Archive for April, 2014

Bringing together China and America

By Jonathan Power

Beijing, April 8th 2014

The widespread perception that China is or will become soon an aggressive, expansionist power is simply wrong. It is propaganda, rather than fact, a kind of right-wing agitprop.

Far from being an aggressive power, China is a defensive one, and has long been so. It is the one who has been attacked and invaded – by Britain, France, the US and Japan. These days China is too integrated into the world economy and too much in hock to its massive savings invested in the bonds of America and Europe to be anything but defensive.

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an urge to bring Taiwan into the mainland’s fold or that it will not protect itself against territorial losses – including Tibet, Xinjiang and a number of islands in the South China and East China seas. Some Western politicos may quarrel with China about this (apart from Xinjiang), but China has a case for each. (But on the sea issue it should go along with the Philippines’ request for arbitration by the judges of the court established by the Law of the Sea Treaty.)

China feels that the large deployment of the US navy close its waters plus the Obama Administration’s “tilt” towards Asia, plus the US’s defence relationships with China’s neighbours are a challenge to its security and sovereignty. It rightly feels encircled. Read the rest of this entry »

Joelle Rizk’s CV

Joëlle Rizk became a TFF Associate in December 2009, served as TFF Board member 2010-February 2014 and is now again TFF Associate.

Joëlle Rizk comes from Lebanon. She holds a B.A. in International Affairs and Diplomacy and an M.A. in Peace and Conflict Studies.

Joëlle has worked with civil society in Lebanon on governance, peace building, reintegration, and development. She has worked on transnational security with Isticharia for Strategic Studies in Lebanon and the Middle East as a program analyst, and with the United Nations Development Program in Afghanistan as an International Consultant.

Joëlle is co-author of The Battle for Khorasan (2010), a book studying the conflict in Afghanistan and the rise of Islamic militancy in relation to geostrategic interests in the region.

From 2011 to 2013, she worked as Program Associate of the EastWest Institute Regional Security Program, where she managed the Abu Dhabi Process in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the Amu Darya Basin Network in Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Joëlle Rizk became a TFF Associate in December 2009 and served the TFF Board from 2010 till 2014. Joëlle consults with the award winning REVOLVE Magazine on Natural Resources Development, and with Brehon Advisory on the Middle East and Central Asia.

She currently works as Delegate of the International Committee of Red Cross.

Phone +961-76-905050 & +93-773-747873


Blog: Linkedin

Updated May 2014

The New World Order?

By Richard Falk

There is no more reliable guardian of entrenched conventional wisdom than The Economist. And so when its cover proclaims ‘the new world order,’ and removes any ambiguity from its intentions, by its portrayal of Putin as a shirtless tank commander with menacing features.

No such iconography accompanied the last notable invocation of the phrase ‘new world order’ by George H. W. Bush in mobilizing support for a forcible response to the Iraqi invasion and annexation of Kuwait in 1990, the dirty work of Saddam Hussein. Read the rest of this entry »

America – a failed state?

By Johan Galtung

Depends, of course, on the criteria. A state has an inside towards its citizens, and an outside toward the state system. Depends on domestic and foreign policy, in other words. That means it can fail in two ways, by not catering to its citizens and by not coming to terms with other states. Actually the two are closely related as often pointed out: a regime (running the state) may compensate for failure at home by victories abroad. And, conversely, compensate for failures abroad by taking good care of its citizens. And, success at home used to mobilize grateful citizens for patriotic wars abroad.

America, or the USA rather, at present does not take good care of its citizens. A recent study cited in Nation of Change, More Evidence That Half of America Is in or Near Poverty, 24 March 2014, by Paul Buchheit: The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that an average family of three needs $48,000 to meet basic needs, very close to the median family household income of $51,000. Since the 1950s the food costs have doubled, housing costs tripled, medical costs are six times higher, and college tuition eleven times–four key basic needs. Food, housing, health care, child care, transportation and taxes consume very close to the median income–not counting college education–hence, “half of America is in or near poverty”.

And that bottom half of the US population own only 1.1% of the nation’s wealth – the same as the 30 richest Americans – with s=zero wealth for the bottom 47%. Nothing to fall back upon. Safety net measures such as Medicare and Medicaid, food stamps, public housing and soup kitchens help. But many are not able to benefit from them and they are all threatened politically.

Add the risk to security through suicide-homicide-accidents; a major cause being the handguns, easily available. Add the decreasing retirement benefits to many due to the losses through speculation. And black families suffer worst, including income decline.

All of this makes the major source of identity, the American Dream, once accessible to so many from far and nearby, wither away. However, how about the land of the free, the free country? Of freedom of speech there is plenty as long as nobody, except NSA, listens. Of economic freedom to use money to make more money there is also plenty, for those who have money. Result: a muzzled society of inequity.

Then the foreign policy. With close to 250 interventions abroad since Thomas Jefferson, the amount of hatred in search of violent revenge – blowback, “unintended consequences” – must be considerable. “We have never been so safe”, some say today, due to the “war on terrorism” and NSA spying at home and abroad. But revenge can find its new and very creative ways, as it did on 9/11. US foreign policy has put Americans at considerable risk at home and abroad when traveling.

Recently that belligerent foreign policy has also been remarkably unintelligent. Within a decade the USA has managed to deliver Iraq to its shia majority–Iran’s dream come true thanks to Bush Jr–and Libya and soon, probably, Syria to Al Qaeda, a sunni Arab movement–thanks to Obama. And Afghanistan to status quo, thanks to both.

We have been here before. Big Powers treating citizens well, mobilizing them for warfare, first successfully, then sliding downhill losing wars and citizen satisfaction. Names not to general US liking come up: France under Napoléon, Germany under Hitler. A book just came out by a former French prime minister, Leonel Jospin, Le mal napoleonéen, the napoleonic evil. In the beginning he solidified the Revolution with great benefits for people, did much to reconcile the two parts of France; the civil code. Then came an authoritarian and corrupt phase (“Napoléon, Quel Désastre!”, Le Nouvel Observateur, 6 March 2014, p. 91), then the empire, crowning himself in 1804, brilliant battles (see Paris metro stations)–and then Waterloo in 1815. The End.

And after that, a France stumbling from one crisis to the next.

Under Hitler ordinary Germans came to life with jobs, identities and freedoms that families lower down had never enjoyed; easily mobilized, with Kriegsbegeisterung, to restore Germany’s place in the world. Brilliant battles; like Napoléon, he tried to beat, losing in The End.

The three cases share one important factor: neither Hitler, nor Napoléon, nor the USA knew when to stop expanding, but followed the script to the end. Hitler could have stopped in 1940, not attacking Russia; Napoléon in 1807 after his successful battles; the USA in 1945, coming to an understanding with Russia rather than Churchill.

Russia. Russia survived Napoléon and Hitler, occupying both capitals after tremendous losses. Right now, if Putin knows where to stop, Russia will survive the USA too. Occupy Washington? Maybe not.

What that very same Washington could do instead is very obvious but not so easy given the many at the top of the USA who want both more belligerence and more inequity, without brakes and reverse gear.

Stop warfare, organize peace conferences with all parties, also those indeed not to Washington’s liking, understand what they want, search for a new order meeting all legitimate goals–including those of the USA–reasonably well. Open for reconciliation by acknowledging mistakes, open for some compensation. Lift the bottom of US society up, starting with the poorest of the poor; stop speculation–the twin brother of warfare–,reverse basic needs costs by having more people growing their food in cooperatives, public housing. Learn public health from Western Europe; make college inexpensive all over by inviting retired experienced professors to teach. So simple, but running against a stonewall of entrenched ideology. USA as its own worst enemy.

America a failed state? No doubt about it, like Napoléon’s France and Hitler’s Germany. Read the rest of this entry »

China and the US compete at sea

By Jonathan Power

Beijing, April 1st 2014

Both Russia and China feel themselves under threat from the US – and their people are clearly behind their governments on this.

Not without reason. Nato has pushed itself up to Russia’s borders. China feels encircled by US naval deployments armed with nuclear weapons in the East China and South China seas together with the US’s wide network of defence relationships with China’s neighbours. If it came to war the US could incinerate many Chinese cities before China realized it was under attack and could launch its own modest armoury of nuclear missiles.

China may be a capitalist state now but many of its views are still hostage to old time Marxist views which leads many to think that the West seeks to exploit the rest of the world. This leads them to conclude that as China rises the US will feel compelled to resist- ironically a conclusion which many conservative Western analysts share.

The balance of power is beginning to shift in China’s favour. It has been able to redeploy forces, once in the north aimed at Russia, to other parts of China. It is increasing its defence budget rapidly, albeit from a low base. However, it spends only 2% of its national income on defence as against the US’s 4.7% and its spending is only one fifth of America’s. Read the rest of this entry »


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