Why Study Madeiran

It is a rainy Saturday afternoon and all my outside chores where put on hold. Time to clean my desk and my computer of saved “stuff”. The mere thought of the process has overwhelmed me.

The mid-East has made the word “nightmare” too mild an adjective. And the headlines take me from the news that there has been the first human head transplant to the announcement that we (our Government) has spent 1 trillion dollars (that’s a lot of zeros) on our homeland security. And as I note to myself that I do not feel any safer by any standard, a family questions pops up. Grandson number 2 is off to college and the question passed around is– should he continue his study of Madeiran as part of his core studies in his first year in college. Most of those polled say: No. Why continue with such a difficult Chinese language. His brother and I say: Yes. I am not sure our reasons are the same.

The Mid-East is a burning inferno with more crossed signals that one could have anticipated. The shifting of allies and the increased intensity of the violence produced by our enemies has created confusion and discouragement simultaneously. Why are we continuing to bother to attempt to change the hearts and minds of people and institutions that are mired in a time-warp in history that cannot be changed by either externally instigated or home inspired civil wars. We cannot impose democracy or regime changes or fight battles with some of those who are motivated by barbaric instinct.

There is yet another layer of conflict, the fight, not merely for control of regional ideologies, but the struggle between the United States and Russia to build powerful buffers for each of its own international self-protection.

With this our sole focus of attention, we miss a greater threat that is blithely and elegantly sailing under the radar and with the tide running in its favor.

Grandson number# 2, I say, continue your studies in Mandarin Chinese because there lies the bomb that is greater than the Mid-East flames. The Mid-East conflict will last another fifty years until all the regional parties will become exhausted and no longer have the ability to pay for the cost of inflicting or being the recipient of violence.

China on the other hand has crumbled its “great wall” of international isolation and seeks to confront the rest of world for what it alone considers its rightful share of this planet. It is not looking for a “hand-out” from the big powers. It ignores them. It has decided unilaterally that it is their prerogative to seize or create (an island out of coral reef) what it believes it is their rightful share of not merely world power and dominance but substantial space on this planet, and has put its military might and its own logic behind that grab.

It all started with the world looking with, and I think I say this accurately, something akin to “what are they trying to do? “ And, parenthetically, there is also a smirk on our faces. If you do not remember the facts, let me refresh your recollection: First if you look at a map of the Philippine islands (there are some 700 that make up the chain) and draw your eye to the West into the lower region of the South China Sea, you will find a slew of small islands and reefs. A reef is a chain of rocks or coral or a ridge of sand at or near the surface of water. In 2014, a rivalry intensified in that area that is best described as a sea of messy territorial claims, with China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam disputing the sovereignty of island chains and reefs in the nearby waters.

Then, a little more than 18 months ago, started China’s startling action in a little more than 18 months ago: it has reclaimed –through massive dredging of more than 2,000 acres at three main reefs (reefs!) in the Spratly Island. It unilaterally announced that it had indisputable sovereignty over the reef/islands and its nearby waters—12 nautical miles. With all this in violation of international maritime law, China built a substantial military base with a major runway. And to move fast forward their leaders in Beijing have angrily called the world’s arbitration court process a “farce” for rejecting the legality of its claim to the South China Sea. On top of this, China has three aircraft carriers in either construction or refurbishing placing them at the forefront of its maritime might.

Last, in this very brief summary of China’s surge, is a long article in 20 August WSJ “ China’s Naval Footprint Grows”. I was startled by a map of China’s strategic military port networks from Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya in Africa, Egypt, Turkey and Greece and moving east to Pakistan and Myanmar (Burma). These ports of call are being built or financed or operated by the Chinese navy for the new Chinese navy, not for tourism. This list does not include those ports visited most frequently by the Chinese navy for rest or refiling, nor those being built in the South China Sea as I described above and are being enhanced.

China has ignored an international court; China has ratcheted its aggressive maritime move to ports far beyond it natural maritime boarders, and most important, China shows no hint of slowing down either its rhetoric or is aggressive military expansion. We fly within what they consider their territorial sovereign boarder in the South China Sea, we send ships pushing the 12 nautical mile claim of control and they warn us and we ignore them. That dance cannot continue.

I dare not think of an Obama line in the sand, especially as he is departing the oval office in 5 months. I dare not think what China may do to exacerbate an already contentious presidential United States election. I dare not think how far China is willing to push the expansion envelope with our main focus not west but east.

I do think my number 2 grandson should continue with his studies in Madeiran for the most obvious of all reasons. China is not our ally, not our partner, not our friend.

Richard Allan,
The Editor

The Fate of Luca

On a day that we have been introduced to Luca—you don’t know Luca? The New York Times tells us that we have been provided with a “surprising specific genetic portrait of the ancestor of all living things…” Its name is Luca. Luca, the living thing that started the ball rolling until we stand tall on two hind legs throwing bombs at each other. That news stopped me dead in my tracts. Not that I am in any fashion a science buff, but that fact –Luca–examined by itself –is startling when juxtaposed to the chaos surrounding us at all levels today.

We are now learning how we started out on this planet-earth at the same moment we are in the process of self-destroying our very being. It is not some massive volcano whose fumes are blocking the sun; nor is it an alien planet that will slam into us and take us back to the time of the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Nineteen are killed and twenty-nine are injured by a man wielding a knife, not at some military installation, but a facility for the disabled In a Tokyo suburb. Long from the center of Paris, a terrorist attacks a village catholic church, takes hostages and kills a priest. And half-way round the world the President of Turkey is moving further and faster in destroying the democratic fiber of his country in the name of restoring order. If that Country were not vital in the multiple wars in Syria and against ISIS, I doubt if we would tolerate his moving the clock back in a part of the world that should be moving forward. This democratically elected president has begun a witch-hunt, a systematic campaign of violence against those who hold a different view from his own. Not only has he arrested thousands accused of having a connection, however tenuous, to the conspiracy to overthrow his non-democratic regime, but he has fired tens of thousands of teachers, bankers police officers, soldiers and others. Now his vile conduct is directed against journalists for possible criminal conduct allegations. That could only mean: to curtail their writing the truth.

Turkey, under his autocratic leadership has moved to crack down on the freedom of expression, and to do that one announces a state of emergency for however long one wants to reign in the usual civil rights of citizens. When one announces a state of emergency one provides an unbound hand to a handpicked government to create whatever legislation its autocratic leader demands. There is no oversight and there is no democracy. This is Turkey today. And more than likely this is Turkey for tomorrow because of its linchpin status in the Mid-East.

Less than ten days ago a young man stormed through a train outside of Wurzburg, Germany. Crying “Allahu Akbar,” (God is greatest) he brandished an axe high into the air, then slashed at the men and women seated around him. Within minutes, the car,” looked like a slaughterhouse.” Then he fled. In a 2007 report from the Council on Foreign Relations it was noted that “security professionals see trains as some of the likeliest targets.”

And to close the circle, the Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas has issued a formal request asking his neighboring Arab states to help in the preparation of a lawsuit against the UK over the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which established Britain’s support for a “national home for the Jewish people”. His goal is simple and direct: to delegitimize the State of Israel.

To discuss the possible success of such a move is wasted energy, but it does underscore the hypocrisy of Abbas and those around him who speak for “freedom” and the brutality of those he so violently opposes. His call for the callous attacks on civilians or those teens sleeping in their beds at night is beyond imagination. Beyond imagination because silently, unheard, he wishes the people and, in particular, the health workers of Israel good health and good hunting in their war against cancer. In recent years and until this past week, Omar, Abbas’ brother, traveled not to Iran, not to Syria, not to Egypt, not to the Saudis, not to any other Arab country in the Mid-East, but he traveled on a regular basis to the enemy of his people and his country—Israel. For medical treatment that was never denied to him.

Richard Allan,
The Editor

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