April 29, 2008

Happy First Anniversary American Interests

"With any luck, American Interests … is helping to address what I deem as a prevailing rationality void in relation to America’s role in our world."

One year ago today, I burst onto the blogging world. As regular readers know, I am a very serious blogger about American Interests. With any luck, American Interests, a site that primarily focuses on matters relating to international affairs and security from a pro-United States perspective, is serving to address what I deem as a prevailing rationality void in relation to America’s role in our world. This being in part, due to unintended ignorance amongst the masses, a lack of knowledge as fueled by most, but not all elements of print and electronic media.

To date, 145 posts articles or around 154,000 words have been posted with 15 of these having been featured at Reuters and The Chicago Sun Times sites courtesy of the Blogburst syndication service.

I greatly value everyone who has been following my writing. It is you, my readers that have assisted in the establishment of this blog, you are part of an extensive list that is too lengthy to enumerate in this post.

Welcome to the party, invite your friends, and hope you enjoy the virtual cake - at least it’s not fattening!

Oh, and finally, trade deficits, trade liberalization, trade protection, trade alliances ... the subject of my latest post, it's just below...

Thoughts on U.S. China Trade

Wary of the Soviet Unions demise as it struggled to keep up with the Americans in the arms race, China is embracing a different approach by adopting an increasingly competitive economic policy, whereby it uses its huge its huge financial reserves to gobble U.S. business interests.

Since the end of the Second World War, the U.S. has mostly driven global free trade. From the outset, foreign policy was used as a means of building a network of trade between capitalist states to offset communist expansion. Yet even in our post communist era, the U.S. remains committed to free trade using it as a vehicle to promote prosperity, world peace, and democratic freedom.

Equal treatment, little regulation and/or subsidies and rules pertaining to transparency, have governed its liberalization policies to date. It has not all been smooth sailing though, as even groups within the U.S. have felt threatened by changes to labor practices and called for state protection to guard against competition. Just like here in Australia, many sectors in the U.S. economy have collapsed due to the outsourcing of jobs or simply eliminated by low priced imports. Despite the upholding of policies favoring liberalization in general, protection pressures have cropped up resulting in specific trade agreements and even trade sanctions, although these have not undermined the original principles of free gratis trade. Still, many citizens have grown wary of the ever ballooning trade deficit figure and this world trade phenomenon.

“We’re making sure America has a chance to compete on the same terms as people who sell into our market. And we’ll use the tools necessary to make sure the playing field is level”.
President George W. Bush 2004

For a nation that some see as an imperial rather than hegemonic power, it would appear odd to run a trade deficit, importing much more than it exports but there is the obvious positive spin to this; controlled inflation, more economic growth, and an open window to world export markets. Foreign policy objectives are also fostered through the imbalance. For example, successive the U.S. Government’s have managed China’s economic rise by making it dependant on a constructive relationship within the world economy, one that’s productive in terms of western interests, hence, the U.S. backing China’s entry to the World Trade Organization whose governing rules were largely drawn up by the U.S. in the first place. This provided some guarantee that China would abide by western international trade rules. On the surface it makes for a cozy economic relationship, the deficit increases the supply side of goods for American consumers at a price that controls inflation, but one example of economic dependency.

However, where there is strength there is inbuilt weaknesses, where there is opportunity there is also exists an inbuilt threat. In an effort to gain greater access to raw materials and compete more effectively with the U.S., China has been busy fostering trade alliances with other nations in all the major regions. In an example of another threat, the Chinese have been building massive dollar reserves which currently stand at over $1.3 trillion. If this were all invested in U.S. treasury bonds it would strengthen mutual dependence, increasingly however, China is using such reserves to gobble up U.S. companies and/or threaten to liquidate them if Washington makes decisions counter to their economic interests.

Wary of the Soviet Unions demise as it struggled to keep up with the Americans in the arms race, China is embracing a different approach by adopting an increasingly competitive economic policy, whereby it uses its huge its huge financial reserves to gobble U.S. business interests. Previously successful gains include China’s Lenovo group swallowing up the IBM Personal Computer business for $17.5 billion and the Haier Group offering $12.8 billion for Maytag, the long established home appliances company. The extreme example however, is that of the National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC), in its unsuccessful attempt to buy Unocal, the U.S. energy giant. They offered $18.5 billion even after Unocal had beforehand accepted $16.4 billion by Chevron. In Washington, as concern mounted about China’s increasingly aggressive behavior, CNOOC continued active talks with Unocal by raising the amount on offer. This is remarkable given that they originally proposed a cash payment for the $18.5 billion. You read it right; cash! House representatives on Capital Hill raised the point directly with President George W. Bush and China responded by advising Washington to stop “politicizing economic and trade issues” referring to its endeavors as, “normal competitive activity between enterprises”.

In this regard, China is a greater threat than Japan was in the mid eighties when it tried something similar. Unchecked, this sort of behavior can undermine the economic ties cultivated by the U.S. over the years.

Trade deficit, trade liberalization, trade protection, trade alliances, Chinese ownership of American companies...

What do you think...

April 26, 2008

Conservative Blog

American Interests was recently added to The Best Conservative Blogs on the Internet joining a list that presently begins at Atlas Shrugs and ends at Young America’s Foundation.

The list can be found at UrbanConservative a conservative blog by an ex-Marine, (8 years in the US Marine Corps, 4th LSB, 4th FSSG (AKA: Red Patcher)) who resides in the San Fran Bay Area - seriously!

Interestingly, the UrbanConservative title, “was created to break the perception that not all conservatives look like Newt Gingrich. Yah know…white-upper-class males that you normally see on Capitol Hill; and that conservatives can be cool, sophisticated, hip and even urban.” I liked that. I also liked the Conservative Banners page, check it out here.

Comments always appreciated

April 24, 2008

Time Magazine and Global Warming

"During the Second World War, the Japanese empire represented a potent threat to the United States global warming does not. To use this image in a doctored fashion makes light of one of the most familiar moments of one of the bloodiest battles in U.S. history..."

Time has always been passionate about Global Warming, but this latest issue stepped it up a notch and made them gain stronger supporters or enemies, in my case, the latter. On this occasion the magazine has gone too far.

The April 28th issue cover is a Photoshopped adaptation of U.S. Marines and U.S. Navy corpsman raising the almighty United States flag on Mount Suribachi; an iconic image by the late Joe Rosenthal that won him a Pulitzer prize, and one that has its own unique place in history.

This represents only one of two times in 85 years that the magazine has used a border that is not red, thus we conclude, that Time feels strongly enough about the issue to break a key rule about presentation and color elements in order to draw attention; no doubt a brilliant maneuver.

During the Second World War, the Japanese empire represented a potent threat to the United States global warming does not. To use this image in a doctored fashion makes light of one of the most familiar moments of one of the bloodiest battles in U.S. history.

Perhaps Time is getting anxious to get the message out given that Gallop recently revealed an enlightening and inconvenient truth; Americans are not worried about global warming:

“While 61% of Americans say the effects of global warming have already begun, just a little more than a third say they worry about it a great deal, a percentage that is roughly the same as the one Gallup measured 19 years ago … Despite the enormous attention paid to global warming over the past several years, the average American is in some ways no more worried about it than in years past.”

Alternatively, as the editors at National Review Online noted:

"The last few years have witnessed an Internet-stock bubble and a real-estate bubble. Could we be approaching the bursting point of the climate-change bubble?"

"The intensity of the current climate crusade, Al Gore’s $300 million ad campaign, and Time’s fifth panicky global-warming cover in three years (“Be Worried, Be Very Worried” read the 2006 cover) are all good contrary indicators suggesting that the hysteria is reaching its terminal stage. Like mortgage-backed securities dealers, the climate campaigners are in a panic because the public isn’t buying what they’re selling."

Read the rest here

Thankfully, it seems Americans are not losing their heads over global warming, Time on the other hand is.

Read my earlier postings on Climate Change here and here

What do you think

April 22, 2008

President Bush, Aids, PEPFAR and Bush Derangement Syndrome

"Was it unrealistic to expect some credit and praise for the extraordinary initiatives of the current administration to combating aids in the continent? ... (the) remarks demonstrate an almost innate hostility toward both modern America and its administration, an unfathomable lack of understanding or plain, unrestrained bias."

The Archbishop Desmond Tutu is not one whom I would caste as dim. The past noble prize winner, humanitarian advocate, and ceaseless devotee to African interests can lay claim to an esteemed reputation in the fight for justice in Africa. But his past remarks about President Bush and the United States raised this writer’s ire.

In order to address the "anger, resentment, and fear that has replaced the respect the United States once enjoyed”, Foreign Policy Watch, a magazine that focuses on global politics, economics, and ideas, recently posted a series that posed a question for notable figures to address. It asked, "what single policy or gesture can the next President of the United States make to improve America’s standing in the world?”

One of the respondents was none other than Tutu, who wrote:

" … Today; the negative feelings about the United States have been provoked by the arrogance of unilateralism. The administration of George W. Bush has routinely thumbed its nose at the rest of the world and told it to go jump in the lake. It did so over the Kyoto Protocol, the International Criminal Court, and the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. But nowhere did it do so more spectacularly than in the invasion of Iraq, heaping contempt upon the United Nations and upending international law. That arrogant action has turned out to be a catastrophic disaster on all scores.... If the world’s superpower has the grace and modesty to say it is sorry, people would rub their eyes in disbelief, pinch themselves, and then smile because a new day had dawned.”

“Say sorry,” was the Archbishop kidding? Was it unrealistic to expect some credit and praise for the extraordinary initiatives of the current administration to combating aids in the continent? The African HIV Project is by far, the worlds most important and ambitious effort in the fight against the disease. It was not that long ago, under ten years in fact, that Aids was on the verge of decimating its population. The United States Presidents Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) symbolizes far more that “foreign policy moralism,” it represents a public health initiative unparalleled in size and scope.

When it was first announced in January 2003 Pepfar called for a 5-year, $15 billion comprehensive approach to fight the disease. It ensured that the U.S. led the world in its support to fight HIV/Aids. Following on, in May 2007, President Bush re-authorized Pepfar with a new 5-year, $30 billion proposal therefore doubling the 2003 commitment. As the NYT reported in January, In Global Battle on Aids, Bush Creates Legacy.

“If President Bush was going to shock the world — and skeptical Republicans — with a huge expenditure of American cash to send expensive drugs overseas, he wanted it to be well spent" ... “He said, ‘I will hold you accountable, because this is a big move, this is an important thing that I’ve been thinking about for a long time,’” recalled Dr. Pape, one of several international AIDS experts Mr. Bush consulted. “We indicated to him that our arms are totally broken as physicians, knowing that there are things we could do if we had the drugs "... “Nearly five years later, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief — Pepfar, for short — may be the most lasting bipartisan accomplishment of the Bush presidency.”

Moreover, the results of Pepfar have been telling:

1. Prevention - Progress Achieved through September 30, 2007

  • Supported prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission services for women during more than 10 million pregnancies (cumulative for fiscal years 2004 through 2007)

  • Supported antiretroviral prophylaxis for HIV-positive women in over 827,000 pregnancies (cumulative for fiscal years 2004 through 2007)

  • Supported prevention of an estimated 157,000 infant infections (cumulative for fiscal years 2004 through 2007)

  • Supported community outreach activities to nearly 61.5 million people to prevent sexual transmission

  • Supported training or retraining of nearly 520,000 people in provision of prevention services

2. Treatment - Progress Achieved through September 30, 2007
  • Globally, supported life-saving antiretroviral treatment for approximately 1,445,500 men, women and children

  • Supported life-saving antiretroviral treatment for approximately 1,358,500 men, women and children through bilateral programs in PEPFAR's 15 focus countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Caribbean

For a complete guide to latest results click here

Archbishop Tutu’s remarks demonstrate an almost innate hostility toward both modern America and its administration, an unfathomable lack of understanding or plain, unrestrained bias. Speaking of which, why have the majority media not noticed, let alone commended the current Presidents achievements? Perhaps yet again, it was being unrealistic to expect the press to put aside its prejudice about President Bush and tell us about it. Perhaps too, I underestimated how entrenched Bush Derangement Syndrome really is - a condition first coined by Washington Post columnist, Charles Krauthammer. In addition to the silly notion that it was he, who whipped up Hurricane Katrina, and that it was he, who caused 9/11, and that he is stupid despite degrees from Harvard and Yale not to mention possessing fighter pilot qualifications. Exponents of Bush Derangement Syndrome will now foster the idea that it was he, who introduced aids to Africa in the first place.

One day, in the not to distant future President Bush will receive the respect that I believe he merits for his efforts to curb the scourge of HIV/Aids.

Other links: Office of National Aids Policy, Bush Aids Intitiative gets bipartison approval

Comments welcome

April 16, 2008

Boston Dynamics: Robotics and American Ingenuity

"The United States was always a product of its citizens own ingenuity, from the time it was founded it has been the world’s most inventive nation, nurturing the right conditions for technological innovation ... Introducing BigDog, the world’s most advanced robot! "

It seems American ingenuity is alive and well. I was recently astounded to note just how far Robotics has come. Boston Dynamics, an offshoot of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology started developing Biomorphic (meaning, animal like movements) robotics in the early 90’s and their cutting-edge work inspired their launch in 1992.

It is no ordinary engineering firm, specializing in robotic and human simulation primarily catering to the U.S. defense establishment and even serving the Sony Corporation. You may recall Sony’s humanoid robot QRIO, well it turns out Sony approached Boston Dynamics for its physics based human simulation systems. From the website:

“BigDog is the alpha male of the Boston Dynamics family of robots. It is a quadruped robot that walks, runs, and climbs on rough terrain and carries heavy loads. BigDog is powered by a gasoline engine that drives a hydraulic actuation system. BigDog's legs are articulated like an animal’s, and have compliant elements that absorb shock and recycle energy from one step to the next. BigDog is the size of a large dog or small mule, measuring 1 meter long, 0.7 meters tall and 75 kg weight.”

“BigDog has an on-board computer that controls locomotion, servos the legs and handles a wide variety of sensors. BigDog’s control system manages the dynamics of its behavior to keep it balanced, steer, navigate, and regulate energetics as conditions vary. Sensors for locomotion include joint position, joint force, ground contact, ground load, a laser gyroscope, and a stereo vision system. Other sensors focus on the internal state of BigDog, monitoring the hydraulic pressure, oil temperature, engine temperature, rpm, battery charge and others.”

“In separate trials, BigDog runs at 4 mph, climbs slopes up to 35 degrees, walks across rubble, and carries a 340 lb load.”

I read that the Pentagon, but more specifically the Defense Research Project Agency (DRAPA) backs the program. I am drawn to the organizations mission:

"DARPA’s mission is to maintain the technological superiority of the U.S. military and prevent technological surprise from harming our national security by sponsoring revolutionary, high-payoff research that bridges the gap between fundamental discoveries and their military use."

For those interested in DRAPA’s current strategic plan, click here.

The United States was always a product of its citizens own ingenuity, from the time it was founded it has been the world’s most inventive nation, nurturing the right conditions for technological innovation through an ideal form of Government, one that encourages independence and, the sheer rate of competition.

"The role of government is not to create wealth; the role of our government is to create an environment in which the entrepreneur can flourish, in which minds can expand, in which technologies can reach new frontiers." Said President George W. Bush in 2001. And from the same source:

"By nearly every relevant metric, the U.S. leads the world in science and technology. With only about five percent of the world’s population, the U.S. employs nearly one-third of all scientists and engineers and accounts for approximately one-third of global R&D spending (U.S. R&D spending of over $300 billion is as much as the rest of the G-8 nations combined)."

Boston Dynamics is proof that American ingenuity is alive and well.

Finally, for those who quite naturally experienced an emotional reaction when BigDog was kicked in the side, you will find an explanation for this here.

Oh, and notice it did not defend itself - Asimov would be pleased. “A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.” Click here for the first two laws.

Comments always appreciated

April 12, 2008

Death by Blogging: Don’t let that blog kill you

Everything in excess is opposed to nature – Hippocrates

But then again, Oscar Wilde wrote, Moderation is a fatal thing. . . .
Nothing succeeds like excess …

Not sure about the last one. I usually begin my day on the computer by combing the latest posts at several blog tip sites to which I subscribe. On Wedsnesday, almost all these sites featured a post referencing an NYT article with a clumsy title, “In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers blog till they drop”, citing the recent deaths or two prominent and prolific bloggers. Both suffered fatal heart attacks and were under the age of 60, a third aged 40, survived. The piece throws the spotlight on bloggers, the blogging lifestyle, and its impact on health when not kept in check.

Granted that this has little to do with the subject matter of this blog, please forgive me for this. Fact is I am a serious blogger, not a prolific one, but who would want to be. In addition to a full time occupation that soaks up around 45–50 hours weekly, I also spend around 15 hours per week researching, drafting, editing, posting, promoting, and cultivating this blog. In relation to the efforts bloggers go to for promoting their sites, the term “cultivating” is scarcely adequate. Effective blogging and writing is both challenging and at times, hard work. Raj Dash says it perfectly in a recent article, “What's Wrong With the Blogosphere?”

“Bloggers … have to be more than just writers. They also have to be webmasters, analysts, ad sales people, accountants, editors, social media marketers, and so on. They don't always have the benefit of a team who have dedicated roles … I am a veteran writer/ technical writer. On my best days in the past, I've produced as much as 12,000 words of short fiction in one day, and written and edited 400+ pages of a PHP computer programming book in four months. But telling stories and writing about programming are things I can do without research. Blog writing is sometimes much harder.”

Raj makes an important point about research; it takes time and diligence to produce good content. It also concerns me when I read about bloggers who curse themselves no end for not having back up articles written for when they are too busy or get ill. As bloggers, it is important to realize that we are living, breathing people, not automatons, and certainly, not merely bloggers. We are entitled to a life that is balanced, combining work, family, socializing, and healthy activities with our chosen vocations, of which blogging may be one.

Incessant blogging can lead to anti-social issues and isolation from friends and family. It can strain relationships and make one feel as if always “on call.” Sure enough, I have found myself blogging at insane hours, what does that tell us.

I am interested in your views on blogging. Do you find it stressful? Alternatively, is this counterbalanced by the pleasure derived from good posting and feedback? Personally, I sometimes find it stressing but in a positive sense hence, stress need not lead to distress, know the difference? Nor do I have a compulsion to blog daily; I just would not have the time.

Further reading:

How To Be A Happier, Healthier Blogger

How Stressful Do You Find Blogging?

Comments welcome

April 8, 2008

U.S. Economy: Assessing the whole

..."Statistics and numbers fail to tell the whole story because prescribed methodologies used to derive them are not keeping pace with the new economies..."

It’s been noted with interest that most, though not all our business dailies, web news pages and general online portals, are giving the U.S. economy a fair share of viewer real estate all the while, painting a grim picture. It remains true that the most recent data is not encouraging, least not on the surface. The mainstream’s pre-occupation with the negative, a propensity, if you will, to advance quantities of negative data with little if any mention of the positives (and there are many) only serves to exacerbate matters for a populace whose confidence in their economy is already declining.

While the U.S. is riding a rough patch, if commentators can remain cool, that is, if some of the self-righteous doomsayers can take a few steps back from the numbers, rather than generate a paragraph or two for every tenth of a point fall, the result may heighten the chances of a short and shallow slowdown rather than ayou will not read that word here.

Thus, in the absence of balanced and clear-headed coverage it was refreshing to stumble upon Victor Hanson’s brief assessment, I offer excerpts:

…"Given the vast size of the U.S. economy, we could easily restrain spending and begin paying off our debts at a rapid clip. Inflation and unemployment are still relatively low"

… "Over ninety-four percent of Americans with home mortgages meet their monthly obligations. More Americans own homes than ever before. More immigrants seek out America than any other nation"

… "We have not been hit by terrorists in over six years. And, slowly, both Afghanistan and Iraq are showing political progress and declining violence, despite recent suicide bombings"

... "In a relative sense, our problems pale in comparison to our past world wars and depressions, or those of our current competitors"

… "Unlike the United States, which is funding democratic change in Afghanistan and Iraq, Russia and China offer only brutal solutions to quench Islamic separatists in Chechnya and Xinjiang province. Neither country can square economic progress with human rights. Both have polluted their natural environment in ways inconceivable here. Meanwhile, a shrinking Europe is disarmed in a dangerous world and can't assimilate its growing minorities"

... "We are still the world's third-largest petroleum producer with vast amounts of untouched oil. We have the world's largest coal reserves. Americans could use coal and nuclear power to generate most of our electrical needs and to charge hybrid electric cars"

… "Our universities remain the world's best and we lead the world in cutting-edge technological innovation."

Full marks to Mr. Hanson who concludes, “because the United States is so huge, free, wealthy and dynamic, we can cause enormous problems overnight. But by the same token, we can curb these excesses quickly.”

The nine-letter term I intentionally omitted earlier is quite technical as well as damaging, when printed within nearly every economic scrutiny. This should not surprise, given most of the focus rests on, and is limited to, attenuating figures. Statistics and numbers fail to tell the whole story because prescribed methodologies used to derive them are not keeping pace with the new economies, suggests Michael Mandel, a noted economist on Business Week cover story.

"But what if we told you that the doomsayers, while not definitively wrong, aren't seeing the whole picture? What if we told you that businesses are investing about $1 trillion a year more than the official numbers show? Or that the savings rate, far from being negative, is actually positive? Or, for that matter, that our deficit with the rest of the world is much smaller than advertised, and that gross domestic product may be growing faster than the latest gloomy numbers show? You'd be pretty surprised, wouldn't you?"

"Well, don't be. Because the economy you thought you knew -- the one all those government statistics purport to measure and make rational and understandable -- actually may be on a stronger footing than you think. Then again, it could be much more volatile than before, with bigger booms and deeper busts. If true, that has major implications for policymakers -- not least Ben Bernanke, who on Feb. 1 succeeded Alan Greenspan as chairman of the Federal Reserve."

"Everyone knows the U.S. is well down the road to becoming a knowledge economy, one driven by ideas and innovation. What you may not realize is that the government's decades-old system of number collection and crunching captures investments in equipment, buildings, and software, but for the most part misses the growing portion of GDP that is generating the cool, game-changing ideas. "As we've become a more knowledge-based economy," says University of Maryland economist Charles R. Hulten, "our statistics have not shifted to capture the effects."

"The statistical wizards at the Bureau of Economic Analysis in Washington can whip up a spreadsheet showing how much the railroads spend on furniture ($39 million in 2004, to be exact). But they have no way of tracking the billions of dollars companies spend each year on innovation and product design, brand-building, employee training, or any of the other intangible investments required to compete in today's global economy. That means that the resources put into creating such world-beating innovations as the anticancer drug Avastin, inhaled insulin, Starbuck's (SBUX ), exchange-traded funds, and yes, even the iPod, don't show up in the official numbers."

Read the whole piece here

Perhaps it would be wise to embrace the President’s words while giving the latest Government stimulus checks time to work.

So should we be concerned? Yes, we should, growth is anemic, GDP increased only marginally in the October to December quarter, consumer confidence and spending, both critical factors is declining, and home prices are in correction mode. However, as Michael Mandel suggests, “economies evolve while the number used to capture them remain the same. Globalization, outsourcing, and the emphasis on innovation and creativity are forcing businesses to shift at a dramatic rate from tangible to intangible investments.”

The only counter I would offer here is that we need to be wary of not confusing U.S. companies that operate internationally with the actual state of the U.S. economy but aside from this, maybe the American economy is more robust than popular wisdom would suggest.

What do you think?

April 7, 2008

Charlton Heston 1923 – 2008

I was busy writing a forthcoming post when news broke of Charlton Heston’s death; news that stopped me in my tracks.

An outspoken Democrat during the 1960’s, his political views swung to the right in his senior years becoming a conservative and unapologetic supported of the National Rifle Association. He was also awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2003.

Heston’s other awards and honors include, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Cecil B. DeMille Award, the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award and the Kennedy Center Honors Lifetime Achievement Award.

Though much will be written of his life on coming days I felt a strong compulsion to post on the actors passing right here at American Interests – a giant of American cinema.

The Heston family issued a statement that can be viewed here.

Fellow bloggers that have posted on this include:

Karen at The Pondering Penguin, Another Giant Falls
DD2 at Our World As We See It
Debbie at Right Truth and
Verlin Martin at The Daily Ramble.

Rest in peace Charlton Heston, our prayers and thoughts are with his loved ones.

April 2, 2008

The Internet and American Interests blog

While surfing idly I came across an interesting post at the neo-neocon site that motivated me to post an offshoot in relation to this blog. I too, when viewing my site meter am astounded to note the far-reaching scope and geographic’s of my visitors. One knows too well the reach of the World Wide Web, but viewed so graphically, in the form of such a colorful pie chart, it seems to take on a larger dimension, and clearly demonstrates the amazing power of the internet even with a small blog such as American Interests.

American Interests.blog
Country Share

As of December 30, 2007, 1.319 billion people use the Internet and it has been asserted, that the medium has become a fundamental feature of global civilization, uniting us in ways unimaginable only recently. As a youngster, I fondly recall being fascinated by such unsophisticated luxuries as short wave radio, or like when my late father would wake me in the early hours to watch World Cup soccer, and seeing the words, “live via Satellite” in the corner of the TV.

Source: www.internetworldstats.com

It hasn't escaped me that 13% of my visitors are from India, Canada and the United Kingdom, although I'd never know from my commenters', so if you're from these nations, don't be shy now, hit that comment link...

Finally, here is something we should all ponder. While the above representation shows that internet penetration within the Asian population stands at only 13.7%, in terms of raw numbers, Asians account for over 38% of world internet users compared to only 18% for North America. A potent illustration of the burgeoning influence and power of Asia.

Comments welcome...

Re-visited: Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative

Reagan’s speech instilled a sense of nationalistic pride and healthy patriotism that, apart form a temporary surge following the September 2001 attacks, has been faltering since. His words engendered hope and belief in a way that crossed party lines; he made Americans feel, American.

This past week saw the silver anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” speech pass without as much as a whisper. I found this mildly surprising in light of the $120 billion already spent and given that the White House has a current request, for a further $12 billion for 2009. The development of a ballistic missile shield remains a contentious and expensive task even after 25 years.

I will refrain from lending to the pro and against arguments for continued research and testing in relation to the SDI program and related technologies; they are well documented, suffice to add, that paired with offensive capabilities, defensive actions such as SDI and homeland security measures, all play a role in strengthening the U.S. and providing valuable deterrence dynamics.

The former President was no fool, and knew fully well both the immense undertaking that the program represented, and the likely time frame for implementation, said Reagan:

“I know this is a formidable, technical task, one that may not be accomplished before the end of this century. Yet, current technology has attained a level of sophistication where it’s reasonable for us to begin this effort. It will take years, probably decades of effort on many fronts. There will be failures and setbacks, just as there will be successes and breakthroughs … I clearly recognize that defensive systems have limitations and raise certain problems and ambiguities...

Reagan’s speech instilled a sense of nationalistic pride and healthy patriotism that, apart form a temporary surge following the September 2001 attacks, has been faltering since. His words engendered hope and belief in a way that crossed party lines; he made Americans feel, American. He was much more than a shrink Government reduce taxes President, he gave its citizens a sense of mission and creed, his words re-affirmed historical American ideals and restored confidence in the legitimacy of America and its institutions. Keep these uppermost in mind as we re-visit the famous speech.

Address to the Nation on National Security by President Ronald Reagan, March 23, 1983

My fellow Americans,

The calls for cutting back the defense budget come in nice, simple arithmetic. They’re the same kind of talk that led the democracies to neglect their defenses in the 1930’s and invited the tragedy of World War II. We must not let that grim chapter of history repeat itself through apathy or neglect.

This is why I’m speaking to you tonight - to urge you to tell your Senators and Congressmen that you know we must continue to restore our military strength. If we stop in midstream, we will send a signal of decline, of lessened will, to friends and adversaries alike.

Free people must voluntarily, through open debate and democratic means, meet the challenge that totalitarians pose by compulsion. It’s up to us, in our time, to choose and choose wisely between the hard but necessary task of preserving peace and freedom and the temptation to ignore our duty and blindly hope for the best while the enemies of freedom grow stronger day by day.

The solution is well within our grasp. But to reach it, there is simply no alternative but to continue this year, in this budget, to provide the resources we need to preserve the peace and guarantee our freedom.

Now, thus far tonight I’ve shared with you my thoughts on the problems of national security we must face together. My predecessors in the Oval Office have appeared before you on other occasions to describe the threat posed by Soviet power and have proposed steps to address that threat. But since the advent of nuclear weapons, those steps have been increasingly directed toward deterrence of aggression through the promise of retaliation.

This approach to stability through offensive threat has worked. We and our allies have succeeded in preventing nuclear war for more than three decades. in recent months, however, my advisers, including in particular the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have underscored the necessity to break out of a future that relies solely on offensive retaliation for our security.

Over the course of these discussions, I’ve become more and more deeply convinced that the human spirit must be capable of rising above dealing with other nations and human beings by threatening their existence. Feeling this way, I believe we must thoroughly examine every opportunity for reducing tensions and for introducing greater stability into the strategic calculus on both sides.

One of the most important contributions we can make is, of course, to lower the level of all arms, and particularly nuclear arms. We’re engaged right now in several negotiations with the Soviet Union to bring about a mutual reduction of weapons. I will report to you a week from tomorrow my thoughts on that score. But let me just say, I’m totally committed to this course.

If the Soviet Union will join with us in our effort to achieve major arms reduction, we will have succeeded in stabilizing the nuclear balance. Nevertheless, it will still be necessary to rely on the specter of retaliation, on mutual threat. And that’s a sad commentary on the human condition. Wouldn’t it be better to save lives than to avenge them? Are we not capable of demonstrating our peaceful intentions by applying all our abilities and our ingenuity to achieving a truly lasting stability? I think we are. Indeed, we must.

After careful consultation with my advisers, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I believe there is a way. Let me share with you a vision of the future which offers hope. It is that we embark on a program to counter the awesome Soviet missile threat with measures that are defensive. Let us turn to the very strengths in technology that spawned our great industrial base and that have given us the quality of life we enjoy today.

What if free people could live secure in the knowledge that their security did not rest upon the threat of instant U.S. retaliation to deter a Soviet attack, that we could intercept and destroy strategic ballistic missiles before they reached our own soil or that of our allies?

I know this is a formidable, technical task, one that may not be accomplished before the end of this century.

Yet, current technology has attained a level of sophistication where it’s reasonable for us to begin this effort. It will take years, probably decades of effort on many fronts. There will be failures and setbacks, just as there will be successes and breakthroughs. And as we proceed, we must remain constant in preserving the nuclear deterrent and maintaining a solid capability for flexible response. But isn’t it worth every investment necessary to free the world from the threat of nuclear war? We know it is.

In the meantime, we will continue to pursue real reductions in nuclear arms, negotiating from a position of strength that can be ensured only by modernizing our strategic forces. At the same time, we must take steps to reduce the risk of a conventional military conflict escalating to nuclear war by improving our nonnuclear capabilities.

America does possess - now - the technologies to attain very significant improvements in the effectiveness of our conventional, nonnuclear forces. Proceeding boldly with these new technologies, we can significantly reduce any incentive that the Soviet Union may have to threaten attack against the United States or its allies.

As we pursue our goal of defensive technologies, we recognize that our allies rely upon our strategic offensive power to deter attacks against them. Their vital interests and ours are inextricably linked. Their safety and ours are one. And no change in technology can or will alter that reality. We must and shall continue to honor our commitments.

I clearly recognize that defensive systems have limitations and raise certain problems and ambiguities. If paired with offensive systems, they can be viewed as fostering an aggressive policy, and no one wants that. But with these considerations firmly in mind, I call upon the scientific community in our country, those who gave us nuclear weapons, to turn their great talents now to the cause of mankind and world peace, to give us the means of rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete.

Tonight, consistent with our obligations of the ABM treaty and recognizing the need for closer consultation with our allies, I’m taking an important first step. I am directing a comprehensive and intensive effort to define a long-term research and development program to begin to achieve our ultimate goal of eliminating the threat posed by strategic nuclear missiles. This could pave the way for arms control measures to eliminate the weapons themselves. We seek neither military superiority nor political advantage. Our only purpose - one all people share - is to search for ways to reduce the danger of nuclear war.

My fellow Americans, tonight we’re launching an effort which holds the promise of changing the course of human history. There will be risks, and results take time.

But I believe we can do it. As we cross this threshold, I ask for your prayers and your support.
Thank you, good night, and God bless you.

While nationalism in America is complex and hard to define, at a straightforward level, the purported “Star Wars” speech achieved a great deal. Together with Reagan’s general appeal and democratic personality, it heralded an era of good feeling and restored America’s faith in itself.

Click here
for an interactive demonstration of how the shield works.
Click here for a map of nations with ballistic missiles.
Click here for a map of nations with nuclear weapons.

I welcome your comments...