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NightWatch 20111103

NightWatch

For the night of 3 November 2011

Japan-India: Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony and Japanese Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa agreed to hold their first bilateral naval exercises in 2012, according to Japanese Defense Ministry officials.

Ichikawa said deepening bilateral defense ties between Tokyo and New Delhi will lead to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. Antony said India's relations with Japan remain a priority and New Delhi seeks to strengthen those ties. Both ministers discussed the importance of the international community in protecting sea lanes, specifically discussing the South China Sea.

Comment: For India, this is the next step in its "Look East" policy. Similar ties and exercises with the South Korean Navy also are likely. Eventually, the combined fleets of India, South Korea and Japan, supported by Taiwan and the US, will be arrayed against China in future conflicts. The Asian states do not perceive containment of China as primarily a US leadership task. That is an important lesson and manifests the success of a half century of US policy.

The Chinese, on the other hand, are reaping what they have sowed in the past twenty years by their aggressive assertiveness in northeast Asia, the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean. Chinese actions have nurtured an extraordinary and unprecedented regional reaction that is moving towards a new regional military cooperative structure, linking the fleets of the Asian democracies.

The most important features of this interlocking set of bilateral ties are that the Asian members are equals and the Asians are taking responsibility for Asian security affairs, without relying on the US Navy. US Navy connections with all the parties constitute a second tier of linkage that resides in background and gives the Asians depth and strength.

A third feature is that for the first time in a millennium and a half, the Asian navies are defying China and are actually much more capable than the Chinese navy, without relying on the forces of nature.

The worst thing that could happen is for the US to try to take charge or steer the development or do anything except enable it, behind the scenes. US estimates of Asian security threats that do not factor Asian capabilities that the US has nurtured are incomplete.

The NightWatch bias is that Asian nations know best how to solve Asian problems, with some US support as requested. The Asians will find a way.

Kenya-Somalia: A Kenyan spokesman said today that Kenya will destroy aircraft it suspects of transporting weapons to al Shabaab militants in Somalia. Unidentified aircraft will be contacted by radio and asked to explain their flight paths and cargo. Planes that give unsatisfactory explanations and land in al Shabaab-held areas risk being destroyed by the Kenyan military.

Comment: This is one of a small number of open source references to unidentified aircraft lifting arms to the al Shabaab militants. The Kenyan strategic objective is the port of Kismet, in southern Somalia. Capture and control of this port would cut off external supply shipments for al Shabaab and eventually starve the movement into banditry, a law and order problem.

Egypt: The military administration has proposed that the cabinet enact laws that shield the armed forces from civilian oversight of control and give the military leadership a veto over any laws that deal with military affairs, including composition of a new constitution.

The military action has united the extreme Islamists with the extreme secular liberals in opposition to de facto military rule. Egypt's best known reform proponent, Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency, decried the military action as "distorted" and demanded its withdrawal. "There is a difference between a civilian democratic state that guarantees man's basic rights and military guardianship," he said.

Comment: The Egyptian revolution has not yet occurred. The sign of its occurrence will be the overthrow of the military dictatorship. For now, the military leadership has succeeded in doing the impossible: uniting the fundamentalist Islamic extremists and the secular liberals in opposition.

Greece: Prime Minister George Papandreou agreed to hand power to a coalition government and step down if Cabinet ministers help him win a 4 November confidence vote in parliament, according to government sources.

Papandreou must "leave calmly" to save his party, a source stated, adding that discussions were "civilized, with no acrimony." Papandreou reversed course on his proposal to hold a national referendum on the European bailout and its terms after a rebellion within his own Socialist party.

Comment: The referendum proposal appears to have died under the weight of unprecedented international pressure and betrayal by Papandreou's own party. Greek politicians have united in insulating themselves from an expression of the will of the people who elect them.

Thus, more debt will be used to pay for debt, nothing has changed, and civil disorder is unavoidable. The bankers are acting to protect the European banking system, not to stabilize European economies. The threat of financial system collapse has not diminished, just pushed down the road. The likelihood of more street violence is high.

Italy: Prime Minister Berlusconi will hold confidence votes on economic reforms agreed upon by his cabinet, Reuters reported on 3 November. Berlusconi informed his European counterparts about the confidence votes at a G-20 meeting in France

The cabinet proposed legislation to sell off government-owned real estate, urge investment in infrastructure and privatize local public companies. It drafted the proposals as amendments to budget legislation under consideration by parliament that must be approved by the end of the year, a statement from Berlusconi's office said. A government official said critical elements of the amendment include divesting government-owned real estate, privatizing local public companies and liberalizing the labor market.

Comment: The votes and draft legislation are a scam, substitutes for "enacting" legislation and actually doing something. Real estate sales are one-time events that do not respond to recurring obligations. The Italian government does not appear to take seriously its position of threat.

China: News services reported that China's "support" for the eurozone might total around $100 billion, central bank adviser Li Daokui said. Li said China will give Europe this financial backing if there is certainty that the European Financial Stability Facility will be effective in stabilizing Europe and if the European Union offers expected guarantees.

Comment: The Chinese wnat a guaranteed return on investment before they commit support. Like European and American banks, the Chinese government wants an investment that is guaranteed to not lose money or value. It is difficult to perceive how the Europeans can satisfy the Chinese conditions. The Chinese conditional offer of support is good public relations.

End of NightWatch for 3 November.

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