“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."

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Korean crisis and US carrier diplomacy

The Korean crisis and US carrier diplomacy

BBC infographic

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington and its escorts are heading for the waters off the Korean peninsula, in the aftermath of the flare-up between North and South Korea. This is very much gunboat diplomacy 21st Century-style.

Indeed, the George Washington has already been deployed there this year, following the rise in tensions after the sinking in March of the South Korean warship Cheonan - widely blamed on the North.

Then, as now, it was to send a series of messages - supposedly of reassurance to the South, and deterrence to the North.

It is a move that the United States has made many times in response to crises during the Cold War and since.

In many ways, the US fleet of aircraft carriers has been as much a diplomatic instrument as a military tool. The US Navy proudly boasts that in virtually every crisis, the first question every US president asks is: "Where is the nearest carrier?"

The USS George Washington in Manila, the Philippines - 4 September 2010The USS George Washington has experience in the waters off the Korean peninsula

For example, the United States deployed the nuclear-powered carrier USS Enterprise to the Bay of Bengal as a show of strength during the Indo-Pakistani war in 1971.

Similarly, a US carrier was sent to the waters off Libya in 1981 in a stand-off, and two US fighters actually shot down two Libyan combat planes.

In 1996, at a time of tension with Beijing over Taiwan, President Bill Clinton despatched two aircraft carriers to the region.

And throughout the 1990s, during various flare-ups with the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, Washington signalled its seriousness by how many carriers it dispatched to the Gulf - on occasions, as many as three.

Carrier envy

No other country has a carrier force like the Americans have.

And whenever you go aboard a US carrier, there is almost always a moment when you'll be talking to the captain on the bridge.

North Korea: Timeline 2010

26 March: South Korean warship, Cheonan, sinks, killing 46 sailors

20 May: Panel says a North Korean torpedo sank the ship; Pyongyang denies involvement

July-September: South Korea and US hold military exercises; US places more sanctions on Pyongyang

29 September: North holds rare party congress seen as part of father-to-son succession move

29 October: Troops from North and South Korea exchange fire across the land border

12 November: North Korea shows US scientist new - undeclared - uranium enrichment facility

He'll expansively wave a hand in the direction of the huge flight deck and make some remark about it being four acres of sovereign US territory that can be parked off any shore to send any message that Washington wants to send.

For that reason, emerging powers like India and China are thinking seriously about building up carrier forces of their own.

But will Pyongyang get whatever message Washington is sending in that direction?

It did not seem to the last time the George Washington was deployed.

And will it be enough to reassure Seoul?

There are other sensitivities as well. Beijing has already complained about this deployment, as it did the last one, which then led to a change of plan about where exactly the George Washington operated.

In a time of growing strategic competition between the United States and a rising China, the US carrier force in the Pacific is an important symbol.

It is a signal of US determination to maintain a presence.

At the same time, there is a heated debate over the significance of China's moves to develop a ballistic missile designed specifically to target carriers.

It also explains why there was consternation in Washington when a Chinese submarine unexpectedly surfaced close to a US carrier strike group on exercise south of Japan in 2007.


  1. About 20 U.S and South Korean naval vessels have begun maneuvers off the west coast of the Korean peninsula. That is probably about as many guns as were used firing artillery shells at South Korea.

    The South Koreans have basically done nothing since four of their people were killed by the Norks.

    U.S. officials say the war games were planned before last Tuesday's North Korean artillery attack on a South Korean island. All of this is going on while the Chinese do nothing to restrain North Korea.

    Coincidentally, Japanese voters headed to the polls on Okinawa Sunday to choose between two gubernatorial candidates both campaigning for the removal of U.S. Marine base.

    WTF. It is almost 2011. This is not our problem. Four South Koreans were killed by North Koreans?

    Guess what is happening on our border.

    Coincidentaly again, six US citizens were killed in less than a week in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez, including two students in the latest attack.

    Two US students from the University of Texas at El Paso, across the border, were killed in a shooting attack on their car in Ciudad Juarez on Tuesday, bringing the "total of six over the past week who have been fatally shot," said US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley.

    Four Americans were also killed in Ciudad Juarez over the past weekend, including a minor, Mexican officials said.

    Do we have one armored personnel carrier heading to the Texas border?

  2. Where are all the dot connecting mother fuckers when you need them?

  3. Where are the patriotic Americans that should be telling Washington and the Pentagon that our killing-at-national-borders problem is in Texas, not in Asia?

    How many of these patriots were camped out at the borders of big box retailers on Friday morning fighting for the privilege to buy Made-in-China goods?

    We even had one US marine down, stabbed in Best Buy.

  4. Let the Japanese. Taiwanese, Koreans and Chinese solve their own problems.

  5. Think, before we start waving the Chinese made American flag, to support this nonsense.

  6. China and India are both rich countries, they can build carriers if they want to.

    NorK may have some type of nuclear capability. The Japanese could, Charlie Chi-com does, without a doubt.

    As President Johnston told US

    "The guns and bombs, the rockets and the warships, all are symbols of human failure."

    LBJ, he knew his stuff, he definitely was a failure, as a President.

    "We are not about to send American boys 9 or 10 thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves."

    He talked the talk, but could never walk it.

    A tasty pudding he served up, debt incurred treasure spent, blood split, all to no good use.

    To an end that was never justified by the means.

    But the US was a rich country, we could afford it.
    No pain, no gain.

  7. Anyway, while you sleep and our rulers and masters are busy blowing your money protecting
    Korea's borders...We have a "Houston, we have a problem" moment in, where else, California:

    Oakland is poised to join a handful of cities in creating a municipal identification card that is touted primarily as a way for illegal immigrants to prove their identity.

    But unlike programs in other locales, Oakland's plan will be the first in the nation to create an alternative banking system for the poor, with the ID doubling as a full-service debit card.

    Card holders will be able to load money onto their cards, freeing them from the vulnerability of walking around with cash or relying on costly check-cashing outlets.

    Read more:

  8. Maybe we should carpet bomb North Korean gun positions with debit cards.

  9. We look foolish.

    An absolutely, inspired post, and subsequent comment. HMS Invincible. Perfect.

  10. Come on, Deuce, these are scenes we've all seen, before.

    A tin pot dictator rattles his sword, the US responds. We over extend and pay a huge price for sending our boys, "over there".
    Until it is "Over, over there".

    And it never is, over, over there.
    We've remained in Europe for over seventy years and still counting.

    We stay in Japan, for seventy years and fail to understand why ALL the elected politicos in Okinawa want US to leave. Get in a huff about it, we do. Why those ungrateful bastards, we'll show them who's boss.

    While in Iraq and Afghanistan, we do not play to win, as if the US just "being there" was enough.

    Making a half hearted effort, as if that were proving our heart is "in the right place".

    A microcosm of modern America, where "trying" and "competing" are equivalent to "winning".

    No losers, here.
    It is like listening to a carnival barker hitting his stride.

    "Everyone's a WINNER!"

  11. These fools are just now figuring it out

    CNN -- When the president decided to send more troops to a distant country during an unpopular war, one powerful senator had enough.

    He warned that the U.S. military could not create stability in a country "where there is chaos ... democracy where there is no tradition of it, and honest government where corruption is almost a way of life."

    "It's unnatural and unhealthy for a nation to be engaged in global crusades for some principle or idea while neglecting the needs of its own people," said Sen. J. William Fulbright, then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in 1966 as the Vietnam War escalated.

    Fulbright's warning is being applied by some to Afghanistan today. The U.S. is still fighting dubious wars abroad while ignoring needs at home, says Andrew J. Bacevich, who tells Fulbright's story in his new book, "Washington Rules: America's Path To Permanent War."

    Is America on the path to 'permanent war'?
    By John Blake

    We're going to party, like it was 1984!

  12. Scenes that the whirled has seen before

    Chinese villagers 'descended from Roman soldiers'

    Genetic testing of villagers in a remote part of China has shown that nearly two thirds of their DNA is of Caucasian origin, lending support to the theory that they may be descended from a 'lost legion' of Roman soldiers.

  13. Every sentient being in the Universe understands that this is just Kim jung Il showing the boy how to get "goodies" from the dummies.

    And, we play right into his hands. Send a Carrier, and bluster around the "hood."

    It's embarrassing.

  14. Rufus, thanks for the "sentient"

  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

  16. I imagine ol' Khan brouht him a few fair-haired, green eyed beauties back from the Ukraine, or thereabouts.

    Or, Afghanistan. Those ol' boys look kinda like "Afghanis."

  17. You have to admit, an aircraft carrier is a hell of a big boat.

  18. It's so big it could destroy
    San Francisco in an hour or two.

  19. PORTLAND, Ore. — A Somali-born teenager who thought he was detonating a car bomb at a packed Christmas tree-lighting ceremony downtown here was arrested by the authorities on Friday night after federal agents said that they had spent nearly six months setting up a sting operation.

    NY Times - Oregon Suspect Planned Grand Attack

    Mr. Mohamud was arrested 20 minutes before the tree-lighting ceremony started. As he was taken into custody, he kicked and screamed at the agents and yelled “Allahu akbar,” an Arabic phrase meaning “God is great,” the authorities said.

  20. It is so big ...
    It makes an inviting target for a nuclear capable adversary.

    The uninvited guest: Chinese sub pops up in middle of U.S. Navy exercise, leaving military chiefs red-faced


    That was on 10NOV2007.

    Wake up and smell the 21st Century.

    Carriers are analogous to the battleships of WWII.
    Obsolete relics of the past.

    Well past their prime.

    Just the HMS Invincible was, in June of 1916. An era had already passed, but the British Admirals would not admit it. They were heavily invested in the past.

  21. Where would that Somali born immigrant have been, without six months of assistance from the FBI?

    That is the question that the defense will be asking.

    If the Somali immigrant has pockets as deep as John Zachary DeLorean, he'll not be convicted. Doubt that he does, though.

  22. The Bismarck was a German battleship and one of the most famous warships of the Second World War. The lead ship of her class, named after the 19th century German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, Bismarck displaced more than 50,000 tonnes fully loaded and was the largest warship then commissioned

    Sink the Bismark!

  23. So, this may be what Irish austerity is going to look like:
    Among other things, the austerity package will involve the loss of about 25,000 public-sector jobs, equivalent to 10 percent of the government work force, as well as a four-year, $20 billion program of tax increases and spending cuts like sharp reductions in state pensions and minimum wage. One Dublin newspaper, the Irish Independent, estimated that the cost of the measures for a typical middle-class family earning $67,000 a year would be about $5,800 a year.

  24. The Irish people are mad. They see themselves as being forced to bail out their banks. There is some merit to their arguments but the Banks didn't get themselves into the crisis by themselves.

    If you and a friend steal a car and go on a joy ride, you can't claim to be innocent because you weren't driving or didn't hotwire the car.

  25. "Every immigrant who comes here should be required within five years to learn English or leave the country."

    — Theodore Roosevelt

  26. Obviously a carrier is more vulnerable than it was 20 years ago. That is a technological problem, What about the political problem?

    If someone takes out a single carrier what is the response? What happens to the appearance of American power? What will be the demands made on the political leadership when the only possible response is a huge doubling down?

    These questions should argue for the sober judicious use of carriers. Clearly carriers by themselves cannot restrain a power like China.

    A war involving China over Koreans killing Koreans is an absurd cost.

    Sending out a carrier up against a nuclear power is leading with your chin, a good idea if you want to intimidate but only if you are also prepared to exercise the entire military capacity of the US. This does not raise to that level of threat.

    Perhaps you think you can make a point with China, but why over this when the South Koreans do almost nothing to respond?

    The Chinese are not going to take that type of provocation lightly. What is the upside with China? Will it be in our interest to see an aggressive Chinese Blue Water Navy in Latin America, off the coasts of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela?

    If we have a serious showdown with the Chinese, will the Koreans be there? Will Japan?

    The Koreans would not sign an agreement to buy American products under the same conditions which they enjoy selling their products in the US.

    Let them solve their own problems.

  27. The Irish are always mad, they are always mad and wild. It is best if they have some Scandinavian in them, or some Italian.

  28. It is moronic.

    No win. All loss.

  29. Against a modern nuclear power a carrier is as worthless as tits on a boar hog.

    S Korea can take care of N. Korea on their own, and the last thing we need to do is provoke China into some ignorant response. After all, their politicians are just as stupid as ours are.

  30. The Falklands war showed what a missile can do against a battleship.

    A carrier should be like a pistol. Best kept holstered until drawn for use.

    I'm in favor of closing our bases and withdrawing from the Korean peninsular.

  31. You can fly F18's off a carrier against Iraq, or F35's against an Iran, and "Wow the world;" but against a China, or a Russia, it's all ICBMs, and "Boomers."

    And, Missile Defense.

  32. As for S. Korean Trade. We should treat them, and China the same. "Mirror image" their actions. They charge a 25% tariff on our goods, we charge the same levy against theirs.

    They subsidize their shipworks, steel mills, and cars, we just tell them to keep their favored products out of our ports.

  33. I suspect these NoK provocations are an initiation or a rite-of-passage for new leadership.

    The new recruit/gang banger/maximum leader must make his bones by "capping" somebody.

  34. The only politician in Washington, that I'm aware of, that has a lick of sense is Ron Paul. And, he's crazier than a bedbug.

  35. WE're running a $ Trillion Deficit, and the jack-offs in charge, that just barely missed bringing down the entire world's financial system, want to take our mind off of it by going over there and fucking with China.

    Meantime, we have a hundred thousand troops traipsing around Afghanistan guarding the poppy patch.

    Meanwhile, we have 100,000 troops stationed in Europe blowing our money as fast as the fat-ass generals can figure a way to piss it off.

    General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, GE, Exxon, Haliburton get rich building crap in China, and pumping oil in the Mideast, selling it to us, and leaving their profits, and "investment money" over there.

    We are governed by Thieves, Charlatons, and Fools.

    Elected by the stupidest people in the universe.

  36. including the stupid asshole that can't spell "charlatan."

  37. Am I reading you guys right? In response to NORK belligerency you advoacte we withdraw our troops from Korea?

  38. No, we've been advocating that for years.

  39. You have? The first I've seen much mention of it has been in response to the current episode.

    The situation is as it is. We have troops there. The NORKs have shelled the South and the only suggested response at this site has been to withdraw and leave the issue to be solved by those in the region. Correct?

  40. They should have been gone a long time ago. We can't leave "next week." But as soon as this nonsense dies down we need to go.

    Actually, this would be a real good time to get some troops out of Europe.

  41. Ash, the "suggested response" is to leave the carrier group at home. Or put it off the coast of Somalia. Or catching drug traffickers off San Diego.

    But to run around waving a carrier group off the coast of China is idiocy. What good things can happen? What "Bad" things can happen?

    We look like drunken cowboys.

  42. And, this isn't a knock on your muslim soulmate, Obambie - at least, not any more than it is our idiot admirals, generals, and assorted state assholes.

  43. Rufus, you are suggesting the US response to be as the South Koreans apparent response to date - no response, turn the other cheek?

  44. Drunken Cowboys taking the first step in mobilizing for war.

  45. A war that hasn't, in fact, ended yet.

  46. I find it interesting that the cold warriors here, advocates of attacking Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Syria (well rat anyway) are wringing their hands at the deployment of a carrier group in the region of an ally still at war that we co-fought whom has a mutual defense treaty, and US troops on the ground. Too boot, the villain behind the loonies of the North, China, would lose big on the geo-political stage if the South won.

  47. If we had rolled into Syria, in 2003, instead of bogging down in Iraq, then the storyline would be much different, today.

    We did not roll against State sponsors of terror. That's a fact.

    No need to do so now, in Korea.

    The Koreans are more than capable of defending themselves against the North. Korea has not been unified, in three thousands years of their history. It has always been two or three distinct Kingdoms. It remains so.

    The US has no pressing national interests, there, in their civil squabbles.

    Just as we have none in Iraq or in Afghanistan.

    When the US decided it was in our national interest to disrupt and destroy State sponsors of terror I certainly supported US doing so.

    Knocking off the Baathists in Syria would have been as easy as toppling Saddam. That we decided that the Iraqi were not capable of governing themselves, not part of the "War on Terror", but a geopolitical mistake, made by the Bush Administration.

    We should have left Iraq to the Iraqi, and have been gone from there, by June of 2004. Leaving behind a society segmented by regions, religion and ethnicity.
    Kurd, Sunni and Shiite. Mr Biden was correct in his assessment of the situation, there.

  48. This comment has been removed by the author.

  49. I really doubt anything in going to happen between the Koreas. China calls the shots, and China likes trade, trade, trade.

  50. The situation is as it is. We have troops there. The NORKs have shelled the South and the only suggested response at this site has been to withdraw and leave the issue to be solved by those in the region. Correct?

    Ash, If the US were to withdraw post haste from Korea, the Nork's would fly into a panic making the assumption that the US wanted to get our troops out of range so we can bring in the big stuff if needed.

    All in all, it would make an interesting strategy. Get them out but don't say why.

  51. I would assume the ROC's would sign a trade agreement without much further debate.

  52. If you're packing heat, it is best not to brandish it unless you are prepared to use it and expect to face all consequences know and unknown.

    Obama put as much thought into sending that carrier as he does stepping proudly onto AF-1.

  53. If I was King of North Korea, I'd just sit there, and enjoy myself as King.

    Though, being a compassionate man, I'd 'loosen' things up a bit, feed the people, etc.

    I sure as hell wouldn't start a war.

  54. The ROC's would not win.

    They would fight to avoid casualties while the Norks' fought a war of attrition.

  55. Let the ROC's put up or shut up. 15-25 field guns and four killed does not equate to a carrier group.

    It is their problem. I want a carrier group of APC's on the Texas border in response to far greater provocation and real US interests.

  56. .
    Kurd, Sunni and Shiite. Mr Biden was correct in his assessment of the situation, there.

    I used to think Biden was pretty sharp when it came to foreign affairs. My opinion of him started to change when he came up with the plan to divide all mean all Iraq into three completely autonomous regions.

    He's a nitwit.


  57. I keep thinking ROK and type ROC, must have CDS, China Deranged Syndrome.

  58. If we followed that advise we would have the interesting consequence of Northern Iraq being occupied by our ass-stabbing friends in Turkey.

    The temptation for Iran to cradle the Shiites would have been irresistible. That really would have been one for the books.

  59. Blogger Deuce said...

    If you're packing heat, it is best not to brandish it unless you are prepared to use it and expect to face all consequences know and unknown

    I'm guessing that Obama and his generals are aware that one need to be prepared to have a bluff called.

  60. heh, there is a coyote, out by the pool, on the deck. I live a couple blocks from a wheat field, they wander over sometimes. Cute critters, thankfully the cat is inside. They often yowl at night, they have nice voices, once you get used to it.

  61. He's gone now, he went loping off.

    Just stopped by for a "hello".


  62. I'm guessing that Obama and his generals are aware that one need to be prepared to have a bluff called.

    Care to make a short list of political and military assumptions that failed? In every case, I am sure the public, et tu Ashe, mostly believed that they, the rulers and masters, must have known what they were doing.

  63. I used to think Biden was pretty sharp when it came to foreign affairs. My opinion of him started to change when he came up with the plan to divide all mean all Iraq into three completely autonomous regions.

    I disagree. He drinks too much, but that wasn't a bad idea.

  64. I'm not saying they necessarily know what they are doing or are brilliant but the possibility of getting called out on a bluff is pretty basic stuff. I'm sure they know that they may have to use the carrier group if they deploy it. They may figure the odds are low but there is that possibility.

    If the war does go hot you certainly want some decent assets in place with 28,000 US troops on the ground there. The notion that withdrawing them now is quite laughable given the state of tension in the region even if you don't say why (tough given the nature of US politics).

  65. Then there is the logistical problems of an immediate withdrawal. Fantasy foreign policy really.

  66. Nothing is going to happen in Korea.

    China calls the shots.

    Trust me.

  67. There's a better chance I'll get together with Melody than a dust up in Korea.

    Trust me.

  68. You don't get it, Ash. It's a provocation with No "upside."

  69. China is laughing. This costs them nothing. They have a great trade arrangement with North Korea and South Korea. The US gets to sell Korea and China on an exclusionary basis. China rips off as much US technology as possible and makes deals all around the world buying commodities with US dollars and then selling their goods into the markets where they buy commodities.

    The Chinese smile while the US provides a 911 service to the world, further obligating itself to its creditors.

    What is the US strategic interest in Korea? To save them from their trading partner China?

  70. Meanwhile:

    Whistle-blowing website Wikileaks has released 250,000 secret messages sent by US embassies which give an insight into current American global concerns.

    They include reports of some Arab leaders - including the Saudi king - urging the US to attack Iran and end its nuclear weapons programme.

    Other concerns include the security of Pakistani nuclear material that could be used to make an atomic weapon.

    The widespread use of hacking by the Chinese government is also reported.

    The leaked US embassy cables also reportedly include accounts of:

    Corruption within the Afghan government, with concerns heightened when a senior official was found to be carrying more than $50m in cash on a foreign trip.

    Bargaining to empty the Guantanamo Bay prison camp - including Slovenian diplomats being told to take in a freed prisoner if they wanted to secure a meeting with President Barack Obama.

    The extraordinarily close relationship between Russian PM Vladimir Putin and his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi.

    Alleged links between the Russian government and organised crime.

    American and South Korean officials' discussions about the prospects for a unified Korea should North Korea collapse as a viable state.

    Sharply critical accounts of UK military operations in Afghanistan

  71. We are to trust the government through the TSA to protect us from a terror threat.

    Meanwhile the US Armed Forces has a security system that allows a PFC to cop 250,000 secret files.

    I am sure they must know what they are doing in the Pentagon.

    The TSA grabs 75 websites because they are selling Chinese mad knock-offs, but they can't seem to turn off the Wikileaks site, protected by the major power player, Iceland.

  72. More About Wikileaks

    WikiLeaks was set up in 2007 by journalist and computer programmer Julian Assange.
    The Australian, whose parents met at a protest against the Vietnam War, says he wanted to allow whistleblowers to publish sensitive materials without fear of being identified.
    Mr Assange, pictured below at a press conference in July following his first major expose, says his website's complex set-up is designed to ensure that information sent to it becomes anonymous before it is passed on to the web servers..

    Its servers are spread all over the world and do not keep logs, so governments cannot trace where the information is being sent and received from
    Even so, WikiLeaks encourages donors to post the material to them on CDs to its base in Iceland, over encrypted internet connections or from net cafes.
    The service, which also runs a network of lawyers to defend its publications and sources, claims that none of its informants have been traced so far.

    Read more: here

  73. He's not bad, really.

    I'm kinda proud of him.

    Local boy made good.

  74. The star lights of heaven
    Are earthed below your feet
    The rush of the water
    Is the sound you greet

  75. Jean-Claude Juncker, the head of the Eurogroup, which represents the 16 euro nations, said private creditors would be forced to take losses only if ministers agreed unanimously that the country had run out of money.

    He said that if a country is merely facing a crisis of liquidity, it would get financial help similar to the bailout agreed for Ireland.

    European Central Bank chief Jean-Claude Trichet said making senior bondholders - chiefly banks that loan to other banks - suffer losses when a nation's finances head toward bankruptcy would be ``fully consistent'' with existing IMF policies.

    EU Bailout

  76. China, as North Korea's major ally, has come under pressure to use its influence to rein in Pyongyang, but Beijing has so far refused to take sides, publicly calling for "restraint" from all parties.

    Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi has held talks with his counterparts in the United States, Russia, Japan and South Korea, and State Councillor Dai Bingguo - China's most senior foreign policymaker - is currently in Seoul. Dai met with South Korea's Foreign Minister Kim Sung-Hwan and held talks with President Lee Myung-Bak on Sunday, it was reported.

    The president's office said Lee had told Dai that China must take "a fairer and more responsible stance" in its dealings with North and South Korea.

    Meeting With China

  77. Sarah Fires Back

    Deuce, you may be right. Maybe she is unelectable. I will be voting for the Republican candidate whoever that is.

    But you must forgive me, she was born here, she went to school here, and she can give a hell of a good speach - without a teleprompter.

    I love that woman.