16 April 2015

Army divided against army; BJP against BJP: Supreme Court will hear controversial army promotion case on 22nd


By Ajai Shukla, Business Standard, 16th Apr 15

The Supreme Court today put off by a week its hearing of a landmark case on an issue so contentious that it has divided the army right down the middle; and even senior echelons of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

At stake here is the principle for promoting officers to higher rank. The army currently favours the infantry and artillery, saying these arms face harsher service conditions and need younger commanders. Challenging this in what is now a keenly watched cause celebre are 191 serving officers who argue the army is an integrated whole and promotion should be equitable.

The BJP’s national spokesperson, Meenakshi Lekhi, a prominent Supreme Court lawyer, is spearheading the case against her own party’s government. Lekhi has routed the government in the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) on March 30. She could also win in the Supreme Court, which will hear the case on April 22.

Fighting alongside Lekhi is legal eagle Harish Salve, who is working free of cost.

Lekhi says this case is important enough for her to confront her own party’s government. “At stake here is the cohesiveness and unity of the entire officer corps. The army has to remain united. Favouring one or two arms divides the army and weakens India’s military capability”, she told Business Standard

The disagreement is over distribution of vacancies for four senior ranks --- colonel, brigadier, major general and lieutenant general. Before 2009, vacancies were equitably divided on a “pro rata” basis --- i.e. in proportion to their numbers --- between the arms and services that made up the army. These include “combat arms”, i.e. armoured corps, infantry and mechanised infantry; “combat support arms”, i.e. artillery, engineers and signals; and finally “services”, which discharge logistic functions like repair and supply.
The AFT notes this balance was upset in 2009, when new “discriminatory” promotion rules handed out most vacancies to the two biggest arms --- infantry and artillery. Suddenly, with these additional vacancies, 60 per cent of infantry and artillery lieutenant colonels found themselves getting promoted to colonel. Meanwhile other branches had approval ratings as low as 26 per cent.

This injustice was extended to the higher ranks of brigadier and general, where the vacancies for each branch correspond to the number of colonels it has.
The AFT ruled that this violated “the fundamental right of equality of opportunity”, and ordered the army to redistribute vacancies equitably and reconvene all promotion boards to the rank of colonel held since 2008.

For the army, re-holding these promotion boards is a major challenge. “This is like ordering the replay of all cricket series held in the last five years, including the World Cup, after discovering an earlier flaw in the rules”, laments a general.
Even so, the Supreme Court wants an early decision. On Wednesday, it overruled the army’s request for three weeks to prepare its case, allowing only one week, given that a promotion board is scheduled for 28th.

The apex Court has ordered the army to place promotion boards on hold until the matter is heard on 22nd.
The instrument for allocating extra vacancies to the infantry and artillery was the so-called Ajai Vikram Singh Committee (AVSC), chaired by a well-respected defence secretary, which was mandated in 2001 to create a younger army. One AVSC recommendation was to promote officers faster by creating more vacancies --- 1484 additional colonels; 222 more brigadiers; 75 new major generals and 20 additional lieutenant generals.

These additional vacancies were to be created in two tranches. In December 2004, the first 750 colonel vacancies were equitably distributed, based on each branch’s officer strength. In November 2008, as the AFT notes, the remaining 734 vacancies were given mainly to the infantry (441) and artillery (186). The other eight arms/services got just 59 vacancies between them, with 48 discretionary vacancies retained by army headquarters.
The AFT judgment termed this “a malicious act of reverse engineering to justify discrimination in allotment of vacancies”.

Whilst the impugned policy was being formulated (2001-2009) all army chiefs and key promotion policymakers were from either the infantry or artillery.
These generals suggested the AVSC had recommended additional vacancies to the infantry and artillery in order to bring younger officers in command.
In fact, former defence secretary Ajai Vikram Singh has clarified to Business Standard: “There was no talk of having any special provision for the infantry or artillery.”

Transforming India from a Balancing to a Leading Power

"Securing the commons will be a key step in not only shaping global security but also in taking the partnership with India to the next level."

Although India’s economic story has been the subject of much discussion in the United States in the past decade, its foreign policy has not received similar attention. This has something to do with the consensus in Washington about India’s hesitancy in the exercise of realpolitik.

Last month, however, India’s newly appointed foreign secretary and leading strategist Subrahmanyam Jaishankar delivered an attention getter. In a major speech, Jaishankar emphasized that India was intent on playing the role of a “leading” instead a “balancing” power in Asia. This statement comes as a significant shift to the prevailing perceptions concerning India’s reluctance to actualize its role as a great power. 

Until recently, India was seen as a power that could serve as a counterweight to China and help the United States in balancing China’s rise. However, Jaishankar’s statement suggests that India’s role could be far more strategic.

Fewer nuclear warheads? Why India shouldn’t worry

Fewer nuclear warheads? Why India shouldn’t worry

Having more warheads than your opponent does not necessarily translate to greater security.

Should India be worried that it has fewer nuclear warheads than neighbours Pakistan and China, a subject of recent discussion?

India has boosted its nuclear triad – nuclear-armed strike aircraft, land-based inter-continental ballistic missiles and sea-based submarine-launched ballistic missiles – and now has a strong nuclear deterrence capability vis-a-vis its nuclear-armed neighbours.

“Such [a triad] essentially increases the deterrence potential of the state’s nuclear forces,” write Group Captain Ajay Lele (retd.) and Parveen Bhardwaj of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis, a New Delhi think-tank.

Given that a nuclear warhead with a yield of 1 megaton can destroy almost 210 sq km, roughly three times the size of south Mumbai, it is largely inconsequential if Pakistan has 10 more warheads than India or China has 140 more, as data released by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, a US advocacy that tracks global nuclear arsenals, reveals.

Pakistan has also been recognised as having the world’s fastest growing nuclear arsenal, which, according to this New York Times editorial, is turning South Asia into a “troubled region with growing nuclear risks”.

India Makes it Official: The 'Mother of All Defense Deals' Is Dead

April 14, 2015

India’s $20 billion medium multi-role combat aircraft tender is no more. 

With Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s big announcement in Paris that New Delhi would purchase 36 Dassault Rafale multi-role fighters off-the-shelf (prêt-à-porter, if you will) in a government-to-government deal, the future of the $20 billion tender for India’s medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) that was being negotiated between France’s Dassault Aviation and the Indian government fell into limbo. That ambiguity was resolved on Monday, three days after Modi’s announcement, when Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar clarified that the $20 billion tender would not move forward. Just like that, the “mother of all defense deals,” as India’s MMRCA project was known, was dead.

Though Parrikar avoided shutting the door on the project entirely, he emphasized that the Indian government would not move forward with those negotiations for the moment, suggesting that if New Delhi does purchase additional Rafales, it will do so in another government-to-government deal. His ministry’s official spokesperson, Sitanshu Kar, tweeted that the “[government-to-government] route [is] better than the [request for proposal] path for acquisition of strategic platforms.” Parrikar additionally said that the government’s decision to go with a direct purchase of 36 Rafale fighters was necessary, likening the deal to a breath of “oxygen” for India’s constrained air force.

How the US and India Can Collaborate in Afghanistan

By Jack Detsch
April 13, 2015

A new CFR memo calls for an inclusive American policy in the country. Executing that plan could prove tricky 

Though President Obama has pledged to keep 12,000 American troops in Afghanistan through the end of the year, it’s no secret that the White House’s focus on the war-torn country is waning. When those troops, largely still in place to train and equip the fledging Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and Afghan National Army (ANA), finally depart the country, Kabul will need a new patron to guarantee its security. Who will step up?

A new policy innovation memo authored by Alyssa Ayres, Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations reframes that question as a conversation. For Ayres, Washington must work with Delhi to stabilize Afghanistan’s fragile economy, military, and institutions while doing as much as possible to quell Pakistani anxieties. Can that approach succeed?

China or US: Who will charm India first?

Peter Hartcher 
April 14, 2015 

The United States slapped a visa ban on Narendra Modi and kept it in place for nine years.

So how to overcome this awkward fact once he was elected Prime Minister of India last year?

The White House lifted the ban after publicly congratulating him on winning "the largest free and fair election in human history" after more than two-thirds of Indians turned out and cast half a billion votes.

The ban was imposed in 2005 because Modi, as governor of the Indian state of Gujarat, was suspected of tolerating and perhaps even fomenting ugly Hindu mob attacks on Muslims in that state.

Over 1000 people died in the Gujarat riots of 2002, Muslims and Hindus alike. In some 60 inquiries and trials to follow, there was no evidence that Modi was complicit. Yet suspicions lingered.

The US was not the only one. Britain and almost all the countries of the European Union also banned Modi from visiting. Australia might have too, but Modi never asked to travel so the matter was never tested.


April 13, 2015 

On March 30, a group of Afghanistan-based fighters claiming to represent the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) announced their allegiance to the Islamic State.

The IMU is a vicious militant organization closely aligned with al-Qaeda, and it has often partnered operationally with the Taliban. The IMU’s ties to the Taliban go back to the pre-9/11 era, when the two groups enjoyed a particularly close relationship.

That these militants declared their loyalty to the Islamic State is not terribly surprising; a number of disaffected Taliban-allied jihadists have done so in recent months.

What was striking was the unusually explicit justification for their decision. They noted that Mullah Omar, the supreme leader of the Afghan Taliban and long a source of inspiration and authority for al-Qaeda-aligned militants, has not been seen for 13 years. Therefore, they no longer regard him as their leader.

In effect, Omar’s chronic absenteeism is prompting those who had sworn allegiance to him to start abandoning him.

Has Islamic State Infiltrated Malaysia’s Military?

April 14, 2015

Around 70 army personnel have reportedly been involved with the militant group. 

On April 13, local media cited Malaysian officials as saying that around 70 army personnel were found to have been involved with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group.

The reports were based on comments by Deputy Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Bakri, who told the country’s parliament that the figure had been confirmed with the police. Bakri, who was responding to a question by a lawmaker who asked how the ministry was ensuring soldiers did not join ISIS, did not provide any further specifics on the extent of this alleged involvement.

“The army is monitoring the situation via its investigation and intelligence division, together with its human resources section,” Bakri said according to The Straits Times.

“If army personnel are found to embrace elements of ISIS, the army and police will cooperate in our efforts to counsel them and restore their faith in accordance with proper teachings,” he added.

Shades of Grey in Afghanistan: A Conversation with James Creighton

April 15, 2015

Ankit Panda speaks to Col. James L. Creighton (U.S. Army, Ret.) about his experiences working with an Afghan warlord. 

The EastWest Institute’s Col. James L. Creighton (U.S. Army, Ret.), a former commander of Combined Team Urozgan and Chief of Plans for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, speaks to The Diplomat‘s Ankit Panda about his recent article describing his experience working with Afghan warlord Matiullah Khan. Matiullah Khan was recently killed in a suicide bombing (see the New York Times’ coverage here). In the second half of the podcast, Creighton and Panda discuss the state of relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

You can listen to the previous Asia Geopolitics podcast episode featuring Creighton here.

Click the arrow to the right to listen. You can also subscribe to The Diplomat’s Asia Geopolitics podcast on iTunes here. If you like the podcast and have suggestions for content, please leave a review on iTunes.

Can Capitalism Take Off in North Korea?

By Hy-sang Lee
April 14, 2015

Flirtations with capitalism need to overcome a rigid ideology. 
North Korea has experienced slowly expanding spheres of capitalism for 20 years, including the recent decentralization of farming decisions down to the family level. This incongruous but enduring development has aroused hopes in South Korea that the North’s economy will somehow develop enough to mitigate the eventual unification costs for Seoul. The Hyundai Economic Research Institute published in 2014 a forecast that had the North growing at 7 percent a year for 10 years. Also, the Foreign Economic Policy Research Institute of Seoul National University reported that if the North were to adopt either the Chinese or Vietnamese model of reform it would raise the annual growth rate to 6-7 percent.

However, Pyongyang has merely flirted with capitalism, hoping the famed “animal spirits” will help animate a sick economy and perpetuate the Kim dynasty. Having inherited capitalism along with communism of the Juchetype, Kim Jong-un has been doing his best to maximize the benefits of the former, but only within the confines of the latter.

China’s Crackdowns in Tibet

By Kevin Holden
April 14, 2015

Rights groups are pushing for international action on the serial use of lethal force to crush Buddhist dissent. 
The United Nations is set to receive evidence that Chinese People’s Armed Police troops have repeatedly opened fire on unarmed Tibetan protesters calling for religious freedom over the past seven years.

Evidence of deadly attacks by the Chinese paramilitary on Buddhist demonstrators across the Tibetan Plateau – provided by witnesses, whistleblowers, and a secret government document smuggled out of Tibet – will be presented to the UN’s Committee against Torture later this year.

International human rights groups, working with figures inside Tibet who aim to expose these killings internationally, will gather in Geneva in November for the UN hearing.

“The usage of live ammunition against peaceful Tibetan protestors does exist and it is also disproportionate,” Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay, the head of Tibet’s government-in-exile, told The Diplomat. “This is clearly in violation of international law,” said the prime minister, a former research fellow at prestigious Harvard Law School who wrote his graduate thesis on Buddhism and Human Rights.

After 5 Years, Japan, South Korea Hold Security Dialogue

April 15, 2015

The defense and foreign ministers of South Korea and Japan met for a “two-plus-two” dialogue for the first time in five years. 

On Tuesday, the two top defense and security officials from South Korea and Japan met for the first high-level “two-plus-two” security talks in over five years.

The meeting heralds a thaw in relations between the two Northeast Asian neighbors, both U.S. allies, that remain divided over contentious historical issues, primarily over South Korean perceptions that Japan is inadequately remorseful for atrocities committed on the Korean peninsula during the Second World War.

Specifically, South Korea remains unconvinced of Japanese atonement over wartime brutality including the use of Korean sex slaves, euphemistically known as “comfort women.”

Japan and South Korea are additionally mired in a territorial dispute over the sovereignty of the Liancourt Rocks, otherwise known as Dokdo in South Korea and Takeshima in Japan.

Recently, in its 2015 diplomatic “bluebook,” Tokyo renewed its claim to the islets in the Sea of Japan, drawing protest from the South Korean foreign ministry.

The last time the two sides held such a meeting was in 2009 when they discussed regional security issues, their defense policies, and areas for bilateral cooperation.

Can the US and China Save the World?

April 14, 2015

Beijing and Washington are seeking increased clean energy cooperation in a bid to fight climate change. 
U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker is leading a group of 24 U.S. businesses to China seeking increased cooperation on clean energy. The group is the first “presidential designated” trade mission to visit China since Barack Obama took office. Companies represented in the delegation include Alcoa, GE, Lockheed Martin, Honeywell, and Qualcomm Technologies.

In a statement on the delegation, the U.S. Department of Commerce noted that “China offers vast opportunities for U.S. businesses with deep expertise in clean and energy efficient technology.” The purpose of the trip, the statement said, is to connect U.S. companies with “opportunities in the green infrastructure and energy efficiency industries” in China while also helping “introduce Chinese investors, entrepreneurs and innovators to the [United States’] clean energy technology market.”

China's Soft Power Obsession

By Xie Tao
April 14, 2015

China needs to rethink its quest for soft power. 

“Power, like love, is easier to experience than to define or measure,” Joseph Nye once wrote. That’s even more true when it comes to soft power, defined by Nye as “the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payments.”

Such attraction, according to Nye, derives from a country’s cultural heritage, political values, economic prosperity, technological innovation, smart diplomacy, etc. Attraction could be temporary, but it also could be internalized and become one’s sincere preference. In the real world, this could mean that if a foreigner has internalized democracy and freedom as championed by the United States, he/she will probably support U.S. policies to spread — or even impose — these values in other countries, even if such policies may be detrimental to this person’s interests (e.g., bringing domestic instability in his or her own country).

If that’s the case, who wouldn’t want soft power? Instead of military coercion or economic payments, a country can achieve its foreign policy goals through willing support and cooperation from others. Such a soft approach to foreign policy not only adds to one’s legitimacy, but also avoids conflicts. To be able to achieve foreign policy goals in such a fashion is to be softly powerful. Or to borrow from the famous ancient Chinese strategist Sun Tzu, “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without a war.”

Australia Caught in Middle of US-China Power Tussle

By Nick Derewlany
April 14, 2015

Canberra could struggle to balance its interests as tensions rise over the AIIB and TPP. 

Tensions between the United States and China over the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) are the next embodiment of a hard and soft power battle for economic and political dominance in the Asia-Pacific, and come amid concerns arising from the stalled negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). For Australia, a key focus of its foreign policy should be how to balance its economic ties with China and its cultural ties with the United States; appeasing both without getting in the middle of an ugly tug-o-war that forces Canberra to take sides.

Officially, both the U.S. and China have attempted to downplay the gravity of the tussle. Hugo Llorens, U.S. Consul General, in a guest lecture given at the University of Sydney, reassured students that “Australia does not have to choose between the United States and China.” But while it is true that Australia is not at a point where it needs to make such a choice, the reassurance misrepresents the dynamic of Australia being caught in the middle of a power struggle between the worlds two largest economies.

The TPP, drafted in 2005, is a by-product of the U.S. rebalance to Asia. Its intent is to eradicate preferential trade agreements (PTA) in the Asia-Pacific and construct in their place a multilateral trade platform, thus connecting a plethora of geographically incongruent countries at varied levels of development.

Unfortunately, divergent interests and innate agendas have inhibited progress with the deal. Australia’s vision for the TPP lies in developing the regional architecture that will provide a viable gateway to the entire Asia-Pacific; in short, an unrestricted multilateral agreement. In contrast, the U.S. envisions the TPP as an extension of its established bilateral arrangements in the region, with a focus on developing further PTAs with countries it hasn’t already partnered with. The U.S. opposes an unrestricted multilateral agreement because it would lay waste to established protectionist measures – such as long implementation periods and product specific rules of origins – that are a feature of sensitive U.S. domestic industries such as sugar and dairy. A proliferation of PTAs in the region would be counterproductive for Australia because it would close off certain markets, and make others harder to utilize.

Nations Line up to Join China-Led Infrastructure Bank

Will Hickey
9 April 2015

The world’s most populous nation has a sizable sovereign fund and is on track to surpass the United States as the world’s largest economy. “The Chinese development model of technology transfer and infrastructure development, including highways, ports, railways, has brought millions out of poverty and into a middle class existence,” writes Will Hickey, of the School of Government and Public Policy in Indonesia. “Exporting this model, and not just labor-intensive manufactured products to western nations, could prove the next leg up in China’s ascent as a credible emerging superpower.” Asia needs about $800 billion in annual infrastructure funding. China organized the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank partly because Asian nations’ stature in global finance institutions has not kept pace with their rapid growth. China’s voting share for the International Monetary Fund is about one quarter that of the United States and less than shares held by Germany, France and England. Despite criticisms aired by the United States, many of its allies have signed on for an anticipated building boom in Asia. The official membership roster will be released April 15. – YaleGlobal

Iraqi Army Opting for Small Steps in Al-Anbar Province Before Making Big Push to Recapture Mosul

Lara Jakes
April 14, 2015

Iraq Eyes Small Steps for Big Gains Against Islamic State

In Iraqi parlance, the battle to liberate Anbar is proceeding shway-shway. Slowly, slowly. Little by little. That’s not just how Iraqi security forces are mounting a new assault against key Islamic State strongholds — but also how the Obama administration seeks to wean government security forces from Iran’s influence.

Baghdad’s revamped focus on the country’s sprawling western Anbar province — parts of which have been occupied for 16 months — will play out in a series of small but deliberate steps to turn its overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim communities against the Islamic extremists. Doing so will delay a massive military operation in the northern city of Mosul, which serves as the headquarters of the Islamic State in Iraq.

So far, the new campaign has not gone well: Islamic State fighters repelled Iraqi security forces and tribal fighters in Ramadi, the Anbar provincial capital, late last week and kept firm control over the nearby city of Fallujah. Over the weekend, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered more troops to surrounding areas to stave off retreat.

But the shift to Anbar gives Iraqi forces an opportunity to win over suspicious Sunnis who fear their communities will be overrun by Shiite militias — some of which are linked to Iran — after the fight is over.

What Saudi Arabia wants in Yemen

By Ali AlAhmed
April 12, 2015

Supporters of the separatist Southern Movement perform prayers during a demonstration in Aden on Friday, February 13.

Houthi fighters guard the gate of the presidential palace where a bomb went off and wounded three people in Sanaa on Saturday, February 7.

Members of the Houthi movement and their allies attend a meeting in the Yemeni capital on Sunday, February 1.

Supporters of the separatist Southern Movement flash the victory sign after they seized police security checkpoints on Saturday, January 24, in Ataq, the capital of the Shabwa province in Yemen. Policemen were told to give up their weapons and return to their bases before the militiamen raised flags of the formerly independent South Yemen at the checkpoints.

Will the Iran Deal Destroy Iraq?

April 13, 2015 

Once again in the Middle East, short term gains are trumping long term interests. As the ink dries on the Iran nuclear deal, the bodies are piling up in neighboring Iraq. Many of them are the bodies of Sunni civilians, killed by Shiite militias backed by Iran and allied to the Iraqi Government in the battle against ISIS.
Reports of reprisal attacks against Sunnis by Shiite militias are mounting. Human Rights Watch issued a report in February claiming 'Residents have been forced from their homes, kidnapped, and in some cases summarily executed'. HRW is investigating allegations of a massacre of some 72 civilians in the town of Barwana by militias and SWAT forces. Disturbing videos have circulated on social media of what appear to be Shiite militia members brutalizing and torturing apparently Sunni adversaries in response to ISIS attacks.In the battle against ISIS, Iraqi forces, Kurdish Peshmerga, and Shiite militias including the Badr Organization and Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq are provided US air cover and billions of dollars in military hardware via the Iraqi Government. That puts the US in de facto alliance with Iran and its proxies, who are accused of war crimes rivaling those of ISIS.

In the predominantly Sunni city of Tikrit, Shiite militias, along with Iranian advisers and even religious imams, led the fight to win back the city earlier this month. The US largely sat that one out, providing air cover to the militias at the end of the battle. Tikrit was previously the scene of the single worst massacre in the current Iraq war, when ISIS militants summarily executed around 1000 Shiites last year. Now in the hands of government forces, it is the scene of renewed accusations of war crimes and executions by mostly Shiite members of the Popular Mobilization Forces against those they accuse of backing ISIS.

Why Is Central Asia Excited About the Iran Deal?

April 15, 2015

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in particular are keen to see progress in the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1. 
Central Asia’s leaders are excited by the progress in negotiations between Iran and the P5+1. Hemmed in by sanctions-hit Russia to the north, an energy-hungry but distant China to the east, war-torn Afghanistan to the south, the region looks forward to the economic opportunities presented by an opening of Iran.

The framework agreement announced on April 2 included the promise of sanctions relief, which would make Iran a much more attractive partner for the states of Central Asia which already have relations of varying degrees with Iran. Iran, for its part, recognized the region as vital. On Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif commented that Iran considers “no ceiling for the expansion of relations with regional countries whether in the Caucasus or in Central Asia,” in a joint press conference with his Kazakh counterpart, Yerlan Idrisov.

Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev, in his own press statement after meeting with Zarif, noted that “the two countries have great potential for cooperation” and that “much work is conducted as part of the revival of the Silk Road.”

He went on to mention the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran Railway which opened late last year and the ongoing cooperation among the Caspian littoral states, which are still working to determine the status and borders of the energy-rich sea.

Time for a 'Lousy' Peace in Ukraine

April 14, 2015 

The Donbas War has deepened and intensified divisions in Ukraine. The longer it drags on, the less likely a political reconciliation becomes.

President Obama should deny Congress’s appeal to send deadly force arms to Ukraine. Such an action would be neither in the national interests of the United States, nor of Ukraine itself.

Ukrainians and Russians often use the old saying that a lousy peace is better than the best of wars. If the geopolitical considerations of this conflict are weighted with its real human costs for Ukraine, the truth of this becomes clear.

The costs in lost lives and social strife of a military victory over the separatists are too high for Ukraine to bear. The war has claimed the lives of 6,000 citizens at a bare minimum, and displaced more than a million peoplewithin Ukraine and possibly as many without. It has torn open ideological and social divisions that have plagued the country since independence, and which after 10 months of brutal fighting are beginning to look unsurmountable.

Selling American Energy Abroad

April 14, 2015 

"The next president should lead the campaign for an American energy export agenda."

Increasing American production and export of energy is a win-win-win proposition. It would enhance our national security, make international energy markets more free, and address environmental issues realistically. The next president should lead the campaign for an American energy export agenda. In the meantime, the present Congress can do much to prepare for the march.

The acme of presidential leadership is crafting policies that make the nation safe, free, and prosperous. Satisfying all three priorities is often the Oval Office's greatest challenge. It is like single-handedly trying to get squabbling triplets into their car seats. Yet, the confluence of geopolitics, America's energy abundance, and economic and environmental realities offers an almost unprecedented opportunity to do this successfully. 

Energy is a vital global commodity. When it becomes a widely used, diverse resource rather than a scarcity to be rationed, the flow of commerce eases the friction of global competition. Energy, for example, becomes one less coercive tool of economic warfare, such as has been employed by the Russians since the 1990s to intimidate neighboring countries.

Hillary Clinton Could Save America's Asia Pivot

April 13, 2015 

On Sunday, Hillary Clinton took to Twitter to announce that she’s in the race to become president of the United States in 2016. In her time as Secretary of State from 2008 to 2013, Clinton amassed a heft of international experience and focused a sizable chunk of her efforts on the Asia–Pacific.
Indeed, her long-read for Foreign Policy in 2011 set out a vision for the United States in the region that has come to be known as the rebalance (née pivot).

But that was then and this is now. Should Clinton succeed in wrangling the Democratic Party nomination and blaze a trail to the Oval Office, she’ll face an international environment that’s familiar in thematic terms only. The international stage will come with a set of strategic challenges more acute than they are both today and when she left the Obama administration just over two years ago.

2016 isn’t that far away; the strategic rivalry between the United States and China will be a defining feature of the Asia–Pacific just as much then as it is now. Some in the Asia–Pacific claim that the rebalance ran out of steam as both Clinton and Kurt Campbell finished up at State and Middle East policy took center stage under John Kerry. Indeed, the rebalance has struggled to keep the attention of many in Washington, DC as the United States has juggled a host of issues including Russian chauvinism, instability in the Middle East, the Iran nuclear agreement, the Ebola virus, and prioritizing the needs of a war-weary populace still feeling the effects of a global economic downturn.

How will Bibi meddle in next US presidential race?

Author Ben Caspit
April 13, 2015

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a news conference at the United Nations in New York, March 10, 2015. 
There wasn’t very much nervous anticipation in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem while waiting to see whether former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would announce that she was a candidate for president of the United States on April 12. Everyone there had known for a long time that Clinton would toss her hat into the ring en route to the US presidential race. So much so, in fact, that the prime minister’s closest advisers had included her candidacy in their assessments of the situation. Every step that Clinton took had been recorded and filed in Jerusalem over the past year, with Clinton perceived as an inevitable fate, a bitter pill anticipated in advance, and an obstacle that must be traversed.
Summary⎙ Print Associates of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu estimate that casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, and subsequently Netanyahu, will soon decide whom to back in the US presidential race.

“Netanyahu has been prime minister for nine years already,” sighed one of Netanyahu’s people this week, “and he has yet to be lucky enough to serve for even 15 minutes with a Republican president in the White House. He keeps getting Democrats like [Bill] Clinton and [Barack] Obama, and now maybe another Clinton. Do people really say that Netanyahu is lucky? Well, as far as American presidents go, he’s been remarkably unlucky.”