10 July 2019

As India extends preschool education to all, incorporate gender sensitivity from the start

Samyukta Subramanian

The Annual Status of Education Report 2018national findings suggest that 7 percent more girls compared to boys aged 7 to 14 are enrolled in public education systems across India. And with the right to education being extended to the early years, we can now expect many more girls to be in the education system from the start. This begs the question, though, as to whether schools are prepared for more girls to enter.


This question has implications for not only equitable access to facilities such as functioning girls’ toilets, but the existence of gender-sensitive environments where both boys and girls can develop the ability to think critically, analyze, communicate, and build confidence. Young children need self-awareness, emotional self-regulation, and an understanding of the other so that both genders grow up to appreciate one another’s needs. If such an environment is lacking in our schools, then existing gender stereotypes will prevail, and real learning cannot take place. While education can be a tool for empowerment, a gender-blind approach can lead to schools becoming oppressive environments that perpetuate age-old beliefs and attitudes.

Is India Losing Its Grip on Bhutan?

By Kashish Kumar

It was not much of a surprise when India’s newly appointed External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar chose Bhutan for his maiden bilateral visit, reflecting once again India’s ever-growing desperation for continued friendship with its neighbor. Similarly orchestrated visits have been common from the Modi government; Bhutan became Modi’s first foreign visit under his “Neighborhood First Policy” in his previous tenure.

Does this necessarily mean that India-Bhutan relations stand as a glorious example of “love thy neighbor”? Or does the Indian government simply consider Bhutan a necessary piece for ensuring its economic and strategic dominance in the region?

Taliban-Pakistan Nexus An Obstacle To Afghan Peace – Analysis

By Neelapu Shanti*

The increasing spate of attacks in Afghanistan by the Taliban once again highlights the grim security situation and extremist group’s true intentions, amid the seventh round of peace talks between the United States and the Taliban in Qatar. 

A powerful car bomb explosion by the Taliban on Monday (July 1) in the heart of Kabul city recalled the radical increase of bloodshed in both wars and everyday conflicts. The spiralling attacks in Afghanistan show that the density of everyday violence is proportional to the country’s quest for peace, fuelled by terrorism. Monday’s deadly explosion killing around 40 people and injuring more than 100, including women and children, spells the Taliban’s irrational thirst for a victorious war in Afghanistan. 

The epidemic culture of violence in Afghanistan is reflected in the reports of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). From January 1 to March 31, 2019, UNAMA documented 1,773 civilian casualties (581 deaths and 1,192 injured), including 582 child casualties (150 deaths and 432 injured). 

Weaponized AI in Southeast Asia: In Sight Yet out of Mind

By Michael Picard

The idea that killer robots will soon be a reality in Southeast Asia may seem far-fetched to some. But this rapidly advancing domain of defense technology is gaining ground in and around Southeast Asia, and states need to prepare for the arrival of lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) in the near future. The best way of doing so is to support a growing global coalition advocating for an international ban on their use and development.

This week, the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots officially launched in Southeast Asia as a regional coalition of civil society groups held the movement’s first regional strategy consultations in Bangkok to chart the course ahead. The Campaign advocates for an international ban on LAWS and the weaponization of artificial intelligence (AI). Their principal concern lies in the amplification of the ethical risks in warfare when humans are removed from operating a weapon’s lethal functions.

What Really Happened to Malaysia’s Missing Airplane

at 12:42 a.m. on the quiet, moonlit night of March 8, 2014, a Boeing 777-200ER operated by Malaysia Airlines took off from Kuala Lumpur and turned toward Beijing, climbing to its assigned cruising altitude of 35,000 feet. The designator for Malaysia Airlines is MH. The flight number was 370. Fariq Hamid, the first officer, was flying the airplane. He was 27 years old. This was a training flight for him, the last one; he would soon be fully certified. His trainer was the pilot in command, a man named Zaharie Ahmad Shah, who at 53 was one of the most senior captains at Malaysia Airlines. In Malaysian style, he was known by his first name, Zaharie. He was married and had three adult children. He lived in a gated development. He owned two houses. In his first house he had installed an elaborate Microsoft flight simulator. He flew it frequently, and often posted to online forums about his hobby. In the cockpit, Fariq would have been deferential to him, but Zaharie was not known for being overbearing.

In the cabin were 10 flight attendants, all of them Malaysian. They had 227 passengers to care for, including five children. Most of the passengers were Chinese; of the rest, 38 were Malaysian, and in descending order the others came from Indonesia, Australia, India, France, the United States, Iran, Ukraine, Canada, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Russia, and Taiwan. Up in the cockpit that night, while First Officer Fariq flew the airplane, Captain Zaharie handled the radios. The arrangement was standard. Zaharie’s transmissions were a bit unusual. At 1:01 a.m. he radioed that they had leveled off at 35,000 feet—a superfluous report in radar-surveilled airspace where the norm is to report leaving an altitude, not arriving at one. At 1:08 the flight crossed the Malaysian coastline and set out across the South China Sea in the direction of Vietnam. Zaharie again reported the plane’s level at 35,000 feet.

Keeping the Cold War with China from Turning Hot

by Lyle J. Goldstein

As a hot summer of Iran debate heats up the nation’s capital, one may be at least slightly reassured that President Donald Trump has exercised some measure of restraint—albeit belatedly. Yet, the President’s reasoning, that the proposed strikes would have cost an estimated 150 casualties, implies amisunderstanding regarding the uncertain nature of war and its inherent risks.

Putting aside for now the tortured story that brought us to this precarious point since withdrawing from the Iran nuclear accord, Trump’s assumption that America’s military and intelligence leaders can estimate with great precision when an armed conflict will end or how it will end implies a shocking lack of humility. To be fair, that’s a depressingly common trait amongst the Washington “blob.” More than half a century of problematic calculations on this score absolutely underline the case for restraint. By the way, this mostly unfortunate history also implies that our forefathers were both wiser and much more circumspect regarding the use of force, since they unambiguously placed the war powers squarely with the legislature, rather than the executive.

Could the United States and China be Rivalry Partners?

by Graham Allison 

The strategic rationale for the relationship between the United States and China has collapsed. After a quarter century in which American presidents sought to integrate a rapidly developing China into the American-led international order, the United States has concluded that what it thought was a “strategic partner” is in fact a “strategic adversary.” After decades of keeping its head down following Deng Xiaoping’s injunction to “hide and bide,” Xi Jinping’s China has discarded that cloak and become increasingly assertive.

At this point, policymakers in Beijing and Washington understand that they are locked in a classic Thucydidean rivalry. China is a meteoric rising power. The United States is a colossal ruling power. As China achieves its dream to “make China great again,” it is inevitably encroaching on American positions and prerogatives at the top of every pecking order—commanding heights that after an American century, Americans have naturally come to see as their rightful place.

Ep. 47: Mosul, revisited (part two) with Mike Giglio and Dan Gabriel

This week we’ll hear from Mike Giglio, national security correspondent for The Atlantic. He was embedded with Iraqi special forces when the Mosul offensive kicked off in late 2016. Then we’ll hear from former CIA man Dan Gabriel, who just produced a documentary called “Mosul.”

Find part one of Mosul, revisited here.

Tense U.S.-Iran Relations Have Put the Middle East on the Brink

In May 2018, when U.S. President Donald Trump followed through on a campaign promise to withdraw the U.S. from the 2015 multilateral deal limiting Iran’s uranium enrichment program, Tehran initially reacted by adopting a posture of strategic patience. But after European attempts to keep the deal afloat failed to deliver any respite from the U.S. campaign of “maximum pressure,” and amid increasingly bellicose rhetoric out of Washington, Iran has shifted gears in recent months.

Tensions rose dramatically in May and June, after a series of attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman that Washington blamed on Iran prompted the U.S. to send additional troops to the region. Soon thereafter, Iranian forces shot down a pilotless U.S. drone it claims was operating in its airspace. Most recently, Iran announced it had breached its obligations under the nuclear deal for the first time, exceeding limits on its stockpile of enriched uranium.

Is this the Beginning of the End for Turkey's Erdogan?

By Sinan Ciddi

In Turkey, the opposition's Ekrem Imamoglu soundly defeated his ruling party opponent by more than 800,000 votes in the June 23 Istanbul mayoral election redo — a vast increase from Imamoglu's first, narrow win on March 31.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) experienced major metropolitan loses not only in Istanbul but also in the capital, Ankara, and elsewhere as voters expressed their dissatisfaction with the AKP and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In the coming days or weeks, former AKP officials and Erdogan allies will break away from the governing party to establish a rival political party. The move will weaken the AKP and Erdogan's base of power and force supporters to choose between Erdogan and the splinter group. 

A U.S.-Iran War Will Not Be Fought Only in Iran

by Seth Frantzman

Residents in northern Cyprus were surprised on July 1 when an S-200 [air defense] missile landed in the wake of an Israeli airstrike in northern Syria. Israel has targeted Iranian bases and weapons transfers to Hezbollah more than a thousand times in the last seven years. Iran has threatened to respond, but Tehran now faces larger concerns as it wrestles with Washington and seeks to raise tensions in the Gulf, Iraq and Yemen among its allies and proxies.

An arc of simmering conflict runs from the waters off Cyprus to the Gulf of Oman where the U.S. Global Hawk was downed in June, to Abha in Saudi Arabia which has been targeted by Iranian-backed Houthi drones. It is a frontline that stretches three thousand miles and marks out the potential flashpoints between the United States and its allies against Iran and its allies and proxies. Viewing the region through this complex map of interlinked conflicts is the best way to see the current U.S.-Iran tensions in the context in which they have grown. It also reveals the possible ways Iran and its proxies might strike at the United States and its allies. In some cases these conflicts have already broken out.

Romania’s Most Powerful Politician Is in Jail, but Its Corruption Fight Isn’t Over

Andrew MacDowall 

Some protesters mockingly waved handcuffs in Liviu Dragnea’s face as he left the courtroom in Bucharest to start a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence on May 27. Many others celebrated less publically, seeing the fall of Romania’s most powerful man as proof that the country’s embattled institutions, though under more and more political pressure, still function independently.

Dragnea’s arrest put the brakes on the government’s controversial judicial reforms, viewed by many of Romania’s allies as an attempt to undermine a strikingly successful anti-corruption drive. The government’s staunchest critics hope it will be a knockout blow for the ruling Social Democratic Party, or PSD, which until recently was led by Dragnea and which opponents see as little more than a crypto-communist organization supporting kleptocracy.

The Department of Defense needs Mark Esper — and a few policy changes


Just over halfway through the Trump administration’s first term, the military is getting its third secretary of Defense in Mark Esper. Although the U.S. military is the finest fighting force in the world, even the best need consistent leadership. Fortunately, the Department of Defense (DOD) is receiving a great leader in Esper. He is superbly qualified, by experience and temperament — a family man, combat veteran infantry officer, West Point graduate, defense industry and policy expert, and an intellectual with high-level Pentagon civilian leadership experience. 

Esper understands the importance of civilian leadership and how to bring sustainable change in policy, strategy and modernization for the military. However, he does face significant challenges to defend, deter and defeat, if necessary, enemies of the United States — and some of those challenges are at home.

What Has Become of Abdul-Salaam Ojeili's Syria

by Samuel Sweeney

Following a stalemate that had lasted, imperfectly, from September 2018, the Syrian government and their Russian allies launched a campaign in early May against opposition-held territory in Syria’s northwest. If a larger campaign against Idlib province is coming, then it could be the death knell for the Syrian opposition as a force within the country’s borders. Aside from the significant territory east of the Euphrates controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and pockets of Turkish-occupied territory in the north, the Syrian government will have reclaimed the country following eight years of war. While this may still be some time away from becoming a reality, it is a fitting time to assess how the Syrian opposition failed in its objective to overthrow Bashar al-Assad and end the regime his father began in 1970.

Over the course of eight years, the Syrian conflict went from complex to more complex, but its origins, of course, were in the idea that the Syrian government, and its president Bashar al-Assad, had lost the legitimacy to govern the country. The conflict evolved from peaceful protesters standing off against a dictatorial government, to a roughly two-sided war of rebels versus government, then to a total breakdown of the state into at least four distinct areas of control: the Syrian government, ISIS, the SDF and the opposition.

South Korea and the US Indo-Pacific Strategy: At an Arm’s Length?

By Ankit Panda

The bilateral outcomes of U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s visit to South Korea at the end of June were largely overshadowed by the headline-grabbing sudden U.S.-North Korea summit meeting at the inter-Korean Demilitarized Zone.

Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, however, discussed a range of issues in the context of the bilateral relationship. One of the less noticed outcomes was a rare acknowledgement by Moon of the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy.

“Under the regional cooperation principles of openness, inclusiveness and transparency, we have agreed to put forth harmonious cooperation between Korea’s New Southern Policy and the United States’ Indo-Pacific Strategy,” Moon said at his press conference with Trump following their one-on-one talks on bilateral and regional issues.

Europe Alone

By Alina Polyakova And Benjamin Haddad 

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference in early 2019, former Vice President Joe Biden had a reassuring message for European politicians, diplomats, and military leaders worried about American disengagement: “We will be back.” Biden’s speech was met with applause and relief. Wait out the tenure of U.S. President Donald Trump, he seemed to be saying, and sooner or later, leaders can return to the transatlantic consensus that defined the post–World War II era. Patience is the name of the game.

Biden was feeding a common but delusional hope. A new U.S. administration could assuage some of the current transatlantic tensions by, say, removing tariffs on European steel and aluminum or rejoining the Paris climate agreement. But these fixes would not deal with the problem at its root. The rift between the United States and Europe did not begin with Trump, nor will it end with him. Rather than giving in to nostalgia, U.S. and European leaders should start with an honest assessment of the path that led them to the current crisis—the first step to building a more mature and forward-looking transatlantic partnership.

Donald Trump might have found the art of a deal with North Korea

Michael E. O’Hanlon

According to recent news reports, following the third meetingbetween President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which occurred last week at the Korean DMZ, the Trump administration has a new idea about how to negotiate with Kim. Rather than pursue complete elimination of all of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities, the Trump administration would aim for a more modest trade as at least an interim step. It would reportedly require North Korea to verifiably dismantle all capabilities it possesses to make more bombs, in exchange for a partial lifting of the sanctions that have driven North Korea’s economy into the tank.

We do not really know for sure that this proposal is formal Trump policy. Indeed, national security advisor John Bolton has just tweeted his apparent wariness. But it is hard to see why Kim and Trump keep talking if they are not moving towards this kind of compromise. The terms of such an agreement would follow logically from the February Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi, where the North offered to dismantle some of its nuclear production capability in exchange for a lifting of all sanctions, and then President Trump walked. Washington’s new proposal would simply toughen and improve the terms of this kind of trade, requiring the dismantlement of all plutonium and enriched uranium infrastructure in exchange for a lifting of some of the sanctions.


It’s the Institutions, Stupid

By Julia Azari 

American democracy, most observers seem to agree, is in crisis. Some pin the blame on President Donald Trump, citing his assaults on the country’s democratic norms and institutions—the electoral system, the independent judiciary, the rule of law, and the media. “This is not normal,” former President Barack Obama declared in a September 2018 speech rebuking his successor. Others see Trump as merely the culmination of a long decline in American democracy, a story that began decades ago with growing political polarization, congressional infighting, and economic and social inequality. Whatever the precise cause, however, there is a consensus about the effect: a broken system.

Yet the real story of American democracy is not one of disrepair but one of partial repair. The problems that ail it today have been brought about not by neglect but by incomplete efforts to improve it in the context of changing political realities. The result is a democracy that is simultaneously inclusive and ineffective.

As Honduran Unrest Flares, So Will Immigration to the United States

Mexico has promised the United States it will reduce the surge in migration across their shared border under threat of U.S. tariffs. The number of Hondurans seeking asylum or employment in the United States will likely remain stubbornly high amid persistent political and economic instability there. The United States will use any continued migrant surge fueled by Honduran unrest to try to extract concessions from the Mexican government, which will, in turn, try to delay making them — if it can.

Though Central Americans for years have accounted for an increasing percentage of overall migrants crossing the U.S. border illegally, their numbers grew dramatically in early 2019. In May 2019 alone, about 130,000 people were arrested trying to cross the border. The composition of migrant flows also shifted, with the number of individuals in families apprehended at the border by U.S. authorities growing from 105,000 during all of 2018 to almost 330,000 during the first five months of 2019. Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador are currently the main sources of illegal immigration to the United States that pass illegally through Mexico. Honduras is the second-largest source of migrants entering the U.S. illegally.

U.S., Vietnam: With a Small Salvo, the U.S. Brings the Trade War to Vietnam

Over the past decade, Vietnam has become one of Southeast Asia's most vibrant emerging economies. The country's large and inexpensive labor pool, stable political environment, favorable investment policy and strong foreign relations has helped escalate Hanoi's move up the industrial value chain. The trade war between the United States and China has also so far served to Vietnam's benefit, with many companies moving to the country to escape its fallout. U.S. unhappiness with Vietnam, however, has grown due to Washington's ongoing trade frictions with Hanoi.

What Happened

Despite their greatly improved relations seen in recent years, the United States now has Vietnam in the crosshairs of its global trade war. On July 2, the U.S. Commerce Department announced it would impose duties of up to 456 percent on steel from Vietnam that originated in either South Korea or Taiwan. The department has found that corrosion-resistant steel and cold-rolled steel produced in South Korea and Taiwan have been shipped to Vietnam for minor processing before being re-exported to the United States in a bid to circumvent U.S. anti-dumping duties imposed on South Korea in 2015, and later Taiwan in 2016. The new anti-dumping tariffs — which were triggered by pressure from the U.S. steel producers — will impact only a small amount of trade. The United States imposed similar restrictions in May 2018 on Chinese steel shipped to Vietnam. 

Closing Off America From Its Neighbors Isn’t Keeping It Great

Howard W. French

As the 17th-century poet John Donne wrote in those immortal lines, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”

Don’t be alarmed. This is not a column about poetry, or metaphysics, but about how the world economy has churned and woven its way, however unsteadily, toward closer and closer ties between different countries and regions, and thus toward greater integration overall. These processes are generally called globalization, lending to a sense that this is something relatively new, but in fact, it has been going on in one form or another for centuries.

This is also a column conceived as a sort of letter, one that is virtually addressed to Americans who are favorably inclined toward the foreign policy of President Donald Trump, especially regarding matters of trade and immigration. I’m not talking here about the most fervent members of his base, but rather, to those who are willing to reflect more on the question of what is meant practically by the slogan “Keep America Great,” and how one might infuse it with more positive meaning.

What to Expect From Israel’s Election Re-Run

By Dahlia Scheindlin 

At the end of May, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shocked Israel by calling for new national elections after he failed to form a governing coalition. Commentators dubbed the unprecedented new poll “Mo’ed B,” literally, a second scheduled date. The term also implies a second chance at success.

Despite failing to win a majority in the April elections, Israeli opposition parties of the center and the left didn’t seem to want a re-run; most of their lawmakers voted against the new elections. Ironically, it was the right-wing parties, who won a comfortable 65 seats (out of a total of 120), that voted themselves out of office. They clearly think they can do better. They may be right.

For over a decade, polling has repeatedly shown that center and left-wing voters make up less than half of the Israeli electorate. In a survey conducted just before the April elections, 41 percent of all voters identified as centrist or left wing, while 50 percent identified as right wing. This includes Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel, who make up about 20 percent of the population and vote mostly for Arab or left-wing Jewish parties, but who turn out at significantly lower rates than Jews. Election results therefore generally reflect the more right-wing tilt of Jewish Israeli voters. 

Restoring Forests Could Help Put a Brake on Global Warming, Study Finds

By Somini Sengupta

What if we stopped cutting down forests to produce palm oil and cattle? What if we grew new forests on vacant city lots, old industrial buildings — even golf courses?

For the first time, scientists have sought to quantify this thought experiment. How many trees could be planted on every available parcel of land on Earth, where they could go, and what impact could that have on our survival?

They concluded that the planet could support nearly 2.5 billion additional acres of forest without shrinking our cities and farms, and that those additional trees, when they mature, could store a whole lot of the extra carbon — 200 gigatons of carbon, to be precise — generated by industrial activity over the last 150 years.

Parts of the study — led by researchers at ETH Zurich, a university that specializes in science, technology and engineering — were immediately criticized.

What on Earth Is Going On?

UK’s GCHQ spy centre seeks new powers to circumvent encryption

By Thomas Scripps 

The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has proposed that tech companies allow state spies into encrypted chats and calls. The new surveillance measures, known as a “ghost protocol,” would allow a government agent to “sit in” on ostensibly secure private conversations without the knowledge of other participants.

This news comes just days after MI5 and GCHQ’s admission that they are acting illegally in their use of bulk data, gathered by intruding into the lives of millions of innocent people.

GCHQ spokesmen defended the demand for a ghost protocol with the Orwellian argument that such a method would maintain the security and privacy of encrypted communication, because the encryption itself would not be broken—just made irrelevant. Ian Levy, technical director of the UK’s national cyber security centre, and Crispin Robinson, head of cryptanalysis, said preposterously that the proposal was “no more intrusive than the virtual crocodile clips” used to wiretap non-encrypted communications.

The U.S. Unleashes Its Cyberweapons

The United States has made a strategic shift toward a more aggressive stance of conducting offensive cyberattacks to achieve strategic and tactical objectives.

The change has been years in the making, shaped by the unique architecture of cyberspace and on continued cyberattacks that have necessitated a shift in strategy by several Western powers toward incorporating offensive capabilities. 

With the United States increasingly viewing the world through the lens of competition with China and Russia, the shift in strategy to incorporate the increasing use of offensive cyberoperations is likely to be permanent.

In late June, an Iranian missile knocked a U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) on a reconnaissance mission out of the sky and into the Gulf of Oman. The shootdown sent ripples of concern throughout the Persian Gulf that the incident could lead both countries down a path to greater conflict. But the U.S. military response barely made a splash. That's because instead of a conventional airstrike against Iranian forces, the U.S. response came in the form of a cyberattack targeting missile command and control systems of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.