Belmont Club

Silent Night

I’m Dreaming of a Vile Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know

Or maybe it is:

Yamashita, donde esta Santa Claus?
It’s Christmas day

In any case some militants have offbeat holiday ideas. For example, CBS News says radicals are planning attacks on the US and Europe at Christmastime to spread the holiday fear. “Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani told The Associated Press that the botched bombing in central Stockholm last weekend was among the alleged plots the insurgents revealed. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, in a telephone interview from New York, called the claims ‘a critical threat’.”

Meanwhile, Aviation Week writes that NATO troops need to be careful about encountering Chinese advisers to the Taliban in the field. And the advisers may be equipped with MANPADs. David Fulghum writes:

Chinese advisers are believed to be working with Afghan Taliban groups who are now in combat with NATO forces, prompting concerns that China might become the conduit for shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, improved communications and additional small arms to the fundamentalist Muslim fighters.

A British military official contends that Chinese specialists have been seen training Taliban fighters in the use of infrared-guided surface-to-air missiles. This is supported by a May 13, 2008, classified U.S. State Department document released by WikiLeaks telling U.S. officials to confront Chinese officials about missile proliferation.

Especially since Petraeus has tripled the tempo of the air war in Afghanistan. “NATO fighter jets and attack planes launched their bombs and missiles on 850 separate missions this November. That’s three-and-a-half times the number of attack sorties they flew in November 2009.  It’s another sign of the bloody turn the Afghan conflict has taken since Petraeus took over. Petraeus unleashed special operations forces, who have killed or captured thousands of militants.”

What does confront mean in the diplomatic world? Maybe somebody knows. Maybe it is like sending a strong and mistakeable message to Pyongyang. By the way, Wired writes that South Korean intelligence believes that Pyongyang has several more uranium enrichment sites. It’s a “shocker”. Well, maybe not everyone is shocked.

When an American scientist returned from Pyongyang to report that North Korea had started a uranium-based path to nuclear weapons at its Yongbyon nuclear complex, experts immediately assumed that the North must be working elsewhere to enrich uranium as well. Now comes the unofficial-official answer from the U.S. and South Korean governments: well, duh.

On Monday, a South Korean intelligence official told the Chosun Ilbo that Washington and Seoul suspected “three or four locations” to be uranium-enrichment sites besides Yongbyon. An anonymous U.S. government senior official added to the Financial Times, “I think one has to assume that there are today additional undeclared enrichment-related facilities.” It’s doubtful that they know for certain, given the difficulties intelligence agencies have in penetrating hermetic North Korea, but that’s the working presumption.

Last month, Siegfried S. Hecker, a former Los Alamos National Laboratories director, recounted how North Korean officials unexpectedly showed him a 200-centrifuge uranium-enrichment operation at Yongbyon, a capability that he said “significantly exceeds my estimates.” Almost immediately, David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security warned that the apparent speed with which the North built the enrichment facility suggests “this may not be the first gas centrifuge plant that North Korea has built.”

It looks like a good guess. Reuters reports that North Korea is digging a new test tunnel for another nuclear test. “North Korea appears to be readying for a possible third nuclear test as early as next March, a newspaper reported on Wednesday, as a U.S. politician travelled to Pyongyang with a message for the North to ‘calm down.'” Not to worry. The diplomats will confront them.

Hillary Clinton has a vision for dealing with global threats in an era when a budget crisis forces a cutback in defense. According to the Christian Science Monitor, the strategy calls for the US to “lead through civilian power”, which presumably means the State Department.

Taking a cue from the Pentagon, which has a Quadrennial Defense Review, or QDR, for reviewing America’s defense priorities and setting military doctrine, Secretary Clinton directed her policy staff to come up with a QDDR, or Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review. In presenting the 150-page document at a State Department town-hall meeting, Clinton said the goal is to “lead through civilian power” – by making better use of and coordinating more effectively the expertise that exists in the State Department and across government agencies. …

The policy review reflects two things: President Obama’s elevation of global development to a “core pillar of American power” – a designation he made in a White House policy directive in September – and Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s push for a strengthened and expanded civilian component of US international intervention to complement and even replace the military.

The New York Times writes Hillary was “seeking to reassert the State Department’s role as the primary agent of Washington overseas … and she promised to do it without spending a lot more money. ‘With the right tools, training and leadership, our diplomats and development experts can defuse crises before they explode and create new opportunities for economic growth'”.  Good luck Hillary, and here’s hoping it all works out.

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Link to Wretchard’s novel “No Way In” print edition
Link to Wretchard’s novel “No Way In” Kindle Edition”