The Battle for the Pacific
August 12, 2019
“The history of sea power is largely, though by no means solely, a narrative of contests between nations, of mutual rivalries, of violence frequently culminating in war. The profound influence of sea commerce upon the wealth and strength of countries was clearly seen long before the true principles which governed its growth and prosperity were detected.”
“The study of history lies at the foundation of all sound military conclusions and practice.”
– Alfred Thayer Mahan
US and China Are Both Anchors Aweigh
When Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte told lawmakers back in July that it wasn’t possible for him to stand up against China’s military might, it gave President Trump an opening. And so it was that the USS Ronald Reagan, a hulking American aircraft carrier with around 70 fighter jets and a crew of 5,000, made a port call in Manila Bay last Wednesday with a message for Beijing: the South China Sea must be free and open.
Before anchoring in Manila, the warship, accompanied by two Ticonderoga class guided-missile cruisers, sailed through the disputed South China Sea. Tensions are escalating in the vital shipping lane over Beijing’s growing assertiveness in areas of the water claimed by countries including the Philippines and Vietnam, making it a flash point for potential conflict.
With a motto of “peace through strength,” the presence of the Nimitz class vessel is meant to provide “a lot of security and stability in this region,” according to Rear Admiral Karl Thomas, Commander of Task Force 70. Speaking to reporters aboard the ship on Wednesday, Thomas said: “It allows us to go out there and set an environment that these disputes can be solved in a peaceful manner and that’s our goal … to allow our folks to sail and operate wherever international law allows.”
Earlier in the week Defense Secretary Mike Esper accused China of “destabilizing behavior” for its aggressive moves in the South China Sea. Esper said the Trump administration’s position is that the Indo-Pacific region is open to free naval passage for everyone, and that his government’s “national defense strategy makes this our priority theater.”
- Defense Chief Esper Wraps Up Asia Trip As Alliance Comes Under Pressure (NPR)
- Free from the INF Treaty, Esper says he wants to deploy new missiles to Asia ‘sooner rather than later’ (Task & Purpose)
- Navy ditches touchscreens for knobs and dials after fatal crash (TechCrunch)
- Top Gun 2 Has Changed Maverick’s Jacket To Appeal To China (Screen Rant)
- China’s First Homemade Aircraft Carrier Is Having Some Problems: It’s the largest warship ever constructed in the country. (Popular Mechanics)
- Cathay Pacific says workers who protest will be suspended from mainland China flights (CNN)
- US calls China a ‘thuggish regime’ for ‘harassing’ Hong Kong-based American diplomat (CNN)
- Beijing’s new weapon to muffle Hong Kong protests: fake news: China’s media used to ignore the turmoil. Now the state is waging a campaign that could pave the way for intervention (Guardian)
- North Korea Says It Tested New Type of Missile, Further Enhancing Its Arsenal (NYT, $)
- Trump says Kim wants to meet again and gave ‘small apology’ for missile tests: President tweeted details of latest letter and said North Korean leader wanted to ‘start negotiations’ after military exercises end (Guardian)
- Why Trump’s ‘maximum pressure’ foreign policy yields minimum results: The president is heading into 2020 with no major successes and looming crises – so many expect him to attempt to reverse the trend with dramatic deals (Guardian)
Kashmir Locks Down And Shuts Down
- Correspondents for the New York Times said life inside a locked-down Kashmir is growing desperate, with people feeling besieged, confused, frightened and furious over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s legislative actions. On Friday a huge protest erupted into clashes between Kashmiris and Indian security forces.
- Over the weekend people were afraid to leave their homes, causing many to go hungry; shops were shut down; ATMs had run dry; and communication lines to the outside world remained severed. (NYT)
Leaving Racial Equality On The Cutting Room Floor
- June 28 marked the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in Paris following the end of WWI. President Woodrow Wilson was a leading force behind the vision for a world in which, among other well-known provisions, nations would have the right of self-determination.
- The treaty was negotiated by the key players in WWI: primarily France, Great Britain, Italy and the US. But a lesser-known attempt to move the world forward on the issue of racial equality was made by Japan, which proposed a clause be inserted in the treaty that would have affirmed the equality of all nations, regardless of race or nationality.
- Unfortunately the treaty’s final version left out Japan’s proposed language. That rejection would play a role in shaping the US-Japan relationship, WWII and Japanese immigration; it would also shed light on the treatment of nonwhite groups by the US and its legacy of white supremacy. (NPR)
We’re The Kids In Russia
- The largest opposition rally in six years was held in Moscow Saturday, with demonstrators protesting the disqualification of independent candidates in local elections and the thousands of arrests made at unsanctioned rallies in the past two weeks.
- The protestors, who have been younger in recent years, called for independent candidates to be allowed to appear in Moscow’s municipal elections. Crowds were estimated at between 20,000 and almost 50,000. 229 people were arrested in Moscow and another 81 in St. Petersburg. (Guardian)
- Russia Confirms Radioactive Materials Were Involved in Deadly Blast (NYT, $)
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The Death of Mr. Sinister
- In a shocking announcement Saturday, officials said accused sex trafficker and child sex abuser Jeffery Epstein had hanged himself inside in his jail cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center. The self-styled billionaire financier, who had long been dogged by accusations of sexual abuse of girls as young as 14, was somehow able to cultivate an array of high profile friends including President Trump and former president Bill Clinton.
- Epstein lived a lavish and lurid lifestyle, with mansions around the world and a private island that gained sinister nicknames like Orgy Island and Pedophile Island. For over 15 years Epstein served as a close personal adviser of Leslie Wexner, the billionaire mogul behind Victoria’s Secret and Bath and Body Works.
- Wexner now says Epstein misappropriated vast sums of money from him and his family. In July Epstein was found unconscious in his cell and put on suicide watch. Inexplicably he was removed from that watch on July 29th. Serious questions are being raised about how such an important inmate, a palpable danger to himself and to scores of well-known people, could have managed to kill himself while being ‘monitored’ in federal custody. (NYT, Bloomberg)
- FBI and DoJ launch investigations into Jeffrey Epstein’s death: Investigations into Epstein’s death to ask why he was taken off suicide watch as autopsy is carried out (Guardian)
- The Shame and Disgrace Will Linger: On Saturday, President Trump spread a conspiracy theory accusing the Clintons of murdering Jeffrey Epstein. (The Atlantic)
- Jeffrey Epstein’s apparent suicide is unfathomable (WaPo, $)
Technological Eye Problems Are Near(sighted)
- Technology is wreaking havoc on our eyes. The need for vision tests is growing, because we’re using our eyes for functions that evolution never anticipated. The act of holding phones close to our eyes represents a huge change from hunter-gatherer days, when looking at faraway objects was a survival skill.
- The CDC reports that an estimated 61 million adults in the US are at high risk for serious vision loss, although only half visited an eye doctor in the past year. Children are twice as likely to be nearsighted compared to 50 years ago.
- Doctors have to keep up with technology too. Nowadays both an autorefractor, which measures how light is affected as it reflects through the eyeball, and a photoscreener, which uses a camera to take images of un-dilated eyes, have been spotted in pediatricians’ offices to screen for kids who need a full eye exam. (Experience Magazine)
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