Tuesday, January 19, 2021

US Homeland Tet Offensive

 

 

The Fifth Column Arises

An extremely dark historical déjà vu reenactment is being played out present-day in real time that is recreating events in the tumultuous year of 1968. Thousands of American extras are engaged throughout the country in sowing violence & mayhem in a reenactment of the Tet offensive but on American soil potentially at the Inauguration and certainly post-Inauguration.

Already the FBI is vetting members of the National Guard brought in from numerous states who are assigned to support local law enforcement against violent protests and any other threats during the Inauguration.

·         Firstly, it seems an impossible task to vet every one of the thousands National Guardsman thoroughly enough to pass with a high degree of certainty that a member poses no threat during the ceremony.

·         Secondly, is the FBI vetting local law enforcement from which several members were alleged to be sympathetic to the pro-Trump protestors who laid siege on the Capital building?

·         Thirdly, and not least, following the old security adage, who’s vetting the FBI?

Disturbingly neither the National Guard nor local law enforcement in any part of the country have the training and experience in riot-control or have sufficient riot-specific equipment. For this reason to compensate, the temptation to use excessive force, particularly if they feel that their lives are in danger, is extremely high.

This is why the alleged pro-Trump plan to protest at 50 state capitals regardless of the size or even non-violent protest is a devious quantitative gambit. The odds of any protest, anywhere devolving into violent confrontation is high and can trigger a cascade of escalations elsewhere thanks to social media.

US Homeland Tet Offensive

The Vietcong (VC) launched the infamous Tet Offense – the Vietnamese New Year – on January 30, 1968 with simultaneous attacks on 100 towns and cities throughout the country. Their objective was to provoke a popular uprising against the South Vietnamese government. Although despite the ferocity of their efforts the VC failed militarily but won politically in the long run because it decisively turned the American public against the US government’s involvement in Vietnam.

Jumping off the pages of a Twilight Zone script, a disturbing historical parallel is unfolding domestically in which, according to the FBI, a determined and well-supported armed anti-government movement is threatening 50 state capitals. 

January | Historical Déjà Vu

The following are the astonishing historical parallels between the Tet offensive in 1968 and the present-day violence in the US 53 years later in the same month:

·         The US was deeply divided politically and racially during the 1960s and present-day with violent protests that led up to the furious assault on government buildings.

·         The VC assault took place during Tet - their Lunar New Year - while the assault on the US Capitol building took place near our political New Year called The Inauguration in the same month of January.

·         In Vietnam and the US extremist elements surprised governmental forces.

·         Anti-government forces, VC and pro-Trump extremists, assault the US Embassy in Saigon (then South Vietnam’s capital) and the US Capitol building in Washington, DC, respectively.

·         In each assault the VC and extremists breached the outer security perimeter and had the opportunity to breach the inner sanctum to kidnap, or perhaps worse, the US Ambassador and Congressional members, respectively but never did.

·         In each assault on US territory exactly 5 Americans died.

·         Throughout Vietnam assaults against US and South Vietnamese forces raged. Present-day potential violent forces are targeting government, corporate and other important buildings.

Seizing power through physical confrontation and reversing the election results is impossible. However like the VC, politically pro-Trump supporters can gain more sympathizers by planting the seeds for the GOP’s eventual return to the White House in 2024.

Because the venues for Inauguration Day are already predetermined pro-Trump supporters may encounter counter-protests at many of these venues. In other words, all hell could break loose throughout the week with the National Guard, law enforcement and citizens caught in the middle of endless riot firestorms.

The following chart entitled DC Troop Levels Five Times as High as Iraq & Afghanistan provided by the US Department of Defense, Task & Purpose, The Drive and provided by Statista, an online statistical firm, embarrassingly shows the overwhelming force required to maintain the peaceful transfer of power in the nation’s capital.



“Smile! You’re On Candid Camera!” | Citizens With Nothing to Lose

It may seem odd and ludicrous that the many pro-Trump supporters who stormed the US Capitol building not only didn’t wear masks but enthusiastically took selfies, were easily identifiable afterwards. This meant that the rioters absolutely knew beforehand that their images would be recorded by security cameras in and around Capital building but didn’t care that it would lead to criminal charges, loss of jobs or become nearly unemployable when identified.

The aforementioned is the unsettling part because it signifies that these are people who feel that they have nothing to lose and, as the adage goes, makes this group extremely dangerous. Just as the Western media is befuddled about the religious true believers in emerging and developing countries who are willing to risk everything against their respective present-day governments or join violent groups in failed states, the same is being played out domestically.

Similar to the Tet offensive, it also means that these protests will not simmer down or burn out over the course of several weeks or months, rather during the entire Biden administration until the climax of the 2024 US presidential election with the tacit support of likeminded powerful elements at the highest levels of every industry.

Interestingly there’s a stupefying weird perspective of the present-day violent surge of pro-Trump protests. During Trump’s 2016 inauguration there was a paucity of these same pro-Trump supporters to celebrate his election victory. Yet they’ve emerged from every nook & cranny in the thousands as Trump is about to leave office to fervently support him at his unabashed urging and continue the fight against the Biden Inauguration.

“Who Are Those Guys?” | Mainstream Citizens Going Mad

The following chart entitled Anti-Government Extremist Groups in the US provided by the Southern Poverty Law Center and provided by Statista, underscores the continued anti-government groups in the US. Although the number of groups have declined since the Obama administration, many of these present-day extremists – a cross-section of American society from struggling blue workers to highly-paid white collar professionals are radicalized with an unabashed willingness in committing violent acts.


The ominous coalescence of the present-day groups is that they bring a dangerous cross-section of skill sets, experience and insider knowledge from a wide variety of professions to more effectively undermine the incoming administration which makes them far more dangerous than the earlier street thuggish, anti-government groups.

Bright Light in a Narrow Tunnel

The urgency of the Biden administration is to avoid a “Dark Winter 2” in 2021-2022 at all costs. If this spring through early fall Covid cases and deaths fail to abate and supersede inoculations, and medical personnel burn-out with hospitals running out of supplies, equipment & medicine, the US could become a struggling faraway emerging country with enormous resources blocked but by incompetence and corruption.

The realpolitik is that Covid has become a sideshow, a political lightning rod for the opposition. Defeating Covid is a matter of scientific power which is slowly being accomplished.

The real issue is the faltering real economy which has enslaved millions of Americans into debt and poverty. The citizenry is infuriated because they believe that the decades-old socio-economic-political structure has failed them over the course of many administrations and caters exclusively and rather openly to the elite. To put it bluntly these citizens have many valid points. The government and corporations have the power yet lack the will to make fundamental structural changes for the public good.

With opposing sides digging in their heels unwilling to even discuss these matters in earnest, as the song goes “Something’s gotta give” but may be increasingly decided on the streets, not at the ballot box.

 

© Copyright 2021 Cerulean Council LLC

The Cerulean Council is a NYC-based think-tank that provides prescient, beyond-the-horizon, contrarian perspectives and risk assessments on geopolitical dynamics and global urban security.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

America’s Dark Democracy | Werewolves Unleashed

 

 

Political Civil War

In a Twilight Zone déjà vu there are fascinating yet disturbing historical parallels as Inauguration Day approaches. The shot that killed the US Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt trying to enter the US Capitol building and who now serves as the martyr rallying cry of the pro-Trump extremists, can be eerily compared to the first shot that ignited America’s Civil War at Fort Sumter in 1861, both occurring during a period of a nation deeply divided.

For some historical perspective in July 1864 Confederate Lt. General Jabal Early led a battle-hardened, grizzled military force towards Washington DC known soon to be called the Battle of Fort Stevens and almost succeeded in breaching its defenses. Fortunately for the Union, Early’s long march towards the capital under blistering summer conditions and the need to rest for several days upon arrival delayed the main assault by several days. This fortuitous delay enabled the Union Army to frantically muster enough men to carry out a canon bombardment which discouraged a main assault.

In January 2021 pro-Trump supporters had far more success with less personnel than Lt. General Early in breaching the Capitol building’s under-manned security, entered the building and came within a hairsbreadth of capturing members of Congress.as hostages

Ironically, despite pro-Trump supporters having far less firepower than Lt. General Early, the National Guard will post 20,000 in & around the city for the upcoming 2021 inauguration, slightly less than the 23,000 troops that defended Washington DC in 1864, which powerfully underscores the seriousness of the crisis.

Warlord Trump’s Werewolves

There’s no doubt that this 21st century political civil war is just getting started that will regularly go beyond heated verbal rhetoric. This third surge is undoubtedly a man-made political plague instigated by the proverbial presidential stamp of approval to not only continue rather escalate the fight well after he leaves office. The pro-Trump supporters “voted” with their military surplus boots in storming the Capitol. They may not have “captured” members of Congress but their mission was a success beyond their wildest dreams. This has only emboldened and galvanized this new movement.

More disturbingly is that this event represents a far-deeper breach into the minds of Americans and despite all its democratic laws and military might, exposes the fragility and vulnerability of America’s democracy.

Although Biden clearly won the election with the Electoral College and popular vote it was far from decisive. For this reason this non-decisive victory provides pro-Trump supporters fodder to pursue the “stolen” election claim, one that was not won “beyond a reasonable doubt”, a phrase that cannot be defined quantitatively. Only a Biden landslide would have been the coup de grâce and pre-empted mass violence at the Capitol. Interestingly the election results indicate considerably more about the weakness of Biden’s victory than of Trump’s defeat.

In war there are often a handful of violent diehard holdouts after a formal surrender encouraged by the defeated or deposed leadership. A similar situation might occur in the aftermath of Trump’s election defeat. Trump may be censored on social media yet a multitude of pro-Trump groups have already arisen to communicate his “gospel” to those who consider our constitutional laws as mere guidelines. 

In an oft-repeated historical pattern, after regimes were defeated militarily, the ousted government still held powerful political sway in present-day democracies. The US is no exception. The Trump administration and subsequent scorched earth tactics at the US Capitol building is justifiably alarming and reveals the breath & depth of his influence.

Trump’s charismatic powers run far & deep among his diehard constituency. He received over 74 million votes amongst a wide range of citizens from the unemployed, blue collar disaffected workers to the hidden, albeit wealthy and powerful, not to mention millions of sympathizers all of which represents a daunting demographic. The dramatic violent maelstrom on the Capitol building is confirmation that these 74 million strong voters have his back.

One doesn’t have to read between the lines of Trump’s public statements before, during or after the storming of the US Capitol that he’ll relish assuming the role of a post-presidential warlord and take advantage of an America, physically, economically and psychologically weakened by the pandemic.

The Two Front War

The present-day devastating pandemic surge throughout the country is a drain on the economy that threatens to blow past stress test parameters and triggers an economic seizure and possible collapse.

The incoming Biden administration, along with the “good” members of the GOP who support our democratic institutions, face a daunting two front war each of which has equal top priority:

·         The first is international, the continuing external threat primarily from the emerging troika of China, Russia and non-states, who now smell blood in the water, and intensify their cyber-intrusions.

·         The second is domestic, the internal threat from the pro-Trump continency who, aside from the violent shock troops, has hidden and powerful supporters at all levels of business and society that could undermine socio-economic recovery efforts.

The Biden administration is in an unenviable lose-lose situation that serves merely as a paper stop-gap until the decisive presidential 2024 election that will indelibly determine America’s path in the 21st century.

The Sequel | The Security Nightmare

The overwhelming attention is focused on a potential replay of violence by pro-Trump supporters not only at the inauguration rather at cities throughout the country and during the rest of this dark winter. What is overlooked or perhaps rarely mentioned, are the equally violent extreme leftist counterparts that are just itching for a “pitched battle” whether before, on or after inauguration day in any city or town in the US in a perverse re-enactment of the urban pitched battles during the Weimar Republic.

These unfolding events were articulated in my article published on 7 August 2020 entitled The Upcoming Phases of Turmoil specifying the intensity of violence before the election, the period between the election and inauguration and post-inauguration.

Furthermore the catalysts of violence are the newly inspired lone wolves and anarchists whose sole objective is violence and mayhem> They represent the accelerant that fuels the hatred by hiding under the socio-political banner of either side as they did with the nascent BLM movement.

If violent clashes escalate well past the inauguration period, there’s the potential for the state or federal government to declare a state of emergency and lockdowns. Further along should these emergency measures fail to quell the violence, they may become codified America. This step of last resort will trigger America’s descent down the slippery and often politically unrecoverable path towards a dak democracy whose constitutional rights are interpreted as privileges to be taken away selectively at the whim of the public/private, corporate/governmental masters in an organically produced domestic real-life version of the dystopian series “The Man in the High Castle”.

 

© Copyright 2021 Cerulean Council LLC

 The Cerulean Council is a NYC-based think-tank that provides prescient, beyond-the-horizon, contrarian perspectives and risk assessments on geopolitical dynamics and global urban security.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Global Hospitality’s Zero Hour

 

As approved vaccines are distributed as a priority to essential workers worldwide and soon to the general population, the decimated hospitality industry, many of whom are holding onto their fingertips at the edge of a financial abyss, will try to meet the pent-up demand by travelers whose disposable income during the lockdowns were not adversely affected and who can afford to travel.

However there are unique factors in the industry that sets it apart that will make its recovery will be extremely asymmetrical due to non-economic, non-quantitative factors.

The Traveler’s Perspective

Vacation plans for tourists, and to a lesser extent for business travelers, are heavily based on word-of-mouth references and recommendations from friends, acquaintances, and business associates. Despite the cutting-edge, marketing cyber-sophistication of the hospitality and related & supporting industries, the core fundamentals of tourism will continue to almost always be “grass roots” oriented through face-to-face conversations. Travelers use technology as a post-decision tool to secure the cheapest and most convenient way to travel, not to confirm their destination decision.

This process was brilliantly articulated in the movie The Matrix Reloaded in which Neo consulted the Oracle face to face. Imagine yourself as Neo talking to your friend the Oracle with respect to where you want to go. In the scene the Oracle explains to Neo, “You didn’t come here to make a choice. You’ve already made the choice. You’re here to understand why you made it.”

·         Firstly because of the extended lockdowns and travel restrictions no one has traveled in almost a year making references and recommendations impossible to come by.

·         Secondly, because of Covid’s fury, even older references are suspect because the status of many venues has changed dramatically, many of which have closed permanently. Everything has changed.

Once freedom of travel becomes a reality there will be limited travel choices, nothing that all the time and money can overcome which means that there’s no way to accurately predict the new tourism landscape.

Feast or Famine

The vaccine’s uneven distribution has begun with richer countries getting priority because of money, logistical distribution while developing and emerging markets, highly dependent are at the back of the line. The latter rely almost exclusively dependent on tourism for revenue.

Like the dynamics of a funnel vaccinated tourists from rich countries will have difficult traveling to developing and emerging countries may still be banned or have limited access because of on-going high public health risks in developing and emerging countries. For this reason domestic tourism will rebound, even flourish, well before international travel.

Furthermore an economy that is “opening up” is defined differently in each country and open to interpretation such as freedom of movement. Tourist may enter a country but will be restricted to specific resorts that are prison-like, gated-community. For this reason the global hospitality industry recovery will be asymmetrical and contingent on location.

Business Travelers

Business road warriors are hospitality’s revenue and profit margin bread & butter. Nonetheless even domestically there will be far fewer business travelers all of whom will be on limited budgets with shorter stays and lower entertainment expenditures.

The business traveler demographic will probably consist of the business core essentials: C-suite executives and technical/sales personnel. During the lockdowns the effectiveness of teleconferencing has been proven to resolve most issues which eliminates future business travel for mid-level personnel.

Present-Day State of Global Tourism

Global tourism is a critical component of the world’s economy. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council there are 330 million hospitality jobs worldwide which represent one-tenth of the global work force and 10.3% of the global GDP in 2019.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization(UNWTO) chart entitled Covid-19’s Crushing Impact on International Tourism provided by Statista, an online statistical service, articulates how the pandemic has adversely impacted the global hospitality industry:



“Domestically, according to the US Travel Association US travel spending is down 45% from 2019. Already 3.5 million or 40% of the travel jobs have been lost with an additional one million by year’s end.” Their forecast is that pre-pandemic levels won’t return until 2024.

Even with limited international openings, domestic tourism will far outstrip international tourism because in an increasingly unstable geopolitical world notably Americans will be more comfortable traveling in their own country with the same language, culture, and rapid ease of return travel to their hometowns in case of sudden full lockdown mandates.

With respect to the hospitality industry financially, the pandemic has been a crushing blow. The following chart developed by UNWTO and presented by Statista entitled Tourism Back to 1990 Levels as Pandemic Halts Travel powerfully underscores this reality and the difficulty in recovery:


Zero Hour | The Re-Set

Of all the components in international tourism airlines are best suited to adapt to the uneven recovery. Historically airlines are far better prepared and adaptable in adjusting to demand with fewer flights, smaller aircraft, re-routing through hubs, etc. maintain competitive pricing while securing a reasonable profit. On the other hand geographically fixed services such as hotels have a fixed costs and fixed number of rooms and do not have the means to reduce the cost of those unfilled rooms.

With respect to the international and domestic hospitality industry, the logistical challenges and manufacturing to scale of the vaccine will continue to be problematic and delay global economic recovery through most of 2021. Furthermore the continued global economic recession will depress travel & leisure demand which means that the hospitality industry recovery will be arduously slow and painful.

 

© Copyright 2021 Cerulean Council LLC

The Cerulean Council is a NYC-based think-tank that provides prescient, beyond-the-horizon, contrarian perspectives and risk assessments on geopolitical dynamics and global urban security.