WPR Articles 11 Jun 2011 - 17 Jun 2011
This week marks the first anniversary of the seemingly spontaneous ethnic violence that drew the world's attention to Kyrgyzstan for several weeks last June and ultimately left more than 400 dead. A year after the fighting between Kyrgyzs and Uzbeks first broke out in the city of Osh, Kyrgyzstan is nowhere near achieving reconciliation between the two groups; rather, it is in the eye of the storm.
Although the United States has been using private contractors in one way or another since the founding of the country, it is the experience of the past decade that has focused attention on private military and security contractors (PMSCs) to unprecedented levels. As a result of their use in Iraq and Afghanistan, we now have a rich source of information on contractors that allows us to draw some tentative conclusions as to their impact and proper role.
Last Sunday's polls in Turkey gave incumbent Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan a widely expected victory. A closer look at the results shows that all the major parties actually managed to increase the number of votes they received, suggesting that many Turkish electors opted for a "strategic vote," abandoning smaller political groups. However, the various parties must draw different conclusions from the vote.
Saudi Arabia's recent announcement that it plans to build 16 large reactors by 2030 may have seemed incongruous in the wake of the Fukushima crisis. In fact, it actually buttresses the Middle East's current trajectory as a major future market for nuclear energy. Moreover, given the sheer size of the plan, Riyadh is in a position to set terms and use the project to enhance new partnerships while balancing old ones.
A constant Democratic refrain during the administration of former President George W. Bush was that, in contrast to "unilateralist" Republicans with their cosmetic "coalitions of the willing," Democrats were more skilled at constructing durable international partnerships that would lead to true burden-sharing. More than halfway through President Barack Obama's first term, these promises haven't quite panned out.
The Western press is rife with alarmist stories about China's growing conservatism, with the fear being that Beijing will revert to its communist-era politics of open antagonism with the West. But the instinctive retreat of China's political system into "redness" has little to do with the outside world. Rather it reflects the yawning chasm between a party of privileged "princelings" and the increasingly stressed-out masses.
Things are not looking good for Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. The man who built arguably the most stable and authoritarian administration in the former Soviet Union is now struggling to maintain control. Throughout May, Belarus teetered on the brink of economic collapse, and Lukashenko was rumored to be plotting to flee the country. Now his once-unshakeable government looks increasingly vulnerable.
On June 10, Robert Gates ended his last major policy speech in Europe as defense secretary with his most public rebuke ever regarding Europeans' failure to devote adequate spending to defense. Gates complained that NATO had finally become what he had long feared: a "two-tiered alliance" divided between a few allies with "hard" combat capabilities on one hand and the overwhelming majority of members on the other.
In an extraordinary development, Iran deployed submarines to the Red Sea last week, prompting fears that the Islamic Republic is engaging in another brazen show of strength. Reports suggest the ostensible purpose of the submarines' mission is to collect data in international waters and carry out surveillance against suspicious activity. But there might be more to the deployment than meets the eye.
The meeting last week between China's ambassador to Qatar and the head of Libya's opposition movement signaled a new phase in China's engagement with Libya's future. The move is a further step away from China's traditional insistence on noninterference, with Beijing now testing out new approaches to conflict mediation while also looking to secure its own interests, whatever the outcome in Libya.
The first private military contractors (PMCs) emerged in the decade after the Cold War. The advent of the global war on terrorism, and particularly the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, marked another milestone in the growing use of PMCs since the Cold War. However, parallel efforts to regulate the use of PMCs have been uneven, with some advances but also many regressions and transgressions.
It has been nearly two decades since the international community first focused significant attention on the private military firm (PMF) as an important actor in conflict. In that time, there has been considerable churn in the PMF world. How then have the players and the market evolved during the past two decades and what might the future hold for the private military firm?
The Obama administration appears to be in the throes of yet another debate about the long-term U.S. commitment to Afghanistan. Inside the administration, officials are weighing not only the material costs of remaining in Afghanistan, but also the political and bureaucratic implications of continuing the war. Undoubtedly, some are asking the question, "What would a withdrawal from Afghanistan say about the U.S.?"
Since taking office in June 2010, Philippine President Benigno Aquino has pushed through initiatives aimed at improving the professionalism of the Philippines' military. The drive remains restricted to certain aspects of civil-military relations, and as such is bound to have only limited impact. But the president's actions have established an overall political climate that seems, for now, more inclined toward reform.
When Lebanon's new prime minister announced he had finally formed a new cabinet after five months of negotiations, the Lebanese people seemed startled by the abruptness of the news. The announcement by Prime Minister Najib Mikati heralded a new era for Lebanon: For the first time, the militant Shiite group Hezbollah will hold the majority of ministries in the Lebanese cabinet.
After almost two years of intensive lobbying by New Delhi, the Nuclear Suppliers Group -- the global watchdog of the sensitive nuclear trade -- is finally considering India for membership. The major member states, including the U.S., Germany, France and Britain, have all indicated their support for India's candidacy. India's quest for NSG membership raises serious questions for the nuclear nonproliferation regime, however.
Chile and Brazil have both been in the news in recent weeks due to massive and controversial hydroelectric projects that have provoked heated debates and large-scale protests. Both countries are struggling with the delicate issue of how to balance the need for increased energy supplies with important environmental concerns in cherished parts of each country -- the Amazon in Brazil and Patagonia in Chile.
India's announcement this week that it would be withdrawing its four remaining attack helicopters from the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo highlighted a long-simmering problem: The U.N. is desperate for more military helicopters. But there are several straightforward changes that the U.N. can make that would make contributing the needed helicopters more attractive to donor nations.