Aug 21 2010

George Will’s take on Israel and Iran’s nuclear plans

Category: Iran,Islam,Israel,jihad,middle east,national securityharmonicminer @ 8:21 am

Not having anything brilliant to say today (why should today be different than any other day?), I defer to George Will, in his piece titled Israel’s Netanyahu Poised to Take Out Iran’s Nuclear Sites

When Israel declared independence in 1948, it had to use mostly small arms to repel attacks by six Arab armies. Today, however, Israel feels, and is, more menaced than it was then, or has been since. Hence the potentially world-shaking decision that will be made here, probably within two years.

To understand the man who will make it, begin with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s belief that stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program is integral to stopping the worldwide campaign to reverse 1948. It is, he says, a campaign to “put the Jew back to the status of a being that couldn’t defend himself, a perfect victim.”

Today’s Middle East, he says, reflects two developments. One is the rise of Iran and militant Islam since the 1979 revolution, which led to al-Qaida, Hamas, and Hezbollah. The other development is the multiplying threat of missile warfare.

Now Israel faces a third threat, the campaign to delegitimize it in order to extinguish its capacity for self-defense.

After two uniquely perilous millennia for Jews, the creation of Israel meant, Netanyahu says, “the capacity for self-defense restored to the Jewish people.” But note, he says, the reflexive worldwide chorus of condemnation when Israel responded with force to rocket barrages from Gaza and from southern Lebanon. There is, he believes, a crystallizing consensus that “Israel is not allowed to exercise self-defense.”

From 1948 through 1973, he says, enemies tried to “eliminate Israel by conventional warfare.” Having failed, they tried to demoralize and paralyze Israel with suicide bombers and other terrorism. “We put up a fence,” Netanyahu says. “Now they have rockets that go over the fence.” Israel’s military, which has stressed offense as a solution to the nation’s lack of strategic depth, now stresses missile defense.

That, however, cannot cope with Hamas’ tens of thousands of rockets in Gaza and Hezbollah’s 60,000 in southern Lebanon. There, U.N. resolution 1701, promulgated after the 2006 war, has been predictably farcical. This was supposed to inhibit the arming of Hezbollah and prevent its operations south of the Litani River.

Since 2006, Hezbollah’s rocket arsenal has tripled and its operations mock resolution 1701. Hezbollah, learning from Hamas, now places rockets near schools and hospitals, certain that Israel’s next response to indiscriminate aggression will turn the world media into a force multiplier for the aggressors.

Any Israeli self-defense anywhere is automatically judged “disproportionate.” Israel knows this as it watches Iran.

Last year was Barack Obama’s wasted year of “engaging” Iran. This led to sanctions that are unlikely to ever become sufficiently potent. With Russia, China, and Turkey being uncooperative, Iran is hardly “isolated.” The Iranian democracy movement probably cannot quickly achieve regime change. It took Solidarity 10 years to do so against a Polish regime less brutally repressive than Iran’s.

Hillary Clinton’s words about extending a “defense umbrella over the region” imply, to Israelis, fatalism about a nuclear Iran. As for deterrence working against a nuclear-armed regime steeped in an ideology of martyrdom, remember: In 1980, Ayatollah Khomeini said: “We do not worship Iran, we worship Allah. For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let this land burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world.”

You say, that was long ago? Israel says, this is now:

Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, says Israel is the “enemy of God.” Tehran, proclaiming that the Holocaust never happened and vowing to complete it, sent an ambassador to Poland who in 2006 wanted to measure the ovens at Auschwitz to prove them inadequate for genocide. Iran’s former president, Hashemi Rafsanjani, who is considered a “moderate” by people for whom believing is seeing, calls Israel a “one-bomb country.”

If Iran were to “wipe the Zionist entity off the map,” as it vows to do, it would, Netanyahu believes, achieve a regional “dominance not seen since Alexander.” Netanyahu does not say Israel will, if necessary, act alone to prevent this. Or does he?

He says CIA Director Leon Panetta is “about right” in saying Iran can be a nuclear power in two years. He says 1948 meant this: “For the first time in 2,000 years, a sovereign Jewish people could defend itself against attack.” And he says: “The tragic history of the powerlessness of our people explains why the Jewish people need a sovereign power of self-defense.” If Israel strikes Iran, the world will not be able to say it was not warned.

Aug 13 2010

Marine boot camp graduation in San Diego today

Category: liberty,military,national security,USAharmonicminer @ 4:56 pm

Today I watched the graduation from Marine boot camp of my son’s closest friend, at MCRD in San Diego.  I’ve known the new Marine since he was 11 or so.  He looked really, really thin.  No surprise there, of course.  The nature of boot camp is that the drill instructors see to it that the recruits are always moving, rarely resting, and given little time to overeat.   They learn to eat really, really fast.

What is remarkable about anyone who enlisted after the events of Sept 11, 2001 is that all of these enlistees know that they are probably going to war, and they have chosen to do so voluntarily, out of patriotism and the desire to serve their nation.  There are no draftees in the US military, and the great majority of those now serving enlisted after 9/11.

The Marines of Company A, who graduated today, formed an impressive looking group.  To quote the Secretary of Defense, who spoke to them in person today (probably the closest I’ll ever come to a cabinet member), these Marines are “the tip of the spear.”  They go in first, into the toughest situations, and then they do it again next week.  And in this world, often the week after that.

An officer who spoke mentioned a recent group of over 100 Marines who were due to cycle out of the Corps, having honorably served their terms of duty, whose Company was scheduled next to serve in Okinawa.  At the last moment, when that Company was unexpectedly ordered to Afghanistan, these Marines re-enlisted to stay with their Company in this challenging assignment.  This is not uncommon Marine behavior, I’m told.

These young men who graduated today deserve our thanks, and our admiration.  They deserve any support we can give them.  Without men such as these, down through time, we would not have a nation.

My son’s friend had other options.  He is a bright young man (he tested VERY high on his ASVABs), and could certainly have gone to college.  Academically, he is college material.  In fact, I tried to talk him into taking the ROTC route through college and into a military career.  But he wanted to do it this way, and I can’t fault his decision.

Heartfelt congratulations to Private Justin Howell, USMC.

Jul 25 2010

Two views on China’s danger to the USA

Category: China,national securityharmonicminer @ 8:59 am

Here are two views of our possible future in regard to China’s ambitions and intent to expand its influence to control all of Asia, and then possibly to exert influence in the Americas.  I apologize in advance for the length of this…  if you’re not interested in whether or not the US will have to fight a war with China in the next twenty years, find something else to do for the next few minutes.  But this is essential background to understand my comments that complete this post.

First up, Mark Helprin’s piece from the Claremont Review of Books.

Farewell to the China Station

By Mark Helprin

If two locomotives are running at each other on the same track, it is possible that one will derail before impact or an earthquake will disalign their paths, but more likely—here is what is going to happen in the Western Pacific as the United States and China converge on a collision course.

Far sooner than once anticipated, China will achieve effective military parity in Asia, general conventional parity, and nuclear parity. Then the short road to superiority will be impossible for it to ignore, as it is already on its way thanks to a brilliant policy borrowed from Japan and Israel (and which I have described more fully in “East Wind,” National Review, March 20, 2000). Briefly, since Deng Xiaoping, China has understood that, without catastrophic social dislocation, it can leverage its spectacular economic growth into X increases in per-capita GDP but many-times-X increases in military spending. To wit, between 1988 and 2007, a ten-fold increase in per-capita GDP ($256 to $ 2,539) but a twenty-one-fold purchasing power parity (PPP) increase in military expenditures (PPP $5.78 billion to PPP $122 billion). The major constraint has been that an ever increasing rate of technical advance can only be absorbed so fast even by a rapidly modernizing military.

Meanwhile, in good times and in bad, under Republicans and under Democrats, with defense spending insufficient across the board, the United States has slowed, frozen, or reversed the development especially of the kind of war-fighting assets that China rallies forward (nuclear weapons, fighter planes, surface combatants, submarines, space surveillance) and those (anti-submarine warfare capacity, carrier battle groups, and fleet missile defense) that China does not yet need to counter us but that we need to counter it.

We have provided as many rationales for neglect as our neglect has created dangers that we rationalize. Never again will we fight two major adversaries simultaneously, although in recent memory this is precisely what our fathers did. Conventional war is a thing of the past, despite the growth and modernization of large conventional forces throughout the world. Appeasement and compromise will turn enemies into friends, if groveling and self-abasement do not first drive friends into the enemy camp. A truly strong country is one in which people are happy and have a lot of things, though at one time, as Gibbon described it, “so rapid were the motions of the Persian cavalry” that the prosperous and relaxed citizens of Antioch were surprised while at the theater, and slaughtered as their city burned around them. And the costs of more reliable defence and deterrence are impossible to bear in this economy, even if in far worse times America made itself into the greatest arsenal the world has ever known, while, not coincidentally, breaking the back of the Great Depression.

China is on the cusp of being able to use conventional satellites, swarms of miniature satellites, and networked surface, undersea, and aerial cuing for real-time terminal guidance with which to direct its 1,500 short-range ballistic missiles to the five or six aircraft carriers the United States (after ceding control of the Panama Canal and reducing its carrier fleet by one third since 1987) could dispatch to meet an invasion of Taiwan. In combination with anti-ship weapons launched from surface vessels, submarines, and aircraft, the missile barrage is designed to keep carrier battle groups beyond effective range. Had we built more carriers, provided them with sufficient missile defence, not neglected anti-submarine warfare, and dared consider suppression of enemy satellites and protections for our own, this would not be so.

Had we not stopped production of the F-22 at a third of the original requirement (see “The Fate of the Raptor,” CRB, Winter 2009/10), its 2,000-mile range and definitive superiority may have allowed us to dominate the air over Taiwan nonetheless, but no longer. Nor can we “lillypad” fighters to Taiwan if its airfields are destroyed by Chinese missiles, against which we have no adequate defence.

* * *

With the Western Pacific cleared of American naval and air forces sufficient to defend or deter an invasion, Taiwan—without war but because of the threat of war—will capitulate and accept China’s dominion, just as Hong Kong did when the evolving correlation of forces meant that Britain had no practical say in the matter. If this occurs, as likely it will, America’s alliances in the Pacific will collapse. Japan, Korea, and countries in Southeast Asia and even Australasia (when China’s power projection forces mature) will strike a bargain so as to avoid pro forma vassalage, and their chief contribution to the new arrangement will be to rid themselves of American bases.

Now far along in building a blue-water navy, once it dominates its extended home waters China will move to the center of the Pacific and then east, with its primary diplomatic focus the acquisition of bases in South and Central America. As at one time we had the China Station, eventually China will have the Americas Station, for this is how nations behave in the international system, independently of their declarations and beliefs as often as not. What awaits us if we do not awake is potentially devastating, and those who think the subtle, indirect pressures of domination inconsequential might inquire of the Chinese their opinion of the experience.

In the military, economic, and social trajectories of the two principals, the shape of the future comes clear. In 2007, a Chinese admiral suggested to Admiral Timothy J. Keating, chief of U.S. Pacific Command, that China and the United States divide the Pacific into two spheres of influence. Though the American admiral firmly declined the invitation, as things go now his successors will not have the means to honor his resolution, and by then the offer may seem generous. None of this was ever a historical inevitability. Rather, it is the fault of the American people and the governments they have freely chosen. Perhaps five or ten years remain in which to accomplish a restoration, but only with a miracle of leadership, clarity, and will.

In a tongue in cheek title, theorist Thomas P.M. Barnett titles his response to Helprin this way:
China’s rise must be stopped! In fact, our entire military should be shaped to this end!

Here’s a projection from the National Intelligence Council’s 2020 look-ahead report. If you go with the high-estimate line (always a safe bet with such a secretive government), then you come up with a number in the same range as Helprin’s ($115-120B). By 2025, then, we’re looking at a PLA that spends about a quarter-trillion dollars a year.

For comparison, check out US spending over the past decade, by way of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

My point here: our baseline spending grew almost as much as China’s total budget should be in 2025: $220B. Our top-line budget grew $373B, but you have to consider the war-spending as more subtractive than additive, even as it means our military now has a long recent combat experience base while the PLA really hasn’t fought a conflict of any length since the early 1950s, or almost six decades ago.

What are we likely to spend in 2025? Probably in the range of a trillion a year, or still 4X China’s total.

Now, if you follow the great projections on China, you would likely have their defense budget catch ours sometime before 2050, but that stuff gets awfully iffy, because it assumes that China will keep up the build-up despite the stunning aging of their population–to wit, in 2050, we’ll have a relatively young total population of 400m and China will have 400m-plus over the age of 60.

That’s just the background. Now, on to Helprin’s scare-mongering piece.

He says we rationalize our growing weakness relative to China’s growing strength, telling ourselves that we’ll never fight two major adversaries at the same time (our dream of a WWII-redux). Okay, who else are we going to fight at the same time as China? He doesn’t say.

Helprin says we delude ourselves by thinking conventional war is a thing of the past, citing “the growth and modernization of large conventional forces throughout the world.” That line is just pure bullshit based on nothing.

Here’s the SIPRI numbers:

Note two things: 1) It took the world 20 years to get back to the peak spending at the end of the Cold War, and that was across a time period in which wars declined dramatically while numerous great powers rose, a trend that historically results in greater defense spending; and 2) the great growth from the trough of the late 90s to now is about $400B. Well, guess who did most of that additional spending? Duh! The United States. No one is modernizing like we are or racking up huge operational experience at the bleeding edge.

Helprin goes on to say that “appeasement and compromise” isn’t turning our enemies into friends. Really? Seems like we just went through a rerun of the start of the Great Depression and what kind of cooperation did we get from all our “enemies” around the world? Actually, pretty damn nice.

Then we get the usual decline-of-the-Roman-empire stuff. Impressive.

So we’re told that we’ve ceded the Western Pacific to the Chinese, meaning, at the very least, we’re supposed to hold it ad infinitum. Why? Taiwan could be absorbed by China militarily. And if that happens, “America’s alliances in the Pacific will collapse.”

Brilliant logic there. China forcibly invades a country it’s trying to sign a free trade deal with it and you expect the rest of Asia to suddenly want nothing to do with America. Is this guy high?

From that domination of the Western Pac, China will soon begin to dominate all of Latin America, says Helprin–our China station replaced by China’s America station.

Why will China make this supreme effort? I have no idea. China doesn’t seem to have any problem buying whatever it wants from Latin America, but apparently the Chinese people will want this more than environmental cleanups or old age pensions. They will go along with any government push to propel China into constant military standoffs with the US on the other side of the Pacific, because Chinese history is so full of such examples.

Me? I see China logically building a naval presence and power-projection capability in the direction of its energy supplies–i.e., the Persian Gulf. I don’t see them wasting time and money on regions that are stable suppliers. Of course, if China pushes its way into the Gulf military, pretty soon they’ll find themselves involved in all the same Leviathan-SysAdmin work we do there now. And frankly, that would make some sense, given that Asia takes out the bulk of the oil the Gulf provides, while the US can get along without it easily (the PG ranks behind Africa, Latin America, Mexico and Canada, and the US itself as our 5th most important supplier of oil).

And how threatening will a China be that bears this incredible burden? How many costly wars will the Chinese people support in distant lands? Hmm. We shall see.

But this is all silly conjecture on my part. Clearly, the Chinese will do whatever it takes to drive us completely out of the Pacific. Helprin says, we have “perhaps five or ten years” in which we can accomplish a “restoration.”

Get used to this logic. Gates is working hard to get the Pentagon and Congress realistic about what we can and cannot afford in the future. We can either pull out of the world and stockpile our brilliant, uber-expensive Leviathan weaponry in anticipation of getting it on with China or we can be more realistic about our Leviathan hedge given our SysAdmin workload. Mr. Helprin believes we can have it all and do it all, and I think that’s truly nutty.

But again, the quickest way to bog down the Chinese would be to abandon the Middle East and let them manage it on their own. Any takers on that score?

The Chinese give every indication of wanting to secure their trade networks with the world and no indication of being willing to fight for anything beyond that. Hell, they don’t give any indication of wanting even to fight for their trade networks. All they really give as an indication is that they will not tolerate Taiwan declaring independence–their own, whacked-out mania.

We are deep into an age in which our old friends will spend less on their militaries and rising new competitors will spend more on theirs. We can either seek cooperation with these rising powers on mutual economic interests or we can try to hedge against them all, demanding that only America can decide such things.

The fixation with China is convenient for US military hawks, because the Chinese Communist Party will rule in a single-party state, with no serious challengers, for the next two decades or so. Of the other rising great powers, we don’t really fear any of them, because they’re close enough in their political pluralism–save demographically collapsing Russia–to avoid such suspicions on our part. Now, we can pretend that this crew of rising great powers will prefer a world run predominately by the PLA over one more dominated by the US military, but I think that’s a paranoid assumption. I think the alleged Beijing consensus only works so long as China stays out of wars, which is why I’d love to see them sucked into a few.

Mr. Helprin sees a clear and clean route to the top of global military domination for the Chinese. I don’t. I see a surfeit of hidden domestic debts and a public with no stomach for military adventure. I also see a single-party state that could not politically survive a single military defeat, and hence it will risk none. China cannot free-ride its way to the top and then dominate with no resulting exposure to draining wars. To believe in such a trajectory is, in my mind, truly ahistoric.

Helprin likewise sees China’s defense rise as a pure zero-sum—as in, they gain and we lose. I do not. I see the Chinese arriving just in time.

We will either convince the Chinese to cooperate with us on global security or we will cede the burden to them. Either way, China is going to get dramatically bogged down by all its burgeoning global network connectivity. To believe otherwise is sheer fantasy.

There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. We’ve never gotten one, and neither will the Chinese.

I hope that Thomas P.M. Barnett is right in downplaying the Chinese threat. But I fear he is not. Here’s why.

Barnett’s comparions of overall military spending comparisons between the USA and China aren’t very comforting, for a simple reason. The Chinese are spending most of their money preparing to fight the USA for Asian and Pacific dominance (or to intimidate the USA into not fighting them, which amounts to the same thing).  The USA has global responsibilities, but it is spending that way ONLY in the sense that it spreads its budget around, and NOT enough to truly service those global responsibilities, and the likely future capabilities and intentions of our probable opponents.  Barnett’s argument is like pointing out that any given person’s chance of being a crime victim is relatively small, and so suggesting that a particular individual go take a walk in a high-crime neighborhood without adequate precautions.  Global statistics don’t tell us much about local or regional problems…  and total spending figures tell us little about HOW the Chinese are spending their money, compared to how the USA is spending on its military.

Consider:  we are stretched thin fighting what are really two minor, highly localized wars.  There is no comparison of the Iraq war to the size and complexity of the European theater in WW II, nor is there one between the Afghanistan war and the Pacific War of WWII.  Yet we fought in both theaters simultaneously in WWII.   There are differences, of course.  The entire nation was mobilized in WWII, and it isn’t now.  But, in WWII it was possible to ramp up quickly in war production and training, and produce then-modern weapons in incredible numbers with a relatively short startup period, and train people fairly quickly in how to use them.  That is simply not possible with modern weapons, which are far more complex to make and use, depend on many more production steps, and require specific manufacturing facilities that take years to create.  We can’t stop making F-22s this year, mothball the factories and reassign the expert technicians to other jobs, and then in five years, suddenly build three or four hundred of them that year, along with all their specialized weapons.  It is literally impossible to do, regardless of how much money we threw at it then.  In WWII, we made a quarter of a million warplanes in five years.  Such things are no longer possible.  And the F-22 is only one advanced weapons system that we would need.

Not convinced we couldn’t ramp up quickly?  We went to the moon in 1969.  But with the most optimistic program imaginable, it would take us ANOTHER ten years to go there again, even though we did it before in less time, and even that ten year time-frame would require a very large national investment.  We couldn’t do it the same way we did it before.  Literally, the expertise to do it THAT way no longer exists.  (Much as we couldn’t now outfit a Lewis and Clark expedition with period specific gear, manufactured the way they did it, and expect the expedition to even stay alive, traveling in the same ways they did it the first time.  Quite literally, no one alive now knows how to do things that way.)  Our current tech-base would have to do it the way it does things now.  There are no Saturn boosters or Apollo craft left, and there are no factories to build them, nor experts in the old way of doing things.  We’d literally have to start over.   (Obama, of course, has decided not to try, and to use NASA to encourage Muslim self-esteem.)

So:  if we don’t keep up our production capability for the advanced weapons we’ve already developed (and the ONLY way to do that is to keep producing them…  it really is “use it or lose it”), and if we don’t develop MORE advanced weapons (because we foolishly believe we’ve spent enough, and we’re in the lead, and because we assume our putative opponents, including the Chinese, are going to have their hands full as it is), we will have made the possibly fatal error of limiting our own capabilities to what we hope are the intentions of our opponents, instead of planning our capabilities to far exceed the possible capability OR intention of any opponent.

In other words, we will have abandoned “peace through strength,” and substituted for it, “peace through hope.”

It boils down to this.  China has, for now, limited but specific aims, namely to dominate Asia and the Pacific.  It targets essentially ALL of its spending to that end, and specifically to defeat the weapons systems the USA already has.  It looks to me, even taking Barnett’s optimistic numbers, as though the Chinese ARE outdoing us in the specific area of Asian and Pacific oriented military spending.  The Chinese are smart, capable people.  Only foolish complacency leads one to assume the Chinese can’t simply overwhelm ALL of our carrier defenses if it throws enough supersonic or hypersonic missiles simultaneously.  It is busy building that overwhelming force.  Will a US president be interested in staring down the Chinese over Taiwan when only a nuclear option remains, because conventional options are no longer adequate?

So it seems to me that Barnett hopes for the best in terms of Chinese demographics, internal pressures and foreign intentions, and suggests we plan accordingly.  In the meantime, the Chinese ARE spending much more on methods and means to defeat our Pacific carrier fleet and countering our satellite systems than WE are spending in specifically countering those new threats.  It’s as if a really strong, powerful, skilled fighter, who has big weapons (our carrier fleet, essentially a 1960s concept), has decided he doesn’t have to pay attention to the fact that his opponent is sneaking up behind him with something he hasn’t really planned for, like 3000 hypersonic shipkiller missiles.  Sure, we can perhaps stop many of them.  But unless the Chinese truly fear a nuclear response from us, why should they not destroy our Pacific carrier fleet, or significant portions of it, when they can, consistent with their broadening ambitions?  Only a few such missiles would have to get through, and our ability to project power in the Pacific would be severely degraded.

I am not convinced an American President would, or should, launch even limited theater nuclear weapons in response to even an overwhelming conventional attack.  I AM convinced that I don’t want any American President to ever have to make that decision.

The problem with feckless policies and foolish spending priorities is this:  it is almost always going to be the NEXT administration that will have to deal with the mess left behind.  And the shortsighted public will often blame the administration in which the problem emerges, instead of the one whose policies and spending priorities led to it.

It would be good to pray that Thomas Barnett is correct in his assessment.  But we’d better plan to deal with the possibility that he’s wrong.

Unfortunately, Obama’s foreign policy assumptions seem to be even rosier than Barnett’s about our likely future opponents’ capabilities and intentions.

Jun 20 2010

Telling the truth with satire

You really need to check out this Powerline post, and watch the videos they linked here (don’t be impatient, the ad is short) and here.

Entertaining.  And educational.

Jun 09 2010

Why Turkey, NATO member, is siding with Iran against Israel

Category: Islam,Israel,jihad,national securityharmonicminer @ 8:19 am

Fareed Sakaria thinks he knows why Turkey is siding against Israel in the Gaza blockade. You guessed it: it’s Bush’s fault.

On the other hand, people who actually understand a bit more about the facts on the ground in Turkey see that the shift in Turkish foreign policy is a matter of demographics, as pointed out by Mark Steyn in Israel, Turkey, and the End of Stability

Foreign policy “realists,” back in the saddle since the Texan cowboy left town, are extremely fond of the concept of “stability”: America needs a stable Middle East, so we should learn to live with Mubarak and the mullahs and the House of Saud, etc. You can see the appeal of “stability” to your big-time geopolitical analyst: You don’t have to update your Rolodex too often, never mind rethink your assumptions. “Stability” is a fancy term to upgrade inertia and complacency into strategy. No wonder the fetishization of stability is one of the most stable features of foreign-policy analysis.

Unfortunately, back in what passes for the real world, there is no stability. History is always on the march, and, if it’s not moving in your direction, it’s generally moving in the other fellow’s. Take this “humanitarian” “aid” flotilla. Much of what went on, the dissembling of the Palestinian propagandists, the hysteria of the U.N. and the Euro-ninnies, was just business as usual. But what was most striking was the behavior of the Turks. In the wake of the Israeli raid, Ankara promised to provide Turkish naval protection for the next “aid” convoy to Gaza. This would be, in effect, an act of war, more to the point, an act of war by a NATO member against the State of Israel.

Ten years ago, Turkey’s behavior would have been unthinkable. Ankara was Israel’s best friend in a region where every other neighbor wishes, to one degree or another, the Jewish state’s destruction. Even when Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP was elected to power eight years ago, the experts assured us there was no need to worry. I remember sitting in a plush bar late one night with a former Turkish foreign minister, who told me, in between passing round the cigars and chugging back the Scotch, that, yes, the new crowd weren’t quite so convivial in the wee small hours but, other than that, they knew where their interests lay. Like many Turkish movers and shakers of his generation, my drinking companion loved the Israelis. “They’re tough hombres,” he said admiringly. “You have to be in this part of the world.” If you had suggested to him that in six years’ time the Turkish prime minister would be telling the Israeli president to his face that “I know well how you kill children on beaches,” he would have dismissed it as a fantasy concoction for some alternative universe.

Yet it happened. Erdogan said those words to Shimon Peres at Davos last year and then flounced off stage. Day by day what was formerly the Zionist entity’s staunchest pal talks more and more like just another cookie-cutter death-to-the-Great-Satan stan-of-the-month.

As the think-tankers like to say: “Who lost Turkey?” In a nutshell: Kemal Ataturk. Since he founded post-Ottoman Turkey in his own image nearly nine decades ago, the population has increased from 14 million to over 70 million. But that five-fold increase is not evenly distributed. The short version of Turkish demographics in the 20th century is that Rumelian Turkey, i.e., western, European, secular, Kemalist Turkey, has been outbred by Anatolian Turkey, i.e., eastern, rural, traditionalist, Islamic Turkey. Ataturk and most of his supporters were from Rumelia, and they imposed the modern Turkish republic on a reluctant Anatolia, where Ataturk’s distinction between the state and Islam was never accepted. Now they don’t have to accept it. The swelling population has spilled out of its rural hinterland and into the once solidly Kemalist cities.

As is often the case, Mark Steyn makes an elegant argument from demographics that the days of a western looking Turkey are probably over. We should have known when Turkey would not allow us to stage troops into Iraq in 2003. But it is now clear that Turkey is rapidly become just another Islamist state, and the demographic forces at work seem likely to continue its motion in that direction.

Don’t get me wrong:  I don’t think Fareed Zakaria is ignorant of the demographic changes in Turkey.  He surely knows.   Your speculations are as good as mine about why he doesn’t find that knowledge worthy of mention in his conjectures about what has led to changes in the Turkish political situation.

Click the link above and read Steyn’s article.

Jun 04 2010

Did it have to turn out like this?

Category: God,government,history,justice,liberty,military,national security,societyharmonicminer @ 8:00 am

The next time you get a chance to take a shot at a future conqueror, take it. No, lefty nitwits, I’m not talking about taking a shot at the next Republican president-elect. I’m talking about people whose overweening ambition makes them think they have the right to conquer the world.  By definition, no US president qualifies, because all have left office, willingly or not, without coercion, and gone home to write their memoirs, if they lived long enough. 

No, I’m talking about a Hitler, or a Stalin, or a Mao, or….  well, you get the idea.  Kaiser Wilhelm, without whom World War I would probably not have occurred as it did, is one such, though that seems not to have been immediately obvious to Annie Oakley…  a dead shot if there ever was one.  Although after WWI started, she seems to have caught on quickly enough about the Kaiser’s character.

THERMOPYLAEHILLBILLY: Annie Oakley and Kaiser Wilhelm II

Where would we be today if Annie Oakley had just a little more to drink in 1889? Kaiser Wilhelm II was the Reich’s new leader and had a box seat to watch Oakley at the Berlin Charlottenburg Race Course. She was appearing with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and had cleaned her Colt 45 the night before. Annie announced that she would shot the ashes off any man or woman’s Havana cigar. Normally her husband Frank Butler come out of the audience and her speech was just for show.

She never expected anyone, including Kaiser Wilhelm II to take her up on her offer and here came the Kaiser out of his box seat. Oakley had made her dare, there stood the Kaiser and she couldn’t back down. So as she measured her distance the Kaiser took out a cigar and started puffing. The German police thought it was a joke until the Kaiser took up his position. The Kaiser told the police to get out of the way.

Annie Oakley, American sharp shooter, raised her pistol, aimed and blew the ashes off Kaiser Wilhelm II cigar. Had she missed the woman from Cincinnati may have prevented the First World War 25 years later. When World War I started Annie wrote the Kaiser asking for a second chance. Silence followed……………

What If Diaries » What if Annie Oakley had shot Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1889?

One chilly November afternoon in 1889, a fur-coated crowd assembled in Berlin’s Charlottenburg Race Course to enjoy a performance of Buffalo Bill’s Wild Wild West Show, which was touring Europe to great popular acclaim. Among the audience was the Reich’s impetuous young ruler, Kaiser Wilhelm II, who had been on the throne for a year. Wilhelm was particularly keen to see the show’s star attraction, Annie Oakley, famed throughout the world for her skills with a Colt. 45.

On that day, as usual, Annie announced to the crowd that she would attempt to shoot the ashes from the cigar of some lady or gentleman in the audience. “Who shall volunteer to hold the cigar?” she asked. In fact, she expected no one from the crowd to volunteer; she simply asked for laughs. Her long-suffering husband, Frank Butler, always stepped forward and offered himself as her human Havana-holder.

This time, however, Annie had no sooner made her announcement then Kaiser Wilhelm himself leaped out of the royal box and strutted into the arena. Annie was stunned and horrified but could not retract her dare without losing face. She paced off her usual distance while Wilhelm extracted a cigar from a gold case and lit it with flourish. Several German policeman, suddenly realizing that this was not one of kaiser’s little jokes, tried to preempt the stunt, but were waved off by His All-Highest Majesty. Sweating profusely under her buckskin, and regretful that she had consumed more than her usual amount of whiskey the night before, Annie raised her Colt, took aim, and blew away Wilhem’s ashes.

Had the sharpshooter from Cincinnati creased the kaiser’s head rather than his cigar, one of Europe,s most ambitious and volatile rulers would have been removed from the scene. Germany might not have pursued its policy of aggressive Weltpolitik that culminated in war twenty-five years later.

Annie herself seemed to realize her mistake later on. After World War I began, she wrote to the kaiser asking for a second shot. He did not respond.

Annie Oakley, the Butterfly Effect, and You

In the late 1800s, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show was a dazzling display of horsemanship, gunplay and other cowboy skills. One of its acts involved the sharpshooting of the great Annie Oakley. Dubbed “Little Sure Shot,” Oakley had an amazing routine, she would shoot out lit candles, for example, and the corks of wine bottles.

For her grand finale, she would shoot out the lit end of a cigarette held in a man’s mouth at a certain distance. For this, she would ask for volunteers from the audience. As no one ever volunteered, she had her husband planted among the spectators. He would “volunteer” and they would complete the dangerous trick together.

Well, during one swing through Europe, Oakley was setting up her finale and she asked for volunteers. To her shock, and the surprise of everyone involved with the show, she got a real volunteer.

The proud young Prince (soon to be Kaiser) Wilhelm bravely stepped down from among the spectators, strode into the ring and stuck a lit cigarette in his mouth.

Reportedly out late the night before enjoying the local beer gardens, the unexpected appearance of this famous volunteer unnerved her. But the show must go on.

She took aim and fired… putting out the cigarette, much to Wilhelm’s amusement.

Thus, she also created one of historians’ favorite “what if” moments. What if her bullet went through the future Kaiser’s left ear? Would World War I have happened? Would the lives of 9 million soldiers and 6.6 million civilians have been spared? Would Hitler have risen from the ashes of defeated Germany? All sorts of questions come to mind…

Many historians think that the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, leading to the Soviet Union, would not have occurred without World War I to weaken the Czar (who was made by Lenin and Stalin to seem rather a nice fellow, by comparison).  Nazi Germany is difficult to credit as a likely outcome of a Germany that didn’t fight in WWI, because no great German angst would been present about a non-existent Treaty of Versailles, and no not-quite-imperialistic Kaiser would have tolerated Hitler in the feckless way German proto-democracy did.  In any case, without the agony of the post-war years, Hitler would have been only another anti-Semite, with no way to get traction with the German public at large.

World War II is hard to imagine without World War I.  Germany simply wouldn’t have had the drive to do it, absent the peculiar circumstances of the end of WW I.  At most, Japanese imperialism might have been a problem…  but strong British Empire, not weakened by WWI, would have been in a clear position to oppose Japanese aggression in China and elsewhere, and probably given the Emperor so much to consider that attacking the USA would have been a very low priority.

So imagine a 20th century without two world wars, without a cold war, indeed, without communism, which would have meant no Korean War, no Vietnam War, etc.  Imagine a still-strong British Empire still ruling the waves, shipping around the world the incredible output of American industry.

I know that cultural trends are present in history.  But I’m also pretty sure that without specific deeds by specific people, everything would have been different.

All of which occasionally leaves me wondering, in a much more pedestrian way, what deeds or words of everyday folk can sometimes have an effect that is seemingly far disproportionate to their obvious impact?

Jun 02 2010

Is it a failure of Israel, or a failure of liberalism?

Category: Fatah,Hamas,Islam,Israel,media,middle east,national security,terrorismharmonicminer @ 8:07 am

This article at Powerlineblog is difficult to summarize. It is a post about an article by Noah Pollak which is reviewing another article by Peter Beinart. I think it’s well worth your time, however, because of the way it explains the disconnect between American liberal Jews, liberals in Israel, American liberalism in general, and the facts on the ground in Israel, which are becoming clearer and clearer to even liberal non-Arab Israelis.  This is a quote from the article by Noah Pollack, discussing Beinart’s article and perspective, all of which is being discussed at Powerline at the link above.

Operation Defensive Shield in 2003, the Hezbollah war, and the Hamas war should have been moments in which liberal Zionists stepped forward to say: Israel took the risks for peace that we demanded. Israel committed itself to a diplomatic process, offered a Palestinian state, and withdrew from Lebanon and Gaza. The terrorists who attack Israel will find no defenders among us. Instead, talk of war crimes filled the airwaves, investigations were demanded, arrest warrants for Israeli officials issued, and now Peter Beinart says that he must question Zionism because civilians were killed in Gaza. Carried away by his own moral indignation, he never asks two fundamental questions: who started the war, and why was it fought from civilian areas?. . . .

Because the history of the peace process repudiates so many of liberalism’s most cherished premises, liberalism is increasingly repudiating Israel, and doing so in a perfectly logical fashion: with people like Beinart now saying that Israel is not in fact an admirable country and that it deserves to be thrown out of the company of liberal nations. In this way, the failure of the liberal vision is transformed from being a verdict on liberalism to being a verdict on Israel. . . .

The distilled pleading of Beinart is merely a series of demands that Israelis refuse to learn from experience: how dare they allow any hostility to Arabs creep into their politics; how dare they vote for Avigdor Lieberman, a populist who plays to the less-than-perfectly liberal Russian immigrants; how dare they lose faith in the peace process and the liberal hopefulness that animated it. Most important: how dare they upset the comfortable ideological existence of American Jews, whose acceptability to their liberal peers depends in no small degree on their willingness to join in pillorying Israel over the failure of the peace process — a failure, alas, that is not Israel’s but liberalism’s.

This is just a sample. Click the link at the top and read the whole thing. Highly recommended.

Apr 14 2010

Giving up our allies, or ganging up on them, too?

Category: Hizbullah,Iran,Israel,middle east,national security,Obama,Syriaharmonicminer @ 8:02 am

Obama is, once again, giving away the store… or at least the markets in Tel Aviv, by trying to make nice with the implacable enemies of supposed allies.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Syria has transferred long-range Scud missiles to Hezbollah. There have been rumors about this for a few days, but now U.S. officials, who at first refused to confirm them, are saying that the transfer has occurred.

The Scuds are believed to have a range of more than 435 miles. This means that Hezbollah can now bomb Jerusalem and Tel Aviv from Lebanon. During the 2006 war, the rockets Hezbollah rained on Israel had a range of 20 to 60 miles.

I hope you’ll read the entire article at the link above, and ponder the situation a bit.

One can only wonder: exactly how much damage can Obama-style foreign policy do in four years?

If the Carter administration is any guide, a truly immense amount.

Obama remains deeply confused about who are our allies and friends, and who are our adversaries. One hopes he doesn’t stay in office long enough to be educated directly by the course of events, though the next administration is going to have a lot of pieces to pick up.

Apr 07 2010

Hanging on to the Shuttle?

Category: national security,Obama,Russia,science,shuttle,spaceharmonicminer @ 8:03 am

Could moon rocket demise bring space shuttle reprieve?

The demise of NASA’s Constellation moon rockets is bringing faint hopes of a reprieve for the space shuttle.

NASA’s decades-old shuttle fleet has been headed for retirement since 2004, and only four more flights are scheduled. Now the White House’s plan to scrap the Constellation programme, a pair of rockets capable of taking astronauts back to the moon, has prompted renewed efforts to keep the shuttles running until new vehicles can replace them.

Two bills have been introduced in the US Congress to keep the shuttle flying while NASA works to develop replacements. The hope is that a modest extension, involving just a couple flights a year, could help retain jobs and maintain access to the International Space Station without relying on foreign launchers.

“If the space shuttle programme is terminated, Russia and China will be the only nations in the world with the capability to launch humans into space,” says Texas senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who introduced the first of the two bills this month. “This is unacceptable.”

An extension to shuttle flights may struggle to win approval. Safety has been a concern, but a bigger hurdle may be money. The cost of a modest programme could exceed $2 billion per year, according to agency officials. “Where that money comes from is the big question,” shuttle programme manager John Shannon told reporters last week.

They seem to be able to find plenty of money in Washington for things that they think actually matter.  Does this matter?  Only if you think it’s fine for the USA to be dependent on Russia to get people into and out of orbit.

Obama obviously does.  Maybe he, too, has looked into Putin’s eyes and seen a man he can work with.

Or maybe Obama just doesn’t think it matters.

Apr 02 2010

Service. Faith. Sacrifice.

Category: media,national security,society,terrorism,USAharmonicminer @ 5:39 pm

We do not deserve people like this, but we should all thank God that they exist, and are willing to serve.

In all humility, we should bow our heads and thank God for them.

I can’t help wondering why the major media cover so few of these kinds of stories, and why Hollywood makes so few movies about these kinds of heroes.

On second thought, I suppose I don’t have to wonder.

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