For the night of 9 July 2012
Mongolia-US-China: In a speech in Mongolia that was targeted at China, Secretary of State Clinton said Monday that economic success without meaningful political reform was unsustainable, an equation that would ultimately lead to instability.
NightWatch Comment: For unexplained reasons, several US officials were at pains today to explain the Obama administration's pivot to Asia, with good reason because the US armed forces have never left the Asia-Pacific region, including Taiwan, since World War II. The Commander of the Pacific Command remains the US proconsul for Asia, but nobody apparently informed the administration of this history. Asians remember Pacific Command more than they remember US presidents.
Today's explanations identified promotion of democracy and protection of human rights as the justifications for the pivot. These reasons were offered to deflect criticism that the pivot is a move to restrain China and North Korea.
The irony is that all Asian countries hold elections, which is the basic definition of democracy, even North Korea and China. They are not democratic as the US defines democracy, but then neither is Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Burma. Nevertheless they all consider themselves protectors of human rights as they define them in their constitutions.
The key point is that the Secretary's assertion that economic success is not sustainable without political reform is patently false and wishful thinking. Her staff simply made up that canard to play to the audience.
The main lesson of 30 years of Chinese economic progress is that high economic growth rates can be sustained for more than a generation and probably indefinitely under a communist political system. The Chinese have proven that free market economics can thrive in a communist political system. .
The Chinese experience from the 100 flowers period under Mao, on the other hand, is that political reform leads to almost uncontrollable internal instability and severe economic decline.
Lower expectations of economic growth in China this year primarily are a function of the deepening recession in Europe, China's main market. They are not a function of a lack of political reform. China is compensating by implementing measures to grow China's middle class consumption. This is a long term process for a country that has never had a middle class.
The underlying contradictions in the Chinese economy that darken its long term prospects have nothing to do with political reform, but everything to do with lousy management of entitlements and labor, for three generations.
As for the US, movements of major US military assets have little to do with human rights and democracy and everything to do with protecting freedom of navigation for the US Navy and other strategic interests, such as the rights to mine seabed resources in the South China Sea.
The Chinese fully understand that the US pivot is anti-China because China claims ownership of the entire South China Sea and seabed. Neither free market economics, the rights of Southeast Asian states nor the requirements of the United States Navy can tolerate the Chinese claim. So the US has pivoted to Asia which it never left, but that is only part of the story. More later.
Pakistan: Thousands of Pakistani Islamists who are opposed to the Pakistan's anti-terror alliance with the US reached Islamabad on Monday, after a 'long march' from the countryside to protest the reopening of NATO supply routes to Afghanistan. About 15,000 protestors gathered outside the Pakistani parliament to chant anti-US slogans and wave the banners of the Defence of Pakistan Council, a coalition of right wing and hardline Islamist groups which organized the protest march from the eastern city of Lahore.
In support of the protestors, Pakistani Taliban attacked a Pakistani military base, killing eight persons.
Comment: The action by the new government in Islamabad to restore the supply lines is not supported by the populace. The recent agreement restoring the privilege of NATO supply convoys to use Pakistani roads can be reversed because Pakistani hostility to the US is nearly universal outside the educated elite with whom US envoys and generals speak. This issue is not settled.
Afghanistan: The Taliban posted a video last week of a public execution by a Taliban stalwart of a young Afghan woman accused of adultery. The 22-year-old woman was shot to death while a crowd of men cheered on. The video contained no footage of a trial.
This is a reprise of videos of misogynist atrocities perpetrated by the Taliban when they ruled Afghanistan before November 2001.
Comment: The Taliban have not moderated in any way. The video demonstrates Taliban justice has not changed in more than a decade.
The most terrorizing aspect of this execution is that it occurred just outside Kabul and in broad daylight. Thus, the secondary message is that no one is safe. Despite more than ten years of operations, the Coalition forces do not and cannot protect the Afghans from the Taliban's version of Islamic justice, even near Kabul.
Syria: Update. The Syrian opposition's representatives in Russia nominated defected Syrian Brigadier Manaf Tlass to succeed President Bashar al Assad, Russian press reported on 9 July. The opposition also insisted on meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the need for al Asad to step down before any political dialogue can begin.
Comment: No news services have reported Tlass' reaction to this preposterous nomination statement. This shows the desperation of the opposition to find a leader.
Russia-Syria: Russia will not deliver any new types of weapons to Syria or sign any military contracts until the country's situation stabilizes the deputy head of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation said 9 July.
Comment: The message behind the message is that Syria is out of money to pay for new types of weapons or to pay for new military contracts. Russian authorities did not say they would halt deliveries in the pipeline.
The Russians are trying to take political credit for Syria's obvious economic conditions. The Russians do nothing for free any more. Ask the North Koreans. The Syrians do not need new types of weapons, just more of the same in a steady flow.
Egypt: The Supreme Constitutional Court insisted Monday that its ruling that the parliamentary elections were unconstitutional was final and binding. This is the ruling that prompted the military council to dissolve the parliament and which President Mursi defied.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) announced today that the decision to dissolve the parliament must be upheld and that it was confident "all state institutions" would respect the constitution and the law.
Comment: The SCAF statement is an indirect warning that places the burden of the next move on the President. The SCAF and the Supreme Constitutional Court are filled by Mubarak appointees.
This struggle is not about the rule of law. The SCAF has no legal basis for its intervention as the interim government. Nothing in any Egyptian constitution vests the army with such power or authority. It has no legal authority to dictate the terms of its service, as this army has done.
The critical issue is whether Egypt will continue to be ruled by Mubarak appointees or by the elected representatives of the Egyptian people. In short, the core issue at this moment is whether Egypt will have a democratic revolution or another military dictatorship.
Under the advice of the Brotherhood, Mursi is likely to avoid a direct challenge to the guns. He will be evasive and oblique so that he and the Brotherhood remain in office. However, they have made clear that they do not respect the political authority of the Mubarak appointees and will challenge them as opportunities arise. The constitutional crisis has just begun.
Libya: The results of the general elections have not yet been announced.
End of NightWatch for 9 July.
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