May 30, 2008

Breaking from Blogger

Mostly, we take time off because we are drained and need some time to rest our mind and body, in my case this is not quite the case. Changes at the office and new projects mean more challenge and much to deal with. As much as it displeases to type this, I will need to pause with AI for a while and perhaps, even review it. Generating good and compelling online content takes genuine work and devotion. Many things need to be “right” for blog publishing to succeed or in the least, to be worthwhile and meaningful.

I still intend visiting your blogs and in the interim, anyone wishing to contact me (even if only to say hi) can find my email address at the profile page … For now, I leave you with an oldie to reflect on. America and the World:

“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.”

Education is of paramount importance…

May 26, 2008

Nuclear Terrorism: America must remain alert

"Make no mistake, obtaining and smuggling a nuclear device into America remains extremely difficult, my hope is that homeland security experts and those charged with policy creation in this matter will ensure it stays that way."

FrontPage magazine asserts that American Policymakers would be foolish to dismiss the more serious threats to homeland security including nuclear terrorism.

“Where a nuclear attack once may have been beyond the capacities of stateless terrorists, that is no longer the case. One need only consider Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM), mastermind of 9/11 and chief operating officer of al-Qaeda, who revealed under intensive interrogation -- including the much-maligned tactic of waterboarding -- that a nuclear attack against the United States was a top priority for al-Qaeda.”

“According to the New York Daily News and its sources, the captive KSM told his interrogators that Osama bin Laden was planning a “nuclear hell storm” in America. Normally such a lurid claim would be disbelieved by our “inside-the-box” intelligence officers, but KSM’s recovered laptop had corroborating details.”

The “corroborating” details remain frightening and reveal names of the many participants involved including the father of the Pakistan bomb, Dr. A.Q. Khan, who himself exposed that in 2001, bin Laden and his deputy met with Pakistani nuclear scientists and thrashed out how al-Qaeda could build a bomb.

That such a scenario could be weighed up is disturbing enough without reading about instances of nuclear material missing from reactor sites.

“The night meeting went well. 'Jafer the Pilot" is the nom de guerre of U.S. citizen Adnan el-Shukrijumah. Young, intelligent, fluent in multiple languages and a trained jet pilot who had apparently been in flight schools with Mohammed Atta, Shukrijumah had studied and worked with other jihadis at the 5-megawatt nuclear reactor at McMaster University in Canada. But one day all the terrorists disappeared from campus forever.”

“John Loftus of WABC news reported on November 7, 2003, that in the immediate wake of Shukrijumah and his fellow travelers’ disappearance, 180 pounds of uranium ended up “missing” from the reactor. Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir, who interviewed Osama bin Laden in the wake of 9/11, reported bin Laden saying that one of the founders of al-Qaeda, Anas el-Liby, had helped the Pilot haul out the stash of uranium.”

Christopher Carson’s article details some of the highly dubious activities and movements of Adnan el-Shukrijumah, the so-called “pilot” between 2001 and 2005. It is almost understandable that MSM would ignore the story, especially given the distrust prevailing over intelligence sources however, when notables as William Perry and Graham Allison, Clintons former Secretary of Defense and Assistant Secretary of Defense respectively, estimate that the chance of nuclear terror is “at more than 50 percent over the next decade. That is, two respected experts in the field believe that the nuclear destruction of one or more American urban centers is more probable than not in the very near future,” then perhaps the media’s lack of interest is unwise. Senator, Lieberman has also weighed into the discussion.

“While the mainstream media currently mostly ignore this story and the almost certain fact that a nuclear plot is ongoing today, Senator Joseph Lieberman has held at least three separate hearings in 2008 of his Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on this very subject. The testimony from experts summoned to these hearings has been grim. Nobody doubts that once terrorists acquire fissile material, which is either Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) or plutonium, a bomb is within there theoretical capacity and will to make and use. A simple gun-type device, like that used for the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima, is sufficient to yield a one to ten kiloton explosion.”

We can take comfort in the fact that one of the necessary fissile materials is enriched uranium, which cannot be mined, nor can terrorists produce it. Problem is, there are options available for those seeking it.

“The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has documented 15 incidents of theft and smuggling of small amounts of separated plutonium or highly enriched uranium confirmed by the nations involved. But these 15 cases represent the tip of the iceberg of what has actually occurred. So there is always just approaching the right people and buying it—not an easy task, but not an impossible one either.

Nuclear terror expert Matthew Bunn testified last month that “Nuclear weapons or their essential ingredients exist in hundreds of buildings in dozens of countries, with security measures that range from excellent to appalling – in some cases, no more than a night watchman and a chain-link fence.”

"In recent months, shadowy surveillance teams have been reported scoping out secret nuclear weapons facilities in Russia. They probably don’t have to be: In February 2006, Russian citizen Oleg Khinsagov was arrested in Georgia (along with three Georgian accomplices) with some 100 grams of 89 percent enriched HEU, claiming that he had kilograms more available for sale. We can’t know how many thefts that occurred were never detected. Dr. Bunn told Senator Lieberman that “it is a sobering fact that nearly all of the stolen HEU and plutonium that has been seized over the years had never been missed before it was seized.”

“The Washington Post, right before last Christmas, reported a strange story. Sometime in the night of November 8, 2007, two coordinated teams of armed men attacked the Pelindaba nuclear facility in South Africa, where hundreds of kilograms of weapon-grade highly enriched uranium (HEU) are stored. One of the teams was chased off by the guards, but the other team of four gunmen disabled the perimeter alarms, went to the emergency control center and shot a worker in the chest. Bleeding out, the worker was still able to sound the first alarm.”

“He might not have bothered. The attack team then spent 45 minutes inside the perimeter, without anyone harassing them. What they did next is unknown to the public. The team promptly disappeared through the same hole they had cut in the fence. South African officials later arrested three individuals, but soon released them. The South African government has since been close-lipped about what really happened last November, and it has refused earlier U.S. offers to remove the HEU at Pelindaba—if indeed any remains after the attack. We don’t even know how much HEU, if any, was spirited away.”

Thus we can can deduce that the risk of nuclear terrorism is not some vague probability in a distant apocalyptic future. Given that accessibility to nuclear materials is only going to increase and I suspect, that the number of terror groups with unwavering intent to inflict harm on America will also rise, if the U.S. keeps doing as little as it appears to be, then a catastrophe is a possibility.

Back in 2002, President Bush maintained, "If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy, or steal an amount of uranium a little bigger than a softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year." Now if al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah could achieve the same result we’re back to base.

Make no mistake, obtaining and smuggling a nuclear device into America remains extremely difficult, my hope is that homeland security experts and those charged with policy creation in this matter will ensure it stays that way. Effective intelligence is no easy affair, the collection, processing, analysis, and dissemination of intelligence is a very complex and is made more challenging because it must be conducted under a shroud of great secrecy.

Says, Mike McConnell, Director of National Intelligence:

"Today, we face some of the greatest threats that any generation will ever know, and we must not be slow in confronting them. We must continue to emphasize integration across the Community to better serve our customers, provide frank, unencumbered analysis, and strengthen collection capabilities that continue to penetrate the seemingly impenetrable."

Links: Nuclear terrorism the ultimate preventable catastrophe

Comments most welcome

May 22, 2008

World Capital, Trade, Anti Americanism, and the importance of American Empire

"...The detractors take pride in divorcing themselves from reality whenever it suits ... They view American capitalism as if something evil ... a mentality that forms part of a wider anti-America mindset that I believe ought be characterized as an intellectually neglected cultural and social psychological phenomenon..."

Regular readers of this blog are sure to have come across the words, “our economies and our national security, are irrevocably tied to a secure world order - an order, to which the present day United States … is at the heart.” American imperialism or empire and, what is increasingly construed as hubristic methods in foreign policy dealings, continue to attract scorn and, in some quarter’s international resentment, but the fact remains, many nations look to America to guarantee a secure economic and political environment and, the legal framework within which our international capitalist system can operate effectively and foster growth.

Amongst the many elements of American power that incites its detractors, things like success, imperialism, expansiveness and generosity (see previous two posts), democratic economics and capitalism are viewed as the both an enemy and disease. The detractors take pride in divorcing themselves from reality whenever it suits and include the likes of anti-modern greens, Islamists, the intellectual, and broad ranging left. They view American capitalism as if something evil; a mentality that forms part of a wider anti-America mindset that I believe ought be characterized as an intellectually neglected cultural and social psychological phenomenon that through its sheer inanity, cannot as yet, earn a place at the table of national and international debates.

The unimpeded flow of capital, goods, and services is critical to the international economic system, one that draws its dynamism from an orderliness provided by none other than America. Otherwise expressed, the latter guarantees the free flow of capital across global borders that operate through the foreign exchange market (Forex). According to the BIS, average daily turnover in traditional foreign exchange markets is estimated at a staggering $3.21 trillion. It is here that stability is crucial to guarantee trade flow across borders and to wherever it can realize a return on investment, there is nothing criminal or immoral about this goal. .

No other nation is remotely capable of playing the role of America in the economics of the globe. Its success in overcoming the obstructions to freedom of capital and fashioning a single, global capital market since the demise of the cold war has been extraordinary. Its indispensability cannot be overstated and contributes to its power and assertiveness; a power that provides leadership on behalf of all participatory nations that share similar values, where authority is legitimate and within a system that endows both ruler and ruled with prosperity, hence, but one value of U.S. hegemony.

Regardless of their background, critics of America, and those who obsess over anti –Americanism flounder in illogicality's. Regrettably, though not always, majority media lubricates the disinformation streams of thought and opinion that leftists engender.

While America is often reproached for what is viewed as forced imposition of its capitalist model, oddly enough whenever there is a downturn, it’s the other states that anxiously anticipate yet another, America led economic recovery.

Comments appreciated


May 19, 2008

USAID and Anti-Americanism

..."I must admit that if I was a US official and cast my eye down this page I would conclude “Well ***** you”, take my aircraft and ships, my young men and women and bring them home..."

In relation to yesterdays post about USAID, we were somewhat taken aback by the number of callous and uninformed comments made at the referenced post. Here are some excerpts:

“Saying Americans help people overseas is pure bullshit, Americans help themselves to what other nations surrender to their military might. They do nothing in the humanitarian fields without an ulterior motive of gain for themselves.”

“Its the least the US could do after all the destruction it leaves behind. The Americans’ ability to deploy its forces anywhere in the world is testament to its massive military infrastructure that spans the globe. And why is it anti-Americanism to criticise the aggressive, imperialist foreign policies of the US? Most of the world has a negative view of American foreign policy. And with good reason.
But no lets ignore all the wars and trouble they have caused throughout the world and simply remember the good they do. May I remind you that you do the exact opposite when criticising a nation such as China.”

"The view of the Great Satan USA will disappear along with Bush so you can come down from your go-go podium. It’s thanks to him that the UN has been undermined on so many fronts and can’t meet it’s potential. The UN and Australia are also waiting on the sidelines of Burma......a lot of good that does. Whilst we’re talking about credit where credit’s due we should applaud China’s quick response to it’s own catastrophe. In fact that’s what I thought your column was going to be about. Remember, the era of US influence is waning. China is dominating the global community. It is with the greatest respect that we applaud the good deeds of a Communist regime which is striding quickly to become the world’s most powerful and influential nation. Let’s hear it for China!"

Obviously the latter believes that a communist and anti-free speech China would be a better world citizen, go figure…

But then, there were some positives, like this enlightened commenter...

“I think that reading some of the anti-American bile written here you have sort of proved your point. It doesn’t matter what the US does, it will be hated. Its not even as if the positives are acknowledged in some sort of balanced view of the US - they are simply rejected out of hand and with a roar the Great Satan view reasserted. Indeed, bizarrely, anyone who even suggests that the US does something (anything?) right is ‘biased’. I must admit that if I was a US official and cast my eye down this page I would conclude “Well ***** you”, take my aircraft and ships, my young men and women and bring them home. Europe can then sort out the Middle East (or sell nuclear technology to the highest bidder), the UN can appoint some of its African members as representatives to deal with poverty and political corruption in Africa (and take something off the top while doing so) and we can wait for Chinese transport aircraft to deliver food, medical supplies and other materials to Burma....presumably after dropping off some other hardware to Kim Jong-il. All of which would fill me with a warm fuzzy glow for the future mankind.”

But getting back to the aid question, yesterdays post mentioned nothing about private aid. A quick search reveals that here too, the U.S. gives more foreign aid than any other country by a wide margin according to the Index of Global Philanthropy as published on May 12th by the Hudson Institute. It's all revealed in the image folks.

Call it a by-product of the post-ideological age but anti-Americanism seems to have changed little since that Pew report and plugs a cavity left by medieval belief practices. How can a world that reacts so harshly to the U.S. bear any logic in its message. Would a world without present day America be more peaceful, stable, prosperous, secure and open? While there remain many who stand up to U.S. leadership I ask, who else would be ready and able torment, menace, coax, and pay off nations to relinquish terror and dismantle their WMD programs?

With respect to just about all the modern day challenges, be it terrorism, international trade, AIDs, nuclear proliferation, and foreign aid, American leadership stands tall and remains a primary prerequisite.

At the end of the day, I'm with Janet, "Let’s hear it for America."

Comments welcome...

May 17, 2008

USAID and Cyclone Nargis

"In times of crises, politics, ideology, and rule are considered peripheral. It matters little which nation is affected, if it is deemed that the nation cannot - even with good intentions - provide for its people, then a helping hand is extended. Burma’s Generals have little time for America or Americans but for the U.S., the compelling need to provide humanitarian assistance to a shattered populace transcends this."

Without the U.S. there’d be hell to pay, wrote Janet Albrechtsen; a columnist with The Australian reminding us that we need, "acknowledge the scorecard: the full spectrum of US hegemony, from its brute military muscle to the soft seduction of American ideas, has been an overwhelming force for good."

That was last year; now recall my words in a September 2007 post about her piece:

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

Well, Janet has generated another of those timely common sense blog post/opinion pieces, this time prompting us to consider that, “Whenever a serious crisis erupts somewhere, our dependence on the US becomes obvious, and many hate the US because of it. That the hatred is irrational is beside the point … We can denounce the Yanks for being Muslim-hating flouters of international law while demanding the US rescue Bosnian Muslims from Serbia without UN authority. We can be disgusted by crass American materialism and ridiculous stockpiling of worldly goods yet also be the first to demand material help from the US when disaster strikes. “

The article fittingly titled, Credit where its due, draws our attention to Burma in the aftermath of the terrible devastation and loss of life caused by cyclone Nargis.

As is consistently the case, America remains ever willing to offer assistance on a massive scale, be it by land, sea, or air following a natural disaster irrespective of ruling regimes and governance. In times of crises, politics, ideology, and rule are considered peripheral. It matters little which nation is affected, if it is deemed that the nation cannot - even with good intentions - provide for its people, then a helping hand is extended. Burma’s Generals have little time for America or Americans but for the U.S., the compelling need to provide humanitarian assistance to a shattered populace transcends this.

In response to the many anti American chants and those who applaud the rise of, for example China as a threat to the former, Albrechtsen notes, “The US has had isolationist periods in the past and it must be enormously tempted sometimes to have another one soon.” which is why its critics should pause and consider the consequences of an isolationist America.

Read the article here, and Courtney’s take is here

One final thought, the saga is beginning to raise questions, with Burma’s Generals effectively stalling on aid and there continuing refusal to allow foreign rescue experts in, some including France’s Ambassador to the U.N, Jean Maurice Ripert, have suggested that the Burmese Government was, “on the verge of committing crime a crime against humanity”. Questions raised relate to a humanitarian duty to take action that is more robust. If circumstances are extreme, is regime change resulting from forcible intervention appropriate? It’s a critical step but one already one being referenced.

Afterword: It was announced earlier this week that Australia would add a further $22 million in aid for the victims of Cyclone Nargis, bringing the total Australia aid contribution to $25 million. The international community’s willingness to assist the Burmese people has is underlined by the significant increase in the United Kingdom’s offer of assistance, to an overall commitment of $35m, the largest single commitment to date ahead of Australia’s $25m. I think the U.S. commitment is presently $17.8m but expect this to rise ... Three cheers for Anglosphere!

Aid commitments to Burma made by major donors (in millions) as at May 15: $35m Britain, $25m Australia AUSAID, $17.8m United States ... USAID (expected to rise), 10m Japan, $9.8m Germany, and $2m Canada

Now we all we need do is to get the aid through to those in need, easier said than done. The humanitarian crisis in Burma is a striking example of state failure among the developing world's authoritarian regimes.

IMPORTANT LINKS

Bush may consider Burma intervention - urged by both sides of the aisle...
World is turning up the heat - "This is inhuman. We have an intolerable situation..."

Over to you

May 16, 2008

Human Rights, China, the IOC and the 2008 Olympics

"So much for the guarantees given to the IOC about human rights back when the 2008 games were awarded. Where is the condemnation from sports bodies and the International Olympic Committee now that..."

In an initiative designed to harness the power of Blogosphere and Social Network members, today is the day that tens of thousands of online writers come together to demonstrate unified collaboration in support of the inalienable moral entitlements attached to persons equally by virtue of their humanity. BlogCatalog.com is partnering with Amnesty International to expand a global social awareness campaign for human rights through the launch of this major initiative. Irrespective of race, nationality, or membership of any particular social or political group, all humans are entitled to basic legal and moral rights as recognized by international laws.

In support of this worthy initiative, I draw attention to China’s questionable Human Rights record in this, the Olympic year. When the IOC awarded China the 2008 Olympics, it did so on the condition that it seeks to improve its Human Rights record. What gave the IOC the belief that the Chinese would change is beyond comprehension. China has a pitiful record and the IOC’s decision acts to reinforce and condone this highly negative conduct. I guess the IOC was never one to possess great foresight as it did award the games to Berlin in ’36. Nor has the sports body any regard for perpetuating the virtues of civilized nationhood. It was sympathetic to communism by awarding the 1980 games to the then Soviet Union.

As reported widely, China promised to improve their Human Rights record well advance of the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics. Since then we have seen a recent and violent crackdown of peaceful dissension in Tibet and other human rights activists and there has been little if any change to policy with respect to previously documented abuses; a mistreatment that remains systematic and widespread. Any dissenting opinions are promptly suppressed, arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment of prisoners, severe restrictions on freedom of expression and association and violations specific to women, continues unabated. Government and political control over its legal systems ensures a continued lack of accountability consequently, abuses go unchecked. According to Amnesty, China currently holds the record for the largest number of imprisoned journalists and cyber-dissidents. One of the most prominent stories includes journalist Shi Tao, who is serving a 10-year sentence in a Chinese prison for sending an email!

So much for the guarantees given to the IOC about human rights back when the 2008 games were awarded. Where is the condemnation from sports bodies and the International Olympic Committee now that they are regressing on the agreement? Typical is not it, the deafening silence...

Read a letter (PDF) from AIUSA executive director, Larry Cox asking President Bush to urge the Chinese government to fufill its human rights commitment. I find it perplexing that the following sentence graces the page of the International Olympic Committee’s Olympic home page:

The Games have always brought people together in peace to respect universal moral principles.

If the IOC were sincere about this, it would not have awarded the 2008 Olympics to Beijing. I call on the Chinese authorities to make good on their promises and uphold the legacy of the Games.

Comments always appreciated...

May 12, 2008

Bloggers Unite for Human Rights

Aide memoire!

In an initiative designed to harness the power of Blogosphere and Social Network members, on May 15th, tens of thousands of online writers will join together to demonstrate unified collaboration in support of the inalienable moral entitlements attached to persons equally by virtue of their humanity.

Find out more at: Bloggers Unite for Human Rights

In the interim, check out my Russia's Victory Day Celebrations post. It's just below!

Russia's Victory Day Parade back in Red Square

"This is the Soviet standard, ideology, philosophy and above all, Soviet aesthetics of fear..."




It seems Vladimir Putin has a longing for the past. The past President's old KGB Soviet mentality is returning to the fore of his public psyche and this may just explain his decision earlier this year, to display Russia’s heavy weapons in May for a Soviet-style Victory Day parade in Red Square.

Soviet parades of this type were an important feature of cold war mentality and once again in 2008 tanks and missiles will rolled out for the world to see. The authorities had promised to include the very latest weaponry including T-90 tanks and Topol-M long-range ballistic missiles.

Putin insisted that the parade was not meant as a saber rattling exercise:

"The outgoing Russian leader said that Friday's parade to mark the end of World War II would demonstrate Russia's growing defense capabilities. "We do not threaten anyone and do not intend to do so," he said. It's a demonstration of our growing capabilities in the defense sphere. We are capable of protecting our people, citizens, our state and our wealth."

Let’s keep it all in perspective however. In spite of Putin's Kremlin pouring $150 billion into its armed services, the Russian military remains burdened with old weaponry and facilities. As I have reported previously, Putin resumed long-range bomber patrols, boasted of developing a new strategic missile and threatened to deploy missiles closer to the heart of Europe. To date, only a handful of new jet fighters and a few dozen tanks have been added. Still, Russia's nuclear arsenal and associated delivery systems remain frighteningly powerful.

The prominent human rights activist Valeria Novodvorskaya, made a significant point here about the purpose of the parade.

"This is the Soviet standard, ideology, philosophy and above all, Soviet aesthetics of fear. What achievements can the semi-totalitarian Russian society show to the world? One cannot parade an oil pipeline. So instead this society shows off what it showed to the world throughout the Soviet era."

Perhaps Putin and new President Dmitry Medvedev see this as a way to shock and awe us … Yawn

If you wish to view some of the weaponry, check out this short clip (only 55 secs) here and finally you must, yes must! View this, The Simpsons - Soviet Union

Comments welcomed

May 9, 2008

Europe namely NATO must commit more to Afghanistan

Al-Qaeda may pose a threat to the U.S. however, the rise of Islam in Europe means that the continent has at least as much to lose with the terror group gaining a safe haven in Afghanistan.

In order to combat a resurgent Taliban and al-Qaeda, the United States recently announced plans to send an extra 7000 troops to Afghanistan, conversely pledges made by Europe remain disappointing, as NATO members remain reluctant to pursue the same course.

The problems appear to stem from a difference of opinion in relation to the success or otherwise of operations in the country. In spite of some 50,000 troops already there, the Taliban is still a force to be reckoned with, fuelled by the advantage of being able to disappear within the local population between operations. While not a crises, the situation is getting worse. NATO defense ministers have dismissed suggestions of failure or lost ground instead insisting that progress was being made. At a recent meeting in Lithuania, the ministers made it clear that the NATO-led international security force (Isaf) was not in jeopardy with Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer adding:

“The picture leads me to tell you that I am cautiously optimistic, that there are challenges, that indeed we need more forces... and that our presence in Afghanistan means sharing responsibilities and also sharing risks,"

Al-Qaeda may pose a threat to the U.S. however, the rise of Islam in Europe means that the continent has at least as much to lose with the terror group gaining a safe haven in Afghanistan. In proportion to population, Canada’s 2500 troops is ahead of the French contingent numbering 1900 as drawn from a population almost twice in size. Yet another European nation in Spain, with a population of 45 million has less than 800 troops stationed being proportionally fewer than Australia.

However protracted the seven-year war may appear, NATO must realize that losing is not an option. It needs to up the ante, through greater troops on the ground. Until this happens, any criticism of Bush especially those accusations of failing to actively Al-Qaeda more vigorously, are unwarranted.

In addition to challenges relating to NATO troop numbers, don't be surprised if a single country takes charge of the entire operation; things are brewing as I write.

What do you think…

May 6, 2008

U.S. Navy Aircraft Carriers

“…They provide US policymakers with 90,000 tons of deployable, difficult-to-ignore, cold-steel persuasion … At a time when it is increasingly difficult for the U.S. to gain permission from host nations to position aircraft and troops on their soil, carriers perform an indispensable role…”

A picture means different things to different people. To some, the image is merely a ship or ships, naval vessels, or a large chunks of steel and bitumen floating on water. Indeed there are others who would instantly think of the now hackneyed derogatory designation, Great Satan and its tools of evil.

Peter Brookes has a different interpretation. While considering the consequences of funding cuts that will see the U.S. carrier fleet drop from 12 in 2007 to 10 by 2012, he articulates an exceedingly accurate and correct narrative, of the sheer force and clout, as projected by the U.S. Navy carrier fleet.

“Carriers are … handy tools of (gunboat) diplomacy. They provide US policymakers with 90,000 tons of deployable, difficult-to-ignore, cold-steel persuasion, as evidenced by the recent deployment near Iran … Without firing a single shot, the presence of 4.5 acres of floating, sovereign US territory off the coast has given more than one foreign leader pause. At the onset of a crisis, the first words a president often utters are: "Where are the carriers?"

It seems there are not enough flattops to “meet current - and potential - wartime needs now” … because “budget is tight, programs are behind schedule and they're trying to avoid sinking the fleet's total of battle-force ships below today's 279 hulls.” Read more here

This is one of a string of articles appearing of late discussing the same question. Late in 2007, Robert D. Kaplan scribed an article aptly titled, America’s Elegant Decline where he points out that:

“During the Cold War, the 600-ship U.S Navy needed to be in only three places in force—the Atlantic and Pacific flanks of the Soviet Union and the Mediterranean; we sometimes subcontracted out less-important tropical sea-lanes to other free-world navies. Now we need to cover the Earth with less than half that number of ships.”

But I want to focus on aircraft carriers. Since the Second World War they became a powerful symbol of U.S. navy supremacy and superpower status by fulfilling a unique forward military presence role at the first signs of trouble in all regions of the globe.

At any given moment, there are at least three carriers cruising the world’s oceans, more often than not, in the Persian Gulf, The Mediterranean Sea and Pacific Ocean. When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 the USS Eisenhower was in position in the Red Sea and within striking range of Iraq within a mere 48 hours!

At a time when it is increasingly difficult for the U.S. to gain permission from host nations to position aircraft and troops on their soil, carriers perform an indispensable role because international law dictates that they are sovereign U.S. territory eliminating the aforementioned need to gain authorization from other states. With most of the planets surface made up of oceans, they provide U.S. policymakers and military strategist’s great freedom to bring U.S. firepower and presence most nearly anywhere.

Writes Kaplan, “A great navy is like oxygen: You notice it only when it is gone. But the strength of a nation’s sea presence, more than any other indicator, has throughout history often been the best barometer of that nation’s power and prospects … In our day, carrier strike groups, floating in international waters only a few miles off enemy territory, require no visas or exit strategies
History has taught us valuable lessons about diminishing military power and its capacity to “embolden potential adversaries. More than one historically great naval power became a shadow of its former self - much to its detriment.”

Great nations who begin failing in the naval arena will sooner or later fall short as a world leader. The last thing we need in this, the 21st century, a moment in time when the American era will certainly be challenged, is a shrinking navy.

May 3, 2008

Nuclear Syria aided by North Korea

"I want to dispense with the need for affirmations, the call for absolute certainties and/or, unmitigated intelligence accuracy. Is not the mere prospect of nuclear technology in the hands of a terror sponsoring state scary enough to warrant action? ... Let’s get something fundamentally clear, even if the reports are only half accurate ... "

What we all suspected may have been confirmed last week. On September 6 2007, Israeli jets bombed a nuclear reactor being constructed by Syria with the aid of North Korea somewhere along the Euphrates river - a reactor possibly built for the production of Plutonium. Find below the official U.S. Government 11-minute video showing construction of the purported gas-cooled graphite-moderated reactor at al-Kibar in an isolated desert region in eastern Syria, "a video presentation that summarizes ... assessment of this Syrian covertreaction project and their efforts to cover up its existence".



Online Videos by Veoh.com

Those wanting to explore it further, will find the transcript that accompanied the video here.

Israel’s unilateral attack was widely condemned, and many questioned whether Syria actually had a nuclear facility under construction in the first place. Here’s a small sample of some of the denials; that it was a deserted military facility, a large stretch of empty sand, and at one stage an agricultural complex, no reactor facility and no North Korea connection. One video is worth a thousand denials! It’s important to note that the newly released intelligence shows similarities to the one closed down at Yongbyon, North Korea as a result of the recent six party talks. From the transcript:

“Now, we assess that North Korea has assisted Syria with this reactor because, one, it uses North Korean-type technology. The building resembles North Korea’s Yongbyon plutonium power reactor. That’s Yongbyon on the left. That’s that non-descript building in the eastern Syrian Desert before the curtain walls and false roof were put on the top of it to hide its shape, which, without those curtain walls and false roofs seem to carry the telltale signatures similar to the facility at Yongbyon. Internal photographs of the reactor vessel under construction shows that it’s a gas-cooled graphite-moderated reactor similar in technology and configuration to the Yongbyon reactor.”

“And you can see that more clearly in this photo that compares the control rods and the refuelingtube arrangements of both reactors. That’s internal imagery of al Kibar on the left and Yongbyon on the right.”

In the questioning that followed the presentation, someone asked whether, the U.S had, “considered any kind of activity had the Israelis not?” to which a senior administration official replied, We obviously were looking very closely at options, and we had looked at some approaches that involved a mix of diplomacy and the threat of military force with the goal of trying to ensure that the reactor was either dismantled or permanently disabled, and therefore never became operational.”

I want to dispense with the need for affirmations, the call for absolute certainties and/or unmitigated intelligence accuracy. Is not the mere prospect of nuclear technology in the hands of a terror sponsoring state scary enough to warrant action? Let’s get something fundamentally clear, even if the reports are only half accurate, I am disposed to concur with comments made by Brian in his April 26 post at, Another War-on- Terror Blog for which I have added links:

I will admit that I'm inclined to sympathize more with Israeli and American leadership, than Syria's. It probably has something to do with Syria's policy of giving support, political and material, to Hezbollah and Palestinian terrorist groups. And, that Damascus serves as a leadership center for Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLFP) and The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) ".

Read more here.

In this context perhaps we ought to be grateful for Israel’s unilateral act, just as we should have been in 1981.

The transcript concluded;

“We understand the Israeli action. We believe this clandestine reactor was a threat to regional peace and security, and we have stated before that we cannot allow the world’s most dangerous regimes to acquire the world’s most dangerous weapons.”

In the interests of America, and the wider world, I could not agree more...

Useful links:

Statement by IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei

Bush Discusses Report on Syria Strike

Heritage raises implications for future negotiations with North Korea

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