A Modest Proposal for Defending Japan’s Remote Islands
( TIME )

Cooler heads have prevailed so far in the standoff between Japan and
China over disputed islands in the East China Sea. But it might be
time for Japan to put a few defenses there in case warmer heads
prevail the next time.

Japan has talked for years about stationing troops or equipment on
its far-flung Nansei Islands, which stretch some 700 miles (1,120 km)
southward from the home islands, and developing a modest capability
to conduct amphibious warfare. But so far, it’s amounted to little
more than vague plans and slogans.

If Chinese warships want to slip troops ashore on one of the hundreds
of remote islands that Japan owns or claims in the region, there’s
little to stop them. And to pry them off would require the help of
U.S. Marines -- with potentially dire consequences for U.S.-China
relations, not to mention the security of the entire region.

There’s no indication, of course, that China actually plans to seize
Japanese territory. Japan itself is officially pacifist and has
renounced the use of force in settling international disputes.
That’s all fine and good. But if Japan wants a little more say in
defending its territory, it could do so with a few modest steps.

Here’s where to start:

1. Put troops, ships and planes in the region and keep them there.
The exact mix and number can be argued all day, but the point is to
have a force that is substantial enough to dissuade anyone who might
be tempted to look for a quick and easy military option. A battalion
or so of ground troops, a squadron of patrol planes and a few small
or medium-size warships, based in the southernmost islands near
Taiwan, would probably suffice. Right now Japan has nothing south of
Okinawa, and very little even there. Might as well post a “Come on
in” sign.


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キューバ危機50年 1962年から凍りついたままの米国とキューバ

The Cuban Missile Crisis at 50: America and Cuba Still Frozen in 1962
( TIME )

It’s hard to attribute anything but coincidence to the fact that
Cuban President Raul Castro issued a major immigration reform on
Tuesday, Oct. 16, which was the 50th anniversary of the start of the
Cold War’s most harrowing moment, the Cuban Missile Crisis. But the
two things are nonetheless related. Castro’s reform -- eliminating
the onerous exit visa requirement for Cubans who want to travel
outside the communist island -- is a reminder of how the missile
crisis prompted both Washington and Havana to shut down movement into
and out of Cuba for the past half century. And it’s one more sign
among many that each side needs to put that cold-war past behind it.

Eight months before Oct. 16, 1962 -- the day U.S. President John F.
Kennedy was informed of the presence of Soviet nuclear missiles in
Cuba, just 90 miles from Florida -- the U.S. had already imposed a
unilateral trade embargo on the regime of Cuban dictator Fidel
Castro. That’s largely because Fidel, who ruled Cuba from 1959 until
handing the presidency to his younger brother Raul in 2006, had
aligned his Caribbean nation with the Soviet Union. Now, by letting
the Soviets use bases in Cuba to position ballistic missiles that
could strike deep into the U.S. -- and by urging Soviet leader Nikita
Khrushchev, according to Khrushchev’s account, to fire those
missiles when Kennedy ordered a naval blockade of the island during
the 13-day U.S.-Soviet standoff -- Fidel had further stoked
Washington’s wrath.

The crisis ended peacefully when the Soviets removed the missiles in
exchange for a pledge to eventually remove U.S. missiles from Turkey.
But a few months later, on top of the trade embargo, Kennedy ordered
a ban on all U.S. travel to Cuba. Meanwhile, Fidel tightened
restrictions on Cubans’ ability to leave the island. The embargo and
the U.S. travel ban, incredibly, are still in effect -- and so is the
Cuban regime’s policy of using those measures as a scapegoat for the
impoverished island’s economic blunders and as an excuse for the
repression of political rights. “For 50 years,” says Tomas Bilbao,
executive director of the Cuba Study Group in Washington, D.C., which
advocates an end to the embargo as well as democratic reform in Cuba,
“both sides have continually taken measures that prevent the free
flow of people, to the detriment of Cuban civil society. Now both
sides are finally starting to take steps to facilitate it.”

But while that calculation worked for communist China, it’s a bigger
gamble in Cuba, where communism’s viability is much more dependent
on the personality cult of the Castros. Which is why it’s ultimately
more in the interests of U.S. Cuba policy to drop the embargo and the
constitutionally questionable travel ban, laws that even most
Cuban-Americans now agree are relics that need to go. For one thing,
those measures have failed, utterly, to dislodge the Castros. As a
result, engaging Cuba economically -- more important, engaging the 12
million hapless Cubans who after half a century are still paying for
cold-war clashes like the Bay of Pigs and the missile crisis -- could
help lay stronger groundwork for democratization when old age finally
accomplishes what U.S. sanctions couldn’t.

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As China Readies for Leadership Handover, How is Chairman Mao Faring?
( TIME )

Poor Chairman Mao. China is still ruled by the Communist Party, which
will undergo a once-a-decade changing of the guard next month. But
the founder of the People’s Republic, who normally enjoys public
celebration in state media before major political events in the
People’s Republic, may be somewhat diminished on the eve of the Nov.
8 Party Congress during which President Hu Jintao is expected to
begin handing over power to Vice President Xi Jinping.

In the Oct. 16 issue of Seeking Truth (求是 or Qiushi), the Chinese
Communist Party’s flagship magazine, an article appeared entitled
Sparing No Effort to Push Forward Reform and Opening Up. Like many
articles about the Communist Party in Seeking Truth, the editorial
was notable for its comically authoritative language, with gems like:
“Its direction and path are absolutely correct, and its
effectiveness and contributions cannot be denied. Any standstill or
regression will find no way out.” Given that this is the last issue
of the journal to be released before the Party Congress, the contents
of the piece were dissected for ulterior meanings. One curiosity was
quickly noticed: Where was the Great Helmsman?

“We should adjust ourselves to the recent domestic and overseas
changes, satisfy the expectations of the masses, strengthen our
confidence, uphold the guidance of Deng Xiaoping Theory and Three
Represents, implement the scientific development outlook, further
deepen our understanding of the regular patterns of socialism, the
rule of the Communist Party and human society’s development.”

Maoism enjoyed a comeback in China over the past couple years, as the
booming economy spurred by the country’s capitalist embrace has been
accompanied by less welcome trends like income inequality and
corruption. A renewed commitment to socialist thought was supposed to
bring about a more equal society, according to these neo-Maoists. But
the political downfall earlier this year of its star proponent,
former Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai, has blunted brand Mao.
Among Bo’s many alleged misdeeds are graft and violating Party
discipline -- precisely the kind of ills a renewed Socialist ideology
were supposed to combat.

Yet more than half of 3,177 Chinese surveyed earlier this year said
they like American ideas about democracy, according to a poll by Pew
Research Center released on Oct. 16. Another interesting tidbit from
the Pew survey: half the respondents considered corrupt officials a
major social problem, up from 39% four years before. Mao was supposed
to cleanse the country of graft. But reality proved otherwise, as the
Bo case most recently shows. Xi and the new Chinese leadership will
have to figure out how to purge the government of this scourge and
still keep its grip on power, with or without state-media adulation
of the Chairman.

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バルカン戦争 100年後と暴力の歴史

he Balkan Wars: 100 Years Later, a History of Violence
( TIME )

A century ago today, the Balkan wars began. On Oct. 8, 1912, the tiny
Kingdom of Montenegro declared war on the weak Ottoman Empire,
launching an invasion of Albania, then under nominal Turkish rule.
Three other Balkan states in league with the Montenegrins --
Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia -- rapidly followed suit, waging war on
the old imperial enemy while drawing upon a wellspring of national
sentiment in each of their homelands. By March 1913, their
blood-soaked campaigns had effectively pushed the enfeebled Ottomans
out of Europe. Yet by July, Greece and Serbia would clash with
Bulgaria in what’s known as the Second Balkan War -- a bitter
monthlong struggle that saw more territory change hands, more
villages razed and more bodies dumped into the earth.

The peace that followed was no peace at all. A year later, with
Europe’s great powers entwined in the fate of the Balkans, a
Yugoslav nationalist in the Bosnian city of Sarajevo killed the crown
prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Europe plunged into World War I.

“The Balkans,” goes one of the many witticisms attributed to
Winston Churchill, “generates more history than it can locally
consume.” To Churchill and many Western observers of his era, this
rugged stretch of southeastern Europe was a headache, a geopolitical
mess that had for centuries been at the crossroads of empires and
religions, riven by ethnic tribalisms and the meddling of outside
powers. Half a century earlier, Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck
-- the architect of the modern German state -- expressed his disgust
with this nuisance of a region, scoffing that the whole of the
Balkans was “not worth the bones of one Pomeranian grenadier” in
his employ.

But while these grand statesmen of the West saw a backward land
brimming with ancient hatreds, the Balkans’ turbulent past, and the
legacy of the Balkan wars in particular, perhaps offers a more
instructive history lesson for our present than even World War I.
This is not just because the Balkan wars spawned some historic firsts
on the battlefield -- such as the first instance when aircraft was
used to attack an enemy (by the Bulgarians) or some of the first grim
scenes of trench warfare in continental Europe (observers recount
how, in one trench, the legs of dead Turkish soldiers froze into the
ground and had to be hacked off). It’s because in many ways these
battles fought a century ago reflect our world today: one where
internecine and sectarian conflicts -- in, say, Syria or the
Democratic Republic of Congo -- are enmeshed in the agendas of
outside powers and where the trauma of that violence often augurs
more of the same.

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Nobel Peace Prize Sows Discord -- and Laughter
( TIME )

There are five of them: two men, three women, all Norwegians. They
include ex-Prime Minister Thorbjorn Jagland, two former
parliamentarians, a top lawyer and a onetime Bishop of Oslo. They
look sobersided enough; you might easily believe them to be the board
directors of a cementmaker or an accounting firm. But the Nobel
committee has once again proved its flair for comedy, by awarding the
2012 Peace Prize to the European Union.

Comedy, of course, depends on timing, and the timing of this award
couldn’t be more piquant. As Jagland acknowledged in his Oct. 12
announcement of the winner, the E.U. “is currently undergoing grave
economic difficulties and considerable social unrest.” As the
members of the single currency find themselves trapped, in the
memorable phrase of British Foreign Secretary William Hague, “in a
burning building with no exits,” governments are battling one
another and, not infrequently, their own citizens. As soon as news of
the award broke, leaked by Norwegian public broadcaster NRK some 30
minutes before Jagland confirmed it, Twitter convulsed with
merriment. Perhaps the committee meant to honor the E.U. for
economics, mused some jesters. Others speculated that Germany would
collect the prize money, more than US$1 million, and refuse to share
it with Greece.

To be fair, it’s not easy choosing the Peace Prize recipient. This
year the committee had to evaluate 231 nominations -- 188 for
individuals and 43 for organizations. They opted for the E.U. on the
basis that “the union and its forerunners have for over six decades
contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy
and human rights in Europe,” said Jagland.

European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso greeted news of the
award with enthusiasm. It “is justified recognition for a unique
project that works for the benefit of its citizens and also for the
world,” he said. He didn’t look as if he was gritting his teeth.
Yet as previous Peace Prize winners could tell him (take a bow,
Barack Obama), the funniest thing of all about the Nobel Peace Prize
is its ability to create division and draw fire on its recipients.
Once again, the Nobel committee has excelled itself.

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