One hundred years ago today World War One began 1

Today is the centennial anniversary of the start of the First World War. On 28 July, 1914, the Austro-Hungarian army fired the first shots, to crush rebellious Serbia. What happened then, and why, is traced in this video. 

Blame is laid on the growth of nationalism, and even more on imperialism – the acquisition of colonies by the powers of Europe on other continents, in fierce competition with each other, Britain being far and away the  winner. The fact that at least some empires, chiefly the British, brought incalculable benefits to the lands they conquered, colonized and ruled, is touched on briefly; in our view, too briefly.

We think it is an overview worth watching, though there are points where we would place a different emphasis.

We agree with the presenters that the day World War One broke out was the day Europe began its terminal decline.

 

The US and EU feed three boys into the jaws of Hamas 1

As a member of Cobra, the UK national crisis management committee, I was involved in British efforts to rescue our citizens kidnapped by Islamist terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan. No modern-day military action is so fraught: the odds are stacked against the captives, the whip hand is with the captors, it is a race against time, and it becomes extremely personal.

So the admirable Colonel Richard Kemp, former  Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, writes at Gatestone.

The world has undergone gut-churning revulsion this week at the videos of rows of kneeling young Iraqi men callously gunned down by Al Qaida terrorists in Mosul. But time and again, in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, Hamas has shown itself to be just as capable of such brutal cold-blooded killing. That knowledge has galvanized Israel’s desperate hunt for those who abducted teenagers Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach as they hitchhiked home from their school in Gush Etzion a week ago. …

Nothing – nothing – stands in the way of our efforts to bring them back. Although we hope for the best, we prepare for the worst.

From the outside, it is difficult to read the realities of a kidnapping. Those with the responsibility of saving lives are forced into a cat and mouse game in which they must both reassure the public and sow seeds of disinformation among the captors. So far, for Naftali, Gilad and Eyal, the signs are not encouraging. As far as we know a week later, there is no proof of life, no demands, no negotiations.

Yesterday, June 19, the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency apparently reported that Hamas leader Salah Bardawil said that the “Palestinian resistance” (Hamas — the acronym for the “Islamic Resistance Movement”) had carried out the kidnapping.

The first priority is always to establish the identity and the motive of the captors. Early on, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asserted that Hamas was guilty. [Even] US Secretary of State Kerry agreed, and this seems to be the view throughout Gaza and the West Bank.

Hamas leader Mohammad Nazzal, for his part, described the kidnapping of three teenage civilians as “a heroic capture”, and “a milestone” for the Palestinian people. He said that every passing day in which the Israelis failed to find the teenagers was “a tremendous achievement”. 

The sheer sadism of the Palestinian Arab leadership, though bloodily demonstrated over and over again for nearly 100 years now –  and so is fully expected –  still shocks and revolts, and shows no sign of abating.

Nazzal’s comments reflect long-standing views on the abduction and butchering of Israelis by the leadership of Hamas, the internationally proscribed terrorist group responsible for firing thousands of lethal rockets indiscriminately against the civilian population of Israel from the Gaza Strip, the latest salvoes only this week.

It is the same terrorist group that the United Nations, the United States and the European Union – in a display of moral bankruptcy and betrayal – have all endorsed as a legitimate partner in a unity government for the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Just the day before the three boys were kidnapped, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, welcomed Hamas into the PA government while lambasting Israel for detaining terrorists and taking action to prevent Hamas terrorist attacks from Gaza and the West Bank.

Ashton, though never slow to condemn Israel, took five days to denounce this kidnapping. Both her words and actions have legitimized and encouraged Hamas. Her inaction in the face of repeated terrorist assaults has bolstered Hamas’s convictions.

The kidnapping will find favor with Ashton’s new best friends in Iran. Also desperate to appease the ayatollahs, British Foreign Secretary William Hague this week announced the re-opening in Tehran of a British embassy, closed in 2011 after being ransacked on the orders of the Iranian government. There are even reports of US military intelligence-sharing with Iran over the crisis in Iraq – where only a few short years ago, large numbers of American and British soldiers were being slaughtered — using Iranian-supplied munitions by terrorists trained, directed and equipped by Tehran and its terrorist proxy, Lebanese Hizballah.

As Ashton and the West cozy up to the ayatollahs, the ayatollahs are again cozying up to Hamas. A few weeks ago, Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizballah, met with Hamas leaders to resolve the differences between Iran and Hamas that arose over the Syrian conflict. Hamas – isolated from Egypt following the demise of the Muslim Brotherhood regime – seems desperate to restore full relations with the Iranian tyrant. Iran is equally enthusiastic to bring Hamas back into the fold: Hamas remains an important instrument of the ayatollahs’ overriding, stated goal of destroying the State of Israel.

In these circumstances it is certainly not beyond probability that the three boys’ kidnapping was a goodwill gesture from Hamas to the ayatollahs.

It is hard to not be chilled to the bone by the thought of three teenage boys – who might easily be our own sons or brothers – spending night after night in the hands of ruthless terrorists… or worse. The anguish of the boys’ parents must be unimaginable.

Yet among the Palestinian Arab population of the West Bank and Gaza, including children, a new symbol has emerged – the three-fingered salute, signifying joy at the kidnapping …

Such celebration, including the handing out of sweets in the street, has been widespread. …

Both the US and the EU have paid the salaries of Palestinian terrorists by means of grants to the PA; they also fund this propaganda and incitement, no doubt including some of the imagery applauding the boys’ kidnapping.

The Israeli security operation has so far focused on finding the three boys. Over 330 Hamas suspects have been arrested, and illicit weapons and ammunition seized. Echoing the code-name of the rescue operation, “Brother’s Keeper,” the IDF Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz, has encouraged his troops to apply the same vigour to their task as if they were searching for their own brothers or members of their own platoon. He has also reminded them that most people in the areas they are searching are not connected to the kidnapping, and to treat them with care and humanity.

Concurrently, the IDF is taking steps to weaken and dismantle Hamas in the West Bank. In some quarters these have been criticized as an unnecessary and opportunistic widening of the operation. It is nothing of the sort. With this latest kidnapping, Hamas has confirmed its continued intent to abduct, attack and murder Israeli civilians in the West Bank. Like every government, Israel has an absolute duty to protect its citizens, and undermining this terrorist threat is an essential part of that responsibility.

All military operations are unpredictable; it is possible that Operation Brother’s Keeper could lead to an escalation of violence. Incidents have already occurred. It is unlikely that Israel will expand the current operation into Gaza, unless there is a serious upsurge in violence from there or a connection between Gaza terrorists and the kidnapping comes to light.

Whichever way this operation develops, the international community should avoid the same response to the current defensive actions that they have so often displayed whenever Israel has sought to defend itself from missile attacks from Gaza. The international community usually ignores repeated volleys of rockets fired at Israeli civilians, and then condemns Israel for taking defensive action to prevent further attacks. It is these responses from the international community that have encouraged Hamas, and amounted to nothing less than support for terrorism. And it is these responses, along with the endorsement of Hamas’s inclusion in a Palestinian unity government, that have led to the kidnapping of the boys in the West Bank.

We could not put it better ourselves.

Drang nach Osten – and a shift in the global balance of power 1

How goes Obama’s “pivot” –  or “tilt” – to the East?

The Washington Post reports that Defense Secretary Hagel is quietly busy seeing to it, with feeling:

Hagel, who has made five trips to the Far East in the past year, has sustained President Obama’s long-touted tilt toward Asia, even as he has been a nearly invisible player in the unending crises elsewhere that have eclipsed it.

By interest, history and temperament, Hagel appears to feel a sense of ownership in Asia.

A sense of ownership. What can that mean? Read on, and we may find out.

Despite the stalling of the Pacific trade agreement that is another cornerstone of Obama’s Asia “rebalance”

What is being referenced here is Obama’s failure to reach a trade agreement with Japan. Notice that the Obamaspeak for “failing” is “stalling”. Implied is a temporary hitch soon to be overcome.

 Hagel can claim steady progress in the military’s role of building regional alliances and partnerships. But those gains risk being overtaken by China’s rapidly worsening relations with its neighbors and escalating belligerency from North Korea.

Yup, a little advance here a huge set-back there.

In a speech Saturday morning to the annual Shangri-La Dialogue, a regional defense conference he first attended as a senator more than a decade ago, Hagel criticized China’s “destabilizing, unilateral actions” in asserting its maritime claims against other countries in the region. [Some of his] aides said he purposely used language sharper than in previous public statements on the subject.

Purposely? Is sharp speaking usually done  by him inadvertently? Obamarians feel uncomfortable speaking sharply to a foreign audience – other than Israel, of course.

So how sharply?

We take no position on competing territorial claims,” Hagel said, repeating U.S. insistence that its interests are rooted in a desire to balance alliances with Asia’s smaller partners and a smooth relationship with China.

That sharply? Hang on – here it comes:

“But we firmly oppose any nation’s use of intimidation, coercion or the threat of force to assert these claims.”

How firmly? As firmly as Obama opposed intimidation, coercion and the actual use of force by Assad and Putin?

The report mentions that intimidation, coercion and the threat of force is ongoing:

New air skirmishes have erupted in recent weeks in the East China Sea with Japan and in contested South China Sea waters with Vietnam.

So how firm on the Obama scale is Mr Hagel? There must be a shadow or a ghost of firmness somewhere about. It was detected by a Chinese lady general in a “restatement” of a “defense commitment” to Japan. Wow!

In questions following Hagel’s remarks, a Chinese general testily asked the defense secretary to explain what she called his own “subtle threat of force” in restating the U.S. defense commitment to Japan even as he called for a negotiated settlement of contesting claims to East China Sea islands.

Watch out now for the assertion that the Obama position is clear. Whenever an Obama position is very faint, particularly uncertain, he or one of his servants will say that it is “clear”:

America’s position is clear,” Hagel said. “These territorial disputes should be resolved through international law.”

International law. That clear? That firm? “International law” is a will-o-the-wisp, a fancy, a trick of the light, smoke and mirrors.

But at the same time, he said, the United States has treaty commitments to several countries in the region, including Japan, the Philippines and South Korea.

We like that “but”. There’s the sharpness, you see. “But” the US has treaty commitments. They may involve mention of military support! The big contrast to international law. Strong stuff, like the treaty commitment the US had to defending Ukraine’s independence. When Ukraine’s independence was threatened, when a chunk of its territory was seized by Russia, the US commitment held like cardboard in the rain.

But enough of ghostly saber rattling.

Those Eastern countries towards which Obama is tilting must be reminded of what Obama expects of them. What he expects of them is his policy towards them.

Returning to familiar themes, Hagel nudged South Korea and Japan toward greater defense cooperation that will allow a unified missile defense system against North Korea, which is suspected of preparing a fourth nuclear test. He called on China to play “a more active role” in using its influence on Pyongyang, urged Thailand’s military to restore democracy and praised Burma for ending military dictatorship.

And if they would only take those decisive steps, US partnership would prove a real boon.

If anything, Hagel indicated, “the Asia-Pacific’s shifting security landscape makes America’s partnerships and alliances indispensable as anchors for regional stability.” …

While budgets may be cut elsewhere, Hagel said, “both President Obama and I remain committed to ensuring that any reductions in U.S. defense spending do not come at the expense of America’s commitments in the Asia-Pacific,” where they have said 60 percent of U.S. air and naval assets will be based by 2020.

Although the administration has promised that resources saved by ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be used both for the Asia rebalance and for the new Middle East and African counterterrorism strategy that Obama outlined this past week in an address at the U.S. Military Academy, a senior defense official said little competition was involved.

What could he mean by “competition”. Could he mean (shudder!) a possibility of military opposition? None of that sort of thing? So what matters are the alliances in themselves, not any purpose beyond  them. Do not even think it.

Asia, Hagel said in his speech, is an example of the stronger “global partnerships and alliances” Obama described this week as a cornerstone of his foreign and security policy. …

Now at last we are told why Hagel has “a sense of ownership in Asia”. Get ready to be impressed.

Hagel’s Vietnam experience is only part of his attachment to Asia, the senior defense official said. His father was a bomber tail-gunner in the Pacific in World War II. As president of the USO and a business executive who founded a lucrative cellphone network, Hagel traveled frequently to the region even before his election to the Senate in 1996.

And that adds up to –

“I’ve got this long history, this confluence with my background, my history,” said [an]  official, describing what he said was Hagel’s thought process. “It’s what I’m good at, what I’m interested in.”

We won’t even dignify all that with a comment – the silliness speaks for itself.

What we have to understand is that Hagel is determined to succeed. You may find this hard to believe, but he is as determined to succeed in the Far East as Secretary of State John Kerry was determined to succeed in the Middle East. That determined.

[His] aides portray Hagel’s dedication to the Asia-Pacific and his determination to succeed here as equal to that of Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s highly publicized (but stalled) efforts to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace, only with less media attention and more potential for long-term success.

More potential, eh? Efforts that will not “stall”?  There’s optimism for you!

*

Meanwhile what is going on with the Far East in the real world?

Events so huge that they mark “a major alteration in the global balance of power”.

Charles Krauthammer writes (May 22, 2014) at the Washington Post:

It finally happened — the pivot to Asia. No, not the United States. It was Russia that turned East.

In Shanghai, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed a spectacular energy deal — $400 billion of Siberian natural gas to be exported to China over 30 years.

This is huge. By indelibly linking producer and consumer — the pipeline alone is a $70 billion infrastructure project — it deflates the post-Ukraine Western threat (mostly empty, but still very loud) to cut European imports of Russian gas. Putin has just defiantly demonstrated that he has other places to go.

The Russia-China deal also makes a mockery of U.S. boasts to have isolated Russia because of Ukraine. Not even Germany wants to risk a serious rupture with Russia (hence the absence of significant sanctions). And now Putin has just ostentatiously unveiled a signal 30-year energy partnership with the world’s second-largest economy. Some isolation.

The contrast with President Obama’s own vaunted pivot to Asia is embarrassing (to say nothing of the Keystone pipeline with Canada). He went to Japan last month also seeking a major trade agreement that would symbolize and cement a pivotal strategic alliance. He came home empty-handed.

Does the Obama foreign policy team even understand what is happening? For them, the Russia-China alliance is simply more retrograde, 19th-century, balance-of-power maneuvering by men of the past oblivious to the reality of a 21st century governed by law and norms. A place where, for example, one simply doesn’t annex a neighbor’s territory. Indeed, Obama scolds Russia and China for not living up to their obligations as major stakeholders in this new interdependent world.

The Chinese and Russians can only roll their eyes. These norms and rules mean nothing to them. Sure, they’ll join the World Trade Organization for the commercial advantages – then cheat like hell with cyberespionage and intellectual piracy. They see these alleged norms as forms of velvet-glove imperialism, clever extensions of a Western hegemony meant to keep Russia in its reduced post-Soviet condition and China contained by a dominant US military.

Obama cites modern rules; Russia and China, animated by resurgent nationalism, are governed by ancient maps. Putin refers to eastern and southern Ukraine by the old czarist term of “New Russia”. And China’s foreign minister justifies vast territorial claims that violate maritime law by citing traditional (“nine-dash”) maps that grant China dominion over the East and South China seas.

Which makes this alignment of the world’s two leading anti-Western powers all the more significant.

It marks a major alteration in the global balance of power. 

China and Russia together represent the core of a new coalition of anti-democratic autocracies challenging the Western-imposed, post-Cold War status quo.

Their enhanced partnership marks the first emergence of a global coalition against American hegemony since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Indeed, at this week’s Asian cooperation conference, Xi proposed a brand-new continental security system to include Russia and Iran (lest anyone mistake its anti-imperialist essence) and exclude America.

This is an open challenge to the post-Cold War, US-dominated world that Obama inherited and then weakened beyond imagining.

If carried through, it would mark the end of a quarter-century of unipolarity. And herald a return to a form of bipolarity — two global coalitions: one free, one not… [A] struggle  … for dominion and domination.

To which Obama, who once proclaimed that “no one nation can or should try to dominate another nation,” is passive, perhaps even oblivious. His pivot to Asia remains a dead letter. Yet his withdrawal from the Middle East — where from Egypt to Saudi Arabia, from Libya to Syria, US influence is at its lowest ebb in 40 years — is a fait accompli.

The retreat is compounded by Obama’s proposed massive cuts in defense spending … even as Russia is rearming and China is creating a sophisticated military soon capable of denying America access to the waters of the Pacific Rim.

Decline is not a condition. Decline is a choice. In this case, Obama’s choice. And it’s the one area where he can be said to be succeeding splendidly.

Obama’s shattering success 3

In just five years, Barack Obama has succeeded in crippling the American economy and shattering the world order under the Pax Americana.

Americans feel the grave economic effects of his domestic policies more immediately and urgently, but it is the shattering of the world order that will ultimately change their lives for the worse.

President Vladimir Putin found that “he could  annex Crimea without firing a single bullet”. He has good reason to think that “he will later be able to do the same with the rest of Ukraine”. But he will probably “wait until the situation worsens and the impotence of the United States and Europe becomes even more obvious”.

That is part of the picture of the crumbling world order, described here by Professor Guy Millière (of the University of Paris), at Gatestone.

[Putin] apparently considers that he has in front of him a weak and declining America. And the general demeanor of the present U.S. administration tends to prove him right. The United States seem in full retreat. U.S. military budgets continue to fall. For the last five years, Barack Obama spoke of “ending” the wars in which the U.S. was involved, and he depends on Russia’s cooperation for further negotiations with Iran, for dismantling chemical weapons in Syria, and for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Putin doubtless thinks that Obama will not enter into an open conflict with Russia. Sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States are insignificant, and Putin has every reason to think they will not increase. …

[He] evidently considers Europe even weaker than America. The way European leaders speak and act shows that he is not wrong. For decades, Western European countries relied on the U.S. defense umbrella; none of them today has an army capable of doing more than extremely limited operations. Their foreign policy positions converge with the Obama administration positions. They all have deep economic and financial links with Russia and cannot break these links. The UK needs the Russian capital invested in the City of London. France cannot cancel its Russian warship contract without having to close its shipyards in Saint Nazaire, and without being confronted with major social conflicts. Germany could not survive long without Russian oil and natural gas. Overall, Russia provides thirty percent of the natural gas consumed in Western Europe. Putin apparently thinks that Europe will not enter into an open conflict with Russia. …

Either the West will stand up to Putin, and it will have to do it fast, or Putin will win. Obviously, Europe will not stand up. Polls indicate that Americans are turning sharply toward isolationism.

Showing his view of the situation, Obama recently said that Russia is nothing but a “regional power”, acting “out of weakness”.

What is Russia’s “region”?

Russia covers ten time zones and has borders with Europe, the Muslim Middle East, China, North Korea, and Alaska.

Yes, Russia has a common border with the United States. The US is in its region.  

If massing troops on the borders of Ukraine and annexing Crimea are signs of “weakness,” by its evident impotence, America appears even weaker.

Will Putin be content with annexing Crimea, or even the whole of Ukraine?

Several plebiscites have been held since 2006 in Transnistria, a strip of land between Ukraine and Moldova, and each of them has indicated a willingness to join Russia. Estonia includes a large Russian minority, and Russian leaders in Moscow speak of the need to “protect” the Russian population of Estonia.

Estonia is a member of NATO. If Russia were to attack it, NATO, according to Article 5 of its charter, should defend it with prompt military action. But would it?  NATO’s military power is America’s military power. Under Obama,what chance is there that America would go to war in Europe?

The world order built after the Second World War was shaped by America. For almost five decades, its goal was to contain Soviet expansion. In the late 1980s, the Soviet empire collapsed, and another phase began: an arrangement in which America would keep the peace and assure the survival of liberty.

America has apparently abrogated that responsibility.

And if Russia is not deterred, other powers will be encouraged to advance their interests abroad by force.

Rogue leaders around the world are watching and drawing their own conclusions.

[The Iranian Ayatollah] Khamenei sees no reason to stop saying that America is the “Great Satan” and that Israel has to be wiped off the map. China sees no reason to hide its intention to occupy the Senkaku/Diyaoyu Islands. Last week, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un fired six missiles into the sea of Japan. [President] Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela reaffirmed its alliance with Russia and positioned Russian missiles in Caracas.

Guy Millière predicts that the chaos will increase and speed up. He sees disaster coming fast.

If we do not see the Ukraine as a warning signal, we could quickly discover that life could now easily enter the state of nature in Hobbes’s Leviathan: [solitary, poor,] nasty, brutish and short.

Ending the pax Americana 2

We are in principle against intervention in the internal affairs of other countries. But we are not for isolationism or pacifism – we regard either philosophy as a formula for national suicide. If other countries become belligerent, build up their armed strength, send their warships towards our shores, establish bases in countries on our borders, and declare their aggressive intentions towards us, the politics of those countries become our business. That is happening now. We are under threat – because Obama is deliberately weakening America. And his reaction to the result is to weaken America even more.

The conditions for major war develop much more easily when the U.S. is too weak. They are developing as we speak. 

To a meaningful extent, the significant increase we’ve seen in unrest around the globe since 2010 has been made possible, and inevitable, by the retraction of American power. Even where we still have power in place, it has become increasingly obvious that we aren’t going to use it. 

We quote from a website interestingly named Liberty Unyielding. The article on the extreme folly of the Obama administration’s moves to weaken America is by Commander Jennifer Dyer, now retired from the US navy. (Her own blog is at Theoptimisticconservative.wordpress.com):

The collapse of order in the Arab nations in 2011 was the first significant stage of the process. The perception that the United States would do nothing about a Hezbollah coup in Lebanon was tested in January of that year. The perception proved to be true, and when protests erupted in Tunisia and Egypt, for causes both natural and manufactured, a set of radical Islamist actors – the “establishment” Muslim Brotherhood, Sunni jihadists, Iran – saw an opportunity. The establishment Muslim Brotherhood has largely won out in Tunisia, but the battle still rages among these radical actors for Egypt, Syria, and now Iraq. Lebanon is being incrementally sucked into the maelstrom as well.

In multiple venues, Russia has watched the U.S. and the West effectively back Islamists in Russia’s “near abroad”: in Turkey (with support for the now struggling Erdogan government); in the Balkans, especially Bosnia and Kosovo; and in Syria. …

There was a time when the implicit determination of the U.S. to enforce the “Pax Americana” order – the post-World War II alignments of the region – held Russia in check. The Russians still derived some security benefit from that order, after all … It appears to me, however, that 2014 will be the year in which it becomes clear that, according to Russians’ perception, they no longer benefit from the old order. If we’re not going to enforce it, Russia will do what she thinks she has to.

In fact, Moscow’s pushback against the plan for Ukraine to affiliate with the EU constitutes just such a blow for perceived Russian interests. It is of supreme importance for Westerners to not misread the recent developments. The EU and the U.S. did back down when Russia pushed hard last fall. The only ones who didn’t back down were the Ukrainian opposition. I predict Vladimir Putin will try to handle the opposition factions cleverly, as much as he can, and avoid a pitched battle with them if possible. He respects what they are willing to do. But he has no reason to respect Brussels or Washington.

And that means he has more latitude, not less, for going after the regional props to the old order, one by one. As always, Russia’s inevitable competition with China is a major driver, along with Russia’s concern about Islamism on her southern border. The whole Great Crossroads – Southwest Asia, Southeast Europe, Northeast Africa, the waterways that snake through the region – is, if not up for grabs, at least in ferment. Look wherever you like: there are almost no nations where there is not a very present menace from radicalism, or where governments and even borders are not gravely imperiled by internal dissent.

Israel is the chief standout for politically sustainable stability and continuity. Romania and Turkey seem likely to at least retain their constitutional order in the foreseeable future, but Turkey’s geopolitical orientation, in particular, is less certain. Greece and Kosovo – even Bosnia – have serious internal problems. Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia all remain in crisis at various levels. Jordan and Saudi Arabia are relatively stable, and the Arab Persian Gulf states relatively so as well. But their neighborhood is going downhill fast. Iran is riding a wave of radical confidence, and the Taliban are resurgent in Afghanistan.

In this tumultuous region, it’s actually a little funny that Pakistan looks stable and staid compared to Iran, Afghanistan, and neighbors west. We can hope that Islamabad’s perceived need to maintain a symmetrical stance against India will keep Pakistan’s loose federation of intransigents federated, and the nukes under central control. But as we move across South Asia, we near another boiling pot. Thailand – long an American ally and pillar of stability in the region – has been rocked in recent months by national unrest of a kind not seen in Southeast Asia for decades. Islamist radicalism is a growing threat in Indonesia, and an unpacified one in the Philippines, after more than a decade of U.S.-Philippines collaboration in fighting it.

And, of course, China is making real, transformative moves against regional security with her proclamations about air space and maritime rights off her southeast coast.

This disruptive process, like the battles for many of the Arab nations, is already underway. We’re not waiting for something to happen; it’s started.

China assumes, quite correctly, that there will be no effective pushback from the United States. But two other nations with power and means will regard it as intolerable for China to dictate conditions in Southeast Asia: Japan and Russia. The dance of realignment among these nations has implications for everyone in Central Asia and the Far East. The day may be on the horizon sooner than we think when maintaining a divided Korea no longer makes sense to at least one of the major players. The day is already here when Chinese activities in Central Asia are alarming the whole neighborhood, just as Chinese actions are in the South China Sea. …

Russia and Iran are advancing on the US through Central America:

It’s no accident that as radical leftism creeps across Central America (falsely laying claim to a noble “Bolivarian” political mantle), the maritime dispute between Nicaragua and American ally Colombia heats up – and Russia shows up to back Nicaragua and Venezuela – and so does Iran – and unrest turns into shooting and government brutality and violence in Venezuela – and Hezbollah shows up there to openly support the radical, repressive Maduro government.

Now Iran has a naval supply ship headed for Central America, very possibly with a cargo of arms that are not only prohibited by UN sanction, but capable of reaching the United States if launched from a Central American nation or Cuba.

We’re not still waiting for the shocks to start to the old order. They’ve already started. I haven’t surveyed even the half of what there is to talk about …

She looks at the latest defense cuts with dismay and considers what the consequences will be:

This is the world in which the United States plans to reduce our army to its lowest level since before World War II, and eliminate or put in storage much of its capabilities for heavy operations abroad (e.g., getting rid of the A-10 Warthogs, moving Blackhawk helicopters into the National Guard). It’s in this world that DOD proposes to cease operating half of our Navy cruisers, while delaying delivery of the carrier-based F-35 strike-fighter to the Navy and Marine Corps. These cutbacks come on top of cuts already made to training and maintenance expenditures in the Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force that will affect unit readiness for years to come. …

Then comes what should be a shocking observation:

By cutting back on defense so drastically, America is deciding, in essence, to “fight fair”: to give whatever opponents emerge more of a chance to kill our soldiers, damage our interests, and drag out conflicts.

That would be hard to believe of any American leadership – until now. It is ludicrous. Worse, it is lunatic. But Obama has never concealed or disguised his wish to weaken America’s military capacity.

The decision “to further limit our capabilities to use power in politically relevant ways” will result in “even more global unrest: more conflict, more shooting, more blood, more extortion and political thuggery menacing civil life in the world’s poorer and more vulnerable nations”, and that cannot be good for America. The point is that -

These unpleasant trends will spill over into civil life in the wealthier nations soon enough

As it has, she points out, in Ukraine, Thailand, and Venezuela, “whether directly or through second-order consequences”.

Peace and freedom have to be tended constantly; they are not the natural state of geopolitical indiscipline, but its antithesis. …

We’re extraordinarily unprepared for the world that is shaping up around us. …

[And] a world that doesn’t want quiescent trade conditions, tolerance of dissent, the open flow of ideas, and mutual agreements, peacefully arrived at, will not have them.

That’s the world we are sentencing ourselves, for now, to live in. Perhaps we will learn from the consequences how to think again: about what it takes to guard freedom, and indeed, about what freedom actually is. 

It is Obama who needs to think again, but there is no reason to hope that he will. It could hardly be more obvious that he does not care for freedom.

The sun also sets – and it’s infinitely sad 13

By 2020, in the Land of the Rising Sun, adult diapers will outsell baby diapers: The sun also sets.

Mark Steyn writes about a people – the Japanese – dying out, and reminds us that Europeans are too. Whole nations have embraced “voluntary societal self-extinction”. It could also be called “auto-genocide“.

To Western eyes, contemporary Japan has a kind of earnest childlike wackiness, all karaoke machines and manga cartoons and nuttily sadistic game shows. But, to us demography bores, it’s a sad place that seems to be turning into a theme park of P. D. James’s great dystopian novel The Children of Men. … Baroness James’s tale is set in Britain in the near future, in a world that is infertile: The last newborn babe emerged from the womb in 1995, and since then nothing. … The Japanese seem determined to live up to the book’s every telling detail.

In Lady James’s speculative fiction, pets are doted on as child-substitutes, and churches hold christening ceremonies for cats. In contemporary Japanese reality, Tokyo has some 40 “cat cafés” where lonely solitary citizens can while away an afternoon by renting a feline to touch and pet for a couple of companionable hours. In Lady James’s speculative fiction, all the unneeded toys are burned, except for the dolls, which childless women seize on as the nearest thing to a baby and wheel through the streets. In contemporary Japanese reality, toy makers, their children’s market dwindling, have instead developed dolls for seniors to be the grandchildren they’ll never have: You can dress them up, and put them in a baby carriage, and the computer chip in the back has several dozen phrases of the kind a real grandchild might use to enable them to engage in rudimentary social pleasantries.

The loneliness, the hopelessness, the frustration of biological purpose and the profound longing it naturally gives rise to – the story is infinitely sad.

P. D. James’s most audacious fancy is that in a barren land sex itself becomes a bit of a chore. The authorities frantically sponsor state porn emporia promoting ever more recherché forms of erotic activity in an effort to reverse the populace’s flagging sexual desire just in case man’s seed should recover its potency. Alas, to no avail. As Lady James writes, “Women complain increasingly of what they describe as painful orgasms: the spasm achieved but not the pleasure. Pages are devoted to this common phenomenon in the women’s magazines.”

As I said, a bold conceit, at least to those who believe that shorn of all those boring procreation hang-ups we can finally be free to indulge our sexual appetites to the full. But it seems the Japanese have embraced the no-sex-please-we’re-dystopian-Brits plot angle, too. …  A survey by the Japan Family Planning Association reported that over a quarter of men aged 16–24 “were not interested in or despised sexual contact.” For women, it was 45 percent. …  49 percent of women under 34 are not in any kind of romantic relationship, and nor are 61 percent of single men. A third of Japanese adults under 30 have never dated. Anyone. Ever. … It’s a flight from human intimacy.

They’re not alone in that, of course. A while back, I flew from a speaking engagement on one side of the Atlantic to a TV booking on the other. And backstage at both events an attractive thirtysomething woman made the same complaint to me. They’d both tried computer dating but were alarmed by the number of chaps who found human contact too much effort: Instead of meeting and kissing and making out and all that other stuff that involves being in the same room, they’d rather you just sexted them and twitpiced a Weineresque selfie or two. As in other areas, the Japanese seem merely to have reached the end point of Western ennui a little earlier.

By 2020, in the Land of the Rising Sun, adult diapers will outsell baby diapers: The sun also sets. In The Children of Men, the barrenness is a medical condition; in real life, in some of the oldest nations on earth, from Madrid to Tokyo, it’s a voluntary societal self-extinction.

In Europe, the demographic death spiral is obscured by high Muslim immigration; in Japan, which retains a cultural aversion to immigration of any kind, there are no foreigners to be the children you couldn’t be bothered having yourself.

In welfare states, the future is premised on social solidarity: The young will pay for the costs of the old. But, as the West ages, social solidarity frays, and in Japan young men aren’t even interested in solidarity with young women, and young women can’t afford solidarity with bonnie bairns. So an elderly population in need of warm bodies to man the hospital wards and senior centers is already turning to robot technology. If manga and anime are any indication, the post-human nurses and waitresses will be cute enough to make passable sex partners — for anyone who can still be bothered.

Posted under Commentary, Demography, Europe, Japan by Jillian Becker on Thursday, November 14, 2013

Tagged with , ,

This post has 13 comments.

Permalink

A charade in Geneva 1

Unexpectedly, an important article on the current US and EU diplomatic talks with Iran, written by the excellent John Bolton (who would be a great Secretary of State) appears in the lefty pro-Islam British newspaper The Guardian. Here is a large part of it:

Tuesday’s opening of yet another round of negotiations with Iran over its nuclear-weapons program creates enormous risks for America’s anti-proliferation efforts. Tehran’s extensive propaganda campaign, stressing the “moderation” of its new president, Hassan Rouhani, seems to be working, softening up the gullible in the United States and Europe.

As in previous iterations of the charade now reopening in Geneva, Iran’s bargaining position benefits from our own repeated mistakes. The ayatollahs need only take advantage of these unforced errors, and success may well fall into their undeserving hands. Consider the most blatant errors that Iran is eager to exploit.

First, both Presidents Bush and Obama conceded that Iran was entitled to a “peaceful” nuclear program, for energy and scientific purposes. Under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), however, that view is flatly wrong. By pursuing nuclear weapons for over two decades, Iran has violated key NPT provisions – notably, the obligation it freely undertook to be a non-nuclear weapons state. Tehran is not, therefore, entitled to claim benefits under NPT sections permitting peaceful uses of nuclear power.

Beyond treaty interpretation, Iran’s long record of ignoring its commitments and lying about its nuclear program demonstrates beyond dispute that it cannot be trusted. What conceivable reason exists to believe today’s pledge to abstain from nuclear weapons when the ayatollahs have violated so many previous pledges?  …

Second, by allowing Iran to possess any uranium enrichment, nuclear reactors, or spent nuclear fuel reprocessing capabilities, the west will both legitimize Iran’s nuclear program and ensure that it can move to weaponization at a time entirely of its choosing. … By misunderstanding the physics of uranium enrichment, the Obama administration has made a mockery of itself.

Third, the White House retort that international inspections will prevent Iran from speedily moving to weaponization is a complete fiction. Given the broad, deep nuclear infrastructure Iran is building aggressively, Tehran need merely expel the International Atomic Energy Agency when it chooses to do so, and then move rapidly to weaponization. …

Fourth, what Iran really wants near-term, and what the west seems poised to give, is relief from international economic sanctions. Although these measures have caused Iran economic pain, there is no evidence they have impeded the nuclear program. …

So sanctions are working. But Obama and the Communist representative of the EU, Catherine Ashton, are already squandering that advantage.

While America and Europe insist they will demand reciprocal concessions for any weakening of the sanctions, Iran (with its backers, Russia and China) is bargaining from a position of strength. The ayatollahs sense from Obama’s desperate efforts for a handshake or phone call with Rouhani at September’s UN opening that he is hungry for a deal, thus allowing them to extract concession from the west before making even a superficial response.

Which is not just  diplomatic ineptitude on Obama’s part, it’s downright dumb – unless Obama wants Iran to get the bomb. Actually, we suspect he does; that he is sympathetic to Islam and its efforts to gain power. And we are convinced he is anti-Israel.

Our negotiators are already talking about “sequencing” steps by the two sides – meaning, in reality, we will make the first concessions, hoping that Iran will make substantive concession later. In fact, the likely scenario is the exact opposite: Obama will make significant reductions in sanctions that will be very hard to restore subsequently, and Iran will give us blue smoke and mirrors. Even worse, these non-reciprocal episodes could continue at length, giving Tehran another precious resource, time, to continue building its nuclear facilities.

We have only two very unpleasant choices: either Iran gets nuclear weapons in the very near future, or pre-emptive military force, fully justified by well-established principles of self-defense, must break Iran’s control over the nuclear fuel cycle and prevent (or, at least, substantially delay) weaponization. President Obama has said repeatedly that “all options are on the table”, the standard euphemism for military action. But, especially after Syria, no one believes him, the ayatollahs in Tehran, most notably.

By default that leaves Israel, which is watching today’s negotiations most uneasily.

The fact is we shouldn’t trust and can’t verify Iranian promises not to fabricate nuclear weapons. Indeed, even now, Washington really doesn’t know how quickly Iran could assemble a small number of nuclear weapons.

But a crash program has never really been Tehran’s objective. Iran is playing a much longer game that the west, largely because it fears neither our sanctions nor a possible military strike.

Our inability to see through this strategy has brought us grief time and again. Unfortunately, in Geneva, we may be watching a re-run.

December 7, 1941 0

Posted under Japan, United States, Videos, War by Jillian Becker on Friday, December 7, 2012

Tagged with , ,

This post has 0 comments.

Permalink

Sex Aversion 35

Following on from our post Childlessness (April 30, 2012), we quote today from an article about a spreading aversion to sex. It is by Spengler, writing in the Asia Times:

A Japanese government study [shows that] almost a third of Japanese boys aged 16-19 and three-fifths of girls say that they have no interest in sex. …

The hormones of late adolescence evidently rage in vain against some cultural barrier that makes young Japanese “despise” sexual relations. …

For 60 years, the sexual revolution insisted that repressed desire is the root of all evil. It turns out that the ultimate victim of the sexual revolution is sex itself.

What makes the Japanese hate sex? The same things that make a growing proportion of Americans hate sex. Joan Sewell’s 2007 book I’d Rather Eat Chocolate became the manifesto of American women who don’t like sex …

Pharmaceutical companies are racing to market a pill to revive fading female libido, to no avail: women do not want to be sex objects, and a culture that objectifies women will make them hate sex …

Japan is a step ahead of the United States, as the first industrial country to bring sadism and pedophilia into the mainstream. … A streak of cruelty pervades Japanese culture … But the West has begun to embrace cruelty in sexual relations on a scale comparable to Japan, and the consequences most likely will be identical.

For example: Fifty Shades of Grey [by E L James], the adult version of the Twilight vampire-and-werewolf series, has become a soccer-mom bestseller. Now we know what the original, adolescent version was about, namely sadism and submission. What is it that makes adolescent girls crave sexual control and degradation? Evidently, it is the same thing that prompts their mothers to buy heavy-breathing pulp versions of the same thing in more explicit form.

After half a century of sexual revolution – otherwise known as objectification – women suffer en masse from the sexual equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome, identification with their tormentors, as a number of popular commentators observe. After a quarter-million e-book downloads, Viking Press has just paid a seven-figure advance to … E L James, an Englishwoman who initially posted the manuscript as bondage porn on a Twilight fan fiction site under the screen-name “SnowqueensIcedragon”.  In the original, still available online, little Bella of the Twilight books is deflowered not by her vampire boyfriend, but by a billionaire sadist instead, and becomes his adoring sex slave. …

The Austrian novelist Elfriede Jelinek … got the 2004 Nobel Prize in literature for explicit portrayals of sexual violence, but with literary pretensions. Jelinek … is an Austrian communist who politicizes domination. …

Why are so many American women fascinated by sexual cruelty? The answer is that the prevailing regime of sexual objectification already carries with it the experience of cruelty. For adolescent girls, the replacement of courtship by “hooking up” with “friends with benefits” is a cruel prospect.

Somehow that doesn’t seem an adequate explanation. Cruel prospects might be expected to invoke a yearning for happier ones, not an appetite for reading about cruelty.

Even though only three out of ten American teenagers aged 13 to 16 are sexually active, the options available to adolescent girls are narrowly defined. Adolescent boys are monsters, as anyone who has been one, or known one, can attest, and to require adolescent girls to engage in sexual activity of any kind with such creatures is horrifying. The considerate and courteous young vampire of the Twilight books is a cavalier by comparison.

Freud’s question, “What do women want?,” showed what an ideologically-driven fanatic he was. Women want what every human being wants, which is to be unique, and to be loved for their uniqueness. With rare exceptions, human beings become unique by bearing and raising children: a child can have only one mother. Women are unique as mothers, and men are lifted above their animal instincts by their attachment to the mother of their children.

The moment we separate sexuality from child-bearing, we turn women into generic sexual objects, which makes it impossible for them to obtain what they want, because sexual objects are generic. The one thing you know with 100% certainty about any woman you see, supermodels included, is that some man, somewhere, is tired of sleeping with her. If women cannot control men by bearing their children, what other means to they have to control them? We find the answer in the sudden popularity of dominant-submissive fantasies.

The dominant “master of the universe” in EL James’ story can be controlled by his own need to dominate, for the submissive female heroine has something that he needs in addition to generic sexuality. …

The controller is controlled by the woman he controls? Control, control. Women liberationists, are you listening?

The stylized sexual games that EL James recounts become a creepy substitute for actual courtship. Like the romance novel hero, who must pay court to the female lead, the “master of the universe” must pay prolonged attention to the female lead in preparation for sexual acts. Romance fiction requires a suspension of disbelief that is increasingly precarious in a culture of sexual exploitation. The dominant-submissive fantasy is more credible.

The sudden popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey portends the death of America’s libido.  I cannot speak from personal experience, but the paradox of domination … surely applies to the ritualistic cruelty described in this silly book and its sequels. After the initial frisson has passed, repetition of the same handcuffs-and-riding-crop routine must become unspeakably boring over time. …

And when perversion fails to titillate, nothing at all will. Like Japanese women, who encountered mainstream sexual violence and now eschew sex altogether, American women will have a great deal less sex and a great deal more chocolate.

All the signs are there. …  American women will follow their Japanese sisters into asexuality, and if women become sufficiently disgusted with men, men will become disgusted with themselves.

But then again, much of that diagnosis may be just psychobabble. The ingestion of chemicals could be to blame:

There might be a simpler explanation for the disappearance of Japan’s libido. Between 1998 and 2003, sales of anti-depressants in Japan quintupled …

Prozac is well known to cause sexual dysfunction, along with general calming. Maybe the attack on depression and hyperactivity is affecting aggression, violence, crime, and many other antisocial behaviors. …  Maybe America and other nations are prescribing themselves a gradual but gigantic and deadly loss of libido.

Whether it is due to disgust at the misery of their circumstances, or the side-effect of drugs intended to dull the misery of their circumstances, women are abandoning sexuality.

When human beings cease to desire each other physically, it is because they have ceased to desire each other at all. The things that motivate human beings to unite in intimate and permanent union, procreating and acculturating another generation, give way to the pure exercise of ego.

No, no: “pure ego” is being denied. What is the evolutionary use of sexual desire? The only discernible purpose our biology provides for us is to reproduce. As a biologist once put it: “The only reason an egg gives birth to a chicken is to ensure that there will be another egg.”

But we agree with the main point: promiscuous sex is lonely, sterile, boring, purposeless, destructive of dignity and self-respect, and terminally bad for human beings both individually and as the human race.

The typical [not quite – JB] American household no longer harbors a family but a person living alone. As Eric Klinenberg reports in his much-commented new book Going Solo, 28% of all American households now contain a single person, compared to just 9% in 1950.

Klinenberg, to be sure, thinks this is wonderful; his typical “Singleton” lives in Manhattan, hangs out at the local sushi bar and coffee shop, swims in a rich cultural current, and devotes himself to the grand diversion of the age, namely “self-realization”, which is easier to pursue in the absence of another self that might make competing demands.

In another 20 years or so, though, the self-sufficient singles of American cities will emulate the kodokushi (“lonely death”) victims of Japan, another much-commented 21st-century phenomenon. … Kodokushi clean-up has become a minor industry:

In the 1990s … the owner of a small moving company in Osaka, Japan, began noticing that many of his jobs involved people who had just died. Families of the deceased were either too squeamish to pack up for their dead relatives, or there wasn’t any family to call on. So [he] started a new business cleaning out the homes of the dead. Then he started noticing something else: thick, dark stains shaped like a human body, the residue of liquids excreted by a decomposing corpse.

That is the end that enlightened secular culture has prefigured for us …: to leave no trace of our mortal existence except for a grease-stain on the carpet.

A sickening image, a pathetic fate.

But we don’t like his putting in the word “secular”. His implication is that lack of religious belief underlies or directly causes this vast disillusionment and lapse into hopeless futility. What does religion offer as a counter? A purpose beyond this world, this life? It is in this world, this life that we need happiness and fulfillment. There is no other.

 

(Hat tip for the link, reader and commenter rogerinflorida.)

Childlessness 22

Environmentalists – adherents of the religion of Gaia – want the population of the world to shrink. Some of them want the human race to become extinct. (See our post Earth Day: ideally celebrated with human sacrifice, April 22, 2012.)

In many countries – all of Europe, Russia, and Japan being notable examples – indigenous populations are shrinking rapidly.

In the United States, the birth rate keeps the population stable and immigration increases it. But there is here, as elsewhere in the developed world, a high abortion rate, and advocacy for infanticide among the leftist self-appointed elite. (See our post The Nazi ethics of the left, March 5, 2012.)

People who have no children save themselves a large expense. They are less tied down. Through their active years they are freer to please themselves.

But what happens to them when they grow old?

This is from an essay by Nicholas Eberstadt, in the Spring issue of the Wilson Quarterly, titled Japan Shrinks:

In 2006, Japan reached a demographic and social turning point. According to Tokyo’s official statistics, deaths that year very slightly outnumbered births.. … Japan is now a “net mortality society.” Death rates today are routinely higher than birthrates, and the imbalance is growing. The nation is set to commence a prolonged period of depopulation. …

Japan’s historically robust (if perhaps at times stifling) family relations, a pillar of society in all earlier generations, stand to be severely and perhaps decisively eroded in the coming decades. Traditional “Asian family values” — the ideals of universal marriage and parenthood — are already largely a curiosity of the past in Japan. Their decay has set in motion a variety of powerful trends which virtually ensure that the Japan of 2040 will be a country with far greater numbers of aged isolates, divorced individuals, and adults whose family lines come to an end with them.

At its heart, marriage in traditional Japan was a matter of duty, not just love. … Unshackled from the obligations of the old family order, Japan’s young men and women have plunged into a previously unknown territory of interpersonal options. … Even as young Japanese increasingly avoid marriage, divorce is further undermining the country’s family structure. Just as being unmarried at prime child-rearing age is no longer a situation requiring explanation, divorce now bears no stigma. Between 1970 and 2009, the annual tally of divorces nearly tripled. The number of new marriages, meanwhile, slumped by nearly a third. …

As the flight from marriage and the normalization of divorce has recast living arrangements in Japan, the cohort of married fertile adults has plummeted in size. … Nowadays, the odds of being married are barely even within this key demographic group. And marriage is the only real path to parenthood. Unwed motherhood remains, so to speak, inconceivable because of the enduring disgrace conferred by out-of-wedlock births.

In effect, the Japanese have embraced voluntary mass childlessness. …

Rates of childlessness have been generally rising throughout the industrialized world since 1945, but Japan’s levels were high to begin with. …

Though it can be represented in cold statistics, the human flavor of Japan’s new demographic order may be better captured in anecdote:

• Rental “relatives” are now readily available throughout the country for celebrations when a groom or bride lacks requisite kin.

• “Babyloids” — small, furry, robotic dolls that can mimic some of the sounds and gestures of real babies — are being marketed to help older Japanese cope with loneliness and depression.

• Robot pets and rental pets are also available for those who seek the affection of an animal but cannot cope with having one to look after.

• In a recent government survey, one-third of boys ages 16 to 19 described themselves as uninterested in or positively averse to sexual intimacy.

• Young Japanese men are, however, clearly very interested in video games and the Internet: In 2009, a 27-year-old Japanese man made history by “marrying” a female video game character’s avatar while thousands watched online.

• Japanese researchers are pioneering the development of attractive, lifelike androids. Earlier this year, a persuasively realistic humanoid called Geminoid F was displayed in a department store window, appearing to wait for a friend.

These random facts may not reflect the full spectrum of everyday life in modern Japan, but like anecdotes about any country, they reveal things that are genuine, distinctive, and arguably meaningful about it today—and perhaps tomorrow as well.

What will all of these unfolding demographic and familial changes mean for the Japan of 2040?

Generally and probably, a poorer, harder, lonelier, drearier life for a perishing nation is the answer. For details read the whole article here.

Older Posts »