Are we on the cusp of another World War I?

Are we about to witness a parallel version of World War I play out in 2014? But this time in the Pacific?

Shinzo Abe, the prime minister of Japan thinks so. He apparently stated that China and Japan are in a “similar situation” to Britain and Germany, prior to 1914.

The comments came at last week’s annual summit in Davos, Switzerland, and are being echoed by a number of thinkers who believe a war between the two Asian great powers is increasing likely.

One article relays an influential Chinese professor stating that he believed China could move troops onto the disputed Senkaku Islands, and that:

this limited strike could be effected without provoking a broader conflict. The strike would have great symbolic value, demonstrating to China, Japan, and the rest of the world who was boss. But it would not be so egregious a move that it would force America and Japan to respond militarily and thus lead to a major war.

This is how wars between great powers begin. One side misjudges the red-lines of another, and believes it can make a move without risk of a counter-blow. The opposing player, unwilling to appear weak, and risk future aggression, responds with force.

And then you have a hot war in Asia. America will almost certainly becomes involved on the side of one of its top allies, against its 2nd largest trading partner.

Is it possible for there to be a lose-lose-lose situation? Because this would be it.

washpostpr:

The Washington Post today announced a partnership with The Volokh Conspiracy, a blog that covers law, public policy, politics, culture and other topics.

Eugene Volokh, a law professor at UCLA, founded the blog in April 2002, and it quickly became a regular destination for Supreme Court junkies,…

Great stuff.

Draining George Lucas’ Swamp

This weekend, I re-watched Star Wars Episodes 1 & 2 (no, not the ones with Han, Luke and Leia).

Some parts were as bad as I remember (George Lucas will certainly be spending time in purgatory for Jar Jar Binks), while the music (oh God the music) was still epic, and you can’t beat a good Star Wars laser battle. Natalie Portman isn’t hard on the eyes either.

That said, I’m already pumped for the 2015 release of Episode 7, to be directed by J.J. Abrams (he’s like the evil emperor of all nerd-dorm, he must control ALL the movies).

According to an article in ars technica, ahead of Episode 7, Disney (Star Wars’ new master) is going to scrub decades of accumulated narrative from Star Wars’ “extended universe:”

The giant swamp of the EU stretches out before them, threatening to ensnare and swallow up any potential ideas they might try to include. They need to be able to re-launch the franchise in a direction that they control, and that requires the freedom to let Empire Strikes Back writer Lawrence Kasdan pen the script without worrying about stumbling over years’ worth of baggage.

And good riddance, say I. Having read Star Wars novels growing up, they can be entertaining pulp fiction - but they’re no foundation on which to build a new film trilogy.

Finally, since we’re on the topic of reboots, can Disney release a Non-Director’s Cut of Episode 1 that completely removes Jar Jar Binks from the film?

Yeah, that’d be great.

Wow, my tumblr blog turned 4 today! I’m such a proud parent.

Neither Feared, Nor Loved

Everyone’s been talking about the political repercussions of Bob Gates new book. But one revelation has been curiously under-reported: that the U.S. tried to oust Karzai, failed miserably, and this ”clumsy and failed putsch” (side-note, I had to look up the word) continues to poison the American-Afghan relationship.

As Stephen Biddle says:

"The result was the worst of both worlds - Karzai was re-elected, and we now looked like we’d attempted to get rid of him and failed. Not good."

Once again, this is what a diffident foreign policy gets you. Neither feared, not loved - just ignored and mocked. Machiavelli would not be impressed.

This Week’s Violence in Beirut & Iraq Is Just The Beginning

What does this week’s deadly suicide bombing in Beirut and the capture of the Iraqi city of Fallujah by islamic militants have in common?

Syria.

Both attacks were perpetrated by the Al Qaeda affiliated terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, which is also deeply involved in the Syrian civil war. 

Here’s the kicker, as the WSJ wrote earlier this week, America’s failure of will in Syria, lead to this violence:

U.S. intelligence and military officers watched the evolution with alarm from the sidelines, at least one step behind developments on the ground. The White House was unwilling to commit significant resources to back opposition fighters, wary of getting drawn into another conflict in the region or inadvertently backing violent extremists. Wary U.S. intelligence officials told policy makers that a cohesive, well-organized opposition didn’t exist and was unlikely to take shape even if the U.S. made a more substantial investment, officials involved in the deliberations said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Assad’s key backers—Iran and Hezbollah—spared no expense to save their ally, U.S. officials say.

Because of our dithering, Assad clings to power, the brutal civil war grinds on for possibly a decade more, and the entire region is further destabilized.

When America leads from behind, the results can be tragic. The failures of our engagement, or more precisely, our lack-of-engagement in Syria, are just beginning to be felt.

The Man Nobody Knew

I just finished watching a documentary on former CIA director William Colby, called The Man Nobody Knew, and was struck by the similarities between CIA in the 1970s and the National Security Agency today.

Colby released CIA’s "family jewels" and testified extensively to Congress about various illegal actions like assassinations and domestic spying.

He was a life-long intelligence officer, and at least as the documentary describes it, revealed CIA’s dirty laundry because he believed it was the only way to preserve the agency.

Post-Watergate, there was so much distrust of government that only brutal honesty, to the Congress and the American public, could prevent CIA from being completely shuttered.

Now, post-Edward Snowden, NSA faces a similar existential crisis. If NSA is to continue its mission of conducting signals intelligence on FOREIGN sources, it must regain the trust of the American public.

Trust requires truth and a good step in that direction is for senior NSA officials to go before the Congress and come clean to any misdeeds in the interest of preserving the very agency they serve.

budgettroll:

Went house-hunting in DC today. This place was my favorite!

Still looking for some roomies, though. Anyone game? I posted a CraigsList ad, so let me know!

Anyone got a free apartment in DC for this guy?