I am on vacation and will resume regular posting on Tuesday, September 3.
Archive for August, 2013
John Alterman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (link opens a pdf file) examines the increasingly difficult relations that China is facing in the Persian Gulf:
Even as Iran, Iraq, and the GCC states all seek stronger ties with China, and many seek a greater role for China in the Middle East, China remains cautious. Wary of the Iran-GCC rivalry and keeping a watchful eye on the United States, China continues to seek to avoid becoming entangled in these regional dynamics. With growing domestic energy demands and a less certain U.S. global role, the balance may prove increasingly difficult to strike.
As China’s supply chain stretches it, it inevitably facings more and more challenges in keeping it secure. It’s navy cannot even dominate its home waters, and several rival navies between China and the Gulf are near peers, peers or superiors in the maritime realm. China – like every other trading nation – has relied on the US Navy to secure free use of the global maritime commons. Ironically, China may be the nation least able to afford a diminution of US naval strength, at least in the near and middle terms.
This month’s issue of the Journal of International Security Affairs features a look at the history and future of US missile defense efforts. It was 30 years ago that President Reagan outlined his vision for what became the Strategic Defense Initiative. SDI has yet to come to fruition, but US defense researchers have been steadily working on a number of approaches. Thirty years on, the most promising of those approaches are in the field of Directed Energy Weapons (DEW). Most people will think of lasers when they hear “directed energy,” and no doubt there are many promising applications for lasers in the field, but particle beams and high powered microwaves also have applications. Boeing’s new CHAMP missile, for example, uses high powered microwaves to create an electromagnetic pulse which destroys electrical systems – it can certainly blind ground control systems and conceivably even destroy on board guidance of incoming missiles. Even in a time of difficult budget constraints, this is the type of research that the US military must pursue if it is going to continue its multiple security missions around the globe – the force is shrinking, so the capabilities have to grown.
I have never used my blog for anything like this before, but I am trying to raise funds for the Hydrocephalus Association via the Los Angeles chapters’s Walk 4 Hydrocephalus. There is a link to the right that will remain up until the walk is complete on September 29. Our team has already raised over $5000, and the LA chapter has raised over $40,000. My four year old son has hydrocephalus, a brain condition for which there is no cure. The condition can be managed but requires constant vigilance, and most of the 1 million Americans with hydrocephalus will undergo multiple brain surgeries in their lifetimes in their struggle to maintain their health. No donation is too small, and every donation is greatly appreciated (and all donations are tax deductible). Thank you.
Nathan Randazzo explores the linkage between shale oil production and the very high rates of upper income mobility in the Dakotas. The study by Raj Chetty, Emmanual Saez, Nathan Hendren and Patrick Kline at Harvard’s Equality of Opportunity Project received full coverage from the New York Times last month. While both the original report and the Times write up took notice of the importance of geography, neither noted the likely influence of the fracking boom on high mobility rates in the Dakotas, and to a lesser degree across parts of Texas. The conclusion is obvious – you can’t have aLand of Opportunity without opportunity. Expanded oil and gas production lend that opportunity – not only at the drill sites, but at associated industries. And, crucially, much of that opportunity is not dependent on the prior acquisition of expensive credentials. This is only true in the new production areas – opportunity departs as the fields mature (see, for example, the low mobility rates across Alaska’s North Slope).
The most recent issue of the journal Asia Policyhas a special section focusing on water issues in South and Southeast Asia. While talk of “water wars” might be hyperbolic, the likelihood of tension and conflict short of war is a geopolitical reality of the situation – nearly half the world’s population is dependent on waters which rise in the Himalayas and course across the continent. China controls the headwaters of these rivers and is aggressively building dams to generate power and irrigation flows for its own development, leaving its downstream neighbors nervous. This water issue features seven essays examining the issues from various perspectives, including the geopolitical angle and the prospects for conflict. Of course, control of the rivers waters also gives China unique diplomatic power in the region, as well. The essays are available in their entirety until September 15 and the entire issue is highly recommended.
On the heels of the successful launching of its first indigenous aircraft carrier and testing of its indigenous nuclear sub, the Indian Navy suffered the devastating loss of one of its 14 front line diesel subs. The INS Sindhurakshak was destroyed in an explosion Tuesday night which took the lives of 18 personnel. The Sindhurakshak was one of the newer boats in the INS subsurface fleet. With its loss, there are only 13 boats active and 11 of them are over 20 years old. In 1999, the government had announced a plan to build 24 new diesel electric boats over a 30 year period, with half of them to have been deployed by 2013. However, none of the planned subs has been built and only six are currently under construction, none of them likely to be completed before 2017. Regional peer China has dozens of boats, most of them much more modern than India’s remaining aging fleet. Pakistan has only five submarines, but three of them are modern French built boats that outclass anything India currently has in the water.