Friday, 28 January 2011

Middle East Dominoes

There has been a lot of talk about the Middle East experiencing a ‘domino effect’; one that would topple some of the most long-standing government’s in the region.

The story goes that once Tunisia went rogue, Egypt was awakened, Yemen was inspired, and places such as Morocco and Algeria are next. There is a danger here, however, in failing to see that the Middle East is not one homogenous block. The cases of Egypt and Yemen in particular, show that although both countries may be experiencing many of the same problems, the differing internal dynamics of each mean that the ‘end result’ is far from predictable.

Let’s start with the similarities. It would be wrong to suggest that the Tunisian affair did not spark the current crisis witnessed in both Egypt and Yemen, and although the spark should not be confused with the cause; the issues of corruption, representation, unemployment and rising food prices do resonate throughout both Egypt and Yemen, and are not unfamiliar elsewhere in the region. Indeed, Yemen is commonly known as the Middle East’s poorest country, with up to 40% of the population living on less than $2 a day, and both countries have, in Presidents Saleh and Mubarak, leaders that have both been in power for thirty years.

There are some marked differences, however, that should be stressed. The involvement of the Muslim Brotherhood in endorsing protests against Mubarak is a significant development within Egypt. The Brotherhood, although officially banned from elections, still represent a large number of ordinary citizens, and are an organized force that can put severe pressure on the Egyptian authorities. It will be a test of the strength of the Brotherhood to see how the group deal with the returning Mohamad El-Baradei, a leader sure to grab headlines, yet may draw his supporters from a more affluent section of Egypt’s population. It remains to be seen what kind of uprising we are witnessing- if the protests are truly grassroots, then the Brotherhood will be in pole position to challenge Mubarak directly. The harsh level of police crackdowns surrounding Friday prayers seems to suggest this may be the case.

Yemen, however, faces a different sort of challenge. The protests aimed thus far at President Saleh have been extremely less violent and confrontational than those seen in Egypt; and many commentators have indicated that the public’s anger is more at conditions rather than at Saleh himself. To be sure, corruption, justice, and fair representation are ultimately the responsibility of government authorities; yet Yemen’s internal dynamic sets a Houthi movement in the north and a Southern Movement in the south, against the backdrop of a weak government in Sanaa, and a tribal system that emanates across the whole of the country, often crossing the borders of provinces or districts. In addition, the threat of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula adds another dynamic to the domestic workings of Yemeni politics, culture and power.

So what can we draw from these two cases?

Firstly, the nature of the uprising in Yemen and especially in Egypt needs to be noted in the coming days or even weeks. If a grass roots level campaign to oust Mubarak is gaining momentum, so too will the Muslim Brotherhood, and the likelihood of their ascension into power. For Yemen, in which direction the protests spread will be key, as although the country is no stranger to Southern Movement rebellion coming out of Aden, the ability of the government to successfully control riotous elements of society will be crucial in determining how much power the Saleh regime still has.

Linked to this is the power of both the Egyptian and Yemeni armed forces. Mubarak has traditionally held great support from within his army, and in Yemen, pay was recently increased to the military in order for their continued support. If either of the two forces start to waver in their defence of the central authorities, the end of both government’s may be nigh. Indeed, one of the most preeminent reasons that Hariri’s government fell in Lebanon was that the support of the army was not significant enough to combat Hizballah forces, meaning that those who held the military power ultimately held political influence.

Finally, it is worth monitoring the actions of the both governments to see if reform has a chance. We know from Iranian history that reforming autocratic regimes can lead to revolution, and the installation of radical groups. The West will not want either Egypt or Yemen to go down that path, as both the Brotherhood’s influence within Palestine, and al-Qaeda’s in Yemen, clearly create problems for the wider region as a whole. Indeed, not only will the West be keen to maintain stability in the region, but so too will countries such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE; neither of which have an unblemished record in relation to political representation.

Therefore, although the ‘domino theory’ has a catchy ring to it, it will most likely be the internal dynamics that direct the outcome of both Egypt’s and Yemen’s demonstrations, rather than an overarching wave of uprising and rebellion under a regional banner of revolution. Tunisia may have started it, but local factors will determine where the protests end up.

by John Corner

Defence on the cheap?

Recent developments in Congress show that it is not only the UK cutting defence spending.  Is the US now condemned to defeat against a rising China?  Don’t be so hasty...

The Pentagon looks set to take a hit on its budget of up to $23 billion; a scary thought for those of us who depend on the US as a security blanket, right?  Maybe, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.  I’m almost sick of hearing the phrase myself, but in ‘these times of austerity’ cuts are necessary, across the board. 
Defence is an area in which cuts typically tend to make one wince.  After all, the clue is in the name: defence.  And so it is important to make clear from the off-set that these cuts are not a good thing.  In an ideal world, defence would increase year upon year so as to figuratively, and perhaps appropriately in this instance, literally blow the competition out of the water.  But there are ways of out-manoeuvring economic hardship.  In this instance, the Pentagon ought to take heed of one of its own concepts: the OODA loop.
By Observing, Orienting, Deciding and Acting, the Pentagon will be able to maintain the US Forces’ ability to stay ahead of the game, that is, maintain a position in which it will be able to overcome potential threats.  Let’s look at the bigger picture here; after all, that is what strategy is really all about.  What is on the horizon?  Full blown conventional war with China?  Perhaps dismissing that contingency out of hand would be naive, but it would appear more likely that irregular wars will retain the spotlight and continue to unfold in the steady rhythm which they have adhered to since The Berlin Wall was pulled down.
Even if we do consider war with China to be the most likely contingency, Beijing continues to languish behind Washington in terms of defence spending.  In real terms, the US is only actually returning to levels of spending seen around 2004, not 1904.  In terms of per capita spending, the new Pentagon budget will mean a figure of around $1,713.  China’s per capita spending is around $61.  Finally, while the US is stretching it’s military with a budget of $526 billion this year, China will surely be burning money for fun with a budget of around $80 billion, no?
Ok, so that is perhaps a little facetious.  After all, we need to look at longer term trends; we need to consider China’s future intentions; and the US needs to stay as far ahead as is possible.  But providing Congress isn’t planning to cut defence annually for the next two decades then a slight dip does not warrant an epidemic of panic.
Leslie Gelb commented in Foreign Affairs in November that GDP now matters more than force in defence.  In truth, he is stretching it there, a bit.  But there is an interesting point at hand.  What is the point of the military in the end?  Primarily to protect the nation that it serves.  I would suggest it’s worth having a nation worthy of saving in the first place and that starts at home.  This isn’t a return to isolationism; it’s not an end to expeditionary capabilities.  It’s pragmatism.  The US will continue to dominate the military sphere and what damage is done through these cuts can be remedied through tighter cooperation with allies and a concentration of force through instruments like NATO.  There will be a day when Pentagon defence spending rises again.  But to see that day, the US needs to stop the economic rot at home first and cuts are the first step on the road to recovery.
by Dane Vallejo

This blog was originally published by The Henry Jackson Society, 28/01/11, accessed at

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Viva Jhonattan Vegas

It may be 'just' a golf victory (an admirable one at that), but Jhonattan Vegas' victory in La Quinta is also a good opportunity to wave two fingers at Hugo Chavez...

Jhonattan Vegas became the first Venezuelan to win a major golf tournament last night with victory in the Bob Hope Classic in La Qunita, California.  Why does this matter?  He would probably say because it’s a great start to his fledgling career.  But from an admittedly slightly bizarre angle, I would say it is because this victory is a big ‘two fingers up’ at Hugo Chavez.
He may have offered his congratulations to Vegas, stating he at least "beat the gringos", but the Venezuelan President (ever nearing dictator) has gone on record in the past to call golf a “bourgeois” pastime, adding that golf courses should be paved over and used for housing for the poor.  Far be it from me to argue against better standards of living for the poor.  In fact, far be it from me to get involved in any bourgeoisie vs. proletariat debate whatsoever.  But Vegas’ victory has the potential to resonate throughout Venezuela; inspiring the poor to achieve through excellence, despite the constraints they are under in Chavez’s ever asphyxiating regime.  After all, Vegas is a man who began his golf career with a broomstick and a rock.
Hugo Chavez is, quite simply, a danger to his country, his immediate neighbours and potentially to the international system as a whole.  His calls to expropriate golf courses for the ‘public good’ (a dubious claim, to say the least) are but the latest in a long line of expropriations that completely contradict Article 115 of Venezuela’s constitution which protects its citizens’ right to private property and enterprise.  But this is just the tip of the iceberg.  This is the same man who has flagrantly abused his power, most recently by exploiting his country’s extensive flooding by engineering the right to rule by Presidential decree.  The same man who has censored the press extensively in Venezuela, stifling the right to freedom of information and association.  The same man who has crippled Venezuela’s economy, yet now has the temerity to verbally attack a sport for being contrary to the needs of Venezuela’s poor.
Add to the mix his ties with Russia, China and Iran, his pursuit of nuclear power, and his consistent undermining of international cooperation and trade and it's clear that Hugo Chavez is bad news.  And so I say ‘Viva Jhonattan Vegas’ for not only his fine sporting victory, but for the example he is setting for his fellow citizens against a backdrop of ascending autocracy.

by Dane Vallejo

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Murderers to Ministers?

Amid the remarkable turn of events which have seen Hezbollah figures implicated in the murder of Rafik Hariri, only to end up with ever more power in their hands, Lebanon’s citizens are right to take to the street in protest and deserve greater backing from the West...

A Hezbollah-controlled government would "clearly have an impact" on relations between Lebanon and the US, said Hilary Clinton in response to Najib Mikati’s ascent to prime minister-designate.  You don’t say?  Hezbollah’s ongoing ascent to the status of a serious political force is nothing short of a foreign policy catastrophe for the US and its allies.
Lebanon’s ongoing political crisis has been fairly kind on Hezbollah.  In fact, considering that a number of its members have been heavily implicated in the assassination of Rafik Hariri, Hezbollah has come out of the situation pretty well indeed. 
In accordance with the Lebanese constitution which, by design, shares power between Sunnis, Shias and Maronite Christians, Mikati is, of course, a Sunni.  Yet, having ousted Prime Minister Saad Hariri earlier this month, Hezbollah has ensured that his likely replacement falls, as much as is possible, on their side of the fence in the Sunni/Shia divide.  Has this completed the terrorist’s transition from murderers to ministers?  Perhaps not just yet, but the rise of Mikati who Nasrallah himself termed a “compromise figure” is clearly a step in the right direction for Hezbollah and a stride back for the West.
And so Lebanon’s citizens should be saluted for their political activism in taking to the streets and making their voices heard.  Protests in Tripoli, in the north of the country, were the most intense as 20 people were treated for injuries and a satellite truck used by Al-Jazeera was set ablaze.  But in Beirut also, protesters blocked a road with burning tyres and rubbish containers showing their support for Saad Hariri.
Clinton’s timid response, on the other hand, is straight out of the diplomatic textbook, when really, stronger action is needed.  Lebanon’s protestors deserve more robust support.  But more to the point, tougher action is required on an issue which is a painfully uncomfortable for the US too.  Hezbollah’s rise confirms a distressing reality for the US and its allies: Iran’s (and Syria’s) growing influence in the already notoriously unstable region.  Does a Hezbollah-controlled government “clearly have an impact,” then?  Sure.  But I can think of far more sobering ways of putting it.
by Dane Vallejo

This blog was originally published by The Henry Jackson Society, accessed at

Monday, 24 January 2011

Harvard’s Finest? The Ferguson-Kissinger Connection

If Niall Ferguson is to produce a first rate biography of Henry Kissinger, he will need to present more convincing arguments than the ones on display at the LSE...
Last week Harvard historian Professor Niall Ferguson was back at the London School of Economics, in his year-long capacity as Philippe Roman Chair in History and International Affairs, to deliver the third part in his lecture series on the Cold War. The topic of the most recent instalment was ‘the grand strategy of detente’, which as Ferguson made clear straight away, meant focusing on the architect of said strategy, Henry Kissinger. In addition to their mutual link to Harvard University, Ferguson is also Kissinger’s official biographer, having been given access to the former secretary of state’s papers, as well as to the man himself, to write a ‘warts and all’ (Ferguson’s phrase) account of Kissinger’s career.
 After an initial throat clearing in which he declared that since he had scarcely written a word of the book yet, his conclusions would be only tentative ones, he set straight out to attack those who have criticised Kissinger, and in particular, Christopher Hitchens. Making light of the fact that Hitchens’ book, The Trial of Henry Kissinger, started life as an article ‘in that renowned scholarly publication, Vanity Fair’ (actually it was Harpers), he went on to criticise the author for using an insufficient number of primary source documents in his footnotes. Considering the fact that Ferguson himself has been highly criticised by historians for failing to use any footnotes at all in his most popular books, accusations of being unscholarly seem a little hypocritical.
Following this, he again peddled the argument (first put forward in an article in the Sunday Times in May 2008) that criticism of Kissinger may have something to do with the fact that he is Jewish. Aside from the fact that his two most famous critics, Hitchens and Seymour Hersh, are themselves of Jewish ancestry, this disgusting accusation seems to suggest that there can be no political or moral reasons to dislike the man.
The point Ferguson is trying to make with this slur is that Kissinger has been unjustly singled out for special criticism, since similar policies to his own were adopted by all foreign policy makers during the Cold War. He sarcastically posed the question, why has no one written ‘The Trial of John Foster Dulles’, who as Secretary of State during the 1950s oversaw the calamitous American policy towards Guatemala? The answer to this question, to put it in a similar format, is the same reason why no one would think to deliver a lecture on ‘The Grand Strategy of Madeline Albright’. The fact is that Henry Kissinger had a hold upon American foreign policy that no other secretary of state could be argued to have possessed. When biographers write of Kissinger as virtually a second president when it came to foreign affairs, this is not hubris, and for much of the 1970s it was almost impossible to think of a foreign policy decision that had not been instigated by Kissinger. In fact, one of the most lamentable things about Kissinger is his willingness to boast about the amount of power he has when it suits him, yet insist that events were outside of his control when it does not, as in the cases of Cyprus and East Timor, to take just two examples.
Of the charges made against Kissinger by his critics, Ferguson dealt directly with only one in his hour long lecture, namely Kissinger’s involvement in the Vietnam debacle. With the help of a chart, Ferguson pointed to the ‘extraordinarily rapid decrease of American casualties in the Vietnam war after Richard Nixon became president, to the point that by the time he was re-elected, American casualties in Vietnam had essentially ended’. What the professor omitted is that the terms that the war ended on in 1973 were essentially the same as those being negotiated back in  1968 at the Paris peace talks, which the Nixon campaign (with Kissinger’s help) managed to undercut by insisting to the South Vietnamese that they could offer them a better deal should they abandon the negotiations. Moreover, Ferguson failed to make any reference to the number of Vietnamese who were killed after 1969, thus ignoring the important question, ‘is it morally acceptable to use whatever tactics one likes to achieve fewer American casualties?’ What if those tactics included (as they did) the illegal bombing of the independent state of Cambodia, which in addition to killing an unknowable number of Cambodians,  created the conditions necessary for the murderous Khmer Rouge to attain power?  
In attempting to demonstrate the incredibly difficult world situation that Kissinger faced, and thus the need for his grand strategy of detente, Ferguson asserted that the 1970s were the most violent of all the Cold War decades. Here he is in danger of confusing cause and effect. Is it not more accurate to point out that much of the violence in that decade was the product of actions that Kissinger supported – Bangladesh being only the most salient example – precisely because he was following a strategy that required him to worry only about the actions of the superpowers? This is something Ferguson tentatively admitted during the question period when he stated that ‘the superpowers probably made it [violence] slightly worse, maybe a lot worse in some cases’.
Finally, Ferguson turned to the most recent Kissinger controversy, namely the tape of him declaring to Nixon in March 1973, following a plea from Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir to push Moscow to allow the emigration of Soviet Jewry, that:
The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy. And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.
Having made reference to the event at the start of the lecture and merely stated that if we heard all the telephone conversations of other statesmen we would get a pretty nasty image of them too (not exactly a good defence), Ferguson returned to the subject towards the end of his lecture to assure us that contrary to how Kissinger’s statement may appear, it in fact shows how moral the man is. ‘Imagine’, Ferguson declares ‘what it means to say something like that when you personally, as a Jew, have seen a Nazi concentration camp liberated’. The professor went on to proclaim Kissinger to be ‘somebody who grapples endlessly with the fundamental moral problem of choice, of priorities, which is at the heart of any meaningful foreign policy’. Now come on. It is one thing to defend Kissinger on the basis that the anarchical nature of the international realm requires morals to be superseded by state interests, but to suggest that the man ‘grapples endlessly’ with moral issues is not borne out by the facts. Like any egomaniac, Kissinger has refused to accept that he made any mistakes in his time in office or to show any sympathy for the fate of small countries, which, when one considers the calamitous effects of many of his policies, is a rather disturbing sign.
Ferguson in undoubtedly a talented historian with a rare ability to make you challenge commonly held views. But if he is to produce a first rate biography of Kissinger, he will need to present more convincing arguments than the ones on display at the LSE.   

By Matt Jones

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

'Baby Doc' is not here to cure anyone...

As if Haiti did not have enough problems to deal with already, here comes one more burden...

Former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, aka ‘Baby Doc’, has returned to Haiti amidst political instability, chronic economic problems, and spreading disease.  In spite of a massive international support effort, the small Caribbean island is still struggling to recover from the devastating earthquake that hit last year, killing more than 316,000 people and flattening the capital, Port-au-Prince.

   After spending nearly 25 years in exile, Baby Doc says he is back to help.  Given the Haitian former-dictator’s abysmal track record, not to mention the ignominious manner in which he left the country (he was forced out in 1986 by popular unrest and a revolt) that this is Duvalier’s true intention seems unlikely indeed.  Much more probable is that he is back to take advantage of the political situation.

   Duvalier was arrested and questioned by the authorities, charged with embezzlement and misappropriation of funds whilst in power.  His case is now pending and a judge will decide whether there is enough evidence to prosecute.  It looks likely that he will also be charged with human rights violations, with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch potentially providing multiple reports detailing the tens of thousands Haitians who were killed by the sinister security forces, ‘Tonton Macoute’, that Duvalier used to control the country during his rule.

   Haiti struggled for years to establish democratic institutions after the former ‘President-for-Life’ left the country, and clearly, a return of a dictator cannot do much to strengthen these procedures.  Duvalier’s 15-year leadership was despotic, so how is anyone expected to trust him to promote democracy now?  But the political vacuum created in November has whetted his appetite for power.  Additionally, let us not forget that Duvalier had to be economically supported by his followers during his time living in France due to the fact he lost a large part of his fortune in a costly divorce settlement and his Swiss account has been frozen since 1986. However poor Haiti is, a corrupt leader may still benefit in economic terms.

   The US State Department said that Duvalier’s fate is a matter for Haiti to decide.  However, Western democracies have a moral duty to support the democratic institutions of the country and should endeavour to help the judicial system to practice unbiased conduct in the case against the notorious ex-dictator as much as possible.  A suffering country with no history of convicting corrupt leaders and a poor collective memory, with most of the population too young to remember, can use all the help and support it can get.

By Madalena Papadopoulou

This blog was originally published by The Henry Jackson Society, 19/01/11, accessed at

Saturday, 15 January 2011

India to limit its foreign defence dependence - still an opportunity for the West

To step ahead in world politics, India needs defence modernisation and limitation of its dependence on foreign suppliers. The West can turn this shift into an opportunity...

With the Chinese having unveiled their latest piece of high-tech military hardware – the stealth bomber – last week, the pressure is well and truly on for India to step up to the mark. It is becoming more and more evident to the Indian authorities that if the country does not develop its own military arsenal, limiting its dependence on foreign-made weapons, it will never manage to evolve into a significant pole in the international order.  However, its defence production is still in its infancy. 

   India has emerged as a major arms purchaser in the past few years.  The pace of acquisition and defence modernisation is nonetheless relatively slow.  India seeks a larger role in global politics; therefore, this large-scale dependence is only holding them back.  According to the Indian Minister of Defence, Mr Antony, foreign suppliers provide about 70% of Indian arms.  India’s government wishes to limit this dependence by attracting private domestic companies into building weapons, while also strengthening state-owned companies.  Last year the government issued repeated policies designed to attract the country’s private firms into making arms for its forces.  So far, lack of policy clarity has restricted the participation of the private companies.  Of the 30% of defence supplies procured domestically, the private sector barely supplies 9%.

   One recent development in the right direction is the launch of the light combat aircraft Tejas, which is considered worthy of induction into the Indian air force.  It just received its initial operational clearance certificate, while more aircrafts are about to be inducted by the end of the year. Tejas are expected to replace the Russian MiGs, however some analysts are not yet convinced.

   It is in the West’s best interest to have a strong India in the region, a country that is becoming a trustworthy ally.  Currently, India is spending about $11 billion on buying arms not only from US and Israel, but also from Russia and others.  Western countries can urge India to limit the dependence on Eastern suppliers, and at the same time, can invest in R&D, which is a sector within India that definitely needs a boost.

by Madalena Papadopoulou

This blog was originally published by The Henry Jackson Society, 14/01/11, accessed at

Friday, 14 January 2011

This is our foot; don't shoot!

As maverick Cowper-Cowles struggles to keep a lid on it, a wider question regarding support for our troops arises...

Serial maverick, Sir Sherard Cowper-Cowles has been at it again.  This time, it’s the army in his crosshairs.  Launching a war of words on Sir Richard Dannatt, Cowper-Cowles has branded the former Army chief a liar and effectively accused him of launching troops into Afghanistan for the end of protecting the army’s raison d’ĂȘtre.  “Use them or lose them,” Cowper-Cowles attributes Dannatt as saying; a point which the latter fervently denies.

Let’s step aside from the pantomime script – “oh no I didn’t,” “oh yes you did!” – we cannot possibly know how much truth is in these statements.  But there is a wider issue at hand.  Cowper-Cowles, a staunch critic of the ongoing campaign in Afghanistan, is bashing the forces at a time when support is needed. 

Public opinion, a key factor in any war launched by a democratic state, is particularly vital in counterinsurgency (COIN) environments.  Fighting wars deemed by the public to be ‘non-existential’, thousands of miles from home, for notoriously long periods of time (let us not forget that no successful COIN campaign has been won in anything short of a decade) will always be challenging.  Add the mix the fact that gains are incremental and subtle and that losses are tragic and widely reported and the public’s patience can become something of a proverbial ticking time bomb.  But in this case, it ought not to be.

British forces are in Afghanistan for pragmatic strategic reasons.  Whether Dannatt feared for the survival of his institution or not, trashing the campaign and pulling the plug on Afghanistan now would be both morally and strategically negligent.  Having toppled the barbaric Taliban regime, the Coalition has a moral obligation to stay the course and ensure security for Afghans so as to create the necessary breathing space for governance and development to mature and prosper.  At the same time the strategic significance, which has been well documented, is equally vital.  To recap, not only must we bring stability to Afghanistan as a means of battling Islamic extremism and its by-product of terrorism, but there is also a genuine obligation to ensure stability in a state which borders nuclear Pakistan and shares a feral tribal region in between.  Cutting our losses now would not only allow the Taliban a potential route to regional power, but it would also have a disastrously negative impact on our credibility which is vital in deterring future threats.

Military power and strategic guidance is not always enough to win in war if passion is found wanting.  Thus, Cowper-Cowles’s comments are not only unnecessary and untimely, but they are potentially hazardous if one considers the fine balance we are currently maintaining between fighting a worthwhile war and a near total collapse of public support.  Now is the time to tip the seesaw in favour of the former and see it through.

by Dane Vallejo

Originally published by The Henry Jackson Society, 14/01/11, accessed at  

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Economic Route to Iraqi Stability

Building a strong relationship with the new Iraqi government to foster security and economic stability is paramount; but the West should not lean on Iraq to counter Iran, as Iraq at present simply isn’t strong enough.
As we await the formation of the new Iraqi cabinet, the question of Iraq’s role in the wider Middle East, and which way it may lean in international terms, arises.  The West should concentrate on facilitating Iraq’s economic development; whilst at the same time remain central partners with the domestic Iraqi security forces.  Agreeing to remove troops and withdraw from Iraq should not mean an abandonment of the fragile state.  
Michael Eisenstadt has noted the decreasing number of Provisional Reconstruction Teams operating in Iraq, from 29 in 2009, to 16 in 2010.[i]  In addition, 2011 will see only two temporary Embassy Branches, in Mosul and Kirkuk, which are planned to be shut down in 3-5 years.  This would leave just two permanent consulates at Erbil and Basra, which as Eisenstadt argues, could potentially isolate the Embassy in Baghdad, and may impact detrimentally to the influence of the US in areas outside of urban centres.[ii]  
On the positive side, nearly all of Iraq’s governmental players (except for the Sadrists) have expressed some inclination and support for a strong US-Iraqi relationship in terms of security.  If Iyad Allawi does manage to form an effective Security Council body, then these ties have a greater chance of being realised.  What the US and Western influences should not do however, is to pressure Allawi unduly into security confrontations with Shi’ah powers in order to stifle Iran’s growing reach.  Rather, combating Iranian tentacles within Iraq, given the imminent withdrawal of forces, must be sought through regional economic cooperation and growth, and the development of a new Iraqi identity on a firm footing of domestic security. (A good test of Iraqi security will be the upcoming Ashura ceremonies, where US forces will leave all arrangements to the Iraqis).[iii]  To be sure, the West cannot afford to let Iran dominate Iraq; nor can Iraq afford a re-emergence of Baathist elements that are likely to increase sectarian divides.  Instead, Iraq must be given time and support in order to fashion its own plural identity.  To do this, security assistance from the US is needed.  So too is economic development and prosperity.  
Despite taking an age to form a new government, Iraq has shown the desire to increase its economic weight, and a clear sign of the government’s intent was signalled in early December with the invitation to build four large power plants in the Southern Iraqi governorates.[iv]  The aim is to increase generating capacity by 2,750 Megawatts, and is part of a larger plan to develop energy infrastructure to combat the dual problem of current power shortages, and growing domestic demand.  Indeed, Iraqi domestic demand is set to grow to 87 million barrels per day (bpd) next year, while spare oil capacity is set to fall dramatically.[v]   It is a problem that affects the entire Middle East, as the IEA forecasts a projected demand increase of 85 per cent for the region as a whole in the period 2008-2030.[vi]
Another example of expansion is found at Iraq’s biggest oilfield in Rumaila, where BP, China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) and Iraqi State owned South Oil Co have agreed to a joint project that will see the site expand to become the 2nd largest producing oilfield in the world.  As part of this, the consortium plan to triple production at the field to 2.85 million bpd.[vii]
The point here is not that foreign firms and Western capitalist interests are fulfilled by exploiting Iraq’s natural resources; but rather that by international investment and increased production, Iraq will benefit domestically from increased revenues, and will be bolstered within the region as a key economic hub and power.  On top of this, integrating Iraq into a wider system of international economies and trade lessens the likelihood that Iraq is manipulated by its immediate neighbours, as having a multitude of trading partners increases Iraq’s chances of maintaining its independence. 
For a country with such a diverse populace as Iraq, establishing a plurality of regional influences must be accomplished if sectarian divides are to be conquered, and a dissent into violence is to be avoided.  Here, growing economic ties can be used to facilitate strengthening political ties as Iraq interacts with all of its neighbours, rather than depending on a select few.
This may prove difficult at times for the West, as Iraq’s links to Iran, for geographical, historical and cultural reasons are very real.  There is no utility, therefore, in Western countries burying their heads in the sand and ignoring the ties, or attempting to dismantle them altogether.   Leaning on Iraq in order to pressure Iran at this premature stage of the new Iraqi state would do more harm than good to Iraq’s stability and development, and in turn, would only benefit Tehran’s hegemony within the region, turning its ‘spoiler power’ into proactive influence.[viii]
The West must therefore look to engage with Iraq economically, and bind the state into a system that will support stability and encourage growth.
by John Corner

China's Demographic Disadvantage

Since the financial crisis of 2008, an extraordinary amount has been written on the decline of American power and the rise of China, with some scholars going so far as to suggest that Beijing will replace Washington as the world’s 21st century superpower. These writers point to China’s incredible rates of growth over the past three decades, which have seen the nation’s GDP grow by almost ten percent per year, and their projected future growth rates, which, according to Goldman Sachs, will see China overtake the US in terms of GDP by 2027.i  These scholars also refer to the substantial problems within the American economy, with low growth rates predicted for years to come, and a federal debt that could equal total GDP as soon as 2015.ii  If victory in the Cold War was achieved by maintaining a significant economic advantage, then perhaps we should be readying ourselves for an international system dominated by Beijing. However, what these forecasters often underestimate is the important role that demographics may play in the economic outlook of both nations; and in this regard America has a distinct advantage.

Though inconceivable only a few decades ago, the People’s Republic is lacking people. Or at least it will be in the future. As a consequence of the one child policy introduced in 1978, China has had sub-replacement level fertility for the past twenty years, with a current average of just 1.5 children per women. This will result in a considerable decline in its quantity of young workers, who tend to have more energy, be better educated, and have a superior understanding of new technologies. Over the next 20 years, this group (defined as 15-29 year olds) is set to fall by approximately 100 million, or around 30 percent. This will be coupled by a huge expansion in its numbers of older citizens, who were born in the period before population controls. In 2010, there were approximately 115 million people of 65 years of age or older. But by 2030, this number is set to more than double, to 240 million people. In a country that has no national pension or health care systems, providing for this deluge of senior citizens provides a troubling conundrum.iii

Furthermore, thanks again to the one child policy, China now has a ratio of six men to every five women. This has already created a substantial number of disenchanted men in their twenties and early thirties who cannot find potential suitors, and this problem appears destined to worsen over the next few years. When one considers that many of these young men will have the added burden of providing for their parents and grandparents during old age, it is conceivable to imagine considerable social and economic problems arising over the next few decades.

In contrast to China, the United States’ demographic outlook for the future appears fairly healthy. According to 2008 US Census Bureau projections, the population is set to increase by 20 percent (310 to 374 million) between 2010 and 2030, during which time almost every age group within the nation will increase in size.iv  Unsurprisingly, America’s increasing population is largely a result of a willingness to produce more children. Unlike the drastically declining birth-rates witnessed in China, and indeed in almost the entirety of Europe, American fertility has remained at around replacement level over the past few decades, with the South, Southwest, and West showing the greatest enthusiasm for reproduction. If fertility remains at its current rate, as the US Census Bureau expects it to, then America will benefit from a 35 million surplus of births to deaths over the next two decades.

Moreover, as the recently released US Census shows, America’s strong demographic situation is also a product of immigration, which accounted for 40 percent of the increase in population over the past ten years.v  Indeed, since its founding, the United States has demonstrated an impressive ability to harness the creative capacity of millions of foreign-born workers to the benefit of the American economy. However, recent evidence suggests that the American people are becoming increasingly reluctant to endorse high levels of immigration. In 2008, 39 percent of the population favoured decreasing immigration, while by 2009, this figure had risen to 50  Though it is not surprising to see citizens attempting to reduce potential competition for jobs during a time of economic hardship, this worrying trend against immigration could increase in reaction to a substantial terrorist threat, or if the financial troubles persist. Were this to happen, the US would likely follow Europe and the Far East down the path to demographic decline. But, if America avoids this trap, it could be the only developed country in the world to witness a growth in its working age population over the next thirty years.

Of course, the US will not avoid many of the problems related to providing for the baby-boom generation, the first wave of which having already reached retirement age. But with a social security system already far superior to anything China can produce in the medium-term, a replacement-level birth-rate that Beijing cannot match, and a far healthier ratio of males to females, Washington is undoubtedly better prepared for many of the population challenges of the 21st century. For China to surpass America as the world’s preeminent superpower, it will have to overcome its significant demographic disadvantage.

by Matt Jones

i Niall Ferguson, “In China’s Orbit”, 2/12/2010:
iiRoger Altman and Richard Haas (2010), “American Profligacy and American Power”, Foreign Affairs Vol. 89, No. 6, p. 25.
iiiNicholas Eberstadt (2010), “The Democratic Future”, Foreign Affairs Vol. 89, No. 6, pp. 57-59.
ivUS Census Bureau, “Projections of the Population and Components of Change for the United States: 2010 to 2050”:
viJoseph Nye, Jr. (2010), “The Future of American Power”, Foreign Affairs Vol. 89, No. 6, p. 5

This article was originally published by The Henry Jackson Society, 10/01/11, accessed at

The times, they are a-worryin'

The collapse of Saad Hariri’s government in Lebanon, following the resignation of eleven Hizballah (or Hizballah aligned) ministers, was not unpredictable; the same, however, is not true of the future...  

In November I argued that tensions were on the rise, and a political vacuum would develop if Hizballah left the government under increased pressure.  Justice versus stability was never going to be easy in Lebanon. 

Ever since the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) results were leaked last year, and Hizballah was publically accused of the murder of Rafik Hariri in 2005, the Shi’ah group have been on the defensive, and were not likely to let the UN tribunal accuse and arrest its members peacefully.  The fall of the government, and now absence of an authoritative power in Beirut, coupled with an already weak Lebanese Army, now means that the enforcement capability of Saad Hariri is dramatically reduced.  Indeed, if the STL findings are ever published, it is doubtful they will achieve justice: the political climate is far from that of 2005, when the outrage over the assassination led to the withdrawal of Syrian forces for the first time in decades.

So where to now?

Internally, Lebanon is likely to be tense for some time.  Efforts to form a new government will be tough, as Hizballah may have the power to dismantle the government, yet this does not equate to creative power.  Saad Hariri is still the most likely leader in the medium term, but a shift in coalition politics will be needed for a new government to emerge with any substance.  The Christian groups allied to Hizballah may be worth watching here, as their support could either isolate or reaffirm the weight of the Shi’ah block.

In terms of foreign pressures, most attention will now fall on Iranian influences within the south and eastern Hizballah strongholds, but the most interesting actor may be Syria.  Known as the historical foe of Beirut, Syrian efforts to broker peace in conjunction with Saudi Arabia obviously did not work.  Here, as with the Christian groups, any support of Hizballah will strengthen the hand of Iran greatly.  Do not be surprised, therefore, if Western efforts to stabilise Lebanon increasingly include Syria, along with the Saudis and Turkey.

The greatest fear in all of this is the threat of violence, both on the streets and across borders.  Indeed, from Israel’s point of view, an unchecked Hizballah now free of governmental constraints, sitting on her northern border, will no doubt be unwelcome.

In hoping to avoid violence, the West must be careful not to substitute justice for stability.  Whilst the UN trial continues, efforts should be made to support the internationally recognised body in all of its work, and in the longer term, maintaining Lebanese sovereignty will be crucial to not let Lebanon fall back into the fighting ground of the region's varying influences.  To do this, UN forces must be given strong backing and support from the wider international community.
by John Corner
This article was originally published by The Henry Jackson Society, 13/01/11, accessed at

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

A Matter of Principle

Why Turkey must not yet be allowed into Europe...

Writing in the Guardian last year, Martin Kettle argued that it was ‘disgraceful’ that Turkey’s bid to join the European Union was moving so slowly. He thus echoed the views of Prime Minister David Cameron who, last July, expressed his anger towards those in Europe who are hostile to Turkish membership, asserting that it is ‘wrong to say that Turkey can guard the camp but not be allowed to sit in the tent’. What neither Kettle nor Cameron seems to recognise is that there are important legal and political reasons preventing Turkey from becoming a part of Europe, and until these challenges are met, its membership must be refused as a matter of principle.
Firstly, the government in Ankara maintains its illegal occupation of Cyprus, a nation already possessing EU membership. Since the forced partition in 1974, Turkey has evicted almost one-third of the original Greek-Cypriot population from their homes, imported Turks from the mainland to inhabit the territory, and persistently used aid and weaponry given to it by the United States specifically for its own defense to help with its occupation and colonization of the island. Turkey remains the only country in the world to recognise northern Cyprus as a state and maintains a 30,000 strong troop presence there to this day.
Secondly, Turkey persists in its denial of rights to the country’s Kurdish minority. Despite constituting around 18 percent of the population, the Kurds have had their language prohibited from being taught in public schools, their political parties banned, and their freedom of expression curtailed by stringent laws. Though the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made improvements on the issue in recent years, there remains a great distance to go.
Finally, the Turkish government continues to lie about the genocide of 1915, in which one and a half million Christian Armenians were systematically murdered by the Ottoman Turks. Though some may argue that what happened almost 100 years ago is unimportant today, imagine what the international reaction would be if the German government refused to accept that the Holocaust ever occurred. Like the events of 1939-45, we have pictures, original Ottoman documents, first-hand accounts of witnesses, a post-war trial, and even movie reel from the First World War to attest to the genocide of the Armenians, yet the Turkish government still peddles the lie that any violence that occurred was the product of a civil war. Moreover, thanks to its grotesque ‘Law 301’ which prohibits ‘denigration of the Turkish nation’, writers who dare to speak out about Turkish atrocities are regularly prosecuted by the government.
A country that maintains its illegal occupation of Cyprus, suppresses Kurdish rights, lies about the twentieth century’s first genocide, and incriminates its own writers for daring to speak the truth about their country’s history is not one that should be allowed into the European ‘tent’. Until the Turkish government is willing to drastically reconsider its position in regards to these important issues, Turkey is destined to remain out in the cold.
by Matt Jones

A Little Less Conversation, A Little More Action

Fighting Islamism head on in a war of words for the malevolent force that it is is all well and good, but to make strides in the struggle, the transatlantic community should also look to the virtue of international development...

Identity politics are a major aspect of the transatlantic community’s ongoing struggle with terrorism.  Ideology, religion and ethnicity all play a pivotal role in generating the friction that has on too many occasions reached an emotional intensity that has lead to repulsive and indefensible acts of terrorism.  Yet, in managing the problem, there is another angle to be explored; the role of development.

Hillary Clinton’s surprise visit to Yemen, the first by a Secretary of State in 20 years, highlighted this stream of consciousness.  "It's not enough to have military-to-military relations [only]," said Clinton.  Instead, she discussed with her audience in Sanaa the need to recalculate US aid to Yemen so as to emphasise social and economic reform. 

Terrorism will likely always occur; as will theft, as will rape, as will murder.  These are sad facts of the human condition.  Look no further than Arizona this week to see that extreme events can occur at the flex of a fanatical lone wolf’s trigger finger.  And so beating terrorism is really about managing the threat.  It is about reducing both the severity and occurrence of terrorist acts and inhibiting the ability of larger coordinated networks to act.

Half the battle is reducing numbers.  There are so called ‘pious’ (read poisonous) clerics who will always incite other fanatics to act.  Here is where we ought to employ the virtue of law enforcement; the reactionary element of a cohesive counterterrorism campaign.  But alongside that, we must focus on development so as to help stop some of those otherwise un-radicalised from becoming so.

Bankrolling Sanaa is not only beneficial for the purpose of allowing Yemen’s government to deal with the Shia Houthi rebels in its north, the secessionist movement in its south and its critical battle with al Qaeda.  No, it can also be beneficial for the purpose of improving infrastructure, enhancing opportunities for economic prosperity and increasing the quality of education for Yemen’s citizens thereby removing a state of being which has driven many to extremism out of frustration.  Of course, it is of equal importance to ensure that the money is spent well and free of corruption, but providing this, the sentiment is clear; more of the same please, Secretary Clinton.

by Dane Vallejo

This blog was originally published by The Henry Jackson Society, 12/01/11, accessed at