Da Doo Ron Ron

When Japan was facing a resource crisis in the years immediately before the Second World War the strategists of the imperial general staff considered two broad options for expansion: the Hokushin-ron (or Northern Expansion) would put them on a collision course with the primary Eurasian land power: the Soviet Union.  The Nanshin-ron (or Southern Expansion) on the other hand, would put them in conflict with the maritime powers: Britain and above all, the United States.  We

David Goldman, better known as 'Spengler', argues that China, as today's dominant Asian power, is  facing the same dilemma.  Like imperial Japan, it needs energy and resources.  One path to the oil wells lies to its West through Russia.  The other and maritime road is in the grip of Japan and the United States.  Spengler argues that despite America's fears that the Dragon will breaks its chains in the Pacific, it has already chosen to push past the mangy Bear as the path of least resistance.  The push will be commercial and economic in nature but in the end it will be the sleek Dragon over the emaciated Bear.

The whole Eurasian landmass is likely to become a Chinese economic zone, especially now that Russia is more amenable to Chinese terms. That the Americans would have helped bring this to fruition by tilting at windmills in Ukraine baffles the Chinese, but they are enjoying the result.

The economic impact of this is hard to fathom, but it is likely to extend Chinese influence westwards on a scale that the West simply hasn't begun to imagine. It is not at all clear whether China has a clear idea of what the implications of the New Silk Road might be. The implosion of America's geopolitical position has placed risks and opportunities at Beijing's doorstep, to Beijing's great surprise.

A year ago, Chinese officials privately reassured visitors that their country would "follow the lead of the dominant superpower" in matters relating to Middle East security, including Iran's attempts to acquire nuclear weapons. For the past several decades, China has allowed the US to look out for the Persian Gulf while it increased its dependency on Persian Gulf oil. By 2020, China expects to import 70% of its oil, and most of that will come from the Gulf.

China, like America, needs energy. But Beijing unlike Washington, can unabashedly defend its interests. And it has not hesitated to show its flag for oil. The Business Insider reports that Beijing is sending hundreds of soldiers to Africa "to shield its oil industry", citing Column Lynch at Foreign Policy.

The Asian powers are much more stone-faced than the West. As the Chinese send troops to Africa to outpost its oil, the New York Times notes that Tokyo is rewriting the history books to airbrush the imperial crimes out of the narrative.

“They are using intimidation as a way to deny history,” said Mr. Uemura, who spoke with a pleading urgency and came to an interview in this northern city with stacks of papers to defend himself. “They want to bully us into silence.”

“The War on The Asahi,” as commentators have called it, began in August when the newspaper bowed to public criticism and retracted at least a dozen articles published in the 1980s and early ’90s. Those articles cited a former soldier, Seiji Yoshida, who claimed to have helped abduct Korean women for the military brothels. Mr. Yoshida was discredited two decades ago, but the Japanese right pounced on The Asahi’s gesture and called for a boycott to drive the 135-year-old newspaper out of business.

Speaking to a parliamentary committee in October, Mr. Abe said The Asahi’s “mistaken reporting had caused many people injury, sorrow, pain and anger. It wounded Japan’s image.”

These are things the West can never do.  Its elites are obsessed with white guilt which suffuses everything. Recently McClatchy reported that "President Barack Obama will welcome the 566 leaders of federally recognized tribes to Washington Wednesday. Or, as he’s referred to by the tribal leaders, Barack Black Eagle Obama."

In the aftermath of the 2014 elections American politics appears to have split in two. Chief Black Eagle, having been beaten everywhere else, is busy fighting the color wars.  There's the Green War. He has suddenly become very concerned with regulating ozone. There's the Black War in Ferguson Missouri. There's the Brown War as exemplified by the amnesty of illegal aliens.  There's even the Red War as he accepts delegations from the former stronghold of Sitting Bull.

The other part of the body politic sees civilians doing what government used to do. The oil industry has crippled Russia and possibly Saudi Arabia.  Reuters reports that Exxon, not the State Department, is the principle prop of Kurdistan.  It's crazy.  The bugle has sounded for the settlers to ride to the rescue of the cavalry.  And there they go.

Christine M. Leah, a postdoctoral Grand Strategy Fellow at Yale University hopes that Japan and Australia will nuke up to fill the vacuum left by the withdrawal of American power. Leah writes that Asia once relied on American "extended deterrence" to hold the Dragon at bay. But that was then. Today that job is better left to Japan and possibly Australia.

But there is a better, cheaper way to provide security in Asia. We should encourage our allies to acquire their own nuclear weapons. With nuclear weapons Australia, Japan and the others would have the capability to protect themselves from bullying. Nearly all of the allies are rich enough and technologically advanced enough to acquire and maintain nuclear forces. And those who are not—the Philippines, for example—lose much of their vulnerability once the focus shifts away from conventional defenses of the island chains. Nuclear weapons helped prevent the Cold War from turning hot. In Asia they can stop a conventional arms race that is forcing the United States to invest in weapons that can block the Chinese military on its doorstep, thousands of miles from our own. Let our Asian allies defend themselves with the weapon that is the great equalizer.

Talk about a reversal of fortune. Ironically the administration is in the very fix it had hoped to avoid. The Russia which the administration had tried to Reset is being hit hard by an energy sector it had tried to hold back. As Michael Birnbaum of the Washington Post points out: "plummeting oil prices are doing to the Kremlin what sanctions could not: forcing a grim rethinking of Russia’s economic future."

Nine months into the worst relations between the West and Russia since the Cold War, the plunging price of oil is causing deeper and swifter pain than the Western sanctions that have targeted key areas of Russia’s economy. Russian leaders said Tuesday for the first time that their economy will head into recession next year. In a nation where oil and gas exports largely determine the bottom line, lawmakers are slashing spending promises. And the ruble is hitting historic lows every day. ...

Given how dependent Russia is on energy revenue, the decline in oil prices has forced policymakers to confront a grim future in a way the sanctions have not, analysts said.

The "world without nuclear weapons" is threatening to become a world full of nuclear armed states like Japan. As the consequence of achieving the opposite of the intended result, the West isn't prepared for a Russian pushback.

After decades of cashing in on the peace dividend, it simply has no Plan B. Jakub Grygiel and Wess Mitchell argue in the National Interest claims that NATO is wedded to the doctrine of trading space, which it doesn't have, for time that it doesn't have either in the event of a military confrontation with Russia.

An unspoken truth in the Alliance is that NATO’s unevenly distributed force structures and fractious politics virtually guarantee that it would lose territory if attacked. Frontline NATO states are too small to defend themselves for long against an attack, and the Alliance refuses to maintain large forces on their territory. Thus in the event of an enemy’s assault, the Alliance would inevitably have to trade space for time, as weak Central European forces succumbed to a stronger opponent while larger Western states use complicated diplomatic mechanisms to generate political unity and organize a military response. In the best of scenarios involving a clear-cut attack, strong Allied leadership and quick political consensus, this could take several days. But against a Russian limited-war incursion like that used in Crimea, NATO’s defense-in-depth strategy could take weeks to come into play because the initial impulse to mobilize an alliance-wide response would be tempered by the end of the hostile advance. In a worst-case scenario, a military response might never come at all, as Alliance members bickered over whether the ambiguous nature of the incursion represented a real attack warranting Article 5.

This divided America has become like a zombie power. It's disembodied head is still giving speeches on social justice at a Teleprompter, while its decapitated body is overpowering energy rivals, preparing to mine the asteroids and conjuring up one astounding technological innovation after the other.  Even the Department of Defense is still defending themselves reflexively like a boxer who has forgotten how to give up. Eli Lake and Josh Rogin write that Ashton Carter, the man widely expected to be nominated to replace Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, is in many ways a policy hawk.

He has been a public advocate for modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal, a step opposed by the more dovish side of the arms-control community. When Carter was an academic, before the Obama presidency, he took a hard line on Iran, arguing that the U.S. should use diplomacy and other kinds of coercion to end the country’s enrichment of nuclear fuel. He even advocated for a pre-emptive strike on North Korea’s missiles. During his tenure as deputy secretary of defense, from 2011 to 2013, he was one of the strongest opponents in government of the mandatory defense budget cuts known as sequestration.

In the process the zombie has been sending mixed signals to onlookers. Everything is out of reckoning. Spengler writes that China never imagined a Washington acting contrary to its own self interests -- working against itself and winning somehow anyway. Beijng must now be studying the dictum of Otto von Bismarck who reputedly said, "there is a special providence for drunkards, fools, and the United States of America."

China did not anticipate the end of the free ride from the Americans, and it isn't sure what to do next. It has tried to maintain a balance among countries with whom it trades and who are hostile to each other. ...

The Chinese view has changed radically during the past few months, in part due to the collapse of the Syrian and Iraqi states and the rise of Islamic State. It is hard to find a Chinese specialist who still thinks that the US can stand surely for Persian Gulf security. Opinion is divided between those who think that America is merely incompetent and those who think that America deliberately wants to destabilize the Persian Gulf.

Now that the US is approaching self-sufficiency in energy resources, some senior Chinese analysts believe it wants to push the region into chaos in order to hurt China. One prominent Chinese analyst pointed out that Islamic State is led by Sunni officers trained by the United States during the 2007-2008 "surge" as well as elements of Saddam Hussein's old army, and that this explains why IS has displayed such military and organizational competence.

China is still looking for a rational explanation to insanity. But history teaches that events arise as much from miscalculation as planning.  Nothing goes according to plan. The Japanese took the Nanshin-ron to Pearl Harbor so many years ago, not  because they knew what they were doing but because they rolled the dice and lost. Leaders repeat mistakes not so much because of what they remember, nor even because of what they forget, but simply due to the oops factor.

A friend once told me that the continued survival of the human race in the face of its fecklessness can only be explained by two possibilities: divine providence or the oversight of Space Aliens. Of course he was joking, but sometimes I wonder. Was he?


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