Friday, April 29, 2011

A superb choice of uniform

My congratulations to the Colonel of the Regiment, Irish Guards, upon his marriage. Best wishes to his lovely bride.

Oh, don't sound confused... you've almost certainly heard about this event...

back home

Back home in Japan after a most successful and enjoyable trip.

My thanks to all, colleagues, friends and family, that made it so.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Places you may not be watching (April Edition)

There is a lot of Libya Fatigue happening in the media... and about the "Arab Spring" in general... and West Africa's continued spasms are just passe'... it makes it all too easy to want to just read the newspaper to see the Wednesday Supermarket insert and throw away the rest. Please don't.

There are stories out there that matter rather much, but only in one corner of the world, that aren't getting much attention. Here's one I think you might want to see:
Thai-Cambodia clashes spread east to Preah Vihear

Fighting has erupted between soldiers from Cambodia and Thailand along their disputed mountainous border for a fifth consecutive day.

Monday, April 18, 2011

On travel

Out of the office for about a week and a half.

Doesn't mean there won't be new threads; just don't expect interactive commenting.

sooper kewl - but...

It's one of my favorite harps on people in "Western" governments, how things clandestine ...supposedly only to be known by people in government responsible for things clandestine... have a bad habit of showing up in distinctly not-clandestine places like the newspapers.

Oh, sometimes it is just that the activity wasn't really that secret... or just a little bit so... see the latest Wikileaks troublemaking for one example, or note that folks in the U.S. DeptState are often too willing to say things to blow their own horns... but the worst ones are usually from insiders with political or media agendas acting as "off-the-record" sources. Here's an excerpt from Greyhawk at Mudville Gazette in a recent well-presented article on the Libya Intervention:
That news prompted more squawking about "al Qaeda members among the rebels" - but in the meantime other reporters asked the real question that that response made obvious, but that so many missed: Wait, we have intel guys on the ground? Again, the best answer would have been a simple explanation of some of the many reasons why turning enemies into allies is a good idea, instead we got (shhhh... off the record, of course - and not in these words) "oh stop worrying - this has been a CIA op from the get-go. The boss authorized it before the first bomb fell." (Um, shhhh... that sounds totally sooper kewl - but saying it was a really a super bad idea.)
Bold by me, author comments in parentheses in the original.

There are a host of reasons why much of the inner workings of diplomacy and espionage intelligence activities are generally not topics of conversation, even in peacetime... even between 'friends'... in a time of conflict you can multiply those reasons by a couple orders of magnitude. But, of all that, one thing stands out:

When those things about what "we" are doing get out in public, it paints a target on the people "we" are working with... and sometimes on our operatives as well.

Word gets around about that, pretty quick.

Not many folks remain willing to help our side when doing so borders on the suicidal.

So... please...

those of you in the Trade: Keep secrets secret. That means not only not running your mouth to people outside the operation, but also not violating compartmentalization by leaving bits of operational details in low-security locations.

those of you in the Media: Show at least a little sense about what you publish. Save it up; it'll make a heck of a book you can be famous for writing *after the operation is long over*.

There's a reason for the old admonishment about "not until after 5 and 10"... to not even consider discussing an operation until one has been separated from the Trade for at least 5 years and that the operation have been over for at least 10 years. The bad guys out there have long memories, you see.

Lives, our friend's lives, our people in the field's lives, depend on it.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


An op-ed piece by Kan Naoto souridaijin (N. Kan, 'Prime Minister' of Japan), published in the Washington Post on April 15th. Here is the concluding paragraph:
I believe that the best way for Japan to reciprocate the strong kizuna and cordial friendship extended to us is to continue our contribution to the development of the international community. To that end, I will work to the best of my ability to realize a forward-looking reconstruction that gives people bright hopes for the future. I would wholeheartedly appreciate your continued support and cooperation. Arigatou.
In Japanese, kizuna means "the bonds of friendship"; Arigatou means "thank you".

Friday, April 15, 2011

Open Thread

My regrets, friends, but those pesky obligations have been around in force this week.

Here's an Open Thread for you, and I'll see if the weekend will spare me time to do some other topic threads.

The usual rules apply: Play Nice.

As always, thanks to All for coming here. See you again, soon.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I knew it seemed too good...

There are a lot of jokes about "too good to check" out there.

Well maybe, when the Arab League was part of the call for a no-fly zone in Libya, somebody should have checked.

. The Arab League is historically an anti-Western alliance. Specifically anti-Israel, but more than willing to have voiced troubling opinions pretty much any time Western governments are drawn into any Middle Eastern trouble. They certainly were no help at all in Lebanon in the 1980's, for one example.

.. The Qaddafi regime in Libya has never abandoned its Arab Nationalist credentials. Sure, he played the "we are African" card all the time in the AU, especially when Moammar viewed it as an extension of his petty empire, and he had his fallings out with other Arab leaders, but the Arab League never really turned against him... until, apparently, this time.

... There are elements always present in the Arab League that spend their time looking for any opportunity to get a foot in the door on matters in the unresolved portions of the Palestine Mandate. Any opportunity.

So, no one should be surprised in the slightest that *this* is their latest scheme:
The Arab League on Sunday announced during a special meeting in Cairo that it plans to press the UN to impose a no-fly zone over Gaza amid an escalation in violence in the area, AFP reported.

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa said he plans to present the proposal to the UN Security Council, the report said.
I knew it seemed too good when they seemed to be making a reasonable request to intervene in Libya; Reasonable requests and the Arab League have simply never coexisted in the past.

There is always an angle.


Friday, April 8, 2011


... Mr. Posner...

... U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor...

... Mr. Assistant Secretary...

You might want to have a look at the list of things being done that we'd better not advertise, because I'm pretty damn sure that this is on that list. Especially not by talking about particulars. At least you showed the sense to not name providers; small accomplishment that.

You simply have to know, this isn't the safe little world of Berkeley or Geneva, nor the glory days when you were running LCIHR (note: an NGO, called "Human Rights First" now). Unless this is some scam on your part to drum up a bunch more asylum business for your 'pro-bono' law trade, or an misguided effort to justify your existence at DeptState, I see no explanation as to why this should be out in the AFP... or detailed in any DeptState reports.


I was so hoping that the attention your previous little inconvenient statement to the P.R. Chinese got would have given you some scruple as to what to say, to whom, and about what.

That doesn't seem to be the case.

Thanks a whole lot, you thoughtless @#$.

I don't know what you've done with the gutsy and competent guy who did such good work back in the bad days in Uganda, but where ever you've stuffed him away, now would be a great time to change places.


and yes, this is something *I* wouldn't have posted about if you hadn't let it hit open media.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Another Japan Earthquake: 7.4 Mag. (Updated)

Still getting all the information on this, but I'm posting just so friends and family are aware we are fine here in Tochigi... a good long shake but nothing damaged.

Up north, where the 03/11 9.0 Mag Earthquake hit, this one was also pretty rough: Japanese Seismic Intensity ratings hit 6+ on the 7 point scale. Tsunami warning for that coast as well, forecasters saying 3~6 feet of wave height possible.


Update: Friday

3 dead. No tsunami of note. ~4 million homes without power overnight throughout the Touhoku (the Northeast region). Lots more stress on the system.

Not fun.

A timely assist.

Thank you, France, for the timely assist:
Late on Wednesday, French helicopters moved in to evacuate the Japanese ambassador, Okamura Yoshifumi, after his home near the presidential residence was invaded by unidentified gunmen.

The envoy and his aides were whisked to safety in a French military camp at Port-Bouet, south of Abidjan, the French embassy said.

The French said they had acted after a request from Japan and the UN.
Once, long ago and in a very different place, our roles were reversed.


The BBC also has this video taken during the rescue.


More about the circumstances of the evacuation and a similar request for evacuation by Israel.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Petard. in "hoist upon one's own petard". ('Blown up by your own bomb', for you of a more modern linguistic bent.)

That just about sums up result of the the Liberals successful call of no-confidence in the Harper administration of Canada. Seems the Tories are hauling out the big guns in some ridings already, and the numbers for the Libs don't look so good:
The poll has now placed Mr. Harper at levels of support above 40 per cent for three straight days. That level is traditionally seen as the yardstick for forming a majority government.
As readers here might recall, the Conservatives missed an outright majority by 11 seats the last time things went to the polls.

It is looking much more promising this time. Heh.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Endgame in Cote d'Ivoire

It is down to a final stand by Gbagbo's loyalists and his Republican Guard, in Abidjan, against a force of northern rebels and Ouattara partisans that has swept the rest of the country out of the hands of the regime.

Predictably, once it came to this, the old hatreds and N-S divisions left over from the Ivoire Civil War have also spilled out. Looting and mistreatment of refugees are now being widely reported. *Here* is the BBC version, and *here* is AlertNet (from Reuters) with more about the fighting.

Meanwhile, the U.N. calls for calm and yet their peacekeepers are kept back at their base guarding foreign evacuees. France calls for a resolution, yet LICORNE force is also held back from acting. The de facto President, Gbagbo, encourages his men to fight and says he is still in the country (yet other reports place his family and key supporters already out of the country), while the internationally recognized President, Ouattara, awaits his invitation to move into the palace... once his allies are done turning Abidjan into looted rubble.

...because after months of ECOWAS ineptitude and international failure to back up their words, when push comes to shove... that's still how things are done there.