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NightWatch 20131126

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NightWatch

For the night of 26 November 2013

China-US: A pair of US B-52 bombers carried out a pre-planned training flight mission on 26 November through international air space designated last week as an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) by China. The aircraft took off from Guam and flew in the Chinese ADIZ without complying with Chinese rules and without incident.

"The United States military will continue conducting flight operations in the region, including with our allies and partners," said a US military spokesman. "We will not in any way change how we conduct our operations as a result of the Chinese policy of establishing an ADIZ.

Comment: As the Alliance leader, the B-52 flight set the standard for non-compliance with the Chinese rules for all US Allies. The Buff flight was timely and appropriate. The Chinese are not prepared to challenge a US military aircraft flight.

The ADIZ is directed mainly at Japan. Thus, the Chinese might not back down from challenging a Japanese or South Korean military flight, but the precedent is for non-compliance by Allied military aircraft.

Would the Chinese challenge a Republic of China air force flight over the Senkaku islands?

Japan Reacts. On 25 November Prime Minister Abe told the Upper House Audit Committee, "The government has worked in close cooperation with the United States, Japan's ally, to deal with China's latest act. We also plan to cooperate with concerned countries and partners. Japan and the international community will jointly urge China to practice restraint."

In this way, the prime minister stressed his intention to form an "international alliance" against China in response to China's unilateral establishment of the ADIZ. He plans to discuss the issue with US Vice President Joe Biden when the vice president visits Japan in early December.

Comment: The blowback from China's declaration of an ADIZ might be more than China expected. It has the potential to forge a regional alliance of opposed states whose coordinated military capabilities would far exceed those of China, even without US military participation.

The prospect of Japan building an alliance of anti-Chinese Asian states would represent a reversal of history. It also would mean the communist ideologists in Beijing have misread the themes of history that portend the inevitability of Chinese dominance in Asia.

General comment: President Xi Jinping appears to be much more orthodox and doctrinaire in his communism than any of his recent predecessors. His moves to proclaim and then assert Chinese sovereignty lack style, subtlety or good judgment. He is a man on a mission, the Chinese Dream.

The implications of that will become increasingly clear in many other domains of Chinese national life. In relations with China's neighbors, it means China is a bully in its behavior, irrespective of its words. More pertinently, Xi's straight forward approach to problem solving can lead to a military confrontation with one or more of China's neighbors.

China-Southeast Asia: For the record. China sent its aircraft carrier on a training mission into the South China Sea on 26 November. The timing of the show of force reinforces its diplomats' assertions of sovereignty.

Thailand: Thailand's governing party accused protesters on Tuesday of fomenting anarchy and trying to overthrow the government after thousands of people swarmed the streets of Bangkok, besieging key ministries and threatening to take their campaign nationwide.

A vote of confidence against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is set for 28 November.

Comment: The government's accusations are accurate. The opposition does want to overthrow the government and might succeed. Anti-government protests have taken place in Bangkok for three weeks.

The protestors charge Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra with acting as a proxy for her brother Thaksin, a business tycoon who was overthrown by a military coup in 2006. The Shinawatras are not beloved of the Thai royal family because their political base is rural, populist farmers.

Thailand is becoming a textbook study of the flaws of elected government. If this government is overthrown, it would be the second Shinawatra-led government to win the popular vote in elections during the past ten years, but prove unable, if not unsuitable, to govern the cities and to satisfy the monarchy.

Syria: Military. Another major battle is taking place on the south-north road from Damascus to Homs. According to rebel reports some 5,000 jihadists and other anti-government forces are trying to recapture areas which government forces seized in the last two weeks in the offensive in the Qalamoun Mountains. Press sources report 300 men dead in the fighting thus far.

Comment: A primary tactical objective of Soviet/Syrian military doctrine is to draw the enemy into presenting a center of mass for easy destruction by air power and artillery. That appears to be the opportunity that the rebels have presented to the government and its allies in the rebel counter-attack. It portends a tactical disaster for the rebels.

Politics. The military leader of the Free Syrian Army said it will not attend the Geneva talks in January 2014 because conditions are not appropriate for talks, which means the Free Syrian Army is getting beaten and has no political leverage.

Another Syrian opposition coalition also announced that it rejected the proposal that the western-backed Syrian Opposition Coalition would represent all the groups fighting in Syria.

France-Central African Republic: Update. France will send some 1,000 soldiers to the Central African Republic for six months to support an African peacekeeping force, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Europe 1 radio.

France made the announcement to help stop brutal attacks by allegedly pro-government militias against villages. France already has about 400 troops in the Central African Republic.

Comment: Thus far, there are no reports that jihadists are influencing the lawless militias. Still, France can't escape the burdens of empire, despite policy assertions to the contrary. The US is the only other country who can help. The USAF and Africa Command almost certainly will support the French directly with airlift and indirectly by assuming more tasks in Mali.

End of NightWatch for 26 November.

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