10 February 2014

A tough choice for Pakistan: face bitter home truths or perish Tom Hussain Read more: http://ww

First deafened by the terrifying noise of Taliban attacks, then put on notice that the army would strike back, and now awaiting the outcome of peace talks, Pakistanis remain as confused as ever about the violent phenomenon that has plagued their country for six years, and has been a mounting threat to it for a lot longer.
Increasingly, however, they are beginning to ask the right questions: can we beat the Taliban? What would a peace deal with the Taliban mean? What will happen after the Americans leave Afghanistan?
The answer: ultimately, Pakistan can’t win until the state and public open their hearts and minds to the bitter truths of their situation.
The inference to be drawn from that is that the dishonest, often duplicitous political narrative of Pakistan’s domestic power struggles and regional security objectives is the root of the problem.
Let’s draw up a list of home truths that need to be accepted if Pakistan is to wriggle itself out of the tightest of corners.
First, there is no such thing as the “good” Taliban.
The reason Pakistan has a Taliban problem, which has caused more than 40,000 deaths (and counting), is that its military is still addicted to using covert militant warriors as the primary means of pursuing its so-called national interest.
Over the past year, the anti-India militant groups sidelined for a decade, and particularly since the November 2008 terrorist rampage in Mumbai, have been reactivated. It’s no coincidence there was significant warfare along the disputed Kashmir border last year.
Worse, the military relies on the Haqqani Network terrorists to keep the peace in South and North Waziristan, allowing them to operate a state within the state, because it gives them a seat at the Afghanistan end-game, and helps keep the Pakistani Taliban at bay.
Sure, that is characteristic of the so-called Great Game played in Afghanistan since the 19th century. But, time and again, it’s also been proven that once a genie has been released from the lamp, he won’t want to squeeze back in.
Second, talks are an admission of defeat.
Since Pakistan’s general election last May, the Pakistani prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, and his rival, former cricket star Imran Khan, have been committed to a negotiated settlement with the Taliban. They’ve even allowed the notorious Mullah Fazlullah, the would-be assassin of the celebrated student activist, Malala Yousafzai, time and space to establish his leadership of previously divided factions of the Pakistani Taliban. Now, the government has initiated talks through two teams of intermediaries.
Neither Mr Sharif nor Mr Khan seems to have grasped the cultural ramifications of calling a unilateral ceasefire and seeking terms of negotiation. That might, conceivably, sound like diplomacy. Not to the Taliban, however. In ethnic Pashtun culture, the quintessential ingredient of Taliban thinking, if your combatant ceases fire, it’s because they’re demoralised and tired of fighting. And if they ask the Pashtun to set the agenda, that’s taken as a request for terms of surrender.
The government has allowed the Taliban to dictate the pace. Obviously, it should have been the other way round.
Third, the Taliban are politicians, not champions of a religious cause.
In Pakistan, it seems every angry mullah has declared it is his mission to turn the world into an Islamic super-state governed by God’s laws. The cleric politicians can say what they want and where, and usually with impunity, because the civilian state is too scared to challenge them, while the military state does not even want that to change.
The result has been violence and human rights incidents that have been hugely embarrassing to Pakistanis.
Instead of fearing the mullah, Pakistanis should flip through the Holy Quran. It bans the use of religion for the gain of material benefit, such as political power, saying such Muslims will spend eternity in hell, irrespective of their declaration of faith.
Similarly, it forbids the clergy from judging the fidelity of an individual’s faith, and declares clerics are in no position to assume the validity of their own faith is valid. It also warns Muslims to beware of people who spread chaos in God’s name.
That’s about as definitive as it comes. The Taliban, obviously, are not furthering Islam’s cause – just their own. It applies equally to the Pakistani military’s use of militant proxy warriors.
Fourth, citizens aren’t cannon fodder for political gain.
The obvious cost of Pakistan’s military-driven regional agenda is the human suffering of its citizens. The horrendous death toll and associated injuries is just one aspect. Another has been the plight of the hundreds of thousands of residents of the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. Such has been their plight that they’ve coined ironic Pashtu phrases about living in-between the military, the militants and Central Intelligence Agency drones, and target-practice for all of the above.
The psychological impact of not knowing who’s friendly has become deep-seated and has long-time ramifications for the country’s solidarity. One day, they might forget why they are proud to be Pakistani. However unlikely that may seem now, it has happened before – in 1971, when East Pakistan separated and became Bangladesh.
The public, and the politicians they elect, need to take charge of their own fate. But Pakistanis are hardly likely to do that if they remain in denial of ugly home truths.
Tom Hussain is a freelance journalist based in Islamabad

Joining hands, and dreams

By Yang jiechi
February 10, 2014 

The growth of the China-India strategic and cooperative partnership not only serves the fundamental interests of our two countries and peoples, but will also boost peace and prosperity of the world. PTI


In the ‘year of India-China friendly exchanges’, both countries have much to contribute to Asia and the world.

In the ‘year of India-China friendly exchanges’, both countries have much to contribute to Asia and the world.

I am glad to once again come to the beautiful city of New Delhi to co-host the 17th special representatives’ meeting for the boundary question and inaugurate the “year of China-India friendly exchanges” in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the announcement of the five principles of peaceful coexistence.

Sixty years ago, the Chinese and Indian leaders, embracing the trend of the times, jointly championed the five principles of peaceful coexistence, thus opening a new chapter in international relations. Since then, these principles have served as the basic norms governing international relations and contributed greatly to world peace and stability, and human progress. While much has changed in the world, these principles have remained as relevant as ever.

Seizing the historic opportunity presented by accelerating economic globalisation, China and India have achieved sustained economic growth and become the most dynamic emerging markets and new powerhouses of the Asian economy. We have not only made life better for our two peoples, but are making new contribution to global peace and development. The ancient Chinese and Indian civilisations are full of new vigour.

Early in the new century, China and India established a strategic and cooperative partnership for peace and prosperity and have gained much new ground in promoting friendly exchanges and mutually beneficial cooperation. The two-way trade, which was just $2.9 billion in 2000, surged to $65.4 billion in 2013, increasing over 20 times. Our two countries have established the strategic economic dialogue and other cooperation mechanisms, and we have put forward important cooperation initiatives such as the building of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridor. People-to-people and cultural exchanges are expanding and the friendship between our peoples is flourishing. China and India have worked together to tackle climate change, food security, energy security and other global challenges, and have maintained close cooperation at Brics and G20 forums and on other multilateral occasions. The launching of the “year of China-India friendly exchanges” in 2014 will surely take our relations to a new height.

Back to Amritsar

February 9, 2014 


Indira Gandhi rightly concluded that a sovereign nation cannot tolerate any challenge to its integrity.

Try hard as we may, the year 1984 keeps coming back to haunt India. And now, the UK as well. Last month, some documents were released indicating that the UK government had been asked to send a military adviser to help tackle Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale during his occupation of the Golden Temple. Last Tuesday, MP William Hague made a statement in the House of Commons. It was repeated in the House of Lords as per normal practice. The minister in charge was Baroness Sayeeda Warsi of Pakistani origin and I was present in the Chamber when the statement was read out .

The report by Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood was prepared and released within less than four weeks of the original news about the advice. Along with the statement are copies of some original letters from government files dated February to June 1984, as well as a letter from Indira Gandhi to Margaret Thatcher dated June 14, 1984. One file had been destroyed after 25 years in a routine operation, but some papers were copied on to other files and it is those that have survived. Whether there was anything crucial in the destroyed file, we shall never know.

That one mystery apart, the news itself is intriguing, but tame. The ‘Indian Intelligence Coordinator (no name mentioned)’ requested expert advice. The then British high commissioner “commented that the request demonstrates the close relationship between Britain and India”. (All quotes from documents released were given to the members of the House of Lords and are available on the UK government website). He added that “Mrs Gandhi would find it hard to understand a refusal”. After consultation between the PM and the foreign secretary, a military adviser was sent. The Special Air Service (SAS) officer (also unnamed) visited India for eight days in February 1984. “It was clear to the officer that the Indians had not given much thought to how they should root out the extremists, beyond applying the sledgehammer to crack a nut” principle.

After a ground reconnaissance of the site, the assessment of the adviser was that “a military operation should only be put into effect as a last resort, when all attempts at negotiations had failed”. It recommended including an “element of surprise and the use of helicopter-borne forces, in the interests of reducing casualties and bringing about a swift resolution”.

Secret Taliban Talks May Save Afghanistan

By Noah Feldman
Feb 4, 2014 

Photographer: Allan Tannenbaum/Pool via Bloomberg

The world's least sincere peace offering? 

The Barack Obama administration isshocked -- shocked! -- that Afghan President Hamid Karzai was secretly negotiating with the Taliban. The previously undisclosed negotiations certainly explain what White House adviser John Podesta recently called Karzai’s “erratic” behavior in refusing to negotiate an agreement to keep U.S. forces in the country after 2014.

But what, exactly, is so terrible about Karzai negotiating separately with the same Taliban that the U.S. has repeatedly tried and failed to engage? In fact, although the Taliban are very likely playing the outgoing president, he is exactly the person who should be trying to negotiate an entrance to Afghan politics for the Taliban that would not involve mass killings of people who sided with the U.S. No doubt Karzai is trying to save his own skin. But there is at least a chance he could save the lives of many other Afghans, too.

The place to begin an analysis of Karzai’s efforts is with a clear-eyed account of the U.S. strategic position in Afghanistan relative to the Taliban. North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops have not lost their fight against the group. But neither has NATO won -- and in a war of attrition, which the Afghan conflict has been for 12 1/2 years, this failure to win counts as a species of defeat. The Obama administration has sought to redefine its goals in Afghanistan as fighting al-Qaeda. But this does not change the fact that the overwhelming majority of the U.S.'s energy during most of this long war has been spent on the Taliban and their allies.

Eying Taliban, Pakistan military moves into strategic Swat Valley

The Pakistan military is constructing a base in the Swat Valley to ward off threats from the Pakistan Taliban and spillover conflict from Afghanistan.

By Taha Siddiqui, Correspondent / February 5, 2014 

Pakistani army soldiers patrol in Pakistan's Swat valley region in this March 20, 2010 file photo. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced last month that the military would construct a permanent base in the Swat valley.

As the Pakistan government determines whether to push forward on talks with the country’s Taliban, its military is shoring up its strength in at least one strategic location.

Taha Siddiqui Pakistan Correspondent

Taha Siddiqui is The Christian Science Monitor's Islamabad-based correspondent, covering Pakistan since 2012. He reports about rising terrorism, persecution of minorities, economic instability, corruption, civil-military affairs in a nuclear-armed country rife with extremism. He frequently travels to the tribal areas of Pakistan, next to the Afghanistan border.

The military plans on constructing a permanent base in Swat valley, best known abroad as the location where a Taliban gunman shot Malala Yousafzai on her way to school. It’s also the former home of new Taliban chief Maualana Fazlullah – whose forces ruled the valley for two years before the Army chased them out in 2009 – and is close to the border with Afghanistan.

For now, the government’s focus appears to be on talks. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif campaigned last year on a pledge to seek a truce with the Pakistan Taliban (a loosely organized group that is affiliated with, but distinct from the Taliban in Afghanistan) and the United States has reportedly limited its drone strikes in order to give the government space to pursue talks.


10 February 2014 

Monarchy has given way to democracy in Nepal. But the executive head of the world's largest democracy has chosen not to be an enthusiastic enough part of the great political transition taking place right next door

Last month, at a reception at the Embassy of Nepal in New Delhi, I asked Nepal’s visiting interim Minister of Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs, Mr Madhav P Ghimire, if he, on behalf of Mr Khil Raj Regmi, the Chairman of Nepal’s Council of Ministers, had extended an invitation to the Indian Prime Minister to visit Kathmandu. Mr Ghimire said he did, and that he was also visibly impressed with the warmth he received in New Delhi for his handling of the second Constituent Assembly election in Nepal.

Right after his visit, Press reports suggested that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was willing to visit Kathmandu after the new Government there had been formed. This would be a path-breaking step. It would certainly do some long-overdue damage control for India-Nepal relations. India has maintained a long-standing apathy towards its northern neighbour, especially in terms of high-level diplomatic and political engagement.

On occasions, the leadership and citizens of Nepal have wondered when the Indian Prime Minister will make an official visit to their country, otherwise considered to be a most strategic neighbour. For decades, Nepal has awaited a visit by an Indian Prime Minister, but India’s Ministry of External Affairs and the Prime Minister’s Office have been slow to respond.

It is also bizarre that ceremonial trips by the Indian President too have been on hold. Yet such visits would have helped give bilateral ties a much-needed level playing field. That Nepal’s own political establishment has been on a roller-coaster ride itself, not to mention is still fragile, has only made the whole scenario more precarious.

In New Delhi, the South Block routes its resources and infrastructure in a manner that overlooks the genuine expectations from its immediate neighbours. This is particularly shocking when one takes into account the fact that Nepal’s front rank leadership has always preferred its southern neighbour as its most trusted destination. It is true that there was an increased favour for China when a radical Government was at the helm in Nepal. This had also evoked some strong reactions in New Delhi. But with the extremist regime now a spent force, the ice has melted in no time.

The visit of Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, popularly known as Prachanda, to Beijing before he travelled New Delhi, in 2008, offended India and supposedly resulted in his premature ouster from office. He was replaced by his deputy Baburam Bhattarai. An alumnus of an Indian university, Mr Bhattarai did not repeat the follies of his predecessor and brought back the bonhomie back between the two countries.

Sans that one hiccup with Prachanda, Nepal’s Prime Ministers have always naturally leaned towards India. This should have been acknowledged and reciprocated from the Indian side. Inder Kumar Gujral was the last Indian Prime Minister to make an official visit to Nepal in June 1997. In the 17 years since then, no such gesture has been made by his successors. As Prime Minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee also came to Kathmandu in January 2002, but that was to attend the 11th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.

Japan Should Follow - Germany

With regional tensions rising, Japan would do well to come to terms with its past.

By Amitai Etzioni
February 06, 2014

Source Link

As a Jew who escaped Nazi Germany as a child in 1935, I have a lifelong interest in the ways nations deal with their pasts. I am closely following developments in Japan, in particular the moves to revise Japanese textbooks in a nationalistic direction, the debate about the implications of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, and, above all, steps to turn Japan’s military from a strictly defensive one into one with “normal” capabilities. Abe is hardly the first or only public leader to move in this direction. As Jacob Heilbrunn, the editor of the National Interest, points out, “Nationalists in Japan have never really conceded that Tokyo did anything wrong before or during the war. . . . You will be hard-pressed to find much, if any, mention of Japan’s wartime alliance with Nazi Germany. . . . Japan emerges as a power that was simply trying to defend its own interests. . . . Nationalists also bridle at the moral guilt that outsiders have tried to affix to Japan, whether it is the 1937 invasion of Nanking, which they argue has been falsely turned into a genocidal act, or the use of so-called ‘comfort women’ in Korea.”

I hence suggested at a recent press conference that Japan should send 200 public intellectuals and political leaders to Germany to learn how a nation can come to terms with the darkest parts of its history. Germany gradually came to fully acknowledge the evils of the Nazi regime, made amends when possible (e.g., by paying “reparations” to surviving victims), and made extensive mea culpas and apologies. Above all, it has instituted extensive, elaborate, and effective educational programs in its schools—and military—to ensure that Germany will never, ever again engage in the kind of horrific, barbarous conduct that took place during World War II. Today’s Germans—while also seeking a place for their nation as a “normal” member of the international community—have made it part of their DNA to reject xenophobia and racism. None of this happened in Japan. All of these steps should. Instead, it seems to be moving in the opposite direction.

South Korea’s Japanese Mirror

South Korea should not make Japan’s mistake and delay on much-needed reforms.

By Danny Leipziger
February 06, 2014

Source Link

SEOUL – Given the daunting challenges facing Japan, one can only admire Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s determination to end the country’s two-decade-long period of economic stagnation. His strategy – the “three arrows” of massive monetary expansion, increased government spending, and structural reform – is theoretically sound. But only one and a half arrows have been launched so far.

The stimulus package is being offset by consumption tax hikes aimed at reducing Japan’s massive debt burden – a process that will lead many Japanese consumers to adjust their spending downward. The promised structural reforms of the energy sector, labor market, and competition policy have yet to be introduced, and appear unlikely to take effect anytime soon. Even more worrisome are larger immutable realities – like a rapidly aging and shrinking population – that will limit Japan’s economic growth in the coming decades.

But Japan’s problems are not unique. Indeed, its neighbor and historical rival, South Korea, is headed down a similar path. The difference is that South Korea may still have time to ameliorate these trends, and avoid a Japanese-style quagmire of permanent low growth and long-term decline.

South Korea – the seventh-largest trading country in the world, and one of the most prominent economic success stories of the last 50 years – is at risk of such a bleak future as a result, first and foremost, of demographics. South Korea’s working-age population is falling by 1.2% annually – the fastest decline among OECD countries.

While there are many reasons for South Korea’s low fertility rate, two economic factors stand out. First, household debt levels are enormous, capturing a quarter of income, with mortgage payments taking the lion’s share. The ratio of housing prices to incomes is more than double that of the United States.

Second, South Korean families feel compelled to spend a large share of their income (10%, on average) on education. With households already saving only around 4% of their disposable income, compared to 20% in 1988, there is little room for additional expenditure.

China’s Push Into ‘America’s Backyard’

February 08, 2014

China’s new outreach to CELAC is only one part of Beijing’s growing engagement with Central and Latin America.

The United States has been quite vocal about its “pivot to Asia,” but as Washington seeks to further its influence in the Asia-Pacific, China has been quietly upping its own importance to Central and Latin America. Now China is making a push to further its engagement with countries in the Western Hemisphere, as evidenced by the announcement of a new dialogue mechanism. The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which met in Cuba from January 28 to 29, adopted a statement announcing the establishment of a China-CELAC Forum.

CELAC itself is a fairly new organization, having been established only in 2011, yet it has the potential to be an important political force. Last year, with Cuba as the rotating president, the organization focused on regional cooperation in education, anti-corruption, and natural disaster relief. CELAC also declared Latin America a “peace zone,” with countries agreeing to solve their differences peacefully, through dialogue. Cuban President Raul Castro, who headed this year’s CELAC summit in Havana, called CELAC “the legitimate representative of the interests of Latin America and the Caribbean.”

The China-CELAC Forum, according to Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei, is designed to provide “an important platform for the growth of bilateral comprehensive and cooperative partnership featuring equality, mutual benefit and common development.” Hong added that the establishment of this forum “fully speaks to the shared wish of Latin American and Caribbean states to enhance their overall cooperation with China.” The first meeting is expected to take place later in 2014.

China’s outreach to CELAC is only one part of a growing relationship with the Western hemisphere. China has become the second largest trading partner for Latin America–growth driven in part by China’s demand for natural resources. However, as in the case of Africa, China’s interests in the region are more complex than a simple need for raw materials. Central and Latin American countries are also attractive as markets for Chinese goods, as well as offering the potential for cooperation on the infrastructure projects Chinese construction companies so often undertake around the globe. In 2012, China’s bilateral trade with Latin America as a regionincreased over 8 percent to $261 billion.

China Needs to Tread Carefully on Reforms

Beijing was correct not to allow Credit Equals Gold No. 1 to default.

By James Parker
February 06, 2014

China’s trust lending sector – part of the country’s shadow sprawling shadow banking system – has been in the news quite a lot recently. Pacific Money recently outlined the salient details of the case that was the focus of much of the recent attention – a scare involving a trust product called Credit Equals Gold No. 1.

Some have argued that the failure to allow a default of this product was a kind of U-turn in the process of financial reform in China. The argument is that in order for a more market based system for capital allocation to develop, investors and borrowers have to be given some harsh medicine. A default would have been warning shot to all investors that they should be aware of the risk associated with high promised.

However, it is almost certainly too early for a dose of this kind of bitter medicine in China’s shadow banking system. A default of this trust product would probably have had very negative consequences not only for the trust industry, but for the wider economy as a whole.

A key factor explaining this phenomenon is a so-called maturity mismatch in the China’s wealth management product (WMP) business. Funds sourced from investors at short maturities (often three, six or nine months) are actually used to lend to companies and projects for durations of years. Investors who have bought these short-term products receive their cash back at the end of the investment term, but this leaves a “cash hole” on the side of the issuer, as the final borrower still has no obligation to repay the funds.

The solution is to issue another WMP to fill the hole (an effective roll-over). This may take a couple of days – during which many issuers are forced to turn to China’s money markets to borrow the funds.

Had a default occurred and Credit Equals Gold No. 1 investors lost their funds, investors in all of China’s multitudinous WMPs would have received a very rude awakening. They would discover (many for the first time) that the products they were investing in could fail, and that the government would not be there to bail them out.

Some would continue to invest, but many would not. The ability of issuers to issue new WMPs to fill the holes would be destroyed. WMP issuers would thus be left with a big funding gap, forcing them and their end-borrowers into distress and an increasingly vicious spiral. The liability side (investors) of their balance sheets would be in crisis, and this would not take long to affect the asset side (the borrowers).


February 6, 2014

John Mearsheimer recently argued that China is pursuing in Asia what the United States has in Latin America: regional hegemony. In pursuit of that goal, China keeps trying to take territory, bit by bit, in the East and South China Seas. And the United States doesn’t know what to do about it.

This practice, known as salami-slicing, involves the slow accumulation of small changes, none of which in isolation amounts to a casus belli, but which add up over time to a substantial change in the strategic picture. By using salami-slicing tactics in the East and South China Seas, China does not have to choose between trade with the rest of the world and the achievement of an expanded security perimeter in the Western Pacific at the expense of China’s neighbors. Given enough time, and continued confusion by the United States and its allies on how to respond, China is on course to eventually achieve both.

China’s salami-slicing has accelerated over the past few years. In 2012, China established “Sansha City” on Woody Island, an island in the Paracel chain that China seized by force from South Vietnam in 1974 (Vietnam refuses to recognize China’s seizure). China declared that Sansha City would be the administrative center of all of its claims in the South China Sea, including those in the Spratly Island group. Small Chinese military and paramilitary garrisons on Woody Island reinforce the image of sovereign legitimacy China is trying to establish—an image that neighbors such as Vietnam and the Philippines lack the resources to replicate. Just last month, China permanently based a 5,000-ton paramilitary patrol vessel at Woody Island.

Territorial salami-slicing against the Philippines is also proving successful. In April 2012, Chinese maritime enforcement and Philippine coast guard vessels began a protracted standoff over Scarborough Reef, located about 230 kilometers from Luzon and claimed by both countries. Lacking the material resources to maintain a continuous presence, the Filipino coast guard eventually retreated, leaving China in control of the reef. Chinese authorities subsequently roped off the reef and have prevented Filipino fishermen from returning.

With Scarborough Reef captured, the unequal contest between China and the Philippines has moved to Ayungin Island in the Spratlys, also known as Second Thomas Shoal. An October 2013 article in the New York Times Magazine described the standoff between a fleet of modern Chinese maritime enforcement vessels and a squad of Filipino marines. These eight marines live a seemingly post-apocalyptic, “Mad Max”-style existence on a rusting, collapsing World War II-era landing ship that the Philippines government deliberately beached on the island, to provide a last Filipino foothold while the Chinese encircle the island.

To Beat China, the Pentagon Needs More Drones, Missiles & Subs

Swarms, subs could complicate Chinese targeting, analyst says 
David Axe in War is Boring

For the first time since China’s rapid ascent as a regional military power, officers in Beijing believe the Chinese army could invade Taiwan or attack a disputed island while also deterring intervention by U.S. Pacific Command.

In other words, top Chinese military planners are now convinced they could defeat the United States. And some American thinkers are coming to believe the same thing.

“U.S. forces in the region are becoming increasingly vulnerable to China’s anti-access capabilities,” David Gompert, a former Acting Director of National Intelligence now working for the think tank RAND, told the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 30.

“This creates the prospect of regional instability, loss of U.S. influence, and heightened threat of conflict,” Gompert warned.

But the Pentagon could shift the power balance back in America’s favor, Gompert said. He argued that a “less vulnerable U.S. posture” should include submarines, long-range bombers, drones and swarms of missiles and small warplanes.

The idea being to launch attacks from far outside China’s defensive cordons—and spread out and conceal U.S. forces in order to complicate Beijing’s targeting.

The good news for Washington is that the military is already hard at work on many elements of this “distributed” strike construct—with just one glaring exception.

While the Pentagon is getting new and improved submarines, new bombers, more and better drones and plenty of missiles, it’s not about to expand its fleets of warplanes. At least not manned planes.

China’s Push Into ‘America’s Backyard’

February 08, 2014

China’s new outreach to CELAC is only one part of Beijing’s growing engagement with Central and Latin America.

The United States has been quite vocal about its “pivot to Asia,” but as Washington seeks to further its influence in the Asia-Pacific, China has been quietly upping its own importance to Central and Latin America. Now China is making a push to further its engagement with countries in the Western Hemisphere, as evidenced by the announcement of a new dialogue mechanism. The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which met in Cuba from January 28 to 29, adopted a statement announcing the establishment of a China-CELAC Forum.

CELAC itself is a fairly new organization, having been established only in 2011, yet it has the potential to be an important political force. Last year, with Cuba as the rotating president, the organization focused on regional cooperation in education, anti-corruption, and natural disaster relief. CELAC also declared Latin America a “peace zone,” with countries agreeing to solve their differences peacefully, through dialogue. Cuban President Raul Castro, who headed this year’s CELAC summit in Havana, called CELAC “the legitimate representative of the interests of Latin America and the Caribbean.”

The China-CELAC Forum, according to Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei, is designed to provide “an important platform for the growth of bilateral comprehensive and cooperative partnership featuring equality, mutual benefit and common development.” Hong added that the establishment of this forum “fully speaks to the shared wish of Latin American and Caribbean states to enhance their overall cooperation with China.” The first meeting is expected to take place later in 2014.

Will Asia Ignite a Second Arab Spring?

Asia’s economic slowdown threatens to disrupt the Persian Gulf monarchies that were able to weather the Arab Spring.

By Zachary Keck
February 06, 2014

Source Link

One of the more interesting aspects of the Arab Spring is that it largely spared the Gulf monarchies. To be sure, the monarchies in Bahrain and Jordan had to contend with a degree of unrest. Still, the core of the Arab Spring protests occurred in the Arab Republics, some of which fell from power. By comparison, the monarchies in the region—many of which are located in the Persian Gulf—were spared the worst of the unrest.

Still, the past is often a poor indicator of the future, and the fact that the region’s monarchies were able to weather the Arab Spring does not necessarily mean they are stable. In fact, many fear that the violence in Syria will destabilize monarchies like Jordan, much as the civil war in Syria is already destabilizing countries like Lebanon and Iraq that had previously not witnessed much Arab Spring unrest.

Although this possibility cannot be discounted, the Persian Gulf and other Arab monarchies face a much graver threat to their stability, and that threat originates in Asia. Specifically, the economic slowdowns in Asia in general, and China and India in particular, could very well ignite a second Arab Spring, and this one would not spare the monarchies.

One of the major global developments over the past few decades has been the shift of economic power from Europe and North America to the Asia-Pacific. In few places has this shift been felt more intensely than in the Persian Gulf. In the span of a few years Asia has surpassed the West as the region’s largest trading partner.

Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Clash Within a Civilization

February 3, 2014

No one has ever been able to travel to the Gulf without discovering just how different the perspectives and values of the West and the Middle East can be. During the last two years, however, these differences have threatened to become a chasm at the strategic level.

Many in the West still see the political upheavals in the region as the prelude to some kind of viable democratic transition. Western commentators focus on Iran largely in terms of its efforts to acquire nuclear forces, and see Saudi Arabia and the other conservative Gulf states as somehow involved in a low-level feud with Iran over status.

The reality in the Gulf is very different. Seen from the perspective of Saudi Arabia and the other Arab Gulf states, the upheavals in the Arab world have been the prelude to chaos, instability, and regime change that has produced little more than violence and economic decline. The tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia reflect a broad regional power struggle that focuses on internal security, regional power, and asymmetric threats far more than nuclear forces. It is a competition between Iran and the Arab Gulf states that affects the vital interests and survival of each regime.

This struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia is now made more complex by growing doubts among Saudis and other Arabs about their alliance with the United States and about U.S. policies in the region. At a popular level, these doubts have led to a wide range of Arab conspiracy theories that the United States is preparing to abandon its alliances in the Arab world and turn to Iran. At the level of governments and Ministries of Defense, these doubts take the form of a fear that an "energy independent" and war-weary America is in decline, paralyzed by presidential indecision and budget debates, turning to Asia, and/or unwilling to live up to its commitments in the Gulf and Middle East.

Finally, few in the United States and the West understand the extent to which this is a time when both Iran and Arab regimes face a growing struggle for the future of Islam. This is a struggle between Sunnis and Shi'ites, but also between all of the region's regimes and violent Islamist extremists.

This is a struggle where the data issued by the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center and other efforts to track the patterns in terrorism indicate almost all of the attacks and casualties are caused by Muslims attacking Muslims, and much of the violence is caused by Sunnis attacking Sunnis. The West is only on the periphery of this struggle, not its focus. It is a "clash within a civilization," and not a clash between them.

The Third Intifada

By Thomas L. Friedman
FEB. 4, 2014 

RAMALLAH, West Bank — For a while now I’ve wondered why there’s been no Third Intifada. That is, no third Palestinian uprising in the West Bank, the first of which helped to spur the Oslo peace process and the second of which — with more live ammunition from the Israeli side and suicide bombings from the Palestinian side — led to the breakdown of Oslo. You get many explanations from Palestinians: they’re too poor, too divided, too tired or that they realize these uprisings, in the end, did them more harm than good, especially the second. But being here, it’s obvious that a Third Intifada is underway. It’s the one that Israel always feared most — not an intifada with stones or suicide bombers, but one propelled by nonviolent resistance and economic boycott.


Shlomo Greenberg Israel

Warnings about Third Intifada as well as boycotts will only push Israel to the corner. It's time the Palestinians recognize our rights! 


But this Third Intifada isn’t really led by Palestinians in Ramallah. It’s led by the European Union in Brussels and other opponents of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank across the globe. Regardless of origin, though, it’s becoming a real source of leverage for the Palestinians in their negotiations with Israel.

Secretary of State John Kerry was recently denounced by Israeli leaders for warning publicly that the boycott and campaign to delegitimize Israel will only get stronger if current peace talks fail. But Kerry is right.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid told Israel Army Radio on Monday that if no two-state solution is reached with the Palestinians, “it will hit the pocket of every Israeli.” Israel’s economy depends on technology and agricultural exports to Europe and on European investments in its high-tech industries. According to Lapid, even a limited boycott that curbed Israeli exports to Europe by 20 percent would cost Israel more than $5 billion a year and thousands of jobs. That’s why he added: “Israel won’t conduct its policy based on threats. But to pretend that the threats don’t exist, or that they’re not serious, or it’s not a process happening in front of us, is also not serious.”

The world economy will have a bumpy 2014. But the recovery is not, yet, at risk

The worldwide wobble
Feb 8th 2014

FOR much of 2013 the world’s big stockmarkets had a magical quality about them. They soared upwards—America’s S&P 500 index rose by 30% last year, and Japan’s Nikkei by 57%—buoyed by monetary stimulus and growing optimism about global growth. Over the past month, the magic has abruptly worn off. More than $3 trillion has been wiped off global share prices since the start of January. The S&P 500 is down by almost 5%, the Nikkei by 14% and the MSCI emerging-market index by almost 9%.

That investors should lock in some profits after such a remarkable surge is hardly surprising (see article). American share prices, in particular, were beginning to look too high: the S&P finished 2013 at a multiple of 25 times ten-year earnings, well above the historical average of 16. A few bits of poor economic news of late are scarcely grounds for panic. It is hard to see a compelling economic reason why one unexpectedly weak report on American manufacturing, for instance, should push Japan’s Nikkei down by more than 4% in a day. Far easier to explain the market gyrations as a necessary correction.

From supercal…to fragilistic

Prices always jump around, but in the end they are determined by the underlying economy. Here it would be a mistake to be too sanguine. Economists are notoriously bad at predicting sudden turning-points in global growth. Even if it goes no further, the dip in asset prices has hurt this year’s growth prospects, particularly in emerging markets, where credit conditions are tighter and foreign capital less abundant. Tellingly, commodity prices are slipping too. The price of iron ore fell by more than 8% in January.

On balance, however, this newspaper’s assessment of the evidence to date is that investors’ gloom is overdone. A handful of disappointing numbers does not mean that America’s underlying recovery is stalling. China’s economy is slowing, but the odds of a sudden slump remain low. Although other emerging markets will indeed grow more slowly in 2014, they are not heading for a broad collapse. And the odds are rising that monetary policy in both Europe and Japan is about to be eased further. Global growth will still probably exceed last year’s pace of 3% (on a purchasing-power parity basis). For now, this looks more like a wobble than a tumble.

The outlook for America’s economy is by far the most important reason for this view. Since the United States is driving the global recovery, sustained weakness there would mean that prospects for the world economy were grim. But that does not seem likely. January’s spate of feeble statistics—from weak manufacturing orders to low car sales—can be explained, in part, by the weather. America has had an unusually bitter winter, with punishing snowfall and frigid temperatures. This has disrupted economic activity. It suggests that all the figures for January, including the all-important employment figures, which were due to be released on February 7th after The Economist went to press, should be taken with a truckload of salt.

Jihadism: Seven Assumptions Shaken by the Arab Spring

By Thomas Hegghammer, Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI)
February 3, 2014

* This memo was prepared for the “Rethinking Islamist Politics” conference, January 24, 2014. 

The last three years have seen a number of significant and unexpected changes in the landscape of militant Islamist groups. These include the decline of al Qaeda central, the rise of Jabhat al‐Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Syria, the emergence of the Ansar al‐Sharia groups in North Africa, and the mini‐insurgency in the Egyptian Sinai, to mention just a few. Most of these developments have been described in reasonably good detail by observers of jihadism, but they have yet to be properly understood and intellectually digested by academics. What do these developments mean for our understanding of Islamist violence? This brief research note is an attempt to identify some of the assumptions, arguments, and hypotheses about militant Islamism that may need to be rethought in light of the events of the past three years. It is not intended as an exhaustive review, but rather as a thought‐provoking brainstorming effort. In the following, I describe seven assumptions or common claims that in my view are ripe for reconsideration. 

Jihadi groups have stable ideological doctrines that shape their political behavior in predictable ways.

One of the biggest lessons of the past few years is that jihadi political thought, which scholars like me have studied as “ideology” (implying something relatively rigid), is more fickle and malleable than (at least I) previously assumed. The most striking evidence of this is the involvement of many transnational jihadists in Syria and their adoption of a new enemy hierarchy with the Syrian regime and to some extent Shiites more broadly, at the top. This is quite a remarkable development, because in the past transnational jihadis showed relatively little interest in sectarian conflicts — Iraq only interested them when the Americans were there. In fact, between 2012 and 2013 we should have expected foreign fighters to go to Mali, not Syria, because after the French‐led invasion, Mali fit the jihadi “civilizational conflict narrative” much better than did Syria. Personally I would argue that nothing in transnational jihadi rhetoric prior to 2011 indicated that Syria would become the destination of choice for Islamist foreign fighters. There are many other examples from the last 10 years of such a mismatch between group declarations and behavior — witness for example the tendency for groups to declare allegiance to al Qaeda’s global jihad while continuing to attack local targets. Groups not only change views on strategic issues such as where or whom to fight, but also on tactical issues. Normative barriers on the use of certain methods can be broken, as has been the case with suicide bombings, or they can be reinstated, as has been the case with the issue of targeting of Muslim civilians. For all their apparent doctrinal rigidity, militant Islamists seem able to change their political views faster than we can say “Salafi jihadism.” It may still be that jihadis are rigid on questions of theological doctrine, but they have shown to be quite pragmatic in their military behavior. There are even signs that the pragmatism in some cases can extend to the temporary abandoning of violence and/or the adoption of non‐martial instruments of politics, as we shall see below. The lesson of all of this is that those of us who study jihadi thought should be more careful when trying to infer group objectives, preferences, and motivations from ideological documents.

Whose Turkey Is It?

FEB. 5, 2014 

Launch media viewer Protesters in Istanbul last June. Joachim Ladefoged/Vll, for The New York Times

It is still a marvel to behold Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s self-confidence, even after 11 years of his rule. In recent weeks, a new poster featuring Turkey’s prime minister has appeared throughout Istanbul, on highway billboards and mass transit. Wearing his usual dark suit, Erdogan looks to be in purposeful motion, like an action hero. Two large words in block letters, SAGLAM IRADE, Turkish for “Iron Will,” accompany him. Surely some of his supporters appreciate this evocation of 1930s-era masculinity, but for others, it must feel like an invasion of personal space. The enormous billboards intensify the claustrophobia that many Turks have felt for years: that Erdogan is everywhere, in every tree or open space sacrificed for a building, in every traffic jam, in every newspaper column and pro-government tweet and call to prayer. The poster, which a group of his supporters claims to have put up, begs to be defaced, and Turks have torn at it or covered it with new slogans: “Iron Fascist,” “Iron Corruption,” “Iron Enemy of the People.”

Launch media viewer Taksim Square, in the center of the city’s European side, is considered the heart of Istanbul. Joachim Ladefoged/Vll, for The New York Times 

The public turn against Erdogan began last May, when protests in Istanbul escalated and pictures of police officers violently attacking the demonstrators circulated around the world. For the first time in a decade, Turkey didn’t look like one of the few Middle Eastern destinations where Westerners would take a vacation. The government was caught off guard. A couple of weeks later, Erdogan convened two meetings in the capital, Ankara, with assorted activists, artists and observers. Many immediately dismissed this public exercise as a sham gesture — plausible, given that the invitees included film stars — but some activists relished the opportunity to speak to their prime minister. The episode recalled the time when Robert F. Kennedy met with James Baldwin, Harry Belafonte and Lorraine Hansberry in 1963 because he wanted to understand why blacks were angry. Erdogan wanted to understand why so many Turks were angry.


By Ashok Sekhar Ganguly

A state of power entropy will define the new world order

The term, ‘tapering’, has acquired prominence by the American Federal Reserve’s decision to gradually wean the United States of America and the global economy from the Fed’s stimulus in response to the economic crisis that began in 2008. The G-8’s preoccupation with economic self-preservation has overshadowed another tapering — that of the US as the global policeman. The rise and decline of any civilization may seem to be a gradual process, primarily because of the extended denial of reality that is sometimes mistaken by human nature for hope and optimism. The debate regarding the erosion of the US’s role as a global policeman has been intensified by several near events, although the decline has a longer history.

It is generally believed that the US may not have been drawn into World War II, first in Europe and, eventually, in the rest of the world, without the horror of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour. The end of the war witnessed the zenith of America as sole custodian of the world order, stretching from Japan through Europe and beyond. This, in spite of potential challenges from its ally turned adversary, the Soviet Union and its sphere of influence. The reconstruction of Japan and rebuilding of Europe with the Marshall plan, were not without profit and the mercantile instincts of America.

However, the tapering of American power commenced soon after World War II. America’s long drawn out wars, first in Korea and subsequently in Vietnam, were the early, but very subtle, signs of the erosion of the US as the world’s power house. The Chinese revolution realigned the jigsaw pieces of the first half of the 20th century. There was an amorphous period and an interlude provided by the schism between the Soviet Union and China. The distractions provided by the Chinese attack on India, soon after the Dalai Lama and thousands of his followers fled Tibet and were provided refuge by India, followed soon. Not long after, there was the famous Bay of Pigs disaster and the Cuban missile crisis. These events provided further signs to suggest that America’s absolute hegemony as the world power was ebbing. However, the world was not ready to face the unfolding reality of the diminution of the US as the omnipotent world policeman.

The US Doesn’t Have a Strategy (And That’s a Good Thing)

Deciding not to decide is a strategy that could suit the U.S. well.

By Robert Farley
February 06, 2014

Maybe the United States doesn’t need a strategy.

There have long been good reasons to favor a strategy of “muddling through.” The United States government, with its four year Presidential cycle and general public indifference to foreign affairs, has never been particularly well-suited to long-term strategic thinking. “Isolation” and even “containment” arguably resulted from the accretion of a series of small decisions, rather than from strategic forethought. And one event that most assuredly fell under into the definition of proactive grand strategy, the invasion of Iraq, is now widely believed to have been an expensive, destructive failure.

In the shadow of Iraq, “muddling through,” “retrenchment,” or “restraint” all look a bit more attractive. A recent post by Xavier Marquez gives some historical heft to the argument for strategic inscrutability by examining the career of Francisco Franco. Marquez suggests that Franco survived for such a long time because of the coalition he represented was “inherently contradictory, yet could only act through him.” Inscrutability, the capacity not to make a decision, or even to hint at what he really wanted, allowed Franco to manage internal divisions and external opponents.

Marquez’ point emphasizes the “strategic” part of grand strategy. Strategic decision-making is, by definition, part of a game that includes more than one player. While some games favor the player who chooses first (and thus defines the terms under which the other players decide), not all do. Not deciding, but rather of waiting until the other players have revealed their intentions and committed themselves to particular courses of action, maximizes flexibility and maintains strategic options.