2008-02-21

Morning Report: February 21, 2008

Win, lose, or draw?

Missile scores hit on satellite. In from the Cold:
AP military correspondent Robert Burns reports that an SM-3 missile from a U.S. navy vessel successfully struck a defunct spy satellite over the Pacific tonight. The intercept was aimed at destroying the satellite before it reenters the earth's atmosphere, lessening the danger from falling debris that survives reentry, including the platform's large propellant tank, filled with toxic hydrazine.

The missile was launched around 10:30 p.m. EST this evening, and struck the satellite shortly after. Defense Secretary Robert Gates made the final decision to conduct the intercept.

Earlier in the day, it appeared that heavy seas around Hawaii would delay the intercept attempt. But the weather improved in the later afternoon, allowing the launch to proceed.

Pentagon officials say it may be a couple of days before the status of the fuel tank and its cargo are known. However, early reports suggested that the tank was destroyed by the missile impact.

Kurtz: Pakistan votes "no" to war on terror. Stanley Kurtz at NRO: 'Pakistan’s victorious opposition parties are signaling a new approach to terrorism. That strategy “is more likely to be responsive to the consensus of the Pakistani public than was Mr. Musharraf’s and is more likely to shun a heavy hand by the military and rely on dialogue with the militants.”' Read the rest at the link.
Strategy Page: Russia vs. China. Strategy Page:
The [Russian] government is making a lot of noise about rebuilding the armed forces, and another Cold War with the U.S., but this is all talk, to make the government appear like it's doing something. The military would need massive amounts of money (over $100 billion a year, for a decade or more) to restore any meaningful amount of military power. Nothing near that amount is forthcoming. The government is trying to get the population stirred up, so there is less resistance to the purchase of many expensive warplanes and ships. A lot of this necessary because China is buying less, and starting to offer their own stuff, often containing stolen Russian military technology, on the world market. China is threatening to offer its copy of the Su-27 (the J-11). Currently, half of Russian weapons export sales are Su-27s. The Chinese ignore Russian complaints about the stolen technology. To keep Russian weapons manufacturers in business, the Russian military has to buy more, to make up for the lost Chinese sales. Western firms are also going after the lucrative Indian arms market, which Russia has dominated for decades. Last year, Russia sold $7 billion worth of weapons overseas, and may have a hard time topping that this year.

While there is less kidnapping and gunfire in the streets, Russian criminals are still in business. Computer crime is increasing, apparently under the protection of the government. Large scale assaults on foreign banks, corporations and governments are traced back to Russia, yet Russian police refuse to cooperate in rounding up the suspects. At the same time, a former senior intelligence official, who defected to the West, explained how, in the 1990s, Russia stole half a billion dollars from the UN "Oil for Food" program that was supposed to be feeding Iraqis. Russian officials are still known to be ready to deal, if the payoff is big enough. Back home, the government is increasingly making up the rules as it goes along, sliding back to the customs so common when the Soviet Union existed. Those who make a lot of noise in opposition either flee the country, or get prosecuted on some trumped up charge.

The Russian military has a long-standing sense of worry about American technlolgy, too - and the recent satellite shoot-down isn't making them feel any better. China's fretting over it, too. (HT Tammy.)

Commentary. The Russian government has been griping and moaning about US missile defense plans - in Poland and the Czech republic, and now at home. I'll begin by making the obvious comment: If Putin's intentions toward the West aren't belligerent to begin with, why in the world should he be bothered by a defensive weapon? If Bush were saying, "Let's put lots of nuclear missiles in Europe and aim them at Russia," we could expect Putin to have a cow, and it'd be perfectly reasonable for him to do so. But if Vlad the Inhaler is having the vapors over a system designed to prevent Europe and/or America from being nuked, we've got to assume that he wants to nuke Europe and/or America. Why else would he respond with a threat to aim missiles at Poland and the Czech Republic?

(My response would be, "OK, fine. Let's put lots of nuclear missiles in Europe and aim them at Russia." But then, I'm not the President, and it's probably just as well.)

Unrelated, or perhaps not, is Norm Geras' post on the Left. After the obligatory caveats, Norm observes:
Nonetheless, there is a central piece of bad faith in the way that these three themes typically combine on the left to enable their partisans to evade a single inescapable fact: namely that, flawed as they may be, the capitalist democracies are democracies and none of the would-be anti-capitalist countries, anywhere, has managed to sustain comparably good or better democratic institutions over any length of time. Note that I do not say this means it could never happen; I don't believe that. What it does mean, however, is that the democratic institutions we are familiar with have yet to be improved upon in any of those places that some leftists are given to casting an indulgent eye upon even while they seek to distance themselves critically from the institutions they themselves benefit from and which are superior.

Unwilling to profess a clear allegiance towards what is democratically better, a certain type of leftist is always ready to make allowances for what is democratically worse. Is it any wonder, then, if his or her democratic avowals are regarded by many with suspicion?

A connection? Both in this phenomenon and in Moscow's belligerency there is an assumption of a zero-sum principle at work; that is, if you are to win, I must lose. Notice that I do not say it is a fallacy: if in the mind of the other party the game is a win/lose conflict, then they are simply acting according to their own set of rules and assumptions.

Does Russia have to threaten the West in order to be secure? Must leftists support the enemies of civilization to advance their own cause?

Are they really that weak? The answer is the same.