October 30, 2007

A break from Blogger

Big week at work; a blogger break is called for, back posting next week!

October 25, 2007

Are America’s foremost European Allies letting her down?

... the surge is in fact, buying sufficient time for political processes to gain some momentum regrettably however, America's foremost allies are retreating just when needed most.

Over a month has passed since the Petraeus report and the news keeps getting better. A recent editorial in the Washington Post is in step with many similar reports coming out of Iraq:

"In September, Iraqi civilian deaths were down 52 percent from August and 77 percent from September 2006, according to the Web site icasualties.org. The Iraqi Health Ministry and the Associated Press reported similar results. U.S. soldiers killed in action numbered 43 -- down 43 percent from August and 64 percent from May, which had the highest monthly figure so far this year. The American combat death total was the lowest since July 2006 and was one of the five lowest monthly counts since the insurgency in Iraq took off in April 2004."

In further evidence, “Baghdad's economy is thriving as businesses that have been in the family for generations are back on the streets operating”.

However, just when the United States is making real progress in Iraq, the U.K. is retreating. One would logically ask why especially given that the situation in Basra is far for stabilized. Iranian backed militias continue to swell in numbers and with the Brits leaving; the U.S. may have to send thousands of troops to fill the void. The alternative would be an unguarded Iraq-Iran border, no protection of routes leading from Kuwait to Baghdad and Shiite militias battling each other for control of the south and its riches.

It is clear that Gordon Brown’s retreat has little to do with military strategy rather a reflection of a politically motivated objective that ultimately undermines coalition efforts in Iraq. A point highlighted by former Prime Minister Sir John Major, "What is pretty unattractive is the nods, the winks, the hints, the cynicism, the belief that every decision is being taken because it is marching to the drumbeat of an election”. Added Shadow Defense Secretary Liam Fox in the same article, Mr. Brown is treating the troops as "a political football".

Meanwhile French leader Nicholas Sarkozy aspires to a world order in which France occupies a stronger position, he plans to restore France's place and stature in NATO structures and, simultaneously, to promote autonomous defense in addition to promoting better dynamics of inter-European and European-American coordination in combating terrorism. However, although Sarkozy’s France is politically more accommodating of U.S. strategy, they are incapable of replacing the British for at least two reasons. French troops lack combat experience and force projection familiarity. In Afghanistan, the French have barely fired a shot and apart from some experience in minor colonial conflicts in Africa, they lack the battle hardness of the British. Secondly, the French public may be generally supportive of their leader but do not share his zeal for the U.S. and in particular, its foreign policy.

It would have been more intelligent to keep British soldiers in place for at until one of the principle reasons for the surge is fulfilled, to buy time for greater political stability. In spite of the surge success, the latter remains a key challenge for the United States. As the aforementioned Washington Post piece concludes, not all the good news indicates that the war is being won, “U.S. military commanders have said that no reduction in violence will be sustainable unless Iraqis reach political solutions”. On a good note, the surge is in fact, buying sufficient time for political processes to gain some momentum regrettably however, America's foremost allies are retreating just when needed most.

Your comments are most welcome ...

October 19, 2007

Vladimir's convenient relationship

... while the Russians have never had a great affinity for the Iranians, it is the United States not Iran, that bothers them mostly ... Iran and Russia share some major interests. For starters, both feel besieged by the United States and the West ...

How perfectly expedient, here we have Putin cuddling up with Tehran for mostly the wrong reasons. In an image that reflected some chumminess, Mr Putin appeared in newspaper photographs standing side by side with Ahmadinejad during an historic visit to Tehran this week, but Bush dismissed any notion that the picture reflected chumminess.

Historically Russia's relationship with its southern Persian neighbour has been rocky and even today the thought of a rising regional power with nuclear ambitions in central Asia is not particularly welcomed. Peter Brooke's latest piece at Real Clear Politics is interesting for it highlights that while the Russians have never had a great affinity for the Iranians, it is the United States not Iran, that bothers them mostly.

Nor is Iran stepping in unison with its northern neighbour, after all, Russia has supported United Nations sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program. Says Brooke's.

"But Iran and Russia share some major interests. For starters, both feel besieged by the United States and the West - and need ways to check what they see as encroachment on their interests.

At the very least, Putin can use Tehran to keep the United States off-balance - for example, Bush is far from the only U.S. policymaker who'll be trying to divine exactly what Putin's assertion to "not even think of using force in this region" means - and what the consequences of ignoring that admonition might be.

The Kremlin also wants to stop the U.S. missile-defense system planned for Eastern Europe. The sites are meant to counter Iranian missiles, but the Russians are still dyspeptic about the idea. Putin could use his Iran ties as a bargaining chip on "Son of Star Wars" - that is, refusing to help the West isolate Tehran unless we drop the anti-missile project.

Alternately, Russia could also use an embrace of Iran as a check on the further expansion of NATO into Ukraine or Georgia - or to demand that the Europeans get nations like the Baltic countries to accept arms limits under the the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, reducing the potential threat to Moscow's west. Iran and Russia share another huge interest: Both regimes rely on their vast earnings from energy sales. Putin was in Tehran for a summit of the five nations that border the Caspian Sea: He wants to ensure that Russia has generous access to Caspian oil and gas.

Putin's also looking to sign up Tehran for his newest evil-genius project: an OPEC-like cartel for natural-gas supplies.

In fact, prolonging the diplomatic crisis over Iran's nuclear-weapons program helps keep Moscow's coffers overflowing - because every bit of tension in the region ensures that energy prices will stay high, maximizing the profits of exporters like Russia.

And, since high energy prices also leave Tehran flush with cash, it opens a lucrative arms market for Russia, too. Moscow has already sold Iran $1 billion in weapons - mostly air-defense systems, which would help Tehran protect nuclear sites from air attack".

Indeed Bush may be smarting a little given that he has publicly stated "he and Mr Putin saw eye to eye on the Iranian nuclear threat … We don't agree on a lot of issues," Mr Bush said. "We do agree on some. Iran is one; nuclear proliferation is another."

For all the distrust, Putin intends making good use of Iran, another reason to be concerned about Russia's latest emergence.

Feel free to comment ...

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October 18, 2007

History Dictates - An early exit is not an option

The comparison serves, as a useful aide memoire of what will, not may happen, if we exit this war hastily ... thus allowing the Islamofacists to unleash ...

Dr. Earl Tilford, a Professor of History at Grove City College and former director of research at the U.S. Army's Strategic Studies Institute, has posted an excellent piece at FrontPage Magazine. His conclusions should serve as useful fodder for policy-makers and politicians alike - and not just in Washington - as they grabble with Iraq and the war on terror.

Have the true ramifications of an early departure been considered let alone scrutinized? Leaving Iraq prior to establishing security and a central government would prove disastrous.

Tilford recalls the last years of Vietnam and the consequences of America’s exit for the local population.

“Enormous numbers of South Vietnamese who fought for the Saigon government and who supported U.S. policy were left behind to face the harsh “justice” of the victorious communists. In Cambodia and Laos, major blood baths took place. The Cambodian Khmer Rough systematically annihilated anyone associated with the Phnom Penh government along with an entire class of educated people. Millions were murdered. In Laos, the Pathet Lao, under the control of the North Vietnamese, imprisoned and murdered the Lao royal family along with hundreds of officials of the Vientiane government. The North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao conducted a genocidal campaign against the Hmong, a tribal people who, with U.S. support, fought valiantly for their homes in the mountains surrounding the Plain of Jars” .

“In early 1975, as the communists initiated their final offensives in South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, the American left remained riveted on the supposed ravages of war wreaked on Indochina by U.S. military forces. A continuous cacophony bellowed about “secret bombings” and lamented an “eco-disaster” issuing from a supposed “bathing of South Vietnam” in Agent Orange. In the aftermath, the left’s silence over the murderous aftermath undertaken by the communist Vietnamese and their cohorts in Cambodia and Laos was pervasive”.

“The lessons for today are clear. First, any precipitous U.S. withdrawal from Iraq would be costly even if it were possible, which it isn’t. Second, the sectarian violence that follows, being religiously and ethnically-driven, will be far bloodier than what happened in South Vietnam, more resembling the ethnic and class-cleansing carried out by the Khmer Rouge and Pathet Lao. Third, in Indochina there was no regional power ready or able to fill the void left by America—China tried in 1979 and the Vietnamese army trounced its invasion forces. Iran, by contrast, is anxious to dominate Iraq, seize its oil, and then exercise hegemony over the Persian Gulf region”.

The comparison serves, as a useful aide memoire of what will, not may happen, if we exit this war hastily. To whatever degree citizen’s abroad resent the U.S. at the present, it would pale in comparison to how America would be seen if it exited prematurely thus allowing the Islamofacists to unleash terror on the population. In Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia there were blood baths resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths, some say millions.

Winning this war is vital for both America and Western interests alike.

Comments always appreciated...

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October 14, 2007

Australia: An Election looms

… the real reason for this post is to consider the impact a change of Government (in Australia) may have on the relationship with Washington …

As I write these words, it is broadly anticipated that within hours Prime Minister John Howard will name an election date signaling the beginning of a six-week campaign with polling day on November 24.

If the surveys are correct the Government is heading for an annihilation of sorts come Election Day, in the latest Taverner poll Labor's substantial lead is showing no sign of retreating.

But as I commented on another blog:

“I tend to agree that voters will, come the moment, reject the untested waters of the Kevin Rudd / Julia Gillard (she’s a moonbat) experiment. We would be more at ease however, if the polls were a tad closer".

Something is amiss here; the two party differences in the polls are somewhat perplexing, surely the Howard Governments outstanding record stands for something more.

However, the real reason for this post is to consider the impact a change of Government in Australia may have on the relationship with Washington. The sense of expectation around Australia is that a Labor Prime Minister would suddenly signal a new change in foreign policy particularly so in relation to Iraq and the cozy relationship with George W. Bush.

Some Aussies may be in for a shock! If there is to be a change in Government once elected, the new Prime Minister will start sounding much like present leader John Howard, our relationship with the U.S. runs too deep.

As Vice President, Dick Cheney said during a visit to our shores in February 2007:

…”We think of a country that shares our founding commitments to liberty and to equality, and to our traditions of justice and tolerance. We think, above all, of the character of the Australian people -- self-reliant, practical, and good-hearted … President Ronald Reagan stated the case very well. He said, Australia and America "see the world from similar perspectives, though no two countries could be more opposite on the ends of the globe... we were born in the same era, sprang from the same stock, and live for the same ideals. Australia and America share an affinity that reaches to our souls ... over time, that deep affinity has grown into a great alliance" …

For those that doubt, it was Kevin Rudd not John Howard who said, “America is an overwhelming force for good in the world” in a not so publicized speech at the “Australian American Leadership Dialogue Dinner” recently.

“For the 21st century to be a truly pacific century, a truly peaceful one, it must still have an international rules-based order. It was important for the century just gone, and will be just as important for the century just unfolding. And you cannot deliver a rules-based order in the absence of the underlying ballast of US global strategic power. Carefully husbanded, selectively deployed _ without that a rules-based order ultimately withers".

Kevin Rudd added,

"America today, moreover, should not disengage from the world post-Iraq and I say that as someone who has been for almost five years a continuing and consistent opponent of the war in Iraq. But I say that despite Iraq, the world needs America. I say that despite Iraq, America is an overwhelming force for good in the world. It is time we sang that from the world’s rooftops”.

Click here to read the full text of the speech.

The speech was more than purely an effort to appear virtuous, there will not be any fundamental foreign policy switch given a labor victory.

Finally, for those wondering, this blog was only meant to be apolitical in relation to U.S. politics.

Comments always welcome

October 9, 2007

A World without America … since 2001

Let us, for just a few moments, imagine that as of January 1, 2001 the United States of America was, for whatever reason, no more.

Gone are U.S. leadership, economic power, and its force of arms, diplomatic influence, global balance of power and (often-unappreciated) generosity.

►Now many have come to loathe America’s assumed position as global police officer, but whether one likes it or not, this inherited function plays an imperative and pivotal role in upholding the international order and predictable permanence of nations. For example, without the U.S. assuming the role of “cop”, India and Pakistan may well have provided us with history’s first nuclear exchange or in the least, come menacingly close.

►Al Qaeda members would have swelled in numbers, especially in Afghanistan and embarked on an unsolicited mission, exerting influence from "Europe all the way to South East Asia.

►China would either haven taken, or be well advanced in planning to take Taiwan consequentially compelling Japan to enter the nuclear club.

►The two Korea’s may have fought a new war resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands, if not millions.

►Russia’s resurgence would see it eye off its, ‘near abroad’ neighbours.

►Sudan would not have a peace agreement.

►Freedom of the oceans and seas for commerce would be lost – something America provides free of charge.

►North Korea would be nuclear and Libya may not have turned friendly.

►Over 20% of the U.N’s funding would have vanished including most of the world’s food program; an arrangement one that feeds tens of millions.

►Gone too, would be nearly 20% of UNICEF’s costs to ‘feed, vaccinate, educate and protect children in’ nearly 160 countries as well as $28 billion in foreign aid, an amount that more than doubles that of the next highest donor, Japan.

►The U.N. High Commission for Refugees would have lost over 30% of its funding, putting at risk its assistance program to nearly 20 million ‘refugees across the globe’.

►The spread of aids would have been endemic with the world's largest commitment for relief ($15 billion) no longer available.

►The U.S. is the global ATM ‘providing 17 percent of the International Monetary Fund's resources for nations in fiscal crisis, and funding 13 percent of World Bank programs that dole out billions in development assistance to needy countries’.

►We would have also missed-out on 40 percent of the world's budget on R&D, driving innovation in areas like information technology, defense and medicine.

A few points the hordes of anti – Americans should at least mull over before shouting ‘Death to America’ or ‘America go home’. So never-mind the unprecedented achievements and contributions of the past century instead, lets reflect on and consider, the picture of achievement and contribution formed over the past seven (7) or so years – since 1/1/2001.

The U.S. may not be perfect but Lord knows, we need a strong and caring America, we need a leading economic engine and its ‘public goods’.

Now there will be some, who may accuse me of knowledgeable ignorance arguing that in absolute terms, as a percentage of GDP, America is down the table in terms of aid. This is true, but figures are figures, impressive in this case and should not to be downplayed; they are far from superfluous.

Incidentally, a poll released earlier this year showed that the world public rejects the U.S. role as a world leader, but still wants the United States to do its share in multilateral efforts and does not support a U.S. withdrawal from international affairs.

So there you have it friends, if you know of any America basher's, haters, cynics and detractors perhaps you can refer them to this post.

Adapted from an article by
Peter Brookes in RealClearPolitics, “A World without America”.

For those that have not seen it. Check out the short video, "A World without America", here

Feel free to comment

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October 5, 2007

Free Burma

Free Burma!

Truth is, China, Burma’s top trading partner and the nation most able to influence Burmese Generals is more interested in preserving its economic and strategic assets.

Joining the chorus; bloggers the world over uniting to post for the Burmese! I extend my gratitude to bloggers “Big Girl Pants” and “Confessions of a Closet Republican” for bringing this worthy endeavour to my attention.

In some of the latest developments on the crises:

The European Union has put forward a resolution urging the 47 member UN Human Rights Council to “condemn the continued violent repression of peaceful demonstrations” and call for the release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Kyi and other political prisoners.

Added Human Rights Commissioner Louise Arbour, “The shocking response … is only the most recent manifestation of the repression of fundamental rights and freedoms that has taken place for nearly 20 years”, she said.

Amnesty International has welcomed the council’s session but expressed concern at Russia and China’s moderate approach. The Russians say that Burma’s problems should be solved by peaceful dialogue and democratic changes without pressure from outside, whilst China still refuses to take sides instead urging, “all parties” to exercise restraint.

Truth is, China, Burma’s top trading partner and the nation most able to influence Burmese Generals is more interested in preserving its economic and strategic assets. With oil contracts worth billions and oil pipeline projects planned, the Chinese continue to resist efforts by the U.N. and the U.S. Burma’s natural resources include the worlds 10th largest gas field, a fact not lost on some of China’s leading energy companies.

Your comments are most welcome

October 1, 2007

Cyberwarfare: The new challenge

... News services have paid only scant attention to the matter but this may change after Chinese hackers recently penetrated the Pentagon hitting a secure but unclassified system known as NIPRNet ... in today's information environment, the ex filtration that once took years can be accomplished in a matter of minutes in one download session ...

Confirming mounting concern about military and civilian computer hacking, in November 2006 Michael Wynne, Secretary of the Air Force announced that the U.S. (Air Force) had created a Cyberwarfare group named, Cyberspace Command. Its objective is “to develop a major command that stands alongside Air Force Space Command and Air Combat Command as the provider of forces that the President, combatant commanders and the American people can rely on for preserving the freedom of access and commerce, in air, space and now cyberspace”.

Most nearly all U.S. Department of Defense cyber planning is secretive, but we do know that President Bush signed a directive in 2002 that outlines how the U.S. may attack foreign computer systems and then in late 2003, Donald Rumsfeld approved a lengthy report, Information Operations Roadmap actually detailing plans to develop Cyberwarfare capabilities. Finally, earlier this year another report, this time Congressional, stated that the Pentagon proceed with developing (the capabilities) citing the likely devastating “cascading effect’ caused by a successful cyber attack on military and civilian systems.

News services have paid only scant attention to the matter but this may change after Chinese hackers recently penetrated the Pentagon hitting a secure but unclassified system known as NIPRNet. On the 3rd of September U.S. sources stated that the Chinese military successfully accessed a Pentagon computer network three months earlier in what was deemed the most significant of its kind ever recorded. Initially defence officials did not elaborate on the possible source of the security infringement however; an internal investigation that followed revealed that the People’s Liberation Army of China was the offender. One official was able to determine precisely where the attack originated and another, demonstrating his familiarity with the breach, stated how the PLA’s connection was regarded with “(a) very high level of confidence...was trending towards total certainty”. This should not be surprising as this is an area that China is most interested in. In an interesting article, "Preparing for digital Pearl Harbor". The Herald Tribune reports that "China is expanding its capacity to engage in cyberwarfare as part of its military buildup".

In another interesting write up, staff writers for The Christian Science Monitor recently suggested that the hackers might not have been after any secrets; instead, the intention was to probe Pentagon network structures. NIPRNet is critical to the rapid deployment of U.S. forces should for example, China attack Taiwan. A successful hit would give the enemy crucial hours in a quick attack. As the issue continued to remain below the media radar, cyber attacks by China had become so frequent and aggressive that President Bush said during APEC earlier this month, “a lot of our systems are vulnerable to attack” adding that respect of “systems” is “what we expect from people with whom we trade”, a comment aimed directly at the Chinese.

The Pentagon notes that China’s ambitions, in what is loosely referred to as, “the new arms race”; extend to crippling financial, military, and communications capabilities. It has also released information showing that more than 79,000-attempted intrusions were logged in 2005 alone, of which over 1300 were successful.

In writings pre-dating this blog, the impending risks of not developing defenses against cyber attacks were weighted against the fact that China had already created a blueprint for assaults on America including a detailed plan to disable America’s Aircraft Battle Carrier Fleet. Fast forward to 2007 and in a report to congress Gen. James Cartwright noted that China is currently probing the computer networks of U.S. Government agencies. The U.S. - China economic and Security Review commission also heard that, "in today's information environment, the ex filtration that once took years can be accomplished in a matter of minutes in one download session". The report concluded that for Chinese defense planners cyberwarfare is a useful means of, "undermining the U.S. military's technological edge".

The recent NIPRNet event, the Presidents recent public acknowledge and the disturbing Pentagon attack should serve as a wake-up call for the military in particular and society in general, to up the ante in terms of more aggressive vigilance and action.

Comments always appreciated