in 2010, "If we were in a cyber war today, the US would lose". Leon Panetta talked in 2012 of a cyber-Pearl Harbour. If Putin considered the US use of the financial neutron bomb to be the equivalent of a nuclear first strike, he could well retaliate with an all-out cyber attack. Obviously the US administration was not prepared to risk this.

So, in this changed environment, what is likely to happen in Ukraine now? It appears that the present Ukraine government is too weak and too hard-pressed from the Right to engage in any meaningful mutual de-escalation and negotiations with the Eastern provinces. It is possible that the OSCE (with the backing of the US and Russia) might be able to impose such a process. In that case there may be the possibility of a loosely federal Ukraine emerging from this turmoil. Otherwise, we can anticipate a low-level civil war breaking out in the East, with increasing infiltration of Russian support to the dissidents there. This will mean that ultimately the East will break away and, perhaps after an autonomous phase, join Russia.

The US and the West will make the usual gestures, including some more token sanctions, but will do nothing that has a realistic chance of stopping Russia from achieving its goal of a neutral, decentralised Ukraine or, failing that, the breakaway of the Russian-speaking East.

 

©  FB Ali (April 2014)

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57 Responses to “The Emperor has no clothes!” by FB Ali

  1. GulfCoastPirate says:

    FB Ali wrote:
    ‘While Russia does not have anything comparable in the financial and economic sphere, it does have a marked advantage in another equally deadly sphere − cyber war. Former DNI Mike McConnell said in 2010, “If we were in a cyber war today, the US would lose”. Leon Panetta talked in 2012 of a cyber-Pearl Harbour. If Putin considered the US use of the financial neutron bomb to be the equivalent of a nuclear first strike, he could well retaliate with an all-out cyber attack. Obviously the US administration was not prepared to risk this.’
    This is a direct result of the denigration of science in the US by right wing interests. You reap what you sow. Given salaries and lack of employment opportunities for young graduates there is no reason any young American should want to go into science, engineering and computer science.

  2. Tyler says:

    Yeah, the focus on diversity over actual results has nothing to do with it. Or the outsourcing of our tech base to H1Bs from Asia.
    http://isteve.blogspot.com/2014/04/nyt-alpha-male-culture-endemic-in.html?m=1
    Put down the joint old man.

  3. b says:

    @FB Ali – I believe you are right. The industrialists and the unions here in Germany gave some harsh talks to Merkel on why they should pay for the screw up of U.S. and EU policies in Ukraine. Merkel had no decent answer and had to fold.

    Interesting talk with Lavrov about the agreement in Geneva and the usual U.S. attempts to ignore or renegotiate such agreements on the fly to gets it will anyway.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3FihkBjbms

    The neocons don’t care if civil war breaks out in Ukraine. As long as it keeps Russia busy what is not to like? There will be therefore, no matter what was signed in Geneva, no U.S. attempts to deescalate the issue.

    The Obama administration again lied and distributed fake photos of “Russian soldiers in Ukraine” and the New York Times, without bothering to check, put those propaganda pictures up on page one. Two days later it had to retract.
    http://consortiumnews.com/2014/04/23/nyt-retracts-russian-photo-scoop/

  4. nick b says:

    GCP,
    ‘Given salaries and lack of employment opportunities for young graduates there is no reason any young American should want to go into science, engineering and computer science.’
    Uh, have you seen average salaries for C++ algorithmic trading developers? They’re about $250k/year, and they are in demand. Half the finance jobs I see offered these days are for quants or engineers. Software developer is constantly ranked as one of the best jobs to have and it pays very well. I think you are way off here.

  5. jonst says:

    I know a little bit about cyber issues. Certainly from a legal aspect of an attack/damages. It is the mating call of the cliche sprouting asshole to speak of ‘digital Pearl Harbors’. Panetta is once such type. And I would not be so quick to say we would “lose” anything.
    But all that aside..I hope what you write turns out to near correct. If fight it is to come to, and I think that would be skating with insanity, but if it does come to a fight, the Ukraine, east or west, is not the place to have it. And now is not the time to have it. The West, if fight it is going to come down to, would need a committed and rearmed Germany. (however slim that might seem now as a possibility). And you are going to need a energized and committed US population. Along with same from the UK. And we are gonna have to have a better appreciation of where China will be if it comes down to it. Neutral or leaning against us. In short it will take a geopolitical reorganization on the scale of the early 90s, if not, indeed, on the scale of the late 40s and 50s. I repeat, all of this talk seems insane to contemplate. But if it IS to be, let it be with adults talking and planning. Not 30 some year old campaign operatives masking as strategic planners. We have had a belly full of that this century. It was one thing to run off and battle some crumbling Middle East or Balkan nation with those dopes. A land war in Europe is a horse of different color. I wish Ukraine the best…but they are on their own. I sure hope.

  6. Rd. says:

    “US policy seems unclear about a number of issues in the region, but the Kremlin’s policy seems clear. “The Syrian issue for Russia is not just about interests or a transient alliance. Moscow does not compromise when it comes to its national security,” he said, then asserted that a Russian defeat in Syria is a defeat in the Caucasus. “Yes, [Putin] drew a red line toward Syria and Ukraine, and he will not accept that [the line] be crossed. He will not back down. That explains the mystery of the interdependence between the two crises.”
    Labeviere noted that the United States is no longer a master in the art of chess as it was in the past. He said that the United States is being indecisive in the face of rapid developments such as those in the Middle East, especially Syria, but that does not mean the demise of its prominence. He said that the United States will remain a major force, even if it is in the process of decline and retreat.”
    Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/politics/2014/04/french-strategist-interview-syria-russia-us-asia.html#ixzz2zkAyFaBa

  7. VietnamVet says:

    FB Ali,
    I agree that the Geneva Accord more or less codifies the events on the ground in Ukraine. Crimea for the foreseeable future is part of Russia. But, nothing has addressed economic and political hurricanes that led to the start of the Cold War II.
    First, on the western side, Washington DC from the top down is led by crazy ideologues who are creating their own reality. They are directed by the 0.01% who are grasping onto their paper wealth by pushing austerity on American and European people. In addition to the surveillance state; a common enemy in Russia assists in the prevention of the rise of the anti-plutocrat party that would wrestle control of the state back to the people.
    Second, I agree Russia is not the Empire it once was and that it has learned from Afghanistan and Chechnya. It will not be stupid enough to try to pacify Western Ukraine. As long as the unrest continues, it will solidify control in the Russian speaking majority provinces and create a secure supply line to Crimea. If Western Ukraine was Finlandized, this crisis would end immediately. But, there is too much money is made in the unrest and there is all that black soil and shale gas to be exploited. Also, as long as Vladimir Putin, like the Ayatollahs, refuses to kowtow to the Davos Elite, the Cold War II will continue.
    Finally, Japan is disinvesting in China and sales of Japanese cars have plummeted there. The resurrection of the Cold War will give emphasis to BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India & China) efforts to establish a second world trading system and to regain control their own fates.

  8. Valissa says:

    Excellent post, thanks! And a great title… which is true at so many levels.
    Ironically, it is Big Oil to the rescue of Russia. Saudi Arabia is so last millennium. And shale oil is not a long term solution to anything. Looks like the power of “resources” trumps the power of ideology, as usual.
    “The international oil companies are sending very, very bad signals to Putin and their own governments,” said Oppenheimer’s Gheit. “Basically they are taking Putin’s side.”
    Digging Themselves in Deeper – Why Big Oil is doubling down on Putin’s Russia. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/04/22/digging_themselves_in_deeper_big_oil_putin_russia
    Big Western oil companies from BP to Shell have not just stayed the course in Russia in recent months — many have essentially doubled down on oil and gas investments there and built even closer ties with Russian energy firms. Taken together, the deals could send billions of dollars flowing into the Russian economy just when Barack Obama’s administration is trying to hammer it hard enough to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to reverse his annexation of Crimea and stop menacing eastern Ukraine. … a parade of Western CEOs have made clear that they have no plans to end, or even delay, their joint projects with Russia.
    “Basically, they are torpedoing whatever the United States and the EU are trying to do, which is rattle Putin’s cage,” said Fadel Gheit, an oil analyst with Oppenheimer & Co. in New York. “I’m very surprised the oil companies are going out of their way to assure Russia and Putin that they are going to do business as usual.” …

  9. Babak Makkinejad says:

    FB Ali:
    All those who are outside of NATO (with such members as Australia) are viewed thus – per The Republic of Plato:
    “Therefore, to insure that someone like that [one whose reason is not strong enough to rule himself] is ruled by something similar to what rules the best person, we say that he ought to be the slave [doulon] of that best person who has a divine ruler within himself.”
    As goes for individuals, so evidently must go for countries…

  10. GulfCoastPirate says:

    nick b:
    You’re going to depend on C++ programmers working on Wall Street ripping off the middle class to protect you from cyber threats from Russia and/or China. Let me know how that works out for you.

  11. Fred says:

    Valissa,
    You left out Ford, GM and other automobile companies. It’s not all about oil. They also employ more Russians in their and their part supplier’s factories than GB and Shell.

  12. Fred says:

    GCP,
    http://jobs.gm.com/go/Manufacturing-Engineering-Jobs/288007/
    Results 1 – 25 of 348
    That’s just one classification at one company. No jobs! Damn conservatives.
    Of course the marines are always looking for a few good men (and women). I’m sure the are plenty of young graduates signing up in the cause of freedom in Egypt, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Lithuanian, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Ukraine. Lest I forget Samantha Power was on NPR last week talking about the Rwandan Genocide (America’s fault) and how we really need to prevent that from happening in the Central African Republic. I sure hope the Marines get that women’s OCS course thingy straighten out in time to fulfill our ‘responsibility to protect’ there, because you sure no Sam and company won’t be at the tip o’ the spear. Maybe Chelsea can lead that one, just read the cover of Fast Company, she’s got power, influence and plan to change the world! Leaving her hedge fund manager husband and that $10 million Manhattan home to go in harms way probably ain’t in it, but hey, there’s always hope.
    Nice dog whistle though, or are you ax grinding?

  13. Madhu says:

    Ain’t that the truth, The Emperor Has No Clothes. Great post. I’ve been reading Saul Bellow’s Ravelstein (with its neocon fictional world) and mentioning to everyone that will listen that the attitudes are those of gods or aristocrats. Living on a cloud, let the others and little people clean up the messes, anyway, how can the gods of foreign policy ever mess up. By definition, if you are in the inner golden circle of the DC consensus, you can never be wrong.
    What a mass delusion, it seems.

  14. crf says:

    Oh dear. But even if some militants in Eastern Ukraine were Russians (and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were), then they could be volunteers, mercenaries or just slightly weird men on an adventure, rather than Russian army units operating under a command structure with a goal of setting up a new country. Sitting around barricades isn’t supremely difficult, but still can be effective (as seen in Kiev).

  15. Alba Etie says:

    Tyler
    Good news – several of my high tech customers are “insourcing” their design work and even some production back home to Central Texas . But the very same corporations are not saying this very loud either – its still not ‘politically correct ” to be cutting back on the HIBs.

  16. Alba Etie says:

    Valissa
    EXXON to big to fail ..

  17. tv says:

    What is the name of your planet?
    Do you ride unicorns and wear tinfoil hats?

  18. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    In tech, things work. Or not.
    Some of the best programmers that I’ve met did not have university educations; they were self-taught.
    However, among those with degrees, one was a Classics major, one had a background in Medieval European History, and another was a Russian History major.
    I’ve heard (via tales of someone who was there at the time) that the young Bill Gates and Paul Allen sought ‘creative minds’ for Microsoft back in the early 1980s when they were just starting up. They knew that employees would have to solve novel problems that could not be foreseen, and novel problems require curiosity, creativity, and persistence. A degree doesn’t guarantee that a person has those habits of mind.
    Rigid thinkers, or ‘engineering grinds’ can obtain a degree; they mostly have to follow a lot of instructions and meet deadlines. They can conform to existing structures quite well. However, that kind of thinker would not be able to solve novel, unanticipated problems; the young employers needed people with technical skills, as well as what is now called ‘fluid intelligence’. IIRC the old story correctly, Gates and Allen were advised to seriously consider Comp Lit majors, and apparently they did. I’ve always remembered that story, because IMVHO it helps explain Microsoft’s success.
    The idea that tech always, and only, hires people with science and engineering degrees is not accurate. Those fields have a lot of value, but a degree in and of itself is not a golden ticket.
    In a recent post, Col. Lang commented to the effect that the best intel employees have quirks, and are not likely to flourish within bureaucracies. It led me to suspect that there are similar habits of mind between good analysts and diagnosticians in any field, and in my observation the most productive people tend to have quirks.
    David Habbukak has written about the problems US FP has encountered in recent years as a result of ‘Straussian’ obsession on specific, highly valued, individual texts, rather than collecting, gathering, and synthesizing information from a variety of sources. Clearly, the latter approach requires creativity and the ability to tolerate ambiguity. That is often also related to tolerating ‘diversity’.
    As for diversity… if you do a lot of work remotely, you actually don’t know who is on the other end of the interaction. However, it’s been my observation that diversity tends to create better outcomes in a global marketplace; for many companies, diversity is a business necessity – it has zilch to do with political correctness.
    H1B visas are a whole other conversation.
    However, FB Ali’s post suggests that we are living in an era in which having the good sense to ‘fold’ is somehow viewed as a topic Not To Be Mentioned In Polite Company. Evidently, the commentariat would rather clutch their pearls in silence, than discuss what they view as an FP ‘failure’.
    Knowing which battles to fight is the only smart way to proceed, so the idea of the US ‘folding’ – in this instance – does not bother me in the slightest.
    If FB Ali’s analysis is accurate, then the distressing concern is that ‘folding’ will be presented by the neocons and R2Pers as a ‘failure’, which is like handing the neocons a can of gasoline to dump on a fire. (And no doubt there are plenty of contractors whispering in the ears of the neocons, John McCain, and the R2Pers.)
    Unfortunately, the neocons appear to obsess on ‘failure’ and ‘weakness’. Their obsessiveness and rigidity lead to egregious errors; one supposes that Sun Tzu would find them grimly amusing.
    Here’s hoping those of us who value using military power *strategically* drown out any neocon and R2P worrying and whining. If FB Ali is correct, and the US has finally come to its senses, and become a bit more strategic post-Iraq, then perhaps there is some cause for optimism after all.

  19. Karim says:

    Gemini and all
    Fascinating article. I learnt from it that Assad’s forces are using mortars, barrel bombs and… hypothermia to defeat the rebels! By dropping ice packs from helicopters?
    It is pointless to mention all the other fallacies in that heap of hyperbole posing as an article, but there was one reader comment that surprised me. It claimed that at the time when US ships were deployed and poised to strike Syria, they did in fact launch 2 Tomahawks, which landed harmlessly in the sea because the Russian ships jammed the GPS signal. The comment was not sourced. Has any one here heard of this?

  20. zanzibar says:

    FB
    IMO, “the Emperor has no Clothes” everywhere around the world. China, EU, Japan, Russia, US & UK are butt naked. It’s just that the recognition phase has not yet arrived. When it does, I believe the reaction will be swift. Let’s hope & pray that the “idiots” who we have placed in leadership positions do not get us all embroiled in war & destruction.

  21. kao_hsien_chih says:

    Great. Mass murder (or perhaps mass suicide pact) for human rights. What’s wrong with killing some millions of people when you are protecting lives?

  22. Norbert M Salamon says:

    Thank you for the excellent analysis.
    While I agree that the US Could use the “nuclear Bomb” to attempt to wreck the Russian economy, that might cause untold troubles to the US.
    1., of the 70 odd strategic goods the DoD needs 46 are sourced from Russia.
    2., There is no replacement available for Russian oil/gas in Europe, nor for the 400 000 barrels a day the US imports from Russia. The Strategic Reserve, while large can be drawn off only a 4 Million barrels a day and as such would not balance Russia’s export. The foreseen price rise in oil would put the nail in the coffin for any type of “recovery”[which is nil in EU, and only based on propaganda in US, while the reality is the same as EU].
    3., Russian geeks have analysed The US/Israel created viruses attacking Iran, and without doubt have learned how the control works on Siemens products, the same company which manufactures most US transformers. It was mentioned earlier [in relation to the famous attempt at the transformer stain via gun fire]that 7 crucial transformer stations can cripple the US grid – if they are attacked at the same time.
    4., etc. with respect to many multinationals and the status of the petro-dollar.

  23. kao_hsien_chih says:

    I am entirely in agreement with your view about creativity. Unfortunately, that’s not the kind of environment that current trends in higher education US (especially, ironically, among the STEM advocates) is encouraging. They want to see people with measurable knowledge and skills, people who know the standard procedures and techniques and what rules to follow, not necessarily those capable of thinking on their feet. Those who try to go off the beaten path tend to get marginalized and penalized. The very best institutions are an exception to this, but a lot of middling institutions and below are increasingly falling into this pattern–a most worrisome development.
    The approach to “diversity” reflects this too, at least the way it is actually implemented. Ideally, diversity would require tolerance of oddballs who think and act outside the box. The last people this sort of diversity will require are those who fit stereotypes of appropriate “minorities” closely. In practice, diversity, as enforced, all too often means bringing in stereotypical token minorities to fill the preassigned roles, with utter intolerance for minorities who don’t act like “they should.”
    This sort of thinking, besides being the subversion of the ideals you had noted, dovetails nicely with neocon/R2P thinking, as both involve forcibly imposing stereotypes of the world it “should” look superficially, according to the preconceived notions of the powers-that-be, upon whoever is unlucky to be on the receiving end. This seems to be the central feature of illiberal liberalism both at home and abroad, with all the paradoxes that it entails.

  24. GulfCoastPirate says:

    ‘The idea that tech always, and only, hires people with science and engineering degrees is not accurate. Those fields have a lot of value, but a degree in and of itself is not a golden ticket.’
    I’m well aware of what went on at Microsoft and in a more general sense I don’t totally dispute your quote above. However, in the context of Mr. Ali’s post regarding cyber warfare the country isn’t going to have time to teach a bunch of literature majors how to function as network engineers thwarting coordinated attacks on our electrical grid, hospitals, financial systems, etc. This isn’t going to be like WWII where military people could bring together persons trained in a variety of ways and form them into cohesive units while manufacturing ramped up then ship the whole thing overseas to fight.
    How long do you think you can allow the country or various parts of the country to stay in the dark while you do all this training?
    I think some of you are missing my point.

  25. Fred says:

    “To lead effectively, in both the national and the global interest, the US must demonstrate its readiness to shoulder the full responsibilities of power.”
    She should run for office on that platform. Maybe the citizens could remind her that in the United States of America power does not come from the barrel of a gun. Perhaps Dr. Warmonger, Princton, Oxford, Harvard Law doesn’t like that the power of the US Government comes from the consent of the states and thier citizens?

  26. kao_hsien_chih says:

    It’s not going to be a land war in Europe if things come to that. It will be a nuclear war over Eurasia and North America. The fact that there are people in positions of responsibility who are seemingly sober talking about this nonsense is crazy.

  27. turcopolier says:

    KHC
    You can feel a kind of hysteria amounting to “dick measuring with comparison” growing in the media. I contacted one prominent journalist last night and told him directly that he is fueling a fire that may consume us all. pl

  28. Babak Makkinejad says:

    All of this would have been funny had the implications not been so serious.
    Furthermore, the boundaries of The Emperor and his cohorts coincide, essentially, with the so-called “White People”.
    I am astonished that they are oblivious to the ramifications of what they are presenting to the rest of the world.

  29. GulfCoastPirate says:

    Fred wrote:
    ‘http://jobs.gm.com/go/Manufacturing-Engineering-Jobs/288007/
    Results 1 – 25 of 348
    That’s just one classification at one company. No jobs! Damn conservatives.’
    Looked through a few including past the first page. I couldn’t find any entry level jobs for recent graduates but I’m sure they are there if you say so. Nor did any of the jobs provide salary data but I’m sure the salaries are all outstanding if you say so.
    Here is more of that to which I was referring:
    http://nms.org/education/thestemcrisis.aspx

  30. nick b says:

    That is not what you said originally. You cited lack of opportunity and poor salaries as reasons why no young American would enter science, engineering or computer science. I gave you examples of both opportunity and high salaries in finance. A quick check of google shows that cyber security pays well too.
    http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tn-cybersecurity-jobs-salaries-dc-20130806,0,3259346.story#axzz2zpzsC6l8
    If the US lags in this area, it’s not because of the reasons you cite. Perhaps you should refine your argument.

  31. Charles Dekle says:

    All,
    We have excellent programmers and engineers but their software solutions are instantiated on silicon that we no longer produce. There are high risks associated with this policy. Please see the following link as just one example of the scope of the problem:
    http://www.realclearworld.com/articles/2013/06/04/china_from_cyberwar_to_supply_chain_sabotage_105211.html
    “… China doesn’t need to drop agents into our defense assembly plants to degrade U.S. weapons. They can simply build bad parts and funnel faulty materials right into our weapons systems.” There are Defense Science Board reports and GAO reports addressing this issue. I was part of the team that did some serious research in this area before retiring. It is a problem that we must fix.
    In addition to the counterfeit threat there is also the risk of malware insertion that we cannot detect.
    https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2012/05/backdoor_found.html
    Regards,

  32. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    GCP — Point taken.
    Norbert M Salamon’s comment below underscores your concerns.
    I was thinking more about FB Ali’s analysis, which is similar to what a Comp Lit major might develop.

  33. Mark Kolmar says:

    In an attempt to agree with FB Ali and Col. Lang — If the game is not chess or poker, rather a waving contest, where they measure centimeters and we measure feet, better turn around and start talking about the integrity of the principle of the thing. Because that is not a win on raw numbers.

  34. kao_hsien_chih says:

    There are really two separate although mutually reinforcing tracks here. First, the average scientific and technological literacy of the American population has to be raised. Second, we want to set up a system where those whose training lay outside “regular regimen” of STEM education can make successful inroads because they too have had adequate background to learn what they need quickly. The second practically requires the first as a precondition. Also, the latter would suggest that even STEM students should learn to be creative by getting some serious liberal arts education on the side. And no, this is a long term approach. If there is a Cyber Pearl Harbor tomorrow, or even next month, there’s no point to these. But, if there isn’t, fundamentally reforming our education system, not just shilling for STEM and demonizing liberal arts (which many people do–I’m not saying you are suggesting it), is a necessary long term solution.
    I don’t think the way we are approaching STEM education is really seeing this as the prescription. STEM is becoming more regimented and exclusive. Engineers, especially, are getting churned out without getting anything approaching liberal arts education. Liberal arts and social science types are left in the lurch, certainly without getting much STEM education–or, in many cases, without getting much of quality education. Often, the justification is given in terms of how we need more STEM people yesterday and we need to cut corners. So, what would be the gain from churning out half trained rabble?

  35. Fred says:

    Entry level salaries are directly related to the right wing denegation of science? Good luck with that complaint. NMS and others have been complaining about US math scores since I was in high school, which is long before the war on science.

  36. Tyler says:

    The best way to have more “women in tech”?
    Stop hiring Patels and Ibn Whatevers and Chongs from Asia for slave wages.

  37. Kyle Pearson says:

    This new emphasis on STEM teaching has been almost directly adopted – in its entirety, from the top down – from Asian countries like Taiwan, Korea, and Japan.
    If y’all want to know what the results of STEM will be, there’s your answer: stagnating economies (Taiwan’s growth is only attributable to the management role it plays on the Mainland; for ordinary people, the economy has been in a tailspin for the last 15 years), but with all that American-bred inequality of hyper-luxury and underclass-squalor, to boot.

  38. JohnH says:

    “If FB Ali’s analysis is accurate, then the distressing concern is that ‘folding’ will be presented by the neocons and R2Pers as a ‘failure’.” A lot of folks would be more than happy to put the moniker of “appeaser” on BO’s legacy. And with good reason–he has appeased Wall Street, Israel, war profiteers and torturers. Yet for them appeasement seems to be a negative when it avoids nuclear war…

  39. F.B. Ali,
    To my sorrow, I think it is emerging that your reading of the position of the Obama Administration may have been too sanguine. It did indeed appear plausible to suggest that the text of the Geneva agreement meant that paramilitaries in both the East and the West would have to disarm, and also its provisions would rule out any attempt by Kiev forcibly to reassert its control over the East.
    From Kerry’s remarks yesterday, however, it appears that this is not so – that he expects the Russians to ensure disarmament in the East, while having no objection to the attempts at a crackdown by the Kiev authorities, and being overly impressed by moves made by these which hardly seem likely to result in a disarming of the ‘Right Sector’ people.
    (See http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2014/04/225166.htm .)
    What these remarks by Kerry also suggest that we are dealing with people who have totally bamboozled themselves with their own propaganda – indeed, one might say, have a rather weak grip of the notion of objective reality. As ‘b’ brings out in a first-class new post on ‘Moon of Alabama’, Kerry asserted as fact that ‘some of the individual special operations personnel, who were active on Russia’s behalf in Chechnya, Georgia, and Crimea have been photographed in Slovyansk, Donetsk, and Luhansk.’
    Almost incredibly, Kerry was making this claim at a time when the claim that these photographs are authentic had been abandoned even in the mainstream Western media. Indeed, as ‘b’ notes, ‘Time’ had tracked down the bearded man who featured prominently in them, and found that, far from being a member of an elite Russian special forces unit, he is a Cossack fugitive from criminal charges in Russia (although he claims he was framed.)
    (For the ‘b’ piece, which contains the link to the ‘Time’ report, see http://www.moonofalabama.org/ .)
    What the account given by ‘Time’ reinforces is my strong suspicion that the whole notion that Russian special operations people are already heavily deployed in Ukraine outside Crimea may be questionable. It has, moreover, seemed to me that such deployments at this point would represent a reckless hostage to fortune.
    The Ukrainian military, and also the SBU and the law enforcement apparatus, clearly mirror the divisions in the country. For intelligence purposes, the Russians are likely to have quite sufficient assets in place. As moreover quite a few people are likely to be playing both sides, bringing in ‘little green men’ at this point would expose the Russians to a risk of exposure. A single instance of unambiguous visual or audio evidence of the presence of ‘spetsnaz’, let alone the actual capture of one, would have a devastating effect on the credibility of the whole Russian position.
    Moreover, if in fact ‘little green men’ are present in Ukraine, it should be possible for the Kiev authorities, with all the resources of John Brennan’s merry men to assist them, to come up with something rather more impressive than a collection of bogus photographs.
    The question of how far the Russians have instigated the occupations in the East is obviously a separate issue. But then, the fact that people like Kerry probably do see the likes not only of Yatsenyuk but of Parubiy through some kind of roseate haze – which may make it difficult for them to grasp that some in the East at least may want to take things into their own hands, without being put up to doing so by Putin.

  40. Tyler says:

    “As for diversity… if you do a lot of work remotely, you actually don’t know who is on the other end of the interaction. However, it’s been my observation that diversity tends to create better outcomes in a global marketplace; for many companies, diversity is a business necessity – it has zilch to do with political correctness.”
    I see you’re ignorant of the two tempest in a teapot “controversies” that sprung up because of a perceived lack of commitment to the cult of diversity (Mozilla & Github).
    Kneeling to diversity means a lot of make work for women and minorities in HR and Media (“digital evangelists”) versus the actual hard work of computer engineering.

  41. Walrus says:

    The general problem throughout the West is the direct refusal of the powers that be to place any value on practical experience whatsoever. Indeed, as Col. Lang has opined, practical experience is denigrated. What is sought and valued instead is Academic qualifications leading to a theoretical knowledge of almost any subject short of surgery.
    The outcome of this in business has been the rise of the MBA Manager, of which class I am a specimen. They were taught that in theory they can run any business successfully without detailed practical coal face experience. I am living proof this is BS.
    In the U.S., there used to be a class of professionals called “diplomats” who did diplomacy and advised on foreign policy. They suffered the same fate as other experienced professionals – being replaced by dilletants and theoreticians. The net result is the Kafka-esque post modern foreign policy where an agreement signed Ten days ago is repudiated as having “served it’s purpose” .
    This is the bluff that has been called – the practical experienced, Russian team have called a weak, intellectually bankrupt Obama administration and found them wanting.

  42. FB Ali says:

    David, I’ve been out all day, hence couldn’t respond earlier.
    It is quite possible that my assessment of the US’s stance at Geneva was too optimistic, since it was based on the assumption that its leaders were grounded in reality in spite of their public posturing. As you (and others) suspect, this may not be the case.
    We shall soon find out. In my hypothesis I had allowed for more chest thumping by the West and the imposition of further token sanctions (against individuals). We will have to wait and see whether they go further; the imposition of sectoral sanctions would be evidence that my assessment was wrong, since they would raise the confrontation to a whole other level.
    There is still hope that we won’t reach that stage. Obama was careful today to link such sanctions to Russian troops actually crossing the border, (though Kerry, the neocons and the MSM are insisting that this has already happened).
    I tend to agree with you that it is unlikely that Russia has any Spetznaz soldiers in Ukraine; as you say, they should have been found out by now, and Kerry etc wouldn’t have to resort to such desperate (and stupid) efforts to try and ‘prove’ this.
    As for what is likely to happen if the US does lose its mind and impose sectoral sanctions, it is a daunting prospect. Putin has played his hand fairly coolly so far, but he could react emotionally to such an attack (if it had its intended effect, which would partly depend on how far European countries and financial/economic sectors went along). Then we are in uncharted territory, because neither side can afford to back down. We may yet face the ‘ultimate scenario’, and Yatseniuk may get his wish for World War III.

  43. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    KHC – I couldn’t have put it better.
    Kyle Pearson’s comment also speaks wisely to this issue.

  44. kao_hsien_chih says:

    I am really afraid of its consequences. One thing I have noticed in my experienced is that, while Asian education does produce more students with good basic skills (who can find right answers to standard questions), it largely fails to produce students who can ask questions when the situation is “non-standard.” Good American students, while relatively fewer, can generally deal eith unexpected problems better than relatively numerous “good” Asian students.
    The strength of the American education comes from the relatively few really good students. If we lose them while trying to emulate China or Korea, we lose our edge.

  45. kao_hsien_chih says:

    “Diversity” that works is totally opposite of the politically correct “diversity.” (See above) Unfortunately, “we” actively promote the latter and actively suppress the former.

  46. GulfCoastPirate says:

    nick b wrote : ‘… Perhaps you should refine your argument.’
    Perhaps yes. Perhaps no. You originally provided some anecdotal evidence in a couple of markets (although why anyone leaving high school would want to go into the auto business long term is debatable) but we really don’t have any salary data to make that determination. Maybe those auto jobs are unfilled because they don’t pay doodly-squat. The article on cyber security is more interesting and I would think supports my argument more than yours.
    The article seems to imply there are plenty of jobs available at very good entry salaries but not enough people to fill them. Less than half are filled with tech majors and the others are non-tech. I have nothing against non-tech majors (I was a double major myself one of which was a social science) and despite the arguments for hiring such people they simply aren’t ready for a cyber attack without significant additional training. That’s not to say over the long run they can’t be very good at that job only that if an attack were to come shortly we simply aren’t ready and to a large extent that’s because we don’t have enough technical graduates.
    Also, with cyber-security, a lot of these jobs are government jobs or dependent on government contracts. As the crow flies across the lake I live about a mile from the Johnson Space Center. People are fleeing government jobs when they have an opportunity to do so because of the uncertainty associated with this type of work for the reasons I mentioned. For better or worse (I happen to think for worse as government should be an honorable and stable occupation) it is what it is at this point in time.

  47. GulfCoastPirate says:

    kao_hsien-chih wrote:
    ‘Also, the latter would suggest that even STEM students should learn to be creative by getting some serious liberal arts education on the side.’
    I agree with this 1000%.
    This biggest detriment to creativity in this country is in the high schools. In Texas it was a conservative idea to take teaching away from the teachers and place more value on ‘teaching to the test’ instead. I’m sure we all remember Bush’s ‘reforms’ when he was governor which he touted in his campaigns. He brought ‘accountability’ to the schools by making professional development for schools, school administrators and teachers dependent on the results of standardized testing. How they expect teachers to have their professional lives dependent on the numbers who pass a standardized test when learning is related to so many external environmental factors is beyond me but we are where we are. Teachers can’t allow students time to learn to be creative (which means they have to be given chances to fail) because all time is spent getting students ready to ‘pass the test’. Although I have no experience with schools outside Texas from reading the papers it seems this is a process which is now widely adopted across the country.

  48. GulfCoastPirate says:

    Kyle Pearson wrote:
    ‘This new emphasis on STEM teaching has been almost directly adopted – in its entirety, from the top down – from Asian countries like Taiwan, Korea, and Japan.’
    Exactly. Rote learning is all it is.

  49. GulfCoastPirate says:

    ‘I am really afraid of its consequences. One thing I have noticed in my experienced is that, while Asian education does produce more students with good basic skills (who can find right answers to standard questions), it largely fails to produce students who can ask questions when the situation is “non-standard.” Good American students, while relatively fewer, can generally deal eith unexpected problems better than relatively numerous “good” Asian students.’
    Thank you for saying this.

  50. Madhu says:

    My academic parent (stem graduate and immigrant) says the same about US kids and creativity. Sadly, says the STEM skills getting worse too. Administrators do not care about professor’s or teacher’ input. A racket.

  51. Fred says:

    GCP,
    You mean Ciber Command won’t keep us safe? No surprise there. Some of us are missing the point? You started off with:
    “This is a direct result of the denigration of science in the US by right wing interests.” Now you are saying:
    “…. network engineers thwarting coordinated attacks on our electrical grid, hospitals, financial systems….”
    There are plenty of people doing this now. They are employed by electric grid operators, hospitals, financial service companies. The reason private companies are doing this on private networks is ” the denigration of science by right wing interests”?
    No, sorry that isn’t the cause of companies being responsible for their own networks. Perhaps you’d like congress to mandate all traffic go through government controlled networks? That would sure make NSA data collection easy. Good luck getting the left to support that.

  52. kao_hsien_chih says:

    The trend has been there for some time already: STEM in US has gotten steadily more formulaic over last 20-30 years, although the pressure seems to be for accelerating this trend even further. Good times. 🙁

  53. kao_hsien_chih says:

    It is worse than the theoretical being worshipped over the practical. In the truly “theoretical” disciplines with real merit, the natural sciences, no theory can trump evidence and data. (This is why creationism can never be “science” since they cannot specify, even hypothetically, what evidence would suffice to get them to abandon the “theory” of creationism.)
    A lot of these “policy-oriented” soc sci types operate from a mindset more like creationists. They “believe in” X and denigrate contradictory evidence (and those who point them out). Like their creation science cousins, any “scientific” lingo they might use is in service to a dogma that cannot be questioned.
    Having said that, I do have to wonder if it is quite appropriate to dump on the “theoreticians” too much. There are usually some good reasons why theories point in some direction or other and, if evidence contradicts them, that is something worth investigating. This is, after all, how a real science progresses, but only with the theory and the data (ie ppl who know the facts on the ground) collaborating in full knowledge of what value the other side is contributing and limits of their own way of thinking. Alas, this is not what is going on when soc sci tries to be “relevant.”

  54. ALL: Great post General Ali and wonderful comments! Many thanks!

  55. Madhu says:

    I hear you on the ramifications of the wider world. That our non-stop meddling is perceived as such, and as a threat to many, just never occurs to a certain type of person. The system trains, teaches and creates its own. How can it change but with a concerted effort for a sort of ‘counter-counter intellectual revolution’, as the neoconservatives and neoliberals have successfully attempted over the past decades. I don’t know. Too fanciful?

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