The Al-Qaida Threat: Local or International?

A piece in yesterday’s NY Times Week in Review section examines a debate between two well-known terrorism experts on the current nature of the threat from al-Qaida: On one side is Bruce Hoffman, a cerebral 53-year-old Georgetown University historian and author of the highly respected 1998 book “Inside Terrorism.” He argues that Al Qaeda is alive, well, resurgent and more dangerous than it has been in several years. In his corner, he said, is a battalion of mainstream academics and a National Intelligence Estimate issued last summer warning that Al Qaeda had reconstituted in Pakistan. On the other side is […]

Asia Goes Nuclear

High oil prices are driving a worlwide nuclear energy renaissance, and according to 2point6billion, over a third of the new capacity over the next ten years will be built in Asia. Here’s their rundown of Asia’s nuclear energy landscape. Given the proliferation and environmental risks, I can’t help but wonder what the trend toward nuclear as an “alternate energy source” is going to look like twenty, or even fifty years from now. Also, I know that global warming is caused by carbon-based fuel emissions, but adding the kind of heat generated by that many nuclear reactors can’t help cool things […]

Congressional Committee Roundup, June 2-8

Returning from their brief holiday hiatus, foreign policy committees on the Hill fielded testimony last week about U.S.-Chinese cooperation in Africa and Iran’s latest strategic aspirations in the Middle East. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on African affairs began the week with a discussion of China’s involvement in Africa, and ultimately, its implications for U.S. foreign policy. James Swan and Tom Christensen, the deputy assistant secretaries of state for African affairs and East Asian and Pacific affairs, respectively, opened the hearing with a rather optimistic assessment of China’s African interests: In general, we see China’s growing activity on the […]

SEOUL, South Korea — Massive demonstrations have forced South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to renege on a trade agreement made with Washington in April. Lee had pledged to lift his country’s five-year-old ban on American beef that was first imposed after an outbreak of mad cow disease in Washington state. For the past month, tens of thousands of South Koreans have held almost nightly candlelight vigils to express their opposition to the beef deal. They say Lee has put the nation’s health at risk because too many restrictions were eased on cow parts that they think are more likely to […]

Our Loss Is Our Gain

I suppose that in some ways it threatens our interests when emerging powers, like India and China, transform their rivalries into partnerships. But when you think of the regional conlict that it might end up preventing, along with the global consequences that might have, it’s hard not to think of it as a net plus, not just for the Indians and Chinese, but for us as well. The paradox of the emerging world is that longterm gains due to stability might depend on shortterm losses of influence. So be it. I’d call that a bargain compared to the costs of […]

This year, American children born after the fall of the Berlin Wall, literally a generation ago, will vote in a presidential election for the first time. They will join a group of voters born and raised during the long struggle against communism and now entering retirement. On Feb. 12 of this year, the nation’s first baby boomer — born on January 1, 1946 — collected her first social security check. In 2008, the long shadow cast by the Cold War will finally start to recede. Both baby boomers and so-called “millennials” seek a president that can address the most obvious […]

The visit last month to China by Taiwan’s ruling Kuomintang (KMT) chairman Wu Poh-hsiung was the clearest example so far of the recent thaw in relations between the mainland and the island it claims as its own. The shift in atmosphere is in marked contrast to the tensions evident under the eight-year rule of former Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian, during which both sides would periodically ratchet up tensions — China by threatening the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control and Chen by pressing for independence. China appears determined to capitalize on the new mood since incoming Taiwanese […]

China’s Telecoms Miss a Beat

You might have noticed that we updated the blogroll on the right hand side of the page. Among the sites we added is 2point6billion, and this post on how China’s telecom industry might be missing out on global opportunites by focusing on the domestic market is a good example of why. A quiet story covered from an interesting angle with thought-provoking implications. Good stuff. The speed with which China has managed to industrialize and compete on the global level is mind-boggling. There are obviously a lot of reasons for that, but one of them is certainly the Chinese leadership’s strategic […]

The recent improvement in relations between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan could help remove a major obstacle to the exploitation of Caspian Sea energy reserves. When Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov arrived in Baku on May 19, he became the first Turkmen president in over a decade to visit Azerbaijan. The two countries severed ties in 1999 over an Azerbaijani decision to develop an oil and natural gas field that the Turkmenistan government also claimed. Until now, the unresolved dispute among the five Caspian states over how best to divide and manage the sea and its valuable subsurface natural resources has impeded efforts to exploit […]

Training the Trainers

We often hear about the importance of the training component of counterinsurgency. Theoretically, the military endgame in Iraq and Afghanistan is not to defeat the insurgents so much as to empower the Iraqi and Afghan security forces to defeat the insurgents. The recent fighting in Basra but especially in Sadr City illustrates, among other things, both the importance of Iraqi units doing the fighting, as well as their limitations in doing so. Nevertheless the Army still doesn’t have a coordinated training program or doctrinal approach to military advisors. It’s a subject that’s getting more attention these days, and Kip over […]

FORMER CONGO OFFICIAL ARRESTED ON ICC WARRANT — Belgian authorities arrested former Democratic Republic of the Congo Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba May 24 on an International Criminal Court warrant. Bemba is charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity for the actions of troops under his command in the neighboring Central African Republic in 2002-2003. Bemba’s subordinates were responsible for mass rape and torture, according to human rights groups. The 45-year-old has conceded the events took place but argues he is not responsible because he did not specifically order his troops to commit the abuses. Human rights advocates have called […]

Doubting North Korea

If you’re having trouble keeping things straight on the North Korean nuclear negotiation front, head over to Arms Control Wonk and read this post by Jeffrey Lewis. Essentially, the agreement reached through the Six Party talks is hitting the same potential sticking point — North Korea’s disputed May 1992 declaration of plutonium reprocessing — that led to the collapse of the Agreed Framework in 2002 and North Korea’s subsequent nuclear weapons capacity. The post gets a little deep in the weeds, but that’s why we love the ACW.

Sen. Barack Obama’s promise to “immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq” is the centerpiece of his campaign, and his straightforward stance on the war and vision of an endgame is the factor that arguably attracts most of his supporters. “When I am commander-in-chief,” he vows, without a hint of hedging or nuance, “I will set a new goal on Day One: I will end this war.” The U.S. has witnessed similar moments in presidential politics. In 1952, with the nation bogged down in a bloody and unpopular war on the Korean peninsula, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower campaigned on a […]

123 Agreements

Nikolas Gvosdev kvetches about Congress taking aim at the Indian and Russian 123 Nuclear Agreements. My understanding is that the Russian deal does a good job of cementing bilateral cooperation in an area where we have a vested interested in them not operating as a loose cannon. The Indian deal, meanwhile, presents some valid proliferation concerns due to India’s non-NPT status. But either way, the Congressional interference, which as Gvosdev notes, is based on unrelated policy issues, illustrates the need for some sort of strategic framework between the Executive and Congress on nuclear agreements. This is a sector that by […]

Multipolar Elbows

Reforming multilateral institutions to better reflect the new global balance of power is one way to encourage emerging powers to buy into the mulitlateral governance system. So if someone’s going to block India’s permanent Security Council seat, it’s better that it be China than us. What’s interesting is the way that increasing commercial contacts between the two regional rivals have yet to signfiicantly alter their military/strategic postures, as the Global Press article points out. It’s also a reminder that globalization doesn’t only redirect trade routes to facilitate commerce between “peripheral” countries. It also redirects the potential for conflict as ambitious […]

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