Digest 13: provoked or unprovoked; domino theory; attempts at peace
My favourite highlights from the past two weeks…
Ailice - This model does not exist
AI continuing to amaze…
You can see the project here: https://www.thismodeldoesnotexist.co/
And ‘her’ resulting Instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/heyitsailice/
Danny Postma who set this up is a very impressive serial solo product creator.
Mathias Rust: the teenager who flew to Red Square
Shared by Niall Ferguson…
Twenty five years ago, at the height of the cold war, 19-year-old Mathias Rust flew a daring ‘peace mission’ from Helsinki to Moscow. He evaded Soviet Union air defences for 500 miles before landing his single-engine Cessna in Moscow’s Red Square on 28 May 1987. He was greeted by bemused and friendly onlookers, but was arrested by the KGB and later served 14 months in prison. In this film he explains in his own words why he did it.
The Guardian site doesn’t let me embed their video, but you can watch here: https://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2012/may/28/mathias-rust-flight-red-square-video
Losing reality of what’s ‘provoked’ or not
Also prompted by Niall Ferguson (last update) likening Ukraine today to the Vietnam War, I’ve started on Ken Burns’s epic 18-hour documentary series on Vietnam.
This clip with Lyndon Johnson stood out.
When you lose reality of what’s ‘provoked’ or not… things get bad very quickly.
Sy Hersh, since writing his Substack on the U.S. blowing up the the Nord Stream pipelines…
The New York Times published everything I wrote—most if not all on the front page—when I was an investigative reporter on the paper from 1972 to 1979. The Washington Post has followed my career as the loyal opposition and ran a long magazine profile of me more than two decades ago. Neither paper has run a word at this point about the pipeline story, not even to quote the White House’s denial of my reporting.
Similarly, public calls by officials in Russia and China for a full investigation of the pipeline story have been ignored by the US media.
The gaslighting here feels strong.
Again: if the U.S. did this (which seems increasingly likely to me) – and has dangerously escalated things with Russia, while lying about it to everybody – I think they’re going to have a very difficult time keeping some allies on side.
A BRICS currency?
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday that Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – BRICS countries – will discuss creating a common currency at the group’s forthcoming summit this August in South Africa.
“Serious, self-respecting countries are well aware of what is at stake, see the incompetence of the ‘masters’ of the current international monetary and financial system, and want to create their own mechanisms to ensure sustainable development, which will be protected from outside dictates.
Present U.S. foreign policy has undoubtedly driven Russia and China together as historically atypical bedfellows – which is a very bad thing.
I don’t know to what degree the above is true, but is there any sense in which the severity of U.S. sanctions has actually made the above look appealing (as a backup, and diversification from Swift) to the likes of India and Brazil?
The West seems to get dragged into wars largely because of what’s called ‘domino theory’.
Another clip from the Ken Burns documentary:
But here’s Robert Blackwill (2 mins) talking about domino theory, both in Vietnam and a present-day Taiwan context:
Ernest May: ‘Most such worst-cases dominos never fall.’
This is picked up again briefly at 38:30. ‘Arguments on credibility don’t get very far analytically – though they may help persuade Presidents.’
‘American history since WWII is filled with instances in which the U.S. acted – Vietnam being the outstanding case – because of issues of credibility, which turned out, in practice, to be vacant.’
These are very bad grounds from which to escalate conflict. (There’s a line in the Ken Burns documentary from Marine platoon leader Karl Marlantes, ‘Killing people for your own ego’.)
All this is to say: I think attempts to negotiate peace in Ukraine would be sensible
There are roughly 800 soldiers dying per day (just on the Russian side) at the moment.
There was a very interesting interview with former Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett, who suggested that he had tried strenuously to broker a negotiation, but was blocked (by the West).
The headline-grabbing news is Bennett’s claim that negotiations that were yielding fruit and that could have ended the now year-long war after a little more than a month were ultimately blocked by the NATO governments underwriting Ukraine’s war effort.
This short article is worth reading in full.
If there’s any truth in this, this is again deeply concerning.
I’ll end with some tweets from Steve Hsu about Taiwan…
How much, generally, is the West responsible for being the lead in stirring up tensions?
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