Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hezbo'allah finally nailed

for the 2005 assassination of then-Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri:

Lebanon was last night braced for a violent reaction from Hizbollah after senior operatives from the militant group were accused of masterminding the assassination of the former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri six years ago.

In a long-awaited move which threatens to reawaken sectarian discord throughout the country, the Shia group was blamed by a United Nations Special Tribunal for the car-bomb attack on its leading Sunni opponent.

Latest additions to my library

Failure of Empire: Valens and the Roman State in the Fourth Century A.D., by Noel Lenski.

Falaise -- The Flawed Victory: The Destruction of Panzergruppe West, August 1944, by Anthony Tucker-Jones.

Stalin's Revenge: Operation Bagration & The Annihilation of Army Group Centre, by Anthony Tucker-Jones.

What was it about capitalists selling the rope used to hang them?

Or in this case buying the rope that will be used to hang them?  From Business Insider via Instapundit:

Last year, the U.S. Navy bought 59,000 microchips for use in everything from missiles to transponders and all of them turned out to be counterfeits from China.

Wired reports the chips weren't only low-quality fakes, they had been made with a "back-door" and could have been remotely shut down at any time.
If left undiscovered the result could have rendered useless U.S. missiles and killed the signal from aircraft that tells everyone whether it's friend or foe.
Apparently foreign chip makers are often better at making cheap microchips and U.S. defense contractors are loathe to pass up the better deal.

French arming Libyan rebels (or The Folly of Arms Embargoes)

It ain't workin'. That's the way you do it:
According to an article in the Wednesday edition of the French daily Le Figaro, France is arming rebel forces to the south of Tripoli in the hope of facilitating a rebel assault on the Libyan capital and the fall of the Gaddafi regime. The armaments, which are being parachuted into the Nafusa mountain region, reportedly include rocket-launchers, assault rifles, machine guns, and anti-tank missiles.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Pakistani ISI and Somali pirates?

Is Pakistan becoming a center of evil to join such places as Iran, Syria, North Korea and Venezuela? Between the obvious ISI support for bin Laden, their creation of the Taliban and the very large, very nasty Islamist faction within the country's northwest territories, you start to wonder.

Now Galrahn says this:

People have long asked where Somali pirates are getting all of their good intelligence from. They seem to know where the easy to hit ships will be, by name and all. There is ample evidence that Somali pirates are not working with Iran and they also do not appear to work in coordination with any Al Qaeda affiliated groups. One of the biggest questions that has popped up as a result of several different events over the last several months is how much influence and apparent connectivity ISI Chief Ahmed Shuja Pasha has with Somali pirate leaders. My sense is the relationship between Somali pirates and the ISI is the next big pirate story on the verge of busting into the media.

Dare we to dream?

Rumors abound of possibly the single biggest case of addition-by-subtraction this millenium, but are they true?

There have been many articles on the medical condition of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. However, beyond reporting that he was hospitalized soon after his arrival in Cuba on June 8 (allegedly for surgical treatment of a pelvic abscess), is still there, and has  been uncharacteristically uncommunicative, they have been based mostly on rumors and the speculation they produce. Miami, Florida, has a significant Venezuelan expat community and there have been lively discussions there about Chávez’s condition and what his death would mean. Although they have access to more information than most folks in Venezuela, they seem to be up in the air as well. Chávez may have died in Cuba on the morning of June 25. According to a tweet from WikiLeaks Argentina, “BREAKING NEWS! The president of Venezuela Hugo Chavez died in Cuba this morning. 06/25/2011 08:43AM.” The WikiLeaks report has been received with great skepticism, was discounted in a Business Insider article, and has not generally been picked up by the media, probably for good reasons. There was an article on June 27 (in Spanish) in Periodista Latino — apparently published in Spain principally for Latin American expats and said to be based on reports by an anonymous reporter in Havana — claiming that Chávez has been in a coma for five days due to septicemia and that he is in one of Fidel Castro’s houses under tight security lest there be leaks of information such as might happen were he in the hospital. It is said that European physicians and lots of medical equipment are there to care for him. True? It makes at least as much sense as other claims. The fact is that nobody in a position to make credible, factual, and substantive statements is willing or otherwise able to do so. 

Classy

Taliban Uses 8 Year-Old Girl in Police Station Bomb Attack.

That's not all: they tricked the little girl into delivering the bomb.

Can you get any more loathsome than this?

Why does anyone even think we should be negotiating with barbaric scum like these people?

We are at war with the Taliban, a war that they initiated.

Don't negotiate with them.  Don't even talk to them.  Just kill them and be done with it.

(Ooops!  Am I being "uncivil" again ...?)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Coming to a head in the South China Sea?

Communist China's bullying involving the contested Spratly Islands in the South China Sea continues to increase.  Now the Philippines, who also claim the Spratlys, are wondering if new measures are needed:
Lawmakers on Thursday urged the House of Representatives leadership to summon officials of the Department of National Defense (DND) so that they can brief Congress on the ongoing security situation in the West Philippine Sea.
The House also wants to find out the specific mission orders and rules of engagement issued to BRP Rajah Humabon and other maritime assets which are conducting sovereignty patrols in the disputed Spratly Group of Islands.

Monday, June 20, 2011

I just love the headline

F-16s Threaten Königsberg.  Not my headline, but that of StrategyPage:

In a move certain to agitate Russian nationalists, Poland has signed an agreement allowing the U.S. Air Force to base warplanes and transports in Poland. Thus, within two years, the U.S. plans to have F-16s and C-130s stationed in Poland. This is seen by Poland as a further protection from Russian pressure and threats. For over two centuries, Russia has regularly threatened, and often seized parts of, Poland. Russia is not happy with anything that might prevent more such moves in the future. Since the United States is a nuclear power, Russia will be constrained from moving on Poland as long as American troops are stationed there. But the Russians will definitely not like it, and this pleases the Poles a great deal.

"Archaeological shields"

Kimberly Alderman at the Cultural Property and Archaeology Law blog has a post about UN efforts to protect two archaeological sites, Ghadamès and Leptis Magna,  from the war in Libya:
 
The United Nations cultural organization has called on the warring parties in Libya to protect two World Heritage List sites, one of which has reportedly been shelled already and the other that is said to be a potential target of NATO air attacks. The Old Town of Ghadamès, known as “the pearl of the desert,” was shelled by Government forces over the weekend, according to media reports. Other reports have said that NATO has refused to rule out the possibility of bombing the Roman town of Leptis Magna, east of Tripoli, which allegedly has warehouses of Government arms.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Who is this guy?

OK, I have an unresolved issue from my trip to Rome a few months ago.

The first night I was in Rome, I stepped outside my hotel, the Hotel Victoria Roma (which I highly recommend), on the Via Campagna, to try to take in the fact that I was in Rome, a place I've studied for more than two decades, a place that I've loved from afar.

My first order of business was finding one of the famous SPQR manhole covers, which I did around the corner.  But what really struck me was this bust, in an alcove of the Aurelian Wall caddycorner from the Victoria Roma:



Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why so Syria?

With so little media coverage of the events in Syria, it's hard to tell what is going on there.  Judith Levy at Ricochet gives a primer:

The Assad regime has sharply ratcheted up its crackdown on Syrian civilians, and reports are emerging that Iranians and Hezbollah members are assisting them. That assistance, according to several reports including that of a Syrian defector interviewed on camera, entails shooting Syrian soldiers in the back who refuse to fire on protesters.

Achaemenids, Sassanids, now ... Khomenids?

The Iranian mullahs are making their next overt move at creating an evil empire:
Last Thursday, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani — while at the Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University in Indonesia — stated that Iran will use its missiles to defend other Muslim nations if threatened.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Turkish elections

If you were following the elections in Turkey -- and, really, who wasn't? ;-) -- you might be understandably puzzled by the results, as well as the analysis. 

Barry Rubin gives a summary:

The stealth Islamist party, Justice and Development (AKP), received almost exactly 50 percent of the vote. Under the Turkish system this will give them an estimated 325 members of parliament, or about 60 percent of the seats.
On the opposition side the social democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP) got about 26 percent of the vote and 135 seats. The right-wing nationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) took 13 percent giving it 54 seats. Eleven parties didn’t make the minimum ten percent barrier (they received only about 1 percent or less). There are also 36 independents who are in fact Kurdish communalists.
Now is this good or bad?

Analysis of Egypt and its future

from Lee Smith, author of The Strong Horse: Power, Politics, and the Clash of Arab Civilizations.  It's too long to quote, but its chock full of good stuff.  Just read the whole thing.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Secretary of State calls for Special Prosecutor to investigate Special Prosecutor

I don't normally talk Indiana politics, but I couldn't resist the headline.  Advance Indiana has the details:
The special prosecutor who brought criminal charges against Secretary of State Charlie White alleging he committed voter fraud by casting a vote in a precinct in which he allegedly did not reside is facing a criminal complaint against him for the very same charges he has brought against White. The person leveling the charges against Special Prosecutor Dan Sigler is Secretary of State Charlie White. If the allegations White alleges against his accuser are true, it's a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
Advance Indiana shows the text of White's complaint.  I can't say I find White's complaint impressive.  The consistent theme of White's defense can be seen threaded through this document.  For instance:

Is the Arab world capable of democracy?

This has been the $64,000 (plus applicable sales taxes) Question since at least the start of the war in Iraq in 2003.  Perhaps the real question should be how the Arab world defines "democracy," as Salim Mansur explains:

In the long run, everything can likely work out and Arabs hopefully may learn to distinguish between mobocracy, as a tyranny of the majority, and democracy, as a rule of law, in which minorities are protected as equal members of society.
But in the long run, as Lord John Maynard Keynes — the revered economic guru of the liberal-left — pointed out the obvious: “In the long run we are all dead.” What matters is whether in the short or medium term Arab politics can break out of its closed circle of traditional consensus that frowns upon innovation as heresy.
The problem is culture. Arab culture, despite tremendous changes that have occurred elsewhere in the world, remains resilient in adhering to traditional values of patriarchy and the tribal order of father (leader) knows what is best for his tribe or nation.

Setting up for action in Syria?

Los Angeles Times' blogger Andrew Malcolm notes some interesting parallels between the Obama administration's rhetoric on Libya and its recent statements about Syria:
When President Obama launched missiles and warplanes against Libya's longtime dictator Col. Kadafi in March, it came after a series of public warnings from both the president himself and his press secretary, Jay Carney, in support of pro-democracy demonstrators and against the regime's violent reactions.
The ongoing attacks against Libya, which Obama said would last days not weeks, began as the president launched several days of travel around South America.
Obama later justified the aggressive U.S. and NATO action against Libya as necessary to snuff the "threat" of a humanitarian crisis in Benghazi where the ruler had vowed to kill protesting civilians.
At that time critics pointed to Syria, Yemen and elsewhere as places where violent repressions were already occurring and wondered about possible U.S. actions there, as well as an over-commitment of U.S. forces, now involved three military conflicts.
[...]
Carney flatout calls the deadly crackdown by Syrian security forces an existing "humanitarian crisis." Rights organizations estimate more than 1,000 civlians have died there in recent weeks at the hands of security forces of President Bashir al Assad.
On Syria, the administration seems to be moving at the speed of glacial ice.  It's well past time for us to take action of some sort against Assad.  Even rhetorical action.

Inside Istanbul/Constantinopolis

Michael J. Totten has a very interesting interview with the lovely and talented Claire Berlinski, a journalist based in Istanbul, about what is going on with the Turkish government.

The biggest item I take from Berlinski is that the Turkish government lives in a fantasyland with respect to Iran, not understanding that Iran has changed since the days of the Ottoman Empire and that the interests and objectives of the Iranian government are not aligned with those of Turkey in the slightest.  The AKP is maybe not as Islamist as most people, including myself, fear, but is instead stoking Islamism for domestic political gain.  A dangerous game, to be sure.

I also noted a hint that the Turkish government is turning against Syria.  Relations had been warming in recent years, in spite of the chronic Alexandretta/Hatay issue.

Read the whole thing.

Background on the Falkland Islands

from Fausta Wertz.

As he makes clear, Argentina has no legitimate claim, geographic or historic, to the Falklands.  None.

And the Obama administration has no legitimate reason to support Argentina's claim.  None.

What is a bit disconcerting for me is the thought that if Argentina does invade the Falklands like they did in 1982, does Great Britain even have the capability to take them back?  Remember that Britain has just made draconian cuts in the Royal Navy.

If Argentina does go to war with Britain again, over the Falklands, I'm guessing that the British will have to withdraw their support for American military actions across the globe to come up with enough troops to handle a Falklands situation.  That would hurt US efforts around ther world.

Again, what possible benefit to the US does Obama think this policy could have?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Inexcusable

Barack Obama sides with Argentina in their dispute with Great Britain over the Falkland Islands.  Even though Britain is our closest and most important ally.  Even though the residents of the Falklands consider themselves part of Britain and want no part of Argentina.  Even though Argentina invaded the Falklands in 1982 and Britain had to fight a war to get them back.

Fausta calls it "Another slap in the face for Britain."

I cannot think of any possible justification for this change in US policy.  None.

Don't get your hopes up

This Los Angeles Times article titled "Syrian reports suggest divisions in security forces" sounds more than a little overblown:
Gunmen in "military uniform and government cars" were responsible for the recent killings of as many as 120 Syrian security forces in the northwestern city of Jisr Shughur, the official Syrian Arab News Agency said Wednesday.

The news agency's statement could signal a dramatic division within Syria's security forces and lend credence to opposition claims of clashes between forces loyal to President Bashar Assad and those refusing to take part in a violent crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrators.

Monday, June 6, 2011

June 6

So much happened on this date in World War II: the Battle of Midway was ongoing in 1942, and in 1944 the D-Day invasion began.

We should all remember. Personally I watch either Midway or The Longest Day on DVD.



Friday, June 3, 2011

Istanbul or East Chicago?

With elections coming up in Turkey, slowly succumbing to an Islamist government, Claire Berlinski, citing a piece by Turkish columnist Yusuf Kanli, notes a sudden, massive increase in the numbers of registered voters:
Less than two weeks before the June 12 parliamentary elections, there is a glossy public opinion poll on my desk. Like many people, I do have an allergy against public opinion polls because of the bad reputation that whoever pays for them is presented with the results that would most please them. Of course that does not mean all the public opinion polls are crooked or faulty. Definitely there are companies in Turkey doing public opinion polls through scientific means and indeed objectively.
Another problem is, of course, the sudden increase in the number of eligible registered voters. This issue, which somehow escaped attention of all of us, was brought to the forefront by Bülent Tanla, a former politician and a pioneer of public opinion polls in Turkey. Only last year at the Sept. 12 referendum, the number of eligible registered voters was around 49 million and in 2007 it was 42 million and in 2002 it was 41.4 million. In 2010 and 2011, it all of a sudden reached 49 and 52 million, respectively. How? Are Turks multiplying like rabbits? Particularly, how have Turks multiplied by three additional million since September 2010, resulting in the number of eligible voters increasing from 49 million to 52 million? What has happened? Or, has someone placed in his pocket in advance some 10 percent of the vote in case of any emergency? It smells bad, does it not?

Is a Middle East food crisis around the corner?

By now we're pretty much used to the crisis du jour out of the Middle East: Israel, oil, Islamism, corruption, tyranny, human rights, etc.  Now a piece in the Asia Times says we are facing another one: food.
I've been warning for months that Egypt, Syria, Tunisia and other Arab oil-importing countries face a total economic meltdown [citations omitted]. Now the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has confirmed my warnings.

[...]

The numbers thrown out by the IMF are stupefying. "In the current baseline scenario," wrote the IMF on May 27, "the external financing needs of the region's oil importers is projected to exceed $160 billion during 2011-13." That's almost three years' worth of Egypt's total annual imports as of 2010. As of 2010, the combined current account deficit (that is, external financing needs) of Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Morocco and Tunisia was about $15 billion a year.

What the IMF says, in effect, is that the oil-poor Arab economies - especially Egypt - are not only broke, but dysfunctional, incapable of earning more than a small fraction of their import bill. The disappearance of tourism is an important part of the problem, but shortages of fuel and other essentials have had cascading effects throughout these economies.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Failure of government at its most basic level

The primary purpose of government under the social contract -- not the Constitution, but the theoretical social contract -- is to protect its citizens in their life, liberty and property from the predations of others, foreign and domestic, so that civilization may flourish.  Citizens voluntarily give up some of their liberty and ultimately some of their property to achieve this security. 

Alas, many have forgotten that most basic of principles.  Case in point, literally, is the case of Brown v. Plata, in which the Supreme Court ordered the release of some 46,000 convicted criminals from California prisons.  Because of what? Ultimately, prison overcrowding, which SCOTUS says in this case prevents a constitutionally adequate level of medical care. The pseudonymous Pajamas Media blogger Jack Dunphy explains in more detail.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Barbarians

So says Prof. Glenn Reynolds, rightfully, about this story:
A senior Egyptian general admits that "virginity checks" were performed on women arrested at a demonstration this spring, the first such admission after previous denials by military authorities.
The allegations arose in an Amnesty International report, published weeks after the March 9 protest. It claimed female demonstrators were beaten, given electric shocks, strip-searched, threatened with prostitution charges and forced to submit to virginity checks.
At that time, Maj. Amr Imam said 17 women had been arrested but denied allegations of torture or "virginity tests."
But now a senior general who asked not to be identified said the virginity tests were conducted and defended the practice.

A sign your government has become truly oppressive

It bans rare hamburgers

Nice going, North Carolina.  You've taken a great American tradition -- the warm, soft, juicy hambuger -- and turned it into a Canadian tradition -- a hockey puck.

We can also give a tip o' the hat to the trial lawyers on this one.

Jerks.