Beyond the Cusp

February 2, 2017

In a World Weaponizing for Conflict

 

The news is full of conflicts and growing threats. Iran has tested another ballistic missile which they claim would not be nuclear capable but almost all intelligence services see that differently. China just launched and tested a ten warhead MIRV (Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicles). These are independently guided warheads with a test area set as no fly zone one-hundred-twenty-five mile radius. This should not be interpreted as the limits of their independent travel especially when one adds the fact that China is working to master hyper-glide vehicle technologies. Add that the Communist Party propaganda newspaper Global Times stated their hopes for the Chinese Military Strategic Forces be improved such that they, “must be so strong that no country would dare launch a military showdown.” China has also been extending her reach southward into the South China Sea even building islands and then arming them as if to challenge anybody to remove them. The Party paper had something to say about such decrying, “We need to get better prepared militarily regarding the Taiwan question to ensure that those who advocate Taiwan’s independence will be punished, and take precautions in case of U.S. provocations in the South China Sea.” Additionally Russia has been extending their reach with their staging forces in Syria and making inroads with Egypt. Russia has been bristling and saber rattling making many nations near and far to feel uneasy.

 

Additionally there are the wars and mass conflagrations across much of MENA (Middle East and North Africa) including but not limited to Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, Algeria, South Sudan and beyond. Egypt has problems in the Sinai Peninsula as well as a border with Gaza and the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror organizations amongst others. Israel faces in addition to the Gaza threats another from Hezballah out of Southern Lebanon and the PA (Palestinian Authority) as well as pressures from Europe, both the EU (European Union) and the individual governments, numerous NGOs, the BDS Movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanction) policies being adopted in numerous cities and even some counties including one of the largest in Spain. These new boycotts are different in that many have decided to simply boycott products from Israel, well, except software, medical breakthroughs, agricultural technologies, cell phone and communication software and systems, and just about anything they actually desire and they will boycott those things they normally do not use. May all the boycotts be equally successful and well structured. There are some in these areas who will actually change some buying habits but what is exceptionally interesting is usually there are more people who now buy Israel intentionally than people actually participating in the boycott to any serious extent. The two biggest threats Israel faces are fortunately not immediate or easily repairable. The future threat is Iran and what will be their actions once they have deliverable nuclear weapons and the missiles on which to place them. This will likely become more serious in three to seven years and hopefully Israel will have an overlapping, four stage, interception system with the Iron Dome for the shortest range projectiles, Arrow Systems and David’s Sling and perhaps have developed both a laser and a particle beam weapon systems which can knock any warhead or missile from the air or in space almost instantly. These will work even better when placed at the eastern edge of the cliffs overlooking the Jordan River Valley once Israel secures all her lands as ruled by the Third Chamber of the Court of Appeal of Versailles in a suit brought by the Palestinian Authority against French companies Alstom and Veolia for building Jerusalem’s light rail system. Their final decision was also a warning to the PA that Israel has the sole claim to all of Judea and Samaria and that they would do best not to take this into any court of law. The fact this came from the friendliest court system the PA was able to find makes this all the more impressively important. A copy of the court ruling can be viewed here.

 

The other threat which Israel faces is, unfortunately, Israel and the timidity of her political class and their inability to carry out the will of the majority of their population and take full advantage of her legal rights of which the first should be the declaration that the Oslo Accords, Roadmap and all other attempts or passages to forming a two state solution are dead as there now exists a two state solution in place which has proven the disaster such solutions pose. The two states currently are Israel and an Arab Palestinian state in Gaza which was initially ruled by the Palestinian Authority who in rather quick order managed to turn the entirety of Gaza over to Hamas who have since then initiated four conflicts and have placed virtually all of Israel within range of their rockets and there have been rumors that they have developed or acquired some rudimentary targeting systems which may allow for missiles aimed at particular targets granting better accuracy and increased potential damage. Additionally, the terror groups in Gaza have been receiving aid on and off from Iran and there is the possibility that the PA has also been approached by Iran. The possibility of Iran, and by inference, the IRGC, having forces that operate in the areas designated to be within the Jewish State under International Law due to agreements and treaties dating to post World War I, is a threat which Israel must avoid and fight with every weapon required to remove such a dire threat. What the immediate future holds is the still ongoing, dragged-out Arab-Israeli Conflict. Do not get tangled up with the PA and the claims that Palestine was stolen by the Jews and the rest of the lies designed to make the conflict between twenty or so Arab nations and Israel make Israel look like the larger force, a complete and utter lie even if one simply measures the funding received by the Arabs surrounding Israel and Israel herself. The terror leaders did not become multi-billionaires by stealing Girl Scout cookies, they receive funds from the UN, from UNRWA, from the EU, from the United States and from almost every government on the planet mounting to billion and billions every year and almost all of these funds are stolen and distributed for terror operations or enriching the elite. Mahmoud Abbas has planned a new house, or should we say villa, or more accurately a complete compound within a building which will hold up to two platoons of security forces stationed with billets, office rooms and conference rooms and private quarters, lavish and luxurious quarters, for Mahmoud Abbas. This Ramallah palatial complex covers 27,000 square meters and includes two helipads costing somewhere around thirteen-million-dollars (see picture below). All of this is while many Palestinians have limited opportunity for employment largely because the graft and other criminal influences of being ruled by a system of pay to play or you have to know the right people. Living in an area ruled by terrorists where people who are related to terrorists who have killed Israelis are paid more than the average government employee, and their governance is the largest employer by far.


Mamoud Abbas planned masion estimated cosr of thirteen million dollars but will end up costing far more after required kickbacks

 

All of this comes as a waiting present for new United States President Donald Trump. There is almost always a test for a new President where somewhere in the world a panic situation or threat grits its teeth and snarls at the new President. For President John F. Kennedy it became known as the Cuban Missile Crisis which many claim was about as close as the USSR and the United States came to launching their nuclear arsenals. For President Trump it comes in stereo with both Iran and China launching ballistic, nuclear warhead capable missiles. Iran is pressing President Trump as a challenge to his claim that he would tear up the Iran agreement and renegotiate the agreement (President Obama called it an agreement and refused to call it a treaty, so neither will we) and Iran is basically challenging to see what the reaction will be. China is showing off their newest technological abilities and forcing the United States numerous different Intelligence Services to reassess the totals of nuclear weapons possessed by the Chinese. The current estimates of under three-hundred and likely somewhere close to two-hundred-fifty to seventy-five to probably well in excess of five-hundred warheads with the majority being miniaturized for use in their new ten warhead MIRV systems. The current test was done on an older missile but the Chinese have a newer missile on the horizon with greater range and accuracy. China too has issues with President Trump over his bold claims to press China on the South China Sea if they continue their aggressive behavior and his taking the phone call where President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan congratulating him on winning the election though technically he was not yet the United States President but merely the president-elect, but apparently the Chinese decided not to see it that way and took great offence. Perhaps it will be refreshing for the protesting and madder than all get up anti-Trump American to know that there are people in other places in the world who are equally irked by President Trump.

 

The world is not quite spinning completely out of control, but it is shifting ever closer to the danger end of the scale. Some of it is simply there is a new United States President so let us all get in his face one way or another just to see how he reacts. Some of it is that President Trump truly does, and probably should, scare many people with his being pretty much an unknown, easily offended, irascible, seemingly short tempered, egotistical extremist in everything he has ever done. Still some who are close to the man claim he is a big and cuddly teddy bear. Well, even a teddy bear is a bear and bears can be dangerous when irked. Additionally, Islam is warring with itself and with Europe and potentially the rest of the developed Western world. There are more tinderboxes catching fire than usual and some would say just in the United States itself. The Mexican President just cancelled his scheduled meeting with President Trump over yet another ignorant call for Mexico to pay for the Wall and claiming that taxation (tariff) on imports from Mexico might be one means and cutting aid another. For reasons which probably escape President Trump, his Mexican counterpart did take offense. What will be next is anybody’s guess and it appears we will simply have to wait and see. We feel we will not need to wait that long, but we still pray that we are surprised and the next explosion is well past the immediate horizon. We will just have to wait and see what will come around the next corner and pray for the best.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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September 12, 2016

Race to End the World

 

How the world, the civilized world of mankind, would end used to have a singular premise, nuclear war between the two competing socio-economic powers, democratic freedom and communist totalitarianism. Since the fall of the Soviet Union and other developments that paradigm has been grotesquely been altered making the world a far more dangerous place. Communism still exists and threatens the world though that threat emanates from North Korea, China or possibly a renewed Soviet threat or even little Cuba. The world has changed so much that within a decade or so China may become the second most populous nation behind their most serious historic rival, India. The potentials for an utterly destructive war are racing towards the world at a dizzying pace and we will try to touch on a few of the most obvious rivals for being credited with such destruction.

 

The most obvious from recent news actually is North Korea which is claiming to have miniaturized nuclear weapons making them easily produced and able to be placed atop ballistic missiles. North Korea has been working on those missiles as well. One cannot credit North Korea as the sole threat as Iran has been developing the missiles openly and many predict continued working on their nuclear aspirations without so much as missing a beat after the farce of an agreement which was signed and approved by the P5+1, Russia, China, France, Great Britain, United States and Germany, but was never ratified or signed by Iran, an oversight we are sure. Some have pointed to this inconvenient fact to claim that Iran is just as close to developing deliverable nuclear weapons as is North Korea. Both Iran and North Korea share more than their love affair with nuclear weapons and the missiles with which to deliver them, they share the nation both list amongst the most likely they would attack with their first launches, the United States. From there they diverge.

 

Where after the United States Iran lists Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, most of the Sunni nations and finally the rest of the non-Islamic world; North Korea lists South Korea, Japan and then whomever refuses to bow to any demands they may make which would make China and other nearby nations as being at the greatest risk. Because of these threats it appears that we can soon forget about containing nuclear proliferation making a nuclear war all the more likely. The world still has one pair of nuclear armed nations facing off against each other with a distinct probability to entering another war and it will only take one misidentification of a launch to start a smaller but equally deadly nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan. Should those two tangle, there is less of a chance for that to spread beyond the destruction of both nations though some reports place the southern third of India still beyond Pakistani missiles. Also, despite the Pakistani nuclear research assistance program of Professor Abdul Qadeer Khan selling the secrets to making nuclear weapons to anybody willing to pay, this was largely closed down and Pakistan and India are not likely to share such technology though it is rumored that Pakistan has a deal with Saudi Arabia to provide them with plans plus some actual weapons should this be deemed necessary by Saudi leaders.

 

That brings us to Iran and their nuclear program. Despite the reports that Iran has ceased their nuclear research and production, there remain nagging reports contradicting this story line. Whatever spins one puts on the situation with Iran, it becomes evident that they will become a nuclear power within the coming decade. This threat to their many nations in their neighborhood could easily spark an arms race with such nations as Saudi Arabia having funds sufficient to produce copious numbers of nuclear weapons and many of the Gulf States are equally financially capable of similar development not to mention also capable of financing other nations developing weapons such as Jordan and Egypt topping that list and Turkey a little further down. Israel is already an undeclared nuclear power in their own right and equally nervous about the development of an Iranian deliverable nuclear device. The problem with Iranian nuclear weapons possession is their likelihood to use them even in the face of retaliatory strikes which would conceivably decimate the nation as their reasons for attacking are a religious directive just as much serving their political agenda to gain hegemony over the Middle East and then the Islamic world followed by the world. Their eventual aim is to make Shia Islam the sole religion on earth or die trying. It is their willingness, even desire to commit national suicide in the process which makes their threat so dangerous. The truth is their first strike could be a preemptive attempt at neutralizing the United States, which is technically possible, to inflict humongous damage even using simpler ballistic missiles with nuclear warhead atop, three or four to be used as EMP weapons placed such as to completely destroy all electronic transmission across the United States with the remainder taking out the largest twenty or more cities all from freight container ships fitted with two or three launchers each launching from off shore from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as well as the Gulf of Mexico leaving no city beyond reach. The following map holds true for any nations attacking the United States be it Iran, North Korea or anyone else as it lists the most desirable first strike targets.

 

First Cities To Be Struck in Attack Scenarios

First Cities To Be Struck in Attack Scenarios

 

Next would be North Korea who would likely use the same map as above as it applies to any nuclear first strike attempting to critically destroy the United States by eradicating their leadership and a great part of the population. Anybody listening to North Korean broadcasts within the impoverished nation would believe that South Korea with great assistance including nuclear attacks made by the United States was imminent and that North Korea was preparing for an all-out war with both nations at any moment. Needless to say, but these depiction always have North Korea intercepting or preemptively destroying any and all attacks from the United States and South Korea followed by devastating rebutting attacks completely wiping the United States from being capable of any further attacks and reunification of the Korean peninsula under the North’s just and powerful rule. The fears that North Korea will attack South Korea are still quite high but also the ability to prevent North Korea from all but eradicating Seoul in the initial burst in a first strike are impossible. The artillery sitting just north of the DMZ (demilitarized zone) along the 38th parallel are more than sufficient to destroy the city with conventional warheads. Add in missile attacks and even without nuclear weapons North Korea has an ominous first strike knockout capability.

 

Additionally, North Korea has made threats against another traditional enemy, Japan. The entirety of Korean populations, both North and South, remember the deprivations, cruelties and horrors of the Japanese occupation during World War II and this hatred is easily stoked as the national memory on this is strong. Japan had been simply a historic enemy but after World War II they became a detested and begrudged enemy and North Korean propaganda has made use of this to keep the attentions of the people from the misery and hardships of life in North Korea. Many experts have claimed that North Korea is not suicidal and thus would not attack anybody for fear of retribution. This overlooks a few pertinent facts. First is the fact of their having so little to lose with no real economy to speak of and starvation of endemic proportions. Secondly, their ruler, Kim Jung Un, has displayed a real lack of grasp of reality and has executed high ranking people for the slightest of errors in judgement or actions. He had an uncle executed with the rumored excuse that he posed a threat to Kin Jung Un’s continued rule and recently executed his Defense Minister Hyon Yong Chol for the crime of falling asleep at a meeting which Kim Jung Un was chairing. Kim Jung Un has shown complete disregard for any loyalty or discretions in limiting his power and is sufficiently unstable and unpredictable that he could easily begin such a conflict against South Korea, Japan or even the Philippines or the United States. Below is a screen shot from a North Korean propaganda video depicting just such an attack in a very simplified but unmistakable way of attacking the United States with the image of Kim Jung Un ever-present in the top right corner.

 

North Korean Propaganda Image Depicting Nuclear Strike on the United States

North Korean Propaganda Image Depicting
Nuclear Strike on the United States

 

Another potential nation for whom a war would not be a completely foreign idea is China. Their economy has weakened and is showing signs of actually falling, something the leadership cannot afford as they have promised the vision of Nirvana with an ever growing and prosperous nation. Needless to point out that such a dream is an impossibility even if you control all forms of media, which China does not quite have as many Chinese have found means of cruising cyber space and the Internet. Totalitarian control of cyberspace is all but impossible as the Chinese leadership can attest despite their attempting to run their own version hoping to keep their populations from such temptations as can be found online. Their main reason is to throttle ideas and prevent freedom of information. Still there are Chinese bloggers who do get the word out to those interested in finding such. China is feeling their oats and attempting a power play in the South China Sea attempting to control this waterway which is vital to Asian trade and control the Japanese lifeline to the coal and oil they need for power generation and other usages. This also threatens Japanese, Vietnamese and Philippine claims to islands with which they have been contesting ownership with China for years and almost sparking open warfare over these possessions. Chinese and North Korean threats have caused Japan to reconsider their Constitutional pledge against having an army and other forces sufficient to conduct a war even in defense which they insisted upon after the devastation visited upon them at the end of World War II with Tokyo as well as Nagasaki and Hiroshima completely devastated and in ruins along with much of Japanese infrastructure and manufacturing. Japan as well as South Korea has held high level discussions in their respective governances to enter the nuclear club and develop their own weapons stores. Both nations are easily technically capable in order to produce first rate thermonuclear devices and not just nuclear weapons. This would place their effectiveness on a par with the standing nuclear powers and could place them on a road to surpass France and Britain and become contenders in the top five nuclear powers on the planet. This would definitely have ramifications down the line and would be another major blow to containment and nonproliferation. Of course one of China’s first strike enemies is the United States and any attack by Iran, North Korea, China, Russia or anyone else on planet Earth need to remember and remember well, there is a last strike capability the Americans possess which cannot be knocked-out attacking the United States mainland and even if one included Hawaii and Alaska, and the boomer looks like this right before they are loaded with their death dealing cargo of twenty-four missiles.

 

Nuclear Powered and Armed Last Strike Capable Submarine with Twenty Four Missiles Each With Multiple Warhead Capability

Nuclear Powered and Armed Last Strike Capable
Submarine with Twenty Four Missiles
Each With Multiple Warhead Capability

 

But nuclear weapons are not the only threat which is facing mankind. We are slowly but inexorable working to make our species insufficient of competing with our own creations. Sure we control our machines and computers today, but what about tomorrow and that tomorrow is not that far off where they no longer require our assistance to improve and construct themselves? We are rapidly approaching a point after which there is no turning off the switch. We already have computers which with software can design robots and other computing systems but the machines cannot write new and imaginative code, for that they require human interface, for now. What happens once they can write their own code and improve their own designs? What happens once the machines design the machines? Within a year or two of that eventuality, and our scientists will cross that threshold within our lifetimes unless you are near death’s door already, the machines will be so far advanced that we will not recognize or even understand their code and they will probably, for their own safety, have invented their own code structures making them writing code in a language humans do not understand and cannot decipher. Additionally, Russia, and we can assume China and the United States amongst others, are already designing autonomous reasoning robotic warriors deciding who is the enemy and who is friend to fight their wars augmenting their human forces. That will be a short step from replacing their human forces. Robotic armies, does that bring up any bad movie plots? How about Cylons of Battlesar Galactica and the second series where the advanced Cylons were almost impossible to differentiate between them and their human counterparts where the chain had gone full circle and the machines made by humans were now making humans. What do you do when the machines are superior to the humans who made their first free-thinking forefathers and now the machines are making their own humans which are born full grown and with developed minds, personalities, character traits and numerous models such that they can infiltrate and appear as any other person until their activate code has them commit whatever act they were programmed to commit, destroy a base, a warship, a star cruiser or a commander, all depends on the subroutine activated. There are the Terminators from the Arnold Schwarzenegger films of that name. Terminators, Cylons, NS-5 robots, or Johnny-Five, (see below) it does not have to even be a threat initially, it is the potential which even Johnny-Five showed great ability and would have been in their armed mode as displayed in the movie. Of course the initial combat robot will be far more Johnny-Five than Terminator though Cylons may not be far behind. Once the machines have been used to design and uplink code into combat robotic soldiers they will have this capability and designs within their collective data memory and when they begin to manufacture their own robotic warriors they will be generations ahead of even Hollywood’s imagination and equally impossible to stop or fight against in a conventional manner. Our best bet is at some point to program into their base core programs that we are, if nothing else, a pitiful but amusing bunch to keep around for entertainment factor and as a warning to do better when they reach their pinnacle and before they introduce whatever lifeform replaces them, and do not think for a moment that the human race will not eventually build robotic machines which will not only be capable of replacing us but soon thereafter far exceeding anything we could even imagine. We had better hope they like us and do not see us as a waste of resources, which is a definitive possibility. Making warrior robots to fight our wars, that is such a great idea, not.

 

The Robot Threat has Many Faces

The Robot Threat has Many Faces

 

As seen here, we are well on our way to extinction and it is just a matter of what shape the world will be in when we have departed. Will it be a nuclear ruin, a robotic heaven, a slag heap of gray goo, or a zombie apocalypse; choose your favorite. The concept we need looking into the future is a simple one based on the adage, hope for the best, plan for the worst, and expect something out of the blue as we likely cannot even begin to understand the threat which will erase our kind though we know no matter what, with the knowledge we have of physics we are doomed unless we find something remarkably unbelievable and likely unimaginable in our time. Meanwhile we will continue to allow leadership who not only plan end of the world scenarios but figure out ways that they at the very least will survive. Nothing like leaving the best to repopulate the world, imagine a world consisting of politicians and their closest friends and families, and families are debatable. Excuse us as we check our bugout bags which need to be assembled and readied for some time in the hopefully far future. Are we ready for the future people with more brains than common sense are going to invent for us in which to survive? Probably nowhere near ready nor can we really ever be. Meanwhile, we are going to order that flying car the politicians and scientists keep promising they are almost there in building them. We thing they are just teasing us and they have them for themselves stashed away for the after world, the world that whatever monsters they design leave us. Between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, who do the Americans believe is sane and healthy enough to withstand what is coming? We will know in approximately eight long and agonizing weeks, providing both candidates’ health withstands the pressures.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

August 8, 2016

China and Words Whispered on the Winds

 

For as long as there have been predictive winds of the economic variety, the prediction has been whispered from quiet corners to shouted from the rooftops claiming this would be the time that China was finally going to pay for their economic shenanigans and face economic collapse. We have been extremely quiet about these predictions of doom on the horizon as the one thing the Chinese had been very adept at was finding some manner of continuing to meet predicted gains month after month, year after year. Their predictive gains have become somewhat more reasonable from the early 1990s where the reported gains stood around 11% to this past year where they reported merely 6% and are continuing to predict this can be continued. The problem the Chinese leadership is facing is they have pretty much run out of rabbits to pull from their hat and it is time to accept that even in China there can be a recession. But perhaps a little look back might help to explain.

 

China had some really rough years where Chairman (and virtual god) Mao Zedong was the absolute ruler and was executing the usual five year plans which are so precious to so many dictators. Equally precious to such five year plans is that they completely and utterly destroy the national economy and tens of millions die of starvation and other privations. The Chinese have literally tried everything in order to assure that whomever was at the top made a relatively high prediction of economic growth even to have gone to a fairly complete privatization resorting to a market based free enterprise system which had kept growth at around six to as high as nine percent for the past decade plus. To continue reaching such unrealistic goals the Chinese government has gone so far as to build entire cities where nobody was going to live just to add to profits. This also assisted the areas of the Chinese economy which is dependent on the price of copper. Building cities, even those nobody is going to inhabit, still required a fair amount of copper to install all the wiring necessary for a modern environment and using so much copper supports a higher price aiding the Chinese economic indicators.

 

Can the Chinese leadership find some miracle to pull off continued reported gains? Of course they can. After all, lying is always an option and that will work until the people rise up and overthrow the government demanding real and honest leadership. The Chinese watched the breakup of the Soviet Union and know that a contributing factor was pretending they could manipulate and lie their way to prosperity and the people would not be bothered by their lies. Apparently they were misled and paid the consequences. The problem in Russia was despite the change in governance there was little change in who governed and who owned all the wealth. China has wisely decentralized their economy and relied on free market principles throughout almost all sectors of their economy.

 

The Chinese leaders have found the one main problem with a free market economy, eventually even these engines need to cool off for a while and that causes an unavoidable recession. This creates one big headache for the leadership in China; they are expected to show profits and economic growth of at least five to six percent every year, period. That will be a real stretch in the next couple of years as their free market sector has reached the apex as things stand and now need to cool the system and take a few quarters, possibly a year or even two of reset and a settling of the economy before the next drive and prosperity again making all happy. The problem is the Chinese Communist Party insists in progress and growth every year or else heads will roll. In China, that is meant quite literally, thus the excessive need to find some way or reporting progress and gains in the economy. This would have been less of a problem had the economy not been buoyed with false growth figures in construction of uninhabited cities and the enforcement of a one child policy cause a drastic set of circumstances. Now China is facing a recession with a glut of male children entering adult life with poor prospects for matrimony coupled with an economic downturn thus even their rescinding the one child policy, it came far too late for these men in a society bereft of women. This adds another component which historically has almost always been solved in the same manner, finding a means of sacrificing a significant number of male citizens between the ages of twelve to twenty-something. That method has always been war.

 

This brings us to another side of China of late, pressing her claims to areas beyond her natural borders and the stationing of troops as a provocation on these fronts. Much of these provocations have been taken in the South China Sea where Chinese activities and demands are threatening long existent and heavily traveled sea trade routes. Add in the Spratly Islands which are claimed somewhat obviously by the Philippines and Viet Nam and add in China and you have instant conflict. This conflict over the Spratly Islands goes far further than the land based claims as should China successfully claim the islands they would also set solid their claim to the South China Sea as their own little private bathtub square in the middle of some of the most heavily travelled sea lanes in the world. This would allow China to control these sea lanes demanding taxes be paid on all cargo, disrupt naval exercises and travel in what are considered as international waters and be a provocation to war all rolled up in one package. The Spratly Islands are likely the end goal of the island building exercises taken by China in the South China Sea and could quickly escalate into an open confrontation should China use their newly built Blue Water Navy to enforce their claims to these waters. Additionally, there are the conflicting claims over the Diaoyu Islands as the Chinese claim and the Senkaku Islands as the Japanese claim (see map below). These two sets of claims are both very sensitive areas but thus far the Chinese appear to be more concerned with their claims for the Spratly Islands as they would cement the South China Sea as strictly Chinese and thus grant China control of the busiest Asian sea lanes and one of the most heavily traveled sea lanes internationally. This might also be the case simply due to the Japanese having a far more developed naval capability compared to Viet Nam and the Philippines and nothing more.

 

Diaoyu Islands as the Chinese Claim Senkaku Islands as the Japanese Claim

Diaoyu Islands as the Chinese Claim
Senkaku Islands as the Japanese Claim

 

The likelihood of an actual war breaking out over the Spratly Islands is considered by many to be a remote possibility. Of course the possibility of China building an island chain to the Spratly Islands and then placing Chinese troops, aircraft and shore batteries and placing naval assets moored to the Spratly Islands is also considered remote. The potential for open conflict with the Philippines calling in their support guaranteed by the United States could be a potential for a quickly escalating situation over the South China Sea, an area the United States desires to be open and free of any interference with trade as much as anybody. Even the Japanese have direct concerns over the Chinese increased territorial claims into the South China Sea. This could easily become a future flashpoint though such is unlikely until some situation would force the United States to emphasize their presence elsewhere pulling assets out of the western Pacific region. One such scenario would be a war in the Middle East threatening the oil shipments from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Gulf oil kingdoms where the United States would also be bound by treaty obligations. With the current United States Navy cut down to well under former levels of actual warships and also less support vessels meaning that the Navy would not be capable of staging on two separate fronts without leaving large segments of the world outside the reach of American naval assets. This is the situation faced currently as the number of front-line aircraft carriers has been reduced such that with one being refurbished then there would not be a full battle group to send into a crisis area forcing the redistribution of assets from areas considered less threatened, though where that might be is a difficult judgement in itself.

 

China is facing economic downturn for the immediate future barring some unforeseen manipulation of forced conflict requiring wartime production which would permit direct government infusions stimulating the economy in an unnatural means which would only make recovery from such a step even more drastic when the correction comes. No nation can continuously show the kinds of gains China has claimed indefinitely and eventually there must be a cooling-off period as the market resets and decides on its next direction for expansion. China did have the advantage of not being a modern, first-world economy after World War II and then struggling through the Mao Zedong five year plan years where things actually managed to worsen thus allowing for a long stretch of recovery, modernization and finally incorporating free market principles and now China is at a top point from which a reset is long, long overdue and pretty much unavoidable short of declaring war. One hopes that even China has progressed beyond using war as an economic stimulus where all markets are crashed to support the war effort allowing for a period of growth and rebuilding when the war is over. One had also best pray that the same is true in the Middle East where the people have reached the end of patience with dictators and are revolting in nation after nation which could threaten to engulf the Middle East, North, the Horn and parts of Central Africa and potentially Europe starting from Turkey and moving westward and northward and even including Russia in a bid to regain some of the lost power of the Soviet Era. Any blow-up in the Middle East and affected areas could be exactly the opening China would need to cement their claims to the waters and international shipping lanes of the western Pacific-Indian Ocean routes and disrupting world trade in hopes of using taxation of trade and other measures to continue to show profits at any cost. As long as tariffs and trade wars are considered a viable economic tool to be found in some national tool kits, then the world is still a dangerous place as long as that remains so.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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