Archive for December, 2013


Geostrategic ramifications of Iran Nuclear Deal and Port Construction

December 30, 2013

From a recent Iran Pulse:

The November 24th Interim Nuclear Agreement between Iran and the Six Powers provides for the limited easing of trade restrictions on strategic items such as petrochemicals products, aircraft parts, and precious metals, accounting for up to US$7 billion of trade over the next six months. With the prospect of even wider Iranian trade in the near future, India’s construction of Iran’s first deep-water port to meet modern shipping standards will radically transform Iran’s geo-strategic position, breaking the international economic pressure on Tehran and transforming Iran into the key transit link for the most cost-effective transportation corridor for European-Indian Ocean trade. While Iran and India traditionally have been allies in Afghanistan against Pakistan, New Delhi’s drive to construct a deep-sea port at the Iranian city of Chabahar along with transportation corridors running northward has been motivated by New Delhi’s economic rivalry with Beijing. For Iran, it means a centrally important position in the emerging pattern of trade between Europe and an ascending Asia.



The Backbone of the Chinese Navy

December 16, 2013

While China’s forays into naval aviation and expansion of their submarine service garner most of the media attention, the Chinese Navy has been building large numbers of other types of ships that might prove to be the real backbone of maritime power in the case of war.  Foreign Policy details each of the five key ship types that China is pushing into service.



Canada’s Arctic Grab

December 12, 2013

Canada has made formal claims to an area of the Arctic sea bed equivalent in size to the entire US mountain west.  This will put them in direct dispute with the other four Arctic nations  (Denmark, Norway, Russia and the US) and especially with Russia, an even more eager Arctic claimant.  Read more details at Walter Mead’s American Interest blog, which includes the map below.  I am of the opinion that, while power is still centered elsewhere, the Arctic will the single most important geostrategic region in the globe this century.  It resources are both vast and largely untapped, while the potential for the seasonal opening of new shipping routes is a literal sea change in global maritime calculations.  In this era of diminished resources, the US should fully support both Canadian claims in the Arctic as well as their supremacy in Arctic policy – we need to support this kind of burden sharing wherever it makes sense, and this is a good place to start.

Arctic jurisdictional boundaries


US plans ABM base for Guam; should statehood follow?

December 10, 2013

via the South China Morning Post:

The US is planning to station anti-ballistic-missile systems on the Pacific island of Guam, a move ostensibly to defend against unpredictable North Korea, but which analysts say may be intended to counter China.

Within Washington’s defence plans for next year are provisions for siting terminal high-altitude area defence (Thaad) systems on the island territory, combined with the broader realignment of US forces in the Asia-Pacific region.

Guam is going to be a critical linchpin in US strategy in the Indo-Pacific region, and as such it will eventually become a target for China.  As the Chinese are already doing with various islands inside the “first island chain,” they will eventually make similar claims within the “second island chain” and beyond.  I think the US should solidify its claim in the Western Pacific by offering full statehood to Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands territories.  At once, it would undercut likely future claims of colonialism from China and also raise the stakes of any interference in Guamanian waters or air space.


US Navy aviation’s F-35 dilemma

December 9, 2013

The naval variant of the F-35 (F-35c) has had its detractors from the start (the F-35 has a single engine, and naval aviators have long preferred two engines in case of a failure over the ocean), and massive cost overruns and engineering errors have eroded what support it does have.   The F-18 Super Hornet has been a workhorse for the Navy since the 1990s and with upgrades can do many of the things that the F-35c can do, and do it cheaper (currently, we could purchase 3 F-18s for the cost of every F-35c).  Promoters of the F-35 point to two characteristics that the F-18 can never duplicate:  Stealth and shareability.  The first point is largely moot, as continual advancements in sensors will eventually defeat the stealth features of any aircraft.  The second point, however, is stronger.  The F-35c will be flown by most of the US allies in the Indo-Pacific region.  This provides additional capability as Naval F-35s will be able to land and receive support and service all across the region, not just on US aircraft carriers.

In the 80s and 90s, the US could afford to keep both lines open, but no more.  It is an either/or choice.  The F-35 still leads, but congressional seapower advocate Rep. Randy Forbes has recently come out in support of the F-18, which is a serious blow to the F-35 program.

There is no good or easy choice here (personally, I would have chosen a combination of the F-22 and the F-18 over the F-35 to begin with), but maybe the time has come to quit throwing good money after bad.  Cancel at least the Navy version of the F-35, go with the F-18 and get to work on designing a 6th generation fighter.

F-18 E/F, left, and F-35, right

F-18 E/F, left, and F-35, right


US, S. Korea and Japan struggle to find common ground vs. China’s new ADIZ

December 4, 2013

China may have found a wedge issue to divide the three main parts of the maritime alliance to its east.  While the US, South Korea and Japan have thus far formed a common opposition to China’s newly released Air Defense Identification Zone, the Americans are seem to be offering a sort of concession, while the Koreans are prepared to challenge the Chinese in a way that would put them at odds with Japan.  Breaking Defense lays it all out here:

All three democracies have now flown military aircraft through China’s new ADIZ without complying with Beijing’s demand to file flight plans in advance and to communicate via radio once in the zone. The issue between the allies is whether commercial flights should follow China’s unilaterally declared rules (reprinted here on the FAA website).

The governments of Japan and, more quietly, South Korea have gotten their national airlines not to. The US State Department, however, just quietly reiterated the longstanding US policy that airlines should comply with all countries’ flight rules — which presumably would include the new ones put out by China, although State didn’t say so outright.

Meanwhile, South Korea is contemplating expanding its own long-standing ADIZ to challenge China’s — but it might do so in a way that would cause conflict between Seoul and Tokyo as well. So while the US, Japan, and South Korea have presented a united front so far; they may not be able to keep it up as the stand-off drags on.


Note:  this will be the last post of the week, as I will be traveling.  Posting will resume on Monday, Dec. 9.




December 3, 2013

Without realizing it, Walter Russell Mead describes the ongoing Coalitioning phase of the current hegemonic cycle:

Sometime in 2013, we reached a new stage in world history. A coalition of great powers has long sought to overturn the post Cold War Eurasian settlement that the United States and its allies imposed after 1990; in the second half of 2013 that coalition began to gain ground. The revisionist coalition hasn’t achieved its objectives, and the Eurasian status is still quo, but from this point on we will have to speak of that situation as contested, and American policymakers will increasingly have to respond to a challenge that, until recently, most chose to ignore.

It’s a long piece; read the whole thing.

The Four Phases of the Long Cycle . . . We are in the coalitioning phase; macrodecision (previously war but possibly Great Power Collapse) is fast approaching

The Four Phases of the Long Cycle . . . We are in the coalitioning phase; macrodecision (previously war but possibly Great Power Collapse) is fast approaching