Monday, May 07, 2012

The Little Red Hen Story - updated

The American industrial base has relocated to international locales and a concern of the military is that we may not have enough local industry to produce defense equipment in its entirety here in America.  On the Spring Break trip’s visit to Boeing Headquarters, we learned that Boeing has over 20 foreign partners that help build one of its airplanes.  Defense contractors also outsource.  Along with that comes the concern that foreign corporations are also learning technological and industrial secrets and with their penchants for reverse engineering, gaining technological advantage as well.

Obama has been championing re-industrialization of America or “in-sourcing”.  I wonder how he will win over corporate America, though – ObamaCare is a disincentive to reindustrialization. With the second highest corporate tax rates in the world at 39.2 percent (combined federal and state taxes), some economists have likened it to an economic Berlin Wall around the US. Government.  Government regulations (EPA and OSHA mostly) have shut down many businesses and there are other government mandates that make business in America unattractive.

The President wants to create jobs – our unemployment rate is 8.1 percent, with 12.5 million unemployed.  Even though the private sector gained 130,000 new jobs and the government (en toto) cut 15,000 posts in March, the number of unemployed people didn’t change.  What’s interesting about this is that those who haven’t been able to find jobs in the last six months are now at 41.3 percent of the total unemployed.  American workers don’t seem to be interested in blue collar work, either, though, so this in itself is a disincentive to reindustrialization. Americans want high pay, benefits and easy work – the product of a consumption lifestyle. This 41.3 percent is not interested in the hard work of creating jobs and will instead be looking for government handouts (unemployment benefits, additional strain on (Medicaid/Medicare). 

Le Monde Diplomatique reports that Europe has been hoping for the last twenty years to reach a “post-industrial Leisure society”. French elections are protesting against the deindustrialization of France and Europe is realizing that they can’t afford the American consumption lifestyle that we exported.  American politicians have yet to realize that we can’t afford it either, as they aren’t slashing the government jobs that prevent industrialization from re-entering America.

Obama has been searching for a new campaign slogan, but he has one now: “Forward”. Romney has made fun of him by asking, “Forward where? Off a cliff?” Not really…no one is interested in building a refinery that can produce the lubricant needed to oil the machinery to create a steam shovel that can mine some marble that was found in the ground that prompted a business man to build a quarry, that incidentally now employs several hundred people, that created a cliff off which Obama CAN walk.

Prepped for What?

Last Friday, March 16, this little Executive Order (12919) was signed into law and nothing was really mentioned about the fact that the government could take over all security, economic, medical and sustainment resources (food, water, housing) at its whim.  You can read it in its entirety here:  

Even though it was part of the “Friday Document Dumps”, those bills that just need a signature and have been sitting on the desk for a week or so because they aren’t as pressing as a resolution regarding Syria, let’s say, it is still an important document that can affect every citizen in the United States in regard to an international or national emergency.  Presidents have updated and signed the national defense resources preparedness EO 8248, issued in 1939, but there is a difference in this one.  Not only does it place all these under the control of DHS, instead of FEMA, but this phrase was added in
Section 201(b) “under both emergency and non-emergency conditions.”  

This EO ensures that we are prepared in peacetime and in a national emergency to direct resources to the national defense, but it still smacks of a path towards nationalization. I use the term "at its whim" rather loosely and flippantly, but it is not outside the scope of the government to look for sources favorable to its own interests and not those of its constituents. We just need a populist president who doesn’t care about the constitution, but wants to pare down the debt, implement socialist principles, and use national resources to fund whatever he (or she) deems necessary. President Kirchner has already started down this path in Argentina; why should North America be any different from South America?

Glitz is for Glamour

Triple Canopy is one of those professional military forces that is not a media darling due to its lack of attention gathering behavior. This is not to say that they aren’t effective, but they are more of a quiet professional force.  Triple Canopy understands that credibility, ethics, and results go hand in hand in order to maintain a moral compass and remain a viable force.

Triple Canopy has been aggressive it its support for a legal, moral and ethical framework since its inception, due to services it provides of integrated security and mission support, in effect, setting the industry standard.  It, too, was founded by Special Forces personnel in May 2003, but they decided to incorporate a code of conduct and “Canon of ethics” into their corporate philosophy. The Office of the Inspector General (OIG), who reviewed Triple Canopy’s operation in the Iraqi Theater released a statement that the personnel were a "well-trained, professional work force with significant prior experience" in military and law enforcement.

In 2008, one year after 17 innocent civilians were killed on the streets of Baghdad by Blackwater contractors, the Montreux Document was signed into being by 17 states and is a non-binding document that references international law and human rights laws in regard to the actions of PMFs in international armed conflict.  The actual name (and of course, in good French philosophical form) of the document is “Montreux Document on Pertinent International Legal Obligations and Good Practices for States related to Operations of Private Military and Security Companies during Armed Conflict”. It is derived from the 2006 “Swiss Initiative” that Switzerland and the ICRC collaborated on and arose out of concern for respect for international legal obligations.  The kicker – Triple Canopy provided its Code of ethics to the Swiss Government as a source document.

So how come it took so long for Blackwater, or as it is known now, Academi, to institute a corporate governance and ethics program (February 2009)? Maybe the State Department should forget flashy and contract with the professional guys who are helping create or define international law with a nod towards protecting civilians.

Friday, May 04, 2012

"One Does Not Visit the Temple for Nothing" - Chinese Proverb

China isn’t content with expanding to Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa.  Lately, it has been talking with Brazil and other South American countries about infrastructure development.  Now, China is thinking about investing in an EU government bailout fund.

European countries like Spain and Italy are facing rising debts, although their debt ceiling is already the highest in the eurozone.  Most of the Western investors are uncertain as to whether or not to loan more to EU countries.  If the Italian economy collapses, that is bad news for investors and could start a domino effect across the eurozone as confidence in repayment measures wanes.  Austerity measures can’t be implemented ad infinitum either, so what else can be done? Stop the hand wringing…China is interested in buying European bonds which would infuse new life into the eurozone!

China and Europe have always had a relationship, but the EU is now China’s largest trading partner. Whereas China is interested in a return politically from the EU in exchange for economic help, what kind of long-term outlook will they require from the European people?  Will it want a blind eye towards human rights abuses and breaking trade rules, solidarity in UN Security Council resolutions, or will it welcome European aid in Chinese development projects? What about gaining full market economy status? China doesn’t give without getting something in return and it will expect something just as sizeable in return.

An Air Force Academy graduate had to write a paper about how a country could take over the United States. He wrote that China has already (hypothetically) been investing in sleeper cells all across America, by placing Chinese restaurants in every little town. Ingenious, but it doesn’t seem that China needs stealth to take over…it just needs to wait for economic failures to engulf a country, one continent at a time.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Say Hello to My Little Friend...

Now that NATO forces are drawing down in Central Asia, Defense Secretary Panetta is giving the nod to South America as a potential ally in countering Asian-Pacific threats.  Uncertainty over North Korea and China’s growing military and economic influence in the Asia-Pacific region is the new focus of the Pentagon’s defense strategy. On the surface, it looks like the US is now welcoming the long-snubbed Latin American countries as viable and valued partners in global stability. This actually is not the case. Latin American countries have been sending ministers within their various departments and military officials to the US for years to gain a mutual understanding of US economic, political and defense strategies.

The Industrial College of the Armed Forces, part of the National Defense University, is a national war college that focuses on providing national resource and security strategy education for senior leaders. Not only US senior leaders, but many senior leaders from Latin American countries attend. It is within the walls of these war colleges that friendships and alliances are formed between senior level military leaders and government ministers.  So when Panetta turns his head to Latin America and stresses the importance as military partners, it is more a formality and an official recognition of relationships that have already been formed and working behind the scenes to make liaisons and economic and political ties between the US and Latin America a reality.

In the face of China’s growing presence in Latin America as a trading partner and developer, the US is trying to maintain its regional presence and perception as a global power by its stress on and technological skills for cybersecurity.  Colombia, Brazil and Chile all acknowledge cyberthreats as a national concern and are willing to partner with the US. As the formal ties are secured between concerned Latin American countries and the State Department and the Pentagon, these relationships that have been solidified in our national war colleges will only enhance policy negotiations. It will become increasingly important if China continues to be at the tip of the cybersecurity threat.  The US will gladly scratch Latin American backs if they scratch ours…so to speak.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Shooting themselves in the foot.

In Israel, the hits just keep on coming.  The recent 'formalization' of settlements in the occupied West Bank have caused worldwide condemnation and a UK boycott of settlement-made goods (a token gesture, but still a gesture), and a UN human rights investigation is "appalled" at the treatment of Palestinian prisoners under Israeli watch.  And recently the Israeli government ordered the uprooting of Palestinian olive groves on private land, which seems as nothing more than a punitive action for the crime of not being Israeli.  In a move that beggars belief, Israeli officials attempted to influence a news report on Palestinian Christians, most likely because it endangers the simple Muslim-Jewish narrative that Israel has relied upon for outside support.

This type of governance by Israel is not sustainable.  Israel cannot justifiably be called a democracy if it treats people within its borders this way, and in doing so only makes its security situation that much more fragile.  It's as if Israel wants Palestinian violence, in order to justify crackdowns on Palestinians.

This also makes it harder for America to justify its support of Israel, especially among the non-Jewish or non-apocalyptic Evangelical (compare the rapport of Bush-Netanyahu to the icy exchanges of Obama-Netanyahu) voter and legislator.  Unless Israel looks to reign in its domestic policies, the unconditional military and diplomatic support of the US will gradually be worn away.