Sunday, February 27, 2005

The Reivew of the Review of the Review of the Reviews

"The Review of the Review of the Review," by Curzon, Coming Anarchy, http://www.cominganarchy.com/archives/2005/02/27/the-review-of-the-review-of-the-review, 27 February 2005.



Tom Barnett frequently publishes his “reviews of reviews” on his blog where he comments on media coverage of his book The Pentagon’s New Map. Younghusband reviewed PNM alongside G. Friedman’s America’s Secret War last month and Barnett gave his review of the review here and here.

YH liked the book and, not surprisingly, Barnett liked that (with a few sidenotes):

COMMENTARY: Mr. Coming Anarchy gives me the usual slap-down of those who really like the book but want to offer criticism: too repetitive, too self-congratulatory (America rules!) and too long. Fine. He scores his point. Bigger point is that he gets it for what it really attempts to be: a serious attempt at grand strategy that doesn’t focus on the tactics of today and isn’t just a long bitch-session about what the author can’t stand about the Bush administration’s security and diplomatic policies. He also sees the book as accessible, which is key, and views me as new school (definitely not another Kissinger or Brzezinski). This is all good, so I take the quibbling in stride. Mr. Coming Anarchy, despite the bias of his nom-de-scare, knows his rear-end from his elbow in terms of strategic analysis, and that, my friends, is rare in this world.


Admirable. We’re honored he stops by now and then.

Just one thing Mr. Barnett—the content on Cominganarchy.com is provided by two contributors with different educations, experiences, and nationalities, currently living on opposite sides of the globe. There is no “Mr. Coming Anarchy” (if anyone, that would be the dear Mr. Robert D. Kaplan—not your favorite journalist, I know). And as for us, the proper form of address is Sir Younghusband and Lord Curzon.

And we look forward to the next book.


Good review. Tactfully addresses Tom's naming mistake while giving due credit to Robert Kaplan. Curzon's use of British titles may be inflammatory to Americans who still dream of liberating the Northern Colonies from Windsor tyranny (or would be it be united States under Hannoverish Occupation?)

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Nations Worth Disconnecting

"A House Divided," by Pearl S. Buck, http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1559210346, pg 80, 1935.

"IRAQ: Gunmen seize Indonesian TV journalists," Committee to Protect Journalists, http://www.cpj.org/news/2005/Iraq18feb05na.html, 18 February 2005.

In real, present-day Iraq

Two Indonesian television journalists and their driver were seized by Iraqi gunmen in the city of Ramadi this week, an Indonesian government spokesman told reporters today.

Reporter Meutya Hafid and a cameraman identified as Budiyanto, who work for Indonesia's 24-hour news channel Metro TV, went missing on Tuesday while driving from Amman, Jordan. The journalists had gone to Iraq to cover this week's observance of Ashura, one of the most important religious events for Shiites, according to station officials.

...

At least 23 other journalists have been kidnapped by armed groups in Iraq since April 2004, when insurgents began targeting foreigners for abduction. The most recent was Feb. 4 when gunmen seized Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, a reporter for the Rome-based daily Il Manifesto, near Baghdad University. On Wednesday, her kidnappers released a video showing her pleading for her life and calling on U.S. and coalition troops to leave Iraq.


As in Pearl S. Buck's novel of Revolutionary China

Sometimes he heard some news of those who plotted, how this one had been found with a bomb hidden in his room to throw at some great man, and once a band of plotters went and beat a certain teacher whom they hated for his friendship with foreigners, but when he heard such things Yuan turned more steadfastly to his books and would not lend his interests elsewhere.


This thuggery and violence is the mark of this old new style of warfare. The enemy's purpose is to destroy relationships between their countrymen and the outside world. Once they have their people isolated they can create their utopian perfect society. We have seen how well that turned out in Russia, China, Korea, and Cambodia.

We cannot let it happen again in Iraq.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Six Weeks From the Bomb

"Nuclear 'Breakout': Risks and Possible Responses," by Andrew Mack, Department of International Relations, http://rspas.anu.edu.au/ir/working%20papers/97-1.pdf, June 1997.

"Just-in-time nukes," The Acorn, http://www.paifamily.com/opinion/archives/000769.html, 24 May 2004.

"Re: Tokyo Needs Nukes," by Jonah Goldberg, The Corner, http://www.nationalreview.com/thecorner/05_02_13_corner-archive.asp#056263, 15 February 2005.

One of Japan Unbound's claims is that the U.S. has been pressuring Japan to build an atomic bomb. A post at the Corner implies this isn't as far-fetched as it seems

From a well-placed military research guy:

Jonah: Japan is classified as a "Virtual Nuclear State". They have developed a complete nuclear fuel cycle (including plutonium breeding and extraction) but have only refrained from developing nuclear weapons because of the cultural stigma involved. North Korea's antics over the last decade have been eroding this cultural taboo at an ever-increasing rate. Serious analysts of Japan's nuclear industry argue (including a very senior member of the National Security Council) that Japan could go nuclear within six weeks of deciding to do so.

Also, Japan has several delivery systems, including a orbital rocket that could be developed into an ICBM rather quickly.

Fear is a dangerous thing. Especially when you are a couple of hundred miles from a madman.


More on the concept of virtual nuclear weapons states (emphasis original)

States that have both the technical expertise to make nuclear weapons and large stockpiles of plutonium are sometimes called 'virtual' nuclear weapons states. They are able to 'go nuclear' far more quickly than states which would have to produce fissil material from scratch.


Acorn blog earlier chimed

Taiwan could be the first 'virtual' nuclear state to cross the Rubicon. The balance of conventional forces is still in Taiwan's favour, but the Mainland is fast beefing up its strike capability, investing in both enhanced air and naval power.


Virtual nuclear states are in a powerful position. They can use their virtual status both ways, gaining diplomatic benefits from being "peaceful" while using the possibility of going nuclear as a threat.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Suicide Circle

"Internet kills nine in Japan," by Gaijinbiker, Riding Sun, http://ridingsun.blogspot.com/2005/02/internet-kills-nine-in-japan.html, 6 February 2005.

Suicide Circle is most notable for toping Battle Royale's horror and bodycount in the first minute. Cliches about sadness aside, Japan is in the business of processing despair

The AFP reports on the latest in a string of group suicides in Japan:

Nine people were found dead in two cars outside Tokyo today in what were believed to be the latest in a series of macabre suicide pacts involving charcoal burners that have swept Japan.

...Nearly 50 people have died in similar suicides since early October.


Gaijinbiker, after exonerating the internet from blame, analyzes

Instead of blaming technology, we should be looking at why these folks are so depressed in the first place:

Suicide rates rose after the economy began to slump in the 1990s.


So, to get suicides down, Japan needs to get economic growth up. And while there are plenty of structural problems in Japan's economy that need to be addressed, one thing that will help pull Japan out of its slump is the Internet.


Japan's anemic economy is a moral crises. Nations can happily grow quickly or slowly, but when they stagnate they breed misery. Japan's Prime Minister is a reformer, and his privatization and anti-agriwelfare reforms are promising. Let's hope he can get Japan moving again before they have 1930s-level unemployment like their former ally.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Even the Crazies Like Barnett

"Scenario: Chechen Independence (Part 1), by John Robb, Global Guerillas, http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2005/01/scenario_cheche.html, 26 January 2005.

"And now, a more direct criticism of the Chechen independence scenario sketched by John Robb, above, by"dialectic," Global Guerillas, http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2005/02/scenario_cechen.html, 28 January 2005.

"Scenario: Chechen Independence (Part 2), by John Robb, Global Guerillas, http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2005/02/scenario_cechen.html, 2 February 2005.

Commenting on a Global Guerillas article that gives advice to Chechen seperatists (by imagining a news article from the future)

The new Chechen strategy, enabled by a small percentage of the tens of thousands of Chechen exiles scattered throughout Russia, emerged with multiple attacks on the critical sections of Gazprom's natural gas pipeline network to the north and south of Moscow. The simplicity of the attacks were alarming. Many were done merely with a propane tank. In one hour, access to 500 b cubic meters a year of output was cut off. The damage in the attacks was extensive enough to require 2 weeks of repair work.

This would have been containable, given the system's forward storage system, if it only occured once. However, attacks continued along the hundreds of miles of vulnerable natural gas pipelines in the critical sections. This radically reduced supply. The net effect was a 70% delivery shortfall to critical European export markets and western domestic customers in the first three months of the new campaign. It couldn't have been planned better -- storage levels were are their nadir following a particularly cold winter.

...

It did. Putin, faced with the option of a decade of delay in Russian economic progress or Chechen independence, chose independence. A cease fire was called in October of 2005 to negotiated the referendum. It culminated in the document he was to sign today. Chechnya would be free. Global guerrillas had won.


Comes a Bizarro-Barnett comment

I think it very likely that Chechnia will attain independence from Russia, and may well do so via “System Disruptions” targeted on the Russian energy transmission network.

BUT: It won’t be as a result of Global Guerilla activity. Rather, it is overwhelmingly likely to come about because of CIA – Special Forces destabilization activities put into operation in those regions and funded by the US.


(The side bar specifically lists The Pentagon's New Map as suggested reading, implying the poster means system perturbations).

In a follow-up article Mr. Robb comments

How the media cover "terrorism" can also provide support for global guerrillas. Direct assaults on the target population (traditional terrorism like that of the Chechen Black Widows) get the greatest coverage. It dominates the headlines and therefore will evoke the greatest defensive response from the target state. Attacks on infrastructure get much less coverage and therefore less attention. However, the impact of systems sabotage vs. traditional terrorism on markets is entirely lopsided in favor of systems sabotage. In the parlance of Blitzkrieg, traditional terrorism would be termed a Nebenpunkt (a distracting effort).

This "media effect" in combination with the vast vulnerability of a state's critical systems architecture, provides an amazingly effective means of manufacturing indirection. As we see in Iraq, the state is in a perpetual collapse due to systems sabotage, while the vast majority of the defensive effort is put towards the defense of the political, governmental, and military targets. Large attacks against high profile symbolic targets (of traditional terrorism) provides the cover to allow systems sabotage to remain a green field -- a set of targets that are always under-defended and continuously provide amazing rates of return on the violence capital invested.


I don't know what to make of the site. It is well written and does not appear to be a parody. Sadly sometimes, blogs do make for superempowered-individuals.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Ishihara and Tanaka

"Liberals in the lead," The Economist, http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=3562305, 13 January 2005.

Besides sadness and aikokushin, Japan's also noted for hyper-interesting local politics


If all politics is local, then 2005 could be a big year politically for Japan. Throughout the year, 136 elections will be held in prefectures and big cities, along with more than 400 local ones in smaller towns. Local politicians have already been gaining prominence in recent years, with independent-minded governors such as Masayasu Kitagawa in Mie, Yasuo Tanaka in Nagano and Shintaro Ishihara in Tokyo grabbing headlines and upstaging national politicians and officials. If these trends continue in 2005, that will be a good indicator of the prospects for reform.


The article drones on and is not all that interesting, but the mentioning of distinctly-Japanese-rightist Ishihara and distinctly-Japanese-leftist was nice. The best introduction to these two monumental figures, both of whom have a shot at becoming Prime Minister, is found in Japan Unbound. From a press release:

Nathan profiles several leaders in culture and politics. We meet Yoshinori Kobayashi, a demagogue and ultranationalist cartoonist. His series called The Arrogant-ism Proclamations, informed by the notion that arrogance is the only antidote powerful enough to rouse Japan from its subservience to foreign ideologies and foreign interests, has sold more than twenty million volumes. Politicians like Shintaro Ishihara, the governor of Tokyo and the country's most powerful nationalist, and Yasuo Tanaka, hero and champion of the burgeoning Japanese left, are also featured.


In the book, Ishihara is a politician the American Right could love. Proudly patriotic and a defender of Taiwan's interests, he's also a "can-do" Governor of Japan's largest prefecture. Yasuo is a polar opposite, comfortable with stuffed animals and schoolchildren. He leads a prefecture laden with debt from the Nagano Olympics.

What will Japan's future hold? I have no idea. But with great work like Japan Unbound in the bookosphere, and The Economist's reporting, we will know in time.

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