27 January 2014

Tombstones do not remain mute

 January 27, 2014
Rahul Pandita

The HinduLeft bereaved by the protector: A State-ordered exhumation revealed, in 2000, that the bodies that the Army claimed belonged to militants were those of the missing men picked up from villages around Pathribal by security agencies. Here, the kin of a victim hold up a photograph of his. Photo: Nissar Ahmad

The Army’s clean chit to the accused in the Pathribal fake encounter case is an insult to the sacrifices made by its men in Kashmir

Let us not go to Pathribal first. Let us go to Shopian instead, not very far from Pathribal. In May 2009, two women went to work in their orchard in this town in south Kashmir and did not return till late in the night. In the ensuing search, the two were found dead by a rivulet. The separatist machinery in the Kashmir Valley was quick to cash in on this tragedy. The deaths were immediately dubbed as rape and murder, committed by — who else? — the Indian security forces. Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had assumed office only a few months before and he was keen to prove that he meant business. He issued orders in haste. Four police officers were suspended and later jailed for almost two months.

It was a CBI investigation that brought out the truth after a few months. The investigation revealed that the two women had drowned in the flooded rivulet while they were attempting to cross it. The CBI filed a charge sheet against six doctors and others, including the brother of one of the deceased, for fabricating evidence. One of the doctors, the CBI found, had fudged the vaginal swab samples to prove that the women were raped.

The fake murder case had led to violent protests across Kashmir Valley. But, in the wake of the CBI charge sheet the separatist propaganda rang hollow. Though once in a while, the Delhi lobby of sympathisers still brings it up in TV discussions.

Around three years before its investigation in the Shopian incident, the CBI filed a charge sheet against seven men of the Army’s 7 Rashtriya Rifles unit, accusing them of killing in cold blood five innocent villagers and passing them off as foreign militants. On the night of March 20, 2000, the eve of American President Bill Clinton’s visit to India, suspected militants of Lashkar-e-Taiba had shot dead 35 Sikhs in the village of Chittisinghpora, near Pathribal. Five days later, the Army said that it had, in a joint operation with the police in Pathribal, eliminated five foreign militants responsible for the Chittisinghpora massacre. Prior to this, five men had been picked up from villages around Pathribal on the nights of March 23 and 24, 2000. The picking up of youth by various security agencies was a routine practice those days in Kashmir. But the families of the five missing men got suspicious after the Army’s press conference on the encounter. Subsequent protests forced the State government to orderan exhumation of the bodies of the ‘foreign militants’. It was done two weeks after the killings. They turned out to be the bodies of the five missing men. Apart from being shot, the bodies were badly charred and their body parts were chopped off.

Japan, India and the balance of power

January 27, 2014
K. Shankar Bajpai

The HinduSymbolic: The recent six-day India visit of Japan's Imperial Majesties presages a relationship that can influence the global power structure. Photo: Kamal Narang

India and Japan can honestly say that they are not building relations in hostility against China; but it is right for them to plan for the eventuality of Chinese hostility

Within two months, we have received from Japan, first that rare, and symbolically greatest, gesture, the visit of Their Imperial Majesties, then the Defence Minister’s, and now, the Premier’s. It is heartening that such an important country attaches such importance to us, despite our best efforts to prove ourselves unready, if not unable, to play the role clearly expected of us. Formally, we have so many ‘strategic partners,’ the term has lost meaning, but Japan surely could give it solid contents. The economic component is obvious, limited largely by our own non-performance; the strictly strategic part is even more important but even less attended to. We could grow economically even without making the most of Japan’s cooperation, but to our national security interests, it is irreplaceably valuable. Moreover, the relationship’s significance is more than bilateral; it will influence others and the global power structure.

The power-politics and balance-of-power calculations we denounce are facts of life, standard practice for all serious countries which plan for their national security interests with evaluations of the international distribution of power. Having multiple, often conflicting, interests to manage, all countries need some organising principle. During practically all of India’s first half-century, the Cold War furnished that principle for everyone, the pursuit of other interests being conditioned by this central fact of international life. Since its end, all countries have been at sea, casting around for some new sextant to guide them. We Indians, like all others who only took charge of their own destinies just before or during the Cold War, are dealing for the first time with the interplay of multiple powers, some rising and some weakening. They all act without the constraints, indeed the discipline, imposed by the Cold War, but one development provides a major sort of organising principle, for many states if not all: the enormous rise of China.

No country has divined the ramifications of this for itself or globally — not even China. How far it will prove an alarmingly assertive power, throwing its weight about aggressively, and how far a constructive, if self-centred, leader in shaping a new, equitable world order, is a question that has spawned quite an industry, but leaving everyone guessing. Great powers have, historically, been both, usually more the former. China should prove no exception, but in a very new setting.

Most countries cop out with the banality that one must build on areas of cooperation with China while remaining wary of unwelcome possibilities. The first depends on Chinese attitudes, the latter on your own capabilities. Since no regional country comes anywhere near China’s present capabilities, leave alone tomorrow’s, each must strengthen its own, which includes building partnerships. Each will strenuously — and genuinely — maintain these are not aimed at harming, or even containing, China, but that is what China will consider them. Is that a reason for eschewing them?Territorial integrity paramount

The enigma of terminology

January 27, 2014
A.S. Panneerselvan

The Hindu A.S. Panneerselvan. Photo: S.R. Raghunathan

Last week there was a story filed from Islamabad on trade between India and Pakistan across the Line of Control. Some readers have taken objection to the use of the terms ‘Indian occupied Kashmir’ and ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’ while quoting the Pakistan’s foreign affairs spokesperson. Newspapers have inherent difficulties in describing contested territories while adhering to the fundamental rules of reporting. In this case, the terms were not an invention of the reporter and the story was a faithful report of the Pakistani side of the story. The reporter has not endorsed it but merely reported a statement.

In the last two decades there had been constant interactions between journalists from India and Pakistan about fair coverage of Kashmir which has been trapped in the nationalistic narratives of the two neighbours. In 2005, when some of the influential editors of Indian and Pakistani media met at Istanbul one of the issues they discussed was what the media can do to lower the cross-border tensions and change the prevailing attitude of confrontation to reconciliation. They came up with a suggestion to use terms that capture the reality rather than the respective countries’ stated positions. Accordingly, for a very short period, many media outlets, both in India and in Pakistan, used ‘India Administered Kashmir’ instead of ‘India Occupied Kashmir’ and ‘Pakistan Administered Kashmir’ instead of ‘Pakistan Occupied Kashmir’. But soon the nationalist narratives gained precedence over the terminological exactitude.

In this context, I also realise my own transition from a journalist to an ombudsman. The crucial difference between a journalist and an ombudsman is the source, the beginning point, from which their respective writings flow. While the journalists report on events and developments, ombudsmen write about the quality of journalistic writings, and whether they adhere to the prescribed standards and whether they stand up to the meticulous scrutiny of informed readers. The journalistic skills evolved over a period of three centuries and the best practices have now been well documented and have become curriculum in various journalism schools across the world. But, the literature about ombudsmanship is not so rich. We, about hundred odd ombudsmen, learn from each other’s experience to hone our skills.

One of the interesting voices I follow is Craig Silverman, an award-winning journalist and the founder of Regret the Error, a blog that reports on media errors and corrections, and trends regarding accuracy and verification. The Poynter Institute hosts his blog where he is an adjunct faculty.

Let me discuss two postings in the Regret the Error blog that may have some resonance with the use of right terms to describe Kashmir on two sides of the Line of Control. The postings are about corrections carried that two important publications in the United States recently about events happened more than a century ago. I consider them significant because the act of correction is crucial to any newspaper that wants to be a media institution of record.

First, a correction carried out on November 14, 2013 by a U.S. paper, The Patriot-News. On the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg address, The Patriot-News issued a retraction of its editorial of 1863. The paper was then called, the Patriot & Union, and it ridiculed the address. Its editorial then read: “We pass over the silly remarks of the President. For the credit of the nation we are willing that the veil of oblivion shall be dropped over them and that they shall be no more repeated or thought of.” And the retraction of last November was: “In the editorial about President Abraham Lincoln’s speech delivered Nov. 19, 1863, in Gettysburg, the Patriot & Union failed to recognize its momentous importance, timeless eloquence, and lasting significance. The Patriot-News regrets the error.”

Cryogenic success

MOST rocket propulsion is achieved through chemical propellants, where chemical energy is converted into the kinetic energy of hot gases...»

GSLV timeline

In a major breakthrough that promises to make India self-reliant in space technology, an indigenised cryogenic engine powers the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle GSLV-D5 to put the 1,982-kilogram communication satellite GSAT-14 into a precise orbit. By T.S. SUBRAMANIAN

AT 4:35 p.m. on January 5, India’s 20-year-long “tapasya” ended when its Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle GSLV-D5 put GSAT-14 into a perfect orbit. A welter of emotions—pride, joy, patriotism and, perhaps, anger—engulfed the rocket and satellite engineers seated in the Mission Control Centre (MCC) at the spaceport at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. What was remarkable about the mission was that GSLV-D5 was powered by a cryogenic engine developed indigenously by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It was this powerful, uppermost cryogenic stage, that imparted a velocity of 36,000 kilometres/hour to the three-stage vehicle to put the 1,982-kilogram communication satellite into a precise, geo-synchronous transfer orbit (GTO) with a perigee of 179.60 km and an apogee of 35,950 km against the targeted 180 km by 36,000 km. Of the 17 minutes of flight duration, the cryogenic stage fired for 12 minutes, a testimony to its importance in the mission.

Warplanes: India Gets More Herons To Deal With China

January 25, 2014: At the end of 2013 India ordered another 15 Heron UAVs from Israel in addition to having the 25 it already has upgraded with better communications equipment and some other improvements. All this will cost $300 million and is largely in response to Chinese aggressiveness along the 4,000 kilometer border both nations share. Most of this frontier is in thinly populated mountains and hills, some of it covered with forests but a lot of it with little vegetation. The additional Herons are ideal for patrolling all this.

In late 2012 India spent $1.1 billion to upgrade the sensors on some 150 largely Israeli UAVs owned by the Indian armed forces (army, air force, and navy). For the larger UAVs this meant high resolution radar (which provides black and white video of whatever is down there, in any weather) as well as high res video cameras. These sensors tend to be housed in a gimbaled stabilized turret. That means the operator can quickly point the sensor in any direction and get a stable image. Since the cameras are digital, the zoom feature is very quick and can reveal amazing levels of detail if you have high resolution cameras.

There is a growing body of evidence making it clear that you get the best results from your UAVs by having the best sensors you can afford installed. In many cases the sensor costs as much as the UAV itself. India is not going that far, as the United States and other Western nations (including Israel) have, but they were quite close with this upgrade program. While India’s UAVs tend to be smaller than those used in Western nations, more compact, lighter, and more powerful sensors make it possible to equip smaller UAVs with very capable radars and other (video and heat) sensors.

India's largest UAV, costing about $6 million each, is the Heron 1. This aircraft has a wingspan of 16.6 meters (58.4 feet), max take-off weight of 1.2 tons, and carries a 250 kg (550 pound) payload. With a max endurance of up to 50 hours (depending on payload carried), the Herons came with day and night vidcams or a naval search radar. Cruising at about 100 kilometers an hour and flying as high as 10 kilometers (32,000 feet), the Heron is very similar in cost and performance to the United States Predator.

Defeat in Bali

The Bali ministerial of the WTO ignores the original development agenda of the Doha Round, but India proclaims as victory an unfair deal meted out to it. By AMITI SEN

The meeting of Trade Ministers from 159 member countries of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in December in Bali, Indonesia, managed to revive global interest in the deadlocked Doha Round launched. But a closer look at what was achieved there shows that not only have members digressed from the original course of the Doha Round, but the development agenda, which was its cornerstone, too has disappeared into thin air.

The subsidy question

A simple request made by India and other developing members of the G33 alliance to delete subsidies given on account of public stockholding programmes from the category of actionable subsidies met with mammoth resistance from developed countries.

Given the fact that this request, if granted, would allow developing countries to give price support to poor farmers and also help implement their food security programmes without facing retaliatory action, developed countries should not have had any problem in going along with it. But the United States, the European Union and many others raised a hue and cry claiming that the provision would distort global prices, without paying heed to India’s assurance that crops obtained through the programme would not be released in the international market.

Double standards

When one takes into account the $100-billion-worth of farm subsidies given annually by the U.S. and an equal amount given by the E.U. countries, India’s food security programme, valued at $20 billion, is a pittance. But the argument did not seem to make any sense to the developed world. The unfairness of the existing regime that calculates subsidies on the basis of market prices prevailing in 1986 was also ignored.

Al-Qaeda strikes back

Obama has done what can be done to help the Afghans defend themselves against the Taliban and al-Qaeda.


But that is not an argument for US troops to stay on in Afghanistan.

Bruce Riedel

Al-Qaeda has staged a remarkable comeback in Iraq in the last year. Former National Security Advisor Jim Jones has called it “al-Qaeda’s renaissance”. Al-Qaeda could stage another renaissance in South Asia if the American drawdown from Afghanistan is botched.

The rise of al-Qaeda affiliates in the fertile crescent from Beirut to Baghdad has been dramatic. Al-Qaeda in Iraq, once wrongly proclaimed defeated by many, has regenerated, more deadly than ever, as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS). Today, it is fighting to once again take control of the Anbar province. It has already successfully given birth to a Syrian franchise, the al-Nusra Front, and now competes with its own offspring for power in Syria. Together, the ISIS and al-Nusra are trying to destroy the century-old borders of the region, tearing down the hated Sykes-Picot borders drawn by London and Paris in the aftermath of World War I. Thousands of jihadis from across the Muslim world, many from Europe, have already flocked to Syria to join the fight against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Sunni-Shia sectarian violence is multiplying, feeding a fire that al-Qaeda has long stoked.

Al-Qaeda’s Lebanese franchise, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, is trying to import the Syrian civil war into Lebanon. Named after the Palestinian ideologue who was Osama bin Laden’s key partner in Afghanistan in the 1980s, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades took credit for the attack on the Iranian embassy in Beirut last November and have been linked to other car bombings since. The death of its leader, Majid bin Muhammad al-Majid, a Saudi Arabian, is not likely to put an end to its efforts.

There was no al-Qaeda in Iraq before 9/11, of course. The terror organisation moved into Iraq only when bin Laden saw that then US President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were getting ready to invade Iraq in 2003. He set a trap. By 2006, al-Qaeda in Iraq had plunged the country into civil war, pitting Shia against Sunni. Only the brave efforts of American Marines and GIs prevented the complete collapse of the state. Now al-Qaeda has come back in Iraq, raising its black flag over territory once fought over so hard by the Americans.

Can the same tragedy be repeated in Afghanistan and Pakistan? The longest war in American history will largely end for Americans this year. But it will not end for Afghans or Pakistanis. Pakistan will continue to be the principal supporter and patron of the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan provides the Taliban with safe haven and sanctuary to train and recruit its fighters, and protects its leaders, including Mullah Omar. The Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, helps train and fund the Taliban.

For the last few years, the US has also fought a second war from Afghanistan, the counter-terrorist war inside Pakistan. Al-Qaeda found a new base in Pakistan after the rout of Mullah Omar’s Afghan emirate in 2001. The highlight of this second covert war was the Seal raid to kill bin Laden in Abbottabad. Drone missions to disrupt al-Qaeda operations in Pakistan have been more frequent: by one count, there have been 340 lethal missions since President Barack Obama took office and more than two dozen just last year.

SPEAKING FREELY A way out for new army chief

By Atif Salahuddin

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing.


General Raheel Sharif's succession as Pakistan's new army chief, after a victory over other aspirants to the powerful and coveted position, has finally ended the enduring six-year tenure of General Ashfaq Kayani.

During his time at the helm, General Kayani oversaw a rapidly deteriorating internal and external security situation. This included numerous domestic terror attacks - Iraq-style killings that claimed thousands of Pakistani lives - infiltration attacks on the Mehran naval and Kamra air bases and an audacious attack on the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi itself.

If this was not enough, Pakistan's purported "ally", the US, launched the embarrassing Abbottabad raid which killed Osama bin Laden, and the murderer of two Pakistanis in Lahore - CIA agent Raymond Davis - was simply allowed to go home as a free man.

US drone attacks, which have become symbolic of American impunity and intransigence in dealing with Pakistan, increased exponentially with thousands of men, women and children being slaughtered in the tribal areas all in the name of fighting terrorism.

Amid all these incidents, it was perhaps the slaughter of 24 Pakistani troops in Salala at the hands of the US-led NATO forces which most undermined Kayani's position - if the commander-in-chief could launch operations in the tribal areas under American pressure but not lift a finger to defend and avenge his troops, what faith could the rest of Pakistan have in him? 

General Kayani's weak leadership, lack of robustness and caving into American pressure will characterize his legacy.

Incoming General Raheel Sharif rightly has some weighty expectations to bear; he has to reverse the decline overseen by his predecessors and improve the security situation of the country, all while restoring the prestige of the army.

Raheel has had the advantage of holding a clean slate. Having served as the inspectorate of training and evaluation for the Pakistan army in his last position, he was perceived as having relatively clean hands as far as the fighting in the tribal areas is concerned.

Lessons from the Battle of the Paracel Islands

Forty years on, the battle has enduring lessons for Vietnam’s naval modernization.
By Ngo Minh Tri and Koh Swee Lean Collin
January 23, 2014 

On January 16, 1974, the Republic of Vietnam Navy (RVN) discovered the presence of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the Crescent Group in the western Paracel Islands, which was held by South Vietnam. This was an unexpected development, because notwithstanding the reduced U.S. military assistance to Saigon after the signing of the Paris Peace Accords in 1973, and subsequent reduction of South Vietnamese garrisons on the islands, the Chinese had not taken unilateral actions to subvert the status quo – by which the Amphitrite Group in the eastern Paracels and the Crescent Group were respectively under Chinese and South Vietnamese control.

Over the next two days, the opposing naval forces jostled with one another in close-proximity maneuvers off the islands, before a firefight erupted as the South Vietnamese troops attempted to recapture Duncan Island. The skirmish subsequently escalated with overwhelming Chinese reinforcements deployed to the clash zone, including close air support staged from nearby Hainan Island and missile-armed Hainan-class patrol vessels. Shorn of American naval support, given that the U.S. Navy Seventh Fleet was then scaling down its presence in the South China Sea following the peace accords of 1973, the RVN was utterly defeated. Beijing swiftly exploited the naval victory with an amphibious landing in force to complete its control of all the Paracel Islands.

The Battle of the Paracel Islands has since gone down history as the first Sino-Vietnamese naval skirmish in the quest for control over the South China Sea isles. The Sino-Vietnamese naval skirmish in the nearby Spratly Islands in 1988 was the second and final such instance. Since then, tensions have eased. There have been continued exchanges at the ruling party level and between the countries’ militaries (including the hosting of a PLA Navy South Sea Fleet delegation to a Vietnamese naval base). Beijing and Hanoi have also recently inaugurated mutual consultations on joint marine resource development in the South China Sea.

However, the Battle of Paracel Islands in 1974 yields some useful and enduring lessons for Hanoi and its ongoing naval modernization in the South China Sea, particularly in the face of geopolitical developments.

Enduring Lesson #1: Diplomacy is the First Recourse… But Not the Sole Recourse

No international and regional treaties constitute perfect safeguards against unilateral action, including threat or use of force. The landmark Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea inked in 2002 between China and the Southeast Asian claimants has not been entirely successful. In fact, unilateral actions aimed at subverting the status quo in the South China Sea by threat or use of force has continued to dominate. Recent video footage revealed by China’s CCTV in January 2014 showed a standoff between Chinese and Vietnamese law enforcement ships off the Paracel Islands back in 2007. More recent, recurring incidents included the harassment of Vietnamese survey ships by Chinese vessels, the Sino-Philippine maritime standoff in the Scarborough Shoal in April 2012 and, later, the show of force by Chinese surveillance ships and naval frigates off the Philippine-held Second Thomas Shoal. These episodes bear an eerie resemblance to the sort of naval jostling that led to the skirmish back in 1974.

Even as the South China Sea claimants engaged in consultations on a Code of Conduct, upon unilaterally declaring an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea in December 2013, Beijing declared indisputable rights to create ADIZs in other areas if it so desired. An ADIZ over the South China Sea, if ever established, would undoubtedly strengthen Beijing’s hand over the disputed waters, augmenting regular unilateral fishing bans, an earlier expanded maritime law enforcement authority for the Hainan authorities as well as the latest Chinese fisheries law requiring foreign fishing vessels to seek permission from Beijing to operate in much of the South China Sea. These developments, if they continue unabated, will only heighten the risk of accidental or premeditated clashes in the disputed waters.

Why China and the Philippines are Battling Over Rocks, Reefs

By Trefor Moss

MANILA—The Philippines cried foul this week when China announced plans to begin regular patrols of the South China Sea, known here as the West Philippines Sea. The two countries have been engaged in a tense dispute over the region since 2012, when Chinese ships took control of Scarborough Shoal, which is just one of the areas Beijing and Manila contest.

Government spokesman Raul Hernandez insisted any such patrols would be illegal because the area in question is Filipino, not Chinese, territory: Under international law, he said in a statement sent by text message to reporters on Jan. 22, China’s Exclusive Economic Zone, or EEZ, “cannot extend beyond 200 nautical miles” from the Chinese mainland and Hainan Island, a province at the southernmost end of China.

* What does that mean? Every country with a coastline has ownership of the seas immediately around it. This area of “territorial sea” extends 12 miles from the coast, and foreign ships are not allowed to enter those waters without permission. Every country with a coastline also has an EEZ. This zone stretches 200 miles from the coast, and the controlling country has exclusive rights to exploit the resources within that area. That includes fishing and undersea drilling. Foreign ships are free to sail through an EEZ.

* And beyond that? These are the high seas, and global commons: All nations have the right to sail them and to exploit their natural resources.
A Hamilton class high cutter from the United States in the seas around the northeastern Philippines on Aug. 2, 2013. The country has been working to update its naval fleet amid increased tension with China over disputed waters in the South China Sea.Reuters

Will the Next World War Start in the Middle East?

JANUARY 25, 2014

The centenary of the First World War is upon us, and it has been marked by a slew of books, articles, remembrances, and commentary. The origins of one of civilization’s greatest catastrophes are still disputed. Was German aggression the cause of the war, or should blame be more widely spread?

Richard Evans, the Regius Professor of History at Cambridge, is the author of many books about Europe (including a trilogy about the Third Reich), and is one of the most prominent intellectuals in the United Kingdom. This week, he has a cover story in theNew Statesman looking back at the war, and comparing 1914 to today. We spoke over the phone about who caused the disaster, the best books to read on it, and whether the modern Middle East will spark the next World War.

Isaac Chotiner: What is the major difference between 1914 and 2014? Are you worried about another major conflict breaking out anytime soon?

Richard Evans: I think we have to recognize that the instability and violence of the Balkan states in 1914 was the trigger for the war. It was not an excuse used by the Germans or anybody else. The region was pretty much out-of-control. I think the obvious parallel here is with the Middle East today, where again you have a number of smallish states, heavily armed, with religious differences, political differences, and instability. The situation is very difficult for the major powers to control.

IC: You say that it was not just an excuse to start the war, but don’t you think other events, like thecrisis in Morocco in 1911, or something else, could have been the spark to start the war?

RE: Well, the Moroccan issue was settled, the Middle East was more or less settled by 1914, and the naval arms race was settled because Britain had won and everyone recognized that, including the Germans. So I think it really had to be the Balkans.

It was a multipolar world in the late 19th century, which then became a bipolar world, split between two camps in Europe itself. That mirrors the cold war, but the cold war is over, and we now have once more the multipolar world that you had in Europe in the 1880s and 1890s. And also, you have institutions of collective security now, just as you had then—the United Nations may not be all that effective but it is better than nothing.

1; 5,000; 500,000

1; 5,000; 500,000
JAN. 25, 2014

Thomas L. Friedman

IF you’re confused about all the turmoil in the Arab world and asking how the United States should respond, I find it useful to consider three questions:

1) Why is it that the Arab awakening country where the U.S. has had the least involvement, Tunisia, is where the most progress is being made toward building a consensual democracy? 2) Why are the three most important numbers to keep in mind when thinking about the Arab world today 1, 5,000 and 500,000? 3) Why does Egypt’s strongman, Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, have so many medals on his chest when he’s too young to have fought in any of Egypt’s big wars, and why might that be a worrying sign?

Let’s start with Tunisia, where the country’s National Constituent Assembly has forged a new Constitution that, as The Times reported, “is a carefully worded blend of ideas that has won the support of both Ennahda, the Islamist party ... and the secular opposition.” It is surely one of the most liberal and inclusive constitutions in the Arab world. It took three years of political struggles for the Tunisians to get there, and the whole thing could still blow up at any time, but it is an achievement that Tunisians basically did on their own. What’s the secret?

Answer: The main religious and secular forces in Tunisia, after coming close to civil war, finally agreed to the sine qua non for the success of any Arab democracy movement — “No victor, no vanquished.” Whether you’re talking Shiites, Sunnis, Alawites, Kurds, tribes, Islamists or secular generals, in these pluralistic Arab states, unless all the key parties accept the principle that power will be shared and rotated, there is no chance any of these awakenings will make a stable transition from autocracy to more consensual politics.

But Tunisians had another advantage, says Craig Charney, a veteran pollster in South Africa and the Middle East. Tunisia “already had strong civil society institutions” — like the General Labor Union, the National Business Federation, the Tunisian Bar Association and the Tunisian Human Rights League. These institutions, explained Charney, “were able to play a nonpartisan moderating role between the different political factions.” And, unlike Egypt, Tunisia also did not have a politicized military with deep roots in the economy that had incentives to meddle in the political arena. Syria, Libya and Iraq had no real civil society institutions at all.

Future of the Army in Asia: Less War, More Diplomacy

By Sandra I. Erwin

Since the Obama administration directed the U.S. military in 2012 to turn its attention to the Pacific region, Army leaders have made it known that they will not play second fiddle to their sister armed services in the so-called pivot to Asia.

Army officials were irked when the Navy and the Air Force teamed up and produced an "air-sea battle" concept that suggested the United States would rely primarily on naval and air assets to fight a major war in the Pacific Rim. Army leaders have countered that most Asian powers have strong land-based armies and that ground forces would be essential in any scenario.

A new study by an influential think tank suggests the Army will have a role in Asia, but mostly a peaceful one, at least through the next decade.

The immediate priorities for the Army in Asia should be to establish and nurture relationships with friendly militaries, and assist in natural disaster relief and humanitarian operations, says Peter Chalk, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corp.

The study, titled, “The U.S. Army in Southeast Asia: Near-Term and Long-Term Roles," was funded by the U.S. Army deputy chief of staff in preparation for the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review.

"The current security environment in Southeast Asia is largely benign," Chalk writes. "There is practically no risk today of a major interstate war in the region."

There are few, if any, indicators that point to armed conflict in the region in the near term, the study says. Nearly every government has benefited from sustained economic growth and relative stability, and most of the non-state insurgencies and terrorist groups in Southeast Asia have been largely contained. "Compounding these positive facets is the lack of any meaningful external threat," says the report.

Agreeing to agree

January 27, 2014

Implementation of the interim nuclear deal has made normalisation of Tehran-Washington ties look possible.

Implementation of the interim nuclear deal has made normalisation of Tehran-Washington ties look possible.

January 20 marked a historic turn in the Iranian nuclear dispute. Based on an interim agreement struck between Iran and the P5+1 group last November in Geneva, Tehran suspended 20 per cent enrichment of uranium, a level that would enhance Tehran’s capability in producing fuel for atomic weapons. In return, the world powers would ease sanctions on some trade, which will considerably help Iran’s ailing economy.

In light of decades of animosity, the latest halt of uranium enrichment is meant to build confidence before moving on to the next stage of negotiations, with the aim of assuring Iran’s intention of solely civilian use of nuclear technology. The agreement spans six months as top negotiators agree on a comprehensive deal that could eventually make sure Iran’s nuclear programme is limited to peaceful activities.

For Iran, the current nuclear deal is good for two basic reasons: first, the threat of military strikes is now diminished and second, some of the crippling international sanctions that have seriously hurt the economy, destabilising the security of the Islamic Republic, are for now halted. This is a major achievement for both Iran and its counterparts, especially the US, which has for the last 10 years failed to reach an agreement with Tehran.

In fact, one of the most significant features of the deal is that an agreement has been made in the first place, especially between two nations that have experienced decades of hostility and mistrust. The deal unleashes a new mood of excitement among Iranians that first became visible in the electoral victory of Hassan Rouhani in June 2013, when millions voted for a pragmatic president promising to solve Iran’s economic problems. Such a mood is mostly evident on social media sites that primarily reflect the views of younger Iranians, who make up the largest segment of the population.

Facebook, where thousands of Iranians communicate with friends and other users despite a government ban on the site, has provided a popular venue to express the new hope that the agreement will improve their situation. One Facebook user writes: “I am happy that the shadow of war hovering over the country because of the previous administration is (at least for now) gone.” Another comments: “A major victory for the Iranian nation and a huge defeat for the forces of irrationality, that is, the Ahmadinejad administration.” Some tend to praise the Islamic Republic’s pragmatism and argue how the government is keen on self-preservation, even if it has to undermine its own ideological rhetoric.

** What Thailand Means for Southeast Asia

January 23, 2014
By Robert Kaplan

Once upon a time Thailand was the bulwark of American power in the heart of Southeast Asia. It was a strong, anti-communist state that was easy to govern because of a rich agricultural heartland protected by mountains and the relative absence of ethnic or religious conflict. Great moral authority emanated from the royal palace under King Bhumibol Adulyadej, still on the throne today, whose pillars of power were the Royal Thai Army, noble families and bureaucratic elites and the reverent masses. The military was, in turn, buttressed by force of arms, the king's aura, American patronage and control of state corporations. Rice farming was the basis of the economy, and the peasant farmers revered the king, who dispensed wisdom, infrastructure funds and development aid. The oldest U.S. ally in the region, Thailand served as a staging post for the American military during the Vietnam War.

Thailand had other advantages, too. It formed an identifiable nation from the 13th century, after the Siamese migrated from southern China and carved a space for themselves over the succeeding centuries through conflicts with the neighboring Khmer and Burmese kingdoms. Thailand has never been colonized, unlike the rest of Indochina. It dealt with rival British and French colonists, and collaborated with the Japanese before switching to the American side in World War II, in order to preserve its independence. Hence the Western world did not humiliate the Thais as much as it did others; the Thais have fewer chips on their shoulders or axes to grind. An intricate and organized bureaucracy has existed here for centuries, yet it has been a flexible one that never condemned itself to the wrong side of history by resisting Western technology. In modern times Siam became Thailand, the word "Thai" loosely associated with the notion of a "free people." The Thais established a constitutional monarchy after a military intervention in 1932 and have retained it despite numerous subsequent coups.

Thailand hasn't collapsed. It still is the beneficiary of geography and a more or less unified ethnic makeup. It is also a place where commercial interests and Theravada, or "lesser" Buddhism, with a marked Indian influence, help make for an open and congenial national culture and service economy, emphasizing moderation and compromise. But the downfall of regional communism and the resulting transition away from the military-led Cold War regime has yet to run its course. The result has been a more complex polity than the one that existed in the 1960s and 1970s -- and one in which compromise is lacking.

Ukraine shows the ‘color revolution’ model is dead

By Anne Applebaum, Published: January 25


The Ukrainian parliament recently passed legislation directly modeled on Russian precedents. The laws curb demonstrations, using language broad enough to apply to almost any gathering. They criminalize “slander,” which might mean any criticism of the government. They require the members of any organization with any foreign funding, including the Greek Catholic Church, to register as “foreign agents,” which is to say spies. These laws were passed at night, with a show of hands. Deputies did not discuss them or, in some cases, even read them.

Applebaum writes a biweekly foreign affairs column and contributes to the PostPartisan blog.

Within days, the center of the capital, Kiev, became a war zone. Men with truncheons used clouds of tear gas to break up protesters who have been demonstrating against corruption and Russian influence since November. Priests said Mass before the barricades; buses burned in the snow. Riot police shot people with rubber bullets. Then they shot them with real bullets. Others were hauled away and beaten. Anyone standing near the scene Tuesday received a text message from the phone company: “Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance.” So far, five people are dead.

These events are so harsh, and so contrary to what anyone expected, that they should lead us to abandon immediately some of the illusions we have long held about this part of the world. First and foremost, it’s time to abandon the myth of the “color revolutions”: the belief that peaceful demonstrators, aided by a bit of Western media training, will eventually rise up and nonviolently overthrow the corrupt oligarchies that have run most of the post-Soviet orbit since 1991. The history of Ukraine, from the 2004 Orange Revolution until now, has proved this belief to be false.

In fact, corrupt oligarchs, backed by Russian money and Russian political technology, are a lot stronger than anyone ever expected them to be. They have the cash to bribe a parliament’s worth of elected officials. They have the cynicism to revive the old Soviet technique of selective violence: One or two murders are enough to scare off many thousands of demonstrators; one or two arrests will suffice to remind businessmen who is boss. They have also learned to manipulate media (as the Russians do) to multiply their money in Western financial institutions (as the Russians do), even to send threatening text messages. They have crafted a well-argued, well-funded, alternate narrative about Western economic decline and cultural decadence. A friend jokingly calls this the “all your daughters will become lesbians” line of argument, but it is surprisingly powerful.

Andres Oppenheimer: Bill Gates is (almost) right on poverty


The talk of the day at last week’s World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, was Bill Gates’ audacious forecast that there will be almost no poor countries in the world by 2035.

Was it an outburst of exaggerated optimism by the richest man on earth? Or are there solid grounds to be that upbeat about the future?

In a public letter published shortly before the opening of the Davos gathering, Gates said that the 35 countries that are classified as low-income by the World Bank will emerge from that category over the next two decades.

“The belief that the world is getting worse, that we can’t solve extreme poverty and disease, isn’t just mistaken. It is harmful,” Gates wrote. “By almost any measure, the world is better than it has ever been. In two decades it will be better still.”

But almost simultaneously, Oxfam, a non-governmental coalition of 17 anti-poverty and relief organizations, released a study showing a much grimmer picture.

In its report entitled “Working for the Few,” it said that the 85 richest people on earth own as much as the bottom half of the world’s population, or 3.5 billion people. Inequality is rising, and “the extreme levels of wealth concentration occurring today” threaten to exclude hundreds of millions from the benefits of modernity, it said.

Likewise, a World Economic Forum survey among its members — some of the world’s richest and most influential people — revealed that inequality ranked No. 2, only after a new economic crisis, in the list of what they see as the biggest global risks of 2014.

So who is right? I posed that question to Marcelo Giugale, the head of the World Bank’s poverty reduction programs in Africa and former head of the bank’s anti-poverty programs in Latin America, who has just released a book entitled, “Economic development: What everyone needs to know.”

The World Today
Articles from the current issue are open-access. Cover Stories

1914-18: Legacy of the Great War

100 years of generals v politicians: from Ypres to Helmand

James de Waal, Visiting Fellow, Chatham House International Security Programme

Why we still flock to visit the Somme

Nicholas Bird, battlefield tour guide

Trench technology against gas attack which is still in use today

Dr Gabriel Moshenska, lecturer, Public Archaeology, UCL Institute of Archaeology

Suffragists who tried to stop the carnage

Helen Kay, Scottish branch of WILPF

Paying war's medical bill

Lt-Gen Louis Lillywhite, Surgeon-General of the British Armed Forces 2006-2009

Germany: historians are missing a big opportunity

Sönke Neitzel, Professor of International History, London School of Economics

India: a sacrifice that went unrecognized

Rahul Bedi, defence journalist, New Delhi

Religious difference, not ideology, will fuel this century's epic battles

Tony Blair
The Observer,
25 January 2014

We must encourage education and tolerance if we are to bring about peace in the Middle East and the rest of the world

Technology – so much the harbinger of opportunity – can also be used to disseminate lessons of hate and division. Photograph: Getty Images

Typing on computer keyboardThe last weeks have seen a ghastly roll call of terror attacks in the obvious places: Syria, Libya, Iraq and Lebanon, as well as Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia and Pakistan. Also suffering are places where we have only in recent years seen such violence: Nigeria, and in many parts of central Africa, in Russia and across central Asia, and in Burma, Thailand and the Philippines. We can either see all of these acts of killing as separate – produced by various political contexts – or we can start to see the clear common theme and start to produce a genuine global strategy to deal with it.

The fact is that, though of course there are individual grievances or reasons for the violence in each country, there is one thing self-evidently in common: the acts of terrorism are perpetrated by people motivated by an abuse of religion. It is a perversion of faith. But there is no doubt that those who commit the violence often do so by reference to their faith and the sectarian nature of the conflict is a sectarianism based on religion. There is no doubt either that this phenomenon is growing, not abating.

We have to be prepared to take the security measures necessary for our immediate protection. Since 9/11, the cost of those measures, and their burden, has been huge. However, security action alone, even military action, will not deal with the root cause. This extremism comes from a source. It is not innate. It is taught. It is taught sometimes in the formal education system; sometimes in the informal religious schools; sometimes in places of worship and it is promoted by a vast network ofinternet communications.

Technology, so much the harbinger of opportunity, can also be used by those who want to disseminate lessons of hate and division. Today's world is connected as never before. This has seen enormous advances. It means there is a kind of global conversation being conducted. This is exciting and often liberating. But it comes with the inevitable ability for those who want to get across a message that is extreme to do so. This has to be countered.

International Affairs is a leading journal of international relations.

The featured article in the current issue is Learning from the past: the relevance of international history by David Stevenson. This article is free for non-members to read.

Patton as a Counterinsurgent?: Lessons from an Unlikely COIN-danista

by J. Furman Daniel, III

Journal Article | January 25, 2014

Patton as a Counterinsurgent?: Lessons from an Unlikely COIN-danista

J. Furman Daniel, III

Abstract: This essay argues that General George S. Patton Jr. was a surprisingly proficient practitioner of small wars in three different contexts−the 1916-1917 Punitive Expedition to Mexico, the 1942 North Africa campaign, and in 1945 as Pro-Council to occupied Bavaria. While these lesser known campaigns will always be overshadowed by Patton’s other exploits, this essay attempts to accomplish three goals: first, to provide an alternative and more nuanced view of General George Patton; second, to underscore elements from these campaigns which may be of use to modern counterinsurgents; finally, to identify the elements that allowed Patton to succeed as an unlikely counterinsurgent despite his lack of formal training or practical experience. To this end, this essay will first briefly examine Patton’s role in each of these campaigns and will then proceed to an analysis of the factors that made Patton successful and the lessons which can be learned from this unlikely Coin-danista.

Nearly seventy years after his death, General George Patton still evokes many powerful images.[i]Patton is known as a prophet of mechanized warfare, a stubborn adherent to the value of horse cavalry and the sabre, an Olympic athlete, a contradictory mix of prayerful and profane, a mystic believer in atavistic reincarnation, a lifelong student of military history, and one of the most successful and dynamic commanders of the Second World War.[ii] Truly, George Patton is a unique figure in American history and, as such, means many things to many people.[iii]

One thing that Patton is almost never called is a counterinsurgent. Indeed, in many ways, such a label would be misleading. While the US military was heavily engaged in a series of small wars and pacification campaigns during his youth and early career, these experiences were generally denied to Patton. In fact, Patton was never formally trained in counterinsurgency techniques and the closest he came to being educated in these arts was his time as a cavalryman on the Western Plains. Although these deployments were formative experiences that helped Patton develop his leadership style and impressive horsemanship, they were more anachronistic reminders of the battles of the Little Big Horn or Wounded Knee than training for counterinsurgency.[iv] Furthermore, Patton missed opportunities to acquire these skills on the job. Despite a powerful desire to see action, he did not participate in the campaigns in the Philippines, Nicaragua, Panama, Haiti, Russia, or China. These campaigns largely defined the US military during the period and had a profound impact on other future American Generals such as Douglas MacArthur and Dwight Eisenhower.[v]