Category Archives: International Affairs

2014 = 1914?

“History never repeats itself but it rhymes.” – Mark Twain.
WW1Battlefield

This year is the 100th anniversary of The War to End All Wars (that’s World War 1 to you Gen X’ers…I forget that history previous Bushitler the year 2000 isn’t taught in public schools anymore). As such over the past few months there’s been a bit of pessimistic analysis of the current geopolitical situation we’ve currently got ourselves in. Pick a region, the Mid East, Europe, Russia, East Asia (hell, even here) there seems to be an uneasy sense of foreboding that the world is on edge (and if you’re paying attention and don’t watch TMZ, here’s a hint, IT IS). As the 2013 rolled into 2014 there are quite a few recent columns comparing the current geopolitical situation to that of the pre-WW1 world.

First up, the UK’s Telegraph has an article titled “The West Has Lost Control of the World and Disaster awaits.”

As we look forward to the First World War commemorations, three stark conclusions are hard to refute. First, that in the course of this century we will need a great deal of luck to avoid a nuclear catastrophe. Second, that the Enlightenment has failed. Third, that this can all be traced back to the Great War.

I’m quite surprised that we have yet to see the use of nuclear weapons in anger (I’m sure what we don’t know about prevented attacks in the GWOT would scare the hell out of us). However, I do believe that we will see the use of nuclear weapons in anger within out lifetime.

Next,  The National Interest has an piece showing that though our leaders display an astounding and disturbing belief that they can change basic human nature, we’ve already been here:

Events in the year that had just ended convinced Carnegie that 1914 would be the decisive turning point towards peace. Just six months earlier, his decade-long campaign culminated in the inauguration of the Peace Palace at the Hague, which he believed would become the Supreme Court of nations. The Palace was built to house the new International Court of Arbitration that would now arbitrate disputes among nations that had historically been settled by war. As theEconomist noted, “the Palace of Peace embodies the great idea that gradually law will take the place of war.”

Carnegie’s Peace Palace captured the zeitgeist of the era. The most celebrated book of the decade, The Great Illusion, published in 1910, sold over two million copies. In it, Norman Angell exposed the long-held belief that nations could advance their interests by war as an “illusion.” His analysis showed that conquest was “futile” because “the war-like do not inherit the earth.”

However inspiring his hopes, Carnegie’s vision proved the illusion. Six months after his New Year’s greeting, a Serbian terrorist assassinated the Austro-Hungarian Archduke. Nine months on, the guns of August began a slaughter on a scale that demanded a new category: “World War.” By 1918, Europe lay devastated, and a millennium in which it had been the creative center of the world was over.

Citing Japan’s lost decade, the article discusses the possibility of war between the US/Japan and China. I’m not sure I agree but the article makes for an interesting historical parallel.

The Economist brings us it’s take on the World War historical parallel:

Yet the parallels remain troubling. The United States is Britain, the superpower on the wane, unable to guarantee global security. Its main trading partner, China, plays the part of Germany, a new economic power bristling with nationalist indignation and building up its armed forces rapidly. Modern Japan is France, an ally of the retreating hegemon and a declining regional power. The parallels are not exact—China lacks the Kaiser’s territorial ambitions and America’s defence budget is far more impressive than imperial Britain’s—but they are close enough for the world to be on its guard.

Which, by and large, it is not. The most troubling similarity between 1914 and now is complacency. Businesspeople today are like businesspeople then: too busy making money to notice the serpents flickering at the bottom of their trading screens. Politicians are playing with nationalism just as they did 100 years ago. China’s leaders whip up Japanophobia, using it as cover for economic reforms, while Shinzo Abe stirs Japanese nationalism for similar reasons. India may next year elect Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist who refuses to atone for a pogrom against Muslims in the state he runs and who would have his finger on the button of a potential nuclear conflict with his Muslim neighbours in Pakistan. Vladimir Putin has been content to watch Syria rip itself apart. And the European Union, which came together in reaction to the bloodshed of the 20th century, is looking more fractious and riven by incipient nationalism than at any point since its formation.

Some interesting analysis that sees parallels in the Western Pacific to Europe around 1914.

Brookings has the coup de gras and this is also your weekend reading assignment:

Globalization also makes possible the widespread transmission of radical ideologies and the bringing together of fanatics who will stop at nothing in their quest for the perfect society. In the period before World War I, anarchists and revolutionary socialists across Europe and North America read the same works and had the same aim: to overthrow the existing social order. The young Serbs who assassinated Archduke Ferdinand of Austria at Sarajevo were inspired by Nietzsche and Bakunin, just as their Russian and French counterparts were. Terrorists from Calcutta to Buffalo imitated each other as they hurled bombs onto the floors of stock exchanges, blew up railway lines, and stabbed and shot those they saw as oppressors, whether the Empress Elizabeth of Austria-Hungary or U.S. President William McKinley.

Globalization has been around longer than the interwebs and those that believe the interwebs somehow changes everything are arrogantly wrong. Human nature never changes, only the technological means. Then it was steam locomotives and the telegraph.

It is tempting—and sobering—to compare today’s relationship between China and the U.S. with that between Germany and England a century ago. Now, as then, the march of globalization has lulled us into a false sense of safety. Countries that have McDonald’s, we are told, will never fight each other. Or as President George W. Bush put it when he issued his National Security Strategy in 2002, the spread of democracy and free trade across the world is the surest guarantee of international stability and peace.

There are some finer points with which I disagree. I’m not harboring any delusions about who Brookings is, ie pretty far left.  The biggest in my mind, is that they blame “a partisan and uncooperative Congress” for the lack of leadership from the White House. Those that pay attention understand Obama has NEVER been a leader.

Is 2014 like 1914? I’m not sure but I think the historical parallels are very interesting considering what’s going both overseas and domestically. I know only that time will tell and we’ll find out as this year marches on. Most of the readership is but if you’re I suggest to start paying attention.

“May you live in interesting times”

Oh yeah and Happy New Year.

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Watching the Riots

(click for larger)

It hurt me to look at this photo, given my acrophobia.  I can’t imagine climbing down from there… let alone climbing up.

From a tweet by Earth Pics.  Re-posted from EIP.

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What Are They Thinking?

__________bombers_b2_0004

Apparently someone in the US military decided that flying a couple of B-2 bombers over the Korean peninsula was a good idea. Things in North Korea are a bit unsettled at the moment. The NORKS recently repudiated the 1953 Armistice Agreement which arranged a cease fire between the two Koreas, China and the UN (mostly the USA but there were other nations involved in the fighting on our side).

There’s more here: North Korea Readies Rockets

Now I’m no Clausewitz but with the NORKS all riled up, I’m not sure I’d be poking their cage at the moment. Let ’em calm down a bit, then perhaps remind them who the big dog is.

Or perhaps this is a way to get the American public’s mind off the 2nd Amendment and the Obummer’s other foibles? A little foreign adventure to keep the masses occupied?

When are we going to have our Reichstag Fire? Can I bring the marshmallows?

Something stinks to high heaven in Washington D.C. and I’m pretty sure it’s not the Potomac when the tide is out.

Or am I being overly sensitive? What’s your take?

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US Strategic Nuclear Polcy – A History

Having been born in the year of our Lord 1977, I can proudly say that I was more or less a child of the Cold War. I recall growing up with terms like SIOP, Nuclear Triad, START, SALT, INF and many many others. Even today, I’m amazed that I can walk into the National Air and Space Museum and see a Soviet SS-20 missile alongside a Pershing missile. Growing up I can recall thinking those things impossible.

Sandia National Laboratories recently produced an interesting documentary detailing the history of US Strategic Nuclear Policy. Although I disagree with some of the finer political points (including the unfortunately necessary Robert S. MacNamara) it’s nonetheless interesting to how US Policy evolved. Some of those evolutions in were a result of technical achievements in the development of the weapons themselves (MIRVs and ABMs being 2 examples and Soviet political and technological changes.  Most importantly the evolution of US Nuclear Policy continues to this day.

Anyway there are 4 parts, each about an hour long:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

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Useless Notions


According to the old calendar on the wall, today is United Nations Day.

Woohoo!

I must admit, I always thought that “Turtle Bay” (in New York) was an actual bay. You know, a body of water enclosed partially by land which is attached to a larger body of water. The encompassing land making the bay distinct from the larger body of water to which it belongs. (Like Cape Cod Bay, Narragansett Bay and Chesapeake Bay, all attached to the larger Atlantic Ocean, but partially surrounded by land.) Nowadays it’s a neighborhood in Manhattan.

So to resolve my confusion, I went to Wikipedia. Not my most trusted source for facts, but it does in a pinch. According to Wikipedia:

Turtle Bay, which received its name in the 17th century, was a valuable shelter from the often harsh weather of the East River, and it also became a thriving site for shipbuilding.

Okay, so it used to be an actual bay. But that’s not exactly the point of this post. The point is that the United Nations, the UN, is what I like to call a “Useless Notion”. And of course, the UN is located in the Turtle Bay area of Manhattan. (Hence the spiel near the beginning of the post.)

Alright, so a bunch of folks got together near the end of World War II and thought it would be a good idea to have some extra-national organization to keep future bad guys in line. Of course, this time it would work because, unlike the League of Nations, the United States would be involved. (And would foot the bill, and would do all the heavy lifting, and would provide the land, etc., etc., ad nauseum.)

Perhaps a good idea. All the good guys get together and pool their various strengths to deter bad guys from causing trouble in the international neighborhood.

Problem is, they let the bad guys join too.

Now the UN is nothing more than a big alliance of nations. Where the little countries get the same number of votes as the big countries (that would be one each). Ah, but you have the Security Council, where the really big important nations can veto things. It’s not like it’s a democratic process. There are 15 member nations on the Security Council, five are permanent (China, France, Russia, the UK and the US). So what happens when say, one member nation invades another member nation.

Well, the Security Council can vote to take military action against the offender. But if the offending nation is a client state of one of the Big Five? Vote could be 14 in favor of kicking the offending nation’s a$$. Then all the Big Five nation who is buddy-buddy with the offender has to do is veto that. Result, no action takes place. Of course there may be strongly-worded announcements and perhaps even sanctions. But if one of the Big Five is not in favor of taking action. Nothing is going to happen.

Nothing.

So what’s the point of the UN? What good have they done since being founded?

Two answers: not much and very little.

It might have been a good idea at the time. But the UN is no longer of any use, to anybody except Third World loonies and dictators.

Should the US continue to be a member? My opinion is: NO!

Give them a “Notice to Vacate the Premises” and let them take their idiot debating society somewhere else.

Yeah, Happy UN Day.

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