RealClearWorld Articles

What Kissinger Gets Wrong About Korea

Joseph Bosco - August 17, 2017

The physically and intellectually bionic Henry Kissinger is at it again. The former secretary of state recently published an article in the Wall Street Journal casually titled “How to Solve the North Korea Crisis,” perhaps his 12th such piece offering essentially the same advice over the past two decades.

Though the article does not live up to its title, the man himself is amazing. While his talented staff no doubt helps in periodically churning out learned pieces on current world events, Kissinger, now in his 90s, still manages to shuttle between Washington and Beijing to pass messages and offer geostrategic wisdom alternately to American and Chinese leaders. He has done this for nine U.S. presidents and for every Chinese ruler since Mao Zedong.

In his many writings and speeches addressing North Korea, Kissinger always gets the danger right:

"The long-term challenge reaches beyond the threat to American territory to the prospect of nuclear chaos. ... Asia’s nations are already under threat from North Korea’s existing short- and intermediate-range missiles."

Turning Troops Into Targets in France

Robert Zaretsky - August 16, 2017

Last Wednesday, a driver deliberately barreled his car into a French military patrol in the wealthy Parisian suburb of Levallois-Perret. Labeled a terrorist act, the attack injured six soldiers and ignited a grim sense of deja vu. For the sixth time since 2015, a terrorist had targeted French soldiers serving on French soil; for the sixth time, the event has spurred a national debate over the reasoning behind the military operation in which these soldiers were participating.

In January 2015, with a nation still reeling from the terrorist attacks on Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket, the Socialist government launched Plan Vigipirate. Under the plan, completed in 1991, the Interior Ministry was tasked with the mobilization and management of the panoply of French police forces in the case of a terrorist threat or attack. Only in the document’s fine print is a place made for the use of military forces. As Elie Tenenbaum, a researcher at the Institut français des relations internationales, suggests in a sharp and sobering paper, France’s long memory played a pivotal role. The uses and abuses of the French Army during the Algerian War of Independence, when armed forces became a tool of repression and torture, made the Fifth Republic reluctant to employ them again as a domestic security force.

Until 2015, that is. A week after the terrorist attacks in Paris, the Socialist government under President Francois Hollande carved a new set of lines and arrows onto the Vigipirate flowchart, all of them passing through the Ministry of Defense. Called Operation Sentinelle, the updated plan detailed the mobilization of as many as 10,000 soldiers to assist police forces in warding off immediate terrorist threats. When the plan was first announced, public relief was palpable. The vast majority of soldiers were assigned to the most vulnerable and visible targets for radical jihadi groups: newspaper offices, Jewish centers, and synagogues. By the end of the year, their mission had metastasized: Along with police and gendarmes, soldiers were patrolling nearly 12,000 sites, including 10,000 in the greater Paris region.

The government presented a two-fold rationale for Operation Sentinelle: to deter terrorists and reassure citizens. Tragically, the first goal might as well have been code-named Operation Impossible. Specialists who had voiced doubts about the army’s deterrence capacity were proved prescient with the Nov. 13, 2015, terrorist attacks in Paris. Despite the stationing of 7,000 soldiers across France --  most of them concentrated in or near Paris -- they failed to prevent three groups of terrorists armed with assault rifles and explosive vests from killing 130 civilians and wounding more than 400 in the heart of Paris. Nevertheless, the government responded as if the problem had been an insufficient number of soldiers rather than an inadequate grasp of strategy. In the hours following the attack, 3,000 more soldiers were deployed.

What a Permanent Treaty With North Korea Might Look Like

David Ignatius - August 16, 2017

WASHINGTON -- After weeks of belligerent rhetoric, North Korea took a pause Tuesday. But where is the mercurial Kim Jong Un headed next? U.S. officials are debating whether he may want direct talks with Washington about a formal treaty to replace the 1953 armistice agreement that ended the Korean War.

The U.S. has been pursuing a dual path, threatening military conflict (semi-believably because of President Trump's verbal thunderbolts) while also urging stabilization of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. The diplomatic trick here is simultaneously reassuring North Korea, China, South Korea and Japan that their vital interests would be protected.

This process of negotiation was hinted at Sunday by Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. In an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, they warned North Korea to "take a new path toward peace, prosperity and international acceptance," or face increased isolation.

Tillerson's one, fuzzy condition for negotiations has been that Pyongyang demonstrate its seriousness by halting missile and nuclear tests. Arguably, Kim took a grudging step in that direction Tuesday, when the Korean Central News announced that he had decided to "watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees," rather than carry out his threat to launch four ballistic missiles toward Guam.

Iraqi Shiite Cleric's Saudi, UAE Trips Show Gulf Realpolitik

Jon Gambrell - August 16, 2017

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- An influential Iraqi Shiite cleric, notorious for his followers' deadly attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq over a decade ago and thought at times to have ties to Iran, has two new stamps in his passport - from the two fiercest Sunni critics of Tehran in the Gulf.

Muqtada al-Sadr's trips to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates come as the two nations want to limit Iran's influence in the wider Middle East, especially with Iranian-backed Shiite militias leading the fight against the Islamic State group on Iraqi battlefields.

Meanwhile, the chameleonic cleric hopes to cement his own standing ahead of Iraq's parliamentary elections next year, part of his makeover from a militia warlord whose fighters battled American forces to an Iraqi nationalist who can fill Baghdad's streets with his protesting followers.

How far any possible alliance between al-Sadr and the Gulf Arab countries could go remains to be seen, though photos of the black-turbaned Shiite cleric meeting with Sunni rulers already has stirred speculation in Iran.

The Collateral Damage of Russia Sanctions

Dina Smeltz & Lily Wojtowicz - August 16, 2017

In Race Between Turkey and the UAE, Somalia Wins

Stratfor - August 15, 2017

The base in Somalia will be Turkey's second overseas installation, but it will be focused more on assisting Somalia than demonstrating Turkish military capabilities.
As Turkey expands its geopolitical and economic presence in the Middle East and East Africa, the projection of power through the military will be a key part of this growth.
The development of overseas military capabilities will lead Turkey into competition with other countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, that have embarked on a similar path.
With a new military camp in Somalia, Turkey is strengthening its ties to the East African country while extending its reach as a regional power. Turkish forces are expected to get to the installation, which has been under construction for about two years, sometime this month. Their arrival comes soon after the deployment of Turkish forces to a larger base in Qatar. While Ankara has been operating military facilities in northern Iraq, the Qatari and Somali bases are the first of its military installations hosted by allied states. And as Turkey pursues its interests throughout the region, it no doubt will run into like-minded countries, such as the United Arab Emirates.

Unlike the base in Qatar, the facility in Mogadishu will be primarily occupied with military training, and the training of Somali soldiers, in particular. Current plans do not include the deployment of a Turkish contingent capable of conducting military operations. Instead, about 200 Turkish soldiers will train up to 10,000 Somali National Army troops.

But the long-standing relationship between Ankara and Mogadishu is not based solely on the benevolent actions of Turkey. Turkish aid organizations, a Turkish hospital in Mogadishu and educational opportunities for Somali civilians have given Turkey a prominent position in Mogadishu. But the Turkey-Somalia relationship is closely tied to the economic interests of Turkish corporations that seek to develop and manage infrastructure in Somalia. For example, the Turkish company Albayrak manages the Mogadishu seaport, and Turkish companies have made bids to do the same in the southern port city of Kismayo.
Rubbing Elbows

However, Turkey is not the only country looking to build this kind of relationship with Somalia; the United Arab Emirates has been pursuing the same contracts. Both Turkey and the United Arab Emirates are aware that Somalia sits on some of the world's major shipping lanes, and they see opportunities to build seaports and other transport infrastructure. These factors, as well as the Somali government's need for outside help, make it a logical target for development by the United Arab Emirates as well. For example, Emirati company SKA Air & Logistics runs the Mogadishu airport, and UAE companies have competed for the development of the port and airport in Kismayo. In fact, the United Arab Emirates preceded Turkey in Somalia and has been operating a military training facility in Mogadishu since 2015. The UAE-taught Somali forces are considered some of the most reliable and well-trained in the regular Somali National Army, which is why they were put in charge of security for the city of Mogadishu several months ago.

To Launch or Not? Either Way, North Korea May Gain

Eric Talmadge - August 15, 2017

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- If, after all the fanfare, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un doesn't actually launch missiles toward Guam, many may write the whole episode off as another of the North's seemingly endless bluffs. But from Pyongyang's perspective and in the eyes of some U.S. military experts, Kim and his generals have already won this round.

Launch or not, Pyongyang has caused great drama and angst, riled U.S. President Donald Trump and alarmed America's allies in Tokyo and Seoul. It could also set a precedent for more aggressive brinkmanship ahead.

It comes as no surprise then that on Tuesday, as North Korea's state media released photos of Kim and his military officers examining the launch plan, replete with photos of the missiles' flight path and a big satellite image of the U.S. territory's Andersen Air Force Base, it also offered a seeming out.

Kim, it said, wants to "watch a little more" before making a decision.

German Weapons Makers Profiting From Korea Tensions

Rodion Ebbighausen - August 14, 2017

The German cruise missile Taurus KEPD-350 has a lot of demand in South Korea. The nearly 1,000-kilogram high-tech weapon made by an eponymous German firm, Taurus Systems, has a range of almost 500 kilometers. It has been specifically designed to penetrate highly capable air defense systems in low-altitude flight.

The weapon is capable of both hitting deep underground bunkers as well as destroying large surface areas. South Korea's significance for Taurus, based in Germany's Bavaria state, is seen by the fact that the company set up a representative office in Seoul in 2014. In October 2016, 177 cruise missiles were handed over by the firm to the South Koreans. The delivery of 90 more has already been decided.

But cruise missiles were only a part of the armaments bought by South Korea last year. In the first half of 2016, South Korean purchases of German military gear amounted to over 200 million euros, according to German government data.

The sales encompass a broad spectrum of weapons systems, including, but not limited to, submarine parts, combat ships, missiles, missile defense systems, rocket parts, components for combat tanks and armored howitzers. This meant that in the first half of 2016, South Korea was the fourth largest buyer of weapons made in Germany.

How Turkey's AKP Tarnished Its Own Legacy

Diego Cupolo - August 14, 2017

As President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan observes his party’s 16th anniversary, Turkish and international observers question the impact ongoing purges will have on its reformist legacy. Diego Cupolo reports from Ankara.

Sipping black tea in a cafe overlooking central Ankara, Ahmet Faruk Unsal reflects on his time with Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) as supporters prepare to mark the 16th anniversary of the party's founding.

Unsal served as AKP deputy for the southeastern province of Adiyaman from 2002 to 2007, a period he describes as the party's "Golden Age."

"[At that time,] they had good relations with Europe and were seen as a democratic model for the Muslim world," he told DW. "Then they began to erase the progress they had made."

US Tourist Beaten For Giving Hitler Salute in Dresden

Deutsche Welle - August 14, 2017

A tourist from the United States was punched in Dresden after he mimicked the Nazi salute multiple times. The incident came a week after two Chinese tourists were taken into custody for the same reason.

Police in the eastern German city of Dresden said the 41-year-old American man was drunk when he made the offensive gesture. A police test showed that he was heavily intoxicated with a blood alcohol level of 0.276 percent.

The American national reportedly suffered only minor injuries after he was beaten by an incensed local. According to official accounts, the unknown attacker fled the scene and is now being sought for causing bodily harm.

Police added the American national was now under investigation for violating German laws against the display of Nazi symbols or slogans.

India and Pakistan Since Partition: An Economic Scorecard

Srinivas Mazumdaru - August 14, 2017

Persistent underdevelopment has afflicted the Indian subcontinent since the region was unshackled from the chains of British colonial domination seven decades ago. South Asia's growth and development have been underwhelming compared to those of places like Northeast and Southeast Asia.

The region's independence from British rule was marked by its partitioning along religious lines, giving birth to a Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan as two independent countries. At the time of their independence in 1947, they both found themselves at a similar level of socio-economic development. The two newly formed nations were desperately poor and desiccated, home to hundreds of millions of destitute, illiterate and malnourished people.

India started its independent journey with an advantage by inheriting public institutions set up by the British during their rule. It also had a bigger share of the urban population, industry and transportation infrastructure. Pakistan, on the other hand, had the upper hand in agriculture, as the nation's territory composed of a huge tract of the alluvial, irrigated land of Punjab.

The two countries dreamt of rapid economic advancement, in the hope that it would uplift millions of their impoverished citizens.

Is There an Answer for Macedonia?

Joel Weickgenant - August 13, 2017

When you are in Macedonia, the landlocked Balkan nation works hard to remind you that Macedonia is where you are. Assertions of Macedonian identity can be as beautiful as its flag, an exuberant two-tone sunburst known as the “Sun of Liberty.” They can be as garish as Skopje’s obscenely expensive, Las Vegas-style remake of its historic center. They may also take feathered form, like the peacock kept on the grounds of a border-crossing from Greece. The bird struts through the idyll between the distant misty mountains of lakes Ohrid and Prespa and the concrete ribbon where customs officials inspect vehicles. (The peacock is a national symbol, or something just short of it.)

Where the trappings of independent statehood are most fragile, the symbols of nationhood often shine brightest. You learn that in the Balkans, and especially in Macedonia -- a speck of a state whose territory has always been contested. As centuries of Ottoman imperial control began to fray in the 19th century, the so-called Macedonian Question was among the most bloody and intractable, with pitched ethnic battles eventually joined to the manipulations of outside powers such as Britain and Germany. Nowadays, Albania in a strained circumstance could challenge Skopje’s territorial control; Greece actively challenges the country’s name, leading to its awkward official appellation, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; and in the 1990s, Athens’ protestations compelled Skopje to change its flag.

All of this is a lot to handle for a country of 2.1 million. The country’s history is disorienting, and it is easy for a traveler to understand why Skopje’s expressions of self tend toward the exuberant. It is in a sense celebrating what it still yearns to create: a stable nation-state on a level with its European peers.

To do that, Macedonians know they need outside help. But regional disputes have held Macedonia back, and those disputes cut to the very core of a nation’s identity: Greece, displeased with the country’s name, closed the door to NATO right when an invite to begin the accession process seemed nigh, and along with Bulgaria put the brakes on the EU process as well. A decade later, virtually all of its neighbors are farther ahead than Skopje in accession to NATO, the European Union, or both, in a region where some form of Euro-Atlantic integration is seen as vital to national consolidation.

Growing Extremism Is a Source of Strategic Instability in Asia

Chietigj Bajpaee - August 10, 2017

North Korea's growing nuclear brinkmanship, renewed tensions between India and China along their disputed border and persistent frictions in the South China Sea have all contributed to a renewed focus on inter-state instabilities in Asia. There is, however, another growing source of strategic instability at the sub-state level, as increasing religiosity and extremist ideologies gain momentum in the national consciousness of several countries in the region.

The most vivid evidence of this is the surge in terrorist attacks across the region, most notably the ongoing terrorist insurgency and military operation in Marawi in the southern Philippines. But there have also been bomb attacks in Jakarta in May 2017 and January 2016; attacks on police posts along the Myanmar-Bangladesh border in October 2016; an attack on a café in Dhaka in July 2016; the first terrorist attack in Malaysia linked to Islamic State in June 2016; and a bomb attack on a Hindu shrine in Bangkok in August 2015, which, though attributed to a human trafficking group, may allude to potential connections between religious extremists and organised criminal elements in Thailand.

To be sure, this is not a new phenomenon. After 9/11, terrorism and other non-traditional security threats gained prominence in the regional national security debate. Then, as now, transnational terrorist organisations sought to leverage local grievances to expand their influence. Now the Islamic State (IS) insurgency in Syria and Iraq echoes the role initially played by the Afghan mujahedeen in fuelling global Islamic extremism. Moreover, an eventual defeat of IS in Syria and Iraq may prompt its Asian recruits to step up attacks in their homelands. The situation has been further complicated by a turf war between al Qaeda and IS-affiliated groups, which can sometimes range from open hostility to tactical accommodation.

There have been several changes in the nature of this threat in recent years:

The Lost Honor of Latin America's Hard Left

Fabio Rafael Fiallo - August 10, 2017

As right-wing dictators wreaked havoc on Latin America during the last century, left-wing movements played a major role in the struggle for democracy. At that time, such movements valiantly fought against the perpetuation in power -- continuismo is the Spanish word -- of dictators. They opposed military coups and became staunch advocates of freedom of expression and respect for human rights. Last but not least, imbued by a Marxist ideology they thought to be scientific, they claimed to be the heralds of an egalitarian society that the so-called laws of history made ineluctable.

For their commendable stance, the partisans of the Left paid a heavy toll in imprisonments, tortures, and deaths.

Today, though, one can recognize no principle or value, among those brandished by self-proclaimed progressive movements, that has not been ignored, sullied, or betrayed by the radical Left.

For starters, observe the hard-Left’s double standard with respect to continuismo. Leftists rebel against any re-election attempt of any political leader who is not to their liking. At the same time, they justify and applaud the longest and most tragic perpetuation of power in Latin America’s history, namely that of the Castro gerontocracy, as well as the continuismo of “21st century socialists” such as Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega and Bolivia’s Evo Morales.

Does Pyongyang Have Washington Cornered?

Wesley Rahn - August 10, 2017

After another inelegant exchange of blustery rhetoric, the world is again imagining what military conflict between the US, its allies and North Korea would look like and seasoned observers are asking if the situation has reached a new and more dangerous stage.

This latest geopolitical boiling point started off with the announcement of unprecedented UN sanctions against North Korea on August 5, the result of a unanimous vote in the UN Security Council after Pyongyang tested a long-range ballistic missile on July 28.

North Korea promptly rebuked the sanctions and issued a threatening statement promising "righteous action" to make the US "pay the price." On Tuesday, US President Donald Trump uttered his now infamous statement promising North Korea "fire and fury like the world has never seen," if the regime threatened the US.

Adding fuel to Trump's fire, two separate reports from Japan and the US were released Tuesday that revealed that North Korea had developed the capability to miniaturize nuclear warheads for ICBM delivery faster than anticipated.

Is Saudi Arabia Waging War on its Shia minority?

Matthias Von Hein - August 10, 2017

Largely ignored by the rest of the world, heavy fighting has been going on in the tiny city of Awamiya in eastern Saudi Arabia for three months: Satellite images show that entire sections of the city have been destroyed. Images of firefights and flattened buildings are making the rounds on social media. Independent reporting is not possible because the government has denied foreign journalists access to the area.

The center of the fighting appears to be Al-Masora, the city's old quarter. Militant Shiites are engaged in firefights with Saudi security forces there, in the neighborhood's narrow alleys. Heavy artillery is being used in the fighting and at least 15 people are said to have been killed so far. After images of Canadian-made armored vehicles being deployed against civilians became public, Ottawa reportedly began considering a halt of arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Forced relocations and demolition

The conflict arose in part from Saudi plans to demolish areas of the historic city in order to build a new shopping mall - something that the city's residents strongly opposed. In April, the United Nations called for Saudi Arabia to halt forced relocations and the demolition of the old quarter. UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights Karima Bennoune fears "the planned demolition would erase this unique regional heritage in an irreversible manner."

The Best Option for Containing North Korea

Charles Pena - August 9, 2017

North Korea recently launched its second successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile. Many experts believe Pyongyang’s missiles can already reach the West Coast of the United States, and perhaps even farther inland. There is understandable angst about the thought that leader Kim Jong Un might launch a nuclear strike on the U.S. homeland. Still, this is a risk we have known for more than a decade that we would probably someday face. We faced the exact threat from the former Soviet Union, a far greater foe, for more than 40 years during the Cold War, and have from China since the 1960s. It does not mean doomsday.

The number of nuclear warheads North Korea is believed to have ranges from as few as 10 to as many as 60, according to a recent estimate by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). The U.S. intelligence community has moreover concluded that North Korea has successfully produced a warhead that can fit on its missiles. What North Korea has not yet pulled off is a flight test of such a warhead on an ICBM.

The only thing we know for certain is that North Korea has ballistic missile capability sufficient to reach Japan -- its test launches have landed missiles into the Sea of Japan. That barrier could be the result of technical limitations, or a deliberate choice by Pyongyang to demonstrate capability without pushing provocation beyond the envelope.

However, even if the DIA's estimate is right, it does not mean that Kim Jong Un will attack the United States just because the capability is there. Indeed, Pyongyang has had the capability to nuke Seoul for more than a decade but has not done it. So Kim’s motivation for his relentless pursuit of long-range nuclear capability may have more to do with his own survival than with any desire for military aggression. What do Iraq and Libya have in common? Both countries lacked nuclear weapons, and Saddam Hussein and Moammar Gadhafi were both on the receiving end of U.S.-imposed regime changes.

A Perfect Storm Is Brewing in U.S. Foreign Policy

Reva Goujon - August 9, 2017

The White House's pledge to put "America First" in its policymaking implies that the president has a responsibility to prioritize his country's problems over the rest of the world's. But making good on that promise isn't as easy as it sounds. After all, the foreign policies of great powers are crafted, not imposed.

If we can assume that every nation follows its own interests, we can also expect the executor of its foreign policy to make sense of a complex geopolitical landscape by internalizing the imperatives and constraints shaping the behavior of itself and its peers. In part this means identifying potential points of competition and collaboration, giving priority to the issues that pose a strategic threat to the republic. It also means teasing out and testing implications, determining the most critical points of stress that demand attention. Excessive ambition, whether driven by egotism or romanticism, will inevitably seep into the foreign policy realm, but it can be tamed. And the greater the power, the more tools at its disposal to form a policy designed to subtly steer its adversaries and allies toward its desired course without any party losing face.

Of course, this approach doesn't preclude conflict. A successful foreign policy, however, will anticipate, manage and even harness clashes to ensure a balance of power that is ultimately intended to preserve the might of the republic. The unique collection of foreign policy challenges facing the United States today will require a particularly deft hand to address as Washington looks to parse the unavoidable disputes from the avoidable ones, and to prepare Americans for them. But the ongoing power struggle between the ideologues and professionals on the White House's policy team seems certain to only intensify, leaving little room for strategic planning and ample room for error in some of the world's most pressing conflicts.

If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It