Saturday, 27 August 2016

Time for Sudan and East Africa

I don’t subscribe to the current belief that either Russia or China are intrinsically enemies of UK or the West.

Certainly undemocratic nations at the moment, but as in any developed one party state, divisions appearing within the party leadership and so imperfectly replicating democracy.

Rather, most of Britain’s enemies in recent decades have been brutal dictatorships – Saddam’s Iraq or Gaddafi’s Libya or Syria’s Assad spring to mind.

All using or threatening the use of chemical weapons on their own populations. Sudan’s Bashir still indicted by the ICC for genocide, while the latest crime of Malian world heritage destruction, as with Bamiyan and Dresden Elbe bridge, and al-Mahdi to be sentenced next month.

And Broken Nations such as Afghanistan and Somalia and Sudan and Yemen now destroying their own populations.

Hungary's former US ambassador spoke eloquently on the need and possibility of dictators out: only the last few now in Africa and delays by the African Union: Eritrea, Cameroon, EqGuinea, Zim.

East Africa though being an endemic hot-zone of conflict and poverty.

And as with reforms and planning for Turkey to join the EU, there’s no reason why a reformist Russia, with or without Putin, shouldn’t join the EU. Reforms around Crimea could even make a Russian accession faster than many of the North African nations.

With populations of c.150M within a thin strip on the Mediterranean from Marrakesh to Beirut why wouldn’t those MENA nations join the EU?
It will be a while before Syria is reconstructed.

China has long been a landpower though, focused on its internal conflicts, whether Tibet or Uighurs or moving to a Capitalism with Communist tendencies system, and peaceful handover of Hong Kong and Macau ending Western Empires in Asia.

China’s main issue must be a rogue North Korea with nuclear weapons attacking South Korea or Japan or economic collapse or famine again with refugees streaming across the Yalu into China. And the potential for reunification reforms as with East Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

And more realistic is such growth in a demilitarised Korean peninsula, and removal of US troops if not also from Okinawa. And eventual peaceful reunion with Taiwan, as with Hong Kong, as China’s economy and democracy expands.

~~China Off-Track~~

But recent Chinese developments are those of an expansionist naval power.

If the China’s second-hand Ukrainian aircraft carrier is largely junk , the submarine base on Hainan isn’t, nor the ongoing Paracels conflict with Vietnam from the last days of the American War. And the Spratlys bases and Nine Dash Line around all the South China Sea, as far south as HCMC. The ICC only adjudicating in favour of Philippines this month.

But now a Chinese naval base in Djibouti on the Red Sea-Suez Canal route a few miles from Camp Lemonnier, the main USMC base of Africa Command.

The Suez Canal is likely to be increasingly important for the EU and China as the main trade route to Europe, and part of the Silk Road-Silk Belt policy. And Gulf oil will be less important with renewables eg even Saudi Arabia’s 2030 national plan focused on renewables not oil, and Desertec solar in the Sahara.

UK imperial vanities have faded and been lost in EU and UN oversight. But there’s also a lack of focus on resolving the conflicts across Central Africa.

Say with reintroducing the Desert Rats SIB battalions of East Africa, and existing UK training bases in Kenya, and, say, a Royal Marines focus on West Africa’s jungles and river deltas, following the success of the Sierra Leone civil war, and French Sahel zone, and dangers of Ebola and now Yellow Fever.

Afghanistan and Iraq have shown the incompetence of much UK military planning as cited by the generals themselves in the latest defence report, while a Royal Navy base in Bahrain looks just so much waste. As is a UK-Arabian trade policy consisting almost totally in arms sales and Germany calling for an EU arms export ban.

As an aside, Pandemics are a massive danger: Haiti cholera and Nepalese troops a concern with Kent’s Ghurkas, and shambolic NHS and UKIP-racism. And USA now calling for blood-screening for the Zika virus. All the more need for the Left is Life policy and blood donations with UK’s military and police and general need for blood and organs with advances in surgery.

While the USA’s Africa Command is failing with just desk-troops in Stuttgart recording the atrocities rather than say 82nd and 101st Airborne rotations through East Africa. The Economist details US troops numbering just c.7,000 in Africa.

And as always the lack of say a Ministry of Reconstruction for post-conflict development.

Kony and the Nigerian girls still missing, Congo and Somalia broken, and Sudan in flames again.

Almost every nation in Central Africa last week cited by Human Rights Watch as Not Free (and Swaziland and Mauritania beyond it) and jiggery-pokery of presidential terms extended under disposable constitutions.

The UK's contribution to UN Peacekeeping and UN Police is abysmal: Canada this week announcing an extra 150 UN Police.

~~Barracks Bloat~~

Rather USA faces a top-heavy military spend of almost 50% on the Department of Defense: 1M US troops based in the continental United States and barely 100,000 abroad in Germany or Japan or Korea combined. Even the Afghan War amounted to no more than 100,000 US troops.

That’s for the American taxpayer to decide what’s best for them, but what an unleashing of industry and innovation in say the solar panel or healthcare industries, from reduced spending and personnel in the military?

The UK could benefit more from a Carers Army, and army of teachers, with even further reductions in the 79,000 UK military. And an admiral for every ship whether at sea or a land base is absurd bloat.

The cry, from the military and their kit manufacturers, of it’s the smallest military since the Boer War should be met with the cry of yes: no empire and no wars so that’s a good thing. Especially with the MOD recent record of losing wars and habit of providing the wrong kit.

It’s certainly more than an internal security force of c.10,000 troops and a dozen ships typical for most larger nations.

And it's likely to be under 50,000, with the long-delayed Cold War dividend of the 20,000 in the British Army on the Rhine, bizarrely defending the German Army and its lower NATO 2% figure of 1.3% - and wasteful German conscription brought back for a day last week then hastily cancelled.

And shouldn’t, as a minimum, the medical and engineering teams within the military be forwarded to Africa rather than sat around in Albuquerque or Aachen?

Even the much heralded Pivot South is a mere 1,500 US troops in Darwin.

Ever more expensive military kit rusting away in broken cities and failed medicare makes Eisenhower’s warning on the weight of the military–industrial complex largely true.

Perhaps every British embassy and trade mission should actively exclude the military and same-old same-old faces such as The City and Rolls Royce, largely capable of funding their own trade activity on their own dime, and include more SME’s in innovation and growth sectors to kick-start the huge UK economic targets.

While thousands of nuclear weapons pointing into the sea, rather than enemies real or imagined, is a peace dividend not yet fully realised. The former general in charge of USA nuclear weapons estimating a need of no more than 300 warheads not 12,000 for the ultimate security policy, or revenge attack.

And with and a far greater risk of Chernobyl or Fukushima or Sellafield accidents and contamination, or a Nuclear Winter if used, Hinkley must surely mark the beginning of UK’s 15 elderly nuclear power stations being retired, as in Germany and Italy and Japan.

~~China's String of Pearls~~

Chinese bases too at Karachi and Gwadar in Pakistan, and Oman’s Salalah and Seychelles and Myanmar stretch Chinese influence into the Indian Ocean. As Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan placed it within reach of Balochistan's warm water ports.

While Walvis Bay in Namibia, the Argentine space telescopes supposedly funded by the Chinese military, and Azores are the keys to China’s nascent Mahan-esque naval strategy. As with the British Imperial bases before, as coaling or resupply facilities.

But to what purpose now beyond stirring Yellow Peril or Reds Under the Bed twaddle?


Except military overspend.

Modern ships already circumnavigate the globe – the Panama Canal now widened for mega-ships – and with almost no crew, and will be ever more automated.

Certainly China could buy up Guantanmo Bay in Cuba or the whole Panama Canal Zone, or the Falklands ahead of the Magellan Sanlucar anniversaries in 2019-22 across Spain and Portugal, and close the locks on all the sea routes.

But Mahan could be considered merely backward-looking on the primacy of seapower, now raising only the possibility of conflict with ASEAN or India.

And with trade routes that don’t rely on the sea anymore. Easier and faster hi-speed rail routes are already in place to Duisberg and Rotterdam, and down as far as Madrid, in Europe.

Netherlands is already leading the way with integrated IofT freight through Rotterdam, Antwerp and Schipol.

And the final overland links of a Gibraltar-Morocco road-rail bridges or tunnel, linking through to Cairo and Tel Aviv and Beirut, are minor connectivity tweaks.

And only the last few miles of the Cape to Cairo route are not yet in place, connecting Africa’s largest populations on the Eastern seaboard between South Africa and Egypt and facing the large Arabian, Indian and ASEAN ports.

~~Tunnel Vision~~

Even the Imperial Germany route of Basra to Berlin by rail is now viable again, and even with easier pipelines, before the last few drops of oil are left in the ground. And plans underway to link across the Arabian peninsula from Kuwait to Jeddah and Mecca and a tunnel or bridge through to Port Sudan.

Perhaps a reliance on oil and bling-bling architecture has been a distraction and failing in putting in place Saudi’s necessary transport infrastructure. Even the lack of planning for Mecca tourism and repeated deaths by crowds.

The Bering Strait Tunnel is now raised between Alaska and Russia, connecting Vancouver, the America’s largest Western port, to Shanghai overland, all without the typhoons and tsunamis of the Pacific Ocean.

Such a hi-speed rail route through to Europe and Asia would increase capacity for Latin America’s markets too, especially with the new FARC ceasefire this week ending Colombia’s civil war.

And none of the infrastructure more technologically complex than Denmark’s Oresund Bridge to Sweden, or the Channel Tunnel, or Crossrail or the Australian continental roads and railways, especially with the surfeit of AU, ADB and AIIB financing available.

The success of the Rio Olympics and economic sector adjustment through healthier eating and sugar taxes etc, whether Cuba sugarcane or Argentine corned beef, are a spur to much greater UK-LatAm activity - the Fray Bentos factory is unusual in gaining a UNESCO World Heritage listing in Uruguay.

And there’s the potential for UK and German automotive success.

The resurgence of UK trade with Latin America with the opening of Cuba, must be key for VW too, Europe’s largest auto company active in the resurgent UK auto industry. UK’s largest car exports for 12 years with dynamic companies such as Landrover and its 4x4 are best-placed to expand Europe’s and ASEAN’s automotive industry into the Americas and loosen the dominance of GM.

Regions such as Antofagasta perfect for the Circular Economy of recycling yards and screwdriver assembly, and accessing both Chilean and Argentine ports on the Pacific and Atlantic, even existing SEZ zones such as Tierra del Fuego.

~~UN connectivity~~

An Eire-Northern Ireland-Scotland route is no more strategic than speeding up the delivery of goods to those nations, and removing traffic jams on England’s roads, and hopefully without Belfast’s Semtexit from the Brexit silliness of the last few weeks.

Certainly there is also a setback in terms of UN reform - many of the above connectivity plans approved but drifting under the UN - with rather weak candidates so far, given the initial advances in the UN Secretary-General election by Denmark’s UN president, and an overdue merger of UK and French seats into an EU seat, and a place at the table for India and African Union.

Such UN reforms as, with the innovative UN Women programme, would focus on Indian and Africa programmes for UNDG30 - and downsize everything else into a UN-ROTW for want of a better term. Kofi Anna's aim of moving the UN offices from Geneva and Vienna and New York into Africa has also stalled.

While tobacco (5M deaths each year), coordinated space exploration and cancer (8M deaths each year), air pollution (13M deaths each year) have been ignored or downplayed in the UNSDG30 goals so far. The existing goals would save c.30M lives each year, the total of WW2 deaths over 5 years.

Upto 450M lives saved or extended by 2030, isn’t yet taken as seriously as it should be. With say G20 0.7% target for 90% of world trade.

And the potential is now for national goals of longevity say age 100 initially rather than humanity organically inching upwards by 2 years per decade.

Time for Change


* Time for Great British Thai OTOP: RoiEt jasmine rice, Sisaket mushroom crisps, Surin silk and silver. Time for Change timg33

* Time for Free Economy already underway: Finland wage trial in 2017, Swiss vote and Utrecht trial. British Gas Freetime free utilities. Time for Change @timg33

* Time for Eastcliff bandstand repairs: Grade 1 listed, Victorian Society and Sgt Pepper anniv 2017.

* Pleasurama finished. Kent's largest council corruption scheme. Time for site clearance. Another Summer wasted.

* Foolish £8m fire station and 2nd swimming pool

* very surprising £20M parkway waste continues and £480M SELP tax costs - rule of thumb at least 30% tax wasted? c.43% tax GDP regardless of any political party

* excellent TDC Margate Beach volleyball - and CCU Sports activity, plus FA Summer Schools next year and Visit Kent

* Time for end of Ian Driver High Court ban and £20k fine and Kent Police Domestic Extremist random cops database: outrageous abuse of an elected councilor and MP's

* Cyprus and Australia holidaymaker death: need for Kent Police Int Unit Eurasia oversight/centralised point with GMP Americas, for UK citizens abroad eg Joshua French Congo Death Row

* Falmouth largest UK cocaine haul - again. Too many East Kent junkies and dealers - lack of supply in future, increase jail sentences and NHS programmes

General inaction on points that interest me:

- Pavilion Wetherspoons end
- KORA office
- KU/CCU roles and Chula etc
- Green/Grabiner and BHS scandal with One Essex Court fraud - restarts next week
- concerning both Italy and Bagan earthquake - disaster repsonse, thermal radar, forecasting etc etc

* M20 Bridge collapse today: shambolic highways management and Stack, previous Bank Hols etc etc - full review needed

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