Geopolitics

NATO or Paris Climate Accord – actions speak louder than words

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Six weeks ago NATO members were outed for being woefully behind their own self imposed promises on defence spending. Seems like self-imposed promises on Paris Climate Accord commitments are just as woefully followed through. Whether saving the planet or saving borders, actions speak louder than words.

Do arms suppliers have a moral compass?

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40 murdered children in Yemen.  The Saudi logic behind the attack was that the Houthi rebels were training these kids as soldiers. A far-fetched claim. Yet where has the condemnation of Saudi’s role on the UN Human Rights Council been? Countless civilian deaths in Yemen at the hands of the Saudi military are nothing new. Where was the outrage then? The decades long proxy war has only accelerated since the assassination of former Yemeni dictator President Ali Abdullah Saleh in December 2017.

CNN looked to put the blame of this latest tragedy at the feet of US defence companies. Surely the Europeans are just as blameworthy for selling the Tornado or Eurofighter aircraft that likely dropped the American ordinance on these kids? Mattis has openly criticized the Saudi attack in this instance.

Arms deals are a dirty business. Let’s not pretend otherwise. Unfortunately these dangerous toys rarely come with a “please use responsibly” section inside the box of instructions. Some might argue that in certain cases users are not of the appropriate age bracket to play with them. Bribery scandals (aka incentives) are often more notable than the weapons deals themselves. Yet have there been incidences of arms suppliers turning down multi-billion dollar contracts?

If we go back in history, the Americans refused to release the source codes to the Saudis in a potential multi-billion dollar US jet fighter sale that would have allowed certain weapons (the US weren’t prepared to supply) to be fired. Even if the Saudis bought the US jets and sourced the banned weapons on the black market they wouldn’t be able to be fired.  Instead the Saudi’s bought the Panavia Tornado because the Europeans were happy to sell a similarly capable platform that the US refused to sell. UK defence contractor BAE Systems won a long term maintenance contract known as Al-Yamamah as a result of this Tornado deal. Why not bash the Brits for taking advantage of the US putting regional security ahead of arms sales in Saudi Arabia?

Perhaps we could question the moral fibre of the US refusing to sell the F-22 Raptor attack fighter to the Japanese. The Japanese top brass pleaded for the plane but US Congress refused to approve it claiming the billions required to redo all of the computer systems and source codes to ensure it had a lower capability than the USAF plane. The reality was more likely to prevent a leakage of its capability (something that had occurred when the Japanese ordered Aegis destroyers). The result was Japan didn’t get them even given its peaceful history post WW2.

Should we bash the Russians for supplying military hardware has been behind the deaths of over 100,000 Syrians? Or Ford for making the car that ran down people in Westminster?Or should we question the operators of these tools?

If we really want to get petty the Paveway Mk-82 bombs responsible for killing these kids were sold to the Saudi’s in a deal made in 2013 under the Obama administration. Was it Obama’s fault in allowing the sale? CM doesn’t believe he is but interesting that CNN left the period of sale out. Easier to attack the $110bn arms sales going forwards.

40 dead children is a tragedy. Arms deals are far from if ever holy. The instruments of death are sadly not always deploy in manners which are either moral or ethical. The Iranian backed Houthi almost sunk a French made Saudi frigate in the Red Sea at the beginning of last year. Several Emirati patrol boats have been severely damaged by the Houthi in the same area, the most recent incident occurring  last month. There are countless skirmishes along the Yemeni/Saudi border.

Unfortunately the Saudis and several other gulf states are key allies of the US in the proxy war against Iran/Russia. Do not expect a wholesale change in US arms deals with Saudi Arabia for the foreseeable future.

In closing perhaps people might question China’s new interest in the Middle East? Many may have missed it has deployed 5,000 troops (including special forces) in Syria since 2017. Geopolitics seldom look to protect the rights of anyone other than the home side. Don’t pretend it does otherwise.

Comparing gender fluidity in the military vs this 77yo telegram

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While the gender neutral PC brigade strives to prevent hurt feelings by way of compelling correct pronoun usage in the military, perhaps they might reflect on how Lt. Norman Martin Peterson was feeling at the time he telegrammed his wife in 1941. Only true veterans can possibly understand how precious life is when living day in and day out under live fire against people sworn to kill them. They never knew when their number might be up. Yet our top brass want to cloak our soldiers in imaginary verbal flak jackets.

75 years ago, this is what Lt Peterson of the 1st Australian Field Ambulance had to say about the people who took for granted the very freedoms he and his mates sacrificed so much to provide. The military is no place for snowflakes.

“Well on reading about some of the women you were telling me about I feel a loathing for such hypocritical parasites. Is this what men are laying down their lives to protect? I sometimes wish that they could see how a bloke looks like when he is unburied for a couple of months, a skeleton with boots and clothes on, eaten by ants. A grinning skull and shirt black and stiff with congealed blood. Or a few Japs scattered around a shell hole with leg bones protruding from their boots…

…I wonder and think that these bones were a few months ago living people, with their loves and hates, wives and mothers, and sweethearts, posted as missing, they are frequently seen in the jungle, unburied until found. Then I think of the mongrels safe in Australia and having a great time the bastards – pardon my eloquence but I really get worked up over the mongrels that are not worth the little finger of the boys on the job defending their pseudo honour and their miserable little lives.”

When a man can see sadness and pity even for his sworn enemy, it makes one reflect on the horrors of war and why we should spend much more time honoring our military’s  bravery rather than protect cowardice by hiding behind compelled speech indoctrination.

#ThinkAboutIt

How much do Americans care about Russia?

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According to Gallup, in a list of concerns for Americans, Russia ranks less than 1% and has been falling. Regardless of the media noise on collusion, election meddling and treason these polls show how irrelevant the issue appears.  Over 40% see illegal immigration and draining the swamp as key issues. There is no question that Trump’s presser with Putin was a howler but despite the media’s constant negative coverage of the event, the MSM don’t seem to be hitting a nerve with Main Street.

Here is a classic 10 min video released before the election in the poorest county in West Virginia. The folk feel forgotten. Calling them uneducated, stupid, bigoted or any other insult is hardly the stuff of winning them over. They are not living the dream. One even called Trump a blow-hard and a buffoon but he will vote for him as he looks to provide his family a better way out of financial destitution he is in. One person, one vote. Still even if we wanted to think Russian collusion, CM applauds Putin for keeping 10s of millions of registered voters at home on Election Day.

For more details on the Gallup poll please refer to this link.

Mulligan Brexit again

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Rebel Tory MP Justine Greening is calling for a second referendum on Brexit to end a parliamentary deadlock. There was never any doubt that ‘leavers’ wanted OUT of the EU. It was pretty clear cut. “Leave the European Union ✅ or ❌” Not half in or any other form of compromise. At what point will politicians get it through their thick skulls that constituents do not want mulligan politics? If some don’t like the outcome, just keep swinging until can deliver the minority the result they wanted? Best of three? Why not conduct parliamentary elections this way? Swing and a miss!

UK PM Theresa May has shown utter incompetence in executing Brexit. She stupidly called an election which cost her a majority forcing her to side with the DUP just to hold onto power. She couldn’t read that the electorate was sick of voting as CM pointed out at the time. She was punished for it, despite the massive lead in the polls she had. One might almost think it was deliberate given the soft stance she has taken on Brexit and the total disregard for the referendum.

Despite jawboning last week there would be no negotiation post the resignations of David Davis & Boris Johnson she has had to cave in to hard line Brexiters (305 vs 302) on the Customs Bill. A narrow 303-300 vote to exit the EU’s VAT scheme post-Brexit was also reached. Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Peter Dowd said, “it took two years for the Prime Minister to reach her Chequers deal, but only two days for it to fall apart.” He is not wrong. May has bungled it so poorly one wonders if it isn’t deliberate.

What should be seen here is that politicians (from any party) voting against what their constituents put forward will be political suicide over this.  There is a genuine sense in the House of Commons that all of this will somehow wash over like politics has for decades.  While many might see the ructions inside the Tories as a godsend for Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn (to an extent it is), even he has to realise that almost 40% of his party’s voters wanted to leave, meaning the members from those areas that expressed their intent leaves mixed messaging for the party as a whole. Watch for a resurgence in UKIP.

In any event May needs to go. She should resign. It is unlikely that she will. She is even thinking of bringing summer recess forwards to reduce the chances of a no confidence motion although both Labour & Tory members have quashed the idea of this. 48 members must write letters to the 1922 backbench committee to call a no confidence motion and Theresa May would need to win over half the 316 seats held.

Yet we only need to look at drunkard EC President Jean-Claude Juncker and ask why any UK politician thinks there is merit in negotiating with an unelected mob that can’t walk in a straight line even when sober? Keep calm and Brexit hard.

Presidential behaviours

While the glass jawed POTUS has many shortcomings, surely the unelected EC President Jean-Claude Juncker does the EU absolutely no favours by being sozzled to the gills at a NATO summit. One has to ask PM Theresa May how she thinks the EU is a credible opponent to negotiate Brexit? No deal seems a no brainer.

NATO – 19 nations may hit 2% promise 18 years after committing to do so

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It is a farce. In 2006, NATO Defence Ministers agreed to commit a minimum of 2% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to defence spending. This guideline, according to NATO,  “principally serves as an indicator of a country’s political will to contribute to the Alliance’s common defence efforts.” In 2017, only 5 of the 28 members outside the US have met the 2% threshold – Greece, Estonia, UK, Romania & Poland in that order. Despite Greece’s economic problems elsewhere, it manages to honour the deal. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said “the majority [not all] of allies now have plans to do so by 2024.” 3 more are expected to hit the target in 2018. So for all the good will in the world, is POTUS wrong to call the other 19 members slackers that ride off the US taxpayer when so many of them are only likely to hit the target 18 years after ‘committing’ to it?

NATO commitment in 2017 can be seen as follows.

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Although all credit to the Europeans and Canadians for getting away with it for so long. Previous US presidents have obviously not concerned themselves with getting a fair deal on mutually agreed commitments. Although in what world would American taxpayers be upset to see the rest of the team pick up the slack?

Naturally the media are getting mileage out of the insensitive bully attacking his supposed allies. In fact Stoltenberg said last month on record that, “burden sharing will be a key theme of our summit next month, and I expect all allies to continue their efforts.” He reiterated that to Trump yesterday.

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To be brutally honest, how effective can a NATO force truly be if words aren’t put into action? What good is a promise if it is to be honored 18 years later. Imagine if that is the mindset should NATO be forced to act militarily. Would those meeting their obligations feel within their rights to have a bigger say in how NATO should work?

The problem with such a lack of commitment is that over the 12 years where 23 nations have not come close to meeting their obligations, the sum total of the actual defence capabilities suffers for the duration. The US is 67% of total NATO spend and the UK, France  & Germany make up half of the remainder. Yet building a sustainable capability in defence does not come through half measures or poorly thought out procurement. What is missed on many is that over 70% of defence budgets are allocated to soldier pay, housing, healthcare, training and so forth. Procurement and RDT&E get funded out of the balance. Have a skirmish somewhere and yet more money is chewed out of buying new equipment for the sake of logistics (feeding 10,000 troops and servicing hardware in a foreign land). Then there is the subject of terribly managed procurement programs.

Take the French disaster that is the aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle. Despite delays because of problems with a retrofit for radiation shields, the naval brass had to add 14 feet of deck because it realized that the E2-C Hawkeye surveillance planes it purchased couldn’t take off and land in its original build spec. Even now the flight deck is not long enough to conduct simultaneous launch and recovery operations. Even worse the blueprints for the CdG‘s propellers had been lost in a fire, which meant that the ship had to be refitted with hand-me down screws from carriers Foch and Clemenceau which meant her speed was cut from 27 knots to about 24 knots—which was unfortunate since her predecessors steamed at 32 knots. Speed to war zones is kind of important to gain a decisive edge. All of the spend to fix poorly thought out designs cuts from being able to procure other equipment and materiel. Scary to think Australia is buying 12 subs from the French! The problems are already revealing themselves despite not one boat having hit the dry dock.

History tells us many things of how NATO type organisations have failed in the past.The Peloponnesian Wars (431BC – 404BC) highlighted how things can change when allies do not keep up commitments and capabilities aren’t maintained.

Athens required her Delian League member states (consisting of city states mainly along the Ionian Sea) to pay tributes (phoros) to the treasury which was used to build and maintain the naval fleet led by Athens. Yet over time the member states relied too much on the wealth of Athens and over the course of the draining war and the costly campaign to Sicily, failed to honour the ever increasing demands to fund the league with the appropriate level of tributes which drove Athens into massive debt. Defence spending by the Athenians had been cut to around 30-60% of the average over the previous decade. The Delian League’s capabilities dwindled as a result and the Spartans, funded by Persia, took advantage of this and crushed it for good, in the very art of war that Athens was renowned for – the navy.

It is not hard to think of Trump feeling like a modern day Pericles. NATO is the Delian League and its projected enemies chip away all the while members dither over commitments, forcing the US to sustain the limited capability. Like the Athenians, the US has the most powerful navy in the world with a fleet bigger than the next 11 countries combined but even it has pared back the number of ships to less than 10% of what it had in WW2. Enhanced capability is one factor in cutting the surface fleet but even the US DoD realised that the conventionally powered US Kitty Hawk consumed 2% of the entire US military fuel bill annually so it was taken out of service to save money.

One can argue the $750 billion annual defence budget is plentiful but the US realises that power projection is an expensive business. Even Japan understands it can’t stay nestled in the bosom of US stationed forces forever without taking a proactive stance to defend itself. That is the same message to the 19 members NATO failing to pull their weight.