Friday, October 29, 2010


"The US is floating the idea of a deal on the borders for a future Palestinian state as a first step towards a more comprehensive Israel-Palestinian Agreement, as it adopts a more conciliatory towards the Israeli government. The new stance has been linked to the growing influence of Dennis Ross, a Middle East peace process veteran who has risen through the ranks of President Barack Obama’s National Security Council. Mr Ross, who told a pro-Israel group this week that co-operation between the two countries had never been stronger, favours generous inducements to encourage Israel to extend a partial freeze on settlement construction.

The thinking behind the US position, say officials and analysts, is that a two- or three-month settlement pause would allow the sides to make progress on a partial deal on the borders in the West Bank of a future Palestinian state. Mr Ross’s mounting influence also appears to be casting George Mitchell, the official US envoy, to the sidelines. But critics say that Mr Ross’s approach is unrealistic. Elliott Abrams, the senior White House official on the Middle East under George W. Bush, says the inducements the US is offering, which could include selling Israel more arms and endorsing its possible long-term presence in the Jordan Valley, seem “desperate”.

Mr Ross worked on the US proposals in conjunction with Israeli officials, notably Ehud Barak, defence minister, and Yitzhak Molcho, a senior negotiator. “In 60 or 90 days you could get deep into the border negotiations,” says David Makovsky, co-author with Mr Ross of the 2009 book Myths, Illusions and Peace. “If you solve borders, then you solve 70 per cent of the conflict. But if it’s all or nothing, it’s probably nothing.”

Mr Makovsky concedes that Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, leads a coalition unlikely to sign up to any such agreement. US officials say a deal may depend on the centrist Kadima party entering the government, adding that senior Israeli figures, including Mr Barak, have assured Washington that Mr Netanyahu is genuinely interested in a settlement....During the 2008 election campaign, Mr Ross visited Florida synagogues on behalf of Mr Obama to establish the candidate’s pro-Israel sympathies. He failed to prosper in a state department job on Iran but was moved to the National Security Council staff and became responsible for broad areas of Middle East policy. “He really now is calling the shots on all of those issues,” says Bruce Riedel, another veteran of the Clinton White House".

Daniel Dombey, "US pushes prospect of Middle East Peace Deal," 26 October 2010 in

"What the House of Commons is forcing the Government to do in Palestine is ruining the reputation of England throughout the East. Mr. Herbert Morrison, I see urges an almost completely pro-Jewish solution of the problem. This can be achieved by...blowing up Arab
villages one after the other because they are compelled to harbour rebels. When order has been restored, Palestine can be held against the entire Arab world by a ring of British troops round the frontier. This will look well for the champions of self-determination , and for all those whose heads are hanging. The fact is that on any except an intellectual
reckoning, the Palestine policy is infinitely shame-making compared with the refusal to go to war over Czechoslovakia. In Palestine we, with our own hands, are having to burn and explode villagers out of their villages for the sake of what is, as usual, a theoretical
obligation, an interpreted, often misinterpreted, text of twenty years ago, of which no one
knows the meaning. And, why are we doing it, considering that even the Cabinet know it is
unjust and suicidal?"

Sir Charles Arthur Evelyn Shuckburgh to the Earl of Esher, circa December 1938, in Descent to Suez, 1986, pp. 212-213.

The ballon d'essai published in the Financial Times earlier this week is of a piece with the evolution of American policy in the Near East under the current American Administration. Id est that after commencing with a lot of talk of a new beginning, and a sea change in American policy which would endeavor to be 'even-handed' to both sides, instead we have the usual, near-complete American capitulation to the government in Tel Aviv. Au fond, it hardly matters whether or not this state of affairs 'is fair' or 'just'. Sir Evelyn Shuckburgh's observations on that score are as pertinent to-day as they were back in 1938; as was predicted in this space, back in early November 2008, it was clearly myopic to the greatest degree to imagine that a new, Democratic Party, American President would ever endeavor to coerce an Israeli government to do something that it did not wish to do. The only instances in which an Israeli government ever made a major move on the peace front, was in cases in which it wish to do so for its own reasons and not because it was coerced in any way. Not of course that any American Administration other than the Eisenhower Administration in 1956-1957, and to a lesser extent that of Bush the Elder, ever engaged in such a thing in the first place. Bearing that in mind as well as the fact, that as John Foster Dulles opined back in 1954:

"we have just about twelve months to do something in, before another election looms up and makes all action impossible."
Shuckburgh, op cit., p. 243.

It is difficult to imagine another 'plan' than that allegedly proposed by Dennis Ross being at all plausible in the current circumstances. Especially when dealing with the present Israeli government, which is not in the least afraid of its American counter-parts. Quite the reverse actually. If nothing else, Ross, who hardly has any liking for Netanyahu personally (most likely 'loathing' would be a better description of his feelings towards the Israeli Prime Minister), is probably the most intelligent and experienced practitioner of Near Eastern diplomacy available to the American Administration. His views are no doubt skewed by Zionist sympathies, but, that does not obviate the fact that if there is someone who can possibly navigate us to the safe harbour marked 'Near Eastern Peace' in the next two years, Dennis Ross is the man to do it. Very much a case of faute de mieux of course, but that is the situation that we are in at the moment.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


"It is essential that a negotiator should be able to divest himself of his own opinion in order to place himself in the position of the Prince with whom he is negotiating. He should be able, that is, to adopt the other's personality, and to enter into his views and inclinations. And, he should thus say to himself-'If I were in the place of that Prince, endowed with equal power, governed by indentical prejudices and passions, what effect would my own representations make upon myself?'"

Sir Harold Nicolson, Diplomacy, 1939, p. 121.

On the 21st of this month, I was invited to give a talk at the American military academy at West Point at a conference dealing with the career of the late 19th / early 20th century Brazilian statesman, writer and diplomat, Joaquim Nabuco. Below is what I managed to come up with. Those who know me well, will recognize that this subject matter is not one that I am a specialist in by any means. Still, there was pleasure in doing some original research and delving into a topic not previously explored in any way. As per the subject of the paper: Nabuco comes across, in terms of a 'type' of diplomat, as being quite close to the French ideal of the 'famous writer as diplomatist' (Claudel, Leger, Giraudoux,Jusserand, Chateaubriand). Not a type, which either the Anglo-Saxon or the Germans and the Russians (with the exception of the great 19th century Russian writers Griboyedov & Tyutchev), are really familiar with. Without of course seeking to pigeon-hole this group, it would not be too far afield to say that as practitioners of diplomacy, the literary-type as diplomat, is about as far from the Freiherr von Holstein type of diplomat as one can imagine. Flattery in the pure Metternichian fashion appears to have been the preferred means of endeavoring to fulfill their duties. With that being said, please see below an abbreviated version of the paper which my talk was based upon.

Henry Kissinger in volume one of his memories recalls that in one of his meetings with the Chinese Communist leader Mao Tse-teng, that he – Kissinger stated that it was a happy state of affairs that there were no issues separating the United States from the Peoples Republic. As Kissinger frankly notes, Mao immediately disagreed with his guest, stating that the only reason that Kissinger was indeed in Peking was due to the fact that there were issues in dispute, requiring resolution between the Peoples Republic and the USA. Otherwise, Mao noted there was no point in Kissinger being in Peking in the first place.1 The historian who examines the diplomatic and other records between the USA and Brazil during Nabuco’s embassy in Washington, DC, will see certain echoes of the Kissinger-Mao exchange as they relate to Brazilian-American relations during the years that Nabuco was Ambassador to the United States. On the surface and indeed, if one were to dig deeper down, there were few if any issues separating the two countries during the years from 1905 to 1910. Examining minutely the diplomatic records from the American side, one sees that most of the day-to-day diplomatic cables deal with the most banal and mundane of concerns, such as for example, in April of 1905, the American Ambassador to Brazil, cabled the State Department that the American consul in Bahia had protested to the Brazilian authorities that a schooner called the ‘Oliveira’, was plying the Brazilian waters using a flag which seemed to be a carbon copy of the American flag. A ‘problem’, which until resolved seems to have occupied a considerable amount of the energies (such as they were) of the American embassy in Petropolis. 2

Considering these facts how does one explain the unusual position, and indeed impact that Joaquim Nabuco, had during his time serving as the first Brazilian Ambassador to the United States? First, I would lay stress on the sheer fact of the attractiveness of Nabuco’s character and personality on his American opposite numbers. It is quite evident in the numerous letters and other correspondence that Nabuco had with all three American Secretary of States: Hay, Root and Knox, as well as with Presidents Roosevelt and Taft. In part this mutual friendliness is due to the fact as mentioned above, that there were no issues in dispute between the United States and Brazil in these years. It is also due to the fact, that Nabuco, notwithstanding the fact that he had served previously as Brazilian Minister to the Court of Saint James, did not give himself airs of superiority, nor did he confine himself to the traditional roles of the diplomat, in the very different atmosphere of the United States. And, indeed, one can see in his correspondence during his embassy, that he was quite willing to go out of his way to ingratiate himself with his American hosts.3 Going off to places which one doubts that any chief of mission of the diplomatic corps in the United States voluntarily went at that point in time: Chicago, Buffalo, Saint Louis, et cetera. At one point in 1908-1909, Nabuco gave an impressive series of lectures at Yale, the University of Chicago, Vasser and Cornell. With only a bout of ill-health preventing him from going all the way to Wisconsin.4 Giving lectures and speaking to American civil society all for the purpose of spreading the gospel of Pan-Americanism & the commonality of Brazilian and North American culture and civilizations. A very good example of Nabuco at work in ingratiating himself with his American hosts was in 1908, when the American fleet, was on the Latin American portion of its around the world voyage, and about to enter the harbor of Rio de Janeiro; Nabuco writing hyperbolically in a personal letter to the American President Theodore Roosevelt: “what a great spectacle it shall be! For the first time the great bay will see a fleet worthy of it!” 5 Sentiments which could only have warmed Roosevelt’s heart. Nor was it the only time that he exchanged such exaggerated sentiments with his American counter-parts, another example being in a letter that he wrote to Roosevelt at the end of the latter’s term of office, telling Roosevelt that:

“I can assure you I will keep your letter as the highest decoration I could possibly receive. I need not repeat again my estimation of your figure in American history. It will sound loud, as the language of future always does in one’s own time. Thanking you for this token of your high benevolence towards one who prides in having served here throughout your second Presidential term.” 6

Of course, it was not Roosevelt, nor Taft, nor Knox, and, definitely not the ultra- anglophile John Hay, who Nabuco felt and interacted the most during his stay in Washington. It was of course, the Elihu Root, the Wall Street lawyer, turned Secretary of War and with the death of Hay just after the beginning of Nabuco’s service in the USA, Secretary of State, who Nabuco had the warmest of relationships. Indeed, according to Root’s authorized biographer, Philip Jessup, it would not be too strong to speak of a Nabuco-Root entente. 7 Certainly, Nabuco saw that Root was the one American official, who was most likely to reciprocate fully Nabuco’s own ideas of Pan-Americanism. As Root himself told an American Senator very early in his tenure as Secretary of State:

“The South Americans now hate us largely because they think we despise them and try to bully them. I really like them and intend to show it. I think that their friendship is really important to the United States and the best way to secure it, is by treating them like gentlemen. If you want to make a man your friend, it does not pay to treat him like a yellow dog.”

Words which were a far cry indeed, from say Hay’s references to ‘dagoes’, only one year earlier. Or for that matter Theodore Roosevelt’s more condescending ideas of the United States’ relations with the countries of Latin America.9 And, it is with this in mind, this unity of spirit between Nabuco and Secretary Root that saw Root, undertake the heading the American delegation to the Third Pan-American Congress in Rio in 1906. The very first time, may one add that a serving American Secretary of State, ever ventured outside of the United States. 10 Under the leadership of Nabuco, the Congress promoted a common & agreed understanding of Pan-American solidarity in the aftermath of the Venezuelan Crisis of 1902-1903. A crisis in which a tri-partite British-German-Italian fleet had for months blockaded and then bombarded the Venezuelan coast in a dispute over payment of sovereign debts owned by the government in Caracas to respectively London, Berlin and Rome. It was also Nabuco who not only ensured that Root was properly feted during his sojourn in Brazil, but, who continued to cajole the American Secretary of State, into assuming the role of what Nabuco referred, one year later as ‘the great leader’ of the ‘Pan American cause’. 11 And, to the extent possible, Root, reciprocated Nabuco’s friendship in policy terms. The best examples of which were that in 1907, when the United States endeavored to ban from the Pan American council, any government which did not have diplomatic representation in Washington, DC., Nabuco remonstrated with Root that:

“Supposing that one of our Nations has the misfortune of interrupting her diplomatic relations with the United States, should that Nation remain on that account outside the pale of the American Union, while you remained in it? You are too chivalrous to allow such inequality in international intercourse”.

Root of course relented under this protest from his friend. A friendship which continued even after Root left office at the beginning of 1909. Another example which comes to mind, is the ‘Panther incident’, of November 1905, when the German gunboat of the same name, violated Brazilian sovereignty in the state of Santa Catarina, by landing ashore and arresting a German deserter on Brazilian soil. As soon as the incident became known, Nabuco rushed to the State Department and requested that the United States take a friendly interest in the matter on Brazil’s behalf without necessarily de jure intervening. Something that Root quickly did. Nabuco also helped to inspire articles in the American press, attacking Germany over the incident. Which was eventually resolved to Brazilian satisfaction. 13

The nature of the Root-Nabuco alliance is perhaps best understood in a letter that Root wrote to Nabuco in November 1905, where the former stated:

“It is delightful to have here just at a time when formative progress seems possible a representative of the greatest South American republic, a man who thinks, who applies the philosophy of history to the possible conduct of every day and who has the sense of proportion which comes from having become familiar with international affairs from varying points of view”.

It is no wonder that when Nabuco passed away so suddenly in January of 1910, that Washington in a special mark of favor, almost without precedent, made available the Presidential yacht, the Mayflower to convey Nabuco’s remains to the Brazilian warship which had arrived to take the body back to Brazil. And, it was most fitting, that at the ground-breaking ceremony for the Pan-American building in Washington, DC, a building which Nabuco had invested both time and thought to, Root’s successor as Secretary of State, Philander Knox spoke for many when he said:

“One voice that should have spoken here today is silent, but many of us cannot forget or cease to mourn and honor our dear and noble friend, Joaquim Nabuco. Ambassador from Brazil, dean of the American diplomatic corps, respected, admired, trusted, loved and followed by all of us, he was a commanding figure in the international movement of which the creation of this building is part.”


1. Henry A. Kissinger, The White House Years, p. 1060.

2. Ambassador Thompson to Hay, 4 April 1905, in Foreign Relations of the United States, 1905 (hereafter 'FRUS'), p. 97-98.

3. See for examples: Nabuco to Root, 29 March 1908, in Elihu Root Paper 1908, in Library of Congress (hereafter 'Root Papers' with the pertinent year). See also: Roosevelt to Nabuco, 17 May 1908, in Roosevelt Papers 1908, Library of Congress (hereafter 'Roosevelt Papers' with the pertinent year). And, Nabuco to Root, 23 October 1905, Root Papers, 1905; Nabuco to
Root, 14 December 1908, Root Papers, 1908; Nabuco to Root, 26 September 1908, Root Papers, 1908; Nabuco to Root, 23 January 1909, Root Papers, 1909.

4. Nabuco to Root, 18 February 1907, in Root Papers 1907.

5. Nabuco to Loeb [Roosevelt's private Secretary], 12 January 1908 & Roosevelt to Nabuco, 12 January 1908, in Roosevelt Papers, 1908.

6. Nabuco to Roosevelt, 19 December 1908, in Roosevelt Papers, 1908.

7. Philip Jessup, Elihu Root, Volume II: 1905-1937, p. 78.

8. Philip Jessup, Elihu Root, Volume I: 1845-1905, p. 469 (hereafter 'Root' with the relevant page number).

9. Jessup, Root, p. 468-471.

10. Ibid., pp.476-480. See also: Nabuco to Root, 25 November 1905, Root Papers, 1905.

11. See: Nabuco to Root, 29 March 1906, Root Papers, 1906 & Nabuco to Root, 5 April 1906, Root Papers 1906, Nabuco to Root, 3 August 1906, Root Papers, 1906. See also: Jessup, Root, pp. 478-483. Nabuco to Root, no date, 1907, in Root Papers, 1907.

12. Nabuco to Root, 28 January 1907 & Nabuco to Root, 1 February 1907, both in Root Papers, 1907.

13. Jessup, Root, p. 473.

14. Jessup, Root, p. 472.

15. Carolina Nabuco, The Life of Joaquim Nabuco. See also: Nabuco to Root, 8th September 1909, Root Papers, 1909.

Friday, October 22, 2010


"Brazil is not a serious country."

General Charles de Gaulle, attributed, 1963.

The Brazilian Defence Minister, Nelson Jobim came to the American military academy at West Point the other day to speak to cadets and attendees of a conference dealing with the early 20th century Brazilian diplomat, writer and politician, Joaquim Nabuco ("Nabuco and the New Brazil",, sponsored by the Society of the Americas, the Brazilian Endowment for the Arts and Columbia University. In the course of his visit, Minister Jobim, gave a hour long speech (in Portuguese) to the assembled guests, in which he gave a well-spoken and fluent tour d'horizon, laying down the parameters of both current and future Brazilian defence policy. In essence, as per the Minister, Brazil, with a per capita income of approximately $10,000.00, per annum, and, with the world's eighth largest economy (according to the CIA, it is ninth largest, see:, Brazil occupies an increasing position in the world. Currently, Brazil spends 1.70% of its growing GDP, on military spending. Making its defence expenditure the 14th largest in the world (see: As per the Minister, Brazil, while possessing 4,000 square miles of coastline and having borders with ten countries in Latin America, totaling over 9,000 square miles of borders, inhabits a 'low-risk security environment'. Given the fact that Brazil has not fought a war inside of its own hemisphere in the past one hundred and twenty years, this statement appears to be an important truism. Notwithstanding these embarrassment of riches, security-wise, the Minister emphasized that Brazil intended to pursue an ambitious military programme of expenditures, partly via purchasing erste-klasse military equipment from France, Sweden and perhaps Russia. The rationale for this being that Brazil had to: i) guard its autonomy: security and otherwise; ii) protect its off-shore energy deposits in the South Atlantic; iii) protecting the Amazon's river mouth. Finally, and most importantly, the Minister stated that "a national strategy of development equals a national strategy of defence". And, vice-`a-versa. These three primary reasons, provided the rationale for the following build-up in Brazilian defence capability: a) submarine development programme; b) creation of a second fleet and a second marine division; c) creating a 'core naval capability'.

What is the outside observer to make of the Minister's comments? I for one, have difficulty imagining that there is any need whatsoever for Brazil to increase its current level of military spending. As was noted above, Brazil has for all intents and purposes a 'low-risk' security environment. And, has had one since for all intents and purposes since the 1970's. The only possible security risks, are internal and not external. From my perspective, Brazil would be much, much better off, employing its growing, national wealth in endeavoring to assist the livelihood of its people. A people, who are still, in terms of world rankings of per capita income, way down the queue: one hundred and ninth out of two hundred and twenty-nine, just above Cuba and below African countries such as Gabon (see: With rampant poverty still to be found in its cities, it is difficult to see what possible reason for Brazil to seriously consider either playing some type of 'machtpolitik role', or to spend a greater portion of its GDP, on military expenditures. The only positive upshot of the latter, could possibly be that via the export market, to a degree military expenditures could potentially pay for itself. Although that currently does not appear to be the case (Brazil does not even appear on the one to fifteen list of largest exporters of military equipment. See: Overall, one can only hope that Brazil's new President (to be elected on the 31st of October of this year), shall wisely decide that the country is better-off for the time being to remain under the American military and security blanket & tutelage and refrain from pursuing dreams of military grandeur, which this country can ill-afford to indulge in. At least not for a very long time to come.

Monday, October 18, 2010


"LONDON/KABUL (Reuters) - For the first time in the nine-year war in Afghanistan, all the main parties involved -- from the government to insurgents, from Washington to Pakistan, are seriously considering ways of trying to reach a peace deal.

Official sources from different countries interviewed by Reuters say current "talks about talks" are fragile, preliminary and liable to break down at any time.

"The outcome is not in sight at the moment," said one official involved in talks about Afghanistan, "but we can say that the political process has been set into motion."

All three main insurgent groups -- the Afghan Taliban led by Mullah Omar, the Haqqani network and the Hizb-ul-Islami Gulbuddin (HiG) led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar -- are involved in informal talks on how to open a more structured peace process.

Significantly, non-U.S. sources say Washington has given a far higher level of endorsement to talks with insurgents -- held either by Afghans or through third parties -- than before.

"The thing that's changed this time round is the American knowledge of what is going on and an increased appetite from the actual insurgency to engage," said a U.N. source with knowledge of the talks.

"The Americans are not sure whether to call it endorsement or engagement," said one non-American official. "Nevertheless they are now convinced about the utility of engagement."

Washington has acknowledged the need for an eventual political settlement as a war increasingly unpopular at home drags into its tenth year".

Myra McDonald, "Analysis: Afghan Talks gains pace; U.S. engages: sources", 14 October, 2010, in

"There also are too few data to quantify or map two critical aspects of the war. The prospects for any form of political accommodation with elements of the Taliban and insurgency remain unclear, and most of the practical steps necessary to bring insurgents back into Afghan society are still in the conceptual and planning phase. The political dimension of the war is as critical as the military, governance, and civil/economic dimensions, but it is too early to know how such efforts will be approached in any detail, much less whether any given approach will succeed.

A war this uncertain and experimental requires realistic goals and expectations. It requires transparency to ensure it is fought effectively and address each key challenge realistically. It requires an integrated civil-military effort that focuses on creating effective action in the field rather than new concepts and hollow efforts at coordination. It requires a kind of execution that builds trust and credibility by underpromising and overperforming. The extent to which the US and ISAF reports deal honestly with all of the issues and challenges outlined in these three reports in the coming months will be a critical indicator of whether the US has the leadership required to make this happen.

Most importantly, indicator after indicator in these reports provides a warning that success must be “conditions-based.” No one can guarantee victory, or that temporary victory will produce anything like a lasting end-state in either country. No one can yet promise that the war can be won in any sense in either Afghanistan or Pakistan. One can, however, virtually promise that there is no chance of winning under the conditions reflected in currently available data unless the US and its allies set credible goals, and plan for realistic timelines that are adjusted to match the actual capabilities that are demonstrated in the field. If these indicators justify any prediction about the war, it is that the success or failure of the new strategy cannot be decisively demonstrated in 2011. Having enough strategic patience to wait to see if the war can be won is the only alternative to defeat".

Anthony Cordesman, "Afghanistan: a progress report," 15 September 2010, in

"If for the moment we consider the pure concept of war, we should have to say that the political purpose of war had no connection with war itself; for if war is an act of violence meant to force the enemy to do our will its aim would have always and solely to be to overcome the enemy and disarm him. That aim is derived from the theoretical concept of war; but since many wars do actually come very close to fulfilling it, let us examine this kind of war first of all....The fighting forces must be destroyed: that is, they must be put in such a condition that they can no longer carry on the fight. Whenever we use the phrase 'destruction of the enemy's forces' this alone is what we mean. The country must be occupied; otherwise the enemy could raise fresh military forces. Yet both these things may be done and the war, that is the animosity and the reciprocal effects of hostile elements, cannot be considered to have ended so long as the enemy's will has not been broken: in other words, so long as the enemy government and its allies have not been driven to ask for peace, or the population made to submit."

Karl von Clausewitz, Vom Kreig [On War], edited and translated by Sir Michael Howard & Peter Paret, 1984, originally published 1832, p. 90. Italics and quotes from the original text.

The news that the Americans and their NATO allies are interested in trying to re-start the negotiations track in Afghanistan is rather disheartening if not disturbing in fact. It is not that one necessarily believes that a military victory over the Taliban is assured or better yet easily assured. No one in their right minds believes that. Unfortunately, that is not the issue here. The mind-set which argue for a 'negotiated solution' along the Iraqi model of 2007-2009, fails to understand certain rather concrete differences between Afghanistan and Iraq. The most important of which is that: i) the Taliban, which forms the majority of those seeking to overthrow the current government in Kabul, while not a 'government-in-exile', in the classical sense, is for all intents and purposes the military arm of the regime which ruled Afghanistan from 1995 to 2001. With some of the same individuals at its head. Most especially of course 'Mullah Omar'. And, whose ostensible goal is to restore the Taliban to power, id est., to return Afghanistan to conditions circa the summer of 2001. Whereas in the case of Iraq, the most potent opposition to the Americans and their local allies came from the Sunni Iraqi tribes, which while in the past were in a certain sense allied, informally with the Baathist regime, were not in any real sense an integral part of the same. Nor were they seeking per se to restore the Baathist regime circa 2002. Therefore, it was relatively easy in the context of the American 'surge' campaign in the 2007 and 2008 to pry apart the Sunni Arab opposition: moderates from extremists, opportunists from ideologues, provincial notables who do not care about national politics from those obsessed with restoring Sunni Arab rule in the entire country circa `a la 2002. Under these conditions, it was not that difficult to use the military pressure of the Americans in those two years, which in truth was not that horrendous nor particularly forceful to force the Sunni opposition to come to terms with the new regime in Baghdad and its American backers. It is of course another question entirely if this modus vivendi in Iraq will last. But, that is the subject of a future journal entry here. What is important to note is that the above set of circumstances does not really operate in Afghanistan. So for example, while Afghanistan also has tribes in plenty, they do not have the same force and cohesion that those of Iraq do. Therefore the strategy of endeavoring to treat the 'opposition' in Afghanistan (the Taliban and its supporters) as (to use Karl Marx’s metaphor) so many sacks of potatoes, does not really work. At least it will not work now. It might work in a few years time if the Americans and NATO were to pound The Taliban’s military arm and defeat it. What Clausewitz would call ‘breaking its will’. Not once, not twice but enough times So that it becomes evident that it will be impossible for the Taliban to win a military victory. Once that state of affairs comes to pass, then it might very well be possible for ‘peace talks’ with the Taliban or elements of the same, or better yet, ‘former elements’ of the Taliban, to result in something plausible. But, as the forever wise Anthony Cordesman clearly shows once again, in terms of events on the ground, we are very very far from anything like this at this point in time. And, it will take perhaps two, perhaps five years of continuing American / NATO military operations for something like this state of affairs to come about. If for no other reason than those already given, merely the fact that Afghanistan is a much, much, larger country than Iraq, and, the Pashtun elements of the population (the Taliban's natural base) much larger as a proportion of the population, than the Sunni are in Iraq. In short, the only type of negotiations which may work in Afghanistan now are of the ‘decent interval’ / Kissingerian sort of negotiations. Rien plus. To expect anything else is as a complete fantasy both militarily and politically. Not to speak of the positive harm that engaging in such talks so prematurely does to the morale of those elements both Afghan and non-Afghan who are fighting on our side. For which all one need do is read the commentary coming out of Pakistan where it is held as an article of faith that the Americans and their allies are merely playing for time, and, within a short interval (a 'decent interval' anyone?), both will be gone and the Taliban will be back in power in Kabul. Unless one is indeed looking for a collapse `a la 1975 in South Vietnam-style there is no positive point in engaging prematurely in pourparler now with the Taliban and other groups. Pur et simple.

Friday, October 15, 2010


"Connally [U.S. Secretary of the Treasury] saw no reason to treat foreigners with any greater tenderness. He believed that in the final analysis countries yield only to pressure. He had no faith in consultations except from a position of superior strength....'There is little likelihood that the situation will work itself out without either revaluation of European currencies (which is the most probable course of action for the Europeans, given the present crisis); a devaluation of the dollar, or U.S. measures to restrict the imports of foreign goods to this country and encourage U.S. exports (which will take legislation). There will also probably be strong efforts on the part of the Europeans to restrict the amounts of the dollars held by their central banks and to apply other stringent measures against the dollar'....Nixon's unilateral decisions of August 15, 1971, had their desired effect. Allied cohesion had been strained but not broken. At this remove it is difficult for me to assess whether the brutal unilateralism coming so soon after the shock of the secret trip to Peking mortgaged relations unnecessarily for many years to come, or whether our allies by their immobilism left us no other option."

Henry A. Kissinger, White House Years, (1979), pp, 952,954 & 962.

"The unprecedented international imbalances of the first half of the 1980s have fundamentally altered the structure of the world economy. The United States, the creator of the postwar economic system and home of the world's key currency, has become the largest debtor nation ever known to mankind - and its red ink will continue to flow at least into the 1990s. Japan, widely viewed as a developing country only a generation ago, has become by far the largest creditor - and its massive buildup of foreign assets will continue expanding rapidly as far as one can predict. The actions taken to date to correct these imbalances have gone only about half the distance needed, so there is now no prospect for their early elimination-and very little for steps to cope with the structural transformation they will bring. The forces set in train by these historic changes will dominate the course of global economic events for the next five to ten years, and may go far to influence world politics as well."

C. Fred Bergsten, "Economic Imbalances and World Politics," Foreign Affairs, (Spring 1987), p.770.

"Currencies dominated this year’s annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund. More precisely, two currencies did: the dollar and the renminbi, the former because it was deemed too weak and the latter because it was deemed too inflexible. But, behind the squabbles, lies a huge challenge: how best to manage the global economic adjustment....

Above all, today’s low and falling inflation is potentially calamitous. At worst, the economy might succumb to debt-deflation. US yields and inflation are already following the path of Japan’s in the 1990s (see chart). The Fed wants to stop this trend. That is why another round of quantitative easing seems imminent.

In short, US policymakers will do whatever is required to avoid deflation. Indeed, the Fed will keep going until the US is satisfactorily reflated. What that effort does to the rest of the world is not its concern.

The global consequences are evident: the policy will raise prices of long-term assets and encourage capital to flow into countries with less expansionary monetary policies (such as Switzerland) or higher returns (such as emerging economies). This is what is happening. The Washington-based Institute for International Finance forecasts net inflows of capital from Naturally, one could imagine an opposite course. Indeed, China objects to the huge US fiscal deficits and unconventional monetary policies. China is also determined to keep inflation down at home and limit the appreciation of its currency. The implication of this policy is clear: adjustments in real exchange rates should occur via falling US domestic prices. China wants to impose a deflationary adjustment on the US, just as Germany is doing to Greece. This is not going to happen. Nor would it be in China’s interest if it did. As a creditor, it would enjoy an increase in the real value of its claims on the US. But US deflation would threaten a world slump".

Martin Wolf, "Why America is going to win the currency battle," 12 October 2010, in

Another 'currency war' is upon us. As the quotations from Dr. Henry Kissinger the former American Secretary of State and National Security Adviser & his one-time aide Fred Bergsten shows, this has been an ongoing problem for upwards of forty years now (more in fact: the first tremors of this problem go back to the last years of the Eisenhower Administration). Similarly the related issue of economic imbalances are almost as old. The fact of course that these problems have been ongoing for so many years, seems to indicate that per se, the problems (such as they are) are not drastic or requiring immediate and thoroughgoing remedies. Peut-etre. On the other hand, as the always wise, Martin Wolf of the Financial Times, points out for us, with the current, unprecedented economic turbulence flowing out of the Financial Crisis of 2008-2009, things have reached an impass which cannot be sustained. As per Martin Wolf, the USA and other debtor countries (UK in particular), as well as those countries anxious to not have their currencies inflated unduly by Chinese economic policies), have the whip hand in this affair. The only question of course is if the USA et al., has the courage to use its power. As per Henry Kissinger's Memoirs dealing with the 'Nixon Shocks' of 1971, it is only via a policy which is crafted unilaterally and with little by way of consultations and endless negotiations, that a forward looking policy can be implemented. In the case of Nixon's 15 August 1971 policy, as the American economic historian and analyst, David Calleo, pointed out many years ago: "In the short run, Nixon's revolution of August 15, 1971 was a stunning success (David Calleo, The Imperious Economy, 1982, p. 105 & passim)." The issue in the current circumstances is if the American Administration has the will and the stamina to impose a solution upon the PRC. If not, then that is a sure sign that absolutely nothing will be done, and in the worlds of Furst von Bismarck, we will see merely a 'papering over of the cracks'. Or in the words of the poet: nihil ex nihilo.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


"This is getting to be quite a clear out at the White House. Rahm Emanuel, the chief of staff is going; so is Larry Summers, the chief economic adviser. And now today we get news that Jim Jones, the head of the National Security Council, is also being replaced. That means there will be new people in the three most important staff jobs in the White House. Part of the spin in all three cases is that they are knackered, after two intensive years in the White House. I wonder what that says about Obama himself, who presumably has also been working quite hard?

One difference between the Jones resignation and the departures of Emanuel and Summers, is that Jones is not generally deemed to have been a great success and was seen as a bit detached from the inner circle. Notoriously, he gave an interview early in his terms in which he boasted about what short hours he worked - which is a bit of a gaffe in workaholic Washington. As a result, people in the Washington foreign policy machinery said that most of the really hard work of co-ordination - which is a lot of what the NSC is meant to do - was being done by Jones’s deputy, Tom Donilon. It is Donilon who is now taking over in the top job.

Still, I think the departure of Jones is potentially tricky for Obama in both political and policy terms. Obama deliberately appointed Jones, somebody from outside his immediate circle, because he was a military man and would command credibility and respect from America’s vast military machine - something that Obama could not count on himself. The fact that Donilon is basically a political operative means that that vital link to the military, provided by Jones, has been lost. And that could be really important, as it becomes more and more evident that the Afghan war is going wrong - and the inevitable back-biting and recrimination starts. Obama’s relationship with the military is already rocky, following the sacking of two successive commanders in Afghanistan.

I also wonder whether Donilon is the man you need to oversee a much-needed rethink of Afghan policy. He is clearly able and hard-working. But his career to date has not revealed much evidence of original thinking on foreign policy. And that may soon be a real necessity".

Gideon Rachman, "America's New Head of the NSC," 8 October 2010 in

"Only the President has ultimate power. If he consistently upholds his secretary of state - as Truman and Eisenhower did - he will bestow a de facto primacy among his advisers. But controversial foreign policy initiatives will still face interminable bureaucratic at the third and fourth levels of government unless they are known to have been decided personally by the president, whoever may have advised him. The NSC staff can monitor and coordinate the implementation of presidential decisions at those levels without usurping whatever advisory primacy the president may have bestowed upon the secretary of state....the national security adviser should maintain low visibility, if not the unrealistic standard of 'a passion for anonymity': few speeches, still fewer on-the-record press conferences, and even fewer public missions abroad. His meetings should be reported to the secretary. The presidential instructions he relays to U.S. Ambassadors should be cleared and transmitted through the secretary."

Theodore C. Sorensen, "The President and Secretary of State," Foreign Affairs (Winter 1987/1988), p. 242 & 247.

I believe that Gideon Rachman's comments while cogent enough by themselves when viewed in isolation, lose touch with the reality in light of American Presidential power and the decision-making processes flowing from the same. As anyone who has had the opportunity of observing, the role of the American President in the making of foreign policy differs substantially from that in almost all parliamentary regimes in Europe, with the exception of France in the Fifth Republic. Au fond, the President occupies and plays (whether good or ill is another matter) the position of a Democratic Monarch. Unlike say Sir Archibald Clark-Kerr vis-`a-vis Churchill in Moskva in 1942, American officials cannot tell their 'Commander-in-chief', that he is talking nonsense. Much less say something akin to this and not expect to be punished for speaking 'truth to power'. Ideally of course, this should not be the case. Ideally, of course foreign policy should be run by and out of the State Department and or other foreign ministries abroad. But, of course we are dealing with the real and not the ideal. As Theodore Sorensen correctly noted in reference to this issue:

"Each president will consult whom he wishes to consult. Who gets to write the final options paper, and who gets to read it and when, can influence the president's choice; but he will often make that choice on the basis of unrecorded and uncontrolled conversations, including those with his spouse, personal secretary or barber".

With all that being said, the most important requirement that the head of NSC should have is that he is close to the President. Again, ideally this 'closeness', should not be based upon sycophancy, but on a shared vision of the type of foreign policy the President intends to have. Insofar as Mr. Donilon has had twenty months experience as deputy National Security adviser, and, has worked in the State Department prior to the in the Clinton Administration, seems to indicate that he has enough of a resume to assume the post. Certainly he has more experience than my own old Professor, McGeorge Bundy did, when he became President Kennedy's National Security Adviser in 1961. Or for that matter either Henry Kissinger or Zbigniew Brzezinski possessed when they became National Security Advisers in 1969 and 1977 respectively. Certainly he has more experience than the current American President's barber. Hopefully, his performance in office will show this to be sufficient. Of his predecessor, General Jones, one was not altogether sure...Quod erat demonstrandum

Sunday, October 10, 2010


"Cease, then, nor Order imperfection name;
Our proper bliss depends on what we blame.
Know thy own point: this kind, this due degree
Of blindness, weakness, Heav'n bestows on thee.
Submit: in this or any other sphere,
Secure to be as bless'd as thou canst bear;
Safe in the hand of one disposing Power,
Or in the natal or the mortal hour.
All Nature is but Art unknown to thee;
All chance direction, which thou canst not see;
All discord, harmony not understood;
All partial evil, universal good:
And spite of Pride, in erring Reason's spite,
One truth is clear, Whatever is, is right".

Alexander Pope, Essay on Man (1732).

"As decision day nears for the Nobel Peace Prize nominations, the Chinese government has gone on high alert. Long-time Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo has once again been floated as a contender for this year’s Peace prize. Liu was trained as a scholar but has made his name by calling for political change—first as a Tiananmen activist and most recently for drafting Charter 08, a wide ranging manifesto for political reform in China. He is now in the midst of serving his third—and at eleven years his longest—prison term.

Thus far, Beijing’s response to Liu’s potential Nobel has been disappointing but unsurprising. China’s deputy foreign minister reportedly threatened Norway…not that Norway has anything to do with the Nobel decisions; and foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu claimed that Liu’s actions are “diametrically opposed to the aims of the Nobel prize.”

Instead of wasting time trying to bully the committee into not awarding Liu the Nobel Peace prize, Beijing should seize the opportunity to ally itself with Liu’s and the Chinese people’s emerging political interests. There are noises for change everywhere in China. Over the past six months, Premier Wen Jiabao has been talking non-stop about the need for real political reform. Hu Shuli, editor of Century Weekly magazine, published a no-nonsense editorial claiming the time for political change is now. And China’s Internet is alive with discussions about the need to match thirty years of economic openness with a similar political push. There is even an online campaign to support Liu’s nomination underway among Chinese scholars and activists.

Liu falls squarely into a Nobel Peace Prize tradition—that of the human rights activist calling for peaceful political reform. Kim Dae Jung, Lech Walesa, and Aung San Suu Kyi are but a few previous such winners. Others such as Vaclav Havel and Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu are urging the Nobel Committee to award Liu this year’s Peace prize.

It’s time for Beijing to get on board as well. Awarding Liu Xiaobo the Nobel Peace Prize would be good not just for Liu but also for China’s continued economic growth, as well as its emergence and reputation as a global power—not to mention for all the other reformers in the country who are ready to come out of the closet.

Elizabeth Economy,"Liu Xiaobo and the Nobel Prize - Beijing [Peking] should seize the moment," 1 October 2010 in

"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Chinese authorities are detaining the wife of jailed Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Price laureate Liu Xiaobo at her Beijing apartment, a U.S. human rights group said on Sunday.

In a statement, Freedom Now said that Liu Xia has not been charged with a crime but has not been allowed to leave her home or use her mobile telephone after visiting her husband in jail to tell him about his award.

When he heard the news, Liu Xiaobo cried and said the Nobel "award is for the Tiananmen martyrs," according to the Washington-based group, which said it represents the Chinese dissident. The group works worldwide for the release prisoners of conscience and provides free legal counsel.

Freedom Now lawyer and spokeswoman Beth Schwanke said one of the group's human rights specialists, Yang Jianli, obtained news of Liu Xia's detention from a source in China they could not name over fears that the informant would also be detained.

"Liu Xia is under enormous pressure," said Jianli, who the group said is currently in Taiwan.

Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for two decades of non-violent struggle over human rights, infuriating China, which called the award "an obscenity.

The prize shines a spotlight on human rights in China at a time when it is starting to play a leading role on the global stage as a result of its growing economic might.

Liu has been in and out of jail since 1989, when he joined student protesters on a hunger strike days before the army crushed the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement. He was jailed for 11 years in December for subversion of state power.

Liu Xia said on Friday she was being taken to visit her husband in jail but that police were preventing her from talking to reporters".

Susan Heavey,"China detains Nobel Peace winner's wife: U.S. rights group," 10 October 2010 in

The true importance of the awarding of this year's Nobel Peace Prize to a Chinese dissident, locked-away in prison for another ten more years, with his spouse being detained under house-arrest upon the news of the prize being awarded, is as follows: that, au fond the regime in Peking is not, in the least interested in accommodating itself to western norms of Democracy, pluralism and Human Rights. And, that indeed as far as the rulers of the PRC are concerned, it is the outside world in general, and the West in particular which should accommodate itself to the current norms of the PRC. Failing which the erring party can expect the type of savage rhetorical onslaughts that we have been witnessing since Friday past. As well as the unconcealed diplomatic pressure that Peking has endeavored to utilize (thankfully fruitlessly) vis-`a-vis Oslo. The sort of diplomatic pyrotechnics worthy of Sovietskaya Vlast at its best (Id est its worst). And, that type of Leibnizian (or should one say Panglossian) hopes of commentators like Elizabethh Economy, that the regime will initiate political maneuvers to reconcile itself to the nascent Chinese civil society elements is a mere coup de tete, with no reality behind it. A state of affairs which is part and parcel of the regime's recent diplomatic hard line policies towards many of its neighbors. In classic primat der Innenpolitik fashion, Peking prefers to 'reconcile' Chinese civil society to itself, rather than the reverse via an aggressive and Hurrah-patriotismus type of foreign policy. Looking at matters from this vantage point, I for one do not see for the foreseeable future, any 'political openings' coming out of Peking for quite awhile to come.

Saturday, October 09, 2010


"Mr Obama’s desire for Pakistan’s help on Afghanistan conflicts with a long-standing strategy by elements in Pakistan’s intelligence services, who are seeking to curb Indian influence in Afghanistan by backing militants. The weak government of Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s president, is locked in a fresh battle with the judiciary. Pakistan’s generals dictate security policy.

Mr Obama’s gamble of sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan hinged on the assumption that Pakistan would broaden an offensive against its own militants to target Afghan fighters in North Waziristan. Obama’s Wars, a new book by veteran US journalist Bob Woodward, suggests that the president sees the Pakistan “safe haven” as the main barrier to progress in Afghanistan.

The hoped-for offensive has not materialised. Pakistan’s army says it is too thinly stretched and security officials fear fresh terror attacks in large cities. The shooting last weekend of Mohammad Farooq Khan, an Islamic scholar and critic of suicide bombings, was a reminder that Pakistanis pay a far higher price for extremist violence than those in the west. The army’s reluctance to launch big operations in North Waziristan also partly reflects its long-standing reliance on Afghan militants as proxies".

Matthew Green, "Pakistan's tribal areas upset US plans," 8 October 2010, in

"It is scarcely a secret that the United States is fighting an air war in Pakistan on at least four different levels. It is using unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) to support U.S. forces in “hot pursuit” in the border area. It is using them to attack Taliban and other insurgent forces near the border to limit their capability to operate in Afghanistan....

One has to be very careful about unclassified statistics, but the Long War Journal reports that the number of strikes against cadres in Pakistan is very limited. It reports only one strike a year in 2004 and 2005, three in 2006, five in 2007, thirty-five in 2008, fifty-five in 2009 and seventy-seven in the first nine months of 2010. This rise in strike numbers is a kind “surge,” but it adds up to all of 175 strikes over the entire war, and these strikes (65 percent) have been concentrated in North Waziristan where the Pakistani army has been unwilling or unable to act, and almost all of the other 35 percent have been in areas in South Waziristan where the Pakistani Army and Air Force cannot bring anything like the same intelligence, targeting and precision-strike assets to bear.

There is certainly a steady rise in strikes, but talking about it as “intense combat” is absurd. Wired says the U.S. Air Force (USAF) reported it flew a peak of 19,500 close-air-support sorties in the Iraq War in 2007, and has flown 4,620 so far in 2010. Wired reports that the USAF has said it flew an average of over two thousand a month in Afghanistan in 2009, and over two thousand five hundred a month in 2010. The total number of UCAV strikes in Pakistan over the entire war is a fraction of the air strikes per month in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a tiny number by the standards of any previous air war.

It is also important to stress that UCAVs are simply the tip of the spear. The UCAV strikes against the insurgent and terrorist networks are the result of one of the most massive and sophisticated targeting efforts in history. They are targeted as a result of the use of virtually every intelligence asset America has from satellites to manned aircraft to human intelligence, and the use of unarmed unmanned combat vehicles. They are subject to careful review to minimize civilian losses, and they still manage to be extremely effective. If one looks at the estimates in the Long War Journal, the seventy-seven UCAV sorties flown through September 2010 killed eighteen senior insurgent leaders, including nine with at least some links to Al-Qaeda....

Moreover, any land operation that crosses the border and becomes public, and even the most limited helicopter attacks, become a political crisis. Flying manned U.S. fighter aircraft into Pakistan could push Pakistan into shutting down all of its cooperation, and would inevitably inflict much higher casualties. High-speed jet fighters can’t linger over a target for hours to verify a target in order to do as much as possible to strike at a time that ensures civilian casualties are kept to a minimum. Even if Pakistani land forces did take over the job, we have already seen in Swat and South Waziristan that they would have to fight their way in and the end result would be far more Pakistani casualties—and at least ten times more civilians killed and thousands or ten of thousands displaced".

Anthony Cordesman, "Commentary: Attack of the Drones," 4 October 2010, in

The news out in the past ten calendar days is that the Americans, due to warnings of a possible Al-Qaeda inspired and or linked terrorist attack in Western Europe, along the lines of the Bombay, Hotel bombing of November 2008, has launched a series of expedited,'drone' attacks on the Northwestern frontier provinces of Pakistan, bordering on Afghanistan. With rumors that upward of ten, if not 'tens', of German passport holders of Oriental origins were killed (on this see: "Europe terror alert fulled by German militants," 5 October 2010, in, in one such attack. The rationale being that the borderlands between the two countries is not only serves as bases for the Afghan / Pakistan Taliban, but, no have been expanded to include training camps `a la what Al-Qaeda once possessed in Afghanistan circa 2000-2001. With all this in mind, as well as both the inability & unwillingness of the Pakistani state apparatus to control these areas, that one contemplates the overall dilemma of the Western (mainly Anglo-American) policy in the area. The current policy of endeavoring to bribe Pakistan into complying with Western needs and aims does not appear to be working, or if so, only intermittently at the very best. And, there are few signs, at least in the short-term of any improvement in the state of affairs. Consequently, one commences to approach what the late, American strategist, Mr. Herman Kahn, once called: 'thinking the unthinkable'. Which in the case of the Afghan-Pakistan conundrum, means some form of direct military intervention. In conjunction with an increase of drone attacks on targets in Pakistan close to the level launched in Iraqi in 2007. Which would be an increase of close to a factor of ten. In the case of the former, the only viable options would be parachute drops of regiment-size (3,000) forces into the areas in question to wide-out as quickly as possible any training camps and associated bases of both Taliban and Al-Qaeda elements. With perhaps the sequence of events being that the number of drone attacks being increased first, and if needed thereafter direct military intervention on the selected targets. A policy that while not in the least pleasant to contemplate, much less put into effect, especially as withdrawing forces in such circumstances is infinitely more complicated then introducing them. On the other hand, it could very well be, that a single American 'surgical' strike, on Pakistani territory will suffice to force the government in Pakistan to endeavor to try to re-establish control of its border with Afghanistan. Of course this could be quite illusory, as there are many reasons why the government has never cared to properly police these 'tribal' areas. Be that as it may, the fact of the matter is that a policy of faute de mieux, and muddling through is not working very well, and that it would appear that things have reached a pass where alternative methods, however unpleasant may perhaps appear to be necessary.

Sunday, October 03, 2010


"Defence cuts will have 'grave consequences' Frankly this process is looking less and less defensible as a proper SDSR (Strategic Defence and Strategy Review) and more like a “super CSR” (Comprehensive Spending Review). If it continues on its current trajectory it is likely to have grave political consequences for us, destroying much of the reputation and capital you, and we, have built up in recent years. Party, media, military and the international reaction will be brutal if we do not recognise the dangers and continue to push for such draconian cuts at a time when we are at war. I am very grateful to Peter Ricketts and Jeremy Heywood for the help they have given officials who have worked strenuously to bridge a gap that is, financially and intellectually virtually impossible. I am concerned that we do not have a narrative that we can communicate clearly....

How do we want to be remembered and judged for our stewardship of national security? We have repeatedly and robustly argued that this is the first duty of Government and we run the risk of having those words thrown back at us if the SDSR fails to reflect that position and act upon it.

I suggest we start tomorrow’s discussion by asking whether we are really prepared to see Defence spending reduced to this level. The impact on capability, particularly in the maritime domain, would be more substantial than one might imagine from the paper.

Our decisions today will limit severely the options available to this and all future governments. The range of operations that we can do today we will simply not be able to do in the future. In particular, it would place at risk:

The reduction in overall surface ship numbers means we will be unable to undertake all the standing commitments (providing a permanent Royal Navy presence in priority regions) we do today. Assuming a presence in UK waters, the Falklands and in support of the deterrent is essential we would have to withdraw our presence in, for example, the Indian Ocean, Caribbean or Gulf.

Deletion of the amphibious shipping (landing docks, helicopter platforms and auxiliaries) will mean that a landed force will be significantly smaller and lighter and deployed without protective vehicles or organic fire. We could not carry out the Sierra Leone operation again.

Deletion of the Nimrod MR4 will limit our ability to deploy maritime forces rapidly into high-threat areas, increase the risk to the Deterrent, compromise maritime CT (counter terrorism), remove long range search and rescue, and delete one element of our Falklands reinforcement plan".

Dr. Liam Fox [UK Defence Minister] to Prime Minister David Cameron, in "Defence Cuts: Liam Fox's letter in full," 28 September 2010, in

"Such reductions are inconsistent with the government’s stated desire to retain Britain’s global reach. This requires a range of unflashy hardware. So while it may be possible to retain costly symbols of great power status, such as aircraft carriers and the nuclear deterrent, this can be achieved only by surrendering the substance of power.

Moreover, the Afghan commitment ensures that any review will be lopsided because of the need to maintain army numbers. David Cameron is understood to have ruled out reductions before the exit from Afghanistan. This means huge cuts to the navy’s surface fleet – axing the frigates needed to counter emerging threats such as piracy – and the air force.

Mr Cameron has thus far avoided getting drawn into the fray, but this needs to change. He must stamp his authority on the review and stop the infighting. This does not mean dismissing the concerns that have been expressed. Mr Fox is right to warn that the review must look beyond 2015, and assess the capabilities the armed forces might need in the longer term. Once surrendered, these are not easily recovered".

Leader, "UK Defence Review", 2 October 2010, in

"The U.K. was lifted out of the European queue and we were treated as partners, unequal no doubt in power but still equal in counsel."

Clement Attlee [UK Prime Minister] to Ernest Bevin [Foreign Secretary] summarizing the results of his Washington visit in December 1950, 10 December 1950, in Alan Bullock, Earnest Bevin: Foreign Secretary (1983), p.824.

The importance of the row between the UK Defence Minister, Dr. Fox and the Chancellor, George Osborne, no doubt has various elements over and beyond those pertaining to Defence spending. Such as the fact that Dr. Fox is perceived (probably correctly) by both the Chancellor and his close ally the Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron as being an unfortunate combination of politically maladroit and politically distant if not hostile to the 'Cameron projet' (on this point see: David Blackburn, "Forget the Culprit, the MoD leak suggests that Fox does not have Cameron's confidence," 30 September 2010, in However, notwithstanding this somewhat important variable in the contention between the two parties, that fact of the matter is that if the proposed cuts to the UK military spending were to go through, it would have a most drastic effect on not only the UK's military strength, and it future power projection, but, it would most likely signal a quietus, and probably a permanent one at that, to the idea that Great Britain was any type of Great Power `a la Russia, China and France. Need one add that the fact that such liberal, bien-pensant voices, as the Financial Times, leader writer, and others as Philip Stephens, and the New York Times editorial board, provide clear enough evidence of the potentially drastic changes envisaged if the cuts were indeed to go through. Currently, the United Kingdom has the fourth highest defence budget on the planet (after those of the USA, China and France). It also currently has the largest number of aircraft carriers after the USA, and has the second largest navy after the USA (for all of these bits of information, see: James Hackett, ed. The Military Balance 2010, The International Institute for Strategic Studies). Presuming that something along the lines of the Chancellor's proposed cuts do come to pass, then it will be very much a case of fini la Angleterre as a not only one of the half dozen Great Powers, but, also one can very easily write off any idea of a Anglo-American, 'special relationship'. Which while more storied than substantive at times, did have in the Blair-Clinton & Blair-Bush years an important element of truth to it. As the British Ambassador to Washington during the beginning of the Bush-Blair years (Sir Christopher Meyers) commented in his memoirs concerning the relationship between the two powers:

"We may have been the junior partner in the enterprise; but the ace up our sleeve was that America did not want to go it alone" (in Sir Christopher Meyer, DC Confidential, 2005, p. 282.

Said 'influence' (for a differing view of the same, see Geoffrey Wheatcroft's book: Yo, Blair!), is ultimately dependent upon the UK's ability to project military power beyond its borders, and especially overseas to the more distant points on the globe. Absence of which, one can indeed speak of the UK joining in earnest the 'European queue', that Attlee spoke so condescendingly of back in 1950. The Europe that is of Denmark, Belgium, Italy, Spain and Ireland. All worthy and civilized countries, but none of whom one would think of being Great Powers in any real sense of the term.

Friday, October 01, 2010


"Wen Jiabao, China’s premier, has brushed aside Japan’s call for calm in a dispute over a detained Chinese ship captain, threatening retaliation unless Tokyo “immediately” released the man recently picked up in disputed waters.

In the first comments on the diplomatic row by a senior Chinese leader, Mr Wen said Japan was “solely responsible” for the “severe damage” done to bi-lateral relations by the incident. If Japan clings to its mistake, China will take further actions and the Japanese side shall bear all the consequences that arise,” Mr Wen said.

The Chinese premier was speaking to a group of Chinese citizens and Chinese-Americans after his arrival in New York on Tuesday to attend meetings at the UN. Naoto Kan, the Japanese prime minister, reiterated his call to China to deal with the matter calmly, before leaving for New York where he is also scheduled to attend UN meetings.

Mr Wen said it was “downright illegal and unjustifiable” for Japan to detain the Chinese fishermen because the islands – known in Chinese as Diaoyu and in Japanese as Senkaku – are 'China’s sacred territory'".

"Wen turns up heat in row with Japanese," 22 September 2010 in

"The commonality of interest is no guarantee of common action. That is where we see our central challenge. When nations fail to cooperate, even though it is in their interests to do so, we face what my former colleagues in the Academy call ‘the collective action problem’: challenges of the commons, free‑riders, incentives to the fact and others. Nations, including sometimes even the United States, define their self-interests too narrowly. They allow mistrust to trump common interest, and they disagree about how to share of the gains generated by cooperation and apportion the burdens....

It is especially important that we manage the inevitable tensions that will rise as these powers grow and expand their military capability. That is why we place such importance on establishing a more durable and effective military-to-military dialogue with China. Both sides recognise the importance of strategic trust, but without dialogue we cannot provide the kind of reassurance that will allow us to avoid the trap of great power competition. It is vital that China restores the military-to-military dialogue with us. This should not be a bargaining chip. It builds trust, prevents miscalculation, and lets both sides address our disagreements, including in areas like the South China Sea and Yellow Sea....

To an important degree, our ability to achieve these positive sum outcomes with emerging powers will depend on our ability to go beyond these important bilateral engagements, to construct the kind of regional and global arrangements in which we embed our bilateral ties and foster needed cooperation. That is the third pillar of our approach, and nowhere is that strategy more evident than our deepened engagement in Asia....

Similarly, the strong international response following last year’s North Korean nuclear test, and our own efforts to strengthen security ties with our Northeast Asian allies following the sinking of the Cheonan, offer at least some prospect of moving forward there. Our own recent dialogue with Chinese counterparts convinces me that China shares our view on the urgency of the North Korean nuclear question, and, at bottom, recognition that China cannot achieve its desired goal of stability on the Korean peninsula and the avoidance of further proliferation in the region so long as North Korea continues to pursue its nuclear and missile programmes.

I see a glass that is more than half full, from the global efforts on the economic crisis to the Copenhagen Protocol to the Nuclear Security Summit and the international reaction to Iran and North Korea. I believe that President Obama and Secretary Clinton’s commitment to the twin pillars of global cooperation and U.S. leadership have played an important role in moving these agendas forward".

James B. Steinberg,"Global Security Governance and the Emerging Distribution of Power,"
11 September 2010, in

A different attitude towards strategy exists in Asia, where major countries are emerging into confident nationhood, and the term ‘national interest’ has no pejorative implication. For example, China has announced a number of ‘core interests’ which are, in essence, non-negotiable and for which China is prepared to fight, if necessary. India has not been similarly explicit, but it has, by its conduct in the region it considers vital, shown a propensity for strategic analysis more comparable to 19th century and early 20th century Europe than the dominant trends in Europe today. I have personal experience of the ferocity [with] which countries like Vietnam vindicate their definition of the national interest.

In these circumstances, the classic concept of collective security is difficult to apply. The proposition that all nations have a common interest in the maintenance of peace, and that a well-conceived international system, through its institutions, can mobilise the international community on its behalf, has not been borne out by experience. The current participants in the international system are too diffuse to permit identical, or even symmetrical, convictions sufficient to organise an effective global collective security system on many key issues, including nuclear proliferation. A good example has been the impossibility of achieving a common definition of what took place in a very constricted area of the shores of South Korea a few months ago.

Henry A. Kissinger, "Keynote Address," 10 September 2010, in

"By the Anglo-American Convention regarding Egypt and Morocco England is the gaining party in Egypt, and France in Morocco....It is the duty of a Great Power not merely to protect its territorial frontiers, but also the interests lying outside them. In this sense all interests are to be held justified, which are not opposed by another and stronger right. We can never admit that France, as Morocco's neighbour, has a stronger right to Morocco than we have....If we let ourselves be trampled on in Morocco, we shall encourage them to do it again elsewhere."

Freiherr von Holstein, "Memorandum," 3 June 1904, in German Diplomatic Documents, 1871-1914, Edited & Translated by E.T.S. Dugdale, Volume II, pp. 220-221.

The events dealing with the Sino-Japanese dispute (now somewhat settled via a partial Japanese capitulation to Peking), highlight points made by former American Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in his speech referenced above. Namely that contrary to those who posited that we were entering into a Leibnizian, best of all possible worlds as it relates to International relations, should think once again. That far from say Peking or even for that matter New Delhi, being willing to play the role of ‘responsible stakeholders’, in the existing International system, both powers are firm adherents, both in the past and currently of real politik and machtpolitik, `a la Holstein. Indeed, one can well imagine that Holstein would have engineered the sort of diplomatic force majeure that Peking has recently employed vis-`a-vis Japan. If nothing else, this incident demonstrates that the new American ‘National Security Strategy’ document, unveiled earlier this year, fully deserve British emigre historian, Paul Kennedy’s characterization of it as: ‘especially vacuous’ (For this document see: 'National Security Strategy,' 27 May 2010, in With Kennedy noting that ‘since the Bush-Baker-Scowcroft team, nobody in Washington thinks strategically’ (see: Paul Kennedy, “Rise & Fall,” The World Today (August-September 2010), p. 9. All one can say is that while there are opportunities available to the Americans to exploit diplomatically both the diplomatic primitivism of both Peking and New Delhi, that does require that the USA, think and act ‘strategically’. Failing which, look for a real return of the Hobbenesian ‘omnium bellum contra omnes, in International politics.’