Posted November 12, 2013on:
Good afternoon Widdershin friends. I’m running horribly late today in posting so I apologize. In penance, I offer the life advice* of “Dance until your feet hurt, sing until your lungs hurt, act until you’re William Hurt.” (*Unlike Rand Paul, I understand plagiarism, the quote comes from Phil Dunphy on Modern Family.)
The tragedy facing the Philippines reminded me of an excellent piece of old-school long journalism I recently read in The New York Times Magazine. While an investment of time, it is the best thing I’ve read about the challenges facing us in the coming decades as we pivot from a foreign policy captivated by the Middle East to an Asian-centric foreign policy.
I highly recommend this article and slide show. With beautiful photography, it details the ongoing struggle in the South China Sea over approximately 160,000 square miles centering around the Spratly Islands. Western maps of the 18th Century detail the expanse as “Dangerous Ground,” a term that has stuck to the present day. The U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency still concludes, “Avoidance of Dangerous Ground is the mariner’s only guarantee of safety.” In the coming decades, it appears we will be unable to obey our own advice.
With abundant fishing and possibly 5.4 billion barrels of oil and 55.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, this area could very well be the new flash point in international diplomacy. Here is the opening paragraph:
In a remote corner of the South China Sea, 105 nautical miles from the Philippines, lies a submerged reef that the Filipinos call Ayungin. There’s little to commend the spot, apart from its plentiful fish and safe harbor. In most ways it resembles the hundreds of other desolate reefs, islands, rock clusters and cays that collectively are called the Spratly Islands. But Ayungin is different. It sits on the southwestern edge of Reed Bank, an area rumored to contain vast reserves of oil and natural gas. And it shallows are home to a World War II-era ship called the Sierra Madre, which the Philippine government ran aground on the reef in 1999 and has since maintained as a kind of post-apocalyptic military garrison, manned by eight Filipino troops struggling to survive extreme mental and physical desolation. Of all places, the scorched shell of the Sierra Madre has become an unlikely battleground in a geopolitical struggle that will shape the future of the South China Sea and, to some extent, the rest of the world.
I’m reminded of Charlie Wilson’s War where after supporting the Afghani people in their struggle against the Soviets in the 1970’s, we became pound wise and penny foolish. Instead of continuing foreign aid to build things like schools and roads, we unadvisedly withdrew only to spend trillions twenty years later and be sucked into the country’s longest war ever. With the devastation facing the Philippines now, so far we have offered a paltry $20 Million in aid when Filipinos are facing at least $15 Billion in rebuilding costs. We might be well-served to learn from our myopic shortsightedness in Afghanistan.
Turning to another subject of shortsightedness, over the weekend I was interested to see how 60 Minutes would treat their colossal and quite epic fail of their Benghazi story from two weeks ago. As detailed in both The New York Times and the Washington Post, the 60 Minutes story was riddled with accusations and accounts seemingly manufactured from whole cloth.
The story was ballyhooed in promotions for nearly a week before it ran. It ran in the coveted “A block” of 60 Minutes and was supposedly “new” information from a rental security officer promoting a new book which since has been cancelled. This rental mercenary went by the name “Morgan Jones,” but we have learned his real name is Dylan Davies. It seems Mr. Davies made up more than his name.
This Huffington Post article details the problems associated with Mr. Davies on camera accounts being at odds with his previous statements to the FBI and investigators. It is quite interesting since those statements were almost a year old and yet, after 60 Minutes said they had been investigating for a year, they only came to know about Davies’ previous statements last Thursday. Curious!
More curious is the fact that there was nothing new in the 60 Minutes piece but for the statements of Davies. This new fictitious story-spinning led to a new round of Benghazi-mania on Fox where their self-congratulatory back-patting reached momentous levels — anything to take a swipe at Hillary. “You can’t start denigrating a potential candidate too soon” is written in 36-point type in Roger Ailes’ playbook.
The most curious part is this: After countless ads trumpeting this Benghazi report, after running the 15-minute piece at the beginning of 60 Minutes, where does the apology appear for getting it so horribly wrong? In the last 90-seconds of the show just before the clock ticks down.
So much for the liberal media bias.
Just a quick word of warning — Sarah Palin is out peddling a new book. Beware of billowing bits of bogus bull-pucky.
This is an open thread.
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