Newton and Lennon

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

 28 April 2012

Any two bodies in the universe attract each other with a force that is directly proportional to their masses and inversely proportional to the square of their distance apart.

Law of Gravitation. Formulated by Isaac Newton (1642-1727), English physicist, mathematician and astronomer. Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge.

Those whose physics is not up to speed can rest easy. We are not about to expatiate any further on the physics of gravitation.

We have cited Newton in order to contrive a – some might say far-fetched – comparison between the law of gravitation and what is currently happening on the military front in East Asia.

The drums of war are beating.

Two mighty economic and nuclear powers are currently coming closer and closer to each other in the eastern Pacific area and their increasing proximity is not at all pacific.

This week the USA and China held their annual “Balikatan” military exercise in the waters of the South China Sea. Balikatan means “shoulder to shoulder” in the standardized Tagalog that is the Filipino language.

Sovereignty between most of the islands in the South China Sea is disputed between the various states that encircle the sea, namely Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaya and China. Although all the islands in question are tiny, some are situated close to valuable oil and gas deposits to which those with sovereignty can claim extraction rights.

One Balikatan exercise involved an amphibious assault by American and Filipino troops to recapture an island supposedly taken by “militants”. Another involved the mock recapture of a Filipino oil rig that had, for the purposes of the exercise, fallen into “hostile” hands off the coast of Palawan island.

Commenting on the exercise, Lieutenant General Juancho Sabban is reported to have said: “Never was China mentioned in our planning and execution.”

There you have it. I have stopped beating my wife.

It was also reported this week that China has approved the construction of a supply ship dock in the Paracel Islands, an archipelago which is occupied by China but whose sovereignty is disputed with Vietnam.

Meanwhile, America is stationing troops at a new base in northern Australia. Diplomatically, the USA is rushing post-haste to forge military or diplomatic alliances with all the states that surround China.

If you corner a rat, you know what it does. Even a worm turns.

Really, you couldn’t make it up.

We have no brief for the Chinese. A brutal dictatorship at home, an increasingly belligerent self-seeking Bismarckian Realpolitik abroad.

However, given their experiences in recent history, the Americans should know better.

Unfortunately, as US-Spanish philosopher George Santayana (1863-1952) said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

The Americans were defeated in Vietnam, were kicked out of Iraq and are now on the cusp of retreating from Afghanistan.

So what do they do?  They move their guns elsewhere. This is a nation that cannot exist without war.

We say that not with any intrinsic feeling of enmity to the United States but with an immense feeling of regret and sadness. This is the nation, above all nations, that had the power to do so much good in the world but which fluffed its chance.

John Lennon, the Beatle murdered at the entrance to his apartment building, The Dakota, next to Central Park in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, sang that we should all “Give peace a chance”.

Forget it.

The pessimistic George Santayana has the last word : “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”

Amen to that.

To conclude, as we started, with Newton. There is only a finite distance and time before a clash occurs between bodies which come closer and closer to each other.


We reproduce below the post we published on 11 January 2012.

Obama shoots from the hip: no more wars

11 January 2012

The least convincing forecast in the history of politico-military predictions appeared in an editorial in the UK Guardian newspaper on 6 January 2012.

The editorial began: “There were two unmistakable messages in the defence review outlined yesterday by Barack Obama in his appearance at the Pentagon briefing room.The first was that America is never going to fight wars like Iraq or Afghanistan again.”

Among political predictions of all time, this must surely be the least credible.

Believe that and you will believe anything.

This message is being put about by America as the nine-year US occupation of Iraq is just ending, the Afghan and Somali wars are in full swing, the US war in Pakistan is just beginning, America’s undercover operations in Yemen show no let-up, and the  US/Israeli attack on Iran is about to begin. As if that were not enough, the US is shifting its focus from Europe (see * below) to China, as it cosies up to the dictatorship in Burma, stations troops at a new base in northern Australia and beefs up its presence in the Philippines.

And did the Americans learn anything from the earlier defeat in their nine-year war in Vietnam (1964-1973)?


As if recognizing the untrustworthiness of Obama’s defence message, the  Guardian editorialist adds: “Turning the page on a decade of war (the president’s words) may not be an entirely accurate description of a power that will spend more on its forces than the next ten countries combined.”


However, the editorial goes on to say that “the signal that the US will not fight another expensive, troop-intensive counter-insurgency campaign is clear enough”.


Words fail us.

Good night.

* The editorial defines the second message of Obama’s defence review as follows: “…the message is that Europe’s collective defence is up to Europe, and its forces have to stand alone.”


 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

 1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)

2. Das Vierte Reich/The Fourth Reich (6 Feb 2012)

3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)

4. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

5. What would Gandhi have said? (30 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.


This entry was posted in China, Military, USA and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s