Friday, September 30, 2011


"China and Britain have different histories, cultural traditions and social systems. It’s unavoidable that we may disagree here and there. What’s essential is that we should respect, accommodate and help each other instead of forcing our own ideas on each other. In real life no one is able to change others. The world is very much like a garden, whose most beautiful season comes when all kinds of flowers blossom. The world today has increasingly become a global village. Countries are more interdependent and their interests more closely interwoven than any time in history. And the destinies of developed and developing countries, the east and the west, and the South and the North, are inseparable. All countries must recognize such a significant change and take actions to adjust and adapt. Those outdated ideas and practices must be dropped, and new visions, policies, behaviours and governance approaches must be developed. No country alone can tackle the growing number of global challenges and non-conventional security threats. The only option for the international community is to come together to pursue harmony and win-win

Developed and developing countries should build a sincere, genuine partnership based on mutual respect and mutual benefit. Some suggest that the global power is shifting away from the west to the east. It’s much too early to talk about that. In many aspects, western developed countries are still in the lead. If the world power is shifting, then I believe the power has started to diffuse toward relative equity and equilibrium. This is a positive development to the world. We sincerely hope developed countries will grow at a higher level and developing countries can continue to make greater progress at their own level.

China firmly commits to the path of peaceful development. Our focus is on our own development. We will not repeat the beaten track of the rising powers in the past. And invasion, expansion, beggar-thy-neighbour policy and hegemony are not our options. We hope to live in peace and seek common development together with the world. This policy is not for selling to other countries. Instead, it’s our own action plan that will be followed through. Because peaceful development is in the best interests of China and the world. We do not seek to maximize our own interests at the expense of others, but rather will carry out a win-win, opening-up strategy. We will continue to do what we can to help developing countries and, on the basis of equality and mutual benefit, work collaboratively with developed countries".

China State Councillor Dai Bingguo, "Cooperation is the Only Choice." 'Summary of remarks' at a private meeting sponsored by Chatham House on the 26th of September 2011, in

"China has warned Asian countries against provoking it under the cover of US military power, highlighting Beijing’s concern over moves from its neighbours and the US to contain its rise. “Certain countries think as long as they can balance China with the help of US military power, they are free to do whatever they want,” said the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist party, in an editorial on Wednesday. The piece came just one day after Japan and the Philippines pledged to boost maritime security ties and called for the protection of freedom of navigation and the peaceful settlement of disputes in the South China Sea, the resource-rich area which is home to vital sea lanes to all of east Asia but also subject to several territorial disputes involving China.

Kathrin Hille, "China warns neighbors over US backing." The Financial Times. 29 September 2011, in

"You know as well as we do that right as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can, and the weak suffer what they must."

Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War ('The Melian Dialogue'). Book V, Chapter XVII.

Regardless of the verbal eyewash that the regime in power in Peking offers up to the more gullible elements of the Anglo-American / Western elite, the real thinking behind Peking's policies in the Orient is best displayed by the editorial in the Peoples Daily this week. Here of course, we have no nonsense about 'co-operation' and 'win-win solutions'. Merely the assertion of brute force and blatant warnings issued to Peking's neighbors in the region about allying themselves with the USA. A statement right out of the mouths of say Holstein or Kiderlen circa the early 20th century Wilhelmstrasse. Given this state of affairs, one would have to be indeed 'eyeless in Gaza' (or San Fransisco for that matter) to believe the recent remarks made by the former American Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, about the need to handle the PRC with kid gloves. It is quite evident, that left to themselves (AKA, sans any American / Western involvement) that the PRC would coerce its neighbors in the Far Eastern littoral to the greatest extent possible. It is precisely for this reason that American-Western 'hard balancing' is an acute necessity both now and in the future. Otherwise I am afraid that the regional powers will over time, allow themselves to become captives of Peking's regional hegemonic tendencies 1.

1. For a recent book which advocates a policy very much along these lines, which I shall in due course review in this journal, see: Aaron Friedberg, A Contest for Supremacy: China, America and the Struggle for Mastery in Asia. (2011).

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


"WASHINGTON (Reuters)- U.S. officials said there was mounting evidence that Pakistan's powerful intelligence agency had encouraged a guerrilla network to attack U.S. targets, while a Senate committee voted to make aid to Islamabad conditional on fighting the militants.

The decision by the Senate Appropriations Committee, which did not specify any amount of aid for Pakistan in fiscal 2012, reflects growing anger in Washington over militants operating out of Pakistan and battling U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Some U.S. intelligence reporting alleges that Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence directorate (ISI) specifically directed, or urged, the Haqqani network to carry out an attack last week on the U.S. Embassy and a NATO headquarters in Kabul, according to two U.S. officials and a source familiar with recent U.S.-Pakistan official contacts. The Haqqani network is one of three, and perhaps the most feared, allied insurgent factions fighting U.S.-led NATO and Afghan troops under the Taliban banner in Afghanistan.

However, U.S. officials cautioned that the information that Pakistan's spy agency was encouraging the militants was uncorroborated. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he had pressed Pakistan's army chief for Islamabad to break its links with the militant group.

'We covered ... the need for the Haqqani Network to disengage, specifically the need for the ISI to disconnect from Haqqani and from this proxy war that they're fighting,' he said in a speech to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Tuesday. 'The ISI has been doing this - working for - supporting proxies for an extended period of time. It is a strategy in the country and I think that strategic approach has to shift in the future.'"

Mark Hosenball & Susan Cornwell, "U.S. Blames Pakistan agency in Kabul attack." Reuters. 22nd September 2011, in

"Pakistani officials snapped back at the U.S. for saying its spy agency was aiding a militant group that targets Americans, warning Washington that such accusations could sink their alliance. Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani called the charges by Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, "very unfortunate and not based on facts."
Earlier Friday, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar told an Indian news channel that "pointing fingers at each other will not help." Ms. Khar was in the U.S. for the United Nations General Assembly. 'We've never ventured into the blame game.'"

Tom Wright, "Pakistan Knocks Back U.S. Accusation of Militant Ties." The Wall Street Journal. 24 September 2011, in

"Pakistan is poor; politically unstable; in a state of religious turmoil (the mullahs have large tho' rather uncertain power) without a 'political' class - without so large an ICS [Indian Civil Service] tradition as India, and practising corruption on the grand scale....The one stable element in this situation is the Army --- the Air Force and Navy are also reliable."

Harold Macmillan, Diary entry on the 19th of January 1958, in, The Macmillan Diaries, Volume II: Prime Minister. edited by Peter Cattrell. (2011), p.90.

The facts as outlined by the outgoing American Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen, last week in testimony to the American Congress speaks for itself. The allegations are obviously correct. The Haqqani network is merely another auxiliary arm of Pakistan's military intelligence agency ('ISI'). Just as the Afghanistan Taliban was (and perhaps still is?) au fond, in origins an arm of Pakistan's ISI. And there are of course a number of other terrorist groups operating in Indian Kashmir, who have in the past not only operated in Kashmir but in India proper (AKA the infamous 2008 terrorist bombing). Given the fact that the authorities in Pakistan are unwilling or unable of controlling these networks when operating abroad, that presents the American government with a very difficult problem. As in the past, I myself strongly urge that the only way of dealing with this problem is by putting as much pressure, hard pressure as possible. Cutting off, military assistance, cutting off, economic assistance. Increasing cross-border raids, both in terms of size and scope. Massively increase drone attacks on any and all targets in Pakistan proper. And if need be, prepare to adopt economic sanctions on Pakistan. As a major American expert on the country, Daniel Markey, in essence the Americans have de facto issued a sort of ultimatum on Islamabad 1. Having issued the ultimatum, there are no via media available in this affair. Only compliance or harsh retaliation on Pakistani targets. The problem of course is (as outlined by Harold Macmillan more than fifty years ago, and underlined more recently by Anatol Lieven in his book on Pakistan), that the army is en faite the only, repeat the only stable institution in this rather horrid country 2. Sans that and there is every possibility of the entire state apparatus collapsing like tin pins. And in any American escalation the Pakistani army will be a prime target.

1. "Tougher U.S. tack on Pakistan." The Council on Foreign Relations. 26 September 2011, in

2. Anatol Lieven, Pakistan: A Hard Country. (2011).

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


"Yet a new Putin presidency is nonetheless a retrograde and risky step. Mr Medvedev has firmly embraced, at least verbally, the modernising political and economic agenda that Russia sorely needs. While he failed to build his own political team or support base – crucial omissions – he associated himself with advisers of like mind. A second term as president could have provided the opportunity finally to consolidate his position and start delivering reforms, especially if Mr Putin’s influence had begun to fade. The former president’s lingering authority has always stemmed in part from the possibility of his return. Mr Putin has, by contrast, shown little appetite for modernising reforms, or much understanding of their urgency. His instincts are cautious, conservative. But the stability he promised in the first years of his presidency after the chaotic post-Soviet transition of the 1990s has turned, over time, into a straitjacket that is hampering Russia’s development.

If it is to return to the 5 per cent-plus annual growth it needs to catch up with the world’s advanced economies, Russia must allow more competition of ideas and policies, and reduce the state’s distorting role in the economy. It must tackle the corruption that is corroding the Russian system from within. It has to replace “managed” democracy with the institutions of genuine pluralism. Mr Putin may yet surprise the doubters by moving in this direction. But that would mean dismantling central elements of the very system he put in place in his previous eight-year presidency.

If Mr Putin does shrink from reform at home, however, he risks sowing the seeds of his own downfall. Stirrings of disillusionment are starting to show up in pollsters’ research. These may not be strong enough to prevent the Kremlin from managing the transition of power. But unaddressed they are likely to multiply. A whole generation of Russians has reached voting age that was not born when communism collapsed. This generation gets its news not from Kremlin-controlled television but from an internet which, unlike China, Russia has never censored. Russia’s next president should take account of such shifts. Otherwise, like Arab counterparts, he could yet discover the power of social networks – and of the street".

Leader, "Putin votes for the return of Putin." The Financial Times.
27 September 2011, in

"We can assume that there will be no movement forward if there are not serious changes along the lines of a replacement of the entire system...Without this, we could lose six years. I think the future president needs to think about this very seriously."

Former Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev quoted in "Russian Minister quits after Presidential Clash." Deutsche Welle. 27 September 2011, in

"The cemetries of the world are full of [once] indispensable men."

Charles de Gaulle.

The return to both de jure as well as de facto power by current Russian Prime Minister, Vladmir Putin is as the Financial Times correctly points out, a retrograde step. There does not appear to be much in the way indications that Putin has any fresh or new ideas to reform the existing Russian state apparatus. An edifice which at this point in time, requires pretty much close to wholesale reform. There is every indication that Grazhdanin Putin feels that something close to the status quo ante is for the most part acceptable. Unfortunately, as the FT points out, unless and until Russia is able to regain trend-growth rates of at least five percent (5%) per annum, then the likelihood of Russia being able to escape what George Magnus has called the 'Middle-income trap', is pretty much non-existent 1. Instead we have a situation where the state is overly dependent upon resource exports for both funding its budget and for powering economic growth. Reform of the Russian state apparatus and economy does not necessarily mandate that 'Western-style' pluralistic democracy be adopted. The example of Singapore more than suffices as a pro-contra. What is required of Russia is (among other things): i) a true openness to foreign investment; ii) a clampdown on corruption; iii) heavy investment in the country's declining infrastructure; iv) sustained attempts to improve the lives of ordinary Russian people by increasing male longevity and reducing the ravages of alcoholism and violent crime. Sans reforms along these lines, there is not much hope that much will change in Russian by the time that Putin will retire from the political scene. Assuming of course that there is not a complete collapse of the state apparatus in the meantime `a la the FT's prediction in its leader above. Unfortunately, with Putin one is indeed reminded of nothing so much as the post-Napoleonic Bourbons: 'ils n'ont rient appris, ni rien oublie'.

1. George Magnus, "Through the BRIC Wall." George Magnus first published on 30 June 2011.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


"The French leader, speaking from the famous green marble podium of the General Assembly barely an hour after President Obama, also said it was time to change the formula in trying to negotiate an Arab-Israeli peace, taking an indirect swipe at the United States by saying the efforts so far were a complete failure.

“Let us cease our endless debates on the parameters,” Mr. Sarkozy said. “Let us begin negotiations and adopt a precise timetable.”

The timetable he suggested is resuming the negotiations in one month, agreeing on borders and security within six months and finishing a definitive agreement within one year. The Palestinians have sought a specific timeline, suggesting that endless stalling was slowly erasing the chances for a two-state solution. In the meantime, if the Palestinian effort at membership faces a Security Council veto, the deadly reverberations will be felt across the Arab world, Mr. Sarkozy warned.

"Each of us knows that Palestine cannot immediately obtain full and complete recognition of the status of United Nations member state," he said. "But who could doubt that a veto at the Security Council risks engendering a cycle of violence in the Middle East?" The Palestinians currently have the status of an observer “entity” in the United Nations.

"Why not envisage offering Palestine the status of United Nations observer state?” said the French leader. “This would be an important step forward. Most important, it would mean emerging from a state of immobility that favors only the extremists.”

Recognition as an observer state would not mean much here except for some procedural changes, but it would allow the Palestinians to join subsidiary bodies and treaties of the United Nations. Alain Juppé, the French foreign minister, told a news conference that the Palestinian bid for full membership via the Security Council would proceed as expected, but that France anticipates that it is bound to fail given American opposition. In the ensuing weeks, France would work on refining its plan, which was based on four pillars, he said. First is changing the method, because that of the past decades has failed; second is to get the negotiations between the two parties started again as quickly as possible and without preconditions from either side; third is to establish a concrete timetable; and finally is to work on elevating the Palestinians to a full observer state in the General Assembly".

Neil MacFarquhar, "France Breaks With Obama on Palestinian Statehood Issue." The New York Times. 21 September 2011, in

"The world, therefore, is facing at least 14 months with the United States being at best reactive and at worst non-responsive to events. Obama has never been a foreign policy president; events and proclivity (I suspect) have always drawn him to domestic matters. But between now and the election, the political configuration of the United States and the dynamics of his presidency will force him away from foreign policy. This at a time when the Persian Gulf is coming to terms with the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and the power of Iran, when Palestinians and Israelis are facing another crisis over U.N. recognition, when the future of Europe is unknown, when North Africa is unstable and Syria is in crisis and when U.S. forces continue to fight in Afghanistan. All of this creates opportunities for countries to build realities that may not be in the best interests of the United States in the long run. There is a period of at least 14 months for regional powers to act with confidence without being too concerned about the United States.

The point of this analysis is to try to show the dynamics that have led the United States to this position, and to sketch the international landscape in broad strokes. The U.S. president will not be deeply engaged in the world for more than a year. Thus, he will have to cope with events pressed on him. He may undertake initiatives, such as trying to revive the Middle East peace process, but such moves would have large political components that would make it difficult to cope with realities on the ground. The rest of the world knows this, of course. The question is whether and how they take advantage of it".

George Friedman, "Obama's dilemma: U.S. Foreign Policy and Electoral Realities." Stratfor: Global Intelligence. 20 September 2011, in

The speech of the American President on Tuesday of this week was a complete capitulation to the pro-Israeli lobby (or more specifically its pro-Likuidnik / pro-settler elements). Pur et simple. There are no other words to describe his speech to the United Nations. Even for someone such as myself who did not expect very much from the USA in the last eighteen months prior to the November 2012, am surprised by the posture of American policy. As was pointed out in the Israeli periodical Haaretz, the fact that the ultra-hawkish Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman has stated that he could: "sign with both hands", the speech in question is most telling 1. Given this state of affairs it is not surprising that the French President has made an attempt (no doubt fruitless and indeed toothless) to break the American monopoly on Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. Unfortunately, in the absence of a united European position on the politics of the issue, it is quite impossible to imagine any change in the current impasse. Instead we have a situation where the Israeli military is preparing for potential mass violence on the West Bank 2. Something which underlines the essential bankruptcy of current American policy. I for one can only hope that any outbreak of violence is limited to the West Bank and does not involve any more serious ruptures in the wider Near and Middle East. This may indeed be a mere faut de mieux, but under the circumstances, such is indeed the plus ultra of peacemaking in the region for the next fourteen months if not longer. As Anne-Marie Slaughter who until recently served in the Clinton State Department as head of the Policy Planning Staff noted earlier this week, the potential for a complete breakdown in the region, with the resulting violence is now potentially within the realm of possibility:

"So, fine, let the US issue its veto. Then what? The move is likely to trigger violence in Gaza and possibly the West Bank; Israeli countermeasures risk igniting more anti-Israel demonstrations across the Middle East, particularly in Egypt, and possibly in Syria. In both cases a direct clash between the Israeli and Egyptian or Syrian soldiers in the Sinai or the Golan Heights is all too possible, with potentially catastrophic consequences....These are threats growing daily on the horizon. The move from threat to confrontation may seem unlikely, but remember the inexorable, deadly sequence of mobilisation that turned the assassination of an Austrian archduke into first world war. These things can get out of hand quickly" 3.

Is the Jewish vote in the next American Presidential election really worth the above consequences?

1. Natasha Mozgovaya, "U.S. Jews give Obama mixed reviews for 'pro-Israeli' UN speech." Haaretz. 22 September 2011, in; Tony Karon, "Why's Obama's U.N. Speech Won't Raise U.S. Credibility in the Middle East." Time. 21 September 2011, in; David Gardner, "A Diplomatic bid to call Israel's bluff." The Financial Times. 21 September 2011, in

2. Anshel Pfeffer, "Israel security forces braces for mass Palestinian protests in West Bank." Haaretz. 23 September 2011, in; Anne-Marie Slaughter, "Veto or no Veto, the Middle East is on the brink." The Financial Times. 22 September 2011, in

3. Slaughter, Op. cit.

Monday, September 19, 2011


"It's hard to understand why the Obama administration would consider leaving only about 3,000 U.S. troops in Iraq after 2011. A force so small would have little ability to contribute to U.S. interests by helping to build a democratic Iraq or by preventing it from sliding back into civil war. But it would incur all the risks and costs of a continuing troop presence. A few thousand troops would have some residual capacity to provide training and modest logistical support for the Iraqi Security Forces. But that's about it.

They certainly will not be in any position to play the vital peacekeeping role that produced the phenomenal drop in violence starting in early 2007 and that made possible Iraq's hopeful—but entirely incomplete—democratic progress in 2008-2010. The loss of that role could well result in a relapse of Iraq's civil war that might suck in neighboring states and metastasize from civil war to regional war".

Kenneth Pollock, "In Iraq: 3,000 troops worse than none?" The Brookings Institute. 12 September 2011, in

"The plain fact of the matter is that we are no longer in a position to impose our will upon Egypt, regardless of the cost of men, money and international goodwill throughout the Middle East and the rest of the world."

Anthony Eden to Winston Churchill, 10 March 1952. PREM [Prime Ministerial Papers] 11 /91. Public Records Office, Kew.

The issues raised by Kenneth Pollock are quite pertinent and to the point. At merely 3,000, the number of American troops to be left in Iraq are almost worse than useless. With the terms 'hostages to fortune', being quite literally a description of what their position will be in Iraq. Especially with Persian money and arms flowing into the country virtually unimpeded by the Iraqi authorities. It is quite easy to imagine that come next year, with only three thousand or so troops in the country as trainers, that the Mahdi Army, or some other outfit will endeavor to either kidnap American troops or alternatively launch attacks on American posts in hopes of the same or worse. Unless, the Americans intend to retain an substantial air arm, or alternatively intend to retain the right to over-flow the country from Kuwait or the American fleet in the Gulf, it is hard to understand how the USA, can possible protect its troops sufficiently to make it a worthwhile endeavor to retain such a small number of troops 'in-country'. Much less endeavoring to stabilize things on the ground in Iraq. Frankly, I have a difficult time understanding the purpose behind the American (actually the American Defence Department) proposal. Except (nota bene) that the proposal is merely pro forma, and is more intended to force the current regime in Baghdad to allow a more substantial number of American troops to remain (perhaps 10,000-20,000) after December 2011. Pro contra it can be argued that given the current American budgetary problems, that a substantial reduction in American troop numbers to something approaching the three thousand number seems indeed what Washington is looking to achieve. If true, all one can say is that a pessimist (which I am not) would argue that the writing is on the wall for the decline of American primacy in the Near and Middle East.

Friday, September 16, 2011


"To be sure, attaining some form of UN membership for Palestine could indeed enhance the Palestinian leadership's leverage in final status negotiations with Israel. They would be negotiating on behalf of a state, not a provisional body and non-state entity. As a UN member, Palestine could resort to legal recourse at the UN Security Council, the International Court of Justice, and possibly the International Criminal Court. Moreover, attaining UN membership would arguably enhance the Palestinians' claim to the pre-1967 armistice line, since that line will have been recognized internationally. Of course, U.S. President Barack Obama already enshrined the 1967 line as the basis for negotiations over a final border in his May 19 State Department address on the Middle East.

For its part, the Palestinian leadership has good reasons to be reluctant to return to the negotiating table without a clear reference point. The three weeks of talks with Israel last September damaged, rather than strengthened, their confidence in their Israeli interlocutors. Israel's subsequent refusal to renew its settlement moratorium or offer an alternative peace plan further diminished faith in the process.

With the plans to petition the Security Council for statehood already set, the least costly option would be to provide the Palestinians a symbolic face-saving achievement in New York short of statehood. In the increasing likelihood that Palestine could achieve recognition as a "non-member state" at the UN General Assembly this September, Palestinians could gain a few additional diplomatic tools for the next round of talks. But the net outcome would likely set back, rather than advance, their national aspirations. First, accession to the UN would undermine Palestinians' moral and historical claims to being a stateless people, a status that has kept their plight at the top of the international agenda for decades. In the international community's eyes, moreover, the conflict with Israel would effectively become a border dispute -- one of scores around the world -- not an existential challenge to the Palestinians. This would reduce the saliency and centrality of the Palestinian issue for many.

As the Oxford University law professor Guy Goodwin-Gill recently argued in a legal brief to Palestinian leadership, the move to statehood would also terminate the legal status of the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. The state of Palestine's authority would effectively be limited geographically to parts of West Bank and perhaps Gaza. Palestinian refugees outside of the newly recognized state would be left without any representation within international institutions. And Gaza would presumably be considered a Hamas-occupied Palestinian territory, given the failure to date to implement its April 2011 unity agreement with Fatah. At best, the state of Palestine would thus rule around forty percent of the West Bank. The other territories that the Palestinians claim -- the remaining sixty percent of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza -- would all be controlled by Israel or Hamas.

Practically, Palestine's newfound ability to confront Israel in international fora would not be the boon many believe either. Rather than pressuring Israel to become more forthcoming and to rapidly seek an agreement with the Palestinians, the confrontational atmosphere could trigger an Israeli public backlash. With its preponderance of power and control of the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, Israel would likely take harsher countermeasures on the ground, such as withholding tax remittances, restricting Palestinian movement, and possibly annexing some West Bank territory, arguing that Palestinians had abrogated the Oslo framework, which has preserved some semblance of cooperation and Palestinian governance.

Having defied Israel, the United States, and possibly parts of Europe, the Palestinian leadership's UN gambit would cast them as acting unilaterally, a charge Israel has generally suffered. Palestinians' alleged provocative behavior would rapidly increase tensions on the ground, creating an extremely combustible environment. Meanwhile, a failure at the UN could easily spark violence on the Palestinian side as dashed expectations lead to rage. It would also deal the Palestinian leadership a huge public embarrassment".

Robert M. Danin, "The UN vote and Palestinian Statehood: why the move is an Unnecessary Gamble." Foreign Affairs. 14 September 2011, in

"For months, the US and the EU have tried to discourage the Palestinians from asking the UN to recognise the state of Palestine. On both sides of the Atlantic, governments are concerned that the UN bid will exacerbate the conflict with Israel. But so far, American and European efforts have failed. Instead Washington and its EU counterparts should exploit the Palestinian initiative. If framed constructively, UN recognition could actually strengthen the prospects for peace....

The UN bid is very popular amongst the Palestinian population and it has gained support from numerous countries, including those in the Arab League. But the US and several EU governments worry that UN recognition would only make peace harder to achieve. Israel is already threatening to sever all assistance and contact with the Palestinian authorities out of concern that they will use recognition to pursue claims against Israel at the International Court of Justice. Furthermore, emboldened Palestinian grass roots movements and Israeli settlers might try to reclaim land from each other in the West Bank, triggering unrest and potentially violence....

Instead of opposing the UN bid, Washington and its European partners should use the Palestinian initiative to strengthen their efforts to re-launch peace talks. The US and the EU should inform the Palestinians that they will support a request for UN membership so long as the Palestinians ask the UN to recognise a state of Palestine whose borders broadly resemble those of 1967; they commit themselves to resolving outstanding disputes with Israel through negotiations (including the exact demarcation of borders); and they extend their executive control over the territory only through agreement with Israel.

Such a resolution would curtail the risks envisaged by Israel and others about UN recognition. It would reaffirm the primacy of negotiations as the way to solve the conflict. And by eliminating legal ambiguities about who controls Palestinian territory, it would reduce the scope for Palestinian and Israeli popular protests. In addition, when presented under such terms, UN recognition could help address some of the obstacles which have stalled the peace process in recent years. It would ensure that the Arab world, while undergoing a major upheaval, endorsed the concept of a two-state solution. And it would force the militant group Hamas, which is still in control of Gaza and has so far been disdainful of the UN effort, to either endorse it or lose support amongst the Palestinian people.

It is unusual for the UN to grant membership to a state with such extensive caveats. And many of the challenges which have blighted peace talks in the past are set to remain. Nevertheless Abbas’ initiative could offer the best platform to re-launch negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. And at a time when violence is flaring up around Gaza and the Israeli-Egyptian border, the US and the EU must do their utmost to ensure that the Palestinian UN bid does not trigger further instability".

Clara Marina O'Donnell, "The US and the EU should support the Palestinian bid for UN membership." Centre for European Reform. 25 August 2011, in

The issue of the the Palestinian Authority's (hereafter 'PA') bid for United Nation's membership as a sovereign, legitimate state, has been a one of the most predictable diplomatic train wreaks in the past ten years. The fact of the matter is, that this diplomatic manoeuvre, however maladroit it may be in certain aspects, is for the PA in the final analysis a political fait de mieux . As with the almost complete surrender by the current American Administration to the Netanyahu Cabinet in the past year or so, and the continuation of the building of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the UN bid is for PA President Abbas a last throw of the diplomatic dice 1. Contrary to Mr. Danin's conjecture that the Palestinian move is a sort of diplomacy of va banque , quite the contrary is the case. Sans this admittedly mostly public relations manoeuvre, it is difficult to envisage what diplomatic crumbs the PA would be able to obtain by remaining on the sidelines. Certainly with the upcoming American Presidential elections, the likelihood of the anything coming from Washington which savors of positive pressure on Israel is almost a complete non possumus. And while I for one am not as optimistic about the end-results of the PA being given official recognition by the United Nations as Mlle. O'Donnell, that does not gainsay the fact that at the moment, and for at the very least another year if not for longer, this gambit is for the PA the only game in town. More's the pity that the Americans will of course veto the proposal 2. The erratum of which will only become apparent, when the inevitable explosion in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip occurs sometime next year, if not sooner.

1. "Arab League Discusses Palestinian Statehood." Al-Jazeera.
4 August 2011, in

2. Steven Lee Myers & David D. Kirkpatrick. "U.S. Scrambling to Avert Palestinian Vote at the UN." The New York Times. 13 September 2011, in; James Blitz & Tobias Buck, "Palestinians seek UN backing for Statehood." The Financial Times. 16 September 2011, in

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


"Rumsfeld afforded me a close-up look at a special Washington phenomenon: the skilled full-time politician-bureaucrat in who ambition, ability, and substance fuse seamlessly. Rumsfeld had served briefly on the domestic side of the Nixon White House; there he skillfully avoided involving himself in the controversies of an embattled presidency…Charming, tough and capable of being quite decisive. Rumsfeld neither explicitly supported nor explicitly defied the critics of Ford’s foreign policy. As Secretary of Defence, he thwarted new diplomatic initiatives or military moves by a rigorous insistence on bureaucratic procedures and playing the devil’s advocate with respect to every new proposal, as I shall discuss in a later chapter…Whatever the motive---and they were all honorable---Rumsfeld was skillful at deflecting every controversial issue into some bureaucratic bog or other…With the passing of time, I grew more mellow about Rumsfeld’s brilliant single-mindedness, especially after I left government and was no longer in his line of fire. He was tough, capable, personally attractive, and knowledgeable, I came to believe that if he ever reached the presidency, he might be a more comfortable chief executive than Cabinet colleague---indeed, he had the makings of a strong President.”

Henry Alfred Kissinger, Years of Renewal (1998), pp. 175-177.


Tacitus on the Emperor Galba (68-69). HISTORIES, Book I,chapter 49.

On Wednesday the 8th of September, Donald Rumsfeld, the man who has been both the youngest and the oldest Defence Secretary in American history spoke to a select audience at the Oxonian Society. The following is a rough transcription of Secretary Rumsfeld's remarks. Prior to however relating his words, I did wish to offer up my own brief assessment of Secretary Rumsfeld's tenure at the Department of Defence. The disjunction between the words of praise by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on his one-time bureaucratic rival, a full three years prior to Rumsfeld resuming office in 2001, and the famous dismissal of the great Roman historian Tacitus on the brief reign of the Emperor Galba is harsh, but I do believe just from a historical standpoint. As per why? To my mind the reasons are rather simple: the goals that he set for himself to accomplish: the 'transformation' of the American military for the twenty-first century were for the most part not properly or left undone. In addition, and more problematically, by his great success in 'end-running' his counter-part at the State Department, General Powell as well as the hapless National Security Advisor, Dr. Rice, Rumsfeld helped to ensure the disaster that was the Iraq debacle as well as the bungled diplomacy behind it. Indeed that reign of diplomatic errors which went under the name of 'unilateralism' in the years anno domini 2001 to 2006. Au fond of course, there are few American Defence Secretaries who one can say characterize as being in some overall sense 'successful.' The only ones that come to mind are Robert Lovett, Tom Gates, Melvin Laird, and perhaps Harold Brown. The rest even the most ambitious (Robert McNamara and James Forrestal come immediately to mind) ended up as failures. In the case of Mr. Rumsfeld, it could very well be argued that his failure as Defence Secretary was intimately tied up with his ambitions. That in point of fact, that notwithstanding his past tenure in the office and his intermittent involvement in national security affairs in the 1990's, that his views were too idiosyncratic, unformed and in the final analysis ill-formed about the nature of the American Defence establishment and the changes needed to properly 'transform it'. Indeed, one may argue that the 'transformation' that Rumsfeld argued for was the very last thing needed by the American Defence establishment. As to some extent the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq seem to indicate. And however unfortunate, it is the latter two conflicts more than anything else in his tenure as Secretary of Defence, which will seal Rumsfeld historical reputation. With all of the above being said, it is true that Rumsfeld does still possess a most attractive personality and indeed quite literally had the audience at this event eating out of his hands (giving the same a quite full round of applause as he left the room after the event). He was quite gracious in his remarks about his former (mostly defeated) ex-colleagues such as General Powell and Dr. Rice. All in all, Rumsfeld seems very much of a piece with an older generation of American policy-makers, and that rather than being someone who is seventy-nine years old, his language gives the appearance of someone who is closer to being born circa 1910 or 1915. In short of an older, more homogeneous, settled and self-confident America of the immediate post-war years (1945-1960), rather than the post-1960's era. In a certain sense, notwithstanding the provincialism of that platoon of policymakers (Rumsfeld's Mid-Western accent being the epitome of the latter), I do have a certain degree of nostalgia for that period's brand of policy-makers and the America that they represented. More's the pity that so few of them are left among us.

The following are remarks made by Donald Rumsfeld at the Russian Tea room in the early afternoon of the 8th of September:

As per the character of Saddam Hussein, who Rumsfeld met back in 1983: 'a typical Middle Eastern dictator' and thus 'not someone who you wanted bring home to dinner'. On the idea of Gerry Ford-Ronald Reagan 'Co-presidency', as proposed by Henry Kissinger at the Republican convention in 1980: 'the dumbest idea possible'.

That there: 'was no Rumsfeld doctrine, merely a Bush doctrine' of putting in place structures to combat terrorism both at home and abroad. Not to treat terrorists as merely criminals. And that the policy was in essence: 'putting pressure on terrorists all over the world', that the USA 'cannot defend everywhere' against the same. And that the 'Obama Administration [has] kept Bush Administration measures in place', contrary to campaign rhetoric to discard them.

That the 11th of September 2001, was an impetus to modernize the military. Especially 'the development of asymmetrical capabilities in practice'. That it was 'bad journalism' to harp on the so-called looting of the antiquities museum in Baghdad in 2003. It would not have been possible to have left Saddam Hussein in power (Rumsfeld employs many of the same, not very convincing arguments employed circa 2002-2003). War as 'a failure of diplomacy'.

Rumsfeld disclaims ownership of the phrase and idea behind: 'the war on terror'. As per Rumsfeld, this was indeed a 'Bushism' and that he endeavored to try to have President Bush no longer use the phrase. The chief problem is that the phrase implies that the conflict with Terrorism is similar to that say World War I or World War II. Whereas as per Rumsfeld, the situation was more akin to the 'Cold War' in both its ambiguity and its length.

As per the current situation in the Near and Middle East, Rumsfeld expressed mixed emotions about the same: both optimistic about the long-term possibilities of change and concerns about short-term instability in the region. As per him Libya per se, is not an important American interest, unlike say Egypt or Saudi Arabia. States that the overall situation even in Egypt is 'unclear', much less in the rest of the region.

States that 'China is big and India is even going to be bigger'. As per Rumsfeld, the PRC's many internal, domestic problems will prevent it from even approaching a potential challenge to the United States in the Far Eastern region.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011


"Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Tuesday Turkey would implement further sanctions against Israel and said that "our ships will be seen more frequently in those waters," referring to the Eastern Mediterranean. Erdoğan said that Turkey was "totally suspending" defense industry ties with Israel, after downgrading diplomatic relations with Israel.

"Trade ties, military ties, ties regarding defense industry, we are completely suspending them. This process will be followed by different measures," Erdoğan told reporters in Ankara. Turkey started to implement sanctions on Israel upon Israel's refusal to apologize for the botched raid on a Gaza-bound protest flotilla that killed nine Turks last year.

Israel has expressed regret for the loss of lives. Erdoğan described the raid as "savagery" and accused Israel of acting like "a spoiled boy" in the region. Erdoğan also told reporters that he may visit Gaza and would decide whether to do so after talks with Egypt. Erdoğan is planning to visit Cairo later this month".

"Turkey to enforce more sanctions on Israel: PM Erdogan." Hurriyet Daily News. 6 September 2011, in

"Turkey has set the stage for a potential naval confrontation with Israel by announcing that Turkish ships attempting to breach the maritime blockade of Gaza will be given an armed escort. The threat, made by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, sharply escalated a diplomatic row with Israel that has seen relations between the two former allies plunged into their worst crisis in decades.

Incensed by Israel's refusal to apologise for its deadly raid on a Gaza bound aid flotilla last year, which led to the deaths of nine Turkish activists on board the MV Mami Marmara, Mr Erdogan has announced a series of sanctions against the Israeli government in recent days. But it is his latest outburst that will cause most alarm in the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister. "Turkish warships will be tasked with protecting the Turkish boats bringing humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip," Mr Erdogan told the Arabic television network Al Jazeera.

"From now on, we will no longer allow these ships to be the targets of attacks by Israel like the one on the Freedom Flotilla, because then Israel will have to deal with an appropriate response."

Senior Israeli officials were quick to denounce the threat, while insisting that they had no interest in worsening the increasingly noxious rhetoric. "These remarks are grave and serious, but we have no wish to add to the polemic," Dan Meridor, Israel's intelligence minister, told the country's army radio service. "It is better to stay quiet and wait. We have no interest in aggravating the situation by replying to such attacks." But, while some in Mr Netanyahu's government are hoping to defuse tensions, relations could deteriorate still further with Avigdor Lieberman, the fiery Israeli foreign minister, expected to announce a series of retaliatory steps against Turkey over the weekend. Reports in the Israeli press suggested that Mr Lieberman could even announce plans to meet and even finance Turkey's Kurdish rebels....

It is unclear whether Mr Erdogan's threat to give naval protection to future Turkish aid vessels trying to breach the blockade amounts to anything more than populist posturing. He did not reveal whether Turkish naval vessels would enter the territorial waters of either Israel or Gaza. The raid on the Mavi Marmara took place in international waters."

Adrian Bloomfield, "Turkey to provide armed escort for new Gaza Flotilla." The Daily Telegraph. 9 September 2011, in

The rising crescendo of threats & hostile actions emanating from Ankara raises questions in my mind at the very least as to the exact rationale for the AK governments actions vis-`a-vis Israel. I myself thought that whatever domestic Turkish political mileage which could be derived from the entire affair was more or less exhausted by the AK relative triumph in the recent Parliamentary elections. If that is still the case (and I do believe that it is), one can only surmise that the reason for Ankara's increasing overt hostility on this subject is caused by Erdogan, et. al., need to: camouflage as much as possible Ankara's inactivity vis-`a-vis the ongoing Syrian uprising. Where a series of Turkish statements about the Assad regime's need to de-escalate its repression of its population has in fact resulted in a mere nullity. Positioning Ankara in a cul de sac position diplomatically, as unlike the other Sunni regimes in the region (Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States), Turkey has refused to go beyond his hectoring tone in its interactions with the Assad regime. The result being that in terms of the Near Eastern public, Ankara has come across as being possessing 'paper tiger' status in the Syrian crisis. And the whole Gaza contretemps, which first saw the Turkish premier become famous regionally speaking back in 2009 and 2010, from Ankara's perspective offers best means of burying or partially burying the embarrassment of the Syrian diplomatic debacle. The fact that relations with Tel Aviv might be pushed to the breaking point does not appear to faze in the least the Erdogan regime. Indeed, it would appear to be the case that perhaps breaking ties with Israel, or at the very least engaging in a policy of va banque in this almost entirely contrived dispute, in which Ankara leaves it up to Israel to decide to break off diplomatic relations with Turkey (and Ankara knows quite well that breaking relations with Turkey is something that Tel Aviv is loath to do). With all that being said, I for one highly doubt that Turkish ships will deliberately enter Israeli or Gaza territorial waters. Indeed, it could very well be the case, that Ankara is hoping (a forlorn hope?), that at the very last second, either immediately prior to the flotilla setting sail or nearing Israeli-Gaza waters, that the Americans, et. al., will intervene and contrive a modus vivendi, which Turkey will endeavor to proclaim to Urbi et Orbi represents a triumph of Turkish policy. In short what we have here is an old-fashioned 'policy of prestige', which I for one did not expect to see ever again employed by any but the smallest powers. Certainly not a regional power of Turkey's ilk. What the results will be, and if Ankara's calculations prove correct only time will tell.

Thursday, September 01, 2011


"Some observers have compared the impact of 9/11 on U.S. policy to the impact on U.S. policy of North Korea's attack on South Korea in June 1950. Back then, the Truman administration had also been stunned. It had been pondering new initiatives, but the president was still waffling. He had approved the National Security Council report known as NSC-68 but was not quite ready to implement it. The dimensions of a coming U.S. military buildup were uncertain; the global nature of the Cold War still unclear; the ideological crusade still somewhat inchoate. But Dean Acheson, the secretary of state, and Paul Nitze, the director of policy planning at the State Department, knew they had to reconfirm the United States' preponderance of power, recently shattered by the Soviets' first nuclear test. They knew they had to increase the United States' military capabilities, regain the country's self-confidence, and avoid being self-deterred. They knew they had to take responsibility for the operation of global free trade and the reconstruction of the West German and Japanese economies (their successful resuscitation was still uncertain). They knew the United States' supremacy was being contested by a brutal and formidable rival with an ideology that had considerable appeal to impoverished peoples beginning to yearn for autonomy, equality, independence, and nationhood. In this context, the North Korean attack not only led to the Korean War but also unleashed a major expansion of U.S. global policy more generally.

The long-term significance of 9/11 for U.S. foreign policy should not be overestimated. Whether or not one thinks that such analogies are appropriate, it is incontestable that Bush and his advisers saw themselves as being locked in a similar struggle. And they, too, sought to preserve and reassert the primacy of the United States while they struggled to thwart any follow-up attacks on U.S. citizens or U.S. territory. Like Acheson and Nitze, they were certain that they were protecting a way of life, that the configuration of power in the international arena and the mitigation of threats abroad were vital to the preservation of freedom at home.

More than Acheson and Nitze, Bush's advisers had trouble weaving the elements of their policy into a coherent strategy that could address the challenges they considered most urgent. It seems clear now that many of their foreign policy initiatives, along with their tax cuts and unwillingness to call for domestic sacrifices, undercut the very goals they were designed to achieve.

Thus, U.S. primacy was ultimately damaged by the failure to execute the occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq effectively and by the anti-Americanism that these flawed enterprises helped magnify. U.S. officials might declare the universal appeal of freedom and proclaim that history has demonstrated the viability of only one form of political economy, but opinion polls throughout the Muslim world have shown that the United States' actions in Iraq and support of Israel were a toxic combination. As liberation turned into occupation and counterinsurgency, the United States and its power were thrown into disrepute.

U.S. primacy was also damaged by the unexpected cost of the protracted wars, recently estimated by the Congressional Research Service to be $1.3 trillion dollars and mounting. It was eroded by the debts that accrued as a result of tax cuts and increased domestic expenditures. Defense spending climbed from $304 billion in 2001 to $616 billion in 2008, even as the U.S. budget went from a surplus of $128 billion to a deficit of $458 billion. Federal debt as a percentage of GDP rose from 32.5 percent in 2001 to 53.5 percent in 2009. Meanwhile, the U.S. debt held by foreign governments climbed steadily, from about 13 percent at the end of the Cold War to close to 30 percent at the end of the Bush years. U.S. financial strength and flexibility had been seriously eroded".

Melvyn Leffler, "9/11 in Retrospect: George W. Bush's Grand Strategy, Reconsidered."
Foreign Affairs. (September / October 2011).

As the tenth anniversary approaches of the 11th of September 2001, I thought that it would be worthwhile to publish an extract from an essay by the erste-klasse, American 20th century diplomatic historian Melvyn Leffler. Leffler having written perhaps the very best book dealing with the early origins of the American national security state and its foreign policy 1. Given his background, one can only observe that unfortunately, his essay dealing with the 11th of September 2001, is less than totally inspiring from an analytical perspective. Indeed, from my (admittedly biased) perspective, his text seems to be filled with rather commonplace bien-pensant apercu:

"Americans can affirm their core values yet recognize the hubris that inheres in them. They can identify the wanton brutality of others yet acknowledge that they themselves are the source of rage in many parts of the Arab world. Americans can agree that terrorism is a threat that must be addressed but realize that it is not an existential menace akin to the military and ideological challenges posed by German Nazism and Soviet communism. They can acknowledge that the practice of projecting solutions to their problems onto the outside world means that they seek to avoid difficult choices at home, such as paying higher taxes, accepting universal conscription, or implementing a realistic energy policy. Americans can recognize that there is evil in the world, as Obama reminded his Nobel audience in December 2009, and they can admit, as he did, that force has a vital role to play in the affairs of humankind. But they can also recognize that the exercise of power can grievously injure those whom they wish to help and can undercut the very goals they seek to achieve. Americans can acknowledge the continuities in their interests and values yet wrestle with the judgments and tradeoffs that are required to design a strategy that works in a post-Cold War era, where the threats are more varied, the enemies more elusive, and power more fungible"

However, be that as it may, the larger and more pertinent point that he makes, is that rather than the policies of the Bush regime, being at variance with those of prior administrations, in point of fact there is a great deal of continuity between the general outline of said policies and those of the Clinton Administration before it. A point made ex-number of years ago, by Leffler's nemesis in the American historical profession, John Lewis Gaddis of Yale University in a series of lectures that I was able to attend at the New York Public Library 3. Where the Bush regime differs significantly from its predecessors and indeed its successor is not so much in the goals that it sought, or even necessarily the means employed, merely in the persistently inept & amateurish manner that the policies were pursued. Rumsfeld et. al., in retrospect reminds one of nothing ever so much as Bethmann-Hollweg's comment about Erich Ludendorff: 'a mixture of political primitivism and old-Prussian directness'. With the end result being both the isolation that American diplomacy found itself in the Iraq War from 2003 onwards as well as the grossly incompetent fashion that the war was waged. The Iraq mis-adventure being a principal example of 'political primitivism' par excellence. Similarly the entire concept & policy the the so-called 'War on Terror' (a term which displays an infinite lack of conceptualization). Which is not to gainsay the fact that Leffler engages in the usual (as noted above) parti pris against the Bush regime and its defenders: id est., while the costs of the Iraq War were in total dollars a seemingly large amount (1.3 Trillion), per se, that does not explain the difficulties of the American economy since the so-called 'Dot-com' bust, nor does account for the devastation of the financial crisis on the American economy since. Per contra: countries such as France, the United Kingdom, Italia, Germany, et. cetera., all suffered as much as if not more than the USA, even though none of these had to deal with the costs of two foreign wars, nor tax cuts for the wealthy `a la the USA 4. Hence, to pre-suppose that the former (Iraq / Afghan War & tax cuts) resulted in the latter (economic difficulties since 2000 and especially 2007) is merely an example of the logical fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc. Sans partis pris, I for one would rather doubt that Leffler would engage in such a simplistic syllogism. In short, the value of Leffler's piece is that he demonstrates that au fond, the 11th of September 2001, was in the larger stream of history, what the great French historian Fernand Braudel would characterize as an 'un evenement', a mere event 5. And not a structural or conjectural change in the larger historical or geopolitical landscape. It is more akin to the earlier American mis-adventure in Indo-China, than say something equivalent to say the Great War or World War II in its effects on the world politics.

1. Melyvn Leffler, A Predominance of Power: National Security, the Truman Administration and the Cold War. (1993).

2. Leffler, 9/11 in Retrospect, op. cit.

3. John Lewis Gaddis, Surprise, Security and the American Experience. (2004).

4. Martin Wolf, "Struggling with a Great Contraction." The Financial Times. 31st August 2011, in

5. For the origins of this term, see: Fernand Braudel, The Mediterranean & the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II . (1949).