18 April 2019

Lessons From Vietnam on Leaving Afghanistan

By George C. Herring

The prospect of an end to the conflict in Afghanistan has led many U.S. foreign policy experts to ponder the ignoble conclusion of another war, now a half century past. Vietnam reportedly offers a cautionary tale for some Pentagon officials who worry about reliving the ignominious events of 1975, when the North Vietnamese and the National Liberation Front (NLF) marched triumphantly into Saigon and the last Americans, along with some South Vietnamese allies, struggled frantically to escape by helicopter. Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker and others who worry about the humanitarian and geopolitical consequences of withdrawing from Afghanistan warn of a “Vietnam redux” and hear “echoes of America’s retreat from Vietnam.” They seem to fear an Afghanistan syndrome, like the so-called Vietnam syndrome before it, that could cripple the United States’ ability to intervene militarily.

Just how similar was the war in Vietnam to the war in Afghanistan, and how similar are their endings likely to be? What will be the consequences of U.S. withdrawal for Afghans and Americans—and what lessons might the United States take from Vietnam to mitigate them?

The Real Enemy of Pakistani Women Is Not Men

By Bina Shah

KARACHI, Pakistan — On International Women’s Day in Pakistan last month, thousands of exuberant young feminists staged their second Aurat (women’s) March. Intended to build on the success of a well-received march last year, it was designed to be inclusive, peaceful and raucously joyful. It had women from all walks of life, some in Western clothes, others in full veils, head scarves and burqas. Women from cities and villages. Female health workers and teachers. Trans women and male allies.

Then came an ugly backlash that still simmers — a sign that the feminists’ goal of breaking the hold of patriarchy is still a long way away.

Recalling the joys of the 2018 march, the activists and volunteers had gone to low-income neighborhoods and rallied women there. They bused women from rural villages. They printed fliers with artwork by young female artists, and drew posters that expressed their frustration, anger, hope and courage. On March 9, perhaps 6,000 women marched peacefully in Karachi, and another 3,000 in Lahore. Smaller groups walked in smaller locales: Peshawar, Quetta, Hyderabad, Faisalabad and Chitral. The marchers made headlines all across Pakistan.

China’s Surreptitious Economic Influence on Taiwan’s Elections

By Jason Li

In Taiwan’s local elections held on November 24, the Kuomintang (KMT) trounced the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Common in post-election reporting was the idea that cross-strait relations, one of the traditional defining issues in Taiwanese partisan politics, was less of a factor in determining voters’ decisions than in previous years. According to some experts, DPP President Tsai Ing-wen’s inability to combat stagnant wages, reduce unemployment, and enact labor reform were the principal contributors to her party’s “stunning” loss. These commentators have made it a point to distinguish “China issues” from domestic, economic issues in determining the election outcome.

Missing from such arguments, however, is consideration of the underlying and ever-present influence of China on the Taiwanese economy. Although local grievances toward DPP economic policy were the resounding driving force behind the KMT’s victory, Chinese policy cannot escape implication with regard to Taiwan’s ailing economy. Since Tsai’s election in 2016, Beijing has responded to Taipei’s refusal to recognize the 1992 Consensus and the DPP’s pro-independence leanings by choking the island’s economy and exploiting its vulnerabilities and dependence on mainland markets. It is in this way that Beijing, on the local level, indirectly enabled the DPP’s defeat last year.

How the US Can Win Its Trade War With China

By Arjun Kapur

Are trade wars “good, and easy to win,” as President Donald Trump put it last year? Most mainstream economists and foreign policy analysts answer with a resounding “no.” Citing dire analogies such as the Great Depression and Pearl Harbor, they denounce Trump’s trade policy as ignorant toward the principles of free-trade economics, and fraught with security risks. Both the United States and China will lose, critics warn.

Yet a more thorough review of the historical record reveals a winning playbook for the White House, provided that it devises clear, limited aims it deems achievable through targeted measures and negotiations, and avoids presenting China’s leadership with a binary choice of absolute, humiliating surrender or forceful, even violent retaliation.

The American Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 has become the default worst-case analogy for macroeconomic analysts, much as the Munich Agreement has become for security analysts. A protectionist wave unleashed by the devastating 1929 U.S. stock market crash paved the way for Smoot-Hawley’s passage into American law. The resulting trade war reduced world trade by 66 percent between 1929 and 1934. Global economic conditions rapidly deteriorated, and the political fortunes of dangerous populist, nationalist, and even fascist leaders rose.

China’s Bad Old Days Are Back

By Kelly Hammond, Rian Thum, and Jeffrey Wasserstrom

Disturbing things have been happening in China lately. Hundreds of thousands of Muslim Uighurs have been sent to Orwellian reeducation camps in the western province of Xinjiang. A political party in Hong Kong has been outlawed despite the city’s special status and history of free speech. Teachers in a southern port city were asked to hand over their passports so that closer watch could be kept on their movements. An ailing dissident, the Nobel Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, was barred from seeking medical treatment abroad. Upon traveling to his native China, the chief of the international crime-fighting organization Interpol vanished, only to reappear in government custody, facing corruption charges. And the list goes on. 

As reports of such events trickle out, each may be shocking in its own right but all too easy to dismiss as an outlier to more positive trends. Taken together, however, the dots connect to present a clear—and distressing—picture of China’s course under President Xi Jinping. For all its talk of moving forward, the country is in many ways returning to the past, with its officials and leaders displaying a new brazenness in their crackdown. Rounding up five to ten percent of an entire ethnic group, as the government has in Xinjiang, is a method that seems to belong in the last century, not this one.

US, Japan kick off trade talks amid China deal optimism

As optimism grows that the United States and China are nearing a trade deal, Japan kicks off its own negotiations with Washington from Monday, hoping to resolve some of the issues "very quickly."

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Japan's Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi are set to embark on two days of talks in Washington.

In Tokyo last week, Motegi predicted the crunch talks would be "candid", with the first round on Monday about "making a decision on which areas we will discuss, chiefly in the field of goods".

"I will do my best to have thorough discussions so as to produce a good result in line with our national interest," said Motegi.

Self-styled dealmaker Donald Trump has been playing hardball with traditional US trading partners, using tariffs and threats in an effort to boost US exports and curb Washington's longstanding trade deficit.

Branding IRGC Terrorist Is Game Changer Escalating US-Iran Showdown – Analysis

By Riad Kahwaji*

The U.S. Administration decision to brand the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a terrorist organization appears to be a pre-determined step in line with the ongoing escalatory policy of the White House aimed as subjecting Tehran to unprecedented pressure that would prompt it to either concede to Washington’s demands or to react in a violent manner that would ignite a war sought by hardliners on both sides. Tehran’s reaction by regarding U.S. troops as terrorists indicates that Tehran is keeping all options on the table, including a military option of targeting American forces in the region either directly or via its proxy groups operating in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

Although the timing of the U.S. action might have been to give a push to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel’s general elections on April 9, nevertheless it seemed in sync with President Donald Trump’s policy towards Iran, which has been marked by steady escalation for the past year. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo heightened his rhetoric against Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah in his visit to Beirut in late March 2019. He repeated his threats to Hezbollah and the IRGC in his press conference April 8 announcing the latest actions by his administration against Iran.

Russia’s Repatriation Of ISIS Members – Analysis

By Carl Lampe*

(FPRI) — On March 25, the Kurdish-led and American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) transferred three Russian orphans, aged five to seven, to a Russian government delegation in northeast Syria. The transfer marked the beginning of the repatriation process for children of ISIS members. This is just one event in a string of sporadic repatriations to Russia. In January 2019, the Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights in Russia, Anna Kuznetsova, helped repatriate thirty Russian minors from a prison in Baghdad. Processes like these may occur more frequently in the coming months as the U.S.-backed alliance of Syrian fighters has defeated ISIS territorially. Moscow now must decide what to do with Russian female ISIS members and children who remain in Iraq and Syria.

Leading up to its intervention in Syria in 2015, Russia reportedly allowed its citizens to leave the country to join ISIS. Reuters reported that Russian government officials allowed radicalized Muslims to cross the border to join ISIS before the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. Estimates reveal that thousands of Russian citizens, predominately from Chechnya and Dagestan, joined ISIS.

What Will Happen When Governments Disagree Over Who Is A Terrorist Organization... And Who Needs To Be Blocked Online?

Mike Masnick

You may have heard the recent news that President Trump has decided to label the the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) a "foreign terrorist organization." The IRGC is Iran's powerful military/security/law enforcement apparatus -- that also owns a ton of businesses. As the White House itself admits, this is the first time a foreign governmentagency has been referred to as a foreign terrorist organization. This is big news in a huge variety of ways -- in large part because it could end up criminalizing lots of people and businesses who unwittingly do business with the IRGC including (checks notes) a firm called The Trump Organization.

But, leaving that aside, it raises some other issues as well. We've been talking about the impact of the terrible EU Terrorist Content Regulation that the EU Parliament will soon be voting on. But, as we've discussed in the past, there are lots of questions about who decides just what is "terrorist" content. Daphne Keller tweeted about the IRGC decision, wondering what happens when one country's laws demand the removal of content from another country's government and suggests (accurately) this is going to lead to a huge mess.

Lost Malaysian Hopes And The Pakatan Catch 22 – Analysis

By Murray Hunter

Asia’s experiment in democracy deeply threatened

It took the Malaysian opposition more than a generation to topple the Barisan Nasional government, led by the now-discredited United Malays National Organization. Throughout mosques, coffee shops and markets in Malaysia, there has been an atmosphere of hope and anticipation by many for change that goes all the way back to when Mahathir Mohamed dismissed Anwar Ibrahim as deputy prime minister back in 1998 and jailed him in a trial regarded universally as trumped up.

From that day on Anwar Ibrahim became synonymous for reform in Malaysia. The charismatic opposition leader, from jail and out, managed to unite a wide diversity of NGOs and most of the opposition parties against the Barisan. But it took 20 years and reports by the Sarawak Report, the Wall Street Journal, Asia Sentinel and others to expose what is now known as the 1Malaysia Development Bud scandal which tainted Prime Minister Najib Razak as a complete crook and his wife as a grasping harridan. Najib shut down critical parts of the local media and sacked the Attorney General before charges could be laid against him.

Challenges, Changes, and Continuity: The United States and a Fragmented Regional Order

By Anthony H. Cordesman

It is brutally obvious from the proposed U.S. defense budget for FY2020 that the United States set broad goals in early 2018 for what it called a new national defense strategy that were not supported by meaningful plans, programs and proposed budgets. So far, the U.S. has not defined how it will implement any major elements of the broad concepts it chose to call a strategy, what force changes will need to take place and at what cost, and how this will affect America's strategic partners.

These issues are explored in depth in a recent Burke Chair study entitled The FY2020 Defense Budget and the Need for a Real Strategy Driven Budget . This study is available on the Burke Chair web site at https://csis-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/publication/190301_FY2020_Fiscal_Balance.Final_.pdf.

USCENTCOM has made real progress in trying to reshape U.S. strategic partnerships in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region – progress explored in a separate paper entitled Shaping Effective Strategic Partnerships in the MENA Region(https://www.csis.org/analysis/shaping-effective-strategic-partnerships-mena-region).

The Trump-Netanyahu Alliance

By David Remnick

Twenty-one years ago, Benzion Netanyahu, a scholar of medieval history and the father of an Israeli Prime Minister serving his first term, relaxed with a reporter at his home on Haportzim Street, in West Jerusalem, and wondered aloud if his boy, who went by “Bibi,” was made of the right stuff. Benzion was an uncompromising ideologue, a maximalist, and a member of the Revisionist movement. (The Revisionist hymn included the line “the Jordan has two banks; this one is ours, the other one, too.”) He despised the liberal élites. They had stifled his academic career, he believed, and weakened the country with their prattle about making peace with the Palestinians. Supporters of the Labor Party, the dominant force in Israeli politics for decades, did not, in his mind, live in the real world. “Jewish history is in large measure a history of holocausts,” he said that day.

Benzion died in 2012. He was a hundred and two. Any lingering worries he might have had that his son lacked the political cunning and the ideological mettle to put an end to the two-state expectations raised by the Oslo peace accords were misplaced. Benjamin Netanyahu, who won a fifth term last week, has proved himself shrewd, cynical, and willing to do and to say anything to survive in office.

Peaceful Coexistence 2.0


Today’s Sino-American impasse is rooted in “hyper-globalism,” under which countries must open their economies to foreign companies, regardless of the consequences for their growth strategies or social models. But a global trade regime that cannot accommodate the world’s largest trading economy is a regime in urgent need of repair.

CAMBRIDGE – The world economy desperately needs a plan for “peaceful coexistence” between the United States and China. Both sides need to accept the other’s right to develop under its own terms. The US must not try to reshape the Chinese economy in its image of a capitalist market economy, and China must recognize America’s concerns regarding employment and technology leakages, and accept the occasional limits on access to US markets implied by these concerns.

The term “peaceful coexistence” evokes the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev understood that the communist doctrine of eternal conflict between socialist and capitalist systems had outlived its usefulness. The US and other Western countries would not be ripe for communist revolutions anytime soon, and they were unlikely to dislodge the Communist regimes in the Soviet bloc. Communist and capitalist regimes had to live side by side.

Multilateralism’s Crisis Is an Opportunity


Increasingly destructive natural disasters, geopolitical shifts, and glaring inequalities have forced the international community to acknowledge that existing frameworks for addressing global issues collectively are in need of an overhaul. In fact, this may be the world's last chance to get serious about sustainable development.

NEW YORK – When Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Madagascar last month, it left almost one thousand people dead, and hundreds of thousands more homeless, hungry, and threatened by disease. According to one estimate, more than $1 billion worth of infrastructure could have been lost.

Such catastrophes have become depressingly familiar. Idai was the latest in a series of extreme weather events showing us that the devastating effects of climate change lie not in some distant future, but in the present. Worse, the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities are being hit the hardest. Mozambique – the country that suffered the most damage from Idai – will have to rebuild with both hands tied behind its back, because it is currently stuck in negotiations to restructure its unsustainable debt.

Closing Europe’s Confidence Gap


MADRID – In Spanish, the word confianza has a double meaning. On one hand, it describes a firm trust in something or someone – the kind of trust that people around the world, from Brazil to the United States to North Africa, increasingly lack in their leaders and even governance systems. On the other hand, confianza refers to confidence in oneself – something that is in particularly short supply in Europe.

In fact, the European Union is suffering from a deficit of confianza in both senses. This is a uniquely dangerous mix, because a lack of trust and self-confidence is leading the EU not just to outsider politics and even outlaw politicians, but also to policy paralysis, public outrage, and an utter inability to determine its own destiny. Both before and after next month’s European Parliament election – which will precede a new European Commission and a new European Council president – this deficit must urgently be addressed.

Public trust in EU leaders and institutions took a serious hit after the 2008 financial crisis. By then, the original purpose of the European project – to support peace on the continent after the devastation of World War II – had lost its purchase on public opinion. Europeans had gotten used to peace. Meanwhile, “Europe” became focused on the broader – and vaguer – goal of championing “shared values.” That objective underpinned the establishment of the formal EU institutions.

Is Europe Becoming Gaullist?


Seventy-four years after the end of World War II, Europeans are still divided over competing notions of national sovereignty and regional integration. But with the rise of China and the fraying of transatlantic relations, the geostrategic vision of France’s Charles de Gaulle has inevitably returned to the fore.

PARIS – Nearly a half-century after his death, Charles de Gaulle’s star is on the rise again in Europe. In opposing the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Economic Community (EEC), de Gaulle, the leader of the French Resistance against Nazi Germany and founder of France’s Fifth Republic, now looks prescient. The Brexit fiasco seems to have confirmed his view that the British do not share Europe’s destiny. Add to this the chorus of voices calling on the European Union to develop its own defense capacity, refuse US President Donald Trump’s injunctions on trade, rehabilitate the state’s role in the economy, and get tough on China, and one might conclude that Europe is becoming Gaullist in an age of American nationalism, Russian revisionism, and Chinese ambition. Ideas about European autonomy that were long dismissed as dangerous – including by the Germans who today feel the impact of power politics – are gradually becoming mainstream.

Unlocking the economic potential of Central America and the CaribbeanApril 2019 | Article

By Andres Cadena, Julio Giraut, Nicolas Grosman, and Andre de Oliveira Vaz

Over the past 15 years,1 the economies in Central America and the Caribbean (CAC) recorded an average annual GDP growth of around 4 percent, higher than the growth rates achieved by the Latin American average and most developed economies, but well below most other developing regions; regions such as South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa—and countries such as China or India—exhibited average annual growth of more than 5 percent during this period.

However, growth has not been sustained by all CAC countries. In fact, only three countries (Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Panama) have grown above the regional average over the last 30 years, and only the former two exhibited higher than average growth rates in both analyzed periods. Indeed, most nations have presented high volatility in economic growth since 1987 (Exhibit 1).

South Africa A Shining Example Of Dismantling Nuclear Arsenal – Analysis

By J Nastranis

As the nuclear weapons and fossil fuel divestment campaigns gather steam, their political impact could be as powerful as the divestment campaign against South Africa in the late 20th Century, which was a critical factor in moving the South African government to end apartheid in 1994, anticipates Thies Kätow, researcher for the World Future Council.

There are hardly any signs that such an expectation will be realized and the campaign under way would persuade heavily armed nuclear states to disarm. Yet South Africa remains a shining example of a country that went from developing its own nuclear arsenal to dismantling it and being an outspoken advocate against these weapons of mass destruction.

The Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan also dismantled and destroyed nuclear weapons systems and facilities – but these were inherited Soviet Union when it collapsed.

Sanity And Humanity Return To The World Bank? – OpEd

By Paul Driessen

President Obama infamously told Africans they should focus on their “bountiful” wind, solar and biofuel. If they use “dirty” fossil fuels to raise living standards “to the point where everybody has got a car, and everybody has got air conditioning, and everybody has got a big house, well, the planet will boil over.”

So when South Africa applied for a World Bank loan to finish its low-pollution coal-fired Medupi power plant, his administration voted “present,” and the loan was approved by a bare majority of other bank member nations. The Obama Overseas Private Investment Corporation refused to support construction of a power plant designed to burn natural gas that was being “flared” and wasted in Ghana’s oil fields.

As David Wojick and I have documented (here, here, here, here and here), eco-imperialist, carbon colonialist policies by the World Bank and other anti-development banks have perpetuated needless energy deprivation, poverty, disease and early death in Africa, Asia and beyond for much too long.

Why Venezuela Has Not Been Defeated – OpEd

By James Petras

Over the past half decade, a small army of US analysts, politicians, academics and media pundits have been predicting the imminent fall, overthrow, defeat and replacement of the Venezuelan government. They have been wrong on all counts, in each and every attempt to foist a US client regime.

In fact, most of the US induced ‘regime changes’ has strengthened the support for the Chavez – Maduro government.

When the US promoted a military-business coup in 2002, a million poor people surrounded the presidential palace, allied with the military loyalists, defeated the coup. The US lost their assets among their business and military clients, strengthened President Chavez, and radicalized his social program. Likewise, in 2002-03 when state oil company executives launched a lock-out.They were defeated, and hundreds of hardcore US supporters were fired and Washington lost a strategic ally.

A more recent example is the overbearing role of President Trump’s bellicose proclamation that the US is prepared to invade Venezuela. His threat aroused massive popular resistance in defense of national independence ,even among discontented sectors of the population.

Cracking the Code: A Toddler, an iPad, and a Tweet

By Evan Osnos

Over the years, I’ve written, perhaps, a million words. I failed to predict the nineteen that would move the fastest.

Last Sunday, I went looking for the iPad. I was halfway through the documentary about the skinny guy who climbs cliffs with no ropes, but watching that particular movie on the couch was making me feel bad. So I had a brilliant plan. In kinship with the climber of mountains, I would prop up the iPad on the elliptical trainer that we got for my wife’s birthday.

I’d left the iPad in its usual home––an overflowing basket, on a low table, of mail, stamps, power cords, and partially broken earphones. The low table, it turns out, was a mistake. Our son Ollie, age three, gets to use the iPad on airplanes, but rarely at home, a rule he regards as unspeakably cruel. Now and then, when he finds it in his grasp, he’ll enter random numbers into the passcode screen, until a parent lifts the device up and out of his tiny hands, at which point he rendeth his garments and lieth on the earth.

The Army’s Plan To Save The Wounded In Future War


Soldiers rush a wounded civilian to a UH-60 medevac helicopter in Iraq.

CAPITOL HILL: The high-tech chaos of future battlefields will make it much harder to save wounded soldiers, the Army Chief of Staff warned Congress this week. Evacuating them will require not only new high-speed medevac aircraft and tank-like armored ambulances, Gen. Mark Milley said, but also a radical reorganization of the Army’s medical corps to bring care as close as possible to the front line.

We’ve covered the equipment part of this equation — more on that below — but the personnel side is equally important and quite possibly more complicated. “People can tell you how incredibly confused I was at the hearing [on] medical services last week,” Rep. Pete Visclosky, the chairman of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, told Army leaders at a hearing on the Army budget this week.

Camo netting, an age-old tool, is being re-engineered for the modern battlefield

By: Todd South 

Top Army brass are looking to what seems like a simple item, camouflage netting, to solve a very modern technological problem — electronic signals that give away soldier and unit positions.

A variety of camouflage being developed now is aimed at hiding electronic signatures and concealing soldiers and their equipment, masking them to the eye and hiding them from sensors in modern communications and targeting equipment.

The next-generation netting is expected to offer state-of-the-art signature concealment for “multispectral protection.”

The Army awarded contracts a year ago for engineering, manufacturing and developing the new Ultra-Lightweight Camouflage Net System, or ULCANS.

The new netting is designed to conceal soldiers and equipment from sight and sensors.