Sunday, January 31, 2010

Annual China-Taiwan-US Rituals

Sorry for the few updates recently. Have been busy at work with assignment changes.

I saw this protest from China over the proposed Taiwan foreign military sales currently pending in Congress. This happens everytime that it is practically a ritual of form.

Perhaps, to keep face, China needs to make some noise. And perhaps it is a slow news day for the news media, who have to report this kind of stuff. However, it struck me that China should be happy about all sales to Taiwan. In fact, it is in China's strategic interest to encourage Taiwan to buy as much stuff from the US as possible.

To understand this logic, you need to accept the premise that re-unification is the inevitable conclusion. 70 years is a blink in the eye of the Chinese culture. The people across the strait shares too much to keep up the separation. The independence movement has support from some parts of Taiwan, but Taiwan is too enmeshed in the Chinese economic system to make that a political reality. It may be in the strategic interests of some countries to keep Taiwan separate, but do not confuse strategic interest with reality.

Anyway, if Taiwan will eventually re-unify with China, [and a peaceful reunification looks more hopeful everyday], then any Taiwanese technology will eventually become Chinese technology. If Taiwan buys or builds submarines, they will become Chinese subs down the road. If Taiwan gets some F-16 technology from the US, that will end up in Chinese hands anyway. So whatever Taiwan can get from the US, is a net-plus to China.

The US needs to consider this possibility in its FMS process. But it does not materially change the FMS calculus. The US is officially for a peaceful reunification, and the FMS package supports that end. The US and China are not adversaries yet, just competitors and symbiots. Some parts of the US national security apparatus are arguing for an adversarial interpretation of the Sino-American relationship, but that remains a non-official view. Above all, the US strives for stability in the global economic system to foster economic growth. An ascendant China, in itself, is agnostic to that strategic goal.

So here is another way to interpret the on-going China-Taiwan-US soap opera.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti and Gangs

I've been looking into Haiti's security problems (which will soon make it into the news). Poverty is an issue, but mostly as it increases the payoff for violence. Before the quake, Haiti was experiencing food riots due to price increases, starting in 2008. The food riots have empowered the gangs in enforcing security and sourcing food, and the corruption opportunity from the inflowing aid will only intensify gang competition and warfare. Port-au-Prince may well descend into Mogadishu-style misery as gangs and tribes compete for the foreign aid teat.

At the same time, we have few pleasant choices to uplift Port-au-Prince from violent anarchy. With the high stakes of starvation and death, the gangs have plenty of motivation to "fight to the death". We cannot hold the gangs back from armed competition through negotiations, because of the high incentives from going violent.

At the same time, there were few police in Haiti to begin with, plus the 9,000 UN peacekeepers. Without a massive infusion of police and military into Haiti, we cannot guarantee a completely fair distribution of food and water. The abject poverty of Haiti encourages the gangs to hoard as much supplies as possible, for the day when yankees leave. Wherever out of sight of the soldiers, they will be fighting over that one bag of flour.

If we will not send in the military (American or Brazilian), the fastest way to restore order in Haiti will be to ally ourselves with the strongest gang in every district. They are the biggest boots on the ground, the ones best able to secure their own families. At the same time, it will mean the near-death of their local rivals.

On balance, though, the near tyranny of the lord of the town is better than a fought-over street corner, for the civilians. At least they don't have to worry about the stray bullets. Not picking a side in the gang warfare only prolongs the violence on civilian supporters.

Long-term, Haitian agriculture cannot support the population density on the island. Therefore, Haiti has to industrialize and develop its tourism industry. Economic development, however, cannot take place in anarchy. There has to be order before business can flower.

Haiti Relief and Security Challenge

Galrahn at Information Dissemination raised many interesting observations and questions about Haiti. For the US military, Haiti certainly looks to be THE OTHER Contingency Operation of this new decade, and whose committment may dwarf the Balkan operations in scope. At least in the Balkans, the Europeans were doing the heavy-lifting in funding and boots on the ground. The Bosnians were also better off economically than Haitians.

For a comparison, Kosovo has 1.8 million people, comparable to metro Port-au-Prince's 1.7 million. KFOR at its height had 4 brigades and 50,000 soldiers, of which only 7,000 were from the US. Where will we find 50,000 soldiers (roughly 2 divisions) in the US without disrupting dwell time?

Security may not seem a concern right now because of the human suffering. However, as we have seen in Iraq, people get angry real fast, especially when comparing the perceived omnipotence of the US military with the reality. When the survivors start dying due to inadequate aid and gang disruptions, their relatives will be very upset. It will be sad if we see a repeat of Blackhawk Down, this time with another group of "skinnies".

G also brought up the potential immigration challenge. We almost definitely will have to dust off the camps at Gitmo. For some Haitians, it could be a return to familiar ground.

Some people in Galrahn's comments have suggested deployment of cell towers and other communication infrastructure stuff. Sadly, the US military has no money to spend on this kind of "side missions". Perhaps some state emergency management agencies have this asset available for deployment. If the USAID or State Department can organize this kind of deployment of American emergency management assets, that will be a big help to the Haitians, good practice for the states, and good precedence and practice for soft power deployment in the State Department.

Perhaps I need to get ready for a mobilization into Haiti myself...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

China Raising Reserve Requirements

China certainly responds fast with monetary policy measures. It has raised bank reserve requirements and debt interest rates.

However, as I said earlier, the shadow finance sector is less sensitive to central bank's dicta. Let's hope China succeeds at a soft-landing.

Friday, January 8, 2010

More Tactical Reminders from the Field

Tom Rick's CWO2 continues to regale us with his series of tactical reminders from the field. One of the recent ones was very disturbing.

If Marine line units need this kind of reminders, the same is probably true of the Army as well. The infantry fieldcraft has degraded so much that we are failing in defensive positions. That is disturbing and sad.

It is sad because the US Army infantry, in the days of WW2 and Vietnam, used to be great in the art and science of Defense. They'd go somewhere, set up for the night, and wait for the enemy attack. When the enemy do show up for the inevitable attack, the GIs would hold the line, and call in artillery, our technological advantage.

If you know someone deploying in a line unit, please send them a copy of Command Legacy. It's a great follow-up to FM 7-8 Infantry Platoon.

Yes, your defensive positions have to make sense. You need supplementary and alternate positions. And you need to check your positions and call on your neighbors.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

An Iranian Perspective on the Iranian Protests

Foreign Policy is posting an article by an Iranian writer, about the Iranian protests. He characterises the protests as a civil rights movement, rather than a full-on revolution.,0

In the article, he affirms one of my previous conclusions, which is that the IRGC may well sacrifice Khamenei to preserve their own livelihood in Iran.

Mr. Majd says that the Green Movement, in its majority, is only a call for civil rights at this moment. I disagree. The politicians harnessing the Green Movement are channeling it toward civil rights. However, the crowds do not have a clear aim. People take to the streets because they're angry. The street movement represents the emotions of the people. The People are angry at the regime, whether it be Khamenei or the government in total.

Regardless, the speed of this movement means that we will see the conclusion within the year, either a political compromise or outright revolution.