Saturday, January 31, 2009

It is like 1977, all over again.

They can pull US$2 trillion out of thin air for dubious-to-say-the-least purposes, but there is no water in the well for Defense.

Defense gets cut. Not the war-supplemental funding (although that is likely gone soon too); the baseline budget for the whole Department of Defense.


The Obama administration is positioning itself with the cabinet picks for SecState and UNAmbassador to be even *more* interventionist in foreign affairs than the Bush 43 administration was, and yet the planning documents for expenditures from Fiscal 2010 on are on the chopping block.

Why does it smell like peanuts in here all of the sudden?

Friday, January 30, 2009

Islamist to lead battle against Islamists

If you needed any further evidence about how bad things are in Somalia now that the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has been basically abandoned by its allies, one need not limit one's self to stories like this one about how the TFG intends to integrate the "moderate" Islamist faction into the government...

...nor need one refer to this story where a suicide bomber in Mogadishu came close to killing both of the remaining African Union peacekeepers left in the country. (well, not both... there are a few thousand, but compared to the need there may as well be only two)

...nor this report on the confusion and political games happening *even after* the al-Shabaab "not moderate" Islamists took control of Baidoa in central Somalia earlier this week, effectively ousting the TFG from its seat of government.

It can all be summed up by looking at this report on the selection (by the new Parliament) of Sheikh Sharif Ahmed of the ARS, the above mentioned "moderate" Islamists, as the new President of the TFG. That would be the same Sheikh Sharif Ahmed who used to run the Islamic Courts movement government before the Ethiopians came in to re-establish the authority of the TFG in 2006.

Two years, and thousands of lives, wasted.

How wasted? The TFG couldn't even hold a session of government to select the new President inside Somalia.

They had to meet in Djibouti.

Gosh, Djibouti should still be safe, right? Only thanks to autonomous Somaliland.

The war will continue to spread, at least northerly, soon.

"It's nowhere near what we wanted to see."

The tragedy that is Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) has taken a turn that can only be described as for the worse.

Pressure from SADC (the South African Development Community; the regional cooperation bloc) and a lack of meaningful support from other parts of the international community has basically handed power back to the ZANU-PF regime of Robert Mugabe.

Mr. Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC party, who should have gained the government in elections last year that were whole-cloth manipulated by the ZANU-PF, has been functionally relegated to a negligible role.

There is nothing, nothing, good about this outcome.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Be right back

I've been obliged elsewhere for a couple of days, and just got back in here.

Things will return to regular postings here on Friday.

Thank you for your patience, and for those who asked, your concerns.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sakhalin Oil Spill

Details on this are still pretty sparse, but initial reports are that a moderate-sized oil spill occurred on southern Sakhalin Island (Karafuto).

Between the weather there right now (appallingly cold) and the environmentally sensitive nature of the region, this could be bad.

Do not discount the possibility that even though the two Japanese companies participating in the Sakhalin 2 project have been reduced to small minority partners in the venture (by Russian court-legalized-theft), the burden of cleaning up any damage will be foisted off on the various foreign partners by the Russians.

Adding insult to injury, after all.

Cambodia-Thailand Border Talks Scheduled

Cambodia-Thailand border talks to start on Feb 2nd.

This is the matter of the disputed border near The Temple of Preah Vihear that was discussed in The Weekly N&C for October 13th, 2008.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Weekly N&C for January 26th, 2009

God, Nation, Revolution and trouble

The motto of the Republic of Yemen is "Allah, al-Watan, at-Thawra, al-Wehda", which when rendered into English means: God (Islamic), Nation, Revolution and Unity. Given the history of the region and the actions of outsiders, it is fair to say that while the first three ideals may be subscribed to, the “Unity” part is not and has never been anything but a mirage. In fact, other than the relatively recent unification of the currently recognized territory, the last time the entire area was under a single government was during the Ottoman Empire, and as one of the most remote extremities of that Empire was really never fully integrated. Before that, neither the Egyptian-centered Caliphate of the 11th Century nor the original Arab-Islamic Caliphs of the 6th Century could shape a single territorial holding from the region. Before that, the Roman Empire attempted to subdue the region, and failed. If one would accept a likely apocryphal argument, perhaps the only ruler to have ruled the entire area as part of a kingdom prior to modern-day was the Queen of Sheeba. Perhaps had the saad Ma’rib been kept in better repair, things would have worked out better.

For the collapse of the wondrous dam of antiquity in or about 570 A.D. (*all dates from here are A.D. / C.E.) destroyed the agrarian society of the region, led to massive population relocation to elsewhere in Arabia, first emigration and then a return immigration. By 893 the region of Sa’da (or Sa’dah; in the northern part of modern Yemen) had become a Caliphate of the Zaidi sect of Shi’a Islam, and the Zaidi Imam ran the theocracy there until 1962. Zaidi adherents remain the largest single sect in Yemen, with just over 40% of the population.

Much of the population of the Western and Central Highlands are Islamic Arabs as well, but more commonly Sunni belief is found there, influenced for a thousand years by the great centers of faith to the north in what is modern-day Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The center of this region, Sana’a (San’a), is the present-day capital of Yemen. So that these places can be put in better reference, here is a map of Yemen today.

Roughly contemporaneously, the coastal holding of various tribes on both sides of the Bab al-Mandab (the peninsula at the mouth of the Red Sea) were prosperous trading centers, but unlike the highlands in the center-north, the surrounding land was and is utterly rainless and disease-plagued. As was common in other areas of great Arabia (Oman and Dubai of note), this reliance upon the sea and trade was both a blessing and a curse. Yemeni merchants traded as far away as what is now Indonesia, gained great wealth and status, and yet were almost completely cut off from the nearby highlands or land-routes to anywhere. From the sea came fish and wealth, but from the sea also came… the British. In 1839, the British Empire occupied the port area of Aden (‘Adan), and placed it within their Imperial holdings. With the rise of Suez cargoes to and from Europe, this became a key point in the chain to East Africa and India, and was jealously guarded. All the things that Empire brought with it became commonplace there, including education in the European ways. Islamic Arabs, mostly Sunni but some of other sects; Christian Colonials; a substantial Jewish community (present since antiquity); the cosmopolitan ways of life in a trading center blended elements of all that together.

The beginning of the “new” Yemen, however, came from the inspiration of Gamel Abdel Nasser, the great Egyptian Arab-Nationalist whose part in the coup that brought down the Egyptian Kingdom was his ticket to the second Presidency of Egypt and world renown as the foremost leader in the Pan-Arab Nationalist movement of the 1950’s and 60’s. This ardent believer in a secular neo-fascist authoritarian system to unify the Arab lands (self-named Nasserism then; similar localized movements are more commonly called Ba’athist now) had considered any foe of the British to be his friend and at times had attempted to gain support from both Fascists (WW II Italy) and Communists (Stalinist Soviet Union). While his personal style better matched that of Mussolini, it was the arms and economic support of the Soviets that secured his power and influence. All this support was then secondhand gladly availed to any Arab Nationalist movement, and in Yemen this led to the 1962 revolution in the north. North Yemen had been autonomous since the Ottoman defeat in WW I, but never really organized as a modern state. Now the Red, White, and Black flag was carried to victory there, bringing down the Zaidi Imam and establishing the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) as sovereign over all the territory outside British control. Borrowing from the fierce anti-colonialism of the Egyptian inspiration, a state of hostilities then commenced against British Aden.

Like many of the “small wars” of that time, the British were perfectly capable of winning any military encounter they wished to, but given the loss of Empire and finally the closure of the Suez route, by 1967 the British decided to give up the game. The former Aden Protectorate was recognized as the People’s Republic of South Yemen, but less than three years later a radical Marxist wing of the National Front government gained control and declared the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY), and threw in whole-cloth with the Soviet Union, the Communist Chinese, Cuban communism-exporters and the radical Palestinian groups that shared the same ideology. By the mid 1970’s, PDRY was a full client of the Soviet “Empire”. Unification with the YAR was a stated goal, and one pursued at first with little hostility by both parties, but by 1979 conflicts had stopped that brotherly intention. By 1988, fratricidal infighting in the PDRY had brought the country low and when abandoned in the wake of the end of the Soviet Union, the situation turned. Soon the YAR was offering unification, on their terms. The 1988 “understanding” between the governments and 1990 “unification” on paper was shortly thereafter replaced by the 1994 Civil War in which the armed forces of the YAR occupied all of the PDRY and declared de-facto unification under a government based in Sana’a. The Nationalists now had their unified Yemen, but…

But in the meantime, the rest of the Islamic world had changed. The driving force that had been Arab Nationalism had become discredited in the wars and tyranny of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The vibrant force in radicalism had become Islamist thought and deed in the War against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and it had spread to the homelands. When the Gulf War brought disorder (and a foreign presence) to the lands of Arabia, the wide-spread Yemeni community recoiled back to their native soil. Over three-quarters of a million Yemeni ethnics returned from Saudi Arabia alone, and they were mostly of the mind that the Saudi King had sold his soul to the unbelievers. Others, more radicalized, had been active in the Islamist armed movement that became the current plague that is the latest form of international terrorism. Usama bin Laden (Osama; strictly speaking: Usāmah bin Muḥammad bin `Awaḍ bin Lādin), has garnered support in many regions of Yemen even to this day. His group, al-Qaeda, maintains a separate command for the region, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and operates as commonly in Yemen as in Saudi Arabia, if not more so. The attack on the U.S.S. Cole in Aden harbor in 2000 was just one such AQAP operation. Their efforts persist to this day, and the response of the Government of Yemen has been a tangled skein of crushing crackdowns and trivial tolerations. The mastermind of the Cole bombing plot was pardoned by the Government of Yemen. The police in Yemen are notoriously corrupt(-able) and the jails and court system are simply sieves through which Islamist radicals pass through the holes. More recently, the American Embassy was attacked last year by AQAP and a significant number of “former” Islamist terrorists have returned to their war by resurfacing in Yemen. Threat of more such attacks surface almost daily.

Meanwhile, the Government of Yemen continues to face social disorder in the formerly independent south and armed insurrection in the Sa’dah Insurgency in the north, where the Harf Sufian tribe has taken up the cause of the Al-Houthi clan Shi'ite rebels and are opposed by the U'seimat tribes and Government forces in a replay of the Zaidi vs. the State fighting of the 1962 revolution.

The Government of Yemen is distracted, disinterested in adding to its troubles and frankly nearly incompetent at the task needed to interdict and combat AQAP operations. The Coast Guard (granted, only founded in 2002) can not even take meaningful action without help against the rampant piracy and human trafficking in the Gulf of Aden.

There are more than 100 Yemeni nationals still under detention at GTMO Camp Delta as unlawful enemy combatants in the GWOT. Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has stated that 94 of them are to be turned over to Yemen for “rehabilitation”.

This would be madness.

This would be the very definition of willful self-injury to Western interests.

In fact, until the Government of Yemen proves that it is acting in a manner not complicit with terrorist facilitation, they should be considered to be what they are…

…another failed state being used by the agents of terror.

…at best, a borderline Somalia.

…at worst, the next Afghanistan.

End Notes:

Most notes are embedded as links in the text. The following are also of interest:

CIA Factbook entry on Yemen

Jane Novak, the premier web logger on all matters Yemeni

Thomas Joscelyn at The Long War Journal on the two “returnees” now in AQAP leadership roles

The video announcement by these two Tangos. Text Summary by MEMRI (view by subscription only)

One additional note: The Jewish community of Yemen mentioned above was rescued, and is in the most part no longer present.

The following are Wiki-p entries for general information only. Please source all citations.

General Information on Yemen

General Information on the Sa’dah Insurgency

General and Historical Information on Zaidi Shi’ah

Historical Information on the saad Ma’rib, the Great Dam of Marib from antiquity
Also shows the modern dam serving the same purpose in modern Yemen

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sunday Night Push

Obligations on what was supposed to be a "weekend"...

At least The Weekly N&C is on plan for Monday still.

Lots of things left to do with the existing discussion threads, and I'll be around to comment on them too. If that isn't enough, there is still this week's Open for you all to make your own fun.

This coming week is the 6-month mark for CompHyp, a small milestone but a good one.

Otherwise, all goes well. No admin matters of note.

As always, thanks for coming here!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Weekly Open Thread

Here is your open thread for the next 7 days.

That which is not a thread topic, goes here. Also, any topic you want to bring back from the dead or any suggestions for a new topic, goes here.

caveat: the usual rules apply. Play nice and all.

ICRC coordinating a FARC Hostage Release

It appears that this time, when the FARC guerrillas notice someone on the helicopter wearing a Red Cross logo, it really will be someone from the ICRC...

The Government of Brazil has let word get to the media that they will be supplying two helicopters to support an operation, but without stating who will be receiving the hostages, or when... other than "soon".

The FARC had announced in December, through intermediaries, that they would be releasing six hostages: four from the Colombian Military; two politicians.

The price has so far been left unstated.

Nkunda Arrested the Armed Forces of Rwanda, inside Rwanda.

Rwandan army spokesman Maj. Jill Rutaremara said Nkunda was detained around 10:30 p.m. (2300GMT) Thursday because "a force loyal to him" resisted the joint operation to hunt the Hutu fighters.

"Whoever resists the smooth running of the joint operation is a barrier," Rutaremara said by telephone from Tanzania. "He was a barrier."
They say it was a peaceful arrest, but...

There seems to be some alternative versions of the story circulating:
"Ex-general Laurent Nkunda was arrested on Thursday, January 22 at 2230 hours while he was fleeing on Rwandan territory after he had resisted our troops at Bunagana with three battalions," Congolese and Rwandan military commanders said in a statement.

But a rebel associate of Nkunda, Jean-Desire Muiti, disputed that account, saying the rebel leader had gone to Rwanda late on Thursday after being "called for consultations".
The Congolese are already asking for his extradition to serve a 2005 international Arrest Warrant on him.

What this means for the CNDP movement, and where the "splinter faction" supposedly led by B. Ntaganda comes in the picture, is still not clear. Nor is it clear what impact this matter will have on the supposed objective of the Rwanda-Congo joint operation against the Interahamwe FDLR militants.

Nothing is ever simple here.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Admiral Dennis C. Blair, nominee to the post of Director of National Intelligence for the Obama administration, says in his confirmation hearing that "Intelligence should find ways to work with Iran".

Guess that implies a Tunb al Kubra joint water skiing club, right?

Oh, brother. I sure hope that quote was taken out of context.

Narco-terror is terrorism; Narco-smuggling is terror-enabling

I've said it before, but it is worth saying again:

This author's take -- Narco-terrorism is functionally indistinguishable from purely political terrorism; it is in fact one of the mechanisms by which terrorists fund and enable their activities. Furthermore, the techniques and operational capabilities of narco-smuggling are perfectly transferable to the needs of political terrorist organizations.

An even better take -- The always superb Douglas Farah, on the shortcomings of the latest National Drug Threat Assessment from the U.S. National Drug Intelligence Center.

It is time to wise up about this.

Turkish counter-coup arrests continue.

The Government of the Republic of Turkey has been clamping down on what was claimed to be an extra-legal conspiracy to remove the AK party government of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan from power. Eighty six people, predominantly linked to or members of the military, are already under charges, and 30 more people were just arrested.

Some background: Coup d'etat used to be jokingly considered 'the national sport' of Turkey by European observers, and there certainly is a history of them happening regularly.

The issue, to be blunt, is that in tradition and in some readings of the Turkish Constitution, the Military is the defender of the constitutional order and the Kemalist (secular state) reforms, and is thus correct to assume the government if a popularly elected administration strays toward unacceptable policy. Communism and Islamism are both on the unacceptable list.

The most recent constitution, as amended in 2004 is not definitive on a "right" of the military to assume the government, but it does continue to place military officers as peers to the President on the National Security Council, (MGK, from the Turkish) the absolute authority of policy for the state. This rather undermines the basic constitutional point that the military reports to the President as Commander-in-Chief, but again not definitively.

There is a meeting planned for today (Thursday, local time) between the Prime Minister and the Chief of the Armed Forces "in an effort to decrease tensions" between the civil administration and the military (and judicial) sectors.

The questions remain, however: Was there really a coup plot; and was it subscribed to by the current military leadership?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Somebody should tell them... is *their* trial.

That being the Genocide trial of former Khmer Rouge, and they being the people of Cambodia. There have been some pretty ugly rumors that the Hun Sen regime has been intentionally minimizing the matter of the tribunal in local media while milking the U.N. and other international sponsors of the tribunals for as much as they can.

Now this report comes out basically stating that a tiny percentage of the people of Cambodia have any real understanding of what the tribunal is. In fairness, one should note both of these two excerpts:
According to the survey - which was conducted by the University of California's Human Rights Centre in September and October - 39 per cent of respondents said they had no knowledge about the tribunal, while 46 per cent said they had "a little" knowledge about the court.


Tribunal spokeswoman Helen Jarvis said the court welcomed the report but said much of the data collected was "open to interpretation."

"This data shows that 15 per cent of respondents had a moderate or higher knowledge of the tribunal, so it could also be understood as showing that 61 per cent had at least some knowledge," she said.

"This also contradicts an International Republican Institute report that 72 per cent of people had knowledge about the court," she added.
Hmm, vested interests on both sides of the argument.

Seems pretty clear though that if part of the goal is to get victims of the Khmer Rouge reign-of-terror to come forward, there really is no upper limit on the amount of effort that should be made to publicize the tribunal...

...unless some one in power now has some skeletons in the closet from back in the dark days.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New Supply Routes

General D. Petraeus, commander of the U.S. Central Command, has announced the securing of new supply routes to Afghanistan.

These would be the much-needed Central Asian routes, bypassing Pakistan, that both allow secure re-supply of ongoing operations and will be capable of building up capacity to support the coming troop increase in the theater this spring and summer.

Excellent news, indeed.

"I cannot believe that these efforts will remain without results..."

Neither can I. The only concern that comes to mind is that somehow he gets into Russia and gets the ultra-Slav-nationalist support, but even that seems unlikely any more.

Hunting down Ratko Mladic.

Not exactly showing neighborly thoughts

The North Korean Government is not exactly showing neighborly good manners right now, and it seems the various voices in the international media think these intentions are to do something to "get the attention" of the incoming American government.

Could be.

Could also be that the North Korean regime is really, really, annoyingly, persistently, with-out-fail stupid.

Sure, they could cause a lot of damage to the Republic of Korea; Shortly thereafter the ROK Armed Forces would come north with an attitude not seen since the Soviets got into German territory at the end of WWII.

Bets are the North Koreans know that too. I say they are bluffing.

Combined Operation in Nord-Kivu

Rwandan Army forces have entered Nord-Kivu of the D.R. Congo at the invitation of the FARDC (Congolese Armed Forces) for combined operations against the Interahamwe Hutu guerrillas of the FDLR. These FDLR are the murderous gangs (and former Army elements) that perpetrated the Rwandan Genocide, and have been carving out a mini-state for their corrupt pleasure amongst the refugee / renegade Hutu community in the camps of Kivu.

A successful joint operation by the two legitimate governments will have an additional benefit besides finishing once and for all the vengeance for the dead...

Defeating the Interahamwe will remove the major "legitimate" reason for the continued existence of General Nkunda's CNDP Congolese Tutsi renegade army. Doing that will then set the standard for him laying down arms (because his "cause" won). If the CNDP doesn't come in from the bush then, it becomes pretty hard to argue they aren't just another thieving band of resource pirates, and maybe then someone will actually do something about the fighting in Kivu.

... don't count on that somebody being the U.N. however:
The U.N. mission in Congo said it was not associated with the operations but confirmed that the Rwandan forces had entered Congolese territory.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Weekly N&C for January 19th, 2009

A Matter of National Interest

Where have you heard this before: “…a debate between Realists and Ideologues…”? That is the standard dichotomy offered by many analyses of International Relations, commonly summarized as the debate between ‘what we should do because we are able to’ vs. ‘what we should do because of what we believe’. The first group of policy-thinkers is labeled Realists, or Neorealists, or practitioners of Realpolitik; the second is labeled… well, they aren’t one group so the labels that pretty much summarize “Unrealists” are often specific to what branch of principled thought they are derived from.

Modern Realists deal in quantifiable concepts. To that way of thinking, issues like Human Nature (Hobbesian competition) have become entirely secondary (or even discountable) when compared to measures of Gain and Loss and conditions imposed by Structural Limitations. The key to that last matter is that, since Westphalia, Nation-States are peer-equals in legitimacy, but almost never peer-equals in capabilities. The equal legitimacy makes for a natural state of competition, an “anarchy of sovereignties”, where third parties in any contest can at best be arbitrators. In the case of one Nation greatly exceeding others in capability, the condition of an implicit Hegemony can arise, but then other structural factors come into play. The modern version of this line of thought called “Neorealism” instead develops most of its world-view by a ranking system of comparative capabilities, and a focus on how many centers of real power exist in the world. Such language as “Living in a Unipolar World” that was bandied about after the fall of the Soviet Union is an example of such thought: At that time, it was believed by Realists that there was only one Great Power remaining in the world, and it possessed for at least a brief moment functional Hegemony in many ways. “Bipolar Worlds” have two centers of power, two Superpowers, and each leads a cluster of allies and dependent States. The much acclaimed “Multipolar World” may imply three or more Great Powers, each with lesser adherents, or may simply be a nice way of speaking of that “anarchy” that is so basic to this thinking approach.

Oh, one last little issue to bring up: Modern Realist thought, having dispensed with unquantifiable matters like Human Nature, has no use for such ideas as “Evil” or the much-harder-to-define “Good” as those terms apply to sovereign Nations. Realists deal in capabilities, and if a regime has the capability to successfully engage in acts moralists would find reprehensible, what matters is that the capability exists and how it affects rival Nations, not some abstract ethical judgment of said capability. States are States; Capabilities are Capabilities; and that is all that factors into the equation.

The answer, at least in several of the Modern Realist schools of thought, to constraining the capabilities of any (and indeed all) States is the Supra-national Structure. In plain terms, this means the creation of something *more* sovereign than a Nation-State. Both the Integrationist movement that guides the European Union’s ongoing (re-)formation and the Internationalist thought that seeks to place the United Nations above any single Nation in the structure of the world are efforts to define the limits on the said-to-be harmful tendencies of sovereign competition. Now, to be clear, not all Modern Realists believe that a Supra-national Structure is desirable, but that some proponents of Supra-national Structures believe such are needed to limit sovereignty will come into play shortly hereafter.

The “Unrealists”, or everyone else theorizing about International Relations, are driven by arguments based on something other than raw power politics. But what they base their arguments upon can be, to say the least, rather widely divergent concepts. “Idealists”, and their related thinkers in “Liberalism” and “Neoliberalism”, are all believers in the International application of what they consider just and moral governance of a Nation. This has gone through periods where the noblest goal of a Nation’s foreign policy is to export the cultural values of said Nation, but to no great surprise it seems that cultural values spread far better by example than by imposition. The Modern Liberalism now seeks “shared” or “accepted” cultural values as the basis for the formation of international structures. Morality has some, but limited, application in such efforts but the more arguable Ethics that apply to social and economic matters have found traction. Running in rough parallel to Liberalism, but with a much greater dependence on economic matters, come the various “Marxist” and “Dependency” theorists and their views on the purpose of State sovereignty. Further still are those thinkers who begin to divorce the role of sovereignty from its dominant place in the definition of National goals and activities: The students of Fernand Braudel see the world as systems into which Nation-States fit as one of, but not the only, elements of power; Functionalists see the interrelationship between elements of power to be one of greatest sum gain; and there are other such analyses. What those all share is that none of them are as per se theories of International Relations, but are extremely insightful models of the effect of International Relations, and so are often cited in contribution to Modern Liberal or Modern(?) Marxist thought.

Where push comes to shove, in all of the above mentioned views of International Relations thinking, is still at the point of formulating National Policy. For all the Modern Realist moves to form international power-bloc(s); for all the Modern Liberal efforts to place a Supra-national enforcer of Ethical standards for all Nations; for all the Marxist true-believers (and let us throw in all the other “One True Way” thinkers like Theocrats as well) who see the goal as bringing into being a World State; the tools for creating a world made in the image they seek are mostly in the hands of States. There are some very influential Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) out there and most of those that have an agenda would *like very much* to supersede the sovereign authority of Nations, but for now they can not.

…and should not.

Policy, in anything but an Autocracy, is determined by process. In most any modern Nation-State, that process includes accountability for the direction of National Power. That accountability is to the Constitution and the courts of the land. In a democracy, whether Parliamentary or Indirectly Representative, that also means accountability to the electorate. The only way to assure such accountability is to restrict the setting of policy for the use of National Power to those officials *only* to those duly empowered by the Constitution and derived law. Not the agents of what are functionally private organizations and certainly not to extra-national organizations that are given diplomatic stature by their place in some remote extremity of the United Nations bureaucracy.

Advising a government on policy –one’s own government first, preferably—is certainly a laudable method of influencing policy. Indeed, it is necessary as many of the finest thinkers on International Relations are in academic, organizational, or research employment outside the ranks of government service. Asking their advice or listening to their offered arguments should be a priority for those entrusted to set the basis of policy, and likewise government officials need be willing to win support by making the case for policy before those who specialize in understanding the conditions said policy is expected to apply to. But spare us all from the non-sovereign actor…

There used to be so-called “adventurers” who took desired national policy as their justification for private actions… that would be why the United States has a Neutrality Act (1794, 1817, and 1838) on the law books.

There used to be “international activists” who thought it best to take sovereign right into their own hands to implement their goals regarding one Country by organizing in a second Country and raiding the possessions of a third Country from there… one example of that would be the Fenian Brotherhood in the U.S. in the years after the Civil War. Their activities had to be stopped by force to prevent a wider war.

So let it be said that no matter which basis is claimed, whether a Realpolitik dream of the exercise of National power for some zero-sum result or a Liberal Idealist hoping for a borderless (Stateless, even) world in which to make society moral by one’s definition, or some variant of Economically-driven self-purpose (selfish or equalitarian, it matters not) that will remake the world in the image of what one sees as “beneficial” (to some one)…

When acting as a private citizen:

…don’t presume sovereignty.

…don’t presume to waive away any Nation’s sovereignty.

…and if one really believes in Open Society, then explain the benefits and risks openly where the policy-makers who accept your arguments can be held accountable.

That is because *your* interests, Mr. George Soros, may well not be the National Interests.

…of any Nation.

End Notes:

The following items are Wiki-p entries, provided for general information only.

International Relations Theory, index

The U.S. Neutrality Act of 1794 et al, overview only

The Fenian Brotherhood

Open Society Institute, one of many parts of the Soros Foundations network

Chavista thugs teargas Papal Nunciature

It is probably more complex than simple thuggery, but *once again* a band of Chavista ruffians have launched tear gas canisters into places and residences of those seen as opposing the Chavez regime in Venezuela.

*Here* is the original report, in Spanish.

The gang, known as "La Piedrita", has been implicated in previous attacks, including those against private broadcaster Globovision and the residences of publishers of opposition periodicals.

The Vatican Nunciature has offered protective asylum to anti-regime student activist Nixon Moreno, but has not managed to get him out of the country yet. That might explain the targeting... or it might be because it's pretty obvious that the Catholic Bishops of Venezuela aren't exactly supporting Chavez.

Important Point, however: An Apostolic Nunciature is an EMBASSY. Failure to protect such is a severe violation of treaty.

El Salvador local and parliamentary election

The results are coming in now, with the FMLN taking the lion's share at 42%, a four point edge over the ARENA slate.

But... the capital Mayoralty race, the ARENA candidate unseated the FMLN incumbent.

The tide may yet turn in favor of the conservatives before the March Presidential election.

Background on this from last week, here at CompHyp.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sunday Morning Push

There will be no new discussion thread today, mostly to allow me time to work on the Weekly piece.

I've been spending a bit of time on another matter elsewhere than here, but will back on Monday. Fear not.

Lots of things left to do with the existing discussion threads, and I'll be around to comment on them too. If that isn't enough, there is still this week's Open for you all to make your own fun.

Otherwise, there are no administrative matters to mention; All goes well.

As always, thanks for coming here!

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Open Thread

Here is your open thread for the next 7 days.

That which is not a thread topic, goes here. Also, any topic you want to bring back from the dead or any suggestions for a new topic, goes here.

caveat: the usual rules apply.

U.S. Treasury lists more terror leaders, WMD enablers

Two more listings hit today from the U.S. Department of the Treasury:

The first lists Taiwan-based individuals and entities associated with the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction technologies.

The second, long, long overdue, lists four al-Qaeda leader-enablers all of whom are claimed to be under Iranian "custody"... a polite fiction that is apparently no longer worth the act of believing.

Yet another nail in the coffin of the claim that Islamic Extremist factions of different sects don't work together. Never was true, never will be.

Bang're dead.

The operative "you" being a hundred-man Iranian-trained Hamas combat team, reported wiped out during fighting in the Zeytun area of Gaza.

That should reduce the number of Kornet teams out there, presuming Hamas still has any significant number of that weapon available.

Now the big propaganda prize would be, if there are still Pasdaran operatives inside Gaza, bagging one or more of them...

Still no gas

The Russia-Ukraine Natural Gas dance just gets more convoluted every day, and still no gas flows to Europe.

The unhappy customer base in Eastern Europe is holding meetings today in Ukraine, and that group is takings sides with Ukraine.
The talks, which bring together some of Moscow's toughest Eastern European critics, was organized with unusual speed and secrecy and announced just hours before it began.

Participants include Polish President Lech Kaczynski, Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus, Slovak President Ivan Gasparovic, and Moldovan Prime Minister Zinaida Greceanii, according to a Ukrainian statement.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister V. Putin of Russia is meeting with German Chancellor A. Merkel today.

All this in run-up to the 17.January meeting in Moscow called in answer to an E.U. request for an all-parties round of talks.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Farewell, Ambassador Schieffer

He gave his departing address at the National Press Club of Japan yesterday, expressing his joys and regrets from the four years he has had here representing American interests. His understanding of the North Korean abduction issue, and continued willingness to keep it in the public view on both sides of the Pacific may well be how he is best remembered here, but in fact he did well on most all issues facing our two countries.

You will be missed, Ambassador.

...sorely missed, if indeed the incoming administration intends to send over Joseph Nye.

Personal Profile of Joseph Nye from Wiki-p, provided for general information only.

OFAC lists FARC International Commision Members

The financial net closes tighter, once again. The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has now listed for sanction three international representatives of the FARC under the Kingpin Act for their roles in narco-terror support in Europe and Australia.

Yet another good outcome of the "Raul Reyes" computer files, and some good investigative work.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"...United against free nations"

Very few world political leaders say what they see about other nations forming factions; that isn't considered politic any more, it seems. But the former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar, speaking at the University of Chile this week, made the clearest such statement since the Axis-of-Evil speech.

It is an alliance of convenience, just as the missile-and-nuclear-weapons linkage was between countries that would otherwise not give each other the time of day.

That makes this current group no less dangerous, especially to freedom in Latin America.

h/t to Kate: Primary source check shows the hosting University to be la Universidad Católica de Chile, not U Chile.

Ethiopian side all out; Somalis to bat

As of yesterday (local time), Ethiopian Army forces in Somalia have begun to withdraw, leaving the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and its new partner the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia to hold off al-Shabaab.

The good part: Ethiopia and Somalia are oil and water, culturally. Having to ask for military intervention from Ethiopia to save the TFG was an invitation to mass disapproval. The Ethiopian Army did what needed to be done at the time of the intervention, but has proven to be a liability politically in more recent times.

The bad part: There is basically no significant force capable of stopping al-Shabaab from having the run of the countryside. The Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia is a (somewhat) more moderate Islamist faction that splintered off from al-Shabaab and the old Islamic Courts movement, but lack much capability of their own.

The worse part: The U.S. representation at the U.N. Security Council has circulated a draft resolution calling for a UN Peacekeeping Force to replace the African Union force "in-place". This is near-nonsense unless American military forces are to be made available. Previous efforts to gather support for a U.N. force went nowhere as no major military nation replied to the call for forces. The A.U. force in place hasn't been able to meet manpower calls either, with less than 4,000 troops having been sent out of an on-plan requirement exceeding 8,000.

Note this has little to do with the recent naval force assignments regarding the piracy problem. That, while needing a real Somali Government to put a conclusive end to, is a separate problem for now.

FARC defectors continue to come in

In a report from El Tiempo today (Spanish-language source, sorry), two more FARC guerrillas with two recently-kidnapped hostages gave themselves up, turning in their weapons and accepting government internment.

This brings the total to five that have surrendered in the last 30 days.

The FARC isn't out of the cocaine business yet by any means and is still capable of mounting minor attacks (one recent raid burned a small oil-development camp), but the trends are still all going in favor of the Colombian Government.

Long road still to victory, though.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

U.S.A. gets an Arctic Policy

Read about it *here*.

It is both a National Security and Homeland Security Policy Directive, and frankly long overdue.

One way to avoid dealing with problems to simply go on vacation and let one's thugs supporters take care of the troublemakers. It is also rather less likely for one to catch cholera or some other deadly effect when one is on vacation for a month in Malaysia. That is right; Robert Mugabe is taking a vacation. Malaysia being by-the-way where R. Mugabe and his family have been squirreling away hard currency taken from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) and buying up property.

Heck of a way to avoid the rainy season, and those pesky international sanctions.

For shame, Malaysia. For shame.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Weekly N&C for January 12th, 2009

But did it really help, and will it?

The recent speech by American President-elect B. Obama on the planned response by his incoming administration to the ongoing economic disorder has been quickly labeled a "New New Deal", or "FDR II", by a wide number of political commentators. The more Socialist / Interventionist see this as an admirable comparison; the more Small Government / Non-interventionists see this as a damning indictment. *Here is an opinion of the second kind*, from our friends over at

One item that has resurfaced in the debate is the UCLA Study of 2004 described *here*, and the original monograph by Cole and Ohanian, as published, which is an often cited example of how Government Intervention made the Great Depression worse. Some similar ideas, set in a historical context, are in some of the major points of Amity Shlaes' "The Forgotten Man: A New History of The Great Depression". All run contrary to Keynesian (and Neo-Keynsian) views of the New Deal.

Being that I am much more attuned to socio-political history than to the pure economics of that period, my judgement of F.D. Roosevelt's administration policies comes closer to approaches like Thomas Fleming's "The New Dealer's War", and its observations on how the philosophy of governance in the New Deal period resulted in all manner of things internationally before, during, and in the aftermath of WW II.

Fortunately for me, and for readers of this weblog, I happened to have had the pleasure of reading an associate of mine's commentary on the UCLA study. All Blockquote items are by "K", reprinted here by permission. His first words were:
"I thought the (UCLA Study) link was interesting, and certainly original; I'd not seen that before. But it does seem misguided. The Great Depression was a liquidity trap, and deflation was unzipping the economy. To fight deflation, "sticky" prices and wages are an advantage. Keeping wages up keeps purchasing power up, and allows for continuing debt maintenance, and mortgages are not indexed or adjusted for deflation. Keeping prices artificially higher than they'd otherwise be, allows the higher payroll to be met... Demand side is the issue in a depression, supply side is irrelevant if there are no buyers. I'd like to see a comment on that work by an economist or two who were Keynesians before the recent mass conversion."
He went on to say, regarding the U.S. economic stimulus package (as proposed in B. Obama's speech):
"I'm old enough to have read John Kenneth Galbraith's book on the Depression when it came out... I always gave JKG extra credit for being one of the very few economists able to conduct his own experiments. As such(the head of the OPA), he was a key factor in the success of the US wartime economy, which was far more efficient than, say, Germany's. He was a Keynesian, but with modifications based on his own observations, and considered himself post-Keynesian. So I'm pre-disposed towards thinking that (Mr. Obama's) stimulus package is fairly good. I'd like to see less tax cut, and more direct spending on unemployment, emergency medical, food stamps, shelter, and similar safety net items as well as infrastructure construction. The former for humanitarian reasons, the latter as the best substitute for housing construction; it pays living wages, benefits basic industries like steel, and has a payback. And we're going to have to fix those roads, and bridges, and expand those airports, and overhaul the decrepit RR tracks, and build those mass transit systems that will be needed as oil depletes, eventually anyway, so do it now. GWB took office with about $5.7 trillion national debt, and added about $5.3 trillion in eight years, primarily for tax cuts and war. Conservatives were silent. Now, with the proposed debt expansion for food and roads, the evils of government borrowing are suddenly rediscovered. (By some, to be fair.)

"I've not seen a lot of emphasis in the proposals as to which stimulus expenditures have the most effect, and I'd like to see much more discussion along those lines. If (negative, long duration) economic expectations hold up, the Republicans will probably attack Obama for failure; be a tough defense as we'll never know what the alternative would have been, though I believe it would be much worse."
This is just a huge, and complex matter. Moreover, it is one that will likely be the defining U.S. government expenditure of the decade: Between the G.W. Bush administration TARP (include other bailout plans) and the B. Obama administration's planned expenditure, the total runs to over US$ 2 trillion in functionally new-printed money, roughly half of the entire non-bailout deficit spending of the two G.W. Bush governments *even in time of war*.

With that in mind, here are two more relevant resources, and then let's open this up as a Discussion Item.

John Stossel at ABC back in December, 2008, on Keynes vs. FDR.

Paul Krugman on this very topic, January 9th.

13.Jan Addenda: "K" notes that the Keynes letter to FDR predates the full formulation of Keynes' theories. At the time, there were *no* theories on what to do and the FDR simply promised to try several different solutions, even conflicting solutions experimentally to see what worked.

Open Ground:

Is the UCLA Study of 2004 defensible, or misguided, or somewhere in between? Where does the issue of productivity come into play when attempting to measure recovery from a Recession or Depression period? How wise is such a massive financial intervention, even if the excess dollars can be soaked out of the system to some degree over time? And my personal favorite: Is it possible to gain much of anything by doing what is in practical terms funding the New Deal *after* having deficit spent through years of warfighting (the opposite of the 1930~40's situation)?

Your thoughts are welcome, friends.

My thanks to "K" for permission to reprint his part of the discussion, and my hopes that he will consider joining in the discussion here as I *know* he has further insights into some of the matters dealing with cartel policy in particular.

minor edit and one addition, 13.January, at "K's" request.

Upcoming election in El Salvador

This merits particular attention as the reformed FMLN party (Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front; formerly the communist insurgent movement of the same name) is strongly contesting the January 18th election for the Legislative Assembly, and their candidate is leading in the polls for the Presidential election coming up in March. *Here is AngusReid Global Monitor's background report*, with links to current polling data.

The most worrisome possibility of a strong showing by the FMLN is that there are historical ties to D. Ortega's bunch in Nicaragua, and more recent associations with H. Chavez' Bolivarian Socialist movement. So far, even the FMLN candidate Mauricio Funes has said they aren't in the same boat as Chavez...
On Oct. 9 (2008), Funes dismissed critics who suggest that he would align his policies with those of left-wing Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez if elected, saying, "The fact that we have good relations with Venezuela doesn’t mean that we breathe through Venezuela’s nose or through Hugo Chávez’s nose."
But renewed recognition of the Cuban regime is on the table, and then there are all the possible issues of having a(nother) CAFTA-member nation potentially joining in the Bolivarian bloc.

On the other side, the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA; the longstanding conservative party) has a law and order candidate running for President in former National Police chief Rodrigo Ávila. Were his tough stance against groups like MS-13 equalled by a tough stance on political corruption, he might be an ideal choice.

Finishing up some A.Q. Khan details

The U.S. State Department has taken this opportunity to proceed with placing under sanction a dozen entities associated with the A.Q. Khan network of nuclear proliferation black-marketeers.

Regrettably, A.Q. Khan himself remains out of reach to investigators, sitting "under house arrest" in Pakistan, where he is revered as a national hero...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sunday Morning Push

There will likely be no other new discussion thread today, mostly to allow me time to work on the Weekly piece.

It is going to be a bit of a challenge this week, given some unusual matters that are taking my time, but I shall try my best.

Lots of things left to do with the existing discussion threads, and I'll be around to comment on them too. If that isn't enough, there is still this week's Open for you all to make your own fun (or to try the trivia question!).

Otherwise, there are no administrative matters to mention; All goes well.

As always, thanks for coming here!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

N.I.E.s are always political documents

Just to revisit an argument this author made (albeit elsewhere) about the late 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, specifically regarding its nuclear program:

What was in the declassified summary left out the important parts.
The “key judgments” of the National Intelligence Estimate, which were publicly released, emphasized the suspension of the weapons work.

The public version made only glancing reference to evidence described at great length in the 140-page classified version of the assessment: the suspicion that Iran had 10 or 15 other nuclear-related facilities, never opened to international inspectors, where enrichment activity, weapons work or the manufacturing of centrifuges might be taking place.
That would be part of the problem with the N.I.E., yes.

The other part would be the motivation of the team that presented the document, and the timing of said presentation.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Open Thread

Here is your open thread for the next 7 days.

That which is not a thread topic, goes here. Also, any topic you want to bring back from the dead or any suggestions for a new topic, goes here.

caveat: the usual rules apply.

Answers to last week's trivia are posted at the end of last weeks's Open Thread.

Thanks for playing!

Kosovo, again.

Things always seem to go wrong in the Balkans when the world is looking somewhere else. This matter in Kosovo is no exception:

NATO peacekeepers warn Mitrovica violence could spread.

There have been recurring incidents in the Serb-majority district since December 30th of last year, with two explosions occuring on January 3rd. The result is that both Albanian and Serb ethnic elements are now mounting vigils to guard their neighborhoods, and the NATO peacekeepers have brought up re-enforcements with a standing order to keep a lid on things.

Let's hope they get it right this time.

Cross two more off the list

The always excellent Bill Roggio at Long War Journal writes about the recent demise of two very bad men in a successful cross-border Predator strike in South Waziristan, back on New Year's Day. General public confirmation just came out this week on the deaths.

I'm sure that the major rejoicing going on is because these men were in ongoing al-Qaeda operations, having been a part of various 2007~08 attacks inside Pakistan including the Marriott Hotel bombing.

I'll just be contented to go to that little list of people responsible for the 1998 U.S. Embassy attacks in Tanzania and Kenya...

...and draw a wide black line through both these names.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Sri Lanka loses a courageous voice

Getting a reputation as a public figure opposed to government corruption in military procurements put one at risk in a lot of countries. In some, the risk is that which comes with fighting city hall (or the Pentagon; just look at Harry Truman's Senate Committee investigations during WW II); in others, it is a quick way to end up dead. Sadly, Sri Lanka appears to be one of the later sort. The Kyodo wire service reported earlier today that Lasantha Wickramatunga, Editor of the Sunday Leader, was shot and critically wounded. Now confirmation has come in that he has died of his wounds.

This comes on the heels of an unexplained attack Tuesday on the major private TV broadcaster (a sometimes government critic) in Sri Lanka by gunmen with automatic rifles and grenades.

Reporters Without Borders had issued a statement critical of the government for encouraging violence against reporters, and Sri Lanka is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a reporter, but...
(President Mahinda) Rajapaksa in a statement on Thursday vehemently condemned the killing and ordered an investigation into a man he called a close friend and courageous journalist.

"This heinous crime points to the grave dangers faced by ... our country, and the existence of forces that will go to the furthest extremes in using terror and criminality to damage our social fabric and bring disrepute to the country," he said.
All very true, Mister President. If it were my friend that was killed and I had your position of authority, I would not rest until his murder was brought before the courts *and real justice done*.

That would bring great repute to your Nation as well.

Good News: There is a plan

As was presented here in The Weekly N&C for December 8th, 2008, one of the dangers of the outbreak of narco-terror warfare in Mexico is the possibility of spill-over attacks in the United States. As of that time, there was no fully developed contingency plan available for public debate. To quote:
Now how about making sure that *the north side of that border* have sufficient assets available to intervene the next time trouble spills across?

Because it might not just be a kidnapping next time; It might well be a Drive-in version of the attack on Mumbai.
Well, congratulations are in order for Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and his Department. There is now a plan.

When payday comes around, don't be shy about sticking your hand out for an envelope.

Job well done.

Gander, meet Goose

Statements reprinted by DPA (Deutche Press) make it sound like Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India is not exactly supportive of the Israeli counter-attack in Gaza, to say the least.
India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Thursday strongly condemned Israeli bombings of the Gaza Strip and expressed hope that the world community will work together to restore peace in the region. In his first public statement on the ongoing attacks, Singh said India strongly condemns the incidents and regrets the loss of many innocent lives.

Coincidentally, the Government of India also released to DPA the following remarks by M. Singh regarding the ongoing India-Pakistan matters related to the Mumbai (Bombay) attacks of last month:
Speaking in Chennai, Singh said the forces of extremism and terrorism would not be allowed to destabilize the economy and polity of India. He promised to work with the global community to ensure that there are no safe havens or launching pads for terrorists.

Noting that the Mumbai attacks were a grim reminder of the threat posed by extremism to India's pluralistic and liberal traditions, Singh said, "There are some who would not like to see India succeed. But we have shown, over and over again, that we will not allow the forces of terrorism and extremism to destabilize our polity, our economy and our society," he said.
Not seeing any implied contradiction there; nope.

Gentlemen, the same fanatical ideology, the same methodology, and the same root causes are behind LeT and Hamas; perhaps the same enablers are playing a role as well.

It might be at least half a good idea to consider that given India's current need for diplomatic maneuvering room if push comes to shove and India has to strike inside Pakistan, it is less than beneficial to be denouncing someone else for going into a terrorist nest and taking out some of the trash.

It might also have been wiser to run the Press Release on both of these items straight out to all media, rather than leaving DPA the opportunity to spread the shall-we-say-edited message *they* wanted to.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Twenty Years of Gentle Nobility

Tennou Heika (His Majesty, the Emperor; known as Emperor Akihito in foreign media) did today commemorate the 20th anniversary of his ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne with a private visit to the tomb of his father, the Showa Tennou (named Hirohito in his youth; known as Emperor Hirohito in foreign media).

Their Highnesses, the Crown Prince and Princess, did host a small observance at the palace.

(May his reign live on for)Ten Thousand Years(ever)!

Personal note: I had the rare pleasure of attending His Majesty's 10th anniversary, and the memory shall stay with me always. The average kokumin (roughly: citizen) may no longer be particularly reverential in modern-day Japan, but you sure would not have thought so had you seen the crowd on the approaches to the Imperial Palace that day.

Parking on the left is...

...still parking on the left.

The North Korean government has announced there are five new cabinet ministers in economic posts, and that there will be elections for the 12th Supreme People's Assembly on March 8th.

Of course, the Assembly is all hand-picked candidates of the regime.

Voter turnout is expected to again be nearly 100%...

...or else.

note: Yes, I could have linked to the original story at KCNA. No, I had no interest in giving them the visits. I prefer to read news written by people who are not of the mind to destroy the country I live in.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Aw, they've got to be kidding

Tractor Parts???

Oh, come on. That is straight out of Basic Cargo Mislabeling for Fun and Profit. That has got to be about the oldest trick in the Smuggler's Handbook.

Heck, I think I even used it once.

Kenya locks down the media

President Mwai Kibaki has signed into law the ICT legislation that formalizes restrictions and penalties on unapproved reporting, broadcast license authorizations, and the production and content of news programs.

Reporters Without Borders (an international press NGO) is "stunned".

Moreover, the Kibaki administration signed the law over the protests of his Prime Minister (and supposed power-sharing partners) in the Orange Democratic Movement opposition, stoking fears that they are being ignored by the regime. The ODM is holding crisis talks to consider a course of action.

Given that the election violence killed ~1,500 people and displaced hundreds of thousands more in a battle drawn strictly along tribal lines, a collapse of the power-sharing agreement bodes only for the worst.

Gazprom cuts the flow through Ukraine

This has been a developing story over the last few days, well covered in the mass media. The Russian natural gas monopoly Gazprom, which is functionally an arm of the Putin-Medvedev regime (or some say, Putin and Medvedev work for Gazprom), has been locked in a dispute with Ukraine over price increases and Ukraine has responded by planning an increase in transhipment fees for gas moving through to Europe.

The fight has gotten ugly enough that Gazprom simply ordered a suspension of deliveries to Ukraine.

But with Gazprom cutting the taps and the pipeline pressure down, Officials in Sofia say that Bulgaria is getting no gas and that Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey are getting no gas from the via-Ukraine pipeline. (Turkey has access to a second line under the Black Sea, however)

A panic has now swept through the EU offices in Brussels, and they are demanding (not asking nicely) for a summit meeting with Russia and Ukraine. Yes, the document even reads like an ultimatum to restore flow.

Good luck on that.

For anyone who didn't see this author's shot at Gazprom and European collaborators back last November, perhaps a more current observation would be of interest. National Public Radio of the U.S.A. is running a three part story plus an overview article on Gazprom and Russia's Foreign Policy that is pretty damning in its message.

American President R. Reagan once warned against European dependence on Russian energy sources.

He was right, then and now.

Confusion in Kivu

Reports coming in from Nord-Kivu in the D.R. Congo are stating that General Laurent Nkunda's CNDP Tutsi rebels may be falling into fratricide. Reuters Alertnet has this report of a leadership dispute within the ranks, and claims that General Bosco Ntaganda may have tried to take over the leadership of the force.

This is, if even in part true, bad.

B. Ntaganda is on the ICC wanted list for recruiting child soldiers (under 15 years of age) for his army. He certainly has a history of it from his rebellion days in Ituri during and after the Second Congo War period.

MONUC United Nations peacekeepers are "monitoring the situation closely"...

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Weekly N&C for January 5th, 2009

Drawing Lines on the Map

As Countries grew and spread to cover all the available land in the world, the matter of drawing lines on the map to carve up sovereignty became one of the great matters of dispute. These were not merely the setting of borders between extant States; although plenty of troubles came from setting borders, and many such troubles continue to this day. One needs only to look at the resulting problems that the world inherited from the Kongokonferenz (the Berlin Conference of 1884~85) and the resulting Colonial campaigning commonly known as the “Scramble for Africa” to see a fine example of how much trouble. The day of New Imperialism is well behind us now, at least on land, and most all of the borders of the world are at least closely enough drawn as to be defined disputes rather than issues of whole-cloth creation of demarcation lines. None the less, some lessons should be remembered from those days as there are matters more current that require some attention.

Here is a different example from the past and one closer to home for most of the readers here: Does anyone remember reading about “54-40 or Fight”? That was the public cry (on the American side) during the dispute and negotiations over the borderline between the United States of America and then-colonial-British-Canada, specifically the Western section crossing the Rocky Mountains and running to the Pacific Ocean. This was the Oregon Border Dispute, although the area in question is greatly to the north of what is Oregon State now. The southern extreme of the British claim was at the 42nd parallel, while the northern extreme of the American claim was at 54 degrees, 40 minutes parallel, in total contesting the entire mainland area of what are now Oregon, Washington State, Idaho, and British Columbia. The Polk administration in 1844, while campaigning on expansionist claims, offered the previously discussed 49th parallel line as a compromise, which was accepted with the terms “to the Pacific Ocean” so as to maintain British sovereignty (already established) on Vancouver Island. Other than a little skirmishing over islands in the Puget Sound, the matter was decided. This made for a nice, straight line on the map, and one extremely silly enclave.

That is correct; one silly enclave. In the rigorous delineation of the border, with the surveyors intent on a straight line all across the mainland border, what resulted was Point Roberts. This lovely little peninsula sticks out from the now-Canadian mainland just a little bit south of the 49th parallel line. *Here* is a map reference.

For in the final resolution of the border, the language of the treaty defining the line to be absolute on the mainland was found to trump the other language in the treaty about the line being drawn to the Pacific Ocean. One definition was found to be more applicable than the other. Remember that concept for later matters, discussed below.

Moving on to more recent and much more complex delineation, let us spend a moment on the dismemberment of Imperial Japanese territory by the Allied Powers at the end of World War II, specifically in the south. The occupation of Japan placed Formosa (Taiwan) under the Republic of China (as then recognized; Nationalist China) but placed the entirety of the Ryuukyuu (Okinawa) Archipelago under United States occupation. Ryuukyuu had been absorbed by Imperial Japan in its earliest days (1872, formalized in 1879) after over 250 years as a tributary kingdom to the Japanese Satsuma clan and simultaneous tribute to the Qing Dynasty of China. (The island of Formosa had been won much later, in the settlement of the Sino-Japanese War of 1895) So while Formosa was placed under Chinese authority as Taiwan in compliance with the required abandonment of territory seized in war by Imperial Japan, the U.S. demanded and received trusteeship over the Ryuukyuu Archipelago in its entirety, right up to the coastal waters of Taiwan. When the Chinese Civil War resumed and the Chinese Communists won the fight on the mainland and the Nationalist government fled to Taiwan, it probably seemed like a grand idea that the Archipelago was one big unsinkable aircraft carrier for the U.S. of A. Even the little tiny flyspecks of islands in the Senkaku group (called the Diaoyutai Islands in Mandarin; or misidentified as Pinnacle Islands on English-language maps), and neither Chinese governments made claim to them at the time. *Here* is a map reference.

But come the 1970’s, all matters political in the area had changed. For one, the United States had reached an agreement to return the Ryuukyuu trusteeship to Japan, as of 1972. At that point (1971), both the Nationalists on Taiwan and the Communists on the mainland protested and hauled out claims of varying merit (mostly weak) to the Senkaku Islands. The United States simply handed them over to Japan with the rest of the trustee territory when the time came, and washed its hands of the matter. A bunch of small islands, a little coastal fishing in territorial waters, no big deal…

It was no big deal, for about a decade. Then along came the negotiations for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), finished in December of 1982 and ratified in 1994. Both Japan and China (which is considered unitary for purposes of International Law) have signed and ratified the treaty. What that brings to the table is the idea of Exclusive Economic Zones that extend out into the ocean from sovereign territories, beyond the territorial limit, as far as 200 nautical miles from the baseline shore with exceptions extended for contiguous Continental Shelf areas as far as 350 nautical miles from baseline. Within an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), the sovereign Nation has sole exploitation rights over all natural resources. That can mean a lot of fish. With the development of technology for undersea drilling, it can also mean a lot of oil and gas, and one day other technologies will add to the value of most every EEZ.

So what happens when two Nations share an ocean area that would be defined as part of (someone’s) EEZ? The simple case is that if the 200 mile limits barely intrude into each other, a midway line is drawn. In more complex cases (the EEZ drawn from the southernmost parts of the Republic of Korea and the nearby western main islands of Japan overlap by ~50%), some part of the center-most of the overlap may well be *by bilateral negotiation* made a joint development area, with shared rights and profits. But in either case, note that the matter of contest is one based on the basic 200 mile limit.

Well, it seems that the entire middle of the undersea of the East China Sea is a nest of natural gas fields, with some light petroleum in there as well. Useful stuff, that; so who gets the rights to develop those fields? Take a look here at this graphic and the problem becomes apparent. The widest point of the East China Sea is less than 400 nautical miles across, and the Ryuukyuu Archipelago defines the southeast boundary of the sea with the Senkaku Islands sticking well to the north of the island chain. To make matters worse, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) government has reached into the UNCLOS for ideas that suit their goals and have issued a claim based on the contiguous Continental Shelf (which is there) to the maximum 350 mile limit.

Submarines have skulked about, warships and patrol craft have sallied, and survey ships have been interfered with. The PRC has even issued production grants to allow several petroleum-development platforms (drill rigs and production rigs) to go in and set them up *just barely* on the China-side of the middle line. Japan knew just how to respond to such provocations and claims: send in the diplomats.

Astoundingly, almost too-good-to-be-true, Japanese diplomats claimed success in negotiations last June. Well, no, they didn’t resolve the Senkaku Islands dispute nor did they draw a demarcation line, but they did come back with an in-principle joint-development agreement, sort of. Gee, that was great work; sent out with orders to negotiate a fair split, they came back with a split alright… of Japan’s half.

To add insult to injury, the PRC is now claiming that there was no progress on delineation of any kind back in the June agreement, and that they reject Japan’s claims of PRC production platforms being sited to extract gas from the Japan side of the middle line. They imply it is all China's gas anyway, or should be.

This is all in the run-up to the announcement of this week’s bilateral meeting on the matter.

Time to bring that Point Roberts lesson, above, back into view. The nature of terms in delineation treaties remains the same as it was back in the time of the Oregon Border Dispute; that some terms take precedence even if they are uncomfortable, unless specifically negotiated away. In that case, the “mainland” was part of the basic terms of the agreement; “to the Pacific Ocean” was a limited term expressly to exempt Vancouver Island from the treaty line. That meant that once the line crossed the last bit of mainland, *then* the line had to find a way through the islands and straits to the Pacific Ocean, and that was a secondary issue.

The 200 nautical mile limit is the basic EEZ.

When two 200 mile EEZ’s overlap, draw a middle line unless a joint claim straddling *both sides of the middle line* is negotiated.

The 350 nautical mile Continental Shelf exception is *not* part of the basis. That is what is allowed beyond an uncontested basic EEZ. It is a secondary issue.

Any PRC claims to the contrary are crude attempts at gamesmanship.

Draw the middle line, then let both countries line up production platforms facing each other and may the best pumps win. Or draw a joint zone that straddles the middle line.

As to the claims by the PRC to the Senkaku Islands and what affect that would have on the EEZ…

…the Chinese claim would look a whole lot better if they had bothered to file them back in 1945...

…like Japan has done regarding Russian occupation in the Northern Territories all along.

End Notes:

Most notes are embedded as links in the text.

Additional information on International Disputes of all kinds can be found at the CIA World Factbook; Disputes

The following Wiki-p items are for General Information only. As always, check all sources:

List of contemporary Territorial Disputes

General Information on the Senkaku Islands

General Information on EEZ’s as defined by UNCLOS

Historical Information on the Kongokonferenz (1884)

Historical Information on the Oregon Boundary Dispute (1844)

Mexico Kidnappings, American Ransoms

The New York Times reports in detail upon one of the uglier trends part and parcel to the breakdown of law-and-order in many regions of Mexico: Kidnappers are now targeting Mexican citizens who have relatives residing in the United States.

The plan, it seems, is that by targeting such individuals, more valuable ransoms can be demanded (and gotten) from relatives with US$ incomes.

Note that this is not particularly aimed at families with members residing undocumented in the U.S.A.; the crime works far better if the family members are legal American residents or citizens as they can tranfer funds openly.

A sad matter for the families, and a sad matter for Mexico.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Sunday Morning Push

There will likely be no other new discussion thread today, mostly to allow me time to work on the Weekly piece.

Lots of things left to do with the existing discussion threads, and I'll be around to comment on them too. If that isn't enough, there is still this week's Open for you all to make your own fun (or to try the trivia question!).

Otherwise, there are no administrative matters to mention; All goes well.

As always, thanks for coming here!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Were lessons learned?

As ground incursions are now underway in the Israel-Hamas fight (Operation Cast Lead), this might be as good a time as any for a comparison of how things go vs. how things went in the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War in Lebanon.

Fighting in a place like Gaza is a different sort of battle, more of an urban campaign than the long-sightline fighting on the ground between the villages of South Lebanon, but none the less if Israel has not mastered the problems that appeared at that time, going into Gaza will be tough sledding.

Cautionary note to casual readers: The Strategic Survey of the 2006 campaign is a lengthy and detailed read.

Third time through

In Ghana, the NDC party are back in power. This party, which has languished in the opposition for two elections and eight years since founder and former President J. Rawlings left power in compliance with constitutional limits, has played by the rules and won through. Their rivals, the NPP, also played fair and lost by only the barest of margins.

This is all very fine, as for once the parties are little different on policy and mostly simply quantify some existing political rivalries in the country. But getting a party into that is strongly anti-corruption and anti-smuggling seems to have been a big part of the choice.

I know we shrug our shoulders and say "T.I.A." a lot around this weblog, especially about West Africa. And yes, this wasn't a flawless election. None the less, this time let's amend that standing comment:

"This Is how Africa should be."

Bravo, Ghana! Congratulations, President-elect John Atta Mills.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Open Thread

Here is your open thread for the next 7 days.

That which is not a thread topic, goes here. Also, any topic you want to bring back from the dead or any suggestions for a new topic, goes here.

caveat: the usual rules apply.


Please feel free to start your own discussions, but just to seed this thread with a little trivia item, let's have some fun:

Japan has what are functionally *three* New Year's Festivals, and that doesn't even consider the fact that School and Business cycles are based on yet a fourth Year-cycle.

What are the notable three, and what do they really mark?

Bonus Fun: What does that fourth "new year" have in common with French colonization in North America?

Enjoy, and Happy New Year!

Good going. Don't ease up.

This could be said about a number of the trouble spots in the world right now, but in particular it applies to this announcement by the Government of Sri Lanka stating that the Army has taken Kilinochchi, the LTTE "capital".

This is the best campaign in years that the Sri Lankan Army has run, and is making slow but steady progress toward victory, but remember...

The summer campaign of 1996 captured the city, only to lose it again during the LTTE counteroffensive of 1998.

This is no time to ease up. Finish the fighting part of the job, then look to reconstruction and popular reconciliation. Done right, there will be no need to have to do this again one day.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

R.I.P. Helen Suzman

If one does not know of this courageous lady, one can not truly know the story of South Africa's modern history.

She abhorred apartheid, and fought it within the political system.

She did not accept that sanctions were the answer.

She was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Once South Africa had reformed, she turned her sense of fairness toward the conduct of Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe (Rhodesia), and was named an Enemy of the State by the regime for her efforts.

Would that we had more like her today.