Category Archives: Japan

Special Relationship II


Back in 1887 the famous poet and storyteller Oscar Wilde quipped: ‘We [English] have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language’. We got another example of this malediction in the blah-blah-blah which has attended Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. What is most apparent to all but the Talking Heads is that London’s negotiating a two-year exit from the EU will result in a revival not only of the vestiges of empire – as much legend as reality – but a renewed emphasis on the Anglo-American alliance, “the Special Relationship”
Like so much of traditional diplomacy, Pres. Barrack Obama and his former secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, gave that relationship short shrift. Obama, imbued with the Left’s religion of anti-colonialism – a view of the world which is not only unrealistic but ignores the actual relationship of the Metropoles of Britain, France, Italy, and once Germany, to their 19th centuries acquisitions. True, they were exploitive relation ships but they also accelerated the arrival of at least portions of modernism to pre-industrial societies.
As Obama’s attempts to “transform” American foreign policy have either miscued or collapsed over the last seven-plus years, his attempt to derail the historic relationship between the U.S. and Britain has also gone astray. Common language, shared democratic values and concepts, special interests throughout the work, have made a working relationship between Washington and London an irreplaceable part and parcel of U.S. internationalism.
The combination of Obama’s war on this tradition, his buffoonish attempt to influence British voters on withdrawal from the EU which boomeranged, and the U.S.’ expanding interests in the post-World War II world have tended to eclipse that relationship. That illusion was enhanced when London seemed to be throwing in its lot with the movement for a united Europe, one which had been a special project of American strategy for a half century, but not always with its final destination in view.
Now, the latter project is in deep trouble. Few Europeans want to face the reality of German domination as by far the largest and economically the most powerful of the EU states. That will halt the perfectly “logical” calls by Berlin that the EU must go forward to further political integration or collapse. But the French, once Germany’s twin partner in European unity, in a miraculous and real transformation, are for the first time abandoning dirigisme, French promotion of economic planning and control by the state, under the pressure of the competitive drive of “globalization” is being abandoned – and that under a socialist government! The concept had defined the distinctive character of French politics, inherited in part from its royal and multi-republican past, and which it had passed on to the Brussels Eurocrats it had largely supplied and still dominated.
London ‘s withdrawal — although it will continue to bargain for special trading and other economic rights inside the EU, whatever it means in the short-term — means a return to Britain’s diminished but continuing role as a world economic power. The good sense and good luck that kept Britain out of the EU’s now faltering monetary union means that once again, in parallel with the dollar, sterling will resume an stronger international character.
London’s City, which was ceding its role to Frankfurt and Zurich, will be reinvigorated in the longer term by the British withdrawal. That role of London as the world’s second financial center after New York will be felt all the way through the Middle East oil countries [with their traditional ties to the Colonial Office] to Hong Kong and beyond. [What the Japanese will do with their heavy investments in British manufacturing as a base for the EU remains to be seen. But it would not be the first time that Japanese business has had to make major adjustments to its successful formula for being the only non-European power to have made it to First World status].
The revival of the Special Relationship will have new and totally different aspects – again, despite Obama’s original high-priced energy policies, the U.S. and its Shale Revolution has put a new floor under world energy prices. It is one the Mideast producers can meet, of course, but not without cutting back on their enormously spendthrift policies of the past. It could well be that Special Relations II will see the U.S. as Britain’s major supplier of energy and energy technology for development of its own shale resources, environmental freaks notwithstanding.
Prime Minister David Cameron may have to go as a sacrifice on the altar of City business interests and the universal “internationalization” panacea which has dominated both U.K. and U.S. politics under his Conservatives – as well as the Democrats in Washington. And that may introduce new uncertainties along with some disturbing personalities.
But the dye is cast: Special Relationship II has begun with the British voters’ decision that they wanted autonomy and not collaboration at too high a price in cultural values with a Continental bureaucracy and its economy That bureaucracy, too, is now fatally wounded and events will lead to new and likely unpredictable changes in Paris, Berlin,.Brussels and the other EU capitals.
sws-06-24-16

Washington’s China problem


 

The U.S.’ confrontation with an increasingly powerful and incipiently aggressive China is getting much more complicated.

There is no question of its high priority among the U.S.’ foreign policy issues. But with a lame duck Obama Administration which has pursued a policy of retreat from involvement in crises areas as a solution to what it saw as U.S. over commitment, there is grave danger of a clash as a result of misperceptions by either side.

Were you a Chinese strategist attempting to measure an American opponent’s intentions, the contradictory U.S. positions might well be so confusing as to be unintelligible.

On the one hand, Washington has either ignored – or some would say, encouraged – a massive trade with a deficit of $365.7 billion in 2015 in Beijing’s favor, slightly up from the previous year’s record $343 billion. It could well be argued, and is in some quarters, that while this arises in no small part from China’s manipulation of its currency, it is a net gain for the U.S. China, a capital short economy with a relatively backward civil society, is in fact subsidizing exports to the U.S., even if that is at an American cost in lost manufacturing producing grave social and political problems with its loss of jobs.

On the other hand, some U.S. policymakers obviously are alarmed at the penetration of the Chinese into areas of the American economy that present security risks. The U.S. Commerce Department has just announced new restrictions on exports of American products to the Chinese telecommunications equipment maker ZTE. The Chinese company makes routers and switches for telecommunications operators, mobile phones and offers telecom software services. Now an international giant, it is the outgrowth of a company organized in the late1980s by a group of investors with ties to China’s Ministry of Aerospace. It has become the paradigm for Chinese Communist “state-owned and private-operating” entities, some mammoth dinosaurs absorbing too much capital with their favored political access, but some like ZTE becoming relatively efficient and competitive international operators.

But in Washington, the Chinese company is now suspected of having violated U.S. sanctions on Iran. Despite its sophistication, the company is still heavily dependent on U.S. component chipsets and software. So the Commerce ban on hardware – not yet on software – weighs in heavily on what were 80% of the company’s 2014 sales. The U.S. Commerce Department action has forced the company to at least temporarily delist on the Hong Kong and Shenzhen stock markets.

Beijing has been trying to break this kind of American technological hold – if not the actual dependency – by last year putting in bids for American and Taiwan chip producers. But it again faced U.S. regulatory restrictions and these efforts were not successful, even in Taiwan where local business interests while increasingly dependent on Mainland markets are technological and managerially superior.

The ball is now in Beijing’ court again as to how it will respond to the new American restrictions. But perhaps as important is at what level in the American political establishment such complex problems of dealing with the Chinese geopolitical conundrum are acknowledged, much less understood.

While the U.S.-China relationship on the one hand exists at this complex politico-economic level of shared technology, much more crude Beijing thrusts have to be an American policy concern. China is continuing to dredge up shoals and build military bases a thousand miles from its southern coast in the South China Sea, athwart one of the most important commercial and strategic sealanes in the world. Its growing naval strength is trying to break through East Asia’s inner islands chain – dominated by Taiwan — threatening Japan in encroaching in the East China Sea off Korea and the Japanese home islands and American dominance in the Western Pacific.

This year’s formal allocation of a reduced rate of growth of Chinese military expenditures might be welcomed in Washington – although they represent only a fraction of real expenditures on armaments and military personnel. But the fact that uniformed Chinese military are being quoted in the official Communist media – an unheard of phenomenon – critiquing this “cutback” is perhaps even more disturbing. It has to mean that the power of an expanding and ambitious Chinese military in deciding overall China policy is growing. That is a major development that even U.S. China-watchers have not been prepared for, and poses new problems for American strategists, in and out of government.

sws-03-07-16

 

 

 

Japan: Another change coming


The great mystery of Japanese civilization is how it maintains its extraordinary unique quality while at the same time borrowing so heavily from other cultures. No society has undergone greater changes than Japan since the mid-19th century when it was forced out of its isolation. Many of these are then result of adopting foreign technologies and customs; a good example is the change from Buddhist vegetarians to meat-eaters.

Yet although hundreds of thousands of Japanese immigrated to Manchuria, Hawaii, the continental U.S. and Brazil, when it was under extreme population pressure in the late 18th century, few foreigners came to settle there. The large Korean minority – statistics are cloudy because many Zainichi, native-born for as many as three or four generations – is virtually Japan’s only immigrant population. And despite their lack of Japanese citizenship, Japanese ethnic Koreas are largely assimilated.

 

 

 

An India-Japan alliance


For most of the last half century, Washington “visioners” have been trying to cement relations between Japan and India. The match seemed natural: Japan’s highly industrialized economy needed markets and raw materials from a still industrializing India. That, it has always been argued, would reinforce a political, and perhaps eventually military alliance, between Asia’s two largest democracies. After the 1949 collapse of China’s Nationalists, such a combination seemed an important contribution to The Cold War effort to halt Communist expansion in Asia. After all, it was reasoned, Japan shared India’s Hindu origins of Buddhism as well as a contemporary dedication to representative democracy.

Washington’s planners even went so far as to include such calculations in the massive economic aid programs to India, South Korea, Taiwan and South Vietnam in the 1950s and 60s. But a special fund set up for regional collaboration – essentially Japan and India — extended year after year, only produced one project. That was a development of an iron ore deposit, a railroad, and a port – originally intended to replace Calcutta as India’s then major commercial center, on the Bay of Bengal.

When Prime Minister Shinzo Abe toured India this month, it appeared that after all Washington’s huffing and puffing, the two countries were on their own settling into the kind of elaborate cooperation Washington geopolitcians hypothesized. The growing specter of Chinese economic as well as military expansion certainly played a role [China is, ironically on of both countries’ largest trading partners.] Leading the new effort is a $15 billion dollar low-interest Japanese loan to finance a favorite project of Prime Minister Narenda Modi, a new fast railway from Bombay, India’s commercial capital, to Ahmnebad, capital of Modi’s native Gujerat state – and eventually to the Indian capital of New Delhi.

Modi, trying to break the mould of a half century of Indian state capitalism, is using Japan to expand the country’s weak infrastructure which most economists see as its greatest barrier to the kind of economic take-off in China in the past three decades. India has the theoretical capacity not only to repeat China’s “miracle” but to go far beyond it with its enormous raw materials resources and one of the youngest – and soon to be largest – populations. Snuggling Japan into the Indian economic picture also could be the wedge needed to defeat the ever present “East India Complex” – the paranoia of India’s enormously powerful “babus”against foreign investment. These bureaucratic clerks whom politicians have relied on in post-British India are one of Modi’s most difficult problems.

Given the long history of Tokyo’s effort to achieve a breakthrough, it is still early to predict its ultimate success. Probably no two international negotiators have larger cultural differences than the Japanese and Indians; the first with their mania for an almost sexual satisfaction from extended negotiation, and the Indian tendency for talk for its own sake.

A shadow, too, hangs over Modi’s political following. He does represent new entrepreneurial tendencies among smaller Indian businessmen – India’s big brandnames often have chosen to go abroad rather than fight through local problems. But his party’s origins in Hindu chauvinism are dangerous at a time when the Islamicists are attempting to infiltrate India’s Muslims. [With 180-million, they are the world’s third largest the world’s third largest Islamic community, much of it mired in poverty and ignorance.] India’s blood links to the political disorder in neighboring Muslim Pakistan, carved too out of British India, make such a threat all the more real.

Still, the new Japan-India ties are a welcome development in an Asia where the Obama Administration’s “pivot” has failed to materialize, and Beijing’s aggressive intent is manifest all around – including India’s disputed Himalayan frontier with Tibet..

sws-12-12-15

Tragic Maoist inheritance continues


 

After decades of brutal – and often corrupt – enforcement, Beijing has announced the end of its one-child per couple policy. Introduced in 1979, it may have prevented as many as 400 million births in the world’s most populous country.

But the end of the one-child policy will not stop Beijing’s attempt to control reproduction including forced abortions and sterilization. The effort at population control has been so draconian that bloody seventh-month pregnancies were reported in 2012 after failure of a couple to pay a 40,000 yuan [$6,338.37] fine. [Average annual wages in China in 2014 were 56,339 yuan.] The fines brought the government about 2 trillion yuan [$314 billion] since 1980, but there has been no public accounting where these monies went. That’s why there is widespread skepticism even if the restrictions were abandoned, it would result in additional financing for public health.

Not officially acknowledged, of course, is the now built-in lobby for some continued population control by a large bureaucracy with almost unlimited powers operating even in remote rural areas. The two-child limit will still require official permission for the second child — so bureaucrats will still have the power to say no, or in some cases to assign fines.

Communist authorities have had to move, not out of humanitarian concerns and continued foreign protests, but because of a demographic catastrophe overtaking the country. Demographic trends are notoriously hard to predict, of course. A recent example has been the turnabout in birth rates among Israeli and West Bank Arabs which have dropped substantially, whereas birth rates among Israeli Jews [and not just the religious] have increased substantially. The trend somewhat negates the old argument that Arab majorities would inevitably dominate the region.

But in China, about 30% of the population is now over 50, with the threat of rising social costs and a depleting work force. It’s what is called among a very practical Chinese public with limited calls on a government social network, 4-2-1 — four grandparents and two parents dependent on one child. Again, falling birthrates are dogging many of the world’s developed economies, especially China’s neighbor, Japan. But the announcement of new rules has not been greeted enthusiastically on China’s social media; many urban couples report they simply cannot afford nor do they want to jeopardize their present rising living standards with another child.

One of the worst aspects of the one-child regime was infanticide against females. The upcoming census is expected to reveal a gender ratio of 122 boys for every 100 girls, typically replacing 105-106 boys for every 100 girls. There are already today 35 million young Chinese men, more than the population of Canada, for whom there are simply no female partners.

One solution being suggested in non-official quarters, is encouraging immigration of Southeast Asian workers. There are already reported to be tens of thousands of illegals from those countries working in China’s manufacturing. But so far there has been no official government supported programs of in-migration of younger workers.

It is not clear whether the new regulations will cover so-called “illegal” children, that is, those born beyond the one-child limit to couples despite the regulations and fines. Government census report there are at least 12 million, but informed observers reckon there are two or three times that number not registered for fear of government reprisals. That would make them as many as 3% of China’s 1.37 billion.

There is obvious “lesson” in Beijing’s madness. It is the inhuman, immoral and inoperative effort to control population through government fiat. But untangling the mess would be monumental, even were there the will among the huge Chinese Communist bureaucracy — some 50 million officials, amounting to about one official for every 27 people. As long as Communist elite rules, that is extremely unlikely.

sws-11-01-15.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Xi and his military


On the eve of China’s Pres. Xi Jinping’s arrival for an elaborate state visit to the U.S., a testy little incident has taken place over the Yellow Sea. A week ago two Chinese fighter-bombers made what the Pentagon calls “a dangerous interception” with a slow-moving U.S. spy plane on its regular patrol of the area.
Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the incident “shows that China feels emboldened to continue its pattern of aggressive behavior in the Asia-Pacific region.” Timing of the incident ahead of the Chinese president’s visit “raises further questions about China’s intentions and the Obama administration’’s response thus far,” McCain said.
Aside from the possibility it could have turned into a major incident, it appeared to confirm earlier statements that Beijing has unilaterally taken the Yellow Sea out of the sphere of international waters to claim it as Chinese territory. Those Chinese claims have gone virtually unnoticed in the Western media, but now become one more evidence of the aggressive nature of China’s growing military stance. The Yellow Sea between the China Mainland and the Korean Peninsular is the northern part of the East China Sea, and U.S. surveillance is an essential part of the defense of South Korea including the 30,000 American troops stationed there as part of Washington’s commitment to its defense. .
It could be, of course, that the incident was only coincidental with Xi’s travel plans. Another possible explanation is that military “hawks” were intent on embarrassing Xi in his effort to exploit his visit to the U.S. to enhanced his prestige for his increasingly grab for power. There are reports in Chinese circles of growing friction between Xi and the People’s Liberation Army over the Chinese leader’s aggressive anti-corruption campaign. However accurate in identifying the ubiquitous corruption among the leadership as well as lower echelons of the Communist Party and government, it is also seen as a weapon in an intra-Party struggle. And Xi has extended the campaign to high members of the military where their operation of non-military enterprises has been a source of vast corruption.
To compound all these possible areas of friction, Xi has moved, according to Chinese sources, quite suddenly, to axe the military numbers. On Sept. 7 at a ceremony commemorating China’s participation in the victory in World War II, he announced that China would chop some 13% off Beijing’s 2.3 million in uniform. Xi’s move came suddenly with no consultation outside of the all-important Central Military Commission which like the other Party and state offices he heads.
Such a move was long contemplated along with a massive reorganization of old Soviet organizational patterns and allocation more resources to air and naval forces. But commentaries in the People’s Liberation Army daily, spokesman for the senior military, have warned that the move will be hard to implement. Finding new jobs for the cashiered officers and men will be all the more difficult given the downturn in the Chinese economy with a rapidly diminishing overall growth rate. One commentator acknowledged opposition to the cutback because “[S]ome units suffer from inertia and think everything is already great. Some are scared of hardships, blame everyone and everything but themselves … They shirk work and find ways of avoiding difficulty.”
China has seen protests by demobbed soldiers – the latest in June including veterans of China’s short border wars in 1969 with the then-Soviet Union and with Vietnam in 1979. Although unreported in the controlled press, some demonstrations were said to have taken place in front of the Central Military Commission August 1st Building in western Beijing. And although most military analysts agree the cutback was a part of a long overdue modernization, continued friction will test Xi’s control over the military at a time of aggressive strategic projections against Japan in the East China Sea and the building of a tier of new bases confronting Southeast Asian neighbors in the South China Sea
sws-09-23-15

Energy: let’s go!


The markets – including old-fashioned American technological know-how – has almost turned the Obama Administration’s original energy policies 180 degrees.
But there is still a lot to be done. And it will require the cooperation of a Congress, too long besotted with narrow-minded subsidies for powerful lobbies.
The Obama Administration which started out six years ago calling for outrageous gasoline prices to force the country into so-called new, green energies, has lost the game. That’s been acknowledged by several recent quiet White House decisions along the way toward an enlightened energy strategy, the basis, of course, of all economic and most of our social activity.
With the growing technological breakthrough in shale gas and oil, the U.S. again has the potential to be a net exporter. And letting the markets – rather than government fiat – decide which and where would be a major step in energy rationalization is obviously the way to go. Along the way, we would joint Gov. Rick Perry and others who have called for dismantling the Energy Department, which, where effective, duplicates other federal government activities.
New and hugely important developments are popping up everywhere:
The White House has just okayed a swap of lighter American crudes for Mexican heavier petroleum for which we have refinery capacity in the southwest [designed originally and still working on similar Venezuelan imports]. That’s not the lifting of all export controls which ought to be a high priority, their heritage going back to the 1970s embargos and our dependence on foreign oil.
The Sabine Pass, Texas, liquified natural gas facility, originally designed for imports, has signed a deal on 2011 permits to ship LNG to France. With U.S. domestic gas prices a fraction of LGP delivered prices in East Asia, there are a dozen applications for the expensive export facilities to cash in on the global market, now Europe too reinforced with the US-EU sanctions against Vladimir Putin’s machinatioins in Ukraine menacing his high-cost oil and gas exports..
Dutch Shell, which has already spent $7 billion looking for oil and gas off the Arctic coasts of Alaska, has now received permission for offshore deep drilling for gas. Later this month Alaska Governor Bill Walker argue in a personal session with Obama l that his state’s LNG and natural gas development is a main strategy to cut carbon emissions and lower energy costs. With proposals for his state to take 51% of some new oil and gas developments, he has a sheaf of proposals for a huge boost for Alaska’s revenues, impacted by the general economic downturn.
Looking back, luckily there were enough private shale holdings to develop the technologies which have brought about the whole energy revolution. And kudos again go to the industry for meeting – at least so far – Saudi efforts to undercut American shale production by going full blast in their own production and export to keep world prices low.
Yet several factors have so far defeated the Saudis in their effort to sabotage American selfsufficiency: the increasing skills of American technology, the cutbacks in China’s imports because of a rapidly declining economy and a moderation in the anticipated Indian takeoff, and the cutback in American imports because of the shale bonanza.
The Obama Administration has even timidly announced what could be one of the most important reforms in the domestic economy: removing the forced use of grain alcohols [ethanol] in gasoline sold gasoline sold at domestic pumps. Although ethanol has been a hallowed icon for some enviromentalists, its actual application has been a $10 billion a year bill for the taxpayer. Furthermore, the process distorts the food chain: making ethanol of corn requires huge tracts of land, fertilizers, pesticides, tractor and truck fuel, and natural gas for processing. That’s even a pretty strong argument against forcing the motorists to use it for the dedicated enviromentalist.
There is a worldwide economic and moral issue as well. Turning corn into ethanol raises feed prices and thereby the cost of beef, pork, chicken, eggs, fish and international food aid. It raises world food prices, a critical problem for many in the backward parts of the world who are food importers. So in addition to other concerns, there is a humanitarian aspect as well.
Ethanol is a bobanza of course, for the auto repairman. It wreaks havoc on the automobile itself, especially older cars. It can cause gaskets and other rubber parts to fail, causing fuel leaks and even engine failure or fires. With every prospect of American fossil fuel surpluses for the foreseeable future it is time to step back to the market and end required ethanol additives for gasoline and diesel fuel.
sws-09-18-15

Abe strikes the right note


There had been enormous speculation in Japan and those interested in the Land of the Rising Sun about Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s formal speech on the 70th anniversary of the end of The Great Pacific War [as it was known in East and Southeast Asia].
Would he, as two predecessors on the 50th and 60th anniversaries, express a formal apology for Japan’s aggression? That was the demand, particularly of the South Koreans whose relationship with their former colonizer remains fraught despite vast cultural and economic ties critical to their own remarkable post-Korean War recovery.
One of Abe’s difficulties in making any statement, of course, is that he was speaking to two different audiences, the outside world and particularly those countries who had suffered Japanese depredations and his internal audience where he trying to reverse pacifist policies in the face of threatened Chinese and North Korean aggression. He succeeded, up to a point, although as important a touchstone as the speech was, Abe faces enormous difficulties in regard to both domestic and foreign policies.
Abe did not make a formal Japanese-style abasement. However, it was a carefully honed historical analysis in which he examined virtually all the parts of the complex relationship Tokyo had with the world before World War II and in the postwar period. He did acknowledge Japan’s culpability and puts the remorse and apologetics of the contemporary Japanese in an historical context:
Japan has repeatedly expressed the feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology for its actions during the war. In order to manifest such feelings through concrete actions, we have engraved in our hearts the histories of suffering of the people in Asia as our neighbours: those in Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines, and Taiwan, the Republic of Korea and China, among others; and we have consistently devoted ourselves to the peace and prosperity of the region since the end of the war.

Such position articulated by the previous cabinets will remain unshakable into the future.
What may surprise those few Americans and other Westerners who study the speech is the extended references to colonialism, including Japanese attempts to bring parts of Asia under its rule. Not only is that a relevant issue in terms of the historical record, but many in the West including the U.S., rightly appalled by the barbarism of much of the Japanese military, do not see it as an integral part of the regional geopolitical background.
It comes as a surprise to those who do not know the area that, for the most part, Asian nationalists during the European colonial period looked to Japan – and continue even now — not only as a model but as a liberator. Japan had been, of course, the only non-European state to move quickly into the ranks of an industrial society. And among the tenets of the radicals who overtook Japan in the mid-1930s, there was a genuine feeling that they had a role to play in liberating the rest of Asia from European colonialism. Abe introduces that theme, if obliquely, in his remarks and it is certain not to please many who either do not know the history or rationalize it as the introduction of modernism [as even Karl Marx did!]
Repeatedly in his statement, Abe refers to the generosity of the former enemies – particularly the U.S. – in facilitating not only the rehabilitation of Japan in the family of nations but its surprising economic post-World War II comeback. That is certainly fitting and a contribution to what is, in its totality, an interesting review of the history of Japan’s relations with the world over the last century, that unfortunately may be ignored by too many people who ought to learn from it.
sws-08-14-15

Washington is drifting into a new crisis over the Taiwan issue.


Washington is drifting into a new crisis over the Taiwan issue.
No headlines have warned Taiwan’s relations with Mainland China are not far from the minds of the Communist leadership in Beijing. But Communist Party Boss Xi Jinping publicly threatened the current ambiguous relationship cannot continue, but refused to meet Taiwan Pres. Ma Ying-cheou. Ma has gone very far to extend economic and cultural ties to the Mainland, much too far for many on the Island. The mood was recently jarred with a highly publicized video of a Mainland military exercise including an unmistakable depiction of an attack on Taiwan’s presidential palace.
The Obama Administration is faced with implementing the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979. That piece of legislation prevented Pres. Jimmy Carter from abandoning Taiwan. requiring a continued working arrangement with support for Taiwan’s defenses. House of Representatives legislation in the last Congress extending military sales to Taiwan was one of many pieces of legislation then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reed blocked.
It’s been almost 15 years since we have added to Taiwan’s defense – aircraft and submarines, particularly, needed to offer defense from a Mainland attack. And that is much too long given the growing expenditures and growth of Communist Mainland’s military.
There has been a sort of Alphonse and Gaston act holding up the weapons. The Taiwan parliament has been reluctant to vote funds and the U.S. has been inactive authorizing them, especially with the Obama Administration’s general strategy of courting U.S. enemies and opponents.
But events both on the Mainland and in Taiwan are exacerbating what many had hoped was a sleeping dog.
Communist Party Secetary Xi Jinping is bearing down hard, not only against his own Party opponents, but against resistance outlying areas of the People’s Republic. Repression and immigration by Han Chinese has produced an armed resistance among Turkic minorities in westernmost Singkiang. Almost weekly self immolation by dissidents continues after the cutoff by Beijing of negotiations with the Dalai Lama for Tibetan autonomy.
With a half million Taiwanese operating manufacturing on the Mainland, Beijing has used the economic incentive to press for a political settlement. But Taiwan Pres. Ma’s efforts – given the Island’s lacklustre economy in a worldwide slowdown – has produced a backlash.
As a result, Ma’s Nationalist Party has sagged in the polls appears headed for a smashing defeat in the presidential elections in January. His opponents, the Democratic Progressive Party which once called for formal recognition of Taiwan independence, is expected to win handily. Its following has been enhanced by the Sunflower student movement, a strong political force. Its anti-Beijing stance takes its cues from Hong Kong where Beijing’s promised “one country, two systems” is being subversted by Beijing’s pressure.
Beijing’s aggressive moves into the South China Sea – building bases a thousand miles beyond its southern shores on coral shoals – has changed strategic considerations. Maintaining the de facto independence of Taiwan – the preference of mostTaiwanese – has now become not only a moral and legal issue for Washington, but a strategic necessity. Communist control of Taiwan ports would breach “the first island chain” and enchance Beijing’s threat to freedom of navigation as the U.S. Navy downsizes. Strategists in America’s keystone ally, Japan, increasingly cognizant of Beijing and North Korean threats, have always considered a neutral Taiwan essential to defense of its home islands.
Boosting Taiwan’s defenses is now more than ever an important part of any American strategy. It’s time the Obama Administration picked up the cudgels on arms to Taiwan regime, despite anticipated protests from Beijing, but in the face of a growing a military threat by the neo-Maoist regime.
sws-07-27-15

The Chinese Puzzle


A servile media has again misrepresented the important if unproductive Asian tour of Pres. Barack Hussein Obama, most importantly the promised engagement with China which failed to materialize.
The ballyhooed U.S.-China climate change agreement, appealing to the fashionable, signed between the U.S and China was much less than meets the eye. It committed America – until it gets to a Congress which will have a different sense – to a rigorous cutback in industrial carbon emissions to be achieved at the price of economic growth and jobs.

It couldn’t be more bogus. Beijing, by far the world’s greatest polluter and not only through carbon emissions but through poisoning of its arable land and most of its water, only formally signed on for something ambiguous down the road. Worse still, as Japanese and South Korean consumers have found – and those Walmart customers may one day learn too at their peril — it exports its poisons through cheaper processed foods.
Recent history is littered with the evidence of failures of the Chinese Communist adherence to international agreements it has signed. Ironically, many of them were pushed through international forums by Washington administrations, both Republican and Democrat, anxious to bring “a rising China” into the world family. For example, none of China’s promises have been fulfilled after the U.S. shoehorned it against considerable opposition into the World Trade Organization with all its benefits.

As previous administrations, most notably the two Bush II terms, Washington did not take on China’s manipulation of its currency and its subsidized exports which have disemboweled American manufacturing. That Chinese thrust had to be met at the same time U.S. industry was trying to cope with the digital revolution, with its enormous increases in productivity but an absence of low and medium-skilled job creation.

The sagging European economy and the slowest recovery from recession in American history bite into the Chinese economy as well, particularly its dependence on exports [and its growing debt burden which financed an overly ambitious infrastructure expansion]. President Xi Jinping’s answer to this growing economic dilemma is to screw down on the regime’s growing difficulties with its exposure to the internet’s erosion of the old Party information control while making an effort at economic reform.

Xi has encouraged talk that he is the new Mao with more than a hint that his repression of dissent would be as draconian. There is growing acknowledgement at home and abroad that the Chinese regime is headed into a crisis of the regime, perhaps an attenuated one, when the answers of the recent past will not be sufficient. That could well mean that Washington [and Tokyo and South Korea] strategists not only face an increasingly powerful Chinese military force but one being guided by an arrogant Party leadership in charge of an increasingly unstable behemoth.
Obama’s answer in Beijing to this new conundrum was hardly convincing. He signed one more agreement to open up Chinese military communication with the U.S. armed forces. It is another of a series signed over the years, for all of which Beijing initially signaled its intention to follow through on. But all have languished for continued stone-walling on any official information illuminating Chinese force structure, armaments development or strategic intent. The U.S, along with its allies, will have to continue to piece together what the massive increases in budgets for the Chinese military actually mean, and where Chinese theft of intellectual property and imitation of American, Russian and Japanese arms is taking its ability to wage war.

All of that is of great moment. The possibility of an aggressive Chinese military – often seemingly with mouths out of control of the Communist Party’s supposed tight rein – will remain. As long as China unlike any other great power, refuses to divulge any of the details of its military buildup, its counterparts are playing blind man’s buff with always the possibility of untoward incidents developing into major exchanges.

Compounding this lack of official interchange is what is happening on the Chinese domestic scene. A dramatically slowing economy now has fallen far short of what foreign and Chinese convention held as the minimal 8% annual growth in gross domestic product necessary to maintain internal stability. Plucked from the air by foreign analysts and the Chinese themselves, it was never clear that such a figure really had all that much magic. It relied on what was believed to be the need for jobs for a rapidly growing population. But now, China, even more than the industrial societies, in part the result of its inhuman and corrupt one-child policy, is facing a rapidly ageing population as well as a shortage of the abundant cheap workers which underlay the boom.
Rapid economic development had long since taken the place as the raison d’etre of the former Marxist-Leninist-Maoist dogmas which justified an authoritarian regime based on the political monopoly of the Communist Party And increasingly with the remarkable growth of the last three decades, it was the justification for growing class and regional inequalities. That included a pampered elite with incomes and luxuries denied all but the most publicized millionaires/billionaires in the West and Japan. One signal of the stress the regime is now under is the flight of leading members of the Communist elite, following their children in foreign universities – and their money — to foreign climes, not least North America.

Sec. of State Hillary Clinton’s much publicized “pivot” to East Asia from American entanglements in the Middle East was still voiced at a meeting of the Association of South East Asia where Obama proceeded after his Beijing visit. But to the increasingly nervous Southeast Asians – caught in the vice of their increasing commercial exchanges with the Chinese and their fear of growing Beijing imperialist designs on their territory and raw materials – Obama offered little comfort except more rhetoric. With a straitened American military, the transfer of U.S. power to the region has been slow if at all. The Japanese are rumored concerned that Obama’s former friend, Turkish Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s refusal to permit use of the Turkish-American-NATO base at Enrcilik, has put a strain on the new carrier-based air war against ISIL. That, of course, turns out to be a renewed commitment of the U.S. in the Near East region. The Japanese have grumbled quietly because of the ISIL campaign demands, East Asia will be four months without a U.S. carrier homeported in Yokosuka. And the esoteric strategic arguments about aircraft carriers in a new era of warfare notwithstanding, their geopolitical psychological import is not to be disabused.

With a turbulent U.S. domestic political scene – one in which Obama has apparently decided to challenge the new Republican majorities in both Congressional houses rather than try for conciliation – China policy is probably going to be relegated to a backburner. That may give both sides a respite of benign neglect for U.S.-China relations. But it also hints that problems will not be addressed, at the risk that an explosive confrontation between Washington Beijing might prove inevitable.
sws-11-16-14

Transformation of U.S. foreign policy


Barack Hussein Obama, with a group of largely ideologically primitive amateur policymakers but skillful media manipulators, set out in 2008 with the stated purpose to “transform” the American Republic. Although their emphasis was more related to domestic issues, their goals also required a linked fundamental reorientation of American foreign policy.

With the prospect that in a few days, another defeat in Congressional midterm elections will severely limit his further initiatives in the remaining two years of the Obama Administration, it must be acknowledged that at least temporarily Obama & Co. have succeeded in their overall aims in the international arena.

That is a stark contrast to the domestic scene where most Obama policies have either failed spectacularly or are in a state of continued dispute in the face of, however eroded, traditional values, the weight of inertia, and that incredible American entrepreneurial utilization of technology. In energy, for example, perhaps the most important ingredient of economic policy, the technological breakthroughs in the exploitation of gas and oil – the shale gas revolution – have completely upended Obama’s energy strategy. Not only is the outlook for fossil fuel reserves, worldwide as well as domestically, been completely changed, but the always volatile energy costs now appear headed for a long period of falling real prices. Obama’s attempt to stampede the U.S. economy into highly government subsidized so-called alternative sources of energy are in shambles – at an untold cost to the taxpayer, or course.

The Obamaites have been far more successful in their pursuit of a dramatic reorientation of U.S. foreign policy. It remains to be seen, of course, whether those initiatives are a permanent feature of the international scene. But, for the moment at least, Obama has accomplished his goals: Gone largely is continuing recognition of Washington’s post-World War II leadership of the coalition of allies which not only won the greatest war in history against the Nazis and Japanese militarists but also outran the threat of another totalitarian enemy, Soviet Communism.

The Obama view was that in the half-century-plus of Washington world leadership, if not in its longer history including slavery, America had made too many mistakes, that its worldwide dominance was on balance deleterious, that a better role would be one of, at most, primus inter pare. Furthermore, reaching out rhetorically to former perceived victims of American actions would be a pathway toward peace and stability. In short, what he and his colleagues saw as a more compassionate and understanding American executive could go far in curing the world’s problems rather than using its power to help stabilize the world scene. [Never mind their dismissal if remarked at all of the enormous extension of aid to the world over previous decades.]

To a considerable extent, Obama – with the aid, however reluctant she now says, of his former secretary of state Hillary Clinton – has been able to achieve these policies.
But the daily headlines also tell us that the goals of this strategy has not been achieved in any quarter of the globe. But to the contrary, the world has hardly ever been in such disarray with or without an activist U.S. leadership.

Two points need to be made quickly:

The Obama Administration and its policies are not responsible for most of the world’s political problems, misgovernment and violence. It did inherit what despite one of the longest periods of peace in Europe’s history with its overwhelming influence on world affairs, was a volatile world scene. In short, the world is the jungle it always was. And recent events have shown us political movements demonstrating the ugliest aspects of human nature, too, are still with us. In short, it is clear that no farseeing American strategy could have done more than ameliorate the world scene, as some of us would argue it did for some six decades.

Secondly, the history of ideas suggests that Obama’s international perspective did not spring like Athena fully formed and armed from Zeus’ forehead. Obama’s theories of international relations rely heavily on that strong undercurrent of American thinking which always sought to minimize our exposure to the rest of the world’s problems.

That was the case, rather successfully throughout most of the 19th century with the help of His Majesty’s British Navy, and the God-given geographic isolation that two oceans afforded the U.S. [One has to recall, for example, that only a little over a year before the Pearl Harbor attack, legislation for extension of universal military service passed the House of Representatives by only one vote] Not only was that complicated concept, generally dubbed “isolationism”, part and parcel of American political thinking from the beginning of the Republic, but its supporters in more recent past have included a wide swath of supporters across the political spectrum from “Prairie radicals” to the complex sympathies of the warring parties in the U.S. electorate. [Pacifist and Socialist Norman Thomas sat on the same “America First” – the most active of prewar isolationist organizaions — platform with members of the pro-Nazi German American Bund in Yorkville in 1940.]

Still, the list of successful “accomplishments” of the Obama strategy to diminish America’s role in international affairs is long.

• By abandoning the deployment of anti-missile bases in Poland and the Czech Republic, arduously negotiated, Washington not only dealt American missile defense a body blow but awakened the old threat of decoupling European security from America’s worldwide strategies.

• The refusal to lead the alliance which overthrew Qadaffi in Libya resulted not only in the tragic and ignominious death of an American ambassador and three other Americans but is leading to an anarchic situation there – with its threat to Egypt and the rest of North Africa and oil markets – with possible jihadist ascendancy.

• An amorphous position toward the U.S.-Israeli alliance, despite pro forma statements to the contrary, emboldened jihadist Hamas and further diminished the possibility of a Palestinian negotiating partner for an accommodation between the Jewish state and the Arabs.

• The refusal to lead a Western alliance in support of Ukraine against the Hitler-tactics of infiltration and puppetry of Russia’s Vladimir Putin has not only diminished the fragile Kyiv government but put into question the guarantees of the NATO alliance to its Central and Eastern European members.

• Neither Obama’s ostensibly seminal addresses in Cairo and Istanbul with apologies for pretended insults to Islam by the U.S. and a more than sympathetic reading of the history of Islam have improved relationships with the Muslim world nor diminished the growing Islam;s traditional jihadist elements.

• Courtship of the controversial Muslim Brotherhood, apparently a critical part of Mr. Obama’s CIA Director John Brennan’s nonconventional view of Islam, has widened the gap with the Egyptian military now ruling what has been the most important Arab country and a leader of the Muslim world and other Arab allies in the Gulf.

• A studied neutral position toward Chinese claims on Japanese occupied territory returned under bilateral postwar agreements to Tokyo and no immediate followup to Clinton’s statement of reorientation of U.S. strategy toward Asia has unnerved traditional Asian allies.

• Continued flirtation with the tottering Communist regime in Havana has encouraged Moscow to try to resurrect its alliance with Castro Cuba, encouraged elaborate Cuban espionage in the U.S., and undermined the continuing dissident democratic movement in Cuba supported by Cuban Americans in the U.S.

It is far from clear that in the kind of volatile world in which we live, the “success” of Obama’s transformation of American policy would not be the object of a concerted reversal by a new administration in 2016. Or, indeed, as despite cryptic language and new names for old crimes [workplace violence for jihadist terrorism], the Obama Administration is now by force majeure is being made to reverse course. The great danger is, of course, as in the present attempt to cope with the ISIL phenomenon in Iraq and Syria, Obama’s half-measures will lead to further disaster.

sws-10-05-14

Strategy, any one?


 

“Okay, smart-a___, what is your strategy?”

In a [rather large] nutshell; here are the tactics which when pulled together make up a grand strategy:

Domestic

Make an “America is back!” speech from the Oval Office in the White House modeled on Harry Truman’s “Doctrine” speech of 1947. http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/harrystrumantrumandoctrine.html   Its principal theme would be recognition that the U.S. and its allies are launched in an extended war — and still far from being won — against the Islamic jihadists.

Immediately ask Congress for emergency lifting of all Sequestration applying to the Department of Defense, the CIA and other security agencies for five years. Halt and reverse with continuing extension and recruitment the personnel cutbacks now decimating the American armed forces.

Reverse energy policies to provide the U.S. economy and our allies with a noninflationay stimulus of cheaper fuel, simultaneously directly providing hundreds of thousands of new jobs, by:

 

  • Administratively, opening up all federal lands [including offshore Virginia, etc.] to fracking,
  • Administratively, waiving all EPA regs on fracking for five years.
  • Administratively, fast-tracking applications for the dozen or so outstanding applications for liquefied natural gas export facilities, putting on hold any Environmental Protection Agency regulations concerning them for a five-year period.
  • Asking  Congress to lift all oil and gas export restrictions, including a waiver on EPA fossil fuel export regs for five years. [These exports would begin to supply allies in Europe and Asia and simultaneously help mend the balance of payments hemorrhage against the dollar.]
  • Immediately okaying the XL Keystone Pipeline and other Canadian applications for pipelines into the U.S. directed at Houston refineries and their export facilities.
  • Pushing Detroit and foreign-owned auto companies to organize and subsidize a national network of filling stations for an expanded production and use of LNG-fueled vehicles.

To reinforce federalism, begin the rescission of the 17th amendment, restoring the original intent of the Founders by returning the power on how to elect senators to the states, freeing the states to determine their own method including indirect election by the various legislatures. [Most of the turn of the 20th century arguments for direct election are now better ones for indirect election, e.g., “it’s a millionaire’s club”.]

Resurrect the independent U.S. Information Service with a cabinet post and assistant secretaries from State, Defense and CIA. The new department would incorporate the Board of International Broadcasting, expanding Radio Liberty [with renewed local language broadcasts to Central Asia] in order to tell “the American story” to the world.

Mideast

            Bomb the ISIL in Syria and Iraq “back to the stone age” with a massive WWII type aerial bombardment. In riposte, sanction all banks and financial institutions – including third parties, and, of course, including all Russian and the Chinese institutions – doing business with the al Assad regime.

“Pressure” Turkey to accept a NATO mission on its southeast flank to work directly with the secular and “moderate” Islamic anti-Assad forces from a Turkish sanctuary. Organize with our NATO partners a joint “request” that Ankara release immediately all imprisoned Turkish journalists as the first step in reinaugurating the movement toward a civil society. Let Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdogan know if he does not acquiesce to these quiet pressures and move back from his drift into Islamism, Washington will demand Turkey’s expulsion from NATO.

Reinvoke strict sanctions on Tehran until the mullahs accept a NATO – not the UN IAEI which has been so notoriously inept — inspection of their nuclear activities. Slam the possibility of military intervention “back on the table” and be prepared for surgical strikes to slow if not deter the Mullahs’ acquisition of WMD.

Administratively, add the Moslem Brotherhood to the State Department’s terrorist list, and direct the FBI to insure that all domestic Islamic organizations [including mosques] with formal and informal ties to the Brotherhood be put on a terrorist alert list.

Lift all restrictions on arms to Egypt now being temporarily enforced and invite al Sisi to visit the U.S. before mid-summer 2015.

Persuade al Sisi to abandon his dicey Second Suez Canal Project. Instead round up  Gulf States, Israel’s Dead Sea Works, the World Bank [IBRD] and private European, American and Japanese capital to fund the Qattara Depression Project to provde Egypt with cheap hydropower and a new chemical industry. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qattara_Depression_Project

Immediately and with considerable public fanfare accept Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani’s request for stationing additional American forces [he has called for 10,000] on the world largest air base at Al Udeid [Abu Nakhlah Airport], the U.S. Army base at Sayliyah and the U.S. base at Doha. Then, “encourage” the Gulf States [UAE, Dubai, Saudi Arabia] in concert with the United Arab Republic [Egypt] to ultimatum the Sheik to end all payments and subsidies to the Moslem Brotherhood, Hamas, al Nusr and ISIL and to both Arabic and English al Jazeera networks — “or else”. Compensate by helping the EU, and especially Germany, to negotiate greater LNG purchases from Qatar, if necessary using additional European storage facilities, to negate the Russian fossil fuels blackmail.

Immediately supply Ukraine with necessary heavy weapons and technical assistance to meet Pres. Vladimir Putin’s aggression.

Reoccupy with significant ground forces and maximum publicity the old Wheelus U.S. Air Force base at Mitiga International Airport in eastern Libya. “Encourage” Gen. Khalifa Belqasim Haftar to negotiate merger of Libya with the United Arab Republic [Egypt] with the help of ENI [Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi ] whereby the huge oil revenues could be stolen and wasted more beneficially.

“Persuade” the UN to amalgamate the UNWRA [special Palestinian UN organization with its enormous budget] with the UN Refugee Organization with the appointment of an American administrator by withholding the major part of both their fundings from the American taxpayer [as was done earlier to reform UNESCO and ILO]. Insist on a purging UNWRA staff, ejecting all those who have worked for or been active in Hamas, a terrorist organization so designated by the US and its allies.

Europe

Put the ruffles and flourishes back into the Anglo-American alliance with its attendant links to Canada, Australia and New Zealand as the cornerstone of NATO and America’s world alliance strategies.

Deliver SAPiest heavy weapons and technical assistance to Ukraine in its fight against the invasion by Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin’s forces and block Moscow intervention in rewriting the structure of the Kyiv regime.

Establish a NATO base in Estonia.

Move into lock-step with the French in tamping down West and Central African violence [see below].

See that the NATO Rapid Deployment Force becomes a reality SAPiest with the training on a level with the U.S.’ and Britain’s Special Forces.

Prepare for the eventual collapse of the Euro.

East & South Asia

Quietly assign a senior U.S. diplomat to a special U.S.-Japan-Korea commission to sit sine die to help sort out issues between Tokyo and Seoul with special personal representatives of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Pres. Park Geun-hye. [Their grandfather and father, respectively, established postwar relations between the two countries.] This would aim to smooth over the most important obstacle in an American-led defensive alliance in Asia against North Korea and Communist China threats.

Reinvoke the strict sanctions earlier used to induce the North Koreans to come to heel, including third party sanctions against any financial institutions who deal with them, openly or clandestinely. They would be lifted when an international inspection team consisting of Americans, Japanese and the NATO allies certify its weapons of mass destruction programs have been ended.

Nudge ASEAN to resurrect the intent of Sec. of State John Foster Dulles’ 1950s Southeast Asia Treaty Organization with the headquarters again in Thailand, and hold out admission possibility to Vietnam [if it makes major “reforms”, that is de-Communize] in its feud with Communist China.

Push Taiwan rearmament and “invite” the Republican Party to cuddle up to the Democratic Progressive Party to pressure the Kuomintang back into a stronger line against amalgamation with the Mainland to maintain the oinly democratic society in Chines history.

Latin America

Initiate “tough love” with Mexico, e.g., introduce legislation to subsidize American investment in Mexican oil and gas in exchange for joint paramilitary border operations to halt illegal flow of immigrants to the U.S. with reinforced joint patrols on both sides of the border and a joint U.S.-Mexican undercover immigration control force on the Mexican-Guatemala border. Reach agreement on new “modalities” for protecting American citizens traveling, visiting and doing business in Mexico, matching those affording Mexican citizens in the U.S.

Swap new legal provisions for bond concessions to the Argentines for their cooperation in U.S. Latin American projects, especially cleaning up “ice” trafficking through Rosario and Iranian penetration of neighboring Paraguay, and a quit-claim to the Falkland Islands.

Introduce legislation to reinstitute the macro aspects of the Cuban embargo at the same time removing all restrictions on movement to and from Cuba by American and Cuban citizens.

Africa

Move U.S. Africom to a new joint U.S.-French-Portuguese-NATO base to be built rapidly with port and air facilities on São Tome e Principe in the Gulf of Guinea while pursuing a campaign of destruction with African and Eruopean allies against Boka Harum.

If this seems a formidable list, it is indeed. It it seems an impossible list, remember that a population less than half the present one in the American war mobilization between 1939 and 1944 doubled real wages in the U.S., produced 229,600 aircraft, added 5,000 ships to the existing merchant fleet, even though two-thirds of the economy was devoted directly to military equipment — and simultaneously won a war against two formidable enemies. It took leadership and political resolve. But just as the attack on Pearl Harbor alerted a recalcitrant nation, however far current leadership has drifted away the country should be reminded that 9/11 was proof that “the splendid isolation” of the U.S. from the rest of the world’s troubles during the 19th century is long past history.

But no amount of posturing over strategy and tactics will suffice if the leadership is irresolute and tries to wish away the dangers of that world jungle that has now physically encroached.

sws-09-07-14

Barbarity


It is not the first time leaders of the civilized world have had to cope with a slide into barbarism which not only threatens international peace and stability but the very foundations of modern morality. Nor is it the first time that American leadership has been reluctant to take on the task of halting the destructive force.

The horrendous beliefs and actions of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, now styling itself as a Caliphate or the Islamic State, is almost  nihilistic as they persecute and kill Muslims — whom they regard as renegade — as well as Christians and Yadizi.

At the same time, we are witnessing another failure of American leadership to seize the issue and pursue it with maximum force. As part of the reluctance of the current American administration to recognize the continuing threat of Islamic extremism, it has historical analogies. It recalls the 1930s-40s’ determined obliviousness to the rise of Hitler and his destruction of European Jewry and the death of millions of Polish and Russian civilians, as well as more recent failures to cope with Kosovo or Rwanda massacres until they reached their zenith.

It is in the nature of ordered societies with democratic traditions to fail to comprehend the abilities and the growth of the enemy. Too often they “project”, as the Freudians would have it, their own beliefs and modus operandi on the competitor or enemy. [Pres. Obama and Sec. of State John Kerry keep up an infernal litany about how Russia’s Vladimir Putin is mistaken in not applying the new norms of international conduct. That’s as though Putin does not know he is challenging what he sees as their restrictions on his behavior.]

In the current scene in Iraq-Syria-Gaza, with the Obama Administration reluctance to be involved, taking halfway measures, using the camouflage of partially effective humanitarian relief, the unfolding events are all too historically typical. Local beheadings, burial alive of victims, recruitment of young psychopaths is all too typical of recent events in the region.

But the threat is of a larger character and as dire as that posed by Fascism and Communism in the 20th century. For this squalid fanaticism is cloaked in the rationalization that it is based or lives in one of the major religious groups, Islam, with its more than 1.3 billion nominal adherents around the world, in a dozen different cultures. This particular evil, Islamic terrorism, despite the President’s professions of victory, is on the rise and spreading throughout the Muslim world at a rapid pace, even acquiring converts in the democratic societies.

The Obama Administration’s obfuscation of events is further obscured by the current intellectual climate in the U.S. with its enormous influence on world culture. It starts with the whole PC concept, the idea of what is “politically correct” – rationalizing group thinking which abhors and rejects criticism of its basic assumptions. [That speaker in opposition are denied their right to platforms in our most prestigious universities is an affront to the whole tradition of Western discourse and civilization.]

They include the notion that violence and counter-violence are no longer part of the human condition even though daily confronted with evidence to the contrary. Or they may include false definitions of what is Islam and the history of that religion and its more aggressive tendencies for the last 1600 years. It’s no wonder that the nomenclature for “politically correct” – if not its essence – arose among the Communists who were prepared to accept the adherence of important names in the arts and other celebrities so long as they called themselves Communists and echoed its political line even if they affronted some of its fundamental beliefs. [Picasso was the archetypical example.]

A corollary in the general PC agenda is the ability – and the irony — of the Islamicists to deflect criticism and action by their appeal to religious tolerance, now accepted in the Western world for several centuries. Radical Islam has the option, according to some twisted Muslim doctrines, to lie and practice deceit if it is in the promotion of Islamic conquest and conversion. The enemies of the whole American system of civil institutions among the jihadists, therefore, are able to exploit the accusation of “Islamaphobia” to prohibit an open and vigorous debate over the fundamentals of Islam and its relation to this generation of radicals and jihadists and other religions and cultures. This is coupled alas! with less than a hearty chorus of denunciation and avoidance of the jihadists by leaders of Muslim institutions of higher learning and its “clergy”. On the other hand, the fanatic jihadist preachers have full rein to all the avenues of publicity and propagation and recruitment including the new social media.

The second failure of logic — and thereby action — comes out of a false concept of deep intellectual thought which places our leadership above the everyday reactions of individuals. A superficial knowledge of history and application of a secular morality permits large sections of the American elite including the Washington bureaucracy to believe it understands the vast complication of issues thus permitting it to rise above them. By “understanding” all sides of the issues, it argues, it is able to take more judicious positions. That results in false “parities”.[The less than competent Ukrainian state is as “guilty” as their Russian-sponsored domestic enemies; because the Israelis spend their resources and effort on defending their population and therefore reduce casualties; they are on the same footing as Hamas “rising up against its restrictions” and suffering heavy casualties, the Moslem Brotherhood’s professions of commitment to democratic values make them the equal of Egypt’s military dictatorship trying to rescue a nation-state from chaos and poverty; Japan’s remilitarization in the face of a North Korea and Chinese Communist threat puts it on a par with Beijing’s outrageous territorial claims, etc., etc.]

This moral and intellectual ambiguity leads to a failing strategy.

It ignores the well known fact that once engaged in battle, the vagaries of warfare make the outcome always dubious, despite obvious seeming disparities of weaponry. Famous battles throughout history have often, if not mostly, been decided by narrow margins of victory, often later disguised by facile historians with a straight-line backward projection to decision-making. [The Greeks did lose against superior Persian numbers and weaponry at Thermopylae but prepared the victory at Plataea.]

Therefore, “a measured response” in Iraq-Syria now is as likely to fail as those calculated responses led to the Korean stalemate and the final political defeat in Vietnam.

But this time the stakes may be greater for the insidious infection of jihadist conflict is universal, growing, and destined to be with the world for a generation at least. Then, of course, since nothing succeeds like success, the future depends on whether the U.S. and its allies throughout the civilized world can give the jihadists a knockout blow somewhere on the many fronts of the conflict – not excluding the ISIL as a primary target.

sws-08-10-14

Ideology, technology, and – coming up a poor third – common sense


Nowhere is the struggle fiercer between half-aspiring ideology and good old common sense than in the Obama Administration’s energy strategy – or lack thereof.
Having been ambushed by intrepid technology in the exploitation of natural gas — – “the shale revolution” — the country’s energy markets are in partial abeyance. The shale gas has blocked the initial Obama drive to raise fuel and energy prices to force consumers to higher [if heavily subsidized even when facing bankruptcy] “alternative energy sources”. At the moment, the U.S. energy economy is poised between the fact that the new technology has brought abundance, even a temporary surplus, of natural gas, and the risk a falling price might inhibit further exploitation of increasingly greater estimated reserves.
The door is still closed for maximum exploitation of gas, the least polluting by far of all the fossil fuels, government fiat [refusal to lease public lands, pipeline certification, etc.]. But there is growing pressure on the Obama Administration’s despite its leftwing base and the problem of “face” for an obvious strategy to bolster a stagnant economy and the worst employment situation since the Great Depression.
Meanwhile, not only is the shale revolution building toward the vaunted calls from every recent president for “energy independence”, but it is creating additional revenues for those states who have defied the Obama Administration and its handmaiden the Environmental Protection Agency’s harassment. Pennsylvania’s more than six thousand unconventional wells, either producing gas or under development, lifted $224.5 million in fees off the state’s taxpayers backs last year. More than $2 billion in state tax revenue has been generated since 2008.
Despite the logic of giving shale gas free rein, the enviromentalistas continue to rant about the possible impacts of fracking – the method of reaching the gas — although there has been no significant pollution episode. That’s not only because of caution and superior technology of the drillers but the fact that the shale deposits generally lay hundreds of feet below water aquifers. Fracking skirts them and then drills horizontally to get at the gas [and sometimes oil]. On the contrary, there have been several disastrous train wrecks in the U.S. and Canada, with the rapidly increasing movement of new found American oil by rail rather than through more efficient pipelines.
Nor do the enviromentalistas concede that the movement from coal to gas turbines for producing electricity has reduced the overall levels of pollution. Nor is there recognition that the cost of failure to authorize pipelines – the most dramatic example, the proposed Keystone XL pipeline which would carry Canadian crude, picking up Dakota oil enroute, to the Houston refineries and a portion, perhaps as much as 15%, into export. A part of that tragedy is that millions of cubic feet of gas are being “flared” – allowed to burn off in the air – in the Dakota oilfields because there are no pipelines or liquefying facilities to carry it to market. Not only do 1500 wells flare an estimated $100 million worth of gas each month, but the resulting pollution represents an unnecessary additional pollution hazard.
In one of the most curious misplaced arguments making the rounds of the talking heads spewing out nonsense on energy is the advocacy of government subsidized electric cars. Until there is a revolutionary breakthrough in battery science, there is no efficient way to store electricity. Recharging the car batteries at their current level of efficiency in electric engines is after all based on the nation’s creaking electricity grid, about half of which is now produced by the devil incarnate of the enviromentalistas, coal. Imagine what would happen in the unlikely event there were millions of electric cars that needed overnight recharging.
Chris Faulkner, Breitling Energy, one of the leading lights in the fracking industry and as much of a mavim on world energy as you will find, argues that $5-6 billion would set up LNG pumps in the nation’s filling stations. Relatively modest changes in 1960s car engines –  at a cost of less than $1,000 a car, $30,000 for contemporary models – would permit them to use liquefied natural gas [LNG]. In fact, LNG is being used by some city bus lines already [e.g., Washington, D.C.]. And imported Indonesian LNG has been in common use in Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan for almost 50 years. [A French company has just signed a contract to export U.S. LNG to Taiwan.] Faulkner points out that if the large transcontinental trucking companies went to LNG at current costs, the saving would be about the tab of current purchases of foreign oil.
Perhaps someone will whisper the dirty little secret that LNG at the pumps would reduce the average motorist’s fuel tab by up to two-thirds. Is that going to happen before the elections this fall – or will we have to wait for 2016?
sws-04-06-14

 

In a world he never intended [to make]


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MicrosoftInternetExplorer4

 

The Obama Administration’s foreign policy begins to look like that tightly wound ball of crocheting thread which the kitten has been playing with for several hours and is now finally completely unraveling. How innocent the kitty is may be a question in the eye of the beholder. But the disarray is so vast as to be unfathomable:

 

Iran

 

The agreement not to reach agreement on a six-months pact for adjusting U.S. and Western interests with Iran, which Pres. Obama said only had a 50-50 chance, is falling apart even before it officially begins. Sources from inside the never very effective UN International Atomic Energy Commission say the agreement cannot be policed or enforced. The $10 billion in additional oil exports it permts the Mullahs in Iran will help bail them out of crisis economic situation while they continue to hurl threats at the world and call for an end to all sanctions. The Administration after giving Tehran relief by not instituting penalties against new violations of the existing sanctions regime, has now reserved itself. But Pres. Obama opposes bipartisan Senate and House members pushing legislation for new sanctions if and when the short-term agreement collapses. All sides admit/claim that Iran’s search for enriched uranium and nuclear weapons and a delivery system is going forward without hindrance during the truce period.

 

Israel

 

Ignoring the fact Secretary John  Kerry’s negotiations mandate is only dealing with one of the three Palestinian elements – the PLO on the West Bank, Gaza and Jordan – new obstacles have arisen. Kerry has thrown over bitterly and long time negotiated U.S.-Israeli guidelines for its security if a Palestinian state comes into being. So he has inadvertently manufactured a new crisis over Israel’s continued presence in the JordanValley. With growing threats from Iran-armed officially designated terrorists, Hezbollah in the Lebanon north and Hamas in the Gaza south, armed by Iran, no Israeli government is going to accede to any major concessions on their eastern flank with an always fragile Jordan now facing new difficulties with hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees.

 

Syria

 

Washington has had to abandon the dribble of aid to the “moderate” opposition in Syria fighting for an overthrow of the Assad regime because of a takeover of the motley anti-Assad forces by jihadists. A new and even more violent jihad group has supplanted earlier groups linked to Al Qaeda. There are no prospects for the proposed U.S.-Soviet sponsored conference to end the civil war. Not only has the mechanics for disarming Assad’s chemical weapons collapsed, but the bloody dictator – perhaps now in the hands of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard – is currently carrying out a bloody air war against opposition elements in the second city of Aleppo. In part because of Obama’s maybe-in, maybe-out Syrian initiatives, the Assad government has a new lease on life, But this more and more desperate use of air power and heavy weaponry against poorly armed opposition forces and civilians not only continues the humanitarian crisis, but threatens to spread the war to its neighbors, including Israel.

 

Saudis and Gulf States

 

:The U.S. has lost all credibility with its longtime allies, the Saudis, and the Gulf sheikhdoms, because of its failure to formulate an effective Syrian policy and its hostility to the new military-sponsored government in Egypt [below]. Reports of Saudi overtures to both the Soviets and Iran are probably propaganda, but the Saudis – always pragmatic – are now apparently thinking of trying to compromise their differences with the Shia mullahs given the seemingly inevitable approach of a nuclear-capable Tehran. Intelligence cooperation between the Israelis and the Saudis, sharing their mutual hostility to Washington’s flirtation with Tehran, are probably exaggerated. All this is complicated for the vulnerability of the Saudis [and the rest of OPEC] to the shale revolution in the U.S. which is turning North America into major net exporter of fossil fuels and breaking the hold over the longer term of Mideast oil. China’s appetite for increasing imports of energy are also feeding into a deteriorating presence of the U.S. in the region, ironically despite the fact that the President is surrounded by “Arabists” long sympathetic to anti-Israel machinations of the radical Arabs.

 

Egypt

 

Washington’s alliance with Cairo [which along with the Egyptians’ peace treaty with the Israel and the alliance with Jerusalem] has been the cornerstone of U.S. middle east policy for almost four decades. It is now in tatters. The Obama Administration’s refusal to recognize the general popularity of the military coup which overthrew a growing oppression of the Islamicist regime of the Muslim Brotherhood has alienated the Egyptian military. And for the first time since former Pres. Anwar Sadat threw the Soviets out of the Mideast, Cairo is letting the Russian nose back under the tent. Moscow probably cannot fulfill its promised deliveries of arms to Cairo – nor are the Saudis and the Gulf sheikhdoms now footing Egypt’s deficits likely to permit it – but it has handed Russian President Vladimir Putin another bit of useful propaganda. The erosion of U.S. relations wit Egypt, by far the most populous Arab state and the longtime center of Sunni culture, is a major disaster for peace and stability in the area.

 

Russia.

 

With his tacit ally, Iran, Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin has become the arbiter of the Syrian situation, continuing to support the Assad regime against the jihadist-dominated opposition which Washington now fears to support. By going to the aid of Pres.Viktor Yanukovych with emergency financing and discounted natural gas prices, Putin has forced the Ukrainian regime to curb its growing ties with the European Community. The hostility between the nationalist western Ukraine and the Russian-speaking eastern rust-belt threatens the unity of a very fragile new state. But Putin can, at least for the moment, quietly trumpet it as part of a growing successful plan to reassemble the old “Soviet republics” into a new Moscow sphere of influence and customs union resembling the old Communist state. Despite the refusal of the German, British and American heads of state to attend, Putin has lavished some $70 billion – and still counting – on the February Winter Olympics where he hopes to crown his and Russia’s return to superpower status. Obama’s concessions to Moscow on missile defense – embarrassing Polish and Czech allies – and other attempts at concessions for a modus operandi with Putin’s Moscow have fallen disastrously short. And while Putin’s ambitions are likely to be short-lived, he has the capacity to add additional muddle to U.S, policies in the Mideast, Europe and Asia.

 

China

 

While Beijing’s dependence on exports and massive overexpansion of its capital plant and infrastructure has had to be reigned in, U.S. economic policy still refuses to confront the enormous and increasing trade deficit with China which threatens the U.S. dollar. Luckily, Beijing does not have any place to go with its foreign exchange hoard – Sterling long ago was defrocked as a reserve currency, the Euro is in an attenuated crisis, and the Japanese refuse to permit the yen to become a reserve currency. But the Obama Administration refuses to indict the Chinese for currency manipulation which has gutted much of U.S. manufacturing and permitted the Chinese to have pretensions for their own internationalization of the yuan and to make significant if small overseas investments. Increasingly the U.S. is faced with a dilemma of either permitting semi-government Chinese companies to acquire American assets – with their record of mismanagement and corruption – or inhibit the play of market forces in the U.S. economy. The “pivot” to East Asia so portentously announced by former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton – despite all denials an effort to meet an increasing aggressive “rising” China – is being inhibited by the continuing pull of the Mideast on military resources and a lack of clarity on the U.S. strategy in Asia. In riposte, the Chinese are proceeding with more and more territorial claims against their neighbors in the East and SouthChinaSeas further incurring demands on American military capacity.

 

Japan

 

The Obama Administration has failed to enthusiastically grasp the popularity and strategic clarity of the Abe Administration. In the case of the contested Senkakus Islands, it has taken an internally contradictory stand: it recognizes Japanese longtime occupation, it has repeatedly said the little, uninhabited rocky outcroppings which may or may not sit above fossil fuel deposits, are covered by the U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty. But the masters of ambiguity at Foggy Bottom maintain Washington does not take sides in the dispute and does not recognize Japanese sovereignty. There must be some limit even to diplomatic “modalities”! Having initiated the Trans Pacific Partnership, an initiative to create a vast new common market – excluding China but including Japan – the Obama Administration has been allowed the project to dawdle. With Canada and Mexico having joined in, the issues are enormous for all the partners, especially for traditionally protectionist Japan with Abe staking his political life on their negotiating success. Yet it has not engaged the President in more than an occasional passing reference. And, probably correctly, it is no secret that Abe has maintained a stiff upper lip in the face of relatively little attention from his ally, and, in fact, political embarrassment with a growing suspicion in Tokyo’s elite circles that the President’s coterie is incompetent.

 

Korea

 

Seoul, succumbing to a campaign of seduction by Beijing, has steeped itself in the old arguments of the bitter half century of Japanese Occupation. Defense Sec. Chuck Hagel, on his recent tour, shocked Tokyo and discomfited Seoul when he indicated he would be trying to mediate the growing Tokyo-Beijing tension, but then publicly refused to play conciliator to the two most important bilateral allies in the region, Japan and Korea. The Obama Administration seems to be completely oblivious to the fact that an accomodation between Japan and South Korea is the sine qua non of any multinational alliance in Northeast and Southeast Asia to meet the growing aggressive feints of the Chinese regime.

 

Meanwhile, coordination in a joint effort to anticipate the next unpredictable events in North Korea is less than adequate among the three allies, the U.S., Japan and South Korea. Washington’s continued reliance on Chinese intervention seems to be the weakest reed with the recent purges in Pyongyang, apparently, in part aimed at elements seeking to take Chinese advice and move toward liberalization of the economy. The current South Korean administration, with few illusions about North Vietnam, is nevertheless not in synchronization with Washington. Even military strategy, with its ultimate goal the further reduction in American forces but maintaining the nuclear shield is not being given its due priority. The conundrum remains of a North Korea, with the example of Qadaffi’s Libya before them and its profitable technical collaboration with other rogue states such as Iran, which is most unlikely ultimately to abandon its nuclear weapons. The Allies’ alternative is to seek regime change. But fear of the chaos of a post-Kim North Korea is preventing the formulation of alternative strategies to Pyongyang’s continued blackmail for additional aid to keep a starving if militarily advanced economy from collapsing.

 

India

 

Just as its predecessor Republican administrations, the Obama team has had illusions about the prospects of an alliance with New Delhi. India’s dreams of hegemony in the Indian Ocean, its largely continued reliance on Russian weapons, and the predisposition of its professional foreign service corps for a close relationship with Moscow, always defeat any American effort at closer relations. With the Indian economy still hidebound by its inheritance from its socialist and colonial past, there are dwindling prospects of extensive foreign investment and transfer of technology to accomplish the kind of economic superapid progress China has made in the past two decades.

 

The blowup over the arrest and indictment of a member of the Indian New York City consulate-general for alleged maltreatment of an employee seems a legitimate action of the American criminal justice system. But it does seem that the State Dept. with its inordinate pride in its diplomatic traditions might have handled the problem more discreetly. The degree to which the episode has been exaggerated and exploited in New Delhi suggests the underlying faultlines which continue to divide the U.S.-India relationship. The Obama Administration appears to have only deepened them.

 

It was, of course, unavoidable that the immense and complicated structure created since 1948 with the central theme its effort to fend off Communist aggression, would have had to be modified and reorganized after the post-1990 implosion of the Soviet Union. But afterfive years of the Obama Administration, it is caught in the toils of its leftwing participants’ fight against the largely post-World War II U.S. foreign policy. It has only contributed to further confusion. It remains to be seen if in three years, another administration in Washington, whether Republican or Democratic can rescue the still necessary role of American leadership in the world.

 

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Japan’s unseen revolution


In a world of moldering journalism, nothing quite equals the inadequacies of Japan reporting. Despite this short shrift, Japan remains the U.S.’ most important relationship in Asia — especially as China is increasingly seen as an adversary and with an unpredictable North Korea.

It is an important trading partner — $170 billion through October this year with a $61 billion deficit in Japan’s favor. Even though that is dwarfed by China’s $468 billion for the same period, with a staggering $268 deficit in Beijing’s favor, it has heft beyond the numbers. Japan is rapidly becoming a major scientific center with the third largest budget for research and development at $130 billion with 677,731 world class researchers. Most important, Japan’s civil society, despite its unique characteristics, is a major partner in the world democratic alliance. Its remarkable modernization dating now back more than a century and a half is still a role model, particularly China, and other less developed countries. Challenged by the growing aggressiveness of China and North Korea, it is the keystone of American military strategy for maintaining peace and stability in Asia and the world.

What then is going on in Japan?

The most popular politician in a generation, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is a typical Japanese revolutionary – little talk, much covert action, and stubborn resolve. A member of the traditional political elite, partially American-educated, Abe appears destined for leading an historic transition. Two aspects of Abe’s strategy are indeed getting some halfasymetrical [cq] “coverage”: “Abenomics”, his effort with fundamental reform to reflate the world’s third largest economy, stagnant now for a generation, and a military buildup coupled with a more assertive foreign policy.

But what isn’t being reported, is a cultural revolution undertaken ever more quietly. That is a movement to shake off Japan’s half century of self-abnegation, a heritage from its Word War disastrous defeat and the postwar American Occupation. Abe’s aim is simply for Japan to assume its rightful role as a leading nation.

One problem, of course, is that Abe – like the rest of us – carries a lot of baggage. He is the grandson of Nobusuke Kishi, an “unindicted war criminal”, the chief economic architect for the wartime militarists but twice a brilliant postwar prime minister. Furthermore, his wealthy Kyushu forebears, mines and factory owners, impressed Korean labor and Allied POWs, explained if not excused by miserable wartime conditions. Furthermore, when in 2006 he did climb the ladder of the conservative party to be one of Japan’s youngest prime ministers ever [he’s 69 now], he blew it in less than a year.

If reported at all, these juicy [especially for the left] tidbits are fitted into a familiar gaggle of World War II epithets which belie the real story of contemporary Japan.

Contrary to popular prejudice, Japan has expressed as much contrition for its past as Germany. Anyone who knows the Japanese, gets it in full measure at a personal level from the new generations. Japanese leaders have formally apologized dozens of times for their wartime criminal activities. The latest was Abe, himself, after he took office again, on October 18, 2013 said:  “Japan inflicted tremendous damage and suffering on people in many countries, especially in Asia. The Abe Cabinet will take the same stance as that of past Cabinets.”

Whatever else Abe is doing, he is not the 1930s Japanese ultranationalist attempting to recapture that past. But that is the way he is often presented in his own almost solidly leftwing mass media, regurgitated by the Western MSM. A central, complicated problem is that legitimate, traditional Japanese cultural institutions were shanghaied by the military to promote their aggression. Disentangling this cultural inheritance is as hard as it is for other civilizations to shed undesirable aspects of their history.

All this is intimately related to Japan’s neighbors, especially China and Korea, who seek to use the old crimes to further current negotiations. Indeed, it ill behooves a Chinese Communist regime to propagandize Japanese wartime history while refusing to acknowledge its own policies since 1949.costing at least a hundred million of its own people’s lives through persecution and government-induced famine. South Korean chauvinists, too, are too ready to forget more than 200,000 Koreans served in the Imperial armies, that its post-Korean War leadership has often been closely affiliated with, granted, a brutal half century Japanese Occupation.

Furthermore, Tokyo has repeatedly made restitution. Starting in 1955, for 23 years Japan paid 600 billion yen [$588 billion in current exchange] reparations to 16 countries, an enormous amount for an economy destroyed by the war. Another $589 million was scraped up for the cost of the seven-year U.S. Occupation. However, much more important: while in its self-interested race from the 1950s to become an economic superpower, Japan helped lay the basis for the current Asia boom [not excluding China]. That came about almost accidentally after Japan, partially blocked by protectionist quotas in export markets, notably the U.S., initiated “outsourcing” — the first glimmerings of later “globalization”. [This powerhouse was recognized by China’s Nationalist leader, Chiang Kai-shek, a graduate of Japanese military schools, when he refused formal reparations in the immediate postwar period hoping for just this kind of collaboration.]

No other government has poured as much into UN coffers [11% of the UN budget against 25% for the U.S.] and since 1989, stretched its:”no war” constitution for participation in UN peacekeeping. That framework, dictated by the American Occupation, originally prohibited all military forces. Abe, as his predecessors, is wrestling with how to amend the document – difficult to achieve given a small but strident opposition – to conform to demands of a normal country which must see to its own defenses, and contribute increasingly to a common defense led by the U.S.

In pursuit of this program, Abe has just completed a special session of the Japanese parliament aimed at restructuring the economy, particularly opening it to foreign investment. As in any other Western democracy, it was tough sledding against vested interests. The measures were to meet the anticipated shock of the American-initiated Trans Pacific Partnership proposal for, essentially, a common market. This requires industrialization of Japanese agriculture, so long chained to uneconomic rice subsidies which Abe has begun to disassemble, a project still unfinished to meet the challenge of lower priced, subsidized American agricultural imports.

What caught the attention of the mass media, however, in Japan and the West, was Abe’s legislation setting up a new security framework. This included not only a copy of the American national security council but a tough new anti-espionage law. It’s no secret that one problem afflicting the now accelerated integration of U.S. and expanding Japanese military has been the sieve of Japanese technical leaks. [Although this is an argument harder to make post-Snowden!] American and allied submarines, for example, still suffer from an earlier commercial transfer of underwater sonar technology to Soviet and then Chinese and North Korean weaponry.

Opposition to Abe came out in dramatic form, not seen since the proposed 1960 anti-Eisenhower visit – which had to be canceled but did not stop the signing of the mutual defense treaty. If history does repeat itself, as Friedrick [cq] Engels said, the first time as drama, the second time as farce [referring, of course to Napoleon and his grandson Louis Napoleon’s reigns], this was an example. The powerful Communist and leftwing socialist trade unions created under the American Occupation aegis are long since gone. But Nikkyoso, Japan’s radical teachers union which opposes any patriotic celebration from flag ceremonies and allegiance pledges to singing a national anthem [a poem written by the former empress] was still around. And while no fisticuffs dogged the Diet as in the past, there were on and off walkouts of the outvoted and largely discredited minorities in both houses.

Japan’s three largest national newspapers, all left of center, did a good deal of ranting and some highly suspect public opinion polling But there is as yet no sign that as they predicted Abe’s personal popularity is giving way before these old hot and contested issues. In fact, Abe’s appeal to tradition seems to have rung a bell with what has always been an essentially conservative and very unique Japanese discipline and patriotism. It is no accident, as the Communists were wont to say, that even Beijing leadership looks first to Japan for any model for the very difficult economic and social modernization problems it continues to face even after enormous economic progress if a dead-end toward a civil society..

Abe is a long way from achieving his objectives, of course. And there are larger than life barriers still to be surmounted. Not the least is the demographic catastrophe Japan shares with other developed countries [and China and Russia] but to a staggering degree. If present trends continue, Japan’s population would fall from 128 to 87 million by 2060, from the tenth largest in 2010 to the bottom of the world’s top 20 in half a century. Not only does this present enormous social problems, but it makes the Japanese search for a robotic economy even more pressing.

There’s a new growing if unpublicized geopolitical concern, as well. While Abe maintains a stiff upper lip in what is widely seen in Japanese circles to be utter disappointment with the Obama Administration, the cracks are telling. Reportedly, after initial protestations, in recent bilateral consultations with Joe Biden, Abe heard out the U.S. vice president’s proposed mediation suggestions in the growing tension between Japan and China.

But the Japanese were already bewildered by the inconsistencies of the Obama Administration position on a dispute focused on rocky islands between the two countries [and the possible fossil fuel beneath them]. Washington acknowledges their long Japanese occupation and the fact they were covered in the agreement for the 1971 return of Okinawa to Japanese sovereignty. U.S. spokesmen have also reiterated several times that, therefore, they are covered under the mutual defense treaty. But the State Department’s insistence it does not recognize Japanese sovereignty, and statements seemingly apportioning blame equally to both sides for the dispute, is a puzzlement to all, not least an ally. The fact that Biden on his tour, which accidentally coincided with a new Chinese grab for control in the seas between the Mainland, Japan, Korea and Taiwan, included a specific refusal to mediate Tokyo-Seoul tension is another anachronism no one in Asia ignores.

All this is quite a bundle for even a talented Japanese leader, not likely to get a sympathetic ear from the mainstream media, at home and abroad.

sws-12-08-13

Around the world in 48 days*


* For more substantive reporting on the trip, read the datelined pieces displayed on https://yeoldecrabb.wordpress.com

It was intended as my last hurrah!

For after all, at 86, my friends and my life companion, initially, thought it was not only foolhardy but dangerous. And there was the bionic argument – a pacemaker, unstabilized glaucoma beginning to take my sight, and still adjusting to hearing aids.

Still, the urge to try my hand at my old profession of reporting on the scene and acquiring new prejudices in the process was still too strong to resist. And so, off I went, from Norfolk to Norfolk [and remember we pronounce it naw-fawk down heayah] via Tokyo, Beijing, Taipei, Hong Kong, Delhi, Bombay, Jerusalem, Vienna; Zurich, Washington.

The first problem, of course, was setting up the itinerary. I had only two months before I had to meet a contractual deadline for a piece of writing. So that gave me only six weeks after the necessary pause for the long yearend holidays when Japan, first stop on my round-the-world, would again open up. It immediately became apparent I would have to leave out my old and beloved stamping ground of Southeast Asia – Hanoi [where I spent a year during “the French war”] to Dahha [where I sat in on the creation of what Henry Kissinger said would be the basketcase at Bangladesh’s emergence in 1971]. There were the China and India points I had to cover.

Then I remembered, too, that once passed the breakeven point from North America at Bangkok, a round-the-world ticket was cheaper than a roundtrip. So I would have to include some points beyond Asia which contributed to my research.

The task of putting together nine countries and ten stops with some call center of one of the airlines, maybe in India or the Philippines, was daunting. I called the son of an old friend – alas! long since deceased – who had for a couple of decades been the forward man for an international hotel chain, opening one new hostelry after another. I said I knew travel agents didn’t exist any more, or at least not the old-fashioned ones, so what should I do. He said, to the contrary, and gave me the name of two agencies in New York City.

And, thereby, hangs a tale and a hypothesis on the state of analyses today: when in the course of negotiations, I remarked to the agent that it didn’t make any difference whether I was stopping in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem since it was the same airport, she expressed surprise. Working backwards, I understood. Outsourcing of the itinerary, hotels and visas was the new modus operandi for a successful travel agent. No need to have that nasty old data stored in one’s head if, as a travel agent, you could punch a key for an outside data bank and get it.

But what about judgements made on subconscious data burrowed in the brain? Is that what might be happening to our thought processes with the digital revolution?

Since I had no Passepartout to help me on my way, every decision became onerous and difficult. What to take? Little shoes [that fit] and big shoes [for swollen feet], coldweather clothes for north Asia, tropical raiment for India, more formal wear for the critical Swiss, omiyagi [souvenirs] for the Japanese and other Asians, a birthday present for a friend reaching 90 in Austria – and the medicines, for the eyes, for travel’s malaise, for other emergencies. And how to keep it all manageable size for the long stretches of walking in the cavernous new airports in north Asia.

Japan

Norfolk depart, Dulles transfer without a hitch. But then arriving early over Tokyo, my pilot suddenly faced a sudden “snowstorm” – or so Tokyoites viewed three or four inches. We circled for hours, had to set down in Nagoya for fuel, then back over Tokyo to finally arrive on the ground eight hours late. Tokyo’s Narita airport, always a problem with its distance from downtown Tokyo, was closed down: no one could even tell you when the road into Tokyo would be open Normal Japanese discipline collapsed; finally earthquake storage was opened and air mattresses, bottled water, and riceballs, were passed out to the thousands who bundled down to wait for clearance to move out. Finally, next morning – after four hours on the highway – I arrived in the Imperial Hotel in downtown Tokyo, 18 hours behind schedule, broken appointments for dinner, and exhausted from a night dozing in a very hard chair.

China

A busy schedule in Tokyo for five days and then to Beijing: again setting something of a record by arriving on the worst pollution day in the Chinese capital’s history which meant you couldn’t see across the street. My chief contact, a wheeler-dealer of the new China scene had literally disappeared. Virtually every other spokesman person allocated by the regime to speak to foreigners was off on junkets in the West [about the only reward, I take it, for mouthing the regime’s line to foreigners]. Only the sushi [I checked; imported fish from New Zealand] in the Japanese-run hotel relieved the monotony. An extremely interesting and informative interview at Peking University [yes, they still call it and spell it that way because of its pre-Communist reputation] although a bright, young student –translator of the English-speaking professor and politician had to be squelched to get y questions answered. [I note in passing that female liberation is not helping what was once the highly touted reputation of Chinese women for modesty and quiet diplomacy.] The fantastic forest of new skyscrapers were a testimony to the material progress in the post-Deng Hsiaoping state-capitalist society, but gone is the old charm of Beijing and its moon-doored old tenements.

Taiwan

A lunatic taxi driver took me in tow in Taipei and we swept through the traffic into the city with every expectation that life and limb were in jeopardy. Still he had been given a number and a fixed rate by the starter, a welcome respite from the old days of hard and lengthy bargaining for a just price. The lauded Government Information Agency which I remember from the Taiwan Straits Crisis of 1958 headed by that quintessential Shanghai wheelerdealer Jimmy Wei. [Later he was to play an important role in the movement away from martial law and toward Taiwan democracy, the first in China’s lomg history, under his “capo” Chaing Kai-shek’s son, Chiang Ching-kuo, proof again of Jeane Kirpatrick’s thesis that there is hope for authoritarian governments but never for a Communist regime but implosion and the desert it leaves behind.]

But a Ministry of Foreign Affairs minder – after some considerable browbeating on my part of the Washington Taiwan reps – and with the help of old friend Parris Chiang, I had a full schedule of official and unofficial appointments. The news was not good. President Ma Ying-jeou’s effort to pump up Taiwan’s economy with extensive agreements on trade and exchanges with the Mainland is eroding Taiwan’s de facto independence. Pro-Mainland elements have taken over some of the media. A well-publicized intelligence figure tried to persuade me that the new Mainland No. 1 Xi Jinping was charismatic, knowledgeable about Taiwan because of his long Communist Party apprenticeship in Fukien province facing Taiwan, and that he would successfully use “soft power” to propel China’s growing role in world affairs. He argued that Xi might even be more acquainted with the West than the old Maximum Leader Deng Hsiao-ping because of his frequent overseas travel. That seemed unlikely to me; after all, Deng was one of the indentured workers taken from China to France during World War I who fell in with the Communist organizers. It was as foolish his claim that Xi was infatuated with Western movies. [They haven’t trotted that one out since the Soviets used it to prove that Andropov, the old NKV/KGB warhose was “pro-American” because he liked Westerns.] This continued “intellectual” infiltration, tied to such growing economic ties as investment by Mainland government banks, the last stronghold of Kuomintang statist economic policies, is towing Taiwan across the Strait just as its strategic position again assumes new importance for the U.S. and Japan in the face of growing Beijing naval expansion efforts in its huge military buildup.

Hong Kong

The old traditions of the Connaught Hotel, when it was a resting place for my friends coming in from “up-country”, are being maintained in the Mandarin Oriental – even if its vaunted position on Victoria Harbor has been eroded by blocs and blocs of newly filled in building sites between it and the water. The long walk to the Old Star Ferry, much diminished by Hong Kong’s neat underground railway, was almost a walk to the Kowloon side. Despite CNN International’s opening morning vista, the old harbor view is gone.

So are the old rocking chairs at the Peninsular Hotel, although the Rolls Royces used to ferry guests back and forth to the airport, are still lined up outside. The price of a cup of not too good coffee was ferocious when I drifted in after a session with my old friends, the Markbrieters at the offices of their still monumental The Arts of Asia. I guess Hong Kong is still a shoppers’ paradise – I wasn’t buying – but the smog was drifting down from China, and it is clear that – as a Special Administrative Zone official admitted at a public meeting – the old carefully controlled immigration of labor from China has gone awry. Government land sales, the other leg of Hong Kong’s psot World War II prosperity, gained when Mao’s China cut itself off from the world, is still going however. And for the moment at least, it looks like Hong Kong is maintaining its role as an economic powerhouse, substituting financial and other services for the cheap-labor manufacturing flown off to neighboring South China. [It has a convertible currency to the U.S. dollar it is tied to and acts increasingly as a middleman for Mainland nonconvertible yuan, and Singapore;s attempt to supersede it has long since been forgotten.] But the political situation is deteriorating – after two Communist hacks in the executive – and I was not surprised when a taxidriver in my four [repeat] four trips to Kowloon to pick up an Indian visa, told me he yearned for the old British days and could not “understand” why people wanted to do away with London’s colonial rule.

The Indian visa? Thereby hangs a tale: I had forgotten that even for a short stay, New Delhi requires a visa. [Even Beijing now gives a 72-hour sight visa for transients.] In the name of efficiency [it appears New Zealand was the pacemaker, the Indians have outsourced their visa-clearing to a worldwide travel agent. [Thereby must hang another tale given the incredible corruption which has hit the Singh-Gandhi government.] The forms are stultifying, pages and pages, including such questions as the names of other countries you have visited in the last few years and a host of other “security” questions. I called a friend in New Delhi who knows where and how to press buttons, and at 8 o’clock on a Friday night, I got a telephone call at my hotel announcing I could get my visa if I came Monday morning at 9am. In fact it took two more trips – including a stumble and fall in front of a hotel, of course the Shangri-la – where else with such an accident occur! The denouement of this little adventure was that at the last moment I was asked to present a hard copy of my original application file originally on the web. When I protested that would mean another trip back to my hotel in Central, the waspish lady in the said, “You can get a copy downstairs.” I said, “Where?”. “”Downstairs”. “What’s the name of the place” for the ground floor of the building was the usual busy Hong Kong chaos. “Downstairs. You will see it”. Down I went, and after some searching I found a smiling, friendly Chinese man sitting in a six-by-six glass cage with a small sign on his window announcing he could print Indian visa forms. I gave him the number – the second one, by the way – of my visa application, and abracadabra he pulled downmy whole file, printed out the original application, and gave me a receipt for a few HK dollars. I was somewhat flabbergasted. Security? He and I joked: I volunteered that Indian visas were given when the total amount of the paper, weighing what he had printed out in my palm, reached a certain point. He laughingly agreed. I wonder if they found anything interesting in my file in Beijing?

New Delhi

The new [to me] Delhi airport is cavernous and difficult to negotiate if you are carrying a briefcase increasingly full of accumulated papers. The driver who was to have picked me up and I did not make contact and I had one of those typical bumpy, fast and a little frightening rides to the my old standby, The Imperial Hotel. [I had been warned there were better and cheaper places to stay but nostalgia is nostalgia. I still remember the “bearer” so many decades ago when we complained of the mice running in the old dinning room, saying “Sahib: they are cogile {small} and don’t eat much”.] But welcome to India: the shower didn’t have hot water until I remonstrated, the business center was in another building to which I had to lug my netbook and all its cables since there was no IT cable connection in the room, etc., etc. But the old colonial building was as charming as ever and while there must be people waiting for their food since the 19th century when the hotel was opened under the Viceroy’s wife auspices, it was good when it came.

Old friends are gone but the son of one of them set up a program for me and with my own additions, I did get a feel for the current political climate. It is one of those periods of growing Indian somnombulance after a period of relatively high growth rate, with the danger that the economy is drifting back into “the Hindu rate of growth” which dogged it for some some 30 years when the sainted Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, always haunted by his student British socialist days, adopted Soviet-style planning.

And the almost inevitable arrived: at a dinner at my old friend’s widow the last night in town, I gorged on the exotic spicey Indian foods and came away with the oldtimey “Delhi-Belly}, to cripple me for another week. Under instruction, I took a taxi to the new satellite town where a series of the international glass boxes now houses a number of multinational companies, weaning away business from Bombay [Mumbai in the new attribution], so long the commercial capital of the country taking over from the earlier but moribund Calcutta. But I suspecdt they are something of a Potemkin village.

Bombay

Driving in – again a hassle at the much too small airport but at least assigned a taxi with a number and a fixed amount for the fare – it seemed to me that Bombay has become a little too much like Calcutta. My old friends, the remnant of a group who fought for market economics and representative government after their struggle for independence from Britain, confirmed. “We have deteriorated”, a knowledgeable observer said, matter of fatallism and with a touch of remorse.

But the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, now completely restored after the 2008 Bombay Massacre, is as much of a leading world hostelry as ever. I was amused that I was given a “body person”, a member of the staff who was assigned to meet my every want. I was reminded of the “batman” assigned to British army officers during my World War II attachment to the 8th Army in Italy. These were orderlies assigned to typically upper class officers who took care of their bodily comforts, to the extent that was possible, even in combat. My young man was a Maratta, of course, a native of the state into which the Old Bombay Presidency was relegated after the series of language agitations in the mid-1950s which redrew the boundaries of the old British Indian provinces, and eclipsed the domination of the minority Gujarati elite in the old Bombay , alas! probably contributing to the deterioration of governance.

Jerusalem

I have always thought that much of the miracle of the spectacular rise of the new Jewish state had to do with its drawing on people, although all Jews, from cultures all over the world. This visit reconfirmed to me that despite the relatively smaller intake of new immigrants, this was still the case. My taxi driver – I took a trip through a good part of the northern part of the country to visit old friends near Haifa along a new impr4essive toll road which also demonstrated how close Israel inside the old green line is to the so-called Occupied Territories. My driver was an Azeri Jewish immigrant, fluent he said in his own Azeri, of course, but also in associated Turkish and learning Arabic. He was something of a character, telling me in detail his recent breakup with his “Russian” girlfriend. When I purchased a piece of jewelry in my hotel, I learned the chain of shops had been initiated by a German Jewish refugee who had fled Hitler to Brazil where he had begun to trade in jewels, then immigrated to Israel where he founded his store. My salesperson was a lady who called in Russian to a taxidriver to bring an article from another store. Her replacement at the desk was a young and very pretty Turkish Jewish girl who told me she had followed her brother in making “alliyah” [ascending] to Israel only a year earlier, sent by her Turkish Jewish parents who said there was no longer a future for Jews in that country. The manager of the store was Romania-born. I cannot but believe all these people bring their own special gifts to a marvellously varied society, despite its singular dedication to being “Jewish”. Nor would I leave out a lunch site – the hotel is kosher and thus my lunch on the Sabbath was going to be poor so they sent me to “Notre Dame”, a Vatican-owned institute for religious study — which also operated a hotel and a very good dinning room in its building, not that far from the heights overlooking the Old City and The Western Wall [the principal remnant of the former Hebrew Second temple].

Vienna

I am not a particular fan of the Austrians. I spent a part of the summer of 1945, after the European victory, in the southeast of the country, among the marvellous lakes which were the summer holiday site for many Viennese. But then, as on more recent trips, I have rarely met an Austrian of my generation who wasn’t a Nazi, and then a very enthusiastic one. It is no accident, perhaps as the Communists would say, that Hitler, himself were Austrian.

By the quirk of fate and history – and the oncoming Cold War – the Austrians manage to convinvce the world they were victims of the Nazis, and profited in the postwar period in no small way from that.

But seeing an old friend, whose upcoming 90th birthday celebration I would not be able to attend, brought me to Baden, the summer home of the old Hapsburg royalty where she had snug little apartment. It is within commuting distance of Vienna and she gave me the grand tour, wheeling around the Austrian capital in her Cadillac like a spry youngster. We had lovely meal atop a skyscraper where we got a view of the Vienna skyline, actually not that dramatic a scene compared to other world large cities. The food was splendid as it always tends to be there – one of their characteristics, incidentally, the Austrians do not share with the Germans whose cuisine leaves much to be desired in the vast panoply of European food.

Zurich

I am not a fan of the guttural grunts of the German language, which because my East European Jewish immigrant parents spoke Yiddish at home when I was child growing up, I have some understanding. But the growling of Switzerdeutsch is even more unpleasant. That’s the patois spoken in the German-speaking cantons of the Confoederatio Helvetica, that unique little country sitting on iots high mountains in the middle of Europe.

I suppose the first and last subject which hits the foreign visitor is the incredibly high prices the Swiss have managed to move their economy into. They prosper – so much so that the German immigrant population has doubled in the past few years. But even the young women at my small [and by Zurich standards, modestly priced] hotel told me they shopped in neighboring Germany to save money.

The second most striking thing was to see how the Swiss, supposedly so atunned to the world’s economy and any of its problems, were blasé about what I see as the deepening crisis of the Euro economy which surrounds them and on which they hamg like a leach. The business and economics editor of one of the most prestigious papers told me, confidently, that somehow the Europeans would blunder through their current and continuing crisis. I wonder. It disturbs me to see that Spain now looks far too much like the country that [eventually] moved the world into World War II, with its current one-third of its workforce out of work and no hope of an early recovery.

Dulles

It would be the height of understatement to say that by my final touchdown in this seven-weeks trip at the Dulles Hilton, I was dragging. But after a fitful night’s sleep [which time zone was I in anyway?]. I did manage to get into Washington for a morning meeting and a luncheon with an old friend at Dupont Circle.

It could only happen to me: when the lunch was over, I hailed a passing cab for the trip back to my hotel and to take the afternoon plane for Norfolk, the last air leg of my journey. I asked the driver, obviously a recent arrival but one who spoke English without an accent [Indian?], if he knew where the Dulles Hilton was, and when he said yes, we sped away. Sped? Some three hours later, we were still lost and I missed my 5:30pm flight to Norfolk, keeping a friend waiting there for six or seven hours until I managed to get on a late evening flight later, running late of course. Thus a long and extremely demanding trip ended in a minor muckup. But, given all the problems that can befall a traveller in 2013, I suppose I came away lucky.

It took a month of doing little more than eating and sleeping to recuperate.

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Around the world in 48 days*

* For mor e substantive reporting on the trip, read the datelined pieces displayed on https://yeoldecrabb.wordpress.com

It was intended as my last hurrah!

For after all, at 86, my friends and my life companion, initially, thought it was not only foolhardy but dangerous. And there was the bionic argument – a pacemaker, unstabilized glaucoma beginning to take my sight, and still adjusting hearing aids.

Still, the urge to try my hand at my old profession of reporting on the scene and acquiring new prejudices in the process was still too strong to resist. And so, off I went, from Norfolk to Norfolk [and remember we pronounce it naw-fawk down heayah] via Tokyo, Beijing, Taipei, Hong Kong, Delhi, Bombay, Jerusalem, Vienna; Zurich, Washington.

The first problem, of course, was setting up the itinerary. I had only two months before I had to meet a contractual deadline for a piece of writing. So that gave me only six weeks after the necessary pause for the long yearend holidays when Japan, first stop on my round-the-world, would again open up. It immediately became apparent I would have to leave out my old and beloved stamping ground of Southeast Asia – Hanoi [where I spent a year during “the French war”] to Dakha [where I sat in on the creation of what Henry Kissinger said would be the basketcase at Bangladesh’s emergence in 1971. There were the China and India points I had to cover.

Then I remembered, too, that once passed the breakeven point from North America at Bangkok, a round-the-world ticket was cheaper than a roundtrip. So I would have to include some points beyond Asia which contributed to my research.

The task of putting together nine countries and ten stops with some call center of one of the airlines, maybe in India or the Philippines, was daunting. I called the son of an old friend – alas! long since deceased – who had for a couple of decades been the forward man for an international hotel chain, opening one new hostelry after another. I said I knew travel agents didn’t exist any more, or at least not the old-fashioned ones, so what should I do. He said, to the contrary, and gave me the name of two agencies in New York City.

And, thereby, hangs a tale and a hypothesis on the state of analyses today: when in the course of negotiations, I remarked to the agent that it didn’t make any difference whether I was stopping in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem since it was the same airport, she expressed surprise. Working backwards, I understood Outsourcing of the itinerary, hotels and visas was the new modus operandi for a successful travel agent. No need to have that nasty old data stored in one’s head if, as a travel agent, you could punch a key for an outside data bank and get it.

But what about judgements made on subconscious data burrowed in the brain? Is that what might be happening to our thought processes with the digital revolution?

Since I had no Passepartout to help me on my way, every decision became onerous and difficult. What to take? Little shoes [that fit] and big shoes [for swollen feet], coldweather clothes for north Asia, tropical raiment for India, more formal wear for the critical Swiss, omiyagi [souivenirs] for the Japanese and other Asians, a birthday present for a friend reaching 90 in Austria – and the medicines, for the eyes, for travel’s malaise, for other emergencies. And how to keep it all manageable size for the long stretches in the cavernous new airports in north Asia.

Japan

Norfolk depart, Dulles transfer without a hitch. But then arriving early over Tokyo, my pilot suddenly faced a sudden “snowstorm” – or so Tokyoites viewed three or four inches. We circled for hours, had to set down in Nagoya for fuelm then back over Tokyo to finally arrive on the ground eight hours late. Tokyo’s Narita airport, always a problem with its distance from downtown Tokyo, was closed down: no one could even tell you when the road into Tokyo would open Normal Japanese discipline collapsed; finally earthquake storage was opened and air mattresses, bottled water, and riceballs, were passed out to the thousands who bundled down to wait for clearance to move out. Finally, next morning – after four hours on the highway – I arrived in the Imperial Hotel in downtown Tokyo, 18 hours behind schedule, broken appointments for dinner, and exhausted from a night dozing in a very hard chair.

A busy schedule in Tokyo for five days and then to Beijing: again setting something of a record by arriving on the worst pollution day in the Chinese capital’s history which meant you couldn’t see across the street. My chief contact, a wheeler-dealer of the new China scene had literally disappeared. Virtually every other spokesman person allocated by the regime to speak to foreigners was off on junkets in the West [about the only reward, I take it, for mouthing the regime’s line to foreigners]. Only the sushi [I checked; imported fish from New Zealand] in the Japanese-run hotel relieved the monotony. An extremely interesting and informative interview at Peking University [yes, they still call it that because of its pre-Communist reputation] although a bright, young student –translator of the English-speaking professor and politician had to be squelched to get y questions answered. [I note in passing that female liberation is not helping what was once the highly touted reputation of Chinese women for modesty and quiet diplomacy.] The fantastic forest of new skyscrapers were a testimony to the material progress in the post-Deng Hsiaoping state capitalist society, but gone is the old charm of Beijing and its moon-doored old tenements.

Taiwan

A lunatic taxi driver took me in tow in Taipei and we swept through the traffic into the city with every expectation that life and limb were in jeopardy. Still he had been given a number and a fixed rate by the starter, a welcome respite from the old days of hard and lengthy bargaining for a just price. The lauded Government Information Agency which I remember from the Taiwan Straits Crisis of 1958 headed by that quintessentiasl Shanghai wheelerdealer Jimmy Wei. [Later he was to play an important role in the movement away from Martial Law and toward Taiwan democracy under his “capo” Chaing Kai-shek’s son, Chiang Ching-kuo, proof again of Jeane Kirpatrick’s thesis that there is hope for authoritarian governments but never for a Commuinist regime but implosion and the desert it leaves behind.]

But a Ministry of Foreign Affairs minder – after some considerable browbeating on my part of the Washington Taiwan reps – and with the help of old friend Parris Chiang, I had a full schedule of official and unofficial appointments. The news was not good. President Ma Ying-jeou’s effort to pump up Taiwan’s economy with extensive agreements on trade and exchanges with the Mainland is eroding Taiwan’s de facto independence. Pro-Mainland elements have taken over some of the media. A well-publicized intelligence figure tried to persuade me that the new Mainland No. 1 Xi Jinping was charismatic, knowledgeable about Taiwan because of his long Communist Party apprenticeship in Fukien province facing Taiwan, and that he would successfully use “soft power” to propel China’s growing role in world affairs. He argued that Xi might even be more acquainted with the West than the old Maximum Leader Deng Hsiao-ping because of his frequent overseas travel. That seemed unlikely to me; after all, Deng was one of the indentured workers taken from China to France during World War I who fell in with the Communist organizers. It was as foolish his claim that Xi was infatuated with Western movies. [They haven’t trotted that one out since they used it to prove that Andropov, the old NKV/KGB warhose was :”pro-American.]. This continued “intellectual” infiltration, tied to such growing economic ties as investment by Mainland government banks, the last stronghold of Kuomintang statist economic policies, is towing Taiwan across thed Strait just as its strategiv position again assume new importance for the U.S. and Japan in the face of growing Beijing naval expansion efforts in its huge military buildup.

Hong Kong

The old traditions of the Connaught Hotel, when it was a resting place for my friends coming in from “up-country:”, are being maintained in the Mandarin Oriental – even if its vaunted position on Victoria has been eroded by blocs and blocs of newly filled in building sites between it and the water. The long walk to the Old Star Ferry, much diminished by Hong Kong’s neat underground railway, was almost a walk to the Kowloon side. Despite CNN’s opening vista, the old harbour view is gone.

So are the old rocking chairs at the Peninsular Hotel, although the Rolls Rouyces used to ferry guests back and forth to the airport, are still lined up outside. The price of a cup of not too good coffee was ferocious when I drifted in after a session with my old friends, the Markbrieters at the offices of their still monumenta; The Arts of Asia. I guess Hong Kong is still a shoppers’ paradise – I wasn’t buying – but the smog was drifting down from China, and it is clear that – as a Special Administrative Zone official admitted at a public meeting – the old carefully controlled immigration of labor from China has gone awray. Government land sales, the other leg of Hong Kong’s prosperity, gained when Mao’s China cut itself off from the world, is still going however. And for the moment at least, it looks like Hong Kong is maintaining its role as an economic powerhouse, substituting financial and other services. [It has a convertible currency to the U.S. dollar it is tied to and acts increasingly as a middleman for Mainland nonconvertible yuan, and Singapore;s attempt to supersede it has long since been forgotten.] But the political situation is deteriorating – after two Communist hacks in the executive – and I was not surprised when a taxidriver in my four [repeat] four trips to Kowloon to pick up an Indian visa, told me he yearned for the old British days and could not “understand” why people wanted to do away London’s rule.

The Indian visa? Thereby hangs a tale: I had forgotten that even for a short stay, New Delhi requires a visa. [Even Beijing now gives a 72-hour sight visa for transients.] In the name of efficiency [it appears New Zealand was the pacemaker, the Indians have ousourced their visa-clearing to a worldwide travel agent. [Thereby must hagna tale given the incredible corruption which has hit the Singh-Gandhi government.] The forms are stultifying, pages and pages, including such questions as the names of other countries you have visited in the last few years and a host of other “security” questions. I called a friend in New Delhi who knows where and how to press buttons, and at 8 o’clock on a Friday night, I got a telephone call at my hotel announcing I could get my visa if I came Monday morning at 9am. In fact it took two more trips – including a stumble and fall in front of a hotel, of course the Shandrila – whereelse with such an aiccident occur. The denouement of this little adventure was that at the last moment I was asked to present a hard copy of my original application on the web. When I protested that would mean another trip back to my hotel in Central, the waspish lady in the said, “You can get a copy downstairs.” I said, “Where?”. “”Downstairs”. “What’s the name of the place” for the ground floor of the building was the usual busy Hong Kong chaos. “Downstairs. You will see it”. Down I went, and after some searching I found a smiling, friendly Chinese man sitting ina six-by-six glass cage ith a small sign on his window announcing he could print Indian visa forms. I gave him the number – the second one, by the way – of my visa application, and abracadabra he pulled my whole down, printed out the original application, and gave me a receipt for a few HK dollars. I was somewhat flabbergasted. Security? He and I joked: I volunteered that Indian visas were given when the total amount of the paper, weighing what he had printed out in my palm, reached a certain point. He laughingly agreed. I wonder if they found anything interesting in my file in Beijing?

New Delhi

The new [to me] Delhi airport is cavernous and difficult to negotiate if you are carrying abrifcase increasingly full of accumulated papers. The driver who was picked me up and I did not make contact and I had one of those typical bumpy, fast and a little frightening rides to the my old standby, The Imperial Hotel. [I had been warned there were beter and cheaper pl;aces to say but nostalgia is nostalgia. I still remember the “bearer” when we complained of the mice running in the old dinning room, that “Sahib: they are cogele {small} and don’t eat much”.] And the shower didn’t have hot water until I remonstrated, the business center was in another building to which I had to lug my netbook and all its cables since there was no IT cable connection in the room, etc., etc. But the old colonial building was as charming as ever amd all there must be people waiting for their food since the 19th century when the hotel was opened under the Viceroy’s wife auspices, it was good when it came.

Old friends are gone but the son of one of them set up a program for me and with my own additions, I did get a feel for the current political climate. It is one of those periods of Indian somnabulance after a period of relatively high growth rate, with the danger that the economy is falling back into “the Hindu rate of growth” which dogged it for some some 30 years when the sainted Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, always haunted by his student British socialist days, adopted Soviet-style planning.

And the almost inevitable arrived: at a dinner at my old friend’s widow the last night in town, I gorged on the exotic Indian foods and came away with the oldtimey “Delhi-Belly}, to haunt me for another week. Under instruction, I took a taxi to the new satellite town where a series of the international glass boxes now houses a number of multinational companies, weaning away business from Bombay [Mumbai in the new attribution], so long the commercial capital of the country taking over from the earlier but moribund Calcutta.

Bombay

Driving in – again a hassle at the much too small airport but at least assigned a taxi with a number and a fixed amount for the fare – it seemed to me that Bombay has become a little too much little Calcutta. My old friends, the remnant of a group who fought for market economics and representative government after their struggle independence from Britain, confirmed. “We have deteriorated”, a knowledgeable observer said, matter of factlly and with a touch of remorse.

But the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, now completely restored after the 2008 Bombay Massacre, is as much of a leading world hostelry as ever. I was amused that I was given a “body person”, a member of the staff who was assigned to meet my every want. I was reminded of the “batman” assigned to British army officers during my World War II attachment to the 8th Army in Italy. These were orderlies assigned to typically upper class officers who took care of their bodily comforts, to the extent that was possible even in combat. My young man was Maratta, of course, a native of the state into which the Old Bombay Presidency was relegated after the series of language agitations in the mid-1950s which redrew the boundaries of the old British Indian provinces, and eclipsed the domination of the minority Gujerrati elite in the old Bombay Presidency, alas! probably contributing to the deterioration of governance.

Jerusalem

I have always thought that much of the miracle of the spectacular rise of the new Jewish state had to do with its drawing on people, although all Jews, from cultures all over the world. This visit reconfirmed to me that despite the relatively smaller intack of new immigrants, this was still the case. My taxi driver – I took a trip through a good part of the northern part of the country to visit old friends near Haifa along a new impr4essive toll road which also demonstrated how close Israel inside the old green line is to the so-called Occupied Territories. My driver was an Azeri Jewish immigrant, fluent he said in his own Azeri, of course, but also in associated Turkish and learning Arabic. He was something of a character, telling me in detail his recent breakup with his “Russian” girlfriend. When I purchased a piece of jewelry in my hotel, I learned the chain of shops had been initiated by a German Jewish refugee who had fled Hitler to Brazil where he had begun to trade in jewels, then immigrated to Israel where he founded his store. My salesperson was a lady who called in Russian to a taxidriver to bring an article from another store. Her replacementy at the desk was a young and very pretty Turkish Jewish girl who told me she had followed her brother in making “alliyah” [ascending] to Israel only a year earlier, sent by her Turkish parents who said there was no longer a future for Jews in that country. The manager of the store was Romania-born. I cannot but believe all these people bring their own special gifts to a marvellously varied society, despite its singular dedication to being “Jewish”. Nor would I leave out a lunch site – the hotel was kosher and thus my lunch on the Sabbath was going to be poor so they sent me to “Notre Dame”, a Vatican-owned institute for religious study which also operated a hotel and a very good dinning room in its building, not that far from the heights overlooking the Old City and The Western Wall [the principal remnant of the former Hebrew Second temple].

Vienna

I am not a particular fan of the Austrians. I spent a part of the summer of 1945, after the European victory, in the southeast of the country, among the marvellous lakes which were the summer holiday site for many Vienese. But then, as on more recent trips, I have rarely met an Austrian of my generation who wasn’t a Nazi, and then a very enthusiastic one. It is no accident, perhaps as the Communists would say, that Hitler, himself were Austrian.

By the quirk of fate and history – and the oncoming Cold War – the Austrians manage to cinvce the world they were victims of the Nazis, and profited in the postwar period in no small way from that.

But seeing an old friend, whose upcoming 90th birthday celebration I would not be able to attend, brought me to Baden, the summer home of the old Hapsburg royalty where she had snug little apartment. It is within commuting distance of Vienna and she gave me the grand tour, wheeling around the Austrian capital in her Caidllac like a spry youngster. We had lovely meal atop a skyscraper where we got a view of the Vienna skyline, actually not that dramatic a scene compared to other world large cities. The good was splendid as it always tends to be there – one of their characteristics, incidentally, the Austrians do not share with the Germans whose cuisine leaves much to be desired in the vast panoply of European food.

Zurich

I am not a fan of the guttural grunts of the German language, which because my East European Jewish immigrant parents spoke Yiddish at home when I was child, growing up, I have some understanding. But the growling of Switzerdeutsch is even more unpleasant. That’s the patois spoken in the German-speaking cantons of the Confoederatio Helvetica, that unique little country sitting in the middle of Europe.

I suppose the first and last subject which hits the foreign visitor is the incredibly high prices the Swiss have managed to move their economy into. They prosper – so much so that the German immigrant population has doubled in the past few years. But even the young women at my small [and by Zurich standards, modestly priced] hotel told me they shopped in neighboring Germany to save money.
The second most striking thing was to see how the Swiss, supposedly so atunned to the world’s economy and any of its problems, were blasé about what I see as the deepening crisis of the Euro economy which surrounds them and on which they prosper. The business and economics editor of one of the most prestigious papers told me, confidently, that somehow the Europeans would blunder through their current and continuing crisis. I wonder. It disturbs me to see that Spain now looks far too much like the country that [eventually] moved the world into World War II, with its current one-third of its workforce out of work and no hope of an early recovery.
Dulles
It would be the height of understatement to say that by my final touchdown in this seven-weeks trip at the Dulles Hilton, I was dragging. But after a fitful night’s sleep [which time zone was I in anyway?], I did manage to get into Washington for a morning meeting and a luncheon with an old friend at Dupont Circle.

It could only happen to me: when the lunch was over, I hailed a passing cab for the trip back to my hotel and to take the afternoon plane for Norfolk, the last air leg of my journey. I asked the driver, obviously a recent arrival but one who spoke English without an accent [Indian?], if he knew where the Dulles Hilton was, and when he said yes, we sped away. Sped? Some three hours later, we were still lost and I missed my 5:30pm flight to Norfolk, keeping a friend waiting there for hours until I managed to get on a late evening flight later. Thus a long and extremely demanding trip ended in a minor muckup. But, given all the problems that can befall a traveller, in 2013, I suppose I came away lucky.

It took a month of doing little more than eating and sleeping to recuperate.

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The great wait


Looking around the world, the striking characteristic is waiting out a number of crises. Their outcome seems almost artificially suspended, and their interaction on one another and their ultimate effect on the world is at issue.

We start with the Euro. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s supplications in Beijing were perhaps laudable but a little ridiculous. There is no evidence Beijing could or would bail out the Euro. Meanwhile, Greece appears headed inevitably for default – if for no other reason than the severe austerity measures are not only the proverbial late closing of the barn door but making it impossible for growth necessary for any climb out of its debt bind while increasing social deterioration. Can Spain, Portugal, and perhaps Ireland and Italy, be far behind? Meanwhile, Germany refuses to assume the role its hard work, discipline and export-led economy has bestowed as the main source of reserves to refinance the European Union. We wait.

Israel, the U.S. and Iran wage a ferocious propaganda war, with the mullahs’ repeating their unprecedented threat to Jerusalem’s existence. Sanctions are having a disastrous effect on the Iranian economy. But past history demonstrates third world economies have no bottom – especially those propped up by oil revenues skirting restrictions to reach markets. But there is a consensus among Western intelligence circles Tehran continues to make progress toward nuclear weapons of mass destruction, perhaps even including missile delivery. Tehran surrogates also threaten Israel and the West in Lebanon, Gaza, Iraq and Afghanistan and with worldwide terrorism. How much coordination continues between Israeli policymakers and Washington has become an issue. We wait.

Syria, Iran’s ally, descends into civil war with the prospect its minorities’ ties to neighboring states will further derail any promise of The Arab Spring for a radical Mideast betterment. Egypt is already beset by a chaotic contest for power between the military and the Islamicists – with threatening problems of food and youth unemployment. Washington and Western Europe – surprisingly joined if ineffectively by the Arab League — has abandoned a hands-off policy on Damascus. However inevitable the fall of a 35-year-old dictatorship, the attenuated struggle typifies the absence of international collaboration against bloodshed. We wait.

The Chinese economy dips below levels conventionally held necessary to maintain stability under an authoritarian government with a rapidly growing workforce. Expanding exports and unlimited infrastructure growth, its two principal props for two decades, can no longer spur the economy with credit reaching explosive levels. A slowdown in China’s market for raw materials is the last straw for the worldwide economic malaise. Debate over policy within the Communist Party appears to have reached unprecedented levels, leaking to the highly censored but innovative personal communications networks. The argument comes on the eve of this fall’s planned transfer of generational leadership. Meanwhile, Beijing’s military power accelerates with chauvinistic rhetoric and threats over disputed sovereignty with its neighbors. We wait.

Japan’s political stalemate continues with the world’s third largest economy on autopilot. Another round in the prosecution of the generation’s most powerful politician, Ichirō Ozawa, comes in mid-February, with the perennial hope a restructuring of political factions will provide new, vibrant leadership. Meanwhile, a demographic catastrophe is overtaking the society as birth rates continue to drop with the most rapidly ageing population among the industrial societies and cultural obstacles to in-migration. We wait.

Russia approaches presidential elections with growing opposition toward what appeared the inevitable victor, Vladimir Putin. Failed efforts at reform of the economy and the military coupled with incredibly destructive social phenomena – a rapidly declining population, an HIV epidemic, drug addiction and alcoholism – all point toward another implosion. Immigration of capital and young skilled professionals reinforces decline. If world energy prices drop in the face of slack economies, Putin’s formula for stability could quickly evaporate. We wait.

The world as well as the U.S. enters the apex of its election season with a confused picture. An American electorate appears more polarized than ever between interventionist and market orientation with more mundane issues largely holding the debate spotlight. The world, dependent on American leadership since World War II, seeks clues whether the Obama Administration’s “lead from behind” is the leitmotiv of the coming four years with the relative success of the Paul candidacy signaling a possible new isolationism. Meanwhile, the country grapples with tenacious seesawing employment, ironically the result of technological advance as well as a credit collapse. We wait.

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Moves speed up on a complicated Asian chessboard


A new era of increasing instability is opening in East Asia.

The death of North Korean leader Kim Il Jong is only adding another, if explosive, element to an already volatile equation:

· China enters a period of substantially slower economic growth, if not a crash, on the eve next autumn of a takeover by a new generation of undistinguished Communist Party leaders.

· Japan wrestles with efforts to remake its domestic politics, but buoyed by its always magnificent – if constipated – bureaucracy, pursues a security buildup despite, ironically, a left-leaning governing party precariously clinging to power.

· South Korea’s miraculous ascendancy to world economic leadership and prosperity is imperiled by its export-led strategy now facing world economic shrinkage, and with the prospect of continued harassment from the North.

· North Korea attempts continuance of its highly leverage Communist monarchy but its balancing act could well succumb to both internal rivalries and Western pressure to halt its profitable foreign arms sales.

· Taiwan goes to another democratic election in January under the evil eye of Beijing that fears recent increasingly binding economic ties may be countered by “nationalists” intent on maintaining de facto independence.

· The Obama Administration has made new commitments, particularly in Southeast Asia, of resistance to aggressive Chinese claims despite rapidly reducing the navy as it backs out of two, long and inconclusive wars.

Beijing’s high growth rate – despite its majority largely left out of the Coastal Cities boom – is dropping precipitously, because of inherent weaknesses built into its state capitalism and the world economic downturn. Having abandoned Maoism two decades ago, conventional wisdom held such rapid growth essential to sustain one-party, elitist rule. While there is no organized national opposition, there are increasing signs local Communist cadre have lost control. Massive infrastructure overexpansion, declining export prospects and untenable internal debt levels could produce a breakdown.

Furthermore, Pyongyang provides new concern for Bejiing’s conflicted view of North Korea. China’s aid supports Pyongyang at the same time North Korea rejects “the China model”, the Kim leadership believing – after a failed trial — it could not maintain control were widespread private initiative permitted. Contrary to conventional wisdom, refugee flows from an implosion resulting from the burden of one of the world’s largest militaries and developing weapons of mass destruction would not be the principal threat. What Beijing fears most would be Korean reunification, which led the young Communist China to risk intervention in the stalemated Korean War for control of the peninsular.

Again, conventional comparisons of Korean reunification to Germany are inappropriate. Assuming China could not prevent an internal crackup which might come suddenly – as it did to once seemingly impregnable East Germany and model Communist dictatorship Romania – South Korea could absorb a North Korean colony, and, in fact, longer term turn it to economic advantage. To the consternation of Japan and the U.S., too, as well as China, the world might suddenly face a strong, new nuclear armed power.

As it has for a century, much will depend on China’s relationship with Japan, always uppermost in Beijing’s calculations. Beijing has rejected Tokyo’s proposal for defusing the Japan [East] Sea flashpoint by joint development of gas. Meanwhile, despite the leftwing careers of many now serving cabinet members and its declining population, Tokyo continues to move to quality manufacturing, heightened industrial R&D, and consolidating defenses with purchase of F35s from the U.S. [As always, Tokyo sees joint manufacturing arrangements enhancing Japan’s technology.] The current U.S. defense appropriation dropped funds for moving American forces from Okinawa to Guam; probably not in the strategic interests of either country given the Island’s unique geographic centrality. The Japanese are pushing a trilateral strategic relationship with India and the U.S. – which may again include Australia now that Canberra is lifting its export ban on uranium to New Delhi – in a not very subtle effort to counter China’s Indian Ocean expansion, a continuing Tibet buildup and encroachment on northern India and Pakistan, and central Asian initiatives including Afghanistan. Moves to end Japan’s postwar ban on arms exports could be strategically significant, negotiated, possibly, as part of the Obama Administration’s Trans Pacific Partnership still running up against protectionist Japanese agricultural interests.

Whatever else, pieces are moving rapidly on the Asian chessboard. But as always, unanticipated events are likely to dictate eventual outcome of the best laid plans of mice and allies.

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Obama [tries] to move the drama East


The Obama Administration is trying to turn an historical page.

The president’s current Pacific tour is promoted as “a return to Asia”, an acknowledgement of its rapidly growing economies, and, of course, recognition of China as a world power. History has a way of dictating its own terms, however. [When asked what next in his agenda, Britain’s Prime Minister Harold Macmillan reminded a young inquirer, “Events, my dear boy, events!”]

As much as the Administration stages in a too long neglected legitimate theater, it’s also an attempt on the eve of a presidential campaign to shuck emphasis on the continuing dismal Middle East scenarios – where Barack Hussein Obama plunged with such enthusiasm only a little over two years ago.

Massive PR only partly obscures how far Washington can escape the Mideast – even with a much publicized exit from Iraq [with an intermediate stop in Kuwait] and a devil-take-the-hindmost Afghanistan withdrawal. The Arab Spring is turning as feckless as its 1968 Prague Spring namesake, offering little resolution of fundamentals — e.g., jobs for the world’s largest demographic bulge. Syria, where wish has betrayed realism in American policy, ticks ominously. Mr. Obama’s repeated profitless overtures to Tehran’s mullahs are concluding with an eminent threat of Iranian nuclear weapons. NATO’s vaunted southwestern tentpeg, Turkey, lurches from one contradictory foreign initiative to another with an overblown economic bubble about to burst.

Furthermore, the President’s company of players including speechwriters cavalierly promoted to geopolitician will encounter a host of equally difficult – many no less pressing — issues. Meetings with an alphabet soup of Asia-Pacific organizations and brief encounters with national leaders won’t resolve outstanding strategic issues Washington long has had on backburner.

Taking precedence is Japan, cornerstone of all U.S. Asian strategies, after this Administration too often has given it short shrift. But Washington will have to continue dealing with a Japanese administration holding on to power by its geta hana-oh. Unresolved is Okinawa military redeployment, with this current Tokyo government more beholden than former conservative administrations to rapacious locals threatening invaluable U.S. regional bases. And now Washington has handed Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda another piece of hot tofu: the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed nine-nation free-trade pact from Chile through the U.S. and Japan to Singapore. Tokyo’s highly subsidized and politically powerful agricultural lobby sees a threat to protected food markets at a time commercial and political relations with China – not included in this party round — are Tokyo’s overriding concern. The North Korean ghost haunts from offstage: a juvenile delinquent holding weapons of mass destruction to neighbors’ heads, a trading and technological partner to every other world pariah with its own only alternative strategic prospect anarchic implosion.

Realists would ask more seminal questions: Will Mr. Obama’s one-on-one in Hawaii with outgoing Chinese President Hu Jintao smooth the unequal bilateral trade playing field, not a small cause of current world currency and fiscal imbalances? It’s not likely Chinese manipulated currency and intellectual property theft will be remedied. Complicating negotiating these Chinese practices will be Beijing’s ultra-mercantilism becoming a louder and louder wild card in coming American presidential debate. In Beijing, itself, a Communist generational switch – perhaps not going as smoothly as thought a few months ago – struggles with Party dogma attempting to finesse restraining inflation while simultaneously spurring super rapid growth, so long seen as the only card the regime holds as civil dissidence rises.

Thus the combination of Mr. Obama’s continued denigration of America’s historic role, the Washington domestic economic policy tangle, the increasingly aggressive Chinese menace, all challenge the Obama Administration’s modeling a new American Pacific presence.

In fact, it’s a call historically as inaccurate as Mr. Obama’s earlier Istanbul and Cairo speeches summoning myth rather than history for an accommodation with Islam. America’s Asian role always has loomed large since the late 19th century. But alas! Mr. Obama did not take a leaf from Pres. Ronald Reagan’s economic strategy: The Gipper used his “stimulus” in part to rebuild American defenses to face down the Soviets. A new call now to American Pacific destiny rings hollow as the U.S. Navy’s decades-old hegemonic East Asian role erodes in the face of a rapid Chinese buildup with an American fleet soon smaller than any since pre-World War II — however revolutionary its new technologies.

Careful! That trumpet call could sound tinhorn.

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