Monday, April 26, 2010

Sunday-come-on-Monday Push

Weekends are supposedly not a time for work-like obligations... *sheesh*

Here's some of what got missed:

30 years since Desert One. Yes, it still matters.

ANZAC Day was Sunday.

Some other people who write have gotten some great work out recently.

John Noonan on The Fall of the House of Mugabe. Would that it be fallen already.

Douglas Rogers on Zimbabwe's Accidental Triumph.
“What’s that got to do with it?” Mr. Muchauraya snapped. “Mrs. James was an African just like you. Sing what you normally sing.” When he turned to apologize for the interruption, he saw my father had tears in his eyes.
The most appropriate answer to everything wrong in the disaster that is Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) under Robert Mugabe & Co.

J. E. Dyer on Putin's great April. Almost makes one wish they were playing on a winning side... almost.

Geoffery Forden at Arms Control Wonk on The Cheonan sinking, explained. That pretty much limits the choices to a mine or a torpedo. Now, what to do about it?


This thread is left open for comments if you have any topics you'd like discussed, or suggestions as to things to look into in more detail here. The usual rules still apply: Play Nice.

As always, thank you all for coming here.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Key moment at hand in Thai insurrection

The mass protests of "Red Shirt" anti-government demonstrators reached the point of mass violence earlier this month, when an attempted crackdown on April 10th left over a score dead and failed to break the movement.

The demonstrators continue to claim wider grievances, but are mostly supporters of ousted (and indicted) former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his hand behind the motivation of the Red Shirts can not be discounted.

The protests have resulted in a closure of the Bangkok Shopping district as the demonstrators have set up barricaded camps all along the major streets there for weeks. Violence is a daily threat. The government has failed to restore order and, if this is any indication, lacks the will to do so:
The reds' proposal came shortly after the army commander-in-chief, Gen Anupong Paojinda, told his commanders he would not use force to evict the protesters.

Deputy army spokesman Colonel Sirichan Ngathong said Gen Anupong thought the use of force would "not end the current problems and would have many repercussions".

"The best thing is to create understanding among the people. The army's job now is to take care of the people, and not allow Thais to attack each other," Col Sirichan reported the general as saying.
Perhaps there is something to negotiate. Perhaps. Luck to the government to find a way out of this mess.

For now, consider this British Travel Warning to be broadly applicable:
The Foreign Office gave its travel advice relating to Thailand's capital because of the risk "that violence could break out without warning".


The Foreign Office said in a statement: "This advice reflects our concern for the safety of British nationals planning to travel to Bangkok, given the risk that violence could break out without warning during the increasingly volatile political crisis.

"The situation is changing on a daily basis, and we recommend that British nationals living in Thailand or travelling to the country check the travel advice on the Foreign Office website regularly for details of further developments."
I'd extend that to "any nationality" being at risk. Stay safe, folks.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A political "growl"

Yes, a growl. This author is, at the best of times, a bit of a growly bear; recent political trends are more than enough to bring out the full enraged Grizzly mood.

Here's a political "growl" aimed at the political machinations in three countries that would otherwise have my whole-hearted support and hope for.

The targets of ire, ranked from least to most:

((small growl))
The U.S.A.'s Republican Party ~ besides the water-under-the-bridge that when they were in power they did bugger all of any effect to take on social and economic challenges that clearly were heading things toward the cliff, it is worth mentioning that *now* that they are in the opposition there is still the self-sabotaging conduct of various of the politicians who still have seats in government to undermine a unified effort at holding the fort. To their credit, they did manage to keep party unity in both houses of the legislature when confronted with the masterwork of political malfeasance that was Health Care Reform - Obama/Reed/Pelosi version. But... it sure would be nice if they'd show similar unity of purpose on the rest of the load of crap coming down the pike administration's agenda because almost to the item that is worthy of opposition.

((not really hostile yet growl))
What on God's Green Earth are the U.K. Conservatives thinking? Yes, they got smeared the last few elections by the Blair machine and its staggering remnant and Yes, they got smeared because they got stuck with "The Nasty Party" label... which is a much meaner labeling in British politics than it may sound to people in other countries. But to build the Tory Renaissance on a massive move to (perhaps past) Center by David Cameron and his "new" leadership at a time when Labour has clearly shown that after Tony Blair took his retirement, he took every single brain cell in that party with him... the grand old Conservative and Unionist Party had no need to take a lurch to the left. To do so at a time when the entire economic fortune of the future of the U.K. is on the line *and* while Defence has been asked to be at war for the better part of a decade with no meaningful budget to speak of, well, that's just silly. Great Britain needs the Tories now, and by that I mean the real Tories; anything less may well mean Labour giving way to... The Social Democrats. Doom. Doom, I tell you, if that were to come to pass. *Those* clowns make Gordon Brown almost appear fit for the premiership.

((little louder growl))
The Party Formerly Known as jiyuu minshutou (Liberal-Democratic Party of Japan; LDP). Gee Whiz, guys, you lose one election (and not for the first time; cf. 1993~1994) and panic strikes. It looks like it is a race to see how *many* blocks of five elected officials can cobble together and split off into a "new party". We're on about number three in the factional fallout right now, and the number of players scheming for an out that would separate them from the woefully mislead LDP-as-it-remains. (see these political cartoons and select Dahl's Japan for April 18th 2010 for a superb summary of the reaction to current LDP chief Tanigaki Sadakazu (S. Tanigaki)'s ability to mobilize the opposition.) This is, to put it mildly, lunacy. A fragmented, self-interested and only-able-to-see-as-far-as-the-boundary-of-their-electoral-district opposition is no real opposition. The only thing that might save this current crop of LDP and former LDP politicians is the incompetence being demonstrated by the party in power (see below).

((now we get more growly))
Gordon Brown.

Anything Gordon Brown tries to do politically.

Anything Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his fellow-travelers like Lord Mandelson set to doing.

Dear Grace. Perhaps never, in a developed country, have I ever seen a lot like this.

May they be gone and quickly before they do any more damage.

((serious growl))
Folks here, even very reasonable folks here, voted in a way far contrary to their best interests by giving Hatoyama Yukio (Y. Hatoyama)'s minshutou (Democratic Party of Japan; DPJ) a shot at running things after three pathetically bad LDP administrations had used up all the good done in the days of Koizumi. What they didn't realize, even when it was explained to them *before the election* was that it was not the best of ideas to give power to a bunch who were (a) a throw-together of populists, urban interests, labor union representatives and rank opportunists; (b) dependent on some far-left allies to hold control of the Upper House; (c) basing their entire party political machinery on one man who while legendarily successful at keeping himself in politics is also successful *because* he commands the personal loyalty of a faction of lawmakers who got where they are because of him, and he knows it; oh, and add in (d) they had zip zero nada experience in leading the bureaucracy-driven creature that is the Government of Japan. What could possibly go wrong, eh? OK, now they are the in-party... and we get a massive tangle of contradictions and confusion. "We'll target 25% CO2 reductions" (maybe more) *and* "We'll drop toll-road fees and lower the gasoline tax". "We'll cut tuition costs at High School to near nothing" plus "We'll grant a gift to every family with children every year" *and* "We'll cut Government borrowing". "We'll restore the relationship with the U.S.A." plus "We'll organize an East Asian Community to rival other major political blocs" *and* "We'll renegotiate almost every agreement (including Defense matters) that we think we can improve (or make our Socialist allies happier by doing so)". There is a reason a Washington Post columnist called Hatoyama: "...hapless and (in the opinion of some Obama administration officials) increasingly loopy..." and it's not entirely unwarranted for him to have said so. There are about a handful of competent people in the DPJ and none of them are being allowed to do what they are good at. This is a train wreck waiting to happen.

((full-throated hostility))
The American government is being run by the reincarnation of every bad memory one might have of the Carter administration, but with all the "improvements" John Podesta's Center for American Progress (emphasis on the "progress" part) can contribute and a National Security Council staffed by a bunch with a view of international policy that would have made Carter's U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young wish he was one of them. Don't even mention the current policy goals for economic and social "reform" inside the country. It is not at all clear that the legislative elections coming in November will be enough to undo the harm already done, which leaves a Constitutional Crisis on the horizon when test cases make it to the Supreme Court. Way to go, Arsenal of Democracy and Leader of the Free World... you've been on the wrong side of way too many international issues the last 15 months and all signs are that trend will continue in the short term. At the rate things are going, a 1% of GDP for Defense is in the cards not too long from now, as that's all a developed country with massive national debt can afford. Japan gets away with that because (politically) they are under a restrictive constitutional structure and (functionally) protected by the greatest one-way alliance in history. Europe, in the main, gets away with it by a combination of barely-enough collective capability and an alliance that while occasionally encumbering (cf. War in Afghanistan) provides massive expeditionary capabilities to come to their aid and a huge reserve. Oh, and both sit under an American nuclear umbrella... even the U.K. and France benefit by the strategic depth and deterrence that comes with that as a compliment to their own capabilities. If the Americans abdicate their place at the fore, there is no other country in the world one would want to depend on to provide the means for military action. Period. Given the unchanging fact that the world is a dangerous place, a nation that forgets that the major task of government is national security is a collective fool. Given that it takes between five and twenty years to rebuild a national military capability, once lost, (this isn't the 1930's folks; you can't rebuild an army, navy, or especially an air force in just a couple of years any more) is functionally gone. Saying that one will come back in a decade or two and avenge the defeats of today is.not.a.viable.deterrence.strategy.

Here's hoping that all of these growls will prove in the end to be warning, not biting growls. Here are the best ways to make that so:

The U.K. general election is May 6th, 2010

The Japan House of Councillors (Upper House) election is July 11th, 2010

The U.S. Congressional (House and 1/3 Senate) election is November 2nd, 2010


But before you do, make your voice heard. Tell the candidate you support why you support them, and tell other voters as socially appropriate. If you're feeling up to it, join a public demonstration. But always, always, say why. It matters.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

I smell an April Fool's prank


We in the English-speaking Japanese Community take some pride in living up to cultural as well as linguistic appearances, and this looks to be this year's entry in the Foolishness-is-Fun department from the Japan Times.

Headline: Groups concoct iffy bid to turn Futenma plot into theme park.

Good going, Staff Writers. The names of the quoted people alone are worth a laugh.
A government official, however, declined comment, or to be named, citing official policy on unfounded scuttlebutt.

Three percent

One of the advantages of living outside the U.S.A. but in a place where the U.S. military has a large presence is that Armed Forces Radio is available. Back in CONUS (the Continental United States) there are on-base media sources and the local media in towns with large bases do try to report things, but there is nothing like being able to listen to what the troops are being told directly unless one is part of those currently serving. So, while this author is fairly well informed as to what the current DoD budgetary requirements are, nothing drives home the fact that the U.S. military is on the edge of another drawdown like hearing the announcement for Air Force personnel to prepare for a 3% reduction in manpower (personnel; jobs) and mandatory realignment from overmanned to undermanned specializations.

In fairness, there have been ongoing realignments in the USAF to support the GWOT for some time. There just isn't much need in-theater for most of what the USAF (or the USN for that matter) bring to National Defense. But that's almost beside the point... the main job of both the USAF and the USN is to confront peer- or near-peer- level opponents; The ground forces have to be full-spectrum all the time (even if that was a forgotten lesson for several years). Not that they are going to be getting any fat budgets either... so much for fixing the "exhausted army" problem the mass media loved to shout about during the mid-decade.

Doesn't that turn the old saying on its head? Trillions for domestic programs but not a cent for Defense? That overstates it, but not by too much.

It feels far worse than the Bush (41) - Clinton realignment in the post-Cold War. Frankly, the mood of it all feels more like the "hollow army" of the late 1970's. That's not a good thing; the effect on morale was far worse that time.

The only thing that comes to mind is that who needs much of an Air Force if one is not going to have enough airplanes? Or more like if many of the airplanes you will (eventually) have may not be up to the job?

(**Wonk Warning: the last link is rather technical**)

Why show up next door...

...when you can reach out 11,000 km (~7,000 mi)?

There's something not quite reasonable about this.

Anyone care to offer an explanation? It sure as all heck has nothing to do with...
The U.S. has been strengthening missile defenses in allied Arab nations in the Gulf to help counter any potential missile strike from Iran. Like its nuclear work, Iran's missile program is of top concern to Washington and Arab nations wary of Tehran's growing influence in the region.
(bold added by me)
...even if...
The Western military official in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, said U.S. Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, head of the Missile Defense Agency, attended the test launch.
It's not like the PAC-3 batteries in the Gulf haven't gotten a good look at other countries' missile launches before.