Japan's new program to allow its self-defense forces to take on greater responsibility is being debated in Japan, but it is fully supported by the United States, and for good reason.
An increased Japanese defense posture greatly strengthens security and the prospects for peace in the Asia-Pacific region.
The U.S.-Japan alliance has long been the cornerstone of our defense policy for Asia, but Japan's role has been constrained by post-World War II constitutional requirements. This has meant, for example, that even if a United States Navy ship were under attack and a ship of Japan's navy, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, sailed nearby, the Japanese ship could not assist.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet recently adopted a resolution that allows such assistance, authorizing collective self-defense and aid to a friendly country under attack. Japan's parliament still must approve the change.
U.S. forces, particularly the Navy's Seventh Fleet headquartered in Yokosuka, will be prime beneficiaries of a new Japanese defense policy, this at a time when our special relationship with Japan grows even more crucial.
North Korea continues to rattle its nuclear-tipped missiles, and the defense of the Korean peninsula is a major assignment of the Seventh Fleet. China encroaches on its maritime neighbors. Congress squeezes the U.S. defense budget.
What most Americans don't realize is that Japan and the United States already share much of the same military burden. U.S. troops, planes and ships defend Japan, but Japan contributes significantly in support of our military, to the tune of $2 billion a year. Our Navy ships are constantly deployed throughout the region from rent-free Japanese ports and bases, and they are supported directly by skilled Japanese workers who help maintain bases and shipyard operations.
Without Japan's support, the United States simply would not be able to afford our Navy in the numbers and quality of ships that we enjoy today.
Now Japan will be able to do more, in its own defense, assisting its allies, and contributing to greater security and peace in Asia. Our officials are working on revisions to the 1997 military cooperation guidelines to produce "a more robust Alliance and greater shared responsibilities," according to a joint announcement by Japan and the U.S. last October.
With the historic change from restricted self-defense to the norm of other countries, Japan's defense forces will be able to assist an American Navy ship that comes under attack outside Japan's coastal waters. Japanese minesweepers will be able to enter regional waters to assist U.S. forces operating there. Japan's advanced technology can be integrated with the U.S. military and used to shoot down a ballistic missile directed at U.S. forces or ships, as well as Japanese population centers or defense forces.
Beyond military coordination, more defense responsibilities for Japan also mean a greater ability to form coalitions with neighboring countries that can deter aggression.
The United States, particularly our military and especially our Navy, is fortunate to have Japan as a partner in the Asia Pacific, where our alliance has stood for more than 50 years as a bulwark of stability and peace.
Japan's defense forces will now have the flexibility to realize the full potential of this robust alliance with the United States. Not only both our countries but the entire world will benefit, and prospects for enduring peace will be significantly increased.
The Israelis and Palestinians have been trapped for decades between delusions and denial and both have resorted to ideological and religious dogmas that dismiss with conviction any factual evidence to the contrary.
A powerful Israeli right-of-center constituency led by Prime Minster Netanyahu insists that Israel is not an occupying power, the settlements are not impediments to peace, Jerusalem will never become the capital of two states, Palestinian hatred of Israelis is at the core of the conflict, the Palestinians do not seek real peace and are committed to Israel's destruction, and the blockade of Gaza is justified for security reasons.
The Palestinians' delusions about their reality are no less absurd as they continue to demand the right of return of the refugees and claim that Israel is a foreign implant in the region and has no right to exist, Israel has no real national security concerns, and all Israelis are sworn to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.
It is these delusions that have tragically perpetuated the conflict; their actions and reactions to each other's transgressions only validated these delusions. Thus, little room is left for any bilateral constructive discourse as suspicion, hatred, and distrust became deeply embedded in their respective public psyches, creating psychological, political, and physical divides.
Not surprisingly, this sad state of affairs is now glaringly manifested, once again, by the war between Israel and Hamas (an organization that represents a relatively small segment of the Palestinian population).
There will be no victors, only losers, emerging from this war, and though both sides are sustaining terrible losses, they still find comfort in their delusions and refuse to face the truth. As Kierkegaard once observed, "There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn't true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true."
There are many Israelis who strongly believe that Israel now has the opportunity to wipe out Hamas once and for all. In a recent column, Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to the United States, strongly advocated that "Israel must be permitted to crush Hamas in the Gaza Strip."
This is the kind of delusion that blinds him and many of his compatriots who do not comprehend how ominous their position is concerning Hamas. Israel can destroy every tunnel and every rocket and even decapitate Hamas' leadership, but this will prove to be futile and bordering on insanity as Hamas as a movement still enjoys some grassroots support.
Such madness will only give rise to a new generation of radical Islamist Palestinians who will carry the banner of Hamas but with a far-greater vehemence and determination to violently resist Israel.
No one can accuse Mr. Oren of being stupid, but then, as Saul Bellow aptly put it, "a great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep."
Conversely, Hamas can terrorize the Israelis, spread fear and cause havoc among the civilian population, and inflict major human and material loses, but it will never defeat Israel militarily; this only strengthens the Israelis' resolve, however delusionary, to eradicate Hamas as a terrorist organization.
The irony is that all of Israel's military might has failed to deter Hamas. An organization under siege with extremely limited financial resources was able to build a sophisticated network of tunnels, purchase and manufacture more than 10,000 rockets, train thousands of fighters, and ready itself to face down Israel's formidable military machine from underground and from the air.
Moreover, the disproportionate deaths of Palestinian civilians, especially children, versus the number of casualties among Hamas' combatants evoked international outcry, putting Israel on the defensive. Never mind that Hamas is using innocent civilians as human shields; Israel, not Hamas, is accused of indiscriminate killings, allowing Hamas to win the public relations war.
The war will eventually come to an end. The question is, will the terms for ending the bloody conflict set the stage for the next round of hostilities, or will both sides shed their delusions, recognize each other and stop this vicious cycle of violence?
For Hamas this is not just a battle for easing the blockade or lifting it altogether; it is a battle for its very existence. But Hamas painted itself into a corner; after having innocent civilians suffer so much death and destruction, failing to lift the blockade at some point in the future is tantamount to political suicide.
Although Netanyahu cannot crush Hamas as a movement, he hopes to unravel the unity government. Regardless, he no longer accepts, and rightfully so, a long-term ceasefire unless all tunnels are destroyed and Gaza is demilitarized, with the Palestinian Authority's security forces in charge of all border crossings.
For the above reasons, any solution will have to disabuse Israel and Hamas of the illusion that either can rid itself of the other. Now that so much death and destruction has been inflicted on one another, perhaps they can stop and think where all this insanity is leading to.
Thus, any effort to find a solution following the initial humanitarian ceasefire must be based on a formula in which Israel and Hamas share important common denominators that could meet their principal requirements and open the door for serious peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian unity government.
Being weary of Islamic extremism, the Arab states have largely abandoned Hamas and are now in a much stronger position to squeeze Hamas to adopt the Arab Peace Initiative (API), which remains the only realistic formula and has been on the table for 12 years.
The API recognizes Israel's right to exist, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state to live side by side with Israel, and provides for permanent peace and the recognition of Israel by the Arab and Muslim states.
There is wide support in Israel for the API, and here is where President Obama must finally put his foot down and insist that the Netanyahu government embrace the API to provide the foundation for credible peace negotiations.
Every Arab and Muslim state has endorsed the API. Qatar and Turkey, in particular, enjoy considerable influence on Hamas and can now exert real pressure on the organization to embrace the API. Several statements made in the past by Hamas' political leaders are very consistent with the main provisions of the API, which recognize Israel's right as a state along with the creation of a Palestinian state.
For nearly seven decades, Israelis and Palestinians have been marred with delusions and denial, planning and plotting to undermine one another instead of building human bridges and coming to accept their shared destiny.
The question is, will Israel's and Hamas' leaders learn anything from this horrifying war, or, to paraphrase Dostoyevsky, will they continue to delude themselves and come to a point "where [they] cannot distinguish the truth within" or around themselves?
This war has introduced a new dimension to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Whether the Israelis and Palestinians are destined to live and prosper or destroy each other is the question they must ponder, because neither will survive without the other living in peace and security.
Billionaire Paul Singer
Earth got a "face-lift" early in its history, wiping out most of its original crust, according to a new model of the ancient barrage of asteroids called the Late Heavy Bombardment.
Earth itself is about 4.5 billion years ago, but it's rare to find rocks older than those formed about 3.8 billion years ago. One reason older rocks may be missing is that they were destroyed when asteroids and comets pummeled the Earth, moon and inner planets of the solar system, scientists report today (July 30) in the journal Nature.
"The surface of the Earth was heavily affected by all these collisions," said lead study author Simone Marchi, a planetary scientist with the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. "There's no doubt the crust was excavated, mixed and buried as a result of this bombardment." [Photo Timeline: How the Earth Formed]
According to the model by Marchi and his co-authors, the meteor storm resurfaced Earth's outer crust and destroyed much of the planet's original rocks, similar to how a dermatologist's microdermabrasion wand buffs away skin, giving patients an instant face-lift. They estimate that from one to four giant impacts by bodies 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) across before 4.2 billion years ago likely sterilized the planet, Marchi told Live Science. And there were three to seven smaller impacts by bodies 310 miles (500 km) across, which would have vaporized Earth's ocean into steam.
"If you look at this model, Earth only became habitable after 4.2 billion years ago," Marchi said.
Because there is little evidence on Earth to constrain the timing of such impacts, the researchers turned to the moon and to meteorites. They looked at the distribution of craters on the moon, and the age of collisions recorded in meteorites from asteroids such as Vesta. The team also analyzed the presence of iron-loving elements (the so-called highly siderophile elements), which hint at the timing of collisions after the solar system formed.
"We now have a full model for the bombardment of the inner solar system," Marchi said.
The study not only pinned down the timing of the Late Heavy Bombardment, it peered back into Earth's past, looking at how impacts reshaped the planet in the first 500 million years of its history. The researchers suggest Earth's cosmic crash-up was punctuated in time and space, with asteroids and meteors hitting the Earth in bursts, and the Late Heavy Bombardment that pummeled the planet starting about 4.2 billion to 4.1 billion years ago.
"This study makes a substantial contribution towards understanding the conditions on the early Earth," said Oleg Abramov, a research space scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey's Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona, who was not involved in the study. "Its findings are generally in good agreement with previous estimates of crustal melting, ocean vaporization and sterilization by impact bombardment. This creates confidence that the scientific community is converging on an understanding of how impacts have fundamentally reshaped the early Earth."
Windows in time
Little of Earth's original crust escaped unscathed, the new model suggests. And that might explain another ancient Earth puzzle. Some of the only survivors from this hellish early period, known as the Hadean, are tiny minerals called zircons. The zircons are like time capsules. The crystals are layered, with each layer offering a window into a different geologic time period, all the way back to when the zircons formed 4.4 billion years ago.
The chemistry preserved in the zircons suggests they formed from rocks that were buried relatively deep in Earth's crust, and had contact with water. Marchi and his colleagues take these chemical signals as evidence that the rocks forming the zircons were buried by impacts. Other studies have suggested early plate tectonics or volcanism buried the zircons' parent rocks.
"These results pose an interesting idea," said Aaron Cavosie, a professor at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez, who was not involved in the study. But there's a crucial piece of evidence for impacts missing from the geologic record, Cavosie said. No one has yet found shocked zircons, which are crystals fractured by the force of meteorite impacts on Earth.
"By the end of the Late Heavy Bombardment, the crust would have contained a global distribution of shocked zircons; the new model does not explain the absence of these grains," Cavosie said. "The absence of shocked Hadean grains remains a mystery."
On July 30 a school in the Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) came under attack. At least 15 people died and scores more were wounded, including women and children who were sheltering there. It was the second UN school hit in a week. But these were not the first schools in Gaza to come under attack, nor the first in which children were among the casualties.
Attacks on schools not only threaten the lives of children and adults taking shelter there, but have a devastating impact on children that lasts way beyond the conflict.
The Israeli military said “militants fired mortars at IDF soldiers from the vicinity of the UNRWA school in Jabalya,” and that Israeli “soldiers responded by firing toward the origins of the fire.” UNRWA said the school building, where 3,300 displaced people had taken shelter after the Israeli military warned them to leave their homes, had been hit three times.
On July 27 the Israeli military said that its forces had fired mortars at Palestinian fighters in the area of a UN elementary school in Beit Hanoun, in northeastern Gaza, on July 24, and that “one of the mortars fell in the school’s courtyard whilst it was empty of people.” Reports indicate that the attack killed at least 15 people and wounded scores more.
During the 2008-09 fighting in Gaza, Israeli forces have repeatedly struck UN schools without justification under the laws of war. This has included attacks with highly incendiary white phosphorus munitions and guided missiles. Israel paid $10.5 million to the UN for damage caused to its facilities in Gaza, including schools, in the 2008-09 fighting.
Palestinian armed groups in Gaza have also compromised the civilian nature of schools. On July 16, UNRWA staff found 20 rockets stored in an empty building at one of its schools. The UN agency condemned the military use of its facilities by an unidentified Palestinian armed group. On July 22, the agency reported that it had again found rockets hidden a school – which was empty, but close to another school that was sheltering Palestinians displaced by fighting. On July 29, the agency said a regular inspection had found rockets in a third school in central Gaza, which was empty and not being used as a shelter. Israel has not alleged that the two schools it hit contained any weapons.
Schools are civilian in nature and must not be attacked unless they are being used for military purposes. Deliberate attacks on schools that are not legitimate military objectives are war crimes.
The military use of schools—as bases, barracks, firing positions, detention centers, or weapons and munitions caches—may make these structures legitimate targets of attack, putting students and teachers at risk. The UN Security Council recently encouraged countries to “consider concrete measures to deter the use of schools by armed forces and armed non-State groups in contravention of applicable international law.”
Both sides in the current conflict would do well to take note of the Lucens Guidelines, created to protect students and teachers around the world from the use of schools for military purposes, and to incorporate explicit protection for schools into their military doctrines and strategies. The Lucens Guidelines, whose development involved consultation with military and humanitarian law experts from across the globe, are based on existing obligations under the laws of war, international human rights law, and examples of good practice.
Repairing the physical and psychological damage to children harmed in the attacks on Gaza’s schools as well as others whose schools have come under attack will require concerted and sustained efforts. Those who aspire to achieve lasting peace and security should realize that it will be all the more elusive without safe schools and good quality educational opportunities for all the region’s children.