16 February 2014

Will India Join China’s Maritime Silk Road?

February 15, 2014 

From the Chinese perspective, it was smart move to invite India to join the maritime Silk Road project. (Photo: Reuters)


Like most great powers in the past and as one of the world’s greatest trading nations China wants to be great maritime nation.

India is apparently ready to join China’s grand ambition to construct a maritime silk road linking the waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans according to a Press Trust of India report from Beijing on Friday evening.

Seriously! The outgoing UPA government might have a hard time selling the idea to the Indian strategic establishment that has long been wary of Chinese navy’s rising naval profile in the Indian Ocean and viewed with much suspicion Chinese construction of port infrastructure in Pakistan (Gwadar) and Sri Lanka (Hambantota).

The PTI report cited Chinese officials to say that Beijing extended the offer to India in the just concluded round of talks in Delhi between the Special Representatives of the two countries, India’s National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and the Chinese State Councillor.

Although there has been no word yet from the Indian side, the idea of a ‘maritime silk road’ has been right up the Chinese President Xi Jinping’s foreign and security policy agenda. Like most great powers in the past and as one of the world’s greatest trading nations China wants to be great maritime nation.

Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao put the idea of Beijing’s ‘maritime destiny’ at the centre of Chinese grand strategy in the 21st century and oversaw the dramatic expansion of the PLA Navy. Hu’s naval assertion, however, frightened Beijing’s neighbours, from Japan to India through the Association of South East Asian Nations and increased maritime tensions in Asia’s waters.

Bloodshed on the Rise in City of Karachi as Pakistani Taliban Gain Strength

Tim Craig
Washington Post
February 14, 2014

Karachi residents live in fear as Pakistan Taliban gains strength

KARACHI, Pakistan — Armored car sales have soared, and some new luxury apartments feature bulletproof glass. Local police officers, slain this year at an average rate of one per day, are demoralized. And now even the journalists are trying to arm themselves.

Pakistan’s biggest city has been plagued by crime and political violence for decades, with Urdu- and Pashto-speaking groups battling for influence. But the bloodshed is now worsening as the domestic Taliban insurgency expands.

The militant group was largely responsible for a 90 percent spike in terrorist attacks in Karachi last year, according to the Pak Institute for Peace Studies, which monitors violence. In the latest such attack, an explosion tore through a bus carrying police on Thursday morning, killing a dozen officers. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility.

The bloodshed in this city reflects the Pakistani Taliban’s growing national offensive against the government and religious minorities. But the insurgents are also using violence to take control of some city neighborhoods, where ordinary residents are forced to contribute to their cause, analysts said.

The mayhem is raising concerns that one of the world’s most populous cities is teetering on the brink of lawlessness.

“Something must be done soon, if Pakistan is to be saved,” said Nasir Jamal, a deputy director of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), a major political party.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif insists that Karachi can be tamed through targeted security operations and peace talks launched recently with the Pakistani Taliban. But residents of the country’s economic and cultural hub are deeply worried.

“Everyone is just waiting their turn to be killed,” said Zamin Ali, son of a prominent Shiite attorney who was shot and killed outside a Karachi courthouse in July, part of a surge of sectarian killings being carried out by the Taliban and other Sunni-dominated militant groups.

For all the unrest, Karachi hardly resembles Baghdad or Mogadishu. It is home to dozens of international corporations, the Pakistan stock exchange and two major ports. Streets remain busy well into the night as residents flock to upscale shopping malls and events such as a new dolphin show at the aquarium and Pakistan’s first performance of the Broadway musical “Grease.”

Yet, that semblance of normality is increasingly being tested by Islamist militants surging into the city from northwest Pakistan and Afghanistan, part of a larger migration that has caused the city’s population to nearly double in just over a decade, to around 22 million.

Stand with Our Ally in Tokyo

With a rising China, it is time to reinvigorate a long-standing alliance. 

By J. Randy Forbes
February 14, 2014

For nearly seven decades, the U.S. alliance with Japan has been the cornerstone of the American-led security order in East Asia. Together, our two countries have helped to usher in an unprecedented period of peace and prosperity in a region formerly identified with persistent conflict and endemic poverty. Working together through the long years of the Cold War to resist the Soviet Union’s attempts to gain influence in the region, followed by more recent cooperation on everything from counterterrorism to disaster relief, the United States and Japan have established one of the most enduring alliances in modern times. Now, as Asia takes on a newfound importance in international relations, the alliance is poised to play a consequential role in shaping the security architecture of the region. More specifically, the strength of the alliance will help determine the course of the peacetime competition now emerging between the People’s Republic of China and the United States for leadership in the region.

Last November’s announcement by China that it would establish an “air defense identification zone” (ADIZ) in the East China Sea was another attempt by Beijing to test the U.S.-Japan alliance and, more broadly, America’s appetite for sustaining its commitments to the region. Since 2010, Beijing has consistently resorted to forms of coercion to patiently challenge the United States and its allies. Whether it is claiming the entire South China Sea as sovereign territory or initiating unnecessary crises with neighbors like Vietnam or the Philippines, Beijing has sought to employ military, economic, diplomatic and legal tools in an attempt to challenge the status quo and write its own rules across the East Asian littoral.

Of the many instances of growing Chinese assertiveness, recent incidents surrounding Japan’s southwestern islands are perhaps the most serious. Beijing has aggressively pursued its claims to Japan’s Senkaku Islands, with official newspapers even going so far as to assert that the entire Okinawa island chain is Chinese territory. More ominously, Chinese incursions into Japanese airspace and territorial waters have grown exponentially in recent years, raising the prospect of potential miscalculations.

Taliban Talks Won't End 'Existential Threat'

February 13, 2014

Talks between the government of Pakistan and the Pakistani Taliban, known as the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), were initiated last week in a secret location in the country’s north-west. These talks have been greatly anticipated since last September’s All Parties Conference of political and military leaders approved negotiations.

Unfortunately, talking to the TTP is not the way to fix the problem. In any case, the talks are bound to fail because of unbridgeable differences.

These talks, which Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif foreshadowed in the election campaign last year, are meant to deal with a violent jihadist militancy. The violence has cost the lives of some 40,000 people – mainly civilians – since 2005.

The gravity of the situation is such that the prime minister’s national security adviser, Sartaj Aziz, warned at a recent seminar in Washington that this militancy posed an “existential threat” to Pakistan.

While this may be unnecessary hyperbole, it is nevertheless true that something needs to be done to try to stop the death and destruction that TTP terrorists are spreading indiscriminately across Pakistan. As far as the TTP is concerned, anyone who does not adhere to their brutal and medieval interpretation of Islam is fair game, be they Sunni, Shia, Sufi or Christian.

Why the Talks Are Doomed to Fail

The government has made it clear from the outset that it wishes to discuss only the militant situation in the two tribal regions of South and North Waziristan, which are the heartland of the TTP. The TTP wants the negotiations to cover the whole country.

The TTP is also demanding sharia law be imposed throughout Pakistan, and has declared the constitution and the democratic system of government to be un-Islamic. The government wants the talks to be held within the framework of the constitution.

Further, the TTP wants Pakistan to break its ties with Washington immediately. Islamabad may have had its differences with America, but an end to that relationship is not going to happen – at least not for the moment.

What Is Hamid Karzai Thinking? And should we even care anymore?

What Is Hamid Karzai Thinking?

And should we even care anymore?

February 10, 2014   

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For years, a debate has raged in Washington: Is Hamid Karzai on another planet?

Lately, those who think Afghanistan’s mercurial president has left this earthly plane have had the upper hand. Much recent reporting paints a picture of a paranoid man sequestered in his palace, fuming over American slights, threatening to release dozens of terrorist suspects from prison and plotting to join forces with the Taliban.

All this comes against the backdrop of U.S.-Afghan preparations to make 2014 the year of transition to full Afghan control of their own destiny, a goal President Karzai has repeatedly embraced. A key first step would be endorsing the already completed U.S.-Afghan Bilateral Security Agreement permitting a modest number of American troops to stay beyond the 2014 withdrawal deadline—but Karzai has adamantly refused to sign. Meanwhile, Karzai’s fulminations comparing the United States to a “colonial power” and his denunciation of NATO have drawn warm praise from the Taliban. All this for a man through whom the United States has funneled nearly $100 billion in aid, to say nothing of the billions that have been spent trying to stabilize his country.

So, what is Karzai up to?

To answer that question, let’s first remember that Hamid Karzai is a politician. And while he’s not running in the Afghan presidential campaign that began Monday, Feb. 3, he does seem to be maneuvering for future relevance, drawing on his period in office and on his tribal status as leader of the important Pashtun Popalzai tribe in southern Afghanistan. Karzai may see the predominantly Pashtun Taliban gaining strength after the U.S. withdrawal, reckoning that he has much to gain and little to lose by bashing America. And becoming a more vocal critic of the United States obfuscates the American support that lifted him into the presidency after 9/11.

All of the leading contenders to replace Karzai criticize his anti-American course. His former foreign ministers Abdullah Abdullah and Zalmay Rasoul; his former close advisor and finance minister Ashraf Ghani; and his older brother, Qayyum Karzai, have all declared that they would sign the troop deal with the United States. Each seeks to separate himself from the president, stressing that Afghanistan must maintain a strategic partnership with the West.

Modeling, Simulation, and Operations Analysis in Afghanistan and Iraq


RAND conducted a lessons learned examination of operations analysis, modeling, and simulation in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. This report identifies ways in which analysts have attempted to support commanders' decisions in counterinsurgency and irregular warfare, describes many of the models and tools they employed, provides insight into the challenges they faced, and suggests ways in which the application of modeling, simulation, and analysis might be improved for current and future operations. RAND identified four broad categories of decisions: force protection, logistics, campaign assessment, and force structuring. Modeling, simulation, and analysis were most effective in supporting force protection and logistics decisions, and least effective in supporting campaign assessment and force structuring.

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The Utility of Modeling and Analysis in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars

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Key findings:

With respect to counterinsurgency and irregular warfare operations in Iraq and Afghanistan: 
Modeling and operations analysis have made important contributions to some aspects of coalition activities. 

Tactical, logistics, and force protection support have often been successful. 
It is not clear that operations research or systems analysis are applicable for all irregular-warfare analytic problems. 

There is little evidence that strategic, campaign assessment, and force-structuring analyses have been successful. 

Further investment in modeling, simulation, and analytic tools for campaign assessment and force-structuring — without a reconsideration of relevant theory — would be putting good money after bad. 

Modeling, simulation, and operations analysis, as well as systems analysis, have long been used to support decisionmaking at all levels. In Iraq and Afghanistan, modelers and analysts provided both in-theater and homeland support ("reachback") to commanders and staffs making decisions across the spectrum of counterinsurgency and irregular warfare (COIN and IW) operations. The Office of the Secretary of Defense asked RAND to review the usage and effectiveness of analysis and modeling in these recent wars. RAND researchers examined the decision support literature and interviewed commanders and analysts. The RAND team found that modeling and analysis have supported four categories of activity: 

Force protection, which encompasses efforts to reduce casualties and damage to friendly forces — including armor improvements and tactics. 

Logistics, support for which ranged from simple tactical calculations to theater-level modeling and which focused on such issues as the movement of supplies, aerial transport deployments, and the location of specialty surgical teams. 

Campaign assessment — that is, the commander's effort to determine progress against mission objectives to optimize planning and resource allocation. Assessments support decisions such as how to allocate forces and when to change strategy. 

Force structuring, which resolves such issues as how many and what kinds of troops are needed and how to use them. 

The Top 10 Mistakes Made in the Afghan War

From Tora Bora to wartime fatigue, the U.S. legacy in Afghanistan was just one failed endeavor after another. 

BY Stephen M. Walt Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international affairs at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, where he served as academic dean from 2002-2006. He previously taught at Princeton University and the University of Chicago, where he served as master of the social science collegiate division and deputy dean of social sciences. He has been a resident associate of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace and a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution, and he has also been a consultant for the Institute of Defense Analyses, the Center for Naval Analyses, and Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. 

FEBRUARY 3, 2014 

America's long war in Afghanistan isn't likely to end well, and the American people seem to know it. Despite a wholly predictable effort to portray the war as an American victory, the United States isn't going to defeat the Taliban between now and the scheduled departure of most U.S. troops later this year. Meanwhile, relations between the United States and the Karzai government are going from bad to worse. Afghan President Hamid Karzai is not only refusing to sign a security agreement that would allow the United States to leave a residual force in country, he is also making increasingly strident accusations that the United States is to blame for recent civilian deaths. 

This depressing outcome is not what most Americans expected following the rapid toppling of the Taliban back in 2001. It is therefore important that we draw the right lessons from the experience, if only to partly redeem the sacrifices made by the soldiers who fought there. In that spirit, here is a list of the top 10 mistakes made in America's Afghan War. 

1. Trying to Go It Alone After 9/11, America's NATO allies invoked the mutual defense clause of the NATO treaty and offered to help the United States go after the Taliban and al Qaeda. Convinced that the job would be easy and that allies would simply make things harder, the Rumsfeld Pentagon responded with a brusque "No, thanks." Instead of making Afghanistan a collective project from the start, the Bush administration wanted to show it could do the job all by itself, with an assist from the Afghan Northern Alliance. That decision seemed justified when the Taliban fell quickly, but when Bush & Co. marched off to Iraq (see below), there was hardly anybody left to keep the Taliban from coming back. By the time NATO got involved big-time, a new civil war was underway and the best opportunity to build a stable Afghanistan had been squandered. 

2. Blowing It at Tora Bora The United States invaded Afghanistan for one reason: to get Osama bin Laden and as many of his followers as possible. Unfortunately, poor coordination with local Afghan forces and a reluctance to commit sufficient U.S. troops at the Battle of Tora Bora allowed bin Laden to escape into Pakistan, where he remained at large for another eight years. Had we caught him then and there, al Qaeda might have been dealt a fatal blow and the United States could have declared victory in the "war on terror" instead of watching al Qaeda morph into a global franchise. Yet despite this costly failure, the U.S. commander at Tora Bora -- Army Gen. Tommy Franks -- was later chosen to command the invasion of Iraq. 

Could Pakistan become a Sharia state?

By Michael Kugelman, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Michael Kugelman is the senior program associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC. You can follow him @michaelkugelman. The views expressed are his own.

Shireen Mazari is a prominent Pakistani politician who many say is as feisty as she is conservative. In 2011, for example, Pakistan’s Express Tribune reportedan incident at an Islamabad restaurant in which Mazari allegedly cursed out a Westerner after his chair bumped into hers. One of the printable portions of the polemic was “Who do you think you are, you bloody CIA agent?”

These days, Mazari is strongly supporting Islamabad’s preliminary peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban (TTP). It’s a little ironic, because if these talks succeed, Mazari may no longer have the same kind of freedom to pick fights at restaurants – or even many freedoms at all. After all, the TTP vows to impose extreme forms of Sharia law throughout Pakistan – just as it once did in Swat, a region it briefly controlled in 2009. Girls’ schools were shuttered or blown up, and women were whipped. The region gained international notoriety when gunmen boarded a bus and shot schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai.

In reality, the current talks will likely go nowhere. The TTP’s demands – which go well beyond Sharia – are hopelessly unrealistic. They reportedly require Pakistan to sever all ties with Washington, and to withdraw all its troops from the tribal belt.

And yet nowhere is precisely where Pakistani officials likely want this to go. If the talks fail, Pakistan’s powerful army – which has little patience for negotiations with those who have killed thousands of its soldiers – would be able to better marshal public support for a rumored offensive in North Waziristan. Islamabad could declare that the failure of diplomacy has given the state no choice but to use force.

Such a pattern has been followed before. The Pakistani military, ever sensitive to public opinion, stormed into Swat in 2009 only after a widely circulated video of a woman getting flogged there shifted public opinion in favor of an operation.

But an offensive in North Waziristan would do little to stop the TTP, whose presence extends across Pakistan and into its major cities. And it’s hard to overstate its clout. It kills soldiers and school kids and politicians and polio workers, yet rarely are there arrests and prosecutions. It taps into the masses’ deepest grievances, from corruption to class inequality (the TTP seized Swat in part by exploiting tensions between landless tenants and their wealthy landlords). It even holds sway over Pakistan’s freewheeling private media. After the TTP killed a number of Express News staff members last month, the television channel put a former TTP spokesman on the air – and Foreign Policyreports the anchor proceeded to promise him coverage if the organization stops killing journalists.

Contentions Twenty-five Years after Soviet Afghanistan Withdrawal


A quarter century ago tomorrow, the last Soviet tanks rolled across the “Friendship Bridge” into Termez, a small town in Soviet Uzbekistan. The nightmare which the Soviet experience in Afghanistan had become was finally over.

Twenty-five years later, the Soviet experience still matters.

Washington D.C. in general and the White House in particular are infamous for convincing themselves that their own spin matters. As the United States prepares to withdraw most if not all of its forces from Afghanistan, political leaders and perhaps even some political generals will testify that the withdrawal confirms victory and a mission complete. They can spend hundreds of man hours crafting talking points and convince themselves that such things matter, but Afghans let alone the wider world interpret events through their own experience, not that of Washington spin artists.

Every Afghan tribal leader, village elder, and politician lived through the Soviet withdrawal and interprets current events through their own experience. So, what do they see? With the assistance of my colleague Ahmad Majidyar, I was asked to address this question at a presentation for a U.S. army unit. Here’s the core:

On one level, the goals of the Soviet Union and United States are remarkably similar on a macro level: Both seek the survival of the system they helped construct. The Soviets hoped to prevent outright Mujahedin victory, while the United States (and its NATO partners) seek to prevent outright Taliban victory. Both engaged similar efforts to advise, assist, and train. Policymakers in both cases were ambitious: The Soviets initially envisioned a 15,000-man advisory team, but ultimately settled for just a couple hundred. Likewise, it seems the United States might have to settle for far less than what its military strategies say is necessary.

Both the United States and Soviet Union faced similar obstacles: First was military stalemate. And, make no mistake, the United States and NATO are stalemated militarily by the Taliban, although that is largely because we have made a policy decision in the White House that we will not do what it takes to win. Both the United States and the Soviet Union also faced similar problems emanating from Pakistan, which had become a safe haven for the opposition.

Both Najibullah and Hamid Karzai had pursued a reconciliation strategy which led them to negotiate with the Mujahedin and Taliban respectively. In each case, the negotiations backfired as opponents smelled blood. Simultaneously, both the Soviet Union and United States have sought to bolster local and elite militias. This benefited security in the short term, but was corrosive in the long term. Regardless, both Moscow then and Washington now swore by the professionalism of their respective 350,000-man Afghan military. Such military, however, was heavily dependent on foreign assistance.

Has Core Al Qaeda in Pakistan Become a Bunch of Elderly Terrorist Has-Beens?

Con Coughlin
Daily Telegraph
February 14, 2014

The new jihadists make al-Qaeda look like tired old has-beens

The creation of a de facto Islamic state in Syria could act as a springboard for a takeover of the Arab world

There is something rather laughable about the fugitive leader of al-Qaeda railing – as he has been recently – against the violent tactics employed by a new generation of Islamist militants.

This, after all, is an organisation that is no stranger to committing wanton acts of unprovoked violence, such as last year’s assault on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall. Judging from reports this week, it may also have radicalised the first British man to carry out a suicide bombing in the Syrian civil war.

But what really seems to be bugging Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s ideological linchpin, is not so much the violent methods being employed by militants fighting in Syria and Iraq, but the fact that they are no longer prepared to take orders from him. He is the godfather of Islamist terrorism – but an increasingly isolated one.

This is certainly the view of American intelligence officials, who closely monitor every aspect of Islamist activity around the world.

“What we are looking at is the replacement of al-Qaeda by a new generation of Islamist militants who have a far more radical and focused agenda,” a senior US counter-terrorism official told me in an interview in Washington. “The new generation of these terrorists are far more ambitious. They are not just content with plotting terror attacks against the West: they are determined to create their own Islamist state.”

This would certainly explain the deepening rift between traditional al-Qaeda-affiliated groups such as the Nusra Front, which have waged a sustained campaign of terror against the Assad regime in Syria, and their even more aggressive rivals such as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

Speaking from his hideout in Pakistan’s tribal areas last week, Zawahiri was reduced to issuing a pathetic statement complaining that the new generation of Islamist terrorists were pursuing their own agenda.

“We weren’t informed about its creation, nor counselled,” Zawahiri said of ISIS. “Nor are we satisfied with it: rather we ordered it to stop… Nor is al-Qaeda responsible for its actions and behaviour.”

Red star rising: China's ascent to space superpower

12 February 2014

The first taikonauts return to Earth after 15 days in space. They won't be the last (Image: ChinaFotoPress)

China's new-found footing off-world is changing the rules of today's space race – find out how the rest of the world is rethinking its strategies

ON 14 December 2013, the top trending topics on China's biggest social networks were a popular TV show and a football match. If it hadn't been for a concerted push from China's state-controlled media, the casual observer might never have noticed that China had just become the third country in the world to land on the moon.

The news was not greeted with sweeping enthusiasm. After all, landing the Yutu robotic rover, aka Jade Rabbit, on Earth's closest neighbour was a feat human explorers had bagged many decades before. "We're now only 50 years behind Russia and USA," quipped one commenter on Weibo, China's version of Twitter. "Our country's designers have some catching up to do," wrote another, before worrying that the joke would lead to police detention.

But if China itself seemed a little bored, that was nothing compared with the collective yawn echoing around the world. Apart from failing the novelty test, the mission was accomplished using knock-off equipment, and Yutu was dismissed as a tragic "me too" exercise by a country lagging decades behind the world's leading space powers.

This common reaction missed the point. Jade Rabbit's successful launch, landing and exploration is evidence of China's meteoric rise in the space stakes, and one that will only accelerate. "It is a classic example of the tortoise and the hare," says Dean Cheng of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Washington DC. From the sophisticated communications network that guided the rover to its destination, to emerging satellite technology that is the envy of other nations, to its plans for a new international space station, China is a force other space superpowers ignore at their peril. The ripples are reaching out to affect everything from your phone's settings to the first future footprints on Mars.

China has not replaced America — and it never will

For starters, China doesn't want to be a global hegemon

February 13, 2014

China may have the population advantage, but from a military standpoint, America remains on top. (Elizabeth Dalziel - Pool/Getty Images)

any people seem to think it's simply a matter of when, not if, China takes the reins of world leadership. How, they think, can America's 314 million people permanently outproduce a population that outnumbers the U.S. by over a billion people?

This facile assumption is wrong. China is not replacing the United States as the global hegemon. And it never will.

China faces too many internal problems and regional rivals to ever make a real play for global leadership. And even if Beijing could take the global leadership mantle soon, it wouldn't. China wants to play inside the existing global order's rules, not change them.

Start with the obvious military point: The Chinese military has nothing like the global reach of its American rival's. China only has one aircraft carrier, a refitted Russian vessel. The U.S. has 10, plus nine marine mini-carriers. China's first homemade carrier is slated for completion in 2018, by which time the U.S. will have yet another modern carrier, and be well on its way to finishing another. The idea that China will be able to compete on a global scale in the short to medium term is absurd.

Even in East Asia, it's not so easy for China. In 2012, Center for Strategic and International Studies experts Anthony Cordesman and Nicholas Yarosh looked at the data on Chinese and Taiwanese military strength. They found that while China's relative naval strength was growing, Taiwan hadactually improved the balance of air power in its favor between 2005 and 2012 — just as China's economic growth rate, and hence influx of new resources to spend on its military, was peaking.

China's equipment is often outdated, and its training regimes can be comically bad. A major part of its strategic missile force patrols on horseback because it doesn't have helicopters.

This isn't to deny China's military is getting stronger. It is. And one day, this might require the United States to rethink its strategic posture in East Asia. But Chinese hard power is nowhere close to replacing, or even thinking about challenging, American military hegemony.

Will Asia Repeat Europe's Mistakes?

February 12, 2014

Historical analogies often take the place of analysis - even more so when the implications of analogy are too horrendous to be spelled out. As we prepare to mark the centenary of the outbreak of First World War, ominous parallels are being drawn between rising tension between Japan and China and that between Germany and Britain before the outbreak of the World War. Such comparisons are relevant. China and the United States and its ally, Japan, today may not be the mirror image of European powers which came to blows, but the cascading alliances that led to the conflagration in 1914 still hold lessons for today.

The parallel to 1914 grabbed international headlines when, during a meeting in Davos Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe said the situation between China and Japan was similar to that between Germany and Britain a century ago. Officials tried to clarify afterwards, insisting Abe had not suggested there would be a war. By evoking 1914, the prime minister knew the image he conjured.

The reaction to Abe's comments suggest that drawing analogies between 2014 and 1914 may not only be potentially misleading, it can also add to the tension: China responded by accusing Japan of being a "troublemaker" - the role many have ascribed to Germany in the run-up to the First World War.

If those 1914 comparisons are to hold true, then China would be seen as playing the role of Germany, the rising power, challenging the established power, the United States, in the role Britain played a century ago. This is often called "the Thucydides Trap," named for the Ancient Greek historian of the Peloponnesian War, during which Sparta had confronted the rising power of Athens.

China Claims to Have Killed 11 ‘Terrorists’ in Xinjiang Province

February 14, 2014

China Says 11 ‘Terrorists’ Killed in New Xinjiang Unrest


BEIJING — Eleven “terrorists” were killed during an attack in China’s far western region of Xinjiang on Friday, state news agency Xinhua said, in the latest violence to hit a part of the country with a large Muslim population.

A leading member of the ethnic Turkic Uighur community in exile said such attacks were a response to heavy-handed Chinese rule in the region and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, on a visit to Beijing, expressed concern over the state of human rights in Xinjiang, to the annoyance of his hosts.

“The terrorists, riding motorbikes and cars, attacked a team of police who were gathering before the gate of a park for routine patrol at around 4 p.m. in Wushi County in the Aksu Prefecture,” Xinhua said in an English-language report.

“Police said the terrorists had (an) unknown number of LNG cylinders in their car which they had attempted to use as suicide bombs. Several terrorists were shot dead at the scene,” it added.

Eight were killed by police and three died “by their own suicide bomb”, Xinhua said.

Wushi lies close to China’s border with Kyrgyzstan. Last month the Kyrgyz government said its border guards had killed 11 people believed to be members of a militant group of Uighurs.

Xinjiang, home to the ethnic Turkic, mainly Muslim Uighur people and strategically located on the borders of central Asia, has been dogged for years by violence, which Beijing blames on Islamist militants and separatists who want to establish an independent state called East Turkestan.


Exiles and many rights groups, however, say the real cause of the unrest is China’s policies, including restrictions on Islam and the Uighur people’s culture and language, charges the government strongly denies.

Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the main Uighur exile group, the World Uyghur Congress, said China had only itself to blame.

Power Struggle in Malaysia

The “Allah” crisis is masking a nuanced and historic racial debate in Malaysian politics. 

By Karam Singh Sethi
February 14, 2014

A U.S. church recently entered the debate over the exclusivity of the word “Allah” to Malay- Muslims. The letter from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to the Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM) expressed solace to the Christian minority: “It is with great sadness that we continue to witness the burden you bear in the controversy in Malaysia.” The “Allah” crisis has been transformed from a nominal domestic issue into an international entrance exam; testing whether the Muslim state deserves its moderate insignia. As events continue to unfold and Western media becomes ever more intrigued, the way in which Barisan Nasional (the ruling party) treats its non-Muslim citizens will have lasting affects on foreign investment in this resource rich country.

Controversy arose over the use of “Allah” by non-Muslim Malaysians in 2007 when The Herald, a Roman Catholic publication, was officially ordered to stop using the Islamic reference in its publications. After two years of exhaustive legislative debate, The High Court of Kuala Lumpur concluded the ban was unconstitutional, resulting in violence against the Church. That ruling, however, was overturned in October 2013 and is now being sternly enforced. In January, 321 Bibles were seized from the Bible Society of Malaysia for unauthorized use of the word. In Bahasa Melayu (the official language of Malaysia) “Allah” literally translates to “God.” Malaysian Islamic authorities claim the word pertains only to Muslims and that non-Muslims are proselytizing the Malay majority. Christians, Hindus and Buddhists must now use the English translation in a public context.

Dangerous Ground: The Spratly Islands and U.S. Interests and Approaches

Added December 27, 2013 
Type: Monograph 
181 Pages 
Download Format: PDF
Cost: Free 

The Spratly Islands warrant better understanding by U.S. policymakers in order to discuss nuanced responses to the region’s challenges. To attain that needed understanding, legal aspects of customary and modern laws are explored to analyze the differences between competing maritime and territorial claims and why and how the parties involved stake rival claims or maritime legal rights. Throughout the monograph, the policies of the United States are examined through its conflicted interests in the region. Recommendations for how the United States should engage these issues, a more appropriate task than trying to solve the disputes outright, are then offered.

Africa's Booming Oil and Natural Gas Exploration and Production: National Security Implications for the United States and China

 December 30, 2013 

Type: Book 
337 Pages 
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Photographer: Central African Republic "Falling Apart" in "Horrific Violence"

Marcus Bleasdale reports from the front lines of chaos.

Muslims flee the capital city of Bangui in the Central African Republic, aided by Chadian special forces. Thousands of people have been killed and nearly a million have been displaced by sectarian violence.

Brian Clark Howard
FEBRUARY 7, 2014

Widespread violence has erupted again in the Central African Republic, where thousands of people have been killed and nearly a million—20 percent of the population—have been displaced over the past few months.

The conflict began in December 2012 and has seen tit-for-tat exchanges of violence between an alliance of largely Muslim militia groups and Christian "anti-balaka" militias, resulting in thousands of deaths, according to Human Rights Watch.

Violence has escalated since March 2013, when a coup d'état by the loosely organized Muslim alliance, known as Seleka, ousted then President Francois Bozize, a Christian. The Central African Republic has a Christian majority, with a substantial Muslim minority.

The overthrow was followed by the installation of the nation's first Muslim president, Michel Djotodia, who stepped down January 10 amid international pressure over the continued bloodshed.

Last month, Catherine Samba-Panza was sworn in as the Central African Republic's first female president. She had been mayor of the nation's capital city and is seen as a nonpartisan who enjoys support from Christians and Muslims.

A Christian man runs through looted and burning homes of Muslims who have fled from the outskirts of Bangui, after being targeted by Christian militias and mobs in retaliation for months of oppressive rule by a Muslim president.

Samba-Panza has been calling for peace, but British photojournalistMarcus Bleasdale, a National Geographic contributor who has been documenting

Central African Republic's crisis for months, says the violence is spiraling on.

This week, Bleasdale, along with an Associated Press photographer and a Human Rights Watch worker, rescued thousands of photo negatives from the looted home of internationally known photographer Samuel Fasso in Bangui, the capital.

Fasso is famous for his provocative self-portraits that explore issues of African identity, evoking Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and African chieftains. In one he depicts himself as Muhammad Ali shot full of arrows.

The Cameroon-born photographer recently fled the Central African Republic with his family out of concerns for their safety, leaving thousands of archival negatives behind at his home in Bangui.

Jerome Delay, the AP photographer, had noticed negatives lying in the dirt outside Fasso's home and picked up some prints from inside the looted studio. He, Bleasdale, and Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch returned the next day and rescued thousands of negatives from the house, while looting and shooting swirled around them.

A child is treated after being injured by opposing militias in a compound maintained by the Multinational Forces of Central Africa (FOMAC) in Bossangoa on December 6, 2013.

We spoke with Bleasdale about his recent experiences.

What has it been like there the last few days?

It's horrific, actually. You have a country that is essentially falling apart. Neighbor killing neighbor on a daily basis in the most brutal, horrific fashion I have ever seen. Lynchings, people attacked by mobs, people having their arms cut off, people burnt with tires around their necks like we saw in South Africa in the 1990s.

It is a complete catastrophe that no one seems to be paying much attention to. I can count the number of journalists here on my hand.

I just saw today 10,000 Muslims forced to flee from Bangui and surrounding towns north toward Chad, because they are in fear for their lives. They are getting hacked to death, attacked in streets by mobs, the districts they live in and their houses and mosques are being looted and burned, so they have no choice but to leave.

What is the violence stemming from?

This violence and hatred stems from months of Muslim Seleka rule—they quite honestly treated the Christian population horrifically.

Last year I spent time documenting abuses Seleka were inflicting, and many Christians had fled out of Bangui. Many thousands lived in the bush, and over 100,000 moved to a displaced camp in the airport.

Since March 2013 [the country] has been a violent pit of hell.

What has been the impact of 1,600 French and 4,000 African Union troops who are there, trying to keep peace?

Thankfully they're here but there's not enough of them to take care of the problem. They are doing a valiant job but the country is larger than France, so it's not enough troops to control Bangui, let alone towns outside the main city.

I was driving today down a road and a body was lying there who had been lynched. His left hand and left foot had been chopped off, his penis chopped off and his throat had been slit. That happened seven times today.

I've documented seven or eight lynchings like this in three weeks, and a lot more killings. Those are just the ones I have seen.

Has the situation gotten worse?

Yes. The international community and politicians would like you to believe that it hasn't. But it's the most violent and hateful environment I've ever documented in 16 years. And I've covered every conflict in Africa over that time, but I've never documented anything this bad.

There is so much hatred. Yesterday I was in a town that had eight mosques and over 30,000 Muslims, but now the mosques have been burnt and there are only 300 Muslims left there, hiding in a mosque surrounded by French peacekeeping forces who are trying to keep them alive.

Civilians celebrate as Seleka militia fighters are driven away from their region.

Have there been calls for more UN peacekeeping troops?

There have been calls for at least another 10,000 troops on the ground, because you need many more troops to try to make this work.

What is the current political situation?

There is a new president who was voted by parliament. Her dialogue has been very peaceful and full of hope. She says the violence has to stop.

Just days ago she gave a speech to Christian FACA (The National Army) and told them that the violence must end. But five minutes after she left the FACA lynched a Muslim man, right in front of the international press. It's complete and utter chaos.

View a curated stream of dispatches from recent violence in the Central African Republic, from Marcus Bleasdale and Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch.