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#Caturday, June 27, 2015: R.I.P. Tama, Japan’s beloved Stationmaster Cat

by 1389AD ( 36 Comments › )
Filed under Caturday, Japan, Open thread at June 27th, 2015 - 2:00 pm
Station Master Tama the Cat

We had the story on Tama back in 2011…

Daily Mail (UK): Death of CAT that saved a Japanese railway line and became a national treasure sparks mourning… and there will even be a funeral

Tortoiseshell-coloured cat Tama, better known as the Japanese railway tourist favourite, has passed away.

For almost a decade she has served as nominal stationmaster on an obscure Japanese train branchline, where she brought in thousands of tourists and even spurred a merchandising rush.

Credited by many with saving the provincial Kishigawa Line, the calico cat was appointed as master of the Kishi station just after the station’s last human employee was laid off in April 2006.

The railway was on the brink of closure at the time, but with the newfound attraction of Tama, who often even donned the formal uniform cap of the Wakayama Electric Railway, business was soon booming again.

A major hit with visitors, word quickly spread and sparked a deluge of media attention.

Within a year, the out-of-the-way station had received a good deal of fame, and even a bit of fortune, with ABC News’ 2007 study estimating that Tama’s presence had injected an additional 1.1 billion yen (or about £5,652,983) into the local economy.

In one year alone, an additional 55,000 people travelled on the Kishigawa Line – no doubt in hope of catching a glimpse of the world’s cutest stationmaster.

Wakayama Electric Railway spokeswoman Yoshiko Yamaki said that the cat, which passed away at the age of 16 (which is just over 80 in human years), had been ill for some time.

Still, she was frisky until the end.

‘She had a sinus infection since last month so was being cared for by her owner,’ Yamaki said.

‘But when we visited her with the company president a day before [she died], she stood up and meowed as if she was begging him to hold her.’

The cat’s funeral will be held on Sunday at the Kishi Station starting from 12:30pm.

Mourners have been leaving flowers at the station since Monday and even the governor of Wakayama, Yoshinobu Nisaka, sent a message of condolence.

‘Tama won a great popularity at home and abroad as a superstar of tourism,’ he said. ‘At the news of her loss, I express my deep sorrow and great gratitude.’

More here.

Caturday, June 20, 2015: Collect cats on your phone

by 1389AD ( 49 Comments › )
Filed under Caturday, Japan, Open thread at June 20th, 2015 - 2:00 pm

No, I haven’t played it. I’m just not into video games.

(View Twitter screen shot here.)

Vox.com: Inside Neko Atsume, the Japanese cat-collecting game taking over your Twitter feed

Anyone with an interest, however fleeting, in video games, smartphone apps, or pop culture has perhaps noticed their Twitter feed being slowly overtaken by images featuring cartoon cats, whimsical colors, and text in Japanese.
[…]
What you’re looking at is a game, which should be obvious. But what may not be obvious is what the game is, why it’s so popular, or even how to find it — especially because it’s in Japanese, and most Americans don’t make a general habit of searching for Japanese titles in their various app stores.

But this game comes by its cult appeal honestly. Falling somewhere between “The Sims” and Tamagotchis (the briefly popular “electronic pets” from the 1990s), it makes you the best pal of a bunch of neighborhood cats, who visit your home to eat the cat food and play with the cat toys you leave out for them. It’s addictive, adorable, and completely free. And it will only take up a few spare seconds of your time, whenever you need to check in — though you just might find more and more excuses to check in as you coax more cats into your virtual home.

Potential virtual cat owners, meet the felines of “Neko Atsume.”

What is “Neko Atsume”?

Designed by the Japanese company Hit-Point, “Neko Atsume” is a mobile phone game that gives the player a small backyard area (which can later be expanded with an indoor area as well) where the stray cats of the neighborhood come to visit. The cats will only drop by if there’s food, but if they like the food you give them, they’ll stay to play with any cat toys you might have laying about. These toys can range from simple balls and stuffed mice to more elaborate cat jungle gyms.

Here’s what “Neko Atsume” looks like when you have a bunch of cats hanging around:

Neko Atsume: Lots of cats
Hit-Point: More cats than any one person would know what to do with.

After they’re done feasting and playing, the cats will leave you some number of sardines. These offerings will either be normal gray sardines (which they leave with great frequency) or precious golden sardines (which they leave much more sparingly). You can buy more golden sardines with real money, but the cats are generous enough that you shouldn’t really have to. Occasionally, the cats will also bring you a special gift they’ve found in their scrounging.

The fish function as the game’s currency, allowing you to buy more and more elaborate cat toys, which will attract more and more cats, who will bring you more and more fish. And on and on it goes.

The game, in its current incarnation, features more than 40 different cats. Some of them are standard cats, but others wear costumes. There’s a baseball player cat, a samurai cat, and a giant fat cat who eats all your food in one go.

And what does “neko atsume” mean? Roughly translated, it means “cat collecting,” according to GamesIndustry.biz.

How did people even come to know about this game?

“Neko Atsume” has climbed the charts in Japan, where there are enough mobile games about cats that Apple was able to run a promotion early in 2015 that centered on February 22, an informal holiday called “The Day of the Cat.” It is so named because 2/22 can be spoken as “nyan nyan nyan” in Japanese, which is roughly similar to saying “meow meow meow” in English. (Yes, now you know where the name “Nyan Cat” comes from.) Though not an official holiday, enough people know about it that Apple’s promotion proved a success and boosted “Neko Atsume” into the top 10 of all games sold in the country.

“Neko Atsume’s” slow-building popularity in other countries stems from the American video game press discovering it. Video game writers, who always keep an eye on what’s going on in the Japanese gaming industry, were quick to praise the game, which is fairly easy to play even if you don’t speak any Japanese.

One of the earliest US-based posts about “Neko Atsume” was on the site Destructoid. The game later received writeups from outlets like Kotaku, Vice’s tech site Motherboard, and Boing Boing’s gaming site Offworld. Soon, the game even earned itsown subreddit.

Recently, the game has begun to cross slowly but surely into the mainstream, especially thanks to this story on the Billfold, which satirizes the game’s economics.

Much more here…

#Caturday, 1/24/2015: Employees at this Tokyo office have 9 cat coworkers

by 1389AD ( 77 Comments › )
Filed under Caturday, Japan, Open thread at January 24th, 2015 - 2:00 pm

Rocket News has the story:

9 cats at Ferray Corporation in Japan

When you live in a cramped city like Tokyo, owning a pet is a luxury many people cannot afford. Apartments usually come with strict no-pets policies, and the only way Tokyo dwellers have been able to get their pet-fix is by visiting cat cafes. Sure, it’s nice to sip on a delicious drink while petting a purring kitty, but you can’t stay there forever. What are you supposed to do during those other, horrible cat-less hours of the day?

One company in Japan has come up with a solution. They’re bringing the soothing cat cafe experience to the office by filling their workplace with adorable cats.

The cat-populated workplace is the brainchild of Ferray Corporation, an internet solutions business which mainly deals with webpage construction, application development, and other IT work. The company own nine loveable rescue cats that are allowed to roam the office on a daily basis, sleeping, causing adorable trouble as cats will, and just generally being cute little balls of stress-relief.

Much more here…

#Caturday, July 19, 2014: Tokyo’s cat pub, the cat cafe for grown-ups

by 1389AD ( 59 Comments › )
Filed under Caturday, Food and Drink, Japan, Open thread at July 19th, 2014 - 5:00 pm

 

For a larger view of the above photo, please click here.

Rocket News 24 has the story:

In Japan, since so many people who love cute animals live in apartments that don’t allow pets, you can find cafes that’ll let you relax in the company of everything from owls to bunnies. The most common and widely documented are of course cat cafes, but what do you do when you’re craving not only a little feline companionship, but also want something a bit stronger than a cup of coffee?

Simple: you head to the cat pub in Tokyo.

Located on the Seibu Ikebukuro train line, Ekoda Station and the surrounding Ashigaoka neighborhood don’t draw especially large numbers of visitors. It’s just another six minutes to Ikebukuro Station, where they are far more dining, shopping, and entertainment options.

Ashigaoka does have something Ikebukuro doesn’t, though, in the form of a unique izakaya. Somewhere between a bar and ordinary restaurant, izakaya offer a wide range of alcoholic drinks and a selection of small plates of food to pair with them. What they usually don’t have is a group of cats roaming about, but that’s exactly what you’ll find at Akanasu.

Akanasu opens at 6 p.m., slightly earlier than many of the other izakaya in its neighborhood. On the day we stopped by, we were the first customers to arrive, and no sooner had we opened the creaky wooden door than we received a warm greeting.

At the top of the stairs leading up to the dining room area was Chi, Akanasu’s “head of business operations.” Encouraged by her hospitality, we made our way upstairs where we didn’t see any other diners, but did find a few more kitties.

With its soft lighting and potted plants, Akanasu at first feels more like a retro-style coffee shop than a pub, but rest assured, there’s a proper izakaya menu, which includes such offerings as a mixed hors d’oevre plate for 700 yen (US$6.85) and baked cheese doria for 750 yen. Cocktails start at 450 yen and a glass of white wine is 500, both pretty reasonable prices for Tokyo. There’s also a two-and-a-half-hour all-you-can-drink deal for 1,999 yen, which gives you plenty of time to get tipsy enough that your hiccups will synch up with the surrounding meows.

“I don’t really look like a cat person, do I?” asked the good-natured owner, Koyanagai. Honestly, we’d say we have to agree with his self-assessment, though we could easily imagine him being the proud owner of a handful of Great Danes.

In actuality, though, there’s never been a time in his life that Koyanagai, who’s now in his 60s, hasn’t owned a cat. His family already had one when he was born, and as he got older, Koyanagi and his wife began taking in cats from animal shelters. For some of the animals, this was supposed to be a temporary arrangement, but the couple found themselves becoming attached to the creatures, and ended up giving them a permanent home.

Koyanagi says he’s drawn to the capricious nature of cats. True to his word, even though the animals spend time in his place of business, they aren’t compelled to work. Signs inside the restaurant ask customers to refrain from grabbing the cats or coercing them into playing when they’re not in the mood. Whether the cats interact with the customers is entirely up to them, as evidenced by the few we noticed nonchalantly taking cat naps while we ate our meal.
[…]

Restaurant information

Neko Bar Akanasu / 猫BAR 赤茄子
Address: Tokyo-to, Nerima-ku, Ashigaoka 1-77-2, second floor
東京都練馬区旭丘1-77-2 2F
Telephone: 03-6915-3166
Open 6 p.m.-12:30 a.m.
Closed Mondays
Twitter @Cat_Bar_Akanasu

Photos and more here.

Life under the Obama doctrine

by Speranza ( 115 Comments › )
Filed under Al Qaeda, Barack Obama, China, Iran, Israel, Japan, Libya, Libya, Russia, South Korea, Syria, Ukraine at May 6th, 2014 - 7:00 am

It seems as if Obama is an even worse foreign policy president than he is on domestic issues. Our friends and allies need to wait him out.

by Caroline Glick

For most commentators, President Barack Obama’s biggest achievement in his four-nation tour of Asia was the enhanced defense treaty he signed with Philippine President Benigno Aquino. The pact permits US forces to operate on Philippine military bases and sets the conditions for joint training of US and Philippine forces, among other things.

There are two problems with the treaty, however.

And they reflect the basic problem with US foreign policy generally, five-and-a-half years into the Obama presidency.

First, there is the reason that the treaty became necessary.

The Philippines has been under attack by China since 2012 when China seized the Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines. Despite its mutual defense treaty with Manila, Washington did nothing.

This non-response emboldened China still further.

And today China is threatening the Second Thomas Shoal, another Philippine possession.

So, too, late last year China extended its Air Defense Identification Zone to include Japanese and South Korean airspace. The US responded to the aggressive move by recommending that its allies comply with China’s dictates.

The administration’s top priority in all these cases, as well as in the case of Beijing’s challenge to Japan’s control over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, has been to avoid conflicts with China.

But American timidity and refusal to abide by US treaty obligations to the Philippines and Japan have had the opposite effect.

By not responding to Chinese aggression, far from moderating China’s behavior, the Obama administration emboldened it. And in so doing, it destroyed the US’s deterrent posture in Asia. As China’s increasingly belligerent behavior has made clear, Obama’s attempt to appease China was perceived in Beijing as a green light for further aggression, because the Chinese correctly determined that Obama would never make them pay a price for seizing territory and otherwise harming America’s Asian allies.

Under these circumstances, Obama had no choice but to sign an enhanced defense treaty with the Philippines.

Far from calming the situation, though, the treaty increases the chance of war between China and its neighbors. No one, least of all China’s leadership, is fooled by Obama’s whiny insistence that the defense pact isn’t directed against China. And now China, already itching for more confrontations, will feel compelled to respond strongly.

This brings us to the second problem with the Obama administration’s new assertiveness in Asia. It simply isn’t credible.

[……..]

We already know Obama lacks the will to confront China. And his decision to downsize the US military ensures the US will lack good options for confronting it in the coming years.

During his joint press conference in Manila on Monday with Aquino, Ed Henry from Fox News asked Obama to explain his foreign policy doctrine.

“What do you think the Obama Doctrine is in terms of what your guiding principle is on all of these crises and how you answer those critics who say they think the doctrine is weakness.”

Obama responded with his signature peevishness.

Before launching into a 900-word assault on a series of straw men to whom he attributed positions that at best distorted and at worst willfully misrepresented the positions of his critics, Obama muttered, “Well, Ed, I doubt that I’m going to have time to lay out my entire foreign policy doctrine.”

One thing that Obama did have the time do was signal to the Philippines that the US is no longer a reliable ally. After touting the new defense pact in one sentence, Obama proceeded to explain in the next that his administration cannot be expected to honor any commitment to defend the Philippines militarily.

Obama’s bloviations demonstrated why Henry’s question was so important.

For five-and-a-half years, Obama has not given a straightforward presentation of his foreign policy.

Instead, he has tailored his foreign policy statements to what he thinks the public wishes to hear.

So for instance, in responding to Henry, Obama sounded an isolationist note, attacking imaginary critics for their automatic rush to arms in all circumstances.

Beyond being a gross mischaracterization of his critics, Obama’s remarks ignored the inconvenient fact that he sent US forces on a NATO mission to overthrow the regime of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya without congressional authorization.

No Republicans forced his hand. Since 2004, Gaddafi had posed no threat to US interests.

And in the aftermath of Obama’s unauthorized war in Libya, the US ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed in Benghazi.

Al-Qaida and other jihadist groups that benefited from NATO’s operation have taken over large swathes of the country and sunk it into ungovernable chaos.  [……..]

Although Obama’s 900-word rant obscured rather than explained his foreign policy doctrine, the Obama Doctrine is easily understood from his actual policies – including his military adventure in Libya.

If Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy doctrine was “Peace through strength,” Obama’s doctrine can be summed up in two sentences: “Speak loudly and carry no stick.” And “Be good to your enemies and bad to your allies.”

The defense treaty with the Philippines, like Obama’s bluster in Ukraine and Syria, is a sterling example of the first part of his doctrine.

And Obama’s obsequious policies toward China, Russia and Iran on the one hand, and his coldness toward Japan, South Korea, Poland, the Czech Republic, Ukraine and Israel on the other hand demonstrate the validity of the second part of his doctrine.

The reason that Obama has not shared his own doctrine with the American people is not because he can’t explain it in the course of one speech. It is because he knows that they won’t accept it.

For their part, the American people seem to have him figured out. According to a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll published on Wednesday, Obama’s approval rating for his handling of foreign policy is at an all-time low. Only 38 percent of Americans approve of his handling of foreign policy and 53% disapprove.

The same poll gave respondents two foreign policy doctrines and asked them to choose the one they preferred.

The first was, “We need a president who will present an image of America that has a more open approach and is willing to negotiate with friend and foe alike.”

The second was, “We need a president who will present an image of strength that shows America’s willingness to confront our enemies and stand up for our principles.”

Thirty-nine percent preferred the first policy course and 55% the second one. These numbers are nearly identical to the approval numbers for Obama’s foreign policy.

[……]

For America’s allies this reality requires them to carve out their own courses the best they can.

In Israel’s case, this involves first and foremost taking a less idealistic and more mercenary view of the world. This means not shrinking away from opportunities with the likes of Russia and China when they arise. And certainly it means not automatically siding with the Obama administration against them.

The Obama administration is reportedly angry with Israel for refusing to join America in scolding Russia for its aggression in Ukraine. But it is far from clear that the Obama White House offers Jerusalem a better option. To date, Obama has repaid Israel for its willingness to toe his line by undermining its core interests, publicly attacking it and seeking to subvert the elected government.

Israel has no interest in getting on Russia’s bad side in order to placate the Obama administration.

Nor is there any reason for Israel to obey the Obama administration’s demands for belligerent rhetoric when the next step of the Obama White House would doubtless be to turn around and castigate the “Israel lobby” for allegedly pushing the US toward war.

The same goes for China. There is no reason for Israel to jump into conflict with the growing Asian power. While Secretary of State John Kerry is egging on the Europeans to expand their trade war against Israel, China is assiduously expanding its trade with Israel. According to the Economy Ministry, next year Asia will surpass the US as Israel’s largest trading partner.

Then, of course, there is Iran. Out of loyalty and basic trust in the US’s strategic sanity, for the past decade, Israel has been willing to play second fiddle to the US in contending with Iran’s illicit nuclear weapons program.  […….]

Since his first days in office, Obama has signaled clearly through his deeds that he had absolutely no interest in blocking Iran’s nuclear progress. On the contrary, Obama’s policies in the Middle East have consistently involved strengthening and legitimizing the Iranian regime and the Muslim Brotherhood at the expense of Israel and the less radical Sunni Arab states.

Out of habit, and in the hopes that something would change, Israel pretended away this reality and continued to follow Washington’s lead, limiting its goals to covert operations against Iran – that Obama leaked to the media – and lobbying Congress for sanctions that never had any chance of blocking Iran’s race to the nuclear finishing line.

[…….]

And so Israel must ignore it. Every day that Israel does not set back Iran’s nuclear progress brings Israel closer to being the subject of nuclear blackmail, Iranian-backed terrorism, and even nuclear Armageddon.

Obama may hide his doctrine behind petulance, populist canards and straw men, but it is clear enough. And that means that as far as Israel is concerned, its goal of securing its survival and prosperity for at least the next two-and-a-half years requires Jerusalem to act on its own and in the face of White House opposition.

It isn’t pleasant to defy the American president.

It isn’t easy. But in light of the Obama Doctrine, defying the White House is required to preserve the freedom of the Jewish people.

Read the rest – Life under the Obama doctrine

The disappearance of American will

by Speranza ( 157 Comments › )
Filed under China, Iran, Israel, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Syria at April 21st, 2014 - 7:00 am

Is there a more pathetic looking cabinet member than Chuck Hagel? Seriously, we would have been better off picking any random name out of the phone book and installing them in the Pentagon than having the drunken, incompetent, boob Hagel running the department.

by Caroline Glick

The most terrifying aspect of the collapse of US power worldwide is the US’s indifferent response to it.

In Europe, in Asia, in the Middle East and beyond, America’s most dangerous foes are engaging in aggression and brinkmanship unseen in decades.

As Gordon Chang noted at a symposium in Los Angeles last month hosted by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, since President Barack Obama entered office in 2009, the Chinese have responded to his overtures of goodwill and appeasement with intensified aggression against the US’s Asian allies and against US warships.

In 2012, China seized the Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines. Washington shrugged its shoulders despite its mutual defense treaty with the Philippines. And so Beijing is striking again, threatening the Second Thomas Shoal, another Philippine possession.

In a similar fashion, Beijing is challenging Japan’s control over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea and even making territorial claims on Okinawa.

As Chang explained, China’s recent application of its Air-Defense Identification Zone to include Japanese and South Korean airspace is a hostile act not only against those countries but also against the principle of freedom of maritime navigation, which, Chang noted, “Americans have been defending for more than two centuries.”

The US has responded to Chinese aggression with ever-escalating attempts to placate Beijing.

And China has responded to these US overtures by demonstrating contempt for US power.

Last week, the Chinese humiliated Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during his visit to China’s National Defense University. He was harangued by a student questioner for the US’s support for the Philippines and Japan, and for opposition to Chinese unilateral seizure of island chains and assertions of rights over other states’ airspace and international waterways.

As he stood next to Hagel in a joint press conference, China’s Defense Chief Chang Wanquan demanded that the US restrain Japan and the Philippines.

In addition to its flaccid responses to Chinese aggression against its allies and its own naval craft, in 2012 the US averred from publicly criticizing China for its sale to North Korea of mobile missile launchers capable of serving Pyongyang’s KN-08 intercontinental ballistic missiles. With these easily concealed launchers, North Korea significantly upgraded its ability to attack the US with nuclear weapons.

As for Europe, the Obama administration’s responses to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and to its acts of aggression against Ukraine bespeak a lack of seriousness and dangerous indifference to the fate of the US alliance structure in Eastern Europe.

[…….]

Clearly not impressed by the US moves, the Russians overflew and shadowed the US naval ship. As Charles Krauthammer noted on Fox News on Monday, the Russian action was not a provocation. It was “a show of contempt.”

As Krauthammer explained, it could have only been viewed as a provocation if Russia had believed the US was likely to respond to its shadowing of the warship. Since Moscow correctly assessed that the US would not respond to its aggression, by buzzing and following the warship, the Russians demonstrated to Ukraine and other US allies that they cannot trust the US to protect them from Russia.

In the Middle East, it is not only the US’s obsessive approach to the Palestinian conflict with Israel that lies in shambles. The entire US alliance system and the Obama administration’s other signature initiatives have also collapsed.

After entering office, Obama implemented an aggressive policy in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere of killing al-Qaida operatives with unmanned drones. The strategy was based on the notion that such a campaign, that involves no US boots on the ground, can bring about a rout of the terrorist force at minimal human cost to the US and at minimal political cost to President Barack Obama.

The strategy has brought about the demise of a significant number of al-Qaida terrorists over the years. And due to the support Obama enjoys from the US media, the Obama administration paid very little in terms of political capital for implementing it.

But despite the program’s relative success, according to The Washington Post, the administration suspended drone attacks in December 2013 after it endured modest criticism when one in Yemen inadvertently hit a wedding party.

[……]

This week, jihadist websites featured an al-Qaida video showing hundreds of al-Qaida terrorists in Yemen meeting openly with the group’s second in command, Nasir al-Wuhayshi.

In the video, Wuhayshi threatened the US directly saying, “We must eliminate the cross,” and explaining that “the bearer of the cross is America.”

Then there is Iran.

The administration has staked its reputation on its radical policy of engaging Iran on its nuclear weapons program. The administration claims that by permitting Iran to undertake some nuclear activities it can convince the mullahs to shelve their plan to develop nuclear weapons.
[…..]

In a televised interview Sunday, Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akhbar Salehi insisted that Iran has the right to enrich uranium to 90 percent. In other words, he said that Iran is building nuclear bombs.

And thanks to the US and its interim nuclear deal with Iran, the Iranian economy is on the mend.
[…….]

Rather than accept that its efforts have failed, the Obama administration is redefining what success means.

As Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz noted, in recent months US officials claimed the goal of the nuclear talks was to ensure that Iran would remain years away from acquiring nuclear weapons. In recent remarks, Secretary of State John Kerry said that the US would suffice with a situation in which Iran is but six months away from acquiring nuclear weapons.

In other words, the US has now defined failure as success.

Then there is Syria.

Last September, the US claimed it made history when, together with Russia it convinced dictator Bashar Assad to surrender his chemical weapons arsenal. Six months later, not only is Syria well behind schedule for abiding by the agreement, it is reportedly continuing to use chemical weapons against opposition forces and civilians. The most recent attack reportedly occurred on April 12 when residents of Kafr Zita were attacked with chlorine gas.

The growing worldwide contempt for US power and authority would be bad enough in and of itself. The newfound confidence of aggressors imperils international security and threatens the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

What makes the situation worse is the US response to what is happening. The Obama administration is responding to the ever-multiplying crises by pretending that there is nothing to worry about and insisting that failures are successes.

And the problem is not limited to Obama and his advisers or even to the political Left. Their delusional view that the US will suffer no consequences for its consistent record of failure and defeat is shared by a growing chorus of conservatives.

Some, like the anti-Semitic conservative pundit Patrick Buchanan, laud Putin as a cultural hero. [……]
.

Leaders like Sen. Ted Cruz who call for a US foreign policy based on standing by allies and opposing foes in order to ensure US leadership and US national security are being drowned out in a chorus of “Who cares?” Six years into Obama’s presidency, the US public as a whole is largely opposed to taking any action on behalf of Ukraine or the Baltic states, regardless of what inaction, or worse, feckless action means for the US’s ability to protect its interests and national security.

And the generation coming of age today is similarly uninterested in US global leadership.

During the Cold War and in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the predominant view among American university students studying international affairs was that US world leadership is essential to ensure global stability and US national interests and values.

Today this is no longer the case.

Much of the Obama administration’s shuttle diplomacy in recent years has involved sending senior officials, including Obama, on overseas trips with the goal of reassuring jittery allies that they can continue to trust US security guarantees.

These protestations convince fewer and fewer people today.

It is because of this that US allies like Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia, that lack nuclear weapons, are considering their options on the nuclear front.

It is because of this that Israeli officials are openly stating for the first time that the US cannot be depended on to either secure Israel’s eastern frontier in the event that an accord is reached with the Palestinians, or to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

It is because of this that the world is more likely than it has been since 1939 to experience a world war of catastrophic proportions.

There is a direct correlation between the US elite’s preoccupation with social issues running the narrow and solipsistic gamut from gay marriage to transgender bathrooms to a phony war against women, and America’s inability to recognize the growing threats to the global order or understand why Americans should care about the world at all.

And there is a similarly direct correlation between the growing aggression of US foes and Obama’s decision to slash defense spending while allowing the US nuclear arsenal to become all but obsolete.

America’s spurned allies will take the actions they need to take to protect themselves. Some will persevere, others will likely be overrun.

But with Americans across the ideological spectrum pretending that failure is success and defeat is victory, while turning their backs on the growing storm, how will America protect itself?

Read the rest – The disappearance of US will

 

What we can learn from the twentieth century’s greatest diplomatic disaster – the Munich conference

by Speranza ( 152 Comments › )
Filed under Afghanistan, France, Germany, History, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Japan, John Kerry, Nazism, Syria, UK, World War II at January 16th, 2014 - 5:00 pm

As the author states, democracy was introduced into Japan and Germany at the point of a gun after those two nations were utterly devastated and had to submit to foreign occupations. No such thing has ever happened to any Islamic nation.  “Nation building” in Iraq and Afghanistan never had a chance in hell of succeeding. The analogies to Munich 1938 are interesting but often misleading.

by Bruce Thornton

During the recent foreign policy crises over Syria’s use of chemical weapons and the Obama administration’s negotiations with Iran, the Munich analogy was heard from both sides of the political spectrum. Arguing for airstrikes against Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, Secretary of State John Kerry warned that the nation faced a “Munich moment.” A few months later, numerous critics of Barack Obama’s diplomatic discussions with Iran evoked Neville Chamberlain’s naïve negotiations with Adolph Hitler. “This wretched deal,” Middle East historian Daniel Pipes said, “offers one of those rare occasions when comparison with Neville Chamberlain in Munich in 1938 is valid.” The widespread resort to the Munich analogy raises the question: When, if ever, are historical analogies useful for understanding present circumstances?

  what economic recovery
Photo credit: Anna Newman

Since the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans, one important purpose of describing historical events was to provide models for posterity. Around 395 B.C., Thucydides wrote that his history was for “those inquirers who desire an exact knowledge of the past as an aid to the understanding of the future, which in the course of human things must resemble if it does not reflect it.” [……..]

Both historians believed the past could inform and instruct the present because they assumed that human nature would remain constant in its passions, weaknesses, and interests despite changes in the political, social, or technological environment. As Thucydides writes of the horrors of revolution and civil war, “The sufferings . . . were many and terrible, such as have occurred and always will occur as long as the nature of mankind remains the same; though in severer or milder form, and varying in their symptoms, according to the variety of the particular cases.”  [………]

In contrast, the modern idea of progress––the notion that greater knowledge of human motivation and behavior, and more sophisticated technology, are changing and improving human nature––suggests that events of the past have little utility in describing the present, and so every historical analogy is at some level false. The differences between two events separated by time and different levels of intellectual and technological sophistication will necessarily outweigh any usefulness. [……]

An example of a historical analogy that failed because it neglected important differences was one popular among those supporting the Bush Doctrine during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Bush Doctrine was embodied in the president’s 2005 inaugural speech: “The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.” Promoting democracy and political freedom in the Middle East was believed to be the way to eliminate the political, social, and economic dysfunctions that presumably breed Islamic terrorism. Supporters of this view frequently invoked the transformation of Germany, Japan, and the Soviet Union from aggressive tyrannies into peaceful democracies to argue for nation building in the Muslim Middle East.

Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet dissident and political prisoner, used this analogy in his 2004 book The Case for Democracy, which was an important influence on President Bush’s thinking. Yet in citing the examples of Russia, Germany, and Japan as proof that democracy could take root in any cultural soil, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, Sharansky overlooked some key differences. Under Soviet communism, a highly religious Russian people were subjected to an atheist regime radically at odds with the beliefs of the masses. Communism could only promise material goods, and when it serially failed to do so, it collapsed. As for Germany and Japan, both countries were devastated by World War II, their cities and industries destroyed, the ruins standing as stark reminders of the folly of the political ideologies that wreaked such havoc. Both countries were occupied for years by the victors, who had the power and scope to build a new political order enforced by the occupying troops. As political philosopher Michael Mandelbaum reminds us, in Germany and Japan, democracy was introduced at gunpoint.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, neither of these important conditions existed when U.S. forces invaded. The leaders of these countries are Muslim, thus establishing an important connection with the mass of their people. Unlike Nazism and communism, which were political fads, Islam is the faith of 1.5 billion people, and boasts a proud, fourteen-centuries-long history of success and conquest. For millions of pious Muslims, the answer to their modern difficulties lies not in embracing a foreign political system like democracy, but in returning to the purity of faith that created one of the world’s greatest empires. Moreover, no Muslim country has suffered the dramatic physical destruction that Germany and Japan did, which would illuminate the costs of Islam’s failure to adapt to the modern world. Finally, such analogies downplay the complex social and economic values, habits, and attitudes––many contrary to traditional Islamic doctrine––that are the preconditions for a truly democratic regime.

More recently, people are invoking the Munich analogy to describe the Syria and Iran crises. But these critics of Obama’s foreign policy misunderstand the Munich negotiations and their context. The Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens, arguing that Obama’s agreement with Iran is worse than the English and French betrayal of Czechoslovakia, based his assessment on his belief that “neither Neville Chamberlain nor [French prime minister] Édouard Daladier had the public support or military wherewithal to stand up to Hitler in September 1938. Britain had just 384,000 men in its regular army; the first Spitfire aircraft only entered RAF service that summer. ‘Peace for our time’ it was not, but at least appeasement bought the West a year to rearm.”

Stephens, however, is missing an important historical detail that calls into question this interpretation. France in fact did have the “military wherewithal” to fight the Germans. The Maginot line had 860,000 soldiers manning it––nearly six times the number of Germans on the unfinished “Western Wall” of defensive fortifications facing the French—and another 400,000 troops elsewhere in France. Any move east by the French would have presented Germany with a two-front war it was not prepared to fight. Nor would Czechoslovakia have been an easy foe for Hitler. As Churchill wrote in The Gathering Storm, the Czechs had “a million and a half men armed behind the strongest fortress line in Europe [in the mountainous Sudetenland on Germany’s eastern border] and equipped by a highly organized and powerful industrial machine,” including the Skoda works, “the second most important arsenal in Central Europe.” Finally, the web of military agreements among England, France, Poland, and the Soviet Union was dependent on England backing France, which would not fight otherwise, and without the French, the Poles and the Soviets would not fight either. Had England lived up to its commitment to France, Hitler would have faced a two-front war against the overwhelming combined military superiority of the Allies. And he would have lost.

The lessons of Munich, and its value as a historical analogy, have nothing to do with a material calculation. Rather, the capitulation of the British and the French illustrates the perennial truth that conflict is about morale. On that point Stephens is correct when he writes that Chamberlain and Daladier did not have “public support,” and he emphasizes the role of morale in foreign policy. A people who have lost the confidence in the goodness of their way of life will not be saved by the material superiority of arms or money. And, as Munich also shows, that failure of nerve will not be mitigated by diplomatic negotiations. Talking to an enemy bent on aggression will only buy him time for achieving his aims. Thus Munich exposes the fallacy of diplomatic engagement that periodically has compromised Western foreign policy. Rather than a means of avoiding the unavoidable brutal costs of conflict, diplomatic words often create the illusion of action, while in reality avoiding the necessary military deeds. For diplomacy to work, the enemy must believe that his opponent will use punishing force to back up the agreement.

This truth gives force to the Munich analogy when applied to diplomacy with Iran. Hitler correctly judged that what he called the “little worms” of Munich, France and England, would not use such force, and were only looking for a politically palatable way to avoid a war. Similarly today, the mullahs in Iran are confident that America will not use force to stop the nuclear weapons program. Iran’s leaders are shrewd enough to understand that the Obama administration needs a diplomatic fig leaf to hide its capitulation to their nuclear ambitions, given his doubts about the rightness of America’s global dominance, and the war-weariness evident among the American people.  [……..]

The weakening faith in American goodness that afflicts millions of Americans, and the use of diplomacy to camouflage that failure of nerve and provide political cover for the leaders charged with protecting our security and interests, are a reprise of England and France’s sacrifice of Czechoslovakia in 1938. That similarity and the lessons it can teach about the dangers of the collapse of national morale and the risky reliance on words rather than deeds are what continue to make Munich a useful historical analogy.

Read the rest – The lessons of Munich

 

Canadian causes trouble at Japan’s Yasukuni shrine

by Husky Lover ( 135 Comments › )
Filed under Japan, World War II at December 27th, 2013 - 2:00 pm

Regardless of the controversial nature of Japan’s Yasukuni shrine, only an idiot would go there and start trouble. That is exactly what some German Canadian tourist did. He went in to try to shame the Japanese there and instead was lucky to get out with his life.

httpv://youtu.be/lZHwZhNUX50

This German Canadian guy really had some nerve and balls to go to a Japanese shrine and cause the trouble he did.

(Hat Tip: Military Photos)

Update:) Per Guggi, the man in the video was Canadian.

Woe to America’s allies

by Speranza ( 114 Comments › )
Filed under Barack Obama, Iran, Israel, Japan, Joe Biden, Russia, South Korea at December 9th, 2013 - 9:04 am

As an Israeli Deputy Prime Minister recently stated (paraphrasing) “We have 2 1/2 more years of Obama, we need to hold out and then he will be gone”.

by Charles Krauthammer

Three crises, one president, many bewildered friends.

The first crisis, barely noticed here, is Ukraine’s sudden turn away from Europe and back to the Russian embrace.

After years of negotiations for a major trading agreement with the European Union, Ukraine succumbed to characteristically blunt and brutal economic threats from Russia and abruptly walked away. Ukraine is instead considering joining the Moscow-centered Customs Union with Russia’s fellow dictatorships Belarus and Kazakhstan.

This is no trivial matter. Ukraine is not just the largest European country, it’s the linchpin for Vladimir Putin’s dream of a renewed imperial Russia, hegemonic in its neighborhood and rolling back the quarter-century advancement of the “Europe whole and free” bequeathed by America’s victory in the Cold War.

The U.S. response? Almost imperceptible. As with Iran’s ruthlessly crushed Green Revolution of 2009, the hundreds of thousands of protesters who’ve turned out to reverse this betrayal of Ukrainian independence have found no voice in Washington. Can’t this administration even rhetorically support those seeking a democratic future, as we did during Ukraine’s Orange Revolution of 2004?

A Post online headline explains: “With Russia in mind, U.S. takes cautious approach on Ukraine unrest.” We must not offend Putin. We must not jeopardize Obama’s precious “reset,” a farce that has yielded nothing but the well-earned distrust of allies such as Poland and the Czech Republicwhom we wantonly undercut in a vain effort to appease Russia on missile defense.

[……]

The second crisis is the Middle East — the collapse of confidence of U.S. allies as America romances Iran.

The Gulf Arabs are stunned at their double abandonment. In the nuclear negotiations with Iran, the U.S. has overthrown seven years of Security Council resolutions prohibiting uranium enrichment and effectively recognized Iran as a threshold nuclear state. This follows our near-abandonment of the Syrian revolution and de facto recognition of both the Assad regime and Iran’s “Shiite Crescent” of client states stretching to the Mediterranean.

Equally dumbfounded are the Israelis, now trapped by an agreement designed less to stop the Iranian nuclear program than to prevent the Israeli Air Force from stopping the Iranian nuclear program.

[……..]

Better diplomacy than war, say Obama’s apologists, an adolescent response implying that all diplomacy is the same, as if a diplomacy of capitulation is no different from a diplomacy of pressure.

What to do? Apply pressure. Congress should immediately pass punishing new sanctions to be implemented exactly six months hence — when the current interim accord is supposed to end — if the Iranians have not lived up to the agreement and refuse to negotiate a final deal that fully liquidates their nuclear weapons program.

The third crisis is unfolding over the East China Sea, where, in open challenge to Obama’s “pivot to Asia,” China has brazenly declared a huge expansion of its airspace into waters claimed by Japan and South Korea.

Obama’s first response — sending B-52s through that airspace without acknowledging the Chinese — was quick and firm. Japan and South Korea followed suit. But when Japan then told its civilian carriers not to comply with Chinese demands for identification, the State Department (and FAA) told U.S. air carriers to submit.

[……]

Again leaving our friends stunned. They need an ally, not an intermediary. Here is the U.S. again going over the heads of allies to accommodate a common adversary. We should be declaring the Chinese claim null and void, ordering our commercial airlines to join Japan in acting accordingly, and supplying them with joint military escorts if necessary.

This would not be an exercise in belligerence but a demonstration that if other countries unilaterally overturn the status quo, they will meet a firm, united, multilateral response from the West.

Led by us. From in front.

No one’s asking for a JFK-like commitment to “bear any burden” to “assure the . . . success of liberty.” Or a Reaganesque tearing down of walls. Or even a Clintonian assertion of America as the indispensable nation. America’s allies are seeking simply a reconsideration of the policy of retreat that marks this administration’s response to red-line challenges all over the world — and leaves them naked.

Read the rest – Woe to U.S. Allies

Japan Launches Largest Warship since WWII

by Macker ( 44 Comments › )
Filed under Asia, China, Japan, North Korea, World War II at August 7th, 2013 - 12:00 pm

Escort Aircraft Carrier? Or Destroyer…as the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force calls her? You be the judge:

(CNN) — Japan on Tuesday unveiled its largest warship since World War II, an 820-foot-long, 19,500-ton flattop capable of carrying 14 helicopters, according to media reports.
The ship, named the Izumo, is classified as a helicopter destroyer, though its flattop design makes it look like an aircraft carrier.
But the Japanese Defense Ministry says the ship is not intended to be used as an aircraft carrier and will not be used to launch fighter jets, state broadcaster NHK reported.
The launch of the $1.2 billion warship at a Yokohama dockyard comes at a time of increased military tensions between Japan and China over disputed islands in the East China Sea.
“The destroyer is aimed at better responding to various contingencies in waters near Japan,” NHK reported.

Given the current dispute between Japan, China, and Taiwan over a certain island chain, and especially in light of the continued belligerence of North Korea, I can certainly understand Japan building and launching this ship. Coincidentally (?)…she was launched on the 68th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima.
Has the time now arrived for Japan to rearm itself?