[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEDU1OC_pNI] Doing research for the Brannigan’s Blackhearts series can get interesting. Since most of my experience has been in the Middle East, sometimes I’ve got to dig to figure stuff out for other regions. As I point out at one point in Frozen Conflict, much of combat tactics boil down to common sense, and therefore there are certain common factors in good tactics. But sometimes, groups and nations don’t necessarily teach good tactics. So, trying to figure out what Transnistrian Army soldiers would do when trying to clear a structure, I had to dig for some regular Russian Army footage (not the carefully tailored, backflipping hatchet attack Spetsnaz stuff; these are regular grunts). It’s still going to be an approximation, but I found a bit of urban warfare footage in the above video, mostly starting at about 2:20. It’s a doozy, too. Lets just say that we’d have had the snot bubbles thrashed out of us at Bn for the kind of fire discipline (or lack thereof) these guys show… Sucks to be a hostage…
Mexico isn’t really the focus of Brannigan’s Blackhearts #3 – Enemy Unidentified (certainly not like it was in The Devil You Don’t Know), but the violence, corruption, and crime that is endemic there form part of the backdrop. In addition to a scene I recently wrote, where Santelli and Tanaka are gearing up for the team’s mission in Texas, this recently caught my eye. Borderland Beat has long been a good source to find news about the ongoing narco-insurgency in Mexico and much of the government corruption and malfeasance that continues to fuel it while ignoring the plight of those Mexicans caught in the crossfire. Well, recently they published an opinion piece that repeats a number of talking points that have been used in reference to the drug war, namely that it’s all ultimately the US’ fault.
While Russia has taken front and center attention recently, due to the use of Russian agitprop to influence the internal affairs of Russia’s chief strategic rival (i.e., us), Russia is not the only major power that sees the US as a rival in its regional and global strategic goals. (Strangely, most of the outrage over Russia right now seems to be focused on their information and influence operations, rather than the continuing frozen conflicts in Ukraine, Transnistria, Nagorno-Kharabakh, and South Ossetia, to name only a few. But that’s another matter for another post.) China, in addition to conducting quiet resource-gathering operations worldwide, with a pronounced tendency not to care what kind of criminals they’re doing business with (see: shipping illegally mined iron ore out of the port of Lazaro-Cardenas in Mexico while that port was under control of the Caballeros Templarios cartel), has been expanding its regional military power projection, mostly focused on the South China Sea. Not only do several major shipping lanes pass through the South China Sea, making control of the waters there strategically important for reasons of power projection, but the two primary disputed island chains, the Paracels and the Spratlys, are thought to contain oil
One of the themes I tried to explore a little in Lex Talionis is civil strife and out-and-out civil war. (The line between “revolution” and “civil war” is thin, murky, and often non-existent. A “civil war” ends up, much of the time, being a “revolution” that didn’t succeed right away.) Some of the reason for this was, admittedly, in reaction to not only some of the civil strife we’ve already seen on the streets of American cities (and out in the boonies, as well, with the Cliven Bundy bunch), but also some of the calls I’ve seen on the blogosphere and social media, on both sides of the political divide, for “revolution” or “let’s get the civil war over with already.”
While I’ve generally tried to stay away from the current partisan mudslinging, anyone who has read Lex Talionis should know that I don’t see the current hyper-ventilating divide getting better anytime soon. And that I also don’t see it as completely homegrown. There has been a lot of hysteria (and casual dismissal) about Russian Information Operations in regard to the election, lately. The Democrats are claiming that the Kremlin “hacked” the election, while the Republicans are demanding proof of actual Russian cyber warfare to effect the election results, which so far is not forthcoming. But what keeps getting lost in the shuffle is what Information Operations are.
This post, while following on from the last one, will be addressing a bit more of a broad problem across genres. It’s gotten a lot more talk in the science fiction and fantasy genres (particularly fantasy) than it has in the thriller genre, but it still applies. The fantasy version of this has been most recently highlighted by the work of George R.R. Martin, though there are plenty of authors working along a similar vein, which has been coined “grimdark,” a term that became at first something of a joke, based on the tag-line for the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop sci-fantasy wargame: “In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.” Taken to its extreme, it can become so ludicrous that it shades into “grimderp.”
A friend of mine just ran up against the fact that the research questions he was asking for an Unconventional Warfare story may or may not have run up against the brick wall labeled “Classified.” As in, “You’re not supposed to know the answers to those questions, let alone put them in a book. Stop asking.” This got me thinking about a few things I’ve run up against as an author over the last few years.
I’ve shied away from writing about writing, since I’m still learning myself, but I had a thought recently that I figured could use some fleshing out. So here goes.
China has been a player in a couple of my novels, now. The Devil You Don’t Know dealt in part with the PRC’s dealings with Mexican cartels. Kill Yuan is set on the periphery of the perennial flashpoint of the South China Sea. Neither are new, though the South China Sea is becoming more and more of a focus, as China continues to push the US Navy as well as all of their maritime neighbors to the south, including Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia. The Spratlys have been a flashpoint with China’s neighbors for decades. The Chinese claim actually, according to Beijing and Taipei (which claims the islands under the auspices of the Nationalist Chinese government that preceded Mao’s Red China), dates back to the Han Dynasty, in 2 BC. Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, and the Philippines also claim the islands. In recent years, the PRC has begun building up reefs in the South China Sea into artificial islands, claiming that these are for scientific research such as fish population studies, though, in spite of the conspicuous operation of civilian airliners on the artificial island on Fiery Reef, there appears to be plenty of military equipment on the islands. They have