Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Second Publication of My Commentary in English

I have been contributing commentaries to the online journal of the Japan Forum on International Relations. Among these opinions, selected contributions are translated into English, and published in the international edition. This time, my commentary on the danger of the Anglo-Chinese nuclear deal was selected and published in English. The original article of this contribution is this blog post. It is I, myself, who translated the Japanese text into English.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

States and Defense Contractors over Rolls Royce Nationalization

Britain announced that it was considering nationalization of Rolls Royce to save the company from a foreign takeover. The government sources said that they would either nationalize Rolls Royce, or lead some or all of this company to merge with BAE systems. Rolls Royce suffers from plunging share price since 2014 due to sluggish performance in the maritime and aero engine sectors. It is rumored that Pratt & Whitney of the United States and Siemens of Germany are buying Rolls Royce’s aero engine division (“Britain would consider nationalizing Rolls Royce's submarine business – FT”; Reuters; December 14, 2015). The Cameron administration has posed a critical question to national security policymakers about the relationship between the state and the defense industry, as corporate nationalization is quite un-Conservative, and furthermore, it is a failed policy of Old Labour. Margaret Thatcher would have been startled to hear this, because it is she who privatized this company in 1987.

This news has drawn my attention, in view of a recent commentary by Japanese Member of the House of Councillors Masahisa Sato, that raises some questions about the Japanese defense business. Sato argues that Japan needs the will and specific efforts to help Japanese defense contractors make profits in a small domestic market as it is unrealistic to nationalize them. He is concerned that Japanese defense procurement is squeezed by rising costs of imported weapons such as F-35 and V-22 (“Save the Foundation of Japanese Defense Industries and Indigenous Technology”; Giron Hyakushutu; December 2, 2015). Defense contractors are of high strategic values, and unlike civilian industries, some sort of mercantilist policies are inevitable.

I am talking about Rolls Royce, because this company has a lot in common with Japanese defense contractors, and I believe that careful observation of it would be of much help to defense planners in Japan and the rest of the world. Like Japanese defense companies, Rolls Royce is not so big, but technologically advanced among renowned defense contractors. According to the defense industry ranking for 2015, Rolls Royce is the 15th, and its revenue from defense accounts for 22.60%. Meanwhile, Japanese contractors like Mitsubishi Heavy Industries ranks the 36th with 5.60% defense dependence, and IHI ranks the 91st with 4.30% dependence on defense. Such low dependence on arms is in sharp contrast with those of big contractors heavily relying on defense, like Lockheed Martin that ranks the 1st and 88.00%, BAE Systems raking the 3rd with 92.80%, Raytheon ranking the 4th with 97.40%, General Dynamics raking 5th with 60.20%, and Northrop Grumman raking 6th with 76.70% (“Top 100 for 2015”; Defense News).

However, both Rolls Royce and the above Japanese contractors win high reputation with venerable achievements. In case of Rolls Royce, their brand and advanced technology make a substantial contribution to their maritime and aerospace engine sectors, and even to the nuclear reactor area. Without mentioning British-made weapons, some brand new foreign arsenals use also Rolls Royce engines, for example, gas turbines for the Zumwalt class destroyers of the US Navy. Also, some of South Korea’s indigenous stealth fighter KF-X will use the same Rolls Royce engines as those for the Eurofighter Typhoon. Meanwhile, Mitsubishi’s stealth fighter ATD-X draws worldwide attention. Quite remarkably, IHI that provides engines for this Mitsubishi fighter, has succeeded in developing the HSE (High-power Stream Engine) which outperforms the same sized engines made by American and European manufacturers, in terms of thrust-to-weight ratio and fuel efficiency, and that ultimately helps Japan’s quest for indigenous fighter F-3 (“Japan’s Next Generation Fighter Engine is Superior to American One”; Sankei Biz; March 17, 2015).

On the other hand, small companies are vulnerable to the turbulence of the increasingly globalized world market. Also, their high quality brains are good targets for the hands of foreign and even hostile takeovers. Occasionally, the market mechanism is so ruthless that it does not give any consideration to national and public interests. However, should the state nationalize strategic industries? In the Westland affair from 1985 to 1986, Prime Minister-then Margaret Thatcher admitted Sikorsky of the United States to merge Westland Helicopter in accordance with the market principle, while Defence Secretary-then Michael Heseltine insisted on maintaining the company’s ownership within a European framework. As widely known, Thatcher won the dispute in her cabinet, and Heseltine stepped down.

During the Cold War era, the borderless economy was almost within the Western alliance. Today, businesses act beyond such political boundaries. For example, Haier Group of China has acquired the laundry sector of Western companies such as Sanyo and General Electric. However, the defense industry is not the home electric appliance industry. Once home country loses control a defense contractor to a foreign hand, even if it is a company of an ally or a friendly nation, the sold company could be resold to the enemy. From this point of view, it is understandable that the Cameron administration is dedicated to defending Rolls Royce from foreign acquisition. Particularly, their nuclear sector is sensitive for British national security for its deep involvement with Trident missile submarines.

Reuters columnist Robert Cole argues that the problem can be resolved through the market system, as their business recovery is expected though it is weak. If it does not work, BAE Systems can acquire some or the whole sector, which is more preferable to nationalization. BAE can diversify their business into civilian sectors to lessen their dependence on defense contracts of Britain, the United States, and Saudi Arabia (“BAE deal beats Rolls-Royce nationalization”; Reuters; December 14, 2015). This idea is better than nationalization, but still, it is not a good idea to split Rolls Royce, if BAE were to merge this company, since its technology in motor cars, aero and maritime engines, and nuclear reactors is intertwined. Furthermore, Jeremy Warner of the Daily Telegraph, argues that Rolls Royce can satisfy various requests from their customers as an independent and specialized manufacturer of engines. Once blended into a big company, Rolls Royce will lose advantages in specialty to meet tailor-made demands. That would appear unattractive to its best customers like Pentagon (“BAE in Rolls Royce merger? Let’ not go there”; Daily Telegraph; 16 January, 2015).

In an increasingly globalizing economy, it is a tough question to keep innovative instinct and high morale of a small but strategically important company, while saving it from savage competition, and even from hostile investors. The Westland affairs may help us learn some lessons, but the past is in the past. In case of Japan, if corporate performance of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries or IHI deteriorates, there is no gigantic defense contractor like BAE Systems to act as a white knight against adversarial investors. Should the Japanese government take administrative guidance to have them merged with Kawasaki Heavy Industries, NEC, etc, ranking 46th and 66th respectively, when they face the threat of foreign takeover? But Japanese companies are heavily civilian oriented, as Kawasaki depends 11.20%, and NEC does 3.50% of their revenues on defense. In view of this, most of the Japanese businesses are not likely to have much incentive to follow the Ministry of Defense.

The defense industry is too strategic to apply text book market economy principles. In order to help their business and save the national interest, I would suggest that the government give special preferences to defense contractors even in civilian public projects. Typically speaking, I wonder why the Cameron administration accepted the bid of CGN (China General Nuclear) to rebuild Hinkley Point and Bradwell nuclear plants, despite this company’s notorious tie with the PLA (People’s Liberation Army), if they are so serious to defend Rolls Royce even by resorting to nationalization. They should have given a special preference to Britain’s iconic company, instead. Currently ongoing Rolls Royce affair deserves attention from defense planners all over the world, because this company is far beyond a manufacturer of luxury toys for the rich.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Rubio’s Four Measures against North Korea

The “hydrogen bomb” test, which North Korea conducted on January 6, has inflicted a tremendous impact on the world ("World Powers Unite In Condemnation of North Korea's H-Bomb Test Claim"; Buzz Feed News; January 6, 2016). Since they test nuclear bomb so repeatedly, it has become apparent that the global community needs to take more effective measures than those up to now. In view of this, Republican Senator Marco Rubio who is the most well-versed with national security among US presidential candidates of this election, suggests four measures ("Here Are Four Things Marco Would Do to Take On North Korea"; Marco First, he argues that the United States put North Korea back on the list of terrorist sponsoring states. Second, he insists on tightening economic sanctions. Furthermore, his third idea is to rebuild the alliance with Asia Pacific nations and re-strengthen the US navy. Fourth, he suggests building up missile defense capability.

Among Rubio’s ideas, we can expect that the fourth measure of bolstering deterrence, notably building up missile defense, is very effective and relatively quick to carry out. The third measure of naval expansion is necessary and effective, but it cannot be done soon. It takes a long time to build war ships. Above all, we must enforce means stronger than economic sanctions, and tell North Korea that they shall never win in a victory over us. Moreover, the Chosun Ilbo insists that US forces in South Korea redeploy tactical nuclear weapon, which was withdrawn in early 1990s (“America Should Redeploy Tactical Nukes in Korea”; Jiji Press; January 7, 2016). The Korea Herald, an English language paper in South Korea, argues furthermore that the IAMD (Integrated Air and Missile Defense: See "US Army's Integrated Air and Missile Defense System Defeats Cruise-Missile Target"; Defense News; November 13, 2015) be build, among the United States, Japan, and South Korea ("U.S. likely to step up efforts to build IAMD with Seoul, Tokyo"; Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance; January 7, 2016). We must demonstrate our defensive and offensive capability like this way, and never make them overconfident as to believe that they are stronger than us.

There is no doubt that economic sanctions are important. However, we must keep in mind that the global community has imposed sanctions on North Korea again and again. Also, it is inevitable that there are loopholes in economic sanctions, however strict they are. Above all, people who are already accustomed to poverty will hardly feel pains, even though we tighten sanctions. Past cases show that it takes a long time to see the effect of economic sanctions. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, mainly the Western alliance imposed sanctions on them, but that did not urge the Red Army to withdraw from there. Rather, it was military buildup of the Reagan administration like the 600 ship navy and the SDI (Strategic defense Initiative) that led the Soviet Union to adopt perestroika, as they found themselves incapable of keeping up with arms race with the United States. In another case, South Africa was imposed a sanction of oil embargo by Arab nations during the Apartheid era, but they managed to overcome it by coal liquefaction. Rather, South Africa in those days was the richest nation in Africa. Moreover, the United States and Britain regarded South Africa as buffer against communism, in view of strategic importance since the British imperial rule, as a geographic connecting link of Asia and Europe, and they were reluctant to join international sanctions.

Reviewing history as I mention above, I can hardly imagine that we can lead North Korea to yield to us simply by economic sanctions. After all, it is necessary to go into negotiations with North Korea through power-oriented diplomacy. Also, while China is a critical stakeholder in the Six-party talk, we should rather not over-evaluate their influence on North Korea. Even though India and Pakistan conducted nuclear tests each other to heighten tensions in the 1990s, they have already stopped the test now. Only North Korea continues nuclear tests in the 21st century, and they do not care any persuasion by China. We can no longer expect that conventional measures will take effect to stop North Korea’s outrageous behavior. If we continued to leave North Korea overconfident, Iran would also act like this way, as they repeat clashes with the United States and Saudi Arabia from the very beginning of this year.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

New Year Question: Is Our Failure to Manage Post-Soviet Russia the Primary Cause of World Disorder Today?

As the new year begins, I would like to raise a question, whether our failure to manage post Soviet Russia is the primary cause of global instability today. If so, what is the consequence of it? We were so naïve as to believe that the end of communism was the end of history, which would ultimately lead to the end of world conflicts. In reality, Russia fell into confusion, and the world is turning more and more destabilized since then. In my view, it is not the change in the balance of power among nations, but disillusionment with Western values that really matters today.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, we had almost no doubt that democracy and the free market system would prevail in the nations liberated from communist autocracy. Our expectation was so naïve that we, the winners of the Cold War, did not make a sufficient commitment to help socioeconomic transitions in Russia and the rest of former Soviet republics. This is starkly in contrast with the behavior of World War II winners. The Allied Forces were devoted to disarm and democratize Japan and Germany, and invested a tremendous amount of resource and manpower for stability and prosperity of former enemies. The result of these efforts was “excessively” successful, as reconstructed Japan and West Germany even grew to become formidable economic rivals to the United States and Britain. But I do not regard this as a “natural decline” of America in those days. Rather, I would regard it as “The World America has Made” as Robert Kagan’s latest book is entitled, because both countries have become indispensable stakeholders of the Western alliance, notably, as shown in their membership to the G7. This success is a historical landmark of US foreign policy.

Although xenophobic isolationists in America, and some in Britain, fear mongered re-rise of former enemies when their economy was stagnant, that turned out to be utterly wrong. As seen in the case of a notorious presidential candidate Donald Trump in the United States, and UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage in Britain, people who are mesmerized by such an idea are liable to be those of the poorest quality in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect. The crème de la crème are naturally internationalists, and well-aware of the role of their countries in the world.

It is regretful that the winners of the Cold War failed to provide such generous help to Russia, nor did they disarm the old enemy. Simply, the winners preached capitalism, while Russians were struggling with a bitter socioeconomic transition. New born capitalism in Russia simply widened economic inequality without the Calvinist spirit. Oligarchs behaved hedonistically, and took the idea of “winner takes all” capitalism for granted. There is no wonder that Russians were disillusioned with Western capitalism and freedom. Actually, Western capitalists are not necessarily role models for the public, and they often spend a hedonistic and luxurious life. However, they bring innovation to business and service. On the other hand, Russian oligarchs simply exploit old Soviet industries to accumulate their own wealth. Unlike postwar Japan and West Germany, capitalism in Russia has not created competitive industries on the global stage. Heavy dependence on the export of energy resource like oil and gas implies that Russia has not even reached the “take off” stage, and it is still a third world economy. Though Russia has a cabal of world renowned scientists and engineers, they are disproportionately working in defense industries since the Soviet era. None of these aerospace industries have made a civilian aircraft that is competitive in the global market.

It seems that the collapse of the Soviet Union happened at the worst timing, as neoliberal thoughts of naïve belief in laissez faire economic globalization prevailed in those days, which was catastrophic to people were still in socialist mindset. Instead of preaching competitive capitalism, we could have led Russia into a Scandinavian styled welfare state as a soft landing from communism. We failed to make Russia a Big Sweden, which is a friendly and democratic nation to us. As a result of the failure of neoliberal capitalism in Russia, the dream of the Common European House from Vancouver to Vladivostok had been shattered completely. Russia failed to become a new Japan or Germany, nor a Big Sweden. History did not end, but restarted.

The consequence of this has inflicted critical damage on global security. Western ideal of capitalism and freedom faded, not only in Russia, but also in the rest of the world. They had begun to defy Western-centered world order and values. During the 1990s, South East Asian nations held out Asian values to fend off Western criticism on human rights abuse. The spillover effect of our failure to manage post-Soviet Russia prevails around the world like this way. The threat of rising China could have been lessened, had we succeeded in making Russia a friendly democracy. We would have been overwhelmingly advantageous to help Chinese citizens stand against the Beijing communist rule, and geostrategically, we could have counted on this northern giant to counterbalance and to contain Chinese expansionism. Furthermore, the global public would have been more willing to resonate the neo-conservative idea of installing democracy in the Middle East through toppling anti-Western autocracies as the Bush administration did in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then, local terrorists and insurgents would have been less rampant, because they are inherently a weak military power, and heavily dependent on propaganda to fight against the global society. The world would have been better off, as we would not have to be swayed by reluctant leadership of Obama and xenophobic bigotry of Trump. Both isolationists are by-products of war weary emotions since the Iraq War.

Postwar democratization of Japan and Germany was so good for both winners and losers. Regretfully, this was not the case with the Cold War, because the winners of this war were not devoted to helping the loser reform herself. We, Cold War winners, did not act according to a Japanese samurai proverb, “Keep well-armed even after the victory”. The impacts of this failure have prevailed globally, as many nations and non-state actors have grown defiant or even antagonistic to us, in view of fading Western values. But sooner or later, Putin’ era will end as he is not immortal. We should learn lessons from the experience in the post-Cold War era, to make preparation for the future. This is the first step to rebuild the world that we envisioned shortly after the fall of Communist autocracy. Therefore, I am raising this question at the dawn of the New Year.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Happy New Year

I wish everyone happy new year. Good luck for all of you. And good luck for Global American Discourse. For this year of monkey!

Photo: Yeti

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Trump Phenomenon and the Degradation of the Republican Party

The Republican Party stands at crossroads today in the face of dreadful rising of a fear mongering and xenophobic populist, Donald Trump. An outsider take over itself is nothing so special in American politics. Most of the presidents in history cited anti-Wasington slogans to shake up old politics in their election campaigns. But this case is completely different from those in the past. Trump draws tremendous media attention with his repeated inflammatory remarks, which fascinates right wing isolationists and helps him surge in the poll. However, his continual profanities to foreign nations and ethnic minorities has severely tarnished the reputation of the Republican Party, and furthermore, that of America. Regretfully, Trump supporters do not care anything about that, and simply pursue their own self-satisfied and recluse safety and well-being.

Historically, the Republican Party is Lincoln’s party founded by the establishment for national unity in the face of the Civil War. But today, hijacked by under educated people, it has fallen into a party of national disunity. The problem is the quality of Trump supporters. According to the poll by CNN/ORC in December, his electoral base is the least intellectual among Republicans, while those for Senator Marco Rubio are the most well educated (“Donald Trump is polling better than ever. Here’s why.”; Washington Post; December 4, 2015). It is quite imaginable that those people are easily charmed by every word and deed of an offensive TV personality, while hardly take any consideration to the consequences in real politics. An earlier study by the Boston Globe showed that Trump used 4th grade words in his speech, which was the lowest among candidates of both parties (“For presidential hopefuls, simpler language resonates: Trump tops GOP field while talking to voters at fourth-grade level”; Boston Globe, October 20, 2015). As long as politics is an event of TV entertainment rather than serious policy debate, that is no disadvantage. Poorly educated and TV addicted people need words and phrases that appeal to their emotion, not to their reason.

This is typically shown in the Las Vegas debate on December 15, shortly after Trump’s notorious racist remark in November. It turned out that Trump is extremely ignorant of key foreign policy issues, though national security was the agenda in the TV debate. Particularly, when the moderator ugh Hewitt asked him about nuclear triad, Trump replied awkwardly and mentioned something completely off the point, and Rubio explained what it is to him lucidly (“Marco Rubio schools Donald Trump on the nuclear triad”; Politico; December 15, 2015). There is no wonder Max Boot, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, questions Trump’s credential for the Commander in Chief (“Ignorance is No Excuse”; Commentary; December 16, 2015). Actually Rubio’s debate performance was graded highly among intellectuals, while Trump won recognition as a TV entertainer (“Winners and Losers from the 5th Republican presidential debate”; Washington Post; December 15, 2015 and “GOP Insiders: Rubio shined in Vegas”; Politico; December 16, 2015 also “GOP debate winners and losers”; Hill; December 16, 2015).

While Trump drew overwhelming media attention, the focal point of this debate was interventionism represented by Marco Rubio and isolationism represented by Ted Cruz. Rubio argues for robust and resolute reactions to terrorism, and proactive American role for world peace in view of the Paris and the San Bernandino attacks. Meanwhile, Cruz insists on more restrained actions in the Middle East and more focus on homeland defense rather than democracy promotion (“Tough Talk vs. Military Muscle”; Defense One; December 16, 2015). Growing terrorist threat makes voters in favor of Rubio as he endorses NSA surveillance of potential terrorist communication, deposing anti-American dictators, and bolstering defense spending. On the other hand, Cruz appeals to isolationist sentiments among Republicans as he opposes citizenship for illegal immigrants (“The Fight of the Night: Ted Cruz v. Marco Rubio”; Weekly Standard; December 16, 2015). Meanwhile, it was revealed that Trump could hardly address his foreign policy views within fourth grade words. But quite strangely, Republican voters do not care how ignorant and empty he is, and his approval rate surged after the debate (“Trump keeps 20-point lead in post-debate poll”; Washington Examiner; December 18, 2015).

The rise of Trump is a sheer insult to bipartisan efforts by top experts to fill partisan foreign policy gaps since the Iraq War, and to stand against rising isolationism for robust American leadership on the global stage. As I mentioned in a previous post on Afghanistan, conservative American Enterprise Institute and liberal Center for American Progress hosts joint policy forums. Also, on the governmental level, Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institution joins the secretary of state’s foreign affairs policy board, though he was a policy advisor to John McCain’s 2008 campaign, and co-chairs the bipartisan working group on Egypt. But the Republican Party today is hijacked by unlearned mobs around the country. Trump’s profanity has offended Islamic allies so much that the Republican Party has stigmatized America’s reputation in the world. Notably, Saudi Arabia desperately wanted a Republican candidate to replace Obama, in the face of rising Iranian threat, but the Chaos Candidate ruined everything.

Generally speaking, respectably educated voters abstain from electing a man who has spent a hedonistic life since his youth and comments something flamboyant with nasty words in a popular TV show. Those who were exalted to hear the praise to Trump by Russian President Vladimir Putin (“Putin praises Trump: ‘Very bright and talented man,’ and ‘absolute leader’”; Washington Post; December 17, 2015), are extremely naïve. Putin is not a communist, but he detested to see his mother land plagued with “Western styled” greedy profit chasers after the fall of the Soviet Union. Trump is exactly that sort of capitalist, and it is hardly imaginable that Putin respects him. We must keep in mind that Putin is a silovik, and how repressively he treated hedonistic oligarchs in Russia. Rather, it is more likely that Putin disdains Trump deep in his heart.

What we need to do is to explore the reality behind such horrible degradation of the Republican Party. Even if Trump fails to win the nomination, Senator Ted Cruz follows him in the poll. The rise of xenophobic candidates is already harming America’s position in the world. Cruz is the only candidate who has declined to condemn Trump’s notorious Muslim ban. More problematically, he joined Trump to provoke popular fear of conspiracy that the government works closely with Islamic terrorists behind the curtain, rather than criticizing the Obama administration rationally (“Lexinton: The politics of panic”; Economist; December 12, 2015). What made the Republican Party so susceptible to bigotry? Gerald Seib of the Wall Street Journal laments that 9-11 terrorist attacks have driven conservative Americans away from the Reagan ideal of free trade and pro-immigration (“The Roots of Republican Fears on Immigration and Trade”; Wall Street Journal; December 14, 2015).

David Frum argues furthermore, that it is utterly wrong to regard the Tea Party and other grassroots conservatives as proponents of Wall Street Journal editorials. They are workers who distrust big business as well as the government. They do not believe in an ultra-limited government. As workers, they do not want their earnings redistributed to those who do not work. From this point of view, working class conservatives loathe immigrants because they receive generous benefits like language help at school, while taking away low skilled jobs from such laborers. Since those working class people are interested in maintaining their own living in their small world, they do not want robust foreign policy, and see another Iraq War a nightmare (“The Great Republican Revolt”; Atlantic; January/February 2016). Frum presents a deep insight to understand the idiocratic hijack of the Republican Party.

Even though the wind of changes is blowing among Republicans, Trump nomination will destroy long founded trust of this party both domestically and internationally. The Republican Party can oust him for violation of the constitution as he infringed religious freedom with his inflammatory anti-Islam remark. Trump has tarnished the reputation of the Republican Party, and furthermore, that of America. An election victory with Trump is a nightmare, which is far worse than an election without Trump for both the Republican Party and America. His competence and personality do not meet the requirements for the president. Actually, conservative onion leaders think the same way.

George Will of the Washington Post warns, “[Trump’s] compulsive boasting is evidence of insecurity. His unassuageable neediness suggests an aching hunger for others’ approval to ratify his self-admiration” (“If Trump wins the nomination, prepare for the end of the conservative party”; Washington Post; December 23, 2015). Others speak much more bitterly of Trump. Brett Stephens of the Wall Street Journal even argues that conservative voters elect Hillary Clinton to stop Trump and preserve the value (“Let’s Elect Hillary Now”; Wall Street Journal; December 21, 2015). William Kristol of the Weekly Standard, suggests another idea that conservatives start the third party if Trump wins the nomination (“Kristol: If Trump loses Iowa, ‘mystique’ disappears”; Hill; December 26, 2015). Furthermore, Republican Congressman Chris Gibson commented harshly, “I have concerns about giving that guy an army" as a 29 year veteran of the Army, because Trump’s temperament and judgement are so unreliable (“GOP Rep. on Trump: 'I have concerns about giving that guy an army'”; Washington Examiner; December 27, 2015). The problem is beyond poor knowledge in national security, and Trump is utterly unfit for the Commander in Chief.

This is just one election, and Republicans can rebuild the party from current horrible degradation in the future. An election victory under Trump will simply cloud out respectable Republicans. Those who are hijacking the Republican Party are Americans of the worst quality in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect. A failure to stop Trump will stigmatize America’s reputation in the world irrevocably.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The World after the Paris Attacks

The Paris Attacks have awakened the global community to understand that the War on Terror is no longer America’s war. People should have recognized this when 9-11 attacks broke out, rather than blaming the US-led coalition for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. In particular, the incident has some impacts on European security and the global coalition against terrorism.

As to European security, responses to the terrorist attacks are divided, after people expressed condolences and solidarity with the victims. France reacted immediately as the United States did after 9-11. Britain also took the attacks seriously and decided to expand anti-ISIS airstrike in Iraq into Syria. Meanwhile, military minor powers are reluctant to get involved in the war against ISIS as old pacifist Japan was, and simply try to shut out Muslim refugees. When French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian asked burden sharing to EU member states on November 17, their commitments tuned out just verbal. Only Britain reacted seriously (“Despite Initial Solidarity, Paris Attacks Will Deepen Europe’s Divisions”; World Politics Review; November 19, 2015). The Cameron administration offered France to use RAF Akrotiri base in Cyprus (“Brits offer Cyprus base to French”; Defense One; November 23, 2015).

It is ironical that the Hollande administration acts like the Bush administration, considering the vehement criticism of the Iraq War by Foreign Minister Dominique de Villpin at that time. Now, France as a sheriff, faces frustration with unwilling and irresponsible bar masters of her fellow European nations. Common European defense is a long way to go as seen in Britain’s Brexit movements, and reemergence of the Anglo-French entente implies that European security is turning more nation-state oriented. The split within Europe reflects national interest and capability of each country. The more militarily powerful the country is, the more serious it is to take terrorist threats. Ultimately, military intervention is necessary to eradicate their territorial strongholds and revenue sources like oil fields, human trafficking, and so forth. Nevertheless, countries with weak armed forces would rather avoid the risks of war like casualties, rising budgets, and pressures from antiwar protesters. They leave the burden to military great powers. The chasm within Europe may grow, if the war in Syria goes harder and longer than expected.

At the global level, there is no firmly united anti-ISIS front line. For fear of a Syrian quagmire, in view of long War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan, a global coalition including Russia and Iran was explored as shown in French President François Hollande’s visit to Moscow to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin shortly after the Paris Attacks (“Moscow is ready to coordinate with the West over strikes on Syria, Putin says”; Washington Post; November 26, 2015). However, both Russia and Iran do not share vital strategic objectives with the West. They fight against ISIS, simply to sponsor Assad or another puppet regime, and it is not their interest to wipe out extremist strongholds. They want to weaken Western influence in the region, and harness instability to augment their influence. Kimberly and Frederick Kagan of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute , comment that it is the Assad regime that radicalizes ISIS as Syrians displaced by his troops join terrorist organizations (“What to do and to don’t in response to the Paris attacks”; AEI Critical Threats; November 15, 2015).

While Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov responded positively to President Barack Obama’s invitation for Russia to join the US-led anti-ISIS coalition (“Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Rossiya Segodnya,”; Foreign Policy News, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia; December 11, 2015), the US Department of Treasury revealed that the Russian-sponsored Assad administration is the greatest customer to buy oil from ISIS while both are fighting each other (“US official details who’s buying the bulk of ISIS oil”; New York Post; December 10, 2015). In addition, Russian Su-34 Fullback fighters use Iranian air force bases for a reliable pathway to conduct air strikes in Syria, and bombers such as Tu-95 Bear, Tu-160 Blackjack, and Tu-22 Backfire are even escorted by Iranian fighters (“The Russo-Iranian Military Coalition in Syria may be Deepening”; AEI Critical Treats; December 14, 2015). Here again, Frederick Kagan warns of the danger of the Russo-Iranian axis. Actually, Iran tested Ghadr -110 ballistic missile for the second time since the nuclear deal was concluded (“Iran violated nuclear deal with second ballistic missile test last month, U.S. officials say”; UPI News; December 8, 2015). Obviously, that is the Iranian Monroe doctrine for Shiite dominance and the elimination of Western influence in the Middle East.

Furthermore, we have to remember that Putin’s vital interest in weakening NATO, and that was typically seen in the Russo-Turkish clash. In order to help Assad, Russia conducts air strikes in Turkemen areas in Syria, which was extremely provocative for Turkey. There is no wonder that Turkish F-16 shot down Russian Su-24 on November 24 (“Russo-Turkish Tensions Since the Start of the Russian Air Campaign”; AEI Critical Threats; November 24, 2015). Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu commented that the Russian presence in Syria was dangerous because they are “two separate coalitions with different goals”, shortly after the accident (Turkey: “Additional accidents are likely to happen”; Jerusalem Post; November 29, 2015). Even prior to the plane crash, Russia confronted Britain as RAF Tornadoes operating in Iraq loaded aerial combat missiles in preparation for possible crossfire against Russian fighters in Syria (“Cold War 2015: Russia 'FURIOUS' after RAF pilots cleared to shoot down Moscow warplanes”; Daily Express; October 13, 2015).

In addition to such fragile circumstances around Syria, geographic rivalries between Russia and Turkey are also important. While Russia is closely aligned with Iran, Iraq, and Syria, Turkey is in deep ties with Azerbaijan (“Turkish-Russian war of words goes beyond downed plane”; Al Jazeera; December 9, 2015). Historically, Russia saw Turkey as a good buffer against Europe (“The Czar vs. the Sultan”; Foreign Policy; November 25, 2015). There is no wonder why Putin seizes this opportunity to impose further pressure on Turkey, as he did on Georgia and Ukraine. Following the accident, Russia sent anti-air missile cruiser Moscow to eastern Mediterranean sea (“Russia deploys missile cruiser off Syria coast, ordered to destroy any target posing danger”; RT; 24 November, 2015), and deployed S-400 anti-air missiles in Syria (“New Russian surface-to-air missiles in Syria, DoD confirms”; Military Times; December 1, 2015), which are more advanced than S-300 reportedly already deployed there before (“America's Worst Nightmare in Syria: Has Russia Deployed the Lethal S-300?”; National Interest; November 5, 2015).

We should be more concerned with Putin’s pressure on Turkey. With advanced SA-17 air defense system associated with anti-air missiles, Russian radar targets US planes flying above Syria. The American side stops flying manned aircrafts for a while to explore how to manage Russian air defense (“New Russian Air Defenses in Syria Keep U.S. Grounded”; Bloomberg News; December 17, 2015). Things around Turkey have developed like those in Ukraine. But Turkey herself is also to blame. The Erdoğan administration has strained the relationship with the West in their pursuit of Islamism. Deviating from Kemalist tradition, Turkey even tried to buy HQ-9 anti-air missiles from China, which upset the whole Western allies including Japan. Putin is seizing this opportunity. He would never act so provocatively to loyal NATO members like Poland, Baltic nations, and Romania. We should not dismiss Putin’s dangerous expansionism, and Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio argues that Turkey has improved relations with Kurds and press freedom since the Paris attacks, in order to help the US-led coalition to defeat ISIS (“Why We Must Stand Up for Turkey and Against Russian Aggression”; World; December 1, 2015 or here).

The Paris attacks have made the world increasingly unpredictable. The transatlantic rift has shifted into Europe. Fear driven minor powers just shut out immigrants, without making serious commitments to defeat terrorism. Only capable military powers like France and Britain act responsibly. This chasm may lead Europeans to doubt the value of regional unity as typically shown in the Brexit movements. The grand coalition with Russia and Iran is hardly feasible, in view of their geopolitical ambition to edge out Western influence from the Middle East, and even to dissolve NATO. They are eager to find and exploit any weakness on the Western side. We must never forget this.