Archive for July, 2013


July 31, 2013

NewsMax on July 30, 2013, published a Thomson/Reuters report on Israeli and Palestinian negotiators holding their first peace talks in nearly three years in a U.S.-brokered effort that Secretary of State John Kerry hopes will end their conflict despite deep divisions. Excerpts below:

Top aides to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas began the talks over an “iftar” dinner — the evening meal with which Muslims break their daily fast during Ramadan — hosted by Kerry at the State Department.

It was clear, however, from some public statements over the agenda for the talks — which are expected to run for nine months — and comments by Abbas, that there are major disagreements over issues such as borders and security.

“It is no secret this is a difficult process. If it were easy, it would have happened a long time ago,” Kerry said with his newly named envoy for Israeli-Palestinian peace, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, at his side.

“Many difficult choices lie ahead for the negotiators and for the leaders as we seek reasonable compromises on tough, complicated, emotional, and symbolic issues,” Kerry added.

As the sides came together in Washington Kerry met separately with each, starting with the Israelis, before all came together around the dinner table.

The parties have publicly sparred over how the negotiations will unfold, with an Israeli official saying all issues would be discussed simultaneously and a Palestinian official saying they would start with borders and security.

Israel has previously said it wants to maintain a military presence in the occupied West Bank at the border with Jordan to prevent any influx of weapons that could be used against it.

In an interview with Reuters Television in Washington, Livni voiced some hope about the talks. “It is not a favor to the United States or to the Palestinians, this is something that we need to do,” she said.

The United States is seeking to broker an agreement on a “two-state solution” in which Israel would exist peacefully alongside a new Palestinian state created in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, lands occupied by the Israelis since a 1967 war.

The major issues to be resolved in the talks include borders, the future of Jewish settlements on the West Bank, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem.

Abbas and Netanyahu may have enormous difficulty convincing their own people to accept the compromises needed for peace, Middle East expert Rob Danin of the Council on Foreign Relations think tank wrote.

Netanyahu’s domestic politics are difficult, with some of his coalition partners against the creation of a Palestinian state, Danin said, adding he may have to leave the Likud Party, as some of his predecessors did, in order to make concessions.

“Both sides will be negotiating, not only with each other across a table, but also with their own people back home.”

The last direct negotiations collapsed in late 2010 over Israel’s construction of Jewish settlements on occupied land it seized in the 1967 Middle East war.

Previous attempts to resolve the conflict have sought to tackle easier disputes first and defer the most emotional ones like the fate of Jerusalem and of Palestinian refugees.

In what it called a goodwill gesture to restart diplomacy, the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday approved the release of 104 long-serving Palestinian prisoners in stages. Thousands more Palestinians remain in Israeli jails.


July 30, 2013

The US Center for Strategic & International Studies was founded in 1962 by David M. Abshire and Admiral Arleigh Burke. In 2007 its Commission on Smart Power published a report. In it was claimed that America’s image was in decline around the world. Below are excerpts from the report’s executive summary.

To maintain a leading role in global affairs, the United States must move to inspiring optimism and hope.

The United States must become a smarter power by once again investing in the global good—providing things people and governments in all quarters of the world want but cannot attain in the absence of American leadership. By complementing U.S. military and economic might with greater investments in soft power, America can build the framework it needs to tackle tough global challenges.

Specifically, the United States should focus on five critical areas:

Alliances, partnerships, and institutions: The United States must reinvigorate the alliances, partnerships, and institutions that serve our interests and help us to meet twenty-first century challenges.

Global development: Elevating the role of development in U.S. foreign policy can help the United States align its own interests with the aspirations of people around the world.

Public diplomacy: Bringing foreign populations to our side depends on building long-term, peopleto-people relationships, particularly among youth.

Economic integration: Continued engagement with the global economy is necessary for growth and prosperity, but the benefits of free trade must be expanded to include those left behind at home and abroad.

Technology and innovation: Energy security and climate change require American leadership to help establish global consensus and develop innovative solutions.

Implementing a smart power strategy will require a strategic reassessment of how the U.S. government is organized, coordinated, and budgeted.

Comment: Especially public diplomacy and in the Middle East political warfare are important tools in the arsenal. There are already a number of instruments available like the International Republican Institute, National Endowment for Democracy, Radio Free Europe, National Democratic Institute, Radio Liberty and Radio Free Asia. In 2013 a new agency is needed to apply all the means at national command, short of war, to achieve national objectives


July 29, 2013

CNN on April 29, 2013, published an article by Heather A. Conley on US strategy in the Arctic. Excerpts below:

Last August, then U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Tom Nides, Conley wrote, declared that, for the United States, the Arctic is “one of the last true frontiers in the United States. It is becoming a new frontier in our foreign policy.”

He was right. The Arctic is a new frontier in the sense that the polar ice cap is melting so rapidly… that once-frozen and nearly impenetrable borders in the region are now being traversed with increased frequency. The Arctic also presents a new opportunity for U.S. policymakers to address the emerging political, diplomatic, economic, and security dynamics caused by unprecedented climate change.

But what is America’s vision for its piece of the Arctic – the state of Alaska? Will the United States view the Arctic like a new frontier that must be explored, claimed, and developed along the lines of Teddy Roosevelt’s vision of Winning of the West, embodying America’s pioneering spirit?

What are U.S. policy objectives and priorities? What financial resources will be needed to implement these priorities? What are the right organizational and coordination structures to ensure that an American Arctic strategy is implemented and federal agencies are held accountable?

U.S. policy towards the Arctic has traditionally focused on three areas: national security, development, and science. These priorities have been reflected in successive budgets of the Defense Department and the National Science Foundation for decades. But today, U.S. Arctic policy is increasingly shaped by economic factors, primarily concerning oil, gas, and mineral resource development as well as shipping. It isn’t surprising that today the most senior level U.S. interagency policy group involved with Arctic policy is the Interagency Working Group on Coordination of Domestic Energy Development and Permitting in Alaska.

The reality is that there has been no updated Arctic policy statement since George W. Bush signed National Security Presidential Directive 66/Homeland Security Presidential Directive 25 before leaving office in January 2009. Prior to this, the last U.S. Arctic strategy was produced in 1994. Policymakers tend to give the Arctic a strategic look every decade or so. But given the dramatic changes the Arctic region has experienced in the past four years alone, combined with the increasing geopolitical interest from such countries as China, Korea and India, it is critical that Arctic policy be sharpened and focused to reflect the shifting Arctic climatic and policy landscape. In short, it’s time for the United States to think more broadly about “winning” the Arctic.

This will not be easy.

However, with only one medium-strengthened icebreaker and very minimal port and aviation infrastructure in Alaska, America is already behind.

How many federal agencies does it take to make U.S. policy in the Arctic (excluding state and local levels)? Answer: 23. This isn’t a joke; you read that right. How many White House coordinating groups are dedicated to, wholly or in part, to coordinate this policy today? Answer: Six.

So, what can the Obama Administration do? Here is a five-step plan:

First, develop a prioritized national economic strategy for the American Arctic with a consolidated, multi-year budget.

There are suggestions that the White House is currently working on a plan that will prioritize U.S. objectives in the Arctic, but it is unclear how this plan will impact our overall policy.

Once a prioritized economic strategy for the Arctic is in place, there must be a new organizational approach in the White House and in the State Department to support this new policy.

An important third step would be to reinvigorate State Department leadership and appoint an Arctic envoy.

The United States must prepare for its upcoming chairmanship of the Arctic Council, the premier inter-governmental organization to discuss Arctic issues, in 2015. This is only the second time the U.S. has held the chairmanship since the Arctic Council’s formation in 1996.

Finally, we need to rediscover our great American pioneering spirit and apply it to our newest and perhaps most exciting frontier. The United States is surrounded not by two oceans, but three: We are an Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic power. In the spirit of Teddy Roosevelt, let’s win the Arctic.

Note: Heather Conley is senior fellow and director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and author of a new CSIS report, ‘A New Foreign Policy Frontier: U.S. Interests and Actors in the Arctic.’ The views expressed are the writer’s own.


July 28, 2013

Fox News on July 25, 2013, published an article by Gary J. Schmitt and Adam Kennedy quoting President Obama gaving an address on the U.S. economy at Knox College in Illinois in which he argued that the future looks much brighter for the country in part because the energy revolution in natural gas taking place right under our feet. But, disappointingly, neither the president nor Congress are making the most of this revolution and, hence, are reducing the economic benefits that would come from more drilling and more exports of this now abundant resource. Excerpts below:

The fact is, America today is awash in natural gas.

Through technological advances in tapping into shale rock formations, the amount of recoverable natural gas reserves has grown by nearly 800 percent over the past seven years, with estimates that the United States has more than a century’s worth of supplies on hand.

The result has been a sharp and sustained decrease in the price of gas and, with that drop in energy prices, the prospect of a revitalized American manufacturing base and the jobs that will come with it.

Indeed, America’s natural gas reserves are so great that one study after the other has concluded that the U.S. can export natural gas with only marginal increases in prices here at home.

Not only would exporting gas abroad help reduce the country’s trade deficit and create additional jobs, but it would also have the strategic benefit of reducing the energy dependence of friends and allies on Putin’s Russia and states in the unstable Middle East—and, in turn, creating new and deeper ties to those same friends and allies.

Countries such as Japan, South Korea and India are lining up to become long-term buyers of American natural gas if only the U.S. government would clear the path for American companies to build the necessary infrastructure to liquefy the gas and make it exportable globally.

But here’s the rub. Under U.S. law, the decision to license natural gas exports rests with the Department of Energy and, for a license to be issued, the department must determine that those exports are in the “public interest.”

The only exception being that, for countries with which the U.S. has a free-trade agreement, it’s assumed that gas exports meet that standard. Allies who have not signed an FTA with the U.S. (such as Japan, the United Kingdom or Lithuania), or strategic partners (like India and Taiwan) must face a higher hurdle before a license can be granted.

Over the past two years, the Energy Department has granted just two separate authorizations to export domestic-sourced natural gas to non-FTA countries, and other approvals have been slow in coming…

The problem with this slow pace of approvals and the more restrictive guidelines for non-FTA countries is that, when it comes to natural gas, “you snooze, you lose.”

Importing states have potential alternatives, such as acquiring gas from Australia, Canada, Nigeria and Russia. And once companies make the billions in investments necessary to bring that gas online and transport it, they have even less incentive to make similar investments here in the United States.

Moreover, there are real questions about whether the U.S. laws governing the export of natural gas run afoul of our commitments under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), whose governing body is the World Trade Organization.

Under Article XI (“General Elimination of Quantitative Restrictions”) of GATT, the United States and other signatories have pledged not to adopt measures that would curtail the export of any good, with the key exception being the “conservation” of some good or commodity demonstrably in critical shortage. However, given the glut of domestic gas reserves…it’s hardly plausible that the administration could use this GATT exception to justify the current law or policies.

So, today, when it comes the export of natural gas, U.S. policy is at odds with what’s economically sound for the country, contrary to America’s longstanding free-trade commitments, and runs against its larger strategic interests.

Gary Schmitt co-directs the Marilyn War Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute and Adam Kennedy is an economics and national security researcher living in Washington, DC.


July 27, 2013

The Washington Times on July 24, 2013, reported that a Ukrainian civic activist ex-lawmaker said Ukraine’s president must release a jailed former prime minister and adopt judicial and electoral reforms to meet benchmarks for closer relations with the European Union.

Sergii Bondarchuk, a former member of Ukraine’s parliament, told editors and reporters at The Washington Times this week that his working group of the National Roundtable Agreement for the European Future wants to help President Viktor Yanukovych to be in a position to sign an association agreement and free-trade pact with the EU in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, in November.

The government of Ukraine is eager to sign these agreements.

While most European governments believe Ukraine has not done enough to meet EU benchmarks, some are reluctant to block the agreements out of concern that could push Ukraine into closer ties with Russia.

Mr. Bondarchuk accused Mr. Yanukovych of “blackmailing” the EU as well as Russia.

“Ukrainian authorities do understand that Ukraine is needed by both Russia and the EU,” he said through an interpreter.

The National Roundtable, a civic society group, has drawn up a list of 11 issues that it says must be resolved by the Ukrainian government to enable integration with the EU. Prominent among these is the release of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and an end to the practice of “selective justice” that targets Mr. Yanukovych’s political rivals.

“It is closely connected with Yulia Tymoshenko’s destiny,” Mr. Bondarchuk, who has been in regular contact with the jailed former prime minister, said of the National Roundtable.

Mr. Bondarchuk described the natural gas issue as “Ukraine’s curse” and the main source of corruption in the country.

“From one side, the words of brotherhood from Russia’s side are spoken constantly; from another side, the price of gas in our territory is among the highest in Europe,” he said. “During the last three years, the extra charge for Russian gas for Ukraine was $17 billion.”

Western governments and human rights groups have described the charges against Mrs. Tymoshenko as politically motivated.

“Pretty much everybody who followed the trial in December of 2011, at least everybody in the West, regards it as a judicial farce,” said Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and now with the Brookings Institution.

In April, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Mrs. Tymoshenko’s pretrial detention was unlawful.

Mr. Yanukovych has also come under pressure from the opposition to release Mrs. Tymoshenko to undergo treatment in Germany for chronic back pain.

Mr. Bondarchuk was active in the pro-democracy Orange Revolution of November of 2004. Mrs. Tymoshenko was one of its leaders.

Mr. Bondarchuk said that neither he nor Mrs. Tymoshenko favor another “revolutionary path” in Ukraine, but “there is a risk of revolution, which could put the whole country into chaos.”


July 26, 2013

Fox News on July 26, 2013, published an AP report that China says ships from its newly-formed coast guard have confronted Japanese patrol vessels in waters surrounding disputed East China Sea islands. Excerpts below:

The State Oceanic Administration that oversees the service says four of its ships “sternly declared” China’s sovereignty over the islands called Senkaku by Japan and Diaoyu by China. The uninhabited archipelago is controlled by Tokyo but also claimed by Beijing.

Ships from Chinese civilian agencies have maintained a steady presence in the area since tensions spiked in September following Japan’s purchase of some of the islands from their private owners.

Non-military ships are being replaced by vessels from the coast guard…


July 25, 2013

Washington Times on July 23, 2013, reported on the start of the National Security Agency’s rise in power could be traced to the first years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when new laws, secret presidential orders and lots of cash emboldened it to sweep up billions of communications. Excerpts below:

The NSA that stands today at Fort George G. Meade in Maryland bears faint resemblance to the underfunded, technologically challenged outfit in 2001 that had trouble penetrating basic cellphones, former officials say.

“I think the NSA today is light-years ahead of where it was on 9/11,” says former Rep. Peter Hoekstra, Michigan Republican and former chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

“There have been major investments made to it,” Mr. Hoekstra says. “They’ve been very, very creative in terms of gathering data. They’ve been very, very creative in fusing different data sets and coming up with answers, which is their job.

“Rather than just collecting data, they’re collecting it from a lot of different sources. They’re fusing the data and giving them a much better picture of what the battlefield looks like,” he says.

The NSA’s sorry state on the day al Qaeda struck America broke into the open five years later, when then-Director Gen. Michael V. Hayden did the unthinkable for the “No Such Agency,” as critics had dubbed it: He answered questions at the National Press Club.

“By the late 1990s … the explosion of modern communications in terms of volume, variety, velocity threatened to overwhelm us,” the Air Force general said.

Former CIA Director George Tenet, who left office in 2004 bitter over a lack of funding in the 1990s for tracking terrorists, wrote in his memoirs: “You don’t simply tell NSA to give you more signals intelligence when their capabilities are crumbling and they are ‘going deaf’ — unable to monitor critical voice communications.”

What a difference a decade makes,…

The world now knows the scope of NSA’s renaissance. It is collecting and storing every phone call made in and out of the United States. In an instant, it can intercept a foreign terrorist’s email or phone call routed through this country. It has computer programs to penetrate all social media. It can bug embassies in Washington, their fax machines and personal computers.

The George W. Bush administration interpreted the Patriot Act as granting broad eavesdropping powers to capture and store a record of every phone call — a practice continued by President Obama.

Funding spiked as the NSA asked the high-tech industry to start devising new ways to track terrorists and listen in.

Annual spending on national intelligence hovered around $25 billion in the late 1990s. It more than doubled after 9/11.

Gen. Hayden spent the money on new units, such as the Target Reconnaissance and Survey Office at Fort Meade, a former official said.

One of its firsts products was a remote, battery-powered sensor that was studded along Afghanistan mountain ranges pointed toward suspected al Qaeda sites in Pakistan. What it scooped up could be sent instantly to NSA translation and transcription units in the area. In two years, more than 30 boxes were affixed along the border, the former official said.

The boxes have helped analysts locate terrorists’ havens and identify camps that pose as schools.

Another new NSA gizmo was the Tailored Access Operations System. It can penetrate phone-switching stations, collect phone numbers and find links between terrorists. The U.S. has required the Iraqi and Afghan governments to install telephone networks that can be readily tapped.

NSA also started the Digital Network Intelligence program to focus on intercepting Internet messages.

By the mid-2000s, NSA analysts and technicians were part of a tactical war against terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan. They joined task forces along with CIA operatives and Joint Special Operations Command, the super-secret units of the Army’s Delta Force and Navy SEALs.

The most-wanted man in Iraq in 2006 was Zarqawi. One technique used to find his couriers was to bug computer chat rooms so that emails and instant messages could be spied on in real-time. Using that and other intelligence collections, JSOC was able to follow Zarqawi’s spiritual adviser to his hideout, where the terrorist chief was killed in an airstrike.

“Society has created a system where information is stored indefinitely, organized to be easily searched, and can be accessed from anywhere in the world.

“The NSA pursued a parallel strategy of accessing that information in real time to support tactical operations, and storing it for future analysis to support long term operations and strategic objectives,” the former official said. “If you send a piece of information from Point A to Point B anywhere in the world, it is safe to assume that the NSA has access to it or will have access to it in the future.”


July 24, 2013

Washington Times on July 23, 2013, reported that China’s navy is expected to begin the first sea patrols next year of a new class of strategic missile submarines, highlighting a new and growing missile threat to the U.S. homeland, according to U.S. defense officials.

Excerpts below:

“We are anticipating that combat patrols of submarines carrying the new JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile will begin next year,” said one official familiar with recent intelligence assessments of the Chinese strategic submarine force.

China’s strategic missile submarine force currently includes three new Type 094 missile submarines each built with 12 missile launch tubes.

The submarine patrols will include scores of new JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) on the Type 094s. The submarines are also called Jin-class missile boats by the Pentagon.

The missile submarine patrols, if carried out in 2014, would be the first time China conducts submarine operations involving nuclear-tipped missiles far from Chinese shores despite having a small missile submarine force since the late 1980s.

Defense officials said the JL-2 poses a “potential first strike” nuclear missile threat to the United States and is one of four new types of long-range missiles in China’s growing strategic nuclear arsenal.

The Air Force National Air and Space Intelligence Center earlier this month published a report on missile threats that identified the JL-2 a weapon that “will, for the first time, allow Chinese SSBNs to target portions of the United States from operating areas located near the Chinese coast.” SSBN is a military acronym for nuclear missile submarine.

The Pentagon’s most recent annual report on China’s military stated that Beijing’s Navy has placed a high priority on building up submarine forces.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert told Congress in May that he was not worried by the Chinese naval buildup, including the new missile submarines, but that it is a development that needs to be watched.

Greenert boasted during a House defense appropriations subcommittee hearing that “we own the undersea domain.”

The Chinese navy is “not there yet” in terms of undersea power despite deploying a current force of 55 submarines, both diesel and nuclear powered, Greenert said.

David Helvey, deputy assistant defense secretary for East Asia, told reporters in May that the Chinese are investing heavily in undersea warfare programs and submarines.

Mark Stokes, a Chinese military affairs analyst, said the first Chinese ballistic missile submarine patrols next year would not be surprising.

“The most significant question is which organization controls, stores, and ensures the readiness of the nuclear warheads that ostensibly would be mated with the SLBMs on patrol,” said Stokes, with the Project 2049 Institute.

China maintains tight secrecy over its nuclear forces, such as how many are deployed, how they are controlled and stored, over fears that any public discussion would undermine their deterrent value.

“The [Central Military Commission] has traditionally entrusted only the Second Artillery Corps with centralized control over nuclear weapons,” Stokes said. “The CMC granting the PLA Navy the power to develop and maintain its own independent infrastructure for warhead storage and handling would be a significant departure from past. This kind of decentralization would have implications well beyond the navy.”

Richard Fisher, an expert on Chinese military affairs, said the commencement of missile submarine patrols would fulfill the ambitions of Chinese Communist Party leaders since Mao Zedong in the early 1960s.

“With three Type 094 SSBNs now called ‘operational’ by the Pentagon, it is possible that one Type 094 could be maintained on constant patrol,” said Fisher, with the International Assessment and Strategy Center.

Fisher warned that Obama administration plans to cut U.S. nuclear forces could increase the risk of a future Chinese first-strike attack.

Considering the “uncertainties” about the actual levels of China’s current and future nuclear arsenal, “it would be most unwise to consider further nuclear reductions, and that could threaten a robust U.S. nuclear triad of ICBMs, SSBNs and bombers,” Fisher said.

On China’s next-generation missile submarine, Fisher said the Type 096 could have an longer-range “JL-3” missile capable of hitting targets throughout the United States.

Japan’s government warned in a defense white paper made public earlier this month about the threat posed by the JL-2. “Once the JL-2 reaches a level of practical use, it is believed that China’s strategic nuclear capabilities will improve by a great margin,” the white paper stated.

The Wall Street Journal, quoting “Chinese experts,” reported in May that U.S. military moves in Asia were unlikely to affect China’s nuclear force buildup, including the launch of missile submarines in 2014.

However, the number of nuclear warheads and strategic missiles could be “adjusted” based on U.S. military plans in Asia.

The Obama administration has launched a “pivot” to Asia that includes a buildup of U.S. military forces in the region and an increase in exercises with Asian allies and friends.

Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter announced in April that the Navy will deploy a fourth nuclear-powered attack submarine in Guam by 2015.


July 23, 2013

Professor Colin Dueck commented on the geopolitical relation between the United States and China in an article published by Claremont Institute on June 12, 2013. Excerpts below:

China is in a position to challenge the U.S. for predominance along the East Asian littoral, and has considerable interest in doing so, especially given its grinding sense of historical grievance. For many Chinese, to achieve such predominance would be a return to the natural order of things, in which the Middle Kingdom leads within East Asia. The Russians, for their part, share with China a long-term desire to expel American influence from their immediate spheres of influence.

If the two massive, authoritarian powers China and Russia are able to cooperate pragmatically and case by case against American interests, the U.S. will face a severe geopolitical challenge in much of Eurasia. When Rimland powers are able to secure their land borders, as China seems to be doing, and then convincingly take to the seas, this has to worry offshore powers like the United States.

President Barack Obama came into office hoping for cooperation with China on a range of issues such as climate change and arms control; sustained Sino-American strategic competition was probably the last thing on his mind. He soon discovered that praising China’s growing power, as he did when visiting Beijing in 2009, only encouraged its self-assertion. As America’s Asian allies grew increasingly concerned by Chinese aggressiveness at sea, the Obama Administration eventually announced a strategic “pivot” toward Asia. But at the same time the administration cut U.S. naval strengths significantly—strengths that will be crucial to balance Chinese influence.

It is neither unusual nor irrational for great powers to engage in long-term geopolitical competition during peacetime. This is exactly what is happening between the U.S. and China now, whatever liberal dreamers may want to dream. In his edited volume, Competitive Strategies for the 21st Century (2012), Thomas Mahnken of the Naval War College shows that although this competition does not rule out the possibility of cooperation in certain areas, it does oblige us to leverage our strengths against our competitor’s weaknesses for decades to come.

China is not the Soviet Union, but there are still lessons to be learned from America’s Cold War competition with Moscow, which after all ended peacefully and, for the U.S., successfully.

One of the explanations for the lack of grand strategy toward China today is the tacit and widespread assumption that American power is in relative and irreversible decline, while China’s rise is more or less ordained. But as Georgetown University’s Robert Lieber points out in his new book, Power and Willpower in the American Future (2012), America’s “decline” is vastly overstated. The United States possesses capabilities and advantages denied to any other power. These include the world’s largest economy, its most powerful armed forces by far, its leading universities, a persistent edge in technological innovation, an unusual attractiveness for immigrants, vast natural resources on a continental scale, deep financial markets, underlying political stability, tremendous resilience, and a set of flexible international alliances. China poses a serious geopolitical challenge, but it lacks these advantages, and Chinese leaders know it.

Americans still have the ability to choose whether we want to play a leading role in the world. If we abdicate that role, we will one day awaken not to liberal dreams come true but to nightmarish realities that a sensible foreign policy could, and should, have averted.


July 22, 2013

Claremont Institute on June 12, 2013, published an article by professor Colin Dueck on “Geography and World Politics”. Mackinder in his book of 1919, Dueck wrote, appears to have been prophetic, in its prediction of a long-term power shift from West to East, reversing the trend of previous centuries. Excerpts below:

During most of the modern era, Europe was at the center of international politics, with the world’s most capable militaries, most dynamic economies, and most assertive foreign policies. As Brendan Simms shows in Europe: The Struggle for Supremacy (2013), the focus of great power competition from the early modern era well into the 20th century was ultimately the Holy Roman Empire and its successor states.

Even during the Cold War, when Rimland nations in Western Europe were finally overshadowed by the actions of external superpowers, the European continent—particularly Germany—remained the supreme geopolitical prize for which those superpowers contended. The end of the Cold War was taken by many liberal dreamers to mean the end of geopolitics. But in reality, it merely introduced a new distribution and ranking of great powers, characterized by a predominant America, a resentful Russia, a strategically incoherent European Union, and a rising set of Asian nations.

As the Chinese economy has grown rapidly, allowing them to build up and modernize their armed forces, there has been a massive shift in relative economic and military capabilities from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The chief focus of international great power competition is now along the eastern rather than the western end of Spykman’s Rimland.

In geopolitical terms, China is not a Heartland but a Rimland power. That is to say, it is accessible by sea and land, with security concerns in both directions. The collapse of the Soviet Union represented a windfall for China, reducing the threat from the north. Starting in the 1990s, Beijing also resolved many of its border disputes with neighboring countries. This has sometimes been taken as an indication that China has few aggressive intentions. But in fact the resolution and security of China’s vast land frontier—an exceptional achievement, by historical standards—allows Beijing to be more assertive and expansionist at sea.

[Comment: Due to the large population of China the question of the borders in the north (to Russia) could in the future be a grave geopolitical problem. This year’s extensive Russian military exercises in Siberia may be a reminder to China that Russia is prepared to defend Siberia militarily.]

In recent years, aware of America’s preoccupations with economic recession and Mideast terrorism, China has begun throwing its weight around in the South and East China Seas, triggering a series of dangerous maritime incidents with Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Vietnam, as well as with U.S. surveillance ships. At the same time, China has built up and modernized its navy, both to lend greater weight to its diplomatic assertions in the region and to protect its extensive and growing merchant marine. As James Holmes and Toshi Yoshihara detail in their very useful book, Red Star over the Pacific(2010), numerous Chinese naval strategists explicitly invoke Admiral Mahan and his concept of sea command.

China’s practical goal appears to be command over the South China Sea. Admittedly, the Chinese navy—the People’s Liberation Army Navy, as it is called—is still not comparable to the U.S. Navy, but it doesn’t have to be.

The purpose of the Chinese naval buildup is not to go looking for war with the United States, but to deter the U.S. from acting in the region, notably in defense of Taiwan. Securing control of Taiwan would constitute not only a sweeping national accomplishment for the Chinese Communist Party, but a dramatic improvement in China’s geopolitical situation at sea. What Chinese strategists call the “first island chain,” stretching from Japan to Malaysia, would then be breached. Beyond that, the Chinese themselves may not know how they plan to use their newfound sea power. But history suggests they will continue to define their maritime interests more expansively as they acquire greater and greater maritime capabilities.