Streetwise Professor

January 6, 2020

Media and Political Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing (Except, Perhaps, Severe Mental Defect)

Filed under: History,Military,Politics — cpirrong @ 7:09 pm

The obliteration of Qassem Suleimani has done a great public service, if only for demonstrating the extreme levels of mental retardation among the so-called “elite.”

ZOMG! This will start WWIII.

Which is an extreme dumbing down of the concept of WWIII, which formerly was used to refer to a conflict between two powers possessing tens of thousands of nuclear warheads, and alliances encompassing dozens of nations. Iran has no nukes, and no allies. So other than that–totes the same!

A corollary stupidity is: ZOMG! They will reintroduce the draft! (Note that the Selective Service website crashed because of queries prompted by Gen. Suleimani’s impromptu car-b-que.)

ZOMG! Iranians are in the streets, chanting “Death to America!”

Which they’ve been doing for 40 effing years.

ZOMG! The Iranians will retaliate with terrorism!

Which they’ve also been doing for 40 effing years.

And let’s apply a little game theory. The equilibrium prevailing prior to January 2 could be characterized as the Chump Equilibrium. The Iranian leadership, Suleimani most notably, clearly believed that they could engage in a significant level of asymmetric warfare against the US without fear of serious retaliation or escalation from the US. The best evidence of this is the brazenness with which Suleimani operated.

Iranian beliefs were fully consistent with past American behavior. This explains their escalation in Iraq and elsewhere.

But then Trump demonstrates conclusively that the old beliefs are incorrect by smoking Suleimani. Whereas before, the mullahs and their military and paramilitary henchmen could operate on the belief that the US would not target their sorry selves, they now have to assign a considerable probability to the possibility that if they take American lives, they will pay a very personal cost.

So we have transitioned to the Dirty Harry Equilibrium: “Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”

In the original Dirty Harry, the rational thug backed off: the crazy thug didn’t, and took a 44 magnum round to the chest.

We will now see whether the mullahs are rational thugs, or crazy ones. Personally, it doesn’t really matter to me. Or to reprise another Dirty Harry trope: “Go ahead. Make my day.”

The Iranians will certainly “play” crazy, in the hope of buffaloing the Euroweenies and the bedwetters in the US. Here, the very fact that said Euroweenies and bedwetters are virulently anti-Trump means this is another losing tactic, for this means that Trump DGAFF what they think or what they say.

So my prediction is that the intensity of Iranian asymmetric warfare will decrease, not increase.

There is other evidence that Trump has totally upended the mullah’s calculations. They are suffocating under the sanctions that Trump has imposed, and have engaged in various provocations (shooting down a US drone, attacking Gulf shipping and Saudi oil installations), almost certainly in the hope of provoking a response (e.g., a bombing campaign against Iran) that would that would rally world opinion behind Iran, eventually leading to the lifting of sanctions.

But Trump didn’t fall for that. Instead, he made a completely unexpected play greatly raised the dangers the mullahs face, and which did not create the innocent victims that the mullahs were hoping to exploit to undo the sanctions regime that is throttling them.

Not that the retarded elites in the US, and the West generally, have not done their level best to make Suleimani look like an innocent victim. The slobbering and blubbering over this evil thug in the media precincts, and the Democratic Party (same diff, I know) is a sight to behold.

Which will also redound to Trump’s benefit, as the Americans the Democrats need to persuade will be revolted by their eulogizing and lionizing someone who has waged war against the US for his entire adult life, and who reveled in killing and maiming Americans.

If anything, the idiocy is metastasizing, rather than abating. Today the media seized on an alleged letter from a US brigadier general to some Iraqi military figure, supposedly stating that the US was preparing to withdraw from Iraq.

Why would anyone take this seriously, or without a Siberian salt mine? Consider the problems:

  1. The letter was not signed.
  2. Does anyone with two synapses to rub together believe that such a major decision would be communicated first by an Army BG, rather than by the President, the Secretary of State, or the Secretary of Defense? FFS, there are BGs who serve coffee in Pentagon meetings.
  3. What is the likelihood that this represented US policy a mere hours after the cause of yesterday’s media freakout: Trump’s tweets saying that the US would not leave Iraq until they paid billions for the bases we built, and if they tried to force the US out, we would impose sanctions that would make those imposed on Iran “look somewhat tame by comparison”?

The story is now that this was a draft of a letter regarding redeployments within Iraq, and was sent without authorization–or a signature! Maybe–or maybe it is part of some accidentally-on-purpose psyop. It definitely psyched out the media.

But regardless, rather than expressing skepticism, the media ran with it, breathlessly–and brainlessly. (And maybe that was the point of the psyop–to demonstrate just how retarded the media is.)

Nigerian princes should focus their email scams on journalists. They’ll believe anything, apparently.

Another story making the rounds (courtesy of the NYT–you’ve been warned) is that, based on anonymous sources (I’m sure you’re shocked) the US military presented Trump with many options, and included whacking Suleimani as the extreme option, expecting Trump to choose the middle door instead. They were shocked, shocked!, that Trump went for the extreme.

Remember: there are loads of Obama-appointed people embedded throughout the government, including at high levels of the armed forces. Take every leak with a huge degree of skepticism.

And of course there is a counter narrative, 180 degrees from the NYT version. The WaPo states that Pompeo had been pushing to kill Suleimani for months, and that it took considerable persuasion, and the removal of numerous Pentagon officials, to get Trump to agree.

So take your choice. But discount both.

The fact is that Suleimani is dead, and that as a result the mullahs have to think seriously that Lockheed Martin or Boeing is putting the finishing touches on a toy with their name on it. All of the rest is sound and fury, signifying nothing. Or less than nothing.

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  1. I’m in favour of this approach: you wear the braid, you give the orders -> you get the hellfire.
    I remember reading some years ago that the US were using some new, highly-guarded technology in Iraq that allowed them to identify and locate the leaders of terrorist cells. As a result, the Sunni terrorist campaign ground to a halt, because nobody wanted a promotion anymore. Too many Indians, not enough Chiefs!
    Minimise moral hazard: make people directly accountable for their actions. Economists everywhere rejoice.
    I sincerely hope the Shiites learn the lesson that the Sunnis learnt, and quick. Khamenei appears to have cottoned on. I suspect it will be a while before he tells another New Yawker ‘You can’t do a damn thing’.

    Comment by Ex-Global Super-Regulator on Lunch Break — January 6, 2020 @ 10:24 pm

  2. What we need is Mr Nicholas Taleb to give us a little lecturette making heavy use of his favoured – and rather loathsome – expression “skin in the game”. Because for once it would be literally true.

    Comment by dearieme — January 7, 2020 @ 6:01 am

  3. As always, very readable.

    Can’t understand why you don’t have a regular column in the NYT…..

    Comment by djm — January 7, 2020 @ 8:11 am

  4. read a piece in AEI today that Trump was justified in killing the terror overlords, but the real challenge comes now with what to do with the pieces. Lots of experts say this is the wrong move. I am not knowledgeable enough to know except it seems like a good idea to kill bad guys.

    Comment by jeff — January 7, 2020 @ 1:11 pm

  5. Reminder: they don’t call them ‘mad mullahs’ for nothing.

    Godspeed to all US and allied servicemen and women in the firing line.

    Comment by Ex-Global Super-Regulator on Lunch Break — January 7, 2020 @ 6:51 pm

  6. I really don’t like it when you call us “Euroweenies”. And just as soon as I can think of a good reason why you shouldn’t do so (UK and France excluded), I’ll be getting back to you! šŸ™‚

    In fairness though, reports from the NATO briefing following the attack say that no country objected to the US justifications provided, so the big song and dance about WW3 seems to be limited to the media and the anti-Trump brigade on Twitter…

    Comment by HibernoFrog — January 8, 2020 @ 3:32 am

  7. Iā€™m wondering Professor if at least some of the passengers on board the 737 that went down had received their final orders in Tehran and were winging their way to strike the US via the TRP (Trudeau Libertarian Paradise) and Biden International Airport in Kiev?

    Comment by Crankshaft — January 8, 2020 @ 11:03 am

  8. Just spitballing here, but that weapon that killed Suleimani might be something new.

    The car appeared crushed, there was no hole in the ground and a large part of his shirt was in perfect condition.

    Rods From God, who knows.

    Comment by Joe Walker — January 8, 2020 @ 9:11 pm

  9. I am astonished that no one seems to understand the basic strategy. Whether he knows it or not Trump is following Vegetius: Pecunia nervae Bellorum. Money is the sinews of war. When the credentialed idiot Obama have then money, we got a lot of war. Now that finds are restricted. They are trying to grab Iraq who had money. Hence the threat that if Iraq those out the Americans Trump will sanction them. Iof the Iranians try to step up the conflict directly or through proxies, slap them back in the box, but no more.

    It is astonishing that absolutely no one in the press seems to get this. Instead our great minds seem to filter everything through an American filter. Actions are only judged as the how they affect or can be manipulated to affect local American issues, politics, etc.

    When you think of it. These deep intellectuals are really behaving like what Sinclair Lewis called the Booboise, parochial nitwits .

    Comment by sotos — January 9, 2020 @ 12:20 pm

  10. @djm–You are quite the comedian!

    Comment by cpirrong — January 9, 2020 @ 3:02 pm

  11. @sotos–I agree with all that. The reason the Iranians have been trying to provoke is that they are massively overstretched, and are being strangled.

    Re the booboise. The problem with the analogy is that our parochial nitwits think that they are citizens of the world, and sooooo superior to the hoi polloi. As I’ve said. We have the worst elite ever.

    Comment by cpirrong — January 9, 2020 @ 10:31 pm

  12. @Joe W

    From what I understand the standard procedure in hits like this one is to target the largest cross section of the moving vehicle. In other words the missiles arrived from the side and pushed the vehicle across the road rather than pummel it into the ground. That would explain lack of crater(s).

    Comment by A3 — January 10, 2020 @ 1:30 pm

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