Archive for September, 2015


September 28, 2015

Wall Street Journal on September 25, 2015, published a review by Richard Aldous on David Milne’s book “Worldmaking: The Art and Science of Diplomacy”, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 600 pages, US 35.00. The review begins with George F. Kennan. Excerpts below:

In September 1945, a month after the end of World War II, a U.S. congressional delegation arrived in Moscow. Waiting for them was the No. 2 at the U.S. embassy, George F. Kennan, who wasn’t best pleased at having to play chaperone to junketeering politicians. “Sometimes I’ve been charged with being an elitist,” Kennan complained later in an interview. “Of course I am. What do people expect? God forbid that we should be without an elite. Is everything to be done by gray mediocrity?”

…David Milne tells the story of the hundred or so years when a sequence of public intellectuals shaped the discourse and practice of U.S. foreign affairs with confidence and élan—and guided America to its place as the world’s No. 1 power.

Mr. Milne, a historian at the University of East Anglia, presents nine men— Alfred Thayer Mahan, Woodrow Wilson, Charles Beard, Walter Lippmann, Kennan, Paul Nitze, Henry Kissinger, Paul Wolfowitz….” Each, he writes, “consciously engaged in a process of worldmaking, formulating strategies that sought to deploy the nation’s vast military and economic power—or indeed its retraction through a domestic reorientation—to ‘make’ a world in which America is best positioned to thrive.” The danger in writing such a book is that it will turn out to be not much more than a series of short biographies. That Mr. Milne succeeds, and brilliantly, is due in no small part to the vivacity and jargon-free clarity of his prose. But he also has a clever, thoughtful thesis that, while developed with great brio, he is careful not to overstate.

He believes that the traditional distinction between realism and idealism has become tired and offers another binary: art versus science. Some thinkers, like Mahan, Kennan and Mr. Kissinger, are drawn primarily to history, philosophy and literature; others, like Wilson, Nitze and Mr. Wolfowitz, incline toward the social sciences of politics, economics and international relations. While the former tend to impart “a sense of tragedy and caution” in considering foreign affairs, the latter believe that the world is malleable and that historical precedent can be transcended.

Kennan and Nitze perfectly illustrate the differences in thinking and approach. In 1949, Secretary of State Dean Acheson tasked both men to write papers on whether the U.S. should develop the hydrogen bomb. Such was its potentially destructive capacity that the decision was as much a philosophical as a military one.

By temperament and training, Mr. Milne is inclined toward the artists rather than the scientists, and as the book goes along, it becomes clear that Kennan is his touchstone.

In the end, Mr. Milne sides with the artists because he sees history as the best bet for policy makers to “study dilemmas, contextualize threats, compare their magnitude to the resources available, weigh humanitarian and reputational imperatives, and offer appropriately calibrated responses.”

The debates contained within “Worldmaking” have obvious contemporary resonance. Beard’s retrenchment, Wilson’s and Mr. Wolfowitz’s exceptionalism, the conservative realism of Kennan, Nitze and Mr. Kissinger, and Lippmann’s internationalism: All are suggestive of current debates.

Lippmann warned about populism and decisions made in fear of “the trampling and roar of a bewildered herd.” Mr. Kissinger points us back to the 19th century to illustrate “credibility” on the world stage. Mr. Wolfowitz goes even further back to the classics to skewer contemporary moral relativism. All subscribe to Kennan’s view that foreign policy doesn’t fit on a “bumper sticker.”

Six of Mr. Milne’s thinkers achieved their initial fame and influence by publishing books or articles that transformed the way people thought about government and the world. When Theodore Roosevelt read Mahan’s “The Influence of Sea Power Upon History” (1890), his biographer Edmund Morris tells us, TR “flipped the book shut a changed man.” Eisenhower ordered that a 24-page synopsis of Mr. Kissinger’s “Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy” (1957) be distributed to members of his administration, and Vice President Nixon was photographed with a copy of the book tucked under his arm. Wilson’s “Congressional Government” (1885) was a popular success.

In contrast, Paul Nitze wrote for an audience with security clearances, excluding the public. Mr. Wolfowitz, similarly, has produced no major book on the history, philosophy or theory of foreign policy.

Productive strategic thought, Mahan pointed out a century ago, requires us to “stop grubbing in the machine shops” of detail and “get up somewhere where [we] can take a bird’s eye view of military truths, and see them in their relations and proportions.”

The scientists and the artists take different approaches to gain that “bird’s eye view.” Wilson, Nitze and Mr. Wolfowitz sought an objective truth that could help them effect fundamental change in global affairs. Mahan,… Lippmann, Kennan, and Mr. Kissinger would counter that the world cannot be perfected, that the best that America can do is put its hand on the scales of power as a counterweight to the evils of the world.

…as Mahan wrote in 1897: “Let us worship peace, indeed, as the goal at which humanity must hope to arrive, but let us not fancy that peace is to be had as a boy wrenches an unripe fruit from a tree.”

Mr. Aldous, the author of “Reagan and Thatcher,” teaches history at Bard. He is writing a life of Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

Comment: Mr. Aldous is correct in his review of the Milne book hold up Mahan as one of the most important geopolitical thinkers to shape American geostrategy since the 19th century. Here one can only point to the excerpts from an article by geopolitician Francis P. Sempa on this blog in February 2015:

In his memoirs, From Sail to Steam, Mahan credited his reading of Theodore Mommsen’s six-volume “History of Rome” for the insight that sea power was the key to global predominance. In “The Influence of Sea Power Upon History”, Mahan reviewed the role of sea power in the emergence and growth of the British Empire. In the book’s first chapter, he described the sea as a “great highway” and “wide common” with “well-worn trade routes” over which men pass in all directions. He identified several narrow passages or strategic “chokepoints,” the control of which contributed to Great Britain’s command of the seas. He famously listed six fundamental elements of sea power: geographical position, physical conformation, extent of territory, size of population, character of the people, and character of government. Based largely on those factors, Mahan envisioned the United States as the geopolitical successor to the British Empire.

Eight years before the Spanish-American War resulted in the United States becoming a world power with overseas possessions, Mahan wrote an article in the Atlantic Monthly entitled “The United States Looking Outward,” (1890) in which he urged U.S. leaders to recognize that our security and interests were affected by the balance of power in Europe and Asia. Mahan understood that the United States, like Great Britain, was geopolitically an island lying offshore the Eurasian landmass whose security could be threatened by a hostile power or alliance of powers that gained effective political control of the key power centers of Eurasia. He further understood that predominant Anglo-American sea power in its broadest sense was the key to ensuring the geopolitical pluralism of Eurasia.


September 25, 2015

Fox News on September 24, 2015, reported that things may be looking up for Marco Rubio in the race to become GOP presidential candidate. Though he’s struggled to break through the crowded, and loud, 2016 field after announcing his intention to run in April, there has been fresh buzz about his campaign since what many analysts saw as a stand-out performance at the Sept. 16 debate at the Reagan Library. Excerpts below:
A Fox News poll released late Wednesday showed Rubio and Carly Fiorina tied for third place on the GOP side, each with 9 percent, behind Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson.

…he seems to be benefiting the most from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s decision to drop out of the race. The Wall Street Journal reported that Rubio will inherit about two-thirds of Walker’s big-donor fundraising apparatus, citing a member of Walker’s national finance committee.

A number of key staff, including Walker’s New Hampshire state co-chairman, already have joined Rubio’s campaign.

He is also beginning to pose a challenge to former front-runner and ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in their home state. A new Florida Atlantic University poll puts Rubio in second place, behind Donald Trump but in front of Bush.
However, so far, Rubio’s team has been cautious in getting carried away by recent good news.

“While it’s always nice to see people responding well to Marco, the truth is that polls at this stage of the race are not indicative of who will win,” Alex Conant, a spokesman for the Rubio campaign, told, adding that there are still four months to go before the first primary contest.

However, as Rubio’s support and infrastructure expands, it seems unlikely he will be able to stay out of the spotlight for long. On Monday night, Trump took a shot at Rubio over his initial support and role in crafting the 2013 immigration reform bill, as well as his voting record in the Senate.

Trump also took a swing at Rubio’s alleged absenteeism in the Senate during the Reagan Library debate. And he’s still a target of Democrats.

It wasn’t the first time a critique of Rubio seemed to backfire. The New York Times was mocked in June for stories that reported on Rubio’s finances and speeding tickets.

Now, even some Democrats say Rubio could be a contender. “Presidential campaigns are — yes they’re about messaging and policy — but they’re also about symbolism, and what I think what Marco Rubio is doing is trying to present this positive image of an America that, in his belief we can all live in,” Basil Smikle Jr., executive director of the New York state Democratic Party told LIVE.

While cautious, the Rubio camp is showing quiet optimism about their chances.

“We have a strategy to be first in February, and we’re on track to accomplishing that. Marco did very well in the first two debates, and it’s a good thing for our campaign that we have 10 more debates,” Conant said.

Comment: As a son of a Cuban immigrant Senator Rubio is very credible when he describes America as the land of opportunity. Rubio has also positioned himself as a foreign policy expert with a forward strategy for the United States. His warnings when it comes to the China threat and Obama’s mishandling of US China policy are important contributions.


September 23, 2015

Wall Street Journal on August 21, 2015, reported on the first visit of NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Ukraine. The head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization called on Russia to take the next step to advance the Ukrainian peace agreement by withdrawing its heavy weapons from the country’s east. Excerpts below:

“Heavy weapons are still there. It is encouraging that we have seen that the cease-fire is by and large holding,” he said. “But we don’t underestimate the challenges we are facing.”

Mr. Stoltenberg traveled to a military-training ground about 28 miles from this city in western Ukraine to inaugurate a NATO disaster-relief exercise.

NATO has stepped up its interaction with Ukraine in recent months, working on initiatives to help Kiev with demining, logistics, combat medicine, cyberdefenses and other areas.

Several NATO members, including the U.S. and Canada, have small training missions at the base near Lviv.

The disaster-relief exercise, which simulated a mine collapse that triggered a series of infrastructure failures, is being held at a military base. A Ukrainian military band played at the opening of the exercise and the Americans participating in the operation were from the U.S. Army.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said the exercise is relevant given the current situation in the country. Appearing beside Mr. Stoltenberg at a news conference, he said he wanted to see closer cooperation with NATO. Although he noted that his country wasn’t asking for membership in the alliance, he said he was seeking closer military ties with the alliance.

“This is a civilian exercise but we are interested in different kinds of exercises that increase our coordination and cooperation with NATO,” he said.

Mr. Stoltenberg earlier said the situation in eastern Ukraine was fragile.

“Any election that takes place in Eastern Ukraine that is not in accordance with Ukrainian law will be a violation on the Minsk agreement,” Mr. Stoltenberg said. “They will be fake elections. They won’t be recognized by any NATO allies.”

Comment: Increasing NATO support for Ukraine is needed. The present practical support is too low key. Ukraine needs more lethal defense weapon, that can be provided by the United States. In recent time Putin’s Russia has turned to more aggression, this time in Syria where increased military aid is provided to Syria’s dictator Assad. This will lead to a prolonged civil war in Syria.


September 22, 2015

The study and research of elites is important. Lexington Books has recently published a volume by Professor Ilkka Ruostetsaari in the field (Elite Recruitment and Coherence of the Inner Core of Power in Finland – Changing patterns during the economic crises of 1991 – 2011, 233 pages, 2015).

Finland has an interesting history and did not become independent until 1917. For more than six centuries it was a part of Sweden. During the Napoleonic Wars Finland was annexed by Russia but surprisingly managed to retain much political and economic autonomy. The Swedish Constitution, for example, remained in force.

Until 1809 there was a Swedish elite domination and it was under the Russian czars that the Finnish majority language started to be accepted. Full language equality was however not established until Finland gained its independence. The Finnish Constitution of 1919 recognized two national languages, Finnish and Swedish.

The new book recognizes seven different power elites: political, administrative, business, organizational, mass media, scientific and cultural.

In the political power elite there is, interestingly, an inheritance effect. A membership of the Finnish parliament is often handed down in the family. Before the 1999 parliamentary election, for instance, there had been 30 married couples and about 80 siblings. More than 60 members of parliament had fathers, mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers, who had been elected to parliament. Membership of the cabinet had also been handed down across two, sometimes three generations. The inter-generational inheritance was much more common in municipal elective positions.

The conclusion by Ruostetsaari is that there has been no major change in the Finnish elite structure between 1991 and 2011. This is surprising as Finland has gone through profound changes after the collapse of the Soviet empire. During the Cold War Finland’s position was linked to that of the Soviet Union. Not only is Finland having a long border to Russia. Some observers 1947 to 1991 believed that Finland increasingly came to project Moscow’s voice. This is denied in the “official truth” in Finland according to which the country was forced by circumstances to carry out this policy. There were extensive Finnish political, economic and even military ties between the two countries during the Cold War. Finland was for instance critically dependant on Soviet supplies of energy (oil, gas, electricity, and coal). A Soviet-Finnish accord for economic, technical, industrial , commercial and scientific collaboration was in place.

In an article of March 4, 1977, Pravda concluded that the aim of Soviet-Finnish collaboration was:

Toward the formation of a new type of international division of labor in which states with different social systems would take part [in] the consolidation of new relations in the form of long term agreements.

It would have been of interest if Ruostetsaari in his valuable book could have provided some analysis on the change in the Finnish power elite during the Cold War in comparison with the period 1991 – 2011. The Urho Kekkonen era (1950 – 1953, 1954 to 1956 as prime minister and 1956 – 1982 as president) would have been of special interest.

The Latin School of Sociology with Michels, Mosca and Pareto is briefly mentioned in the book. An important interpreter of these classical elite study scholars was the American Professor James Burnham (1905 – 1987).

One gets the impression reading Ruostetsaari’s book that Burnham was a Marxist all his life. This was not the case. He broke with communism in 1943. That was the year he published his classic work on political theory partly dealing with the Latin School (The Machiavellians: A defense of political truth against wishful thinking).

Burnham then came to be a leading American Conservative foreign policy expert during the Cold War. He stressed in several books that communist regimes were fragile. The United States had a moral obligation and a strategic interest in supporting popular uprisings against communist regimes. President Ronald Reagan was a careful reader of Burnham’s books.

From Niccoló Machiavelli but also the Latin School Burnham deduced that all politics is concerned with struggle for power among individuals and groups. On elites Burnham found for example that they are primarily concerned with maintaining and expanding power and priviliges and that all societies are divided into a “ruling class” and the ruled.

Burnham’s view on Michels can be summed up in the general conclusion of the iron law of oligarchy, which seems to hold for all social movements and all forms of society. Society cannot exist without a “dominant” or “political” class. The fact that this iron law exists does not mean that the struggle for true democracy should be abandoned.

One can only hope that there will be a renewed interest in the study of political elites after the publication of the valuable book on Finnish elites 1991 – 2011. Such interest should include the Latin School and Burnham’s classic book on what he called the Machiavellians.


September 21, 2015

Wall Street Journal on September 20, 2015, reported on one of the aspects of China’s aim to re-establish as a great world power: the export of the thoughts of Confucius. One morning in June, 200 senior officials crammed into an auditorium in the Communist Party’s top training academy to study a revolutionary idea at the heart of President Xi Jinping’s vision for China.

They didn’t come to brush up on Marx, Lenin or Mao, staple fodder at the Central Party School since the 1950s. Nor were they honing their grasp of the state-guided capitalism that defined the nation for the last 35 years. Excerpts below:

They came to hear Wang Jie, a professor of ancient Chinese philosophy and a figure in the country’s next ideological wave: a renaissance of the traditional culture the Communist Party once sought to destroy.

For two hours, Prof. Wang says, he reeled off quotes from Confucius and other Chinese sages—whom the party long denounced as feudal relics—and urged his audience to incorporate traditional concepts of filial piety and moral rectitude into their personal and professional lives.

Two years after outlining a “China Dream” to re-establish his nation as a great world power, Mr. Xi is backfilling his vision and seeking a fresh source of legitimacy by reinventing the party as inheritor and savior of a 5,000-year-old civilization.

The shift forms the backdrop for Mr. Xi’s visit to the U.S. this week and could shape China for years.

Mr. Xi appears to be seeking to inoculate Chinese people against the spread of Western political ideals of individual freedom and democracy, part of what some political insiders say he views as a long-term contest of values and ideology with the U.S.

In the last year, the party has publicly ordered its officials nationwide to attend lectures on Confucius and other classical Chinese thinkers, while tightening restrictions on Western influence in art, academia and religion.

The education ministry has decreed that traditional culture, including classical literature wiped from the curriculum a century ago, be taught in schools and feature prominently in university entrance exams.

The goal isn’t just to encourage “national self-confidence” but to aid “personality development,” encourage altruism and instill “Chinese national moral thinking,” the ministry says in an emailed response to questions.

The government is also plowing money into projects including a free online classical library, television series on China’s ancient history and a $250 million national center for traditional culture next to Beijing’s Olympic Stadium.

They also have suggested they see it as a new way to justify China’s authoritarian government—as an extension of an ancient political tradition—and to tackle corruption.
“To solve China’s problems, we can only search in the land of China for the ways and means that suit it,” Mr. Xi in October told the party’s Politburo, its top 25 leaders, official media reported. “We need to fully make use of the great wisdom accumulated by the Chinese nation over the last 5,000 years.”

The changes mark a U-turn for the party and come with significant dangers. By embracing classical thinkers it once demonized, the party risks undermining its authority among citizens who recall earlier ideological campaigns.

It could also encourage Chinese citizens to explore other ideas the party has tried to wipe from history, such as those in organized religion, which the leadership still considers subversive. Some scholars argue Confucianism is compatible with democracy; others want it to become a national religion or ideology.

Mr. Xi continues to stress the importance of Marx and Mao, and of Deng Xiaoping, who launched China’s market reforms in 1979. He has placed greater emphasis on Mao than his two predecessors and stepped up political education on Marxism in universities.

But party insiders and political analysts say his longer-term agenda is to merge those ideas with elements of China’s ancient political culture to forge a new nationalist ideology.

Central to the ideological pivot is Confucius. Thought to have lived in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C., Confucius emphasized respect for elders, social ritual and personal moral virtue, including among leaders. His ideas formed the basis of Chinese schooling and entry exams for the imperial bureaucracy for two millennia.

When the Communist Party took power in 1949, it banned ancestor worship and other Confucian rituals as “feudal practices” and taught party loyalty. It renewed that onslaught in the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution.

Since market reforms began in 1979, the party has allowed a limited, uncoordinated cultural renaissance. It has also carried out periodic “patriotic education” campaigns since crushing 1989 pro-democracy protests.

Until recently, it has been wary of overtly embracing China’s ancient past amid opposition from older party members who still see Confucianism as a source of weakness. In 2011, a Confucius statue was erected along Tiananmen Square but removed 100 days later following heated debate online and within the party.

Mr. Xi is taking a different tack, explicitly endorsing the cultural revival and formalizing it in schools and Party training—cherry-picking elements that suit his needs. In September 2014, he became the first Communist leader to attend celebrations marking Confucius’ birthday. He has complained that textbooks lack enough Chinese classical literature.

People can follow Mr. Xi’s lead at places like the Confucius Academy in the southwestern city of Guiyang, a 75-acre complex local property developers built for 1.15 billion yuan ($185 million) and opened in 2013.

The complex has support from the central government, which funds a permanent exhibit on Confucius. Top leaders have visited, including party ideology chief Liu Yunshan.

One recent Saturday, some 300 people, many in their 20s, attended a free three-hour lecture on the “Book of Changes,” one of the foundations of the feng shui system for aligning physical places and structures with the spiritual world. Also viewed as a moral and political guide, it is among the Confucian canon’s five classics.

Popular interest in traditional culture has grown in the past decade, influenced by Taiwanese and Hong Kong activists, experts say. Many private kindergartens have children recite classical texts. Mainland scholars offer businessmen private classes in “national studies.”

The Guiyang complex is among clear signs the party is trying to exploit and regulate that interest, says Sebastien Billioud, author of the book “The Sage and the People: The Confucian Revival in China.”

Before Mr. Xi took power, some party members pushed a more-assertive revival of Maoist symbols and rhetoric, championed by former Politburo rising star Bo Xilai. That movement weakened after Mr. Bo’s wife was convicted in 2012 of murdering a British businessman and Mr. Bo was jailed the following year for corruption and abuse of power.

While Mr. Xi has borrowed from Mr. Bo’s leadership style, the ideological balance has tipped toward cultural revivalists, political insiders say.

Wang Qishan, China’s powerful anticorruption chief, is said by people who know him to be an avid reader in history and philosophy. In April, he held an unusual meeting with three foreigners, including the American political thinker Francis Fukuyama, according to a transcript one participant posted online. Mr. Fukuyama says the transcript was accurate, declining to comment.

During the meeting, Mr. Wang said he had read books on U.S. constitutional law, the Ming empire and England’s Tudors. “First, we need to make clear our own history and civilization,” he said. “China has outstanding DNA in its own culture.”

He said China needed to study Confucius and Mencius, a sage of the same tradition. Mr. Wang…also expressed admiration for 15th-century Confucian scholar Wang Yangming.

The education ministry has mandated that primary-school children be taught to understand Chinese festivals, honor their parents and “know they are part of the Chinese nation,” according to a notice issued last year.

High schoolers should take up a traditional Chinese sport, do calligraphy and recite ancient poetry, the ministry said. University students should study “important books of ancient Chinese thought and culture.”

The China National Culture Art Center, a civic organization, has produced new traditional-culture textbooks used in pilot schemes in places such as the Beijing suburb of Tongzhou…

Aware of such sentiments, the party is treading cautiously. Education authorities publicly criticized one Shanghai school for making 700 children kneel before their parents in what was deemed an excessive display of filial piety. A Beijing school was scolded for going too far in teaching girls “traditional female virtue.”

Comment: This article is of great interest as China prepares to compete with the West in public diplomacy. China leaders seem to understand that brutal Maoism is not a worldwide bestseller. Part of the new image of the regime is to build Confucius Centers in the West.

Ancient Chinese culture is best represented on Taiwan and it should be remembered that there are also other ancient cultural ideas in Chinese culture such as Taoism and the Legalists. A rival of Carl von Clausewitz, Sun Tzu, has long been studied by the military in Taiwan and in military schools on the mainland. As freedom is the main goal of mankind mixing Marxism-Leninism with Confucius will probably have small chances of world success. He who understands history will be politically victorious.


September 19, 2015

There are in Asia a number of marginal seas and chokepoints. They control sea communications from the Bering Sea to Malaysia.

To the north there are the Aleutian Islands. Then there is the Sea of Okhotsk which is blocked by the Kamchatka peninsula and the Kurile Islands.

These latter islands are presently Russian but this is disputed by Japan. The main islands of the chain to the south are Etorofu, Kunashiri and Shikotan and the Habomai group (respectively 3,139, 1,500, 255 and 102 square kilometers). An 1855 treaty (Simoda treaty) confirmed that the Kuriles south of and including Etoforu were Japanese. Until 1875 (St Petersburg treaty) the large Sakhalin Island close to the Asian mainland was claimed by Japan. Russia insists that the 1855 and 1875 treaties are no longer valid.

After the Second World War Japan signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty. According to Russia Japan then gave up its claim to the Kurile islands. Japan insists that this treaty was not signed by the Soviet Union, so claims cannot be pursued related to the San Francisco Peace Treaty.

In 1956 the Soviet Union agreed to return Shikotan and the Habomais to Japan, but not until all foreign troops in Japan had been removed. The Kuriles remain in Russian hands but the conflict continues. The islands control the movements of the Russian Pacific Fleet and there are productive fishing grounds nearby.

Further south the coast of mainland China along the East China Sea and the South China Sea there is a blockage by the Ryukyu Islands, the Senkaku Islands, Taiwan, the Pescadore Islands, the Philippine Islands, Borneo, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

The Ryukyu Islands form a long chain dividing the East China Sea from the Pacific Ocean. The area is 2,246 square kilometers. The main island is Okinawa.

The Senkaku Islands (Chinese Tiaoyu or Tiao Yu Tai Islands are west of Okinawa and north of Taiwan. It is a small group of five islands and are uninhabited.

The Pescadores Islands belong to Taiwan and are situated between Taiwan and China. It has 64 islands and the area is 141 square kilometers.

Already during the Cold War (the 1957 work Principles of Political Geography, six contributors) Professor Hans Weigert at Georgetown University in the United States pointed out the relevance of the geographical features of the coast of East Asia. The present aggression of China in the South China Sea has once more focused the interest of geopoliticians on the East Asia coastline.

Hans Weigert (1902 – 1983) was a German lawyer who escaped to the United States in 1938. He was a teacher at several colleges and universities. In 1942 he published a book on German geopolitics (“Generals and Geographers: The Twilight of Geopolitics”) He also edited a symposium on geopolitics entitled (“Compass of the World”) in 1944. After the Second World War Weigert served with the U.S. military government and High Commission in Germany.

The main sea powers needed to maintain bases along the East Asian coast during the Cold War for containment purposes. If great powers like China and Russia in the 21st century can breach this chain of bases it would be a grave threat to the democracies of Asia

The chokepoints connecting the Indian and Pacific Oceans are further of great importance: Strait of Malacca, the Sunda Strait, the Singapore Strait, the San Bernardino Strait, the Surigao Strait, the Lombok and Macassar Straits, and the Torres Strait. Weigert called these narrow passageways “strategic waterways” and “maritime highways.” As Weigert wrote in 1957, “Geography endows with great advantages powers whose naval strength, supported by air bases, controls the marginal seas and narrow passageways, as long as this control is not challenged successfully by naval and air power based on the Eurasian Heartland or rim lands under its control.”

Chinese foreign policy today indicates that this great power is beginning to challenge the position of the alliance of Pacific states lead by the United States. It wants to become both a land- and seapower in the Asia-Pacific region. It is a sign that the next great power struggle will occurin the twentyfirst century. It will most likely be between the aggressive main landpowers China and Russia against the sea power United States with such allies as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines.

Comment: Geopolitician Francis P. Sempa on June 9, 2015, in The Diplomat Magazine published the article “Hans Weigert and Asia-Pacific Balancing”.


September 18, 2015

Wall Street Journal on September 17, 2015, reported that the Obama administration is considering scrapping its effort to create a large-scale Syrian force to fight Islamic State as it searches for alternatives to prevent the American-led effort from collapsing, officials said. Excerpts below:

Under one proposal being crafted at the Pentagon, the $500 million train-and-equip program—a core component of the U.S. Syria strategy—would be supplanted by a more modest effort focused on creating specially trained militants empowered to call in U.S. airstrikes, defense officials said.

The reconsideration comes after new disclosures of failures in the U.S. strategy in Syria, which is under intensified scrutiny at home and abroad.

Defense officials said there is widespread agreement on the need to overhaul the program, but no consensus yet on how far-reaching the changes should be.

The changes are being propelled by in part by the burgeoning refugee crisis which is fueled by an exodus from Syria…

The administration is under pressure over disclosures by top commanders this week that the training program has produced only a handful of fighters on the battlefield. U.S. policy is also coming under growing criticism at home, where foreign policy experts and Republican political candidates have zeroed in on errors.

“I’m someone who has supported the president on many issues, and on this one I think we’ve made a major mistake by being so standoffish and uninvolved,” said R. Nicholas Burns, who advised President George W. Bush on Iran policy as undersecretary of state for political affairs and U.S. representative to NATO.

“I hope that there will be a sea change in the administration, that they will recognize that they need a comprehensive policy. It may take years to succeed, but you’ve got to start,” Mr. Burns said. “If this administration doesn’t, no matter who we elect in 2016—Republican or Democrat—will have to.”

In dealing with Russia, U.S. officials have said any immediate talks would likely be among midlevel emissaries of the countries, not top officials.

Republican presidential candidates almost uniformly have denounced Mr. Obama’s Syria policy, saying his reluctance to more deeply involve the U.S. for fear of dragging the country into another Middle East war has allowed the crisis to spread.

In recent days, Russia has brought into a growing Syrian airfield its first drones, attack helicopters and transport choppers, along with expanding housing that U.S. defense officials estimate could be used by 2,000 people.

The shift would mean that U.S.-backed fighters would join larger groups that haven’t been vetted by American officials.

The U.S. would rule out working with al Qaeda affiliates such as the Nusra Front and would focus on identifying other groups in Syria.

The proposal would build on the successful model of cooperation between the U.S. and the Syrian Kurdish militia YPG. The militia has had the greatest success in Syria in seizing ground from Islamic State. YPG forces are able to request airstrikes from the U.S.-led coalition conducting airstrikes on Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

If the Pentagon shifts course to focus on training small numbers of fighters, it would represent a reversal.

As the administration looks to ramp up its diplomatic efforts, U.S. officials have said Russia and Iran—the Assad regime’s most important international allies—would be major players. The U.S. discussions would also include European allies and Arab states.

The question facing Mr. Obama is whether he wants to make Syria a higher foreign policy priority, said Jon Alterman, a former State Department official, now Middle East analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“I don’t think the administration has set an objective to resolve this,” Mr. Alterman said.

“U.S. allies in the Middle East are increasingly acting independently because they think the United States is too passive,” he added. “The limited nature of the U.S. response leaves people too free to feel they can act with complete impunity and they act without regard to the United States because we’ve become like part of the furniture.”

Comment: It seems clear that the present US administration will only make tactical changes in the Syria policy. That Washington might seek negotiations with Russia and Iran, two main geostrategic enemies, is worrying. No doubt these powers, heartened by the near collapse of US policy, seek to strengthen influence in the Middle East. Russia is providing military hardware and Iran terrorist support. The Middle East and terrorism is only part of Obamas geopolitical problems. Russia and China have also been neglected


September 17, 2015

Wall Street Journal on September 16, 2015, reported that satellite images showed that China continued building on Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Excerpts below:

A report published earlier this week by the Center for Strategic and International Studies contains high-definition photos of Chinese-controlled reefs in the disputed Spratly Islands taken in early September. The images suggest China’s island-building efforts are ongoing, and that China could soon have three airfields in the area, according to CSIS.

China reclaimed hundreds of acres of land at seven different reefs it occupies in the Spratlys in 2014. The U.S. and other countries in the region fear China might use the reefs as bases for military aircraft in an attempt to enforce an air-defense identification zone in the South China Sea. The U.S. has called for a moratorium on land reclamation in disputed areas as a way to reduce tensions. Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi’s statement at a summit of regional leaders in Malaysia last month that China had halted reclamation efforts appeared designed to calm anxieties in the region.

The satellite images released this week indicate dredging activity continues on two Spratly features: Subi Reef and Mischief Reef.

The northernmost of the Spratly reefs where China is reclaiming land, Subi Reef was a barely visible speck in the ocean as recently as 2012 (see interactive above). According to CSIS’s Bonnie Glaser, images from early September show dredgers widening an access channel to the inner part of the reef and dumping the sediment onto areas next to recently rebuilt sea walls. The images also show sand grading on Subi that could indicated construction of an airstrip, CSIS says.

Like Subi, Mischief Reef existed mostly underwater in 2012. Now, it boasts multiple buildings, at least two concrete plants and a flat rectangular area roughly 3,000 meters long that could be the site of a future airstrip, according to CSIS. Here, too, photos show dredgers working to widen an access channel, Ms. Glaser writes.

Earlier satellite photos confirmed that China has already built one airstrip on the Spratlys’ Fiery Cross Reef that could be big enough for fighter jets, transport planes and surveillance aircraft. CSIS researchers Michael Green and Zack Cooper write that the U.S. could “neutralize” China’s bases in the Spratlys in the event of a conflict, but “doing so would require a concerted effort from U.S. forces.”

The South China Sea is one of the world’s busiest shipping routes. The U.S. thus has an interest in ensuring freedom of navigation in the area, Washington argues.

Comment: The Wall Street Journal article has an excellent map of the Spratly Islands and presents fact on the different reefs and islands in the group. The aggressive construction by China on the Spratlys could be the first step in a strategy of geopolitical expansion into the Pacific Ocean. A common forward strategy of the United States, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines to monitor and challenge this is necessary and something the next US president will have to deal with in 2016.


September 16, 2015

Fox News on September 9, 2015, published a commentary by Van D. Hipp Jr on the Chinese threat to the United States and the rest of the West. It is both a national security and economic problem. Excerpts below:

There were the five Chinese Navy ships currently operating in the Bering Sea off the coast of Alaska.

Then there were the long-distance bombers and various missiles that were showcased in a huge military parade in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square last week.

Not to mention the continued devaluation of the Chinese yuan over the last few weeks sending shockwaves on worldwide economic markets.

And the continued cyberattacks on U.S. government and industry infrastructure, including the compromising of the personal data of at least four million current and former federal employees and stealing social security numbers from more than 21 million Americans.

Make no mistake, China is causing real problems for the United States and the rest of the free world from both a national security and an economic standpoint.

Chief among the factors causing the problem are the serious demographic challenges that China faces. In fact, China’s demographic challenges, while similar to those of the developed world, are on a much larger scale and are far more severe.

In short, during the 1970s, the average number of children born to a Chinese woman was 5.8. Due to the Communist Party’s “one child per family policy,” that figure is down to 1.8 – far below the rate of 2.1 that is normally needed to sustain a population.

Couple this with the fact that the Chinese, like the rest of the world, are living much longer.

In China, life expectancy has shot up from 35 in 1949 to over 73 today. Thus, as China’s working-age population has shrunk, labor costs have risen, thus eroding one of China’s main advantages and playing a big role in their decision to devalue the yuan.

In 2012, China had 180 million citizens over the age of 60. It is estimated now that by the middle of this century, that number could approach 500 million people.

Economically speaking, China cannot continue what they’re currently spending on their military, while at the same time taking care of their aging and ever-growing elderly population. China also has a big problem on domestic security issues and, in spite of their massive defense budget, is actually spending more on domestic security than on any external threats.

A powerful weapon for freedom is the fact that China has 500 million Internet users and more than 100 million bloggers. Because of the ever-mounting demographic challenges, and continued financial stress on Chinese budgets, there is a real opportunity for the U.S. and our Asian allies to come up with a plan to press the Chinese to address their military budget, as well as to prevent any unnecessary incidents from spiraling out of control in the South China Sea.

[In addition there is] the cyber threat from China…real economic harm is being inflicted on the American economy when American companies who annually spend millions, and sometimes billions of dollars on research and development, are having the Chinese steal the resulting technology.

It has been estimated that 90 percent of Chinese espionage is committed by two groups – the Beijing-based Elderwood Group and the Shanghai-based Comment Crew. Comment Crew can be traced to Unit 61398 of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), while the Elderwood Group is also believed to have significant ties to the Chinese military.

It’s time for real American leadership and to call China’s bluff. It’s time for America to go on the world stage and say to China, “We’re glad that you have nothing to do with these two groups. And, oh, by the way, since you have nothing to do with these groups, please join with us in declaring both of these groups as cyber terrorist organizations.”

These are challenging times, and whoever America elects to be its new commander in chief in 2016 will be facing the most complex national security and foreign policy situation a U.S. president has ever faced.

America’s new commander in chief would do well to grasp how he dealt with and understood China.

Van D. Hipp, Jr. is the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Army. He is the author of the newly released book, “The New Terrorism: How to Fight It and Defeat It.” All of the author’s proceeds go to the National Guard Educational Foundation to fund scholarships for children of fallen Guardsmen.

Comment: This article rightly calls for a new forward strategy for the United States in dealing with the China threat. The growing demographic challenges in China could be used to influence the Chinese regime when it comes to the aggressive policy in the South China Sea. A way to address the Chinese cyber-threat to America could be to declare the main suspects, two companies with links to the Chinese Army, cyber terrorist organizations. The failure of the Soviet Union has shown that states that suppress human rights on the behalf of some expression of the collective will fail. China remains a dictatorship with brutal repression. A forward strategy by the United States will hasten the downfall of the Chinese Communist Party controlled regime. States that understand history and protect freedom will be politically victorious.


September 15, 2015

Fox News on September 13, 2015, reported on the Uighurs in East Turkestan (Xinjiang), China. Excerpts below:

The Uighurs (pronounced WEE-gurs) are a Turkic-speaking Muslim ethnic group native to China’s far western region of Xinjiang, which was sporadically controlled by Chinese dynasties over the centuries. They have long complained of ethnic discrimination and religious restriction under the Chinese government, which is dominated by members of the Han ethnic group. Several decades of economic development have brought an influx of Han people into the Uighurs’ oil-rich home region. Uighurs have felt marginalized in the region’s economic boom, sparking ethnic tensions that erupted in the late 1990s and then again about a decade later, culminating in rioting that left nearly 200 dead in the regional capital of Urumqi in 2009.

Since 2009, there have been frequent attacks on police stations, military checkpoints and government buildings in Xinjiang. The violence has spilled into other regions with Uighur militants accused of mounting attacks in train stations, markets and even a public square in Beijing. In March 2014, a group of Uighurs — including two women — slashed indiscriminately at crowds at a train station in the southwestern city of Kunming, killing 31. In May of 2014, a bomb assault on a market in Urumqi left 43 people dead.

Beijing has long been wary of independence-minded militants in Xinjiang and has kept tight controls over the region. Scholars have argued that China’s stifling policies in the region — including restrictions on beards and veils — have marginalized the Uighurs and fueled militancy. Last year, well-known Uighur economist Ilham Tohti, who had urged Beijing to review its policies in Xinjiang to foster reconciliation, was convicted of inciting separatism and sentenced to life in prison. In response to the 2014 attacks, Beijing launched a one-year crackdown on terror cells in Xinjiang, executing and jailing hundreds of people on terrorism-related charges.

Uighurs have been fleeing China in recent years, often by way of Southeast Asia. Rights advocates say they are escaping repressive rule…

Courts in Xinjiang cities of Hotan, Kashgar and Karamay recently jailed Chinese smugglers who helped Uighurs cross illegally into Vietnam, as well as several Uighurs who unsuccessfully tried to emigrate illegally. While there are large Uighur diasporas in Europe and the United States, Turkey is the destination of choice for most seeking to leave China. Turkey’s government is under intense public pressure to support the Uighurs, leading to tensions in Ankara’s relationship with Beijing.

Comment: The Uighurs feel closer to Central Asian peoples than to the Han Chinese. There were insurrections in the 19th century and from 1865 to 1878 a state, Yettishar, existed. The capital was Kashgar. This state had relations with the Turkish Ottoman Empire. It recognized the state and helped it build up armed forces. An Ottoman protectorate was created in 1874. Pan-Turkism after 1878 continued and during World War I Pan-Turkish ideas were studied in Turkish organized schools in the area. Volunteers arrived from the Ottoman Empire and training courses held for the study of the history of Turkic peoples. Cultural and linguistic unity was stressed. A struggle for liberation was initiated. Later the liberation groups were supported by Japan seeking influence in Central Asia. A Japanese Turan Society was formed in 1918. In 1933 Turkey supported the proclamation of a Turkish Islamic Republic of East Turkestan (TIRET). With Soviet help the Chinese later abolished TIRET.

Pan-Turkism is a serious security challenge to China and the Uighur problem is of geopolitical and geostrategic interest. There is reason for detailed research of the geopolitics of Pan-Turkism in Xinjiang.