Sunday, July 08, 2012

Israel takes out strategic insurance against any Egyptian threat to its global shipping lanes

In an age of containerization, and fast trains this is a Suez canal bypass with great potential, particularly for ships too big (above 240,000 DWT) to go through Suez. China is building 350,000 DWT ships at the moment. Could be handy in lots of ways, particularly if accompanied by Singapore-standard container turnaround time. Amusing if Israel grabbed part of the Suez canal revenue. Suez canal transit is a slow and expensive business

Israel and China have signed an agreement to build a railway connecting Israel's southernmost port of Eilat with its Mediterranean ports at Ashdod and Haifa. The joint multi-billion dollar project will give commercial shipping a ready detour around the Suez canal for vessels heading from the Med to major sea lanes in the Indian Ocean and to ports of call in eastern Africa and southern Asia. And vice versa.

However, there's more to the joint venture than mutual commercial interests, important as they are - China, an emerging world power, wants to expand global trade routes; Israel, with its booming high-tech sector, has similar objectives.

For Israel, the strategic value of this railway project may be even more important than its commercial benefits. In one stroke, it gives Israel a direct link for cargos headed to Eilat from the Indian Ocean via the Red Sea and thence to the Gulf of Aqaba and then, via the new railway, on to Europe, northern Africa and beyond via Ashdod and Haifa.

The Suez canal is taken out of the picture should Egypt -- now ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood -- entertain notions of blockading Israeli shipping. Which, strategically speaking, is not a threat to be taken lightly. The 1967 war between Israel and Egypt was triggered in part by President Nasser's blockade against Israeli shipping via the Straits of Tiran -- a vital seaway between the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red. Sea.

Later, the 1979 peace treaty between the two countries was drafted so as to stipulate that the Straits of Tiran are international waters open to one and all.

Israel's minister of transport Yisrael Katz headed a 12-member delegation that traveled to Beijing for the signing ceremony.

Part of the 20 billion shekel tab would be assumed by the China Development Industrial Bank -- with Israel heading the operational side. Chinese companies expect to win most of the construction projects.

Prime Minister Netanyahu declared the planned railway a national priority project. The 180-kilometer line is expected to cut travel time between Tel Aviv and Eilat to two hours -- a new catalyst for development of the Negev, which along with the Galilee is expected to become an increasing focus for economic and population growth for Israel in coming years.

But the strategic element stands out, as Israel puts more weight on security in a turbulent region -- made even more turbulent and uncertain by ominous results stemming from the "Arab spring." As Dr. Aaron Lerner, director of Independent Media Review Analysis, puts it: "What country in the region would have the chutzpa to interfere with the operation of a transportation system with a Chinese government connection?



Barack Obama: Socialist or Nouveau Fascist?

“Barack Obama is a socialist.” Heard that one before? Of course you have. In fact if polling is to be believed, it’s more likely than not that you have accepted this premise at some point in the not too distant past.

Two summers ago a poll conducted by Democratic strategists James Carville and Stan Greenberg found that 55 percent of registered voters nationwide believed the term socialist accurately applied to Obama. In fact 33 percent of respondents — a third of all registered voters in the nation — believed the term applied to Obama “very well.”

More recently a Pew Center survey on some of our nation’s most commonly used ideological labels revealed that 60 percent of Americans have a negative impression of the word “socialism.”

But is Obama a socialist? And if he’s not — what is he?

Certainly there is a compelling case to be made that Obama is a socialist in the contemporary sense — much like the French Socialists, who are proposing massive tax hikes on the wealthy after securing the presidency and majorities in France’s Sénat and Assemblée Nationale.

Europe is littered with such tax-and-spend parties — including Germany’s Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands and Spain’s Partido Socialista Obrero Español (both of which ruled coalition governments in their countries until 2009 and 2011, respectively).

But is 21st century European socialism — which has led to a full-blown recession and pushed the world to the brink of a second global financial crisis — really socialism in the way that Karl Marx envisioned it?

Obama has never advocated doctrinaire socialism (which is based on government ownership of private property and the means of production). Certainly he has made good on his promise to “spread the wealth around” via unprecedented government intervention in the free market, but he cannot be called a socialist in the mold of Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro or Kim Jong-Il.

“What President Obama has been pushing for, and moving toward, is more insidious: government control of the economy, while leaving ownership in private hands,” columnist Thomas Sowell wrote recently. “That way, politicians get to call the shots but, when their bright ideas lead to disaster, they can always blame those who own businesses in the private sector.”

Sound familiar? This is precisely what happened during the recent recession. For example, government-mandated loans aimed at boosting homeownership were clearly among the root causes of the economic downturn – but when the sub-prime bubble burst blame was placed exclusively on “corporate greed.” Of course at the same time politicians were absolving themselves of any responsibility, they were forcing taxpayers to subsidize massive bailouts of these “greedy” financial institutions.

So if Obama isn’t a socialist, what is he? Economically speaking it’s far more accurate to say that he is a fascist — a supporter of dirigisme, in which government manages the economy through central planning, not collective ownership. Fascism did not seek to stamp out the innovative, wealth-creating potential of profit-seeking investment and entrepreneurship – instead it sought to channel those innovations (and funnel that wealth) to the good of the state.

“In fascist Italy the state pays for the blunders of private enterprise,” Italian social critic Gaetano Salvemini wrote in the mid-1930s.

When business was good, “profit remained to private initiative.” However when downturns came (as they inevitably do), “the government added the loss to the taxpayer’s burden.”

“Profit is private and individual,” Salvemini wrote. “Loss is public and social.”

This is the basis of fascism’s “third way” between laissez-faire capitalism and Marxism. It’s also precisely the economic system we see at work in America today, a centralized bureaucratic oligarchy in which farm subsidies, investments in “green jobs,” Wall Street bailouts, Export-Import Bank subsidies and numerous other taxpayer-funded incentives manipulate the market to serve specific political purposes.

Obviously the fascist analogy isn’t perfect. Unlike Obama, fascists abhorred class warfare (and labor’s efforts to foment it) because such societal divisions ran counter to their nationalist ideology. And while fascist economic policies can certainly perpetuate the redistribution of wealth, they also tend to create powerful privileged elites that leverage tax dollars and political favors so as to manipulate the market in their favor.

So is Obama’s brand of 21st century socialism/ nouveau fascism really “more insidious” than pure socialism, as Sowell suggests? Yes, because unlike socialism – the public sector never “takes a loss,” as the recent bureaucratic bailouts made clear.

Also consider this: Is any property really “private” if the government can take it based on little more than a whim? And is any sector of the economy really “private” as long as government can swoop in and set its prices and production quotas? And finally, is any market truly “free” if government can compel citizens to make specific purchases?

Of course not — all of which makes Obama’s ideology dangerous no matter what label we slap on it.



Psychological Operations and Leaving Afghanistan

The timeline for withdrawal from Afghanistan is slated for 2014. It has become America's longest war of attrition. Yet all is not lost there. While the United States might not "win" the decade-long war, it is almost impossible to lose.

In a sense, there is nothing to win: Afghan culture is an embarrassment to the human condition. Even the "good guys" will kill people over a book and then sell their daughters to a septuagenarian. But there is nothing to lose, either. Lest we forget, the U.S. routed al-Qaeda and the Taliban more than ten years ago, by December 2001, with the use of just 5,200 troops. The ensuing failure of Afghan civil society is not a U.S. military defeat.

In World War II, General Douglas MacArthur famously said, "We are not retreating-we are advancing in another direction." As we begin to withdraw from Afghanistan, U.S. leaders should speak in a comparable manner. What we need is a public psychological operations strategy-or what the military now calls "Military Information Support Operations," or MISO-coupled with tangible displays of military superiority.

Win or lose, Afghanistan was always going to be at the whims of Pakistan. Thus the U.S. has a Pakistan problem, not a Taliban problem. It's Hamid Karzai with the Taliban problem. The Taliban are bad actors, no doubt, but they're essentially a hapless militia. The head of the snake is Pakistan, which covertly supports al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and every major terrorist group in South Asia. We must be clear: our eventual withdrawal from Afghanistan does not portend an American flight from South Asian politics. In fact, if we are wise, it might strengthen our leverage.

We must intensify our drone campaign throughout the "Af-Pak" theater-and talk about it openly, too. Predator drones work. They have killed thousands of top-tier terrorists and have not hurt our popularity throughout the region (we are already unpopular). The drones have, however, undermined among the indigenous population the popularity of the Taliban. If someone in your village were liable to get bombed at any moment, at some point you would want to kick him out of your village.

Our air campaign has struck fear into the hearts of the enemy. Terror chieftain Ustadh Ahmad Farooq was quoted as saying: "There were many areas where we once had freedom, but now they have been lost. We are the ones that are losing people; we are the ones facing shortages of resources. Our land is shrinking and drones are flying in the sky." American leaders should be citing quotes like this publicly. Bringing to light the enemy's private fears is effective psychological warfare.

Although there are some slippery-slope arguments against the use of Predator drones, we should not doubt their efficacy. The conventional wisdom once suggested that the more we bombed, the more we would "inflame" hatred against us. But just the opposite is true. The more air supremacy we display over our al-Qaeda and Taliban adversaries, the more they doubt themselves and their actions. The truth is this: when our Islamist enemies have been irrefutably whipped on the battlefield, they are not enraged, but rather humbled, and are more prone to second-guess the divine sanction of their cause. Allah doesn't like losers, you see. This was Osama bin Laden's old "strong horse" logic: a neutral man will not gravitate to a weak horse.

The Taliban's boasts that they can fight forever must be countered with visible exhibitions of U.S. dominance. Good-natured humor would help, too. President Reagan used humor with devastating effect against the Soviets. Today, American politicians will go to great lengths to embarrass and humiliate their political opponents, but refrain from mocking our undying enemies. This is unfortunate, as our enemies in Afghanistan and Pakistan are largely incompetent and worthy of ridicule.

This worked in Iraq. The U.S. military released a video of insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi unable to work his weapon, shattering his image as a military mastermind. The terrorists' cause would be greatly damaged should our national leaders use similar tactics on a more consistent basis. It would be nice to hear a U.S. official or general officer speak of the Taliban's widespread pedophilic treatment of young Afghan boys, or make the Seinfeldian observation that al-Qaeda spends too much time working out on the monkey bars. This, above all, will drive the enemy nuts: they do not want to be laughed at.

Advocates of the current strategy argue that our abandonment of the nation-building project will result in al-Qaeda and the Taliban reestablishing their bases throughout Afghanistan (from which they would plot more attacks). There are three counterpoints to this argument. First, the 9/11 attacks were planned in apartments in Hamburg, Germany, not in Afghan training camps. Second, the enemy has long goaded us into making this a war of attrition- M16s vs. AK-47s-and we have unfortunately obliged. But we do not have to fight the war on their terms. There are smarter, more cost-effective ways to fight our nation's enemies than "teaching toothless villagers how to brush their teeth," in the words of Col. Ralph Peters.

Third, the U.S. has aerial technologies today that did not exist in 2001 when the war began. Should the terrorists be dumb enough to coalescence into specified, observable camps, we would simply be able to target them that much quicker. We should openly encourage them-dare them, even-to reestablish those training camps. Hell, maybe they'll even hold parades like Hezbollah. They'd last ten minutes. It's unsettling that more senior officials do not share this confidence. Such a "worst-case" scenario would be indistinguishable from Yemen or Somalia, for which we successfully use a fly-swatter strategy (Predator drones, Special Forces, and aid to indigenous allies). Let's stop pretending like Afghanistan is the Gates of Vienna. It's not. It's Mars. Our strategic focus should be on Iran and Pakistan.

We should show more assurance and less worry regarding the outcome in Afghanistan. The entire theater should be inundated with fliers from the sky, translated into Pashto, Arabic, and Farsi. They should contain a photograph of the Wright brothers, and they should read: "This was human aviation in 1901. More than a century has passed and you still cannot get off the ground. We will be overhead forever." As we "retreat" in the coming years, the point must be made that we are, in fact, advancing in another direction-that we can continue the fight, at low cost, on our terms, indefinitely.



This should be celebrated

The more the terminally corrupt United Nations is discredited, the better

[Canadian] Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird calls it a "sick joke" that the government of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad could get a seat on the UN Human Rights Council.

"It would do irreparable damage to the United Nations and likely would be the biggest blow that the United Nations has taken since its formation," Baird said during a teleconference Friday after the Friends of the Syrian People meeting in Paris. "What Assad needs to be facing is the International Criminal Court to face charges for committing crimes against humanities, he and his henchmen."
Syria is a candidate in the 2013 election for seats on the council.

The council condemned Syria on Friday for human rights violations, but UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer says it watered down a U.S. proposal to specifically rule out Syria's candidacy.

"We had a reference that all countries need to the meet the standards of membership, but there was no express rejection of Syria's candidacy," Neuer told QMI Agency. "At this point, the possibility that Syria will run next year is still on the table."

Neuer says it's also worrisome that Canada and other western governments haven't spoken out about Pakistan and Venezuela likely winning council seats in November.

Human Rights Watch has repeatedly criticized the governments of both countries.




List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)



Anonymous said...

Firgures its only someone's blog that mentions Israel's shipping insurance and not a major news source!


JR said...

Reuters not mainstream enough?