Thursday, June 18, 2020

News (not Covid or Trump or Protests)

I sometimes (often) make fun of Americans in general for being myopic towards news. We don't notice anything that isn't about us. That is NOT what I am doing today. It isn't our fault, as the myopic news about America is 24/7 around us. It's hard to find news that isn't Covid, Protests or Trump.

But things are happening we should be aware of. And that our president, busy now preparing for an indoor, packed arena hoe-down - where attendees have to sign a form they won't sue the campaign for giving them Coronavirus - seems to be unaware of.

1. Koreas
This is probably the loudest of the news. North Korea is loudly complaining about South Korea. To make the world listen they have blown up the one liaison office between the 2 countries.

They have also moved troops into the demilitarized zone between the countries and occupied a shared space / factory financed and run by South Korea to create jobs in the North. While the military is sure everything is "safe", our ties with South Korea are frayed from the lack of joint military exercises (stopped by Trump) and an on-going issue with payments from South Korea to the US Military.

Just as a reminder to the Very Special Genius(es) in the audience. The United States has military in South Korea and Japan at our request. They serve as a trip wire to bring us into any conflict. We insisted on this as deterrent AND to prevent South Korea or Japan from the need to have their own nuclear weapons. It isn't a favor.

Scooter's odds of something happening - pretty low. There isn't an escalation path before Nuclear War, so lots of smoke and noise, but probably nothing horrible.

2. India and China
India and China share the worlds highest border (don't tell me about Nepal - you know I mean between adversaries). Over the years, they have fought one war and still have an undefined border with India / China / Pakistan over Kashmir. To reduce tension, both countries have banned guns and military attacks across the vague border lines.

Well, there have been some chest thumping between India and China this month, which last week descended into fighting. And, by fighting, I mean more street gang fighting. Given the limitations with guns and bombs, they fought each other with clubs and spiked rods (see picture). Somewhere between 5 and 15 Indians were killed.

Scooter's odds of something happening - This probably won't come to much of anything. China vastly out powers India in conventional weapons. But India Prime Minister Modi is hard to predict. He has order jet bomber attacks on Pakistan and may do something similar to China. Both countries have nuclear weapons. In India's case, the weapons make up for a lack of conventional fire-power. A mistake might be easy to happen

3. China and Taiwan (and Hong Kong)
China is showcasing its power against Taiwan right now. There is a twofold reason. First, Taiwan has been solidly electing a government that is Taiwanese, not Chinese. The original government of Taiwan (since the 1940s) was made up of the Koumintang who were the opposite side in the Chinese Civil War. The thing both China and Taiwan agreed to was that China and Taiwan were one country, and they each believed they were the rightful rulers.



But Taiwan has advanced on the world stage, they are the biggest investors in Chinese development and the farce has grown too much for the Taiwanese. The government is now run by people that, very gently, want to declare independence from China and be their own country. Which would make the political match the facts on the ground. China does not like this.

It has come to a head because China has cracked down on Hong Kong freedoms. When the UK and China agreed to the handover of Hong Kong, China promised something called "1 Country, 2 Systems". This was meant tp allow Hong Kong limited self-rule economically, but foreign matters would fall to Beijing.  This system collapsed when Hong Kong protests were too much this spring (as the world was focused on Covid 19). Beijing suspended Hong Kong's independence, changed laws and brought in the military.

The effect on Taiwan was two-fold. First, since China has been proposing a variant of the "1 Country, 2 Systems" to Taiwan developments in Hong Kong laid that fallacy apart. Taiwanese government was pushed farther away from China, not closer. Then Taiwan annoyed China extra by allowing Hong Kong citizens to resettle in Taiwan, if they want.

Because our President is very busy preparing for his Covid-Rally, he hasn't spent anytime worrying about this. The United States let China militarize the South China Sea (after we said we wouldn't), we let China overthrow the Hong Kong system (which we said we wouldn't) and by starting an economic cold war with no plan, we have no leverage with China. It isn't necessarily our fight, but again, we have promised Taiwan safety in return that they do not develop nuclear weapons. So China is seeing how far they can push us. And, with Trump laser(ish) focused on his re-election, they can push us pretty damn far.

Scooter's odds of something happening - Actually, I do worry about this one. China has gotten used to pushing the United States around in Asia lately. They probably think our commitment to Taiwan is not rock solid. And China understands, more than most countries, that Trump is preoccupied.  There has never been a better time to attack Taiwan, if they are going to do it.

4. The Rest
Those were the big ones. We still have the usual suspects:

  1. Russia is assassinating journalists in the West (yesterday in Berlin)
  2. The United States is the world pariah country with 345 Covid deaths per 100,000 people - so we can't travel anyway outside of the Western Hemisphere (like Thailand or Europe).
  3. Brazil has massive covid deaths that their President is denying. He is also mobilizing the military, which is worrisome in a country with a history of military coups.

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