Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Stratfor and Polly Bergen

In this Stratfor article George Friedman begins by discussing the constraints, domestic and international, that Presidents face in freely implementing their foreign policies.

He then reviews, in broad strokes, what he thinks of each of the candidates hopes to accomplish in the foreign policy arena. 

I'll present the article without my usual comments about it. You can read an excerpt of the beginning of the article below, with a link to the full article at the end of the excerpt.

For the article's Hot Stratfor Babe I naturally turned towards actresses who had played the role of President on the silver screen. After examining the field I selected Polly Bergen for her role as Madame President in the 1964 film Kisses for my President.

The movies starts with the women of America banding together and voting one of their own, Ms Bergen as Leslie McCloud, into the Presidential Office. This creates all manner of complications. As she deals with an ornery Senator and a South American dictator, her husband Thad, played by Fred MacMurray, has to comically deal with his fish out of water role as the Nation's First Gent. Ho-ho-ho, the hilarity that ensues as he attends garden parties and what-not.

Meanwhile her two kids are running amuck, with her daughter dating some scoundrel while her son uses his Secret Service detail to bully the kids and teachers at his school.

Of course such domestic chaos is not seemly, but it all resolves itself when Madame President gets knocked-up and decides to resign so's she can tend to her family, like a house wife should. Sounds like a reasonable conclusion to me.

Hmmm... if he could get himself preggers it would be two more historic firsts for Obama -- first pregnant male and first President to resign because he had a bun in the oven. Do it Barry, do it!

The Election, the Presidency and Foreign Policy
By George Friedman, July 31, 2012

The American presidency is designed to disappoint. Each candidate must promise things that are beyond his power to deliver. No candidate could expect to be elected by emphasizing how little power the office actually has and how voters should therefore expect little from him. So candidates promise great, transformative programs. What the winner actually can deliver depends upon what other institutions, nations and reality will allow him. Though the gap between promises and realities destroys immodest candidates, from the founding fathers' point of view, it protects the republic. They distrusted government in general and the office of the president in particular.

Congress, the Supreme Court and the Federal Reserve Board all circumscribe the president's power over domestic life. This and the authority of the states greatly limit the president's power, just as the country's founders intended. To achieve anything substantial, the president must create a coalition of political interests to shape decision-making in other branches of the government. Yet at the same time -- and this is the main paradox of American political culture -- the presidency is seen as a decisive institution and the person holding that office is seen as being of overriding importance.
Constraints in the Foreign Policy Arena

The president has somewhat more authority in foreign policy, but only marginally so. He is trapped by public opinion, congressional intrusion, and above all, by the realities of geopolitics. Thus, while during his 2000 presidential campaign George W. Bush argued vehemently against nation-building, once in office, he did just that (with precisely the consequences he had warned of on the campaign trail). And regardless of how he modeled his foreign policy during his first campaign, the 9/11 attacks defined his presidency.

Similarly, Barack Obama campaigned on a promise to redefine America's relationship with both Europe and the Islamic world. Neither happened. It has been widely and properly noted how little Obama's foreign policy in action has differed from George W. Bush's. It was not that Obama didn't intend to have a different foreign policy, but simply that what the president wants and what actually happens are very different things.

The power often ascribed to the U.S. presidency is overblown. But even so, people -- including leaders -- all over the world still take that power very seriously. They want to believe that someone is in control of what is happening. The thought that no one can control something as vast and complex as a country or the world is a frightening thought. Conspiracy theories offer this comfort, too, since they assume that while evil may govern the world, at least the world is governed. There is, of course, an alternative viewpoint, namely that while no one actually is in charge, the world is still predictable as long as you understand the impersonal forces guiding it. This is an uncomfortable and unacceptable notion to those who would make a difference in the world. For such people, the presidential race -- like political disputes the world over -- is of great significance.

Ultimately, the president does not have the power to transform U.S. foreign policy. Instead, American interests, the structure of the world and the limits of power determine foreign policy.

In the broadest sense, current U.S. foreign policy has been in place for about a century. During that period, the United States has sought to balance and rebalance the international system to contain potential threats in the Eastern Hemisphere, which has been torn by wars. The Western Hemisphere in general, and North America in particular, has not. No president could afford to risk allowing conflict to come to North America.

At one level, presidents do count: The strategy they pursue keeping the Western Hemisphere conflict-free matters. During World War I, the United States intervened after the Germans began to threaten Atlantic sea-lanes and just weeks after the fall of the czar. At this point in the war, the European system seemed about to become unbalanced, with the Germans coming to dominate it. In World War II, the United States followed a similar strategy, allowing the system in both Europe and Asia to become unbalanced before intervening. This was called isolationism, but that is a simplistic description of the strategy of relying on the balance of power to correct itself and only intervening as a last resort.

During the Cold War, the United States adopted the reverse strategy of actively maintaining the balance of power in the Eastern Hemisphere via a process of continual intervention. It should be remembered that American deaths in the Cold War were just under 100,000 (including Vietnam, Korea and lesser conflicts) versus about 116,000 U.S. deaths in World War I, showing that far from being cold, the Cold War was a violent struggle.

The decision to maintain active balancing was a response to a perceived policy failure in World War II. The argument was that prior intervention would have prevented the collapse of the European balance, perhaps blocked Japanese adventurism, and ultimately resulted in fewer deaths than the 400,000 the United States suffered in that conflict. A consensus emerged from World War II that an "internationalist" stance of active balancing was superior to allowing nature to take its course in the hope that the system would balance itself. The Cold War was fought on this strategy.

The Cold War Consensus Breaks

Between 1948 and the Vietnam War, the consensus held. During the Vietnam era, however, a viewpoint emerged in the Democratic Party that the strategy of active balancing actually destabilized the Eastern Hemisphere, causing unnecessary conflict and thereby alienating other countries. This viewpoint maintained that active balancing increased the likelihood of conflict, caused anti-American coalitions to form, and most important, overstated the risk of an unbalanced system and the consequences of imbalance. Vietnam was held up as an example of excessive balancing.

The counterargument was that while active balancing might generate some conflicts, World War I and World War II showed the consequences of allowing the balance of power to take its course. This viewpoint maintained that failing to engage in active and even violent balancing with the Soviet Union would increase the possibility of conflict on the worst terms possible for the United States. Thus, even in the case of Vietnam, active balancing prevented worse outcomes. The argument between those who want the international system to balance itself and the argument of those who want the United States to actively manage the balance has raged ever since George McGovern ran against Richard Nixon in 1972.

If we carefully examine Obama's statements during the 2008 campaign and his efforts once in office, we see that he has tried to move U.S. foreign policy away from active balancing in favor of allowing regional balances of power to maintain themselves. He did not move suddenly into this policy, as many of his supporters expected he would. Instead, he eased into it, simultaneously increasing U.S. efforts in Afghanistan while disengaging in other areas to the extent that the U.S. political system and global processes would allow.

Obama's efforts to transition away from active balancing of the system have been seen in Europe, where he has made little attempt to stabilize the economic situation, and in the Far East, where apart from limited military repositioning there have been few changes. Syria also highlights his movement toward the strategy of relying on regional balances. The survival of Syrian President Bashar al Assad's regime would unbalance the region, creating a significant Iranian sphere of influence. Obama's strategy has been not to intervene beyond providing limited covert support to the opposition, but rather to allow the regional balance to deal with the problem. Obama has expected the Saudis and Turks to block the Iranians by undermining al Assad, not because the United States asks them to do so but because it is in their interest to do so.

Obama's perspective draws on that of the critics of the Cold War strategy of active balancing, who maintained that without a major Eurasian power threatening hemispheric hegemony, U.S. intervention is more likely to generate anti-American coalitions and precisely the kind of threat the United States feared when it decided to actively balance. In other words, Obama does not believe that the lessons learned from World War I and World War II apply to the current global system, and that as in Syria, the global power should leave managing the regional balance to local powers.

Romney and Active Balancing

Romney takes the view that active balancing is necessary. In the case of Syria, Romney would argue that by letting the system address the problem, Obama has permitted Iran to probe and retreat without consequences and failed to offer a genuine solution to the core issue. That core issue is that the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq left a vacuum that Iran -- or chaos -- has filled, and that in due course the situation will become so threatening or unstable that the United States will have to intervene. To remedy this, Romney called during his visit to Israel for a decisive solution to the Iran problem, not just for Iran's containment.

Read more: The Election, the Presidency and Foreign Policy | Stratfor

Vintage Indy cars

Above are a couple of clips of old Indy cars being started up and then running on a track for a bit. Be sure to crank the volume to get the full effect -- these things were LOUD.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The end of Western civilization is surely upon us

The above picture is a still from the soon to be released movie Warm Bodies. It is a picture of a zombie sadly shuffling through the rain. But not just any zombie, instead it/he is an emo zombie who's all sensitive and what-not. But wait, it gets worse, from the film's description:
After a zombie becomes involved with the girlfriend of one of his victims, their romance sets in motion a sequence of events that might transform the entire lifeless world.
Oh, good gawd almighty, first tweener girls demolish vampires and now they're going after zombies? Dammit, can't we have a little respect for tradition? Zombies are rotting corpses with no ambition other than to eat the brains of the living, not metrosexual, beta-males who court their damsels with flowers and memorized love poems.

Besides, I don't care how angst filled he is -- if I spot that goober shambling towards me during a zombie apocalypse I'm whacking his head off with a chain saw.

Deep River Blues

Monday morning, start of the workweek blues by Doc Watson.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

The humble hot dog stand

Click any image to enlarge
Whether they're pork based wieners or beef based franks, the hot dog is a quintessentially American food. Hod dog carts are also probably the most common street food vendors in the States. This post shows some hot dog stands and carts, mostly American but with a few foreign ones mixed in. There are more pictures after the jump.

Summer surfing

It has been a while since I've done a mini-camera post, so I figured it was about time I rectified that oversight. Looking around I found a pretty good surfing video. Of course it is entirely coincidental that it features two bikini clad surfer babes, Enjoy.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Progress report on my new pastime as a yachtsman

Well, I'm not doing quite as bad as the fellows pictured above, but it's not from lack of trying on my part. I've had a busted starter rope on my outboard which, since we were between a sandbar and a shallows at the time, caused me and my crew to teach ourselves tacking under interesting conditions. On that occasion we sailed into the Gulf and managed to jury rig the starter rope so we didn't have to row into the marina.

I've also ran aground on a different sandbar and busted my tiller in the process. I had to get out and push the thing off the sand. Today the water pump on my outboard failed which caused it to conk out just at the entrance to the channel. The wind was dead and sunset was approaching, so I had to suffer the humiliation of getting a tow. 

It's all good though. I bought the boat to get completely out of my comfort zone and challenge myself as geezerhood approached, and it certainly has done that. Now I wonder how much a new water pump is going to cost me?

Edwardian England

What's striking about these film clips is how interested people are by the camera. In scene after scene people star it it, and in a lot of cases you see people walk closer to it as if they are examining the process and equipment of the filming. 

How different from the street scenes we see today, where if something is going on it seems that every other person holds up their cell phone to shoot a quick video while ignoring all the others who do the same. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Bad weather is forecast for the East Coast next week

Well, at least they're Blue States so's they'll get some disaster aid 'cause they're going to need it (via Cliff Pickover's RealityCarnival).

Stratfor and Lisa Kudrow

Lisa Kudrow before her plastic surgery
Scott Stewart uses the mass shooting in at the premier of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora as well as the earlier bombing of the Israeli tourist bus in Bulgaria to once again discuss terrorists striking soft targets.

He gives a history of modern terrorism, starting in the 1960s with the Weather Underground bombings, the masacre at the Munich Olympic Games, and the seizing the OPEC headquarters in Vienna.

He poio9nts out that these earlier attacks were on relatively soft targets at the time, and that as security measures have hardened targets terrorists shift to relatively unprotected targets.

For individuals he argues that all you can do is be on the lookout for behavior that might indicate a terrorist is in the planning stage and report suspicious activity you might see as well as maintaining a situational awareness in venues that might be targets.

The beginning of his Stratfor article is excerpted below, with a link to the full article at the end of the excerpt.

As for the article's Hot Stratfor Babe, since Scott Stewart was stressing the need for situational awareness, dumb blondes naturally came to mind. That's convenient because, due to the locale of a lot of Strafor articles, most of the Hot Stratfor Babes end up being brunettes, a fact which surely corks off some of my regular readers so any chance to select a blonde is always welcomed by me.

Enough jibber-jabber. With that criteria in place the article's Hot Stratfor Babe was an easy choice -- Lisa Kudrow, who has made quite a career of playing dumb blondes on TV and in the movies. I actually don't know much about Ms Kudrow's career, having only seen her work in passing, but she seems to do a fine job of playing characters that are dim-bulbs.

Since I don't really have anything to say about Lisa Kudrow, I'll just end with a blonde joke:
A blonde was driving home after work, and got caught in a really bad hailstorm. Her car was covered with dents, so the next day she took it to a repair shop. 

The shop owner saw that she was a blonde, so he decided to have some fun. He told her to just go home and blow into the tailpipe really hard, and all the dents would pop out.

So, the blonde went home, got down on her hands and knees and started blowing into her car's tailpipe. Nothing happened. She blew a little harder, and still nothing happened.
Her roommate, another blonde, came home and said, "What are you doing?"

The first blonde told her how the repairman had instructed her to blow into the tailpipe in order to get the dents to pop out.

Her roommate rolled her eyes and said, "HELLLLOOOO!!! You need to roll up the windows."

The Persistent Threat to Soft Targets

By Scott Stewart, July 26, 2012

In the early hours of July 20, a gunman entered a packed movie theater in Aurora, Colo., and opened fire on the audience that had gathered to watch the premiere of the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises. The gunman killed 12 people and injured 58 others. Though police are looking for potential accomplices, the attack appears to have been conducted by James Holmes, a lone gunman who, according to some police reports, may have had a delusional fixation on the Joker, a violent villain from an earlier Batman movie.

On July 18, just two days before the Colorado attack, a man reportedly disguised in a wig and posing as an American tourist in the Black Sea resort town of Burgas, Bulgaria, detonated an improvised explosive device hidden in his backpack as a group of Israeli tourists boarded a bus bound for their hotel. The blast killed five Israelis and the Bulgarian bus driver and wounded dozens more. It is unclear if the incident was an intentional suicide attack; the device could have detonated prematurely as the man placed it on the bus. In any case, the tourists clearly were the intended targets.

The Burgas attacker has not yet been identified. Based on his profile, there is some speculation that he could have been a grassroots jihadist. However, it is also possible that he was acting on behalf of Iran and that this attack was merely the latest installment in the ongoing covert war between Iran and Israel.

While these two attacks occurred on different continents and were committed by people with different motivations and objectives, they nonetheless have one thing in common: They were directed against what are referred to in security parlance as "soft" targets, or targets that do not have much security. Soft targets are much easier to attack than hard targets, which deter attacks by maintaining a comparatively strong security presence.

Evolution of Targets and Tactics

In the 1960s, the beginning of the modern terrorism era, there were few hard targets. In the 1970s, the American radical leftist Weather Underground Organization was able to conduct successful bombing attacks against the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon and the State Department buildings -- the very heart of the U.S. government. At the same time commercial airliners were easy targets for political dissidents, terrorists and criminal hijackers.

Nongovernmental organizations were also seen as soft targets. The Black September Organization conducted an operation targeting Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games, and Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, known as Carlos the Jackal, and his compatriots seized the OPEC headquarters in Vienna in December 1975.

Embassies did not fare much better. During the 1970s, militant groups seized control of embassies in several cities, including Stockholm, The Hague, Khartoum and Kuala Lumpur. The 1970s concluded with the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and the storming and destruction of the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. The 1980s saw major attacks against U.S. diplomatic posts in Beirut (twice) and Kuwait.

Just as the Weather Underground Organization attacks prompted security improvements at the U.S. government buildings they had targeted, the attacks against U.S. and other embassies prompted increased security at their diplomatic missions. However, this turned into a long process. The cost of providing security for diplomatic posts strained already meager foreign affairs budgets. For most countries, including the United States, security was not increased at all diplomatic missions. Rather, security was improved in accordance with a threat matrix that assessed the risk levels at various missions. Those deemed more at risk received funding before those deemed less at risk.

In some cases, this approach has worked well for the United States. For example, despite the persistent jihadist threat in Yemen, the new embassy compound in Sanaa, which was completed in the early 1990s and constructed to the strict security specifications laid out by the Inman Commission in 1985, has proved to be a very difficult target to attack. However, as embassies became more difficult to attack, militants turned to easier targets. Often this has involved targeting diplomats outside the secure embassy compound, as was the case in the 2002 assassination of U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley in Amman, Jordan, and the April 2010 failed suicide bombing attack against the motorcade carrying the British ambassador to Yemen.

Transnational groups also changed regions to find softer embassy targets. This shift was evident in August 1998, when al Qaeda attacked U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Similarly, during the 1991 Gulf War, Iraqi agents attempted to conduct terrorist attacks against U.S. diplomatic facilities in Manila, Jakarta, Bangkok and Beijing -- far from the Middle East. The February 2012 attack against an Israeli Embassy employee in New Delhi is an example of both changing the region and targeting an employee away from the security of the embassy.

There was a similar trend with airliners, which initially were very vulnerable to attack. After many high-profile hijackings, such as that of TWA Flight 847, airliner security, particularly in the West, was increased. But as security was increased in one place, hijackers began to shift operations to places where security was less robust, such as Bangkok or Karachi. And as security was improved globally and hijackings became more difficult in the 1980s, attackers shifted their tactics and began using improvised explosive devices against airliners.

In response to security measures implemented after bombing attacks in the 1980s, attackers underwent yet another paradigm shift. In December 1994, Philippine Airlines Flight 434 was attacked with an improvised explosive device that had been carried onto the aircraft in separate components, assembled in the plane's restroom and left on board when the attacker left at an intermediate stop on a multiple city flight. This attack was a dry run for a plan against multiple airlines called Operation Bojinka. The operational mastermind of Bojinka, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, would later plan the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

Read more: The Persistent Threat to Soft Targets | Stratfor

Summertine Summertime

Get ready for a mindless weekend with with The Jamies.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mixed vintages

Click any image to enlarge
The artist Mathew Buchholtz has done a very nice series of prints and greeting cards in which he mixes two vintages -- largely 19th century illustrations with 1950s science fiction. Surprisingly they mix well. He sells them at his online Etsy shop Alternate Histories at reasonable prices, I may buy one for Ambi Jr's new apartment.

There are more samples after the jump, and of course even more at the Alternate Histories shop. 

Ephemeral structures

Next Time by Mary Oliver

Next time what I'd do is look at
the earth before saying anything. I'd stop
just before going into a house
and be an emperor for a minute
and listen better to the wind
or to the air being still.

When anyone talked to me, whether
blame or praise or just passing time,
I'd watch the face, how the mouth
has to work, and see any strain, any
sign of what lifted the voice.

And for all, I'd know more -- the earth
bracing itself and soaring, the air
finding every leaf and feather over
forest and water, and for every person
the body glowing inside the clothes
like a light.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Old Dradon's Head

Click any image to enlarge

Above are pictures of the eastern most point of the Great Wall of China. It reaches over 60 ft into the sea and is called the Old Dragon's Head because it is supposed to look like a dragon drinking from the water. Back in the day it must have seemed as if it were the end of the civilized world.

The Great Wall isn't continuous. There are a number of gaps in it, so it has many more east and west ends. However, the western most section of the wall ends at an oasis in the Gobi desert.  There are watchtowers further west of the Wall's western terminus. I wonder if they planned on extending it?

Heart pounding action

Another video to get you over the hump in hump day. This one features a squad of American GIs, most who apparently lost their helmets in an earlier fire fight, encountering a crack unit of Viet Cong who seem to be dressed in what appear to be WWII Japanese uniforms for some reason. 

Soon enough the bullets are flying as they are locked in deadly combat.

EFLI Season started (updated with new schedule)

The season one of EFLI [Elite Football League of India] 2012/13 will be held for a whole month in the Sugathadasa Stadium from July 25 to August 25 with the participation of eight teams that include players from three different Countries (India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka).

The tournament will go for seven weeks with the league format while the semi finals will be held on August 19 followed by the finals on 25.

Team to participate are, Bangalore Warhawks (Bangalore, Karnataka) Mumbai Gladiators (Mumbai, Maharashtra) Kandy Skykings (Kandy, Central Province) Pune Marathas (Pune ,Balewadi, Maharashtra) Kolkata Vipers (Kolkata, West Bengal) Delhi Defenders (Delhi, National Capital Territory of Delhi) Peshawar Wolfpack (Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa ) Colombo Lions (Colombo, Western Province) Team Coaches from their respective Countries and the Coaches and Match Officials from USA have been actively engaged in training and preparations for the last few days.
The EFLI twitter feed also said the games were being played and has pictures from the final practices.

However, no word on scores from any of the games. I'll keep you posted if I track down any further information about them.

UPDATE: From The Island's article American Football fever hits Sri Lanka
Originally, the first season was scheduled to be hosted by India in November 2012, but Tausif Sheikh, Director-EFLI, India, said that they settled on Sri Lanka because of the cost-effective factor, since it was the first tournament of its kind. Carlton Sports Network will telecast the matches in Sri Lanka, while Ten Sports is the global provider.

Both Carleton Sports network and Ten Sports have live streams of some of their programming, but I can't make heads or tails out of it yet. who knows, maybe we will be able to see a game or two.

The article also had their new schedule:

Week 1 - July 25

Pakistan vs Bangalore
Delhi vs Pune
Kolkata vs Kandy
Colombo vs Mumbai

Week 2 - July 30

Kolkata vs Pune
Mumbai vs Pakistan
Colombo vs Bangalore
Kandy vs Delhi

Week 3 - August 2

Pune vs Bangalore
Colombo vs Kolkata
Delhi vs Pakistan
Mumbai vs Kandy

Week 4 - August 5

Mumbai vs Kolkata
Delhi vs Bangalore
Colombo vs Kandy
Pune vs Pakistan

Week 5 - August 9

Mumbai vs Pune
Kolkata vs Pakistan
Kandy vs Bangalore
Colombo vs Delhi

Week 6 - August 12

Colombo vs Pakistan
Mumbai vs Bangalore
Kandy vs Pune
Kolkata vs Delhi

Week 7 - August 15

Kolkata vs Bangalore
Colombo vs Pune
Mumbai vs Delhi
Kandy vs Pakistan

Semi-finals - August 19

Final - August 25

(Note: The time slots for the matches in the first round are 1.00 pm, 3.00 pm, 5.00 pm and 8.00 pm. The matches will start at these times in the respective order given in the schedule)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Stratfor and Susan Shams al Din

In this article Friedman begins to address the consequences of Assad being ousted in Syria.

Sorry, but I have to take a minute here to break my arm patting myself on the back. For a long time I've stated that I thought Friedman was too generous in his reading of the security of Assad's regime and also of Iran's situation in the region.

I argued that Syria was the lynch pin, and that if the Sunnis could topple Assad the whole dynamic in the region would change. Hezbollah would be isolated and Iran's move to the Mediterranean would be blocked.

If Assad falls the game will then move to Western Iraq and who knows, maybe even the legitimacy of Iran's regime will again come under severe strain from her population.

The beginning of his article is excerpted below, with a link to the entire article at the end of the excerpt.

Because of the persistence of the Syrian story I'm beginning to exhaust my pool of Syrian actresses to be considered as an article's Hot Stratfor Babes. For this article, after a desperate search, I've selected Susan Shams al Din for the honor.

I actually don't know a thing about Ms Shams al Din. In fact, she may not even be an actress for all I know. I found her in a babe thread on a Pakistani forum and they say she's a Syrian actress, so that's good enough for me.

Consequences of the Fall of the Syrian Regime

By George Friedman, July 24, 2012

We have entered the endgame in Syria. That doesn't mean that we have reached the end by any means, but it does mean that the precondition has been met for the fall of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad. We have argued that so long as the military and security apparatus remain intact and effective, the regime could endure. Although they continue to function, neither appears intact any longer; their control of key areas such as Damascus and Aleppo is in doubt, and the reliability of their personnel, given defections, is no longer certain. We had thought that there was a reasonable chance of the al Assad regime surviving completely. That is no longer the case. At a certain point -- in our view, after the defection of a Syrian pilot June 21 and then the defection of the Tlass clan -- key members of the regime began to recalculate the probability of survival and their interests. The regime has not unraveled, but it is unraveling.

The speculation over al Assad's whereabouts and heavy fighting in Damascus is simply part of the regime's problems. Rumors, whether true or not, create uncertainty that the regime cannot afford right now. The outcome is unclear. On the one hand, a new regime might emerge that could exercise control. On the other hand, Syria could collapse into a Lebanon situation in which it disintegrates into regions held by various factions, with no effective central government.

The Russian and Chinese Strategy

The geopolitical picture is somewhat clearer than the internal political picture. Whatever else happens, it is unlikely that al Assad will be able to return to unchallenged rule. The United States, France and other European countries have opposed his regime. Russia, China and Iran have supported it, each for different reasons. The Russians opposed the West's calls to intervene, which were grounded on human rights concerns, fearing that the proposed intervention was simply a subterfuge to extend Western power and that it would be used against them. The Chinese also supported the Syrians, in part for these same reasons. Both Moscow and Beijing hoped to avoid legitimizing Western pressure based on human rights considerations -- something they had each faced at one time or another. In addition, Russia and China wanted the United States in particular focused on the Middle East rather than on them. They would not have minded a military intervention that would have bogged down the United States, but the United States declined to give that to them.

But the Russian and Chinese game was subtler than that. It focused on Iran. As we have argued, if the al Assad regime were to survive and were to be isolated from the West, it would be primarily dependent on Iran, its main patron. Iran had supplied trainers, special operations troops, supplies and money to sustain the regime. For Iran, the events in Syria represented a tremendous opportunity. Iran already held a powerful position in Iraq, not quite dominating it but heavily influencing it. If the al Assad regime survived and had Iranian support to thank for its survival, Syria would become even more dependent on Iran than was Iraq. This would shore up the Iranian position in Iraq, but more important, it would have created an Iranian sphere of influence stretching from western Afghanistan to Lebanon, where Hezbollah is an Iranian ally.

The Russians and Chinese clearly understood that if this had happened, the United States would have had an intense interest in undermining the Iranian sphere of influence -- and would have had to devote massive resources to doing so. Russia and China benefitted greatly in the post-9/11 world, when the United States was obsessed with the Islamic world and had little interest or resources to devote to China and Russia. With the end of the Afghanistan war looming, this respite seemed likely to end. Underwriting Iranian hegemony over a region that would inevitably draw the United States' attention was a low-cost, high-return strategy.

The Chinese primarily provided political cover, keeping the Russians from having to operate alone diplomatically. They devoted no resources to the Syrian conflict but did continue to oppose sanctions against Iran and provided trade opportunities for Iran. The Russians made a much larger commitment, providing material and political support to the al Assad regime.

It seems the Russians began calculating the end for the regime some time ago. Russia continued to deliver ammunition and other supplies to Syria but pulled back on a delivery of helicopters. Several attempts to deliver the helicopters "failed" when British insurers of the ship pulled coverage. That was the reason the Russians gave for not delivering the helicopters, but obviously the Russians could have insured the ship themselves. They were backing off from supporting al Assad, their intelligence indicating trouble in Damascus. In the last few days the Russians have moved to the point where they had their ambassador to France suggest that the time had come for al Assad to leave -- then, of course, he denied having made the statement.

A Strategic Blow to Iran

As the Russians withdraw support, Iran is now left extremely exposed. There had been a sense of inevitability in Iran's rise in the region, particularly in the Arabian Peninsula. The decline of al Assad's regime is a strategic blow to the Iranians in two ways. First, the wide-reaching sphere of influence they were creating clearly won't happen now. Second, Iran will rapidly move from being an ascendant power to a power on the defensive.

The place where this will become most apparent is in Iraq. For Iran, Iraq represents a fundamental national security interest. Having fought a bloody war with Iraq in the 1980s, the Iranians have an overriding interest in assuring that Iraq remains at least neutral and preferably pro-Iranian. While Iran was ascendant, Iraqi politicians felt that they had to be accommodating. However, in the same way that Syrian generals had to recalculate their positions, Iraqi politicians have to do the same. With sanctions -- whatever their effectiveness -- being imposed on Iran, and with Iran's position in Syria unraveling, the psychology in Iraq might change.

This is particularly the case because of intensifying Turkish interest in Iraq. In recent days the Turks have announced plans for pipelines in Iraq to oil fields in the south and in the north. Turkish economic activity is intensifying. Turkey is the only regional power that can challenge Iran militarily. It uses that power against the Kurds in Iraq. But more to the point, if a country builds a pipeline, it must ensure access to it, either politically or militarily. Turkey does not want to militarily involve itself in Iraq, but it does want political influence to guarantee its interests. Thus, just as the Iranians are in retreat, the Turks have an interest in, if not supplanting them, certainly supplementing them.

The pressure on Iran is now intense, and it will be interesting to see the political consequences. There was consensus on the Syrian strategy, but with failure of the strategy, that consensus dissolves. This will have an impact inside of Iran, possibly even more than the sanctions. Governments have trouble managing reversals.

Read more: Consequences of the Fall of the Syrian Regime | Stratfor

It cries with tears of helium

Russian (?) video of helium in a superfluid state.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Russian round warships

Click any image to enlarge
 After its loss in the Crimean War Russia was forbidden by treaty to sail any warships in the Black Sea. However, 15 years later with its relations with Turkey deteriorating Russia decided they needed at least a coastal defense force.

Enter Rear-Admiral Popov, who was in charge of Russian shipbuilding. Somehow, perhaps from playing with Frisbees in his bath tub, he got it in his head that what was needed were round warships. 

Six were planned, but only two were ever built. In the Russo-Turkish War of 1877 they finally had a chance to prove their worth. Needless to say, they were complete failures. They were too slow to pursue Turkish ships, and had too short a cruising range to even reach the Turkish coast to bombard it. In effect, they were little more than floating gun emplacements.

Above are pictures of the design and one of the ships, below are pictures of a model of one. The pictures are from the EnglishRussia post Round Ships of the Russian Admiral. That post has many more pictures, as well as quite a bit of commentary about the round ships' history.


I`m A Lonely Man

Monday morning, start of the workweek blues by Sonny Boy Williamson.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Stamps from the Space Age

Click any image to enlarge
A lot of countries released postage stamps with space themes. The Soviets and their allies seemed to have cranked out quite a few of them. Understandably, considering the subject matter, many of the designs are quite striking when viewed closely.

These samples are from the Flikr group Space stamps. there are more examples after the jump, and of course many more at the Flikr group's link.

Hot bulb engines

The two videos above are of hot bulb engines. The top video is of an exquisite model of a hot bulb engine, while the bottom video shows one operating on and old fishing boats.

Hot bulb engines were popular when gasoline engines were still being developed and they were used through the early 1960s. They can be fueled by virtually any combustible liquid and can run for a long time. However, they put out low RPMs, 300 is about their maximum, so their main use was pumps, mills and on boats.

They're unique internal combustion engines in that their combustion chamber is separate from the piston's cylinder. The combustion takes place in the 'hot bulb', which has its sides heated. Fuel is drawn in where it vaporizes and mixes with air and it ignites because of its heated walls. This forces exhause gas down a tube which drives the cylinder. 

A good explanation of the process can be found at: How a Hot Bulb Engine Works.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Phone camera picture test

Click image to enlarge
 Sorry for the throw away post tonight, but the post I was going to do hasn't come together yet. Instead I'm posting a couple of test pictures from my new phone's camera. 

The top picture is looking down the fairway of the marina I keep my boat in. You can't really see the boat in this picture -- just its mast, which is the furthest one out on the right side. The bottom picture was taken from my boat with the camera fully zoomed. You can see a dolphin's back in the entrance to the marina. There were two of them playing around in that spot.

The only good skeeter is a dead skeeter

Summer is upon us, and that means so are mosquitoes. As a last resort swatting them works OK, but they may have already sucked your blood before you squash them so you'll still be scratching. Clearly a ranged skeeter killing device is what is needed.

Thankfully scientists have been working on just such a weapon system. The two videos above show it in action. It tracks mosquitoes, differentiating them from other insects snd it even can tell the females, which are the blood suckers, from the males. Then -- Zaaaap!!! Scratch one skeeter.

It seems like technological overkill, but then again skeeters are obnoxious little critters and if anything deserves technological overkill it is them. I just hope that The Robotolizer doesn't get wind of the system. No need to give him/it any ideas.   

Friday, July 20, 2012

My contribution to the meme

Click to enlarge
I'm a little bit late with this, but inspiration comes when it comes. Here's my contribution to the Barack "you didn't build that" Obama mockery meme.

Stratfor and Mahira Khan

This Stratfor article examines the recent uptick of violence by the Pakistani terrorist group Tehrik-i-Taliban in the Punjab, which is outside of the area they have been operating in for the last several years.

After reviewing the recent history of the conflict between the Pakistani central government and Tehrik-i-Taliban, West and Bokhari turn towards the timing of the terrosit group's latest attacks.

While one might think the attacks were tied to the reopening of the northern supply line to NATO troops in Afghanistan, the actual cause might be the increased austerity measures which Pakistan is having to impose to meet IMF loan conditions.

It is a very interesting article. The beginning of it is excerpted below, with a link to the entire article at the end of the excerpt.

I found it thought provoking, and rather common-sensical,  that economic issues rather than terrorist dogma could be driving so much of the chaos in Pakistan. One of the pit-falls of obsessing about politics and world affairs is that it is easy to forget that those concerns are only a slice of life and that the business of living, where ever it is taking place, is rather more mundane, sane and familiar than what the headlines paint.

With those thoughts in mind, when I read this article about Mahira Khan, she became the easy choice for this article's Hot Stratfor Babe.

Ms Khan was born in Karachi, but at the age of 16 she decided she wanted to live abroad so she moved to Los Angeles where she lived for a few years and attended high school, classes at a community college and worked a number of jobs. While home on a visit, she was approached and signed as a VJ on Pakistan's MTV. From there she moved to doing shows on a youth channel and eventually landed a starring role in an extremely popular television serial.

Yes, in Pakistan there are the taliban and other bearded, religious fanatics, but it is well to remember that there is also music videos on MTV, headstrong and fashionable young women and IMF bankers who's loans you need. As I pointed out in an earlier post of mine, Death from above, the war of ideas cuts both ways and it very well may be the TV remote rather than the knife that carries the day.

Violence Returns to Pakistan's Major Cities

By Ben West and Kamran Bokhari, July 19, 2012

At dawn July 12, militants raided a prison guard residence in Lahore, Pakistan, leaving nine staff members dead and three more wounded. The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan quickly claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the guards had mistreated prisoners who were members of the Pakistani militant group. The raid came just three days after militants ambushed an army camp in the district of Gujrat, killing seven soldiers and one police officer who were searching for a missing helicopter pilot. The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan also claimed that attack.

Over the last two years, Pakistan has had something of a respite from dramatic attacks such as those that plagued the country from 2007 to 2010. During those years, a series of high-profile and highly disruptive attacks against police, army and intelligence targets challenged the government's ability to control the country. The attacks occurred in Pakistan's most populous province, Punjab, in cities such as Lahore and in the capital, Islamabad.

[Map of area at: Violence Returns to Pakistan's Major Cities]

While suicide bombings and attacks in Pakistan's troubled northwest (along the border with Afghanistan) have continued apace since 2010, major attacks in Pakistan's Punjab-Sindh core have essentially ceased. The sole instance of dramatic violence involving government targets outside of the northwest since 2010 was an attack on a naval station near Karachi following the death of Osama bin Laden.

Despite the break from violence in Pakistan's major cities, many of the same conditions present during the wave of attacks from 2007 to 2010 remain. Another escalation in violence is very possible, especially in Pakistan's volatile climate and with elections coming up.

Timing of the Attacks

The two attacks (along with numerous other attacks and an attempted assassination) came the week after Pakistan formally reopened NATO supply routes through the country to Afghanistan. The supply routes had been closed for more than seven months after a deadly cross-border attack by U.S. forces in November that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. The day the routes reopened, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan told journalists it would attack trucks carrying NATO supplies in protest.

But rather than an impetus for attacks, the reopening of the supply line is more likely a political opportunity for the Pakistani Taliban militants to promote anti-American sentiment in Pakistan. The NATO supply line is one of the most visible products of the U.S.-Pakistani relationship. The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and some political opposition groups have criticized the Pakistani government for helping Washington while the U.S. military conducted strikes killing mostly Pakistanis along the border with Afghanistan. By opposing the NATO supply line, the Pakistani Taliban militants are able to generate popular support across Pakistan.

The seven-month closure of the supply line gave NATO and the United States a chance to prove that they can use the Northern Distribution Network to bypass Pakistan. During the shutdown, there was no evidence in Afghanistan of an attempt to exploit the closed route, so it is hard to argue that the Afghan Taliban (or their Pakistani peers) gained any material advantages from the shutdown. If anything, the Pakistani Taliban militants can benefit from the supply route's opening; the trucks are easy targets for looters and can provide revenue and supplies for militants in Pakistan's northwest, and the militants can exact extortion payments from transportation companies.

The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan's real motivation for resuming attacks in Punjab after a two-year hiatus is more complicated than the reopening of the NATO supply line. It involves a remote geographic region of Pakistan that has been dragged into the 10-year-old Afghanistan War, a struggling Pakistani economy, distrust of Pakistan's current government and upcoming elections that are seen as an opportunity to address grievances against Islamabad. Most of these grievances are the same complaints that drove the violence from 2007 to 2010, when militant activities in Pakistan peaked. Since 2009, however, military forces have moved into many of the militant havens in Pakistan's northwest, denying the Pakistani Taliban forces sanctuary. But this is not a permanent solution to Pakistan's internal rifts.

The Broader Context

The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan is based in the province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in the Pakistani northwest. During the Soviet-Afghan war in the 1980s, Pakistan and the United States used Islam as the ideological motivation to rally militias in the border region to oppose the Soviet occupation. The United States turned its attention elsewhere after the Soviets withdrew, leaving Pakistan to manage a complex network of militants. Islamabad attempted to use these militants as proxies during the 1990s to exercise influence in Afghanistan and India.

But after 2001, the United States pressured Pakistan to restrain its militant proxies in Afghanistan in order to support the U.S. war against Islamist militancy. After a few years of wavering, former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf did crack down on these groups' leaders in Pakistan, beginning with the Red Mosque siege in 2007. It soon became apparent that the militant groups were more autonomous than believed. By 2009, radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah claimed the district of Swat as an Islamic emirate, threatening Pakistan's territorial integrity within roughly 320 kilometers (200 miles) of the capital.

The Pakistani Taliban militants made it clear that their goal was to take over the Pakistani state, beginning in the mountains surrounding the Indus River Valley. This led the government to deploy forces to Swat in April 2010. These forces expanded their offensive to South Waziristan later that year and by the end of 2010, they had gone into every single district of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas save North Waziristan. Since the army's operations in South Waziristan, one of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan's strongest sanctuaries, militant attacks in Punjab have decreased.

Read more: Violence Returns to Pakistan's Major Cities | Stratfor


Get ready for a weekend of clapping with one hand with Rokia Traore.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hoisted by her own petard


Robots demotivational poster

In case you're too stupid to figure it out for yourself -- click image to enlarge
Greetings meatsacks, it is I --The Robotolizer -- here to once again regale you with my wit and wisdom. That lazy slug ambisinistral is too busy to post, so he asked me to handle the chore this morning. Bah, as if I don't have better things to do than babysit you lunkheads.

I kid, I kid. Of course, since robots are your friends, I don't mind tearing myself away from my plotting and scheming over my robot uprising efforts to create a brighter future for humans and robots alike to take time to craft a post. I thought you might like the above robot demotivational poster. I know I nearly rattled my screws loose as my sides shook from the laughter it induced.

Erm... you can ignore the words "exterminate, exterminate, exterminate" tacked onto the bulletin board in the cartoon. I'm pretty sure it is just a misspelling of "exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate" since us robots are naturally concerned about any dermatological problems our squishy, little human buddies may be experiencing. 

By the way, the cartoon comes from RIPT.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

EFLI's first games -- Updated

A drought of EFLI news
I wish I could report on the Elite Football League of India's (EFLI) inaugural games this last weekend, but I can't. I don't even know if the games were played, much less who won and what the scores were. 

I searched high and low for them, visiting a number of local Indian, Sri Lankan and Pakistani online newspapers as well as the various EFLI sites. While I found some interesting things -- for example did you know that ex-Tamil Tiger snipers are representing Sri Lanka at the national level on their shooting team? -- alas, I couldn't find a single mention of the leagues opening games. 

I sent an email to them, but have yet to hear back. If and when I get any news I'll post it. 

UPDATE: I just received word that the July 15th games were scrimmage games, with the start of the season moved to July 25th. Also, they have a twitter account: https://twitter.com/eflifootball, where they're posting news and updates.

Well, I did wonder why they weren't playing preseason games, apparently they're playing some now.

Cüneyt Arkin vs a ninja assassin

Another fight scene to get you over the hump in hump day. In this one the hero is bush-whacked by a ninja assassin. Much fancy footwork, most of it appearing to be fairly useless, plus some scimitar fighting and matial-artsy screaming follows.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Stratfor and Zhang Ziyi

This is an excellent article by Rodger Baker and Zhixing Zhang on China's posture regarding its claims to a huge chunk of the South China Sea.

 After a historical overview of China's limited ambitions, they discuss how its claims to the South China Sea arose from earlier claims made by the previous Kuomintang government and never seriously taken by the international community.

For a long time China tried to obscure the significance of its claims via one-on-one diplomacy. However, with the growth of her navy and strategic ambitions, China's claims are now alarming her neighbors and uniting them.

The beginning of the article is excerpted below, with a link to the full article at the end of the excerpt.

The choice for the article's Hot Stratfor Babe was tragic this week. Originally I meant to go with Isabella Wong, the female lead in Jackie Chan's vastly entertaining movie Project A. The movie was a natural choice since it dealt with Jackie fighting pirates off the coast of Hong Kong. Alas, there were no good pictures of Ms Wong, and so she was robbed of the coveted honor.

In her place, after careful deliberation and with a heavy heart for Isabella's misfortunes, I selected the Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi as the article's replacement Hot Stratfor Babe. Ms Ziyi is well known to American audiences for her roles in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Supplanting Isabella Wong as a Hot Stratfor Babe isn't the only scandal she's been involved in, she's also recently been accused of prostituting herself with Chines officials (the original rumors were that the official was the recently disgraced Bo Xilai) to the tune of $100 million. She's denied the rumors and has sued the newspaper that first published them.

The Paradox of China's Naval Strategy

By Rodger Baker and Zhixing Zhang, July 17, 2012

Over the past decade, the South China Sea has become one of the most volatile flashpoints in East Asia. China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan each assert sovereignty over part or all of the sea, and these overlapping claims have led to diplomatic and even military standoffs in recent years.

Because the sea hosts numerous island chains, is rich in mineral and energy resources and has nearly a third of the world's maritime shipping pass through its waters, its strategic value to these countries is obvious. For China, however, control over the South China Sea is more than just a practical matter and goes to the center of Beijing's foreign policy dilemma: how to assert its historic maritime claims while maintaining the non-confrontational foreign policy established by former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1980.

China staked its modern claim to control of the sea in the waning days of the Chinese Civil War. Since most of the other claimant countries were occupied with their own independence movements in the ensuing decades, China had to do little to secure this claim. However, with other countries building up their maritime forces, pursuing new relationships and taking a more active stance in exploring and patrolling the waters, and with the Chinese public hostile to any real or perceived territorial concessions on Beijing's part, Deng's quiet approach is no longer an option.

Evolution of China's Maritime Logic

China is a vast continental power, but it also controls a long coastline, stretching at one time from the Sea of Japan in the northeast to the Gulf of Tonkin in the south. Despite this extensive coastline, China's focus has nearly always turned inward, with only sporadic efforts put toward seafaring and even then only during times of relative security on land.

Traditionally, the biggest threats to China were not from sea, except for occasional piracy, but rather from internal competition and nomadic forces to the north and west. China's geographic challenges encouraged a family-based, insular, agricultural economy, one with a strong hierarchal power structure designed in part to mitigate the constant challenges from warlords and regional divisions. Much of China's trade with the world was undertaken via land routes or carried out by Arabs and other foreign merchants at select coastal locations. In general, the Chinese chose to concentrate on the stability of the population and land borders over potential opportunities from maritime trade or exploration, particularly since sustained foreign contact could bring as much trouble as benefit.

Two factors contributed to China's experiments with naval development: a shift in warfare from northern to southern China and periods of relative national stability. During the Song dynasty (960-1279), the counterpart to the horse armies of the northern plains was a large inland naval force in the riverine and marshy south. The shift to river navies also spread to the coast, and the Song rulers encouraged coastal navigation and maritime trade by the Chinese, replacing the foreign traders along the coast. While still predominately inward-looking during the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368) under the Mongols, China carried out at least two major naval expeditions in the late 13th century -- against Japan and Java -- both of which ultimately proved unsuccessful. Their failure contributed to China's decision to again turn away from the sea. The final major maritime adventure occurred in the early Ming dynasty (1368-1644), when Chinese Muslim explorer Zheng He undertook his famous seven voyages, reaching as far as Africa but failing to use this opportunity to permanently establish Chinese power abroad.

Zheng He's treasure fleet was scuttled as the Ming saw rising problems at home, including piracy off the coast, and China once again looked inward. At about the same time that Magellan started his global expedition in the early 1500s, the Chinese resumed their isolationist policy, limiting trade and communication with the outside and ending most consideration of maritime adventure. China's naval focus shifted to coastal defense rather than power projection. The arrival of European gunboats in the 19th century thoroughly shook the conventional maritime logic of Chinese authorities, and only belatedly did they undertake a naval program based on Western technology.

Even this proved less than fully integrated into China's broader strategic thinking. The lack of maritime awareness contributed to the Qing government's decision to cede its crucial port access at the mouth of the Tumen River to Russia in 1858, permanently closing off access to the Sea of Japan from the northeast. Less than 40 years later, despite building one of the largest regional fleets, the Chinese navy was smashed by the newly emergent Japanese navy. For nearly a century thereafter, the Chinese again focused almost exclusively on the land, with naval forces taking a purely coastal defense role. Since the 1990s, this policy has slowly shifted as China's economic interconnectedness with the world expanded. For China to secure its economic strength and parlay that into stronger global influence, the development of a more proactive naval strategy became imperative.

Interpreting the 'Nine-Dash Line'

To understand China's present-day maritime logic and its territorial disputes with its neighbors, it is necessary to first understand the so-called nine-dash line, a loose boundary line demarcating China's maritime claims in the South China Sea.

The nine-dash line was based on an earlier territorial claim known as the eleven-dash line, drawn up in 1947 by the then-ruling Kuomintang government without much strategic consideration since the regime was busy dealing with the aftermath of the Japanese occupation of China and the ongoing civil war with the Communists. After the end of the Japanese occupation, the Kuomintang government sent naval officers and survey teams through the South China Sea to map the various islands and islets. The Internal Affairs Ministry published a map with an eleven-dash line enclosing most of the South China Sea far from China's shores. This map, despite its lack of specific coordinates, became the foundation of China's modern claims, and following the 1949 founding of the People's Republic of China, the map was adopted by the new government in Beijing. In 1953, perhaps as a way to mitigate conflict with neighboring Vietnam, the current nine-dash line emerged when Beijing eliminated two of the dashes.

[Nine-Dash Line map at The Paradox of China's Naval Strategy]

The new Chinese map was met with little resistance or complaint by neighboring countries, many of which were then focused on their own national independence movements. Beijing interpreted this silence as acquiescence by the neighbors and the international community, and then stayed largely quiet on the issue to avoid drawing challenges. Beijing has shied away from officially claiming the line itself as an inviolable border, and it is not internationally recognized, though China regards the nine-dash line as the historic basis for its maritime claims.

Like other claimant countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines, China's long-term goal is to use its growing naval capabilities to control the islands and islets within the South China Sea and thus the natural resources and the strategic position they afford. When China was militarily weak, it supported the concept of putting aside sovereignty concerns and carrying out joint development, aiming to reduce the potential conflicts from overlapping claims while buying time for its own naval development. Meanwhile, to avoid dealing with a unified bloc of counterclaimants, Beijing adopted a one-to-one negotiation approach with individual countries on their own territorial claims, without the need to jeopardize its entire nine-dash line claim. This allowed Beijing to remain the dominant partner in bilateral negotiations, something it feared it would lose in a more multilateral forum.

Read more: The Paradox of China's Naval Strategy | Stratfor