April 07, 2018

Chinese financial technology companies leading in the world



Chinese financial technology companies leading in the world


APRIL 8, 2018

Having witnessed unprecedented boom in the recent years, China’s internet finance industry currently leads the world when it comes to total number of users and the market size, with the country making some of the world’s largest investments in the sector by adopting financial technology (fintech) faster than anywhere else.

With four of top five companies in the world ranked in terms of market cap, China’s fintech industry is number one internationally and represents the global advanced productivity. A number of fintech companies such as Alibaba’s Ant Financial Service, Lufax, ZhongAn Insurance and JD Internet Finance are covering most aspects of domestic consumption through mobile and internet spending. As capital markets are aggressively pursuing the internet finance industry, Alibaba’s Ant Finance has closed the world’s largest private funding round for an internet company at $4.5 billion.

With the launch of multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Chinese companies are fast moving to Pakistan to capitalize on the huge business opportunities offered by unprecedented development projects being executed in the country in a highly progressive and investment-friendly environment.

Besides Alibaba’s Ant Financial stepping into Pakistan recently, a Chinese fintech company, Webull, is also fast gaining popularity in Pakistan. Webull is providing advanced global financial information service to the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) since September 2017, and that too free of cost.

The company is also registered at US Securities and Exchange Commission and is a member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC).

“The aim of Webull is to be the best financial data and trading service provider for individual investors around the world. By integrating advanced information technology, data technology and financial technology with the internet as its carrier, the users can enjoy a stable, reliable and efficient financial data and trading service,” according to an official associated with the company. “People can not only manage the stock portfolios in Webull but can also complete stock transaction through this app. Free and comprehensive real-time quotes, with millisecond updates, cover the data from more than 90 countries and 106 stocks exchanges in stocks, bonds, funds, foreign currency, commodities, cryptos, derivatives and other trading products.”

Until now, as many as 153 thousand Pakistanis have registered themselves with this app to get real time information about their trading data. Graphical financial data, business analysis, industry contrast and rich tool makes the app user friendly in real meanings.

According to the statistics gathered from the Google Analytics, the 153 thousand Pakistani users of Webull app fall in the age bracket of 25 to 44 years and hail from several cities from across countries including Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Hyderabad, Peshawar and Multan. The highest number of users come from Karachi, followed by Lahore and Islamabad.

According to the available statistics, people spent average seven minutes on the Webull app, and 96.1% of the total visitors were returned customers. Of the total number of visitors, 92.4 percent were male while 7.6 percent female.

“Best App for Global Stock with outstanding features,” posted AfzaalHussainChannar from Karachi on his Facebook page.

“This is the best search for me for Pakistan Stock Exchange scripts,” wrote another app user on the social media website.

Pakistan and China are all-weather strategic cooperative partners. With the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) well underway, growth in digital sectors of both countries is set to strengthen efforts for bilateral economic cooperation and there are broad prospects of collaboration in the field of fintech between Pakistan and China.

Published in Daily Times, April 8th

A lesson from Baloch history


A lesson from Baloch history

Bibi Mahdim Baluch 

6 April 2018


The leader of the Baloch Republican Party (BRP) has issued statements in serious breach of the Baloch nationalist narrative and presented the world at large with an inaccurate understanding of Baloch history.


Balochistan had been a loosely knit tribal confederacy for centuries with major political activity and discussion being centered in and around Kalat or emanating from it. The very word Kalat was synonymous with Balochistan. The Balochistan Parliament with its upper and lower Houses, akin to the British parliamentary system, was located there and as such it acted as a central pivot holding jurisdiction for the Baloch nation. World political figures from Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia attended the Darbar in Kalat as the symbolic heart of the Baloch tribal confederacy.


Officials and agents of foreign governments, including the British Raj, operated their headquarters in Kalat from where they exercised their writ and influence across Balochistan. Major political organisations and parties, including the Anjuman-e-Itehad-e-Baluchan, marking the start of a secular non-tribal nationalist movement, made Kalat its work base precisely because the Balochistan Parliament was situated there and within its walls significant issues of governance affecting the whole of Balochistan were discussed, debated and brought to some form of resolution.


Sardars from all the main tribes in Balochistan at one time or another participated in parliamentary assembly meetings in Kalat and took oaths and pledges to Balochistan. Unfortunately, some of these reneged on their promises for personal gains and sided with the occupiers, seriously damaging the union and consolidation of all Baloch areas. It is for this reason that Mir Yusuf Magsi and his revolutionary Faryad-e-Balochistan movement called for one centralised sovereign Baloch state with a constitution and a representative government. It was in order to prevent rogue sardars from barring the march of progress and emancipation of the common people.


Baloch nationalist activists from the Kalat state and the Anjuman met and created the Kalat State National Party which was a monumental move in the Baloch political history. They gathered on the 5th of February 1937 at a convention in Sibi where they elected Mir Abdul Aziz Kurd as their first president, Malik Faiz Mohammad as their Vice-President and Mir Gul Khan Naseer as General Secretary.


The party’s manifesto issued on April 1, 1937 laid out some fundamental tenets which are just as pertinent today as they were at that time. They included:

– All Baloch should be united by eliminating the differences

– We have a glorious traditional past and we are being deprived of our national rights

– The central government of Balochistan should be a responsible government consisting of elected representatives.

– The central government should adopt a nationalist approach

– The central government must be the custodian of the Baloch traditional heritage.

The term central government is in reference to the Balochistan bicameral parliament in Kalat. They wanted it to become truly representative and work towards the emancipation of the Baloch.


It was in the Kalat Parliament that the major resolution against merger with Pakistan was motioned as it would endanger the separate identity of Balochistan. The Baloch nationalists were functioning within the remit of the Kalat government and wanted to strengthen it on the basis of Baloch nationalism to make it a symbolic rallying point for the full unification and integration of all Baloch lands under one banner, one constitutional parliament and one representative government. This was the urgent call of the day then, as it is now, in order to thwart the occupiers’ attempts to divide and rule Balochistan as they please.


Consequently, Baloch nationalists maintain this unitary stance to this day and denounce Pakistani efforts to change the Baloch historical narrative. If Kalat had not been annexed, there is every possibility that the Baloch parliament might have evolved to a parliamentary democracy despite resistance from some sardars. The occupation of Kalat, the political power centre of Baloch politics, dealt the worst possible blow to the natural course of the Baloch political order.


The BRP right now is holding a position detrimental to the nationalist consensus. It is for this very reason that the statements released by the BRP leader must be categorically rejected.


The Baloch tolerate different opinions amongst their political leadership but not upon historical facts that are imperative to their sovereign status. Any seasoned politician should understand it is of prime importance that issues concerning historical sovereignty are in no way undermined.


It was in the Balochistan Parliament, Kalat, that on December 12th, 1947, Mir Ghouz Bakhsh Bizenjo delivered his famous speech citing the following words now forever etched into the Baloch psyche:


“How can we sign the death warrant of 15 million Baloch… Pakistan’s unpleasant and loathsome desire that our national homeland should merge with it is impossible to concede.”


The Treaties of 1841, 1854, 1863, 1875 and 1876 were signed by the British with Kalat and were of the same format as those they had with Afghanistan and Nepal. These recognised Balochistan as an independent state and granted it protectorate status and though they were unfortunately not honoured, are still of great historical significance to us as determinants of our sovereignty.


All the above crucial insights make it completely correct and vital that the forced annexation of Kalat on 27th of March 1948 is commemorated as the date of the occupation of Balochistan. If the leader of a political party in the West had made statements of such a magnitude as rejecting this pivotal date of occupation, their political integrity would be seriously compromised especially as in some years prior they had fully supported it.


It would be better for the BRP not to adopt a version of Baloch history propagated by Pakistan. It must distance itself from this stance. Its representation of Balochistan at the UN and within international media must be seriously scrutinised as the spreading of this historical viewpoint will only damage the Baloch liberation movement. Pakistan attempts to dilute the Baloch national struggle at every turn and does not need additional help from so-called Baloch nationalists.


If a political party chooses to ignore the will of the majority on such a vital perspective as this now, how will they function and be held accountable after independence? Tens of thousands have been killed for upholding this very Baloch nationalist history, tens of thousands more have been forcibly disappeared for it. This struggle is the Baloch people’s mass uprising against a brutal genocide. The time of any single individual, tribe or entity leading or controlling anything has passed. This is now principally led by the masses originating from a variety of tribes and social backgrounds. We are working towards a free, fair and prosperous Balochistan for all Baloch.


A one-tribe party or organisation sets a negative precedent unrepresentative of the democratic mandate, transparency and accountability, values integral to Baloch mayar. Paying lip service to the democratic mandate is not good enough. We need to see jobs being advertised, interviews being held by credibly qualified persons and policies and procedures documented. Balochistan should have its most able sons and daughters leading her transition to a new civilisational power in the region. This is our destiny and we must claim it now.


Upon Baloch liberation, systems must be put into place to ensure that no one entity can loot resource revenues and allocate them according to personal favours, thereby impoverishing millions. Baloch natural resources are owned in common by the Baloch people and must be distributed equally by elected and accountable representatives clearly showing incomes and expenditures. Hundreds of billions of dollars cannot go unaccounted for ad infinitum.


The Baloch masses wish to establish a true democracy and will not permit a replication of Pakistani dynastic politics in their newly established state. In Pakistan, a sizeable number of people enter politics in order to steal state resources, not to serve the people. This is against all that Balochiat stands for. The Baloch people should be aware that any Baloch organisations that do not function according to democratic principles and processes right now are highly unlikely to do so after independence.




LIBYA: Will the real governor please stand up


Will the real governor please stand up: Understanding local governance structures in Libya

by Floor Janssen

Because the country has three rivalling governments and ongoing armed conflict, international attention in Libya has turned to the support of local governance and security provision. But for those interested in supporting constructive forms of local governance and inclusive security provision, taking into account the distinctiveness of local power arrangements and the needs and priorities of Libyans is key. These are insights from ongoing research by the Clingendael Conflict Research Unit into local governance and security provision across Libya, as well as the interactive and KMF-supported Alignment for Libya Conference which was held on 11 and 12 February in Tunis. The event brought together a group of Libyan Mayors and Libyan and international CSO representatives.

To understand local governance structures in Libya, it is essential to identify the groups that are involved in providing governance – usually a combination of political, social and armed actors with varying interests. The Clingendael Conflict Research Unit currently employs a survey to collect the experiences of ordinary Libyans and local elites with governance and security structures at municipal level. We find that the provision of governance and security is fragmented in spheres of influence within cities and some municipalities can be best described as ‘city-states’, in the sense that they are governed more or less independently from the central government. In many areas, non-state actors like militias and tribal councils have taken on governance competencies, including the protection of citizens and conflict mediation.

Despite these functions, respondents overwhelmingly say that they feel unsafe in the municipalities that are run by non-state armed actors – even more unsafe than under Qadhafi. They blame their insecurity on the absence or weakness of state institutions and the widespread presence of arms.

The research results show that armed conflict at the local level is a reality, but contrary to what is often thought, it is not driven by national fault lines (the rivalry between the governments in Tripoli and Tobruk and their military affiliates). Local conflict usually takes the form of militia warfare, gang violence and tribal feuds, and is sometimes fought out by the same groups that form local government structures. Hence despite militias’ strength and local power and the fact that many citizens turn to them for protection, respondents say that the same militias are a (potential) threat to their everyday safety and an obstacle to stability and peace. Supporting local governance in Libya, and the power structures that form the reality of it, is therefore no panacea to Libya’s instability. The legitimate alternative the eyes of respondents is strengthening national state institutions and state security forces, how ineffective and weak they may be at present.

The conference in Tunis underscored that no one is better positioned to inform us on the diverse reality of local governance and security provision in Libya than Libyans themselves. Our Libyan partners demonstrated again that they have constructive ideas for policies that would make their municipality and Libya as a whole more stable. Moreover, community-based organizations have the ability to align the understanding of the international community on (in)security in Libya with the perceptions and experience of ordinary Libyans. However some Libyan partners tell us that the international community “does not always listen” and is “out of touch” with the situation on the ground. International programming to support local governance in Libya should therefore take into account Libyan local perspectives and not be developed solely from the outside. In order to be effective and legitimate, international support for local governance structures across Libya should be tailored to local priorities and based on a thorough understanding of what existing governance and security structures look like



27 MAR 2018 - 17:05

The civil wars in Syria and Iraq are coming to an end, or so it is believed. In line with common international practice and frames, the defeat of ISIS in Iraq and the de-facto victory of the Assad regime in Syria over most opposition forces will likely soon be seen as preludes to a new chapter for both countries, as well as starting points for European policy seeking to reestablish the core functions of the two governments. After all, what better way to build peace and consolidate the end of civil war than the reconciliation of communities and the reconstruction of their nation?

However, viewing Syria and Iraq as civil wars that are coming to an end is inaccurate and, if left unquestioned, risks informing inadequate policy decisions. Not merely because neither country can be considered ‘post-conflict’, but also because the label of civil war falls short of encompassing the respective conflict dynamics.

The cases of Syria and Iraq do correspond with our understanding of civil war when it comes to the societal trauma and scale of violence in civil wars, which ‘scythes through families, shatters communities, shapes nations [and] can scar imaginations for centuries to come.’1] However, in at least three crucial ways common understandingsof civil war do not fit the reality of Iraq or Syria.

First, civil wars are seen as primarily driven by internal dynamics rather than external ones. Their drivers are intra-community differences rather than foreign intervention. However, in Syria after 2011 and Iraq after 2014 - the generally recognised starting points of both civil wars -  both conflict arenas have become hosts of proxy interests and foreign invasions, to an extent that it is difficult to distinguish between local and external developments. This is made all the more difficult because some foreign interventions were welcomed by specific groups, and rejected by others.

These external interventions triggered or fueled dynamics that may have otherwise taken a radically different shape. It is almost impossible to imagine what the Syrian opposition would have looked like today in the absence of Saudi Arabian and other external support.

Therefore, resolving the conflict dynamics in Syria and Iraq requires more than the reconciliation of communities inside these countries. Since much of this external meddling is informed by ‘existential’ paradigms where trust runs scarce – such as Saudi-Iranian competition or Russian-American rivalry – this is unlikely to happen anytime soon or with any degree of ease. Even though European policy cannot bridge these divides, it cannot afford to ignore them either.

Resolving the conflict dynamics in Syria and Iraq requires more than the reconciliation of communities inside these countries

Second, visible physical violence on a large intercommunal scale is the accepted indicator of the onset and duration of a civil war. And the absence of such violence is an accepted indicator of the end of civil war. However, this fails to account for the formal and informal lifelines of conflict in Iraq and Syria, which have not been dismantled or redirected, and which could easily lead to a resurgence in violence in the medium- to long-term.

This ties into the third aspect, which is that solutions to civil wars are generally sought in the restoration of central authority and governance as both a means and an end in the maintenance of peace. However, on a formal institutional level authoritarianism is still rampant in both Iraq and Syria. And although the history of authoritarianism is different in Iraq than in Syria, authoritarian government practices, crony capitalism, corruption, classism and nepotism maintain significant socio-economic grievances in both societies. These are the same grievances that played a role in the (violent) mobilization of individuals and communities in various waves in the past decades. To invest trust and resources in the same structures while hoping for a different societal impact would all but literally be Einstein’s definition of madness.

Informal lifelines of conflict also remain in place in Iraq and Syria. For example, non-state armed groups are able to survive economically in both countries through access to informal financial networks. ISIS, for example, has bounced back from its loss of territory and maintains financial revenues through the use of third party businessmen in Iraq. These non-ideological businessmen have no previous links with ISIS, and are therefore not on any blacklists. For a stake in the profit, they help ISIS reinvest the approximated $400 million it smuggled out of Iraq and Syria in official and informal businesses.[2] These same informal or semi-formal financial networks provide a crucial lifeline for many regular citizens, so there is no simple answer to dismantling or redirecting them without harming other Iraqis, not even in the teachings of good governance reform.

It is not a mere matter of semantics to problematise the framing of the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts as civil wars. Understanding that the nature and status of both conflicts is profoundly ‘hybrid’ in terms of both their current status and the possibilities for their resolution should inform policy approaches that are responsive to this reality. A first approach informed by this understanding is to let go of centrally-oriented security sector reform and good governance solutions, and to accept that in both Iraq and Syria it is both unlikely and undesirable to reinstate a strong central authority in the short-term and under current conditions.

A second approach can be sought closer to home, in the absence of European support for reconstruction in Syria: investment in the Syrian diaspora. Diaspora communities can play a huge role in the future of their nation upon return, if  they 1) are given the opportunities needed to develop on their own terms in their host nations and 2) are indeed able to return to their country of origin. By working closely with Syrian communities in various countries opportunities can be created that are responsive first and foremost to what Syrians deem necessary for their and their country’s development.

The creativity and pioneering these kind of approaches will require is unlikely to come from the US under the current Trump administration. Will it come from the Europeans instead?

This op-ed was written as part of the Conflict Research Unit's workshop 'Syria under Assad: Challenges for European policy' held on 6 February 2018. This workshop was organised by the Levant Programme with the generous support of the Knowledge Platform for Security and Rule of Law (KPSRL). The author is grateful to Erwin van Veen (Clingendael) for his patient feedback.


[1 Armitage, D. (2017), Civil Wars: A History in Ideas, London: Yale University Press, p. 11.

[2] Mansour, R. & Al-Hashmi, H. (2018), ISIS Inc., Foreign Policy. Online:http://foreignpolicy.com/2018/01/16/isis-inc-islamic-state-iraq-syria/ (Accessed 12-03-2018).



03 APR 2018 - 10:47

Clingendael Academy had the pleasure to receive the junior diplomats from Bangladesh and Pakistan for an intensive six-week course. This training marked the thirteenth year of cooperation in diplomatic training with the two countries.

One of the diplomats (Mr. Mowahid Ali Kiani from Pakistan) noted at the end of the programme: 

"Being at Clingendael felt like being in the heart of the city of peace & justice. Diversity of people, ideas and opinions, but all with a singular pursuit for a peaceful world defines the atmosphere at the Institute. The 6 weeks here have provided me with context to the chaos in the world and equipped me with the tools to navigate through the rough seas of international politics. Thank you for this amazing opportunity."

During these six weeks, the participants were given the opportunity to deepen their knowledge on current issues in international relations, security and trade, and to improve their diplomatic skills, such as negotiations, intercultural communication and public speaking, through practical sessions and simulations

Iceland’s measures to fight money laundering and the financing of terrorism and proliferation

Iceland’s measures to fight money laundering and the financing of terrorism and proliferation

Paris, 6 April 2018 – Iceland needs better internal cooperation and coordination to effectively tackle money laundering and terrorist financing.

The FATF conducted an assessment  of Iceland’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing (AML/CFT) system.  The assessment is a comprehensive review of the effectiveness of Iceland’s AML/CFT system and its level of compliance with the FATF Recommendations.

Between 2008 and 2015, Iceland demonstrated a high level of cooperation and coordination as they focused almost exclusively on the financial crimes and complex cases surrounding the 2008 banking collapse. But, this did not extend to anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing, which has not received sufficient attention as a result.

Icelandic authorities have a fragmented understanding of AML/CFT risks, which is not used for further policy development.  Although supervisors are beginning to identify areas of risk relevant to their sectors, they need to further enhance their supervisory roles and their use of the risk-based approach. Iceland should also explore the specific risks associated with legal persons and arrangements and improve the availability of beneficial ownership information.

With the exception of the three large commercial banks in Iceland, the financial sector and non-financial businesses and professions have a poor understanding of the money laundering or terrorist financing risks to which they are exposed. These private sector entities have limited awareness of their AML/CFT obligations and report very few suspicious transactions in light of the risks present. 

Icelandic authorities cooperate well with counterparts in other countries, particularly their Nordic neighbours, both seeking and providing information on a wide range of cases.

Iceland has a sound legal framework for investigation and prosecution of money laundering. Recently, there has been an upward trend in the number of money laundering prosecutions. Iceland is committed to trace and seize the proceeds of crime, both in Iceland and abroad. However, despite the presence of some relevant risk factors, Iceland has not conducted any criminal investigations into terrorist financing, although it has contributed intelligence to investigations initiated by foreign counterparts. 

Iceland must use its ability to coordinate domestic authorities and put practices in place to strengthen its efforts to tackle money laundering and terrorist financing. During the assessment, the country demonstrated a commitment to take the necessary action to do so and the FATF welcomes the steps that country has already taken since that time.

The FATF adopted this report at its Plenary meeting in February 2018.

Download the report at: www.fatf-gafi.org/media/fatf/documents/reports/mer4/MER-Iceland.pdf

April 05, 2018

Diplomacy as Strategy


Diplomacy as Strategy
Remarks to the Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs

Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr. (USFS, Ret.)
Senior Fellow, Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University
Providence, Rhode Island, 19 March 2018

This is the first of three lectures on diplomatic doctrine.  It was prefaced by an earlier lecture, titled “Diplomacy: A Rusting Tool of American Statecraft.”  This lecture constructs an analytical framework to consider diplomacy as strategy.  The second will use historical examples to explore diplomacy as tactics.  The third will consider diplomacy as risk management.

I am far from the only American to be deeply concerned about the consequences of the ongoing gutting of our diplomatic establishment.  I anticipate that once we Americans have destroyed the Department of State and related agencies as well as the Foreign Service of the United States, we will have to reinvent them.  They can be essential tools of statecraft that guide and complement our armed forces, make their use unnecessary, or translate their victories into new and stable relationships with the defeated.

Reconstruction of these institutions to meet the new challenges before us will be a lengthy process.  But I believe that we should not wait to prepare ourselves for it.  We will need to train a new generation of American diplomats to levels of professionalism comparable to those attained by our military.  In the meantime, we should learn by observing others, like the Chinese, who, far from abandoning diplomacy as their preferred method of advancing their national interests, have just doubled their budget for it.

But the damage we are now doing to our alliances, our economic and other international relationships, and ourselves is not my topic today.  I will speak mainly in terms of military aspects of strategy but everything I say can equally well apply to economic and political strategy.

I am a retired practitioner of diplomacy.  I believe that we can and should distill operational doctrine from experience.  Diplomacy is the regulation of international relationships through the control of perceptions.  In this talk, I will cite practical applications of diplomacy to strategy.  Before I can do this, however, I need to prepare the terrain by defining a few terms and describing where each fits in the catalog of statecraft.

To formulate sound diplomatic strategy one must assure that the words one applies to foreign relations both correspond to reality and are relevant to analysis, deliberation, and planning.  I propose to discuss four categories of relationship that include or imply obligations: “alliances,” “ententes,” “protectorates,” and “client states” in this context.  How do each of these categories of relationship relate to strategy?

A strategy is a plan of action designed to achieve a desired objective through the lowest possible  investment of effort, resources, and time and the fewest adverse consequences for oneself.  In chess, a strategy that consists only of an opening move consistently yields failure.  Myopic moves in foreign policy – moves that do not anticipate the probable perceptions and counter-moves of others – also guarantee defeat.  The American invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq were just such exuberant assaults with no planned follow-up, definition of victory, or concept for war termination.

Calling a statement or a collection of military campaign plans a strategy does not make it one.  Strategies cannot be wishful thinking.  They must match resources to objectives and focus on specific, attainable objectives.  Diplomacy is an essential part of any international strategy.  It involves molding the decisions and actions of others to one’s advantage as well as making one’s own moves.  It is a protracted game that is almost rule-free, far more complex than chess, and has real-world consequences.

The U.S. “National Security Strategy” and its companion “National Defense Strategy” released, respectively, in December 2017 and in January 2018, assign no specific resources to feasible objectives and specify no steps by which the belligerent approach they outline can be implemented.  They are unaffordable military bravado attached to no strategy.  They aggravate rather than cure the U.S. national strategy deficit.

No one can play chess without understanding the capabilities and potential uses of the various pieces on the board, both on one’s own side and on that of one’s opponent.  Knights move differently and do things that bishops and pawns can’t, and vice versa.  Each piece must be deployed or countered differently.  The same is true in foreign affairs, with the added complications that the contest has actions other than attack and defense, that one sort of piece can at any moment change into another, that there are often multiple players maneuvering independently but simultaneously in the same space, and that, even when the king is cornered, the game doesn’t end.  It just enters a new phase.

The atrophy of diplomatic vocabulary during the Cold War has dimmed appreciation of the relationships and balances of capabilities between relevant international actors, between them and one’s own nation, and between them and one’s competitors.  Today, almost the only words used to describe any sort of remotely cooperative international ties – however ephemeral – are “ally” and “alliance.”  These words have been so stretched, shopworn, and blurred in meaning that they have become semantic nulls.  They dull both vision and reason, contributing nothing but confusion to analysis or planning.

An “ally” is a partner that has accepted an obligation to offer broad support or assistance to one’s nation because it wishes to receive reciprocal support for its own interests and objectives.  The usual purpose of alliances is to add the power of others to one’s own.  But the so-called “pactomania” that followed Americans’ post World War II abandonment of George Washington’s long-respected warning against “entangling alliances” did not conform to this model.  The United States was embarked on a protective mission directed at denying our newly established sphere of influence to our Soviet adversary and its apparent Chinese auxiliary.

Security guarantees to others became part of a strategy of containment and deterrence, not one focused on power aggregation  There was little, if any, expectation that the Europeans in NATO[1], the West Asians in CENTO[2], the Southeast Asians in SEATO[3], or Northeast Asians like the rump Chinese state on Taiwan, occupied Japan, or south Korea would add much, if anything at all, to the military or economic capabilities of the United States.  These U.S. “allies” had been made poor and weak by history or by war.  They had nothing but their territory, strategic independence, and past prestige to contribute to the struggle with the Soviet Union and its satrapies.

The United States made them “allies” to bring them under its protection for purposes of strategic denial.  They were not national security assets but liabilities insured by American power in a game in which they were pawns.  They were not so much ramparts as tripwires, designed to change the risk calculus of the Soviet enemy.  In this context, assessments of the balance of benefits and risks of “alliances” and “allies” were beside the point.

The Cold War ended in 1989 – 1991.  But this peculiar history continues to shape American thinking about “alliances” and “allies.”  The American people view foreign policy as largely about Americans nobly safeguarding U.S. “allies” from their enemies, who are – by extension and adoption – also ours.  Any nation not overtly hostile to the United States and in some way cooperative with it can be a so-called “ally” worthy of American protection.  But the impulse to vindicate  national honor by defending “allies” coexists with the suspicion that they may be playing America for a sucker.  Hence the inherent appeal of the populist demand that “allies” reimburse the United States for protecting them, especially now that they have returned to wealth and power while America declines in both.

But, if Americans aspire to be something other than global mercenaries, we must ask:

(1) Now that the collapse of the Soviet enemy has made strategic denial to it of these countries irrelevant, what’s in it for the United States to protect them at all?

(2) What responsibility should so-called “allies” have to protect themselves?  And

(3) What can or should “allies” be asked to contribute to U.S. national security in addition to their own?

The answers to these questions depend to a considerable extent on assessments of what’s at stake, what benefits relationships confer, what risks they entail, and what costs they impose.

True alliances are rare.  They are relationships between nations that entail broad mutual obligations of assistance for as long as the alliance endures.  An alliance may be multilateral or bilateral.  Since the major purpose of defensive alliances is deterrence, they tend to be publicly proclaimed.  In its highest form, the members of an alliance agree to operate jointly, often under unified military command.  The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is the premier example of a multilateral alliance.  The fading “special relationship “ between the United States and the United Kingdom formed in World War II has been an exemplary bilateral alliance.  So has the U.S. relationship with Australia.

The so-called “alliance” between Britain, America, and the Soviet Union in World War II met none of these criteria.  It was not an alliance but an instance of limited partnership in entente – a commitment to cooperate under particular circumstances, for limited purposes, for as long as this served common interests.  Entente confines both commitments and risks to agreed contingencies rather than leaving them open-ended.  Unlike alliances, limited partnerships pursuant to entente rely on policy coordination and parallel actions, not joint operations or unified commands.  Like alliances, when they are public, ententes deter challenges to the interests of their participants.   When they are aggressive rather than defensive, however, they are often kept secret to maximize strategic ambiguity, prospects for entrapment of foes, or surprise.

The common purposes that ententes embrace are temporary or conditional, not durable or broad.  Both Brits and Russians grasped the distinction between alliance and entente.  Americans did not.  This contributed to serious American strategic misjudgments that left the United States unprepared for postwar tensions.  When these tensions could no longer be ignored, a domestic “red scare” that threatened American liberties ensued.

Other examples of U.S. participation in ententes date back to the dawn of our republic.  They include the Franco-American “Conditional and Defensive Alliance” [Traité d’alliance éventuelle et défensive] of February 6, 1778, that ultimately enabled decisive French support for American independence.  Sino-American cooperation in the containment of the Soviet Union from 1972 to 1989 was another such limited partnership.  More recently, we have seen entente find expression in the formation of  parallel international and Islamic coalitions to liberate Kuwait from Iraq in 1991, and cooperation between the United States, China, France, Germany, and Russia to produce the Iran nuclear deal in 2015.   Anyone who mistook these expedient arrangements for the durable commitments to cooperation inherent in “alliance” was destined to be disillusioned.

Exchanges of concrete benefits – like base or transit rights – for protection are also often called “alliances.”  They are not.  Nor are they ententes.  They might more accurately called “protectorates.”  These are symbiotic relationships in which the protected power seldom feels a sense of obligation to its protector but recognizes the need to provide it with recompense for its support.  Protection may be soundly grounded in the interests of the parties to it but it does not involve reciprocal undertakings.

The U.S. commitment to Saudi Arabia is an example of a protectorate.  (It was briefly elevated to an entente when Saddam Hussein’s Iraq attempted to annex Kuwait and the United States sought its withdrawal in cooperation with the Saudis and other Arab partners.)   These days, relations with the Kingdom involve Saudi purchases of weapons as well as military training and support services from the United States, Saudi facilitation of U.S. overflight of its strategically positioned territory, and coordinated (but not joint) intelligence and anti-terrorist operations.  In return, the United States backs Saudi national security policies, even when it considers them dubious, as in Yemen.  (Ironically, not so long ago, it was the Saudis who found themselves supporting U.S. policies in which they didn’t believe – like the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.)

Other prominent examples of U.S. protectorates misdescribed as “alliances” are Japan and south Korea.  Japan emerged from defeat and occupation to become a great economic power.  It provides bases and logistical support that are essential to U.S. power projection around the world.  The Republic of Korea (ROK) survived war with other Koreans and their Chinese protectors to become a wealthy and powerful state  Despite their affluence and self-defense capabilities, both Japan and south Korea rely on protection from the United States.  They are consumers of American security services with no reciprocal obligations to the United States.  As such, they are strategic dependents, not direct providers of security to a sometimes paternalistic United States.  Neither has any obligation to help defend Americans in time of need.

It is significant that Japanese-American relations now seem to be evolving away from dependency and toward entente.  In the future, as independent Japanese strategic perspectives and capabilities continue to emerge, Japan may assume a greater role in supporting the U.S. in carefully defined contingencies.   If so, of course, Tokyo will demand an equal voice in setting the agenda for US-Japan cooperation.  Neither Japan nor the United States is yet prepared for this.

By contrast with alliances, ententes, and protectorates, client state relationships are based on a one-way flow of support from the patron nation to the client.  Client states owe no allegiance and  benefits to their patrons.  The misuse of the word “ally” to describe them implies honor-bound mutual obligations that do not exist.  Client states add no significant power of their own – political, economic, cultural, or military – to that of their patrons, though they may add base and transit rights or other facilities that improve the geopolitical circumstances of their patrons.  Sometimes they are clients only because their independence frustrates a strategic rival and it is therefore desirable to guarantee it.

Client states typically have enemies, otherwise they would not seek backing or protection by an external power.  Sometimes their enemies are also adversaries of their patron; sometimes not.  In any event, client states are hostage to regional forces that are often foreign to the interests of their patrons. The very dependency and vulnerability of client states can give them leverage over their patrons.  They have the freedom to scheme to get a patron into unwanted battles with others or to  burden it with requirements for diplomatic or material support at the expense of its own objectives and interests.

Client states in the Middle East like Egypt, Israel, and Jordan enjoy and have received enormous strategic support from the United States.  Egypt, which occupies a key bottleneck in strategic lines of communication between Asia and Europe, allows American overflights as a courtesy rather than an obligation.  Others (though notably not Israel, given its lack of acceptance and connections in the region) provide the United States with logistical support for power projection.  But none feel obliged to do anything at all in return for the United States in exchange for the American backing they receive.  These are relationships that are grounded in self-interest.  They are not the product of affection or loyalty, whatever their domestic U.S. supporters may assert.

As Egypt showed its former patron, the Soviet Union, in the early 1970s, client states are quite capable of switching allegiances when they believe doing so might benefit them.  Today, Egypt is once again in the process of repositioning itself between Russia and the United States.  Israel has been at odds with the United States on many policies, but Washington’s unflinching support for it continues to enable it to ignore American interests as it pursues its own. Israel, too, is now diluting its dependence on America by developing closer ties to other great powers like Russia, China, and India.  Meanwhile, Jordan is taking on some characteristics of a U.S. protectorate, as it furnishes bases and facilities to U.S. forces and intelligence agencies engaged in war in neighboring Syria.  But Jordan, too, is pursuing strategic ties to Russia.

Some flourishing bilateral relationships are, of course, based on transactional exchanges of benefits free of any particular implied obligation.  As examples, Singapore and India separately see it as in their interest for the United States Navy to remain a nearby presence.  To this end, Singapore cooperates with the United States, allowing American naval vessels to use its port facilities on an ongoing, pay-as-you-go basis.  India has begun to buy U.S. weaponry, to exercise with the U.S. Navy, and to couch its rivalry with China in terms calculated to appeal to Americans.

Singapore is close and attentive to Washington.  Delhi keeps its distance, despite its presumed ideological affinities with the United States as a “fellow democracy.”  But neither country has  compromised its independence, and neither should be described as an ally, entente partner, protectorate, or client state of the United States.

From the dawn of the American republic, the key task of U.S. foreign policy has been to foster an international order conducive to continued life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness at home.  For its first fifteen decades, the United States aspired to advance this objective through vigorous expansion across the North American continent, hegemony in the Western Hemisphere, equal-opportunity exploitation of markets in Asia, and a combination of example-setting and lofty talk about international trends and events.  Americans accepted George Washington’s insight that alliances were entangling hazards to diplomatic navigation as well as risky IOUs that others might call at any time they chose.  Until 1945, the United States avoided any sort of relationship with foreigners that entailed defined obligations.  Then a new, bipolar world order was born.

In the Cold War, nations for the most part clung to their respective positions in relation to the competing United States and Soviet Union.  There were, of course, notable exceptions.  Cuba switched from American client state to Soviet protectorate.  France withdrew from formal participation in its alliance with the United States through NATO but retained a relationship of entente with it.  The United States downgraded its relations with Taipei from entente to protectorate in order to pursue cooperation with the rival regime in Beijing.  Egypt famously switched patrons.  Iran turned on its American protector.

Despite the overall strategic immobility and diplomatic trench warfare that it exemplified, the Cold War was not entirely without dramatic paradigm shifts.  President Richard Nixon’s 1972 outreach to China and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s 1977 embrace of Israel exemplify diplomatic breakthroughs through grand gestures aimed at building new strategic relationships.  Such grand diplomacy seeks to bypass fruitless bargaining over insuperable but arguably petty differences with an adversary.  Its purpose is to enable the two sides to make a fresh start at seeking common ground, to begin a process of expanded strategic cooperation to mutual advantage, and to defer apparently intractable problems until more favorable conditions for resolving them can emerge.

By traveling to the enemy’s capital while making no specific demands of it, Nixon and Sadat, each in his own way, followed Churchill’s advice to “appease the weak, [but] defy the strong.”  Each gave his longtime adversary the crucial psychological satisfaction of being treated with respect.  Each implicitly acknowledged the legitimacy of his opponent’s national security concerns and the need eventually to address them.

Grand diplomatic gestures are gifts that call for grand responses, not haggling.   Nixon’s gesture enabled the United States and China to end two decades of fruitless bickering over various sore points in Sino-American relations.  China famously takes the long view.  China opened to the strategic relationship Nixon sought.

By contrast, Israel is notoriously focused on immediate advantage, with little attention to long-term consequences for relations with neighbors, all of which it believes are implacably “anti-Semitic.”  Menachem Begin responded to Sadat’s unilateral gesture by attempting to bargain over details.  It took President Jimmy Carter’s  intervention at Camp David to persuade Israel to accept the normalized relations Egypt’s leader had offered.

Though the immediate results of their maneuvers were different, Nixon’s and Sadat’s breakthrough diplomacy illustrates an important canon of statecraft.  When there appears to be no effective answer to a question, one should consider whether the question one has been asking is the wrong one.  Elsewhere, I have described the capacity of diplomacy that changes the operative questions to change the calculus of other nations to conform to ours.  I will not repeat that analysis today.

In the case of China, if the issue was how to contain and retard its development, a policy of strategic distraction through support for Taiwan and Tibetan separatists, diplomatic embargo and economic and financial sanctions, and military deterrence made sense.  But, if the question was how to use China to offset Soviet power or how to limit the menace of Mao’s revolution to world order, acceptance of its government’s legitimacy, diplomatic engagement, and promotion of trade and investment were appropriate.

If the issue was how to prevent the consolidation of a Western-backed Jewish state on Arab land, Egyptian ostracism and confrontation with Israel were logical policies.  But, if the question was how to develop the Egyptian economy in partnership with the United States and under conditions of peace, engaging and establishing a modus vivendi with Israel was essential.

Today, the impasses between the United States and north Korea as well as Russia invite a change in the questions on which American policies have been based.   The same is true of China.  What is it we want to accomplish with these countries?  Our interactions with each are now as barren and dispiriting as those with China before the Nixon opening or between Egypt and Israel before the Sadat initiative.  What if we have the strategic questions wrong?

In the case of north Korea, diplomacy has been complicated by Washington’s failure to appreciate the deterioration of Pyongyang’s relations with Beijing or its implications.  The relationship between the two has devolved from protectorate, to client state, to noncommittal and strained.   But, despite its now purely transactional relations with Pyongyang, Beijing has a continuing interest in avoiding both north Korean enmity and in precluding the presence of a potential enemy like the United States in the northern half of the Korea Peninsula.  The primary purpose of north Korea’s nuclear weapons program has been to develop a deterrent to possible American rather than Chinese attack.  Given these realities, American attempts to outsource our problems with north Korea to China have always represented wishful thinking rather than coherent strategy.  Perhaps the right question was never how to force Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear program but how to convince it that it was secure enough from the possibility of American-instigated regime change to have no need for one.

And maybe the right question with Russia was not how to wall it off from Europe but how to give it a stake in peaceful coexistence with the European Union, how to nurture mutually advantageous interdependence between the EU and Russia, and how to incorporate Russia into a new European security architecture by interposing buffer states between it and NATO,.  How might NATO and the EU best promote shared prosperity and security for all Europeans, including Russians?  If the redivision of Europe by military confrontation and low intensity conflict in its borderlands does not serve American, European, or Russian interests, what are the alternatives?

Maybe the issue with Ukraine is not how to deny Russia an influential relationship with it but how to give Moscow a stake in the emergence of a viable, prosperous, independent, and neutral Ukrainian state that can serve as both a buffer and bridge between Russia and NATO.

Perhaps the issues with China are not how to prevent it from overshadowing the United States in the Indo-Pacific, how to confront it militarily, how to deny it influence in neighboring countries, and how to minimize its role in global governance.   Maybe the challenges are how to leverage rising Chinese prosperity and scientific prowess to our own benefit, how to institutionalize relationships between China, the United States and other Asian countries that reinforce regional peace and stability, and how to work with China to address global issues and manage the global commons.

If the questions are changed, the policy answers to them change too.

In the Cold War, Nixon’s and Sadat’s exceptional statecraft notwithstanding, diplomacy for the most part resembled trench warfare, with confrontations along well-established fronts that seldom moved.  The purpose of diplomacy in that era was to hold the line and prevent intrusions by each superpower into the other’s sphere of influence.  Each side sought to exploit local strife –  as in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Angola, Mozambique, and Afghanistan –  to its advantage.  But neither was willing to provoke war with the other that might escalate to the nuclear level.  Struggles between them took the form of proxy wars.  Within their respective spheres of influence, diplomacy was a form of imperial administration, holding subordinate states and their politicians in line and trying to mitigate this disunity their quarrels brought to their bloc.

We are now in a new and far more fluid and, arguably, much more dangerous era.  Spheres of  influence are more porous than ever before.  Transactionalism is spreading.  Alliances are eroding and with them the predictability they provide.  The limited and temporary partnerships characteristic of entente are multiplying.  Protectorates are losing credibility.  Client states are increasingly unconstrained and dismissive of their patrons.  Doubt and hedging had begun to replace trust and commitment in international relations long before Donald Trump was elected president of the United States sixteen months ago on a platform of ungracious nationalism.  Since then, doubt and hedging have become omnipresent.

The uncertainties agitating other great and middle-ranked powers are now acute .  By suggesting that the American commitment to NATO members and other allies was contingent on their reimbursing the costs to the United States of deterring attacks on them, President Trump signaled an apparent willingness to downgrade these “allies” to “protectorates” or even “client states.”  (That was, of course, before “the Blob” contrived to have the president’s agenda swallowed by “the Swamp.”)   Mr. Trump’s subsequent, partial assimilation by the military-industrial-congressional complex has not erased Europe’s newly aroused anxieties about dependence on America for its defense.  Japan and others in Asia have similar concerns, though, for the most part, they are too polite or cautious to voice them.

The norms of rule-bound behavior so carefully crafted into the United Nations Charter, the Geneva Conventions, and other multilateral agreements, like the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, are being set aside.  International law no longer constrains powerful nations from invading or dismembering others, overtly or covertly intervening to change their governments, assassinating their citizens, or unilaterally disrupting their commerce.  Today, expediency overrides principle, the ends justify the means, and might substitutes for right.

Meanwhile, the United States remains caught in Afghanistan, Iraq, and a steadily expanding list of other strategic sinkholes and pitfalls, its original reasons for invading these places long satisfied or forgotten.  The blowback continues to mount from these misadventures as radicalized, aggrieved Muslims seek reprisal.  We are caught in a vicious cycle of reciprocally escalating hatred and violence.   As a consequence, we Americans are cutting constitutional corners and debasing the due process that is the heart of our Bill of Rights. This imperils our domestic tranquility and freedom even as it lowers our moral standing abroad.

We have now declared our intention to focus our defense planning on fighting militant Islamism, Russia, and China, but we have developed no political or economic strategy for dealing with these challenges by measures short of war.  We Americans are sinking ever deeper into debt, with ever less to show for it.  We need a period of peace – a timeout from perpetual warfare –  to address a widening range of problems at home.  It is time to ask what strategy might best foster an international environment in which Americans can confidently expect to enjoy the civil liberties that are our most precious heritage, as well as prosperity, domestic tranquility, and personal security.

The sole remaining purpose of our wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria appears to be avoiding having to admit defeat.  These wars are costly in blood and treasure.  They raise rather than reduce the danger of terrorist attacks on Americans at home and abroad.  No one can explain what they are now about, still less how – after seventeen years of U.S. engagement in Afghanistan, fifteen in Iraq, and nearly seven in Syria – they will end and on what terms.  Our continuing participation in them is convincing evidence of American obstinacy, not our strategic acumen.  It does nothing to enhance the credibility of either our leadership or our military power.

The reinforcement of failure is always a mistake unless it is a tactical move linked to a strategic advance toward a broader goal.  No one has made the case that serious American strategic interests are now at stake in any of these wars.  No strategy depends on their outcome.  No alliance stands or falls on it.  These wars are all in need of achievable objectives that, once accomplished, could justify ending the U.S. role in them.

America is caught in a “sunk costs trap.”  Our generals and their admirers are determined to carry on with failed interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Syria  because of the time, money, and blood Americans have poured into these misadventures, not because they have any expectation at all of success.  By this logic, the more we fail, the more blood and treasure we must commit.  This is not just financially ruinous, it is madness.

Afghans are handsome, charming people and redoubtable warriors.  But the United States has never had anything to gain from alliance, entente, protection, or the establishment of a client state relationship with Afghanistan.  The sole American interest there has been strategic denial – first to the Soviet Union and then to Arab terrorists with global reach.  Some Americans may well have strong opinions about how Afghans should govern themselves, but these convictions do not justify a war.  The United States has nothing to gain from involving ourselves in the contention between India and Pakistan that fuels Afghan instability.  Americans need to remember why we got into Afghanistan in the first place if we are ever to get out of it.

The basic mission of the U.S. intervention to overthrow the Taliban regime in 2001 was to convince Afghans that they could not afford to host al Qaeda or similar Islamist terrorist groups.  After losing about 150,000 dead over the seventeen years of the American invasion and attempted pacification of their country, Afghans have been left in no doubt about this.  With our original mission accomplished, it is time for the United States to roll back mission creep and leave Afghanistan on terms that make it clear that we will be prepared to resume military action against anti-American terrorists there or in Pakistan, if we deem that necessary. Deterrence can and should replace American boots on the ground in Southwestern Asia.

The U.S. war on Islamist militants in Afghanistan was the precursor to overt and covert interventions, drone campaigns, and other forms of warfare in Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Syria, and seventy other countries.  Far from reducing the threat of jihadi terrorism, these campaigns in the Muslim world have become its major stimulus and justification both at home and abroad.  The thesis that “we must fight ‘them’ over there or face them here” is demonstrably nonsense.  It is precisely because we are “over there” that they are “over here.”  This feedback loop must to be broken for Americans to enjoy affordable security.

The grievances that drive anti-American terrorism cannot be cured by military means.  They are political, and require political solutions.  Intensifying schisms within Islam, especially Sunni Islam, are part of the problem.  The United States is singularly ill-equipped to deal with these.  That must be done through entente with Muslim partners.  Saudi Arabia’s new emphasis on religious tolerance and combating extremist ideology and its leadership of the 41-member Islamic Military Coalition to Combat Terrorism makes it a logical candidate for this role in partnership with Europeans as well as Americans.

Meanwhile, a rebalance in U.S. relations with NATO allies, Japan, and south Korea is long overdue.  These countries, prostrate at the outset of the Cold War, have long since recovered their wealth and power.  It is time for them to assume greater responsibility for their own defense against external adversaries and internal terrorists.  They will not do so if the United States continues to configure and deploy its forces so as to be able to fight their battles without them.

The Trump administration has just designated Russia and China as strategic adversaries.  Both have noticed this and are responding.

Russia is a regional great power that remains traumatized by the Nazi invasion, the collapse of the Soviet Union and its empire, the indifference with which the United States greeted its effort to embrace the liberal international order, and the humiliation of ongoing Western denigration of its power and influence.  It fears American efforts to develop the capability to decapitate its leadership with a nuclear first strike, engineer regime change in Moscow, and establish a hostile military presence on its central and southern in addition to its northwestern, Baltic borders, where  NATO is currently entrenching itself.

Moscow’s principal defense against American hostility is the deterrent value of its enormous nuclear arsenal, which could destroy the United States and with it much – maybe all – of the world.  Short of Armageddon, Russia seeks to change U.S. policies that menace it and to ensure that it is protected from the United States and its European allies by friendly buffer states in Belarus and Ukraine.  The United States and much of Europe view this in mirror image terms – as assertively aggressive Russian behavior.  This image is buttressed by Russian agitprop and disinformation campaigns targeted at the electoral choices of voters in the West.  It builds on reactions to Russia’s opportunistic responses to backlash by Russian speakers in Ukraine against Ukrainian ethnolinguistic chauvinism.

Russia is not the originator of the digital-video, social media, and other hallucinogenic information technologies that have ushered in an age of unreason in the West.  But, the Russian state has joined advertising companies and political spin doctors in learning how to exploit Western neuroses and psychoses through these technologies.  The celebrity politics and the rot in civic literacy, civility, reality-based analysis, and policy dialogue that now afflict democratic societies have greatly enhanced the marginal utility of Russian agitprop.  American vulnerability to this cannot be remedied by defense budget plus-ups, bluster and shows of force, sanctions, arms transfers, or denunciatory diplomacy.  The only effective answer is to strengthen civil society, buttress the rule of law, and reinforce democratic norms here at home.  But we must also understand and abate the factors stimulating Russian rancor and pugnacity.

Russia’s aim is not to discredit democracy per se.  Nor is China’s.  Each is defending its interests as it sees them against threats it perceives, not making an ideological point.  (Both countries entered  post-ideological phases a quarter century ago.)  But, based on recent experience, neither sees Western democracy as likely to best the performance of its own form of  autocracy.  China, in particular, is content to let Western systems of government discredit themselves while it gets on with its own business.

The appeal of our political systems will fall and theirs will rise to the extent that we in the West fail to address the mounting anxiety of our citizens over stagnant wages, increasingly unjust income distribution, entrenched inequality of opportunity, declining domestic tranquility and personal safety, wrenching changes in social norms and institutions, and the like.  Better performance on our part is key.  But we should also examine our policies to reduce the extent to which they feed Russian fears and Chinese apprehensions.  The misapprehensions of American military capabilities and intentions stoked by our most recent statements of our national security posture do not serve our interests.

China is fully integrated into the global and regional economies; it cannot be contained.  America is being eclipsed economically in an increasingly Sino-centric Asia.  China is too big and potentially too powerful to be balanced by its neighbors, individually or collectively.  American military primacy along China’s borders is as unsustainable as European primacy along America’s borders proved to be as the 20th century began.  The United States will either coexist with China in the Western Pacific or be pushed back by it.

The United States has the politico-economic and military heft to help China’s neighbors accommodate its power on terms that make them full participants in the management of the Indo-Pacific region’s economy, security, and politics and avoid Chinese domination.  If China’s neighbors, especially Japan, assume much greater responsibility for their own defense, build regional coalitions, and enlist American support for a more independent and self-reliant stance than in the past,  U.S. dominance of the region’s affairs need not be followed by Chinese hegemony.

China is not just an Indo-Pacific power but a rising presence on the entire Eurasian landmass and in adjacent areas.  Its “Belt and Road Initiative” is a bold move to connect all of Eurasia from the Azores to the Bering Strait in a single, new geoeconomic zone.  There is no feasible American military retort to this Chinese grand strategy.  The parlous state of American finances precludes an economic response to it.  China’s connectivity initiative requires a geopolitical answer.

The example of American participation in European affairs is relevant.  The U.S. presence in Europe helps to offset the otherwise natural dominance of Germany, to allay the concerns of smaller countries about German ascendancy, and to facilitate pan-European cooperation. Similarly, American participation in Eurasian rule-making and implementation in cooperation with Europe, Japan, and others as well as China could temper and offset Chinese influence, relieve the concerns of smaller countries about Chinese power, and facilitate confident transnational cooperation among the nations of the supercontinent.

We are clearly entering a new phase of history.  But the key challenge of U.S. foreign policy remains how to foster an international order conducive to continued life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness at home.  These purposes are best served by a peaceful international environment.  Nurturing such an environment requires a diplomatic strategy of relationship and coalition-building that is more than just military.  This is especially the case when, as now, the power of others – military as well as economic – is growing relative to that of the United States.  Americans have a strategic interest in sustaining international law as a reassurance to other countries that they need not arm themselves with nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction to defend themselves against us or other stronger nations.  The United States has a vital interest in addressing the causes of potential conflicts, not just deterring their outbreak and allowing them to worsen unattended.  Americans need to prevent adversaries from becoming enemies and to preclude the formation of coalitions against us.

To enjoy affordable security, we must rebuild and develop America’s competence at diplomacy as well as war fighting.  This effort must begin with efforts to restore precision to our diplomatic terminology and reasoning processes, to sharpen our analysis of international realities, and to rediscover diplomacy as strategy.  To this end, we should focus on the development of diplomatic doctrine – a teachable body of interrelated operational concepts that enable us to use all elements of our power to influence the behavior of other states and people by measures short of war.  We can do this if we rediscover diplomatic history and develop case studies that make its lessons accessible to practitioners.

We have a military establishment of unprecedented professionalism and competence.  But many, if not most of the challenges we face are not amenable to military solutions.  Excellence in diplomacy is at least as essential to the future of our country as is excellence in the conduct of military operations.  The leveling of legacy institutions like the United States Department of State and the Foreign Service by the Trump administration promises to offer an opportunity to begin anew.  We must prepare the way to enable a future  administration to seize that opportunity.



[1]The North Atlantic Treaty Organization.  NATO is an outgrowth of the Treaty of Brussels, a mutual defense treaty between Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, and the United Kingdom concluded in 1948.  These states, plus the United States, Canada, Portugal, Italy, Norway, Denmark and Iceland, formed NATO in 1949.  By the end of the Cold War, in 1991, NATO had grown to sixteen member states.  Since then, it has expanded to twenty-nine members, becoming the de facto security architecture of non-Russian Europe.

[2]The Central Treaty Organization, formed in 1955 by Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It was dissolved in 1979.

[3] The Southeast Asian Treaty Organization, formed in 1954 by Australia, France, New Zealand, Pakistan (including East Pakistan, now Bangladesh), the Philippines, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States.  SEATO was dissolved on 30 June 1977 after many members lost interest and withdrew



Mar 26, 2018




Nicholas J. Cull

One of the most striking elements of the public discourse of President Donald J. Trump is his loud love of winners and his equal and opposite disdain for losers. His merciless dismissal of public figures such as Senator John McCain for having been captured during the Vietnam War or Arnold Schwarzenegger for failing to attain good ratings as his replacement host for the Celebrity Apprentice TV show are two of the most famous cases of this. In the field of public diplomacy, the management of victory and defeat on one’s own side and in the society with which you are engaging are two complex tasks. The twists and turns are instructive. 

The first step in working with defeat in public diplomacy is to be honest about one’s own defeats. Having lost is not necessarily a negative element in one’s reputation; rather, having experienced and overcome hardship is a vital element in the profile of the most admirable public figures. Political failure is an essential component of the life-story of Winston Churchill, for example. Suffering and a triumph over it was embodied in Nelson Mandela. A major aspect of President Obama’s public appeal lay in his embodiment of a general African-American experience rooted in racial injustice and transcendence over his personal experience of discrimination.

The history of American public diplomacy suggests that some of high points of the country’s international reputation were associated with loss and vulnerability rather than achievement: the Kennedy assassination in 1963, the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam in 1973 and the attacks of 9/11/01 all brought spikes in global affection for the United States. Just as the fictional Superman would be unbearable without his susceptibility to kryptonite, so is the United States rendered more likable and even lovable to foreigners by its trials, flaws and defeats, most especially when they are shared. This is why honest public diplomacy dealing with difficulties of American society including issues of race, inequality and violence are so important. 

The first step in working with defeat in public diplomacy is to be honest about one’s own defeats.​

The second point to make is that it is worthwhile to help others manage their own victories and disasters and, as the British poet Rudyard Kipling had it, “Treat those two imposers both the same.” In this regard it is fascinating to see how the State Department’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) has built management of failure into its system. When originally established, the initiative was overwhelmed by applicants. It selected a handful for inclusion in formal visits to the U.S. The administrators soon realized that the rejected candidates—many of whom were the equal of those fortunate enough to win places—were also a resource. They saw that if mishandled, the program could backfire and result in the cultivation of a small number of future leaders and the alienation of an even greater number of the rest. With this in mind the State Department created a secondary YALI network for people who had applied for or were simply interested in the initiative to enable them to connect around shared interests and collaborate.

The YALI homepage includes career advice including—at the current moment—a prominently featured piece on managing failure “Bouncing Back from Setbacks.” The piece notes that such well-known American successes as Warren Buffett and Stephen Spielberg experienced early failure. Buffett was crushed to be rejected by Harvard Business School and Spielberg—the piece notes—was twice turned away by USC’s School of Cinematic Arts (a fact that makes his generosity to the campus all the more admirable). The piece has some lines from the Washington Post’s career coach Joyce Russell on channeling rejection into a process of constant improvement, which might seem like a platitude (and imply that the system of success and failure is inherently just), but it is certainly better than implying that the U.S. government is only interested in winners.

There might even be room for more public diplomacy around failure. Evenings in which participants share their failures and embrace setbacks (known colloquially as FUN [“F***Up Nights”]) are a major trend among millennials. The idea, which originated in Mexico, has been featured on the new BBC life coaching platform BBC Capital.

There are reasons to love both winners and losers, but the best thing as far as public diplomacy is concerned is to be honest and understand that wins and losses come to all. The test lies in how we deal with them.

Nicholas J. Cull is a failed candidate for a UK Fulbright award (1988). His first book was rejected by Jonathan Cape and every other British trade publisher who read the proposal. His most recent single authored volume sold only 250 copies. He has been unsuccessful in every application for external research funding since 2012.

Note from CPD Blog Manager: For Cull's full, equally honest bio, see below.

Image courtesy of SIphotogr

Iranian missiles in Yemen

Washington Post
Iranian missiles in Yemen

Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels are continuing to obtain surface-to-surface missiles covertly from Iran in violation of U.N. sanctions.

The missiles have been fired at targets in Saudi Arabia, most recently a salvo of seven missiles launched last week. At least one of the missiles was intercepted by U.S.-made Patriot anti-missile interceptors.

Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, said the use of Iranian missile strikes against Saudi Arabia represents a dangerous escalation of the Yemen conflict.

“When this war started three years ago, much of the fighting was confined into the mountainous terrain of Yemen,” Mr. Cotton said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. “And now, long-range missiles are being fired at King Khalid International Airport outside of Riyadh.”

Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of the Central Command, agreed that the use of missiles by the Houthis represents a significant increase in the Iran-backed conflict. The general declined to say whether the Iranian missiles in Yemen can reach the United Arab Emirates, where the U.S. Air Force is using the Al Dhafra air base for regional operations.

“But, certainly, we’ve seen threats that have gone as far as the international airport outside of Riyadh,” he said. “This is a dangerous threat.”

As for how the missiles are entering Yemen, Gen. Votel said: “Iran has a very sophisticated network of doing this. They can move them by components. They can move them by air. They can move them by maritime means. They can move them by land routes to get their stuff in there and then reassemble it and provide it to the Houthis.”

Behnam Ben Taleblu, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, has identified three types of missiles used by the Yemeni rebels — the Burkan-2H, Qaher-2M and Badr-1. The Burkan is the Houthi name given to Iran’s Qiam-1, an extended range version of the Shahab-2 short-range ballistic missile.

The Qaher-2M is a Soviet SA-2 surface-to-air missile modified into a surface-to-surface missile. It has a range of up to 248 miles with a warhead weighing up to 772 pounds.

Both the Burkan and the Qaher missiles have been fired multiple times in recent weeks, but the Badr-1 was used for the first time in late March, targeting a Saudi Aramco oil facility.

While the Badr has been identified in Iranian reports as a short-range ballistic missile, the missile appears to be a long-range artillery rocket and appears similar to Iran’s Fajr-3 and Fajr-5, among the most widely proliferated Iranian rockets

Key Taliban agent in Pakistan

. Washington post

Key Taliban Agent in Pakistan

An intelligence source in Southwest Asia has identified a Taliban agent in Pakistan with links to Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service.

The facilitator was identified as Mossa Mengal and the source states that he is typical of the covert support being provided indirectly to the terrorists in Afghanistan by Islamabad’s spy service.

Mr. Mengal lives in the Qaziabad area of Nushki, a Pakistani town close to the Afghan border, in an ISI safe house and is protected by a security detail.

“Mossa Mengal is a very important asset of the ISI and he was involved in abduction and killing of pro-freedom Baloch activists,” the source said. “He also does kidnapping for ransom and he pays some of the money which he obtains from ransom to an ISI colonel.”

Mr. Mengal’s support for the Taliban was exposed after an attack on a jihadist residence in Quetta in December 2011.

According to the source, Mr. Mengal’s current residence and operating base is located close to an ISI regional office, and he is considered to be a trusted confident of ISI Col. Omar Jamal.

Col. Jamal is said to be involved in pressuring local small gangs, criminal groups and smugglers who are pressured by the ISI to join Mr. Mengal’s group. Among his main duties for the intelligence service is protecting and supporting Taliban in the Balochistan region along the Afghanistan border.

Mr. Mengal’s activities, including ISI-ordered assassinations in the border region, increased last year after tensions increased between Pakistan and Afghanistan after Islamabad began sealing some parts of the border.

President Trump announced a new strategy last August that calls on Pakistan to take decisive action against Taliban leaders.

Central Command commander Army Gen. Joseph Votel testified to the Senate last month that both leaders and members of the Taliban and the Islamic terrorist Haqqani network “continue to find sanctuary in Pakistan.” Pakistan’s recent anti-terrorist actions “have not yet translated into the definitive actions we require Pakistan to take against Afghan Taliban or Haqqani leader,” he added.

April 04, 2018





APRIL 4, 2018


There is no consensus on the missions and organizational structure of coast guards around the world. Most countries conceive of them as actors under civilian control deployed to maintain good order at sea, save lives, and protect the environment. There are outliers, of course. The United States Coast Guard, under the Department of Homeland Security, is one of America’s five armed forces and has an explicit defense readinessmission. The French have the Maritime Gendarmerie — a paramilitary police force under the operational control of the chief of staff of the French Navy. These are the exception rather than the rule.

But China appears to have seen merit in the latter model, having recently transferred administrative control of its coast guard from civilian to military authority. The decision may have far-reaching consequences for the command and operations of the China Coast Guard, and is arguably one of the most important reforms to take place since its creation in 2013. Chinese operations in disputed waters in the East and South China Sea — one of the biggest flashpointsfor conflict in the world — will now have more direct links with the Chinese military than they have in the past, giving China a freer hand to act assertively against regional states during confrontations. The move also sets China’s coast guard apart from all its counterparts in Asia, with the exception of Vietnam, by ensuring that military, not civilian government organs, in China exert control over one of the most important actors involved in sovereignty disputes in the Asia-Pacific.

To some, the timing of such a move might seem inopportune. After all, China has been assiduously pursuing diplomatic and security initiatives to soften its image in Asia, to include ongoing discussions on a Code of Conduct with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and a détente with the Philippines, with which it has significant territorial disputes in the South China Sea. But a closer reading of the history of China’s coast guard reveals a struggle for control between civilian and military command that was never fully settled, setting the stage for the latest military consolidation.

The Seeds of Discontent

In 2009, China unveiled its infamous note verbale to the United Nations with a map featuring nine “dashes” claiming sovereignty over almost the entirety of the South China Sea. Since then, China has struggled to regulate this vast body of water. Its ability to assert administrative control over waters and land features over which it claimed jurisdiction was weak. One reason for this weakness was that China lacked a unified maritime law enforcement force, instead operating several different civilian coast guard-type agencies, each with a narrow mission set and specialized capabilities leading to inefficient and uncoordinated operations.

When the Chinese State Council announced the creation of a China Coast Guard in 2013, folding four of China’s five maritime law enforcement agencies (the so-called “five dragons”) under a civilian organ called the State Oceanic Administration, the debate over whether the coast guard would be a civilian or military-run organization appeared resolved. Putting the service under civilian control seemed like a smart strategy: China could streamline and rely more heavily on a non-military asset to consolidate its claims in the East and South China Sea under the guise of a constabulary police force enforcing Chinese domestic law.

Yet one little phrase in the 2013 announcement planted a seed of inter-agency tension between the State Oceanic Administration and the Ministry of Public Security (a police organ with ties to the Chinese military) that was never fully explained or resolved. In carrying out its duties, the announcement said, the State Oceanic Administration would “receive operational guidance from the Ministry of Public Security.” The Ministry of Public Security’s connection to the maritime realm was that it administered one of the four recently integrated “dragons” — the maritime arm of the Border Defense Force, which is in turn a part of the paramilitary People’s Armed Police. The Ministry of Public Security, in other words, had clear ties with the Chinese military and had power of oversight over certain elements of the China Coast Guard.

So was the China Coast Guard a “paramilitary” organization, then, too? “Absolutely not,” I was told by a senior State Oceanic Administration official during a visit to their headquarters in 2017. “The China Coast Guard is a civilian agency.”

The reality on the water, however, seemed to belie that claim. People’s Armed Police-trained officers and vessels increasingly started to take the lead in “rights protection” patrols in the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, for example. Many of the newly commissioned China Coast Guard vessels appeared to be allocated to the Border Defense Force, including medium-sized offshore patrol vessels mounted with 76mm cannons. (By comparison, the largest gun on any U.S. Coast Guard Cutter is 57mm.) Recruitment and training seemed to be funneled almost exclusivelythrough the Ministry of Public Security, churning out class after class of People’s Armed Police-enlisted personnel into the China Coast Guard with ranks and uniforms akin to a military service. During meetings with international counterparts, China Coast Guard officers were almost always represented by Ministry of Public Security officers in military attire. Even writings by China Coast Guard officers on Border Defense Force-led operations against Vietnam indicated that “in a real fight, only soldiers have the needed combat power and executive power to execute the mission.” The trend was clear: The Ministry of Public Security, and by extension the People’s Armed Police, seemed to run the show. The State Oceanic Administration appeared to merely provide a civilian cover for increasingly militarized coast guard operations.

It is little surprise, then, that the Chinese government decided last month that responsibility for the China Coast Guard had been formally transferred to the People’s Armed Police. By shifting power from civilian to military administration, the Chinese government put to rest a longstanding tension in governance.

A Newly Empowered People’s Armed Police Runs the Show

To understand why the reform of the coast guard is important, it is necessary to examine recent changes to the organizational structure of the People’s Armed Police, which may have profound implications for how China’s Coast Guard may be run.

Before Jan. 1, 2018, the People’s Armed Police was a paramilitary organization whose primary mission was safeguarding domestic security and maintaining public order under a dual command structure of the Central Military Commission and the Chinese State Council, which administered the People’s Armed Policy through the Ministry of Public Security. On New Year’s Day, with little fanfare, the Chinese government announcedmajor changes to the structure of the People’s Armed Police, transferring command to the Central Military Commission and Chinese Communist Party and removing the State Council’s and Ministry of Public Security’s oversight powers. The move greatly enhanced the “military” component of the “paramilitary” nature of the People’s Armed Police, with the Central Military Commission exerting more direct control over the group’s personnel and operations.

Then on March 21, the government published a follow-on documentannouncing that the People’s Armed Police was to take full control over the China Coast Guard and divest of most non-military functions, such as Mining, Forestry, Hydropower, Firefighting, and Security Protection. The changes amount to a China Coast Guard placed under a newly reformed, more “militarized” incarnation of a People’s Armed Police, controlled by the Central Military Commission.

Knowns and Unknowns of the Reformed Coast Guard

This change is important for at least four reasons. First, all four of the maritime law enforcement agencies that had been folded into the China Coast Guard in 2013 — the China Marine Surveillance, Border Defense Force, Fisheries Law Enforcement, and Anti-Smuggling Police — will be consolidated further and administered by a newly reformed People’s Armed Police. Whereas the 2013 China Coast Guard mixed civilian and paramilitary personnel, now all coast guard officers will become uniformed active duty People’s Armed Police officers. New recruits will enlist as People’s Armed Police officers and follow basic training procedures similar to those of the People’s Liberation Army. People’s Armed Police officers will be given full authority to board, inspect, seize, and investigate domestic and foreign vessels based on domestic Chinese law. Ships will most likely stay the same color and officers will continue to introduce their all-black uniforms seen on recent China Coast Guard patrols.

Second, the China Coast Guard should now officially be regarded as one of China’s armed forces, capable of executing a variety of law enforcement duties at sea during peacetime with possible wartime functions. The reform will likely enable the China Coast Guard to train and equip itself to conduct combat operations alongside the navy during conflict. This is an important change from the 2013 iteration of the China Coast Guard, which some analysts had argued was sufficiently distinct and separate from the navy.

Third, it will be important to monitor what this means for the China Coast Guard’s behavior on the water. At the very least, it will enjoy more flexibility to act aggressively, if it chooses, in disputed waters in the East and South China Seas. The coast guard will most certainly increase Chinese asymmetric advantages by employing a white hull approach in the South China Sea. Already, there were signs that the 2013 consolidation had enabled more efficient communication links with land-based command centers. The China Coast Guard also permitted more proactive posturing in disputed features in the East China Sea near the Senkakus and in the South China Sea, such as near Scarborough Shoal, Luconia Shoals, Thitu Island, and in the waters off Natuna Island near Indonesia.

The reform will almost certainly free up to the China Coast Guard to train more extensively and share operational intelligence with its naval counterpart, as it already has begun to do. The coast guard may even expand its playbook to include wartime support for the navy, such as island seizures, blockades, or anti-submarine warfare and mine-laying. In this sense, the reform puts the China Coast Guard closer to the authorities of the United States Coast Guard, which is the only U.S. military service with law enforcement authorities that also must maintain a certain level of readiness to support combat missions if called upon. Indeed, China is very likely to adopt the model of the United States Coast Guard, perhaps with one important distinction — it will most likely fashion itself as a law enforcement agency first, with a tacit, unspoken secondary role supporting the navy.

Finally, the China Coast Guard, like all coast guards, has non-coercive functions to serve as well. These include the basic management of China’s marine environment such as safety at sea, environmental disaster mitigation, inspecting marine licenses, and measuring fish catch. Just because the China Coast Guard is now under the People’s Armed Police does not mean it can afford to neglect these important duties. Therefore, the reform will not solve the fundamental identity crisis plaguing the China Coast Guard — whether to focus its training and sea days fulfilling the “blunt defender of sovereignty” mission of repelling rival claimants from disputed waters, or fulfilling a less coercive mission of maritime management.


Perceptions matter just as much as substance in ongoing territorial disputes. That is why this move will have major symbolic implications for China’s presence in disputed waters, which the country can longer claim is purely civilian in nature. This may undermine China’s argument that regional states with which it has maritime disputes have nothing to fear from the Chinese presence in the East and South China Sea. Had the China Coast Guard not started out civilian, and later transitioned to a military organization, these regional concerns might be less pronounced. Now, however, states will rightly question how militarized the China Coast Guard intends to become. Finally, states may assume based on the shift in command structure that the China Coast Guard now has enhanced authority to use kinetic means to defend itself during crises (even if this is not the case), raising concerns over escalation. As a result, China will have a much more difficult time convincing states with which it has territorial disputes that it seeks a non-militarized, peaceful and stable environment in the East and South China Sea.

Some may argue that the reform will improve what was once an unresolved command and control structure, in fact reducing uncoordinated actions that could lead to unintended escalation. That may well be true. However, the question remains: To what end is China seeking to streamline operations? The government has shown a clear strategy of employing coast guard assets in lieu of a navy to systematically push other claimants from disputed waters and prevent them from legitimately exploiting their natural resources, contrary to international law. This latest reform will only expand the options available for the China Coast Guard in the disputed waters, including giving the service more authority to act decisively. In so doing, the move will reinforce perceptions in the region that China’s charm offensive in Southeast Asia is increasingly backed up by potent hard power instruments to coerce countries who choose to test Beijing’s resolve.


Lyle J. Morris is a senior policy analyst at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation