Saturday, December 31, 2011

Obama’s Terrible Mess with F-35 and Its Negative Impacts on Allies

The development of the Joint Strike Fighter F-35 has been delayed substantially due to skyrocketing research spending and contracting defense budget. Also, since this is a multinational project, it must meet diversified demands of international partners. Will F-35 be deployed at the right time? Walter Pincus, Reporter of the Washington Post, discusses some difficulties to advance the F-35 project (“F-35 production a troubling example of Pentagon spending”; Washington Post, December 27, 2011). Let me review his recent article.

At this stage, only 20% of the test of this multi role fighter has been completed. The most advanced stealth technologies are used for this plane, but it is the development of software to control the fighter that poses the most burdensome challenge to the project team. That makes the research cost considerably higher than initially expected. As a result, Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates lowered production of F-35 fighters. On December 15, Senator John McCain criticized the Department of Defense because it promoted the F-35 project to build cost-effective fifth-generation fighter without understanding technological difficulties. McCain calls such a poorly coordinated plan “a recipe for disaster”.

Along with unexpected rise of development cost, defense spending cut impose another constraint on the Joint Strike Fighter project. Initially, 3,000 F-35 fighters were planned to replace fighter bombers of three services of US armed forces and military forces of the allies. Instead of satisfying such diversified necessities of each service and country, Michael O’Hanlon, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, recommends to cut the total number of the Joint Strike Fighter and focus on the Air Force version of F-35A, while canceling the Marine Corps' V/STOL version of F-35B and the Navy version of F-35C. So does the Simpson-Bowels deficit reduction commission. O’Hanlon suggests that US forces order unmanned aircraft to replace cancelled or reduced F-35 fighters.

The problem is, whether the United States can sustain superiority in air power, in view of rapid military build up of China, and still formidable air force of Russia. Both of them are currently developing stealth fighters, and they will export those fighters to anti-Western autocracies. Walter Pincus is too optimistic to dismiss these threats simply because the Soviet Union had collapsed long before. In addition, as it is a multinational project, suggested cancels will coerce allies to change their defense plans. Italy and Spain will lose their carrier planes to replace current Harriers, if the V/STOL version is cancelled. Britain, the second largest partner in this project, will have to redesign its CVF (future aircraft carrier) plan, if F-35C is not available. Though Japan has decided to choose F-35 for its next generation fighter, it is still necessary to watch Britain’s Queen Elizabeth class carrier plan, because unbearable delay may lead British policymakers to reconsider current idea. Present mess with F-35 can jeopardize national defense of America’s top allies in the Atlantic and the Pacific.

Certainly, Pentagon made an immature plan, which pushes the price of new stealth fighter unexpectedly upward. But I would question whether the Obama administration is firmly committed to the defense of the United States and the allies. It is not the shift to Asia that serves US interests but maintaining sufficient strength to defend the world order. It is right to pay more attention to China, but its expansionism is not just in East Asia but advances westward as well. China craves for more influences in Central Asia and the Middle East. The shift to Asia simply creates a huge power vacuum in the region where Iran acts belligerently and Arab nations face unprecedented political transitions. America needs to be well equipped to manage diversified challenges. It is an issue of America’s mainstay fighter, and Republican presidential candidates must talk more about this vital policy agenda to challenge President Barack Obama in the forthcoming election.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

An Invitation from a Uighur Activist

I was invited to the year end party on December 17, hosted by a Uighur independence activist, Tur Muhhamet. Mr. Muhammet lives in exile in Japan because of repression by the Chinese Communist Party to ethnic minorities in Xingjian, i.e., East Turkistan. He received a PhD degree in agricultural engineering from Kyushu University, which is one of best colleges in Japan. Currently, he heads the Central Asia Research Institute, and contributes articles to some Japanese journals such as “Ethnic Minorities in China” (中国民族問題研究), and also to the Proud Japan Network. Mr. Muhammet frequently joins a rally with Japanese conservatives who are keenly aware of growing threat of China.

I have come to know Mr. Muhammet through Twitter and Facebook. Particularly, since I published a post about the lecture of Chinese ambassador Cheng Yonghua on my blog, he and I become closer friends each other. I mentioned his Uighur liberation activity in that blog post, and contributed this article to an online policy journal “Hyakka Saiho” of the Japan Forum on International Relations, and the Proud Japan Network. I hope those will be of some help to raise awareness on Chinese repression in East Turkistan among my fellow Japanese people.

The party itself was nothing political. It was held at a Turkish restaurant Pamukkale Shinjuku. We just enjoyed Turkish food, belly dance show, and conversations. The food and the show were marvelous, and I would recommend this restaurant for some kind of event.

Attendants were Uighur, Japanese, and Turkish. Someone took me for a Uighur at first. I was marveled to see Uighur and Turkish talk effortlessly each other, though their mother tongues not identical, strictly speaking. As I repeatedly argue, the threat of China goes beyond the Asia-Pacific, and its westward expansionism needs more attention. I really realize that security of eastern and western Eurasia is deeply interconnected.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

North Korea after Kim Jong-il

North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong-il died suddenly on December 17, and his son Kim Jong-un is expected to succeed the position. Most of the experts around the globe foresee that Jong-un is too young and inexperienced to govern the country, and it takes a while to found his power base.

However, Richard Bush, Director of the Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution, comments “We cannot rule out the chance, small as it may be, that the regency will assess the failures of the Kim Jong-il reign and undertake true reform” (“Kim Jong-un’s Shaky Hold on Power in North Korea”; Daily Beast; December 19, 2011). Michael Mazza, Senior Research Associate at the American Enterprise Institute, argues furthermore that the Obama administration seize this opportunity to make a big progress in denuclearization talk with North Korea (“President Obama’s ‘wait-and-see approach’ to North Korea?”; Enterprise Blog; December 19, 2011).

Currently, it is urgent to freeze uranium enrichment program of Pyongyang. North Korea has plutonium to make four to eight nuclear bombs. The second step for North Korean nuclear project must be stopped in the nuclear negotiation this week (“Exploiting Kim's death”; Chicago Tribune; December 20, 2011).

America should not “lead from behind”, and close ties with Japan and South Korea will be increasingly necessary to manage unpredictable changes in North Korea. In addition, we should not assume that China can use decisive influence on Pyongyang as political process in this country is so opaque and isolated from the global community.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Manage Global Proliferation of Access Denial Missiles!

Rapid expansion of Chinese naval power and access denial capability draws much attention among Western policymakers these days. Though seemingly defensive, access denial capability is more offensive than commonly thought. It is a nonverbal Monroe Doctrine to deploy missiles to destroy Western fleets. While experts speculate China, a recent article in the Diplomat Magazine notes that an increasing number of authoritarian regimes are building up access denial capabilities to defy Western naval supremacy in their neighboring sea area, and establish dominance in their self-assumed maritime sphere of influence. Therefore, Western policymakers must explore the strategy to stop proliferation of anti-ship cruise missile and nullify their access denial capabilities (“Anti-Access Goes Global”; Diplomat Magazine; December 2, 2011).

Regarding China’s access denial capability, Associate Professor Andrew Erickson at US Naval War College commented “[those missiles] put U.S. forces on the wrong side of physics” in his lecture entitled "Chinese Aerospace Power: Evolving Maritime Roles" at Naval War College Museum on September 8, 2011. See the video below.

Along with China, some autocracies, including Iran, Syria, and North Korea, are keen on deploying access denial missiles. Among them, North Korea poses little threats as their missiles are converted from old Soviet weaponry. More serious threats are Syria and Iran. Both countries import access denial missiles from Russia and China. Although Iran has been posing critical dangers to the global community by pursuing nuclear project and sponsoring terrorism, China exports advanced anti-ship cruise missiles to Iran, and even built a factory to make such missiles there (“Inside the Ring --- China-Iran Missile Sales”; Washington Times; November 2, 2011). This summer, Iran tested Tonder land to sea missile near the strategic Strait of Holmuz. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard claims that this missile flies in Mach 3 speed and its maximum range is 186 miles (“Iran Fires Anti-Ship Missiles near Key Gulf Strait”; Defense News; 6 July, 2011). It is likely that Iran used advanced technology from China to make this missile. Therefore, I argue repeatedly that the threat of China is beyond the Asia Pacific. Furthermore, Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates noted that non-state actors like Hezbollah possesses more advanced anti-ship missiles than some sovereign states in his farewell speech at the American Enterprise Institute on May 24.

As to missile technology, Harry Kazianis, Assistant Editor of the Diplomat Magazine, comments “While such technology isn’t new, the effective ranges of such weapons have increased tremendously, along with their accuracy, speed of delivery and availability. Defending against such systems is therefore a major headache for military planners.” It is estimated that China currently has anti-ship missiles with a range of 1,500 to 2,700 kilometers, which exceeds the combat radius of Western fighters on aircraft carriers. Technically speaking, Western navies may be able to learn real combat lessons from the Falkland War. The Royal Navy fought against Argentina within the striking rage of French-made Exocet anti-ship missiles. The problem not only war capability but also psychology. As naval vessels are more high tech-equipped, the cost of losing them in the combat has grown greater, which makes Western navies more cautious. Therefore, the threat of nonverbal Monroe Doctrine by autocracies is considerable.

Talking of the Monroe Doctrine Robert Kagan, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, argues repeatedly in his book “Dangerous Nation” that it is offensive than defensive as it legitimizes American expansion in the Western Hemisphere. Professor Terumasa Nakanishi of Kyoto University comments more harshly in his book “The History of the Decline and Fall of the British Empire”. Until the end of the 19th century, British elites found the doctrine too Yankeeism and unacceptably bizarre, according to Nakanishi. Only when the rise of Germany posed critical challenges to British hegemony, did Marques of Salisbury accept it. Remember, Lord Salisbury is the prime minister who founded well known Anglo-Japanese alliance to manage the change in global power balance in the post Victorian era. History suggests how costly it is to leave authoritarian regimes to claim nonverbal Monroe Doctrine as they like. Therefore, it is urgent for us to explore strategies to nullify their access denial capability, so that we can defend our sea lanes around the globe. Tomahawk attack to anti-ship missile sites from nuclear powered submarine can be one of those strategies. We should not allow China and other autocracies to “occupy the sea”.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Action Alert from Act for Israel: Protest Anti-Semitism

An American Jewish civilian group, named Act for Israel, sent an e-mail alert on December 7 to call an attention to a questionable remark by US Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman. Ambassador Gutman stated that Muslim antisemetism exists as a result of Israeli self-defense campaigns, and insisted that “old” European anti-Semitism doesn't exist any more.

In protest to this derogatory and racist comment, please copy and paste the message below on this webpage, and send it to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

Dear Secretary Clinton,

I am writing to you today to express my dismay at Ambassador Gutman’s recent remarks legitimizing Muslim anti-Semitism and minimizing all other forms of anti-Semitism. It is wholly unbefitting of a representative of the US government to express such ill-conceived and erroneous views in an official setting.

Racism, including anti-Semitism, is never the fault of the person being discriminated against and always an indication of the immorality of those who are discriminating. It is troubling that Amb. Gutman, as an official representative of the US Government and your prestigious and good intentioned State Department, fails to understand this basic truth and uses his position to promote his misguided views.

In order to maintain the prestige of the State Department which you have successfully lead and to maintain American principles of tolerance and goodwill it is essential that you work to ensure that Amb. Gutman’s can no longer make use of the State Department’s good name to espouse hurtful messages. It is not in America’s interests to have an ambassador with such premature notions of racism and demand that you immediately remove Amb. Gutman from his post.