Category Archives: WatchingPolitics


70 years since Pearl Harbor attack
Seventy years have passed since Dec. 8, 1941 (Japan time), when more than 300 Japanese bombers, torpedo bombers and fighters from an aircraft carrier task force attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The attack exploded, sank or severely damaged five U.S. battleships, among other seacraft, and killed some 3,300 members of the U.S. Navy and Army.

The ensuing total war between Japan and the United States thus started, ending in August 1945 only after Japan suffered atomic bomb attacks in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Tactically, the attack, was a success for Japan. But it was not necessarily a strategic success. Japan inflicted no damage to U.S. aircraft carriers, which would play a crucial role in naval operations in the Pacific. At the time of the attack, no U.S. aircraft carriers were in Pearl Harbor.

More importantly, the attack infuriated Americans, ending isolationist sentiments in the U.S. and uniting American opinions in favor of war against the Axis Powers.

Japan has been dogged by the accusation for decades that it carried out a “sneak attack” because Japanese Ambassador to Washington Kichisaburo Nomura and special envoy Saburo Kurusu handed Tokyo’s final memorandum addressed to the U.S. government to U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull about an hour after the Pearl Harbor attack.

In Japan, opinion persists that if the Japanese embassy staff in Washington had worked properly and the envoys had handed the memorandum to the U.S. in time, Japan would have been spared the stigma of having carried out a “sneak attack.”

But this view is not tenable because Japan’s final memorandum was not in the form of an ultimatum, which expresses the intention of entering into war. The memorandum only hinted that Japan would terminate negotiations with the U.S., as Mr. Takeo Iguchi, former Japanese ambassador to New Zealand and former professor at Tokai University, points out in his book “Demystifying Pearl Harbor — A New Perspective from Japan” (2010) and his interview with The Japan Times, which appeared Dec. 7, 1999.

Even if the final memorandum had been handed prior to the Pearl Harbor attack, it would still have infuriated the U.S. as well. Mr. Iguchi was in Washington as an 11-year-old at the time of the attack because his father was counselor at the Japanese embassy.

He found that the Japanese Foreign Ministry had written a draft dated Dec. 3, 1941, which would have served as a true ultimatum. Its concluding paragraph said: “The government of the United States of America has not shown even the slightest degree of sincerity in the current negotiations, and the Japanese government regrets to have to solemnly notify hereby your government that we are forced to terminate negotiations, recognizing that the continuation of talks will in no way contribute to the stability of East Asia, and that you will be held responsible for any and all the consequences that may arise in the future.”

The very last part of the paragraph was tantamount to a declaration of war.

But the last paragraph of the memorandum delivered to Hull was changed to: “The Japanese government regrets to have to notify hereby the American government that in view of the attitude of the American government, it cannot but consider that it is impossible to reach an agreement through further negotiations.”

On the strength of the text alteration and other evidence, Mr. Iguchi says that the Tokyo government and the Japanese military tried not only to deceive the U.S. but also to keep the Japanese embassy in the dark as to what Japan was plotting.

The view is often expressed that the U.S.’s economic squeeze on Japan — achieved through methods such as the decision to terminate the bilateral commerce and navigation treaty, the embargo of strategically important materials, and the freezing of Japanese assets in the U.S. — led Japan to carry out the Pearl Harbor attack. But a longer-range view should be taken.

The U.S. actions were in reaction to Japan’s military aggression against China, which had lasted for years, and Japan’s recent invasion of French Indochina. The nature of Japan’s war against China was such that Japan did not and could not declare war against China. This shows that Japan could not find a justifiable and convincing reason to declare war. Instead, Japan called the war a “holy war” to maintain the morale of Japanese soldiers.

It is symbolic that about one hour before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese Army units landed in Kota Baharu, of British Malaya, and in Songkhla, in southern Thailand. Japan militarily occupied or carried out operations in Southeast Asia mainly in order to secure materials needed to conduct war against China and the U.S.

Many Japanese believed that after the Pearl Harbor attack, Japan’s war turned into a war to liberate Asian peoples from the European and North American colonial powers such as Britain, the Netherlands and the U.S. But the war was primarily over which side would gain hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region. Japan’s war not only caused some 3 million Japanese to die but also resulted in the death of several times more other Asian people.

Among the dead were people from Japanese colonies, Japan-occupied areas and Allied prisoners-of-war put to forced labor.

Japanese can learn an important lesson from the attitude of Mr. Masamichi Inoki, professor emeritus of political history at Kyoto University and former president of the Defense Academy. He strictly forbade his students from saying that Japan liberated Asian peoples through its war.

If you enjoyed this story, please share it by submitting it to one of the  listed public indexing sites:


Isn’t it time you abandoned your dogmatic tolerance of all religions? When will you stop with the nonsense of “different strokes for different folks” or less colorfully and with boring sobriety tell your friends “We don’t have a monopoly on truth or right and wrong, you know.”? Etc. It took me the greater part of my life to get free of this insanity.

You don’t have to have a monopoly on truth to recognize stupidity, viciousness and insanity when they stare you in the face and knock you to the ground. Malaysia is not a land of moderates, preaching one faith among others that you can take or leave exactly as you please. It is illegal to renounce the Muslim faith and you can be killed for it. You cannot testify in a court if you are not Muslim because your word is worthless. You cannot tell jokes or draw cartoons insulting the Prophet because your home will be burned down with you inside as a sweet collateral benefit.

If corruption is your thing, Malaysia may be a place to relocate to. Transparency International has this to say: “Corruption is marked in the police force; political corruption, particularly bribery and cronyism, is common in the ruling BN coalition. This may be changing under Abdullah’s leadership, however. In November 2004, for example, the UMNO suspended several of its members on charges of vote buying in party elections.” Oh, mighty Allah, you have taught us well and we shall do your bidding.


In China, superstar athletes cannot and do not expect the same treatment Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan get in the U.S. In China, they get much better. Adoring fans cannot do enough for them. However, Chen Qi, international table tennis great, fell afoul of Party bigwigs and they punished him. Here’s the sad story of Chen.

One day, a couple of months ago, Chen found himself on the wrong end of the score in an important match. Chen is a well known rowdy who likes to get drunk in all-night bars but this time his temper got the better of him. Giving it his best Bobby Knight imitation, he heaved and kicked a chair across the floor while TV cameras were turned on him and millions watched. It was too much for the fuddy duddies who played their own table tennis back in the days of Mao Tse Tung. Remembering how Mao dealt with those who didn’t obey the dictates of the Cultural Revolution, they decided to give Chen a taste of ordinary life in the countryside. Mao used to ship people off for discipline training for up to two years. The current group of table tennis powers decided one week would do the job.

So off Chen went to do penitence. He packed his MP 3 player and his cell phone into his Porsche and went to a remote village to do hard field work. Of course, he also brought along his own quilt to ward off the chill of a harsh remote world. The adoring villagers were ready for him. They prepared the best home in the village for him – a 2-story, 14-room mansion with Greek plaster touches. They installed the only television set so Chen could feel at home. He worked in the fields – whenever he was in the mood for exercise. To ensure his comfort, his hosts provided him with air conditioning. Keep in mind that all this is quite fitting because Chen makes $100,000 in a country where few are lucky to make $2000. Take that, Bill Gates!

It worked. Chen returned a humbler man. Pushing aside autograph seekers upon his return, Chen said, “I’d never lived like that before.”

Story gleaned from the Wall Street Journal, August 17. Sorry, print edition only.


After six successful courses a revised and further improved program is now offered by Prof. Graf Lambsdorff. All courses will be given in English. The program is primarily directed towards anti-corruption policymakers and practitioners, as well as towards graduate and post-graduate students and faculty in the social sciences. Outstanding guest speakers such as Mr. Franz-Hermann Brüner (Director General, OLAF – European Anti-Fraud Office), Mrs. Regina Puls (Head of Compliance, German Railways), Mr. Manfred Nötzel (Senior Public Prosecutor, Munich, Germany) and Friedrich Schneider (Dean, Economics Department, University of Linz) will enrich the program.

For the first time, this year’s (guest) lectures will also be supplemented by workshop sessions covering specific anti-corruption issues such as the UN Convention Against Corruption (Mr. Dedo Geinitz, GTZ), corruption in public procurement (Mrs. Juanita Olaya, Transparency International), whistle-blowing and fraud risk management (Mr. Björn Rohde-Liebenau, RCC), and the design of criminal codes (Mr. Mathias Nell, University of Passau). One workshop session will cover in detail the Corruption Perceptions Index’s statistical setup and background. The workshop sessions are targeted towards anti-corruption policymakers and practitioners.


To understand Hezbollah, it is important to begin with this point: Almost all Muslim Arabs opposed the creation of the state of Israel. Not all of them supported, or support today, the creation of an independent Palestinian state or recognize the Palestinian people as a distinct nation. This is a vital and usually overlooked distinction that is the starting point in our thinking.


When Israel was founded, three distinct views emerged among Arabs. The first was that Israel was a part of the British mandate created after World War II and therefore should have been understood as part of an entity stretching from the Mediterranean to the other side of Jordan, from the border of the Sinai, north to Mount Hermon. Therefore, after 1948, the West Bank became part of the other part of the mandate, Jordan.


There was a second view that argued that there was a single province of the Ottoman Empire called Syria and that all of this province — what today is Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and the country of Syria — is legitimately part of it. This obviously was the view of Syria, whose policy was and in some ways continues to be that Syria province, divided by Britain and France after World War I, should be reunited under the rule of Damascus.


A third view emerged after the establishment of Israel, pioneered by Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt. This view was that there is a single Arab nation that should be gathered together in a United Arab Republic. This republic would be socialist, more secular than religious and, above all, modernizing, joining the rest of the world in industrialization and development.


All of these three views rejected the existence of Israel, but each had very different ideas of what ought to succeed it. The many different Palestinian groups that existed after the founding of Israel and until 1980 were not simply random entities. They were, in various ways, groups that straddled these three opinions, with a fourth added after 1967 and pioneered by Yasser Arafat. This view was that there should be an independent Palestinian state, that it should be in the territories occupied by Israel in 1967, extend to the original state of Israel and ultimately occupy Jordan as well. That is why, in September 1970, Arafat tried to overthrow King Hussein in Jordan. For Arafat, Amman, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were all part of the Palestinian homeland.


After the Iranian revolution, a fifth strain emerged. This strain made a general argument that the real issue in the Islamic world was to restore religious-based government. This view opposed the pan-Arab vision of Nasser with the pan-Islamic vision of Khomeini. It regarded the particular nation-states as less important than the type of regime they had. This primarily Shiite view was later complemented by what was its Sunni counterpart. Rooted partly in Wahhabi Sunni religiosity and partly in the revolutionary spirit of Iran, its view was that the Islamic nation-states were the problem and that the only way to solve it was a transnational Islamic regime — the caliphate — that would restore the power of the Islamic world.


That pedantic lesson complete, we can now locate Hezbollah’s ideology and intentions more carefully. Hezbollah is a Shiite radical group that grew out of the Iranian revolution. However, there is a tension in its views, because it also is close to Syria. As such, it is close to a much more secular partner, more in the Nasserite tradition domestically. But it also is close to a country that views Lebanon, Jordan and Israel as part of greater Syria, the Syria torn apart by the British and French.


There are deep contradictions ideologically between Iran and Syria, though they share a common interest. First, they both oppose the Sunnis. Remember that when Lebanon first underwent invasion in 1975, it was by Syria intervening on behalf of Christian friends and against the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Syria hated Arafat because Arafat insisted on an independent Palestinian state and Syria opposed it. This was apart from the fact that Syria had business interests in Lebanon that the PLO was interfering with. Iran also opposed the PLO because of its religious/ethnic orientation; moreso because it was secular and socialist.


Hezbollah emerged as a group representing Syrian and Iranian interests. These were:


* Opposition to the state of Israel


* An ambiguous position on an independent Palestine


* Hostility to the United States for supporting Israel and later championing Yasser Arafat


Hezbollah had to straddle the deep division between Syrian secularity and Iranian religiosity. However the other three interests allowed them to postpone the issue.


This brings us to the current action. Three things happened to energize Hezbollah:


First, the withdrawal of Syria from Lebanon under pressure from the United States undermined an understanding between Israel and Syria. Israel would cede Lebanon to Syria. Syria would control Hezbollah. When Syria lost out in Lebanon, its motive for controlling Hezbollah disappeared. Syria, in fact, wanted the world to see what would happen if Syria left Lebanon. Chaos was exactly what Syria wanted.


Second, the election of a Hamas-controlled government in the Palestinian territories created massive fluidity in Palestinian politics. The Nasserite Fatah was in decline and a religious Sunni movement was on the rise. Both accepted the principle of Palestinian independence. None made room for either Syrian or Iranian interests. It was essential that Hezbollah, representing itself and the two nations, have a seat at the table that would define Palestinian politics for a generation. But Hezbollah was more a group of businessmen making money in Beirut than a revolutionary organization. It had to demonstrate its commitment to the destruction of Israel even if it was ambiguous on the nature of the follow-on regime. It had to do something.


Third, the Sunni-Shiite fault line had become venomous. Tensions not only in Iraq, but also in Afghanistan and Pakistan were creating a transnational civil war between these two movements. Iran was positioning itself to replace al Qaeda as the revolutionary force in the Islamic world and was again challenging Saudi Arabia as the center of gravity of Islamic religiosity. Israel was a burning issue. It had to be there. Moreover, in its dealings with the United States over Iraq, Iran needed as many levers as possible, and a front in Lebanon confronting Israel, particularly if it bogged down the Israelis, would do just that.


Hezbollah is enabled by both Syria and Iran. But precisely because of both national and ideological differences between those two countries, Hezbollah is not simply a tool for them. They each have influence over Hezbollah but this influence is sometimes contradictory. Syria’s interests and Iran’s are never quite the same. Nor are Hezbollah’s interests quite the same as those of its patrons. Hezbollah has business interests in legal and illegal businesses around the world. It has interests within Lebanese politics and it has interests in Palestinian politics. As a Syrian client, it looks at the region as one entity. As an Iranian client, it looks to create a theocratic state in the region. As an entity in its own right, it must keep itself going.


Given all these forces, Hezbollah was in a position in which it had to take some significant action in Lebanon, Israel and the Islamic world or be bypassed by other, more effective, groups. Hezbollah chose to act. The decision it made was to go to war with Israel. It did not think it could win the war but it did think it could survive it. And if it fought and survived, it would have a seat at the Palestinian and Lebanese tables, and maintain and reconcile the patronage of Syria and Iran. The reasons were complex, the action was clear.


Hezbollah had prepared for war with Israel for years. It had received weapons and training from Iran and Syria. It had prepared systematic fortifications using these weapons in southern Lebanon after Israel’s withdrawal, but also in the Bekaa Valley, where its main base of operations was and in the area south of Beirut, where its political center was. It had prepared for this war carefully, particularly studying the U.S. experience in Iraq.


In our view, Hezbollah has three military goals in this battle:


  1. Fight the most effective defensive battle ever fought against Israel by an Arab army, surpassing the performance of Egypt and Syria in 1973.


  1. Inflict direct and substantial damage on Israel proper using conventional weapons in order to demonstrate the limits of Israeli power.


  1. Draw Israel into an invasion of Lebanon and, following resistance, move to an insurgency that does to the Israelis what the Sunnis in Iraq have done to the Americans.


In doing this, the U.S.-Israeli bloc would be fighting simultaneously on two fronts. This would place Jordan in a difficult position. It would radicalize Syria (Syria is too secular to be considered radical in this context). It would establish Hezbollah as the claimant to Arab and Islamic primacy along the Levant. It also would establish Shiite radicalism as equal to Sunni radicalism.


The capture of two Israeli soldiers was the first provocation, triggering Israeli attacks. But neither the capture nor the retaliation represented a break point. That happened when Hezbollah rockets hit Haifa, several times, presenting Israel with a problem that forced it to take military steps — steps for which Hezbollah thought it was ready and which it thought it could survive, and exploit. Hezbollah had to have known that attacking the third largest city in Israel would force a response. That is exactly what it wanted.


Hezbollah’s strategy will be to tie down the Israelis as long as possible first in the area south of the Litani River and then north in the Bekaa. It can, and will, continue to rocket Haifa from further north. It will inflict casualties and draw the Israelis further north. At a certain point Hezbollah will do what the Taliban and Saddam Hussein did: It will suddenly abandon the conventional fight, going to ground, and then re-emerge as a guerrilla group, inflicting casualties on the Israelis as the Sunnis do on the Americans, wearing them down.


Israel’s strategy, as we have seen, will be to destroy Hezbollah’s infrastructure but not occupy any territory. In other words, invade, smash and leave, carrying out follow-on attacks as needed. Hezbollah’s goal will be to create military problems that force Israel to maintain a presence for an extended period of time, so that its follow-on strategy can be made to work. This will be what determines the outcome of the war. Hezbollah will try to keep Israel from disengaging. Israel will try to disengage.


Hezbollah sees the war in these stages:


  1. Rocket attacks to force and Israeli response.


  1. An extended period of conventional combat to impose substantial losses on the Israelis, and establish Hezbollah capabilities to both Israel and the Arab and Islamic worlds. This will involve using fairly sophisticated weaponry and will go on as long as Hezbollah can extend it.


  1. Hezbollah’s abandonment of conventional warfare for a prepared insurgency program.


What Hezbollah wants is political power in Lebanon and among the Palestinians, and freedom for action within the context of Syrian-Iranian relations. This war will cost it dearly, but it has been preparing for this for a generation. Some of the old guard may not have the stomach for this, but it was either this or be pushed aside by the younger bloods. Syria wanted to see this happen. Iran wanted to see this happen. Iran risks nothing. Syria risks little since Israel is terrified of the successor regime to the Assads. So long as Syria limits resupply and does not intervene, Israel must leave Damascus out.


Looked at from Hezbollah’s point of view, taking the fight to the Israelis is something that has not happened in quite a while. Hezbollah’s hitting of Haifa gives it the position it has sought for a generation. If it can avoid utter calamity, it will have won — if not by defeating Israel, then by putting itself first among the anti-Israeli forces. What Hezbollah wants in Israel is much less clear and important than what it opposes. It opposes Israel and is the most effective force fighting it.


Fatah and Hamas are now bystanders in the battle for Israel. They have no love for or trust in Hezbollah, but Hezbollah is doing what they have only talked about. Israel’s mission is to crush Hezbollah quickly. Hezbollah’s job is to survive and hurt Israel and the IDF as long as possible. That is what this war is about for Hezbollah.




The dismantling of the great “evil” Communist empire 15 years ago has not reduced Russia to a 2nd rate power. Russia has the 5th largest military force in the world – some million soldiers. Russia retains nuclear arms and has satellite technology. With 6000 nuclear warheads, it ranks number one in the world. Even without the rest of the nations that comprised the U.S.S.R., Russia is twice the size of the U.S.A. and with a population density of 22 people per square mile (China has 353) it has the capacity for tremendous growth without stretching its resources to the limits, although for the moment, Russia’s population is in decline.


Russia trails only Saudi Arabia as an oil producer but it has the world’s greatest natural gas reserves. It has eight times as much as the U.S.A. Russia even has 127 McDonald restaurants as evidence of its power. No small thing. Russia trades heavily with Iran and therefore it is not easy for the U.S. to get anti-Iranian resolutions through the Security Council. Russian vetoes see to that.


Russia is no longer THE enemy. In fact, it is not an enemy at all and it is incumbent on the U.S. to see it stays that way.



It is hard to get excited about the devastating effects of global warming because the worry-warts have not done a good job of making clear why the rest of us should worry. What exactly is so awful about the mean temperature of the Earth rising 3 degrees in 100 years? And suppose it is awful, won’t the inexorable grinding away of technology cure the problems if not in the next decade or two, then in the following 30 or 40 or 50 years? So, isn’t it somebody else’s worry? For many of us, our grandchildren will be dead in a hundred years. That is why only 5% of Americans (according to our friends at Gallup) rank global warming as important an environmental concern as air and water quality or toxic waste or land conservation. The Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies has a list of 39 recommendations NOT to help us out of the global warming mess but how to raise the public’s sense of alarm. Right now only about 35% of the public is at all concerned but Yale hopes to bring a feeling of insecurity to 50%.


Prague Post…………Chernobyl was more than a single disaster, however large that one event was. It was the first highly visible crack in the Soviet Union. Things would never again be the same for the evil empire. The West had known the bitter truth of Soviet life for many years before: the 500,000 prisoners in the East, in Siberia, as an example, the repressive regimes in the satellite states — all that, but none of it actually affected us in the West personally. Indeed, there was even the feeling that the Russian people had always been victims, and that somehow that could never change. That was their destiny. Chernobyl was the climb-down: the first time the Soviet Union had to admit its bankrupt society to the world. Admission is hardly the word, as it was self-evident. The West was actually invited to assist  which it was anxious to do to save its own skin  and the dark secrecy of the Soviet era was exposed. Chernobyl was the landmark event, the symbolic and  beginning of the end of Soviet communism.


As recently as 2004, the U.S. was Australia’s number one trading partner but China has replaced the U.S.

Australia did $18.6 billion with China in 2003-2004 and $21.6 billion with the U.S.

In 2004-2005, these figures changed to $24.1 billion and $22.6 billion. So, the U.S. is not dropping, but

China just flew by.

Australia is very attractive to China because the Aussies have 30% of the world’s uranium. On the other

side of the ledger, China helps keep Australia’s manufacturing costs low. The political upshot of all this

is that Australia is no longer impressed by U.S. anti-China propaganda, namely the idea that

China is a military threat to the land down under because China enjoys capitalism


Argentina raised the minimum salary at which it imposes income tax. This will cost the government $490 million in lost revenue.

Brazil’s zero-coupon Treasury bill which matures in January 2007 now pays 15.1%. Got the guts, anyone? Count me out.

Chile’s copper exports surged 81% last month. (How nice. I once bought Anaconda copper when I was a callow youth. The next day, Chile nationalized the company and I got 0 cents on the dollar.)

The yield on Columbia’s benchmark 13.5% bond, due September 2014, rose to 7.5%. Sell this! Don’t be deterred by the fact that you don’t own any.

Good times in Mexico. Industrial output jumped from 2.7% to 3.9% in December – best increase in a long time. It has nothing to do with you and, unfortunately, nothing to do with the Mexican people.

Peru’s economic growth is slowing but its 9.91% bond maturing in May 2015 is paying a nifty 7.58%. Therefore? Sell, of course and, once again, it doesn’t matter that you don’t have any to sell. Sell, anyway. Or pretend.

All is well in Venezuela, of course. Unemployment is rapidly falling, economic growth is going swell, and Hugo Chavez wants to beat George Bush to a bloody pulp in or out of the ring. And he can do it.