17 December 2009

Around the world in 365 II

part i

5) Civilian surge? I must have missed that anyone took that idea seriously. Let's just move on.

6) Brazil and China. The fact of China's marching around making deals with Latin America and parts of Africa isn't really news (at least if you've been paying attention). The fact that Brazil had an aircraft carrier however escaped my attention. Checking further, it's really an old French one. It is true "a" Chinese aircraft carrier wouldn't amount to very much (the US has 11 with at least one more on the way). A fleet of Chinese aircraft carriers, combined with hordes of cruise missiles and a rather large and reasonably advanced air force might start to make the "two Chinas" policy look a bit unproductive in short order however. We're not there yet. India upgrading one of their two carriers is likely to be a useful counterweight here as well.

7) Even with all this security, we don't have any security. Which isn't surprising. We have the dumbest sort of security imaginable: visible systems. And to make it worse, we have paired that with unaccountable methods that may or may not be systemic. A passport with some sort of biometric scanner isn't really my idea of a necessity to prevent intrusions and attacks, but would it have been really that hard to do the actual background work necessary to issue them (and if it wasn't that hard, why did we need the biometric scans in the first place?)

8) Russia is still Russia and power is still power. Should surprise no one that journalists and critics of Russia/Russian-backed governments aren't safe. That's been going on for a long while since the flailing attempts to institute a free press within a democratic system (something we've not managed to accomplish in our ill-fated attempts at conquest in the Middle East).

9) Not content to merely inform Ugandan (and Rwandan) politics, we're also back in business funding militant regimes against erstwhile terrorist organs in Central Africa. This, along with the on-going saga of the pirates in Somalia, is a unregarded front against international terrorism (which is only natural for American politics and news given that genocidal rates of death in Africa barely move the media's attention levels to a whisper and that leaves low intensity warfare with some mass murder on the side to be totally ignored). I will admit that it might be sensible for us to go in and remove violent groups of opposition, in particular charismatic or terrifying leaders of such groups, and this may be true even if those leaders do not pose immediate or direct national security interests. The question for me is less who needs killing and more how much should we invest in getting our hands bloody to do it. And I'm not simply talking about the cost in money or even the lives of our soldiers. That attack cost almost 1000 civilians their lives in retaliation. Which seems about like the rates of death in occupied Iraq already for our troops versus civilian casualties. If we do have to go around grabbing up or killing people, I'd like to have some idea that the execution of that strategy will actually save some lives at some point down the line (if not immediately).

10) 13% of the CIA is smart enough to work at the CIA. Uhm, why exactly do we have people who work in the intelligence community who don't have any understanding of other cultures, even most basically as to speak their language? That percentage is so low that I actually have trouble believing it to be accurate. It may be true that the demand for Farsi and Arabic and Pashto are new. I didn't know that we just recently started considering the Chinese or the Russians as people worth keeping an eye on. Or even our allies in Europe, Korea, Japan, Israel, etc. Not everybody around the world speaks English. About the only major language I'd be questionable about needing for espionage purposes is Spanish, and this is largely because most of our policy problems with Latin American countries are more like police enforcement issues rather than geopolitical ones. Even Cuba and Venezuela are pretty easy to marginalize if someone wanted to take the time and effort to do it and if the espionage resources are focused on their allies in Iran or Russia or China instead.
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