Hot spots

Russian conscripts, barely trained, are being thrown into the meatgrinder of eastern Ukraine with meagre equipment and terrible food. I don’t know what Putin is doing, but perhaps he thinks it’s better to make Russian martyrs for the time being than to whip out a nuke which will make the people closest to him fear for their lives, should he be so bloody minded as to use it.

More hot spots below.

41000 dead is the count so far in Türkiye and Syria. The earthquake ripped a chasm into an olive grove; a vein of suitable commentary might emerge from such an abyss. The loss of life is horrific, but the complete lack of shame on the part of the authorities for their failure to regulate or enforce any kind of earthquake-resistant construction techniques is my true takeaway from this horrific earthquake. We have entered the Age of Callousness, and it will forever be a challenge to stay soft for the ones we love, and to maintain simple human decency in our relations with everyone else. As long as the people who control the flow of concrete and cement across the world make money, who cares how they do it. Amiright, amiright?

Azerbaijan, anxious to deliver some thumps and whacks to the Armenians after the 2020 conflict (which was a larger outbreak of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict which has burbled along, mostly with ceasefires brokered by Russia, since Keith was born, just to give you an idea of the lived duration of it) has beefed up its army and internal coms and logistics, while sidestepping buying arms from Russia. The Armenians meanwhile are not able to buy arms from Russia since the number at KALASHNIKOVS ‘R’ US has been busy since February of last year.

So the situation from three years ago is long gone, and the next conflict, which will probably kill another 10k soldiers or so, is on hold for the moment while two separate cease fire and normalization agreements float around, one brokered by the attention-deficit-prone Russians and another by Western groups, although actually written by the Azerbaijanis and Armenians themselves, so that’s the one that hopefully will get implemented before there’s yet another border blowup. If the peace-seeking process breaks down, perhaps due to local conditions or the Russians being up to their armpits in the swamp of Eastern Ukraine, expect that conflict to come off hold and Nagorno-Karabakh to turn up in the news again.

Another hotspot continues to be Iran. The protests evolve, although the squinting, perverse and scurrilous eye of the disaster-loving western media has moved along. In amongst the signs that a permanent political shift is being conceived and grown, there is the sad reality that Iran’s nuclear capability, despite everything the West and Israel has managed to throw at it for decades, is pretty much on track, and since Iran no longer has any global oversight of said same, the Americans are now in a position where they either have to make a preemptive strike on Iran’s new capability or find a useful ally to do it for them. If the US wanted to unite the protesters and the theocracy, I could hardly imagine a more decisive way of doing it. This potential conflict is very worrisome in terms of how destabilizing it would be globally. Expect the jingoistic best from the US media if anything happens. The Americans still have back-door channels into Iran, mostly for hostage negotiations, but also to keep a fingertip on the pulse of the nuclear threat; open negotiations are impossible because the blowback at home would be loud… and lucrative for Fox news that’s for sure.

Ethiopia/Eritrea managed a peace deal last year but things aren’t looking good for 2023. Hundreds of thousands of civilians (displacement, sexual violence, disease, starvation and thirst) and hundreds of thousands of combatants have died already. The truce is holding so far, so that at least aid can get to those desperately needing it. But it may not last. Eritrean troops are taking their sweet time departing from Western Tigray (fertile zone) and the Ethiopians are getting antsy. Plus there’s always a warlord or two ready to zoom in from the margins and fuck things up for everybody. With aid from the rest of the world things may calm down but it’s still a hard place to be for the residents.

The Sahel is rife with conflict. Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso are suffering heavily from Islamist/Jihadist insurgents, frequent coups by Army officers (two each in the last year in Burkina Faso and Mali), being ignored on the world stage as too chaotic for any useful or public minded assistance from the West, and mired in local guerrilla actions with military responses, between people who have legitimate beef, people who are complete assholes and people who are complete assholes and want to kill you because god wants them to. Mali also has the Tuareg, who up until now have avoided bunking with the Jihadists since all they ever fucking well wanted to do was to maintain their transhumance/nomadic lifestyles and their customs, some of which have never comfortably lined up with Islam even though the Tuareg – two million people scattered across Algeria, Libya, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso – practice Islam. If the Malian Tuareg do decide to throw their lot in with the Jihadists hoping that’s what will get them the political power and credibility they want, there will be guerrilla war for years. I have to wonder as someone whose life will probably never be touched by the consequences of these conflicts, how many ordinary, poor people will have to die before professional diplomats start working on making it stop. In the meantime, Russian propaganda and the presence of Wagner Group is turning the heat up on any French government attempts to assist, the 9 year old UN mission in Mali is, politely, a failure, and regional hatred of the French is dialling up thanks to the fucking Russkies so there might be blowback in terms of Jihadist strikes at targets meaningful to the French, or French tourists or foreign workers.

Taiwan. Jesus Christ, what to say. Things are kinda flashpointy. As long as Beijing continues to leave reunification of Taiwan with China by force on the diplomatic table, prospects are gonna be very shitty indeed in that part of the world. When Nancy Pelosi (full disclosure, I fuckng LOATHE THAT WOMAN) visited Taiwan without Biden’s sanction (but with Beijing convinced otherwise, at least as far as the outraged news articles in PRC go) China went full testoste-rage and put on a military display fit to scare the shit out of any Taiwanese not in a coma at the time.

Now, having seen Western reaction to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Xi is hardly the type to just invade Taiwan anyway, but things are shit at home, what with the a) steady but painful recovery from liquidity crisis which still left hundreds of thousands of Chinese families beached financially after the Evergrande collapse b) COVID just settling down as a permanent feature of Chinese life after a heroic three year effort to get to COVID zero which actually resulted in hundreds of variously size PPE and testing companies in China making a fortune by overcharging locals and which literally meant that no local government or health authority could continue to pay the atrocious costs c) local governments are underfunded to the tune of a number so huge I had to check it, but which amounts to 2500 $US for every human living in China. It is truly a fuckton of money, and if you think of it in terms of why do party bureaucrats always have money to hide in Canada, it helps if you realize that not all of it is drug and Casino money from the locals; sometimes they’re hiding swag they tore from the occasionally resistant hides of their fellow citizens.

These are hardly the end of the woes Xi faces domestically. The Uyghur genocide is ongoing, the water and pollution situation in some quarters is absolutely terrible (water supply issues shutting plants Western businesses depend on, Xi’an daily has AQI numbers like 178 (I just checked, that’s as bad as it got during the fires and you aren’t supposed to leave your house if it’s that bad)), crucial parts of the Chinese domestic grid are creaky, and two or three years of crop failure could undo the social cohesion and sense of purpose successive governments have busted ass to instil in their citizenry.

I could call all of this low key fascist posturing, but the Chinese government has taken a lot of people out of poverty and lowered the mortality rate and means to keep on that track, and if various client states are forced to suffer…. Just IMAGINE the strip mining of real and virtual assets that would take place if PR China even got a toenail into parts of Taipei. As Dunnett might say, imagination reels. And of course 99 percent of Taiwanese own cell phones so an occupying army will have a tough time not getting their asses recorded unless they jam everything.

So the single biggest reason for all the sabre rattling is to keep the folks at home occupied with news that isn’t the failure of the local water department to deliver drinkable water for the fourth straight week. Xi is also testing defensive readiness and keeping the boys exercised and busy, just in case the fucking Americans do something by accident in the south China sea, because I’m sure the orders are to do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to provoke the Chinese. Of course these things can change. But if things go wrong with Taiwan, if something happens that allows China to move (like a nuke from Putin going off in Europe) I can see Xi attacking Taiwan and the US letting him get away with it because they have other scores to settle elsewhere and besides those (insert slurs) who cares if they fight among themselves, too bad about losing those military contracts. Taiwan is well aware that the US could abandon them at any moment.

I just don’t think the PRC has any idea how hard the Taiwanese will fight. They may think they’ve got a solid 5th column inside the country, but after seeing Ukraine, beaten and tormented and starved and bombed, standing up every time it gets knocked down, ALL WHILE FIGHTING AN ENTRENCHED AND WELL FUNDED RUSSIAN FIFTH COLUMN I’m betting they’ll fight with all the fury and patriotism they can bring to the fore, especially if, as I suspect will happen again, the US gives uncredited overwatch.

There are loads more hot spots, but that’s all I could research today.



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Born when atmospheric carbon was 316 PPM. Settled on MST country since 1997. Parent, grandparent.

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