Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Infamy Day

 


The 7 December 1941 Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor was one of the great defining moments in history. A single carefully-planned and well-executed stroke removed the United States Navy's battleship force as a possible threat to the Japanese Empire's southward expansion. America, unprepared and now considerably weakened, was abruptly brought into the Second World War as a full combatant.

Eighteen months earlier, 32 had transferred the United States Fleet to Pearl Harbor as a presumed deterrent to Japanese aggression. The Japanese military, deeply engaged in the seemingly endless war it had started against China in mid-1937, badly needed oil and other raw materials. Commercial access to these was gradually curtailed as the conquests continued. 

In July 1941 the Western powers effectively halted trade with Japan. From then on, as the desperate Japanese schemed to seize the oil and mineral-rich East Indies and Southeast Asia, a Pacific war was virtually inevitable. 

By late November 1941, with peace negotiations clearly approaching an end, informed U.S. officials (and they were well-informed, they believed, through an ability to read Japan's diplomatic codes) fully expected a Japanese attack into the Indies, Malaya and probably the Philippines. Completely unanticipated was the prospect that Japan would attack east, as well. 

The U.S. Fleet's Pearl Harbor base was reachable by an aircraft carrier force, and the Japanese Navy secretly sent one across the Pacific with greater aerial striking power than had ever been seen on the World's oceans. Its planes hit just before 8AM on 7 December. Within a short time five of eight battleships at Pearl Harbor were sunk or sinking, with the rest damaged. Several other ships and most Hawaii-based combat planes were also knocked out and over 2400 Americans were dead.

Soon after, Japanese planes eliminated much of the American air force in the Philippines, and a Japanese Army was ashore in Malaya. 


These great Japanese successes, achieved without prior diplomatic formalities, shocked and enraged the previously divided American people into a level of purposeful unity hardly seen before or since. For the next five months, until the Battle of the Coral Sea in early May, Japan's far-reaching offensives proceeded untroubled by fruitful opposition. 

American and Allied morale suffered accordingly. Under normal political circumstances, an accomodation might have been considered. 

However, the memory of the "sneak attack" on Pearl Harbor fueled a determination to fight on.

Once the Battle of Midway in early June 1942 had eliminated much of Japan's striking power, that same memory stoked a relentless war to reverse her conquests and remove her, and her German and Italian allies, as future threats to World peace.

Source - US Navy Historical Center
 

Pic - "Pearl Harbor"

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

All The President's Generals

Attention!

45's announcement that he intends to nominate multiple retired Generals from those who fear that installing those cats would jepardize civilian control of the military. Those critics are mistaken. Previous service in uniform shouldn’t disqualify nominees, and, as the Iraq war demonstrated, civilians with no military experience are perfectly capable of making catastrophic mistakes themselves.

It is a mystery how a phrase that is both as ungrammatical and incorrect as “civilian control of the military” has become so widely accepted. First the grammar—“military” is an adjective, not a noun. The institution is the “armed forces.” When used correctly, the adjective raises real issues—“the military mind,” or “the military-industrial complex,” for example. Used in sloppy fashion as a noun, the word evokes a somewhat sinister blob of an institution, attitude, culture, and pressure group.

U.S. political leaders have traditionally trusted our military with a latitude rare in liberal democracies, because our military has rigorously disciplined itself to exercise that influence only to advance the president’s decisions. Once the civilian leadership has set policy, the military knows to salute and support the policy or resign their commissions. Those are the only two options.

And why shouldn’t the country’s most informed defense experts transition to civilian roles, provided they perform civilian functions and are rigorously vetted in congressional confirmation? Forty-five years into an all-volunteer force, and with small numbers relative to our population, few Americans are directly affected by decisions about our military forces. It is not particularly surprising they look to this widely admired institution for understanding, and have confidence the institution will act with integrity. Nor is it surprising that veterans feel a strong obligation to contribute to better defense policies because they care deeply about the United States and about the young men and women putting their lives on the line to defend it.

Civil-military relations in America remain an unequal relationship, though: political leaders have a responsibility to seek unvarnished military counsel, but they are under no obligation to take that advice. We elect national leaders to aggregate our societal preferences, including whether to go to war, and how much of blood, treasure, and effort to expend on these wars.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Taiwan Telephoning


Hello!


Beijing lodged a formal protest with the U.S. because President-elect Donald Trump, bypassing established diplomatic channels, spoke to Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen by telephone.

45's remarkable display of courtesy and solidarity with a beleaguered democracy will no doubt be welcomed warmly on the island. The Taiwanese are acutely, painfully aware of the lack of respect they command on the global stage.

Far more important, it seemed, than the technical impact of the snubbing—Taiwan's airlines will have to rely on secondhand sources for the latest technical information, an annoyance but hardly a massive setback—was what it represented: a country unfairly maligned and ignored.45's phone call shows that they will be ignored no more.

Even more better -

Trump, by seemingly not caring about Beijing’s reaction, has cut China down to size, telling its autocrats he does not fear them.


Just about everyone assumed the Chinese would create a crisis for Trump in his first months in office, just as they created crises for both 43—in April 2001 with the detention of the crew of the U.S. Navy EP-3—and 44—the harassment of the Navy’s unarmed reconnaissance vessels, the Impeccable and Victorious, in March and May 2009.


Instead, 45 took the initiative and created a crisis for China’s leaders, and he did that more than a month before taking the oath of office.

Therefore, Beijing is bound to find the next months unfamiliar and unsettling.

There is, if you need a metaphor, a rather large bull in the china shop.

And, yes, that could be a good thing.


What 45 has done is not “reset” Washington’s relations with China but put them on an entirely new footing. Up to now, Beijing has kept the initiative, and American presidents, especially 43 and 44, have merely reacted, trying to build friendly relations in spite of increasingly bold Chinese moves. The concept was that Washington had to maintain cooperative ties, increasingly considered an end in itself.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Fatah Fading

It is about one week before the Seventh General Congress of the Fatah party in Ramallah. 1,400 members will participate, but very few people outside Fatah care. As Avi Issacharoff writes in an excellent article in The Times of Israel,
How does the Palestinian public regard this congress? With a great deal of indifference, and in some cases outright hostility. Fatah has not managed to improve its status or image in the public’s eyes over the past several years….
The gathered apparatchiks will elect members of the movement’s two most powerful bodies, the Central Committee and the Revolutionary Council–but just reflect for a moment over those names, “Central Committee” and “Revolutionary Council.” The terms are relics of the movement’s pro-Soviet past and of its birth during the Cold War. And Fatah has completely failed to make the change to becoming a modern political party. The old Arafat machine remains a corrupt system dominated by a few aging figures, with Mahmoud Abbas, now 82–Palestinian Authority president, PLO chairman, and Fatah chairman–at the top.
Moreover, Fatah and the Palestinian Authority are completely at odds with the Arab world’s most important governments, in part over Abbas’s banning of his rival Mohammed Dahlan. As Issacharoff wrote,
A severe, unprecedented crisis has broken out between the Palestinian Authority and the moderate Arab world. Abbas is close to cutting off relations with the Sunni Arab states, Egypt and Saudi Arabia first among them. Cairo stands behind Dahlan and encourages his various activities. Saudi Arabia has suspended its financial aid to the PA. The United Arab Emirates is giving Dahlan official protection, and Jordan could not care less about what happens in Ramallah.
My own conversations during a recent trip to the Gulf suggested that the Issacharoff analysis is on the mark. Abbas, despite his age, has no plans to lay down the reins–ever. The party congress next week will lead to more bitterness as those pushed aside revolt against their new and diminished status. Meanwhile, in the West Bank, the PA-PLO-Fatah system is increasingly repressive, destroying freedom of the press and using the PA security forces against perceived enemies. Popular support, which has been low for years, continues to decline. As ABC News reported,
With the long-ruling Palestinian Fatah faction torn by rivalries, fierce shootouts between Palestinian security forces and Fatah-aligned gunmen have erupted in recent months, plunging the Balata [refugee] camp into unrest and lawlessness. The violence, much of it directed at a Fatah leadership seen as corrupt and out of touch, comes as the movement prepares to hold an overdue leadership conference at the end of the month and reflects a combustible power struggle….
During a recent conference in the Gulf, I listened to Americans, Europeans, and Arabs discuss the major problems of the Arab world: Iran’s growing power, the Russian role, the diminution of American strength and involvement under the 44th administration, the crisis in Syria…and not a word about the Palestinians. Correction: one word, from a BBC journalist who called the Palestinian issue a “core” issue for the region. Like Fatah’s leaders, she is living in the past.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Minds And Motives

There will come a time when our nation can fairly evaluate 43's strategy and record in fighting terrorism. Perhaps that time can start now. A new book by James Mitchell, a man who questioned 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed contains an extraordinary revelation. 

It turns out that those who believe that al-Qaeda attacked the U.S. in order to draw us into an Afghan quagmire are wrong. Terrorists attacked America expecting that we’d respond as we traditionally had, by treating terrorism primarily as a law-enforcement problem, with the military response limited to cruise-missile attacks like 42’s ineffective 1998 strikes in response to the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. Instead, 43 chose a different course.

Writing in the Washington Post, Marc Thiessen quotes from Mitchell’s account: “Then he [KSM] looked at me and said, ‘How was I supposed to know that cowboy 43 would announce he wanted us ‘dead or alive’ and then invade Afghanistan to hunt us down?’” Mitchell writes. “KSM explained that if the United States had treated 9/11 like a law-enforcement matter, he would have had time to launch a second wave of attacks.” He was not able to do so because al-Qaeda was stunned “by the ferocity and swiftness of 43's response.” 
Americans often ascribe superhuman levels of endurance and perseverance to our terrorist enemies. We believe terrorists scoff at losses and feel no fear. We think they relish dying, and the more they die, the more they inspire new recruits. We are convinced that they want to fight us, and when we do, we’re playing into their hands. But those of us who’ve deployed overseas know a different story.
 Terrorists are people, too. They panic, they feel fear, and most of them try to preserve their lives. They want to kill us, but they don’t necessarily want to fight. In my deployment, we captured five or six terrorists for every one we killed. Indeed, some of the terrorists who fought to the death only did so while high on drugs.


As 45 takes office, regardless of his existing views of American “entanglements” overseas, he must understand that under no circumstances should America’s terrorist enemies be permitted to create safe havens. For more than two years, 44 and the West allowed ISIS to build and maintain its caliphate, and while it is under siege now, the jihadists have done enormous damage. It is up to the new commander in chief to help a war-weary public understand that our enemy hopes we tire before they do. 
 Indeed, as Thiessen notes, our enemy is counting on our exhaustion. “In the end, he told Mitchell, ‘We will win because Americans don’t realize . . . we do not need to defeat you militarily; we only need to fight long enough for you to defeat yourself by quitting.’” Our enemy is human, but its leaders have the resolve to fight the long fight. In the United States, we don’t lack for young men and women who share that same determination. 
Jihadists can’t outlast the American warrior. Can they outlast the American public?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Oh Kuznetsov!


Commonwealth Russia's Naval Aviation ain't all that!

Many of the fast jets that were embarked on the Russia aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov have been flown to the main Russian air base in Syria, Airbus Defence and Space satellite imagery obtained by IHS Jane's shows.

The imagery shows eight Russian Federation Navy Su-33 and one MiG-29KR jets alongside various Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) aircraft at Humaymim Air Base in Latakia province on 20 November.

Kuznetsov can carry around 20 fast jets and is known to have embarked at least eight Su-33s for its current deployment in the Eastern Mediterranean, and at least four of the new MiG-29KR multirole fighters for the first time. One of the new jets crashed on 14 November, an incident that a Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) statement attributed to an unspecified "equipment fault during an approach for deck landing".

The Russian news website Gazeta published an article on 21 November that cited a source knowledgeable about carrier operations as saying that the MiG-29KR was circling Kuznetsov due to a problem with one of the carrier's four arrestor cables when both its engines failed, forcing the pilot to eject.

The MoD indicated that there were no problems with Kuznetsov's flight operations on 15 November, when it announced that its aircraft had carried out airstrikes against targets in Syria. It released video footage showing Su-33s loaded with unguided bombs and taking off from Kuznetsov, but the MiG-29KRs were not seen flying, hinting they may have been grounded after the crash.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Adios

There is more than enough evidence to judge the Castros’ legacy for what it is: the systematic exploitation and oppression of the Cuban people.

Two decades of “Castro-is-dead” rumors are finally at an end. And the race is on to see which world leader can most fulsomely praise Fidel Castro’s legacy, while delicately averting their eyes from his less savory characteristics. Two dul -elected leaders of democracies who should know better, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and 44, are leading the way. Mr. Trudeau praised Castro as a “legendary revolutionary and orator” who “made significant improvements to the education and health care of his island nation.” 44 offered his “condolences” to the Cuban people, and blandly suggested that “history will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure.” Now, he added, we can “look to the future.”

With all due respect to 44, the 60 years Fidel Castro spent systematically exploiting and oppressing the people of Cuba provide more than enough history to pass judgment on both Fidel and, now more importantly, his brother Raul.


See...

Lee Kwan Yew, Augusto Pinochet, Francisco Franco, Chiang Kai Shek, Park Chung-he: all of these dictators and authoritarians can mock Fidel Castro. They left their countries better off than they found them, and while many of them committed terrible crimes, they can also point to great accomplishments. Fidel has only the crimes.

Fidel leaves a shattered society and a desperately poor country behind him. Cuba is more divided today than it was when he conquered it; it is less able to shape its destiny than it was in 1959, and its future will likely be more closely linked to the United States after his death than before his seizure of power


Adios, failed autocrat