Losing the Tech War, Brexit, and the Four Syrias

Third Cultured vol. 28

The Pentagon awarded Lockheed Martin $34B for 478 additional jet fighters. Nevermind that from the F-35 program to aircraft carrier problems, America is incapable of building even the things we spend the most on.

In Syria, Kurdish fighters completed their withdrawal from the Syrian border as the Russian-Turkish ceasefire ended Tuesday night. ISIS is scrambling to name Baghdadi’s successor, struggling to regroup from the chaos created by the power vacuum.

California and the world are still on fire, so stay safe out there and see you on Friday!


Three Things to Know

  1. The US is losing the 5G Tech War with Huawei as Germany, the United Kingdom, other allies and global powers opt to use the Chinese giant’s equipment. On a similar note, “phase one” of a trade deal is almost complete.

  2. Brexit was delayed until Jan 31, and the UK will vote again on December 12.

    "We will now launch the most ambitious and radical campaign for real change our country has ever seen." – Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party

  3. How is Syria divided today? Into four chaotic parts. Worse yet, Turkish forces are clashing with Syrian troops by encroaching farther into NE Syria then Erdogan agreed to with Putin. Ankara claims the Kurds haven’t withdrawn despite Moscow’s and Washington’s assurances that they have. This is far from over.

    PS: We caught Baghdadi in ‘04, but thought he was a secretary – so we let him go.

American Empire

Afghanistan’s government demanded a ceasefire before any talks with the Taliban.

AI is going to change every aspect of our world. Stanford says the US needs to spend $130B over the next 10 years to build a functioning AI ecosystem across education, research, and entrepreneurship.

Amazon is likely to challenge the Pentagon’s decision to reward the JEDI contract to Microsoft given Trump’s known prejudice against Jeff Bezos and the Washington Post.

Don’t say we didn’t warn you: signing of US-China’s “phase one” trade deal is delayed.

How is Syria divided today? Into four chaotic parts. Worse yet, Turkish forces are clashing with Syrian troops by encroaching farther into NE Syria then Erdogan agreed to with Putin. Ankara claims the Kurds haven’t withdrawn despite Moscow’s and Washington’s assurances that they have. This is far from over.

K9s – or as Trump calls them “dogs” – have fought wars for a long time.

Russia is already in your newsfeed. The Department of Homeland Security warned that Russian interference is sophisticated enough that the private sector is equipped to handle the threat on its own. Expect to see more moves and warnings from the Federal government aimed at the US tech industry and its lack of cooperation with defense.

Soldiers’ unquenchable thirst for water is huge vulnerability in future conflicts.

Steve Bannon is backed by a Chinese billionaire wanted for bribery and fraud.

The Fed is raising rates…again. (This recession is gonna hurt, y’all.)

Trump and the Pentagon don’t agree on the importance of those Syrian oil fields.

UN to meet with Iran, Russia, and Turkey to determine Syria’s political future.

Where are US troops? (200,000+ strong, and growing)

  • Afghanistan: 12,000 to 13,000 troops

  • Syria: About 200

  • Iraq: About 6,000

  • Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf nations: 45,000 to 65,000

  • Africa: 6,000 to 7,000

  • Japan and South Korea: About 78,000

  • NATO (Germany, Italy, Belgium, etc.): More than 35,000 (where I grew up!)

  • Elsewhere: More than 2,000 (mostly Australia and the Philippines)

“Allies of the United States are worried about the dependability of the United States."

Iraqi President Barham Salih

China’s Belt and Road

A bipartisan group of US senators called for a national security investigation into Tiktok. Its parent is the most valuable startup in the world, and its spike in popularity among young people in the West has Capitol Hill searching for vulnerabilities.

“Defend China’s honor!” – Beijing released “morality guidelines” for its citizens. I think it’s safe to say that I would have a very low social credit rating in Xi’s world.

Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong’s bid to run for the city council was rejected. In the official rejection, Wong’s support for Hong Kong’s “self-determination” barred him from running because of “conflicts with the requirement for candidates to declare they will pledge allegiance to the city and uphold its constitution.”

European Erracticism

AKK – Merkel’s heir apparent – faces criticism after losing to both the far-left (Die Linke) and far-right (AfD) in Thuringia’s state elections. The results force AKK/Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) into a coalition with Linke, which the CDU views as the revival of Eastern Germany’s communist party from 30 years ago.

East German shipbuilding sees a revival from an unlikely source: Malaysian investors.

Russian Revisionism

How will Russia operate post-Putin? Although he’s been successful at projecting Russian power in all over the world – Ukraine, MENA, Latin America – it has been at the expense of domestic progress. Strains are beginning to show but, even with large protests in some cities, Putin still remains popular. However, it is anyone’s guess what will happen in 2024 when Putin is termed out and runs out of constitutional maneuvers to stay in power.

That was Russia’s experience in imperial and Soviet times. As the Russian reformer Yegor Gaidar once summarized his country’s historical cycles, a ruler would go all out to “catch up and overtake” the world, especially in military technology, only to exhaust and alienate his people. After a tortuous collapse, the country would regroup and start the chase again.

Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists began withdrawing from the front lines after a deal was reached between Kyiv and Moscow. Four key events led to this:

  • President Zelensky was elected by a big majority, having set a Donbas peace deal as his number one priority

  • In June, Ukrainian troops and separatists withdrew a kilometre from the front-line town of Stanytsia Luhanska

  • In September, a long-awaited prisoner swap with Russia was finally completed

  • On 1 October, Ukraine, Russia and the separatists agreed a deal to bring special status to the separatist-held parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions (jointly called the Donbas)

Weaponizing the Arctic: how Russia rules the roof of the world.

Rising Regions – Eurasia, Indo-Pacific, and the Global South

$2 Trillion – The projected value of Saudi Aramco after its IPO this week.

16 people were killed in Burkina Faso by an ISIS attack. Sectarian violence spilled over into from Mali which serves as a recruiting ground for Sahel-based militants.

67 people have died in Ethiopia’s wave of protests with no end in sight.

Afghani and Pakistani forces skirmished over Pakistan’s attempt to install a military installation along the two countries’ border. Three Afghani women have been killed.

Australia wants to use facial recognition software to access porn. (No comment.)

Brazil is facing its biggest environmental disaster in history. (Spoiler: it’s an oil spill.)

Lebanon Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigns after mass protests over official corruption, poor public services and years of economic mismanagement.

Mexico’s National Guard was defeated by the Sinaloa cartel’s forces in Culiacan. As a Hemespherist, I believe American focus should be on the 1.1 billion Americans who live on our continent. Yes, the entire planet is important, but we need to stop dabbling in the other side of the world and get our own house in order.

Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan is facing loud calls for his resignation as the opposition begins its “Long March” from Karachi to the Islamabad, the capital.

“The public library stands for everyone occupying the same space in solidarity about the mysteries of existence that humble us all without distinction or prejudice.”

Andrew Schwartz, “A Night at the Library”

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