Think of four chameleons making love. The slow pace of the talks have enabled the principals to manipulate their polarity.
The recent interlude of US and Chinese cooperation on North Korea has ended. North Korea is once again China’s cat’s paw for its interests. Ri Yong Ho (NK) is guided and instructed by Wang Yi (PRC), who issues marching orders.
Russian SAM’s in Syria
Russia installed the S-400 system to protect their bases at Tartus and Hmeimim, south of Latakia. They were installed after a Turkish F-16 downed a Russian Su-24 fighter-bomber in November 2016. The threat is not new, but the emphasis on activation is a nuance that implies that the system is not active every time US aircraft are conducting operations.
The Russians installed the S-300 air defense system for the Syrians after a Russian reconnaissance aircraft was downed by Israeli fighter jets in October.
In an interview, an executive of a Russian missile manufacturer said Russian missiles were not engineered for desert conditions and did not work reliably. He said the radars also were prone to provide false returns because of climate conditions in Syria, not just because of Allied electronic counter-measures. You (dear readers) may infer thatRussian missile systems pose a threat if they are activated and work. Apparently, those systems do not deter the Israelis from attacking Iranian and Hizballah targets in Syria, and they continue to do that with impunity.
On 4 December, French Prime Minister Philippe announced that France suspended the carbon tax for six months. In announcing the suspension, Philippe said, “No tax is worth putting in danger the unity of the nation.”
One of the salient lessons about the emergence of violent internal instability is the government almost always is the agent of its own downfall. According to one study, government manipulation of the price of bread, cooking oil, heating oil and entitlements was the trigger for 75% of the government overthrows and downfalls since World War II. The events in France illustrated this principle.
During the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011, economic action by governments backfired and triggered their downfall. In Tunisia, rioters waved baguettes before news cameras to punctuate their protest of government price increases. In Alexandria and Cairo, the issues driving the breakdown in civil order were the price of food, price and availability of motor fuel and lack of jobs. In Libya, the trigger was lack of jobs.
The riots in France have not led to the collapse of the Macron government. Nevertheless, the government backdown is the result of a self-inflicted wound – the improvident imposition of a (ridiculous) carbon tax.
A government that is forced to reverse or repeal a legitimate rule – to concede to the opposition — is unstable.
Now a word on phases in the ‘instability cycle’.
The first phase is under-reaction. That phase began on 17 November when the protests started, and the government essentially minimized them. That is a text book under-reaction move. Government restraint encouraged the yellow vests. That phase lasted until 1 December although the weekend disturbances worsened.
The second phase is an inability to enforce rules. On 1 December, the yellow vests surged their protests again and the government tried to use large numbers of police with tear gas and water cannons to suppress the demonstrations. The police response was worse than inadequate. It aggravated the deterioration in security conditions and led to casualties. The police called for army assistance. That is a text-book escalatory, over-reaction move, which might have created revolutionary conditions.
The French government prudently declined to take the over-reaction step and conceded, truncating the cycle. The concession has delayed the instability cycle. The Macron government has six months to determine how much damage has been done and whether it can avoid another instability cycle. If it attempts to reimpose essentially the same tax, the riots will recur, and the cycle will repeat.
The third phase is being forced to rescind rules because of popular opposition.
The Macron government overreached. The riots and demonstrations were the obvious signs of overreach and of a serious misjudgment of popular support. The riots showed that the Macron government is out of touch with citizens outside Paris on taxing policy.
As a result, real political power transferred out of the government to the opposition on this issue. It occurred in a particularly humiliating fashion because the demonstrators defied the police and because the government came close to ordering French soldiers to fire on citizen demonstrators.
Poor economic conditions are often necessary but are not sufficient causes of a government’s collapse. If a collapse occurs, it usually occurs because the armed forces deserted the government or took power themselves. Military action or inaction – the men with guns — are necessary and sufficient causes of government change.
In Tunisia, the presidential guard removed President Ben Ali. In Egypt, the Egyptian army declined to save President Mubarak, but General al-Sisi used the army to overthrow President Mohammed Morsi. An army revolt in Yemen resulted in the ouster of the late President Saleh.
In Romania, the army marched with the Transylvanian coal miners to overthrow the Ceausescu regime in Bucharest. In Russia, the KGB Guards Division in Moscow did not deploy to save the Gorbachev government and the Soviet Union from the crowds, protesting shortages of coal and commodities.
The Macron government does not appear to be in danger of collapse, but it has been weakened. The yellow vests have power, but events during the coming weekend, 8 and 9 December, should show whether they know how to use it effectively and whether their leaders have larger political aspirations.