Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | October 6, 2011

US Army needs a motorcycle stunt team

… and other reflections on the post-Pax Americana crack-up

As the world takes off on its own, the directions it is going are predictable, but still poignant.  In some ways, it is as if the great paroxysms of the 20th century – World War I, the socialist revolutions, national socialism, World War II, the Cold War – “never even happened.”  In other ways, it’s as if the joke has ended up being on the victors from these turmoils.

With the guarantee of US supervision lifted, the old-style power and seniority that were once castigated as oppressive begin to look like sources of security.  Absurdities like the “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations gain no traction because everyone’s gut sense is that something much bigger is going on.  The silly, ephemeral premises of the “Occupy Wall Street” crowd are a relic, a superannuated adolescent whine from an era when there was a sense of resignation about being able to afford a little bit of sophomoric foolishness.  No more.  Papa’s broke, and we can’t afford the waste and clean-up effort.

Germans are losing patience with the chronic dysfunction of the Southern European economies.  Russia – Russia! – is stepping in to help bail out the overextended.  The Russians may have a crummy political system and a mafia-style economy and repressed individual rights, but they take no prisoners when it comes to extracting and allocating profits from the natural gas trade.  So they have something that seems more important right now: cash.

It takes a whole heap of regulating to turn Western economies into supplicants and Russia and China into comparative cash-daddies, but we’ve managed it.  We have made it so illegal and costly to invest and profit in the West that sclerotic, oligarchic Russia and the one-trick pony that is China are positioned better than Western nations are to offer cash to the West’s biggest failures.  The US Congress even sits around voting on whether to get in a huff about China manipulating her currency.  There was a time when you couldn’t make people accept Chinese currency.  They’d run screaming in the other direction.  The Chinese regime hasn’t changed that much; we have.

In what Melanie Phillips calls a “world turned upside down” (a rhetorical nod to the tune supposedly played on the occasion of Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown), the Japanese last week hosted the defense ministers of ASEAN to discuss a common effort to contain China.  Japan, an observer in ASEAN, has been investing in Southeast Asia for decades now; ASEAN has met to discuss countering China before; but gathering the defense ministers in Japan is a new set-out.  Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand, fellow ASEAN observer Australia – these nations meeting with Japan to discuss containing China resurrect echoes of the form international relations took before WWII, if not the particulars.

Adding to the sense of an alternate-universe reversion to the 1930s is South Korea’s decision to construct two new naval bases on islands off her coast.  One is to be on the island of Ulleung in the Sea of Japan, an island Seoul disputes with Tokyo (which calls the island Takeshima).  The other will entail the fortification of Jeju (Cheju-do), off South Korea’s southern coast at the western entrance to the Tsushima Strait, where the Yellow Sea meets the East China Sea.  Japan is not the concern behind this move; Russia and China are.  The perceived need for it has arisen for the same reason Southeast Asians are meeting with Japan to discuss security concerns: the credibility of US force and guarantees has diminished.

Islands off South Korea

It’s the same reason why Indonesia and Vietnam have agreed to set up joint naval patrols in the South China Sea, why Indonesia is looking to expand her navy dramatically and add a third geographic fleet organization, why the Philippines has been courting Japanese assistance in patrolling her sea lanes adjacent to the South China Sea, and why India is assembling her own “String of Pearls” to rival China’s South Asian maritime strategy.

India is very concerned about China in general, which leads to the title point about the US Army’s need for a motorcycle stunt team.  India’s army has one, and it did some serious riding in a display during India’s first military exercise with the armed forces of Mongolia in September.  Any army can do this (and it’s no big deal for air forces to do this, or navies to do this.  Showboating air forces can do this stuff in their sleep, and naval infantry or marines the world over, with their cool toys, have no trouble doing this, this, this, this, and this.  And anybody, basically, can do this).  But motorcycle stunt teams are few and far between, even if new strange bedfellows are now cropping up, geopolitically speaking, on a minimum two-per-week basis.

Meanwhile, over in the Eastern Mediterranean, tensions are high but haven’t bubbled over.  Both Turkey and Cyprus continue their maritime oil-and-gas activities.  Sensational rumors – almost none of them believable – abound regarding the reaction of Israel and the supposed counterreaction of Turkey.  (I give credence to the reports that Israel is keeping the Turkish warships under daily aerial surveillance, but discount the rest.)

Russia will be sending more warships to the Med after the Black Sea Fleet task force visits Greece and Montenegro later this month.  The aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov will reportedly leave the Barents in late November for a Med deployment, accompanied by at least one Udaloy-class destroyer.  The last time Admiral Kuznetsov was in the Med, in 2009, the ship made port calls in Syria and Turkey.  Russian ships are very unlikely to call in either nation this time around – but will be quietly welcomed by long-time allies of the United States.

There’s also the periodic destabilizing eruption from Syria’s promising liberal reformer, Bashar al-Assad, who stated earlier this week that he would ask for Hezbollah’s help attacking Israel with missiles and rockets if other nations use military force against his regime.  In his case, however, that’s not the world turned upside down, it’s just business as usual.

 

Indian army stunt team in Mongolia

The world won’t right itself automatically if the US elects a different president next year.  But we need to keep in mind that the problems the world is sinking into are the result not of what we are doing, but of what we aren’t.

The West is slothful, confused, and tired, but not from overexertion.  In one of the most remarkable trends in history, we have ordered ourselves for no good reason to assume a listless, inert posture.  Nothing would help us as much as releasing ourselves from our own ridiculous constraints.  We don’t need to live by lies about what is good and what is bad; nothing fates us to accept an artificially constructed prison of regulation, “political correctness,” and suicidal self-abnegation.

There are millions of people whose potential and power have been artificially stifled by the distorted expectations of modern Western society.  A Greek woman of 50, who has been promised a right to retire at that age from the perilous, heavily regulated profession of hairdressing – and for whom more lucrative or creative arrangements were made impossible by regulation and taxes anyway – has been discouraged and underemployed as surely as the New Soviet Man ever was.  Kings in the Middle Ages, imposing sumptuary laws in the name of the Christian church, discouraged the industry and drive of their people no more effectively than the modern public education systems of Europe and North America.

But what we have done to ourselves can be undone.  It will have to be: there is no form of social organization that does what the political and economic freedom of the West – and especially of the USA – has done.  It is because we have turned our backs on it that the world has turned upside down.

A motorcycle stunt team for our army may not be the main thing we ought to look into, but it can’t hurt.  The nation whose army has the motorcycle stunt team has at least shown itself capable of adapting and facing reality.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air’s Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, and The Weekly Standard online.


Responses

  1. The Indian Army is also big into polo. http://www.armypoloclub.com/html/about_us_.html
    Which can’t be bad.

  2. When you say that Russia and China have “cash”, what does that mean? The Russians have assets, mostly the raw materials that they’ve always had and failed to effectively exploit. Their natural gas, for instance, is valuable to Europe, whose money is more and more likely to become worthless. The Euros the Russians have now, their “cash”, will also become worthless. The Chinese cookie jar is filled with US treasuries, nearly fictional certificates whose purchase is almost obligatory for them. The future of T-bills is contingent on reversing the federal financial paradigm. Don’t see much likely hood of that happening. But both countries are stuck, they have to keep dancing. Interesting times await us.

  3. The Occupy Wall Street crowd is acting out on a sense of grievance that has a long history in this country. A hundred years ago dozens of desperados and gangsters were celebrated because they robbed banks. Thieves and gangsters like the Youngers, Daltons and Jameses were popular heroes in some places. The problem with banks is that if you need money and they refuse to lend it to you, they are the bad guys. Conversely, if they lend it to you and want to be paid back, they are the bad guys. The gangsters who robbed banks and railroads often received support and cooperation from the citizens — even those upstanding citizens in the Oklahoma territory.

    So, the anger and hostility to Wall Street and financial interests is not new. The protesters today seem to set a new low in fecklessness, however, and we probably don’t have to worry about any of them holding up an arbitrage firm on Wall Street at gunpoint. When they finally leave, the NYC Sanitation Dept will have to be working overtime. (Creating jobs, they are!)

    • The folks helping criminals in Oklahoma were probably OSU fans. All of us upstanding OU fans are straight shooters so to speak.

  4. Ulleung is not the island at dispute that the Japanese call Takeshima; it is Dokdo. The mistake, however, is a common one. Even the Koreans haven’t been able to figure out which one is which over the years. Here’s a link to the best statement of the Japanese position, from the government of Shimane Prefecture.

    http://ampontan.wordpress.com/takeshima-shimane-prefecture/

  5. Quick addendum: They were called the Liancourt Rocks in English, and there’s an arrow pointing to them on the map on this post.

  6. I don’t know about those “straight shooters” wreed. The president of a neighboring private university was quite disparaging of a university that called itself “The Sooners” because the original sooners were breaking the law. Nevertheless, Go Sooners! Beat Longhorns!

    • I am from North Carolina. I get a special dispensation from the Land Run thing.
      The original Sooners were running the “option”, they weren’t breaking the law, the other guys just didn’t know when the play started.
      Oklahoma by 13.
      Regards to everyone.

  7. —”It takes a whole heap of regulating to turn Western economies into supplicants and Russia and China into comparative cash-daddies, but we’ve managed it.”—

    it takes a whole lot of crazyass to produce that steaming heap of horse hockey.

    “It wasn’t the airplanes. It was regulations that killed the beast”

  8. The problem is (obviously) Obama. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that China – a nation of one billion people – has finally taken our advice and junked communism for capitalism. However, those without the memories of goldfish will remmember all those years when we held China up as a prime example of the economic millstone that was communism. Well this nation of a billion has woken up. We Americans should remember that there are only about 300 million of us, and that each Chinese need only be one third as productive as each American for China to overtake our economy. That is math, and its the same whether or not the Dems or Republicans are in power. Neither has it much to do with whether or not there is more or less government regulation here at home – or whether we spend a few more or less percent on our military. The consequences of a nation of a billion souls which has finally woken up outweighs of the relatively insignificant differences that would result from changing administrations here.

    If you really believe that cutbacks in military spending is our problem lets put it to the test. The majority of military spending ultimately goes on paying wages to our military, its hangers-on, its early pensioners, and the employees of its suppliers. Chinese military wages are about one fifth of US military wages, rank for rank. Lets cut our military wages to make them competitive with Chinese military pay. We will then be able to buy lots and lots of carriers, more nukes, and fancy jets for fighting WWII dog-fights. That will surely put a stop to the march of China. (Oh sorry, JED and Co want to cut the pay of teachers – so that we can compete with the Chinese on ignorance and low-grade jobs – rather than military pork)

    By I know that Obama is the real cause of US decline. I presume that when Romneycare gets elected next year his first act will be to order the Chinks to scale back their economy and America will be great again.

    • “The majority of military spending ultimately goes on paying wages to our military, its hangers-on, its early pensioners, and the employees of its suppliers. Chinese military wages are about one fifth of US military wages, rank for rank. Lets cut our military wages to make them competitive with Chinese military pay. We will then be able to buy lots and lots of carriers, more nukes, and fancy jets for fighting WWII dog-fights. That will surely put a stop to the march of China. (Oh sorry, JED and Co want to cut the pay of teachers – so that we can compete with the Chinese on ignorance and low-grade jobs – rather than military pork)”

      Whereas the majority of our spending on education doesn’t go to paying wages to teachers, their hangers-on, early pensioners, and the employees of their suppliers? I suspect Chinese teacher salaries are just as low in comparison to the overly generous checks American teachers receive for less work, less performance, and obviously lower student performance at every level. American universities need quotas to keep the Chinese and other East Asians out because they out-perform everyone else.

      The idea that higher teacher pay will result in better student performance does provide some comic relief, if nothing else, for willfully turning a blind eye to what’s happened in American schools and society over the past 50 years.

      • “…. American teachers receive for less work, less performance, and obviously lower student performance at every level.’”

        your rhetoric may be writing checks that your skinny facts can’t cash, amp

    • ” We Americans should remember that there are only about 300 million of us, and that each Chinese need only be one third as productive as each American for China to overtake our economy.”

      So economics is like football and the people of an arbitrary political subdivision that produces and sells the most widgets wins some kind of “Little Brown Jug”? And these billion Chinese have “woken up”? Don’t they wake up almost every day, normally? Or have they, almost simultaneously and instantly, all realized that they’ve got to get off the rice paddy and head for Shanghai so they can make their own small contribution to the glory of the next world economic leader?

  9. —–We Americans should remember that there are only about 300 million of us, and that each Chinese need only be one third as productive as each American for China to overtake our economy. That is math….——

    in some sense it is math.

    it’s not quite the math of 3 + 9 =grapefruit .

    but it’s not good.


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