Monday, August 29, 2011

Facebook Question: Which is more Dangerous, Islamic Extremist or Ultra Rightist?

In view of the 10th anniversary of 9-11 terrorist attack and a horrible massacre in Norway, I ask a question on my Facebook, “Which is more dangerous, Islamic extremist or ultra rightist?” I shall appreciate it, if you answer this question.

You can leave a comment on the linked page. This is not a Gallup survey, as samples are not sufficient. Rather than statistical data, I hope to enjoy mutual interactions.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Japan Needs Nuclear Energy for National Defense

Although the Fukushima Nuclear Plant Shock has led Prime Minister Naoto Kan to declare denuclearization of energy sources, Japan needs to maintain nuclear power technology for national defense. I am not insisting that Japan possess nuclear weapons. Instead, I would argue that Japan consider having nuclear powered attack submarines deploying Tomahawk missiles with conventional warheads. Actually, the Japanese government explored to have nuclear powered submarines when making the Guideline of Defense Program in 2004, in view of growing pressure posed by the Chinese Navy. Kan’s energy policy will narrow the range of policy options for national security.

Let me talk about security in Japanese neighborhood, in order to assess advantages of Tomahawk nuclear attack submarine. Currently, the rise of two major threats in East Asia, i.e., China and North Korea, is increasingly critical to Japan’s national defense. In addition to rapid expansion of naval power, China is deploying carrier killer missiles for access denial capability and J-20 stealth fighters. North Korea brandishes Rodong and Taepodong nuclear ballistic missiles. These land based threats will be nullified with Tomahawk missiles before they are launched or take off. The Japanese Self Defense Forces explore to shot down North Korean missiles with the anti-ballistic missile system including Aegis destroyers. However, it is much easier to hit objects staying on the ground than flying fast in the air. Also, nuclear attack submarines can contain the Chinese fleet including aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines.

If Japan were to have Tomahawk nuclear submarines, it would have to import them from the United States or Britain. It is cheaper and quicker than developing its own nuclear submarines. As to ground attack, American and British navies have much battle field experience, including Kosovo, the Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. Japanese defense officials can learn tactical lessons from them, in order to explore the best way to destroy facilities of Chinese carrier killer missiles and North Korean ballistic missiles. The only sea battle experience of nuclear submarine is the Falkland War. Royal Navy’s nuclear submarine Conqueror sank Argentine cruiser General Belgrano so successfully that Argentine Navy could hardly act in the ocean during the war. This will help Japan’s naval strategy. Some nationalists like Governor Shintaro Ishihara of Tokyo Prefecture and Retired General Toshio Tamogami of the Air Defense Force insist that Japan possess nuclear weapons. However, nuclear bombs have not been used in any wars for 66 years since Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is much more realistic and rational for Japan to have Tomahawk submarines with conventional warheads.

Some media and opinion leaders say that Japan learn from Europe, as Germany and Italy decided to denuclearize their energy sources. But remember! Neither Germany nor Italy faces imminent threats in their neighborhood. Although Russia reemerges nationalist under Vladimir Putin, new NATO members in Eastern Europe are buffer to Western Europe. Also, both Germany and Italy have no ambition of becoming global military powers, unlike Britain and France. Therefore they need neither nuclear powered submarines nor nuclear weapons. Japanese people talk about Germany's and Italy's electricity import from France, but defense reasons cannot be dismissed when we discuss changes of their energy policy after the Fukushima shock.

It is not wrong that Prime Minister Kan launches clean energy initiatives after Fukushima. But we must remember that the Obama administration has not virtually even started anything of the Green New Deal, although it was one of crown jewelries in his election campaign manifesto. Green businesses are small and innovative, but not labor and capital intensive. Therefore, they are not suitable for TVA styled mega public projects. At this stage, it is a science fiction that renewable energies supplant fire and nuclear power completely. Above all, how can Tomahawk missile submarines operate with clean and renewable power sources such as solar, geothermal, tidal, and wind energies?

Current debates about nuclear energy and its alternatives focus exclusively on the economy, but national security perspectives should not be dismissed. Once we abolish nuclear power generation, it will take considerably a long time to restore technology and skills to use it again. This will narrow our policy choices for defense.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Secretary Panetta’s First Press Briefing on US Defense Expenditure

As shown in the above video, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who succeeded the position from Robert Gates this June, did the first press briefing on August 4 to warn against further cuts in defense spending. Panetta was expected to be a cost cutter of defense as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget under the Clinton administration. However, wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, have led him to abstain from further cut in military budget (“Leon Panetta warns against Pentagon budget cuts”; San Francisco Chronicle; August 5, 2011).

As President Barack Obama and the Republican Party reached an agreement on debt ceiling, it is time to discuss how much expenditure is to be cut in which area. Defense spending is no exception, and Republicans, notably Senator John Kyl, denounce that Democrat proposal of a 500 billion dollar automatic cut in a decade from 2013 would be irresponsible and weak on defense. In view of the forthcoming presidential election, Republican attack on the proposed defense expenditure reduction is being intensified. Meanwhile, Secretary Panetta spoke against his own party in his first press briefing (“Threatened Defense Cuts in Debt Deal Could Loom Over 2012 Race”; Bloomberg News; August 5, 2011). Also, Panetta urged tax increase and spending cuts in other areas like Medicare and social security for necessary savings. It is quite noteworthy that defense spending has been on the rise since 2001 even without wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Secretary Panetta says that a drastic cut “would do real damage to our security, our troops and their families, and our military’s ability to protect the nation.” It is expected that military benefits and increasingly sophisticated weaponry system push defense spending upward (“Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warns against more cuts in Pentagon budget”; Washington Post; August 5, 2011).

However, congressional debates are not simply Democrat-Republican duels. Defense budget splits the Republican as well. While Tea Party libertarians focus on tax reduction, neoconservatives support strong military power. In view of inter and intra party rifts, Senator John McCain proposed to reduce tax breaks as a preemptive strike against defense cuts (“Defense spending in Washington spotlight”; San Francisco Chronicle; August 7, 2011). Above all, the economy is supposed to be the primary determinant in 2012 election, and it will place significant influence on defense budget debates (“Will Obama be reelected? The economy could hold the answer”; Washington Post; August 6, 2011).

Having seen the overview of Secretary Panetta’s first briefing on defense spending, I would like to mention opinions among national security experts. As the bipartisan agreement on the Debt Ceiling Deal was reached, Resident Fellow Thomas Donnelly and Resident Scholar Gary Schmitt, both at the American Enterprise Institute, argue that it is time to discuss the defense budget. They insist that a weak push on defense will alienate the military, which will eventually hurt conservative bases for the next election. Also, they urge Tea Party libertarians to balance a small government and a strong defense, and not to let the country run by a president who prefers to "lead from behind" (“The (Raw) Deal on Defense”; Weekly Standard; August 3, 2011).

Furthermore, I would like to introduce a highly recommended article by Max Boot, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, to refute far left liberals. In this article, Boot articulates his support for Panetta, and makes lucid and strong arguments against a leading advocate for Little Americanism Fareed Zakaria, Editor-at-Large of Time (“Cutting Defense Spending Could Hasten America’s Decline as a World Power”; Commentary; August 4, 2011). Arguing against Zakaria’s recent column calling for a drastic cut of defense spending (“Why defense spending should be cut”; Washington Post; August 4, 2011), Boot makes the case for maintaining US military power from the following points.

Even though including war expenditure for Afghanistan and Iraq, the total cost of national defense accounts for just 5.1% of GDP, which is lower than 8.1% for Social Security and Medicare, and around 7% defense spending during the Cold War. More importantly, Boot criticizes Zakaria for dismissing military benefits and high tech weaponry systems when comparing defense expenditure today and during the Korean War and the Eisenhower era. That is, there is every reason why defense spending soars these days. The vital point in this essay is that defense spending cut does not help civilian diplomacy and development aid. He also criticizes Zakaria that foreign aid is no exception under the pressure for expenditure cut. Finally Boot quotes Leon Panetta that a drastic defense spending would be “extraordinarily difficult and very high risk.” Again, I strongly recommend this article to make the case against pacifist liberals like Fareed Zakaria.

Another analysis that needs to be attention is a budget chart created by the Heritage Foundation. As opposed to widely believed notions, it shows that the total budget is likely to increase sharply even excluding defense spending. That is, it is utterly wrong to blame defense expenditure for growing budget deficit (“The Military Isn't the Problem”; Weekly Standard Blog; August 3, 2011). See the chart below.

As Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said in the press briefing, there are two vital points to discuss US defense under present fiscal austerity. One is to have the capability to meet security challenges around the world, such as terrorism, rogue states, and rising powers. The other is to maintain the position of the best armed forces in the world. Secretary Panetta has outlined continuity of US defense from his predecessor Robert Gates. Further talk on defense budget will be done at the super committee at the congress. Watch the process there closer!

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Still, Islamic Extremists Are Greater Threats than Ultra Rightists

7-22 massacre in Norway by Anders Behring Breivik is too horrible. I agree with those who argue that policymakers are obsessed with Islamic extremists when it comes to counterterrorism but they need to pay more attention to Christian and Judaist far rights. However, in terms of national and global security, Islamic extremists are far more dangerous than ultra rightists such as Christian and Judaist extremists and white supremacists. Therefore, it is taken for granted that counterterrorism policy focuses primarily on Islamic radicals. Of course, we must not allow prejudices and segregations to Muslims.

Why is the threat of radical Muslim greater than that of ultra rightists? I would like to mention the following points. First, Islamic terrorists have larger and more global organizations. Islamic radicals such as Al Qaeda, the Haqqani Network, Lashkar e Taiba, and so forth have international connections, and they launch aggressive campaigns to expand huge basis of supporters. Notably, they recruit Muslim youngsters living in the West. Also, Islamic extremists have mutual interconnections. On the other hand, since the far right has a manifesto of radical chauvinism in view of “defending our nation”, it hardly has transnational connections. Ultra rightists, including KKK and WAR of the United States, the National Front of Britain, and Neo Nazi in Germany, hardly act together beyond national boundaries. Speaking of the scale of a terrorist organization, state sponsorship cannot be dismissed. It is well known that Iran supports Hezbollah in Lebanon. In addition, terrorists in southern Iraq and Afghanistan are sponsored by Iran. On the other hand, virtually none of far right terrorists are sponsored by the state.

Second, we should keep in mind ”With us, or against us” perspective, which Former President George W. Bush said in his speech just before the Iraq War. Islamic extremists do not hesitate to execute large scale destructions in big cities in developed countries. Those terrorists have no hesitation to pursue mass murder of ordinary citizens as long as they are enemy to those radicals, and the symbolic landmark that their enemy takes pride in will be a key target for destruction. 9-11 is the most notable case. On the other hand, as ultra rightists are jingoists, it is quite unlikely that they commit large scale destructions of big cities in their own country, including the symbolic landmark that their country takes pride in. Though the massacre by Breivik is horrible, none of Norwegian monuments were destroyed in this incident. He just killed people those who appeared to “vilify the tradition of his country” in his eyes. In other words, destructive behavior by jingoists to their own country is somewhat restrained.

Third, let me mention weapons of mass destruction, particularly the use of nuclear weapons. This is deeply interrelated to the first and the second points. Non-proliferation of nuclear weapon is one of vital issues of national and global security today. In the past, the Khan Network was supposed to have ties with Iran, North Korea, Libya, and Al Qaeda. Islamic extremists can easily find ties with such international network, but it is difficult for the far right to join the “Axis of Evil” because of its chauvinist nature. What will happen, should terrorists acquire nuclear weapons? There is nothing strange that Islamic radicals use acquired nuclear bombs to destroy the whole of the city itself. This is sufficiently possible, in view of the scale of 9-11 destruction. On the other hand, though rightwing acquisition of nuclear weapon is dangerous, it is quite unlikely that they destroy the whole of the city itself, considering their ideological standpoints.

I discussed which is more serious threat, whether Western far right or Islamic extremists. There is an analogy between the far right and the far left in Japan. Since ultra rightists uphold imperial divinity nationalism, it is unlikely that they destroy Tokyo along with the Imperial Place and the Yasukuni Shrine, but it is quite likely that ultra leftists destroy the whole of the city along with such symbolic landmarks once they acquire WMDs like nuclear weapons. Actually, ultra leftists helped abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korea in the past. The above mentioned three points are helpful to judge which terrorists are more critical threat to us.

Now, let’s get back to Western far right and Islamic radicals. Based on the above three points, the former can be managed through the police. On the other hand, in the War on Terror with the latter, the world’s best armed forces and a Guinness Book class sniper fight against them. Apparently, Islamic extremists are far more dangerous threats than ultra rightists. The Breivik incident is too horrible, and we should wipe out prejudices against Muslims and other minorities. I strongly agree to this opinion. However, there is nothing wrong that policymakers focus much more on Islamic extremists than ultra rightists in counterterrorism policy.