Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Three items, all not promising:

Japan and the U.S.A. still can't come up with a plan for relocating the Futenma airbase assets.

The en(Yen; JPY)-dollar(US$) exchange rate hit a new all-time low in spite of the fact that there is nothing happening in the Japanese economy worthy of such strength... and indeed it kills our still-significant export manufacturing sector.

There is still no real, broad based support for joining the TPP free trade talks (outside the tourism industry), even though the Asian Development Bank analysis shows a minimum of +1% to GDP if Japan were to be party to the agreement as currently planned.

Gee... with all those things a mess (cooperative defense; foreign direct investment; the export sector) you'd think the government would be knuckling down and trying to figure out how to make government more efficient and, if not smaller, at least not larger...

Clearly you don't understand. The ruling party only has time to talk about raising the sales tax. Silly you for thinking otherwise.

Monday, October 24, 2011

"...credible threats against his personal safety"

News item: U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford has returned to Washington D.C. because of "...credible threats against his personal safety in Syria".

Comment: Entirely predictable.

The threats, not the return.

Between the documented conduct of the Assad clique at the head of Syria and the fact that the functional incompetence of some of the people running their mouths at DeptState has made it impossible for the American Ambassador to claim an exclusively humanitarian interest in the betterment of the Syrian Opposition, it was only a matter of time before the regime in Damascus withdrew any pretense of diplomatic protection for Amb. Ford.

Yes, if this was a case of supporting anti-government demonstrations in some place like Luxembourg, one could expect the "nicety" of having the American Ambassador declared unacceptable and then sent packing. But most of the world isn't "nice" and Syria is pretty far up the "not nice" list.

At this point, I'll confess I'm happy he's out of the target zone (at least for now) because I've seen what a nightmare it is for RSO's and "other government agencies" personnel to keep an Ambassador alive if said Ambassador persists in doing things contrary to self-protection... *but*... there are some things that are risky to do that simply are in the national interest of the nation said Ambassador represents and thus need to be done. Moreover, an Embassy is not just the Ambassador (case in point); all the other personnel are also *or more so* at risk. Bringing Amb. Ford out may be be the best move available right now, but I'll argue that move is: forced; a half-measure; to the detriment of American support for the Opposition; (and was) likely avoidable.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Doing it wrong

Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy's "The Cable" has the details on how the Obama administration badly bungled the Iraq SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) negotiations. Here are two key points:
She (M.C. Sullivan) said that the administration's negotiating strategy was flawed for a number of reasons: it failed to take into account Iraqi politics, failed to reach out to a broad enough group of Iraqi political leaders, and sent contradictory messages on the troop extension throughout the process.

"From the beginning, the talks unfolded in a way where they largely driven by domestic political concerns, both in Washington and Baghdad. Both sides let politics drive the process, rather than security concerns," said Sullivan.

Administration sources and Hill staffers also tell The Cable that the demand that the troop immunity go through the Council of Representatives was a decision made by the State Department lawyers and there were other options available to the administration, such as putting the remaining troops on the embassy's diplomatic rolls, which would automatically give them immunity.

"An obvious fix for troop immunity is to put them all on the diplomatic list; that's done by notification to the Iraqi foreign ministry," said one former senior Hill staffer. "If State says that this requires a treaty or a specific agreement by the Iraqi parliament as opposed to a statement by the Iraqi foreign ministry, it has its head up its ass."
This is a case study in making damn sure that petty and unimportant things override strategic imperatives, one that likely Americans will one day rue. I'd say the same about Iraqis, but the lesson of history in that region is that very few fools around those parts live long enough to rue their mistakes. But the blame for this outcome, if one were to wish to place it, should not fall on the Iraqis. This, and the awful possibility of having to go back there one day not so far in the future, should be squarely placed on the heads of those in the Obama administration that wilfully chose this outcome.

Friday, October 21, 2011

While you might have been watching

While you might have been watching things about the latest twists and turns in Libya (and *yes*, while I like my coffee as-intended I do prefer my Libya de-Qaddafinated), there is another story out there that hasn't been getting the 24/7 media treatment the last couple of days like the End of Moammar has been getting:

Are you aware that Kenya has had quite enough of al-Shabaab and related Somali thuggery raiding the Dadaab refugee camp, kidnapping aid workers and snatching tourists off the Kenyan coastal islands, and generally fomenting mayhem in and against Kenya?

The Kenyan armed forces are now *in* the Trans-Juba region of southern Somalia, and itching for a fight. Back at home, Kenyan internal security services are to root-out the al-Shabaab operations in Nairobi.

This is the largest intervention in Somalia since the Ethiopian military pulled out of (most of) Somalia after their intervention... which crushed the Islamic Courts movement and did give the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia a little breathing room, but then took their eyes off the prize as the remnants of the Islamic Courts and their al-Qaeda affiliates reformed as al-Shabaab...

Here's hoping that the Kenyan forces chose a manageable portion of goals to achieve, and get busy on achieving them. It does look like their plans are of limited scope and do-able from a capacity point of view, but it remains to be seen when al-Shabaab chooses to stand and fight (perhaps at the town of Afmadow) how well the Kenyan forces will hold together.

A supposedly unrelated move in Mogadishu by the African Union (AU) force there to clear the last southern district of the city of al-Shabaab troops has gone off on schedule and on objective, but reports of heavy AU casualties are circulating. Even discounting any claims by al-Shabaab (which *will* be ludicrously overstated), it may well have been a rough go for the AU forces.

Since you likely won't see much about this on the network news, here is the go-to link for Africa news if you'd prefer more than what the BBC has offered. Specifically, here are the links to Kenya news and Somalia news. Caveat: You'd best know something about the newspapers cited to know any biases. I can only recommend that you do a little Wiki-searching or Source-Watching to see what repute any given paper is generally held in. No time to be teaching a class on East African mass media right now; my regrets.

Yes, well...

...I've been obliged. Usual reasons.

Here's an Open thread as a catch-all for any questions or issues about any of the myriad of stories that have thundered across the news the last month or so. I'll have a couple of them up over the next day or two, but you may well have something worth discussing that I'm to pass over in my efforts. So here you go.


I've been asked why (elsewhere), after the 9/11 memorial thread, there hasn't been the regular memorial posts regarding Gothic Serpent, USS Cole, and so on that I have previously made a habit of posting about. The answer is simple: It's just been too sad this year. Those sort of topics require a righteous sense of vengeance that, while it certainly still burns in me, is contrary to the need I have right now to come to terms with the sad parts. So... I'm rolling it all together and will post Remembrance Day (Veteran's Day) as I did for Memorial Day. 'Nuff said.

OK, play on with the Open thread, but remember the usual rules still apply: Play Nice.

...and thank you, All, for still coming here.