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Experts say there’s one issue that would trigger Beijing to enter traditional warfare – and it looks like Australia would be dragged into the conflict.
DRUMS OF WAR
Chairman Xi Jinping’s ambitions are obvious.
He’s using all means short of war to assert territorial control over regions as diverse as the Himalayas, the South and East China Seas, and Taiwan.
He’s pushing limits. He’s breaching norms. He’s taking risks.
Now neighbouring nations are starting to push back.
Japan and India have begun to co-ordinate their military activities. The Philippines has reversed its decision to end its alliance with the United States. Vietnam has welcomed US Navy visits to its ports.
Now European countries are reviving long-neglected friendships by sending warships on extended tours through the region.
Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech during the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China at Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Picture: Reuters
“So is war likely? Where is it likely? And who will it involve, and what can be done to mitigate the situation?” Matt Smith of La Trobe Asia asked the panel.
“I don’t think it’s this year. But I think definitely within the next six to seven years,” replied Dr Oriana Skylar Mastro of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University.
Guy Boekenstein, Northern Australia Fellow of the Asia Society, said an armed clash was likely: “I don’t think we’re likely to see a full-scale kind of traditional war within the next five to 10 years. But I think (there) is the potential for a strategic miscalculation”.
“We’re not on the precipice of great-power conflict in the way that we were in 1914. But we’re a lot closer to that than we were,” concluded Professor Nick Bisley, Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, La Trobe University.
Clear and present danger
China’s advancing on all fronts. Territorially. Economically. Diplomatically.
But it has priorities.
“A lot of people have argued that the Chinese prefer grey zone, coercion, political warfare, all that type of stuff. And I completely agree – except with Taiwan” said Dr Mastro. “You’re not going to get full political control of Taiwan through those methods”.
And Chairman Xi has pinned his legacy to the island’s fate.
“Xi Jinping has been clear. He wants this issue resolved. The only way to resolve it is to get Chinese boots on the ground, in Taiwan.”
Professor Bisley agrees.
“Xi Jinping has made a very public and very clear signal that says ‘Taiwan is not a problem that will be passed down to the next generation’. Now, of course, he doesn’t have term limits. He’ll be there for a long while. We don’t know what the exact time frame is. But there does seem to be one.”
Taiwan has become the target of China’s increasingly intense military posturing. Large flights of combat aircraft have been probing its airspace. Warships have been circling its territory.
Such a concentration of hardware is dangerous, says Mr Boekenstein.
“There’s been long, long pent strategic competition in the region now for quite a while,” he said. “We’re suddenly seeing an increase in military activity. And, you know, I think that can only lead to something. At some point, something will give somewhere – whether on purpose or by accident.”
Will to fight
“The United States 100 per cent is going to fight this war,” Dr Mastro said. “in my view, the United States is absolutely going to respond.”
She was responding to regional fears that Washington’s increasingly insular attitudes would see it abandon its long-held alliances and agreements.
“One of the main reasons China might actually go for this (Taiwan) landing is because they think that they could win,” she said. “And not just that they could win if the United States does not intervene, that is obviously guaranteed, but that they could win even if the United States intervenes.”
That’s not because China is stronger than the US. It’s because it’s closer to Taiwan.
“It’s possible that China can move before the United States even has the time to respond.
“My big question is, what does it mean for the region if the United States tries and fails? I think that’s even worse.”
“America’s absolutely going to back Taiwan for a whole range of reasons,” agreed Professor Bisley, “Not the least of which is if America doesn’t back Taiwan, which other of its allies and partners around the world isn’t it going to back? It’d be a serious credibility issue.”
Mr Boekenstein says Australia would almost certainly be part of any coalition responding to China’s aggression.
“If we look realistically at the Australian Defence Force and our ability to project power or defend Australia independently, you know, we shouldn’t be kidding ourselves,” he said. “We’ve got a very small but very capable military. But alliances and partnerships will always fundamentally underpin our defence and security.”
Dodging a bullet
War isn’t inevitable, even if it is increasingly likely. And the panel agreed things could be done to reduce the odds.
All involve improving our understanding of and engagement with Asia.
“(Australia) should be a bit more vocal and work collaboratively with our Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese and Philippine partners and allies and say, ‘hey, these are these things that are in our shared interest that we can do together,” Professor Bisley said. “Middle-power coalitions can work out standards and rules, and a whole range of different procedures, which are the lubricant that makes the complex machinery of the regional order work.”
The same, he says, applies to China.
“We tend to focus on the few – a very significant but small number – things where interests clash. But not the other very large number of shared interests in which collective action is needed.”
Meanwhile, Mr Boekenstein says Australia needs to keep doing what it does well – make friends and influence people.
That strengthens deterrence.
“We can offer our larger, stronger allies – the US, but also the Japanese, the South Koreans, Singaporeans and others – a high-quality training and exercising location. That’s incredibly important for building interoperability between our respective militaries. They’re building a common understanding, learning from each other, and, you know, really showing the region that this kind of support exists”.
But mostly, Professor Bisley says, there is the need to open lines of communication with Beijing.
“There’s always the analogy that, during the Cold War, there were all these elaborate mechanisms to ensure that around the world where Soviet American interests clash, they didn’t unleash World War III or nuclear apocalypse. We have very little of that now. And I think that’s, that’s part of the reason why things are so unsettled at this point in time.”
Jamie Seidel is a freelance writer | @JamieSeidel
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Kyle Rittenhouse Acquitted Of All Charges In 2020 Kenosha Shootings
CHICAGO (CBS) — Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of all charges on Friday, after his trial for shooting three people, killing two of them in Kenosha last year.
Rittenhouse broke down in tears, nearly collapsing as the jury announced they had found him not guilty of all charges. He had faced five counts, including charges of first-degree reckless homicide, first-degree reckless endangerment, first-degree intentional homicide, and attempted first-degree attempted homicide.
There was no question Rittenhouse shot anyone, and the trial boiled down to whether he was legitimately acting in self-defense. He had been charged in connection with the shootings of three people in August 2020 during protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Rittenhouse shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz during the widespread civil unrest in Kenosha after Blake was shot by police.
The not guilty verdict came after approximately 26 hours of deliberations over four days. Rittenhouse’s attorneys are expected to discuss the verdict later Friday at their offices in Racine. Prosecutors have said they do not plan to speak to the media after the verdict.
Jurors heard from more than 30 witnesses during two weeks of testimony.
Things have remained calm in Kenosha for the two weeks of the trial, but Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers called up the state’s National Guard in preparation for the verdict.
Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time of the shootings, took the stand during the trial, testifying he was acting in self-defense, and never wanted to kill anyone.
“I didn’t do anything wrong. I defended myself,” Rittenhouse said.
Prosecutors had argued Rittenhouse instigated the violence that night, acting as a reckless vigilante who inserted himself in a situation where he didn’t belong.
“You cannot claim self-defense against a danger you create. That’s critical right here. If you’re the one who’s threatening others, you lose the right to claim self-defense,” Kenosha County assistant district attorney Thomas Binger said during closing arguments.
However, some of the prosecution’s own witnesses bolstered Rittenhouse’s self-defense claims.
For example, military veteran Ryan Balch, who said he was with Rittenhouse for part of the night, and also caring an AR-15 style rifle, told jurors Rosenbaum threatened to kill them. Viedographer Richie McGinniss also testified that Rosenbaum started chasing Rittenhouse, lunging for his gun. Grosskreutz himself also acknowledged he was carrying a loaded handgun during his encounter with Rittenhouse, and it was aimed at the teen when Rittenhouse shot him, although Grosskreutz insisted he wasn’t intentionally pointing the gun at Rittenhouse, and wouldn’t have shot him.
Before deliberations began Tuesday morning, the field of 18 jurors was winnowed down to 12, after their numbers were placed on pieces of paper in a lottery tumbler in the courtroom, and Rittenhouse himself picked six pieces of paper that were used to identify the alternate jurors. The alternate jurors are three white males and three white females, leaving the lone person of color still on the jury of seven women and five men who will decide the verdict.
During their second day of deliberations, the jury spent about 45 minutes reviewing video evidence from the case. Issues surrounding the video prompted the defense to call for a mistrial again.
Prosecutors said jurors should be able to watch any of the videos of the shootings as many times as they want, but defense attorneys objected to allowing the jury to view drone video of Rittenhouse shooting and killing Joseph Rosenbaum, and the defense team is seeking a mistrial over that video, claiming prosecutors provided them with a lower quality version of the video, which was improper.
“We got a compressed version, which was not of the quality that they had,” said defense attorney Corey Chirafisi. “That doesn’t strike me as fair.”
This was the second call for a mistrial, which prosecutors rebuffed and called “inappropriate.”
Prosecutors said they sent the defense the same version of the video they received, and believe because it was being transferred from a prosecutor’s Apple phone to a defense attorney’s Android phone, the file was compressed during transfer. When both sides later learned the defense had received a lower quality version of the video, prosecutors provided the defense with the higher-quality version.
Schroeder said he would let jurors watch the drone video if they want to see it, but he also wants to hear from expert witnesses outside the presence of the jury regarding the dispute over the quality of the video the defense team received, and if there are problems with the handling of the video, it could cause the case to fall apart in the event of an appeal.
“I was queasy about this from the beginning, and even more so now,” Schroeder said.
With Rittenhouse’s acquittal, the mistrial requests are now moot.
Before jury deliberations began, Judge Bruce Schroeder dismissed an illegal gun possession charge against Rittenhouse.
While only a misdemeanor charge, the count of possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18 had appeared to be the most likely count to result in a conviction for Rittenhouse, who was only 17 when he carried an AR-15 style rifle in Kenosha on Aug. 25, 2020, and used it to shoot three men, killing two of them during a chaotic night of protests in Kenosha over the police shooting of Jacob Blake,
Defense attorneys argued Wisconsin state law has an exception that would allow 17-year-olds to openly carry firearms if they are not short-barreled rifles, with a barrel of less than 16 inches and an overall length of less than 26 inches.
Schroeder said the Wisconsin law was poorly written, and that the shorter barrel size of the rifle Rittenhouse carried meant he didn’t violate that law. Although prosecutors said they disagreed with the judge’s interpretation of the law, they conceded Rittenhouse’s weapon was not a short-barreled rifle, and Schroeder dismissed that count.
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