Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Rumors of War - Kings of the East

North Korea's Kim Jong Un willing to talk about denuclearization - UPI.com
UPI reports: "North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is willing to discuss denuclearization with the United States and halt its nuclear and missile provocations while dialogue is ongoing, a Seoul official said Tuesday. Debriefing on his two-day trip to Pyongyang, South Korean President Moon Jae-in's security adviser Chung Eui-yong told reporters that the North Korean regime 'clearly stated its willingness to denuclearize.'"

Comment: Very interesting development. Is Kim merely stalling for time or is he sincerely interested in denuclearization? I think his likely strategy is to say he will give up his weapons if the U.S. withdraws from the Korean peninsula. This puts the U.S on the defensive and allows him to say he is demonstrating flexibility and a willingness to negotiate.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Rumors of War - King of the North

Putin: New Russian nukes are answer to U.S. leaving arms treaty - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday his country has developed supersonic nuclear weapons that can reach anywhere in the world, and are 'invulnerable to enemy interception.' During his state of the union address to Russian lawmakers in Moscow, Putin said the weapons cannot be tracked by anti-missile systems. [...] The Russian president said the new nuclear weapons were successfully tested late last year -- and said tests are ongoing for underwater drones that can carry nuclear warheads. [...] Putin's address came less than three weeks before Russia's presidential election. He is an overwhelming favorite to win another term on March 18."

Comment: This was a brilliant campaign speech by a man who doesn't really need to campaign to win his election. How strange is that? Beneath the bluster is the reality that Russia and every other great power will continue to innovate in the area of arms and weapons. It's profitable and also great PR for the domestic audience.  Putin did a great job of spinning a narrative of Russia as a victim, as a righteous underdog, fighting back against America. This is a time-tested electoral strategy. When JFK ran against Nixon in 1960 he claimed there was a missile gap between the U.S. and Russia and that the Russians were winning the arms race. Kennedy knew it wasn't true, but voters ate it up.

Am I alarmed by these new claims by Putin about the power of Russian weapons? No. Cruise missiles are now considered old tech and everyone is innovating on the basic design and pushing the envelope on speed and stealth.  Underwater drones are indeed new-ish, but the real innovation will be deploying them in an active battlespace in a coordinated fashion, either independently or using swarm tactics, and of course, weaponizing them with explosives up to the nuclear level. As far as most analysts can tell, this capability has yet to be demonstrated by Russia. Underwater drones used in this manner may be new but the U.S. Navy has long had nuclear depth-charges for anti-submarine warfare, so again, not that new.

The real concern here is that the world is moving very quickly past the global war on terrorism and into a new phase of great power conflict. We have been lulled by history into a false sense of security, the notion that wars between countries with established armies and massive firepower is over.  It's not over.  We are now seeing the military establishments of Russia, the United States and China actively preparing for great power conflict.

Rumors of War - Kings of the East

Trump announces tariffs on steel, aluminum imports; China cries foul - UPI.com
UPI reports: "President Donald Trump announced Thursday that he would place tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to the United States. Speaking at a White House meeting with business leaders, Trump said he would officially impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff for aluminum next week. [...] Chinese officials condemned the prospects of U.S. tariffs ahead of the decision Thursday. [...] Trump has said the tariffs would help U.S. businesses in those sectors. 'I want to keep prices down, but I also want to make sure that we have a steel industry and an aluminum industry, and we do need that for national defense,' Trump has said.  'If we ever have a conflict, we don't want to be buying the steel from a country that we're fighting, because somehow that doesn't work very well.'"

Comment: I don't normally share economic news, but I'm making an exception in this case for two reasons. First, there is a well established link between trade wars and actual wars. Many historians have blamed protectionist policies implemented during the Great Depression for souring relations between countries and contributing to the outbreak of WWII. Second, note that among the reasons for this decision, Trump explicitly lists likely war with a major importer, namely China. Is Trump preparing for war with China or merely bringing trade policy in line with national security requirements? Or both? Time will tell.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Rumors of War

Germany acknowledges cyberattacks on defense, foreign ministries - UPI.com
UPI reports: "The German Interior Ministry confirmed on Wednesday that the country's defense and foreign ministry databases were hacked, with information stolen. The statement followed news from the German Press Agency, citing anonymous sources, that a Russian hacking group called APT28 successfully retrieved data from the German federal data network. The cyberattack was first noticed by security officials in December and may have been in place for a year. It is unclear how much government data was stolen."

Comment: The time is coming when two things will happen that will change the game. First, a significant loss of life due to cyberattacks. Second, a growing frustration in the defense community over the inadequacy of any potential counter-attack, leading to the use of traditional armed forces for that purpose. This is inevitable because great powers have internalized the notion that cyberattacks are part of the normal background noise of international relations and that given the complexity of these kinds of activities, one can never really be sure who initiated the attack therefore restraint is warranted. This kind of attitude will persists until an event of such magnitude occurs that governments are required to act to restore public trust, thereby defaulting to more traditional methods and striking out at the usual suspects. I think we are approaching the time when cyberwar quickly becomes actual war.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Rumors of War

U.N. report: North Korea sending Syria chemical weapons supplies - UPI.com
UPI reports: "North Korea has been shipping supplies that can be used to make chemical weapons to the Syrian government, a report by the United Nations indicates. North Korea sent acid-resistant tiles, valves and thermometers to Syria, a U.N. Security Council diplomat, citing the unreleased report, told CNN. The details come after multiple accusations that Syria has conducted chemical weapons attacks on civilians including those in the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta, despite denials by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime."

Comment: It's sad how the international prohibition against using chemical weapons has completely collapsed.  Ultimately history will lay the blame on Russia for not stopping it and indeed, allowing it to happen on their watch.

Monday, February 26, 2018


3 dead after 7.5-magnitude earthquake hits Papua New Guinea - UPI.com
UPI reports: "A powerful 7.5-magnitude earthquake struck Papua New Guinea early Monday, the U.S. Geological Survey said -- killing at least three people. The earthquake occurred at a depth of nearly 21 miles, the USGS said. Initial reports estimated the earthquake's magnitude at 8.0, but the figure was later downgraded. It occurred in Papua New Guinea's Kom-Magarima district on the island the nation shares with Indonesia, north of Australia. Another earthquake, with a 5.5 magnitude was recorded about 30 minutes after the first."

Comment: It's amazing to think they initially thought this was an 8.0 quake, which would have ranked it among the most powerful in history.


Christian Blasphemy Suspect in Pakistan Jumps from Building - VOA
VOA News reports: "Authorities in Pakistan are investigating reports that a Christian blasphemy suspect jumped from a four-story building and suffered serious injures. The man claims he jumped to escape torture in custody. [...] Dozens of Pakistani human rights groups and activists strongly condemned the incident in a joint statement Monday. They raised serious concerns over persistent misuse of Pakistan's harsh blasphemy laws, specifically against Christian and other religious minorities. [...] Insulting Islam and its Prophet Mohammad are extremely sensitive issues in Pakistan and can carry the death penalty, although no one has been executed under the blasphemy laws. Right groups say the laws are often misused or exploited to settle personal disputes."

Comment: Wow, that's terrible. Please join me in praying for persecuted Christians in Pakistan. 

Covenant With Many

EU, Arab League Affirm Jerusalem Must Be Joint Capital - VOA
VOA News reports: "European Union and Arab League countries insist that Jerusalem must be the joint capital of Israel and a future Palestinian state, as the U.S. prepares to move its embassy there in a step angering the Arab world. [...] the two blocs also 'see eye to eye' that there can only be a two-state solution to the conflict, with Israel and the Palestinians living side by side in peace."

Comment: Despite our news media focusing attention on other topics, there seems to be a lot of movement on the Mideast peace front lately. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

Covenant WIth Many

Nikki Haley says Trump Mideast peace plan is nearly finished - The Washington Post
The Washington Post reports: "The Trump administration is nearly finished drafting its Mideast peace proposal and will release it soon, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Thursday. [...] The administration has not said exactly when it planned to reveal its ideas for negotiations and an eventual settlement, but had been widely expected to do so early this year. Palestinian leaders have said the Jerusalem decision means the United States can no longer be an honest broker."

Comment: It will be interesting to see what they come up with. On the one hand, Team Trump has polarized the region and forging a consensus among the parties would appear to be almost impossible at this point.  On the other hand, the Palestinians are largely without support or great power sponsors that would give them the leverage they think they have. Taking a deal, almost any deal, would ensure the survival of Fatah (the political wing of the Palestinians) and provide a fountain of international funding for them. The armed wing of the Palestinians (Hamas) will not go along with the deal, but it's clear that they won't support ANY deal, so really what does it matter if they don't want a seat at the table? An interim deal that sets a realistic road-map to final status issues is in the interest of both Israel and the Palestinians, if only to diffuse tensions as they play for time. Let's face it, both parties are really good at playing for time. All the major powers in the region would rather worry about Syria and Iran, so a small peace deal that back-burners the big issues would be a strategic move in the interest of all. I would not be at all surprised to find that Team Trump can secure a victory here.


Up to 600 Michigan residents may have been exposed to tuberculosis - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Michigan's health department said it's investigating three facilities and warning residents they may have been exposed to tuberculosis through a clinic worker. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services did not identify the worker, but said they may have come in contact with as many as 600 people between last May and the end of January. [...] Tuberculosis is a potentially serious condition that can be spread to others through the air. The bacteria usually grows in the lungs but can attack any part of the body."

Comment: That sounds like a situation that could easily get out of control. 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Roaring Waves

Expect seas to rise for the next 300 years, new climate models warn - UPI.com
UPI reports "Even if carbon emissions are curbed and rising temperatures are constrained, many scientists expect sea level rise to continue for some time. New research suggests sea level rise could last 300 years. For some time, climate scientists have argued that some of global warming's impacts have already been baked into the planet's systems. Even if global temperatures stopped rising tomorrow, researchers contend, Earth's ice sheets have already been destabilized, leading to continued melting and sea level rise."

Comment: Go ahead and keep thinking climate change is a myth, just maybe move inland and away from the coast.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Gospel Preached to All Nations

Billy Graham, world renowned evangelist, dead at 99 - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Rev. Billy Graham, a well-known evangelist for decades and often referred to as 'America's pastor,' died Wednesday morning at the age of 99. [...] Following World War II, Graham preached throughout the United States and Europe and was thrust to international fame during the Los Angeles Crusade in 1949, one of his earliest evangelism drives. Perhaps most famous for his evangelic missions or 'crusades,' Graham subsequently traveled across the world -- from Ethiopia to Russia, and New Zealand to China."

Comment: I've been reading news reports about Billy Graham and they are amazing. He is described as someone who transformed American religious life with his preaching and his activism and is called the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history. That is pretty amazing. I'm reminded of Matthew 24:14 about the gospel being preached to all nations. One report said that he preached in over 180 nations. Wow.  I wonder if in every generation God anoints one preacher to the great preacher to the world? For many people of the post-WWII era, that preacher was Billy Graham.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Covenant With Many

Palestinian leader calls for peace conference by mid-2018 - AP
The AP reports: "Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ruled out the United States as a broker for peace with Israel on Tuesday, calling for an international peace conference by mid-2018 with the key goals of full U.N. membership for the state of Palestine and a timeframe for a two-state solution. [...] Abbas presented the Palestinians 'peace plan' to the council. It calls for mutual recognition by the states of Israel and Palestine based on 1967 borders, and formation of 'an international multilateral mechanism' to assist the two parties in resolving all final status issues and implementing them 'within a set time frame.'  He said the peace conference should include the Israelis and Palestinians, the five permanent Security Council members and key regional and international governments, noting that 74 countries attended a Mideast peace conference in Paris in January 2017."

Comment: Strange that the Palestinians think they are in a position to dictate terms. It is noteworthy thought that they have stipulated a peace agreement among many nations and that it be implemented over a set time period. 


Islamic State kills 27 Iraqi security personnel in Kirkuk - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Islamic State militants ambushed a convoy and killed at least 27 Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces fighters in Iraq, the militia said. The PMF said IS set up a fake checkpoint by disguising themselves as police officers and using poor weather conditions to carry out the ambush in Kirkuk province Sunday. [...] Iraqi forces including the PMF launched a military offensive to establish control of a mountainous area near Kirkuk to transport oil from Iraq to Iran."

Comment: Ok, so the Islamic State is still winning battles but not the war. Of more interest to me is the last line near the end of the report. Remember when everyone mocked President Trump for talking about his desire to "take the oil" and get something for the investment of American blood and treasure? Well, it looks like Iran has decided to follow that strategy. Iran is taking Iraq's oil. Where are the haters and the mockers now? I think it would be one of the greatest military failures in history if the United States allows Iran to control Iraq after this interminable war ends. What was the point of it all?