28 November 2015

Bridging the distance

http://www.telegraphindia.com/1151128/jsp/opinion/story_55429.jsp#.Vlkzs_mUdO0

Harsh V. Pant

Away from the glare of television cameras and his domestic critics, the Indian prime minister's visit to the United Kingdom managed to radically reshape the contours of the Indo-UK partnership. While the media were keen to highlight the controversies surrounding Narendra Modi, he managed to redefine Indo-UK relationship for the new century. The two countries sealed commercial deals worth £9 billion in retail, logistics, energy, finance, information technology, education and health. But it was the perceptual change in the bilateral relationship that would have a lasting impact on the future trajectory of a relationship which was seemingly headed nowhere before this visit.

Modi's visit came at a time when there were widespread doubts in the UK if New Delhi took the nation seriously at all in spite of the British prime minister's impressive outreach to India. Ever since he came to power in 2010, David Cameron had made a serious attempt to upgrade Indo-UK ties. In fact, in his first term, India was at the top of the list of the emerging powers that his government decided to court. He did make a serious effort, only to be snubbed by the then United Progressive Alliance government. This is one of the reasons why China has got a pride of place during Cameron's second term. The successful visit to the UK by the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, resulted in the two nations signing contracts worth £40 billion, including a project to build a nuclear power station in Britain. In one of the most significant shifts in foreign policy in decades, Britain is trying to position itself as a key partner of China in Europe. Modi, therefore, recognized that it was time for him to reciprocate Cameron's investment in India.

India and Britain had forged a 'strategic partnership' during Tony Blair's visit to India in 2005. But it remained a partnership only in name. The Conservatives are keen on giving it a new momentum. The UK is the largest European investor in India, and India is the third-largest investor in the UK. Indian students are the second-largest group in Britain. There are significant historical, linguistic and cultural ties that remain untapped. But the Labour government's legacy for India is very complex and Cameron's government needed great diplomatic finesse to manage the challenges. This was particularly true of the issue of Kashmir where the Labour government could not help but irritate New Delhi. As late as 2009, the former foreign secretary, David Miliband, was hectoring the Indian government that the resolution of the Kashmir dispute is essential to solving the problem of extremism in South Asia. Cameron's government made a serious effort to jettison the traditional British approach towards the sub-continent in so far as it has decided to deal with India as a rising power, not merely as a South Asian entity that needs to be seen through the prism of Pakistan.

End politics over OROP

http://dc.asianage.com/columnists/end-politics-over-orop-566
Nov 26, 2015

The curse of the delay is causing divisions within the fraternity with a set of pro-government and anti-government OROP campaigning bodies — the classic ‘divide and rule’ gets the better of the innocence and desperation of the veterans

Even in the most avowed democracies, wars, terrorism, insurgencies and natural calamities ensure the relevance and respect of the defence forces and their veterans. Matters pertaining to military and its veterans are also hot currency, politically. Not surprisingly, the run up to the US presidential elections are witnessing similar emotional pitches with a Democrat Hillary Clinton stating, “Today we are failing to keep faith with our veterans,” and pledging “zero tolerance for the kinds of abuses and delays we have seen”, to a Republican Jeb Bush stating emphatically on his campaign website that, “We don’t have the money is not an acceptable answer when it comes to providing choice and care to veterans. This is a problem of priorities, not funding.”

In India, too, the ruling dispensation was able to punt and cash the electoral cheque of appropriating ultra-nationalistic credentials, by passionately espousing veteran causes and promising to implement “One Rank, One Pension” in a time-bound manner with the exact specificities as passed by Parliament. The subsequent reneging via the concept of electoral jumlas is a “friendly fire” that the Indian soldier was unaware of. Instinctively, the Indian soldier does not have requisite skills or inclination to negotiate, bargain or doublespeak with his own government and seeks reciprocal dignity and time honoured tradition of a “word” given.

Why ISIS is Winning


by Paul Heroux
The short version: ISIS is winning because the major players in this fight are not working together and even working against each other.
The long version is more complicated. The US, UK and France are all working well together, but they are not working with Iran, Russia, and Syria who are working well together. Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Turkey have problematic and convoluted interests.
Is ISIS winning?

Yes. US policy makers would probably disagree with the statement that ISIS is winning. ISIS is not winning because they took down a Russian aircraft or because of a successful series of attacks in Paris. Winning to ISIS is not just ISIS killing more of us than we kill of them. Winning to ISIS is to make us afraid. That is a definition of terrorism – to terrorize or to make people afraid for political purposes. ISIS has been successful in this. For example, the West is tightening our security, in the US in particular questioning the prudence of its refugee program, and we have US Republican presidential candidates raising the alarm about Muslims and Mosques in the US and abroad. All of this is due to fear caused by ISIS. By this metric, ISIS is winning.

Additionally, ISIS is winning because they are able to continue to recruit young disaffected men who have little chance of gainful employment or build a family, a great source of pride. These are individuals who did not grow up understanding Islam and the nuances of it. As a consequence, many terrorists came to become radicalized later in life because they are drawn to the sensational and exciting aspects of the promises of ISIS leaders.
In Europe, these ISIS terrorists are homegrown. Their ability to move in and out of Europe with their passports, as well as the ease with which they can travel inside of Europe complicates the ability to combat ISIS in Europe. This is where intelligence agencies and law enforcement, not the military, are critical.

The assertion that ISIS is winning because President Obama has not taken more of a leadership role is political. President Obama campaigned on a walking back from the Middle East. This is what Americans, as well as Middle East citizens and world citizens wanted. ISIS was the JV team but it grew. France, Russia or any of the other countries that have been attacked by ISIS could have stepped up and taken the lead in fighting ISIS before they were attacked, just as well as the US could have. President Obama came into office in part because of the idea that the US needs a more humble foreign policy as well as to not be the world’s police force.

Who’s on First?

I, Tiresias The clash that Huntington prophesied is upon us. Or is it?

http://www.outlookindia.com/article/i-tiresias/295918

Three dates, three cities: 9/11, 26/11, 13/11; New York, Mumbai and now Paris. Three iconic cities brought to their knees. When President Francois Hollande tells his citizens “We are at war” it reminds us how the world has changed. This is not how wars were fought. Or perhaps so we believed. We think of armies, generals, planes, ships and tanks; we think of Churchill planning the future in some underground bunker. Instead, a man registered as a petty criminal with the local police masterminds attacks on the heart of Paris—on Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite—words with which a revolution was born. The target of 13/11 is a value system—democracy, freedom and secularism—not limited to Paris, but anchored to its history.

Paris 13/11 holds a dark mirror to our realities. Those who inflicted violence on the streets of Paris are part of a movement that sees Islam and the West locked in inevitable combat. Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilisations is now seemingly coming alive before us, 23 years after the American political scientist first unveiled his apocalyptic vision. There is a French phrase un malheur ne vient jamais seul or ‘misfortune never arrives alone.’ This is not misfortune but horror of the worst kind and it has not come alone. This time it has brought the barbarity and religious fanaticism of an invisible state to all our doorsteps. ISIS is now in our neighbourhood. Unwanted but frightening in its appeal, its ambition, and its execution. Lenin once famously said that “the purpose of terrorism is to terrorise”. ISIS has adopted that as its bloody calling card. The real weapon of terrorists isn’t their bombs and guns­­—it is the reactions they provoke. The harsher those reactions are­—the more successful the terrorist campaign becomes. To believe that France would declare an Emergency, suspending civil rights, was unthinkable till 13/11. But these are the times we live in and thus the world.

One of the hardest lessons of 9/11 was that populist rhetoric and official overreaction could lead to a thousand unintended consequences. When states become the mirror of the forces they are fighting, the terrorists have won. They have exposed the myth of moral superiority. There’s another myth exposed by the tragedy in Paris. Al Qaeda operated from caves in the Afghan mountains and its leader Osama bin Laden ended his life in a rented house in Abbottabad. Those who attacked Mumbai were confined to Pakistan, under state protection. ISIS affiliate Boko Haram has so far restricted its gruesomeness to one region in Africa. The ISIS, however, changed the rules of the terror game. We now face a transnational threat. Terrorists can move with ease from one country to another. They have cells and supporters in the cities being targeted. They have mastered digital weapons, which respect no borders. They create both formal and informal networks that may span countries, continents, or beyond. Warplanes may bomb their bases in Raqqa and other cities in Syria but their killers are everywhere, with passports that show them as citizens of Europe, America, Australia or the UK. That is the extent of the threat that 13/11 has exposed. That is also the danger that attacks on one community or its places of worship can bring. 
Multiculturalism is as much of a reality as the hardening of Islam. Secular modes of living have to adapt to Islam as much as it has to them. 

What Does Islamic State Actually Want?

http://econintersect.com/pages/opinion/opinion.php?post=201511251927&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily+Global+Economic+Intersection+Newsletter+Feed&utm_content=Daily+Global+Economic+Intersection+Newsletter+Feed+CID_c52667c1551125d45ce0c3eebb222585&utm_source=newsletter&utm_term=What+Does+Islamic+State+Actually+Want
from The Conversation  -- this post authored by Amalendu Misra, Lancaster University

Every religious community, at some point in its history, has harboured a vision of the apocalypse. It reminds us that the world periodically goes through tumultuous socio-religious strife, agonising chaos and unbearable anarchy. Hence Christians refer to an Antichrist in the context of an irredeemable age. Hindus, for their part, regularly invoke the metaphor of Kaliyug to describe man-made anarchy.

For fundamentalists in various religious traditions, this anarchy is brought to an end by an act of the divine. Consequently, those who believe in such apocalypse mostly leave the fate of their community and that of the larger world in the hands of their specific gods and messiahs.
Put simply, these are people who are content that "the divine will take its course, unaided by human intervention".

Some other fundamentalists, however, find themselves in a bit more of a hurry. Instead of sticking to the old-fashioned waiting game for the messiah to arrive, they appoint themselves as agents of the imaginary transformation. The Islamic State falls into this category.

Standing idly by while the Middle East unravels is not an option


http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/26/middle-east-iraq-syria-isis
The trauma of the Iraq war has clouded our ability to make policy to deal with Syria and Isis. But non-state actors such as Isis abhor a vacuum 

Aleppo: ‘Military interventions have unintended consequences. But western disengagement can have devastating ones.’ Photograph: Hosam Katan/Reuters

Thursday 26 November 2015 

As much as we hope that if we ignore what is happening in the Middle East it won’t affect us – it will. As recent events show, neither Islamic State nor refugees are being contained within the region.

Isis is disappointed that refugees are not moving to the territory it controls. Refugees are voting with their feet, fleeing the barrel bombings of Bashar al-Assad’s murderous regime, and seeking refuge outside the country. They seek stability and a normal environment in which to live – a future of hope, not Isis’s apocalyptic future.

The attacks in Paris were designed to provoke retaliation against European Muslims, and consequently more recruits for its “caliphate”. For Isis wants to add greater credence to its claim that the west is at war with Islam. The UK cannot let this narrative succeed. Isis will continue to try to launch attacks against the UK whether or not we are involved in the air campaigns in Iraq and Syria. Grievances against Britain go back a century, and do not simply stem from the UK’s ill-advised participation in the 2003 Iraq war.

Fighting Fear as Well as ISIS: Setting the Right Priorities

http://csis.org/publication/fighting-fear-well-isis-setting-right-priorities


NOV 24, 2015 

You do not defeat an enemy by becoming it. You do not defend freedom by reducing it. And, you do not create shared values through intolerance and fear. It is all too easy to react to the tragedy in Paris by taking all of the wrong steps: grossly overreacting out of panic, riding the headlines to excessive steps in counterterrorism out of political opportunism, grasping for media visibility by exaggerating the threat, and taking steps that penalize Muslims for being Muslims in ways that actually increase the longer-term prospect of terrorism and violence.

No one can ignore the fact that religious extremism in the Muslim world has created a serious new threat in the form of terrorism, civil violence, and even civil war that is spilling out of the Muslim world and affecting other nations and regions. At the same time, no one can afford to ignore the reality that almost all of this violence consists of attacks by a small minority of extremists on other Muslims in largely Islamic states, or in areas where Muslims are the vast majority and make up all of the casualties.

Djibouti Likely to Become China’s First Indian Ocean Outpost


http://www.chinasignpost.com/2015/07/11/djibouti-likely-to-become-chinas-first-indian-ocean-outpost/ 

JULY 11TH, 2015 • GABE COLLINS AND ANDREW ERICKSON 

China is now laying the diplomatic and legal foundations for a long-term naval presence in Djibouti, with a range of recent media reports alleging that Beijing is negotiating for naval access in the country. The facilities would likely be located at Obock, on Djibouti’s northern coast (Exhibit 1). While China will not formally call the facilities a “base” anytime soon, it will likely function in a manner that brings it awfully close to being one in all but name.

Durable access to facilities in Djibouti that can be easily improved by Chinese construction firms would give China a formidable—and more permanent—maritime and potentially aerial springboard deep into the Northwestern Indian Ocean Region, as well as North, East, and Central Africa. The black circle in Exhibit 1 shows the territory lying within a 2,500 km radius of Djibouti—a conservative estimate of the rough distance a Shaanxi Y-8 class maritime patrol aircraft would be able to cover without aerial refueling.

Exhibit 1: Djibouti’s Strategic Position in the Indian Ocean Region




Source: GADM, Authors’ analysis


The idea of more enduring Chinese military presence in Djibouti has clearly advanced far beyond the realm of speculation, and is now approaching the stages of signing paper, moving assets, and potentially soon pouring concrete. Negotiations appear well underway. Even more definitive than Djibouti President Ismail Guelleh’s direct statements to Western media that his government has been negotiating with China to establish a Chinese facility is the excerpt below from the interview he granted to Saudi-owned newspaper Al-Hayahon 1 June 2015:

Russia and the Great Forgetting If you don’t know your history, you can’t understand what Vladimir Putin is up to

https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/russia-great-forgetting/


Russia and the Great Forgetting
If you don’t know your history, you can’t understand what Vladimir Putin is up to

In the summer of 1985, I spent two months in the city that used to be called Leningrad. Along with several dozen other American college students, I stayed in a shabby Intourist hotel. Sharp-eyed old ladies sat at the end of every corridor; curiously unemployed men hung around the lobby. Every day we went to Russian-language classes at the university, where we also assumed we were being carefully observed. But in the afternoons and evenings, we were free to wander the city and to attempt to make friends.

Which we did—although, in retrospect, these were often odd and constrained friendships. Even the process of introduction was fraught. Before leaving for the USSR, one collected the names of Russians from other Americans who had been there, or from friends of friends, usually Soviet Jews who had recently emigrated. Once inside the country, one called up potential acquaintances, using a pay phone to avoid detection, and arrived bearing gifts. Someone had told me to bring a Russian-language copy of Jack London’s Call of the Wild to his Leningrad relative. I still remember the look of disappointment that crossed her face when I presented it. “A book for children,” she murmured with regret.

The Russians I met didn’t want Jack London. They wanted newspapers, magazines, anything with photographs of the United States. They also wanted to talk about the United States—a lot. The intellectuals would ask about politics, or about literary trends, or whether there was really a Communist party in America. Others wanted to know how much our cars cost, and whether working-class people in America really owned houses. None of them had ever been abroad, and in those pre-Internet, pre-satellite-television days, even sophisticated Leningraders could be effectively cut off from the outside world. There were some exceptions: An underground rock musician asked whether I’d met David Bowie, because he already had. But most people only knew the outside world from television. They suspected that much of what they had been told was false, but they weren’t absolutely certain.

It’s Still World War IV AFTER PARIS

http://www.the-american-interest.com/2015/11/19/its-still-world-war-iv/

Published on: November 19, 2015


Published on: November 19, 2015

And Islamic State fighters are still not Lord Voldemort’s Death Eaters. It’s time for the West to face some unpleasant truths.

It is unpleasant to explain to our children not only that we are at war, but that they will be, too. At a time when adult behavior is in short supply on our college campuses, however, it is particularly important to deliver some unpleasant truths to the kids, among them that our real-life enemies—who really do want to kill us and destroy our civilization—do not come straight from the pages of their storybooks. Western leaders have managed to avoid both truths for 14 years. And counting.Less than two months after the September 11 attacks, I framed the conflict as “World War IV” in a Wall Street Journal article. The main point:

The Cold War was World War III, which reminds us that not all global conflicts entail the movement of multimillion-man armies, or conventional front lines on a map. The analogy with the Cold War does, however, suggest some key features of that conflict: that it is, in fact, global; that it will involve a mixture of violent and nonviolent efforts; that it will require mobilization of skill, expertise and resources, if not of vast numbers of soldiers; that it may go on for a long time; and that it has ideological roots.

Fighting the Last War

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/war_stories/2015/11/robert_kagan_s_ideas_for_defeating_isis_are_sheer_fantasy.html

Robert Kagan’s ideas for defeating ISIS and restoring world order are sheer fantasy. 

In a long essay in this past weekend’s Wall Street Journal, noted neoconservative Robert Kagan calls for sending 40,000 to 50,000 U.S. troops to Iraq and Syria—thus achieving the considerable feat of making Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is urging the deployment of 20,000 troops, seem dovish by comparison.

Kagan is not your typical neocon. An analyst at the centrist Brookings Institution (not the more hawkish American Enterprise Institute), a member of a storied family of military historians (father Donald, brother Fred, sister-in-law Kimberly), and a skilled writer (his 2003 book, Of Paradise and Power, was a best-seller), he stands to muster more influence than most advocates of his ilk. Certainly he makes a more lucid argument, so his argument deserves close rebuttal.

Some of his premises are valid. “The combined crises of Syria, Iraq, and the Islamic State,” he writes, “have not been contained.” The terrorist attack in Paris and the subsequent lockdown in Brussels suggest that ISIS “has now ceased to be a strictly Middle Eastern problem.” What was once a “peripheral” interest—degrading and defeating ISIS—“has now spilled over into the core.” As a result, the old cost-benefit calculations of what the United States should do—how much risk it should take, given the interests at stake—should be reassessed, since those interests have risen. Yet, as he quotes former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer as recently saying, America “is no longer willing—or able—to play its old role.” Meanwhile, the Europeans can’t do the job (“they failed to arm themselves for the jungle, materially and spiritually, and now … the jungle has entered the European garden,” Kagan writes), so America must step into the fray once more.

Bordering on War

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/foreigners/2015/11/vladimir_putin_s_reaction_to_turkey_shooting_down_russian_warplane_the_russian.html

Why Vladimir Putin never thought Turkey would make good on its threats. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has a bone to pick with Turkey. Above, Putin after addressing the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 28, 2015, in New York City.

The anger was written on Vladimir Putin’s face as he confirmed the news Tuesday that a Russian Su-24 warplane had indeed been shot down by a Turkish F-16—and not, as Russia’s defense ministry initially indicated, by ground fire from Syrian fighters. The Russian jet was inside Syria, one kilometer from the Turkish border, when it was hit, the Russian president said in televised remarks from Sochi.

“In any case, our pilots—our plane—in no way threatened the Turkish Republic,” Putin said. The warplane was carrying out a mission to hunt down Russian volunteers fighting with ISIS, which was the primary goal of Russia’s nearly two-month air campaign in Syria, according to the Russian president. He warned of “serious consequences” for Turkey’s “stab in the back.”

If anything is clear, it’s that Putin was genuinely surprised by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s temerity to make good on threats made after Russian warplanes violated Turkey’s airspace twice in early October. Erdogan insists the Su-24 repeatedly flew over Turkish territory and ignored 10 warnings before it was shot down. Just on Friday, the Turkish government protested that Russian airstrikes in the area were killing ethnic Turkmens, not terrorists.

Winning: Everyone Is A Loser In Syria

http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htwin/articles/20151123.aspx

November 23, 2015: There are no winners in Syria but plenty of losers. The country has been devastated. What Syria has lost since 2011 includes some 300,000 dead and over 700,000 wounded or injured. Some 55 percent of the population needs of some kind of aid (food, medical, fuel, shelter). About 35 percent of the population has been driven from their homes meaning they have no jobs and lost most personal property. Since 2011 life expectancy has been cut from 75 to 62 years. Half the school age population no longer have access to a school. Over four million Syrians have fled the country, mostly to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. GDP has shrunk by at least half since 2011 and over 70 percent of the population reduced to poverty. 

The economic damage can be seen in satellite photos which show that, compared to similar nighttime pictures from 2011, only about 20 percent of the lights are still visible at night. Many of the Syrians who fled the country (over 20 percent so far) will never return. There is little to return to in part because some Islamic terror groups admit that they are not attacking towns and villages in order to occupy them but simply to hurt the troops or pro-government militiamen guarding them. The rebels loot and trash the places they take and then depart before the government can organize a counterattack (by land or air). These raids also look for people worth kidnapping and holding for ransom. There are still many Syrian families with assets, although most of these are living in government controlled territory (about a fifth of the country). But there are still people you can get a decent ransom for so this is yet another reason for people with any resources to get out of Syria. What assets the family has are often then spent on smugglers who will get all or some of the family into Western Europe, where jobs and public assistance are available.

The UN is having little success in getting access to nearly five million refugees inside Syria. Over ten percent of these refugees are literally under siege by government or rebel forces. For the rest road access passes through government and rebel territory. Most of the Syrian population now depends on food aid to survive. The Assad government is surviving, in the fifth of the country it controls, largely because of aid from Iran and Russia.

Letter From Saudi Arabia

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/25/opinion/letter-from-saudi-arabia.html?_r=0

NOV. 25, 2015, Thomas L. Friedman

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia is a country that is easier to write about from afar, where you can just tee off on the place as a source of the most austere, antipluralistic version of Islam — the most extreme versions of which have been embraced by the Islamic State, or ISIS. What messes me up is when I go there and meet people I really like and I see intriguing countertrends.

Last week I came here looking for clues about the roots of ISIS, which has drawn some 1,000 Saudi youth to its ranks. I won’t pretend to have penetrated the mosques of bearded young men, steeped in Salafist/Wahhabi Islam, who don’t speak English and whence ISIS draws recruits. I know, though, that the conservative clergy is still part of the ruling bargain here — some of the most popular Twitter voices are religious firebrands — and those religious leaders still run the justice system and sentence liberal bloggers to flogging, and they’re still in denial about how frustrated the world is with the ideology they’ve exported.

But I also ran into something I didn’t know: Something is stirring in this society. This is not your grandfather’s Saudi Arabia. “Actually, it’s not even my father’s Saudi Arabia anymore — it is not even my generation’s Saudi Arabia anymore,” the country’s 52-year-old foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, said to me.

For instance, I was hosted by the King Salman Youth Center, an impressive education foundation that, among other things, has been translating Khan Academy videos into Arabic. It invited me to give a lecture on how big technological forces are affecting the workplace. I didn’t know what to expect, but more than 500 people showed up, filling the hall, roughly half of them women who sat in their own sections garbed in traditional black robes. There was blowback on Twitter as to why a columnist who’s been critical of Saudi Arabia’s export of Salafist ideology should be given any platform. But the reception to my talk (I was not paid) was warm, and the questions from the audience were probing and insightful about how to prepare their kids for the 21st century.

p: Why ISIL Survives Air Strikes And Commandos

Leadershihttp://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htlead/articles/20151124.aspx
 
November 24, 2015: In early November the United States announced that it was going to carry out more commando raids and air strikes against ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) in Iraq and Syria. Until then no one else, not even the Arab states most directly threatened by ISIL, were willing to send in ground forces. The U.S. will send fewer than a hundred commandos, who will work with their Kurdish counterparts. The Kurdish commandos have been trained by the American since the 1990s and have a track record the Americans trust. The Americans only carried out two such raids in 2015. One in May killed a senior ISIL leader and captured his wife (wanted for war crimes) and seized seven terabytes (seven million megabytes) of ISIL records. This led to some more damaging air raids and a much better understanding of how ISIL was organized in Iraq and Syria and where new targets were likely to show up. The intelligence bonanza is said to be why there will be an increase in the number of American airstrikes against ISIL.

Left unsaid is the fact that the Arab allies in this air war against ISIL have largely withdrawn their aircraft from Syrian operations and shifted them to fighting Shia rebels in Yemen or ISIL in Iraq. Same with Western allies. Thus just to maintain the tempo of airstrikes in Syria the United States would have to do more of it themselves. That changed after the November 13th ISIL attack in Paris and now there are at least more pledges of action against ISIL in Syria.

It is unlikely more American air strikes or talk about commando operations will make a difference and that is because the U.S. refuses to do anything about the very restrictive ROE (Rules of Engagement) used so far. ISIL has exploited this ROE by widely using human shields at many of its key bases. This recently led to ISIL putting hundreds of Shia into steel cages and moving them around by truck to where an air strike was anticipated. ISIL put pictures of these caged human shields and in general dared the United States to hit a target protected by caged Shia. In the past the American ROE and ISIL use of human shields meant that the most important ISIL facilities were untouched by the bombing campaign. It also meant that numerous trucks carrying material for ISIL (like oil for export) were untouched lest a civilian driver be killed. American intelligence analysts have been leaking accusations have leaked information about this including being ordered to modify their reports about the impact of the air campaign to hide the fact that a lot of the ISIL targets hit were secondary ones ISIL did not see worth deploying human shields to.

Tibet, Taiwan and China – A Complex Nexus

http://thediplomat.com/2015/11/tibet-taiwan-and-china-a-complex-nexus/


A pro-Tibet rally in Taipei

Recent developments in cross-strait relations raise interesting questions for Tibet’s leadership in exile. 

By Tshering Chonzom Bhutia

November 24, 2015

The historic meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou is relevant to the Tibet issue in many ways. In 1979, when the post-Mao Chinese leadership decided to “solve old problems,” Tibet and Taiwan were both on the list. After having reached out to the Dalai Lama through his brother in 1978, Beijing turned its attention to Taiwan. “A Message to Compatriots in Taiwan” was issued by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) on January 1, 1979 that sought to end the military confrontation across the straits and resolve the crisis through dialogue. This marked a shift in Beijing’s Taiwan policy from “military liberation of Taiwan” to “peaceful reunification of the motherland.”

Later, in September 1981, Beijing issued a “Nine Point Proposal” to Taiwan. It was enunciated by Ye Jianying, the then NPC Standing Committee chairman, which promised the island a “high degree of autonomy as a special administrative region,” retention of its armed forces, socio-economic system, way of life, and cultural and economic relations with foreign countries, and non-interference in its local affairs. Later, Deng suggested that this proposal could also be considered as “one country, two systems.” This was the first (p.23) time that such a concept was put forward. It was later formalized during the second session of the sixth NPC in 1984.

On July 28, 1981, about two months before the proposal to Taiwan, Beijing had issued a “Five Point Proposal to the Dalai Lama.” It basically echoed Chinese concerns in mid-1981 about how to achieve the return of the Dalai Lama and “his followers.” Since Beijing was not comfortable with the idea of having the Dalai Lama live in the Tibetan region (point four) – possibly fearing that his presence there might evoke nationalist sentiment – it was proposed that he return, but reside in Beijing. The Dalai Lama was promised that he would “enjoy the same political status and living conditions as he had before 1959,” while the returnees were promised better jobs and living conditions. This was nowhere close to what the Tibetans had in mind. Even though the Dalai Lama had decided by the early 1970s that he would not seek independence/separation from China, the Five Point Proposal was not an acceptable proposition, for it sought to reduce the Tibet issue to that of the Dalai Lama.

The Cold War and Holy War: A Chinese Take on the ‘Clash of Civilizations’

http://thediplomat.com/2015/11/the-cold-war-and-holy-war-a-chinese-take-on-the-clash-of-civilizations/

Blogger Yang Hengjun on the Paris attacks and the idea of a “clash of civilizations” — and where China fits in. 
By Yang Hengjun, November 21, 2015

Many countries in the past half-century have entered into some sort of comprehensive conflict. Samuel Huntington attributes it to the “clash of civilizations,” highlighting the cultural and religious roots of conflict, while others see it as a fight between political systems and values. I personally think it’s a combination of both — things like political systems and culture or religion and values are inseparable in the first place. I don’t agree with perspectives that over-emphasize one side: there is definitely a problem with “cultural determinism,” but it’s also problematic to think that systems determine everything. Confucian-influence countries like Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan are all enjoying their democracies, while India, no matter how perfect its democracy, may never reach attain a political environment and social status comparable to that of the United States and Europe.

After World War II, the capitalistic United States, which claimed to represent “universal values,” and the socialist Soviet Union, which pledged to “liberate all humanity,” entered a half-century of tug-of-war. We all know the results. All in all it’s pretty obvious that this was a battle between political systems and values. The Soviet Union basically brought all of Eastern Europe under its cover overnight.

But let’s pick out the points of long term contention between the two rivals: foreign expansion, dissemination of ideas, and methods for maintaining power. Perhaps we’ll discover that these two rivals are virtually the same. There’s no doubt that the Soviet Union sent troops out in defense of its socialist ideal, stationing them throughout Eastern Europe. But the United States’ military history is no less robust than that of the Soviet Union. Why did they both do this? The answer’s quite simple: to promote their values, disseminate the political systems that they believe in, and use the values that humanity accepts — or values they think that humanity accepts — to rule the world. For the Soviet Union, it was communism that could liberate humanity. For the United States, it was “universal values” like freedom, democracy, and rule of law.

China's 'Belt and Road' Reaches Europe


China will build railways and ports in Central and Eastern Europe as part of its “Silk Road Economic Belt.” 

November 26, 2015
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang hosted 16 European leaders in Suhzou on Tuesday and Wednesday, for the fourth China-Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) summit. The format, which held its first summit in 2012 in Warsaw, Poland, brings together leaders from China and 16 Central and Eastern European states: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, and Slovenia. While this was the fourth annual meeting in the “16+1” format, it was the first to be held in China. Chinese media described the meeting as a “golden opportunity” to deepen cooperation.

For China, Central and Eastern Europe represents its “bridge to Europe” (although individual countries in the region might vie over holding that title for themselves). That’s true in both a political and logistical sense. Diplomatically, China hopes that building up better relations with the CEE states, most of whom are also members of the European Union, can help push forward its overall relations with the EU. Logistically, meanwhile, Central and Eastern Europe will play a crucial role in making sure China’s “Silk Road Economic Belt” reaches its final destination: Western Europe.

As Li put it in his remarks at the summit, “Located at the east gateway to Europe and along the routes of the Belt and Road initiative, CEECs enjoy a distinct advantage for enhancing connectivity.” China wants to work with these states “to build the China-Europe land-sea express line and promote connectivity in Europe.”

Tomgram: Rebecca Gordon, Corruption U.S.A.

http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176073/tomgram%3A_rebecca_gordon%2C_corruption_u.s.a./#more

Posted by Rebecca Gordon , November 24, 2015.
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch.

I recently took a little trip into the past and deep into America’s distant war zones to write a piece I called “It’s a $cam.” It was, for me, an eye-opening journey into those long-gone years of American “nation-building” and “reconstruction” in Afghanistan and Iraq. Mind you, I still remembered some of what had been reported at the time like the “urine-soaked” police academy built in Baghdad by an American private contractor with taxpayer dollars. But it was the cumulative effect of it all that now struck me -- one damning report after another that made it clear Washington was incapable of building or rebuilding anything whatsoever. There were all those poorly constructed or unfinished military barracks, police stations, and outposts for the new national security forces the U.S. military was so eagerly “standing up” in both countries. There were the unfinished or miserably constructed schools, training centers, and “roads to nowhere.” There were those local militaries and police forces whose ranks were heavily populated by “ghost soldiers.” There was that shiny new U.S. military headquarters in Afghanistan that cost $25 million and no one wanted or would ever use. It was, in short, a litany of fiascoes and disasters that never seemed to end.

Financially, Washington had invested sums in both countries that far exceeded the Marshall Plan, which so successfully put Western Europe back on its feet after World War II. Yet Iraq and Afghanistan were left on their knees amid a carnival of corruption and misspent taxpayer money. What made revisiting this spectacle so stunning wasn’t just the inability of the U.S. military, the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and a crew of crony warrior corporations raking in the big bucks to do anything right, but that this was the United States of America. It was the country I -- and I was hardly alone in this -- had grown up thinking of as the globe's master builder. In the 1950s and early 1960s, my childhood years, it seemed as if there was nothing Americans couldn’t build successfully from an unparalleled highway system to rockets that were moonward bound.

Half a century later, it’s clear that, at least in our war zones, there’s nothing we’ve been capable of building right, no matter the dollars available. And that, as TomDispatch regularRebecca Gordon suggests today in an eye-opening piece, is just the beginning of our new American reality. Tom

RUSSIA & HYBRID COMBAT: RUSSIAN CADETS TO STUDY PSY-OPS & INFO WARFARE IN NEW TRAINING COURSE

November 26, 2015 
America may not be interested in unconventional warfare but UW is being practiced around the world by those who are interested in it.

Russian Cadets To Study Psy-Ops And Information-Wars In New Training Course

Military dangers and threats in the modern world are gradually getting displaced into the information space, State Secretary and Deputy Defence Minister Nikolay Pankov has said in a lecture to officer cadets at the Military University, privately-owned Russian military news agency Interfax-AVN reported on 25 November.

“Combat activities are starting to acquire the nature of hybrid wars. Today, the trend has been observed of a combination of military dangers and military threats in the information-ideological plane, when alongside the real engagement, the battle transitions to the internet-space, media and public organizations,” he said.

This means the professional orientation of communications and work with society is becoming one of the foremost tasks for the Russian Defence Ministry, he said.

“Maintaining trust in difficult situations is expensive, demands attention and the relevant experience. The prestige of the Russian Armed Forces is increasing and military service has again become attractive for the young,” he said.

Cadets at the Military University are currently starting to study a new training course under the general title “Social Environment”. The course has been set up at the behest of the Defence Ministry, and aims to study the experience and modern technologies of work with civil society. It is intended to be for one semester until May 2016, and is unique, Pankov said.

Lectures will be given to the students by leaders in the Defence Ministry, members of the public chamber in the Defence Ministry, and teachers from military higher education establishments. Specialist speakers in social communications, military experts and political analysts, the leaders of the biggest social projects and representatives of leading media will also be invited to give lectures, the report said.
The course will look at “issues of counteracting ideological extremism, undermining of traditional values, threats of ‘colour revolutions’ and inter-ethnic conflicts.
“State Duma Deputies and leading specialists in ensuring national security will help discuss problems in these tricky issues,” Pankov said, according to the report.