Turk Kobane

When I write, I add a picture after my words provide context. This time, the image you see below from the BBC was added first.

It is so graphic I could almost walk away now and go have a drink—a strong one, given the content.

The United Nations estimates that over thirty-two hundred buildings were destroyed in four months of war. That works out at around one per hour, night and day.

The United Nations estimates that over thirty-two hundred buildings were destroyed in four months of war. That works out at around one per hour, night and day.

The town of Kobane looks as dead as its Nirvana namesake—just from a different drug.

Hatred and heroin both start with an H, and a fair slice of the world’s heroin production courses through the poppy fields of the Mid-East. Plenty of the world’s violence also fares well here, a zone where Syria and Turkey share a border.

Kobanî, to use the Kurdish name, is a small town of indifferent history, dating back about one hundred years. Historical details are scant, and any search on the net leads straight to the violence of the last few months.

With a little perseverance, we establish that the town as such developed, like so many others in the world, because of a railway. At the end of the nineteenth century German engineers were building the Baghdad-Berlin line, and the town developed around the train station—no novelty there either.

In 1915, Armenians fleeing from the Turkish genocide settled in a neighborhood near the station, and in the nineteen-twenties the French developed the area after the Ottoman Empire was broken up following the Great War.

By all accounts the town was unremarkable, but it was a point of convergence for the Turk, Kurd, and Arab. In an attempt to promote its Arabization, Syria renamed it Ayn al-Arab in the 1980s—the name means Arab Spring, and although spring here derives from the local Bedouin waterholes in the area, the irony is inescapable.

This particular Arab Spring has become a high point for a classic confrontation, a strange exception to the new parameters of war.

ISIS organizes terror strikes, following in the footsteps of its predecessors, but this type of asymmetric war only works in two situations: when you are in occupied territory, or to protest the actions of others by bringing pain to their shores.

You cannot secure a caliphate and implement the rule of law (Sharia or otherwise) over parcels of land and people through a bizarre international beheading game show.

The taking of land, and the control of people and economy, requires the siege and conquest of cities, and brings war back into the lines of symmetry so dear to military academies the world over. Which is why Kobane got flattened—echoes of Dresden in 1945.

This symmetry is clear also as Europe looks to the other side of the Black Sea. Europe’s eastern front is a big mess, and Russia looks west in anticipation. The fight for Eastern Ukraine is large-scale war on European soil, in 2015, and oh so reminiscent of 1939.

It’s about conquering territory, taking over cities and land, and controlling natural and strategic resources. Just as for Afghanistan 2.0, where history books went unread, a little Russian history would not go amiss.

Centuries before the Soviet Union, Russia had a tradition of causing mayhem on European soil—and was the British Empire’s most important threat in Kipling’s ‘Great Game’, the war for dominance of the neck of Asia, the badlands of Pakistan and Afghanistan, back in the days when the Germans were laying track in Kobane.

Out of all Europe, which nation is the most appetizing, from an economic perspective? Which country has the highest technology, the biggest manufacturing, and best export record?

Which begs the question: is Germany re-arming? The New Statesman carries an interesting historical perspective on current developments in Europe, which begins with a quote from Lenin.

When a man sticks in a bayonet and strikes mush, he keeps pushing, but if he hits cold steel, he pulls back.

The mush in this case is Angela Merkel, who apparently commented that ‘Putin seemed to live in another world.’ The historical lesson is that Uncle Vlady lives very much in the real world, one where sanctions and the collapse of oil quite often lead to escalation and war.

What would Lenin think of flamby, the nickname of the French President?

What would Lenin think of flamby, the nickname of the French President?

Between the Obama mush factor and the Merkel mush, not to mention the Hollande mush—his nickname is flamby in France—Putin has already managed to split the US and Europe over the shipment of arms to the Ukraine.

On the big stage, the Greek approach to Russia goes well beyond historical left wing sympathies, or Slavic solidarity. It’s a chess move. The message is very clear, and resonates well in Moscow.

When wealth accumulates, military power better follow quickly, otherwise the wolves begin to circle.

Atmos Fear and The India Road. Quick links for smartphones and tablets.

Atmos Fear and The India Road. Quick links for smartphones and tablets.

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