The John Batchelor Show

Wednesday11 September 2013

Air Date: 
September 11, 2013



Photo, above: Central African Republic: Central African rebels have attacked the eastern town of Bossangoa, a military source said, in their first assault since announcing this week they would resume fighting after government failed to meet their demands. The rebellion simmered for years over ineffective distribution of goods and services by a corrupt government.  French have now deployed a few hundred troop ostensibly to protect some tribal areas, in fact to keep airports open in case French nationals have to be evacuated.  France intervened in Mali as well as it could, but not here  Diamonds can be mined for personal benefit, can grab some, buy small arms and march on the capital.  See: Hour 3, Block D: Mark Schroeder,, on
Central African Republic: UN condemns killing of two aid workers.


Co-hosts: Gordon Chang,, and David M. Livingston, The Space Show.

Hour One

 Wednesday  11 September  2013/ Hour 1, Block A: Dean Cheng, Senior Research Fellow, Asian Studies Center at the Heritage Foundation, in re: How the U.S. Should Respond to the Chinese Naval Challenge  Over the past year, China’s leadership has indicated that it is intent upon pushing maritime development. In a recent study session involving the top Chinese leadership, Chinese leader Xi Jinping emphasized the importance of the sea for China’s economic development and national security, and reiterated the need to make China a “strong maritime nation.”[1] This appears to be part of his “China dream.”  Beijing’s decision to build a navy is a natural outgrowth of China’s dependence on the sea for resources and trade. But China is also party to disputes with virtually all of its maritime neighbors, including formal U.S. allies Japan and the Philippines, as well as Taiwan, which holds carefully constructed American security guarantees. And China’s construction of an anti-access/area denial system directly challenges American interests in the region.  China’s reliance on the sea has grown steadily as it has become a global trading power. Much of China’s imports and exports are seaborne, as over 85 percent of its trade relies  . . .   [more]

 Wednesday  11 September  2013/ Hour 1, Block B:   Scott Harold, Associate Political Scientist at the RAND Corporation, based in Hong Kong, in re: Why are Chinese ships in the Eastern Med now?  To observe the US military as it prepares for what may be battle.    . . .  Remember what Nasser said: "The US never does anything simply stupid. It does things complicatedly stupid."  The people in Beijing look at the disorganized US response and say it's weak?

Syrian war could derail global recovery: Li  Premier Li Keqiang expressed concern on Monday over a looming war in Syria, saying the global economic recovery could be negatively affected.  "A regional conflict could make the economic recovery more difficult," Li said while meeting Klaus Schwab, executive chairman of the World Economic Forum.  Li said the principle of the UN Charter must be adhered to so that a political solution can be achieved. China is willing to work with the international community to build a peaceful and stable environment for the world economy to recover.  Li met Schwab in Dalian two days before the opening of the annual World Economic Forum's "Summer Davos". The premier also expressed his confidence in the economic strength of emerging economies, which have been hit hard by capital outflows in anticipation of the tapering off of ultra-loose monetary policy in the United States. "Thanks to the more flexible exchange rate regimes and larger foreign exchange reserves, China is confident that the emerging economies are better placed to cope with the challenges than they used to be," Li told Schwab.

      Also on Monday, Li wrote in a Financial Times opinion piece that he believes Asian economies will not see a repeat of the 1997 financial crisis. "In my view, the Asian countries have learnt lessons from their experiences and have significantly enhanced their capabilities to fend off risks," Li wrote.  On China's economy, he said he sees sustainable and healthy growth, while promising to continue reform and opening-up. "Some observers ask whether China's economic slowdown will lead to a sharp decline, or even a hard landing, and whether our reform program will be derailed by complex social problems. My answer is that our economy will maintain its sustainable and healthy growth and China will stay on the path of reform and opening up.  "We will continue to streamline government and . . .

 Wednesday  11 September  2013/ Hour 1, Block C: Bruce Pittman, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics & AIAA Commercial Space Group; Space Investment Summit Coalition; Aerospace Technology Working Group (ATWG);  also: Flight Projects dir & Chief System Engineer at the Space Portal, NASA Ames Research Center (supports commercial space efforts including both Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research [CRuSR] and lunar commercialization; in re: "Space Exploration for Inspiration and Profit." Space engineers see the market coming into their terrain – a NASA fellow who heads up the human exploration program; also Planetary Resources, to mine asteroids; a group is going the Moon to mine resources – all these in a vivid discussion today at the meeting.   Almost every second sentence from NASA today was they they're working toward helping lunch commercial/private space.  There are some things the govt does really well, and others that private industry does well. The question is matching speeds: private needs to be more patient; NASA needs to speed up a bit. Commercial Orbital Transportation Svcs – COPS program.  Key is to make a profit, and SpaceX has succeeded at hat so far, In the future: growing the user community will help.  Nanoraft? Nanorats? Fifty or sixty manifests for commercial launches in the next year or two; US is gaining launch share globally.

 Wednesday  11 September  2013/ Hour 1, Block D:  Michael Ledeen, FDD, in re: Iran has just sent another unit into Syria to fight for Syria; has Iran not been doing this consistently, it’s safe to say that Assad wouldn’t be there.  Ships from Russia, China, Iran, US, France, Italy are all in the eastern Med; doesn’t this worry you? Yes – we're in a global war, from East Asia to the Middle East to South America – they're in a global alliance and they’re coming after us

   As the Red Queen once put it, “all have won and all must have prizes.”  As I listen to the debate over What To Do About Syria, it often seems that they’re all right.  They all make sense, from the all-out bombers to the total isolationists.  Those who say we’ve got no dog in the Syrian fight sound right, as do those who say doing nothing would be a disaster for the United States, along with those who say intervention would uphold the standards of civilization, and those who say American intervention risks unleashing even greater barbarism on the poor Syrians, and beyond. Here are the sensible arguments I hear: The use of chemical weapons should certainly be punished.  Otherwise, the long-established taboo against the awful things will be proven worthless, and Assad and others will keep using them.  Ergo, it’s right to punish Assad. On the other hand, punishment might not be good enough.  The Syrian ruler presumably used the chemical weapons because he was afraid of being defeated.  He’d heard about the “red line,” and he did it anyway.  A limited strike that does not threaten Assad’s hold on power is unlikely to convince him to change course.  Ergo, he has to be punished in a big way so that he learns his lesson.

        The real question is:  how do you enhance American security? The answer we come back to is that Iran is driving all of this.  If you solve Iran, you solve Syria; however, if Assad leaves, while Iran, not clear that it'd be [dispositive].  Natl security of the US: to see Iran fall? It'd be easier to create regime change in Iran than in Syria now – support the regime's opponents; support insurrection, The Iranian people hate the regime. 

"Putin took Obama firmly by the elbow and walked him out of the Middle East."—Lee Smith.

Hour Two

 Wednesday  11 September  2013/ Hour 2, Block A: Gordon Chang,, in re: the conflict 'twixt Syria and the US; the world is watching.  The Fed may start the taper in these next days, concern that money sloshing around will destabilize prices. Monetarism. If you buy a car in China, can walk in to a showroom and rive away after making a down payment; then: two years later you get that payment back, make no more payment, and own the car free and clear.  Mfrs force dealers to take cars; dealers don’t know what to do with them. Durable goods all over China are stacking up in warehouses. Mfr show huge increases, but retailers's sales are no good: mfrs forcing dealers to take inventory , some taking five months; worth of inventory. Declines in sales over he first and second quarters. Beijing's rosy numbers do not reflect the economy.  Yum Brands, Walmart, others. all have diminution of sales. Official figures are marvelous, whereas corporate reports show flat or negative. Most analysts just rely on official statistics. [more]

 Wednesday  11 September  2013/ Hour 2, Block B: Charles Ortel, managing director of Newport Value Partners, in re: The big banker in the sky, Ben Bernanke. Play the game Central Banker: do anything you want but if you're caught off-base, you're dead. Ten-year rate gone from <1% to 3%; bloated balance sheet for the Fed., which has a thin capitalization. If it raises interest rates, the dollar will appreciate. Creative destruction that's been put on hold for he last four years. Net exporters don’t mind if their currency is weakened; if net importer, they do.  Abenomics experiment/. Most serious economic crisis since 1939. In Japan, the problem is demographic; years of piling on a mammoth debt. Too much debt on all world's economies. The real carnage: US, larger Euro countries, Japan, maybe S Korea. The first central bank that owns up will encounter a flood of deposits.  Gold has been knocked on its head; this is a dangerous moment.

China’s position on Syria largely derivative of its broader foreign and security policy concerns

·         Impact on Middle East, source of 50+% of Chinese oil imports

·         Links to Chinese relationship with Iran, Russia (both opposed to strikes on Syria)

·         General skepticism/opposition to US use of force abroad

·         Possible concern about implications for Iran, North Korea (esp. since NK has proliferated nuclear technology to Syria in the past)

·         Concerns about radicalization in Xinjiang

If US does strike Syria, expect China to restrict its response to rhetorical opposition:

·         Oppose any authorization at UNSC and voice diplomatic opposition

·         Watch carefully US military actions so as to learn from them and improve China’s air defenses

·         Potentially use such action to argue that the ‘Asia rebalance’ is failing

·         Small risk of China-Japan or China-Philippines issues flaring up--this is not in China’s interest and they have not shown a propensity to try to take advantage of past instances of US military action elsewhere

·         No chance of China joining in or resisting US military strike on Syria

At present, I do not see China as having benefitted much if at all from the current US-Syria situation, nor do I see them benefitting much from it going forward.  China wants to keep a pretty low profile on this issue—too many sides care about it passionately, and there’s no low-cost “win” for Beijing out there that I can see.  As such, they’re probably inclined to stay mostly to the sidelines (i.e., the UN), and will snipe from there at anything Washington does that involves the use of force.   

           There are, in my mind, at least two ways that China might react more broadly if force is used: China could try to improve its global or regional image through greater multilateral and trade diplomacy, benefitting from any opposition to the US use of force—this is a well-trodden road for China, and would basically see them try to repeat what they did during the W. Bush administration when Hu Jintao trailed W. around SE Asia, signing trade accords and talking up “peaceful rise” at every chance, while Bush ’43 talked non-stop about counter-terrorism, something SE Asians did not relate to well at that time (though subsequently Bali and the JW Marriott bombings in particular showed the Indonesians that W, for all his faults, was not off-base on the need to treat this issue seriously).  The problem as I see it is that you don’t get to re-run history twice, and China has basically pissed away the gains of its “charm offensive” in Kurlantzick’s phrasing, and nowadays SE Asians are much more wary.  I am sure they’d be thrilled to see China turn away from their more assertive foreign policy of the 2008 – present period, but I’m not sure that alone would be enough to rehabilitate the damage done by PLAN and maritime paramilitary activities in the SCS, or China’s decision to force itself on its neighbors in the form of Mekong patrols.  Moreover, the big trade deals that China could sign—most notably the CJK FTA and the RCEP—are not bilats (or a uni/multi, the way China-ASEAN was), and the obstacle to quick completion of those is the difficult relationship with Japan, which is focusing primarily on TPP right now explicitly because of its concerns about China that get reinforced every few days in the waters and airspace around the Senkakus. 

      China could treat the US involvement in Syria, if it comes off, as a chance to do something forceful in its own region, such as try to grab more SCS islands from the Phils or Vietnam, get into it more seriously with Japan, or even at the highest (and hard to imagine, given current trends) levels of risk try to grab Taiwan.  This is an area where the past does not, as far as I am aware, suggest that China has a terribly checkered record.   I’d be interested to be corrected, but in my view the PRC has not tried to take advantage of a US distracted elsewhere to carry out aggression in its own region.  One possible exception that I can think of is that when Japan had just suffered the 3/11 triple disaster, China did test Japanese airspace but that’s pretty minor even by comparison to the dust-up with the Philippines over Scarborough.   And of course if China did something highly aggressive in the SCS or ECS, it could expect to dramatically worsen its regional image, and would still conceivably have to confront very substantial PACOM forces, which are probably not being heavily affected by the deployment of the Fifth Fleet to deal with the Syria situation. 

 Wednesday  11 September  2013/ Hour 2, Block C:   Peter Navarro, producer of the documentary Death by China, in re:  China and Syria. China imports over half of its energy from Middle East. In 2005, Zoellick called on China to be "a responsible stakeholder" – it was funny because it didn’t translate  into Chinese and China didn’t  understand.  Meanwhile, China is a wheeler-dealer, incl in Sudan [nightmare].  What’s surprising here is the Russian move.  GC: We could stop going to the UN for solutions, which would divest China of its ability to use

The UN and the World Trade Organization: both dominated by nations that don’t like us and certainly don’t have our best interests at heart; we can’t play there as well as China can. Why don't we form an alliance with our [allies], with the democracies?  This president is out of his depth, a man of principle who keeps making the same mistake over and over again.    Enforcement is what China doesn’t want to have occur.  It wants to preserve the Iran-Syria relationship; gas fields in Iran basically ship to China.  China, the Middle Kingdom, wants these two as tributary states, and are doing well thereat.  The US spilled much blood in Iraq so China could move in and take over trade. Sometimes bad actors win.  This could be one of them. Another mistake we make: we have joint mil exercises with the Chinese navy, which isn’t yet [very good at this stuff]; the more we train them, the more they'll steam around the eastern Med.

Syrian Opposition Delegation Visits China  A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that a six-member delegation representing a Syrian opposition group, the National Dialogue League, was visiting China.  The delegation had been invited by a government research and diplomacy group, the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs, which was founded in 1949 under the orders of Prime Minister Zhou Enlai.  The foreign ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, did not give details of the discussions taking place between the two groups and did not talk further about the National Dialogue League’s role in the fragmented landscape of Syria opposition groups. Mr. Hong disclosed the visit during a regularly scheduled news conference.  China does not officially support any Syrian opposition groups or any moves to oust President Bashar al-Assad, and it has maintained that Western nations should engage in dialogue with Mr. Assad.


 Wednesday  11 September  2013/ Hour 2, Block D: Vikas Bajaj, NYT, in re: The men convicted of raping a student in Delhi shouldn’t get the death penalty. A push to make the country safe would be a far greater tribute to the student’s memory.

Hour Three

 Wednesday  11 September  2013/ Hour 3, Block A:  Victor Davis Hanson, Hoover, in re: Syria. This president is not yet mature enough from experience to handle the complexities  surrounding Syria; he's not up to it. Putin in today's NYT op-ed as a wise and experienced world leader. Six weeks from now, US Arleigh Burke destroyers still in Med: "If he's wise, Pres Obama will back out of the saloon and hope no one'll shoot him."

 Wednesday  11 September  2013/ Hour 3, Block B:  Jeff Bliss, The Bliss Index, in re: College rankings fuel ever greater college costs. Colleges receive brownie points for sinking money into making their campuses look beautiful. Swank student unions, LEED-certified academic buildings and athletic shrines to the jocks and their fans are musts. The rankings reward spending money, but they don't penalize schools for charging too much and pushing students into greater debt than necessary. In fact, the defunct magazine doesn't even ask about the average student debt of a school's graduates.  Bottom Line: With all its flaws and its harmful impact on college behavior, why is anyone still paying attention to these college rankings?

 Wednesday  11 September  2013/ Hour 3, Block C: Robert Zimmerman,, in re: "The face of the sun is nearly blank."  Today NOAA posted its monthly update of the solar cycle, and as I do every month, I am posting it here, with annotations.  Before we take a look at that, however, there is other climate news that is apropos. The Daily Mail in the UK put out an entertaining article on Saturday with the headline “And now it’s global COOLING! Record return of Arctic ice cap as it grows by 60% in a year.”  The article is entertaining because, after illustrating the ice-cap’s recovery this year, it then notes the 2007 prediction by global warming climate scientists that the Arctic Ocean would be “ice-free” by 2013. If this isn’t a good example of the dangers of crying wolf, I don’t know what is.  I should emphasize that the ice-cap recovery this year does not prove that global warming has ceased. A look at this graph from satellite data shows that even though the Arctic icecap has recovered, it is still remains small when compared to the past few decades. The increase this year might only be a blip, or it could be indicating a new trend. We won’t really know for another five years, if then.  The article is also entertaining because it outlines the confusion that is right now going on behind the scenes at the IPCC. The next IPCC report is scheduled to come out next month, but no one agrees with its conclusions because it apparently ignores or minimizes the approximately fifteen year pause in warming that has now been documented since the late-1990s.

      In its draft report, the IPCC says it is ‘95 per cent confident’ that global warming has been caused by humans – up from 90 per cent in 2007. This claim is already hotly disputed. US climate expert Professor Judith Curry said last night: ‘In fact, the uncertainty is getting bigger. It’s now clear the models are way too sensitive to carbon dioxide. I cannot see any basis for the IPCC increasing its confidence level.’ [emphasis mine] It appears that scientists and governments are demanding approximately 1500 changes to the IPCC draft, which suggests its release will be delayed significantly.  Meanwhile, the Sun continues its lackluster and weak solar maximum.

           The uncertainty of science: Despite the significant increase in the size of the Arctic Ocean’s icecap this winter, satellite data of the icecap’s actual volume and thickness suggest that the new ice was quite thin. Prof Andy Shepherd, from Leeds University, said: “Now that we have three years of data, we can see that some parts of the ice pack have thinned more rapidly than others. At the end of winter, the ice was thinner than usual. Although this summer’s extent will not get near its all-time satellite-era minimum set last year, the very thin winter floes going into the melt season could mean that the summer volume still gets very close to its record low,” he told BBC News. It is not surprising that the ice was thin, considering that the icecap was recovering from a record low the year before. The scientific question, however, is whether the cap will thicken in the coming years or continue to thin out. That it has recovered somewhat in size might be a onetime jump as the decline continues, or it might be indicative of a new growing trend.

 Wednesday  11 September  2013/ Hour 3, Block D: Mark Schroeder,, In re:
Central African Republic: UN condemns killing of two aid workers
  The United Nations has condemned the killing of two aid workers in the Central African Republic (CAR), and urged all parties to ensure the protection of civilians and respect for humanitarian law. “I express my deepest condolences to the family and friends of the victims, and to all our humanitarian colleagues tirelessly providing assistance and protection to people in need in CAR,” said Kaarina Immonen, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the country.  “It is shocking that aid workers have been targeted and these killings must be condemned in the strongest terms.”  The two aid workers were in Bossangoa for the Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED). Bossangoa is located 300 kilometres north of the capital Bangui, when they were targeted over the weekend.  Ms. Immonen urged authorities and all parties to the conflict to “ensure the protection of civilians and the respect for international humanitarian and human rights law, as well as of humanitarian personnel and assets.”  The CAR – which has been marked by decades of instability and fighting – witnessed a resumption of violence last December when the Séléka rebel coalition launched a series of attacks. A peace agreement was reached in January, but the rebels again seized the capital, Bangui, in March, forcing President François Bozizé to flee.  The recent fighting has further eroded even the most basic services in the country and exacerbated an already dire humanitarian situation affecting the entire population of 4.6 million people, half of whom are children. Currently, 1.6 million people are in dire need of assistance, including food, protection, health care, water, sanitation and shelter.  In addition, the absence of the rule of law, grave human rights violations and deplorable attacks against humanitarian personnel and assets have

Central African Republic says scores killed in new clashes.

Aid group reports fresh attack in Central African Republic that left dozens wounded.

Hour Four

 Wednesday  11 September  2013/ Hour 4, Block A: Outlaw Platoon: Heroes, Renegades, Infidels, and the Brotherhood of War in Afghanistan by Sean Parnell and John Bruning  (1 of 4)

 Wednesday  11 September  2013/ Hour 4, Block B: Outlaw Platoon: Heroes, Renegades, Infidels, and the Brotherhood of War in Afghanistan by Sean Parnell and John Bruning  (2 of 4)

 Wednesday  11 September  2013/ Hour 4, Block C: Outlaw Platoon: Heroes, Renegades, Infidels, and the Brotherhood of War in Afghanistan by Sean Parnell and John Bruning  (3 of 4) 

 Wednesday  11 September  2013/ Hour 4, Block D: Outlaw Platoon: Heroes, Renegades, Infidels, and the Brotherhood of War in Afghanistan by Sean Parnell and John Bruning  (4 of 4)

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