Moammar Gadhafi once again is wreaking havoc. This time it’s not over the skies of Lockerbie, Scotland, in a night club in Germany, or just in the cities and villages of Libya. He’s wreaking havoc on the American political conscience. With a reluctant president and the far left and the far right ganging up on the middle, the debate often resembles the chaos of a Marx brother’s movie. The situation, however, is deadly serious. How we deal with Qadhafi sends a message to repressors and rebels that will have a major impact on the course of events. And the sooner we have a doctrine that forms the basis of coherent strategy in the region, the more likely “Arab Spring” won’t turn out in Libya and other countries like “Prague Spring.” (More)
I just finished reading Don Winslow’s Satori, and I highly recommend it. You may or may not have ever read Trevanian’s 1979 novel Shibumi. Trevanian is a pseudonym of Rodney William Whitaker, an academic who, according to Wikipedia, “remained mysterious throughout most of his life.” He died in 2005. Satori is the Whitaker-family blessed prequel to Shibumi.
Shibumi is about Nicholaï Hel, born in Shanghai in 1920 to a deposed Russian aristocrat mother and raised in Japan by a general in the Japanese Imperial Army. Set in the 1970s, it is about a struggle between the “Mother Company,” a conspiracy of energy companies that secretly controls much of the western world, and the highly-skilled assassin, Nicholaï Hel. I won’t spoil it for you by providing more details, but I’ve read all of Vince Flynn’s great Mitch Rapp novels and all of Daniel Silva’s great Gabriel Allon novels, and until I read Satori, Shibumi remained my favorite novel of all time. Now they are tied for first place. (Don’t ask me why I have a penchant for assassins novels.)
Satori begins in Tokyo in 1951, moves on to Beijing and Saigon, all cities I’ve spent a great deal of time in. Saigon in the 1960s was very much like it was in the 1950s, and Beijing in the early 1980s was much more like it was in the 1950s than it is today. But even if you haven’t been to either, if you like assassin novels, I guarantee you will like Shibumi and Satori. They are the best of the genre.
The principal lessons Americans should learn from the Japan earthquake-tsunami-nuclear disaster is that no country, no matter how large, prosperous, or technologically sophisticated, is safe from disasters that overwhelm government rescue, relief, and recovery resources; and that life or death may depend on how practically and psychologically we prepare for them.
Knowing there is only so much government can do to prepare for and protect us from the unpredictable, and because mega-disasters are relatively rare, Americans generally don’t prepare for them, especially if we don’t live along hurricane prone coasts or in tornado alley. Now, however, might be a good time to start. (More)
Note: I updated my column and my audio blog to revise the U.S. Death toll from 43,000 to 70,000, still the total is small by comparison.
With all we see on our TV screens these days—union protests in Wisconsin, upheaval in the Middle East, the devastating earthquake in Japan—it’s no wonder that only die-hard China hands are paying close attention to the evolving status quo in the ongoing Chinese Civil War.
Which civil war is that? It’s the one that began in the 1920s between the Chinese Communists and Nationalists and was never settled by an armistice, peace treaty or surrender. It’s the one that resulted in three major Taiwan Strait Crises (1954-55, 1958, and 1995-96). It’s the one in which, today, China arrays 1500 short- and medium-rang ballistic missiles and its armed forces along the Taiwan Strait aimed at Taiwan, even as China and Taiwan enjoy an unprecedented level of cross-strait interaction. And it’s the one many U.S. policy makers wish would just go away. (More)
No normal person can look at the images coming out of Japan and not feel a deep sense of sorrow and compassion for the People of Japan. They have endured countless earthquakes and tsunamis over the years, but the immense resilience of the Japanese people has always won out. It will be days before we know the full devastation of the 8.9 magnitude earthquake, the tsunami wave, reported as high as 30 feet along the Japanese coast near the epicenter of the quake, and the many powerful aftershocks. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Japanese people, as will millions of dollars in charitable contributions on top of the millions we will provide them in U.S. government relief and assistance.
As special effects technology has improved, movie makers have attempted to replicate such disasters on the big screen to entertain us. But when we see the real thing it reminds us how fragile our world and we human beings are. Let this serve as a reminder for us to focus on what’s really important in life.
Barack Obama has an aversion to labeling people who attack America in the name of Islam as terrorists. As conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer observed, on March 2 when President Obama made his brief appearance before the White House press corps to speak about the two U.S. airmen killed and two wounded at the Frankfurt airport in Germany, “he talked about it as if it was like a bus accident, a tragedy.” As he did following the shootings at Ft. Hood, Texas, and other recent incidents, he couldn’t bring himself to call the attacker a terrorist. How can the President of the United States successfully lead America in a war against terrorists if he refuses to accept them for what they are? (More)