Monday’s* Map: A String of Chinese Pearls


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…

Is Britain the organised crime capital of Europe?

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

Generation Change

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.