Climate Advocates Look to Totalitarian China for Leadership

November 14, 2016

Not surprising, since the core of environmentalism itself (as opposed to a wise conservationism) is totalitarian.

Watts Up With That?

Smog hangs over a construction site in Weifang city, Shandong province, Oct 16. 2015. Air quality went down in many parts of China since Oct 15 and most cities are shrounded by haze. [Photo/IC] Smog hangs over a construction site in Weifang city, Shandong province, Oct 16. 2015. Air quality went down in many parts of China since Oct 15 and most cities are shrounded by haze. [Photo/IC] Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Trump’s America cancelling billions of dollars of UN climate payments apparently opens the way for totalitarian China to assume the moral high ground in global environmental diplomacy.

Trump Win Clears Way For China to Lead on Climate

The election of climate change skeptic Donald Trump as president is likely to end the U.S. leadership role in the international fight against global warming and may lead to the emergence of a new and unlikely champion: China.

China worked closely with the administration of outgoing President Barack Obama to build momentum ahead of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. The partnership of the two biggest greenhouse gas emitters helped get nearly 200…

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Sunday Not Quite A Book Review: “The Cultural Revolution: a people’s history 1962-1976”

July 3, 2016

Book Cover Dikotter Cultural Revolution

Since I haven’t been posting much of late, I thought a good way to get back into the swing of things would be to revive the Sunday Book Review series. Great idea!

Trouble is, the book I read is one that I can’t get a handle on the right approach to reviewing it. smiley d'oh! smiley headbang wall

The topic is so large and so complex that I’m left with just one thing to say: if you are ever tempted by the idea that things would be better if we just gave government all the power it wanted, read Frank Dikotter’s “The Cultural Revolution: a people’s history, 1962-1976”. That should slap some sense into you.

The book tells the story of bloody turmoil China was thrown into for over a decade because of the paranoia and whims of one all-powerful man, Mao Zedong. Setting faction against faction, even against his own Communist Party, Mao threw China into such chaos that at times it seemed a second civil war might result — and in some locales, it did.

Fearing that his “comrades” would sideline or even depose him for his horrific errors in the 1950s, worried that a Khrushchev waited in the wings to bring ideological revisionism and a denunciation of Mao’s legacy as Khrushchev did to Stalin in his 1956 “Secret Speech,” Mao and his allies waged war against enemies often made up wholly in Mao’s mind.

The price, of course, was paid by the people. Whether looking for “capitalist roaders,” “revisionists,” members of various “anti-Party cliques” and agents of foreign powers lurking within the Party itself, or merely people of “bad class background” (for example, former landowners under the old regime and their relations), enemies weren’t just found among a few rivals to Mao. Dikotter’s book tells in appalling detail how ordinary Chinese had to suffer because of Mao’s whims: prison camps, “reeducation” centers, thousands of city residents exiled to the country with no relevant skills and yet expected to survive — and never return to the city. People humiliated, driven to suicide or beaten to death by teenaged “Red Guards.” Knowledge, learning, and arts declared worthless, even evil, if they didn’t conform to “Mao Zedong Thought” and serve the class struggle. The horror stories of Lovecraft and King are nothing compared to what really happened in China in the 1960s.

Over and over, we’re treated moments of madness, but also shown how people resisted, or at least tried to survive. When Mao’s insane economics made even basic goods almost impossible to get, many set up secret factories and trade routes, reestablishing an underground capitalism in Communism’s heartland. Secret book clubs meeting to share a copy of forbidden Western literature. Playing Classical music on old phonographs in a closet, hoping no one would hear and denounce you to the authorities.

It’s said that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” China in the Cultural Revolution is a glaring example of this, and Frank Dikotter’s “The Cultural Revolution: a people’s history, 1962-1976” should be part of any “scared straight” program for anyone tempted by statism.

Highly recommended.

PS: “The Cultural Revolution: a people’s history, 1962-1976” is available in hardcover and Kindle format. I’m happy to say the Kindle book was well-formatted and free of any errors as I recall. Fair disclosure, I get a few cents from purchases made through my links.


Bookshelf update – The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History, 1962-1976

May 29, 2016

Renaissance scholar astrologer

I’ve updated the “What I’m reading” widget to the right to reflect the latest item on the Public Secrets lectern, Frank Dikötter’s  “The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History, 1962-1976”.

Book Cover Dikotter Cultural Revolution

 

I’m only a few chapters into it, so far, but it seems to be another proof of something I’ve long believed: that Human history produces far more horror than any story by King or Lovecraft. The Cultural  Revolution, like so many other Leftist attempts to remake humanity –the French Revolution during “the Terror,” Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy (2), the USSR, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Cuba, North Korea– shows how dangerous it is to let one person, one group, or government in general to have too much power.

The Cultural Revolution is available in both Kindle (1) and hardcover formats.

PS: Why, yes. This is a shameless bit of shilling on my part. I like getting the occasional gift certificate that comes from people buying stuff via my link. But I still think it’s a good book.

Footnote:
(1) I’m happy to say I’ve found no typos or formatting errors, so far. These are all too common in Kindle e-books.
(2) Yes, Fascism and Nazism, two variations on statism, are products of the Left.


The “citizenship score:” How do you say “1984 lives!” in Chinese?

October 14, 2015
"Victims of a low citizenship score"

“The shame of a low citizenship score”

We’ve all heard of the “credit score,” right? That number that tells lenders whether you’re a responsible borrower, or if you’re some sort of deadbeat? Your borrowing, repayment, and income history are all factored in to arrive at a number that serves as a shorthand for your credit-worthiness.

Now, imagine taking all your Internet activity and all the doings of you and your friends and using that to come up with a “score” showing how good a citizen you are.

Welcome to today’s China:

China’s Communist government is rolling out a plan to assign everyone in the country “citizenship scores.” According to the ACLU, “China appears to be leveraging all the tools of the information age—electronic purchasing data, social networks, algorithmic sorting—to construct the ultimate tool of social control. It is, as one commentator put it, ‘authoritarianism, gamified.’ ” In the system, everyone is measured by a score ranging from 350 to 950, and that score is linked to a national ID card. In addition to measuring your financial credit, it will also measure political compliance. Expressing the wrong opinion—or merely having friends who express the wrong opinion—will hurt your score. The higher your score, the more privileges the government will grant you.

The system will be run by China’s ostensibly private (1) Internet companies. Read on to see how Yahoo –an American company– is a part owner in this tool of oppression. Ironic, right? The Internet, which is supposed to intellectually liberate Man by providing him with near limitless information, is instead being twisted by an evil regime and its American(!) collaborator into a means of thought control.

This should rightly horrify Westerners, Americans most of all (2), and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect a government founded on the principle of human liberty to not only criticize such a system and those who enable it, but to forbid companies that do business in the US from any participation.

But that would require an American government that believed in American values, something we’re currently lacking.

I suppose we should be grateful progressives can’t ever implement something similar here.

We hope. smiley worried

Footnotes:
(1) Only officially a Communist state, now. Though the Communist Party maintains a monopoly on political and coercive power, the system has evolved more toward a fascist, state-capitalist model.
(2) Except for certain New York Times columnists who really, really wish we were more like China.


Asia’s coal power climate joke

September 26, 2015

Obama wants to destroy the coal industry here, while California thinks it can heal the world on its own by forsaking the Demon Carbon. Meanwhile in Asia, they merely pay lip service to global warming while pressing on with building coal plants — and laughing at us behind our backs. And sometimes in front of them.

Watts Up With That?

energy-plugged-in-coal

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Mother Jones is celebrating that China has just committed $3.1 billion to help poor countries fight climate change. Mother Jones cautiously states they don’t know what China means by this statement. My guess is they know very well what China probably means – but they don’t want to detract from their climate story.

According to Mother Jones;

China followed up its promise Friday to create the world’s largest cap-and-trade program with yet another significant climate policy announcement: It will commit to spending $3.1 billion to help developing countries slash their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change. China’s financial commitment, along with its new carbon market, are part of a comprehensive package of climate measures to be announced at a joint press conference featuring US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday in Washington, DC.

The new pledge, emerging from high-profile…

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North Korea: Border Guards raided, purged for murdering Chinese?

August 29, 2015
Hungry?

Hungry?

If you’re Kim Jong Un, the Supreme Leader pudgy, alcoholic, and murderous dictator of North Korea, the world’s largest prison camp masquerading as a nation, the last thing you want to hear is that your soldiers have crossed the border into the territory of your one ally and murdered its citizens.

And when you do hear that, you bring the hammer down. Hard.

Scores of officers and rank-and-file soldiers from North Korea’s border guard unit have been rounded up and are under investigation by a special inspection team of the country’s Workers’ Party, following an incident earlier this year in which two of the guards crossed the border and killed two Chinese, sources inside the country said.

The team stormed the headquarters of the 25th brigade in the neighborhood of Yonbong 2 in Hyesan city of Yanggang province earlier this month, and arrested as many as 40 soldiers on the spot, said Hee-yun Doh, a representative of the Seoul-based Citizens’ Coalition for Human Rights of Abductees and North Korean Refugees, citing information from a local North Korean source.

Those arrested included the leader of the third platoon from the fourth company of second battalion and six staff sergeants, he said.

 

The head of the Border Guards was replaced after this incident (no word of him being executed in Kim’s usual creative manner), and three staff sergeants were quietly shot — pour encourager les autres, no doubt, for word inevitably got around. North Korea already had a problem with guards being open to bribery to let Koreans cross the Yalu to escape this hellhole (How bad do things have to be to make China look good? Shudder…); if they’re going around shooting people in China, too, well, that’s a problem of a whole other order of magnitude, as Beijing made very clear to Pyongyang.

But the reason they committed these murders should also worry Kim Jong Un:

It was not clear why the North Koreans crossed into the border area, but it is believed that they were trying to obtain food when they killed the two Chinese, according to reports.

In other words, the food situation in North Korea is so bad, Kim hasn’t enough to adequately feed the guys with guns, who are there to keep the rest of North Korea crushed underfoot.

Not good, from a North Korean dictator’s point of view.

Not that the Border Guards are likely to overthrow the government, but this shows Kim is starting to have to put the squeeze on the elites as there just isn’t enough food to go around. I’m willing to bet government officials allowed to live in Pyongyang get plenty, as well as the commanders of key military units and elite bodies of troops. But, if things get worse and reduced rations move (ahem) up the food chain, you can bet there will be grumbling among senior officers already worried about Kim’s predilection for executing people on a whim.

Hence the need to make an example, now.

Long ago, the Roman emperor Septimius Severus is reported to have told his sons, “Ignore everyone else, but take care of the Army.” He knew where the real power in Rome resided, and on whom the Emperor’s safety depended.

Kim, or at least his close advisers, likely knows that lesson, too, but whether he can do it is another question altogether.


#ChinaHack: That does it. I want executions.

June 17, 2015
x

OPM network security specialist

This Ars Technica article about today’s House hearing on the Chinese hacking of almost the entire US government personnel database opens with a recounting of the deserved reaming the head of OPM and its CIO received from Chairman Chaffetz (R) and his committee. But, that was not the nut of the article. Oh, no. The crucial piece of information was buried in the next to last paragraph. See if you can spot it.

Some of the contractors that have helped OPM with managing internal data have had security issues of their own—including potentially giving foreign governments direct access to data long before the recent reported breaches. A consultant who did some work with a company contracted by OPM to manage personnel records for a number of agencies told Ars that he found the Unix systems administrator for the project “was in Argentina and his co-worker was physically located in the [People’s Republic of China]. Both had direct access to every row of data in every database: they were root. Another team that worked with these databases had at its head two team members with PRC passports. I know that because I challenged them personally and revoked their privileges. From my perspective, OPM compromised this information more than three years ago and my take on the current breach is ‘so what’s new?'”

Repeat after me: the Chinese (1) had frakking root access (2) to those databases!! That made them top-level administrators with access to everything. All the supposedly secure, classified data on every background check of every US employee investigated by OPM. And who knows what else they could do while they had access?

I’m almost speechless. To Hell with firing people: this is so weapons-grade stupid that only a firing squad will do.

Pour encourager les autres.

via CinnaminM and John Schindler

Footnotes:
(1) Please. Don’t even try to tell me a root-level administrator working in China was not -at the least- turned by Chinese intelligence, if not an active agent.
(2) See.


I was wrong: the #ChinaHack is indeed an espionage “Pearl Harbor”

June 17, 2015

Blown covers?

The other day I mildly disputed Jim Geraghty’s description of the break-in by the Chinese of the OPM’s database as a “cyber-Pearl Harbor.” After all, I offered, bad as the hack was (and it was bad), there was no destruction of an important national security asset, unlike the sinking of much of the Pacific Fleet by the Japanese back then. But I was wrong. I missed the smoking wreckage made of our espionage capabilities:

But there’s an even more serious aspect of this compromise: the threat it poses to American intelligence operations abroad, particularly to officers serving under various false identities, or “covers,” overseas. The Intelligence Community employs myriad cover mechanisms to protect the true identity of its spies posted outside the United States. Cover protects our officers and allows them to conduct their secret work without drawing as much attention to themselves. While many intelligence officers pose as diplomats, that is only one option, and some covers are deeper than others. Regardless, all espionage covers are based upon credible narratives that rely on plausible details. Through a process the Intelligence Community calls back-stopping, any officer’s cover needs to look real and check out if tested. Thus, an American spy who is posing as an oil executive, for instance, has to have a “legend” in that industry that bears that out. Think business cards, company websites, or a team of ersatz oil industry colleagues. Just as another intelligence officer who poses as a diplomat better have his or records in State Department systems, to look plausible.

And now the Chinese have their hands on a database (which may be for sale) that could allow them to sniff out whose bio is real and whose is a cover. To continue:

For American spies abroad, this can be a matter of life or death, and any personnel sent into countries where they could be targeted for kill or capture—which in the age of the Islamic State is a depressingly long list—need to be deeply concerned about how much the OPM breach has complicated, and perhaps threatened, their lives. How bad this is was explained by Joel Brenner, who from 2006 to 2009 served as the Intelligence Community’s top counterintelligence official. Describing the hack as “crown jewels material, a goldmine” for China, who Washington insiders believe is behind the theft, Brenner added: “This is not the end of American human intelligence, but it’s a significant blow.” The only good news in all this is that several of our big spy services like CIA and NSA don’t rely on outside agencies for security clearances. They do their own background investigations, while ninety percent of the Federal government relies on OPM. But that’s cold comfort since the CIA uses other federal agencies as cover so often. Besides, given the enormous extent of this compromise, which gets worse with each new revelation, many are wondering how much information the Chinese don’t have at this point.

Indeed. Remember all the security problems, potential and proven, pointed out regarding Obamacare? Anyone care to bet that those problems have been fixed and that someone hasn’t already riffled though the records of millions of applicants, or used Obamacare’s myriad connections network connections to other agencies to break in elsewhere? Add to that the Snowden operation, Bradley Manning’s data theft, the likely Russian hack of the White House (via the State Department), and you’re left wondering if anyone in the federal government has any real concern or even competence with data security.

More immediately, the Obama administration came into office proclaiming itself the most tech-savvy administration, ever. One would think they would be enraged, not just by these acts of war by China, but the gross, utter, bumbling incompetence displayed by their department heads. And yet, in spite of having been warned for years that the OPM servers were insecure, all they can do is offer free credit monitoring. No resignations. No firings. No consequences.

Except for our clandestine agents in the field.


The OPM Hacking Scandal Just Got Worse

June 12, 2015

Jim Geraghty described this news a a “cyber-Pearl Harbor.” I’d quibble over the “Pearl Harbor” description, but that this is an almost-certain intelligence disaster (and I use that word deliberately) is doubtless. Think I’m wrong? Just read Mr. Schindler’s post analyzing the latest news.

The XX Committee

The other day I explained in detail how the mega-hack of the Office of Personnel Management’s internal servers looks like a genuine disaster for the U.S. Government, a setback that will have long-lasting and painful counterintelligence consequences. In particular I explained what the four million Americans whose records have been purloined may be in for:

Whoever now holds OPM’s records possesses something like the Holy Grail from a CI perspective.  They can target Americans in their database for recruitment or influence. After all, they know their vices, every last one — the gambling habit, the inability to pay bills on time, the spats with former spouses, the taste for something sexual on the side (perhaps with someone of a different gender than your normal partner) — since all that is recorded in security clearance paperwork (to get an idea of how detailed this gets, you can see the form, called…

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What if Iran already has nukes hidden in North Korea?

March 31, 2015

satire nuclear explosion 2

That’s the not so subtle implication of Gordon Chang’s article in The Daily Beast. Much of the article explores the illicit nuclear proliferation network (parts confirmed, others suspected) between Iran, China, North Korea, and (formerly?) Pakistan, dating back nearly fifteen years. But the key portions follow:

In October 2012, Iran began stationing personnel at a military base in North Korea, in a mountainous area close to the Chinese border. The Iranians, from the Ministry of Defense and associated firms, reportedly are working on both missiles and nuclear weapons. Ahmed Vahidi, Tehran’s minister of defense at the time, denied sending people to the North, but the unconfirmed dispatches make sense in light of the two states announcing a technical cooperation pact the preceding month.

(…)

The North Koreans have also sold Iran material for bomb cores, perhaps even weapons-grade uranium. The Telegraph reported that in 2002 a barrel of North Korean uranium cracked open and contaminated the tarmac of the new Tehran airport.

(…)

The relationship between the two regimes has been long-lasting. Hundreds of North Koreans have worked at about 10 nuclear and missile facilities in Iran. There were so many nuclear and missile scientists, specialists, and technicians that they took over their own coastal resort there, according to Henry Sokolski,  the proliferation maven, writing in 2003.

Even if Iran today were to agree to adhere to the Additional Protocol, it could still continue developing its bomb in North Korea, conducting research there or buying North Korean technology and plans. And as North Korean centrifuges spin in both known and hidden locations, the Kim regime will have a bigger stock of uranium to sell to the Iranians for their warheads. With the removal of sanctions, as the P5+1 is contemplating, Iran will have the cash to accelerate the building of its nuclear arsenal.

So while the international community inspects Iranian facilities pursuant to a framework deal, the Iranians could be busy assembling the components for a bomb elsewhere. In other words, they will be one day away from a bomb—the flight time from Pyongyang to Tehran—not one year as American and other policymakers hope.

(Emphasis added)

Think about it. Pretend for a minute you’re one of the Muslim fanatics who rule Iran. Maybe you’re part of the faction that sees it as its duty to bring about the Islamic “end times.” You definitely want to crush the Jews and destroy Israel. You hate America as the Great Satan and see Iran’s Islamic Revolution as the one hope for truly making Allah’s religion supreme. To protect the revolution and fulfill Allah’s goals, you’ve decided Iran needs nuclear weapons.

But the Great and Little Satans (America and Israel) stand in your way. They don’t want you to have these weapons. They are infidels and enemies of Allah. So, to buy yourself the time to make them, you enter into negotiations — not to give anything away, but merely to delay. And, so far, it’s worked. The infidels are weak and anxious for an agreement, so they keep playing along, no matter how outrageous your demands.

And yet there are risks. What if the Zionist Entity (Israel) loses patience and attacks? That might set back your program. What if a new president takes charge in America, one who isn’t afraid to use his nation’s awesome resources to weaken your regime by supporting the opposition, as Reagan did with Poland, or through the direct use of armed force, as they did to Saddam? That could wreck your nuclear dreams, if not overthrow you altogether. How do you guard against that?

Well, like any well-run operation, you have a disaster back up plan. In this case, an offsite nuclear program, parallel to the one in Iran. One so offsite that  it is in another country, an allied nation with a nuclear program of its own and that hates America, too, and is obsessed with security.

A place like North Korea.

This is all speculative, of course, but it is also plausible. It’s what any reasonable person would consider doing in a similar situation. And, while the mullahs are aggressive antisemitic religious fascists, they are not stupid.

Keep your eye out: Iran has been playing hardball in the negotiations, demanding so much that even Obama and Kerry must have been tempted at times to walk out. The deadline for an agreement is coming up: If Iran suddenly and to everyone’s relief makes major concessions, I think the North Korean backup scenario goes from “likely” to “almost certain.”

Sleep well.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


The Hawaiian independence movement should be grateful…

February 10, 2015

Map of Hawaii

Via Moe Lane, I didn’t even know Hawaii had an independence movement, let alone that elements of the Chinese military had made noises about arming it in revenge for our help to Taiwan. Not that I give it much credence; I suspect the Judean People’s Front has more supporters.  One part did catch my eye, however:

Not surprisingly, both the Hawaiian state government and the federal government dispute the independence activists’ claims. Both have tried to placate the movement by offering to recognize native Hawaiians as an American Indian tribe, with the same level of independence Indian tribes have had within the U.S. system of government.

Siu says the federal government has dismissed the independence claims as “water under the bridge” arguing that because of long U.S. government control that past claims of independence are no longer valid.

“Native Hawaiian people are quite insulted to be grouped as an American Indian tribe and so that has been totally rejected by our people,” he said.

I’m not sure Mr. Siu will gain much sympathy for his movement by calling it an insult to be grouped with the American Tribal Peoples; in fact, I think he should be darned grateful the US government has never carried out this threat. The Indians received wretched treatment at the hands of the US, such that I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. The kindest thing we could do for these people is abolish the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Meanwhile with regard to the Chinese “threat,” these guys need to get out more.


Naval officer punished for speaking honestly about China?

November 13, 2014
"A short, sharp war?"

“A short, sharp war?”

(Photo credit: AP)

This seems more like a chain-of-command discipline or “speaking out of turn” issue (in other words, don’t publicly contradict your bosses), but it is worrisome to think that Captain James Fannell may have been punished for holding an unpopular view of the threat from China:

A senior Navy intelligence leader whose provocative comments this year about Chinese bellicosity stirred an international controversy has been shelved in the wake of an investigation into his conduct, Navy Times has learned.

Capt. James Fanell, the director of intelligence and information operations at U.S. Pacific Fleet, has been removed from that position by PACFLT boss Adm. Harry Harris and reassigned within the command, Navy officials confirmed.

What did Captain Fannell say that landed him in hot water? Speaking at a naval conference earlier this year, he voiced his opinion that China was preparing for “a short, sharp war with Japan,” one that  would inevitably involve us:

“[We believe] the [People’s Liberation Army] has been given the new task to be able to conduct a short, sharp war to destroy Japanese forces in the East China Sea following with what can only be expected [as] a seizure of the Senkakus or even southern Ryukyu [islands],” Fanell was quoted as saying.

Fanell has also stated that China is at the center of virtually every maritime territorial dispute in the Asia-Pacific and that the Chinese were engaging in a blatant land-grab of islands that would enhance their exclusive economic rights to fishing and natural resources.

“I do not know how Chinese intentions could be more transparent,” he said, adding that when Beijing described its activities as the “protection of maritime rights,” this was really “a Chinese euphemism for the coerced seizure of coastal rights of China’s neighbors,” the Financial Times reported.

Fanell’s views have supporters inside naval intelligence, and he has become a high-profile spokesman for a more alarmist view of the rise of China than those espoused by Navy senior leadership, an intelligence source who spoke to Navy Times said. Fanell’s articles on China have been published by Hoover Digest, Naval Intelligence Professionals Quarterly and the U. S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings.

Trouble is, this time his remarks placed senior officers on the spot with China, at a time when the US Navy is trying to build better relations with its Chinese counterparts, part of the Obama administration’s Asia policy. Army Chief of Staff General Odierno, for example, was peppered with questions from journalists in China and had to disavow Fannell’s remarks. I’m sure he wasn’t happy. One hopes this is a case of an officer being reprimanded for a lack of command discipline, rather than for speaking uncomfortable but honest opinions his superiors don’t wish to hear.

That doesn’t mean he was wrong, however. Even if Captain Fannell overstates Chinese intentions, the thrust of their rearmament, including their naval buildup, is clear: they want to displace the United States as the preeminent power in the Western Pacific and bring the nations to its east and south, including its old foe Japan, into Beijing’s sphere of influence. Whether this involves a shooting war to seize the Senkakus and even the southern Ryukyus, or simply aggressive diplomacy meant to take advantage of a declining America, the point is that China is a powerful strategic competitor to the United States: the risk of conflict is real and we cannot afford to blind ourselves to it in pursuit of “building bridges.”

Especially when the other side may have an interest in blowing them up, someday.

via The Daily Caller


(Video) Hitler and Chamberlain, Putin and Obama

June 2, 2014

Obama as Chamberlain

(Photo via Israel Matzav)

I’ve been saying for years, almost since the Jihadi War began, that the state of international relations gives me a “1930s vibe,” a feeling that we may be on a path toward another World War. That feeling has come and gone as the years passed, as I’m sure it did for those living in the 30s, but it’s never quite gone away. In fact, Russia’s predatory moves toward Ukraine have brought that feeling roaring back, the parallels being striking.

Bill Whittle has noticed the same trends and, in this video for Truth Revolt, compares a lion, a bear, and two lambs:

But it’s not Russia that worries me most, unless it’s in combination with other powers. Russia is a dying state, its demographic trends signalling serious future decline. Its military, outside of special elite units, just isn’t all that good, and, while they’ve made steps to rebuild, they’re still  a long way off. (They had trouble mobilizing the limited forces they used to assault Georgia in 2008.) Their economy is far too dependent on natural resources, especially oil, but Russian oil is notoriously expensive to extract. Fracking technology in the West promises to cut the legs out from under Putin and his successors as it drives the price of oil and gas down, making Russia’s less marketable.

China concerns me more: a rising power with a strong hyper-nationalist faction, an aggressive foreign policy, and a strong sense of (as Bill notes about Russia) historical grievance. Some incident in the South or East China Seas could easily be the spark for a major conflagration.

And then there’s Iran: a fascist theocracy that has promised to destroy Israel and is desperately seeking its own nuclear weapons to do just that.

We face a bear, a dragon, and a lion, while we are lead by lambs.

Yep. I have a bad feeling about this.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Leaked Chinese documents show planning for a North Korean collapse

May 6, 2014
"I've got some bad news, boss..."

“I’ve got some bad news, boss…”

To paraphrase Whoopie Goldberg, I’m pretty sure these weren’t “leaked-leaked,” so much as deliberately slipped to the Japanese, knowing they’d go public. It’s a not-so-subtle to warning to Dear Leader III: “If things fall apart, don’t count on us to bail you out:”

China has drawn up detailed contingency plans for the collapse of the North Korean government, suggesting that Beijing has little faith in the longevity of Kim Jong-un’s regime.

Documents drawn up by planners from China’s People’s Liberation Army that were leaked to Japanese media include proposals for detaining key North Korean leaders and the creation of refugee camps on the Chinese side of the frontier in the event of an outbreak of civil unrest in the secretive state.

The report calls for stepping up monitoring of China’s 879-mile border with North Korea.

Any senior North Korean military or political leaders who could be the target of either rival factions or another “military power,” thought to be a reference to the United States, should be given protection, the documents state.

According to Kyodo News, the Chinese report says key North Korean leaders should be detained in special camps where they can be monitored, but also prevented from directing further military operations or taking part in actions that could be damaging to China’s national interest.

The report suggests “foreign forces” could be involved in an incident that leads to the collapse of internal controls in North Korea, resulting to millions of refugees attempting to flee. The only route to safety the vast majority would have would be over the border into China.

“Foreign forces,” of course, being the United States and South Korea. Kim Jong Un’s behavior since taking power, from hysterical rhetoric to live-fire artillery drills in sensitive areas to his penchant for executing rivals in various psychopathic creative ways, and especially his continued pursuit of nuclear weapons, has to worry governments with security interests in Northeast Asia. And the last thing anyone wants is a Korean conflict that might again force Beijing to come to Pyongyang’s aid and place Chinese forces in combat against Americans. North Korea’s behavior has become unpredictable since L’il Kim took power, and a lack of predictability in Great Power relations makes everyone nervous. Hence a the message to Kim that’s about as subtle as a gun to the face: instead of helping you, we may put you in a camp, instead.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this Chinese report comes out at just about the same time we learn of credible reports that North Korea has developed nuclear warheads that can fit on an ICBM. Missiles that can reach the United States:

According to the 16-page report, “The North Korean Nuclear Threat to the United States,” the Defense Intelligence Agency stated in an unclassified assessment made public a year ago that “DIA assesses with moderate confidence the North [Korean government] currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles.”

“This is disturbing news,” the report says. “The North Korean regime is one of the most fanatic, paranoid, and militaristic dictatorships on the planet. … While North Korea has long made occasional nuclear attack threats, the scope, magnitude, and frequency of these threats have vastly increased in 2013.”

North Korea has in the recent months issued provocative threats to carry out nuclear strikes on U.S. cities and against American allies.

By the way, the Obama administration is trying to deny the conclusions in this report, because it doesn’t fit with their diplomacy. Feel reassured.

Anyway, back to Chinese planning for a North Korean collapse, one has to wonder if the Chinese haven’t seen the same information as DIA (they have much better contacts than we with the regime, though they’ve worsened in recent years) and decided to let Pyongyang know that no help would be coming their way if they decided to play a game of nuclear chicken with us. Quite the contrary, in fact. In that case, it might even be in China’s interests to euthanize its ally before it could push us over the edge. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out they have a North Korean general on tap for a convenient coup, or that they were prepared to invade, themselves. For fraternal, humanitarian reasons, of course.

And let’s keep in mind that a military crisis might not be the catalyst for a North Korean state failure: East Germany fell apart after the Soviets left from sheer exhaustion, and the Soviet Union just sort of twitched and dissolved without us having to fire a shot. North Korea is subject to periodic severe famines, and the economy can’t produce what the people need. They’re only held in line through terror and constant propaganda — what if that suddenly stops working? Or what if some general decides he doesn’t want to be the next to go up against the wall? Rather than a military confrontation, Beijing might find itself dealing with hundreds of thousands of starving Koreans looking for food. Better to use the People’s Liberation Army to “restore order” south of the Yalu and keep those people from overwhelming the neighboring regions of Manchuria.

It’s a lot of speculation, I realize, which is all we have when dealing with a black box like North Korea. But, that the Chinese are taking the possibility of sudden regime collapse so seriously (and this isn’t the first time they’ve warned Pyongyang) means we should, too.

via Walter Russell Mead

RELATED: Earlier posts on North Korea.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Paging John LeCarre! #NSA leaker a Chinese agent?

June 10, 2013
"Would you believe..."

“Would you believe…?”

This is getting weirder and weirder, but, at the same time, tantalizingly plausible:

Former CIA case officer Bob Baer revealed on CNN Sunday evening that intelligence officials were possibly considering Edward Snowden’s case as Chinese espionage, after Snowden came forward this afternoon from an undisclosed Hong Kong location.

“Hong Kong is controlled by Chinese intelligence,” Baer said. “It’s not an independent part of China at all. I’ve talked to a bunch of people in Washington today, in official positions, and they are looking at this as a potential Chinese espionage case.”

“On the face of it, it looks like it is under some sort of Chinese control, especially with the president meeting the premier today,” Baer said. “You have to ask what’s going on. China is not a friendly country and every aspect of that country is controlled. So why Hong Kong? Why didn’t he go to Sweden? Or, if he really wanted to make a statement, he should have done it on Capitol Hill.”

When you think about it, the possibility of Snowden being used by Chinese intelligence is not at all unreasonable: the US news had been filled for months with items about Chinese hacker attacks and complaints about stolen data, and Obama was expected to bring this up at their summit here in California. Could he have been used by a Chinese “handler” to release this information when it would be both embarrassing to Obama and useful to China by cutting O’s legs out from under him at the summit? “Shut up, you guys are spying, too?” I’ve got no firm opinion about Snowden, himself, though, from what I’ve read, he does strike me as a immature narcissist who could be played by skilled operators. And what free-speech and civil liberties advocate who donates to Ron Paul would take refuge in China, of all places? (1)

There’s something really, really odd about this.

via Legal Insurrection

PS: I haven’t written much about these NSA revelations, the phone metadata collection and the information culling from Internet providers (PRISM), because there is so much to absorb and it has such profound implications for a free society that I think silence, on my part and for now, is better. I’ve seen too many outraged knees jerking, too much heat and not enough light, too much reaction and not enough reading; it makes me worry that, traumatized as we are by the IRS and Rosen scandals, etc., we may throw the “national security baby” out with the bathwater. For now, though, let me leave you with an article by Jonah Goldberg that best captures my thinking at the moment: healthy skepticism.

Footnote:
(1) Yeah, I know he is/was in Hong Kong, which is very free market and capitalist, but if you don’t believe Beijing pulls the strings of what goes on there, especially in an intelligence matter, I have a bridge for you.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Honey trap: US missile defense contractor sold secrets to the Chinese for sex

March 20, 2013
"Would you believe..."

“Would you believe…”

It’s amazing how stupid we get when our hormones and feelings are involved: a 59 years old former Army officer, who now works on missile defense, has thrown his career, his honor, and his life away for a woman half his age… who also happened to be a Chinese spy.

“According to the affidavit, the national defense information that [Benjamin Pierce] Bishop passed to [the woman] included information relating to nuclear weapons; information on planned deployment of U.S. strategic nuclear systems; information on the ability of the United States to detect low- and medium-range ballistic missiles of foreign governments; and information on the deployment of U.S. early warning radar systems in the Pacific Rim,” the Justice Department announced yesterday.

The alleged leaks took place between May of 2011 and December 2012, according to DOJ, while the “romantic relationship” supposedly began in June 2011.

Interesting that this comes soon after the Obama administration reversed plans to end Bush-era missile-defense deployments.

Bishop faces up to 20 years for his treason; I think it’s a shame he’s not liable for hanging.

So-called “honey traps” are not at all uncommon in espionage, though I think the Soviets/Russians and other Communist agencies used them far more than we did or do. And men are not the only ones to fall for them: though it’s fiction, the excellent “The Americans” TV show on FX shows an FBI confidential secretary being seduced by an undercover KGB agent.

Stupidity is a universal constant.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Want to know how badly China has bungled its foreign affairs?

December 10, 2012

map east asia

The Philippines says it supports Japanese rearmament:

The Philippines would strongly support a rearmed Japan shorn of its pacifist constitution as a counterweight to the growing military assertiveness of China, according to the Philippine foreign minister.

“We would welcome that very much,” Albert del Rosario told the Financial Times in an interview. “We are looking for balancing factors in the region and Japan could be a significant balancing factor.”

The unusual statement, which risks upsetting Beijing, reflects alarm in Manila at what it sees as Chinese provocation over the South China Sea, virtually all of which is claimed by Beijing. It also comes days before an election in Japan that could see the return as prime minister of Shinzo Abe, who is committed to revising Japan’s pacifist constitution and to beefing up its military.

Anyone who knows anything about the history of World War II in the Pacific knows the brutal, almost unspeakable suffering the peoples of East Asia suffered under Japanese occupation. The Philippines alone lost roughly one million people. Many who survived were nonetheless subjected to torture and starvation, or knew those who were. That’s still in living memory for many Filipinos, making it understandable why they would fear a militarily powerful Japan, and why Rosario’s announcement is such a shocker.

Walter Russell Mead comments:

Today, the Philippines is thought to be one of the countries most subject to Chinese pressure. It has a weak economy and a small military. That a country like this is rallying against China rather than joining up with it, and doing it in such a dramatic way, tells us a lot about what is going on in Asia and the effect Beijing’s foreign policy is having on its neighbors.

China has been anything but deft in its handling of its neighbors, making aggressive claims to islands in the South China Sea, possession of which would give it control of potentially vast oil wealth under the sea bed. This, however, has also had the effect of frightening its neighbors and leading them to seek allies from amongst old enemies.

And now the Philippines, worried by Beijing’s ambitions, wants a rearmed Japan to balance China. (How soon will they be inviting us back into Subic Bay, I wonder?)

This has implications for Japanese politics, too. Japan has a general election in a few days, and the expected winner, Shinzo Abe, has advocated changing Japan’s highly pacifist, restrictive constitution to allow for greater military spending and a larger overseas role for Japan’s military. Concerns about China, where nationalist anti-Japanese protests have become a regular occurrence, and a growing approval of Japanese rearmament from her former enemies could give Abe’s party a boost, in which case we could expect to see Sino-Japanese relations become much more strained.

Obama has made a “pivot to Asia” a focus of his administration’s foreign policy. That’s actually logical (1), but no one should underestimate the challenges Washington faces there.

Footnote:
(1) Yes, I’m surprised. Given the general incompetence Obama, Clinton, and the rest of the Smart Power team have shown in foreign affairs, they’ve generally done a good job in East Asia. I’m sometimes tempted to think it’s the doing of some Undersecretary acting on his own, hoping the bosses won’t notice…

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


China begs the question: Why would anyone want to “own” North Korea?

July 10, 2012

I’ve often referred to North Korea as the “world’s largest prison camp masquerading as a nation.” And let’s face it — it’s a basket-case made in a Stalinist hell: the people are brutally crushed, often rented out as slaves in all but name; the economy is frequently on the verge of collapse, dependent on drug dealing, counterfeiting, and smuggling; famine is an ever-present specter; the regime is nearly isolated internationally as a terror-sponsor and nuclear proliferator; and its almost certain eventual collapse presents nightmare scenarios to the world. So, why would anyone in their right mind want to own it? (1)

I don’t know, but that’s what China has in effect said:

China has told South Korea that it will not allow the unification of Korea under a democratic government. North Korea will remain under Chinese “influence.” If worse comes to worse, China will send in troops to set up a North Korean government that will faithfully follow orders from China. In an effort to dampen some of the anger in South Korea (the United States, Japan, and so on), China would maintain North Korea as a separate entity (and not a new province of China). China wants no misunderstanding about who “owns” North Korea.

Actually, one can understand China’s position. As the linked Strategy Page article notes, China has for years been urging North Korea to liberalize its economy along lines similar to China’s: a form of state capitalism under a one-party regime. For various reasons, North Korea has largely balked and thus often come to China for aid. Pyongyang has also in recent years caused China foreign policy headaches due to its nuclear program, aggressive moves against South Korea, and even harassing Chinese fishing vessels. By all accounts, relations between these two “allies” aren’t at all good.

Thus, as the “big dragon” in the region, China has a deep-seated interest in stabilizing North Korea. A sudden collapse would be almost or just as disastrous for China as it would for South Korea, with potentially millions of refugees flooding over the border into Manchuria and bringing huge headaches regarding food, shelter, and security in their wake.

Almost as bad, from a geopolitical perspective, would be a regime failure similar to that of East Germany’s, which lead to its absorption by West Germany. The specter of the Soviet Union’s collapse soon thereafter is almost certainly in the back of Beijing’s mind, and one of the last things China wants to see is a unified, prosperous, multi-party Korean democracy on its border, giving the Chinese people ideas. The Chinese military, in particular, would blow a gasket if this meant the US military entering the North as part of a stabilization force — which it might, just to secure any nukes.

So, consider this claim of ownership a bit of “defensive imperialism” on China’s part, a message to South Korea, Japan, and their American patrons that “we can handle the problem ourselves, thank you.”

While I’m not in any way a fan of the Chinese regime (unlike certain NYT columnists and US cabinet secretaries), considering the alternatives, I have to hope Beijing is right.

via Breitbart.com

Footnote:
(1) Well, not everyone is unhappy in North Korea. At least Dear Leader Junior gets his Disney stage show and hot date. The rest can go eat grass.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


April 8, 2012

Al Gore and Thomas Friedman shriek in rage.

Watts Up With That?

From John Droz’s newsletter with a hat-tip to Dr. Roger Pielke Sr. for bringing it to my attention and via the “I can hear Joe Romm’s head exploding” department and Electric Light and Power comes this story:

CHINA TO DROP SOLAR ENERGY TO FOCUS ON NUCLEAR POWER
Asia Pulse

China will accelerate the use of new-energy sources such as nuclear energy and put an end to blind expansion in industries such as solar energy and wind power in 2012, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao says in a government report published on March 5.

View original post 125 more words


Four must-reads on North Korea

December 20, 2011

Busy day today, but I wanted to share with you four articles on the world’s largest prison camp masquerading as a nation, aka “North Korea,” and its uncertain future. Each has something worth your attention:

Writing from Tokyo, the New York Times’ Martin Fackler interview Korea “experts” (as if anyone can be a true expert on what goes on in a closed, paranoid land) whose general consensus is that the new dictator, twenty-something Kim Jong-Un, and the factions surrounding him will likely see a period of consolidation and reduced tension with the US, as the country sorts out its leadership and deals with crushing internal problems:

Masao Okonogi, a specialist on North Korea at Keio University in Tokyo, said that during the new leader’s first few years, North Korea would most likely avoid confrontation with the United States and its allies, like South Korea.

That was the route taken by Kim Jong-il after his father’s death, said Mr. Okonogi, and he seemed to hold out an olive branch by observing a 1994 deal negotiated by his father to freeze construction of two reactors suspected of use in North Korea’s covert atomic weapons program. North Korea eventually suspended the deal in 2003, three years before testing its first nuclear weapon.

“Look for Kim Jong-un to make some offer, like to restart the six-party talks,” Mr. Okonogi said, referring to stalled multilateral negotiations on dismantling the North’s nuclear weapons. “He’ll need to reduce tensions with the United States in order to buy time.”

Some analysts said the new leader would probably use this time to try to fulfill his father’s promise to turn North Korea into a “strong and prosperous” country by 2012. To do that, he must revive a moribund economy that ranks near the bottom of the world in many measures, including per capita gross domestic product of $1,800 per year, versus $30,000 in technologically advanced South Korea. The North’s unwillingness to forsake the centrally planned economic system, its severe isolation and its utter reliance on food and fuel handouts from China and international aid groups have perpetuated or deepened the crisis.

That would be wonderful, presuming the North Korean leadership was rational and motivated by national self-interest. But, if US intelligence is right, the new Kim on the block may be even more deranged than his father:

“It’s been only about a year and three months since Kim Jong Eun was officially tapped, so it would be very difficult for him to effectively seize power within the old guard in the party as well as the military,” said Yoo Dong-ryul, a researcher at the Police Science Institute in South Korea. “I think whether Kim Jong Eun succeeds will ultimately depend on the role by Jang Song Thaek.”

The portrait of Kim Jong Eun that emerges in his U.S. profile is that of a young man who, despite years of education in the West, is steeped in his father’s cult of personality and may be even more mercurial and merciless, officials said.

A senior U.S. official said intelligence analysts believe, for instance, that Kim Jung Eun “tortured small animals” when he was a youth. “He has a violent streak and that’s worrisome,” a senior U.S. official said, summing up the U.S. assessments.

Great. Just what we need: a potential serial killer in charge of nuclear weapons.

One of the great questions is what China will do. As revealed in the Wikileaks cables, China regards North Korea as a pain in the rice bowl and rather an embarrassment, particularly for a nation trying to establish itself as as global superpower. (Kind of like a gangster trying to be “respectable” and not wanting to be seen with his crazy friend from the old neighborhood.) There have even been preliminary feelers about the conditions under which China would accept Korean reunification. My own opinion is that China would like to see a stable, less embarrassing North Korea survive, if for nothing else than the prestige hit it would take from an ally falling apart. Failing that, reunification with the South would be acceptable — provided it did not mean American troops on or near the Yalu river border. In that case, China would want to see some sort of disengagement of the currently tight relationship between Washington and Seoul.

But there’s another possibility: a North Korean descent into chaos that leaves outside powers no choice but to intervene. Back at the NYT, Victor Cha wonders if North Korea won’t wind up as China’s newest province:

The allies’ best move, then, is to wait and see what China does. Among China’s core foreign-policy principles is the maintenance of a divided Korean Peninsula, and so Beijing’s statements about preserving continuity of North Korea’s leadership should come as no surprise. Since 2008 it has drawn closer to the regime, publicly defending its leaders and investing heavily in the mineral mines on the Chinese-North Korean border.

But even as Beijing sticks close to its little Communist brother, there are intense debates within its leadership about whether the North is a strategic liability. It was one thing to back a hermetic but stable regime under Kim Jong-il; it will be harder to underwrite an untested leadership. For Xi Jinping, expected to become China’s president over the next year, the first major foreign policy decision will be whether to shed North Korea or effectively adopt it as a province.

In other words, China may feel it has no choice other than to quietly take North Korea over.

Like Mr. Cha, former American Ambassador to the UN John Bolton sees great danger in a North Korea that slips into instability or outright chaos, to the point that US and South Korean forces might themselves have to intervene on a moment’s notice to secure the nukes:

While an authoritarian DPRK state, armed with nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, is a threat regionally and globally, a fractured DPRK, leaderless and perhaps descending into civil war, is an even greater threat. The prospect of conflict among various military and other security forces, which like the Kim family also have everything on the line, is real. Control over the weapons of mass destruction and other key assets (missile launch sites and storage facilities, communications facilities, the loyalty of major military formations such as the artillery, and armor massed near the borders) will be essential.

Moreover, North Korea’s civilians are not, despite decades of effort by Pyongyang, totally ignorant about conditions outside the hermetic state. Already desperately impoverished and hungry, they may well decide at the first signs of regime collapse, or even before, that their moment is at hand. Aided by South Korean activists, they could begin moving north toward the Yalu River border with China or south to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which has divided North from South since the 1953 Korean War Armistice Agreement.

South Korean authorities, together with the nearly 30,000 U.S. forces there, have long prepared for the contingency of massive refugee flows toward the DMZ. They also have plans for entering North Korea in force on extremely short notice, to prevent massive instability, to secure the nuclear weapons, and to control the DMZ.

The last thing we need is for the North’s destructive weapons (or other elements of its nuclear program) to be used during internal conflict, or auctioned off to foreign states or terrorists by military factions desperate for hard currency to continue their struggle or flee the country. But while we believe that large stocks of chemical and biological weapons are located near the DMZ, we have very little knowledge of where the nuclear weapons actually are. If South Korean and U.S. forces have to enter the North, time will be short, the dangers high, and the odds long.

Bolton is highly critical of what he sees as almost nonexistent efforts by the Obama administration to get clear information from Beijing and coordinate with them over a possible Korean crisis. If Cha is right and China decides it needs to “put North Korea under new management,” and if those efforts fail and the US and South Korea decide they have to intervene, the potential for an accidental clash that reignites the Korean War gets white-hot.

Which makes me feel so good about having Team Smart Power in charge.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)