Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Basic Misunderstanding of Responsibility

My impression is that these Australian soldiers are wrongly accused of war crimes.

It can be difficult to comprehend, but when an enemy fights behind civilian shields, if our side shoots the civilians in the process of killing the enemy, responsibility for the civilian deaths lies with the enemy and not our troops.

It is true that we often don't take the shot to spare the civilians, but that doesn't change the responsibility.

All Roads Lead to Kabul

Pakistan is upset we have struck openly into Pakistan in pursuit of the Taliban:

Pakistan closed the most important supply route for U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan after a coalition helicopter attack killed three Pakistani soldiers at a border post Thursday, raising tensions in a vital relationship for both Islamabad and Washington.

NATO said its helicopters entered Pakistani airspace and hit a target only after receiving ground fire. The alliance expressed condolences to the families of the soldiers and said both nations would investigate the incident.

A lengthy ban on supply trucks would place intense strain on the U.S.-Pakistani relationship and hurt the Afghan war effort. But that was seen as unlikely, as neither Islamabad nor Washington can afford a meltdown in ties at a crucial time in the 9-year-old war.

This incident isn't likely to cause a permanent breach. But it demonstrates why I'm worried about our supply lines that go through an uncertain and unstable ally. As long as we are fighting a mobius war, this problem will continue to plague our fight  in Afghanistan and hobble our efforts to get more cooperation from Pakistan to defeat the Taliban.

Wouldn't it be better to have a supply line through a friendly Iran?

So many problems would be solved by getting rid of the mullah regime in Iran.

UPDATE: A bunch of our fuel tankers were torched inside Pakistan:

Suspected militants in southern Pakistan set ablaze more than two dozen tankers carrying fuel for foreign troops in Afghanistan on Friday, highlighting the vulnerability of the U.S.-led mission a day after Pakistan closed a major border crossing.

The Pakistani government shut the Torkham border in the northwest in apparent protest at a NATO helicopter incursion that killed three of its soldiers on the border. ...

The convoy of tankers attacked Friday was likely headed to a second crossing in southwest Pakistan that was not closed. ...

Around 80 percent of the fuel, spare parts, clothing and other non-lethal supplies for foreign forces in landlocked Afghanistan travels through Pakistan after arriving in the southern Arabian sea port of Karachi. The alliance has other supply routes to Afghanistan, but the Pakistani ones are the cheapest and most convenient.

Clearly, Pakistan is just making a statement in reaction to popular opinion rather than seriously trying to shut down our supply line.

But good grief, I do worry about having to supply so many of our troops into landlocked Afghanistan through supply routes that are not nearly reliable enough for my comfort.

UPDATE: Strategypage has a useful post on the affair. I don't worry that Pakistan's government will cut off our supplies. They really do need us, too. (And just what were those Pakistani troops (I assume frontier troops rather than regulars) thinking when they fired on us? That the Taliban have helicopters? That they are fighting with the Taliban and not against them?)

I worry that the Pakistan government will fall to jihadi sympathizers and they will cut off our troops. And I worry about the leverage that the supply lines through Russia give Moscow.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Interesting Times

China's main threats to itself are internal and not any foreign enemy:

China's primary threat is not the United States, or any other foreign power, but internal disorder. There are more angry people in China every day, and the government knows that this could blossom into widespread uprisings. It has happened so many times before in Chinese history.
Bay goes on to note labor unrest and general internal disorder, corruption, the expansion of communications beyond the ability of the government to control, ethnic minorities, pollution and water shortages, too few women of marriage age, and an aging population as the sources of unrest and danger to the regime.

Which makes me wonder why the Chinese have become so strident lately.

It would be interesting if the Chinese decided that foreign threats are actually their salvation from the real threats within. When the alternative is revolution, a war that you might or might not lose looks relatively appealing and far less of the curse you'd normally think it would be.

The Continuation of a Political Crisis By Other Means?

Our military in Iraq is officially worried about the delay in forming an Iraqi government on the issues in their lane:

Iraq's prolonged political crisis has encouraged a spike in violence and pushed frustrated citizens to begin holding back crucial tips on suspected insurgents, the top U.S. commander for Baghdad said Wednesday.

The comments by U.S. Brig. Gen. Rob Baker reflect growing unease that Iraq's nearly seven-month impasse on forming a new government could erode security gains. Baker also told reporters that Iraq risks losing needed foreign investment.

I'll say it again, it is comforting that Iraqi parties are not resorting to guns to solve the impasse. That is truly a healthy sign.

But it is also true that the enemy sees the lack of a government as an opportunity to undermine the legitimacy of the system. How long before that undermining erodes the confidence of the parties in peaceful negotiations? It is already causing people to hedge their bets in cooperating on security issues. That is a bad sign.

We shouldn't try to dictate the form of an agreement, but we should be pushing an agreement that gets a government in place while we are around in strength to reassure the losers that they get another chance in the next election.

If we can't get a government in Iraq, who will we negotiate with over the post-2011 security agreement?

Bad Timing

The Europeans apparently think man-caused disasters aren't that big a threat:

The European Commission has announced that it will negotiate deals to prevent countries like Pakistan from providing travel data to the United States — except when the US already suspects a particular traveler or is otherwise investigating a particular case. In other words, the European Commission wants to bar the kind of wholesale data exchange that’s needed to spot at the border terrorists who have successfully disguised themselves as tourists. And it plans to withhold all European travel reservation data from Pakistan unless the Pakistanis agree to join a data boycott of the United States.

Remarkably, Brussels is pursuing this data boycott despite a solemn promise to the United States that it would not take such action.

Still, I bet the Europeans would still like us to provide data to them:

European security officials said Wednesday a terror plot to wage Mumbai-style shooting sprees in Britain, France and Germany is still active and that sites in Pakistan — where the threat was intercepted two weeks ago — are being scoured for al-Qaida operatives.

The plot was still in its early stages and not considered serious enough to raise the current terror threat level, officials said.

But it was serious enough for America to drop some HE on terrorists:

Security officials said Wednesday a terror plot to wage Mumbai-style shooting sprees or other attacks in Britain, France and Germany is still active and that recent CIA strikes in Pakistan were aimed at al-Qaida operatives suspected in the threat.

Huh. I bet some data sharing helpe out for that. But the Euros probably think we'll continue to do their dirty work even if they cut us off from information we need to protect our country.

Or perhaps I'm being unfair. Maybe the EU types will just use European assets to defend themselves--sorry, I can't even type that with a straight face.

I thought the mere presence of George W. Bush made Europeans too angry to cooperate with us against terrorism. Isn't this sort of multi-lateral, intelligence and police based cooperation supposed to be easier now? doesn't Europe find it useful?

Yet again--and not for the last time, I'm sure--I must bemoan my lack of nuance in understanding how things are supposed to work in foreign relations. I'm sure it is clear to the Zakarias of the world.

Victory Could Come Quickly

If we are losing in Afghanistan, as the conventional wisdom here now holds, why are Taliban groups seeking to come to terms with the central government?

The Taliban leadership, alarmed with their growing unpopularity in Afghanistan, are breaking ranks and approaching the national government to make deals. This is how Afghanistan traditionally works. The central government has little power, and serves mainly to deal with foreigners and settle disputes among the tribes and warlords.

An why are they breaking ranks?

What's different now is that the foreigners have troops in the country, with the backing of most of the tribes, to help fight the Taliban and the drug gangs. One thing all the tribes can agree on is that drugs and the Taliban are bad. The drug gangs because they created over a million addicts in Afghanistan, and their cash leads to more corruption and debauchery. The Taliban are hated because, during the 1990s, these religious fanatics made it clear that Taliban rule, and use of terror,  was, and still is, unpopular with most Afghans.

And what have the foreign troops managed to do to the Taliban to weaken their resolve?

The Taliban are also demoralized by the damage done to their sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan. In the last year, these sanctuaries have been attacked by the Pakistani Army and Air Force, as well as an increasing number of American UAVs firing missiles at Taliban leaders, and a growing force of Afghan special operations troops and Pakistani spies that supply target information for the UAVs. The Afghan special operations troops increasingly conduct ambushes and attacks on Taliban bases and war parties.

The Taliban and the drug gangs are under constant attack by 150,000 NATO troops, 136,000 Afghan soldiers and over 119,600 Afghan national police. There are also over 20,000 armed tribesmen fighting and confronting the Taliban. The government is seeking money from foreign donors to put over 10,000 of these anti-Taliban tribesmen on the payroll, at about half the pay of police, to defend their villages and valleys from the Taliban. The idea here is to take the pressure off the police, who are taking most of the casualties. Nearly a hundred police a month are dying in the battle with the Taliban and drug gangs. This is nearly 50 percent higher than losses among foreign troops, and more than twice as high as losses among Afghan soldiers. Some 40-50 civilian contractors for the foreign troops are killed each month. But the Taliban and drug gangs are taking even heavier losses, estimated at over a thousand dead a month. Many more of the Taliban wounded die later, because of a lack of modern medical care. Morale is falling within the Taliban and drug gangs, because of the high casualties and years of unmet promises about victory over the foreign soldiers and the central government.

Read the rest. Once factions start flipping, nobody on the Taliban side will want to be the last on the receiving end of our firepower and angry Afghans tired of the violence.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cyber Storm III

Hopefully, this stuff will work when the cyber-balloon goes up:

The United States is launching its first test of a new plan for responding to an enemy cyber-blitz, including any attack aimed at vital services such as power, water and banks.

Thousands of cyber-security personnel from across the government and industry are to take part in the Department of Homeland Security's Cyber Storm III, a three- to four-day drill starting Tuesday.

Never forget that if we figure out who is doing the cyber-attacks that JDAMs trump hacking. If it's an act of war, and the enemy puts their hackers in identifiable locations, vaporize them.

A Western State of Mind

As I've long held, the West isn't just Western Europe and majority white Anglosphere countries. It includes non-"Western" countries that have embraced freedom, such as Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.

India should take its place in the West. India's choice will be important for how this century unfolds.

CSI: West Sea

From my Jane's email updates:

A torpedo attack led by North Korea is the only possible explanation behind the sinking of the South Korean corvette Chon An , argues the final joint investigation report released by Seoul on 13 September. The 305 page-long report, seen by Jane's , rules out any other possibility - such as a sea mine - to explain the disaster that killed 46 sailors in the Yellow Sea (West Sea) on 26 March 2010[.]

That was my initial guess, though I did not want to leap to conclusions.

And media speculation is that the little brat who has been chosen to rule North Korea after Kim Jong-Il hopefully dies was in charge of that spectacle to seal his future rule.

What a lovely country. Our Iowa caucuses look better every day.

We Punish the Guilty

If these soldiers are guilty, they deserve harsh punishment:

One of five U.S. soldiers accused of murdering Afghan civilians for sport and posing for photographs with their mutilated bodies has confessed to investigators, according to video of the confession obtained by ABC News and CNN.

They are accused of crimes that are awful in their own right and endanger their fellow soldiers in the field by making it more difficult to win the trust of Afghans to defeat the Taliban.

Our troops fight amazingly clean given the historical record of troops fighting insurgents, and actual crimes are rare. It is good that we investigate and punish the guilty.

I'm also relieved that I am not reading about terrible generalizations about our military based on the actions of a few. Our anti-war people were pretty strident on that point when the Iraq War raged. Today, that linkage seems to be unclaimed. I'll take progress where I can.

Lenin Was Right

It was obvious this would happen, even without Lenin's warnings about the West selling Russia the rope with which Russia would hang the West:

China is rapidly becoming a major manufacturer, and developer, of modern weapons. Russia, which involuntarily supplied much of the technology Chine needed, discovered this recently when they saw what Chinese engineers had done to the AL-31 engine that powers the Russian Su-27/30 and Chinese J-11 and J-10. As delivered from Russia, the AL-31 is good for 900 hours of operation. Chinese engineers figured out how to tweak the design of the engine so that it lasted for 1,500 hours. This feat is part of a growing trend. At first, decades ago, China simply figured out how to build Russian weapons they had bought. But in the last decade, they have increasingly improved on those designs.


Most of this technology was just stolen from Russia, so now Russia is no longer selling China much of anything.

China knows how to make the rope, now. This would be funny if the repercussions were limited to Russia alone.

My Busy Social Calendar

Well, with work and children, it isn't that busy. But it does include tea parties:


Those are Foxy and Fuzzy Button having tea, chicken, and peas. Hey, I didn't make the menu. I let it stand for several days after it was set up.

I like having toys around my home. It makes it a home and not just a condominium. Mister is old enough that he no longer has toys set up. No roads or train tracks snaking around. No cities of lego castles.

Lamb picked up the slack for a while with the Thomas tracks. But she's tired of that, having moved on to more girly Littlest Pet Shop cities. Although to my glee, she has taken to the helicopter from my youth that I bought for Mister years ago. And stuffed animals, of course--lots of stuffed animals. She makes little homes for them with old boxes. And has tea parties, naturally.

I tripped over and broke a little stage for the LPS last night, cracking and snapping off a section. Luckily, model glue took care of the repairs and other than the scars, it works fine and looks fine if you don't look closely.

One day, I won't have those little toy emergencies. There won't be toys on shelves and in boxes, and deployed about in mid-play waiting for the next session. One day, Lamb too will be old enough to make her toy footprint disappear, too. And eventually, both of my children will grow up and move out--to college and then into the world. It's not like my children are with me all the time. But the toys are a visible sign that this is their home, too.

I'm so used to thinking of a home as one with children and the signs of their presence that I wonder how I'll view where I live when even the symbols of their presence are gone?

Not that I dwell on that thought. I am happy to have my children right here and right now. Growing up is natural and I will learn to accept the joys of each stage of their lives as I watch them grow up. I would be unnatural and wrong to want to freeze them at a point in time where plastic and furry toys are their lives and mean I am a much bigger part of their lives. But the transitions of both Lamb and Mister are in sight without feeling what will come next.

Still, I have grandchildren to look forward to, I guess. Though Lord knows what their toys will be and whether they will create the symbolism of children at play.

Oh, Give Them Time

After nine years and an entire Homeland Security Department to make it happen, we are still not protected against the threat of smuggled nukes. We can't detect radiation, it seems, in as many places as our enemy can use to get a nuke inside America:

DHS has made significant progress over the past several years in both deploying radiation detection equipment and developing procedures to scan cargo and conveyances entering the United States through fixed land and sea ports of entry for nuclear and radiological materials. Moreover, DHS reports that while it scans nearly 100 percent of the cargo and conveyances entering the United States through land borders and major seaports, it has made less progress scanning for radiation in other pathways into the United States such as general aviation and small maritime craft.

While the threat is admittedly low, one would think that we'd have made more progress in nearly a decade in covering all our bases.

Monday, September 27, 2010

This is Their Plan?

North Korea is in a world of hurt:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il has appointed his youngest son as a four-star general, the communist state's official media said Tuesday in its first mention of the man widely seen as heir apparent.

The announcement comes hours before the scheduled opening of the biggest ruling party meeting for 30 years. The conference is expected to anoint the son Kim Jong-Un as eventual successor to the ailing 68-year-old leader.

The dude is 27 years old. The North Koreans are really going to annoint this guy--who lacks even the relatively advanced experience of being a community organizer--to four star general and then supreme ruler?
 
Really? The rest of the government is fine with this? The army is fine with this? It seems so, as the article notes that "the 1.2 million-strong military plays a dominant role in the nation under a Songun (army-first) policy." The implication is that the army is backing this promotion.
 
Perhaps the promise of support is why the army is going along with the shoulder constellation on the kid. North Korea is so broke that they had downgraded the conventional army in favor of relying on secret police to control the people and army; and relying on nuclear weapons to keep foreign invaders away.  But last year, it seemed like Kim Jong Un had gotten the support of the spooks. What happened to that template for regime survival? Do the rulers think that sectet police are no longer enough to control the people and army? Are the rulers so worried about the military that they need to buy them off again?

Perhaps The Un bought the military's support by promising more money for the military. Is that the new plan? Going back to the old plan? The plan that required Soviet cash in large amounts?
 
Which will be interesting, since North Korea seems way too broke to buy the support of the army. Where will they get the money? Was that the purpose of the recent visit to China? Have the Chinese promised to send military aid to North Korea to repair that pillar of the regime? Could that really be China's plan?

Somebody's plan sucks. I wonder if it is North Korea or China?

UPDATE: The military is on board:

“This is a step toward turning Kim Jong-un into a ‘songun’ leader, a symbolic gesture of upholding him as a military leader,” said Cheong Seong-chang, a North Korea expert at the Sejong Institute near Seoul.

“This is the beginning of the process of promoting him to chief of command of the North Korean military,” Mr. Cheong added.

Songun is the military-first policy adopted by Kim Jong-il, a companion philosophy to the “juche” ideology of self-reliance established by his father, Kim Il-sung, North Korea’s founder.

"Military first" is all well and good, but where will the money come from to make "first" anything worth having? The article says nothing on that question. The way China has been acting all ornery lately, I'll guess that China has decided to provide the money. Ah, soft power!

No Sanctuary

This strike speaks to the importance of controlling the Pakistan side of the border when we speak of winning in Afghanistan:

Pakistan disputed NATO's claim Monday that its forces have the right of hot pursuit across the Afghan border after coalition helicopters launched airstrikes that killed more than 50 militants who had escaped into Pakistan following an attack on an Afghan security post.

Marked helicopters are a step up in obviousness from the unmanned drones we use to stalk the enemy inside Pakistan. I assume that the drones take far more time to use and can't be used for targets of opportunity. Chasing the enemy required speed and the helicopters provided that speed--and the firepower--to nail the enemy that had attacked an Afghan frontier post.

We really need the Pakistanis to control their frontier areas, however. Drone and helicopter strikes can hurt the enemy, but can't clear out the area.

And although nothing much is mentioned of the original attack on the outpost, the lack of details implies they held off the attackers. So that's good news, too.

Not a War President Yet

President Obama may know that we are at war and that he is our president, but he doesn't really seem to connect the two threads into accepting responsibility for victory or defeat. He may not think of himself as a war president, but history will judge him on how he fights the wars that America wages while he is the commander in chief.


Jed Babbin, writing about Woodward's new book, states:

What Woodward's book reveals is a president whose sole concern -- regardless of the issue -- is how it will affect his domestic political position.

That's been my worry. Our military may win, anyway, in the theaters of war they are fighting, but it sure would be nice to trust that our president will go for the win when the chips are down rather than merely refuse to lose a war our military is winning while he is off doing something else more important to him. I fear that President Obama just doesn't really feel, deep down, that he is leading a nation at war; and he doesn't feel that winning in Afghanistan is important.

Oh, and one more thing. An "exit strategy" is not the same thing as "victory." Indeed, it isn't even a "strategy."

The View from the Senkakus

The View from Taiwan notes the history of the Senkaku Islands (tip to Mad Minerva), which China has been bullying Japan over recently. The bottom line:

History: until 1968 both the PRC and ROC considered the Senkakus to be Japanese and all their maps and documents said so. Suddenly, when oil was announced beneath the Senkakus in 1968, both Chinese governments manufactured a claim to them. It would be great if someone somewhere in the media actually mentioned this history aloud.

If China keeps acting this way, Japan will go nuclear out of fear that China will go beyond words and try to settle disputes with massive force.

And if we play our cards right, China will cause a reaction among their neighbors to seek us out to blunt Chinese claims on their lands and waters (or just international waters).

And finally, were all those Sinophiles who thought China was brilliant at using "soft" power to expand their influence just soft in the head and willing to call any Chinese act "brilliant" (and don't forget they take "the long view!") or did China decide to go "hard" recently. Either way, the answer is useful to know.

Change of Heart

Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful that the Obama administration is continuing a whole lot of Bush national security programs and policies. So I am not slamming the Obama administration.

What gets me is that so much of our Left seems fine with President Obama doing the exact same things that they once claimed were war crimes and Constitution shredding, making Bush a candidate for trial by the International Criminal Court or impeachment here.

Apparently, the Left doesn't think President Bush did anything wrong, at all. I guess it was just the fierce partisan urgency of change, after all.

A Real Littoral Ship

We have found our small number of Cyclone class patrol vessels very useful for littoral patrols. But they are wearing out:

Only a few years after finding a real job in the fleet, the U.S. Navy's Cyclone class patrol boats are facing the scrap yard because these ships are, will, worn out and falling apart. It was five years ago that the navy scrambled to get its Cyclones into its new brown water (along coasts and up rivers) operation.

The thirteen 170 foot long Cyclone class PC (Coastal Patrol) boats were built in the 1990s. But after operating them for six years, the navy decided they had made a mistake, and loaned some of the Cyclone class ships to the Coast Guard and SOCOM (Special Operations Command), while seeking foreign buyers for the rest. But now the navy is establishing a coastal force, complete with naval infantry. For this brown water navy, the Cyclones are perfect, and the navy got them back to work.

We could use replacements for the Cyclones, because the poorly named Littoral Combat Ships have no business fighting in the littorals. They are way too expensive for that role.

Heck, if the Cyclones are so good, just build more of the same design rather than turn the job of building a new one into another episode of unexpected cost overruns.

UPDATE: More information than you'll ever need on the LCS.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Weirdly Disrupting

Man is causing the globe to warm up, we're told by our green scolds. I mean, other than for the last dozen years or so, when temperatures have been largely flat--despite that man-caused increase in carbon dioxide levels that are supposed to increase temperatures.

So what's an anti-freedom statist to do when the globe isn't justifying your power grab?

Why, switch back to the worry about global cooling!

The 58th Bilderberg Meeting will be held in Sitges, Spain 3 – 6 June 2010. The Conference will deal mainly with Financial Reform, Security, Cyber Technology, Energy, Pakistan, Afghanistan, World Food Problem, Global Cooling, Social Networking, Medical Science, EU-US relations. [emphasis added]

Huh. A high-powered and connected group will slide on to the next reason to deny us freedom of choice in our daily lives.

With the planet cooling, a whole lot of people will be able to thank me for continuing to use those planet destroying incandescent light bulbs, I guess.

On the bright side, Al Gore and Thomas Friedman can live in huge mansions and jet around at will without worrying about all that guilt that they are destroying the planet.

Of course, there is a complication. Will those folks living a carbon neutral lifestyle be the new planet rapers who must be tried for their crimes against the planet?

Going, Going, Gone?

I've long felt that Taiwan desperately needs submarines to defend against a Chinese invasion, including the feature of letting our submarines intervene (with the press noting how effective the "Taiwanese" subs are in Harpooning Chinese ships) after we've made the decision to help but before we are ready to openly move in with our surface fleet.

We don't make conventional subs (why, I don't know), and Chinese pressure has been heavy enough to keep those who make such boats from selling to Taiwan.

Does Taiwan have an opportunity to get some modern subs because of the Greek financial crisis?

The financial crises in Greece has claimed another victim, the four German Type 214 subs the Greek Navy bought, but was unable to pay for. One of the boats was built in Germany, the other three in a Greek shipyard. But the Greeks owed the German manufacturer, and the Greek shipyard, nearly $800 million. The Greek government has now admitted that the cash is not available, and is not likely to be for some time. So the 214s will be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

Taiwan has the cash and the need. Taiwan would be wise to be the highest bidder.

Not This Weekend

Well, Mister was feeling poorly enough with a cold that he didn't feel like going to see the game against Bowling Green. He would have made the walk for a bigger game, but it didn't seem worth it on yet another chilly day for a home game. I did manage to get the tickets to a neighbor whose high-school age son was happy to use them. So they didn't go to waste.

Against U Mass, we had a close call, but this game we blew out the opposition no matter who was quarterbacking. It was nice to see Forcier with his head on straight, leading the team down the field. The press and fan need for a savior last season played a major role in getting Forcier to become something of a jerk, so while Tate is responsible for how he reacted to reverses after initial success, I always remembered he's pretty young and hoped he'd settle down and become a major part of the team. We'll need him this year--even with Robinson as our outstanding starter--and he seems like he's back.

But it was odd not to be at the game when it was just down the road. Just walking to the stadium is neat:


Lot's of taigating by people who probably aren't going in the stadium.

And approaching the Big House is still cool:


Watching the team enter is always a rush, I have to say:


And the band sent a detachment our way to play:


The game was certainly exciting:


More exciting than I'd like.

But, as always, the best part is being there with my son. He loves going to the game:



I hope Lamb will want to share this one day, too!

But not this weekend, I guess. She's still too young to want to go at all--healthy or not!

Making Our Argument for Us

China seems determined to make sure their rising power is met by an even greater amount of counter-balancing power.

Drezner isn't impressed with China's soft power that is supposed to charm neighbors or their hard power which is supposed to scare us off from acting in Asia:

Now, it is possible that Beijing has simply decided that its internal growth is so big that it can afford the friction that comes with a rising power. My assessment, however, is that they're vastly overestimating their current power vis-a-vis the United States, and they're significantly undererstimating the effect of pushing the rest of the Pacific Rim into closer ties with the United States (and India).

More significantly, and to repeat a theme, China is overestimating its ability to translate the economic interdependence of the Asia/Pacific economy into political leverage. With these misperceptions, however, China is risking some serious conflicts down the road.

I've addressed these concepts before, with several links in this post.

Remember, China isn't loved by their neighbors and China is close enough to do real damage to those Asian countries if China is allowed to get their way.

America, on the other hand, is too far away to do much damage even if Asian countries thought we were out to get them. China has to be surprised that classic balance of power thinking hasn't led major powers to ally against us over the last twenty years. Add to this the fact that our power is still great enough--even from a distance--to help these Asian nations resist Chinese efforts to dominate the region.

The Pacific century will surely shape the world. We will be a major part of those doing the shaping.

And China's neighbors will relieved we are there.

UPDATE: More on the relationship between China, America, and the rest of the countries in east Asia:

I heard things like this: "We see the Obama administration forming close relationships with other countries against China," said Liu Guijin, an advisor to China's Ministry of Foreign Commerce. "I think it will be destabilizing."

Or this: "Suddenly, the United States is behaving aggressively toward China," complained Fan Gang, a leading Beijing economist and former government official.

And, in the middle of what increasingly sounds like Cold War-era saber-rattling — or, worse, the military rivalries of the late 19th century — smaller countries in East Asia are trying to figure out what it means for their future.

Some, like Vietnam and Singapore, have asked the United States to keep a big military force in Asia to counterbalance Chinese power. "America plays a role in Asia that China cannot replace," Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told the Wall Street Journal last week.

On Friday, President Obama met with Southeast Asian leaders at the United Nations, and aides said he would reaffirm the U.S. position opposing the use of force in the South China Sea.

The Chinese actually seem unaware that they are contributing to the trend of Asian nations seeking our help against China.

Let me offer China a bit of advice, that "Asia for the Asians" thing didn't pan out before and China won't manage to make it work today.

UPDATE: I wouldn't be surprised if the need for US help should it come to war influences India's choice about new fighter aircraft they are planning to buy. Buying American F-16s or F-18s would increase our inter-operability and overall defense cooperation between the United States and India. China would have to worry that in a crisis between India and China, a wing of American aircraft might stage to Indian bases already capable of supporting those aircraft.

And really, the Swedes, French, Russians, and EU might be able to provide fighters, too, but can they really be a counter-weight to China?

More UPDATE: Instapundit, linking to a post that notes that China is creating allies for us, says "It’s always a relief to know that our leaders aren’t the only idiots out there." We, at least, can vote our leaders out if they persist in idiocy beyond the bounds of decency.

But, hey! Maybe now, when our leaders eff up a wet dream or something, in a nod to Tom Friedman, we can say they "are acting like China for a day!"

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Able Was I Ere I Saw Alba

I wasn't a pig to notice her--it's science, damn it!

Scientist believe this 0.7 waist-to-hip ratio is a marker of optimal fertility. Marilyn Monroe and Jessica Alba are examples of women who have different overall body types, but who both boast the magic waist-to-hip ratio.
It is magical, isn't it?

Before the Bombs

Before bombs may fall, the cyber-warriors may be taking a shot at the Iranians:

 Iranian media reports say the country's nuclear agency is trying to combat a complex computer worm that has affected industrial sites in Iran and is capable of taking over power plants.

This is the Stuxnet virus I noted recently. The virus has shown up in India, Indonesia, and the U.S. Apparently, the Israelis are the prime suspect.

If this can only buy time, it is worth it. We did something similar during the Cold War, it seems. Although I'd heard it wasn't coding in the equipment but weak materials that did the trick. Who knows, but the point is that sabotage can take many forms that don't involve explosives.

But keep in mind that we could be a target of such attacks, and others that rely on bad code or substandard quality.

UPDATE: More thoughts.

Watch Your Street Cred

Japan needs to defend their reputation for defending their interests:

For Japan, investigating a fishing vessel trespassing in areas under its administration (which was what precipitated the crisis) would seem appropriate, as does its reaction when its orders are resisted. Yet the reported decision to release the captain without trial seems to undermine this position. More to the point, Japan’s response is likely to teach Beijing that if it blusters and shouts sufficiently, it will get its way. By failing to hold to their principles, Japanese officials should brace themselves for further such incursions and ever more assertive Chinese stances.

Not that Japan needed to match China in over-the-top rhetoric, but releasing the captain after judicial proceedings were completed might have been better.

Nobody wants this dispute to go to war. And it won't. But if Japan becomes viewed by China as an easy target (and doesn't believe America will back Japan), Japan could find themselves compelled to respond to a future crisis with military force or threats of force in an effort to keep their reputation from sliding further.

We faced that problem back in 1975 after South Vietnam fell and the Cambodians seized our merchant ship Mayaguez:

When the merchant ship Mayaguez and its American crew were seized by communist forces off the coast of Cambodia in 1975, the Ford administration was determined to craft a muscular response in hope of limiting damage to U.S. prestige, according to newly declassified documents published by the State Department.

I won't pretend that it is easy to navigate between cooling off a crisis so it doesn't lead to war and defending one's reputation, but that is why nation's have large corps of professional diplomats, right?

They Do Like the Bad Boys

China chooses an ally:

A five day state visit of Burmese leaders to China, which ended on the 11th, resulted in China pledging to back Myanmar and its military dictatorship diplomatically, financially and militarily.

Ah yes, yet another repressive state flirts with China, and Peking swoons at the offer. Oh, they were friends before, but now the relationship goes deeper.

India will no doubt take notice. They might also want to review the British 1944-45 offensive into Burma during World War II

Friday, September 24, 2010

Mission Accomplished? Darn Straight It Is

Just as President Bush got in trouble over declaring the end of "major combat operations"--meaning the end of conventional big unit maneuver warfare--on May 1, 2003, when fighting continued when terror and insurgency campaigns erupted after that date; President Obama is getting some grief for declaring the end of our combat role at the end of August:

Since President Barack Obama declared an end to combat operations in Iraq, U.S. troops have waged a gun battle with a suicide squad in Baghdad, dropped bombs on armed militants in Baquba and assisted Iraqi soldiers in a raid in Falluja.

Obama's announcement on August 31 has not meant the end of fighting for some of the 50,000 U.S. military personnel remaining in Iraq 7-1/2 years after the invasion that removed Saddam Hussein.

Yes, fighting has continued, but it is at a very reduced level of 15 incidents per day. I assume this means anything from an actual attack down to discovering an IED before it explodes. Iraq can handle this, but could use our help. We are providing that help. We should continue to provide the help for years or decades to come, even when there are no incidents per day.

At some point, some anti-war critics (and perhaps some conservative critics eager to score a point) will be tempted to slam the president for his own "mission accomplished" moment. This would be as foolish as the complaints about Bush purportedly claiming the war was over.

As Long as You've Axed

China's offer to move missiles away from Taiwan is a false concession, as I've explained before. Even destroying some missiles may mean nothing if the missiles destroyed are either obsolete or are excess to what China needs to support an invasion of Taiwan. China's offer to "axe" missiles must include destroying missiles and also destroying enough to make sure those remaining can't support an invasion of Taiwan.

China is at it again on this issue:

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has suggested that mainland missiles pointing at Taiwan could one day be removed, Taipei-based media reported Friday.

"I believe the issue you mention will eventually be realised," Wen said according to the United Daily News and other newspapers, when asked about withdrawing Chinese missiles targeting Taiwan. ...

Taiwanese experts estimate that the Chinese military has more than 1,600 missiles aimed at the island.

But recent reports in the island's media have said the People's Liberation Army may boost the number of short-range ballistic and cruise missiles facing Taiwan to 1,960 before the year's end.

So China may even just be upgrading their missiles and trying to gain propaganda points by offering the "concession" of moving or destroying older missiles that would be moved or retired anyway.

Taiwan needs to understand what the missiles would be used for in war and figure out how many China needs to defeat Taiwan; and then insist that the Chinese destroy enough missiles to make it impossible to carry out those missions. Otherwise, the Taiwanese are just pretending to make themselves safer by falling for China's ploy.

Reset?

If this is a result of our "reset" policy with Russia, I'll grant some credit to the Obama administration:

The Iranian defense minister criticized Russia Thursday for banning all sales of S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems to Iran.

Gen. Ahmad Vahidi's comments came a day after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev issued a decree on the ban, which also prohibited exports of tanks, aircraft and sea vessels to Iran.

But I worry about the price we paid. And this matters little if we won't use force to damage Iran's nuclear weapons programs, of course.
 
I also wonder if Iran won't get what they want by having Syria be the front man for purchases that ultimately go to Iran after making the right payments and bribes to make it happen.
 
In that case, the button Secretary Clinton delivered was accurately labeled as "overcharge" after all.

UPDATE: I may have been hasty in crediting the Obama administration, given Syria's status as an Iranian province:

While Russia is complying with the new sanctions against Iran, it wants to go on record as still opposed to such harsh restrictions on military sales to Iran. But Russia has an escape clause. While Russian finally cancelled the billion dollar sale of S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems to Iran, it is going through with a $300 million sale of P-800 high speed anti-ship missiles (with a range of 300 kilometers and a nearly quarter ton warhead) to Syria. These missiles, some or all of them, will end up in Iran. That's because Syria can't afford these missiles, and has been propped up by Iranian subsidies for over a decade. Now Russia plans to sell lots more weapons to Syria, not caring if much of this stuff mysteriously shows up in Iran. Russia made it clear that it would continue "military cooperation" with Iran, even though Iranian officials (as named in the new sanctions) are not permitted to enter Russia.

If our administration wants to pretend our foreign policy is a roaring success, our foes will happily pretend that our foreign policy is a roaring success (with the exception of Iran, which doesn't even respect us enough to pretend).

Yep, it's just an opportunity to over-charge the Iranians for the extra difficulty of getting weapons to Iran.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Iraq Can't Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder Yet

The most obvious of many deficiencies in the Iraqi military that argues for our continued presence long after the end of next year is the area of air power.

Our Air Force is still heavily engaged in missions over Iraq:

“Let us be frank, we don’t have the combat or jet fighters or intercepting planes or air defense systems,” Iraqi Air Force commander Staff Lt. Gen. Anwer Hamad Amen Ahmed told the AP in April. “We are still far from an air force’s full potential. We will need the U.S. long after 2011.”

Through the first seven months of 2010, according to statisitics supplied by the U.S. Air Force, American pilots flew 4,620 “close air support” missions over ground troops in combat. The airmen only fired their weapons only 10 of those flights[.]

And we do lots of recon missions as well as air transport.

It is possible that many missions could be flown from bases in Turkey, Kuwait, Oman, or carriers in the Gulf, rather than bases in Iraq, but it would be better to be based in Iraq for timeliness and to help train the Iraqis to take over missions as their air force grows.

Marriage of Convenience

Bin Laden hated Saddam and Saddam hated jihadis, but it is amazing that a shared hatred of America made them more cozy than many would want to admit today.

The Iraq War did not distract us from fighting al Qaeda. Indeed, we broke their back in Iraq.

We Can't Afford Self-contained Brigades?

Really? We might go back to divisions as the basic building block of deployed forces rather than the brigade combat teams we've organized the last half decade or so? And we may do it because we can't afford the vehicles to equip them?

A major determinant in how much equipment the Army will acquire in the future is a possible return to the division-based organization. When the Army was reorganizedt his last decade during the Iraq War from a division- to a brigade-based structure, equipment demand soared because each brigade had to be outfitted with enough vehicles and aircraft. Now the Army is reconsidering the modular brigade makeup simply because it is too expensive to maintain and in some cases there are not enough resources to supply every brigade, Chiarelli said.

The Army will have 158,000 Humvee trucks by 2012, and it is not clear why such a high number is needed, Chiarelli said. “A lot of that [growth in the Humvee fleet] had to do with moving to a modular force,” he said. It has now become clear that the modular force is “not as efficient as a division-based force when it comes to equipment,” he explained. Whereas in a division, equipment can be allocated to units based on need, “When you break into brigades, you have to provide the capability to each and every one of the brigades.”

The Army Training and Doctrine Command is expected to offer recommendations over the next six to nine months for possibly doing away or partially modifying the modular brigade structure, Chiarelli said.

Now I admit that I've long thought that the division had a role in allocating fire support for the various brigades under it in high intensity combat. A decade ago I wrote in Military Review that I thought we could go to a 2-brigade division (with more divisons for rotation purposes) to make the division more strategically mobile, with the option of adding a third National Guard brigade (or another active duty brigade if time is of the essence) in case we needed more bulk for a more capable enemy in a high intensity conventional environment.

While the brigade combat teams have been successful in Iraq and Afghanistan in a counter-insurgency role, maybe full spectrum combat means we need the traditional division. But to bring back the traditional division role (as opposed to the new role these headquarters gained as command entities like the old World War II corps rather than being a logistical entity, too, as they were until recently) simply because we can't afford to buy low-tech Humvees and trucks? Really?

If we need the old-style division back, by all means bring it back. But if the reason is we don't want to buy vehicles, just buy the damn vehicles.

I Am So There

There is a new TV show that I need to watch, Nikita.

It is based on the old French movie , La Femme Nikita, about a bad ass but very troubled woman. In this case, Maggie Q is the woman:



Troubled and hot. I am so there. But perhaps I've shared too much.

Anyway, I need to catch up with the episodes aired thus far and tune in.

Did I mention Maggie Q is the star?



I did? Oh well. forgive me for posting a second photo for purely identification purposes.

If there were blog sweeps months, I'd be golden this September.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Do We Really Need More Troops in Afghanistan?

This author believes we don't have enough troops to win in Afghanistan:

[The] ratio for Afghanistan at the end of 2009 was only 9:1,000. By the fall of 2010, American force levels will be just shy of 100,000. Combined with allied and partner-nation contributions of some 45,000 troops (many of which are noncombat), 134,000 Afghan soldiers and 109,000 Afghan national policemen (both still on a steep learning curve), the total number of security forces will be less than 390,000, or 280,000 troops short of meeting that 1:20 ratio for an Afghan population of about 33 million.

At least this discussion doesn't focus exclusively on American troops, as the troop number debate in Iraq did over the years.

I think we have enough troops. The number cited above doesn't count contract security personnel (71,000?) or local defense troops (10,000?) or paramilitaries (3,000?) that we can count on to fight or resist the Taliban. We're over 470,000, quite possibly. More importantly, we don't need that ratio in all of Afghanistan. Remember, we broke the backs of our enemies in Iraq long before we reached the magic level of 20 security personnel per 1,000 people.

I think we need between 360,000 and 470,000 to win, based on my older post looking at the theater. It looks like we have the numbers needed even for my worst case scenario.

Now we just have to choose to win rather than wring our hands and run away.

Actual Cyber "War"

Much of what passes for cyber-war is espionage and propaganda, with only some costing money to cope with the effects of being hacked or drowned in a denial of service attack. Is this an actual cyber-weapon? And was it used on Iran?

Cyber security experts say they have identified the world's first known cyber super weapon designed specifically to destroy a real-world target – a factory, a refinery, or just maybe a nuclear power plant.

The cyber worm, called Stuxnet, has been the object of intense study since its detection in June. As more has become known about it, alarm about its capabilities and purpose have grown. Some top cyber security experts now say Stuxnet's arrival heralds something blindingly new: a cyber weapon created to cross from the digital realm to the physical world – to destroy something.

At least one expert who has extensively studied the malicious software, or malware, suggests Stuxnet may have already attacked its target – and that it may have been Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant, which much of the world condemns as a nuclear weapons threat.

This is crossing a major threshold, if true.

A Secret Army

The CIA directs Afghans in a campaign against the Taliban:

A security professional in Kabul familiar with the operation says the 3,000-strong force was set up in 2002 to capture targets for CIA interrogation.

It's called the Counterterrorist Protection Team, and also operates inside Pakistan sometimes.

Good. I rather assumed that had to be part of our war effort, and speculated we might try this in Pakistan itself if the Pakistanis would not confront the Taliban based in Pakistan's frontier provinces.

A Serious Attitude Problem

Seriously, what is going on inside China's leadership? They are making a really big deal out of the arrest of one of their ship captain's who was picked up by the Japanese in waters off of small islands that Japan claims and contols, but which China claims, too:

China's premier threatened "further actions" if Japan fails immediately to release a trawler captain, as Beijing staged its highest-level intervention yet in a bitter row between Asia's biggest powers.

Japan in turn called for talks to resolve the feud, but rejected China's territorial claim to disputed islets near where the Chinese skipper was apprehended by Japanese coast guard crews two weeks ago.

"I strongly urge the Japanese side to release the skipper immediately and unconditionally," Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said in New York, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

"If Japan clings to its mistake, China will take further actions and the Japanese side shall bear all the consequences that arise," he said, urging Tokyo to "correct its mistakes to bring relations back on track".

This is getting darned close to war talk. Over a sea boundary dispute. What are the Chinese up to? Is there some internal leadership dispute and one faction is using anger at Japan as a lever to win the dispute?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What Happened to Our Ideals?

You know, as dismayed as I was about that inbred nutjob so-called preacher who promised to--but didn't--burn a Koran on September 11th, in retrospect I'm more upset about the denunciations from our highest levels of government of the man over the threatened act. He's and idiot. That's a given. He is revolting, even.

But what happened to the idea that we may disapprove of his opinion but we will defend his right to say it? I mean, the ACLU used to defend the right of Nazis to parade through Jewish neighborhoods. I thought that was ridiculous, but I at least admired their consistency. Where's the love of freedom of speech now in those quarters?

Wouldn't it have been better to tell the Moslem world we think the man is a jerk and his opinion revolting, but in our country, he has a right to be and act like a jerk? And further, couldnt' we say we expect all Moslems to behave like civilized people and if some extremists respond with violence, we will handle them with force, too? Wouldn't it have been better to assert that we will not be driven to abandon our freedom of speech because violent extremists claiming to defend the honor of all Moslems threaten violence against us?

Couldn't we point out that we've noticed that burning the American flag is something of a national sport in some places, yet we haven't carpet bombed them into glassy fields?

And perhaps we could point out that whole trying to murder the Pope incident while he visited Britain? As a Catholic, I haven't gotten all overly excited and did not threaten to take my revenge on the nearest Moslem because some nutball Moslems tried to kill my Pope. Heck, given the IEDs and beheadings those nuts usually carry out, a nice calm Bible burning would be a nice change of pace.

Steyn put it well in this piece:

So just to clarify the ground rules, if you insult Christ, the media report the issue as freedom of expression: A healthy society has to have bold, brave, transgressive artists willing to question and challenge our assumptions, etc. But, if it’s Mohammed, the issue is no longer freedom of expression but the need for "respect" and "sensitivity" toward Islam, and all those bold brave transgressive artists don’t have a thing to say about it.

Sensitivity is strictly a one-way street, these days. If Voltaire had been a hopped-up, backwoods, jihadi, he would have said, "I disapprove of what you say, and I will defend myself by causing your death if you exercise your right to say it."

In the war between civilization and the barbarians, the barbarians are given too much of an edge by our elites.

Unclear on the Concept

China really needs to get over the idea that they own the South "China" Sea:

China told the United States not to interfere in a regional dispute over claims to the South China Sea, saying it would only complicate the matter.

Japan's NHK TV reported last week that the United States and southeast Asian countries may announce a joint statement on September 24 that obliquely presses China over its recent activities near disputed isles in the South China Sea.

China has been increasingly strident in asserting its territorial claims, especially maritime ones.

One, that kind of attitude is hardly a demonstration of their supposedly awesome "soft power."
 
And two, other countries--countries we like more--dispute your claim. So unless you are prepared to stay out of North and South "America" because our country's name is included in those continents, we'll "complicate" the South China Sea matter as we damn well please.

Perspective

Former President Jimmy Carter thinks highly of himself:

I feel that my role as a former president is probably superior to that of other presidents.

Well, for our enemies, I have no doubt that Carter has been better for them--superior, in fact--than any other ex-president.

It's a wonder we aren't all speaking Russian--or Farsi--after his four years in office. We're a great country, indeed, to survive his time in office.

If You Can't Kill, Talk

Strategypage outlines the Israel-Palestinian peace process:

Palestinians use negotiations to gain whatever small advantages they can. The ultimate goal, as is plainly displayed on official Palestinian web sites and official documents, is the expulsion of all Jews from what the United Nations erroneously calls “Israel.”

Do read it all. The Palestinians seem to value the mere chance of killing Jews as far more important than building decent lives for themselves.

Why anybody actually believes we must solve the Palestinian question first, before tackling any other Middle East problem, is beyond me.

Serfdom

So the British tax collectors want to get the first shot at employee pay checks and pass on what they don't want to collect (Tip to Mad Minerva):

The UK's tax collection agency is putting forth a proposal that all employers send employee paychecks to the government, after which the government would deduct what it deems as the appropriate tax and pay the employees by bank transfer.

I'm guessing that a lot of Britons are beginning to wonder about the wisdom of having an unwritten constitution to protect their rights.

The British would be one small step from getting an allowance from mommy government in exchange for doing their chores. As a further advantage, it would be easier to fine people who fail to recycle properly.

Although to be fair, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne did get Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake in a farcical aquatic ceremony:



What a bloody give away.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Who Can Pause the Longest?

So the Palestinians won't talk if Israel builds more homes in the West Bank?

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said on Monday he will not take part in US-backed peace talks "for a single day" if Israel does not extend a freeze on settlement building at the month's end.

"The negotiations will continue as long as the settlement (construction) remains frozen, but I am not prepared to negotiate an agreement for a single day more," Abbas told AFP.

I say the Israelis should agree to that linkage--but with their own linkage.

Israel will retain their freeze as long as no attacks on Israel are launched from Gaza or the West Bank.

And to be fair, Israel can quantify that condition. If a rocket or shell impacts in Israel, Israel permits one construction site to go forward. If an Israeli structure is damaged, 5 permits are approved. if a structure is destroyed, 10 permits are approved. If an Israeli is wounded, 25 permits are approved. And if an Israeli is killed, 100 permits are approved.

I mean, if peace negotiations are to have preconditions, let's be fair, If the Palestinians are that peace-loving and Hamas and Fatah are really in charge, the settlement freeze will never end while negotiations go forward.

Who could oppose such a fair conditional plan of suspending settlement construction and attacks, with the goal of peace?

Look, I think eventually there will be some sort of Palestinian state or states, but the current crop of leaders feel they can kill Jews at will and still talk peace with no consequences.

Not Broken

McClatchy tends to the extreme in interpretations that paint the military in a bad light, in my experience, so I take this article headline with a grain of salt or two:

As Iraq winds down, U.S. Army confronts a broken force

The article leads with a report on how one battalion was really combat ineffective after it returned from war due to substance abuse and discipline problems. One company seems to have accounted for the bulk, however, and the problems were solved, which indicates to me that this was a broken battalion (or company, even) rather than a broken Army.

And while some of the statistics are disturbing and should be addressed, it does not paint the picture of an Army broken as it was after Vietnam for many years. And some of the statistics, like speeding and drunk driving, are a little understandable when you consider that our troops came back from a largely dry war theater where defensive driving was going fast and there were no traffic lights and hit our streets with an expensive car bought while their pay accumulated. This is something that needs to be addressed, but is not an indicator of the Army being broken.

I am more disturbed about substance abuse, and this is undoubtedly a problem that included soldiers "self medicating" to cope with the stress of combat. Again, as long as we address this problem, it is not something that necessarily means the Army is "broken." Units may be "broken," and that is bad enough, but as we continue to field effective units to two war theaters, I don't see the Army as broken.

The Army is a tool. We used it heavily, no doubt. We strained it and stressed it (and the soldiers who make it up) with heavy deployment. We unbalanced it by focusing on counter-insurgency at the expense of conventional skills. But we needed to use that tool. Of course it was worn down in being used. But if we don't use it, why have it?

Just as important as the short-term problems that must be resolved, this Army has also gained tremendous amounts of combat experience that will make it better than it was at the beginning of 2003, once we rebalance it and give the soldiers who make it up a rest, and maintain and replace equipment used up in the now quieter Iraq theater.

Work the problem, people. Don't make it out to be worse than it is.

If Wishes Were Fishes

The report from Iran that they'd nabbed seven US troops has been denied by the US and retracted by the Iranian news agency:

"Reports by state-run Iranian media that seven U.S. soldiers were detained after crossing into Iran are absolutely false," Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell told POLITICO. ...

Javan [news agency] ... retracted the story and apologized to its readers.

This is a relief. But not to worry, it will be true somewhere, some time, given how much the Iranians love to have Western captives around as negotiating pawns.

The Fruits of Reset

I thought that cancellation by the Obama administration of the Bush-era ballistic missile system defenses in Eastern Europe was supposed to unlock Russian cooperation on a host of issues of importance to us.

If so, this isn't one of them:

Russia is to defy Israel and the United States by supplying Syria with advanced anti-ship missiles despite fears that they could fall into the hands of Hizbollah, the Iranian-backed group based in southern Lebanon.

Yeah, we're being too touchy, right?

Let's sell the Georgians some Harpoon anti-ship missiles and see how the Russians like that.

Given that we mis-labeled that famous "reset" button, I suppose we shouldn't assume that the Russians understand what the button symbolized as we do.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Century Up for Grabs

I still remember when analysts put forth the idea that the American "century" would be marked as lasting from 1898 to 1975. The Soviet Union would take our place as we had taken the place of Britain whose century in the lead faded in 1898 when we took our place on the world stage. There were foreign policy "realists" at the time who thought that it was their duty to manage our decline to our best advantage.

And I remember how Japan would supplant us. And Germany has been in there as has the European Union as a whole.

Now, of course, it is China that is supposed to replace us.

Except that they are well behind us in GDP now, let alone per capita GDP.  So our decline and China's rise has yet to take place.

Further, we actually have to lose. While some analysts are eager to write our obituary, China's rise in hardly inevitable. And our decline, whether absolute or relative, does not have to happen. Our future is still in our hands.

I mean, really, people, would anyone not named Thomas Friedman really want to trade places with China?

I say we deserve two centuries. Let's take it.

Sophisticated Europeans

Sweden, says the story, is in disarray because anti-Islam fanatics have spoiled the center-left/center right party:

A far-right party entered the Swedish Parliament for the first time in elections Sunday, spoiling the center-right government's victory and majority, and plunging the country into political disarray, preliminary results showed.

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt was seeking to become the first center-right leader to win re-election after serving a full term in a Scandinavian welfare nation dominated for decades by the left-wing Social Democrats.

But the Islam-bashing Sweden Democrats held the balance of power after winning 5.7 percent of the votes for 20 seats in the 349-seat legislature, according to results.

Perhaps the Swedish Democrats are Islam bashers. But it wouldn't attract votes, I'd bet, if the center-left/center-right had been willing to address the problem of Islamic immigrants failing to conform to the political and social norms of Sweden. Instead, the governing class has allowed Islam to develop into an alien presence eating away at their cities.

Sweden doesn't have an immigration problem--it is an assimilation problem. Whatever happened to "when in Rome, do as the Romans" as a guide? Sweden has a right to expect immigrants to behave as Swedes. Instead, the Swedish government seems to believe that Swedes need to conform to a violent minority that bends both Moslems and Sweden as a whole toward accepting Islamo-faascist thinking as the norm.
 
I wrote many months ago that I figured that Malmo would be the first Western jurisdiction to forbid bartenders from serving alcohol to Moslems, taking on the role of enforcer of Islamist practices.
 
If the governing classes would address the problem that radical Islam creates for the West, far right parties wouldn't have any appeal at all.

Program Interruption

I am finishing up watching Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. It is an amusing story. I've seen it many times. What really sets is apart for me is Christine Taylor:



I mean, wow! She's just stunning. If she wanted me to take her to a sushi place for dinner, I'd do it.

I now resume regular ranting.

Lafayette, We are Here With Your Flag

This is a nice story about old friends who sometimes don't get along as we should:

On the day Paris was liberated from the Nazis in 1944, a young American soldier nabbed a souvenir of epic proportions: He took home the French flag that hung from the Arc de Triomphe, a symbol of the end of four years of struggle and shame.

Six and a half decades later, the aging veteran has given the flag back to the city of Paris.

The veterans made a touching effort to begin the flag's journey back to Paris:

The flag didn't resurface until 2008, when Armand Lourdin, a French chef who has lived in the United States for three decades, was cooking for a group of U.S. veterans he had gotten to know in his job at a private club in Chappaqua, New York. After dinner, the veterans sent for him.

"Everybody was standing up, they had opened up the flag and they were all singing the Marseillaise in French - they had learned the words," Lourdin told the AP by telephone from his home in New York. One of the men told him that he had taken the flag as Paris was liberated, and asked Lourdin to carry it to France on his upcoming vacation.

The French have been gracious:

French officials have no intention of scolding him: They have only thanks and kind words for him, pointing out that he once risked his life for France.

"I'm infinitely grateful," Catherine Vieu-Charier, deputy to the mayor of Paris, told The Associated Press. French historian Christine Levisse-Touze insisted his act couldn't be considered a theft.

"If an American GI wanted to take home a souvenir, I'd say there was nothing reprehensible about that, it's an act you can easily understand," said Levisse-Touze, director of a Paris museum with exhibits on the city's liberation.

This is a very touching story and everyone is acting with dignity and respect. In this day and age, it is a pleasure to read a story that makes me feel good.

Sort of a Religion

The religion of Eco-snots seeks to impose their mindless rituals on the rest of us:

‘GET EXCITED about Single Stream!’’ trills the flyer that comes from Brookline Town Hall. A letter from the commissioner of public works hails the “exciting change’’ beginning next month, when town residents will no longer be required to sort their recyclable trash into separate blue bins — one for paper, the other for cans, bottles, and plastic containers. Instead recyclables will all go into 64-gallon “toters,’’ which will be emptied at curbside on trash day.

But like much else about this religion, the claims aren't actually true. You just get the excitement of a different kind of sorting.

But it isn't about the impact on our environment at all:

“There is not a community curbside recycling program in the United States that covers its cost,’’ says Jay Lehr, science director at the Heartland Institute and author of a handbook on environmental science. They exist primarily to make people “feel warm and fuzzy about what they are doing for the environment.’’

But if recycling household trash makes everyone feel warm and fuzzy, why does it have to be compulsory? Mandatory recycling programs “force people to squander valuable resources in a quixotic quest to save what they would sensibly discard,’’ writes Clemson University economist Daniel K. Benjamin. “On balance, recycling programs lower our wealth.’’ Now whose idea of exciting is that?

I won't be singing with the choir on this one. These nuts believe that recycling is an indulgence that lets them jet off to ski in Colorado guilt-free. I feel no need to go along with their religious nonsense. I swear to God, I'm getting really close to intepretive dance in protest.

Now go and emit no more.

Japanophobic?

One nutcase here threatens to (but does not) burn a Koran, and some in our Left-friendly media have fits about how we are Islamophobic.

So what are we to make of officially instigated acts of burning Japanese flags?

From the linked AP article.

Says the article:

China on Sunday broke off high-level government contacts with Japan over the extended detention of a fishing boat captain arrested near disputed islands. The rare move pushed already tense relations to a new low, and showed China's willingness to play hardball with its Asian rival on issues of territorial integrity.

It came a day after anti-Japanese protests broke out across China on the anniversary of the start of a brutal Japanese invasion of China in 1931 that has historically cast a shadow over ties between what are now the world's second and third-largest economies.

China turns the anti-Japanese mobs on and off to suit state policy. Really, the Communist Party of China is in no position to make accusations of brutality.

Ah, it seems like only yesterday that analysts over here were envious of China's soft power that was making friends and influencing people.

UPDATE: Japan wants China to tone it down:

Japan urged China to remain calm and not inflame their diplomatic spat further Monday after Beijing severed high-level contacts and then called off a visit by Japanese youth over the detention of a Chinese fishing boat captain near disputed islands.

And while China is doing the protesting now, Japan could soon have their own issue to hit China with:

In a possible sign of further turbulence ahead, Shikata, the Japanese spokesman, said the government was monitoring reports that China could be preparing to begin drilling in a disputed East China Sea gas deposit in violation of a 2008 agreement between the two nations.

That soft power is going to leave a mark, if it keeps up at this rate.

Well, We Don't Have an Embassy to Storm

I do hope that this early report about Iranians capturing American soldiers is wrong:

"Recently seven American troops were detained by Iranian guards in a southeastern province of the country ... Two Iranians accompanying the troops were also arrested," said Fars.

I have no doubt that the Iranians would love to humiliate us by holding some of our people hostage. But I find it hard to believe that we'd be that careless near the border or wouldn't have fought if confronted.

But then, I wouldn't have thought that British sailors would let themselves be captured by the Iranians. I think my conclusion in that post applies here:

And if this is going on four months from now, explain to me again how it would have been a bad idea within thirty minutes of figuring out Iran's game to start destroying Pasdaran military assets in around-the-clock attacks until the fifteen were released.

Explain why it would have been rash for the British to declare to the Iranians that they want Tulley alive or Ahmadinejad dead.

With Britain unwilling to confront Iran over these hostages, we are indeed witnessing the end of an era. And if Iran get nukes, we will witness the beginning of another.
 
But it is early. Who knows if the report is even true?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Fear the Disruptions

Ah, so it is to be "global climate disruption" now:

President Obama’s Science Czar John Holdren is worried about global warming. Having noticed that there hasn’t actually been any global warming since 1998, he feels it ought to be called “global climate disruption” instead. That way whether it gets warmer or colder, wetter or drier, less climatically eventful or more climatically eventful, the result will be the same: it can all be put down to “global climate disruption.”

Yes. This is convenient for them. No more "global warming." Lack of recent warming and questions of their data about past temperatures made that tough. And "climate change" is kind of vague when you consider the climate simply changes whether we do anything or not. But now, when any incident of "disruption" from what is supposed to be the norm is a sign of the Apocalypse, and the solution is more government regulation of our lives, there is no point when we can send home the experts appointed to save us from ourselves after solving the problem.

I'm not convinced that the data over thousands of years is sound enough to conclude we are the warmest ever; I'm not convinced, even if we are the warmest ever, that we can pin it on man; and even if it is demonstrably warmer because of man's activities, I sure as heck don't buy the socialistic and anti-liberty solutions peddled by the global disruptionists. That's my basic position.

They can go disrupt themselves, as far as I'm concerned.