The Battle for Western Mosul

Last Sunday, Iraqi security forces began their assault on Western Mosul after a roughly one month pause following the liberation of the eastern half of the city. ISIS has a few thousand fighters defending Western Mosul, though the exact number is unknown. By any estimate however, ISIS’ forces are vastly outnumbered and outgunned by their opponents. Victory for the Iraqi military is quite certain. But still, the battle will be long and much tougher than it was in the East. And depending on the damage done to the city, the Iraqi’s may not find themselves winning many hearts and minds.

Google Earth Satellite Image, via CNN News

First lets get into the battle itself. Above is a satellite image of most of the city of Mosul, with the river Tigris in the center. The top half is Eastern Mosul, and the bottom the West. Just from this image alone should be apparent that Western Mosul will be a much tougher fight. It is clear to see how much denser the West is, with far fewer broad highways and many more winding alleys. In addition, ISIS’ defensive preparations, which proved quite devastating in the East, have been much more focused on fortifying the Western half of Mosul. There are many more tunnels, roadblocks, IED minefields, and fortified positions in Western Mosul. Many of the streets are too narrow for any vehicle to enter, and the higher population density will often rule out airstrikes. This means that in many cases Iraqi soldiers will be fighting without support, essentially man-to-man against a determined and skilled enemy. The Iraqi’s suffered very high causalities, in terms of both men and material, liberating the East and there is no reason to expect that to change in the West except for the worse.

With that said, it must be stressed again that the Iraqi security forces have little real chance of losing this fight. Western Mosul is surrounded. There is no real avenue for ISIS fighters to flee or retreat through, or conversely to bring reinforcements and supplies through. If the fighting gets too tough the Iraqis can simply pause their advance to regroup, something that they did a number of times in Eastern Mosul. Bolstered by recent victories and steeled with a resolve and determination to liberate their country, morale in the Iraqi army is high. News reports suggest that Iraqi soldiers have a much greater sense of purpose and discipline than they did almost three years ago. Indeed, the liberation of Eastern Mosul has showed this. The intensity of the fighting in the East would have proved to much for the poorly led and unmotivated recruits of Iraq’s army circa 2014. It was the intensity of the fighting, and the fear it inspired, that broke the Iraqi army originally. This time, however, “the Iraqi forces have risen to the challenge,” Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend (New York Times).

In the long run, however, depending on how the fighting goes, Western Mosul may prove to further alienate locals from the federal government in Baghdad. Other cities recently liberated from ISIS, such as Falluja and Ramadi, were nearly leveled in the fighting and are still broadly uninhabitable leaving many residents bitter (NYT). So far in Mosul, however, the Iraqi military has gone far further to reduce civilian causalities and damage to infrastructure. They are treating Mosul much more as a liberated city, than a conquered one. But, the more severe the battle in Western Mosul becomes the more angry, frustrated, and desensitized the average Iraqi soldier will become. In such a situation, in combat, the risk for abuses by security forces is high. The temptation to inflict “collective punishment” on the local populace will grow as losses mount. All we can do is remain hopeful that Iraqi security forces will show restraint, as they have done thus far in the battle.

Western Mosul promises to be a long and challenging battle for Iraq. The foot soldiers of ISIS are remarkably skilled and capable fighters, and have shown a stunning ability to adapt and innovate. The layout of Western Mosul affords ISIS as favorable of terrain to show off those skills as they could ask for. And whats more, they have been preparing for years for this very showdown. The Iraqi military is entering a battle far tougher than the battle in Eastern Mosul, already its toughest fight thus far. Iraq is a fragile country that can ill-afford great damage, either in raw economic terms or in social terms. How the Iraqi soldiers conduct themselves in the coming battle, and how the Iraqi government conducts itself in the reconstruction efforts, will be key to Iraq’s long term stability. Here at Standard Daily News, hope is high.

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To my readers

So far in February, I have definitely missed the mark on my New Years Resolution, though I did actually make it last month. But my dear readers, I have not been idle. The site finally has a logo (yay!) and I have also placed a few ads on the site. The ads serve to earn me some income, which will steadily allow me to devote more time to writing and working full time for the site. So when you see the ads, don’t think of them as obnoxious space fillers, but rather as tools that will allow me to provide you with more of the content that you come here for in the first place. I’ve also re-written my About page, and much of the rest of this month will go to continued improvements in the presentation of the site, particularly on social media. But fret not! There will still be more substantive posts coming this month. Thanks for reading, and remember: you can contact me readily!

Gregory Palmer

French Presidential Election Updates

Since my last post on France’s presidential election, much has happened in the campaign. The Socialist party picked a candidate, Benoit Hamon, though his odds remain slim. There has also been the stunning rise of Emmanuel Macron, and equally dramatic fall of Francois Fillon. Marine Le Pen has, ironically, been one of the only constants in this campaign. Le Pen is also the only candidate pretty much guaranteed a spot in the second round. First, lets discuss the Socialist Party.

The Socialist Party, as I discussed last November, is deeply unpopular as a result of President Hollande’s legacy. The Left also features more independent candidates crowding the field then does the Right, which may make is difficult for them to reach the second round. Further, the Socialist Party candidate, Benoit Hamon, is from the hard left of the party. This at a time when electorates around the world, and particularly in France, are moving to the right. Hamon promises more government spending and more social welfare, all at a time when most in France recognize the need for cuts (though they may not like it). Hamon best shot at winning the election is to mobilize enough of his party’s member to eke out a first round win, and hope that in the second round the traditional “Republican Front” holds against Le Pen. (The “Republican Front” is the custom of French voters, right and left, to rally together to block the National Front from winning elections in the second round.) This is quite the gamble however, given the general unpredictability of global politics at the moment.

Francois Fillon, the candidate of the center-right Republican party, has seen himself go from the clear favorite to having his candidacy itself in question. It has emerged, allegedly, that Fillon paid his wife a state salary for a job she did not perform. Whatever the truth of the matter, the damage is already done. The scandal paints Fillon as just another corrupt bureaucrat, one of the out-of-touch elites. Fillon poll numbers have collapsed and his party is seriously discussing replacing him in the election. Replacing Fillon, however, would only divide the Republican party and leave the new candidate little time to make their case to the French electorate. Fillon may be able to pull himself together by the first round, again hoping for the “Republican Front” to hold in the second round, but with each passing day his odds look increasingly slim.

Into the vacuum left by Fillon and Hamon has stepped Emmanuel Macron. Macron is now polling essentially even with Marine Le Pen, an impressive accomplishment to be sure. Like the National Front itself Macron has fused traditional right and left policies, opting instead for a “third way.” Unlike the National Front however, Macron left-right blend is flipped compared to historic “third way” parties. Traditionally, such parties adopt left-wing economics and right-wing social policies. Macron has adopted right-wing economics and left-wing social policies. He is a free-market socialist. The trouble for Macron is that the French are loath to weaken the welfare system, no matter the necessity, and are increasingly becoming more conservative on social issues. But Macron’s biggest challenge comes from his lack of a party base. He may poll well, as the polls are conducted by newspapers with their own logistical reach, but when it comes to mobilizing voters he has little ability to do anything. But if he can make it to the second round, perhaps the “Republican Front” will hold for him as well. But what then? Without a party, how does he expect to pass any legislation? French voters are bound to be asking themselves this same question.

Again, looming over all this, is Marine Le Pen and the National Front. The National Front’s primary goal in this election is to break the “Republican Front.” Their strategy to do so appears to be quite simple: be ourselves. The National Front argument is thus: you’ve blocked us out for years, and look where you are, give us a chance! By focusing on a clearly defined, consistent core message the National Front is able to present themselves as the only party with a plan. The Socialists’ promises are just more of the same, while the Republicans promise little new except not being Hollande. Macron is the only other candidate whose policies represent real change, but so far he has been quite vague on specifics, and again, has not party to support him. Marine Le Pen has a well defined, and increasingly popular, platform: French nationalism, anti-globalization, anti-Europe. She also has a strong, well organized party to mobilize voters and disseminate that message. And while the National Front still has almost no parliamentary seats, parliamentary elections are just a few weeks after the presidential elections. Should Le Pen win the presidency, her party would be well poised to sweep into the National Assembly. It becomes increasingly likely that Marine Le Pen will win France’s election.

France’s election boils down to one question: who offers the best chance for real change? The two main parties, the Socialists and the Republicans, are deeply divided and easily presented as corrupt elites concerned only with maintaining power. Macron promises change but his ability to deliver is in doubt. Marine Le Pen too promises change, but with a far greater ability to make good on those promises. France is at a crossroads. How far are they willing to go to for change? How strong is discontent with the establishment and status quo? Enough to break the “Republican Front”? The National Front seems poised to finally sweep into power, for good or for ill.

The Battle For al-Bab

I’ve been meaning to write about the situation in the Syrian town of al-Bab for a few days now, but haven’t found the time. I’m sorry that I’ve been unable to write anything for a while, again. So, without further ado, the battle for al-Bab.

Source: IHS Conflict Monitor via BBC News

Al-Bab is a town in northern Syria currently held by ISIS. Above is a strategic map of the current situation in the area. It is a bit hard to see in the map, but al-Bab is essentially the point at which the Turkish-backed rebels meet Russian-backed regime forces. As I have discussed before, ISIS had previously provided Turkey with a buffer zone between its forces and Syrian regime forces. That buffer zone has now collapsed with just al-Bab itself and a few scattered villages separating the two sides. Indeed, in some areas, regime and rebel forces have already met with clashes being reported. Russian planes also recently killed 3 Turkish soldiers around al-Bab, apparently by mistake.

For now, however, Russia and Turkey appear to be working hard to prevent such events from damaging relations. The errant Russian airstrike was described as a ‘friendly fire’ incident, for example. But as rebel and regime forces continue to push out ISIS, tensions between the two forces will mount. It seems inconceivable that the rebels and regime forces will be content to simply stare at each other across no-man’s land, awaiting instructions from their respective patrons. No, the rebels and regime will instead seek to gain an advantage over one another and will most certainly resort to force to achieve their objectives. This underlines one of the main reasons why outside interventions have achieved so little in finding peace in Syria. They ignore the reasons the war started.

The outside powers that have intervened have done so pursuing their own objectives and national interests and have used the various warring factions as proxies to meet those aims. But those warring factions have aims of their own. The rebels are not fighting to realize Turkey’s agenda in Syria, they are fighting to overthrow the Assad regime. Similarly, the regime is not fighting to enhance Russia or Iran’s role in the region but for survival, on its own terms. This is not a war about influence, or terrorism, or even the Shia-Sunni split; Syria is at war because the people want the end of the regime, and the regime does not. This is a war about the Assad Dynasty, its history of brutality, and those who have gained or suffered throughout. Russia and Turkey cannot keep the regime and rebels from fighting because the regime and rebels are not fighting for Russia and Turkey. What remains to be seen is how far Russia and Turkey will allow their proxies to pull them in. If, and when, regime forces fight with the Turkish-backed rebels, how will embedded Turkish soldiers respond. Will they fight alongside the rebels? Will Russian forces strike Turkish forces to support the regime? I’ve asked these questions before, and the time for answers is fast approaching.

North Korean Defector Predicts Coming End of Regime

Yesterday, a prominent North Korean defector expressed in an interview  his belief that the Kim dynasty is nearing its last days ruling the North. The defector is Thae Yong-ho, once North Korea’s deputy ambassador to Britain and also one of the highest ranked defectors ever from the “Hermit Kingdom”. Mr. Thae believes that a popular uprising could, seemingly soon, topple the ruling North Korean regime. The basis for his belief is the growing dissemination of information in North Korea. The thinking is that as ordinary North Koreans learn the truth about their country, then they will be inspired to rise up. I, for one, am not so sure.

It is important to note now that North Korea is not called the “Hermit Kingdom” for nothing. Almost all reporting and predictions about North Korea are more or less sheer speculation. Nobody has a clear idea of what is really happening in the country, how the people think, how the leadership thinks, etc. At least two things are understood however: the regime is brutal, and that propaganda is pervasive to the point that most North Koreans have virtually zero (accurate) knowledge of the world outside. North Korean textbooks contain events that never happened, even in part. But what many in the outside world do not realize is the extent of the brutality and desperation of life within North Korea. The brutality and poverty of the country is unprecedented in human history (at least for a country not being actively or recently invaded). North Korea has its closest mirrors in dystopian science fiction. Indeed, off the top of my head, a startlingly close comparison to North Korea is found in the Hunger Games series.

This story, from another North Korean defector, paints a grim picture of life in the country. I will summarize the story here but I urge you to read it yourselves. In his childhood, Sungju Lee lived in relative prosperity and comfort in the capital Pyongyang. In ’94, with a new Kim in power, the family was forced to leave to an outlying province. Classes were interrupted so the students could observe public executions. People resorted to foraging to feed themselves. Sungju parents abandoned him and he started a street gang to survive. Eventually, his did reunite with his father and fled the country. But Sungju Lee’s story is not alone, many defectors have spoken about the appalling levels of poverty and the arbitrary and frequent violence by regime officials.

North Korea operates its own caste system, known as the Songbun. Every person in the country is rated according to their family’s history of loyalty to the regime. “Songbun was used to decide all aspects of a person’s existence in North Korean society” (Human Rights Watch). Your level in the Songbun system determines where you will live, your job, what food you will get, etc. Access to Pyongyang is denied to those without a suitable Songbun level, except as temporary laborers. In terms of violence, a 2014 report by the Human Rights Council of the United Nations states that “Almost every citizen of the DPRK has become a witness to an execution, because they are often performed publicly in central places”. The full report is almost 400 pages long, detailing truly horrific examples of arbitrary violence.

I do not believe that most North Koreans need more reasons to desire regime change. They do not need to be aware of the splendor of New York or Seoul to understand their torment. Everyday is filled with terror and despair, regardless of knowledge of the outside world. Without the means to liberate themselves, that knowledge merely engenders a further sense of hopelessness and powerlessness. Most people are too preoccupied with mere survival to begin to contemplate something greater. Unfortunately, I believe that the North Korean regime will only be brought down by force: foreign invasion, coup, civil war, etc. Until the regime’s monopoly of force is broken, fear will continue to keep the populace submissive.

US withdraws from TPP trade deal, Ceding ground to China

Yesterday President Donald Trump, through an executive order, withdrew the United States from the ambitious Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, the largest such deal in history. In doing so, he has seriously harmed America’s relationship with our Asian allies and weakened our ability to counter an increasingly aggressive China.

The TPP brought together a wide range of nations around the Pacific Rim such as Mexico, Japan, Australia, Vietnam, and others. Collectively, these countries represented around 40 of global GDP. A number of studies predicted that the trade deal would have seen a net economic benefit to all countries involved. The deal went further in eliminating tariffs than most other trade deals, but also “included unprecedented trade rules governing labor and the environment, goods, services, global investment and digital commerce” (New York Times). But the TPP was not simply about boosting trade overall, it was designed to boost trade between these particular nations. In simpler words, it was a trade deal designed to keep China out. The hope was to redirect trade and reduce the member countries’ reliance on China as a source of both imports and exports.

Beyond the immediate economic effects, the TPP further carried a number of implications for the future of politics in the Asia-Pacific region. Since the end of the Cold War, economic sanctions have become the main tool of powerful nations to impose their will on others. But economic sanctions derive their strength from the target’s dependence on trade with the sanctioner. By reducing their reliance on trade with China, member states such as Vietnam and Malaysia hoped to have greater freedom to challenge China politically and militarily. With the end of the TPP, a major potential check on China’s growing influence has been removed. This leaves the member states all the more vulnerable to Chinese influence and power.

Withdrawal from the TPP further represents a degradation of American soft power. The United States has long been the undisputed champion of liberalism in the world. Since the end of World War II, American statesmen have dominated the shaping of global trade rules and practices, placing an emphasis not only on free trade but fair trade. China has for years been pushing its own alternative to the TPP, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). The RCEP, however, proposes very little in the way of protections for labor and the environment, unlike the TPP. Withdrawal from the TPP gives China an opening to begin establishing their own precedents for global economic standards. Given China’s many and great human rights abuses, this is indeed a tragedy.

The end of the US’s involvement with the TPP trade deal continues President Trump’s trend of surrendering America’s commanding moral high ground. His skepticism of climate change agreements, nationalist rhetoric, dark view of globalization, and unpredictability tarnishes our image as a responsible actor in the world. President Trump’s views on trade and climate change are allowing nations such as China to present themselves as the leaders of the liberal global order. When China is the champion of freedom in the world, freedom dies.

One Year of Standard Daily News: A Reflection

Be prepared for a long, and deeply personal, read.

Today marks the one year anniversary of my first post on this blog, Hello World!. Since then, I have written a total of 53 posts, an average of one a week (though the average per week has been steadily increasing). Today’s post will be a reflection on what I’ve learned from this experience, how I have grown, and where I plan to go from here.

One thing is clear, at least to me; I have become a considerably better writer over the course of the past year. If you look at my early posts (roughly July 2016 and earlier), and compare them to the more recent ones, they are quite poorly written. They are generally short, and seem incomplete. The early posts generally don’t flow well and are also quite timid. I don’t actually say much conclusively one way or the other. The focus is much more on summarization than actual analysis. Paradoxically, my early posts also feature some of my most unfounded claims and predictions (in particular, the posts about the US Presidential Election in which almost all the predictions proved wrong). They are also somewhat emotionless and cold. It is an odd mix of a fear of expressing myself personally with a desire to make bold claims and predictions. There is not much of “me” in them.

Here is where enters one of the main takeaways this experience has given me: confidence. Confidence in myself and my writing. When I first started this blog, it was out of desperation. I had not found a job, my college degree collected dust, and I figured that a blog was simply a low-cost way to be able to say I was doing something. My heart was not really in it, and I did not really believe that I had the talent to pull it off. I did not put much of myself in the early posts, my own emotions and passions, because I didn’t really believe that people would want to read it or that it would be any good. Since then, experience and the constant encouragement of friends and family (not to mention the musical magic of Kate Bush) has done wonders for me and my writing.

My whole life, I have had trouble expressing myself. I have always been timid and shy, and afraid of speaking to people. In my youth, I was in Special Education and diagnosed with mental retardation. (It was later to be amended to Austism Spectrum Disorder and ADHD, and with medication I was placed in the ‘gifted’ classes and was a picture of academic success). I did not have a friend in the world until I was around 13, and as such I only really learned how to interact with people starting then. But all through this, I have always been a deeply passionate and creative person but unable and unwilling to express it. Through High School and College I developed into a talented writer, but only academically. I never wrote anything remotely personal. And then, after college, I began a blog out of desperation.

Writing, about myself and for myself, has proven to be exhilarating and liberating. As I have gained confidence in myself my writing has become more personal and expressive. While my writing is still about politics, for me politics is personal. I have always had a great love for heroics and romance, determination and bravery. In my childhood, I was inspired by the tales of Arthurian legend and images of knights fighting off dragons. Later came the Lord of the Rings, with its deeply poetic depictions of valor and courage. In more recent history I have been inspired by the Arab Spring and the romance of the barricades. A great activist desire welled within me, and writing has allowed me to fulfill it. A year ago, I never imagined that I would ever write something as personal as Donald Trump, My President. I never dreamt that I would be as free and expressive as in My Fellow Americans, Vote! or The Second Presidential Debate. I most certainly would not have written this post. Even my more conventional, journalistic posts have greatly improved and are much better written, benefiting from increased confidence in my writing.

But aside from personal growth, what does this all mean? What can you, the reader, take from this article and my experience? Ultimately, don’t be afraid to share what inspires you with the world. For me it is Kate Bush and politics, and I share them freely. One of the greatest fears we have in this world is the fear of ourselves: we fear what we can or cannot do, we fear how others see us, we fear how we see ourselves. Letting go of that fear is hard, and never truly complete, but also rich and rewarding. Also, don’t be afraid of failure. For all of my lofty, self-congratulatory remarks in this article the fact remains: after a year, almost no one actually reads my blog and my writing still has great room for improvement. Some of my most recent posts are still guilty of many of the flaws I described in my most early writing. In one sense, I have accomplished very little with my blog (though readership has grown considerably in the last two months, it is still painfully small). But the experience is still one that has given me a great deal of happiness and a renewed sense of worth.

Going forward, I hope to continue to improve as a writer and to write much more often. One issue that still limits my blog is that writing about politics, particularly international politics, is greatly dependent on investigative reporting. I simply do not have the resources to be a reporter, that requires money for travel and credentials for press access. As such I am limited to commentary on what I can find in the news, which is further limited by what I am knowledgeable enough to comment on. It is difficult to be an activist when you lack the resources to be active. To this end I implore my readers to interact with me. If you see something interesting, share it with me! If you have questions about a topic and want me to cover it, let me know! Let me know what issues drive you and I will do my best to cover them. Let me know what developments in the world trouble you and I will do what I can to investigate. You can email me through the Contact Us page, or connect with me through Facebook or Twitter.

Keep in touch.

Gregory Palmer

Gambia Crisis: Incumbent President Clings to Power, Intervention Looms

The small nation of Gambia in Africa is currently ruled by Yahya Jammeh, who seized power in a coup in 1994. His rule was characterized by his erratic behavior, he has previously claimed to be able to cure Aids and female infertility, and harsh treatment of opposition. Jammeh lost the Presidential election last December to Adama Barrow, who has pledged democratic reforms. Jammeh initially accepted the results but has since reversed course and seems intent to remain in power at all costs. Mr. Barrow fled the country to neighboring Senegal, where he was officially inaugurated as the new President at Gambia’s embassy in Senegal. For now, Gambia remains in a state of limbo though one way or another the crisis seems likely to end soon.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has moved troops into position, led by the Senegalese military, to oust Jammeh by force if his refusal to hand over power continues. Should ECOWAS actually invade Gambia, Jammeh has very little hope of clinging to power. The Gambian military is overwhelming outclassed and out-sized by the forces arrayed against it, and this is under the assumption that the entire military actually stands and fights. However, seizing control by force would greatly mar Mr. Barrow’s victory and undoubtedly leave the country deeply divided.

UPDATE: During the course of this writing, Senegalese troops have entered the country, state of resistance unclear.

Opponents of Mr. Barrow will in the future likely use the ECOWAS intervention to paint him as a ‘foreign puppet’ and an illegitimate ruler.  As such, the likelihood of civil disorder post-resolution of the crisis in the country remains high. If the Gambian security services are seriously degraded in conflict with ECOWAS forces, that will leave them unable to maintain law and order in the country no matter who emerges as the victor. The potential for a major spike in crime is great.

Donald Trump’s “Russian Dossier”: What is it and why it matters

The story began a week ago, when CNN reported that President Obama and President-Elect Trump had been briefed about allegations of serious connections, both collusion and blackmail, between the Russian government and the Trump election campaign team. Almost immediately afterwords, Buzzfeed News published the dossier in full. Since then, the news media has been engaging in a full-throated debate about the dossier itself and the ethics in its release.

I have read the full report released by Buzzfeed, and the allegations made are quite serious, to say the least. Much has been made on social media of the “honey trap” side of the story, with Moscow allegedly trying to blackmail Donald Trump using videos of him with prostitutes. But that is really a minor focus of the report and the much less troubling side of it. The bulk of the dossier focuses on the Russian government’s attempts to influence the US Presidential election through a sophisticated hacking campaign, a campaign which the American intelligence community has concluded unanimously did in fact occur. Donald Trump himself has since admitted Russian interference in the election. But the dossier in question, released last Tuesday, goes much further with its allegations.

Trump’s “Russian dossier” was reportedly prepared by a former MI6 agent Christopher Steele, initially at the bequest of anti-Trump Republicans and later by anti-Trump Democrats. Most of the dossier’s focus is on the Russian government’s attempts to hurt the election campaign of Democratic-party candidate Hillary Clinton that eventually morphed into a full-fledged attempt to ensure Donald Trump’s victory. The dossier alleges that senior members of Donald Trump’s campaign staff had direct contact with Kremlin officials to share intelligence and discuss strategy. Let this sink in for a moment. If true, this would make Donald Trump and his campaign staff guilty not only of complicity in the hacking of the DNC but also of collusion with a foreign power to tamper with and influence American elections. In my view, if these allegations prove true, this is sufficient reason to bar Donald Trump from holding the office of President and also to try him for treason. If they are true however.

The whole affair is a bit fantastical. It is reminiscent of an episode of The Americans: full of bugged hotel rooms, honey-trap set-ups, secret meetings in Eastern Europe, cyber hacking, money transfers, etc. Its all a little much to believe really. CNN lays out quite nicely the reasons for both why and why not to question the dossier. To sum up: the author, Christopher Steele, is a man highly regarded and respected in the global intelligence community with deep connections in Eastern Europe and Russia in particular and the US intelligence community has taken the dossier seriously enough to brief the President and President-Elect. But, on the other hand, while almost all of the sources quoted are anonymous their alleged access is truly phenomenal. The dossier quotes people apparently party to conversations between the absolute highest echelons of the Russian government, between Putin himself and his staff. It is also important to note that the dossier was not compiled by the intelligence community, American or otherwise, but rather by a well-connected individual. An individual, even a talented and experienced one, is much more vulnerable to deception and misinformation than a governmental agency such as the CIA or FBI.

But this dossier has not appeared in a vacuum, but rather against the backdrop of Donald Trump’s strenuously pro-Russian policy and rhetoric. It is not suspicious that Trump desires better relations with Russia. What is suspicious is the degree to which he is willing to overlook Russian transgressions and offenses in his single-minded quest to restore relations. Indeed, it is Trump’s near obsessive desire to rehabilitate Russia as a nation that gives weight to the allegations made. But it is also precisely this that gives me further reason to doubt this dossier. Given Trump’s ardent, and well-documented, pro-Russian stance wouldn’t such a story make for the greatest of conspiracy theories? “Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin unite to destroy American Democracy: We Warned You!” It seems almost too perfect a story. However, given the gravity of the claims, and known Russian interference with the election, it should remain beyond the ability of the American people to dismiss this issue out of hand without a thorough investigation by the intelligence community and our public servants. Hopefully this episode will leave the incoming administration more wary in its dealings with the Kremlin, and more clear-eyed about the implications of bringing Russia in from the cold.

Next Week

Well I missed my quota this week. A coworker was unexpectedly ill this past week and I had to cover for them. I am still working on artwork for the site, and am getting in touch with some graphic designers for the project. For next week, I am working on some articles about Donald Trump’s alleged Russian connections, the danger of fake news in general, and other things of that nature. I am also working on getting some guest writers for the blog, to keep things more active. Next Friday also marks the one year anniversary of the blog, and I will be also writing a bit about that. Anyway, thanks for reading!

Gregory Palmer