Saturday, February 16, 2013

What Mattered This Week?

Well, it was SOTU week; that matters. On policy, I think the big question isn't whether Obama makes much progress on his preschool plan -- he probably won't -- but whether it starts moving up on the priority list of Democrats, which it certainly might.

It's hard to see how the North Korea nuke test matters.

That's what I have -- what about you? What do you think mattered this week?

21 comments:

  1. I think the North Korea matters a great deal.

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  2. Yeah - I mean I don't know if it matters or not, but I'm a little surprised to see it dismissed as just self-evidently trivial. Then again I'm not qualified to judge what matters in that arena. And probably there is enough info hidden from public view that even the qualified folks would only be guessing about what matters in international affairs.

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    1. Allow me to jump in with a rare instance of defending Jonathan here.

      I think he's saying THE TEST is what didn't matter. If I could further put words to his possible attitude, it would be that North Korea is what is: a medium-sized danger to itself and its region, capable at the worst of touching off a nuclear WW3 if both China and America screw up their diplomacy. Whether or not the test happened this week or last or next, whether it was 'better' or 'worse' than expected from various viewpoints, we already knew they were doing everything they could to get a nuke, and for the last decade have been essentially basing their diplomacy on blackmailing the world about their nuke ambitions.

      Yet in our wonderful world, North Korea is not as important as China or Mideast/GWOT problems in pure foreign affairs, and not as important as other larger, more life-altering problems such as the economy, or climate change.

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    2. Korea already has Nuclear weapons and already represent a very real threat to South Korea and Japan. These tests are of their weapon delivery system, as they are trying to extend their range. Some predict they will be able to reach the continental U.S. within a few years. This gives them political leverage (or blackmail) which they need in order to extort money from the U.S. (and allies). They depend on this type of funding because their government-controlled economy is/has-been an abysmal failure.

      So these tests are only important if you care about the future well being of the people in Japan and South Korea (perhaps the U.S. in a few years). If that's not important to you, then these tests really don't matter.

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    3. I'm slightly cranky about your implication that I care not for the future welfare of any of the earth's citizens (cf. 50 pages of material at my site).

      We're saying "glass-half full/glass-half empty versions" of the same analysis. I started by saying that North Korea is a medium-sized danger to itself and its region. They are already deep in the blackmail game you place in the future. There is probably no possible scenario for the unwinding of the North Korean regime which does not present the danger of, at least, some transfer of income away from South Korean and Japanese citizens, and possibly sudden influxes of desperate and ill-prepared refugees, or worse. Yet again, if the blackmailer ever resorts to violence he doesn't get paid, he gets retaliated against (by overwhelmingly powerful adversaries). So a violent ending is unlikely, unless both American and Chinese diplomacies are extremely negligent/incompetent.

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    4. Well, it is rocket science, which is not known to be easy. North Korea has a well-earned reputation for starving their populace, not educating them in the scientific method. So there's always the possibility somebody's making money putting on a show for a boy king.

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    5. Some people on the technical side are concerned about the latest nuke test to the extent that it may represent progress toward a smaller, more deliverable device, although as far as I know we only have their word for it that it was smaller. (This was not a test of a delivery system per se, though you could say that about the satellite launch last December.)

      Personally, I hoping that Kim Jong Un used it to establish his bona fides as a bad ass, and having done so he will now move on to some other subject. But I freely admit that this is wishful thinking.

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    6. Perhaps my implication was terse Ron, but I think we disagree on the significance of these rocket tests......which is fine, many probably see it as you do. Many view the retaliation threat as an equal deterrent which balances out their threat of attack. Personally, I think looking at it that way is very risky, even dangerous. The reason being, the greater their range capability, the greater the threat, and the more presence they have on the global stage. Anonymous is right in that much of their rocket science has been faulty, and that their progress has been slow. Yet, they have still shown progress over time......in fact, great progress in the last two-three years. So we have to face the inevitability of a world where North Korea can hit any nation in the Pacific with an ICBM.

      Another possibility to consider is North Korea's support for Iran and other rouge states. Or even worse, North Korea selling their technology to the highest bidder. These possibilities could mark the age of a MUCH more dangerous world than the one we live in today.

      So your estimation that North Korean is a medium-size danger, well that might be accurate for now. But that assessment fails to convey the growing threat we face in the next few years, or the risk of proliferation.

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    7. The tests matter in that they give the world outside an idea about whether N Korea can make good on their threat and they also give N Korea an idea about whether what they are doing to make te bomb is working.

      What they appear to have is a low yield Fat Man style Plutonium bomb that didn't fizzle, so it was built correctly. However that type of bomb would be difficult to deliver by aircraft without being shot down.

      It doesn't seem like they're anywhere near making a thermonuclear device, which would have yielded 20-100 times the amount energy. They don't have a working rocket system yet. And judging by the length of time between tests, and the fact that they're not using a large amount of nuclear material, it seems like they're system for creating weapons grade stuff is not giving them a large amount of material.

      So it's troubling, but not Cuban Missile panic time, even if you're on the West coast if they ever get their rockets working properly.

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    8. The last time North Korea claimed to have Nuclear Weapons, their missile didn't even make it off the ground.

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  3. Maybe the asteroids will matter if they prompt the US and other nations to build detection systems which someday allow us to prevent extinction event asteroid collisions.

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  4. I think the Carnival cruise ship fiasco mattered. What else could have gotten CNN good ratings for the first time in the millenium?...

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  5. It now takes 60 votes to get a Secretary of Defense, that matters. Also we have hard evidence that filibuster reform was a total failure. There were some good economic numbers and the Senate will get younger with Lautenberg retiring.

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  6. Yeah the Hagel filibuster matters. My bet is that before you know it 60 votes will be required for all executive and judicial branch appointments. Thanks for nothing, Harry.

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    1. Eh. We already knew 60 votes were required for all nominations.

      And as for reform...the reform they actually did, as well as Merkley/Udall, were specifically designed for the cases in which the opposition had fewer than 41 votes. So this doesn't really have anything to do with that.

      Now, if you want to say that it reminds everyone about the 60 vote Senate, and may convince some people who didn't understand what we have...sure.

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  7. The Pope's resignation matters.

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  8. The new medals being given to drone operators.

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/feb/15/pentagon-uproar-over-panetta-medal-drone-operators/

    Also on the drone front, Rand Paul's announcement that he will put a hold on Brennan until he answers questions regarding the legality of drone attacks within US borders.

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  9. I second the State of the Union and the Hagel filibuster as what mattered most last week.

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  10. This week, Scott Monje continued his ongoing obsession with Benghazi.

    http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2013/02/10/benghazi-adequate-security-and-reporting-what-you-know-before-you-know-it/

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  11. It's definitely notable that international monetary policy coordination has maintained its ambiguous middle-ground stance of neither major course corrections creating positive-sum equilibriums, nor open and out-of-control antagonism. In other words, not much new came out of either the G7 summit last week or the G20 summit this week, which means current policies were tacitly ratified -- no one saw it as in their interest to make a big stink one way or the other. So "little news" was notable news in itself.

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  12. A double whammy for asteroids -- first the predicted close call for 2012 DA14, and secondly the unpredicted smash in the Urals. Not that these were as immediately as pertinent as the Pope's resignation or North Korea's nuclear explosion, but we do live in a solar system (and even a universe) in which things important to our existence occur which are not determined by politics, and it's well to be reminded of that occasionally.

    We even have several space programs on this earth, with eventual promise for imposing human purposes on the heavens, which are more often spoken of than funded. But I suppose that's another topic.

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