15 August 2014

Is the World Falling Apart?

The world can be an awfully dangerous and unpredictable place.
Related Media and Tools
    The world can be an awfully dangerous and unpredictable place. As news was breaking that the United States initiated airstrikes against militants in Iraq, fears were mounting about the Russian troops amassed near the border with Ukraine, momentarily eclipsing headlines of the war in Gaza, the insurgency in Syria, tensions in Asia, and other global concerns. And every day seems to bring more bad news as instability rages on.
    But is the level of turmoil really unique? Or does it just feel like it?
    Carnegie experts from around the world assess the situation and today’s foremost geopolitical hotspots. It’s some much-needed sober analysis during heady times.   


    Thomas Carothers: When crisis cascades hit the international system, as has happened over the past half year, it is always difficult to judge the lasting significance of the roiling events that suddenly dominate the news. None of the current flashpoints is undermining the overall international order yet they are all of considerable significance beyond the harm they are inflicting because they are manifestations of longer-term, deep-reaching trends in the international system.
    The tensions in the South China Sea are a reflection of the ongoing rise of China and the rebalancing of the basic security order in Asia. The crisis in Ukraine is the final nail in the coffin of the major U.S. effort of the past five years to build a broadly cooperative relationship with Russia.
    The civil wars in Iraq and Syria are part of an ominous larger wave of spiraling conflict in the Arab world, and a clear indication that the main locus of radical jihadism has moved from al-Qaeda in South Asia to various groups in the Middle East. The fighting between Israel and Gaza highlights the fact that the failed peace process between Israel and the Palestinians leaves in place not a workable status quo but a fundamental conflict that will keep descending into violence.
    In different ways, these flashpoints all underline the continued diffusion of power away from the United States to other actors, whether to different regional powers or to nonstate actors. They remind us that such diffusion will multiply the sources of violent conflict in the world. They also are a sober tonic for anyone who started to believe that military force was somehow on its way out in international relations.
    Professor Steven Pinker may be right about the overall decline in violence in the world when looked at in a larger historical perspective. But these multiple flashpoints make clear that violence, or the threat of violence by actors of many different types, will continue to shape different parts of the international landscape for the foreseeable future.


    Andrew S. Weiss: We don’t really know how worried to be about the risk of a Russian invasion. President Barack Obama told the New York Times’s Thomas Friedman in early August that Russian President Vladimir Putin “could invade” at any time, and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said that “there is a high probability” of Russian military action.
    These jitters reflect the fact that Moscow is building up its troop presence along the border and Ukrainian forces are putting serious pressure on the separatists in and around their two main strongholds in eastern Ukraine. Will Putin just stand by and abandon his proxies? Would Putin be humiliated if they’re slaughtered by an enemy that has been thoroughly demonized by the Russian state-controlled media?
    At the same time, Moscow may have other tools short of invasion that can help buy time or keep the Ukrainians off-balance in Donetsk and Luhansk. There’s also a growing suspicion that Putin doesn’t actually want key separatist leaders or the radical nationalists who went to Ukraine to fight coming back to Russia itself. They could become a destabilizing factor for him at home. 
    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is keen to wrap up the military operations in the east so that he can focus on his reform agenda, the dismal economic situation facing the country, and a parliamentary election that he wants to hold in October. One interesting wrinkle for Ukraine will be the growing political influence of the paramilitary and irregular volunteer units that have done most of the fighting. These fighters—and just as importantly the oligarchs and regional power brokers who financed their battalions—are going to become a force unto themselves in Ukrainian politics in coming months.


    Marwan Muasher: Unfortunately there is no lasting end to the conflict in sight.
    A ceasefire that lasts for more than a few days is likely to be reached eventually. But it will probably be similar to previous ones, and there’s little hope that it will move the peace process forward.
    Israel is pursuing tactical objectives to appease public fears and hardliners in the Israeli cabinet—all at the expense of Palestinians. If Israel’s intention is to disarm or weaken Hamas, it’s probably going to walk away empty-handed. Three ground incursions in the last six years (and another war against Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006) all failed to achieve the goals of disarming and weakening its opponents.
    In fact, Hamas is proving that it has been able to strengthen its military capabilities over time. It is clearly better prepared this time around. While the rockets launched against Israel have not resulted in much physical damage, they may begin to shatter the false sense of security enjoyed by many Israelis. And Israeli soldiers have lost their lives in the fighting. 
    Hamas is also gaining popularity as a result of Israel’s latest moves. For the first time in years, Hamas is more popular than Fatah in polls. The pictures of civilian deaths, particularly of women and children, on Arab television networks have been horrific and markedly shifted the public mood in favor of Hamas. Israel’s claim of exercising caution to limit civilian casualties is widely disregarded across the Arab world.
    Without addressing the core issue of the conflict—Israel’s occupation—there is little hope that this cycle won’t just keep repeating itself. It is safe to expect future incursions, followed by ceasefires that won’t last, followed by yet more incursions. And Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere will continue to bear the brunt of these actions. It’s no wonder most people see little prospect of a breakthrough that would finally end the occupation.


    Lina Khatib: With its advance in Iraq in recent months, the militant Islamic State managed to link the territories under its control in both Iraq and Syria, erasing the border and declaring a caliphate. The group’s control in both countries is likely to endure, but it won’t necessarily expand significantly.
    The Islamic State uses a mixture of violence and negotiation to seize territory. Its hybrid strategy was on display in both Iraq and Syria, including its decision to form alliances with local clans and tribes. 
    In Iraq, the group’s appeal among the Sunni tribes it relied on for its rapid advance comes mainly from widespread grievances against the Iraqi government. Sunnis have been discriminated against by all levels of the government, and the Islamic State offers those tribes a chance to exact revenge. It deliberately incites sectarian hatred to rally Iraqi Sunnis against Shias. 
    The U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic State in Kurdish areas will prevent the group’s fighters from advancing north, but they will not solve the larger problem that the Islamic State enjoys local buy-in among Iraqi Sunnis. Forming an inclusive government should be the top priority for Iraq’s newly elected prime minister. As long as the Iraqi government does not engage in serious reform efforts that rethink its structure and policies, the Islamic State will continue to use the sectarian card to its advantage. 
    In Syria, the conflict grinds on. Fear and exhaustion are causing many to remain silent in the face of the Islamic State, while others, in a bid for self-preservation, are seeking to ally with the group that appears to be the strongest, richest, and most durable. Some Al-Qaeda fighters are also defecting, strengthening the Islamic State’s reach and resources, while the moderate opposition and Jabhat al-Nusra have not been able to stand up to the Islamic State.
    Although the Syrian government has recently changed its stance toward the group and is attacking the Islamic State’s stronghold in Raqqa, fighting the group is not the Assad regime’s priority. Instead, the regime will focus its energy on maintaining control over the key areas already under its authority, leaving the east for the Islamic State. This is partly because neither the Syrian army nor the Islamic State is capable of completely overwhelming the other militarily.
    As long as the regime continues to terrorize and starve its own people, while the moderate Syrian opposition fails to deliver tangible political and military results, the Islamic State will continue to hold the areas under its control in the east.
    The opportunities that have played out to the advantage of the Islamic State remain strong, meaning that the Islamic State is likely to continue to deepen its roots in the areas already under its control in Syria and Iraq. The prospect of eradicating the group in both countries is far-fetched.   


    Marwan Muasher: The expectations of the last three years in the Arab world have given way to reality. The term “Arab Spring” was always too simplistic as transformational processes inevitably take time and defy black-and-white expectations. The Arab Awakening will need to be judged over decades—not years—and there will be different outcomes in different countries depending on the choices they make.
    One thing is clear: you reap what you sow. Decades of artificially induced stability were always unsustainable. Arab regimes resorted to brute force to prolong their own rule, preventing the healthy development of societies. This left problems lurking just beneath the surface, and once the lid was opened slightly, the backlash was fast and powerful.
    But a pluralistic and democratic society will not simply emerge because an authoritarian leader is toppled. Without properly developing institutions that can support a democratic culture and defend the rule of law, frustration will mount again and often lead to catastrophic outcomes.
    The rise of the Islamic State is a case in point. The group doesn’t control parts of Iraq because it has superior military capabilities—it has made rapid gains because it is operating in an environment where people feel marginalized and are therefore willing to support any force that could redress basic grievances. This is why there is no purely military solution to the problem. There must be a political process that addresses the root causes of the instability, ensuring the Sunni community feels like it has a say in its leaders and the country’s future. 
    Restoring the status quo ante in the Arab world—even if it were possible—would merely re-create the same conditions that led to the chaos we see today. Those who want a better future have to start building the pillars of democratic societies.
    Despite the turmoil in the region, the Arab world is not condemned to instability and violence. Tunisia has already demonstrated what a commitment to pluralism and inclusion can produce in three short years. But old forces must realize that the old Arab order is done—forever. Either new leaders will share power, develop inclusive policies, defend the rule of law, offer sound economic plans, and establish meaningful institutions to fight corruption or more chaos lies ahead. 
    The choice is the Arab world’s to make.


    Douglas Paal: The risk of conflict in Asian waters has been rising for more than the four years. But it is still a relatively small risk.
    All the players are essentially cautious governments that are trying to avoid crossing redlines. The lingering concern is whether they clearly understand where the redlines are as they maneuver for advantage. Misjudgment is the key variable that can push tensions to the point of conflict.
    China, for its part, is now the most self-confident in the region and has built up capabilities and resources over the past two decades that surpass those of its neighbors.
    Beijing believes it must redress the damage to its interests that history has bequeathed. In Beijing’s thinking, encroachments occurred on China’s territorial claims by neighbors and imperialists, often in periods of China’s own self-imposed isolation. So the Chinese do not think of themselves as being aggressive but as being reactive to the actions of others at a time when they can now better defend their interests.


    Thomas Carothers: The cascade of international crises has multiple implications for the United States and the world.
    First, these events highlight the fact that U.S. power is now constantly being tested by rising actors seeking to determine how much ability and will the United States has to maintain order. The U.S. response to a test in one region will resound loudly as an example to actors in other regions.
    Second, the idea of a pivot to Asia may have had some appeal when the Obama administration floated it, but any notion that the United States will not keep facing fundamental security challenges in the Middle East, Europe, and elsewhere outside of Asia is now clearly an illusion. What the pivot should therefore actually consist of is completely unclear.
    Following from that is a third implication. The U.S. policy establishment likes to try to frame U.S. security in terms of one overarching challenge—such as the war on terrorism—and mobilize resources accordingly. Yet what the United States faces in the world are quite different security challenges that require wholly different types of responses.
    Washington needs to move away from the habit of configuring its foreign policy machinery for one big thing—we have to be equally adept, equipped, and prepared to put forward masterful strategic diplomacy in Asia; shrewd diplomatic, economic, and political responses to Russia; effective efforts to deal with the spread of jihadist actors in the Arab world and sub-Saharan Africa; and much else.
    The long-standing habit of thinking about a single doctrine or an overarching approach for U.S. foreign policy is badly outdated.

    Young and jobless in India

    Published: August 15, 2014 
    Charan Singh
    The HinduINSIGHT: The reason for unemployment could be the lack of employment because of the quality of education or lack of opportunities. Picture shows young workers returning home after sorting coal in Gonda district, Uttar Pradesh. Photo: R.V. Moorthy

    India must devise a demographic policy to separately meet the requirements of the young, middle-aged and elderly

    The Census data released recently show that unemployment in the country, especially among the youth, is very high, averaging nearly 20 per cent for the age group of 15-24 years. In some States like Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, the unemployment rate is above 25 per cent. Prosperous States like Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat and Maharashtra have averages that are less than half of the national average. Demographic dividend in the country is not being appropriately used and there is a need to revisit the demographic policy so as to tap benefits from the youth.

    Devising a demographic policy

    There is also a larger issue of devising a demographic policy to separately meet the requirements of the young, middle-aged and older segment of the population. The reason for unemployment could be the lack of employment because of the quality of education or lack of opportunities. India has more than 71,000 pre-degree colleges and senior secondary schools, 25,938 colleges for professional educational and 436 universities. These are in addition to the nearly 14 lakh schools in the country for a population of 25 crore children in the age group of 5-14 years. Hence, given the number of educational institutions, there is a need to improve the quality of education by ushering in competition, by probably inviting foreign universities to set up campuses in India.

    Employment creation is a function of economic growth, capital investment and infrastructure. As the process involves a long gestation period, one practical way could be to train our youth for employment opportunities abroad. India already has a strong outflow of migrants of which two-thirds migrate to the Gulf countries, 13 per cent migrate to North America while Asian countries, other than Persian Gulf, absorb about 10 percent. In contrast, fast-ageing Europe attracts less than 3 per cent of migrants but offers excellent opportunities for high and medium-skilled labour, especially in Italy, Germany, Poland and France. These opportunities need to be availed of the near future by appropriate manpower planning. In recent years, migration to countries like Spain, Switzerland, Italy and the U.K. has increased but not in significant numbers to Germany, France and Poland. In fact, the flow of migrants to countries like Portugal and Austria declined in the last decade. These countries need immigrants as the native population in many of these countries is shrinking, given the low birth rate averaging 1.6 births per woman against the replacement rate of 2.1. In countries like Germany, Spain, Italy, and Poland, the birth rate is less than 1.5 births per woman and these countries depend on immigrants. According to official statistics, consequent to ageing, one-third Europeans would be above 65 years of age by 2060. Consequently, migration to Europe is expected to increase significantly by 2020 — 1 million in Germany, 1.1 million in Spain, 1.3 million in Poland, 1.4 million in the U.K., and 2.1 million in France. Further, migration is expected to add up to 60 million people in Europe by 2060.Providing suitable skills

    Why countries fail

    Aug 15, 2014

    India didn’t stop being a nation after the collapse of the Mauryan or Gupta empires. It still endures as a nation state. A shared perspective of history now enables an Indian to view an Ashokan inscription with as much proprietary pride as the Taj Mahal.

    In common parlance we use state and nation interchangeably, when that should not be the case. Because they are as different as cheese and chalk. A state is an organised political community living under a government, and it’s a sovereign political entity in public international law.

    It’s a society having exclusive domain over a territory. A state, in most contexts, is virtually synonymous with a government whose writ extends over a people and/or a territory.
    The term nation is a complex concept that has a variety of definitions. There are two widely accepted explanations of a nation. While the conventional definition of a nation is a large group of people who share a common territory and government irrespective of their ethnic make-up, it is not the only explanation. To some, nation refers to a shared cultural experience, such as Islam or Communism, or at one time even Christianity — an organisation with no physical borders yet sharing a common bond because of shared beliefs or ethnicity.
    A nation state is a state that coincides with a nation. We all know about failed states. But nations never really fail. They get overtaken or subsumed or recede, but rarely do they disappear. That’s why many prefer the word country. It is more encompassing and generous in applicability. A country is a region identified as a distinct entity in political geography. In common parlance, it refers to a sovereign state.

    History is mostly about the rise and fall of great and some not so great states and nation-states. When their borders extended, they were deemed great. When they receded they were deemed as having failed. About a thousand years ago, arguably the greatest nation in Europe was Lithuania. The writ of the Lithuanian rulers extended over much of modern Ukraine, Poland, Germany, Russia and Sweden. Today, it is a tiny newly independent Baltic nation-state. Remember Macedon and Alexander’s all conquering host?
    India did not stop being a nation after the collapse of the Mauryan or Gupta or Mughal empires. It still endures as a nation-state now united by a set of values and aspirations, and even shared perspective of history. This shared perspective now enables an Indian to view an Ashokan inscription with as much proprietary pride as the Taj Mahal.

    ***** Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the Theory and Practice of Jihad

    August 12, 2014

    Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the Theory and Practice of Jihad

    Now that Americans are dropping bombs on the forces of al Baghdadi’s Caliphate, it may be appropriate to examine his warfighting style.

    Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is not a formally trained military commander. However, he is not illiterate or a common thug such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who led al Qaeda in Iraq until his death in 2006. Al-Baghdadi holds a doctorate in theology from a theological seminary and appears to be a keen student of American tactics as they were passed on to the Iraqi Army, as well as the military practices of his Syrian Baathist opponents. Whether he is a military prodigy or merely a very talented student and practitioner of military art is irrelevant. To date, he has shown himself to be a very effective commander.

    Like the prophet Mohammed from whom he claims descent, al-Baghdadi sees himself as a soldier-Imam and recognizes no difference between fighting, governing, and religion. This allows him to flow seamlessly between mediums. If we write him off as a mere terrorist, we make the mistake of underestimating him. He is generally considered to be a crackpot by serious Islamic scholars, but he controls a tract of land that includes most of al-Anbar province, much of eastern Syria, and Iraq’s second largest city; that makes him a serious player in the region. However, we should also beware of making him out to be ten feet tall. If we are going to deal with him, we need to understand how he fights and governs as well as his strengths and weaknesses.

    There is both military art and science behind al-Baghdadi’s recent successes. His approach is different from western military leadership practices, but it is not unique in history. He seems to have borrowed some elements of the warfighting styles of the Prophet Mohammed and Genghis Khan as well as the some political-strategic approaches of Lenin and Hitler. Whether these were adopted from a study of history or the serendipitous outcome of pure talent is somewhat irrelevant. To date, al-Baghdadi has achieved significant results. We can’t fully understand his thought process but we can study his methods and the principles he employs. These are discussed below.

    KNOW YOURSELF AND YOUR ENEMY. Like the forces of Genghis Khan, al-Baghdadi’s army consists of a small group of professionals; they are largely comprised of veteran foreign fighters. To enhance unit cohesion, al-Baghdadi appears to keep them in national units. This also helps internal communication as the chance of confusion due to dialects is reduced by keeping countrymen together.

    ** Let's Stop Trying To Teach Students Critical Thinking

    Dennis Hayes – The Conversation

    Many teachers say they strive to teach their students to be critical thinkers. They even pride themselves on it; after all, who wants children to just take in knowledge passively? But there is a problem with the widespread treatment of critical thinking as a skill to be taught.

    The truth is that you can't teach people to be critical unless you are critical yourself. This involves more than asking young people to "look critically" at something, as if criticism was a mechanical task.

    As a teacher, you have to have a critical spirit. This does not mean moaning endlessly about education policies you dislike or telling students what they should think. It means first and foremost that you are capable of engaging in deep conversation. This means debate and discussion based on considerable knowledge – something that is almost entirely absent in the educational world. It also has to take place in public, with parents and others who are not teachers, not just in the classroom or staffroom.

    The need for teachers to engage in this kind of deep conversation has been forgotten, because they think that being critical is a skill. But the philosopher John Passmore criticised this ideanearly half a century ago:

    If being critical consisted simply in the application of a skill then it could in principle be taught by teachers who never engaged in it except as a game or defensive device, somewhat as a crack rifle shot who happened to be a pacifist might nevertheless be able to teach rifle-shooting to soldiers. But in fact being critical can be taught only by men who can themselves freely partake in critical discussion.
    The Misuses of 'Criticism'

    The misuse of the idea of "criticism" first became clear to me when I gave a talk about critical thinking to a large group of first-year students. One student said that the lecturers she most disliked were the ones who banged on about the importance of being critical. She longed for one of them to assert or say something, so she could learn from them and perhaps challenge what they say.

    The idea that critical thinking is a skill is the first of three popular, but false views that all do disservice to the idea of being critical. They also allow many teachers to believe they are critical thinkers when they are the opposite: 
    "Critical thinking" is a skill. No it is not. At best this view reduces criticism to second-rate or elementary instruction in informal and some formal logic. It is usually second-rate logic and poor philosophy offered in bite-sized nuggets. Seen as a skill, critical thinking can also mean subjection to the conformism of an ideological yoke. If a feminist or Marxist teacher demands a certain perspective be adopted this may seem like it is "criticism" or acquiring a "critical perspective", but it is actually a training in feminism or Marxism which could be done through tick box techniques. It almost acquires the character of a mental drill. 
    "Critical thinking" means indoctrination. When teachers talk about the need to be "critical" they often mean instead that students must "conform". It is often actually teaching students to be "critical" of their unacceptable ideas and adopt the right ones. Having to support multiculturalism and diversity are the most common of the "correct ideas" that everyone has to adopt. Professional programmes in education, nursing, social work and others often promote this sort of "criticism". It used to be called "indoctrination". 
    "Critical theories" are "uncritical theories". When some theory has the prefix "critical" it requires the uncritical acceptance of a certain political perspective. Critical theory, critical race theory, critical race philosophy, critical realism, critical reflective practice all explicitly have political aims. 

    What is Criticism?

    Asia's Next Big Story: China, India and Australia's Economic Dance

    August 12, 2014 

    Australia and China have been booming together. Australian resources have fueled Chinese infrastructure investment, and Australia has built out its own infrastructure to deal with Chinese demand. But this story of mutual growth may be ending. Many observers believe China’s current 7.5 percent growth target will need to be moved lower, and empty cities underscore the growing concern that China has overbuilt. Australian exports are predominately commodities, and iron ore, coal, natural gas, and gold are all top 5 shipments abroad. This leaves Australia in an awkward economic position. Geographically, however, Australia may be ideally situated to take advantage of the next infrastructure boom—India.

    As of May 2014, China consumed more than 35 percent of Australia’s exports, an extreme concentration. Japan, the second most popular destination for Australian exports, consumed 17 percent, and third place Korea took 6 percent, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australia does not appear to have the same ties to India. In fact, exports to India have fallen by half since the middle of 2010 due in part to a decline in the value of gold exports.

    At the start of the 21st Century, trade between China and Australia was around $6 billion annually. Since then, it has exploded by more than 15 times—to $93 billion in 2013. This $88 billion increase constitutes more than half the $151 billion total gain in exports Australia has made so far this century.

    Politically, the relationship between Australia and China is not always amicable. The Australian National Broadband Network is the largest infrastructure project to be undertaken in Australia’s history. Huawei, a Chinese technology company, was barred from bidding on the project with the Australian government, which cited security concerns in its decision.

    Regardless, Australia and China have become deeply intertwined economically. For Australia, exports have benefited as China embarked on a building spree. But it may be time for Australia to begin planning its next move, before China shows signs of slowing its infrastructure investments.

    Australia, in other words, needs another infrastructure boom. And so does India. India’s Twelfth Five Year Plan suggests that about $1 trillion should be spent oninfrastructure over the 2012-2017 timeframe. This would equate to 10 percent of GDP every year being spent on infrastructure. A necessary boost to economic growth in India, where it has stalled for the past couple years. For Australia, having another mega customer would mitigate any weakness in Chinese growth. This transition may not be seamless though.

    China gifts Pak mega nuclear power plants

    Aug 2014 

    ‘Each giant power reactor can generate enough waste for up to 40 bombs each year’. Pak army is working on a doctrine of massive first strike, that will incapacitate India before this country has a chance to strike back. 

    hina is about to operationalise a 1 GigaWatt (GW) nuclear power reactor at Karachi in Pakistan, highly-placed sources within the scientific community warn. Two more are in the pipeline in Karachi and three more in other parts of the country. This represents a quantum leap from the much smaller reactors hitherto supplied by Beijing to Islamabad, and is also the first time that such advanced technology has been demonstrated globally.

    The scientists warn that the accounting process for nuclear waste materials is very lax on the Pakistan side, and hence there exists a significant risk that nuclear waste from the plant will not be wholly accounted for. A senior scientist pointed out that the protocols for determining nuclear waste in standard (and much smaller) reactors would not be applicable to the 1 GW reactor, and hence it would be easy for the Pakistan side to siphon off large quantities of nuclear waste for re-processing. "Each giant power reactor can generate enough waste for up to 40 bombs each year", a scientist warned, adding that the Karachi reactor soon to be commissioned was only the first of three such reactors planned there by the Chinese side. Together with three more mega reactors at Chashma, there would be enough spent fuel to load onto to 200 nuclear bombs.

    Defence sources say that the Pakistan army has been working on a doctrine of massive first strike, that would incapacitate India before this country has a chance to strike back. Such a devastating first strike would degrade, if not destroy, Delhi's ability to launch a retaliatory second strike. The capacity for such retaliation is what is believed to be responsible for the very few occasions during which the Pakistan army has threatened the use of nuclear weapons against India.

    "Should they develop the capacity to launch a devastating first strike, the fear of retaliation would diminish to a level that may encourage the use of nuclear weapons in combat", a senior official warned. He added that unlike the case in India, where nuclear weapons have been kept in civilian hands, "in the case of the Pakistan army, even Corps Commanders have (tactical) nuclear weapons at their disposal and the ability to use them without reference to any civilian authority". Although Beijing claims that the nuclear reactors and assistance supplied to Pakistan are fully safeguarded under IAEA guidelines, the reality is that there have been multiple occasions when that agency has discovered loopholes in the way in which nuclear materials are being handled in Pakistan. Thanks to the protection given by China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, inspectors have not been allowed into key Pakistan nuclear facilities, while inspections have been less than rigorous, in large part because the Pakistan side decides what facilities to show, and when.

    The Afghan War and Transition: Updated Report on The Forces Shaping Transition in Afghanistan, 2014-2016

    AUG 12, 2014 

    There are several warnings that Transition in Afghanistan may fail, including the near paralysis of any effort to decide on the outcome of the Afghan presidential election, the killing of an American General, and yet another set of complaints from Afghan President Hamid Karzai on the US use of military force. The most obvious – and pressing – issue is the failure to select a new president to replace Karzai. Current tensions reveal that fallout over the presidential election risks creating new political divisions and further destabilizing Afghanistan’s leadership and governance. At best, the process of resolving the current political struggle and creating a power structure at the top may lag well into the fall of 2014, and postpone the selection of new Ministers and Provincial and District officials until the spring of 2015.

    The election, however, is only part of the story. New reporting by UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) provide grim evidence that the “surge” in US forces in Afghanistan never produced any of the short-term benefits brought about by the surge in Iraq. This data also demonstrates that reporting by the US and ISAF that minimizes or understates Taliban activity and other insurgent threat levels is directly contradicted by a sharp increase in civil casualties on a national and regional level. Afghan forces have so far proved unable to cope with the sharp increase in violence.

    These trends and casualty data are a clear warning that President Obama’s decision to limit the size of the US advisory mission immediately after the US combat role ends in December 2014 – and then rapidly cut the US mission to zero during 2015 and 2016 – may well lead to major Afghan government defeats almost regardless of the success or failure of the current political struggles over the outcome of the 2014 election.

    Similarly, new reporting by the World Bank, IMF, and SIGAR show that the problems in Afghan governance and the Afghan economy are far worse than is portrayed in reporting by the US State Department, USAID, and Department of Defense. The reporting indicates that Afghanistan will face major civil risks that equal or surpass the tactical outcome of the post-Transition fighting.

    Sovereign Debt: Eroding Japan’s National Security

    Japan’s rising public debt has implications that go beyond its economy. 

    The magnitude of Japan’s sovereign debt is an anomaly, and the subject of a great deal of debate in recent years. After all, few issues have attracted as much global attention lately as national debt. With many advanced economies possessing a public debt-to-GDP ratio hovering between 75 percent and 110 percent, how solid can Japan’s economic foundations be with its public debt north of 240 percent of GDP? On the face of it, this seems all the more worrying given that Greece, which required two bailout packages to keep from collapsing during the euro crisis, is the country with the next highest debt-to-GDP ratio at 152.5 percent. While certain factors have prevented Japan’s growing debt from wreaking immediate havoc, there are important connections to the greater security and stability of Japan that should encourage a more robust response from its government.

    National debt if often cited in international finger pointing, in which it is frequently misconstrued as defining a nation’s immediate solvency and its fiscal responsibility. While these perceptions can have a powerful domestic political effect, the real risk of a nation’s sovereign debt depends on underlying factors that must be examined in context. In Japan, for example, has a yield on Japanese government bonds is stable at near zero. One might reasonably have expected the yield to increase to compensate holders of the bonds for the greater risk presumably associated with the larger debt burden, but this has not been the case. In fact, confidence levels remain relatively high.

    One reason Japan’s sovereign debt hasn’t toppled its economy has been that much of it is held by domestic investors. High domestic savings, coupled with a relatively strong tendency towards domestic investment (known as home bias) has cushioned Japan against risks from fluctuations in currency markets. This is not, however, an infallible equilibrium. Overseas investors flocked to Japanese bonds in the wake of the euro crisis and then subsequently dumped them as the yen depreciated over the past year and a half.

    In fact, rising national debt and deficits are not necessarily problematic in themselves. Countries responding to market shocks and emerging economies may run up deficits and public debt from influxes of foreign direct investment and government spending on public works. Also, like personal debt, sovereign debt is not likely to be owed all at the same time.

    Still, Japan’s debt will eventually present problems if its growth continues unabated. Runaway national debt could trigger destabilizing economic consequences, such as rapid inflation, and could also creep into other areas of national sustainability. As it stands, Japan’s existing debt carries with it significant long-term risk and negative implications for multiple aspects of Japan’s national security.

    First, uncertainty drives risk perception. Expectations, predictability and control, on the other hand, are methods policymakers employ to promote and maintain stability. Japan’s debt-to-GDP ratio is already a historical outlier, even in an era of expanding sovereign debt. Among the only other comparable examples areFrance after the First World War and Israel during the 1970s and 1980s, and these debt levels were driven, in part, by war. Both France and Israel were able to wrestle their crises under control within a decade through economic reform and confidence building measures. Japan, on the other hand, is nursing two decades of rapid debt expansion and is on track to surpass Israel’s unfortunate historical debt record.


    August 13, 2014 ·

    Editor’s note: We’ve partnered with the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) to publish a series of infographics. Each week we’ll release a new set of graphics that depict trends in global terrorism activity. Sign up for the War on the Rocks newsletter to make sure you don’t miss any of them!

    These graphics were designed by Marcus Boyd.

    The “Profiles of Incidents involving CBRN by Non-state actors” database (POICN) is a forthcoming START dataset that has been developed over the past four years to exclusively examine the characteristics of CBRN events. It is restricted to ideologically motivated CBRN incidents occurring anywhere in the world over the period 1990 to 2013. Incidents arising out of criminal or personal/idiosyncratic motives are not included in this dataset (but are included in other START databases). The dataset includes events ranging from actual use of an agent all the way down to plots. We’ve created three graphics that combine to provide a visualization of this data.

    The first graphic illustrates the global distribution of CBRN events by agent type. To be highlighted on the map, a country must have been the location of at least one event of the particular agent type. Included events are plots, successful acquisitions, and actual attacks with CBRN agents. The chart breaks out incidents by both agent and event type. Plot/pursuit includes all events ranging from a group discussing the possibility of seeking or using a CBRN agent all the way up to unsuccessful attempts at acquisition. Possession encompasses successful acquisition that did not result in actual use of an agent. Any event entailing use of an agent is listed as an attack and presumes successful completion of the lower activity levels.