“Rebalancing” has been the watchword of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy to date: rebalancing the global economy between East and West, rebalancing domestic needs and foreign responsibilities, and — soon enough — rebalancing the international security burden among the world’s great powers. One number explains why that last rebalancing is necessary: It costs the United States $1 million a year to keep a soldier inside a theater of operations such as Afghanistan. The math is easy enough: For every thousand troops, the price comes out to $1 billion a year. So when the president announces, as he’s expected to do […]

Obama, Right and Wrong

Another thing about Giovanni Grevi’s notion of an interpolar world is that it seems very consistent with the Obama administration’s emphasis on a “multipartner” world.Significantly, in this context, the major objective in internationalrelations shifts from advancing individual interests toward identifyingcommon ones, in order to convince the increasing number of players thatnow wield de facto vetos to lift them. Obama seems to get the importance of this kind of consensus-building, even if his knee-jerk criticsdon’t. The most recent case in point is China’s vote at the IAEA to censure Iran, which is apparently a direct result of Obama’s allegedly “deliverables-free” China […]

A United Front Against Iran

The IAEA has censured Iran and is demanding Tehran freeze nuclear operations at asecret facility. The stern move by the agency is a victory for theObama administration says Iran expert Ervand Abhrahamian. WorldFocus’Martin Savidge talks with the history professor about what thecensure could mean for United States global positioning among powerssuch as Russia and China.

In hosting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh this week for the first state visit of his administration, President Barack Obama can claim to be taking India seriously as a partner and rising power. But Indian doubts remain. U.S.-India relations are currently drifting, rather than surging forward as they had been for a decade. Bilateral ties developed an unprecedented intimacy under President George W. Bush, capped by an agreement on civilian nuclear cooperation that required both countries to take considerable political risks and overcome stubborn international opposition. Building on work begun by President Bill Clinton, Bush and his Indian counterparts unshackled […]

China’s Noisy Subs

Three posts of interest to China naval gazers (as opposed to a Chinese navel gazers), two from the Federation of American Scientists, here (filled with juicy links) and here, and one from Arms Control Wonk’s Jeffrey Lewis. In a nutshell, China’s navy has made some impressive progress. But their latest-generation nuclear-powered and nuclear warhead-capable submarines are too noisy to pose a credible second-strike deterrent given U.S. and Japanese anti-sub capabilities. That makes it, according to Lewis, “a very impressive submarine — for the 1960s.” He also raises some questions about China’s strategic approach to their use. Hopefully we’ll never get […]

President Barack Obama failed to wring any concessions from China in his maiden voyage to Beijing last week. But the disappointing visit is only a symptom of the Obama administration’s dysfunctional and poorly conceived China policy, which, though well-intentioned, threatens to undermine U.S. objectives and wreck its global image. Dubbed “strategic reassurance,” the policy envisions a tacit bargain whereby the United States mollifies Chinese fears of containment, while Beijing assuages U.S. concerns about its global intentions and shoulders more international responsibilities. But so far, the policy has confounded more than clarified. Some China watchers wonder where Obama will strike the […]

Off the Radar News Roundup

– The unofficial U.S. ambassador to Taiwan said that Chinese Preseident Hu Jintao was more interested in “scoring points” on the Tibet issue than on Taiwan in his talks last week with President Barack Obama. – China and South Korea will be expediting negotiations for a free trade agreement. It’s pretty surprising that the EU already beat the U.S. to a FTA with South Korea. But if China does, too, that would be incredible. A number of obstacles remain, though, including U.S. opposition. – Islamabad unveiled a package of political and economic reforms aimed at tamping down separatism in Balochistan. […]

The Berlin Wall was quite literally the prop on which the entire Soviet security structure for Europe rested. When it fell, Moscow’s continuing illusions that Eastern Europe could somehow be maintained as a belt of neutral states separating the Russian heartland from the West collapsed like a house of cards. And yet the edifice had appeared so solid, so permanent. In the euphoria that followed the fall of the Wall — and which was again on display during the 20th anniversary celebrations — we forget that prior to 1989, the division of Europe into two blocs, East and West, was […]

Describing the changes taking place in the world after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Henry Kissinger once declared that the unification of Germany would be more important than the integration of the European Union, the fall of the Soviet Union more important than the unification of Germany, and the rise of India and China more important than the fall of the Soviet Union. He was right. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the rise of the Asian superpowers has been the most important factor in world politics. It is also the single trend most responsible for the increasing […]

We are on the verge of repeating a pair of mistakes we made two decades ago, literally across the world from the scene of our errors in 1989. One lesson of the fall of the Berlin Wall was that states, or empires, can be much weaker than they appear. The revelation of Soviet vulnerability caught many American policymakers flat-footed. Another lesson was that careful strategic thinking is necessary for the United States to exploit shifts in the balance of power. While there were some successes in navigating the emergence of a post-communist Russia and independent former Soviet republics, the United […]

Off the Radar News Roundup

– According to the People’s Daily, “Chinese experts” say China is not taking sides in the Kashmir dispute. The comments come in response to a Kashmiri separatist leader applauding the U.S.-Chinese joint declaration’s reference to promoting India-Pakistan reconciliation. I suspect President Barack Obama will also walk this back at the first opportunity during Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit. – Meanwhile, in a CNN interview in advance of his visit to Washington,Singh ruled out redrawing Kashmir’s borders, drawing a protest from Islamabad. – China’s defense minister traveled to North Korea in the latest of a series of high-level defense meetings […]

This Week’s WPR Video Highlights

Here are a few of this week’s highlights from WPR’s video section: PresidentBarack Obama held one of his now-classic town hall meetings in Shanghaiwith Chinese students. The twist? Carefully picked attendees andquestions. In this video, Jim Lehrer interviews human rights experts who saythe Internet, a topic Obama made sure to mention in his talk with thestudents, is the key to human rights in China. Former Secretaryof State Henry Kissinger says the Obama administration has made greatgains for U.S.-Russian relations in this interview with Russia Today. IraqiVice President Tariq al-Hashemi has brought a much anticipate electionin Iraq to a halt. In […]

Off the Radar News Roundup

– China’s foreign minister visits Japan for the first time since the DPJ took power. – China and Vietnam agree to boost economic ties. – China and Burma agree to establish railroad and banking links to facilitate resource flow. – Remarks by President Barack Obama in Korea reflect how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have transformed U.S. forces stationed there — like the Army reserves back home — into an operational, as opposed to a strategic, reserve. – The leader of the Hurriyat, a Kashmir political coalition advocating for self-determination, declared his support for the U.S.-China joint declaration regarding […]

During his trip to Asia, President Barack Obama laid out a grand rhetorical vision for the future: a U.S.-China partnership working together to solve the world’s most pressing issues. Speaking in Japan, Obama declared, “America will approach China with a focus on our interests. It’s precisely for this reason that it is important to pursue pragmatic cooperation with China on issues of mutual concern, because no one nation can meet the challenges of the 21st century alone, and the United States and China will both be better off when we are able to meet them together.” It sounds very dramatic, […]

Hope for Human Rights in China

Jim Lehrer interviews Winston Lord, former U.S. ambassador to China andXiao Qiang, Chinese human rights activist and professor of journalism.Qiang says that one of the big differences in the human rightsdiscussion now, versus twenty years ago, is that the average Chinesecitizen is much more aware of human rights violations and what freedomsthey should expect. Though still heavily censored, AmbassadorLord says he believes it is the Internet that will have one of thegreatest impacts on the future of human rights in China.

Off the Radar News Roundup

– China plays both sides of the DMZ, hosting the speaker of the ROK Parliament and a high-level DPRK military envoy at the same time. – New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key has refused to meet with the Dalai Lama, explaining, “The reason simply is I’ve decided that I wouldn’t get a lot out ofthat particular meeting.I’ve seen him in the past, I may see him in thefuture.” If there’s a foreign policy equivalent of Maslow’s pyramid of needs, defending human rights would figure on the high end. That’s why the Dalai Lama will have an easier time getting meetings […]

Off the Radar News Roundup

– After meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao calls the G-2 appelation premature, saying everyone should remain “sober-minded” about it. – After going online in August 2009, the Chinese Defense Ministry’s Web site was cyberattacked 2.3 million times in the first month. Payback? (Much more of interest in a People’s Daily interview with the site’s editor.) – China and Vietnam signed an agreement definitively demarcating their 800-mile land border, a process that took 10 years. They agreed to continue negotiations regarding their maritime boundary disputes. It’s important to remember when considering China’s rise that in addition […]

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