PEPE ESCOBAR: Empire of Chaos in Hybrid War Overdrive

The Trump administration’s foreign policy may be easily deconstructed as a crossover between The Sopranos and late-night comedy, writes Pepe Escobar.

By Pepe Escobar
in Bangkok
Special to Consortium News

Is this the Age of Anxiety? The Age of Stupidity? The Age of Hybrid War? Or all of the above?

As right populism learns to use algorithms, artificial intelligence (AI) and media convergence, the Empire of Chaos, in parallel, is unleashing all-out hybrid and semiotic war.

Dick Cheney’s Global War on Terror (GWOT) is back, metastasized as a hybrid mongrel.

But GWOT would not be GWOT without a Wild West scarecrow. Enter Hamza bin Laden, son of Osama. On the same day the State Department announced a $1 million bounty on his head, the so- called “UN Security Council IS and Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee” declared Hamza the next al-Qaeda leader.

Since January 2017, Hamza has been a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the State Department – on par with his deceased Dad, back in the early 2000s. The Beltway intel community “believes” Hamza resides “in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.”

Remember these are the same people who “believed” former Taliban leader Mullah Omar resided in Quetta, Baluchistan, when in fact he was safely ensconced only a few miles away from a massive U.S. military base in Zabul, Afghanistan.

Considering that Jabhat al-Nusra, or al-Qaeda in Syria, for all practical purposes, was defined as no more than “moderate rebels” by the Beltway intel community, it’s safe to infer that new scarecrow Hamza is also a “moderate”. And yet he’s more dangerous than vanished fake Caliph Abu Baqr al-Baghdadi. Talk about a masterful example of culture jamming.

Show Me The Big Picture

A hefty case can be made that the Empire of Chaos currently has no allies; it’s essentially surrounded by an assortment of vassals, puppets and comprador 5thcolumnist elites professing varied degrees of – sometimes reluctant – obedience.

The Trump administration’s foreign policy may be easily deconstructed as a crossover between The Sopranos and late-night comedy – as in the whole episode of designating State Department/CIA regime change, lab experiment Random Dude as President of Venezuela. Legendary cultural critic Walter Benjamin would have called it “the aestheticization of politics,” (turning politics into art), as he did about the Nazis, but this time it’s the Looney Tunes version.

To add to the conceptual confusion, despite countless “an offer you can’t refuse” antics unleashed by psychopaths of the John Bolton and Mike Pompeo variety, there’s this startling nugget. Former Iranian diplomat Amir Moussavi has revealed that Trump himself demanded to visit Tehran, and was duly rebuffed. “Two European states, two Arab countries and one Southeast Asian state” were mediating a series of messages relayed by Trump and his son-in-law Jared “of Arabia” Kushner, according to Moussavi.

Is there a method to this madness? An attempt at a Grand Narrative would go something like this: ISIS/Daesh may have been sidelined – for now; they are not useful anymore, so the U.S. must fight the larger “evil”: Tehran. GWOT has been revived, and though Hamza bin Laden has been designated the new Caliph, GWOT has shifted to Iran.

When we mix this with the recent India-Pakistan scuffle, a wider message emerges. There was absolutely no interest by Prime Minister Imran Kahn, the Pakistani Army and the Pakistani intelligence, ISI, to launch an attack on India in Kashmir. Pakistan was about to run out of money and about to be bolstered by the U.S., via Saudi Arabia with $20 billion and an IMF loan.

At the same time, there were two almost simultaneous terrorist attacks launched from Pakistan – against Iran and against India in mid-February. There’s no smoking gun yet, but these attacks may have been manipulated by a foreign intelligence agency. The Cui Bono riddle is which state would profit immensely from a war between Pakistan and Iran and/or a war between Pakistan and India.

The bottom line: hiding in the shadow of plausible deniability – according to which what we understand as reality is nothing but pure perception – the Empire of Chaos will resort to the chaos of no-holds-barred hybrid war to avoid “losing” the Eurasian heartland.

Show Me How Many Hybrid Plans You Got

What applies to the heartland of course also applies to the backyard.

The case of Venezuela shows that the “all options on the table” scenario has been de facto aborted by Russia, outlined in an astonishing briefing by Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman of the Russian Foreign Ministry, and then subsequently detailed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Lavrov. (Wikimedia Commons)

Meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj at a crucial RIC (part of BRICS) summit in China,Lavrov said, “Russia keeps a close eye on brazen US attempts to create an artificial pretext for a military intervention in Venezuela… The actual implementation of these threats is pulling in military equipment and training [US] Special Forces.”

Lavrov explained how Washington was engaged in acquiring mortars and portable air defense systems “in an East European country, and mov(ing) them closer to Venezuela by an airline of a regime that is… rather absolutely obedient to Washington in the post-Soviet space.”

The U.S. attempt at regime change in Venezuela has been so far unsuccessful in several ways. Plan A – a classic color revolution -has miserably failed, in part because of a lack of decent local intelligence. Plan B was a soft version of humanitarian imperialism, with a resuscitation of the nefarious, Libya-tested responsibility to protect (R2P); it also failed, especially when the American tale that the Venezuelan government burnt humanitarian aid trucks at the border with Colombia was a lie, exposed by The New York Times, no less.

Plan C was a classic Hybrid War technique: a cyberattack, replete with a revival of Nitro Zeus, which shut down 80 percent of Venezuela’s electricity.

That plan had already been exposed by WikiLeaks, via a 2010 memo by a U.S.-funded, Belgrade-based color revolution scam that helped train self-proclaimed “President” Random Dude, when he was just known as Juan Guaidó. The leaked memo said that attacking the Venezuelan power grid would be a “watershed event” that “would likely have the impact of galvanizing public unrest in a way that no opposition group could ever hope to generate.”

But even that was not enough.

That leaves Plan D – which is essentially to try to starve the Venezuelan population to death via viciously lethal additional sanctions. Sanctioned Syria and sanctioned Iran didn’t collapse. Even boasting myriad comprador elites aggregated in the Lima group, exceptionalists may have to come to grips with the fact that deploying the Monroe doctrine essentially to contain China’s influence in the young 21stcentury is no “cakewalk.”

Plan E—for extreme—would be U.S. military action, which Bolton won’t take off the table.

Show Me the Way to the Next War Game

So where do all these myriad weaponizations of chaos theory leave us? Nowhere, if they don’t follow the money. Local comprador elites must be lavishly rewarded, otherwise you’re stuck in hybrid swamp territory. That was the case in Brazil – and that’s why the most sophisticated hybrid war case history so far has been a success.

In 2013, Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks revealed how the NSA was spying on Brazilian energy giant Petrobras and the Dilma Rousseff government beginning in 2010. Afterwards, a complex, rolling judicial-business-political-financial-media coup ended up reaching its two main objectives; in 2016, with the impeachment of Rousseff, and in 2018, with Lula thrown in jail.

Now comes arguably the juiciest piece of the puzzle. Petrobras was supposed to pay $853 million to the U.S. Department of Justice for not going to trial for crimes it was being accused of in America. But then a dodgy deal was struck according to which the fine will be transferred to a Brazilian fund as long as Petrobras commits to relay confidential information about its businesses to the United States government.

Mattis: Wrote on hybrid war in 2005.

Hybrid war against BRICS member Brazil worked like a charm, but trying it against nuclear superpower Russia is a completely different ball game. U.S. analysts, in another case of culture jamming, even accuse Russia itself of deploying hybrid war – a concept actually invented in the U.S. within a counter-terrorism context; applied during the occupation of Iraq and later metastasized across the color revolution spectrum; and featuring, among others, in an article co-authored by former Pentagon head James “Mad Dog” Mattis in 2005 when he was a mere lieutenant general.

At a recent conference about Russia’s military strategy, Chief of General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov stressed that the Russian armed forces must increase both their “classic” and “asymmetrical” potential. In the U.S. this is interpreted as subversion/propaganda hybrid war techniques as applied in Ukraine and in the largely debunked Russia-gate. Instead, Russian strategists refer to these techniques as “complex approach” and “new generation war”.

Santa Monica’s RAND Corporation still sticks to good ol’ hot war scenarios. They have been holding “Red on Blue” war games simulations since 1952 – modeling how the proverbial “existential threats” could use asymmetric strategies. The latest Red on Blue was not exactly swell. RAND analyst David Ochmanek famously said that with Blue representing the current U.S. military potential and Red representing Russia-China in a conventional war, “Blue gets its ass handed to it.”

None of this will convince Empire of Chaos functionary Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who recently told a Senate Armed Services Committee that the Pentagon will continue to refuse a “no first use” nuclear strategy. Aspiring Dr. Strangeloves actually believe the U.S. can start a nuclear war and get away with it.

Talk about the Age of Hybrid Stupidity going out with a bang.

Pepe Escobar, a veteran Brazilian journalist, is the correspondent-at-large for Hong Kong-based Asia Times. His latest book is 2030.” Follow him on Facebook.


25 comments for “PEPE ESCOBAR: Empire of Chaos in Hybrid War Overdrive

  1. April 4, 2019 at 05:23





  2. March 27, 2019 at 22:58

    We learned two and a half millennia ago that “he will triumph who knows when to fight and when not to fight.” What happened to the Pentagon, West Point and State Department. Did they miss that lesson? Or does the exceptional country not need to know it? American war drums in Venezuela look like theater – yet another game of bluff poker?

    USA went off the rails with the murder of JFK. That gang of Cassius’s and Brutus’s then overawed the democratic process and explored their favored policy “you’re either with us or against us.” They spent the people’s money, and made no strategic or political progress whilst at the same time losing whatever good will the country had formerly had from the rest of the world. How about going back to where we were. You’re not going to get all the cake but a large slice of it is still worth having.

    • Rob
      April 2, 2019 at 08:39

      There will be no returning to “where we were” for this country is being led to its slaughter:

      Revelation 18:8 Therefore in one day shall her plagues come, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire; for strong is the Lord God who judged her.

      For she is the seat of lawlessness:

  3. Douglas Baker
    March 27, 2019 at 21:02

    When it comes to the celebration of dumb the beat goes on from winning our war of aggression in Afghanistan or our war of aggression against Syria as invasion and occupation U.S. forces partnered with N.A.T.O. continue on their assigned mission.

  4. Craig Mouldey
    March 27, 2019 at 10:39

    Good article about the madness propelling this beast empire. I think Pepe missed one step in their usual toolbag for subjugating countries they wish to pillage. Just before a direct military invasion, they will, as John Perkins said (Confessions of an Economic Hitman), send in the CIA jackals. Hit teams. They are at this stage with Venezuela now. The Venezuela security forces are aware and have arrested some involved in this plot though an undetermined number are still on the loose in the country. I hope they get them all!
    If this beast proceeds with its designs of world conquest I think it likely they will at some point try a sudden nuclear attack against Russia. But as Vladimir Putin has said: Do they know math? For us here this is what will happen. The U.S. attack will occur. We, in bed sleeping, will have no idea what has just taken place. Several minutes later, cities in Europe and North America will start to disappear. Then we will know what the beast empire has done. Too late.

  5. Donald Duck
    March 26, 2019 at 08:35

    Winnable nuclear wars are about as plausible as Centaurs – the mythical half-man, half-horse creatures. Chimeras, creatures of a fevered imagination. People who genuinely believe this really need psychiatric assistance. Yet alarmingly this is the age in which we live and these people are often ensconsed in positions of power and influence. Given that any nuclear exchange would either give a massive push to global warming and/or a nuclear winter, and bearing in mind the number of nuclear power plants around the world which would be irreversibly damaged makes all the talk about ‘winning’ totally redundant. But of course this does not mean that such an event will not happen. Given the learnt stupidity of the West’s leadership I wouldn’t like to bet against it.

    • Chris Cosmos
      March 26, 2019 at 21:19

      I don’t quite agree. Certainly a nuclear was would be a disaster. But if you can limit the enemy’s retaliation, in theory, you can win. Even if you don’t those who make the war have their bunkers where life can go on, I’ve heard, for decades before they have to venture out. Remember the Deep State is in business for itself and has nothing whatever to do with the rest of us. If they can survive its a win for them.

      • Lian
        March 27, 2019 at 11:57

        It’s foolish to think you can limit the other side’s retaliation in a nuclear war. Nukes are more efficient explosives than conventionals by far. Easy to mass produce once you know how. ICBMs have mach 20+ speeds that bypass missile shields. Their EMPs can scramble all sensors. Dig a hole in the ground and they can be hidden any where.

        I don’t think deep state is that stupid. Even if they survive Fallout 3, it won’t be anywhere near the lap of luxury they have now.

        Notice how they pick their targets? Always small third world countries without proper airforce or nukes.

        • DC_rez
          March 28, 2019 at 12:56

          You mention fallout.
          There are many who believe the fallout / nuclear winter of several nuclear explosions over Europe, Russia or the US could significantly block the sun for years. Decreasing the amount of sunlight and temperature, depleting ozone protection, destroying DNA in plants.
          Basically food production would plummet.

  6. Zim
    March 25, 2019 at 12:52

    “Random Dude” & “Empire of Chaos” most apt descriptors.

  7. Zim
    March 25, 2019 at 12:22

    “Random Dude” & “Empire of Chaos” spot on descriptors. Thanks for your perspective.

  8. March 25, 2019 at 12:01

    The pattern of history is clear. Power (manifested as interest) has been present in every conflict of the past – no exception. It is the underlying motivation for war. Other cultural factors might change, but not power.
    As a result every civilization/nation eventually gets the war it is trying to avoid: utter defeat. This applies as much today as any other time in history.
    Leaders and decision-makers delude themselves, thinking they can avoid that fateful war, that it will be limited in scale or can even be won. History has always proven them wrong. It is about to again with World War Three.

    • March 25, 2019 at 17:06

      I agree entirely that power is a goal of the self-modified, who thereafter possess twisted desires and needs. Netanyahu most clearly articulated this dark world’s dominant paradigm, or operating principle, when he bluntly stated that the strong devour the weak and then make alliances with each other (Philip Weiss). I call it ‘riches for the strongest’. Within that phrase, note, you have the desire for 1. riches 2. power 3. glory. What proportion of each of those components glory-seekers desire most doesn’t matter, but one could never suggest that the 1. riches component is weak or not present.

      Capitalism – money/profits – is behind 99% of the destruction and terror on this planet and that has been so for some time. William Robinson (in a recent Real News Network show) and many others explain it well.

  9. mike k
    March 25, 2019 at 07:06

    Okay. But no forecast of when the s*** will hit the fan triggering the “big one”. That will be sooner than most think. Don’t bother to fasten your seat belt – it won’t help.

  10. Tiu
    March 25, 2019 at 05:08

    The test of whether Hamza bin Laden really is the arch-terrorist is – has he been issued with his indestructible passport yet?

    • Gregory Herr
      March 25, 2019 at 16:47

      Ha! And when his photos and voiceovers become strangely dissimilar…

  11. Joe Tedesky
    March 24, 2019 at 23:03

    That last part where Pepe Escobar talks about the USA’s insistence on having a ‘first strike capability’ should concern us all. After all this crowd in DC is the same gang who ranted and raved about WMD in Iraq as, these are the same liars who brought us the ‘Russiagate’ scandal that wasn’t.

    My mother always told me of how one lie only leads to another lie until the truth jumps up and bites you in the ass. My dear sweet Mum was a Southside gal from Billy Buck Hill where you weren’t judged by how you said it in as much as how honest you words were to be believed. Maybe someone ought to tell this to our elites who run this country.

    At any rate it’s being reported Russia just landed in Venezuela….

    • Jeff Harrison
      March 25, 2019 at 01:27

      Indeed, Joe. Isn’t it a bitch when your target decides to run for help? Evidently, Eliot Abrams couldn’t convince Lavrov.

      • Joe Tedesky
        March 25, 2019 at 09:33

        The commendable value of what you said Jeff is priceless and shows you keep up on the news. Little does our American public know of such meetings as the one in Rome where Bolton was given the redline by the Russians. Funny thing is Chevron and Halliburton have (or were) doing business with the Venezuelan’s under both Chavez and Maduro. So it isn’t as though American business can’t do business with Maduro. No, it’s all about spreading corporate profit margins at the expense of the Venezuelan citizens and that’s what gets people killed. I pity everyone who gets caught up in this vacuum of instigated evil Jeff. Thanks for the reply. Joe

        • Sergei
          March 26, 2019 at 06:23

          I’m happy I’m not the only one who noticed that. They are prepared to destroy a beautiful country, making millions of people homeless and hundreds of thousands dead, just to eke out another dozen or two percentage points for their profit margins.

  12. geeyp
    March 24, 2019 at 22:51

    Yes, Pepe, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. “Random dude” in deed, indeed.

  13. techies
    March 24, 2019 at 21:31


    How to you start a small-scale nuke war and have confidence it does not scale beyond this?
    This means to an ends strategy system was how Vietnam was lost.
    Where is the grand strategy and stratagem of winning without fighting?
    Talk about not knowing the difference between a political war vs a war with violence and loss.
    A lose-lose not just for the U.S. and the Russians, but everyone near and far away.

    • Zhu
      March 26, 2019 at 01:02

      How? Pergaps Mattis etc. count on the Rapture saving them. The Rapture was certainly part of Bush II’s war plans & hopes.

      • nomad
        March 26, 2019 at 17:27

        Western vs. eastern strategic thinking is different. Western strategic thinking means to ends, which is limited.
        Eastern strategic thinking looks at the problem from a yin & yang framework. This is similar to John Boyd’s OODA loop from studies of Sun Tzu, Tao Te Ching, and Book of 5 Rings.

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