Archive for June, 2013


June 30, 2013

Fox News on June 29, 2013, published an AP report on Chinese paramilitary troops conducting round-the-clock patrols in the tense northwestern region of Xinjiang following a series of bloody clashes that have killed at least 56 people. Excerpts below:

The order for the patrols by the People’s Armed Police was issued by the ruling Communist Party’s top law enforcement official Men Jianzhu.

The order comes days ahead of the anniversary of a 2009 riot between Xinjiang’s native Uighur people and Han Chinese migrants in the regional capital Urumqi that killed nearly 200 people.

At least 35 people were killed when assailants attacked police and government offices , while another mob attempted to storm a police station elsewhere on June 28.


June 29, 2013

Commentary Magazine on June 11, 2013, published an article by Max Boot on Assad’s defeat in Syria. Excerpts below:

Until recently the official line from Washington was that Bashar Assad’s downfall was “only a matter of time,” and therefore the U.S. did not have to do much to nudge him out of power.

Personally, I never believed that Assad’s downfall was assured in the past and I don’t believe his continuation in power is assured now. If the U.S. and our allies–Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Britain, France, Jordan, and others–were to step up aid to the rebels, providing everything from air cover to arms, the balance of power would tip against Assad again. (Comment by gautic01: Obama has after this article was published decided to support the rebels with arms).

The argument against doing this–besides a general war-weariness and non-interventionism which has taken root in this administration–is that we would be aiding the kinds of extremists who execute a teenager for a casual mention of the Prophet. But of course a big part of the reason why extremists have taken a leading role in the rebellion is that the U.S. has done so little to help the more moderate factions. I still believe it is not too late to tip the balance of power not only between Assad and the rebels but also between rebel factions, empowering the more mainstream groups and draining power from the Al Nusrah Front and its ilk.

The intervention of Hezbollah into the conflict has only added more compelling reasons for action. As Lee Smith has noted in the Weekly Standard, the U.S. has a lot of scores to settle with Hezbollah stretching all the way back to its murderous bombings of our embassy and Marine barracks in Lebanon in the 1980s. This is a perfect opportunity to settle accounts and in the process weaken this Iranian proxy movement. Syrian rebels are fighting hard against Hezbollah and inflicted serious losses on Hezbollah fighters in Quasayr. They will inflict more losses in the future if only we would provide them the means to do so.


June 28, 2013

Daily Telegraph, London, on June 27, 2013, reported that more than two million people have been displaced in Tibet over the past seven years as China operates a policy of forced “mass rehousing and relocation” against the indigenous population, according to a human rights report. Excerpts below:

The New York-based group Human Rights Watch on Thursday called on Beijing to end the practice, which it said upended lives by forcibly relocating ethnic Tibetans and leaving them with insufficient compensation, sub-par housing and lack of help in finding employment.

Human Rights Watch China Director Sophie Richardson said the Tibetan population was being reorganised on a scale “unprecedented in the post-Mao era” as Chinese authorities attempted to further clamp down on the region’s separatist movement and tighten control over rural communities.

“Tibetans have no say in the design of policies that are radically altering their way of life, and – in an already highly repressive context – no ways to challenge them,” Ms Richardson said.

The report said that more than two million Tibetans had been relocated since 2006, as well as hundreds of thousands of nomadic herders on the eastern reaches of the Tibetan plateau such as Qinghai province.

Tibet has been ruled from Beijing since 1950… Chinese rule has been a source of conflict ever since, as Tibetans complain Beijing is eroding their culture and religion and agitate for the return of their spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile following a failed uprising in 1959.

At least 117 Tibetans have committed acts of self-immolation since 2009 in protest at Chinese policies. More than 90 have died.

The Dalai Lama denies he is seeking an independent Tibet and says he simply wants greater autonomy for his homeland.


June 27, 2013

Interfax Ukraine on June 26, 2013, reported that the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations has passed a resolution urging the Ukrainian authorities to release former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Excerpts below:

“The committee passed a resolution…demanding the release of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko,” reads a statement posted on the committee’s Web site.

…the committee recommends the European Union make Tymoshenko’s release one of the most important criteria for the signing of the Association Agreement with Ukraine at the upcoming Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius in November.

The resolution also expressed the hope that Ukraine will link its future with Europe and the United States.


June 26, 2013

Fox News on June 25, 2013, reported that known terrorist groups already have begun to change the way they communicate in the wake of classified leaks detailing U.S. surveillance tactics, U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism officials tell Fox News. Excerpts below:

“We are already seeing indications that they are attempting to change their communications behaviors,” said one senior U.S. official, speaking to Fox News on the condition of anonymity. “That is a direct result of what we are seeing in the media. That is a fact.”

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has acknowledged providing sensitive information to the media on U.S. surveillance programs. Facing federal charges in the U.S., Snowden continues to evade capture and is said to be in a Moscow airport.

Counterterrorism officials say that although some of the basic principles of U.S. surveillance were known before the leaks, terrorist groups are now armed with new details that can help them keep their communications private.

“They now know the scope and breadth of our abilities and our collection,” one official said.

Terror and extremist groups are likely to become must more cautious with Internet and telephone communications, considering revelations on just how much so-called “meta-data” the NSA has legal justification to collect.

“The real-world implication is these people will stop talking and change how they communicate,” said a senior U.S. official. “We are going to have less abilities if they change electronically and until we are able to regain communications we will miss what they are saying. We will miss those dots.”

One fear is that terror networks could turn to couriers, similar to the system used by the former Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden.

At a Pentagon press conference Tuesday, Gen. Ray Odierno, chief of staff of the Army, said he is concerned about the safety of U.S. troops because of this leak.

“It’s not just about leaking information,” Odierno said. “It’s much bigger than that. … It puts American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines at risk who are overseas conducting operations.”

In an interview on CNN Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry went so far as to say, “people may die as a consequence of what this man did.”


June 25, 2013

Fox News on June 24, 2013, published an AFP report that South Korea issued a cyber attack alert after hackers apparently penetrated a number of official websites, including the presidential Blue House, the science ministry said.

“The government can confirm a cyber attack by unidentified hackers that shut down several sites including the Blue House,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that the five-stage national cyber alert had been raised from level one to two.

The ministry statement did not speculate on who might be responsible. Investigations into several recent large-scale cyber assaults on South Korean media groups and financial institutions concluded that they originated in North Korea.

A number of posts left on the hacked sites claimed to be the work of the global “hacktivist” group Anonymous and included messages praising North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.


June 24, 2013

Radio Free Europe on June 23, 2013, reported that Vitali Klitschko, world heavyweight boxing champion and leader of the opposition Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reforms (Udar), has called on the government to allow jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to undergo medical treatment in Germany. Excerpts below:

Klitschko made the comments in an exclusive interview with RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service on June 21, following a meeting in Kyiv with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.

Klitschko said any decision on Tymoshenko depends only “on one person,” Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Klitschko also said Westerwelle advised Ukraine’s opposition to unite its efforts and back a single candidate in the 2015 presidential election.


June 23, 2013

Washington Times on June 22, 2013, published an AP report on Jordan’s prime minister saying the country is hosting 900 U.S. military personnel to bolster its defense capabilities against potential threats from the Syrian civil war. Excerpts below:

The first Jordanian public official to speak publicly of the numbers of U.S. troops in the kingdom, Abdullah Ensour told reporters Saturday that 200 of the personnel were experts training for how to handle a chemical attack.

He said the remaining 700 are manning a Patriot missile defense system and F-16 fighter jets which Washington deployed this month in case the Syrian war worsens.


June 22, 2013

Standpoint Magazine, London, in the June 2013 issue published an article by Elliot Abrams on neoconservatism. Excerpts below:

According to Abrams a good starting definition of neoconservatism is patriotism, American exceptionalism, a belief in the goodness of America and in the benefits of American power and of its use, and a conviction that democracy is the best system of government and should be spread whenever that is practical. It should not be shocking that such views win wide popularity in the United States, though perhaps that last idea — spreading democracy — is the most controversial.

The continuing relevance, indeed power, of these ideas is clear, and it is equally clear that they are not held only by a small coterie of intellectuals in Washington. As that article on the Daily Beast noted, those neocon “impulses” are “as old as the country itself, dating back to John Winthrop and running through Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, and John F. Kennedy.” President George W. Bush endorsed democracy promotion yet again at the dedication of his presidential library in April when he said, “My deepest conviction, the guiding principle of the administration, is that the United States of America must strive to expand the reach of freedom.” During the 2012 campaign, neoconservatives and neoconservative ideas were prominent in the Romney campaign and throughout the primary season.

Jacob Heilbrunn, who in 2008 wrote the book They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons, now in 2013 writes about a “neocon resurgence” and their “mounting dominance” in the Republican Party. “By and large,” he says, neocons “set the template for the discussion of foreign policy in the GOP. Their ascendance suggests that it is most improbable that a debate, let alone a civil war, will erupt within the GOP over foreign affairs. On the contrary, the neocons appear to be more firmly in control than ever,” which Heilbrunn, it must be added, laments.

Neoconservatism emerged in the Democratic Party as a reaction against two evils (as seen by hawkish Democrats). The first was the Nixon-Kissinger version of realpolitik, which was seen as an amoral policy — the kind of thing that led President Ford to refuse to receive Alexander Solzhenitsyn at the White House. The second was “McGovernism” in their own party, with its urgings to “Come Home, America” and avoid foreign entanglements, based on the view that America would only make things worse by extending its history of supporting repressive, right-wing regimes…neocons wanted a foreign policy that was both muscular in promoting American interests and moralistic in promoting freedom, “They found themselves battling not only the left wing of the Democrats but also Nixon and Kissinger’s realist policy of détente, which included de-emphasising ideological concerns.”

Neocons find themselves in the same battle still, and still in both parties [against] the new Ron Paul, Rand Paul libertarian isolationism (though Rand Paul protests that he is more a very careful internationalist than a true isolationist). In the Democratic Party, the enemy is the Obama version of McGovernism: the reluctance to use American power, the apparent view that American influence and intervention will always make things worse, the fear of American nationalism, and the almost contemptuous dismissal of democracy-promotion.

It is clear that many neocon founders were Jews, but equally clear that many who were over the years champions of neoconservative ideals, from Henry M. Jackson and Jeane Kirkpatrick, to George W. Bush and Richard Cheney, were not.

A look at the newest generation of neocons (of this, more below) — some of them lesser -known today, but give it five or ten years — also shows people like Liz Cheney, Jamie Fly and Christian Brose who, whatever else they may be, are not Jewish.

Steven Walt is a Harvard professor and co-author of The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, which says American support for Israel cannot be explained except by pressure from Jews who cleverly manipulate American foreign policy; not coincidentally the same charge made against neocons.

When the administration was young this may have seemed simply like Republicans critcising a Democrat. But now in year five of Obama, the neocon critique finds reverberations among Democrats as well.

A policy of American weakness, a desire to remain out of the fray, and a deeply dubious assessment of American morality, will such policies bring victory in 2016, when Obama is gone and those wars are behind the United States? Within the Democratic Party there remain internationalists, many of them associated with the Clinton years, and indeed Hillary Clinton herself may be the next Democratic candidate. She is no neocon, but she does appear to be far closer than Obama to the view that Madeline Albright, her husband’s secretary of state, espoused when she called the United States the “indispensable nation”.

War-weariness is always a powerful sentiment, as it was after Vietnam. But it passes. And so will that element of Republican reluctance to support overseas actions that is in fact a vote of no confidence in the sitting President. I too would shrink from having Barack Obama as commander-in-chief in any new conflict, given the administration’s record in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, and Syria of reluctance to engage forcefully enough to win.

Those in both parties who argue for intervention in Syria (as I have for two years) do not do so primarily because we favour free elections there, but precisely because we thought it in America’s interests to bring down a key part of Iran’s and Hezbollah’s defence perimeter, and because we feared the growing arrival of jihadis in Syria to fight what they viewed as Sunni battles.

“Responsibility to protect” doctrine is about military intervention, but neoconservatism —from its roots in Henry Jackson’s efforts to liberate Soviet Jewry, to Reagan’s push for transitions to democracy in places like Chile, the Philippines, and South Korea and his creation of the National Endowment for Democracy, to Bush’s espousal of democracy in Lebanon, Palestine and Burma and his support for the Dalai Lama — is caricatured if its emphasis on ideological warfare and on verbal and programmatic support for the expansion of freedom is forgotten.

I suspect that no presidential candidate in 2016 will say “I am a neoconservative” or “we are all neoconservatives now”. The term has suffered from too much opprobrium, and why should any politician wish to spend his time explaining himself lexicographically? But the ideas remain potent, and a look at the GOP line-up — Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan — suggests that as with McCain in 2008 and Romney in 2012 the easiest one-word explanation of their foreign policy planks will be “neoconservatism”: American exceptionalism, American power, patriotism, freedom.


June 21, 2013

Kirkus Review on April 10, 2013, reviewed a recently published book on how the world would be different if certain critical battles had gone the other way? Two top military historians offer answers. Excerpts below:

Institute of Defense Analyses consultants and lecturers Lacey (The First Clash: The Miraculous Greek Victory at Marathon and Its Impact on Western Civilization, 2011, etc.) and Murray (Strategic Challenges for Counterinsurgency and the Global War on Terrorism, 2012, etc.) are not interested in rehashing Agincourt, Waterloo or Gettysburg.

Instead, they choose battles that, they write, made a decisive difference in history. Instead of close analysis of tactics, they look at what effect they had on creating our modern world. Most of their choices are hard to argue with: An Athenian loss to Persia at Marathon would likely have cut off what we think of as Greek civilization almost at its start. Likewise, it’s hard to deny that modern European history would be vastly different without the Norman victory at Hastings.

Breitenfeld, a battle of the Thirty Years War in which Gustavus Adolphus’ new methods of military organization routed superior numbers under the banner of the Holy Roman Empire, may be even less familiar.

…often the authors take a conventional view, praising Grant’s generalship or criticizing the Allied commanders during the early stages of World War I. They also tend to criticize the decision-making of the losing generals, as in the Battle of Britain, where a German decision to stop bombing airfields allowed the RAF to continue the battle and eventually prevail. The final chapter, on the American victory in Iraq in 2003, predicts that it, too, will make a major historical difference, once its impact is fully known.