The Asymmetric State

I’m always a bit skeptical about triumphant military operations that encounter no resistance, especially when the operations are of he counterinsurgency variety. And sure enough, it turns out that one of the reasons the Pakistani sweep of the Khyber Pass turned out to be such a success was because “. . .there are indications that the militants had moved out of the area before the offensive was launched.” That, of course, is the nature of an asymmetric insurgency. What’s interesting is that we’re increasingly seeing the rise of the asymmetric state, by which I mean a state that can’t actually […]

Diplospeak Quote of the Day

“We are willing to make joint efforts with the U.S. to cohere to the dialogue and consultation mechanism and take each other’s concerns into consideration to better achieve mutual benefits.” — Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in remarks following his meeting with Condoleezza Rice. Translation: Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, in talks with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday, called on the United States to take measures to stabilize its currency and prevent further slowdown of the global economy. . . China was taking measures to safeguard its stable economic development and hoped the United States would overcome its credit […]

May’s Cyclone Nargis devastated Myanmar’s southwestern coast in the deadliest natural disaster in that country’s history. The storm left over 100,000 dead or missing, while millions more suffered injuries or other damage. Myanmar’s Irrawaddy Delta region remains affected by flooding and food shortages. The Myanmar government’s initial refusal to allow sufficient foreign aid workers into the country, like its harsh approach to last year’s democracy demonstrations in Myanmar, again underscored the problems this obnoxious military regime presents for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Its members continue to confront the issue of dealing with an unapologetic authoritarian government at […]

North Korea: Got a Better Idea?

This post by Sam Roggeveen originally appeared on The Interpreter. The big diplomatic news of the day is that North Korea has handed over a partial accounting of its nuclear program, and in return the US will remove North Korea from its sponsors of terrorism list and ease sanctions. Those who support this move call it ‘huge news…and…a giant step in putting US-North Korea relations on a new and more constructive track.’ But it’s worth reading some of the critics too, in order to get a picture of just how much is missing from the deal and how much work […]

China in Pictures

From Der Spiegel, a photo essay titled, China: From Mao to the Space Age. Quite an odyssey. The image of the couple on a bicycle under a bridge as tanks pass overhead the day after the Tiananman Square massacre is particularly haunting. So many of our projections about China’s rise are based on the assumption that the regime has won its gamble of offering prosperity and security as a trade-off for political liberalization. That strikes me as a premature conclusion. The China democracy movement probably came too early, both in China’s process of emergence and the world’s process of integration. […]

ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Kazakhstan, with its vast reserves of hydrocarbons, is on a path to become a petro-power on a global scale. That, at least, is the plan of the Kazakh government, oil companies with access to the rich oil fields of Kazakhstan, and those seeking alternatives to OPEC oil. However, as oil production in the landlocked country increases in the years ahead, Kazakhstan could find itself without viable export routes to bring its hydrocarbon wealth to market. In 2007, Kazakhstan produced approximately 1.45 million barrels of oil per day (bpd), of which it exported around 1.2 million bpd. Kazakhstan’s […]

Congressional Committee Roundup, June 23-27

Transcript WASHINGTON — On the Hill this week, the House considered the future of U.S.-India relations, while the Senate debated improvements to the United State’s strategic partnership with Pakistan. On Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia discussed America’s evolving relationship with India. Rep. Gary L. Ackerman, who presided over the session, began the hearing with sweeping praise of the United States’ partnership with the South Asian nation: “[I]f there is one area in the subcommittee’s jurisdiction where President Bush got the policy right, it is towards India. . . . In the area […]

MELBOURNE — Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will attend the opening ceremony of August’s Olympic Games in China, a move seen by some as a victory for economic common sense in bolstering relations with this country’s largest trading partner. But his decision is again highlighting the double standards Australia risks espousing on human rights and raising concerns over how his team has managed perceptions of his new government’s relationship with China. Rudd’s decision came just days ahead of Australia-based Rio Tinto announcing a massive rise in iron prices after signing a deal Monday with China’s Baosteel. Prices will almost double, […]

ISTANBUL, Turkey — Sultanahmet courthouse, in the heart of medieval Istanbul, is a drab 1960s building, with the pedestrian look of a place where unexceptional bureaucratic business is conducted. The courtroom, with its peeling gray walls, looks like a dusty schoolroom. But the courthouse’s unremarkable appearance belies the importance of the decisions being weighed there. It was there, in May, that members of a leading Islamist creationist organization, the Science Research Foundation (SRF), were sentenced to three years in prison on charges of engaging in illegal threats and creating a criminal organization. The protracted trial, bookended by the 1998 banning […]

Singh’s Sin of Omission Won’t Lead to Fission

This post by Rory Medcalf originally appeared on The Interpreter. I’ve a lot of respect for the work of the Arms Control Wonk, Jeffrey Lewis, whose blog consistently provides some of the world’s best in-depth news, speculation and background on arms control issues. But I think he has it wrong in his latest post on India and nuclear testing. Jeffrey intriguingly cites the discrepancies between two major statements by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and makes much of the fact that the more recent of these, delivered at a 9 June disarmament conference in New Delhi, omitted reference to India’s […]

TOKYO — A flurry of activity over the past two weeks suggests the six-party talks aimed at ridding North Korea of its nuclear program might finally be back on track. Under an agreement reached last February, North Korea was supposed to abandon its nuclear program in exchange for aid and a host of diplomatic benefits such as being dropped from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. As part of this agreement, North Korea was meant to offer a full declaration of its nuclear activities by the end of last year, but failed to do so. However, the U.S. […]

One of the major objectives of President Bush’s trip to Europe last week was to secure additional international support for the war in Afghanistan. Although European governments generally reaffirmed — and in several cases announced slight increases in — their military and economic commitments to the beleaguered Afghan government of Hamid Karzai, which remains entangled in a protracted insurgency with the Taliban, their declared level of support appears to fall short of that needed to allow the Afghan government to consolidate its control of the country. The members of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) continue to reaffirm their commitment […]

India’s Nuclear Moratorium

Jeffrey Lewis of Arms Control Wonk reads the tea leaves and wonders whether India won’t try to use the 123 Agreement (if it’s ever approved) as license for a new round of nuclear weapons testing. There’s reason to believe that India’s last round of tests in 1998 did not include a successfully detonated hydrogen bomb. Lewis speculates that Indian PM Manmohan Singh might be under pressure to fill that technological gap. It’s hard to imagine exactly what regional consequences that would have, but I think it’s safe to say there aren’t very many positive ones in the range of possibilities. […]

China’s Fashionistas

If a forgery is so good that it fools the experts, is it really a forgery? In the age of globalization, the question becomes, if a counterfeit Gucci is made in Italy out of fabric made in Asia, does it count as an Italian import for brand-conscious Chinese consumers? (Via

On June 5, Turkey’s Constitutional Court struck down a proposed amendment that would have allowed Muslim students to wear headscarves in the country’s public universities. According to the court’s judgment, the entirety of which has not yet been released, such an amendment would have undermined one of the pillars of the Turkish state — the constitutionally unalterable provision that the country remain a strictly secular republic. On the face of it, the court’s ruling was a legal matter, a question of how far the state could go in limiting religious expression. And in most other circumstances a decision of this […]

A delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will visit Syria next week to assess recent American claims that the installation attacked by Israeli warplanes last year was indeed a nuclear reactor in the final stages of construction. Two months ago, Michael Hayden, the director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, and other senior American intelligence analysts broke months of official silence about the September 2007 Israeli air strikes against a target located near the Syrian town of Al Kibar. Their intensive briefings for members of Congress, congressional staff, and, on background, the media, confirmed earlier suspicions that the […]

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