23 May 2018

In his 5th year, PM Modi needs to be a true pradhan sevak

Shashi Shekhar
Let me remind you of a moment four years ago, when Narendra Modi reached Parliament House for the first time as prime minister. He kneeled and touched his forehead to the ground before walking up the stairs to the highest decision-making institution in Indian democracy. The significance of the gesture wasn’t lost on anybody. The politician from Gujarat was reinventing for a new avatar. Now that his government is entering its fifth year, it won’t be out of place to ask: How successful has he been?

Romancing the West risks India’s regional influence


The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, that was launched in 2017 and became dormant, is moving toward resurrection. The complex restructuring of international relations and the arrival of Cold War 2.0 between Eurasian sovereignists and Atlantic integrationists has shifted to the Indo-Pacific region. New Delhi’s history of uneasy relations with Beijing, coupled with the sweeping and consolidating emergence of the pro-Western Hindutva Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has spurred the rebirth of the Quad concept, which links India with Japan, Australia, and the US. The Quad project is aimed at deterring the rising influence of Beijing and Moscow in the Indo-Pacific theater. The counterbalancing act of Moscow and Beijing is challenging Washington’s hegemony in the region.

Building a reliable database of the Indian economy

Sudipto Mundle
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The ministry of statistics and programme implementation (Mospi) is often in the news for all the wrong reasons. It is criticized for the poor quality of data, gaps in the data or delays in the release of data. However, several initiatives are progressively putting the database of the Indian economy on a much firmer footing than in the past. The results should begin to show by the end of this year. The data on employment and unemployment has been the subject of much controversy lately. Generating data on employment for a country like India, with its dualistic structure, is particularly challenging. Over half the labour force is still dependent on agriculture, where the rhythm of production follows the weather cycle with long periods of seasonal unemployment between crops. Further, thanks to the high pressure of population on land and continuing land fragmentation, the phenomenon of what economists call underemployment or “disguised unemployment” is widespread. To illustrate, a family of five people may be cultivating a tiny plot of land which actually requires only two people working full-time. Everyone is underemployed and the production may be no more than what two people could have produced, i.e., zero productivity for the three superfluous workers.

Pakistan’s military is waging a quiet war on journalists

By Kiran Nazish 

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan — On December 2, 2017, 40-year-old Raza Khan, a Pakistani political activist, disappeared from his home. When Raza wouldn’t answer his phone, Khan’s brother went to his residence in Lahore. He found the lights on, the curtains drawn, and the doors locked — but no sign of Raza. It wasn’t until one of Raza’s activist colleagues visited the house that they found a clue to why he’d disappeared: Raza’s computer was missing. Diep Saeeda, Reza’s colleague, immediately thought that one of Pakistan’s notorious intelligence agencies had taken him. “It could be no one else,” she told me. Saeeda visited police stations, hospitals, restaurants, and the morgue, looking for any trace of Raza. But she turned up nothing, and the authorities had no information either.

Malaysia and the Improbable Win of an Unlikely Alliance

A video clip of the then jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim playing in the background at an anticorruption rally with Anwar’s wife, Wan Azizah, and Anwar’s one-time nemesis but now political ally, Malaysia’s former prime minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, October 14, 2017 The flag of Malaysia’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat, or People’s Justice Party (PKR), is turquoise-blue with red stripes at both ends. At its center is a stylized white “O.” It symbolizes the black eye of Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia’s former deputy prime minister, who was a rising political star in the 1990s until he criticized the ruling National Front, a right-wing coalition led by Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, and was shipped off to jail for alleged sodomy. In September 1998, before a show trial, Anwar was beaten up by a police chief. Thereafter, a photo of Anwar’s bruised face became a symbol of opposition to the National Front, which had, in one form or another, been in power since Malaysia achieved full independence in the early 1960s.

China, Trade and Artificial Islands

By George Friedman

China and the United States have agreed to substantially reduce the massive trade imbalance between the two countries, according to a joint statement released over the weekend. Also over the weekend, China reportedly landed military aircraft on artificial islands it built in the South China Sea. Though these issues don’t appear connected, they are: Both have to do with the relative power of China and the United States, and both deal with perceptions more than reality. Since President Donald Trump’s election, the United States has been deeply concerned with the balance of trade with China. For the United States, trade is a social issue. Increased trade with China has helped the U.S. economy as a whole by shifting production of certain goods to China’s low-wage economy. But it has also created severe social stress among those left unemployed or underemployed, a significant part of U.S. society.

US and China halt imposing import tariffs

China and the US say they will halt imposing punitive import tariffs, putting a possible trade war "on hold". The deal came after talks in the US aimed at persuading China to buy $200bn (£148bn) of US goods and services and thereby reduce the trade imbalance. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin did not give figures, but said the US would impose tariffs worth $150bn if China did not implement the agreement. Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He described the deal as a "win-win choice"He said dialogue was the way to resolve such issues and "treat them calmly" in the future. How did the prospect of a trade war come so close?

DoD, White House Likely To Fight Chinese Monopoly on Rare Earth Minerals

The deep dive into the defense industrial base ordered by President Trump is complete, and after a final round of sign-offs from various cabinet secretaries it should hit the streets in the next several weeks, according to several people familiar with it’s progress.The review promises to be the most thorough look at the entirety of the manufacturing and production of defense materials ever attempted, involving several government agencies, surveys of large and small players in the supply chain, and a study of foreign materials used in the production of American weaponry. The effects of the study, coupled with a related executive order signed by Trump in December, could very well open a new front in the burgeoning trade war with China.

U.S.-China trade talks to sway world order

By Akihiko Tanaka / Special to The Yomiuri ShimbunOn May 3-4, a U.S. Cabinet-level trade delegation including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and other senior officials visited Beijing to hold talks with their Chinese counterparts. Reports emerged that their meetings made no tangible progress, as the Americans demanded that China massively reduce its trade surplus with the United States while the Chinese remained adamant that their country was ready to take retaliatory action against U.S. exports to China. As a result, concerns have grown that U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration will tilt further toward protectionism and that a possible trade war between the United States and China could profoundly affect the world economy.

5G becomes the latest battlefield in US-China tech war


One, two, three, four, five. Yes, five. China is powering ahead with its 5G program. The world’s second-largest economy has pumped billions of dollars into developing super-fast networks with the market expected to grow to 1.15 trillion yuan (US$180.5 billion) by 2026. Compared to the 4G sector, this would be a 50% growth ratio, a report by CCID Consulting, the country’s largest IT research firm and consultancy, highlighted. “China’s 5G industrial chain is relatively complete and it has developed certain advantages, [but] there are still some difficulties and bottlenecks,” Li Zhen, a senior analyst with CCID Consulting in Beijing,said.

Mahathir casts a cold, hard gaze at China

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Last week’s election of nonagenarian ex-leader Mahathir Mohamad in Malaysia, widely hailed as an important democratic milestone for the region, will also likely have wide-reaching strategic implications. Mahathir’s return to power promises to bring a more robust and assertive Malaysian foreign policy, particularly vis-à-vis China, and with it a possibly firmer collective regional position. As an undisputed strong leader who for decades played a central – and often controversial – role in regional affairs, Mahathir is expected to resume quickly his previous outsized role at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), a ten-member regional bloc.

New Iraqi Government Unlikely to Cozy up to Iran

The margins of victory among the competing electoral groups in Iraq's May 12 parliamentary elections were extremely narrow, which will make the formation of a new government a volatile process in the coming months. While the Shiite groups will have the most impact on government formation and policy, the Kurds and Sunnis will be critical allies as Shiite leaders try to build parliamentary blocs. Iran's influence in Iraq is likely to remain strong even though its closest political allies saw disappointing results in the elections.

Now or Never: Israel Makes Its Move Against Iran

By Reva Goujon
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An unusual set of circumstances is enabling Israel to scale up attacks against Iran in Syria and risk a broader confrontation in the process. As Israel raises the stakes in its conflict with Iran, it will look to lock in U.S. security commitments in the region for the long haul. The White House's decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal is a long-shot bet on regime change at odds with U.S. attempts to reduce its military burden in the region.  Russia's bark is often worse than its bite, but it will retain the clout to narrow the scope of U.S. and Israeli ambitions against Iran.

Rocking the Qasbah

Rohan Joshi

On May 8, 2018, US President Donald J Trump announced that the US was withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal and would reimpose sanctions on Iran had been in place prior to the deal. In doing so, Mr. Trump made good on his election campaign promises to either renegotiate or terminate the deal, which he had referred to as “an embarrassment” and the “worst deal negotiated” by the Obama administration. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, known more commonly as the Iran nuclear deal) was signed in July 2015 by members of the P5+1 (The US, China, Russia, France, the UK and Germany) and the EU with Iran. The deal required Iran to take steps to roll back its nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of sanctions that would allow Iran to return to the fold of mainstream global trade and commerce.

The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict, by the Numbers

Azerbaijan and Armenia both lay claim to the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. This disputed region is located entirely inside Azerbaijan – indeed, it is internationally recognized as Azerbaijani – but the government in Baku hasn’t exercised political authority over it in decades. That honor falls to the ethnic Armenians who populate it. In fact, Nagorno-Karabakh had been a semi-autonomous Armenian enclave ever since the Bolsheviks came to power in Russia. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, of which Azerbaijan was a part, the ethnic Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh, backed by Armenia itself, fought a war with Azerbaijan to keep the territory. A truce was brokered in 1994, and though negotiations over its official resolution have continued ever since, they have been entirely unsuccessful.

Now Or Never: Israel Makes Its Move Against Iran

"Better now than never." These were the words of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a recent tweet affirming his country's resolve to block Iranian aggression at any cost. Perhaps no statement could better encapsulate the current Israeli mindset and resolve to block Iranian aggression at any cost. When else will Israel have the ear of a U.S. president willing to tear up a diplomatic deal and double down on Iran, the freedom to strike with impunity against targets in a state already ravaged by civil war, and a young Saudi prince willing to openly collaborate with the Jewish state against the Islamic republic?

Prevent, Deny, Defend: A Strategy For Dealing With Mass Public Attacks

Much of the time in this column, I write from the point of view of the individual victim and discuss ways that people can protect themselves and their families from attackers. But this week I want to flip the script a bit and focus on the steps that security managers, business owners and officials at schools and places of worship can take to help safeguard their facilities and the people inside them. To respond to active shooters, the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Program at Texas State University in San Marcos has developed the concept of "avoid, deny, defend." I prefer this terminology over the widely cited "run, hide, fight," because avoid and deny better describe the proper behavior in such a situation. But if we make "avoid, deny, defend" into "prevent, deny, defend," we create an excellent framework for thinking about how to create security programs to protect public spaces.

Macron's Foreign Policy Ambitions Meet France's Realities

The current global context gives France an opportunity to try to shape the European Union according to its needs, and to elevate its role in global affairs. But France still depends on key allies, such as the United States and Germany, to achieve many of its foreign policy goals. France will push to increase the European Union's military and economic autonomy, but its dependency on allies, and factors beyond its control, will limit its room for action. Since taking office a year ago, French President Emmanuel Macron has pursued a busy foreign policy agenda, pushing for greater European integration; visiting the United States, China and India, as well as more than two dozen other countries; authorizing airstrikes in Syria; intervening in a political crisis in Lebanon; and trying to preserve France's influence in its former African colonies. Macron's foreign policy goals — to reform the European Union according to France's views, while elevating France's influence on global affairs — follow France's strategic interests, which are simultaneously European and global.

Japan plans retaliatory tariffs against United States: NHK

Japan is considering tariffs on U.S. exports worth $409 million in retaliation against steel and aluminum import tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump, media reported on Thursday. Such a move would signal Tokyo is ready to go beyond backdoor talks and pleas for exemptions from the U.S. duties. It would also add to a growing rift that Trump’s “America First” trade policies is creating among major economies, which threatens to slow global trade and business activity. Japan is the only major U.S. ally that did not receive exemptions from Trump’s tariff decision. But it has refrained from following in the footsteps of China and the European Union, which responded to the U.S. decision with reciprocal threats.

The world's biggest economies in 2018

Rob Smith
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The United States has the largest economy in the world at $20.4 trillion, according to data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which shows the US economy increased from around $19.4 trillion last year. China follows, with $14 trillion, which is an increase of more than $2 trillion in comparison to 2017. Japan is in third place with an economy of $5.1 trillion, up from $4.87 trillion a year previously.

A study finds nearly half of jobs are vulnerable to automation

A WAVE of automation anxiety has hit the West. Just try typing “Will machines…” into Google. An algorithm offers to complete the sentence with differing degrees of disquiet: “...take my job?”; “...take all jobs?”; “...replace humans?”; “...take over the world?” 

From the moon’s far side, a radio receiver will listen for ancient clues to the universe’s origin

BY Echo Huang
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Neil Armstrong walked on the near side of our moon half a century ago. On Monday, China’s embarked on the first step of a mission to probe its far side, and even more ambitiously, search for glimpses of the universe’s origin. China launched the relay communication satellite Queqiao, or “bridge of magpies,” on May 21 at 5:28am Beijing time from its Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwestern Sichuan province, according to the country’s space agency. Named for the birds in a Chinese folktalethat help connect two parted lovers once a year, Queqiao will connect earth to the Chang’e-4 lander and rover that China plans to launch towards the end of this year. It’s an essential step for the lunar exploration mission because direct communication is impossiblebetween the moon’s far side and the earth. If all goes as planned, China will become the world’s first nation to land on the far side of the moon by the end of the year.

White House eliminates top cyber adviser post


The Trump administration has eliminated the White House’s top cyber policy role, jettisoning a key position created during the Obama presidency to harmonize the government's overall approach to cybersecurity policy and digital warfare. POLITICO first reported last week that John Bolton, President Donald Trump's new national security adviser, was maneuvering to cut the cyber coordinator role, in a move that many experts and former government officials criticized as a major step backward for federal cybersecurity policy. According to an email sent to National Security Council staffers Tuesday, the decision is part of an effort to “streamline authority” for the senior directors who lead most NSC teams. “The role of cyber coordinator will end,” Christine Samuelian, an aide to Bolton, wrote in the email to NSC employees, which POLITICO obtained from a former U.S. official.

The Afro-Pessimist Temptation

by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Not long ago in the locker room of my Harlem gym, I was the eavesdropping old head who thought Black Panther was another documentary about the militants of the Black Panther Party from the Sixties. I caught on from what the young white guy and the young black guy were talking about that Kendrick Lamar had written some of the film’s soundtrack. I almost said, “Lamar is woke,” but the memory of the first time I heard my father say a thing was “fly” rose up and shut my mouth.

Winning a propaganda war is as important as beating an enemy on a real battlefield

Ben Glaze

Winning a propaganda war is as important as beating an enemy on a real battlefield, a spy chief has warned. Chief of Defence Intelligence, Air Marshal Phil Osborn, said tackling fake news and combating false cyber stories in war would be increasingly important. Air Marshal Osborn said “deception and counter-deception” operations would be “critical” in dealing with such threats. “We need to have a convincing justification and narrative for our actions while countering opposition disinformation and lies with the truth,” he told the Royal United Services Institute military think tank. “The fight for the narrative is arguably as important as the actual fight.” The senior RAF officer feared potential enemies had both new tools and the desire to use them. A full-scale cyber attack could cripple a country within minutes, he warned.

22 May 2018

A Mighty Wind

Hawa, a Hindi word for wind or air, carries a subtler meaning in Indian politics. A politician’s hawa is the tailwind that propels him to victory; it is the superior momentum that comes with being on a roll. For the past five years in the world’s biggest democracy, one man, one party, and one ideological current have pretty much cornered all the hawa. A puffing guardian spirit tangibly energizes Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister; despite his modest stature, the bearded sixty-seven-year-old can fill a room with a swirling air of quiet purpose or, some would say, menace. All across the country hawa can be felt ruffling the ubiquitous orange flags of his Bharatiya Janata, or Indian People’s Party (BJP), and stirring the long-suppressed ambitions of the Sangh Parivar, the “family” of Hindu nationalist groups that is the party’s ideological home.

Now is the best time to create solutions for Bharat

Neharika Vohra Errol D’Souza

Vidyaviniyogadvikasah, meaning “development through the application of knowledge,” is the motto of the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA). This motto has served as an apt rudder throughout the course of its history, as the institute, alumni, staff and faculty played change-makers to address the various developmental needs of India. The impact of these initiatives is incalculable and unreported. The Jawaja Experiment is one such initiative. In the mid-70s, assisted by several volunteers and the National Institute of Design, Ravi J. Matthai, IIMA’s first full-time director, set out to help communities in drought-prone Jawaja in Rajasthan. The goals were education, empowerment and better livelihoods.

Diplomatic manoeuvrings

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May 18, 2018-The United States, the sole global power, has lately brought out four documents: National Security Strategy, National Defence Strategy, Nuclear Posture Review and US South Asia Policy articulating the shift in US policy to great power strategic competition, primarily with China and Russia, and prioritising military options and an arms race over diplomacy and arms control. US President Donald Trump’s policy shows that globalisation and interdependence are not perceptible for global peace and stability, and that they have been replaced by great power competition and conflict with investments in new technologies.

Is Pakistani Agriculture Ready for CPEC?

By Andrew McCormick

The basmati rice grown in Pakistan’s Punjab province is long and slender-grained. It is aromatic, fluffy when cooked and, in classic Pakistani dishes, pairs well with lentil and gravies made from chickpea flour and spices. At market, it draws double the price, if not more, of non-basmati, long-grain rice varieties. In recent years, however, basmati revenues have slumped in Pakistan amid low-yield harvests and uneven quality. At the Sino-Pakistan Hybrid Rice Research Center in Karachi, Chinese and Pakistani scientists are working to reverse this trend. Using state-of-the-art genetic technologies, they are developing high-yield, high-quality, and pest-resistant rice varieties, for both domestic sale and export.

On The U.S. War In Afghanistan

by Constantin Gurdgiev,

On and off, I have written occasionally about the complete lack of value-for-money accounting in the U.S. military spending and its imaginary successes. This is just another one of such occasions. Here is a summary of the Special Report by the U.S. military watchdog, filed by the neoconservative in it is geopolitical positioning Foreign Policy magazine (the folks who support wars, like the one conducted in the Afghanistan): http://foreignpolicy.com/2018/05/01/the-afghan-war-isnt-being-won-says-new-pentagon-audit/.

I have summed the main findings in a series of tweets reproduced here:

War with Taiwan would risk China’s place in the global community


It is an anxious time for Taiwan. China’s People’s Liberation Army is flying bombers around the island, openly simulating attacks on Taiwanese targets, and threatening that it won’t wait for reunification forever; it hopes to scare the island into submission beforehand. The worrisome thing is that Beijing’s Warrior President Xi Jinping seems to be talking himself into a fight. And PLA generals – flush with new weapons and hardware – might be egging him on. If it came to a cross-strait showdown, China could certainly hammer Taiwan, and probably seize the island. But it would come at massive costs in lives, gold and goodwill.


BY: Bill Gertz

China’s large-scale military buildup, regional coercion, and economic aggression are part of plan for global domination, experts told Congress on Thursday. The nuclear and conventional weapons buildup, militarization of islets in the South China Sea and global infrastructure investments aimed at controlling nations are signs Beijing has emerged as America’s most significant national security challenge, a panel of specialists told a hearing of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. “The Chinese Communist Party is engaged in a total, protracted struggle for regional and global supremacy,” retired Navy Capt. Jim Fanell, a former Pacific Fleet intelligence chief told the committee.

Impact of Qualcomm and ZTE Cases on US-China Trade War

By Mercy A. Kuo

Trans-Pacific View author Mercy Kuo regularly engages subject-matter experts, policy practitioners, and strategic thinkers across the globe for their diverse insights into U.S. Asia policy. This conversation with Andrew Gilholm – director of China and North Asia analysis at Control Risks – is the 139th in “The Trans-Pacific View Insight Series.” Explain how geopolitics affects national regulators’ role in cross-border mergers and acquisitions (M&A), and how this may be changing.

Working with Vietnam, Russia's Rosneft Draws China’s Ire

By Nicholas Trickett

China has been the driving force behind Russia’s “Pivot to Asia,” becoming the largest individual consumer of Russian oil among its energy trade partners. Early this month, it was reported that Russia had completed the delivery of its first S-400 regiment – the country’s most advanced air defense system for export – to China. Beijing’s Ministry of Commerce is signaling that trade turnover with Russia may reach $100 billion this year Russia and that investment under the aegis of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is growing fastest in percentage terms in Russia. Trade is up because oil prices are up, not necessarily because of an economic breakthrough, but the messaging is part of a broader commitment to making it appear as though all is well between the two countries.

The China-Japan Infrastructure Nexus: Competition or Collaboration?

By Ravi Prasad

China and Japan are fueling intensified efforts to build infrastructure in Southeast Asia. Both countries have placed infrastructure at the heart of their regional strategies in a new era of infrastructure diplomacy. China launched its flagship Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013, while Japan initiated its “Partnership for Quality Infrastructure” in 2015. At the same time, ASEAN countries are reorienting their growth strategies toward prioritizing infrastructure. China and Japan are facilitating this shift through offering large amounts of financing and seeking to increase their infrastructure exports.

Do Indonesia’s Surabaya Attacks Signal a Rising Terrorism Threat?

By Erin Cook

A string of attacks in the East Java capital of Surabaya last week in the wake of a prison siege in West Java has once again brought Indonesia’s fight against terrorism to the forefront. The first of the Surabaya attacks, orchestrated by one family unit including young children, appears to be a major departure from ‘traditional’ Islamic extremism in the region which is almost exclusively conducted by men. Paired with fears of fighters returning from Syria and other structural issues including in the legal realm, concerns have been sparked about how serious the threat is and how Indonesia will respond.

Houthi Missiles: The Iran Connection; Scuds Are Not Dead Yet


DEN HELDER, Netherlands: The Saudi and US governments have accused Iran of manufacturing ballistic missile used in attacks by Houthis against targets in Saudi ArabiaThe longest-ranged flights reached Riyadh, a distance of roughly 950 km, with a missile called the Burkan 2-H (Figure 1 above). In terms of the physical damage they can cause, these missiles with their 500 kg payload make for a relatively poor weapon. However, their speed makes them difficult to intercept (the flight time is only about nine minutes). The fact the launches are continuing a few years after the start of the conflict, shows that the Saudi-led coalition has not succeeded in interdicting Houthi missiles or destroying them on the ground. Consequently, Saudi civilians as far away from the conflict as Riyadh are not completely safe from Houthi attacks. In a broader context, it is a disturbing development that this sort of weapon is in the hands of a rebel movement fighting a war in the Middle East and aligned with Iran. The Scud is not dead yet.

Trump's Strategy for the Middle East Is Working

Leon Hadar

Remember the days when any sign of growing tensions in the Middle East, not to mention a new act of violence involving Arabs and Israelis, would have immediately triggered pressure on Washington to “do something” as soon as possible. Doing nothing, U.S. officials were warned, could risk a full-blown regional war, outside intervention by global adversaries, oil embargoes, the collapse of pro-American Arab regimes, the survival of Israel, and perhaps even the end of the world as we know it. As the rest of the nation’s international and domestic problems would be placed on the policy backburner, the U.S. president would make urgent phone calls to Middle Eastern leaders, as he and the rest of Washington would consider sending the Marines, dispatching American envoys to the Middle East, launching another “peace process” and perhaps even convening another “peace conference.”

The Gaza Challenge: Social Warfare Strategy in Action

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With hundreds of Palestinian casualties and many acres of burned Israeli wheat fields, the week of May 15 is witnessing the predictably tragic climax of several weeks of Palestinian protests along the Gaza border fence in confrontation with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). These events have pitted the IDF against tens of thousands of protesting Gaza residents, inspired and organized by Hamas, who have managed to set fire to Israeli fields and have aimed to topple the fence and cross into Israel while some are engaging in acts of terrorism under the cover of mass nonviolent protest. Much attention has been given to these events from a current affairs perspective; this short piece offers a more fundamental explanation of the dynamics and their policy implications.

The East-West Divide in Europe’s History Wars

Diverging narratives about history and about World War II in particular are causing a widening rift between the post-Communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the older Western European nations of the EU. More than a decade after the former Communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe joined the European Union, there is a widespread belief that deeper European integration has got stuck. Most of the analysis explaining why this is so focuses on issues of economics, political institutions, and corruption. But a big reason why this is so comes from different narratives of history.  From Poland to Bulgaria, this is a region that, as Winston Churchill once reputedly said of the Balkans, “produces more history than it consumes.” Recent amendments to Poland’s law on the Institute of National Remembrance are a prime example. The amended law now outlaws any public claim that the Polish nation bears responsibility for and participated in the Holocaust. It puts the actions of “Ukrainian nationalists” on a par with those of Nazi and Communist regimes. This change has caused a strong backlash in the United States, Ukraine, and Israel. 

Can the U.S.-Europe Alliance Survive Trump?

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Fifteen years ago, it was the Iraq War that divided Europe and the United States. Five years ago, it was the awkward revelation that the U.S. had been eavesdropping on the German chancellor’s cellphone. The two powers, pillars of the postwar world order, don’t always see eye-to-eye on policies and practices. But U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and his embrace of a protectionist approach to trade even with close allies have blown a hole in their trans-Atlantic alliance, a breach so big that it could jeopardize decades of stability and prosperity for the West and end up benefiting two other global powers: Russia and China.

Society needs a reboot for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Murat Sönmez,
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Society’s operating system needs an upgrade. The model we have been using is simply not up to the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. A new era is unfolding at breakneck speed. It has huge potential to address some of the world’s most critical challenges, from food security, to reducing congestion in big cities, to increasing energy efficiency, to accelerating cures to the most intractable diseases. But it also raises a host of social and governance issues that need addressing.

What the Gaza Protests Portend

Tareq Baconi
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The battle against infiltration in the border areas at all times of day and night will be carried out mainly by opening fire, without giving warning, on any individual or group that cannot be identified from afar by our troops as Israeli citizens and who are, at the moment they are spotted, [infiltrating] into Israeli territory. This was the order issued in 1953 by Israel’s Fifth Giv’ati Brigade in response to the hundreds of Palestinian refugees who sought to return to homes and lands from which they had been expelled in 1948. For years after the war, the recently displaced braved mines and bullets from border kibbutzim and risked harsh reprisals from Israel’s army to reclaim their property. The reprisals included raids on refugee camps and villages that often killed civilians, as the Israeli historian Benny Morris and others have laid out. Still, refugees persisted in their attempts to return, and Israel persisted in viewing these attempts as “infiltration.”


Henry A. Kissinger

The speaker described the workings of a computer program that would soon challenge international champions in the game Go. I was amazed that a computer could master Go, which is more complex than chess. In it, each player deploys 180 or 181 pieces (depending on which color he or she chooses), placed alternately on an initially empty board; victory goes to the side that, by making better strategic decisions, immobilizes his or her opponent by more effectively controlling territory.


Russia’s state-of-the-art hypersonic glide vehicle, which analysts say is capable of easily cutting through the existing US missile shield, will become operational by 2020, reports citing US intelligence have warned. Speaking to CNBC on the condition of anonymity, sources aware of US intelligence reports, said the Russian military successfully tested the weapon twice in 2016. The third known test of the weapon was allegedly carried out in October 2017, and allegedly failed when the device crashed seconds before hitting its target.


Gil Shwed, CEO and Founder of the cyber security firm , CheckPoint Technologies, was interviewed on CNBC’s Squawk Box this morning/May 18, 2018, regarding his outlook on the cyber threat. Mr. Shwed said it was imperative that governments and the private sector “develop innovative, sixth generation defenses. Mr. Shwed added that “fifth-generation cyber attacks, excel at identification theft, as well as in targeting cloud services, and mobile devices.” 

Italy — what happens next?

Brussels’ nightmare — a Euroskeptic government in one of the EU’s largest countries — could become reality as soon as next week. The leaders of Italy’s anti-establishment 5Stars and far-right League are putting the final touches on a coalition agreement they have pledged to deliver to Italian President Sergio Mattarella “by Monday.” 5Star leader Luigi Di Maio emerged from a meeting with League leader Matteo Salvini Thursday to say there were still a few “minor details” to be hammered out. Among those: Who will be the country’s next prime minister.

The ironies of George Soros’s foundation leaving Budapest

by By M.S.
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Imagine you want to do something nice for the world. Let’s say you believe in the virtues of democracy, freedom of speech and association, government transparency and that sort of thing. Perhaps you have personal experience with how awful life can be in countries that lack these civic features. How about starting an organisation to promote them? Of course, it’s hard to build such an organisation without money. But what if, by fortunate coincidence, you are a canny trader who has made a vast fortune on the currency markets? If you were to launch such an organisation and donate hundreds of millions of dollars over several decades to promoting democracy and freedom all over the world, what sort of reaction might you expect?

How democracy dies


“Democracy is no longer the only game in town.” In this short sentence, David Runciman states the most important political fact of our time. When Winston Churchill wrote in 1947 that “democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”, he did so in a context in which the alternatives were Nazism and fascism, which had recently been defeated, and the Soviet Union, which was consolidating its tyrannical hold over half of Europe. Seventy years later, it is no longer obvious that democracy is always the least bad form of government. Runciman explains:

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What Third-country Role is Open to the UK in Defence?

What expectations should the EU harbour with respect to Britain’s continued contribution to EU defence activities after Brexit and can the former member state expect special treatment? With Brexit, the UK will become a ‘third state’ vis-à-vis the European Union. In the defence domain, this means that the UK will no longer take part in EU decision-making or operational (planning) bodies, will not command or be the framework nation of an EU-led force, and any British contribution to an EU operation will be subject to the rules that apply to third countries.