7 November 2012

Peoples Republic of China’s Policy towards Overseas Chinese

Dated 7-Nov-2012

Guest Column by V. Suryanarayan

The more China embraced us as “kinsman country” the greater would be our neighbours’ suspicions. It was difficult because Singapore’s neighbours had significant Chinese minorities who played a disproportionate role in the economy and their economic success had aroused the jealousy and resentment of the indigenous peoples --- It was an important underlying factor in the relationship between China and the countries of Southeast Asia. Lee Kuan Yew (1)

During the Olympic torch relay, thousands upon thousands of overseas Huaqiao and Huaren actively participated and defended the integrity of the Olympic torch. This is not only a strong defence of the spirit of the Olympic Games, but also a vivid display of patriotism (aiguo qinghuai). Hu Jintao, 20 September 2008 (2)

Approximately there are 50 million people of Chinese origin who live outside PRC and Taiwan. Some people of partial Chinese ancestry also consider themselves as Overseas Chinese. The Overseas Chinese are the largest migrant group in the world today. They are scattered all around the world. Therefore, it can be rightly said that the sun never sets on the Overseas Chinese.

Historically the Chinese term for Overseas Chinese is huaqiao or Chinese sojourner. This term is used even today to describe all Chinese living abroad. Two other terms are also in usage to describe the ethnic Chinese, huaren (Chinese person) and huayi (Chinese descent). The three terms are ambiguous as to the nature of their relations with China. In this essay I have used the term Overseas Chinese to encompass all ethnic Chinese living outside China or Taiwan, whether they are citizens of the host countries or Chinese nationals.

The opening of China and the globalization of the world has given a fillip to Chinese migration to developed countries. Dr. Li Xiaoli, the member of the research team, which completed the Report on the Overseas Chinese for the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences has pointed out that “relatively higher incomes in developed countries have attracted migrants from developing countries. And as many developed countries suffer from low birth rates and population aging problems, the Chinese mainland migrants fill up the gap” (3).

The majority of Overseas Chinese, approximately 25 million, live in Southeast Asian countries. It is a rough estimate for four reasons. First, many countries do not hold regular census. Second, many people of partial Chinese ancestry in Thailand and in the Philippines, for example, consider themselves as Thais or Filipinos. Third, there had been unaccounted Chinese migration to Myanmar during recent years, with estimates varying from one to two million. Fourth many ethnic Chinese in Myanmar, in order to escape discrimination register themselves as Bamar. According to recent estimates, the ethnic Chinese number 2.8 million in Singapore (this does not include large number of non-citizens); in Thailand 9.4 million; Indonesia 7.7 million; Malaysia 7.0 million; Myanmar 1.8 million; Philippines 1.1 million; Vietnam 1.0 million; Cambodia 0.8 million, Laos 1,90,000 and Timor 6,000 (4).

During recent years, the term “Greater China” is gaining currency. The term includes both PRC (including Hong Kong and Macao) and Taiwan. However, it must be pointed out that the term “Greater China”, as Prof. Wang Gungwu has pointed out, has certain drawbacks. When this term is used in a political sense “there is an implication of expansionism towards the neighbouring regions”; when it is used culturally “it suggests a grandiosity which is at best misleading and at worst boastful” (5). Sunanda K. Dutta-Ray, the Indian journalist, has quoted Mao Zedong’s famous statement to prove China’s expansionist designs: “We must have Southeast Asia, including South Vietnam, Thailand, Burma, Malaya and Singapore … After we get that region, the wind from the East will prevail over the wind from the West” (6).

To put the problem in proper perspective, it is necessary to keep in mind certain political realities and the role that the ethnic Chinese play in the social, economic and political life of Southeast Asian countries.

Chinese Migration to Southeast Asia

Being a self contained civilization, the Government of China, for several centuries, did not encourage the migration of Chinese to foreign countries. But as political and economic contacts with Southeast Asia commenced in a big way the Chinese migration began. Chinese traders migrated to Malay Peninsula during the supremacy of the Malacca Sultanate. Since their number was small, they got assimilated with the Malays, embraced Islam, married Malay women and spoke Malay language. The successors of these early immigrants are popularly known today as Baba Chinese.

The large scale migration of the Chinese to Southeast Asia and the rest of the world began during the colonial period. There were several pull and push factors. There was demand for cheap labour to economically develop the colonies. With the onset of industrial revolution and the abolition of slavery the demand for labour further increased. The Treaty of Nanking contained a provision which guaranteed the right of the Chinese to emigrate. What is more, the provinces of Fujian and Guangdung in Southern China were stricken with famine and this acted as powerful push factors. There was also considerable disorder following the Taiping rebellion. The Chinese began to migrate in large numbers to Southeast Asian countries. Initially they were birds of passage, but gradually they began to settle down and became a permanent feature of the demographic profile of these countries. The fact that the Chinese were hardy and industrious, with no apparent interest in local politics, made them desirable colonial subjects. As the colonial rule got entrenched, the Chinese became the most dominant group in the economic life, especially in trade, commerce, industry and in the professions. In the 20th century another class of migrants - lawyers, doctors, teachers and administrative personnel – moved into these countries. Lee Khoon Choy, the former Singapore diplomat, has stated that the indigenous people frequently described the Chinese as the “Jews” of Southeast Asia (7).

Chinese Dominance of the Economies

The Chinese dominance in the economic life continued even after independence of Southeast Asian countries. Once established, monopolies tend to perpetuate themselves, unless broken by state intervention. Being pragmatic and practical, the Chinese do not swim against the tide and always try to be on the right side of the authorities. In Indonesia, for example, under the Suharto regime, behind every successful Indonesian General, there was invariably a wealthy Chinese business man. The co-operation and interaction between Chinese businessmen and Military Generals is generally referred to as “cukongism”. “Cu” means master and “kong” means Godfather. One of the notorious Cukongs in Indonesia was Liem Sioe Leong, a good friend of Suharto family. His business interests spread over clove, flour, cement, petrochemicals, property development and banking. He owned the largest business conglomerate in Indonesia. Suharto used the Chinese businessmen, because they never threatened his political position. What Suharto underestimated was the growing opposition from the students and the general public. As Lee Khoon Choy has vividly described, the pribhumis, people who belong to the lowest strata of society, “hated the Suharto regime, because it sided with the Cukongs. They hated the Cukongs more, because, in their opinion, they were looting the country and exploiting the poorer classes” (8).

Describing the economic achievements of the Chinese, which is out of all proportion to their numbers, the National Review, few years ago, commented, “In Indonesia, where they are less than four per cent of the population, they have 75 per cent of the wealth; in Thailand, the Chinese represent eight per cent of the population, but control 80 per cent of the wealth. The numbers are even more amazing in the Philippines – population less than 2 per cent and control 70 per cent of the wealth. Even in the backward economies – Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam – Chinese entrepreneurs are behind the vast majority of private business ventures” (9). This is not to imply that all Chinese are billionaires, but most of the business tycoons are Chinese. The overwhelming majority of Chinese belongs to the middle class and are wage earners or self employed. And invariably they are the first victims in times of ethnic conflict.

Retaining Chinese Culture

An important attribute of Chinese Overseas is their keen desire to retain and promote Chinese cultural forms, while, at the same time, adapt themselves to the alien environment. The “China Town” which has sprung up in different parts of the world has contributed immensely to the sustenance of Chinese culture. China Town is an exclusive enclave of ethnic Chinese. What is more striking is the Chinese attribute of referring to the people of host countries as “foreigners”. Prof. Lucian Pye explains this phenomenon as follows: “The Chinese see such an absolute difference between themselves and others that even when living in lonely isolation in distant countries they unconsciously find it natural and appropriate to refer to those in whose homeland they are living as “foreigners”. (10). The Chineseness, in which the Overseas Chinese take immense pride, comes out vividly in the writings of Evan Leong, an ethnic Chinese student in the University of California: “Even though my great-great-great-grandfather came to the United States more than 125 years ago, I have not homogenized to become an “American”. No matter what people call me, what clothes I wear, what food I eat, what my tastes are, what race my friends are, or what girls I date, I still know that I am Chinese” (11). No wonder, those Overseas Chinese, who are financially better off, go to China in “search of their roots”.

Economic and Political Pulls from China

The Overseas Chinese were always subjected to pulls and pressures from their homeland. In the beginning it was mainly economic and large proportion of their savings was remitted to China. But with the growth of nationalism, political pulls also started exerting in a big way. Just as Mahatma Gandhi’s baptism into politics took place in South Africa in defence of Indian community, the initial activities of the revolutionary movement in China were related to Chinese communities abroad. Dr. Sun Yat Sen himself was a migrant from Honolulu, who had his higher education in Hong Kong. From its inception the Kuomintang began to enlist the support of the Chinese communities in Southeast Asian countries. The Nationalist Government, after the Revolution in 1911, started a “Ministry of Overseas Chinese”. Consulates were opened in Malaya, East Indies and the Philippines. Lee Kuan Yew has mentioned that these Consulates “were intended not so much to protect the Chinese as to harness their loyalty to China by promoting Chinese culture and education, and to obtain their financial support” (12).

The Nationalist Government enunciated a new principle of citizenship. Jus Sanguinis, “Right of Blood”, made every ethnic Chinese, regardless of place of birth or residence, Chinese citizens. One important objective of the Chinese Government was to harness the wealth and resources of Overseas Chinese for betterment of China. This novel doctrine that citizenship went by ethnic origin, not place of residence, had dangerous implications for Overseas Chinese in Southeast Asian countries. Naturally the colonial governments and nationalist leaders began to view the Chinese with great suspicion. The Chinese in Southeast Asia also gave massive financial support to the Nanking Government during the Sino-Japanese War. Finally they united those forces that were opposed to Japan and kept the resistance movement against Japan alive in Southeast Asian countries.

Communism also came to Malaya and Singapore from China. It was from among the local Chinese that the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) was able to recruit its revolutionary followers and train its militant leadership. Very few Malays and Indians joined the ranks of the MCP. In Malay perception the MCP was Malayan only in name, but was Chinese in practice. It was the inability of the MCP to build up a multi-racial following which led to its eventual downfall. The powerful ideological support that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) extended to the MCP during its armed struggle for power after the Second World War created further misgivings among the Malayan nationalists. They viewed the Chinese minority as a potential “fifth column”.

Suspicions about China’s expansionist designs and the CCPs linkages with local communist parties stood in the way of normalization of diplomatic relations between Beijing and the anti-communist regimes in Southeast Asia. Complicating the situation was the subtle distinction which China made between party-to-party relations and government–to-government relations. For several years the underground broadcasting stations of pro-China communist parties were functioning from Southern China. However, today since spread of communist ideology has been put into cold storage by Chinese leadership, the issue of export of communism is no longer a thorny issue.

Xenophobic Nature of Nationalism and Nation Building in Southeast Asia

Complicating the complex situation is the xenophobic nature of Southeast Asian nationalism. The Sarekat Islam, the first major political formation in Indonesia, was started against the increasing penetration of local Chinese trading in Batik in the rural areas of the archipelago. The spectacular rise of Malay nationalism after the Second World War followed the opposition to the Malayan Union Proposals which were introduced by the Colonial Government and which made it easy for the non-Malays, especially the Chinese, to take Malayan citizenship. The Malay leaders felt that if the proposals were implemented the Chinese in addition to their economic stranglehold will also become politically powerful. The consequence was the formation of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) which rallied all sections of the Malay population, ranging from the Sultans to the Rakyat. While in later years the Malay leaders did co-operate with the Chinese and Indian leaders for the betterment of Malaya, the dynamic leadership of Malayan nationalism was provided by the Malays. In Vietnam, the historical memories of nine hundred years of Chinese domination had been a powerful motivating factor in the nationalist upsurge.

What is more, in many countries, the nation building experiment was based on the language and religion of the majority community. The Malaysian nation is being sought to be built on the assumption that the Malays are the Bhumiputras (sons of the soil) and they are entitled for special rights and privileges in the country. Islam is the state religion, Malay is the national and the official language and the Malays are given preferential treatment in recruitment to government jobs and admission to educational institutions. The determination of the Malays to retain political dominance in the country and non-Malay feeling that they are being discriminated against led to anti-Chinese riots in Malaysia on May 13, 1969. The new political order which came into existence further entrenched the Malay rights and privileges. One consequence had been the substantial increase in Malay population and corresponding decline in non-Malay population. On the eve of independence in 1957, the Malays constituted 49.5 per cent, the Chinese 39 per cent and the Indians 11 per cent of the total population. Today the Malays constitute 67 per cent, the Chinese 27 per cent and the Indians 9 per cent of the population.

In Indonesia, while the Chinese pre-eminence in the economic life continued, they were subjected to discrimination in cultural areas. Till the downfall of Suharto a Chinese could not have a Chinese name, there were no Chinese medium schools and no Chinese language newspapers. In Indonesia, the ethnic Chinese have forgotten their dialects and speak only in Bahasa Indonesia. To quote Lee Khoon Choy, “They have changed their names into Indonesian names, relinquished all Chinese customs and traditions and do not even celebrate Chinese New Year. Many of them grow moustaches to look like Indonesians” (13). Anti-Chinese riots took place at regular intervals; the worst was in May 1998 after the down fall of Suharto regime. Chinese were massacred, Chinese shops were looted, Chinese girls were raped and thousands of them were rendered homeless. To quote Lee Khoon Choy again, “They became the target of attacks, their shops looted, their properties smashed and burnt, many lost their lives and 70,000 Indonesian Chinese left the country in an exodus reluctantly. The Chinese lost altogether US$ 217 million worth of property and they took away with them US $ 369 million equivalent of capital” (14). At the height of the riots number of Chinese girls and women were raped and some of them burnt alive.

PRC’s Policy towards Overseas Chinese

The emergence of China as a united country under Communist rule, after centuries of foreign domination, created a sense of immense pride among the Chinese communities in Southeast Asia. Immediate fallout was that number of Chinese returned to their motherland to contribute their share to the building of China. However, many more Chinese left the shores of China for Taiwan and Hong Kong and, from there, migrated to the countries of the Western world. The PRC inherited the policies formulated by the earlier Kuomintang government with reference to the Overseas Chinese. As far as Southeast Asia is concerned, there were three aspects to the problem. 1) Since the Overseas Chinese were the responsibility of the Chinese Government, it got involved in Southeast Asian affairs.2) The nationality law promulgated by the KMT Government created ill will and distrust among the Southeast Asian nationalists. 3) The lack of integration of the Overseas Chinese made them an object of suspicion. What is more the powerful support extended by the CCP to the communist movements in Southeast Asian countries and the fact that the leaders and followers in the MCP came from ethnic Chinese further widened the schism between Beijing and Southeast Asian capitals. It may be recalled that during this period China used to denounce the newly independent governments in the region as the “running dogs of imperialism”.

It was apparent from the beginning that China’s policy towards Overseas Chinese was closely linked to its foreign policy goals. Given its support to the revolutionary struggles and opposition to the western oriented governments in the region, the PRC could not effectively protect and promote the interests of the ethnic Chinese in Southeast Asia. This can be illustrated by an incident which took place in the Federation of Malaya during the Emergency. In 1951, the British Government in Malaya, as part of the counter-insurgency operations, deported few Malayan communists to China. General Gerald Templer, during this period, was also vigorously pursuing the policy of quarantining the local Chinese into “New Villages”. There was considerable resentment among the local Chinese and the press in China sharply criticized the British policies. In early 1951, China declared its intention to send an investigation team to Malaya and requested the British Government to provide facilities for relief and welfare work. The British Government bluntly refused. In the face of this firm stand, China began to downgrade its criticism. Beijing had no other option but to accept the Malayan communist deportees.

Soon after the revolution, the PRC formed the Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission. It appealed to the Chinese to send their children to China for higher education; it also appealed to them to extend financial help for the economic development of China.

Dual Nationality Treaty

The formal acknowledgement of the “Overseas Chinese problem” was made by Chou En Lai in a statement to the National Peoples Congress in September 1954. Chou En Lai admitted that in those countries with which China did not have friendly relations, the ethnic Chinese are undergoing enormous difficulties. He appealed to those countries “to refrain from discriminating” against Chinese nationals and “respect their proper rights and interests”. On the part of the PRC, Chou En Lai assured that the government “was willing to urge the Overseas Chinese to respect the laws of the local government and local social customs” (15).

During the Bandung phase, the PRC sought better relations with countries of the Third World, especially in Southeast Asian region. From the mid-1950’s Sino-Indonesian relations began to improve in a big way. Sukarno was an ardent votary of non-alignment. Indonesia repudiated the concept of two Chinas and upheld the legitimacy of the PRC. The improved relations paved the way for the signing of the Dual Nationality Treaty on 22 April 1955. The Treaty, which was a landmark in China’s policy towards Overseas Chinese, contained the following important provisions.1) Chinese, designated as nationals of both PRC and Indonesia, would formally choose the nationality of one country within two years after the Treaty was ratified. 2) The citizenship of those, who failed to choose, would be determined by the nationality of their fathers. 3) China pledged that those who remained as Chinese nationals “would abide by the laws and customs of Indonesia” and not “participate in political activities”. By implication, it meant that China would not interfere in the internal affairs by influencing the Chinese minority. 4) Indonesia, on its part, pledged “to protect the proper rights and interests of the Chinese nationals”. It was assumed that the provision would act as a restraint on discriminatory legislation against the ethnic Chinese. Chou En Lai proclaimed that neither China nor Chinese communities posed a threat to Southeast Asian countries and expressed China’s willingness to negotiate agreements with other countries on the lines of Dual Nationality Treaty. In Bandung Chou En Lai offered to sign a non-aggression treaty with the Philippines and assured Thailand that China had no intention in setting up a Thai Autonomous Zone in Yunnan province.

Despite the lofty objectives, the Treaty became a source of internal discord in Indonesia. While the PRC ratified the Treaty in December 1957, on the Indonesian side there was strong opposition from the Indonesian Army, local capitalists and anti-PKI political forces. A crisis was precipitated in 1959, when the Department of Trade revoked the trading licences of aliens in rural areas; it was followed by a decree empowering the army to remove the aliens from their places of residence for “security reasons”. China was taken aback and appealed to President Sukarno to reconsider the decision as the legislation violated the spirit of the Dual Nationality Treaty. China could not influence the Indonesian Government to rescind the legislation. Beijing was faced with a serious dilemma. It did not want to break its carefully nurtured relations with Jakarta; nor could it afford to let down the Indonesian Chinese. Beijing, therefore, adopted another stance; it tried to use economic leverage to force Sukarno to reconsider the decision. In December 1959, Beijing appealed to the patriotism of the Indonesian Chinese and asked them to come back to China. Nearly 1, 19,000 Chinese returned to China. The Dual Nationality Treaty was ratified by Indonesia in 1960. However, it was repealed in 1969. The incident illustrated again the helplessness of China to protect the interests of ethnic Chinese.

It is interesting to note that Burma, which expressed a desire to sign a similar treaty with China, revised its decision in the light of the Indonesian experience.

Following the downfall of Sukarno and the virtual collapse of the Jakarta-Beijing axis, the Indoensian army began to liquidate the PKI cadres. The Chinese in Indonesia also became the victims of oppression. Beijing once again realized that it had no diplomatic means to ensure the safety and security of the Chinese in Indonesia. In May 1966 Beijing announced that it would send ships to repatriate Chinese wishing to leave Indonesia. Nearly 10,000 Indonesian Chinese returned to China during this period.

Impact of Cultural Revolution on Overseas Chinese

The Cultural Revolution – when China was embroiled in unprecedented internal turmoil – had its adverse impact on Overseas Chinese. China aspired to become the beacon of Maoist revolution which had a detrimental effect on the Overseas Chinese. Prime Minister Chou En Lai was sidelined and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was sharply criticized by the Red Guard and many senior officials were removed. The ideological momentum spread from China to the outside world and the pro-Beijing communist parties in Southeast Asia renewed their armed struggles. The Red Guards arrived in Burma and in June 1967 the local Chinese wearing Mao badges held demonstrations protesting against the treatment of Overseas Chinese. The Burmese Government detained large number of local Chinese. Rangoon also refused permission for a Chinese team to visit Burma and report on the matter. Even Prince Sihanouk of Cambodia was provoked to denounce the Red Guard activities in his country and the attempts to export Cultural Revolution

Hoa People in Vietnam

Despite diplomatic reconciliation with Southeast Asian countries in the post-Cultural Revolution era, Beijing could not do much to ameliorate the conditions of the Chinese community in Vietnam, known as the Hoa people. After the unification of Vietnam, Hanoi, for its own reasons of rapid economic integration, passed legislation and took administrative steps, which adversely affected the Hoa people. These measures were taken in the backdrop of the rapidly changing international situation in Indo-China – the escalation of Sino-Vietnamese rivalry; the consolidation of close diplomatic, economic and security relations between Hanoi and Moscow; China’s support to the anti-Vietnamese genocidal Khemer Rouge; the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia and the installation of the Heng Samrin Government; Beijing’s convergence of interests with ASEAN and the United States to checkmate Vietnamese expansionism and, above all, China’s punitive expedition against Vietnam in February 1979. This was the first instance when Chinese resorted to an armed conflict to protect, among other things, the interests of the Overseas Chinese and also “teach a lesson” to Vietnam. From the point of view of China’s policy towards the Overseas Chinese, the Sino-Vietnamese war was an unmitigated disaster. It did not contribute to the overall improvement of the situation. Thousands of Chinese left Vietnam during this period.

Role of Overseas Chinese in China’s Economic Transformation

The Deng Xiao Ping years witnessed the rapid economic transformation of China. The sheer momentum of China’s transformation has confounded friends and critics alike. According to the projection made by Goldman Sachs in 2007 the Chinese economy would overtake the US economy in size in 2017 and that by 2050 the Chinese economy would be almost twice the size of the American economy (16).

In the Third Plenum of the Central Committee of the CCP in December 1978 Deng Xiao Ping announced the four modernizations - in agriculture, industry, science and technology and the military. Deng knew that in order to attain these goals what was required was a peaceful environment. In accordance with this policy, the PRC sought foreign investment, foreign loans, and joint ventures with foreign companies. In order to facilitate the flow of FDI, the Government opened several Special Economic Zones. In all these endeavours the PRC laid special emphasis on Overseas Chinese as a major source of capital and entrepreneurial talents.

The Special Economic Zones were located in the areas of migrant origin. The overwhelming proportion of FDI has come from the Chinese diaspora, including the compatriot areas of Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. Hong Kong and Macao became part of China in 1997 and 1998 respectively, but they were treated as Special Administrative Regions. Overseas Chinese investors were portrayed as “patriotic Chinese” rather than as those belonging to the capitalist class. The political changes in China were good omens for the Chinese communities in Southeast Asia. Under Deng Xiao Ping they were not subjected to communist propaganda extolling the virtues of Marxism-Leninism. The new policy of “market socialism” endeared the PRC to the ethnic Chinese in these countries.

Between 1979 and 1999, the FDI amounted to a total of US$ 307.6 billion, of which Hong Kong accounted for US$ 154.8 billion, half of the total, and Taiwan for US$ 23.86 billion (7.76 per cent). In all, Asia accounted for 76.79 per cent of the accumulated total, compared to 7.0 per cent from EU countries and 9.6 per cent from the United States. FDI flows started soaring after new sets of reforms were announced by Deng Xiao Ping following his “southern tour” in 1992. The FDI expanded from US$ 11.01 billion in 1992 to US$ 45.46 billion in 1998 and reached US$ 52.7 billion in 2001 (17)).

It should be pointed out that the leaders of the Overseas Chinese, especially Singapore leader Lee Kuan Yew, played a catalytic role in bringing about a fundamental change in Deng Xiao Ping’s economic outlook. After wide ranging conversations with Lee Kuan Yew and Dr. Goh Keng Swee, the architect of Singapore miracle, Deng Xiao Ping was convinced of the yeoman contribution of FDI to Singapore’s prosperity. China’s attitude towards Singapore changed. Singapore was “no longer the running dog of imperialism”. In his Memoirs, Lee Kuan Yew quotes Deng’s remarks after a visit to Singapore in October 1979, “I went to Singapore to study how they utilized foreign capital. Singapore benefited from factories set up by foreigners in Singapore. First, foreign enterprises paid 35 per cent of their net profits in taxes, which went to the State. Second, labour income went to the workers and third (foreign investment) generated the service sectors. All these were income (for the State) (18). On another occasion, Deng Xiao Ping commended Singapore as follows: “There is good social order in Singapore. They govern the place with discipline. We could draw from their experience and do even better than them” (19). Lee Kuan Yew brought home to Deng Xiao Ping the relevance of Singapore experience to China. To quote Lee, “We, the Singapore Chinese, were the descendants of landless peasants from Guangdong and Fujian in South China; whereas the scholars, Mandarins and literati had stayed and left their progeny in China. There was nothing that Singapore had done which China could not do, and do better” (20).

Lee Kuan Yew and other Chinese leaders also made the Chinese leaders realize that the Overseas Chinese should not be viewed as citizens of China. One important gesture in this direction was the termination of the broadcasts from the underground radio stations located in China which extended support to the communist struggles in Southeast Asian countries. In a candid statement to Lee Kuan Yew, Deng Xiao Ping explained China’s position on the Overseas Chinese as follows: “China favoured and encouraged them to take up the citizenship of the country of residence, that those who wanted to remain Chinese would still have to abide by the laws of the country of residence and that China did not recognize dual nationality” (21)

Bureaucracy Streamlined

Keeping in mind the significant contributions of the Overseas Chinese in the development of China, the Government streamlined the bureaucratic machinery. The Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council of the PRC is the administrative office which handles the Overseas Chinese Affairs. Its objective is to protect the legitimate rights and interests of the Overseas Chinese; to enhance their unity and friendship; to promote media and language schools among them; to accelerate the co-operation and exchanges of the Overseas Chinese with China in terms of economy, science, culture and education (22)

Can the Relations be confined only to the Economic Plane?

In his absorbing book, When China Rules the World, Martin Jacques has pointed out, “Strong centripetal forces operate in Greater China, as within China itself, with the Chinese, wherever they are, feeling a powerful sense of attachment to the homeland” (23). Keeping this reality in mind, naturally the question arises: What will happen, if China also starts exerting political pulls on the Overseas Chinese? In the first part of the essay, I have pointed that whenever the PRC has championed the cause of the ethnic Chinese communities in Southeast Asian countries – in Federation of Malaya in 1951, in Indonesia in 1959, 1965 and 1978, in Myanmar and Cambodia in 1966 and in Vietnam in 1978-79 – it could not only not protect the interests of the Overseas China, these policies resulted in deterioration in bilateral relations.

Recent incidents which had impact on China as well as the Overseas China are clear pointers as to how the equation between the two will work in the years to come. In April 2006, ethnic violence erupted in the Solomon Islands (population – 5, 75,000, Ethnic Chinese – 5,000) and the lives and property of the ethnic Chinese were badly affected. Regardless of whether they were local citizens or not, China repatriated them to Hong Kong and Guang Dung. One interesting fact should be mentioned. Solomon Islands did not have diplomatic relations with Beijing, but with only Taipeh. Was PRC’s response dictated by the propaganda value to prove to the Overseas Chinese that Taiwan does not care for them?

The enthusiasm of the Overseas Chinese came into sharp focus during the torch relay which was part of the build up for the Beijing Olympics in the summer of 2008. Just before the torch relay Tibet was in a state of ferment and the PRC used brute force to suppress the Tibetan monks and other protestors. The torch relay became an opportune moment for those who were critical of China on the Tibetan issue to express their anger and indignation. In London, Paris, Athens and San Francisco massive demonstrations took place to protest against China’s gross human rights violations. The Overseas Chinese considered these demonstrations as an affront to China. What is more the Chinese Embassies in different countries became very active and exploited the patriotic feelings of the Ethnic Chinese to China’s advantage. Huge demonstrations were organized in Canberra, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Bangkok, Hong Kong and the Ho Chih Minh city, with the ethnic Chinese taking the lead and outnumbering the local people. The solidarity and support of the Overseas Chinese was wholeheartedly welcomed and praised by the Chinese leaders.

Concluding Remarks

In a world of shrinking geographical boundaries and widening intellectual horizons, no man can remain an island and no country can also remain insulated. How long can China’s relations with the Overseas Chinese remain only at the economic plane? If the interaction spills over to the political level, frictions are bound to develop in the relations between the ethnic Chinese and the indigenous people and, what is more, it will make the task of integration extremely difficult for them. Lee Kuan Yew posed the dilemma as follows: “No Chinese doubts their ultimate destiny after they have restored their civilization, the oldest in the world, with 4000 years of unbroken history. We, the migrants have cut our roots and transplanted ourselves on a different soil, in a very different climate, lack their self-confidence. We have serious doubts about our future, always wondering what fate has in store for us in an uncertain and fast changing world” (23).

Paper presented in the International Conference on China organized by the Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam from November 1-3, 2012. This essay is partly based on author’s earlier writings on the subject

(DR. V. Suryanarayan is former Senior Professor and Director, Centre for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Madras. He is President, Chennai Centre for China Studies. He was a member of the National Security Advisory Board of the Government of India for one term)

Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew: From Third World to First: The Singapore Story: 1965-2000 (Singapore, 2000), p. 649
Quoted in Leo Suryadinata, “A New Orientation in China’s Policy Towards Overseas Chinese? Beijing Olympic Games Fervour as a Case Study”, CHC Bulletin, Issue 12, November 2008, pp 1-4
“CASS Report: Number of Overseas Chinese up to 35 million”, Website of the Embassy of the PRC in the United States.
“Overseas Chinese”, Wikipedia

5. Wang Gungwu, “Greater China and the Chinese Overseas”. The China Quarterly, 1993, pp. 926-48

6. Sunanda K. Datta-Ray, Looking East to Look West – Lee Kuan Yew’s Mission India (Singapore, 2009), p. 160.
Lee Khoon Choy, A Fragile Nation: The Indonesian Crisis (Singapore, 1999), p. 230.
Ibid, pp. 250-51
J. Bruce Knecht, “Wealth Hazards”, National Review, November 21, 1994, pp.56-59
Quoted in Martin Jacques, When China Rules the World (Penguin books, 2012), p.331.
Ibid., p. 332
Lee Kuan Yew, n. 1, p. 635
Lee Khoon Choy, n.7, pp.230-31.
For details refer Stephen Fitzgerald, China and the Overseas Chinese (New York, 1972)

16. Martin Jacques, n.10. p.518

17. Alen Smart and Jinn- Yoh Hsu, “The Chinese Diaspora, Foreign Investment and Economic Development in China”, The Review of International Affairs, Vol. 3, Summer 2004, pp. 544-66.
Lee Kuan Yew, n. 1, pp. 668-69
Ibid., p. 714
Ibid., p. 666
“Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council”, Gov. cn
Lee Kuan Yew, n. 1, p.659

Sustaining the myth of hostility

-- Mushirul Hasan

To Naipaul, Hindu militancy is a corrective to the past. He therefore rejects the possibility of Islam reconciling with other religions in the subcontinent

“There was in India now what didn’t exist 200 years before: a central will, a central intellect, a national idea,” wrote Vidiadhar S. Naipaul in 1990 in India: A Million Mutinies Now, his third book on the land of his forefathers. Sir Vidia’s construction of the Indian nation, his views on certain major episodes in contemporary history, his interpretation of Islam, and the role of minorities in secular India have always been controversial. Last week, they came under attack again, this time from Girish Karnad. Since then, some have rushed to Naipaul’s defence, others to Karnad’s. As a historian, I too would like to join the debate.

To remind readers, Naipaul’s ancestors left India in the early 1880s as indentured labourers for the sugar estates of Guyana and Trinidad. He returned to India with An Area of Darkness, advertised as ‘tender, lyrical, (and) explosive.’ Thereafter, he chronicled the histories of a wounded civilisation and a million mutinies in India. In between, he aimed salvos at Islam not once but twice, in laboured projects.
‘Indigestibility of Muslims’

Naipaul wholly subscribes to the views of Samuel P. Huntington, a controversial American political scientist who earned his reputation by arguing that the New World Order is based on patterns of conflict and cooperation founded on cultural distinctions and identifications. He talked of “the indigestibility of Muslims” and their propensity towards violent conflict, which makes them threatening.

Naipaul too warns readers of Islamic ‘parasitism,’ and endorses the Orientalist belief that Islam as a coherent, transnational, monolithic force has been engaged in a unilinear confrontational relationship with the West. His essentialist reading of history allows him to sustain the myth of an inherent hostility between two antagonistic sides.

I am not qualified to judge Naipaul’s standing in the literary world, but I have no doubt in my mind that he is ignorant of the nuances of Islam and unacquainted with the languages of the people he speaks to. He records and assesses only what he sees and hears from his interpreters. In the most literal sense, he finds the cultures indecipherable, for he cannot transliterate the Arabic alphabet. He had known Muslims all his life in Trinidad, but knew little of Islam. Its doctrine did not interest him; it didn’t seem worth inquiring into; and over the years, in spite of travel, he has added little to the knowledge gathered in his childhood.

He continues to subscribe to the illogical mistrust of Muslims he had been taught as a child: a particular greybeard Muslim, described in An Area of Darkness, has come to embody ‘every sort of threat.’ Much like Nirad Chaudhuri, who was guilty of disregarding common sense to feed his own petty prejudices towards the Muslim communities, Naipaul’s encounters with them “are suffused with a sense of youthful bigotries.”

Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey is permeated with the sentiment that Islam sanctifies rage — rage about faith, political rage, and that Muslim societies are rigid, authoritarian, uncreative, and hostile to the West. In Indonesia, he runs into Imamuddin who confirms him in the stereotype. In Iran, Behzad leaves him convinced that, “now in Islamic countries there would be the Behzads who, in an inversion of Islamic passions, would have a vision of society cleansed and purified, a society of believers.” In Pakistan, he reminds us of the power of religion and the hollowness of secular cults in a fragmented country, economically stagnant, despotically ruled, with its gifted people close to hysteria.

In most of the description, otherwise nicely woven into a coherent story, there is hardly any reference to the debilitating legacy of colonial rule. The civilised, innovative, and technologically advanced West stands out as a vibrant symbol of progress and modernity, whereas the Muslim societies Naipaul encounters, despite their varying experiences and trajectories, are destructive, inert, and resentful of the West. With Naipaul relegating colonialism and imperial subjugation of Muslim societies to the background, the West appears an open, generous and universal civilisation.

In fact, it is the West that is consistently portrayed as exploited by lesser societies resentful of its benign, or at worst natural, creativity: “Indeed,” as scholar Rob Nixon points out, “Naipaul is so decided in his distribution of moral and cultural worth between the cultures of anarchic rage and the ‘universal civilization’ that he ends up demonizing Islam as routinely as the most battle-minded of his Islamic interlocutors demonize the West.”

Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions among the Converted People (1998), chooses Islamic bad faith as its theme, portraying “the same primitive, rudimentary, unsatisfactory and reductive thesis” that the Muslims having been converted from Hinduism, must experience the ignominy of all converted people. In India: A Million Mutinies (1990), the 1857 revolt is regarded as the last flare-up of Muslim energy until the agitation for a separate Muslim homeland. So far so good. But when Naipaul finds the Lucknow bazaars expressing the faith of the book and the mosque, for example Aminabad, a crowded marketplace, serving the faith, it becomes too much to swallow.
On Babri Masjid

Two years after A Million Mutinies, Naipaul defends the destruction of the Babri Masjid by calling it “an act of historical balancing.” “Ayodhya,” he reportedly told a small gathering at the BJP office in 2004, “was a sort of passion … Any passion has to be encouraged. I always support actions coming out of passion as these reflect creativity.” Whose passion? Of those Muslims who, despite the bitterness since December 1992, still weave the garlands used in the temple and produce everything necessary for dressing the icons preparatory to worship?

The fraternity of writers to which Naipaul belongs strongly contests not only his reading of the calamitous effect of Islam, but also his virtual justification of vandalism in the name of Islam. Salman Rushdie and others have written with infinitely greater sympathy and comprehension, and cultivated a distinctly secular point of view which had grown out of a reaction against Partition. Many others write convincingly about Islam as a living and changing reality, what Muslims mean by it is constantly changing because of the particular circumstances of time and place. They study it in its historical reality, without value judgments about what it ought to be.

There is however no place for these sentiments in Naipaul’s jaundiced views. To him, Hindu militancy is a necessary corrective to the past, a creative force. He therefore rejects the possibility of Islam, a religion of fixed laws, working out reconciliation with other religions in the subcontinent. This is, in short, the clash of civilisations theory.
Karnad is right

Girish Karnad is right. Naipaul is as ill-informed about India as Huntington was about the world outside the western hemisphere. One more related point. He talks of a fractured past solely in terms of Muslim invasions and conveniently forgets the grinding down of the Buddhist-Jain culture during the period of Brahmanical revival. He fumes and frets even though a fringe element alone celebrates the vandalism of the early Islamists who were driven more by the desire to establish the might of an evangelical Islam than to deface Hindu places of worship. With anger, remorse, and bitterness becoming a substitute for serious study and analysis, Naipaul’s plan for India’s salvation collapses like a pack of cards.

Hence the devastating enunciation of his Beyond Belief by Edward Said: “Somewhere along the way Naipaul, in my opinion, himself suffered a serious intellectual accident. His obsession with Islam caused him somehow to stop thinking, to become instead a kind of mental suicide compelled to repeat the same formula over and over. This is what I’d call an ‘intellectual catastrophe of the first order’.”

In the recent debate over Karnad’s remarks, several analysts have considered Naipaul’s interpretation of Islam as valid. I take issue with them. I believe writers like him widen the existing chasm between the Muslim communities and the followers of other religions. We need writers, poets and publicists who create mutual understanding and interfaith dialogue rather than create distrust and promote intolerance.

Peter Geyl reminded us that the historian should be interested in his subject for its own sake, he should try to get in touch with things as they were, the people and the vicissitudes of their fortunes should mean something to him in themselves. “Let Colour Fill the Flowers, Let Breeze of Early Spring Blow,” wrote the Urdu poet, Faiz Ahmad Faiz.

If ever Naipaul wants to write a travelogue on Muslim countries, the sense of Islam as something more than words in texts, as something living in individual Muslims, must emerge from his pen.

(Mushirul Hasan is a historian and Director General of the National Archives of India.)


 - A long-term view of India’s engagement with the US 
Diplomacy: K.P. Nayar

William Burns

Americans and Indians who have anything at all to do with improving cooperation between their countries in the next presidential term in Washington are well advised to mount a bicycle, now that a rambunctious election campaign is over in the United States of America.

The advice that they should not only mount a bicycle but also keep peddling tirelessly if the bilateral partnership is to remain meaningful comes from William Burns, America’s deputy secretary of state. Fresh from an Asian trip to Japan, South Korea, China and Myanmar, which he concluded in New Delhi, Burns said, back in Washington by way of assessing the present state of Indo-US ties, that these relations are “a little like riding a bike. Either you keep peddling ahead, or you tend to fall over”.

Burns held one of the most sensitive jobs in the US foreign policy establishment as ambassador to Russia under George W. Bush, and is credited with protecting Washington’s relations with Moscow from the damage that Bush-era super-hawks like the vice-president, Dick Cheney, wanted to inflict. Burns was also responsible for what has come to be known as the US-Russia “reset” in relations. While he worked behind closed doors and away from the spotlight when Bush was president, he has since been emboldened to come out in public about his rationale in dealings with Moscow once the threats of policy evisceration by the neo-conservatives passed. Burns has not attempted to brush under the carpet what he described at a Congressional hearing as “real differences” between Washington and Moscow. But he pushed for the reset with Moscow because “a deeper economic relationship represents one of our greatest opportunities to work to build trust and pursue common interests with Russia”.

The US state department describes the role of a deputy secretary as the “alter ego to the Secretary of State”. In 2011, the Democrats had no hesitation in giving this position to Burns although he held key jobs in the previous Republican administration. Nor did the Republicans hesitate to rely heavily on him earlier right from 2001 although he had been special assistant to two Democratic secretaries of state: Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright in Bill Clinton’s administration.

Burns is only the second career diplomat in US history to be made deputy secretary of state while still in service. It is necessary to dwell on Burns at some length in the present context because he is being talked about in the Washington grapevine as one of the choices for the next US secretary of state. If that does not happen, he will still have a major role in shaping America’s foreign policy in the next four years, but that precise role will depend on who, in fact, becomes the secretary of state.

His analogy about the bicycle and the need for constant peddling in the context of Indo-US relations is noteworthy not only because it is apt, but also because Burns is expected to have a role in putting that analogy into action in the next presidential term. Burns also said on returning from his most recent travel to India that “much is possible as we deepen strategic cooperation and strengthen our economic and people-to-people ties”. More important, he cautioned that “we have to tend carefully to our partnership. Further progress is neither automatic nor pre-ordained”.

His assessment is remarkable because it is devoid of the hype that has been a bane of the bilateral partnership for some time. Unlike many other similarly placed individuals on both sides, Burns does not — realistically — hold out the promise that the sky is the limit in engagement between Washington and New Delhi. He is more modest: “I remain an optimist about what is possible for Indians and Americans. The truth is that there has never been a moment when India and America mattered more to one another.”

The big challenge in Indo-US relations in the next presidency is likely to be Afghanistan. As American forces complete their pullout from Kabul in 2014, it is imperative for the White House that the US military leaves behind an Afghanistan that has at least the appearance of not being a failed state that it was when Bush ordered the toppling of the Taliban regime in the wake of September 11.

Normalcy and stability are too much to expect of conditions in Kabul even 11 years after the North Atlantic Treaty Organization embarked on nation-building in Afghanistan. But the citizenry in Western countries that have lost men and women to the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban would be extremely dissatisfied if they were to discover that the clock is being turned back to 2001 by obscurantist militia after the NATO pullout.

This, once again, revives the prospect that Washington will have to humour Islamabad in order for it to save face on Afghanistan. Pakistan will no doubt deliver relative peace in Afghanistan for the Americans by reining in proxies of the Inter-Services Intelligence, but the army general headquarters in Rawalpindi will demand a price for that favour. Therefore, despite what was said on the presidential campaign trail and the clear distaste for Pakistan that was expressed during the presidential and vice-presidential debates last month, the White House will have no option but to placate Pakistan on the latter’s terms in the foreseeable future.

What form or shape this policy will take will become clearer only as the American forces begin their final pullout. In all likelihood, the Americans will have to agree to Pakistan’s terms for reconciliation in Kabul that gives the Taliban a role there. This is the reality of Afghanistan that India will have to factor into its dealings with the US, especially with a steady rise in New Delhi’s economic involvement in Kabul in sectors such as mining.

The second foreign policy challenge in Indo-US relations during the next four-year term of the White House relates to the Arab Spring. Far from going the way reform in West Asia was visualized when protests initially swept away Arab dictators, the movement for change in the region has decidedly become a cause for concern over its course. India has a new minister for external affairs who is expected to adopt a more hands-on approach to developments surrounding the Arab Spring and New Delhi’s own interests in the region. Salman Khurshid — like the vice-president M.H. Ansari — has an interest in West Asia that is intellectual as well as born out of dealings with the region in previous incarnations.

In any case, India could not have persisted with its current contradictions in policies towards a changing Arab world. These are contradictions that could cast a shadow on Indo-US engagement as well because Washington’s policies, by the nature of US interests in the Arab world, can only continue to be erratic and confused. The good thing is that global issues do not dominate Indo-US engagement unlike in the Sino-US strategic and economic dialogue. With India, although the major annual bilateral exchange is billed as a “strategic dialogue”, it has a very high bilateral content. That is a mixed blessing, but also a promising asset that has the potential to add substance to cooperation at all levels.

India has taken a long-term view of its engagement of the US and has consistently sought to broaden its dialogue with every successive administration in Washington. The expectation is that by broadening the dialogue greater convergence will gradually emerge between the two sides. That policy is expected to continue with the next administration and will hopefully bring dividends with patience and perseverance — by ensuring, as Burns put it, that those on the bicycle of engagement will go on peddling and not fall off the bicycle.

China’s Air Force: Ready For Take Off?

By Oriana Skylar Mastro and Michael S. Chase November 6, 2012

As China’s power and influence continues to grow, the question of how it will behave in the international system looms over the heads of decision makers in almost every capital in the world. Though Chinese intentions are unknown, and likely not yet determined even by the top leadership, China’s global interests are growing and Beijing’s need to protect them is undoubtedly increasing. This has clearly put a premium on developing the air and naval capabilities needed to project power beyond China’s borders into the Asia-Pacific as well as space and cyberspace.

As China’s leadership grapples with these broader questions, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been making some significant leadership choices that provide insight into how the CCP will handle these challenges. On Sunday the Party leadership promoted army general Fan Changlong and former commander of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) General Xu Qiliang to serve as vice chairmen of the Central Military Commission (CMC), the powerful Party body that controls China’s rapidly modernizing armed forces.

Fan’s promotion was a surprise to many observers, but Xu’s appointment, although widely expected, is more significant for two reasons. First, Xu is widely known for his strong advocacy of air and space power, and some have suggested the promotion could enable Xu to realize his vision of a more modern and capable PLAAF. Second, Xu is the first Air Force general to be appointed a vice-chairman of the CMC, a body traditionally dominant by People’s Liberation Army (PLA) ground force officers. Xu’s promotion could thus reflect a growing desire in the military to pursue western-style joint operations and perhaps greater strategic relevance and influence for the PLAAF, PLA Navy (PLAN), and Second Artillery (China’s strategic missile force).

Xu could use his new position of power to secure more resources and influence for his mother service, suggesting that his past record may be a good indicator of the PLAAF’s future. As PLAAF Commander from 2007 to 2012, Xu presided over the transition from a traditional focus on air defense to a broader outlook encompassing more integrated offensive and defensive operations and emphasizing the increasing role of space power. Xu has stated that the PLAAF must forge “a sharp sword and shield capable of winning peace” to help protect China’s interests. This includes not only more modern combat aircraft like the J-20 stealth fighter China unveiled in January 2011 and a second, lighter stealth fighter that is now undergoing flight testing, but also advanced intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, early warning, air defense, and strategic airlift capabilities.

If Xu’s controversial comments about the inevitability of greater military competition in space are any indication, China’s sword and shield also encompasses anti-satellite and other space control capabilities as well that aim to ensure China’s own ability to use space and limit or deny an adversary’s ability to do likewise. Moreover, Xu’s advocacy for the PLAAF’s role in space operations probably reflects internal competition over which part of the PLA will have primary responsibility for an increasingly critical mission, one that Chinese strategists see as potentially decisive in future wars.

Xu’s promotion will mean that PLAAF interests will be much better represented than in the past, especially because Xu is not the only air force officer on the CMC. As the new PLAAF commander, Ma Xiaotian will also be on the Commission to promote the vision and interests of the PLAAF. Given that two air force officers have secured a place on China’s highest military body for the first time in the history of the People’s Republic, combined with the rising fortunes of the PLAN and Second Artillery, many China watchers believe this foreshadows the loosening of the ground force’s sixty-year long stranglehold on the levers of military power.

But such changes in power and influence may be slower than outside analysts or even Chinese declared strategy suggest. While Xu’s appointment reflects the PLAAF’s growing role in military affairs, it does not necessarily foreshadow the kind of equality among the services that is necessary for true jointness. China’s military is and will continue to be dominated by ground force officers. Only ground force officers have commanded the powerful, geographically based military regions (MRs), and they still dominate powerful organizations like the General Logistics Department, which controls military finances.

Given this, even with Xu’s backing, PLAAF funding is unlikely to reach stratospheric levels. The PLAAF’s influence and capabilities will likely continue to increase, but it will fail to close the gap with the most advanced air forces, like that of the United States, in the foreseeable future. In sum, Xu’s promotion is probably more a reflection of changes in the internal balance of power that have already occurred than a precursor to a revolution in PLA joint warfare. Nonetheless, the promotion underscores an important aspect of the PRC’s rapid military modernization: China is becoming an increasingly capable air and space power, with far-reaching implications for regional security, U.S.-China relations, and Beijing’s ability to protect its emerging global interests.

Oriana Skylar Mastro is a Fellow at the Center for a New American Security. Michael S. Chase is an Associate Professor at the U.S. Naval War College. The views expressed here are solely those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. Department of Defense, any other entity within the U.S. government, or any other organization.

How Ancient Plankton Elected Obama

And other crazy tales from the world's electoral maps. 


Despite all the polls and punditry, only a few things can be predicted with absolute certainty about today's election, including that they will (eventually, perhaps) produce a winner, a loser, and a slew of electoral cartography for CNN's John King to play around with on a touch screen.

On election night, experts -- whether or not of the armchair variety -- will be poring over map after map of the states as they fall in the two main candidates' columns, and comment on patterns reversed or confirmed.

The political class's obsession with maps is a fleeting one, limited to the pre- and post-game analysis of elections. In the United States, the geographic battle lines are well known. The main questions: Will the 2012 results deepen the dichotomy between "red states" -- a contiguous bloc of Republican-voting states that covers most of the country -- and "blue states," a disparate collection of pro-Democrat enclaves bordering the Great Lakes and both coasts? Or will either color make inroads into the other side's territory? Maybe an unexpected new configuration of red and blue will emerge, perhaps resembling older geographic voting patterns?

Interpreting such voting patterns is the main business of political geography, a discipline that studies the strange marriage of geographical accident to the (relative) predictability of political preference.

Frank Jacobs

The Beast of the East

The mascot of this particular discipline itself is a hybrid of politics and geography: the gerrymander, a species of monster first spotted in Massachusetts in 1812. In January of that year, Republican governor Elbridge Gerry authorized an electoral redistricting which would favor his party's candidates over those of the Federalist Party in upcoming elections for State Senate.

The public outcry over the governor's decision fastened unto a particularly contorted new district in Essex County, dubbed a Gerry-mander, a portmanteau of salamander and the name of the embattled governor (who, despite his efforts, would not win re-election). Pro-Federalist newspapers like The Boston Gazette and The Repertory & General Advertiser circulated a cartoon of the district, ornamented with fearsome claws, demonic wings, and a dragon-like head. The term has been in constant use ever since: See, for example, Illinois' 4th Congressional District, a.k.a. "The Earmuffs," designed to contain two Hispanic-majority areas in Chicago.

Gerrymandering is not limited to the United States, however; any democracy plagued by the practice of changing electoral borders to create advantages (and disadvantages) at the ballot box practices it. The Germans call it Wahlkreisschiebung (fiddling the constituency), in France it's known as charcutage électoral (electoral mangling), while the Icelanders prefer the euphemistic kjördæmahagræðing (constituency optimizing).

The redrawing of electoral borders is but one reason to be mindful of the geographic angle in elections. A map of the results can illuminate much more than the overall percentages gained by the candidates. Sometimes, that map is a palimpsest, unwittingly revealing ancient fault lines beneath the surface of what seems a mere political contest. Presidential elections, with their polarizing one-on-one tendency, are best suited for this kind of cartographic archeology.

Public Domain

A Tale of Two Ukraines

Few elections were as polarized as Ukraine's 2004 presidential poll. Pitting two Viktors against each other -- the pro-western Yushchenko and the pro-Russian Yanukovich -- the result of the first run-off, showing a win for Yanukovich, produced a wave of protest. Dubbed the Orange Revolution, the protests forced a replay of the run-off, this time won by Yushchenko.

But rather than place Ukraine safely in the western camp, Yushchenko's slight victory (52 percent) ultimately proved reversible; Ukraine's current president is the other Viktor. The electoral map shows how the tug of war between east and west plays out within Ukraine's own borders: Yanukovich's support is based in the industrial east and south, home to most of the country's Russian minority. Yushchenko only won districts in Ukraine's north and west, the traditional heartland of Ukrainian nationalism. The electoral divide has the country oscillating between westernizing and easternizing tendencies, perhaps only to be resolved when the country finds a way to harmonize both -- or when the perceived border between east and west shifts its course once more.


Old Habits Die Hard

Explanations are harder to find for one of Poland's more persistent political fault lines. The results of the 2007 legislative elections, pitting the (pro-free market) PO party [in orange] against the (more populist) PiS party [in blue] produces a close fit with the old border between the German Empire and the Russian Empire. Both borders disappeared decades ago, and World War II and its aftermath have radically changed the ethnic composition of the region, with Germans pushed out and Poles moving west.

And yet there it is: The current map of Poland acts as a palimpsest, showing an older layer when held up against the light of an electoral result. Could it be that the Poles in the orange region, who settled there more recently, chased from their own homes further east, are less rooted in tradition, and hence vote for more progressive parties? Could it be that the largely urban infrastructure they inherited infers other social and electoral patterns than the largely rural environment in Poland's blue bits?

Strange Maps

Revenge of the Huguenots

For France, the case is clearer. This map shows the results of the first round of France's presidential elections of 2007, pitting the right-wing candidate Nicolas Sarkozy against socialist figurehead Ségolène Royal, with François Bayrou representing the squeezed center. While Bayrou only managed to win in his home département of Pyrennées-Atlantiques, Royal won 25 and Sarkozy 74 out of a total of 100 départements (9 overseas, and 91 in "metropolitan," or continental France).

Sarkozy subsequently went on to handily win the second round, but even in a three-horse race, this electoral map of France shows a remarkable dichotomy: Sarkozy won in the north, east, and south-east, but the clear winner in Brittany and the southwest was Royal. Again, this is an old and oft-repeated voting pattern: the east and north vote conservative, while the southwest, the west, and parts of Paris vote socialist. Here, as in the case of Ukraine, geography seems to reflect the two opposing ends of the political spectrum.

Explanations for this split reach back to the southwest's long tradition of radical socialism, a tradition rooted not just in the convulsions of the French Revolution, but all the way back to 1685 and the repeal of the Act of Toleration. This led to the obliteration of the Huguenot heartlands in the southwest, which may have instilled strong anti-clerical, anti-monarchist tendencies that are still determining electoral outcomes today.


King Cotton

But geography's effect on elections extends back even further into the past. In 2008, Obama lost a swathe of southern states to Republican contender John McCain, but if you drill down to county level, a remarkable blue streak cuts through Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia. This pattern makes no apparent sense, unless you link it to an agricultural map from the 1860s -- showing where cotton was king. Those areas are still heavily populated by the descendants of the slaves once forced to work the cotton fields; the African-American voting bloc behind Obama that helped him win 2008 -- if not in the aforementioned southern states. The reason cotton grew best where it did goes back about 100 million years to the Cretaceous Era. Back then, the cotton belt was a coastal area, and the graveyard of untold billions of single-celled creatures called plankton. Their dead bodies would become the chalk deposits upon which cotton would thrive.

If electoral cartography can explain how to link dead plankton to votes for Obama in 2008, what will the new maps that will pop up after tonight's election say?

Think Again: The BRICS

Together, their GDP now nearly equals the United States. But are they really the future of the global economy? 


"The BRICS Are in a Class by Themselves."

Yes and no. There is no question that the BRICS -- Brazil, Russia, India, China, and the group's newest member, South Africa -- are big. They matter. In terms of population, landmass, and economic size, their pure dimensions are impressive and clearly stand out from those of other countries. Together, they make up 40 percent of the world's population, 25 percent of the world's landmass, and about 20 percent of global GDP. They already control some 43 percent of global foreign exchange reserves, and their share keeps rising.

Jim O'Neill of Goldman Sachs put the spotlight on the rise of the original four of these big new economic powers when he gave them the name BRICs in 2001, and their collective growth began to soar. But in reality their economic success had been a long time coming. Twenty years before that, when I was at the World Bank's International Finance Corp. (IFC), we were identifying the opportunity to rebrand these countries, which, despite their enormous economic potential, were still lumped together with the world's perennial basket cases as "underdeveloped countries" stuck in the "Third World." At the time, Third World stock markets were simply off the radar screen of most international investors, even though they were starting to grow; I gave them the name "emerging markets." Local investors were already quite active in Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea, Taiwan, Mexico, and elsewhere, as homegrown companies became larger and more export-competitive while market regulation became more sophisticated. But until the IFC built its Emerging Markets Database and index in 1981, there was no way to measure stock performance for a representative group of these markets, a disabling disadvantage when stacked against other international indices, which were skewed in favor of developed countries such as Germany, Japan, and Australia. This brand-new research on markets and companies provided investors with the confidence to launch diversified emerging-market funds following the success of individual country funds in markets such as Mexico and South Korea.

The BRICs, however, took much longer to get ready for prime time. Until the beginning of the 1990s, Russia was still behind the Iron Curtain, China was recovering from the Cultural Revolution and the Tiananmen Square unrest, India remained a bureaucratic nightmare, and Brazil experienced bouts of hyperinflation combined with a decade of lost growth. These countries had largely muddled along outside the global market economy; their economic policies had often been nothing short of disastrous; and their stock markets were nonexistent, bureaucratic, or supervolatile. Each needed to experience deep, life-threatening crises that would catapult them onto a different road of development. Once they did, they tapped into their vast economic potential. Their total GDP of close to $14 trillion now nearly equals that of the United States and is even bigger on a purchasing power parity basis.

Here's the problem, however, with asking whether the BRICS "matter": Big is not the same as cohesive. The BRICS are part of the G-20, but not a true power bloc or economic unit within or outside it. None is fully accepted as "the" leader even within its own region. China's rise is resented in Japan and distrusted throughout Southeast Asia. India and China watch each other jealously. Brazil is a major supplier of commodities to China and has relied on it for its economic success, but the two powers compete for resources in Africa. Russia and China may have found common cause on Syria, but they compete elsewhere. And though intra-BRIC commerce is growing rapidly, the countries have not yet signed a single free trade agreement with each other. Then there's South Africa, which formally joined this loose political grouping in 2010. But being a member of the BRICS doesn't make it an equal: South Africa doesn't have the population, the growth, or the long-term economic potential of the other four. Indonesia, Mexico, and Turkey would have been other logical contenders -- or South Korea and Taiwan, for that matter, which have comparable GDPs but much smaller populations than the original BRICs.

The BRICS are also nowhere near economically cohesive. Russia and Brazil are way ahead in per capita income, beating China and India by a huge amount -- nearly $13,000 compared with China's $5,414 and India's $1,389, according to 2011 IMF data. And their growth trajectories have been very different. What's more, the BRICS face stiff competition from other emerging powerhouses in the developing world. While China and India seemed to have a competitive edge for a while due to their low labor costs, countries like Mexico and Thailand are now back on the competitive map. And while growth in the BRICS seems to be slowing, many African countries are receiving more foreign investment, may be more politically stable, and are at long last moving away from slow or no growth toward much more robust economies.


"The Continued Rise of the BRICS Is Inevitable."

True, but their growth is slowing. Forecasts by Goldman Sachs and others project China will overtake the United States in GDP before 2030. China, meanwhile, dwarfs the other BRICS, whose combined economic size isn't expected to catch up to China during that period. The BRICS will approach the total size of the seven largest developed economies by 2030, and by the middle of this century they are projected to be nearly double the size of the G-7.

BRICS consumers are also beginning to rival their American counterparts in terms of total purchasing power. More cars, cell phones, televisions, refrigerators, and cognac are now sold in China alone than in the United States. Even with slower growth, the economic engine of the BRICS should be more important than that of the United States or the European Union for most of the 21st century.

Then again, there's no guarantee that the BRICS can maintain their torrid growth rates. Just as their expanding economies took the world by surprise over the past decade, the big shock for the next decade may be that they will grow less quickly than assumed. Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan have already shown that growth rates slow down once a basic level of industrialization has been reached. The unquenchable thirst for "goods" tends to moderate when basic infrastructure is in place and consumers want more health care, education, and free time.

To some extent, this is already occurring. Leading Chinese economists now expect China's annual growth to slow down from rates of 10 to 12 percent to 6 to 8 percent by the end of this decade. Dreams of India reaching sustainable annual growth of 8 percent or more have been lowered to 5 to 6 percent after the country hit an inflation barrier and offshore gas production disappointed. Brazil has also struggled to return to its exuberant pre-crisis growth, while Russia has been staggered by Europe's economic problems. The projections by Goldman Sachs and others always expected slower growth for the future, but some enthusiasts did not read the footnotes.


"The Financial Crisis Was Good for the BRICS."

Not for long. The 2008 financial crisis did not emanate from emerging markets. Instead, the BRICS came to the rescue when the United States, Europe, and Japan collapsed due to their overspending, fiscal imprudence, and overreliance on just-in-time production that made them too dependent on a consumer economy that quickly blew up. After the BRICS suffered brief, V-shaped recessions of their own, as swift in their decline as they were in their recovery, the BRICS' demand helped pull the global economy out of its initial slump.

It certainly wasn't clear initially that this was how the crisis would play out. The Financial Times warned (and many investors feared) that the banking systems of emerging markets would succumb to the same massive financial problems that plagued the United States and Europe, but Asia and Latin America had learned their lessons from earlier financial crises and put their houses in order. The Chinese had ample reserves for a fiscal stimulus that was not only massive, but, unlike its U.S. counterpart, also disbursed funds quickly. The BRICS' central banks, along with those in other emerging markets, cooperated on global monetary easing. Without it (and without China's quickly disbursed stimulus at home), Western stimulus and easing would have been inadequate and ineffective. With it, demand for commodities stabilized and the world avoided a depression.

These crisis interventions came at a significant cost, however, the full price of which is not yet clear even today. The real estate bubble, which played such a big part in the United States and Southern Europe, didn't burst in the BRICS. Inflation also increased well beyond the comfort zone of central banks in China, India, and Brazil. Although all this did not provoke another crisis, it might have planted the seeds for future problems. Economic history teaches us that the next crisis usually comes from the region where the applause and self-satisfaction were loudest the previous time around. If that holds true, the next economic shock will more likely than not come from the BRICS.


"The BRICS Are Unbeatable Competitors."

No. The BRICS benefited for several decades from cheap labor, higher productivity, massive (but far from universal) investment in infrastructure and education, and a hunger to catch up with wealthier rivals. Their transformation was remarkable: With better-off populations, domestic markets finally became economically attractive, South-South trade exploded, and leading corporations transformed themselves from second-rate producers of cheap goods into world-class manufacturers of smartphones, semiconductors, software, and planes. China's Lenovo took over IBM's PC business. Brazilian and South African beer companies became leading global brewers. Just as had been the case with the Russians after Sputnik and the Japanese in the 1980s, the BRICS became feared and formidable competitors, even if some of the fears about their rise were exaggerated.

But the story is not over. Cheap, abundant energy from shale gas is attracting new investment in the United States, giving energy-intensive industries a renewed competitive edge. Abundant shale gas could also make Russian Arctic drilling and Brazilian pre-salt production too expensive. Stagnant U.S. wages and soaring pay in China and India are eroding the BRICS' labor-cost advantage, while their seemingly bottomless labor pool has suddenly started emptying out, leaving them with shortages of trained labor.

Mechanization is also allowing the developed world to make a comeback. Increasingly affordable and sophisticated robots can now do what 10 or more human workers did until recently. They work 24 hours a day and do not ask for higher wages or better benefits. Smartphones and tablets may still be made in Asia, but the BRICS lag behind in taking advantage of the productivity gains they bring. As a result, traditional multinationals are fighting back after years of retreat, from General Motors winning the biggest market share in China to General Electric's foray into producing low-cost medical equipment to Nestlé's invention of the wildly successful Nespresso machines, turning high-end coffee from a store-bought luxury into an at-home convenience. The competitive edge may be turning back to the West much faster than we thought.


"The BRICS Are the Best Place to Invest."

No longer true. Until 2008, the BRICS performed far better than other emerging equity markets -- or developed markets, for that matter. And by a lot: For the five years ending in 2007, investors in the four original BRICs earned an annualized 52 percent return, compared with just 16 percent in the G-7 markets. But in the past five years, through Aug. 31, that figure was -3 percent for the BRICs and -1 percent for the G-7. This was in part a correction to exaggerated expectations, which drove up valuations and currencies to unsustainable levels. It also seems, however, that the BRICS' competitive edge is now being questioned in more fundamental terms. Of course, it makes perfect sense for investors to diversify and not ignore such a huge, successful part of the global economy, but that is different from blind euphoria.

Each of the BRICS is very different, and so are the question marks that accompany their economies. For example, China's wage costs had been so much lower than Mexico's for several decades that Mexico had difficulty competing, despite its closeness to the U.S. market. But that wage gap has closed in recent years -- Chinese labor rates have grown from 33 percent of Mexico's in 1996 to 85 percent in 2010 -- and now investment is flowing back to Mexico. Even when Indian growth rates went through the roof, bureaucracy, budget deficits, and infrastructure bottlenecks remained serious impediments. Brazil successfully turned around its floundering economy in the 1980s and then benefited from three windfalls: China's thirst for commodities, energy discoveries, and a competitive edge as an agribusiness giant. Now, however, China's slowing economy and the world's shift toward ubiquitous shale gas is changing the picture. Or consider Russia, which, to its peril, has squandered its oil-and-gas weapon by pooh-poohing the potential of shale gas, opening up export opportunities for the United States in Europe.


"The BRICS Will Surpass the West."

Not so fast. Yes, the BRICS will remain the main source of growth in tomorrow's world, as they already are today. Together they will dominate the global economy later this century the way Europe and the United States once did.

Just as the pendulum swung far toward the BRICS but then swung back hard in recent years, there are signs of new forms of BRICS competitiveness. Research and development in the BRICS is paving the way for increasingly high-value-added production. Ninety-one percent of U.S. plants are more than a decade old, versus only 43 percent of China's plants, according to a 2007 IndustryWeek survey. While 54 percent of Chinese companies cited innovation as one of their top objectives in the survey, only 27 percent of U.S. respondents did. Chinese telecom equipment-makers are giving more traditional players a run for their money, Indian-made generic drugs are making inroads, Brazilian protein producers dominate world markets, and Russian oligarchs are making smart investments abroad. The BRICS are going through a rough patch right now, yet they're poised for a roaring comeback.

But though the era of American or Western domination may be over, BRICS domination is still some time off. What is already a fact is that the clear delineation between developed and "backward" countries is a thing of the past. Western multinational companies are seeking to expand in the BRICS as growth in their home markets has dried up. Chinese and Indian corporations are building their brands in other emerging markets and the West. More than ever, developed countries' economic fates are tied to those of emerging markets.

Intellectual property remains a strong suit of advanced economies. The United States, Japan, and Germany -- just three advanced economies -- accounted for 58 percent of patent filings in 2011, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization. But even here the BRICS are catching up: China's applications soared 33 percent in 2011, Russia's filings were up 21 percent, Brazil's 17 percent, and India's 11 percent. Compare that with 8 percent growth for the United States and 6 percent for Germany. Chinese telecommunications equipment giant ZTE Corp. dislodged Japan's Panasonic from the global top spot with 2,826 patent applications. China's Huawei Technologies was in third place, while a previous American leader, Qualcomm, dropped from third to sixth place in 2011. Why does it matter? Because patents are a key indicator of future economic strength.


"Politics Could Be the BRICS' Undoing."

True, and you disregard them at your peril. The spread of democracy and free markets in much of Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe is impressive, but some BRICS have been laggards rather than leaders in this area. Legitimacy in these countries often depends on meeting sky-high expectations for economic success, while political checks and balances remain in their infancy. So forget about all those paeans to "authoritarian capitalism" you read in the op-ed pages. Just because Beijing has a fancy new airport and President Vladimir Putin can bulldoze entire neighborhoods at will doesn't mean China's and Russia's politics give them an edge. Even in democratic India, politics are often overwhelmed by corruption, and politically open Brazil struggles with crippling crime stats and political scandals.

The BRICS may seem stable now, but nobody knows what the future holds. Admiration for oligarchs easily turns into envy and anger. Ubiquitous mobile-phone cameras and instant Internet distribution constrain the use of public force. Under the surface and among the younger generation, pride in economic achievements and a sense of material well-being are now coupled with demands for better health care and national recognition. Increasingly, more is not the answer -- citizens of the BRICS want better. Local elites must act adroitly to keep this new mood from developing into a combustible mix. The current generation of leaders in China has not forgotten the lessons of the Cultural Revolution -- but the next generations may.

Some tailwinds that have benefited the BRICS these past decades may yet turn into headwinds. For instance, these countries have benefited from relatively low budget allocations to military spending -- a fruit of Pax Americana. That could change if conflict broke out on the Indian subcontinent or Iran acquired nuclear weapons. And serious political unrest could easily derail the rise of the BRICS: The Bo Xilai case in China, the upheavals following the Arab Spring, and the power blackout in India were recent red flags that showed the dramatic impact of sudden events.

Still, the BRICS are not going anywhere. Sure, they may face tough adjustments getting used to less lofty growth expectations while satisfying more demanding populations. But one way or another it's safe to say: These big emerging economies will put their stamp on the 21st century.

'A Period of Persistent Conflict'

Why the United States will never have another peacetime president.

In January 2007, with no public debate, congressional hearings, or news coverage, the United States intervened militarily in another country: Somalia.

On December 24, 2006, supported by U.S. tactical intelligence, military training, and "less than a dozen" special operations forces on the ground, Ethiopia had invaded Somalia with the goal of unseating the ruling Council of Islamic Courts (CIC). As the Ethiopian ground offensive quickly overwhelmed CIC defenses surrounding the capital of Mogadishu, Somali militants and al-Qaeda affiliates fled south. Some were tracked by U.S. Predator drones and cell phone intercepts.

Two weeks later, a U.S. Air Force Special Operations AC-130 gunship flying out of eastern Ethiopia fired at a convoy of suspected militants near the village of Ras Kamboni in southern Somalia. The targets were senior al Qaeda operatives allegedly involved in the East African U.S. embassy bombings in August 1998. However, Ethiopian troops and U.S. special operations forces that arrived after the attack confirmed that the targets were not in the convoy, although ten other suspected Somali militants were killed. As an American official later acknowledged, "Frankly, I don't think we know who we killed."

After news broke of the U.S. military involvement in Somalia, Sen. Robert Byrd had the following exchange with Gen. Peter Pace, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a Armed Services Committee hearing:

BYRD: Under what authority were the airstrikes in Somalia executed?

PACE: Under the authority of the president of the United States, sir.

BYRD: What authority did he have? What did he base his authority on?

PACE: There was an order that was published a couple of years ago that received the proper authorities from the secretary of defense and the president to be able to track al Qaeda and other terrorist networks worldwide, sir.

BYRD: Do you think that authority was sufficient?

PACE: I do, sir, from both -- I do, sir.

This incident of congressional oversight over a president's war-making powers is revealing in its brevity and rarity. Since September 11, 2001, the president has been able to threaten or use military force to achieve a range of foreign policy objectives with few checks and balances or sustained media coverage -- to an extent unprecedented in U.S. history. Anything short of deploying large numbers of U.S. ground troops is tolerated, and any executive branch justification for using lethal force is broadly accepted, including the notion that such military operations can continue in perpetuity.

Though both of the presidential candidates claim to want a peaceful world (Mitt Romney used some version of "peace" 12 times in the final presidential debate), it is unlikely that the United States will ever have a peacetime president again.

The primary reason for this stems from how policymakers in Washington perceive the world -- a perception that bridges partisan divisions. According to most officials, the international security environment is best characterized by limitless, complex, and imminent threats facing the United States. Those threats require the military to be perpetually on a wartime footing and the president to frequently authorize the use of lethal force. As a Pentagon strategy document first noted in 2010, the United States has entered "a period of persistent conflict."

In an excellent op-ed on Sunday, Greg Jaffe pointed out that threat inflation is a chronic habit shared by news media, think tanks, and policymakers, who have made the following observations in the past year:
General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, claimed: "In my personal military judgment, formed over thirty-eight years, we are living in the most dangerous time in my lifetime, right now." Considering the vastly more threatening times that the United States faced since Dempsey was born in 1952, his diagnosis of the world is either flawed or suffers from hindsight bias, defined as "the inclination to see events that have already occurred as being more predictable than they were before they took place."
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has constantly repeated his threat smorgasbord of specific and generalized threats that emanate from innumerable states and nonstate actors (i.e., everyone). Although he admitted, "I don't consider myself to be schooled in the art of knowing what the hell cyber systems [do] and how it all works," three weeks ago Panetta warned (again) of an impending "cyber Pearl Harbor," which computer experts have predicted since at least 1991. This is a remarkable claim given that no American has ever died from a cyberattack, while the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor killed 2,345 American troops and another 57 U.S. civilians.
Senator Lindsey Graham referred to Iran as "an existential threat" on the floor of the Senate. Again, if he actually believes that the existence of the United States is threatened by a country with a defense budget that amounts to less than 3 percent of the Pentagon's and no nuclear weapons or deployable military capabilities, then endorsing unilateral preventive attacks would be justified. And, indeed, if diplomacy fails, Graham has called for unilateral and preventive attacks, both against the suspected nuclear weapons sites and to "neuter the regime's ability to wage war against us and our allies."

In response to this world of grave uncertainty and looming threats, the United States has invested heavily in offensive military capabilities that the president leverages with speed, secrecy, and minimal oversight.

Drones: On September 11, 2001, the U.S. military had fewer than 200 drones (less than a handful were armed). Today, there are approximately 7,500, a few hundred of which are equipped to fire several types of missiles. The workhorses of the U.S. drone strike campaigns are the Predator and Reaper systems. In 2007, there were 18 Predator and Reaper Combat Air Patrols (CAPs), in which a few drones maintain one continuous orbit over a specific territory. Today, there are 60 CAPs, with plans for 65 by May 2014. As I noted last week, America's use of drones to conduct targeted killings in non-battlefield settings has now entered its eleventh year, with plans to continue them for at least another decade.

Special Operations Forces (SOF): Since September 11, Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has more than doubled in size and budget from some 30,000 troops and $2.2 billion in 2001 to 67,000 and $10.5 billion today. Overseas deployments have quadrupled and have involved more than 100 countries. Presently, 85 percent of the estimated 11,500 SOF troops deployed overseas are stationed in the Middle East with the bulk in Afghanistan, where they are projected to have an enlarged role up to and beyond the stated withdrawal deadline of 2014. Senior defense officials envision that SOF will constitute between one-third and one-half of all U.S. forces in Afghanistan after 2014, pending an agreement with Kabul. Adm. William McRaven, commander of SOCOM, noted that this could include "3,000 folks deployed outside of Afghanistan."

The temptation for presidents to employ Navy SEALs and Army Delta Teams indefinitely is real, given that the media and policymakers portray SOF as possessing superhuman and infallible skills. However, as my colleague Max Boot noted in an exceptional overview of what SOF are actually intended to achieve, their uses in kinetic raids are rarely connected to any larger strategy: "From Pakistan to Yemen, there is a tendency to use JSOC, often in cooperation with the CIA, to play ‘whack-a-mole' against terrorist organizations." Gen. Pace echoed this concern in May: "I worry about speed making it too easy to employ force. I worry about speed making it too easy to take the easy answer -- let's go whack them with special operations -- as opposed to perhaps a more laborious answer for perhaps a better long-term solution."

Cyberattacks: Since 2006, according to the National Military Strategy for Cyberspace Operations, it has been U.S. policy that the "[Pentagon] will conduct kinetic missions to preserve freedom of action and strategic advantage in cyberspace" that "can be either offensive or defensive and used in conjunction with other mission areas." There is little clarity over many aspects of U.S. offensive cyber capabilities, including what they are, who authorizes them, and what are the rules of engagement (assuming one can attribute the source of an initial attack and identify a proportional target). A senior U.S. official recently declared: "Those are always classified things. It's not helpful to the United States to give a road map to the enemy to know when something is an attack on the nation and when it is not." Of course, "things" cannot have any deterrent effect on potential adversaries if they are secret, nor are they always classified -- see the Obama administration's Nuclear Posture Review for U.S. nuclear doctrine.

Both Presidents Bush and Obama have reportedly authorized offensive cyberattacks against Iran that had "kinetic-like" effects. In The Inheritance, David Sanger first offered clues about activities covered in a spring 2008 presidential finding that authorized covert action including "efforts to interfere with the power supply to nuclear facilities -- something that can sometimes be accomplished by tampering with computer code, and getting power sources to blow up." This past June, Sanger further revealed that Obama significantly accelerated offensive cyberattacks -- codenamed Olympic Games -- against computers that run Iran's nuclear enrichment facilities.

(In a startling anecdote about the lack of congressional oversight over such covert cyber operations, Representative Dan Lungren wondered aloud at a House Judiciary Committee hearing in July: "Would it bother you to know that the detail that was described in the New York Times, if true, is a level of detail not presented to members of Congress, such as the chairman of the Cybersecurity Subcommittee on Homeland Security, that is, happens to be me.")

Supporting the increased use of drones, special operations, cyberattacks, and other covert military programs has been the tremendous growth in the size and cost of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC). In 1998, the intelligence budget was $26.7 billion (based on an accidental leak from that year). In 2012, the IC will spend $75.4 billion for all of its national and military intelligence programs, the scope of which is astonishing. As Dana Priest and William Arkin reported in 2010: "1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States." This sprawling U.S. intelligence apparatus is estimated to require 210,000 governmental employees and 30,000 private contractors.

Congressional oversight of presidential war-making powers has further dwindled. There are a few libertarian leaning congressional members who raise the War Powers Resolution during hearings with administration officials, although only when the serving president is of the other political party. Sen. Byrd attempted to rally fellow legislators by waving his pocket Constitution and reminding them, "Congress is not a rubberstamp or a presidential lapdog -- obedient and unquestioning. Oversight, oversight, oversight is among our most important responsibilities." Sen. James Webb, who is stepping down in January, cosponsored a bill in May that would require the White House to formally request congressional approval before using the military in humanitarian operations (it would require a vote within 48 hours). Webb noted: "Year by year, skirmish by skirmish, the role of the Congress in determining where the U.S. military would operate, and when the awesome power of our weapon systems would be unleashed, has diminished." Predictably, the bill went nowhere.