Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Redlines and the Problems of Intervention in Syria

Redlines and the Problems of Intervention in Syria

April 30, 2013 | 0900 GMT

By George Friedman
Founder and Chairman
The civil war in Syria, one of the few lasting legacies of the Arab Spring, has been under way for more than two years. There has been substantial outside intervention in the war. The Iranians in particular, and the Russians to a lesser extent, have supported the Alawites under Bashar al Assad. The Saudis and some of the Gulf States have supported the Sunni insurgents in various ways. The Americans, Europeans and Israelis, however, have for the most part avoided involvement.
Last week the possibility of intervention increased. The Americans and Europeans have had no appetite for intervention after their experiences in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. At the same time, they have not wanted to be in a position where intervention was simply ruled out. Therefore, they identified a redline that, if crossed, would force them to reconsider intervention: the use of chemical weapons.
There were two reasons for this particular boundary. The first was that the United States and European states have a systemic aversion to the possession and usage of weapons of mass destruction in other countries. They see this ultimately as a threat to them, particularly if such weapons are in the hands of non-state users. But there was a more particular reason in Syria. No one thought that al Assad was reckless enough to use chemical weapons because they felt that his entire strategy depended on avoiding U.S. and European intervention, and that therefore he would never cross the redline. This was comforting to the Americans and Europeans because it allowed them to appear decisive while avoiding the risk of having to do anything.
However, in recent weeks, first the United Kingdom and France and then Israel and the United States asserted that the al Assad regime had used chemical weapons. No one could point to an incidence of massive deaths in Syria, and the evidence of usage was vague enough that no one was required to act immediately.
In Iraq, it turned out there was not a nuclear program or the clandestine chemical and biological weapons programs that intelligence had indicated. Had there been, the U.S. invasion might have had more international support, but it is doubtful it would have had a better outcome. The United States would have still forced the Sunnis into a desperate position, the Iranians would have still supported Shiite militias and the Kurds would have still tried to use the chaos to build an autonomous Kurdish region. The conflict would have still been fought and its final outcome would not have looked very different from how it does now.
What the United States learned in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya is that it is relatively easy for a conventional force to destroy a government. It is much harder  -- if not impossible -- to use the same force to impose a new type of government. The government that follows might be in some moral sense better than what preceded it -- it is difficult to imagine a more vile regime than Saddam Hussein's -- but the regime that replaces it will first be called chaos, followed by another regime that survives to the extent that it holds the United States at arm's length. Therefore, redline or not, few want to get involved in another intervention pivoting on weapons of mass destruction.

Interventionist Arguments and Illusions

However, there are those who want to intervene for moral reasons. In Syria, there is the same moral issue that there was in Iraq. The existing regime is corrupt and vicious. It should not be forgotten that the al Assad regime conducted a massacre in the city of Hama in 1982 in which tens of thousands of Sunnis were killed for opposing the regime. The regime carried out constant violations of human rights and endless brutality. There was nothing new in this, and the world was able to act fairly indifferent to the events, since it was still possible to create media blackouts in those days. Syria's patron, the Soviet Union, protected it, and challenging the Syrian regime would be a challenge to the Soviet Union. It was a fight that few wanted to wage because the risks were seen as too high.
The situation is different today. Syria's major patron is Iran, which had (until its reversal in Syria) been moving toward a reshaping of the balance of power in the region. Thus, from the point of view of the American right, an intervention is morally required to confront evil regimes. There are those on the left who also want intervention. In the 1980s, the primary concern of the left was the threat of nuclear war, and they saw any intervention as destabilizing a precarious balance. That concern is gone, and advocacy for military intervention to protect human rights is a significant if not universal theme on the left.
The difference between right-wing and left-wing interventionists is the illusions they harbor. In spite of experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq, right-wing interventionists continue to believe that the United States and Europe have the power not only to depose regimes but also to pacify the affected countries and create Western-style democracies. The left believes that there is such a thing as a neutral intervention -- one in which the United States and Europe intervene to end a particular evil, and with that evil gone, the country will now freely select a Western-style constitutional democracy. Where the right-wing interventionists cannot absorb the lessons of Afghanistan and Iraq, the left-wing interventionists cannot absorb the lessons of Libya.
Everyone loved the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. What was not to like? The Evil Empire was collapsing for the right; respect for human rights was universally embraced for the left. But Eastern Europe was occupied by Josef Stalin in 1945 following domination and occupation by Adolf Hitler. Eastern Europeans had never truly embraced either, and for the most part loathed both. The collapse freed them to be what they by nature were. What was lurking under the surface had always been there, suppressed but still the native political culture and aspiration.
That is not what was under the surface in Afghanistan or Iraq. These countries were not Europe and did not want to be. One of the reasons that Hussein was despised was that he was secular -- that he violated fundamental norms of Islam both in his personal life and in the way he governed the country. There were many who benefited from his regime and supported him, but if you lopped off the regime, what was left was a Muslim country wanting to return to its political culture, much as Eastern Europe returned to its.
In Syria, there are two main factions fighting. The al Assad regime is Alawite, a heterodox offshoot of Shi'ism. But its more important characteristic is that it is a secular regime, not guided by either liberal democracy or Islam but with withering roots in secular Arab Socialism. Lop it off and what is left is not another secular movement, this time liberal and democratic, but the underlying Muslim forces that had been suppressed but never eradicated. A New York Times article this week pointed out that there are no organized secular forces in areas held by the Sunni insurgents. The religious forces are in control. In Syria, secularism belonged to the Baath Party and the Alawites, and it was brutal. But get rid of it, and you do not get liberal democracy.
This is what many observers missed in the Arab Spring. They thought that under the surface of the oppressive Hosni Mubarak regime, which was secular and brutal, was a secular liberal democratic force. Such a force was present in Egypt, more than in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya, but still did not represent the clear alternative to Mubarak. The alternative -- not as clearly as elsewhere, but still the alternative -- was the Muslim Brotherhood, and no secular alternative was viable without the Egyptian army.

The Difficulties of an Intervention

There are tremendous military challenges to dealing with Syria. Immaculate interventions will not work. A surgical strike on chemical facilities is a nice idea, but the intelligence on locations is never perfect, Syria has an air defense system that cannot be destroyed without substantial civilian casualties, and blowing up buildings containing chemical weapons could release the chemicals before they burn. Sending troops deep into Syria would not be a matter of making a few trips by helicopter. The country is an armed camp, and destroying or seizing stockpiles of chemical weapons is complicated and requires manpower. To destroy the stockpiles, you must first secure ports, airports and roads to get to them, and then you have to defend the roads, of which there are many.
Eradicating chemical weapons from Syria -- assuming that they are all in al Assad's territory -- would require occupying that territory, and the precise outlines of that territory change from day to day. It is also likely, given the dynamism of a civil war, that some chemical weapons would fall into the hands of the Sunni insurgents. There are no airstrikes or surgical raids by special operations troops that would solve the problem. Like Iraq, the United States would have to occupy the country.
If al Assad and the leadership are removed, his followers -- a substantial minority -- will continue to resist, much as the Sunnis did in Iraq. They have gained much from the al Assad regime and, in their minds, they face disaster if the Sunnis win. The Sunnis have much brutality to repay. On the Sunni side, there may be a secular liberal democratic group, but if so it is poorly organized and control is in the hands of Islamists and other more radical Islamists, some with ties to al Qaeda. The civil war will continue unless the United States intervenes on behalf of the Islamists, uses its power to crush the Alawites and hands power to the Islamists. A variant of this happened in Iraq when the United States sought to crush the Sunnis but did not want to give power to the Shia. The result was that everyone turned on the Americans.
That will be the result of a neutral intervention or an intervention designed to create a constitutional democracy. Those who intervene will find themselves trapped between the reality of Syria and the assorted fantasies that occasionally drive U.S. and European foreign policy. No great harm will come in any strategic sense. The United States and Europe have huge populations and enormous wealth. They can, in that sense, afford such interventions. But the United States cannot afford continual defeats as a result of intervening in countries of marginal national interest, where it sets for itself irrational political goals for the war. In some sense, power has to do with perception, and not learning from mistakes undermines power.
Many things are beyond the military power of the United States. Creating constitutional democracies by invasion is one of those things. There will be those who say intervention is to stop the bloodshed, not to impose Western values. Others will say intervention that does not impose Western values is pointless. Both miss the point. You cannot stop a civil war by adding another faction to the war unless that faction brings overwhelming power to bear. The United States has a great deal of power, but not overwhelming power, and overwhelming power's use means overwhelming casualties. And you cannot transform the political culture of a country from the outside unless you are prepared to devastate it as was done with Germany and Japan.
The United States, with its European allies, does not have the force needed to end Syria's bloodshed. If it tried, it would merely be held responsible for the bloodshed without achieving any strategic goal. There are places to go to war, but they should be few and of supreme importance. The bloodshed in Syria is not more important to the United States than it is to the Syrians.

Read more: Redlines and the Problems of Intervention in Syria | Stratfor

Malaysia’s GE13: The Hustings Get Rough

RSIS presents the following commentary Malaysia’s GE13: The Hustings Get Rough by Yang Razali Kassim. It is also available online at this link. (To print it, click on this link.). Kindly forward any comments or feedback to the Editor RSIS Commentaries, at  RSISPublication@ntu.edu.sg

No. 081/2013 dated 30 April 2013
Malaysia’s GE13:
The Hustings Get Rough
 By Yang Razali Kassim       

As campaigning for Malaysia’s general election on 5 May moves into its final stretch, all signs point to a close outcome. With the outbreak of sporadic electoral skirmishes, the political landscape continues to evolve.
EXPECTATIONS THAT Malaysia’s 13th general election on 5 May will be unusually hot - more so than 2008 - have so far been borne out. A letter from the Registrar of Societies casting doubt on the legality of the newly-elected leadership of the Democratic Action Party (DAP) - on the eve of Nomination Day - set the tone for the hustings: It galvanised further the three-party opposition alliance Pakatan Rakyat (PR) as an electoral force; the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) countered by casting its rival grouping as disparate, disunited and splintering – an image amplified in the pro-BN mainstream media.    

While a record number of independents distanced themselves from both the BN and PR on Nomination Day, tensions rose between rival supporters as the campaigns got underway. The mainstream media reported clashes breaking out in different places which police described as “alarming”. There have even been small, mysterious explosions at a BN rally that did little physical harm but were nevertheless unprecedented, and which police said was the work of “professionals”.
Underlying tensions

The resort to explosives marked a new threshold in electoral skirmishes, yet it remains unclear who could be behind them as both sides of the political divide suggested some sort of conspiracy aimed at discrediting the other. Even as the dust was being raked up, a senior Customs official was murdered in cold-blood in the heart of the administrative capital Putrajaya on 26 April on his way to work. Police said the daylight killing was not related to the general election; the victim was known as “Mr Clean” for his tough stance on the underworld. However the shocking incident took place just a day before a major election rally in Putrajaya by PAS which is trying to capture the symbolically significant constituency for  the opposition alliance’s push to make inroads into BN territory and wrest power in this general election.
Both sides were, however, noticeably uncomfortable as they tried to contain the underlying tensions even as they deflected mutual political attacks during the campaigns. BN leader and Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak said the resort to explosive devices would mar the elections while his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin said these incidents were out of character with the country’s political culture. The opposition also condemned the explosions which they said were “clearly meant to create fear and provoke disorder”.     

The underlying tensions nothwithstanding, the dominant mood during this campaign period has so far been one of normalcy and relative peace. People are still going about their daily lives as usual. Should this hold, the 5 May vote will go on as scheduled, with the security authorities ready to step in to maintain order should things get out of hand. Leaders on both sides know very well that political stability is paramount in a country which has experienced racial riots and emergency rule in the aftermath of the 1969 general election. In Johor PAS vice-president Salahuddin Ayub said May 13 will not happen again. Najib on the same day equated the “Johor Way” of moderation and accommodation with BN’s formula for progress.

Irony of underlying tensions
But 2013 is not 1969. The irony is that the current electoral tensions are not really between the ethnic groups, although each community still harbours its own anxieties. Indeed, the electoral fights are largely over party beliefs and ideologies. The larger narrative emerging is the relative peace between the major ethnic communities beyond the BN-defined political template in which power is shared among the major races through the ruling coalition. This growing inter-ethnic accommodation beyond BN is giving life to the opposition coalition, while the space for inter-ethnic accommodation outside the formal political processes is actually widening rather than narrowing.   

This is the sub-text of the growing cohesion amongst the three opposition allies in PR comprising Anwar Ibrahim’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), DAP and PAS. The mainstream media however has been harping on their inherent ideological differences especially over Islamic law like hudud, giving the impression of a fundamentally split opposition. During the campaigns, however, the blurring of the divide continued: Mixed crowds of Chinese, Malays and Indians have been attending opposition rallies, reminiscent of 2008; youths from DAP, PKR and PAS cycled around in threes, carrying each other’s symbols. While these images are part and parcel of the electoral power play, it also manifested the lowering of the ethnic and religious barriers outside the BN system.
As one retired UMNO divisional leader noted privately, what he observed is the growing sense of ease with each other amongst members of the three major communities – Malays, Chinese and Indians - who do not support the government. This, he says, is the positive effect of the emergent two-coalition system. Outwardly, the BN however appears to be more cohesive than the opposition; BN campaigns in a singular blue downplayed the coalition’s reality of having many parties, contrasting sharply with the PR’s three different flags of green (PAS), blue-red (PKR) and red-white (DAP).

Will the trend hold?

If this is the impact of the opposition alliance, the senior UMNO activist adds, then the birth of a two-coalition system will be good for the country. Inter-ethnic understanding will be enhanced on a larger template that is truly national – so long as Malay dominance is not under threat. When the DAP was told by the ROS that its leadership was not recognised following a controversial party election though it could still contest the national polls, the party was quick to say it would campaign under the PAS and PKR banners which the two allies were equally swift in accepting. PAS’ spiritual leader Nik Aziz saw this as significant in terms of breaking down what he calls the wall of Islamophobia. Indeed both parties spoke of a new era in ties in which “the DAP rocket has landed on the PAS moon”.    

The remaining days of the campaigns are fraught with unpredictability as both sides ramp up their rallies. Critical will be the way things go in the frontline states especially Selangor, Johor, Kedah and Perak in the peninsula and Sabah and Sarawak in East Malaysia. Surprises also cannot be ruled out. GE13 is indeed a crucial election to watch.

Prime Minister Najib expressed increasing confidence of winning back the two-thirds majority, which he described as critical for political and economic stability. Meanwhile PR is pulling in more crowd to its rallies. At opposition ceramahs, such as the one in Selangor this week, Anwar Ibrahim moved the listeners with the tagline: “Ini Kali lah!” (This is the time!). The mixed crowd of Malays, Chinese and Indians responded: “Ubah!” (Change!). By the evening of 5 May, we will know whether voters will follow him, or Najib.


Yang Razali Kassim is Senior Fellow with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University. He has been on the ground following the Malaysian hustings.

The Chinese Dimension of the U.S.A.-China-Russia Triangle Today

The following is the presentation by Alexander Nagorny, now the editor of Zaftra magazine in Moscow, and an expert on world affairs, at our conference in Frankfurt on April 13-14. I sent you Lyndon LaRouche's keynote, The Strategic View from the United States, and Daisuke Kotegawa's presentation, Two Lost Decades for the U.S. and Europe?, several days ago.
Any questions or comments you may have for Mr. Nagorny can be sent to me, and I will forward them to him.
The video of this presentation, and all the presentations at the conference, can be viewed at http://newparadigm.schillerinstitute.com/
Mike Billington
This transcript appears in the April 26, 2013 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.

The Chinese Dimension of the U.S.A.-China-Russia Triangle Today

Alexander Nagorny, of Russia, is deputy editor of Zavtra weekly newspaper and a member of the Izborsk Club. He is a historian who has specialized in relations among China, the United States, and Russia for several decades. He delivered this speech during the opening panel of the Schiller Institute conference in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, on April 13.
First of all, I would like to express my great gratitude to the Schiller Institute, and to Lyndon LaRouche personally, for organizing such an interesting, large, and timely conference.
We represent a new intellectual club formed in Russia approximately six months ago, the Izborsk Club, which brings together various experts and specialists, with various ideological outlooks, who are thinking about the future—about what Lyndon LaRouche has just discussed here in such a profound and interesting way.
The topic of my short presentation may be situated as a continuation of the propositions set forth by Mr. LaRouche. Its title is "The Chinese Dimension of the USA-China-Russia Triangle Today." I think that this topic should perhaps be somewhat expanded: The triangle should incorporate also the European Union, or Europe as such, insofar as these are the players in international relations which essentially determine the current political situation in the world, and the prospects for the future that the world and mankind are facing—as Lyndon LaRouche has just discussed.
The Korean Crisis
In order not to give you merely dry, theoretical considerations, I would like to begin my presentation by describing the dramatic situation taking shape in the world today, which is being trumpeted in mass media like CNN, ABC, Euronews, and so forth. Almost everybody is focussed on the Korean situation. Just now, before leaving the hotel this morning, I was watching the latest news from CNN, which reported on the special statement made by U.S. Secretary of State Kerry in Seoul, South Korea. He said that the United States, like the entire world, is extremely concerned about the nuclear threat from North Korea, and that the USA is extending its hand for dialogue with North Korea, and cancelling a number of maneuvers. Then Kerry got to the core of his speech, saying that he was now going to fly to Beijing, and that it was the Chinese leadership, the Chinese comrades, who should play the decisive role in settling the current crisis, which includes the threat of a military conflict with the use of nuclear weapons.
I think that this episode expresses the entire situation taking shape within this big triangle, or quadrilateral, that I'm talking about. What we see here, is that the United States, as the hegemonic world power and the player in international relations which has virtually an absolute concentration of military-strategic power in its hands, and which effectively runs the policy of such international economic policy organizations as the World Bank, the IMF, the WTO, etc., was forced to turn to the People's Republic of China—one could say, to fly to Beijing and kow-tow to the Chinese emperors—and request that they do something, somehow, to settle the situation between North and South Korea, in order to prevent Pyongyang from using nuclear weapons and placing the world on the brink of a nuclear cataclysm.
Herein, in my view, lies the secret of Chinese diplomacy. If we follow the logic, then certainly North Korea's high degree of dependence on China, for both energy supplies (80-85%) and food, not to mention the technology side, has created a situation in which the United States, although it has both military-political and ideological power far in excess of China's, is forced to appeal to the Chinese Emperor and plead with him to do something to help prevent a military clash.
Now, if we review the entire situation as it comes together, we see that this Korean crisis has eclipsed the situation in Iran and the situation in Syria, with everything being concentrated on this Korean segment. China thus has demonstrated that the United States has lost face, politically. And this is something very important in the Asia-Pacific region, where China traditionally, and continuing now today because of its very high development rates, lays claim to the dominant position.
Dangerous Return to Geopolitics
This episode is a particular case, but it's one which easily allows making broader generalizations about the world situation. What have we seen, during the past several years? The world is returning to geopolitics. There is a resurrection of the lines typical of the traditional geopolitical constructs known to world politics in the 19th and 20th centuries, which had been on the back burner after the dismemberment of the Soviet Union, when the socialist bloc lost its place in international relations. It was in 1991 that the USA gained the ability to take a completely new approach to world issues. LaRouche talked about this. The USA would have been able to take the lead in addressing the global problems, which had been so much discussed in the 1980s. Instead, the USA focussed on strengthening its egotistical positions.
As a result, we witnessed an entirely new alignment, especially as we entered the 2000s. This involved, above all, the astronomical growth of the economic, political, and military power of the People's Republic of China.
Here I should say a few words about Russia. Although in 1991-93 Russia came under the practically total political influence of the United States, under Putin this situation began to change. Now, Russia has begun to play an increasingly independent role within these geopolitical constructs.
It is quite clear that this rebirth of geopolitics is based on egotism on the part of the players in international relations. Under these conditions, each participant in these complex geometrical constructs—the triangle or the quadrilateral—is seeking his own benefit and attempting to achieve it, directly or sometimes indirectly (as in the case of Syria, where the USA and Europe are essentially smashing the secular state in order to shape a completely new situation regarding energy supplies to Europe).
This narrow egotism characterizes just about every player. This is an obstacle to any attempts at finding a common approach to solving the global problems Lyndon LaRouche was talking about. After all, it's difficult to believe that such diverse players in international affairs as China, Europe, and the USA could be brought together around a single program. Yet the need for such a single program is absolutely clear and is hanging over the head of mankind.
Because of this, we can say with absolute certainty that the rise of this geopolitical thinking impedes the possibility of finding a common program. If we look at the countries involved, we can see that, in order to find a common position, the United States will need to give up its orientation toward maintaining de facto hegemony in both the military-political and the economic domains. All the countries in question will need to reconsider those positions and principles which are based on national egotism, in their relations with their neighbors. And what LaRouche mentioned is extremely important: to reject the now dominant theories of monetarism and liberalism in international economic relations.
Is it possible to bring about the rejection of these things? It seems to me that this will be difficult to achieve.
Effects of the 'Asia Pivot'
Look again at the situation in the Asia-Pacific region. The United States has announced the Asia pivot, that they are shifting the center of gravity to the Asia-Pacific region. What does this mean for Beijing and the Chinese comrades? It means that they are beginning to sense that the United States, slowly but surely, is creating a system of restraints and counterweights, which in effect is a system for the military-political and military-strategic isolation of China.
China views this situation from the standpoint of the fact that the United States may, at any moment, cause a cut-off of hydrocarbon fuel and energy supplies to China, thus strangling the Chinese economy and creating socially unacceptable conditions for the existence of the Chinese people. From this standpoint, Beijing naturally has to look for a way out of this situation—some kind of guarantees. They need to look for a way to break out of the harsh system being constructed at the present time. This is the motivation for China's seeking involvement in major economic projects in Central Asia, in countries like Kazakstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, and the bid by the People's Republic of China to achieve an abrupt spurt in relations with the Russian Federation.
It was no accident that the new Chinese leader Xi Jinping made the Russian Federation the destination for his first foreign trip. A number of fairly important agreements were concluded. Even more important is what was discussed behind closed doors, and what Xi and Putin would have agreed upon. Naturally those talks would have revolved around how successfully to defend their interests, as much as possible, in the face of American and European pressures.
Thus, what we see coming together, perhaps gradually, is new blocs. Without question, the creation of this new geopolitical system is driven by the inflection points in the economic and financial crisis, and much will depend on what happens with the culmination of the second wave of that economic and financial crisis. Very unpredictable scenarios and alliances are entirely possible. But it is absolutely clear that if each of the players fails to overcome its national egotism, then the natural process by which international relations, and these new blocs, become chaotic, may quite easily not only place the world on the brink, but actually plunge us into military-political clashes, perhaps starting at the regional level, and moving to a mega-regional level.
Move Toward Strategic Cooperation
In this setting, I believe that our conference has a very important role to play, and that, to a significant degree, it can demonstrate to the leaders of the major geostrategic centers, that it is necessary to move in a completely different direction: not toward construction of this new bloc scheme, but rather toward strategic cooperation projects, for which each country could contribute the financial, human, and cultural-ideological resources it possesses.
It seems to me that this kind of an approach, this kind of new political thinking—I don't like to use that term because of its association with Gorbachov, and we know how Gorbachov's experiment ended up in Soviet Russia, but, nonetheless, the need persists precisely for this—is something which Putin does have a certain sense of, and he is attempting to find points of tangency with Europe, with the United States, and, above all, with the People's Republic of China.
I view Putin's, and Russia's, relations with the European Union with a fair degree of skepticism, especially after the situation that developed in Cyprus, when Germany in effect stabbed Putin in the back. I think that he will not forget this, in shaping his approach to Chancellor Merkel, although outwardly he will maintain his diplomatic smile. But life has demonstrated that Russia's approach to relations with Germany will not be what it might have been, had a more civilized approach been taken.
As for relations between the United States and Russia, it is also difficult to discern great positive prospects. The proposal Washington is now making for radical nuclear strategic and tactical force reductions are essentially unacceptable for the Russian Federation, insofar as they affect the very foundations of our security. After the Soviet military machine was shrunk and effectively broken, our nuclear missile forces are left as the clearest guarantor of the inviolability of Russia's borders. Therefore, while the situation with Washington will of course go forward in the form of diplomatic contacts and smiles, at the same time both sides will be preparing for the worst-case scenario.
In that context, the proposals Lyndon LaRouche was talking about could break this ice, if each of the participants were to adopt an absolutely and fundamentally new approach to the most important aspects of their statecraft. In this sense, I repeat that this means giving up American hegemonism, and, for regional powers, giving up their national egotism. And it means a new approach to how the world economy is organized.
Translated from Russian by Rachel Douglas

Monday, April 29, 2013

North Korea Is Ruthless and Desperate, But Not Crazy

The East-West Wire is a news, commentary, and analysis service provided by the East-West Center in Honolulu. Any part or all of the Wire content may be used by media with attribution to the East-West Center or the person quoted. To receive Wire articles via email, subscribe here.

North Korea Is Ruthless and Desperate,
But Not Crazy

By Denny Roy, Senior Fellow, East-West Center

Note: This commentary originally appeared in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on April 28, 2013.

North Korea seems to be crazy, threatening to use recently acquired nuclear weapons against South Korea and the USA. But the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, the official name of North Korea) government and its young leader Kim Jong-un are not crazy. Rather, the regime is ruthless and desperate.

Every country has its own peculiar balance between the strength of the state and the strength of society. In the DPRK, that balance is immensely lopsided in favor of the state, to a degree rarely, if ever, seen in human history. It is a true totalitarian state in which the government controls nearly every aspect of life.

The regime is accountable to no one, either domestically or internationally. Thus in North Korea we see authoritarianism in its rawest form. This empowers the regime to harness the entire country to the goal of regime survival, pursuing unhindered whatever policies the leaders believe will support that goal. These include tolerating mass starvation, harshly punishing minor acts that suggest disloyalty to the regime, consigning up to 200,000 North Koreans to prison labor camps, and risking the population’s lives through brinksmanship with Seoul and Washington.

The regime is also desperate, for two reasons. First, it is trapped in a failing political-economic system. While other formerly “communist” countries have moved away from excessive centrally planned and state-owned economies toward unleashing market forces and embracing globalism, the DPRK government is afraid to join the modern world through liberalization. Engaging with the world economy and allowing North Korean society greater access to wealth and information would quickly expose the facts that the DPRK government has badly mismanaged the economy for decades, that the Republic of Korea (ROK, or South Korea) has won the inter-Korean competition by a blowout, and that most of its propaganda claims are nearly the opposite of reality.

The second reason for Pyongyang’s desperation is insecurity. The DPRK government fears “absorption” by more populous, wealthier South Korea, and attack by the United States. North Korea has a numerically large army, but poor equipment and training compared to South Korean and U.S. forces. Americans see themselves reacting to DRRK aggressiveness, but for North Koreans it is the opposite. They apparently believe they need nuclear weapons to compensate for the vulnerability opened by their weak economy and backward conventional forces.

With little leverage to extract economic handouts and political concessions from its adversaries, Pyongyang has learned to rely on extortion: raising tensions on the Peninsula until the adversaries cave in and pay up. The DPRK government does not want actual war, which would inevitably end in its demise. The goal is regime survival, not suicide.

U.S. policy must dissuade Pyongyang from expecting any benefit from bellicose behavior.

Seoul and Washington have declared that future lethal DPRK provocations will bring military retaliation, not economic rewards. They should stick to this principle because such provocations could lead to unintended war and therefore must stop.

Furthermore, U.S. policy should impose a cost on Pyongyang for its nuclear weapons program. Trade sanctions have not worked, but other methods are more promising. One is to cut off the access of North Korean banks to the international financial system, which the United States has the power to do. A second is to openly discuss the possibility of the ROK getting its own nuclear weapons to counter the DPRK’s.

At the same time, Seoul and Washington should continually reiterate that a commitment to de-nuclearize will clear the path to North Korea getting improved political and economic relations with the regional democracies, reducing the DPRK’s dependence on China. This is an alternative and much preferable way out of Pyongyang’s predicament.

Denny Roy is a Senior Fellow at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, specializing in Northeast Asia security issues.

LESSONS FROM BOSTON BOMBINGS: Need for Strategic Creativity in Counter-Terrorism

RSIS presents the following commentary LESSONS FROM BOSTON BOMBINGS: Need for Strategic Creativity in Counter-Terrorism
Kumar Ramakrishna. It is also available online at this link. (To print it, click on this link.). Kindly forward any comments or feedback to the Editor RSIS Commentaries, at

No. 079/2013 dated 29 April 2013
Need for Strategic Creativity in Counter-Terrorism
 By Kumar Ramakrishna       

The recent attacks in Boston offer operational and strategic lessons. Operationally, there is need for better national and international information sharing and understanding of early warning indicators of radicalization. Strategically, the focus of policy responses should be on stronger families, effective self-monitoring of diasporic communities from conflict zones, and the rise of Al Qaedaism.
As the dust settles following the twin bombings of the iconic Boston Marathon two weeks ago in which three people were killed and more than 200 severely injured, it may be apposite to take stock of two operational and three strategic lessons from a homeland security perspective.
Two Operational Lessons

A first operational lesson is that anti-terrorist “hardening” measures, while important, are not enough. In the United States, following 9/11, hardening measures included the setting up of the Department of Homeland Security, tough anti-terrorism legislation such as the Patriot Act, and heavy investment in technical solutions such as CCTV (closed-circuit television) networks in major cities equipped with facial recognition technology. In the end, information sharing between security agencies nationally and internationally was the weak link.

In the Boston case the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) contacted the FBI twice in 2011 to convey concerns about the slain bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, but was informed that the US counterpart had no information about Tamerlan’s links with foreign extremist groups. It turns out that FSB communications with the CIA also elicited minimal response. US agencies apparently held that Chechen terrorism was directed at Moscow rather than Washington.

Had there had been closer scrutiny by the US agencies on Tamerlan and his younger brother Dzhokhar, routine surveillance may potentially have detected weak signals of impending militancy. Hardening measures are thus not enough. These need to be complemented with strong, reliable – and responsive - information sharing between agencies within and across borders.

To be fair to the US agencies, however, their relative lack of responsiveness to the FSB’s concerns is understandable. After all, a second operational lesson of the Boston incident is that greater awareness of the behavioral indicators of radicalization turning into violent extremism is sorely needed. Research in this area is currently rather sparse, relative to work on terrorist de-radicalization for instance. Part of the reason may well be concern over over-reaction: just because an individual consumes extremist materials does not mean he is radicalising. However, the context of such intellectual consumption is important: in this sense the case of Tamerlan is nothing really new at all.

Tamerlan was a driven 26-year old who in fact became a regional boxing champion in the US. He, like many violent Islamists before him, was not religious at all, but was gripped with profound alienation from his new US homeland even a decade after arriving from Russia. He admitted that he had not a single American friend because he did not understand them. Against this backdrop Tamerlan apparently had his religious-ideological beliefs constructed by a mysterious Armenian convert to Islam called Misha, with whom he spent hours discussing religion and global affairs. It was Misha who evidently introduced Tamerlan to extremist websites that painted the Americans as the enemies of Chechens and Muslims everywhere, and deserved to be targeted as well.

Tamerlan’s behavioral changes arising from his relationship with Misha, and not just his known six-month visit in 2011 to his hometown mosque in violence-afflicted Dagestan was striking and should have been better flagged. He gave up boxing as a haram sport; became not only more obviously religious, but even judgmental toward others around him that he felt to be not religious enough; and overtly critical of US foreign policy: all by now classic behavioral symptoms of the gradual transition to violent extremism.

Three Strategic Lessons
First, the case of 19-year old Dzhokhar’s very close relationship with his older sibling Tamerlan is instructive, in the context of his parents’ split and geographical separation from his father. We now know that many terrorists come from families which are too large, or broken, or in which the father figure is absent, or if present emotionally distant. Hence younger siblings, for all their apparent intellectual prowess – Dzhokhar is an accomplished student and seemingly relatively less socially alienated than his brother – nonetheless grow up emotionally dependent on available older siblings who are willy-nilly transformed into surrogate role models.

Likewise the late Bali bomber Amrozi Nurhasyim, who came from a very large East Javanese family, was ill adjusted emotionally and dependent for guidance on his revered elder brother Mukhlas. Strong economically stable families with emotionally available fathers are hence an important goal of not just social policy, but arguably national security policy as well.

A second lesson is the background factor of diasporic conflict countercultures. That the Tsarnaev brothers were ethnic Chechens is a point of great significance. Chechnya has been involved in a brutal insurgency with the Russian government for more than two decades, and the brothers would have grown up in a relatively radicalized counterculture in which out-group prejudices and distrust would have been deeply ingrained. Such countercultural baggage is not necessarily left behind when these communities relocate overseas.

Thus Tamerlan especially and to a lesser extent Dhokhar carried around in their psyches the very ingredients readily available for construction of a violent extremist mindset. The fact that the brothers learned how to make their pressure cooker explosives from the Al Qaeda online English magazine Inspire, together with Dzhokhar’s admission that the American interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan had been motivations for their actions, plus the choice of civilian bystanders as targets, is hugely significant. It suggests that they were in fact Global Jihadists moulded more by the Al Qaeda worldview in which there are no innocent Western civilians than any residual ethnic Chechen narrative.

Policy-wise what is needed is not a witch-hunt on all diasporic communities from global conflict zones. Rather such communities themselves should perhaps set up effective self-monitoring mechanisms to detect early warning signals of impending militancy - especially amongst young males from destabilised homes.

Finally, the Boston bombings affirm what Thomas Friedman called the democratisation of finance, technology and information facilitated by the Internet. Literally anyone can go online and download bomb-making instructions with readily available materials, as the Tsarnaev brothers did. Technological trends such as increased Internet access via cheap smartphones, are converging with global ideological shifts toward emphasis on grassroots-driven small-cell or lone-wolf terrorism.

The days of the Al Qaeda organisation are now in the past. Al Qaedaism – in which the enemy is now a highly contagious and rapidly self-propagating viral meme jumping from one vulnerable mind to another – is the new enemy. Now more than ever, strategic creativity in counter-terrorism is needed.


Kumar Ramakrishna is Associate Professor and Head of the Centre of Excellence for National Security at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Obama agency rules Pepsi's use of aborted fetal cells in soft drinks constitutes 'ordinary business operations'

 Obama agency rules Pepsi's use of aborted fetal cells in soft drinks constitutes 'ordinary business operations'

Saturday, March 17, 2012 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer

(NaturalNews) The Obama Administration has given its blessing to PepsiCo to continue utilizing the services of a company that produces flavor chemicals for the beverage giant using aborted human fetal tissue. LifeSiteNews.com reports that the Obama Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) has decided that PepsiCo's arrangement with San Diego, Cal.-based Senomyx, which produces flavor enhancing chemicals for Pepsi using human embryonic kidney tissue, simply constitutes "ordinary business operations."

The issue began in 2011 when the non-profit group Children of God for Life (CGL) first broke the news about Pepsi's alliance with Senomyx, which led to massive outcry and a worldwide boycott of Pepsi products. At that time, it was revealed that Pepsi had many other options at its disposal to produce flavor chemicals, which is what its competitors do, but had instead chosen to continue using aborted fetal cells -- or as Senomyx deceptively puts it, "isolated human taste receptors" (http://www.naturalnews.com).

A few months later, Pepsi' shareholders filed a resolution petitioning the company to "adopt a corporate policy that recognizes human rights and employs ethical standards which do not involve using the remains of aborted human beings in both private and collaborative research and development agreements." But the Obama Administration shut down this 36-page proposal, deciding instead that Pepsi's used of aborted babies to flavor its beverage products is just business as usual, and not a significant concern.

"We're not talking about what kind of pencils PepsiCo wants to use -- we are talking about exploiting the remains of an aborted child for profit," said Debi Vinnedge, Executive Director of CGL, concerning the SEC decision. "Using human embryonic kidney (HEK-293) to produce flavor enhancers for their beverages is a far cry from routine operations!"

To be clear, the aborted fetal tissue used to make Pepsi's flavor chemicals does not end up in the final product sold to customers, according to reports -- it is used, instead, to evaluate how actual human taste receptors respond to these chemical flavorings. But the fact that Pepsi uses them at all when viable, non-human alternatives are available illustrates the company's blatant disregard for ethical and moral concerns in the matter.

Back in January, Oklahoma Senator Ralph Shortey proposed legislation to ban the production of aborted fetal cell-derived flavor chemicals in his home state. If passed, S.B. 1418 would also reportedly ban the sale of any products that contain flavor chemicals derived from human fetal tissue, which includes Pepsi products as well as products produced by Kraft and Nestle (http://www.naturalnews.com).

Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/035276_Pepsi_fetal_cells_business_operations.html#ixzz2RorkXAAw

Saturday, April 27, 2013

THE ENEMY WITHIN boston bombing aftermath

eastwind journals 62
This article reflects the personal views of the author and not of the ministry.
THE ENEMY WITHIN boston bombing aftermath
By Bernie Lopez

After the Boston Bombing Affair, there is a need to do some deep reflection on what is really happening to our world today, and on the real causes of terrorism. Reflex reactions are not helping any. Catching culprits is half a solution.
The Boston bombing caused widespread fear, panic, and anger among Americans nationwide. There was a frenzy in the media and Internet. When the effect of a bombing on an entire nation can match the effect of the bomb itself, fear itself becomes the enemy. And when terrorists evolve from foreigners to American residents, the enemy is now within.

The American homeland security system has evolved by leaps and bounds since 9/11, growing tighter and tighter, until it has now become a form of terror in itself, a victory for the terrorists.


When the homeland security system starts to impose x-rays that could see through passengers, this is the enemy within. When they believe they have the right to look into personal emails and cellphone calls of every American to hunt suspected terrorists, when security attacks privacy without the consent of citizens, this is the enemy within.

The day after 9/11, every suitcase at every airport had to be opened and checked. At Kennedy Airport, when flights were finally restored, the line was three kilometers long. When the life of every American is disrupted, when he acquires negative feelings of bias, hatred, panic, and a neurotic fear and suspicion that every incident is a terrorist plot, that around the corner, a terrorist lurks, this is the enemy within.

Let us view the vicious circle. Step 1 is a devastating terrorist act. Step 2 is an over-reaction, a panic alert, a tighter security system, a long term effort to catch culprits, which is good, but it does not solve the problem. For example, the assassination of Bin Laden was less of a triumph over terrorism but more of an invitation to terrorism. Step 3 is a lull and a easing of tension. Step 4 is a new terrorist act when everyone is asleep months or years after. Step 5 is another over-reaction, an even tighter security system.
The problem is, in this vicious circle, the terrorist always has the initiative. No matter how sophisticated a security system is, it just sits there waiting for the enemy to move. Security becomes essentially reactive. The terrorist can wait forever, strike anywhere using new creative approaches and technologies away from new high-tech security measures. When security grows tighter, it then becomes part of the terror itself.

The Ultimate Causes of Terrorism
If you take a helicopter view, the ultimate causes of terrorism may have been American acts committed many years ago many miles away. The first step is for Americans to see the connection. There is a history and a geopolitical factor in every terrorist act.

An American drone kills five terrorists and 25 innocent civilians. Sure, they get their target but the collateral damage becomes the enemy. This catalyzes terrorism not immediately but in the long term. It exists in the heart not only of the survivors and the relatives of the victims but also of the entire nation. The US drones today are in fact ‘radicalizing’ (an anti-terrorism word) not only the entire Middle East, but loyalists within America. Vengeance is then executed somewhere in an obscure American city after 5 years. An eye for an eye. Innocent civilians for innocent civilians. The Allies bombed Berlin because the Germans bombed London. Beyond other motives, Hiroshima was a subconscious response to Pearl Harbor.

Few see the connection of ultimate causes, and even if they do, the terror itself blinds them into fear and anger. Was 9/11 triggered by the existence of American military presence in the heart of Islam (Dar Ul Islam) which started two decades ago? Many Americans do not see the connection. One must think beyond the terror act and catching the culprits, and have a sense of history. The Guantanamo tortures, the alliance with nuclear Israel, the clandestine surveillance by stealth aircraft in Iran, the stealth-sub probes along the China coastline, all affect not only terrorism, but future wars. They are ‘pre-terrorism acts’.

At the heart of terrorism is American militarism. The Americans will risk a nuclear confrontation when the enemy is at their door step, as in the Cuban crisis, the Kennedy-Kruschev confrontasi. Yet they are doing the same abroad today, military bases in the Middle East, invasions on the pretext of WMDs, encirclement of Russia and China. There is no choice but to have a radical reaction, as Americans had in Cuba. American militarism is inviting conflict and terror, triggering consequent global arms escalation, which will someday usher in World War III.

The Solution to Terrorism

There are no hard and fast rules, but if the causes to terrorism span decades and involve events across the entire planet, mainly American militarism, the first step towards a solution is awareness of ultimate causes, which should dispel bias, hatred, and vengeance. The second step is stopping the vicious circle. It may involve American initiative and goodwill, hopefully triggering a positive response from enemies of America. Both Americans and Arabs have to somehow replace an-eye-for-an-eye with goodwill-for-goodwill. But this is so hard to do if you are bleeding, or full of anger and hatred from the memory of a carnage a decade ago. The history of wars through the millennia proves this human dilemma. eastwindreplyctr@gmail.com

Ministry Inspirationals


In the old days, I would take a fast refreshing jeepney ride in the evening from Governor Forbes along Dapitan to Quiapo for ten centavos, arrive at Ma Mon Luk in five minutes, and buy a huge tasty siopao for a peso. Life was simpler and there was always time.

Today, I would take the same ride in the evening for seven pesos, breathe a lot of carbon monoxide before I arrive in 30 minutes, if I was lucky, and buy siopao half the size, with more starch than meat at quadruple the price. It is an economic principle – life degrades fast as population grows fast.

In the 60s, with a P300 salary, one could hang out with friends for beer three times a week and have extra money for mundane purchases. Today, a salary of P20,000 is too small for basic necessities. Life has become expensive and complex.

We are also victims of chemically mass-produced food. In the old days, cancer was rare. Today, it kills more per day than in World War II. Expensive ‘effective’ medicine are discontinued after being discovered to be cancer-causing ten years after they are released in the market.

We are all victims of a fast-shrinkng world. Time is getting cramped. We are so busy yet so bored. Half of our lives is spent on endless traffic and queues. We may not know it, but we are going into an uncontrollable tailspin.

There is so much to do and we have no time, yet we really have done nothing meaningful or substantial. We work twice as hard for half the money. We wallow in ever-increasing tasks that make us cold unthinking robots. Globalization and Internet have changed our lives. Just getting the news from the newspaper or from television, we realize how much conflict and chaos are percolating everywhere.

In the old days, one could quietly sneak into a church and say a prayer. Today, there is no or little time for prayer.

So how do we cope with chaos in our lives? We need to step back from the rush and the crowds. Here are some unsolicited prescriptions –

start feeling and stop thinking;
create an inner garden where you can take a retreat from the world and be by yourself, where time is not important, where you can rest from making money that buys less and less, where you can stop worrying; where you can enjoy simple beautiful things like sunsets or music or your grandson;
be more spiritual and less material, find time to pray; the Lord will help you;
be simple, stick to the basics in terms of material needs; cheaper shoes, cellphones, five shirts is enough, some have 4 dozens, more than half unused;
be frugal, eat less, more vegetables and fruits than meat, do not over-eat, don’t overspend, live within your means, tear your credit cards;
remove yourself from all communication devices when you are in your inner garden; it takes time for waves to die down in a swimming pool after the last swimmer has gone; achieve the wave-less mirror-like pool in your mind; give it time, it is not instant; it is hard to forget problems even for a while;
find meaning somehow and avoid absurdity or irrelevance;
love and relate to people; make them a source of joy to cater to, talk to, dialogue with, share with; make your day by giving to someone;
be gentle to yourself and to others; get angry less, be more patient, anger clogs your aortic valves; gentleness unclogs them; laugh at the obnoxious and arrogant, don’t let them give you ulcers, or should I say, don’t give yourself ulcers because of them; who are they to make your life miserable;
be humble when people insult or castigate you, whether you are to blame or not; you will find that it feels good and refreshing in the end to be humble; when arrogance becomes a habit, it is a disease, it can even cause cancer.
In all there are just a few magic words –
the three S’s – simplicity, sharing, sensitivity.
This is how to cope with
the ever-increasing chaos the world offers you.

fight the chaos from without
with the harmony from within


Boston Marathon Bombings Elicit Mixed Reactions from Asian Powers

Rising Powers Initiative- Sigur Center for Asian Studies
Policy Alert #50- April 25, 2013
Boston Marathon Bombings Elicit Mixed Reactions from Asian Powers
In this Policy Alert, we examine the contrasting reactions of Russia, China and India to last week's bomb attacks on the Boston Marathon. Commentaries from these Asian powers reflect the differences in their attitudes on how to define and respond to problems of terrorism.
Editorials expressed mixed views on how the Boston bombings may impact US-Russia security relations while also using the incident to criticize US actions and policies against terrorism.
President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed their commitment to strengthen US- Russia security coordination in a recent telephone conversation. However, others expressed skepticism:
  • Though Russia's Federal Security Service and the FBI have promised to focus on "all aspects of the challenge," intelligence sharing efforts are "hampered by mistrust, bureaucracy, and self-interest," said Russian intelligence expert Andrei Soldatov.
  • Duma Deputy Speaker and Liberal Democratic Party member Vlidimir Zhirinovsky predicted that the U.S. faces a grim future of repeated attacks. "There is a clash of civilizations. The United States bombs the Islamic world, and what can they do in return? As long as Islamic countries are being bombed, attacks will occur in London and New York."
Several editorials criticized the U.S. for holding double standards regarding terrorism:
  • The Nezavisimaya Gazeta observed that "Western countries and their partners in the Near East support some terrorists as much as they can, while trying to expose, bring to account, and sentence others to the longest possible sentences, and in some cases, even to use the death penalty against them... Until we stop dividing extremists and terrorists into friends and foes, the war against this evil will be reminiscent of tilting at windmills."
  • "Anyone that the US backs in their war, in the US agenda, they are considered freedom fighters. Anyone who is against the US is seen as terrorists, or fundamentalists," added the Russia Times.
  • "Hopefully, Russia's own war on terror...may now get at least more understanding, less bias and prejudice in the US and the West as a whole," wrote journalist Sergei Strokan.
Besides expressing condolences to the victims and condemning the perpetrators of the bombing, Chinese commentary drew attention to differences between China and the US in defining terrorism, particularly with regard to groups in Xinjiang. Similar to the Russian view on this, the Chinese criticized the US for its double standards
In the Chinese view, the bombing also underscored a similarity between China and the US: the need to maintain domestic stability:
  • "Public security is the basis for social harmony," argued the Global Times. "Expenditure on domestic social stability is something that both the US and China share." However, greater public awareness and vigilance are necessary to fight terrorism: "While the [Chinese] government is implementing all kinds of identification and tracking systems, the public almost invariably links them to effects on democracy and freedom, and few think about social security issues."
There was also criticism that "respect for life in the media appears to have different grades," given the disproportionate media coverage of the Boston bombings while other acts of terrorism were also occurring around the world. An editorial in the People's Daily specifically pointed to recent bombings in Somalia, Iraq and Pakistan as examples.
In contrast to the Russian and Chinese criticism of double standards, the Indian press focused mostly on India's own problems with terrorism and praised America's official and civilian response to the bombings as a model for India to emulate.
Editorials in papers from across the political spectrum lamented the way that Indian government and society have dealt with terrorism.
  • Even more important than the efficiency of response, however, is the level of "civic trust" across sectors in society, argued The Business Standard. The editorial commended US law enforcement for withholding any speculation of the attackers' identity and motives, and praised the co-operation between the citizenry and police.
Critics of the US at this moment were rare, with exceptions such as Kamal Mitra Chenoy of Jawaharlal Nehru University, whose op-ed in The Pioneer said "the inevitable happened" because since 9/11, "the
number of countries and people now hating America could fill up a medium-sized continent."              

On the international implications of the bombings, The Hindu called for called for US-Russia cooperation in the next stage of investigation. "Among the many lessons from Boston is that international co-operation on fighting terror needs to be taken more seriously, irrespective of the nature of relations between two countries."