Archive for October, 2013

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Japan to aggressively push back against China

October 31, 2013

“We will show our resolve as a nation, that changes in the status quo by force cannot be tolerated,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a gathering of Japan Self Defense Forces.  In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, he firmly stated Japan’s intention to counter Chinese imperialism.  Abe has also reiterated that while the Japanese military is constitutionally limited to self defense, he believes that includes “collective self-defense,” i.e., the military support of other alliance members who are under attack or threat of attack.   On the one hand, a more active and assertive Japan is crucial to US strategy in the Western Pacific, but on the other hand, an assertive Japan also makes China more likely to become more aggressive herself.    It will take confident leadership on the one hand and steady resolve on the other to balance those two forces.

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Report on Water Use in Marcellus Shale Fracking

October 30, 2013

Downstream Strategies, a self-described environmental consulting firm, has released a study (link opens pdf file) of water use in hydraulically fractured natural gas wells in the Marcellus Shale in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.   The most important findings are the scale of water use in the region – between 4 and 5 million gallons per well, and between 92% and 94% of that water remains deep beneath the surface, permanently removed from the hydrological cycle.    If wells are fracked at the most opportune times (during normal or high water periods), this is not currently a problem, but with the possibility of tens of thousands more wells in the future, water use will be an increasing concern.   This only increases the attractiveness of waterless fracking techniques, such as the one being developed by Expansion Energy, which compresses gas drawn from the well itself and uses it in a closed loop process (which is also more energy efficient).

marcellus shale marcellus shale

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How will development of new natgas fields impact the Middle East?

October 28, 2013

Not much, argues Paul Rivlin of Israel’s Dayan Center (pdf):

” . . . even if Cyprus and Israel (and later perhaps Lebanon and Syria) decide to export gas it will not be a game-changer. Much of the speculation about dramatic changes in the strategic balance because of East Mediterranean gas has been exaggerated. The benefits to an industrialized country like Israel will be substantial if the revenues are used for investment rather than consumption, and a stronger economy will strengthen the country’s strategic position too. This will also be true for other countries in the region if they use the revenues correctly. These kinds of gains will be more significant than some of the grandiose export schemes that have been proposed.

In other words, Rivlin sees real potential for local economic benefits, but little chance that gas will re-order the geopolitical landscape.  Indeed, the gas bounty might well increase tensions as everyone vies for a larger piece of the pie.

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Map of world CCS projects

October 24, 2013

Interactive map from MIT showing all the carbon capture and sequestration projects world wide.   Click on each tab for information about individual projects; use the zoom function to better separate projects that are close together.  Many of the tabs have links to external sites with more detail and information.

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Is the US losing its closest and most important Arab ally?

October 23, 2013

That is the claim of a new article from Britain’s Daily Mail:

Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief is vowing that the kingdom will make a ‘major shift’ in relations with the United States to protest perceived American inaction over Syria’s civil war as well as recent U.S. overtures to Iran, a source close to Saudi policy said on Tuesday.

Prince Bandar bin Sultan told European diplomats that the United States had failed to act effectively against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was growing closer to Tehran, and had failed to back Saudi support for Bahrain when it crushed an anti-government revolt in 2011, the source said.

The ties between the two nations are deep and long standing, and Saudi Arabia is the lynchpin of the entire US network of relationships in the CAMENA (Central Asia/Middle East/North Africa) crescent.    Scholars, defense professionals and military leaders have all called the Iraq War a strategic disaster, but the loss of Saudi Arabia, or even a significant shift in relations, would have much more severe long term consequences than the failed Iraq gambit.
Ten years ago, the Turks, the Pakistanis and the Saudis were all solidly in the US camp.  Today, none of them are.
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PLA connected paper lists 6 wars China is “sure” to fight in the coming decades

October 22, 2013

Wen Wei Po is a Hong Kong based paper.  It’s deep connections with the People’s Liberation Army makes it a primary source for breaking news about Chinese military developments.  In July, it published an article titled “Six Wars China Is Sure To Fight In The Next 50 Years.”  Each of these proposed wars would be to reclaim territory that has been in and out of Chinese control at various times, but which ardent nationalists believe are rightful Chinese dominions.  The Indian Defense Review last week published an English language translation of the article.   The author of the article assumes a precipitous decline of Japanese and Russian power and a slow decline of US capabilities.  There is concern evinced about growing Indian power, and the author suggests that China should use subterfuge to break up India into smaller states (or, if that fails, to encourage another Pakistani-India war to weaken the latter).  None of these suggestions are among the six wars, which are as follow:

  1. War of Unification with Taiwan (2020-2025)
  2. Reconquest of the Spratly Islands (2025-2030)
  3. Reconquest of Southern Tibet (2035-40)
  4. Reconquest of Diaoyu and Ryukyu Islands (2040-2045)
  5. Unification of Outer Mongolia (2045-50)
  6. Reconquest of lands lost to Russia (2050-55)

The parenthetical dates are estimated time frames, not estimates of duration.  The author believes that open conflict with the US will be avoided, even though reconquest of Ryukyu (aka Okinawa) would mean some sort of contact with US forces.   Siberian Russia – lands ceded by China in 1860 – is the biggest prize, and the author identifies Russia as China’s bitterest enemy with a debt that must be paid.

This is, of course, not necessarily an eye on long term strategic thinking of the Chinese Communist Party.  But it is a public expression of the desire for martial expansion by a well connected media outlet, and that cannot be ignored.  And the deep hatred for Russia is the wedge that skilled US leaders must continue to force in years ahead.

China circa 2055?

China circa 2055?

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China’s Continental End Run

October 21, 2013

Alexandros Peterson and Raffaello Pantucci write in this month’s National Interest about what they call “China’ s Inadvertent Empire” in Central Asia.  They detail the growing economic ties between China and the resource rich but (relatively) sparsely populated and poor nations of the Eurasian Heartland.  While Peterson and Pantucci correctly point out that this is a growing strategic threat – precisely the kind of single power dominance that Halford Mackinder first warned about over a century ago – I do believe that they are underplaying the central organizing role that Beijing policy makers are playing in this Chinese expansionism.  While it is undertaken on an ad hoc basis and has no formal strategic white paper guiding it., there is certainly more than economic opportunism behind it.  The admirals of the PLAN know that their A2/AD strategy designed to push US naval power away from their home waters has no real strategic capability – that the nation’s economic lifeblood courses through sea lines of communication that it will not be able to secure for at least a generation, if ever.  The pipelines, railways, and highways that they are building through the heart of Asia, on the other hand, serve as an end run around US naval power.  It makes obvious sense that, as the world’s most powerful naval force pivots toward Asia, Asia’s most powerful nation would pivot toward the Heartland.   So obvious that to call such a turn “inadvertent” seems naive.

international maritime route

Global Maritime Traffic Flows