September 27, 2007

Australians and Americans battle Taliban fighters

In what may help the public better understand the threats faced by front- line soldiers the Defense Department has released footage of Australian soldiers fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. Aided by U.S. air cover Australian soldiers serving with the Reconstruction Task Force (RTF) in Afghanistan have successfully repelled a prolonged attack by a group of up to 80 Taliban extremists. This was the sixth sustained attack on RTF soldiers since July this year and involved their heaviest fighting yet. Read more here

In further news, the Afghanistan based Reconstruction Task Force (RTF) completed two major construction projects this week, with the opening of the redeveloped Tarin Kowt Hospital and the newly constructed Yaklengah Comprehensive Health Clinic.The two projects were opened and handed over to the local government by Commanding Officer of the RTF, Lieutenant Colonel Harry Jarvie, at a ceremony at the hospital on Sunday 16 September 2007. The US$700,000 Tarin Kowt Hospital project began in late 2006 and was completed on schedule this week by the RTF and local contractors.

Feel free to comment

September 24, 2007

Non-American networks: Opportunity or Threat

... new networks are for now, largely motivated by international trade, nevertheless concern is building that in a not too distant future, emerging powers will begin forming security and political relationships that on current evidence will test America’s capacity to adapt...

In this era of Globalization, multi-polar formations that defy existing U.S. power and authority are beginning to surface, and we can predict a future where U.S. pre-eminence may be challenged due to an array of international complexities in addition to the rise of new foreign connections that exclude it. Specifically of concern, are nation states joining to form economic and security arrangements that leave out and reject the interests of the United States. How does the U.S. counter this? It cannot resist these emerging trends with force, and in any event, even Americans currently lack the will for resistance of an imperialist nature. Policymakers in the U.S. must therefore accommodate such changes whilst balancing national interests against other global responsibilities.

Potential economic and military superpowers are beginning to emerge, and although none is yet, of its own volition sufficiently strong to offset American domain, Washington may be well advised to consider the prospect that they may soon combine to do so. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Russia is once again flexing its economic and military muscle, India its economic might and China all the above, in addition to building the foundations for a future dominating world role. Collectively, these developments in addition to new partnerships and networks, may begin testing the dominance of not just the U.S, but the fundamental G7 group.

The new networks are for now, largely motivated by international trade, nevertheless concern is building that in a not too distant future, emerging powers will begin forming security and political relationships that on current evidence will test America’s capacity to adapt.

BRIC – Brazil, Russia, India, and China: The first two have enormous capacity as suppliers of raw materials while India and China are becoming the world’s biggest manufacturing economies. Global investment banking firm Goldman Sachs says that the economic potential of Brazil, Russia, India, and China is such that they will become among the four most dominant economies by the year 2050 with nearly 40% of the world's population and a combined GDP equalling 15.435 trillion dollars. On all tables, this would make it the largest entity in the globe.

IBSA – India, Brazil, South Africa: As new developing nations, this group is engaging to form a new platform for political and economic discussions to compliment there strong economies. Eventually, this will help consolidate their interests in trade negotiations previously controlled by the U.S.

SCO – Shanghai Co-operation Organisation: This group brings together Russia, China and some central Asian republics to discuss security concerns in central Asia. This is not a military bloc and to the U.S.’s favor, both Russia and China’s mutual suspicions are compromising its effectiveness. However, with Pakistan, India and Iran having observer status the foundations exist for a wider anti-America agenda.

European Union: Wealth, size, and economic output render this union a candidate for leadership; however, it is highly doubtful to coalesce into an anti American bloc. Moreover, a lack of internal coherence will limit its capacity to exert global influence of a dominating quality.

Iran: Aside from its nuclear ambitions, Iran is developing the world’s largest gas field with India in addition to meeting China’s rising energy needs with trade exchange growing by nearly 40% in 2006 alone. Opposition to the U.S. provides a basis to form closer relations with other anti American states including Venezuela and Cuba. Of significance, Iran and Venezuela are leading OPEC members giving them a significant capacity to exercise control in world oil markets.

Opportunely, there are competitive tensions between these states, tensions permitting Washington to play them off against one another at least for the time being. In due course, this may well change and how the U.S. confronts the challenge will determine whether such networks prove to be an opportunity or threat to its global dominance.

Your comments are most welcome...

September 22, 2007

A World Without America

... "if the day were to come that the U.S. does collapse economically, financially, politically and strategically, or alternatively butt out of worldly affairs as most seem to wish, not completely but enough to cause major shifts, then the world may be faced with a global situation of startling instability and great risk. A global shift in power of which the end product cannot be accurately guessed at, nor can it be forecast with any exactitude's"...

September 17, 2007

Time moved on

“Politically neutral blog … to disseminate knowledge of, highlight threats to, explore opportunities for … serve as a platform of …” recognize the words? Ladies and gentleman a dilemma ensues, for how is it tenable to post about that left wing, self-serving, U.S. public policy body within the columns of a purportedly politically neutral platform? More exactly, can we divorce this organisation from Democratic Party1 politics? The short answer is no. Yet, by virtue of its production, and however incongruous this may seem, this post is aimed squarely at the shameful antics of an organization which, through its recent New York Times ad, questioned whether it was General Petraeus or General betray us! To suggest that the exploit, was morally and politically outrageous is a glaring understatement for it was tantamount to accusing a decorated 4-star veteran and, in some way, a leader within a great nation state, of treason.

How disappointing for anti war interests, that Petraeus cast doubt on the notion that Iraq was lost, that security and stability was “in large measure”, being addressed, that Iran was cited as a serious threat to stability through its support of Shiite Militias, insurgent groups and Hezbollah; the anti war side incessantly claim that the Iran connection is a myth. Even though and rather astutely, the Generals bottom line was considered and evenhanded citing that “innumerable challenges lie ahead’ and that “violence of an ethnic and sectarian nature remains “troubling”. For those interested, the complete address can be viewed here: Iraq commander Petraeus report to Congress.

For the most part, however this post is not about the report itself, nor is it meant to attack elements of American affairs of state and politics. In my previous post, I alluded to goings-on within the U.S. that detract from the nation’s neglected pursuit of international respect being “in part, proportional to America’s own respect for its leaders”. Would I be incorrect to suggest that an Army General in charge of the entire Multi-National Force - Iraq (MNF-I), and oversees all U.S. forces in the Iraq, be deemed a leader of sorts? The disparaging attack on the General does not merely discredit the organisation, but the entire nation, at a time when America can ill afford it. MoveOn peddles in hatred and lies, these are not the American qualities we have come to admire and whilst the obvious discussion point has been, “did the ad help the pro-war or anti-war side? I would ask how does it serve America in the context of international respect?

1. This is the organisation responsible for raising millions for Democratic candidates and formed with the purpose of getting the nation to move on following the Lewinsky affair and Clinton impeachment process.

Comments always appreciated...

September 12, 2007

Remembering 9/11

Americans stood in silence to remember the nearly 3,000 people killed in the September 11 attacks on Tuesday as Osama bin Laden resurfaced to praise the suicide hijackers responsible. This week marks the sixth anniversary of the devastating terrorist attacks and bloggers around the world are paying homage to this unforgettable day, providing personal reflections and commentary on relevant current political events.

I could not help but notice, all the Bush bashing within U.S. Blogosphere on this, the anniversary of 9/11. In scrutinizing America from Australasia, it has come to my attention that international respect for the U.S. is in part, proportional to America’s own respect for its leaders. This is not the President’s war it is a nations, a war authorised by 296 House members and 76 senators. If its political leaders joined forces in a true sense of bi-partisanship, Democrat and Republican alike, then a victory can be designed and terrorism ultimately controlled. Otherwise we risk terrorism winning out, said Abu Musab al-Zarqawi just before being killed by U.S. forces in 2006, ‘We fight today in Iraq, tomorrow in the land of the holy places, and after that in the West’.

The United States must strive for cohesion and honourable conduct, regrettably, internal squabbling detracts from this.

Reverting back to remembering 9/11, I present a small number of featured posts:

Never forget 9/11 2001 - 2007 - New Wars
A Reply to OBL and his "Caravan of Martyrs" - EagleSpeak
Notes on anniversary - Neptunus Lex
Remembering September 11 - Burkean Reflections

Please feel free to comment...

September 11, 2007

Who's the foe, I says Hu

Did anyone notice the differential treatment dished out to President George W. Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao during last weeks APEC meeting by media and local protest groups. Here we had two Presidents, one the leader of the free world and democratic United States, the other an unelected leader of a communist regime. The last sentence alone should be instructive as to the direction this short discourse will take.

By late last week I was both confounded and irritated. Why was the media so exceedingly conciliatory with Hu yet ruthless with Bush? In addition, why do protesters and students continually hark about Bush and in the case of the latter, even stage a walk out but remain in their classrooms for Hu? Indeed why is it Bush, who attracts media derision whilst Hu is warmly welcomed and portrayed as “own man’?

Ladies and Gentleman is it not time we woke up to the China fantasy - the idea that signing trade deals, that is, advancing Capitalism will lead to democratic institutions, free elections, westernized forms of judiciary processes and respect for human rights in China, because the evidence would suggest otherwise.

I say to protesters, before you rush out to create those anti America placards reading ‘foreign troops out’, ‘protect workers rights’ and ‘stop global warming’ perhaps you could consider who the real foe is, for I say it is Hu. The United States actually cut green house gas emissions in 2006, not so China, and there not even talking about it. China is continuing to tighten its grip on occupied Tibet; it supports Mugabe’s crazy regime in Zimbabwe and props up the government of Sudan where genocide is rife. Hu manages hundreds of forced labor camps and not even religion escapes the control with the Communist Party governing the conduct of China's Catholic churches, while other state-controlled bodies keep watch over the country's Buddhists, Taoists, Muslims, and Protestants and just recently, it sent cyber-dissident and blogger He Weihua to a mental hospital just for expressing his views on-line.

These Bush bashers do not understand China thanks in part, to both so-called China experts, and many self-proclaimed morally bankrupt scholars, and writers. Notice how quick they react when there is a gathering of Australian and Chinese leaders, they rush to the airwaves and hastily submit op-ed pieces commenting on the extraordinary challenges faced by Chinese leaders in there quest for growth - a popular and romantic view. For too long, critics of China policy have been labelled ignorant and lacking the exclusive understanding of China's "uniqueness". That is nonsense, where are these same China experts when the Chinese arrest dissidents or close down media interests? Fact is, even modestly remunerated academics can increase their income by ignoring such issues and work on the side as paid consultants for corporate interests doing business with the Chinese. The sine qua non is simple: if a specialist questions China, they are denied access, if a specialist praises China, they are provided access. Without access, how can an "expert" be expert?

China is by any measure a one party dictatorship, even after 30 years of economic growth every major dissident is either imprisoned or exiled. How shallow and one-dimensional most nearly all observations are about China. Criticizing it does not constitute "anti-Chinese" racism, nor does it automatically render one a conservative eccentric. Facts should speak for themselves, something our insincere and ill-mannered reporters should consider when next addressing an American president.

This post can also be viewed atthe Reuters site: click here

Your comments are most welcome...

September 7, 2007

Putin pounces on Asia-Pacific region

Whilst the aforementioned actions are noteworthy what disturbs me more, are some largely unreported measures taken to boost patriotism and point Russia on a menacing path.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in Australia for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting, the first serving Russian political leader to visit the nation. Landing in Sydney via Jakarta, after signing off $6 billion in military and energy deals with Indonesian counterpart Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, in what is seen as a key step by Russia to reassert influence across the Asia-Pacific.

Other deals signed yesterday, include plans to invest $1.2 billion in Indonesia's state oil and gas and over $3.5 billion in bauxite exploration.

Russia is attempting to counter the supremacy of the US across the region and, in what is further evidence that the ‘bear’ is stirring.

In early July, RAF jets were scrambled to intercept two Russian Tu95 bombers heading close to Scottish airspace. Also in July, Putin tested a deadly missile, launched from a sub in the White Sea. It entered the stratosphere before hitting its target precisely nearly 3,800 miles away in the Russian Far East. This coming on top of two other significant events including the resuming the Soviet-era practice of sending strategic bombers on long-range flights and a Russian Sub planting a titanium flag at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean to symbolically claim the resource-rich region.

This is a Russia re-visiting its confrontational past. Whilst the aforementioned actions are noteworthy what disturbs me more, are some largely unreported measures taken to boost patriotism and point Russia on a menacing path.

I refer to the creation of a patriotic youth group named "Nashi", which translates to “ours”, whose purpose is to inculcate nationalistic virtues in tune with Putin’s vision of a greater Russia. Also disturbing are reports that Mr. Putin has complimented the authors of a new manual for high school history teachers that encourages renewed pride in their country's past and instills a renewed sense of camaraderie.

Mr. Putin has a coherent plan to rebuild Russian pride and strength across all sectors and with their defense budget rising from fewer than 150 billion roubles in 2001 to 850 billion now, one may wonder if a new Cold War will return. We can speculate endlessly, but with Putin pointing Russia on an increasingly nationalist course coupled with significant military spending we can only be suspicious, more than ever since Sergei Ivanov, the architect of the new Russian military being set to replace Putin early next year.

Click here, here and here for previous posts on Russia.

Comments always appreciated...

September 6, 2007

Like it or not we still need America

... if in fact America does turn its back on other nations for a sustained period, say 25 years, world order, as we have come to know it, will be turned on its head.

With George W. Bush having arrived in Australia for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, I thought it opportune to reaffirm how vital it remains for nations to engage the United States in an intelligent and constructively manner.

The U.S. is increasingly dealing with a challenging world. At a time where countries as China, India, Russia and Iran are vying for regional predominance, where competition between liberalism and absolutism has re-ignited, where and nations are once again, gradually lining up along ideological lines, where the rift between tradition and modernity (Islamic fundamentalism verses modern secularism) is widening, and finally when anti-Americanism is so pronounced; it was timely to come across a common sense blog post/opinion in yesterdays national papers.

Janet Albrechtsen, a columnist for The Australian and member of the Foreign Affairs Council posted an excellent piece, ‘Without US there’d be hell to pay’ in which she contends that continuing negative sentiments in Australia (and the world) toward the U.S. could potentially have negative implications for us all.

"HATE George W. Bush? Wish the US would just butt out of everywhere? Well, be careful what you wish for. You might just get it. And you may not like it when it happens".

"The Lowy Institute for International Policy has released its annual poll surveying Australians on foreign policy and global affairs. The release of the poll last week gave commentators enough time to predictably crow about the findings: a waning regard among Australians for ANZUS, the growing negative feelings Australians have towards the US and the fact that more Australians think it would be a good thing if the US becomes significantly less politically powerful".

I am not convinced that the U.S. would indeed “turn inward’, thus becoming isolationist more accurately, there will not be any radical differences to U.S. policy apart from changes to foreign policy personnel who may be predisposed to being traditionalists (as opposed to transformationalists), pragmatists (as opposed to neocons) and internationalists (as opposed to unilateralists). Incidentally, the latter may occur in spite of which political forces seize power. However, if in fact America does turn its back on other nations for a sustained period, say 25 years, world order, as we have come to know it, will be turned on its head.

Albrechtsen quite rightly also takes a swipe at the U.N. and Europe, for there ineffectiveness in dealing with past conflicts, and highlighting that it is the United States, that can be most relied upon to act decisively in hot spots when they arise.

"But the UN has proved useless when it comes to any crunch. It was rendered irrelevant during the Cold War. It baulked at stopping genocide in Rwanda. Its premier Human Rights Council is still as feckless as ever, unable to address genuine human rights abuses but only too willing to lambast Israel at every opportunity.

"Which is why we ought to be careful about demanding that the US butt out of world affairs. Just in case they do. Who will pick up the slack if the US does the multilateral thing, sending in token troops to the next genocide hot spot? ... And just remind me the last time European soft power, not to mention hard power, solved a major conflict".

I suggest you read the whole piece.

Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with the following words expressing my unequivocal stance.

"All I wish to add is, if the day were to come that the U.S. does collapse economically, financially, politically and strategically, or alternatively butt out of worldly affairs as most seem to wish, not completely but enough to cause major shifts, then the world may be faced with a global situation of startling instability and great risk. A global shift in power of which the end product cannot be accurately guessed at, nor can it be forecast with any exactitude's".

Click here, here, here, and here for my past posts about U.S. and the world.

Comments always appreciated...

September 1, 2007

Dim responses

The site of this cartoon at the NeoCon Command Center blog got me thinking and was the catalyst for this post. It was with interest and disappointment that I read about the Washington Post and other newspapers deciding not to run 'Opus' cartoons mocking radical Islam in the U.S.

Sometimes denial is a practical and inherent human attribute. Comedy through cartoon strips constitutes but one form of reporting on news and contemporary issues, lighthearted it may be, but it serves as helpful way of conveying a message. However, when institutions and a society, disallow this, it is analogous to denying us important information, in this case about impending dangers. The peace of mind generated is both foolhardy and of an interim nature. What is it with the likes of the Washington Post in this regard? Is the denial so intrinsic relating to the unspeakable consequences of the rise of radical Islam? Institutional bodies are being completely irresponsible and careless if they suppress or deny open accounts of radical Islamic events, their beliefs and character no matter what form this reporting takes.

Said one American blogger:

"Look at how the press bows in submissiveness toward Islam already and they aren't even our conquerors yet. Yet for some reason they take an incredibly hostile stance toward our president. Figure that one out".

The United States, (and Britain, Australia) cannot create a prudent response to the risk if both the character of and extent of the menace, is not acknowledged, clearly identified, and broadly reported in whatever form. It seems some writers, politicians and parts of the wider media establishment cannot grasp the implications of the ideology of radical Islam.

Nuclear Iran

... a new consensus is emerging, that the time to get earnest about stopping Iran’s nuclear programme is quickly approaching.

In his first major foreign policy speech as President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy said on Monday, "Iran could be attacked militarily if it did not live up to its international obligations to curb its nuclear program". Calling the Iranian nuclear crisis "the most serious that weighs on the international order today”, Sarkozy also reiterated his position that a nuclear-armed Iran was "unacceptable" for France.

Then on Wednesday, the rhetoric became sharper when President Bush left open the possibility that the United States might ultimately abandon diplomacy and turn to military might adding, "We will confront this danger before it is too late."

Also this week, can you guess which Presidential hopeful said this, about Iran?

“For diplomacy to work, we need to dial up our political and economic pressure - not just our tough talk. Iran's troubling behavior depends in large part on access to billions of dollars in oil and gas revenue. That is why I introduced the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act last May, to build on a movement across the country to divest from companies that do significant business with Iran. This would send a clear message about where America stands, increasing Iran's isolation and hitting the Iranian regime where it hurts.

The bill works in three ways. First, it would educate investors and pressure foreign companies to reconsider doing business with Iran by requiring the U.S. government to publish - every six months - a list of companies that invest more than $20 million in Iran's energy sector. Second, it would give explicit congressional authorization to state and local governments to divest the assets of their pension funds and other funds under their control from any company on the list. Third, it would give private fund managers who divest protection from lawsuits, while urging the government's own 401(k) fund to create "terror-free" and "genocide-free" investment options for government employees.”

One may have logically guessed Hillary Clinton or McCain but no, it was none other than Barrack Obama.

Finally, Raw Story who pride themselves on unearthing and throwing the spotlight on stories underplayed by the popular press, ran this piece on Tuesday last.

Study: US preparing 'massive' military attack against Iran

"The United States has the capacity for and may be prepared to launch without warning a massive assault on Iranian uranium enrichment facilities, as well as government buildings and infrastructure, using long-range bombers and missiles, according to a new analysis". read more

When one combines all this, it becomes apparent that a new consensus is emerging, that the time to get earnest about stopping Iran’s nuclear programme is quickly approaching.

For my past posts on Iran click here and here.

This post can also be viewed at the Reuters site: click here