Friday, October 5, 2012

Geopolitical Debate

         Thanks for your thoughtful and well-articulated response, which I appreciate.  I value your contribution even if, as perhaps you’d suspect, I dissent.

         Yes, other administrations have had border agent injuries and fatalities.  That does not mean the Obama administration is not responsible for its own, especially in light of the bizarrely conceived and executed “Fast and Furious” program, and the way the administration so aggressively opposes at law the states trying to protect themselves against the hordes of illegals that now cross our borders, the total number of whom now reaches more than 13 million.
         Among those illegals are plenty of folks from the more than 30 nations we deem terrorist supporters or terrorist regimes.  We know this because of the documents they leave behind, things like bomb-making manuals, copies of the Koran, and maps of possible terrorism targets.  Yet the Obama administration seeks frequently to hinder those who want to protect us from illegal aliens and from their armed and dangerous protectors, which results in dead and injured agents and which has turned Tucson into the kidnapping capital of North America.

         Empires are attacked because of their oppression and injustice.  They are attacked in spite of  their strength, not because of it.  Whether justly or unjustly, their strength delays or prevents attack.  When I say that peace comes through strength I have in mind nations like Switzerland, which stayed at peace and remained unattacked even while two world wars raged around them on all sides.  The Swiss made the price of entry simply too high for anyone to pay.  No one wanted a piece of that snarling badger, so they left Switzerland alone.  They had peace through strength. 

         Not only do we have deadly enemies, they have killed us by the thousands.  They will kill us by the thousands more if they get the chance.  They look for that chance every day.  They have killed Israelis by the thousands too.  Indeed, they seek ways to wipe Israel off the map and are working toward that end every day, whether in the past it was Saddam Hussein lobbing SCUD missiles into Israel or paying $22,000 to the surviving families of Palestinian terrorists who died while killing Israelis, or in the present it is the Iranians who, against the will of the civilized world, seek the nuclear weapons it needs to annihilate Israel.  So great is the threat to Israel that Henry Kissinger said last week that he didn’t think Israel would exist as a nation for even 10 more years.
         And you cannot appease those who, for religious reasons, seek your death.  That is not how religious extremists think or operate.  Militant Islam has been at war with the West for centuries upon centuries.  Nothing has stopped them, whether appeasement, defeat, or something in between.  Nothing but the end of time will stop them.  As long as this world lasts, Islamic hatred for the West will continue.  We must make our policies on that basis.

         Putin is an ex-KGBer.  The “ex” is only institutional, not by personal conviction.  In his mind and methods, he is what he always was.  He is at the head of resurgent communism in Russia, which hasn’t changed its goals, just modified some of its methods.  The Chinese communists are the same in that regard.  They still mean to be what they always meant to be -- first the Asian and then the global hegemon.  They adjust their methods to their changing circumstances, but their end game is not thereby altered, only the way they get to it.
         North Korea is no threat to us, you are quite right.  They do their best to ally with some of our enemies, but they exist only at China’s will.  The Chinese could end that pathetic little regime at any moment, and no one would stop them.  The North Koreans do what they do by China’s passive, sometimes active, will and permission.  In that light, the only reason that you can go to class every day in peace, or even at all, is because of American power.  You have peace through American strength, of which China is more than well aware.  That’s what keeps them out of Taiwan, out of the disputed Senkaku islands, and out of South Korea.

         Again, Jonathan, many thanks.      


Reese Calpouzos said...

What countries are "like Switzerland"?

Dr. Michael Bauman said...

Reese, we are, for one. So is Israel. No country overtly attacks us, although terrorists sometimes do. I'm talking about any country whose military capabilities forfend attack by another nation.

Jonathan Bennett said...

Dr. Bauman,

I appreciate your in depth response. Geopolitics is a complicated subject (like any subject worth more than an afternoon's attention) and I appreciate your thinking through what I'd said.

Tuscon is not a major kidnapping city because of immigration, it's a major kidnapping city because of drug trafficking. The drug trade wouldn't be substantially affected by legislation against immigration because the fact is most of the people crossing the border with the drug trade aren't immigrating, they're transporting. So the only hope is to catch them at the border. A border nearly 2,000 miles, much of which runs through desert. Securing that border will always be a matter of degree, not completeness. But, I won't argue against immigration reform, I think it's badly needed. I imagine where we differ is on details, not necessity.

I'm not as sure about WWI, but I know that in World War II anyway, it was actually quite beneficial for Germany that they didn't invade Switzerland. Functionally speaking, the Swiss were in Germany's pocket the whole time. They enforced the Final Solution at their borders (detaining and deporting immigrants of Jewish descent), their banks laundered money by the billions for Germany, and they provided safe haven for Nazi war criminals transiting to Brazil as the war ended. They did all this because they didn't want a war with the Germans. Not a shining example of peace through strength.

Jonathan Bennett said...

My comments were too long, I'm breaking it into smaller bits to fit it as I don't have a blog to post a trackback from.
Pt. 2
If Iran really sought a nuclear weapon, they'd have one by now. They've got the longest-running, least productive nuclear weapons program in history. Seriously, their nuclear program began in 1950 (1979 if you don't want to count the 3 decades that it was directly supervised by the US) and has managed to produce a slew of research facilities, 3 uranium enrichment facilities, and a single power-producing reactor (which they were unable to complete without significant Russian assistance). That's borderline incompetent. So there must be a reason they've failed to do so. And, with a little bit of looking, the reason is obvious (and it's the same reason North Korea refuses to budge on it's nuclear program). Iran's nuclear program allows them to sit down at the table across from America and, for all intents and purposes, dominate the discussion. All they have to do when they want concessions is spin up another bank of centrifuges or let Ahmadinejad say something about turning Tel Aviv into a nuclear wasteland and boom, Iran has America reacting to it. If Iran ever actually developed a nuclear weapon, they would lose their biggest bargaining chip, the threat of developing a nuclear weapon. Intervention in a nearly nuclear Iran is something that would draw massive worldwide condemnation, especially when further inspection showed that they weren't even close to weaponizing the technology. Intervention in a fully nuclear Iran would draw massive worldwide support and likely lead to an overthrow of the Iranian regime. Iran wants to appear as close to nuclear weapons as possible without developing them, Israel wants to be as aggressive as possible without leaving America's side, and America wants to appear stern towards Iran (basically, the want it to look like America is holding back it's pitbull, Israel, from mauling Iran). It's all political theater intended to get Iran what it really wants, a larger cut of the oil profits. And since America doesn't really care if Iran gets more money and Israel isn't existentially threatened by Iran, especially given how Syria is wrapping up. Besides all that, nuclear weapons are not Iran's trump card and they never have been. The Strait of Hormuz is the narrow strait through with 20% of the world's oil must pass. Mining that strait is their nuclear option, not nuclear weapons. As a disclaimer, I differentiate between geopolitical states like Iran which have rational goals and non-state actors like al Qaida which may or may not have rational goals (though al Qaida, at least, had very rational goals, they just weren't achievable).

Jonathan Bennett said...

Finally, part 3.

The geopolitical goals of Russia and China are the same they have been for centuries, well before communism. Russia has a significant geographic weakness: anyone making it to the steppes of Russia can do pretty much anything they want to the Russians. They must push their borders as far across the Urals as possible to protect themselves from a European power (a resurgent Germany, for instance). They also need to ally themselves with Germany if possible. That explains, by the way, why we're getting closer to Poland. Poland is the spoiler in an alliance between Germany and Russia.

Putin's connections to the KGB are basically irrelevant to his actions as a head of state. Geopolitics is like chess, to a novice, there are a dizzying number of conceivable moves you could make, especially if you sit down to a game in the middle of a game. To a Grand Master, there are only a few conceivable moves. And anyone with the political wherewithal to become a head of state (particularly in a nation like Russia) can be safely assumed to be a Grand Master of politics until we see evidence to the contrary.

As to China, you've correctly assessed their goals, but I don't think you've read their means correctly. China is really a giant island. It's surrounded to the North by Siberia, the South and West by mountains and desert. All meaningful trade comes to China along it's coastline, which is just a very small sliver of the nation. Because of this, China has followed over the last 2 centuries a cyclical pattern roughly 30 years in length.

1. They experience a crisis of isolation.
2. They open their borders to trade.
3. The coastal region booms.
4. The people in the coastal region get rich.
5. The poor farmers from the inland regions move to the coast to make money.
6. Wealth trickles inland, but not fast. The rich keep getting richer and the poor stay poor.
7. Popular opinion turns against the rich.
8. The government (whose civil servants such as the military consist predominately of peasant sons, because the wealthy don't risk their children unnecessarily in any country) tries to forcibly redistribute the wealth to keep the peace.
9. The rich resist.
10. The peasants revolt.
11. China closes its borders, undergoes massive social upheaval and wealth distribution, and falls off the international grid.

The last crisis of isolation came in the 1980s. A simple examination of the headlines from now to then involving China show that they've followed this script to a tee. Right now, we're between step 8 and step 9. The anomaly of globalization has likely extended the cycle this time, but evidence suggests they've just about reached the limits of what a growth-based economy can do (just as Korea and Japan did in the 80s and 90s, the other two major Asian economies to bust in the last 30 years).

As for North Korea, sadly you are right. A fact made worse because it's a situation where no government involved actually wants change. The Chinese don't want to share their border with an American ally, the Kim family and their military cohorts obviously don't want a fall from power, the South Koreans saw how much German reunification cost and they're not interested in footing the bill, and the Americans want an excuse to maintain a military presence in close proximity to China. Status quo is win-win for everybody except the common people of North Korea, and none of the governments involved really want to hear their opinions.

Sorry that went so long...