16 December 2013

China’s Unmanned Carrier-Based J-20 is a Pipedream (For Now)

For years to come an unmanned, carrier-based 5th generation stealth fighter will remain a fantasy in Beijing.

By Harry Kazianis
Loyal readers of Flashpoints know any type of new Chinese military weapon or gadget is always a hot topic of conversation for this blog. And rightly so—Beijing has presented us defense geeks with new ballistic and cruise missile technology, a new carrier with rumors of a domestically built flattop allegedly under construction, fresh ICBM’s, increasingly advanced submarines and more. The rumor mill is always churning with new developments and technologies to digest and dissect.

The latest buzz coming from the always accurate Chinese press seems too good to be true: Beijing’s best and brightest—at least according to one expert—is looking out into the future and sees a need for China’s 5th generation stealth fighter to join carrier operations. Oh and by the way, the idea is to make them unmanned.

Now to be fair, the report in the People’s Daily on November 28th is more like speculation by a Chinese military expert than actual confirmations of a green-lighted project. Still, that such a report could be remotely taken seriously shows how far China’s defense industry has come in just the last few years.

“Interviewed by a reporter, military expert Li Li said that in the future China would need unmanned stealth attackers that could be transported by aircraft carrier or effectively partnered with the J-20.

When asked what kind of unmanned stealth attackers China would most need, Li Li answered that craft that could complete long-distance in-depth attacks on enemy targets would have to be large unmanned stealth planes weighing 6 to 10 tons, because only planes of such size and weight could carry sufficient ordinance.

In addition, the plane must have stealth capacity in order to be able to penetrate defensive perimeters. Although the cost of an unmanned plane is lower than that of a manned plane, the lower cost is of no value if the craft cannot meet mission requirements. Therefore, solving such problems as stealth material and aerodynamic shape represents a comprehensive development project.”

Dear President of China

Police in Tiananmen Square. A duel between China and Western media seems to be coming to a head.

Published: December 14, 2013

From: A Friend of Your Country.

Dear President Xi, in recent years there’s been a tug of war inside the global investment community between those who think China is a bubble about to burst and therefore a “screaming short” and those who believe that China has big problems — but also big tools and smart leaders — and will find a way forward, even if at a more normal growth rate. I lean toward the second camp, but looking at some of China’s recent behavior I’m beginning to wonder: Maybe your system is more frail than I thought?

I say that as someone who wants to see China succeed in empowering its people to realize their full potential so they can better participate in shaping China’s future and integrate with the world. Anyone who is telling you that American policy makers want to see China fail doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Our two economies and fates are totally intertwined today.

So, I wish China’s people well. Many Americans do. That is why I am writing you today. I believe you’re about to make a terrible, terrible mistake.

The Chinese-language websites of The Wall Street Journal and Reuters were recently blocked, and those of Bloomberg News and The New York Times have both been blocked for months. More important, The Times and Bloomberg together have more than 20 journalists in China whose visas are up for renewal by the end of December and, so far, your government is refusing to act on them — in apparent retaliation for both organizations exposing the enormous wealth amassed by relatives of senior Chinese leaders, including yours. The rumor is that you intend to deny both organizations the right to report from China.

China experts tell me that this unprecedented crackdown is prompted by your feeling that we’ve crossed a red line. You apparently thought the rules of the game were that the foreign press, local media and social media could write anything they wanted about corruption and social protests at the local and provincial level — indeed, it was a way for the central government to track and curb corruption — but that such focus should never be brought to the financial dealings of the top leaders of the Communist Party.

Palestinians and Israelis can coexist if occupation ends

Hussein Ibish
December 14, 2013

The unstable and unhealthy relationship of dominance and subordination, of discipline and control through violence, built into Israel’s occupation was graphically illustrated this week in two separate, tragic and bloody incidents.
Last Saturday, a 15-year-old Palestinian child, Wajih Wajdi Al Ramahi, was shot in the back and killed by Israeli occupation forces. The soldiers were sniping from a watchtower near the Israeli settlement of Bet-El. There are conflicting accounts of what happened, but even the official Israeli military version as it now stands is utterly damning.

The Israeli army says it deployed soldiers to “ambush” and “apprehend” stone-throwing Palestinian youths. In other words, the soldiers were lying in wait for the children. They duly appeared, and seeing the soldiers, according to the Israeli army, began throwing rocks from a distance of 150 metres (therefore posing no actual threat). The Israeli military says then “the squad commander began the procedure for arresting a suspect and shooting was only in the air.”

And yet somehow Wajih ended up lying on his face, dead on the ground, shot in the back by the army of occupation. Nothing in the official Israeli account begins to justify or explain what happened to him. Everything points to what can only be described as a calculated ambush that led to a completely indefensible homicide.

Lest anyone think this incident is a bizarre aberration, not only have 23 Palestinians been killed by Israeli occupation forces this year in the West Bank, the history of the Al Ramahi family is an object lesson in the nature of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship.

This family originates from the village of Muzayriah, which was destroyed by Israel in 1948. Residents of that town and 36 other destroyed villages, including the Al Ramahi family, now live in the Jalazun refugee camp, near where Wajih was shot and killed.

Are the Senkakus Worth a War?

By Pat Buchanan - December 13, 2013

"The U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Treaty of 1960 obligates the United States to treat any armed attack against any territories under the administration of Japan as dangerous to [America's] own peace and safety. This would cover such islets as the Senkakus also claimed by Beijing."

So this author wrote 15 years ago in "A Republic Not an Empire."

And so it has come to pass. The United States, because of this 53-year-old treaty, is today in the middle of a quarrel between Japan and China over these very rocks in the East China Sea.

This Senkakus dispute, which has warships and planes of both nations circling each other around and above the islands, could bring on a shooting war. And if it does, America would be in it.

Yet why should this be America's quarrel?

The USSR of Nikita Khrushchev and the China of Mao Zedong, the totalitarian Communist states against whom we were committed to defend Japan, are dead and gone.

Why, then, are we still obligated to defend not only Japan, but all of its island possessions? Why were the treaties that committed us to go to war for scores of nations in the Truman-Eisenhower era not dissolved, when the threat that gave rise to those treaties disappeared?

"The commonest error in politics is sticking to the carcass of dead policies," said Lord Salisbury. Of no nation is that truer than 21st-century America.

For some reason, we cannot let go. We seem so taken with our heroic role in the late Cold War that we cannot give it up, though the world has moved on.

5 Places You May Not Know The U.S. Military Operates

By Hayes Brown on December 14, 2013

President Barack Obama on Friday sent to Congress his biannual report on just where he’s deployed U.S. military personnel without their direct approval, including several locations that might surprise most casual observers.

The president is required under the War Powers Act of 1973 to detail to Congress any ongoing activities occurring without a declaration of war from the legislature. In the five page letter, Obama described several highly reported military operations taken over the last few months, including a daring raid into Somalia and the capture of a suspected terrorist in Libya. Alongside these feats and descriptions of the progress in Afghanistan, several lesser-known engagements are detailed, where hundreds of U.S. forces are currently stationed. Here’s five of them:

The United States’ desire to see the Assad regime removed in Syria is no secret, nor is their support for several of the rebel groups working to oust the Syrian president. Friday’s letter to Congress served as a remind of just how much the U.S. is doing to bring this about, having left behind at the request of Jordan “a combat-equipped detachment of approximately 700 U.S. personnel remain in Jordan following participation in a training exercise that ended on June 20, 2013.” Among the equipment they are stationed along the Syrian border with includes “Patriot missile systems, fighter aircraft, and related support, command, control, and communications personnel and systems.” Their presence brings the total number of U.S. troops in Jordan to 1,500, among which are U.S. Special Forces of them are engaged in training Syrian rebels in tactics and providing military advice as needed.

“As indicated in my report of June 14, 2013, U.S. military personnel in Niger continue to provide support for intelligence collection and to facilitate intelligence sharing with French forces conducting operations in Mali and with other partners in the region,” Obama wrote to Congressional leaders. According to the White House, there are currently approximately 200 personnel deployed there at the time. The Sahel became noted as a prime area for counter-terrorism operations following al-Qaeda affiliate group Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) managed to takeover of most of northern Mali last year. In the aftermath of France’s intervention, the region has faded off the radar again, but the Washington Post in March of this year reported that the U.S. was establishing a drone base to conduct surveillance operations in West Africa.

The Realist Prism: For U.S., Keeping Ukraine on Side No Longer a Vital Interest


By Nikolas Gvosdev, on 13 Dec 2013,

A concerted effort to portray the protests in Ukraine as a pivotal moment pitting the Euro-Atlantic community against a resurgent Russia has not gained much traction among the American public in general or the Obama administration in particular. Washington apparently has little interest in matching the Russian “bid” for Ukraine, despite dire warnings that a failure to do so will imperil the security of the Western world.

Some of this may be due to “revolution fatigue” engendered after a decade of watching the promise of popular uprisings to usher in new eras of freedom, democracy and pro-American governments fade away. There is also a version of Colin Powell’s famous “Pottery Barn” rule at work—the belief that if the U.S. encourages revolutionary change, it bears some responsibility for the aftermath.

From Washington’s perspective, in an ideal world, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych would heed American warnings not to use force against the EuroMaidan protesters, perhaps even resigning as president and allowing new elections to be held, which would return more pro-Western parties to power. Then Russia would stand aside and acquiesce to Ukraine’s signature on the association agreement with the European Union, refraining from imposing any retaliatory economic penalties in the process, and the EU would pick up any bills that accrued. Russian President Vladimir Putin would be a good sport and accept a major setback to his dream of developing a Russian-led Eurasian Union—a signature policy initiative, which, if we believe his 2012 campaign rhetoric, is the equivalent of Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act—leading to no real interruption in other areas of U.S.-Russia relations. This scenario, if it came to pass, would satisfy the parameters of the emerging Obama doctrine that seeks, whenever possible, to engage in “low-cost intervention that could promote U.S. values . . . without sacrificing U.S. security interests.”

Unfortunately, we don’t live in such an ideal world. Putin has made it clear that he will take tough measures to defend what he sees as core Russian interests. With regard to Ukraine, this would begin with using Russia’s formidable economic leverage to put pressure on the government in Kiev. Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov has helpfully quantified the cost of moving Ukraine into a closer Western orbit: Ukraine will need immediate financial assistance of some $28 billion “to provide conditions to minimize losses for the Ukrainian economy,” a low-end estimate of the damage that would be caused if Russian sanctions were to be imposed in full. The EU’s treasury is not particularly overflowing with unspent cash, nor does the United States have emergency funding available for a bailout of Ukraine. Secretary of State John Kerry pledged that “the United States stands with the people of Ukraine. They deserve better.” But more concrete and tangible offers of aid do not appear to be forthcoming.

Ukraine Is Failing as a State

12 December 2013 | Issue 5276
By Sergei Aleksashenko

Only two weeks have passed since Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych decided not to sign an association agreement with the European Union, preferring the "bird in the hand" offered by President Vladimir Putin to the "two in the bush" promised by Brussels.

It is too early to say whether that move will help Yanukovych retain power and win re-election to a second term in 2015, or whether he will even manage to serve out his current term. In any case, events in Kiev illustrate a few important points concerning the former Soviet republics as they vacillate on their future course.

First, Putin is no altruist. He is ready to promise not only Ukraine, but also Armenia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, billions of dollars in aid to stop them from linking up with the despicable West. But Putin's offer comes at a price. Each recipient must provide some service in return. For Yanukovych, that entails Ukraine's accession to Russia's Customs Union. When Yanukovych buckled under the direct threats from Putin, it seems he did not consider how his decision to reject the EU pact would be received at home.

Second, Ukraine has traveled much further along the path of democracy than Russia has during the post-Soviet period. As I see it, the principle difference between the two countries is that Ukraine has already had two presidents, Leonid Kravchuk and Viktor Yushchenko, who have failed to win re-­election. At the same time, however, this did not end in tragedy or with the country reeling into the abyss of chaos and anarchy.

Now Ukrainians understand that they can transfer presidential authority peacefully through fair elections and without the world coming to an end — a "point of no return" that Russia has yet to pass. At the same time, though, it is unclear whether Ukraine has conclusively passed that point. When Yanukovych came to power in 2010, I could not believe my Ukrainian friends' dire predictions that he would build an autocratic power vertical like in Russia. I thought the system of checks and balances was firmly in place there and would prevent it. But events proved me wrong. Hopefully, I will not be wrong again this time.