Category Archives: International Affairs

Defense Secretary Gates on Wikileaks

This sounds about right to me. It’s from an email to Michael Yon from Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates:

This is obviously a massive dump of information.  First of all, I would say unlike the Pentagon Papers, one of the things that is important, I think, in all of these releases, whether it’s Afghanistan, Iraq or the releases this week, is the lack of any significant difference between what the U.S. government says publicly and what these things show privately, whereas the Pentagon Papers showed that many in the government were not only lying to the American people, they were lying to themselves.

But let me — let me just offer some perspective as somebody who’s been at this a long time.  Every other government in the world knows the United States government leaks like a sieve, and it has for a long time.  And I dragged this up the other day when I was looking at some of these prospective releases.  And this is a quote from John Adams: 

How can a government go on, publishing all of their negotiations with foreign nations, I know not.

To me, it appears as dangerous and pernicious as it is novel.

When we went to real congressional oversight of intelligence in the mid-’70s, there was a broad view that no other foreign intelligence service would ever share information with us again if we were going to share it all with the Congress.  Those fears all proved unfounded.

Now, I’ve heard the impact of these releases on our foreign policy described as a meltdown, as a game-changer, and so on.  I think — I think those descriptions are fairly significantly overwrought. The fact is, governments deal with the United States because it’s in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us, and not because they believe we can keep secrets.  Many governments — some governments deal with us because they fear us, some because they respect us, most because they need us.  We are still essentially, as has been said before, the indispensable nation.

So other nations will continue to deal with us.  They will continue to work with us.  We will continue to share sensitive information with one another.

Is this embarrassing?  Yes.  Is it awkward?  Yes.  Consequences for U.S. foreign policy?  I think fairly modest.

Read the whole whole thing at Michael Yon’s site.

(Hat tip: A.G. Pym)

Pirates of the Somali Coast

A couple of posts ago, I asked why the navies of the world aren’t trying harder to stop the Somali pirates. Yesterday, I had dinner with a friend of mine who follows world events more than I do (and who I’m trying to talk into co-blogging) and he had an answer that explains a lot.

First of all, with all the shipping in the area, it’s very difficult to spot the pirates in action until the moment they start their attack. Even if a warship spots a likely pirate ship, they can’t legally take action until they witness an act of piracy.

Second, the pirates treat the crews of the captured ships very well, at least by pirate standards. My friend hadn’t heard of any captured crewmembers being killed. The pirates clearly regard ransoming the crews as an important source of income.

Thus, once a ship is captured at sea, any attempt to take it back places the hostages at higher risk than simply ransoming them later. It’s all about the money, and since only a small fraction of the enormous shipping volume is actually pirated, it’s not even a lot of money.

(That’s also why merchants don’t arm the ships, I think. The security teams would add to the cost of every single ship that sails, but only benefit the handful that are attacked by pirates.)

Third, the pirates are operating out of an unstable region of Somalia, and they effectively control that region. The embattled Somali government might just collapse under the additional internal conflict that would result if they allowed foreign-flagged ships to come in and raid the pirate port. And the current Somali government is better than anything that might replace it—at least in the opinions of nations operating navies in the region.

Finally, a lot of 5th Fleet’s surveillance assets are tied up supporting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What it comes down to is that the pirates just haven’t caused enough trouble yet to be worth the effort to shut them down.

Except maybe for India. Their navy seems to be taking a more aggressive approach.


What would Horatio Hornblower do?

I’m referring to this crap:

NEW DELHI – Separate bands of pirates hijacked two ships and captured their crews, while yet another opened fire on an Indian navy ship before being driven off — clear signs that the brigands roaming the Gulf of Aden are becoming bolder and more violent, officials said Wednesday.

[Noel Choong of the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting center in Malaysia] said 17 vessels remain in the hands of pirates along with more than 300 crew members, including a Ukrainian ship loaded with weapons and a Saudi Arabian supertanker carrying $100 million in crude.

I’ve been ignoring these stories up until now, but this doesn’t make any sense. I realize it’s probably a bad idea for the U.S. to be the world police, but we have traditionally taken on that role when it comes to the high seas, and it hasn’t been a huge burden. 5th Fleet should be finding these guys and seizing or sinking them.

Yet, according to a TimeOnLine article,

Commanders from the US Fifth Fleet and from Nato warships in the area said that they would not intervene to retake the vessel.

It’s not as if this isn’t a serious problem:

Analysts said, however, that the seizure of the Sirius Star exposed the use of foreign warships as “a sticking plaster” that would not solve the problem. “Maritime security operations in that area are addressing the symptoms not the causes,” said Jason Alderwick, a maritime defence analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Roger Middleton, a Horn of Africa specialist at the Chatham House think-tank, said that the capture was a crucial escalation. “Now that they have shown they are able to seize an enormous ship like this, it is beyond a military solution. You won’t fix this without a political solution.”

Why not a military solution? It shouldn’t be hard to find the ships, and the Somali government—if such a thing exists—shouldn’t have any objections.

There’s got to be something that will work. Convoys? Defended sea lanes? Decoy Q-ships loaded with Marines? Follow the pirates back to their bases and destroy them?

Operations undertaken by the coalition fleet are fraught with legal difficulties, ranging from restrictive rules of engagement to rights of habeas corpus, as the British Navy discovered when it detained eight pirates after a shootout last week.

Meaning what? Is it really no longer legal to go after pirates?

I’ll bet if the were carrying illegal drugs instead of hijacking supertankers we’d be all over them.

Update: The Indian navy seems to have the right idea.

Dear Jiang Yu and Liu Jianchao

Dear Jiang Yu and Liu Jianchao,

I hear that you are Chinese Foreign Ministry spokespersons who are demanding an apology from CNN because of something commentator Jack Cafferty said. A Reuters article by Lindsay Beck says,

Cafferty had said the United States imported Chinese-made “junk with the lead paint on them and the poisoned pet food,” adding: “They’re basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they’ve been for the last 50 years.”

You should know that in this country our news and entertainment organizations are independent of the government and can pretty much say whatever they want, so when you lodged a “formal complaint,” whatever that means, it didn’t really accomplish anything.

Also, regarding the following,

“Those in the field of journalism should abide by their morals. They don’t have the privilege to rail against or slander other people or other governments,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said in a statement.

Again, you should know that in this country we don’t have a concept of slandering the government.

Also, when it comes to slander, truth is an absolute defense, and you did send us poisoned goods, and you are a bunch of goons and thugs.

To summarize: Bite me.


Mark Draughn, Chicago, 2008

Welcome to the Club, Steven

According to an AP wire story, China isn’t happy with Steven Spielberg:

Hollywood director Steven Spielberg’s decision to quit the Beijing Olympics over the Darfur crisis is drawing condemnation by China’s state-controlled media and a groundswell of criticism from the Chinese public.

In newspaper commentaries and lively Internet forums, they have expressed outrage, scorn and bewilderment that China’s Olympics have come under international criticism from Spielberg and others.

Welcome to the club. Yeah, they don’t like me either.

I don’t know why the Chinese internet firewall blocks Windypundit. Maybe it’s because I’ve used the T-word. And by “T-word” I mean the Tiananmen Square massacre where the thugs who run China murdered at least 1000 innocent protesters. That T-word.

I tend to think that a policy of engagement has a chance of improving conditions in China—mostly because our policy of isolation has been such a dismal failure in Cuba—so I have nothing in general against people who trade with China.

On the other hand, I see it as a carrot-and-stick approach, so I think it’s great that some people tell the Chinese government to go to hell.

Free [country name here]!

Today is apparently International Bloggers’ Day for Burma, also known as Myanmar to the thugs who run it, so…

Free Burma!

While we’re at it, let’s also cheer for freedom in North Korea, which is just as bad or even worse. Both countries are more-or-less giant work camps.

Then there are all those middle eastern nations—some enemies, some “friends”—which might not be as bad as Burma and North Korea, but nevertheless deserve freedom, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Libya, and Syria.

And Iraq is still not free, not in the sense that its people are in control of their own lives.

Who else?  Well, there are former Soviet states which aren’t doing very well, such as Belarus, Kazakhstan, and of course poor Russia itself, which is falling back into tyranny under Putin.

There’s our neighbor Cuba, still a communist dictatorship long after the fall of communism.

There’s Zimbabwe, whose insane dictator has transformed it from one of the wealthiest nations in Africa to hell on earth. The latest speculation is that Zimbabwe’s food supply is going to run out in less than a month.

And let’s not forget the 1.3 billion people living in China.

So, by all means, free Burma.

But according to the researchers at Freedom House, let’s also free Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bhutan, Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Cameroon, Chad, China, Congo (Brazzaville), Congo (Kinshasa), Cote d’Ivorie, Cuba, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Guinea, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Laos, Libya, Maldives, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Togo, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe.

Googlebombing For Alaa

On May 7, Egyptian blogger Alaa Abd El-Fatah (علاء أحمد سيف الإسلام عبدالفتاح) was arrested there during a protest. As part of the world-wide response, several other bloggers have have created the Free Alaa blog to chronicle his ongoing detention and legal troubles.

You may have noticed that I didn’t link to the Free Alaa blog through its name. That’s because I’m joining with a lot of other bloggers to try to Googlebomb Egypt. That is, we’re all trying to game the Google search engine so that the Free Alaa blog appears as one of the top hits for the word “Egypt“.

You can join in simply by linking to the Free Alaa blog using “Egypt” as the link text. I was doing it throughout the last couple of paragraphs, but you can also do a standalone link like this:


It’s really easy.


Please join in if you are so inclined. It only takes one link from a page to help a lot.


Of course, if you want to make more than one link, that’s okay too.

Egypt Egypt Egypt.

In fact, go wild.

Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt.

So there.

(Hat Tip: Google Blogoscoped)

Update: Marathon Pundit joins in and points out something else:

And for those people living in the Chicago area, or thinking of traveling here to see the King Tut exhibit at the Field Museum, keep in mind, about half of the admission to the special exhibit goes straight to the Egyptian government–the same government, that locked up Alaa for participating in a peaceful protest.