Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category

Another “Known Wolf” attack.

Sunday, February 15th, 2015

The Copenhagen shooting yesterday fit a familiar pattern of known jihadists who are known to police but who become active in terrorist incidents. The true “lone wolf” attacks, as in the case of the Muslim limousine driver at LAX in 2002, are becoming less common, at least in Europe.

The French intelligence services have a well deserved reputation for competence but they are up against a volume problem. There has been some discussion of the problem.

France already has lost the capacity to police part of its territory, which means that it cannot conduct effective counter-terror operations.”

This is misleading: the practice of intelligence agencies through most of history has relied on the vulnerability of criminals in order to monitor threats to the state. Intelligence services rely on informants for information. It is more common in the cinema than in real life for security services to sucessfully infiltrate undercover operatives into terrorist organizations.

The security services tolerate a certain level of criminal operations in return for information on graver threats. That is not only the case in state security matters; consider the relationship of the FBI, for example, to the Boston gangster Whitey Bulger over many years.

The French are now dealing with a huge problem of radical jihadi Muslims and do not have the forces to control them.

I do not know the specifics of the Kouachi case, but it is highly probable that Said and Cherif Kouachi were subject to regular monitoring by informants of the French government. The security services do not have powers of preemptive arrest. Unlike the security services of most Arab countries, they cannot indefinitely detain individuals who constitute a risk of future terrorist activity in advance of such activity.

Under the circumstances, the security services rely on networks of informants drawn in many cases from the criminal milieu. This has enabled French intelligence to preempt a number of terrorist attacks in the past. The disintegration of Syria and parts of Iraq during the past two years has overwhelmed the means by which intelligence services have coped with such threats in the past.

On October 16, 2013, the French daily Le Monde warned of a large number of jihadists returning from overseas wars and their prospective threat to France. This was noted by English-language intelligence analysts such as the XX Committee blog.

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Is War Coming ?

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

There are three, possibly four, major areas of international strife and all are getting worse as we watch.

Europe is trying to deal with Vladimir Putin and the new Russia. It is not doing well.

There was a palpable tone shift in U.S. policy toward Ukraine this week, when the Obama administration signaled that it was ready to consider sending the country lethal military aid. A confluence of factors is pushing President Obama toward this decision. The fragile ceasefire brokered in September between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists has failed, manifested in the series of recent and high-profile separatist advances against the Ukrainian military this week. Bipartisan congressional support for sending weapons to Ukraine, championed by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), as well as a newly released report by former senior U.S. and European officials recommending lethal military aid for the embattled country, have also contributed to Obama and his tight inner circle of foreign policy advisers reconsidering the lethal aid option.

Will this happen ? I doubt it.

As Kadri Liik of the European Council on Foreign Relations pointed out recently , many Western leaders persist in seeing the Ukraine invasion as a hiccup in relations with Russia that can be smoothed over, rather than as a demonstration that Mr. Putin’s agenda is fundamentally at odds with Europe’s security interests and its values. Because of their attachment to the hiccup theory, governments — including the Obama administration — have refused to take steps, such as providing the Ukrainian government with defensive weapons, that could help stop Mr. Putin’s aggression. Instead, they concoct futile schemes for “reengaging” the Russian ruler.

The next crisis will be the end of NATO.

Late this week, the Obama administration unveiled its new National Security Strategy, amid less than fanfare, with the execrable Susan Rice explaining in “remain calm, all is well!” fashion that things are really much better globally than they look. This White House’s new foreign policy mantra is Strategic Patience, which seems to be the been-to-grad-school version of “don’t do stupid shit.” Since nobody inside the Beltway is taking this eleventh-hour effort to articulate Obama’s security strategy seriously, it’s doubtful anyone abroad, much less in Moscow, will either.

Soon, Putin will turn his gaze on the Baltics.

Jaws dropped this week when Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who until recently was NATO’s civilian head, stated that it is highly likely that Russia will soon stage a violent provocation against a Baltic state, which being NATO countries, will cause a crisis over the Alliance’s Article 5 provision for collective self-defense. Rasmussen merely said what all defense experts who understand Putin already know, but this was not the sort of reality-based assessment that Western politicians are used to hearing.

NATO has disarmed and is in panic mode now if they have to face Russia, weak as it is in the long term. As Keynes said, “In the long term we are all dead.” We are partly responsible for this state of affairs.

Not all the fault for this sorry state of affairs lies in Europe. Here America has played an insidious role too, encouraging spending on niche missions for the Alliance at the expense of traditional defense. Hence the fact that Baltic navies have considerable counter-mine capabilities — this being an unsexy mission that the U.S. Navy hates to do — yet hardly any ability to police their maritime borders against intruding Russians. To make matters worse, since 2001 the Americans have encouraged NATO partners to spend considerable amounts of their limited defense budgets on America’s losing war in Afghanistan.

We should have gotten out in 2009. The absurd Rules of Engagement are only part of it.

Now, we face another major threat in the Middle East, Theater Two.

For the situation with Iran, I have long relied on the writing of Spengler.

Dying civilizations are the most dangerous, and Iran is dying. Its total fertility rate probably stands at just 1.6 children per female, the same level as Western Europe, a catastrophic decline from 7 children per female in the early 1980s. Iran’s present youth bulge will turn into an elderly dependent problem worse than Europe’s in the next generation and the country will collapse. That is why war is likely, if not entirely inevitable.

The rulers of Iran have shown no moderation of their messianic beliefs and their willingness to destroy themselves to bring about the coming of the Twelfth Imam.

Twelver Shi‘a believe that al-Mahdi was born in 869 (15 Sha‘bin 255 AH) and assumed Imamate at 5 years of age following the death of his father Hasan al-Askari. In the early years of his Imamate he would only contact his followers through The Four Deputies. After a 72-year period, known as Minor Occultation, a few days before the death of his fourth deputy Abul Hasan Ali ibn Muhammad al-Samarri in 941, he is believed to have sent his followers a letter. In that letter that was transmitted by al-Samarri he declared the beginning of Major Occultation during which Mahdi is not in contact with his followers.

The coming of the Imam is part of the end of the world and the rulers of Iran are “Twelvers.”

Shi’as believe that Imam al-Mahdi will reappear when the world has fallen into chaos and civil war emerges between the human race for no reason. At this time, it is believed, half of the true believers will ride from Yemen carrying white flags to Makkah, while the other half will ride from Karbalaa’, in the `Iraq, carrying black flags to Makkah. At this time, Imam al-Mahdi will come wielding `Ali’s Sword, Zulfiqar , the Double-Bladed Sword. He will also come and reveal the texts in his possession, such as al-Jafr and al-Jamia.

The Shi’ites have this belief as part of their religion and the rulers of Iran seem to be sincere in their beliefs, which is why Obama is insane to consider them rational.

The Sunni equivalent is the new group called Islamic State in Syria and various other names.

The recent rise in terrorist attacks is only one part of the problem. We also see the collapse of Iraq after Obama removed all US troops.

What are we going to do about all this? Probably nothing as Obama has a master plan that will solve all our problems. He will make friends with our worst enemies.

What about China ? We were going to “pivot to Asia.”

One question is whether China is stable. There are questions about China’s economic future.

Beijing can manage a rapidly declining pace of credit creation, which must inevitably result in much slower although healthier GDP growth. Or Beijing can allow enough credit growth to prevent a further slowdown but, once the perpetual rolling-over of bad loans absorbs most of the country’s loan creation capacity, it will lose control of growth altogether and growth will collapse.

The choice, in other words, is not between hard landing and soft landing. China will either choose a “long landing”, in which growth rates drop sharply but in a controlled way such that unemployment remains reasonable even as GDP growth drops to 3% or less, or it will choose what analysts will at first hail as a soft landing – a few years of continued growth of 6-7% – followed by a collapse in growth and soaring unemployment.

What would happen then ? I just don’t see a war with China in our future, partly because neither of us can afford it. China is threatening its neighbors, like Japan and the Philippines, but we are unlikely to intervene. Our former allies in the east are now seeking help from each other as Obama destroys the US influence.

The Paris massacre.

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

je suis

The horrendous massacre in Paris yesterday has shocked the world. Thousands are expressing outrage and solidarity with the dead cartoonists.

The cartoons themselves are not particularly appealing but they should not be the cause of murder by fanatics.

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This is one. The cover promised “100 lashes if you don’t die of laughter!”

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China and Russia

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

The future is unrolling before our eyes as idiots parade around in the US not knowing what they are doing.

I am always amazed at how prescient Tom Clancy was.

Richard Fernandez has a post about China and Russia’s resources in Siberia. That was the plot of the Tom Clancy novel, “The Bear and the Dragon.” In it he predicted a war between China and Russia for the riches of what he described as “The Northern Resource Area.”

The battle of Khalkhin ended Japan’s plan for ” Hokushin-ron”

800px-Hokushin-ron-Map

Clancy’s concept was that China would some day adopt this strategy and it seems to be coming to pass. The Soviet Union, prior to the German invasion of 1941, was strong enough to repel Japan, which concluded a nonaggression treaty, this freeing their rear for Pearl Harbor. Now, Putin’s Russia may not be strong enough to repel China. David Goldman sees the Chinese strategy in a time of US weakness and fecklessness.

Everything in tragedy happens for a reason, and the result always is sad; most things in comedy happen by accident and the outcome typically is happy. Sino-American relations are not destined for conflict, although that is possible. The misunderstandings that bedevil relations between the world’s two most powerful countries remain comedic rather than tragic. That probably is as good as it gets, for no amount of explanation will enable Chinese and Americans to make sense of each other.

Where the Chinese are defensive and cautious, the Americans tend to perceive them as aggressive; where the Chinese are expansive ambitious, the Americans ignore them altogether. The United States is a Pacific power accustomed to maritime dominance.

Under Obama, few can understand US foreign policy, least of all him.

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The Comet and the Shirt.

Saturday, November 15th, 2014

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Comet_from_40_metres_large

The European Space Agency landed a probe on a comet this week.

Unfortunately, there were a couple of malfunctions. In the first, the “harpoon” that was to anchor the lander malfunctioned allowing it to bounce around a bit.

These revealed the astonishing conclusion that the lander did not just touch down on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko once, but three times.

The harpoons did not fire and Philae appeared to be rotating after the first touchdown, which indicated that it had lifted from the surface again.
Stephan Ulamec, Philae manager at the DLR German Aerospace Center, reported that it touched the surface at 15:34, 17:25 and 17:32 GMT (comet time – it takes over 28 minutes for the signal to reach Earth, via Rosetta). The information was provided by several of the scientific instruments, including the ROMAP magnetic field analyser, the MUPUS thermal mapper, and the sensors in the landing gear that were pushed in on the first impact.

The result of this mishap was that the lander, which was using solar energy to recharge batteries, was not positioned properly to absorb the very weak sunlight energy at that distance.

But then the lander lifted from the surface again – for 1 hour 50 minutes. During that time, it travelled about 1 km at a speed of 38 cm/s. It then made a smaller second hop, travelling at about 3 cm/s, and landing in its final resting place seven minutes later.

That is quite a move and the result has been a very limited experiment as the lander has now shut down due to low battery power.

The landing, as sensational as it has been, has been completely overshadowed by a controversy over the shirt worn by the project director at the press conference.

shirt

The shirt seems to have images of scantily clad women on it and the world’s feminists erupted in wrath.

“No no women are toooootally welcome in our community, just ask the dude in this shirt,” tweeted The Atlantic tech writer Rose Eveleth.

The poor dear ! The incident reminds of the hilarious (to me) incident with Larry Summers, when he was the President of Harvard. He made the mistake, when meeting with faculty, of musing that, perhaps, women were less interested in science than men. The result was a huge controversy that resulted in his resignation. The funniest (again to me) response to his comments was this:

The most remarkable feminist exercise in self-parody was that of MIT biology professor Nancy Hopkins, who famously told reporters that she “felt I was going to be sick,” that “my heart was pounding and my breath was shallow,” that “I just couldn’t breathe, because this kind of bias makes me physically ill,” and that she had to flee the room because otherwise “I would’ve either blacked out or thrown up.” The poor dear ! I wonder if she can stand the sight of blood ?

Even law professors of otherwise libertarian leanings are outraged !

And I will be more provocative: In the broad span of human culture, fashion is more important than space travel.

Back to Glenn:
… Then some women noticed that one of the space scientists, Matt Taylor, was wearing a shirt… featuring comic-book depictions of semi-naked women.
Some women noticed? Everyone noticed! It was an extremely showy shirt, and Taylor chose it for some reason. We were supposed to pretend we didn’t see it? It’s not as though the “some women” made something out of nothing. To blame the women for making this a topic is to impose a burden on us all to shut up about something obvious. If Taylor had wanted to keep everything focused on the achievements of the team he was on, he wouldn’t have picked that shirt. Why attack the women?

Why indeed ? They are only reacting inn the way their hormones dictate. After all, colleges are now having to include “Trigger Warnings” in course materials and even descriptions of classes, lest sensitive female and transgender students be wounded.

To add to the amusement, there is actually research (performed prior to the present atmosphere of intimidation) on sex differences in mathematical ability in children.

In the November 2000 issue of Psychological Science, for example, a team headed by Vanderbilt University’s Camilla Persson Benbow summarized earlier research showing “sex differences in mathematical precocity before kindergarten”; “sex differences in mathematical reasoning as early as the second grade (among intellectually gifted students)”; and “pronounced sex differences in mathematical reasoning ability” in a 1980 study of 9,927 intellectually talented 12-to-14-year-olds.

That would never be allowed these days.

The shirt, by the way, is sold out. He gets to keep his tattoos, I guess, and that should suggest his sartorial taste.

The other issue, ignored by almost all the female commenters on the event, is the choice of energy source for the lander.

The comet is, after all, powered by solar panels that need six or seven hours of sunlight per day to recharge the batteries.

its solar cells are only receiving an hour and a half of sunlight each day instead of the six or seven hours needed to recharge its batteries for extended operation. If nothing is done to improve its orientation, Philae likely will exhaust its battery and shut down sometime during the next few days.

It has already shut down.

The next issue is whether there is enough sunlight energy at that distance, 317 million miles from earth. The other alternative would be nuclear power, which has been used on other probes.

For more than 50 years, NASA’s robotic deep space probes have carried nuclear batteries provided by the U.S. Department of Energy. Even the crewed Apollo moon landings carried nuclear powered equipment.

However, the United States’ supply of plutonium-238, which fuels these batteries, called radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs), is running low. Experts worry that ambitious planetary science missions in the future may have to be put on hold until more of the radioactive substance is available.

With the current state of the nuclear power industry, that may be a while.

Is Britain beginning the revolution we need ?

Saturday, August 30th, 2014

A “Seismic Shock is coming to the British political system.

Douglas Carswell, a prominent Conservative MP has announced he is switching to UKIP. a new political party that has been attacked as “racist” and has been attracting a larger constituency from the British traditional voters.

A new political party has appeared in Britain called UK Independent Party. It has been called racist and a number of other things that might sound familiar to Tea Party members here.

For example:

News reports about the rising primary school population in England fail to mention the ‘elephant in the room’, said MEP Paul Nuttall.

“It is accepted that primary schools have increasing numbers of pupils, which causes all manner of problems, but what is frequently not referred to is why we have such a boom in numbers.

“And the answer is unlimited immigration into this country. It hits some areas harder than others but there cannot be many primary schools in the country which have not been affected at all,” said Mr Nuttall, UKIP Education spokesman.

Why is this controversial ? In the 1990s, the Labour Party opened the floodgates of immigration from Pakistan. The Conservatives have mentioned reducing this but have done little about it.

Steven Woolfe, UKIP Migration spokesman, attacks Conservatives for ‘lying to electorate’ on promises to cut migration, adding that ‘it is no wonder their own MPs are losing faith in them and they are haemorrhaging support to UKIP.’

“These shocking figures today show that the Government does not have a handle on immigration. The Conservative Party promised to cut net migration to tens of thousands and yet it has shot up by a staggering 68,000 in just one year. It is quite simple. They lie to the electorate. They lie to try to keep votes. Well they are being found out.

This is one reason why UKIP is hated. For example, of the 1400 young girls made sex slaves by “Asian” men, several were taken from foster parents because they had voted for UKIP.

A couple had their three foster children taken away by a council on the grounds that their membership of the UK Independence Party meant that they supported “racist” policies. The husband and wife, who have been fostering for nearly seven years, said they were made to feel like criminals when a social worker told them that their views on immigration made them unsuitable carers.

Sounds like the Tea Party to me.

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Putin, Crimea and Ukraine

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

UPDATE: Michael Totten has an update on Crimea.

The new ruler is a former gangster whose street name was “Goblin.”

Lawmakers were summoned, stripped of their cellphones as they entered the chamber. The Crimean media was banished. Then, behind closed doors, Crimea’s government was dismissed and a new one formed, with Sergey Akysonov, head of the Russian Unity party, installed as Crimea’s new premier.

It if was a crime, it was just the beginning. Akysonov’s ascent to power at the point of a gun presaged all that has happened since — the announcement of a referendum on Crimean independence and the slow, methodical fanning out of Russian forces throughout the peninsula, ostensibly to protect Russians here from a threat no one can seem to find.

But here’s the most interesting bit: Aksyonov’s sudden rise as Moscow’s crucial point man in Crimea has revived simmering allegations of an underworld past going back to the lawless 1990s, when Akysonov is said to have gone by the street name “Goblin,” a lieutenant in the Crimean crime syndicate Salem.

Putin is dealing from a weak hand but Germany was near bankruptcy when Hitler invaded Poland. Holman Jenkins at WSJ, has a nice summary of where we are.

Vladimir Putin probably would not have spent 90 minutes on the phone with President Obama on Saturday if he intended to make a grab for eastern Ukraine. He would not have jawed twice on Friday and Sunday on the phone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who subsequently doubted his grip on reality.

He is not going to try to annex the eastern Ukraine where Russian speakers are alleged to be crying for rescue from The Ukraine.

He is even using fake videos like the Palestinians have done before to make his argument. The Russian speakers are not buying.

The Russian speakers are only about 17% of the whole Ukraine population.

350px-Russians_Ukraine_2001

They are concentrated in the eastern portions which are also the poorest and least productive. Ukraine could do without them except for the precedent set.

Western leaders are a risk-averse, short-term-minded lot, but if their decisions are dictated by a conviction of Mr. Putin’s iron grip on Russia, they make a mistake. Many sanguine voices, in fact, already note how the U.S. shale revolution has weakened Mr. Putin’s hand. If Western leaders were so inclined, they might surprise themselves at how vulnerable Mr. Putin’s petro-dependency makes him.

Ukraine has signed contracts with western oil firms to explore what seems to be a large area of oil shale. This is a big threat to Russia’s sole export and prop of its declining economy.

Withdraw Europe’s support for pipelines Mr. Putin wants to build. These, by way of the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea, aim to reduce Ukraine’s leverage as transit path for gas exports that generate much of his regime’s income. Mr. Putin might like to shut off the gas but he can’t. He needs the money.

Get moving on the pending U.S. trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic trade partnerships, which grant member countries automatic approval of U.S. liquefied gas exports. The mere prospect of U.S. exports has already eroded Russia’s pricing power.

Let Exxon and other Western oil firms queuing up to explore Siberia and Russia’s Arctic know their efforts are not currently appreciated. A single caustic hearing on Capitol Hill should do it.

They could do as well in Ukraine.

Ukraine, with its control of strategic pipelines, moving toward energy independence and even energy competition with Russia (it recently signed shale deals with Shell and Chevron ) was not acceptable.

Most of all, “Putin lost Ukraine” would have been a powerful meme in the hands of his enemies, who are numerous and don’t actually care about Ukraine.

The West followed down his path, which bears passing resemblance to the petro-regime of Saddam Hussein, because Russia has nuclear weapons and Mr. Putin seemed preferable to chaos. The West may eventually get chaos anyway. Secretary of State John Kerry managed to put his finger on a truth. Mr. Putin knows no more about the true sources of 21st-century wealth and power than a swordfish knows about macramé. No, the Cold War is not returning. Russia does not have the heft to sustain a Cold War even against placid Europeans or a strategically listless President Obama. His current Western enablers just hope Mr. Putin self-destructs on somebody else’s watch.

The Russian speakers in east Ukraine are not convinced this is the right course.

But in Monday’s survey, 82% of his party’s loyalists rejected any such generosity. Even the adherents of the Communist Party, who tend to feel entitled to all of Russia’s former Soviet domains, said with a broad majority — 62% — that Russia should not jump into Ukraine’s internal crisis.

Putin’s captive media in Russia can convince Russians in Russia that the west was behind the coup in Ukraine.

Moreover, 45% blamed western influence for bringing people on to the streets of Kiev, where the “Euromaidan” protests that were originally in favour of further European integration later turned into a general condemnation of the corrupt regime.

The results are still in doubt.

Ukraine

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014

UPDATE: Max Boot, who I also respect, adds some thoughts.

The Orange Revolution failed because of corruption and inertia in the economy. What now?

This is, after all, the second popular uprising against Yanukovych, the first being the Orange Revolution of 2004-2005. Although thwarted in his attempt to steal that election, Yanukovych returned to power in 2010, managing to win a fair election after his political adversaries failed to show results while in office.

This is a second chance for the pro-Western parties in Ukraine to deal with the deep-seated malaise of the economy, the pervasive corruption, and all the other ills that afflict this troubled land. They had better do better than last time–and all the while fending off what are sure to be determined attempts at sabotage emanating from Moscow.

What to do about Ukraine ? Michael Totten has some ideas.

Ukraine's Day Infamy

He has several suggestions about other sources. I pretty much rely on him as he has been all over and has a good eye.

I spent a week in Ukraine a few years back when I traveled by car from the Polish border through Lviv to Kiev and down to Odessa and Yalta. I wrote about it at length in my book, Where the West Ends. So I feel obligated to write about it now that the capital is on fire.

Kiev is a magnificent city, and it pains me to see it like this, but I should not be surprised. Almost every country I’ve ever written about is either in hell, has only recently recovered from hell, or is on its way to hell. I hoped when I visited Ukraine that it was on its way out, but I did not have a good feeling about it, as you’ll recall if you read my book.

From his recommended source,

First let’s consider the bad reasons for a breakup—Ukraine’s diversity in general and the regional, ethnic, confessional, and cultural divisions between its “West” and “East” in particular. A good place to start is a recent article by Orlando Figes, professor of history at Birkbeck College, University of London, “Is There One Ukraine?” Figes, who should know better coming from the UK, writes about Ukraine’s divisions as if they were unique and as if diversity alone justified or led to breakup. He’s wrong on both counts. Ukraine’s diversity is pretty much the norm for all stable states everywhere.

He has some excellent points. One is about The Party of Regions.

What is unusual about contemporary Ukraine is that it’s exploited by a criminal gangster regime—Yanukovych’s— in cahoots with another criminal gangster regime—Putin’s. Many countries have the misfortune of being misruled by homegrown camarillas. Many countries have the misfortune of being dominated by predator states. Ukraine has the double misfortune of being misruled at home and “mis-dominated” abroad.

The president, who has now fled Kiev, is described a a “criminal madman.”

Remove the southeast and Ukraine’s treasury experiences an immediate boon; its demographics, energy consumption, and health improve; and its politics automatically become more democratic and less corrupt.

Although lopping off the Donbas would benefit the rest of Ukraine, Yanukovych’s mafia regime desperately needs Ukraine to be whole. If Luhansk and Donetsk were to split away, their rust-belt economy would collapse without Kyiv’s financial support and the Regionnaires, trapped in their polluted bailiwick, would have nothing to steal. And what would Yanukovych’s multibillionaire pal, Rinat Akhmetov, do without easy access to Ukraine’s resources?

There appears to be no good solution to Ukraine, including partition although that may be what will happen.

The moral for the democrats is simple. If and when they return to power, the democrats should call the Regionnaires’ bluff. Next time the Regionnaires threaten to leave, the democrats should point to the door, and say, “Don’t call us. We’ll call you.”

The same might apply to Quebec.

The Wall Street Journal had a good piece yesterday comparing Ukraine with Georgia 5 years ago.

The West dragged its feet on financial sanctions against the Yanukovych circle, but on Thursday last week a move by the EU—after 77 protesters were shot dead in broad daylight—helped bring down the Ukrainian leader. Fearing for their assets and visas, his cronies quickly dropped him.

and: At every opportunity, Mr. Saakashvili says that Ukraine’s best defense against Russian pressure is a successful move to European-style rule. This is what the revolution was about. “Change must come fast,” he says. “I’m worried about Crimea, but I’m more worried about Kiev. If Kiev goes into protracted political crisis, then everything else will explode.”

If Ukraine starts to go after its oil and gas reserves with fracking, a lot may change.

World War 2.5

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

UPDATE: I don’t seem to be the only one worried about a 1914 situation.

China’s current coercion of Japan over the islands is but a symptom of a larger illness in the international system. China has been leveraging its naval modernization to increase its movements through the seas and choke points surrounding Japan to break out into the Pacific. Last November, for example, flotillas of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy destroyers and submarines backed by air power encircled Japan for the first time, as PLA officers bragged about splitting and demolishing the first island chain. China is changing the regional balance with little resistance from the United States. Counter to Chinese public claims of surprise at a U.S. “overreaction,” recent discussions with Chinese officials over Beijing’s December air defense identification zone announcement suggests that the United States’ response was much weaker than the response the Chinese leadership had expected.

This is worrisome.

Last month I posted an observation that another world war may be coming. I noted that this summer is the 100th anniversary of the First World War and that the present situation is similar to that which preceded the 1914 war. I may not be the only one.

I concluded last month’s post as follows: The “two Ps” are Pakistan and the Palestinians. We live in an incredibly dangerous era and we are seeing an American president who does not understand geopolitics. God help us.

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A recent column provided from someone attending the Davos Economic Forum discusses yet another potential fuse that is sputtering.

During the dinner, the hosts passed a microphone around the table and asked guests to speak briefly about something that they thought would interest the group.

One of the guests, an influential Chinese professional, talked about the simmering conflict between China and Japan over a group of tiny islands in the Pacific.

We live in an era in which the US elites are largely ignorant of history and of other peoples. In the 1930s, President Roosevelt had spent summers bicycling around Europe before he suffered the attack of Polio in 1920. President Eisenhower had, of court, commanded the armies in World War II. He knew intimately most of the people who mattered in the world. We now have a president who does not know how little he knows about the world. He thinks a few years as a child in Indonesia make him a expert in international relations. His inner circle describes him as the smartest man ever to become president.

There is little evidence to support it. Mr. Obama went to Harvard, but so did George W. Bush, who some liberals consider dumber than dirt. The president won’t release his transcripts, so we can’t judge by his grades. Mr. Obama was president of the Harvard Law Review, but when he was selected, popularity mattered more than scholarship.

Mr. Obama joined an undistinguished law firm, where he tried no cases. So no help there.

Many cite the president’s oratorical skills, but he often rambles when he speaks without a teleprompter. That’s because his brain “is moving so fast that the mouth can’t keep up,” wrote Meghan Daum of the Los Angeles Times.

Most telling is the following exchange:

Barack Obama is the smartest man with the highest IQ ever to be elected to the presidency, historian Michael Beschloss told radio talk show host Don Imus in November of 2008.

“So what is his IQ?” Mr. Imus asked. Mr. Beschloss didn’t know. He was just assuming.

We are all guessing but some of us think we know. Obama thinks we need Arabic translators in Afghanistan.

Obama posited — incorrectly — that Arabic translators deployed in Iraq are needed in Afghanistan — forgetting, momentarily, that Afghans don’t speak Arabic.
“We only have a certain number of them and if they are all in Iraq, then its harder for us to use them in Afghanistan,” Obama said.
The vast majority of military translators in both war zones are drawn from the local population.
Naturally they speak the local language. In Iraq, that’s Arabic or Kurdish. In Afghanistan, it’s any of a half dozen other languages — including Pashtu, Dari, and Farsi.

Oh well. That is over and we have new problems.

He then explained that the general sense in China is that China and Japan have never really settled their World War 2 conflict. Japan and America settled their conflict, he explained, and as a result, the fighting stopped. But China and Japan have never really put the war behind them.

The Chinese professional acknowledged that if China asserted control over the disputed islands by attacking Japan, America would have to stand with Japan. And he acknowledged that China did not want to provoke America.

But then he said that many in China believe that China can accomplish its goals — smacking down Japan, demonstrating its military superiority in the region, and establishing full control over the symbolic islands — with a surgical invasion.

Remember that Austria planned to punish Serbia for the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand who was shot by Serbian conspirators. How did that end ? One of the reasons for the appeasement of the 1930s was to avoid a war by mistake.

“Do you realize that those islands are worthless pieces of rock… and you’re seriously suggesting that they’re worth provoking a global military conflict over?”

The Chinese professional said that, yes, he realized that. But then, with conviction that further startled everyone, he said that the islands’ value was symbolic and that their symbolism was extremely important.

Challenged again, the Chinese professional distanced himself from his earlier remarks, saying that he might be “sensationalizing” the issue and that he, personally, was not in favor of a war with Japan. But he still seemed certain that one was deserved.

I wish we had a competent president instead of a narcissistic fool.

Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times tweeted the following about an interview with Shinzo Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan. In case you’ve forgotten, 1914 is when World War 1 started.

Just interviewed Shinzo Abe @Davos. He said China and Japan now are in a “similar situation” to UK and Germany before 1914.

The Next World War

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

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This next summer will be 100 years since the fatal August of 1914. We live in a similar era of “history is over and everybody is happy.” See above. In August 1914, Germany was trading partners with Britain and France. There were people who believed that democracies that did business with each other never went to war. Sound familiar ? Here is a discussion of the same topic. I am concerned that the spark will be in the middle east but this is another area to think about.

The Telegraph has an excellent piece on the present world situation.

As we look forward to the First World War commemorations, three stark conclusions are hard to refute. First, that in the course of this century we will need a great deal of luck to avoid a nuclear catastrophe. Second, that the Enlightenment has failed. Third, that this can all be traced back to the Great War.

As a result of the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, it seemed that mankind might make a decisive break with the scarcity and oppression that had characterised previous eras. There was, admittedly, one early warning. The French Revolution proved that a radical reconstruction of society on abstract principles was likely to end in tyranny and bloodshed. But after 1815, the 19th century developed into one of the most successful epochs in history. Living standards, life expectancy, productivity, medicine, the rule of law, constitutional government, versions of democracy – there was dramatic progress on all fronts, and in the spread of civilisation across the globe.

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