Focal Points Blog

Secretary of the Air Force Tries to Show Nuclear Missile Force Some Love

NuclearWarhead

The United States nuclear missile force has been beset by a series of issues that Robert Burns of the Associated Press, who has been the lead dog on this ongoing story, describes as the “deliberate violations of safety rules, failures of inspections,” and “breakdowns in training.” The latest, as you may have heard, is cheating by the “missileers” on proficiency exams. There’s been much handwringing on the part of the command, including Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, who wondered aloud: “Do they get bored?” he asked. No doubt; also, as Burns explains:

Nuclear missile duty has lost its luster in an era dominated by other security threats. It’s rarely the career path of first choice for young officers.

They can see the writing on the wall. Nuclear weapons may be a century away from being abolished. But in this year’s Omnibus Spending Bill, six percent of funding was cut from what the National Nuclear Security Administration asked for warhead research, development, production, and related activities.
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What Do Thailand, Ukraine, Belgium, and Egypt Have in Common? Dysfunctional Democracies

Cross-posted from the Eurasia Review.

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra visiting with George Bush in the Oval Office, 2002. Image Wikimedia Commons

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra visiting with George Bush in the Oval Office, 2002. Image Wikimedia Commons

Democratic election has been downgraded to a simple arithmetic head count game in Thailand, Ukraine, Belgium and Egypt (the TUBE states) and is no longer a peaceful and meaningful political system for selection of leaders there.

When the voting minority groups refuse to accept the defeats in elections and attempt frequently or continually to topple the leaders who have been legitimately mandated by the victorious majority (even though by a slim marginal number of ballots),  the one-man-one-vote mechanism for selecting the rulers or governing party is dysfunctional.

In Thailand, the political parties (in different names) led by Thaksin Shinawatra scored 40.6% vs 26.6% popular votes in the 2001 general election, 56.4% vs 16.1% in 2005, 36.6% vs 30.3% in 2007 (constituency), 39.60% vs 39.63% in 2007 (proportional), and then 48.4% vs 35.15% in 2011. Despite the definite and consistent choices of the majority (mainly in the rural areas) of the Thai voters, the properly and legally elected government was first overthrown by a coup in 2006 and is now being demanded to be dissolved to give way to an unelected “people’s council” led by the opposition leaders. In order to demolish the “Thaksin regime,” Suthep Thaugsuban has suggested bypassing the democratic election since he knows he will lose in the one-man-one-vote head count game again.

In Ukraine, the divide between the pro-Russia east and the pro-European Union west has also brought the state into chaos.  Unlike Thailand, there is a lack of a definite majority here and as indicated in the Orange Revolution 2004 and the death of Georgiy Gongadze in 2000, the hostile confrontation can last longer.  When Viktor Yanukovych exercised his presidential authority to scrap a pact for “closer integration with the 28-nation European Union” in November 2013, his opponents cannot afford to wait for the next general election to vote him down. Hundreds of thousands of pro-EU citizens keep on storming the Independence Square to rally for Yanukovych’s resignation, thus further intensifying the face-off between them and those living in the eastern region of the country who mostly speak Russian and prefer a closer tie with Moscow.

The cultural and linguistic split between the Dutch-speaking and French-speaking communities in Belgium had left the state without a government for as long as 589 days during the period 2007-11 continually. Although democratic election did generate a Dutch majority in the Belgian Chamber, the various dissensions derived from regionalism are unlikely to be settled by the art of political negotiation for a compromise. Elio Di Rupo’s premiership since December 2011 is temporary and transitional. Unless there is a breakthrough, the partition of Belgium is inevitable.

The July 2013 coup to overthrow the authority of Mohammed Mursi in Egypt is a clear sign that election, no matter how open and fair may it be, is not a magic wand which can soften the polarization between the Muslim Brotherhood and their opponents. Universal suffrage, after having soured to become a simple head count game, can no longer bring peace to this old civilization nation. Egyptians should know that religious fights did result in secession in history, for example, Pakistan’s departure from India.

Secession will take place eventually if there is no alternative to democracy when election fails to function as a generally accepted leader selection and government formation system in the TUBE states. It has been evident that the standoffs derived from geographical difference or cultural gap or religious divergence therein have paralyzed the governance. Whoever wins the next election cannot command respect and generate stability because with the head-count-based majority mandate the governing party becomes an exclusive club and rules like a tyranny of the majority.1 Those who have lost the election refuse to co-operate with the governing party and resort to street protests to override the ballot outcome. Once the opposition leaders capture the authority, they tend to undo the previous regime’s setup (a similar situation can also be found in Taiwan).  Lack of policy continuity deters foreign investments, international deals and the like. Diplomacy is difficult since no one knows whether the pacts signed by the incumbent leaders will be honored by the successors. A vicious cycle will take charge and the only solution is secession.

However, there is an alternative now. To win the support of the co-nationals, it is not a must for political leaders in TUBE to be selected through a simple-minded head count game. The meritocratic “Helmsman Ruler System” — a modern, pragmatic and experimental version of Plato’s rotational ruler system which has been working in China quite smoothly since the 1980s — is a feasible option. Teams of competent intellectual-turned-politicians from all backgrounds (like the Politburo in Beijing) take turn to lead the state after having gone through a number of training programs and proved their talents and caliber through a series of postings among various administrative positions.2

In Thailand, the helmsman rulers will be the ones who have served at the local governments in both urban and rural areas, and won the praises of both the office managers, white-collar workers and rice farmers. In Ukraine, the state will be governed by an inclusive team of helmsman rulers who are willing and able to cater for diverse regional needs. In Belgium, the Dutch-speaking and French-speaking leaders can rule the state in rotation so as to balance the interests of the two different linguistic communities. In Egypt, well-trained administrators will work with the leaders of various religious groups and in rotation to revive the glory of the nation.

Plato’s rotational ruler system is neither remote nor idealistic anymore. Take a look at China and see how it has brought success to this weak and poor state. The Helmsman Ruler System can work out to serve any nation by adaptation to individual national needs.

Notes:

1. See p. 45 in Russell, Bertrand (1917), Political Ideals, London: Unwin Paperbacks.

2. International Policy Digest, Keith K C Hui, “China’s Rotational Ruler Model”

For further reading:

Eurasia Review, Keith K C Hui, “A China Model with British Accent

Hui, Keith K C (2013), Helmsman Ruler: China’s Pragmatic Version of Plato’s Ideal Political Succession System in The Republic, Singapore: Trafford Publishing.

 

Amanda Knox Trial: Italian Judiciary Attempts to Save Face, Winds up With More Egg on It

Rudy Guede, convicted in the murder of Meredith Kercher.

Rudy Guede, convicted in the murder of Meredith Kercher.

As most who follow the news or social media know, Amanda Knox was originally found guilty, along with two others, of murdering housemate Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy. She served four years in Italian prison, but was released when the verdict was overturned on appeal. After Ms. Knox returned to the United States, she (in absentia) and her then boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were retried ― some technicality prevented that from being considered double jeopardy ― in Florence. On Thursday, the guilt verdict was reinstated. Bear in mind no actual evidence has been found. Afterwards, Ms. Knox’s attorney, Ted Simon, said:

“The bottom line is, there is no evidence. There was no evidence, and there never will be any evidence, and that’s why this is such a gross miscarriage of justice.”
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How the UN Can Ignore 8,000 Deaths in Haiti

Haitian Minister of Public Health Dr. Alex Larsen with patient. Image Wikimedia Commons

Haitian Minister of Public Health Dr. Alex Larsen with patient. Image Wikimedia Commons

Since its independence in 1804, Haiti has suffered from a multitude of ailments—poverty, corruption, instability—common among the developing countries of the world. However, cholera was not one of them. Cholera is an infection of the small intestine that is contracted from drinking water that has been contaminated by human waste. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and sometimes death.

In October 2010, the first cases of cholera began springing up around the Artibonite River—a life source for thousands of Haitians in the central plateau region—and the first patients began arriving at St. Nicolas Hospital in St. Marc. After rumors begin to spread that UN peacekeepers from Nepal were to blame, Associated Press reporter Jonathan Katz went to the Nepalese base and found that human waste was leaking into the river.
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United Nations Description of Burma’s Rohingya as “Friendless” All Too True

Rohingya

Few days back, I read about yet another vicious attack on Myanmar’s helpless and persecuted Rohingya minority. This time, the venue was Du Chee Ya Tan village in the Rakhine state, which lies pretty close to Bangladesh. Just in case you are thinking that the rioters shamelessly justified their misdeeds by claiming that the victims were illegal Bengalis trying to sneak into Myanmar — yeah, you’re right.

For the past many years, nothing new has happened in Myanmar. Each time, it is the same old story: angry Buddhist mobs attack the Rohingya masses (the latter being in minority). Thereafter, the carnage follows: kill, rape, loot, massacre, and so on. This time, news sources claim that members of the Rohingya community had dared to protest against the atrocities after certain local Rakhine officials had kidnapped, raped and killed eight Rohingya women last week. Needless to say, the protesters were rewarded with brutal acts of slaughter.
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Demoralized “Missileers” Unwittingly Make Case for Disarmament

NuclearWarhead

On January 17, I posted:

For the past couple of years, Robert Burns of the Associated Press has been chronicling what he describes as the “deliberate violations of safety rules, failures of inspections,” and “breakdowns in training” of the United States nuclear missile force. He’s also found “evidence that the men and women who operate the missiles from underground command posts are suffering burnout.”

His latest discovery:

In what may be the biggest such scandal in Air Force history, 34 officers entrusted with land-based nuclear missiles have been pulled off the job for alleged involvement in a cheating ring that officials say was uncovered during a drug probe.
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The Tiguentourine Natural Gas Facility Attack in Algeria One Year Later

Tiguentourine natural gas facility

Tiguentourine natural gas facility

Cross-posted from Counterpunch.

1. With Washington  and London by his side “in spirit” – Bouteflika initiates one of the biggest purges in modern Algerian history.

A year after the attack on the Tiguentourine natural gas processing complex, in In-Amenas commune within the Illizi Province of Southeastern Algeria, the consequences of those events are still reverberating.

Under intense pressure from the United States, Great Britain and Norway the Algerian government has been forced to make major concessions to international oil companies. Tiguerntourine is run jointly by British Petroleum (BP) and Statoil (the Norwegian state oil company) in conjunction with the Algerian government’s energy company, Sonatrach.
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Foreign Policy Thin-Sliced (1/24)

 Than Shwe, former head of Burma’s junta


Than Shwe, former head of Burma’s junta

Accuracy Is Not the Issue With Drones, It’s the Video

What the public needs to understand is that the video provided by a drone is not usually clear enough to detect someone carrying a weapon, even on a crystal-clear day with limited cloud and perfect light. This makes it incredibly difficult for the best analysts to identify if someone has weapons for sure. One example comes to mind: “The feed is so pixelated, what if it’s a shovel, and not a weapon?”

I worked on the US drone program. The public should know what really goes on, Heather Linebaugh, the Guardian
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Forget the Final Status Issues

Kerry and Israeli Officials

Secretary of State John Kerry with Israeli officials/Wikimedia Commons

Editor’s note: “Final status” refers to the last step toward completing a full peace agreement between Israel and the state of Palestine.

For decades the international community — led by the United States — has been stuck on the notion that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only be resolved through a long, drawn-out negotiation process culminating in a comprehensive agreement to settle the full range of final status issues. This idea has become so ingrained in the way the conflict is discussed, that the process itself is now considered something inherently valuable and worth fighting for, rather than just a means to an end.
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Will Discovery of Torture Trove Weaken Syria’s Hand at Geneva II?

Assad, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

One shudders at the phrases “systematic” and “industrial-scale” killing used by the three lawyers who prepared a report on torture and killing of detainees by the Assad regime. (Yet another huge story broken by the Guardian.) A military policeman secretly working with a Syrian opposition group smuggled out 55,000 images of 11,000 bodies tortured and/or starved to death. It gets worse.

Many other photographers are attached to security units elsewhere in the country and are likely to have been asked to provide visual evidence of deaths.

Even just trying to imagine the suffering is unimaginable. One can only hope it will put Syria on the defensive at the upcoming Geneva II peace talks. It already bodes ill for Assad when Secretary of State John Kerry says, as he did yesterday:

“The right to lead a country does not come from torture. . . . The only thing standing in the way is the stubborn clinging to power of one man.”

Why were these pictures taken? As proof that detainees were tortured and killed. Just like the Nazis, Syria finds itself tripped up by a perceived need for recordkeeping.

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