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February 2013

Chinese agression shows Law of the Sea treaty is worthless

I've been writing about the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea for years. This sovereignty stripping, wealth transferring treaty has periodically reared its ugly head since Ronald Reagan was president, and its ratification is still sought by today's political, media, and even military elite.

But aside from the fact that we will be sacrificing our Naval superiority and paying exorbitant fees to the UN for mining our own resources, the underlying principles of the treaty - an internationally agreed-upon "constitution" and rule of law for the world's oceans - sound great.

Problem is, China - who signed UNCLOS in 1996 - is claiming islands surrounded by oil and natural gas deposits. Islands they appear to have no valid claim to. Islands that already belong to other nations.

Chinese naval vessels have targeted a Japanese destroyer and helicopters near the Senkaku Islands. When Japanese officials complained, the Chinese incredibly blamed them for taking a warlike posture. For months, the Chinese have maintained a delicate standoff with the Philippines in the Scarborough Shoals, sending boats 500 nautical miles to harvest fish 124 miles form the Philippine coast.

From The US Report:

If the UNCLOS actually was worth the paper it was written on, then there would be a legal and naval deterrent to any illegal activity by the Chinese. But corruption, not law, rules the UN.

In 1947, the Chinese government claimed virtually all of the South China Sea in what has become known as the “Nine-Dash Line.” China, a member nation of UNCLOS, refuses to explain the details on how they reached their far-fetching boundary.

A U.S. diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks states that a senior Chinese government maritime law expert admittedly did not know of any historical basis behind the “Nine-Dash Line.”

China knows that if they open the door to international scrutiny, their extravagant claim and ambiguous evidence would not survive and any illusions of a legitimacy would vanish. And so would the massive deposits of oil and natural gas surrounding these desolate islands the Chinese want exclusive access to.

The Philippines even offered to settle the matter of Scarborough Shoal in a UNCLOS tribunal, but the Chinese have stated they will not participate in any of the treaty's dispute resolution mechanisms – or abide by any UNCLOS ruling.

The Chinese claim to seek bilateral talks because they know that the Philippines will refuse, and the issue will remain unsettled. The Chinese interest is to keep things exactly as they are.

Diplomacy works great when one side has significant leverage over the other, both parties can find common ground, or if both parties at least wish to avoid war. The problem is, the Chinese political and military leadership has been telling its people to prepare for war. They have the economy, resources, military and naval forces, and the national will to make it happen.

And who is going to stand in their way?

China can be aggressive because they know that the UN is only out to get paid, President Obama's “soft power” is big on soft and short on power, and no other nation is capable of doing anything about it.

The United States has mutual defense pacts with both Japan and the Philippines, but who knows whether President Obama will honor them? Not so long ago, our Navy was continually conducting "freedom of navigation" cruises to deter this kind of aggression. Just our occasional presence alone was enough. Now, our diplomats can only offer empty and meaningless platitudes to assure our Pacific allies that we have their back. While that may be enough for the administration's sycophantic following in the U.S. media, it certainly isn't going to fool the Chinese, who live under the old rule of "you are only as strong as your reputation to back it up."

I would love to live in a world where an international law of the sea actually worked and the world didn't expect the United States to solve all their problems with our blood and treasure. But whether or not China starts World War III, let's at least realize that toothless, corrupt treaties are no replacement for naval superiority.

Photo: Herat Firefight

A coalition force member provides overwatch for the Afghan national army special forces soldiers conducting a satellite patrol while engaging insurgents during a firefight in Herat province, Afghanistan, Feb. 17, 2013. Coalition force members and Afghan special forces teams conducted satellite patrols from a temporary patrol base to lure insurgents out of hiding.U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Pete Thibodeau

Photo: U.S. Army and U.S. A.I.D.

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Robert Wolfe, right, escorts Jim Otwell, left, a U.S. Agency for International Development field program officer, to the Directorate of Education in Farah City, Afghanistan, Feb. 26, 2013. Wolfe, a platoon leader, is assigned to Provincial Reconstruction Team Farah. The team met with the provincial education director and visited Aboonaser-Farahi High School, Farah City's oldest high school. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Matthew Stroup

Duffel Blog: The E-4 Mafia Strikes Again!

Over at the Duffel Blog, there's this gem: 

Obama’s Pick For Secretary of Defense Under Fire For Connection To ‘E-4 Mafia’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A political fight has been ignited after President Obama announced the nomination of former soldier and Senator Chuck Hagel to Secretary of Defense. The choice is seen as controversial due to past comments from Hagel about Israel, gays in the military, and shadowy connections to a group known as the “E-4 Mafia.”

Read more: http://www.duffelblog.com/2013/01/obamas-pick-for-secdef-under-fire-for-connection-to-e-4-mafia/#ixzz2MCZDuLCk 
Follow us: @theduffelblog on Twitter | duffelblog on Facebook

Other E-4 Mafia policies that SecDef Hagel will instill will be to lower the drinking age to 18 on military bases, eliminate haircut inspections, and "kegger Thursdays."


An Original "Steps Outside"

One of the early milbloggers is calling it quits.  If you want to get a good feel for what it was all about, and read some of posts that show the best and how it should be done, go start from the beginning and read forward. It was a hell of a good run, and it was an honor, a laugh, a tear, and occasionally this wolf probably looked like the dog in the spoof about the old lady driving.  Thanks brother. 


Final Honors Help Needed, Arkadelphia, Arkansas

This has been going around today on Facebook, and I've just talked with the funeral home.  There is a WWII veteran, Lee Roy Cochran, who has reported to the Green and has services tomorrow.  At 93, most of his friends and family have gone before him.  His granddaughter would like for any and all fellow veterans (and troop supporters) who can attend to do so.  A bit about him provided by the family:

Lee Roy Cochran was drafted into the infantry and was assigned to a glider unit, set to jump into Europe. Their entire platoon got shot down. Survivors were re-deployed to the Philippines, where he was awarded a Bronze Star.

The funeral is tomorrow at 1530 hours (3:30 pm) at South Fork Cemetery, Gurdon, Clark County, Arkansas.  Ruggles-Wilcox Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements, and will be glad to provide directions for those needing them.  You can contact them via the link at need. 

Anyone who can attend, I hope you will do so. 


Special Forces booted from Afghan province

UPDATE: The Two Bills at Long War Journal have combined to take a look at this, and as always provide the best info on the topic. So go read it.

There is a report that Afghan President Karzai has told US Special Forces they must leave Wardak province.

"The order came after the governor of Wardak presented a report to the Afghan National Security Council today. The report alleges that special forces and armed groups created by them have committed a range of abuses in the volatile province that neighbors Kabul. President Karzai has long criticized U.S. raids on Afghan homes, but the claims in the report appear to go far beyond his previous allegations. The president's order says all special forces must cease operations immediately and leave the province within two weeks. A U.S .forces official says they have not seen the report and cannot comment until they can discuss the issue directly with the Afghan government."

Specifically there are claims a university student was beheaded and other folks have been disappeared. This being Afghanistan, there is not much chance of finding the objective truth about this. There is a gargantuan veracity black hole regarding pretty much everything that happens there. However, I think it highly unlikely that US Special Forces are authorizing their Afghan allies to behead university students. It is possible a rogue group or individual has done so, but institutionally it is just not going to happen.

If anything US Special Forces tend to be a moderating influence on the sometimes less than cricket tactics used by our allies. On one of my first deployments, we were working with a paramilitary police force that was actively fighting a nasty insurgency. There was no love lost at all between them and the insurgents/terrorists. When I asked them to describe their method for conducting a raid on an enemy village, they said they would sight in machine guns, "supress" the location with fire and then sweep through. This basically had them killing everyone and then counting the bodies.

Crude but effective and a pretty flagrant violation of the Laws of Armed Conflict. I was surprised by the amount of resistance to my suggestion that maybe they shouldn't kill everybody. They only came around to the idea of capturing a prisoner to interrogate when they figured they could torture some good intel out of him. Which opened up a whole new line of discussion/teaching points.

We deal with a lot of people who do not share our high regard for human life. It is a difficult task, but we tend to be on the side of good in this. That doesn't mean our ideas always prevail, they don't. But we do our best.