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I will be in China Jan. 10-24th

Will resume blogging on February 1, 2012

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No Posting Until January 2nd! Happy Holidays!

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The Violent Egyptian House of Mirrors

Deadly clashes erupted in Cairo and other cities over the last two days, leaving at least 10 people killed and hundreds injured.  Nevertheless, Kamal Ganzouri, the temporary PM picked by the military, insisted that there was no violence even as it continued outside his window.

A key tactic of the Egyptian military has been to play Egyptian against Egyptian first by attacking the Egyptian Coptic population and blaming it on supporters of the democratic movement, then by declaring election procedures aimed at spitting the secular democrats and moderate Muslims and yesterday,  by staging a pro-military demonstration Saturday morning.

Chaos is good for the military

And that’s what they want to show.  They want to confuse the situation and divide their opposition by appealing to the undeniable desire of the Egyptian public for normalcy after 9 months of upheaval.  But the military is going all-out, ignoring recommendations on how to end the violence made by a civilian advisory council it appointed within the last month.

It’s possible that the military has decided to switch tactics from compromising with the various pro-democracy factions fighting to clamping down on protesters and whipping up suspicion and division among them.

But it doesn’t come easily for the SCAF.  The military may have counted on violence right before elections to sow chaos into the multi-day, multi-provence process.  Instead, a determined population ensured the elections went smoothly.

Updates later.








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Is Israel Out of Control?

Despite the early wars with Arabs, it’s invasion/occupation of Lebanon in the 1980s, its continued settlement building since it signed the Oslo agreements in the early 1990s, the brutal Olympic assassinations in ’68,  first infatada, the assassination of Rabin, the provocation by Sharon in 2000, the second infatada,  genuine yet failed attempts at negotiations in 2000 and 2008, continued settlement building, its atomic bombs, the justified invasion of Gaza in 2008 followed by the unjustified over-reaction by the military, despite the flotilla deaths, despite its break with Turkey, continued settlement expansion, the Arab Spring, Egyptian soldiers killed by the IDF – despite all of this, it never occurred to me before this year that Israel could cease to be.

I am neither Israeli nor Jewish and quite frankly, believe the way Israel was created in 1948 was problematic.  I  believe that both Jews and Palestinians have national claims to the same land and that a two state solution is the only way forward to resolve the conflict.

But reports of Israeli settlers ‘not only attacking Palestinians’ (going on for years) but now turning on the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) makes clear that Israel’s genuine  ‘existential threat’ is itself.

Netanyahu’s pledge to clamp down on the violence is transparently phony. when  through the lens of his government’s regime.  Mr. Netanyahu pays lip service to resolving Israel’s war on the Palestinians.

The Likkud Party and its rightist partners have instead ,treacherously set the settlers, and with them the Palestinians, up.  By allowing continued settlement authorized by the Israeli state, yet signaling ambiguity on how ‘unauthorized settlements’ are handled, the Netanyahu government – whether intentionally or not – has manipulated the settlers into violence.  And the Palestinians will pay not only in having their mosques and homes defaced. Netanyahu will use these latest episodes to cause fear within Israel of a complete breakdown is a peace settlement is ever reached.

Netanyahu wants Israelis to believe that Israel is on the verge of chaos.  But Hamas is arresting other militant parties involved in the latest Palestinian rocket fire into Southern Israel and observing a two-year old truce.  The PLA renounced violence years ago.

Netanyahu stirs the pot continually, and now use the Israeli on Israeli violence as his newest weapon in avoiding peace.


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Reality Check on Chinese Military Build-Up

Yes, China is increasing its military spending.  And as of this year, it now has one aircraft carrier.  It is modernizing its Navy and testing drones capable of carrying out air/sea combat which China believes would be the core of any future war with a foreign nation.

China is aggressively seeking out and securing mineral and energy resources far from its shores.  In Africa, it is building infrastructure and development projects in return for commercial rights to oil and mineral extraction.  Whether China is a positive force in African economic development or exploits the continent, as Europeans did during the era of colonial rule, is still an open question.

Ironically, the claims China is today making in the South China Sea were first drawn under the US-allied Kuomintang in the early 1940s. China has already signed agreements with a couple of the other nations claiming ownership of islands in the SCS to resolve their territorial conflicts peacefully though negotiation.  China, which during the 19th century was called the ‘sick man of Asia’ has not suddenly become ‘the stomping giant of Asia’.  China, in fact, has not one military base off-shore, in stark contrast with our own hundreds all over the world..

Nevertheless, many US politicians perennially raise fears of China within the US public, as if China were stationing war ships off the coast of Hawaii.  Yet, those same politicians insist that the US military has every right to hold war games with other nations in China’s backyard.

This type of slow drumming rancor and needless suspicion over a period of years breaks down communications and good will when a real crisis occurs.  It is the first step in demonizing an enemy – except China is not in any way an enemy of the US, but is a strong competitor.

There is no doubt that the US and China are and will be in ever sharper competition for mineral and energy resources.  Add Russia and India to the equation and pipeline projects being built through multiple countries and anyone familiar with the 20th century shudders at the potential for conflict.

But we in America have to have a bit of perspective.  Overestimating the strength of competitors will mislead a country as assuredly as underestimating them.  The charts below show the actual imbalance between US and Chinese military spending in absolute and as percentage of GDP.  Next time you hear from a US politician that ‘China is engaged in a long-term military build-up’ (true) and that the US is ill-prepared you might find it amusing instead of frightening.

SIPRI Yearbook 2011

The world’s top 5 largest military budgets in graph.
(also permanent members of the )
Figures sourced from .

The following is a table of the top 15 countries with the highest military expenditure for 2010 published in the (SIPRI) Yearbook 2011 using current market exchange rates in current (2010) US dollars.

Rank Country 2010 Spending ($ b.) Share of 2010 GDP (%) World Share (%)
World Total 1 630 2.6 100
1 698 4.8 43
2 119 2.1 7.3
3 59.6 2.7 3.7
4 59.3 2.3 3.6
5 58.7 4.0 3.5
6 54.5 1.0 3.3
7 45.2 1.3 2.8
7 45.2 10.4 2.8
9 41.3 2.7 2.5
10 37.0 1.8 2.3
11 33.5 1.6 2.1
12 27.6 2.8 1.7
13 24.0 2.0 1.5
14 22.8 1.5 1.4
15 17.5 2.4 1.1
SIPRI estimate
The figures for Saudi Arabia include expenditure for public order and safety and might be slight overestimates.
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Why Didn’t AEI Have Ornstein Question Candidates?
















of candidates carried in The New Republic may have actually led somewhere.  Sample:

TO NEWT GINGRICH: In a recent debate you called for the imprisonment of Barney Frank and Chris Dodd for their longtime support for and involvement with Freddie Mac and Fanny Mae.  Since you got paid at least $1.6 million by Freddie Mac from 1999 to 2006, what prison sentence should you receive?

TO HERMAN CAIN: In 2008, Hillary Clinton ran a campaign commercial about the 3 am phone call to the president informing him or her of a major crisis, and asking which candidate Americans want answering that phone call. Your campaign excused your fumbling answer about Libya at an editorial board meeting by saying you were operating on four hours of sleep. If President Cain were woken up in the White House by his National Security Adviser after less than four hours of sleep, would you take the phone call, or tell him to call you back at 10 am when you were rested?

But instead of Mr. Ornstein, a founder of and Congressional expert at the American Enterprise Institute, the AEI chose others, including Iraq war initiator Paul Wolfowitz,  former US Attorney Ed Meese (yes, he’s still with us), Fred Kagan and an assortment of less recognizable names, to ask ‘very serious’ questions.  Of course, non of the candidates answered them, but a minor detail….

The whole idea of CNN partnering with the AEI to sponsor the debate and then filling the audience with Washington, D.C. policy hacks asking questions to make themselves look good should have been a non-starter.  Although I did enjoy seeing Paul and Ed et al standing dutifully in line while the guy-with-the-mike made his way to them.  How far they fall!


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Donkey Graffiti: This One Painted ‘Assad

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Blogging Resumes Tuesday, November 15

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