The Wild, Wild East

Everyone knows the scene from innumerable Western movies: it begins in a town where everyone is packing heat. To settle things down the town fathers hire a sheriff who makes everyone to check in their shootin’ irons upon arrival. Then the credits roll. What the movie does not show is the sheriff’s retirement. He hangs up his guns and the town fathers buy him an expensive watch. After the credits everyone goes back to strolling around with a six-shooter.


When president Obama announced his intention to create a world without nuclear weapons, beginning with America, the real signal to the world was that the sheriff was retiring. Hanging up his Colts. And that meant not a “world without nuclear weapons”, but a world in which every man Jack had nuclear weapons. The National Interest examines how America’s Pacific allies are planning to arm up. The article begins with the slow dawning in Asian capitals that the administration has gone fishing.

Publicly and in private discussions, Japanese and South Korean officials insist that they trust US defense commitments. But they ask revealing questions about the conditions under which the United States would act, and how it would do so. They wonder about their roles and responsibilities, as Washington presses them to assume more of the defense and deterrence burden. And they worry about the reduction of roles and numbers of nuclear weapons in US strategy and, despite Washington’s rebalance to Asia, the ability of the United States to defend them well in a fiscally constrained environment. Plainly, US disengagement is a concern.

Well at first they thought it wasn’t true but later saw it was. The article goes on to describe the possible nuclear plans of allies and examines the question of whether America ought to stop the allies from strapping on their own six-guns.

Could these concerns drive Japan and South Korea to resort to self-help and develop nuclear weapons? Both are technologically capable of going nuclear quickly, and this would be the cheapest way of increasing their indigenous military capabilities. But the real question is whether they would be willing to do so. While Japan remains allergic to the idea of crossing the nuclear threshold, there is growing public support, backed by influential elites, for manufacture of nuclear weapons in South Korea. …

What reaction, then, should they expect from Washington? There are two alternatives. One is that while unhappy, the United States would keep its alliances to maintain a favorable balance of power in East Asia….

The second alternative is that the United States would terminate its alliances. Washington would conclude that permitting a nuclear-armed Japan and South Korea to remain as allies would drive others to follow suit. It would assess that the odds of this happening in Asia are high given growing nuclear latency, complex regional dynamics, and the absence of an organization like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to hold US allies and partners together. Washington would also fear that this cascade could spill over into other regions, threatening the entire nonproliferation regime, creating instability, increasing war prospects, and ultimately eclipsing the US role as a responsible stakeholder for international order. Here, nonproliferation considerations would drive the US reaction.


Would America stop its friends from defending itself. Maybe. Past events suggest the administration is only willing to bully its friends. It’s enemies get a free pass on everything. No maybe about that. The US State Department says Russia is repeatedly violating arms control agreements which were key to ending the Cold War.

U.S. State Department officials say Russia has repeatedly violated the terms of a treaty forged by former President Ronald Reagan and then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev by conducting numerous flight tests of a cruise missile — but the White House is so far reluctant to take up the charges and address them with President Vladimir Putin directly.

U.S. military officials warned NATO allies in recent weeks that Russia has been testing its latest ground-launched missile, in apparent violation of the 1987 arms control agreement, The New York Times reported. The treaty has long been seen as the main reason the two nations dropped a Cold War mentality.

Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom, but the administration has no energy for vigilance. It is almost congenitally indisposed to work or competence. But it does do speeches which only require a teleprompter and a nice suit. But speeches only work sometimes. The the president might rail Japan getting nukes because they listen, but according to sources quoted by Politico, Iran has already been given a free pass since they don’t. If you want president Obama to be powerless over you, buy a set of earplugs.

Thus Josh Gerstein at Politico quotes a US intelligence assessment saying that Iran is held back from a nuclear weapon only by its sacred word. That’s as far as they’ll agree to.


Iran’s ability to make missiles loaded with nuclear warheads now rests primarily on the “political will” of its leaders, rather than any technical constraints, according to an annual U.S. intelligence assessment presented on Capitol Hill Wednesday.

“Tehran has made technical progress in a number of areas — including uranium enrichment, nuclear reactors, and ballistic missiles — from which it could draw if it decided to build missile-deliverable nuclear weapons,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in written testimony submitted as he appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee. “These technical advancements strengthen our assessment that Iran has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity to eventually produce nuclear weapons. This makes the central issue its political will to do so.”

Translation: the Iranian prisoner is now securely held in an unlocked jail cell from which he surely cannot escape having given his word not to do so. That’s the administration’s containment policy. A speech and a press release.

The phrase “political will” is interesting in this context. In an interview with CNN, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Jim Sciutto that president Obama’s tough talk on Iran was for “domestic consumption”. That is to say the SOTU happy talk about Iran was meant for the low information voters who believe all that stuff about “a world without nuclear weapons”.

Reality is quite different from talk. Newsweek describes the weasel way in which the administration is secretly letting everyone do what they want so long as they maintain the appearance of control.


as the West and Iran have moved closer to a nuclear accommodation, signs are emerging that the monarchy is ready to give the world a peek at a new missile strike force of its own – which has been upgraded with Washington’s careful connivance.

According to a well-placed intelligence source, Saudi Arabia bought ballistic missiles from China in 2007 in a hitherto unreported deal that won Washington’s quiet approval on the condition that CIA technical experts could verify they were not designed to carry nuclear warheads.

Translation: you Sauids can buy sa revolver if you don’t buy the ammunition at the same time to guard against the possible escape of the prisoner languishing in the unlocked jail cell who’s given his word not to escape.  Just don’t tell the LIVs, we don’t want them to know.

Alan Dershowitz bawls out that he’s been had. What a shock it must be to discover that you’re a LIV after all.

Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz said Sunday that the Obama administration was naive and had possibly made a “cataclysmic error of gigantic proportions” in its deal to ease sanctions on Iran in exchange for an opening up of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

“I think it could turn out to be a cataclysmic error of gigantic proportions,” Dershowitz said of the deal, which he described as “naive.”

Naive? Who’s Dershowitz calling naive? He was the one which supported an administration that double crossed him; he was the guy that trusted the man who stabbed him in the back. And now he complains he’s been shafted.


What was “naive” was to imagine that power did not abhor a vacuum; that one could safely dismantle the Pax Americana and expect things to go on as before. That you could retire the sheriff and the Clanton Brothers would remain as meek as before. What was naive was to think that by playing nice that ruthless men would go away. Everybody sing now, “I’d like to build the world a home and furnish it with love …”

That kind of mindset was hard to understand, it seemed so counterintuitive. But recently I got a clue. A friend in the Philippines reported that the home of a wealthy doctor who lived next door had been invaded by armed men. However the robbers found no money in the house nor anyone of consequence to kidnap, for the inmates were all out to dinner.

But the doctor on returning, brooded over the incident, because he knew they might return; he knew from other incidents that armed robbers were often driven into a frenzy of anger if they found no money the premises and would often take mindless revenge on the cashless victims.

Considering the problem he decided to withdraw a large sum from the bank the next day and stash it in the house against eventualities. “That way,” he told his wife, “if we are robbed again then the robbers will have something to steal.”

Perhaps that is the way the administration has been thinking. It’s perverse thinking but not original to history. It’s called the Danegeld. Give the Dane the gold and the Dane will go away. And that sounds good until you realize it may not work.  There is in this a remarkable reversal of roles with the administration watching too many BBC history specials and while America’s allies have been watching too many Westerns.


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