May 29, 2007

Memorial Day

President Bush honored U.S. troops who fought and died for freedom and expressed his resolve to succeed in the war in Iraq.

Said the President, "As before in our history, Americans find ourselves under attack and underestimated," he said.


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Pentagon report on China

China has already hit back at a Pentagon report on its rising military might telling the world that it was exaggerated and an interference in Chinese domestic affairs.

"The Pentagon report exaggerates China's military strength and expenditure with ulterior motives," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement posted in its Web site.

I can recall Donald Rumsfeld stating his views on the Chinese military build up but I cannot recall reading anything on how Robert Gates views the same. Has anybody?

Here's a good book to consider on the China question which is very good in terms of how the U.S. should engage it, 'The Writing on the Wall: Why We Must Embrace China as a Partner or Face It as an Enemy'

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Washington and Tehran

Been a long time sonce '79, finally some diplomacy. Given the challenges in Iraq, it's a good move...

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May 27, 2007

American era waning

Thought provoking article discussing a piece which appeared in the National Journal entitled "The decline begins", written by James Kitfield award-winning defense and foreign affairs correspondent.

Says Kitfield, "… A surprising number of respected strategic thinkers and foreign-policy elites, from both ends of the political spectrum, already detect a fundamental and potentially lasting realignment of power on the strategic chessboard. Even if an American era that decisively shaped world affairs for the past half-century has not been eclipsed, they warn that it certainly shows signs of waning."

"For a number of reasons, I believe we are entering an era where U.S. power and relative influence, in the Middle East especially, is reduced and the influence of others who have anything but a pro-American outlook is increasing, and that trend is likely to continue for decades to come," said Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations. "I predict this realignment will be enduring."


Noteworthy that more articles of this nature will begin appearing indicating that, in the least some intellectuals are espousing their concerns about a weaker America in future. I think readers should exercise caution and refrain from writing the nation off just yet. Nonetheless, it is true that a process has begun, America's influence is abating however, contrary to the authors opinion, it need not be "enduring". I would rather read articles addressing how to reverse what I believe is merely the onset of this abatement.

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May 26, 2007

America and the World

For the most part, we seem to witness an almost incessant stream of news pertaining to divisions amongst Americans, and their political leaders, in relation to Iraq and how to deal with the terror threat. I am specifically highlighting a growing consensus that the Bush administration has blundered with its handling of the war; this in itself is not a new phenomenon. Of note however, disapproval, rates have augmented alarmingly on a worldwide level with anti-American views becoming entrenched throughout and even within western democracies modeled on the United States.

American foreign policymakers have more than once - regardless of administration and political factors – made mistakes. Errors that have resulted in the nation appearing arrogant and, in the case of the current administration, seem unilateralist. It is often overlooked that such misjudgments, real or perceived, are constants in a historical context. I feel satisfied too add, that even the worst of decisions are made with good intentions in mind. It is unfortunate and inevitable, that sometimes the quest to safeguard American ideals the world over, causes such problems and, notwithstanding this inescapability, U.S. policymakers must strive to do better.

Those governing in Washington face challenging and ever changing global conditions within a newly inter-dependant and integrated world. The ending of the cold war left Washington weakened in terms of how best to interact with, and shape a globe having lost an enemy that defined its - America's - role through ideological difference.

These are not the worst times America has faced in recent modern history, as testing as current events and adversaries (Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, The Taliban, Al-Qaeda and other radical Sunni Muslim organizations, Hamas to name a few) may be, let us not forget, but reflect upon America’s enemies during the Second World War and the threat of nuclear annihilation between 1948 prior to the demise of the Soviet Union and its eastern bloc allies. I would venture to suggest that our planet is better today than it has ever been. We reside in a world of unprecedented economic growth, with increased opportunities, longer life spans and, in spite of some well-documented frightful events and threats, people are generally safer.

Washington needs to take stock, gaze at the big picture, and embark on micro managing its foreign relations within a framework that acknowledges past mistakes and misunderstandings, considering its position and judgments and ensuing policies in the context of normal human fallibilities. This requires constantly re-creating and managing systems of governance and policymaking in accordance with time honored principles. Managing its relationship with the world and its nations should not be viewed with an, ‘our way or the highway’ viewpoint but within a balanced process; one that incorporates unending evaluation and re-evaluation with established checks and balances such as those already built within systems of governance. With proper implementation as achieved through sound leadership, this need not result in what Colin Powell would refer to as, ‘analysis-paralysis’ in the decision making process.

I feel compelled to make a final point relating to its (Americas) people. The public would serve their nation better if it stood to be counted and sought greater interest and understanding of their countries role in a global/international community as leaders of the free world. A suitably educated public will go a long way to safeguarding and conserving America in future. I say again, listen up policymakers of America, an educated, conservative, and more articulate populace is America’s best defense against the looming challenges of a new century.

The traditional leadership staircase model tells us that the higher the intelligence and moral standings of a constituency the higher the resultant standards of conduct and effectiveness of the legislature who serves it.

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May 25, 2007

Condi hosts our Foreign Affairs Minister

President George Bush is a person of enormous courage, Alexander Downer says at the start of a two-day visit in which the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will leave no red carpet unrolled for Australia's Foreign Minister.

As Tony Blair prepares to exit Downing Street Australia's support becomes even more valuable to the U.S.

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May 24, 2007

One of Americas greatest achievements

It was 1969, Neil Armstrong placed his footprints on the moon symbolizing a peak in human achievement. But it was so much more than that, it represented a apex in the power of the United States of America.

Only the U.S. could have achieved it, American innovation, vision and management, American skill, science and technology, American finance and investment. Only America and its people could have done it. The world stood in awe! It was achieved at the height of a cold war and during a fierce regional war - Vietnam.

Is America still capable of greatness? Of course it is, what it needs is leaders with vision, a sense of history and a determination to address current worldly issues in collaboration with, not merely its allies, but the world at large. It must harness new friendships, it must heal divisions, and it must revamp it foreign policy methodologies and objectives. America must lead whilst it still can.

The plates of global power have shifted since the sixties, this is understood. Some political and social commentators have stated that Americas dominance might be over, that its on a path of self-annihilation. are they right, wrong?

All I wish to add is, if the day were to come that the U.S. does collapse economically, financially, politically and strategically, not completely but enough to cause major shifts as foreshadowed above 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.

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May 23, 2007

Jihad goals

Thought provoking article from the Jamestown Foundation

Jihadis Post Scenario for the Defeat of the United States

On May 14, jihadi forum users posted a scenario for the collapse of the United States and the rise of the Islamic ummah, entitled, "The Next Strikes in the Heart of America, When and How."

The posting outlines a scenario for attacking the United States, although the sheer size of the operation suggests that it is jihadi propaganda and not an actual plan that could be operationalized. The alleged operation is dedicated to Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State of Iraq.

The first stage in the scenario involves multiple terrorist attacks on three major U.S. cities, preferably with nuclear weapons, using an unspecified number of trucks. The scenario places priority on attacking New York City because it is the central artery of the U.S. economy and it would prove that the mujahideen are capable of recurrent attacks on the same target. The second city to attack is Los Angeles, an important West Coast "atheist" city. The third "city" to be attacked is Florida because, they argue, it is an East Coast congregation city and has the Kennedy Space Center (considering the description, the statement's authors probably meant Orlando). While those are the three primary cities for attack, the writers of the document suggest that if the mujahideen wish to expedite the collapse of the United States, they should also conduct attacks in Seattle since it is a strategic border city; Washington, DC, the political center of the United States; and cities in Texas, since the "biggest oil companies" are located there.

According to the writers, the purpose of attacking these specific cities is to cause a sharp decline in the U.S. economy; mass amounts of casualties; the support for the mujahideen by anti-U.S. countries such as Cuba and Venezuela; a decrease in American support for their own government; the withdrawal of the "blasphemous" U.S. military from Islamic territories; mass military desertions; and the inability to fuel U.S. military fighter jets. The document also outlines how the fallout from such large-scale attacks would cause the U.S. military to return to the United States in order to conduct massive relief operations. They refer to the example of how Hurricane Katrina overburdened the U.S. National Guard, calling the hurricane a "Soldier of God."

After such attacks, they argue that the Islamic State of Iraq will seize the opportunity to launch mass strikes on the apostates in the Iraqi military and police, paving the way for the third stage of the scenario: the commencement of the golden era of the triumphant Islamic conquests that includes the implementation of Sharia, the liberation of the Arabian Peninsula, the removal from power of "the U.S. ruling family" in Jordan and, finally, the big march toward Palestine. In the end, even Washington DC will fall to the mujahideen and that will conclude the final stage of Islamic control of the globe.

The scenario appears less of a planned operation than a hope for the fulfillment of a prophecy. The supposed factuality of the scenario is based on various verses in the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad's teachings. Nevertheless, some of the users on the forums who discussed the scenario asserted that all of the details to execute the operation had already been prepared. One such user, by the alias of Abu Nedal, said, "For your knowledge, the operations are ready and awaiting the orders from our leader Osama bin Laden, God protect him, to decide what he deems appropriate either to strike now or to wait."

The articles two authors
Abdul Hameed Bakier and Erich Marquardt add some foresight:

'Islamist extremists have always fabricated factitious scenarios for victory over the West based on their own interpretations of Quranic prophecies in times of crisis and defeat. Nevertheless, al-Qaeda has shown prior interest in acquiring nuclear materials for use in an attack, and it is necessary to take such forum postings seriously as they display the mindset and the intent, although perhaps not the capability, of al-Qaeda-affiliated militants.'

The 9/11 attacks led to the deaths of 3,056 innocent people:

  • 92 casualties on American Flight 11
  • 65 casualties on United Flight 175
  • 64 casualties on American Flight 77
  • 44 on United Flight 93
  • 125 casualties at the Pentagon and finally
  • 2666 casualties at the World Trade Center

The act led to two wars which are still being fought. One can only speculate in horror about the likely reaction to an attack by terrorists using crude biological or nuclear devices where tens of thousands are killed and maimed.

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May 22, 2007

Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology is set to become the worlds next big economic driver and the U.S. Government has spent $6.8 billion in research alone over the past 10 years.

The three leading 'Nano Metro' centers are San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland in California.
America remains the largest nanotechnology investor as a nation with Japan, Germany and China filling the next three spots.

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May 21, 2007

China

Interesting article has the goods in terms of China's latest stirrings although I don't agree that George W. Bush is a lame duck President.

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May 20, 2007

Iraq (ii)

I offer further clarification on my position in relation to Iraq. Fundamentally, I support the Bush administrations objectives in Iraq; I do not however back the current tactics proposed in order to achieve such objectives. This should not be interpreted as my being in support of Bush’s political opponents, or, for that matter, support for timed troop withdrawals.

In my Iraq (I) post, I referred to a new stratagem whereby equal emphasis be placed on militarism and diplomacy.

Keeping America strong means much more than sustaining its present ‘military-industrial- congressional-apparatus’. Iraqi society and the current situation on the ground – its ideological extremists, hidden stakes, (vested interests) and foreign operations – is too complex for mere troop number increases.

I am an Australian, an outsider looking in and what I see sometimes concerns me.

I see ever-increasing military spending without sufficient checks, which equates to nearly a trillion per year (that is some 40% of every tax dollar!). I see looming trade and fiscal deficits that make the USA the planets largest net debtor nation, I see problems ahead for the civilian economy where the impact of war and Pentagon spending will eventually force inflation and interest rates up, slow economic growth and reduce employment. I see the constant militarization of foreign policy, which has led to a weakened State Department – a department that although well funded, appears less relevant to policy development than it has ever been.

I see an administration that is somewhat unmindful of congressional oversight, an administration bending to the will of a military establishment, and outcomes of National Security Council meetings.

America too is complex, keeping it and its democracy strong requires more than defense spending even though the latter has a critically important role to play.

Without proper checks and balances, America may soon become its own worse enemy. So keep the military establishment robust, but with a balanced degree of Government equilibrium.

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May 17, 2007

Iraq (i)

The Bush Administration has to date been resolute in its intent to bolster troop numbers in Iraq in spite of strong opposition within U.S. political circles, chiefly within Democratic ranks. The latter have offered another strategy, which, mostly has failed to convince the President. This Blog is not about to take sides in American Affairs of State however the world media’s reporting in relation to this issue has been at best, overly simplistic giving casual observers the understanding that Republican means staying on current course and Democrat means ‘cut n run’.


A win by the Democrats in 2008 will not result in the U.S. abandoning Iraq. More accurately, it is my understanding that Democratic candidates agree that a continued military presence in the region is necessary on condition that it supports several objectives.
  • To continue training Iraqi security forces

  • To continue the fight against international terrorism

  • To continue providing logistical support to Iraqi forces

  • To provide effective border security

  • To have in place a rapid response if circumstances compromise the above objectives, (such a force can be located within the region) and, if I may add a further objective for my part,

  • To engage in effective consultations with Iraq’s neighbors principally to address the instabilities imposed by Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia

To meet such objectives would mean anywhere up to 80,000 U.S. military personnel remaining within the region. The Democrats are all too aware of how the world may view a Vietnam style withdrawal but are increasingly conscious of polls showing over 70% of Americans (together with some Republicans and former Generals) having doubts about the war.

American prestige cannot afford a chaotic Iraqi pull out. Perhaps the best option would be one that satisfies moderate Republicans, Independents, and Democrats alike – strategy not too dissimilar to the Obama, Clinton proposal in accordance with the pointers listed above.

I would not hesitate to endorse such a policy as it maintains a strong, albeit different, military presence. I would add however, that any altered stratagem be an adjunct to genuinely constructive political engagement with all players within the Middle East insofar as this may be possible.

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May 16, 2007

Iran suprises IAEA inspectors

After a short notice inspection on Sunday 13 May, the International Atomic Energy Commission has reported that Iran is beginning to enrich Uranium on a greater scale than first thought. "We believe they pretty much have the knowledge about how to enrich," IAEA Director - General Mohamed ElBaradei said.

Both Washington and Europe may well consider doubling their respective diplomatic efforts or at least change tact, to prevent the Iranians from learning how to produce weapons grade material.

To date, Washington has resisted calls to negotiate insisting that Iran suspend its nuclear program ahead of any discussions. This strategy poses a risk in that, with the passage of time, Iran edges closer to overcoming the technological hurdles to produce bomb grade material.

The diplomatic window of opportunity is still wide open as it is one thing to enrich uranium but quite another to enrich it to weapons grade, to produce enough of it, and finally, fit it into a device (weapon), not to mention, a deliverable one.

May 11, 2007

Queen hails Aliance

During a white tie banquet hosted by President George W. Bush and his wife Laura, the Queen reflected on the Anglo - American friendship .

May 10, 2007

Washington applauds Sarkozy win

Some call him "Sarko the American", a label Nicolas Sarkozy considers an honour. The newly elected French President is attracted to U.S. economic and social systems as well as values. The United States has a new and valuable friend in Europe.

The Pacific

The United States has declared 2007 the "Year of the Pacific". In a meeting that saw the 20 Pacific nations represented in Washington, U.S. Secretary Of State, Condoleezza Rice said her country would attempt to improve stability, democracy, economic development and cultural ties in the region. "Maintaining security and stability in the Pacific region is crucial to the interests of every country ... including the United States.

May 7, 2007

Hey America

Your well earned worldly place may one day be under threat, here’s a few suggestions.

To keep your dominance you must re-focus on the skills that made you powerful in the first place, science, technology and a collective zest for excellence and distinction. You must increase efforts to protect your technological advantages and scientific advances. You must also produce and preserve home-grown engineers and scientists. You have the worlds most sought after PhD’s thanks to some excellent schools and universities but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the classrooms of Princeton, Harvard, Duke, Stanford and Yale are filled with as many foreign students as there are American; foreign students who take their degrees and PhD’s back home with them. You need to promote your own to produce and cultivate that relentless spirit of innovation that made you great in the first place.

In China young adults are patterned to be proud, intelligent and loyal nationals with a dedicated progressive outlook; increasingly they are embracing good quality education and are protected from elements that run contrary to the nationalism, internet content included. I would not advocate the same control for you however; it seems your citizens are becoming less sophisticated and disinterested in the national course.

The educating of your people should revert to bygone days when every child was expected to have a basic understanding of you, the United States of America. A recent National Geographic survey found that a huge percentage of your citizens would struggle to find Iraq on a world map. Surprisingly, the same percentage knew that the island, on which a very popular reality television series was filmed, was in the Pacific and yet, most could not find Israel on a map and fewer than half struggled to find France and the United Kingdom. Even more astonishing is that half could not find New York State on a map of the United States. Such results would indicate that a bulk of your people is contributing to an early onset of cultural, social and national decay. Your people and electorate are increasingly not interested, uneducated and unsophisticated.

It seems that of your population of some 295 million, only a small percentage are contributing to driving your current international prominence, but what of the future?

Adapted from my 2005 article: China Corp: Broad perspectives on China's emergence and implications for the United States

May 5, 2007

America Junior

Overheard s interesting conversation today. Said a friend, as he spoke about a recent Simpsons episode where Homer is asked about a trip to Canada, he replies "why would I leave America to visit America junior"?

Moments later I thought to myself; does that make England America senior?

May 4, 2007

China, India. How real the Economic Threat to America

‘… that brings me to China, a country which sometimes attracts more superlatives than commonsense evaluation …’
Margaret Thatcher in an address to the American Enterprise Institute 1998.

It seems that the use of such adjectives to which she referred, have not abated in the years since. We cannot and certainly must not doubt the dynamism of the Chinese and Indian economies but we can question the degree to which these two nations in fact, pressure the United States and the West economically.

Consider that:
  • China and India are very poor countries whose combined population of over 2.2 Billion consists of some 1.5 billion earning less than $US2 a day.
  • In terms of World Trade India remains a minor player contributing less than 1 per cent with China’s share at just 6 per cent.
  • In terms of the value of final goods and services produced (Gross Domestic Product) the United States figure is just shy of six times greater than China and over 16 times greater than that of India.
  • How often do we here about India’s booming I.T community, the call centre operations, software Engineers and Programmers. In reality, total number of I.T. related jobs in India is less than 1 million, representing a meager 0.25 percent of their total workforce.
  • India remains the single largest nation of illiterate people in the world.
  • They may call it the workshop of the world, but China manufacturing sector is representative of less than 10 per cent of the worldwide total and around half that of the U.S.
  • China’s banks boast an unacceptable amount of bad loans.
  • Both countries are burdened by an excessive sum of commercial regulatory structures.
  • In the long term, China’s present system of Government will be an economic liability.
  • Corruption within officialdom remains rife in China and does environmental degradation.
  • Social unrest, although contained, is rampant with police records revealing a seven fold increase over the past decade.

The economic gap between the U.S. and these two emerging nations’ remains vast. Perhaps we should be more concerned with China’s rising military capabilities. Margaret Thatcher went on and in quoting Peter Rodman who completed a survey entitled, China and America in the Twenty First Century said,

“China’s military build up … is troublesome {although} it starts form a low base … {Its} new weaponry will be sufficient in the near term to raise the risks and inhibitions to an American President who contemplates intervening in a future crises in the Taiwan Strait or South China Sea. China is also doing serious R and D into high tech ‘information warfare"

Moreover, I might add, anti missile capabilities.