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Spotted Blog?

Posted on Saturday, 26th May 2012 @ 01:24 PM by Text Size A | A | A

This week I thought I’d give you a series of seemingly random dots, explore them individually then join them up in a series of articles, all a little shorter than previous ones. Sort of easily digestible bite – sized chunks if you will.

 

To start with though, a bit of literary news and a shameless unsolicited plug. Not actually a plug for my efforts as such, although I can tell you that one of my articles is slated for publication in Latitudes and Attitudes magazine in October or November. http://www.seafaring.com/Click here.

 

No, I want to mention an old chum of mine, Larry Jeram-croft who’s published a couple of cracking good books on Amazon The first one in the series, Sea Skimmer,

Is a fictional novel set during the Falklands War. Or is it? Fictional that is. This year is the 30th anniversary of the campaign and Larry, who was a helicopter pilot in the Royal Navy at the time of the conflict, is putting extracts with comments from his logbook on his blog, http://sowethereyet.blogspot.com/clickety-click.

 

For those who’ve read the book this will be a fascinating insight into the truth behind the fiction (always supposing the book is fiction). For those merely interested in military history it will provide a glimpse of what it was like to sail to the South Atlantic and go to war. OK, unsolicited plug over (er, cheque in the post then Old Boy?….. just kidding, this will come as a surprise to Larry. A pleasant one I hope).

To finish the literary news on a personal note, it would seem that Emma the Agent has found an illustrator for the Trembling Tim stories. I’ve seen some initial drawings and although there’s some ‘fine tuning’ to do, it’s all looking hopeful. More news as and when I have some.

 

Right then, let’s explore the first random dot.

 

Is Russia about to repeat a historical mistake?

 

A recent BBC report stated that Russia has just tested a new ICBM. Apparently, they’ve tinkered around with the first stage booster to make the launch more difficult to detect. It also has multiple warheads, which will make the whole kit and caboodle more difficult to detect and shoot down. Those ‘nasty ole Merkins’ have developed an anti-missile system and are installing it in Europe and other places. THEY say it’s for protection against possible rogue nuclear states or terrorist organisations that acquire nuclear weapons (and the ICBMs to deliver them? Come on chaps, really!) Vladi Putin sees this as a threat to Russia so they’ve developed the ‘stealth ICBM’.

 

A threat? Well yes, if you think that a purely defensive system would allow your ‘now sort-of friend and traditional long-term enemy’ to launch a nuclear strike against you whilst being immune from a retaliatory strike. Haven’t we been here before? Vladi, do yourself and the Russian economy a favour and give Gorbie a call. I’ll come back to this, but first.

 

Let’s connect a couple of dots. America has heavily backed development of the Israeli ‘Iron Dome’ anti missile system. Just recently, this system has successfully destroyed 90% of the small missiles fired at Israel by Hamas, from Gaza. A connection here, you might think, as in technology transfer? You know, ‘we’ll give you guys a budget to develop an anti-missile system. The chances are that you’ll get to extensively field-test it because we can always rely on the Palestinians to make a series of militarily futile but highly irritating attacks on Israel instead of sitting down and talking. Once we know it works, we can incorporate it into our new missile shield’.

 

 I wonder if the new American ABM system has a snazzy name, how about ‘Strategic Defence Initiative’? Oh wait; they’ve already used that. A system which can successfully destroy a metre-long metal tube in flight probably wouldn’t have too much trouble with tracking multiple warheads, but hang on a minute; didn’t the former-Soviets trumpet their MIRV (multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle aka 6-10 nuclear warheads on one launcher) as the answer to any anti-missile shield system? MIRV might have given a first-strike capability then because the SDI technology was ‘some years away’ from development. Now it isn’t, we are now those ‘some years away’, and Iron Dome has shown that small targets can be regularly intercepted in flight. Sure the range needs improving, but the basic technology has been proven. The former Soviet Union is the former Soviet Union because they went bust trying to match American technology, real or imagined. The ‘Third World War’ was the first war in history won by one side outspending (and out-bluffing) as opposed to out shooting another. Well, the Americans always were good poker players, that hasn’t changed. Has the Russian economy changed since the heady days of Communism? I think we should take a closer look, but not right now.

 

                                                                         Pakistan

 

Pakistan has been complaining that America has been violating its sovereignty recently. They cite the Seal-teams’ unannounced raid on the late and in most quarter’s unlamented Bin Laden’s bijou town compound in beautiful downtown Abbottabad. Surely you remember that? The small compound situated next door to the Pakistani military academy, where presumably they train the Pakistani military to be ever vigilant, alert and watchful. Oh OKAY, it was just under a mile away, so it’s perfectly understandable that they missed it. Or knew exactly where it was, depending on whether you are the Pakistan Army, the Pakistan Government or ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence). No, let’s be fair about this, you would probably have to be in the ‘right’ department of ISI to know where Bin laden was, the other departments were busy helping the CIA look for him, on an expenses plus daily rate basis. Nothing like a unified approach to national security, is there? You just can’t beat it, unless you don’t tell them what you’re up to in their country. Anyway, Abbottabad has apparently long been a favourite tourist destination, so perhaps the Pakistan tourist authority is missing an opportunity here. Certainly visitors were attracted to Abbottabad, so what are they complaining about?

 

Apparently, heaven knows why, the Pakistan military is miffed that the Americans (never NATO you notice, always ‘The Americans’) manage to track down and kill Al Qaeda and Taliban members residing in Pakistan with apparent impunity. That’s both residing in apparent impunity and crossing the border with apparent impunity. Sometimes they chase them across the border in hot pursuit, sometimes they just cross the border and have a general nose round to see who they can turn up and sometimes they send drones across which have a lengthy nose around then kill people. Usually the right ones, but let’s not split hairs.

 

The Pakistanis are of course absolutely correct. This is a gross violation of their sovereignty but what really miffs them I suspect is there’s actually bugger-all they can do about it. Apart from actually cooperate with NATO (sorry, ‘The Americans’) in the fight against International Terrorism. Or Afghani freedom fighters, as some in ISI prefer to call them.

 

All this is complicated because Pakistan has nuclear weapons and if not ICBMs then launchers that can reach most of India and/or Afghanistan. India of course has just test-fired a missile that could hit parts of China, should Chinese troops ever misread their maps and cross the border into India looking for food or alternative employment. India is also a pal of the Americans, or at least was until they didn’t cut down on their imports of Iranian oil enough to keep Madame Clinton and her boss happy. Maybe if they did buy more oil from Saudi, which has ambitions of empire in the Gulf region to counter the growing Iranian military threat, then the Americans might sell them their ABM system. They don’t really need it, they ‘outgun’ Pakistan in every sense of the word but it would be handy to be able to threaten Pakistan with a first-strike that Pakistan wouldn’t successfully be able to respond to whilst not actually having to carry out the threat. After all, they might need the missiles to keep out job-seeking Chinese. What? Read on.

 

Castles (Toyota factories) in Spain

 

So, Toyota is about to build a new factory in Spain. Exporting one million cars a year they say to Europe (they’ll be cheap, economy models then) and the East coast of the USA. If things go according to plan the new plant will be operating 24/7, be the most modern cost-efficient and green –energy using plant that Japanese money (or EU subsidized funding) can buy and will provide direct employment for twenty-five thousand Spaniards. Plus no doubt associated jobs, which some estimate as high as two or three for every direct employee. This contrasts with a Toyota plant in China which currently exports to the east Coast of the USA amongst other places, which is not very energy efficient being built in the eighties and that Toyota have announced that they are closing. This plant creates NINE other related jobs according to the Chinese. Well, it did. Now it’s closing. Cheaper to manufacture in Europe now? Well there is a health care system in place in Spain, in China Toyota has to provide health care for its employees. The Chinese have occasionally gone on strike to get higher wages, and they have succeeded in their aim. The Spaniards may well be happy to get a job. Of course, the new plant will need steel to build the cars. It might be steel produced by an Indian-owned company but it probably won’t be steel produced in India because one of the rationales for building the plant in Spain is to cut down on shipping costs from China. Or India, as the case may be. Lucky the Indians have a deterrent to keep all those new Chinese job seekers out then. They’ll have enough of their own if steel manufacture moves to Europe because all those European countries have available work-forces and are now industry-friendly because they need to attract external investment. Like the sea, the tide of jobs flows one way, then after a while, it flows another.

 

Luckily, India has a friend who at a pinch has an ABM system available. They just have to cut down on oil imports from Iran, which is trying to develop ICBMs and nuclear weapons. They, Iran,  won’t succeed, probably because of sanctions and because their air-defence system (ADS) couldn’t cope with a determined aerial bombardment, launched by somebody who is determined that they won’t get nuclear weapons. Israel say, who has developed the Iron Dome anti-missile system with funding from America, so they can incorporate the technology in their new AMB missile shield that has Vladi Putin so worked up. Make that call Vladi, NOW!

The Iranian ADS might have posed a credible threat IF they had the Russian SA300 Surface to Air Missile system (SAM). They signed a contract with Russia in 2007, or not depending on which version of events you believe, and are anxiously, or futilely, awaiting delivery. They hope before the Americans repair their F22 Raptor aircraft that have allegedly been deployed to the Middle East.

 

In the meantime

 

Queen Angela (Merkel) is not enjoying the French revolution and wishes the revolting French could afford to buy their own damn cake and preferably eat it somewhere else.

America has a new investment bubble bulging. It’s actually a Government inspired one, but it does throw up some interesting statistics which give lie to a couple of urban myths.

 

Next time let’s take a look at the Russian economy and who knows, if Greece succeeds in staying in the Eurozone Chinese companies might be opening up new manufacturing plants there instead of in Guangdong.

 

@peterbernfeld

 

 

 

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