Eyes of the Fleet

Eyes of the Fleet

Friday, December 31, 2004

Logistics Lack Hampers Aid Efforts

Fox News says Toll Tops 120,000 as Aid Efforts Ramp Up but
But with help streaming in, overstreched authorities were dealing with the logistical nightmare of getting it to the needy.

Tons of supplies were backlogged in Indonesia, with thousands of boxes filled with drinking water, crackers, blankets and other basic necessities piled high in an airplane hangar nearly 300 miles from Banda Aceh (search), the wrecked main city in the disaster zone.

Where are the UN ships? Where are the UN aircraft? Is the UN still holding "donors conferences?" According to the Diplomad they are. Spending money locally for food and other supplies, as the UN does, is a good idea. However, you still have to get it from point A to point B. In mass quantities. In the watery world of island chains and long distances, the best means of transport is ship - especially ships that can offload their own cargo (no reliance on shore facilities). Helicopters don't have the range, airplanes can't carry the volume and need runways.

In a previous post, I questioned the UN logistical planning system. It seems I was, in part, wrong to make a sweeping condemnation. At least one part of the UN, the World Food Program, has:
(a) a strategic planner:
"The number of people affected by natural disasters will probably double over the next 30 years," Dianne Spearman, director of strategic planning of the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP), told delegates at a two-day WFP shipping conference.

She said people in developing countries would be the most affected and that the WFP, the world's largest food aid agency, would have to respond by moving very large quantities of food to victims at very short notice, often by ship.

(b) the sense to be working on a contigency plan:
Spearman said the WFP was making contingency plans with countries to deal with natural disasters, in regions where drought and floods were frequent, but was struggling to obtain funding from donors.

(c) shipping contracts:
The Rome-based WFP's ocean transport service (OTS) uses a panel of 13 ship brokers located worldwide to arrange shipments of food aid to the needy.

In 2000 the WFP moved about 3.54 million tonnes of food aid representing around $240 million in ocean freight.

In 2001 the aid agency chartered an average of 260 bulk carriers and booked an estimated 30,000 containers.

The WFP has on average 40 to 45 bulk carriers, loaded with food aid commodities, always on charter. These ships can, on short notice, be re-routed to meet sudden emergencies.

Futher, the WFP also runs a UN Humanitarian Response Depot in Brindisi, Italy. This facility is exactly what its name implies and carries a reasonable supply of equipment for shipment to troubled spots within 24/48 hours. Among the items available is a water system capable of cleaning up water for up to 20,000 people. It fits neatly into a box that weighs about 2000 pounds (950 kilos).

But logistics is more than having ready to go kits, as is evidenced by this press release:
Nairobi, 29 December 2004 - WFP is facing serious difficulties in taking relief food to the population of Hafun, an island in northern Somalia battered by Sunday’s Indian Ocean tsunami.

WFP quickly responded to the tragedy by sending two trucks loaded with 31 tonnes of food aid to the area.

However the road leading in to the town has been cut off by the floods and the trucks are presently stuck 60 kilometres away, unable to proceed. WFP staff and local authorities are trying to mobilize some 4x4 trucks to transport these urgently required supplies.

Half of the food delivery is expected to arrive this evening allowing distributions to start tomorrow morning. Meanwhile, another 52 tonnes will be dispatched from Bossaso to reinforce stocks available be distributed.

WFP staff describe a state of total desolation in Hafun. All 4500 inhabitants of the island seemed to have lost all they possessed with most of the houses destroyed by the waters.

When the tidal wave struck on December 26 people fled to the hills near the town empty-handed. They have no shelter, no water, no food, and no medicines. Cases of diarrhoea and other diseases are already being reported.

The displaced families are asking for urgent assistance in terms of water, shelter, food and medicines.

WFP is making contingency plans to provide 255 tonnes of food to at least 15,000 people affected by the tidal waves.

The area most seriously affected by the tsunami waves was the northeastern coast of Puntland – an area not densely populated. Locations worst hit include the villages of Hafun, Foar, Garan, Bander Beyla, Maraya, Dharirbar and Gara’ad.

According to initial estimates, 30,000 to 50,000 people may have been affected. Number of casualties are, however, hard to confirm. The north-eastern region of Puntland is already facing serious food shortages due to a four-year drought followed by floods.

Each month WFP gives assistance to some 120,000 people in the area.

As I indicated in my earlier post, I believe the UN needs to have a number of prepositioned ships capable of "self unloading" to carry emergency materials and equipment to hard hit areas. An example of such a vessel is the "LASH" type ("Lighter Aboard Ship") which consists of a mother ship and what are essentially barges filled with cargo. A pusher boat takes the barges to shore where they can be unloaded. Some LASH barges can hold up to 380 tons of material and each ship can carry up to 80 barges. As you can calculate, that's a significant amount of aid delivery capability.

Why ships? 44% of the world's population lives within 90 miles (150 km) of the ocean, so it is the best means of getting emergency supplies to that population.

Trucking supplies overland to people affected by a tidal wave (who obviously live near the water) is not as efficient as getting the goods there by the sea, the nearest major transportation venue.

Death toll over 1200,000 in Tsunami wake; relief begins arriving

Fox News pegs latest death toll at over 120,000 and reports aid is arriving to some areas. Singapore will become "relief staging area."

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Pentagon Budget Cuts? More Rice Bowls Toppled

According to the NY Times "Pentagon Said to Offer Cuts in the Billions".
Among the proposed cuts, the Navy takes some of the most prominent hits. This is in large part, Navy officials and independent budget analysts said, because increased efficiencies in its operations under Adm. Vern Clark, the chief of naval operations, allow for reductions in forces and ships that do not jeopardize the service's missions.

Two military and Congressional officials who have been briefed on the proposed cuts spoke about them on condition of anonymity because the budget is not yet complete.

Under the proposal, the Navy would retire the carrier John F. Kennedy - one of the oldest carriers in the fleet, having first been deployed in 1968 - next year. The Kennedy, based in Mayport, Fla., recently completed a tour in the Persian Gulf, where its air wing was flying 60 missions a day, including flights to Iraq.
The Kennedy's retirement would, for the first time since the mid-1990's, reduce the size of the Navy's carrier fleet.
The proposal also calls for reducing the number of new LPD-17 San Antonio-class amphibious landing docks, which are designed to transport Marine assault vehicles, amphibious landing craft and Osprey aircraft, to trouble spots around the world. The Navy had originally planned to buy five of the ships over the next five years, at about $1.2 billion apiece. The vessels are built by Northrop Grumman in New Orleans.
Another major change would be to build fewer new Navy destroyers than planned over the next six years. A team of contractors, led by Northrop Grumman, is building the ships, currently called DD(X), at a cost of $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion per vessel, in Pascagoula, Miss., and in Bath, Me.
The Kennedy, which is not a nuclear powered carrier, costs a lot just to keep schools open to train people to operate her boilers. And to keep her in fuel when she was operating, you need a fuel logistics train...

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Logistics, Logistics, Logistics

There's an old saying in the military that "amateurs talk tactics, professionals talk logistics." Why? Because "getting there first with the most doesn't matter for diddly-squat if your troops wither on the vine from lack of sustainment - food, water, medicine, ammo.

Today while driving around on errands, I heard some Irish (?) aid worker in the Sri Lanka area lambasting the UN for its ineptness. His point was that in relief and rescue work, just like in the military, logisitics is the key. And, whatever its other many failings, the UN has completely screwed the pooch on logistics, not just in the latest southeast Asia crisis, but overall, in completely failing to have developed some sort of logistics force that can be called on to spring into immediate action and get needed relief supplies on the move. I have mentioned this before in connection with the Sudan and the Dafur mess. I saw it in operation in the Balkans.

The UN seems incapable of learning from its past failings. Why are there not ships preloaded with the sorts of emergency equipment that might be needed if a major earthquake hits Japan or the Philippines or Nicaragua? Why does the UN not have the humanitarian equivalent of the U.S. military's prepositioned ships? Load up their hulls with water purifiers, medicine, cranes, backhoes, fuel, generators, tents, food, heavy lift vehicles, jeeps, helicopters, field hospitals, etc. Then wait for the inevitable disaster. Have two or three sets of ships - South America, Asia, Africa.

Surely the expense is well within the budgets of the nations who support the UN. If such a system were in place, the only issues would be sailing the ships and arranging to have the necessary aid personnel arrive to marry up with their equipment. Instead, we have the incredible delays caused by the UN having to seek emergency funding from donor nations and then arranging for ships and then loading the ships and then sailing the ships. The transit time from the US to Sri Lanka is probably close to 3 weeks (8100 nautical miles/20 knots=405 hours/24hours=17 days). From Singapore- (1470nm/20=74 hours/24= a little over 3 days). If the ships can go 20 knots.

In the meantime, relief supplies trickle in by air (trust me, one ship carries a whole lot more that even the biggest aircraft) and we see harried aid workers wondering when the real supplies will arrive. The good news for the helpers and the helpees is that the US Navy is sending some ships their direction.

Which raises another sore point that the Irish aid worker was exactly right about. Where is Kofi Annan? Why is he not exerting leadership and driving the problem? President Bush gets dinged by the Washington Post for allegedly not being "sensitive" by continuing on his vacation at his ranch (accompanied by enough electronic gizmos to run the government from where he is) - but where is any sign of leadership from Mr. Annan? Instead of showing any leadership, he runs out a minion to criticize how "stingy" the West is being.

Boo! Fire the bastards and get some adult leadership over there.

Surely the idea that disasters occur on a regular basis can be the basis for planning a better policy than that we see playing out now.

Update: Our Canadian friends are having logistics troubles of their own. See the excellent blog Strong and Free here for a biting assessment of what happens when you let your logistics force deteriorate - you get to sit at home when you could be doing good somewhere.

Update2: British Red Cross sends in its logisticians -
The logistics Emergency Response Unit will coordinate the arrival of all the Red Cross relief goods being sent to the island, and ensure they are distributed efficiently to the people who need help the most urgently.

The charter flight will contain vehicles, a forklift truck, generators, tents and all the equipment the team needs to set up a mobile office.  It allows the ERU to be completely self-sufficient in disaster areas where resources, infrastructure and communications have been destroyed.

Oh, of course: Ramsey Clarke to defend Saddam

Al Jazeera reports Ramsey Clarke to defend Saddam. Well, of course he is.

Clarke makes me embarassed to be an American lawyer.

Tidal Waves Kill Over 68,000 in Asia

Tidal Waves Kill Over 44,000 in Asia.

Some things stagger the imagination. Please donate what you can to relief efforts.

Update: Death toll increases to over 44,000. Some help is on the way. More will be needed...

Update2: Must read piece in the Wall Street Journal (requires subscrption) 'Now We Hate Seeing This Sea' By Suketu Mehta. Brings home the personal tragedy of the peoples caught in the waves, and the way our media covers the damage wrought in the developing world (e. g. there are over 44,000 dead but the headline reads "8 Americans die")
In a perverse way, it might be a blessing that some of the casualities of the tidal wave were tourists from rich countries. 'At least 8 Americans among dead,' said an AP headline. And 25,000 others. But the headline puts a recognizable, indentifiable face on th tragedy. When honeymooners John and Susan are talking about almost drowning, it helps people here relate when Poonamma and Wimal are crying about having their child snatched out of their arms by the sea..."
Can you imagine what the American media would be doing if this involved 44,000 Americans?

The Command Post has a list of ways to help here.

Update3: Death toll increases to over 68,000. Burma (whatever they call themselves now) still not heard from as far as death toll.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Pentagon's New Map Must Read

Winds of Change has a link to World Changing where Dr. Thomas P. Barnett, the mind behind The Pentagon's New Map, explains his theory.
Now we know that there's no way to ignore the fact that a good third of humanity feel shut out of the global economy. That doesn't make them all threats. What it does mean is that if you're going to be serious about this trans-national terrorism issue, you're going to have to confront the reality of that one third. If you want to attack terrorists by shrinking their area of operations, in a classic military way, to reduce their ability to move around and squeeze them out of existence, then you have to integrate the rest of the world that remains left out.

I can't say that I have studied his theory in depth, nor that I have read any counter arguments. But my first impression at the gut and intuition check level is that Dr. Barnett has put his finger right on it.

Update: An older Michael Borone critique.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Kim Jong-il: NK has no intention of invading South Korea

According to Channelnewsasia, Kim Jong-Il of the DPRK has no intention of invading South Korea.
"There is a fuss in South Korea about a non-existent southward invasion threat, but what actually exists in our country is... a northward invasion threat," the radio [Radio Pyongyang] quoted Kim as saying, according to Yonhap news agency.
Whew, that's a relief. I guess we can let our guard down now.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to everyone!

Special wishes to those in harm's way and to those who support them. A special prayer to the families of those who serve. May all your hopes come true.

Many thanks to all the people who work so hard behind the scenes to get the Christmas gifts to the troops and sailors far from home. To the postal workers and the COD and helicopter pilots and crews who fly the mail to the troops and to the ships at sea.

Even with the ability to send an e-mail or instant message, there is still no feeling in the world like getting a package from home. For a moment the world grows calm and normal because you know someone has thought of you.

May God Bless Us, Everyone!

What Freedom Looks Like

Here's a picture of freedom:

Freedom from fear. Freedom to practice one's religion. Freedom to believe in a future that's better than today.

Photo is from Fox News website
Fox caption:
Dec. 24: Kim Diamond, center, holds her daughter as they participate in a Christmas Eve service in Leawood, Kan.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Iraqi Election Insight from Dagger Jag in Iraq

An Army Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer with the Big Red One has some good info on the Iraqi elections that I haven't seen anywhere else. Take a look here.
But recently there have been encouraging signs (from my perspective) that the Sunnis are starting to understand how the elections will work and that participation in the elections and even a minority position in the government can be the hedge they need to secure their rights in a new Iraq.

They are also starting to understand the political process better and figure out how to work within the framework of the current laws to voice their concerns. Many of the meetings I go to sound like a Poly Sci 101 lecture. But now that they are starting to understand the process, they are also starting to accept it, and that makes involvement much more likely. Even if they don't agree with the laws they realize they can still work with them.


Changes in North Korea?

North Korea Zone posts an article from the Guardian
European policymakers have been advised to prepare for "sudden change" in North Korea amid growing speculation among diplomats and observers that Kim Jong-il is losing his grip on power...

We've been down this path before, but...

The Guardian article is here
Veteran North Korea watchers say government officials are contradicting one another and being forced to wear military uniforms instead of their usual civilian clothes. "I've never seen or heard so many signs of division within the leadership," said a western observer who has been travelling in and out of Pyongyang for more than five years. "Kim Jong-il seems to be losing control."

"There is a great deal of pressure coming from somewhere," a North Korea-based diplomat said. "We don't know whether it is internal or external, but something is going on."

In typically pugnacious style, North Korea denounced such speculation as part of a psychological warfare campaign by the US and its allies. "The system in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is politically stable and is as firm as a rock," the state-run Korean Central News Agency said. "No matter how noisily the US may cry out, we will take it as no more than a dog's barking at a moon."
"...[A] dog's barking at the moon." Nice turn of phrase.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Oil Refinery Shortage

Back in July, the Columbia, Missouri Daily Tribune reported here on the need for new oil refineries. However:
There hasn’t been a major new refinery in the United States since 1976, and experts say none is on the horizon. Refineries are expensive, and nobody likes having a big, smelly refinery near his or her back yard. But another reason you won’t see any refineries springing up soon is that oil companies like things the way they are: Their refineries are operating near capacity, so they sell practically every drop of fuel they make. Refining makes up roughly 14 percent of the cost of a gallon of gasoline, and in recent weeks gas prices reached record highs. Because demand for gasoline is greater than what the refineries can produce in many cases, refineries can charge more for gasoline...[note by Eagle1 - I'm sure most businesses prefer to make a profit. If not spending lots of money on an investment where the potential return on investment would actually be lowered by adding capacity, I don't see how any business would make the decision to spend the money - the refining companies are businesses, not welfare agencies.]

The soaring gas costs are bringing more attention to the limited-refining capacity in the United States. The number of domestic refineries is declining. In 1980, there were more than 300 U.S. refineries. At the end of 2003, there were 149, roughly a 50 percent decrease. Through early June, those refineries cranked out 8.5 million barrels of gasoline a day, up 4 percent from last year. Some are running at close to 100 percent of their capacity just to keep pace with demand, so it’s tough to further boost production. [note by Eagle1- if the refining companies were really trying to jack up prices wouldn't they reduce production at existing plants? The fact is that refineries operate most efficiently at near capacity or capacity levels and that helps keep the price to the public down]

The chance of new ones being built is slim. The last major U.S. oil refinery was built in 1976, and stringent pollution controls and the overall public distaste for refineries make it nearly impossible for oil companies to build more, oil experts say. "No one wants one," said Anthony Sabino, associate business professor at St. John’s University in New York. "Building a refinery is very expensive. It’s a multibillion-dollar proposition." [Eagle1 note: Poor reporting - companies can live with stringent pollution controls and even public distaste, but they can't live with losing money in their operations. The cost of building a refinery requires a sufficient return on investment projection to justify spending the money. If higher rates of return are available elsewhere, why would you invest in a lower rate of return?]

Even a smaller-scale refinery could cost at least $1 billion to build, said James Nelson, a division manager at Marathon Ashland Petroleum LLC’s Detroit refinery, the only refinery left in Michigan. And because of changing clean-air rules for refineries, it costs millions to maintain the operations, experts say...Experts also say fewer refineries give the oil companies a huge advantage: They stand to make a lot more money when supplies are limited, so, even if people wanted more refineries, companies don’t have a lot of incentive to build more. [Note by Eagle1- "Experts say?" "Even if people wanted more refineries?" If "people" want more refineries, let them invest their money in building them. If the profits are so high then "people" will get their money back -right? Well, apparently investors-I mean "people"- aren't clamoring to get into the refining business. Experts say.]

In the first quarter, industry giant ExxonMobil saw its profits from refining operations jump 38.8 percent. Refining profits at ConocoPhillips grew 19.2 percent in the first quarter. Marathon Ashland, which isn’t publicly traded, wouldn’t release information on profits.[Note by Eagle1: More poor reporting. Increase in profits by percentage means nothing unless we know what the original number was. If refining profits were $.01 last year and increased 38%, then they are $.0138 this year, which is not much. The reporter seems to have a small bias and apparently has read How to Lie with Statistics.]
In contrast, the American Petroleum Institute points out that the increase in gasoline prices has fallen well behind other products. See here for a link to a pdf that contains a nice graph staking out that position.

For information about refinery profit margins, California has information here. Although when you think about it, mixing "refinery costs" and "profit" will always yield a positive number even if profits are a negative. It may not mean much at all. According to Business Week Asia
After years of skimpy investment, refineries are chronically overtaxed, running at better than 90% of capacity on average. And differing environmental regulations can make it impossible for refiners in one region to relieve shortages in neighboring areas. Even oil industry honchos say something is wrong. Notes Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM ) Chairman and CEO Lee R. Raymond: "There are fewer and fewer degrees of flexibility in the system."

Like many other faciltiites, the economies of scale favor larger, more efficient refineries. As smaller, less efficient plants have closed, refinery capacity has decreased:
Refinery capacity today is about 16.8 million barrels a day, compared with 18.6 million barrels a day in 1981, according to the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association.

But industry leaders say there are many reasons that refineries haven't been built beyond problems with permitting and environmental requirements. Refineries, for example, have had a history of meager profit margins, making it difficult to attract capital.

Refinery profits have soared along with high gasoline prices this year, but there's no assurance of stable profits in the future to attract the estimated $3 billion needed to build a new, large refinery, industry experts said.
And that's why "people" won't spend their money on them.

Update: Adjusted a poorly phrased sentence.

Contingency Planning 101: Preparing for an world oil shortage

This posting at Geopolitcal Review concerning the most recent Osama bin Laden tape got me thinking. What if Osama bin Laden were to have his latest wish granted and terrorists were able to damage the Saudi oil fields and/or transportation system. Suppose it was damaged so severly that oil supplies to the world were effectively curtailed? What then? Geopolitical Review cites this article from the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (while the IAGS report is generally pretty good, I find some of it a little overly dramatic).

As to how hard it would be to damage the Saudi fields? In my view, pretty damn hard. You can blow up well heads and pipelines, but they are relatively "easy" to fix. Just see how fast the Kuwaiti fields got brought back on line after Desert Storm. Refineries are harder to fix, but there are more of them (even if there aren't enough) and so there is a certain redundancy in the system. But for the purposes of this discussion, let's suppose that old OBL can get his supporters to act so effectively that they shut down the Saudi oil supply system.

First, recognize that nothing will happen immediately except for an increase in the price of crude oil and refined products. A certain amount of crude oil is always being moved by ship in what amounts to a virtual pipeline of oil. At any given moment there are several days worth of crude oil somewhere at sea.

Second, Saudi Arabia is the big dog supplier, but there are lots of other suppliers of crude oil. Canada, Venezuela, Indonesia, Nigeria, Kuwait, Iraq, Iran, Mexico and the U.S. are all players. Unless OBLites shut them all down there will be oil. More expensive oil, but oil.

Third, if the Saudi supply is cut, oil prices rise and the higher the price, the more sources of new crude open up. There is oil available now that is too expensive to go after at the current oil market price. In these locations, it costs more to extract a barrel than you can make by selling the oil at current pricing. However, at some price level, it becomes profitable to go after this oil. For example, in the 1970's the US saw several highly expensive 'shale oil" projects to extract the oil from oil bearing shale rock. These were generally abandoned when the price of imported crude dropped below the cost of shale oil production. Recent price increases in oil is driving some companies to revisit oil shale.
Companies that had shelved their shale oil technologies are dusting them off now, hoping to find a market.

In an effort to reduce the surface footprint, Shell is abandoning the traditional process by which shale is mined, crushed and then heated in giant ovens called retorts to extract the oil.

The new, patented technique involves drilling holes and inserting heaters in target underground zones to slowly heat the shale layers.

Once the shale is sufficiently heated, a chemical reaction starts and releases the lighter hydrocarbons, which rise. The heavier hydrocarbons remain within the formation. The lighter hydrocarbons, almost a gasoline-type product, are subsequently pumped out of the ground through conventional means.

The advantage of this new process is that it eliminates the problem of waste disposal, said Shell's Terry O'Connor, who works on the Mahogany project. That's because the heavy hydrocarbons are left in their original form in the underground shale. Also, the process requires much less water.
Source San Diego Union Tribune. In the early 1980's, when I was working at a large oil company in Houston, there were lots of plans for offshore drilling in really deep water. The problem: such operations could be justified only at $80/barrel oil (1980 dollars). When the price of crude dropped to $12 or so, those projects (and the engineers who designed them) were abandoned with alacrity. Get the price of crude high enough, though...

Fourth, an oil shortage may impel more rapid adoption of alternative fuel sources, including natural gas, hydrogen, nuclear power. Coal, of which the U.S. has a lot, can be "gassified".
Gasification, in fact, may be one of the best ways to produce clean-burning hydrogen for tomorrow's automobiles and power-generating fuel cells. Hydrogen and other coal gases can also be used to fuel power-generating turbines or as the chemical "building blocks" for a wide range of commercial products.
Coal is already powering about 50% of US electric production. For more information on coal see here.

An oil shortage should not be a surprise. Some have predicting it (regardless of OBL) for awhile.
Around 1995, several analysts began applying Hubbert's method to world oil production, and most of them estimate that the peak year for world oil will be between 2004 and 2008.

Now back to the IAGS report. It says:
Over half of Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves are contained in just eight fields, among them the world's largest onshore oil field -- Ghawar, which alone accounts for about half of the country's total oil production capacity -- and Safaniya, the world's largest offshore oilfield. About two-thirds of Saudi Arabia's crude oil is processed in a single enormous facility called Abqaiq, 25 miles inland from the Gulf of Bahrain. On the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia has just two primary oil export terminals: Ras Tanura - the world's largest offshore oil loading facility, through which a tenth of global oil supply flows daily - and Ras al-Ju'aymah. On the Red Sea, a terminal called Yanbu is connected to Abqaiq via the 750-mile East–West pipeline. A terrorist attack on each one of these hubs of the Saudi oil complex or a simultaneous attack on few of them is not a fictional scenario. A single terrorist cell hijacking an airplane in Kuwait or Dubai and crashing it into Abqaiq or Ras Tanura, could turn the complex into an inferno. This could take up to 50% of Saudi oil off the market for at least six months and with it most of the world’s spare capacity, sending oil prices through the ceiling. "Such an attack would be more economically damaging than a dirty nuclear bomb set off in midtown Manhattan or across from the White House in Lafayette Square," wrote former CIA Middle East field officer Robert Baer. This "would be enough to bring the world's oil-addicted economies to their knees, America's along with them."
This thought is not shared by by the Saudis:
Abdallah Jum'ah, CEO of the normally secretive Saudi Aramco, recently went public with details of the state-owned oil company's security arrangements in an effort toreassure doubters. He said company facilities are protected by 5,000 security guards.
"There is nowhere in the world that oil facilities are protected as well as in Saudi Arabia and Saudi Aramco," he said.

Nail Al-Jubeir, spokesman for the Saudi embassy in Washington, says the kingdom has spent decades beefing up security. "Our oil can come out of the (Persian) Gulf, or... from the Red Sea. We've built in redundancies to make sure there's enough oil for the world and for our income for the future."

The report warns about "terrorism at sea" and the problem of certain "shipping choke points" through which shipping must travel to get crude oil/refined product to its end-users. The function of the US Navy is to protect the sea lanes vital to our nation's interests. If it requires escorting tankers through potentially troubled waters, that's what we have destroyers for. If necessary, voluntary convoying can be set up under Naval Control and Protection of Shipping (NCAPS) (formerly "Naval Control of Shipping Organization" or NCSORG). Even the WWII system of putting military "armed guards" on tankers could be reinstituted at an appropriate threat level. Interesting info on oil "choke points" here. Since the narrowest points in the Straits of Hormuz and the Strait of Malacca are 2 miles and 1.5 miles respectively, it would hard to block them completely with the sinking of a single shp.

The question is whether OBL and his al Qaeda group and affiliates could pull off an huge attack on multiple locations and do enough damage to stop the flow of oil for an extended period of time. I see no evidence of it in his current, reduced, circumstances.

Yes, in the worst case scenerio, an extradinarily well-coordinated attack, or series of attacks, on several facilities at once could ding the system. But I agree with the Saudis - there are enough "redundancies" in place that there is no need to spool completely up on the latest OBL tape. Sure, increase the security levels, but full General Quarters is not yet needed.

Meantime, get behind the effort to find alternative fuels.

Update: fixed NCAPS reference
Update2: Added link to DOE "choke point" info and comment.
Update3: Check here for the World Energy "Areas To Watch" as put out by the Department of Energy Energy Information Administration.
Update4: This site has some interesting information on the world's sources of oil and natural gas. It points out the U.S. gets 14.5% of its oil from Saudi Arabia.

Pirates Arrgh!

Latest ICC Commercial Crime Service Piracy report here.

Nigeria and the Straits of Malaaca lead the way, again. Another suspicious yachting occurence off (well, 350 miles off) Socotra Island, in the Gulf of Aden.
A craft with the appearance of a dhow chased a yacht underway. Skipper altered course and took evasive manoeuvres to avoid direct contact. After some time two more crafts joined the dhow but finally they gave up the chase.

Socotra Island sits off the coast of Africa and may be an interesting place to visit.
Socotra Island is the largest island of the Land of Sheba...
Giant spiders? Map: here. Its neighborhood isn't the greatest, though.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Iraq "Insurgency" Planned while UN Fiddled?

Geopolitical Review posts excerpt from a U.S. News & World Report here. Money quote: "Seems the [lengthy] discussions at the U.N. had only one beneficiary: the Iraqi insurgency."

Link to USN&WR article: here.

Intel Update From Winds of Change

Dan Darling at Winds of Change went to a counter-terrorism conference and came back with this report. Interesting reading. So get to it.

Yawn. Again?

The world is not shocked by this Canadian Broadcasting report "North Korea threatens to increase 'deterrent force' to counter U.S."
"If the United States more desperately pursues its hostile policy to isolate and stifle (North Korea) under the pretext of the 'nuclear issue' and 'human rights issue' . . . the latter will react to it by further increasing its self-defensive deterrent force," an unnamed spokesman for the North Korea's Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

I love the phrase "self-defensive deterrent force." I guess they'll be growing their army. Again.

One thing the North Koreans seem to be able to grow

The Christian science Monitor says in "North Korea's nukes: advanced, but hidden" the the DPRK may have enough plutonium for about nine bombs.

If they spent this much time and money on crops, the people would be starving. On the other hand, being self-sufficient in food isn't much of an international blackmail tool...

Monday, December 20, 2004

How To Ensure Democracy in Iraq?

Thomas Friedman has an op-ed column in today's New York Times "A Political Arabesque" that suggests that to ensure democratic participation in the Iraqi election by the Sunni Muslim factions, the U.S. should do the following:
The best way to reduce Iran's influence, and to prevent civil war, is to ensure as much Sunni participation in the election as possible, so that when the new Iraqi constitution is written, the more secular Iraqi Kurds and Sunnis will balance the more religious-oriented Shiites. If there is not enough Sunni participation, the elections, rather than defusing civil strife in Iraq, will increase it, because all the spoils will go to the Shiites and Kurds, and the Sunnis will feel even more excluded.

For all these reasons, the Bush team should be working with Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Arab states and even Syria to use all their contacts with Iraqi Sunnis to embolden them to take part in the elections - and to make sure they have bags of money to get out the vote, particularly among the Sunni tribes. It is imperative the Sunnis be brought in, even if some have to be bought.

Unfortunately, America's Arab friends "are doing nothing" right now, a senior Iraqi minister told me. The Americans need to be more demanding of their Arab friends, he said. While many Arab leaders are appalled at the idea of Shiites ruling an Arab state in the otherwise Sunni-dominated Arab world, they also know that a civil war in Iraq would lead to terrible instability at a time when all these Arab regimes understand they have to start reforming.

I understand Mr. Friedman's concerns, but I have my doubts about the efficacy of asking non-democratic regimes, who have every reason to feel threatened by the presence of a democracy in there midst, to participate in helping to develop that democracy. He seems to be suggesting that we ask the surrounding kingdoms and dictatorships to help build a gun that may be turned on them. Their benefit in doing so is - it may avoid chaos in Iraq. I don't think that's much incentive, especially for Syria, which seems to be done its best to assist in the continuation of the chaos.
The Saudis have enough on their plates with internal dissent without suddenly announcing support for a democracy "next door" but "not here."
Mr. Friedman asserts:
It requires enormous understanding of the complexities of Iraqi and Arab politics and the ability to produce outcomes not by the traditional, straightforward U.S. approach, but by the more subtle, bazaar-oriented politics in that part of the world.
I've been to a few bazaars out there and appreciate the process, but convincing someone to take position that is so contrary to what they view as their own interests is not a skill I ever observed successfully applied, whether arguing for a better price in the souk or in the political realm.
Mr. Friedman recommends a "sticks" and "carrot" approach. Good luck. The carrot would have to be huge and the stick (as in Syria's case) would have to be masses of troops on its borders.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

One Way or the Other

A memory induced by reading through Belmont Club's post on the latest UN conference on climate change:

The Robert Frost poem:

"Fire and Ice"

SOME say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,      
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice."

North Korea and Iran Missile Update

Reuteres reports here that North Korea may soon test the Taepo Dong 2 missile capable of reaching all of Europe and parts of the U.S. with a nuclear warhead.

This is not a surprise, but wait until the test to hear the noise from Europe. One more tool in the blackmail tool bag of Kim Jong-Il.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Desertion Rate Math

Greyhawk over at Mudville Gazette has superb dissection of an article appearing in the Christian Science Monitor concerning "The pattern of discontent in US ranks." Greyhawk's piece is sufficient to blow away any credibility the author of the CSM, one Brad Knickerbocker, may have had and I suggest you read it.

This post deals with the more limited issue of the number of desertions that have occurred since the Iraq began. As Greyhawk notes, "60 Minutes says there have been over 5,500 desertions since the Iraq war began." To which my response is "What does that number mean? What's the 'normal' number of desertions in a year?" Here's partial answer: "Officials say today's Army takes a passive, good-riddance approach to its runaways, who account for fewer than 1 percent of enlistees. Prosecutions and prison sentences have become rare. Most of the several thousand deserters who bolt each year aren't actively pursued. Of those who do wind up in custody, more than 90 percent are discharged as quickly as the paperwork can be processed", according to a 2003 LA Times article found here. "Refusing to Kill.net" appears to be a pro deserter website.

Be that as it may, a 1% desertion rate for an army of 500,000 active troops is 5000 deserters, which means the "5500" CBS figure is roughly within the margin of error of the "normal" rate.

Now, if you take the entire active force (you know, add the Navy and the Air Force and the Marines), you have about 1.2 million "troops." Given that number, you might expect there to be 12,000 deserters, if the 1% figure is the norm. Instead, we get 5,500 "since the Iraq War began."

Perhaps desertions aren't up, but, instead are down since the war began...

Update: Well, call me late to the party. Will Collier over at Vodka Pundit was all over this yesterday and even has Pentagon figures (that I couldn't find) from
Pamela Hess, UPI's Pentagon correspondent, did some actual (and serendipitous) reporting on the subject today:

"The number of annual military desertions is down to the lowest level since before 2001, according to the Pentagon.

The Army said the number of new deserters in 2004 -- 2,376 -- was just half the number of those who deserted prior to Sept. 11, 2001. That number was 4,597.

The numbers of deserters has dropped annually since the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington. The fiscal year 2004 total number of Army deserters is the lowest since before 1998, according to Army data."
I don't mind being late, since my independent logic is supported...Okay, I do mind.

Hat tip to "mdmhvonpa", the commentor at Mudville Gazette that finally got me pointed in the right direction.

A Conspiracy of Dunces

Over at the Ace of Spades the old "no plane hit the Pentagon" moonbat theory has enjoyed a brief revival, if only as a punching bag for Ace (update: Ace hat tips Secure Liberty for the info). If you want to see the video that spun Ace (and others) up, you have to go to the links above because I'm not going to give the dishonest cretin who spawned it any more links than he already has. Apparently this piece of fiction was "inspired" by a piece of French writing (L'Effroyable Imposture or "The Frightening Fraud") by some goober named Thierry Meyssan who probably also believes the moon landing was a fake.

Snopes.com effectively disassembles the whole "conspiracy" here.

The trouble is that there are people out there who are all too willing to believe such tripe. That's truly frightening.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Why the Long Knives are out for Rumsfeld

He tried to make the military do things faster and better and he stepped on a lot of toes and tipped a lot of sacred cows.

Bin Laden Doesn't Like----the Saudi Government

The AP reports
"Alleged Bin Laden Tape Criticizes Saudis"
. The new tape, though unconfirmed as Bin Laden, sounds familiar OBL themes.
The speaker, in calm and even tones, accused Saudi rulers of "violating God's rules," a common theme of bin Laden, who accuses Saudi rulers of being insufficiently Islamic and too close to the "infidel" United States.

"The sins the regime committed are great ... it practiced injustices against the people, violating their rights, humiliating their pride," the speaker said. He accused the Saudi royal family of misspending public money while "millions of people are suffering from poverty and deprivation."

His next tape will contain criticism of the thousands of "martyrs" he has inspired for being "too motivated by lust" in seeking the 72 virgins instead of keeping their thoughts pure...

Update: Bill Roggio has a more adult analysis here.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia: Once More

Andrew Samwick at Vox Baby has finished reading America's Secret War and revisits one of the claims made in that book that
We went into Iraq to isolate and frighten the Saudi government into cracking down on the flow of money to Al Qaeda.
Andrew does not find proof of that claim in the book.

In a previous post, I staked out the position that "the invasion of Iraq, coupled with the invasion of Afghanistan and the turning of Pakistan completes what is essentially an encirclement of Iran. Further, as a look at a topographic map will tell you, Iraq provides far easier access to Iran's interior than other alternatives."

It's interesting that Andrew's post nearly coincides with two superb posts (hereand here by Wretchard at Belmont Club that point out some of the advantages gained by the U.S. vis-a-vis Iran by encouraging a free and democratic Iraq.
In this view, victory against terror need not take the form of the 101st Airborne marching into Teheran. It would be enough to merely hold the ring in Iraq to win over the Mullahs.
and cites a pretty good argument as to why:
Probably the most eye-opening suggestion that the United States has moved to the permanent offense, not only inside Iraq but within the region was made by Marc Ruel Gerecht, who argues that the Iranian mullahs are now facing a mortal geostrategic threat from a post-Saddam Iraq which they now cannot hope to prevent but at best to misdirect.

Today in Washington there are many within the foreign-policy establishment expressing their fear--and hope--that America's entanglement in Iraq may well compromise the Bush administration's ability to confront the Islamic Republic's quest for nuclear weapons. ... But does this reasoning make sense? Are Iraq and Iran so intertwined that America is essentially handcuffed in its dealings with Tehran's mullahs? In all probability, not at all. Indeed, the current interplay between the peoples of Iraq and its eastern neighbor actually ought to encourage the Bush administration to be more hawkish toward the clerical regime's growing interference in Iraq and pursuit of nuclear weapons.
The strongest trump playing in favor of America and against Iran is Iraqi nationalism. ... Iraq's Shiites are the progenitors of modern Iraqi nationalism. They, much more than their Sunni Arab compatriots, who were the driving force behind pan-Arabism in Mesopotamia, have shaped an Iraqi Arab identity which is distinct from the Sunni Arabs to the west and Shiite Iranians to the east. ... Which brings us to the Jan. 30 elections in Iraq. Clerical Iran's primary objective is to ensure that Iraq remains destabilized, incapable of coalescing around a democratically elected government. Such a government supported by Iraq's Shiite establishment is a dagger aimed at Tehran's clerical dictatorship.

If Gerecht's analysis is correct, OIF stands within an ace of not only achieving its operational goals, but is on the verge of winning its initial strategic goals.

I'll concede that stopping the blackmail payments to Al Queda from Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern counties is an important goal. But taking a larger view, Iraq is the key to Iran, the power that most needs to be checked in the Middle East. While the invasion of Iraq has indeed cost American and Iraqi lives, it is my view that, in the long run, it will save many thousands and, perhaps, millions of lives throughout the world.

Update: Here's an interesting post from American Future on "How Iran Would Fight Back" from an Asia Times article.
Another key element of Iran's strategy is to "increase the arch of crisis" in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq, where it has considerable influence, to undermine the United States' foothold in the region, hoping to create a counter-domino effect wherein instead of gaining inside Iran, the US would actually lose territory partly as a result of thinning its forces and military "overstretch".
Hmmm. Wonder why the Iranians would be putting on this "exercise" just now? Hmmm.

There Be Pirates

International Chamber of Commerce Comercial Crimes Service posts its "Weekly Piracy Report".

Best of the bad: Gulf of Aden-
Pirates in two small boats opened fire on a yacht underway. A helicopter operating from a nearby warship responded yacht's call for help. Pirates had fired four shots but there were no crew injuries or damage.
Bold pirates, indeed, who ply their trade in waters where warships operate. Perhaps, to borrow a phrase from my naval aviator friends, "There are old pirates and bold pirates, but there are no old, bold pirates."

Heating Oil, Gasoline and Refinery Capacity

Wonder why the prices of fuel oil is likely to rise? Or as "This Week In Petroleum" puts it ""[T]he U.S. heating oil market may shape up to be more interesting than many thought as recently as a week or so ago."

Update: More info here.
U.S. distillate inventories failed to increase last week and Russian oil giant Yukos has filed for bankruptcy, combining to stoke supply concerns Wednesday as wintry weather starts to set in and lifting petroleum futures to their highest levels in two weeks.
"This is like triple bad news for the oil markets -- the supply data shows it could be a long winter, the much, much colder temperatures across the country and the bankruptcy of Yukos -- all are contributing to the rise in prices," said Kevin Kerr, president of Kerr Trading International.

The underlying problem is lack of refining capacity- we need to build more capacity, but the profit margins are low and the cost, including the environmental aspects, is enormously high.

Update #2: Oh, yes, there is a shortage of shipping capacity, too, and that is part of the problem.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Farewell to Sgt. Hook

Sgt. Hook, showing enormous leadership, signs off. here. He'll be missed.

Things Didn't Add Up

North Carolina has 15 electoral votes but came up with an extra vote somewhere. Read all about it here.

North Korea: Capitalist by Necessity?

Professor Andrei Lankov has an interesting look at how capitalism is creeping its way upward in North Korea
...What we have seen in North Korea over the past 10 years can be best described as collapse of what used to be rigid Stalinism from below. In the Soviet Union of the late 1950s and in China of the late 1970s, Stalinism-Maoism was dismantled from above, through a chain of deliberate reforms planned and implemented by the government. In North Korea the same thing happened, but the system disintegrated from below, despite weak and ineffectual attempts to keep it intact.

Maybe Kim the Awful is setting up a shop somewhere...

Hat tip: The Marmot's Hole

Poison or what the heck is going on?

As a quick glance through my blog might reveal, I haven't written many (any?) posts on the Ukraine. But some things are too weird to let go by and John Rosenthal at Transatlantic Intelligencer seems to have rounded most of the odd stuff around the mysterious Yushchenko poisoning.

Wait, is that the theme from the "Twilight Zone" I hear?

North Korea Demands Concessions Before Meeting

According to
this Reuters article
North Korea will find it difficult to return to nuclear talks if the United States keeps insisting that Pyongyang renounce peaceful as well as military atomic activities, the North's main newspaper said on Tuesday.
It looks like a simple "demand" for a concession from the U.S. before the DPRK will sit down and talk.

And by demand, I mean more "blackmail" from the North Koreans. I trust the U.S. will not fall for this ploy.

Global Warming Helps Coral Reefs?

Accroding to this AFP article an Australian study predicts that ocean warming caused by global warming (if there is, in fact, such a thing) would actually cause coral reefs to expand around the world, as opposed to decline asprevious research had suggested.
But the newly published research, by a team led by oceanographer Ben McNeil of Sydney's University of New South Wales, suggests that present coral reef calcification rates are not in decline and are equivalent to late 19th century levels.
"Our analysis suggests that ocean warming will foster considerably faster future rates of coral reef growth that will eventually exceed pre-industrial rates by as much as 35 percent by 2100," McNeil said in a statement Monday.
"Our finding stands in stark contrast to previous predictions that coral reef growth will suffer large, potentially catastrophic, decreases in the future."

A report released earlier this year by scientists at Queensland University found that the brightly-coloured corals that make up the world-renowned Great Barrier Reef, one of the world's natural wonders, would be largely dead by 2050 because of rising sea temperatures.

Somebody's science need some looking into.

Free Speech Lives

California Yankee posts about an AP article in which a Democrat politician demanded that a photograph of President Bush be removed from a stand at a farmer's market in Pennsylvania. Apparently the politician missed class on the day that the First Amendment was discussed.

I should note the in the AP article itself, the baker, David Stoltzfus, who operates the stand has had plenty of support from other politicians and his neighbors:
On Friday, U.S. Rep. Joseph Pitts, R-Pa., stopped by to offer support -- and buy six chocolate-iced eclairs for his staff.

Other standholders have shown their support by putting up photos of the president.

"It's fun. People are coming up to me and supporting me. I've been getting letters and phone calls," Stoltzfus said Friday. "Even the Democrats come to me and tell me, 'Don't take that picture down."

To the city councilman who proposed the ban - I suggest that you actually read the First Amendment. To the people who have supported Mr. Stoltzfus - well done. That's how we keep our rights alive.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Nick Eberstadt talks

The Marmot's Hole links to an interview in the Chosun Ilbo with Nick Eberstadt. You should read it because Mr. Eberstadt does not feel compelled to mince words about the political conditions on the Korean peninsula and it isn't just the North he's slicing and dicing:
Regarding comments issued by Korean President Roh Moo-hyun during his recent tour of Europe, to the effect that he would oppose any form of sanctions or pressure on the North, Eberstadt labeled such sentiments "a unilateral and pre-emptive attack on the United States... No matter what the U.S. government says officially, tension in the Korea-U.S. alliance is continuing to rise."

But wait, there's more:
"Seoul's North Korea policy is mistaken. The strangest thing is that the hopes and goals of the policy are completely disjointed. While 'hoping' for a peaceful resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue, it had claimed we mustn't use military or economic pressure as a means to denuclearize North Korea. If that is the case, what diplomatic means do you intend to use to attain your 'goal' of a denuclearized North Korea? Is there a reason that the North Korean regime, which has violated all its international agreements and pursued nuclear weapons development for the last 15 years, will now suddenly change its behavior and point of view? What's even more distressing is that the South Korean government is talking as if the North Koreans have real security reasons for possessing nuclear weapons. If the South Korean government believes this, while at the same time saying we mustn't use any pressure on North Korea, personally, I don't know how we'll make progress in getting North Korea to abandon its nuclear program."

He probably will not be inducted into President Roh's personal hall of fame.

I'm Number 5. Thanks!

At the 2004 Weblog Awards: Best of the Rest of the Blogs (6750 ) this blog finished fifth. Thanks to everyone who voted for me and to Wizbang for putting the whole thing together.

Crude Oil Futures

If you are wondering about crude oil pricing, there's a great site called The Big Picture and they have a Chart of the Week: Crude Oil Futures.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

North Korea Selling Missiles for Fun and Profit

North Korea missile sales included a deal with former Iraqi thug Saddam Hussein according to this article.

Other customers include Iran, Syria and Pakistan.

I keep going back to a Nicolas Eberstadt piece cited here and this wonderful quote:
North Korea’s leadership, however, evidently entertains the concept of a “self-sustaining” defense sector — implying that Pyongyang views its military activities as generating resources rather than absorbing them. In the enunciated view of Pyongyang’s leadership, the dprk’s military sector is the key to financing the recovery of the national economy.
It does not require a great deal of imagination to spell out the operational details of this approach. While forswearing any appreciable export revenues from legitimate commerce with advanced market economies, North Korean policy today seems to be banking on the possibility of financing state survival by exporting strategic insecurity to the rest of the world. In part, such dividends are derived from exports of merchandise (e.g., missile sales, international transfer of wmd technology). But these revenues also depend heavily on what might be described as an export of services: in this case, military extortion services (or, perhaps better yet, “revenue-sensitive threat reduction services”) based upon Pyongyang’s nuclear development and ballistic missile programs.

This "business" needs to be put out of business.

North Korea zone: NK explains removal of Kim Jong-il's portraits

North Korea zone: NK explains removal of Kim Jong-il's portraits
According to The People's Korea, "It is fact that only Kim Il Sung's portrait is now hung on the wall of public buildings for foreigners in the DPRK. This measure means Kim Jong Il's intention to respect only Kim Il Sung."

That's the best story they can come up with?

U.S. Overstates North Korea Threat?

Yahoo News carries this AP story about an expert's view of the threat of the DPRK:
Selig Harrison wrote in the Dec. 17 issue of Foreign Affairs that the Bush administration claimed Pyongyang was on its way to producing weapons-grade uranium to scare allies Japan and South Korea into a tougher stance on the communist nation. Bush has labeled North Korea part of an "axis of evil" with Iran and prewar Iraq...
"Relying on sketchy data, the Bush administration presented a worst-case scenario as an incontrovertible truth and distorted its intelligence on North Korea (much as it did on Iraq), seriously exaggerating the danger that Pyongyang is secretly making uranium-based nuclear weapons," he said.

Gosh, my mistake, too. I guess the development of long range missiles by the DPRK and the threats the North Koreans made to Japan of creating a "nuclear sea of fire" should have been ignored.

I feel so much better now.

Blast Kills at Least 15 in Philippines

Fox News report on terrorist blast in the Philippineshere.

An American Story

Some years ago my ancestors made to America. They didn't arrive all at once and they didn't all take the same path to get here. Some, it seems, were forced out of France because they were Huguenots. Others were Mormom converts and ended up pushing hand carts across the prairie to Utah. Others, were part of the great Scots-Irish movement. Some fought in the American Revolution (I remember my grandmother's DAR pin), some in the Civil War, WWI and WWII and some in other fights along the way. In this life, some prospered, some didn't. In short, a typical American story.

This morning I read another American's story which is worth sharing. Visit "Jew in America" at the site of Attila -the wrongly named "Pillage Idiot." Read it.

And when you have finished, join us in saying,"Thank you, God, for having made me an American."

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Japan's New Defense Strategy

The NY Times reports on Japan's New Military Focus: China and North Korea Threats (free subscription required).

Japan adopted plans Friday to shift its military focus away from the cold-war threat of invasion from the Soviet Union to guarding against missiles from North Korea and Chinese incursions around its southernmost islands.
See my earlier post about the Chinese interest in Japanese territory.

Update #2: The Marmot Hole notes that the Japanese are, uh, vexed with the North Koreans.
With hardline voices growing louder in Japan in the aftermath of the “wrong remains” incident, we’re now witnessing a string of Japanese politicians openly calling for the overthrow of Kim Jong-il.

Our Troops...and their families

Don't miss this well-done slide show honoring our troops and the ones they left behind.

As a guy who made more than a few deployments, this one touched a lot of memories.

Hat tip :Little Green Footballs

Please vote for me

If you vote for me here at the 2004 Weblog Awards, I'd be mighty grateful.

Just a humble blog, hoping for a few kind words.


Update: You can cast one vote per day per computer. If you have four computers and the contest ends Dec 12, then how many ...?

Update #2: Thanks to Greyhawk at Mudville Gazette for his encouragement.. You can vote for Greyhawk in the Best of the Top 100 Blogs category here.

Update #3: More thanks to Bill Roggio over at The Fourth Rail - a terrific blog and in the running for Best New Blog. You can vote for him here.

Update #4: And thanks to Froggy from Froggyruminations for his vote. He's also up for Best Military Blog, and you can vote here for him.

Update #5: Additonal thanks to Alec Rawls at Error Theory for both his nomination of this blog and for his additional % (one vote at a time). By the way, Error Theory takes on some great questions in his posts. Go take a look.

Vote as often as allowed by the rules!

Friday, December 10, 2004

The Dangers of Illegal Immigration

Eight people dead after trying to reach U.S.7th District Public Information Site
"Tragedies like this are a shame, because they could have been prevented," said Capt. Douglas Rudolph, commander of Sector San Juan. "It's horrible to see men, women and children dying on the rocks off Puerto Rico because they were trying to migrate here illegally."

"You have to go out": Coast Guard Helo Crashes in Rescue Attempt

Yesterday the headsline read"Coast Guard Copter Crashes in Alaska; Six Missing". A freighter carrying soybeans splits in half and the Coast Guard responds with a helicopter operating in less than ideal conditions. The helo goes down. Now,
Frustrated by furious winds, mountainous seas and a mere five-hour window of December daylight, rescuers searched Thursday for six people lost in the Bering Sea after the helicopter that had plucked them from the crippled freighter Selendang Ayu crashed in the darkness.

Who goes out to rescue people under such conditions? The Coast Guard with its unofficial motto "You have to go out, you don't have to come back."

The history of that motto dates from the United States Life Saving Service and to the men who launched small boats to row out to attempt rescues and is set out here:
"A ship was stranded off Cape Hatteras on the Diamond Shoals and one of the life saving crew reported the fact that this ship had run ashore on the dangerous shoals.   The old skipper gave the command to man the lifeboat and one of the men shouted out that we might make it out to the wreck but we would never make it back.  The old skipper looked around and said, 'The Blue Book says we've got to go out and it doesn't say a damn thing about having to come back.'"

A salute to the Coasties and a sailor's prayer for those who are still missing at sea.

Update: The freighter is, not surprisingly, spilling its bunker oil. Freighter update

Update #2: More here.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

ACLU "Refuse to Surrender Your Freedom" to Believe Exactly As We Do

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit has a post about the ACLU's new drive to gather members ACLU : Refuse to Surrender Your Freedom.
Let's make it clear to those who seek to take away our freedoms that they are on the wrong side of the law... the wrong side of core American values... and the wrong side of history. Take the pledge now and stand strong in support of freedom.

Okay, I'm a little fuzzy on this. The people who are "seek(ing) to take away our freedoms?" Other than the terrorists, who might they be? Our own government? President Bush? Members of the ACLU?

These rights? From the ACLU website:
•Preserve the separation of church and state
•Amend the Patriot Act to keep us safe and free
•Defend the right to dissent
•Safeguard a woman's right to choose
•Advocate for the full equality of LGBT people
•Protect privacy in all aspects of our lives

Quite frankly, I'd be happier with the ACLU if:
-they would be for things like the right to practice (or not) one's religion without state interference,
-if they were against "political correctness" speech codes,
-if they were for giving back to the states the issue of abortion including the right to recognize the right of the unborn (instead of being in favor of abortion as a form of birth control),
-if they would define exactly what "full equality" of LGBT means, and
-if they supported the freedom of association and free speech for groups like the Scouts.

Instead, we get the ACLU supporting public and public-financed displays of "art" that include anti-religious symbols, while fighting against public displays of Christmas or other religious symbols, no matter how paid for. We see the ACLU fighting to have the Boy Scouts condemned and chased off public property, but supporting the right of the activists for other causes to march in the streets and to use other public locations, even if their agenda is extremely exclusionary, even including the Nazis.

In short, I find their list of "freedoms they refuse to surrender" too biased. Freedom means freedom for everyone, not just the causes you favor. When the ACLU gets that, I'll take another look at them.

An Excellent Canadian Blog

Try Strong and Free as a new Canadian blog that is surprisingly refreshing.

Hat tip: Mudville Gazette

North Korea: Bone Headed

In the "just when you thought North Korea couldn't sink any lower" category, the North Korea Zone reports here that the North Korean government, allegedly returning the remains of Megumi Yokota, a woman they abducted, provided someone else's bones instead, as confirmed by DNA tests. The Japanese are "outraged" and there is a threat to cut off food aid from Japan (just in time for another DPRK famine).

To make matters potentially even worse, one of the comments to the NK Zone post notes that, given the uproar, if Ms. Yokota is still alive, her health may now be at risk as the DPRK seek to save some face by producing her "real" remains.

What a country!

It's All About Gas?

Simon World has a nice little note here at Map-makers, on the Chinese efforts to find the energy they need to drive their economy (along with oil deals with some of the best loved countries in the world - Sudan and Iran). In this case, they are apparently exploring for natural gas in an area that Japan has claimed as its "exclusive economic zone."

The Japanese aren't pleased by this development and have "lodged a protest."

By the way,
The control of the oceans is currently regulated by the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention that went into effect on November 16, 1994. This law defines oceanic jurisdiction for all nations. It establishes the principle of a 200-nautical-mile limit on a nation's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) whereby a nation controls the undersea resources, primarily fishing and seabed mining, for a distance of 200 nautical miles from its shore.
According to Muncel Chang, Department of Geography, Butte College (California) as found here. For more info about the Law of the Sea Conventions, look here.

How to Save 2 Million Lives a Year

Caught up in news of death rates from wars, we lose track of those things tht kill millions each year. For example, according to this article, from Africa Fighting Malaria, over 2 million people a year die from malaria each year with about 1.8 million of those deaths occuring in Africa.

The article alleges that these deaths are largely preventable, except for resistence to using the one approach that has had success.
The world environmental movement, while trying to be a friend to nature, has unfortunately often been an enemy to man. In 1962, Rachel Carson published her famous book Silent Spring, which offered a frightening but poorly argued view of man and nature imperilled by the over-use of synthetic chemicals. The target of her attacks was DDT, then being used in large amounts in farming as well as for public health.

To some extent the book launched the modern environmental movement and the campaigns that it spurred eventually led to the banning of DDT for agricultural use in 1972 by the newly formed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The new government department was determined to show that it could act boldly, but many of the fears Carson expressed were greatly exaggerated, and there was no scientific basis for the banning of DDT outright (although restriction in agricultural use was certainly warranted).

The consequences of this decision can be demonstrated by the example of India, which had the institutions, infrastructure and importantly, the domestic budget, to maintain a malaria control programme on its own terms. In 1953, India’s population was a third of its present size, but the annual incidence of malaria was 75 million cases. That year India started using DDT as a core of its IRS programme. It has continued using DDT ever since and the government still manufactures its own supply. Against what might have been the background level of more than 200 million cases a year the current incidence is around 2 million cases with the death rate in the low thousands.

But DDT has become more difficult to procure and use and pressure from environmentalist groups against the insecticide remains. On 17 May 2004, an international treaty aimed at restricting or eliminating persistent organic pollutants, known as the Stockholm Convention, came into force. Although the Convention was initially  designed to ban DDT for all uses, including malaria control, strong opposition, notably from South Africa, ensured that a DDT exemption for public heath was secured. The enduring problem for many malarial countries, however, is that despite the exemption, few donors will actually fund any IRS, let alone use of DDT.

The question of DDT and the consequences of its use needs to be discussed in non-emotional scientific terms. The deaths of two million people a year demands some answers.

Hat tip: Junk Science.com

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Iran and Sea Mines

More thoughts on mine warfare: Global Security says:
Mine warfare is an established, but often downplayed, part of naval operations.{75} Mines are relatively cheap, easy to produce, and simple to deploy. They are capable of creating a threat out of all proportion to the effort required to deploy them. The mere threat of mines is often enough to cause a significant disruption to naval operations or shipping. During the Persian Gulf War, the 1200-1500 mines Iraq laid off Kuwait were largely responsible for the decision not to conduct an amphibious landing during the war.

Mines are an attractive option for many small powers for the following reasons. Maritime powers are highly vulnerable both in peace and war due to their dependence on the sea. Mining operations are far cheaper than counter mining operations, and they are far cheaper than other types of naval weaponry which inflict similar types of damage. Many small naval powers will attempt to use mines in order to deny their coastal areas to forces arrayed against them. Others will use mines offensively to deny port facilities or egress points to hostile fleets. Given the ease of deployment (mines can be deployed from submarines or from civilian vessels) and the growing sophistication of them, mines will remain effective weapons.

Global Security reports on Iran's Navy:
Iran's navy has 20,000 men, but they are young and inexperienced, and most of them are riflemen and marines based on Persian Gulf islands. And at higher levels, there is fierce rivalry between the IRGC and regular navies for scarce resources. Due to these shortcomings, Iran's three Kilo-class submarines would be vulnerable, and they are limited to laying mines in undefended waters. Mines, however, are one area in which Iran has made advances. It can produce non-magnetic, free-floating, and remote-controlled mines. It may have taken delivery of pressure, acoustic, and magnetic mines from Russia. Also, Iran is negotiating with China for rocket-propelled rising mines.

According to Global Defence 1997
The EM-52 rising mines are part of a 3,000-weapon stockpile of (Iranian) anti-ship mines. This purchase is significant because, unlike most other mines, the EM-52 is operational in deep water such as the Persian Gulf. When the hull of a ship passes over the device the mine is triggered and a rocket is fired at the hull. Placed in choke points such as the Strait of Hormuz, this device could be devastating. (photo from MCDOA).

Another interesting article on the modern use of mines is "Mine Warfare and Globalization: Low-Tech Warfare in a High-Tech World" by Thomas R. Bernitt and Sam J. Tangredi found here. Good quote:
Mines have been used extensively since the Korean War by a growing number of nations. Known mining incidents have occurred in:
-Long Tau Channel in 1965 (North Vietnam)
-Suez Canal and the Straits of Aqaba in 1967 (Egypt)
-Straits of Gubal and Chittagona, Bangladesh, in 1971 (India)
-Haiphong Harbor in 1972 (United States)
-Tripoli, Benghazi, and Bomba in 1973 (Egypt and Libya)
-Khowr-E-Musa, Iraq, in 1982 (Iran)
-Corinta, Nicaragua, in 1983–1984 (Nicaraguan contras with U.S. support)12
-Approaches to the Suez Canal in the Red Sea in 1984 (suspected to have been Libya).
Today, there is obviously no longer a monopoly by the wealthy industrialized nations on mine warfare since mines have become increasingly available to the Third World. The technology of today’s mines makes them ideally suited to low-intensity conflicts when the strategic objective becomes a cut-off of sea transported supplies rather than naval confrontation. Until the Persian Gulf War, however, deploying mines remained only within the purview of the major nations. That all changed in 1990.

A simple World War I design (patterned after the Imperial Russian MKB moored mine), the LUGM 140, an indigenous mine manufactured by Iraq, was deployed in late 1990 as a floating mine throughout the Arabian Gulf. Although specifically in violation of the 1907 Hague Treaty, which prohibited such “floaters,” the mines complicated the maneuver capabilities of the naval armada positioned in the Gulf prior to and during the outbreak of hostilities. Additionally, and probably more importantly, the mines helped to stall the world’s greatest Navy in its tracks in February 1991 off the shore of Kuwait because of the inability of the U.S. Navy, and anyone else for that matter, to sweep the sea lanes effectively prior to an amphibious invasion. The LUGM presence, as well as the presence of the more sophisticated Swedish manufactured Mantas (a magnetically activated mine that caused the damage to USS Tripoli and USS Princeton during the Gulf War), was a prime consideration of war planners designing options for landing marines ashore near Kuwait City. During that war, with no credible countermine capability, the U.S. Navy actually experimented, midwar, with individual swimmers armed with snorkels and facemasks merely to try to create an ad hoc minimalist capability that might ascertain the presence or nonpresence of mines in the assault lanes. Most of this effort was expended for a mine essentially based on a pre-World War I design.

And to complete the rosy scenario,here's a Battle for the Strait of Hormuz projection from 1997:
Operations might be conducted along the following lines:
The battle fleet is led by a screen of attack submarines, whose mission is twofold: to conduct ASW against enemy submarine forces, and to employ underwater unmanned vehicles to begin clearing the anti-ship minefields blocking chokepoints in the littoral...

Mine sweeping attack subs?

Oh, my.

As Much as You Ever Wanted to Know about International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea

There have been a number of recent discussions in the blogosphere about the Law of Armed Conflict. A subset of such law is the Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea, which is pretty well set out in the San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea.

Once again, the emphasis is on protecting "civilian" as opposed to "military" or "military objective" targets. Unrestricted warfare against anything that floats is not acceptable.


38. In any armed conflict the right of the parties to the conflict to choose methods or means of warfare is not unlimited.

39. Parties to the conflict shall at all times distinguish between civilians or other protected persons and combatants and between civilian or exempt objects and military objectives.

40. In so far as objects are concerned, military objectives are limited to those objects which by their nature, location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to military action and whose total or partial destruction, capture or neutralization, in the circumstances ruling at the time, offers a definite military advantage.

41. Attacks shall be limited strictly to military objectives. Merchant vessels and civil aircraft are civilian objects unless they are military objectives in accordance with the principles and rules set forth in this document.

42. In addition to any specific prohibitions binding upon the parties to a conflict, it is forbidden to employ methods or means of warfare which:

(a) are of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering; or

(b) are indiscriminate, in that:

(i) they are not, or cannot be, directed against a specific military objective; or
(ii) their effects cannot be limited as required by international law as reflected in this document.

43. It is prohibited to order that there shall be no survivors, to threaten an adversary therewith or to conduct hostilities on this basis.

44. Methods and means of warfare should be employed with due regard for the natural environment taking into account the relevant rules of international law. Damage to or destruction of the natural environment not justified by military necessity and carried out wantonly is prohibited.

45. Surface ships, submarines and aircraft are bound by the same principles and rules.

As with land warfare, civilized countries are not supposed to set mines loose willy-nilly and are supposed to keep track of where they have laid mines. Turning loose the big, old chemical horned mines and letting them drift around is not acceptable.

80. Mines may only be used for legitimate military purposes including the denial of sea areas to the enemy.

81. Without prejudice to the rules set out in paragraph 82, the parties to the conflict shall not lay mines unless effective neutralization occurs when they have become detached or control over them is otherwise lost.

82. It is forbidden to use free-floating mines unless:

(a) they are directed against a military objective; and

(b) they become harmless within an hour after loss of control over them.

83. The laying of armed mines or the arming of pre-laid mines must be notified unless the mines can only detonate against vessels which are military objectives.

84. Belligerents shall record the locations where they have laid mines.

85. Mining operations in the internal waters, territorial sea or archipelagic waters of a belligerent State should provide, when the mining is first executed, for free exit of shipping of neutral States.

86. Mining of neutral waters by a belligerent is prohibited.

87. Mining shall not have the practical effect of preventing passage between neutral waters and international waters.

88. The minelaying States shall pay due regard to the legitimate uses of the high seas by, inter alia, providing safe alternative routes for shipping of neutral States.

89. Transit passage through international straits and passage through waters subject to the right of archipelagic sea lanes passage shall not be impeded unless safe and convenient alternative routes are provided.

90. After the cessation of active hostilities, parties to the conflict shall do their utmost to remove or render harmless the mines they have laid, each party removing its own mines. With regard to mines laid in the territorial seas of the enemy, each party shall notify their position and shall proceed with the least possible delay to remove the mines in its territorial sea or otherwise render the territorial sea safe for navigation.

91. In addition to their obligations under paragraph 90, parties to the conflict shall endeavour to reach agreement, both among themselves and, where appropriate, with other States and with international organizations, on the provision of information and technical and material assistance, including in appropriate circumstances joint operations, necessary to remove minefields or otherwise render them harmless.

92. Neutral States do not commit an act inconsistent with the laws of neutrality by clearing mines laid in violation of international law.

Why worry about mines? Take a look at the straits through which a substantial part of the world's oil must be shipped to reach the world's economy. That's why you worry about mines.

Karzai Sworn in As Afghan President

The first popularly elected president in Afghanistan's history got sworn in yesterday. Story here.

In his inaugural address, Karzai said the hopes of ordinary Afghans would drive him during what is likely to be a tough five-year term. He reiterated his main pledges — cracking down on the booming opium trade, disarming militias and lifting living standards.

"We have now left a hard and dark past behind us and today we are opening a new chapter in our history in a spirit of friendship with the international community," Karzai said...

Has there been a "major shakeup" by Kim Jong-il?

North Korea Zone reports here that a South Korean newspaper says that Kim Jong-il, aka Short and Ugly, has done remodeling of the DPRK "party" and military structures...

Consolidating power or what?

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Note to Iraqi People: Freedom's Reward

Today I was driving almost all day. During the morning I listened to the local National Public Radio station. One of the show was "The Connection" with Dick Gordon as the host. Because I was in and out of my car, I didn't catch the whole show and only heard fragments of an interview with Tyler Hicks, a New York Times photographer who has both been embedded with the US forces and also spent time with the "insurgents" (although he had a habit of referring to them as "the Iraqis"). You can listen to the show here.

Toward the end of the show, as I recall it, Mr. Hicks was talking about how the Iraqis would like to see the US troops leave Iraq - sort of like guests that have overstayed their welcome. Then, he said something to the effect that some Iraqis kind of miss the old days under Saddam. "A lot of people would take Saddam Hussein back now.." Mr. Hicks hastened to add that the people he was talking to didn't mean the mean, nasty Saddam who killed "hundreds of thousands" but rather the "clean city" Saddam who had in place so much law enforcement that there was "little crime" in Bahgdad and one could walk the street in safety.

Seems like we've been down this path before. Mussolini made the trains run on time. Hitler brought order out of the chaos of the Weimar republic (a chaos that he helped seed). Caesar, Napoleon...

Dictators are the easy answer to troubled times because they will make all the decisions and then enforce them. Not much work on the part of the citizen is required, however, the cost is very high. The price is total submission. A wrong word, a wrong glance, the wrong family member, the wrong this or that and you end up in a pit somewhere.

Freedom has a high price, too. But for those willing to help pay the price, the rewards include those that the Americans remember from World War II: Freedom from Fear, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion and Freedom from Want.

When your towns and cities are under attack by forces who want to reimpose a dictatorship, freedom from fear seems like an illusion. But if you surrender now, and take the easy path, fear will always be with you. Fight the "insurgents" and you will have paid the price that freedom demands.

And you will never live in fear again.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Pearl Harbor Dec 7, 1941

It's been 63 years since the Pearl Harbor attack. I still see the occasional "Pearl Harbor Survivor" license plate, but even the youngest sailor, Marine, soldier or airman of those days is an octogenarian by now.

World War II marked the true emergence of the United States as a major power involved in the world. While we still have our isolationist tendencies, we are engaged in the world because we learned lessons from our experiences in both the world wars.

When I was a child, it was often recited that "major wars happen every twenty years." However, since the end of WWII there has been no repeat of total world war. To be sure there have been wars, both cold and hot (surrogate and not), but nothing that engaged virtually all the nations of the world in shooting wars fighting for or against global domination. The most powerful weapons ever created have been used only twice - 59 years ago.

The power of the U.S. has helped prevent another major war during those 59 years. And much of the credit goes to the men who learned the lessons of Pearl Harbor - that the oceans, so long a barrier to attacking United States and which allowed isolationism as an option - had been shrunk by modern technology and rendered isolationism no longer viable.

So here's to the veterans of Pearl Harbor who endured that hard wake up call delivered on December 7, 1941. And here's to the men and women who learned its lessons.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

North Korea-It's all about Taiwan?

Here's an eye-opening look into a mind molded by the Chinese government as published by the Asia Times:

Most amazing quote:
Clearly, ending North Korea's nuclear crisis or even eliminating "evil" is not the ultimate goal of the US. What the US really wants, and is exploiting the North Korea "crisis" to achieve, is to deploy sufficient military forces and resources in the western Pacific (especially close to Taiwan) so as to encourage Taiwan independence, thereby checking China's growth as a power that might compete with the US. Not long ago, the US and Japan were talking about using Japan's Shimoji Island as a military base. Only about 200 miles from Taiwan, Shimoji has a "runway capable of safely handling a fully loaded F-15C fighter jet", observed James Brooke in the New York Times.

If some day Taiwan becomes independent (or rather the 51st US state), it would not surprise the world. ..

If Taiwan becomes the 51st state, it would surprise the heck out of me.

Hope the 7th Fleet has the Taiwan Strait patrol ready.

Here's an area map to help: