The Torah is the Old Testament. The Talmud is a long, multi-volume series of rabbinic commentaries and applications of the Torah, as well as general discussions of philosophy, ethics, etc. Think of it as THE Jewish blog, with lots of manual links and comments spaced over a couple thousand years, plus unnoted commentary and arguments by all who study it. "The Essence of Judaism: On Teaching Judaism to Seventh Graders" is an entertaining explanation of how this process goes. Pirkei Avot (loosely, "The Wisdom of the Fathers") is the most frequently read and translated Talmud volume, since it deals only with general morals, ethics, and philosophy, and spends little to no time on halacha (Jewish law). That reach gives it an arguable place among the Great Books of civilization.
As a surprising demonstration of that reach, it turns out that the Talmud (I strongly suspect it's mostly Pirkei Avot) enjoys near-universal distribution in South Korea, of all places:
"Almost every house in South Korea has a translated Talmud. But unlike Israel, even Korean mothers study it and read from it to their young children. Yes, in a country of almost 49 million people, many of whom believe in Buddhism and Christianity, there are more people who read the Talmud - or at least have a copy of it at home - than in the Jewish state."
Turns out there's a reason for this...
"We were very curious about the Jews' outstanding academic achievements," explains South Korean Ambassador to Israel Young Sam Ma, who was a guest on Channel 1's "Culture Today" show.... We tried to understand the secret of the Jewish people. How do they - more than other nations - manage to reach such impressive achievements?... Jews read the Talmud from an early age, and we believe it helps them develop great abilities. This understanding led us to the conclusion that we should also teach children Talmud.... Young says he himself has been reading the Talmud since a very early age."
Beyondf the "In Search of Excellence" motif, Korea's own Confucian values also find strong echoes in the Talmud and Pirkei Avot - a phenomenon that has been noticed here when Jewish and Asian families have children who date. Promise of academic excellence + cultural affinity + curiosity of a foreign import... well, say no more.
Though I might venture to say a little bit more. "The Essence of Judaism: On Teaching Judaism to Seventh Graders" explains the essence of the part that goes beyond the book:
"In the following week, I begin with the semi-solemn warning that "now we are going to do something really difficult," and I recite the story of the physicist I.L. Rabi, who, when asked to explain his success as a physicist, attributed it to his mother, who each day when Rabi came home from school asked him not what he learned that day, but "did you ask a good question today?" 2 The assignment, then, was to ask three good questions about Judaism but not simple question of fact..."
You can read the Talmud, but without that kind of questioning engagement, it will lose the ingredients that made their way so strongly into Western culture, as they merged with the intrinsic ethics of science to form a larger whole.
Mind you, the Koreans are doing a pretty good job, beyond even the consumer items we've all become so familiar with. Not a lot of people realize this yet, but they're close to doing things in the defense arena that mirror Hyundai's auto success: designing and delivering capable, well thought out, reasonably priced alternatives. I expect we'll be hearing more about this in the years to come, as their land, air, and even naval products start gaining export traction.
Meanwhile, I've been noticing increased Israeli defense cooperation with South Korea for a few years now. Long-range Green Pine radars will become the anchor of South Korea's ballistic missile warning/defense system, they're buying Elbit's Skylark-II UAVs, an Israeli radar looks set to equip their locally-designed fighters and possibly their F-16s, etc. On the flip side, Israel looks set to buy Korea's supersonic T-50 Golden Eagles to replace its Skyhawk trainers, and probably serve a secondary fighters for the IAF.
I never thought there was more to it than mutual need, and a somewhat similar problem set. But, as usual, it seems there's more. And now you know the rrrrest of the story.
Der Speigel has spent a lot of time putting the pieces together regarding Israel's September 2007 air strike that destroyed the Syrian-Iranian-North Korean reactor at Al-Kibar. Their report makes for very interesting, even compelling, reading.
The short answer: take everything the Western powers tell you, do the opposite, and ignore them when they complain. From Indian Defence Review:
A few thoughts here.
One is that this model applies best to domestic or contiguous terror or guerilla fights, because those sorts of fights are the most existential, and control of territory for however long it takes is an inherent requirement. That doesn't mean it's impossible to apply to foreign fights, but the question must then be asked: "what for?" There's an answer in a colonialist framework, and there are answers within punitive expedition frameworks (like, "we're going to flatten towns involved in Somali piracy"). I'm not sure the Rajapaksa Model would translate in a place like Afghanistan, though elements of it could still be useful.
Another observation I'll make is the unspoken factor of Sri Lanka's cultivation of China as an alternate source of arms, removing dependency on (and hence pressure from) western suppliers.
That "no dependency" imperative is one I'm already seeing come to the fore in places like Indonesia and Brazil. Sri Lanka's experiences just add more fuel to an emerging consensus that the Western/UN approach just breeds disorder and failure. Now throw in the proliferation of new/revamped defense exporters around the globe in countries like China, Russia, South Korea, Turkey, Brazil, South Africa, et. al. Put that together, and I expect to see more countries take the Sri Lankan approach. The days of Western arms embargoes meaning much, or accomplishing much beyond costing Western jobs, are coming to a close.
Speaking of India, their naval intelligence cooperation, which allowed Sri Lanka to shatter the Tamils' supply network, adds an interesting wrinkle. At the distances involved, it looks like India used its fleet of TU-95 "Bear" long-range maritime patrol aircraft. Those could be considered a strategic national asset, so it was obviously a high priority task. The Tamil Tigers assassinated Rajiv Ghandi back when, so it's not surprising that there might be a bit of a grudge. As paybacks go, this turned out to be a pretty good one.
By the mid-2010s, when India has its new 737-derived P-8i patrol aircraft and a fleet of 3 carriers, it will be positioned to do this sort of thing in an arc extending from the Straits of Malacca to Suez and South Africa.
Read my 2002 post "Pipeline Politics: The Caspian Front" for an intro, and "NATO's German/Eastern Question" to understand the limits of American power and influence. Now, RIA Novosti RussiaProfile.org's July 24/09 "Russia Profile Weekly Experts Panel: A Battle of the Pipelines"...
"The last three weeks have been rich in developments in the unfolding "battle of the pipelines" to supply natural gas to Europe. Russia, the EU and the United States are locked in a tough struggle to secure domination over the natural gas supply lines to Europe from Russia and Central Asia. Why is there such heated competition for building alternative gas pipelines to Europe? What are Russia's objectives in the "battle of the pipelines"? What are the EU and American objectives? Why is the United States trying to play such an active role in decisions that will not in any way affect the energy supplies to the United States?"
Pakistan gets all of the attention these days, because (a) it has nukes; and (b) its territory has become al-Qaeda's primary global base, as that organization wages an insurgency that aims to topple Pakistan's government, as well as Afghanistan's.
On India's eastern flank, the Islamization of Bangladesh has also been covered here. But that is not not the country's only problem.
The recent mutiny of their Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) border troops offered one glimpse into the state's other problems, and incidentally highlights the low likelihood of successful long-term resistance by the government to any sort of dedicated insurgency.
That's more India's strategic problem at the moment than it is America's. But other countries around the world make important decisions, India is one of them, and it's good to keep an eye on these things.
Ukranian President Victor Yushchenko discusses recent events in Georgia, in "Georgia and The Stakes For Ukraine." Note especially this quote:
"The tragic events in Georgia also exposed the lack of effective preventive mechanisms by the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and other international organizations."
They're only exposed if anyone was stupid enough to believe in them in the first place, against all available evidence. See also Poland's foreign minister, Radek Sikorski:
"Parchments and treaties are all very well, but we have a history in Poland of fighting alone and being left to our own devices by our allies."
Russia's actions have even prompted renewed debate in Sweden and Finland about joining NATO. Speaking of Finland, Max Boot makes a very different point. Eastern Europe, including the Ukraine, has the means to defend itself...
The 2 Approaches
Ultimately, there are only 2 approaches when one is faced by a larger neighbor or Great Power at one's doorstep, with designs on one's territory or regime.
Option #1 is acquiescence to its policy demands. Libya is a good modern example of how that doesn't always come out badly. They came clean on a nuclear/biochemical WMD program that was further along than the CIA thought, dismantled it transparently, and openly addressed their previous involvement in terrorist acts. Response: growing integration into the international community, regime still in power - probably with a big infusion of new French military equipment pretty soon.
If the Great Power is inflexibly predatory, however, as China was with Tibet and Russia has been with Georgia, we come to option #2: making it too expensive for the Great Power or hostile neighbour to force the issue. In other words, deterrence.
Diplomacy is a viable tool in this regard. Mongolia, for instance, is fated to balance perilously between Russia and China. As the threat from one grows, its best hope is usually to tilt toward the other and hope to play them off. Robert Kaplan's excellent book Imperial Grunts has a whole chapter on American efforts in Mongolia. The USA acknowledges the reality that America can't save Mongolia if it comes to that. So they work to make the Mongolians more capable on their own, while improving ties with other nations via participation in UN peacekeeping missions et. al. That's certainly no guarantee, as Georgia demonstrates, but better something than nothing.
Note, however, that the tools for option 2 are weighed as (capability x likelihood of capability being used). Which is why Yushchenko's assessment is an absolute killer for the UN or OECD as a solution to any serious security issue. Likelihood of effective response approaches zero. Likelihood of their effectiveness for anything involving Russia? Zero. And any number times zero is... that's right, zero.
Might as well just admit this up front. Even as we admit that there are no guarantees in international relations.
Incidentally, that lack of guarantees is why "prevention" as a geopolitical doctrine is a simple impossibility. At some point, in some places, prevention will always fail or break down. What then?
This leads us to Max Boot's point re: defense expenditures. Singapore, which rightly distrusts its neighbours, spends about 5-6% of GDP on defense as a matter of policy, and uses a total mobilization concept as the core of its defense organization. So, too, do the Israelis. Switzerland spends less on defense these days, but keeps the total mobilization concept. Finland employed a similar model when it bloodied the Soviet Union so badly in the early days of World War 2 that the Russians decided to settle for a lot less (vid. the term "Finlandization"), declare victory, and leave.
There are, of course, no guarantees here. It takes only one to start a fight, and war is a chancy business. Conventional wars are won in part by smart planning, acquisition, and training, but they also frequently turn on chance and unforseen circumstances.
Those include personalities, which can vary in ruthlessness and determination. Joe Stalin takes a back seat to no-one in that area, but a million or so Russian casualties in Finland gave even Stalin pause. Not that he really cared about a million lives; he killed 20-30 times that many. But he did have all those other countries he had seized during the war. Finland could not be allowed to become a potential problem that would tie up so many Russian troops in perpetuity, and perhaps serve as an example to others. The Finns had raised the stakes high enough to give themselves more options.
On the flip side, Poland had tried the same thing, from a weaker position. Soviet treachery during the Warsaw Uprising, and massacres of Poles in the Katyn Forest, left the country with little will to resist, and no successes to hang on to. As a result, it was treated like the other East Bloc acquisitions. It would be almost 30 years before Lech Walesa's Solidarnosc organization and a Polish Pope could fan those flames again, under more fortunate external circumstances.
On the asymmetric side, guerilla insurgencies often fail, despite the romanticism and myth associated with them - unless strongly backed by a capable outside power. And even that offers no guarantees.
Despite the best co-belligerent efforts of Islamists and the Left on various fronts of the war, for instance, America is now close to victory in Iraq. In large part, this is thanks to its Islamist opponents' essential barbarism. It also stems from the American military's growing understanding that the real terrain it was fighting on was social networks in a pervasively armed society. America also won in the Philippines, the British won in Malaysia and Oman, et cetera. Despite American efforts, the Sandinistas weren't really losing their grip in Nicaragua until their backer the Soviet Union collapsed. Et cetera.
Russia's victory in Chechnya, in contrast, stemmed from a extremely brutal approach of scorched earth tactics and assassination squads. Russia has used these tactics before, during the Basmachi revolts in Central Asia in the 1920. They worked then, and the just worked again. In between, Stinger anti-aircraft missiles probably did more than anything else to derail a similar campaign that was succeeding in Afghanistan. As part of a more strictly internal campaign, Guatemala has won with the same kinds of tactics during the 1970s and 1980s. Nor are they alone in doing so successfully.
As I say, insurgencies can fail. Sometimes, they fail for internal reasons. Sometimes, the other side is simply ruthless and determined enough to crush them.
I keep hammering on this, because so few people understand it. There are no guarantees in the field of human conflict. Only a set of fuzzy "Schrodinger's percentages" that live within broad limits, and truly coalesce only when put to a test.
Defense and the Economy
Not that plans for guerilla warfare are useless. Pre-planning for a total mobilization concept can indeed raise the stakes. Max Boot's suggestion re: having lots of anti-tank rockets and portable anti-air missiles in Russia's neighbors would indeed increase the danger factor for Putin, by creating a pool of sophisticated weapons that could be taken and used in a crisis. Stocking them is also relatively cheap, so it's possible to increase a country's deterrent capability with a quick jump.
Boot is not wrong, therefore; but he isn't wholly right, either.
Shoulder-fired rockets and missiles are not sufficient on their own. For instance, Russian armies have always put a lot of emphasis on artillery, and it isn't the modern American approach of "GMLRS rocket fired from 50 miles away takes out an al-Qaeda safe house, while leaving its next-door neighbours standing." It's more like the rolling carpet/ corridor clearance approach used in Grozny, and by the Americans themselves during urban fighting in World War 2. Unlike Afghanistan, many of Russia's neighbours have terrain that's well suited to this approach.
Solutions to that kind of problem tend to involve alliances, necessarily backed by more conventional forms of local military power. Buying that backup requires money.
This was a problem for Finland in 1939, whose troops referred to their obsolete equipment as "Model Cajander" after the idiot Prime Mister who cut military funding in the 1930s. Fortunately, they could all ski cross-country, and had the option of sucking in their enemy and attacking during the winter snows. But their "Winter War" was a full conventional army battle with a lot of commando-style operations, not an insurgency.
Right now, Boot points out that Bulgaria is one of just 4 NATO states with GDP% defense expenditures over 2% (USA near 4%, Britain and France near 2.5%, Bulgaria just above 2%). Most of western Europe is near or below 1%, actually, while Eastern Europe is usually in the 1.5-2% region.
Clearly, that won't build a deterrent. Problem is, if you're Bulgaria, even 4% would be limited in terms of what it buys. Would it help? Yes. 10 years from now? Well, it depends. To create credible deterrents for the long term, these countries need money in their economies, as well as a higher budgetary priority for defense.
That's true now. It will become more true later.
The Future Threat
Russia under Putin is and will be a predator state. Period. The bad news is, its combination of resources and successful leverage in its own geographic back-yard means it's going to have lots more money to spend on weapons and other tools of predation.
The good news is that it has a whole arms industry to rebuild first, because it lost almost all of its engineers in the 1990s collapse. Once orders go away, people find new jobs, and you rarely get them back later. Especially since oil & gas are more attractive careers for Russian engineers these days. But Czar Putin I intends to rebuild that industry over the next decade, in a country where his intention is effectively law. He will do so, and the budgets to catalyze and take advantage of that rebuilding are beginning already.
For Eastern Europe, therefore, and for larger Central Asian neighbours like Kazakhstan, growing their economies must also be a long term priority, so that they'll still be able to keep pace a decade from now.
Personally, I thought that given their history with Russia, the Ukranians were crazy to give up the nuclear weapons on their territory after the USSR collapsed. That would have been the complete equalizer, right there. But they did it, and it's water under the bridge. Mr. Yushchenko will have to do this the hard way instead. If he can.
If I was the Ukraine, I'd definitely be looking at boosting the defense budget right now, especially around the anti-tank and anti-air missiles their Soviet legacy industries already make. I'd also diversify my foreign suppliers with a particular focus on finding some Turkish firms and partnerships to deal with, and make separate deals that would add modern diesel-electric submarines with ship-killing missiles as an asymmetric conventional threat.
Longer term, however, Ukraine's prosperity requires integration into Europe's industrial and agricultural markets. If you've ever seen pictures, you'll understand why the Ukraine has been Europe's bread basket for centuries - and also how hard Stalin must have worked to starve 6-7 million Ukranians, while the NY Times covered it up. That trade income will be needed to keep pace with a resource-rich Russia, and ensure Ukranian independence over the long haul.
So, yes, spend some more on defense, as Max Boot suggests, and make the case to your people as to why. After all, "Model Cajander" stuff won't cut it when push comes to shove, just as the UN and lies about a mythical "international community" will provide zero protection against Russia.
Even so, Viktor Yuschenko's most important initiative for the Ukraine may not be NATO membership (which looks very doubtful) - but EU membership. In his case, it's also (to quote James Carville) "the economy, stupid".
Which is why American policies that recognize this element via bilateral free trade agreements with countries like Poland, the Ukraine, et. al. are just as important as any military aid or equipment we may choose to send.
Winds of Change has a strong tradition of value-added pieces (thinking, not just linking), but in this case Andy McCarthy at National Review Online's The Corner has already said what I want to, and I wouldn't add anything. So click and read it all (it's short): Hate To Break This To You: Moderate Isn't Mainstream and Extremist Isn't Radical (link)
"In Indonesia, which sport's the world's largest Muslim population, the Associated Press reports that the government (in yet another of these Islamic "democracies" that "guarantees freedom of religion") has ordered a "moderate" Muslim sect to return to the "mainstream" of Islam or risk imprisonment for debasing Islam."
"The 300 strong battalion was formed for service in the south, where the Moslem population gets really angry if male soldiers search or manhandle their women. But there were also problems with pro-terrorist Moslem women carrying out demonstrations to provide cover for male terrorists. The Moslem women rioters would make a big media stink if they were dispersed by male soldiers or police. So the army asked for volunteers and soon had 300 women rangers. Some were widows or daughters of men killed in the south, or elsewhere in army service. But most were just women looking for something a little different."
The useless (to the Tibetans) charade of visiting the Dalai Lama
"If freedom-loving people throughout the world do not speak out about Chinese repression in China and Tibet" Nancy Pelosi said, "we have lost all moral authority to speak on behalf of human rights anywhere in the world".
She may not be exaggerating. But the issue is not about the freedom-loving people of the world, who are already speaking up against Chinese repression in Tibet.
The issue is of ostensibly freedom-loving governments and political leaders of the world, who are not. It is all very well for the Speaker of the US House of Representatives to travel half-way around the world and stand beside the Dalai Lama at this time. It plays well to the world's television cameras and to Ms Pelosi's constituents back in America. But by way of meaningful support for the Tibetan struggle, it means little. On the contrary, it will allow China's Communist party to project the Tibetan protests as part of an American conspiracy to shame China.
If she really wanted to support the Dalai Lama's struggle, she needn't even have made the trip to Dharamsala. Perhaps the US Congress could have adopted a stern resolution. Perhaps American congressmen could try and compel the Bush administration to be blunt in its criticism of China. And perhaps (yes, we're stretching it), freedom-loving American legislators could compel the Bush administration to do something about it.
No, Ms Pelosi and US legislators are not doing that. Regardless of their sincerity, they are content to only put up another show of the dismal political theatre. At the Tibetans' expense. Ms Pelosi could have spared us this act.
In December 2003, Japan decided to upgrade their 4 existing Kongo Class AEGIS Destroyers and their SPY-1D radars to full AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense capability. Installations are scheduled for 2007 through 2010, and each installation will be followed by a flight test to demonstrate proper operation. They will fire the naval SM-3 Standard missile, which is under co-development as part of cooperation with the USA on missile defense. These ships will form the outer layer of Japan's anti ballistic missile shield, with the land-based Patriot PAC-3 forming the point defense component.
It would appear that the first-of-class ship JS Kongo [DDG-173] is also the first Japanese ship to have the BMD upgrade installed. Cue the flight test, as JS Kongo visits Pearl Harbor, then becomes the first Japanese ship to destroy a ballistic missile....
On Dec 17/07 at 12:05 pm Hawaii time, a medium-range ballistic missile target was fired from the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. JS Kongo responded by tracking it and launching an SM-3 Block 1A missile at 12:08 pm. At 12:11pm, it destroyed the missile about 100 miles above the ocean, achieving a first for Japan and the 12th successful intercept overall for the SM-3 ABM program. The American cruiser and ABM test veteran Lake Erie [CG 70] monitored the test, tracking the incoming missile with its own AEGIS BMD and exchanging information with a land-based THAAD ABM unit on Kauai.
The test reportedly cost about $50 million, and comes just days after a Japanese navy lieutenant commander was arrested for leaking classified information about Japan's ballistic missile defense system. US MDA release [PDF] | US MDA video footage [Windows Media] | Lockheed Martin release | Raytheon release | Boeing | Honolulu Advertiser | Associated Press via MSNBC | Voice of America | China's Xinhua | Times of India