1
Apr

The definition of war, according to military scholar Gen. Carl von Clausewitz, is “an act of violence intended to compel [your] opponent to fulfill [your] will.” In other words, nation-states establish militaries so that they can force an opponent to do what they want. However, a military’s role can also be more complex than just fighting an enemy. Despite the fact that no major global war is currently being fought, many of the world’s nation-states still maintain large standing armies with hundreds of thousands of active military personnel. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, there are over 20 million military personnel on active duty throughout the world. If you take into account reserves and paramilitary forces, that number climbs to well over 60 million.

The first reason countries maintain large militaries is that nation-states cannot be too optimistic – they must be prepared for armed conflict and develop military capabilities according to their own unique threat environments. But the second reason is that national militaries often help maintain national unity.

Take China for example. China has a mass-mobilization army, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), that was designed to fight a type of war that isn’t fought anymore. But the PLA is not just a military force – it is a political force too. It serves both as the ultimate guarantor of the Communist Party’s rule and it is an institution for advancement for poor Chinese young men with dismal prospects. The PLA has to be strong enough to fend off a potential attack from Russia or Japan – but before it can do that, the PLA must be part of the glue that holds China together. Without that stabilizing effect, China is at risk of fragmenting along regional lines, as it has numerous times through its history. Read more…

 

Published on 29 March in https://geopoliticalfutures.com

31
Mar

Economic sanctions have become the “silver bullet” of American foreign policy over the past decade, because they’re cheaper and more effective in compelling adversaries than traditional military power. But Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warns of a “risk of overuse” that could neuter the sanctions weapon and harm America.

Lew made his unusual case against “sanctions overreach” in an interview last week and in a speech prepared for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His caution against overuse comes as some Republican members of Congress are fighting to maintain U.S. sanctions on the Iranian nuclear program, despite last year’s deal limiting that Iranian threat.

By highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of sanctions, Lew is raising an important question about the nature of American power in the 21st century. Sanctions have clout because U.S. financial markets are the central nervous system of the globalized economy. But if so many sanctions are applied that the U.S. system becomes too complicated and cumbersome for foreigners, they will eventually find ways to do business outside U.S. markets — weakening both our sanctions and our underlying economy. The magic bullet will become a poison pill.

Lew notes that U.S. sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program showed how effective this weapon can be when it’s carefully fashioned as part of a broad coalition. America’s program of so-called “secondary” sanctions didn’t just ban U.S. companies from doing business with Iran; they banned any company operating in Iran from using U.S. banks or other financial institutions. That made Iran a no-go zone for most Western companies. Read more…

 

Published in the nyt.com

Opinion writer March 29

 

 

Contrast the success of this coordinated effort in bringing Iran to the table with five decades of unilateral U.S. sanctions against the Castro regime in Cuba, which Lew rightly notes were “ineffective,” to put it mildly.

Lew’s larger point is that sanctions won’t work if countries don’t get the reward they were promised — in the removal of sanctions — once they accede to U.S. demands.

23
Mar

I HAVE worked for the United Nations for most of the last three decades. I was a human rights officer in Haiti in the 1990s and served in the former Yugoslavia during the Srebrenica genocide. I helped lead the response to the Indian Ocean tsunami and the Haitian earthquake, planned the mission to eliminate Syrian chemical weapons, and most recently led the Ebola mission in West Africa. I care deeply for the principles the United Nations is designed to uphold.

And that’s why I have decided to leave.

The world faces a range of terrifying crises, from the threat of climate change to terrorist breeding grounds in places like Syria, Iraq and Somalia. The United Nations is uniquely placed to meet these challenges, and it is doing invaluable work, like protecting civilians and delivering humanitarian aid in South Sudan and elsewhere. But in terms of its overall mission, thanks to colossal mismanagement, the United Nations is failing.

Six years ago, I became an assistant secretary general, posted to the headquarters in New York. I was no stranger to red tape, but I was unprepared for the blur of Orwellian admonitions and Carrollian logic that govern the place. If you locked a team of evil geniuses in a laboratory, they could not design a bureaucracy so maddeningly complex, requiring so much effort but in the end incapable of delivering the intended result. The system is a black hole into which disappear countless tax dollars and human aspirations, never to be seen again. Read more…

21
Mar

Obama’s Cuban revolution

Written on March 21, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Americas, Democracy & Human Rights, Foreign Policy

The Obamas arrive at Jose Marti International Airport on Sunday.

President Barack Obama’s trip to Cuba is a metaphor for his foreign policy and a potential glimpse into his post-presidency, all embodied in one landing here at José Martí International Airport on Sunday afternoon.

With his decision to move toward normalized relations with the Castro regime, Obama forced a geopolitical transformation, a rare instance when a president can start and nearly finish so complete a change in foreign policy within his term in office. And he did it less with a pen and a phone than with a series of prods and the force of his personality.

The Cuba reopening is a snapshot of Obama’s approach the past seven years: an analytic rethinking of America’s interests and a pragmatism about how to achieve them, pursued despite political resistance and without much cooperation from Congress. Typically, it’s sparked a debate between supporters who see him breaking through calcified thinking and critics who say he’s willingly overlooked facts in order to gamble with abhorrent leaders for what would at best be shortsighted gains.

The detractors point to the dissidents arrested and rearrested in the days leading up to this trip, all while the Castro government has pushed back on the idea that Obama will be able to use the trip to get it to change. On the contrary, they’ve said, Obama’s arrival is proof that the human rights abuses they’ve been accused of must not exist, because otherwise he wouldn’t have come.

But even that attests to the force of Obama’s presence. In Havana, the big deal isn’t just that an American president is visiting again, the first time since Calvin Coolidge arrived by battleship in 1928. It’s not that Air Force One has landed.

It’s that Obama walked out. And that’s a power that will remain with him.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2016/03/obamas-cuban-renaissance-220999#ixzz43X7P6W8w

03/20/16

16
Mar

hen I was 7, growing up in a Czechoslovakia that had just recently shed Communist rule, my family took me on a trip to Hanover, Germany, to visit some émigré friends. This was my first visit to the West — the mythical place that most Eastern Europeans knew only from television commercials and Hollywood films. I was mesmerized by the obvious prosperity (to this day I can remember my first taste of the soft-serve ice cream at IKEA), the clean streets, and the sense of social order.

The West — both real and imagined — played a critical role in the success of post-Communist transitions the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and the Baltic states. The prospect of becoming like the West enabled politicians from these countries to justify policy decisions that would not otherwise have been accepted.

Many of the necessary reforms carried short-term political, economic, or social costs. Yet their proponents were able to point out to the expected benefits of joining the European Union and NATO, which required prospective members to put their political and economic house in order. More fundamentally, many voters in the post-Communist world wanted their countries to be as prosperous, democratic, and well-governed as the West — or, at least, as they imagined it to be. Even if their idea of the West was naïve, it helped them carry the burden of policy changes that have ultimately turned Central Europe into a much better place than it was 26 years ago. Read more…

  • By Dalibor Rohac is a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
  • March 11, 2016
  • www.foreignpolicy.com

 

 

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