Posts tagged ‘Russia’

Monday, February 19, 2018

Promising Profits: Syria’s Nation (Re)building Propaganda

Links within the blockquotes were added during translation.

Following America and Russia, China has announced its interest in playing a greater role in Syria, TRT Ankara‘s Chinese service reported on February 12. China’s ambassador in Damascus, Qi Qianjin (齐前进),

said that China wanted to play a greater role in solving the Syria crisis. The diplomat told Xinhua that “the time has come to focus on the development and reconstruction of Syria. I believe that in this course, China can provide more help to the Syrian people and government, and play a bigger role.”

向新华社表示:“现在已到聚焦于叙利亚的发展和重建的时机。我认为中国在这一进程中能够为叙利亚人民和政府提供更多帮助,发挥更多作用。”

Ambassador Qi Qianjin visited al-Mouwasat University Hospital in Damascus, and the hospital director thanked him.

齐前进大使参观了位于大马士革的姆瓦萨特大学医院,医院院长向中国大使表示感谢。

The Syrian communications minister had previously said that Syria’s transportation network, once restored, could become a railroad extending to China.

叙利亚交通部长之前曾表示,在叙利亚交通网得到恢复之后,可建立一个延伸至中国的铁路。

According to a report by China’s “Global Times”, at least 30 Chinese business people have been to Syria since April, to explore investment opportunities.

据中国《环球时报》报道,4月至今至少有30名中国商人前来叙利亚探索投资机遇。

China is acting together with Russia in the Syrian conflict, but has worked hard to avoid American resentment.

中国在叙利亚冲突中与俄罗斯一道行动,另一方面致力于避免美国的不满。

In the United Nations security council’s seven important resolutions concerning Syria, China abstained and chose not to get involved in the US-Russian quibble.

中国在联合国安理会关于叙利亚的7个重要表决中弃权,选择了不卷入俄罗斯-美国较量的道路。

Reportedly, from the three countries of Russia, China and America, China is the only country that hasn’t sent troops to Syria.

据悉,俄中美三国中唯一没有向叙利亚派兵的国家是中国。

Radio Damascus QSL 1980s

Radio Damascus shortwave QSL, 1980s *)

The war in Syria is by no means over, and Turkey itself plays no small role in keeping it alive. According to Syrian foreign radio ORTAS‘ German service on Friday, that day marked the 27th day of “the Turkish regime’s barbarian aggression against the Syrian town of Afrin”. According to the same news broadcast, the Syrian government and the Kurdish “people’s defence units (or protection units, YPG, Volksverteidigungseinheiten)” had agreed to have the Syrian army stationed in Afrin. Both ORTAS and Xinhua quoted Rezan Heddo, a media advisor of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), as saying that “Afrin is a Syrian city”.

German news magazine Der Spiegel reported on Sunday night that “of all things”, “dictator Assad’s army is coming to the aid of Afrin region.”

At the same time, Syrian media accuse the US of trying to prolong the war. In its “News and Views” program of February 4, Syrian foreign radio’s English service noted that [27′ 40”]

It is pretty clear that the regional and international powers … do not have a desire to reach a political solution, but, in accordance with their interests in Syria, and for achieving them, those foreign sides try to prolong their war against Syria to give them a chance to extend their presence in the Syrian land under the pretext of combatting terrorism or preserving the alledged national security, as Turkey is claiming to justify its aggression on the Syrian territory.

That said, the Syrian media depict the situation as one where powers hostile to Damascus will prolong, but never win the war. This has been Damascus’ propaganda approach for some time. On October 4 last year, an ORTAS commentary in German claimed that the end of the war was approaching [6’52”]:

Nobody but some hateful or uneducated people can deny this truth. All conditions on the ground and their political consequences are emphasizing that the end of the struggle against terror and terrorist gangs is a matter of time. Aggravations here or there, the committing of crimes by the terrorist gangs is only this terror’s death struggle, carried to Syria from the outside.

It was time to rebuild the country, the same commentary said [08’58”]:

It is clear that the world has begun to think of the post-war situation in Syria, especially concerning a political settlement by dialog among the Syrians themselves. According to that, the Syrians think and talk about reconstruction of the facilities destroyed during the war. The talk in some concerned states, regarding reconstruction and a preparedness to contribute to this mission, is currently “hip”, even in some states that enormously contributed to the destruction of Syria.

Nation-building propaganda is nothing new in Syria. Before the war, too, posters portraying President Bashar al-Assad adorned not only public buildings, but many shops and retail stores, too, some combined with the depiction of a fingerprint in the colors of the Syrian flag, apparently suggesting that there was a genetic link between the people and the regime, in accordance with Syria’s nature. However, at least in Aleppo, you would usually find those posters at the doors of better-off neigborhoods.

But if an era of reconstruction should be upon Syria – depending on which areas are considered sustainably safe by domestic and foreign investors -, the narrative that is shaped by Damascus is beginning to show, as described there by a retired US Army officer:

Nation building can involve the use of propaganda or major infrastructure development to foster social harmony and economic growth.

Reconstruction and “dialog” aren’t only aiming at positive dynamics within Syria, but abroad, too. Syria’s officials and media have sent clear signals to friends and enemies abroad. Newsagency SANA reported on September 30 last year that

China’s Special Envoy for Syria Xie Xiaoyan affirmed that his country would support efforts for reconstruction and rebuilding infrastructure in Syria.

Xiaoyan’s remarks came in a seminar held in Beijing University titled “Rebuild Syria,” during which he called on the Chinese companies to participate in the reconstruction.

For his part, Ambassador of Syria in Beijing Imad Mustafa said that Syria seeks to form a joint strategic vision with China and will not wait for the end of the war to begin reconstruction, noting that the priority in that field will be given for companies from friendly countries.

Early in October, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad told a delegation led by Russian deputy minister for energy Kirill Molodtsov that [00’41”]

it was obvious that those states that had stood with the Syrian people during its war against terror would be entrusted with the task of reconstruction.

Beijing must have been glad to hear that, too. But TRT Ankara’s report – see beginning of this post – is correct in that China is trying to avoid “American resentment”. For sure, Beijing isn’t asking for it.

Also in September last year, Chinese foreign-policy newspaper Huanqiu Shibao quoted Beijing’s Middle-East envoy Xie Xiaoyan (解晓岩) as saying that he had heard suggestions about reconstructions during his visits both to Russia and Syria:

The situation has improved, but first, the country needs to be stabilized, and comprehensive cease-fire agreements are necessary. It is hard to imagine that war should be conducted on the one hand, and roads should be repaired on the other. What is repaired on one day, may be destroyed one day later. But the fact that war still continues doesn’t mean that the parties couldn’t think about rebuilding and reconstruction. China has sufficient industrial capabilities and is preparing for active involvement in this process.

在访问叙利亚和俄罗斯时,听到有关开始叙利亚重建进程的提议。目前那里的局势已经得到改善。但首先仍需要实现国家稳定,需要全面执行停火协议。很难想象,一边在打仗,一边在修路。修好的基础设施在第二天就会被摧毁。其次,尽管现在战斗仍在进行,这并不意味着各方不去考虑基础设施的改建和重建。中国拥有足够的工业能力,准备积极参与这一进程。

However, Xie also said that

China is the world’s second-largest economy, but it can’t do the rebuilding alone. Reports say that reconstruction is going to cost two to three hundred billion Dollars. Therefore, not only China, but countries of the region and of the international community, too, should make joint efforts to achieve Syria’s reconstruction.

中国是世界第二大经济体,但中国独自无法完成重建工作。据有关报道,重建需要大约2000至3000亿美元资金。 因此,不仅是中国,本地区国家和整个国际社会都应共同努力,实现叙利亚的重建。

In a number of ways, China is well-positioned to draw the lion’s share from post-war profits – once the war is really over, or limited to a few marginal conflict zones. While Russia certainly spearheaded military support for Damascus, and while Beijing rather tried to hedge its bets, Russia may not have those industrial capabilities that Xie Xiaoyan ascribes to his own country.

Western economic powers may prove to be essential in one or another aspect of reconstruction, but Damascus is likely to maintain its position that countries that propped it up during the crisis, and during foreign aggression, should profit most.

That doesn’t mean that China would be extremely popular in Syria – although the war may have helped its soft power there. When former Chinese chief state councillor Wen Jiabao referred to the Arab people as good friends, good partners and good brothers, regional elites, rather than entire populations, came to mind. Wen made his statement about Sino-Arab friendship while Hosni Mubarak was still Egypt’s president, and Wen himself may have cherished a memory of Chinese relations with a – then nationalist rather than islamist – Arabia of the 1950s.

Syria’s regime may be the last (and maybe the only lasting) representative of that cherished past.

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Notes

*) Until some time into the war, ORTAS – named “Radio Damascus” until recently – broadcasted on shortwave. Two frequencies were usually announced, but only one of them actually appeared to be in operation (9330 kHz). Reportedly, the facilities have been demolished – apparently in a regular way, and not because of the war.

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Related

Russia is very clever, Sept 11, 2013
A Just Mideast Position, Febr 16, 2012
Understanding and Support, Oct 25, 2011

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Everybody’s Language: North Korea’s polyglot Propaganda

KCNA’s website publishes articles and news in Korean, English, Chinese, Russian, Spanish, and Japanese. The gist is the same in all versions of KCNA’s multi-lingual rendition of Tuesday’s missile launch over Japan, but certain details appear to have been customized, in accordance with the targeted audience.

The Genius instructing the Military: this is how to launch a missile - click photo for video

The Genius instructing the Military: this is how to launch a missile – click photo for Voice of Korea video

It’s Japanese devils in KCNA’s Chinese rendition of Tuesday’s (regional time) missile launch over Japan, but it’s Japanese islanders in the newsagency’s English version. There are no permalinks on KCNA’s website, therefore, some copies and pastes will follow here.

KCNA August 30 article in English

KCNA August 30 article in English

KCNA August 30 article in Chinese

KCNA August 30 article in Japanese

KCNA August 30 article in Korean

KCNA August 30 article in Korean

If Google Translate is something to go by, the Japanese version refers to Japan as an “island nation”, rather than to “devils”:

All military officers of the Korean People’s Army Strategy Army formulated a bold strategy that the brutal Japanese island nation will be overwhelmingly surprised on August 29th of the blood on which the shameful treaty “Merger of Korea-Japan” was promulgated 107 years ago He is the most enthusiastic to the unprecedented patriot who has approved to launch a ballistic rocket from the metropolitan area and cleared up the resentment piled up in the chest of our people, the highest leader who is a hero of the nation I will send a greeting of gratitude and complete the holy mission and duty as a reliable nuclear weapon power of the Korean Workers’ Party at the head of the last Jihye who will make a total decision on anti-Empress and Anti-America confrontation fight if the party’s central order makes orders I vowed to death. – –

朝鮮人民軍戦略軍の全ての将兵は、107年前、「韓日合併」という恥ずべき条約が公布された血の8月29日に残虐な日本の島国夷がびっくり仰天する大胆な作戦を策定し、首都圏地域から弾道ロケットを発射するように承認してわが人民の胸に積もりに積もった恨みを晴らしてくれた不世出の愛国者、民族の英雄である最高指導者金正恩委員長に最も熱烈な感謝のあいさつを送り、党中央が命令を下せば反帝・反米対決戦を総決算することになる最後の聖戦の先頭で朝鮮労働党の頼もしい核武装力としての聖なる使命と本分を全うする決死の誓いを立てた。---

[Update, Oct 3: Jichanglulu‘s comment sheds more light on KCNA’s Japanese version.]

The Korean version – also if Google Translate gets it right – mentions the 107th anniversary of the 1910 Annexation Treaty, but without any reference of a Japanese (national) character:

All the soldiers of the Strategic Armed Forces of the KPA approved the launch of ballistic rockets in the metropolitan area on August 29, when bloodshed was declared a fake treaty of “Korea-Japan Merger” 107 years ago. As the most patriotic and patriotic hero of the nation, Kim Jung Eun, the most grateful leader of the Korean people, who gave us the hearts of our people, the most warm thanks to the comrade, At the forefront of the temple, the holy mission of the trusteeship of the Korean Workers’ [Google translation ends here]
조선인민군 전략군의 전체 장병들은 107년전 《한일합병》이라는 치욕스러운 조약이 공포된 피의 8월 29일에 잔악한 일본섬나라족속들이 기절초풍할 대담한 작전을 펼치시고 수도권지역에서 탄도로케트를 발사하도록 승인하여주시여 우리 인민의 가슴에 쌓이고쌓인 한을 풀어주신 절세의 애국자,민족의 영웅이신 경애하는 최고령도자 김정은동지께 가장 뜨거운 감사의 인사를 드리면서 당중앙이 명령만 내리면 반제반미대결전을 총결산하게 될 최후성전의 맨 앞장에서 조선로동당의 믿음직한 핵무장력으로서의 성스러운 사명과 본분을 다해나갈 결사의 맹세를 다지였다.(끝)

In Spanish, readers are told that

All officials and soldiers within the Korean People’s Army’s strategic forces expressed gratitude to the Supreme Leader, the unequaled patriot and the hero of the nation, who, on August 29, the bloodstained day of the thuggish Korean-Japanese annexation treaty’s publication, put into practice the courageous operation of instilling fear into the cruel reactionary Japanese, by permitting the launch of a ballistic missile from the Korean capital’s region, so as to make amends for the pent-up grudges of the Korean people.

Todos los oficiales y soldados de las fuerzas estratégicas del EPC expresaron agradecimiento al Máximo Dirigente, patriota sin igual y héroe de la nación, quien el 29 de agosto, día ensangrentado de ser publicada hace 107 años el infame tratado de anexión de Corea a Japón, practicó la operación valiente para dar el gran temor a los crueles reaccionarios japoneses y permitió en la zona de la capital el lanzamiento el cohete balístico haciendo quitar el rencor acumulado del pueblo coreano.

The Russian translation – again, according to Google Translate – doesn’t appear to make any particular mention of the Japanese at all:

Все солдаты и офицеры стратегических войск КНА преподнесли уважаемому высшему руководителю товарищу Ким Чен Ыну – выдающемуся патриоту и герою нации самую теплую благодарность за то, что он разрешил запустить в столице по плану смелой операции баллистическую ракету кровавого 29-го августа, который исполняется 107 лет со дня опубликования позорного соглашения так называемой «аннексии Кореи Японией», и сорвал злобу нашего народа. И они дали клятву выполнить священную миссию и долг как надежные ядерные вооруженные силы ТПК на форпосте окончательной священной войны, когда будет подытожена антиимпериалистическая и антиамериканская борьба, если будет приказ ЦК ТПК.

All the soldiers and officers of the KPA strategic troops presented the most warm gratitude to the distinguished senior leader, Comrade Kim Jong-un, an outstanding patriot and hero of the nation, for allowing him to launch a ballistic missile of bloody August 29th on schedule in the capital, which marks 107 years since Day of publication of the shameful agreement of the so-called “annexation of Korea by Japan”, and ripped off the anger of our people. And they took an oath to fulfill their sacred mission and duty as the reliable nuclear forces of the WPK at the outpost of the final holy war, when the anti-imperialist and anti-American struggle will be summed up, if there is an order from the TPK Central Committee.

As for the Russian-language approach – again, if this is a basically accurate Google translation -, the explanation for the comparatively polite approach towards Japan might be found in what a Chinese researcher, Cui Heng, wrote in December 2013:

Russia isn’t only prepared to develop beneficial relations with Japan for geopolitical reasons. In Russian historical memory, there isn’t much hate against Japan. During the age of the great empires, Japanese-Russian relations in the Far East were of a competitive nature. Many Russians still talk about the 1905 defeat, but the Far East wasn’t considered a place that would hit Russian nerve as hard as the crushing defeat in the Crimean war. Back then, Japan wasn’t perceived as a threat for Russia, and from another perspective, if there had been anti-Japanese feelings, there wouldn’t have been a revolution. According to perception back then, the [1905] defeat was a result of the Russian government’s incompetence, not [brought about by] a strong adversary. The outstanding achievements of the Soviet Red Army in 1945 led to a great [positive] Russian attitude, but still without considering Japan a great enemy.

And as far as the term “Japanese devils” is concerned, the Chinese version – the only KCNA version that takes the expression of sentiments against Japan that far – may intend to remind North Korea’s somewhat changeable Chinese allies of traditional common causes.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Taiwanese Media Reports: Association of International Broadcasters maintains Radio Taiwan International’s Membership, despite Chinese Motion to replace it

Making Taiwan appear “inofficial” has become easy business for Beijing, when it comes to politicians. The row about the country’s inoffical embassy in Nigeria may be one of the recent cases in point.

But influencing journalists doesn’t appear to be quite that easy. A spokeswoman for the foreign ministry in Taipei is quoted as saying that

At this year’s first meeting of AIB’s executive board, the possibility of ejecting RTI to make room for China Central Television [CCTV] was discussed, but RTI vice president Travis Sun’s (孫文魁) proactive handling of the matter has dealt with the situation.

AIB stands for the Association of International Broadcasting, an organization headquartered in Britain, and RTI stands for Radio Taiwan International, Taiwan’s foreign broadcasting service. According to the Taipei Times –  quoting weekly Taiwanese magazine The Journalist – the Chinese motion was rejected after RTI’s protests won the support of British, German, French and Russian committee members.

According to the AIB website, RTI vice president Travis Sun is among the six members of the organization’s executive committee.

According to “The Journalist”,   Travis Sun had been voted into the committee with the highest number of votes. Also according to “The Journalist”, CCTV and other Chinese media had previously been invited to join the AIB, but had declined, because of RTI’s membership. Following China’s motion this month, the AIB secretariat drafted three resolutions for discussion by the executive committtee. One suggested that the Chinese media could enter with an inofficial membership. The second suggested inoffical membership or termination of membership for RTI, and the third suggested to abandon the idea of Chinese media obtaining membership.

It appears that Sun appealed to AIB’S journalistic values to defend RTI’s membership, and successfully so, and all that, apparently, on the phone. According to the Taipei Times, RTI didn’t send personnel to participate in the AIB’s annual meeting in London due to “internal reasons,” instead being represented by personnel from the Taipei Representative Office in the UK. Also according to the Taipei Times, during a June 20 teleconference, Sun had been confronted with the secretariat motions.

Reportedly, Britain, France, Germany (that would be Deutsche Welle‘s committee member), and Russia (i. e. the delegate for RT) decided in RTI’s favor.

The Russian committee member, Alexey Nikolov, is currently serving as the executive committee’s chairman, according to “The Journalist”. The article mentions the “Voice of Russia” as the media organization he represents. That would now be Sputnik News Agency and Radio. According to AIB and RT, Nikolov is RT‘s managing editor, or managing director.

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Related

AIB members

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Updates/Related

Taiwan not abandoned, Sentinel, June 30, 2017

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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Deutsche Welle’s “Emotionally Appealing Content”

Emotionally appealing …

The German federal government plans to increase its funding of Deutsche Welle (DW) by 11.2 mn Euros in 2018,  Medienkorrespondenz (MK), a media news magazine from Bonn, reports. That would be a total of 325.6 mn Euros. In addition, DW has earnings from sponsors, according to Deutsche Welle law (article 11). Originally a foreign broadcaster, DW wants to develop into a “digital media corporation”, with a priority on “mobile utilization situations” and “social media”. Apparently, the linear television programs are doomed to become a platform for feature stories and clips that would also be useful for DW’s “Facebook” account, and vice versa.

Some of the quotes from the press release read like a jargon outside the command of their adopters themselves. According to MK, DW wants to increase its audience from currently 135 mn users to a target of 150. On its digital media, DW wants to “put a stronger focus on emotionally appealing content and on DW profile themes” (“einen stärkeren Fokus auf emotional ansprechenden Content und auf DW-Profilthemen setzen”).

MK appears to have had a question, and got a reply:

By “emotionally appealing content”, the broadcaster means topics that can be experienced on an emotional level”, it explained on inquiry. This was about “empathy with protagonists, or a narrative level at eye level.” Deutsche Welle denotes, for example, reports about human rights, freedom of expression, equal rights and democratic values as “profile themes”.

Unter „emotional ansprechendem Content“ versteht der Sender, wie er auf Nachfrage erläuterte, wenn in Beiträgen Themen „auf einer emotionalen Ebene erlebbar“ seien. Es gehe um „Empathie mit Protagonisten oder eine Erzählebene auf Augenhöhe“. Als ihre „Profilthemen“ bezeichnet die Deutsche Welle beispielsweise Berichte über Menschenrechte, freie Meinungsäußerung, Gleichberechtigung und demokratische Werte.

The trend has emerged for some time. And when you are sufficiently emotive, concerning Deutsche Welle “profile themes”, you don’t even have to know who Liu Xiaobo is, as shown in a “news story” named “Beauty Queen and Activist fight for human rights in China” (“Beauty-Queen und Aktivist kämpfen für Menschenrechte in China”). The story initially contained a Liao Yiwu photo, while the caption was referring to Liu Xiaobo. Sounds all alike anyway.

Liao Yiwu, mistaken for Liu Xiaobo

DW caption, February 2016: he’s here, not there

… and better off

After so much emotion, it’s time to meditate on some numbers. DW’s budget was reportedly at about 321 mn Euros in 1998, it decreased considerably in the years after that, and began to rise to new heights after Peter Limbourg, a former news anchor on German commercial television, had become the broadcaster’s new director.

The following numbers are sort of my guesswork, even if based on sources – they may, at times, include special budgets (funding programs targeted at refugees living in Germany, for example, or the Deutsche Welle Akademie), and sometimes they may not. (The drop from 321 mn to 302 mn from 2015 – 2016, for example, doesn’t look logical to me.) The 2016 – 2018 numbers are from the same source – Medienkorrespondenz -, these two reports, covering three fiscal years, follow the same formula and make it easy to compare the three years.

All numbers shown below (rounded) are millions.

Year
Operational
Investment
Total
Source
1998 321  Die Welt
2010 261  BMF
2011
2012  271  Bundestag
2013  296  BT WiWi
2014  311  DW
 2015  321  DW
 2016  285  17  302  MK 16
 2017  299  27  325  MK 16
 2018  305  32  336  MK 17
 2019

DW is a publicly owned broadcaster – it could actually afford to be a showcase for solid, trustworthy journalism. But a goal of this kind doesn’t appear to define the mission. In an interview in November 2014, Limbourg told German television that we obviously have to see to it that the German perspective and German values for which we stand, i. e. democracy, freedom of the press, freedom of opinion, that these are heard in the world.

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Related

Negotiations with Politics, Dec 26, 2011

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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Huanqiu Shibao: Imagine (Mother of all Bombs, Father of all Bombs)

Main Link: Can “Mother of all Bombs” frighten Pyongyang?, Huanqiu Shibao, April 14. Links within blockquotes added during translation.

American military stationed in Afghanistan threw a large airbomb, referred to as “mother of all bombs”, in the country’s eastern mountaineous regions in the evening of Thursday local time. Said bomb’s weight was 9.8 tons, with a capacity amounting to 11 tons of TNT, and it is the largest non-nuclear bomb used by America in combat so far.

驻阿富汗美军当地时间星期四晚上在这个国家的东部山区投掷了一枚有“炸弹之母”之称的大型空爆炸弹,该炸弹重9.8吨,爆炸当量相当于11吨TNT,它是迄今美国在战斗中使用的最大威力非核爆炸装置。

The White House and the US military stationed in Afghanistan said that the use of this precision-controlled blockbuster had been directed at “Islamic State’s” fighting groups’ tunnel and cave systems and eliminated said facilities, and maintained the momentum of American troups striking at “Islamic State”. President Donald Trump said in a brief comment that this had been another successful action carried out by the US military. He also mentioned North Korea, saying that [the issue of] the “mother of all bombs” being a signal to Pyongyang or not wasn’t important.

白宫及驻阿富汗美军表示,使用这种精确制导的巨型炸弹旨在摧毁“伊斯兰国”武装分子的隧道和洞穴系统,该炸弹是清除上述设施同时保持美军打击“伊斯兰国”势头的合适武器。特朗普总统发表简短评论说,这是美军又一次成功的袭击行动。他还提到了朝鲜,表示“炸弹之母”是不是向平壤发出一个信号,这不重要。

Trump hasn’t been president for three months yet, but the US military has launched at least two attacks that drew global attention. One was the bombing of the Syrian air force base, and the other was the “mother of all bombs” in Afghanistan. Trump is clearly more spontaneous in using US military might than previous US president Obama, and displays some indulgence and pride in American military power.

特朗普担任总统还不到3个月,美国军队发动的攻击至少已经两次受到全球瞩目,一次是轰炸叙利亚空军基地,一次就是在阿富汗使用“炸弹之母”。特朗普对使用美国军力比前任总统奥巴马显然更加随意,他表现出对美国军事力量的某种迷恋和骄傲。

Even the younger president Bush, who conducted two wars, went through detailed procedures prior to war, and the wars were part of an extensive range of expectations. In contrast, both the bombing of a Syrian airbase and throwing the “mother of all bombs” in Afghanistan came very suddenly. If use of armed force continues at the current frequency and pace, president Trump may be “in constant war”, becoming remembered as the “warring president”.

即使打了两场战争的小布什总统,每一次开战之前都经过了繁琐程序,而且当时的开战处于广泛的预期之中。然而无论攻击叙空军基地还是往阿富汗山区扔“炸弹之母”,来的都很突然。如果按照这样的频率和速度使用武力,那么特朗普总统就要“不停打仗”了,他说不定最终会作为一名“战争总统”被历史记住。

The “mother of all bombs” is a very cruel kind of weapon, consuming a large amount of oxygen in the process, within the range of its explosion. As its destructive force is very large, its so-called “precision control” only applies in a locational sense. In fact, its probability to harm innocent is comparatively high. In the current fields of anti-terrorism operations, with military and civilians being located next to each other, the US military incessantly kills and wounds ordinary people. By using the “mother of all bombs”, Washington doesn’t appear to have taken the issue of innocent fatalities very seriously.

“炸弹之母”是一种非常残忍的武器,它能在爆炸过程中消耗周围的大量氧气,由于破坏力极大,它的所谓“精确制导”只是投放地点意义上的,实际上伤及无辜的概率更高。如今与反恐有关的战区,大多是军民相间的,美军不断在伊拉克、阿富汗等地炸死炸伤平民,现在又把“炸弹之母”投入使用,看来华盛顿并没真把伤及无辜当回事。

Obviously, the purpose of this bombing has been about testing the effect of this weapon. At the same time, it has added a new antic to US military deterrence. Presumably, similarly mountainous North Korea felt the shock waves from far-away Afghanistan. If the US military could, by throwing this bomb [in Afghanistan], get the Pyongyang regime under control, that wouldn’t be a bad thing. However, its likely effect will be contrary.

这次投弹显然有试验该武器实战效果的目的,同时也是给美国的军事威慑增添一个新噱头。想必同样多山的朝鲜感受到了这场遥远阿富汗大爆炸传过来的冲击波。如果美军扔了这个炸弹,就真能把平壤政权给镇住,那倒也不错。然而它所产生的效果很可能是相反的。

Pyongyang’s main line of thought these years has been that if you have no nuclear weapons, the future of their regime will resemble Saddam Hussein’s and Gaddafi’s. The “mother of all bombs” may once again irritate and mislead Pyongyang, about how important it would be to increase the explosive capacity they themselves can master.

平壤这些年来只有一个思维,那就是如果没有核武器,萨达姆和卡扎菲政权的下场就是平壤政权未来的样子。“炸弹之母”可能再次刺激并误导平壤:提高自己所能掌握的爆炸当量是多么重要。

Various analysts believe that Pyongyang has done all the preparation for a sixth nuclear test, and that its top leader Kim Jong-un will now make his final deliberations: to set it off, or not. The latest bit of information conveyed to Pyongyang by the US military won’t contribute to rational choices by Pyongyang.

多方分析认为,朝鲜已经做好举行第六次核试验的各种准备,其最高领导人金正恩可能正在做最后的权衡:引爆还是不引爆。美国军方传递的最新信息对平壤做出理性抉择没有好处。

Reportedly, there is still a non-nuclear bomb that exceeds the “mother of all bombs”. That is the Russian high-efficiency vacuum bomb, called “father of all bombs”. Imagine what would happen if Russia used it to strike at the “Islamic State” in Syria, and how America and the West would condemn Moscow.

据报道,世界上还有比“炸弹之母”爆炸当量更大的非核炸弹,它就是被称为“炸弹之父”的俄罗斯高效率真空炸弹。设想一下,如果是俄罗斯在打击叙利亚“伊斯兰国”组织时扔一颗“炸弹之父”,那么美国和西方舆论会不会往死里骂莫斯科。

America appears to have the privilege to do whatever it wants to do, but this, very probably, means all kinds of danger, rather than more security.

美国像是有想怎么做就怎么做的特权,然而这对世界来说很可能意味着某种危险,而不是更多的安全。

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Related

Defending the decision, CNN, April 14, 2017
“MOAB killed dozens”, NY Times, April 14, 2017
Warning to North Korea, KBS Seoul, April 14, 2017
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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The U.S. Democrats’ Red Herring: Blaming the Russians

Mattathias Schwartz of The Intercept suggests a statement different from the one US President Obama actually made at his last press conference. That statement, as scripted by Schwartz, would have deviated from the actual statement indeed. But it wouldn’t have provided America with moral and political leadership, as the teaser suggested.

The Intercept's presidential statement

The Intercept’s presidential statement

There’s no question to my mind that Donald Trump and his supporters (professionals and “ordinary people”) have made substantial contributions to brutalize the campaign, and political culture. But there is no question either that the Democratic Party’s establishment has shown its contempt for democratic principle, by pushing Hillary Clinton‘s nomination campaign, at the expense of Bernie Sanders‘. Clinton and her supporters showed quite the “sense of entitlement” once ascribed to China’s leader Xi Jinping.

That – not the Russian exposure of it – is the problem.

Were there American media that exposed the Democratic National Committee’s conduct? I haven’t heard of any. There was no Bob Woodward of our times who would have dug up that pit. The American media didn’t perform. They didn’t pick up their essential role. Moscow simply filled the vacuum.

Maybe that’s what Obama should have said (if he could have). He could have tried to talk some sense into those democrat functionaries (and press people) who are now trying to make the public forget their own role in their candiate’s undoing.

Obviously, there’s no reason to thank the Russian leadership for what they did. But there is no reason to flame them, either. America wasn’t treated like a banana republic this year, it acted like one.

If you want more of the same, shoot the messenger. But if you want democracy that works, do your homework.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Is the Truth losing in Today’s World? (And if Yes: How so?)

That’s what Richard Stengel, currently undersecretary for public diplomacy at the State Department, believes, according to a Washington Post article:

“We like to think that truth has to battle itself out in the marketplace of ideas. Well, it may be losing in that marketplace today,” Stengel warned in an interview. “Simply having fact-based messaging is not sufficient to win the information war.”

And, adds the author of the WaPo article, David Ignatius:

How do we protect the essential resource of democracy — the truth — from the toxin of lies that surrounds it? It’s like a virus or food poisoning. It needs to be controlled. But how?

Fascinating stuff – fascinating, because it feels like a déjà vu to me (and I’m wondering for how many others who have a memory of some decades).

The Genius leads the spectators: engineering of consent in its early stages in applauding his works.

The Genius leads the spectators: engineering of consent in its early stages.

When I studied and worked in a fairly rural place in China, I had a number of encounters with – probably mainstream – Chinese worldviews. That was around the turn of the century, and these were probably the most antagonistic, and exciting, debates I ever had, as the only foreigner among some Chinese friends. Discussions sometimes ended with the two, three or four of us angrily staring at each other, switching to a less controversial topic, and bidding each other a frosty good-bye.

But there was a mutual interest in other peoples’ weird ideas. That’s why our discussions continued for a number of weekends. At at least one point, I felt that I had argued with overwhelming logic, but my Chinese interlocutor was unimpressed. I blamed Chinese propaganda for his insusceptibility, but apparently, propaganda was exactly his point: “If propaganda helps to keep my country safe, I have nothing against propaganda,” he replied.

I found that gross. The idea that propaganda should just be another tool, something you might volunteer to use and to believe in, so as to keep your country and society stable, was more alien to me than any Chinese custom I had gotten to know.

The idea that truth is, or that facts are, the essential resource of a (working, successful) democracy looks correct to me. Democracy can’t work without an informed public. But when it comes to German mainstream media, I have come to the conclusion that they aren’t trustworthy.

I agree with the WaPo article / Richard Stengel that the US government can’t be a verifier of last resort. No government can play this kind of role. The Chinese party and state have usurped that role, but China is known to be a low-trust society – that doesn’t suggest that they have played a successful role as official verifiers. While many Chinese people do apparently think of their government as the ultimate guardian of national sovereignty and individual safety from imperialist encroachment, they don’t seem to trust these domestic public security powers as their immediate neighbors.

And the ability of any Western government to be a verifier ends as soon as an issue involves state interests, government interests, or governing parties’ interests.

The US government as a verifier of last resort concerning the Syria war? That idea isn’t even funny.

The German government as a verifier of last resort when it comes to foreign-trade issues (within the European Union, or beyond)? Bullshit.

But what about the American media? I don’t have a very clear picture of how they work, but it would seem to me that US television stations usually address the issues that earn them most of the public’s attention. If that is so, it should be no wonder that Donald Trump profited more from media attention, than Hillary Clinton.

But if tweets, rather than platforms, become the really big issues, the media must have abandoned the role that has traditionally been ascribed to them.

German (frequently public-law) media are strongly influenced by political parties, and apparently by business-driven foundations, too.

I don’t know if something similar can be said about American media, but even if only for their attention-seeking coverage, they can’t count as well-performing media either.

What about “social” media? According to Stengel, as quoted by the Washington Post, they give everyone the opportunity to construct their own narrative of reality.

Stengel mentions Islamic State (in 2014) and Russian propaganda campaigns as examples. In the latter’s case, he points to the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and other political organizations during the elections in particular.

I believe that Stengel / Ignatius may have half a point. Russia – provided that they were indeed behind the leaks – only targeted Clinton’s campaign, not Donald Trump’s.

But then, wouldn’t it have been the task of the US media to unearth either campaign’s dirty secrets? Russian propaganda performed, even if only selectively, where US media had failed. It exposed practice in the Democratic Party leadership that was hostile to democracy, but acting under the guise of defending it.

How should citizens who want a fact-based world combat this assault on truth, Ignatius finally asks, and quotes Stengel once again, and addressing the role of “social media”:

The best hope may be the global companies that have created the social-media platforms. “They see this information war as an existential threat,” says Stengel. The tech companies have made a start: He says Twitter has removed more than 400,000 accounts, and YouTube daily deletes extremist videos.

Now, I’m no advocate of free broadcasts for ISIS videos. But if the best hope is the removal of accounts and videos by the commercial providers, it would seem that there isn’t much hope in human power of judgment, after all – and in that case, there wouldn’t be much hope for democracy as a model of government.

Ignatius:

The real challenge for global tech giants is to restore the currency of truth. Perhaps “machine learning” can identify falsehoods and expose every argument that uses them. Perhaps someday, a human-machine process will create what Stengel describes as a “global ombudsman for information.”

Wtf? Human-machine processes? Has the “Global Times” hacked the WaPo?

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Related

Why Wikileaks can’t work, Dec 1, 2010

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Monday, November 28, 2016

A few Thoughts about Castro

Fidel Castro, in the course of about half a century, became an icon for people who would have liked to challenge America’s leading global role. And he was hated by many Americans. When I asked an otherwise friendly American friend (by letter, back then) in the early 1990s why the embargo was still in place, I got a long and angry answer, as if I had I had trespassed. And when I made some not-too-critical, but not really reverent remarks about Castro the other day, I got an angry answer, too. What you get in a conversation about Castro really depends on your interlocutor (and, of course, on your diplomatic skills).

What is frequently ignored however, is the Cuban people. It is true that fear, intimidation and human rights violations has helped to keep the Cuban Communist Party in power. so have state and party propaganda. Decades of getting the same stories told over and over and over again, in school, the media, and  arguably by Grandpa at home, won’t fail to leave  traces on most human harddisks.

Few political leaders of the 20th and – so far – 21st century trigger as strong emotions as Fidel Castro does. Castro is idolized, and demonized. And more frequently than not, peoples’ reactions to his memory depend on where they belong, or who they side with: America, China, or Russia, for example.

It would take biographic research to judge Castro and his rule. It would require reading one or two biographies, at least. The information that daily mass media offer won’t provide insights into how Cuba has endured, or profitted from, Castro rule since early 1959.

But you wouldn’t run into too many people without clear-cut opinions about Castro.

That’s why countries and civilizations can be surprising to outsiders (and even to insiders). Things happen, and they may appear to be unlogical or bizarre. But they happen for reasons – good or bad -, and the driving forces behind them aren’t necessarily idiocy.

To understand Castro’s rise to power, and the reasons as to why the Cuban Communist Party has been able to cement its dictatorship to this days, we would need to walk the Cuban streets of the 1940s and 1950s, not those of the 2010s.

Research – scientific or journalistic – needs to take us there.

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