Which side should we be on in the mostly peaceful Eritrean dispute?

Apparently, a mostly peaceful conflict between two groups within Eritrea has entitled people from both sides of the conflict to claim asylum in Europe and the U.S. This has resulted in the mostly peaceful conflict continuing in The Hague and in, for example, North Carolina. “Charlotte protesters attack officers, set tractor-trailer on fire in riot at Eritrean ‘cultural event’: police” (Fox News):

The Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department said eight people were arrested Saturday during a 10-hour “protest and standoff” that stemmed from an Eritrean “cultural event.”

Clashes erupted between rival groups of Eritreans, and police confirmed that officers trying to disperse the unlawful crowds were attacked by people wielding sticks, rocks and other items.

Crowds also set a tractor on fire in North Carolina’s largest city, and police seized a total of two firearms over the course of several hours.

There seems to be some confusion regarding what language Eritreans speak:

“The officers were met with violence and hostility, with protesters throwing objects,” the department said in its initial press release. “Over the course of several hours, the CEU gave multiple dispersal orders in English and Spanish and were again met with violence from protesters wielding sticks, rocks and other items.”

What is the source of the mostly peaceful peace?

Tens of thousands of people have fled Eritrea for Europe, many alleging they were mistreated by the repressive government of President Isaias Afwerki. The conflicts underscore deep divisions among members of the Eritrean diaspora between those who remain close to the government and those who have fled to live in exile and strongly oppose Afwerki.

We know how to be on the right side of history (next to Vladimir Putin) with respect to the Israel v. Islamic Resistance Movement (“Hamas”), UNRWA, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, et al. situation. But which side in the Eritrean v. Eritrean peace should we be on? Which side corresponds to Hamas in terms of having created an ideal progressive society?


  • Wikipedia page on Isaias Afwerki: As a leader of the Eritrean rebellion against Ethiopia’s annexation of the Eritrean coastal region in 1977, Isaias became an icon of resistance. … In his first few years Isaias was hailed as a new type of African president with then-US President Bill Clinton referring to him as a “renaissance African leader”. … In 2009, Isaias advocated for the development of indigenous political and economic institutions… In 2018, Isaias oversaw an unexpected transformation of Eritrea’s relations with Ethiopia. The 20-year stalemate ended after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018. Abiy signed a “joint declaration of peace and friendship” at a bilateral summit on 9 July, restoring diplomatic and trade ties with Eritrea. … Shortly before Eritrea declared independence, Isaias contracted cerebral malaria and was flown to Israel for treatment. Arriving in a coma, he was treated at Sheba Medical Center, where he recovered after successful treatment. … His training in China made him a great admirer of Mao Zedong…
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Eliminate the U.S. Navy given Ukraine’s success with sea drones?

“Ukraine says it has sunk another warship, disabling a third of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet” (CNN):

Ukraine claims it has now disabled a third of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet after its military intelligence said it sank another Russian warship in a sea drone attack off the coast of Crimea on Wednesday.

Russia’s landing ship Caesar Kunikov was attacked with “MAGURA” V5 drones that punctured “critical holes” on its left side before sinking, the Ukrainian military intelligence agency said on Telegram.

After the attack on the Ivanovets, CNN interviewed Ukraine’s secretive sea drone unit behind the strike at a location near the Ukrainian coastal city of Odesa. One of the drone pilots behind the attack told CNN that 10 “MAGURA” drones were used in the attack, six of which hit and ultimately sunk the Russian warship.

“MAGURA” drones are only a few meters long and powered by jet skis, a pilot from a special unit in Ukraine’s defense intelligence agency told CNN earlier this year.

But they have a large range of around 800 kilometers (nearly 500 miles), so military units can launch drones from across large swathes of Ukraine’s coastline for missions against Crimean targets.

Of course, the U.S. Navy is a more capable force than the Russian Navy, but the future will bring more capable drones than what Ukraine has built and deployed. An adversary with 1/100th of our resources can still build a massive sea drone fleet. Is it safe to bet that drone technology will advance faster than ship technology? If so, why do we want to fund an enormous Navy that could be just as vulnerable to a sophisticated adversary as the Russian Navy has been to Ukraine’s drone tech?

How is the drone below readily distinguished from some of the fast skiffs that Houthis are using and that the U.S. Navy interacts with at close range?


  • USS Cole bombing (“a small fiberglass boat carrying C4 explosives and two suicide bombers approached the port side of the destroyer and exploded … Speakers in the Yemeni parliament ‘calling for jihad against America’ were broadcast on local television each night.”)
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Egypt builds the wall

“Egypt is building a new walled buffer zone more than 2 miles wide on Gaza border, satellite images show” (CNN):

Egypt is building a massive miles-wide buffer zone and wall along its border with southern Gaza, new satellite images show, as fears grow over Israel’s planned ground offensive in Rafah where more than half of Gaza’s population is sheltering.

The images, taken in the past five days by Maxar Technologies, show a significant section of Egyptian territory between a roadway and the Gaza border has been bulldozed.

If the buffer zone — which stretches from the end of the Gaza border to the Mediterranean Sea — is completed, it will completely engulf the Egyptian-Rafah border crossing complex.

At the actual border, multiple cranes can be seen laying sections of wall.

Additional satellite imagery reviewed by CNN shows that bulldozers arrived on site on February 3, and the initial excavation of the buffer zone began on February 6.

If Joe Biden wants to boost his/her/zir/their reelection chances, perhaps he/she/ze/they should hire the Egyptians to secure the U.S. border (though, actually, Mexicans could probably do a great job as well if we paid them instead of expecting them to work for free on our behalf after we created an attractive nuisance by offering four generations of taxpayer-funded housing, health care, food, smartphone, and broadband to anyone willing to cross from Mexico).

(Using a range of pronouns above because it is unclear that Joe Biden remembers his/her/zir/their gender ID.)

Same story in the New York Times:

Is it fair to say that there are more unauthorized crossings of the U.S. border every day (at least 10,000) than there are of the Egypt-Gaza border in an entire year?

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Should Israel hire mercenaries from Nepal to deal with armed Palestinians?

A Ukrainian friend shared “Russia has recruited as many as 15,000 Nepalis to fight its war. Many returned traumatized. Some never came back” (CNN):

He is one of as many as 15,000 Nepali men to have joined the Russian military, multiple sources have told CNN, after the Russian government last year announced a lucrative package for foreign fighters to join the country’s military.

The package included at least $2,000 salary a month and a fast-tracked process to obtain a Russian passport. Nepal’s passport is ranked one of the worst in the world for global mobility, below North Korea, according to an index created by global citizenship and residence advisory firm Henley & Partners, and the Himalayan nation is among the world’s poorest, with a per capita GDP of $1,336 for 2022, according to World Bank data.

Israelis have gotten a huge amount of bad press for fighting against the Islamic Resistance Movement (“Hamas”), UNRWA, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and other armed groups within Gaza. Critics say that Israeli soldiers have killed too high a ratio of civilians to soldiers (how anyone can know this is beyond me, given that the Hamas-run health authorities in Gaza do not distinguish between civilian and combatant “martyrs”).

What if the noble Palestinians weren’t being attacked by the evil First World Israeli soldiers (most of whom are Jews, though some of whom are Arabs/Muslims)? Suppose that it was a “brown people” v. “brown people” fight. Wouldn’t white progressives who support Hamas have a lot more difficulty criticizing the non-Hamas side?

The Israelis could easily afford to outbid the Russians, paying $4,000 per month, for example, and the noble Gazans do not seem to be as fearsome opponents as the Ukrainians so it would be a safer job.

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Somerville, Maskachusetts votes for permanent Hamas rule of Gaza

“Somerville City Council calls for ceasefire in Gaza” (Boston Herald):

The Somerville City Council is requesting President Biden to call for a ceasefire in Gaza but stopped short of endorsing a measure calling for the dismantling of Hamas and the administration of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Roughly 500 supporters packed Somerville City Hall on Thursday, crowding the Council Chamber and two overflow rooms to make their voices heard that fighting must come to an end in Gaza.

Councilors deliberated for well over two hours before approving in a vote of a 9–2 resolution that received multiple amendments. It explicitly calls for an “enduring ceasefire, provision of life-saving humanitarian aid in Gaza, and the release of all hostages.”

If there is an “enduring ceasefire” doesn’t that also mean enduring rule by the Islamic Resistance Movement (“Hamas”)? Separately, the parallelism here is tough to miss:

Councilor Kristen Strezo proposed an amendment demanding the dismantling of Hamas as well as the dismantling of the Netanyahu administration.

From state-sponsored public radio/TV:

Somerville is the first city in Massachusetts to call for a ceasefire, according to the local advocacy group Somerville For Palestine. Other local governments, including San Francisco and Minneapolis, have also passed resolutions. Cambridge City Council will hear its own ceasefire resolution on Monday, and it’s expected to pass.

I would love to see one of these cities take the next logical step and vote to have Hamas officials come over and govern a city here. If Hamas is an ideal government for Palestinians then why isn’t it an ideal government for Americans, both documented and undocumented?

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What stops Yemenis from coming through the southern border to attack Americans at home?

From “Houthis Vow to Respond After U.S. Leads Strikes in Yemen” (NYT):

What stops everyone in the above photo from coming across the southern border and delivering their response to U.S. aggression here on American soil? They should immediately qualify for asylum merely by saying “I didn’t support the Houthis and they were targeting me”. Who here in the U.S. can distinguish a Houthi-supporting Yemeni from a Yemeni who doesn’t support the Houthi government?

If we’re going to have an open southern border, should we try to get along with everyone worldwide?

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Why is a civilian in Gazan a “martyr” if he/she/ze/they is killed in the current battles?

We are informed that the typical Gazan has no relationship with the Islamic Resistance Movement (“Hamas”) and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. It is an accident that Hamas governs Gaza, which is otherwise populated by entirely peaceful humans. At the same time, anyone in Gaza who is killed in the latest fighting has been referred to, both by Palestinians and westerners in the do-gooder industry, as a “martyr”. One wouldn’t refer to a person killed in a car accident as a “martyr”. How can someone who wasn’t in any way aiding Hamas or PIJ and who didn’t go into Israel on October 7 be characterized as a “martyr” if he/she/ze/they is, unfortunately, killed by being in the wrong place at the wrong time?

(Note that recent opinion polls show 75 percent of Palestinians supporting Hamas and 85 percent supporting PIJ.)

Here’s an example from a Norwegian do-gooder:

There is an entire Twitter account devoted to stories of peace-loving civilians who have become “martyrs”:

Note the martyr wearing a huge “PRESS” sign on his chest despite the fact that we’ve been informed since October 8 that the IDF Is specifically targeting journalists and killing them via snipers and airstrikes (example). Since journalists don’t need special outfits to do their jobs, if what we’re told about the IDF is true why are Palestinian journalists choosing to make themselves targets with huge “PRESS” signs front and back and unique blue outfits? Are they seeking martyrdom by making themselves readily identifiable from a helicopter or drone? Below a group of “PRESS”-/blue-clad figures gathered in the open where any passing helicopter or drone can see them (source). If they believe what they’ve written, i.e., that journalists are targets for the IDF, they’re endangering the huge crowd of non-journalists surrounding them.

Here’s another example and it includes what seems to be a standard phrase for Palestinians: “rest in power” (rather than “rest in peace”):

(in other words, they will keep (powerfully) fighting the hated Israelis from beyond the grave?)

Separately, could it be that Palestinians are SWATting each other? Here’s a story about a peace-loving family in Gaza with “no verified Hamas presence nearby”… “Why Did Israel Kill My Family in Gaza and Destroy My Childhood Home?” (Newsweek, December 28, 2023):

There were no armed clashes, no Israeli ground troops, and no verified Hamas presence nearby. My family, on both my dad’s and mom’s sides, come from a long line of technocratic professionals who are independent and not involved with any political party.

The death toll surpassed 31. All five of my aunts and uncles who were in the building were instantly killed. Additionally, nine children as young as three and four months old, along with their parents and almost all of my cousins were killed in the airstrike

My vocal opposition to Hamas has drawn the ire of some of the pro-Palestine community, which finds my critiques of the Islamist group untimely, undue, unhelpful, or quite frankly inconvenient to their resistance narratives.

Faulty intelligence, inconsistent rules of engagement, the use of massive ordnances in crowded and dense civilian areas, and the application of overwhelming firepower to support advancing troops are regularly causing the needless loss of Gazans’ lives.

The author says that his previous writings regarding Hamas have “drawn ire”. Perhaps his family (100+ members if 31 were killed by one bomb? (Palestinians have been the world’s most demographically successful humans since the establishment of UNRWA)) was SWATted by a fellow Palestinian who called up the IDF to say that three senior Hamas commanders were at the house that was destroyed from the air.

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Did the Western countries now fighting with Yemen provide the funding for Yemen’s military efforts?

A society’s resources are finite. What is spent on military activities cannot be spent on food, health care, education, etc. Arabs declared war on Israel 75 years ago, rejecting the UN Partition Plan and vowing to kill or expel all of the Jews. Palestinians are able to keep this old war going because US and EU taxpayers, through UNRWA, fund all of the basic needs that motivate most people worldwide to work rather than wage war.

I’m wondering if the same dynamic is at work in Yemen. Let’s compare France, for example, one of the donor countries, to Yemen in terms of population growth:

Yemenis are far more successful demographically, it seems, than the French. Nonetheless, absent transfers of funds from French workers to various UN and NGO programs operating in Yemen, the Yemenis would have to devote a lot of time, money, and effort into feeding themselves and all of their kids. If the UN steps in to feed Yemenis, however, Yemenis can look around and find other stuff to do with what are now surplus resources.

People in Yemen, freed from the need to work for food, can demonstrate all day every day:

The Yemenis have been attacking ships in the Red Sea, which has prompted the U.S. to park a naval force in the area. They’re mobilizing ground troops as well:

If we assume that money is fungible, the countries now in a fight with Yemen are paying for both sides of the fight. Every person in Yemen who skips work to demonstrate was bankrolled by the US/EU. Every weapon in every image was purchased with US/EU money.

Could the foreign aid truly be large enough to fund a country’s entire military? See, for example, “Additional Humanitarian Assistance for the People of Yemen” (US Department of State, February 2023):

Today, I am announcing our contribution of more than $444 million, exemplifying the continued generosity of the people of the United States for the people of Yemen. As one of the largest donors, this brings our total to the humanitarian response in Yemen to over $5.4 billion since the conflict began.

Yemen supposedly was spending about $1.7 billion per year on its military in pre-Biden money back before the war over the best way to practice the Religion of Peace. Thus, $5.4 billion over time should fund quite a significant military effort. Every dollar that the U.S. sent to Yemen for food was a dollar freed up for the Yemenis to buy guns, ammo, missiles, drones, etc. and those weapons shouldn’t have cost more than $5.4 billion.

Separately, with today’s population being more than 6X what it was in 1950, with no additional agricultural land or resources added, the Giant Brains (TM) of the United Nations say that the struggle to make ends meet is due to climate:

It’s not that 33 million humans are now trying to live in a land that can produce enough food for 5 million (see “Imported food constitutes 83% of the daily calories’ intake of Yemenis.” (reliefweb.int)). it is not that those tens of millions of people have been fighting each other over the issue of what form of Islam is best (the civil war). It is atmospheric CO2 that is making life tough for Yemenis.

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Why doesn’t Israel return fire when Gazans launch rockets at Tel Aviv?

If an enemy fires a rocket at you it should be reasonably easy with radar analysis to figure out the approximate launch location. ,The Gazans have been trying to kill civilians in Israel for 22 years (partial list) so the Israelis have had plenty of time to tune the software and hardware necessary. The question for today is why the Israelis don’t shoot back at the launch locations. Israel has moved a lot of 155mm artillery pieces into and around Gaza. The range of one of these guns is 13 miles and the shells aren’t expensive by military standards. If a launch is detected, why not at least shoot back with a 155mm shell or two?

Palestinians seem to be confident that no return fire will be directed at them. Gazans fired a salvo at Tel Aviv on New Year’s Eve, for example:

If 155mm shells were a standard response to such launches, you’d expect Gazans to run away from the launch site immediately after seeing a launch. Instead, the audio track of this video records a crowd of Gazans cheering as spectators:

I’m sure that Israel would be criticized for returning fire, but I’m not sure what international law would be broken by doing so. If someone shoots are you, you can shoot back, right? That’s true even in California! If a 155mm shell happened to land on one of the handful of Gazans who opposes war with Israel, that’s a shame, but there is no requirement that return fire hit its target within a specified number of meters (indeed, the Islamic Resistance Movement (“Hamas”), Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Party of Allah (“Hezbollah”) all sometimes launch projectiles that fall short of Israeli territory and, presumably, hit people who weren’t the intended targets). If the practice of returning fire were standard, presumably the civilian death toll would quickly fall as people learned to run away after seeing a rocket launch.

What am I missing? Why has Israel trained the Gazans to believe that rockets can be launched without any possibility of return fire?

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Israel’s ponderous conventional military on October 7

This one goes into the Department of Important, but Depressing… I had been wondering why most of Israel’s attack helicopters, at least, weren’t on the scene on October 7 within an hour or two. (Though Wikipedia reminds us that an attack helicopter isn’t the best tool for an ambiguous situation:

In September 2015, an Egyptian Apache attacked a group of foreign tourists in the Western Desert, killing 12 people and injuring 10. The AH-64s fired at the civilians with rockets and 30mm machine guns for several hours, even though survivors said they waved the white flag. The Egyptian Interior Ministry stated that the group, whom were mistaken for militants, were in a restricted area. The tourists were reportedly accompanied by Egyptian police, and their vehicles were marked with logos of the tourist company.

The situation on Oct 7 was confusing because the invaders included armed men in an array of uniforms (including “no uniform”) and some “Gaza civilians” in civilian clothes).

Today’s New York Times also tries to figure out why the powerful IDF was so ponderous and ill-prepared for what in retrospect seems like an obvious hazard (the Islamic Resistance Movement (“Hamas”) and Palestinian Islamic Jihad both having publicly proclaimed their intent to kill Israelis, take over Israel, etc.). “On Oct. 7, Hamas terrorists made attacking Israel look easy.” (non-paywalled version, but the extensive videos from Hamas bodycams don’t work):

The full reasons behind the military’s slow response may take months to understand. The government has promised an inquiry. But a New York Times investigation found that Israel’s military was undermanned, out of position and so poorly organized that soldiers communicated in impromptu WhatsApp groups and relied on social media posts for targeting information. Commandos rushed into battle armed only for brief combat. Helicopter pilots were ordered to look to news reports and Telegram channels to choose targets.

And perhaps most damning: The Israel Defense Forces did not even have a plan to respond to a large-scale Hamas attack on Israeli soil, according to current and former soldiers and officers. If such a plan existed on a shelf somewhere, the soldiers said, no one had trained on it and nobody followed it. The soldiers that day made it up as they went along.

Previously undisclosed documents reviewed by The Times show just how drastically the military misread the situation. Records from early in the day show that, even during the attack, the military still assessed that Hamas, at best, would be able to breach Israel’s border fence in just a few places. A separate intelligence document, prepared weeks later, shows that Hamas teams actually breached the fence in more than 30 locations and quickly moved deep into southern Israel.

Hamas fighters poured into Israel with heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, land mines and more. [corroborated by the fact that they managed to kill at least one tank crew] They were prepared to fight for days. Israeli commandos apparently believed they would be fighting for just hours; one said he set out that morning without his night-vision goggles.

The small size of the teams suggested that commanders fundamentally misunderstood the threat. Troops rolled out with pistols and assault rifles, enough to face a band of hostage-taking terrorists, but not to go into full-scale battle. … “The terrorists had a distinct tactical advantage in firepower,” said Yair Ansbacher, 40, a reservist in a counterterrorism unit who fought on Oct. 7. He and his colleagues mainly used pistols, assault rifles and sometimes sniper rifles, he said.

Davidi Ben Zion, 38, a major in the reserves, said reservists never trained to respond at a moment’s notice to an invasion. The training assumed that Israeli intelligence would learn of a looming invasion in advance, giving reservists time to prepare to deploy. “The procedure states that we have the battalion ready for combat in 24 hours,” he said. “There’s a checklist to authorize the distribution of everything. We practiced this for many years.”

Even at noon, according to another Southern Command official, officers there did not understand what was happening. They assessed that Hamas had sent about 200 gunmen into Israel. They were off by a factor of 10.

Are there any heroes?

With communication out of Re’im disrupted and military leaders in Tel Aviv struggling to understand the scope of the attack, Maglan turned to an unlikely source for information: Refael Hayun, a 40-year-old who lived with his parents in Netivot, about five miles from Gaza.

Mr. Hayun watched Hamas videos of the attack in real time on social media and relayed information to Maglan’s officers. He began fielding WhatsApp messages from people trying to save their children, friends and themselves.

“Hi Refael, we’re stuck in a trash container near the party location,” one message read. “Please come rescue us. We’re 16 people.”

Mr. Hayun relayed those locations to the commandos, but they did not grasp the enormity of the fight. One Maglan team killed several terrorists near a base in Zikim, just north of Gaza, but they didn’t realize until 11 a.m. that Hamas fighters had stormed Kfar Aza, where some of the worst fighting took place.

Maybe this is just in the nature of conventional militaries. They have the power to level cities, but, with the exception of responding to incoming aircraft (or rockets), are slow to get started. Sad, nonetheless.

Second Amendment fans here may be cheered to learn that the sluggish response of the IDF has motivated a lot of Israelis to apply for gun permits, though even trained IDF soldiers with military rifles were no match for the thousands of Hamas fighters with RPGs and true machine guns. From an Israeli friend:

on last Friday I went to renew my gun license. a normal procedure.

I was the oldest in the 24 people group – many of them were at the age of 25-35 and they went for their first time to the shooting range in order to appeal for a license.

I got 99 bullets into the center (one hit the target but was a bit aside 🙂 ) and then got 20 out of 20 in the final exam (you need to have 14 in the center in order to pass and all the rest in the target itself and not outside)

According to my Israeli friends, Arab citizens of Israel have been solid supporters of the IDF’s efforts in Gaza (i.e., a white progressive in California is far more supportive of the Islamic Resistance Movement (“Hamas”) than an Islamic Arab citizen of Israel). If they want to join a well-organized militia against the next attack by Gazans they can apply for and receive a gun permit. However, military service is optional for Arab Israelis and most Arab citizens lack the necessary military experience to qualify for the permit.

The videos selected by the NYT show Gazans killing Israelis in cars, mostly with ordinary rifles (what Americans call “assault rifles”). If every driver had a Tavor in the trunk, perhaps at least some would have been able to pull over, use the car as cover, and make life difficult for the Gazans.

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