Where is the clear thinking on transformation policy for the Middle East? Iraq remains bloodied with sectarian slaughter. Syria is relentless. Where is the formula of educating a young generation to succeed dictators once they have served their purpose as Western allies. How did things get so out of hand that Uday and Qusay became brutal playboys and that Gamal Mubarak and Saif-al Islam are now jailed? In East Asia, Chiang Ching-kuo, son of Taiwan’s dictator Chiang Kai-shek, ushered in what is now its current democracy and South Korea’s new president, Park Geun-hye, is the daughter of its most brutal leader Park Chung-lee?
East Asia, too, was once riddled with war.
North Korea’s testing of short range missiles is more critical than it’s symbolically threatening long or medium range tests. North Korea exports some US$100 million of arms a year. Its clients include Iran, Syria and Burma — where, for example, the UN says North Korea’s Namchongang Trading Corp may have been selling magnetometers used for missile guidance or nuclear centrifuges.
The question that needs to be answered for this latest series of tests is which weapons experts from which governments were invited to the test site to watch?
The Montana state legislature meets only for 90 days every two years. The elected members pass whatever laws are needed, then go back to their day jobs. Might this lean system be taken into account when thinking of reforming the Westminster village or the unwieldy and expensive European behemoth?
In Britain, there’s now routine news of old men being debunked for sex crimes carried out many years ago. In Guatemala, an 86-year-old former president has finally been sentenced for killings by his regime in the 1980s. We know Guatemala’s institutions have not been strong enough until now to call its leaders to accounts. But what does the same time lapse say about Britain’s institutions and its celebrities?
Possibly, the most stupid move North Korea made in the recent crisis was not to threaten war and prepare a missile for launch — it has done that many times before. It was to shut down business at the Kaesong industrial zone. A reliable workforce and deliveries are powerful assets and Pyongyang just proved that it cannot be a trusted member of the global supply chain, thus guaranteeing itself many more years of poverty or aid reliance.
Two years after the start of the Syrian conflict, try Googling ‘Syrian opposition manifesto’ or Syrian opposition education policy and then ask whether international support should not only be conditional on the evil and incompetence of the dictator or but also on the motivation and competence of those who wish to take over.
Or possibly, nothing has been learned from Iraq and the grooming of Ahmed Chalbi.
Two Israeli strikes on Syria in two days will usher in fresh Russia-US tensions set against a Cold War spectre. The US is already assessing the nuclear balance with Russia in the Middle East, Asia and Europe against the advancement of the Chinese nuclear weapons program. The switch of attention from Afghanistan to Iraq in 2003 — and the subsequent unfinished business in both – underlines the challenge of planning wars on two fronts. The crises in Syria and the Korean peninsular show that this is a clear and present threat.
Anthony H Cordesman, Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at CSIS writes:- Four different nuclear arms races are now interacting to change the need for strategic calculus and demand a strategy that looks beyond arms control and considers a much grimmer future.
A US Navy ship, the USS Freedom, has arrived in Singapore as part of US plans to increase its military presence in the region. She joins the US 7th Fleet, which is responsible for more than 48 million sq miles (124 million sq km) in the Pacific. By 2020, 60 per cent of the US Navy’s assets will be deployed to the Asia-Pacific as its forces leave Iraq and Afghanistan.
China has made clear its concern and creating tension in the East and South China Seas is part of its counter strategy. It’s also reinforcing its blue water presence through Burma, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. India has become a strategic American ally in exchange for international acceptance of its nuclear weapons program. North Korea factors the US policy into its current brinkmanship, while the crisis on the peninsular illustrates the effectiveness of the American security umbrella.
Has the London School of Economics gone totally bonkers in demanding that the BBC pull a Panorama film on North Korea? The LSE claims field trip students were misled and put at risk by John Sweeney’s team that was filming with them undercover. But no-one died. No-one is in jail there. Whatever the rights or wrongs, calling for Sweeney’s material to be suppressed shows a disappointing lack of intellectual rigour.