Thursday, October 8, 2009

Unmanned undersea military vessels (UUVs)

StrategyPage writes: Israel is using a locally made USV (unmanned surface vessel), the Protector, to patrol the Gaza coast, and the waters around the Lebanese border. [...] The Protector USV is basically a four ton, 30 foot long (9 meter) speedboat (up to 72 kilometers an hour) equipped with radar, GPS and vidcams, and armed with a remote control 12.7mm machine-gun (using night vision and a laser rangefinder) There is also a public address system, to give orders to boats that should not be there.

While unmanned surface vessels make a lot of sense — with Earth's surface 70% ocean, there is a lot of surface area available — one wonders about unmanned submarines. Subs are already going low-tech with the advent of personal subs and cocaine subs. It is not a leap to imagine completely unmanned submersibles, or UUVs, as the US Navy calls them.

Given the stealth capabilities of a UUV, it is surprising that UUV development has not been given a high priority at the DoD (as far as I can tell). The US Navy forecasts use of UUVs initially in mine clearing operations, a capability that is very relevant today in the Strait of Hormuz.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Dollar replaced in oil trading?

The Independent (UK) reports on secret talks aimed at replacing dollar-denominated oil with a basket of currencies including the Japanese yen and Chinese yuan, the euro, gold and a new, unified currency.

It seems reasonable to consider an oil import tariff.

A tiered, temporary tariff could help wean the United States off of foreign oil.

  • Tier 1, no tariff: oil sourced from Canada, Mexico
  • Tier 2, light tariff: oil sourced from democracies with a free press
  • Tier 3, full tariff: oil sourced from other nations
  • Tier 4, punative tariff: Oil whose origin is undeclared or undetermined

This tariff would address the same goals as a carbon tax, help shift us away from foreign sources of oil, encourage energy efficiency and technology gains, and be a measured, quantifiable response to this latest move by oil producers.

This tariff is compatible with our NAFTA obligations. Also, market disruption is reduced because Canada and Mexico are two major sources of foreign oil — which continues unhindered under this tariff.

Oil diplomacy would roil world affairs, but that's nothing new. Probably difficult if we want any amount of Arab help with Iran, an issue rapidly heating up. At home, oil prices would likely increase a bit, serving to decrease demand.

Risky? Sure. But some new thinking is needed, and cap-n-trade is not it.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

US Library of Congress report on Zelaya removal

An article in TNR linked to a "widely overlooked" report on the Zelaya removal in Honduras, from the Library of Congress. The report attempts to answer the question of whether or not the "coup" was legal. The Senior Foreign Law Specialist from the Congressional Research Service concludes,

V. Was the removal of Honduran President Zelaya legal, in accordance with Honduran constitutional and statutory law?

Available sources indicate that the judicial and legislative branches applied constitutional and statutory law in the case against President Zelaya in a manner that was judged by the Honduran authorities from both branches of the government to be in accordance with the Honduran legal system.

However, removal of President Zelaya from the country by the military is in direct violation of the Article 102 of the Constitution, and apparently this action is currently under investigation by the Honduran authorities.