September 13, 2012

The Result of Obama's Weakness

It is said that in the days of the Roman Republic and Empire, Roman citizens enjoyed a level of protection simply by virtue of their status. If the locals abused them, or brigands set upon them, sooner or later the Legions would show up and lay waste to the area.

Roman authorities, including soldiers, throughout the Empire knew they had to give special treatment to Roman citizens or they, too, would pay. Acts 22:22-29 is illustrative:

The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, "Rid the earth of him! He's not fit to live!"

As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, the commander ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and interrogated in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this. As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, "Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn't even been found guilty?"

When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. "What are you going to do?" he asked. "This man is a Roman citizen."

The commander went to Paul and asked, "Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?"

"Yes, I am," he answered.

Then the commander said, "I had to pay a lot of money for my citizenship."

"But I was born a citizen," Paul replied.

Those who were about to interrogate him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains.

That the brigands of the world should know that if they abuse an American sooner or later our Legions would arrive.

Upon this a question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with.

The Prince
by Nicolo Machiavelli

Liberals are obsessed with the idea that others should like us. We should be concerned with whether they fear and respect us. And in this world, respect comes more from fear than respect. I write more about the fear of consequences from the boss, than fear of a Stalin.

"Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead!"

Theodore Roosevelt

To be sure Roosevelt's bluster was just about that, and the situation not that straightforward, but would that we had a president - of either party - that issued that sort of threat.

"Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

Ronald Reagan

Some of Reagan's own advisers kept telling him it was too abrasive and inflammatory and he had to take it out of his speech. Reagan kept it in. Would it be that we had a president bold enough to tell off dictators like he did. This is the only language they respect.

Some recent events have exposed President Obama's weakness for all to see:

In Benghazi, four Americans including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens were murdered in a coordinated attack on the U.S. consulate by Islamic militants. On the same day, al Qaeda released a video in which leader Ayman al-Zawahri eulogized Abu Yahya al-Libi, a Libyan al Qaeda commander believed killed in June by a U.S. drone strike. This was no coincidence.

In Cairo, demonstrators -- upset over an allegedly anti-Islamic film trailer being circulated on YouTube -- spray-painted the outside of the U.S. embassy with anti-American slogans, then scaled the walls, hauled down the American flag and ripped it to pieces. Old Glory was replaced by a black jihadist banner as the crowd chanted, "Obama, Obama there are still a billion Osamas."

Well I guess Obama's famous (or infamous?)1990 Cairo speech, "A New Beginning," didn't exactly have the effect he had intended.

At the Democratic National Convention two weeks ago our idiot-savant Vice President Joe Biden said ""America is NOT in decline. I've got news for Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan, it has never, never, ever, been a good bet to bet against the American people."

Apparently they didn't get the message in the Middle East. They're betting against us, and right about now I'd put odds on them winning.

We abandoned the Iranian people in 2009, and the world took notice. They found out that standing up for freedom got you nowhere with the U.S.

Meanwhile, we cower before the false "freedom" of the so-called Arab Spring in the Sunni world. We refuse to condemn the radicalism of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the serial lies of Mohammed Morsi, the new president of Egypt.

As we are seeing, foreign policy is not a "distraction." A strong America as the world leader is integral to who we are and what we should remain. Both the Ron Paul right and Code Pink left are wrong.

The problem is not insults against Islam. Insulting things are said about Christianity every day, and if you search you will find hundreds if not thousands of anti-Christian diatribes on YouTube and everywhere else. Does anyone see Christians rioting anywhere?

Of course not. Jews also never riot. For that matter, I don't see Hindus or Buddhists rioting either.

Far from Islam being under attack, the reality is that religious minorities in Muslim countries are under attack today in a way that we have not seen in decades.

The excuse from the left is that it was only a "few extremists" involved in the rioting. What nonsense. This type of thing is encouraged or winked at by Arab/Muslim governments. They won't condemn these attacks, nor will they arrest and try the perpetrators. They want "independent" mobs to do this so that their fingerprints aren't on it. The mob is doing the work of the government.

And let's be clear; Egypt has a terrorist government. The Muslim Brotherhood is a Jihadist organization, and the only difference between them and al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, or Hamas is tactical.

t is not the business of the United States government what private individuals say about anything, or what films they make. The idea that we are suppose to "understand" the sensitivities of Muslims who rampage an riot over an obscure video is insane. No. They grow up and change their behavior. You do not riot over what someone says about you or your religion period.

Mitt Romney correctly called the Obama Administration's Carteresque response "disgraceful." Predictably, the idiots at MSNBC are more outraged at what Romney said than the attacks on Americans. The left says Romney is "politicizing" the situation. What a load of bull. They're just upset because they know that Obama is vulnerable and they are spinning like tops. 9-11 came when Bush had only been in office for eight months, and was more the result of Clinton's policies than his own. This comes after more than three and a half years of Obama, and is clearly the result of U.S. weakness. That Romney's response is being criticized by liberal media types tells me he's doing the right thing. They love Republicans who are ineffective and only offer "may I please comment on the president's policies?" criticisms, and fear Republicans who call out Obama for what he is really doing to our country.

They attack the U.S. when they believe we are vulnerable and weak. When they believe we will not respond strongly. Right now they don't think we will cut off aid, or impose diplomatic or economic sanctions, much less actually attack rioters who kill Americans.

Strength dissuades attacks on our country. Equivocation and a weak response only invites more attacks.

What do we expect when Obama has not been going to his National Security Briefings? When he doesn't have time to even meet with the Prime Minister of Israel? But he does have time for a fundraiser with Jay z and Beyonce?

Meanwhile, the Iranians are hard at work on a bomb, and what are we going to do about that? Nothing, I am sure.

Posted by Tom at 8:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 13, 2012

Around the News

I've got too little time and there's too much going on for a separate post on everything that's going on, so here are a few things that caught my eye and my thoughts on each.

Buffett Rule Baloney

The Buffett Rule: Free-Lunch Egalitarianism
Obama's disguised tax hike on capital gains
National Review
April 12, 2012 8:00 P.M.
By Charles Krauthammer

...Let's do the math. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates this new tax would yield between $4 billion and $5 billion a year. If we collect the Buffett tax for the next 250 years -- a span longer than the life of this republic -- it would not cover the Obama deficit for 2011 alone.

As an approach to our mountain of debt, the Buffett Rule is a farce. And yet Obama repeated the ridiculous claim again this week. "It will help us close our deficit." Does he really think we're that stupid?

Yes and no.

Yes in that those who want to believe it will. No in that the purpose of the tax is not about raising revenue. One, he is sending a not-so-subtle message to the wealthy: Support me or I will punish you. Two, it satisfies his base who simply want to see the wealthy punished.

The editors of the Wall Street Journal call it right:

The Obama Rule
He says taxation is about fairness, not growth or revenue
The Wall Street Journal
April 11, 2012, 7:04 p.m. ET

Forget Warren Buffett, or whatever other political prop the White House wants to use for its tax agenda. This week the Administration officially endorsed what in essence is the Obama Rule: Taxes must be high simply to spread the wealth, never mind the impact on the economy or government revenue. It's all about "fairness," baby.
The Buffett rule is really nothing more than a sneaky way for Mr. Obama to justify doubling the capital gains and dividend tax rate to 30% from 15% today. That's the real spread-the-wealth target. The problem is that this is a tax on capital that is needed for firms to grow and hire more workers. Mr. Obama says he wants an investment-led recovery, not one led by consumption, but how will investment be spurred by doubling the tax on it?

The only investment and hiring the Buffett rule is likely to spur will be outside the United States--in China, Germany, India, and other competitors with much more investment-friendly tax regimes.

Exploiting Trayvon Martin

I made most of my thoughts on the Trayvon Martin - George Zimmerman affair clear in a long comment on this post, but a few more comments are in order:

The New Black Panthers' Unpunished Threats
The Department of Justice appears uninterested in pursuing the group.
National Review
April 13, 2012 4:00 A.M.
By John Fund

...Wednesday, (Attorney General Eric Holder) appeared before the Reverend Al Sharpton's National Action Network to praise Sharpton "for your partnership, your friendship, and your tireless efforts to speak out for the voiceless, to stand up for the powerless, and to shine a light on the problems we must solve, and the promises we must fulfill."

This is the same Al Sharpton who has led several rallies against Zimmerman, in which he called for civil disobedience and an "occupation" of Sanford, Fla., where the shootingThis is the same Al Sharpton who has never apologized to Steven Pagones, the assistant district attorney he falsely accused of raping Tawana Brawley, a black teenager. The "dastardly deed" Sharpton accused Pagones of was found to be a complete fabrication. In 1998, Sharpton was found liable for seven defamatory statements he'd made against Pagones and ordered to pay $65,000.

Earlier in the 1990s, Sharpton had become famous exacerbating racial tensions in New York's Crown Heights neighborhood, tensions that led to the killing of Anthony Graziosi. In 1995, Sharpton denounced the owners of Freddy's Fashion Mart in Harlem as "bloodsuckers" and "white interlopers" over a rent dispute the business had with tenants. A short time later, a man entered Freddy's and told all the black people present, patrons and employees alike, to leave. Once they did, the man firebombed the building, killing seven people -- including a black security guard. Sharpton insisted he bore no responsibility for the incident, saying it was only a tenant/landlord dispute that had escalated out of control. occurred, if an arrest wasn't made.

So AG Eric Holder congratulates Al Sharpton. That Obama would appoint someone who praises Sharpton speaks volumes about our president. But given that he went to a racist church for 20 years, listened to a kook hatemonger preacher and wrote nice things about him in his autobiography, we should not be surprised.

More, if Mr. Holder is so concerned with civil rights, why doesn't he investigate the New Black Panther party? When confronted with this, liberals typically respond that the NBP is small and insignificant. Maybe and maybe not, but what difference does that make? I didn't know that the criminality of death threats depended on the number of people making them.

Conservative opinion on the charges filed against Zimmerman is split. David French says that there's enough evidence to warrant Zimmerman's arrest, but John Lott sees Prosecutorial misconduct. Some conservatives have come out strong for Zimmerman, which is a mistake. Most professional conservative writers and pundits, though seem to be taking a "wait and see" attitude towards guilt or innocence while condemning the circus the left has created.

I've never taken sides in that I don't pretend to know whether Mr. Zimmerman is guilty of anything or not. My problem has been with the disgraceful behavior of Al Sharpton, Eric Holder, Barack Obama, the liberal media, and liberal activists in general. These people, and yes I include our president and his attorney general, have done little but fan the flames of racial division since this thing began.

Does Hillary Hate Israel?

The Secretary of State Hillary, that is.

The Other Hillary Still Just As Appalling
NRO The Corner
By Andrew C. McCarthy
April 12, 2012 3:55 P.M.

As a fitting follow-up to Nina's post on the U.S. government's shocking indifference to the persecution of Christians by Muslims, let's shift to something the Obama administration cares passionately about: the good will of Muslims who wear on their sleeves their hatred for Israel.

In a story that's gotten very little attention, involving a town hall meeting in Tunisia last weekend, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was asked how the U.S. could expect people in Muslim countries like Tunisia and Egypt to trust American politicians given that, during the U.S. election season, those politicians cozy up to their "enemy" (in context, an obvious reference to Israel) and "run towards the Zionist lobbies").

Mrs. Clinton responded that she thought this was "a fair question." Really? And the answer to this fair question? Madame Secretary explained that these Muslims who regard Israel as their enemy should understand that "a lot of things are said in political campaigns that should not bear a lot of attention." She also thought they'd find it comforting that President Obama "will be reelected president" and that if people in Tunisia and Egypt just "watch what President Obama says and does" they'll realize they don't need to worry.

Appalling but, by now, not surprising. See CNS News, here, for video & transcript.

Either the secretary hates Israel, she's saying that Obama does but will lie about his true fealings for political expediency, or she's just and idiot.

If At First You Don't Succeed, Try, Try, Again

North Korea admits missile failure
Financial Times
By Christian Oliver in Seoul, Geoff Dyer in Washington and Mure Dickie in Tokyo
Last updated: April 13, 2012 11:27 pm

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North Korea made rare admission of failure on Friday, confirming one of its rockets had failed in its mission to put a satellite into orbit, but the abortive launch was enough to prompt the US to quickly cancel a food-aid programme.

The launch, which many outsiders saw as a cover for a ballistic missile test, went badly for the hermit state, with the missile breaking up after only 90 seconds, although that was long enough to cause fatal damage to an agreement with the US made in February.

The failure will pile pressure on Kim Jong-eun, the new leader of North Korea, whom analysts believe may seek to restore his credentials by conducting a nuclear test.

In recent days, South Korean media have reported that North Korea was already planning another nuclear test. It followed a long-range missile launch in 2009 with an atomic test.

South Korea and the US said the Eunha-3 (Galaxy) rocket blasted off at 7.39am local time, but broke apart after about 90 seconds, sending the shattered fuselage into the Yellow Sea.

In an unusual move for a country that almost never admits internal problems, a newscaster on state television said the rocket had not put a satellite into space.

Do I have to say it? They're just going to keep trying and sooner or later they'll get it right. If this regime survives sooner or later not only will they figure out how to make their missiles work, they'll figure out how to make nuclear warheads for them.

That's the easy part. The hard part is that the DPRK is an impossibly hard not to crack and there really are no good options for us. Certainly engaging in endless talks whereby they promise us this and that and they reneg on every agreement is foolish, but there's not much more we can do to pressure them by way of sanctions. They're already quite isolated, and it affects their behavior not a bit.

What the missile launch does tell us though is that our policy of "engagement" has not tempered them at all. They're just as militant, and whatever our policy is, theirs is to intimidate us.

Another policy (or part of the same one) is that their new leader feels he has to show his generals how "tough" he is. This may mean that he's just as bad as his father... or he has to stage a few displays of strength so he will have credibility to negotiate with a softer line... who knows. They don't call it the "hermit kingdom" for nothing.

It is interesting, though, that they admitted to the failure. This might signal a change, perhaps even a Gorbachev-style glasnost, or it might mean nothing. If the former, then one wonders if Kim Jong-eun understands the forces he is unleashing. Gorbachev didn't but at least when the Soviet Empire collapsed it came in for a soft landing. We should hope the same happens to North Korea.

Posted by Tom at 9:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 29, 2011

North Korea to Chair UN Disarmament Conference

You just can't make this stuff up:

Despite numerous breaches of arms embargoes and continued threats to expand its nuclear weapons program, North Korea has assumed the presidency of the United Nations Conference on Disarmament. In a speech to the 65-nation arms control forum in Geneva, the newly-appointed president, North Korean Ambassador So Se Pyong, said he was "very much committed to the Conference."

As the most militarized country on earth, they've certainly got a lot of disarmament work ahead of them.

Nork Military Parade


Following is come background from Anne Bayefsky of The Weekly Standard:

On Tuesday, the United Nations again made itself an international laughing stock - except perhaps to the American taxpayers who continue to foot 22 percent of the bill - by appointing North Korea chair of the U.N. Conference on Disarmament. That would be the same North Korea that, according to an article this week by Senator John Kerry, head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has "twice tested nuclear developing missiles to carry them...has built facilities capable of producing highly enriched uranium for more nuclear weapons" and has defied a U.N. arms embargo by exporting weapons and sensitive technologies to rogue regimes.

Alas, Senator Kerry is also one of the lead champion of the United Nations in the Senate. According to the U.N., "The Conference is funded from the UN regular budget, reports to the General Assembly and receives guidance from it."

North Korea assumes the Conference chairmanship by being the next state in the alphabetical rotation of the 65 members, which include five nuclear weapons states and 60 other countries such as Iran and Syria. North Korea will preside over the Conference for a four working-week period.

North Korea's representative, So Se Pyong, was enthusiastic about his new job. He announced that he was "very much committed to the Conference" and that during his presidency he "welcomes any sort of constructive proposals that strengthened the work and credibility of the Conference on Disarmament." He also said that "he would do everything in his capacity to move the Conference on Disarmament forward."

That might make sense, if by "forward" he means toward a nuclear winter, or by "constructive," he means steering clear of anything that might impede North Korea. The official mandate of the Conference looks a bit different and includes "all multilateral arms control and disarmament problems" with the following "main areas of interest": "cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament; prevention of nuclear war, including all related matters."

North Korea's chairmanship was heralded by other U.N. aficionados, including the Iranian delegate to the Conference. Iran's Mohammad Hassan Daryaei told the Conference meeting: "I would like to congratulate the distinguished ambassador of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea for the assumption of the presidency and assuring him of my delegation's full support and cooperation."

Iran's support is telling. Just yesterday Iran's Revolutionary Guards tested 14 long-range missiles that could carry a nuclear weapon, with the express purpose of hitting U.S. interests and Israel, according to the head of their aerospace division.

Congratulations also poured in from such upstanding world citizens and U.N. fans as China. China's Wang Qun "welcomed the presidency of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea."

It was left to the Canadian delegate to speak plainly. Canada's Marius Grinius said: "[I]n the last 13 years the Conference has failed to move forward on its core disarmament responsibilities, including the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty...[T]he Conference on Disarmament is on life support because it no longer is the sole multilateral negotiating forum for disarmament. Indeed, it is not negotiating anything and has not been for a very long time."

Why not just put it out of its misery and pull the plug?

I can't think of any reason not to.

Posted by Tom at 9:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 22, 2011

The South Koreans Respond to Pirates the Right Way

The South Koreans respond to piracy the right way; by killing the pirates. The Somali pirates, at least, will have second thoughts before seizing any more ROK (Republic of Korea) flagged ships, or in seizing any ships at all when the South Korean military is in the area.


SKorea storms Somali pirates to rescue ship crew
January 21, 2011
Fox News/Associated Press

South Korean special forces stormed a hijacked freighter in the Arabian Sea on Friday, rescuing all 21 crew members and killing eight assailants in a rare and bold raid on Somali pirates, South Korea said.

The military operation in waters between Oman and Africa, which also captured five pirates and left one crew member wounded, came a week after the Somali attackers seized the South Korean freighter and held hostage eight South Koreans, two Indonesians and 11 citizens from Myanmar.

"We will not tolerate any behavior that threatens the lives and safety of our people in the future," South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said in a brief televised statement, adding that the rescue was a "perfect operation."

The successful raid is a triumph for Lee, whose government suffered harsh criticism at home in the weeks following a North Korean attack in November on a South Korean island near disputed waters. Critics said Lee's military was too slow and weak in its response to the attack, which killed two marines and two civilians.

With a South Korean destroyer and a Lynx helicopter providing covering fire, South Korea's special navy forces stormed the hijacked vessel in a pre-dawn rescue operation that left eight of the pirates dead and five captured, Lt. Gen. Lee Sung-ho told reporters.

The captain of the ship was shot by a pirate and taken by a U.S. helicopter to a nearby country for treatment, but the wound is not life-threatening, Lt. Gen. Lee said. The 20 other crew members were rescued unharmed, he said.

"This operation demonstrated our government's strong will to never negotiate with pirates," the general said.

Storming a ship held by pirates is rare and navies tend to avoid it because of the risk of harming hostages, who are usually kept below decks out of sight. So rescues are not normally attempted once the pirates are onboard the ship unless the crew is locked in a safe room -- often called a "citadel" -- with two way communications.

Authorities did not immediately give details on the location of crew members during the rescue.

The 11,500-ton chemical carrier Samho Jewelry was sailing from the United Arab Emirates to Sri Lanka when it was hijacked. It was the second vessel from South Korea-based Samho Shipping to be hijacked in the past several months.

In November, Somali pirates freed the supertanker Samho Dream and its 24 crew -- five South Koreans and 19 Filipinos -- after seven months of captivity.

It's tempting to say that they only responded with force this time because South Korean President Lee Myung-bak felt he needed to look tough to his constituents after the North Korean artillery attack on Yeonpyong Island last November. And that was probably part of it. They may also have been embarrassed over the seizure of the other South Korean ship alluded to above.

More, as the article relates, the South Koreans did not just up and respond in knee-jerk fashion to the seizure of the Samho Jewelry, risking the killing of the hostages, but apparently made sure that the situation on the ship was favorable before proceeding with the rescue.

The Israel Analogy

Just recently, Malaysian naval commandos also freed a ship seized by Somali pirates. As Richard Fenandez quips that the Malaysians and Koreans had a secret "wonder weapon" that led to their success was that "they were neither European nor American."

Its the same mentality that leads the international left to want George W Bush in the dock at the International Criminal Court than Fidel Castro or Robert Mugabe.

Sad but true. If we'd carried out such an attack our press would have fretted for months over whether we'd given negotiations long enough to succeed, and if a Republican was in the White House you can guess that the more leftist members of Congress would talk of possible war crimes. On our part, that is.

People who live in tough neighborhoods tend to become tough themselves. It's a matter of sheer survival. Likewise, when an otherwise peaceful country has militarily aggressive or terrorist neighbors, it tends to take far tougher actions than do countries what are far away from the danger.

South Korea has been the victim of dozens of attacks by the communist North Koreans for over 60 years. The list of border incidents precipitated by the North is staggering.

It's therefore easy for Americans or Europeans to say that the Koreans or Israelis are "overreacting." Other than 9/11, our homeland has never really been attacked. Western Europe hasn't seen serious military action since World War II. While these are very good things, they do seem to breed a softness in dealing with threats.

The Somali Piracy Situation

The map on Somali Piracy from the Wikipedia:


Googling around, it's hard to say exactly if the situation is getting worse or at a plateau. The Wikipedia article is extensive but doesn't directly answer the question.

Certainly the long-term solution is a single, stable, government in Somalia that is perceived as legitimate by the majority of the people there. But the Somalians don't seem to have the desire or wherewithal to come to their senses, and the "international community" isn't about to take any serious action to install one either.

Using naval ships is for the most part like using a sledgehammer to swat flies. Most modern ships were built to deal with more sophisticated threats, and so most of their weapons are not even applicable. More, since the end of the Cold War the combined navies of the world are a lot smaller. What is needed off Somalia is a lot of low-tech ships that can provide something as simple as gunfire and a floating base for a small team of commandos, not a handful high-tech ships capable of sinking nuclear subs or shooting down supersonic anti-ship missiles.

In Piracy - The Simple Yet Impossible Solution and Piracy - The Simple Yet Impossible Solution Part II I wrote that Steve Shippert's idea of arming the merchant ships themselves with .50 cal machine guns would solve the problem in short order. And indeed I believe it would. But it'll never happen because right now it's cheaper for the shipping companies to pay the ransom, the sailors would for some reason I don't get rather run the risk of being taken hostage or killed rather than train for their own self-defense (the anti-gun mentality, as near I can tell), and everyone knows that the so-called human rights groups would much rather have Western capitalists and politicians in the dock than the pirates themselves.

So we'll stumble along as we are now, with everyone acknowledging that piracy, from Somalia and elsewhere, is a problem, but with no one doing much of anything about it. In the meantime, hats off to the Malaysians and South Koreans for showing us the way, even if we do not follow.

Posted by Tom at 12:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 27, 2010

What to do About the North Korean Artillery Attack

Why did the North Koreans shell Yeonpyeong Island? For a variety of reasons, most likely. As I said on Tuesday,, maybe it was the young Kim Jong-un, heir apparent to Kim Jong-il, exercising his power. Maybe it was Kim Jong-il who gave the order to show that he was still in control. Or maybe Kim Jong-il just got ronery, started feeling sorry for himself, and decided to teach the world a lesson.

Another reason is that they have learned that extortion pays. Every time they make noise we come running to the negotiating table, and whatever we may say, they see this alone as a reward. They want attention, and when we give it to them it makes them happy. They also want our food aid, and are willing to pretend like they will negotiate away their nuclear program, knowing they can string us along for a bit. Sadly, both Republican and Democrat administrations have fallen victim to this racket.

Let's review what happened, the risks and consequences of war, what President Obama is doing right, and what he is doing wrong.

What Happened

On Tuesday November 23 2010 North Korean forces fired some 170 artillery shells at Yeonpyong Island. The South Korean military had previously staged exercises on the Island. The stated justification for the shelling by the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or North Korea) was retaliation for claimed firing of artillery rounds by ROK (Republic of Korea, or South Korea) forces into North Korean waters. The DPRK rounds did much property damage, knocked out electrical power on the island, and killed 4 people and wounded 19. In retaliation, ROK forces fired some 80 artillery rounds at DPRK targets, but the extend of damage they caused, if any, is unknown.

Map of Yeonpyeong Area

Yeonpyeong Island

The Shelling of Yeonpyeong

Yeonpyeong, Shelling of

As one might imagine, the South Korean government went ballistic, strongly condemning the attack, as did the United States. The North, for it's part, issued the usual statements about a "reckless military provocation" by the South for the military exercises it held days before the DPRK shelling.

Most countries around the world also condemned the DPRK shelling. China, on the other hand, simply urged both sides "to do things conducive to peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula," and not specifically mention or condemn the North Korean shelling.

The Risks and Consequences of War

As could be seen from the map above, the South Korean capital city of Seoul is almost on the border with North Korea. The city and it's northern suburbs are within artillery range of Northern forces. Global Security explains what this means:

North Korea has about 500 long-range artillery tubes within range of Seoul, double the levels of a the mid-1990s. Seoul is within range of the 170mm Koksan gun and two hundred 240mm multiple-rocket launchers. The proximity of these long-range systems to the Demilitarized Zone threatens all of Seoul with devastating attacks. Most of the rest of North Korea's artillery pieces are old and have limited range. North Korea fields an artillery force of over 12,000 self-propelled and towed weapon systems. Without moving any artillery pieces, the North could sustain up to 500,000 rounds an hour against Combined Forces Command defenses for several hours.

More, "Approximately forty percent of the South Korean population resides within 40 miles of Seoul."

World War I artillery is just as devastating as the most modern pieces (well, almost) if you're just firing randomly into built-up modern civilian cities and suburbs. The destruction and loss of life would be tremendous.

To be sure, if the North Koreans unleash their artillery we and our South Korean allies will stop at nothing to do to Pyongyang what we did to Baghdad in 2003. The more sane North Korean generals must know that such an attack would mean the end of their world.

The United States Reaction - What Obama is Doing Right

On the good side, President Obama immediately condemned the attack, with the White House demanding that the DPRK "halt its belligerent action". It also immediately dispatched the USS George Washington and it's associated battle group to previously scheduled exercises with the South.

The USS George Washington is Navy's only permanently forward-deployed aircraft carrier. Her home port is Yokosuka Naval Base-Yokosuka, Japan. It would be the "tip of the spear" in any confrontation with China or North Korea.

USS George Washington CVN-73


Most importantly, the carrier is being deployed to the Yellow Sea. Sailing directly into the Yellow Sea was apparently not part of the previously scheduled exercises.

This is very important for several reasons. Last August the Administration canceled planned exercises with the ROK navy in the Yellow Sea, after both North Korea and China objected. The Administration claimed that the change of venue to waters east of South Korea was not due to their objection. Readers may make of this what they will, but I criticized the Administration for their action at the time.

The exercises will begin this Sunday and will continue for four days, ending Wednesday December 1.

Yellow Sea

Essentially, China likes to call the Yellow Sea it's "front yard," and therefore gets touchy about a capital ship so close to it. The United States believes that 1) it is essential to maintain freedom of of the seas, which means the ability to sail at any time in international waters, and 2) we are the primary force for good in the world and therefore we need to use freedom of the seas and our Navy to keep bad actors in check.

Richard Fernandez, writing at his Belmont Club blog at Pajamas Media, has the background and implications of deploying a carrier to the restricted waters of the Yellow Sea.

Essentially, Fernandez points out that one of the biggest dangers to our ships are Chinese and North Korean diesel-electric submarines. While these subs don't have to speed or range to chase military ships on the high seas, they can sit silently in constricted waters, and like a mine strike when a target gets within range. The "sit and wait" strategy doesn't work on the high seas unless you have an awful lot of submarines (hoping an enemy would stumble across one by accident).

So on the one hand it is dangerous for us to send our carriers and other surface ships into the Yellow Sea, but on the other it's the only way for us to gain valuable intelligence about PLAN (People's Liberation Army-Navy; or the Chinese Navy) and DPRK submarines. There's been a lot of speculation about each side's capability, and there are conflicting reports about the results of exercises which have pitted our carriers against South Korean and Japanese diesel-electric subs.

When the George Washington Battle Group does enter the Yellow Sea, the goal of all sides will be to gather more information about the other sides capabilities than they give up about their own. Who is the cat and who is the mouse?

An Aircraft Carrier and a typical battle group


The United States Reaction - What Obama is Doing Wrong

President Obama's foreign policy has been marked by weakness. His "apology tour" was aq disgrace. His complaining about the Arizona law to the Chinese wrong-headed. The Cairo speech an exercise in naivete. His obvious hatred of Israel, contemptuous treatment of Netanyahu during the latter's visit to the White House, and general pandering to Palestinians/Islam/Muslims shameful. Stopping production of the F-22 Raptor dangerous to our security. His assumption that anti-Americanism is because of George W. Bush and his supposed "unilateralism" was the cause of hour problems naive in the extreme. He listened to a 50 minute diatribe by the Nicaraguan communist Daniel Ortega, who insulted the United States time and again and responded by saying... nothing.

As for his Afghanistan policy, McChrystal requested 40,000 additional troops and Obama only gave him 30,000. Obama also proclaimed a withdrawal date, which was a mistake because it signaled to Afghans and enemy alike that our hearts weren't in the fight. Why do we think Karzai is making nice with the Taliban? The man is simply hedging his bets.

More, it has recently been revealed that the North Koreans have a "modern, clean centrifuge plant" for uranium enrichment to complement their known plutonium cycle program. This is doubly dangerous for it allows them to make more weapons of a greater variety. Further, that they have been doing this in the midst of negotiations and receiving aid shows again how useless our approach with them over the past 15 or so years has been.

History shows that weakness brings on aggression. Witness the last two years of the Carter Administration when we were challenged around the world, mostly without answer. The Iranian revolutionaries took our embassy personnel hostage without consequence. The Soviets felt safe invading Afghanistan, and spread their influence throughout Africa. Various communist insurgencies sprang up in Central America, achieving their aim in Nicaragua.

Seeing these actions by Obama and knowing their history, the North Koreans are testing us. Will we respond strongly or weakly? Will we crawl on our knees to China, begging them to use their influence, or will we deal with the situation ourselves?

Rather, here is what we should do:

First and foremost our openly stated goal and objective must become regime change. This strategy is not without risks, but I believe it has less risks than our current approach, and it is the only approach that will resolve the situation. It was one thing to practice "containment" before North Korea got nuclear weapons, now that they have them the situation is intolerable. What they have now is probably a small and barely deliverable nuclear arsenal; in time that will change to more capable weaponry.

Second, Obama must stop negotiating with North Korea. Contrary to what some people say, the North Koreans do see the simple fact of negotiations as a reward. The six-party talks (North Korea, South Korea, the United States, China, Russia, and Japan) have gone nowhere.

Third, Obama must end his naive pursuit of "a world without nuclear weapons." It was silly enough when Reagan said it, but at least he seemed to know it could not be achieved until we got rid of the bad actors of the world; Obama seems to want to do it despite them.

Fourth is to crank up the psychological warfare, and fifth is to scare them militarly, both courtesy of John Noonan, writing at The Weekly Standard:

The North Korean regime is shaky and concerned about the upcoming transition of power. President Obama should attack those fears directly. America must foster the idea that we can hurt Kim Jong-Il at will, both internally and externally. Messaging into a regime that goes completely dark at night due to lack of power is difficult, but it's not impossible. We have psychological warfare tools at our disposal. They should be used aggressively. Jam his communications, interfere with radio broadcasts, seize cargo shipments -- do anything and everything available to make life for the Hermit Kingdom's power brokers miserable.

Most importantly, remind Kim Jong Il that we have the means to bypass his massive military infrastructure. A flight of stealthy F-22s, likely to breeze past the antiquated North Korean air defense network, would send a very strong message flying over Pyongyang at noon. The jets wouldn't have to drop anything, just serve as a gentle, non-kinetic reminder that next time we buzz Jong-Il's house, we might be packing iron. Sometimes a scalpel can send just as strong of a message as a broad sword.

Of course the second idea is risky, but enough actions along those lines might also lead to regime collapse. And as I said earlier, I think the current policy is quite risky enough.

Other ideas developed by Christian Whiton, writing at Fox News that are worth pursuing:

1. Dramatically increasing defector-led radio broadcasting from outside North Korea. The truth is Kim Jong Il's greatest foe, and dissent movements thrive on factual information that undermine the dictators' propaganda. Defector broadcasts exist but need real resources.

2. Halt all foreign aid and other funds flows to North Korea, which the regime uses to survive. We should also deny any financial organization or central bank that deals with North Korea the ability to clear transactions in U.S. dollars--essentially a death penalty for banks that would end the regime's ability to move funds and reward those who keep it in power.

3. Stop trade and seaborne proliferation. China has demonstrated it will not cooperate with us or comply with U.N. resolutions that restrict trade or call for inspections of goods going to North Korea. However, ships going to or from North Korea can be impounded.

4. Wage economic warfare. The North Korean government is the first regime since the Third Reich to counterfeit U.S. currency. We should return the favor by dumping bales of North Korea currency just off Korean and Chinese shores. The resulting economic tailspin would penalize the North Korean elite most.

5. Allied militaries should broadcast a clear message to North Korea's military seeking to separate it from the Kim family. The USS Pueblo, which North Korea hijacked in 1968 and currently holds captive, should be sunk. We have every right to do this to our own property, and every military officer in North Korea would perceive the regime is running out of lives.

Pick whichever of the above you like; all or a few will do for me. Talking has proven to be useless. Surely we must tread carefully, because a war would cause tremendous loss of life. But our current course is fraught with danger too, for as time goes the North builds more and more nuclear weapons and missiles to mount them on, ensuring that future wars would be even more destructive. We must end this regime; we can and we must.

Posted by Tom at 8:45 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 23, 2010

The Norks Lash Out... Again

On March 26 of this year the North Koreans most likely sank the South Korean Navy ship Cheonan, killing some 46 sailors. Regardless of what sank the Cheonan, there has been a series of armed conflicts between the two nations since the end of the Korean War, and most recently a series of naval battles that have resulted in the sinking of several ships, mostly from the North. The number of incidents along the Korean Demilitarized Zone, many of which turned violent, is staggering. And of course let's not forget the USS Pueblo.

Earlier today, the North Koreans fired artillery shells into the South, the first time this has occurred since 1953


The story from Fox News:

North Korea bombarded a South Korean island near their disputed western border Tuesday, setting buildings ablaze and killing at least two marines and injuring 16 others after warning the South to halt military drills in the area, South Korean officials said.

South Korea said it returned fire and scrambled fighter jets in response, and said the "inhumane" attack on civilian areas violated the 1953 armistice halting the Korean War. The two sides technically remain at war because a peace treaty was never negotiated.
The North's artillery struck the small South Korean-held island of Yeonpyeong, which houses military installations and a small civilian population and which has been the focus of two previous deadly battles between the Koreas.

A senior military official tells Fox News "no one is interested in escalating this, but we are taking this very seriously."

Two South Korean marines were killed, three were seriously wounded and 10 slightly wounded, a Joint Chiefs of Staff official said. Island residents were escaping to about 20 shelters in the island while sporadic shelling continued, the military official said.

North Korea's supreme military command threatened to continue military strikes against South Korea if it violated their disputed sea border "even 0.001 millimeter," according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

The firing came amid South Korean military drills in the area. North Korea's military had sent a message to South Korea's armed forces early Tuesday to demand that the drills stop, but the South continued them, another military official said.

These are not idle threats from the North. As mentioned above the North has carried out many attacks on the South over the years, ranging from naval actions, to commando raids, to even hijacking a South Korean airliner in 1969. They have built tunnels under the demilitarized zone separating the two nations, some of which were almost wide enough to drive a jeep through, which after much effort we have found and destroyed.

In recent years the North has tested a series of short and medium range missiles, always doing so at a time calculated for maximum political effect, such as July 4 of 2006 and 2009. In October of 2006 they exploded a nuclear weapon. Who knows how many they have or how weaponized they are.

Why the Artillery?

Your guess is as good as mine as to why they launched the attacks. Maybe it was the young Kim Jong-un, heir apparent to Kim Jong-il, exercising his power. Maybe it was Kim Jong-il who gave the order to show that he was still in control.

Or maybe Kim Jong-il just got ronery, started feeling sorry for himself, and decided to teach the world a lesson.

The U.S Response

What is it, and what should it be?

The response is that the U.S. and our allies will try and get China to talk to the North Koreans. From Reuters:

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the United States was seeking a unified diplomatic front with North Korea's neighbors, including China, Pyongyang's sole remaining major backer, which has in the past resisted international efforts to get tough with its isolated ally.

"We're going to take a measured and unified approach," said Toner, adding, "We're not going to respond willy nilly."

This certainly serves China's interests. They want hegemony in the region, and this gives them the power they want. China doesn't want full-scale war on the Korean Peninsula, but neither does it want the conflict settled. Keeping it simmering distracts the U.S. and keeps them in control.

Richard Fernadez
sees the long-term consequences of our policy:

The US has been dealing itself out its global commitments. Whether that is good depends on your point of view. One thing that is undeniable, however, is that an American retreat will have consequences, ones that will not be easily reversed.

It's easy to throw up your hands after every such act by the North and say "what can we do?" , for if you focus on reacting then indeed there is not much we can do.

But a wise leader sets the tone and other nations react to him. It's hard to imagine Chazez, Ahmadinejad, or Kim Jong-whoever is in charge provoking the United States if Reagan was in charge, or in 2003 after our invasion of Iraq.

We've also learned recently that the North had an advanced uranium enrichment facility to complement their plutonium program, which as Charles Krauthammer observed should have been "the final demonstration of the uselessness and the futility of our negotiations with Pyongyang."

But to return to our quote from Mr. Fernandez, there is more at stake here than the possibility of full-scale war on the Korean Peninsula, as terrifying as that might be. Victor Davis Hanson explains that the rest of the world is watching:

...the more sinister regions of the world are watching the U.S. response to the shelling, for either a yellow or a green light for their own agendas. More enlightened states are watching, too, for indications of the American reaction should the trouble spread to their corners of the world.

But after 22 months of apologizing, bowing, and contextualizing supposed American sins from the trivial (lamenting the Arizona law in a meeting with the Chinese) to the profound (the mythical Cairo speech, unilaterally pressing Israel right out of the starting gate), the Obama administration has sent the message that it may not be so comfortable with America's past unilateral responsibilities to its allies, and may even sympathize with some of the grievances of our purported enemies. Whether this assessment is fair or not, that's the message they've sent.

Dismissing the idea that past global problems might transcend George W. Bush, this administration operated as if a charismatic world citizen, with reset magic, could win over the globe to a U.N.-sponsored utopia. These false assumptions intrigued the curious abroad -- why would Obama seek to advance such absurd notions about global problems having originated with U.S. belligerence circa 2001-2009 and being resolved by U.S. empathy in 2009-2010? Apparently, as we are now learning, North Korea wants to find out the answer.

In general, listlessness and misdirection in Washington always ripple out to the world abroad within a year or two. Sanctimonious Carterism had confirmed the image of a paralytic America by 1979, which may be why that year saw the Chinese in Vietnam, the Russians in Afghanistan, Communists on the rise in Central America, hostages in Tehran, the end of the Shah, and the rise of an emboldened radical Islam. When Nixon and his congressional opponents wrecked U.S. foreign policy in the long dark days of Watergate, by 1973-4 the world became a very unstable place, with the Yom Kippur War, oil embargoes, an imploding Southeast Asia, and the Turkish invasion of Cyprus.

The tragedy of all this is that, once a sense of American self-confidence is lost, the result is usually a lot of post facto, herky-jerky catch-up efforts to restore credibility. E.g., a once-sermonizing Carter suddenly boycotting the Olympics and establishing the Carter doctrine in the Middle East, or the U.S. 1973 global alert during the Yom Kippur War, or Gerald Ford and the 1975 Mayaguez incident.

To deter North Korea, we should now express and follow through on the sort of solidarity that is unquestioned, a kind of solidarity that has been sorely lacking in the last two years with Israel, Britain, Poland, and the Czech Republic.

And, in a larger sense, the commander-in-chief needs to stop his contextualizing and apologizing, especially this pernicious messianic notion that, as an empathetic and post-national president, his mission is to redeem a previously culpable America. Otherwise, in the next two years that nonsense is going to get people killed.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 13, 2007

The North Korean Nuclear Deal

Today we discover that a tentative deal has been reached with the DPRK regarding it's nuclear weapons program

In a landmark international accord, North Korea promised Tuesday to close down and seal its main nuclear reactor within 60 days in return for 50,000 tons of fuel oil as a first step in abandoning all nuclear weapons and research programs.

North Korea also reaffirmed a commitment to disable the reactor in an undefined next phase of denuclearization and to discuss with the United States and other nations its plutonium fuel reserves and other nuclear programs that "would be abandoned" as part of the process. In return for taking those further steps, the accord said, North Korea would receive additional "economic, energy and humanitarian assistance up to the equivalent of 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil."

Yeah right. On the one hand I fully expect the Koreans to cheat on the deal at the earliest opportunity. On the other, of all the threats we face right now this one is the least amenable to a solution.

As for the agreement itself, if you want the gory details you can find them on the Washington Post's website here.

Here's what I think is going to happen:

One fine day we're going to wake up and North Korea will be in chaos. It will come out of the blue, totally unexpected.

Totalitarian governments are at once very strong and very weak. They're strong in the ways we're all familiar with; total control of socitey. But at the same time they're very brittle. One day it seemed like the Soviet Union would be forever, and in a short time the entire Empire had collapsed. Romania, for example, was totally under the control of Nicolae Ceausescu. Then one day we heard of fighting in the streets and rumors that he and his wife were on the run. The next we learn that they'd both been shot by their own army. The whole thing was triggered by the government's attempt to evict a popular pastor from his apartment. Who could have imagined?

I think the same thing is going to happen with North Korea. Some small event, the type you can never forsee, is going to snowball into something massive.

The question is whether the end will be relatively peaceful or terribly violent. No one in Eastern Europe had nuclear weapons, the Soviets having removed theirs before they evacuated.

Kim Jong il may be tempted to go down in a blaze of glory. He might not have a deliverable weapon for some time, but all he has to do is put one close to the border and light it off and lots of people are going to die.

But they don't even have to do that. Over half of the North Korean army is stationed within 90 miles of the border with the south (GlobalSecurity analysis here). The South Korean capital, Seoul, is almost right on the border itself, and the North has spent fifty years hiding artillery and rockets in the mountains just north of the city. The North could do great damage in a short period of time.

None of this is to say that it is a waste of time to negotiate with North Korea. Far from it. This agreement does stand a chance, but only if China puts pressure on the North to impliment it. They might not, in that I believe China is using the Korean crisis to distract us from their main goal, which is to take back Taiwan. But we shall see.

The real test, I think, will be how we handle the collapse of the North. It might be an unwinnable situation, and we need to recognize that even if we do everything "right", the situation might still get out of control. And it isn't going to be any easier whether the person in the White House is Republican or Democrat.

Posted by Tom at 9:08 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack