• Category Archives Op/Ed by Metzler
  • Separatist Fault Line Stretches From Spain to Ukraine

    John Metzler

    by John J. Metzler
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    UNITED NATIONS – A dangerous and potentially riveting political fault line stretches from Spain across Europe to Ukraine as smoldering separatist movements have gained new strength and standing.
    From Catalonia in Spain to the eastern regions of Ukraine with Corsica in between, the nationalist rift runs through the European Union to Russia. Deep cultural and linguistic divides are prevalent. Equally the political populism which triggered Britain’s BREXIT vote to leave the European Union has fueled separatist sentiments.
    But like Spain’s Basque regions, Catalonia already has autonomy within the central government in Madrid. Culturally and linguistically Catalonia’s moves are rooted in centuries of a proud identity and reflect a reality that the small northeast region of 7.5 million people centered in Barcelona remains of hub of prosperity. Yet despite its wealth, Catalonia remains the most indebted autonomous region in Spain.
    On October 1st, Catalonia held a independence referendum in which the regional government claimed an epic victory; while 90 percent of voters backed independence, only 43 percent of those eligible even cast a ballot! The vote moreover was illegal under the Spanish constitution.
    Yet the brash referendum move by the left wing regional government in Barcelona, while also igniting a constitutional crisis, deliberately gave the false impression of a Catalan David facing down a Spanish Goliath in the central government in Madrid.
    The Spanish daily ABC asserted editorially that Catalans had been brainwashed by a ‘radicalized and intransigent minority.”
    All was set for the next act by the region’s pugnacious president Charles Puigdemont; a full declaration of independence! Happily at least for the moment reality intervened.
    Massive popular marches across Spain and in Barcelona itself, rallied to Spanish unity. El Pais, the national newspaper headlined, “Historic Manifestations against Separatism and for the Constitution.”
    Spain’s conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy launched a political counteroffensive underscoring that the regional government had acted outside the Law and the Constitution. He warned that “Catalonia is a battle for Europe.” Soon even the Socialists and the leftist mayor of Barcelona opposed independence.
    Catalonia’s delirium soon turned to disappointment when Puigdemont pulled back from the brink and delayed his planned formal call for independence. Whether the populists reverse this stand is open to question as many far Left elements in the regions have turned the issue from pro Catalan independence to anti-Spain sentiment.
    “A romantic framing of foreign crises where self-determination is involved is a common trap. The imagery of ‘oppressors” vs ‘freedom fighters’ is appealing and, to their credit, the leaders of Catalonia have been successful in promoting their agenda abroad in just such terms …
    Combined with the soft power appeal of cosmopolitan Barcelona, there is much confusion abroad on the nature of the current crisis in Catalonia, and myths and stereotypes abound,”according to Spanish political observer Francisco de Borja Lasheras of the European Council on Foreign Relations in Madrid.
    Britain’s Spectator magazine opined, “So the illegal referendum in Catalonia last week was a long-meditated revenge by the left and an attempted coup d’état. It affected the rights not only of all Catalans, but of all Spaniards.”
    Moreover what of the European Union angle? An independent Catalonia would be outside the European Union much as would an independent Scotland. The idea that after unilaterally breaking with Madrid, an independent Catalonia would automatically be admitted into the EU with its trade and political benefits is simply nonsense.
    During this giddy but worrying episode, neighboring France was particularly critical of the Catalan independence gambit. Why? The Mediterranean island of Corsica (birthplace of Napoleon ), has long been a hotbed of militant separatism. The French government knows that a spark from nearby Spain can easily revive the smoldering Corsican debate.
    Moreover Ukraine which equally has a cultural/ethnic fault line in the eastern regions, has endured violent manipulation by Russia over the past few years.
    Though some of the nationalist cultural aspirations are valid, they threaten the wider European Union not to mention established democratic nation states such as Spain.
    Lessons of Yugoslavia in the 1990’s not to mind the bloody Spanish Civil War of the 1930’s where Catalonia had become an epicenter of the conflict, serve as somber signposts to the often ultimate consequence of untamed separatism.
    Many of these issues are rooted in an affair of the heart more than of the mind; in other words what would be the viability of an unrecognized Catalan micro state the size of Belgium?
    Catalans must open dialogue within Spain to sort out the widening rifts before they become entrenched divisions. As Mariano Rajoy asserted, “It is urgent to put an end to the situation that Catalonia is living.”

    John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism The Diplomacy of Separated Nations: Germany, Korea, China.


  • Hungary Helps Embattled Mid-East Christians

    John Metzler

    by John J. Metzler
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    UNITED NATIONS – One of the silent tragedies among the conflicts raging in the Middle East, concerns the fate of the ancient and now persecuted Christian communities. Concerns for the forgotten and once vibrant Christian minorities especially in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon are often politely air brushed out of political discussions.
    Hungary’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto has taken special care to underline the plight of persecuted minorities in the Middle East who are facing attacks by Islamic terrorist groups.
    In an exclusive interview with this writer, Minister Szijjarto conceded, “Unfortunately the West-ern World suffers hypocrisy and political correctness. It is strange but many of us are not brave enough to speak about the necessity of protecting Christians.”
    Indeed political gatherings “usually speak about ‘religious groups’ which I don’t like the term for example. I like to be straightforward and honest. And if I mean we have to protect the Christians, I will say we have to protect the Christians.”


    He added enthusiastically, “Whenever I speak about the necessity to protect Christians in the foreign affairs councils of the European Union, I’m warned, ‘Peter be more balanced and say protection of religious groups’ which I totally deny because if we Christians don’t speak about the necessity to protect Christians, Who will speak about this? No one!”
    Although Christian believers form the largest religious community worldwide, “that should not keep us from speaking about brothers and sisters living in those areas where they are not the ma-jority.”
    Significantly, the Budapest government has established a State Secretariat which only deals with the cases of the persecuted Christian communities around the world. Continue reading  Post ID 3033


  • UN Secretary General Decries Rising Tide of Refugees

    John Metzler

    by John J. Metzler
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    UNITED NATIONS – In an impassioned appeal to the media, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres decried the rising tide of refugees worldwide, but advised that ultimately political solutions to the crises remain the key to stem the tide creating chaotic human displacements.
    While more than 65 million people around the world are victims of a score of conflicts, both humanitarian assistance and preventive diplomacy to solve these calamities are needed now.
    “Now we are witnessing the largest number of refugees ever,” the Secretary General stated glumly while adding that while developed countries have carried an enormous burden to aid the ongoing humanitarian emergencies, it was largely overlooked that smaller and poorer states have carried a disproportionate burden.
    Secretary General Guterres is painfully aware of this expanding crisis having served nearly a decade as the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees and earlier Portugal’s Prime Minister.
    Sadly we know the conflicts: Syria, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.
    Significantly the Secretary General stressed that countries of first asylum, namely states bordering a particular crisis, now host 80 percent of the refugees. In Lebanon one third of the population are fleeing Syrians. Turkey and the Kingdom of Jordan host huge numbers too.
    In 2015, Uganda hosted a half million refugees; today the small Central African state has 1.3 million mostly from South Sudan. Kenya and Ethiopia house large numbers too from Somalia. These are societies, “that are poor, that lack resources, that have huge development gaps and huge development problems.”
    Guterres is appalled that “global political populism, Xenophobia, racism in which refugees become a target.” He advised that while refugees are often accused of promoting terrorism, refugees “are the first victims of terror, they are fleeing terror; that is why they are refugees.” Continue reading  Post ID 3033


  • May Day For Britain’s Theresa May

    John Metzler

    by John J. Metzler
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    NEW YORK—It’s political May Day for Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May after what appeared as a massive miscalculation in calling a general election which she narrowly won.
    Though the ruling Conservative party gained the largest share of seats and votes in the 650 seat Parliament, the party fell sadly short of a majority, thus causing the “Hung Parliament” in which a coalition must again be formed.
    Theresa May’s roll of the political dice to call for early elections were based on her gamble to win a powerful majority strong unified government which was needed in the wake of last year’s still reverberating BREXIT vote for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. BREXIT talks on the UK/EU separation begins in mid-June amid an uneasy instability in London.
    As May predicted prior to the vote, “Now more than ever, Britain needs a strong and stable government to get the best deal for our country.” Indeed, but now there’s more confusion both in Britain and throughout the European Union concerning the complicated pattern of EU separation.
    Tragically Theresa May’s snap election was shadowed by the specter of terrorism, both the appalling attacks in Manchester and London in which Islamist jihadi terrorists hit soft, civilian targets killing 30. Concerning the terrorists she said, “They are bound together by the single evil ideology of Islamist extremism that preaches hatred, sows division and promotes sectarianism…Defeating this ideology is one of the great challenges of our time.” Continue reading  Post ID 3033


  • Global Growth Improving, But Still Woes

    John Metzler

    by John J. Metzler
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    UNITED NATIONS -The world economy is slowly improving with a forecast for 2.7 percent global growth, but there’s still a way to go to reach pre-recession levels. That’s part of the prognosis of the UN’s World Economic Situation midterm report for 2017 which cites stronger economic recovery in many developed economies such as the U.S., Japan and the European Union, but warns of a deterioration in many developing countries especially in Africa.
    The American economy is performing better than the UN’s start of the year estimates with growth for 2017 expected to reach 2.1 percent. According to the Report, economic activity in the United States accelerated; investment in mining industries rebounded. This of course reflects the Trump Administration’s commitment to revive the coal mining and steel industries. Equally, high post-election consumer confidence has led to a generally more favorable economic perception throughout the USA and has supported wider job creation.
    The Report adds, “Significant tax cuts and an infrastructure investment program are under discussion in the United States.” Should such overdue measures pass Congress, the U.S. economy will see further expansion.
    Yet the Report warns, “The policy environment in the United States remains turbulent, as proposals by the Administration confront Congressional and judicial hurdles.” This becomes abundantly clear when viewing Administration policy inside the maelstrom of partisan political infighting. Moreover, question marks concerning established trade policy have shadowed the commercial environment with key partners such as Canada and Mexico.
    Slow but certain growth is predicted in Japan with a rise of 1.1 percent and in the European Union where growth still remains steady at 1.7 percent. Continue reading  Post ID 3033


  • Venezuela’s Slide Into Chaos

    John Metzler

    by John J. Metzler
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    UNITED NATIONS -Storm clouds are buffeting the coast of Venezuela, the once rich South American state which is sliding into economic chaos and combustable political confrontation.
    Mass demonstrations have rocked the capital Caracas. As democratic opposition protesters con-front the riot police and paramilitary forces of the entrenched socialist dictatorship, the country of 31 million slips deeper into turmoil.
    It did not have to be this way.
    Once a fairly prosperous and middle class country, Venezuela challenged the paradigm of much of Latin America in the post-war period having a working democracy which was not jolted by periodic military coups d’etat. Nor was this the stereotypical “banana republic.” Anything but.
    Yet the rise of the petroleum fueled and politically high octane presidency of Colonel Hugo Chavez starting in 1999 changed the political equation. A dozen years of left wing politics, nationalizations and increasing authoritarianism of the Bolivarian Revolution put Chavez’s Venezuela near the pinnacle of progressive Latin American regimes. President Chavez presented him-self as a buffoonish populist and regular critic of the USA. Having witnessed his antics during his UN visits, one could be assured of colorful rhetoric and a peculiar charm fitting of a Latin despot.
    In a sense Venezuela’s oil boom was both a blessing and a curse. In the beginning petrodollars fueled the state and lavish social welfare programs for his United Socialist Party. Later petrodol-lars provided a massive political slush fund to support political solidarity with Castro’s Cuba, and a host of other Marxist states looking for the flow of Peso diplomacy. But the drop in global oil prices and the cost of socialist mismanagement by Hugo Chavez turned a once prosperous state into an economic basket case. Continue reading  Post ID 3033


  • Sultan Erdogan’s Uneasy Turkish Turban

    John Metzler

    by John J. Metzler
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    UNITED NATIONS—There’s troubling news from across the Bosphorus, the narrow slip of water separating Europe from Asia-minor. In a decisive but dividing referendum, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan narrowly gained the political blessing he sought by winning 51 percent of the nationwide vote. Erdogan’s divisive victory (51/49 percent), allows the increasingly authoritarian Turkish ruler to gain sweeping powers to change the constitution and to allow him near unrivaled power until 2029.
    The main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), has called on the electoral commission to annul the outcome citing “manipulating the referendum results.” Still the newly-minted Sultan Erdogan failed to gain the minimum 55 percent vote he wished for to bless the constitutional changes.
    Turkey remains a key piece on the geopolitical board linking Europe to the Mid East and the Mediterranean to the Black Sea. But its strategic situation has been sadly compromised by its border with Syria whose civil war continues to spill over into Turkish territory both in terms of violent terrorism and humanitarian hosting of nearly three million refugees.


    Contrary to many assumptions, Turkey’s economy in recent years was strong and growth- oriented. Turkish tourism was booming and deservedly so. The Syrian crisis changed the equation dramatically. Tourism has taken a dive downwards.
    The once staunchly secular Turkish Republic of Kemal Ataturk was founded in 1923. The new 18 article constitutional changes focus on granting of executive powers to an elected President and the abolition of the Prime Minister. Equally Cabinet Ministers can be chosen from outside the Parliament. The ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) has changed the rules of the game. Erdogan became Prime Minister in 2002 and was elected President in 2014. Continue reading  Post ID 3033


  • Syrian Bloodshed Enters Seventh Year

    John Metzler

    by John J. Metzler
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    UNITED NATIONS – Syria’s bloody conflict has entered its seventh year with unrelenting killings, displacements and bombardments being “one of the largest man-made humanitarian and protection crises in the world.” As the UN Humanitarian Chief Stephen O’Brien told the Security Council, “Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and million more injured.” He stressed, “Over five million people have fled and are now living as refugees.”
    In yet another impassioned address begging for humanitarian access to besieged towns, O’Brien lamented, “Crimes against humanity and war crimes have been committed by all parties time and time again.” He added, “Syrians have watched huge parts of their historic and proud country reduced to rubble.”

    Stephen O’Brien, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief.

    As American UN Ambassador Nikki Haley advised, “Half of all Syrians are displaced from their homes, some living in the ruins of bombed out buildings and others fleeing as refugees to neighboring countries. At this point, two-thirds of Syria’s remaining population, those who have not crossed international borders, require some form of aid.”
    Think for a moment of the dire images of shattered lives and battered buildings in historic cities such as Aleppo, Homs and even the ancient capital Damascus. The pulverized towns and the tragic refugee streams. The lost hopes of toppling the Assad regime replaced not by a dream of democracy but a living nightmare of violent jihadi terrorist organizations such as Al-Nusra or the Islamic State/Daesh.
    UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has been visiting the Mid-East and touring the swelling refugee camps in places like Jordan. As the former UN High Commissioner for Refugees Guterres visited this camp far too many times. Yet the numbers of refugees from neighboring Syria have only grown. Continue reading  Post ID 3033


  • Human Trafficking & Slavery Byproduct of Global Conflicts

    John Metzler

    by John J. Metzler
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    UNITED NATIONS -Modern slavery is tragically thriving in the Twenty-first Century!
    While ethnic, religious and military conflicts seem to be the grist of news headlines, the quiet and brutal backstory from this global violence regards the vulnerable millions who have been displaced as migrants and refugees. Ironically in the midst of such desperation there’s a “business model” used by human traffickers who are profiting from slavery, an ancient scourge, which reap profits of over $150 billion annually.
    UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that “trafficking networks have gone global” with over 21 million people ensnared in forced labor, and extreme exploitation. Families and societies were being torn apart by what he called “gross violations of human rights.”
    Addressing a special debate in the UN Security Council, Secretary-General Guterres conceded “flourishing where the rule of law was weak and in situations of armed conflict, trafficking was thriving in Syria, where Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) had organized slave markets.” He added that in Nigeria the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram “had considered slavery legal in areas under its sway.”
    Yury Fedotov of the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime added, “terrorists used human trafficking to exploit instability and vulnerability…armed groups preyed on children” in what was described as a “low risk, high-reward business opportunity.”
    Kevin Hyland, Britain’s Anti-Slavery Commissioner, noted that terrorist organizations openly advocated “slavery as a tactic of war” and that Da’esh was targeting minority groups and establishing slave markets.
    “Conflict also created environments in which modern slavery could flourish,” Hyland added.
    Without question such tactics remain a dark corollary of conflict in many countries. Continue reading  Post ID 3033


  • Storm Clouds Swirl Over Korean Peninsula

    John Metzler

    by John J. Metzler
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    UNITED NATIONS -Thunder clouds are swirling over the Korean peninsula as a perfect storm of political instability and regional geopolitical challenges rumble through South Korea. North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests, as well as Chinese bullying, have thrust the region into a dangerous cycle which could affect South Korea’s hard won peace and prosperity. Events over the next six months will be crucial.
    Political crisis has returned to South Korea, a vibrant if fractious democracy for over a generation. President Park Geun- hye, the once popular but tough president has been forced from office after a bitter drawn out impeachment scandal. President Park, the now tarnished daughter of Park Chung-hee the strongman who rebuilt the shattered South Korean economy, was a close American ally. Elections slated for May will no longer be the polite formality as expected where former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would swan into the Blue House, but a tough knockdown contest between the now discredited right and an ascendent left.
    Not since the countdown to the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics has there been such political tension.
    Yet today’s Korea faces a very different dynamic as young people have grown up in a safe, secure and prosperous society no longer shadowed by the Korean War of 1950-53 and the arduous rebuilding era of the 1960’s and 1970’s. The candle holding protesters are hardly the militant firebomb throwing hyper political youth of the mid-1980’s. Continue reading  Post ID 3033


  • Ukraine—Europe’s Forgotten Conflict

    John Metzler

    by John J. Metzler
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    UNITED NATIONS -The rumble of artillery and the cracks of Kalashnikovs shatter the Winter chill. The refugees, the displaced and the injured have become part of the broken landscape which reflects the agony of previous battles. Yet the wider silence is broken by the unwavering voices who remind us that this is not beleaguered Syria in the Middle East nor Sudan in Africa but Ukraine in Europe.
    Ukraine’s smoldering conflict has flared up again with a sharp upsurge in fighting in the disputed Donetsk region in the east of the country. Russian backed rebels have attacked Ukrainian government positions along the unstable ceasefire line. A ranking UN official asserts, there’s been a “dangerous intensification of the conflict.”
    A Security Council meeting, sponsored by Ukraine, set the stage. Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko, who serves as the Council’s President for February, stated “Altogether 20 Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 134 were wounded by the Russian hybrid forces and Russia-backed militants since the beginning of this year in the area around Avdiyivka.” He stressed that Moscow-backed forces had broken the Minsk ceasefire accords and were destabilizing Ukraine’s sovereignty. Russia blames Ukraine for starting the recent round of fighting.
    Nearly 10,000 people, military and civilians have been killed since the conflict began in 2014.
    U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s debut address before the UN Security Council condemned Russia’s “aggressive actions” in eastern Ukraine and warned “Until Russia and the separatists it supports respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, this crisis will continue.”
    Amb. Haley lamented that it was “unfortunate” that she had to condemn Russia during her first Security Council appearance, adding “we do want to better our relations with Russia.” Continue reading  Post ID 3033


  • “Trump World” What The Donald Inherits

    John Metzler

    by John J. Metzler
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    UNITED NATIONS – Chaos, Conflict and Crisis are some of the words describing the combustable global situation the new American President Donald J. Trump inherits from his predecessor. Far from a stable world order, Donald Trump is entering a complex foreign maze in which he must decipher, decode and often defuse a feckless and lamentable foreign policy legacy from Cuba to China.
    Let’s take a look at the international situation Donald Trump faces.
    China. On Obama’s watch China’s trade deficit with the USA ballooned hitting an all time high of $367 billion in 2015. More ominously, Beijing is expanding its geopolitical reach into the international waters of the South China Sea, through building artificial islands and platforms in disputed reefs. Despite the conflicting claims of six other countries, the People’s Republic provocatively claims the South China Sea as a kind of exclusive “Mare Nostrum” Our Sea.
    While American rhetoric has stressed the right of free navigation in international waters, Washington’s words and a downsized U.S. Navy have not stopped China’s deeds. Obama’s vaunted Pacific Pivot was another style over substance policy.
    North Korea. North Korea’s nuclear threat has expanded. Pyongyang has perfected working nuclear weapons during Obama’s Administration. There have been five nuclear tests and the regime is working on long range missile technology, targeting Japan and ultimately the USA. This could be a first test for Trump. Don’t take the bait.
    Middle East. Obama inherited a dangerous but stabilized Iraq. After much American blood and treasure spent toppling Saddam’s dictatorship, Iraq was reasonably secure. Obama’s precipitous troop pullout caused the string in the national fabric to unravel reopening the sectarian divide. After losing huge swaths of land and cities to Islamic State of the Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), described by Barack Obama as a “junior varsity” terrorist group, only now has the Baghdad government begun to regain its footing. Slowly they are reclaiming lost land from ISIL with the help of 5,000 U.S. troops. Continue reading  Post ID 3033


  • New UN Secretary General Starts Job “Without Illusions”

    John Metzler

    by John J. Metzler
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    UNITED NATIONS – The page has been turned. And the new UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres of Portugal has assumed office with a stoically realistic vision of both the crises and opportunities facing the international community. In his first remarks to staff Guterres stated, “I think we should have no illusions. We are facing very challenging times.”
    He’s right. The new chief executive of the 193-member organization knows of what he speaks. Before being elected to the top post replacing South Korea’s Ban Ki-moon, Antonio Guterres (67) was the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva. During the past decade massive waves of refugees followed the growing global crisis and disorder. Sources describe him as a man who spent time in the field knowing the day to day travails facing humanitarian aid givers.
    “On one hand, we see everywhere in the world conflicts that multiply, that are interlinked, that also have triggered this new photon of global terrorism,” he told assembled staff. He then detailed the breadth of a crisis which has 65 million refugees worldwide, the largest number since the Second World War.
    Stressing that, “I have worked as High Commissioner with the Turkish people, (Turkey) became the largest country receiving refugees in the world.” He lamented “having witnessed the generosity of the Turkish people, to see how now the Turkish people being the victims of this terrible terrorist attack.”
    Significantly his first official meeting at headquarters was with Turkey’s Foreign Minister.
    While the UN is known for its wide-ranging Peacekeeping operations, importantly Guterres underscored the fact, “We still fail in relation to prevention of conflicts and conflict resolution.” Stressing conflict prevention remains a key element in his vision.
    He chided the contemporary era’s “conflicts in which international humanitarian law is not respected, situations in which we see massive human rights violations .”
    Indeed his pledge to “put Peace first” in the New Year reflects a sobering challenge to the chaotic international order.
    Yet the new Secretary General’s lens widened to laud, “We have witnessed enormous economic progress and enormous technological progress; we have seen less extreme poverty in the world; social welfare has improved as an average.” Yet he stressed that as communication and information becomes more global, the fact that you are excluded “makes it even more unbearable” adding “exclusion easily triggers revolt, anger and becomes a factor of instability.” Continue reading  Post ID 3033


  • Beijing’s Pacific Pivot—75 Years After Pearl Harbor

    John Metzler

    by John J. Metzler
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    UNITED NATIONS – On December 7, 1941, the United States was shocked and stunned from its nervous neutrality and thrust into the crucible of the Second World War. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor instantly changed the narrative for American involvement in WWII which had already been raging in both in East Asia and in Europe.
    Let’s not forget that a full decade earlier Japan had begun to dismember China; first in Manchuria in 1931 and then the wider expansion after July 1937. For a long time Nationalist China staunchly fought alone against Tokyo’s powerful and modernized military machine. In Europe Hitler and Stalin’s perfidious deal to divide Poland led to the attack in September 1939, formally starting the War in Europe. But by December 1941, France and the Netherlands, not to mention a dozen other countries were occupied by the Nazi Blitzkrieg. Britain was under assault, Hitler had attacked the Soviet Union the previous June.
    While the USA saw the clouds of war approaching, and was indeed finally rebuilding its military power, the assumption was somehow through chosen isolationism we would have the time, and the option to choose when to formally enter the fight. Indeed part of the underlying presumption which proved so horribly wrong was that “it couldn’t happen here.”
    Pearl Harbor in Hawaii was too far from a belligerent Japan and “obviously” Tokyo did not have the sea power to decisively project a carrier battle group such a distance undetected. Moreover the “blue water” Navy types could not imagine of the technological prowess and spirit of the Japanese Navy. This proved a terrible and near catastrophic miscalculation.
    But Tokyo made a bigger mistake: Admiral Yamamoto, the reluctant if dedicated architect of the Pearl Harbor attack, was said to remark, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” The attack drew America into the war as a fearsome adversary. Continue reading  Post ID 3033


  • Syria’s Labyrinth into Hell

    John Metzler

    by John J. Metzler
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    UNITED NATIONS – It’ s not often a senior UN official leaves a prepared and rigid script to emotionally describe a situation to delegates in the Security Council. But when Humanitarian Chief Stephen O’Brien told diplomats, “I am more or less at my wit’s end as a human being” in describing and cataloguing the horrors of Syria’s civl war, he was stating the painful truth.
    As this column has stressed on many occasions, Syria has descended into Dante’s Inferno. During more than five years of conflict, 500,000 people have been killed and millions rendered homeless or displaced as refugees. The ongoing Syrian conflict has been viewed by many with shameful indifference. Echoes of Bosnia a generation ago.
    Aleppo, and the ongoing siege by Assad government forces remains the epicenter of the conflict; this proud once thriving city has been reduced to swaths of rubble, a jagged patchwork of control by terrorist factions, regime loyalists, and militias. Starvation stalks the land while regime helicopters indiscriminately drop hideous “barrel bombs” and Russian jets pound presumably rebel positions. UN humanitarian aid waits in suspended animation as shells fall.
    “Humanitarian conditions in eastern Aleppo have gone from terrible to terrifying and now barely survivable by human beings,” Stephen O’Brien asserted. There’s limited food and medicine for a beleaguered civilian population caught in the crossfire. He called on countries to use their influence to “put an end to the slaughterhouse that is Aleppo,” and to allow humanitarian access. Continue reading  Post ID 3033