Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Long War, Part II - The Origins of X-Com

Previous: The Long War, Part I - X-Com Revisited

Disclaimer: The following is a work of fiction! While I have utilised real people and places, the story relayed in this blog series is not meant to represent factual events nor accurately represent the people portrayed within.

First Contact

In October 2015 SETI observers at the University of Berkley in California were astonished to pick up radio transmissions emanating from space. Fearing some kind of prank they ran diagnostics on all their systems and systematically ruled out all other possible sources until the only remaining possibility was that of extra-terrestrial transmission. What was staggering to the observers was that the source of the radio signals appeared to be coming from within the solar system. Initial attempts to triangulate the source placed it in orbit around Mars. The possibility that it was a malfunctioning satellite was mooted, and a call was placed to NASA requesting information as to the status of the three American satellites known to be orbit around the red planet. Similar calls were placed to the European Space Agency and the Indian Space Research Organisation, both of whom had satellites around Mars. NASA was initially very truculent to reveal details, but the scientists at SETI soon learned a grim truth - in the very same period all three satellites operated and supervised by the space agency (the Odyssey, the Orbiter and the MAVEN) had gone dark. The Europeans declined to comment on the status of their satellite, but the Indians confirmed that they, too, had lost contact with the Mangalyaan. What mystified observers was that the signals had remained hitherto undetected prior to their acquisition from Mars. As chief scientist Dale Andersen at the SETI Institute said, "It's like a burglar sneaking into your house undetected, only to have them go to the kitchen, pick up a pot and a pan, and then bang them together to get your attention."

The world was stunned by the revelation that SETI had picked up radio signals from space.

What was unknown to the civilian space agencies was that military forces worldwide had also been tracking numerous contacts in the sky over the last few months. These contacts moved at tremendous speed and possessed amazing manoeuvring capabilities, far beyond anything possessed by terrestrial craft. Dozens of sorties from different air forces all over the world had been scrambled in an attempt to interdict the UFOs, but thus far to no avail. Attempts to bring down the UFOs failed utterly. Radar guided and heat seeking weapons simply failed to lock on, and flak guns were largely ineffectual due to the speed and manoeuvrability of the UFOs. This was followed shortly by a spate of UFO sighting worldwide. These reports were first discounted but soon grew in number and frequency. The advent of social media at the turn of the century meant that news could spread faster and wider than had been traditionally possible with TV and print media, and soon Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram were flooded with images of mysterious unidentified craft. Many UFO sightings have been reported throughout human history, but it was only recently that so many sightings have been reported so frequently by so many witnesses at the same time.

The BBC's footage of the incident over Tel Aviv, in which two Israeli F-15s were "buzzed" by an UFO before it climbed out of sight.

By November 2015 the staggering amount of UFO sightings world-wide could no longer be discounted as an elaborate hoax. The BBC was the first credible source which aired footage showing what was unquestionably a vehicle of extra-terrestrial origin streaking with impunity in the skies over Tel Aviv. The UFO was pursued by a pair of F-15s which appeared to be closing on the target, before it abruptly changed direction and flew straight at the pursuing fighters.  It passed between the intercepting jets and climbed to beyond visual range at incredible speed.

Deadlock in the Security Council

The real crisis which precipitated global action was the attack on the satellite networks encircling the planet. On 11 November 2015 the Galaxy 14 satellite, the communications relay which carried most of the digital signals for cable television for the east coast of the United States, abruptly ceased functioning. Outraged consumers suddenly bereft of their wrestling and sports channels immediately complained to their cable companies, who in turn related the news to authorities. One by one the satellites around the world went dark and ceased functioning, wreaking havoc on global communications and rendering GPS software useless.  In Australia amateur astronomers claimed seeing the remnants of the Optus communication satellites burning up on re-entry in the atmosphere. Ground based telescopes and radar trained on the locations of the satellites found either nothing or debris fields, leading to the ominous conclusion that something was systematically dismantling the Earth's satellite network. Even the International Space Station went dark and ceased communicating with ground control. Despite frantic attempts to re-establish contact, the fates of the six-man crew on board remained unknown.

In December 2015 an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council was convened, with the agenda of establishing a global response force to investigate with the extra-terrestrial threat. The meeting was beset with difficulties. US and Russian antagonism was approaching Cold War levels due to Russia's continuing use of their veto power as a permanent member of the Security Council. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council were the US, the UK, France, China and Russia, and each of these nations, representing the victors of the Second World War, had the power to veto any substantive resolutions in the UN regardless of the level of international support. Russia had already blocked four resolutions on Syria and one resolution on the Ukraine, and had made it abundantly clear that they were quite prepared to do so ad infinitum in order to protect her interests in these regions. Worse still, the Russians did not perceive the UFO threat as legitimate. For some reason the skies above Russia had remained clear of UFO traffic and her satellites left undisturbed, which led many in the country to believe that at best, it was some kind of global hoax and at worst, some kind of Western ruse to create an international force which could intervene in the Ukrainian civil war. The fact that Russian air space remained inviolate aroused the suspicions of NATO and contributed to the brinkmanship in the UN meetings. Angry accusations were levelled at the Russians about the deployment of some kind of new orbital EMP weapon, and it was only through a last minute dialogue between US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin that a crisis was averted. Putin agreed to abstain from the vote in return for the lifting of the sanctions placed on Russia as as a result of the war in the Ukraine. This was a shrewd piece of realpolitik from the Russian President, as he was able to leverage a non-issue in Russia into the removal of the sanctions which had been crippling the Russian economy.

US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin in last minute negotiations prior to the Security Council vote to establish a global agency to investigate the proliferation of UFO phenomenon around the world.

What signalled the death knell for the Security Council resolution was not Russian intransigence, but France's decision to exercise her veto power. Despite immense diplomatic pressure from the US and the UK, France stubbornly refused to budge, citing lack of credible evidence as a basis for such a task force. French Permanent Representative to the UN Francois Delattre was apologetic and clearly uncomfortable. He was unable to explain his government's sudden change in position, having made assurances to the contrary to his American and British colleagues several weeks earlier. This was the first time that France had exercised her veto power in the 21st century, which made it all the more baffling at the time. Later events, however, would bring to light the sinister forces which were manipulating French policy behind the scenes. In the waning days of 2015 however, such considerations were beyond the imagination of most policy makers. The resolution was defeated by the French veto, despite polling 13-1 with Russia abstaining.

The General Assembly Rallies

Despite this setback the impetus for a global response to the world-wide UFO phenomenon remained unchecked. The most strident advocate for the creation of the task force was UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who had very strong personal reasons for doing so. On 19 October 2014 his son Ban Woo Hyun had disappeared along with 27 other South Koreans in a widely publicised abduction case near Busan, South Korea. Woo Hyun and the other Koreans in his party had ascended Jangsan Mountain overlooking the city to investigate an unexplained light phenomena near the peak, and had disappeared without a trace. Despite a national investigation no signs of the missing have ever been found. Although no direct evidence was available there was a clear correlation between the appearance of UFOs in the sky and the subsequent disappearance of people within the vicinity. This pattern was to be repeated all over the world in the months to come, but because of the sporadic nature of these events and the lack of firm evidence, world reaction would remain muted and sceptical for the immediate period.

UFO sighting over Busan, South Korea on 19 October 2014, taken from Jangsan Mountain. On the evening of the same day 28 people, including son of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon disappeared without a trace.

The problem facing Ban was determining how to create an international unit capable of using force across national lines without the assistance of the Security Council. According to Article 2(4) of the UN Security Charter the use of force was only authorized in two situations - either in self-defence, or through the approval of the Security Council. Since the resolution in the Security Council had already been defeated by the French veto, it appeared that the UN had been effectively defanged. Nonetheless there had been precedents in which the UN had acted without the approval of the Security Council. In 1991 in Kosova and in Yugoslavia NATO forces had bombed a series of targets and justified their intervention on humanitarian grounds. Ban had a more creative solution. Having grown up in the shadow of the Korean War and the ensuing stand-off between North and South Korea, he invoked United Nations General Assembly Resolution 377 and called for an emergency special session of the General Assembly. This particular resolution was created by the US in the 1950s as a way of defeating Soviet intransigence in the UN when China invaded North Korea during the Cold War. Like modern day Russia, the Soviets had wielded their veto power as a means of frustrating and defeating UN initiatives which were not in their interest. Also known as the "Uniting for Peace" resolution, Resolution 377 states that in any cases where the Security Council, because of a lack of unanimity amongst its five permanent members, fails to act as required to maintain international peace and security, the General Assembly shall consider the matter immediately and may issue any recommendations it deems necessary in order to restore international peace and security.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon addressing the General Assembly for the need to establish an international response team to investigate the UFO phenomenon.

The vote was put forward to the General Assembly in January 2016, and it passed by an overwhelming majority, more than surpassing the two-thirds required for the resolution to pass. The General Assembly recommended the creation of a global task force to investigate the UFO phenomenon. It was essentially a fact-finding mission with a UN mandate to cross state lines and act within national borders, but it also incorporated a security detail to safeguard the well-being of the researchers. What mystified observers during the process was France's continued flip flopping in the UN. Having defeated the Security Council vote she now voted FOR the resolution in the General Assembly, much to the disgust of the US and the UK. No one was aware that several members of the French cabinet had been compromised by the visitors, and that this was the real reason behind the schizophrenic decisions emerging from the country. Nonetheless, she offered funding and soldiers to the cause which Ban reluctantly accepted. Russia as well, perennially suspicious of UN motives, contributed a cadre of troops and technical staff ostensibly to, in the words of President Vladimir Putin, "contribute to international efforts in maintaining world peace." No one doubted, however, that the main function of the Russian contingent would be to monitor the movements of the new task force. All members of the Russian security detail were officers in the Federal Security Service, Russia's espionage and counter-terrorism agency. Unlike other espionage agencies like the CIA and MI6, however, the Federal Security Service were members of the Russian armed forces, which made them eligible to serve in UN peace keeping missions. Ban, in the interests of harmony, raised no objections to their inclusion. He had accomplished his objective. Through his efforts the agency known as X-Com was born, although it would not be known under that name until much later.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia wishing two Federal Security Service members good luck before they deploy with X-Com.

It must be remembered that at X-Com's inception the visitors had not overtly acted against any nations of the world. If the visitors had limited their activities to streaking over the skies, it is unlikely that any kind of global response would have been initiated. The destruction of the satellite network, however, constituted a massive provocation which demanded an immediate response. Satellites were the pickets of the global age, and their destruction by other nations, much less by extra-terrestrials, were tantamount to an act of war. While the details were kept hidden from the general public, the impotence of the world's air forces and the systematic destruction of key satellites were immensely worrying to the high commands of the US, the UK and China and their allies. The US in particular, didn't need the troops or equipment offered by the UN. What was vitally important for them was the access and legitimacy conferred by the UN resolution, and consequently they lobbied hard behind the scenes to make sure that it passed. But no one in the UN, much less the US would have imagined that the creation of X-Com would be vindicated in spectacular fashion in the months and years ahead.

Next: The Long War, Part III - Japan

2 comments:

  1. Absolutely love it, keep it up. And for everything that's holy, dont make it US centric please. The international politics tone fits it incredibly well (and some of us kinda hate that police of the world feeling). May i dare suggest you even keep the xcom mentions as infrequent as you have? It sees to work, and gives an air of uncertainty.

    Anyway, lots of meddling by me at the end, so let me restate this: Love it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey mate, thanks for the comment. I'm trying to avoid making the series US-centric, but since I've set the story in the geopolitics of 2015-2017 the US is going to play a big part. And meddle as much as you want, I really want feedback, both good and bad. It gives me perspective on how other people see the story.

      Delete