Tuesday, August 30, 2011


"China’s rise as a major international actor is likely to stand out as a defining feature of the strategic landscape of the early 21st century. Sustained economic development has raised the standard of living for China’s citizens and elevated China’s international profile. This development, coupled with an expanding science and technology base, has also facilitated a comprehensive and ongoing military modernization program. The United States welcomes a strong, prosperous, and successful China that reinforces international rules and norms and enhances security and peace both regionally and globally. China is steadily assuming new roles and responsibilities in the international community. In 2004, Chinese President Hu Jintao articulated new guidance for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), including missions extending beyond China’s immediate territorial interests. This catalyzed China’s growing involvement in international peacekeeping efforts, counter-piracy operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and the evacuation of Chinese citizens from overseas trouble spots. China’s 2010 Defense White Paper asserts that China’s ―future and destiny have never been more closely connected with those of the international community.‖ Nonetheless, China’s modernized military could be put to use in ways that increase China’s ability to gain diplomatic advantage or resolve disputes in its favor. Although the PLA is contending with a growing array of missions, Taiwan remains its main strategic direction.‖ China continued modernizing its military in 2010, with a focus on Taiwan contingencies, even as cross-Strait relations improved. The PLA seeks the capability to deter Taiwan independence and influence Taiwan to settle the dispute on Beijing’s terms. In pursuit of this objective, Beijing is developing capabilities intended to deter, delay, or deny possible U.S. support for the island in the event of conflict. The balance of cross-Strait military forces and capabilities continues to shift in the mainland’s favor. Over the past decade, China’s military has benefited from robust investment in modern hardware and technology. Many modern systems have reached maturity and others will become operational in the next few years. Following this period of ambitious acquisition, the decade from 2011 through 2020 will prove critical to the PLA as it attempts to integrate many new and complex platforms, and to adopt modern operational concepts, including joint operations and network-centric warfare. China has made modest, but incremental, improvements in the transparency of its military and security affairs. However, there remains uncertainty about how China will use its growing capabilities. The United States recognizes and welcomes PRC contributions that support a safe and secure global environment. China’s steady integration into the global economy creates new incentives for partnership and cooperation, particularly in the maritime domain. Although China’s expanding military capabilities can facilitate cooperation in pursuit of shared objectives, they can also increase the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculation. Strengthening our military-to-military relationship is a critical part of our strategy to shape China’s choices as we seek to capitalize on opportunities for cooperation while mitigating risks. To support this strategy, the United States must continue monitoring PRC force development and strategy. In concert with our friends and Allies, the United States will also continue adapting our forces, posture, and operational concepts to maintain a stable and secure East Asian environment".

The Office of the Secretary of Defence, "Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China 2011: Annual Report to Congress." No Date, in www.defence.gov.

“It’s a combination of the lack of understanding that’s been created by the opacity of their system, but it is also because there are very real questions given the overall trends and trajectory in the scope and the scale of China’s military modernization efforts,” Mr. Schiffer said. “I wouldn’t put it on any one particular platform or any one particular system. There’s nothing particularly magical about any one particular item.”

American Defence Department Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Michael Schiffer, quoted in Elizabeth Bumiller, "U.S. Official Warns About China's Military Build-up." The New York Times. 24 August 2011, in www.nytimes.com.

"About thirty years ago the fear of the 'Yellow Peril' was the fashion. It was said that China and Japan were about to advance towards economic and perhaps also military conquest of Europe and other regions. Much was written to stress the vast size of the yellow races, their modest standard of living which ensured the low prices of manufactured goods, the political sense of Japan, the reawakening of China after a sleep of centuries. Then gradually these fears abated and were replaced by others."

Vilfredo Pareto, "Russia." 13 June 1922, in The Other Pareto. Edited & translated by Placido & Gillian Bucolo. (1980), p. 258.

It is quite easy to become excessively alarmed by the American Defence Department report. Indeed, au fond that is part and parcel of the rationale of the report in the first place. Since with the likelihood of cuts (albeit from a
high level of current spending) in future years of American defence spending, the temptation by American military officials to beat the drum of a future 'Chinese military threat' is perhaps too much to overlook. Regardless of the reasoning behind the report, is there currently any danger posed by the PRC to American and Western interests in the Pacific, much less beyond the same? Based upon the information provided in the report, as well as other sources, the short answer is a resounding no. Which is not to gainsay the fact that, if (a very very contingent variable here) American-Western economies do not eventually recover by say 2020 from the deleveraging process currently under way, then, and only then perhaps there might be a real danger that the Americans could be under pressure to cut substantially their military budget. Id est, real cuts resulting in reductions in spending in real terms (AKA before factoring in projected increases). Currently, the American defence budget is upwards of forty-two percent of total military spending in the world. A figure higher than say 1988-1990 1. Even if this figure were to recede to something approaching forty percent, per se that would not change the strategic balance very much, given the fact that most of the other major military powers are American allies, either de facto or de jure, and thus not allied with the PRC: Japan, India, and the countries of Western Europe 2. With only the Russian federation among major military powers not being either de facto or de jure in the American camp. It is this pre-dominance of military hardware and allies, over and above the sheer size of the American military machine, which makes I for one a tad bit skeptical about the the likelihood that the Peking could possibly be a real military threat. Especially, since in geo-strategic terms, the PRC is 'boxed-in' its East Asian land space. As one China specialist, recently described the situation graphically from the PRC's perspective:

"Chinese decision-makers realize that China’s overall strategic position in East asia does not provide any leverage for China to adopt a confrontational approach towards any other major player in the region. After two decades of laborious efforts in consolidating its strategic foothold in the region, China is, by and
large, still a strategically isolated big power in East asia. China is not pleased with the situation but its leaders regard it as a strategic quandary that China will have to live with for a long time"

None of the above is to gainsay the fact, that the best guarantee of continued long-term, Western (American & European) global predominance is: i) increased economic growth (over and above the current trend-rate of 1.5%-2.0%) 4; ii) increased diplomatic outreach to those countries: India, Vietnam inter alia, who share Western concerns about Chinese expansionism. With one hopes in time a resurgent Russian Federation also involved; iii) a shared willingness to employ when needed Western military might vis-`a-vis the PRC `a la former American President Clinton's policy in the crisis over Formosa in 1996. There would be no greater risk to Western world-wide hegemony than a failure of nerve to employ directly or indirectly military force when the situation shows that it is needed. Especially against the regime in power in Peking.

1. On this subject matter, see: Sebastian Mallaby, "American power requires economic sacrifice." The Financial Times. 6 July 2011, in www.ft.com & Neil Bouhan & Paul Swartz. "Trends in U.S. Military Spending." Council on Foreign Relations. 28 June 2011, in www.cfr.org.

2. Bouhan & Swartz, op cit.

3. Mingjiang Li, "China's Non-confrontational Assertiveness in The South China Sea." The Freeman Report. (July / August 2011), p. 2.

4. As the 'Lex' column in Monday's Financial Times cogently notes: much of the much vaunted, American budget deficit would disappear, if economic growth would return to the trend-rate of 3.0% of the 1982-1990 & 1992-2001 periods. With the key quandary being if this is in fact possible in the aftermath of the financial crisis of the last three years. See: Lex, "US Budget: forecast tax take flaw." The Financial Times 29 August, in www.ft.com.

Monday, August 22, 2011


"In talks in London late Monday, the British foreign secretary, William Hague, met his French counterpart, Alain Juppé, who said last week that “one of the scenarios” to resolve the conflict in Libya “is that he stays in Libya on one condition, which I repeat: that he very clearly steps aside from Libyan political life.”

Previously, Britain had insisted that Colonel Qaddafi leave the country as part of a settlement. That could expose him to arrest under a warrant on war crimes charges issued by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

But, adopting a newer formula used by the State Department in Washington, Mr. Hague said on Tuesday that “what happens to Qaddafi is ultimately a question for the Libyans.”

“What is absolutely clear is that whatever happens, Qaddafi must leave power. He must never again be able to threaten the lives of Libyan civilians nor to destabilize Libya once he has left power.”

“Obviously him leaving Libya itself would be the best way of showing the Libyan people that they no longer have to live in fear of Qaddafi,” Mr. Hague said. “But as I have said all along, this is ultimately a question for Libyans to determine.”

After Mr. Juppé raised the idea last week, an Obama administration spokesman, Jay Carney, said Colonel Qaddafi “needs to remove himself from power — and then it’s up to the Libyan people to decide.”

The shift came as NATO maintained its four-month air campaign to support Libyan rebels by hampering pro-Qaddafi forces. The latest NATO attack was reported on Tuesday with a strike the previous day against targets near the town of Zliten east of Tripoli, the capital".

Alan Cowell, "Britain says Qaddafi Could remain in Libya." The New York Times. 26 July 2011, in www.nytimes.com.

"Reports of explosions and heavy gunfire in Tripoli on Aug. 20 indicate that rebel fighters may be beginning an attempt to lay siege on the Libyan capital with the aim of removing Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Based on the limited information available so far and the immense complications entailed in trying to seize a metropolis like Tripoli, however, it does not appear that the rebels are in a position to wage a final assault against Gadhafi....

Though Gadhafi appears to be on the defensive, the challenges of laying siege to and then taking a city defended by forces that have had a significant amount of time to dig in and prepare for an attack cannot be understated. If Gadhafi can retain the loyalty of his remaining troops, the rebels will have a difficult time seizing the city".

Stratfor, "Libyan Rebels Closing in on Tripoli." Stratfor: Global Intelligence. 20 August 2011, in www.stratfor.com.

"TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Remnants of forces still loyal to Muammar Gaddafi staged a desperate stand in Tripoli on Tuesday as rebels fought their way into the capital, but the whereabouts of the veteran leader was a mystery....Rebels say they are now in control of most of Tripoli, a sprawling coastal city of two million people on the Mediterranean Sea, but it was not clear whether Gaddafi was still in the Libyan capital. Rebels swept into Tripoli two days ago in tandem with an uprising within the city. Reuters reporters saw firefights and clashes with heavy weapons, including anti-aircraft guns, as rebels tried to flush out snipers and pockets of resistance. Hundreds seem to have been killed or wounded since Saturday. But Gaddafi tanks and sharpshooters appeared to hold only small areas, mainly around Gaddafi's heavily fortified Bab al-Aziziyah compound in central Tripoli".

Ulf Laessing & Missy Ryan, "Gadaffi on the run as rebels fight in Tripoli." Reuters. 22 August 2011, in www.reuters.com.

The sudden collapse of the Qaddafi regime in the past few days must rank as one of the more sudden and complete examples in history of how the balance of forces on the battlefield can change tout`a coup.As recently as three weeks ago (viz the New York Times report of pour-parlers from Paris & London about allowing Qaddafi to remain in power above), it was widely feared (by myself among others) that NATO's campaign had become bogged down and that there was every likelihood of the war continuing into the fall 1. The fact that even the American intelligence outfit, Stratfor was still issuing caveats on Saturday evening (EST), about the likelihood of the rebels being able to gain control of what then seemed Qaddafi's strong-hold of Tripoli would appear to show how quickly circumstances were changing on the ground. From a purely military standpoint it would appear that what occurred was that while the regimes forces were still able to hold-off the rebels in the East of the country, the advances made by the rebels in the mountains and hills to the south and west of Tripoli, both commenced and were a sign of the gradual collapse of the regime's forces. No doubt, the fact that supplies were gradually becoming more and more difficult to obtain as well as the fact that with the ever-present NATO air campaign, the regime's more efficient elements were becoming more and more degraded. Another variable, not easily predictable, but, I would surmise perhaps equally important was that the morale of the regimes forces were beginning to collapse. As the conflict's continuation led even the most loyal elements of the regime to begin to engage in sauve qui peut. Hence the veritable disappearance, beginning on Friday-Saturday of what was widely viewed as the strongest battlefield force in the entire country, regime or rebel: the Khamis brigade personally commanded by Qaddafi's own son Khamis. As Stratfor cogently notes to-day, the key issue of what occurred in Tripoli in the past few days is that the brigagde "put up almost no resistance as the rebels pushed eastward from Zawiya" 2. And while the regime is still holding-out in perhaps ten to fifteen percent of the city of Tripoli, the fact is that no one would have predicted the degree and scale of the rebel success at this time last week. Once again as the collapse of say Imperial Germany in October-November of 1918 or for that matter the 'strange defeat' of France in May-June 1940, questions of troop morale and loyalty rather than more empirical variables, will I believe be found to have been the key determinate of the resolution of the campaign 3.

1. For this see in addition to the above referenced report: Peter Grier, "Has Obama's approach to Libya been vindicated?" The Christian Science Monitor. 22 August 2011, in www.csmonitor.com.

2. Stratfor, "Libyan Rebels Immediate Security Concerns." Op cit.

3. The 'Strange Defeat' (Etrange Defaite) is of course the title of the great Annales historian Marc Bloch's contemporary (written in the summer of 1940, first published in 1946) study of the French collapse in May-June 1940. For a recent look at the causes of the German collapse in October-November 1918, see: David Stevenson, With our backs to the wall: Victory & Defeat in 1918. (Harvard University Press, 2011).

Saturday, August 20, 2011


"At least seven of the attackers – who Israel says belong to the Gaza-based Popular Resistance Committees – were killed by Israeli and Egyptian forces. Since Thursday evening, the Israeli air force has also struck a series of targets in the Gaza Strip, killing seven Palestinians, including the PRC commander. According to Gaza-based observers, the committees have more than 1,000 gunmen in their ranks, and are considered one of the most active, and aggressive, militant groups in the Gaza Strip. They have claimed responsibility for a series of high-profile attacks on Israeli targets in recent years, including the 2006 abduction of Gilad Shalit , the Israeli soldier currently held in Gaza. The PRC operates largely independently from Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the strip. There has been no claim of responsibility for the Eilat attacks from any group. Hamas leaders, however, have said the group’s fighters had nothing to do with the assault.

The first Israeli target hit on Thursday was a bus driving from the city of Beersheva to Eilat. It was sprayed with gunfire close to the Egyptian border by a group of men who reportedly disguised themselves as soldiers. It was followed by a second shooting attack on another bus. The third incident occurred when an Israeli military vehicle rushing to the scene was hit by a roadside bomb. This was followed by mortar fire, apparently from the Egyptian side of the border, and the launching of at least one anti-tank missile on an Israeli vehicle....

Israeli officials have long been concerned about the country’s southern frontier, which runs for 255km through unpopulated desert and is therefore difficult to monitor and even harder to defend. The Sinai is widely considered the most lawless region in Egypt, and has long functioned as a base for gangs of smugglers and for militant Islamist groups. The assault came just days after the Egyptian army and police launched a crackdown in the peninsula, aimed at weeding out Islamic militants after a rise in attacks against police stations and security check points since the revolution that overthrew former President Hosni Mubarak in February.

In the past six months, suspected Islamist militants in the Sinai have blown up a pipeline carrying natural gas to Israel five times. More than a hundred militants, armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades, attacked a police station in al-Arish, the main city in northern Sinai at the end of July. Six people, including an army officer and two policemen, were killed in the siege of the station, which involved a nine-hour gun battle. Dubbed “Operation Eagle”, the continuing crackdown in the Sinai is reported to have led to the discovery of at least three stores containing large amounts of explosives as well as automatic weapons and grenades. The security services said they arrested four people on Tuesday as they prepared to blow up the gas line again.

More than a dozen others were arrested on Monday and at least one suspected militant was killed during a gun battle with the security services. The Israeli government decided last year to build a new security fence along the border with Egypt, saying it was necessary to stop the flow of illegal migrants into the country and to undermine the smuggling of arms and other goods. The fence, which was estimated to cost at least Shk1bn ($280m), has not yet been completed".

Tobias Buck & Heba Saleh, "Israel and Gaza Militants trade attacks." The Financial Times.19 August 2011, in www.ft.com.

"In light of recent unrest in the Arab world and the new political and security reality in Egypt, these latest attacks in Israel potentially represent a new kind of threat — one posed by transnational jihadists who have long wanted to undermine Egypt without operational success. It is quite possible that al Qaeda is trying to exploit the post-Mubarak political environment to mobilize its Sinai- and Gaza-based assets in order to create an Egyptian-Israeli crisis that can (potentially) undermine Cairo’s stability....

Egypt’s rolling back of the police state and subsequent political reforms have made it difficult to maintain domestic security and keep militants under control. Indeed, militants are already taking advantage of the political opening. They have stepped up their operations, as evidenced by attacks against energy infrastructure and other targets in the Sinai Peninsula. The new era of Egyptian multiparty politics has also allowed a variety of Islamist actors to emerge as legitimate political entities. At the same time, Egyptian national sentiment is emerging as a major factor in the foreign policymaking process. This change alone constitutes a threat to Israel’s national security, though it is a more of a long-term issue.

The rise of different types of Islamist actors (Muslim Brotherhood, Salafists and Sufists, among others) as legitimate political entities who pursue constitutional means to come to power makes it difficult for jihadists to directly threaten the stability of the Egyptian regime. With even Salafists and former jihadist groups such as Gamaah al-Islamiyah and Tandheem al-Jihad embracing the political mainstream, the jihadists will have a hard time gaining support for an armed insurrection against the Egyptian state. Realizing that they are not able to directly confront the Egyptian state (despite the Arab unrest), the jihadists are trying to indirectly undermine the regime by exploiting the Israeli-Gaza situation and the renewed militancy in the Sinai. Even before today’s attacks, the Israelis responded to increasing attacks in the Sinai by allowing Cairo to deploy an additional 1,000 troops to the peninsula. That concession indicated that Israel is likely skeptical of the Egyptian military’s ability to effectively deal with this problem, considering current political and security circumstances. Cairo is under a lot of stress domestically and regionally. Egypt is in the early stages of trying to manage political and militant opposition in a tense political climate and it is unable to maintain internal security as effectively as it once did.

Israel, therefore, will likely see today’s attacks as a new kind of threat. The Israeli leadership realizes that the problem is no longer strictly confined to Gaza but has now spread to Egypt itself. However, Israel doesn’t have any good way to control the situation unfolding within the borders of its Arab neighbor. That said, Israeli officials have already begun pointing fingers at the deteriorating security situation in Egypt, a response which likely going to cause tensions between the two countries. For decades, the al Qaeda leader has longed to be capable of undermining the Egyptian state, and now the Arab unrest provides an opportunity (albeit not without challenges of its own). Al-Zawahiri’s status as al Qaeda chief after the death of Osama bin Laden boosts the viability of this endeavor. In this new role, he is more or less free to steer the movement toward his preferred direction. His ascension to the top of the jihadist hierarchy also signals a rise of Egyptians (who have long held a disproportionate amount of influence) within the global jihadist network. The result is that al Qaeda can be expected to focus heavily on the Egyptian-Gaza-Israeli fault line. This fixation will not only complicate matters for Israel and its efforts to deal with the Gaza Strip, it could also begin to unravel the Egyptian-Israeli relationship that has existed since the signing of the 1978 Camp David Peace Accords".

"Attacks in Egypt and new militant opportunities in Egypt." Stratfor: Global intelligence.19 August 2011, in www.stratfor.com.

It would be kinderspiel to blame the Israeli government for 'overreacting' to the latest Gaza incursions. Indeed, that was at first my own initial reaction. However, per contra, as both the Financial Times and the American intelligence firm, Stratfor clearly agree, the incursion into Israeli territory is part of a fundamental weakening of Egyptian security in the Sinai Peninsula in the past six months with the downfall of the Mubarak regime 1. With an end-result that we now have a situation where Islamist terrorist groups are apparently infiltrating themselves into the Sinai with a view of launching attacks upon both Israeli and Egyptian targets. Whether the security lapses on the Egyptian side are merely a case of a temporarily breakdown which shall in due course be righted or (as per Stratfor) perhaps a semi-deliberate policy by the interim military regime to allow Islamist elements some 'space' due to a fear of the political unpopularity of launching a needed & necessary crackdown, is unknowable at this time. Although the manner in which Egypt has reacted to the Israeli response does not offer any real optimism on that score 2. Au fond security in the Sinai Peninsula is Egypt's responsibility. Just as security in the Gaza Strip is Hamas' responsibility. If either party fails to abide by their obligations under international law, then both should pay the forfeit as it were. In the case of Egypt, one would hope that the Americans and the other, responsible members of the Quartet powers: the European Union and the United Nations would apply the requisite amount of both diplomatic & and economic pressure on Cairo to properly enforce security in the entirety of the Sinai Peninsula. In the case of the Hamas regime in Gaza Strip, there the matter presents us with a greater dilemma. While under international law, Tel Aviv is allowed to engage in hot pursuit of those terrorists who have attacked its territory or indeed launched rocket attacks on the same (`a la those of yesterday), unfortunately Israel's leaders have in the past (id est, 'Operation Cast Lead') chosen to employ the sledge hammer approach, where something less heavy-handed would do. Given everything else going on in the Near and Middle East, it would be a political disaster of the first rank, if there was a repetition of the Israeli military response of January 2009. Which left much of the Gaza Strip in ruins. Based upon the scale of Israel's retaliation so far, one can only hope that the Netanyahu Cabinet will continue to exercise moderation in its reaction to these latest and senseless attacks. Attacks which I for one, am convinced have some connection with elements who are following orders from the Assad regime in Damascus or even perhaps the regime in Persia. Both powers would be overjoyed for Israel to be provoked into another 'Operation Cast Lead' and thus refocus attention in the Near and Middle East from the uprising in Syria to the Israel-Palestinian dispute 3. Insofar as it is possible, it is quite imperative for Israel to be prevented from falling into this trap. One can only hope that the Saudis can be prevailed upon to exercise necessary caution and to indeed engage in the appropriate pourparlers with Hamas regime. Hopefully, before matters spiral out of control entirely. The Americans, one would hope would do the same with Israel, but given the less than cordial relations between the current American government and the Netanyahu Cabinet (id est, they cordially despise each other), one is not entirely certain if anything positive would result from any official or un-official demarches on the subject 4. Like most diplomacy in the region at the moment, it would be very much a case of faute de mieux.

1. For a confirmation of the analyses of both the Financial Times and Startfor, see: "Attacks in Israel: terror down South." The Economist. 18 August 2011, in www.economist.com. For the Egyptian response to the Israeli military reprisal, see: Hiba Afify & Isabel Kerschner, "A long Peace is threatened in Israel military attack." The New York Times 19 August 2011, in www.nytimes.com.

2. On the subsequent Israeli response and in turn the rocket attacks on Israel, originating from the Gaza Strip, see: Ansel Pfeffer, "30 Rockets strike Israel day after coordinated Terror attacks kill 8." & Avi Issacharoff & Ansel Pfeffer,"Israel Air Force Bombs Gaza following deadly terror attack, killing four PRC activists." Haaretz 19 August 2011, in www.haaretz.com.

3. Hezbollah, the creature of both Damascus and Persia, came out with a statement hailing the attacks on Israel, is if nothing else an indication of where both powers interest in the matter lies. Obviously, sans hard evidence, my own surmise that the initial attack was co-ordinated or planned by the two powers in question is purely speculative. For Hezbollah's statement see: "Hezbollah hails operation in Israel as heroic." Daily Star. 20 August 2011, in www.dailystar.com.

4. For a view of the current American administration that would appear close to that held by the Netanyahu Cabinet, see: Elliott Abrams, "0 for 2: Obama's Failed Middle East Policy." The Council on Foreign Relations.13 July 2011, in www.cfr.org.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


"For most in Europe and the United States, 1991 takes a back seat to the fall of the Berlin Wall. This clearly demonstrates that what mattered to the West, then and now, was the reunification of Europe and of Germany within it. The fate of the Soviet Union itself was not an issue in the Cold War. The sudden collapse of the Soviet empire had to be managed and made permanent, but anything beyond that was deemed too difficult ? and, frankly, unnecessary....

This is the principal meaning of August 1991. It marks the watershed between Soviet Russia and the present-day Russian Federation. Unlike its Communist predecessor, today's Russia is essentially free. Russians enjoy most civil rights. They are free to speak out, to practice the religions they choose, to leave their country and return home. They can own property, engage in business, and keep their money in the currency and place of their choice. This freedom has important caveats. Not everyone has the means to fully enjoy it. Russians are quite free in their private domains, but the public space is not hospitable for most people. Thus, Russia, while demonstrably free, is anything but a democracy. Undivided power is owned by a small corporation. Democratic procedure is imitated rather than practiced. The parliament is a rubber stamp, and the courts of law bow to the authorities.

The Russian Federation 1.0, however, is not your typical authoritarian regime. It is authoritarianism with the consent of the governed. For the time being, most of those holed up in their private domains simply do not want to be bothered and are content to leave governing to the authorities. Many are also dependent on these authorities for various social handouts. The government feels virtually no need to tax individuals and thus no need to be accountable to them. For those who want to know what is going on, and comment on it, the Internet is free. For those who find such a life unbearable or unworthy, the borders are open. Yet, we have also seen cracks in these freedoms. Look more closely, and what looks like an all-powerful state machine is in reality privatized, parceled out to office holders and their clans at all levels. Most people call it corruption, but the word is too weak. Corruption is not a bug in the system; it is its debilitating disease. The state has failed to keep kickbacks and extortions within the limits that those outside the system would find tolerable. If the current trend continues, the system will eventually lose its legitimacy. If this happens, the governed will withdraw their consent in Russia's warped "social contract," and what passes for social and political stability will be gone.

But the death of Soviet communism in August 1991, in some sense, transported Russia back to the pre-revolutionary days. There are a few important lessons to be drawn from 100 years ago. Much like during the Russian Empire, Russia today has a monarchy of sorts, and it has capitalism without democracy. What's more, the State Duma functions with little independent power. There is a poignant plea from the top for "20 years of peace and quiet," but also distinct grumbling from below and a sense that troubled times are on the horizon. Like then, there is still time to do one's best to avert the worst. To the would-be successors of Pyotr Stolypin, building cyber walls against future revolutionary mobs or engaging football fans to win elections is a weak and flawed strategy. The Kremlin needs to focus on growth, development and governance. None of this is possible without tackling corruption at the very top. Once the sobriquet of "the party of swindlers and thieves" is transferred to its nominal leader, it will be too late. Honesty and professionalism is crucial.

To the would-be detractors of the ruling elite, believing that "the worse, the better" and hoping to see the dawn of a brave new world once the books close on the existing one is both naive and dangerous. Rather than creating a small-time nuisance for the authorities, they need to clamor to be part of the decision-making processes and press for their representation. Their slogan could be: 'Turning Consumers Into Citizens!' To those who still reject 1991 ? either because it destroyed communism or led to the dismantlement of the Soviet empire ? it is time to accept the verdict of history as final and redefine their beliefs and goals. There is a place in Russia for both social democracy and vibrant civic nationalism. Indeed, both are sorely missing and should be welcomed. Twenty years after August 1991, what is missing in Russia is a sense of being a nation. Putting a premium on survival or self-enrichment may have been the right strategy in the last two decades, but this strategy has now run its course. There is a price to be paid when society lacks a responsible and accountable government ? from unkempt, stinking stairwells to sinking pleasure boats. We need a new debate on nation-building. There is only one Russia, and it can be either shared or divided. A Soviet Russia is a clear anachronism, United Russia is a status quo model and offers little in terms of modernizing the country, and a liberal Russia is a pipe dream. If Russia remains divided, it may not survive much longer. Conservatives, liberals, socialists and others need to come together as one nation under one flag. Symbolically, the parade of the victorious Russian tricolor marking the defeat of the August putsch has become an official national holiday ? Flag Day on Aug. 22. What Russia needs, 20 years after the putsch, is a republic in the literal sense of the word: a common concern".

Dmitry Trenin, "Building a Republic 20 years after the putsch." The Moscow Times. 16 August 2011. www.themoscowtimes.com.

"In foreign policy, and in domestic policy alike, the Soviet Government is guided entirely by 'Real Politik'. It is quite true that its calculations are often based upon on entirely false premises, and that it has numerous obsessions. In this connection I need only refer to the entirely disproportionate importance of oil....
As regards its internal position, the Soviet Government is independent of recognition by foreign powers. Whatever opinion may be held of the present Moscow Government, there can be no doubt that it is in point of fact the one and only Government of Russia, and that there does not appear to be any prospect of its being replaced by some alternative Government in the measurable future. It controls the entire political machine. No organized political opposition is allowed, and although there is and will continue to be a great deal of discontent, this discontent is confined to grumbling, and does not show signs of expression in action. It is true that the economic basis on which the Soviet Government rests is not sound and the Government itself recognizes that unless it can run the main branches of industry, which are still directly controlled by the State, at a profit, its position will become weaker.
Adaptability is, however the keynote of Soviet policy."

Peters (Moscow) to Lord Curzon (Foreign Secretary), 5 December 1921. Documents on British Foreign Policy, 1919-1939, First Series, Volume XX, pp. 957-958.

On the twentieth anniversary of the failed coup d'etat of August 1991, which en faite, lead directly to the downfall of Sovietskaya Vlast, one of the finest scholars of contemporary Russia, Dmitry Trenin offers up, to my mind a very cogent and learned view of the status quo ante of the present-day Russian Federation 1. While one does not have to necessarily agree with every aspect of his analysis, it seems to my mind beyond doubt that the following aspects of his oeuvre are beyond dispute or caveat: i) there is no 'going back' to some semblance of Sovietskaya Vlast, however much some people both in and out of power in Russia would like that idea. Any more than (unfortunately) there is any going back to say Tsarist Russia circa 1916; ii) that twenty years, and nay indeed thirty years does not appear to be enough time for Russia to recover from the criminal insanity of Sovietskaya Vlast. A regime as one of the first Westerners (the German military attache) characterized it in the Spring of 1918 as: 'insanity in power'. Hence the distortions and anomalies that Westerners see in present day Russia, when one compares it to say, Poland or the Baltic States, indeed even to some degree Ukraine 2; iii) that however much the current regime is distorted and indeed dysfunctional in many, many respects, with its corruption, waste, inefficiencies, lack of modernization, lack of responsible government, resulting at times for at least this observer, as making the regimes of say Nikolai Pavlovich (Nicholas I) or Aleksandr Aleksandrovich (Alexander III) seem in comparison as wonderful examples of efficiency, functionality and modernization, that does not obviate the fact that a 'pire ca va, mieux que est' point of view, is not the best or indeed correct answer to Russia's current situation; iv) similarly, any idea that merely assuming that Russia can muddle along in its present state, with an economy which while growing, is not growing at nearly the rate to allow Russia to escape what one observer has described as the 'middle-income trap', sans which, Russia will never join the advanced Western countries either economically or socially. With the end-result being that Russia may revert to a status similar to what it occupied under the Tartar Yoke, with an energy hungry China assuming the role of the Mongols 3. In short, while the Putin-Medvedev regime did a yeoman's service in its initial five years (2000-2005) in power, the past six years have been no more than a muddle. With no fundamental improvements in governance, economic modernization, transparency and many indices of social conditions of the population. Instead, au fond the current government appears to believe it own rhetoric that it is very best regime that Russia has on offer and that anyone else who chooses not to believe this modest claim is politically suspect if not worse. Hence, the rather idiotic and indeed embarrassing harassment of political opponents and semi-opponents by the powers that be on occasion. The upshot is that without a new course in the next five years, Russia can expect societal stalemate and stagnation. With results that Russophiles like myself, would rather not even care to contemplate. As the British academic, David Kerr argued last year, in the Royal Institute of International Affairs house journal, International Affairs:

"As China looms larger on its Asian frontiers, Russia may not only experience pressure on its sphere of autonomy, but may feel increasingly exposed trying to deal with China in a space that requires it to be detached from the West. In essence, China's rise will change the frontiers between East and West, and may force Russia to conclude that its belief that it could stand apart from the West was something of an illusion 4."

1. John Lloyd, "Russia must forget its Imperial aims." The Financial Times.16 August 2011, in www.ft.com. This is a review of Trenin's new book which is just out: Post-Imperium: A Eurasian Story.

2. For how the Russian intelligentsia and the lay educated (Moskva & Petersburg centered) public views both the Putin-Medvedev regime and both the 'alternatives' in the Baltics & Ukraine, see: Lilia Shestova, "Russia's Liberal Standpoint." Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 2 August 2011, in www.carenegieendowment.org.

3. For this rather grim prognosis of Russia's possible future, see: David Kerr, "Central Asian and Russian perspectives on China's strategic emergence." International Affairs. (January 2010), pp. 127-152. For China's view of its energy diplomacy in Central Asia and vis-`a-vis Russia, see: Simon Hui Shen, "'Qualitative Energy Diplomacy' in Central Asia: A comparative analysis of The United States, Russia and China." Brookings InstitutionApril 2011, in www.brookings.edu. For the 'middle-income trap', see: George Magnus, "China can yet avoid a middle-income trap." The Financial Times.29 June 2011, in www.ft.com.

4. Kerr, op. cit., p. 152 & passim.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


"Since late 2010, we have seen three kinds of uprisings in the Arab world. The first are those that merely brushed by the regime. The second are those that created a change in leaders but not in the way the country was run. The third are those that turned into civil wars, such as Libya and Yemen. There is also the interesting case of Bahrain, where the regime was saved by the intervention of Saudi Arabia, but while the rising there conformed to the basic model of the Arab Spring — failed hopes — it lies in a different class, caught between Saudi and Iranian power.

The three examples do not mean that there is not discontent in the Arab world or a desire for change. They do not mean that change will not happen, or that discontent will not assume sufficient force to overthrow regimes. They also do not mean that whatever emerges will be liberal democratic states pleasing to Americans and Europeans.

This becomes the geopolitically significant part of the story. Among Europeans and within the U.S. State Department and the Obama administration is an ideology of human rights — the idea that one of the major commitments of Western countries should be supporting the creation of regimes resembling their own. This assumes all the things that we have discussed: that there is powerful discontent in oppressive states, that the discontent is powerful enough to overthrow regimes, and that what follows would be the sort of regime that the West would be able to work with.

The issue isn’t whether human rights are important but whether supporting unrest in repressive states automatically strengthens human rights. An important example was Iran in 1979, when opposition to the oppression of the shah’s government was perceived as a movement toward liberal democracy. What followed might have been democratic but it was hardly liberal. Indeed, many of the myths of the Arab Spring had their roots both in the 1979 Iranian Revolution and later in Iran’s 2009 Green Movement, when a narrow uprising readily crushed by the regime was widely viewed as massive opposition and widespread support for liberalization.

The world is more complicated and more varied than that. As we saw in the Arab Spring, oppressive regimes are not always faced with massed risings, and unrest does not necessarily mean mass support. Nor are the alternatives necessarily more palatable than what went before or the displeasure of the West nearly as fearsome as Westerners like to think. Libya is a case study on the consequences of starting a war with insufficient force. Syria makes a strong case on the limits of soft power. Egypt and Tunisia represent a textbook lesson on the importance of not deluding yourself.

The pursuit of human rights requires ruthless clarity as to whom you are supporting and what their chances are. It is important to remember that it is not Western supporters of human rights who suffer the consequences of failed risings, civil wars or revolutionary regimes that are committed to causes other than liberal democracy.

The misreading of the situation can also create unnecessary geopolitical problems. The fall of the Egyptian regime, unlikely as it is at this point, would be just as likely to generate an Islamist regime as a liberal democracy. The survival of the Assad regime could lead to more slaughter than we have seen and a much firmer base for Iran. No regimes have fallen since the Arab Spring, but when they do it will be important to remember 1979 and the conviction that nothing could be worse than the shah’s Iran, morally or geopolitically. Neither was quite the case.

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t people in the Arab world who want liberal democracy. It simply means that they are not powerful enough to topple regimes or maintain control of new regimes even if they did succeed. The Arab Spring is, above all, a primer on wishful thinking in the face of the real world".

George Friedman, "Re-examining the Arab Spring." Stratfor. 15 August 2011, in www.stratfor.com.

"Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, and Libya have had their turn; now Syria occupies centre stage. More than 1,000 people have been killed in recent fighting, while hundreds of thousands still risk their lives challenging the regime. Syria's future rests on whether a handful of Alawite generals are prepared to keep killing their fellow citizens to preserve the Assad regime and, more fundamentally, Alawite primacy. The outside world, fearing the alternative and bogged down in Libya, is little more than a bystander. Syria's violence is just one further sign that the promise of the Arab spring has given way to a long, hot summer in which the geopolitics of the Middle East are being reset for the worse. Syria is not unique. Other threatened leaders around the regions have clearly now decided against emulating the former presidents of Tunisia and Egypt, who went gently into the night. Violence, along with the threat of imprisonment and international tribunals, has persuaded them that the future is winner takes all and loser loses all. Not surprisingly, they have chosen to resist.

Meanwhile, the most organised groups in Arab societies tend to be the army and other security organs on one hand and Islamist entities on the other. Secular liberal groups (if they exist) tend to be weak and divided, and unlikely to prevail in any political competition in the near term. Facebook and Twitter matter but not enough. Looked at more broadly, the stalling of the Arab spring has both revealed and widened the breach between the US and Saudi Arabia. Saudi leaders were alienated by what they saw as the US abandoning the regime in Egypt after three decades of close cooperation. The Americans, for their part, were unhappy with the Saudi decision to intervene militarily in Bahrain. But such independent, uncoordinated policies are now likely to become more frequent, especially if international efforts to stop Iran's nuclear program come up short....Take all this together, and you see a series of developments that are beginning to produce a region that is less tolerant, less prosperous, and less stable that what existed. To be sure, the authoritarian old guard that still dominates much of the Middle East could yet be forced or eased out and replaced with something relatively democratic and open. Unfortunately, the odds now seem against this happening".

Richard Hass, "The Arab Spring Has Given Way to a Long Hot Summer." Council on Foreign Relations. 6 July 2011, in www.cfr.org.

Although the American intelligence forecasting outfit (widely quoted in such venues as the Financial Times, the New York Times and even the New York Review of Books), has to my mind a quite uneven track record (does anyone now remember Mr. Friedman's early 1990's book on the 'Coming war with Japan'?, or his predictions about the easy outcome of the Iraq War?), but regardless of this fact, Mr. Friedman's opus is well worth looking at in depth, as unlike some of his past writings, in the case of the Arab Spring, his views are not merely a reflection of his clients in the American Defence and Intelligence establishment. As a quite similar analysis by the ultra-establishment, ex-State Department Policy Planning Staff chief and NSC Near Eastern head, Richard Hass seems to indicate, a pessimistic prognosis of the ongoing upheavals in the Near & Middle East, this calendar anno domini 2011, is not merely a case of undue pessimism. Au fond of course, both gentleman are partially correct in some of their surmises, that there are few reasons to be optimistic as to the future course (or should one say 'courses') that the various Arab countries may take. Simply put, on most measurable levels almost all of the Arab countries in the Near & Middle East, lack the requisite developmental indices that have in the past indicated a smooth transition to democratic rule. Such indices include: urbanization, secularization, literacy rates, poverty rates, median per capita income, et cetera. As well as the all-important cultural variable (id est, 'democracy' is not ingrained in the Arab cultural psyche, as it is in say the European cultural nerve or even the Philippine or Indian cultural nerve). With all that being said, per se, there is no Weberian 'iron law' of modernization which dictates that all or even most of the Arab countries of the region should necessarily remain un-democratic and or ruled by authoritarian, Islamist governments. The examples of Indonesia and even semi-democratic & pluralist Malaysia (both Muslim majority countries) offering pro contra examples.

With the above being understood, what can we say concretely at this time? I would say that we have three different types of 'situations' in which we can group Arab countries: i) countries where the existing regimes are fully in the saddle and are not facing any serious threats of overthrow: the Gulf States (including Bahrain), Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Iraq; ii) countries where the regimes have indeed been overthrown and where there is some alleged transition to democratic rule, albeit unfinished at this time: Egypt and Tunisia; iii) countries where the existing regimes are facing serious uprising and or where there is an ongoing civil war: Libya, Yemen, Syria. And therefore the route to stable democratic rule appears to be far, far away. The key to the current and future situation in the area is of course those countries in 'ii' and 'iii'. Since if neither column of countries is able to succeed in seriously embarking on democratic rule or the semblance of the same, one can hardly expect that to be the case for those countries in the first column. Especially, since what is currently the most important Arab country in the region Saudi Arabia), is also the country which is the most steadfast in opposition to any democratization trend in the region. Riyadh's recent attacks on the regime in Damascus being almost entirely opportunistic (id est, attacking an ally of Shiite Persia) than for purposes of assisting pro-democratic forces in that country. In short, if neither Egypt in particular or Tunisia is able by the end of the current calendar anno domini, to make serious progress in embarking on the road to democratic, pluralistic rule, and if the existing regimes & or civil upheavals in Yemen, Syria or Libya not replaced with a democratizing scenario, then one can reasonably expect that like Europe circa 1852, a return of the ancien regime throughout the entire region. Perhaps as early as this time next year. Except that as Richard Hass correctly notes, such a return to the status quo ante, will be an extremely brittle and unstable state of affairs. With in most cases of soupcon of Islamist incense to cover-up the paucity of legitimacy of these regimes. More akin to say Tsarist Russia between 1905 and 1917 than anything else.

Friday, August 12, 2011


"The Gulf Cooperation Council, a coalition of six Arab, oil-rich, Gulf states dominated by Saudi Arabia, then issued a statement asking for an end to the bloodshed in Syria.

On Sunday, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, in the first such public speech, asked Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to end the military campaign against protesters and to enact sweeping reforms.

It is very likely that these various statements were coordinated, and that they form part of a process aimed at building a coalition against Syria's government. The next step would likely be for other Muslim and Arab states, prompted by Turkey and Saudi Arabia, to become more vocal in their criticism of President al-Assad.

Saudi Arabia, through its connections to insurgents and Sunni tribes in Iraq and to Sunni politicians in Lebanon, will likely provide additional financing for weapons smuggling operations into Syria.

Turkey is the only country with the military capability, national security interests and favourable geographic location that can intervene in Syria.

Turkey is increasingly likely to receive international support, from Nato and the Arab League and possibly from the UN Security Council, to send troops into northern Syria. In its initial stages, this would likely involve the creation of a 10km-20km buffer zone in Hasaka, Raqqa, Idlib and Aleppo Provinces.

Further, the statements by the GCC and Saudi Arabia indicate increased Arab support for Syria's Sunni majority, which will likely lead to increased protests against the Ba'ath ruling party".

"Exclusive Analysis: Syria's Neighbours building a coalition against Assad's government," Daily Telegraph. 8 August 2011 in www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria.

"Turkey's foreign minister says he and Syrian leader Bashar Assad have discussed 'concrete steps' Syria should take to stop the bloodshed there.But Ahmet Davutoglu did not say what those steps would be and whether Assad had agreed to consider taking them. Speaking to reporters on his return from Damascus on Tuesday, Davutoglu said Turkey would continue talking with Assad in a bid to halt the violence.

Syria's army has defied international criticism of the regime's deadly crackdown on a 5-month-old uprising, and the soldiers continued their raids on restive areas Tuesday. Davutoglu said: 'We discussed ways to prevent confrontation between the army and the people in the most open and clear way.' Davutoglu said the atmosphere was cordial when he met with Assad for more than six hours in Damascus on Tuesday, including a two-hour tete-a-tete".

"Turkey, Syria discuss steps to end violence."The Associated Press. www.trib.com/news/national/europe/article.

Judging from some of the comments that one reads in the past few days, one would be forced to believe that the diplomatic actions this week taken by many of Syria's neighbors will suffice to effect the overthrow of the Baathists regime 1. Something that the American Secretary of State's comments yesterday seem to strongly imply. Albeit with a soupcon of special pleading (or should one say: faite de mieux?), for outside powers to assist in the ouster of the regime of Assad Fils 2. How plausible is this scenario? Certainly, as has been stated here, if and only if outside powers were to effectively boycott Syrian oil sales and reinforce that with a naval blockade of the same, then there might very well be reason to suppose that this would suffice to push the Assad regime out. Sans that, I for one do not expect that mere diplomatic demarches and recalling of ambassadors to result in anything concrete. Something that the shelling of towns on the Syrian-Turkish border would seem to indicate. Notwithstanding rumors (groundless to my mind) that the regime in Turkey was preparing to resolve the Syrian conflict via a military invasion (if nothing else the recent upheaval in the Turkish military would put paid to such ideas) 3. As a practical matter, having shed over two thousand lives, there is little reason to believe that Assad Fils et. al., is prepared to be eased out `a la the ex-rulers of Egypt and Tunisia. Consequently, in the absence of forceful measures, and with Persia no doubt assisting their confreres in Damascus as much as possible, to remain in power. Therefore, I foresee no early end to the violence in Syria. Any more than I can see an early end to the military conflict in Libya.

1. See in particular: "The World Closes in on Bashar Al-Assad." Syria Comment. 10 August 2011, www.syriacomment.com; Rami G. Khoury, "Middle East vultures circle over a wounded Syria." Syria Comment. 11 August 2011, in www.dailystar.com.lb.

2. See: Anna Fifield, "Clinton calls for oil groups to shun Syria." The Financial Times. 12 August 2011, in www.ft.com.

3. "Syrian forces storm town near Turkish border." Reuters. 11 August 2011, in www.reuters.com.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


"The supreme function of statesmanship is to provide against preventable evils. In seeking to do so, it encounters obstacles which are deeply rooted in human nature.

One is that by the very order of things such evils are not demonstrable until they have occurred: at each stage in their onset there is room for doubt and for dispute whether they be real or imaginary. By the same token, they attract little attention in comparison with current troubles, which are both indisputable and pressing: whence the besetting temptation of all politics to concern itself with the immediate present at the expense of the future.

Above all, people are disposed to mistake predicting troubles for causing troubles and even for desiring troubles: "If only," they love to think, "if only people wouldn't talk about it, it probably wouldn't happen."

Perhaps this habit goes back to the primitive belief that the word and the thing, the name and the object, are identical.

At all events, the discussion of future grave but, with effort now, avoidable evils is the most unpopular and at the same time the most necessary occupation for the politician. Those who knowingly shirk it deserve, and not infrequently receive, the curses of those who come after.

A week or two ago I fell into conversation with a constituent, a middle-aged, quite ordinary working man employed in one of our nationalised industries.

After a sentence or two about the weather, he suddenly said: "If I had the money to go, I wouldn't stay in this country." I made some deprecatory reply to the effect that even this government wouldn't last for ever; but he took no notice, and continued: "I have three children, all of them been through grammar school and two of them married now, with family. I shan't be satisfied till I have seen them all settled overseas. In this country in 15 or 20 years' time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man."

I can already hear the chorus of execration. How dare I say such a horrible thing? How dare I stir up trouble and inflame feelings by repeating such a conversation?

The answer is that I do not have the right not to do so. Here is a decent, ordinary fellow Englishman, who in broad daylight in my own town says to me, his Member of Parliament, that his country will not be worth living in for his children.

I simply do not have the right to shrug my shoulders and think about something else. What he is saying, thousands and hundreds of thousands are saying and thinking - not throughout Great Britain, perhaps, but in the areas that are already undergoing the total transformation to which there is no parallel in a thousand years of English history.

In 15 or 20 years, on present trends, there will be in this country three and a half million Commonwealth immigrants and their descendants. That is not my figure. That is the official figure given to parliament by the spokesman of the Registrar General's Office.

There is no comparable official figure for the year 2000, but it must be in the region of five to seven million, approximately one-tenth of the whole population, and approaching that of Greater London. Of course, it will not be evenly distributed from Margate to Aberystwyth and from Penzance to Aberdeen. Whole areas, towns and parts of towns across England will be occupied by sections of the immigrant and immigrant-descended population.

As time goes on, the proportion of this total who are immigrant descendants, those born in England, who arrived here by exactly the same route as the rest of us, will rapidly increase. Already by 1985 the native-born would constitute the majority. It is this fact which creates the extreme urgency of action now, of just that kind of action which is hardest for politicians to take, action where the difficulties lie in the present but the evils to be prevented or minimised lie several parliaments ahead.

The natural and rational first question with a nation confronted by such a prospect is to ask: "How can its dimensions be reduced?" Granted it be not wholly preventable, can it be limited, bearing in mind that numbers are of the essence: the significance and consequences of an alien element introduced into a country or population are profoundly different according to whether that element is 1 per cent or 10 per cent.

The answers to the simple and rational question are equally simple and rational: by stopping, or virtually stopping, further inflow, and by promoting the maximum outflow. Both answers are part of the official policy of the Conservative Party....

We are on the verge here of a change. Hitherto it has been force of circumstance and of background which has rendered the very idea of integration inaccessible to the greater part of the immigrant population - that they never conceived or intended such a thing, and that their numbers and physical concentration meant the pressures towards integration which normally bear upon any small minority did not operate.

Now we are seeing the growth of positive forces acting against integration, of vested interests in the preservation and sharpening of racial and religious differences, with a view to the exercise of actual domination, first over fellow-immigrants and then over the rest of the population. The cloud no bigger than a man's hand, that can so rapidly overcast the sky, has been visible recently in Wolverhampton and has shown signs of spreading quickly....

For these dangerous and divisive elements the legislation proposed in the Race Relations Bill is the very pabulum they need to flourish. Here is the means of showing that the immigrant communities can organise to consolidate their members, to agitate and campaign against their fellow citizens, and to overawe and dominate the rest with the legal weapons which the ignorant and the ill-informed have provided. As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see 'the River Tiber foaming with much blood'.

That tragic and intractable phenomenon which we watch with horror on the other side of the Atlantic but which there is interwoven with the history and existence of the States itself, is coming upon us here by our own volition and our own neglect. Indeed, it has all but come. In numerical terms, it will be of American proportions long before the end of the century.

Only resolute and urgent action will avert it even now. Whether there will be the public will to demand and obtain that action, I do not know. All I know is that to see, and not to speak, would be the great betrayal".

Enoch Powell, "Speech to the Conservative Association of Birmingham," 20 April 1968.

Of course it is almost absurdly 'bien-pensant' to shout down as 'racist', et cetera, by our post-enlightenment, Liberal bourgeois cosmopolitan elites, the brillant cut-glass reasoning & logic displayed by Powell in the speech which (in a grave misfortune) en faite ended his political career as a front-rank politician in British politics. Making him, in conjunction with Lord Randolph Churchill and Sir Oswald Mosley the three great prematurely exploded comets of British politics in the last one-hundred and fifty years. The question that I have, in light of the recent riots in London and other urban centers of the United Kingdom is: was Powell right?Given the fact that the vast majority of the canaille who constituted the rioters were non-European, mostly Afro-Caribbean in origins. Just the same as in the riots of 1981, which the current variety seems to resemble 1. Aside from the fact that the Metropolitan Police have in the past twenty to twenty-five years, been inexcusably permissive and lacking in forcefulness in policing the streets of London and other urban centers; can anyone doubt that sans these non-British, non-European elements in the United Kingdom, that neither the riots of 1981 or those of this week have occurred? The question answers itself and at the same time answers whether or not Powell was right. The great sadness is that the United Kingdom currently lacks a politician who possesses Powell's vision, brilliance of mind and all-around general culture 2.

1. For the composition of the rioters, both now and in 1981, see: Martin Bright, "A Crisis that has been brewing for years." The Spectator. 9th August 2011, in www.spectator.co.uk; Bob Sherwood, "Alienation and Communication fuelled unrest." The Financial Times.10 August 2011, in www.ft.com.

2. For those ignorant of such things, all one needs to remember is that Powell, graduated with a Double First at Trinity, Cambridge. Was named Professor of Classics at the advanced age of twenty-five. Wrote three books of poetry in the course of his life, in addition to an erste-klasse biography of Joseph Chamberlain. And wrote a Lexicon to Herodotus, a revised edition of Stuart-Jones's Thucydides' Historiae and finally for Yale University Press at the end of his life, a new translation from the Greek of the First Book of the Gospel.

Saturday, August 06, 2011


"I met today with a small group of U.S.-based Syrian activists and members of the Syrian-American community to express our profound sympathy for all Syrian victims of the Assad regime’s abuse of its own citizens. In our discussion, the activists reaffirmed the internal opposition’s vision of a transition plan for a Syria that will be representative, inclusive and pluralistic; a new, united Syria with a government subject to the rule of law and fully respectful of the equality of all Syrians, irrespective of sect, ethnicity or gender. I encouraged the activists to work closely with their colleagues inside Syria to create this unified vision.

I admire the courage of those brave Syrians, both inside and outside Syria, who continue to defy their government’s brutality in order to freely express their universal rights. And I remain confident in the Syrian people’s ability to chart a new course for Syria’s future.

As I told the activists today, the United States will continue to support the Syrian people in their efforts to begin a peaceful and orderly transition to democracy in Syria and to have their aspirations realized. We have nothing invested in the continuation of a regime that must kill, imprison and torture its own citizens to maintain power.

The United States is working to move forward with additional targeted sanctions under existing authorities. We are exploring broader sanctions that will isolate the Assad regime politically and deny it revenue with which to sustain its brutality. The United Nations Security Council has also consulted this week on the escalating violence in Syria. Our view remains that strong action by the Security Council on the targeting of innocent civilians in Syria is long overdue. Some members of the Security Council continue to oppose any action that would call on President Assad to stop the killing, and we urge them to reconsider their positions".

American Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton, "Press Release: Meeting with Syrian Activists." The Department of State. 2 August 2011, in www.state.gov.

"More than any other Arab uprising in this year’s upheaval across the region, Syria has left world powers grappling for a policy. Some western diplomats say the weakness of the response is due to the intervention in Libya, which has yet to break the back of the regime of Muammer Gaddafi.

“We messed up Libya, that’s what complicates Syria,” as one diplomat put it, pointing to Russia’s fears that a UN resolution would open the way for a similar involvement in Damascus....

In a remarkable turnround, Washington has gone in a few months from suggesting Mr Assad is a reformer to recognising that his regime is the very source of instability in its neighbourhood. The US now recognises that political change in Syria would greatly benefit American policy, shattering Damascus’ alliance with Iran and radical groups in the Middle East. Western diplomats are expecting the US to soon call for Mr Assad’s departure, a declaration it has already come close to, with the White House saying on Wednesday that Syria would be a “better place” without its president. More US sanctions are being prepared and three senators are working on a bill to target companies that invest in Syria’s energy sector or buy its oil.

“US policy is a slow and deliberate game,” says Jon Alterman of Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies. “There is not much the US can do in the short term, in part because there is not much of a bilateral relationship to put at risk and in part because there is little chance of committing US troops or firepower. But there is a deep desire in Washington for Bashar to go.”

In Europe, where the commercial relationships are more important for Syria, the brazen attack on Hama has outraged policymakers but has not broken the resistance to more substantial pressure. Britain, for one, is still engaged in a tortuous concoction of nuanced statements about how Mr Assad is gradually losing legitimacy and risking international isolation. London is among those reluctant to heed Syrian opposition (and apparently US) calls for sanctions against the oil industry which could cripple the regime’s finances (and not significantly affect oil markets). Indeed, some European statements still hold out hope that Mr Assad will somehow lead a democratic transition.

Economic pressures could be a decisive factor in the crisis. And although going beyond measures that target regime figures is always a risky strategy, the EU is running out of names of officials to add to the travel bans and asset freezes. In any case, if the US slaps sanctions on Syria’s oil industry and the killings continue, European companies will come under increasing pressure to stop oil purchases and investments. As Robert Ford, the US ambassador to Damascus, said this week, markets are beginning to understand that Syria is “radioactive”'.

Roula Khalaf, "West Fails to Answer Syrian Conundrum." The Financial Times. 4 August 2011, in www.ft.com.

The 'conundrum' identified by the Financial Times erste-klasse Near Eastern correspondent, Roula Khalaf has still not been resolved. As she notes, this week's United Nation's Security Council statement, was for all intents and purposes toothless 1. Unfortunately, with the stalemate in the Libyian conflict, as Khalaf notes, the willingness of the Western powers to overtly intervene in Syria is at this point next to zero. Not to speak of the widespread economic weakness evident in most Western countries that possess the means of intervening in the conflict, id est, USA, UK and France. In addition to the fact that there is almost no possibility of the Security Council at present passing a resolution enabling the Western powers to intervene `a la Libya 2. With all that being said, where does that leave a positive Western policy? Especially, as it is widely acknowledged, the ouster of the regime of Assad Fils, would no doubt be an important victory for Western policy. A fact which one does not have to be a pro-Israeli zealot `a la the egregious Elliot Abrams to believe to be true 3. With that being said, the issue then becomes for Western policy-makers: how short of the employment of outside military intervention, can the West oust or one should say, assist the Syrian people (really in fact certain elements within the Syrian elite) oust the regime of Assad Fils? Sharp economic pressure, the type that might, just might cause the Sunni mercantile elite in the two key cities of Aleppo and Damascus to join actively join the opposition. Bearing in mind of course, that traditionally since 1949, if not in fact 1927, said elites have been mostly apolitical and have not played a key role in Syrian politics. Indeed, one of the key developments of the regime of Assad Fils, has been the rapprochement between the governmental, security, military Alawite elites centering on the Assad clan and the Sunni mercantile elites in the two cities previously mentioned. One of the key reasons that both cities so far have not erupted into demonstrations on the same scale as other areas of the country 4. However, if the Americans in conjunction with the European Union were to not only proclaim a boycott of purchases of Syrian oil, but endeavor via naval interdiction in international waters in the Mediterranean to actively prevent exports of the same as well, this situation might very well change. While perhaps this policy endeavor may not be a (to use a demotic American expression) 'game-changer', it might add to the other pressures on the inner-ring of the Assad Fils regime to perhaps make way for the beginning of the end of the dynasty. At the very least, this policy option will be infinitely much more worthwhile and effective than toothless United Nation's Security Council Presidential statements 5. Especially in light of the assistance (financial and otherwise) that the Persians are providing to their allies in Damascus. Or as the American political philosopher Michael Waltzer noted cogently approximately twenty years ago, at the time of the First Persian Gulf War: 'what counts in politics is action'.

1. For this statement, see: "Statement by the President of the Security Council." United Nation's Security Council. 3 August 2011, in www.un.org.

2. For the latest semi-official Russian statement underlining its opposition to any further Security Council resolutions along the Libyan model, see: "NATO plans campaign in Syria, tightens noose around Iran [Persia]-Rogozin." Novesti. 5 August 2011 in www.rian.ru.

3. For Elliot Abrams views, see his online journal for the Council on Foreign Relations: "Pressure Points". www.blogs.cfr.org/abrams. One should add that Abrams alleged expertise on the Near East, is sans any knowledge of the major language and culture of the area (Arabic)...

4. On the efficacy of economic sanctions, see: Andrew Tabler, "Lights Out." Foreign Policy 19 July 2011, in www.foreignpolicy.com. On the 'Alawite deep state' and its relationship with the traditional Sunni elites, see: Michael Doran & Salman Shaikh, "Getting Serious in Syria." The Brookings Institute 29 July 2011, in www.brookings.edu. In 1925 the Sunni elites in Damascus and Aleppo joined the Arab Revolt against French rule. A revolt which was ruthlessly crushed by the French (employing by-the-bye Alawite irregulars among other troops). In 1949, Syria saw its first elected Sunni President overthrown in a military coup d'etat. Thus ending tout `a coup, the political ascendency of the Sunni mercantile elites forever. On this subject, see the classic study by Philip Khoury: Syria and the French Mandate (1987).

5. See what are rather cogent statements by Century Foundation Near Eastern specialist, Michael Hanna, to the effect that without a serious internal revolt by the Alawite military apparatus, Assad Fils can probably remain in power indefinitely `a la Saddam Hussein after 1991, see: Josh Rogin & Blake Hounshell, "The Last Stand of Bashar al-Assad?" Foreign Policy1st August 2011, in www.foreignpolicy.com.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011


"The geography of power is being transformed, in particular by the rise of China. What are the consequences of the rise of major new powers for the structure and the functioning of the international system? In the past, seismic changes, associated with great wars or great financial crises, led to a disorientation about the moral foundations of society, domestically and internationally; led to confusion and uncertainty about values, not just in a technical sense (we can believe in gold as money, in the pound sterling, in the US dollar?) but also in a broader sense....

An international order is not just an exercise in power projection. It is also built around a set of ideas. We often like to think of past versions of order as generated by particular countries which propagated a grand vision of order: for example, the nineteenth-century British view of John Bright or Richard Cobden about the universalization of an American vision of commercial prosperity in the second half of the twentieth century. But even visionary international orders do not last for ever. Some events or dates---1688, 1776, 1789, 1914---mark an epochal shift. We are now at one such great historical caesura. What historians will call the 'long twentieth century' ended not with the terrorist attacks of 2001 but with the financial crisis that started in 2007.

On particular historical example offers a powerful analogy to the current transition of economic leadership and also political power. Great Britain's economic position took a bad tumble in the financial crisis of 1931, when the pound was taken off the gold standard, but it was only some 25 years later that the full implications for power politics were really felt. In 1956, the humiliating fiasco of the Suez Crisis combined military incompetence and failure with vulnerability to financial pressure, and marked the end of Britain's claim to be an arbiter of the international order....There is an obvious parallel between Great Britain at the time of the Suez and the travails of the United States after the 2003 invasion of Iraq and its confusion at the prospect of a shift in the geography of economic influence and political power. Moreover the parallels have become even closer in the aftermath of the ill-prepared and politically divisive intervention in Libya....

The swing back to a world in which the advantage lies with the strong, who can muster large concentrations of economic and demographic resources, was already visible before the 2007 financial crisis. It has become much more evident since then. It was enunciated in Europe, rather brutally, by Germany's Chancellor Angel Merkel on 19 May 2010, when she laid out the conditions for aid to Greece in the crisis of that spring. She stated that 'the rules must not be oriented towards the weak, but towards the strong. That is a hard message. But it is an economic necessity.' On the global scene, we are now becoming obsessed with the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China) as new giants. The continuation of the crisis will turn them into Big Really Imperial Countries. The future of globalization is thus one in which power politics rather than markets will drive events....

The real challenge for China's leaders will be to develop a coherent view of the world that does not scare its neighbors---and others. The Chinese dilemma today is not unlike the American one of the mid-twentieth century. How can a new superpower
maintain and extend its power in a world playing by commercial rules?"

Harold James, "International Order after the Financial Crisis" International Affairs, (May 2011), pp. 525-537. Originally delivered as a lecture at Oxford University on 4 November 2010 as the Cyril Foster Memorial Lecture. Unfortunately, the article cannot be accessed via the Internet.

"Discussions of U.S. decline usually assume that there exists a successor waiting in the wings to take over from the failed hegemon. In the 1980's, the successor was generally held to be Japan or Europe; today the answer is more likely to be India or China (though Europe still has its advocates, who think that Europe is experimenting with a new kind of nontraditional power), India or China are clearly much farther removed from being able to mount an effective challenge to the major technological, social or military dimensions of U.S. strength than were the Europeans or the Japanese in the 1980's."

Harold James, The Roman Predicament: How the rules of International order creates the politics of Empire (2006), p. 71.

Allow me to say that notwithstanding my criticisms to follow of Professor Harold James, formerly of Cambridge now of Princeton University, I actually have always had a high opinion of his academic work, and like of lot of graduate students in the late 1980's & early 1990's, I was highly impressed by his work on entre-deux-guerre Germany, 'the German Slump' 1. And having seen him deliver what can only be described as one of the most humorous and at the same time insightful, reading of his friend, Richard Overy's paper on 20th century economic history at the American Historical Association conference back in 1990, I can only say that time will never quite remove that positive opinion of his overall oeuvre. Unfortunately, I cannot say that I am highly impressed with his latest endeavor at contemporary economic and geopolitical analysis, as presented in the May 2011 issue of the Royal Institute of International Affairs house journal, International Affairs. With its rather jejune message of inexorable Western & American decline, James' piece puts one in mind of the fact as Heather Conley expressed it recently: 'a painful and disorienting process’ is what one experiences when reading all too many simplistic articles and essays on this oversubscribed topic 2. And unfortunately, James' contribution is very much more of the same, with its erroneous history (viz: H.A.R. Philby was never the Head of the American Department at the Foreign Office) and equally erroneous statements about contemporary events (Chinese purchases of European sovereign debt did not put a stop to the Eurozone crisis this past Spring, something which has become all too clear subsequently)3. The real problem with James essay is the reductionist supposition correlating the soon to be fact (how soon by-the-bye?), that the PRC shall soon have a higher GDP than the USA. The first time since the 1870's, that the USA shall not have the largest GDP on the planet. As per James this coming factum, following from the financial crisis of 2007 to present, shall have the same repercussions in international affairs and geopolitics as the Great War, Britain's going off the Gold Standard and the Suez Crisis of 1956. In this instance, just as in previous episodes, what we have or are about to have is a passing of hegemony from the soon-to-be ex-hegemon the United States, to the soon-to-be future hegemon, the Peoples Republic of China.

Now dear reader, what is wrong with this very much over-subscribed picture? Well leaving aside the issue of when exactly the PRC shall overtake the USA (nota bene: as per the latest statistics available the PRC's global percentage of GDP is only 7.5% versus the USA's 26%), to my mind the most problematical aspect of James (and all too many others in this regard) are the facts that: i) when the USA overtook the UK as the nation having the world's largest GDP, the USA also had a higher per capita income than the UK 4. Something which no one has suggested that the PRC will be able to do within the next half-century; ii) the mere fact that the USA had a greater GDP than the UK, did not for almost fifty years have any significant geopolitical ramifications. Indeed, sans the tremendous struggle put up by Kaiserreich Germany in the Great War, one is tempted to say that it would have been another fifty years before the greater American economic size, would have made itself felt geopolitically speaking. In the case of the PRC and the USA, the likelihood that the former will be able to oust the latter from its pinnacle as the leading hegemonic power is not something that is easy to fathom in either the near or mid-term future. Vis-`a-vis both the PRC as well as every other military power on the planet, the Americans still enjoy unparalleled military and strategic superiority. Far greater than what the Americans enjoyed during the Cold War, much less what the UK enjoyed vis-`a-vis the non-European world during the so-called Pax Britannica 5. And while one may argue that the PRC has now acquired the economic ability to outspend the Americans on arms, the fact is that history shows (the best example being the USA circa 1880-1940) that the mere circumstance of the ability to spend does not necessarily indicated that power x, y or indeed z shall indeed spend monies on armaments. As the Lord Selbourne, the First Lord of the British Admiralty noted in 1900, the Americans could at that point have easily outspent the UK on naval spending 6. For reasons relating to American political culture and geopolitical ambitions and traditions, the USA failed to do so. In the case of the PRC, I would surmise that due to the fact of the its endemic political instability (for which see reports in yesterday's & to-day's Financial Times), the regime in Peking while quite likely to bluster for purposes of domestic consumption on matters relating to foreign affairs, will not wish to spend precious resources in a society which by most available data can only still be described as poor one, on building what another British First Lord of the Admiralty once described as a 'luxury fleet,' or for that matter a luxury army & air force 7. What the above comments highlight I do believe is the fact that Professor James' essay is merely another, not very cogent argument about Western and and American decline. Such arguments can be made and indeed one hopes to find in the future, very good attempts at so doing. But, unfortunately Professor James' endeavor was not a successful one. Finally, need one add the fact that he in essence almost completely negates the argument that he himself made in his last book published as recently as 2006?

1. Harold James, The German Slump: Politics and economics, 1924-1936 (1987).

2. Heather Conley, "Review Article, The end of the West: the once and future Europe," International Affairs(July 2011),p. 975. For recent discussions of the whole 'declinist debate' and how it for the most part reflects aspects of internal Western / American domestic politics as opposed to say
realities of contemporary international politics, see: Michael Cox, "Is the United States in decline again?" International Affairs (July 2007), pp. 643-653; Josef Joffe, "The default Power: the false prophecy of America's decline." Foreign Affairs (September-October 2009), pp. 21-35.

3. The erratum as per 'Kim' Philby occurs on page 526. And that relating to Chinese purchases of Europe-zone government bonds occurs on page 532.

4. For 2010 figures on world GDP for both the USA and the PRC, see: Amitav Acharya, "Can Asia Lead? Power Ambitions and global governance in the twentieth-first century," International Affairs (July 2011), p. 858. For the
data concerning the UK versus the USA circa the period in which the USA became the world's largest economy, see: David Landes, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations. (1998), p. 307. Paul Kennedy,The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. (1988), pp. 242-243.

5. For the current situation and that going back to the late 1980's, see: "Trends in U.S. Military Spending," 28 June 2011, The Council of Foreign Relations . Available in www.cfr.org. For historical comparisons with the UK see: Bernard Porter, Empire and Superempire: Britain, America and the World. (2006) and John Darwin, The Empire Project:the rise and fall of the British World System, 1830-1970 (2010),pp.26-36 and passim which delineates the matter extremely well in terms of the military limitations of the British Empire during the era of Pax Britannica.

6. For Lord Selbourne's quote, see: D. George Boyce, Edited. The Crisis of British Power: The Imperial and Naval Powers of the Second Earl of Selbourne, 1895-1910(1990), p. 115, in which he states on the 19 April 1901: "It has not dawned on our countrymen yet, but doubtless it has on you as it has on me, that, if the Americans chose to pay for what they can easily afford, they can gradually build up a Navy, firstly as large and then larger than ours."

7. See: Patti Waldmeir, "Xianjiang unrest leaves 14 dead." The Financial Times. 1 August 2011, in www.ft.com; Patti Waldmeir, "Chinese taxi drivers stage violent protest over rising cost of fuel." The Financial Times. 2 August 2011, in www.ft.com. For the difficulties that China faces in making a 'leap to world power', much less hegemonic status, see: Acharya, op. cit., pp. 854-860 and passim. See also an important article by Martin Wolf in the Financial Times: "How China could yet fail like Japan," 14 June 2011, in www.ft.com. The phrase 'luxury fleet,' was of course coined by Winston Churchill on the 7th of February 1912, when comparing the British and the German navies. See: Bernadotte E. Schmitt, England and Germany, 1740-1914, p. 345.