Monday, March 21, 2011

• Japan – A Need Of Friends In The Aftermath

We have observed the graphic images of the Japanese and their nation, succumbing to the overwhelming forces of nature destroying lives, infrastructure, and economy.

In a couple of years the currents of the Pacific and prevailing winds will scatter debris across North America’s shores. Those will be reminders of the life changing devastation and very human tragedy that has been, since that infamous day March 11, holding Japan in a state of shock. Who will Japan look to as it rebuilds.

The world’s third largest economy, and America’s second largest debt holder, is being battered with power shortages and supply-chain difficulties that impact production of its principal exports, as concern grows that nuclear contamination could affect its food supply system, and its water sources. Japan is very aware that such a calamity, the reality of which has been literally slammed into its consciousness, will tax all of its emotional, spiritual and economic reserves. Japan also understands that in this time of confusion, and catastrophe, while it welcomes help from foreign shores, it knows that it is in a very lonely place.

Japan’s dependence on nuclear energy is not about to change since it is devoid of natural resources, and nuclear has presented the best insulation from the vagaries of the oil fields of the Middle East. Once Japan has had a chance to mourn its dead and heal its injured, and once it has answered the needs of over half a million new homeless, it will revisit its vulnerabilities. The dedication, work ethic and pride, which created the ingenuity behind the high quality products which the world markets clamored for and absorbed, will address itself to the question of self-sufficiency with renewed vigor.

Japan will launch its considerable wealth and industry to solving a breadth of weaknesses that recent events highlighted. It will address itself to long-term solutions for its energy needs, as well as the fragility of its food and water supplies. In a dramatic shift from the past half-century’s regressed strategy on defense and military, we can expect Japan to take strong strides toward more military self-reliance. For now, it welcomes all the help it can get including that of foreign companies who have already contributed significant funds to the relief effort.

As the state of the art USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier along with other U.S. ships in the region provide welcomed humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, the Japanese cannot help but be touched, even inspired, by the indomitable American spirit of the Sailors and Marines who have donated and collected goods and supplies, personally augmenting the official relief effort. This touching and much needed accomplishment, in the face of the monumentally devastating crush of one of America’s truly best and closest allies, served to balance the impoverished tone and shapeless delivery of, “Our hearts go out to our friends in Japan and across the region, and we’re going to stand with them as they recover and rebuild from this tragedy” from the Obama White House teleprompter – then, exit stage left for Rio.

The whole of the Japanese population is looking inward for strength, but in its isolation it will also look to friends for support through the next few years of rebuilding and restoration. Fortunately, there exists an American population, far from the self-absorption of Washington that the people of Japan can look to for a confirmation on the meaning of friendship.

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Friday, March 4, 2011

• Leadership And The Middle East Crisis

In one generation our world has shrunk immeasurably, yet it has also exploded unrecognizably. The Internet and the social media superimposed on it has claimed responsibility for igniting revolutions and/or demonstrations throughout Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Oman and Bahrain.

Overthrown governments in Tunisia and Egypt are a problem, however, revolutions in countries such as strategically critical Libya and Bahrain present a whole different set of even more troubling uncertainties. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and United Arab Emirates are implementing measures to snuff out those potential fires of unrest by “buying” segments of their populations before they get out of control.

Saudi Arabia increased salaries to public employees by 15% and made claims that it will improve education, infrastructure and healthcare through the trickling of $36 billion down through Saudi society – from the top. The Saudi pre-emptive strike is a short-term plug in a leaky dyke holding back unrest it doesn’t understand, and blames on foreign disruptive forces. It’s king and ruling family lack the capacity to ignite the entrepreneurial or creative innovation required to build a country for long term success.

Countries that are currently home to 2/3 of known crude reserves are now unstable, and have escalating conflicts that will further the bloodshed in the streets. It doesn’t take a crystal ball to foresee continuing rises in oil prices which will in turn feed the monster of inflation to affect prices of most products and foods around the world.

Through the sandstorms of all uprisings there are religious forces influencing the fighting, particularly Shiites colliding with Sunnis. We should be particularly concerned with evolving conflicts on the streets of Bahrain, where a Sunni king rules a 70% Shiite population. Bahrain is the banking capital of the Persian Gulf. The U.S. Fifth Fleet, which is responsible for the naval forces in the Persian Gulf and the whole regions, is based on the island. Bahrain’s strategic importance is immeasurable. Shiite Iran which has long funded and armed insurgencies occurring amongst its Muslim neighbors is just a stone’s throw across the pond, while Sunni Saudi Arabia is a walk across the 16 mile causeway, but Saudi Arabia’s Eastern province with a Shiite majority, holds critical oil production facilities.

There are parallels in perspectives that exist between the House of Saud and the Administration in the White House, and should either or both continue to proceed in denial, there are outcomes that will negatively impact the populations of the two countries.

Both the House of Saud and the Obama administration are attempting to purchase support of their respective populations. Such measures are very temporary, stopgap solutions rooted in ignorance. Both ignore reality. King Abdullah heaving bushels of dollars out his palace windows, briefly quieting the simmering discontent he doesn’t understand, and Obama’s stubborn refusal to listen to the message bellowed from America’s streets through the midterm election bullhorns, suggests confusion at the top in both countries.

The current United States leadership appears conflicted between choosing the objective of championing America’s propensity to uphold principles of freedom and democracy, and maintaining stability in the region. Those are not mutually exclusive missions for the Middle East, yet any breakdown of decisive direction and action will provide Iranian leadership an opportunity to expand it footholds from which to spread its religious doctrine of hate and slaughter across the Middle East.

A majority of any population does not want handouts – this truism applies in America, and it applies in Saudi Arabia, as well as Bahrain. As we have witnessed, it also applies in the streets of Teheran. People seek safety, freedom, dignity, transparency, and justice, within which they can actuate the lives they pursue for themselves and their families. A transition to more open governance is inevitable. It will take decisive leadership from the West to ensure that such freedom is provided and maintained in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

We may soon reach a point when America will be forced to draw a line around Bahrain’s sands. American presence must not leave Bahrain’s shores, and Bahrain cannot fall to extremist interests. It certainly cannot be allowed to slide under an Iranian manipulated extremist thumb. Stability in these critical countries across the Middles East will have positive impact on the West, and the Obama White House will have to demonstrate some heretofore obscure measures of resolve.

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