Archive for October, 2012


October 31, 2012

On October 30, 2012, Seth Mandel in Washington Times reviewed Michael Dobbs’ new book, Six Months in 1945: FDR, Stalin, Churchill, and Truman – From World War to Cold War (Knopf, 448 pages) on the change from World War to Cold War. By the time Franklin D. Roosevelt died in April 1945, his grand vision of the world was rapidly slipping from his grasp. Once Nazi Germany was defeated, FDR hoped to leave Europe to Britain and the Soviet Union, but he had no answer to the question of just how Britain was supposed to single-handedly defend freedom on the Continent, overmatched as it clearly was. Excerpts below:

But, of course, that transformation would take place anyway, under Roosevelt’s successor, Harry S. Truman. This period of transition, from the end of World War II to the drawing of the battle lines of the Cold War, is one of the most consequential periods of transition in American history. Michael Dobbs, a gifted storyteller and thorough researcher with an eye for detail, has chosen just this period for the final installment of his Cold War trilogy, “Six Months in 1945: FDR, Stalin, Churchill, and Truman — From World War to Cold War.”

The action begins at Yalta in February 1945, and Mr. Dobbs ably renders the portraits of the Big Three heads of state. Roosevelt is physically weak in the last months of his life, but in relatively good humor and still globe-trotting.

Then there is Joseph Stalin, the West’s wartime ally of necessity. He is playing the long game and will outlast in office both Roosevelt and Churchill.

Stalin is imperious and distrustful. Mr. Dobbs describes the USSR’s “twisted Darwinian process” that produced Stalin: “The most ruthless politicians rose naturally to the top, eliminating their rivals.”

This was still the age of empire. At one point during the Yalta conference, Churchill jotted down on a piece of paper the names of several European countries and how the great powers would share control over them. (“Romania: Russia 90 percent, the others 10 percent.”) Stalin took a look, approved and silently drew a check mark on the paper. The crudeness of it all made Churchill suggest the paper be burned.

We know how it ended. One major legacy of Yalta was Soviet domination over Poland. All Churchill could do was protest, since the United States and the Soviet Union had the power to ignore his moral anguish over selling out the country whose defense was the impetus for war in the first place. Communism’s march soon swallowed up Romania, even as the West grew victorious in battle and the development of nuclear weapons made Stalin’s participation in the Pacific virtually unnecessary.

The “iron curtain” descended, and a global ideological war between erstwhile allies had begun.

Secretary of War Henry Stimson said Truman’s pugnacity was “like a shot out of a Gatling gun.” Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov received a dismissive dressing down from Truman at their first meeting. Things were going to change, and not a moment too soon.

…there is tension and suspense aplenty in the gathering storm clouds, and Mr. Dobbs is equal to the task. He describes the race to Berlin; the fraught coexistence of the American and Russian troops presiding over victory in Europe as Moscow and Washington drifted; the competition to acquire, and decision to use, the bomb; the surprising tedium of great power diplomacy in Churchill’s post-election absence; and the somber atmosphere of inevitability of it all.

This is the period when two of the 20th century’s heroes of Western civilization, FDR and Churchill, passed the torch to a man neither of them really knew nor trusted. In Washington, there is a grand monument to FDR and plans for one of the era’s other American hero, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who followed Truman in the White House. But Truman was no mere placeholder, and he needed no hand-holding to set the world on course. Mr. Dobbs‘ book removes all doubt: Truman got it right, right from the start.

Seth Mandel is assistant editor of Commentary magazine.


October 30, 2012

The Wall Street Journal on October 29, 2012, reported that a retired Taiwanese naval officer and two others were arrested on suspicion of spying for China, the latest in a string of cases that underline the mistrust between Beijing and Taipei despite warming economic ties. Excerpts below:

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said in a statement that Lt. Col. Chang Chih-hsin was suspected of “spying for officials at the Communist Party in China” and “bribing other officers in the navy for illegal gains” during his tenure, which ended in May, at the Naval Meteorological & Oceanographic Office.

The office provides mapping data for the military.

Authorities arrested Lt. Col. Chang after “gathering evidence of Chang’s illegal behavior” following a report the ministry received in March, the statement said, but added “there was no leakage of confidential information and [the behavior] didn’t involve any officials currently serving in the navy.” It didn’t elaborate further.

Despite closer economic cooperation and conciliatory rhetoric between Taiwan and China in recent years, there is still mistrust between the two sides. Beijing has yet to renounce the option of military force as a way to reclaim Taiwan, which it considers part of China.

The arrests follow several recent information-leak cases. In February, a Taiwanese air force captain was arrested on allegations of selling classified information to China. Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said those allegations were still being investigated.

In January 2011, a high-level army general, Lo Hsien-che, was sentenced to life in prison by the Supreme Military Court for passing confidential information to China since 2004. He was one of the highest-ranking Taiwanese officers to ever be convicted of espionage for China. Prosecutors said he confessed during the investigation.

Relations between Taiwan and China have improved since Taiwan elected Ma Ying-jeou—who is seen as China-friendly—as president in 2008.


October 29, 2012

Wall Street Journal on October 28, 2012, reported that President Viktor Yanukovych’s party claimed victory in contentious parliamentary elections amid disputes over the fairness of the vote from an opposition whose jailed leader wasn’t on the ballot. Excerpts below:

The West is closely watching the poll for signs that Mr. Yanukovych is responding to criticism that he is rolling back democracy—which has left the former Soviet republic isolated—by ensuring a fair and transparent election.

An exit poll gave his Party of Regions 28.1% of the vote, and analysts expect it to assemble a majority with support from the Communist Party and candidates running in single-mandate districts who will make up half the 450-seat chamber.

Opposition forces had hoped to loosen the president’s hold on power, but were hampered by divisions, the jailing of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and voters’ disillusionment with politicians of all stripes. Her Fatherland party won 24.7% of ballots cast, according to the exit poll by the Democratic Initiatives Foundation.

It will be bolstered by two new opposition parties in the chamber: heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko’s “Punch” party and the nationalist Freedom party. The poll gave them 15.1% and 12.3%, respectively.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a Fatherland leader, said opposition forces had scored a victory over the ruling party, but analysts say they are unlikely to secure enough support from independents to form a majority.

The outcome of the election will shape the second half of the president’s term to 2015 as he wrestles with a stagnant economy and increased isolation from the U.S. and Europe following the conviction and jailing last year of Ms. Tymoshenko on abuse-of-office charges.

Officials in the West and Russia are closely watching which way Mr. Yanukovych will turn for support after the election—whether he raises household gas prices to unlock lending from the International Monetary Fund, or seeks closer ties with Moscow to secure a lower price for critical natural-gas supplies.

Preliminary results are expected on October 31.

Before the vote, Western officials raised concerns over the use of administrative resources in support of ruling-party candidates and pressure on the media. Opposition parties claimed that the authorities inflated the number of voters in order to boost their tally, and called on monitors to observe the count carefully.

There appears little hope for closer ties with the West, even if the elections are deemed free and fair. Western leaders have indicated Mr. Yanukovych needs to free Ms. Tymoshenko, relax the ruling party’s grip on the media and push through legal and other overhauls if the European Union is to revive a political-association and free-trade deal it shelved last year.

The Party of Regions will likely partner with the Communists, and hopes to attract support from around two-thirds of the 225 candidates from single-mandate constituencies.

The rising force of the campaign was Mr. Klitschko, whose “Punch” party leapt in popularity as voters looked for a new face not tainted by political failures or corruption allegations.

The nationalist Freedom party surprised, apparently doubling the share of the vote that pollsters had predicted. Both are likely to join with Ms. Tymoshenko’s supporters to form an opposition minority.


October 28, 2012

Washington Times on October 25, 2012, reported that Japanese and Chinese authorities traded accusations over patrol vessels in waters near a disputed chain of islands, raising the temperature in the simmering three-way row over the islands’ ownership.

Four ships from the China Maritime Surveillance agency encountered four vessels from the Japanese coast guard while on patrol in the 12-mile territorial waters around the islands early Thursday, according to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency.

Chinese authorities said the maritime surveillance vessels radioed the Japanese ships and ordered them to leave, Xinhua reported.

The Japanese government lodged a “strong protest” over the incident with China’s ambassador in Tokyo, according to the Japanese news agency Kyodo.

Tokyo and Beijing both lay claim to the islands — called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China — as does Taiwan.

Although tiny, barren and uninhabited, the islands are valuable because they rest astride strategic shipping lanes, are surrounded by rich fishing waters and sit atop potential petroleum deposits.


October 27, 2012

Fox News on October 25, 2012, published an AP report on the U.S. military saying it is planning another unmanned hypersonic flight … Excerpts below:

The flight, scheduled for next spring or summer, would be the fourth test of the experimental X-51A Waverider designed to reach Mach 6, or 3,600 mph, after being dropped by a B-52 bomber.

The Air Force has been studying hypersonic technologies with the hopes of deploying fast strikes around the globe.

None of [earlier] flights so far has reached the intended goal of six times the speed of sound. During the first flight in 2010, an X-51A flew near Mach 5 for three minutes. A test flight last year ended prematurely with an X-51A unsuccessfully trying to restart its engine.

Brink said he expected the military to continue hypersonic flight research after next year’s final flight but did not get into specifics.


October 26, 2012

Fox News on October 25, 2012, published a TechNewsDaily report on a successful missile test having ushered in a new era of warfare in which the U.S. military can take out electronic targets without destroying a single building. Excerpts below:

The experimental missile fired bursts of high-power microwaves at several target buildings to fry the computers and electrical systems inside during a test at the Utah Test and Training Range on Oct. 16. Such results signaled success for the Counter-electronics High-powered Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP) created by Boeing Phantom Works and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory.

“In the near future, this technology may be used to render an enemy’s electronic and data systems useless even before the first troops or aircraft arrive,” said Keith Coleman, CHAMP program manager for Boeing Phantom Works.

The idea of using microwaves or electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) to knock out electronic systems without having to reduce cities or military bases to rubble first arose during Cold War nuclear tests.


October 25, 2012

The Washington Times on October 24, 2012, published an AP report on Gaza militants pummeling southern Israel with dozens of rockets and mortars on October 24, and Israeli airstrikes killed two Palestinians in a sharp escalation of violence following a landmark visit to the coastal territory by the leader of Qatar. Excerpts below:

Hostilities have been simmering for weeks, but erupted into barrages from Gaza immediately after the Qatari ruler left the territory on October 23.

Israeli leaders vowed that their country would not reconcile itself to attacks from the coastal strip.

“We didn’t ask for this escalation and didn’t initiate it,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after touring a missile defense battery. “But if it continues, we are prepared to embark on a far more extensive and penetrating operation.”

Asked if Israel was considering a ground operation in the Palestinian territory, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israel Radio that “if we need a ground operation, there will be a ground operation. We will do whatever necessary to stop this wave” of violence.

The Israeli military said 72 rockets and mortars landed in Israel by midafternoon, and that Israeli aircraft struck Gaza four times.

Hamas‘ military wing and a smaller militant faction claimed responsibility for the rocket and mortar fire.

The smaller group — the Popular Resistance Committees — said one of its members died in one of the airstrikes.

The deaths brought to four the number of Palestinians who have died in strikes on Gaza in the past two days.

Two foreign workers in Israel were critically wounded in the rocket fire, and several militants were injured in the Israeli air attacks, Israeli and Palestinian health officials said.

Crossings between Gaza and Israel were shut down after the exchanges of fire.

The Qatari emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, had urged the Iranian-backed Hamas to do everything possible to avoid violence with Israel.

But the emir’s visit and promise of $400 million in aid bolstered Hamas‘ flagging popularity and might have encouraged it to join the latest round of hostilities, which previously had involved smaller militant groups.


October 24, 2012

Washington Times on October 23, 2012, published a commentary by David Holt on the United States taking a giant step toward securing its energy future this month with the initiation of drilling exploratory wells in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas. The development of these wells marks the first time in nearly two decades that multiple oil drilling rigs have been working off Alaska’s shore simultaneously. While this may seem like a minor development, it has the potential to profoundly change America’s economic and energy future. Excerpts below:

This begs the question, how can two oil wells have such a significant impact on the energy future of the United States? The answer lies in the abundance of the resources being tapped. Federal officials estimate the Chukchi and Beaufort seas could contain upward of 27 billion barrels of oil and 132 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Put another way, that’s the largest untapped source of proven oil reserves in North America.

For the West Coast in particular, these resources represent a tremendous economic opportunity that could provide the foundation for the region’s future.

After all, development is expected to provide more than 50,000 jobs nationwide, significant state and local government revenues, and a more affordable and reliable source of energy for the entire West Coast, one of the largest economic regions of the United States.

The production of oil and gas resources in Alaska’s North Slope is also critical for the longevity of one of our nation’s most critical infrastructure assets, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. With Prudhoe Bay production declines, the volume of oil transported through the pipeline has dropped to an average of 595,000 barrels a day.

The road that led to this situation was paved with a combination of prohibitive regulations, declining production and the lack of a national energy plan. This didn’t begin with the current president, but he hasn’t helped much, either. Since President Obama took office in 2009, oil production on federal lands has reached its lowest point in nearly a decade. Last year alone, production on federal lands dropped 13 percent, and federal offshore production dropped by 17 percent.

Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr. has stated his belief that both the industry and the Coast Guard are ready for the task. “[Shell] truly did their homework, I believe,” Adm. Papp said, “and I think they are going to be well prepared.”

Other Arctic nations — including Canada, Russia, Norway and Greenland — already have established or will soon establish Arctic offshore oil and gas programs. In fact, the United States is one of the last nations to tap into the resources off our own coastline.

Technological advances have led to the shale revolution, and they are enabling Arctic exploration as well. As a world leader, the United States needs to seize this opportunity to raise the bar for responsible energy production that will propel our economy forward.

David Holt is president of the U.S. Consumer Energy Alliance.


October 23, 2012

The Washington Times on October 22, 2012, published an AP report on South Korean activists floating balloons carrying tens of thousands of anti-Pyongyang leaflets into North Korea on Monday, eluding police who had disrupted an earlier launch attempt.

South Korean police, citing security concerns, had sent hundreds of officers on October 22 to seal off roads and prevent the activists and other people from gathering at an announced balloon launch site near the border.

Residents in the area also were asked to evacuate to underground facilities, according to local official Kim Jin-a.

Later in the day, some of the activists, mostly North Korean defectors, moved to another site near the border that was not guarded by police and carried out the launch of the balloons.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry said it was closely monitoring North Korea’s military movements, but there were no suspicious activities.

But Seoul’s Yonhap news agency reported that the ban on entering the border area was imposed as South Korea detected that North Korea had removed artillery muzzle covers and deployed troops to artillery positions in possible preparation for an attack.

The activists said they floated balloons carrying about 120,000 leaflets critical of North Korea’s young leader Kim Jong-un and his country’s alleged human rights abuses. They said they wanted to let North Korean people know the true nature of their country.

Lead activist Park Sang-hak had said the ban on entering the border area was tantamount to yielding to Pyongyang’s threat. “It’s surrender. It’s clearly surrender,” he said.

On Monday, the top U.S. envoy on North Korea urged Pyongyang to stop issuing destabilizing threats.

“It is grossly disproportionate to have threatened to respond to balloons with bombs,” Glyn Davies told reporters in Beijing after meeting with Chinese officials.


October 22, 2012

Fox News on October 20, 2012, published an AP report on another Tibetan setting himself on fire while shouting slogans calling for the Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet, a London-based rights group said. Excerpts below:

Free Tibet said Lhamo Kyeb, 27, died Saturday near a monastery in northwestern China’s Gansu province. Citing a witness, it said he set himself on fire and ran toward Bhora monastery in Xiahe county and that state security forces standing nearby ran after him and tried to put out the flames.

The witness said Lhamo Kyeb attempted to stop them from extinguishing the fire, forcing them to back away, and then he walked toward the monastery and fell to the ground.

The group said nearly 60 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since March 2011 to protest Chinese rule over the Himalayan region.

“Protests against China’s brutal suppression of Tibetan culture and identity have now reached a point where the international community must speak out,” Free Tibet director Stephanie Brigden said in a statement.