“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Friday, November 23, 2007

Slap, Counter-slap. China Perplexes.

China has an array of industrial spies roaming the planet. It freely takes and pirates US and western technology with no regard for intellectual rights. China has used purloined technology to cyber attack Germany, blast a satellite out of orbit and has demonstrated it can neutralize the satellite nervous system of the US defense body. A few years ago, China could barely make a stable rocket launch. No longer, the Chinese tuned up their program with purchased and stolen American technology. What is murky about their message? China is an aspiring global power.

Power is a zero sum game. Super power is no different and is fairly easy to understand. Super power rests on a director's stool with three legs.

The first leg is ideology, an intellectual or philosophical model. China is a communist super state rapidly expanding with directed state run regimentalism, capitalism and mercantilism. The ideology is credible because it appears to the rulers and the ruled, that it is working. They believe, because the ideology is producing tremendous wealth which conveniently for the Chinese makes up the second leg, economic power.

There is no period in history where so much wealth and economic power has been created in such a short period of time. From that wealth and industrial power comes the ability to ensure the third leg of a super power and that is military might. The Chinese are rapidly militarizing despite the wishful thinking of many that it is not. China, in a few short years, will be able to neutralize American ability to control events in Asia without Chinese approval. Taiwan will become whatever China wants it to be. The United States will have to adapt to the change.

What is murky about that message?

China's snub of U.S. vessel sends murky message

The aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk's Thanksgiving visit to Hong Kong is scuttled, leaving sailors at sea and their visiting families on land. But Beijing's point is unclear.

By Mark Magnier, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
November 23, 2007

BEIJING -- China's decision to block the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk from a long-planned Thanksgiving visit to Hong Kong, before relenting 24 hours later "on humanitarian grounds," had all the markings of a diplomatic slap in the face, analysts say. It just wasn't terribly clear whose face it was aimed at.

Word spread Wednesday afternoon that China's Foreign Ministry had suddenly and inexplicably blocked a five-day visit by the giant vessel and its strike group, despite prior approval and weeks of planning.

A day later, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told journalists that Beijing would relent, saying its change of heart was "a decision out of humanitarian consideration only." Repeated efforts by foreign reporters to get him to explain the reversal failed.

"It's a little odd," said Eric Hagt, editor of China Security journal, a defense publication based in Washington. "It all seems rather unforeseen and unknowable."

China's Defense Ministry offered no public statement. Nor, said U.S. military officials, did it provide any back-channel explanation.

The Chinese turnaround came too late, said Lt. Cmdr. John Filostrat, a spokesman with the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Hawaii. The Kitty Hawk waited as long as it could, but logistics and bad weather forced it to leave.

The decision was not intended as some sort of U.S. counter-snub, he added. "It's now en route to its base in Yokosuka, Japan."

Pundits near and far sought to explain what appeared to be behind the Chinese government's blunt yet hazy message.

Theories included anger over President Bush's recent meeting with the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Chinese-held Tibet; displeasure over an announced $940-million U.S. upgrade to Taiwan's Patriot II antimissile shield; a desire to send a message before an imminent Hong Kong election; and pique over a U.S. report that criticized Chinese espionage activities.

One reason China may have reversed itself was the prospect of a public relations calamity in the making, although in the end the damage was done. About 8,000 American sailors face several glum days at sea, after hundreds of their family members traveled to Hong Kong from Japan and the United States to meet them.

"Wives, newborn babies, are all sitting at Fenwick Pier," said Paul Buxton, manager of Hong Kong's Quarterdeck Club restaurant, which has a contract to feed and entertain the hungry hordes.

This is not the only time recently that China has made a military move without apparently considering its public relations implications. In January, the Foreign Ministry was caught flat-footed when the People's Liberation Army destroyed an aging satellite, spewing debris in space and sparking questions about the PLA's intentions, why there was no warning and even whether China's senior leadership had been fully informed in advance.

The snafu calls into question whether a proposed military hotline between the U.S. and China would be worth the effort, said Larry M. Wortzel, a former U.S. military attache in Beijing.

Amid the head-scratching, some praised this week's moves, even if they too were uncertain about the intent.

"My guess is the U.S. did something that wasn't so friendly toward us," said Ni Lexiong, a military expert with the Shanghai Institute of Political Science and Law. "It's good to let them know in a rather abrupt way, otherwise they might not notice."

Whatever the reason for this week's flip-flop, a few things stand out, analysts said. Beijing is clearly not happy with U.S.-Chinese military relations, for whatever reason.

"It's become routine to have the Kitty Hawk visit Hong Kong," said Andrew Yang, secretary-general of the Taiwanese-based Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies. "So this sends a strong message to the U.S."

The incident also suggests both that China doesn't always speak with one voice and that it is increasingly willing to play the nationalism card, some said.

"Sometimes the Chinese government gives us an example of how it is not a monolithic organization," said David Wolf, head of a strategic public relations firm in Beijing. "And nationalism is an excellent way to unify everyone behind one guy."

For Buxton, whose restaurant now faces the prospect of disposing of 1,000 pounds of turkey, 1,200 pounds of coleslaw, 100,000 hamburger buns and 3,000 pizzas, the experience has been something of a financial disaster.

"This whole thing is unbelievable," he said. "And everyone says it's not their fault. What can I do, send a chit to the PLA?"

Yin Lijin of The Times' Beijing Bureau contributed to this report.


  1. Quelling anarchy in Iraq, Pakistan, and elsewhere, will require building on tribal loyalties—not imposing democracy from the top down

    by Robert D. Kaplan

    Iraq may be but prologue for what our troops may encounter in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

    Iraq has had three elections that have led to chaos. Bringing society out of that chaos has meant a recourse not to laws or a constitution, but to blood ties. The Anbar Awakening has been a rebuff not only to the extremism of al-Qaeda, but to democracy itself. Restoring peace in Anbar has been accomplished by a lot of money changing hands, to the benefit of unelected but well-respected tribal sheikhs, paid off with cash and projects by our soldiers and marines. Progress in Iraq means erecting not a parliamentary system, but a balance of fear among tribes and sectarian groups.

    Because Iraq was among the most backward parts of the Ottoman Empire, tribalism has always been strong there. The power of the tribes intensified during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, when the state was weakened in part by economic pressures. Because the tribes in Anbar, along the desert smuggling route to Syria, were too strong to subdue, Saddam Hussein had no choice but to co-opt them and make them part of his power structure – exactly as our military has lately been doing.


    The tribal nature of Pakistan is even more pronounced than in Iraq. Pakistan, divided among geographically based ethnic groups, is a nuclear Yugoslavia-in-the-making. Our troops are already in Afghanistan. So it is highly conceivable that we will have boots on the ground in Pakistan’s border area with Afghanistan. This is the true frontline in the war on terrorism, where presumably the leadership of al-Qaeda is ensconced. Our troops will find there a deathly volcanic landscape of crags and winding canyons and alkaline deserts 1,000 miles long and 100 miles wide. In this high desert, the tribes rule: Dravidian Raisanis, Turko-Iranian Baluchis, and Indo-Aryan Pushtuns. Neither the British nor any succeeding Pakistani government has managed to subdue them.

    The tribes of Baluchistan and the Northwest Frontier Province don’t require Western institutions because they already have institutions of their own. What we call warlords are often, in reality, tribal elders who settle divorce cases, property disputes, and other civil conflicts for which we resort to the courts or government. If the American military deploys to these badlands in numbers large or small, it will follow the Anbar example of working with the tribes, greasing their palms for information on al-Qaeda, while accepting their social and political way of life.

    Is Iran invited to the Annapolis Conference?
    We all they are a major player, supporting Hamas and Hezbollah in their disputes with Israel. There will be no agreement if the Iranians are not supportive of it.

    Without Iran's paricipation, no chance of success, to not invite them, hubris and denial of realities on the ground on the organizors part.

  2. So China is not a product of the military industrial complex?

    "hubris and denial of realities on the ground on the organizors part"

    Goodness.. maybe its a Rovian-Delay strategy; similar to your expressed views on Lebanon Desert Rat?

    Rat, do you also go by Al-Wathiq Billah?

    On the Islamist Al-Mohajroon Web site, someone with the username Al-Wathiq Billah instructs readers on how to infiltrate popular Internet forums to distribute disinformation.

    "There is no doubt, my brothers, that raiding forums is among the most important means of obtaining victory in the fierce media war ... and of influencing the views of the weak-minded American who pays his taxes so they will go to the infidel American army. This American is an idiot and does not know where Iraq is ... every electronic mujahid" must engage in this raiding, Mr. Billah writes.

    The writing should, he says, provoke "frustration and anger towards their government, which will ... render them hostile.. and make them feel they must vote to bring the troops back from Iraq as soon as possible."

  3. Rat also wrote that Iran is easily contained...easily.

    The poor, innocent Persians.

    In the Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyassa, Saudi columnist Abdallah Al-Mutairi wrote that the Gulf countries must not remain silent in the face of Iran's threats, but must instead formulate a joint defense plan:

    "Since the beginning of the Iranian nuclear crisis between Iran and the international community as represented by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. Security Council, the E.U., and the U.S., Iran has been making efforts to respond by means of direct and indirect threats to the GCC countries.

    "The most recent threat came from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who declared his country's intent to 'fill the security vacuum that will be created in Iraq when the U.S. forces withdraw.'

    "[We also learned] about the escalation [in Iran's position] from statements by IRGC naval commander Ali Razmjou to the Fars news agency, to wit: 'If the enemies want to launch a military attack, the IRGC has a force that can turn the Gulf into a hell for them.'

    "Likewise, we all remember the editorial by Hossein Shari'atmadari, [1] advisor to Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and editor of the Kayhan newspaper, in which he stressed that Bahrain was a region belonging to Iran and that there are documents proving full Iranian sovereignty over the three islands (Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb, and Abu Moussa). We also cannot forget [Shari'atmadari's] comment that among the Gulf states there are illegitimate regimes that are the product of imperialism.

    "Further, we cannot forget the statements by Ali Shamkhani, top military advisor to the leader of the Iranian revolution [i.e. Khamenei] and former defense minister, who threatened to wage all-out war against the countries of the region if the U.S. attacked Iranian nuclear facilities.

    "We cannot be silent in the face of all these threats and warnings, and in the face of the Iranian threats to the Gulf states' sovereignty and security and of [Iran's] interference in their affairs. We must hasten to come up with serious and unified security measures that the Gulf states can take, and must start preparing a joint defense plan, in order to confront Iran's aspirations in the region, and in order to create a minimal balance of power in the Gulf. Such efforts must be emphasized by conducting large-scale joint [military] maneuvers, with participation limited to the GCC countries.

    "It would be unwise to remain silent in light of Iran's irregular behavior, and to try to make excuses for [Iran's statements] by saying it was just a slip, or that these statements were aimed at the U.S. as part of the verbal war between Iran and the U.S.… In the face of the Iranian cudgel that is constantly being brandished at us, we must direct all of the Gulf's cudgels at it, and must not respond [only] via diplomatic means..."

  4. The Iranian regime transfers weapons to the Taliban even though it hates them, because it wants to fan the flames of war against the democratically elected government in Kabul. The Iranian regime still occupies the Arab Tunb islands, and it has recently threatened to annex Bahrain.

    "The Iranian regime sends weapons to Hizbullah in order to topple the Lebanese government. The Iranian government arms Hamas not only against Israel, but against the Palestinians too, and the massacres perpetrated in Gaza were encouraged by the Iranian regime. It maintains a strategic alliance with the Syrian regime, which is accused of assassinating the former prime minister of Lebanon, as well as MPs. Considering this campaign by the Iranian regime, as well as its interference in Iraqi affairs, by arming terror cells within Iraq - how can you possibly claim that the world is threatening Iran? It is Iran that is threatening the region and the entire world. Its activity has even reached Argentina. In the U.N., the Argentinean president attributed the bombings of the early 1990s to cells linked to Iranian agencies."

  5. No, elijah, I'm just me.

    But you have told us, many times, that Hamas and HB are but Iranian proxies. The conflict the mussulmen have with Israel, today, is actuated by those Iranian proxies. Not the Saudi one, the PLO. The Socialist PLO never being a sectarian organization under Arabfat, nor a front for Iran.

    So if a "Peace" is to be obtained through negotiation, the participents must be included in the talks. Or there are no "talks" just press statements.

    The importance of the Chinese to the discussions in regards Iran, paramount. As both they and the Europeans hold the keys to that kingdom.

    The Chinese taking a harder line in their relationship with US, as this Kitty Hawk episode exemplifies.

    The time to have instigated agressive military actions against Iran, four years passed. That window of operational options has closed for the time being.

    As the focus of US attention will remain peace in Iraq, US withdrawal from there, while the "War on Terror" swings to the true operational front of that "War", Pakistan.

    As that nuclear capable nation-state dissolves.

    Pakistan's Opposition Says Former Prime Minister Sharif to Return to Pakistan Soon
    By Barry Newhouse
    23 November 2007

    Former Prime Minister and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz Sharif is planning to return to Pakistan, ending his seven-year exile in Saudi Arabia. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from Islamabad that the announcement follows an earlier, failed attempt to return.

  6. Exactly, my point, exemplified in that reference, elijah.

    One does not end a war, with negotiations amongst the allies, ignoring the enemy.

    The action center of the conflict has shifted to Tehran, they're now the suppliers of the Intafada's prodigy. The Sauds losing their prominence, through neglect.

    If the enemy does not come to the "Peace Talks" those talks will not result in "Peace".

    Why waste the time or present false hopes, as Team43 is providing.

    Obviously, "Mideast Peace" will not revolve around "Unconditional Surrender" by either side.

  7. In both Iraq and Afghanistan, the Iranian interference is marginal, when compared to the Wahabbist impact in both theaters of operation. That the Wahabbists are ascendent in Pakistan, while civilian authority is under attack, by both the jihadi and the Pakistani Army.

    The US supporting the Army, as it destroys and corrupts civil Pakistani institutions.

  8. Those same institutions that are needed to stabilize Iraq, we subsidize their destruction, in Pakistan.

    Team43 having abandoned the "Democracy Project" across the board.

  9. "Why waste the time or present false hopes, as Team43 is providing."

    Because that is what the left and Islamic world demands. This is how we "mend fences, regain popularity, and show leadership."

  10. "Team43 having abandoned the "Democracy Project" across the board."

    And perhaps rightly so.

  11. Perhaps we should, but perhaps not.
    The majorities in Pakistan do not support the jihadi, nor the General President. Both rule, where they do, by force of arms.

    Neither represent civil authority.

    Should the US abandon the bedrock of it's foreign policy rhetoric of the past sevnty-five years?

    Associated Press: French transport networks started returning to normal today after striking workers ended a nine-day walkout protesting President Nicolas Sarkozy's retirement-reform plans. In a victory for Mr. Sarkozy, the workers voted to end the strike after talks opened on his plan to end special retirement privileges for 500,000 train drivers and other state employees.

  12. Nations like Pakistan and China, with Armies that are self-supporting, not extensions of the government. As they are in the west.

    But where the Army operates independently of the Government, as a State within a State.

    Who controls the Pakistani Army and those nukes, when the Army has a history of not submitting to civilian control.

  13. "One does not end a war, with negotiations amongst the allies, ignoring the enemy."

    Perhaps the goal is to strengthen the Sunni alliance of countries (against Iran) and isolate Syria if it does not attend.

    "Those same institutions that are needed to stabilize Iraq, we subsidize their destruction, in Pakistan."

    Seems Tigerhawk wants to talk with you Desert Rat.

    Neocons at the New York Times?
    By TigerHawk at 11/23/2007

    In its full flower, the Bush administration's decision to promote democracy in the Arab Middle East, even at the expense of "stability" (so clearly articulated by Condoleezza Rice in Cairo in June 2005), is widely regarded by critics of the left and right as the most compelling evidence of the administration's adherence to "neoconservative" ideology. It is curious, therefore, that some of the administration's most strident critics, the editors of the New York Times, seem to be attacking Bush for failing to do exactly that in Pakistan:

    President Bush must work a lot harder to restore democracy — the best hope for holding off the chaos that would make Pakistan an even more hospitable host for extremists. That means that he must make clear once and for all that Washington is firmly on the side of democracy, not more deal-making designed to keep the general in power.

    Hey, that's right out of the neocon playbook!

    Now, Pakistan is not Arab and is not in the Middle East, so perhaps that is a basis to support democratic regime change there and not in Egypt, Syria, Jordan, or Saudi Arabia. If the editors believe those differences are significant they should say so and explain themselves. Otherwise, their position looks more like another opportunistic bashing of the Bush administration instead of a principled and sincerely-held opinion.

    Back to the thread topic...
    China is surprising no one.

    Chinese intentions and American preparedness



  14. Quote of the Day
    "It's no longer a need for return. It's preserving your capital," Treasury-bond strategist John Spinello of Jefferies & Company tells The Wall Street Journal, at time when investors, in their intensifying search for havens, are bidding up Treasury securities and thumbing their noses at just about everything else, from stocks to municipal bonds to government-sponsored enterprises.

    Write to Joseph Schuman at

  15. In those countries tigerhawk mentions, there has not been a retreat from democratic rule, subsidized by US, since 2001.

    Civilian, elected, governence was not overthrown by the Army, not in one of those countries he mentions.

    The General President has promised, as part of those aid packages, a return to democracy. He seems to have reneged.

    Eygpt has experimented with expanded elections, Jordon remains a monarchy of Mohammedan descent, the Sauds remain Wahabbist despots that control or influence most of the players, directly or indirectly, with the power of the spigot.

    I do not think that the NYTimes is advocating military intervention in Pakistan, but a diminished level of US support for the dictator.
    Balanced with the need to use Pakistan as a transit corrridor for troops in Afghanistan.

    In both theaters of the War, US supply lines flow through countries, Pakistan and Turkey, that are not solid allies. Turkey having an ascendent Islamic political majority, Pakistan sliding into civil turmoil.

  16. Nov. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Near simultaneous blasts in three cities in India's most populous state killed at least 13 people and injured 61 others in a coordinated attack on the nation's justice system.

    The attacks occurred near civil courts in Lucknow, capital of Uttar Pradesh state, Varanasi and Faizabad, Amjad Hussain, deputy director in the state's information department said. The devices all exploded at about 1:30 p.m. local time, said A.K. Jain, inspector-general of police in Lucknow.


    These are all soft targets. Weapons and explosives are no more a challenge for these groupings,'' said Ajai Sahni, an executive director of the New Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management. ``Uttar Pradesh has long been a target because it's a poorly administered state and a poor state.''

    The blasts prompted the police in the capital New Delhi, which shares a border with Uttar Pradesh, to increase checks at bus stands, airports, shopping areas and railway stations, Rajan Bhagat, spokesman of Delhi Police, said.

    The government will pay 200,000 rupees ($5,035) to families of those killed in the attack and 50,000 rupees to the injured, CNN-IBN channel reported.

  17. Then, elijah, it is not a "Peace Conference" but a Yalta type Conference.

    Where allies gather to confirm a strategy.

    When the Sauds and the Israeli shake hands, publicly, we'll see how things break in Lebanon.

    And on the Golan
    Just one of the costs of the Syrian buy in

  18. we'll see how things break in Lebanon...

    not well it seems -

    Lebanese President Emile Lahoud declares a state of emergency and orders the army to take control, less than four hours before his terms ends...developing.

    Seems Hezbollah has been busy with their defensive line north of the Litani.

  19. I read the Knesset passed a rule recently saying the government can't give away anything around Jerusalem without 2/3s of them approving it, but can't remember where I read it, and don't know if it is true. I don't understand what role a vote in the Knesset has in these negotitations.

  20. Today -

    Bahrain feels the heat from Iran
    By Con Coughlin

    ....In one of Teheran's more ambitious projects, Ali Larijani, formerly the head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, recently proposed improving Iran's trading ties with Beijing so that Teheran could exert more leverage over China at the UN Security Council. Iran is one of China's major oil suppliers, and only this week signed a new oil deal with Beijing.

    According to the report, Mr Larijani submitted a proposal to Iran's elite group of security officials that, in the event of the UN attempting to extend the sanctions regime to cover Iran's oil exports, Teheran should immediately slow its oil supplies to China as a "reminder" to Beijing of the economic implications of supporting the UN.

    Whether the Chinese will be influenced by that crude ploy is another matter. Beijing has already approached Russia about making up the shortfall if the sanctions regime against Teheran is tightened, which illustrates one of the immutable laws of modern diplomacy: it is just as important to know who your friends are as it is your enemies.

    Oct 2006

    China wants to reinforce its relations with Iran and to deepen its presence in Central Asia with the goal of reaching Caspian energy; tapping Caspian energy would help China lessen its dependence on maritime oil imports coming from the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf, thus better securing the uninterrupted flow of oil.

  21. Olmert is in an even weaker position. His coalition still survives only because there is no alternative in the present Knesset. It includes elements that in any other country would be called fascist (For historical reasons, Israelis don't like to use this term). He is prevented by his partners from making any compromise, however tiny – even if he wanted to reach an agreement.

    This week, the Knesset adopted a bill that requires a two-thirds majority for any change of the borders of Greater Jerusalem. This means that Olmert cannot even give up one of the outlying Palestinian villages that were annexed to Jerusalem in 1967. He is also prevented from even approaching the 'core issues" of the conflict.

  22. And every time china pulls this sorta stunt, it reminds the squabbling folks in Taiwan that no matter their grievances with each other, it's still far better than what they can expect under chinese rule.

    If China wanted to save face before the world by making an about-face, well, it can forget it. Making a petty(everybody knows it was pettiness, the equivalent of a child stamping its feet when he didn't get what he wanted) and stupid decision to punish the US, and then to reverse it suddenly, just makes the Chinese government vacillating hypocrites at best, incompetent provokers at worse.

  23. Easy to fix such behavior once and for all. Divert the Kitty Hawk to Kaoshung.