Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Russia, Turkey, and Wars and Rumors of Wars

The news that Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24 has predictably raised tensions, if not fears. Rightly or wrongly, the scene of Turkish citizens booing during the moment of silence for the Paris attack victims (and allegedly chanting Allahu Akbar) raises questions about the reliability of Turkey in the region. At the very least, one wonders how a political regime can commit its country to an operation against ISIS is the citizenry seems to sympathize.

Whatever the circumstances surrounding the downed Russian jet (both Russia and Turkey offer disputed allegations over where the jet was, what happened leading up, and where and how the fighter jet was shot down), Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet. One pilot waa then allegedly killed in Syria by the Turkmen (one of the US' "approved" rebel groups) as he parachuted to the ground.

Turkey may well have acted in haste. Whether in Turkish airspace or not, there is no indication Russia has planned a military operation on Turkey. If the expectation by Turkey was that they would then draw the rest of NATO into open opposition of Russia, then Turkey may not have been entirely thorough in their "pre-game" analysis. If reports from BBC News are credible, neither Britain or Germany (the two major European players in NATO) are particularly interested in coming to a blistering defense of Turkey - their response is non-committal at best. Thus far, the only response remotely affirmative of Turkey's action is coming from the US. One can speculate as to the reason why. Fear of war with Russia? Or perhaps a growing sense that Russia is a more reliable military partner for Europe in relation to Islamic extremism than the US? Again, reading between the lines, one does have to wonder.

The incident is likely to feed the quietly growing anxiety that this situation creeping closer to getting out of control and lead to a much larger conflagration. Last year, during the the centennial anniversary of World War I, there were numerous commentaries noting how, in almost poetic terms, the situation of the world today bears an eerie similarity to the world as it was just prior to the breakout of the Great War. Historical comparisons always have degrees of inadequacy. Yet, the factual parallels (and whether or not they exist) are often dwarfed by the psychic sense that those parallels indeed do exist or that some greater conflagration looms ominously on the horizon.

There are those who would argue (usually anecdotal) that there is a growing anxiety that the situation in the Middle East will eventually prove to be the impetus of a larger war. The controversy over Iran's nuclear program, the instability in Iraq, the rise of ISIS, the spread of Islamic extremism across the West, and now the gradually gathering of the world's military powers into a concentrated geographic area in the midst of conflict like so many dark storm clouds, all of these contribute to the sense that the situation is about to get out of control. The major players in the game that have averted such massive conflicts since the conclusion of World War II seem to be pushed to the limits of their efficacy - this is make or break time for the post-World War II geo-political order. The system is in the middle of its defining moment and a failure to both avert a major conflict and resolve the issues already at hand will likely lead to considerable questions regarding the efficacy of the system. All of this being considered, is the growing anxiety a portent of something coming?

It is said that Jung's notion of the collective unconscious reached greater maturity in the years leading up to World War II. The story goes that Jung noticed that more his patients were relating dreams of blood, fire, iron and open conflict, leading Jung to privately conclude that all this was pointing to a collective psychic sense that war was coming. Is this story apocryphal? Perhaps, although it poses the question in a most powerful way: is it simple anxiety, or is it predictive? Can the human mind, individually or collectively, connect into some other side of reality and sense the coming of major events? Certainly, the feeling is there. Setting aside questions of church governance, Pope Francis has recently invoked the shadow of a global war, alleging that the world is in the midst of a third worldwide conflict fought in stages. In a instance that recalls some of the speeches of Pius XII, Francis recently juxtaposed the season of Christmas (the second holiest in Christianity, and the most beloved in the secular West) with a world at war, the idea being that the celebration of the birth of God Incarnate (an event that should inspire life) is being eclipsed by the delivery of death. While some Roman Traditionalist have lambasted him for these remarks, the Bishop of Rome is another example of how the sense of foreboding has spread, finding sure footing in our collective psyche.

Whatever comes next, world powers keep congregating in Syria, some of whom are ostensibly on opposing sides in the world political landscape. The events of November 24th, 2015 genuinely did not need to be added to this mix. For now though, we hear of war and fear rumors of wars.

Update from CNN

Update from BBC News - as BCC News presents, the data seems to show the plane was fired upon after entering back into Syria.

Map based on radar image published by Turkish armed forces purportedly showing track Russian Su-24 crossed into Turkish airspace before being shot down on 24 November 2015

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