Archive for December, 2010


December 31, 2010

There is a growing number of doomsayers that claim America is in decline. It is fitting to use this space on the final day of 2010 for a hegemonic appraisal. Recently Michael Auslin of AEI in National Review (December 28, 2010) used the example of Paul Kennedy, who has for decades predicted the decline of the United States, to point out that America cannot ignore the liberal strivings of millions. The moral wellspring of the foreign policy of the United States is to acknowledge and aid genuine aspirations for greater freedom and democracy.

Kennedy has also been writing recently on how America is becoming a “normal country”. Of course that is not the case. A “normal America” would see reduced global levels of social and economic development and political stability. It is important that the American hegemon continues to shape the international system, especially as the second largest actor, China, has a totalitarian or at least authoritarian system. It seems that Professor Kennedy is not warning against a system with China as a hegemon.

In the end, Paul Kennedy may be right about the current trajectory of global politics. However, we should all recognize that this will be a terrible state of affairs. It is one thing to see that such a world might be emerging, but another thing to welcome it. Kennedy’s deep ambivalence about the positive role of the United States both now and in the future is matched by the realpolitik he appears to assume is not merely normal, but perhaps even preferable to a system in which an imperfect America attempts to nourish the liberal values that have made our world a far more humane place than it was at any other time in history.

Victor Davis Hanson, also in NR, on December 30, 2010, enumerated the hegemon alternatives.

Communism has imploded. Japan has problems recovering from a real-estate bubble in the 1990s. The population, like that in Europe, is shrinking and aging. The European Union has been presented as the paradigm of the future. The euro soared and talk was everywhere of “refined European soft power”. Cradle-to-grave benefits has been the rage compared to the “rough frontier spirit of individualism” of America.

Now Europe goes from crisis to crisis and the old continent seems more and more ossified. Trouble is everywhere from integration problems, military weakness, shrinking population and unbalanced budgets.

All those believing in China as number one seem to forget mounting social tensions in the last Communist superpower. Add to that mercantilism, environment problems and corruption China seems to be more 19th century than 21st century.

We know America goes through periodic bouts of neurotic self-doubt but always recovers.

That decline is relative and does not occur in a vacuum. Many incorrectly seem to believe that China, India, and Brazil can go right into the 21st century. But these BRIC countries don’t have the hardiness of America with its demography, culture, and institutions.

The United States integrates immigrants and assimilates races and ethnicities in a way Europe cannot. Russia, China, and Japan are simply not culturally equipped to deal with millions who do not look Slavic, Chinese, or Japanese.

Then there is the Islamic world which cannot ensure religious freedom or political equality to women.

The United States has been tested over 223 years. In contrast, China, the European Union, India, Japan, and Russia have constitutional systems that are not much more than 60 years. On the other hand there is stability in the United States with the last large internal conflict around 150 years back.

Comment: America is well prepared for the coming centuries and could well outlast the Roman empire as a hegemon. Who wants a global international system led by China or for that matter Brazil? We would choose Hanson’s and Auslin’s view any day over that of Kennedy. American exceptionalism is alive and well. It is set to help the American hegemon well beyond 2050 and probably many centuries longer.


December 30, 2010

Earlier it was the standard phrase that China was planning for “peaceful rise”. Now several state-owned newspapers in China admit that 2010 – 2015 there will be preparation for armed conflict in every strategic direction.

The recent pace and scale of the military modernization is regarded as a threat by many of China’s neighbors in Asia, including Japan, which has described the rapid growing Chinese military as a “global concern”.

A year ago China froze substantive military relations in protest at US arms sales to Taiwan and relations deteriorated further this summer when China objected to US plans to deploy one of its nuclear supercarriers, the USS George Washington, into the Yellow Sea off the Korean peninsula.

China has announced this month that it was preparing to launch its own aircraft carrier next year in a signal that China was determined to show that it is a rising superpower. As pointed out on this blog in December 2010 China is working on a “carrier-killing” ballistic missile that could sink American aircraft carriers from far away.

This will be the last article here on the China threat this year but we will be back in 2011 with more warnings.


December 30, 2010

During the fall of 2010 the terror threats involving Sweden have multiplied. There are at least 200 radical Islamists in Sweden willing to use terror. There is no doubt that NATO-member Denmark is much more alert to these threats than Sweden.

British intelligence in 2010 warned that there was a high risk of terror attacks in Sweden, France, and Germany. The infrastructure in Stockholm was particularly vulnerable such as railways and underground trains.

On December 11, 2010, suicide bomber Taimour Adulwahab exploded a bomb in central Stockholm. It was a miracle that nobody except the terrorist was killed.

An al Qaeda related web site, Shomoukh al-Islam, greeted the terror attack in Stockholm with joy:

We will return to Stockholm. Say good bye to peace.

Those terrorist suspects from Sweden arrested in Copenhagen and Stockholm on December 29, 2010, are among the around 200 radical Islamists known to the Swedish Secret Police. The Swedes had been under surveillance around the clock before leaving for Copenhagen to perpetrate a massacre.

RAND Corporation counterterrorist analyst Lorenzo Vidino is worried about Sweden’s preparedness. The threat awareness is greater in Denmark. One of the reasons is that there is a greater willingness to discuss Muslim radicalization in Danish society. In Sweden Islamism is almost taboo as a subject for debate. The reason: not to hurt the feelings of Muslims in the country. Those who warn of Islamist terrorism in Sweden are often labeled islamophobic and racist.

Another problem is free movement between Denmark and Sweden. It made it possible to bring weapons from Sweden to Denmark unhindered in relation to the latest terror case.

Meanwhile Sahbi Zalouti, the 37-year old Swedish citizen of Tunisian origin arrested in Stockholm on December 29, 2010, was remanded in custody in a closed court session on the 30th. The prosecutor said there was a flight risk and that the suspect could continue his criminal activities. Zalouti lives in the Stockholm suburb of Jarfalla.

Also the three suspected Swedish terrorists in Copenhagen were remanded in custody by a court decision on December 30, 2010: Munir Awad, 29 years, Omar Abdalla Aboelazm, 30 years, and the Tunisian Mounir Dhahri, 44 years.

Munir Awad has been arrested twice before: once in Somalia in 2007 and in 2009 with the Swedish former Guantanamo prisoner Mehdi Ghezali in Pakistan under suspicion of working for al Qaeda. Ghezali and Awad then travelled to Saudiarabia, Turkey, Iran, and then Pakistan.


December 29, 2010

BBC News reported on December 29, 2010, that five suspected Islamist terrorists had been arrested in Copenhagen for plotting attacks against daily newspapers Jyllandsposten and Politiken in Denmark. Reportedly they wanted to kill as many as possible at the editorial offices of the two newspapers. Danish counterterrorist experts believe the arrested might have planned an attack similar to that in Mumbai in 2008.

Three of the suspects came from Sweden and the fifth, a 37-year old Tunisian citizen, was arrested in Sweden. The four held in Denmark were picked up in police raids in Greve and Herlev, suburbs of Copenhagen.

Apparently an imminent terror attack was foiled and the suspects are militant Islamists.

According to information provided by Politiken and Jyllandsposten a submachine gun with silencer and ammunition was found during the raids. The three from Sweden had come to Copenhagen in a car rented in the Stockholm suburb of Kista.

The Islamists from Sweden are a 44-year old Tunisian citizen, a 29-year old Swedish cititzen born in Lebanon, and a 30-year old Swedish citizen of unknown origin. The fourth arrested, is a 26-year old Iraqi, who has recently sought asylum in Denmark.

Comment: Daily newspaper Jyllandsposten has regularly been the target of planned terrorist attacks after it in a cartoon depicted Muhammad with a bomb-shaped turban. The new terrorist conspiracy could be a sign that Scandinavia is becoming a more frequent target of Islamists. On December 11, 2010, a suicide bomber was killed at a bomb explosion in central Stockholm (Sweden) but only managed to kill himself. In the fall of 2010 an Islamist from Chechnya was injured at a bombexplosion in his hotel room in Copenhagen. His target according to media reports was the editorial offices of Jyllandsposten. A successful attack on Jyllandsposten in Denmark by Islamists would give the attackers a high status in Islamist circles around the world.


December 29, 2010

In an AP report WSJ on December 28, 2010, U.S. Admiral Robert Willard was reported as saying that he believed the Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile program had reached “initial operational capability”.

The Dong Feng 21D missile would be a real game-changer in the Pacific, where U.S. naval forces have dominated since the end of the Second WorldWar.

The DF 21D can hit a powerfully defended moving target with pinpoint precision a capability the U.S. Navy has to deal with.

Years of tests are probably still needed before the missile can be fully deployed. The system requires state-of-the-art guidance systems.

China has a strategy of denying U.S. planes and ships access to waters off its coast.The DF 21D could be launched from land with enough accuracy to penetrate the defenses of even the most advanced moving aircraft carrier at a distance of more than 900 miles (1,500 kilometers).

It would seriously weaken Washington’s ability to intervene in any potential conflict over Taiwan or North Korea, as well as deny U.S. ships safe access to international waters near China’s 11,200-mile (18,000-kilometer) -long coastline.

DF 21D would travel at 10 times the speed of sound and carry conventional payloads.

Comment: This blog has for some time called for a larger cooperation to contain China. The new anti-aircraft carrier missile could change Asian geostrategy and would call not only for counter-measures. U.S. naval forces are strongly needed to protect Taiwan, South Korea and Japan. Sales of military hardware to Taiwan and a build-up of the Japanese military are also needed to contain China.


December 27, 2010

WSJ reported on December 27, 2010, that WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange had signed a book contract with U.S. publisher Random House to write a memoir. The manuscript is to be delivered some time during 2011. He will receive 1 million U.S. dollars and is now seeking to pay mounting legal bills and keep WikiLeaks going. The publisher has not confirmed the sums claimed by Assange in newspaper interviews. At the same time he says he has spent over 200,000 U.S. dollars for legal costs.

Comment: Obviously Assange is running out of money for his operations. Now would be important that he be prosecuted in the United States, so that he can be transferred from the United Kingdom to America to stand trial. It could also be asked what Assange is going to do when he runs out of stolen documents to publish. Does WikiLeaks have contacts with other people who are contemplating theft of government documents?


December 24, 2010

U.S.-Russian relations seem in December 2010 to look brighter after the Senate ratification of New Start. A Russian ratification seems likely. In Moscow the government might have started to understand that the relative power of the Russian Federation will probably decline further while that of China is rising. A future with Russia and China cooperating in harmony seems hard to believe.

In the coming decades Russia may be looking to America for support when thinly populated Siberia could be a target of a rising China. Most signs speak for a strategic cooperation with America. Moscow is probably aware of the problems that would rise with a geostrategic partnership with a giant and powerful China.

With a year by year stronger China Washington’s geopolitical focus in the Eastern half of Eurasia will only continue. Many U.S. decision makers may come to see greater Russian cooperation in both the Middle East and Central Asia as more desirable to balance a rising China.

The European Union ought to welcome an East Slavic civilizational drift towards the West. It will have less to worry about with China geopolitically frustrated. In addition to American defense of the rimlands of Asia there could even be some cooperation between Russia and America in Central Asia. This could mean the end of the heartland thesis of Sir Halford Mackinder. No more main enemy in the heartland but cooperating with the heartland to block a rising China in the Asian rimlands. This would be a good scenario both for America, Europe and Russia.

A future great game will rather take place in Central Asia, the Indian Ocean region and in East Asia than in the Middle East and Eastern Europe (on India see Robert Kaplan, Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power , 2010).

This does not mean that international islamist terrorism will go away as a main global threat. It will still be there but the new geopolitical thinking could add Russia as a supportive player of the counterterrorism policy of the West. One part of that could be allowing military movement to Afghanistan-Pakistan through Russian territory.

The new geopolitics of Eurasia would not mean a Russian turn to Central Asia of the Russian Eurasianists of the 1920s but a turn to the West. It is however a geopolitics of the long run as it would have to include a movement away from traditional Russian authoritarianism. This would in turn mean the isolation of China as the only totalitarian great power in the world.


December 24, 2010

In July 2009 a series of articles headlined “Astropolitik – A New American Space Strategy” was published on this blog. These articles underlined the importance of a space based defense for the United States.

U.S. Professor Everett C. Dolman of Comparative Military Studies at the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies at the Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, is often called the first space theorist. He has wisely argued that the United States must be prepared, physically and doctrinally, “to project violence from and into space.”

Command of space, he argues, means building weapons suited for space and its active exploitation, a position he supports by citing Alfred Thayer Mahan’s theories on control of the seas. A hegemonic United States would be a pacific United States leading to a world less threatened by the specter of a future American hegemony. He recommends seizing the “high ground” of low Earth orbit while it is still uncontested.

In a roundtable on March 10, 2006 (“Toward A U.S. Grand Strategy in Space”) organized by The George C. Marshall Institute he further pointed out that the United States as no other state relies on space. The American space assets are protected by the United States Air Force, which is charged with guaranteeing their use in times of peace and conflict. The USAF must therefore deny the use of space to others in times of conflict. Thus it must come up with martial options in which to operate in space.

It should be a space supremacy strategy and it can be done. Space weaponization is possible. There is the question of technology and policy and Professor Dolman believes that technology drives policy. Presently the United States keeps air superiority around the world because it has a very rigorous and aggressive doctrine of control of the air. America now has to do that for space. It must weaponize as the first because it cannot afford to be the second to weaponize space. Controlling the high ground has always been sought by military planners and military strategists and as always provided an advantage.

If the United States was to unilaterally militarize space it could in fact lead to prevention of an arms race, not the other way round. It would take trillions of dollars to dislodge the United States from space and and might be seen not as worthwhile for example for Russia or China.

If there is a waiting period for say fifteen or twenty years until a state is able to challenge America, then there might be a space race. The American way of war today, based on precision and on space capabilities is to engage early using less force with far less collateral damage.

Space weaponization might well become the main issue of the 25 first years of the twentyfirst century. For the last 20 years (in 2010) PAROS (Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space) has failed to come up with a treaty to prevent space weaponization. The issue is deadlocked and for every year that passes the question is of greater importance for the defense of the West. Professor Dolman argued in 2006:

I will plot an example: say ten or fifteen years from now, China sees taking space as a way of guaranteeing its sovereignty and giving it advantages in the Taiwan straits or any place else it deems in its security interest. Seizing low-earth orbit would thus be an attempt to overthrow the existing international order…and the United States would have to oppose such actions. If the United States militarizes space aggressively it is the other way round, it will try to extend the existing international order.

Professor Dolman has commented on Fox News in 2010 on the X-37B project of the USAF:

Regardless of its original intent, the most obvious and formidable is in service as a space fighter — a remotely piloted craft capable of disabling multiple satellites in orbit on a single mission and staying on orbit for months to engage newly orbited platforms…That capability “would be a tremendous tactical advantage.

Furthermore, the small size of the X-37B, coupled with maneuverability on orbit would make it almost impossible for non U.S. space watchers to keep an eye on its whereabouts.

Even if it were not used to engage and disable satellites it could be maneuvered up close and personal to inspect orbiting satellites at a level of detail currently unimaginable. With the anticipated increase in networked-microsatellites in the next few years, such a platform might be the best – and only – means of collecting technical intelligence in space.

Further Professor Dolman also sees another use for the automated X-37B :

If a reasonably-priced, reliable transport for supply and maintenance becomes operational, a whole new set of on-orbit possibilities opens up. What the U.S. Air Force has not had is a dedicated, secure platform for weapons research and, potential testing. All of the information leaked about the X-37B suggests its primary function will be as a test platform, but a test platform for what? Could it be for laser and directed energy testing?

There are indeed signs of preparation for weaponization in space by the United States. As argued by Professor Dolman this has to happen as soon as possible if America wants to continue to control the high ground.


December 24, 2010

On December 24, 2010, WSJ reported that WikiLeaks spending is ballooning. The group is facing possible legal issues and the costs are mainly rising because of the start to pay salaries.

Donations have been reduced since the extensive publicity in 2010.

Earlier WikiLeaks is said to have operated on a cost of about 150,000 Euros a year. Now the foundation that pays most of the costs has already paid 380,000 Euros in WikiLeak costs. Julian Assange has received 66,000 Euros.

The reason for starting to pay salaries is that techno-terrorist group wants to professionalize its activities. The salaries will be paid retroactively to January 2010.

A mounting cost for WikiLeaks relates to legal work. Lawyers acting on behalf of the group have billed it for about 30,000 Euros in services. As the United States has launched several broad investigations in the wake of WikiLeaks’ release of classified documents the legal costs are expected to grow.

WikiLeaks has established the Julian Assange Defense Fund to collect donations for Assange’s legal battles, among them his effort to resist extradition to Sweden for questioning over rape charges.

On the fundraising front, Mr. Assange in August said WikiLeaks had raised about $1 million (€763,000) since the beginning of 2010. He said the group got about half of its money from modest donations via its website, and the rest from “personal contacts,” including wealthy donors who give tens of thousands of dollars.

EBay Inc.’s online-payment service PayPal previously stopped processing WikiLeaks fundraising saying that WikiLeaks had violated PayPal policies that ban “any activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity.” Mastercard Inc., Visa Inc. and Bank of America Corp. also recently stopped processing donations to WikiLeaks.

The group says donors can still send money to a WikiLeaks-Wau Holland account at Commerzbank Kassel in Germany, or to an account at Landsbanki in Iceland that also accepts donations to the group.

There is also the question of contributing to a legal-defense fund created for the benefit of U.S. Army intelligence analyst Pfc. Bradley Manning. Military prosecutors allege Mr. Manning, who is awaiting court martial at a military base in Quantico, Va., illegally downloaded and disseminated government documents. If convicted, he could face a 52-year jail sentence.

Comment: WikiLeaks is a threat to the United States national security and to the security of the West. The sooner Assange can be charged by prosecutors in America the better. Likewise a swift prosecution of Manning would be welcome and a thorough investigation of the cooperation between Assange and Manning.


December 20, 2010

AP on December 19, 2010, reported that Vice President Joe Biden says that if Assange conspired to get classified documents with a member of the U.S. military it would be closer to being “a hight-tech terrorist” than what happened in the Pentagon Papers leak of a government study in 1971.

Comment: This shows how important it is that the investigation of Assange is quickly completed and that, if he is found being a suspect of committing a crime, he is charged as soon as possible. The Wiki Leaks founder is now in the hands of the British court system and the United States prosecutor could ask that Assange is extradited to stand trial in America.