From The Economist:
“China’s port strategy is mainly motivated by commercial impulses. It is natural that a country of its clout has a global shipping and ports industry. But it could become a flashpoint for diplomatic tensions. That is the pessimistic view. The optimistic one is that the more it invests, the more incentive China has to rub along better with its trading partners.”
*I am a day late…
June 11, 2013 at 11:25 am | More on Economics and development, Global system, Off topic | Comment
Last summer Philip Stephens, the FT’s chief political commentator, wrote the following
The High Court is witnessing an expensive legal battle between Oleg Deripaska and Michael Cherney. The two made fortunes in the wild west privatisation scramble after the fall of the Soviet Union. We have heard lurid tales of organised crime and extortion. Mr Cherney says Mr Deripaska owes him hundreds of millions of dollars. An estimated 60 per cent-plus of the case load of the High Court’s commercial division now comes from Russia and eastern Europe.
His point, and one made by many others in Westminster and Whitehall, is that ‘the capital is a constant reminder of how unequally the bounty of globalisation has been shared’. As London became the financial hub of the world so too did the city attract those from the shadows of globalisation. And boy, did they come… by the Home Office’s reckoning there are 38,000 individuals (across 6,000 groups) involved in organised crime that impacts on the UK.
With that in mind 2013 is the year the Government must act. The Home Secretary gets this. Home Officials talk about a new found determination to tackle organised crime. There are plenty of reasons why. Following the sucess of the Olympics, there is a quiet confidence among officials that while terroism remains a real and present danger, assurance levels have never been higher. It means the Home Office can address a portfolio of risks – rather than focus solely on a single threat to the UK.
The following is from a piece I wrote for the RUSI website:
EUROPOL, a European Union Agency run by a Briton and heavily reliant on British intelligence, has published its annual Serious and Organised Crime Threat Assessment (SOCTA). The assessment highlights the scale of the threat from organised crime to individuals, communities and businesses across Europe. Of particular concern to EUROPOL are ‘facilitated illegal immigration, trafficking in human beings, synthetic drugs and poly-drug trafficking, Missing Trader Intra-Community (MTIC) fraud, the production and distribution of counterfeited goods, cybercrime and money laundering.’ These crimes, in EUROPOL’s view, require concerted action by EU member states – not least by the British Government.
You can read the rest of the article here
March 21, 2013 at 4:02 pm | More on Global system, UK | Comments Off
Over on his Middle East Blog , Marc Lynch asks whether the Iraq war will change how scholars study the Middle East. It’s a question he has been pondering for sometime since taking over as director of the Middle East Studies program at the Elliott School of International Affairs:
Graduate programs in political science and Middle East Studies have already begun to see a steady flow of applicants back from Iraq (including, among many others, my research assistant from last year). I expect that over the next decade, this will turn into a flood as smart, young veterans look to put their experiences into a broader perspective and to apply their hard-won granular knowledge to broader academic and policy problems. (And not only military veterans — there are plenty of civilians, contractors, and NGO workers who have worked in Iraq as well.) Most will pursue MA degrees, while some percentage will decide to continue on to a PhD I think this an unequivocally good thing — and I wonder if people have given serious thought to how it might change the field of Middle East studies.
It’s a fascinating question and one that we in London should be thinking about - identifying the young up-and-coming MA/PhD students and helping them find their way into think tanks, NGOs and government service.
It reminds me of a story I have been told by numerous military folk about a young lance corporal on his Junior Command Course in Brecon. The story goes that a senior NCO was giving a lecture on counterinsurgency and spent much of his time describing the campaigns in Malaya, Oman and Northern Ireland. During the Q&A session the young lance corporal put his hand up and asked the senior NCO a question about Afghanistan and Iraq. The senior NCO couldn’t answer the question – his only experience, he said, was in Northern Ireland, so he asked the assembled group who had had experience in Afghanistan and Iraq – almost everyone raised their hands… soon the senior NCO was listening to tactics learnt in the fields of Helmand and from the streets of Basra.
Afghanistan and Iraq have had a profound impact on the British Armed Services – men and women in their twenties and early thirties have been deployed seven or eight times which, in turn, is having a major impact on the culture of the armed forces. A generation of young officers and NCOs who have fought in Helmand and Southern Iraq now look up to their seniors (Staff Sergeants/ Lt Col’s* above) who’s only experience of warfare and conflict resolution may have been on the training fields of Germany, Canada or Thetford. It’s crucial therefore that the armed forces suck this experience up, promote those individuals who have proven themselves on the ground and not stifle innovation and change as new strategies and tactics are learnt and taken on - in other words and as Paul Cornish describes not let the armed forces melt into strategic decay by failing to adapt, learn and move forward. As Thomas Friedman argues in a recent op-ed:
All those deployments have left us with a deep cadre of officers with experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, now running both wars … They know every mistake that has been made, been told every lie, saw their own soldiers killed by stupidity, figured out solutions and built relationships with insurgents, sheikhs and imams on the ground that have given the best of them a granular understanding of the “real” Middle East that would rival any Middle East studies professor.
The Ministry of Defence has kicked off a strategic defence review. It would be a fascinating experiment and potentially hugely valuable exercise if the three services could identify a handful of experienced Officers and NCOs to write their own paper on the future of the armed forces – with a view of publishing it in one of the many defence academic journals – or even run a one day conference where they present their views…
Inside the military Generation Y has reservoirs of experience and knowledge to tap into. Senior Commanders should openly embrace this potential and allow these ideas and discussions to take place. The old guard’s time is nearly over. May be it’s time to hand over the controls.
* Senior Commanders are being deployed into theatre – the point here is that their collective experience is less and arguably less helpful than the experience of those junior NCOs / officers who have yo yo’d backwards and forwards between the UK and Iraq and Afghanistan and will become the next generation of leaders.
July 30, 2009 at 10:44 am | More on North America, UK | Comments Off
Spotted in The Atlantic h/t Ryan G.
And others are joining in too… see RFE’s This Week on Facebook
July 29, 2009 at 12:21 pm | More on Off topic | Comments Off
Some knowledge of physics is, apparently, essential… more here
July 22, 2009 at 9:31 pm | More on Off topic | 1 Comment
Yesterday William Hague, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, gave a speech in London setting out what British foreign policy might look like under a Conservative government. Judging by the crowd at IISS , the pre-briefing before the speech, and bearing in mind the drought of Tory ideas on national security to date, this was an important moment for the Conservative Party – this was a blueprint.
So you might have expected the speech to ruffle a few feathers, go further than David Cameron’s Liberal conservatism speech in Islamabad, even set out a new vision or concept that might spark further debate and yet… it wasn’t to be. The speech provoked no more than a whimper from the papers: The FT highlighted the opposition plans to downgrade EU ties , The Guardian asked whether the Tories have a real foreign policy? Reuters felt the Conservatives were arguing for a less interventionist Britain while The Daily Telegraph led with news that the Conservatives wouldn’t shrink from tough defence decisions. Finally, the Chief Foreign Commentator of The Times felt the speech ‘strikes a realistic tone on Britain’s place in the world ‘ and awarded the shadow foreign secretary 6/10 and a silver star.
Using Global Dashboard’s in-house foreign policy speech check-list everything was here:
Call for a National Security Council Check
Quote David Kilcullen Check
Describe the world as uncertain Check
Reference state failure, terrorism, changing nature of conflict (in that order) Check
Describe effects of climate change on failing states Check
Argue that the EU should be enlarged to include the Balkans and Turkey but leave out how the UK would influence a larger European Union Check
Call for reform of international institutions Check
In his conclusion William Hague said:
My argument today has been that it will become more difficult over time for Britain to exert on world affairs the influence which we are used to… to do so will be to act not only in our national interest but in the enlightened national interest… for we have a responsibility to others as well as ourselves. Britain will not disengage from trying to shape global events. In trying to create and maintain a more peaceful world we will always be at the forefront. But we will so position and prepare ourselves that if the skies darken and new storms arise we will be ready for them.
Tony Blair said something similar when he was PM, Gordon Brown too. Paddy Ashdown and George Robertson argued along similar lines recently. In other words, British foreign policy looks like it will head on precisely the same course as the previous decade, which for internationalists and interventionists is no bad thing.
Yet the issue at the heart of Hague’s speech was the lack of drive or ambition – the idea, implicit in his speech, that nations can only ever respond to events – never instigate change.
Finally there was one curious passage that stood out and which I think was the most interesting part of the Shadow Foreign Secretary speech. Tucked away was the following:
The citizens of Britain have always been restless in trying to improve the wider world and global in our outlook.
That is a pretty bold statement. But I wonder how true it is, especially when polling indicates the public appetite for adventures overseas isn’t that strong and there are signs that the downturn is beginning to undermine previously strong public support for aid. It also contrasts with something that Tony Blair argued three years ago, when he argued that:
The British people are reluctant global citizens. We must make them confident ones.
Which is it – are we Brits restless in trying to improve the wider world or reluctant global citizens? Was it that the British public had had enough of Blair’s role on the international stage or that Blair wanted the UK to become a truly global hub – for business – innovation - influence on the world stage but never succeeded. Judging by this speech today William Hague has decided that Britain’s best approach is to drift – after all it will be in our national interest…
July 22, 2009 at 6:24 pm | More on UK | Comments Off
Interesting. 55 per cent of Chatham House members (and, one assumes, visitors to the website) believe the conflict in Afghanistan will become ‘another Vietnam’.
July 13, 2009 at 1:57 pm | More on Conflict and security | Comments Off
Andrew Mitchell, Shadow International Development Secretary on BBC News earlier :
We will have a national security council under a Conservative government which will ensure all these different departments and all these different activities are wired in closely together.
Sure – it’s the wiring that’s the issue.
July 13, 2009 at 1:01 pm | More on Cooperation and coherence, UK | Comments Off
184 service personnel have died in Afghanistan since 2001. The tragic deaths of eight men who died last week in a single 24-hour period has brought the conflict home. Newspapers are abuzz with consternation and criticism. Newspapers have been awash with editorials setting out their respective views and ideas of what the UK and wider coalition should do. Below are the highlights.
The UK Af-Pak Strategy is here.
The US Af-Pak Strategy is here . (pdf)
ISAF ‘Missions and Mandate’ is here .
The Sunday Times believes the government needs to do two things on Afghanistan:
The first is to convey a clearer explanation of Britain’s war aims. Generalities such as those yesterday of David Miliband, the foreign secretary, that the troops are engaged in a battle for “the future of Britain”, are not good enough. Wars without a clear strategy are lost. And, second, even amid the fiscal mess, it is vital for the army to have the numbers and the equipment it needs. Otherwise the 184 will have given their lives in vain.
Meanwhile the FT argues that in the next two years, Britain will face questions over its future defence posture.
It must decide whether it can maintain effective counter-insurgency operations rather than investing in new naval and air assets. In the face of a public spending crisis, Britain must also decide whether it can afford its global role. But right now, Helmand is the issue. To lose 15 soldiers in two weeks is terrible. To discover at some future date that those soldiers died in a fight for territory that was subsequently surrendered back to the Taliban would be unthinkable.
For the Telegraph the issue is more simple:
We accept the national interest case for this operation; but popular support will be lost unless the Government can make a better fist than it has so far of explaining why so many young men are being killed thousands of miles from home. These are matters for which Mr Brown is directly and personally accountable; it is a responsibility he cannot shirk. It is not the case, either, that questioning the prosecution of the war is a betrayal of the troops who are fighting it. As the good people of Wootton Bassett show with tragic frequency, this country holds its combatants in great esteem. But does the Government? As things stand, the Prime Minister himself creates the impression that he fails to grasp what is happening in Helmand or how it could be put right. We will not easily forgive him or his administration for letting our Armed Forces down.
The Observer meanwhile suggests that the Government’s approach is a gamble:
We are fighting out of crude national self-interest, following a cold utilitarian logic: the war makes an al-Qaida atrocity less likely; the sacrifice in British lives abroad is worth the added security at home; 184 dead soldiers weighed up against the losses in an imagined 9/11-style attack. But much as the government might like to dress this up as strategy, it is simply a gamble. Unless there is a dramatic change in circumstances, the public will decide the stakes are too high. Lives saved by bringing soldiers home will seem a surer benefit than the unproven hypothesis of preventing terrorism with a war thousands of miles away. The government must prepare for that moment. The old justifications for intervention in Afghanistan are spent. If there are no others, the troops must come home.
This morning the Foreign Secretary argued that the Afghan strategy ‘is to make the UK safer ‘, Liam Fox said ‘any failures in Afghan policy must be rectified’ and Paddy Ashdown pointed out that ‘helicopters are not the heart of the problem in Afghanistan’.
Update: It’s worth listening to the interview with counterinsurgency guru David Kilcullen on Radio 4 this morning. Best quote from the fantastic Evan Davis ‘a lot of complexity came out of the interview with David Kilcullen’. Listen here
Update 2: Hold on… Lord Owen has the answer:
July 13, 2009 at 10:20 am | More on Conflict and security, UK | 1 Comment
If we are lucky, Afghanistan might develop a reasonably cohesive army and a tolerant, democratic government. That is surely a goal worth fighting for. But it will only come with more money and a shake-up of our political and military leadership.
Following on from Alex’s post on DFID’s new white paper , the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced that it will be kicking off a root and branch review of Britain’s defence policy. The whizzo idea is to publish an interim Green Paper early in 2010.
Since November 2007 think tanks have been arguing for a review of defence policy. The latest think tank to join the bandwagon – IPPR – has, it seems, finally tipped the balance. But before everyone congratulates themselves on this first tentative step – bear in mind that the power now rests with the MoD.
With the announcement of a green paper they can now start to ask searching questions of those individuals and organisations who have been calling for a defence review. To aid them in this task the MoD should, at the very least, hold seminars with each of the think tanks that have focused on this issue – to date: Chatham House , Demos , IPPR (Global Change Team) and RUSI .Perhaps even do a roadshow across the UK?
At the moment the terms of the debate aren’t clear – nor is the fundamental question a green paper would seek to answer – perhaps a good starting place might be: What is defence for in the twenty first century?
As will become increasingly apparent there are no straightforward answers to this question – not least because this is really a debate about Britain’s place in the world… and that’s a different story.
July 7, 2009 at 10:56 am | More on UK | Comments Off