Earlier this month, the leaders of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and host country Thailand gathered for the first-ever Mekong River Commission (MRC) summit to discuss the future of the Mekong, one of the world’s longest and most resource-rich rivers. There was much to discuss. The Mekong — which flows through China, Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand, and provides food, water, and transport for about 65 million people — is now at its lowest level in two decades due to a prolonged drought. Its future is also in peril due to a host of natural and man-made threats. Unless riparian states […]

Last week, I highlighted the “bad news” that came out of Brasilia with regards to Washington’s Iran policy. There was, however, a silver lining that should not be ignored. Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva hosted two meetings that week — that of the Brazil-Russia-India-China group (BRIC) and another for the India-Brazil-South Africa forum (IBSA). What is interesting to note is that China’s interest in playing a greater role in IBSA — with some even talking about expanding that group to become CHIBSA — was politely rebuffed. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stressed that IBSA is not simply a […]

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Tensions continue to escalate between North and South Korea as an investigation of the sinking of the South Korean Cheonan comes to a close. Though all-out warfare seems unlikely, the South is doing what it can to state its disapproval for what some believe was a torpedo attack from North Korea. WSJ’s Andy Jordan reports from the DMZ that separates the two countries.

When the finance ministers of the G-20 nations met on the sidelines of the annual IMF-World Bank meetings in Washington last weekend, it marked the sixth time they had convened since the fall of 2008. When the G-20 leaders meet this summer in Toronto, the total number of summits held since the global financial crisis erupted will hit double digits. And yet, despite early cooperation that addressed the global liquidity shortfall, little substantial progress has been made in the area of international financial regulation. Given the trauma that the entire world economy has suffered, in part due to a lack […]

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Preliminary investigations suggest that a North Korean torpedo caused the sinking of South Korea’s naval ship, the Cheonan, late last month, killing 46 sailors. In an e-mail interview, Scott Snyder, director of the Center for U.S.-Korea Policy at the Asia Foundation and an adjunct fellow for Korean Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, assesses the potential significance. WPR: What are the possible responses we can expect from South Korea? Snyder: In its response to the sinking of the Cheonan thus far, the Lee administration has consistently attempted to internationalize its response by including American, Australian, and Swedish technical experts […]

Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna returned from Beijing this month with bombshell news. Krishna said Chinese authorities had finally admitted what the Indian government had long suspected: Beijing is building a massive, power-generating dam on China’s Tsang Po river, which also runs through India — where it is known as the Brahmaputra — and Bangladesh. Amid protests, Krishna reassured the public. “We have an expert-level mechanism to address the issue,” the minister said during a meeting of parliament, according to press reports. “A meeting of experts from both India and China is scheduled to take place between April 26-29 […]

Pakistan may not have been able to secure a nuclear deal from Washington, but it seems to have sewn up an agreement for building additional reactors with longtime ally China. Announced late last month, the agreement comes at a time when Pakistan’s economy remains moribund, even as its energy requirements continue to rise. While this specific deal is unlikely to make a significant dent on Pakistan’s energy deficit anytime soon, it nevertheless serves as a symbol of the durability of the Sino-Pakistani “all-weather friendship” against which Islamabad often judges its relations with Washington. The two countries will proceed on the […]

The last few months have witnessed a resurgence in expert chatter on the possible demise of Kim Jong Il’s rule in North Korea. Growing evidence of regime frailty has focused attention on potential scenarios of endgame dynamics, most of which feature some combination of Kim striking out against the West, and China being forced to step in to prevent the dreaded refugee flow north. But while the nuclear issue remains a driver of Western policy toward North Korea, China’s current focus seems less ideological than predatory. Like a mafia don “busting out” a victimized business partner, Beijing now seems mainly […]

The summit meetings held last week in Brasilia — of both the India-Brazil-South Africa forum (IBSA) and the Brazil-Russia-India-China group (BRIC) — seem to confirm that any Iran sanctions resolution likely to secure passage in the United Nations Security Council will not live up to the Obama administration’s expectations. The leaders of the emerging “world without the West” — who all traveled to the Brazilian capital after attending the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington — were able to compare notes from their bilateral meetings with U.S. President Barack Obama as well as from other communications with senior U.S. officials. Indian […]

On May 9, voters in the German state of North Rhine Westphalia (NRW) take to the polls to decide what in the past has typically been a quiet, local parliamentary election with little impact on the national agenda. This year, however, is different. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her center-right Christian Democratic Union-Free Democratic Party coalition government are in danger of losing the Bundestag, the upper house of the German government, in the elections. Plagued by infighting and the inability to agree on a comprehensive agenda, the coalition has stumbled through a number of domestic missteps, from an unpopular tax […]

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The Interpreter has published a very powerful and moving letter from a reader and Afghanistan war veteran that’s really worth reading. Along with this post by Robert Farley, it serves as a junction between what had been two parallel threads I’ve been following on the myth of “antiseptic war.” One, to which the reader was responding, has to do with the relation between video games and networked war, which Sam Roggeveen discussed here. The other has to do with COIN and population-centric warfare, and specifically the misconception of it as a “kinder and gentler” form of war, which Michael Cohen […]

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Special Representative Richard Holbrooke discusses Afghanistan and Pakistan with Chairman of the World Affairs Council of America Marc Grossman. Holbrooke outlines the warming of U.S.-Pakistan relations, detailing effects of the Kerry-Lugar Bill and renewed emphasis on energy and water issues within Pakistan. He also discusses various elements of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan with a particular focus on the U.S. civilian presence and the need to bolster the country’s once vibrant agricultural sector.

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Announcements by New Zealand and the United States this week on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples moved the world community tantalizingly close to achieving consensus on a human rights issue with ongoing relevance in many parts of the world. The declaration protects indigenous rights related to land, resources, cultural identity, education and others issues. Only four countries — Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States — opposed it when the U.N. General Assembly originally voted on it in 2007. Australia dropped its opposition to the instrument last year. On Monday, New Zealand said it […]

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I just started browsing through this new publication from the Strategic Studies Institute, “Short of General War,” and found the chapter on al-Qaida and RMA by Lt. Col. Thomas Graves thought-provoking. Graves runs through the goals of the 1990s RMA and subsequent Donald Rumsfeld-era “transformation” and suggests that al-Qaida represented a pretty close approximation of the ultimate RMA-inspired military organization, which Stephen Biddle described as “a leaner, faster, higher-technology force that exploits the connectivity of networked information to outmaneuver, outrange, and demoralize enemy forces without requiring their piecemeal destruction in close combat.” That got me thinking about the tactical-strategic rap […]

The tragedy in Bangkok on Saturday, April 10, marked what is for now the low point of the ongoing political crisis that has plagued Thailand since mid-2005. The deadliest political violence the country has seen in almost 20 years claimed a total of 24 lives, including 18 protesters, 5 soldiers and a Japanese news cameraman, and injured more than 800 people. On the surface, the incident appeared to be a clash between the soldiers and the so-called “Red Shirt” protesters. In reality, however, Thailand’s political struggle is much more complex and involves multiple players, each with their own specific, and […]

On March 30, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak unveiled a new growth strategy designed to transform Malaysia into a high-income economy by 2020. But while the New Economic Model (NEM) contains much-needed reforms to boost Malaysia’s economy and political image in the face of dwindling foreign investment and rising competition, severe doubts remain about whether Najib can actually implement them. The NEM pledges to boost Malaysia’s per capita annual income from the present $7,000 to $15,000 through a raft of measures, including enhancing the role of the private sector, improving worker skills and productivity, and reducing the dependence on foreign […]

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A few days after posting this about the impact of COIN on armor, I ran across this Gian Gentile piece over at Small Wars Journal, basically arguing that the U.S. Armor Corps is dying a slow death by negligence. That spawned an Internet-wide debate that SWJ collected here. I’d add Paul McLeary’s Ares post on the subject as well. In the meantime, it looks like China and Turkey are two other places where the job prospects for tank commanders are bright. The fact that China still place such a heavy doctrinal emphasis on armor is certain to embolden the COIN-skeptic […]

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